10.31.2008

iVoryTowerz Radio: Los Muertos Regresan

The underground podcast (which appears to be disturbingly above ground for all the wrong reasons these days) returns with a vengeance this week. And the mood, no doubt is affected by the season. Various types of spirits (malevolent, benign, pleasant, and nostalgic) seem to be floating around this podcast. So with Halloween, Dia de los Muertos, and various pagan and Christian harvest festivals colliding, no better time to resurrect the sounds of some gifted artists who have gone on to that next dimension, especially our beloved Steve Goodman. All the better reason for half the program to be produced this week from Chicago! And as usual, we unearth great tunes from the living too, not to mention new releases. As usual, the playlist runs the gamut: folk, soul, nu metal, indie rock, Latin rock, psychedelia, new wave, and a little shock rock for good measure. So put on your mask and dance like there's no tomorrow. And please, enjoy!



(To download or stream this podcast, please click here.)



Playlist

“Back in the Saddle” by Aerosmith
Rick's Metal Shoppe: “Epic” by Faith No More
"That's the Way God Planned it" by Billy Preston
“Satisfied" by The Nouvellas
"RESPECT" by Aretha Franklin
"A Donde Van Los Muertos" by Kinky
"A-Punk" by Vampire Weekend
“Prologue/I Know Where You Live” by Alice Cooper
“Reptila” by The Strokes
“Codine” by The Dinosaurs
"Teddy Picker” by The Arctic Monkeys
Jeff’s New Wave: “American Love Affair” by Tonio K.
"Lincoln Park Pirates" by Steve Goodman
"My Old Man" by John Prine
"I Would Change My Life" by Robert Earl Keen
Cover Me: "City of New Orleans" by Luther Wright & the Wrongs

(Mp3 Runs - 1:28:13; 81 MB.)

(The photo is by tetrabrain via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license.)

DISCLAIMER: The iVoryTowerz podcast is a non-commercial, non-profit program designed and used for educational purposes. Some of the material contained in this podcast is previously copyrighted but used with permission. Other copyrighted material is reused following fair use guidelines. Any copyright holders who do not wish to have their material used should contact the programmers directly at ivorytowerzradio@att.net and it will be removed. The programmers do not support filesharing and encourage listeners to buy music from the artists featured in this podcast.





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Argentina & the Mainstream Media

by Rick Rockwell*

The issue of how mainstream media frame reality and change the political landscape through their choices doesn’t end at the U.S. border. No. Recent experience reinforces the belief that this is an issue from here to Tierra del Fuego. And the problem flows east and west, globally too.

But let’s get back to Tierra del Fuego.

If you go there, you won’t find many imprints from the media, of any type. But if you do — likely they’ve flowed from Argentina’s capital of Buenos Aires.

One of the topics the mainstream media in Buenos Aires are trying to avoid is the one they like the least: media reform. The government of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has set a goal to rewrite the country’s telecommunication laws by the end of her term in 2011. To that end, the government convened an international conference in Buenos Aires to gather ideas for the reform. (The author was among the invited and addressed the conference.) Hundreds of Argentina’s elite attended: members of Argentina’s Congress; bureaucrats; lawyers; influential academics and writers. Speakers from seven countries (including Spain and the U.S.) spoke to the group and the conference was conducted in three languages. Yet beyond public television, only one national network carried any news about the conference. And not one newspaper mentioned it.

If you depended upon the mainstream media, the conference and its message of reform didn’t exist or meant very little.

But if deciding for citizens that media reform is not necessary through ignoring debate and discussion of the topic, the media barons of Argentina show exactly why such reform is necessary.

Much like in the U.S., the electronic media are in the hands of a powerful oligarchy of businesses. The players are different. But they tend to act in familiar ways. Beyond the corporate media’s concentrated economic and political power, another concern is whether these corporations have Argentina’s best interests at heart or whether their international origins and need for increasing profits trump all.

For instance, Argentina's market is dominated by Grupo Clarin, one of the most powerful multimedia concerns in the region, which owns a television network, the Spanish-language world's most popular newspaper website, and the most circulated newspaper in Latin America. Although owned by Argentines, Grupo Clarin has significant minority ownership from abroad: Goldman Sachs in New York holds a key stake in the multimedia company. And many in Buenos Aires believe Grupo Clarin acts in the best interests of its investors in New York first.

Then there's the television network owned by Telefonica of Spain, which is also involved in cell phones in Latin America and Europe. One of Argentina's television networks is also controlled by a holding company that when you strip away the various shell enterprises is run by a Mexican businessman who lives in Miami. And Carlos Slim, one of the world's richest men, who owns Mexico's phone giant Telmex is also on the scene, controlling large swaths of the wired and wireless phone networks, and the internet service providers that are a natural outgrowth of such businesses.

What these giants of the media world are trying to avoid is a 21-point plan drawn up by civic groups and the Fernandez government. The plan would limit the control of huge media giants and promote diverse ownership and pluralism in the electronic media.

Will the reform work? Does it have a chance?

If the big media have any say, such reform doesn't exist. So why worry? Be happy. We now return you to your choice of corporate media entertainment channel.

(For more background on Argentina, please see: "Argentina: Letter from Buenos Aires;" "The Spirit of Evita & Argentina's Protests;" and "Argentina in the Protest Season.")

*Rick Rockwell is the author of the award-winning Media Power in Central America. He recently returned from a trip to Argentina.

Editor's Note: This piece is cross-posted on the blog, Ward's Kitchen.

(Graphic by saguayo of Mexico City, D.F., via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license.)














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10.30.2008

Argentina: Letter from Buenos Aires

by Rick Rockwell

Springtime in Argentina's capital of Buenos Aires comes with blooming flowers, picnics by families in the city's many parks and squares, a brisk breeze blowing along the Rio Plata, and plenty of smiling faces.

But nothing flips those smiles faster in this city in the southern hemisphere than economic news from the north. And that means the U.S. and Europe.

Argentina had its own financial meltdown in 2001. Seeking help from the U.S., Argentines were disappointed to hear the Bush administration tell them to basically figure it out for themselves. So they did. And along the way, they found support from the always controversial but often clever Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. But now, just as Argentina had seemed to rebound under President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (and her predecessor and husband Nestor Kirchner) the global financial crisis hits. And Venezuela is no port in this storm, as Chavez is figuring out a new game plan while the price of oil tanks, and with it, so goes his political and economic clout in the region.

Just so there is no confusion — Argentina is not Venezuela, nor Mexico, nor Central America. Buenos Aires is a city of wide boulevards, Spanish architecture and a very European atmosphere. Sad rancheras and passionate tangos still echo in the city's nightclubs. Although the differences between rich and poor are as stark as anywhere in Latin America, the country has a growing middle class. More than 70 percent of Argentines have cable television. The standard of living is close to Central Europe and is the highest in all of Latin America.

But that growth and advancement faces a real challenge with the new global economic crisis.

This week, President Fernandez further cemented her program that seized private pension funds, as a way to cope with the crisis (although Argentina's Congress has yet to approve the plan). This seizure gave Argentina an immediate infusion of billions in cash but, of course, was criticized as creeping socialism by a president with strong leftist and socialist tendencies. Fernandez' move put the Argentine government in the position of backing all retirement accounts in the country.

Fernandez' moves have also created friction with Spain. Various Spanish companies such as Telefonica have strong investments in Argentina, and some of the private retirement funds seized by the government were held by Spanish banks. After Fernandez nationalized the pension funds, Spanish authorities initiated a round of high-level meetings to express concern. Spain has invested heavily in Latin America in the past decade and many of those loans and gambles appear to be turning sour during the current crisis. The tense meetings between Spain and Argentina follow Fernandez' nationalization of Aerolineas Argentinas earlier this month, an airline that had been owned by the Spanish-based multinational corporation, Marsans.

Meanwhile, Argentina's media have roundly criticized the president for her moves to bolster the economy. Clarin, the country's top newspaper (and the most read Spanish-language newspaper site in the world) noted that in their opinion the president had fumbled the so-called El Campo trade controversy earlier this year and that was just a harbinger of what was to come with this economic challenge.

And this all puts Argentines in the streets, not to enjoy the spring, but as is the tradition here, to bang pots and pans, while telling authority they want certainty and better economic conditions.

Unfortunately, those may be elusive concepts for quite some time to come.

(The photo of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of Argentina is by José Cruz of Agência Brasil, the Brazilian news agency, which allows use of its photos through a Creative Commons license.)















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10.29.2008

NFL: Week Nine, 2008

by Rick Rockwell

Promises. Promises. Promises. This space was threatening to breakout into an actual piece of sports commentary this week, but again, the non-column returns. You know the drill: too many questions and not enough answers. Even in the tough AFC South, do the Titans have an insurmountable lead? Which team is worse: the Lions or 49ers? And shouldn't the Bengals be on that list too? Why do both the Colts and Patriots seem to be reeling this year? Despite their loss in Dallas, do the Buccaneers have their mojo back? Does anyone want to win the AFC West? And if so, why are the Broncos and Chargers so inconsistent? If the Steelers can't beat any of the leaders in the NFC East, what does that mean for their stretch run? And if Coach Jim Zorn and his excitable bunch in D.C. beat the Steelers, will they finally get some respect? If the Steelers can finally pick up a blitz or two, they may edge past D.C.'s favorites for a close win. And now, the picks are after the jump....


Week 9 Office Pool Predictions


Game of the Week / Upset Special: Steelers at Washington (Steelers)

Dolphins at Broncos (Broncos)
Texans at Vikings (Vikings)
Falcons at Raiders (Falcons)
Cardinals at Rams (Cardinals)
Packers at Titans (Titans)
Patriots at Colts (Colts)
Buccaneers at Chiefs (Buccaneers)
Jets at Bills (Bills)
Cowboys at Giants (Giants)
Eagles at Seahawks (Eagles)
Lions at Bears (Bears)
Ravens at Browns (Browns)
Jaguars at Bengals (Jaguars)

Last Week: .643
2008 Season: .647

For other blogs calling NFL games, please see:

  • The D.C. Universe,
  • Gun Toting Liberal, and
  • The Liberal Journal.







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    Baseball: Seeking the End of the Series

    by Suzie Raven

    The Philadelphia Philles only win the World Series approximately once every 125 years. Whenever it happens, I don’t want there to be any question that they earned it.

    Technically, they could’ve won on Monday night. They were winning 2-1 after five innings during a rainstorm that had effectively wrecked the field. A game that is rained out after five innings counts as a win for the team with the lead.

    Instead, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig waited until the middle of the sixth inning, after the Tampa Bay Rays tied the game at 2-2, to call a rain delay. Half an hour later, he suspended the game indefinitely, waiting for better conditions on another night. It’s unconventional, but legal: according to rule 3.10(c) he can "continue the suspension as long as he believes there is any chance to resume play," even if that takes days. When the game resumes at 8:37 p.m. tonight, the Phillies and Rays will pick up exactly where they left off on Monday.

    Many fans in Philadelphia are angry, arguing that the game should’ve been called far earlier because it was clear the weather would not let up. They, understandably, don’t want to waste pitching ace Cole Hamels' last start of the season. Not when they see him as the potential saving grace of one of America’s most championship-starved cities.

    They have a point. If Selig ended the game earlier, they could have started it from scratch another night. A night without puddles in the batters box. Since Selig didn’t make this seemingly obvious choice any time in the first five innings, calling it in the sixth was the next best decision.

    I want a World Series win as badly as every other Phillies fan, but we would not have gotten an indisputable title on Monday. Not without giving the Rays a proper chance to come back.

    After all, that’s the beauty of baseball.

    As Earl Weaver said: “You can't sit on a lead and run a few plays into the line and just kill the clock. You've got to throw the ball over the goddamn plate and give the other man his chance. That's why baseball is the greatest game of them all.”

    (To see Suzie Raven's early prediction about the success of the Phillies, please see: "Baseball: The Phillies' Secret Weapon, the Bullpen." For other pieces about the Phillies, please see: "Baseball: The Phillies, the Series & the Nine-Year-Old Crush;" "Baseball: The Phillies Corner the Brewers & Sabathia," and "Baseball: The Phillies Head to the NLCS.")










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    10.28.2008

    Music Review: The Kaiser Chiefs' Off With Their Heads

    by Vincent Lee

    On the Kaiser Chiefs' second album Yours Truly, Angry Mob, the band wrote one song “Everything is Average Nowadays.” As cliché as it might sound, this is the best way of defining their new album Off With Their Heads. The new album is short, only 35 minutes and 11 songs (Off With Their Heads was released Oct. 20 in the U.K. and on Monday Oct. 27 in the U.S.), and the band employs a rather basic formula for each song. Musically, each song has one distinctive riff which carries throughout. Lyrically, one specific line, typically the song's title, is repeated for a large portion of the number. This is a very basic explanation of the Kaiser Chiefs' song formula and it may be somewhat unfair, but it is one of the only lasting impressions that really comes from listening to this album.

    Though each song more or less fits the aforementioned model, most of the songs are, thankfully, distinguishable from one another. On previous albums from the Kaiser Chiefs, the band had a habit of randomly throwing in sounds like “Ah-ah-ah ah-ah, la la lalala la” or “Na Na Na Na Naa!” which would make up significant parts of the song. This technique, for the most part, is not present on Off With Their Heads. To stay creative a lot of the singing on this new release involves extra effects such as echoes or two voices going back and forth. This is most present on “Never Miss a Beat,” where the song opens with “What did you learn today/ I learned nothing/ What did you do today/ I did nothing” and so forth.

    At times it seems like the Kaiser Chiefs include extra effects for the sake of adding something unique. The most notable random moment can be heard on the song “Half the Truth.” The first 2:50 or so of the song is rather catchy and solid, then out of seemingly nowhere a British rapper begins iterating a rap version of the chorus and song so far. The rap characterizes a large portion of the album's lyrics. Also, the main repeated line in each song is typically a summary of the entire song. Being that the majority of the songs on this album can be summarized by one line, it is obvious that lyrically Off With Their Heads does not offer much.

    For the Kaiser Chiefs' third album, they have appeared to make a number of strides. Their songs have remained catchy and entertaining, with many of the irritating unnecessary vocal sounds being cut out. Unfortunately, other than that, little has developed. Most of the lyrics are rather basic or simply try too hard. Off With Their Heads is not a bad album, but it is certainly not anything special. Fans of the band will most likely love this, as it is an improved version of their previous work. Otherwise your enjoyment of this record most likely depends on how much depth you want from your music.

    (The promotional photo of the Kaiser Chiefs performing in London is by Danny North for Universal Music Group. The band opens its world tour on Saturday, Nov. 1 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. To see the band's video for "Spanish Metal" from Off With Their Heads, please check below.)








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    Basketball: NBA Preview 2008

    by Hayden Alfano

    No, the World Series isn’t over. Yet. And yes, we’re in the middle of another parity-filled pro football season. But Tuesday’s may remain an off-day for baseball (due to weather), and the next slate of football games won’t kick off for another five days. So among all the excitement, the National Basketball Association (NBA) season tips off tonight.

    If you’re a die-hard NBA fan, this is the season you’ve been waiting for. If you’re a relatively disinterested newcomer to professional basketball, there’s never been a better time to, well, get interested.

    Last year’s finalists, the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers, are the favorites to continue their storied rivalry and once again meet in the NBA Finals in June (the league’s reputation for a long, drawn-out regular season is well-deserved). These two teams headline the first day of NBA play — the Celtics host the Cleveland Cavaliers at 8 p.m. Eastern on TNT; and the Lakers host the Portland Trailblazers in the second half of the doubleheader. But there’s championship hope in a number of other NBA cities.

    The excitement might be greatest in Houston and Philadelphia, where the Rockets and 76ers added big names in the offseason in an effort to put their teams over the top. Health might be the ultimate decider for these two squads. Newcomer Ron Artest won’t be enough for Houston if mainstays Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady can’t stay out of the infirmary. And Elton Brand arrives in the City of Brotherly Love fresh off a season in which he played just eight games, the victim of a ruptured Achilles tendon before last season.

    Cleveland hopes that new point guard Mo Williams will the missing piece that gives LeBron James his first ring. It had better come fast — King James’ contract is up after next season, and if he doesn’t have any jewelry by then, the going wisdom is that he’ll bolt for a contender.

    In contrast, the Detroit Pistons, Phoenix Suns, and Dallas Mavericks sat relatively quiet this offseason, rounding up their veteran squads for perhaps a final run at a title. And don’t rule out the San Antonio Spurs — Sports Illustrated’s pick for the championship. The Spurs have won the title in each of the last three odd-numbered years. To do it for the fourth time, they’ll have to beat, among others, the New Orleans Hornets and Chris Paul.

    Elsewhere, there’s excitement even absent realistic championship hopes. The arrival of Jermaine O’Neal in Toronto finally gives Raptors star Chris Bosh a proper low post partner, and point guard T.J. Ford’s departure means the show is Jose Calderon’s to run now. Orlando Magic fans have the privilege of watching the continued development of Dwight Howard, the league’s best young big man.

    Speaking of young big men, tonight marks the delayed debut of Portland center Greg Oden, the number one overall pick in the 2007 NBA rookie draft. Oden missed all of last season with a knee injury, and joins perhaps the league’s most intriguing team. The young Blazers overachieved last year, and with Oden in the fold, have a good shot at squeezing into the playoffs.

    This summer’s top overall pick, Derrick Rose, takes over at point guard for a Chicago team that disappointed last year. The guy who went directly after Rose in the draft, Michael Beasley, is matched with a pair of legitimate stars in Dwyane Wade and Shawn Marion in Miami.

    Even the league’s worst teams have players worth watching. Shooting guard O.J. Mayo — the NBA has been waiting on him since junior high school — will be given plenty of leash in Memphis to showcase his considerable talent. The Minnesota Timberwolves were the team that drafted Mayo, then sent him to the Grizzlies for Kevin Love — the fourth overall pick, and a good complement to Al Jefferson, who is ready to break out.

    And then there’s Oklahoma City, the adopted home of the Hornets in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the city that got their own team when the Seattle SuperSonics moved there this offseason. Thunder fans should be just happy that they have a team, but they also have last year’s Rookie of the Year, Kevin Durant, to excite them in what will be a season full of losses.
















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    10.27.2008

    When it Pays to Be a Bandwagon Fan: My Jersey Curse

    by Phil Kehres*
    Special to iVoryTowerz

    Ah, the World Series. Just the mention of it brings to mind so many wonderful things. Baseball under the lights in the cool, crisp autumn air. Heartwarming renditions of the national anthem sung by relevant celebrities. Rugged, lifelong fans that have followed their boys through every second of the grueling 162-game season. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

    But if you happen to be one of the, um, few fans that were late to jump on the bandwagon, chances are you’re stocking up on whatever Rays (or Phillies) gear you can get your hands on. Buying caps and jerseys to support your favorite team is every fan’s rite of passage, even if you’ve just discovered the team’s existence at some point in the past two weeks.

    But this act must be undertaken with extreme caution. I realized this just the other day when I got home to find my brand new, authentic, home alternate Grady Sizemore jersey waiting for me in the mail. After jumping up and down with giddy elation for five minutes or so, I was overcome with a sudden sense of sinking dread.

    You see, each of the past two times I’ve purchased a specific player’s jersey or tee shirt, awful things have happened. After Travis Hafner’s breakout season in 2006, in which he set the single-season record for grand slams, I bought the home version of his jersey. I went to 12 games in 2007, proudly sporting the Hafner jersey each time and watching the Cleveland Indians go 11-1 in my appearances. But while good for the Tribe, my negative jersey karma crippled the masher formerly known as Pronk. He followed his monstrous 2006 with the most disappointing year of his career in 2007. Well, most disappointing up to that point — his 2008 was even worse, and marred by injury.

    The purchase was, in short, a disaster. But I didn’t learn from that experience. After Fausto Carmona’s Cy Young-worthy 2007, I decided to buy his player tee shirt — the kind that looks like a jersey, but is only a tee shirt. Harmless, right?

    Nope. Carmona sat out a good chunk of 2008 with an injury after a wild and ineffective start to the season, and never regained his 2007 form. So imagine my dismay when I realized what was going on. Grady Sizemore is coming off what may be his best season and is only expected to get better. He’s the face of the franchise. Suffice it to say I’ve been knocking on wood all night long since my revelation, and will continue doing so through October 2009.

    Consider the waves of Rays fans who have come on board since Tampa made the playoffs. I’m sure there are some bandwagon jumpers in Philly too — it comes with the territory of having a championship-caliber team. Maybe my jersey curse can be attributed to coincidence or small sample size, but perhaps there’s something to the bandwagon-buying mentality. Maybe if you wait for your team to get good and buy a bunch of shiny new gear mid-season, you can aid your player of choice rather than contributing to his demise. Maybe die-hard fans are hurting their teams by pledging their material support too early. Maybe teams with bigger bandwagon contingents are more likely to succeed late in the season because of the anti-jersey curse.

    Or maybe I’m totally off the wall and incapable of rational thought when it comes to baseball. That’s probably it. Actually, it might just be the onset of malaise caused by another October without Indians baseball. Is it Hot Stove season yet?

    *Phil Kehres is one of the authors of Excuse Me, Is That Your Blog?














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    The iVoryTowerz Guide to the Recession

    by Jeff Siegel

    Here at the underground blog, we want to help our visitors whenever we can. And, since so many of you haven’t gone through really tough economic times, where people lose their jobs, families cut back on spending, and you can’t put everything on plastic, we figured we should offer some guidance about what will happen over the next 18 months.

    Here, then, are a few things to expect as the U.S. heads into its worst recession since I was in high school (in those dark days before iPhones, text messaging, and digital music). The U.S. suffered through a series of recessions in the 1970s and early 1980s, brought on by high energy prices, bank failures, and economic mismanagement in Washington. Yeah, I know, it sounds all too familiar.

    1. It’s incredibly difficult to find jobs. The unemployment rate in 1982 was 9.7 percent, and was higher than 10 percent for much of the year. The numbers were even higher for young people, African Americans and Latinos. By comparison, the worst unemployment got during the relatively brief and mild Sept. 11 recession was 6 percent.

    2. People make less money. Between 1979 and 1980, in fact, worker compensation actually went down 2.5 percent. The idea that you get a job, get a raise, get a better job, and get another raise is as much science fiction during a recession as Star Trek.

    3. Money is tight, and families have trouble making ends meet. In 1984, according to U.S. Labor department statistics (that’s the earliest year in the survey), the typical American family had $700 more a year in expenses than it did in after-tax income. In 2006, the typical American family, given expenses and after-tax income, had more than a $9,000 surplus.

    4. People don’t buy houses. Between 1980 and 1990, the percent of Americans who owned homes actually declined, from 64.4 percent to 64.2 percent. In the second quarter of 2008, despite all the problems we’ve seen, it was still 68.1 percent.

    5. People don’t get credit cards and they don’t use them. The amount of consumer credit outstanding, measured by revolving credit (the technical term for credit cards) was essentially flat between December of 1979 and the middle of 1981. By comparison, the amount of credit card debt outstanding between August 2006 and August 2008 increased 13.3 percent.

    Is it any wonder that those of us who lived through the 1970s and the early 1980s are remarkably un-nostalgic about the era?

    For more background on the economic crisis, please see these archival posts:

    (Political graphic from Wrapped-in-the-Flag, a website that offers copyright-free political material.)








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    10.26.2008

    Isn't Love All You Need?

    (Editor's Note: This piece is cross-posted on Kit-Bacon Gressitt's blog Excuse Me, I'm Writing.)

    by Kit-Bacon Gressitt
    Special to iVoryTowerz

    CHAPTER 1. They meet at a mutual friend’s wedding.

    “Oh yes, hi! Audry’s told me so much about you!”

    “Oh yeah? Should I duck?”

    “No, no. She’s your most ardent fan — and a great sales rep. My little heart’s going pitter patter in your manly presence.”

    “She’s told me a whole lot about you too — every factoid of it favorable, of course, intentionally tailored to the male on the prowl. So, do you suppose this is a set up?”

    “We’d be fools not to admit it. But she does have lovely taste. Perhaps we should sample the glass before we reject the vintage?”

    “Say what?”

    “Oh, who cares if she’s playing Yenta? We’re the only two left at this shindig who’re young enough to remain upright without assistance. How about asking me to dance?”

    “Dance? With you? Here, now? Well sure, yeah, I’d like that.”

    CHAPTER 2. They close down the Moose Lodge Community Banquet Hall, drawing the last, weary notes from Joey Brown and His Band of Renown, a quintet that relies heavily on the polka. But this isn’t the end of it. …

    “Hi, I’m glad you called — a movie sounds good!”

    “You sound good, exceptionally good. I, I’m attracted to you, and I’d like to explore this further.”

    “You sound surprised?”

    “Welp, dating’s no man’s forte.”

    “I understand, and I’m happy you’ve overcome your male enculturation. Forthright ranks high in my book; it’s a rare treat. Bravo! So, were you thinking sherpas and yaks, or something a bit more tame that would allow me to get all dolled up?”

    “Ah ha, there’s a smart aleck lurking beneath that conservative exterior. I like that!”

    CHAPTER 3. After many movies, moonlit beach strolls, sunsets — and sunrises — things are serious.

    “Are you awake, Babe?”

    “Not really.”

    “Well, wake up, please? I had to take a leak, and standing there, I realized I have a status report I have to deliver.”

    “Now?”

    “Yes, now. You, you are my joy, my anguish, my passion, my frustration, my effervescence, my hope. I thank God for nudging you across my errant path.”

    “Aw, Sweetie, you know I love you, too. I love living with you, cooking with you, sewing your buttons back on. I’d be happy to grow old and crotchety with you and wipe the drool from your chin.”

    CHAPTER 4. Love is sweet, but not without its hurdles.

    “Oh God, your mother detested me! She hated my outfit. She hated my hair. She hated my sense of humor. She hated my teeth. She hates me!”

    “But, Babe, a good portion of the population would hate you, given the opportunity. Oh come on, that’s just a joke. Where is that outrageous sense of humor when you need it most? Look, Babe, she just met you. And admit it: You’re not what she had envisioned for me all these years.”

    “I know, I know. She was hoping for the four Bs: blond, beautiful, Bryn Mawr grad, baby-making material. Right?”

    “Wrong. When it comes right down to it, she just wants me to be happy. And she did give you shortbread to bring home. She makes you shortbread; you’re in. Relax. She’ll come to love you — but never as much as I absolutely adore every iota of you. I want you to be within reach always. Seriously, I want to be with you forever. Look, I’ll wash the dishes to my dieing day, if you’ll cook. Will you marry me?”

    “Yes, yes indeed I will!”

    CHAPTER 5. And Tom and Harry live happily ever after in wedded bliss.

    If you live in California, Vote No on California Prop. 8.

    If you live in Arizona, Vote No on Arizona Prop. 102.

    If you live in Florida, Vote No on Florida Amendment 2.

    Don’t deny someone’s child — perhaps your own — the right to marriage.

    (Photo by Mrinkk of Wezep, Netherlands via stock.xchng; the photo was discovered via everystockphoto.com.)






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    10.25.2008

    iVoryTowerz Radio: From the Archives, No. 4

    Again, the fall travel schedule intervenes and the underground podcast must dig into the secret archives for one of the best but relatively undiscovered programs of 2007. On this program, you can definitely hear the roots of how this guerrilla radio program came together. That's apparent from the beginning as the show highlights a classic from The Clash and then attempts to match that high standard throughout. So there's punk rock, both old and new, along with alternative rock, soul and some straight-up rockers. And what would an archival show be without a trip into the garage too. Reposted at least for a limited time so listen and please enjoy!



    (This podcast is no longer available.)



    Playlist

    “Radio Clash” by The Clash
    "Broken Boy Soldier" by The Raconteurs
    “Bomb. Repeat. Bomb." by Ted Leo & The Pharmacists
    "Shootin' Out Your Lights" by The Vectors
    Jeff’s New Wave: “Semaphore Signals” by Wreckless Eric
    Rick's Metal Shoppe: “Gears of War” by Megadeth
    "Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is" by Jet
    "Someone Who'll Treat You Right Now" by The Lyres
    “Camaro” by The Kings of Leon
    “The Weight” by The Band
    “Train Song (Demise of the Caboose)” by Victoria Williams
    "Casey Jones” by The Grateful Dead
    Cover Me: "Twistin' the Night Away" by The Faces
    "She's Gone" by Darryl Hall & John Oates
    "I've Got to Use my Imagination" by Gladys Knight & The Pips
    "Do Yourself a Favor" by Stevie Wonder

    (Mp3 Runs - 1:27:01; 80 MB.) Program contains explicit lyrics.

    (The photo is by Wistreize of Bulle, Switzerland via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license.)

    DISCLAIMER: The iVoryTowerz podcast is a non-commercial, non-profit program designed and used for educational purposes. Some of the material contained in this podcast is previously copyrighted but used with permission. Other copyrighted material is reused following fair use guidelines. Any copyright holders who do not wish to have their material used should contact the programmers directly at ivorytowerzradio@att.net and it will be removed. The programmers do not support filesharing and encourage listeners to buy music from the artists featured in this podcast.


    Originally podcast as iVoryTowerz No. 24.




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    10.24.2008

    Russia Guides the Media During the Economic Crisis

    by Z*
    Special to iVoryTowerz

    A casual Google news search of "financial crisis" results in more than fifty thousand English-language articles in the world over the past week. These articles may repeat each other while some of the diversification attempts include labeling the crisis differently: turmoil, meltdown, fiasco, collapse, mess, catastrophe, storm, hurricane. Such creativity perhaps attracts many readers which is desirable for any news outlet. But the implications of the sensationalist craze so revered by the media are literally frightening. The sense of panic is overwhelming for any casual headline reader let alone investors whose indecisiveness and lack of trust keep driving stock indexes up and down.

    So when the government of Russia urged its media to restrain from covering too much of the financial crisis it seemed reasonable.

    To avoid panic, the Kremlin advised major television stations not to refer to the current financial situation as a crisis or collapse. Stock indexes in Russia were not supposed "to plummet" but rather "decrease." TV made it sound to the general public that the financial crisis is some distant American/European phenomenon that the Russian people do not have to worry about. Curiously enough though, television reports do extensively cover measures taken by the Russian government to tackle the crisis. Anti-crisis policy without crisis? This paradox resulted in either public confusion as to why supermarket shelves look deserted or in opinions that any domestic difficulties are temporary and are solely due to the crisis outside of Russia.

    The Russian print media, and, most importantly, the internet, are now teeming with articles analyzing the financial crisis inside and outside of the country. The first October wave of articles criticized the absence of domestic coverage of financial and economic troubles. The main argument was transparency. If the government is so protective of its people and remains secretive about the status quo, it seems Russia's paternalistic instincts keep its decisions concerning the crisis under the table. However, critics insist that people have to know the cruel truth that Russia is not "an island of stability" and that it is the media's job to keep them informed. That view may be in flux, however, as reporters seemingly come to a realization point that a change of thinking is healithier: less information might be better.

    Last week, Russian Minister of Finance Alexei Kudrin surprised ordinary citizens by his pessimistic economic predictions. Addressing the lower house of Russia's parliament (the Duma), Kudrin said that "a harsh recession is now beginning." While Russia may not want any analogies drawn to the U.S., the effect produced by those gloomy statements is identical to the ones produced by statements and speeches by the U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and the Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. And the effect was more panic in the financial markets and plummeting stock indexes. It might be a coincidence that the market neurotically reacts to statements by high-profile officials, but it might as well mean that less media attention will allow the government do its work while calmed investors invest and consumers consume.

    So next time you want to write a piece about the financial typhoon or tornado, don't talk about the mess it's creating; neither try to predict where it's going. Rather, think about the cleared fields it leaves behind and how we can make the most of them.

    *Z is from a country that made up the Soviet Union, and her writing on cultural and political matters could have a backlash when she returns home from the U.S., so she writes under a pseudonym.

    (Graphic by AZRainman. To see more of AZRainman's work, please check out his blog.)









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    10.23.2008

    Chamorro & the Sandinistas: Nicaragua's Crackdown

    by Rick Rockwell*

    These days, there's no pleasure in being right.

    Just over a year ago, this blog gave an analysis of the political and media conditions in Nicaragua. That assessment included a warning that the Sandinista government was already signaling it might clamp down on free expression. At that time, the government had already begun pressuring Carlos Fernando Chamorro, the country's leading investigative journalist.

    Full disclosure here: at this juncture after featuring Chamorro in a book about the media in Central America, he is more than a source for this author. Although we are not close friends, I've dined with him and his family on friendly terms with no business at hand. If there is a person who knows Nicaragua, he's the one, and certainly a friendly contact who has given his time to a researcher who wants to know more about Central America.

    Chamorro is from the leading family of journalists in Nicaragua. For most of the past 80 years, one Chamorro or another has been a fervent government critic. Chamorro's father was assassinated, most likely by agents of the repressive rightwing government during the country's revolution in the 1970s. Chamorro went on to found Barricada, the legendary and hard-hitting Sandinista newspaper. And his mother went on to win an election against Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega and serve as a reconciliation president at the end of the Contra War in the 1990s. During this time, Chamorro had a falling out with the Sandinista directorate over his independent ways and investigative reports. He no longer hewed to the party line. Chamorro went on to become the country's top investigative journalist on television, founding a Nicaraguan version of something like 60 Minutes. He started a weekly to analyze politics and a non-profit organization to promote free speech. (Chamorro's sister and mother run the prominent Violeta Chamorro Foundation, which also promotes free speech and press freedom, but Carlos Fernando's operation is separate.)

    Earlier this month, the Sandinista government closed Carlos Fernando Chamorro's operations, confiscated computers and noted the operations may violate Nicaraguan law. This is all part of a Sandinista crackdown on non-governmental organizations. (These are the same Sandinistas who closed Violeta Chamorro's newspaper La Prensa during long stretches in the 1980s.) Of course, this latest anti-media campaign sparked worldwide outrage from writers and proponents of free speech. Meanwhile, Nicaraguan authorities hauled Chamorro in for hours of questioning.

    When last visiting with Carlos Fernando, he told me he thought the Sandinistas had a personal vendetta against him. An old score to settle. And he believed President Ortega was the one who held the biggest grudge against him.

    The process of taking revenge appears to be in full swing now, while most of the world is looking elsewhere. It seems few care about Nicaragua now, unlike how this country was focused on that Central American nation in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. Count this writer among those who still do care.

    Now, every night, I worry about Carlos Fernando and I hope he makes it through.

    *Rick Rockwell is the author of Media Power in Central America.

    (The photo of Carlos Fernando Chamorro is from the online archives of the Nicaraguan National Library and is in the public domain.)











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    10.22.2008

    NFL: Week Eight, 2008

    by Rick Rockwell

    Midseason, now babeeeeeee, and still the non-column holds sway on Wednesday. Why mess with success? You know the drill: too many questions and few answers. First though, how crazy is it to switch coaches this far into the season? Are the folks in San Francisco that desperate or is Mike Nolan that bad? And what does it say about Mike Martz, a coach who took the Rams to a Super Bowl that he was not the first name on people's lips as a replacement? Speaking of Martz, doesn't that team he once coached, the Rams, look much better under Jim Haslett instead of Scott Linehan? Without the troubled Larry Johnson, do the Chiefs have any chance to win? Is this weeks' Colts-Titans game the possible changing of the guard in the very tough AFC South? Will the solid Bills defense have an answer for Miami's single wing? Speaking of the Dolphins, are the 2008 Lions really the 2007 Dolphins? Why is it the Buccaneers are atop the NFC South and reporters say they are "under the radar?" Will safety Troy Polamalu be recovered enough from a concussion this week to play against the Giants? Polamalu raises the level of the Steelers defense; if he plays, he's likely the difference between a Steel Town win and the World Champions smiling instead. And now, the picks are after the jump....


    Week 8 Office Pool Predictions


    Game of the Week: Giants at Steelers (Steelers)
    Upset Special: Buccaneers at Cowboys (Buccaneers)

    Raiders at Ravens (Ravens)
    Chiefs at Jets (Jets)
    Rams at Patriots (Patriots)
    Cardinals at Panthers (Panthers)
    Colts at Titans (Titans)
    Browns at Jaguars (Jaguars)
    Bills at Dolphins (Bills)
    Falcons at Eagles (Eagles)
    Seahawks at 49ers (Seahawks)
    Washington at Lions (Washington)
    Chargers vs. Saints (Chargers)
    Bengals at Texans (Texans)

    Last Week: .714
    2008 Season: .647

    For other blogs calling NFL games, please see:

  • The D.C. Universe,
  • Gun Toting Liberal, and
  • The Liberal Journal.








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    10.21.2008

    Baseball: The Phillies, the Series & the Nine-Year-Old Crush

    by Suzie Raven

    When I was nine, most girls played with My Little Pony and loved Rainbow Brite. I collected baseball cards and adored all of the Philadelphia Phillies, but most fervently, catcher Darren Daulton.

    I can still picture Pete Incaviglia’s somersault catches (hilarious) and Lenny Dykstra’s mouth full of chewing tobacco (gross). I rarely see a pick-up truck commercial without thinking of John Kruk. These were the things of my childhood.

    The Phillies danced their way (okay, scraped their way) to Game 7 of the World Series during that magical 1993 season. By the time Joe Carter broke my heart with his bottom of the ninth, walk off home run to win everything for the Blue Jays, I was hooked on baseball in a hopeless, irreversible way.


    Since then, I have watched first base pass from John Kruk to Rico Brogna and now to Ryan Howard. I saw Mike Lieberthal take over for Darren Daulton at catcher in 1994 and stay with the Phillies for 13 long, heartbreaking playoff-less years. Now, Carlos Ruiz has stepped up to (okay, behind) the plate.

    My boss spent a week with Daulton at a conference we planned last February. I still remind him of how much I would’ve loved to meet Darren, and he still reminds me that he got me an autographed picture. (If you are reading this, yes, I’m still grateful.)

    As if that’s not enough, he will have tickets to see Philadelphia in the World Series. With Daulton. Basically, he will live my dream. Like Carter’s home run, this is a typical story in the life of a Philadelphia fan. Always so close we can feel it, but never quite close enough.

    If the Phillies (knock on wood) win the 2008 World Series, I will be thrilled. Victory will be even sweeter because I’m not expecting it.

    I know there’s a nine-year-old out there who loves Ryan Howard more than Hannah Montana. She will never forget the 2008 Phillies, no matter what the outcome. Just like the 1993 team will always stay with me.

    (To see Suzie Raven's early prediction about the success of the Phillies, please see: "Baseball: The Phillies' Secret Weapon, the Bullpen." For other pieces about the Phillies, please see: "Brotherly Sports Love: Kinship Forged by Failure;" "Baseball: The Phillies Corner the Brewers & Sabathia," and "Baseball: The Phillies Head to the NLCS." FOX Sports will televise the first game of the World Series, beginning Wednesday, Oct. 22 at 8 p.m. EDT.)










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    Baseball: The Rays & the Importance of Avoiding Collapse

    by Hayden Alfano

    The Tampa Bay Ray's 3-1 victory over the Boston Red Sox in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series (ALCS) was undoubtedly the biggest win in the Rays' history. By virtue of that triumph, the Rays — a team that prior to this season hadn’t even recorded a winning record since joining Major League Baseball in 1998 — advanced to the World Series, where they’ll attempt to win their first-ever championship while facing the Philadelphia Phillies.

    This win, however, meant a lot more than getting that opportunity this year.

    Just three days earlier, in Game 5 of their seven-game series with Boston, the Rays led 7-0 in the seventh inning, seven outs away from their fourth consecutive victory over Boston and a trip to the World Series. Inexplicably, almost surreally, the Red Sox (the once-cursed franchise that has made a habit in recent years of improbable postseason resurrections) won that game in dramatic fashion. When the Red Sox (the World Champions in 2007) took Game 6 on Saturday night to even the best-of-seven series at three games apiece, they had all the momentum heading into Sunday’s decisive contest.

    Had the Rays lost that seventh game on Sunday, it would have marked the completion of one of the most spectacular collapses in baseball postseason history. And it could have cost Tampa Bay more than just their shot at a title this year. Such a collapse can alter the fortunes of a franchise forever.

    Take the Portland Trailblazers of the National Basketball Association (NBA). Leading by 15 points in the fourth quarter of the decisive game of the 2000 Western Conference finals, the Blazers were ultimately beaten by the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers went on to win the NBA championship that year and each of the following two; the Blazers, a group talented enough to have pulled off the three-peat themselves, essentially self-destructed, mixing off-court incidents with a poor attitude on the court and a tendency to underperform in the biggest moments.

    In a sense, that fourth quarter affected NBA history well beyond deciding which team got to play for the title that year.

    If it wasn’t for Sunday’s win, we might be saying the same thing about the final three innings of Thursday’s Game 5 between the Rays and Red Sox. Tampa Bay is baseball’s most talented young club, and whether they beat Philadelphia, this probably won’t be their only World Series appearance in the next five years or so. But who knows what would have happened had they lost to Boston in such dramatic fashion?

    (For more on the Rays, please see "Baseball: Brewers, Rays Lead Small Market Revolt." FOX Sports will televise the first game of the World Series, beginning Wednesday, Oct. 22 at 8 p.m. EDT.)














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