The Answer Guy Online

Providing information to unwitting victims on a "don't-need-to-know" basis since 1974.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Cleaning Out The Closet

Time to put an end to another work-related hiatus at The Answer Guy Online.

So many occassions to blog about - where do I begin?

1. My 2nd Blog-a-Versary passed a couple days ago. Much the way I don't like running into old classmates and having them ask me what I'm doing now, the idea that there are major blogs younger than The Answer Guy Online makes me feel a bit, well, pathetic.

2. I passed the Super Millionaire phone quiz, but was not selected to go to a taping. (Of course, people who read my LiveJournal already know that.)

3. Same-sex marriages in Massachusetts. Just seeing those pictures of longtime couples lining up for the right to express their commitment to each other to the larger world in such a fashion that they had been denied for years was emotionally overwhelming. The fact that my hometown was near the eye of the storm was incredible - it's apparently come a long way.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Who Let The Dogs Out?

I just love the headline on this article. The juxtaposition of Bush praising Donald Rumsfeld with the references to new gruesome Iraqi torture pitcures speaks to, well, something.

Pfc. Lynndie England, suddenly notorious, was charged in connection with the abuses in Abu Gharib prison. Apparently, she's going to be employing the "I was only following orders" defense, which, as history has told us, isn't really a defense.

Certainly the flood of photos emanating from this prison hints that such abuses aren't simply isolated incidents, and that someone somewhere up the chain of command knew about and, if not encouraged, condoned or at least tolerated such behavior.

The latest ones have guards menacing the prisoners with dogs. (For what it's worth, contact with dogs is generally forbidden for Muslims.) So, the metaphorical $64,000 question is, well, the title of this entry.

There doesn't seem to be a willing fall guy, or gal, though the search is on to pin all of this on a handful of "bad apples." The meme the Pentagon seems to be pushing is that "six morons...lost the war."

In this administration, the buck stops...nowhere.

It's been asked elsewhere whether it's fair to say that Rumsfeld should be fired, or made to resign, due to these revelations, since Janet Reno didn't resign after the Waco debacle. Not a particularly relevant one from where I'm standing, since this whole war has been a fiasco, Rumsfeld and his fellow neo-conservative armchair warriors having led America and her soldiers into a hornet's nest, without much thought put in to what their goals were, what was going to happen in case the accolades and roses failed to materialize, or what was going to happen once Saddam was driven from power.

If you want to find the "six morons who lost the war," I suggest that Rumsfeld, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, and Douglas Feith are where you want to look.

I'm verging on "tinfoil hat" territory, but I have to wonder if George W. Bush and his administration are the best thing ever to happen to al-Qaida and other similar terror networks; they can operate in Iraq easier now, they've got all kinds of new recruiting tools thanks to this war in Iraq, and have isolated America (and therefore Israel) from many of its allies. Sometimes I wonder if maybe they've got something planned in the near future that they think will help Bush stay in power.

In other news, the Baha Men's irritating arena anthem "Who Let The Dogs Out?" will have its Round of 64 matchup in Jukebox From Hell starting late this evening, where it will square off against Rod Stewart's nausea-inducing tale of a wanna-be lothario, "Tonight's The Night (Gonna Be Alright.)"

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Best Power Ballads

There's been discussion over here about what makes a good power ballad.

Which led me to thinking about what actually constitutes a "power ballad."

So I thought about it, and came up with this ersatz definition:

* It's a ballad (in the collquial sense), namely a song in a slow tempo that, at least at first, is played and sung softly.
* The volume and/or intensity (and sometimes the tempo) of the song is ramped up significantly, either between the verse/bridge and bridge/chorus (most common), or from one verse to the next.
* Power ballads are usually love songs, but need not be; they only need refrain from connoting aggression or menace. If you have one of those emotional elements in a song, you have something other than a power ballad. (e.g. AC/DC's "Hells Bells" and Nirvana's "Heart Shaped Box" aren't power ballads, despite their slow tempos and relatively soft starts.)

The acid test for a power ballad at a rock concert:
It makes you want to get out the lighter, but at some point in the song put it away.

Dirges (e.g. Pink Floyd's "Hey You," or Aerosmith's "Kings And Queens") and slow burners (e.g. Soundgarden's "Outshined" or Van Halen's "And The Cradle Will Rock")don't bring the lighters; straight-ahead ballads keep them on the entire song.

There are always two main areas of ambiguity when it comes to defining the term "power ballad."
1. Could the song be considered a "power ballad" if it were made before the term was invented, sometime in the 80s? We associate power ballads with hair metal bands of course, but they were taking a page from earlier rockers in crafting tunes of this variety, most notably the Rolling Stones and The Who.
2. Does it have to be by an artist or group that is known for being "rockers" who "take it down a notch," at least for some of the song in question? Or can pop artists produce them as well?

In the realm of 70s proto-power ballads, we have:
The Who, "Love, Reign O'er Me"
Aerosmith, "Dream On"
Derek & The Dominoes, "Bell Bottom Blues"

More traditionally, my own personal list:
Def Leppard, "Love Bites"
Queensyrche, "Silent Lucidity"
Night Ranger, "Sister Christian"
Motley Crue, "Home Sweet Home"
Aerosmith, "What It Takes"
Metallica, "Fade To Black"

I'd have Guns n' Roses' "November Rain" on the list, but it's at least 3 minutes too long, and the only really good part is the ending.

Bowling For Dollars

I have to wonder what Disney's motivation is behind pulling the plug on Michael Moore's latest film, titled Farenheit 911.

There is widespread speculation that Disney, who owns Miramax, the studio that was slated to release the film, is preventing the film from getting a theatrical release due to intense political pressure from Jeb Bush, currently the Governor of Florida, who has allegedly threatened to revoke some tax privileges enjoyed by the company on their many properties in Florida.

While I wouldn't put it past the Bush clan to try to put the screws to political opponents - ask Joe Wilson, John DiIulio, or Paul O'Neill - I can't imagine such pressure would ultimately prove effective, even if Disney in fact caved.

Somewhere in the back of my twisted mind is the notion that this whole thing is a publicity stunt. I can only imagine how obscure 2 Live Crew would be today - even more deservedly obscure than they are now - if censors both right and left hadn't been trying to shut them down. More recently, the negative publicity didn't do much harm to the bottom line for Mel Gibson's "Passion" film.

Someone will want to release this thing, and I predict that it will make money hand over fist, even if it has to start in art-house theaters the way his other films did.

The other question is what new information Moore has to bring to the table. People had to have caught on to his schtick of humiliating hapless corporate PR flacks, getting kicked out of buildings by security guards, and embarassing the occassional B-list celebrity by now. (Especially now that one of his quixotic gambits - K-Mart agreeing to restrict ammunition sales during the filming of "Bowling For Columbine" - actually worked.) "Bowling" was a deeply moving, if somewhat scattershot, piece of work, but it was at its least engaging when Moore was falling back on his tried-and-true "in your face" methods; the film was its best when Moore was able to capture small, low-key vignettes of sad truths (e.g. the newscasters in the parking lot, the interview of the teenagers in the small Michigan town where one of the Columbine killers lived) and stand back.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Worth A Thousand Words

You've probably seen these (not work safe) pictures of Iraqi prison torture, humiliation, and abuse by now.

So much for the campaign trail claims that the torture cells and rape rooms have been closed. I wonder how you say "Under New Management" in Arabic.

Now, before I start going on my righteous indignation kick, there is an obvious moral quandary involved with torturing a terrorist suspect who just might have the information you need, for instance, to stop a dirty bomb from exploding in Boston or Chicago.

That said, I have no idea what, say, forcing prisoners to masturbate on camera is supposed to accomplish. I hope they got some damn good information about insurgents or terrorist plots or at least something of value that way, but I can't imagine whatever information they would have gained would have been worth the horrible publicity the United States is receiving, and how many people who had been sitting on the fence regarding the occupation are now ready to believe the worst things said about American intentions in the Middle East by the Osama bin Ladens of the world.

Even worse, I'd be shocked if even one of the Iraqi prisoners in these picture knows anything about the planning of terrorist activity in Iraq or anywhere else.

The report by Maj. General Antonio Taguda regarding the sort of prison abuse in Iraq depicted in the link photos above has been available to Pentagon brass for weeks, and yet Gen. Richard Meyers asserted that "it had not made its way up the chain of command" on a television interview this weekend, despite the fact that the report was the talk of Washington by then, and that the pictures were on television the week before.

Not that there was really that much chance of America winning the "hearts and minds" of the Iraqi people, but this incident is probably the death knell of such a notion.

Anyone of any influence who believed that Iraqis would welcome us with roses, and based our war planning on that idea, deserves to never have any of his or her statements about anything taken seriously ever again.

Mission Accomplished, my ass.

Also, what he said.

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