Monday, November 13, 2006

This is Our Country?

The Football Outsiders know a lot about football, but they probably know even more about the annoying things that people who enjoy football have put up with in order to watch football. I was browsing through the notes in this week's installment of Audibles at the Line when the following comment about Chevy's latest ad campaign, running in heavy rotation during all televised American sporting events, caught my eye:
“Not only does that ad not make me want to buy a Chevy, it makes me want to join Al Qaeda.”

I couldn't agree more. The old "Like a Rock" campaign was insufferable, of course, but at least it didn't feature John Cougar Mellencamp and his cornpone paeans to folk wisdom and knee-jerk patriotism. I loathe John Cougar and his entire songbook. I even refuse to refer to him by his nom de plume John Mellencamp. You can't just add the word 'Cougar' to your name and then remove it once you become a commercial success. As you can see, my distaste for him is deep-seeded and highly irrational.

Setting aside my reservations about the music and the musician, the commercial itself is borderline insulting. It's full of stock footage celebrating at worst the banality of life in America and at worst, some of the darkest days in our history. Ok, so there are a couple of perfunctory clips of Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, who are certainly spinning in their graves over being included in this travesty. After that, it's all downhill. There is some footage of kids at the sock hop, followed by the Vietnam War, anti-Vietnam War protests, probably a clip from Woodstock for good measure, Nixon resigning, some other crappy moments in American history, and New Orleans under six feet of water. What are future installments (and you know there are going to be future installments) of this series of commercials going to show? Lee Harvey Oswald? The Manson Family? Jimmy Carter? Have Americans gotten so stupid that they feel nostalgia for any even that happened more then 30 years ago, regardless of whether or not it was good?

If this campaign runs as long as their "Like a Rock" campaign, I'm going to have to seriously consider whether or not I want to remain a sports fan.

Beauty is a Rare Thing

NPR did a piece on free jazz legend Ornette Coleman this morning. It's always nice to see someone in the free jazz community get some coverage in the mainstream media. I'm not a huge Ornette fan. In fact, I don't own a single Ornette Coleman recording. I guess that's somewhat shameful for someone who considers himself a free jazz afficianado, but my recording collection is very sparse by jazz collector standards anyway. I'm familliar with some of his work from the 1960s and I like almost all of it. I haven't been too impressed with any of his recent stuff, but I've only heard a small sample.

I've never seen Coleman play live, and I probably never will. From what I understand, he rarely plays live shows anymore. I heard that he played a free show on the Boston Common sometime back in the 1980s. Nowadays, you're probably lucky to hear him play a show in his hometown (New York?), let alone a free show in the middle of a city park. I'm not knocking Coleman by any means, his impact on the world of creative improvised music has been profound. I'm just saying that I can't really consider someone who is not out there making music on a regular basis part of the vanguard of the free jazz movement. Still, it was a nice piece and he is a much more deserving of an in-depth profile than most of the musicians that I hear about on NPR.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Forklift Safety Dance

Michelle has to go into the plant sometimes for her job, so she has to take all kinds of safety training classes. Today's class featured a forklift safety video (in German). Whatever the video may have lacked in educational value it more than made up for in humor. After she told me about the video, I was laughing so hard that we decided that we had to find it on the Internet. Fortunately, we weren't the only people who found it hilarious. Check out the video for yourself. You probably wouldn't learn anything about forklift safety, but you should enjoy it. This video, by the way, does nothing to dispel the reputation that Germans have for being really weird.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Day

I spent more time studying in college than most people, but I never pulled an "all-nighter". Unlike many of my classmates, I never spent the final minutes before an exam looking over notes, trying to memorize that last piece of information that would help me pass the test. My approach to politics, however, has always been to spend the night before the election cramming, trying to figure out which candidates and proposals I support. I usually make up my mind on the big-name candidates before the election, but I never pay attention to the local races and the more obscure offices until the last minute. It would actually make more sense to figure out the smaller races first, since the only media coverage that those races tend to get happens a month or two before the election. I always pledge to pay more attention to local races after each election, but I never manage to make good on that pledge. I'll do things differently in 2008, I'm sure.

In my defense, I had to vote on no fewer than 22 separate ballot questions in this election (9 statewide and 13 citywide). I'm not a big fan of ballot questions. With ballot questions, the most important thing seems to be the wording. I don't know if there is any ballot proposition that could not be passed given the right amount of creative wordsmithing. I only thought a couple of the questions on this year's ballot were somewhat misleading. My main complaint was the overall inanity of some of them. There was a statewide question to approve $4M in bonds to rehabilitate a state park. Perhaps I shouldn't be complaining about fiscal transparency in a state as legendary for corruption as Rhode Island, but isn't this something that could have been taken care of by the legislature without having to solicit the opinion of every registered voter?