Jim Walsh's Big Hairy Weblog Thingy

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Throwing Down The Gauntlet

Today on O'Reilly, conserva-clown Ann Coulter took a cheap shot at New York, saying they probably would contribute nothing to the hurricane relief effort.
Forget about Coulter. She's just a publicity whore; her opinions are about as substantial as that of your average professional wrestler, and calculated for the same effect.
But...if I were a talk host at, say, WABC, I'd jump all over Coulter's comments like a dog on a Dreamcicle: "Hey, fellow New Yorkers...did you hear what that beeyotch said about us? C'moon, let's show her," etc.
That would be great radio. That is what should happen. Of course what will happen is that no one at WABC will touch it.
Because Coulter is conservative and Republican, and you don't attack a fellow traveler. And most talk hosts are more interested in advancing an agenda than creating entertaining, compelling radio.
Go ahead guys, prove me wrong...

Louisiana (They're Tryin' To Wash Us Away...)

Think of it as one of those "Elephant In The Living Room" issues.

You know...everybody knows it's there but nobody wants to be the first to mention it.

Amidst all the heartbreaking footage from the Gulf Coast, Jeff Jarvis poses the one question that everyone is thinking but no one is asking:

Should we even bother rebuilding New Orleans?

Interesting question. What happened this week will eventually happen again. Certainly, they will reenforce the levees, but is that really enough?

Now is the time to start thinking and talking about it. New Orleans is one of the coolest cities on the planet, but as my pal Perry Simon put it: does it really make sense to put everybody right back in harm's way?

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Thinning The Herd, Pt. XXXVIII

Preident Bush is urging the good folks of New Orleans to get the heck out of harm's way.

The Chief of Police in that fair city put it even better: he told people to stop jerking around and "haul ass."

Fair enough...they're doing their jobs. But it's hard to feel sorry for anyone who doesn't heed their advice.

Don't misunderstand me - I'm not talking about the emergency crews or anyone else who is forced by poverty, illness or other circumstances to ride it out; I'm referring to those mental midgets who have opted to hang in there, right in the line of fire, out of what George Carlin quaintly described as "macho asshole bullshit."

You always read about these morons after the fact - usually on the obits page.

I do feel for the folks who will be called upon to put their own lives on the line to rescue these idiots. If it were left up to me, I'd tell the police, Coast Guard, etc. to leave these "hurricane party" types to their own devices.

So to the genuine heroes who will be there for the genuinely unfortunate, I salute you and wish you the best.

And to you macho idiots who think you're proving some point - Mr. Darwin sends his regards...

Friday, August 26, 2005

...And Stuff That Makes Me Scratch My Head In Wonder...

Memo to the guy who got caught poking around in Jennifer Aniston's house:

Dude...if Brad Pitt couldn't make it work with her, what makes you think you have a snowball's chance...

Things That Tick Me Off, Pt. II

Here's part of what Insider Online had to say about the search for Olivia Newton-John's missing boyfriend Patrick McDermott (as much as I can stomach, anyway)...

With authorities still baffled over what happened to McDermott, "The Insider" contacted LINDA and TERRY JAMISON -- The Psychic Twins -- for their psychic opinions. "There's no dead body here. I don't sense death here," say the twins. "We feel that he may have faked his disappearance."
The twins say they started getting readings almost immediately after standing on the dock where McDermott's boat launched. "We don't feel he's in the country right now. We feel that he will be coming back to the U.S.," Linda and Terry point out, adding, "It's hard to say whether it's within the next six weeks to two months, but it's around there."

And from the TV show: "The Psychic Twins could being a stunning break in the case. (They) may be able to do what cops can't..."

I ask ya: Is there anything lower than a couple of "psychic" con artists who would freely exploit the heartache of people grieving over missing (and likely deceased) loved ones?

How about TV shows giving these ghouls a ringing endorsement?


Things That Tick Me Off, Pt. I

With all the damage and suffering going on in Florida right now, what is the prime concern of those enlightened, altruistic folks at Entertainment Tonight?

"My God...what about the Video Music Awards?"

Never mind all those average working folks who may lose their homes: where are Mariah and Paris gonna have their post-award yacht party?


Thursday, August 25, 2005

Founding Father

I just finished His Excellency, George Washington by Joseph J. Ellis.

The book is pleasantly readable and mercifully short, unlike some of the other tomes on the subject. Ellis reveals Washington to be a man of powerful passions who struggled all his life to control said passions under a veil of classic Roman stoicism, as well as an avid cultivator of power who nonetheless always endeavored to use it wisely.

A most extraordinary man, vastly more interesting than the caricature featured in the cartoonish Parson Weems stories.

I recommend the book highly.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Psychedelic Muzak

There's an old joke:

What did the hippie say when he ran out of drugs?

"This music sucks, man..."

I thought of that joke recently when I was listening, for the first time, to one of the most successful albums ever recorded.

When I was in high school and college one of the albums to have was Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon.

It was particularly popular among the pseudo-intellectual stoner (PIST) types who insisted that there was no more transcendental experience than listening to "Floyd" on headphones late at night while toking on some really good...whatever (I never got into grass, so I'm not familiar with the lingo)...

The PIST guys were serious buttheads. These were the guys who never missed an opportunity to lambaste guys like me who listened to "Bubble-Gum" Top Forty (for the record, I was into doo-wop and classic R&B; somehow those hip, progressive types didn't, or couldn't, make a distinction).

I never understood the appeal of Floyd. What little I heard sounded to me like a self-indulgent Abbey Road knockoff with lyrics that read like something out of some fifteen year-old's diary.

In other words, Bubble-Gum Top Forty...with pretensions.

Flash forward thirty some years. I teeter on the edge of fifty. My music tastes have certainly evolved over the decades, running the gamut from Miles Davis to Buck Owens. And I still enjoy doo-wop and classic R&B.

I've even acquired an appreciation for folks I never had much use for in my younger years, like Dylan and Hendrix.

Which brings us back to Dark Side Of The Moon.

Recently I decided it was time to break down and check out Pink Floyd for myself. To see what the big deal was. Dark Side, after all, is an all-time best-seller. All those gazillion Floyd fans can't be wrong...can they?

So, a couple of weeks ago I coughed up the bucks and bought my first-ever copy of Dark Side Of The Moon.

One Sunday night, I stretched out on the floor, slapped the CD into my "home entertainment center," adjusted my headphones...

...and listened.

Listened to the whole thing.

And what I heard sounded pretty much like a self-indulgent Abbey Road knockoff with lyrics that read like something out of some fifteen year-old's diary.

Bubble-Gum. With pretensions.

Don't get me wrong. It's a well-crafted piece of music. Not a note out of tune - the craftsmanship behind it is admirable (I'm sure nobody was toking on anything when they made the album).

It's just that there's nothing to it. No substance.

It's like the musical version of Gertrude Stein's Oakland: there's no there there!

Maybe it's the fact I wasn't stoned. Of course everything sounds great when you're stoned, or so I've heard (I never got into grass). Sorry - if that's your scene, I don't knock it - but I prefer my music stand or fall on its own.

Transcendental my fat, hairy ass.

The CD is sitting on my shelf at home, along with Miles, Buck, the Temps, etc. I'm sure it will come in handy as production music on my next radio gig. It would do just fine as background for my next party.

Beyond that - well, I can only say this:

Fifty Gazillion stoner fans can be wrong.

Floyd sucks, man.

Friday, August 19, 2005

What A Meth

Take it from P.J. O'Rourke...it's a time-tested government tactic: when you have a problem, make a lot of noise about it until it gets better by itself, then take the credit for it.

The Bush administration says it will now get serious about the methamphetamine problem.

Take this as another sure sign that the "meth epidemic" has passed its peak.

Do ya think, once this meth thing passes over, these clowns will rescind those stupid OTC cold-remedy regulations they've been passing so avidly?

Don't hold your breath waiting...

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Lookin' Through A Glass On-Yon

I hate onions, but I love The Onion...

Saturday, August 13, 2005

61 (No Asterisk)

While we're on the subject of baseball, click here and find out about one of my pet projects: getting my boyhood idol, Roger Maris, in the Hall Of Fame...

Talkin' Baseball

I just finished a baseball book that rocked my world, and has me thinking about how to apply its ideas more widely.

Moneyball by Michael Lewis is a book about sabermetrics, a method of analyzing baseball statistics by ultra-objective and even mathematical means. The term was coined by one Bill James, who developed the concept as a means of killing time while (no kidding) working at a Hormel meatpacking plant in Kansas City.

“Sabermetricians” have called into question many ideas in baseball heretofore held sacred. For instance the concept of “batting average” is considered overrated, because of its limited usefulness in predicting a team’s actual ability to generate runs, and by extension, win games. In the sabermetric view f'rinstance, a player who has a knack for getting on base by walks (arguably a function of a batter’s manipulation of the strike zone) is a player of genuine value.

This kind of thinking is heresy among baseball traditionalists.

The sabermetric philosophy of pitching is just as radical. The most basic premise is this: the pitcher has no control of whether a ball falls for a hit once it gets put into play. They can prevent home runs and walks, and keep balls from from being put into play by striking out batters. These three factors alone are what make a pitcher stand out. Ergo, the traditional “earned run average” is a misleading figure that tells you little about a pitcher’s true potential.

Confused yet?

The leading practicioner of sabermetrics is Oakland GM Billy Beane, who uses sabermetric principles in staffing and running the A’s (the story of how Beane's own experiences as a player soured him on the traditional seat-of-the-pants approach to baseball strategy is a high point of the book).

The major advantage of the system seems to be in how it allows a team with a limited budget to get “more bang for the buck” by selecting talented players that other teams would overlook. The A’s have certainly enjoyed some success in recent years, out of proportion to their team's relatively meager budget (at this writing the A's have pulled out an early-season slump and are kicking some serious booty). Several of Beane’s protegees have moved on to upper management jobs at other teams where they presumably apply sabermetrics.

The defending champion Red Sox have also applied sabermetric principles in recent years (they hired Bill James as an advisor). Advocates of the system like to crow how a bunch of number-crunching nerds beat the Bambino Curse!

The sabermetric school does have its share of detractors, mostly among traditionalists like Hall-Of-Famer/ESPN color man Joe Morgan (he was part of Cincinnatti’s “Big Red Machine” in the seventies). Ironically, using the sabermetric system of analysis, Morgan comes off as one of the top two or three second basemen to ever play the game.

Morgan’s rants on the subject border on the comical; despite being corrected on numerous occasions he continues to insist Billy Beane wrote Moneyball! For the record, he says he’s never read the book and refuses to do so...

All this may sound like so much Chinese arithmetic, but I can assure you the book Moneyball is one hell of a read. The book has a certain momentum to it; it carries you along. I recommend it very highly.

Like I said at the beginning, the book has me thinking about how to apply "Moneyball" principles to other areas of life, particularly my own area of quasi-expertise, radio programming. Specifically, how can a station (or a chain) with a limited budget get more bang for the buck using sabermetric-type principles? I'm working on it and will have more to say in the near future.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Uneasy Rider

A new study says motorcycle fatalities are up sharply.

Some cite the relaxing of helmet laws in many states and that may be a factor. Still, I support the right of adult riders to decide for themselves (and take their chances).

I suspect a much more important factor is that more and more aging baby boomers are buying bikes, because they've always wanted one, or because it's cool...

...and they have little or no experience in riding the damn things.

Half of all motorcycle accidents involve people with six months or less of actual riding experience. Now imagine some fortysomething year-old yuppie, whose entire riding experience consists of a couple of turns on a friend's Mini-Bike as a teenager, buying a full-size Harley hog, and lightin' out for the open road.

Your proverbial accident waiting to happen.

If you wanna learn to ride, here's some advice:

First thing: take the ABATE safety course. You can find your local chapter on the web, or get a brochure at your local bike dealership.

Don't get a bike that's more than you can handle. Start on something small, like a Honda Nighthawk 250 (my first bike). From there move to something midrange, like a Sportster 883.

Wear a helmet. I don't agree with mandatory-helmet laws, but I do believe in helmets and I never ride without one.

Here's a good piece of advice from Jay Leno: Don't ride when you're in a hurry. In other words, if you have an hour to get somewhere and it's ten minutes away, take the bike. If it's ten minutes away and you have ten minutes to get there, take the car.

The alcohol threshold is much lower for a bike than a car.

Remember: most drivers don't really see bikes, even when they're looking right at them. Ride defensively and err on the side of caution.

Statistically, most motorcycle accidents happen at intersections.

When in doubt, slow down.

And learn how to fall. Every biker has to "lay it down" sooner or later.

First and foremost though, take that course. It will even make you a better car-driver.

And when you're in your car, watch out for bikers. They're out there.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Peter Jennings, R.I.P.

I was saddened to hear of the passing of Peter Jennings over the weekend. As this article points out, Jennings was a high-school dropout and thus a hero to autodidacts everywhere.

BTW: Giving credit where its due, even the Media Research people had something nice to say about the man on his passing. 'Bout time, Brent...

UPDATE: Debbie Schlussel: shame on you. I would expect this kind of cheap-shot artistry from Ann Coulter, but I really thought you were above that.

Hiroshima Remembered

Historian Victor Davis Hanson weighs in on the Hiroshima/Nagasaki question. I'm not a big fan of Hanson (sometimes he's more interested in advancing his agenda than getting the facts straight), but in this case he gets it mostly right: the A-bombing of those two cities, horrible as it was, was the least horrible of available alternatives.

(Paul Fussell, of course, had the definitive statement on the subject...)

Thursday, August 04, 2005

"Tweaking" The Numbers

I strongly suggest you take this week's Newsweek cover feature on the meth "epidemic" with a grain of salt.

As Jack Shafer notes in this Slate article, the Newsweek article plays fast and loose with the figures.

Shafer makes another good point:

Given that Time/Newsweek are generally well behind the curve on social trends, this current hype and hoopla could, in its way, indicate that the meth craze has already passed it's peak and is on the decline.

Incidentally, the Newsweek article, amidst the hysteria (parts of which read like something cut 'n' pasted from an ONDCP brochure) does pose one very good question:

If meth is really so destructive and widespread, why are the Feds still focused on pot?

And a musin' of my own:

Anyone besides me ever notice that conserva-clown Ann Coulter never shows her teeth when she smiles? Ya don't suppose...

UPDATE: The Drug War Chronicle weights in as well...