Monday, July 31

Your arts & entertainment endorsements for this week.

Pet Shop Boys, Fundamental/Fundamentalism (special-edition double CD)

Well, as expected, I like it, though perhaps not for the reasons I thought I would. I do like the fact that the Pet Shop Boys, after getting a decidedly mixed reception for the sidetrack they took into guitar-driven pop with their last album, have turned back to their synth-electronic roots. However, Fundamental isn't a return to the lavish, anthemic, club-ready songs of Very -- which, to be honest, I was kind of hoping for, since I've gone on record as saying that Very is the greatest pop album ever recorded; if anything, it goes even further back to the Actually/Introspective sound of the mid-1980s, which shouldn't come as much of a surprise given that Introspective producer Trevor Horn was brought back to produce this album.

Perhaps for that reason, there's a very brooding, almost dark vibe that pervades a great deal of the album, though that's probably more due to the fact that this is easily the most political album the Pet Shop Boys have ever created. And while politics is not a subject they've ever really gone out of their way to avoid, they've usually stuck to general, expansive themes that allow for a lot of interpretation; on this album, those general themes are still present (such as the theme of sexual liberation in "The Sodom and Gomorrah Show"), but there are also instances in which those themes have very explicit present-day applications, such as the manipulative properties of fear and paranoia ("Psychological") or the failure of violence as a means for solving the world's problems ("Twentieth Century"). And then there are songs that are blatantly, explicitly based on specific current events and unashamed of it -- "I'm With Stupid" is a bitingly funny take on the "special relationship" that has developed between Tony Blair and George W. Bush, while "Integral" is an angry response to the British government's controversial plans for a national identity card. The last track on the CD, "Integral" sounds like it could've come off the soundtrack for a modern-day film adaptation of the novel 1984, and it's probably the darkest and most foreboding way the Pet Shop Boys have ever chosen to end an album.

Which sort of begs the question, can an album be cuttingly political and danceable at the same time? Not always, if Fundamental is any indication -- there are a couple of club-ready tracks on here but they're mostly outnumbered by quieter tunes that aim more for "thought-provoking" than "pulse-raising." For that reason you're probably best off buying the two-disc edition that includes the Fundamentalism bonus CD, which has some terrific remixes of "Psychological," "Sodom," and "Flamboyant," among others. And I'm still hoping that the Pet Shop Boys will combine their lyrical skill with some big beats and release another Very before they retire. But this is still a really strong effort -- the only song I can honestly say I don't like is "Numb," which comes off as overdone and melodramatic -- and, if nothing else, it should cement the group's position as one of the most clever and intelligent voices in all of pop music.

Thom Yorke, The Eraser

Considering that Radiohead's last three albums were the widely varied Kid A, Amnesiac, and Hail to the Thief, I had absolutely no idea what to expect when a co-worker of mine lent me Thom Yorke's first solo album a couple weeks ago. The Eraser can be a difficult listen at times, though not in the same way that, say, Amnesiac was; it just may take one or two complete listen-throughs to adjust to the surprise of the instrumentation, which is almost completely electronic. Once you stop trying to categorize the music, though, and come to terms with the fact that, strictly speaking, it can't necessarily be described as "rock 'n' roll," it becomes easier to appreciate The Eraser as a unique, extremely evocative piece of work. There's some really fascinating contrasts between the music, which is every bit as spare and minimalist as some of the more electronic-driven tracks from Kid A, and the range of emotions in Yorke's voice; it's almost as if he set up the synths and drum machines in a deliberate effort to be interpreted as Kraftwerkian and detached, challenging listeners to stick with it and find something deeper. I wouldn't buy The Eraser expecting to fall in love with it on the very first spin, but it's definitely the kind of album that will reward the listener who's willing to stay with it a few times and pay close attention.

My favorite electronic group is Underworld, and while The Eraser doesn't really sound anything like Underworld, one of the highest compliments I can pay to the album is that it has some of the same traits I've come to really appreciate in Underworld's music: For one thing, many of the songs will start off a certain way and then end sounding completely different, and by the time you get to the end you realize the metamorphosis has been so gradual you don't even know how the music got from Point A to Point B. And Yorke, like Underworld, succeeds in disproving the myth that electronic music can't be emotional, even beautiful.

R.F. Delderfield, the "A Horseman Riding By" series: Long Summer Day (book one) and Post of Honour (book two>

It's been a while since I was as depressed as I was Sunday evening when I finished Post of Honour, the second in R.F. Delderfield's "A Horseman Riding By" series, which follows the fictional Craddock family from the patriarch's first arrival in rural Devon, England, after returning home from the Boer War all the way up to World War II. It wasn't that the book itself was particularly depressing -- though it ends as the people of England are preparing to be drawn into the horror of World War II -- it's just been a long time since I was that sad to see a book end.

My grandfather, who'll turn 81 in December, lent me those books probably years ago -- as a dedicated Anglophile, he really liked Delderfield's portrayal of life in the British countryside in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Granddad's health has been less than great lately, and when I spotted them on my bookshelf a few weeks ago, I thought what the hey, even though, in all honesty, the whole historical-family-saga genre of fiction has never been one in which I've been terribly interested. But the first book, Long Summer Day, drew me in almost immediately, and the very first thing I did once I'd finished it was to pick up Post of Honour. I can't quite explain what was so appealing about them -- it's not that Delderfield's prose style is awe-inspiring, and he does veer toward the melodramatic at times, though I guess in family sagas a bit of that is to be expected -- but I think it was the way he very skillfully portrays the Craddock family and their tenant farmers as British Everymen, with their struggles and crises symbolic of how the UK as a whole was yanked out of the triumph and security of the Victorian era into the violence and upheaval of the 20th century. It's kind of ironic, too, because while the family's story is seen primarily through the eyes of the patriarch, Paul -- who is described quite frequently as being entirely focused on his expanse of land in the Westcountry and trying to pay as little attention to the "outside world" as possible -- Delderfield lets that outside world and the historic events in it impact the Craddock farm a great deal more than other writers might. Whereas other sagas might focus mainly on petty, soap-operatic squabbles between families and family members, he takes some of those same domestic struggles and does an excellent job of increasing their importance by putting them in historical context, whether the issue at hand is women's suffrage, a world war, the encroachment of urbanization on the rural countryside, or whatever else. And, also notably, does so without a lot of trashy sensationalism. Even when events on the Shallowford farm are fairly calm, the characters are still very sympathetic and engaging, the kind of people you want to find out what happens to next.

I only found this out once I was already halfway through Post of Honor, but the Craddock family saga that had started out with two books apparently became a trilogy -- two years or so after the publication of the original two books, Delderfield wrote The Green Gauntlet, which takes the Craddock family out of World War II and into the postwar years. I'm hoping that this third installment won't turn out to be some tacked-on disappointment like, say, "The Godfather Part III," but either way I snapped up a copy on Amazon last night and am eagerly awaiting its arrival. And when I'm done reading it, I think I'll take all three books back up to Granddad and give him the third one as a gift -- seems like the appropriate thing to do.

OK, I'm not letting this one go.

OK, yes, I've heard all the smack talk from Auburn fans about how the Tigers have won two in a row against Georgia and are 5-2 over the last few years, and yes, I've heard all their spirited defenses about how the recent charges of academic impropriety at Auburn are just a lot of trumped-up hooey, yes, I've heard it all, blah blah, zzzz . . . but Auburn fans, I defy you to read this quote and tell me that deep down you aren't cringing with shame:

"It has not been a distraction, not to the team," linebacker Will Herring said. "Has it been fair? I can say it hasn't been fair, but life's not fair, you know? We've climbed up to the top of the nation academically and when you're on top, people want to shoot you down."

Yes, you heard that right: Auburn has climbed up to the top of the nation academically. I'm sure administrators at formerly respectable institutions such as Harvard, Johns Hopkins, and Princeton have been working feverishly for weeks at a stretch to find ways to combat Auburn's academic superiority. Yes, the Auburn intellectual juggernaut is a mighty foe, they say to themselves, but surely it is not invincible! We can produce students with the extrahuman brainpower of supergeniuses such as Carnell Williams and Doug Langenfeld! But how, dammit, how?

Ah, yes, football season is awful close, isn't it? The smell of smack talk is already rich and redolent in the air. Can't wait for September.

Oh, and I forgot . . . The second-dumbest thing I've read on the whole Auburn sort-of-scandal was penned by Kevin Scarbinsky, Birmingham News sports columnist and resident Auburn kneepad-wearer, in this column, penned July 16 basically in an effort to reassure Auburn fans that "Fear the Thumb" (or, their threats to in-state rival Alabama that they're going to win their fifth in a row against Bama this year) still carries a bigger sting than "Fear the Dumb" [above]). Scarbinsky's howler, not quite as overtly stupid as Herring's quote above but damn near, was as follows:

The members of the football team may not all be legitimate candidates for Mensa.

This drip-drip-drip of revelation may pool into a lake of fire, or it may evaporate into thin air, but one thing seems certain amid the hysteria.

Auburn will not have to give up its 2004 People's National Championship.

And isn't that really what's important here?

Yes, what's really important is that Auburn will not have to give up its contrived, arbitrary title that was never earned on the field of play and is recognized by absolutely nobody. Hands off, bitches! Can't touch this!

I went through a lengthy stretch a few years ago where I stopped making fun of Auburn because my sister was engaged to an AU student at the time -- and I can't tell you how glad I am that that never went any further, because seriously, making fun of Auburn is one of life's greatest pleasures. Even if Auburn somehow won five national titles in a row, dissing them would still be a richly rewarding (and easy) pastime for football fans everywhere.

Panic on the streets of Birmingham . . .

. . . as a second demon Gillett spawn is unleashed on Alabama's largest city. That's right -- Baby Sis is now an official Birminghamian. I would've announced this earlier, but I didn't want to step on her toes, and besides, with our family you never know when a parole officer might be reading.

Ann moves into her new apartment sometime this weekend, God willing, which should be an interesting counterpoint to the filth and squalor in which I currently reside. In the meantime, Ann wrote a really terrific editorial piece that was printed on the front freakin' page of the opinions section of the Sunday Columbus paper -- for some reason the geniuses at the Ledger-Enquirer aren't making it available online, but I think it was sort of based on a blog post Ann did a couple weeks ago about the release of the "World Trade Center" movie, so I hope she won't mind if I send y'all here.

Thursday, July 27

Video time.

OK, I've got to be at least a little political. Here's Jon Stewart doing a number on George W. Bush's veto of stem-cell research funding (from Tony Pierce) . . .

. . . and here's Steven Colbert doing an even better one on mainstream TV news (courtesy Eschaton).

Wednesday, July 26

"There won't be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness."

The little hit counter in the upper left-hand corner of this page read 250,072 when I fired up the ol' blog at lunchtime today, so I guess at some point today, probably right around the time I was waking up to the soothing sounds of NPR's "Morning Edition" on the trusty alarm clock, this site got its 250,000th visitor. Which means that I have now tricked people into thinking there's something worthwhile on this site on more than a quarter of a million separate occasions. Not bad for sixteen and a half months' work, and by "work" I of course mean "unqualified ranting and poopy jokes."

You may have noticed that posting has been a little, shall we say, sporadic over the last couple of weeks. Well, it may be that way for a while. I've been kicking around an idea for a novel in my head for a couple weeks now, and while I generally have three or four such ideas kicking around in my head at any given moment -- one of which is almost invariably the screenplay about Truth, Beauty, and Hot Hott Celebrity Hottness I've been trying to churn out for going on a decade now -- I've come to the conclusion that the idea I got recently needs to be bumped to the front of the line, before global political events and/or Armageddon render it obsolete. (I'm only halfway kidding about that one.) So I'm going to be devoting a little more time to that, and that time has to come from somewhere, and since it obviously can't come from work or my busy alcohol-consumption regimen, it's probably gonna have to come out of the blog.

This doesn't mean I'm going to stop blogging, it just means my schedule is going to be a little on the erratic side, and it's also probably going to include less politics than it did before. The novel idea I had is of a political nature, and between focusing on the novel and hearing every five minutes about some new feces-fan collision in the Middle East, I don't really want to spend too much time focusing on politics lest I go certifiably insane. But who knows, I may throw in a political post here and there, and you'll still get all the football, hot chicks, and celebrity humiliation you crave, especially once football season starts and I can resume schooling these two knob jobs in my fantasy league.

Actually, now that I think about it, there is a blog-related project-like substance I've been wanting to get started here for a while now, and in the rambling course of doing some background research on it I came across this very interesting item explaining Dr. Seuss's 1957 masterwork The Cat in the Hat as an allegory of the Vietnam War:

Well the cat (Government) is trying to talk the kids (the American People) into playing some games which will mess up the house. But the goldfish (conscience) is yelling, telling the kids to get the damn cat out of the house before they get in trouble. (It's right about here that the conscience basically turns into the War Protester.) So the cat does start playing all these games and the house does get very messed up. (That's the Viet Nam war). And the goldfish gets all beat up (just like the hippie peace lovers). And then there is this part where the cat is yelling for everyone to look at him because he can hold all these things at once--cup, milk, cake, books, rake, goldfish, toy ship, toy man, red fan--and bounce the ball at the same time. (Toy ship, toy man, red fan, get it?) But then the cat fell and everything fell all over and made a big mess. (That was the Tet Offensive of 1968.) And the goldfish said, "Do I like this? Oh, no! I do not. This is not a good game." (See, the goldfish turns into Cronkite at this point.)

Good stuff, right? I promise I'll keep trying to dig up this kind of shit even while I'm working on everything else.

Friday, July 21

Friday Random Ten, A New Hope edition.

Things may be going to hell in a five-pound bag on the other side of the world -- wait, no, I mean there may be ten pounds of shit in a handbasket -- dammit! I drank too much last night and I can't keep my homespun epithets straight! -- but at least here, in America, some things appear to be going right. In Georgia, Ralph Reed -- an even bigger embarrassment to me as a Georgia grad than Quincy Carter or, hell, Jim Harrick -- got bounced right out of the primary for lieutenant governor; here in Alabama, Patricia Todd won the runoff for state legislature in House District 54, so we've got at least a little progressiveness going for us. The Braves finally have a closer; the Dawgs have a bunch of guys on the preseason all-SEC list. When all is said and done, things could be worse.

Anyhoo, the Ten:

1. Elton John, "Rocket Man"
2. De La Soul, "Cool Breeze on the Rocks"
3. Talisman & Hudson, "Leave Planet Earth"
4. Adam Sandler, "Do It For Your Mama"
5. Billy Joel, "Allentown"
6. Avenue Q cast, "The More You Ruv Someone"
7. Simply Red, "Holding Back the Years"
8. Pet Shop Boys, "West End Girls"
9. Miles Davis, "Move"
10. Orbital, "Funny Break (Once is Enough)"

Goodies to enjoy on your Friday:

· The potential horror of J-Date here.

· Free online "Risk"-like game downloadable here.

· EDSBS delves into the wide, wild world of college football pep production in four installments -- fight songs, chants and cheers, costumed mascots, and live mascots (of which Georgia's Uga VI is quite correctly deemed the ideal).

Wednesday, July 19

What passes for foreign policy expertise these days.

Dear Israel, if you have any missiles left over after you're done destroying Hezbollah, could you please fire one at Bill Kristol? Pretty please?

KRISTOL: . . . We have to stop [Iran] from getting nuclear weapons. We can try diplomacy. I am not hopeful about that. We have to be ready to use force.

FOX NEWS: You know, the down side, though, you know very well, to all of that being that we?re involved in Iraq and Afganistan. Also that Iran is much different than Iraq. It?s huge and more formidable.

KRISTOL: It is, but also the Iranian people dislike their regime. I think they would be -- the right use of targeted military force -- but especially if political pressure before we use military force -- could cause them to reconsider whether they really want to have this regime in power. There are even moderates -- they are not wonderful people -- but people in the government itself who are probably nervous about Ahmadinejad's recklessness. (my emphasis)

Here's a guy who was one of the driving forces behind our invasion of Iraq, and who said before the war that we'd be greeted as liberators. Now it's three years later, by his own admission George W. Bush has "driven us into a ditch" in Iraq -- and he's saying the exact same fucking things about Iraq.

If this were just some know-nothing blowhard spouting off nonsense at the Waffle House on Highway 31, that'd be one thing. But Kristol is a guy who wields considerable influence in the Republican Party. He runs a think tank that was obviously influential enough to help coax us into a war on the other side of the world; he was chief of staff to Bill Bennett when Bennett was secretary of education under Reagan, and then chief of staff to Vice President Quayle; he established The Weekly Standard, which, despite being wrong approximately as often as the sun rises in the East, has somehow still managed to maintain a large measure of credibility in right-wing circles. And now he's telling the Bush administration, and the country, that the Iranian people are going to slap their heads and go, "Oh! Yes! What were we thinking, electing this fool Ahmadinejad? Thank you, United States, for helping us see the light!" when the M1A1s start rolling into Azadi Square in Tehran.

Sometimes I wonder if Kristol is really this stupid, or if statements like this are just part of a calculated strategy designed to make it look reasonable by comparison when some Bush administration lackey stands up and says, "Well, I don't think we're going to invade Iran at this point in time, but I don't see anything wrong with invading . . . oh, say, Lebanon." I'm praying I won't have to find out which one.

Monday, July 17

Tell me how this ends.

Does anyone remember the "Cedar Revolution" in Lebanon? Does anyone remember how, in the wake of the assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri, thousands of Lebanese people took to the streets in protest and -- almost completely on their own -- worked their way out from under the oppressive thumb of Syria? Does anyone remember how happy everybody was about that, these average Lebanese Joes and Josephines rising up to prove that democracy could exist in the Middle East? That all happened in February and March of last year. Based on the events of the past few days, though, I'd have thought it was a lot longer.

I don't want to be seen as a knee-jerk pessimistic Eeyore, immediately jumping to the worst-case scenario no matter what, but it looks like all that progress is currently in the process of being blown into oblivion. If there's even a Lebanon left after the Israel-Hezbollah war is over with, who knows what it's going to look like? Maybe some Lebanese George Washington will magically rise up to rebuild the country into something beautiful again, but it seems just as likely that Syria or Iran will find a way to take advantage of the chaos and weasel another puppet regime back in there. Whatever kind of government emerges from the ashes, it's hard to imagine the people of Lebanon having many kind feelings toward Israel after the IDF blows their country to bits.

That, I think, is what makes me the most angry about all of this. Here's a country, once called "the Paris of the Middle East" for its culture and intellectual openness, that survived a brutal 15-year civil war and another 15 years of Syrian oppression to emerge as perhaps the best hope for actual democracy in the Middle East -- and both Hezbollah and Israel have evidently decided that all that progress and all that hope are worth erasing if it means they get to continue blasting the hell out of each other.

Obviously Hezbollah carries the lion's share of the blame in all this. They knew exactly what they were doing by kidnapping those two Israeli soldiers last month, and probably knew full well how much the conflict was going to widen itself over the ensuing weeks. Which meant that they had a good idea just how much destruction was going to be rained down on Lebanon from both sides, and were willing to allow that to happen just so that they could start an unwinnable war with the Israelis.

But Israel, for their part, obediently fell for the Hezbollah trap hook, line, and sinker: For want of two kidnapped soldiers, they gave Hezbollah the war it wanted. Look, I'm one of the last people who's going to sit here and argue that Israel doesn't have a right to defend itself, and I'm certainly not going to say that the kidnapping of two citizens is something Israel should've ignored. But look, I'm just going to come out and say it -- is reducing entire cities to rubble their idea of a proportional response to two kidnappings? And can the Israelis hold their heads high and feel like they haven't been drawn into something terribly pointless in all this?

For all we know, the kidnappings were all a plan hatched by Syria to goad Israel into a conflict that would sow chaos in Lebanon and create an environment in which Syria could sneak back in and re-install a friendly puppet government. Is that what Israel, or anyone else, wants?

Meanwhile, aside from dropping four-letter words in front of fellow world leaders and saying they're not going to tell the Israelis how to run their country, the U.S. government appears to be doing nothing. And back here in America, some of the same people who self-righteously hailed the sweep of democracy through Lebanon 17 months ago are now shrugging their shoulders and insinuating that the Lebanese should just shut up and take what's coming to them. So that's as long as your attention span lasted re the Cedar Revolution, huh? Seventeen months ago you were chiding us liberals for not being happy enough for the Lebanese, and now you're blasting us for supposedly being too concerned with their welfare. Seventeen months ago you hailed Lebanon's progress as a vindication for Bush's pro-democracy policies, and now you cheer as that progress is reduced to dust.

I don't want to beat a dead horse (or a dead Arab) here, but I think it bears repeating: Eventually the neo-con kill-'em-all-let-God-sort-'em-out right-wing cheerleaders are going to have to decide whether they want freedom for the poor benighted Arabs or whether they just want to bomb the shit out of 'em. If you want freedom and democracy for Lebanon, you probably shouldn't cheer as innocents are caught in the crossfire of this war; if you want freedom and democracy for Iraq, it seems poor form for you to fantasize about turning entire cities into parking lots, etc. etc. etc. Be a freedom-lover or be a bloodthirsty warmonger, but pick one, stick with it, and be honest and upfront about your choice. (Or as Bill Maher might say: "New rule -- you're officially banned from going ga-ga over pictures of hot women if you're only going to call them all terrorists later.")

But I'm not going to spend a lot of time sitting around and waiting for them to make up their minds. Right now I'm trying to make up my own mind -- whether to continue to hope that this whole thing can be resolved before Lebanon is completely wiped off the map, or to just give up on humanity entirely, move to Tahiti, and never pick up another newspaper or watch CNN ever again. I gotta tell you, at this point the latter's looking more and more attractive by the second.

A friend of mine summed it up best as we glumly hashed out this topic over drinks on Saturday. He said this crisis made him think back to a line spoken during an episode of "The West Wing" during similar circumstances: "Tell me how this ends!"

Leo McGarry: Mr. President, please -- Congress, the Joint Chiefs, the American Public, your own staff, everyone disagrees with your assessment of the situation.
President Bartlet: Killing Palestinians isn't going to make us feel safer. They'll kill more of us and we'll have to kill more of them. It's Russian Roulette with a fully loaded gun.
McGarry: We can't allow terrorists to murder our citizens without . . .
President Josiah Bartlet: Why would Palestinians murder American government officials? They never have before. They're deliberately provoking us, Leo. They know that we have to retaliate. They've studied us, they want us to overreact.
Leo McGarry: This isn't overreacting, this is the appropriate, balanced . . .
President Josiah Bartlet: Tell me how this ends, Leo! You want me to start something that may have serious repercussions on American foreign policy for decades, but you don't know how this ends!

My friend said that what he'd like to do more than anything is to sit down with Israel and ask them what they want the outcome of this whole thing to be, and then work backwards from there. Maybe that'd help in this case, because it seems like both sides in this conflict did a really good job early on of getting enraged but not a good job at all of pondering where that rage is likely to get them.

Not anywhere good would be my guess. I hope somebody figures that out before it's too late.

ADDED: Boy, it just gets better. What does Rush Limbaugh have in common with the Rapture fetishists of the evangelical right? They both think all this violence in Lebanon is a good thing. Read it and weep.

Sunday, July 16

Friday Sunday Random Ten, Vive le France edition.

I am hugely embarrassed to admit that Friday, July 14, was Bastille Day and, while I got dutifully liquored up on French 75s at the Provençal bistro around the block to mark the occasion (hey, fuck you, we do have stuff like that here in Birmingham), I didn't do anything on this blog. Call me a cheese-eating surrender monkey if you must, but since this blog tipped its cap to the UK a week ago, I think it's only fair to give a shout-out to my French heritage this time around.

So raise a glass, fire up the ol' Citroën, throw that goat cheese and escargot on the grill, and pay a proper "Mon dieu!" to official Hey Jenny Slater pseudo-girlfriend Melissa Theuriau as we cook up a belated dix aléatoires de vendredi:

1. Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardót, "Bonnie and Clyde"
2. St.-Germain, "Montego Bay Spleen"
3. DJ Cam, "Success" (Thievery Corporation remix)
4. Deep Forest and Peter Gabriel, "While the Earth Sleeps"
5. Dimitri from Paris, "La Rhythme et le Cadence"
6. St.-Germain, "Land of . . . "
7. Dimitri from Paris, "Free Ton Style"
8. St.-Germain, "La Goutte d'Or"
9. Édith Piaf, "La Vie en Rose"
10. Nouvelle Vague, "Love Will Tear Us Apart"

Merry Fête de la Fédération, mademoiselle.

Friday, July 14


American Conservatism, 230, dead after lengthy illness

American Conservatism, a school of political thought whose claimed adherents included figures ranging from Abraham Lincoln to Ronald Reagan to current president George W. Bush, was pronounced dead Friday after long battles with a number of diseases. Though historians differ on Conservatism's exact age, most estimate that it was somewhere between 169 and 230 years old.

Doctors formally declared the ideology dead after Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, a moderate Republican once thought to be fairly resolute opponent to the current administration's claims on unlimited executive power, proposed a Senate bill that would not only render legal the administration's warrantless-wiretapping program legal but would also retroactively give amnesty to anyone who had engaged in illegal wiretapping going back to 1978. That expansion of presidential powers appeared not only unprecedented in modern American history, but in the history of conservatism and the Republican Party as well, which until now had repudiated the idea of a monolithic central government with expansive powers.

However, the doctors also said Specter's fatal move toward greater executive power was merely the latest in a lengthy string of debilitating failures regarding Conservatism's core principles, many of which dated back to the weeks and months following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States but some of which went back much further.

Among the most damaging of these was the massive growth of discretionary government spending over the last five years, which severely damaged Conservatism's claim to a doctrine of small government and minimal spending. Conservatism had battled with this disease as far back as 1981, but doctors said the growth seemed to have gone into remission and receded in the late 1990s. However, the mass began growing again shortly after George W. Bush's inauguration in 2001, and increased in size by nearly 45 percent before Conservatism finally succumbed.

The ideology was also damaged by a lengthy addiction to the religious right. Acquaintances say that Conservatism became so dependent on right-wing evangelicals that it sold out nearly all of its small-government, libertarian impulses, such as keeping the government out of citizens' private lives and not dictating their medical decisions, among others. Conservatism carried on an embarrassingly public dalliance with Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman at the center of a vocal death-with-dignity controversy last year, and at the time of its death had reportedly relapsed into another fixation with the Federal Marriage Amendment.

Perhaps most tragic are the rumors that Conservatism was abandoned by many of its former adherents in the months leading up to its death, and passed away surrounded by only a very small cadre of devoted friends. Former companions such as President Bush, blogger Glenn Reynolds, talk-show host Rush Limbaugh and syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin not only deserted Conservatism late in its life but went so far as to criticize loyal friends such as William F. Buckley Jr., George Will, and Andrew Sullivan.

"So many people claimed to be [Conservatism's] friend, particularly in 1994 and 1995, right after the Republicans got control of Congress," said one longtime friend. "But then George W. Bush came to town and you started finding out who the true friends were -- one by one they abandoned Conservatism so that they could cozy up to the president, until hardly anyone was left. It would've broken your heart, to have seen Conservatism die almost completely alone like that."

Conservatism is survived by a son, Neoconservatism, 59; a distant cousin, Libertarianism, 149; British Conservatism, 176; and a small circle of loyal friends.

Memorial services will be held Tuesday, November 7 at locations all over the country. In lieu of flowers, please make donations to the United States Democratic Party.

Wednesday, July 12

Spotted this morning at the corner of Hilarious Blvd. and Tragic Ave.

An anti-abortion blogger has been receiving some publicity beyond his wildest dreams for a post he wrote in response to what he perceived as a callously pro-abortion op-ed piece. Here's some of what he wrote at the end of his post:

Miss Weber, you have killed your child, which you admit is a baby/human being, intentionally. That does make you an admitted murderer. I'm not going to "condemn you to hell", I'm going to pray for your forgiveness and for the suffering which you will endure when you realize what you have done. Every baby you see from that moment on is going to wake you up to the realization that you killed your child.

Wow. Powerful words on a powerful issue. Only problem is, he was writing in response to . . . this.

An excerpt:

So, to all of you pro-lifers who are trying to rain on my parade, keep it to yourself, because I don't have the time for that kind of negativity. I've got an abortion to plan, and I just know it's going to be the best non-anesthetized invasive uterine surgery ever!

. . .

I seriously cannot wait for all the hemorrhaging and the uterine contractions. This abortion is going to be so amazing. I'm definitely taking lots of pictures so I can remember every last detail of the whole experience for years to come and share my great memories with all of my friends, family and co-workers. What an easy decision this was!

Yes, your worst suspicions are correct -- "Marching Together for Life" was responding to "I'm Totally Psyched About This Abortion!," a "column" from the April 28, 1999 edition of The Onion.

Which begs three questions.

1. Which remote Pacific island would you have had to be stranded on to not know what The Onion was?

2. Even if you had somehow managed to escape awareness of The Onion's existence, wouldn't you have said to yourself at some point during the reading of that piece, "You know, this is starting to sound a lot like satire"?

3. Following that, wouldn't you have also thought to yourself, "You know, maybe, just maybe, this column is satirizing the right-wing attitudes of abortion recipients as callous, airheaded women who enjoy terminating their pregnancies -- attitudes very similar to the one I myself have held for years?"

Now, any normal person would've woken up the next morning, witnessed the monsoon of comments people had left informing him of his dumbassery, and slinked back into obscurity with his tail between his legs. Not this cat, though. He came back four days later with . . .

Talk about getting people mad. I wrote a blog on Caroline Weber who wrote her "satire" piece titled "I am totally psyched for this abortion!".

This article is not for kids or the weak spirited.

First of all, who are we talking about? We are talking about a woman who supports the murder of over 3,000 babies/human beings every single day. We are talking about a woman who supports the suctioning out of brains from human beings to collapse their skulls in order to remove their dead carcases from the women who have chosen to kill their children. A woman who likely supports the killing of a fully developed 9 month old baby so that the poor mother doesn't have to buy diapers, or live with the trauma of having to raise a child.

From this we can gather that he still thinks "Caroline Weber" is real. And he just ain't gonna let this thing go.

Satire? Was the article aiming at the women who have the abortions or the people who believe it is better to save lives than kill them?

Hmm, let's look up the term satire:

"witty language used to convey insults or scorn; "he used sarcasm to upset his opponent""

Either way, I think I did a good job of turning the "satire" right back at them, don't you?

Well, given that you've conflated "satire" and "sarcasm," I'd have to say . . . no.

Pete of MTfL proceeded to dig his hole yet further (prompting one commenter to call him "the Energizer Bunny of dumb") with two more posts over the next couple of days, the latest of which demonstrates beyond a shadow of a doubt that Pete understands neither the purpose of satire nor the first thing about how oral contraceptives work.

Now, I thought about this for a second, and I did consider the possibility that Pete is not a complete idiot but rather a master satirist himself -- either a left-winger stealthily trying to give pro-lifers a bad name, or perhaps even more diabolically, an actual pro-lifer merely trying to draw hundreds of pro-choice Internet surfers into his fiendish fake blog so that he could later spring the trap and yell, "GOTCHA! Oh, you dumbasses thought this was real!"

However, he's been doing this for more than a year now, which seems like an awful lot of effort (and consistent effort at that) just to play a prank on some pro-life bloggers. And he's got numerous photos of anti-abortion rallies he's attended. So . . . I'm going to go with "actual blog," "non-ironic" and "dumbass." But a hilarious dumbass. (Maybe we can hook him up with this chick.)

Anyway, I look forward to his impassioned condemnation of the anger and vitriol being spewed by this pie.

ADDED: Forgot to give due credit to Pandagon, where I saw this in the first place. Oh, and Pete hasn't quit -- he's now insisting that his original post "was a joke, which obviously thousands of you didn't get." Uh-huh. I'll file that under the "He who laughs last didn't get the joke" department.

The madness spreads.

Courtesy of Paul at Georgia Sports Blog, I find this morning that Marine GSB reader "Capt. DSNDawg" also reads Hey Jenny Slater occasionally and caught the Simpsons/college football post from a while back. Thanks for the shout-out, Captain!

Incidentally, Paul reports that DSNDawg went to the trouble of setting up a military DSN phone link at 3 a.m. on a hilltop in Korea just so that he could have the privilege of listening to the Bulldogs get annihilated in the 1998 Georgia-Florida game, so you know his credentials as a true UGA fan are pretty much unimpeachable.

Thanks for the kind words, DSNDawg, and for your service. Next time you make it back to the States, beers are on me.

Tuesday, July 11

Tuesday Mystery Meat.

· Oh, dear. Keira . . .

I guess she's taking the breakup a lot harder than I thought. So in a way I feel kind of responsible, yet in no way did I ever indicate to her I thought walking around in public with no shoes on was acceptable. On the other hand, maybe she ate 'em, in which case I guess we upgrade this to a push.

· Your favorite soccer correspondent and mine Kanu has been doing some great work the last couple of days covering the World Cup final and the attendant controversy over Zinedine Zidane's "head butt heard 'round the world." Now, first of all let me say I'm not entirely unsympathetic to Zizou's anger at whatever Marco Materazzi said to him that allegedly inspired the head-butt -- even a nobody like me, simply by virtue of having stuck my neck out in a political sense, has been hit with one or two really unnecessary mother-centered insults that made me want to go out and choke a bitch. But Zizou should've known better than to do something like that, if only by virtue of having had such a lengthy soccer career, long enough to know that a) trash talk, even of the wildly disgusting and gratuitous variety, is pretty much par for the course in sports, and b) you don't put your own desire for a get-back above the good of your team. Now, as Kanu points out, Zizou's absence from the rest of the match turned out to be negligible unless you think he could've nailed a goal in the last nine minutes of the second OT, especially since David Trézéguet, the only one to miss a shot in the penalty-shootout phase, would've still been one of France's five penalty kickers even if Zidane had still been in. But this was still one of the biggest stages in sports, and if Zidane honestly thought it was more important for him to put Materazzi on his ass than to be there helping out his team in the final minutes, it was an incredibly selfish attitude to take. If ZZ's attitude during the ceremony welcoming Les Bleus home from the tournament is any indication, he's starting to realize that this incident is already turning out to be a black mark tarnishing the end of what was otherwise a stellar career; if nothing else, maybe it'll be a cautionary tale to others.

Whoops, wrong Zizou. Though this one could knock a motherfucker out, too.

· Elsewhere on the sporting tip, Orson Swindle has found a way to bring even the mightiest titans of SEC football low: dredge up their promotional appearances on behalf of "Yella Wood." Naturally, as a Bulldog, I have witnessed the Jim Donnan ad he refers to, and yes, Jim Donnan spends most of the ad looking like he's pondering how many times he would rather have his scrotum stomped on than appear in the ad. Which is coincidental, since most of us Dawgs spent the 1999 season -- the one in which I think that particular ad debuted, though I may be mistaken -- wondering how many times we would rather have our scrotum stomped on than have to watch our secondary get dismembered by yet another mediocre opposing quarterback. Good times, and by "good" I of course mean "excruciating."

· Apropos of nothing (like pretty much everything else in this post), but does anyone else remember M.A.C.H. 3, the laserdisc-based fighter-combat arcade game that was pretty much a staple of my Showbiz Pizza Place experience from 1983 to at least 1987? Somehow got into a discussion about favorite old video games today and this one was definitely mine. Anyone have any fond memories of rocketing through M.A.C.H. 3's photorealistic landscape bombing the crap out of stuff back in the mid-'80s, or have any other favorite early arcade games they want to give props to?

Trust me, this was the shit.

· And finally, while I try and think up something more substantial to say, entertain yourself with this link courtesy of Andrew Sullivan . . . Virtual Bubble Wrap.

For optimum enjoyment, turn the volume up as loud as you can at work and play repeatedly.

Friday, July 7

Friday Limey Semi-Random Ten.

I was reminded this morning that today is the one-year anniversary of the London transit bombings, and to mark that occasion I'm gonna do the same thing I did last year -- devote the Friday Random Ten to British music acts. As with last year, sorry, Irish bands not eligible. (I would've done an Irish Random Ten for St. Patrick's Day a few months ago, but it would've probably ended up being nine U2 songs with "Jump Around" thrown in there somewhere.)

Anyways . . .

1. Pet Shop Boys, "Jealousy"
2. Fatboy Slim, "Give the Po' Man a Break"
3. Pet Shop Boys, "West End Girls" (Acid House mix)
4. The Clash, "Armagideon Time"
5. Oasis, "Fuckin' in the Bushes"
6. Orbital, "Tunnel Vision"
7. Photek, "Six Feet Under Main Theme"
8. Underworld, "Born Slippy"
9. Pet Shop Boys, "We Came From Outer Space"
10. Pet Shop Boys, "Paninaro '95"

And a bonus track:

11. Gorillaz, "M1A1"

Feel free to leave a Random Ten of whatever national origin(s) in the comments.

Thursday, July 6

Thursday mystery meat.

Italy v. France, World Cup 2006: No matter who wins, there are no losers here.

· I don't know how it happened -- I'm betting it's Kanu's fault somewhere along the line -- but I've gone from "Soccer sucks, but the World Cup's kinda cool" to "OK, I think I'm actually starting to like soccer." It happened sometime during the second half of the Germany-Italy match Tuesday afternoon in Dortmund, which was a scoreless tie at the end of regulation -- and yeah, I know, I've already said that any sport in which scoreless ties are commonplace can't be all that worthwhile, but there was something different about this one, maybe the knowledge that the very next goal, whomever it came from, might be enough to vault a team into the Cup finals. As it turned out, that was correct: After a scoreless first extra period, it was looking a lot like the second might end the same way and we'd end up going to penalty kicks, but in the 119th minute Fabio Grosso (great porn name, by the way) knocked a ball around the German goaltender and into paydirt. And I can't do this goal justice for anyone who wasn't actually watching it at the time, but had the ball gone in a straight line, it would've bounced harmlessly off the left goalpost, but somehow Grosso managed to put some English on it, almost like John Smoltz bending a sweet curveball right past a helpless batter, and instead of going straight it curved just left of the goalee's outstretched hand and just right of the goalpost, and this bit of mind-boggling needle-threading was all the Italians needed to rip the hosts' hearts out of their chests and move on to the finals. The Azzurri added another beauty of a goal less than two minutes later, and while I don't want anyone thinking that I'm no longer counting down the minutes to the start of actual football season -- you better believe I am -- I think I'm finally starting to figure out why they call it the "beautiful sport" or whatever.

It never occurred to you that this might not be the best outfit to wear to a movie called "Dead Man's Chest"?

· All right, back to girls. Now, y'all probably had an inkling of this already, what with things starting to heat up between me and Melissa Theuriau and all, but . . . well, it's over between me and Keira Knightley. Probably for good. We had some good times, shared some laughs, and it was always a big thrill to flip open the old cell phone and get a really horrendously filthy voice mail from her in that oh-so-proper British accent. But we finally had to face up to some irreconcilable differences -- namely, the fact that I enjoy eating things such as fried chicken, barbecue, and steaks, while she enjoys eating . . . well, nothing, if the above photo is any indication. Look, darling, when I said "I could go for some ribs," I didn't mean yours, OK?

· Speaking of pictures that somebody somewhere is probably going to end up wishing they could take back, peep these pictures of the offspring of newly elected California Congressman Brian Bilbray. One would think that the children of a man who had been running in one of the most closely watched special elections in the country would take a little more care than to allow their publicly viewable Web sites to feature pictures of themselves illegally consuming alcohol, but then again, let he who has not pounded the booze before the age of 21 cast the first stone, right? Besides, the blond chick looks like she's down for whatever (shut up, she's 19, so I can say that). I also dig her brunette friend who's flashing "the shocker" in one of the pictures.

So did I, repeatedly, but you don't see me putting up any billboards about it.

· Yesterday as we were driving to Atlanta to hail Dad's victorious completion of the Peachtree Road Race, my sister caught a glimpse of a billboard somewhere on the Downtown Connector that read simply, "I pooted." We both wondered what the hell that could possibly mean, and after doing some research this morning (and by "research" I mean "about ten seconds' worth of Googling"), I found out what: It's a promo for Cartoon Network, as are a number of seemingly random billboards around the Southeast, including the "Clowns hate tangelos" billboard I see on I-20/59 every time I'm headed back into Birmingham from Atlanta. My immediate question is, is this really an effective advertising strategy if people have to get on a computer and Google the phrase to find out what the Funk & Wagnalls it means? -- but then again, I did bother to do that, as did a whole bunch of other people apparently, so . . . maybe it's working.

· There's another rather inscrutable billboard in Birmingham, visible from the southbound lanes of the Elton B. Stephens Expressway as you pass downtown, and all it says is "" I went to that Web site and it's an "unofficial" promo site for Birmingham's arena football team; now, promoting arena football is fine, but doing so by saying that figure skating isn't a "real sport"? Dr. Pot, paging Dr. Kettle . . .

Submitted without comment.

· Paul Westerdawg has a great post with some comments from a few Bulldogs stationed over in the Middle East, as well as a link to a terrific column portraying Georgia Tech as the Jan Brady of college football in the state of Georgia.

· Also, here's a long-overdue to blogger and fellow Red & Black alumnus Will Mosher and his blog Excerpts From a Work in Progress. Will's usually a lot funnier than I've ever been, though I guess that's a pretty limp-wristed compliment when you think about it. Let's just say he's funny and leave it at that.

· Finally, Kyle King thinks I'm a wuss. Hey, dude, you'll get no argument from me. Though the picture of Vivian Leigh was a nice touch.

Wednesday, July 5

Joltin' Joe has left and gone astray.

Surely I'm not the only one who's realized just how much alike these two guys sound.

I haven't talked much about Joe Lieberman on this blog, mainly because I figured everybody was smart enough to suss out that I highly disapproved of his new chosen role as Bush's lap dog. But permit me to rant for a spell about Lieberman's latest spectacularly ill-advised escapade, an attempt to collect 7,500 signatures on a petition so that he can run as an independent in the event that he loses the Democratic primary to Ned Lamont on August 8.

First of all, it was monumentally stupid for Lieberman to basically admit there's a chance he could lose the primary to a previous unknown. And anyone in the state of Connecticut who can still fog a mirror should quickly recognize Lieberman's insistences that he's still a "loyal Democrat" as being distinctly of the methinks-the-lady-doth-protest-too-much variety, since while Lamont has vowed to support Lieberman in the general election if Lieberman wins the primary, Lieberman obviously never had any intention of doing the same in the event of a Lamont win.

The knee-jerk response to all of this from the conservative wing is "You only care if he's a Democrat; you value party loyalty above everything else." Well, that's some mighty ironic righteous indignation coming from the people who tore Jim Jeffords a new one when he jumped from the GOP back in 2002. But to actually answer that accusation, no, I'm not opposing Joe Lieberman because he's thinking about jumping ship; I'm opposing him because he's wrong. He's wrong as a Democrat, he'd be wrong as an independent, and he'd be wrong as a Republican. And no, I don't value party loyalty above everything else -- I value competent government and a respect for the will of the people above everything else, and it's become clear that Lieberman values neither of those things. His lack of concern for the first is evident in his insistence on supporting every single stupid thing the Bush administration does vis-á-vis the war on terror, no matter how half-assed or misguided, to the point of accusing people of imperiling the country if they dare to criticize the president; his contempt for the second is evident in his apparent willingness to thumb his nose at the Connecticut electorate. If they choose Lamont in the August primary, I don't see how anyone can interpret that as anything other than, "Sorry, Mr. Lieberman, we've decided you're not the person who can best represent us in the Senate"; Lieberman, evidently, intends to respond, "Am so! NYEEEAHH!"

In short, not unlike John McCain before him, Joe Lieberman is showing all the signs that he's started believing his own press. Trouble is, that press is coming from neocons whose most defining character trait up to this point has been a near-total inability to differentiate their asses from a hole in the ground.

This all reminds me of a particularly embarrassing episode from Bob Dole during his unsuccessful 1996 presidential bid. At a late-October rally in Houston, with Dole's prospects looking grim and the campaign shifting into desperation mode, Dole began reciting a list of various "ethical lapses" from Clinton's first term -- which, naturally, were mostly molehills that had been built into mountains by the Republican Congress and the right-wing media -- and then asked, "Where is the outrage? When will the voters start to focus?", as if it was the voters' obligation to get mad about these things and carry Dole into the White House.

What Bob Dole apparently did not understand -- and he paid for this lack of understanding in the end -- is that it is not the voters' responsibility to please a candidate to the point where he considers them worthy of voting for him. It is the candidate's responsibility to please the voters, and if he doesn't do that, they vote his ass out. It's kind of the whole point of an election.

After 18 years in Congress, and after five years of being stroked and petted by the Bush administration for being a good little non-critical lap dog in terms of their infuriating mismanagement of the war on terror, Joe Lieberman has apparently developed an awfully big head, to the point where it's the Connecticut voters' responsibility to appreciate and applaud his so-called principled stance on the war, rather than his responsibility to explain how that so-called principled stance is doing his state (or his country) a lick of good. He's right, goddammit, and if the voters of Connecticut refuse to recognize his unimpeachable rightness in the primary, the he's just gonna bounce right up again and force 'em to recognize it in the general. For Joe Lieberman, his senatorial seat has gone from being a sacred responsibility to being a birthright, and when he says he has "loyalties that are greater than those to my party," that may be the one sincere, correct thing he's said in the last two years: It's starting to look like Joe Lieberman's greatest loyalty is to Joe Lieberman.

I think Atrios is right in predicting that Joe's "true loyal base -- Republicans" will not rush to his aid nearly as quickly as the Lieberman campaign almost assuredly believes they will. The current GOP is nothing if not opportunistic to a cutthroat degree, and given the choice between keeping a loyal (if big-I Independent) lapdog and picking up a Senate seat for the Rs -- particularly in a year when the Rs are in real danger of losing their Senate majority -- the Republican Party will aim for the latter and leave Lieberman twisting in the wind. I also think that if Lamont beats Lieberman in the primary, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee continues supporting Lieberman even though he's an independent, then I may just have to cut ties with the national Democratic Party myself, at least until they get over their near-terminal case of Republican Lite Syndrome. But if Lieberman beats Lamont in the primary, then despite my disappointment, I'll shut up about this and accept it, because again, it's the will of the people that counts. If only Joe Lieberman felt the same way.

It's here! It's here!

Came back to the office this morning to find an Amazon package waiting for me -- the two-CD special edition of the Pet Shop Boys' new album "Fundamental," along with the first singles. This, incidentally, is the first CD I've bought in hard copy (as opposed to just downloading individual songs off of iTunes) all year long.

I'll put the full rundown up here after I've had the chance to give it a few listens.

Another historical milestone.

Now that we've just finished celebrating the 230th birthday of our nation -- she doesn't look a day over 198 -- it seems only fair that we observe the birthday of another institution whose importance has been critical to modern culture, to democracy, to history itself: the bikini, formally introduced 60 years ago today by two Frenchmen. (See? They're not all bad.)

Today we salute you, Louis Reard and Jacques Heim, for making life just a little better for men everywhere, though of course I wouldn't dare speak for women on this one. None of this is to imply, of course, that the bikini ranks up there with the birth of American democracy in terms of historical importance, but . . . I mean, why split hairs?

America and the bikini: Would either one be quite as great without the other? I submit that they would not.

Tuesday, July 4

The land of the free and the home of the sweaty.

I was in Atlanta earlier today, and I mean lots earlier today, to be at the finish line of the Peachtree Road Race when my dad came in. Just for the record, this past extended weekend really put into glaring focus just what a weakling I am. Saturday afternoon the whole family took our dogs for a walk at the park, and my sister and I had to head home about halfway through, partly because Jenna was getting overheated but partly because my sister's hip was hurting and my back was spasming from a months-old injury. So our parents, both in their late 50s, keep truckin' along while Ann and I limp back home, sweating and complaining about our respective injuries like a couple of 80-year-old retirees in Boca.

Come on, you pansy, keep moving! Mandelbaum! Mandelbaum!

So that was the first thing, and then this morning we woke up at 5 a.m. to drive up to Atlanta and meet my dad at Piedmont Park. And while my dad is running 6.2 miles, a substantial part of it uphill and all of it in Georgia's traditional 582-percent summer humidity, I'm standing there in the park with my mom and my sister, and I start to feel weak and lightheaded. Seriously, just standing there. My dad runs 6.2 miles and comes out of it smiling, and I practically have to have the fainting couch wheeled out for me just from standing in the park.

A rather sweaty Clark Gillett, post-race.

"During the first mile or so," he told us later, "I'd be running and I'd get passed by an attractive young woman, and I'd think, 'I wish I had an award to give out for the best buns on the course.' But after about the fourth or fifth mile, when we were running uphill into Midtown, I wasn't looking at anything other than the pavement right in front of me."

But anyway, Dad made it, without showing any outward signs of major ill health, and proved once again that he's at least ten times the man I am. Congratulations, pop.

Anyway, funniest moment of the morning came as we were walking back across the park to where all the drink stands were set up along 10th Street. Dad points to the football stadium at Grady High School, whose light towers are rising up just across 10th from where we were, and asks, "So is that Bobby Dodd Stadium?" I laughed hysterically and said, "No, it's Grady High School, but the fact you actually thought that might be Bobby Dodd speaks volumes about the state of Georgia Tech's football program."

I'm back in Alabama now, where fireworks are legal, and they're going to be shooting off the fireworks from behind Vulcan sometime around dusk. Of course, we'll be doing our own shooters here in the front yard of my apartment building well before then. Happy birthday, USA!

ADDED: My best attempt at a shot of the fireworks being shot off over Vulcan here in Birmingham:

If you squint really hard you can see Vulcan himself.