My blog has moved!

You should be automatically redirected in 6 seconds. If not, visit
and update your bookmarks.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Art from stuff 

Strangely enough in two different directions we heard about art made with a new and different medium. Both of these sites originally came to us through our northernmost New Jersey reader.

The first is amazing works of art made out of crayons. They are not drawn with crayon, mind you. But literally constructed out of crayons, set on their sides and stacked. It creates an almost pointilism type of effect. Read more about the artist, Christian Faur here.

The other is from a blog called, Boing Boing, which bills itself as "a directory of wonderful things." The folks over at Boing Boing have found an artist who makes amazing portraits out of old audio cassette tapes. You will hardly believe your eyes. The artists bills herself as Iri5. According to the blog Noise Addicts, she as an artist who, "specializes in using non traditional media such as old books, audio cassettes, playing cards, magazines, credit cards, basically whatever she can find."

Both of these artists are doing amazing work. Their creativity is an inspiration, in its willingness and success to explore and try new things.


Friday, March 27, 2009

Fargo, ND facing epic flood 

Fargo, North Dakota is facing the highest levels of flood waters on the Red River that it has seen during its recorded history. Water levels have risen to more than one foot greater than they have ever been. The New York Times reports that, "The Red River is expected to crest on Saturday in Fargo, but it is then expected to sit swollen for days." It may get to two feet above normal, and temperatures are icy cold. Ice floes are contributing to the problem. No one knows for sure if the frozen sandbags will hold as well as unfrozen sandbag levees normally do.

It is a desperate situation. The New York Times said that more than 3 million sandbags had been filled in the last three days. The Red River is twenty-six feet above its normal level. The LA Times had this quote on the why, "You've had blizzard conditions across the state, following on the heels of recent rains," said Patrick Slattery, a spokesman for the National Weather Service. "The ground is so saturated, nothing else can soak in. There's nowhere for the water to go." President Obama has declared 34 counties and two Native American reservations federal disaster areas.

Photos and video here.

Labels: ,

Changed the equation 

For the last month the Clarion Content's sports editor had been telling Duke fans in Durham, NC that Gerald Henderson the younger was going pro at the end of this season. The draft experts had all been listing him as a top ten prospect. Duke fans had been insisting that it was different for him, despite how well he was playing he wasn't leaving. His dad was a pro baller, he wasn't broke, he was staying. The Clarion Content was insistent, he was too good, he was going.

The equation changed tonight in the Sweet Sixteen. The Clarion Content thought Gerald Henderson would showcase as a NBA draft lottery prospect in the NCAA tournament. 33% from the field against Binghamton, 33% from the field against Texas, then on national television this evening, he had an awful, ugly outing, 1 for 14 from the field against Villanova. Is Gerald Henderson going pro this year, the Clarion Content is no longer so sure.

If he comes back to Duke, he is going to hugely motivated, that could help his game and his draft status.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Baseball and the Economy 

Here at the Clarion Content we have been trumpeting the Yankees difficulties selling expensive tickets and luxury boxes. With the economy shedding jobs and the perception of tough times all over, it is no suprise to us that baseball is going to take a big hit in revenue this year. Commissioner and dimwit Bud Selig claimed in the LA Times, "I used to think we were recession-proof. I really did."

Not a very intelligent plan, Mr. Commissioner, but sounds kinda like a former Texas Rangers owner's philosophy of prior planning and forethought. "If I believe hard enough that it won't happen, it won't happen." As in, "I know what I'll do, I just close my eyes and make a wish." The Commissioner has finally woken up, and admitted that his offices advised franchises to plan for three scenarios: attendance about the same as season, a 10% drop in attendance scenario and a 20% drop scenario.

The Clarion Content thinks certain areas in the Midwest could face (much) steeper declines than that, can you say Detroit! Possibly Cleveland? Cincinnati?

Labels: ,

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Knicks season is ending 

2008-09 felt empty

The Knicks season is drifting ignominiously to an end. They made it a five game losing streak last night, blowing a ten point fourth quarter lead to the Orlando Magic. They did it in front of a fired up home crowd at the Garden celebrating a Knick of the decade for each of the last six decades. Quite an illustrious group, including Orlando assistant coach, Patrick Ewing, the five others were Richie Guerin, Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, and Bernard King (a little date fudging, but not too bad.)

also had Earl "the Pearl" Monroe in the building, along with legendary player, coach and scout Dick McGuire and Larry Johnson, too. Unfortunately none of them can help the 2008-09 Knicks who are about to tie a franchise record with an eighth straight losing season.

The big positive of the season has been the shedding of salary cap money looking ahead to 2010. The team and its supporters never felt like the Knicks were going to make the playoffs. The Clarion Content was and is against the Mike D'Antoni hire. Rookie first round draft choice Danilo Ginardi was just the soft Italian jeans model we thought he was. There were seven first rounders picked after him who are making significant contributions for their teams. That means two of the four biggest moves Knicks President Donnie Walsh made weren't exactly great shakes in the Clarion Content's view. Dealing Zach Randolph was good work. Ditching Jamal Crawford, it had to be done. But 2008-09 ends like it started, another non-playoff year, waiting, hoping for LeBron to save us.

At least the Nets, who are never moving to Brooklyn, aren't making the playoffs either.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


The were rumblings southeast of Los Angeles, Sunday and Monday, at a place called the Salton Sea. The California government's official website crows, "The Sea teems with fish. That is why some scientists have called the Salton Sea “California’s crown jewel of avian biodiversity” and perhaps the most productive fishery in the world." Impressive stuff, not everyone agrees.

The Los Angeles Times reported that approximately 150 miles from Los Angeles, and 110 miles northeast of San Diego, "in a 48-hour period starting Saturday morning, 42 quakes shook [an area] just south of Bombay Beach on the Salton Sea. The quakes ranged in magnitude from 0.5 to 3.3, with three larger than 3.0 hitting the area Saturday afternoon."

They talked to a UC San Diego geophysicist who said the area is dangerously interconnected with the legendary San Andreas fault. They report, "These quakes appear to be taking place at the hazy intersection of several recently mapped faults crossing beneath the Salton Sea and the the San Andreas fault."

They even-handedly offer both sides of the story. The UC San Diego guy with two first names, Graham Kent, is quoted offering the darker scenario, "The worry for scientists comes from a case in 1987, when a magnitude-6.2 earthquake on one of the crossing faults appeared to trigger a 6.6 quake 12 hours later on the Superstition Hills fault to the south. The San Andreas fault is north of these crossing faults and the geometry is similar." For the opposite side, to offer some reassurance, since honestly nobody can say for sure either way, they give the reader Kate Hutton, a seismologist at Caltech. She says, "The last time a swarm of this type occurred in the area was 2001, so they are not especially unusual. Every time you have a swarm of earthquakes, it does raise the chances of having a larger quake, but it doesn't raise it a huge number."

Just an fyi.

Fingers crossed, prayers said, geological long-run inevitability understood.

Read the whole story here.

Labels: ,

Boomers, an indictment? 

This guest column is brought to you by a long time Durham resident and UNC graduate. At this point, it is a couple of years old. The critique offered of the Baby Boom generation feels fascinatingly prescient. In their insubstantiality, their "navel gazing" as the author puts it, did the Boomers allow this current economic malaise to happen on their watch? Is this what came of the flower-children, who gave it up and went to Wall Street, Washington D.C. and the endless little boxes of suburbia? Our guest columnist, a Boomer himself, and a Durhamanian through and through, trod no such path. Here he offers an eyes wide open look.

It's endemic: Boomers age and they go nostalgic. They’re beyond being self-consciously retro, it's an entire generation that has just crested middle aged, like a piece of just turned over-ripe fruit, sweeter than it should be with a slight aftertaste that says it's too late. Somewhere, resident in the gut, is the sense of the long slide into old age, where there's no longer an active attempt to stay young; they’ve been lapped once too often in that race. Rather the focus is on arm-chaired memories that evoke their experience of youth - unadulterated nostalgia.

The Marketeers have donned their Mousketeer ears and invited Boomers to rejoin the club. It pervades current marketing - we've entered the Post Greatest Generation nod to our WWII elders and established a new benchmark for what is regressively relevant. A recent article in Newsweek, I believe, noted that certain car designs (like the Chrysler PT Cruiser) drawing on themes from the fifties and targeted for young first-time car buyers, find Boomers as their demographic, and the younger set, seeing this, flees. Television ads take on the patina of a faded photograph with images that evoke the late forties through the fifties. The current equivalent of the Lawrence Welk and Art Linkletter TV shows is Garrison Keeler’s Prairie Home Companion, doing one better by leapfrogging backward over television to the era of radio. Along with a number of other shows, it is a mix of self-conscious and self-parodying that ends up ultimately sincere (sincerity being the starting and end points for Lawrence and Art,) lulling the listener with a wink to go ahead and indulge its desire for just above average wholesome Midwestern corniness.

Go ahead.

After all it's what most of the white middle class and its aspirants fed on growing up (And now grown and comfortably set, comes another iteration: The Martha Stewart School of Nostalgia, that combines stereotypical notions from Boomer childhood of what it took to live the hunt country life combined with a wash of wholesome domesticity). There are countless cultural markers offering Boomers a palliative as they lull themselves into feeling better about life. Like it or not, this tendency was insinuated early into their consciousness, became a sleeper and at the right time, when they sensed mortality, with less to come than has been done, with a weariness that goes with over 30-40 years of irony, relativism, postwhatever, the pace race, a generation's proclivity for navel gazing, and increasing contrasts between their self image and the mirror held up by their grown children, they quietly yearn for simplicity and find a short cut through the kitchen door into the backyard of their youth.


It makes their children roll their eyes, if not render them irrelevant. Boomers have not only become their parents, they secretly hope to become their grandparents. For it's their grand and great grandparents who long ago gave up any illusion about their time in the sun running things; they’ve lived through their nostalgia and are about as clear-eyed as one can get, where the most press their kind receive comes from the obituaries, reverently intoned by Boomer journalists outlining the long-past outstanding career of some pioneer who just died. Here the elders outlive their contemporary Immortals – their heroes. Hence to them the deaths of their peers speak to their imminent mortality as a simple fact, if it isn't already manifest in their own list of aliments and diminished strength. For Boomers the deaths of their elders speak to their own march to the front line with no buffer, no parent to offer the illusion of protection from death. Here the flat world theory holds: one definitely sails over the edge into oblivion. So they regress and look for rituals and symbols that immerse them in their youth, a final dream before they're forced to wake up. And if not awake then looking to the past allows them to back into their future, while casting a quick quiet dispirited glance over their shoulder at what’s to come.

Hence, their children rightly believe their parents are out of touch with the present much less some sense of ever expanding opportunity that is the basis for their reality. Boomers’ fond memories from thirty to forty years ago are the equivalent for their parents’ own sense of World War I and the Depression – it does not register viscerally no matter how well films and books portray what happened between World War II and the Seventies: It only matters to the Boomers. What more can I say…

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Strange story: from Israel 

There is a serious global recession underway. Waves of populist anger are sweeping through places where they have been heretofore unseen. This story from the Los Angeles Times about looting in Israel, a liberal democracy, came as a surprise. The LA Times reports that, "The [Israeli] economy is expected to shrink 1.5% this year, according to the Bank of Israel, compared with growth rates of 4% or more in the previous five years... [It] also forecasts an 11% decline in Israeli exports, which account for half the value of everything the country produces."

The looting occurred at a supermarket in the region of northern Israel called Galilee. It closed without paying workers their final two-months wages. They were laid-off and the store manager disappeared. Subordinates left in charge told employees they could take their due in goods, but the situation spiraled out of control. The LA Times says,
"They rifled through their shuttered workplace, helping themselves to crates full of groceries.

As word spread through the small town, the store's jilted creditors joined in. They dismantled the light fixtures, ripped out wiring and absconded with the cash registers, even as television cameras rolled.

Within hours the parking lot was jammed with ordinary shoppers. They left car engines running and brought their children to help pick the shelves clean. Finally even the shelves were hauled away, leaving latecomers to scrounge the floor for leftover fruit."

This was not the first looting incident in Israel this year. A bankrupt hotel saw a similar scavenging when it bailed on banquets and weddings for which it had already taken deposits.

Of course, Americans can hardly say they have never seen such things. The Clarion Content just thought it was a ominous sign of times to see it happening in an economic tiger like Israel.

Labels: , ,

New York graffiti forum 

The powerHouse Arena art gallery and bookstore in Brooklyn, New York hosted a graffiti forum this week. Former cops and graffiti artists sat down together to talk shop, work, and the past. The unique event was related to the release of a book by retired New York City Transit cop Joseph Rivera. Rivera left the force in 2004. His book called, "Vandal Squad: Inside the New York City Transit Police Department, 1984-2004," is according to the New York Times perhaps the only book to look at the graffiti movement from the law enforcement perspective. The book is controversial with the artists portrayed therein because there is a perception of an adversary cashing in on their work.


Finale at the Spectrum 

The forty-two year old Philadelphia Spectrum closed last week with a 76ers win. This was the house where Moses declared it was gonna be, "Fo' fo' and fo'!" and then with Dr. J led the 1983 Sixers on a twelve win and one loss championship run. The Spectrum was a powerful homecourt advantage and those Sixers teams would have won a few more titles if it hadn't been for Bird's Celtics and the Jabbar-Magic Lakers. They were the third wheel to one of the greatest rivalries of all-time.

The Spectrum is a building located in one of the biggest parking lots on the East Coast. The parking lot area in downtown Philly off the I-95 is so vast that the new home of the Philadelphia Eagles was built in the parking lot of the now imploded Veteran's Stadium. The Spectrum stood even as it was replaced by the First Union Center as the home of Sixers and Flyers.

It would be nice if the Flyers, who dominated in the Spectrum in the era of the Broad Street Bullies, got to play one more game their, too. They won two Stanley Cups there. They also became the first American franchise to beat the legendary Soviet Red Army team doing it at the Spectrum. The building also hosted the 1976 NBA and NHL All-Star games during the height of the bicentennial celebration.

Labels: , ,

Jay Bilas 

What happened to Jay Bilas? Was it just a year or two ago that the Clarion Content was in love with his professorial style? Musing about his future political career?

How did he become so annoying so fast?

We know we are not alone because we have had or heard more than two sports bar conversations making the same complaint. It might have something to do with the raising of his profile. After all three to five years ago he was a minor deity in the ESPN pantheon of sports analysts, far off on the edge of the page of the family tree. This weekend for the NCAA tournament he is paired with Dick Enberg, whose resume is longer than the Old Testament (which is about the era his career started.)

The Clarion Content is not sure if the fame is what is causing it, but Bilas's tone has become pedantic and lecturing. He is like listening to the atrocious Tim McCarver and Joe Buck. Bilas is frequently spouting cliches in too slow a voice with a tone that says 'I am bringing you revelation,' "You can't foul a jump shooter." Wow, Jay, you got any more new ones?

Labels: , ,

Friday, March 20, 2009

Great golf shot 

Don't know if you saw this one from last weekend faithful readers. Swedish golfer Henrik Stenson did it right last Friday at Doral in the World Golf Championships-CA Championship. He went white underwear only while on the golf course to hit a shot out of a muddy water hazard. He looked surprisingly good for a golfer. As the New York Times put it, "[he] became the most-talked-about man to be photographed in his white skivvies since Mark Wahlberg."

Labels: ,


The New York Times has a very disturbing follow-up to the Chris Brown-Rihanna domestic violence case. After the initial excoriation of Brown many youngsters, especially teenage women, have been able to not only forgive Brown, but reverse the blame on to the victim. What happened to the sisterhood? Where are the young feminists?

Some of the commentators in the Times blame hip-hop culture, Tricia Rose, who teaches African-American culture at Brown, said, “This is the air that hip-hop breathes. The celebration of a stereotype of an aggressive, physical, often misogynistic masculinity that often justifies resolving conflict through violence. It can’t be held responsible for this, but it can’t be ignored.”

Where are the hip-hop stars? Rather than rushing to Brown's side to declare their support, they had better take hard look at the critique of their music (and the accompanying implicit critique of their lifestyle and worldview.)

Meanwhile, the Times notes in a number of public forums from Facebook walls to school assemblies a disturbing number of young women either back Brown or blame Rihanna. All the more reason, the Clarion Content strongly urges you to talk to your kids about this incident, especially if they were fans of either Brown or Rihanna.

One hip-hop star who has got it right, sadly from personal experience of domestic violence is former Salt-n-Pepa rapper, Sandra 'Pepa' Denton, "At the end of the day, your life is on the line when you're dealing with abusive men, and your life is more important than any man. Don't rationalize or internalize abusive behavior because love doesn't hurt."

Labels: , ,

Radiohead blows off Miley!?! 

The message seemed to be, 'We're too cool for all that...' It was strange, a rare discourtesy from one set of stars to another. Disney pop sensation Miley Cyrus wanted to meet her favorite band, Radiohead, who like Miley, just happened to be at the Grammy's in Los Angeles.

Surprisingly Radiohead big-timed her. They refused her entrance to their green room hangout because, allegedly, according to the band's spokespeople, "They don't really do that..." What don't they do? Meet adoring fans? Give other star entertainers the time of day? Treat people with respect?

Who knows what the self-flattering hipsters were thinking, but Miley was pissed. The next day on the radio Miley said, "Stinkin' Radiohead! I'm going to ruin them. I'm going to tell everyone," according to the UK version of Entertainment Weekly. Radiohead apparently feeling no guilt or doubt about the snub responded through a publicist, "When Miley grows up, she'll learn not to have such a sense of entitlement."

The Clarion Content's take, get a grip losers and give the teenie bopper five minutes of your time. It's like a star athlete refusing to sign an autograph for a young fan. Try to remember the flip side, you selfish buggers.

Special thanks to a local youthful reader who alerted us to this story.

Labels: ,

Thursday, March 19, 2009


On Hillsborough Road, Durham, NC

One of the Clarion Content's staff recently spotted a cool old car on the road. Luckily he was able to snap some pics with his cell phone camera. The car was a Nash-Healey Le Mans. This is an extremely rare vehicle, so there is some possibility that the Clarion Content's amateur photographer was looking at a kit car.

Labels: ,

Finger drive 

One of the Clarion Content's intrepid editors spotted this incredible story on the BBC News website. A Finnish man had his finger amputated after a motorcycle accident last year when he crashed into a deer near Helsinki. The story is what he did afterward. Jerry Jalava, a computer programmer has created a 2 GB memory stick with a USB attachment that is installed in a prosthetic device in his finger. He accesses it by peeling back his fingernail. According to the BBC, "The finger is not permanently attached to his hand, so it can be easily left plugged into a computer when in use." Read more here.

Labels: ,

NCAA Predictions 

The Clarion Content's senior sports editor likes to pick two NCAA brackets, one immediately after the pairings are released, the other late Wednesday night just before the tourney starts the next day. This year the one team he has to the Final Four in both is the University of Washington Huskies. They are led by a trifecta of high quality players, including Jon Brockman at power forward, and two good guards, including the unfortunately named, Isaiah Thomas. The Clarion Content's sports editor likes the Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar who has had UW in the Sweet Sixteen twice in recent memory. The PAC-10 was underrated this year. They can't win it all can they?

The Huskies are in the West region. The Clarion Content sports editor's is torn in two other regions the South and the East. In the South much depends on the health of the big toe of the University of North Carolina's point guard, Ty Lawson. Even if he is healthy, UNC is in the toughest region with strong competitors in Syracuse and Oklahoma, both of whom are led by future NBA lottery picks. The 'Cuse has super strong and speedy guard, Johnny Flynn. Oklahoma has the likely number one overall pick in dominating big man Blake Griffin, think Kenyon Martin with better moves. In both brackets, he picked UNC to at least the Elite Eight.

A similar problem arises in the East were the Clarion Content sports editor loves the Duke trio of Gerald Henderson, Kyle Singler and John Scheyer. Like UNC, our editor has them ticketed for the Elite Eight in both brackets. In the top half of Duke's bracket is one of the best teams in the country the Pitt Panthers. Pitt has a terrific big guy in DeJuan Blair who led the rugged Big East in rebounding at 12.2 per game. They also have a tough and tested point guard in Levance Fields. However, this would be their first deep run into the tournament. Even though the Clarion Content likes Pitt Coach Jamie Dixon tons, our editor cautions betting against Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. In one bracket he has Pitt to the Final Four, and in the other he has Duke.

The final region is the Midwest and our editor is befuddled. He is not in love with Louisville or Michigan State, though with their talent and veteran coaches either one of these two squads could represent the region. Wake Forest likewise has tons of talent, but has been very inconsistent this year. The Deacs also have a newbie coach. The Kansas Jayhawks, the three seed in this region, have no starters back from last year's national champions. Their head coach Bill Self had led Kansas to two first round losses before an Elite Eight run and the title. Could a team lower than a four seed come out of this bracket? If so, our editor says put your money on Boston College.

To sum up, the National Championship will be won by Pitt, UNC, Washington or perhaps Oklahoma. The long shot first round upset possibilities include American University from the Patriot League, Cleveland State who beat Syracuse in the Carrier Dome this year with a last second half court shot and Arizona a talented PAC-10 at-large squad.

Labels: , ,

Natasha Richardson 

There are no movie mavens on the Clarion Content's current staff. We are by no means comprehensively familiar with her work, but we are greatly saddened by Natasha Richardson's sudden passing. We take it as a reminder to hold the loved ones around a little tighter and know that every day could be your last. We liked this essay about Richardson in Salon.

As you will.

Labels: ,

Monday, March 16, 2009

Need a flute? 

Ever been out and just wished you had a flute with you? Nobody we surveyed at the Clarion Content offices had either. But what if your name were Ron Burgundy and you were caught without your flute?

Maybe in the 1970's that would have been a problem, but not in 2009. In 2009 you can turn your i-Phone into a flute?!! What's that you say? You have got be kidding me! Oh no, faithful readers, we shit you not. Ge Wang, a Stanford University assistant professor, who specializes in music and computer science, and his fellow entrepreneur, Jeff Smith, developed the i-Phone application. It works by blowing into the i-Phone's embedded microphone. Offered for $.99, it was the No. 1 selling application at Apple's American stores four days after it debuted. Three weeks later, it held the top spot in 20 other countries.

Read more here in the San Jose Mercury News.

Labels: ,

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Hayden Panettiere has company 

In the discussion about the most beautiful women in the world suddenly Hayden Panettiere has new company. Her name is Cintia Dicker. Ms. Dicker is a Brazilian born woman of German descent. At the moment she speaks only Portuguese. She has appeared in various fashion magazines as well as ads for the likes of Ann Taylor and Yves Saint Laurent. Ms. Dicker just got her big break when she appeared in the new Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue.


Friday, March 13, 2009

Breakthrough battery charger 

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announced a breakthrough in lithium-ion battery chargers yesterday. They claim that the advance allows lithium-ion batteries, the standard in small electronics cellphones, and hybrid vehicles, both to charge and discharge stored energy much more quickly than presently possible. While it might take six, eight, ten minutes to fully charge a cell phone now with a good charger, the MIT prototype can do it in thirty seconds. Because it is a new technique of manufacturing lithium-ion battery materials, rather than a new material, itself, researchers said production could be only two to three years away. It could be a huge boon to the electric car. Read more detail here from The Times of London.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, March 12, 2009

New York taxes scrapped 

Unlike the Republican governors we have been excoriating the last month here at the Clarion Content for the threats to refuse the federal budget stimulus money, one Democratic governor knows exactly what he is going to do with the funds.

Governor David Patterson of New York is bucking the traditional tax and spend Democrat label and using the stimulus package as an excuse to rescind an estimated $1.3 billion in nuisance taxes New Yorkers were supposed to face next year. Governor Patterson has a reputation as an outside the box thinker. Facing a massive budget shortfall, the governor had proposed taxes on everything from movies, concerts, massages, manicures, gym memberships as well as clothing and footwear priced under $110 to an 18% fat tax on non-diet sodas and an extension of the state sales tax to downloading of music, games and other entertainment.

At the time he proposed the taxes Governor Patterson said, "Everything is on the table because we don't know where the floor of this crisis is." Now, according to the New York Daily News, he is relieved, "I didn't want to do it in the first place. The reason that we would like to put money back in the hands of New Yorkers is so that they'll spend it. Not on taxes, but on ways to grow the economy."

Labels: ,

The Unauthorized Autobiography of G.Ia.M'Rock, ch. 2 

Welcome to an on-going work of meta-fiction and gonzo journalism reminiscent of the late Hunter S. Thompson.

Brought to you by one of Durham's very own.

Some language and situations may not be appropriate for younger readers!!!

Follow this link to Chapter One.

Chapter Two, "Charity"

So I pissed on a cat once, but that's probably the worst thing I ever did. I've never intentionally caused someone actual emotional or physical trauma. I've never stolen someone else's girlfri... I've never intentionally stolen someone else's girlfriend. Never killed anyone, never robbed anyone, I've even done some charitable things!

I think I've done charitable things, I know that I've done things where I've gotten that warm, fuzzy, post-charity feeling anyway, I'm remembering what it feels like right now... I just can't immediately remember anything I've done to warrant it.

"Hey Chuck!" I holler. "I've done nice things though, right?" The fact that I'm talking to my hobo friend who's taking advantage of my hospitality should be enough, but I still feel like there are other things.

"Sure you have, Geoff. Hell, just last night you let me have more than my share of the free trivia night beer. That was nice of you."

"Yeah, but I'm talking about bigger things, y'know, charitable things" In my mind I'm constructing an Albert Schweitzer size list of good deeds that I've just somehow forgotten, I just need a little memory jog, I swear!

"Well... hmm.... there was that Gypsy you took in for a while, remember that? That was charitable."


I do not want to remember the Gypsy.

"I told you never to remind me of the Gypsy again!"

"Well, I'm sorry dude, It was the first thing that came into my head. Seems to me that if you don't want to remember that kinda thing, you shouldn't take in vagabonds in the first place"

like raaaaaiiiiin... on your wedding day....

"Riiiiight Chuck. So when am I getting this month's rent?"

"I'll have it by next Monday, dude."

It's always next Monday. It's been next Monday for the past 3 months. I just wish occasionally he'd switch it up and make it next Tuesday, or maybe in a fortnight, but that's primarily because I wish more people would use the word "fortnight".

So fine, there was this Gypsy.

One night, about a few months ago, I went down to my local watering hole, The Green Room. The Green Room is one of those fantastic places where you can swear that globalization and McDonald's and TGI Fridays never happened. This is not merely a statement of the fact that it is locally owned and independently run, this is also a statement that it is an absolute shithole. You can pretend that massive global chains never happened because it is miraculously a successful bar regardless of the fact that is falls well below the bar of cleanliness and structural soundness that massive chains so expertly have raised over the past 50 years. The whole place smells of old men, Old Spice and Old Style (which is surprising, as they don't serve it). When it rains, they have to set out an antique, claw-footed bathtub underneath a hole in the ceiling so that the place doesn't flood. The pool tables, which I imagine were once a lush green, are now the color of swiss cheese that's been left in the fridge for 4 to 5 years, and I wouldn't be surprised if some of the hepatitis patients I see at the hospital contracted their condition by having the audacity to sit on the toilets. In case you need further reasoning why I come to this marvelous place, we come to the genesis of this whole story: they've got a shuffleboard table.

Shuffleboard is an amazing, amazing thing. #1, nobody plays it, so it's easy as hell to get a game in, even if the bar is packed, and #2, people are fascinated by the fact that you do play it. It's one of those things that became immensely square in my father's generation, and thus it is not my father's game, it is my grandfather's game. I love my grandfather, I hate my father, you do the math. I imagine it's somewhat like how über-feminist types can sit down and get some good knitting in, even though the last generation's feminists fought long and hard to make sure that their daughters would never have to do something as obviously degrading as knitting; I'm not sure though, because I do not understand feminists of any generation.

Step up to a shuffleboard table, and toss the disks back and forth, just to warm up, and you'll find yourself the center of a crowd of younger sorts, wanting to know what you're doing, and how to play. I find meeting women at a bar somewhat imposing, partially based on the fact that the number of women looking for sham-intellectual, slightly overweight guys with 'creative' facial hair is not a large one. Women who are interested in being taught a game fill a much larger subset of the population. The night in question was no anomaly.

Within a few minutes, I had begun a game with three new folks: a couple and a single friend of theirs. This, by the way, is the perfect set-up. You play gents versus ladies, and let the couple sit at the far end of the table while you play in turns. It allows long periods of rest between actually playing the game that are ripe for conversation and flirtation. The young girl in question who was at my end was slightly inebriated, bubbly, and more than happy to tell me all about her hopes and dreams. She, by the way, was a member of a traveling Gypsy cast.

Now before throngs of Roma start beating down my doors for using an ethnic slur against them, I should add that she was not, in fact, a member of a transient ethnic tribe portrayed so expertly by Brad Pitt or Johnny Depp. Instead, she was a member of a traveling Rennsaisance Faire troupe. 'Renn Fairs', as I would soon learn, are a type of carnival where the carnies dress up as people from the 16th century. They bash each other with blunt swords, play instruments called 'lutes' and sell overpriced ribbons and wool caps to local rubes. I don't know if you've ever met carnival people, but they're a dirty little folk, with grabbing hands and shifty eyes. They speak in their own patois, and will generally try to rip you off if you make the unforgivable sin of walking within 20 feet of them.

My natural reaction when finding myself around a group of carnies is to run like hell. However, this girl in question was cute, and not a half-bad shuffleboard player. The fact that the entire bar was filled up with her fellow Renn Fair cast didn't leave me anywhere else to go, plus she was the only one who was fewer sheets to the wind than Drake's Armada.

The whole "gypsy" notion was not helped, I might add, when she introduced herself as "Nastasia", and I later found out that the name on her driver's license was "Stephanie".

She introduced herself as a tattoo artist at first, something no doubt intended to pique my interest, even though it was a mere half truth. This was before "Miami Ink" and its ilk of reality TV shows revealed that tattoo artists as a whole are in fact as interesting as your average hairdresser or interior designer. There was still that illusion that tattoo artists were a dangerous and mysterious corner of society, one step away on the fascination scale from being a loan shark or someone who ran numbers. I asked her the standard gamut of things one asks tattoo artists, what was her best piece done (full back piece of an eagle), has she ever had to tattoo a neo-nazi (never), what was the most ridiculous thing she's done (knuckle tattoos that instead of reading something normal like "hate" and "love" instead said across both hands "fish" and "chips"), By this time, I was a pull of whiskey (off her illicit flask) and one and a half beers drunker, so while she did become moderately less fascinating, she did become a bit more attractive, which made up for it.

Besides, there were all new avenues of conversation to follow! Tell me all about the Renn Faire! Who's the biggest asshole among the production (one of the guys who sells turkey legs and tankards of beer), does anyone ever get hurt during the duels and joust (one bruised clavicle, but that's it) strangest group of nerds to arrive (a group of Trekkies who roleplayed that the Enterprise was sending an away mission to a primitive planet), etc. etc. More than enough conversation to lead to more drinks, which in turn led to a shared cab ride back to my place, which led to clothes being removed, which led to a good amount of mediocre drunk sex.

Early the next morning, your industry standard awkward-post-one-night-stand-
mildly-regretted-by-both-parties-conversation transpired. I announced that I really needed to go get my car and get to work, she said she really needed to get back to the Faire. We both made mention of how busy we both were going to be over the next week, but maybe we could go out and get some dinner? Sure, sounds good, but oh! I forgot to give her my phone number. Oh well, I guess it won't happen, and besides, if she really wanted it, she would have pressed me to give it to her. It was so perfectly stock it might as well have been scripted, and we both knew what we're saying to each other between the lines. "That was fun, let's not do it again"

So imagine my shock when I returned home after work to discover her sitting in my living room, drawing up new designs to hang in her tent.

"So... umm... hi" I stammered out.

"Oh, hello." She replied.

It was strange. It was like a real-life version of the Jedi mind trick. She didn't wave her hand across my face, but she simply acted with complete confidence that absolutely nothing was wrong, and so in as much, nothing was wrong, at least for those few seconds.

"You hungry? We could go get some tacos..." I said with the cool nerve of a man who knows a good taco stand, far from my house and close to the fairgrounds where I hoped to dump her off.

"Thanks for the offer, but I think I'm going to go eat with Thor from the Faire."

I stood shocked. A few minutes of conversation transpired where I soon learned that Renn Faire workers have a lot more in common with carnies or gypsies than I ever had imagined. They travel with the 'Faire' from place to place all summer long. Unlike your standard gypsy, they don't have brightly decorated caravans, but instead, camp out near the fairground where these events are held. As a result, a key skill for all Renn-Faire workers to develop is meeting locals, in order to have the occasional night with access to a shower and a soft bed. This made some sense to me. Happily, she seemed showered, rested, and hopefully out of my hair.

"Oh, okay, well, see you... around... then?"

"See you!" She cheerfully quipped. The strangeness of the situation started to dawn on me as I walked back in the house, but by then she'd already left.

This had to end.

When she came back from her dinner with the Norse god, I confronted her and asked her why she was still there, in fact, why she was returning, rather than staying the hell away.

"I'm confused here, I thought it was clear that last night was.... fun, sure, but all the signs were there that you didn't want to continue this, I mean, do you?"

"Oh no, not really."

"So... why are you here?"

"Well, I figured I could either spend the remainder of my two weeks in a field in a tent, or staying at a rather nice house."

"But... that's my house!"

"Well yeah, but I earned a stay didn't I?"

"For a night, maybe! Plus, I resent the implication that I'm your john!"

"Well, I could continue 'earning' it if you'd like." Mind you, she didn't say this in any kind of sultry, seductress way, more like she was offering to give me a discount on a living room set.

"Look, I don't want to go down that road. Last night was lovely, but I really would prefer you not to stay the entire two weeks, I've got enough unwanted company at my house."

"Fine, but I have a feeling you'll change your mind."

And so she spent the evening again, this time with less athletic nudity and more doing laundry while watching Law & Order reruns. I am gratified to know that even gypsies love Arthur Branch.

Upon returning home after work the next day, I discovered the "incentive" she was alluding to with regards to me letting her stay.

She hexed the washing machine.

The washer had some kind of an occult design on it. Not a pentagram, but something pseudo-Celtic and equally creepy, complete with candles burned down to the nubs. There were bits of string tied to the washer and to the piping around it, I can only imagine in a strange attempt to draw and quarter it. The best part though was the dead chicken. It was obvious that she was going for the voodoo finisher to her pseudo-magic (I imagine she'd prefer "mageick" or something.) But instead of going the proper route and getting a live chicken and killing it, it was quite obvious that this was your industry standard Perdue chicken from the Kroger that had been unwrapped and thrown in the washer. (It even still had the giblet bag.)

I discussed the problem with the Iguana before she returned.

"How do I talk some sense into this woman?"

"Well, you already tried sense, didn't you. Seems like your only recourse now is the law."

"I'm not going to call the police. It seems a bit of a cop out to call the man. I mean, I should be able to keep her off the premises without resorting to that, shouldn't I?"

"I dunno dude, she was talking about bringing over her pet llama tomorrow."

"Well what the hell should I do?"

"I dunno dude, I don't think anything short of armed police officers or magic is going to keep her away."

"Chuck, you're a genius."

"So you're gonna call the cops?"

"Nope, gotta run, dude, I'm not sure how much time I have."

There's a little shop on 9th St. that sells odd nick-knacks and incense. I collect elephants for my home, and I had heard that there were fantastic ceramic ones for sale there. The first time I visited, little did I know that I was walking into a scene from a Kipling novel about the heathen wog. The place was tiny, with rugs hanging on all the walls, various shelves with odds and ends, sticks of incense, jars of mysterious substances, carved heffalumps and various other mysterious non-wholesome items. There was an old, bearded, somewhat smelly Indian man sitting cross legged on a stool in the corner of the room. He was muttering to himself and smoking a hookah. I wouldn't have been surprised if there were a monkey jumping around inside, but sadly there wasn't. That time I paid for my elephant and got the hell out, but this time would be a little different.

The gypsy returned later that evening. No llama, but some strange variety of rat in tow. Perhaps it was a ferret. I was standing triumphantly, Indian man next to me, muttering.

"What are you doing?" She asked.

"मिश्रित दही मक्खन आटा और पानी की एक फर्म आटा तक बनाई है..." The Indian muttered

"I'm putting up a shield around my house to keep freeloaders out."

"You can't do that!" She shouted.

The ferret gurgled.

"Oh yeah? Watch me!"

"सुनहरा भूरा और जब तक एक पत्थर पर सेंकना..."

She made a defiant gesture as if to walk towards the house, but actually acted like she was bouncing off something invisible about ten feet from the back door. She even did a halfway decent Marcel Marceau invisible wall for a couple of seconds before resigning herself to the "fact" that she wasn't getting in.

"You can pick up your stuff over there, it's not inside the barrier"

She gathered her things, and walked off, thankfully, completely out of my life (so far).

I asked the Indian man (I suppose I should say for the sake of I'm-not-a-racist at this point that his name was Vishal, though he still gave me the creeps) what on earth he had been muttering.

"It was my family's naan recipe. I figured it would take me long enough to recite it for your person there to get the idea."

"You, sir, are a genius." I gave him his payment and promised him I'd come by the shop and buy a rug sometime. A promise I really should keep, I suppose.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Yankees athletes 

Are Yankees fans worried about replacing A-Fraud Rodriguez at third base this season? (It is too bad about how steroids and HGH make muscles grow, but not corresponding tendons, making those huge muscles all the more likely to rip the tendons from the bone.)

Yankees fans are not worried if they know Johnny Damon's answer to the following question. Who is the best athlete on the Yankees? According Damon it is Rodriguez's replacement at third base. The Newark Star Ledger has the YouTube clips that have made Ransom a legend. Watch them here. Damon says if you are still a doubter after that, let him put you in a headlock and try to get out of it.

Says here that no matter how well or poorly Ransom plays Alex Rodriguez's rehab (pun intended) takes longer than scheduled and he plays no more than seventy-five games, driving in about 55 runs. Ransom is thirty-two. He got his first cup of coffee in the bigs in 2001 with the San Francisco Giants, for perspective, that was Pac Bell Park's first full season open.

Labels: , , ,

Puppet philosophy 

For those of you who have always wanted to get philosophical advice from a puppet, here is your opportunity. Meet Puppetji...

Thanks to a local Durham reader and UNC grad who sent this our way...

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Witness worthy 

Dwayne Wade grabbed the mantle, the podium, the attention, the Q ratings, you name it and kicked open the door for the NBA MVP race with a witness worthy performance last night in Miami. Flash scored 48 points with 12 assists while making 15-of-21 shots (71.4 percent) against the Chicago Bulls. He made a last-second steal and a running, last second 3-pointer to lift Miami to a 130-127 double OT win.

He has a league-leading 10 games of at least 40 points. Wade was insane last night. Before the double-OT game winner, he nailed a buzzer-beating 31-foot three pointer right before halftime to give Miami a two-point lead. He hit a 26-foot three pointer to send the game into overtime.

Labels: ,

LeBron vs. Kobe 

Clarion Content fave Bill Simmons was on New York sports talk show host and boxing guru Max Kellerman's radio program the other day. Kellerman is apparently a Simmons fan, too, one who respects the breadth and depth of his knowledge. Kellerman had several prepared questions for Simmons, one of which was why do more people like Kobe over LeBron. Kellerman knew that Simmons preferred LeBron as the better player. Unfortunately Simmons came up short in his response for what the Clarion Content also believes is true, LeBron is the better player. Simmons answer for why more folks pick Kobe over LeBron than vice versa was that people are stupid. The Clarion Content does not believe that is true.

There is however a rational explanation based on their style of play why more people favor Kobe than LeBron. It is the Clarion Content's contention that more people side with Kobe because they find his game easier to relate to. Simmons argued that LeBron is just as happy scoring twenty-five points and getting twenty assists as he is scoring fifty-five points and getting five assists provided his team wins. The Clarion Content agrees.

But, Kobe is no less competitive, he wants his team to win. However, he is less altruistic. When his team wins it is because he scores points, not because he hands out assists. That is not his way, his way is the I will take it into my own hands dominant, hands-on alpha dog. LeBron too is the alpha dog amongst his pack, but he is more of an Aragorn, able to lead while letting others succeed. He doesn't have to win the battle alone. Kobe is far less capable of that.

As are, truth be, told most folks. It is far easier for most people to relate to succeeding ala Kobe, though achieving one's own personal heights. It is far rarer for the average person to emulate LeBron's style. It is indicative of different qualities, leadership qualities, the citizen who can gratify in the success of his fellow man insofar as it elevates him, too. LeBron's unselfish leadership while highly admired is harder for the average person to relate to. Kobe leads because he is excellent, better than his teammates. LeBron is not only excellent, more talented/better, but he is liked, nay, adored, by teammates who aren't quite as talented because he makes them better, a rare, willing to be self-sacrificing, leader.

Labels: , ,

Monday, March 09, 2009

We warned you Facebookers 

We have been trumpeting the privacy issues surrounding Facebook for quite some time here at the Clarion Content. This week Facebook cost another person a job. The lesson, don't post negative things about your employer on your Facebook, unless you are prepared to face the consequences.

The story is Philadelphia Eagles employee, Dan Leone, who managed the west gate of the stadium was upset when the Eagles let star safety Brian Dawkins escape to Denver via free-agency. Unfortunately, Leone instead of keeping it to himself posted on his Facebook, "Dan is bleeping devastated about Dawkins signing with Denver ... Dam Eagles R Retarted!!"

Bad idea. Dan Leone is now an ex-Eagles employee. ESPN cites the Philadelphia Inquirer,
"I shouldn't have put it up there [he] said...I was ticked off, and I let my emotions go, but I didn't offend any one person or target a specific individual. I was just upset that we lost such a great guy. Dawkins was one of my favorite players. I made a mistake."

Leone said he was shocked to lose his job of six years.

"I apologized for it...I apologized 20 million times. I never bad-mouthed the organization before. I made one mistake and they terminate me? And they couldn't even bring me into the office to talk to me? They had to do it over the phone? At least look me in the eye. To get done dirty like this, I can't believe it. I'm devastated."

Labels: , ,

Legalization is everywhere 

For all the wonderful brave things that are in Barack Obama's budget, he did not propose legalizing drugs. It is a wonder because just about everybody else is.

Here is but a small sampling. One piece in the Economist is subtitled, "Legalization is the least bad option." It essentially argues that the prohibition of drugs has been an abysmal failure. And not for lack of effort, it says, "The United States alone spends some $40 billion each year on trying to eliminate the supply of drugs. It arrests 1.5m of its citizens each year for drug offences..." It is a very persuasive piece. (Of course, legalization surely jives with Clarion Content's libertarian bent.)

Another one from the blog Wallet Pop, starts with discussing a backlash Kellog's is facing for having dropped swimming star Michael Phelps in the wake of his bong hitting photos. Apparently a Facebook page ripping Kellog's has 6,000 members. One commentator pointed out that the company didn't drop Phelps for a DUI in 2004. The article goes on to list a standard litany of reasons to consider legalization.

The final piece from the San Francisco Chronicle
is subtitled, "Smoke this recession." It argues if there ever was a perfect time to legalize this is it. Unlike the Economist's piece which focuses on the public health benefits and advocates legalizing everything, including hard drugs, (full disclosure: this is the position the Clarion Content favors) the Chronicle specifically advocates just legalizing marijuana. It is written from an angle that believes vices are counter-cyclical and takes quite the California perspective.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, March 08, 2009

F*ck, Amazing 

The Clarion Content has never really watched the HBO crime show, The Wire. We have always heard good things about it. Our favorite sports columnist Bill Simmons frequently raves about it.

This scene is two of the shows fictional detectives, McNulty and Bunk, investigating the crime scene of a murder. The amazing thing about it is the only dialogue in the scene is curse words, particularly the F-note. Yet they manage to brilliantly convey their changing theory about how the murder went down.

Labels: ,

Addition by subtraction 

The new the theme in the NBA seems to be addition by subtraction. There are litany of teams suddenly starting to succeed minus a superstar player or at least a key cog. The best example is of course the Houston Rockets, who are 9 up and 2 down since the whining prima donna Tracy McGrady called it a season.

The Lakers are 12 and 3 since young center Andrew Bynum went down with an injured knee. People had intially said the Lakers would be limited, and they may be in the playoffs. However, until just very recently Lamar Odom had been stepping up in a huge way, putting numbers all over the stat sheet.

Even slumping Detroit got into the act. Coming off of an eight game losing streak with Allen Iverson in the line-up, the Pistons have gone 4 up and 1 down without him. Addition by subtraction!

Finally, the New Yorks Knicks have been pursuing this them all year long, exiling point guard Stephon Marbury. The Knicks are ten wins ahead of last year's pace. The Celtics have sputtered since adding Marbury who is averaging nearly as many turnovers as assists.

Labels: , ,

Rangers win Avery's MSG return 

The New York Rangers won Sean Avery's return to Madison Square Garden today beating the Eastern Conference leading Boston Bruins. Avery left his last home game in the Garden with a lacerated spleen signaling the Rangers final gasp in Game 3 of their second-round playoff series against Pittsburgh. Today he was a pest from the get-go triggering action and setting up opportunities.

His teammates found the back of the net four times against flopping fish Manny Fernandez, the Boston back-up goalie who had a very soft game. In contrast the Rangers gold medal netminder Henrik Lundqvist was steady as usual. The Rangers have now won three straight with a big game coming up Monday against the Carolina Hurricanes, a team chasing the Rangers for a playoff spot.

Labels: ,

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Chris Brown and Rihanna 

Chris Brown and Rihanna have been a ubiquitous presence in the headlines in recent weeks. For many, this was their first encounter with the couple and snap judgments have been made. But for most of America's youth this was not their first time, they have followed these two through the media for what seems like, by their time scale, ages.

Domestic violence and abuse is a significant problem in America. This is not a moment for parents, educators or adults in general to ignore. Nor is it something that should be pigeonholed with out real discussion and dismissed. Youth will sense the inadequacy of that and reject it. They will formulate their own opinions if conversations are not initiated. Forthright, open and honest talks with the kids and teens in one's life who admired this couple is how it should go down.

If you are intimidated by this prospect or don't know where to start, here are a couple of thoughts; one is from the Los Angeles Times, the other is from a favorite blogger of the Clarion Content, In Her Shell.

Labels: , ,

Friday, March 06, 2009

College Humor 

The Clarion Content has recently been introduced to the website CollegeHumor.com (apparently they have a television show, too.) It is sophomoric, but some of it is soooo funny.

Here's a real prank the guys pulled. (What a surprise the Maryland fans were willing to get involved.)

This one was also bemusing if you have ever been at a bar a little too close to last call.

This one is ostensibly shot from the point of view of a hot girl at a bar.


Obama hosts dinner 

President Obama held what was termed a "Time Out" dinner Wednesday night at the White House. Approximately 180 guests, all of the House and Senate committee chairs, the ranking members, the members of the President's cabinet, his senior staff, and legislative staff along with all their spouses sat down to eat at the White House. Tables were adorned with white roses, white peonies and green apple centerpieces.

The President was quoted by ABC News,
"The country is going though an extraordinarily difficult time, and we are going to have some monumental debates taking place over the next several months and years. We’re not always going to agree on everything. But given how hard so many of you are working on both sides of the aisle day in and day out, I thought it was important for us to be able to step back for a moment, and remind ourselves that we have things in common family, friends, laughter. This is a pretty big house so we get lonely."
Reportedly on the menu according to ABC News: Celery Soup, Wild Mushroom Crisps, Steelhead Salmon with Citrus sauce, Crispy Spinach, Toasted Saffron Couscous Pearls, Baby Iceberg lettuce with Maytag Bleu Cheese and Yogurt ranch dressing and for dessert, Milk Chocolate velvet cake.

President Obama apparently following the old prescription, 'Keep thy friends closer and keep thine enemies closer' was seated a table with Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Read the full story here.

Labels: ,

Obama and the teleprompter 

One of our intrepid Durham readers brought this note to the Clarion Content's attention; we didn't know, did you? Apparently, President Obama is hooked on the teleprompter.

He is widely know amongst the media for relying on it at events large and small. On the campaign he reportedly used it everywhere from a rodeo ring to a factory floor. Politco's Carol Lee quotes presidential historian Martha Joynt Kumar, "It’s just something presidents haven’t done. It’s jarring to the eye. In a way, it stands in the middle between the audience and the president because his eye is on the teleprompter." Lee goes on to add, "...it is a startling sight to see such sleek, modern technology set against the mahogany doors and Bohemian crystal chandeliers in the East Room or the marble columns of the Grand Foyer."

Obama doesn't try to hide the teleprompter. Nor does he appear to be weaning himself of off it. It is not exactly FDR and the wheelchair, but interesting inside the White House baseball nonetheless. Link to the full story here.

Thanks for the heads up chef Don!

Labels: ,

Hooray for Avery 

Sean Avery made a triumphant return to the New York Rangers line-up last night. The Rangers defeated the horrid, New York in-name-only, Islanders last night in the arena fondly known as the Nassau Mausoleum. The Rangers who had been winless in their last nine games on the road managed to break out of the slump and are now 2-1-1 under new coach, John Tortorella. They are in a furious race for the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. The Clarion Content had been agitating for Avery's return. In his last stint with the team, the Rangers were 50-23-13 with him and 9-13-3 when he was out. As for the Rangers other new acquisitions, forward Nik Antropov and defenseman Derek Morris, we will be consulting with our metro New York hockey sources and get back to you posthaste. Unlike some other Rangers supporters, here at the Clarion Content, we trust Glen Sather's hockey instincts.

Labels: ,

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Be careful what you wish for 

There has been so much noise and glee in Democratic party circles about the thought of Rush Limbaugh becoming the spokesman and face of the Republican Party. At the Clarion Content we can't help wondering if it isn't a case of be careful what you wish for!

The basis of the Democrats claim that Limbaugh is the head honcho of the Republicans is the kowtowing of first a couple Republican Congressmen and then new Republican party chief Michael Steel. The Democrats leaped into spin that this showed Rush was the de facto leader of the Republican Party. Maybe so. The Democrats have even constructed websites to push the notion.

Rush Limbaugh is a self-made media maven. His audience and thus his reach is enormous. His audience's loyalty is extreme, witness his ability to bounce back from allegations of heroin, oops, pain killer addiction. This is not to mention some of the outrageous things that he has said and been able to bounce back from. The guy reaches so many people Disney owned ESPN once had him covering NFL football. His is a powerful populist voice and it wold behoove the Democrats to think twice before daring Rush to the fore of the debate.

These are dangerous times in America, edifices are crumbling from General Motors to the banks, structural change is underway from the highways to health care. Change unhinges and disturbs people. Stressful economic times make people more prone to listen to populist voices. Disaffection seeks an outlet. President Obama is running a high-wire act in more ways than one in his engagement with economy. A perception of failure around his presidency could produce a serious backlash. In the interim, Limbaugh has the podium, it is unwise for Democrats to trumpet it. The specters loom large from Father Charles Coughlin to Joe McCarthy.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Where are we at? 

A long-time friend of the Clarion Content, while still living in Durham before decamping for Southern California, once made the comment that, "These days if you write your congressman six times a year you're a crank." We couldn't help but agree at the time, more than eight years ago, and we have been brooding over that thought ever since. We think it is time to re-examine it in light of the newly dawning Obama era.

Why can't you write your congressperson a bunch? These days when one does write one's congressperson it takes weeks for a response and one is lucky if one does not get a form letter (or form e-mail, as the case may be.) Forget about it, if one wants to write a Senator or a Congressperson who is not one's own. That most certainly generates a form letter or e-mail stating that the Senator/Congressperson does not have time to answer correspondence other than that from their own constituents. The Clarion Content has personally experienced this phenomenon with more than a couple of Senators in the last decade. It is ridiculous hubris and an outrage. How does one write the sponsor of a particular piece of legislation in either the House or the Senate if said sponsor is not one's own representative? Forgive our shorthand but WTF?!?

The Clarion Content's bent is for libertarian government that has a very light hand. However, this is not the same thing as a society that has very limited civic engagement. In fact, to have a society which can function with a relatively small, unintrusive government, one likely needs to posit a very engaged society, with lots of active civic organizations and outlets. The Clarion Content fears that for far too long a stretch in modern America we have had a dearth of civic involvement and civic engagement. Government is not a dirty word. Some in Washington, D.C. and on the radio airwaves disparage this kind of activity when the impetus is not the private sector. The President anticipated them in his inaugural address, "What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them— that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works..." The Clarion Content firmly believes that when things stall at the scale that they have in the global economy it is okay for government to kick start the engine or prime the pump as it were.

In our view, it is at such moments that the need for civic engagement and an involved citizenry is the greatest. As the President said in his speech accepting the Democratic Party nomination, "...we must also admit that fulfilling America's promise will require more than just money. It will require a renewed sense of responsibility from each of us to recover what John F. Kennedy called our intellectual and moral strength." The Clarion Content could not agree more and the President has continued to reiterate this theme.

Furthermore, the Federal Government under the leadership of President Obama is being called upon to give all citizens more of an opportunity to be engaged and involved. One such manner in which the government is doing this is a website that the President mentioned in his speech to the joint session of Congress last week. It is called recovery.gov and it allows one to track how the money from the stimulus bill is being spent. It has, of course, other embedded links to articles and government websites with details about particular plans and elements. It is a fascinating portal. And right on the front page is a link to share one's experience, for good or for ill with government and to give feedback on the spending of what, if you are a taxpaying American citizen, are your dollars. The Clarion Content loves it.

One final note, to those who reject the monetary policy of the stimulus package, especially the Republican governors we have been writing about recently, here in Durham we could use it. We saw the Mayor of Newark Corey Booker speak at Duke University and he said they could use it (and would use it) there in Newark, too. In Durham, more computers in our schools would be great, more money for our teachers would be great, more after-school programs would be great, better school facilities, more money for city road repair and re-paving of existing streets, more money for water and sewage system maintenance and upgrades, more money for public parks, and as anyone who has been to the public library lately can tell you, more money for public access computers with high speed internet. The government can harvest massive future economic gains for America's Gross National Product out of connecting, revamping and refurbishing the infrastructure of our country. It is Americans money and American society that is in the doldrums, we have a historic opportunity. To quote the President again, this time from his speech to the joint session of Congress last week, "Those qualities that have made America the greatest force of progress and prosperity in human history we still possess in ample measure. What is required now is for this country to pull together, confront boldly the challenges we face and take responsibility for our future once more. Now, if we're honest with ourselves, we'll admit that for too long, we have not always met these responsibilities - as a government or as a people."

Seize the day. It is the time. Find a way to get involved. It is your duty and America needs you.

We offer this final thought, not only as self-rationalization, but also as a reminder to all. Monitoring, reporting, and chronicling what is going on around you counts, more so if you use your knowledge to help keep your fellow citizenry informed.

Labels: , , , ,

Cold Case 

It is not just a television show. In some ways it is comforting to know that the search for justice goes on, the passage of time does not automatically exonerate the guilty. The cops, the victim's family and others still care, such was the case in Santa Clara, California this week.

Thirty-one years ago, Mary Quigley, a seventeen year old senior at Santa Clara High, was raped and murdered. Her body was found hung from a fence in War Memorial Park in Santa Clara. According to the San Jose Mercury News, "...she had been walking to a friend's house at midnight after a party Sept. 9, 1977. The sash from her kimono-style jacket was found wrapped around her neck and looped through the fence."

DNA evidence finally helped secure the conviction of an already imprisoned rapist. He and the public defender claimed consensual sex and that another group of "drugged-up thugs" now deceased must have encountered the girl and included the actual killer. The jury wasn't buying it.


First Time in 50 years 

For the first time in fifty long years the United States won the gold medal Sunday in the four-man bobsled world championships held in Lake Placid, NY. Piloting a jet-black sled nicknamed, "The Night Train," Steve Holcomb led the U.S. to its first four-man bobsled world championship since Art Tyler piloted the victorious sled in 1959 at St. Moritz, Switzerland. Just a week early Holcomb had piloted the United States to the world championship in the two-man sled, ending a twelve year drought.


Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Republican Governors follow-up 

We wrote a piece earlier in the week about how certain disgusting Mugabe-ist Republican governors are thinking of rejecting portions of the stimulus package aimed at their states, in effect fiddling while Rome burns. Among these governors are Mark Sanford of South Carolina and allegedly rising Republican superstar, Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal.

Jindal delivered the Republican response to President Obama's address to a joint session of Congress last week. Jindal's speech was widely panned and derided. From a stylistic and delivery perspective, the Clarion Content could not understand why. In our view most of the attacks on Jindal were ad hominem, the equivalent of name calling. This made no sense to us when there was so much to attack him and the Republicans on substantively.

Governor Jindal makes $130,000 personally, lives in the Louisiana Governor's mansion, uses state funded transportation and is turning down $100 million in federal stimulus money for a state that ranks fourth in children living below the poverty line and 46th in high school graduation rates, and that is facing a projected budget shortfall of more than $1.7 billion, (our thanks to Frank Rich for those dirty details.) Jindal actually received a $35,000 raise during this term as his state cratered.

Equally big scumsucker, South Carolina Governor, Mark Sanford, who is paid north of $106,000 annually and has the use of a state airplane, as well as the governor's mansion, heartily resisted a federally funded increase of $25 per week for folks who are receiving on average $244 per week of unemployment dollars. Must be nice when pulling down a cool $2038 per week, to decide who is worthy and unworthy of an extra $25 bucks. (And you wonder why we consider the guillotine within the range of possible response to these criminals...) South Carolina has a 9.5% unemployment rate, the country's third highest.

Addendum: Maybe the explanation is simpler than the Clarion Content figured, maybe these governors are part of the Rush Limbaugh wing of the Republican party; the folks who are rooting for the country to fail!

Labels: ,

Sunday, March 01, 2009

An interesting linkage 

The Economist has discovered a fascinating apparent linkage between the sales of Ayn Rand's 1957 book, Atlas Shrugged and the announcement of major financial news. Generally, the economic crisis has been good for Rand's book. The Economist reports, "the book’s 30-day average Amazon rank was 127 on February 21st, well above its average over the past two years of 542." That is interesting data itself, and it makes sense The Economist cites a recently formed group on Facebook, "Read the news today? It’s like ‘Atlas Shrugged’ is happening in real life."

The Economist goes on to note, "with pirates hijacking cargo ships, politicians castigating corporate chieftains, riots in Europe and slowing international trade—all of which are depicted in the book—this melancholy meme has plenty of fodder." What is really interesting though is the way the sales spike with financial news, rising in response to interest rate cuts, bank bailouts and even the stimulus plan. The Economist has its theories, link to the full article here.

Labels: ,

Interesting reads from the last year 

From far off the beaten track, a couple of interesting books that wandered across the Clarion Content's editorial desks in the last year or so. None of these are tomes that we ever had any intention of reading, but like the descendants of living creatures that they are, sometimes books, they find you.

Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television by Jerry Mander.

Highlight-Jerry Mander's ability allows him to pull so many strands of thought together; covering everything from the nature of mass media, to the relationship between society, television and advertising without 9,000 footnotes, scads of obtuse language or the need for 850 pages.

Food for thought-This book was written more thirty years ago, pre-cable television and the language surrounding the technical descriptions TV can sound almost quaint. Yet if anything, the arguments resonate even more profoundly today because since Mander's time, television has become stronger and more pervasive (only the advent of DVR technology has begun to stick a thumb in the dike.) It would be interesting for someone to undertake a comprehensive analysis of how Mander's arguments apply to the internet. Here at the Clarion Content, we have said for a long time if the internet exists primarily as a tool to better sell things, then it has failed.

"Advertising starts with a disadvantage with respect to the programming. It must be more technically interesting than the program or it will fail. That is, advertising must itself become a highlighted moment compared with what surrounds it... The ideal relationship between program and commercial is that the program should be just interesting enough to keep you interested but not so interesting as to actually dominate the ads.

This applies to technique as well as content. On the rare occasion when something real or gripping appears on television ---the SLA shootout, President Kennedy's funeral, an emergency presidential address--- and the viewer is awakened from the lethargy by the emergence of real highlighted content, as opposed to technique, advertisers make every attempt to cancel their spots. They will say they are doing this because it is in "bad taste" to advertise in such moments.

But when is advertising not in bad taste? Do they mean that interrupting people's lives to start hawking products is not rude and offensive behavior at any time? If someone came to your door every night to do that, you would soon call the police. Advertising is always in bad taste. What advertisers mean when they use the "bad taste" excuse is that when something really real happens on television, it may affect how well their ad works. In the context of concrete reality advertising can be understood as vacuous, absurd, rude, outrageous. Advertising can only succeed in an environment in which the real merges with the ficitonal, and all become semireal with equal tone and undifferentiated meaning."

Take away-Hope that the debate is still on-going, people are responding to this, inventing ways to subvert advertising like DVR and pop-up blockers. Maybe the internet will prove a better medium for this battle.

The Border Legion
by Zane Grey

Highlight-The brutal efficiency with which the main male character Jack Kells runs his gang. Straight out of Lord of the Flies, the struggle between savagery and civilization runs deep in Grey's Old West. For many years worth of movies the violent, cruel, ruthless, lawless ferment of frontier society has been made a larger than life tale by Hollywood in a way that has somehow sanitized, desensitized and Disney-fied the real tumult and chaos. Here couched in Grey's patriarchal vision of the world, it emerges as darker and fundamentally more disturbingly.

Food for thought-What of the border? Grey sets his novel deliberately at the edge and limits of the rule of law, and concludes by blaming the flaws of Jack Kells largely on the environment that bred him, as if to underline that a properly civilized upbringing for a man of such character might have saved him from the beast he became. Quite the indictment of the milieu for the man who spent much of his career writing about the frontier. We haven't read enough to know, but we wonder is that critique characteristic of Grey's work and thought?

"The gold-lust created its own blood-lust. Daily the population of Alder Creek grew in the new gold-seekers and its dark records kept pace. With distrust came suspicion and with suspicion came fear, and with fear came hate---and these, in already distorted minds, inflamed a hell. So that the most primitive passions of mankind found outlet and held sway. The operations of the Border Legion were lost in the deeds done in the gambling dens, in the saloons, and on the street, in broad day. Men fought for no other reason than that the incentive was in the charged air. Men were shot at gaming-tables---and the game went on. Men were killed in the dance-halls, dragged out, marking a line of blood on the rude floor---and the dance went on. Still the pursuit of gold went on, more frenzied than ever, and still the greater and richer claims were struck. The price of gold soared and the commodities of life were almost beyond the dreams of avarice. It was a time in which the worst of men's natures stalked forth, hyrda-headed and deaf, roaring for gold, spitting fire, and shedding blood. It was a time when gold and fire and blood were one. It was a time when a horde of men from every class and nation, of all ages and characters, met on a field where motives and ambitions and faiths and traits all merged into one mad instinct of gain. It was worse than the time of medieval crimes of religion; it made war seem a brave and honorable thing; it robbed manhood of that splendid and noble trait, always seen in shipwrecked men or those hopelessly lost in the barren north, the divine will not retrograde to the savage. It was a time, for all it enriched the world with yellow treasure, when might was right, when men were hopeless, when death stalked rampant. The sun rose gold and it set red. It was the hour of Gold!"

Take away-This is a book embedded in its time, in its treatment of gender roles and in its themes. But around the edges there are both pearls and insights---windows into thinking, thinking that while anchored from whence it came, that has not completely lost its spot in the world. Values that are neither eternal, nor implacable, nor exile-able. Values that are still being debated and defended in very different settings and contexts.

Assignment Burma Girl by Edward S. Aarons

Highlight-This early Cold War story is set in the Far East of 1961, a time when Laos was still as likely to erupt as Vietnam, and Vientiane was a name as well known to Americans as Saigon. This era is so alien to modern American consciousness as to almost feel fetching, nostalgic. The Burma of this period is little known nor considered. Today even its name is being scrubbed away by Myanmar.

Food for thought-This was no back corner at the time, Asia was on the Kennedy administration's radar albeit below Berlin and Moscow. The shape of things was still becoming, the colonialist era was rapidly ending, but Hong Kong was still a British colony, the status of Taiwan and was still resolving itself amongst the community of states, Cambodia and Laos were nominally monarchies. Korea was the paradigm for possible confrontation.

Chet Lowbridge was short and stocky, and he wore a Princeton fraternity jacket and white slacks. In the midst of Rangoon's strange sights and sounds, he was Ivy League all the way. He had an air of competence mingled with a thinly veiled contempt for everything around him, as if he endured his job and environment only in the hope of moving on to something more to his taste. But there was a shrewd intelligence in his brown eyes, a hard curve to his mouth and a lithe aggressiveness in his tennis player's body.

He was waiting in Durrell's room at the Strand with Boh Savarati. The colonel was a slim, middle-aged man, with gray hair, and the smooth, flat Thai-Mongol face of Southeast-Asia. He had a broad mouth and everted lips and dark quiet eyes. His uniform was khaki, bush-worn but immaculate.

"Mr. Durrell?" he said, in a British accent. "Please forgive the intrusion. Mr. Lowbridge consented to accompany me for this interview, and I thought it best we reach immediate understanding. You have been busy since you arrived in Rangoon. Commendable Yankee aggressiveness."

Lowbridge grinned. "Durrell isn't a Yankee, Colonel. He comes from the bayou country below New Orleans."

Savarati's eyes flickered, "There is a difference?"

"In temperament only." Lowbridge shook hands with Durrell. "Call me Chet. I'm the official greeter and smoother-outer of bumpy roads. I pour oil on troubled waters. Sorry I couldn't meet your plane, but I was tied up with Mrs. Hartford. You can understand that."

"How did you know I was coming this afternoon?" Durrell asked.

"I told you, didn't I? A certain elderly gentlemen and a certain influential Senator."

"Mr. Durrell," Savarati said gently, "there has been some difficulty this evening at the home of a man name Simon Locke. Do you know anything about it?"

Durrell looked at the ceiling fan, where the microphone bug was hidden. "You know as much about it as I do."

The Burmese's face wore a smile. "What you found was only a routine precaution with certain foreigners, you understand. Did you know the man who was killed? The French pilot for BAT?"

"No," Durrell said. "Not at all."

"Can you suggest a reason for this tragedy?"

"None at the moment."

Lowbridge said with false diffidence, "See here, old man, you don't want to get mixed up with the an adventurer like Locke. The authorities frown on his sort, and soon Locke will get his walking papers. His shoestring airline serves a purpose for the moment-it's the only line that seems to get along with the rebels up north-"

"Not rebels," Savarati said mildly, "The provincial governments have internal autonomy. Mr. Locke made his own arrangements with those people. The liaison suits us, for the time."

"But the times are changing," Durrell suggested.

Take away-What happened in the 1950's and early 1960's? How did the United States miss its opportunity to become the friend of the oppressed peoples of the world? How did the America of the Revolutionary War's Patriots end up on the opposite side of the people's armies of liberation? How were the totalitarian Soviets and Chinese able to seize this ground? Why were the men in the State Department who told of the corruption of the Chinese Nationalists shunted and eventually persecuted and exiled? Where did McCarthyism come from? How pivotal was this period in pushing America in the direction of Empire?

Labels: , , ,

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?