Monday, February 28, 2011

And the Winner is....

Happy Monday people. And what a dreary Monday Morning is is, depending on which part of the country you're tuning in from.

This morning I thought I'd talk briefly about last night's Oscar's. Big surprise, I know. Again, like the Grammy's, I wasn't aware that the ceremony was coming up until it had already passed, so my review largely will be lacking in factual deconstruction, and more the rambling diatribe you've come to know and love over these past two weeks.

So, upon quickly perusing the news updates this morning, it would appear that The King's Speech by and large swept the awards, taking home 4 of the coveted little golden idols. Now, once again, it would appear that last year I only saw one of the films nominated by the illustrious academy as being worthy of contemplation for best picture of the year. A running theme with my personal exposure to the Hollywood drivel. The last time I saw a movie that was awarded as being the best picture of the year before the awards were handed out was back in 2003 when Lord of the Rings: Return of the King picked up the trophy. Since then I have tried to make an attempt to do a little research on the winners after the awards were handed out, just to try and give myself a better sense of the social and cultural pulse that pumps in this country. Usually, I am sadly disappointed by the quality of the films that are bestowed the accolade of Best Picture of the Year (see: 2009 - The Hurt Locker. What a piece of god-forsaken trash).

Anyway, back to this year. Despite all of it's rave reviews, some how I had not even heard of The King's Speech until this morning. And you can bet your ass I didn't spend a red cent on a movie about the son of a bitch who designed and created Facebook and found yet another way for American's to literally pour their time down the toilet. You've gotten enough of my time Mark Zuckerberg, fuck you if you think you're getting any more.

At least Inception received recognition in taking home a few awards, but the awards they did take home really pissed me off. The one movie of the year (at least that I saw, again, I didn't waste my time on a lot of this crap) that made an honest attempt at promoting critical thought and imaginative discourse, and it lands Sound Editing, Visual Effects, and Cinematography. What The Fuck. Seriously. Say what you want about Inception's content, but at least it made you think about something a hair deeper than the court room escapades of America's newest tween billionaire. Or the speech impediments of a monarch separated by half a century and one of the biggest ponds on the planet.

But hell, according to the Academy all that picture is good for is its shiny, flashy pictures and cool sound effects. Oooohh...trippy. Stop minimizing the efforts of honest film makers to produce profound work by only rewarding them for the superficial flash that so often accompanies their work. Inception was the first movie I'd seen in far too long that came out of Hollywood honestly presenting something that we hadn't seen before. It gave us something new to think about, and while all the visual effects were certainly deserving of their awards, it was the mental rewards of that film that made it notable.

OK, I've gone on far too long on a topic that I already admitted I don't know nearly enough about. Who knows, maybe I'll check out The King's Speech one of these days and be absolutely floored, though judging on The Hurt Locker I'm really not missing much. But I do have one more small gripe I'd like to lay down.

I briefly scanned the nominees and winners for this year's Documentary categories. While I was pleased to see Exit Through the Gift Shop represented, I am more than a little disappointed to see that The Spirit Molecule was not listed. Not only does this movie present some very interesting information on its own merit, it very pointedly shows a long over-due change in the national paradigm regarding a taboo topic. The Spirit Molecule examines a recent study by Dr. Robert Strassman which marks the first legitimate study into the effects of psychedelics in decades, specifically dimethyltryptamine. I won't go too deeply into the movie as I would like to encourage as many of you as possible to go out and see it, but I will say this. While it may not have been more important than Inside Job's look into the devious and unsettling nature of the financial crisis of the last half decade, The Spirit Molecule certainly is a little more interesting and flavorful than your basic economics class, and at the very least deserved to be in the running.

And now, before I sign off I'll close here with another clip off of YouTube. The official trailer for The Spirit Molecule may not be for everyone, but hopefully I snag a few of you into checking it out. Human evolution didn't end with opposable thumbs here people. Let's stop focusing on shit like stuttering monarchs and bitchy little computer millionaires and start focusing on the important questions.

"Dreams are lies - the dreaming is real"
: Ratdog - Two Djinn

Sunday, February 27, 2011

There's only one way to start the day...

Sunday! Woo!

I'll make today's update brief. Too many important things to do, like being incredibly unproductive, to spend too much time pouring over this on a Sunday.

Today I present you with a song about "a daily habit for a lot of folks..."

J-Cat, Aaron Lewis of Staind's first band, brings us today's jam - Bong Hits for Breakfast. That's right boys and girls. I'm throwing methaphor and symbolism out the window today and keeping the message simple.

Gotta love it.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

It's Just a Ride

Good day, Psychonauts.

Today, I humbly request that you take a moment to reflect on the memory of a man who spent his life trying to help us take a clearer look at the ugly side of our society through comedy. A man who laid in the trenches taking grenades, going through some of the most fundamentalist, seediest, and all around low places of this country with an unfaltering message of refusal to take the lies and the bullshit of the establishment anymore.

Seventeen years ago today, on February 26th, 1994, Bill Hicks passed away from pancreatic cancer at the age of 32.

In my mind, there were two truly great comedians of the 80s: Sam Kinison and Bill Hicks. Kinison, a former preacher, used his talented voice to deliver a performance fit at the same time for the pulpit vocally and the dive bars materially. On the opposite side of that coin, Bill Hicks spoke to us in a conversational tone. He tried to reach out as a friend when he spoke, not crush us with the resounding presence of his voice. And beyond trying to make us laugh, Bill Hicks presented one of the most complete and admirable philosophies that I've ever been exposed to.

In fact, the title of this blog, "It's Just a Ride" is taken from my favorite bit of Bill's. After hour or 90 minute long sets of vulgar yet articulate ranting, Bill would often close his set with this:

Not the most popular opinion, I know. But I believe that we, after nearly 2 decades, still have a lot we can learn from Bill. From his scathing attacks on political corruption, to his shockingly vitriolic deconstruction of the music industry and anything else that falls under his cross-hair, Bill still today inspires many to open their eyes, all three of them, a little wider and take stock of their surroundings.

Bill is buried in his family plot in Leakesville, Mississippi. Before he passed, he left his last words in the form of a prayer that he wrote on his deathbed, which I have linked for you here. It closes with the following.

I left in love, in laughter, and in truth and wherever truth, love and laughter abide, I am there in spirit.

Alas, it seems, just as Bill said, it is always the Good Ones that leave us too soon, while we are left to the demonic machinations of the monsters that are allowed to run amok. But I for one take heart. I take heart in knowing that all this really is Just A Ride.

And I take heart in knowing that Bill is there waiting on the other side, with a smoke and a joke, waiting to show us how wonderful this life really can be when we close the doors on the hearts and minds of fear, and open ourselves to love.

Rest In Peace Bill
You are missed, though your spirit lives on.

Friday, February 25, 2011

If Pro is the Opposite of Con...

Then what is the opposite of Progress?

Bahaha, what a knee slapper! That one always gets me.

But in all seriousness, I am referring to a recent study from The National Journal reporting on the state of the bipartisan split in Congress. The National Journal is reporting the widest and most pronounced split between the two parties since they started compiling data on voting ratings in 1982.

For only the second time since 1982, when NJ began calculating the ratings in their current form, every Senate Democrat compiled a voting record more liberal than every Senate Republican—and every Senate Republican compiled a voting record more conservative than every Senate Democrat.

Basically what this means is that the two political camps are so divided that even the moderates are staying away from the shared area of the Venn Diagram. There is no coordination or cooperation between the parties. With the lines of communication clogged with separatist rhetoric like the arteries of a McDonald's addict, there can be no moving forward.

I personally have always had a problem with the idea of a two party political system. I never liked the idea that people were defining their political ideas as being either to the left or the right. Both parties have some decent ideas. They both have some seriously shitty ideas, too. But the identification of candidates with these monolithic spires of bureaucratic ideology does nothing but fuel the fires of heated competition between sides, detracting from the focus of actually making a positive change. Republicans call it a victory when they can stop a Democratic bill from being passed, as Democrats rejoice on crushing the efforts of the Republicans. There is no victory in the defeat of imaginary enemies drawn by invisible lines. We need to stop getting so tied up with the whole "my side - your side" bullshit and start focusing on what actually will result in a tangible benefit for our country.

And that's why I say we get rid of this whole two-party system. Fuck Republicans. Fuck Democrats. Fuck 'em all. Abolish this idea of being forced to identify with one of these parties to have a viable shot of gaining office. Destroy this crooked system that allows men to hide behind the banners of their political affiliations.

I recently started playing Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas again in my spare time. I'd always been a fan of the talk radio station in those games as they usually provide the most comical back track to cutting swathes of carnage through the pixelated landscape of Rockstar's opus. I mention this because there is one radio personality pair that is supposed to be a joke on the very dichotomy between the left and right that The National Journal's study examined. Every time this part of the show cycles through the playlist, they close it with the sign off: "When you mix the worst parts of an Elephant and a Donkey, you get a lot of shit." Ain't that the truth.

If I've learned nothing else from this long history of filibustering and political head butting, its that we've let the circus on Capitol Hill take precedence over the objective of serving the people. We need to move away from this separation and try to realize that we are all Americans; not Democrats, Republics, Independents, Tea Party, Green Party, Bull Moose Party, Communist Party, or whatever the hell else you want to call yourself. We need to put a stop this concept that it is OK to sequester ourselves behind party lines unless we move out to hamstring the initiative of our perceived enemies.

In closing, I bring you a small clip from a comedian who, although having passed away over 15 years ago, has a message that rings more true with every passing political season.

Go back to bed America. Your government is under control.

Go back to bed America

Thursday, February 24, 2011

"Hey-ey-ey, Joe!"

Morning Freaks and Freak-ettes!

Despite no shortage of eligible stories in the news to take aim and fire upon today, I've made a conscious decision to step back from all the lunacy for the day, and put the spotlight on a little music.

I've decided today to put the focus on two tunes, of a genre I affectionately refer to as:


My first offering is a tune most of you more than likely already know and love, but in a much more reserved and refined presentation. Jimi Hendrix put Hey Joe on the map, but it was The Leaves who first brought the jam out of the California garages and onto the air waves.

Now, fast forward some 30 odd years, and we have Reverend Horton Heat keeping that Psychedelic Thrash spirit alive with the head banging, heart exploding Psychobilly Freakout.

There we have it. Just over 5 minutes of high energy, melting guitar. Pick your knees up, throw out a quick ska kick or two, and get that blood pumping. It's almost the weekend god damnit.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

No WONDER Ultra sold out!

In case you hadn't heard, the Ultra Music Festival in Miami, Florida recently sold out of tickets. This three day festival has been one of the premiere stops for the electronic music culture for years, and with 30 days left until the start of the ruckus, I think I may know why.

UK news source The Guardian recently reported on a study conducted by the US National Institute for Drug Abuse has concluded that....

Drum Roll Please

"Ecstasy does not wreck the mind, study claims

Previous research was flawed, say experts, but findings will shock those who campaign against the drug's use"

You heard right ladies and gentlemen. The old horror stories of a single tablet of ecstasy being the equivalent of removing ice cream sized scoops of brain matter out of your head are lies!

The US NIDA study, which was funded by a $1.8 million federal grant, is the first attempt at ascertaining the true honest effects of ecstasy. Previous studies, which have cast a stigma upon the drug and its users since the drug was first made a Schedule 1 drug in the states in 1985, were all biased against MDMA before they even got up and running.

As you may or may not already know, it is a rarity in the rave culture, where ecstasy remains very popular despite prohibition, for users to limit their experimentation to just MDMA. Therein hides one of the causes of the discrepancy between this most recent study and those conducted in the past. Most previous studies failed to find users who had just sampled MDMA, instead using anyone who had tried the drug in their small and ill-represented sample populations. This meant that all the tests conducted on the cognitive capabilities of the subjects were not only testing for the adverse effects of MDMA, but also whatever else the subjects were recreationally consuming.

As a quick aside, some of you may be wondering how the NIDA was able to locate a large enough sample of people who had been exposed to ecstasy without being exposed to other popular street drugs. I don't know about the rest of you, but I sure don't know too many e-tards that aren't also at least heavy drinkers or smokers. I had to do a little digging on this one, but this study from 2005 talks about just this problem. Apparently, the sole use of ecstasy without being contaminated by the effects of other recreational drugs is popular, or at least more prevalent, among Mormon youth in the Salt Lake City area. Who woulda thunk it? Apparently once they hit 18 and leave home they start popping pills like Pac-Man, while still somehow retaining their aversion to other substances like alcohol and marijuana.

The second major problem with the structure of previous studies is the disparity between the subjects who had taken the drug and those that were being used as a control sample. As ecstasy is so popular in the rave and dance culture, many of the people tested as users of the drug were taken out of that sample population. However, to find a control sample who had not experienced the effects of the drug, those conducting the study felt it acceptable to take a sample group from people who had not been involved in the scene.

Beyond use of ecstasy and other drugs, the rave culture is known for promoting all night dance parties, in which sleep deprivation and dehydration are common ailments. So while the sample group which had been using MDMA had been afflicted by these complications, those who were taken as the control sample were not, giving the appearance that the drug itself was causing much more drastic and debilitating damage than it actually was.

The Guardian article concludes with a warning that ecstasy is still considered dangerous, if only because of questionable quality of street drugs, and the unknown variables of possible contaminants. So my recommendation? If you're into that whole dance/rave thing, get on down to Miami next month and try and find a ticket. Cover yourself in Glowsticks and grind your jaw into non-existence while your eyes roll back in your skull. Just make sure you bring a tester kit with you so you know you're getting that "good shit". Or, if you're not into the whole techno "untz-untz-untz" crap, I've always been a fan of seedy hotel rooms and hookers. Still might wanna bring that tester kit, though.

In conclusion, I have but one thing to say:

Three cheers for honest scientific studies!




Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Reagan you SICKO

It's official. The American population is retarded.

Or rather, at least according to a recent Gallup Poll, around 1 in 5 American's are retarded. That's right! For the third time in the last decade, American's have voted Ronnie Reagan as their favorite Commander in Chief this country has ever seen.

Yet we still wonder why the rest of the global community thinks we have a screw or two loose. Forget the fact that 19% of those polled think that Ronnie topped Abe Lincoln (who received 14% of the vote in second place), but we actually celebrate the fact that we let a former president of the Screen Actor's Guild hold the highest office of our government.

Now, not all the results of the poll induced such despair as Reagan being at the top. Thankfully, Lyndon Johnson (who took over after Kennedy's assassination), Andrew Jackson (who so skillfully bullied around the Native Americans that Adolf Hitler said he would never have been able to be so successful with the Holocaust without Jackson's notes), and Richard Nixon (don't really need to go into specifics on this one) all received less that 0.5% of the vote.

It is my belief that this poll is a testament to the old maxim, "Out of sight, out of mind." As noted in the article, 4 of the last 5 Presidents all hold spots in the top 10. The American public simply can not be bothered to remember and recognize the accomplishments of men such as Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was actually placed lower than Obama with less than 5% of the vote. Hell, even Bill Clinton beat out JFK. I'm a fan of blowies in the Oval Office too guys, but come on, better than JFK? Really?

Now I realize that most people who voted Reagan into the top spot are probably making their decision based on several key accomplishments, such as the end of the Cold War, a slashing of the inflation rate, and huge federal tax cuts. However, while these tax cuts made life a little easier for most Americans who were now receiving a little more spare change in each paycheck, he accomplished these cuts by digging in to Medicaid, food stamps, and Social Security. It was on the back of these cuts that Reagan, despite lowering taxes for John Q. Taxpayer, was still able to dump an additional 40% increase into the defense budget in his first term alone.

So, was Reagan really our best President? Sure! If you were in the top percentile of American's who did not suffer from the cuts made to federal aid programs, and banked on the tax cuts that largely favored the wealthy. If, however, you were a poor handicapped person living on the graces of Social Security, then you probably took offense to his administration's attempts to cull the disabled from the rolls of those who were eligible for Social Security.

And let us not forget that Reagan was the first president to allow the national deficit to push up into the TRILLIONS. During his second term, despite a hard-line platform to reduce and maintain government spending, the deficit jumped from $997 billion to $2.85 trillion, an increase of over 300%. An important tidbit in light of all the current debate surrounding Obama's attempts to balance the national checkbook, I'd say.

C'mon people. In the words of Bill Hicks, squeegee your third eye, wake the fuck up and realize that you're out there trusting the words of an actor in front of a camera. The man made his career playing a role on a stage, and if you think he was doing anything but as he was paraded in front of news cameras with that Hollywood smile and elitist rhetoric, then I'd recommend looking into the possible benefits of a lobotomy. Hell, at this point, it couldn't hurt. Don't get me wrong, I'm not just attacking Reagan here. They're all scum. To paraphrase another counter-culture icon, FUCK all these "smiley-glad-hands" and their hidden agendas. Stop feeding off all this bullshit you hear on the nightly news and start the Revolution!

I leave you now with an accurate representation, albeit a tad exaggerated, of how I think Reagan really felt about the general public.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Sunday, February 20, 2011

I've seen my light come shining....

A sad day indeed.

Thom Landers - 1/3/59 - 2/20/08
Hunter Thompson - 7/18/37 - 2/20/05

Rest in Peace

It never gets any easier.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

You're only making it worse for yourself!!

All praise be to Jehovah!

I was sitting here this morning, wondering what I could post about. I was at a complete loss. Then I was blessed with Holy Inspiration, divine intervention in the form of a soft knock upon my front door.

That's right! Spring is blooming, the snow is melting, and all sorts if rascally vermin are slithering out from underneath their rocks to face the warming sun. Specifically, those lovely Jehovah Witnesses are making their neighborhood rounds, armed with plastic smiles and laminated pamphlets to ensure that you have heard and accepted the loving word of their God into your home.

Now, I know most people out there are infuriated at the prospect of some zealot darkening their door on a Saturday morning, but I have never been one to shy from healthy debate, especially when its gift wrapped and delivered to my front door. And there is nothing in the world more satisfying than the looks of fury and consternation you are met with once they realize they are faced with someone who has been a student of the book yet has not gleaned the same conclusions.

Without getting into the specifics of my own philosophy regarding religion and God, I can say that few things on this earth are as foreign to me as the idea of the necessity to go around on a Saturday morning and barge your way into someone's weekend to talk about Christ. And the level of conviction they possess regarding the validity of their own ideals is simply staggering. I've tried various approaches in my conversations with the door-to-door missionaries, and it's astonishing how they dismiss claims of atheism, agnosticism, gnostic belief and even variations of their own Christianity with the same arrogant certainty that they know God more closely than you possibly could.

My one long-standing gripe with the hard-line Christians is the devout belief that their leather bound, gilt covered tomes are the unadulterated word of God. With no thought to the logistics involved in the number of translations and versions the book has gone through since the time of Christ, the Word is Law and has not suffered from what amounts to a 2000 year old game of "Telephone". And that's just talking about the New Testament.

Please, don't get me wrong. I have nothing against faith in a higher power, and I believe that the faithful have throughout history done many laudable acts for their communities. But they also have a nasty habit of glossing over the many atrocities that are committed in the name of God. I have found in my experience that the worst offenders in this respect are the various offshoots of Protestantism, clinging to the belief that their separation from the old body of the church exonerates them from these transgressions. But the Jehovah's aren't without stains on their frocks.

A popular topic of conversation around my house of late has centered around a co-worker of a family member. This woman was a Jehovah Witness, along with her family, for many years. After she went through a divorce, she largely stopped her involvement with the church, and as a result was excommunicated from the fold. Now, her ex-husband, with the support of the church's leaders in their community, have told their children that they are not permitted to associate with their mother now that she no longer is a member of the fold. I'm sorry, but I can not imagine anything more alien to the idea of a God that teaches endless love and forgiveness than a church that supports the division of a family. This woman is in no way a dangerous influence on the development of her children, but now that she is not in their church her blasphemy can not be risked upon her own offspring.

During the course of my discussion with these self-righteous devotees, I presented this controversial tale that came from within their own fold. And, true to the habit of burying the dirty laundry, I was met with a quick "Well, those are the bad ones, they don't represent all of us." Excuse me, but doesn't that venerated book of yours preach to ensure pursue the sanctity of your own house before troubling yourself with that of your neighbors? Why not concern yourself with those who are giving your organization a bad name before you parade the streets looking for new recruits, if the spiritual salvation of man is truly the goal here.

After over an hour of discussion, they left amidst promises of returning another day to continue. I think next time they return, I'm going to have to have a pile of good stones ready and put on the mask of the fundamentalist. Let us return to the barbarous golden days of religious fanaticism! We'll see how they like it when I fight fire with fire, madness with madness, and start hinting them in on the blasphemies of their own moniker.

"All I said to my wife was that piece halibut was good enough for Jehovah!!"

Friday, February 18, 2011


Morning fellow travelers!

Another Friday, another impending weekend, and yet another all too brief reprieve from the weekly grind. Too keep in tune with the idea of easing into the weekend and making it a relaxing and enjoyable one, I'm going to temporarily tighten the flood gates on my over active bile duct, put down the glass of hater-aide, and switch gears from Rant to Mellow.

Today I humbly submit for your listening pleasure one of my favorite tunes to gear up for the weekend: Jamie Brockett's version of The Legend of the U.S.S. Titanic.

Now, in case you couldn't tell right off by the title, this tune has little connection to the tragic tale of the famous passenger liner that sunk to the cold bottom of the North Atlantic in the spring of 1912. Brockett's version tells the story of one of the most colorful casts ever to jump out of a folk tune. There's Jack Johnson, a pugilist who goes around boppin' people on the head and makin' all sorts of money. A Captain who knows all about walkin' like a Cap'n, writin' like a Cap'n, talkin' like a Cap'n, and doin' all sorts of Cap'n things. And of course, the First Mate, a man whose sideburns are just a little too long with a strange habit of carrying 497 and a half feet of rope with him wherever he goes.

Enjoy. And make sure you take time this weekend to stop and dig the icebergs baby.

Never forget the power of music to turn tragedy into comedy.

It's Just a Ride

Thursday, February 17, 2011

"Hello, Dave...."

OK, time to jump in to the screaming masses clamoring to give their opinion on last night's victory of Machine over Man. Watson, the super-computer designed by IBM to compete in a 2-night competition on the popular trivia show, Jeopardy, has defeated the best we can throw at it. This super-computer, so large it was housed in a separate building in New York, boasts such an impressive set of design specs and convoluted tech-jargon as to make the average lay person quake and tremble in awe. But personally, I'm not impressed. And before you start running for the hills clutching your copy of The Matrix to your chest like a Neo-Revelations, let me tell you why.

While it is indeed impressive that the good people at IBM were able to construct a machine that was able to best two of humanities best and brightest (at least as far as benign trivia is concerned), Watson's victory in no way alludes to the existence of any machine that possesses actual intelligence. Sure, the machine had access to enough raw information that they needed to store it on 4 terabyte drives, but knowledge in no way implies actual intelligence. Hell, I know more than a handful of living, breathing people that I would hesitate to apply that adjective to. No matter how impressive the machine's performance, it was still the group of 15 IBM programmers that spent the last 4 years designing and programming the beast who deserve the real accolades on this one.

Do you all remember years back when another machine, known as Deep Blue, defeated the Chess Grand Master Garry Kasparov? Now that was impressive. I don't wish to alienate all the legions of Jeopardy fans before I've hit the one week milestone of blogging, but if there is anyone out there that questions the nobility, integrity, and honor of a chess match over a round of Jeopardy, then you should probably just stop reading this blog now. I'll be saying a lot more things in the future that will piss you off more than any off-handed aspersions cast against Alec Trebek and his snooty coterie of trivia experts.

Originally defeated in 1996, Deep Blue returned in 1997 to be the first computer to ever defeat a seated champion in a regulation match. After suffering defeat, Kasparov cried "Cheat!" from the rooftops, and demanded a rematch, while Deep Blue and its IBM programmers went running back to their labs and denied the master his chance to reclaim his title. Not only did they refuse the rematch, they dismantled the machine.

Now, Kasparov had a few reasons to cry "Foul" after his match against Deep Blue. He claimed, especially after his defeat in '97, that the machine displayed creativity and intelligence in its selection of moves, leading Kasparov to assume that the programmers had let a human chess master take the helm of the machine during pivotal moments of the match. IBM denied these claims, stating that the only human interaction with the machine occurred between matches, as permitted by the official rules of the competition. Kasparov requested to see the machine's data logs and was again met by refusal from IBM, though they did eventually publish the logs on the internet several years later.

This is important for several reasons, the most glaring of them being the requirement of IBM's programming team to update the machine between matches to adjust itself to Kasparov's style. Kasparov, being a prominent public figure in the world of chess, had literally hundreds of transcripts of his games published for the IBM team to study. What this means is that while Kasparov's style of play was catered such as to make him a formidable opponent against any player of the game, Deep Blue was created and designed solely to defeat Kasparov. The Russian was denied the right to study his opponent's playing style, as the machine had no published matches to dissect. So right off the bat the parameters of the competition are stacked against the human champion.

My point here is this. While both Watson and Deep Blue give the illusion of being intelligent, both machines require the man behind the curtain to make the machine do what it claims to do. The real achievement here isn't in the fact that these machines defeated their opponents, but rather that their programmers were able to translate the rules of each engagement into a set of commands, no matter how convoluted, that the machine was able to navigate in order to claim victory. For example, Kasparov was able to defeat Deep Blue twice with the same trap in two of the earlier rounds of their match. Had the IBM programmers been forced to create something that intelligently adapted to the grand master rather than requiring the down time in which the team was allowed to update the code to compensate for his playing style, we'd still have mankind as the unquestioned champion of the game.

Even Watson's victory in my opinion was a victory of comprehending the convoluted nature of Jeopardy's question-answer format, rather than a victory over its opponents. The true challenge here was designing a machine that was capable of navigating its massive libraries of data in enough time as to be able to locate a valid response and buzz in before the competition. No easy task mind you, but still very different from creating something that mimics the cerebral process of man. It all comes down to the metaphysical debate of the difference between knowledge and wisdom. Sure, Watson has a treasure trove of knowledge at its disposal, from the Encyclopedia Britannica to the complete works of Bill Shakespeare, but does it have the intelligence to know what to do with all this data? Not without Old Man Oz behind the curtain pulling the levers. Does it have the creative intuition to be inspired by its collection of the Bard's works to compose a sonnet? Not even close.

To those of you still clutching to trembling knees and looking for the high-ground, I say this: while your fears and concerns may not be entirely unfounded, they are absolutely misdirected. I can't deny that the processing power and brute force capabilities of these machines are utterly astounding, but we are still a long way off from armies of T-1000 model Terminators marching to the beat of their own drums. A computer is nothing more than one fancy ass puppet twitching and dancing to the tune of whomever holds the strings. Pinocchio may have won this round, but he still needs Geppetto to dictate the moves.

Call me up when someone makes a processor that can write an original manifesto, or compose a unique piece of music. Then I'll be right with you lining the caves with pointy sticks and stockpiling canned rations. Until a machine creates something that unquestionably possesses real soul, you can find me doing the same thing I was doing yesterday, and will be doing tomorrow. Rocking out to that inner fire.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

We All Live in a Yellow Submarine....

Today on: Sick Sad World!

OK, so this story is from yesterday, and I really find this more hilarious than sick and sad. I've just always wanted to say that.

Anyway, yesterday the good people over at graced us with what has to be my favorite story of the new year. Buried under stacks of reports on celebrity scandal and the importance of prostate exams, I found this gem. That's right, according to CNN, the Colombian military has unearthed a HUNDRED FOOT LONG "narco sub" which is reportedly capable of smuggling EIGHT TONS of cocaine from Colombia to Mexico.

Now, in order to help this information to process, let's think for half a second about just how much cocaine eight tons really is. That's 16 thousand pounds. 256 thousand ounces. Or, if you prefer, just over 7.1 million grams. Sweet tap-dancing Christ! That's in one shipment! And you can bet your ass that whatever South American drug lord was willing to shell out the $2 million officials have estimated as the cost to build this vessel, they planned on running the sucker on more than one voyage (and you just gotta love the swanky camouflage paint job she's sporting).

Now, beyond the impressive cargo capacity the "narco sub" also had room for four passengers, though no one was found where the sub was discovered. The same did not hold true for some unfortunate smuggler, however, when back in July of 2010 authorities from Ecuador discovered the first instance of a sea-worthy submarine built for drug smuggling purposes. This first sub also measured approximately 100 feet in length, and while a statement from DEA officials claim they seized the vessel before its maiden voyage and make no reference to the available cargo space in the article, it would not be too far a jump to assume this first sub has approximately the same 8-ton capacity as this newest discovery.

This seriously just has me baffled. Honestly, where does the pattern of escalation have to go from here? We're talking about drug cartels with their own private sub-oceanic naval force! The rancorous War on Drugs has been spiraling out of control since the days of Tricky Dicky, and in over 40 years we have yet to make anything close to a sizable dent in the flow of narcotics. Smugglers continue to get more inventive and elusive, and the national media outlets trumpet and laud the sparse victories and clandestinely sweep the losses under the rug.

As we all learn from out childhood exploits with drive-way lemonade stands, one of the simplest principles of economics is the idea of Supply and Demand. Set your Radio-Flyer up in the middle of summer and you can make yourself a tidy profit off a gallon or two of home-squeezed lemonade. Set that stand up in the middle of January and the only thing you're coming home with is a frost-bitten nose and an icy pitcher. You remove the demand, and the supply is worthless.

If this article proves nothing else, it's that the people in charge of the War on Drugs in this country need to suffer a serious paradigm shift. One that turns away from prisons, concrete walls, and the religious and moral condescension of the current establishment and make a serious turn to compassion and understanding.

I once heard a rant where someone argued that the most grievous mistake the War on Drugs has made to date is the fact that we employ law enforcement officers in the position of Drug Czar, rather than therapists or even recovered addicts. Our current Drug Czar, Gil Kerlikowske, claims to be a step in the right direction, claiming to have stopped the official usage of the term "War on Drugs" in an effort to eliminate the negative and violent connotations of the phrase in favor of a more compassionate approach. Yet still, I have a few misgivings about any man that can find himself working as the Police Chief of 4 different cities across the country before landing the big gig in Washington.

The proof is in the pudding, as they say, and only time will tell if the seizures of these naval craft, or the purported change of the governments stance regarding the war on drugs will have any effect at all, be it positive or negative. One thing is for certain though; if after 40 years we not only have been unable to stop the widespread flow of dangerous narcotics and the vicious and dangerous profiteering that drives the beast, but the underworld has established itself to the point that it can maintain "narco subs" (sorry, I just love the cutesy little names the DEA stamps on these kind of things), then baby, something's gotta give.

I leave you now after that verbose rant with this clip. Hopefully we can all get a good serious gut-laugh at just how out of control this whole scene is really getting.

Stay Tuned.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Red Carpet

Ahh, The Grammy's. The 53rd presentation of the Gramophone Awards (yeah, Grammy is short for Gramophone, who knew?).

When I first decided to make a post about my thoughts surrounding this year's circus, I'll admit I was overcome with a flutter of sadistic glee at the thought of tearing apart the recording industry's annual parade of over exposed troubadours responsible for the incessant, hollow buzz haunting the frequencies of malls and television sets from coast to coast. Then, I realized last night I know absolutely nothing about anyone that had anything to do with the awards.

I tried doing a little quick research on who won, and read up a couple of quick stories about Arcade Fire and Lady Antebellum, and promptly decided that I have absolutely no desire to expose myself to enough of this material to really be able to give it the attention it deserves. I have become so overwhelmingly over-saturated with the flash and show of the music industry that I've simply shut off.

I mean, come on, Lady Gaga was brought out to the show encased in a giant egg borne by a set of gold clad pallbearers. Call me crazy, but I find it hard to imagine Warren Zevon doing anything of the sort. And while I know some of you are thinking the comparison inapplicable given Zevon's generally reserved character, hell, even James Brown wouldn't go near that one.

And I guess that's really what it all comes down to. While I may be too young to remember it, I certainly have been exposed to a period when, in the words of Bill Hicks, "Music had soul, and music had conscious, and music had balls." Fuckin' A. Don't get me wrong, I fully realize that there are still legions of talented artists out there with a fiery message of soulful explosion, but if any of them were at the Grammy's Sunday night, they were lost behind the flashing cameras, gaudy outfits, and of course, the balled fists of those accursed Knights of Standards & Practices. The only part of the show I saw and truly enjoyed was Cee Lo Green's performance with Jim Henson's Muppets. I mean, come on, who doesn't love the Muppets? Not to mention, who knew Gwyneth Paltrow could actually sing? But alas, the whole song seemed tragically marred. Somehow the chorus of "Forget You" just doesn't pack the same wallop as the original.

Really, in the end here, it's all about a choice the American public has to make. We have options here, people. We can settle for the spectacle of the Jonas Brothers coating our daughters with their hot foam, or we can demand a return of the likes of Hendrix setting his guitar on fire on stage. We can acclimate to the Justin Bierbers of the world, or we can clamor in the streets for an end of these Disney shills Shaking their Love all over our TV sets. The good stuff is still out there, in the dive bars and basement studios all over this country. Get the fuck out there and support it.

I leave you now and bequeath the stage to a man who says it all about a million times better than I ever could. Fuck you Neil Portnow, I want my music back.

Monday, February 14, 2011


So, it's Valentine's Day, and all across this great nation of ours frustrated men are dropping weeks worth of pay on pretty stones to grace the fingers, necks, and ears of their significant others in the futile hope that their woman might actually let them get some sleep this week instead of filling every hour with banal conversation about what restaurant her sister was taken to, or how a co-worker was blanketed with rose petals in the office today.

So America, get out there and latch on to that thick black cock of consumerism like Romulus to the mother wolf. Or, if you're like me, jaded and disenfranchised (OK, or undersexed and alone, fuck you, it's all about perspective), treat this holiday like you would any other. A great excuse to sit back and take a quick jab or two at yet another institution designed to suck the green out of our wallets and the spring out of your step as you're pummeled with an endless barrage of candy hearts, Barbie themed Valentine's Day cards, and heart touching commercials advertising little stones unearthed and brought to you on the broken backs and dreams of the third world.

And remember boys and girls, there's more than one way to say "I Love You"

I Love You

Sunday, February 13, 2011

First Post! Woohoo!!

OK, so this is going to be one serious work in progress.  God only knows how this blog will look a year, or even a month from now. 

So in the vein of new adventures, let's start this off with a mini-showcase of a little new music.

Dangermuffin - Crazy

I saw these boys open last night for Yarn.  Had never heard of them before, and was pleasantly surprised with their performance.  Do yourself a favor, if they're coming to your town, go check 'em out.  I threw this cover of Seal's Crazy out there to give you all a taste of something familiar with a new twist, but their original material is just as good.  I'm gonna recommend you at least check out "What's In a Bottle" and "Moonscapes".

And on that note, its Sunday.  Back to lazing around.  Hope Dangermuffin hits that resonating chord of comfort for y'all as you gear up for the start of another week.