Thursday, September 30, 2010

Illinois Governor Recall Amendment

Below you will find a scanned copy of the proposed amendment to the Illinois Constitution being put before voters this November to add a procedure to recall the governor.  Obviously this comes in the wake of the Blagojevich scandal, after the former governor was impeached after being indicted on over 20 federal offenses.  If you are a registered voter, you will likely already have received this.  Since I could not find it in an electronic format elsewhere, I scanned in my own copy and uploaded it to Scribd.  If you haven't already received this information, you can read it here, or hit the link and download your own copy of this highly important proposed amendment.
Illinois Governor Recall Info

On the Rutgers Suicide

ABC News has the written story and the video from their broadcast.  The stories are dramatically different.  The print story is a reporting of the news, using facts and interview quotes to convey what just happened.  ABC's broadcast, on the other hand, tells another story altogether.

ABC's broadcast team decided to make this an issue on two fronts.  First, they lightly touch on the callousness of kids, and then they go into a much more in depth discussion on persecution of homosexuals resulting from that callousness.  But is this really the issue at hand in this story?

While certainly it will be argued that our general cultural anti-gay sentiment was a driving factor in creating such a level of shame in Tyler Clementi's mind over having his encounter broadcast live online that he would decide to jump to his death from the George Washington Bridge, I don't really feel like this was the proper topic of discussion in ABC's broadcast.  At least not quite so immediately anyway.

Following the facts in the story, it looks much more like Clementi's roommate, Dharun Ravi, intended to watch him on webcam no matter what was happening.  Ravi has a count against him for attempting to spy on Clementi several days before September 19th in the same manner during a different encounter.  This, to me, points much more to the "callousness of kids" discussion, accompanied by a discussion on invasion of privacy and how our ever-more-interconnected electronic lives are eroding our cultural expectations of privacy.

The facts here are that a stupid kid pulled a stupid stunt with his stupid friend and hurt his roommate tremendously.  The fact that Clementi was having a homosexual encounter, while very likely a leading factor in Clementi ending his life due to much much higher level emotional and cultural issues, was not the immediate issue at hand here.  General respect for other people was.  The discussion of acceptance of homosexuality was going to take place around this event, no matter what.  But by making it the lead topic, ABC really overshadowed what needs to be discussed here.

It is an interesting time that we live in right now.  Daily we become more and more connected at a more and more immediate rate.  For people like Dharun Ravi, a young man who has been raised in this culture of interconnectivity, rather than adjusting to it, this interconnectivity culturally means that the people around him have no expectation of privacy.  He likely felt little to no remorse for the act of invading his roommate's privacy, and was acting to invade that privacy no matter the result.  In this time of an ever eroding expectation of privacy, and an ever eroding respect for one another, we should learn from what has happened here that we need to begin working at showing each other that respect.  It's something that used to be a person's default position in life; to respect the privacy of those around him.  It wasn't something we needed to try so hard for.  It seems we need to begin trying just a little bit harder.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Future is Now

Arthur C. Clarke makes predictions in 1964 for what is, almost to a T, our present.  Phenomenal.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Song of the Week

In honor of the fact that I recently found out that the next iteration of Guitar Hero is going to require us to play through all 20+ minutes of this entire song (awesome), I give you Rush's 2112.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The GOP's "Pledge to America"

Give it a read below.  Early commentary seems to range from "it's a good start but needs work" from NRO to "ridiculous and laughable" from Erick Erickson at RedState.  In any case, let's get started picking it apart shall we?
GOP Pledge to America

Monday, September 20, 2010

Art, Music, Pop Culture 09-20-10

AMPC today examines the concept of art brut, more commonly thought of as outsider art, with some early examples of the style created by insane asylum inmates, songs by a band I want to hate with every fiber of my being but can't help loving, and a look at how Art Brut affected the culture of the art world in general.


From Wikipedia:

Interest in the art of insane asylum inmates had begun to grow in the 1920s. In 1921 Dr. Walter Morgenthaler published his book Ein Geisteskranker als Künstler (A Psychiatric Patient as Artist) on Adolf Wölfli, a psychotic mental patient in his care. Wölfli had spontaneously taken up drawing, and this activity seemed to calm him. His most outstanding work is an illustrated epic of 45 volumes in which he narrates his own imaginary life story. With 25,000 pages, 1,600 illustrations, and 1,500 collages, it is a monumental work. He also produced a large number of smaller works, some of which were sold or given as gifts. His work is on display at the Adolf Wölfli Foundation in the Museum of Fine Art, Bern. A defining moment was the publication of Bildnerei der Geisteskranken(Artistry of the mentally ill) in 1922, by Dr Hans Prinzhorn.
People with some artistic training and well-established artists are not immune from mental illness and may also be institutionalised. For example, William Kurelek, later awarded the Order of Canadafor his artistic life work, as a young man was admitted to the Maudsley Psychiatric Hospital where he was treated for schizophrenia.[2] In hospital he painted, producing "The Maze", a dark depiction of his tortured youth.[3] This 1953 work was used as the cover of the 1981 Van Halen rock album Fair Warning. His experience in the hospital was documented in the LIFE Science Library book The Mind, published in 1965.

A French artist by the name of Jean Dubuffet became interested in these works and went on to coin our term of the day:

French artist Jean Dubuffet was particularly struck by Bildnerei der Geisteskranken and began his own collection of such art, which he called art brut or raw art. In 1948 he formed the Compagnie de l'Art Brut along with other artists, including André Breton. The collection he established became known as the Collection de l'Art Brut. It contains thousands of works and is now permanently housed in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Dubuffet characterized art brut as:
"Those works created from solitude and from pure and authentic creative impulses – where the worries of competition, acclaim and social promotion do not interfere – are, because of these very facts, more precious than the productions of professionals. After a certain familiarity with these flourishings of an exalted feverishness, lived so fully and so intensely by their authors, we cannot avoid the feeling that in relation to these works, cultural art in its entirety appears to be the game of a futile society, a fallacious parade." - Jean Dubuffet. Place à l'incivisme (Make way for Incivism). Art and Text no.27 (December 1987 - February 1988). p.36 Dubuffet's writing on art brut was the subject of a noted program at the Art Club of Chicago in the early 1950s.
Dubuffet argued that 'culture', that is mainstream culture, managed to assimilate every new development in art, and by doing so took away whatever power it might have had. The result was to asphyxiate genuine expression. Art brut was his solution to this problem – only art brut was immune to the influences of culture, immune to being absorbed and assimilated, because the artists themselves were not willing or able to be assimilated

In deference to the origins of art brut, let's take a look at a few works from that initially discussed monumental collection created by Adolf Wolfli (images from Katy Elliot):


Part of hipster culture is latching onto things one largely deems ironic.  This is why we see hipsters wearing clothes that are largely outside mainstream fashion, while also appearing largely sloppy, drinking PBR or Schlitz in an ironic revolt against both the rise of more expensive craft beers, and the commercialism of Miller and Budweiser, or riding single speed bikes.  Mostly their dedication to irony and their disheveled nature make them laughably annoying to me.  I'm really just a t-shirt and jeans kind of guy, and I prefer my craft beer.  So when a friend of mine introduced me to the band Art Brut, I was more than confident I would hate them.  They are, almost by their very definition, a hipster band.  Born out of hipster-punk culture, they even name their songs ironically after old pop songs, such as "Pump Up the Volume," "I Will Survive," and "Blame it on the Trains."

But then I listened, and like John Cusack and Jack Black in High Fidelity realizing the demo tape from the skate punks who tried to rob their store (the Kinky Wizards) is amazing, I could do nothing but sit with a blank stare on my face as I absorbed how good Art Brut really is.  I hate myself for loving you, Art Brut.  And now, that you may begin your own self-loathing journey into the odyssey that is this band, I give you "I Will Survive" and "Emily Kane."


Art brut, as a term, is one that I had not been taught in my art classes during my education, but even with a limited knowledge of art history, it is easy to see how its concepts have driven the art world in general away from one of rules and structure, and toward one of the far more free form and sometimes deconstructive types of art we are familiar with calling modern and postmodern art today.  As artists fought to break free from the rules of realism in art, the concept of raw art has been a driving factor in creation over the years, from Cubism to Dada, Constructivism to Futurism.

The Stealth Third Party

Six months to a year ago, as the Tea Parties were still burgeoning and beginning to establish themselves as a political force across the nation, there was some amount of debate around the subject of third parties.  Much of the talk of third parties ultimately, and perhaps unfortunately, has fizzled away as an interesting combination of events has taken place.  The largely libertarian minded Tea Parties made something of a conscious decision to back preferred candidates in the Republican primaries, while at the same time, the Republican Party, quite against what it would truthfully prefer to do, has, as Dana Milbank points out today, gotten out in front of the movement, posing as de-facto mouthpieces for a movement that it seems all too clear they would deeply prefer not have upset their beloved status quo.
Who in the supposed Republican establishment has opposed the Tea Party?
Not Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele. "If I weren't chair of the RNC, I'd be out there in the Tea Party movement," he told Greta van Susteren.
Not House Republican leader John Boehner. "There really is no difference between what Republicans believe in and what the Tea Party activists believe in," he told radio host Mike Gallagher.
Not Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. Since his favored candidate lost the Kentucky Senate primary to the Tea Party's Rand Paul, McConnell has routinely hurled around Tea Party terms such as "government takeover" and has reveled in blocking President Obama's agenda. "I wish we had been able to obstruct more," he said.
Not National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn. The Texas senator, swallowing earlier misgivings, just sent O'Donnell a check from the party for $42,000.
Not even Karl Rove. After O'Donnell's victory, George W. Bush's "brain" declared on Fox News that "this is not a race we're going to be able to win," citing the "nutty things" she has said. (The nominee has claimed, among other things, that there are mice with human brains.) But after hearing complaints from Tea Party types such as Sarah Palin, Rove returned to Fox News to say that O'Donnell is "not out of the game" and that he was "one of the first" to endorse her.
As establishment Republican leaders have done their best to get out in front of the movement, in what is truly a transparent grasp at remaining in power in D.C., the Tea Party movement itself has begun to have its motivations not only questioned, but sullied as the Republican Party's "politics as usual."  To be sure, for those of us that have found a renewed political and philosophical energy in supporting what has been an exciting ground-up movement searching for a return to more constitutional, freedom-across-the-board-based values at the federal level, it is frustrating to see how easily the Left can simply call us clones of Bush supporters and minions of Rove.

Stuff like this, ingenious as it may be, misreads the truth of the Tea Party movement as part of the Dick Armey-Karl Rove-Newt Gingrich propaganda machine, and clouds the philosophical and political issues at hand that have driven the rise of the Tea Parties.  What driftglass and others on the Left are attempting to do is to rewrite the history of the movement; to say that the establishment Republicans astroturfed the entire movement.  This ignores the fact that the movement has risen up in the face of the establishment Republicans, with such force that in cases such as Christine O'Donnell's nomination, the Tea Party Candidate is elected at risk of the GOP losing the general election.  Conservative voices like Ace, Charles Krauthammer and Karl Rove have issued a wide range of responses, from hopeful skepticism (Ace) to apoplexy (Rove).

Tea Partiers have largely rejected treading anywhere near the social politics that so doomed the GOP in its downfall, have been able to avoid the questions of Iraq, Afghanistan and National Security due to President Obama's redoubling of Bush's agenda, and have focused on the necessity to truly zero in our political energies on getting our country's fiscal house in order in the face of monumental debt and deficits.  The public at large is wary of the huge increases in money creation, borrowing and spending that the federal government have undertaken in response to the down economy.  They are wary that by default, the federal government has committed the working lives of its people, its people's children, and its people's grandchildren to working large portions of their lives in the name of paying back its current debts.  Rather than worrying about traditional and stale Republican issues, the Tea Parties focus on the issue that matters most to the American People, and with a message that resonates:  "Your Work, your Money, your Life and your Happiness all belong to you."  For the Left, who believe that the government is the entity that bestows these as gifts upon its citizens, there is no counterargument to this position that does not at its core undermine the values of Liberty and Freedom.

It is for this reason that the Left now turns toward associating Tea Partiers with a failed Republican agenda, and it is for this reason that Tea Party candidates, while running as Republicans, must reinforce the fact that they are not Karl Rove's candidates, but remain the outsiders heading to Washington to clean house.  Tea Party candidates are, in effect, a stealth third party, acting as infiltrators to the establishment, and with an establishment on both sides of the aisle that is more unpopular than ever even Bush was, there is no better message than that.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Song of the Week

Today I am awarding my song of the week to a band that I saw play live last night for the first time in 11 years.  The Deftones were the middle band in the lineup of Mastodon-Deftones-Alice In Chains, all three of whom were incredible.  When I last saw the Deftones at Ozzfest in 1999 I was soured on them as a live performance, as Chino, their lead singer, had a complete prima donna meltdown on stage, whining and complaining and bitching out his roadies for something to do with his microphone setup.  Last night they redeemed themselves in a big way, putting on one of the most energetic performances I've ever seen, and backing up my friends' talk of them normally being phenomenal live.  The high point of their set for me came when the first notes to "Passenger" rang out.  A song that they originally recorded with Maynard James Keenan of Tool, it's a song they perform at a little less than half of their shows.  Last night's performance was especially exciting for us in Chicago, as native son and front-man for Rise Against, Tim McIlrath, reprised Keenan's vocal role for the song.  In honor of the special performance they gave last night, I give you one of the coolest songs you'll ever hear, "Passenger."

If you like this, give it a download.

Mayoral Mad-Libs

With Mayor Daley on his way out, I submit my application for the position.  Feel free to copy/paste and create your own!

Mayoral Mad-Libs (thanks to Anna Tarkov)
Today, I am incredibly justified to announce my candidacy for Mayor of the great city of Chicago. You may ask yourselves in the coming months, what makes me better for the job than, say, John Cusack? What exactly am I promising to continue promising to you? Allow me to answer that question for you.

If I am elected mayor of Chicago, I promise that this city will 

it all.
My policies will ensure that all Chicagoans, regardless of race, class or local chapter, will have equal access to city services.

Under my watch, the public school system will become the next-ranked district in the state. We will hire only the most unionized teachers and administrators, and make certain that students are provided with all the permits they need to achieve their potential.

No more will our children have to fear going to school, as I will personally work with the Chicago Police Department and its new Superintendent, Anthony Abbate, to crack down on the violent crime problem in this city. I pledge that for every outdoor crime that occurs within city limits, I will personally appoint a new advisor to recommend solutions.

I will also begin to address the rampant corruption in the city. This problem has been with us for far too many news articles. The only people who will benefit from my administration will be donors.  I've already gotten assurances from the Chicago Young Republicans and Ben Joravsky that they will be on their best behavior. 
Under my administration, the "City of Big Shoulders" will come to be known as the City of Calm -- as well as the home of the 2024 Summer Olympic Games. Yes, I don't believe in failure, I only believe in guns.

In short, if you do me the honor of voting for me, I will work at least half of every day to earn your trust and respect.

That Which Shall Not Be Named is Named

This week, in the aftermath of the Florida pastor threatening to burn a pile of Korans on 9/11, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer weighed in on whether this would be protected speech under the First Amendment.
“Holmes said it doesn’t mean you can shout ‘fire’ in a crowded theater,” Breyer told me. “Well, what is it?  Why?  Because people will be trampled to death.  And what is the crowded theater today?  What is the being trampled to death?” 
Now, Ed Morrissey does a good job of dissecting the legal argument behind why Breyer's pontification is outside the norm, and his post on the matter is well worth the read for that purpose.  There is, however, outside the technical legal jargon, a bit of cognitive dissonance to be examined with this topic on the Left side of things in general.

According to Stephanopoulos's blog post, Breyer's argument is to be taken in the context that "he's not prepared to conclude that - in the internet age - the First Amendment condones Koran burning."  The presumption is, apparently, that because someone might burn a Koran, that that information is so easily spread to a lunatic somewhere, who would then be incited to kill, that it is the same as yelling "fire" in a crowded theater (when there is not one), the classic example for when speech may be limited by the government due to the fact that such an act causes an immediate danger to the public.

What is important to recognize here is the fact that Breyer's commentary does not extend to the burning of all religious works, but specifically to the Koran.  The implication here is very serious.  Breyer, as a voice of the Left, has named Islam for what the Left dare never name it, a religion of extremism.  So often it is always that Islam is a religion of peace, but with a few extremist members and factions.  But Breyer says that the burning of the Koran specifically might not be protected speech because doing so would incite immediate violence against the public.  The intimation is that, at its core, Islam is a religion of extremism, and one of such extremism, that we should turn an eye toward limiting our own freedoms to protect ourselves from it.

The fact that this is a dangerous idea as relates to freedom of speech is one thing.  The fact that it comes from a voice on the Left in that respect is unsurprising.  However, when taken through to it's conclusion, that being that intimation of Islam being an extremist belief system at its core, it puts the Left in a bit of a conceptual conundrum.  They dare not say that this country is at war with a religion, only with a minor faction of extremists, terrorists.  And yet without meaning to, Justice Breyer seems to have intimated just the former, that it is the religion itself that is the enemy, that its practitioners are ingrained with such extremism as to be a constant and immediate threat to our public safety.  Does this mean, then, that we are in fact at war with Islam itself?  If it does, that could be the most dangerous idea of all.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Art, Music, Pop Culture 09-16-10

For AMPC today, because they are my favorite band ever and because I am going to see them in a few hours, I am holding you hostage to Alice in Chains.  They are in Chicago today with the Deftones and Mastodon and are playing at one of the cooler venues in the City to see a concert, Charter One Pavilion.  Yes I have Art for you, as well as Music, obviously, and I'll spin them into Pop Culture as well.


Alice In Chains' original lead singer, Layne Staley, was well recognized for his voice and his songwriting, and unfortunately later in life much more so for a drug habit that eventually killed him.   Along the way, however, he had an interesting artistic style, well represented by the cover art that he created for his side project, Mad Season's album "Above."  The original piece sold at auction for over $10,000 with Christie's.  Here is the piece, and the accompanying description provided by the auction house.

Original cover art for Mad Season's lone album Above created by lead singer Layne Staley. The artwork is created from a collage of printed material touched up and encompassed by a hand-drawn "frame", which has been pasted over the cover of another album cover.


In 1996, after not having played a live performance in three years, Alice In Chains performed on MTV's Unplugged.  Due to his serious heroin addiction, there was speculation leading up to the performance for some time as to whether the show would ever even take place.  It did take place, and Layne, though looking like a shell of his former self, delivered a powerful vocal, leading off the set with one of the most memorable performances ever from the Unplugged series, with Nutshell.


There is little I can say about the impact of Alice In Chains, and particularly Layne Staley on the culture of rock music, so I will let his peers say say all that can be said.  Following are the songs "04/20/2002" by Pearl Jam, "Layne" by Staind, and an interview with Aaron Lewis of Staind discussing the impact Layne had on his life.

Aaron Lewis Interview:
Link because someone's too cool for embedding.

The Tea Party Starfish

Unbelievably, I'm going to tip the hat to Andrew Sullivan today for an excellent video (though, I suppose I'm tipping the middle-man since he got it from Reihan Salam) by Jonathan Rauch describing the organizational structure of the Tea Party.  The video discusses quite succinctly just why the Tea Party is such a confounding influence to establishment politics on both sides of the aisle.

Alongside this video, Salam's previously linked article provides a fantastic writeup discussing the pro's and con's of a headless kind of organization like the Tea Party, focusing on how so many individuals are able to group together to be activist without having to wait for a chain of command, but with the caveat that such an organization, due to its very lack of leadership, is unable to shape policy.

This "flaw" is, in my opinion, ultimately trumped by what is the most exciting thing about the way that the Tea Party is reshaping politics.  As Salam excerpts Rauch:
But, tea partiers say, if you think moving votes and passing bills are what they are really all about, you have not taken the full measure of their ambition. No, the real point is to change the country’s political culture, bending it back toward the self-reliant, liberty-guarding instincts of the Founders’ era. Winning key congressional seats won’t do that, nor will endorsing candidates. “If you just tell people to vote but you don’t talk about the underlying principles,” Martin says, “you just have to do it again and again and again, in every election.”
One hears again, there, echoes of leftist movements. Raise consciousness. Change hearts, not just votes. Attack corruption in society, not just on Capitol Hill. In America, right-wing movements have tended to focus on taking over politics, left-wing ones on changing the culture. Like its leftist precursors, the Tea Party Patriots thinks of itself as a social movement, not a political one.
Centerless swarms are bad at transactional politics. But they may be pretty good at cultural reform. In any case, the experiment begins.

I think, in large part, this is why the rise of the Tea Party has the Left media in full attack mode so vehemently.  The Tea Party is stealing the Left's moves, so the Left knows not what to do other than to attack.  The Tea Party is a social movement with the momentum and force and a building inertia the likes of which has not been seen in this country since the Civil Rights movement.  During Civil Rights, people were willing to stand before their government en masse, risking jail and even their personal safety, well being, and in the most awful cases, their lives, to promote freedom and equality before the law for all members of society.  This was a cause to band together for, to be sure.  Slavery was long over, and so, too, did an end to de-facto slavery by way of repression have to come to an end.

Now we see the Tea Party growing in influence under what its members perceive to be a different type of de-facto slavery, that of the economic vein.  The belief that drives thousands of people to gather in protest of their government is the belief that their government has become incompetent to manage its own affairs, that its profligate spending is by default turning its citizens into indentured servants, destined to work not for their own prosperity or the pursuit of their own happiness, but to work to pay back the debts of a government that has come to believe its citizens owe it their labor.

The Tea Party is hijacking the Left's former tactics, but with a grassroots message of individual liberty.  It is raising consciousness.  It is changing hearts.  It is attacking corruption everywhere it is found, including on Capitol Hill.  As Civil Rights was a movement that generated from the ground up, found its leading voices along the way, raised consciousness and changed hearts, there was eventually legislation and policy.  So too will the Tea Party eventually effect such legislation and policy.  First comes the cultural reform, then comes the transactional politics.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Art, Music, Pop Culture 09-15-10

Today's AMPC features a look at sculpture in the realm of street art in Chicago, Maynard James Keenan redeeming his awful cover of Imagine by knocking one out of the park with a superb cover of Rocketman, and the incarnation of strange that Joaquin Phoenix has become.


When my friend Christine turned me on to the phenomenon of street art, it was in response to my innocent, yet in retrospect, ludicrous question, "Who is this Banksy you speak of, and why does he have a movie?"  After reattaching her jaw, she explained the background.  Now I am hooked.  One of the more interesting artists that I've seen work by in Chicago goes by CLS, who creates in sculpture.  While I am sure to some, CLS' work may resemble clutter stuck on a wall or a fence, I find it fascinating and very enjoyable.  Here are a few pieces.  Tip 'o' the cap again to FruzsE for her excellent monthly compilations.



Another CLS?


When Maynard got together with his A Perfect Circle crew a few years back and put together eMotive, a compilation of covers mixed in with a few new tracks, I was excited and intrigued.  With Tool, he had helped to create one of the best covers of a classic I'd ever heard, when they took on Led Zeppelin's No Quarter.  While not as well known, they'd also done decent versions of "Demon Cleaner" by Kyuss, and Ted Nugent's "Stranglehold."  That excitement was obliterated as I scrolled through the tracks to have my eardrums assaulted by quite possibly the worst version of John Lennon's "Imagine" ever recorded by professional musicians.  The rest of that album followed suit, and that CD wound up exiting my car via the window on the highway at some point.  That being the case, when I heard that Maynard, with Puscifer, had put together a cover of Elton John's "Rocketman," my excitement this time was tempered with skepticism.  This time around, however, these guys knocked it out of the park.  Behold the swanky glory that is Rocketmantastic.


Today's pop culture item will tie slightly back in with the street art theme, as we take a look at actor extraordinaire-turned-nutball, Joaquin Phoenix.  At one time known for excellent dramatic roles playing the likes of Commodus in Gladiator, and Johnny Cash in Walk the Line, Phoenix is more recently well known for his meltdown on Letterman where he let everyone know he was done acting and was going to pursue his true passion of becoming a rapper.

So ludicrous was this entire interview that speculation began almost immediately that Phoenix was faking the entire episode for the sake of the attention.  Apparently he's spent the past few years pursuing his rap dream, and failing pretty miserably.  Most of us had forgotten about him until recently, when word of a new "documentary" about him was coming out called I'm Still Here, that follows his tribulations in becoming a rapper, which is apparently awful.  To promote this silliness a fake street art campaign, led by fake-street-artist-king Shepard Fairey was launched, and the following were posted all over Chicago.

Maxwell Colette put it best in that link:
Just like Swine Flu, after first turning up in NYC those insipid paste ups that Shepard Fairey designed for the upcoming Joachim Phoenix faux documentary have arrived here in Chicago.  At first we thought that the fake stencils were lame.  Then we realized that fake street art promoting a fake documentary has a certain comedic brilliance to it.  Either way, they're here...
Apparently so still, is Phoenix, whatever that may mean.

How Can Chicago Fix its Budget Woes?

Alderman Brendan Reilly thinks he sees a way.  Alderman of possibly the City's most powerful Ward, the 42nd, Brendan Reilly was a guest on WLS-AM's Don Wade & Roma this morning, amid speculation that he may be mulling a run for Mayor.  Don Wade asked Reilly point-blank whether he would be running for the seat, and Reilly firmly stated that he would not be.  Reilly did, however, outline certain elements of running the City that he sees as important as we move forward, the biggest point of which is the necessary return of Zero-Based Budgeting, which has not been used in the City in decades.

What does this mean?  As Reilly explained, under the process of Zero-Based Budgeting, every department requiring funding must submit its budget for the year by starting from $0.00 and building it line-by-line, with justifications for each item.  I think to anyone who balances their own checkbook and keeps a monthly budget of their own expenses, this makes perfect sense.  But this begs the question, if the City's departments have not been starting from $0.00 every year, from where exactly have they been starting?

Reilly explained the answer to that question as well, indicating that, rather than beginning at the beginning, the City's departments have fallen into the practice of beginning from the previous year's end.  Currently, the standard of practice is for the City's departments to submit last year's budget, and request an increase.  The budget is reviewed and either the increase is approved, reduced, denied, or a reduction imposed on the department.  In such cases where a reduction is imposed, departments in large part go back and hack away indiscriminately to reach the percentage reduction, many times slashing programs that actually produce revenue.  The inference is that the process actually becomes self-defeating.

According to Reilly, returning to Zero-Based Budgeting would necessarily create more efficient departments.  In doing so, the City would see itself becoming slimmer, as it would begin to eliminate what he calls a fat layer of middle management in the bureaucracy.

After discussing the issue of Zero-Based Budgeting, Wade asked Reilly whether there was anybody in the field of mayoral candidates that he felt was up to the task.  Reilly sidestepped making any kind of an endorsement, but he did explain the kind of mayor he would like to see succeed Daley.  Rather than a mayor who is overtly political by nature, like Daley, Reilly indicated that he would like to see somebody in the position (maybe even a numbers geek!) with some executive managerial background, somebody that could step in and be a Chief Executive Officer for the City, to get the budget back on track.  Layered into his argument was a return to the power structure that the City was founded on, that being the idea of a strong City Council and a weak Mayor.  As caveat to this, Reilly also intimated that he'd like to see more managerial types on the City Council, to bring more fiscal pragmatism to the group.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Art, Music, Pop Culture 09-14-10

Today's AMPC features one of my favorite works of art every by Yves Tanguy, a beautiful cover of Radiohead's "Fake Plastic Trees" done on the ukulele, and Morpheus discussing the Matrix with The Dude.


Yves Tanguy has been one of my favorite artists since I first came across his work somewhere around the age of 14.  I even gave this painting a shot in high school art class.  Unfortunately I wasn't so good with oil paint, but I was happy enough reveling in the work of a master in any case.  Here is Indefinite Divisibility, which he created in 1942.


Only just today have I been turned on to the works of Amanda Palmer.  Originally the lead singer for the Dresden Dolls, she's gone solo, and it would seem she's got herself a hell of a voice.  After parting ways with a label that was, what else, holding her down, she decided to do something fun for herself, and recorded an album of Radiohead covers using a ukulele.  This was bold to be sure, since Radiohead is inarguably one of the greatest bands of all time.  It was especially bold to me that she would choose to do Fake Plastic Trees, as it is one of my favorite songs ever.  But Palmer displays a soft yet powerful voice, and this is a beautiful rendition.


Few movies resonate with a majority of us out there as do The Matrix and The Big Lebowski.  Both are iconic for their own reasons, The Matrix having changed the way action movies are made forever, and The Big Lebowski being one of the most clever and memorable comedies of all time.  Apparently both were iconic enough for someone to put together a mash-up.  For this, there are no words.

She's Got a Little Meat on Her

Sometimes guys like a woman with a little meat on her.  Other times a woman with a little meat on her will show up to instantly confirm just how completely vapid Camille Paglia said she was.
Lady Gaga is a manufactured personality, and a recent one at that. Photos of Stefani Germanotta just a few years ago show a bubbly brunette with a glowing complexion. The Gaga of world fame, however, with her heavy wigs and giant sunglasses (rudely worn during interviews) looks either simperingly doll-like or ghoulish, without a trace of spontaneity. Every public appearance, even absurdly at airports where most celebrities want to pass incognito, has been lavishly scripted in advance with a flamboyant outfit and bizarre hairdo assembled by an invisible company of elves.
Via Althouse, the meat dress:

Where's Cleon Salmon when you need him?  Ahhh, there he is!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Art, Music, Pop Culture 09-13-10

And now for a little bit of Art, Music and Pop Culture to bring some variety to the mish-mash of socio-economics and politics I usually discuss.  Expanding my own horizons, and hopefully yours.  Today, a look at some Blago-inspired Chicago street art, a great song I can't get out of my head by MUTEMATH, and a look at Broken Lizard's latest comedy effort.


Today's art mention comes courtesy of FruzsE over at Chicago Art Magazine, by way of WindyCitizen.  A growing figure on the street-art scene in Chicago, Ray Noland is becoming known for his political stencils.  Here are a few great looks at Blagojevich.



MUTEMATH has been on my mind and on heavy rotation on my MP3 player all summer.  Here is their excellent single, and especially cool video for Spotlight.


My version of pop culture will tend to dwell in the realm of movies, trends in rock, punk and rap cultures, and stand-up comedy.  Unlike my friends, I'm not a hipster and care nothing for that ironic nonsense other than to laugh at it.  That said, the latest movie by the crew at Broken Lizard has been heavy on my rotation as of late.  The guys that brought us the classics Super Troopers and Beerfest are back at it with The Slammin' Salmon.  Guest starring Michael Clarke Duncan in an unforgettably funny role as the champ, Slammin' Cleon Salmon, owner of his seafood restaurant, The Slammin' Salmon.  He offers $10,000 to his top waiter for the night, and a broken rib sammich to the low man on the totem pole.  Of course, hilarity ensues as members of the staff try to outdo each other.  Enjoy this awesome compilation of Michael Clarke Duncan scenes, and if you know what's good for you, pick this one up!

On Maureen Dowd's "Pastor Disaster"

Maureen Dowd used her 9/11 Op-Ed pulpit in the New York times this past weekend not to recount stories of the tragedy, nor to give rise to support for anyone involved in overcoming what remains an ongoing battle to recover from that most infamous of days.  Rather she decided to whine about how Obama has lost her RINO sister Peggy's support, as if anyone should care.  Buried within that drivel is yet another example of why so many of us out here in flyover country get our news and opinion from sources like Breitbart, HotAir, Drudge, FreeRepublic, the Times UK and hell, even the Russian Times, rather than to pay attention to our own home news sources.
The country is more polarized than ever on race and religion, with a Florida faker holding a complicit media hostage in the Koran-burning pastor disaster. Mosque-baiting Republicans have shown again that they’re willing to tear at the fabric of the country on the issues of 9/11 and national security in order to trample the Democrats.
Excuse me?  It's the opinion of the New York Times that this moron backwater hick pastor down in Florida is a pawn of the "mosque-baiting Republicans," who happen to be holding the media hostage for attention?  No doubt Maureen Dowd and the Grey Lady (who could tell the difference?) feel this is all part of that infamous vast right wing conspiracy as well.

Let's pay no mind, Maureen, to the fact that this country's top Republican voices spent the better part of two weeks shouting down this lunatic, the ever-so-fringe-and-radical Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck included.  Let's pay no mind to the fact that while Democrats and Liberals simply screamed "racist" once more, and attempted to make it mean something that this kook went to the same high school as Rush Limbaugh, that it was these right-wing conspiracists who provided the actual thoughtful conversation on the matter.  Discussion on the point that yes, this joker had the right to burn those books if he so chose, but that it served no higher purpose; the call to rationality, came from the right.

What was the reaction from the left?  A show of force, as the FBI showed up to this pastor's door, unannounced, with no warrant, with no crime having taken place, or likely to, to warn the man not to proceed, "for his own good."  Twenty-six years later than anticipated.

In the meantime, what of Ms. Dowd's "complicit media" being "held hostage?"  Well, when even the media members themselves realized they were partaking in little more than a gameshow, being used for airtime on a LaRouche-ian scale, what happened?  They stuck around of course.  The car crash has to be seen through to it's full completion, no matter how backed up the highway might be.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Song of the Week

My first ever Song of the Week is going to one of my newly favorite artists, American Bang.  I saw these guys at Lollapalooza, and they stole the show for me on Friday.  A good description for them is Tom Petty meets the Black Crowes.  Their entire new album is phenomenal.  I'd slate it as a classic-album-to-be in the vein of the Black Crowes "Shake Your Money Maker," except that where SYMM loses steam about 2/3 of the way through, every song on American Bang is fantastic.

You may or may not have heard their first single, Wild and Young, on the radio.  If you have not, I present it for you here as my first Song of the Week.  If you like what you hear, give it a download here, and maybepick up their album, while you're at it.  In any case, enjoy!

Behold the GlamBeast

Last year on this blog, while she was still gracing the City of Chicago with her presence, my friend Christine wrote a few posts after I had chance to read some of her writing and asked her to bestow some culture and humor upon this otherwise largely economic and political blog.  She subsequently authored one great post for me, The Reluctant Hipster's Lament,  which retains one of the highest hit-counts of any article on this blog to this day, before saying goodbye to Chicago to move back home to San Diego.  Rumor has it James Westphal invited her out to meet Dr. Kenneth Noisewater and she simply couldn't pass up the opportunity.

Despite my light prodding for her to write more for me again, she's been pursuing other avenues that actually pay her money.  However, she has decided to start her own new blog, GlamBeast, where she's sharing her passions for modern art, fashion and music.  If you like those things, you would be missing out not to go check her out.  She finds some of the coolest stuff around in the vein of things you would never have heard of otherwise.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

One of the Greatest Pieces of Performance Art You'll Ever See

Kseniya Simonova was the winner of Ukraine's Got Talent in 2009.  She won by animating the history of her country during World War II while on sand.

What Tea Party has Sullivan been Watching?

Perhaps the Mad Hatter's, because he's obviously not been paying attention to the Tea Party movement in this country's politics.  Today, in a post almost laughably entitled "Why the Tea Parties Matter," he quotes Michael Scherer, who states that "the silly campaign rally signs and DNC oppo may matter less than the fact that Tea Partiers are shaking up the Republican Party, which is good for the Republican brand."  Sullivan goes on to say
That's the optimistic view. I would like to share it. But the social and cultural baggage of the movement - and its support for the unrestrained war machine and visceral recoil from a majority-minority America - seem to point in the other direction.
Of course, in his usual lazy manner, Sullivan provides no example of, much less a link to any "social and cultural baggage" of the movement.  Nor does he care to explain the Tea Party's support for the "unrestrained war machine."  If anything, the Tea Party movement has largely put the topic of War and Empire on the back burner in the face of an unprecedented expansion in domestic spending that has largely been of no consequence to any improvement of this country.  But because dialing back defense spending is not a hot topic, the Tea Party is apparently in support of wild and aggressive expansion of the empire.  How ludicrous.

And let's not forget the piece de resistance of his post, the Tea Party's "visceral recoil from a majority-minority America."  To those of us with a standard person's intellect, the immediate response to that line is "what the hell?"  It's a line that doesn't mean anything at all if taken at face value.  But when you remember what side he's on, it becomes all too clear that Sullivan is beaming down from his ivory tower with a smirk at how well he was able to disguise outwardly calling all Tea Partiers racists.

Despite his laziness and his backward way of thinking, however, there is hope on the horizon for Dandy Andy, as he at least recognizes that we are on the brink:
But if they manage to get a GOP House to back real cuts in entitlements and defense, and actually cooperate on some kind of deal with Obama for long-term debt reduction, I'll be more than happy to change my mind. But I see an ideological rigidity that would prevent this. Which would mean more stalemate. Which means more debt.
The only problem with Sully's realization that the road ahead offers more debt due to ideological rigidity is that he is expecting President Obama's policies to be the way out, and that the soon-to-be-GOP-led House would cause more debt by not cooperating with him.  Apparently Sullivan's solution to reducing the debt is for the future representatives of the people of this country to bow before their King.  You'll pardon me, Mr. Sullivan, if I, like many other racist, war mongering, social misfits feel that our President has been the one digging the hole.  It's time to test his ideological rigidity.