Letters from the Lunar Outpost

Whatever is begun in anger, ends in shame.
- Franklin, American Statesman, Printer, Scientist, and Writer (1706-1790)

Monthly Archives: February 2012

We Need More Indoctrination in Our Public Schools

STAMFORD — A North Stamford father trying to make his pre-teen son listen to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech nearly a month ago, was arrested on a warrant Wednesday for striking his son with a coffee mug when the youth would not pay attention.

Mohamed Shohan, 49, of 55 Mather Road, Stamford, was charged with third-degree assault, disorderly conduct and risk of injury to a child. He was released after posting $5,000 bond and will be arraigned on the charges at state Superior Court in Stamford Thursday.

Source: Stamford Advocate

Why am I not surprised to see the guy who hits his kid with a coffee mug for not being glued to every word of Obama’s speech is named “Mohamed”?

It certainly brings a lot of conspiracies to mind. Is Obama a closet Muslim? A lot of people consider him an Allah worshipping real life Manchurian candidate, but truth is, we’ll probably never know his true faith or when and how Bill Ayers found him, so while we may never know if he’s a Muslim president, we can certainly say he is the Muslim president, with an unprecidented 80% of Muslims approving of his job.. Hey, that’s awesome any time you can get 80% of any group of Americans to support you.

Two things that really grabbed my attention though, number one, the fact that our indoctrination camps, er – I mean, our public schools are clearly letting some of our children slip through the cracks if they aren’t hanging on every word when Dear Leader speaks.

Number two, where the hell does the Stamford Advocate get off publishing for all the world to see the fact that this (alleged) child abusing Obamanazi lives on 55 Mather Road in Stamford?

Are you kidding me? When do you ever see that, a news article making sure to publish the home address of the person accused? Is the news that slow over there in Stamford that they’re doing a little fishing here, hoping that one asshole might draw out of the woodwork a even bigger asshole who wants to perpetrate some sort of hate crime on Mohamed Shohan of 55 Mather Road?

Let’s just hope the coffee mug slinging Obamanazi dad is where this story ends.

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1. You ask yourself, when playing against the computer, can anyone really accuse you of cheating when the computer has full access to the dictionary?

2. Some people take pride in their profligate use of four-letter words, but you take pride in knowing more two-letter words than anyone around. *

3. You hear the clicking of tiles in your dreams.

4. You can name the point value of any letter in the alphabet, but then you begin to wonder, shouldn’t you memorize the exact number tiles for every letter and be able to draw the board from scratch just in case you ever wind up stranded on a desert island?

5. You know that spotting another addict is as easy as asking them if they know a three letter word for an African evergreen shrub (Qat).

6. When your computer keeps playing words like “porn” and “porno”, you being to wonder, is this a reflection of the computer or the person using it?

7. One of your all-time favorite movie scenes involves two old ladies playing Scrabble:

 

Great resource: Learning the 2-letter words by Steve Trussel.)

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Bret Easton Ellis - American PsychoBret Easton Ellis is such a suprisingly talented writer – surprising in the fact that you never know where his talents are going to take the reader, or what sort of hidden abilities as a writer he may reveal. Who else would come up with the insane dichotomy of a character who dispassionately narrates scenes of him performing the most gruesome torture imaginable leading straight into scattered chapters where the very same narrator shows us an unbelievable amount of passion about . . . the music of the 80s. The scattered chapters are as good as the writing of any music review you’ve ever read, and if the character of Patrick Bateman wasn’t so busy with the murder and mayham or making so much money on Wall Street, he could have his pick of writing music reviews anywhere in the nation.

With the passing of Whitney Houston today, I couldn’t help but think of how Bret, er . . . Patrick Bateman spent a chapter speaking of Whitney back when she had just two albums under her belt:

Whitney Houston burst onto the music scene in 1985 with her self-titled LP which had four number one hit singles on it, including “The Greatest Love of All,” “You Give Good Love” and “Saving All My Love for You,” plus it won a Grammy Award for best pop vocal performance by a female and two American Music Awards, one for best rhythm and blues single and another for best rhythm and blues video. She was also cited as best new artist of the year by Billboard and by Rolling Stone magazine. With all this hype one might expect the album to be an anticlimactic, lackluster affair, but the surprise is that Whitney Houston (Arista) is one of the warmest, most complex and altogether satisfying rhythm and blues records of the decade and Whitney herself has a voice that defies belief. From the elegant, beautiful photo of her on the cover of the album (in a gown by Giovanne De Maura) and its fairly sexy counterpart on the back (in a bathing suit by Norma Kamali) one knows that this isn’t going to be a blandly professional affair; the record is smooth but intense and Whitney’s voice leaps across so many boundaries and is so verssatile (though she’s mainly a jazz singer) that it’s hard to take in the album on a first listening. But you won’t want to. You’ll want to savor it over many.

It opens with “You Give Good Love” and “Thinking About You,” both produced and arranged by Kashif, and they emanate warm, lush jazz arrangements but with a contemporary synthesized beat and though they’re both really good songs, the album doesn’t get kicking until “Someone for Me” which was produced by Jermain Jackson, where Whitney sings longingly against a jazz-disco background and the difference between her longing and the sprightliness of the song is very moving. The ballad “Saving All My Love for You” is the sexiest, most romantic song on the record. It also has a killer saxophone solo by Tom Scott and one can hear the influences of sixties girl-group pop in it (it was cowritten by Gerry Goffin) but the sixties girl groups were never this emotional or sexy (or as well produced) as this song is. “Nobody Loves Me Like You Do” is a glorious duet with Jermaine Jackson (who also produced it) and just one example of how sophisticated lyrically this album is. The last thing it suffers from is a paucity of decent lyrics which is what usually happens when a singer doesn’t write her own material and has to have her producer choose it. But Whitney and company have picked well here.

The dance single “How Will I Know” (my vote for best dance song of the 1980s) is a joyous ode to a girl’s nervousness about whether another guy is interested in her. It’s got a great keyboard riff and it’s the only track on the album produced by wunderkind producer Narada Michael Walden. My own personal favorite ballad (aside from “The Greatest Love of All” – her crowning achievement) is “All at Once” which is about how a young woman realizes all at once her lover is fading away from her and it’s accompanied by a gorgeous string arrangement. Even though nothing on the album sounds like filler, the only track that might come close is “Take Good Care of My Heart,” another duet with Jermaine Jackson. The problem is that it strays from the ablum’s jazz roots and seems too influenced by 1980s dance music.

But Whitney’s talent is restored with the overwhelming “The Greatest Love of All,” one of the best, most powerful songs ever written about self-preservation and dignity. From the first line (Michael Masser and Linda Creed are credited as the writers) to the last, it’s a state-of-the-art ballad about believing in yourself. It’s a powerful statement and one that Whitney sings with a grandeur that approaches the sublime. Its universal message crosses all boundaries and instills one with the hope that it’s not too late for us to better ourselves, to act kinder. Since it’s impossible in the world we live in to empathize with others, we can always empathize with ourselves. It’s an important message, crucial really, and it’s beautifully stated on this album.

Her second effort, Whitney (Arista; 1987), had four number one singles, “I Wanna Dance with Somebody,” “So Emotional,” “Didn’t We Almost Have It All?” and “Where Do Broken Hearts Go?” and was mostly produced by Narada Michael Walden and though it’s not as serious an effort as Whitney Houston it’s hardly a victim of Sophomore Slump. It stars off with the bouncy, danceable “I wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)” which is in the same vein as the last album’s irrepressible “How Will I Know.” This is followed by the sensuous “Just the Lonely Talking Again” and it reflects the serious jazz influence that permeated the first album and one can also sense a newfound artistic maturity in Whitney’s voice – she did all the vocal arrangements on this album – and this is all very evident on “Love Will Save the Day” which is the most ambitious song Whitney’s yet performed. It was produced by Jellybean Benitez and it pulsates with an uptempo intensity and like most of the songs on this album it reflects a grownup’s awareness of the world we all live in. She sings and we believe it. This is quite a change from the softer, little-girl-lost image that was so appealing on the first album.

She projects an even more adult image on the Michael Masser-produced “Didn’t We Almost Have It All,” a song about meeting up with a long-lost lover and letting him know your feelings about the past affair, and it’s Whitney at her most poetic. And as on most of the ballads there’s a gorgeous string arrangement. “So Emotional” is in the same vein as “How Will I Know” and “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” but it’s even more rock-influenced and, like all the songs on Whitney, played by a terrific backup studio band with Marada on drum machine, Wolter Afanasieff on the synthesizer and synth bass, Corrado Rustici on synth guitar, and someone listed as Bongo Bob on percussion programming and drum sampling. “Where You Are” is the only song on the album produced by Kashif and it bears his indelible imprint of professionalism – it has a smooth, gleaming sound and sheen to it with a funky sax solo by Vincent Henry. It sounded like a hit single to me (but then all the songs on the album do) and I wondered why it wasn’t released as one.

“Love Is a Contact Sport” is the album’s real surprise – a big-sounding, bold, sexy number that, in terms of production, is the album’s centerpiece, and it has great lyrics along with a good beat. It’s one of my favorites. On “You’re Still My Man” you can hear how clearly Whitney’s voice is like an instrument – a flawless, warm machine that almost overpowers the sentiment of her music, but the lyrics and the melodies are too distinctive, too strong to let any singer, even one of Whitney’s caliber, overshadow them. “For the Love of You” shows off Narada’s brilliant drum programming capabilities and its jazzy modern feel harks back not only to purveyors of modern jazz like Michael Jackson and Sade but also to other artists, like Miles Davis, Paul Butterfield and Bobby McFerrin.

“Where Do Broken Hearts Go” is the album’s most powerful emotional statement of innocence lost and trying to regain the safety of childhood. Her voice is as lovely and controlled as it ever has been and it leads up to “I Know Him So Well,” the most moving moment on the record because it’s first and foremost a duet with her mother, Cissy. It’s a ballad about . . . who? – a lover shared? a long-lost father? – with a combination of longing, regret, determination and beauty that ends the album on a graceful, perfect note. We can expect new things from Whitney (she made a stunning gift to the 1988 Olympics with the ballad “One Moment in Time”) but even if we didn’t she would remain the most exciting and original black jazz voice of her generation.

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Remembering Whitney Houston - Greatest Voice of Her GenerationA lot of hate is being directed at Bobby Brown today, as if he’s the one to blame for Whitney’s downfall. Listen, Whitney would not have made the choices she did if this former choir girl with the perfect voice wasn’t bored to death with living the perfect life. She was looking for some danger and excitement I’m pretty sure, and Bobby Brown fit the bill. Don’t blame Bobby though, if it wasn’t him introducing Whitney to cocaine and the crack pipe, it would have been some other bad boy of hip hop, guaranteed.

The ending is not what’s worth remembering, however. Sure, the tragic ending will only help to enhance her status as a legendary and immortal singer just the same as it did with Billie Holliday and every tragic character stretching back to Greek mythology, but what’s really worth remembering about Whitney is not her downfall, but her voice.

Go to YouTube or grab your MP3 player and listen to Whitney’s voice from the mid-80s and early 90s and what you are listening to is a voice so clear and a five-octage range so rare that for every one singer that has it, there are a million other singers feeling jealous and imagining what they could do with a voice like that, but do she did, working hard from a young age to become technically proficient, and then working harder still to make it all sound effortless.

That’s the Whitney I’ll remember. No offense to Mariah, but as far as pop music goes, Whitney Houston was truly the greatest voice of her generation.

And now for the truly bizarre, I’d like to offer up A Serial Killer’s Tribute to Whitney Houston.

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She's Not the Cox I Left, but What Was Nikki Thinking When She Did Her Lips?A decision was made in our house a week ago, a truly monumental decision as we said our goodbyes and put to an end a twenty-year long relationship.

I’ll call it the end of a love affair, although at times it was equal parts love and hate, especially when the bill came due, but other than those three months of wandering out in the desert in Aguanga, for twenty long years, whether it was cable programming through actual cable laid in the ground, or the same channels broadcast via satellite, cable TV had been a fixture in each and every home where I’ve lived.

Perhaps it sounds overly dramatic, but it really did feel like such a monumental decision, like a bridge that you cross and once you cross it, there might never again be any going back. Even knowing in the back of my mind that it would be as easy as a phone call to restart the service, it still felt like it was a life-changing moment as I called to cancel all those channels we’d been enjoying for so many years. (Yes, we do take TV that seriously in our house.)

Well, you know what? So far, we don’t miss anything as far as the programming goes and not paying the $70 / month? Very sweet indeed. Even when they tried to talk us down to $30 / month for just the basics, the decision had been made and we were determined to cut the cable to which we’d been bound.

As my eyes cleared and I realized that you can indeed have a great television set up with no monthly cable programming bill, I realized that I might even be a bit late to the party and there’s probably a lot of people in the youngest generation now who will live their whole lives and never sign up for cable and pay a monthly cable bill. For the rest of us, who have known nothing but cable our entire lives, I give you a five-point plan to ditching the cable bill and not missing very little of the service that went with it.

  1. It’s easy to forget that stations still broadcast over the airwaves, but they do and you can get most or all of your local channels for free by making a one-time purchase of an antenna like the Leaf for $37 delivered. How many channels you’re going to get depends on where you are, here in So. Cal. our antenna pulled in 30 stations (with maybe 7 or 8 in Spanish) when I visited my good friends in Nashville, they were pulling in 8, so it’s a little hit or miss, but local news and weather and exclusive channels you won’t find anywhere else make it a no-brainer.
  2. Once you’re pulling in your free local channels, for the rest of this to work, you’ll definitely need to ditch the dial-up if you haven’t already and you’ll probably need to upgrade if you’re on the cheapest DSL at 1.5 Mbps.
  3. Get a streaming player like the $50 Netgear NeoTV NTV200 which gives you full HD streamed from your wireless router. We started watching streaming TV on a couple PCs that were hooked up to our TVs via HDMI cables, but these little streaming players draw a lot less energy than a PC, so spend a little now and you’ll end up saving money on your energy bills in the long run. I also love small gadgets, the more they look like something Q would hand James Bond, the better. We have both the aforementioned NeoTV and a Roku in our house, both have performed nearly flawlessly. Internet enabled Blu-ray players or Smart TVs are two more options worth looking in to.
  4. Subscribe to HuluPlus for $8 a month and you’ll have some of the greatest shows on TV, most with every episode of the entire series available and all of them available completely on your own schedule. In our house, it was Arrested Development where we first discovered the joy of watching a great series, show by show, night after night, from the first episode to the last. Now we’re addicted to Lost and we get to feed our addiction every single night. The fact that we can go through the 120 episode series two, three, four episodes a night as opposed to waiting an entire week between episodes stretched out over six years, are you kidding me? I don’t think I could ever watch a series that way again. Just let me know when the series has had it’s run and all the episodes are available and we’ll enjoy it from beginning to end, a couple episodes a night, one night after the other.
  5. For another $8, subscribe to Netflix and you have the perfect combo, with HuluPlus specializing mainly in TV on demand and Netflix specializing mainly in Movies on demand. Yes, Netflix had by many people’s accounts 2011’s absolute worst PR disaster, but that’s old news at this point, the selection of movies they stream is pretty darn good, the same delay as the time it takes for a movie to make it from the theaters to your movie channels, but once it’s on Netflix, you can watch that movie a the time of your choosing instead of the schedule dictated by your movie channel.

So there it is, old news to a younger generation perhaps, but for those of us who have had nothing but cable bills our whole lives, with a good Internet connection, an antenna, a streaming player and a paltry $16 a month for HuluPlus and Netflix, as hard as it may be to visualize, you can ditch that cable bill and you might even find what takes its place far more enjoyable.

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Currently Listening To:

Team of Rivals
by
Doris Kearns Goodwin