Monday, June 29, 2009

Olbermann on Joe the Plumber's Wausau visit

Keith Olbermann tonight picked up another Wausau Daily Herald story written by me, the one about Joe the Plumber's visit here. Here's the Olbermann clip:

Sunday, June 28, 2009

R.I.P. King of Pop Pt. III

Apologies to those who are tired of this by now. To me, listening to all-MJ-all-the-time these past few days -- and knowing that everyone else is listening to the same songs -- has been a great experience. So I'm going to offer a few more tidbits:
  • Via Eli Lake, this is a fantastic MJ mix. Includes a lot of Jackson 5 stuff and a really cool demo version of "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough." MUST LISTEN!

  • My favorite music writer, Kelefa Sanneh, has a piece in the New Yorker with an interesting digression about Jackson's lifting a piece of Manu Dibango's "Soul Makossa" for "Wanna Be Startin' Something." Then Sanneh's piece finishes this way:
    Thursday night in New York was hot—after weeks of rain, it was one of the first real summer nights of the year. Car windows were open all over the city, and just about every station on the radio dial had switched to an all-Michael Jackson format; for the first (and, for all we know, the last) time, it felt as if absolutely everyone was listening to the same songs. Later that night, at least one bar in Brooklyn continued the celebration into the early hours of Friday. If you lived above it, you may have found yourself awake at 3 A.M., listening to a song you knew by heart: that familiar thump, that familiar chant. As Jackson and Dibango and millions of listeners discovered, you can’t escape “Thriller.” But, then, why would you want to?
  • Sanneh also did a good NPR segment summarizing Jackson in three songs:
    There's no way to sum him up. Here are three interesting tracks [...] but I would never, ever want to say they are the three greatest.
    The three? "Wanna Be Startin' Something," "Human Nature" and "Heartbreaker."

  • And I do think most everything in this piece is properly characterized as "gossip," but what can I say? Gossip is interesting. Jackson was gay, anorexic, drug-addicted, "in hock to Sony," etc. etc. Who knows if any of it is true. But given all the unanswered questions in his death, a piece purporting to have sources inside the Jackson camp is, well, of interest.

  • And if you are still hungry for more, Idolator has aggregated a lot of people's interesting quotations on MJ.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Meet Eddie

This great Times article distills Hollywood's fortune as contingent on the careers of people liek Eddie Murphy. I really liked this 'graph:
Arnold Robinson, Mr. Murphy’s publicist, said he would not trouble his client with an interview request from a newspaper. “Mr. Murphy does not do print interviews,” he said in an e-mail, adding, “For his age and body of work there are only one or two other actors that can compare to his career box office numbers.”

Thursday, June 25, 2009

R.I.P. King of Pop Pt. II

I posted a bunch of videos to my other blog when I heard the news. But a few more can't hurt:
"I Want You Back" by the Jackson 5:

Rock with You:


Also thinking tonight about this old Jacob Weisberg piece in Slate from soon after Jackson's acquittal, which dared to make the case -- persuasively -- that MJ was not a pedophile.

And, worth revisiting Rhymefest's album of MJ tributes, including the pretty funny simulated interstitial conversations with Michael. Certainly the best thing Rhymefest has ever done. MOST RECOMMENDED: Track 9, with a sample of Jackson 5-era Michael singing "Ain't No Sunshine."

UPDATE [6/26 12:13am] ... In fact here's the original of that version of "Ain't No Sunshine":

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Nate Silver on the public option

This is just a very strong case in favor of a public option for health care.

New Auto-Tune the News!

Maybe these will get old one day, but today is not that day. Highlight: Joe Biden's "God Bless America":

Thanks Andy Laub!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Views of raptors

Yesterday Laura and I had a really great visit to the Raptor Education Group, Inc. in Antigo, Wis. Not long ago I wrote a story about some of the nonprofit group's activities, and was offered a tour by Marge Gibson, who runs the place.

REGI rehabilitates injured birds found in the wild, everything from hummingbirds to bald eagles. Most of the birds are rehabbed and released, but sometimes that's not possible -- if the bird's injuries are permanent, or if they are imprinted to humans. In those cases, REGI usually keeps them as education birds.

Here are some of the birds we met yesterday:

This baby bard barred owl liked to play with Kleenex:

Peregrine falcon Ozzy was not happy to meet us.

These bald eagles were recovered from the site of the Exxon Valdez oil spill:

Marge Gibson with a Great Horned Owl named Bumpy:

And a bald eagle imprinted to humans who we got to meet close-up:

More: I've posted these and some other pics to my long-dormant Flickr page.
R.I.P. To my Grandpa, Bob Mentzer, 1916-2009. Not a bad run.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Autotune the News #4

Kind of old by now, but who cares. Still good, and Frank McGee the Angry Gorilla is back:

Monday, June 15, 2009

I visit Carl Sandburg in a dream

Last week I found myself in Galesburg, Ill., where I decided to visit the birthplace of Carl Sandburg. I like the "Chicago Poems" and "The People, Yes," and I also like that one Sufjan Stevens song involving Carl Sandburg, so it was worth it. I haven't read Sandburg's Lincoln biographies but I like that he wrote them.

The birthplace is exactly what you would expect but I was glad I went there. Then, for reasons I do not fully understand I bought two 50-cent reproductions of his manuscript pages. I am not going to frame them; I guess I will put them in a folder or something.

One is the famous "Hog butcher to the world" poem. The other is just a quote from a Lincoln speech, which I like because I think it fits our Internet age:

If you cannot read the image, it says:
From Lincoln's message to
Congress Dec. 1, 1862
In times like the present
men should utter nothing
for which they would not
willingly be responsible
through time and eternity.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Barney Frank storms off

from a CNBC interview right before he walks into a hearing and grills my friend JW. Rep. Frank can be a very intimidating man, I can say from experience.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The rhythmic, sedative pull of the motorways

Not a perfect fit for me, but I did spend some time in the car today and I have been suffering from a sense of melancholia lately, so this beautiful passage from Andrew O'Hagan's essay on cars will do:
In American fiction, a great number of epiphanies – especially male epiphanies – occur while the protagonist is alone and driving his car. There are reasons for that. One may not have a direction but one has a means of getting there. One may not be in control of life but one can progress in a straight line. When your youth is over and definitions become fixed, even if they are wrong, it might turn out that the arrival of a car suddenly feels like the commuting of a sentence. It may seem to give you back your existential mojo. [...] If you read the novels of Joan Didion, you will see there can come a time in anybody’s life, women’s as much as men’s, when they climb into their car and feel that they are driving away from an entire kingdom of dependency. The motorways don’t offer a solution: they offer a welcome straitjacket. Your car will get all the credit for bringing you home to yourself, for showing you the only person you can truly depend on is not merely yourself, but yourself-in-your-car, a somatic unity. Those who spend most of their lives being alert to the demands of others – and that’s most employees, most husbands, wives, parents, most believers – will know the rhythmic, sedative pull of the motorways as the road performs its magic, pulling you back by degrees to some forgotten individualism that the joys and vexations of community always threatened to turn into an upholstered void.

Still going

The story of former Marathon County Republican Party spokesman Kevin Stevenson's dismissal after he criticized Rush Limbaugh, that is. Here is Olbermann on Tuesday's show responding to Limbaugh's response to the story:

And from last week, here is Stevenson's phone interview with Contessa Brewer on MSNBC:

I think that will probably be enough of that, now.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Learning to hear

I am sort of proud of how my story in today's paper about families whose children got cochlear implants turned out.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Limbaugh's response

Well it is not much, but in the interest of keeping AMillionMonkeys readers current on the beef between a former spokesman for the Marathon County Republican Party and Rush Limbaugh, here is Rush yesterday responding to the Wausau Daily Herald's story. He must have been responding to a caller:

LIMBAUGH: I know the story going -- this is about this little schlub up in Wisconsin. Yes, I know all about it, I know all about it. Look, that's not even big enough for me to worry about. That guy's such a podunk, it's not even worthy of our time on the E -- I wish you wouldn't interrupt me with this stuff. If you're gonna interrupt me every time I'm on that stupid government-run channel, then I'm going to be doing nothing but reacting to the government-run channel. All they do is run videotape of me and people complaining about me. I'm talking about government-run MSNBC. Some little podunk Republican -- moderate liberal Republican who was thrown out of his leadership post in Wausau, Wisconsin, some county there, because he dared criticize me. And so this guy is now loved and adored by government-run media. Big whoop. This has been going on for three days. This is not even new news.
(Via MediaMatters.)

Friday, June 05, 2009

Best line I read today

This recession hasn't been all bad. Housing is now more affordable, and now we have Kentucky Grilled Chicken, Pasta Hut, Domino's Subs, and $5 burgers at Morton's. Necessity is the mother of fast food invention.
From Erik Falkenstein's (very) brief summary of recent books on the financial crisis.

The Real Mayor of Chicago

Steve Bartin at NewGeography has this fascinating post about Alderman Ed Burke, the most powerful man in Chicago politics. It includes these gems:
Chicago's City Council recently celebrated Alderman Burke's record-breaking 40 years in office. No Chicago Alderman has served so long or accumulated so much power. No man represents Chicago political system better and all that is wrong with it.
...the state’s richest political family was Ald. Edward Burke (14th) and his wife, Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke. Together, their political committees held $8.3 million in cash...Mayor Richard M. Daley, who traditionally ceases fundraising after elections, raised just $43,000 in the last six months, but had $3.1 million in cash on hand.
...Why did Ald. Edward M. Burke vote to approve Tony Rezko’s plans to develop the South Loop’s biggest piece of vacant land even as he was working for Rezko on that same deal?
Burke says: I forgot to abstain.

And my favorite:
Thirty of Burke's colleagues on Chicago's City Council went on to become convicted felons since 1970.

Run Mitch Run

Perhaps the GOP's most appealing potential presidential candidate is Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. From a recent forum on the future of the party:
We must not only assert, but assert with credibility, that we understand what is going on in the lives of everyday people. Empathy is going to get a bad name here for a while if it's going to be transported to the world of rule of law and jurisprudence, but empathy – which is what Adam Smith was talking about in the Theory of Moral Sentiments – is what distinguishes our species from the others.
I don't know that I've ever heard an American politician accurately restate Adam Smith's ethical claims. So naturally, he's ruled out a run. Awesome.

UPDATE: FiveThirtyEight's "Gubernatorial Power Rankings" has Daniels as #6 in the country, and #4 among R's.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Does Dave have a shot at beating Conan?

Here's a thought experiment for you:

Q. You are David Letterman. How do you beat Conan O'Brien's Tonight Show in the ratings?

First of all, these can't be good times for Dave. His grudge against Leno was real and enduring, and if he softened a little bit recently that doesn't mean he didn't retain a competitive nature. The sweet revenge of outlasting Jay at 11:30 (well it's 10:30 Central for me, and has been my whole life) is undercut by the weird-and-possibly-doomed deal Jay just cut for his primetime experiment.

Meanwhile, Letterman finds himself in the unprecedented situation of not having the most critically respected talk show in his time slot. Does he care? I remember when a beef flared up over ratings and Letterman's producer said:
There are two parts of the so-called late-night war. One is: who's the best. That part of the war is over. Dave won.
Could he say that against Conan?

Well, maybe. Maybe Conan's show simply won't work at the new time. The quirk and surrealism that were Conan's calling cards at Late Night could be flattened out by the demands of the Tonight Show franchise. I don't think that's what's going to happen, and apparently neither does Conan. But you never know. Ratings are unpredictable and my understanding is that network execs can be nervous people.

In that case, Letterman probably just does what he's been doing and no matter what the ratings he wins because he's never taken any guff from anybody.

But let's say you're David Letterman and you really want to make a play for ratings dominance now. Here is the option that interests me: What if Dave decided to, as it were, run to Conan's right? Can he turn himself into the ratings-winning Leno to Conan's critical-darling Letterman?

Consider: Conan is young. He's weird. He's hip. That might not be the best way to build an audience at 11:30. How can Letterman go about targeting some of the ex-Leno-viewers who don't cotton to Conan? Could he woo them by doing more lame, Lenoesque gags and fewer strange, Lettermanesque stunts? It seems to me that this could work. Of course the risk is that you make your show lamer and then you still don't win in the ratings.

To be honest, I'm not sure at this point how much Letterman really cares -- he could buy an island nation with his "Everybody Loves Raymond" money alone. But let's say he did. What would be his best shot at beating Conan?

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Countdown with Keith Olbermann segment

Here it is:

Marathon County GOP spokesman ousted following criticism of Limbaugh

A story of mine in today's newspaper has gotten some traction around the blogosphere today. Here's the original story:
The Republican Party of Marathon County has stripped its spokesman of his title less than three months after he wrote a column critical of conservative talk radio star Rush Limbaugh.

Kevin Stevenson said he believes his March guest column in the Wausau Daily Herald criticizing Limbaugh turned local party members against him.

"They felt I was too moderate in what I was speaking and printing," he said.

Stevenson, who characterizes himself as a "John McCain-type of Republican," said the conflict was a microcosm of a national debate about what political message to put forward. A debate at a local Republican meeting on Thursday "got hostile and it got personal," he said.
Here it is on HuffPo, here's TPM, here's the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. It was pulled for The Nation's newsfeeds. It was on and And it was the subject of not one but two requests from MSNBC today, including one from "Countdown with Keith Olbermann."

So: Slow news day or totally awesome story by me? Or just pure catnip for lefty blogs?