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Saturday, July 30, 2005

My father told me that " . . . you can do anything you want, but you've got to be prepared to deal with the consequences."

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Tres Entrevistas Para Ustedes

Today on the site, you'll find three new interviews!

1. Ten Quick Questions with a Vegas Cabbie

And I mean quick. My driver, Assab, answered my questions briefly and begrudgingly, and seemed generally unimpressed with me as a "journalist".

2. Ten Quick Questions with a Brit

A telling interview that delves deep into the mind of those tea-sippin' bastards we escaped from to the land of Freedom so long ago. Just kidding, she's a lovely bird.

3. Ten Quick Questions with a Black Guy from England

Anthony is a swell guy I met during my travels in South-East Asia. He tells it like it is and answers the important questions, like "Is it true that black guys all have big dongs?"

Pull My Strings

In 1962, Alan Freed, an American DJ and pioneer of rock 'n' roll, pleaded guilty to two charges of commercial bribery for which he received a fine and a suspended sentence. Freed often called himself the "Father of Rock 'n' Roll", and helped to popularize the music and the name of the genre on his radio show. After Freed pleaded guilty, he found that his real punishment was that his career was over, and his accomplishments in music would always come second to his title of the "Payola DJ".

At its roots, Payola is a form of bribery in which radio stations accept gifts or money from record labels to play certain songs on the radio. It was first made illegal in 1960 and has continued to be so ever since. And if it's illegal, then we can expect that modern radio stations don't take bribes to play certain songs anymore, right?

Not exactly. There's a good reason that you hear J-Lo and Maroon 5 every single time you turn on the radio, and it's not because the people want to hear "She Will be Loved" every hour, on the hour.

The current FCC regulations require that if a song is promoted and paid for by a record company, the radio station must state that it was paid for. The transaction is legal as long as it's reported, but the song that's paid for by the label must state on the air that what's being aired is "sponsored airtime" (kind of like watching "paid programming" which is really just infomercials).

Instead, labels hire independents, or "indies" to "promote" songs to the stations. The indies will pay a "promotion payment" to the radio station, and in return the stations play the songs that the clients of the indie (the labels) want played. Since the labels don't pay radio stations directly, they don't have to report the transactions.

How do they get away with it? For the four decades that have passed since payola was made illegal, record labels have found loopholes in the law, or been subtle enough with their rewards to stations that they could disguise the bribes as mere suggestions or assistance in making playlists.

The New York Times reported yesterday that
To disguise a payoff to a radio programmer at KHTS in San Diego, Epic Records called a flat-screen television a "contest giveaway." Epic, part of Sony BMG Music Entertainment, used the same gambit in delivering a laptop computer to the program director of WRHT in Greenville, N.C. - who also received PlayStation 2 games and an out-of-town trip with his girlfriend.

In another example, a Sony BMG executive considered a plan to promote the song "A.D.I.D.A.S." by Killer Mike by sending radio disc jockeys one Adidas sneaker, with the promise of the second one when they had played the song 10 times.
So it's not like the stations are being handed sacks full of money, but when you think about how many stations a company like Clear Channel Communications owns (over 1200), you begin to realize that it adds up.

And Clear Channel is in trouble too. New York's attorney general Eliot Spitzer anounced two days ago a $10 million settlement with Sony BMG in which the recording industry as a whole has been exchanging gifts for the airplay of specific songs with radio stations. Now that the cat is out of the bag, the inquiry is expected to move towards three other major record companies: Vivendi Universal, Warner Music Group, and the EMI Group, as well as the radio companies like Clear Channel and Emmis Communications.

And it couldn't come at a better time. Most of the music played on the radio is terrible (of course, it always sounds terrible to someone who makes it a goal to go out of their way to listen to what they consider "good" music), and the truth is that people will usually take the path of least resistance when it comes to things like music and listen to what's on the radio. There is so much great music out there, and most people will never hear it because what's available is only there in highly-concentrated form and with little variety.

The comment the Times got from Don Rose, president of the American Association of Independent Music, sums up my feelings nicely:
This sounds to us like something that will be very helpful. It's obvious to us that we're not getting the fair share because of the embedded relationships with big radio.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Apparently, some papers are upset by Gary Trudeau's "liberal" use of President Bush's pet name for advisor Karl Rove: Turd Blossom.

Doonesbury Strip

Saturday, July 23, 2005

"I think it'd be interesting to note how you feel as you return to the US after being away for so long--you know, the difference in cultures and stuff," my father said to me.

When I arrived at the gate where my flight was leaving from New Zealand, I saw that I was on the same flight as a group of about 150 students from parts of the South who were visiting New Zealand through some sort of ambassador program for kids who have no ability to self-govern.

On the plane, I was sat next to one of the group leaders, a chubby Tennessean girl with poor complexion and a heavy accent of about twenty-two.

"Man, I wish they had a Burger King on this plane," she said aloud to no one in particular, but seemingly hoping that someone would overhear and continue the conversation. "A Burger King or a McDonald's."

No one replied, so she leaned up and nudged the kid sitting in from of her. "One a y'all needs to grow up and figure out a way to put a Burkger King on an airplane, 'cause all they got on here's a lamb casserole or somethin'."

I sang "America the Beautiful" to myself as the plane landed.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Here's a funny story. Not like funny ha-ha, but funny strange.

I was sitting in the cold, impersonal space of my doctor's examining room yesterday. It was a routine checkup, but suddenly a thought occured to me.

"Doctor," I began, "what are the chances that me or a loved one will develop cancer or some other disease within my lifetime?"

He coughed nervously, turned around, and told me to lie down on the table. I thought he might not have heard me, so I repeated the question.

"This examination is over," he said quickly, and hurried out of the room. Before he could leave though, he hit me in the head with a reflex hammer, and knocked me out cold. When I woke up, I was being carried me out of the building by armed guards, who promptly threw me out of the street in nothing but my patient's gown.

I stumbled home. Awhile later, I checked my e-mail, and found this helpful note from Linwood Gibbons (konradberils@myfastmail.com):
Your Dr. wont tell you this... 1 out of 2 of us will develope Cancer (sic) or some other disease in our lifetime! Are you or a loved one suffering from any of these: Asthma Diabetes Neuropathy Arthritis Fibromyalgia Congestive Heart High Blood pressure Sleep Apnea (sic) If you are, or even if you are not you will want to check this out! Click the link below and read about the Miracle Of Oxygen! http://www.ezmailer.biz/oxygen You can also call this toll-free number and listen to a 24hr (sic) pre-recorded message that can save your life! 800-636-6773 ext 5692 Thank You The Oxygen Team healthy@safe-mail.net

I checked it out, and ordered a year's supply of Oxygen. Thanks for your unsolicited advice, Linwood Gibbons!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Uncle Moneybags

In an ultimate twist of irony, Che Guevara has become a brand.

I first noticed this revolutionary fashion trend in Bangkok, but apparently it's happening all over the world. Even the celebs are in on it!1



The far right has noticed, and 5 January of this year, National Review published this article.

For all your Che Guevara needs, please spend the money you earned at The Che Store, you filthy Capitalist dog.

1Sorry to break character here, but this is too much. The fact that Jay-Z, who may be a prime candidate for "Greatest Capitalist Symbol After Rupert Murdoch" is wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt infringes on even my threshold of irony appreciation. God damn, that's some heavy-ass irony.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Two Incidents That Made Me Frustrated With Traveling in Thailand

1. The dreadlocked Thai who approached me and Peter on the bus to the port to the island of Kho Pa Ngan. He showed us a flyer to the hotel he was hawking, and then produced a photo book for us to flip through. We weren't sure what part of the island we were staying on, so we told him we'd take a look at it when we got there.

Like a fool, I thought the deal sounded good, especially when we bargained him down a few bucks on the price of the room. I was short of saying that we'd stay there, but I did admittedly react positively to the idea. He asked us to pay for the room then, and we declined. He asked us for a deposit, and we declined, saying that we would have to see the room first. When we met up with our traveling companion at the port, the three of us decided to stay on a different part of the island. When the dreadlocked Thai approached us again, reminding us that we "promised" to stay at his hotel, we told him that we'd actually decided to stay in another area. He was furious.

"Give me the paper!" he snapped, referring to the reservation sheet that he'd forced into our hands on the bus. We remained calm, and I fished the receipt from my pocket and handed it to him. He snatched it away and tore it up into tiny pieces.

"That's what I think of you! You cheat! You cheat! You cheat me!"

"I cheated you?" I asked in mock surprise. "I never did!"

"You--you--fuck you!"

"Fuck me?" I asked loudly, hoping others in the crowded boat would hear. My heart was beating a little faster now.

"I should smack your mouth!" the dreadlocked Thai said, raising his hand to me, preparing for what I guess would be the Thai version of a pimp-slap.

"You're going to smack my mouth?" I asked, getting up. PS (our traveling companion) shifted in his seat uncomfortably, as he was sitting between me and the dreadlocked Thai. The dreadlocked Thai put his hand down and walked away in frustration.

"Did you hear that everybody? He said 'fuck me' and that he was going to smack my mouth!" I called out loudly. The population of the boat turned to me and the dreadlocked Thai stopped in his tracks, turned around, and marched back over.

"You--you--you keep your mouth shut! You say nothing! You tell no-one!" He was seething.

"Don't look at me, you're the one who lost his mind," I said. "Maybe your hotel should consider using someone, you know, different, as their salesman."

He walked away muttering. For the next three hours, Peter and I worried that the dreadlocked Thai would throw our bags overboard. When the boat stopped, we found that they were safe.

2. While walking down a busy road to a community of temples in Bangkok, a Thai youth approached me and asked me where I was going.

"Just up there," I said, continuing to walk along. As a tourist (especially a white tourist) in South-East Asia, one can expect to be accosted by vendors, hustlers, and taxi-drivers at any time of day, and in any country in the region. I noticed that the kid, who was about sixteen, stayed nearby, following in my shadow. A minute later he offered me a bag of seeds to feed the hundreds of pigeons that were around, I assume.

"No," I said. He offered them to me several times, and each time I replied with a variation of my original answer.

"No thank you."

"I don't want it."

"Go away."

"Beat it."

Eventually he rested a bag on my shoulder. I kept walking.

"Is good luck," he called.

Now sometimes, not often, not even rarely, but every once in a while, a local will ask you to take part in a tradition or ritual and not charge anything. Since he had allowed me to get a few yards away with the seeds without asking for money, I foolishly thought that this was one of those occasions. Keep in mind that I'm on a street filled with monks, makeshift temples, and people praying in the street. Plus it was Sunday, which we all know is God's day.

So I took the birdseed, and I fed it to the birds.

In the tourist-birdseed racket, this is what's known as "the Mark Taking the Bait". The youth noticed my camera and asked me if I wanted him to take my picture while I fed the birds. No, no I didn't, I said, clutching both my wallet and my camera.

When the birdseed was gone, he began calling out in Thai, and an old woman hurried over.

"You pay money now," she croaked.

In the tourist-birdseed racket, this is what's known as "Collecting From the Mark".

"Oh?" I said, not really surprised. "How much?"

"150 baht," she said.1

"You must be out of your mind if you think I'm paying you 150 baht for some birdseed. I'm not giving you 150 baht."

She held out about six empty bags of birdseed and pointed at me. "You use."

"I didn't use that much, and even if I did, I don't care. I'm not giving you that much. Here's twenty."2

The kid looked at me and repeated the woman's request.

"OK, 100 baht," the woman said.

"No! You shouldn't have done what you did in the first place! You tricked me!" I paused. "And that makes me very sad. On a Sunday? God's day? In front of all these monks? For shame."

I suspected that neither of them understood a word I said besides 'no'.

"60 baht," the woman suggested, quickly losing interest.

I pulled out my wallet. "Here's twenty, and you two should be ashamed."

By the looks on their faces3, I could tell that they knew they had done wrong.

I walked to the temples, which I soon found that I was not allowed to visit because I was wearing shorts. I got some great shots of the walls though.

1$3.75 US, or a bit more than I was paying per night for accomodation.

2$.50, or about half an hour's worth of internet.

3Blank.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

The Parable:
In hell, the parable goes, there is plenty of the finest gourmet food available to everyone in the kingdom. But, alas, the residents all have long forks and spoons attached to their arms: so long that while they can reach the feast: they cannot place any of the aromatic food in their own mouths. They cannot feed themselves. So they live grimly in a desperate state of hunger.

In heaven likewise the banquet tables are laden with the finest and most succulent of victuals. In heaven, too, each arm has a long spoon or fork that extends far beyond the hand. So far that no individual can feed him or herself.

But in heaven, in contrast to hell, the people are of cheer and well fed. For in heaven, the people feed one another. (Emphasis added.)

Many people have heard the parable of the people with long forks and spoons attached to their arms, but few know the origins of the tale, and what really happened.

We were all sitting around at the banquet table one evening to enjoy another meal of succulent victuals. Suddenly, as happens almost every night, we realized that there was going to be a problem.

"Dammit!" the King said. "We've all got these damned long forks and spoons attached to our arms! Whose idea was this?!"

We soon realized that if we didn't figure something out, we would starve. Suddenly, hope came.

"If we feed each other with the long spoons and forks, we won't go hungry!" cried out one of the smallest, poorest, cutest children. He looked not unlike a really cute puppy.

"Yeah!" the people cried, "teamwork is the answer!"

We immediately set upon the task of feeding each other from across the table with the long spoons.

"Hey!" the King called out after a few minutes, "the food keeps falling off the damned spoon! And how am I supposed to cut the turkey with a long fork?"

"Fuck this shit," said the Prince, "I'm just going to eat it like a pig in a trough. If anyone gets in my way, I'll kick 'em in the throat."

"But wait!" the very small, very poor, very cute child interrupted again, "maybe we can try teamwork another way! Feeding each other with our feet, for ex-accgghk."

The Prince kicked the puppy-child in the throat and dug into some mashed potatoes. In all the ruckus, the small, poor, cute child was eaten, but no one really gave a crap because after all, he was poor.

THE END.

Friday, July 15, 2005

In discussing art with a guy I once knew, I mentioned a theory espoused by another artist friend that I agreed with.

"What he basically says is that he suspects that there's not much left in terms of original styles for canvas painting."

The guy I once knew disagreed. "I disagree," he said.

A few weeks later he (the guy I once knew) showed me a painting he was comissioned to do. The painting was done on a huge canvas, and featured huge crashing waves, dark, rolling ominous clouds, and a tiny sailboat being tossed about in the center.

The guy I once knew gave me an intense look. "I call it . . . Alone," he said.

"Ah," I said, now knowing what I was dealing with.

In Support of Media Journalism

I was thinking the other day about how in news reporting and political journalism that "the truth" in many circumstances may never actually be known by those who read the daily paper.

The good thing about media (movies, books, music) reviews is the presence of real accountability. We trust that The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal will tell us what's really going on--not to conjure up conspiracy theories or anything like that--but we don't really know what's going on in the world unless we see it or experience it firsthand, do we? (If you really want to split hairs, we may not really know the truth about a situation even if we do experience it, but this isn't a conversation about the nature of reality, or anything like that.)

Many people believe that taste in media is subjective--I don't, but many people do. Regardless of what "the truth" is about some media, with media journalism, consumers can read, view, and listen to the subject of an article and determine whether or not the journalist has a grasp on their truth or not. When they determine the accuracy of a media reviewer by checking themselves, they're closer to a reality they can "know" than most political journalism consumers are when they read a story on the front page.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

"You wanna know when I first realized that me and my ex-girlfriend wouldn't be together forever?"

"When?"

"When she told me that she didn't really care for The Simpsons."

"Huh."

" 'Gee,' I thought, 'I guess we won't be together forever.' Later, when we broke up, I knew that my premonition was correct."

"That's interesting."

"I'm pretty good at analyzing relationships."
Fantastic Four has been released in theaters all over the world, including those in Bangkok.

"Jessica Alba looks hot in that movie," Peter said, noticing the poster.

"Which is strange," I said, "because she usually doesn't."

"You don't think she's hot?"

For a minute I didn't know what to say, so I just said "Yeah, I do, but I was just being sarcastic."

I wrongly assumed that Jessica Alba's hotness was a universal constant, not unlike Π, or gravity, or Newton's laws. In this way, I thought that if I denied Jessica Alba's hotness, sarcasm would immediately be assumed. Roadrunner Review regrets the error.
In elementary school, I was the funniest kid in class until this new kid started in the middle of the year who was funnier than me. Sometimes I wonder what he's doing now, and I kind of hope he's dead.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

I received my first personals message from an older lady the other day.

She's thirty-two.

I read her message, and then I thought 'So that's what it's like to be messaged by an older lady.' Then I realized it didn't feel all that great and I continued reading the news.

Also, has anyone seen this? It's pretty awesome.

Friday, July 08, 2005

While walking through the purgatory that exists between Cambodia and Thailand, a grubby kid with no shoes held out his baseball cap upside down, looking for a handout and mumbling in what I guess is Thai.

"Nah," I said, and kept walking through the rain, slipping in my flip-flops and my fifty-pound bag.

That's definitely one thing that I've grown accustomed to ignoring. The kids in South-East Asian countries invariably beg for money, pens, food, and anything else they think they can get their hands on.

As I turned my head and kept walking, I felt a rustling in my right pocket. I looked down, another kid was reaching his hand into the pocket that held my wallet and passport.

"You little shit!"

I grabbed him by the throat and held on. He put his hands up and shook his head, mumbling a bit more frantically in Thai. I thought about my options. I couldn't really go to the police. I couldn't exactly beat the kid up; he was about twelve years old (like that ever stopped me before) and he couldn't understand a word I said anyway.

"Fuck off," I said sternly and walked away.

Then thought angry thoughts as I waited in line for four hours at customs.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

"You buy my statue five dolla."

"No."

"Sir! Sir! Statue five dolla!"

"I'm not buying that statue or anything else; I'm eating."

"Where you from?"

"America."

"The capital of America is Washington, D.C. America has fifty states. America."

(Me eating.)

"I tell you capital, you buy from me."

"If you can tell me the capital of Texas I'll buy from you," I said confidently. The Cambodian kid was about nine years old, covered head-to-toe in dirt, and had a satchel full of flutes, statues, and crappy postcards at his side.

"You promise?"

"You can't ask anyone; you have to tell me now, then I'll buy from you."

By now we had everyone at the table's attention.

"You rememba your promise."

"Yep."

"The capital of Texas is Austin. The capital of New Mexico is Albequerque. The capital of North Dakota is--"

The table exploded in shock.

"Holy shit. How the hell did you know that?"

"I know capitals. I learn from tourist."

"Here, take my money. But you can keep that damned statue."
"Are you guys taking a motorbike or the bus out to the Killing Fields?" asked Ché Dundee as he walked into the hotel lobby.

"I'm taking the bus; it takes like half an hour to get out there," I said. The others agreed.

Ché Dundee is the name I've given to the long-haired-and-pierced Australian guy who is constantly insisting that we're not getting the real Cambodian experience. I also considered Dundee Guevera, Castro Dundee, and Ché Guevera-Castro Dundee Crocodile Hunter.

"You guys aren't even getting the real Cambodian experience," he complained.

I turned back to the clerk at the front desk. "Do you know where I could get some peanut M&Ms?"

Sunday, July 03, 2005

"You've never seen Blues Brothers?" the girl in the front passenger's seat of the car craned her neck to look at me in disbelief. Her fiance´ was driving. "You like music as much as you do and you've never seen it? It's like the music movie."

A moment passed.

"Have you ever seen Scenes from a Marriage?" I asked her.

The look on her face said she'd never heard of it.

"It's a Swedish movie about marriage. It's very good."

"I've never heard of it."

"And you're getting married?" I asked incredulously. "It's like the marriage movie!"

"Alright," she said, making a sour face.

"Wait--so you're saying that you don't think that people should have to watch movies about things that they're interested in whether they're good or not? Is that what you're saying?"

She turned around and turned up the radio. "Right."

I watched Blues Brothers six months later. It fucking sucked.
In the Summer of 2004, I was listening to a lot of Stereolab's Aluminum Tunes.

"This music is stupid," remarked the girl sitting on my floor drinking a Shiner. I considered her thought.

"You know," I said, "that doesn't make me like it less; it makes me like you less."
We had shrimp for dinner the other night.

"I wish I had an exoskeleton," I said mournfully.