20 July 2009

News from the Moon

The front page of the New Haven Register today tells me that we landed on the Moon.

Can you call something news when it happened 40 years ago? Is that all we have anymore? Well it got me thinking... what do we have? I'm not saying nothing happened in the last 40 years, but something's definitely just not the same. There are no universally accepted monumental occasions anymore.

Maybe it's a good thing that Walter Cronkite died last night. Oh please, I don't wish him dead; that's not what I'm saying. But what would the venerable Mr. Cronkite have to report these days? I'm sure he wouldn't have wasted 10+ days on Michael Jackson. If he did have the opportunity to report on the first black President in American history, it would have been something definitive.

But there's not definitive anymore. News has been replaced with the media. And in the media, opinions are everything. Imaging the Moon landing reported in 2009. Instead of the country united in triumph as we put a man on the Moon, it would be reported as some sort of partisan issue, with conservative pundits speaking out against Apollo's budgetary waste, and liberals screaming that we'll ruin the environment of the Moon like we wrecked the Earth.

Even now, I'm hearing discussions about NASA's Man on the Moon by 2020, but it's just not the same. First of all, we did that already. It just lacks the sense of glory. But it's more than that. It's not Jack Kennedy saying that "by the end of this decade [whether I'm shot and killed or not] we will put a man on the surface of the Moon [or at least provide photographs and video that you may choose to interpret as success or an elaborate hoax]."

Nothing is said with the determination of Jack Kennedy anymore. Imagine, if you will, the following, as it it was said by Kennedy. Imagine the presence -- imagine the thick Boston accent -- and then read this much more 21st century statement regarding our space program...
By the end of the next decade, or so, we will put a man on the moon... for the second time. Our greatest minds at NASA -- the ones who keep the market for 20 year old computer hard drive running -- have assured me that, if we can sneak just another 4 million dollars a year into their budget, that can put a man on the moon again within the next 11 years. This is of course if China doesn't beat us to it this time, and replace our optimal landing zone with the new Lunar Wal*Mart production facility, where they intend to make knock-off Barbie dolls out of poisonous moon rock, at half the cost possible here on Earth.

That being said, if we can beat our old col-war nemesis the Communists, again, only this time the Chinese ones, in this "space race", we will be victorious in our continued domination over the region of space 238,857 miles from us -- a distance many of us have already put on our cars -- and prove ourselves the world power that we have continued to pretend we are since that last time we did it.
OK, maybe I'm a bit harsh here, but really, we should be aiming for better, shouldn't we? The quote I heard on the Moon by 2020 program that really got me is "... if the benefits outweigh the costs". What are the benefits of going to the moon anymore? Are there any?

It used to be that the space program gave us great leaps in technology. Now it seems our "terrestrial" technology is leaps and bounds ahead of our "space" technology. Just think about computers. What did your home computer look like in 1969? Oh that's right, no such thing. The term home computer was unthinkable unless it referred to a computer roughly the size of your home. Now my HP laptop could produce more computing power than what ran a Mercury rocket. And cars... OK, our cars aren't flying yet, but I can buy one that gets 66 miles to the gallon, runs on vegetable oil, tells me where I'm going (and finds all the Starbucks for me along the way), and still costs under $15,000. Then again, it's built by Germans in Brazil. NASA needs another $4M per year between now and 2020 -- $44 Million extra just to use 1969 technology to push a rocket into space, dump the rocket into the sea, fly a smaller craft to the moon, from which we deploy a 3rd craft (because we still can't land the main craft and make it take off again -- even in 10% gravity), wander about, take a couple more pictures and a couple more moon rocks (in case they've changed since 1969), then rocket back home.

If our space program evolved at half the rate of the rest of our technology, I'd expect to be flying to Jupiter, landing on a ring, getting out and building a landing strip, so next time we can bring the kids. And there's the problem. Our kids won't buy it. The most technologically progressive things in our society are purchased by 15 to 24 year-olds. iPods, laptops, Xbox, and probably a million other devices I don't even know about... a new version of these comes out twice a year, and each time it's 50% smaller, 75% faster, and 120% cooler. If 15-24 year-olds bought space shuttles, they'd run 2000 hours on one battery charge, have touch screen interface (also running iTunes, facebook, and twitter), be piloted by adaptive intutive wii-type controllers, and look roughly like a Lotus Esprit (with a snap-on, colored plastic shell so your space shuttle didn't have to be the same color as your neighbor's).

What would Walter Cronkite say about that?

16 September 2008

Indeed the bigotry knows no bounds

What follows below is from an email I received today. By no means to I subscribe to anything in this; I just wanted to share it. I thought I would share what is being said, about a political candidate... one I happen to support, but that's not even relevant to how disgusted I was by what was said. And this wasn't said by some right-wing nut-job. This was forwarded to me by someone I thought of as a nice person, a caring person, a reasonable and rational person.

I'm deeply offended by what I read, but more importantly, I think this typifies an issue I see in the whole campaign this year. It seems the right can post crap like this, and it's everywhere. The left, unfortunately, is preaching to the converted. I write this blog, and already know that 90% of my readers already agree with me. I try to speak out on my Facebook page, and the right again knocks me for forcing my beliefs on them.

But they can send me this...
A lot of Americans have become so insulated from reality that they
imagine that America can suffer defeat without any inconvenience to themselves.
Pause a moment, reflect back. These events are actual events from history.. They
really happened!!! Do you remember?

1. 1968 Bobby Kennedy was shot and killed by a Muslim male extremist.

2. In 1972 at the Munich Olympics, athletes were kidnapped and
massacred by Muslim male extremists.

3. In 1979, the US embassy in Iran was taken over by Muslim male

4. During the 1980's a number of Americans were kidnapped in Lebanon by
Muslim male extremists.

5. In 1983, the US Marine barracks in Beirut was blown up by Muslim
male extremists.

6. In 1985 the cruise ship Achille Lauro was hijacked and a 70 year old
American passenger was murdered and thrown overboard in his wheelchair by Muslim
male extremists.

7. In 1985 TWA flight 847 was hijacked at Athens , and a US Navy diver
trying to rescue passengers was murdered by Muslim male extremists.

8. In 1988 , Pan Am Flight 103 was bombed by Muslim male extremists.

9. In 1993 the World Trade Center was bombed the first time by Muslim
male extremists.

10. In 1998, the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed by
Muslim male extremists.

11. On 9/11/01, four airliners were hijacked; two were used as missiles
to take down the World Trade Centers and of the remaining two, one crashed into
the US Pentagon and the other was diverted and crashed by the passengers.
Thousands of people were killed by Muslim male extremists.

12. In 2002 the United States fought a war in Afghanistan against
Muslim male extremists.

13. In 2002 reporter Daniel Pearl was kidnapped and murdered by-- you
guessed it-- Muslim male extremists.

No, I really don't see a pattern here to justify profiling, do you? So,
to ensure we Americans never offend anyone, particularly fanatics intent on
killing us, airport security screeners will no longer be allowed to profile
certain people... Absolutely No Profiling! They must conduct random searches of
80-year-old women, little kids, airline pilots with proper identification,
secret agents who are members of the President's security detail, 85-year old
Congressmen with metal hips, and Medal of Honor winner and former Governor Joe
Foss, but leave Muslim Males alone lest they be guilty of profiling.

According to The Book of Revelations: The Anti-Christ will be a man, in
his 40s, of MUSLIM descent, who will deceive the nations with persuasive
language, and have a MASSIVE Christ-like appeal....the prophecy says that people
will flock to him and he will promise false hope and world peace, and when he is
in power, he will destroy everything.

And Now: For the award winning Act of Stupidity Of all times the People
of America want to elect, to the most Powerful position on the face of the
Planet -- The Presidency of the United states of America .. A Male of Muslim
descent who is the most extremely liberal Senator in Congress (in other words an
extremist) and in his 40s.

Have the American People completely lost their Minds, or just their
Power of Reason ??? I'm sorry but I refuse to take a chance on the 'unknown'
candidate Obama... Let's send this to as many people as we can so that the
Gloria Aldreds and other stupid attorneys along with Federal Justices that want
to thwart common sense, feel ashamed of themselves -- if they have any such
sense. As the writer of the award winning story 'Forrest Gump' so aptly put it,
'Stupid Is As Stupid Does'.

I'm disgusted; how about you? And if you are, don't just tell me, forward the link. Infact, forward the link to every McCain supporter you know; every Independant you know; every undecided person you know. Forward the link to people who would agree, but only if they're going to send it on to everyone else they know who isn't already supporting Obama. We all know what's being said, and we're outraged, but the right isn't watching CNN or Bill Maher, they don't read the Huffington Post or my blog, they don't listen to NPR, and they're inbox isn't flooded with 100s of messages from my.BarackObama.com...

but perhaps they should be.

09 September 2008

It's 10 p.m.; do you know who your candidates are?

I don't normally quote other people here. Generally what I write is my own. But in this case, others have compiled these facts more completely than I could, so in this case, forgive me for borrowing.

That being said, do any of us know who McCain and Palin really are? With McCain, I can't figure out when the McCain who ran as an Independent in 2000 became the McCain running as a Republican in 2008. Moreover, I can't figure out who this candidate McCain is, when you compare his platform to the record of Senator McCain.

The 3 McCains aside, who on Earth is Sarah Palin? Asking what she's done that merits her nomination is apparently an inappropriate line of questioning, so we may never find out. So, since they won't tell you before Novemeber, let's take a look at what I've found out about this year's Republican ticket.

We'll start with John Sidney McCain III:
  1. John McCain voted against establishing a national holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Now he says his position has "evolved," yet he's continued to oppose key civil rights laws. 1 2
  2. According to Bloomberg News, McCain is more hawkish than Bush on Iraq, Russia and China. Conservative columnist Pat Buchanan says McCain "will make Cheney look like Gandhi." 3 4
  3. His reputation is built on his opposition to torture, but McCain voted against a bill to ban waterboarding, and then applauded President Bush for vetoing that ban. 5
  4. McCain opposes a woman's right to choose. He said, "I do not support Roe versus Wade. It should be overturned." 6
  5. The Children's Defense Fund rated McCain as the worst senator in Congress for children. He voted against the children's health care bill last year, then defended Bush's veto of the bill. 7 8
  6. He's one of the richest people in a Senate filled with millionaires. The Associated Press reports he and his wife own at least eight homes! Yet McCain says the solution to the housing crisis is for people facing foreclosure to get a "second job" and skip their vacations. 9 10
  7. Many of McCain's fellow Republican senators say he's too reckless to be commander in chief. One Republican senator said: "The thought of his being president sends a cold chill down my spine. He's erratic. He's hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries me." 11 12
  8. McCain talks a lot about taking on special interests, but his campaign manager and top advisers are actually lobbyists. The government watchdog group Public Citizen says McCain has 59 lobbyists raising money for his campaign, more than any of the other presidential candidates. 13 14
  9. McCain has sought closer ties to the extreme religious right in recent years. The pastor McCain calls his "spiritual guide," Rod Parsley, believes America's founding mission is to destroy Islam, which he calls a "false religion." McCain sought the political support of right-wing preacher John Hagee, who believes Hurricane Katrina was God's punishment for gay rights and called the Catholic Church "the Antichrist" and a "false cult." 15 16 17
  10. He positions himself as pro-environment, but he scored a 0—yes, zero—from the League of Conservation Voters last year. 18
And now Sarah Louise Heath Palin:
  1. Palin recently said that the war in Iraq is "God's task." She's even admitted she hasn't thought about the war much—just last year she was quoted saying, "I've been so focused on state government, I haven't really focused much on the war in Iraq." 1 2
  2. Palin has actively sought the support of the fringe Alaska Independence Party. Six months ago, Palin told members of the group—who advocate for a vote on secession from the union—to "keep up the good work" and "wished the party luck on what she called its 'inspiring convention.'" 3
  3. Palin wants to teach creationism in public schools. She hasn't made clear whether she thinks evolution is a fact. 4
  4. Palin doesn't believe that humans contribute to global warming. Speaking about climate change, she said, "I'm not one though who would attribute it to being manmade. 5
  5. Palin has close ties to Big Oil. Her inauguration was even sponsored by BP. 6
  6. Palin is extremely anti-choice. She doesn't even support abortion in the case of rape or incest. 7
  7. Palin opposes comprehensive sex-ed in public schools. She's said she will only support abstinence-only approaches. 8
  8. As mayor, Palin tried to ban books from the library. Palin asked the library how she might go about banning books because some had inappropriate language in them—shocking the librarian, Mary Ellen Baker. According to Time, "news reports from the time show that Palin had threatened to fire Baker for not giving "full support" to the mayor." 9
  9. She DID support the Bridge to Nowhere (before she opposed it). Palin claimed that she said "thanks, but no thanks" to the infamous Bridge to Nowhere. But in 2006, Palin supported the project repeatedly, saying that Alaska should take advantage of earmarks "while our congressional delegation is in a strong position to assist." 10
So there's 10 things you may or may not have known -- 10 things the McCain - Palin camp never would have told you -- about the 2008 Republican ticket. Just thought you should know.

12 August 2008

With apologies to the Dalai Lama

The games of the 29th Olympiad began on August 8th, in Beijing, China, and boy did they start with a bang. The Opening Ceremonies were a stunning amalgamation of technology and human precision that amazed, shocked, and even scared. A 500 x 70 meter LED display merged seamlessly with an enormous piece of canvas painted by the flowing movements of 5 dancers. A pyrotechnics display worthy of 10 Independence Days -- but hey, the Chinese did invent fireworks -- was overlayed by even more digital fireworks; the media had to inform us 4 days later that we had all been tricked. 2008 martial arts experts performed synchronized Tai Chi. 2008 drummers performed flawlessly synchronized... well, drumming. The list went on... and on... to the point that each performer performed only once; hundreds of thousands of performers, each performing once. This was art by an army. If this is how China opens a sporting competition, God help us if they decide to invade someone.

But China isn't invading anyone; we'll leave that to Russia. The Russian and Georgian medalist, in pistol, even, did stand peacefully next to each other on the medal podium, but 3600 miles away in Tbilisi, it's a different story. China, on the other hand, has been putting their best political face forward, something NBC's been calling the "Charm Offensive". The host nation has been open and welcoming (as long as your camera stays pointed in the right direction), and the people seem to be expressing some degree of personal freedom. That's not to say, however, that the gymnasts don't appear to fear beheading as a penalty for winning less than gold.

But they are winning gold. So are the divers. In fact, China seems to be excelling in every sport based on subjective scoring. If you have to be the first to touch the pad, look to Phelps. If it's about a ball going through a hoop or over a net, Team USA can make it happen. But, put a "judge" in the mix... well, let's say that the American uniform seems to have an adverse effect of an athlete's form. Perhaps all those stars and stripes are confusing to the eye.

I hate to be sour, and I try to be objective. I'm not the most patriotic person in this country, and often cheer on the Canadians, the Irish, the Russians, or any team that happened to catch me in a certain way. I like the Olympics for the spirit of competition, and to watch records being broken; I'm not effected by whether it's the Americans or the Ukrainians doing it. But what I've seem of the judging this year's competition bothers me. Men's gymnastics bothered me. I know China was the favourite, but that's all that seemed to matter. When the US men performed vaults of difficulty beyond any other team, their scores still couldn't touch the marks awarded to China for "adequate" performances.

Diving is a sport I understand much better. I have experience in it, I've coached it, and I understand exactly how it's judged. What I don't understand is how a dive with crossed legs, over-arched back, and over-rotation gets a 10.0. Well? Australian judge? Care to comment? OK, I won't jump to any conclusions about the character of anyone I don't personally know, but I will point out that bribes were handed out back when Salt Lake was petitioning to be a host city. Those who accepted said bribes have been discharged, so... everything has to be on the up-and-up now... right?

Speaking of money -- and while we're at it, speaking of not speaking -- let's discuss our friends at NBC. Nothing like critical journalism. Every once in a blue moon you'll hear a statement that sounds like it might want to be a dissent, but then it tapers off into "... and this is a pretty good dive, and it has a high degree of difficulty, so we should see scores in the 80's". We should see scores in the 80's because we've been instructed we will see those scores, the judges have been instructed give give those scores, and the broadcasters have been instructed to give those scores. Remember, this is still a totalitarian state.

If you missed Chinese totalitarianism, it was covered in the 1,000 year gap in the history lesson they gave us in the Opening Ceremonies. 250,000 BC: China invents fire. 2000 BC: Dynastic China begins. 1045 AD: China invents movable type. 1912 to 2006: Nothing happened. Then China got the Olympics, and China found freedom. It's akin to a German history book missing the pages from 1933 to 1945. And the media has bought into it. Once, just once, I caught an interpreter slip up, and render "I'm very happy to have won, and in front of all of China, and the Chairman is here." In every other occurrence the translation "President" seems to be preferred.

And President does sound better. It fits the image we're being handed of happy Chinese people, running little acrobatics studios out of their homes, and eating scorpion-on-a-stick at local stands. The puff pieces have been wonderful. Former pro tennis player Mary Carillo wanders around China, sampling the Government-sanctioned culture -- at one point one of her interviewees stated "entrepreneur" wasn't an appropriate term, likely because she wasn't entitled to actually make any money from her home business -- while Bob Costas (who made remarks on the China Team's possible drug use during both the 1992 Barcelona and 1996 Atlanta Olympics) instead repeatedly interviews Béla Károlyi, who's complete failure of the English languages provides us with great insight like "they must stay on the apparatus [pronounced ah-pah-rah-toose]".

Occasionally, though, there are some watchable Olympic events. Michael Phelps continues to build on his world record for the most world records, now the winningest human in Olympic History with (at the time of this writing) 11 Gold Medals. By closing ceremonies, he is expected to hold a world and Olympic record in each event he swims, a Gold Medal for each, more Gold Medals than any other Olympic athlete, and the most Gold Medals ever awarded to a single person in a single Olympiad. His mantra has been amended from "Eat, Sleep, Swim" to "Eat, Sleep, Swim, Get Medal, Get Drug Tested". Luckily, the urine, blood, hair, stool, and marrow samples he's given will prevent any questioning of his performance, and at least in this one event, there are no judges to somehow steal medals from the fastest man on Earth in water.

And so, all this said, I will continue to tune in, to watch all the events where medals are based on being the fastest, or scoring the most baskets, kills, or goals. Objectivity seems to be at a minimum at these games, but for those events where it still exists, I will watch...

with apologies to the Dalai Lama.

16 July 2008

An Open Letter to the Greater Hartford Arts Council

Every year the Hartford Advocate and the Greater Hartford Arts Council put together a local music showcase called the Hartford Advocate Grand Band Slam. Over the years, many of my friends' bands have been nominated, many have been offered for nomination, and many have been completely overlooked. This year, I received a notification from one of these friends, Ronnie Neuhauser, calling to supporters to nominated his band for this years contest. Normally, I would think that asking your friends to nominate your band would defeat the value of a nomination process, but knowing how these things (unfortunately) work, I completely understood the call for support.

As a friend and fan of Ronnie's, a supporter of local music, and a musician myself, I felt compelled to share Ronnie's thoughts on the subject. I will add first my own editorial that Ronnie and the members of his ensemble are among the most talented individuals I have ever seen perform, and without a doubt, the most original and creative group of musicians in the area.

Ronnie's letter:

Dear Greater Hartford Arts Council,

My name is Ronnie Neuhauser, composer/guitarist for No Cheez Orchestra and Styrocultural Antidote. I wanted to bring to your attention something I feel very strongly about. It is quite upsetting that the Grand Band Slam, a contest where I imagine the intent is to support creative local artists; is nothing but a popularity contest. This is disturbing because every contest I come across, especially corporate sponsored ones, have zero to do with the art form. A contest of this fashion immediately excludes many artists who are doing something different (of course there are a few exceptions). It's bad enough that the current culture has such a narrow view of what music is because of the corporate musical landscape, but for an establishment whose intent should be to give voice to artists pushing boundaries; this is nothing short of frightening. I was hoping a contest devised by an arts council would be much different. Why not have a group of judges who at least have some idea of aesthetics decide? The contest/event should cater to artists. As I examine these events I find that the artist becomes the least important participant. I hope you give my thoughts serious consideration and I'd certainly love to speak in more detail about it.

I believe the council has an obligation to help establish ground breaking artists, and give a voice to those who are being marginalized.

Peace, Ronnie

09 July 2008


A few things have come to convergence in my head, kind of all at once, that have brought me to a realization.

First is that I felt the need to write, but wondered if I could produce something apolitical at the moment. Everything I've felt compelled to write lately has been about the state of the nation in one way or another, and although I'm happy to share all my thoughts on the subject, I wanted to just write something more... mundane.

Also today, I came to the understanding that Waterfest 14 would not be in the cards for me. There are plenty of other VW events this summer, so I have no issue missing this one. But in thinking about the show, and why I wanted to go, I came to the realization that I haven't gone anywhere in a while. Now that relates back to the previous point, in that some of my favourite blogs have been about travel and trips.

I've also realized that I've been saying more and more often lately, that I want to move. And when I say move, I mean really move. Out of this area, out of Connecticut, and out of the country. France is really sticking with me, and although I know it's only one of many possible destinations, the idea of being ready to leave continent and language behind, without fear, proves my readiness to pack it all up and go.

So... it would seem I need to stretch my legs a bit. No, I'm not leaving for France tomorrow, but I'd like to wander. In February I drove from one side of this land to the other, and now I have a better understanding of how varied this country is. Now I want to see more. This summer seems to be a good time to do some travelling. Nothing serious; nothing costly; nothing far. Sunday, I hope to go up to Woodstock, CT (no relation to the hippy festival). Maybe I'll take a bunch of little trips like this. Gas is pricey, but at 30 miles to the gallon, I can still roam a bit on $20 to 25.

Connecticut is getting too small. Soon enough it will be too small to stay. But for now, it's time to see a bit more of it, and the surrounding area. As I learned this winter, there's much more to see than what I've come to know. On a related point, a quotation I just stumbled across. "Hitler didn't travel. Stalin didn't travel. Saddam Hussein never traveled. They didn't want to have their orthodoxy challenged." — Howard Gardner

I, on the other hand, am more than happy to have mine challenged... in fact, I welcome it.

02 July 2008

Independence Day

Friday, July 4, is Independence Day. I hate when people call it "The Fourth of July". The 4th of July is a date, not a holiday. By that logic, I should celebrate "The Seventh of March"; seems just as valid. Or why not "The Nineteenth of May"? That one sounds good.

But the one coming up is Independence Day. It's a good holiday. About as American a holiday as one could have. We celebrate the day we declared ourselves a nation, we drink beer, we grill beef, we blow shit up. Yup, as American as they come.

I'm not against Independence Day. I'm against Independence... but at this point, I don't think the Queen would have us back. Independence Day should stand to remind us, once annually, that we are a bunch of wet-behind-the-ears punks. This year, it will be 232 whole years, which in Nation terms makes us about 12.

Would you let your twelve year old declare war?

400 years ago, a bunch of disgruntled religious extremists (Yes, don't you remember studying the Puritans in 9th grade history and English Lit?) left England to sail forth to find a new place to practice their stonings and witch-hunting. They came across this great nation -- and the great Nation that inhabited it -- and by their own arrogance, claimed it as their own... but still as a colony of their mother country (they were nuts, but not without a sense of economic prudence).

165 years passed -- we'll skip over the gloomy part about what happened to the native inhabitants -- and (as legend has it) finally got fed up one day about tea. Now in the past 168 years, they had pretty much given up the whole funny-hats, witch-stoning religious odd-ball-ity, and settled for... well basically the same religion they were practicing back home that they were oh so oppressed by (oh, and some had become Quakers... that's an interesting one... but for another time, perhaps).

So, in 1773, the blood of much tea was spilled. 3 years later, they justified their costumed vigilantism (kinda like Batman, less the cape, add Indian feathers, loose the cool gadgets, and add a distaste for tea and taxation) with a documented, ratified, and official declaration, wherein they called the British a bunch of tyrants, and said "we don't have to stand for this."

Sic semper tyrannis!

Actually that's what John Wilkes Booth
said after he shot Lincoln, but the message was the same, and we declared war on Britain.

Fast forward another 232 years, and I sit on a beach, watching fireworks, and listening to bad music. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against John Philip Sousa; it's the rest of the dreck... the patriotic "pop" music... that leaves much to be desired. If there's one in particular that makes me want to kick babies, it's "Proud to be an American" by good old Lee Greenwood. "And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free." Listen, Lee, you can be free in Finland... where you can also have Universal Healthcare and the greatest standard of living in the world. Plus, you get the added benefit of having a head of state who isn't the laughing stock of the planet.

"...at least I know I'm free." Yeah, at least you have that. Your country may unlawfully torture non-combat detainees in a secure and secretive base on the shore of an enemy nation we've been in embargo with for greater than 50 years while ignoring all UN requests for meer inspection... but at least you know you're free. It's like saying I'm proud to be complete trailer trash, where at least I know no one will rob me.

OK, but enough bashing of trailer trash.

If it's not Lee Greenwood, maiking me want to move to Bulgaria, or the 6 tone-deaf assholes behind me singing along, or the "Town Band" murdering the 120 year old classics of Mr. Sousa, then its the ignorantly inappropriate "Born in the USA". Yup, Bruce Springsteen's classic rock anthem... you know it, you love it, I love it... I will not disparage The Boss. But apparently no one knows what it means. Maybe when Bruce denied Ronald Reagan the right to campaign, we might have remembered why. No? Well, because it's not a song of nationalism or patriotism, that's why.

I got in a little hometown jam
And so they put a rifle in my hands
Sent me off to Vietnam
To go and kill the yellow man

That's patriotic, right? Killing is the name of one's nation is about as nationalist as one can get.

Come back home to the refinery
Hiring man says "Son if it was up to me"
I go down to see the V.A. man
He said "Son don't you understand"

Oh, that must be the patriotism... not being hired after coming back from serving his country?

I had a buddy at Khe Sahn
Fighting off the Viet Cong
They're still there, he's all gone
He had a little girl in Saigon
I got a picture of him in her arms

Patriotic yet?

Down in the shadow of the penitentiary
Out by the gas fires of the refinery
I'm ten years down the road
Nowhere to run, ain't got nowhere to go

Homeless vets. Yup. Yeah, not so patriotic, I agree. So... back to Independence Day.

Annoying music -- either by lyric, performance, or blatant inappriopriateness -- coupled with drunken yahoos -- any statutes forbidding drinking in public do seem to be ignored on this day -- form the bachground for the true spectacle of the Independence Day celebration: Fireworks.

Thank you to the 9th century Chinese for giving us the telltale expression of our most American holiday. Granted, these days the greatest fireworks in the US come from an Italian-American family in Long Island named Grucci, who have been making American-made firworks since 1850. A typical Grucci fireworks program costs about $100,000. Bear than in mind the next time you pay your city tax bill.

Or, you can go down to your local fireworks store, or drive to New Hampshire, South Carolina, or whatever your closest legal state to buy fireworks and illegally bring them back to your own, crack open a can of your favorite canned beer, fire up your grill, sit the kids on the lawn, and procede to blow your own hand off.

Happy 4th of July.