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'Cause the 1337 Run the Street

If you're like me, and I know I am, then you dig 1337-speak and hip hop. Fortunately for us, someone has finally put them together and thrown in a text-to-speech engine for good measure. If you've got time to kill, check out Microsoft Sam's work (including his battle with AT&T's text-to-speech engine AT&T Mike) over at YTMND.com:

I overclock and run hot when I'm rocking the bed,
And use System Restore to rise from the dead...


Henry Hazlitt and the MLB Playoffs

Much has been made of the Colorado Rockies’ amazing run. I'm as guility as any. With my Minnesota Twins and their rivals the Chicago White Sox both failing to reach the post-season, I have no vested interest in rooting for or against any of the current contenders, and because of the Rockies' improbable success, I too have become sick with Purple Fever. Colorado won 12-of-13 at the end of the regular season to force a one-game tiebreaker with the San Diego Padres, beat the Padres, and just swept the Philadelphia Philles in the best-of-five Divisional Series. They were the last team to qualify for the post-season, and having won 16-of-17 are also the hottest team in baseball.

The Rockies’ thrilling climb to the National League Championship Series is being held up as justification of the three-division league format and wild card. Proponents point out that the wild card is providing fans with exciting pennant races that wouldn’t otherwise exist if it weren’t for the wild card. I think otherwise.

I’m reminded of Henry Hazlitt’s One Lesson. Like the proponents of redistribution and taxation that lack the imagination to visualize what private capital would produce were it not confiscated for public government use, the proponents of the wild card lack even more imagination in their inability to visualize the pennant races that are wiped out by the wild card.

Last year the Minnesota Twins, led by the emergence of once-in-a-generation rookie pitching phenom Francisco Liriano*, stormed back from a terrible first two months of the 2006 season to steal the American League Central Division crown from the Detroit Tigers on the final day of the season, and the Tigers had to get swept by the lowly Kansas City Royals in their last series of the season for it to happen. What normally would have been a pennant race for the ages is reduced to a minor footnote in the history of the 2006 season, because the Tigers, despite having blown a commanding lead in the division over the final two months of the season, won the wild card and still qualified for the post-season.

The wild card wiped out another potentially classic pennant race this season. The 2007 Yankees, like the 2006 Twins, stumbled hard out of the gate but fought back into contention and threatened the Boston Red Sox for the division at the end of the season. But like the 2006 Tigers, during the final two weeks of the regular season it was clear that if they failed to win the division they would still win the wild card berth. The Yankees came up just short of besting their heated division rivals the Red Sox, but still made the post season in anti-climactic fashion.

Unlike its proponents, I always saw the wild card as the unfortunate and predictable result of the flawed three-division system (like the secondary wave of regulation that always accompanies rent control). The 1987 season is mildly infamous because, prior to the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals and their 83 regular season wins, the 1987 Minnesota Twins had the worst regular season record of any World Series champion with just 85. There were three teams in the American League East (Blue Jays, Brewers, Yankees) that finished the 162-game season with a better record than the American League West champion Twins but were not included in the post-season. Many writers and fans of the day noted that this bordered on football-level ridiculous, where two 9-7 teams go to the playoffs and a third is left out simply for convenience. Thus, the wild card was created to give relief to teams like the 1987 Blue Jays. But it still failed to do anything about teams like the 2006 Cardinals.

A better system, acknowledging that baseball would never go for a reduction of playoff teams because of increased post-season broadcast revenues, would be to: (A) remove interleague play, (B) disband divisions, (C) reinstate balanced schedules and (D) allow the top four teams from each league to go to the post-season.

A. Interleague play doesn’t draw more fans to the park in any significant numbers. As interleague series are typically scheduled during better weekends and months of the season, when controlled for when they occur, they barely outdraw regular league play, so Major League Baseball wouldn’t take a significant financial hit in getting rid of them. And if the American League and National League never played each other during the regular season, fans wouldn’t have to worry about how playoff teams from opposite leagues compared to each other via their regular season records.

B. Disbanding divisions within each league would make sure the best teams in each league always represented the league in the post-season.

C. Without divisions, Major League Baseball's current practice of weighting schedules to favor intradivision play would no longer be necessary.

D. For the purists, there'd still be one pennant, well... playoff race per league. The best team in each league would have the advantage of a three team cushion and could rest and ready their rosters for the playoffs. Home field advantage and seeding for the post-season don't have the added complications that a wild card team cannot play a team from their own division in the first round (even when this disrupts seeding based on records) and cannot have home field advantage (even when this disrupts home field advantage based on record). 

The only other complication I can think of is that at the end of baseball’s six month marathon regular season, the sport has to complete with college and professional football for viewership. The expansion of the playoffs and creation of the wild card is credited with keeping more casual fans interested at the end of the season. Then the question is, is it the number of teams still in contention that keeps casual fans interested or is it the number of playoff races? If it’s the former, my suggestion addresses this concern as well.

* Liriano was the only pitcher to finish in the top 16 in VORP that season who didn't throw at least 200 innings. He threw only 121.


Rocktoberfest Continues

Oddly enough, it's hard for me to write about baseball when so much of it is going down. I tried writing nightly updates from SABR 37 for the blog of the independent Twins program I'm on staff at, but fell short after my first two days in St. Louis (it was my idea so my editor didn't get on me for flaking). Who wants to run back up to their hotel room and sit in front of a laptop when you can talk baseball with a bunch of other nerds until the hotel bar closes?

In that same vein, I intended to write more about the playoffs, but TBS has been running back-to-back-to-back games the last two nights. That comes out to ten straight hours of post-season baseball per night! I cashed in one of my three remaining vacation days for the calendar year at work and blew off my classes on Wednesday to sit on my couch from 2:00 PM until midnight. I forsook sleep to watch parts of each Thursday game sandwiched in between class and work last night. My head is swimming (due in part to the lack of rest).

The miracle Rockies are up two games to none in their best-of-five and haven't played a home game yet. The Diamondbacks are starting rookies at third base, center field and right field and have also won the first two games of their series against the accursed Cubs. The Cleveland Indians destroyed the Evil Empire 12-3 in their first meeting. And the Sawks won the first game of their series behind ace Josh Beckett, who retired 19 consecutive Angels over a six-plus inning stretch (with the first round being best-of-five, my $20 bet on the Angels at 9/2 to win the World Series is now heavily in the house's favor).

There are two games Friday, and the pitching match up in the late game is stellar. The Sawks host the Angels with Boston sending Japanese import Daisuke Matsuzaka against the Venezuelan Kelvim Escobar. If I was going to watch only one game in the first round, this would be it (start time of 8:30 PM Eastern on TBS).

With my hometown Twins long out of contention, I end up thinking about friends that root for different teams. My buddy Ram grew up in the Rio Grande Valley, too far from Dallas and Houston to be a Rangers or Astros fan, but thanks to WGN could watch the vast majority of Cubs games as a child. He's out on tour with his band (which I'll plug since this is a culture blog and their new record is good), and in addition to the rigors of the road he now has to deal with the 0-2 hole the Cubbies have dug for themselves. He'll eventually pull through. Die hard Cubs fans are already 98% scar tissue.


LaborPains.Org Typo

Shouldn't that really be a $1,337 paycut instead?


Drive Like Jehu

I don't know why, as a twenty-something free market oriented straight guy from flyover, I find my way to blogs like Jezebel. High fashion and celebrity gossip doesn't generate much interest for me. The editors are very funny, but I can't go along with their boycott of the phrase "making love" out of respect for a pair of great Kyuss tunes. That only makes sense though. A bunch of stoners playing guitar through bass amps at generator parties out in the desert of the Coachella Valley is as far from New York City-based Gawker media outfit as things can get.

The appeal of the site, best I can describe it, is what-if-the-people-at-Pandagon-weren't-batshit-insane-and-had-a-sense-of-humor? I think that's akin to the scene in UHF in which Weird Al describes running a television station as identical to working at a fish market, save for having to clean and gut fish all day. What draws me back to the site is the weird tension that arises when class warriors devote large amounts of coverage to tabloid celebrities. Gawker is right, as their trainwreck of choice can, from time to time, produce mine.

I don't want to leave a negative impression of the site. The women of Jezebel do good work, are open minded, if I remember correctly managing edtior Anna Homes is a Cardinals fan*, and I found Jezebel's discussion of gray rape as interesting as Brian Macker's. It's the kind of place I'd like to comment at save for the vast majority of the blog's readership having little interest in my point of view (which is fine). Instead, I think I'll go reinforce the patriarchy.

In a completely unrelated note, the Rockies won their franchise record tenth straight game behind starter Josh Fogg last night but failed to gain any ground as both the Phillies and Padres notched victories as well. This is pulling at my heartstrings. Keep fighting Big Purple!

* I know, I know. If Jack Clark was healthy things probably would have turned out differently.


Rocky Mountain High

As I write this, the Colorado Rockies are nine outs away from winning their ninth straight game. It's probably too little, too late, as Baseball Prospectus lists them as having about a 15% chance of reaching the post season, but those odds came out prior to Philadelphia's loss to Atlanta and San Diego's probable loss to San Francisco, which would leave the Rockies only a half game back of the of the Padres and tied with the Phillies for second in the wild card standings.

If they are able to pull off a miracle September (they're 15-7 already this month), here is how they'd stack up against the other playoff teams that I listed in my post season wagering overview last week:

A. Defensive Efficiency
1. Cubs - 71.3%
2. Red Sox - 71.2%
3. Mets - 71.0%
4. Padres - 70.7%
5. Diamondbacks - 70.5%
6. Rockies - 70.4%
7. Yankees - 69.5%
8. Indians - 69.3%
9. Phillies - 69.1%
10. Angels - 68.9%
11. Brewers - 68.4%

B. Fielding Independent Pitching of Top Three Starters
1. Padres (Peavy/Young/Maddux) - 3.16
2. Angels (Escobar/Lackey/Weaver) - 3.79
3. Indians (Sabathia/Carmona/Westbrook) - 3.92
4. Brewers (Gallardo/Sheets/Suppan) - 3.94
5. Red Sox (Beckett/Schilling/Matsuzaka) - 3.97
6. Yankees (Wang/Pettitte/Clemens) - 4.00
7. Rockies (Francis/Jimenez/Morales) - 4.19
8. Diamondbacks (Webb/Davis/Owings) - 4.24
9. Cubs (Lilly/Hill/Zambrano) - 4.43
10. Mets (Glavine/Maine/Perez) - 4.49
11. Phillies (Hamels/Moyer/Lohse) - 4.61

C. Fielding Independent Pitching of Closer
1. Brewers (Cordero) - 1.67
2. Red Sox (Papelbon) - 2.58
3. Mets (Wagner) - 2.74
4. Yankees (Rivera) - 2.74
5. Angels (Rodriguez) - 2.75
6. Padres (Hoffman) - 2.85
7. Rockies (Corpas) - 3.33
8. Diamondbacks (Valverde) - 3.63
9. Phillies (Myers) 3.71
10. Indians (Borowski) - 3.82
11. Cubs (Dempster) - 3.89

Ranking 5th, 7th and 7th doesn't speak very highly of the Rockies odds should they get to the post-season. But even storing baseballs in a humidor to try and offset playing a mile above sea level, the team's home park could provide a hiccup for a better club in October. If anything, it is thriling to watch their current surge and I'll be rooting for them to keep their streak alive.

UPDATE: In the time it has taken me to type this, the Rockies have now gone up by two runs over the Dodgers. It is currently 7-5 in the bottom of the eighth and Los Angeles has a man on first with no one out. Unfortunately for the Rockies, the Padres just put up a four-spot on the Giants in the top of the ninth and now lead San Francisco 6-4. It doesn't look good for Giants or Rockies fans, as San Francisco will bring Roberts, Frandsen and Winn to the plate in the bottom of the ninth. Perhaps some pinch hit heroics from Barry Bonds? Only if the Giants hitters are able to do something with Trevor Hoffman's Bugs Bunny change-up...

UPDATE: Roberts flies to left, Frandsen reaches on an infield single to short and Winn reaches on an infield single to the pitcher... but Molina grounds into a double play to end the game! The Padres will stay at least full game head of the Rockies. Meanwhile the Dodgers have cut the Rockies lead to a single run and the score now stands 7-6 entering the top of the ninth.

UPDATE: Hawpe whiffs, Torrealba doubles to left, Spilborgs doubles to right scoring Torrealba, Carroll singles to right scoring Spilborgs, Matsui flies to center and Tulowitzki whiffs to put the Rockies up 9-6. The aforementioned Corpas will try to nail down the win in the bottom of the ninth against Loney, Young and Martin. No easy task.

UPDATE: Oh no: Loney grounds out but Delwyn Young homers! 9-7 Rockies...

UPDATE: Martin grounds out but Ethier doubles to deep center! LaRoche can tie the game with one swing of the bat...

UPDATE: LaRoche grounds out to second and the Rockies hang on. They pick up a game on the Phillies and remain one back of the Padres for the National League Wild Card berth. That's now nine straight wins for Colorado.

I love late-season baseball.


Manatees Could Care Less

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays are now the Tampa Bay Rays, and man did they miss the boat. Even after changing their name, they're still the only Major League team that claims dominion over a body of water instead of a city or state. Who cares if they play in Saint Petersburg? Both New York football teams play in New Jersey. You can't tell me that the people of Tampa look down on Saint Petersburg more than the natives of New York look down on Jersey. Due to the franchise's short but consistent history of ineptitude, many fans had taken to calling the team the Devil Dogs. In addition to wiping out their unoficial team name, the franchise has also leaked the most bland logo and uniform ever to grace a baseball diamond. I guess top prospect Joe Player looks sort of confident in the artist's rednerings, though he must have paid a tidy sum in kangaroo court to take over Rocco Baldelli's number.

Back in 2005, New Jersey State Assemblyman Craig Stanley (also a Baptist deacon), pushed for the New Jersey Devils of the National Hockey League to remove their "negative symbolism" but was quickly shot down, as the hockey team's name is an homage to the Jersey Devil.

I'm surprised the Left hasn't covered this more (Dave Zirin where are you?), but I didn't find any protests by Christian fundies during a quick googling. My guess is that team officials citing a negative association in focus groups last year is almost as bland as the team's new uniforms, leaving Progressive browbeaters with little ammunition.


Saints and Snakes

I love gambling and futures markets (although I've never placed more than a $20 bet on anything in my life). With that in mind, and the Major League Baseball season winding down, I'd like to recommend a couple of bets to make on which team wins the World Series this year.

Linesmaker.com has the current odds:
Red Sox - 3/1
Yankees - 3/1
Mets - 4/1
Angels - 9/2
Indians - 7/1
Cubs - 8/1
Diamondbacks - 9/1
Padres - 12/1
Phillies - 15/1
Brewers - 25/1

Studies have shown that there are only three strong statistical predictors of playoff success: (1) team defensive efficiency, (2) the quality of a team's top three starting pitchers and (3) the quality of a team’s closer. This makes sense if the best hitters in the league feast on poor pitching and produce a disproportionate number of their counting stats against the third, fourth and fifth starters on average to poor teams. In the post season, with the best teams moving to four (and even three) man starting rotations the disproportional increase in the quality of pitching (relative to the increase in the quality of hitting) reduces the importance of offense and to some degree closes whatever gap in run production exists between opponents. Here are how the aforementioned ten teams stack up:

A. Defensive Efficiency*
1. Cubs - 71.3%
2. Red Sox - 71.2%
3. Mets - 71.0%
4. Padres - 70.7%
5. Diamondbacks - 70.5%
6. Yankees - 69.5%
7. Indians - 69.3%
8. Phillies - 69.1%
9. Angels - 68.9%
10. Brewers - 68.4%

B. Fielding Independent Pitching of Top Three Starters**
1. Padres (Peavy/Young/Maddux) - 3.16
2. Angels (Escobar/Lackey/Weaver) - 3.79
3. Indians (Sabathia/Carmona/Westbrook) - 3.92
4. Brewers (Gallardo/Sheets/Suppan) - 3.94
5. Red Sox (Beckett/Schilling/Matsuzaka) - 3.97
6. Yankees (Wang/Pettitte/Clemens) - 4.00
7. Diamondbacks (Webb/Davis/Owings) - 4.24
8. Cubs (Lilly/Hill/Zambrano) - 4.43
9. Mets (Glavine/Maine/Perez) - 4.49
10. Phillies (Hamels/Moyer/Lohse) - 4.61

C. Fielding Independent Pitching of Closer
1. Brewers (Cordero) - 1.67
2. Red Sox (Papelbon) - 2.58
3. Mets (Wagner) - 2.74
4. Yankees (Rivera) - 2.74
5. Angels (Rodriguez) - 2.75
6. Padres (Hoffman) - 2.85
7. Diamondbacks (Valverde) - 3.63
8. Phillies (Myers) 3.71
9. Indians (Borowski) - 3.82
10. Cubs (Dempster) - 3.89

Bear in mind that I'm not applying the proper weight to each of the three metrics. There is no way a team's closer is as important as their top three starters. But still, this should provide a quick overview of how teams compare to each other respectively. Pair that up with some observations and I've got a decent idea of where the good wagers lie.

Red Sox - 3/1
The Red Sox have to be the favorites to win the World Series. They have a very underrated defense and a strong rotation and closer to go with a solid offense. The safe bet at 3/1.

Yankees - 3/1
The Yankees are an older club that doesn't field the ball exceptionally well and lacks a dominant starting rotation. They've bashed their way through the regular season and are hot as of late, but there isn't much evidence to support the claim that momentum heading into the playoffs is of much importance. The first round is a best-of-five and the team that wins the first game digs a huge hole for their opponent, well big enough to wipe out any momentum gained by a late season surge. Stay away from betting on the Yankees this fall. Worst of any odds at 3/1.

Mets - 4/1
The Mets have the best record in the National League, field the ball well, have a solid closer and a very powerful offense. However, their rotation has two huge question marks. Their top two starters weren't factored into the numbers listed above as it remains to be seen how effective Pedro Martinez will be after missing the majority of the season (he's only made two starts since coming off the disabled list) and if Orlando "El Duqe" Hernandez*** will be able to pitch in the post season. Martinez' velocity continues to decline through injury and age but he's been able to rely on movement and pitched very well in his first two starts coming back. Hernandez on the other hand is in danger of being shelved for the year because of bunions. The team has ordered custom shoes as a last-ditch effort to have him pitch this October. The Mets have been the class of the National League all season, but the competition is no where near as tough as in the American League, and they've got too many question marks in their rotation. Too risky at 4/1.

Angels - 9/2
If only the Angels fielded the ball a little better... I'd tell everyone I know to throw $20 on them to win the World Series this season. They have the most underrated pitching of any playoff team. Escobar is a borderline Cy Young candidate and Lackey and Weaver don't get the national respect they deserve. Their top three match up well with any other team's. Good odds at 9/2.

Indians - 7/1
Their top two starters, Sabathia and Carmona, are legitimate but the rest of the rotation doesn't deserve to pitch in the post-season. Couple the lack of a third starter with a club that doesn't play stellar defense and you've got a team that is going to have a hard time winning a best-of-seven. They might make the American League Championship Series, but they'll have a tough time advancing to the World Series let alone winning it. Not big enough at 7/1.

Cubs - 8/1
Unless Carlos Zambrano can snap back into form after a very troubled season, the Cubs won't have the pitching necessary to couple with their stellar defense. Seeing as Zambrano has gone Section VIII, I wouldn't put my money on it. Not enough arms to warrant 8/1.

Diamondbacks - 9/1
The starters that follow Brandon Webb in the rotation don't intimidate anyone and the team is pretty average in every other respect. While being the dark horse pick to win the weakest division in baseball made them a great pre-season bet to reach the post-season, the Snakes are going to fall apart against the tougher competition they'll face. Not big enough at 9/1.

Padres - 12/1
Their odds are a little inflated because there is still a chance the Phillies could edge them out for the wild card and the Padres would wind up missing the playoffs. They've got everything you'd want statistically from an October-bound team. They just have no offense. Still, at 12/1 the price is definitely right. Not as good a bet as the Angels, but worth a roll of the dice at 12/1.

Phillies - 15/1
Odds are the Phillies will lose the wild card race to the Padres and even if they make it, they don't have enough pitching to win it all. Not big enough at 15/1.

Brewers - 25/1
These odds should be bigger. The Brewers' ace Ben Sheets isn't healthy and this team can't survive without him at full strength. It was a nice run but they won't overtake the Cubs in the National League Central and won't make the playoffs. Not big enough at 25/1.

I'm going to throw $20 down on the Angels and maybe $2-5 on the Padres. I'm way ahead after picking the Diamondbacks (7/1) and Indians (5/1) to win their respective divisions before the season began (both $20 bets). I suppose I could roll the $240 over into my world series bets, but I'd rather spend the winnings and stick with my self imposed $20 limit.

* The percentage of balls put in play (ingores walks, hit batsmen, out-of-the-park homeruns and strike outs) that the defense converts into outs. Statistics taken from Baseball Prospectus.

** Fielding Independent Pitching is a measure of all those things for which a pitcher is specifically responsible. The formula is (HR*13+(BB+HBP)*3-K*2)/IP, plus a league-specific factor (usually around 3.2) to round out the number to an equivalent ERA number. FIP helps you understand how well a pitcher pitched, regardless of how well his fielders fielded. FIP was invented by Tom Tango. Statistics taken from the Hardball Times.

*** Orlando Hernandez has to be the official baseball player of The 'Verse. When his half-brother Livan Hernadez, who currently pitches for the Diamondbacks, defected from Cuba to play professionally in America, Orlando was detained by the Cuban government and three months later banned from pitching. He defected from Cuba via boat and became famous for his post-season pitching during the three consecutive World Series titles won by his New York Yankees from 1998-2000.


The Ausmus Effect

I can't remember who branded it, but there is an often observed inverse relationship between the actual offensive production and undeserved defensive reputation of batters in Major League Baseball, and it's called the Ausmus Effect in dishonor of Houston Astros catcher Brad Ausmus.

Ausmus had a few tolerable seasons at the plate early in his career but soon settled into sustained mediocrity. At the same time his defensive reputation rose, resulting in a few undeserved Gold Glove awards (given out to the best fielder at each position in both the American League and National League).

The same thing has happened to a player on my beloved Minnesota Twins. Advanced metrics like Baseball Prospectus' VORP* list Nick Punto as the worst hitter in Major League Baseball this season. As the season has gone on descriptions of solid and good defense have morphed into outstanding, unreal and unbelievable. Beat writers are suggesting he make money by selling instructional DVDs on how to play third base. The relationship probably looks something like this:

The Ausmus Effect
I've noticed a reactionary increase in the praise of Punto's defense in both the media and among Twins fans. My guess as to why it exists is that baseball writers, in the need to maintain access to players and team officials, have to be careful in how they criicize players. In trying to offset the deserved scorn that Punto has earned at the plate (and that which manager Ron Gardenire is owed for letting Punto collect 550 plate appearances this season), they lessen the blow by talking about the areas of the game in which Punto hasn't been a complete and utter failure at this season. Pointing out Punto's struggles at the plate has moved from the realm of being critical to being minimally observant. As it can't be avoided, the blow is repeatedly softened by praise for his defense. This repition builds his reputation and winds up distorting the truth.

This becomes detrimental to the team if the team then buys into the hype, which can happen, as in the case of Brad Ausmus. Hopefully the Twins don't fall victim to the same chain of cause and effect.

* Value Over Replacement Player - The number of runs a player is worth offensively over that of the kind of scrub, organizational filler that any team could call up from their minor league system as a replacement.


Early Excerpt

Joe Carducci's Enter Naomi arrived in the mail today. One graph that grabbed me:

In late 1981 it was still a few months before "colonic irrigation" ads in the L.A. Weekly warned, "Death begins in the colon," and two years before the naming of the Aids virus and a final ending of what we refer to as The Sixties - begun with the election of young Kennedy, the introduction of the Pill, and the court-ordered removal of crucifixes from public schools. None of which were as advertised: Young tan handsome JFK had one foot in the grave even before our anti-hero avatar fired off the starter pistol on the hippie era; Nixon lived to be 81. In a 1957 article in Pageant magazine on the development of the Pill the zeitgeist itself was promising that "a new contraceptive pill seems to answer all the objections on physical, psychological and moral grounds." And all these years later the public school systems seem well without a prayer despite at least ten cycles of reform that accomplish little but teachers' union culpability evasion.

It's refreshing to read a rock critic/historian that could get along with Andrew Coulson.


Hipster Rags: A Ramble

I got an awesome surprise in my mailbox Thursday. There was a new issue of Arthur waiting for me. The California-based hippie magazine had folded a few months earlier, half-way through my current subscription. But the bi-monthly is now back, and they're honoring the remainder of our contract together.

I'm often conflicted when reading hipster rags like Arthur and Vice. I have to wade through lots of collectivism and new age nonsense in order to gain exposure to bands I wouldn't otherwise. And then, read through interviews from worthwhile bands espousing collectivism and new age nonsense.

From the current issue of Arthur :

Arthur: So many people think you're being ironic. Does that bother you?

Becky Stark: ...Every time anyone asks if I'm serious about celebrating peace on earth I have to say, "Are you seriously asking me that question?" For real. I'm the weirdo? For talking about peace? In the midst of a horrific insane war? What? What have things come to that people think it's a joke to play music that celebrates peace?

Putting aside in my mind that Stark went on to use the word terracide a few paragraphs later, whenever someone talks about "Peace" I'm reminded of an Ilkka Kokkarinen post, and his observation that, "in reality a 'pacifist' is simply someone who has outsourced his use of force to someone else."

Would Stark advocate that all opposition in Iraq immediately accept all terms of the Bush administration's occupation and cease all of their violence in the name of "Peace"? If not, I have to conclude that even Californian hippie artists think that violence can be justified, even if they won't cop to it while posturing in interviews.

Despite features like, "One Man Goofing Off: A visit with legendary Zen humorist Henry Jacobs" Arthur doesn't have much of a sense of humor. There are the usual conservatives-and-rich-people-are-bad satires that preach to the choir, but the magazine never pokes fun at its readership the way Vice does (I tend to like a lot of stoner bands, however, so I tend to find more music I like in Arthur).

Not liking New York City hipster bands as much as stoner rock, Vice makes amends to me with some really great, bizare content. This month's issue has an interview with Wim Delvoye, who has purchased a plot of land in China in order to legally continue his art (tattooing pigs). It produced the amazing quote that follows:

"I tattoo pigs because they grow fast and they are so much better to tattoo than fish."

Delvoye goes on to mention that he will try out tattoos on humans first, and if he likes them will then ink them on pigs. To really mess with their readership, Vice prints that Delvoye is a vegitarian.

I always find something worthwhile in every issue of Vice and Arthur sandwiched between denounciations of mercantilism (but only ever referred to as capitalism). In the current copy of Arthur there was a full page ad for Joe Carducci's new book Enter Naomi, which is about Carducci's time running the independent record label SST in Los Angeles in the 1980s (the title refers to a music photographer that Carducci worked with closely during his time with the label).

Carducci's first book, Rock and the Pop Narcotic is one of my favorites. It was published back in 1995 (although a second and third eddition have since been printed) and readers were told to look for future publications from Carducci. Finding out about his new book, a dozen years removed from his first, made the current issue of Arthur worthwhile by itself (not that there isn't other valuable content).

Carducci is one of the only right-of-center rock critics I've found (although that doesn't mean they aren't out there), and it speaks to the quality of his work that someone who doesn't despise the middle class and occasionally speaks favorably of Reagan gets his ads run in and is allowed to contribute to Arthur.

His ad in Arthur even went as far as to list the ISBN for his third book which is scheduled to be released on the 28th of this month. I was able to pre-order it at Barnes & Noble using the ISBN while it still won't come up as a search result by title or author. (And for all the griping Arthur does about big business, Barnes & Noble is taking pre-orders for Carducci's third book while Carducci's small independent publisher isn't yet at the date of this posting.)

Getting back to the folks that fill the pages of Vice and Arthur (both the authors and artists), I often wonder why there is such similarity of thought in rags that hold themselves up as free thinking and indepedent. It's probably along the lines of Jane Haddam's Why Intellectuals Love Marx.

Why am I now thinking about hippies doing something out of the ordinary and registering my blank stare as proof positive that my middle class mind can't handle how awesomely weird they are, when really I'm just unimpressed. To be fair, I do think the folks at Arthur realize that Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters and their legacy have had precious little effect on the middle class. As a result the failure of The Sixities tends to generate resentment towards everyone that failed to jump on the psychedelic bandwagon.

For some musicians and other artists, that society doesn't immediately recognize their greatness and turn their hobby into a career is proof enough that the free market works against creativity (the knobs at YearlyKOS who proposed starting a bloggers union seem like the same type of folks).

I don't remember if it was on this site or back at Catallarchy, but a post about the free market offering a diversity of scenes where pretty much anyone could achieve some sort of status has stuck with me. Not everyone is as in to rock music as I am. I work with a woman that is nationally ranked in Scrabble as an example. I don't spend my time constantly expanding my vocabulary and she doesn't dig through coastal hipster rags looking for new music to check out. This works out great for both of us, but apparently not for some creative types.

What's wrong with some people viewing music as a background, and not a focal point? The fashion industry holds themselves up as tastemakers and producers of fine art while at the same time playing U2 and bad house music during their runway shows, and they're not wrong because of it.

For all the complaints of consumerism killing art, with just a little work I'm finding all sorts of good music being made in the here and now (and I've never gotten much of anything worthwhile without putting in some kind of investment).

And what is the alternative? How should support and exposure for artists be given out? Minnesota Public Radio has a rock station in addition to their flagship called The Current, and The Current blows goats. I attend a small music college in the Twin Cities, and in one of my classes an instructor of mine had the following to say of a local band's single he had just produced:

"I don't like the sound as much as their earlier stuff, but it'll work for them because The Current will play the shit out of it."

Even when you've got a public radio station playing what the general population would consider to be obscure stuff, and often self-confined to local artists, they still develop a sound and aren't really that diverse (and this in a state where the single largest employer is the state). They also produce some stupid commentary. I heard one of the DJs at The Current smugly say that he could get everything he needs from music locally.

While trying to praise the local music scene is a good thing, because I understand that consciously making an effort to support local bands means you'll have more good shows to attend in town, his comment was moronic. The musicians that make up the local scene have been influenced by other artists all over the country and world. That such a moronic claim can even be made is due to the massive exchange of artistic ideas across vast distances and cultures made possible by modern society. But it does fit in well with the nonsense of sustainability, which will score him points with his listeners.

It leaves me with the question, am I personally better off that Reason, Liberty and the Quarterly Jounral of Austrian Economics aren't doing features on Comets on Fire? Only a dogmatic Randite would consider exposure to different and opositional viewpoints a bad thing. At the end of the day, I can always point to kibbutzes in Israel and ask where in the USSR were people openly allowed to live in an alternate economic system (or even modern day France and possibly soon Wisconsin), right?

But if the hipster rags I read practice the opposite? I do have to concede that Arthur publishes Carducci. And at the end of the day even Rothbard said good things about Alexander Cockburn's writing, and CounterPunch has published Dave Zirin!


It Wasn't Her Fault

Hard to really blame her as no Abimael Guzmán biopics have made it into Sundance yet.

http://www.wwtdd.com/post.phtml?pk=2471

"Sure they used to oppress human rights and kill anyone who spoke out against them, but that was probably just an 80s trend, like Members Only jackets and feathering your hair."


Great Quote

TV Channel Axed In Latest Chávez Drama

The article cites two different polls reporting that 70% of Venezuelans oppose the decision. Check out the last line of the piece:

"The microphones are always open for anyone to come and speak but few people tend to disagree with the changes we are living through."

I wonder why?