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2007 October Archive at Three Roads Blog
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Archive for October, 2007 Page 2 of 3



Nothing is obscene anymore

Last week, I came across some great footage of Frank Zappa on Crossfire.

The subject was music, obscenity and censorship. The show (it aired in 1986) also featured Robert Novak (who, curiously, looks exactly the same as he does today—old and crotchety), a columnist from the Washington Times named John Lofton, and host Tom Braden.

A lot of commentators say we’re shriller than ever before, but when you look at this video, you’ll consider the possibility that we have made progress since the culture wars of the 1980s.

Not surprisingly, Zappa takes the anti-censorship side. He’s conservative in the libertarian sense of the word—he doesn’t want the government to tell him what he can listen to.

On the other side, there’s the goon from the Washington Times. I say goon not because he supports censorship, but because he’s a ridiculous caricature of the hyperventilating social conservative. Mencken wouldn’t have bothered to dress this guy down. To make your counterpoint is simply to let him talk.

The debate veered toward one song that the Washington Times guy thought was particularly offensive—“Sister,” by Prince. He claimed the song promoted incest. It’s certainly a foul song, and my guess is that Prince, now a Jehovah’s Witness, would like to put it as far behind him as possible. But I doubt that it had much of an effect on the sexual mores of innocent listeners at the time.

Continue reading ‘Nothing is obscene anymore’

The necktie returneth

I don’t know about other bloggers, but whenever I have an itch to write a post, I throw on a button-down shirt and necktie.

Well, not really, but what if doing so made me a more productive blogger? What if it made me a more productive AND hipper blogger?

According to the NY Times, the necktie is back. But these days, instead of signaling a desire to get ahead, the half-Windsor knot reveals the desire to be seen as a cool and groovy guy. Someone cool and groovy like, say, Justin Timberlake or Frodo Baggins.

“Wearing a tie is a kind of style. It’s a thing you’re doing. It’s seen as ‘creative,’” a 31-year-old film executive told the Times.

Continue reading ‘The necktie returneth’

I guess that makes me a Dodd-ball

I was surprised at the results of a candidate-matching exercise I did today.

Sen. Christpher Dodd, D-Conn., and I disagree on only one issue—immigration.

I checked the ‘provide a path to citizenship/secure border’ option. I think the discrepancy comes from the fact that, according to this site, Dodd would like also to see a fence along the border.

My idea of securing the border has nothing to do with erecting physical barriers. In fact, securing the border, for me, is more about terrorism than immigration. But the more I think about it, the less practical border security seems as a terrorism prevention measure. Similar to how to you can never have a totally poo-free food supply, you’ll never have a hermetically sealed border, even if (god forbid) that were the top domestic priority.

I hate fences. My opinion on fences matches that of Owen Wilson’s character in Shanghai Noon:

I am like a wild horse. You can’t tame me. You put the oats in the pen, though, and I’ll come in for a nibble every day… But if you ever shut that gate, I’ll jump the fence and you’ll never see me again.

OK, it’s not the most apt quote, but my point is that fences aren’t the answer to anything. They never have been. Not only do they not work (people have been successfully jumping them as long as they’ve been around) they’re philosophically and aesthetically repulsive, and that’s enough for me to never support them. So, to be clear, even if they were the best way to curtail illegal immigration, I think a fence—and what it represents—is a bigger threat to the republic than Mexicans looking for work.

I might consider quarantining Texas, though.

Poop in the food

The timeless maxim “Don’t shit where you eat” has saved countless lives over the centuries. And the societies that have most closely followed this imperative have, throughout history, dominated the world, starting with the Romans, whose empire was built on and with its systems of public sanitation.

We’ve since expanded upon “don’t shit where you eat.” Now, it’s “Don’t eat anything that has come close to any kind of fecal matter, human or animal, unless it has been thoroughly scrubbed, sterilized and disinfected.” And but for a few cases here and there, we’ve been successful in implementing this mandate.

But what if a little shit was good for you? And what if our totally shit-less diet was turning us into a bunch of wusses who can’t survive the occasional tainted patty from Sam’s Club? That is, more or less, the argument that Slate writer and practicing doctor

Continue reading ‘Poop in the food’

Bike safety starts with a wig

Here is some angst that anyone who rides a bike on public roads can appreciate:

Every day on my way to work, I mentally compose a book as I ride my bike through the streets of DC. This book is aimed at the pedestrians and cars who seem ignorant of the basic physics of bicycles–the pedestrians who act as if my bicycle and I were a slow-moving car, and the cars that act as if we were a pedestrian. The book would be aimed at communicating one simple, but apparently incredibly difficult to grasp, concept: unlike a slow-moving car or a pedestrian, I cannot suddenly stop or reverse direction.

Today I composed Chapter Three: The Reason I Want to Get into the Right Lane is That It’s Dangerous Over Here On the Left (And Not That I Have Failed to Sufficiently Appreciate the Grandeur of Your Magnificent Internal Combustion Vehicle). This is the follow-up to Chapter Two: If You Run a Red Light and Hit Me (Because I Can’t Stop) I Will Die Even Though I Am Wearing a Helmet. Chapter Four will be the first of our many chapters aimed at pedestrians; I have tentatively titled it “Pedestrians Who Leap Out in Front of Me and Get Hit (Because I Can’t Stop) Will Probably Get Hurt Worse Than Me, the Helmeted Bicyclist”.

It’s a work in progress.

Perhaps she (Megan McArdle, blogger for the Atlantic) should consider not wearing a helmet. Recent research shows that cars tend to drive closer to helmeted riders. The study also showed that cars give a wider berth to riders with long hair. My question, of course, is what about mullets, which are sort of short and sort of long? I fear that cars may drive even closer to mulleted riders.

Funny juxtaposition

Radiohead frontman Thom YorkeHere are the two biggest news stories to come from the recording industry in the past week:

1. The indie band Radiohead decided to let fans choose how much to they’re willing to pay for their new album. The lowest acceptable price? $0.00.

2. A group of record labels successfully sued a Minnesota woman (a single mom earning $36,000 a year) for illegally downloading music from a popular file-sharing site called Kazaa. The woman must pay $222,000 in damages, which amounts to $9,250 per illegally downloaded song.

Photo (of Radiohead singer Thom Yorke) from Michell Zappa

On hand dryers

hand dryer

Here’s a great post on why restroom hand dryers are both unsanitary and, at best, environmentally equal to paper towels.

They are alleged to be more hygienic than hand towels. I don’t buy that for a second, because they “dry” your hands by blasting them with recirculated air from the restroom itself. You didn’t think there was a canister of fresh air hidden behind the wall, did you? And guess what’s probably floating around in the restroom air. That’s right, tiny particles of you-know-what. (I will concede that the hand dryer is nonetheless hygienically preferable to the continuous-roll-of-cloth machine.)

“Tiny particles of you-know-what.” Ew.

As much as I share this guy’s dislike of hand dryers, I understand why they’re popular. If it were my job to clean a bathroom—or if it were my job to pay a guy to clean a one—I’d surely oppose paper towel use, mostly because only half of population (by my estimate) manages to land their wet towels in the waste basket.

And any person of sound mind opposes the roll-of-cloth machine. Regardless of its minimal ecological footprint and/or low maintenance costs, these things ought to be outlawed. It’s one thing to use a cotton towel in a friend’s bathroom. It’s quite another to use one in a public restroom.

Back to hand dryers: I also credit a hand dryer for staving off hypothermia two summers ago. After riding our bikes to the top of Mt. Evans, in Colorado, my girlfriend and I rode down the 14,000-foot mountain in a torrential downpour. We used the dryers in the welcome center bathrooms to dry our clothes. (Side note: It’s funny what near-hypothermia can do to an otherwise quite modest person: I had no problems standing half-naked in a busy public bathroom while holding my wet bike clothes under the dryer.)

Photo from A Nameless Yeast