Robbed by a Fountain Pen

This blog is on hiatus - please check back.

Yes, as through this world I've wandered / I've seen lots of funny men / Some will rob you with a six-gun / And some with a fountain pen. - Pretty Boy Floyd

Why Robbed by a Fountain Pen?

What Are Your Website Policies?

BJ Blogs For:

Tuesday, June 24, 2003
Tom Waits Interview on Blogcritics.
I didn't do it, the Onion AV Club did.
Saturday, June 21, 2003
The Spaghetti Western Roadtrip.
New music review over at Blogcritics.
Sunday, May 11, 2003
Still on Hiatus - but with the Occasional Blogcritics Post.
I'm still taking a break with this site, but now and then I post to Blogcritics - here's one on Tom Jones and punk rock karaoke.
Friday, February 21, 2003
The Critiquees Are In.
The results of the First Annual Music Awards, or Critiquees ("Cri-tee-kees") are up.

Album of the Year:

1) Yankee Hotel Foxtrot by Wilco

2) Come Away With Me by Norah Jones

3) Sea Change by Beck

4) Turn on the Bright Lights by Interpol

5) The Rising by Bruce Springsteen

6) A Rush of Blood to the Head by Coldplay

7) When I Was Cruel by Elvis Costello

8) () by Sigur Ros

9) Once More, with Feeling - Buffy the Vampire Slayer

10) Murray Street by Sonic Youth

My choices: Wilco, Beck, Solomon Burke, Neko Case, Tom Waits.

The Village Voice Pazz and Jop (nationwide survey of professional critics) choices: Wilco, Beck, The Flaming Lips, The Streets, Sleater-Kinney.

Song of the Year:

"Into the Fire" by Bruce Springsteen

My choice: None Of Us Are Free - Solomon Burke with the Blind Boys of Alabama (Critiquee place: n/a).

Pazz & Jop choice: Missy Elliott, Work It (Critiquee place: 2).

Songwriter of the Year:

Jeff Tweedy

My choice: Beck (Critiquee place: tied for 4).

Rock Album of the Year:

Yankee Hotel Foxtrot by Wilco

My choice: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

Country-Americana Album of the Year:

Home by The Dixie Chicks

My choice: Neko Case, Blacklisted (Critiquee place: 4).

R&B Album of the Year:

Don't Give Up on Me by Solomon Burke

My choice: Don't Give Up on Me.

Jazz Album of the Year:

Come Away With Me by Norah Jones

My choice: Brad Mehldau, Largo (Critiquee place: 2).

Electronic Album of the Year:

18 by Moby

My choice: I didn't make one.

Soundtrack Album of the Year:

About a Boy

My choice: About a Boy.

Reissues and Collections of the Year:

Best of 1990-2000 & B Sides by U2

My choice: Jimmie Rodgers, Classic Sides 1927-1933 (Critiquee place: tied for 5).

Best New Artist:

Norah Jones

My choice: Norah Jones.

Monday, February 17, 2003
Victory of the Loud Little Handful.
by Mark Twain

The loud little handful - as usual - will shout for the war. The pulpit will - warily and cautiously - object... at first. The great, big, dull bulk of the nation will rub its sleepy eyes and try to make out why there should be a war, and will say, earnestly and indignantly, "It is unjust and dishonorable, and there is no necessity for it."

Then the handful will shout louder. A few fair men on the other side will argue and reason against the war with speech and pen, and at first will have a hearing and be applauded, but it will not last long; those others will outshout them, and presently the antiwar audiences will thin out and lose popularity.

Before long, you will see this curious thing: the speakers stoned from the platform, and free speech strangled by hordes of furious men...

Next the statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception.

Mark Twain, "The Mysterious Stranger" (1910).

(I first saw this piece in Sojourners; this text is from Common Dreams.)
Thursday, February 13, 2003
Critiquees (cont.) Best Jazz.
And the final category for the Blogcritics Critiquees Awards:

Best Jazz Album.

1. Brad Mehldau - Largo

2. David S. Ware - Freedom Suite

3. Jason Moran - Modernistic.

I couldn't decide which order to list these three, so it's basically a tie. Ask me tomorrow and get a different answer.
Monday, February 10, 2003
A Couple Trillion Dollars Here, A Couple There ...
... and pretty soon you're talking about real money. I've been too busy to post much the past week or two, but that doesn't mean I've gotten over "President" Bush's astonishingly irresponsible budget plans. You can count on the media to move on to other things, so I thought I'd start a series of budget posts just so we don't forget what's at stake. I'll start with the big ones:

"We will not deny, we will not ignore, we will not pass along our problems to other Congresses, to other presidents, and other generations." President Bush, 2003 State of the Union Address

In fact, according to the President's own budget, the $5.6 trillion surplus projected less than two years ago would become a $2.1 trillion deficit for the same ten-year period -- an $8 trillion change in just two years.
Sunday, February 09, 2003
Presenting ... the Critiquees.
The first annual Blogcritics Awards - also known as the Critiquees ("Cri-tee-kees") - are coming up! Blogcritics is the "sinister cabal of superior bloggers on music, books, film, popular culture, and technology." On February 16, Blogcritics will announce the Critiquees, which will consist of both a poll of the Blogcritics ourselves and also a Readers' Poll. To learn how to cast your vote (you get up to five per category), click here.

I'll to provide mini-reviews for each of my votes over the next couple of weeks. For now, my votes:

Album of the year.

1. Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

2. Beck - Sea Change

3. Solomon Burke - Don't Give Up on Me

4. Neko Case - Blacklisted

5. Tom Waits - Alice / Blood Money (tie)

Best rock album.

Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

Best country/Americana album.

Neko Case - Blacklisted

Best R&B album.

Solomon Burke - Don't Give Up on Me

Best new artist.

Norah Jones

Songwriter of the year.


Best soundtrack album.

Badly Drawn Boy - About a Boy

Best re-issue or compilation [box sets, re-mastered, or bonuses].

Jimmie Rodgers - Classic Sides 1927-1933

Song of the year.

None Of Us Are Free - Solomon Burke with the Blind Boys of Alabama

Best jazz album & Best electronic album.

(Stay tuned.)

I need to give jazz and electronic some more thought. I don't think I'll have votes for final two Blogcritics categories - World Music and "Album that sucks most vigorously."
Get a Job.
Data point of the week:

In the 22 months since the recession began in March 2001, the economy has lost almost two million jobs, or 1.5 percent of total employment.

On Bill Clinton's watch, the economy added an average of 2.86 million jobs per year.
Wednesday, January 29, 2003
The State of the Union ... Not So Good.
Still think Junior is a lock for reelection? Consider this from Slate's William Saletan:

If you went to the refrigerator during the first three minutes of President Bush's State of the Union address, you missed the part where he discussed the state of the union. ...

Why didn't Bush talk about the state of the union? Because the state of the union is nothing to talk about. ... Remember those State of the Union speeches Bill Clinton gave? The guy couldn't stop quoting happy numbers. That's one problem Bush doesn't have. ...

The state of the union isn't a process. It's a result. Yet in the few minutes Bush spent on what he had "accomplished," he spoke of processes, not results. "To lift the standards of our public schools, we achieved historic education reform," he said. "To protect our country, we reorganized our government. ... To bring our economy out of recession, we delivered the largest tax relief in a generation. To insist on integrity in American business, we passed tough reforms. … Some might call this a good record. I call it a good start."

Record? That isn't a record. It's an agenda. ...

Actually, Bush does have a record. It just isn't good. Unemployment? Up. IRA accounts? Down. Poverty? Up. Deficits? Up. Homelessness? Up. Education funding? Down. Health care costs? Up. Number of uninsured? Up. Environmental progress? Down. Bankrupcties? Up. Public confidence? Down. Crime? Up.

If that's a "good start," I don't want to stick around for the ending. (Take a gander at these charts or this fact sheet or the links in the post directly below for more information.) And don't forget Saletan's punchline:

What Bush said of Saddam's disarmament record could equally be said of Bush's domestic record. He has given no evidence of progress. He must have much to hide.

Did you look at the charts? What are you waiting for?
Monday, January 27, 2003
State of the Union.
In honor of George W.'s midterm SOTU address, I bring you a flashback from the Onion. The week before Bush took office, America's Finest News Source published an article that is both extremely funny and painfully prescient.

Bush: 'Our Long National Nightmare of Peace and Prosperity Is Finally Over'

WASHINGTON, DC—Mere days from assuming the presidency and closing the door on eight years of Bill Clinton, president-elect George W. Bush assured the nation in a televised address Tuesday that "our long national nightmare of peace and prosperity is finally over."

[Photo caption:] President-elect Bush vows that "together, we can put the triumphs of the recent past behind us."

"My fellow Americans," Bush said, "at long last, we have reached the end of the dark period in American history that will come to be known as the Clinton Era, eight long years characterized by unprecedented economic expansion, a sharp decrease in crime, and sustained peace overseas. The time has come to put all of that behind us." ...

During the 40-minute speech, Bush also promised to bring an end to the severe war drought that plagued the nation under Clinton, assuring citizens that the U.S. will engage in at least one Gulf War-level armed conflict in the next four years. ...

Wall Street responded strongly to the Bush speech, with the Dow Jones industrial fluctuating wildly before closing at an 18-month low. The NASDAQ composite index, rattled by a gloomy outlook for tech stocks in 2001, also fell sharply, losing 4.4 percent of its total value between 3 p.m. and the closing bell. ...

Turning to the subject of the environment, Bush said he will do whatever it takes to undo the tremendous damage not done by the Clinton Administration to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He assured citizens that he will follow through on his campaign promise to open the 1.5 million acre refuge's coastal plain to oil drilling. As a sign of his commitment to bringing about a change in the environment, he pointed to his choice of Gale Norton for Secretary of the Interior. Norton, Bush noted, has "extensive experience" fighting environmental causes, working as a lobbyist for lead-paint manufacturers and as an attorney for loggers and miners, in addition to suing the EPA to overturn clean-air standards.

Bush had equally high praise for Attorney General nominee John Ashcroft, whom he praised as "a tireless champion in the battle to protect a woman's right to give birth." ...

Continued Bush: "John Ashcroft will be invaluable in healing the terrible wedge President Clinton drove between church and state."

The speech was met with overwhelming approval from Republican leaders.

"Finally, the horrific misrule of the Democrats has been brought to a close," House Majority Leader Dennis Hastert (R-IL) told reporters. "Under Bush, we can all look forward to military aggression, deregulation of dangerous, greedy industries, and the defunding of vital domestic social-service programs upon which millions depend. Mercifully, we can now say goodbye to the awful nightmare that was Clinton's America."

"For years, I tirelessly preached the message that Clinton must be stopped," conservative talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh said. "And yet, in 1996, the American public failed to heed my urgent warnings, re-electing Clinton despite the fact that the nation was prosperous and at peace under his regime. But now, thank God, that's all done with. Once again, we will enjoy mounting debt, jingoism, nuclear paranoia, mass deficit, and a massive military build-up."

An overwhelming 49.9 percent of Americans responded enthusiastically to the Bush speech.

"After eight years of relatively sane fiscal policy under the Democrats, we have reached a point where, just a few weeks ago, President Clinton said that the national debt could be paid off by as early as 2012," Rahway, NJ, machinist and father of three Bud Crandall said. "That's not the kind of world I want my children to grow up in." ...

"We as a people must stand united, banding together to tear this nation in two," Bush said. "Much work lies ahead of us: The gap between the rich and the poor may be wide, be there's much more widening left to do. We must squander our nation's hard-won budget surplus on tax breaks for the wealthiest 15 percent. And, on the foreign front, we must find an enemy and defeat it."

For more information on the actual state of the Union, click here, here, or here.