Damn, that man can woo a crowd

We just got done watching the Democratic National Convention: Night of the Elder Statesmen. Al Gore spoke, and both Tiffany and I wondered why he didn’t pull this speaking style out when he was campaigning for President. So much went wrong with his campaign, but so much seems to have gone right for him since then. He was looking elder-statesmanly, was glib, unforced, funny, and rousing.

Jimmy Carter also did his best, though he really doesn’t have the timing or the chutzpah that Gore seems to have found in the last four years. He spoke, as he does these days, about a compassionate world screwed up by George Bush… then we fast-forwarded the TiVo.

But last among the elder statesmen was Bill Clinton. And again, we only wish he could run against George W. Bush, because he would clean up. He was articulate, homey, incisive and encompassing. He blasted George Bush and the Republican Congress, and hit on all the things I (we) hate about the current Administration. But just by being himself, intelligent, calm, appealing to our better side, he reminded us both of how much we hate George W. Bush himself.

Tiffany had to go to bed she was so worked up about the Right. I think I might have actually seen flames in her eyes.

I hope John Edwards is giving his running mate some tips on public speaking.

Press pause on the pretty redesign

I had hoped to re-design this site soon, but a couple of things are conspiring to prevent me. Work, it turns out, actually requires me to work. Home also requires me to work. Plus, Movable Type, the company that makes this software I’m using, just announced that version 3.1 will be available by the end of Summer. So, I don’t expect to work on the design of the site until then. Of course, I’ll keep blogging.

Next (next) iPod?

I started writing/thinking about this post before Apple released their latest iPod (I believe they refer to it as iPod with Click Wheel, other people call it the 4G iPod). Now that they are out, I have to admit, I am underwhelmed. But I see room for hope.

I was looking forward to an iPod with a wireless connection. An iPod with which I could stream music to an Airport Express connected to the stereo in the living room. Or even cooler, an iPod that would connect to the iTunes Library on my Mac in the basement, and control playback from there, even if playback was happening on the stereo in the living room. The stereo with the really nice Mirage Bipolar speakers.

But the iPods that were released had none of that. They have a Click Wheel and some neat-o software perks. Whoop dee.

But there’s hope.

Toshiba, in a now infamous incident, said that Apple had ordered a huge batch of their new 60 GB mini hard drives (the 20 Gb and 40 GB models are being used in the new iPods) for delivery this summer. Apple offers no comment.

Another company, that provides the wireless chipsets for Apple, announces a new, low-power version of their 802.11b wireless chips. The power consumption is low enough to be feasible for an iPod.

The rumor mill ran rampant with speculation about a major iPod announcement in late August, only to fizzle with some lame notice about, “Oh, that’s going to be about the iPod mini,” when the new iPods were released last week.

The prices of the two new iPods are the same as the lowest two prices for the previous trio of iPods, leaving room at the top for a pricier model.

Maybe a pricier model with added features, like a larger hard drive, and wireless capabilities? To be announced some time in late August, once production ramps up with the brand new Toshiba drives?

You heard it speculated here first, boyo.

Petland

A couple of years ago in Iowa City, a new pet store opened in a part of town near our house. It was called Petland, and I was interested. The only decent pet store around was a PetCo all the way up in Cedar Rapids. I took a look online, and discovered a whole new world of animal welfare issues. It appears that there are a number of organizations and individuals dedicated to boycotting Petland. They allege that Petland buys their puppies from puppy mills.

See the end of this post for links to information about puppy mills.

Petland argues, in various places, that they do no such thing. Instead, they will tell you that they get their puppies from “local breeders” or “brokers.” The Petland boycotters argue that when pressed, Petland owners rarely produce breeder names, and those that are given out turn out to be “volume breeders” with several hundred dogs. Petland never suggests that they don’t buy from brokers, just that these sources aren’t “puppy mills.”

I volunteered at the ASPCA animal shelter in NYC when I lived there. I worked in adoptions, and it was one of the most difficult things I have done. Before you start volunteering, you are required to attend an animal euthanasia procedure. I’d always been an animal lover, but my time at the ASPCA cemented in me an anger at people who would abuse or neglect an animal. Still today it turns my stomach and makes me see red.

It does not matter to me if Petland’s suppliers are puppy mills in the strictest definition. I would never buy a dog from a pet store because they treat their animals like commodities. Not healthy enough, throw it back. Didn’t survive being trucked from Missouri, well too bad. At least it was cheap. Oh, and they offer to let you return the dog if you’re not satisfied. Like a vacuum cleaner. That blatant disregard for life, that is abuse, in my book.

I refuse to even set foot in the store.

What should you do? Educate yourself with the links below. Go to Petland and take a good look at the animals, the conditions they are kept in, ask some questions about where they came from, and where those people got them.

And if you just want to play with the doggies, remember that the shelter lets you do that, too.

Extensive linking is expected with this kind of issue, so here we go.  These links were updated on March 31, 2008.  Petland Rockford’s site had disappeared, and Petland’s Official site had changed.  Some other links were updated, too.

The best links: See: Inside a Puppy Mill Video and: How to buy a dog and: 5 Easy Steps to Avoid Puppy Mills

Petland’s side of the story See: Petland’s Pet Welfare Questions and: Petland Rockford used to have an “Animal Extremists” page (now via Wayback) but now they have a sanitized Petland Brand web site.

Anti-Petland opinions See: The Voice For Dogs – Petland Campaign and: The Voice For Dogs – Story of Tiva and: The Voice For Dogs – Former Petland Employee and: IDA’s Boycott Petland Site and: Recent news articles on Petland and Puppy Mills

General Puppy Mill Information See: Facts on puppy Mills, from HSUS and: Stop Puppy Mills, by HSUS and: What is a Puppy Mill and: Prisoners of Greed

Why Bush will lose

I have a new index by which to measure Bush’s chances of winning in the Fall. Bumper stickers. Call it the Index of Bumper Coverage. I live in Omaha, Nebraska. And yet, I see more bumper stickers declaring that Bush must be beaten than I see Bush supporters. Hm. Unless,of course, you include all the American flags around town. On cars, bumpers, poles, trucks, windows, you name it. Dogs, even. Yes, you can be a Patriot and still dislike the President, but that don’t usually happen ’round here.

Flipping a toothpaste tube

Go forth and procure yourself a toothpaste tube. Full is better. Hold it in one hand, name side up, cap pointing away from you. Flip it end over end so it makes one revolution, and catch it. The tube will have rotated, so that the name side is down. This works nine out of ten times. If I try really hard, I can get it to flip without rotating, but the natural tendency is to rotate.

I don’t understand it. Anyone?

How to keep a girl

It is simple. Keep your bathroom clean. And when I say clean, I don’t mean “clean enough to find the toilet.” I mean surprisingly clean. Maybe even shockingly clean. “It actually took me more than half-an-hour” clean. If you do this, your girl will stay. And she’ll put up with a lot of other stuff you inadvertently do to drive her away.

Plus, nothing says “manly” like chlorine smell on your fingers.

Bush-Powell 04? Run screaming into the woods!

In the car this morning, Tiffany and I were discussing the suggestions that Cheney may be bowing out of this election. The specter of another, more moderate, vice-presidential candidate scared us silly. Bush-Powell 04? Bush-McCain 04? A ticket like that would crush Kerry-Edwards 04.

Someone I read or heard yesterday (I know, cardinal sin of blogging, not remmber and linking your references, sorry) was pointing out that George W. Bush is a very loyal man. It is not in his DNA, this person said, to push Cheney off the ticket. But then he added that it is also not in his DNA to lose. If it came down to losing the election or dumping Cheney, I think he’d take the latter option. Though it will, of course, be couched as Cheney’s doctor suggesting that he might not be healthy enough to run again.

Because we don’t want to apologize to our constituents for selecting an ultra-conservative, corrupt, power-mad, (potty-mouthed), belligerent career oligarch as our Vice-President, do we? That would look un-Presidential.

Who then, to replace him? Hell, he could pick Howard Dean as his running mate, and Bush’s ultra-right conservative base would still vote for him (who else is going to give them chest-beating and tax breaks?). And he’d get a lot of moderates and fence-sitters to vote for him.

If Kerry-McCain 04 was a dream ticket, how much moreso Bush-McCain 04? Though reporters were quick to point out last week that while McCain did turn Kerry down recently, he turned Bush down back in 2000 (and we were left with Cheney…)

I’m so depressed.

Mystic River

Yesterday, after Tiffany got home from her trip to Iowa City, we went out and rented Mystic River for the evening. We put Aidan to bed, washed up, and settled in with some trepidation. Since having Aidan, we haven’t felt that we were really emotionally ready for powerful dramas, however good they might be. We’ve been avoiding House of Sand and Fog, for example. Mystic River was another one of those.

I’m happy to report that we can handle it. The movie was very good, with fine acting and excellent directing, but I gotta say, it wasn’t as wrenching as I had been led to believe. Oh, it was plenty dramatic, no doubt. And the payoff really came in the last few scenes of the movie. The scene where Jimmy and Sean meet on the street and Sean tells Jimmy that they’ve caught his daughter’s killer starts a roller coaster of fantastic scenes… that one ends with Sean taking a long awaited phone call that transforms him and seals Jimmy’s freedom, and the transformation is sublime. And the next scene, between Jimmy and his wife (Laura Linney) is chillingly Macbeth… and thefinal scene at the parade, when they all see each other again… I found it only a shame because Tim Robbins wasn’t there… and he did such an excellent job in this movie.

Really very good. Much recommended.

Best version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah?

I have three versions of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah in my iTunes library. The first is, of course, the original by Leonard Cohen. The version I have is off of one of his greatest hits albums, The Essential Leonard Cohen, and includes a chorus, his usual lugubrious delivery, and a somewhat seventies-ish electric banjo sound. Now, I have to say, I think leonard Cohen is a fantastic songwriter. I love his voice, too, but some of his best songs are completely screwed up by ridiculous arrangements. This is one of them. When I first heard this song, brilliant as it is, I probably skipped to the next track. I doubt I listened to it all the way through even once before discovering it as sung by someone else.

The second, and probably best known version, is by Rufus Wainwright, and appears on the soundtrack to the movie Shrek. This is a good cover of the song, certainly it treats the piece like poetry (unlike Cohen’s carnival/church rendition), and the piano is well played. But even Wainwright cites Jeff Buckley as an influence on his musical career.

While watching an episode of Without a Trace on CBS, they played Jeff Buckley’s haunting version from his album Grace, and I didn’t recognize the song at all. I actually had to go do a search on the Internet to discover what the song was, and that I already had a copy. Do yourself a favor: go buy, download, or steal this song and have a listen, stereo cranked up, lights down, curtains drawn, loved one snuggled next to you. Buckley, who died in an accident/suicide in 1997, pours so much emotion into this song that you can’t pull yourself away. Listening to this, you can’t escape the unmistakable power of Leonard Cohen’s writing. The poet just needed a different mouthpiece.

Tiffany and I will stop whatever we’re doing when this song scrolls around on the iPod. We only do that for a few songs, and while those few tend to change month to month, Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah always makes us pause to listen.

I keep looking for that second strike of lightning, but have yet to find another Jeff Buckley song that I even like a little bit. I do want someone to put together a disc of Leonard Cohen covers, though.