Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Rose Falcon: The Un-Britney

Recently I bought my first pop/rock album (or should I say CD?) in over a decade--to be sure, a dull event in times of either war or peace; but it has prompted me to make my first record (or should I say CD?) recommendation in two decades, when I wrote reviews for my high school newspaper.

The CD in question is Rose Falcon, the self-titled debut of an 18-year old musician from New Jersey. You might have seen snippets of her video "Up Up Up" on the Disney Channel, but don't be fooled by the bubble gum veneer of the video--she's no Hillary Duff; Rose has pipes, and she writes her own songs along with her father Billy Falcon (who has written songs for the likes of Bon Jovi, Stevie Nicks, and Cher.)

What's remarkable about the album is its tone. The songs are either upbeat or balladic, and yet most of them have serious themes: the untimely death of her mother, loss of friendship, ambivalent love, and the pressure on young women to look a certain way. The best example of the dual nature of the Falcons' songwriting is "Breathe," which begins--

It's a sunny happy day and the sky
is crystal clear oh yeah
Surprise surprise I'm okay the
best I've been in years oh yeah
--and eventually segues to a wry chorus:

Cause I hardly think about
it anymore
Oh it's just a distant memory
And I hardly think about it
anymore what happened to the
And it only hurts when I breathe
Although Rose has been likened to Avril Lavigne and Alanis Morissette, she is never snotty or vulgar (as is fitting for an artist who thanks "my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" in the credits). A good example is the angry "Looks Are Everything":
See it on my TV
In my magazines
See it everywhere I look
Even in my dreams
I can't sleep for dreaming

. . . .

Isn't she a pretty thing
So lucky looks are everything

Equally remarkable is that parents and children can both like the album, which isn't surprising given that it's a daughter-father effort.

I'm looking forward to future releases from Rose--I may just buy my second pop-rock album (or should I say CD?) in a decade.

To listen to the album, go here.

On Pens

Long have I quested for the perfect stationery--the perfect pen, the perfect pencil, the perfect paper. And Long have I gazed upon pens and pencils and notebooks in Wal-Mart, Target, Office Depot, and Dairy Queen (OK, I was really gazing at hot fudge brownie sundaes, but you get the idea). And many is the time I thought that my quest had ended, but alas, I was merely fooled by the mirage of stationery oasis, that abode of writing bliss that is ephemeral, all too ephemeral. A few examples will suffice.

There was the time that I discovered a disposable fountain pen from Pentel, called, strangely enough, the Fountain Pentel. What was exquisite about this pen was the flexible nib that conformed to my writing style in a way that no other pen has. So what went wrong? Even though Pentel lists the FP on its web site as a current model (and now there is even a refillable FP), I have yet to see it offered anywhere--online or in stores.

Many years later, I noticed the Phd line of pens and pencils from Sanford/Papermate. The Phds are big, chunky, handsome writing tools, and I was intrigued at first. Then I tried one. Didn't like the feel. However, I gave them a second chance when I developed tendonitis in my thumb, making writing painful. The advantage of the Phds is that you don't have to grip them hard, and being a heavy-handed writer, this helped ease my thumb pain. So I bought a Phd pen and mechanical pencil.

After I bought a PDA, I found a new version of the Phd, the Phd Multi-Function pen--a ball-point pen, mechanical pencil, and PDA stylus all-in-one. Although ball-point is not my favorite type of pen, the ink lasts a lot longer than gel ink. Gels produce a beautiful, bold line, but I can feel the ink disappearing, as if invisible gel vampires were sucking the ink out as I write. Fortunately, my Phd Multi writes a smooth line--or did produce a smooth line. The ink cartridge is now low enough that it glops rather than glides. So why not saunter over to Office Depot and gleefully buy some new refills?

Oh no, my friends, that's not how it works. Not anymore. For I have discovered a diabolical secret: pen companies would rather that you buy a new pen than refill an old one.

Yes, I know that most of you probably knew that already, but I only recently found that out when trying to refill my Phd Multi. None of the stores in my city carry such a refill, and they barely carry pen refills at all (the worst is Target). I went online, blithely expecting to be able to order my refills, but found out that even sites that list Phd Multi refills do not have them in stock and can't get them. One place has them, but wants a minimum order of $50. My mother dryly noted that I would die before using that many refills. Thanks mom.

It's no wonder that one of the most frequently asked questions on Papermate's web site has to do with refill availability. Papermate blames the problem on retailers, a lame excuse considering that Papermate has just as much vested interest in selling you a new pen as the retailer does. But more to the point, Papermate describes the Phd Multi as a refillable pen, a selling point considering that I don't want to shell out $8 for a new pen every time one runs out of ink. So why not make them as readily available as refills for mechanical pencils?

. . . .

This story has a happy ending. While browsing through my university bookstore, I came across a multi-function pen from Bic, called the Bic e3. Having given up the search for a refill for the Phd Multi, I decided to try one. The e3's plastic body isn't as solid as the Phd Multi, but it is much lighter. More importantly, the pen writes very smoothly, as does the pencil. Here's the kicker: the e3's pen cartridge fits the Phd Multi. Nonetheless, I've become so acclimated to the e3's lightweight body that I don't use my Phd Multi anymore.

Sunday, April 20, 2003

Just another 'maudit juif' as far as ChIraq & De Vilepig are concerned

The last surviving commader of the Warsaw Uprising shares his thoughts about the conflict in Iraq: Marek Edelman speaks out on the war

Saturday, April 19, 2003

Return of the Comics-Blogger

Anime Anima fisks the Chomper but good in the latest installment of Ernie's Situationist Comics.

Chomsky Strikes Again

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

New Blog Link

We've added a link to Paul at Smell the Blog. He's got nude pictures of the Justice League! Well, no he doesn't. But somebody recently found his site by Google searching on the words "justice league naked." (I think it was Ernie trying to get a peek at Hawk Girl.) Some highlights of Smell the Blog:

The last one is especially hysterical.

Protests in Los Angeles

I don't know why, but I watched some of C-SPAN's coverage of the LA protests. Some highlights:
  • A sign in the audience read: "Bush: Anti-Christ in the Making." So let's tally up what our peace activist friends have discovered about our president so far: he's a rogue cowboy; he's dumber than a ten-gallon hat; he's in league with Big Oil; he's Hitler; he's a messianic fundamentalist; and he's the Anti-Christ (or is he just a anti-Christ?). You think at a certain point our friends would see how oxymoronic this all is--not to mention how just plain silly--and abandon the "Bush is X" line of "reasoning."

  • A Zen Buddhist, who looked like a Jedi Knight, revealed the answer to all of the world's problems: for ten minutes each day, we should just be silent and listen. That will make us more pure, more peaceful; and a peaceful people leads to a peaceful country; and a peaceful country leads to a peaceful world. The ghosts of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Lenin could be seen doubled over in laughter.

  • A nurse, upset over budget cuts to a LA hospital, naturally blamed Bush for killing people both in Iraq and in LA. She also said that the US is buring hospitals in Iraq. She punctuated her rant with occassional outbursts of "health care, not warfare." At one point, it sounded like she said "health care, not welfare."

  • A young Muslim woman led a ecumenical prayer. I wonder if she knows that some Muslims in Iraq weren't allowed to pray or attend mosque under Saddam's rule.

  • The overall theme now is that the US is going to occupy Iraq and force Iraqi citizens to eat at McDonald's and KFC, thus killing them slowly. The horror, the horror.

Saturday, April 12, 2003

A base canard and libel refuted

Over at Pave France, the British need more parking, they have linked to a NewsMax article that compares Chirac & Co. to the Three Stooges.

As I point out in my comment there, that is a true insult to the Stooges, who, after all, were among the first to parody Hitler and believed in fighting Fascists when the chips were down, cf. THEY STOOGE TO CONGA. (not to mention that 5 of the 6 Stooges were Jewish, only Curley Joe DeRita was a Gentile) They all showed greater intelligence and moral fiber in their little pinkys onscreen, than ChIraq and De Vilepig have ever mustered in their entire "real" lives. A more informed article would place ChIraq and de Vilepig as classic French literary characters. Specifically, they would be the chief protagonists of the oeuvre of Alfred Jarry. ChIraq is Pere Ubu, the nihilistic, cruel and corrupt monarch with a child's mentality and De Vilepig is Dr. Faustroll, the "pataphysics" specialist. ("Pataphysics is the science of imaginary solutions"-Jarry) Anyone that can turn Waterloo into a moral victory for the French deserves that designation.

Sunday, April 06, 2003


One of the perils of procrastination is that you become discouraged when other writers make a statement better than you feel that you can do, before you do it. The Wild Monk has usurped me on a precise point that I've been intending to make for some time. Go over right now and read it!

The Cold War is Not Over: Europe and the Post-Modern Left

Saturday, April 05, 2003

Peter Arnett Reports In

This just in from Peter Arnett, the Always Objective JournalistTM, special to Al Jazeera, the Network of Truth in the Face of the Great SatanTM:

The Unilateral Coalition of Evil, after having been all but defeated by valiant Iraqi forces, has stooped to the ultimate in biological warfare. F-18 Hornets flew over Baghdad today and disgorged massive swarms of giant mutated insects and loathsome locusts--each one with the cloned head of Donald Rumsfeld.

Our--er, I mean Iraq's--Magnificent Leader, his Holy Swellness, Saddam Hussein, countered this insect threat by climbing into a giant robot suit and destroying the mutant bugs with the robot's laser beam eyes. Afterwards, in compliance with the UN, Saddam dismantled the robot and sent all of its parts to UN inspector Hans Blix.

The tattered remnants of the invading insects fled in the direction of Saddam International Airport, where they were destroyed in a crossfire by brave Iraqi troops. More to follow. As always, I am telling only the truth.

Peter Arnett,
Award-Winning Journalist
Truth-Teller Extraordinaire