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Monday, March 31, 2008

Dan Bolles: Music . . . Editor?

Posted By on Mon, Mar 31, 2008 at 4:59 PM

Howdy Solid State.

Sorry 'bout the lack of bloggy stuff last week. I've been neck deep in freelance applications from wannabe writers and I think I'm kinda losing my mind. But there is light at the end of the tunnel.

When we ran the ad looking for CD reviewers a couple of weeks ago, I had no idea the response would be so overwhelming. At last count, I had close to 60 submissions from a remarkably wide variety of folks: professional writers, college students, bored housewives, people who "really like music, man." I even received an application from a guy who "has no expertise in music whatsoever" but figured he could "spew 500 words or whatever." Gee, thanks, pal. It's just that easy, really.

Anyway, I narrowed the field from 60 to 20 to about 5. Since I haven't actually informed the successful candidates yet, I can't tell you who they are. But it'll be pretty easy to spot them in the coming weeks. They'll be the folks not named Dan Bolles.

(Note: if you applied but haven't heard back from me yet, I'm sorry. You will. Probably tomorrow.)

So what does this mean for the music section/blog? Great question. Thanks for asking.

Basically, having a few extra hands on deck will allow me to focus more on stuff like, say, Solid State. Maybe even music-related stuff, if you can believe it. Now that we have Blurt,our fancy-shmancy new staff blog, whenever I'm compelled to, oh I don't know, write about baseball — just as an example, of course — I can do it there. Who knows? Maybe I'll even finish up that long-rumored podcast. Whoa! Easy fella. One step at a time.

Having writers at my disposal will also free me up to go to see more live music — or dispatch others, depending. Like last night's sold out Beach House show at The Monkey House, which I couldn't attend because — drum roll, please! — I was writing. Frankly, I was pretty bummed about that. But I'm excited to have more live reviews and the like — interviews, rants, raves, etc. — in the paper. Anybody who did go to the Monkey last night, please dish the dirt.

You can also expect lengthier pieces like the Romans feature that ran in the music section a few weeks back. That was sort of a layout experiment due to space limitations in Section A. But I was pretty pleased with it, especially because it opens the door for similarly longer stories and expanded coverage, which ultimately means more writing for me . . . wait a second. I've been duped! Just kidding. I'm really excited about this aspect in particular.

And finally, the added help will expand the scope and voice of the Seven Days music section. I'm by no means the only person with opinions about music 'round these parts. But for the most part, I've been the only writer — save for the notable contributions of Herb, Josh, Robert and, on occasion, Casey. Hence, music coverage in Seven Days has pretty much been The Dan Bolles Show, which I guess it still sort of will be. But less so. Maybe.

In any event, I'm looking forward to test driving the newbies and having the opportunity to spread my  wings a bit. Hopefully, you guys will enjoy reading some fresh perspectives and everything will be hunky freakin' dory. Or the whole thing will crash and burn and I'll be run out of town on a rail. How's the weather in DC, Casey? 


Friday, March 28, 2008

Not on the list.

Posted By on Fri, Mar 28, 2008 at 8:30 AM

I just got off the phone with Alex over in the Saint Michael's College Student Activities office who kindly provided me with a little clarification to some news I received via facebook this morning.

That being, the much advertised WWPV State Radio concert will not be open to the public as previously announced.

Damn.

I don't know if any of you are State Radio fans, but I am, and after bonding with the band when they allowed myself and the IVAW boys to table at their Higher Ground show last October I was psyched to see them play Vermont again.

Turns out, we can't. The show is scheduled for P-Day (Preparation Day, my Saint Mike's alumni friends tell me), and keeping with Spring Weekend tradition, all activities are open only to students and their registered overnight guests.

Alex wasn't able to tell me much beyond that. Just that it was up to the administration and they decided to follow suit with previous years.

Damn you, facebook event creators! Keep it closed next time, would  ya?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

A penny for your... music?

Posted By on Thu, Mar 27, 2008 at 9:28 AM

Any Pennywise fans out there?

While driving to Maine late last Friday night and listening to my favorite Maine (by way of Boston) radio station, FNX, I was lucky enough to catch an episode of Loveline. I haven't listened to much Loveline since high school (the only Vermont broadcast comes out of Woodstock), but from time to time I find I'm a little down, and the only cure is to hear Southern teenage gay boys question how soon after their rim job they should be tested for HPV. Not HIV, which you can be tested for, but HPV. Which men can't be tested for, and frankly, only in rare instances even affects you if you only sleep with men.

Oh, sorry, I just went all Mistress Maeve on you.

Back to the music.

So last week's Loveline show featured Pennywise, a band I've never really followed save for seeing them play with Stretch Arm Strong. But they've been around forever. No really, forever. As in twenty years.

This year, actually, this past Tuesday, the band released its ninth LP... for free on Myspace. Yep. Through a partnership with both Myspace and Textango, Pennywise announced that its latest album will be free online from March 25 through... I believe April 6. I can't quite remember the end date. It was late at night and I was distracted by all the rim job talk.

The band admitted while on Loveline that Myspace may have been a little less than pleased with how the deal turned out... something about not really informing the higher ups until after the paperwork had been signed... but in the end no one backed out and the tracks are in fact available. For free. Right now.

So if any of you answered yes to my question of being a Pennywise fan, head right on over here. You do have to be a Myspace member to qualify, which could cost a few cool points if you're too indie for stuff like that, but if you're too indie for stuff like that, you're probably not really into Pennywise anyway.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Cult Following

Posted By on Tue, Mar 25, 2008 at 2:22 PM

I went to Maine for the weekend to see my family for a Saturday night Easter. While there, I also wanted to meet up with two of my best friends, each of which run in separate circles. After some wild games of phone tag, I was able to fit everyone in - dinner with my family, followed by beers and the Marquette game with Brian, followed by a Cult Maze show with Amanda.

[Yes, Amanda's name is linked, and yes, that is her on that album cover.]

It was the Cult Maze show that I was especially excited for - the band is native to Portland, but recently played the Monkey with local act Husbands and former local act, Pretty & Nice. They also played an even more recent show, also at the Monkey, that I was sad to miss. So I already knew I liked their music.

Plus, they were playing at The Space, my favorite Portland venue, and comparable to... well pretty much nothing we have here in Vermont. That is, unless any of you can name for me an alternative arts venue that serves as both gallery and music space and carries Pabst Blue Ribbon in bottles.

Yep, PBR in a bottle. If you thought there was no way to class up PBR, well, you would be wrong.

[Side note: My parents' friends Ted and Marty were on their honeymoon when Marty accidentally set her negligee on fire with her cigarette. Always practical, Ted grabbed the nearest bottle of PBR and put her out. I'm totally including that story in a novel someday.]

Amanda and I were running a little late, so we missed opener Baltic Sea, but luckily arrived just in time to see Cult Maze take the stage.

And imagine my surprise when they started one song with a shout to the audience, "THIS ONE GOES OUT TO WINOOSKI, VERMONT!"

They rocked it. The songs available on their myspace page are good, sure, (I especially love "Treble Treble"... probably because it sounds like a product of Saddle Creek), but their live show is just really amazing. Made all the more amazing by the fact that they were all wearing plaid flannel. GOOOOO MAINE!

And since a little scenester... errr... birdie told me that the band might be breaking up soon, you might want to make a point to check them out while you still have the chance. They're playing Friday April 4 at Geno's in Portland, and I just might make the drive.

On a totally different note, have you all read the recent interview with DMX regarding our presidential candidate-hopeful, Barack Obama?

It's... priceless. You can see a good recap here.

Thug Life

Posted By on Tue, Mar 25, 2008 at 2:13 PM

One of my favorite Queen City themed t-shirts reads: "Burlington: A Safe Place To Be A Thug" — although "Girlington" and "Burlingtron" are certainly contenders. I claim no real urban roots, though I was born in an unsavory neighborhood in Providence and, in my early twenties, spent a year living in Dorchester . . . the Polish section of Dorchester (insert joke here). Still, I'm an average middle-class white guy from New England and my experience with life in the ghetto — and no, the Old North End does not count — comes mainly through books, newspapers, TV and movies. And I'm grateful for that.      

About a week ago, I was returning from my afternoon constitutional with my faithful, half-crazy half-pit bull, Buckley. As I strode up the steps to my apartment, a thuggish looking kid with a native Vermont accent standing in front of the house next door stopped me in my tracks with the following line: "Did your fucking dog shit on my steps?"

Taken aback, I turned toward him and, trying my best to sound sympathetic, replied, "No, man. It wasn't my dog." "It fuckin' better not have been," he said, adding, "If I ever catch him again, I'll kick his fuckin' ass. It's fuckin' on." For emphasis, I suppose, he proceeded to take a drag of his cigarette, holding it between thumb and forefinger like a joint.

Internally, I began keeping a running tally of the number of times my agitated neighbor dropped the F-bomb. (This is something I frequently do to amuse myself. I firmly believe there is an inverse relationship between the number of times an individual uses some form of the word "fuck" in a sentence and said individual's level of intelligence. I'm still working out the exact formula. George Carlin — who is a fucking genius — is, of course, exempt.)

Slack-jawed, and more than a little unnerved that this punk had actually threatened my dog — who, though generally a colossal wuss, is still a freakin' pit bull . . . well, half pit anyway — I restated the facts. "Dude, my dog didn't shit on your steps. You didn't see my dog shit on your steps. Frankly, I'm not sure why you think he did. But he didn't, OK?"

As if processing the info, staring at the ground — or perhaps, the dog shit — he mumbled, "It's a fuckin' warning."

Bewildered by the unfolding stream of events, I shook my head and replied, "Uh . . . fuckin' thanks?"

A couple of nights later, I left my apartment to buy some beer at the store across the street. As I opened the door, there was my neighbor, standing with a much smaller, but similarly thuggish friend, smoking cigarettes in front of the house next door. "I feel like slapping the shit out of somebody tonight!" he exclaimed. I crossed the street, hoping the remark was a general sentiment and not aimed specifically at me. Turns out it was.

When I returned, neighbor dude, perhaps emboldened by the presence of his pint-sized pal, approached me. "What did I tell you about about your fuckin' dog?" he said, striding onto the sidewalk. Oh shit, I thought. Here we go. Pulse and mind racing, I desperately searched for the right thing to say to diffuse the situation before it escalated any further. I'm a writer, not a fighter.

Before I go on, I'd like to point out that I'm borderline fanatical about cleaning up after my dog. Regular readers know that errant dog doo is, pardon the pun, one of my biggest pet peeves. That night, my excremental religious fervor might have been my saving grace.

"Would you like a beer?" I asked, extending the six pack of Harpoon IPA towards my potential attacker. "What?" he replied, genuinely stunned by my reaction. Seeing the opening, I set my plan into motion.

"Come here, man. I want to show you something," I said, motioning towards the garbage can sitting at the end of my driveway. I walked toward the bin, waving to encourage my neighbor to follow. He did.

I opened the lid to reveal about a week's worth of poop-filled plastic bags. The aroma was stunning. "Shit!" he exclaimed, recoiling in disgust and covering his nose. "Exactly," I replied, dropping the lid. "It wasn't my dog," I said as I walked past him and into my apartment.

---

A few summers ago, I was sitting at a patio table in front of Radio Bean with a friend, drinking Five Dollar Shakes and just generally enjoying a pleasant summer evening in Burlington. A middle-aged gentleman approached our table and, nodding toward a vacant chair, asked if we'd mind if he joined us.

It turned out he was a veteran of the first Iraq war and a native of Chicago. Specifically, the Cabrini-Green housing projects, one of the most notoriously violent neighborhoods in the country. We asked which was scarier, Iraq or the projects, and he emphatically answered, "Cabrini-Green, hands down." As if on cue, a tricked out Honda Civic, complete with pulsing neon and mag wheels rolled to a stop at the intersection of North Winooski and Pearl. The bass emanating from the car not only shook the vehicle's frame, but was loud enough that you could actually see rhythmic ripples forming in the beer glasses on our table, a good thirty feet away from the intersection.

The Chicagoan chuckled and shook his head. "Have you ever heard of The Fresh Air Kids?" he asked, referring to the program that brings inner city youth to rural places like Vermont during the summer. We nodded. "I have this idea for something called The Stale Air Kids," he continued. "The gist is that you take fools like that guy," he said, thumbing his finger towards the Civic, "and drop 'em off in the ghetto. If they last a week, then they can wear their hats to the side." At that moment, the light turned green and the Civic took off, loudly screeching its tires before hurtling down the street. "I will never understand why these kids think the thug lifestyle is so cool," he said. Spreading his arms as if to the entire city of Burlington, he added,  "I would have taken this in a heartbeat."

---

I've encountered my neighbor on a coupleof occasions since that fateful night. If he acknowledges me at all, it's with a mumbled"'sup" and a head nod. Honestly, that's fine by me. Still, I can't help but wonder how this dude — or any number of kids seemingly just like him in Burlington — would fare as a Stale Air Kid. It's one thing to be a tough guy for fun, or out of boredom. It's another entirely to be one to survive.

Burlington: A Safe Place To Be A Thug.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Fried Day

Posted By on Fri, Mar 21, 2008 at 3:02 PM

Here's some random stuff for your perusing pleasures . . .

It didn't take him long, but former Weekly Dig columnist David Thorpe is back and snarky as ever. I for one, am tickled.

I've been extolling Thorpe's invective-laden virtues for a long time now and was genuinely dismayed when he decided to hang 'em up about a month ago. But I'm happy  to report that he's found a new home with the Boston arm of The Phoenix. And not a moment too soon.

One of his recent columns inspired an veritable shitstorm of cranky e-mail missives from humorless readers, enraged by a well-placed barb aimed at The Black Crowes. Here's what he wrote:

I never thought I’d be giving the Maxim crew kudos for their journalistic chops, but I’m proud of them this week. They got busted for giving the new BLACK CROWESalbum a negative review without having listened to the whole thing. Asthe review went to press, the album wasn’t even done, and the magazinehad been sent only one track. Maxim explained that the review was an“educated guess.” Sounds reasonable to me. Anyone who has to listen toa Black Crowes album to tell you it’s a piece of shit has no businessbeing a critic.

First of all, that last line is a classic. Pure gold. Secondly, I just want to be sure you folks read the second line closely: the Maxim reviewer didn't actually listen to the album! I can't decide if that's tragic or hysterical. Then again, if you rely on a magazine like Maxim as your musical taste-maker, you really get what you deserve.

Reading Thorpe's feelings about the deluge of angry responses made me feel a lot better about a parcel I received in the mail earlier this week. The envelope — which, not surprisingly, bore no return address — contained only a clipping of the March 12 edition of Sound Bites with a few barely legible scribbles written over certain sections of the column. Near as I can figure, here's what it said:

"Disgusting drivel" with an arrow pointing to this line: Everyone is Irish on St. Paddy's Day, as evidenced by the throngs of soused revelers bedecked from head to toe in green garb, Guinness paraphernalia and, usually, vomit. Ew.

I couldn't agree more, mystery critic. I think Guinness paraphernalia is gross too. Thanks for reading.

---

I'm heading over to The Monkey House this evening, ostensibly to catch Portland, OR-based indie oddball, Nick Jaina. But also because there are a few local acts on the bill I've been meaning to check out.

Honky Tonk Tuesday fans are no doubt familiar with the sultry country crooning of Ms. Marie Claire. What you might not know, mostly because she's been awfully quiet of late, is that she's a hell of a songwriter too. I'm told this will be her first MH performance ever. Nifty.

Next up is Jenny Montana, whose latest album was recorded by none other than our own prodigal indie genius himself, Ryan Power. Rumor has it Mr. Power is back in town, which, contrary to the weather, is a sure sign of spring.

Jaina follows, and while I'm curious to see how the sparkling orchestrations from his latest album, Wool, play out in a live setting, I'm really looking forward to the headlining-because-nobody-else-wants-to-play-that-late act, Paddy Reagan. I was genuinely impressed with Reagan's debut EP, Hey! Hi! Hello! but have yet to see him live. Should be a cool night.

---

If you've ever worked in the food service industry, you need to check this out. It's called Waiter Rant and is sort of a bloggy version of the greatest restaurant movie ever made, Waiting.

---

Finally, on behalf of Red Sox Nation, I'd like to thank Major League Baseball for scheduling the Sox season opener to take place in Japan. In order to watch it live, East Coast fans will have to wake up at 6 a.m. next Tuesday — Left Coasters, you do the math for Pacific Time . . . ouch.

That's awesome. I can't imagine why anyone would want to actually watch the defending champs' opening tilt. Good job, MLB. The Nation salutes you.

Low Budget Apple? Seriously?

Posted By on Fri, Mar 21, 2008 at 2:11 PM

Steve Jobs just might be alright.

Maybe.

According to Financial Times, Apple is considering offering unlimited access to iTunes music to customers who pay a certain premium on iPods and iPhones. The premium could be as low as $20.

Um... seriously?

I have no idea how this would work, but I will fully admit that I'd be quick to sign on. A one time fee in exchange for all the free (legally! free!) music I want? Yes, please!

My only concern is that there's no way artists could be fairly compensated for sales. And with that being the case, how could labels ever possibly agree to the deal? Unless Apple has suddenly turned a philanthropic corner and feels the need to hand over its wealth to all the struggling musicians in the world and at no profit to themselves. Which is unlikely.

There's got to be some catch. Like, they say it's 'unlimited' for the life of your iPod, so perhaps iPods will now be programmed to die after one year? Or maybe the songs are unlimited in downloads, but limited in listens?

Something's gotta give.

Of course if it doesn't, I'll be first in line. All the music I want for the price of one CD is too good an offer to ignore.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Tom Morello Rages Solo

Posted By on Thu, Mar 20, 2008 at 2:49 PM

As Dan just filled you all in on, with the help of some sobering statistics, this week is the fifth anniversary of the war in Iraq. Awesome.

Along with all of the regular protesting happening to mark the occasion, last weekend, members of Iraq Veterans Against the War (also known as the little nonprofit that weaseled its way into my heart and just won't get out) testified about their experiences fighting the war at an event called "Winter Soldier". If you're interested more in the political side of things, you can read more about it all here.

If you're interested in how Tom Morello got involved, read on.

Aside from being the well-known guitarist for everyone's favorite anarcho-frat band, Rage Against the Machine, Morello also has his own acoustic project, The Nightwatchman. And The Nightwatchman is very much in love with our young Veterans. Morello has been known to pull members of the organization up on stage at Coachella, sneak them into shows down in DC, and in fact, even convinced Sony to let little ol' me use one of his songs on my compilation CD in support of the nonprofit.

So when my co-producer, Riot-Folk's Ryan Harvey, took on organizing the night time entertainment for the Winter Soldier participants, he approached Morello. And Morello of course agreed.

What follows is a short clip of Morello covering Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land" (he sang the real version, but this video only shows the verse we all know anyway), followed by a little motivational speaking and a lot of swearing. Based on the amount of fist pumping in the video's foreground, I'd say the Vets enjoyed it.

Just thought you guys might enjoy seeing this other side of the artist... Every time Johnny Utah plays a Rage song on my way home from work, I can't help but think about Morello's solo project and how cool it is that someone with such commercial success genuinely practices what he often preaches on stage.

Happy Spring?

Posted By on Thu, Mar 20, 2008 at 1:20 PM

You might not know it from the gloomy weather currently besiegingthe Northeast, but today is the first day of Spring, which, in Vermont,means virtually nothing — we probably won't see leaves for anothermonth . . . sigh.

Coincidentally, it is also the fifth anniversary of the daycombat operations began in Iraq. President Bush declared war on March19, 2003, but the attack actually began the following day, March 20, at 5:30 a.m.

In recent weeks, assessing the cost of the second longest war in UShistory has been a hot topic amongst media pundits of all politicalpersuasions. The estimates range from hundreds of billions of dollarsto several trillion. In either case, that's a lot of dough. Good thing there's nothing wrong with our economy, right? (or should I say, "eh?")

But to gauge the true cost of war, one needs to look beyond merefinancial tolls and reconcile the deeper effects on soldiers, families andcommunities from both sides of the firing lines and the global society asa whole. What follows is a sobering statistical breakdown that helps toput some the larger, less obvious intangibles into perspective.

This was sent to me by my good friend Ben Hudson from TrueMajority.org. We'll get back to music tomorrow, I swear.


The Costs of the War in Iraq By the Numbers

 
The Cost to Our Forces in Iraq

3,990: American troops who have died in Iraq since the start of the war. [icasualties.org, 3/17/08]

29,395: Number of U.S. service members that have been wounded in hostile action since the start of U.S. military operations in Iraq. [AP, 3/11/08]

60,000:Number of troops that have been subjected to controversial stop-lossmeasures--meaning those who have completed service commitments but areforbidden to leave the military until their units return from war. [US News and World Report, 2/25/08]

5:Number of times the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment has been sent toIraq. They are the first Marine Corps unit to be sent to Iraq for afifth time. [San Francisco Chronicle, 2/27/08]

2,100: Number of troops who tried to commit suicide or injure themselves increased from 350 in 2002 to 2,100 last year. [US News and World Report, 2/25/08]

11.9: Percent of noncommissioned Army officers who reported mental health problems during their first Iraq tour [Los Angeles Times, 3/7/08]

27.2: Percent of noncommissioned Army officers who reported mental health problems during their third or fourth Iraq tour [Los Angeles Times, 3/7/08]

 

 The Cost to Our Military Readiness

88:
Percentof current and former U.S. military officers surveyed in a recentindependent study who believe that the demands of the war in Iraq have"stretched the U.S. military dangerously thin" [Foreign Policy/Center for New American Security, 2/19/08]

94: Percent of Army recruits who had high school diplomas in Fiscal Year 2003 [Larry Korb, The Guardian, 10/12/07]

79:
Percent of Army recruits who had high school diplomas in Fiscal Year 2007 [Larry Korb, The Guardian, 10/12/07]

4,644: Number of new Army recruits who were granted moral waivers in Fiscal Year 2003. [Houston Chronicle, 10/14/07]

12,057: Number of new Army recruits who were granted moral waivers in Fiscal Year 2007. [Houston Chronicle, 10/14/07]

67:Percent of captains the Army managed to retain this year, short of itsgoal of 80 percent, and in spite of cash bonus incentives of up to$35,000 [Armed Services Committee Hearing, 2/26/08]

 

 The Cost to Our National Security

1,188:
Number of global terrorist incidents from January – September 11th, 2001. [American Security Project, "Are We Winning?," September 2007]

5,188: Number of global terrorist incidents in from January- September 11th, 2006. [American Security Project, "Are We Winning?," September 2007]

30: Percent increase in violence in Afghanistan from 2006 to 2007. [Reuters, 10/15/07]

21: Number of suicide bombings in Afghanistan in 2001. [Center for American Progress, "The Forgotten Front," 11/07]

139: Number of suicide bombings in Afghanistan in 2006, with an additional increase of 69 percent as of November 2007. [Center for American Progress, "The Forgotten Front," 11/07]

30: Percent of Afghanistan controlled by the Afghan Government according to DNI Mike McConnell. [Associated Press, 2/27/08]

2,380: Days since September 11th, 2001 that Osama Bin Laden has been at-large.

 

 

The Cost of Funding the War in Iraq

$50-60 Billion:
Bush Administration's pre-war estimates of the cost of the war. [New York Times, 12/31/02]

$12 Billion:
Direct cost per month of the Iraq War. [Washington Post, Bilmes and Stiglitz Op-Ed, 3/9/08]

$526 Billion:
Amount of money already appropriated by Congress for the War in Iraq. [CRS, 2/22/08]

$3 Trillion:
Total estimated cost of the Iraq War. [Washington Post, Bilmes and Stiglitz Op-Ed, 3/9/08]

$5 Trillion - $7 Trillion:
Totalcost of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan accounting for continued militaryoperations, growing debt and interest payments and continuing healthcare and counseling costs for veterans. [McClatchy, 2/27/08]

160:
Percent that the cost of the Iraq War has increased from 2004 to 2008. [CRS Report, 2/22/08]

 

The Cost to Iraqis and Journalists

8,000: Number of Iraqi military and police killed since June 2003. [Brookings Institute, Iraq Index, March 13, 2008]

82,000-89,000: Estimate of Iraqi civilians casualties from violence since the beginning of the Iraq War. [Iraq Body Count]

4.5 Million: Number of Iraqi refugees both inside and outside the country. [Washington Post, 3/17/08]

61: Percent of Iraqis that believe the U.S. military presence makes the security situation in Iraq worse. [Agence France-Presse, 3/17/08]  

127: Number of journalists killed in Iraq since March 2003. [Committee to Protect Journalists]

 

Economic Costs of War in Iraq                   

$33.51: Cost of a barrel of oil in March 2003. [Energy Information Administration]

$105.68: Cost of a barrel of oil on March 17, 2008. [NYMEX]

 

U.S. Troops and Contractors in Iraq

132,000: Number of U.S. troops in Iraq in January 2007, before President Bush's escalation. [Brookings Institution, Iraq Index, 3/13/08]                                     

155,000: Number of U.S. troops currently in Iraq. [Brookings Institution, Iraq Index, 3/13/08]                                                         

140,000:
Number of U.S. troops projected to be in Iraq in July 2008. [Associated Press, 2/26/08]

35,000: Number of private security contractors operating in Iraq. [Human Rights First, Private Security Contractors at War]

180,000: Number of private contractors operating in Iraq. [Human Rights First, Private Security Contractors at War]

 

Progress Towards Political Reconciliation Made By Iraqis

3: Number out of 18 Bush Administration Benchmarks Met by Iraqi Government As of January 24, 2008. [Center for American Progress, 1/24/08]

18:
Number of provinces President Bush said would be secured by Iraqis as of November 2007. [President Bush Speech, 1/10/07]

8:
Number of provinces actually secured by Iraqis as of January 2008. [NPR, 1/7/08]  

 

Bush-Republican Intransigence on Staying the Course in Iraq

8:
Number of times a majority of the Senate has voted to change course in Iraq.

7:
Number of times Bush Republicans in Congress have blocked changing course in Iraq.

1: Number of vetoes issued by the White House over changing course in Iraq.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Saint Patrick and Saint Peter

Posted By on Wed, Mar 19, 2008 at 5:53 PM

I'm so glad St. Patrick's Day is over.

I mean, don't get me wrong, I was born and raised in an extremely Irish household and genuinely appreciate the holiday for more than just the green beer, but I'm exhausted.

Growing up as an Irish Step Dancer, St. Patrick's Day was never a holiday, it was a season. A season during which me and the rest of my troupe performed multiple shows a night around Connecticut. We were even required to take the actual 17th off from school each year, as we'd have several shows to attend during the day. Probably because back then, Michael Flatley was a relatively new name, and finding a group of Irish Step Dancers was uncommon.

This year I dug out my old shoes, shined their silver buckles, and again performed, this time as the percussion for Everybody's Favorite Irish Drinking Songs Band (/Orchestra?). And after a total of eight hours of stamping my feet over the past few days, I'm done. In fact, I worry I may have actually caused permanent damage to my left foot, which, by the time we hit Red Square Monday night would not support my weight on its own.

'Tis the season.

The part I'm not sick of, however, is the music. Practicing over the past month has reminded me of just how oddly comforting the sound of a bagpipe can be (I know, right?). I guess it boils down to the fact that traditional Irish music is what I grew up listening to. And as much as I love the raucous versions of older songs that bands like Dropkick Murphys continue to release, it's the real traditional sounding bodhran, fiddle, and accordion infused songs that I secretly (or not so secretly) prefer.

Which is exactly what I found at Burlington's City Hall this past Sunday when I brought the kids I used to nanny to experience a real Irish Ceili. While the chance to dance was somewhat limited (totally fine with me seeing as my legs had already been reduced to a permanent state of Jell-o), the music was even better than I had anticipated.

Across the stage of the auditorium sat two rows of musicians - I counted twenty-five total - which, much to the delight of my babysitting charges included Robert Resnik of Robert and Gigi fame, on spoons.

The group played a wide variety of tunes, some with words, others without, some specifically for Zack Warshaw and his group of dancers, and others just for the kids who wanted a chance to spin around the room together. And it was awesome.

I know that there are a variety of Celtic music nights around town, but I think it's rare to see such a huge group playing together, and with that in mind I urge you way far in advance, to attend next year's Ceili.

Especially if you're looking for a more traditional way to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. You know, one that doesn't include a Guinness pint served with ONE POUR and into a COCA-COLA glass. No, seriously T.Rugg's, what was up with that?

In other news, you probably know by now that Peter Freyne is retiring from his post here at Seven Days. While I have only been with the company for one year, Peter has been a routine part of my Tuesday afternoon, and I will sincerely miss him plopping down in the chair next to my desk to talk politics. Freyne once took a second to mention my anti-war efforts in his blog, and I received it as the biggest of compliments. So I thought I'd in turn take a second here at Solid State to thank Peter for always encouraging me to continue the fight, and to generally say 'hats off'.

I will miss you very much, Peter, but you can rest assured I'll be hunting you down at your local haunts to get my Freyne fix!

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