Sam Phillips, 1923-2003

Sam Phillips, arguably the father of rock and roll, died yesterday in (where else?) Memphis. He was 80.

Phillips started as a DJ, but quickly moved to recording. He opened Memphis Recording Service in 1950, where he recorded many local blues artists — including B.B. King,ÊHowlin’ WolfÊand James Cotton. In March of 1951, he recorded what is generally considered the first rock and roll song, “Rocket 88,” by singer Jackie Brenston and Ike Turner’s band, for Chess Records. By June, it was number one on the R&B chart, and a whole new style of music was taking root.

Phillips’ next venture was the studio that still stands as a tourist attraction today: Sun Records. He founded Sun in 1952, and from there launched the careers of such icons as Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins — and a truck driver from Tupelo named Presley. It was at Sun with Phillips that Elvis recorded his first songs on a summer day in 1954: a single with “That’s All Right” on one side and “Blue Moon of Kentucky” on the other. Phillips stood out in that era not just for producing solid talent, but also for doing so without regard to race despite being firmly in the Jim Crow South.

Phillips was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in its first year (1986), alongside many of the giants he helped produce.

Geneva Convention? What’s that?

We’re now apparently kidnapping noncombatants in Iraq.

Col. David Hogg, commander of the 2nd Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division, said tougher methods are being used to gather the intelligence. On Wednesday night, he said, his troops picked up the wife and daughter of an Iraqi lieutenant general. They left a note: “If you want your family released, turn yourself in.” Such tactics are justified, he said, because, “It’s an intelligence operation with detainees, and these people have info.” They would have been released in due course, he added later.

Why Politicians Shouldn’t Make Technical Decisions

Maryland is busily adopting Diebold’s computerized voting system despite a study showing the system to have massive security problems. The study — by researchers with Johns Hopkins’ Information Security Institute — found numerous problems.

They concluded that the system was so flawed that voters could vote multiple times, that ATM-like “Smart Cards” such as those used in Maryland could easily be copied and that an insider could program the machine to register votes incorrectly.

Are they really just figuring out that computerized voting can be troublesome? As it happens, no:

In 2001, four out of the five members of the technical group that was asked to recommend to the state which electronic voting system to buy instead recommended against buying any at all. The state ignored the advice.

Paper may be old, but at least it’s auditable. More coverage of the same study here.

In Case You’re Not Paying Attention: Go Lance Go!

Lance Armstrong won Monday’s Tour de France stage outright, and stretched his lead to a bit more than a minute (1:07) over his closest challenger, 1997 Tour winner Jan Ulrich (second to Armstrong in ’00 and ’01).

Every Tour since 1999 has belonged to the Texan. Tuesday is a rest day; after that, there are five more stages. On Sunday, Armstrong may well equal Miguel Indurain’s record five-in-a-row sweep of the Tour (1991-1995). Three other riders have also won five tours, but not consecutively:

  • France’s Jacques Anquetil (1957, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964);
  • Belgium’s legendary Eddy Merckx (1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1974); and
  • France’s Bernard Hinault (1978, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1985)

The last American to win — before Armstrong — was Greg LeMond, who won three times: in 1986, 1989, and 1990. LeMond is also the only other American to ever win the Tour.

Cross your fingers, dear readers. He may not need it, but it can’t hurt.

Another “Protection of Marriage” Chicken Little weighs in.

Over at the National Review, Maggie Gallagher is insisting that American society will collapse if we allow gay marriage. The logical leaps here are awe inspiring. She closes with this, which is simply mind-boggling:

The future belongs to people who do the hard things necessary to reproduce not only themselves, but their civilization. Marriage is not an option, it is a precondition for social survival. Not everyone lives up to the marriage ideal in this or any civilization. But when a society abandons the marriage idea altogether as a shared public norm, do not expect private individuals to be able to sustain marriage. Winning the gay-marriage debate may be hard, but to those of us who witnessed the fall of Communism, despair is inexcusable and irresponsible. Losing this battle means losing the idea that children need mothers and fathers. It means losing the marriage debate. It means losing limited government. It means losing American civilization. It means losing, period.

Pretty amazing, isn’t it? It’s possible that Gallagher is capable of clear, well-reasoned thought on issues unrelated to homosexuality, but you’d never be able to tell from this piece. I continue to be amazed that the party of “limited government” seems so hot to decide who we can and can’t marry, and is willing to employ such bizarre arguments in the service of this goal.

That Wacky Pat Again

American Mullah Pat Robertson has come out in support of Liberian President Charles Taylor because “he’s a Christian.” Never mind the child soldiers, the death squads, and the bloodbath he’s presided over — he’s a Christian (and a Baptist!), so we ought to leave him alone.

Er, right, Pat. And this has nothing to do with the $8 million investment you’ve got in Liberian gold, does it? Who takes this bozo seriously?

Damn safety nazis.

Remember the pools of our childhood? Community pools or private clubs, they all tended to have a shallow end, say three feet, and then gradually increased the depth as one approached the other side. Some of those pools extended to 8, 10, or even 12 feet. High-board diving was a reasonable pursuit at the otherwise unremarkable club where I grew up swimming. But no more: the Deep End is a vanishing thing.

Where in the Constitution does it say “unless they’re Muslim terrorists?”

The Justice Department — whose name is becoming uncomfortably Orwellian under Ashcroft — has refused to comply with a judge’s order that they produce one of their witnesses against accused 9/11 accomplice Zacarias Moussaoui so that he may be questioned by the defense (in this case, Moussaoui himself, since he’s going the pro se route). Their excuse is “national security,” but I’m not clear on how that abrogates the right of the accused to confront witnesses. This refusal could open the door for a number of sanctions from the judge, apparently up to and including outright dismissal of the charges against Moussaoui.

Look! Funnybooks!

That’s why my dad called comic books — sorry, graphic literature. This guy’s site is a fantastic archive of vintage horror, war, superhero and romance comic covers from the Golden Age of the medium. Excellent coffeebreak fare.

Are you still using Internet Explorer?


Here’s 101 things that the Mozilla browser can do that IE cannot. Issue One, at least for me, is reasonable control of popups and naughty scripting right out of the box. Issue Two is actual standards-compliant rendering of HTML (something Redmond would love to quash entirely). Internet Explorer can’t begin to deal with either issue, but Mozilla can — and so can Netscape, which is really just a version of Mozilla in corporate drag. Both are available for any platform IE runs on, and then some.

If you’re not happy with Mozilla/Netscape, which (admittedly) is/are a bit bloated at this point (including as they do a mail program; a news program; an HTML editor; a chat client; etc.), there are other, less-comprehensive, speedier options under the Mozilla project, including Camino (for OS X Macs) and Firebird (still beta, but available for lots of platforms). There are also plenty of other browsers outside the Mozilla family, including Apple’s very nice Safari (OS X only, which is a darn shame), Opera (for almost anything, but costs money), and others (I’m leaving out the whole Linux crowd entirely, but those folks can’t run IE anyway — besides, they have Galeon to play with). Don’t use IE just because you have it. Check out something else, if only to compare.

I’ve been meaning to post this for months.

Really, I have. Someone posted it on the Well, and it’s been in my to-post buffer since like February. So here it is.

According to this,

Several species of caterpillars have developed an interesting system for waste disposal; they fire their fecal pellets a distance of up to 40 times their body length away from their homes, at a speed of 4.2 feet (1.3 meters) per second. The equivalent distance for a 6-foot-tall (1.8 meter) human would be around 240 feet (73 meters).

Presented with no judgement or comment whatsoever, though I’m sure a few of you are thinking “Damn! I wish I could do that!”

He’s on crack, of course, be he tries.

Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby takes a run at showing how gay marriage hurts heterosexual marriage. He fails, utterly. His main point seems to be that: (1) Vermont has allowed 5,700 “civil unions” between homosexuals; and (2) Of those, 2,000 involve at least one partner who was formerly involved in a traditional marriage. From there, he finds the deep end:

Just a shred – but a jarring one. Of course, it doesn’t mean that Vermont’s civil union law broke up 2,000 straight couples. It does mean that where there used to be 2,000 traditional marriages, there are now 2,000 ruptured ones – and 2,000 gay or lesbian unions in their place. Were some of those marriages doomed from the outset? Probably. But it’s also probable that some of them weren’t. In another time or another state, some of those marriages might have worked out. The old stigmas, the universal standards that were so important to family stability, might have given them a fighting chance. Without them, they were left exposed and vulnerable.

How’s that again? Was there a causal relationship between the availability of de facto gay marriage and the breakup of those 2,000 unions? He doesn’t know. He doesn’t even try to say — to do so, he’d have to consider the time frame; however, he doesn’t even bother to ask how many of them broke up in the months after gay unions were legalized in Vermont. Instead, he commits the sort of error that a freshman statistics student should be ashamed of: he confuses correlation — and weak correlation at that — with causation. I wonder if he thinks that the availability of second (and subsequent) heterosexual marriages weakens initial unions? Should we ban those as well?

It’s time for right-wing closet cases to stop trying to tell people what they can and can’t do, who they can and can’t love, and how they can and can’t fuck. These characters would do well to revisit the documents that form the bedrock of our nation, and note well how the purpose of government in the eyes of the founders was to preserve rights, not restrict them.

Ah, Foo.

The new Foo Fighters video for Low has been rejected/banned by MTV. It stars Grohl and Jack Black. That is all I’m willing to say, aside from “ watch this” — you’ll need Real Player.