Monday, June 19, 2006

China "only strengthening" its military "to prevent Taiwan from declaring independence"--Whew!

In an article in today, experts mentioned Chinese advancements in cyber-warfare, and the possibility that they might hinder us in helping Taiwan, in the event of war between Taiwan and the mainland:

James Mulvenon, a specialist on the Chinese military at the National Defense University in Washington, says China has been strengthening its ability to attack enemy computer systems as part of preparations for potential U.S. involvement in any future clash with Taiwan.

“In the event of a military conflict between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Taiwan, the PRC believes that disrupting U.S. computer systems and networks could potentially delay U.S. intervention, and the PLA could then cause pain sufficient enough to force Taipei to surrender before the U.S. has a chance to arrive,” Mulvenon said.

Further, that--oh, thank God!--their recent military spending spike is "only" for "defensive purposes" such as "preventing Taiwan from declaring independence." Oh, "only" that? So, if we just forget that the US are treaty-bound to come to Taiwan's aid in that eventuality, there'll be no problem.

Meanwhile, Professor Chu Shulong of China's Tsinghua University stressed that his country’s concerns over Taiwan are what are motivating China's military development, as opposed to any possible aggression toward the U.S. Taiwan and China are engaged in a complicated war of words in which each claims to represent the true Chinese government.

“China is a developing country in which as it develops, it will strengthen its military for only defensive purposes — mostly to prevent Taiwan from declaring independence, not to target the United States,” added Chu, sometimes a harsh critic of Beijing's military policy.

Dr. Jin Canrong, a professor at Renmin University of China, says Beijing's foremost concern is economic development and that conflict with the U.S. “will only hinder China’s development in the long run.”

Long-term threat to U.S.?
The U.S., though, argues that the lack of transparency in China’s robust military build-up poses a credible long-term threat to the U.S.

Last month's Pentagon’s report said China’s military budget for 2006 is likely much more than the $35 billion it claims. The Defense Intelligence Agency estimates that China’s military spending will amount to between $70 billion and $105 billion in 2006.

The article led with mention that we're letting China observe our massive wargames off of Guam, and hoping that China will reciprocate by letting us observe theirs (so far, only Russia has been allowed to, recently). I think this is an awful idea. We may not be able to prevent them spying, but why give them a ringside seat?

Friday, June 16, 2006

Faux-Onion Headlines

Today I begin a new feature of my little-read blog: faux-Onion headlines. The Onion is not looking for submissions from random fools, but for some reason, I feel that I want to put my spoke in. The Onion places, or used to place, satirical headlines on its site, some of which had stories attached, but some of which were just the headline. When I get off my ass and design my own look for this site, I'll have them in a separate place, but for now, they'll appear as posts. No comments are necessary, I'm just tossing them out. No drum roll, please, as I present herewith my first installment:

Woman Chirping 'it's First Come, First Served' Secretly Longs to Feel Schadenfreude

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Grunting in Music

A friend of mine reminded me that when in high school, I mentioned to him that the "unh!" in Hotel California by the Eagles (she got the Mercedes Benz/unh!) bugged me no end. He opined that the Eagles were going for a sexual grunt (in which case it's twice as weak). I emailed him:

It is extremely funny that I was mentioning the weakness of that "Mercedes Benz--unh." line even way back then. The Eagles' grunting, I think I can safely say, was only tangentially sexual. Grunting in rock and roll music began in the 1960s. I have a live version of Free doing Fire and Water in the late 60s, in which Paul Rodgers grunts forcefully, something between "Mm!" and "unh!", before starting the last verse. This is a grunt of power, expressing the intensity of the performer's experience. Paul Rodgers, with his powerful pipes, was the one chosen to replace Freddie Mercury for the latest Queen tour, and this incredible singer remains the standard by which all other grunting singers should be judged.

The context in which Paul did his grunting was one of a music scene, not as strictly segregated as it later became. The 1960s soul music scene was replete with grunting ("Ha! I'll be there!/To love and comfort you," or see songs by Sam and Dave, the Four Tops, or Stevie Wonder). Thus, Jimi Hendrix, who played with the soul (later funk) band the (great) Isley Brothers, took their grunting tradition and brought it to rock and roll. This is not unlike the Beatles' borrowing of Little Richard's whooping, for their records. Thus, Jimi Hendrix brought grunts and whoops like "whaow! let me stand next to your fire," and those in "If 6 was 9," to hard rock. During the 1970s, funk music brought the grunt over the top. Along with wonderful songs like the fantastic "Fight the Power," by the Isleys ("and when I rolled with the punches I got knocked on the ground, by all this/Bullshit goin' down/Ooo!"), punctuated by the odd grunt or whoop, we got the world-acknowledged grunting tour de force, piece de resistance, and masterpiece, "Jungle Boogie," by the great Kool and the Gang. "Feel the funk, y'all/let it f-low/Uh-uh-uh!/chka-chk-chk/chka-jungle-boogie-come-on." This, I would say, is sexual grunting, but I'm just guessing.

It was against this backdrop that the mid-70s Eagles chose to offer: "she got the Mercedes Benz. Unh." This is the weakest grunt of the entire decade. I like an entrancing vamp, but when repetitive songs turned plodding, they always annoyed me no end. And there is no getting away from Hotel California. My request to the Eagles: please remix that song, and have the Isleys or Kool and the Gang add a proper grunt.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

RIP Vince Welnick

Stunning news today. KFOG just announced that Vince Welnick, longtime keyboard player from the Tubes and the Grateful Dead, has died. They say that unconfirmed reports suggest that it might have been at his own hand. What a tragedy.

It's hard to pick a "most-talented" member of the Tubes--Prairie Prince rates high--because they were always firing on all cylinders, and with so many members, too. But I always thought of Vince Welnick as the top of the heap in that band. Find the great, unsung album "Now!", from the late 70s. When I got my first bass, the first band I started studying was the Tubes, especially "You're No Fun," from "Now!." That was always my very favorite Tubes song, a pounding, expansive tour de force. I worked so hard to get that bass part right. Last year, I bought the album again, and rediscovered that great song. Vince Welnick's beautiful piano shines out on that song, and interplays wonderfully with Michael Cotten's sophisticated synthesizer sounds. In the end, Vince is hammering away on the piano, with the rest of the band just smoking away.

It's a tragedy. I don't know what stresses he was undergoing, that may have brought him to this, but anyone considering the same thing should reflect that suicide is still the killing of a good person. Vince Welnick, rest in peace.