Friday, May 28, 2010

Review: A search for JJ's soul

Posted By on Fri, May 28, 2010 at 9:45 AM

Trying to publish a review of JJ's Soulful Dining has been an exercise in futility. Two visits to grab some grub were made, but it was one hit-and-miss attempt after another when it came time to photograph the goods.

One photographer was told the restaurant would not make food just for a photo. A second photographer was denied entrance to the building when the landlord said he was shutting the restaurant down due to late rent (see picture). After we called again and double-checked the restaurant's openness, a third photographer went — and the doors were locked, again, in the middle of a Saturday.

Another phone call was made, and apparently the place on Jet Wing Drive is open but, at this point, all I can say is: Prove it.

JJs landlord locks the door.
  • L'Aura Montgomery
  • JJ's landlord locks the door.

So we can neither confirm nor deny that JJ's Soulful Dining is open, serving food and willing to accommodate customers. But here's what we can say:

Though it's a certainty that screenwriter Samuel Hoffenstein hadn't experienced lunch at JJ's Soulful Dining when he said, "My soul is dark with stormy riot, directly traceable to diet," it'd be more understandable if he had.

Take the location: Judith John's soul food spot lives in a dumpy South Academy Boulevard strip mall, situated between a smoke shop and a Cricket Wireless. Dark shades line the windows, while handwritten signs warn that shirtless, shoeless, check-writing patrons are SOL.

The dining room seems meticulously modeled after an unfinished basement. Exposed drywall divides the kitchen from the main room, which sports a shiny black floor, red-accented chairs, and faux red roses topping black, hand-numbered tables. Drab, grey walls are barely enlivened by a perplexing mix of small, framed mirrors and framed Asian characters. A blank TV and home stereo — aggressively pumping out early ’90s R&B (think Toni Braxton and Boyz II Men) — completes the décor.

Sitting in this most awkward of dining spaces, never more emphatically have I thought, "The food had better be good."

Alas.

Lunch started with an order of six hot wings ($3.99), a literal description. Superheated by a microwave, the mushy meat and overly-vinagery sauce proved upsetting, if not an actual temperature health hazard. This would prove a trend.

After bringing our forgotten silverware and napkins, our server/hostess/cook (i.e., the only person in the restaurant, besides us) returned, in stages, with our entrées.

The catfish sandwich ($5.50) was great. Crunchy and lightly seasoned on the outside, tender and flaky on the inside, and topped with lettuce and tomato, the dish proved a rare hit. Though it would have benefitted from some kind of rémoulade to combat dryness, the requested tartar sauce worked fine. A side of macaroni and cheese proved generically tasty, if a bit soft.

Next came an abysmal pork chop sandwich ($5.50). Two re-heated medallions, apparently fried longer than an August day, sat on a dry bun with lettuce and tomato. Even a side of tangy-sweet homemade barbecue sauce could do little for the flavor. A cheeseburger ($4.79) with lettuce, tomato, pickles and anemic bacon ($1 extra, trying its best to pretend it hadn't sat in a refrigerator overnight and then been microwaved past mush) also failed miserably.

The ribs ($8.99) were tender enough and benefitted from the included sides of salty collard greens with pork, and nicely smothered (basically creamed) corn, but fork-proof cornbread soured the deal.

Interestingly, on a return trip for dinner, Johns, working the kitchen herself, found the missing soul of her food.

Again the only people in the dining room, we were treated to small fried chicken drummettes ($8.99) that crunched and oozed fresh grease in all the right places. The pork chops ($8.99) were hot and tender, while the included sides of crunchy, sweet and perfect potato salad and incredible, sugary baked beans with ground beef outshone all the rest.

Homemade sweets chocolate cake, lemon cake and sweet potato pie (all $2.50) all rated satisfactory and generous for the price with two large scoops of vanilla ice cream on the side.

So JJ's presents a quandary: Will you get microwaved leftovers, or a bit of kitchen magic? Figuring out which shifts Johns works might be the key, but that's a weakness no restaurant should allow.

JJ's Soulful Dining
3037 Jet Wing Drive, 392-2774
Hours: Tuesday through Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, 6:30 to 10:30 a.m. (breakfast), 10:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. (lunch and dinner); Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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Bus drivers still speaking out

Posted By on Fri, May 28, 2010 at 8:52 AM

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For a lot of us, the city's huge reduction in bus service at the start of the year — and the major layoffs that accompanied it — is a distant memory.

But people who rely on buses haven't forgotten. And neither have all the out-of-work bus drivers that the city contracted for services with for decades. Some of those drivers plan to hand out fliers at 26th Street and West Vermijo Avenue (near Vermijo Park) on Monday.

Here's the text of the fliers:

A few of us displaced transit workers here in Colorado Springs have grown tired of waiting for lawyers, politicians and union officials to take visible action against the city os Colorado Springs, as WE RISK LOOSING OUR HOMES AND OTHER POSSESSIONS, so we have decided to start a grass roots campaign to expose our mistreatment by the city goverment. This is why on Memorial Day we will be educating the people of Colorado Springs by passing out the following news letter to the people of Colorado Springs. Knowledge is power and the pen is mightier than the sword.

In 1974 the city of Colorado Springs acquired transit from a private company that was facing bankruptcy. With the city operating transit federal monies were available to assist with the operating cost of transit. With these federal funds came an agreement between the city, federal department of labor and the transit workers union (Amalgamated Transit Union, locally ATU #19). This agreement referred to as the 13 C agreement has certain protections for transit workers was signed by the then members of the city council.
In 2004 the city and county proposed question 1A on the ballot to create a transportation authority and add 1% to the sales tax, which would be used for roads, bridges and public transit improvements. The city and county asked the then Springs Transit employees to assist in getting the word out about question 1A . After being told that transit would expand 2 - 3 times. Transit employees stood on street corners with signs on their own time and put bumper stickers on their vehicles supporting 1A. In Nov. 2004 question 1A was approved by voters and the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority was created. Also in 2004 the Front Range Express and Free Downtown Shuttle were created. The employees of Springs Transit put up with used equipment that constantly broke down to operate these new programs, only to see these programs go to the other 2 entities that were created under the PPRTA.
In 2005 the PPRTA created a separate entity to operate any new transit services. They hired several persons who had been terminated from Springs Transit for various reasons. This meant double management, staff and facility cost. These PPRTA transit employees were hired at lower wages and had higher benefit cost than those employees with Springs Transit.
As time past (2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009) the city began to move routes, including the Front Range Express and Downtown Shuttle to the new PPRTA transit entities and shrink the older Springs Transit. I forgot to mention that the city or PPRTA moved the Front Express to the contractor who has mobility (handicapped transportation entity) and had to move them to a larger facility to accommodate the larger FREX buses. So, now there are 3 transit facilities where they used to be 2. I know this makes perfect economic senses. The city says this was due to budget restraints but in reality the city hoped to dissolve the transit workers union, rid themselves of the Springs Transit employees retirement plan and get cheaper labor. The PPRTA entity employees have a 401k plan, higher benefit cost and lower wages.
In 2009 the city cut bus services and began an aggressive campaign to close the Springs Transit facility. Which in December 2009 they managed to do.
This put over 200 transit employees with 4 - 30 + years of service onto the unemployment lines and left many people stranded without public transportation to use. Of course over the years the city has wasted taxpayers money hiring consultants to help figure out how to fix transit, but they never asked (at little or no cost) the transit employees who know the problems and had suggestions to fix transit (I guess we were to far beneath them). Now the city is asking the federal government for money to help them out with transit. I have written to Senator Michael Bennet telling him what this city council has done and asked him to hold off on any federal money without investigating the waste first. I mentioned the 13C agreement at the beginning of this, while the city is in court fighting with the transit workers union (ATU) and the federal department of labor trying to say they should not be held to this agreement. But of course they have their hand out for more federal money. Most of the Transit facility on Transit Drive sits empty now as a property owner near N. Hancock collects rent for the PPRTA facility. City officials will tell that this is because the contractor First Transit doesn’t desire to move, why then back in (I believe it was) 2008 did both transit entities operate out of the facilities on Transit Dr. for about 3 or 4 months? Then the PPRTA entity was moved back to the facility on N. Hancock. There were even renovations made to the facilities on Transit Dr to accommodate both Transit entities. I cannot say positively, but I heard it might have something to do with the Springs Transit employees retirement plan. As for the 2 modular trailers that the city paid rent for on Transit Drive, these were only needed after the city moved the Springs Transit employees out of the facility at 1015 Transit Dr. that was built with federal funds and had housed all transit operations after being built. Once again money was wasted by city transit officials.
If this isn’t depressing enough, we are stuck under Colorado statues with the PPRTA, we cannot petition to rid ourselves of this mistake. If you didn’t know them here are your PPRTA members, for Colorado Springs, Chairperson Vice Mayor Larry Small, Mayor Lionel Rivera, Jan Martin and Scott Hente (alternate). Manitou Springs, Mayor Marc Snyder and Ingrid Richter. El Paso county Vice Chairperson Commissioner Sallie Clark, Commissioner Dennis Hisey, Commissioner Wayne Williams, Commissioner Jim Bensberg (alternate) and Commissioner Amy Lathen (alternate). Remember when you see these names on a ballot that pot hole you hit on the way to the polls. I would like to see an empty seat in government than an uncaring, greedy, self centered idiot in that seat.


REMEMBER UNITED WE STAND / DIVIDED WE SUFFER


Like our countries founders who were determine to free themselves from a tirant, we are determined to free ourselves of the tirants of the Colorado Springs citY goverment. As our founders put it on a flag "DON'T TREAD ON ME" !!!! And as Commander John Paul Jones said as he faced a British war ship almost twice the size of his own "I HAVE ONLY JUST BEGAN TO FIGHT"!!!!

Jim Gosse

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Don't be a sun goddess

Posted By on Fri, May 28, 2010 at 7:35 AM

With Memorial Day weekend upon us, all those who have grown pale as copy paper over the winter will undoubtedly be donning the halter tops and short-shorts and leaving the hat in the closet.

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Beware: The sun's power is about to make your life miserable, unless you heed advice from the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention, which has designated Friday as “Don’t Fry Day” in an effort to remind people to protect their skin while spending time outdoors.

The state Department of Public Health and Environment joins the message, reminding Coloradans that sun protection is even more important at high-altitude. According to the Colorado Central Cancer Registry, Colorado melanoma incidence rates were 16 percent higher than the U.S. rate for men and 21 percent higher than the U.S. rate for women in 2006.

Overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the primary risk factor for skin cancer, which is on the rise across Colorado and the country, the state said in a press release. Each year, there are more new cases of skin cancer in the United States than new cases of breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers combined. Approximately 68,700 cases of malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, were diagnosed in the United States in 2009.

One in seven Colorado melanomas is diagnosed in someone under the age of 30, highlighting the need to protect children from overexposure to the sun and teach them sun safety behaviors. According to the American Cancer Society, severe sunburns in childhood may greatly increase the risk of melanoma later in life.

Here are some tips to keeping your skin safe:

Know Your Risk — Everyone's risk for skin cancer is different and understanding the unique cancer risks for you and your family is important for implementing appropriate prevention strategies.
Check the UV Index — The UV Index site provides a forecast of UV overexposure risk and indicates the degree of caution you should take when outdoors.
Schedule Time Wisely — Avoid long outdoor activities between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun’s rays are the strongest.
Wear Appropriate Clothing — Clothing can block the sun’s harmful rays and should be one of the first lines of defense against sun exposure.
Wear a Hat — A hat with a brim of 3 inches or more offers the best method of minimizing ultraviolet radiation to the face, head, ears and neck.
Wear Sunglasses — Sunglasses with 100 percent UV protection are common, inexpensive and can prevent short- and long-term damage to the eyes.
Apply Sunscreen — Generously apply sunscreen and lip balm with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 15 or greater every two hours, after swimming and even on cloudy days. Clouds block only 20 to 40 percent of UV rays.
In Colorado, sun safety is a year-round activity. The National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention recommends examining your skin regularly for changes in moles or skin growth, avoiding tanning beds and making UV protection a lifelong practice.

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

FAC offers free admission to military

Posted By on Thu, May 27, 2010 at 5:37 PM

Despite the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center's own cutbacks, the museum will offer free admission to active-duty military personnel and families starting today. As part of the Blue Star Museums program, the FAC joins 650 other museums around the country in giving discounts to the armed services from now until Sept. 5.

Active-duty Reserve and active-duty National Guard are eligible, as well as any other active-duty military ID holder and five immediate family members. Check to see if special exhibits and programs are included in the discount.

Also of note, the FAC's Lost Heroes Art Quilt will leave earlier than scheduled, on May 29, so it can be on display at Fort Carson on Memorial Day.

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For more on the Blue Star Museum program and the FAC, click here.

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Book review: Light Boxes

Posted By on Thu, May 27, 2010 at 3:55 PM

There is a largely underrated part of the world of fiction devoted to the supernatural that's not fantasy. Really the closest I've gotten is Friedrich Dürrenmatt (a bit of the The Visit) and Max Frisch's Biedermann und die Brandstifter (a wonderful fable about a John Doe who is persuaded by arsonists to burn his house down).

It's with that background I came upon Shane Jones' novella Light Boxes, which came out in Penguin paperback this month.

In it, a town battles against an ongoing February. The snow, the chill, the soul-deadening clouds that envelop the landscape — they're all the evil work of a deity called February. To combat the omnipresent depression, the townsfolk dream of June and July and drink mint tea and rub mint leaves on their bodies. They draw hot air balloons and kites on their cupboards.

But when children start disappearing, the town mobilizes for war, following the lead of the tale's main character, Thaddeus, and a resistance group, "the Solution," whose members wear bird masks.

Jones writes with a pleasing lack of flair, letting the images speak for themselves. The effect is calculated and controlled, and in this story, helps ground the reader. And it's not to be mistaken for a lack of drama — Light Boxes hits a frenetic stride at the very end.

The pace suits the mood of the characters. In the beginning, the creepiness and dreaminess of their situation make for a meditative tone. Take for example, a group of children Thaddeus encounters in the woods near the beginning of the book: "Thaddeus asks the children twisting the heads of owls if they have seen a small girl named Bianca in yellow pajamas. The three children sit against an oak tree with their legs stretched out, snow as a blanket to their waists."

At the end, the story takes a mythological turn, like an origin story. Here, a sun is formed by a ball of paper with "July" written on it.

This book can be a lot to accept up front. Readers enter into the action abruptly, and Beloved-like, troll through an ever-more-mysterious plot. It had to grow on me before I started truly enjoying it. Due to the adjustment period that comprised my first impression, Light Boxes is one of those highly creative and beautifully strange books I like best in retrospect.

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No MMJ in Morgan County

Posted By on Thu, May 27, 2010 at 1:24 PM

Morgan County: The place to grow everything but green.
  • MORGAN COUNTY
  • Morgan County: The place to grow everything but green.

Morgan County Commissioners have voted to extend a moratorium on medical marijuana centers through July 2011, reportsThe Fort Morgan Times.

"This moratorium was extended to give the county some time to adapt to new laws recently passed by the Colorado Legislature," said planning administrator Barbara Gorrell during a hearing on the issue after Tuesday's regular board meeting
.

The small northeast Colorado county has roughly 30 MMJ patients who say they're forced by the county's actions to drive to other cities like Denver to obtain their medication.

Multiple sclerosis sufferer James Bass said he disagreed with the idea of an extension of the moratorium, because it affects the lives of all of those who need medical marijuana in the county.

"Having to go all that way for medication which actually helps them is discriminatory, since people do not have to travel to get their other medications," he said.

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Use your delusion: Raul, Rand and Nikita

Posted By on Thu, May 27, 2010 at 12:30 PM

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There was a time when the threat to the American way of life was believed to come from outside our borders.

But that scenario may be changing, given Baby Rand Paul’s successful bid in last week’s Republican Kentucky primary, followed by last night’s Idaho win for Raul Labrador.

In fact, the Republican Party's current corporate takeover by tea party-driven, Libertarian fairy dust-sniffing, multinational corporation-worshipping candidates is almost enough to make you nostalgic for the Cold War days, when the goofy politicians weren't all homegrown.

In the recent K Blows Top: A Cold War Comic Interlude Starring Nikita Khrushchev, America's Most Unlikely Tourist (available, by the way, at the Colorado Springs Penrose and East libraries), author Peter Carlson recalls how, during perpetually intoxicated Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev’s 1959 visit to America, his planned trip to Disneyland got canceled for security reasons. Instead he was driven around Orange County for a couple hours, which pissed him off immensely.

The Soviet premier did get to go to the Iowa State Fair, but that’s not the same. Would Cold War tensions have eased if Nikita and Mickey had been allowed to bond in the Magic Kingdom? Would he (Nikita, not Mickey) have pounded his shoe quite so loudly at the United Nations a year later? Who can say?

In any event, Raul is probably still better than Rand, who after all doesn’t believe in the Civil Rights Bill and fabricates “facts” in order to attack the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Raul, on the other hand, is backed by Idaho Chooses Life and the NRA (aka America Chooses Death) and, according to his campaign website, is a believer in “self-governance by individuals.” And if those “individuals” happen to be Fortune 500 companies, hey, all the better.

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Local artist Herman Raymond dies

Posted By on Thu, May 27, 2010 at 11:32 AM

Untitled by Herman Raymond
  • Courtesy Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center
  • "Untitled" by Herman Raymond.

Renowned painter Herman Raymond passed away Monday at the age of 85. He was best known for his abstract works, some of which were included in the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center's 2009 Colorado Springs Abstract show.

Raymond was displayed with artists of similar acclaim, including: BIll Burgess, Mary Chenoweth, Don Green, Ellen O'Brien, Charles Bunnell and Bill Hyer.

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D-11 serving meals to students this summer

Posted By on Thu, May 27, 2010 at 9:40 AM

The folks over at Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado are always trying to get people to donate during the summer months. All that Christmas generosity is much appreciated, they'll tell you, but summer is often the leanest season for families — the time when they need the most help. And you can blame that on summer vacation.

Yep, the three-month break from school that most of us remember fondly is a time of hunger for many kids whose families can't afford to provide three meals a day. These families tend to rely on the federal government's free and reduced breakfast and lunch programs, which function through the public school system. During the school year, more than 18 million school kids get free and reduced meals because their families live in poverty.

Here's some good news: Colorado Springs District 11 doesn't want those kids to go hungry. So they're offering the same meals throughout the summer months to needy kids. Here are the dates and locations:

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Pools not out for summer

Posted By on Thu, May 27, 2010 at 8:44 AM

Reminder: The city's Wilson Ranch and Portal pools will open this weekend.

While some people still believe that all the cities pools have shut down, that is not the case. Wilson, Portal, and the Aquatic Fitness Center are being run by a private company and are open for business. Cottonwood Creek will also be open, and is still being run by the city.

Wilson Ranch Pool is located at 2335 Allegheny Drive, and Portal Pool is located at 3535 N. Hancock Ave. Summer hours at the two pools are 11:30 to 6, seven days a week.

OK, OK, this isnt a picture of Wilson Ranch or Portal. Behold, the 115-foot deep Nemo 33 pool in Brussels, Belgium.
  • OK, OK, this isn't a picture of Wilson Ranch or Portal. Behold, the 115-foot deep 'Nemo 33' pool in Brussels, Belgium.

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José's expands, multi-cuisine shop opens in OCC

Posted By on Thu, May 27, 2010 at 7:21 AM

Two bits of food news that reached me too late for this week's Side Dish:

1) According to Concept Restaurants' Luke Travins, the restaurant group will be opening a second José Muldoon's in the former Palapa's Surfside building at 5710 S. Carefree Circle.

Yo tengo un hermano!
  • Yo tengo un hermano!

Powers Boulevard has certainly been tough for independent businesses in the past, but since José's almost has more of a corporate vibe, not to mention solid financial backing, it should do well in the spot. Then again ... I predicted that Palapa's would etch a foothold, and it didn't.

2) We heard about a new place in Old Colorado City, opening soon in the former Taste of New Orleans storefront at 2501 W. Colorado Ave. The restaurant is called Uchenna , which if a cursory Web search serves me right, means "God's thoughts" in the Igbo language spoken by Nigeria's Igbo people.

The word is that' Uchenna will serve food from Southern France and Italy as well as Mediterranean and Ethiopian dishes. Tentative store hours are Mondays through Sundays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; call 634-5070 for more.

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Colorado rep requests banks cooperate with MMJ

Posted By on Wed, May 26, 2010 at 9:17 PM

Lately, Rep. Jared Polis has been spending some time in the public eye, frequently in the defense of medical marijuana in Colorado.

Jared Polis: Friend of MMJ.
  • Jared Polis: Friend of MMJ.

Most recently, it was his questioning of Attorney General Eric Holder regarding comments made by Denver DEA agent Jeffrey Sweetin.

Today, it's a letter that was sent to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, signed by Polis and 14 other legislators, saying, "dispensary operators are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain accounts with financial institutions, due to what a spokesman for Chase [Manhattan] Bank called, 'financial operational and compliance risk.'"

Accordingly, we respectfully request that your office issue formal written guidance for financial institutions assuring that Department priorities do not include targeting or pursuing institutions whose account holders are involved in a business ostensibly operating in compliance with a state medical marijuana law. Not only does this remedy a fundamental inequity, it also seems a wise use of the Department's limited resources.

Later, Polis said this to Westword:

They're saying the right things in Washington, but the challenge is to operationalize it in the field, so there are no raids against legal state businesses, and we stop this rhetoric about drug wars. This is a public health issue — a serious public-health issue. But reducing the abuse of drugs is very different from the treatment of medical marijuana under state law.

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Indy Minute

Posted By on Wed, May 26, 2010 at 3:02 PM

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Watch the Indy Minute every Wednesday at 12:40 p.m. on ABC affiliate KRDO News Channel 13, for details on all the events that entertain and bring our community together. This week, we feature the Dangerous Curves Ahead burlesque tour, ACW's Downtown Debut and the MeadowGrass Music Festival.


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Magnetically-challenged Insane Clown Posse move from Red Rocks to Fillmore

Posted By on Wed, May 26, 2010 at 12:21 PM

By now, all true Juggalos and Juggalettes knows that next Monday’s performance by their beloved Insane Clown Posse has been moved to the Fillmore Auditorium. The announcement came yesterday, disappointing area ICP fans who looked forward to enjoying songs about cannibalism, brutality and necrophilia while surrounded by the natural beauty of Red Rocks.

The move to the smaller venue was surely a letdown for the band as well, especially after having their profile raised in recent months by the proliferation of their “Miracles” video and its subsequent Saturday Night Live parody.

This particular ICP video has been especially ridiculed for its use of the line “Fucking magnets, how do THEY work?!” (In the SNL version, “blankets” is substituted for "magnets.")

On this point, however, I have to side with ICP. As Joseph Bruce and Joseph Utsler (AKA Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope) surely know, the mysterious functioning of magnets was one of the fundamental concerns of early philosophers, especially those of the pre-Socratic variety.

In my forthcoming book, ICP and Philosophy, I explain how this was a particular concern of Thales of Miletus, who was an influence on Aristotle and is widely regarded as the founder of Western philosophy.

According to Thales:

1. Anything which has a motor has a soul.

2. Magnets have motors.

3. Therefore, magnets have souls.

So when the Insane Clown Posse follows up its magnet line with “I don’t want to talk to a scientist / Ya’ll motherfuckin’ lying and getting me pissed,” they’re really just echoing the new age spirituality and cosmic humanism of a large portion of the Manitou Springs population.

Meanwhile, look for our no-less-profound interview with the Insane Clown Posse in tomorrow’s Independent.

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Academy graduates pilots today, but why?

Posted By on Wed, May 26, 2010 at 9:13 AM

The Air Force Academy's graduation today has attracted a selection of protesters as usual. Among them were these two guys who apparently aren't wild about the Air Force's steady shift from manned aircraft to drones. The graduation ceremony begins at 10 a.m. at Falcon Stadium.

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