Thursday, July 31, 2003

Raging Bull(sh*t)

Say what you want about Minnesota’s conflicted, confused millionaire Senator, he seems to be a temperate man. Unlike his former colleague Paul Wellstone, Mark Dayton is not prone to wild-eyed emotional outbursts and flourishes of heated, saliva sputtering, irresponsible rhetoric.

That is, apparently, unless you threaten his most closely cherished core beliefs. If today’s paper can be believed, this has occurred, with Congressional attempts to reduce the standard for soundproofing houses near the airport by up to 5 decibels.

The story:

[A Congressional Conference committee] was working on a bill providing funds for the Federal Aviation Administration. Part of the debate centered on whether air-traffic control should be turned over to private companies. The new language restricting federal funds for expanded noise mitigation was added without having been debated in the House or the Senate.

The new language would forbid agencies such as the Airports Commission from using federal airport grants to insulate homes exposed to noise less than an average of 65 decibels. The commission has been insulating houses exposed to 65 or more decibels since the early 1990s. In 1996 it also agreed to eventually provide some degree of noise mitigation to houses exposed to an average of 60 to 64 decibels.


Senator Dayton’s reaction:

Dayton said he was "enraged" at what he called a "back-door attempt" by Northwest to keep the commission from expanding its $208 million noise-insulation program to additional neighborhoods. He said the amendment appeared directed at Minnesota because few if any other airport agencies are planning to insulate houses below the 65-decibel threshold.

He alleged that Northwest persuaded someone -- "reportedly Sen. Trent Lott," a Mississippi Republican -- to insert the mitigation limits in the conference committee report.

Dayton said Northwest lobbyists used "the most devious means I've encountered since I have arrived in Washington" in January 2001. He called the episode "exhibit A for a unicameral Congress and the elimination of conference committees."


Setting the standard at 65 decibels. A change in Minnesota standards by 5 decibels, to a level already adopted by most of the country. And Mark Dayton is “enraged,” accusing Trent Lott of personally targeting Minnesota neighborhoods, slurring Northwest Airlines, and calling for a complete overhaul of the Constitution and of our system of governance?

By the way, according to the League for the Hard of Hearing (whom I’ve always felt were much more objective than the Association of Folks Who Are A Might Deef), 85 decibels is the point at which noise, over a prolonged period of time, could damage hearing.

10 decibels is the sound of normal breathing. And the standards are being reduced by half of that level, which I guess is equivalent to the sound of a squirrel wistfully sighing (which is heartbreaking I grant you, but not a threat to anyone's eardrums).

Yes, Senator Dayton's reaction seems more than a little over the top. A cynic might suggest he's once again clumsily trying to ingratiate himself to the middle and lower classes by defending each and every public subsidy to the death, in the hopes of grabbing some headlines. But optimist that I am, I'll just assume that he's just hyper-sensitive to noise. Or he hates squirrels.

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Long Time Listener, First Time Choker

Nice to know that I have some company in the ranks of those who have made depressingly poor calls to talk radio shows. Now only did our own Saint Paul write about a less than stellar experience of his a few years ago in a post below, but he also mentions this confession by Brad Jones at Infinite Monkeys that details his recent failure as a caller to Hugh Hewitt's show.

Forgetting to plug the blog? What kind of pathetic loser would forget to plug the blog?

It happens to the best of us Brad. At least that's the illusion we need to maintain to salvage what's left of our dignity.

I’m Also Very Big In Japan

It ain’t easy to be entertaining on the radio. From my own experience as a mere caller, it ain’t even easy to be coherent. A few weeks ago I wrote about my misadventures with Frank Pastore, when he was filling in on the Hugh Hewitt show.

My other on-air lowlight was a call to the Jason Lewis program a couple of years ago. His topic was public financing of a stadium for the Twins. Jason was against it and so was I. But in his prepared remarks I felt Jason was being a little too loose with the facts. Specifically, something about all revenues produced from such a stadium would be a result of a substitution effect. That is, the spending would merely be transferred from other entertainment options in the Twin Cities. I had some picayune evidence to the contrary, and even though I agreed with 99% of his argument, it was that one point of disagreement that motivated me to call in. Why? I think it has something to do with the competitive nature of talk radio, or perhaps the overly competitive nature of this particular host and this particular listener.

So after hearing whatever mildly objectionable point he made, I leapt off the couch, dialed in and within 30 seconds I was on the air with the man himself. I made my narrowly focused little rebuke, without even qualifying it by telling him I generally agreed with him. Then Jason, master debator (?) that he is, dismissed my argument, subtly changed the subject to a facet of the stadium debate I didn’t comment on, and confronted me with a new set of unarguable facts – all in about two sentences.

Needless to say I became flustered. So sure was I that I was right and that the brilliance of my argument would render him helpless and begging me for forgiveness, I hadn’t bothered to think of counter arguments or the broader context of the debate. So after he turned the tables on me and fired off an accusatory question .... I stuttered, hemmed, hawed, paused, and then merely restated my original point. While I suppose I deserve credit for staying “on message,” it now sounded to the casual listener like I was changing the subject and avoiding the main question at hand.

After allowing me to languish about, spewing nonsense for a few more seconds, Jason landed another couple crushing blows to the straw man of an argument he had created of me, then he threw it to commercial by laughing at me and shouting “Nice try Saint Paul!”

Lesson learned the hard way: think before you call.

Brad Jones over at Infinite Monkeys does think before he calls talk shows. In fact, often times he thinks in Latin. But even that doesn’t mean things go exactly as you plan. Today he writes about his experience calling the Hugh Hewitt show.

The key sentences:

It's become painfully obvious that co-Monkey Ben and I sit in front of our respective computers all day listening to the Salem Radio Network talk line up. (At least we're in good company alongside James Lileks, and St. Paul of Fraters Libertas.)

It’s all true, even cool guys like me and James listen to a lot of talk radio. Although to be fair, we’re not always sitting side-by-side. Sometimes he’s in the house tidying up, while I’m in the back yard, christening a new case of James Page.

So Brad in Phoenix and chronic talk radio listeners all over the country you have nothing to be ashamed of. (Unless you’re listening to Mike Gallagher – then you have a lot to be ashamed of).

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

What's In A Name?

By now most of you have probably noticed that we shortened the URL of the blog a bit last Friday to make it more user friendly. Not that fraterslibertas.com exactly rolls off the tongue and wedges itself firmly in your memory but it is a slight improvement.

< navelgazing >

We're often asked why we elected to go with a name that isn't easily remembered, pronounced, or even understood. The truth is that we never really considered the possibility that we would have any kind of wider readership at all, to say nothing of being occasionally mentioned on a national talk radio show (credit to Mr. Hewitt for pronouncing it correctly the first time unlike a certain local talk radio host who butchered the name repeatedly). The idea for a web site sprang up one day while my brother JB Doubtless and I were on one our lengthy long distance phone conversations. JB was living in Boston at the time and once every couple of weeks we would spend two hours discussing the state of the world. In between phone conversations we would trade almost daily e-mails (often including other friends as well) offering our opinions on various matters and promoting worthwhile articles we had read elsewhere.

If I recall correctly the actual inspiration for the site might be credited to Lileks who had written in a Bleat on the need to leave something behind to let people know you were here. We had both been reading Lileks on a daily basis since 1998 and had a great deal of respect for his writing. While we knew that we could never hope to approach his level of skill we decided that a site where we could collect and share our own writing was the way to go.

So we needed a name. We talked about using our family name in a similar manner to Lileks.com. But we had concerns about possible repercussions at our workplaces. We wanted to be able to write anything we wanted about any subject we wanted without having to worry about offending anyone's sensibilities. Most of our material would be unobjectionable but at times we might be a bit offensive and we wanted to reserve the right to be. So we opted for the cloak of anonymity.

We tossed around a lot of names but nothing seemed to fit. We started to explore Latin names in order to provide a hint of mystery and intellectualism. It seemed like a good way to class the joint up a bit. Plus we were Catholic and enjoyed the history and tradition of the language. Finally one day I put the words fraters (brothers) and libertas (liberty) together and submitted it to JB. "It's a little pretentious but I think it will work", he replied. It is pretentious but it did work. After all we were brothers who were looking for a forum to freely express our views.

At that time (Spring 2001) we were not really aware of the world of blogs other than Lileks who was and still is not really a traditional blogger. We set up a basic web page at fraterslibertas.com with an index of our writing. I had a number of e-mails I had collected from previous correspondence that I published at the site. As new material emerged we would publish it as well. It was a rather slow and time consuming process and as a result we didn't have fresh material on a regular basis. We also did little or nothing to promote the site preferring rather to use it more a storing house for our writing for some unknown future use.

Gradually we did begin to discover some of the big name bloggers such as Andrew Sullivan and Instapundit. After September 11th our interest in blogs grew dramatically as I'm sure it did for many others. Our e-mail exchanges also became longer and in some case more heated. In fact the gentleman who would one day became known as Saint Paul and I engaged in a furious debate immediately after 9/11 on the course of action that should be pursued. This isn't the time or place to reexamine whose arguments have been proven correct by the course of history but let's just say that while Saint Paul was defending the positions of Hunter S. Thompson, I was backing the rhetoric of George W. Bush. 'Nuf said?

By the beginning of January 2002 I realized that blogging was indeed the wave of the future and that we needed to get our feet wet. In March we launched the Fraters blog. And it was indeed much easier to publish, update, and link than before. We decided to publicize the site to some of our friends to get their reaction. I thought that with the writing of JB Doubtless and myself we would have enough material to keep things interesting but unfortunately JB had some technical difficulties getting set up on Blogger and then had work commitments which restricted his ability to participate. For five months I slogged along solo (for the most part) at the Fraters controls and it wasn't easy. I have admire those unibloggers like Mitch Berg at Shot in the Dark who can consistently write enough to keep readers interested. For us the group blog model was the only way to go.

Even after our minor dust up I had continued to exchange e-mails with Saint Paul who was at this point a regular Fraters reader (one of six at the time I believe) and was impressed with his wit and creative writing style. Plus I was really frickin' desperate for some help. And so the Saint Paul era was born in August 2002 commencing with this post called The Best Hockey Player in Ecuador, a satirical look at Minnesota politics that gave us our first glimpse of his wise acred stylings that we would come to know and love.

Meanwhile JB's job situation in Boston took a turn for the worse when he was released on unconditional waivers. For a period of time he cooled his heels in Bean town and took advantage of the rather generous unemployment benefits offered by Massachusetts. Eventually he realized that it was only a matter of time before a mob of outraged taxpayers of the commonwealth, armed with torches and pitchforks, would descend on his apartment and drag him away to be sold into chattel slavery to recoup a small portion of the costs of keeping him on the dole and so he returned to Minnesota in December. He stepped in and stirred up some controversy almost at once with this post on the death of Joe Strummer (at that time his moniker was going to be The Younger).

The solid core of the Fraters line up was now set with our triumvirate of scribes. A few other contributors have come and gone in the meantime but haven't had the staying power or the stamina to last. In June the Atomizer was brought on board after an exhaustive interview process (although I think next time you can skip the full body cavity search Saint Paul) and background check. So far it appears as if he has the right stuff for a long and prosperous career here at Fraters Libertas. If not we'll dump his arse faster than KSTP cuts morning show hosts and he'll join the others on the ash heap of history. Remember Atomizer, your job security is as solid as your latest post.

The question of using our real names has come up from time to time from friends and readers. While using our proper names would certainly have its benefits we have decided to remain veiled, at least for the time being. We're not all that secretive about it anyway and if you really must know we'll be happy to divulge our identities. Again the desire for anonymity is based primarily on possible repercussions at work, a concern not wholly without merit based on the experiences of other bloggers. After all I don't think the Atomizer would be quite so cheeky writing about sabotaging the office stereo system or stiffing his coworkers on gifts if his actions could be easily traced back to him. And it's annoying enough to have drunk friends offer up unsolicited advice on how to run the site. We don't need coworkers doing the same.

< /navelgazing >

So what is in a name? Could we have possibly gotten more hits, links, and pub if we had an easier handle? Definitely. But who could have foreseen what things would come when we kicked off this little hobby two years ago? Besides they've already started work on the engraved marble entryway in the new Fraters World Headquarters and those stone masons get pretty surly with last minute work order changes. Fraterslibertas.com it is and fraterslibertas.com it shall be.

(sometimes you need) More Than A Feeling

Steven Den Beste at USS Clueless looks at why the left's anti-war arguments failed:

I think that there may have been some sort of deep feeling that if only those demonstrating against the war could somehow adequately communicate how strongly they opposed the war, that this would be enough to convince the rest of us to give up the entire enterprise. If the validity of a point of view is entirely a function of the sincerity with which it is held, then if enough people are emphatic enough about their sincerity, they should prevail for that reason alone.

And how many on the left have reacted to that failure:

Attempts by the leftists to show how emphatically they oppose war don't seem to be having any impact. Invective and ridicule has failed to discredit those of us who have been advocating war. (And that's puzzling, too. In college, denouncing someone as being "conservative" would instantly discredit them and silence them. Why hasn't that been working in the debate about the war?)

So they're turning up the intensity of the ridicule and invective. If they can somehow find the right magical ad hominem characterization for their opponents, the opponents will vanish and take their dangerous messages with them. (So if "conservative" doesn't work, maybe "psychotic" or "racist" will.)


Read it all. For a Den Beste post it's actually rather brief and to the point.

Fear And Aggression In Berkeley

Everyone knows by now that Ronald Reagan and Adolf Hitler were practically genetic copies of each other. Well, now it seems that we can include Stalin, Kruschev and Castro into the ranks of the "politically conservative". This article from WorldNetDaily explains it all and, wouldn’t you know it, it involves a researcher from the University of California at Berkeley.

You get a sense of what the article's subject (a piece in the American Psychological Association's Psychological Bulletin entitled "Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition") is all about from the opening paragraph:

In a study that ponders the similarities between former President Ronald Reagan, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and Rush Limbaugh, four American university researchers say they now have a better understanding of what makes political conservatives tick.

Of course. In order to find out what makes conservatives tick we have no need to look any further than the four men mentioned above.

There's more:

Underlying psychological motivations that mark conservatives are "fear and aggression, dogmatism and intolerance of ambiguity; uncertainty avoidance; need for cognitive closure; and terror management," the researchers wrote"

We are, however, reminded later in the text that these aren't necessarily BAD things:

(Professor Jack) Glaser (UC Berkeley) allowed that while conservatives are less "integratively complex" than others, "it doesn't mean that they're simple-minded."

Now there's a backhanded compliment if I ever read one.

Next comes the setup:

The researchers also contend left-wing ideologues such as Joseph Stalin and Fidel Castro "might be considered politically conservative in the context of the systems that they defended."

Never mind that the systems that Stalin and Castro defended and the one that Reagan defended were polar opposites!

And here's the clincher:

The researchers acknowledged left-wing ideologues such as Stalin, Castro and Nikita Kruschev resisted change in the name of egalitarianism after they established power.

So Stalin, Castro and Kruschev redeemed themselves "after they established power" because of their strong belief in human equality while the likes of Reagan never did see the error of his ways. Their motivation for "resisting change" became a noble goal while Reagan continued his ways of "fear and aggression" and his "endorsement of inequality."

Lest any of you conservatives take offense at this study, the researchers would like us to know that their findings "are not judgmental" and that:

the research could be viewed as partisan because it focused on political conservatism, but he (Glaser) argued there is a vast amount of information about conservatism and little about liberalism.

You be the judge.

Monday, July 28, 2003

Moore Or Less Obliterated

There have been many fine pieces in the last year lambasting Michael Moore but this article at OpinionJournal.com by Kay S. Hymowitz is likely the most comprehensive and takes Moore's work apart down to an almost molecular level.

Citing Precedent

Last night I was watching a program on the Discovery Channel chronicling the history of our good buddy Saddam. One interesting detail emerged that I was previously unaware of. In 1963 after a Baathist coup toppled the military government of Brigadier Abdul-Karim Qassem , the Baathists executed Qassem and then showed his corpse (as well as the corpse of one of his aides) on national television in order to convince Iraqis that he was indeed dead.

Perhaps I missed it but I don't recall ever hearing this fact mentioned by the major media in the recent debate about whether to show the bodies of the departed Hussein brothers. There was some discussion about the Iraqis having a history of such behavior but no specific examples were cited. Might not this have been considered relevant to the story?

Maybe we'll hear about it when Big Daddy Saddam buys the farm.

UPDATE: Rick e-mails to say that the actual executions of Qassem and his aide were televised live, which seems credible given the fact that they were killed in the Iraqi national television studios.

Sound Off Like You Got a Pair

I just realized, in my previous thousand word post about the firing of John Wodele, I forgot to comment on the firing of John Wodele.

In short, KSTP’s dismissal of him is a good thing, a necessary thing, and an inevitable thing (in the context of free market economics). Despite Wodele’s attempts to blame the listeners for not liking him, because he was supposedly too moderate and reasonable, his failures as a broadcaster come down to more elemental matters.

First, he had a lousy voice. His natural tone comes off as prissy and uptight. Plus, his delivery always sounded like he was being sanctimonious and had a subtext of “how dare you!” but in a limp dishrag, pouting sort of way. Worse yet, his cadence sounded like it was developed through years of working for various government bureaucracies and public relations gigs (and what do you know - it was!). He sounded officious and condescending and scolding, even when he was talking about traffic. And there’s nothing worse than hearing East I-94 is backed up to Snelling, then being made to feel that somehow it’s your fault.

Wodele’s vocal inadequacies alone were probably enough to get him dismissed. A station like KSTP has to worry about ratings and employing a voice the audience finds grating is a sure loser. This is not the case for a station that doesn’t care if it has listeners or not (because of government subsidy). Anyone familiar with Carl Kasell on NPR reading the news with what sounds like a mouth filled with vinegar soaked cotton balls knows what I‘m talking about.

But beyond his pipes, the substance of Wodele’s comments only added to his problems. The main issue wasn’t the fact that he wasn’t as conservative as the audience. Although this is true, Wodele could fairly be considered a moderate Democrat in his orientation.

The main problem is that Wodele was never comfortable in the persona he adopted for the radio. He never came out and honestly presented himself for who he was. Instead he tried to emphasize whatever mildly conservative positions he had and tried to gloss over his dominant liberal orientation. This resulted in him not being able to articulately support his purported conservative beliefs (because, I suspect, he hadn’t thought much about them and didn’t really care to).

Furthermore, his liberal opinions would often times slip out in unintended ways. Not during his prepared remarks or planned soliloquies. Rather, during a conversation with a guest or caller, he’d make statements that put him more in line with Dennis Kucinich than Dennis Hastert. Then the caller or guest would challenge him on these remarks, and typically Wodele would get flustered, start making excuses, then ultimately retreat to the position that the callers were being mean to him and they should stop it.

Inevitably that’s how these situations would be resolved. Not with frank and complete exchange of ideas, but with Wodele whining that he was being treated unfairly, so they should stop the conversation. Both him and his partner Mark O’Connell would laugh about how hard the callers were being on him, only because Wodele was unable, or unwilling, to defend himself. They even started using a caller’s comment “Wodele, you’re killing me!” as the sounder whenever a call like this came in (which, towards the end was about once an hour).

It would have been better for John Wodele if he would have been brave enough to present himself for who he was. And if he indeed was intelligent, principled, and able to communicate the liberal position effectively and in an entertaining manner, there’s a good chance he would have succeeded at KSTP.

But, ultimately, Wodele added no value to the broadcast, other than as a figure of justifiable ridicule for the audience. Which is OK for a third or fourth wheel on the show, but it’s not acceptable for one of the supposedly dominant personalities. Therefore, he had to get the axe, and so he did. Feels like market justice to me.

Sunday, July 27, 2003

I'mSickOfThisCrap-Gate

It's been thirty freaking years! Can we PLEASE get over this ridiculously botched snooping mission?!?!?!?

What The Pig Starts To Look Like At A Floyd Concert After 13-14 Hits





Actually it's a site from this weekend's Rib Fest in downtown Minneapolis. I was not in the area to attend the event but happened to be passing by when the pig caught my eye. Apparently he enthusiasticly endorses the consumption of his swine mates.

There He Goes Again

Today, St. Paul Pioneer Press entertainment columnist (and liberal media bias denier) Brian Lambert gets on his high horse once again to denounce conservative talk radio and its listeners. This time in regard to the firing of one of KSTP’s morning hosts, John Wodele.

Lambert interpretation of the firing is that Wodele was too “reasonable” and “respectful” to live up to the listener’s expectations for the genre. Using a professional wrestling metaphor, here’s Lambert’s characterization of Wodele’s short lived career behind the mic:

"It's science fiction to think he's going to convince his opponent, the oiled, 400-pound simian in the executioner's mask, the posse of strippers and hucksters hanging on the ropes, or any of the shrieking, drooling fans to stop for a moment and consider a more reasonable argument. Quite simply, the shtick has nothing to do with reasonableness, civility or logic."

Remember, Lambert’s not a political columnist. His job is to write about Twin Cities entertainment and media. And he’s the only one the newspaper offers on these topics. Unlike the editorial pages (at least those from respectable newspapers), there isn’t a conservative also reviewing these same issues and presenting a more conservative (shall I say more “reasonable”) viewpoint. He’s all we got.

Given the fact that he’ s just admitted he thinks of conservative broadcasters as “400-pound simians in executioner’s masks” and the listeners of these programs as “shrieking, drooling fans,” any chance he’s going to be fair minded in reporting the issues surrounding these shows? Any chance he’s even going to duely respect the fact these programs dominate the ratings for their time slots?

Lambert’s motives for not being able to report objectively are revealed in the above comments. And the smoking gun proof that he doesn’t report objectively can be found in almost every column he writes. No matter what the topic is, he’s able to slip in a slur against conservatives, sometimes subtly sometimes not. All the while blithely denying from his bully pulpit that there is such a thing as liberal media bias.

For example, take his his column from last Wednesday (please). In his review of the upcoming PBS National Geographic special on the FBI, he sprinkles in this objective observation:

"Because it's the National Geographic, and not, say, Fox News or al-Jazeera, "The FBI" gets relatively unique access to FBI director Robert Mueller."

Then there was his column from Friday. The topic was the controversy surrounding a local reporter’s plans to work as a policewoman during the Minnesota State Fair. Mr. Lambert takes a brief detour from his central point to dismiss even the possibility of liberal media bias, characterizing the accusations as:

"...the exploitative hammering the mainstream press regularly takes for bias and sloppiness from self-serving conservative interest groups."

In the past few weeks I’ve done numerous posts on the hypocritical bias of Brian Lambert and if necessary I could do twice weekly updates on it. But I suspect the interest level for this type of thing is limited among our national readership (and by that I mean you, Maria Ibanez in Davis, CA. Orale chica!).

Plus, to take the time to publicly expose Lambert on every column he writes means I would have to read every column Lambert writes. I don’t think even I deserve to suffer that much. (Plus, I read the City Pages almost every week, and that’s enough suffering for anyone.)

Yes, I admit it is fun to occasionally check in with Mr. Lambert and see how many paragraphs and how many twists and turns from the subject it takes for him to work in an unjustifiable slur or elitist barb in one of his reports. But do I really need to keep exploitively hammering him for self serving purposes in the forum of the conservative interest group that is Fraters Libertas?

Probably not. If the world is willing to stipulate that Brian Lambert’s writing is ridden with liberal bias and his denials of such are disingenuous and hypocritical, then my work here is done. We can all move on with our lives and focus ourselves on more productive pursuits.

And by that of course, I mean the extreme liberal bias present in Al Sicherman’s “Mr. Tidbit” column. Here’s the lede from his Thursday column:

"Apparently the wave of cute miniature cookies that appeared in the early 1990s is returning in force."

Al Sicherman - get ready for a war!!!!

Saturday, July 26, 2003

A Super Hero Concept That Just Never Caught On

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's um.. Spandex Man?!?

Last March, when two 18-year-old women were taking the elevator to their apartment in a Plymouth building, they were approached by a man wearing light-colored spandex tights and a T-shirt, Lindman said.

The man asked if his outfit was too revealing and then asked if he could use the mirror in their apartment to see for himself how he looked. Once in the apartment, he drew attention to his groin area and asked the women to rate him from one to 10. The women told him to leave and he did, Lindman said.

However, the women neglected to lock their door, and the man soon returned, this time wearing only a thong, he said.

The man attempted to hug his victims, began to masturbate and pulled down the pants of one of the women, Lindman said.

They screamed and the suspect fled, he said.

“Spandex Man” began exposing himself to victims at least 10 years ago but the incidents now are escalating to attempts to touch his victims, Lindman said.

There have been no recent reports of incidents involving the suspect, but police throughout the metro area and from as far away as Mankato and Wisconsin have had similar cases, he said.


The jokes pretty much write themselves with this guy. Spandex Man: able to pleasure himself with a single stroke. Have more fear ladies, Spandex Man is here.

Friday, July 25, 2003

What's The Red Head Up To This Weekend?

Thankfully I don't know the answer to that question. Now that the weekly Friday morning segment with James Lileks has mysteriously disappeared without mention, I no longer have any reason to listen to local radio host Ian Punnett's show and therefore am not privileged as to the plans that his wife has made for the weekend which were usually revealed on air right before Lileks came on. Compelling radio indeed.

Going Down Home

David Adesnik from Oxblog has an excellent post about leaving Oxford to return to the United States and what he has learned about being an American while in Britian:

The more I read about America, the more I identified with its historical sense of mission. I began to recognize that I had always had that sense of mission, but did not understand the degree to which it was part of my American heritage. Over the past two years, that degree became apparent precisely because there was no comparable sense of mission on the far side of the Atlantic.

Again, one cannot reduce the question of invading Iraq to cultural differences. But that was a part of it. Even before Sept. 11, I had begun to sense Britain's nation discomfort with the concept of a mission.


I Did The Iggy

In a post yesterday that dealt with talk radio show host Sean Hannity I apparently provided some misleading information on Hannity's career path. I assumed that Hannity had entered the talk radio field after the success of his Fox television show and didn't bother to fact check my assumption before running with it (my resume is on its way to the NY Times as we speak) which resulted in this thorough dressing down from Franklin (he's not just a member of the Sean Hannity Fan Club-he's the president!):

When did Hannity crossover from TV to radio? He was on in Huntsville AL, then Atlanta, GA, then NYC, then syndication. At some point after moving to NYC, he crossed over to TV.

You got it backwards. I was taught to respect my elders, but, jeeze, man, you sound like Abe Simpson right now. I'm just waiting for your pants to drop and what dignity you have left to tumble with them.


Hello? Hello! You have my pills! Hello? I'm cold, and there are wolves after me.

Sorry. I slipped into Grandpa mode for a moment there. I apologize for my misstatement on Hannity and promise not to allow such a lazy mistake to occur again. At least until next time.

Not all of our readers are fanatical Hannity fans like Franklin. James agrees with my assessment of him:

You could not be more right about Hannity. My complaint about him is he is simply not smart enough to handle himself with certain guests. On Wednesday he had some arrogant, obnoxious, New Jersey Democrat Congressman (gee, four terms that all mean the same thing) who cleaned Hannity's clock. It was embarrassing, and Hannity's inability to respond to some of the Congressman's statements made his positions appear indefensible. Well, on the bright side, at least Hannity is not stupid and aggressively obnoxious like O'Reilly.

Unfortunately for Hannity not being O'Reilly isn't going to be enough.

Time to get going. If I'm not back at the home by nine they declare me legally dead and collect my insurance!

Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Go Back Into The Editorial Pages

Over the years there have been a number of poorly written, meaningless, and pointless editorials published in the pages of the Star Tribune (including some not written by Syl Jones). There are days when I read the editorial page dumbfounded, unable to grasp how a particular piece ever saw the light of day and wondering what the editors were thinking or if they even reviewed the work before publishing it. I don't really mind reading editorials whose opinions that I happen to disagree with (around 85% of what the paper publishes) but I can't stand reading sloppy, shoddy work that wouldn't pass muster in a high school composition class.

This piece by Karin Winegar, who claims to be a writer, was published in yesterday's paper and it is the worst piece of garbage I've come across in some time. It's a whiny diatribe about greed or "pathological greed" as Winegar calls it. And it's the root cause of just about everything wrong with the world:

This is the insatiable appetite that turned the once-forested and green Mediterranean into rocks and semi desert, that killed all but the last handful of plains buffalo, that consumed the carrier pigeon and the dodo and thousands of other species, that plundered the Georges Bank fishing grounds, that wanted to and still insists that it needs to harvest all the whales, the last of the redwoods and old-growth pines, and lift wilderness designation on land to get at the minerals.

I'm going to spare you from having to read much more of her dreck. Every one of her sentences could easily be Fisked and her arguments gutted. But it's just painful to suffer through in it's entirety. Often the advice "read the whole thing" is offered. In this case I say the opposite, "don't read the whole thing". In fact read as little of it as possible.

Suffice it say that she's against people having "too much" and believes that greed is an addiction. She confesses to suffering from a bit of "toxic excess" herself by owning too many pairs of shoes and boots including a pair of beaded moccasins and mukluks. Why she felt the need to mention this is beyond my abilities of comprehension. She does manage to separate herself from the "greedaholics" though by admitting that she is embarrassed about the size of her shoe collection. Earth to loony lady; NO ONE CARES.

While she doesn't come right out and say it you get the feeling that she's looking for the heavy hand of government to step in and correct this "problem" through confiscatory taxation or limits on wealth:

I propose we look at salaries -- perhaps starting with MBNA's Alfred Lerner ($194.9 million) -- and consider intervention and treatment using the Twelve Step addiction recovery model. Minnesota is, after all, home of Hazelden Foundation. We know how to help those who cannot help themselves, even at the upper-bracket end of society.

This is not socialism; it is treating a disease that imperils the stock market, the integrity of the financial system, our faith in our leaders, the health of the planet.


The words "we know how to help those who can't help themselves" is quite revealing and frightening. We know what's good for you. And yes she is talking about socialism no matter how she want to couch it as "treating a disease".

Up to this point the piece was crap. But it wasn't worthy of the crap hall of fame. It needed a big crappy finish to push it over the top. And Lordy did Winegar deliver one.

Too much of a good thing, be it bathrooms, furnaces, shoes or liquor or even salary, is not wonderful. It's a symptom of a disorder as widespread as AIDS, as communicable as SARS.

When I first read this yesterday I was rendered speechless. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. What the hell was going through her mind when she wrote that last sentence? Did she think it a clever, powerful closing statement?

Consider for a moment how utterly silly it really is. She's trying to compare people's desire to acquire material wealth to deadly diseases. According to recent stats about .3% of the US population has AIDS/HIV so to claim that "pathological greed" is as widespread as AIDS tends to diminish, not strengthen her contention. And how, pray tell is the "greed disorder" in any possible way, shape, or form communicable like SARS? HOW? My God! If a ten year old tried to make that comparison I maybe would understand (and would also feel the need to correct them) but we're talking about an adult woman here. And an alleged writer as well!

I realized that the standards of the Strib editorial page had been compromised when I started seeing pieces appear by unprofessional hacks who run blogs but I had no idea the quality of writing had sunk to such depths.

An Easy Answer

My boss just called me and asked me if I wanted the "opportunity" to represent our division on our company's diversity council. After considering the proposal for all of three seconds I turned down the generous offer.

Take My Breath Away

Stillwater hosts Lumberjack Days this weekend. Per usual, shock and awe inspiring events are scheduled.

The shocker: on Saturday, FREE concerts by the Teddy Bear Band and the Dweebs (typically a double bill like this would set back a family of four at least five bucks).

But before that, the awe. Today at 1:20, two F-16As from the Minnesota Air National Guard’s 148th Fighter Wing will take off from their home base at the Duluth international airport and ten minutes later are scheduled to come roaring down the St. Croix river valley, for a low altitude pass over the historic Stillwater Lift Bridge. This event was first staged last year, and reports are, it was amazing.

So if you’re in the East Metro this afternoon and can sneak out of work after lunch, come on down and see a legitimate use of your tax dollars in action.

For those preferring to witness an illegitimate use of your tax collars, check out these photos of a certain confused and conflicted United States Senator hanging out with the 148th and doing his best impression of Tom Cruise in Top Gun. Unfortunately for him, he looks slightly less comfortable than Michael Dukakis riding a tank.

By The Shores Of Big Snake Lake...

I find it impossible read this story and not immediately think of Kamp Krusty:

Three teenage counselors at a 4-H camp were charged Thursday with child abuse, disorderly conduct and assault for allegedly forcing young campers into bare-knuckle fights, then charging admission and allowing betting.

Three counselors? Jimbo, Kearney, and Dolph.

Gentlemen, to evil!

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Please Take A Number & Queue Up To Renew Your License For Anti-Americanism

As heard on last night's Hugh Hewitt radio broadcast:

"They're like the DMV of broadcasting."

-Mark Steyn describing the type of person who works for the BBC

A Whole New Paradigm Of Synergy

John Hawkins at Right Wing News conducted a lengthy (but extremely interesting) interview with Hugh Hewitt which concluded with Hugh giving us a look at the future of talk radio:

Hugh Hewitt: Yes, I want to say that I think talk radio is changing. The rising talk stars are Prager, Medved, myself, & Hannity. We're gaining market share really quickly. Rush already has market share, he can't get any bigger -- but who's advancing on him? Michael Savage has had some success, but I don't see that as long lasting. I see the success of Hannity, Prager, Medved, & myself as built upon the new information technology. The smarter the host, the better the show, the greater the audience. Knucklehead radio is going to go away and in its place...if I were a thirty year old like you, I'd find a radio show to match with my blog because the synergy is overwhelming.

I agree with nearly everything the Commissioner says except his inclusion of Sean Hannity in the group of rising talk radio hosts. Hannity has enjoyed success in crossing over from television to talk radio so far but I don't think he has what it takes to last. He's a solidly conservative voice but he's just not all that entertaining or engaging. I regard him as a Rush Lite, lacking both Limbaugh's impeccable senses of humor and timing, which are critical components in Rush's long term success. Without them Hannity will not be able to break through to a wider audience as Rush has.

All Things Considered, I’d Prefer To Be Circled

"America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It's been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again." – W.P. Kinsella, Shoeless Joe

This embarrassingly sappy ode to baseball tradition, operationalized yesterday by Bert Blyleven (as reported in today’s Pioneer Press):

Doing his part to keep alive hallowed baseball tradition, Twins broadcaster Bert Blyleven mooned the entire Minnesota Twins baseball team Wednesday afternoon as it assembled for the annual team photo.

The entire team is brought together for the official team photo, lined up, forced to face in the same direction for a sustained period of time, and some guy casually strolls behind the camera and drops trow, thus inspiring smiles slighlty more authentic than an appeal to say "cheese."

Juvenile? Yes. Crass and taseteless. Certainly. But, funny? Unquestionably, and I think that's all that matters.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

The Fabric Of Society Is Very Complex

Today, I put an end to another workplace annoyance, one I call “The Gifting”. (Some of you may recall how I temporarily won my battle with the office stereo system. This was way back when I was merely a “long time reader” of Fraters). “The Gifting” is what I call the wholly offensive practice of being asked to contribute money to buy a group gift for a co-worker, usually for such momentous occasions as an impending wedding or birth.

I work in a firm with about 25 employees, 20 of whom are females. Of these 20, 15 are between the ages of 22 and 35 (before you start envying my position, consider for a moment these two words: synchronous menstruation). How likely is it that some of these women, if not all, will either get married and/or pregnant in the near future? Every other week it’s a baby shower for Sally or a wedding shower for Jane and every time I’m expected to cough up another ten spot or more to go towards another place setting or a set of teddy bear Onesies.

And if that isn’t bad enough, I’m expected to sit through the work arranged shower (after working hours, I might add) to watch the gifts being opened. The only showers I enjoy are the five minute blasts of hot water every morning that complete the transition from sleep to consciousness.

The latest shakedown occurred today as one of the girls, who just got married last year and is five months pregnant (that’s at least $20 out of my pocket if you’re keeping score) announced that she is leaving the firm. I was now being asked to contribute towards a going away gift. What could possibly be next? “Mary just had a Botox injection. Let’s buy her a microwave!”

I have been seething internally about this issue for about three showers now and today, I finally put the brakes on. When the office collection agent made her way to my desk and asked “Are you contributing to Jenny’s going away gift?” I responded with a long sigh. She shot back with “Well, you don’t have to.” I obviously knew this, but in a 25 person firm, it’s easy to become known as the office curmudgeon for not participating in the office “fun” which is why I always gritted my teeth and played along. Not this time, though. I simply responded “I know. Count me out.” With those words, the collector walked away to her next victim with the fresh news that I wasn’t a team player.

I fully expect to feel the repercussions of my decision, but I took a stand that I felt had to be taken. I do, however, wonder if I will regret my choice someday. Perhaps I could have persuaded the collectors to roam the halls of the office with tin cups in hand saying “Atomizer hasn’t had a flare up of The Gout in eight years. Let’s buy him a house.”

He Gets It

The confluence of talk radio and bloggers continues. Today I heard Charles Johnson from Little Green Footballs on the Dennis Prager show. It was quite entertaining to listen as Charles took calls from around the world (and Cleveland), many of them from fellow bloggers or fans of his site. When Dennis would announce the callers name and city Charles would usually already know who the caller was before they even began to speak. Prager's producer referred to Johnson as a "giant", a description that Prager seemed to endorse wholeheartedly. He also recognized that in addition to getting good show material from bloggers such as Johnson, they could also help spread awareness of his talk show and increase his listenership. Prager joins the ranks of talk show hosts like Michael Medved and Rush Limbaugh who have recently come to understand the value of bloggers. Of course the farsighted Hugh Hewitt was on to the blogsphere many moons ago and has wisely embraced the emerging media form with open arms.

A Bag Of Doritos

Eating a bag of Doritos
Sipping upon a Big Gulp
A woman walked by
And I'm not terribly sure why
But she bayed "Cool Ranch?"
"They're so dull"


Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Keep A Firm Hand On The Helm

Last night on O'Reilly Dick Morris spoke of the President's "plummeting" poll numbers and suggested that Hillary may decide to run in 2004 after all now that Bush appears so vulnerable. Morris is not alone in his doom and gloom assessment and Bush supporters who were brimming with confidence only two months ago are today bemoaning the recent turn of events and openly worrying about his reelection chances. Heck, even the usually rock solid guys over at Power Line seem to be getting nervous.

It's time to take a deep breathe and relax. Yes the recent flap over the Niger uranium intelligence, the lack of WMD discoveries, and the continuing casualties in Iraq have combined to hurt the President's approval numbers. And the administration's reaction to events of late has been far from perfect. There's been too much confusion and finger pointing and not enough efforts to counter the mounting criticism. Hoping it will all just go away isn't going to work.

But let's not overstate the damage. Recent polls indicate that the President's support has taken a hit and that is not welcome news. But how bad is it? According to a USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll published yesterday Bush's approval rating is now at 59%. While that is down from the over 70% approval rating he enjoyed in immediate the aftermath of the war it ain't all that bad either.

The assumption that the President's support will continue to decline at the same pace in the future is faulty. When the overall number of people supporting Bush shrinks, the base of his support actually becomes stronger. Hmmm? When you've got seventy some percent of the people supporting you it doesn't actually take much to knock that number down. I'd guess that anywhere between fifteen and twenty percent of people are easily influenced by events and their support swings back and forth depending on whether the news of the day is good or bad. After Baghdad fell they supported Bush. Now the news is not so positive and they bail. But those who still support Bush now are more steadfast and it will take a lot more than what we've seen in the last two weeks to get them to change their views. I don't know what the "bottom" level of Bush's support is but I guess we're not that far from it and it's solid. Dick Morris spoke of Hillary reconsidering if Bush's numbers get below fifty percent. Unless things get a whole lot worse that is not going to happen.

All presidencies have rough patches, peaks and valleys in their approval ratings. If this July of '04 I'd be worried. But a lot can happen in the next year. The capture or death of Saddam ("It's nice and warm down here Dad") leading to a stabilization in Iraq, another terrorist attack on the United States, or even an unimaginably horrific war with North Korea and most of that 20% would be back in a heart beat. And just because Bush has lost support does not mean that Democrats have gained it. Right now it's easy for the potential Dem contenders to attack Bush without having to answer the tough questions about what they would have done to make the country safer. That won't be the case in 2004.

And keep in mind that we're in the middle of summer. While the media and political classes are paying rapt attention to ongoing events many regular Americans are not all that interested. If you're going to have a "scandal" as some in the media have dubbed it, this is probably the best time of year for it.

So while this is certainly not the high point of the Bush administration it is also not time to start writing its obituary. Conservatives especially should have enough sense and fortitude to avoid the rush to make sweeping predictions about the 2004 election based on recent events and to not succumb to the emotionally charged rhetoric that feeds the frenzy.

Steady on boys. We need to weather the storm, not abandon the ship.

"Somethin' Nastier Than Hell"

The American conservative movement is nothing if not disparate. From the buttoned-down, middle-aged punditry by the likes of Will, Kondracke and Hindrocket to the fairly young and hot new crop of right-winged women Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin to black conservatives like Walter Williams and John McWhorter. It’s definitely a diverse group of folks.

But I was not aware of exactly how diverse This Thing Of Ours was until I tuned in C-SPAN Deuce last night to see The Ultimate Warrior berating a group of students at the National Conservative Student Conference in DC yesterday.

Yes, that is the same Ultimate Warrior (know to some as the Anabolic Warrior) who used to star in the WWF. Don’t even try to tell me you didn’t watch it at some point.

His wrasslin’ days behind him, it seems Warrior (his actual legal name..go here for his site) is now a conservative and apparently makes his living giving the kind of bizarre, long-winded speeches like the one I viewed last night.

He’s not dumb, but he doesn’t quite know how to present his thoughts well. He seems to have a huge chip on his shoulder because people think he’s a dumb jock and he’s going to prove them wrong if he has to scream every word to do it.

The speech was alternatively tediously pretentious (referencing every Barlett’s quote he could get his mitts on) and embarrassingly slackwitted (“...everything liberalism has touched has turned into somethin’ nastier than hell”).

This went on for more than an hour. At one point he began asking confusing rhetorical questions like “Who doesn’t think that the founding fathers wouldn’t not want everyone to be free?” He then waited for the show of hands and when it wasn’t what he expected yelled “And you call yourselves CONSERVATIVES!?”

Okay, so I’m being a little hard on the guy, but he is fighting the good fight. The guy is intense and his success in “sports entertainment” is remarkable. His aim now is to educate as many non-conservative youts as possible about the founding fathers and what they meant to this country. Or, in his words “My goal is to inspire people to want to understand what the basic philosophy of America is. If they do, the respect for IT will follow -- as will the reverent following of IT. As a Conservative, I want to protect and conserve that.”

So God bless him I say. Even if he has a mission statement and it goes like this:

Mission statement: To think, act and believe through my own thoughts and actions in a manner, alone and while interacting with all others, that convinces any eyes and ears upon me that each human life is to be made important and taken serious, and that one should do in one's lifetime that which will live forever.


Complicated Fun

(Sorry Atomizer, this is not an ode to a local Twin Cities punk band that has somehow become something of a legend based on one song recorded twenty four years ago. And it's also not an ode to the Peter S. Scholtes music blog, although one is clearly overdue. Anyone with three Clash albums in his top 100 list must really know his stuff. )

Remember when you were a kid and your life, especially during the summer months, essentially consisted of play, interrupted on occasion by annoyances like breakfast, lunch, dinner, bed, and a forced bath every couple of days? I fondly recall summer days where we left our house after a quick breakfast (usually cereal with loads of sugar to get us jacked up for the long day ahead) returning only for lunch (if we remembered to eat) and dinner (this was mandatory) and then going out again apr├Ęs dinner for what we called "night games"?

Apparently life is much different for today's youth:

No scores, no official jerseys, no regulation equipment, no trophies, no performance anxiety, no parents on the sidelines berating kids or officials. Hardly any competition and hardly any fees.

"And the ultimate 'no' -- no stress," said Teri Dewey, organizer of Fun Summer Mondays.

The program is a casual get-together of about 27 second-graders from the same school for an hour each Monday evening. Activities run from June 16 to Aug. 11.


Fun Summer Mondays? Wow, one day a week to have fun. Not only one day a week ONE HOUR a week. I considered the entire summers of my childhood to be fun. Now kids get ONE HOUR a week? These are SECOND GRADERS we're talking about too. They're eight years old.

One Monday, the kids and some chaperoning parents fished from the Lake Harriet dock. Another week they played soccer. Tonight it's lawn games -- croquet, kick-the-can and tug-of-war. Coming up: swimming at the Richfield pool, basketball at a school gym and miniature golf.

Now doing stuff with your parents can be fun and all that but we did all of these things and more (much more) all by ourselves. We invented our games. We didn't need parents. That's part of the reason it was fun.

Dewey started Fun Summer Mondays a year ago, when her son Sam was about to enter first grade at Christ the King/St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic School in Minneapolis. She thought he'd like to get to know some of his future classmates in an informal setting -- just learning and playing the games her generation loved. She was right. The kids were wild about an hour of loosely organized play.

I don't doubt that these poor kids were quite wild about actually being to play for a change. A break from their regimented lives of sports practices, music lessons, and camps must seem like heaven.

Dewey is a former middle-school teacher. She said the loosely structured play is sometimes more of a stretch for her than it is for the children.

On "Wheels Night" last summer, for example, she was deciding how to lay out a bike course on a playground, which activity to do when, how to keep the fun flowing.

Nope, said dad Brian Kelley. Let's just let them play. Let the kids decide.


What a radical concept! Let the kids decide how to have fun?

On Wheels Night this year, Beth Perro-Jarvis gathered the flock of kids for a short -- very short -- pep talk. Wear your helmets, she instructed. Wrist guards are a good idea for skateboarders. "A broken wrist can ruin the summer." Oh, one other thing. "Try not to crash into each other. Now go have fun on your wheels."

Nag nag nag. Worry worry worry. Now go have fun? Crashing into each other on our bikes was probably one of the funnest things we could do. I remember my Mom's "pep talks" as we headed out the door, "Try to be home before dark and don't kill your brother".

After about 40 minutes, Dewey thought the kids were getting tired and, perhaps, reckless on their wheels. She switched them to kickball.

FORTY MINUTES? We rode our friggin’ bikes ALL FRIGGIN’ DAY! And we probably did get tired and we certainly were reckless (see fun concept of). But yet with no helmets, no parental supervision, and no structured playtime (an oxymoron if ever there was one) we managed to do just fine. We enjoyed our childhood. We had fun.

Will today's kids be able to say the same when they're adults?

Monday, July 21, 2003

Another One For The Shelf

The official Fraters Libertas staff librarians in their mandatory ankle length skirts (let's just say that the combination of short skirts, library ladders, and Saint Paul make our legal department a tad nervous) will soon be making room for a new addition to the already voluminous Fraters collection.

The Road to Malpsychia: Humanistic Psychology and Our Discontents by Joyce Milton is the latest offering to be deemed worthy of admission. Milton analyzes the history of humanistic psychology and its influences on society from Franz Boas, Margaret Meade, and Ruth Benedict through Abraham Maslow (a name that should be familiar to anyone who's taken Management 101 and encountered Abe's hierarchy of needs), Carl Rogers, Timothy Leary, and Werner Erhard (EST) among many others and their quest for "Eupsychia", described by Maslow as a utopia of self actualized individuals. She traces the rise of humanistic psychology from the 20's onwards as it gains widespread academic acceptance in the 50's, is embraced by many elements of the counter culture in the 60's, and finally goes mainstream in the 70's.

When you read books such as this and David Frum's How We Got Here: The 70's: The Decade That Brought You Modern Life--For Better or Worse the real story is not the damage inflicted upon our society by those seeking to cure it of its ills by destroying traditional values and remaking it in their view, rather it is that society has actually come through fairly well considering all the nonsense that proliferated in the 60's and 70's.

California I Thought I Should See

According to this study published in USA Today on how states have managed their money over the last five years the Golden State ain't so golden anymore. In fact California finished dead last overall among the fifty states based on spending restraint, bond rating, and the tax system.

Minnesota in comparison was rated among the best, despite earning only two of a possible four stars under spending restraint. This will come as news to the chicken littles here in the North Star State who wish to believe that the state budget has been slashed to the bone (and then some) and our mystical quality of life has been forever lost.

I'm sure there are many Californians who would gladly swap their state's fiscal situations with them.
Top 20 List

John Hawkins at Right Wing News conducted a survey of bloggers (including yours truly) to come up with the 20 Greatest Figures In American History. I had fifteen of the twenty on my list but was disappointed that none of the other voters chose to recognize the lasting impact of Billy Carter. Remember Billy Beer?

Sunday, July 20, 2003

I’m Going To Praiseland!

I may be a bit behind the curve on this one (in that it was published in the August 2001 edition of Geology), but I get my science news from Scientific American, thank you very much. A feature article in this month’s SA (”Questioning the Delphic Oracle” August 2003) has revealed to me that the once discredited view of the mystery behind the oracle of Delphi has now been vindicated.

For those of you that don’t recall the details, the temple of Apollo at Delphi was where ancient Grecians would go to hear the words of the god Apollo delivered through the Pythia, a chosen Delphic woman. This chosen one would answer questions, give advice and provide guidance on any number of topics, a function reserved in contemporary society for women like Carolyn Hax, Dionne Warwick and Carla Houle.

The classical explanation for the Pythia’s trance-like state and seizure-like episodes during these “readings” was geologic in nature. It was thought that there was a deep chasm in the earth beneath the temple through which gas vapors would rise resulting in somewhat odd behavior by those above who happened to be in position to inhale the fumes.

Then along came the sneaky French type persons. In the early 1900’s, they declared the temple of Apollo free of any such phenomena and the theory was officially debunked. More than likely, the French bastards were probably only saying this to discourage any more exploration on the site so they could swoop in and bottle the stuff to be sold as an exotic replacement for absinthe.

Well, it seems that the French were wrong. Fancy that. Recent explorations have found that there are, in fact, two fault lines running underneath the temple of Apollo and that they cross at the site of the oracle. When earthquakes cause movement along these faults, the resulting friction heats up the limestone below the surface and vaporizes certain petrochemicals deposited there by rising spring water. One of these petrochemicals is ethylene, which does spectacular things to the human body’s nervous system when inhaled and results in behavior such as oracle spouting while in a trance like state, which happened to be the Pythia’s specialty.

My point to all of this is (there is one coming…wait for it) hinges on the following (quoted from Scientific American):

To help interpret the possible effects of such gases on human subjects in a confined space…(Henry) Spiller, a toxicologist, became a member of the project. His work with "huffers"--teenage drug users who get high on the fumes from substances such as glue and paint thinner, most of which contain light hydrocarbon gases--had shown a number of parallels with the behavior reported for the trance state of the Pythia.

So, the next time you need some guidance…when you have the phone in your hand ready to call up the Psychic Friends Network to help you through tomorrow’s big interview (I’m looking in your direction, Mitch)…forget all of that B.S. and head downtown where you’ll find plenty of young men on the street corner with Lysol cans at the ready just waiting to share their special gift with you. Just don’t step in the pools of vomit.

Fund For The Fallen

From yesterday's Minneapolis Star Tribune:

A memorial fund has been established for the family of Sgt. First Class Dan Gabrielson, who was killed July 9 in Iraq. Gabrielson, 41, was an Army Reservist from Frederic, Wis. His convoy was hit by a rocket propelled grenade north of Baghdad. Donations may be sent to:

Dan Gabrielson Fund
Att: Glen Meir, Bremer Bank
109 Wisconsin Ave N.
Frederic, WI 54837

Saturday, July 19, 2003

The Dream Is Over (Or Has it Just Begun?)

On Friday I received notice from the US Postal Service that that the lease term on the Fraters Libertas P.O. Box ends on July 31. After much discussion about keeping it open, perhaps as an historical attraction, we’ve made the painful decision to let it lapse.

And with it we watch the lapsing of an era. It was rented months ago, in the dark, uncertain days before the war. A time when the country’s moral compass seemed to be trembling between the cardinal directions of living up to our responsibilities to make a safer, better world and that of preemptive surrender and appeasement of evil.

For a while the forces of the Left seemed to be irresistibly pulling us toward the latter, with their nationalistic nihilism, their relentless impugning of our elected leaders’ motives, and their grim predictions of certain disaster and doom.

But that’s where we stepped in, with the “Deserve Victory!” bumper sticker campaign. Shortly thereafter, the country united behind the just cause of intervention, our brave armed forces went in, and now millions of Iraqis are free and for the first time in their history, looking forward to a brighter future.

Yes, it’s hard to say we turned the tide of public opinion. But to misquote Margaret Meade, “never doubt that a few dozen people with Churchillian slogans on their rear bumpers can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that has.” (When asked for elaboration, it is reported Ms. Meade went on to say “Sh*t happens!”).

In total, several dozen stickers were sold (for tax purposes, the Elder requests I not divulge a specific amount). Another couple dozen were distributed gratis to key opinion leaders (like Mitch Berg, the Atomizer’s dad, my landlady, and Tyrel Ventura).

The rest remain in reserve, ready to be unleashed as soon as Syria or Iran step out of line (or until someone agrees to purchase the rest, in conjunction with our new promotion called "a dime a dozen," targeting parakeet owners and those bathroom training new puppies).

In the beginning the sticker sales were brisk, all via the PayPal account we established to handle the orders. It was exciting and the upward bounds of this enterprise seemed unlimited. In an attempt to tap into the legions of customers we knew were waiting to buy, but who were e-commerce averse, we made the decision to get a P.O. Box.

I still remember that sunny morning I headed down to my local branch office, filled out the application, and boldly checked the “yes” box when asked if merchandise was to be sold via this account. (My pride swelled as I realized this is how the inventors of Sea Monkeys and X-Ray Specs must have felt when they first started their commercial empires).

Then the clerk asked me what size box I needed. I was caught by surprise, not realizing there were multiple sizes. After a quick check of the Fraters budget for this enterprise, I was forced to select the smallest size. But not until I loudly speculated that I’d probably need a bigger one. Maybe a lot bigger! And real, real soon!

Among those in the post office lobby that day, heads turned, eyebrows arched, young women's hearts fluttered, and everyone wondered, ‘who is this dashing young entrepreneur and what is he selling?’

In retrospect, I should have peddled some product right then and there. Because after I made the investment ($32 for six months), the shameless promotion on Fraters commenced (here, here, here, and here), the P.O. Box was emphasized (here), and we sat back waiting for that old money to start rolling in.

And we waited. And waited. And waited. And .... we’re still waiting.

That’s right, throughout the entire promotional campaign, not a single bumper sticker order was received via the P.O. Box. My daily electric anticipation-filled trips into the post office dropped to optimistically hopeful bi-weekly trips. Then to anxiously desperate weekly trips. And finally to bitterly resigned, once-a-month funereal marches.

In a final bit of divinely-inspired comedy, when checking the P.O. Box last Friday, along with the post office’s termination notice, there was also newsletter from the local hospital, entitled “Depression: It can strike anyone, at any time. Know the warning signs.”

Well Lord, thanks for thinking about me, but I’m doing fine. A little sad sure, but ultimately wiser and stronger for the effort. We entered the fray, fought the good fight, and we Deserved Victory! In a broader sense, that’s exactly what we got.

(Plus all that hard core pornography. Gentlemen of Fraters, the clock is up in about a week. Please reroute your subscriptions accordingly).

Break On Through To The Other Side

All those nasty comments I've made about the Star Tribune editorial staff over the years? I take 'em back. At least for today. After all that unbiased group of bright guys and gals had the wisdom and foresight to publish this insightful, well written, and even witty piece on the trouble with trying to preempt terrorism in today's paper. The piece also bears a remarkable resemblance (word for word in fact) to a piece that I posted here at Fraters about a week ago. Quite an amazing coincidence. Hmmm....

Friday, July 18, 2003

Blogging From A Bar

Let's see, it's 7:20 on a Friday night and I've found a way to blog while out drinking at a fairly cool establishment in DT Minneapolis. I'm at the Rock Bottom Brewery and apparently they have free Internet connections for patrons.

As I sip an Itasca Extra Pale Ale ("The brewers favorite!") I admit I'm checking out the waitstaff. I lean over to my drinking buddy and say "Checkout the backyard on that!" and he says "yeah, he must work out."

In an generous act of noblesse oblidge, I've decided to leave this public terminal on Mitch's website as I see he has posted his resume for us to read this weekend.

15% is all I ask...



Thanks For The Memories

There's really nothing lower than a blogger who reads an interesting post at another site and then shamelessly piggy backs on it with needless and usually redundant commentary of his own. As a rule I try to avoid this practice at all costs. But after reading this piece on Grand Forks at Exiled on Blog Street I have decided to make a special exception.

Bill writes about a recent trip back to GF to attend a high school reunion and mentions a couple of places he visited. I haven't been able to get up to see the new Engelstad Arena yet but after reading Bill's description it's trip that I must make:

Classsssy. Omigod this place is gorgeous. I could have spent an afternoon wondering the hallways, as this place doubles as a Sioux hockey museum with mucho photos on the walls complete with portraits and bios of all the Sioux All-Americans. The rink looks much cozier than on TV, plus it has leather seats with cupholders.

He also stopped off at what once was one of the coolest bars in America, Whitey's or Chez Whitey's as we used to refer to it:

Whitey's: Not the same bar as the old days (the Flood of '97 took care of that), but pints of Premos were only $1.85 and the service was as always top-notch.

Bill's right on about Whitey's service. I don't think I've ever been kicked out of a bar as professionally as I was at Whitey's (on more than one occasion if memory serves). I can't confirm this positively but I believe that we used to drink Schmidt Dark on tap there on Wednesdays for something like 85 cents a pint. Schmidt Dark?

Finally he hit what is probably the most well known restaurant (I use the term loosely) in Grand Forks:

The Red Pepper I hate myself. I walked into this place after a couple of beers at Whitey's knowing I should order a ham grinder with taco meat, just like my college days (except it would have been after about five or six Schmidt/City bottles at Whitey's.) But my 37-year old self stepped in and ordered a half grinder. Half what? It was tasty as hell but went by way too fast. Never ever order a half grinder again, EVER. Who knows when you'll be back in the Forks again?

The fact the Pepper has a web site is a sign just how far the internet has crept into our everyday lives. It's not really a restaurant as much as an old house where some young guys decided to start dishing up food and as such has all the charm and ambience that you would expect from such a venture. And it hasn't changed for thirty years which is a point of pride among the owners.

While attending school on in GF I lived directly across the street from the Red Pepper for two years in a abode that could be charitably described as a hell hole. We were close enough to shoot bottle rockets at customers trying to enter the establishment and we did just that on a couple of occasions. When we first moved in we ate nothing but grinders for three weeks. This led to the discovery that while they tasted damned good at 1:30 in the morning they were not a suitable staple item in your diet.

I've been back to Grand Forks a few times since I graduated from college but have not been able to bring myself to head over to the Pepper and order up a grinder. When I make a trip next winter to catch a Sioux hockey game I think I will indulge myself. As Bill says, "Who knows when you'll be back in the Forks again?".

Games By James?

Last Friday I tuned in at 9 am for to hear Lileks do his thing on Ian Punnett's show on FM107. Ian nervously noted that they had not heard from him and did not know what was going on or where he was.

Well, okay I guess. I had to listen to Ian for a half an hour just to garner this info, but surely James would be back next Friday right?

So THIS morning I tune in again and no Lileks. In fact no mention of him or the "New Ears" bit they had been doing. Instead I was subjected to the "Polichicks" cliche-ridden ramblings about Gubanor Pawlenty's "scandal".

So what happened? Did James have a tiff with Ian? Did he simply realize Ian is a lousy broadcaster and not want to be associated with him anymore? Afterall, following a segment that consists of Punnett's wife "The Redhead" describing what the family was going to be doing over the weekend couldn't have been easy.

I had the sense during a few of the prior segments that James was getting PO'd at Ian for constantly stepping on his lines, repeating what he had just said and generally acting like a guy who was being completely upstaged and was going to do something about it.

The other explanation is that Punnett explained that Lileks won't be doing the show anymore during the 8 o'clock hour and I just missed it. I kind of doubt that, but if anyone knows what happened let me know.

Editor's Note
When I googled Ian to get the correct spelling of his name, I came across this interesting little tidbit that may explain what happened to Punnett's dreams of syndication.

Here, There, and Everywhere

The fun thing about ferreting out instances of liberal bias at the Star Tribune is that you can find examples of it in nearly every nook and cranny of the paper. Take today's Arts & Entertainment Free Time section. (Please!)

In all my many years of reading the paper I can't recall an instance where an art exhibit in town was really panned or its legitimacy questioned. Of course that was before the Minneapolis Institute of Arts dared to feature an exhibit on guns (gasp!):

Should you be naive enough to imagine that the 65 guns now on view at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts are really just fancy-pants decorative art -- as the museum's promotional materials claim -- the gun sights will set you straight.

That's right these guns are about more than art. They KILL. Lest you forget that for even a moment reviewer Mary Abbe is quick to offer reminders:

Some of the early guns are indeed beautifully ornamented, with gold and silver inlays and fine carving typical of 17th-and 18th-century furniture -- not surprising, because the same artisans often made furniture and weapons. The bulk of the show, however, has no such aesthetic appeal, and quickly deteriorates into a gloomy display of killing tools.

Now perhaps I'm just a sick right wing bastage but a gloomy display of killing tools actually sounds intriguing. But for Mary Abbe it's about more than guns. It's the people who owned the guns:

The show is, in other words, impeccably grounded in cultural history and museum practice. Even so, it feels wrong in both time and place. Minnesota's recent gun-law changes make the museum look especially hypocritical. Like most cultural organizations, it bans guns and displays signs to that effect at each entrance. Yet the show celebrates and fetishizes certain types of guns: rich people's.

Guns and rich people. Can it get any more evil? Of course it can:

The institute's gun show, by contrast, is nothing more than celebratory propaganda hiding behind a thin veneer of historical gimcrackery. To take the most obvious example, it touts the talents of contemporary gunsmiths but says not a word about the Eurocentric classism inherent in a blood sport whose chief practitioners are rich white men. In Britain today, such traditional blood sports as fox hunting pit rural against urban voters and raise screaming newspaper headlines. No such brouhahas cloud the sunny days of happy shooting at the institute.

Now Mary's got guns, rich white men, and Western Civilization itself in her crosshairs (no pun intended). But wait something's missing. I can't quite put my finger on it but I know it should be included:

There are plenty of places where a historical gun show could be contextualized so it made more sense: Colonial Williamsburg; a Western Americana museum; a hunting museum. This show's heavy emphasis on contemporary guns catapults it into the current political debates and makes the Minneapolis museum appear to be a pawn in the gun lobby's maneuverings.

Of course. The epitome of darkness. The gun lobby. The NRA. Mary hits for the cycle by knocking that one out of the park. Syl Jones is waiting at home plate to give her a high five.

I have a hunch that had the art exhibit featured such works as say, a crucifix in piss, Mary would have been much more open minded about it.

But we're not through with the Free Time section just yet. How about some snide political commentary mixed in with your music courtesy of one Jon Bream?:

Norah Jones pulled at her long hair at Northrop Auditorium on Saturday and declared, "It's hot in here," echoing the refrain of a famous rapper. "I guess you don't have a.c. in Minn-e-sooo-tah," she said in her best "Fargo" accent. (A Northrop spokesman said a valve was inadvertently turned off due to an operator error.) The New York resident/Dallas native didn't realize that she was complaining directly to Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who was there as a fan, and not to receive a lecture about the inadequacies of University of Minnesota facilities. (Little did he know that this would be just the first time he'd be sweating in public over the next week.) Maybe now the guv will think twice about slashing the U budget. And maybe the U will send Jones to the Capitol to lobby, um, serenade the lawmakers. (J.B.)

And there's this tidbit from Chris Riemenschneider, a decent music writer (as opposed to the aforementioned Jon Bream) who just can't pass up a chance to take a potshot at the POTUS:

Folks in my former hometown of Austin, Texas, are all abuzz about Minneapolis this week after Austin native Bob Schneider's scheduled performance at the Basilica Block Party was canceled because of his sordid past with longtime side band the Scabs.

The Texans think of us Minnesotans as a bunch of prudes. Vetoing a guy who sings a tune called "Vagina" seems less embarrassing to them than voting a guy named Bush into office three times (twice as governor). Doesn't the fact that we throw a beer bash for a church fundraiser prove we have flexible values? Maybe too flexible.


I guess we can add Chris to the list of Texans (including Natalie Mains) now officially ashamed of their native state.

Finally on a completely non bias related matter I have to throw this nugget from Riemenschneider's column out there for JB Doubtless to chew on:

If you don't believe in rock 'n' roll fantasies anymore, then you probably haven't heard of local cult figure Michael Yonkers, whose fuzzed-out album "Microminiature Love" will be released Tuesday on Sub Pop Records after 35 years on the shelf.

That's right, the Seattle label that discovered Nirvana and Soundgarden is interested in an obscure, experimental Twin Cities guitarist and singer who was a buzz act during the Johnson administration.

"If this stuff had been heard, we think it would have influenced the Stooges, Velvet Underground and the acts we love," said Sub Pop's Andy Kotowicz, who signed Yonkers.


Woulda, coulda, shoulda. Imagine the impact that Yonker's album might have had on one of JB's favs, The Clash?

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Integration Now!

Last night I attended a work outing in downtown Minneapolis at GameWorks in Block E. Block E is a new entertainment complex which now includes among other businesses a hotel, a Hard Rock Cafe, Snyder's drug store, Starbucks, a Borders book store, and an Applebee's. Essentially the kind of places you could easily find in your average suburban shopping mall but it's DOWNTOWN and therefore special.

Plenty has already been written about the ghastly architectural design of Block E by folks with far more insight on the matter but permit me one simple complaint about the utility of the design. If you approach the complex from the North, as I did last night, there is not a readily apparent entrance. Oh I'm sure there is some method for accessing Block E from that direction but I'll be damned if I could figure it out. I walked halfway 'round the block before finally finding an entrance on the East side. You have a building. You want people to come inside. Make it simple and obvious where you go in.

Once inside I was once again left without direction. How do I get to GameWorks? I wandered up to the second level and came across my destination but it was purely by chance. Here's a novel suggestion: signs with arrows. Makes things so much easier.

GameWorks itself was fairly impressive and cool. Two floors loaded with a variety of games, two bars, and a restaurant. While I waited for my work companions to arrive I hunkered down at one of the bars. I don't drink alone a lot but when I drink alone I drink a lot. By the time my compatriots showed up, about fifteen minutes later, I had already downed one gin and tonic and was two thirds of the way through my second. Had they been delayed any longer they likely would have found me doing my best Ted Kennedy impersonation and delivering a heavily slurred oration on what's wrong with our country to the four other customers in the bar. "Let me tells you a 'nother thing...."

One of best things about Game Works is that you can pick up a beer from the bar and wander anywhere in the joint. This means you are often drinking in the midst of the little childrens running about. That's right DRINKING NEXT TO THE CHILDREN. While some folks probably find the idea abhorrent I thought it was wonderfully refreshing. In too many venues the alcohol serving areas have been cordoned off, those who wish to drink segregated and in some cases even branded (think wrist bands), and alcohol free zones established as if merely being in the vicinity of someone enjoying an alcoholic drink would somehow lead to your kids living under a bridge, sipping on a bottle of Mogen David for the rest of their lives.

But aren't you encouraging drinking by exposing children to these environments? Yes it is encouraging drinking. Reasonable, moderate drinking. Daddy can have a couple of beers without checking in to Hazelden the next morning. Rather than hiding alcohol from kids, which serves to increase it's mystery and allure (the forbidden fruit and all that), why not teach and show them how to drink in moderation? Why not an example of the middle ground that exists for millions between the teetotaler and the drunk?

Perhaps if children saw more examples of wise and moderate use of alcohol by adults they would not feel the need at fifteen to furtively down a twelve pack of 3.2 Old Mil (a Minnesota thing-if you don't know what 3.2 beer is consider yourself lucky) at the local park sitting in their friend's Pacer before throwing up all over the driveway at home. Right Atomizer?

Change Is Bad

Since it seems that the entirety of the blog world is heaping praise on James Lileks today (here, here and here), allow me to join in the love fest. James hit the nail squarely on the head in yesterday’s Bleat:

…nothing I make in the Mexican realm will equal the Chili Cheese Burrito at Taco Bell. (Gasps of horror from the audience.) True. It is perhaps the only menu item so fine it survived a merger and acquisition. The Chili Cheese Burrito was a specialty of the Zantigo chain, a far-superior purveyor of FauxMex food. The meat was finely granulated, stirred into a cheesish fluid imbued with peppers, and served in a thin burrito. Mm mm. When Taco Bell took over Zantigo they killed the Chilito dead, but the people rose up and demanded their rights, and in a rare act of corporate wisdom they brought it back, for good. You can still ask for a Chilito by name, and they’ll make it. Ten years after the death of Zantigo. Amazing.

I was addicted to these things. When my friends and I were in high school, we used to bike 5 miles to the nearest Zantigo (the restaurant formerly known as Zapata) almost nightly to get our fix. When we heard the news that the restaurant chain was being converted to Taco Bell in1986 we went into full survival mode and scoured the Twin Cities area for any remaining franchise that was still operating to stock up.

This panic easily surpassed the New Coke scare of 1985 (although I’m still convinced that the present day “Classic Coke” just ain’t the same as the old stuff).

All of this fond reminiscing got me thinking of some other changes that have traumatized my fragile existence:

McDonalds’ New Chicken McNuggets
I like dark meat. It’s juicier than white meat and it just plain tastes better. I’ll take a deep fried chunk of chicken gristle with extra skin over a tasteless preformed mass of breast meat any day. If I cared about eating what is good for me I wouldn’t be going to McDonalds.

Van Halen
While I was not a huge fan of these guys, I can’t stand them since Diamond Dave departed. Consider this bit of lyrical genius shrieked by Sammy Hagar: “Only time will tell if we stand the test of time.” Good one, Sammy.

Yes
This band’s lineup has changed more times than Michael Jackson’s nose, but the worst had to be Trevor Rabin and Geoff Downes replacing Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman. Yes just didn’t sound right without the pretentiousness of Anderson’s vocals and Wakeman’s keyboards.

1988 Minnesota Twins
Tom Brunansky traded to St. Louis for Tommy Herr? Who needed Bruno’s subsequent 105 home runs and 444 RBI. Herr, on the other hand, smashed out 9 homers and 139 RBI. Brilliant move.

Heaven help me if the Bombay folks ever screw with the recipe for Sapphire.

Update:
Yes, I have erred. I meant to say that Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes replaced Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman in Yes. Thanks to Mitch Berg for pointing this out.

And, for the record, this "whippersnapper" was indeed quite alive when the event occurred (I have the black "Drama" concert t-shirt to prove it). I simply got my Trevors mixed up, both of whom did spend time as members of the band.