Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Sherman Had The Right Idea

Is there anyone in America, other than frontrunning Atlantians (and maybe bitter White Sox fans), who wouldn't love to see the Cubbies slash and burn their way through the Braves? Your money can buy a lot of division titles Ted but it can't buy more than one World Series crown. For that your teams need heart.

Did You Hear The One About The President & The 16 Rabbis?

Power Line has the details of the amazing meeting with President Bush that St. Paul Rabbi Jonathan Ginsburg attended on Monday:

I was just stunned to be sitting across the table from the most powerful person in the world, a man of true humility and belief in one God, who spent much of this hour and a quarter, speaking from the depth of his heart about his concern about anti-Semitism and his understanding of Israel's predicament. I know many disagree with policies of his. I'm sure every rabbi there had some disagreements. But there was no denying the moment, the genuineness, the power of the experience. It felt surreal.

The Body Goes Primetime Sometime

Ventura's show to debut this weekend in that coveted 7pm EST Saturday night time slot.

If an ex-governor fails and no one's there to watch it, does he make a sound?

Cheer For The Minnesota Twins Today!

Despite a heart attack inducing finish (someone get the paddles going on Atomizer) by reliever Eddie Guardado, the Twins hang on and down the hated Yanks 3-1. One down, two to go.

You're Not In Munich Anymore Dorothy

This past weekend my wife and I journeyed to La Crosse, Wisconsin to meet up with some friends at what is billed as "Oktoberfest USA". Having attended Oktoberfest in Munich the year before we were curious to see how the La Crosse version compared to the real thing.

At the risk of sounding like one of those smug Euro-loving weenies, to whom the way they do things "over there" is inherently so much superior to the way that Americans do them, I dare say I was not impressed with "Oktoberfest USA". Basically it was just an excuse for cheeseheads to get together, eat brats, and drink untold gallons of Miller Lite ("your beer tastes like swill to us"). Sort of like a Packers tail gate party extended over eight days.

Oh sure they had a parade. But whereas the Munich parade features horse drawn wagons (sponsored by local breweries) decorated with flowers, and people wearing traditional Bavarian attire the highlight of the La Crosse edition was a cow. Granted it was a rather large cow (you'll note the impressive udders) but still it's only a cow. While it was a very appropriate representation of Wisconsin it doesn't really say Oktoberfest.

And yes, they had food in La Crosse. Most of which was either brats or some brat based byproduct. We had breakfast Saturday morning at a Country Kitchen and their special was brat omelets. Yes, brat omelets. Before you laugh consider that two of my friends who hail from Green Bay ordered said special.

Apparently Wisconsin's idea of German food begins and ends with the bratwurst. Interestingly enough when we were in Munich brats (or any other sausages for that matter) were hardly the most popular food item. Roasted chicken was ubiquitous and quite delicious. Radishes were also quite prevalent, although they are not exactly what I hanker for after a couple of brews. I'm sure if you looked at brat consumption the state of Wisconsin would dwarf Germany, at least on a per capita basis.

So to summarize.

In Munich you have good beer served in one liter glasses, accompanied by roasted chicken, with traditional German music in the background.

In La Crosse you have Miller Lite served in plastic cups, accompanied by brats, with crappy rock and roll in the background.

Lest you think that my well known anti-Wisconsin sympathies are clouding my opinions, one of my friends who used to live in the Twin Cities and now resides in Green Bay (poor bastage) stated that the Gastof Zur Gemutlichkeit, a German restaurant in Nordeast Minneapolis, provided a much better Oktoberfest environment than did La Crosse.

UPDATE: Long time reader and frequent e-mail contributor James Phillips picked up a hint of disrespect regarding the comparison with the Gastof Zur Gemutlichkeit. None was intended. The Gastof is a hell of a fun place to celebrate Oktoberfest or any Germanic festival for that matter. Many a time have I passed the boot in the cellar of the Gastof and I have always thoroughly enjoyed myself. Ein Prosit!
Say It Ain't So Gordo

Rick Reed has entered the game with the Twins leading 1-0 going into the bottom of the fifth. Apparently Santana has sustained an injury of some sort. Be afraid, be very afraid.

Gotta Have It

I just popped for the ten bucks required to access live internet broadcasts of all the MLB playoff games. AM reception at my workplace is shaky at best. Right now I'm listening to the game on the Yankees broadcast network and the sound is crystal clear. Yes the Yankees broadcast network. And yes I did have a choice. Sorry Gordo but between you and Charlie Steiner it's not much of a contest.

By the way through three it's Twins Uno Bronx Bombers Nada.

Monday, September 29, 2003

the sensation your hopeful taste buds have been anticipating

To research my post on martinis last week I pulled a book off the shelf behind my bar called the Official Mixer's Manual . It was originally published in 1934 and I found the publisher's introduction fascinating. Keep in mind that this is an intro to what is essentially a cocktail recipe book. Today it would be so dumbed down to the reading level of the intended audience that it would be meaningless. But it was written at a time when it was assumed that readers could not only understand it, but that they would appreciate it as well. The sentences are lengthy and chock full of descriptive phrases and ten-dollar words. Ninety percent of the writers for the Minneapolis Star Tribune could not craft such a piece today, and even if they did an editor would slice and dice it until it was unrecognizable. Enjoy this glimpse of what is an increasingly lost art.

It has seemed to us that since the return of legal liquor, there has been a very genuine and widely felt need for a standard book on drinks, a book that could be relied on in any bibulous contingency both by the ambitious amateur and by the seasoned professional bartender. It is not only that once again good liquor is available, but also various ingredients that have been merely myth and legend to the younger generation of celebrants, such as Chartreuse or Amer Picon, have returned to the enjoyment of that respect and appreciation that was formerly accorded them by an unshackled public.

It is trite, but it is nonetheless accurate, to say that conditions have changed greatly in the last fifteen years. Good roads and good automobiles have made us almost a nomadic people. The evening frequently finds us two hundred or more miles from where we woke up in the morning. Nevertheless, although in the stay-at-home era a Bacardi cocktail was a Barcadi cocktail whether you drank it in Schenectady or Memphis, we have, under the pressure of circumstance and the necessity for make-shift and compromise, lost that much-to-be-desired homogeneity.

This book is published, therefore, in the hope that it will contribute at least a little to the standardization of drinks and to the promotion of that happy state of affairs where, when you order your favorite cocktail, you will get exactly the sensation your hopeful taste buds have been anticipating, no matter what corner of this bright and beautiful land you happen to be inhabiting. We consider ourselves extremely fortunate in having secured for this purpose the services of Patrick Gavin Duffy, one of the most colorful figures and celebrated bartenders of the halcyon days. In conclusion, we can only say that, as a devout gesture to a glorious tradition, we submit the Official Mixer's Manual to all bartenders of America, both experienced and experimental; and hope that they will join with us in drinking a Patrick Gavin Duffy Punch in honor of the distinguished author.

After the publisher's introduction the honorable Mr. Duffy has a forward with some advice that today's generation of bartenders would do well to heed:

Bartending is an old and honorable trade. It is not a profession and I have no sympathy with those who try to make it anything but what it was. The idea of calling a bartender a professor or mixologist is nonsense.

In the many years that I have tended bar, I have learned a few lessons that may be of some benefit to bartenders of the near future. The barkeeper should be neatly shaved, and his hands and nails should be immaculately clean. A good bartender wears a fresh white linen coat, and I personally fancy a carnation. I hope, in the better bars, to see the old tradition of the trade revived. At the Ashland House, for instance, where I had charge twelve years, four barmen in spotless white, wearing carnations in their lapels, were ranged in their appointed stations behind the long, highly-polished bar. When a customer approached, a little napkin of Irish linen was placed on the counter in front of him. A gleaming glass, suitable for the drink he ordered, was set before him, and the bartender than rapidly mixed the drink.

I cannot too much deplore the custom, which has become prevalent of late of free and general conversation between bartenders and patrons. The bartender should answer civilly and briefly every reasonable question that is put to him, but he should not enter into protracted conversation with the customers. Mr. Brockway, the proprietor of the Ashland House had one of the most distinguished bars of the old days, and he was in the habit of discharging immediately any barkeeper whom he found indulging in unnecessary conversation across the counter.

Amen to that brother. One of the truly sad things about the closing of local brewpub Sherlock's Home last year was losing the quality staff of bartenders who served there for many a year. They wore white shirts and bow ties and were consummate professionals unlike so many of their bartending brethren these days.

About that litany...

Gary Larson nails the Star Tribune once again and also tackles the Pioneer Press in this piece at CNS News:

Near the Twin Cities, where I live, a rabid left-wing newspaper editorially assaults Bush daily, and never mind the truth. The other daily in this rare two-paper market, not taking sides at first, now edges closer to the partisan savagery of its larger, more leftist counterpart.

Alas, both Twin Cities' dailies now reveal a myopic bias found usually in only wild-eyed party organs. How do you spell A-G-E-N-D-A?

McClatchy's left-wing Star Tribune of Minneapolis reflexively calls Bush, and all in his administration, liars. Editorial cartoons depict him as a Dr. Frankenstein, a Dr. Jekell, always the Ultimate Jerk. Bush is 'cowboy' (snotty for reckless), 'gunslinger' (ditto), 'Lone Ranger ('unilateral,' and from Texas). On its front page, Bush is called 'fund-raiser-in-chief.' Can you imagine Clinton being called prevaricator-in-chief, or uncharged suspected rapist?

In Knight-Ridder's once moderate St. Paul Pioneer Press , a contemptuous editorial (9/9) insists the Iraq war is a 'cowboy war,' a Bush 'adventure,' marked by 'unsustainable unilateralism.' Yeah, like the Brits suffered no casualties? Note how 'cowboy' is chic in snippy, juvenile put-downs. Have these people no creativity?

'Bush never told us,' insisted the Star Tribune ( 8/20), that the war was, in part, to 'free the Iraqi people.' Oh, really? Then why in hell did he call it Operation Iraqi Freedom?

Guns In Schools

Reader K.S. e-mails on Maple Grove's "zero-tolerance" weapons policy:

I read your post about the kid who got suspended from Maple Grove for the cap gun in his car. I graduated from MGSH in 2000. I participated in the school musical my senior year, which that year was Annie Get Your Gun. Of course they did use "look-alike weapons" in the show - even fired them! And on a side note the honor guard in the marching band carries fake rifles (granted they are those hunks of wood that don't look much like rifles, but they do represent fire arms). That school district has always had trouble with their look-alike weapon zero tolerance policy.

Note to potential advertisers: Yet another example of the demographic that reads Fraters. We're big with that 18-34 year old sweet spot.

The Momentum of a Runaway Freight Train

National talk radio host Dennis Prager has just endorsed Ahnold for governor on his show, justifying his decision by explaining that he lives in the real world, not a fantasy land. Prager joins fellow nationally syndicated talk radio hosts Michael Medved and the Lord of the Dance Hugh Hewitt in supporting Ahnold's candidacy.

Now if Ahnold can only get Dave Thompson on board there'll be no stopping him.

Sunday, September 28, 2003

Dinner At Atomizer's

I hope you were all amused by my battle with breakfast this past Monday. In retrospect, I was too, but the story doesn't end there.

Undaunted by my failure to prepare the easiest of the three prescribed daily meals, I returned home from work that same day with an indescribable desire to try my hand at cooking dinner. I dug deep into my pantry and emerged with a one pound package of orecchiette pasta (the ones shaped like a little ear). "Even I can cook pasta", I said to myself, and then got to cogitating on what to prepare it with. I quickly located a bottle of parmesan garlic pasta sauce and then found some frozen chicken breasts hiding behind the half gallon bottle of Bombay Sapphire in my freezer.

An immediate problem struck me. I needed to defrost this chicken, and fast if I wanted to eat before the sun set. I had always been told that, to be safe, chicken should be defrosted slowly in the refrigerator overnight. Having no time for such formality, I fired up the hot water on the kitchen faucet and stuck two breasts beneath the torrent. With the pasta on the boil and the sauce simmering, I was well on my way to dinner.

Soon, I felt like Emeril as I was pan frying those chicken breasts. Garlic salt...Bam! Lemon pepper...Bam! Lawry's Seasoned Salt and Mrs. Dash...Bam, Bam! I was shuckin' and jivin' around that kitchen like there was no tomorrow.

Before I knew it, I was sitting down to a wonderful chicken and pasta meal and it tasted so good because I had made it myself. Afterwards, I thought to myself that the mishap with breakfast earlier that day must have been just an anomaly. I'm a good cook...I really am.

Then came Tuesday. I just didn't feel right at work. My stomach was churning from the moment I got out of bed. By noon, I had made three mad dashes to the bathroom feeling certain every time that I was about to set a new record for projectile vomiting...both volume and distance. Each time had been a false alarm, but that fact was not reassuring as the pain in me gulliver only grew with each passing minute.

By 1:00, I had suffered enough and excused myself from the office only to make it home just in time to...well, I think you know the rest. I spent the rest of the day either in motionless pain on the couch or in rapid motion pain on my way to the bathroom.

What did I learn from the day's events, you ask? Never, and I mean never, dig any deeper in your freezer than your bottle of Bombay. Not for chicken, not for ground beef, not even for those tasty little Flav-O-Ice popsicles. Hangovers are manageable. Bacterial infections aren't. Don't say I didn't warn you.
He's Still Got It

In December, the Excel Energy Center is hosting the Minnesota Tennis Challenge. The featured match is between John McEnroe and James Blake. If your interest is piqued by watching a guy 15 years past his prime play a guy whose prime consists of getting bounced in the second round of the Kroger-St. Jude Memphis Open, then this might be the event for you.

Despite my cynicism, the promotion of the match continues. Earlier this week there was a conference call between the local press and McEnroe, which ended as follows (as reported in the Pioneer Press):

...moderators had to end the conference call abruptly when a local columnist's question about the advantages of graphite rackets touched off a verbal sparring session, culminating in McEnroe called the columnist a "freaking loser."

Let me guess ... Barreiro?

If they could get James Blake to call Sid Hartman a "freaking mouthpiece for management" or maybe a "freaking apologist for Bobby Knight" perhaps we'd have the making of a little grudge match here. Now that might sell some tickets.

Lessons From the Masters of Death

It is not a lengthy or overly complicated book but Masters of Death: The SS-Einsatzgruppen and the Invention of the Holocaust by Richard Rhodes, is not one that you breeze through. The subject matter was at times so disturbing and the scale (1.5 million killed) so overwhelming that I had to limit my reading to short bursts. The book concerns the actions of the Einsatzgruppen or "special action groups", specially selected mobile extermination squads who followed the German Wehrmacht into the East and liquidated Jews, Soviet POWs, partisans, and other "undesirables" in Poland, the Baltic republics, the Ukraine, and Byelorussia.

They began the dirty work that was to become the "Final Solution". And dirty work it was. As unimaginably horrific as the industrialized slaughter of the death camps was, the early actions of the Einsatzgruppen were, in ways, even more ghastly. Herding men, women, and children into chosen areas with pre-dug pits waiting, either machining gunning them or administering the genickschuss (a single shot in the back of the neck), and covering their bodies with lime before filling the pits was gruesome duty. One of the main reasons that the Nazis ending up using gas (after experimentation with various other methods) was that they were concerned about the psychological state of those men carrying out the executions.

It was not an easy book to read and it's hard for me to recommend it for your reading pleasure. But I do recommend it because it's history that you should know and I believe there are valuable lessons that can be drawn from it:

-Don't Casually Call Someone a Nazi

A true appreciation of the scale and scope of the horrors perpetrated by the Nazis should give pause to those who label Bush 'Hitler' and call Ashcroft a Nazi. I believe that it is insulting to the memories of the victims of the Nazi regime to use those labels with so little thought. If Bush were like Hitler, post 9/11 events would have unfolded quite a bit differently. Muslims would have been beaten in the streets of the US, some to death. Mosques would have burned. Muslim shops would have been looted. Legislation would have been passed stripping Muslims of all rights and within months camps would have been built. Muslim men, women, and children would begin to disappear into them never to be seen again. The Democratic party would have been outlawed along with all other political parties and most of its leaders killed or sent to camps. The media would be taken over and run by the state and any attempts at dissent ruthlessly crushed. Michael Moore would not be writing books. He would have been strangled with piano wire and left hanging from a meat hook (a heavy duty, reinforced meat hook to be sure). A vicious war would have been waged against all Muslim nations. Kabul, Tehran, Baghdad, Damascus, and Riyadh (for starters) would have been turned to sand. All oil fields in the Middle East would have been occupied. Citizens in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan would be bombed, brutalized, driven from their homes, and eventually killed to make room for the repopulation of those regions by Texans (Bush's volk). I could go on and on with this but you get my the point.

-Evil Does Exist

No such thing as evil you say? Explain the actions of the Einsatzgruppen please. Read the reports of the killing like this that showed the "progress" they were making:

2,007 Jews, 2,290 Jewesses, 4,273 Jewish children (mopping up ghetto of superfluous Jews)

These were evil SOBs, following orders from evil superiors, and conducting evil acts. There ain't no two ways about it.

-Sometimes War Is The Answer

Perhaps the most frightening aspect of the Nazi's was not what they did but what they planned to do . Once the USSR was defeated and the Jews and other undesirables were liquidated in the Ostland , the Nazis planned to "relocate" most of the native populations of Poland, Ukraine, Byelorussia, and the western areas of Russia proper to Siberia. This would have involved millions upon millions of people and given the Nazis previous actions, it's not hard to imagine that millions would have died as a result. They then wanted to resettle the Ostland with native Germans who would become soldier- farmers guarding the Reich from the Asiatic hordes. There was even a fantastic plan to relocate German-Americans to this area once the United States had been beaten. There was no amount of diplomatic nicety that would have deterred their plans. Economic sanctions would have done nothing. An international criminal court could not have issued an injunction causing them to cease and desist. Their armies had to be defeated. Their country had to be occupied. Their leaders had to be killed. War was the only thing that could have solved the problem and it did.

-Guns Can Be Good

Rhodes briefly examines one of the lingering questions of the Holocaust: Why did the Jews not put up more resistance? He comes up with a number of answers including the fact that Jewish communities in Eastern Europe had sought to not make trouble in the past and so had a mentality of passiveness, the non-violent family structure that most Jews were raised in at the time, and their lack of gun ownership. The culture did not typically involve guns and in some areas Jews were actually forbidden to possess them. He's not saying (and neither am I) that the Holocaust could have been prevented if more Jews had guns but it certainly would have allowed them to better resist and perhaps, just perhaps it could have saved some lives. The value of gun ownership goes beyond simply their use as a weapon. A culture where the citizens own guns is a cultural where people are likely to be more easily moved to fight back and resist oppression. Those who say that it's silly to think that Americans would ever be in a similar situation where their guns could protect them, would do well to consider that if you told a German Jew in 1912 that in thirty years time his race would be targeted for extinction by the German government he would have thought you ridiculous as well.

Read the book.

Saturday, September 27, 2003

Lambert Gets Religion

I have to laugh at the tone of the recent column by Pioneer Press entertainment columnist Brian Lambert on the departure of Jason Lewis at KSTP. Now that Jason is officially off the air, never to return to KSTP, Lambert admits he was a talented guy, with much to be admired.

Leaving aside for the moment the fact I'm habituated to disagreeing with every position he takes and everything he says, Lewis was/is excellent radio.

This coming from the guy who in the past used to promote Jason Lewis's competition on sports-oriented KFAN as the place to turn to, for not just sports, but also general coverage of news and current events. I interpreted this, I think correctly, as Lambert's attempts to turn the general audience for political oriented programming away from Jason Lewis (who was then dominating the ratings), toward a show more in line with his own political views.

But now two days after Lewis goes off the air, we hear Lewis was "excellent"? Classic Lambert, subjugating the facts (and this time, his honest opinion) to his political ideology. Now that Jason Lewis is no longer a threat to influence public opinion in the Twin Cities, Lambert is free to tell everyone what a great show he had.

Of course Lambert doesn't hesitate to continue to castigate the remaining talk radio hosts in town, the medium itself, and the audience. A few selected barbs:

[Lewis] understood the show-biz shtick part of modern, hyper-political talk radio.

He understands the game enough to treat it like a game. You get in the ring. You each take your shots. You make your points. Since it's his show, he always gets to "win." Afterwards, you laugh and shake hands.

While Lewis no doubt understood a radio show needs to be entertaining, with appropriate attention paid to the "show" aspect, Lambert woefully underemphasizes the substance of the Lewis show. His distinguishing characteristic was hard core economic and political policy analysis, properly articulated for a non graduate student audience. His comments increased the understanding of issues among the audience, and helped it develop it's own critical thinking abilities. This sounds to me more like a true educational experience, rather than some shtick or a game.

I dare say the long promised liberal radio network, now in development, will attempt to emulate this model. That is attracting an audience with some entertaining show biz, then enduring and prospering based on the substance provided. Will Brian Lambert be describing the forthcoming Al Franken/Jeanine Garafolo show as a "game" or "hyper political shtick"? We shall see, but I suspect he'll instead just concentrate on the "excellence" of their program.

There was another quintessential Lambert moment in his recent column, again commenting on the remaining talk radio hosts in town:

In stark contrast to a lot of other struttin' little howler monkeys clogging the local dial, Lewis actually has talent.

Struttin' little howler monkeys? Who is he talking about?

If his column wasn't an ode to Jason Lewis, one would have to assume that's who he was talking about. (Since even when he was making good points, Lewis was a shouter and screecher, really the only one in this market.) And in previous Lambert columns, when he would resort to blanket slurs like this, that's who I assumed he was talking about.

But now we see that's not the case (I think). So who is it? Joe Soucheray? Bob Davis? Mark O'Connell? Dave Thompson? To my ears, none of their styles can be described as arrogantly simian.

Maybe he's not making a political point and he's referring to some lefties instead. Is he calling Don Shelby a struttin' little howler monkey? Chad Hartman? Bob Yates? Tom Mischke? Ruth Koscielak? Gary Eichten?

Lambert also says the local dial is "clogged" with struttin' little howler monkeys. That means a lot of people, right? So, is it all of these people? All of these people and more?

A guessing game, that's what we're left with when Lambert decides to throw around unsubstantiated slurs and hide behind blanket insults. Is that the point of media criticism? Or is it more appropriate for a gossip column?

Remember, Lambert is the only TV/radio critic for the dominant newspaper in St. Paul. As such, if he feels some radio hosts are descending to an incoherent primate level, why doesn't he name them? Why doesn't the newspaper's editorial standards insist on this, instead of allowing generalized innuendo? Maybe they're content to wait until these hosts in question leave town, then we can hear what Brian Lambert really feels about them.

For a dissenting view on this column, check out our Northern Alliance brother Mitch Berg, who feels Lambert's writing is "excellent." Who ever said conservatives have to agree on everything? (Actually, I think it was the Elder.)

Friday, September 26, 2003

Che Guevara, Vocational Guidance Counselor

"The Bush Wars" is the charming name of the City Pages' lead blog. I think it's intended to be the vehicle for the newspaper's editor, Steve Perry, to engage in the type of immediate, informal journalism to which blogging is best suited. I say "I think" that's the intent, since Steve Perry shows the same commitment to blogging as the rest of the City Pages staff. They average one, maybe two posts a month, with several of them going more than a month at a time without any new content. Now this may be the appropriate frequency for a blog called "The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Dayton," but when you're covering the broader national political scene, a little more commitment seems to be in order.

Given the fact that you get more frequent comment from them in the once a week print edition of the City Pages, one has to wonder why they even bother with setting up blogs for themselves. Perhaps this collection of self styled iconoclasts was forced to blog by their Big Media overseers at Village Voice Media, and their non participation is their way of passively resisting this intrusion. Righteously expressing dissent through self censorship? It's just a theory, but how else to explain a group of professional writers not writing? It sounds plausible (if asinine).

I will say the "Bush Wars" does get updated quite a bit, but not by Steve Perry. Instead a gentleman named Mark Gisleson does the heavy lifting. And according to a recent scan of his production, to his credit, he gets a post up just about every day. I'm not sure how close he and Perry are in terms of their political philosophies. But I would have to imagine for continuity purposes alone, that their similarities are great.

Which makes a recent post on "The Bush Wars" all the more interesting. Here's an excerpt, and if any of you moderate independents were undecided over which side to take in the "Bush Wars" here's an indication of what the other side has in mind:

In my heart, I still believe in revolution. In my heart, I still think I have the 'nads to put my life on the line for a cause. In my gut I think this is the only way we'll ever achieve our goals of economic and social justice. But in my head, I want to win the next election so we don't have to have a revolution.

Once again, this rhetoric appeared in the blog of the editor of one of the largest newspapers in Minnesota. A newspaper that sells advertisements to the likes of Volkswagen dealerships, the Mall of America, and the Excel Energy Center. I wonder how these businesses might fare after "the revolution"? Or maybe they're just praying George Bush loses the next election and we can postpone the carnage indefinitely. Maybe that can be the Mall of America's new ad slogan:

"There's a place for revolution in your life - unless you vote for Dick Gephardt."

Mark Gisleson used to do a blog called "Career News" where he offered advice to job seekers and those looking to improve their career prospects. As I recall, it was reasonably well done. But it was conventional, offering advice well within the rules of capitalist business traditions. Now that I know his true political desires, I think he may have missed his opportunity to really make some waves in the vocational guidance industry. A little client advice like this might just have sent his business through the roof:

1) Having trouble getting a response from that HR director at your dream employer? Consider attaching your resume to a Molotov cocktail.

2) No luck in getting a raise from your boss? Consider abducting him, his family, and all those who share his counter revolutionary views on increased compensation for your business unit. Then seize power and start your own accounts payable commune.

3) Frustrated that you're the only one who ever makes coffee at the office? Implement a forced re-education camp for known coffee drinkers and those suspected of drinking coffee. No one gets out until they admit they were delinquent in their responsibilities to their fellow employees, and until they agree to automatically deposit their future paychecks to the "coffee fund collective," the proceeds of which will be distributed at your discretion, "for the good of all."

Okay, my ability to speak has returned after seeing this magnificent photo.

I have been rendered speechless after seeing this picture.

(Link courtesy of Acidman at Gut Rumbles, a man who is rarely speechless.)
Stay Hungry

The Minnesota Music Awards were held last night at O'Gara's and as is their tradition, the major awards were swept by some guy I've never heard of. His name was Kurt Jorgenson. And I think it still is, unless sudden fame and success has caused an overnight Prince-like unpronounceable transformation on his part.

But ol' Kurt shouldn't let this get to his head, since no matter how big he gets in the years to come, there's always going to be someone there to put things in the proper perspective. And last night that person was St. Paul mayor Randy Kelly, driving the stake into the hearts of new wave nostalgia freaks all over the Twin Cities. As reported in the Star Tribune:

Minnesota Public Radio jazz specialist Leigh Kamman and '80s rock-wavers the Suburbs each received lifetime-achievement type awards.

"I feel so historic," said Suburbs co-vocalist Chan Poling.

Poling's group was not so historic as to be on the radar of St. Paul Mayor Randy Kelly, who called them "the Suppers" when they won for best rock band.

Smoke Filled Rooms

Sorting my Simpson's figurines? I take offense at that. Besides WEDNESDAYs are the nights when I rearrange them. Sometimes by height. Sometimes by the characters first name. There are many variations. Simpleton.

Last night I was unable to participate in trivia because I was off making the world safe for democracy by attending a meeting of the executive committee of the Republican party for my senate district. It's not exactly glamorous business.

So while the boys were off downing pints of ale and chalking up yet another trivia triumph I was conducting the people's business and trying to figure out ways to cut your taxes, brutalize your criminals, and rule you like a king. And for that you're welcome.

One More Thursday Night

I'm getting a lot of email from people asking how trivia went last night. Well, we didn't have the Elder, as he was tied up with another one of his projects sorting his Simpsons figurines, but we did indeed win. By one point.

We ran into a couple of knuckleheads at the bar who, while not playing themselves, decided it would be really funny to loudly announce the three answers they knew, thus helping anyone around them who couldn't help but hear the bellowing. We had to tell them to shut their traps, which apparently was the response they wanted. A holes.

We had a mere 21 out of 25 with the Emmy Awards being responsible for most of our lost points. Who the hell ever saw some movie called Door To Door anyway?

If Only Only The Issues Mattered

Here's a quick quiz that will tell you who you would support in the California recall based solely on positions each of the candidates has taken on twelve issues.

Not surprisingly I went with Tom on eight and Ahnold on four.

A Fine Line Between Clever & Stupid

Last month I brought up the disturbing appearance of FCUK products at Marshall Field's. Now a parents group in St. Paul is threatening to boycott Marshall Field's and Target over their promotion and sale of the clothing line and fragrance with the not so subtle sexual message.

The St. Paul group is the latest to complain about the brand, which has offended sensibilities of parents and school leaders in other big cities from Chicago to New York to San Francisco.

"When stores just exploit our families with things like this, we just stay away," said Colleen Perfect, president of Catholic Parents OnLine. "This isn't just a Catholic issue; it affects everyone."

This is apparently just the latest example of "edgy" advertising designed to push the boundaries and appeal to younger consumers. But FCUK might have gone too far:

But although the controversy over this latest shock campaign is having the desired effect -- producing attention and sales for FCUK products -- one marketing expert questions whether the shock strategy is wise in the long run.

"It's pretty easy to do shock," said John Colasanti, president of the Minneapolis-based ad agency Carmichael Lynch. "It's one of the first things creative teams come up with in an assignment. But you get it out of your system and move on.

"It's clever, but it isn't really smart," he said. "It's short-term gain, but at what expense? A brand wants to appeal to its target, but it shouldn't offend anybody. You never burn bridges. Why alienate people from the get-go?"

Why is it considered clever? As Colasanti says it is easy to shock. And although it's getting less and less easy as we continually push the limits of what is considered acceptable why should companies that lamely resort to the "shock tactic" be praised for their cleverness?

In case you're one of those people (like me) who doesn't really appreciate the "in your face", "hit you over the head" style of the FCUK approach just remember that it's not serious:

Amy Glickman, a spokeswoman for French Connection, said the FCUK line is meant to be taken tongue in cheek.

"It's bold, witty, intelligent, and demonstrates how French Connection has given real personality to its brand, a rare achievement in today's crowded market," she said in an e-mail.

Bold? How about arrogant?

Witty? Yeah, that's real witty the way you rearranged the letters of an obscenity like that. Color me impressed.

Intelligent? Only a spokesperson could so abuse the meaning of a word.

As to the "personality" of the brand I find the "I'm with stupid" t-shirt label to be much more appealing. And clever.

From: The Elder

To: French Connection United Kingdom

Go FCUK yourselves.

Those Were The Days

In the wake of the school shooting this week in Cold Spring, Minnesota this might not be the most appropriate time to relate this tidbit but I was having lunch with my parents the other day and we were discussing the "zero tolerance" policy that many schools now have in relation to weapons. It was sparked by the story of the kid in Maple Grove, Minnesota who was suspended and threatened with expulsion for having a toy gun in his car.

My Dad related that when he was in high school kids would bring shotguns to school and store them in their lockers so they could go hunting after school. Granted it was quite a while ago and it was in a small town in Wisconsin. But what a contrast with the hyper sensitivity of the schools today to a toy gun or even "ammo".

I just can't shake the image of a couple of kids sauntering down the hallways, shotguns in hand, when a teacher suddenly stops them:

"Hey Jimmy."

"Yes, Mr. Simmons."

"What do you have there? "

"Why this is my Remington 870 Wingmaster pump action with a walnut stock."

"That's a beautiful gun you've got there Jimmy. Be sure to take good care of it. Carry on boys."

The bittersweet stench of success

The webhosting plan that we use for Fraters is pretty basic. In fact it's called the 'basic plan'. We get 50mb of storage and 5gb of transfer bandwidth for under ten bucks a month. A couple of months ago I noticed that we were dinged an extra $3.50 because we exceeded the bandwidth limits. Big fargin deal I thought.

Well I just received my latest statement. A combination of an all time record number of visitors in the last month and my posting many more pictures than usual, especially the State Fair photo gallery, caused us to blow our transfer bandwidth away to the tune of 22.6gb or over five times our limit. The price tag for this transgression?


Needless to say our future use of pictures will be judiciously monitored. Those of you waiting for a photo series on JB Doubtless gorging himself at the Thanksgiving dinner table are going to be disappointed. I am probably going to switch to a plan that allows at least 10gb of transfer and may opt for one that allows 20gb. Saint Paul has also promised to turn his wit and charm, which shine through so brilliantly in his writing, down a notch to help us reduce traffic to a more sustainable level.

Now I know why Mr. Lileks was always griping about bandwidth charges.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Parting Shots

Jason Lewis's last show on KSTP was yesterday. It was originally supposed to be on Friday, but apparently station management didn't appreciate the constant parade of callers bemoaning the loss of Jason and predicting the station won't be able to find a replacement as good.

I'm sure they also didn't appreciate Jason's recommending that listeners check out his Charlotte broadcasts via the Internet, or his speculation that maybe he'll be back on Twin Cities airwaves someday via syndication (presumably on a station other than KSTP). According to Jason yesterday, station management asked him to tone down these types of comments for the rest of the week. But since that would have created an uncomfortable situation for him and the callers (that is, avoiding the main topic they both wanted to discuss), both parties agreed to pull the plug early.

That officially ends the Jason Lewis era in the Twin Cities. But I see that the Pioneer Press's entertainment columnist couldn't let it pass without a snide, disparaging comment. This appeared in the Raleigh-Durham Herald Sun (via the Associated Press):

Brian Lambert, a media critic for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, said KSTP will have a tough time replacing Lewis. "Lewis is a very talented performer in that arena and has a very strong cult following," he said. "

Cult following? This same article mentions that Jason Lewis had the second highest rated show in the Twin Cities during his time slot. (I presume number one was WCCO, with its hammerlock hold on the AARP crowd and with the Minnesota Twins broadcasts typically running during this time slot.) So second place is a significant accomplishment and it means a big audience, relatively speaking. I'm sure a damn sight bigger than what MPR gets. And more than the more liberally-oriented Dan Barreiro on KFAN manages to get. I wonder how Lambert would describe the miniscule followings of these programs? Using his model, let me suggest "fanatic adherents of a discredited, dying philosophy." (And that's just those tuning in for the Lynx games).

Lambert went on to say this about KSTP's search for a replacement: "They can't grab just anybody. There are plenty of Rush (Limbaugh) wannabe's out there. He [Lewis] managed to avoid that, and carved out a very specific niche."

I will say that Jason Lewis did have a different style than Rush, but there was definitely a philosophical confluence between the two. Apparently this is what Jason's new employers are promoting as well: From an article in the Charlotte Observer:

[Lewis] will inherit the afternoon drive time slot following conservative host Rush Limbaugh, with whom Lewis shares resonant views, said Rick Jackson, vice president and general manager of WBT (1110 AM). "He's either right with Rush, or right of him," Jackson said.

Jason Lewis has the opportunity to become very popular in Charlotte. My review of his new station's Web site reveals a dearth of local talent. Guys with resumes that show they may be qualified to read wire copy news stories at the top of the hour, but have no business running a personality driven show.

In particular, I point out someone named Keith Larson, whose show is promoted as follows (any observers of Ian Punnit's meteoric descent and crash in the ratings at KSTP can guess how well this approach goes over with the listeners):

Keith Larson opens a dailogue with his listeners each weekday form 9am-12noon on WBT. Keith is in touch with the community, and he uses his show to talk the issues that affect our lives today.

There was a guy named Keith Larson doing fill-in duties on KSTP a couple of years ago. The few shows I heard him do were hilarious, but only because they were without question the worst radio I've ever heard. Absolute fiasco. He had a dreadfully dull personality, preferred to discuss "happy chat" topics like the weather and the funny things his kids do, and had no firm opinions on anything of substance. This might have gone over well on WCCO, but on KSTP it was met with silence from the audience. For segment after segment he got no callers, forcing him to improvise. Which was a disaster, since he was incredibly nervous, his voice shaking while he talked a mile-a-minute, getting faster and faster the longer he had to continue his unbroken monologue about nothing.

The few who eventually did call in, clearly out of pity, were given a reception equivalent to that which lifeguards receive from drowning men. Thrashing about, furious grasping, desperate hanging on, attempts to pull them all under the surface along with him. You don't often hear callers telling a host "I need to go now," but that was the constant refrain of the Keith Larson show.

Maybe that's a different guy than the one in Charlotte. Or maybe he's gotten better. But nevertheless I predict Jason Lewis becomes the main event down there within about 10 minutes of his arrival.

For Those Days When Doug Grow's Just Not Enough

Nick Coleman returning to Star Tribune:

Nick Coleman, a high-profile general columnist for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, will return to the Star Tribune as a metro columnist, the paper announced Tuesday.

"Nick started here," said Star Tribune Editor Anders Gyllenhaal. "When we saw the chance to bring him back, and bring readers with him, we jumped at it."

They jumped. I just about lost my lunch. At least the Mrs. is staying in St. Paul:

Coleman, 53, said he will begin his column in November, after his wife, Laura Billings, 36 -- the remaining Pioneer Press columnist in the family -- delivers their second baby.

The Strib will now feature this dynamic duo of metro columnists:

At the Star Tribune, Coleman will join Doug Grow, another newspaper veteran in his 50s who writes a general metro column. Both like to tether their columns to breaking news.

Coleman will write on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Their columns will alternate during the week and both will appear on Sundays, Gyllenhaal said.

"They have similarities, but differences, too," Gyllenhaal said of Coleman and Grow. "Readers will appreciate both columns."

I'm not sure if "appreciate" is exactly the word I would use.

Welcome To The Woe of California

After watching the California recall debate last night I could only come to one conclusion:

Thank God I don't live in California.

You can take your "But what about the children?" compassionate moderate Ahnold, your dull unelectable McClintock (it's called a personality Tom), your gluttonous Bustamante (he sounded like he'd exercise as much discipline and restraint with the budget as he does with the buffet table), you commie Camejo (earth to Green guy: The Soviet Union is kaput. The grand experiment failed. Give it a rest.) and your annoying nutbag Arianna (please take your Arianna!).

None of these candidates are worthy to tie Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty's skate. Hell, they're not even worthy of carrying his jock (although something tells me Arianna would derive a perverse pleasure from it).

You can take your beautiful weather. We'll have nice weather here again. But you won't have a decent, respectable governor for years, even after you get rid of Davis.

It won't be long until we have our winter days in Minnesota again. But I won't be California dreamin'. Wake me when it's time for the next recall.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Stop Being So Mean!

John Hawkins at Right Wing News talks about the latest bit of tripe falling from the mouth of Tom Daschle. With Jabba The Senator taking center stage lately, I had almost forgotten about Puffy. It's good to know that he hasn't lost the ability to whine.
The Horses Are Out Of the Barn & The Train Has Left the Station

Lileks is concerned about looking like a nerd?

Hah. Hah. As noted, they're great glasses, but they smudge like no other specs I've owned. But who cares? Not I! The glasses, you see, came with a lens-cleaning system. I got a bottle of cleaner and a nice soft cloth. Just a few minutes ago I used it for the first time, and as I refolded the cloth to return it to its plastic sleeve, I froze. I seized up in horror. My mind tumbled back 30 years to distant childhood, to a pal who also had the four-eyes badge. Good kid. Dear friend. But this guy's nerd-knob went to 11. And he was 110 percent classic nerd, too: metal mouth, slide rule, plastic pocket protector, little plastic pill box. Even if I hadn't liked him, I would have hung around with him, because next to him I was James Dean.

He always carried a kit for repairing his glasses -- tiny tools, screws the size of fat atoms. And he always had a little cloth and a squeeze bottle of lens-cleaning fluid. It was one of those things that just shrieked NERD.

And now here I was with the symbols of nerdhood in my hand. Unclean! Unclean! I shoved them in my satchel, and waited until I was back in my car, where I could use these nerdish tools in private, away from the scoffing eyes of the popular, glassless kids.

Now I have a great deal of respect for James. He is a hell of a writer and a heck of nice guy to boot. But isn't it a little late for him to start worrying about the nerd thing now? I mean that's kind of a done deal no?

His interest in sci-fi, comic books, computers, postcards, and Simpson's figures reeks of nerdishness. I'm not even going to play the Trek card. He's no Comic Book Guy (he is married after all) but he's not exactly a Ranier Wolfcastle alpha male either.

Don't deny your nature James. We can't all be strapping, finely chiseled specimens that embody manhood like Atomizer. The world needs nerds. Recall the immortal words of Gilbert from Revenge of the Nerds :

"I'm a nerd, and I'm pretty proud of it."

Laptops: The New Entitlement

From the AP:

The Stillwater Board of Education approved a plan to give every junior high student in the district a laptop computer to use at home and school, despite requests from dozens of angry parents to delay the decision.

Monday night's 4-2 vote allows the school district to continue negotiations with Apple Computer on the five-year, $2.85 million proposal. The laptops would go to about 2,270 students and 135 staff members at two junior high schools by next fall.

Good lord. Apparently, the school board, which normally meets on Thursdays, called a last-minute meeting on Monday to try to ram this through. And although they were met with serious objections, through it went.

Setting aside all of the unanswered questions about who will support these laptops, how much that will cost, why these snot-nosed brats need such technology, etc., what is scary is that this is the new entitlement. Once it happens in Stillwater, then Eden Prarie will have to get them to keep up, then Minnetonka, then Edina.

Pretty soon the Minneapolis schools start to say "Hey it's not fair that all the rich schools should get laptops when we don't have them" so they'll get them too. Then the out-state schools will ask the legislature for dough to cover the cost of their laptops and the thing is completely out of control.

Some right-thinking parents objected at the meeting:

Several parents told the board that junior high students aren't responsible enough to handle such an expensive machine. Many said their students go through a $100 graphing calculator each year because they break or get stolen.

Amy Graebner said during visits to college campuses, administrators recommended desktop computers rather than laptops for students because they tend to leave them at coffee shops and other places.

``These are college students,'' Graebner said. ``How can we expect these junior high students to handle it?''

Good question, that.

Another scary proposition is that school administrators and union hacks could use the network and the laptops to entirely bypass parents by communicating straight to the students--something that is currently be done by putting notes in kids' backpacks that parents sometimes find inadvertently.

Talk about a great vehicle for indoctrination.

So even if you don't have kids of your own, or your kids are in private school (where they belong) watch out for this new entitlement and claim on your wallet.
Even Alpha Rockers Get The Blues

Decidedly non-geek rocker (but completely warshed up) David Lee Roth has canceled the remaining dates on his club tour after a "martial arts accident" during a recent performance. From this morning's Trombone:

"It was an incident onstage where he was doing a kung fu maneuver and he got hit with a staff that he uses," spokesman Todd Brodginski said. "He was doing a very fast, complicated 15th-century samurai move."

The former Van Halen frontman needed 21 stitches on his face because of the Sept. 17 accident in Philadelphia. He called off seven dates in the tour of clubs and theaters because of the injury. Two dates had been canceled because of Hurricane Isabel.

Where Da Partay At?

While we're on the subject of Mitch Berg and scantily clad women, I was wondering if there was any update to report on Mitch's long promised autumn bash?

But it occurs to me that I need to do this. It's time to start planning my party, for this October. And I may just make it the first blog-centric decade-late housewarming in history - an occasion to meet the Twin Cities' small but pretty darn high-quality band of bloggers, among many others.

Of course, it's all dependent on finding a job (and there've been some positive developments in the past week, although obviously one development short of where I'd like it to be) by then. And a girlfriend would be nice to have by that point, too, although I'm not going to set my sights too high...

Granted the whole job thing hasn't come together for him quite yet but reliable reports indicate that Mitch has fulfilled the second requirement. One of out two ain't bad is it?

Time is of the essence for planning purposes as Saint Paul's social calendar does tend to fill up quite rapidly what with all the charitable balls, soirees, premiers, and Catilians that a man of his standing in the community is obligated to attend. Throw in Taco Tuesday's at the Lamplighter and his schedule has very few openings.

Get those invites out soon Mitch. A party's not really a party until you witness Saint Paul stumbling about with a lamp shade on his head, bellicosely reciting his favorite Walt Whitman verses. Good times. Good times.

Games By James Part II?

Hmmm...Jason Lewis is quitting. The Lord of a certain Tangletown manor has been appearing on radio once a week after giving it up years ago. Said gentleman has also been hinting that he wants to get back into the fray. Hmmm...

So the question is...will Lileks be going mano-a-mano with High Priest Of The Cheeto Hugh Hewitt weekdays from 5-8 pm if he takes the KSTP job? My inside sources have told me that at the very least it is atwixed the sonorously-piped Tom Marsland, the getting better Bob Davis and our (once) own Dave Tommy-Gun Thompson. Is James in the mix?
Caffeinate Yourself

More evidence of the wonders of coffee:

A new study suggests that caffeine reduces exercise-induced muscle pain. Researchers say pain-relieving effects of caffeine may actually help explain why caffeine has been shown to improve endurance.

Vive Vichy!

Now that Hugh Hewitt has been officially dubbed the Neville Chamberlain of the Blogosphere by Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, one has to wonder what other titles he will seek. Speculation is that next time Hugh has Governor Pawlenty on the air he will ask to be named the Marshall Petain of the Blogosphere as well.

Naked Ambition

In yesterday's Pioneer Press, Laura Billings reported on the attempts of a couple of entrepreneurs to open up a business that just might get some business in downtown St. Paul after hours.

"an upscale establishment where the public can enjoy an adult beverage, dine from a limited menu and be approached by adult entertaining women" who just happen to be wearing very little clothing

That's right, a strip joint in the heart of the Saintly City. But this wasn't going to be some sleazy flesh pit. Instead, they had plans to make it a sort of living history experience, an affectionate ode to Prohibition-era St. Paul:

They envisioned a gentleman's club called "Boot-Leggers" ... their place would honor St. Paul's history as the one-time home of gangster-owned speakeasies and the risque women they ran with. According to these entrepreneurs, "We respect and recognize the current statutes and do not intend to create a place for men only to view naked women. We feel we will actually clean up the nastiness of the average gentleman's club.''

But their dream died an early death when the building owner rejected their proposal in the name of seeking a more conventional tenant. And it seems the two entrepreneurs who hatched this scheme are now somewhat embarrassed over their efforts. They went as far as asking Laura Billings to keep their names out of the newspaper - which she did.

However, she did quote one of the gentlemen in question, and I think it may have inadvertently identified the man behind this plan:

"I'd really appreciate it if you wouldn't use our names,'' one of the two backers asked me on Monday. "It was just our shot in the dark to try to make some good money, and, well, c'est la vie ? '' (Emphasis added.)

I applaud Mitch Berg's attempt to find an innovative way to bring some traffic to downtown St. Paul on non-Wild game nights. And I applaud his innovative attempts to create some revenue for himself, until he's able to secure permanent work in his chosen field.

Although I agree with her conclusion, I must say that Laura Billings does mischaracterize my personal feelings on this matter:

Yet the fact that St. Paul was not quite ready for a bikini bar should not deter those other dreamers out there with development plans of their own.

Actually, I think I am ready (oh God, am I ready). In fact, I'm all for it, as long as they keep it out of my neighborhood. So Mitch, don't let one prudish landlord dissuade further attempts to realize your dream. The night your new joint opens, reserve a spot for me on blogger's row.

(And don't rule out "Shot in the Dark" as the name for the place. Co-branding like this could really increase your traffic. Plus, it would look great in pink neon).

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Go Get 'Em, Boys

The Minnesota Twins are your 2003 American League Central Division champions.

I must admit, I had my doubts as recently as a month ago (just ask this guy), but any team that can string together 10 consecutive wins in the heat of a playoff race is not one to be taken lightly.

It was extra sweet to have clinched the division by beating the Chambermaid's beloved Cleveland Indians...two years in a row. Sorry about that Hugh. There's always next year.

You also gotta love Brad Radke finding an appropriate use for Bud Light:

I Hope I Never Get Dry Before I Get Old

Here's my two cents on the martini thing.

I drink a lot of Bombay Sapphire. A lot. And when I drink it, I want to taste it. I prefer to keep the bottle in the freezer which eliminates the need for ice. Ice melts and I don't want water mixing with my gin. It's unseemly.

Vermouth? Don't care for it. Perhaps it dates back to the time we ran out of booze on the last night of a fishing trip. All we had in the cabin was a bottle of dry vermouth. I did what had to be done and polished that sucker off. Since then, I've kinda developed a speech impediment. (Not really, but the taste of the stuff just turns me off.) These days, I simply whisper 'vermouth' over the edge of my martini glass and leave it at that.

Shaken vs. stirred? Unnecessary for reasons given above.

Olives are necessary, however, provided they are properly rinsed free of any excess olive juice and dried off before being introduced to the gin. Again, I prefer to taste the gin. The olive also gives you an extra treat after you've sipped the last drop. Ain't nothin' better than a gin soaked olive to whet your appetite for another round.

As far as the best place to find this drink, that would be in my kitchen as no self respecting bartender would indulge a guy requesting a rinsed and dried olive.

Can the drink I have described above be called a 'martini'? Probably not. It really isn't a mixed drink at all. But, to paraphrase the Stones: It's only a glass of gin with an olive, but I like it.
Cocktail Hour

If only I had an hour. Since my time is short I'll be brief and to the point on matters regarding martinis previously mentioned by the Soused Simians and our own alkalide Atomizer.

1. Shaken versus stirred? I've had plenty of both and honestly I don't believe it makes that much of a difference. But for presentation sake and pleasure of mixing I'll go with skaken.

2. Gin versus vodka? This is a non-issue. If it ain't gin it ain't a martini. 'Nuf said.

3. Dry or sweet? I like a splash of vermouth. I want to know it's there but it has to be subtle. Very subtle.

4. NFO. Period. What? No fargin' olives. I was introduced to this terminology by a mature coworker who always ordered his gin and tonics NFL. No fargin' limes. Except he didn't say fargin'.

5. Where to get the best martinis? I don't have a personal preference but if you go to a place that has a martini menu with 67 different kind of foo foo varieties the odds that they nail the classic are not good. Places that seek to emulate the Fifties supper club feel can be a good bet. I had a killer martini the other night at the Monte Carlo in Minneapolis. Extra points for leaving the shaker at the table so you can top off your drink.

I'll close with this brief passage which summarizes the importance of this simple yet sublime libation:

"In its rite, the martini exercises a communal function. The host or paterfamilias who mixes the drinks acts as priest, and families or friends are united as devotees of the cult."

-Lowell Edmunds, The Silver Bullet

Philips on Stern on Ashcroft and Bryant

I just read an interesting comment over on the excellent James Philips from Folsom blog (which by the way isn't on the Internet, it typically resides only in my email inbox. This is great for me, but can't be doing much for his traffic totals).

James uncovers a heretofore unknown member of the Get Ashcroft Crowd - NBA Commissioner David Stern.

This is a link to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article (originally LA Times) about David Stern's comments on Kobe Bryant's pending charges. David Stern is, well, an *sshole. And an idiot:

"Tarrytown, N.Y. -- NBA commissioner David Stern said Monday that Kobe Bryant should continue to play for the Los Angeles Lakers this season, even as Bryant faces a potential trial on a sexual assault charge in Colorado. "Absolutely," Stern said. "We don't have a patriot act in the NBA. That means that you're innocent until proven guilty."

"We don't have a patriot act"??? God , what a jerk. And really, is any further comment necessary? David Stern, the Warden of the NBA, is lecturing everybody else on right and wrong? Yeah, right.

I had no clue Stern was a liberal either. I mean he's a successful business man after all. And he seems generally well adjusted and happy with his life. How does this happen?

I guess he became addicted to all that corporate welfare via government subsidized stadiums and he turned to the dark side. Oh well, at least we still have Bud Selig on our side.


PBS on Saturday night was a showcase for the skinny, cynical, sneering geek music that seems to have taken over the planet. There was a live broadcast of not only Wilco, but also the much-heralded Sonic Youth.

Being over 160 pounds, fairly popular in high school, a viewer of at least one prime time TV show and an avid sports fan, I had never heard a Sonic Youth song in it’s entirety. I had been reading and hearing about them in the geek press for years as the smartest, coolest whateverest band ever, so I knew they would blow, but I have to say I was taken aback at how exactly bad they were.

The first song, an instrumental, lasted at least one hour with no discernible melody. It sounded like smart-ass teenagers doing a sarcastic tribute to the Allman Brothers. Uggh.

Next, reject-rock diva Kim Gordon took the mic for one of the most bitter, sneering tunes I’ve ever had the displeasure of hearing. It was some kind of message to the Cheerleaders (“Plastic Sun”), that this smart, deep-feeling student did not like them (or their “bitchy friends”) and the plastic world they lived in. See, she lives in the real world of suicide, drug abuse, VD, black clothing and nihilism--how could anyone not agree? This written and performed by a 45 year-old woman.

A 45 year-old woman.

Unless you actually are in high school and you fancy yourself one of the smart drama grrrls who hates the Cheerleaders, why on earth would you want to listen to this atonal garbage?

Once in a while the camera would pan to the crowd and their reaction was instructive. How exactly does one react to this kind of crap? There were plenty of fellow-traveler geeks in attendance who would kind of bob their heads as if to say “Yes, I get it. This is some of the smartest, most important music I’ve ever heard.” Apparently, feeling cool and thinking you Get It is what geek rock is all about.

It’s almost as if they consciously say “Here check out this quote-un-quote song--no melody, no structure, just some misfits with thrift store clothing thrashing about on Jazzmaster guitars with an angry attitude...I’d like to see the Frat Boys try to like this.” And when the Frat Boys don’t like it, then the geeks have achieved their own special little culture.

I can see the conversation between a fan of misfit music and one of his not-so-geeky friends:

Hey, how was that Sonic Youth show?
It was really...smart
Oh yeah?
Yeah. And important.
Right. But was it fun, you know, entertaining?
I don’t look for my music to be entertaining.

I wouldn’t mind this music so much if it weren’t CONSTANTLY referenced, written about and heralded as the music of our generation. And this doesn’t just take place in the alternative press, but in most major urban dailies as well, as evidenced by our own Geek-In-Residence at the Star Tribune Chris Remenschnieder.

The music nerds are have breached the compound and are attempting to take the firebase. Their sappers will keep coming until we open up the rhetorical .60 cals and detonate every Claymore we have.

It's Martini Time

The Monkeys have thrown the gauntlet down.

Let's hear it, folks.

Monday, September 22, 2003

A Post He Richly Deserves

I don't care what anybody says, I think Hugh Hewitt is right. Governor Pawlenty should appoint him Lord High Chambermaid of the Blogsphere at once.

You might want to start with Saint Paul's bedpan Hugh. It's starting to get a bit ripe.

And then there's the monkey cage that really needs a good cleaning too...

Exit Minnesota's Mr. Right

Just announced on KSTP, Jason Lewis is leaving the station. He's taken a job in Charlotte, North Carolina and his last show on KSTP is on Friday.

I tuned in late so I didn't hear the official announcement. But in his later comments he was crediting the move to "looking out for his family" (read, more money). And also a more appreciative environment for a potential Jason Lewis candidacy for political office. I suspect the latter was a primary motivator, as he's made no secret of his desires to hold public office. But since he's alienated most of the Republican elites in Minnesota, his chances for getting a nomination were limited. Jason was more conservative than the local GOP establishment, and as was his style, disagreement turned into vitriol and burned bridges.

Although Jason and I have had our rough moments over the years, and he is responsible for costing me everlasting marital bliss, I'll miss the guy. Over his ten year career in the Twin Cities, he was an influential force on this young conservative. He was smarter than Rush (though not nearly as good a broadcaster) and I learned a lot from him over the years.

So farewell Jason, and I hope someday to turn on C-SPAN and see a certain freshman Congressman from Charlotte up in the well and raising hell about taxes.

Not sure who KSTP will get to take over for Jason. I suggest their morning guy Bob Davis, who has been a nice surprise growing into the role of a featured personality during morning drive. In the spirt of Don Vogel, his more entertainment based persona would play better in the late afternoons. And such a move would of course leave morning drive wide open for my man Dave Thompson.

But regardless of what KSTP does, Jason's departure removes the final impediment for Hugh Hewitt's domination of the local airwaves from 5 - 8 PM. Minnesota political junkies get ready for the move to AM1280. And prepare yourself to make the likes of Peter Bienart, Joshua Micah Marshall, and Irwin Chemerinsky members of your extended radio family. (Members of your extended radio Manson Family anyway).

Significant Quarters

Dorothy Rabinowitz homers in today's WSJ with this piece.

Lest we forget there is a cultural war afoot:

...we are in a time never before seen in this country--a time produced in part by what remains of the politics and values of the 1960s, but only in part. For even in the '60s, we did not see what we do today--namely significant quarters of the culture, elite and popular, sympathetic to the views of those home and abroad most hostile to this nation. A time when talk of American "swagger" and "bullying" comes tripping from the tongue.

Generally Speaking

In the interests of helping voters decide if they would support General Wesley Clark I thought I'd help clarify some of the General's positions for you. This is the first in what will become a regular series of posts:

Wesley Clark on Abortion:

Q: Would you sign the partial-birth abortion bill, which is about to be passed by Congress?

CLARK: I don't know whether I'd sign that bill or not. I'm not into that detail on partial-birth abortion. In general, I'm pro-life--excuse me, I'm pro-abortion rights.

Source: CNN, Crossfire Aug 1, 2003

Got that? I do have to give Clark some credit for being honest enough to say he's "pro-abortion" rather than claiming the mealy mouthed meaningless "pro-choice" label. I'm sure his handlers will make sure he doesn't make that mistake again now that his campaign has officially kicked off.

Perhaps when Wes has a free moment or two he can catch up on the "detail" of partial birth abortion to help him make up his mind.

Gonna Harden My Heart

Okay maybe the trip was worthwhile after all:

U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, a Republican from Minnesota, is reportedly hardening his position on Cuba just 24 hours into a visit to the Communist-run nation, a source in his four-member delegation told Reuters on Saturday.

Coleman has in the past favored easing the more than four-decade-old U.S. embargo on Cuba, even though President Bush strongly supports the sanctions.

"The senator is hardening his position and now wants to see movement on human rights before a further loosening of sanctions," said a member of Coleman's delegation who asked not to be named.

Separated At Birth?

Current Twins chucker with an amazing knack for pitching well past his prime Jesse Orosco and...

Deceased comic thespian with an amazing knack for acting well past his prime Norman Fell?

Courtesy of long time Fraters reader PH.

A Far And Wide Influence

From Lilek's Bleat today:

If I may boast: I can speak Italian.

Sounds like he's been reading too much Berg again.

NRO Tops the List

Yet another poll from John Hawkins at Right Wing News. This time a select group of bloggers (and us) was asked to pick our favorite political websites. Not surprisingly National Review Online finished first. I was a bit surprised that Rachel Lucas didn't make the list. I guess she just doesn't use the term "asshat" frequently enough to rate. I was also sursprised the see Mr. Lileks on the list. As much as I enjoy the Bleat, it's not the first place I turn for hard hitting political commentary (that would be Spitbull). Besides James hardly ever says "asshat" or "assclown". How can you expect to run a top flight political blog without employing those clever adjectives?

Breakfast At Atomizer's

I rarely eat breakfast. It's not that I'm not hungry in the morning, but I'd rather spend those precious morning hours sleeping and I take pride in the fact that I can go from blissful slumber in my bed to agitated anxiety at my desk in about 50 minutes. From the moment that my alarm clock jolts me out of bed, I am on a strict schedule. No time for dalliance. It's shave, shower, dress and bolt out the door with nary a second to spare for such frivolities as nutrition.

Then there are days like today. I was up late last night trying out the Rhapsody digital music service. After encountering some maddening downloading problems, I felt compelled to suck down a few heaters just to retain my sanity. In deference to my non-smoking landlord I usually smoke outside on the deck but this time, needing to be near the computer to monitor the 'quick and easy' music download, I reverted to simply opening a few windows. I eventually completed this laborious process sometime after midnight and headed off to bed forgetting to close the fargin' windows and, at 6:30 this morning, awoke in what felt like the back corner of a meat locker.

Regaining the ability to sleep was out of the question at this point so I went about my typical morning routine and, of course, found myself with a half hour to spare. "Why not scare up a bit of breakfast?" I asked myself. Being a cheerful sort in the morning, I answered myself with "Capital idea!" and proceeded to the kitchen to see what I had.

I started with coffee. I got a little over one scoop out of the open bag of coffee and, needing more to make a full pot, opened a fresh pouch. Pretty straightforward, one would think, but this particular pouch was so crammed full of coffee grounds that once it was opened, the contents leapt for freedom. I held the package carefully while I groped for the Ziploc bag I had just tossed. Spill coffee on counter, curse, spill coffee on floor, curse, spill coffee all over cooktop while filling Ziploc bag, curse.

I eventually managed to get the filter full of coffee and moved on to the next step, filling the coffee maker with water. Pretty straightforward, one would think, but as soon as I started pouring water into the top, it started coming out of the bottom. Since I was filling the cursed appliance with the very vessel that was supposed to collect the brewed result, there was nothing below to catch the offending liquid. Curse Mr. Coffee, grab for paper towel, curse again after remembering I ran out of paper towels two days ago, grab oven mitt, remember that oven mitts lack absorbency, curse while pushing pool of water into crevice between refrigerator and cabinet. I eventually triumphed and had the coffee brewing.

Next, find some food. I looked for bread...none. I had some English muffins once...gone. Oatmeal...over a year old and as unappealing as ever. Eggs! A-ha! Now that's a breakfast food! Now, how to cook them. Having little patience for preparation work at this point, I decided to go for sunny side up. Pretty straightforward, one would think. I dropped two eggs into the pan and left the kitchen briefly to check the morning news. Upon my return to the stove, I saw the edges of the eggs turning brown. I guess I had the heat up too high...no problem. I like my eggs crunchy. Look for spatula, remember that roommate had taken spatula when he moved to California, curse, look for fork, realize that all forks were in the dishwasher, curse, smell burning eggs, remove pan from heat, tilt pan towards plate, curse at motionless eggs, remember previous roommate had scraped non-stick coating off pan with the spatula that now lives in California, curse, grab spoon, scrape eggs from pan onto plate, look at steaming pile of burnt egg whites and sloppy uncooked yolks and ask myself why I had wanted to eat these things in the first place. Being a crabby sort in the morning, I told myself to shut the hell up and ate my pile of egg goo.

Tonight, I'm smoking on the deck.

Sunday, September 21, 2003

Will Run For Beer

The weather for Saturday's 2003 James Page Blubber Run could not have been better. Crystal clear blue skies with temps in the mid-sixties. Perfect running weather. And drinking weather too.

The race began at 10:00am with a shotgun start (although the loud report sounded more like a howitzer being fired). One of of the first sites of interest we passed was Downtown Jay-goo-R, where I caught a glimpse of a few of the premier vehicles that we did not get our promised ride in. Thanks Hugh.

Next we crossed the Hennepin Avenue Bridge , which spans the Mississippi River and connects Downtown with Nordeast. Just a bit further on at River Place, many of the runners stopped for a cold one.

We resisted the siren's call and made the turn to go back across the river, this time on the historic Stone Arch Bridge. Soon we were making our way down the home stretch and the finish line beckoned with the promise of a cessation of our running as well as a couple, two three hard earned beers.

The post race festivities were held at Peavey Plaza which is a beautiful open space in Downtown Minneapolis, right next to Orchestra Hall (the building on the right of the photo). The Plaza is also bordered by modern skyscrapers as well as older, less imposing structures.

In the summer it features a large pool and fountain but by this time of year the pool has been drained and the Blubber Run (as well as the homeless) take advantage of the extra space. Musical entertainment was provided by Tina formerly of the modestly successful local group Tina and the B-Sides.

The Blubber Run is not a real serious racing affair and far more attention is paid to the costumes of the runners than the racing times they turn in. This year's event was one of the hardest to judge and there were many worthy finalists. I'm happy to report that the two 70's tennis stars took the top spot with the peanuts finishing a close second. Afterward one of the peanut gals tried to ease her pain with the deliciously sinful combination of tobacco and beer. No comment as yet from Planters on the inappropriate behavior of one of their role models. You gotta be careful when good legumes go bad.

George Stephanopolous's Politics Machine

This morning I caught the last 45 minutes of the revamped version of "This Week with George Stephanopolous." Big changes were apparent since the last time I checked in with the program some weeks ago. They've got a different set, different format, different pacing. It all looks OK. But they do have the same host, which largely negates any other improvements made.

I think Stephanopolous is a smart guy, genial, and effective as a political strategist and communicator (as the movie "The War Room" attests). But for whatever reason, he's a lousy TV presenter. I find it hard to describe exactly what his problem is, but he comes off in a childish manner. His tone is that of the smartest 13-year-old in his class, showing off in front of the teacher. His delivery is flawless, but he relies too heavily on scripted comments and you never get the sense he's engaged with his interview subjects, beyond what was written in advance.

He doesn't project any command or control of the show, which is a problem since it's designed to be driven by his personality. But it lumbers along on of its own, often times sluggish, momentum. If Stephanopolous were to be removed from the program and replaced with any of the many generic face men on the ABC News roster, the show would not appreciably change (with the possible exception of getting better).

It's clear that ABC realized these problems, since many of the format changes seem to be designed to give Stephanopolous a greater appearance of command. No longer is he allowed to sit with multiple strong personalities in a free form conversational environment. During these times, Stephanopolous as host was relegated to mostly silence and traffic directing, butting in to change topics according to the script and throwing it to commercials on time. They've now gone to almost exclusively one-on-one interviews and even these are supplemented with video features, never allowing for too much interaction where Stephanopolous can be overshadowed. This is unfortunate since the hallmark of the old "This Week" (when the hosts were Brinkley, Donaldson, and Roberts) was the lively panel discussion.

I also noticed Stephanopolous is now given the appearance of controlling when the video features are run. He's got a high tech touch pad in front of him and after he reads the introduction for one of these video presentations, he makes a deliberate turn to the keypad and a demonstrative button pushing gesture. But it's all a facade, since the timing is out of synch. Sometimes the video starts to run in the background before he pushes the button. Other times the video runs without him pushing anything. Strange that they'd go through all the trouble of setting up this routine, then blow the choreography and continuity. Especially strange since everything else is so tightly scripted.

The whole thing reminds of a program called "George Michael's Sports Machine." It was a nationally syndicated sports highlight program that ran on Sunday nights (and apparently still does in many markets, but I haven't seen it in probably ten years). George Michael was a local sports anchor from an LA station, not the Wham! singer (although that might have made a more compelling program, since this other George Michael had all the stage presence of Andrew Ridgely).

Part of their schtick was something called the "Sports Machine" that George Michael would rev up to play the video clips of the great plays of the week. In concept the Sports Machine was nothing more than a VCR, but they made it out to be some huge UNIVAC looking computer with colored blinking lights and reel to reel tapes whirring frantically. And yes, it was all supposedly controlled by George Michael who, when it was time to run the video, would make a deliberate turn to the keypad and a demonstrative button pushing gesture.

Hard to believe ABC News is deliberately copying some hack sports show from years past. But then again, it's hard to believe they've turned over what was once the premiere political analysis show on television to some overmatched and chronically flailing TV neophyte like George Stephanopolous, so anything's possible.

There was one moment of the broadcast that worked. Near the end of the show, they presented the best of the late night comics political humor for the week and there was this from Conan O'Brien:

Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark had a campaign event the other day at the end of which as a promotional gesture he handed out Clark Bars to all in attendance. That's right Clark Bars. This prompted fellow Democratic candidate for president Dick Gephardt to change his name to Dick Butterfingers.

I'm paraphrasing that since I can't find a direct citation on the net. But I did find the NBC sight that runs Conan O'Brien's quotables from weeks past. They're about a month behind on their posting schedule, so it may be a while until the recent stuff is up. In the mean time, here's a few other O'Brien jokes that bear repeating:

"This week, at an auction, a pair of boxer shorts once worn by President John F. Kennedy sold for $5,000. Also going for $5,000 was a bra once worn by Ted Kennedy."

"Earlier today in Africa, a man was arrested after he snuck onto President Bush's press plane by posing as a journalist. It turns out it was Geraldo."

"In her book coming out next week, Hillary Clinton says that when President Clinton confessed about his affair with Monica, she wanted to, quote, "wring his neck.' Hillary decided against it, when she realized choking Bill would only enhance his orgasm."

"The Justice Department has barred a group of gay employees from holding their annual gay pride event at the department's headquarters. The move was part of Attorney General John Ashcroft's new 'Don't Ask, Don't Be Gay' policy."

What's Good For The Goose...

When Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura visited Cuba on a trade mission in 2002 I was not pleased. Jesse allegedly traveled to Havana to explore opportunities to open the Cuban markets for Minnesota products, particularly agriculture. Since Cuba is essentially broke I was skeptical about the trade prospects and criticized Ventura for meeting with Castro.

Now Republican Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman is in Cuba to explore future trade possibilities and meet with human rights activists. While I do give Coleman credit for making human rights part of his visit I still don't like the whole idea of the trip. At least he's probably not going to ask Castro about the Kennedy assassination, something that Ventura proudly reported doing on his visit.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

The Reports of His Resurrection Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

Way, way, way back in January, the Elder commented on a Star Tribune report that Mark Dayton was preparing to come out of his shell and start raisin’ hell on behalf of his constituents. According to the paper, only two years after he was elected, Dayton was going to make his voice heard. Based on their use of terms such as Dayton “unshackled” and Dayton quotes such as ...

“I’m no shrinking violet, I wouldn’t have got here if I didn’t have something to say. I’m just getting started.”

... Minnesotans eagerly awaited Hurricane Dayton’s arrival in Washington and the damage he promised to visit upon entrenched special interests.

And eight long months later .... we’re still waiting. Waiting for him to do anything substantial on matters of importance. As Minnesotans have come to expect, it’s been pretty quiet over at the Dayton camp since January. He votes in lockstep with the liberal wing of the Democratic party, occasionally chimes in with distracted and vague criticisms of the President, proposes legislation on such things as telemarketing, and threatens to shut the government down if federally subsidized soundproofing of houses around the MSP airport doesn’t continue. But that’s about it. When you’re not laughing at his record of accomplishment, you’re yawning at it.

But before you write Dayton off too quickly as an ineffectual backbencher, disrespected even among elites of his own party, I have one request. Put your ear to the ground and listen.

Hear that low rumble? It just might be the long promised arrival of the runaway freight train of political power that is Mark Dayton. At least that’s what the local alternative weekly newspaper might have you believe. In this week’s issue of the City Pages, the title of the article says it all: “Dayton: Back from the Dead?”

Author David Schimke claims to have picked up a few signs that maybe, just maybe, Mark Dayton really is finally getting ready to let him self loose on the body politic. Or as he puts it:

“There is evidence though, that Dayton, heretofore known as a quiet legislator, has finally decided to make some noise in an outside of the Senate chambers.”

The evidence? A churlish, ill mannered performance during a debate with Sen. Norm Coleman at the State Fair. And Dayton’s hiring of a new communications director, whose prime qualifications include “enough juice to warrant a wedding write up in the New York Times last November.”

According to Schimke, Dayton seemed “downright defiant” toward Coleman at the State Fair debate. Including the uttering of statements that had the hearts of liberals like Schimke racing:

"You can’t say you’re for spending cuts when you’re doubling the budget in Iraq and Afghanistan,” an audibly agitated Dayton argued, opening up the throttle 20 minutes into the hour long program."

Wow. Vroom vroom indeed. Hard to deny that logic. Unless you understand (or admit you understand) the simple concept that cutting domestic spending programs considered to be wasteful, inefficient, and ultimately deleterious to the recipients has no relationship to foreign policy expenditures made to further the national interest in an on going war against terrorism. But Dayton can’t make this concession as he went on to say:

“That’s not fiscal restraint, that’s talking out of both sides of your mouth.”

Schimke further illustrated Dayton’s newfound political prowess by this exchange:

"[Coleman’s rhetoric] was plucky stuff, delivered with the eager smile and can-do cadence that still haunts St. Paul’s credit rating. Dayton, who at one point angrily repeated the phrase “it’s a lie” three times, was in no mood for politics as usual, though, and left his unsuspecting opponent bloodied.”

I’m sure that went over well in front of a midday, weekday State Fair audience of geriatrics and families. It makes me wonder if Dayton hired the same consultants who advised Al Gore to make exasperated sighs during George W.’s plucky, can-do rhetoric in that notorious debate of a few years ago.

As was the case back in January, it seems the press is guilty of reporting their own hopes and aspirations as facts. And I suspect Dayton is no closer to becoming an effective advocate for anything than he was in January.

To Schimke’s credit he does include in the article a dissenting view of Dayton’s abilities as an effective communicator. It’s from none other than Paul Wellstone’s former political consultant Bill Hillsman, who seems to know Dayton better than Dayton does:

“As Minneapolis-based political consultant Bill Hillsman sees it, though, expecting Dayton to save the day for Minnesota liberals is neither fair nor particularly realistic.

"Perceptually, the Democrats put themselves in a big hole last fall. After Paul's plane went down, it was Coleman and [Tim] Pawlenty campaigning around the state for the Republicans. For the Dems it was [Roger] Moe and Mondale; now, for all the great things those two have done for the state over the years, the perception was that you had two young, dynamic politicians campaigning against two dinosaurs.

"That's the image that people have of the Democrats in this state, and if you're expecting Mark Dayton to turn that around, that's asking a lot. It doesn't play to his strengths, and it's not a problem of his making."