Friday, October 31, 2003

My Halloween Costume

At this point it's probably too late for anyone to cop my idea so here's what I will be wearing for tonight's festivities:

Un fromage mangeant le singe de reddition.

A picture will be posted tomorrow so you judge how successfully I pulled it off.

Respect Your Elder Episode #343

Just last night JB Doubtless and I were discussing the continued holdout of Minnesota Wild star Marian Gaborik. JB opined that based on all the verbal nastiness that transpired this past week, it was likely that Gaborik would not play for the Wild this season. I chose to disagree, explaining that it was quite possible that the Wild and Gaborik would come to terms at any moment.

Less than twenty four hours later, voila!, a deal is inked.

Meanwhile Manny Ramirez was not claimed on waivers by any clubs today. Which means that Hugh's pipe dream of the Indians reacquiring Manny is shattered. But Atomizer meanwhile, is probably breathing a sigh of relief that Manny is not Minnesota bound, given his past experiences with him.

"Atomizer! I'm goyin to steel yur geerlfriend."

Do Democrats Cause Cancer?

First, the Fox Network goes after Al Franken for using the phrase "fair and balanced". Now we find out that they threatened to sue themselves over an episode of the Simpsons:

In an interview this week with National Public Radio, Matt Groening recalled how the news channel had considered legal action, despite the fact that "The Simpsons" is broadcast on sister network, Fox Entertainment.

According to Groening, Fox took exception to a Simpsons' version of the Fox News rolling news ticker which parodied the channel's anti-Democrat stance..."

Fox, probably devastated over their failure to stop Al Franken, decided not to pursue the suit.

The network will, however, no longer allow Groening and company to broadcast fake news crawls anymore "...because it might confuse the viewers into thinking it's real news". I can see how one could confuse a cartoon simulation of a news show with the actual news. Especially when the headlines read:

"Do Democrats cause cancer? Find out at ... Rupert Murdoch: Terrific Dancer. ... Dow down 5000 points. ... Study: 92 percent of Democrats are gay. ... JFK posthumously joins Republican Party. ... Oil slicks found to keep seals young, supple. ... Dan Quayle: Awesome."

It's bad enough that the lefties think everyone who watches Fox News is a knuckle dragging troglodyte but now even Rupert Murdoch himself agrees. Earth to network's called comedy! Get yourself a sense of humor and give your lawyers a break.
You Find The Funniest Things With A Little Googling

As someone who has been reading Lileks for many years now, I've noticed that he has mentioned vaguely a few times that he is a musician of some sort, or at least was at one point. Sounds like he has played guitar and keyboards and perhaps even tinkered with his own recordings. Well I was doing some googling and I came across a little-known song he penned a few years back while he was under a heavy Lindsay Buckingham influence.

To me it is just a take on Lindsay's "Trouble" but judge for yourself.

I Think I Like Hummels

I really should be saying No More
I really shouldn't buy anymore
It's been so long since I held one
I've forgotten what porcelin love is for

I should run on the double . . .
Cuz I think I like Hummels
I think I like Hummels

So come to me figurine and hold me
I won't let Jasper take you away
Been so long since I held one
I'd forgotten my login for Ebay

I should run on the double . . .
Cuz I think I like Hummels
I think I like Hummels

If Ya Think Hugh's Sexy And You Want His Body Come On Baby Let Him Know

So I'm listening to Hugh last night and I hear some chippee singing lounge tunes as the bumper music. "Who's the dame?" I think to myself as I turn the dial to AM 1500. Ahh...just kidding.

After all, Hugh is "Filling The Gap" as the Patriot ads say. The ads seem to imply that he is not excelling, or even doing decent work--he's just a stop gap until KSTP gets someone else, at which point all of the former Jason Lewis listeners will turn back. Hugh--I suggest having a little talk with the not-yet-suffering-enough what's-his-name about this campaign.

So anyway, the music. Turns out it's Rod "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" Stewart. Hugh then said "Rod Stewart is to music as Hugh Hewitt is to radio: classic."

I wonder if Hugh and Rod have always been so closely tied in their careers. When Rod was seducing America's teens with "Tonight's The Night" or preening about with "Hot Legs" was Our Hugh such a fan? Now we don't know if Hugh used to have a wild side (what happens in The Yard stays in The Yard) but I doubt he was ever as wild as these Hot Legs lyrics:

Got the most persuasive tongue
You promise all kinds of fun
But what you don't understand
I'm a working man
Gonna need a shot of vitamin E
By the time you're finished with me
I'm talking to you
Hot legs, you're an alley cat
Hot legs, you scratch my back
Hot legs, bring your mother too
I love you honey

For some reason I don't see Our Hugh rocking out to such a ditty after law school class.

But I guess Hugh can appreciate the more sophisticated Rod Stewart and his new style, although critics seem to be a tad hostile (from Rolling Stone):

In his golden age (which, granted, ended thirty years ago), Stewart sang with great musicians, such as guitarists Jeff Beck and Ron Wood, guys who weren't afraid to make him work. Here, on chestnuts such as "It Had to Be You," "You Go to My Head" and "These Foolish Things," he sings against syrupy, obvious orchestral arrangements, driven by a beat that sometimes seems on the verge of a nap -- all of which encourages Stewart's worst habits: He sounds lazy, glib and uninvolved, just the opposite of when he still mattered.

Getting over the nonsense about "mattering" it's a pretty good description of what I heard last night. And when Fred Beetle Barnes is about to rock the house, you want something that is going to get the blood pumping. I noticed that Hugh also uses Eric Johnson music for some bumpers (which leads me to believe that Duane may be a guitar-head). So I say stick to that and the Lindsay Buckingham (what is Lileks' song? "I Think I Like Hummels"?)

Don't Mess With Catholic Chicks

Those of us who attended Catholic high school learned this lesson long ago:

A man described by authorities as a known sexual predator was chased through the streets of South Philadelphia by an angry crowd of Catholic high school girls, who kicked and punched him after he was tackled by neighbors, police said Friday.

We Resemble That Remark

Star Tribune TV critic Neil Justin comments on the audience on Jesse Ventura's America:

The spectators in the St. Paul studio are representative of Minnesota -- almost all white, casually dressed, well-read and extremely underwhelmed. They might make good company at the PTA meeting, but they're out of place on a national program with pumped-up rock music and a host who probably does pushups in his sleep.

While Neil's description certainly fits Atomizer, Saint Paul, and myself I would question how "well read" some of the other members of the audience were at the taping we attended. While they might have been quite thoroughly versed on the latest A.N.S.W.E.R. or Code Pink flyer they picked up at that day's demonstration, I don't think that necessarily qualifies one as "well read".

And I'm not sure how well we would fit in a PTA meeting either, having never attended one. Do they have an open bar?

Pumped up rock music? All I heard was barely audible stale classic rock staples.

Finally I don't know if Neil's taken a close at our ex-guv lately but 'The Body' ain't what it used to be. I dare say that our own Atomizer, not exactly what you would call an exercise fanatic, could crank out more push ups than Jesse these days.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Paging Glen Mason

Every week I receive a free local community newspaper. I usually give it a quick run through, to check out the police report and and government activities of interest. The last few pages are devoted to sports news which is typically not all that rosy for the local high school. You see a lot stories like:

"Park girls soccer team ends season 5-17. Here a few of the bright spots..."

"Volleyball coach looking forward to next season with a number of players returning..."

"Oriole basketball team plays hard before falling again..."

The stories are not negative in any way, nor should they be. We're talking high school after all. But this week's edition featured an absolute classic line from the St. Louis Park football coach. It's not yet available online but the just of the story is this:

The football team finished the regular season with a 2-7 mark. Somehow this got them the third seed in the six team playoff section they were placed in. I don't know if it's because of some sort of BCS-like strength of schedule rating or what. Anyway they opened the playoffs at home against hated Shakopee. Shakopee entered the game as the sixth seed with a 0-8 record.

The result? Shakopee 22 St. Louis Park 7

The local eleven committed five turnovers on the way to getting their arses handed to them on their home turf by a team that hadn't won a game all year. So what was the problem coach?

"Shakopee played awfully hard", said St. Louis Park head coach Andy Ewald. "Being a favorite in the playoffs and having a home game was a new role for us. We have always played well in that underdog role. This was a role reversal."

This has to rank among the all time lamest excuses ever offered by a losing football coach. And I should know having lived (barely) through years of Denny Green with the Vikings and now Glen Mason with the University of Minnesota. Let's leave aside the fact the if the team had really "played well in that underdog role" it should have been better than 2-7 (they lost the last game of the regular season 42-0), but how can you blame the loss on the quite reasonable expectation that you might actually be able to beat a team that was 0-8? Were your guys "looking past" Shakopee? If so how can any 2-7 team look past anybody?

The really pathetic thing is that if SLP had played a better team and lost 49-7 the first thing out of old coach's mouth would have been, "Well we were the heavy underdog you know...".

Sorry to have saddled you squad with an expectation of victory coach. It won't happen again.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Photoshop? Never Heard Of It

Paul Watson, founder of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, wrote this little nugget in his 1993 book "Earthforce: An Earth Warrior's Guide to Strategy":

If you don't know an answer, a fact, a statistic, then ... make it up on the spot.

Apparently, he also condones altering photographs. These images make even this photo look genuine by comparison. Come on, people. If you really want us to believe that the harvesting of a few dolphins could stain the water in an entire bay with blood, at least put a splash of red on the diver's white gloves! A puddle or two in the boat wouldn't hurt either.

For more info on Mr. Watson and his "non-violent" organization, read this.

Hate The Policy But Love The Politician

While I couldn't disagree more with his stance on prescription drug reimportation, I gotta give Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty credit for his plain speaking style:

Amid intensifying debate over reimporting U.S.-made drugs, Gov. Tim Pawlenty took to a national stage Tuesday to tout his plan to help Minnesotans fill their prescriptions more cheaply through Canadian pharmacies.

Pawlenty appeared before a congressional forum that included a familiar face: fellow Minnesota Republican Gil Gutknecht, chief author of a U.S. House bill that would allow Americans to purchase lower-priced drugs from Canada and 24 other industrialized nations.

In what essentially became a pep rally for advocates of legal drug reimportation, both Minnesota politicians drew parallels between growing public anger over soaring drug costs and the historic tax revolt that led to the Boston Tea Party.

"I don't want to overstate this, but there is a rebellion," Pawlenty said in an interview after the hearing. "People are already flipping off the government and doing an end run."

Death Becomes Him

Over the past few days I've been listening to the new Paul Westerberg release "Come Feel Me Tremble" and like a lot of his solo work, it's going to take a while to grow on me. But this time I'm going to patiently wait for it to happen, instead of prematurely dismissing it as a collection of not ready for retail unlistenable garage demos. That was my reaction to his previous effort, Stereo/Mono. But over the past year a good half dozen tracks from that album have proven themselves to be great, meaningful songs. Yes, there's still a lot of crap on there too, but six songs is good enough to justify my cash outlay.

The new CD has two songs that are great and immediately accessible: 'What a Day for a Night' and 'Crackle and Drag.' I'm not even sure what the first one is about and can't remember any lyrics except the chorus. But it has a hooky melody, clean instrumentation, and the patented Westerberg delivery of sounding exhausted and wryly self amused. For whatever reason, it makes you want to be in on the joke, and a more determined study of the lyrics usually pays off and makes you glad you put in the effort.

The second song is about the suicide of Sylvia Plath. As I've written before, that topic doesn't strike me as the kind of material great rock-pop songs are written about, at least not accessible ones. Although it does sound like a band that might be playing the Entry this weekend: (The Suicide of Sylvia Plath, followed by The Vomit of Keith Moon and the Momma Cass Ham Sandwich Experience.).

But 'Crackle and Drag' is beautifully done and even for somebody who knows nothing of Sylvia Plath, it eloquently articulates the tragedy of her death and the enormity of pain/madness/loss involved when someone is driven to take their own life. But this is Westerberg, so it's not pedantic, or melodramatic. His words are simple, his point of view clear, yet there's a world of subtle inference for the listener to take as far as they wish.

It has to be one of the five best suicide/early death songs in Westerberg's catalog. I'd put it right up there with 'Lush and Green, ' 'Good Day,' and 'Can't Hardly Wait.' What's great about Westerberg's collection of these types of songs is that it's ever growing. Not just with new songs he writes, but with old songs you thought were about relationships or some other BS, but turns out they're really about suicide. I had that experience watching the "Come Feel Me Tremble" movie and the song 'No Place for You' which, to my surprise, is about a friend of his who killed herself. (BTW - 'No Place for You' is one of those great songs from Stereo/Mono I previously referred to.)

Westerberg seems well aware of his habit of writing about this material. The 'Tremble' movie contained a clip of him playing an in-store gig. It was between songs and he was standing there beneath the garish lighting and amid the rock posters and CD racks and he asked the crowd, "So, are you guys tired of hearing songs about death yet?"

There's a lyric from 'Crackle and Drag' that says "she was cursed with insight." The last few days when I pass the Pioneer Press paper box by my house I'm forced to laugh, since it has a promotion for columnist Laura Billings on it that says "Laura Billings - 20/20 Insight."

Too Much Fuggin' Perspective

I would like to echo the sentiments that Atomizer expressed yesterday, and extend my prayers and hopes for safety to Ben from Infinite Monkeys and his family and to all those facing the fires raging in California. It certainly does help bring some perspective to one's life and if there is any benefit from such horrific events, it is that they remind us what really matters (your family and friends, your health, your memories) and what doesn't (your "stuff", the day to day minor inconveniences of life, Al Franken).

Alas, it seems to be a function of the human condition that such freshly gained perspective has a short shelf life. And I fear that by next week I will have slipped back into working myself into a dither over the most trivial of items and Atomizer will once again be bemoaning the fate of the his flailing fantasy football squad.

Perspective: easy to attain, much harder to hold onto.

Another Tet? I Wish

Instapundit has an excellent e-mail from a reader on why the recent attacks in Iraq in no way resemble the 1968 Tet Offensive in Vietnam. The only point I would add is that during Tet, which was just about at the height of US military strength in South Vietnam, Viet Cong sappers managed to infiltrate the heavily guarded US embassy in Saigon and hold parts of the compound for hours before finally being evicted in vicious fighting. That was a significant assault on a symbolic target, intended to demonstrate that nothing was really secure. Firing a dozen rockets at the al Rasheed Hotel and fleeing after you've been surprised by unarmed Iraqi police is not in the same ball park.

And as tough as it would be to bear the casualties (both civilian and military), the short term chaos that would result, and the psychological trauma sure to be made worse by the media, it probably would be a good thing for the US if the Islamist/Baathist elements in Iraq were to attempt a Tet-like offensive. I doubt if they could mount anything close to the scale of Tet, but if they would "come out" into the open and engage coalition forces it would provide the opportunity to destroy them. Right now the frustration for the coalition forces is that they're facing remote controlled bombs, mines, and hit and run mortar, RPG, and small arms attacks, which allow them little chance to respond effectively. Combined with what appears to be poor intelligence support on the ground, this looks like it could be a low level conflict that lasts for years. Not unlike Israel's experience in Southern Lebanon. Talk about a long hard slog.

The media wants to make this a Tet so they have a point of reference to yak about. I would like to see the Islamists/Baathists attempt a real "Tet" so we have a better point of reference to kill the bastards. Unfortunately, I don't see them making that mistake. Slog on.
They Also Serve

The Command Post has news of an attack on Ukrainian peacekeepers in Iraq. I wonder if the 1,650 Ukrainian soldiers currently serving in Iraq consider themselves part of the "fraudulent coalition"?

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Movin' On Up?

Monday's St. Paul Pioneer Press carried a story of how Republicans are already starting to look forward to 2006 and a chance to give Senator Mark Dayton the boot:

And when Republican activists talk about the race in which they hope to remove Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton, the name they mention most often as a potential challenger is 6th District Rep. Mark Kennedy.

Based on Saint Paul's latest slanderous defamation er... acute analysis of Mark Dayton, it's not surprising that Kennedy's not alone in his desire to take a run the befuddled one:

Kennedy is not the only Republican name being mentioned as a Dayton challenger: Rep. Gil Gutknecht of Rochester could throw his hat in the ring and Brian Sullivan, the businessman who challenged now-Gov. Tim Pawlenty for the GOP's endorsement for the state's top seat, also may be a contender.

Either of these gentleman would make a worthy opponent for Dayton. But Kennedy appears to very very early front runner. If Kennedy did run, who would fill his seat in the House of Representatives?

Among the potential Republican candidates being talked about to run for the 6th District seat: state Reps. Phil Krinkie of Shoreview and Jim Knoblach of St. Cloud, state Sens. Dave Kleis of St. Cloud, Michelle Fischbach of Paynesville, Michele Bachmann of Stillwater, Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer and former U.S. Sen. Rod Grams.

Yes, the same state Senator Michele Bachmann whom we had the pleasure of rubbing elbows with in August on The Patriot boat cruise. I think there was some talk radio host there as well but we were too busy chatting with the lovely Senator to pay much attention. It sounds like there is a pretty good chance that Senator Bachmann or Senator Eye Candy as JB likes to call her, may indeed make the leap from local to national politics:

"I've had a number of people call me and ask me to consider running and that is an option that I am considering," said Bachmann. But, like others, she adds she would only run if Kennedy decides to take on Dayton.

So we could have this scenario in 2006: Kennedy knocks Dayton out of the Senate and Bachmann wins the 6th District House seat. Let's just hope she'll remember the people who were with her from the start. Or at least with her from this past summer.


I was sitting here at my keyboard pissed off about the fate of my fantasy football team when I clicked over to see what the Monkeys were up to. The fact that Marshall Faulk has only one touchdown this season seems embarrassingly unimportant now. Monkey Ben and his family seem to have escaped the blaze uninjured, but they most surely went through hell in the process.

I have experienced first hand the heartbreak of a home ravaged by fire. I watched the flames dancing on the roof of the place I called home. I felt the heat. I smelled the smoke. Jebus... I can still smell the smoke to this day. While some may consider me full of hate, I wish that horrible experience on no man.

You are a lucky man, Ben. This Minnesotan is praying for you and your fellow Californians.
Dewey Defeats No One--Shut Up And Stack

I've about had it with librarians. As Cliff Claven might say "Librarians...if there not turning down your proposals of marriage their accusing you of lascivious behavior in the bathrooms!" First they objected to children not being able to view porn and now this hysteria (a fitting description) over Section 215 of the Patriot Act?

I wanted to test just how seriously these Champions Of Liberty take their duty to provide us citizens with unfiltered access to all the goodness the internet has to offer. So down I went to my local library. Stopping one of the short-haired, cardigan-sweatered, thick-glassed crows I asked "Hey I'm looking for the 'nets hottest teens, any suggestions?" She looked at me, confused. "You know, the young ones, and none of them damn pay sites either" I also inquired if there was a computer that offered a little more "privacy" as I wanted to enjoy my constitutional privileges in a more secluded area.

Well, no, that didn't actually happen. But I am indeed sick of the constant stink of BS emanating from these book-stackers and their preposterously over-inflated view of their role in our society.

In today's WSJ there's another piece about how these people are up in arms about the Patriot Act and its Grave Threats to our liberties. I love this paragraph describing how an FBI agent was trying to convince a group of librarians that the act really isn't a threat:

Martha Jane Proctor, (Whoa...hold the phone. Martha Jane Proctor? Was there ever a more perfect name for a librarian?) her silver hair combed into stiff spikes, (are you reading as much between those lines as I am?) was having none of it. Ms. (lines!)Proctor pronounced the very idea of a library search "an abomination." And destroy records? "Of course I tell the library directors to do it. That's pretty much my opinion," she declared. Oh, it's your opinion. Well as long as you have a good reason.

Okay librarians, let's get this straight. You stack books in a building for a living. Are we clear? You run books under that beeping thing and give them to those of us who are too cheap to buy them in stores. You are not arbiters of free speech, the Constitution or our freaking civil rights. I know you probably have a little chip on your sunken shoulders because you feel you are too smart to be schlepping a wheeled cart of Barbara Kingsolver novels to section "818.23-920.34 Feminist Socialist Writers" but that aint my problem.

I'm aware of how you hate Bush and all he stands for, like normal society where people work jobs and go home and watch TV. I understand you are one of the feeling elite who is convinced that the times you live in are Historic and Important and this is your little chance to Stand Up and take your rightful place as one of the groups that said Not In My Name. How this is your chance to bite back at a society you think has marginalized you and your important skills of alphabetizing and mopping up homeless feces.

Well your little charade ends now. Laura Ingraham has Shut Up And Sing, I say Shut Up And Stack. And were this not a family blog (wha?) I would put it even a little stronger.

Growing up as a young lad in Excelsior, I remember the sullen, depressed attitudes of the librarians and how they always seemed ready to burst into angry tears. How they secretly loved telling me I had a fine of 60 cents because I brought back a Hardy Boys book a few days late. How they never smiled, never said a pleasant word and always seemed put-upon when you asked them anything.

So just relax book-stackers. The sky isn't falling. "They" are not coming for the children, the elderly or anyone else. Like most of us, you are not on some front line of the battle for liberty or any other such high-falutin' crap. So stick to what you know: the Dewey Decimal System, socialist novels and your uncanny ability to put newspapers in those wooden racks.

Almost Famous

Long time friend of Fraters, Gary Larson has a piece in today's St. Paul Pioneer Press on why Dave Anderson, founder of Famous Dave's barbecue empire, is an excellent choice to head the Bureau of Indian Affairs. And Gary informs me that even dazed and confused Democratic Senator Mark Dayton has now jumped on Dave's bandwagon. It's really quite difficult to read a story about Famous Dave without my mouth watering at the thought of that delectable Devil's Spit sauce.

Conservatives Read Books?

John Hawkins at Right Wing news has yet another survey of right-of-center bloggers. This time it's The Books That Have Had The Biggest Impact On Their Thinking . Nine of the seventeen choices that I sent in made the final cut. But I was a bit surprised by some of the books on the list.

While I like to listen to Rush on the radio as much as the next right-wing nutbag, I can't imagine citing one of his books for this survey. The other somewhat disturbing trend was the number of sci-fi tomes that rated mention. While I enjoyed reading the LOTR trilogy as much as the next comic book guy, I can't say it really influenced my thinking. And while The Chronicles of Narnia was a imaginative masterpiece with an important message, I can think of three or four other works by C.S. Lewis that I would add to the list first. How about The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress ? C'mon people. Conservatives have enough of an image problem in the popular culture without having to put a neon sign up over our heads blaring, 'GEEKS-R-US'.

Monday, October 27, 2003

America? What's So Great About It Anyway?

On occasion when I read some of the letters to the editor in the Minneapolis Star Tribune I'm left speechless. Here's an example from yesterday's paper:

In response to Education Commissioner Cheri Pierson Yecke's claim in her Oct. 19 Op Ex commentary that students 'should know about a great nation,' I must take issue. As a social studies teacher I would suggest that we teach students the facts of history (without a political or ideological slant) and allow them the right to determine the greatness of our nation.

Sadly these standards, supported by Yecke, will do little more than promote cultural arrogance, while disenfranchising many students.

God forbid that I should question anyone's patriotism or stifle their right to dissent but since when is teaching children that America is a great country such an offensive idea? Of course we should teach students the facts of history without an ideological slant (what are the chances that this letter writer actually practices what he preaches?) but the notion that promoting American values and teaching that we have a great nation is "cultural arrogance" is ludicrous.

Our children need to be aware of the history and values of our country that make us a unique, and yes, even great nation. Not all nations and not all cultures are equal, no matter how much you might wish it so. Today when our country (and Western civilization itself) is engaged in a struggle against an ideology that seeks to destroy the United States and all that it represents, there is no room for cultural relativism in the classroom.

Can The Locusts Be Far Off?

Earthquakes, floods, Gray Davis, and now fires. Why does anyone live in California anyway? Rick e-mails to describe what it looks like:

Have you ever worn shooting glasses? They are the ones with the yellow tint which seem to brighten everything. That is how the world looks out here, sort of yellowish, hazy. Different from the greenish, hazy that goes with smog.

Maybe I Should Have Slipped Him A Hummel...

On Saturday I became the second member of the vaunted Northern Alliance (trademark pending) in a week to have a run in with the law. But unlike another rather well known scofflaw, I did not emerge unscathed from my encounter.

Fate is an fascinating and cruel mistress. Often when we experience an unfortunate event in our lives, we like to retrace our steps. We re-examine the decisions that we made, or did not make (if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice) that led us to our destiny.

Every year my wife and I make a trek to Pepin, Wisconsin to enjoy a meal at a wonderful little restaurant called the Harbor View Cafe. Typically we take this journey in the fall to enjoy the colors of autumn. We also do some shopping in the various artsy/craftsy/antique shops in the area, which make their living off day trippers like us from the Twin Cities. And after a sumptuous lunch, we usually stop off at Frontenac State Park just south of Red Wing, Minnesota to work off a few calories with a hike on the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River.

Early last week we decided that Saturday would be a good day to do the Pepin run. But later in the week the weather forecast for Saturday was not looking good. Cold, cloudy, and rainy. So we elected to wait until sometime in early November. But lo and behold Saturday morning dawned with blue skies and sunshine. Yes, it was cold. But it was clear, at least in the morning. And there was no rain in the day's forecast.

October and November are extremely volatile months for weather in Minnesota. You never know just what to expect. Last weekend it was in the high seventies, even the low eighties here. This weekend it was in the forties. It might snow today, but it could also be sixty five on Halloween. Rather than risk waiting and having even worse weather in November, we once again changed our plans and the Pepin trip was back on. First opportunity to avert trouble missed.

There are a couple of different ways you can get from St. Louis Park, Minnesota to Pepin, Wisconsin. Probably the most direct route is to go south and pick up the 494 portion of the loop and take Highway 61 to Red Wing before crossing over to Wisconsin. You can also take Highway 62 to Highway 55 into Hastings and then hook up with Highway 61. It's a route I've taken a few times and is more scenic, but it takes a bit longer. On Saturday I considered revisiting it (sorry, but I couldn't resist) but instead decided on the 494 alternative. Opportunity number two to avoid trouble passed on.

And so we were cruising along on 494. Which in and of itself is not normal. The section of 494 that runs in the south metro area is usually a traffic nightmare. It's not as if it's always busy, it just seems that more and more often you can expect to run into congestion, even during non-rush hour times. So it was a liberating experience to find few cars on the road and plenty of room to operate. And I took full well advantage of this dearth of traffic.

I was tailing a white Dodge Intrepid, which was also humming along at a nice clip. As we both executed a pass of three slower cars on the bridge over the Minnesota River, I glanced down at my speedometer and noticed that we were doing between eighty and eighty five. That's a little fast, I thought. I should probably back off a bit. But we are making good time. That was the third and final chance I had to alter my imminent doom but once again I failed to act.

Shortly after crossing the bridge we came around a tight curve. A cleverly concealed Minnesota State Trooper was lurking under an overpass just on the other side of the curve. I caught him out of the corner of my eye and braked hard to reduce my speed. The Intrepid did not spot him right away and continued on at high speed for at least three seconds longer than I did. Then he too drastically cut his speed and pulled over into the center lane. I moved over as well and nervously glanced in my rear view mirror to see the sickening site of the trooper pulling out into traffic. Damn!

My only hope was that he had locked onto the Intrepid and was after him. But it quickly became apparent that I was in trouble when the trooper swept in behind me. He probably could have taken either one of us but since the Intrepid was in front of me, I was going down. For about thirty seconds he followed me and I was praying that maybe, just maybe he was going to let me slide. It's an enormously uncomfortable feeling when you know that your fate hangs in the balance. You try not to look into your rear view mirror too much but you can't help yourself. When the cherries finally do come on it's a shot to your solar plexus.

I pulled over to the shoulder and silently cursed the driver of the white Intrepid. While I was now in the depths of despair, he was feeling the elation that comes from surviving a near miss and was now Scot free. Bastage!

One of the first decisions that you have to make after being stopped by the police is how you're gonna play it. You don't have a lot of time to weigh your options either so you need to pick a game plan and stick to it. Since I'm not much of an actor I usually opt for the straight shooting but slightly clueless role. Sort of the the absent minded good citizen. A combination of being respectful and repentant. Cops don't like BS so I don't waste their time. That, a clean record, and a humble attitude have proven effective in the past. I haven't received a speeding ticket in over fifteen years, despite the occasional traffic stop.

The trooper approached the car and I made ready by digging out my license and rolling down the window. I believe in trying to make things as simple and painless as possible for both parties.

He was a young man but very professional and courteous.

"Good morning sir. I'm Officer Karlson. Do you know why I pulled you over today?"

Um...You liked the 'Deserve Victory' bumper sticker in my back window and wanted to know how you could purchase one yourself? Yeah, that happens all the time officer. In fact just the other day....

"Hmmm...I might have going a little over the speed limit.", I meekly replied.

"I had you on the laser doing eighty two."

Sounds about right.

"Do you know what the posted speed limit is here on four ninety four?"

"Sixty five?", I guessed hopefully.

"No it's sixty."

I rapidly did some calculations in my head. Eighty two minus sixty is twenty two. Twenty two miles over the speed limit.

And I reached a conclusion: I'm screwed.

"Any reason for your speed today sir?"

Well I'm not an engineer but I believe it has something to do with the amount of force I was applying to the accelerator with my foot.

Instead all I could offer was a lame, "Not really."

After checking my insurance and confirming that I was wearing a seat belt before the stop (I was) he returned to his car to begin the proceedings. At this point I still had a glimmer of hope, however unrealistic, that after checking my record, he might let me off with a warning. But as the minutes passed, my hopes faded. He was doing some serious writing and it wasn't a Happy Halloween note.

He returned and presented me with a citation.

"Sir I'm citing you for seventy in a sixty mile per hour zone. As I said I could have cited you for eighty two."

Gee thanks.

"If you wish to contest this citation you must appear in court in West St. Paul on November 26th at 1:00pm. Or you can just pay the fine. You can use the shoulder to build up speed before merging into traffic. Be careful and have a nice day."

Due to years of conditioning in commercial transactions I almost blurted out a "thank you" but managed to restrain myself and simply nodded my head. And in a way I guess I was fortunate, for if the officer had chosen to write me up for my true speed, I would be looking at a hundred and thirty five dollar contribution to the government coffers. This way I ONLY have to pay a mere hundred and five bucks. Lucky me.

Despite the rough start we soldiered on to Pepin and a couple of hours later, thanks in large part to a very generous glass of fortifying The Macallan Cask Strength Scotch (write that one down King), a couple of Summit Extra Pale Ales, and a delicious meal, I had pretty much put the whole incident behind me. Until I got back in my car and saw the bloody ticket staring me in the face. D'oh!

It's not really the hundred and five I have to shell out that really grates me. It's the fact that for the next year or so I'll have to be extra careful about watching my speed. I'll have to stick to the slow lanes, never drive faster than sixty five, and never pass anybody. I'll be driving like a fargin' Iowajin!

Well there's no point grousing about it now. I should just accept my fate and live with it. But I can't help but thinking, what if I had only...

Saturday, October 25, 2003

The Camera Don't Lie

Fulsome James Phillips chimes in with some reservations about my potential appearance on today's broadcast of Jesse Ventura's America:

Okay, you guys are starting to disturb me. First we are told to watch for The Elder's crotch (sorry, much as I enjoy F.L., ain't gonna happen), now we get the "brown sweater and the bedroom eyes"? If you think for a moment I am going to watch MSNBC and try to pick out the guy with the bedroom eyes ("not that there's anything wrong with that"), you are sadly mistaken.

I hear you James, but there's nothing we can do about it. Last week the director of the program made the decision to focus on the Elder's crotch. Perhaps it's decisions like that which have caused their ratings to triple over the past few weeks, as Jesse claims. (Editorial note - that's the final time I'll use the word "crotch" in a post. Feel free to print this one out and frame it for posterity.)

And I was born with the blessing/curse of these dreamy eyes. If I would have known they were going to make anyone in the TV audience uncomfortable, I would have worn my Foster Grants. But I didn't, so be warned, my heaters will be turned on to full effect. For those not willing to avert their stares, prepare for them to bore into your very souls. But any chronic viewers of MSNBC programming are used to that experience already.

Friday, October 24, 2003

Stranger in a Strange Land

Earlier today I attended the taping of this week's MSNBC program "Jesse Ventura's America." Without further ado, I'll get right to the topic everyone out there is eagerly awaiting - the early revelation of the Dork of the Week.

In the parlance of software development, this announcement has become the "killer app" of Fraters Libertas. After all the excess and ornamentation is stripped away, this is our reason for being in the marketplace. Week after week (well last week and this week anyway), you can turn to us to get a jump on your colleagues in crafting your intelligent analysis and witty asides for your watercooler chatter on Monday morning. Because all those other saps (non-Fraters readers) will have to wait until Saturday at 6 PM (CST) to find out that the Dork of the Week is .....

Kip Wall. (TA-DA!)

And believe it or not, he's not the Dork of the Week based on his name alone. I mean come on - 'Kip'? Sounds like some guy pledging Omega House. This name doesn't exist in Minnesota so I don't know what it's source is. Were his parents crazy about the Kiplinger Washington Letter? Maybe just big fans of Tom Hanks' work in Bosom Buddies?

In reality, Kip Wall is the Executive Director of the state insurance plan for the state of Louisiana. He recently approved weight reduction surgery (stomach stapling) for obese employees as a part of the state's health plan. Jesse had some point about how this represented government waste. But truth be told, I really wasn't paying attention to his reasoning since during this segment the audience coordinator Sonja was hovering about in the wings, and let's just say her blonde hair and tight turtlenecked presence demands attention (va-va-voom).

If Jesse took suggestions for Dork of the Week, I was prepared to shout out "JB Doubtless." If for no other reason than his non-appearance at this event. Despite acquiring one of the prized seats in the audience, he was a no-show. I forget the exact reason, something about an interview with a Fortune 500 company, or getting married, or having a kid, or some other BS excuse. But since Jesse didn't solicit suggestions, we're left the lesser choice of Kip Wall and all that implies.

Now my impressions of the show. In general, being a tourist in Jesse Ventura's America is pleasant and highly entertaining. He has a very efficient organization around him, the crew is professional and welcoming, and everything was done in one take. In person, Jesse is charming and funny, with a real populist appeal and I was reminded why he was such a strong candidate back in 1998.

Since the Elder's masterful description of events a week ago are all true, I won't repeat those details. I was kind of hoping he was engaging in some sort of deception so I could start one of those stalker/fact checking sites that the likes of Andrew Sullivan, Instapundit and David Horowitz have acquired. I was going to call it Fraters Liartas or Fibbers Libertas. But since our truth rate remains remarkably high, I'll have to put that idea on ice (at least until the Atomizer does another one of his posts about how much he loves everybody).

The main difference between my experience and the Elder's was that the first guest appeared via satellite, rather than live. And, curse the luck, the first guest happened to be Ted Nugent. I never even got to see the Motor City Madman, since the large video screen was placed (with its back to us) in front of the audience section I was in.

Given the overexposure received by the Elder's crotch last week (and no doubt the flood of complaints from the Family Research Council), I thought this might have been some sort of patented Crotch Blocking device. And while it no doubt served that purpose (and thus negated the promotional affect of the "Fraters Libertas" cod piece I was wearing), its intended purpose was to beam Nugent's image in from Michigan. Even though we never saw him, according to rumors that filtered into our section, he was wearing a 'Predator' hat and camouflage of some sort.

Before the show started, Jesse came out and warmed up the audience for a few minutes. This period was extended longer than normal due to satellite problems (which some tech was blaming on solar flares). The highlights included his telling of the "real" reason he didn't run for a second term as Governor. This may be a world exclusive for Fraters Libertas (although it seems to me I've heard of it before), but he said it was because of the various unions for state employees. Jesse said he was appalled when they went on strike back in 2001, just a few weeks after the September 11 atrocities. And he was further appalled when they criticized his visiting of Ground Zero, for some partisan reason or another. Jesse summed up his decision for not running by saying "I just didn't want to be these people's boss any longer." A sentiment current Gov. Pawlenty probably empathizes with at this point.

Jesse also spent a few minutes decrying the fact he couldn't charge the Star Tribune for his lawyer's fees when successfully fighting some error about him that resulted in a retraction. Again! Yes, as the Elder talked about last week, Jesse is still peeved about this, and given his history of holding grudges, might be for years to come.

Besides Nugent, who very articulately discussed gun rights, the only other guest was an author who wrote a book alleging that Lyndon Johnson was responsible for the Kennedy assassination. His evidence seemed thin, although he didn't get much of a chance to present it, since Jesse was more interested in talking about the fall out he may face for making such an outrageous charge. But the one remarkable fact that emerged was that this author, Barr McClellan, is the father of current White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan. According to Barr, his son hasn't read the book, and they're not on regular speaking terms (he said he hoped the two could talk at the younger McCellan's upcoming wedding), so conspiracy-minded scandal mongers may not have much to go on here (sorry Babelogue).

Now to the other question many of you no doubt are asking. Will you be able to see the face of the legendary Saint Paul on your very own televisions? Well, the answer is, maybe. The audience does get a lot of face time during the broadcast. Particularly the group of 12 or so in the section designated for interaction. But since I wasn't in that group, it's going to be hit or miss. The camera did breeze over our section many times, and we did sit for 'reaction' shots that may be used to fill in holes in the broadcast. So no doubt I'll be in some wide shots and maybe, just maybe, I'll get a close up. Believe me, I did my best to get on, emoting like a dinner theater understudy every time they directed us to act like we just heard something funny or something shocking.

How to spot me? I'll be in the first row of the 'non-special' section. The guy in the middle, with the brown sweater and the bedroom eyes, with the cute and sweet smelling chicky-baby Stacy on my left (as the dream of Smello-vision TV never came to pass, you'll have to trust me on her scent).

In an attempt to promote the blogosphere, also notice I'm blinking out the letters for Fraters Libertas, SCSU Scholars, Shot in the Dark, Powerline, and the Bleat, in Morse Code with my eyelids. No need to thank me guys, I'm just happy to have taken another giant leap in credibility for the Northern Alliance.

See it all for yourself, 6PM CST, Saturday on MSNBC.

A Little A' Dis, A Little A' Dat

First: e-mails.

N.M. writes in a with slight clarification on the origins of a quote I used in a post on my experience as an audience member at the taping of Jesse Ventura's America:

While this quote, "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt," may have been said by Twain or Lincoln, is really just a paraphrase of Proverbs 17:28.

Nice call N.M. Here is the verse he speaks of:

Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise:
and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.

Who says our readers are drooling, thick-skulled, knuckle draggers? Besides Saint Paul I mean.

Meanwhile long time reader P.H. asks why a particular beer didn't merit mention in my post on seasonal drinking:

I was surprised to see that you missed Anchor Steam from your post. In my opinion it is even better than either Sierra or Summit.

I used to think that Anchor Steam was a great beer. I also used to think Boston was a great band. Thankfully my tastes in music and beer have matured and I've discovered that there's a whole lot more out there than stale classic rock and vastly overrated, mediocre beer. I will grant you that a well poured glass of Anchor Steam from a well maintained tap is pretty tasty. But the last time I cracked open a bottle of the stuff I was very disappointed. Maybe it was because I had high expectations that weren't realized. Maybe it was because Smokin' was playing on the bar's jukebox.

Next: trivia.

Another Thursday night. Another trivia championship at Keegan's pub. This despite the efforts of Atomizer to break away from the Fraters family and launch his own trivia team. Like Andrew Ridgley's solo career after Wham!, Atomizer's attempt met with abject failure and was the subject of much ridicule. But we are a generous and forgiving people, and will welcome our humbled prodigal son back into the fold.

And, as strange as it may sound, we are getting weary of recounting our weekly trivia triumphs. How times can you write of the sweet taste of victory and the joy in seeing your opponents brought to their knees, begging for mercy? Apparently quite a few judging by the number of posts we've had on the subject. But what more needs to or can be said? Nada. So instead of a wordy recap, we're merely going to add a Martini glass to the margin on the left side of the page after each new championship is won. Like banners hanging from the rafters, these glasses will represent our impressive string of titles and the storied history of our organization.

Next: a shameless plug.

My uncle and JB's writing mentor (he's still waiting for that report on risk management Doubtless) has just had a book published called Bloody Good: Chivalry, Sacrifice, and the Great War. I quickly perused it today and it appears to be a very interesting read. Be the first on your block (or perhaps even in your state) to own a copy.

Finally: a request.

Every year my wife and I host a Halloween party. And for the last three years I've endeavored to come up with creative and refreshing cocktails appropriate for the occasion. So far I've been about as successful as Alfonso Soriano in the post season. I've tried a number of ghoulish concoctions and only two have been even close to drinkable. And of course I have no idea how to recreate those drinks as I tossed the formulas. So I'm looking for a killer cocktail and I'm open for suggestions. In the past I've surfed the net for recipes and that has been the source for most of the less then memorable mixes. I'm looking for more than a good name and a cool look. It has to be tasty. If you've got any ideas drop me a line.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

A Time To Every Purpose Under Heaven

In the last month or so there has been some friendly exchanges between a couple of the Infinite Monkeys and us on the topic of cocktails, and in particular Martinis. A few weeks ago Monkey Ben tried to move the debate toward resolution by observing that Martini season is over, while also offering further advice on the proper Martini recipe:

After posting the item below on the Manhattan, I paid a visit to our friends over at Fraters Libertas. There I discovered that the Elder is stuck on our Martini debate of a few weeks ago. The Elder comes down in favor of a 30-to-1 ratio of gin-to-vermouth, while misattributing to me a preference for a 3-to-1 ratio (in fact, I go for a 3.7-to-1 ratio, but, in a pinch, I'll round up to 4). In the spirit of comradely good fellowship, I would urge the Elder to revisit the classic martini recipe. But rather than mixing up the bathtub stuff he may be accustomed to, I would encourage him to seek out some top-flight gin (or, barring that, Boodles) and some decent vermouth. Quality ingredients make all the difference.

The point is, gin rules. Unless it's autumn. Then you should be drinking whiskey anyway.

Bathtub gin? Do you think me a rube? I tend to agree with Atomizer that nothing quite compares with the taste of Bombay Sapphire. I also like to indulge my gin appetites with a bottle of Plymouth on occasion. And those of you who believe that the Brits have cornered the market on gin should give Germany's Schlichte Steinhager Dry Gin a whirl. It is quite good as well.

Ben first mentioned his seasonal drink theory in this post:

For every drink there is a season. Spring and Summer are the seasons of white liquor. Rum. Vodka. Tequila. Blessed, blessed gin. The gin-and-tonic. The gimlit. The Negroni. And, above all, the Martini.

But now, it's Autumn. As the leaves turn, so does our liquor. Autumn, therefore, means whiskey.

While I do agree with his comments that your drink of choice should vary by season, I don't believe that the Martini ever goes out of fashion. The gin and tonic? Definitely a warm weather pleasure. The same goes for almost any rum concoction with the possible exception of a hot buttered rum tottie. Tequila in the winter? Don't be silly. But I can enjoy a Martini any time of the year. It is the classic pre-dinner cocktail and is appropriate for any and all of the seasons.

That being said, I wish to concur with Ben that with the onset of Fall, real men drink whiskey. My preference runs to single malt Scotch. And while I can appreciate a good Scotch any time of year, it is best enjoyed during the cooler months. Which here in Minnesota can mean anywhere from mid-September to mid-May. There's no better way to cope with a long Northern Winter than by laying in a healthy supply of Scotch.

If I may I would also like to expand upon Ben's seasonal drinking concept to encompass beer as well. (By the way, next time you sit down to enjoy a glass of Scotch try pairing it with a hoppy ale. The combination, passed on to me by JB Doubtless, is sublime.) Perhaps even more than liquor beer is intimately linked to the seasons:

SUMMER: Lighter, thirst quenching beers are my preference during the hot months of summer. Although not appreciated by all, I love a good wheat beer or hefeweizen. Paulaner is the best of the hefeweizen bunch with Widmer not far behind. North Coast Brewing's Blue Star Wheat, Hacker Pschorr, Tabernash Weiss, and Two Brother's Edelweis are also excellent examples of wheat beers. Bell's makes a smooth tasting "sun beer" called Oberon Ale and Red Hook's new Sun Rye Ale are both good selections for drinkable summer brews. Sam Adam's Summer Ale is probably my favorite of the many varieties they brew. And of course there is always the easy drinking Mexican beers such as Sol, Tecate, Pacifico, and Corona. Another good choice for a lager for summer is Moosehead.

FALL: One word on fall beers. Oktoberfest. Local St. Paul brewer Summit now puts out a nice Oktoberfest, although I almost prefer the Dusseldorf style alt that used to be their fall seasonal beer. Paulaner features a very tasty Oktoberfest Marzen if you prefer the authentic article. Full Sail, Capital Brewing, Leinenkugels, and Schell's also brew up decent Oktoberfest selections.

WINTER: The best time of year for beer. The first time I see the appearance of the six packs of Summit Winter in the local liquor store my heart skips a beat:

"My darling, how I have missed you!"

"Sir, please don't be kissing the bottles of beer before you have paid for them. Thank you, come again."

There isn't anything better than winter beer. Summit's brew is a hearty taste treat, but there are so many good ones out there. Where to begin? Full Sail's Wassail, Goose Island Christmas Ale, Pyramid Snow Cap Ale, and Red Hook Winterhook are all excellent. Then there's Sierra Nevada. Each year Sierra Nevada brews a new winter beer called Celebration Ale and it always is outstanding. The only type of winter beers I don't like are the ones that have nutmeg or some type of fruit flavoring. Sam Adams used to make a Cranberry Lambic and Pete's makes some type of fruity winter beer that tastes awful.

Winter is also a great time for other beer styles that are a little more heavy and full bodied. Porters and stouts for example. I'm probably a bit partial to the local guys but I think Summit's Great Northern porter is excellent. Red Hook's Black Hook , Sierra Nevada (almost everything they brew is top notch), Portland Brewing's Haystack Black, and Great Divide's St. Brigid's are also good choices for porter. When it comes to stouts, there are some that you can drink all year (Guinness, Murphy's, and Beamish for example) while others are best reserved for winter including Goose Island, Lake Superior's Sir Duluth, Oasis, Red Hook's Double Black Stout (blended with espresso!), Sierra Nevada, and Young's Oatmeal Stout.

SPRING: Spring isn't a great season for beer. It does herald the appearance of bock beers, of which I am not overly fond of. I usually pick up a couple of six packs of bock each year but it's far from my favorite. That being said I heartily endorse Schell's Bock if for no other reason that their annual Bock Fest celebration in New Ulm, Minnesota. Drinking beer around a fire, eating sausages, and looking for Bock heads in the woods? Yes, that is what we do for fun here in the Upper Midwest in the Spring (late February actually). James Page, another local brewery, makes a decent bock as does Wisconsin based Leinenkugels. Texans like to brag about Shiner Bock but like most things about the state, it's virtues are highly exaggerated. Summit also puts out a Maibock (or at least they used) which is easily the least desirable product that they offer.

ALL YEAR ROUND: There are of course beers that can be enjoyed any time of the year. I've already mentioned Guinness, Murphy's and Beamish Irish stouts, which I can imbibe just as easily in July as January. Same goes for red or brown ales. The best reds include Capital Brewery's Wisconsin Amber, Full Sail Amber, Goose Island's Kilgulbin Red Ale, Portland Brewing's Amber Ale, and Rogue Amber Ale. What of Killian's and Leinie's Red? Add red food coloring to Miller Lite and you couldn't tell the difference. As to the browns I would suggest Red Hook's Nut Brown Ale, the old classic Newcastle, Oregon Nut Brown, Goose Island's Hex Nut Brown Ale, James Page Brown Ale, and Full Sail Nut Brown Ale. But the best of the bunch is easily Big Sky Brewing's Moose Drool Brown Ale. Mmmmm...Moose Drool...

Then of course you have your bitters, usually labeled as ESB or extra special bitter. With the tragic closing of Sherlock's Home last year, I lost access to their wonderful hand pulled Bishop's Bitter and frankly I'm still a little bitter about it. You can't come close to replicating the taste of good bitter in a bottle but if you insist, try Full Sail's ESB, Oasis ESB, or Red Hook ESB. If anyone can recommend another selection in this category I 'd love to hear it.

There are also a few miscellaneous ales that I don't believe are pale ales but don't fit into other groups and deserve a mention. Mendocino Brewing Select Ale and Red Tail Ale (not a red ale), Bell's Two Hearted Ale, Rogue Dead Guy Ale (a good Halloween beer), and Victory Brewing Hop Devil Ale.

Now to the pale ales. Delicious hoppy nectar. Within the wonderful world of the pale ale there is the even hoppier subset of the India pale ale or IPA. There are a number of quality IPAs out there including Wild Goose, Two Brothers, Red Hook, Summit, Oregon, Pyramid, Pike, Portland Brewing, and Full Sail. The leader of the pack has to be Anderson Valley Hop 'Ottin IPA whose taste more than lives up to name.

Then there were the pales. There are some many pale ales out there it's tough to whittle them down, much less pick the top dog but I'll give it a shot. Runners up include Bell's Pale Ale, Great Divide Denver Pale Ale, Lake Superior, Smuttynose, and yes Summit. I probably drink more Summit Extra Pale Ale than any other single beer due to the fact that, a.) it's damn good and b.) it's widely available on tap here. But for the top pale ale I can't go with the local favorite. I have to go with my taste buds and they tell me that Sierra Nevada makes the best pale ale out there bar none.

So as there is a liquor for every season so too is there a beer (or several) for every season. Speaking of beer I do believe that it's about time for me crack one open. Boy, this writing's making me thirsty.

THIS writing's making me thirsty.

This WRITING'S making me thirsty.

This writing's MAKING me thirsty.

This writing's making ME thirsty.

This writing's making me THIRSTY.
Nativist Son



FROM: Abe Simpson

RE: Players in World Series

There are too many furin-born players in this year's world series.

Please remove six.

Thank you

Kind of Karmic

I try to make an effort to read Terry Teachout's About Last Night on a daily basis. Sometimes I'm not able to find the time and so I end up reading two or three days worth of posts at a crack. Yesterday I caught his Tuesday post on the Miles Davis classic jazz album Kind of Blue , which he aptly titled Kind of Omnipresent.

Usually I keep ten or twelve CDs in my car for those moments that absolutely call for music or when there is nothing listenable on talk radio (for example during Kathryn Jean Lopez's weekly appearance on Hugh's show). I like to rotate these CDs every other week or so to keep the music fresh and varied. On Monday and Tuesday of this week I listened exclusively to one of these disks. Kind of Blue.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Some Serious Gourmet Stuff

JB Doubtless writes:

What about Starbucks? I've met plenty of people who insist their coffee is undrinkable. Fine. But that doesn't mean that the millions of people who enjoy it every day are wrong, or stupid. Starbucks success is all the evidence you need that they have a good product.

I have another theory. The September edition of a popular men's magazine included a pictorial featuring "The Women of Starbucks". As Quentin Tarantino's Jimmie might say: "What's on my mind at this moment ain't the coffee in my Starbucks, it's the drop-dead gorgeous woman behind the counter."

Seriously, though, I only pick it up to read the articles. Seriously.
The Sign Does Say "Public" Television

It appears that two more Fraters will be infiltrating Jesse Ventura's MSNBC program this Friday. Last week, the advance team of the Elder and myself scoured the studio for signs of suspicious activity and, having found none aside from a shifty eyed audience member that we pegged as Mitch Berg's evil twin, have deemed that the coast is clear for the arrival of Saint Paul and JB Doubtless.

I just have some suggestions for the gents to make their visit more enjoyable. Ask the Twin Cities Public Television receptionist if you can use the bathroom. Better yet, ask to use her phone. Or, if you're feeling really bold, use the Emmy statuette that is sitting on her desk as a back scratcher. That ought to make her head explode.
500,000,000 Fans Can't Be Wrong

I've received some interesting email about the chain restaurants and there sucking/non-sucking status. One thoughtful writer, Cathy, told of numerous bad experiences at Applebee's in numerous cities across this great country. I've no doubt (so to speak) of those experiences and I also have no doubt James has had bad experiences at the jernt as well.

But, if those situations were the rule rather than the exception then very simply Applebee's would be out of business. Boarded up. Closed down. Marge would never again be able to remark "An alligator with sunglasses? Now I've seen everything!" People don't keep going back for bad food and bad service--even people in fly-over country who drive trucks and shop at Walmart. The only way the logic of the Applebee's Sucks Crowd can work is to state that Applebee's food indeed is crap, but the hicks don't know no better.

Cathy said people tell her that in some places there aren't as many choices, so they HAVE to go to Applebee's. To which I say where? Every trip I make to the burbs shows chain restaurant after chain restaurant competing head-to-head for the lunch and dinner business of those who watch at least one prime time network television show (for me it's King Of Queens).

Now, if there were evidence that Applebee's as a corporation were floundering, then the Applebee's Sucks Crowd's argument would have more credibility. But I don't think it is. And it's not some personal favorite of mine by any means (but I've always had decent food there). The proof of Applebee's being a "Good" restaurant is not in my experience or in Cathy's or in James'--it's in the market. And the market she don't lie.

It's kind of like Britney Spears. I'm not a huge fan and I don't buy her CD's, but people don't buy stuff that they think sucks. It may not be your (or my) idea of "talent" but the evidence of millions of records sold is evidence enough of talent--be it dancing talent, singing talent or production talent. I've never understood people that insist that pop divas have no "talent".

What about Starbucks? I've met plenty of people who insist their coffee is undrinkable. Fine. But that doesn't mean that the millions of people who enjoy it every day are wrong, or stupid. Starbucks success is all the evidence you need that they have a good product.

Such A Lovely Audience

Last Friday, as I mentioned a couple of times previously, Atomizer and myself pulled ourselves away from our places of gainful employment to attend a taping of 'Jesse Ventura's America'. Although the show airs on MSNBC (Saturdays 6pm CST) it is taped in St. Paul at the posh studios of Twin Cities Public Television (TPT).

I arrived a bit early and entered the glass-enclosed lobby of TPT. The receptionist rather curtly informed me that I was to wait outside in the hallway with the rest of the rabble. She didn't actually say "rest of the rabble" but her tone strongly suggested it. There were two of St. Paul's finest seated at a table in the hallway and I asked them if there was a restroom nearby that I might use. They directed me back into the TPT lobby.

The receptionist was clearly annoyed when I approached her a second time and was almost apoplectic when I asked her where the sanitary facilities were located.

"Why, um, you can't just come in here and use the bathrooms. One of the policemen has to accompany you.", she sputtered indignantly.

"Well the funny thing is, one of the policemen told me to come in here.", I replied as sweetly as possible under the circumstances.

"Oh, uh, fine. Go ahead then.", she fumed and pointed at the men's room around the corner no more than fifteen feet from her desk.

As I sauntered towards the bathroom to do my business I wondered what exactly was so special about the TPT offices and studios that required an "outsider" like myself to have a police escort.

Did they fear that I might pinch one of Eric Eskola's prize scarves?

Or walk in on Cathy Wurzer being made up?

Perhaps I would interrupt Mary Lahammer in the midst of writing her weekly blog paragraph?

I managed to accomplish my mission without the long arm of the law guiding me and strolled back through the lobby, dropping the perturbed receptionist a big smile on my way past her desk. She shook her head in disgust, appalled at the thought of one of the great unwashed soiling the pristine TPT lavatory.

My little unsupervised excursion apparently raised a bit of a Shiite storm within the TPT offices, for shortly afterward a female middle manager type emerged from the lobby and dismissively announced:

"If those of you waiting for the Jesse show need to use the restroom you'll have to go downstairs and across the skyway. The lobby in there? [she pointed behind herself] That is Tee Pee Tee only."

I guess the presence of all of these "Jesse people" so nearby had made the TPT staffers nervous and so she had been dispatched to lay down the law and make sure we understood our place.

The nerve of these pompous arseholes I thought to myself. Well, that does it. No more pledge money from me. No siree.

Oh, that's right. I've never given public television so much as a dime in my life. Voluntarily at least. I was tempted to march back into the lobby and blurt out:

"I watch your stupid station and never pledge anything. Ha ha ha! That's right. It's almost like I'm stealing from you. Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah!"

Atomizer showed up at just about that time. We checked in and signed some sort of release that neither of us bothered to read ("I further agree that under no circumstances shall I blog about my experiences on Jesse Ventura's America..."). After waiting around for a few minutes more and watching in disbelief as other audience members were escorted to the lobby bathrooms by the police, we were finally instructed to line up and proceed through a security check.

The two mustached, slightly overfed St. Paul police officers were now manning a metal detector similar to the sort they use at airports to screen passengers. Except this particular machine was tuned to pick up metal at the molecular level. Everyone who passed through set it to beeping no matter how thoroughly they had stripped themselves of metallic objects.

"Sorry ma'am you're going to have to wipe off that glittery eye shadow. The flecks of silver seem to be the problem."

It was ridiculous. And once you went through a couple of times and the officers could not determine the origin of the metal, they just waved you past. Atomizer asked what the point of this little exercise was and I explained that it was to provide the appearance of security with actually making anything safer. See Homeland Security, Department of.

We guessed that the security procedures were a requirement that Ventura demanded, since, despite their bathroom paranoia, it didn't seem to be a TPT policy. Unlike ex-presidents I don't believe ex-governors get lifetime security protection so Jesse has to look out for himself. Why he would be the target of choice for anybody is a bit mind boggling but let's not forget that he was in the terrorist crosshairs not that long ago.

After a little more monkeying around we finally were escorted into the studio to discover that there were two types of audience members. The miked up question askers and the applauding head bobbing drones. We were in the drone section with about twelve others while the specially selected "smart set" numbered nine. A rather small audience in a rather cozy setting.

Jesse's son Tyrell was on the set working in some capacity or another. A step above key grip but not the Big Kahuna. Associate producer perhaps? There were a few people milling around offering advise to us and it was difficult to determine their exact role. Producer? Director? Best boy?

We were instructed that when the show went to a break we were to applaud and keep applauding until signaled to stop. Applaud. Check. Don't chew gum. Check. Keep up your energy. Check. Now relax and have fun. Uhmm... check???

Before the taping began Jesse shot the bull with us. While he concentrated most of his attention on the "chosen people" who would be asking the questions, he also engaged us drones in friendly banter. He wearing jeans and a sports coat with an American flag pin. Which was almost exactly what I had on. Not the usual outfit of choice for me but when in Rome.

I've never been a big fan of Jesse's in the past, especially once he entered the political arena (I wrote this after his election in '98). But truth be told, he was affable and engaging throughout the taping. He displayed none of the arrogance or thin skinned sensitivity that often emerged during his stint as governor. He seemed low key and relaxed (despite the non-stop foot movements) most of the time although he was able to rise to the occasion and switch on the high powered persona that made him famous when it was called for ("Good energy Jess," Tyrell remarked after the opening monologue. Jess?) I suppose that stems from his days as a wrestler and later announcer. Overall I came away with a much better impression of Jesse the man than I had going in.

Jesse the talk show host is another matter. While Jesse was quick with the criticisms and complaints he very rarely offered any hint of solutions of even alternatives. One of his topics was the media and not surprisingly he railed against it from the get go. But he never discussed specific ways that the media could be improved. His guest on this subject asked him if he favored government involvement to regulate the media and Jesse quickly shot that idea down. His only response was that the media should behave properly and report objectively because it was the right thing to do.

In some respects his show appears to mirror his term as governor. He loves to discuss his pet issues and has very strong opinions about them. During his time as governor these included vehicle license fees and light rail. Now it's about trashing the media and his other peculiar interests. In fact he mentioned that during the month of November the show will be focusing on the 40th anniversary of the JFK assassination. This week he's having an author on who has written a book implicating LBJ in the assassination plot. It will be interesting to see if the rest of the country is as interested in this little obsession of Jesse's.

Speaking of the national audience, Jesse also brought up the fact that while the local papers had trumpeted the pitiful ratings his premier broadcast had garnered, they failed to follow up and report that the ratings for the second show had doubled. He has a point here as I was not heard the ratings improvement mentioned anywhere.

He compared his run at MSNBC with his race for governor of Minnesota, saying that he would once again come out of nowhere to emerge at the top. "I guarantee that in six months my show will be the highest rated show on MSNBC.", Ventura confidently predicted.

"Even higher than 'Scarborough Country'?", Atomizer whispered incredulously.

Just before the tape began to roll, Jesse asked if any of us in the audience were members of the media (I quickly slapped down Atomizer's hand).

"Good. 'Cause if you are you have to say so. Otherwise it's unethical. Although that probably wouldn't bother the media much these days anyways."

Not being a J school grad myself, I am unsure whether Jesse's statement on journalistic ethics was accurate or if he was simply confusing the media with undercover vice cops on prostitution stings.

Finally the real fun got underway as Jesse opened with a media bashing monologue. He bemoaned the sad state of reporting these days and complained that what he as taught in high school journalism class -straights news on the front page, opinions on the editorial page- wasn't practiced by the media anymore. It was a generic boilerplate rant but Jesse delivered it with fervor and heart and it was easy to see why he appeals to people. He doesn't mince words or worry about saying the wrong thing. You know what you're getting with Jesse. Intellectually it isn't a heck of a lot but this is a television show after all.

Jesse then brought out his first guest, Paul Levinson, a professor and department chair of communication and media studies at Fordham University. I found myself agreeing with most of his views on the media (although I tried to keep the Neanderthalic head nodding to a minimum), which boiled down to "the more the media the merrier". This included mainstream as well as alternative news sources. He also wished for as little governmental interference in media as possible.

He rebutted Jesse's suggestions that media bias is a relatively recent phenomenon, pointing that news reporting has always been colored to some extent throughout history. I suspect that Levinson would be in favor of a media environment where biases were acknowledged and open and the whole pretense of objectivity was dropped once and for all. Unfortunately, Jesse never bothered to ask him anything along these lines and so all I can do is speculate.

Jesse then interjected his personal experiences into the discussion (surprise, surprise) with this complaint about the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

I get slanderous things wrote about me about two or three times now, where I have to go to "The Minneapolis Star Tribune" newspaper and seek a retraction or a clarification or make it right. Well, they're not going to listen to you unless you walk in with a lawyer. So you have got to hire your lawyer to go in there. Then they write the retraction. They admit they were wrong.

But guess what? You have to pay your lawyer. So it costs you money, even though they do damage to you by writing something that you don't ask them to write, and it's wrong, it's a lie, because I just went through it with Bob von Sternburg (ph) wrote a thing in "The Star Tribune," which was a lie. And he knew it. And they agreed to make the retraction, or to fix it, the correction. But then they won't pay your lawyer fees. So it ends up costing you $750, $800 to clear your name, to clear your name for something they did.

Is that right? Do you think that's right? I think they should be required to pay your attorney fees. You know, because they're not going to listen to you unless you come in with a lawyer.

Without even getting a discussion on exactly how this whole thing about "paying your attorney fees" would be enforced, doesn't it sound like Jesse's really getting off pretty cheap here? $750-$800 in legal fees? I gotta think that as soon as you pick up the phone to call one of the gents from Powerline, you're already talking close to grand. Heck, if you're in the urinal next to Hindrocket and you talk about anything other than the weather you're walking out of the bathroom with a billing statement. Jesse's talking about hiring a lawyer to march down to the Strib offices to pound their fist on some editor's desk until they agree to a correction (what a scene that must be). $750-$800? Who does he have on retainer? 'I Can't Believe It's A Law Firm!'? For someone who makes their living in the public eye as Jesse does, it doesn't seem like that high a price to pay to clear up your good name.

The professor also mentioned that he felt that the internet was a positive development for the media, as it opened up so many diverse news sources for consumers.

That comment got Jesse's pulse racing and he promised us that he would relate a story about his experience with the internet after the break. He delivered with a Bill O'Reilly like take on "The Internet":

The Internet, I'll tell you how bad they are. Last February, I was down playing golf at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Course down in Los Cabos, Mexico, when the Internet reported I had a blood clot, was hospitalized and in critical condition. Well, it went all over the media. Wolf Blitzer finally at 5:00 in the afternoon, came out and said it was a lie. Never happened. My wife had to go through all the calls, my agents, everybody I worked with, they were all in a panic, because this "Drudge Report," this character, writes this and sends it out over the Internet. So really, don't think you're going to get facts on the Internet either.

Shares of The Internet Inc. were down 3/4 today on news of Ventura's comments. How bad "they" are? Who is "they"? The Internet reported? That's like saying "The Paper reported" without clarifying whether you're talking about the National Inquirer or the New York Times (insert Jason Blair joke here). I realize that the internet is still a relatively recent addition to the media but come on. Even Jesse has got to be aware of the broad spectrum of news sources on the internet. You can't paint the whole internet with a broad brush and claim it can't be trusted because of a story that Drudge sites. By the way if Jesse really wanted to get into it he might have looked into where Drudge received his information. He's typically just passing on news from other sources, many of which are in fact the "mainstream media".

Before the show I had thought that if I had a chance, I would try to ask a question about blogs and their place in the media today but such a question clearly would have been met with nothing but a blank stare from Jesse. And of course since I was in the non-question asking portion of the audience I would not have had an opportunity to do so anyway. Instead we were treated to insipid, irrelevant queries from those deemed worthy of wearing a microphone.

Everyone is probably familiar with the famous advice usually attributed to either Mark Twain or Abraham Lincoln:

"Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt."

My modification would be:

"Better to remain silent and maintain a thread of credibility than to speak out and have it vanish completely."

The first question (really more of statement) to arise from the "elite" portion of the audience was from a gentleman (I use the term very loosely) in a bright orange shirt whose credibility disappeared faster than a snowball in Dante's Inferno:

First of all, the corporate media in this country, for just as a prime example, sold us some (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Iraq war.

Credibility melting away.

We were sold a bill of goods on the Iraq war. We were given no opportunities to speak out against the war.


The people in the peace movement were actually shut out of the debate on the Gulf War.

Almost entirely gone.

We are now paying the consequences of the voices of the anti-war movement being shut out of the media by the corporate media.

Nothing left but a puddle.

Atomizer and I exchanged glances that said, "Did that guy really just say that?". Let me get this straight. You didn't have an opportunity to speak out against the war? The peace movement was shut out of the debate on the war? Are you serious?

Maybe my recollection is a little foggy but I seem to remember the "corporate media" telling us about each and every time twenty or more scraggly anti-war demonstrators got together to block traffic, get naked, or whatever the hell they were doing to let us know they were against the war. Did anyone not know about these demonstrations?

As to the debate on the war, I don't believe that any war in history has been analyzed, argued, and agonized over as the war with Iraq both before AND afterward. No debate? At the risk of sounding like a jack booted dissent stifler, I almost would say there was too much debate. In the nearly year long run up everyone had a chance to make his or her point and if people were paying attention at all they understood the pros and the cons of the war. Just because most people didn't come to support your position does not mean that you were "shut out".

Unfortunately, Mr. Orange was not the only audience member with an agenda to push. While the talk on the media continued a woman unloaded this beaut:

When you were in office, there were four stadium bills. Nobody wanted public subsidy for stadium bills. There was another bill, cleaning up coal plants? More people die from pollution related to coal-burning plants than die from homicide, drunk driving. And yet they're focusing on stadium bills that nobody wants. Why?

Gee do you think she walked in the door with her talking points? Just waiting for a chance to slip in that coal plant pollution line. Whether it was relevant to the discussion at hand or not. Just for the record honey, Atomizer did want a stadium bill so there.

Next Jesse welcomed Richard Marcinko a former SEAL, now an author and talk radio host to talk about homeland security and the fight against terrorism. Marcinko knows a thing or two about terrorism, having led a SEAL team that specialized in counter-terrorism. And he has some strong opinions on how to fight it:

VENTURA: Let me ask you this. Why haven't they hit us, in your opinion? I mean, it seems to me, OK, we've gone after them in Afghanistan. We've nailed the al Qaeda hard there. We went after Saddam in Iraq, although I still haven't quite figured that one out. Why Iraq?

MARCINKO: It's like this.

VENTURA: OK. Well, I don't know, to me and us laymen, it's like the attack on Pearl Harbor, then you attack Korea.

Or Germany I wanted to scream out.

MARCINKO: Well, this administration certainly looks at going into Iraq as a strategic way of fighting terrorism over there so you don't fight it here.

Right on Dick.

After Marcinko explained that he believed that he could find Bin Laden in three months if given the proper resources and free reign he described the fate that he wished to see him come to:

I mean, there are bandits out there that we can buy off, and you know, the issue of when you get a bin Laden or Saddam Hussein, do you take them to trial? My answer is not only no, but hell no. They're figureheads. Sure, the operation goes on. But I want to take off their head. I want to wrap them in pigskin and I want to pour pig blood on them, just to let the rest of the other ones know, I know how to fight their kind of war. And he's not going to go see Allah. I'll take care of it in a way they know it. And that's what's missing. You have got to think like the enemy. You have to be worse than the enemy.

Not pretty but probably quite effective. Marcinko's approach did draw criticism from the audience including questions whether we have a right to know what our Special Forces are doing in the name of our country. Marcinko's answer: No. His attitude is, tell me what you want done and then don't ask questions. And he raised the damned if you do-damned if you don't conundrum:

I have a mission to do, and it's better to kill them over there than-the people that will bitch about me killing him that way will be the same people hounding my cheeks when they say, well, why didn't you get them over there, how come they are here?

Please. Let's leave the cheek hounding to the guys over at Sully Watch. While Marcinko's on air performance was pretty good, he really excelled when he came over to the miked up audience members and entertained questions from them after his stint with Jesse was done. He dispatched with their arguments in the same manner that he has dispatched enemy combatants in the past. Swiftly, ruthlessly, and effectively. They didn't stand a chance.

Jesse finished off the show with his Hero and Dork of the Week segment. The less said about this the better. It's easily the weakest part of the show and really adds nothing to it whatsoever. Expect some retooling here.

At last we were done. Well not quite done. The show was over but they needed some more audience shots so we were instructed to follow one of the camera man as he moved around the set.

"Nod like you really like what someone said."

"Now laugh."

"Act like you've just heard something you've never thought of before."

"Now shake your head."

"Act like someone just told you you're getting a pay cut."

Atomizer and myself tried to minimize our reactions during these shots for fear that our vigorous head nodding would be spliced right behind Mr. Orange's ridiculous comments. Depending on the editing it would be quite easy to completely misrepresent the way the audience reacted to a particular segment. As someone in the group remarked, "Talk about media manipulation."

Now we were done. I volunteered to return for a future show as a member of the privileged speaking audience. Now I just need to brush up on my JFK assassination conspiracy theories. I also stopped to chat with Richard Marcinko for a moment and specifically ask him for his thoughts on the General Boykin controversy. He knows the General quite well, as evidenced by the fact that he said "oh you mean Jerry?" when I asked about Boykin, and said it was a shame that he was being pilloried for his views but that it came with the territory. When I asked him for clarification he said, "The irony is that those who are out there on the front lines defending democracy and freedom of speech are often not able to exercise these rights themselves."

Postmortem: On Saturday night Saint Paul and JB came over to my abode to catch my national television debut. And with all due modesty I must say that the camera loves me. Well, it loves my crotch at least. While my face flickered on the screen for a few seconds here and there, my crotch basked in the limelight. I happened to be seated directly behind the podium-like structure where Professor Levinson was standing. So every shot of him included my feet, legs, and crotch. Saint Paul suggested that I should have strategically positioned a reference to to take advantage of the "exposure". Talk about product placement.

The most interesting observation from watching the show on the air after witnessing the taping, was that almost everything that was shot was aired. The cutting room floor must have been spotless. Now this tells me that either the whole show was so compelling that not a minute could be trimmed or that they shoot just enough to fill what they need for time regardless of the quality. After spending two hours at the studio watching it be taped and then an hour seeing it air on Saturday night, my money is on the latter.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Here Comes Paul, He's Wearing Tom Petty's Wife's Shawl

Say what you want about Tom Petty, but it's clear he understands the sanctity of a contract. Even when confronted with a bunch of sweaty, drunk guys from South Minneapolis traipsing about in his wife's clothes, he don't back down. As evidence, this story from reader Jim Styczinski:

I heard this story from a friend of a friend who was in a band that played at a show with replacement Replacement Slim Dunlap. Slim told this story from the tour with Tom Petty:

Tom Petty's fans hated them and they hated Tom Petty's fans. They hated everything about the tour and wanted out, but Petty wouldn't let them out of the contract. Before one of the shows, they broke into Tom Petty's wife's trailer, everyone put on one of her dresses, and they went out and performed like that. Mrs. Petty said to someone, "Hey I have a dress just like that one." Afterwards, Petty dressed them down:

"I bet you guys think you're funny. Well you're not! I bet you guys think you're fired. Well you're not!"