Saturday, July 31, 2004


Hoping to build on the "promise" of Air America, a group of far lefty activists have decided to create a new network in order "to counter the conservative news coverage they see on ... CNN." (Via I Want Media). The planned network would also be to the left of Al Gore's new "youth-oriented" TV network NWI.


The Northern Alliance has been getting out and about. First at a pub sit last week (hugely successful we understand although we weren't able to make it ourselves), and now today they're headed to the Estates at Diamond Bluff to meet their groupies and anti-groupies and broadcast live (noon to 3 pm CST), both locally on am 1280 The Patriot and (at long last!) via an Internet stream (only works with IE right now, I'm told).

Friday, July 30, 2004


This week's incorrect children's title:
That's Right Sonny, Santa's Been Drinking, And If You Tell Anyone Your Cat is History
To see last week's title, click here.


Colby Cosh has a characteristically astringent take on the Dems' arctically brisk trotting-out of "the three Ghosts of Liberalism Past--George McGovern, Walter Mondale, and Michael Dukakis." Includes what is undoubtedly the first appearance of the words "lagomorphous astro-burqa" in the history of written human language.

Thursday, July 29, 2004


A part-time economist for Electricité de France is facing a disciplinary hearing next month. And what does it take to get disciplined as a unionized worker at a French state-owned utility if you enjoy twelve years of seniority? Well, you have to publish a very special kind of how-to book.

Corinne Maier hit the jackpot with Bonjour Paresse ("Hello Laziness") in which she explains "why it's in your interest to work as little as possible and how to screw the system from within." She is an economist after all. A very special economist with a doctorate in psychoanalysis (no mention anywhere of a doctorate in economics but maybe I'm just a lazy Googler).

Sadly, Ms. Maier won't be able to make the disciplinary proceeding. She'll be on vacation.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004


Northern Alliance stud Captain Ed has been invited to blog the Republican National Convention! Spitbull's invitation seems to have gotten lost in the ether. (A popular theory hereabouts is that King of SCSU Scholars had something to do with it; he complains our inclusion in the Alliance is an enduring "mystery" but there ain't nothing mysterious about cold hard cash. And he claims to be an economist!) But we're taking it in stride.

Especially after seeing this:
If any of The New York Times reporters covering the Democratic National Convention had hoped to relax with a cold beer inside Boston's Fleet Center after a hard day of work, they've been disappointed.

That's because, unlike at past conventions, outside booze -- or any bottled liquid for that matter -- is banned from the convention site, along with most food, hairspray, and even large umbrellas.

"It was rejected," said John Files, assistant to the Times' Washington editor, who tried late last week to bring several cases of beer and a case of wine into the press room for the Times scribes. "The Secret Service is particularly concerned about liquids, fearing biohazards, regardless of whether they are open or closed.
Sorry Ed, we're guessing the Secret Service may have similar concerns about the Republican convention. We plan to crack a cold beer, uncork a warm bottle of the red, open a large umbrella and read every word of your RNC blogging. In short, we'll be there with you in spirit(s).

But we're kind of cheesed about missing out on the cool visor swag potential.

UPDATE: Hindrocket has been invited too! 10% (2 out of 20) of the RNC credentialed bloggers will be from the Northern Alliance.


Now that it's summer, especially now that it's summer, it has become clear to me where the true source of power lies: access to telephone numbers of babysitters who don't have access to summer cabins. Those who have it live lives of blissful freedom and can lord it over those of us who don't.

Yes yes yes I realize that much of the world either doesn't have small children for whom they are responsible, doesn't care about engaging in adult activities in the absence of said children, or doesn't give a hoot about the kids. Unfortunately I am not lucky enough to fall into any of these exceptions. I am a babysitter have-not (or, more precisely, have-not-enough) this summer and at the mercy of those babysitter haves. The babysitter haves don't just share their numbers with any Tom Dick and Harry (or Eloise). You have to earn the information with various bribes or, heaven forbid, a sustained relationship approximating close friendship.

I do OK during the school year. It's true I occasionally wring my hands over the unreasonably active social lives of the babysitter demographic (when I was their age a babysitting job was a welcome break from parental monotony) or cluck disapprovingly at the parents dishing out earning-incentive destroying allowances to their kids (I am clearly a social conservative when it comes to babysitters.) But despite these horrific roadblocks, I can usually find a babysitter if I steel myself to make enough telephone calls (yes, I finally understand, it is extremely humiliating being turned down by teenage girls; I apologize if I ever caused anyone any such pain in the past).

But summer in Minnesota is absolute hell for the babystter-dependant! Potential babysitters are all visiting their friends' cabins, or going camping or tubing down some tributary for the weekend just when I need them. It's an impossible situation, and elevates the power of those with babysitter access to untenable heights.

At lunch last week a friend told me the story of a local businessman who experienced difficulties enforcing his non-compete agreement against a former partner. His solution: he forbade his daughter from continuing to offer her babysitting services to the turncoat. As a lawyer, I admire the ingenuity. As a mother, I decry the unfair tactic. I guess I need expand my toadying efforts from the babysitter list-holders to the babysitters' parents.

Sunday, July 25, 2004


Yes, we missed the shindig for local bloggers at Keegan's Pub last night (read all about it), but we have a tolerably good excuse. We had tickets to the Minnesota Orchestra last night, and while the performance didn't start until 8:00, our babysitter's arrival time didn't leave much of a window of opportunity. But I hear that these get-togethers might become semi-regular, so perhaps we'll make the next one.

And we love Keegan's. Our typical visit goes like this: I order a Guinness, Eloise orders a Black and Tan, and Eloise kicks my ass in backgammon; I order another Guinness and Eloise, continuing to nurse her Black and Tan, kicks my ass in backgammon again; I order another Guinness and Eloise, still nursing, lets me win one.

As for the orchestra, I'm still too much of a novice on classical music to critique the performers, but I can say that I greatly enjoyed myself, which I suppose is all that matters in the end. The program was an amiable one: Beethoven is Beethoven, the Colossus Who Bestrode the Earth in virtually everything he composed, and Dvorak's New World Symphony, with its four movements' worth of memorable themes (of how many symphonies can that truly be said?) and its irrepressible forward momentum, is impossible not to like.

But the highlight for me was the middle piece, the Brahms Violin Concerto. There are few musical forms as inherently dramatic as the concerto, pitting as it does a solitary virtuoso against the leviathan of the orchestra. And, as Eloise and I discussed afterwards, there is something especially dramatic about a violin concerto, as opposed to (say) a piano concerto. The violin and the piano may be roughly equivalent instruments in their ranges of expressivity, but the violinist has to stand there--in front, alone, and protected only by a little box of wood, not by the mammoth ebony imperturbability of a concert grand piano. Brahms exploits this dynamic to great effect, and despite the fact that I'd never heard it until I bought this CD Thursday night in preparation, his Violin Concerto is rocketing up my personal chart of all-time faves.

Ther was one irksome aspect of the night, however. A nearby codger actually started snoring about two minutes into the Brahms (one of the commonly accepted indicia of brain death, if I'm not mistaken). At least, it sounded like he was snoring--when the horking and snergling noises continued after the intermission during the Dvorak, it seemed as if the heavy-lidded eyes on his rutabaga head were in fact slightly ajar, so who knows what was going on. Whatever it was, it was loud, and his wife, who displayed a befuddled, "have they started playing yet, dear?" expression all night, was no help. Eloise made eye contact with the poor woman sitting directly behind him a couple of times, and the expression on her face was the very epitome of long suffering.

Now that's something the Minneapolis City Council should ban!


Turns out that Ralph Nader's bizarre but repeated claims that his campaign holds appeal for certain Republicans may be true--though, characteristically, not in the way he thought. (Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan.)

Saturday, July 24, 2004


The best theory I've come across so far about the source of the Sandy Berger leak is from MSNBC political analyst Lawrence O'Donnell on Wednesday's edition of Scarborough Country (I didn't see the show but BlahBernard did and told Roger L. Simon's readers, or at any rate those intrepid enough to risk the bends by diving into the Marianas Trench of Roger's comments section):
O‘DONNELL: ... Now, the political motivation for this is an awful lot simpler than I am afraid Dan Rather is any longer capable of understanding.


O‘DONNELL: The big incentive to get this story out comes from the Kerry campaign, not the Bush campaign.

SCARBOROUGH: Why is that?

O‘DONNELL: If you have worked in campaigns, you know that, when you get a bomb that you can throw at the other side, you save it until October. You save it as late as possible.

Imagine, for example, even this story breaking a week later, breaking the day John Kerry was to give his speech in Boston. That is exactly what the Kerry campaign didn't want. I think, when we get the journalistic autopsy on this eventually, what you are going to find is Sandy Berger very slowly and very reluctantly and very, very recently told the Kerry campaign that he was being investigated by the FBI.

The Kerry campaign immediately said to him, you have got to make that public right away and we cannot let you go forward without making that public. He makes it public. You watch what happens to the story in 12 hours, and you cut him loose. And you want that to happen as soon as possible. You want it to happen this week, rather than next week. You want it to happen in July, rather than October.

All the incentive to push this story out and get it done with now comes from the Kerry campaign. The Bush campaign's incentive would be exactly the opposite.
Now if someone could just make sense of Berger's story....

Friday, July 23, 2004


Jeopardy phonemenon Ken Jennings has boosted recent ratings for the TV show (past Wheel of Fortune, imagine that!). As a result, he's become a news phenomenon (ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX, E!, USAToday , NPR, Washington Post, NY Times, David Letterman, Good Morning America, Live/Regis and Kelly)! Even ESPN got in the act, cleverly using sports analogies to make him relevant to their readers:
Yes, he's a smarmy know-it-all with the personality of a hall monitor, the kind of guy everyone hides from at a Christmas party. But he has "it" -- that indefinable quality you have when you know you're good, when you're in the zone and taking everyone for a ride. The '86 Celts had it. They toyed with teams before ripping their hearts out, Temple of Doom style. The JG does too. Not since the pre-nanny Tiger has somebody laid the smack down like this. He doesn't beat people, he dismantles them.
Have I mentioned that he's a practicing Mormon? As in no booze, a fact that has prompted the creation of a new drinking game: Jeopardrink!: the KenJen Edition ("The worse Ken does, the drunker you get").

But it's the no coffee part of Mormonism that may be the secret to his success.

No, it's not nearly enough for me to give up my own caffeine habit but I fully intend to rely on this important research report the next time I call my children by the wrong name.


This week's incorrect children's title:
A Month of Fun: You and Daddy's Two Boys, Mommy's Three Girls, Daddy's New Wife's Kid, Mommy's Boyfriend's Daughter, All Four Sets of Your Grandparents and Funny Uncle Fred Celebrate Thanksgiving!
To see last week's title, click here.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004


The seven year old lost a tooth yesterday. Well, actually, she yanked it out and then dashed to her room to shove it under her pillow. Good pacifist that she is, I don't think she'd actually knock out her sister's tooth for the payoff (and she's watched this cautionary Powerpuff Girls episode at least ten times after all) but I was a little surprised by how cold blooded she was about it (cha-ching!). No "ick!" about all the blood yet she's usually quite squeamish.

Well, this is certainly not the first tooth loss she's suffered/enjoyed (she started first grade with the classic no-front-teeth look). She's getting to be an old pro at this, jaded enough to grill me about how this fairy business works. How do you know there's a tooth fairy?

I think I held up OK (it helped that she probably wanted me to convince her, concerned that the dollars may stop appearing if I think she no longer believes). I told her we know because there's a dollar under the pillow in the morning. She didn't ask me any more questions but apparently decided to devise an experiment of her own. She left a note along with the tooth:
Dear tooth fairy
What is your name

[seven year old child]
Turns out the tooth fairy's name is Flitterpuff!

The Internet reveals still more, of course:
What does the tooth fairy do with all those teeth? There's no consensus. Terry Pratchett in Hogfather suggests they're just collected, neatly labeled and filed away in a museum-like castle. Pratchett also suggests that the tooth fairy's business involves intricate record-keeping and accounting, and says she "carries pliers – if she can't make change, she has to take an extra tooth on account." I think I'd just as soon not explain that part to kids.
I on the other hand will hold this in reserve in case any sister slugging develops.


Iraqi security has discovered three missiles carrying nuclear heads concealed in a concrete trench near Tikrit, according to "official sources" quoted by an Iraqi newspaper. The UPI has picked up the report, and the Washington Times has published the UPI story online.

Meanwhile, Reuters says that a spokesman for Iraq's Interior Ministry has dismissed the report as "stupid," though U.S. military officials are checking it out.

You may choose your own closing:

(a). We report, you decide.

(b). Developing....

(c). Interesting....

(d). Heh.

(e). Yeah, but what about Sandy Berger's pants?

UPDATE: The UPI has backed away from the story. Named source, on the record:
"Nothing's been found. The report is not factual," said Master Sgt. Robert Cowens, a spokesman for the 1st Infantry Division, based in Tikrit.
To all who chose (e), congratulations!

Tuesday, July 20, 2004


A succinct analysis of global politics from Tightly Wound:
Think of Europe as a grade school playground: The old Eastern bloc countries are the poor foreign kids who hang out together because no one else will talk to them; Germany is the proto-football jock who gets off on giving the little kids wedgies; Portugal and Spain are the pretty girls that Germany likes to tease and that the poor kids are afraid to talk to; Italy is the class clown with ADD and some other behavioral issues; Denmark, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands are the average kids who like to play kickball; and France is the skinny rich kid with no athletic ability and an inexplicable sense of entitlement.
You'll have to click through the link, you lazy surfer you, to see who is the teacher.


The crack young staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly” selects one of the Left's nuggets of wisdom regarding the current War on Terrorism (overlooking "The best way to fight terrorism is to appease its proponents at every turn; Syria is a wonderful country that has been alienated by our unsavory tactics; &c") they acede to the often-voiced lefty imperative and examine the "root causes" of terrorism.

Monday, July 19, 2004


A story in Friday's Star Tribune provides an illuminating peek into the workings of the Minneapolis City Council. The story concerns Sam's Club and its quest for a zoning variance so it can open a store in Northeast Minneapolis. The proposed site is in an industrial zone, where retail stores are evidently not allowed, so Sam's Club is arguing that it's not a retailer but a wholesaler. The city's zoning administrator didn't buy the argument, and now the city's Zoning and Planning Committee, whose deliberations prompted the story, has rejected it too. (The variance request is marching on to the full City Council for a vote next week.)

Here's what Council Member Lisa Goodman had to say (emphasis mine):
"If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck. You sell stuff. It's retail. This belongs in a commercial district. I can't even believe we're having debate over this," she said. "Industrial zones are for living-wage jobs."
Well that's funny. I always thought industrial zones were for, you know, industry.

Now, we can have a debate over whether Sam Walton's empire is evil or just efficient. Seems to me that as long as the transactions between Wal-Mart/Sam's Club and its customers and employees are voluntary there's not much for third parties to complain about, though I'm open to counterarguments. And I don't have much of an opinion on whether or not the variance request is reasonable as a matter of zoning law, though I'm puzzled about why a retail use in an industrial zone is objectionable, since there would seem to be little incentive for a true retailer to open up in an area filled with loading docks and factories instead of shoppers.

But what on earth does a company's wage structure have to do with zoning? Unless, of course, you're on the Minneapolis City Council, where you can feel free to advance your agenda by any means possible.

Sunday, July 18, 2004


Powerline seems to like to put up occasional girlie pictures to keep its male readers, er, interested (of course the readers all claim to read Powerline for the articles). But now there's proof those guys are strictly Bush-league operators: Fuck The Vote (not entirely work safe).
SEXY LIBERALS OF THE U.S. UNITE in taking back the government from the sexually repressed, right-wing, zealots in control! Everyone knows liberals are hotter than conservatives - we look hotter, we dress hotter, our ideas are hotter, and we are infinitely hotter in the sack. We must use this to our advantage - as one more weapon in a diverse arsenal to strip the conservatives of their power (by stripping them of their clothes first).

Believe it or not, even the most seemingly deeply rooted right-wing ideologue can be manipulated by sex. As we all know, the sex drive is a powerful beast that has the potential to change people. People lie for sex, they cheat for sex, they even kill for sex - and you can be sure that they will change the way they think (and therefore vote) for sex. All you need to be armed with are your sexy progressive values, a razor-sharp wit, your genitalia, and a mindset that doesn't mind taking one for the team.

At Fuck The Vote we provide a Pledge Sheet that can be used conveniently before becoming physically intimate with a conservative, The Pledge Sheet asks the signee to make a promise to vote for anyone but George Bush in the November election. FTV has not endorsed a single candidate but recommends strategic voting. We also encourage FTV fans to take road trips this summer to swing(er) states to collect pledges. If you collect a pledge let us know about it on the Swinger States page! Have safe fun fucking over Bush while fucking for votes.
Since recent elections have shown more women vote left than right, this tactic may have some, ahem, legs. Mitch Berg, for instance. How long do you think he'd hold out?

Saturday, July 17, 2004


The Warrior Monk came out of retirement to join the blog crowd hyping Hugh's new book: If It's Not Close, They Can't Cheat: Crushing the Democrats in Every Election and Why Your Life Depends on It.

Hugh has attributed the book's skyrocketing rankings on Amazon to the blogosphere's accolades. Pure speculation, I'd say. But I'll match him one in the cause-and-effect guessing game: the strength and vibrancy of the right-hand portion of the blogosphere can be attributed to Hugh's steadfast backing and generosity. Aside from the book's merit, it's fitting that we return the favor.

... and raise the bet: there may be a trickle-down effect to Calphalon from all this blog love: Amazon's "Customers who bought this item... Also bought these items..." feature suggested their 12 inch Everyday Pan. Perhaps Hugh ought to follow Glenn Reynolds' lead and start writing about cookware. Talk about a marketing tsunami!



Friday, July 16, 2004


Well, shucks, I feel compelled to join the chorus of hosannas (recent example here) over Hugh Hewitt's new book, If It's Not Close, They Can't Cheat: Crushing the Democrats in Every Election and Why Your Life Depends on It. There's only one problem: I haven't read it. (Yet.)

But I will say this. I listen to Hugh's radio show often, and he's an exemplary host. Partisan, yes, but overtly and unabashedly so, and unlike most partisans, he's fair to guests and callers who disagree with him. Which is not to say he's easy on them--I don't know if Hugh does any courtroom work when he's wearing his practicing-attorney hat, but judging from his performance when he's wearing his radio-host hat, I'd rather eat my hat than be cross-examined by him.

So when I do read it, that's what I'll expect. And incidentally, my birthday is exactly one month away. . . .


Carl Zimmer of Corante posts about recent confirmation of the factors that may lead to sex skewing:
Mothers eating a high-fat diet (which probably led to high levels of glucose) gave birth to litters with two sons for every daughter. Mothers eating high-carb diets produced about one son for every two daughters.
(Via Gene Expression). Sounds like today's über-diet is going to cause a gal shortage in coming years.


This week's incorrect children's title:
Fill Your Hamster's Bottle With Espresso and Watch Him Run!
To see last week's title, click here.

Thursday, July 15, 2004


We're surprised nobody has yet spun a conspiracy theory out of Boston's decision to ban newspaper vending machines during the Democratic National Convention. (Via I Want Media). The marketing chief for Weekly Dig, a local free weekly, puts a brave face on things: "I might sucker some of my interns to hawk (papers)."

Conventioneers gotta get their news fix 24/7 and, in the absence of the cheat sheets, where better than blogs? Aha! Inescapable conclusion: the tipster that prompted the security crackdown must be Glenn Reynolds. (Well, it can't be the interns.)

Although Spitbull has access to all sorts of inside information we cracked this one all by ourselves. You're welcome.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004


Many University of Chicago students and alumni are also bloggers, as it turns out, and this week they're airing an old pet peeve: why you can buy anything in the world you want to in Hyde Park, as long as it's a book (joke courtesy of Jacob Levy). Will Baude thinks U of C'ers are too intellectual to create the demand necessary to support anything but book stores. Phoebe Maltz says they just want to appear intellectual and they'd buy a new miniskirt in a neighborhood store if they could. Jane Galt and Jacob Levy put an end to all this navel gazing: it's the rent-seeking dynamic, stupid (note to us plebians: this means "zoning").

Zoning or no zoning, the secondary effect of creating this bookstore-topia is that anyone who can possibly swing owning a car does so. There are lots of good bars, stores and restaurants a short car ride away.

The Warrior Monk and I are both alums. I drove an ancient Honda Civic that was so rusted that you could see the street whiz by through a little hole in the floor. In the winter the locks froze open and you had to be careful when taking a turn because the driver's side door had a tendency to swing open. The Warrior Monk's Buick Regal sported a back "window" consisting of cardboard secured by duct tape. The plastic on its steering wheel column was gone, but that's another story.

I have always been amazed at how zombie-like the cars appear on Chicago highways and streets. Now when I visit I'll think: I wonder if it's the zoning?

Tuesday, July 13, 2004


The kids are dizzy with delight because they've been asked to be flower girls. The seven year old, who has done this before, is holding flower girl classes for the three year old. They're using a basket full of beanie babies as a stand in for the petals.

The classes come complete with report cards, the first of which read "N" (the helpful key included translated this to, reasonably enough, "needs improvement").

What did she do wrong? I inquired.

Apparently, she has a tendency to fling the "petals" forward rather than dropping them daintily on the floor. She also throws like a boy and the seven year old, who has experienced the power of her curveball, is concerned the bride will be bruised.

Luckily (or unluckily) they have three and a half months to practice.

Monday, July 12, 2004


An instructor from a French teachers training institute (doesn't that image give you the shudders) has read the tea leaves (a.k.a. the blockbuster Harry Potter series):
Capitalism is now trying to shape, after its own taste, not only the real world, but the imaginary world of its consumer-citizens.
The world of Harry Potter, he is reported to opine, "glorifies individualism, excessive competition and a cult of violence."

But fear not, Le Monde printed a rebuttal; instead Harry Potter can actually be read as a "ferocious critique of consumer society and the world of free enterprise." Harry is "the first hero of the anti-global Seattle generation."

It's good to know that denizens of the birthplace of Derrida still know how to brawl. The sniffs caused by the fact that many of Harry's enemies, including his arch-nemesis Voldemort, bear French monikers are especially enlightening.

(Credit: political theory daily review)

UPDATE: The New York Times runs a translation of the original diatribe. (Credit: An Inclination to Criticize)


The Northern Alliance is throwing a shindig - a non-political, ecumenical one - for bloggers in the area. Here's the official invite for those in Minnesota (or anywhere within driving distance of the Twin Cities):
Here's the deal: We'd like to meet at Keegan's Irish Pub in Northeast Minneapolis, on Saturday, July 24, at 5PM. We'd like to spend a few hours hanging out, meeting other bloggers, and just having some fun. Cash bar? The whole place IS a cash bar!

By the way - this is not a "Northern Alliance" event, just a random social thing for bloggers.

Interested in being there? We'd love to get a headcount. Please drop us a line at party *at* northernallianceradio *dot* com. Tell us who you are and what blog you write, if any. We'll send the details right back.

Hope to see you all there! Oh - and spread the word among any other bloggers you know!

The Whole Northern Alliance
Don't yet have a blog but want to come see what all the ruckus is about? Just visit Blogger.com and you'll be fitting into the guest criteria in no time.

Saturday, July 10, 2004


This afternoon our more with-it Northern Alliance brethren will be interviewing hoaxmaster Odin Soli (now that name's got to be made up), the 35-year-old male creator and animator of the 20-something female and sexually adventurous blogmistress Plain Layne. Turns out Mitch Berg and Odin go way back. Tune in to am1280 the Patriot (Internet streaming should be coming soon) from noon to 3 pm today--maybe Mitch will reveal that he's the guy behind, say,Belle de Jour. Birds of a feather, you know.

Oh, yeah. They'll also be talking to a spokesperson from the BushCheney04 campaign and the West Virginia high school senior who gave the First Amendment an airing when he posted conservative signs around his school.

The Elder and Atomizer are out skating in the MS75 but they may call in, panting, in the third hour. Spitbull? Well, we finally feel a bit guilty for sitting on our asses so we bankrolled Atomizer. How much? Enough so we can blow off our NA obligations for months to come.

Friday, July 09, 2004


George W., George H., Barbara and Laura Bush: $14.95

John Kerry, Howard Dean and Wesley Clark (there's no John Edwards doll) : $19.99

Arnold Schwarzenegger: $19.99
(this doll, though it presumably originally enjoyed the highed production run and resulting lower price of the Bush dynasty, is probably premium priced because The Governator recently sued to shut down the doll's production)

Hugh Hewitt: priceless


This week's incorrect children's title:
Getting Chosen Last in Gym Class Means You are Clumsy and Nobody Likes You
To see last week's title, click here.

Thursday, July 08, 2004


Mindles H. Dreck at Asymmetrical Information has been reading Clinton's book. Or rather, not reading it: "I'm only 25 pages in and I can't stop putting it down." According to Mindles, it's flabby, long-winded, and boring. (Clinton crossed with Kerry, you might say.) But Mindles excerpts a paragraph that provides the long-awaited skeleton key to Clinton's heretofore inexplicably self-destructive personality (emphasis mine):
I learned a lot from the stories my uncle, aunts, and grandparents told me: that no one is perfect but most people are good; that people can't be judged only by their worst or weakest moments; that harsh judgments can make hypocrites of us all; that a lot of life is just showing up and hanging on; that laughter is often the best, and sometimes the only response to pain. Perhaps most important, I learned that everyone has a story - of dreams and nightmares, hope and heartache, love and loss, courage and fear, sacrifice and selfishness All my life I've been interested in other people's stories. I've wanted to know them, understand them, feel them. When I grew up and got into politics, I always felt the main point of my work was to give people a chance to have better stories.
Say what you want about the man, but you have to admit that he gave us some fanfrickingtabulicious stories. Now that I know it was his chief objective all along, I feel compelled to congratulate him on a job well done.

P.S. Be sure to click through to Mindles' post. It ends with the transcript of a hilarious Stephen Fry/Hugh Laurie bit about compulsive name-dropping--rather surprisingly hilarious, considering that the bit reads that way even though I've never seen it. A milestone in the history of second-hand comedy. As if those dorky friends of yours who are constantly reciting full scenes from Monty Python were actually entertaining instead of, well, dorky.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004


Spitbull doesn't have a comments feature because we're lazy (gotta find where they hid that screwy comments box and then check it to activate 'em) and fearful (at first no one came to our parties either ... until we wised up and stopped throwing parties). Comment bullying isn't really a factor. Plus, our hero Daniel Drezner thinks everyone is being a wuss about comment civility anyway:
Look, I'm an academic, and this stuff is nothing. I've attended seminars where the paper presenter ran out of the room because s/he was crying. I've presented papers that have been likened to poor undergratuate theses. I've had papers rejected by top journals because they were "narrow and without much theoretical interest." I've heard cruelties uttered that will be burned in people's psyches until the day they die. In other words, I'm used to a pretty high standard of criticism. Compared to that, a line like "Hey, Drezner, let's outsource your job, you f***ing a@#hole!" -- or letters like these -- just come off as histrionic nonsense.
Care to comment, O King of the Ivory Tower?

UPDATE: The King does care. Looks like comment trolls may simply be academics honing their flame-throwing skills ...

Tuesday, July 06, 2004


Finally, a guide to help us interpret the fevered rants and "barf-lies" of Frater Atomizer. (Via GeekPress)

You're going to need it if you visit the Minnesota State Fair this year and local radio station am 1280 The Patriot doesn't abandon its annual tradition of setting up a studio on the fairgrounds. Although he doesn't take to the air very often, we predict the heady combination of beer gardens and Northern Alliance Radio Network comaraderie will prove difficult for Atomizer to resist. Be prepared!

Monday, July 05, 2004


Especially for those of us who have small children: cocktail hour.

Sunday, July 04, 2004


As the 7 year old explains primly: "it's the birthday party for the United States of America." She's hard at work putting together a party with the neighborhood kids right now. They've all ransacked the house for anything festive in red white and blue and come up with an armload of ribbons, paper and, inexplicably, one My Little Pony plastic tablecloth.

Tonight the Warrior Monk has promised to set off fireworks while everyone watches and applauds wildly from the deck. I grew up in a Fireworks Verboten state so I am amazed and thrilled by store-bought fireworks and expect to exclaim over and over again: "how can these be legal?!"

I had a birthday recently too. I am not that old yet but figure I need to practice the aged art of repeating myself and annoying my children.

Saturday, July 03, 2004


In the strangest of coincidences, I too saw Pirates of the Caribbean on DVD and The Pirates of Penzance at the Guthrie Theater last weekend. But my recent foray into pirate literature goes one deeper than Eloise's.

A few weeks ago I read Captain Blood, a 1922 pirate novel by Rafael Sabatini and the source for the Errol Flynn movie by the same name. Peter Blood is an Irishman by birth, a physician by training, and an experienced sailor who has just spent a decade fighting for the Dutch and French navies and wallowing in a Spanish prison when the book opens in 1685. His adventurous days seemingly behind him, he settles down at age 32 in the town of Bridgewater, England, intending to practice his profession and read Horace in peace. But quite against his will he is caught up in a failed rebellion against King James, wrongly convicted of treason, and saved from the gallows only by a last-minute command that he and eleven hundred fellow convicts be transported to the West Indies for ten years of plantation servitude. (All this in the first thirty pages.)

He's not a slave for long. Forced into piracy by his unfortunate circumstances, Blood is a reluctant but skillful buccaneer who parlays his extensive nautical experience and keen wits into remarkable success. His adversaries are pompous, incompetent, and venal but powerful; through cunning and guile Blood invariably bests them. Through it all he is, as one character remarks, "chivalrous to the point of idiocy." It's as if he's fighting with one hand behind his back. For instance, he is constantly letting his bested adversaries go free (conveniently allowing him to best them again, of course). The mainspring behind his hyper-chivalry is his unwavering devotion to Arabella Bishop, the maiden niece of the loathsome and corpulent governor of Barbados who serves as the book's chief villain. Not entirely convincing, but I suppose chivalry doesn't work without a Beatrice, and it's fun to have the chivalry around, as it makes the peaks and valleys of the roller-coaster ride all the more precipitous. And I trust I won't be spoiling anything by revealing that he gets the girl in the end.

Captain Blood is marvelously entertaining, and it's the perfect summer read. Plus, it gives you this little bit of trivia: The book is peppered with references to "boucan hunters," which I didn't bother to look up at first, assuming was a precursor term for buccaneer, with boucan being treasure or some other object of piratical affection. (Incidentally, references of this sort are also indicative of how Sabatini's style teeters on the brink of floridness, though it never quite topples--perfect for the genre, it would seem.)

Turns out that's not quite right. Near the end of the book comes this sentence: "After that followed days of activity in Tortuga, refitting the ships, boucanning meat, laying in stores." Boucanning meat? What the hell could that mean?

Off to Google! From the Nautical Terms page of the Brethren of the Coast site (and avast, beware of MIDI pirate music if you navigate this link, mateys):
Boucan - French word for a grill used to smoke meat. The word buccaneer came from boucan. Smoking meat for sale to passing ships was common from about 1620 to 1670. Men were illegally hunting and smoking the meat until the Spanish cracked down on them. Many took up pirating since their livelihood was over. These men at the time were known as Boucaniers.
So there you have it: the fearsome pirates of yore were really just a bunch of ticked-off hot-dog vendors.

Friday, July 02, 2004


This week's incorrect children's title:
Kids Who Don't Wear Brand Names Are Stinky and Stupid
To see last week's title, click here.

Thursday, July 01, 2004


I watched some of the Saddam being charged video feed this morning on CNN. Christiane Amanpour talked about how diminished he seems: thinner, and instead of wearing army fatigues, he wore a mismatched grey suitcoat and brown pants!. I still find him kind of frightening. Either I'm a poor judge of men's fashions or a rank coward. No, I don't really need your opinion of which one.