Friday, April 30, 2004


This week's incorrect children's book title:
How To Buy Friends With Your Sister's Underwear
To see last week's title, click here.

Thursday, April 29, 2004


The designer of the new placeholder flag for Iraq says he was just trying for a nice flag like Canada's. The Elder of Fraters Libertas calls the result "wussy." Allahpundit has thoughtfully photoshopped some alternatives.

As the self-appoint blogosphere killjoy it seems to me the Iraqi Governing Council, who approved the flag's design, has a few more pressing issues on its agenda.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004


The battle to ensure equal time for the liberal viewpoint has moved from the media to the law. First Air America Radio hit the airwaves, now the American Constitution Society has hit law school campuses with a mission to "protect liberal thinking." (Credit: Per Curiam) Again, there's a race to claim the position of underdog:
Organizers from the Federalist Society said the reason they formed was to counter the dominant left. But the American Constitution Society says it formed to challenge the ascending right.
I attended one of the most conservative law schools in the country. Perhaps the ACS could have been useful there. But my sense as a practicing attorney is that lawyers are far more likely to be liberal than conservative. And their liberal views did not erupt spontaneously after they graduated from law school.

Greg of Per Curiam considers the charge that the right has dominated law schools for more than 20 years with has "profound influence" and tries to be sympathetic: "Just this year, Harvard Law doubled the number of right-of-center professors on its campus by hiring John Manning. "

My advice to the ACS: Pay your bills first. Sue later.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004


Somehow I got on the mailing list for Parenting magazine. Perhaps someone I once offended cruelly purchased a retaliatory subscription in my name--I sure as hell did not. Yet it appears in my mailbox, bearing my name, once a month. Why? Why?

Articles entitled "How being a mom changes you--down to your soul" (May 2004 issue) have the same effect on me as the intrathecal morphine shot I got during labor (translation for you lucky birth virgins: creepy skin & barfing). "Easy strategies for Potty-training success!," another offering from the issue, also threatens a migraine. My three-year-old could write the book on how to turn your parents into hyperventilating stuttering red-faced fools. Simply announce "I have to go potty" and then immediately become extravagantly distracted from said goal.

She makes her announcement, instantly halting all adult conversation, then suddenly feels moved to arrange her stuffed creatures just so. A Jihad against her older sister for playing with a newly-treasured toy develops. Parental intervention is attempted ("potty!"). She literally shuffles her feet as she reluctantly heads in the general direction of the bathroom ("hurry!"). She breaks rank to come and scold us for yelling. Disaster ensues. Ultimately resulting in alcoholism.

At times like this sites such as this can be very soothing (misery, meet company):
If I had to come up with one word to describe toddlers, it would be this: "relentless." From the moment Cordelia is up, she goes. And goes and goes and goes, at full speed, and when she gets exhausted, she doesn't slow down, she just explodes into furious, screaming rage that is even faster and more energetic. And, if at any time during this process, you attempt to defy her by, say, making her wear pants, she will throw a book at your head.
Scientific confirmation of youngsterian evil is even more comforting. A Canadian researcher has concluded that Saint Augustine had it right (credit Futurepundit); human viciousness peaks in toddlers (a paraphrase, admittedly):
The science says that there is no difference between the baby who snatches a toy from another child, and the burglar who fights you when you catch him stealing your television. "It is exactly the same behaviour," Dr. Tremblay suggests. "It is just done by a bigger gorilla."
Our gorilla may not weigh much, but she's well versed in mental cruelty.


Unmoved by The Elder's anti-Star Tribune campaign, I still read the paper. Or at least scan the headlines. Today I was intrigued by this one:
Princeton Approves Grape-Rationing Plan
Hmmm, I thought. Didn't know there was a grape shortage out east. Could become a problem here too. Good thing the kids have started eating cantaloupe.

Pause. Sip. Egad! Pre-coffee visual dyslexia strikes again. Too sleepy to see straight but not too sleepy to spin out inane trains of thought based on faulty input.

Wonder if Princeton's move will prompt King to update his ongoing series of posts on the information value of grapes.

Monday, April 26, 2004


I saw the Replacements play live once, at the Roy Wilkins Auditorium in downtown St. Paul, circa 1988. It sucked.

Well, okay, it didn't quite suck--it was the Replacements, after all--but as I remember the performance, it started too late, ended too soon, and was uninspiring in between. No Bob Stinson, either (first tour without him, I believe). And to top everything off, some moron right behind me kept bellowing "Replacements" with the dogged insistence that only a drunken, slack-jawed rock-concertgoer can muster.

I swore off arena shows then and there. And yes, I realize that the Roy Wilkins, with a seating capacity in the 5,000-6,000 range, barely counts as an arena, but that's just a testament to the strength of my conviction that music and large numbers of people do not mix. It's an oath I've broken only once, for a Nirvana/Breeders show in December 1993, again at the Roy Wilkins (the all-seeing, all-knowing Internet gives you not just Nirvana's set list that night but a transcript of their between-songs chatter, fer cryin' out loud--and you thought blogging was lame!). God smote me instantly for violating my word--while I was listening to Kurt Cobain and Company peel off bon mots like "You know we recorded our record round here, did you know that? Can you see me when I talk?" and "I have a new effects pedal today, it's called the grunge pedal!" someone broke into my house and stole a CD player, a Yamaha classical guitar, and (I still can't figure this one out) a tuxedo.

Thanks to Atomizer, I've now had a glimpse of the real Replacements. The Twin/Tone Records website has put up a gaggle of Quick Time clips from a Replacements gig in September 1981 at the Seventh Street Entry in Minneapolis. The performance is subdued by the standards of Replacements lore--Bob is wearing clothes and not a dress, nobody seems shit-faced, the band plays no half-assed covers of TV-show theme songs--but it crackles with the genially pugnacious energy of the band's Sorry Ma era. And if Bob's little brother Tommy Stinson looks like he's fourteen years old, that's because he was--his fifteenth birthday was still a month away.

Meaning that Tommy is about six weeks younger than I am. In September 1981, while Tommy was jumping up and down with a bass guitar in his hands at the Entry, I was beginning my sophomore year at a high school just a few miles away, my favorite rock group was the Rolling Stones, and I had never heard of the Replacements. I still love the Stones, but let's face it: by 1981 their long slide into pointlessness was already well underway, and the mantle of Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World had slipped off their shoulders and was being fought over ferociously--or better yet, trampled contemptuously--by the 'Mats and others like them. I wasn't with-it enough to know this then, but today, thanks to the wonders of the digital age, I can sit in my living room with my WiFi-equipped laptop and catch a little bit of what I missed. Would that all the mistakes of youth were so easily remedied . . . .

Friday, April 23, 2004


The founder of Earth Day (I think Earth Day was sometime this week but I quickly flipped past any cleanup headlines so missed the festivity details) has a suggestion (one of many) that seems tailor-made for the Northern Alliance Radio Network (credit: An Inclination to Criticize):
74. That radio stations and TV need to program one or more daily Earth Minutes - at 0300, 1100 or 1900 GMT*. These simultaneous global "minutes without words" can be produced independently by any radio or TV station, with views and sounds of nature, children, music, bells, our planet;
They always have so much trouble with the bumpers anyway--just use some sounds of the boys' fisticuffs instead! Brilliant!


This week's incorrect children's book title:
Let's All Jump on the Kid in the Wheel Chair
To see last week's title, click here.

Thursday, April 22, 2004


Via Captain Ed, I learn that crows shorting out transformers highlight (or constitute?) a new terrorist threat. (Over the last 10 days they were responsible for three power failures at LAX).

Yet another reason to realize the Warrior Monk was prescient in his squirrel vendetta. I guess they don't call him a "warrior" for nothing.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004


All the big blog boys have comments ... and trolls and spammers and dumbasses (all of which they spend untold hours deleting).

Roger L. Simon says he's gonna start charging commenters (Stephen Green of VodkaPundit is willing to pay to play). Dustbury helpfully notes that charging for comments may be more feasible when version 3 of Moveable Type is released and kindly adds "there are a few people who visit here whom I'd gladly pay if I thought it might increase their participation."

Spitbull? We're just happy to learn there's a new unreleased version of Movable Type we can point to, shake our heads, and mutter "we certainly can't move this blog to Movable Type until those absolutely must-have features are released." (Assuming our blog still exists then). We like to call it "Movable (Feature Target) Type."

We have an idea to keep the game going: add a feature to allow free commenting passes for the Dustbury-favored folks (the plebians must pay). Result: Roger L. Simon would be happy, Stephen Green would be happy (I imagine he might rate a free pass) and Dustbury would be happy (if he really wants to, he can pay the pass-holders too). Most important, adding this feature would surely buy Spitbull another six months or so of featurecreep-blaming procrastination.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004


I don't know whether Al Franken's Air America Radio experiment has gotten funny yet, but I'm enjoying the blogcommentary it has inspired:
Asymmetrical Information: [T]he New York station had Garofalo on both delay and live. Imagine a room full of college protesters saying "hubris, lies, arrogant" over and over again ('watermelon, rutabaga'). It ranked right up there with dental surgery, but it kept me awake, and I guess I just wanted to see how long they'd go.

Wonkette: What we've heard so far: Franken and Katherine Lanpher totally cracking each other up. Tough crowd.

Bunsen: I'm starting to contemplate the important metaphysical questions, such as "Could I possibly be more bored right now? Like, maybe if I found a can of paint and left it in that can in its liquid form and stared at the paint in the can, while listening to a CD of whale songs, would I actually achieve a higher plane of boredom?"

protein wisdom: Frankenfreude \fran-KEN-froy-duh\ ; n.: A salicious satisfaction in the misfortune of self-important and unfunny leftys.
Admittedly, all but the first of these dates from Air America's launch (the first is what set me off to wander the blogosphere for more gems). What does it mean that I found little recent stuff (other than bouncing checks)? Or that I have only links, no witty commentary of my own to add to the mix? (Walla, walla ....)

Monday, April 19, 2004


James Lileks talks about the weather (we actually have weather here, unlike Los Angeles, and the inoffensiveness of the topic makes it a local specialty).

Plus, we had a storm here last night. Eagerly anticipated by all, but no doubt even more so by our local weather folks who got to pre-empt all local programming (The Simpsons snuck through but even they got boxed in by a crawl ticking down watches and warnings). Sadly for some there was little in the way of spectacular damage to parade in front of the viewers so what we mostly got was footage of a transformer fire somewhere. From every angle. But how many shots of one transformer can a station run? Even with the creative camera angles, it gets silly amazingly quickly.

Now I'm as much a fan of transformer fires as the next gal. We have a transformer on the corner and about every other year some squirrel meets its untimely end (much to the Warrior Monk's delight) and our electricity cuts out. But re-running the footage every ten minutes? Even if it included flying squirrel bodies, I think even the W. Monk would get bored after a few viewings. But the station disagreed.

I'm not dissing my fair city now; the silly coverage is a function of weather, not Midwestern hickiness. When the Big Apple had a hurricane wander up the coast and then fizzle out back in the 1980's, the weather folk out there all clustered around a broken window on Madison Avenue. They were probably wishing some transformer would catch on fire.

We're so lucky!

Friday, April 16, 2004


I had no idea guys fake it for other guys too.

J.B. Doubtless of Fraters Libertas today recounts how he aped "some garbage I heard on Sportscenter" in order to score an "interesting night of conversation with the guy and the bartender about all sorts of interesting topics." (Was it the San Francisco air that so inspired him?)

Years ago, I was astonished to find how easy it is to fake it (conversationally as opposed to the conventional gal-faking-it-methodology) where men are concerned.

For one basketball season I actually read the sports pages (all I could stomach; I haven't done it since). Seated next to a guy I hadn't met before at a friend's wedding I proceeded to (using J.B.'s nomenclature) "ape the garbage." It was kind of pathetic to see how quickly his eyes lit up. A woman who speaks sports fluently (note to the one or two women who visit this blog: reading the sports page from the newspaper is all it takes to achieve sports fluency)! Approximately the right age and not too ugly! I swear he might have proposed right then and there had I not confessed. Hey Warrior Monk: is this trick a form of orgasm denial?


This week's demented children's book title:
E.T. is Lumpy, Stupid and Ugly and Never Made It Home
To see last week's title, click here.

Thursday, April 15, 2004


Eloise and I may be silent members of the radio arm of the Northern Alliance empire--hell, I'm often the silent member of the blogging arm, too--but our ears work (at least until all that menacing music finally destroys them). We pointed them toward AM1280 during Hugh Hewitt's regular 5:00-8:00 PM time slot the last two nights, and we can say without hesitation that the NARNians who filled in for Hugh kicked ass. Entertaining, well-prepared, smooth--very impressive on all fronts. Kudos, and keep up the good work.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004


One of our favorite media outlets once reported a tenth circle of hell had finally been constructed to contain them:
... vast hordes of pony-tailed entertainment-industry executives rollerblading and talking on miniaturized cell-phones at the same time. But now, we've finally got the sort of top-notch Pits of Doom necessary to give such repellent abominations the quality boilings they deserve.
At first I thought it was the pony-tails but through superior logic I have determined it's really the cell phones that earn one's place in the underworld.

In January a Massachusetts Institute of Technology survey found that the cell phone ranked first among inventions Americans hate (but can’t live without). Now, via Geekpress, there's a study that tells us why: overhearing just half of a conversation is annoying (and it's worse if the half you hear is really loud).

Tuesday, April 13, 2004



Pick up the nearest book.
Open it to page 23.
Find the fifth sentence.
Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.


"Then be off home as quick as you can," said the Faun, "and--c-can you ever forgive me for what I meant to do?"
C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

(From her, via him.)


So The Elder of Fraters Libertas has recommended using our site as an alternative to the local paper?

Hmmm. Must be he is impressed by the Warrior Monk's porno-crayon insights and my insult expose, cribbed from other sources. Or maybe with the dead celebrity commentary, exciting travel ideas, biting business analysis, music criticism and news he has come to expect from this site. Plus, let's not forget the sports! (We even have had personal ads, sort of).

I kid, of course. The truth is that he's relieved that after careful and delicate negotiations we agreed not to embarrass the other Northern Alliance bloggers on the radio, especially now that they're going national on Hugh Hewitt's show. So, it's payback time.

But when does Atomizer get his?

Monday, April 12, 2004


The three year old has announced that she knows the origin of those treat-filled plastic colored eggs that she found all over the yard yesterday: The Easter Bunny poops them out.

But of course.

Saturday, April 10, 2004


The Northern Alliance Radio Network not only continues to broadcast locally (and I do mean locally) today from noon to three on AM 1280 The Patriot, but they're going national next week on Hugh Hewitt's show so that "Peeps" can get his revenge. I'm guessing he might have some inside information about Hugh's past to reveal. Stay tuned...

Oh yeah, and tune in today to hear many of the Northern Alliance of Blogs members (not us), as well as Steve Hayward, author of The Age of Reagan (1 pm) and Myrna Blyth, author of Spin Sisters : How the Women of the Media Sell Unhappiness --- and Liberalism --- to the Women of America (2 pm).

Friday, April 09, 2004


This week's demented children's book title:
Where the Wild Things Are: An Inside Look at a Seventh-Grade Classroom
To see last week's title, click here.

Thursday, April 08, 2004


Presidential candidate John Kerry yesterday announced a plan to tackle our nation's rising deficits with spending caps (but the caps won't be applied to spending on health care, education, security, and Social Security). Such toughness! Kerry boasted: "When I say a cap on spending, I mean it."
Megan McArdle of Asymmetrical Information is inspired by the magic of such a plan. It exempts, in her estimation, 90% of the Federal budget. She has therefore announced, in homage:
I am halting all new spending except on food, shelter, clothing, and recreation. I will increase spending on those, partially paid for by increasing my employer's taxes, partially paid for by closing my eyes and saying "I do believe in balanced budgets" three times while tapping my heels together and visualising Tinkerbell. Unless, of course, I need to get re-elected to the position of me, in which case, well, hello Mastercard.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004


Since 1995 the Minnesota Supreme Court has updated the old fashioned traveling duties of circuit courts to the modern age by sitting at various local high schools (sorry, registration required).

Unfortunately, our local youth seem less than impressed by the 19th enactment of the spectacle. "I wasn't confused," protested one. "It was just too tedious" ("I am never becoming an accountant," he added). Another made a valiant attempt to embody Minnesota Nice. "Being part of the whole legal procedure is exciting," she said. "Unfortunately, the content of the case is kind of over my head."

Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz explained the rationale for the visit: "The issues we face in Minnesota affect young people as much as adults."

We hope, however, that they aren't yet affected by whether a debtor's IRA can be protected from creditors in a bankruptcy proceeding, one of the issues in the case. The three students quoted in the article were unanimous in their opinion that the creditors "should leave him [the debtor] alone."

Tuesday, April 06, 2004


My three year old just proudly brought me one of those little flags the utility company decorates with to indicate buried gas lines. A new toy! So eye catching.

I've been driving past it for the past two days half wondering what construction hell I was about to endure (beeping, grinding, dust clouds). Now it seems I can add a powerful explosion to the list of potentials unless the gas company is quick with their promised re-flagging of the area.

Monday, April 05, 2004


P.J. O'Rourke confesses he once compared Sen. John Kerry to a male model (credit: Fenster Moop). Not surprisingly, he did not mean this as a compliment (Powerlineblog has a good Cliff Notes version of the article in case you're terribly pressed for time and have a pathological fear of unadulterated Rourkiness).

Fenster Moop confesses he voted for Al Gore in 2000, in part due to a character study painting George W. Bush as a nasty frat boy. He seems to find this new character critique equally persuasive. And more disturbing.

Saturday, April 03, 2004


Here's the opening of an extremely exclusive offer I received in the mail today:
Dear Friend,

On Saturday - April 10th, from 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM, (preview begins at 1:00 PM), F.F.F. Corp. Auctions will preside over a Spectacular Auction of a Prominent Attorney at Law due to a divorce.
Now, I've known a lot of attorneys in my life, I'm the son of one, I'm married to another (no divorce on the horizon, but see infra)--hell, I even was one myself for two largely miserable but loan-retiring years. But never before have I had the chance to buy one. And I figure, everybody hates lawyers, right? So how much can one cost?

This is one hell of an opportunity! Just think of all the stuff around the house I could get him to do! I've got to clean the gutters and rake the yard and organize the garage and wash the car and hang those damn pictures--there's no end, really. A bag of Purina Shyster Chow and a choke collar and I'm in business!

And a "Prominent" one to boot! I wonder who it is? Please, God, let it be him!


If you're not already reading Functional Ambivalent's Sex Day feature every Friday, yesterday's installment is a great place to start. The topic this week is orgasm denial. Here's a teaser, as it were:
At very young ages, women understand that they have power over the entire universe, because they have the power of orgasm denial. By carefully manipulating that power, women have caused whole industries to spring up, most of which exist for the sake of women. I would argue, for example, that without orgasm denial there would not be poetry, diamond mines, or deodorant. If orgasm had never been denied, mankind would still live in caves, because the thought of building a house never occurred to men until women started refusing to have sex on cave floors.

“Here on the cold, damp cave floor? I don’t think so.”

Two days after that was first said, the first charming cottage had been built and furnished with a four-poster bed and adorable quilts.
It turns out that a curious new phenomenon has emerged involving men who actually pay women not to give them orgasms, rather than relying on the tried-and-true method of paying an expensive restaurant for the honor. Are there no depths to which the deviants of the modern world will not sink?

Friday, April 02, 2004


Congratulations to Will Baude of Crescat Sententia for being admitted to the University of Chicago's law school! A match made in heaven, in our humble opinion.

Although U of C, The Law School, is only ranked number 6 in this year's U.S. News & World Report's listing of the Top 100 Law Schools, we have inside information the newly renovated classrooms will include seats with cup holders. This, and Will's tenure, would no doubt cause the school to skyrocket in next year's rankings.

UPDATE: Unimpressed by the cup holders, Will considers Yale.


This week's demented children's book title:
Why Winnie the Pooh Wears Brown Shorts
To see last week's title, click here.


After extensive discussion among the members of the executive committee and input from readers (some thoughtful, some not), Spitbull hereby codifies its heretofore implicit e-mail policy by expressly adopting the e-mail policy that appears on the FAQ page of InstaPundit, a nice little blog which one or two of you may have read before. To wit:
If I email you, will you publish it?

Maybe. If you don't want it published, put "Please Don't Publish This" in a conspicuous place. Do that with any email you don't want published -- don't expect me to remember what you said last time, as I get hundreds of emails a day. If you really, really, really don't want it published, don't send the email. That's a good piece of advice anywhere. I don't try to make people look bad, and I'll sometimes hold up on publishing something if it looks like it might get someone into trouble even if they don't say that. But don't count on me -- I'm a professor, and we're noticeably absentminded, and this is a hobby, not a Big Five accounting firm. Er, well, that cuts two ways of course. . . .
We're not professors, and for "hundreds of emails a day" you should read "hundreds of emails a year (if we're lucky)." But otherwise, what Glenn says is what we say.

The Warrior Monk and Eloise could not reach agreement on E-Mail Policy Number 2: whether the word should be spelled with a hyphen ("e-mail") or without ("email"). I'm for the hyphen, she's not. I'll admit, it looks like a losing battle for me at this point, but I will not go gently into that good night.

Thursday, April 01, 2004


My recent chiding of JB Doubtless from Fraters Libertas for rejecting darkness in music seems to have struck a nerve. We've exchanged a couple of e-mails so far, and the ball is now in my court. And at this point I figure if I'm going write this much about something I might as well post it.

For context, here's JB's most recent e-mail:
A few points...

The Carpenters. If there is one group that seperates the music lovers from those who are confused by what they should be listening to it is the Carpenters. Simply, if you hate them you hate music because you have to hate melody, tenderness, emotion, powerful singing and romanticism in general. Many people do hate those things.

And you said that music doesn't HAVE to be entertaining? WTF? What is it then? Entertainment is what music is. It's like saying that carpentry doesn't HAVE to be about building stuff or being an abortion doctor doesn't HAVE to be about killing babies.

It reminds me of that great scene from Deer Hunter where the guys go hunting and the dorky guy forgets his boots. Deniro gets exasperated with the guy and tries to explain to him what a clueless jackass he is. He finally produces a gun and says "This is this".

Music is entertainment. Seriously, what else could it be? Work? Religion? It's there for our entertainment. Are you saying we should listen to music that we don't like because it will make us better people or something? Should it be like medicine?

Robert Johnson. Wrong, wrong, wrong. The guy had an incredible feeling of joy in his music and it comes out loud and clear. He had some dark stuff, but mainly the dude was horny and wanted to make money so he could get drunk and chase womens. Listen to Hot Temales and tell me there aint joy there. Or Come In My Kitchen. Dust My Broom. The list goes on and on.

Do you really look for music that is (as Jim Fusilli said in the WSJ) menancing? Do you want to be menanced by music?
And here's my response.

(1). If you want to pick a totemic artist to sit on the dividing line between "music lovers" and your despised hipsters, the Carpenters are a pretty lousy choice. Hipsters love the Carpenters. Think I'm kidding? Check out If I Were a Carpenter, a Carpenters tribute album from 1994 featuring such artists as Sonic Youth (one of your faves, I know). Think this is just ironic po-mo posturing? Think again.

From a Los Angeles Times article about the album by Paul Grein entitled "Trust Us, This is Real" dated September 11, 1994 (I found it in the ALLNEWS database on Westlaw; you can buy it from the Times here):
Thurston Moore, the Sonic Youth guitarist, has hours of Carpenters TV appearances on video-what he calls "a gold mine of Carpenters glory."

Like most of the artists on the album, Kim Gordon
[also of Sonic Youth--ed.] points first to Karen's voice when asked why she is drawn to the Carpenters.

"There was this girl-next-door image with this incredibly soulful, and at times sexy, voice," Gordon said. "Even though Karen didn't write the songs, she really made them her own-in much the same way that a singer like Billie Holiday did. With both of them, the words came right from the heart."

Gordon said that she became a fan just five years ago. Before, she was put off by the Carpenters' Establishment image. "It was music your parents would like you to listen to," she said.

But when Moore brought in a Carpenters tape, she ignored the image and simply focused on the music.

In 1990, Gordon went public with her affection for the Carpenters. She co-wrote and sang lead on "Tunic (Song for Karen)," a dark-edged but sympathetic song that was featured on the band's album "Goo." The song depicts Karen, happy at last, speaking to her family from heaven.

Initially, some Sonic Youth fans took it as a joke.

"I'm sure a lot of people just thought, 'Oh, they're into it for the kitsch factor,' but it was a sincere song," Gordon said.

"I really think the Carpenters have transcended kitsch because the music is so good."

In the years since Karen died, Richard Carpenter, 47, has spent much of his time preparing compilations of Carpenters songs for release around the world. The composer-pianist, who was married in 1984 and has four children, also served as a consultant on a top-rated TV movie about the Carpenters in 1989 and cooperated on an authorized biography about the duo that was published earlier this year. On Oct. 1, he will perform at the formal dedication of the Richard and Karen Carpenter Performing Arts Center at their alma mater, Cal State Long Beach.

And what does the man who produced and arranged the Carpenters' long string of hits think of "If I Were a Carpenter"?

"I'm impressed with the whole project," he said. "I find the fact that they wanted to put this project together touching and a real testament to the Carpenters and Karen in particular."

Carpenter, who played piano and sang background on Matthew Sweet's version of "Let Me Be the One" for the new album, said his initial concerns that the collection might be tongue in cheek were quickly dispelled.

"I can hear that . . . it was all done from the heart," he said.
Personally, I don't care for the Carpenters. I hardly hate them--they made lots of very melodic and well-crafted pop songs, and Karen Carpenter had a great voice--but I've always found their stuff too cloying and fulsome for my ears. I like a little grit in my music, or in my pop music at any rate. Then again, maybe I'm just not as hip as you and Kim and Thurston are.

(2). What exactly does it mean to counterpose "music lovers" with "those who are confused by what they should be listening to"? Do you mean that people who don't (in your world) qualify as "music lovers" (people like me, presumably) are "confused by" the Carpenters? Or did you intend to say that people like me are confused about what we "should" be listening to? If it's the former, I can assure you that I'm not confused at all by the Carpenters; like I said above, I just don't care for them. If it's the latter, I can similarly assure you that I'm not confused at all about what to listen to: I trust my own ears and the ears of those whose taste and judgment seem reliable.

(3). "Entertainment is what music is. ... Music is entertainment. Seriously, what else could it be?" What else could it be? You're joking, right? All right, I guess I'll have to start listing things: music can be prayer (e.g., church hymns); music can be ceremony (e.g., the National Anthem before a sporting event); music can be a subordinate element of another creative form (e.g., film scores); music can be aural wallpaper (e.g., Muzak). Where do you want me to stop? And I haven't even mentioned the most obvious one: music can be art.

I repeat: can be art. Doesn't have to be art. Doesn't necessarily succeed at becoming art just because it aims for it. And isn't necessarily superior to other music even if it does succeed at becoming art. Just can be art.

And I'm afraid I'm going to have to repeat something else, too, since you completely ignored it the first time around: Music, indisputably, can be entertainment, and there's nothing wrong with entertaining music. I find all sorts of music entertaining, just like I find NFL football and sitcoms and Charles Bronson movies and card games and People Magazine and crossword puzzles and countless other things entertaining. I love entertainment, and so does anyone who isn't a prig. But entertainment by its very nature is diversion--it's easy to pick up and easy to put down. And I just don't think that's the sum and substance of aesthetic experience. Apparently you do.

(4). "Are you saying we should listen to music that we don't like because it will make us better people or something? Should it be like medicine?" No. What I'm saying is that just because we don't immediately like something doesn't mean that we should categorically reject it for all time as crap. It may indeed be crap, and thus our initial reaction may be justified, but it's just possible that--brace yourself, now--we were wrong not to like it. In other words, I follow Terry Teachout's credo: "trust your first impressions — but don’t be afraid to change your mind." And his admonition, cribbed from Hans Keller: "As soon as I detest something I ask myself why I like it."

(5). Robert Johnson had a lot more than "some" dark stuff. Listen to "Preachin' Blues (Up Jumped the Devil)." Or "If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day." Or "Stones in My Passway." Or "Hell Hound on My Trail." Or "Me and the Devil Blues." Et cetera, et cetera. Was everything he recorded of this ilk? No. But I think any objective listener would conclude that it was the dominant strain of his music.

(6). "Do you really look for music that is (as Jim Fusilli said in the WSJ) menancing?" No. I look for music that is good. Sometimes it's "menancing [sic]," sometimes it isn't. Is that really so hard to understand?