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Monday, May 31, 2004

CECI N'EST PAS UNE HOAX 

Via the Museum of Hoaxes, I discovered that a number of famous people, including both Presidential contenders, have Amazon wish lists: President Bush here and Senator Kerry here.

President Bush's list is almost all books (for example, "ABC Pronunciary, an American English pronunciation dictionary"). Senator Kerry's list is a bit more eclectic: escargot, an electric waffler, and some cologne ("Contradiction," by Calvin Klein, unfortunately this item has been discontinued) are a few of the choices.

Imagine that I thought. I wonder who else has a list? Sure enough, it looks like Hugh Hewitt also has dreams.

I guess all the kids are full of wishes.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

GET A LOAD OF MINNESOTA'S AMAZING HISSING GROWLING BUNNIES 

From an online interview of Robert Sullivan, author of "Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants":
Washington, D.C.: Most people do not recoil in horror at mice, which look just like rats but are smaller, nor do they loathe squirrels [Ed.: The Warrior Monk is a notable exception], which are the same size and are also rodents but are considered cute. Why do so many people have an instinctive fear and disgust toward rats?

I know I do. I am chilled even to look at them, yet I do not have that kind of reaction against any kinds of bugs or reptiles. What is it, do you think, about rats?

Robert Sullivan: A couple things: the tail. The rats (sic) tail is really really gross. It looks like something on an armadillo, no offense to armadillos. Secondly, rats while not as big as dogs or cats are, especially compared to mice, huge. Their teeth are stronger than steal. They squeak. They his (sic). They kind-of make a growling sound sometimes. ...
And ... in Minnesota they bear a striking resistance to bunnies, or as one local nursing home instructed its staff: "tell residents that the rats they saw scurrying around were 'bunnies.'"

Minnesota. Where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, all the children are above average and all the rats are bunnies.

Friday, May 28, 2004

TWISTED TITLE #26 

This week's incorrect children's book title:
Bedwetting Kids Are Rewarded With Sleepover Parties
To see last week's title, click here.

NPR: THE NEW CONSERVATISM 

Yesterday, in the course of demonstrating he is actually a cyborgian data repository, the Warrior Monk accused MPR and Minnesota Republicans of inhabiting parallel universes. I'm sure he'll be relieved to learn that FAIR, "the national media watch group," has determined that MPR's national parent, NPR, has listed way rightward in recent years. But the NPR Ombudsman is not. Two days ago he posted a indignant rebuttal to the study. Well, maybe "indignant" is going overboard:
FAIR is concerned whether the pendulum has swung too far. That's my concern as well.

I think it may have and NPR needs to do a better job in general and especially in an election year -- to make sure that the range is both wide and deep.
And we're off to the races!

Thursday, May 27, 2004

JON GRUNSETH'S NAKED TEENAGE POOL PARTY? THAT WOULD BE 1990, OF COURSE. 

Yesterday some coworkers went to a CLE seminar in downtown Minneapolis where octogenarian ex-pol Al Quie spoke briefly. (For the non-lawyers among you, CLE stands for Continuing Legal Education, which in turn is a euphemism for Total Fucking Racket.) Today at lunch one of them wondered aloud when Quie had served as governor of Minnesota. I thought for a moment and said "1978 to 1982." At which jaws dropped, as if I were some cyborgian data repository cleverly masquerading as a lunch-munching human.

But people, people! Who could forget the so-called Minnesota Massacre of 1978? When Quie took the governorship from Rudy Perpich (possibly the goofiest governor in Minnesota history, and no, I'm not forgetting Jesse Ventura) in the same election in which Rudy Boschwitz beat "incumbent" Wendell Anderson for one Senate seat (scare quotes owing to his rather cheeky scheme for obtaining the seat after Walter Mondale vacated it to become Jimmy Carter's Vice President in 1977: Wendy resigned his post as governor and had Perpich, the ascending lieutenant governor, appoint him to Mondale's seat) and Dave Durenberger beat Bob Short (who with the help of a large Republican crossover vote had bested the endorsed DFL candidate, Don Fraser, in the primary, and who earlier in life had owned the Minneapolis Lakers and moved them to Los Angeles, the fucking bastard) (and I realize that's two "fucking"s in one post, and now three, but they were all well deserved, and besides, we're potty mouths) for the other Senate seat, which Muriel Humphrey had been serving out the term on after her hubby Hubie died in early 1978.

Okay, perhaps I really am a cyborgian data repository cleverly masquerading as a lunch-munching human.

By the way, in confirming my recollections, I found this article on the MPR website. It opens with this howler (emphasis mine):
The term Minnesota Massacre was a term largely adopted by the State's DFL Party. Independent Republicans likely had a much kinder name for the outcome of Minnesota's 1978 general election.
Because of course it's impossible to know for sure. It's not like the reporter (Bob Kelleher; here's hoping this is what he finds the next time he Googles himself on a lazy Friday afternoon) could have--now bear with me, I'm just going to throw out a wacky hypothetical here--called the Republican Party and asked them about this. Contact between the parallel universes inhabited by MPR and Minnesota Republicans? That would violate Einstein's principles of general and special relativity! MPR employees may be free to flout traffic laws, but there's no getting around the laws of physics!

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

I DIED THAT DAY 

Lileks says:
You know what love is? Love is TiVoing the penultimate American Fargin’ Idol for your wife instead of the season finale of “Enterprise.”
I say:
You know living death is? Living death is TiVoing a show and then watching its commercials.
(Credit: Defamer).

I'M SHOCKED 

Pump up the volume boys. Sirius Satellite Radio is out trolling for shock jocks (credit: I Want Media).

Monday, May 24, 2004

HONK IF YOU LIKE FORTUNE COOKIES 

The crack young staff of "The Hatemonger's Quarterly" sticks it to bumperstickers (a.k.a. "vehicular eyesores"). Sample:
1. “Peace is Patriotic”

Not if your country is currently being attacked, you stupid hippy
Kos obviously would not agree, as last month he announced the availability of a bumpersticker book "inspired" by his site. The American Digest noticed somehow got wind of the publication news and helpfully put together an analysis of the chosen slogans. Sample:
Putting the "Con" In Conservative
BUSH HATE: B
CHENEY HATE: B+
HALLIBURTON HATE: A+++
This little eructation tells the world that conservatives are, ab ova, by their very nature, criminal. It underscores the central belief of those that have little money that those who have more must be bad, and that those who have a lot must be really evil, unless you get it when your wealthy husband dies or you marry a woman whose wealthy husband has died. Then you are a visionary and would never, ever, try to con the electorate about your voting record, your medals, your botox abuse....
I'm not sure why, but bumperstickers and lawn signs give me hives, although I'm OK with t-shirt slogans and very much in favor of fortune cookies.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

DOES IT REALLY MATTER? 

Last week two of the bigger blogs around pointed out a study that concludes the major cause of the increase in the political gender gap (men vote right; women vote left) is the rise in the divorce rate since the 1960's.

Brad DeLong broke the news first and Marginal Revolution passed it along. Brad DeLong merely typed "interesting" and then reprinted an article from KeepMedia that cited a "new study ... which will appear in The Quarterly Journal of Economics." His post was picked up by Marginal Revolution and 14 comments were posted (as of today) because he's right; it is interesting.

I don't know what my problem is (timewaste-itis?), but when I think something is interesting on the Internet I usually look into it a bit. When I did, I was kind of surprised to discover that the study was not news. In fact, the article cited by Mr. DeLong first appeared in BusinessWeek over two years ago and it's not that the study "will" appear; it has appeared. Two years ago Bruce Barlett at National Review wrote an interesting article analyzing various Republican initiatives in light of this research.

So last night the Warrior Monk and I talked about why it bothered me that a blog cited a two year old study as "new." The error doesn't affect the interesting nature of the study's conclusions. But somehow, this sloppiness disappointed me. The Monk pointed out that one of the plusses of the blogosphere is that it encourages quick thinking and discussion (not that he practices what he preaches) and errors can be (and are) quickly discovered and outed. But I think that high stature blogs like DeLong and Marginal Revolution should be more careful (it took me just a few minutes to find out the study was old news). What do you think?

Friday, May 21, 2004

FUN WITH SLOGANS 

Wonkette muses over the talent required to come up with a campaign slogan of such "astonishing meaninglessness" as Kerry's new pick: "Let America be America again."
Of course, we heard the first version was just "Let America be France." Whatever. They both boil down to the same thing: "Let John Kerry be a Massachusetts senator again."
Wonkette's suggestions are more meaty; sample:
Terrorists are people too.
I'd add some witty suggestions of my own at this point except for the fact that I'm not witty and I seem to have brain-TIVO this season: I can't remember a single political commercial I've seen so far. Got to have a grounding in the basics before you can fly, or so I'm told.

BLOG WAR I 

Some imminent hostilities are beginning to rile the Blogosphere:

1. Instapundit says Hugh Hewitt slandered James Lileks' dog on national radio.

2. Lileks threatens revenge: specifically, "the nuclear option."

3. Hewitt, apparently cowed, (and taking advantage of the fact that Lileks doesn't have first-hand knowledge of the misbehavior) claims the dog dissing report was a misinterpretation. Then goes on to re-label the Elder "Peeps," a moniker the Elder has expressly disavowed and admits makes him turn "ashen faced."

4. No blogresponse from Lileks or the Elder. But the Northern Alliance Radio Network (of which both are members) is apparently busy preparing for next Tuesday's Hugh Hewitt show of which they will have complete control (Mystery Science Theater 3000 notable Michael J Nelson will be a guest--but Lileks cunningly coopted him this week over lunch at Jasperwood).

Now, what do you think is going to happen?

TWISTED TITLE #25 

This week's incorrect children's book title:
Contact Sports for the School Bus
To see last week's title, click here.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

LILEKS GETS PITHY 

Well, yeah, "gets" might be the wrong word. But these are elegantly tight and to-the-point questions:
[I]s the Oil-for-Food scandal characteristic of the UN, or not? Is the Abu Ghraib scandal characteristic of the US Armed Forces, or not?

Which body acted swiftly to investigate? Which body opened itself to public hearings and condemnations? Which body put the bad guy in the dock, held a trial, and pronounced sentence?
Has the UN even apologised yet? Did I miss it?

UPDATE: An Iraqi editorial writer thinks the oil for food scandal is more serious than Abu Ghraib.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

WE'VE BEEN WARNED 

This Canadian guy (he's a Toronto Star "community editorial board" member) reveals he has been suppressing his anti-American urges for four years because, after all, "they didn't really elect Bush in the first place" but he's gonna have a very hard time "separating the people from the government" (with unspecified dire consequences) if we foolishly reelect him. (Credit: Let It Bleed).

Sounds like a unilateral threat to me. Shouldn't he be getting the United Nations involved first?

Monday, May 17, 2004

HOW ABOUT: "MY SPITBULL"? 

A few of our school friends amused themselves last week by complaining about Bill Clinton's "highly anticipated memoirs" entitled "My Life."

Thinking a catchier title might be helpful, the Monk proffered "Is" as a potential replacement. Another contributor thought a typo was involved and the correct version should be "My Lie". But we all agree the best suggestion came from the sly author of an entire law review article devoted to a tongue-in-cheek exploration of how our discrimination laws might be used to help one of the most overlooked unprotected classes around: left-handers. His winning entry: "The Johnson Administration."

Think you can top that? Let us know. Our email address is to the left.

UPDATE: Captain Ed offers "Close But No Cigar".

Friday, May 14, 2004

TWISTED TITLE #24 

I'm reluctant to obscure the voice from under that rock, but a Friday duty is a Friday duty. Without further ado, please welcome this week's incorrect children's book title:
Starving Children in China Would Spit Out That Broccoli
To see last week's title, click here.

HE SPEAKS! 

First of all, missy, let's get one thing straight: I didn't promise jack. But now that you've overturned my rock, I guess it's movie review time. So here goes.

My weekend of film began with repeated viewings of The Shining and The Exorcist. Repetition was facilitated by the extreme abridgement of the particular versions I watched: 30 seconds each. Oh, and another thing--these versions are performed by animated bunnies. Intrigued? I thought so. Here and there. See you in a minute.

Welcome back. ("Danny's not here, Mrs. Torrance.")

The weekend ended around 3:00 Monday morning when I couldn't sleep and turned on Turner Classic Movies to discover The Unknown. It's a silent movie from 1927 that tells the familiar, age-old story of a man (Lon Chaney) with three thumbs who joins a circus where he pretends to be a man with no arms and falls in love with a fellow performer (a very young Joan Crawford) who has a pathological fear of male hands before blackmailing a surgeon to amputate his arms for real and meeting his demise under the stampeding hooves of a horse that's on the verge of pulling off the left arm of another circus performer.

In case you thought I could make up something like that, here's corroboration.

Turns out The Unknown was directed by Tod Browning, who is more famous for the original, Bela Lugosi version of Dracula and another circus-themed movie, the cult favorite Freaks. His colorful life includes this anecdote about his cousin, which I can't resist passing on (from the IMDb):
Grew up in Louisville with his cousin, "Old" Pete Browning, a 3 time batting champ, who stole 103 bases in 1887. Pete's commissioning of a bat provided the start of the Hillerich & Bradsby bat company, famous for their Louisville Slugger model. The eccentric Pete drank heavily, apparently due to a chronic mastoid infection, and his catchphrase was "I can't hit the ball, unless I hit the bottle."
The Unknown appears to be well regarded--"a modern masterpiece for the current century," says one--but I was underwhelmed. Call me stodgy, but it just doesn't seem like a real movie to me unless it's got the normal complement of human appendages. Chaney spends much of his screen time on gimmicks like drinking wine and lighting cigarettes with his feet (actually, a stand-in handled--er, footled?--a lot of this), and Crawford spends much of hers wearing skimpy outfits and gazing wistfully--you know, in that distinctive way that hand-haters have. I kept wondering: did the 1927 movie-going public take this seriously? Well, even if they did, I couldn't.

Between the bunnies on the Internet and the limbs on the tee-vee I made a visit to an actual movie theater to a see an actual first-run movie, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which I liked a lot. If you want a synposis or an extended review, go here. I'll just say that if you enjoyed Being John Malkovich, which like Eternal Sunshine was written by Charlie Kaufman, you'll enjoy this. And that I've never seen a movie do a more convincing job of portraying dream states. And that Jim Carrey, whose fuse usually burns down to enough already! almost as fast as Robin Williams', gives a superbly understated performance.

That is all. Back to my rock.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

HE PROMISED WEIRD OBSERVATIONS BUT DELIVERS IT RAW 

A robin has been trying to build a nest on top of the Warrior Monk's garage light. Every time he (the Monk) notices it, he knocks it down.

You'd think that would be the end of the nest building attempt but no, the robin is determined and takes advantage of the fact the Monk is gone all day at work. When the Monk returns home there's a new nest perched on the light. He knocks it down again. Rinse. Repeat.

When I found out about this Sisyphean battle, my maternal heart naturally went out to the mama bird. She's just trying to build a little nest I said.

Not allowed, he said. It'll give the squirrels ideas.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

SOUNDS LIKE A THOMAS HARDY NOVEL 

When I lived in Washington D.C. I remember an impressive cicada infestation. But it must not have been from Brood X. This, the mother of all cicada broods, is just now emerging on the East coast, all hot and bothered and looking for love (and after finding it, tragedy -- ain't that always the way?):
Shortly after mating, the male usually keels over and dies. The female buzzes off to excavate nests in a young twig for her 600 or so eggs. Once her egg supply is exhausted, the female dies.
Since Brood X last emerged in 1987, the timing is off for me. I left D.C. in 1980.

Childhood narrative is often confusing. Last year my eldest came home from kindergarten and, in a horror-struck tone of voice, proceeded to explain what she had learned on the bus about how sex worked. A fog descended on me, reminiscent of being called on in law school, as I frantically tried to think of how to respond. Her voice became unintelligible to me as she prattled on until finally, through the fog, these welcome words penetrated: "and then the girl bites the boy's head off!"

Saved (for now) by the wonders of bug love.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

BLUE TUESDAY 

I am unreasonably captivated by my newly painted blue toenails so obviously you'll be getting no reasonable blogging out of me today. But the Warrior Monk watched some weird movies this weekend and has promised, promised, some weird observations so try us again later.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

DON'T CRY FOR ME MINNESOTA 

Dog runs away from home, is found before owner even missed it. And this is news (front page of the Metro section, no less)? Perhaps it's a clever trick to make us read the entire article trying to figure out why on earth they published it (and they say blogs are filled with drivel!).

What I fear is that some editor thought the story merited publication because it used this lede:
In 27 years as a veterinarian, Dr. Janet Roshar has seen a lot of strays.

But when a good Samaritan brought a stray Boston terrier into her Orono animal hospital one day last week, what Roshar saw made her burst into tears.
Mind you, all she saw was her own dog. In good health. Which she hadn't even known was missing. But she cried so let's print it!

What is it with crying and news? Local news is filled with weeping. Usually I'm not as puzzled about why the weepers are sobbing but that doesn't mean I want to watch them cry. Or read about them crying.

I much prefer Doug Blevins', professional football kicking consultant and cerebal palsy sufferer, explanation for why he turned down an offer to dramatize his life (article also from today's Star Tribune):
"They don't want to hear about how Doug Blevins and Adam Vinatieri kicked field goals in the snow," Blevins said. "They wanted to hear about how Doug Blevins cried himself to sleep in Abingdon, Virginia, because no one would ever give him a chance. But it never happened that way."
Much to the Warrior Monk's delight, it was enough to make me read the sports pages today.

Friday, May 07, 2004

LET'S ALL GO ON A RANTABOUT! 

It's Friday, but no real rant from Lileks. Withdrawal symptoms set in.

Twitch.

Twitch.

Found one! Allah reads the riot act to columnist (and hometown boy) Thomas Friedman for his column demanding that Bush do more than apology in order To Restore Our Honor:
And he also needs to fire Rumsfeld, says Friedman. Immediately, today, before he finishes writing the next sentence. And then he needs to flagellate himself and sing a chorus of "Mammy." And then, just maybe, slice his head open with a sword in one of those Shiite grief rituals. Why, you ask? Because of what happened at Abu Ghraib.
Twitching stops.

Another taste of the stuff, you say?:
Friedman would have us believe there are teeming multitudes out there who want to like us, are trying to like us, but just can't get a leg over because we keep doing awful things to break their hearts. Luckily, they're so open-minded and forgiving that we might be able to win them back if we put the Friedman plan into action and have Bush give Hosni Mubarak a rim job. Which, of course, is horseshit. If anti-Americanism is as rational and fact-intensive as Friedman implies, why does it seem to be flourishing in places notorious for their violent, irrational prejudices? France is Europe's most anti-American country; to hear people who live there tell it, it's also on the verge of some kind of Nazi renaissance. What would Friedman's shame orgy accomplish in the minds of people like that except maybe give Le Monde's douchebag cartoonist the chance to draw Bush weeping tears that look like little oil barrels or something?
Sweet relief. And there's even more where that came from.

I SCRATCH YOUR BACK... 

Tom Mangan of Prints the Chaff has a theory (credit Buzzmachine):
If I were a publisher with a sneaky, underhanded streak I'd find a writer in my community -- or maybe in my newsroom -- who has a distinctive voice and a feel for blog writing, and hire this writer to create a blog devoted solely to attacking my newspaper on behalf of its readers. Ideally the blogger would be anonymous, with the identity known only to me.
Omigod! It's all clear to me now. The Elder is really a paid shill for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. And and ... Saint Paul is in the Pioneer Press' pocket. Mitch Berg's sugar daddy? Air America Radio! And King's salary is underwritten by St. Cloud State University! The mind reels. Simply reels.

And Spitbull? Psst. I'll let you in on a secret: the entire Fraters gang ponies up for our astronomical bandwidth fees. It's the truth. We don't pay a cent ourselves.

TWISTED TITLE #23 

This week's incorrect children's book title:
I Sleep In The Garage!: On Being Prepared For When The New Baby Comes
To see last week's title, click here.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

MAYBE IF YOU GUYS JACK YOUR BLOOD-ALCOHOL LEVELS UP TO .21 YOU CAN GET A NATIONAL RADIO GIG TOO 

You know, seeing that drunken smirk on Katherine Lanpher's moon-face every time I visit Fraters is really starting to creep me out. Seriously, if you guys don't take it down soon I'm going to start having nightmares. And my dream about Brad Radke was bad enough--if I'm forced to witness Katherine going wee wee on herself I'll have to swear off sleep forever, and I'll hold all of you personally responsible for whatever crazy things happen in my ensuing psychotic state. Like, oh, I don't know, running my car into another car on University Avenue and then driving off.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

STAR TRIBUNE TAKES REASON'S ADVICE... 

And fires its ombudsman.

The ombudsman claims the cause is age discrimination, not the influence of Reason (a likely story...).

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

VIRTUAL TiVO POWER 

Well well well. It looks like the ranks of TiVO and generic DVR owners have become a proxy for the rest of us plebians. A media research outfit makes the following boob tube predictions (credit: I Want Media):
1. The amount of sporting events and other live events will increase (because people would be more likely to watch them at the actual time of transmission than record them).

2. There will be fewer ads for fast food and credit cards on TV (93% of viewers who could skip them, did).

3. There will still be ads for beer. TIVO users seem to like them.
Guess the Warrior Monk will get to keep enjoying those President of Beer commercials even though I think they're kind of boring. Who's been buying those TiVO's anyway?

THE FATHER OF ROSEMARY'S BABY 

Michael at Two Blowhards just put up a fabulous post championing Ira Levin--the author of several well known suspense novels, including Rosemary's Baby, The Stepford Wives, and The Boys from Brazil--as a shining example of how Americans can make really good, really American art by inventively combining low and high.

His main conclusion:
For all these reasons, it seems to me that, as a general rule, the best way for a sophisticated artist to respond to (and try to take part in) American culture is to first accept it as is -- as the quirky, eccentric, non-Euro, money-driven, anti-intellectual free-for-all that it has always been. Instead of fighting the losing battle of rejecting and overcoming this basic fact, why not instead add to it? In the words of the great jazz-writer and novelist Albert Murray, don't reject the basics, but "extend and elaborate" them. (In Murray's view, that's what jazz is: an extension, elaboration, and complexification of certain folk and popular ingredients.) Don't have a tantrum and call your tantrum art. Why not instead try the value-added approach? Why not accept what the culture comes up with, and deepen it? Show your class not by rejecting but by improving; take the enjoyable, funky basics and raise 'em to a new level. Without putting what they are in the raw form down, of course.
But like I said, that's just his conclusion (or more precisely, one of them). It comes near the end of a a post that's very long--an essay, really, in typical Two Blowhards fashion--but that's well worth reading in its entirety, not least for Michael's analysis of a wonderful passage from Stepford about a dinner party. I've never read anything by Levin, but the excerpt that Michael glosses just promoted him to the top of my reading list.

As an aside, I saw Roman Polanski's movie version of Rosemary's Baby for the first time on late-night cable a few months ago, and I was surprised by how good it is. (Michael says he likes it but not nearly as much as he likes the novel.) Largely filmed in the ready-made Gothic atmosphere of the Dakota--yes, that Dakota--it's both stealthily suspenseful and (no doubt unintentionally, but charmingly so) uncannily evocative of mid-60s Manhattan. But most surprising to me was how damn funny it is. The last scene in particular is so over the top that I was laughing out loud. But I suppose that kind of suspense-culminating-in-humor genre-busting is just another twist on what Michael is advocating. And if the book trumps the movie, I can't wait.

Monday, May 03, 2004

END THE KILLBOTS MEME 

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away a young James Lileks believed "soldiers were brainwashed killbots" and weapons systems "served as penis substitutes for Jack D. Ripper-type generals who probably went home and poured lighter fluid on toy soldiers, lit them with a Zippo and cackled maniacally." He doesn't think this anymore, of course.

But stories like these are fertilizer for such beliefs to take root and flourish. Hugh Hewitt is right:
A half-dozen people have genuinely hurt the mission and endangered their fellow servicemen, and the brass needs to make sure the message goes out loud and clear to the world that this handful of soldiers are not representative of even a tiny percentage of the American military. The president publicly stated his disgust, but the military needs to resist the temptation to move on too quickly.
We are better than this. But we have to show it.