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Sunday, August 31, 2003
And Then Went Bronson

I saw the "Brave Last Days" headlines on the tabloid covers at the grocery store, but I didn't really believe them. Damn. RIP, Chuck. I think I'll rent "Death Hunt" tomorrow.

Britney and Madonna Sittin' in a Tree K-I-S-S-I-N-G

Of course, I wouldn't be me if I didn't comment on the Britney Spears-Madonna lesbian kiss at the MTV Video Music Awards. Am I the only person who was disappointed by the whole affair?

Before I go any further, I want to say for the record, that I'm all for lesbian kissing. I think its a good thing. And I'm secure enough as a man, that if my lady friends wanted to make out with another hot chick, I'd totally be cool with it-- especially if I got to watch.

Anyhow... Britney. Madonna. Kissing. Totally disappointing. It was like watching two college sophomores "experimenting" and not really being into it, y'know what I mean?

First off, there was tongue. What's up with that? A really convincing lesbian kiss always has a little tongue action. Always, or its not a lesbian kiss in my book.

Secondly, a really good lesbian kiss always lingers. Always. Britney and Madonna totally didn't linger. It was like they were trying to get the whole thing over with as quickly as possible. And in my book, that's the wrong kind of attitude to have when you're performing girl-on-girl action. It kinda takes you out of the moment y'know? The lingering is the thing sells the kiss. †he lingering lets you know that the girls are digging it. Yeah. Oh yeah. Otherwise otherwise it's just a couple of gal pals kissing each other goodbye after having a couple of margaritas.

Thirdly, as disastrous as the Britney-Madonna kiss was, from an aesthetic point of view, Madonna totally cold have salvaged the situation when she kisses Christina Aguilera. But that kiss was even worse. I sat in front of the TV thinking, "My God, these women are amateurs!"

Anyhow, there's was one thing i did like: when they cut away to Britney's ex-boyfriend Justin Timberlake. He had this sort of melancholy look, this look that said, "How come she never did that for me?"

Poor bastard. Poor, poor bastard.

Airplane crashes and people getting killed-- those people at Burning Man" are sure some crazy mixed up kids.

Saturday, August 30, 2003
What bothers me about this SF Chron story on Arnold Schwarzenegger's mishandling of that old Oui interview? Plenty. First, this shouldn't even be a story. Second, Schwarzenegger's initial response was the correct one, and he should have stuck with it, rather than coming down with a case of amnesia less than 24 hours later. Third, Arnold's spokesman is a weasel. (For the last time, there is no such thing as a "gun-show loophole" in California.)

But, for some reason, I can't get too upset about all of those supposedly terrible things Schwarzenegger said in 1977. Maybe because I haven't supported his campaign, and don't plan to.

From Rich, Enduring Records of Lives Lived to Fragmentary and Ephemeral Ones

As a new academic year gets underway, Clifford Orwin worries we're on the brink of becoming a post-literate society. I think he's probably too optimistic. At the core of his lament is the disappearance of letter-writing in favor of e-mail:
The great age of letter writing was the 18th century, when the letters, like the novels, were serious literary compositions often running to considerable length. The voluminous correspondences of that day remains engrossing in ours because of the thought and care lavished on them by serious people for whom the complementary activities of reading and writing lay at the core of their existence. When John Adams wrote Thomas Jefferson, or vice versa, it was a major event in the lives of both, and each strove to be worthy of the other. E-mail, on the contrary, is the medium of communication of the frenetic, who don't want to spend a second more than necessary whether composing or responding to it.
Even though he's writing for a Canadian audience, by "we," he clearly means the English-speaking West. What does he think of weblogging, I wonder? (Link via No Left Turns.)

Friday, August 29, 2003
Casus foederis [UPDATED]

Back in the days of the Roman Republic, there was a tradition that accompanied a declaration of war. When Rome declared open hostility upon another nation/state, a messenger/soldier would be sent out to make the journey to the closest border of that state. Upon reaching reaching his destination, the messenger would heave a spear across the border, impaling it in the ground of the enemy territory. Rome meant business, and was willing to out of its way to say so.

As the Roman empire continued to expand, the tradition became less and less practical. Rome was becoming like, well, Elvis in his later years - portly and lazy, holed up in Graceland, surrounded by lackeys, beginning to decay. Rome no longer sent the formal spear message to the enemy's front door. Instead, the Senate would declare a special little plot of ground within Rome to be the official territory of the enemy. (The same plot would be used over and over to be the official land of each flavor-of-the-week enemy. The messenger/soldier would make a show of running through the city, to the cheers and applause of the Roman citizens, and then plunge the spear into the designated ground. All without having to leave home. I liken it to Elvis shooting his tv.

Why bring this up? Well, in defense of Hugh Hewitt, it should be noted that at least he made the trip to Minnesota personally to plunge a spear into the Fraters Libertas blog's youngest member, "The Atomizer." Lines have been crossed. The generals are drawing up the strategies and tactics. Each is sizing up the opposing camp's vulnerabilities. And, true to Roman Imperial form, Hugh Hewitt is attempting to use his unparalleled size, influence, and the power of his many treaties and conquered "allies" to force his opponents to sue for peace before they'd had a chance to get to their fighting spirit in gear.

This is good strategy. There is an old Roman proverb, that says that nothing causes bravery to well up in men so much as the knowledge that they have no chance of survival. I think HH knows this. Behind the scenes, Hugh is now maneuvering for the conflict to be resolved before it really begins, hoping that the Fraters boys will be quieted before they become desperate and dangerous.

I am reminded of one of the early scenes in the movie Gladiator. The hero, Maximus, is out enforcing Rome's command over a distant outpost of the Empire, putting down a rebellion. As he looks from his overwhelming battleline toward the rabble of barbarians, one of his commanders turns to him to comment on the situation.
Quintus : People should know when they are conquered.
Maximus : Would you, Quintus? Would I?
UPDATE: I found that proverb. It originally comes from Virgil's Aeneid: una salus victis nullam sperare salutem, "knowing that there is no hope can give one the courage to fight and be victorious."

Of course with the Howard Dean insurgency campaign, what must follow next is the counter-insurgency campign. I see John Kerry playing the part.

KERRY: Howard Dean is a madman! Listen to me, the Democratic Party's voice of reason! I'm telling you, if you follow him down this path of insanity, he'll destroy us alll!!!!

And course, with a counter-insurgency campaign, must come the insurgency-insurgency campaign. I'm puttin' my bet on John Edwards.

EDWARDS: You think Howard Dean's a liberal? I'm ten times the liberal he is! I'm so liberal I make Ralph Nader nervous!!!

Of course after the insurgency-insurgency campaign must come the counter-insurgency-insurgency-insurgency-counter-insurgency campaign. This of course is played by Joe Leberman.

LIEBERMAN: I'm a liberal. I'm a liberal's liberal. But at the same time, I don't flaunt my liberal ways. I keep it under control. And it's not to say that I'm not proud to be a liberal. Because I am. Proud that is. To be a liberal. It's just that not everyone is a liberal. And not everyone is as liberal as I am. And I'm very, very liberal. But not an over-the-top liberal like some of those other so-called liberals. Unlike them, I feel it is important that all viewpoints are recognized. Liberal and non-liberal. And I think that's what makes me different from all of the rest of the crowd.

Thursday, August 28, 2003
Howard DeanJames is right about Howard Dean. Not only CAN he win, I believe he's the ONLY Democrat who has any hope of unseating King George (barring some major screw up by the Bush brigade). None of the other guys have the sort of screwed-up charisma that Bill Clinton brought to the 1992 campaign. Dean's not the same kind of charming frat boy that Clinton was, but he IS the only one that doesn't put you to sleep before he even opens his mouth. John Kerry and Dick Gephardt both carry themselves with the same sort of "it's my time" demeanor that completely failed to get either Bob Dole or Al Gore elected. And the entire "Democratic establishment" roster of candidates usually come off as campaigning FOR Bush - "We're 100% behind the president on this war thing, but, um, doesn't the economy suck? It sucks, right? Vote for me!" Dean's a crackpot, of course, but is one of those "He sounds so crazy he just might be right" kinds of crackpots, unlike the more typical "He sounds so crazy he just might be crazy" crackpots, like Al Sharpton.

Just one more thing about Howard Dean: I think his campaign theme song should be "Eye of the Tiger." I just think that would be brilliant. I think the song just says everything about his insurgency campaign-- plus it's got a good beat:

Eye of the Tiger
Risin' up, back on the street
Took my time, took my chances
Went the distance
Now I'm back on my feet
Just a man and his will to survive

So many times, it happened too fast
You trade your passion for glory
Don't lose your grip on the dreams of the past
You must fight just to keep them alive

It's the eye of the tiger
It's the thrill of the fight
Risin' up to the challenge
Of our rival
And the last known survivor
Stalks his prey in the night
And his fortune must always be
Eye of the tiger

Face to face, out in the heat
Hangin' tough, stayin' hungry
They stack the odds
Still we take to the street
Fot the kill with the skill to survive
(Repeat )

Risin' up straight to the top
Had the guts, got the glory
Went the distance
Now I'm not gonna stop
Just a man and his will to survive
(Repeat )

The eye of the tiger

Dah-da-da-da, da-da-da, dad-da-dah

God, I'm a sick bastard.

So I've made a decision. I think the next presdiential election is going to be so close that 12 swing voters are going to decide who will be the next leader of of the free world.

I know this, because Karl Rove knows this.

Even now as you read this Rove is monitoring the swing voters-- three of whom live Scottsdale, Ariz., two of whom live in Decatur, Ill., one of whom lives in Knoxville Tenn., four of whom live in Langhorn, Penn., two of whom live in Boca Raton, Fla. and three of whom live on the outskirts of Hattiesburg, Miss.

Rove has men following these people, monitoring them at all hours of the day. Their phones are tapped. What they eat, what they watch on TV, even how often they make love-- everything they do, no detail too small, is being carefully collected and studied by the Bush team.

I am told that Rove receives data about the 12 swing voters on kind of live stock ticker sort of machine. I'm told that Rove sometimes sits for hours, sometimes days, just staring at the monitor, trying unlock the secrets of the data crawling across the bottom of the screen.

Some people have said he's gone mad. That the data has twisted him up inside. They may be right... oh they may be right....

Food Fight

Every once in a while I read a news item that i wanna spoof, but I find that there is no way to spoof it because it kind of spoof's itself, but dammit I'm going to try:

From Cheese to Wine, EU OKs Protections

LONDON (Reuters) - EU governments have ended weeks of squabbling and agreed on a list of 41 famous food and drink names such as Parma ham and Rioja wine that they want to have worldwide brand protection, officials said on Thursday. According to the European Union's executive Commission, the final list represents not only the most valuable items but also those most widely pirated overseas: drinks like Chablis, Champagne and Cognac and the cheeses Gorgonzola and Manchego.

Food piracy, there's a new one. Not only do I have to feel guilty about burning a CD on my computer, now I gotta feel guilty about pirating cheese. I suppose next we'll see commercials with Gerard Depardieu imploring us not to "steal his food."

"This is not about protectionism. It is about fairness. It is simply not acceptable that the EU cannot sell its genuine Italian Parma ham in Canada because the trademark 'Parma Ham' is reserved for a ham produced in Canada," he said.

The Canucks probably did that because they can't sell genuine Canadian Bacon in the United States because the trademark "Canadian Bacon" is reserved for a ham produced in America.

Weeks of meetings of the EU's influential trade committee led to stalemate, with increasingly bitter demands by member states for more of their national favorites to be included.

The bitterest country of all, was Mexico, who on a technicality, was once again denied ownership of the term "Breakfast Burrito."

In July, for example, Greece threatened to reject the entire list if it failed to include Feta cheese, Kalamata olives and, if possible, the aniseed liquor Ouzo. In a diplomatic victory for Athens, both Feta and Ouzo were added, but not Kalamata.

GREEK DIPLOMAT: If feta cheese is not included on the list-- we walk!!!!

France asked for seven more of its products to be added but withdrew Neufchatel cheese when it won acceptance of Beaujolais and St Emilion wines. Spain fought successfully for its Mancha saffron, while Britain agreed to remove Blue Stilton cheese.

And to the relief of all, Blood Sausage was not included on the list.

Howard Dean was in New York the other day. I went to see him, to check out the whole scene. Let me tell you brothers, it was like a revival meeting, like a real-life "Elmer Gentry" reenactment. You had people speaking in tongues and frothing at the mouth, people's eyes were rolling back and stuff, women were screaming and fainting-- pure hysteria.

I was thinking it was like watching the whole John McCain run in 2000. Except even kookier y'know?

I'm gonna say something, and you're gonna think I'm crazy: I think the guy can win. Seriously. The diffeernce between Howard Dean and John McCain is this: Democrats have no stomach for the dirty games of politics. The Clintons do, but frankly they're the only ones. See the Bush torpedoed McCain in 2000. They torpedoed him good. It was good politics, I'd have done the same thing.

Anyhow my point is, is there anyone in the Democratic party with such a blood lust for the presidency that they'd do anything-- ANYTHING-- in an almost berzerker rage kind of grab for power?

Besides the Clintons that is.

Kerry? Nah. Gephardt? You got to be kidding. Lieberman? Too dignified to stoop so low. Edwards? Too genteel, though I'd never put anything past a southerner.

The only man who has the blood lust is Howard Dean. You see the man in person, you see the look. It's the look of a man who'll cut the throat of his own mother, on the Altar of Power -- IF THAT'S WHAT IT WOULD TAKE -- to be The Man with the finger on the Button.

Anyhow, don't discount Dean, I don't know what he's putting in the Kool aid, but its driving the kids crazy.


just in:
The nations attending the six-way talks in Beijing aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear program reached a basic agreement Thursday to hold a second round of talks in the same city within two months, the head of the Russian delegation said.
Between now and then, bloggers and traditional journalists might want to take the time to research the plight of the North Korean people, and the lack of hope for NK refugees. I would hope that as the second set of talks approaches, the heat and focus would be turned up, as the eyes of the world once again converge on North Korea and China.

In case I haven't spelled it out clearly enough, it's my prayer that this issue might get picked up by the blogosphere, in the same way that attention was intensely focused on Iran's treatment of the university student protesters as that ominous anniversary rolled around this past June. Can you join in?

"History Calling"

Over at "Shot in the Dark," Mitch Berg has published History Calling, a tour de force on how the volume needs to be turned up before the old calls of, "Never again," and "We will never forget," fade altogether into meaninglessness.'s happening. Again. And, just like the first Holocaust, you're not going to hear about it on the major media until it's far too late.

North Korea maintains a series of Gulags that put Stalin's - perhaps even Orwell's - to shame for their relative size and comprehensiveness and ruthlessness.

...One can also find precious few references to the story in the major media.

...Attacking Kim [Jong Il] today is like attacking Hitler or Stalin in 1933; despite their ghastly crimes against humanity, the lunatic left fears the beginning of a slippery slope.

The story may go away - it may never even arrive, as far as the consumer of American news is concerned. We - those who pay attention to these things, and the part of the Blogosphere concerned with actual rights for real humans - need to do our best to fix that.
Strong claims. But Mitch Berg is backing them up. Read it all. Really.

I should also mention the guys at SCSU Scholars, and Fraters Libertas who are also doing their part to focus the spotlight onto this most deserving cause. Please don't hesitate to help us get some momentum behind this effort to rouse the larger media. Write about it. Talk about it. Ask about it.

Well, Fingers and his friend Eric have thrown down the gauntlet, distracting me from all else until I responded. Fred knows my weakness for making lists of unimportant things. This month's list? 100 Best Movies Of All Time. Not a particularly original category, but still one I obsess over. I don't really like titles like "best" and "of all time", however, so I really just made a list of "100 Movies I Really Like Right Now", in no particular order. Here's the top 10. I've got my complete list (along with Eric & Fingers' lists) over at my personal weblog so as not to distract from more important Monkey Business.

RobbL's Movie List

The top 10, in no particular order:

1. Brazil
2. Chinatown
3. Ed Wood
4. The Godfather
5. The Big Lebowski
6. Blade Runner
7. Almost Famous
8. Goodfellas
9. Rushmore
10.This Is Spinal Tap

I challenge all Monkeys and Monkey readers to submit your choices! (see e-mail address in upper left corner)

Arnold's First Campaign Ad

Bob Smith: A lot of politicians try to impress you with fancy arguments and big agendas. But when you've got a state in crisis, fancy mumbo-jumbo is the last thing you want to hear.

Announcer: Bob Smith, Arnold Schwarzenegger supporter.

Bob Smith: That's why I’m voting for Arnold Schwarzenegger to be California’s next governor. Arnold’s the best candidate out there, and there's absolutely no way of proving it!

Announcer: Arnold Schwarzenegger is the only gubanatorial candidate without any kind of plan to say what he will or won't do. You might say that puts Arnold beyond mere politics. The other candidates have grandiose plans, that is, until egghead columnists from egghead publications begin frittering away at them. But Arnold Schwarzenegger won’t let any eggheads boss him around.

[ SUPER: "Jonah Goldberg, Egghead Columnist, The National Review (a publication for eggheads)" ]

Jonah Goldberg: I cannot recommend this man-- for any political office whatsoever.

Announcer: You're darn right you can't! But try telling that to Arnold Schwarzenegger supporter and California housewife Bonnie Hamilton.

Bonnie Hamilton: Arnold Schwarzeneggar is gonna be great for California! He’s gonna be so great, my husband and I are also thinking about penciling him in for state comptroller as well! That’s how good a leader we think he's gonna be! When he takes over, the state’s problems will go away like magic I tells you-- like magic! I know what you're thinking -- there's no scientific evidence of magic. But thank God, I'm no scientist. I'm just glad that I've found a gubanatorial candidate who can finally stop me from hearing all of the evil voices in my head.

Announcer: Arnold Schwarzeneggar for California governor. He’ll make all of your problems go away-- like magic.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003
Pedagogical Needling

Again, it wouldn't be Infinite Monkeys without me writing about calling in to the Hugh Hewitt show. But this time I'm writing more specifically about not calling in. This afternoon, the last hour of the show was open to any topic, and the phones didn't seem to be too heavily laden. But I was just leaving the dentist after having some work done. (I had been trying to stay calm, listening to Tarzana Joe read Bayard Taylor poetry through my headphones while my tooth was getting drilled.) I was really tempted to hit Hugh with the details listed below, but couldn't bring myself go before a national audience with a numb mouth. (For fun, just imagine me trying to explain the following with a "Weird-Harold" lisp -- you remember -- the guy from Fat Albert.)

As listeners have heard, yesterday HH had an on-air conversation with Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty. The call has been replayed and replayed. Why? Because Hewitt managed to talk his way into having his self-appointment to two new meaningless "official" positions gubernatorially approved.

So, now the official Minnesota Commissioner of Hockey is also officially "Sheriff of Latin" and Minnesota's "Master of the Horse." Concerning the latter title, Hewitt explains:
The position of Master of the Horse is an ancient one. During a period of Dictatorship in the Republic, the Dictator's second-in-command was the Master of the Horse, thus Caesar's Master of the Horse was Anthony. In the event of an invasion of Minnesota by Iowa, Wisconsin or North Dakota, I suspect I would be obliged to return to Minnesota to attend to these duties, but for the time being, no exercise of these powers is contemplated.
Why the Horse? Well, the Roman dictator was considered the commander in chief specifically of the ground troops (the infantry; the legions), and in the event of his fall on the battlefield, his authority was to transfer immediately to the commander of the cavalry. Hence, "Master of the Horse" or "magister equitum."

But there are a few things that I feel compelled to bring up. First, why does Hugh feel the need to appeal to authority before exercising his expressed desire to keep Minnesota's Fraters Libertas guys under his thumb? Who needs the ridiculous title of "Sheriff" in order to smack down some bar-trivia enthusiasts who can't even get the Latin for "brothers of liberty" right? (That would actually read "Fratres Libertatis.")

Second, the office of dictator (as disctinct from Emperor) in Rome ought not be discussed without mention of one of its most venerated holders, Cincinnatus (a hero of George Washington's) who resigned his post after the conditions that warranted his service had been dealt with. By doing so, he came to be revered as a model of Roman virtue. Cincinnatus served for just 15 days, and the precedent was firmly reinforced that Roman dictators were to serve no more than six months. Accordingly, the office of Master of the Horse therefore carried a de facto six month term. Will Hewitt follow the lead of Cincinnatus by dealing with Fraters Libertas swiftly and then stepping down? Either way, come 2004, HH is scheduled to be term-limited out, and it will be time for a fresh face.

Third, we should look to this (admittedly select) description of the office.
The rank which the [Master of the Horse] held among the other Roman magistrates is doubtful. Niebuhr asserts (vol. ii p390) "no one ever supposed that his office was a curule* one;" ... his view is supposed by the account in Livy, that the imperium of the [Master of the Horse] was not regarded as superior to that of a consular tribune (vi.39)

[*Webster defines "curule" as privileged to sit in a seat reserved in ancient Rome for the use of the highest dignitaries.]
So we are left to wonder... are congratulations really in order for Hugh's "ascension" to vox et praeterea nihil?

A new sort of Northern (Korean) Alliance [Updated]

If I had my way, you'd be reading some version of this story on every news site you visit today, tomorrow, and the next day. In the same way that bloggers focused together to bring attention to the plight of the Chinese student protesters a few months ago, the media of the west of the world ought to be roused to action.

Read Claudia Rosett's genuinely important article on the individual souls involved in escaping the tyranny and horror of North Korea. No, really. Read it. We need to connect these stories with real people, real faces, and real imperatives.

If you have a subscription to the Wall Street Journal's full online edition, I would also point you toward this article by Norbert Vollertsen, the (unnecessarily lone) voice in the wildnerness.

Vollertsen's nobly vocal stand should not continue to go on so feebly recognized. For an interview with Vollertsen, check your bias at the door and take yourself through this article. I'm not sure which website could properly be considered "his" but checking out or, and progressing from their "Links" pages ought to move you in the right direction.

Read about this German physician's outspokenness and his indefatigable efforts, including acts like attempting to airdrop radios to North Koreans. Then see if you don't agree, as Hugh Hewitt and Claudia Rosett discussed on the radio today, that Norbert Vollertsen ought to be considered for the Nobel Peace Prize. (Okay, yeah... I mean the old Nobel Peace Prize, back when it still had some semblance of integrity and legitimacy.)

[UPDATE: Speaking of vacuous Peace Prizes, I just found this March 7, 2002 open "memo" from Dr. Vollertsen addressed to former President Carter.

All Politics REALLY are Local
From Thomas A. Friedman's column in The New York Times :
...Col. Ralph Baker, commander of the Second Brigade...oversees two Baghdad districts. He and his officers have been conducting informal elections for local councils and getting neighborhoods to nominate their own trusted police.

"First we taught them how to run a meeting," he told me in his Baghdad office. "We had to teach them how to have an agenda. So instead of having this sort of group dialogue with no form, which they were used to, you now see them in council meetings raising their hands to speak. They get five minutes per member. It's basic P.T.A. stuff. We've taught them how to motion ideas and vote on them. . . . I have them prioritizing every school in their districts — which they want fixed first. I have to build credibility by making sure that every time they establish a priority, it gets done. That helps them establish credibility with their constituents. . . . There is a big education process going on here that is democratically founded. The faster we get Iraqis taking responsibility, the faster we get out of here."

I find all of this encouraging. It's easy, in my opinion, to get annoyed with the situation in Iraq. It's easy to get impatient. But I have faith everything is gong to turn out all right. I have faith no so much in the Bush administration, but in guys like Col. Ralph Baker. And I have faith in the Iraqi people. I sincerely do.

Sweet reliefThank heaven there's ONE presidential candidate who'll roll up his sleeves and do something when a REAL crisis occurs.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003
The lengths some Geeks go to...

Co-Monkey David is off to Burning Man. I wish him well, but I'm glad I'm not going these days. Yes, you can mark me down as a subscriber to the "It was better last year," mantra. Only last year, seven years ago. Yep, I think I made it in just on the cusp of "old school."

< vietnam vet voice > Yeah, I remember back in '96... No restrictions on driving. No restrictions on firearms. No restrictions on cameras. Just one or two named "roads" in the center circle. Almost no camping boundaries. No overarching "theme" (e.g. Space, Time, Fertility) except for the theme camps themselves. No outrageous fees. No police helicopters. Rave Camp was new and it was a mile away from Center Camp (and you could drive there). No restrictions on the hot springs. No restrictions on use of the playa (dry lake bed). No restrictions on re-entry. No coffee table books about the event. No "designated areas" for fires.

The slogan "Granola, Guns & Videotape" still described the event back then. Now all you're allowed is the granola.

I've gone from wide-eyed newbie gone native in '96, to returning the wiser in '97 on the "other" playa, to official Black Rock Ranger in '98, to Disgruntled Postal Worker (with a bullhorn) in '99. < / vietnam vet voice >

Okay, before I get to melancholy (yeah, too late), here's the Onion's take on Burning Man 2003. (In case that URL doesn't remain valid, search for the story titled, "No One Makes It To Burning Man Festival.")

And to lend authenticity to the Onion's story, pick up in the middle of this account of my journey to the playa with the guy who put the Mojave Desert Phone Booth onto the (sub)cultural radar. (That would be yours truly applying my special touch to the RV's ailing engine.) You can also pick up near the beginning of the same friend's BM96 account to see what it looked like "back in the day." We really hit our stride in '97 and Deuce documented the experience fittingly. (My own BM pics aren't online any longer, but Deuce does a better job of capturing the feel of the event than I ever could.)

So what are the cool kids doing now? Well, some folks on a mailing list (based on friendships forged across those BM years mentioned above) are saying it's Junkmail Man. (No, there's not any info there, but there really has been a Junkmail Man event founded. The buzz sounds promising.)

As friend Jessica says, "Don’t hate the playa, hate the Man, man..."

Monday, August 25, 2003
Geek vs. Geek

The window dressing over at Fraters Libertas continues. Now, underneath their logo banner at the top of the page, their site-praise quotation comes from what we must assume was a courteous pleasantry caught falling from the mouth of a nationally syndicated radio man held captive on a boat with the FL bloggers. It reads: "The second most influential blog in Minnesota." -Hugh Hewitt

Well, having heard HH speak of that same boat trip on the air today, I culled another gem of a description of the Fraters Libertas guys: "...yokels" -Hugh Hewitt

As for The Elder's assault on my pop culture character, I am reminded of the following exchange between Darth Vader and Admiral Motti in Episode IV:
The Elder: "Don't underestimate this technological error you've constructed. The inability to recognize The Magnum is significant next to the power of the Fraters."
Admiral Monkey: "Don't try to scare us with your sorcerer's ways Lord Elder. Your sad devotion to that ancient tv show has not helped you conjure up any lost readers, or given you clairvoyance enough to find victory in Tuesday Trivia at Keegan's......ehch" [chokes]
The Elder: "I find your lack of faith disturbing."
[Don't recognize the scene from Star Wars? Here's a pic. Here's the actual scene (.mov)]

I still say it looks like Burt Bleepin' Reynolds. Oh, and the hat in the so-called "Magnum" picture is "Dodger blue."

Current Song: What Is The Secret by James Lileks on the album Bleatophony. Current Drink: Trader Joe's Natural Mountain Spring Water

If a monkey read an infinite number of articles, eventually he'd stumble upon... some worth posting about.


"How to do a poor imitation of Instapundit"

(Sorry for the diffusive title -- I've been reading the Puritans.)

No, I didn't check out Crescat Sententia because I'm a Latin teacher. I somehow found myself there after running across a second reference to them and their 20 Questions for Eugene Volokh.

But it doesn't stop there. Browse a while. There's some good stuff. The links show just enough familiar names to lend a sense of soundness, but enough unfamiliar ones to make you feel like you're getting to see more than just the same corner of the web.

As long as I'm talking about what I've been reading today, I must mention at least one of the many, many worthy articles that I checked out at The Claremont Institute, its blog The REMEDY, and the Claremont Review of Books (there's Latin on that page too). It's a follow-up to Thomas Krannawitter's appearance with guest host Frank "Cow-Chowing" Pastore on the Hugh Hewitt show, concerning Justice Moore and the attack on religion.

I also ought to mention Mitch Berg's treatment of "mojo" and of "he-who-must-not-be-named." (Scroll down AND up after those posts.)

The Volokh Conspiracy is getting into Constitutional hermeneutics (more can be found deep in the Prof.'s 20 Questions bit mentioned above -- Originalism, Nonoriginalism, libertarian-colored glasses, and more.

Oh, and I ought to include this Patriot Act teaser from Powerline, just to rile up co-Monkey Robb.

Yep. It's a slow day here at InfMonks. A lot more readin' than writin'. Of course, look what happened when I spoke up yesterday.

Sunday, August 24, 2003
"Elementary, Watson...."

Roger L. Simon, may have deduced the true nature of FOXNews' foolishness with regard to "he-who-must-not-be-named." Plausibility aside, Simon's take on who's funny and who ain't is spot on.

Burt or Tom?Is that Burt Reynolds? Looks more like Magnum-era Tom Selleck to me. I didn't watch the show, but didn't he tromp around Hawaii wearing a Dodgers cap?

Iconography (Updated)

This morning the guys at Fraters Libertas are beginning a theme-based overhaul of their site graphics. They've been in attendance at the Great Minnesota "Sweat-To-Gedder," a.k.a. The State Fair, and their weblog reflects it. There's a photo of hot Lileks on Generalissimo action in the SPAM-Shack drive-thru booth. (Which for some reason, reminded me of this picture from the Bad Publicity section of the Institute of Official Cheer. I'll let you decide who's who in my twisted association. Wait, on second thought, don't.)

There's a fair ticket stub lower in the FL left hand column, and for some reason, at the top left, there's a haunting image of Burt Reynolds done in the the style of those religious altar candles in the Mexican food section of the grocery store.

UPDATE: As pointed out in Robb's post above, it would appear that I am not a maven of premillennial moustached men. Yes, a Google Image Search shows that the Dodger hat must have been a signature of the Magnum man. But I'm stickin' with my assesment of the picture's stylistic genre.

Saturday, August 23, 2003
This afternoon, my wife came home and informed me that yesterday's Hugh Hewitt show was, at that very moment, getting a Saturday rebroadcast. I didn't quite know how to take that. I was excited that the blog plug would get another local airing, but as I wrote below, I wasn't thrilled with my own performance in the call. She reassured me that, having heard the call from home yesterday, I sounded fine, and that I had nothing to worry about.

When I tuned in, the show was still in its second hour. It would be a while before my call rolled around. Then, I wound up getting an email from the fill-in host of the HH show's Friday State Fair exSPAMaganza. Lileks echoed my wife's take on my call. "You were just fine," they were both telling me.

But I just had to see for myself. Were they just protecting me? Kindly trying to spare me? Well, as it turns out, they were right. It wasn't that bad. My cell phone did sound awful though. And the timbre of my voice was much different than I anticipated. But the call didn't sound like the disaster I had envisioned. Part of that seemed to be due to the fact that I did get faded down before I began to get a little hectic. Knowing what to listen for, I could hear myself just beginning to sputter behind the Lileks' and Duane's interesting conversation (I hadn't been able to hear what they were saying yesterday over the phone). I could hear myself stammer "Sign-Boy..." But the business about our new URL (, which currently auto-redirects to, well...right here), and imminent liberation from Blog*Spot was mercifully abridged by the commercial break.

Oh, and here's an update no one will believe. In my first post on said phone call, I "updated" with a plug for Lileks' book and revealed our family secret of keeping a few copies of it around as "emergency gift" inventory. Well, this afternoon, we were driving to my brother-in-law's house for a get-together recognizing his and two other recent family birthdays. What was my wife wrapping in the car on the drive over? Yep, a copy of The Gallery of Regrettable Food. I asked if she had read my post update of only about 2 hours before. "Huh? No. Why?" I know, it's just a little too convenient to seem credible. But that's how it really happened.

Lastly -- still waiting for that email from Sign-Boy. (Don't worry, S.B., I get choked up when Iron Giant says, "Super-man... at the end too.)


Personally, I'm just flabbergasted that no Monkey has posted on Bill Simon gracefully bowing out of the race. Is there significance to the timing of the move? I got the the news late this (Saturday) afternoon. Seems like a targeted move at the slowest point in the news cycle. What would be the benefits/effects of such timing? Is he trying minimize the buzz and pressure on McClintock to follow his lead? His rhetoric seemed to slightly hint otherwise.

In a similar vein, I've been wondering how Arnold's feint over his candidacy had the effect of keeping someone like Feinstein out of the race, as I've heard some claim? I've heard lots of talk about the masterful AS headfake, but I don't know how to connect the dots. How does the inside baseball play out in such a situation.



Ben Stein?

Truly, the Lord works in mysterious ways.

Update: The link to the Boston Herald that I posted earlier decided to stop working for some reason. I've replaced it with a link to CNN's story on the late, unlamented John Geoghan.

Is The Gong Show... Is Not The Gong Show"

Today my wife and I were still trading observations about last night's trainwreck of a movie choice [3 posts down on this page]. She explained that she did experience some of the sympathetic embarrassment that I had reported, but mostly it was just wearying for her. Tiresome. She said it was like watching a bad comedian laugh at his own stale jokes. And it just kept going on. And on.

She knew that I completely understood her when I expounded on her position. I asked if she remembered when we gave in to nostalgia and went to see The Unknown Comic at a nearby comedy club. The schtick was funny enough...for the first half of the set -- until he took off the paper bag. Then he was just Murray Langston, the lame comic. It was painful. You felt embarrassed just to be witnessing it. It just went mercilessly on and on. It was just like watching Chicago.

I'm beginning to understand the Democrats strateregy: if anything goes wrong, blame it alll on Bush. Didn't get a seat on the train? It's because of Bush's lack of a subway seating policy. Paid ten bucks for a movie that totally sucked? It's because the administration's has refused that take a serious look at entertainment reform. Girlfriend won't put out? It's because of the president's irresponsible tax cut making your gal pal less that ethusiastic about your amorous overtures. And I'll tell you something else pal, that quagmire in Iraq sure ain't making your lady feel any more frisky that's for sure.

See, I could be a Democrat, easy.

It always feel sort of pointless to link to something on Instapundit. I mean, what are the chances that an InfMonks reader (or anyone else) hasn't already seen what Pope Reynolds has highlighted on the web? Well, it's Saturday morning. Folks may be on a completely different routine...

Disclaimer aside, the blogfather nails it in this post about "he-who-must-not-be-named." Oh, and in his 9:54 AM post this morning, he also completes an unposted thought I had yesterday -- 10,000 succumb to the heat in France? I mean, I had heard of some deaths, but I figured it would be on the scale of what we see among Texas' elderly population each summer. Good grief.

...the horror...

I'm still reeling from the waves of sympathetic embarrassment. I just suffered through 2002's "Best Motion Picture of the Year," the stunningly unbearable Chicago. It just kept getting worse. And worse. And...

Ughh! The only thing that could save this abomination would be a DVD feature whereby one could access and overlay the silhouettes and comments of Joel/Mike & the 'bots from MST3K.

The "Cell Block Tango / He Had It Comin'" routine.... Lord, just take me now. I can't bear the humiliation.

The "I Can't Do It Alone" windmill moves and tapdancing... No - just...stop it. STOP!

The marionette scene... NOOOOOO!!!!!!!!

That part where Reneé Zellweger scrunched up her face (no, the time she did it on purpose), pursed her lips and made the farting sound... Well, yeah -- that about sums it up.

If this is what "Moulin Rouge!" hath wrought, then I pray I never suffer the misfortune of seeing the evil progenitor of this modern musical travesty. For such a calamity to come to pass, it would probably require coercion of an ineluctable [DING! George Will word] nature.

Friday, August 22, 2003
Reclaim the Shame

The movie hour on the [You-Know-Who] show, the last broadcast hour of the week, is just a crappy time to force in a shameless blog plug. I got Lileks to announce our URL on national radio and say, "Consider it plugged, buddy," but that's the happy studio-cut of the sad, sad true story.

It seemed like I had started to work it in real smooth-like. This week's list was about the top ten science fiction movies, as interpretted by James Lileks guest hosting for Hugh and for the regular movie guy, Emmett of The Unblinking Eye. Listeners call in after the ten have been announced, usually to express disbelief at how some perfect candidate got left off the list. I opened the call by throwing a bone to the guys at Pathetic Earthlings blog, claiming that they might be disappointed in how few cheesy 50's and 60's classics made the cut. I think that just didn't click in Lileks' head. There was a brief awkward silence. So, I quickly prefaced my movie nomination by explaining that some election oversight panel would probably forbid my call to be broadcast in California. So far so good, er... well, not too bad. Then I announced my movie -- Terminator 2. I offered a disclaimer about its sci-fi status, and Lileks offered a thoughtful explanation of why it was a contender, but unworthy of the list's final draft. Arnold, the Lileks picture, the Terminator movie, it all fit together. Things were going well.

Then the wheels fell off -- I was on my cell so I couldn't hear much of what Lileks and the show's producer were saying. I wanted to remind Lileks that I was the guy who had "photoshoped" his face onto the body of Schwarzenegger with a topless woman on his shoulders (you remember -- the old picture that was dug up by his political opponents). I got the reminder out. Lileks recalled who I was, and I fumbled around, sort of stating that I wanted to plug my blog. From my end, it sounded like I kept stepping on his and the producers' comments. I was thrilled that Lileks rattled off our URL, and should have been satisfied, but he added, "isn't that right?"

But, you know me -- Mr. "Well-technically-speaking..." who rarely knows when to shut up. See, we have recently launched a new, non-Blog*Spot address that currently forwards to this Blogger site, but will someday soon lead to our new MoveableType-based site. Unfortunately, I launched into a promotional spasm that must have sounded like a castaway on a deserted island, frantically calling out to a passing boat. Under my own hype, I could hear the bumper music starting -- we were going to commercial, and I hadn't finished explaining our imminent liberation from Blog*Spot, our new web address, and hadn't even begun to make a plea for SIGN-BOY to EMAIL ME! (Hugh was going to work on finding Sign-Boy's or Sign-Guy's email addresses for me, so I could provide some Latin slogans for these special broadcasts from the Minnesota State Fair, but his urgent family business rightfully put HH incommunicado.)

I don't know if my ranting was faded down by the show's talented producer before I really got to embarrassing myself, or if the world heard me implode in a frenzy. The call ended as I hit serious traffic on the I-10. I turned the radio back up and heard my call ending (there's a few seconds of broadcast delay, doncha' know...) and it sounded rather smooth. Because you couldn't hear me. I'm wondering if they had to use the "dump" button to buy a few seconds to clean up the end of my call. Frankly, I wouldn't blame the crew if they politely ignored me the next time the call screener punches my name up as a caller on hold.

The avalanche of new readers? Looks like about 12 hits. Woot. (spins one finger in the air) I don't blame Lileks, or the show, and certainly not the audience. Why would anyone who heard my call be moved to think, "Now there's a guy whose opinions I need to read!"?

< Eeyore voice > Not much of a call... < /Eeyore voice >

Honestly, I doubt that I'll be able to pass on calling in during movie hour, but from now on, I'm not pluggin' the blog during the scant few seconds of airtime. I'd rather just focus on tryin' to make a quality contribution instead.

Oh yeah, and SIGN-BOY, EMAIL ME! (address cryptically listed in the upper left-hand corner of this page.)

UPDATE: All this and I forget to reciprocate! You really ought to buy Lileks' book, The Gallery of Regrettable Food. My family has picked up a few for those times when you need come up with a gift on short notice. For anyone who doesn't know who James Lileks is, his site is here. (Normally I'd send you to his daily Bleat, but a new one won't be up until Monday. You'll find plenty to read/gawk at on his site before then.)

If you found your way here through the shameless plug on today's Hugh Hewitt show, our post that includes both naughty and nice versions of the "photoshop" of Lileks' face on Arnold's pic (with the topless girl on his shoulders) can be found here.

I'm off to Burning Man. Back after Labor Day...but I'm sure my co-monkeys will be blogging early and often.

Thursday, August 21, 2003
InfMonks Sing the Praises of Someone (sort of) New + some old hits

Well, Hugh Hewitt is (rightfully) on leave, and though his guest host, the Cow-Chowin' Reliever*, is more than competent, he doesn't quite inspire me to my usual love-fest of HH show links and citations. What to do?

Well, the guys at Power Line have stepped up. It's a fine fine day at the Northern Alliance outpost. It must be the aroma of Minnesota State Fair food in the air (deep-fried candy bars?). Whatever it is, they're really putting on an exemplary display. From a fine commencement address excerpt from Hillsdale College's indispensable Imprimis publication, to Marty Robbins (who, I'm ashamed to say, I always get mixed up with Slim Whitman), to Danish pizza, to a second take on the ur-neocon.

Start here (Power Line link) and read up.

* Thanks to St. Paul of Fraters Libertas for the link. Well, not just the "link" but for orchestrating the contents of the linked page.

Dry State UpdateDry State Update - Janet vs. Everybody

Anecdotal evidence alert!

Well, not to belittle Brad's "kill" last night, but things might finally be loosening up around here. I've been out of town most of the week, but I just got back in town today. I went to grab a little lunch down at I-10 & Chandler Boulevard, and the Chevron station there had plenty of gas, all three grades, and scarcely a person taking advantage. I don't know if I just lucked out and caught the "window" after the tanker truck left but before everyone else realized this station had gas, but I wasn't about to ask questions - with no guilt whatsoever I drove up and "topped off" my tank that was still 2/3 full.

After reading Brad's post, I feel a little like the one guy who blew off hunting in favor of a trip to the butcher shop. I feel no sense of victory or satisfaction, but my belly is full.


Dry State Update MCXX - "This Time It's Personal"

I'm not nearly as on top of the details here today as I was Tuesday. Here's a very basic summary of the highlights. The pipeline was tested yesterday morning. It was a high pressure test (with water - heavier and denser than gasoline) and the pipeline failed the test in (I think) two places. Repairs are underway. The good news, for the shortage and the security angle I was musing about, is that the pipeline owners are planning on rerouting the gasoline to the valley through another one of their pipelines that normally carries jet fuel to the valley.

[UPDATE/CORRECTION: I know you just couldn't live without this detail. That jet fuel pipeline usually pumps from Phoenix to Tucson. Not the other way around. Oh, and the latest word is that the temporary reroute and reversal ought to be delivering gasoline to the Valley (of the Sun) this Sunday night.]

As of yesterday my wife was still carpooling with her mom. Her SUV (no apologies here, pal) sat on E in the driveway for another day. She was able to bring home a gallon of gas from work, so last night around 8:15 I wetted the tank and took the SUV out on the hunt. The places I had seen with long lines over the last few days? Nope. Now they were taped up and abandoned too. As I rolled on, mile after mile, I began to kick myself for not checking the websites of the local newschannels. Hadn't they mentioned something about updated maps showing open gas stations? D'oh, and I forgot my cellphone too. Down to primal, low tech, instinctive gas hunting.

I finally found an AM/PM Arco that had long lines. Dang... they don't take credit cards. Oh well, I've got $16 in cash. I counted an average of just over 20 cars at the station while I waited. (A police officer my wife spoke with today had explained that he had been placed on "gas-station duty" over the last few days, and that there had been consistent lulls in the lines just after 8:00 PM.) As I made my way to the pump, there was a lot of confusion. Since most folks had to position their cars, then go inside to pay, there were many awkward situations. Are you leaving? Are you going? Is that your spot? What pump are we on?

At one point, I wound up putting my vehicle alongside one pump just to hold the spot while a woman who had been there longer than I had maneuvered her car into place and went inside to pay. Later, as she was pumping, I waited in the line inside at the register. But I got to the front before she was finished pumping. Can't I just pay now, since I'm obviously next on that pump? Well, it turns out that they were so low on gas that they wouldn't take any advance payments, in case the tanks ran dry before the woman ahead of me was finished. It was that close.

But, I did finally get $16 's worth of gas. This time only the lowest octane grade was available. That gave me enough to continue the hunt. My needle was still only near the 1/4 tank level, so I didn't feel any guilt about violating our ridiculous governor's plea for folks not resist "topping off." Days' worth of carpooling assuaged any lingering feelings of selfishness.

About 12 miles later, I found another live station. These lines were more like 14 cars long. After the wait, the lady ahead of me had pulled her PT Cruiser in the wrong way and couldn't get the nozzle into the dealy-bob (yep, Bulk-Fuel trained Marine can't remember what you call that receptacle thingy on a car - the rim that the gas cap clips into - but I can fill it!) So, as I back out to give her room to maneuver a turnaround, some joker zips his little red import in, right into her (and soon-to-be my) spot at the pump!

Okay, remain calm. Be cool. Walk slowly, unthreateningly up the his window. He's looking at his girlfriend in the passenger's seat. (I can just barely see her over this guy's big wide shoulders.) That's when I realize that this guy is big and looks more like a Marine than I ever did. Oh great... I've already tapped on his window. Hey, I might make the news! "Local blogger killed in gas line dispute." Luckily, about the same time that the hulk was beginning to sneer at me, he noticed that the lady who had turned around was approaching, along with two other guys who had been using the pumps on the other side of the "island." Apparently, speed-racer's move was noticed by most everyone there, and he was meeting with the glaring scorn of nearly as dozen nonplussed onlookers.

The interloper must have realized that he had earned the ire of the longsuffering gas station patrons, and he wasn't willing to face up the quiet but stern group staring him down. Much to my relief, there was room for him to gun his engine and zip out of the lot unhindered. Whew. It was kind of interesting how no words needed to be exchanged by those of us left at the gas station. We just glanced at each other, and all I had to do was quickly lift my eyebrows and tilt my head for them to pick up and acknowledge my gratitude.

So I waited for the PT Cruiser to finish, gassed up, and headed home. I felt like I was some sort of primitive, bringing home a kill. Well, I felt that, plus the tempering sobriety of having needed (or at least been happy to have) the pack around me for protection.

Good post on the T(ee) V(ee) restrictions, but what about the Cruz Bustamante, er I mean Jon Polito movies? Should they be fair game for broadcast? Certainly, their effect could be viewed as neither supporting or flattering to the Lt. Gov., but any publicity is good publicity, as they say, as long as they spell your screen name right.

Just thought I should mention it, since Michael Medved ain't the only one who's been pointing out the Polito/Bustamante dual career.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003
Phil's Take on ASThe Made-for-T(ee)V(ee) Election

If you'd like a break from all of the serious political discourse about Gray, Arnold, and the other governor wannabes, stroll on over to for Philip Michaels's "Station Break" about the affect California Election Law has on television programming. Or, for fans of Drudge & The Smoking Gun who can't get enough of that typewriter font, you can read the exact same article on Phil's weblog.

Current Song: "Kill Your Television" from the album God Fodder by Ned's Atomic Dustbin

Current Drink: Diet Coke from the fountain at Carl's Jr.

While I agree with Powerline's (via Brad's link) assertion that it is ridiculous to pretend that Judeo-Christian morality didn't play an essential role in our country's founding and the presuppositions of many of the founding fathers, I think most of the conservative discourse on last year's "taking God out of the pledge" debacle misses a much more important point. To quote Lawrence O'Donnell on the June 28, 2002 edition of The McLaughlin Group:

And it's funny to see this country getting all hopped up over a hundred-year-old poem written by a socialist, who would -- and when you look at the Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson, you can tell not one of those signatories would want to believe that we now have a loyalty oath in this country that we must recite, by law, in public schools.

O'Donnell is dead right. It is obscene that we ask, we COMMAND, children to recite a loyalty oath before they are even mature enough to understand the promise they are making. To underscore the silliness of the furor, McLaughlin points out that, "The Pledge of Allegiance dates to 1892, but the words 'one nation, under God' were not added until 1954."

Further, everyone seems to avoid an even larger point about reciting ANYTHING in a public school: The government, particularly the federal government, has NO DAMN BUSINESS running education in this country. Education is inherently moral, inherently religious. You are training minds to think a certain way, and that kind of control should not be left in the hands of the state, particularly a state founded on Enlightenment principles of individual liberty. Cases like this only underscore the problem of having the government meddle in territory that is not theirs to manage.

Don't swim with seals. Bad things happen.

Big Trunk has two posts for the ages over at Power Line (well, technically two days ago now). This one and this one. You should see them. The ACLU should see them. (Then the ACLU folks should slink home with their collective tail between their legs.)

A headline at OpinionJournal, Frank Lloyd Wright may yet "build" Baghdad, struck a memory: before I went to California and went to college with co-monkey Ben, I went to Arizona State University with co-monkey R.B., and across from our dorm was Gammage Auditorium. I remembered hearing that Frank Lloyd Wright had "designed it for some sheik or something but it never got built." The OpinionJournal article doesn't mention this fact, Wright did use his Baghdad ideas, albeit in a different desert with asphalt instead of rivers running under its sweeping walkways.

There's some good discussion of all of this, with pictures, here.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003
Blogging from PurgatoryStart time: 8:23 p.m., Pacific Daylight Time

Tonight, sadly, I blog from Purgatory. For those of you that enjoyed my light-hearted evening in Paradise, just move on to the next entry. There's nothing to see here.

Current Drink: well martini, straight up with an extra olive
Current Song: "Bad To The Bone" by George Thorogood and the Destroyers

You see, I'm not in glorious San Francisco, drinking and dining at the magnificent Fiddler's Green. No, today I am eating sub-par ribs at the Tony Roma's across the street from Disneyland, the so-called "Happiest Place on Earth." Well, I will confess that I hold a soft place in my heart for the Magic Kingdom, but today it merely mocks me. This week is the last "blackout week" for the Southern California Annual Pass, and I can hear the Matterhorn mocking me as I shuffle by the park entrance from my hotel, past the Most Expensive IHOP On Earth, to Tony Roma's. It laughs, and I weep.

Current Song: "Venus" by Bananarama

The music is bad. Not HORRIBLE, merely bad. Pop and disco from the 70's, 80's, and 90's. The reason I say it is not horrible has to do with my recent realization that this "smooth jazz" that Clear Channel has foisted upon every major radio market is truly the Worst Music Ever. I never cared for it much, but when I was forced to listen to it for 45 minutes straight as my father drove me home from a baseball game, I grew to loathe it. The muscles in my neck tightened, my blood vessels expanding at the base of my skull. To make matters worse, the Diamondbacks lost the game to the freaking New York Mets.

Music like this is one of several reasons I describe this place as Purgatory. It's not exactly Hell. It doesn't feel like eternal punishment. But it DOES make me feel like my sins are being purged by way of annoying music. I didn't get the benefit of a Catholic prep school education like Brad did, but I'm pretty sure that's the kind of stuff Dante described in volume two of the Divine Comedy.

Current Drink: Martini #2
Current Song: "You Can Call Me Al" by Paul Simon

I didn't set out to have dinner at Tony Roma's, especially this one. Back in Arizona, you can usually count on TR's to give you a pretty decent plate of unclean meat. But this one is the "I'm across the street from Disneyland so I don't have to try" Tony Roma's. My ribs were dry, the selection of whisk(e)y, wine, and beer were all unsatisfactory, and the service is "phoned in". Knowing this, I asked the front desk at my hotel if there was any place other than TR's where I could get a nice dinner. When they suggested Mimi's Cafe, I knew I was not going to get anywhere asking this crew. So I grabbed my briefcase and trudged past the snickering Matterhorn on my way to "Downtown Disney", the outdoor mall wedged between Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure. I should have known better.

Virtually all of the restaurants in DD were owned by the same company, and they all offered the same kind of over-priced watered-down faux-sophisticated cuisine you can expect from a Disney theme park. Ever had dinner at the Blue Bayou, inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride? That's what I'm talking about. There was a House of Blues and an ESPN Zone. I considered entering the latter and seeing if they were airing tonight's Diamondbacks game, but I really wanted a decent meal, even if I had to find out later about our crushing defeat [we actually won, 6-1, but I didn't know that at the time]. While reviewing the DD directory, I noticed a restaurant or two inside the Grand Californian resort that looked appealing, so I wandered inside. No such luck. The one restaurant that looked like it might have something good was outrageously priced, and there was no way I was going to pay $70+ for DisneyFood.

With my tail between my legs, I walked back to the Rib-o-rama.

Current Song: "Don't Worry, Be Happy" by Bobby McFerrin
Current Meal: Some kind of "rib sampler" with four different types of ribs, baked potato, and corn on the cob

You know, for having just consumed two martinis, I'm feeling pretty much stone sober. That's not what I was shooting for, I'll tell ya. Numb would be a better description of the target. I spent about two hours floating in my pool Saturday waging war with my pool sweep, which stubbornly refused to enter the shallow end of the pool and take care of business. At the end of two hours, I left the pool defeated, with an outrageous sunburn to remind me of the pool sweep's superior skill in battle. I would like my expensive beverages to at least make the pain of my sunburn go away.

By the way, I hate my pool. This is the first pool I've ever owned, and I really don't like it. Oh, I enjoyed it for the first 6-8 weeks or so. But then came the cleaning. The cleaning and the chemicals and the cracked plaster and the motherf--ing pool sweep that won't visit the shallow end. Growing up, my sister and I always wanted a pool, but my father stubbornly refused. "Too much work, and you'll never use it." I'm sorry, Dad. I'm sorry I ever doubted you. I take back every stupid thing I said as a teenager.

Current Song: "She's Got the Look" by Roxxette
Current Drink: Samuel Adams Summer Ale

I should have had another martini, but I bought a beer so I could sip it and have time to blog. My ribs are long gone. Mediocre, but filling, and I was quite hungry after my journey through the Crappiest Mall on Earth. Part of my problem is that I don't have a car - I made a critical error in estimating the distance between my hotel and the customer I'm servicing during this trip, and had our local sales guy pick me up from "the three named airport" (is it John Wayne? Santa Ana? Orange County? it's a mystery), so now I don't have a vehicle. If I did, I could have driven away from tourist-ville and found either a good restaurant or at least a place where I could buy a good bottle of wine to take back to my hotel room.

Anyway, I'm sipping the beer, blogging, and hoping that in a few minutes I'll have room for dessert, and that dessert will be better than dinner. Crazy. Maybe the martinis are having an effect after all.

Current Song: "Addicted to Love" by Robert Palmer

Okay, about the whole ROPMA thing, I know it's frequently used in conjunction with some sort of jingoistic ranting, but there's really something to the phrase. I mean, if Christians have to take the rap for the Crusades and the Inquisition, hundreds of years after the fact when none of the perpetrators are alive anymore, shouldn't SOMEONE have to own up to the fact that it doesn't MATTER if your scriptures aren't in sync with the behavior in question. What matters is that the clergy are actively encouraging murder and mayhem in the name of God. And the clergy ARE the religion - there's no Martin Luther going around proclaiming the doctrine of "Sola Korana". What the mullahs say, goes.

Maybe I'm being overly simplistic - I'm not trying to say it's a universal thing, any more than I would accept the assertion that all Christians are intolerant murdering bigots. But it DOES seem like the active religious leadership are highly complicit in the current misdeeds. Where is the opposition from within the active clergy? Pat Robertson may be a bonehead, but there are 100 other Christian leaders saying he's a bonehead. There are 1,000 Christian clergymen who will stand up and tell you that the Crusades and the Inquisition were horrible abuses of power by a corrupt church that had lost its way.

I probably shouldn't be thinking out loud, but these demons have been nagging me, and here in Purgatory the nagging is particularly loud. Are Americans really so stupid that if our President doesn't get on the television and tell them half-truths about Islam, they'll go on a killing spree, senselessly murdering any person with a funny name? On second thought, maybe so.

Current Song: "Boogie Oogie Oogie" by ??? [holy cow, who programs this stuff?]
Current Drink: Bailey's and coffee with too much whipped cream

Hey, a guy deserves a sissy drink after an ad-hoc rant like that. This one has a maraschino cherry on top. I hate maraschino cherries, but I can tie the stem into a knot with my tongue. I learned how reading an interview with Lara Flynn Boyle in Rolling Stone back when "Twin Peaks" was on the air. Sherilynn Fenn (sp?) actually did the tongue thing on the show, but confessed in her own interview that she didn't know how to do the trick, but LFB could do it. Anyway, it's not really a marketable skill unless you're a hustler...

I ordered the "Skillet Brownie Sundae". Hopefully it won't be as dry as the ribs.

Current Song: "I Touch Myself" by Divinyls

Oh, I almost forgot to tell you my "edumacated waitress" story. There's a restaurant in the Valley called "Uncle Sam's", that serves American-Italian food. The food's good, but they serve Pepsi products, so I pretty much "have" to order a beer when I eat there. One afternoon, I was meeting one of my business partners for some wings and a beer, and the waitress approached the table to take my drink order. We were going to be there for a couple of hours, but Dave wasn't going to be drinking, so I didn't want to order a whole pitcher for myself. I asked the waitress if I could have a pint of Fat Tire, one of my preferred malt beverages. She informed me that they didn't have pints, only glasses, 1/2 pitchers, and pitchers.

"What sizes are your glasses?" I asked.

"Sixteen ounces," she replied.

"I'll just have one of those, then," I replied. Somewhat gracious of me, I thought.

Current Song: "Footloose" by Kenny Loggins
Current Drink: coffee, with four little half & half cups

Ugh. I've got to get out of here. "Check, please!"

(If only Dante had considered this route of escape)

Dry State Update MCXIX

This evening has allowed the media to steamroll past my ability to stay on top of the latest developments in the gas shortage. The meeting between our (still) ridiculous governor and the pipeline owners was described as "heated" by the KTVK-3 news folks. Prices of just one tenth of a cent below $4/gallon were confirmed. There's lots of talk about inspection reports over the last year or so warning of corrosion and some damage to the 30 year old pipeline. It was reported as an aside that federal inspectors have admitted that the exact location of current failure did not correspond directly with previously cited spots along the pipeline.

Waits today reached two hours. There were lots of overheated cars, overheated people, and stranded gasless motorists. There were also many stories of the lengths to which some phoenix residents resorted (not to mention footage of some hot headed scenes at the pumps). Many people drove an hour and a half out of town to get to the remaining available gas. That's about the equivalent of 1/8th of a tank spent (each way?) for a fill up. Other clever folks dug deep in the wallet to take out rental cars that had full tanks.

One enterprising oddball put his personal gas finding abilities up on eBay.

Dry State Update MCXVIII

Good news and bad news.

The good news is that the radio has just announced that our ridiculous governor has talked with the EPA and is planning on exercising her authority to allow non-MTBE-added gasoline into the state for use during the crisis. Similarly, she is supposedly taking steps to increase truck driver's allowable driving hours from 70 to 80 hours per week. Okay, maybe she's a little less ridiculous now.

The bad news is that our family doesn't have the gas (in our family-sized car) to go to my folks' place for our weekly dinner. My wife explained upon returning home that "there's simply no gas." She passed an open station on her way to OfficeMax (over 40 cars in line). On her way home (with the needle on E) that station was closed. No other station between there and home was open. There's simply no gas. Not right now, anyway.

UPDATE: My wife reports - this morning when her brother headed to work at 4:30 AM there were already lines 20 cars long at the pumps near his home in Ahwatukee. This evening I lobbied for an empirical test: ordering delivery pizza to see if the drivers had gas. My wife reported that they ordered pizza at her office today without difficulty. Lastly, my brother-in-law has been working on a project up north in Prescott and is scheduled to bring some gas down to the valley for the family business' trucks in the morning.

Dry State Update VIII

Lynne Kiesling over at The Knowldge Problem has been tackling the matters of energy and the dangers of the interconnectedness of the electrical power grid, in light of the modern threat of terrorism and other factors. Well, our little crisis here in Arizona has me wondering about our fuel supply's lack of interconnectedness. The 30 year old pipeline that has led to 30% of our gasoline inflow being cut off is just an 8-inch pipe - at least that's how everybody keeps describing it - out there in the desert. I really don't know if it's above ground or buried, but pipelines are notoriously insecure with regard to sabotage. Guarding pipelines is practically an exercise in futility. The real goal of patrolling such fuel lines is to keep an eye out for leaks and failures like the one that caused our current mess. (I never thought my time as a Marine in a Bulk Fuel company would have any relevance to my blogging, but here we are.)

[UPDATE: Just found out that at least portions of the pipeline are buried. And while we're talking about it, isn't it convenient that this article (and now this post) tells the world exactly where to find the pipeline's vulnerable spot? Don't worry. Nobody reads this blog.]

The Kinder Morgan Energy Partners pipeline system in question carries 30% of Arizona's total fuel flow in from Texas (the other 70% comes from California). But what a fragile link for a whopping fraction of our energy demand! No, I don't have a solution worked out already. I'll leave that to Lynne Kiesling and the policy makers smart enough to listen to such a talented blogger/commentator.

Does pointing out the security threat highlighted by the Ohio/New York outage and the dry gas tanks in Phoenix amount to political piling on? Maybe. But tell me how such a concern is unworthy of study.

Dry State Update VII

This just in via the radio: Local legislators are calling on our ridiculous governor to exercise the power she already has through Executive Order to suspend the MTBE requirement for our local gasoline.

Meanwhile, democratic supporters in the legislature and elsewhere are being reported on the radio as denouncing those who would lay the blame for the crisis at the feet of our ridiculous governor. Still no word yet on her planned meeting with the EPA advisors. (Yes, that last sentence was meant to sound sarcastic.)

Proud Papa UpdateProud Papa Update

I bought the 4-disc DVD box set of the first season (26 episodes) of Rocky & Bullwinkle & Friends, and my three and five year old daughters LOVE it. Especially "Fractured Fairy Tales". They watched seven straight episodes (the first disc) while lounging with me on the couch Sunday. I'll bet our ridiculous governor's children don't have such exceptional taste. That is, if she has any offspring that she hasn't eaten.

Dry State Update VI

This article seconds the 10 days to two weeks resolution time frame. It's a good article, mentioning how supplies that normally last 12 hours in a gas station are being drained in 4 to 8 hours. Remember, this is not due to hording. It's because so many of the other stations have no gas at all.

[Editorial] I am bothered by those who claim that there is no shortage. Whether there's gas at the tank farm downtown or not, there's not much out in the stations, where people can get to it. That's a shortage, friend. Yes, there's gasoline all around our neighboring states, but not a drop to drink. Our MTBE additive requirements make that fuel unusable to us. So, there really is a shortage. The tanker trucks from Tucson may really be bringing a total of more gasoline than we usually consume, but some are being rerouted (still don't know where), and they don't deliver to anywhere but the bottlenecked tank farm. I'm sorry, but the conditions on the street can't be ignored. It's a "shortage" no matter how you want to parse it.

And I haven't seen any evidence of hording. None, other than the expressed concerns of our ridiculous governor. I have to believe it's a red herring, designed to plant a seed of blame shifting. "Don't top off." Well, I think the 45 minute waits are doing more to prevent that than any nannying from officials.

UPDATE: Ahh... finally a grown up enters the scene. I haven't been a big fan of Congressman Jeff Flake, but I have to praise the report that today he has petitioned the EPA to temporarily relax our MTBE additive requirements.

There's also now a report that a spokesperson for our ridiculous governor is in talks with the AZ National Guard about using some 16 military tanker trucks (2,500 gallon capacity) to haul gas for the duration of the "shortage."

UPDATE "[The MTBE added fuel] is expensive and nobody wants to make it," ConocoPhillips' [official] said, "particularly since the blend will be changed to a winter formula Oct. 31."

Dry State Update V

Earlier I tried to keep some perspective and maintain a distinction between our dry-county situation and the "rolling blackout" experienced by New York and neighboring states last week. Well, Tucson's local Fox affiliate informs us that our ridiculous governor isn't holding back on the equation.

UPDATE: Some of the impact on local business is accounted for in this article.
"Our main buyers are the ding-a-ling trucks that sell ice cream," said Jesus Jaramillo, president of Phoenix-based Highland Wholesale. "If they can't put gas in their vans, they can't go out and sell our ice cream."
Now before you jump on me for being unfair in (over)stating my claim that Phoenix ain't Manhattan, let me point out that that was the first point made in the linked article. Yes, the crisis is having a more grave impact on the state than just some curbed ice cream vendors. I just couldn't resist taking this opportunity to shine a light on what a class act our big local Gannett newspaper is.

Dry State Update IV

Early word that the pipeline has been cleared for re-testing, but the details are awfully thin. (Honestly, the link isn't even worth your time. This post and the article's headline give you all the info that's currently available. I'd like to know how long the testing procedure should take.)

UPDATE: The radio is reporting that the testing has been approved and that there is a possibilty that the pipeline could be back in operation this weekend.


Dry State Update III

Oh man. Now the radio is telling me that our ridiculous governor is warning us that it could be up to two weeks before the shortage issues are smoothed out.

This just in:
Napolitano [our ridiculous governor] is also scheduled to receive policy recommendations from the Department of Environmental Quality on what kind of regulatory reforms could be enacted in the short-term to help the flow of gas.
Oh, that's good news. Bringing in business specialists...

Now there's talk of our ridiculous governor weighing immediate mandatory rationing and maneuvering anti-gouging price regulations onto the legislative agenda.

(As they say) developing...

UPDATE: confirmation of the "two weeks" comment and the legislation available here.

It's hard to wade through the details of the situation and its lawsuits, but King at SCSU Scholars updates us (with several quality links) on yet another development in the ascendence of post-modern "higher critics" as the delineators of the new orthodoxy. One of the players in the complicated drama, Carey Walsh, explains of Rhodes College:
In this religion department, Jesus, I was informed by the New Testament scholar no less, was a wimp, Paul an idiot, the Resurrection, a no-brainer (no), God, alas, an ancient delusion, irrelevant yet curiously worthy of contempt.

I'm no saint or fundamentalist, just an average, lazy Catholic, tolerant of differences, but I was deceived and axed when I didn't share cynicism about faith.
She's certainly no fundamentalist. Walsh reminds me of the sort of person I recently wrote about. The higher-education maven is anything but a Puritan. Far from being a religious righter, she is nonetheless falling victim to the machinations of those who are revealed as wearers of the emperor's new clothes.

Dry State Update II

Confirmed gas prices as high $3.80 per gallon are being reported on today's news. Two weeks ago the averge price for a gallon in these parts was $1.50.

In better news, some state senators are putting the screws to Napolitano (our ridiculous governor) to take substantial action. The timeline on the pipeline repair approval is now back to being described as 3-5 days, but that's what they were saying two days ago. (The 7-10 day time frame was publicly in play all day yesterday and last night.)

Surprisingly, our ridiculous governor's office is now publicly shifting the blame for the delay to the owners of the pipeline (the folks who've already fixed it). The buck stops there, I guess.

Dry State Update

In my last post, I mentioned that lines for gas were about 12-14 cars long. Well, having just come in off the streets, today's lines (before the lunch hour rush) are running at least 30 cars long. More gas pumps are wrapped in "caution" tape with plastic bags over the handles. People now realize that any gas station without a line means it must be dry. And while it pales in comparison to the tragedies occuring thoughout the world today, folks are getting themselves into trouble here by waiting until they're almost on absolute empty, then waiting in line with their A/C off to keep from running dry. This sort of thing has caused more than one seizure/medical emergency at our gas stations today.

I'm sure it sounds too hokey to be believed, but someone actually did run out of gas on the road, just two cars ahead of me today. The guy rolled to a stop about 400 yards from a station with a 35+ car queue. Obviously, this picture isn't of that very guy, but such sights are becoming common.

Headline quote from our ridiculous governor: "Be cool."

Phoenix - "Yes, but it's a dry gas tank."

At least there's an upside to our gas shortage here in Arizona:
[Joe Lieberman has had to alter/postpone] his planned "Journey for Joe" road trip through Arizona in a recreational vehicle.

The Democratic U.S. senator from Connecticut was to have embarked Tuesday on a weeklong, 21-city tour of the state in a 40-foot RV his organization was calling a "WinnebaJoe."
I think I heard something on yesterday's top o' the hour national news about our situation here. But it seems that unless you disrupt 50 million people in the epicenter of media, these sort of things don't get too much play. (Somewhere recently I had read about a virtual media blackout of a series of storms causing a multi-week power outage in the southeast. It only affected a little over 1.5 million people. But it was fly-over county, so hey...

Yes... we have a bit of a crisis here in Arizona. There's plenty of gas around. But for various reasons, we just can't get it. Let's start from the beginning. Here in our dry, dusty neck of the woods, we are required by statute to use a special blend of gasoline that must contain varying percentages of "cleaner burning" MTBE. That means that our gas in not only more expensive than in surrounding states, but we can't import gas from them either. (California has labelled MTBE a "carcinogen" so they're phasing it out.) Anyway, it's like being a Macintosh leper (which I am) in a world of PC's. The MTBE itself costs more, and the limited supply of it, and the tight production schedule that such factors force the refineries into al combine to alter the narrow supply/demand curve and hike up our prices. (Conveniently, though, these factors are left out of local reporting, which allows for conveniently alarmist news stories - why are our gas prices consistently among the highest in the nation? war profiteering? collusion? Uh, no - it's called "the market" with a big side order of "over-regulation."

The latest twist on our gasoline woes is that a pipeline from Tucson to Phoenix ruptured back on July 30th. [UPDATE: the rupture wasn't catastrophic and the pipeline wasn't shut down until Aug. 8th] The pipeline could have continued to run at 80% capacity, but it was shut down entirely for testing, repair, and more testing. There was the usual "there will only be a crisis if people panic and horde" announcement. It was reasonable at the time, since only a 30% decrease in our standard delivery was expected for a short time. Well, that has been dragging on and on now...

The pipeline is fixed, but we have to wait for some federal officials from the Office of Pipeline Safety in Washington, D.C. to come out and put some stamp of approval on the fix. Now they are haggling with the pipeline's owners over the details of some further structural integrity testing. Meanwhile, the shortage here is becoming real.

Two days ago, we got word that a special delivery of fuel was being sent up from Tucson via tanker trucks. No need to panic," they told us. Well, okay. No one panicked. But it was getting hard to find gas. Two of the three closest stations near my house were bone dry yesterday morning. Remember the photographs from the 70's energy crisis? That's just what it looked like here.

While our ridiculous governor hot the airwaves again yesterday, promising that if we would just not panic & horde then everything would be okay... well, things just kept getting worse. Those trucks from Tucson? Well for some reason, a lot of them wound up being rerouted. I don't know where to. They just didn't come to the Phoenix area. [Developing...] Other tanker trucks have been delayed because of mandatory rest hours for the drivers. The other piece of the puzzle was that many of the trucks from Tucson to Phoenix made that exact trip. And only that trip. They got to their destination downtown and dropped off their loads at a central distribution point [UPDATE: it's called the "tank farm"]. They weren't scheduled to take the gas to any gas stations. While that's reasonable, the problems mount when you realize that the shortage has caused a back up at this chokepoint. Local trucks have reportedly faced 10 hour waits at the downtown distribution points. There's also been an announcement that there are simply not enough drivers. How does it add up? Well, I doubt I could "show my work" in the margins, but the end product is a real honest-to-Pete gas shortage that's affecting the whole dang valley (and reportedly spreading as far as Flagstaff).

Yesterday, I had let my gas gauge get down tear E and my warning light had been on for two days. It was time to fill up. Every station that was not wrapped with tape, signifying "no gas," had a line of at least a dozen cars waiting while every pump was occupied. Most lines spilled hazardously out onto the streets. I was lucky to find an Albertsons (supermarket) that had a convenience store-style outpost & gas station in its parking lot. To keep lines off the streets, and to maintain a sense of order, the store employees had two managers and a butcher out in the Phoenix sun constantly directing traffic and maintaining a proper queue in the parking lot. After about a 30 minute wait, I was waved in to a pump. Regular unleaded and midgrade were dry. "Gasoline. Premium grade. Hot. Make it so." And I paid $2.39 per gallon. < old man voice > ...and we were thankful < /old man voice >

Unsubstantiated rumors report prices up over $3 per gallon and rationing in some locations.

Folks are now making plans to head out at 3 or 4 AM just to get gas. Not to horde, mind you. Just to get to work. The shortage is beginning to really impact business too. In the used book/zines/games/music megastore (Bookman's, a.k.a. "DreckStar") the clerks commented on how slow store traffic was yesterday. I was even able to find several empty parking spots right by the door. Now that's unusual. (Anecdotal? Yes, but similar stories are playing out all over the metro area.)

Meanwhile, our ridiculous governor just keeps repeating her "everything-will-be-okay" mantra over the airwaves. This on the same day that we learn that it's going to take another 7 to 10 days for the federal honchos to get out and approve the pipeline repair. ,< Archie Bunker voice > Mister, we could use a man like Pete Wilson and his emergency powers... < Archie Bunker voice > (sorry, I just had to tie this in with the recall election issue - that's all anybody's readin' about these days...)

Now we're getting word that even last week's eastern seaboard power failure (oh, I mean "rolling blackout" - for you California voters) is affecting production and pricing. You can guess which directions.

7 - 10 more days? Just so we can get a nice federal smiley-face sticker on our work? Janet (our ridiculous governor), find your spine and take charge.