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Thursday, January 22, 2004
In celebration of the Year of the Monkey, we're outta here.

Yes, it's true, the long-promised move to Movable Type has at last been completed.

The new URL is

Update your links.

Click Here to go now.

Go on. Don't be afraid.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004
It's the Year of the Green Wooden Monkey!

The site linked to above claims the Chinese New Year started at 13:05 Pacific Time, with is 10:05 Eastern Time, which makes no sense. It starts on January 22nd in China.

So for the purposes of the monkeys here, the Year of the Monkey begins when we say it does.

We'll let you know.

Monkey Lies!I was lied to by my fellow Monkeys. Lied to, I tells ya. Ben and David both assured me that Boodles Gin has a side-effect that can best be described as "hallucinogenic". Well, I'm here to testify that last Saturday evening I had "enough" Boodles-based martinis, and there was not a hallucination to be found. In fact, I find both the taste and effect of Bombay Sapphire to be much more satisfying.

How much of that stuff do you have to drink to see monkeys fly, clocks melt, and Howard Dean self-destruct?

Speaking of lies, I did NOT lie about how long the "I'll miss you most of all, Scarecrow" portion of "The Return of The King" lasted. I went to see the movie again last Saturday and I timed it. Twenty minutes, almost to the second, between the time Frodo wakes up at Auntie Em's house and the point where The Cowardly Lion Sam arrives home to spawn a baker's dozen little hobbits. Yawn! The movie was a little better the second time, though.

Monkey MailIn an off-line e-mail, R.B. Monkey sent this paragraph:

> Robb, in your 2004 post you could have included _the airing_ of the
> one-time Alarm reunion (though it was obviously taped in '03). I
> watched the Berlin reunion. It was a fun program. Terri Nunn looks
> almost better than ever.

Interesting. Usually, the opposite is true. Examples:

1. Debbie Harry
2. Heart
3. Exene Cervenka (who was not exactly heart-stopping to begin with)

I saw the reunited X twice last year, and the second time we were so close to the stage that, well, I pretty much wished I wasn't so close to the stage. I shudder to think what Johnette from Concrete Blonde looks like now, because she was damn scary in her prime. Siouxsie seems to have weathered the storm, though, if the picture on the cover of a 2002 DVD performance is any indication.

I'm holding off judgement on the Alarm thing until I hear it. Unlike Mitch, I thought the Alarm had one good EP and album, followed by one "pretty good" album (Strength) and about three total pieces of shite. Hopefully Mike Peters has grown up and settled down a little, because the stage banter was just embarrassing.

Year of the Monkey MadnessOkay, three musical reasons why the Year of the Monkey is already shaping up to be a great year:

1. The Pixies (all four members) are back together
2. Camper Van Beethoven will be releasing a new album this year
3. Tony Levin is back in King Crimson

These are very "retro" delights, to be sure, but when exciting things are happening with three of my Favorite Bands Ever, I can't help but assume there's Monkey Madness behind it.

TomorrowYear of the Monkey(s)

Tomorrow is Chinese New Year. The first day of the Year of the Monkey. I wonder if anything interesting will happen. Will we do anything to celebrate? Time will tell.

Bill MaherItem one: Bill Maher is an idiot.
Item two: When did Ron Silver turn into a hawk?
Item three: Why am I watching this?

Tuesday, January 20, 2004
Crazy For Feeling So Blue...

Loyal Infinite Monkeys reader Guy points out Jonah Goldberg's take on the Dean craziness last night:
He then let loose what could only be called a primal scream: ?YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAGGGHHHHHH!?

Okay it could be called other things too. But whatever it was, he sounded like he meant to go to a proctologist but accidentally visited a chimney sweep instead.
This is indeed funny, but after thinking for a moment, I'm offended. "Primal scream"? No, no--primal screams are what monkeys do. Speaking for monkeys--as I always do, as sadly too many have no voice--what Dean did was not primal. It was crazy, batty, daft, potty, lunatic, mad, manic, nuts, screwy, unbalanced, wacked, koo-koo for Coco Puffs, off the deep end...but not primal.

And, yes, Dean saw the bunnies, George.

Monday, January 19, 2004
Well, I got sucked into Evangelical Outpost's question of the week:

What are some of the misperceptions that people have about evangelicals?

As an example, Joe offered, "Many people mistakenly believe that most evangelicals (75%) are premillenial dispensationalists." Many of the comments focus on this example.

Not to get bogged down on eschatology (I know it was just an example), but if you exclude denominations that are arguably heterodox (Oneness Pentacostals and other Unitarians, Mainline denominations that refuse to make their clergy affirm basic "settled" tenets such as the virgin birth, diety of Christ, etc.) and Catholics & Orthodox, who haven't traditionally been labeled "evangelical", then I think you do probably find dispensationalism to be the majority report, at least in America. And the high-profile folks probably tilt the perception even further. Myself, I'm somewhere between amillennial and postmillennial, but I was raised dispensational, and most of the largest churches in the west are at least nominally dispensational.

But what do many folks (particularly non-Christians) perceive about evangelicals? That we define ourselves by what we are "against". Evangelicals are against homosexuality. We are against abortion. We are against pre- and extra-marital sex. Maybe we're against ordaining women. Perhaps we're against smoking, drinking, drugs, dancing, or playing cards. Don't forget that filthy rock and roll music. Unless we live in the South, we're probably against anybody who identifies themselves as a Democrat. Just examples, but telling examples.

So what if we're against those things, right? Doesn't the Bible say God is displeased by those things? In some (fewer than you'd think) cases, yes, but I think it is a major problem that Christianity is identified by the things it's against, rather than what it is for. Why aren't we identified by our above-average propensity to forgive injustices done to us? By our tendency to avoid settling matters in courtrooms? By our extraordinarily ethical business practices? Why are Christians not perceived to be agents of God's grace on this earth?

Yes, we're all sinners, but if that's the case, then shouldn't we be seen as particularly aware of our own shortcomings, rather than just pointing out those of others? As I heard one (very conservative Reformed) pastor say, "Moralism obscures the gospel." I think about this a lot, and I really agree. Yes, we should engage the culture intellectually and by other means. We should talk about right and wrong. But more than that, we should be agents of grace. Influence with positive action instead of negative. Be known for our love instead of our self-righteousness.

I speak to myself, of course, as much as I do to others. May we all find the grace to reflect God's image accurately.

Sunday, January 18, 2004
I'm not entirely convinced by the Iowa polls (Mickey Kaus discussed this on Thursday), but it does seem like the Democrats may have come to their senses. What was supposed to be an easy stroll into paradise for Dean may become an "Of Mice and Men" moment, with the Democratic party saying, "Do you see the bunnies, Howard? Tell me about the bunnies..."

Wednesday, January 14, 2004
I would, of course, be remiss if I did not point out the Year of the Monkey Fever.

AthensA late-breaking plug for the DVD edition of the delightful film "Athens, GA Inside/Out". I always loved this movie about the mid-80's music scene in the town that is home to the University of Georgia, but it's been out of print for years. I paid $40 for a good copy on VHS just a year ago. Well, in true Murphy's law fashion, it was re-released in 2003 on DVD with commentary by the director and producer. The commentary was as deliciously low-tech as the movie itself. You won't be able to rent it, but it's definitely worth the purchase.

It's ugly to see what the liberal media is doing to Howard Dean. They want to stop him, whether because they don't believe he can win, or because they just try to tear down every rising star. The ridiculous and offensive "analysis" of his wife staying out of politics, the attempt at a new Troopergate (no, no links--I'm not dignifying this stuff) is terrible to see, and I'm no fan of Dean. He, and the political process, deserve better.

ImmigrationOkay, so we've got an immigration "problem". Among other things, thousands of folks are sneaking into America, working jobs that Americans don't really want, and using our social services without paying taxes. So what's the problem here?

Problem #1: Too many social services. Getting rid of the illegals is, in this instance, a classic case of treating the symptom and not the disease. Cut programs, cut programs, cut programs. Don't give up on this and start blaming illegal consumers.

Problem #2: The tax system sucks. Paying taxes on our income is absurd. The most "law-abiding citizens" get screwed by income taxes. Taxation, whatever there is of it, should be based on consumption, and be collected at the point of sale. Will "black market" transactions take place? Sure, but I don't think significantly more than they do now. People don't want to buy a couch or even a beer in a back alley somewhere. They want to go to the mall and shop.

I've got to get back to work, but here's my "radical plan", sure to offend economists and other practical people:

1. Open the borders, in both directions
2. Stop delivering social services to people who don't pay taxes
3. Get Mexico and Canada to dump their current currencies and use the U. S. Dollar
4. Annex both countries, converting all of their existing states and provinces to U. S. Territories

Step 5, "move to Baja" will pretty much take care of itself.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004
LileksWhy does Lileks have a daughter that's the same age as my girls? So that he can make all of the humorous and poignant observations before they can even congeal in my head, that's why.

I like Spongebob, though. When my girls first started watching it, I thought, "this is a show by pot-heads and for pot-heads", but I have really grown to enjoy the (fairly post-modern) humor. James is right about the commercials, though. Thank God for TiVo. A blessing for the parent that is concerned about their kids' television intake but too spineless (or possibly practical?) to throw the television away. My girls have a library of "parent approved" DVD's, and a generous supply of three shows on TiVo: Spongebob Squarepants, Powerpuff Girls (with the "Him" episodes deleted) and Dora the Explorer. We still have to forward through the commercials, but we don't have to put up with any of the other crap on these channels.

I miss Rolie Polie Olie too, by the way. May he rest in peace. The girls just don't like the Disney Channel morning fare anymore. I tell my wife they're boycotting the network until the wicked Michael Eisner is ousted. They're those kind of children, you know. Principled.

Full belly, empty glassZzzzzzz.....

Oh, hi there. My belly is full, and my glass is empty, so I've just got a few minutes. What? What am I having? Oh, the food was okay. Chinese from this little place in a strip mall not far from my hotel. The Kung Pao chicken was about average - I'm not a fan of zucchini in my Kung Pao, and I prefer more water chestnuts. Also, I asked for "extra spicy", and it didn't really even qualify as "spicy". The pork fried rice was sub-par - not "fried" enough. I blame California for this. I got three fortune cookies, though. Here's what we know: "You will have a long and healthy life." Hmmm. I'm not sure what to think about that. Is that a blessing or a curse? Hard to say. "You have a deep appreciation of the arts and music." Well, I love music, but I'm a complete Philistine. Moving on. "You will always get what you want through your charm and personality." Nothing could be more true. For the next guy.

The wine, however, is excellent. I've praised Trader Joe's before, and it is now a ritual for me to stop there on my way into Rocklin and pick up a couple of bottles of sub-$10 red wine that I've never tried before. Tonight's selection: Amarone della Valpolicella 1998 from Conte Di Bregonzo. I think I paid $9.99 for this bottle, and I don't know much about wine, but so far I haven't been lead astray by "cheap and Italian". Here's a little something I learned about this wine and the Amarone style:
Amarone is an ancient wine style made by the unusual method of letting the grapes dry on racks before committing them to winemaking. The result in this case is rich, ripe brooding fruit with ample complexity added by earth and who knows what. I'll be buying more of this stuff.
Okay, whatever. But it's good beverage.

I've got something French for tomorrow - I'll tell you about it then. Oh, and I picked up a bottle of Boodles British Gin, on the recommendation of fellow Monkeys Ben & David. I'm told this gin has an effect that can only be described as "hallucinogenic". A full report will be delivered on Friday.

So, what have the Monkeys been working on since I left for the airport? Ah, yep, more Paul O'Neill stuff. If you ask me, Paul O'Neill can commit no crime greater than going on walkabout in Africa with Bono. But I thought he made [she who must not be named] look really silly on the Today show this morning.

Anyway, what else? Oh, James doesn't care for the "evangelicals". No new news there. This is a tough issue - on the one hand, I don't really care for most "evangelicals" either. On the other hand, I hate to see the decay of the language. Equivocating protestantism and the particularly kooky Pat Robertson/Tim LaHaye/etc. brand that gets presented as "typical" in the media seems a common but frustrating problem. I have to say, I do think a lot of neo-cons and other Christian conservatives love "Israel" simply because they're Dispensationalists. But this is equivocation, too. The contemporary nation of Israel has no meaningful relationship with "God's chosen people" of the Old Testament. Anyway, historically speaking, Dispensationalism is an aberration. A pimple on the wrinkly bottom of Christian orthodoxy. Best not to make too much of it.

So, while I do not share James's venom for Christianity, I happen to agree about Israel. We should stay out of it. No funding, no defense, and no restrictions on Israel's actions. Let 'em nuke the hell out of the middle east if they think that will make them safe. We'll see what happens.

Okay, enough of my meandering mumbling. Time to look through the DVDs and see what geeky director's commentary I can watch until the wine puts me to sleep. Good night all.

Monday, January 12, 2004
More Paul O'Neill and Ron Suskind Silliness

Note also that O'Neill was waving around a cover page of an NSC document on a plan for post-war Iraq. As this Washington Times article points out:
...Bush supporters point out that under the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 signed by President Clinton, it was the law of the land for Washington to seek Saddam's ouster. They say it was only natural to be discussing contingencies based on the law's requirements.
Besides, isn't the knock on the administration supposed to be that they didn't have a post-war plan? Not only did they have one, but they were way ahead of the curve.

How to F***, by Uncle Sam

Have I mentioned before that the government has no business running an inherently moral institution like education? No? Well read this piece by Mitch Berg for yet another reason:
Second - abstinence only DOES work. It's all that is taught in Catholic schools; no contraception, no abortion, no sex. And students at Catholic schools have a lower rate of teenage pregnancy than public schools. That's because "sex ed" in the Catholic school doesn't divorce the physical and moral components of sexuality - something no public school in his day and age is allowed to do.
How is this not obvious? Actually, I think it IS obvious, but we don't really want to think about it. My friend "Fingers" talks about a concept that I like to call "sin-based epistemology". It's probably worth a longer post. The short version is that we accept "truths" not because they are coherent or logically flow from fundamental presuppositions, but because they in some way justify the lifestyle we want to live.

Sunday, January 11, 2004
80's GuitaristsKing at SCSU Scholars offers this input in the "best 80's guitarists" discussion, supporting my choices of Marr and Fripp, as well as Brad's praise of Matt Johnson.

He also offers praise for the current King Crimson material, which I heartily echo. I've been able to see Crim three times in the last ten years, and each time has been a unique treat. It's like nothing you'll hear on the radio, or from other "progressive" bands, for that matter. Current drummer Pat Mastelotto has brought a very unique sensibility to the band's music - adding tasteful percussion loops and other samples to the already rich rhythm section.

One more quick note for 80's-era Crim fans: Touch guitar/bass player Trey Gunn has just left the band, and stick/bassist extraordinaire Tony Levin has re-joined the group. Should be interesting!

Friday, January 09, 2004
Here is an excellent post on Hugh Hewitt's Hindenburg/Dean metaphor.

Yeah, I know, I'm linking to a post on my own blog. But it's worth reading it if you missed it in the Chosen Monkey deluge; R.B. hits this one out of the park.

And it's worth pointing out that Hewitt isn't acknowledging this post, for some silly Nixonian reason that I'm not bothering to try to fathom.

ecto!I've praised the fine Kung-Log weblogging tool for OS X on these pages before, so allow me to steer you toward the announcement page for its successor, ecto. I do a lot of blog composition off-line, and this is the best tool I've found for composing on an airplane and posting later. Give this public beta a try and see if you agree.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004
Keats and Yeats are on your side.

Grrrr. Mitch Berg has done it again, and now there are piles of 80's era vinyl all over my floor.

After revealing that U2 was #1 and Big Country (my backup choice) was, indeed, the #2 British band of the 80's, he goes on to delve into the coolest Brit guitarists. Here are the ones he fills in:

#1 - Stuart Adamson (Big Country)
#3 - Johnny Marr (The Smiths)
#6 - Charlie Burchill (Simple Minds)

Read the post for his explanations. He then takes a swipe directly at my Achilles heel. "I'll let you figure out who Brit guitarists #2, 4 and 5 are..."

< mojo jojo >Curses!< /mojo jojo>

First off, I must dispute Charlie Burchill's appearance on the list at all. I used to really like Simple Minds, but their guitar work was never very impressive to me. But this is Mitch's list, and we'll have to do a little mind-reading again:

U2 had the #1 spot in the band category, so I'm going to take the easy road and guess that The Edge is the #2 guitarist in the "dark" mind of Mitch Berg. 4 and 5 are tougher, but I'm going with my gut to say Robert Smith of The Cure and Bernard Albrecht/Dicken/Sumner of Joy Division/New Order. This is a little risky - I'm sticking with a fairly tight group of artists and there are other folks -- No, wait - Mitch HATED Joy Division. Bernard's out, even though I think his New Order work had a redemptive effect. So #5 is going to have to be, oh, okay, let's go with Roddy Frame and just get it over with.

I did take issue with a few of his other comments. Will Sargent is a bit dull, but his work fit with Echo & The Bunnymen, at least while Pete was still alive. Similarly, while Morrissey's solo work is by and large complete dreck, Johnny Marr and the rhythm section for The Smiths positively polished the crap until it was a glistening jewel of melancholy. So, I will give you my lists. These are based on how I remember feelling at the time, by the way, not necessarily my current listening habits. I'm a boring old codger now.

Top 5 Coolest British Bands of the 80's:
1. U2
2. The Cure
3. The Smiths
4. New Order
5. Echo & The Bunnymen

Top 5 Coolest British Guitarists of the 80's:
1. Johnny Marr
2. Robert Fripp (okay, Fripp is really the antithesis of cool, but he's still one of my favorites and I think the "Discipline" album is under-appreciated in non-progressive rock circles)
3. Robert Smith
4. The Edge
5. Daniel Ash

Will this ever end? Tune in tomorrow for more of the Dark Monkey Shot Dance Party.

Buckley on DeanWilliam F. Buckley on the young folks' affection for Howard Dean's "solutions":

"It is, to be sure, easier to take in that kind of thought with deep draughts of toke..."

Tuesday, January 06, 2004
Geek Continuing EducationA lot of people don't know this, but being a "geek" isn't one of those lifetime-appointments, or things where you can pass a test and you're always a geek. It's more like being a Certified Public Accountant. You have to pass the test, yes, but you are also required to engage in "continuing education" to maintain your certification.

Today, my continuing education credits will come from attending Steve Jobs's MacWorld Keynote Address. I get extra credit because I'm not actually at the MacWorld conference. Instead, I'm sitting in the Apple Store at Chandler Fashion Center with about fifty other folks who also need to keep their certifications current. We're going to watch the thing live via satellite, and we lined up early for the event.

Sunday, January 04, 2004
The new #2

"Who are you?"

"The new Number Two."

"Who is Number One?"

"You are(,) Number Six."

Mitch over at Shot In The Dark picked up on Brad's post below about The Alarm's reunion on VH1. He refers to them as "the third-best British band of the eighties".

Okay, I'll bite. I think we can all agree that if The Alarm makes it up to #3 on your list, then U2 must hold the #1 spot. They have a symbiotic relationship in "best-of" lists, and U2 ALWAYS maintains a spot at least two places above The Alarm. Given that premise, I'm going with Simple Minds in the #2 spot. The "holy" Trinity of marginally Christian 80's Brits.

I will hedge with a side bet that Big Country works their way in there somewhere.

Curse you, Mitch Berg! You always know how to suck me in! I was able to suppress the urge to dig up my 12" single of "The Deceiver" when Brad posted. I just kept reminding myself of the horrible stage banter in the middle of "Rescue Me" on that live album they did. Argh! Gordon used to play that CD as loud as he could on Saturday mornings when I was trying to sleep. But then you went and made a list. And you didn't reveal its contents. You know my weaknesses, and I am vanquished. "What Kind of Hell" am I living in?

Only time will tell.

(Oooh - that was nice. A simultaneous Alarm AND Asia reference. Top notch work, RobbL.)

Wednesday, December 31, 2003 is a great place to find out that stories that sound ridiculous (Target hates veterans, Mussolini made the trains run on time) and are. But sometimes it's great to read the true ones, like this on Bush's visit to Iraq.