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Wednesday, December 31, 2003
First Indication That 2004 Is Going To ROCK

William Shatner is putting out a new album. I can't tell you how excited I am. Really, I can't. I don't have Shatner's first effort, "Transformed Man" (yet... it's only been on my Amazon wishlist for two years), but I can report that Shatner's special brand of musicianship is responsible for destroying the mid-ranges on an old set of speakers. Therein lies a stupid story...

It's 1991. I'm living in the Pepper Canyon Apartments at UC San Diego. Spinning on my CD player is Rhino Records' anthology of bad celebrity covers, "Golden Throats." Shatner's immortal rendition of "Mr. Tambourine Man" comes on. For some reason, I decided it was important to play this song very loud. Now, at the end of this song, Shatner cries, "Mr. Tambourine Man!" in much the same way he cries, "Khan!" in Star Trek II. It's one thing to have Shatner shout "Mr. Tambourine Man!" when the volume is at, say, 2 or 3. But when the volume is at 11? Ka-boom. Anyway, I ended up getting a pretty good pair of replacement mid-ranges (truly audiophile quality; much too good for my stereo at the time, really), so it worked out fine. I never played Shatner that loud again, though.

Personally, I liked Shatner's cover of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds." I think he got it just about right. 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.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003
Philip Michaels over at TeeVee is consistently hilarious. Don't tell him - I hear he's better when he's insecure about it. Anyway, for those of you who can't get enough of people poking fun at "The Lord of the Rings", saunter on over there for today's entry:
Anyhow, they're surrounded by every orc in Mordor, so he shoots Aragon a look like, "This was your f***ing plan? Ride out to Mordor and get surrounded by orcs? That's some nice strategy there. Really nice. You are the worst king ever!"

In lieu of a real post...

I think it was co-Monkey David who pinned the label "shock-jock" on NPR's Nina Totenburg. (I know. We've mentioned before not to forget Terry Gross.)

Well, the topic came up again in Jeff Jacoby's Town Hall round up of "hate speech from the left." (Hat tip to Mitch at Shot in the Dark)

But where are all of the end of the year retrospectives? Normally you can't swing a dead cat without hitting one this time of year. Maybe I'm just not looking hard enough. Any recommendations?

I'm not talking about those items that look ahead to next year, like the Corner's predictions, or John Leo's resolutions. They're good pieces, but not the looks back at '03 that I had in mind.

UPDATE: I forgot MRC's Annual Best of Notable Quotables. Perhaps co-Monkey Robb's influence is rubbing off on me, but I'd like to see something a little less partisan in my "look back." Perhaps I'll have to turn to television. (Yes, I hear you: "tv – less partisan"?) I want to be spoon fed.

First They Came for the Reference-Book Owners...

The FBI is advising cops to be on the lookout for people carrying almanacs, as they may be up to no good. Another silly overreaction by the authorities, right? I thought so, too. Upon further reflection, though, I decided this isn't as nutty as it sounds. Sometimes, these things really are stupidly obvious. Remember Mohammed Atta and that nice lady at the Agriculture Department? As Mark Steyn so memorably put it: "Everything [the 9/11 terrorists] did stuck out. But it didn't matter. Because the more they stuck out, the more everyone who mattered was trained to look the other way." The lesson, still mostly not learned, is that much depends on who's doing the carrying. (Hat tip: Pathetic Earthlings.)

Monday, December 29, 2003
Blame CanadaBlame Canada!

It's not even a real outbreak anyway...

D'oh! & Double-D'oh!

Okay, so I took the Which Famous Leader Are You? test. Twice. On the short test, I wound up as Bill Clinton. Then I took the longer test and discovered I was Hitler. I feel like one of the hideous results in a Conan O'Brien If They Mated photoshop sketch.

UPDATE: As per Robb's updates below, I too am Apocalypse Now.

Sunday, December 28, 2003
Why public school sucksWhy not just call it "brainwashing"?

I'll second Brad's referral, encouraging you to go all the way to the Volokh post. I've ground this axe before, but it's not enough to have the opportunity to send your kids to private school (as R.B. does) or to homeschool them (as I, er, actually my wife does). The government TAKES OUR MONEY to pay for the indoctrination of our children. And, in some states, if you can't afford to send your kids to a private school, you are effectively required to submit your children to this indoctrination, because of the combination of compulsory education and the extremely difficult hoop-jumping required to homeschool.

There is no more straightforward way to say it: The government has no business running schools in a free society.

Thanks, Mitch.

UPDATE: Hindrocket is Saddam Hussein. < cartman >Kick aaaasssssss.< /cartman >

UPDATE 2: I went back and took the longest (45 question) version of the test, and got the same results. "Bo-ring." Somehow, however, when I take the shortest (9 question) version of the test, I wound up being Mother Theresa. "a people-loving Macedonian dwarf". WTF???

UPDATE 3: Oooh! Now here's a good one. On the same site, with almost the same questions:

start your own schoolDIY Free Speech

Normally I'd say he "hit one out of the park," but this really isn't the season for such a metaphor. So how about this: "King over at SCSU Scholars broke through the line and scored behind the brilliant blocking of Eugene Volokh." Okay, silliness aside (like that ever happens on this blog), you ought to check out how King wraps up this insightful post.

A group of friends and I are into our second year of doing just what King suggests.

Iran's Masive Earthquake

I doubt that all of our readers are on World Vision's mailing list. I thought I should share this. I've never done a post quite like this before, but I figured a paraphrase and my own plea just wouldn't do it justice.
Tens of thousands of children and their families are homeless and suffering after Iran’s massive earthquake. Please help rush Family Survival Kits and supplies now!

Dear Friend,
As we celebrated Christmas here in the United States, a massive earthquake struck the city of Bam in Southeastern Iran.

It is feared that as many as 25,000 are dead, with up to 40,000 people injured.

Over 70% of homes in this area were destroyed or damaged. Two of the city’s hospitals have collapsed. Electricity and water supplies have been cut. 

The freezing temperatures in this part of Iran threaten the lives of many children and families who have lost their homes and have no food, water or shelter.

World Vision is responding to help save lives and alleviate suffering. We are rushing Family Survival Kits and supplies by air from our warehouse in Brindisi, Italy. The shipment will contain things like emergency food, water purification systems, blankets, plastic sheeting, cooking utensils and tents.


click here to donate right now.

Your gift of $100 will help provide a Family Survival Kit for a suffering family in Iran. A gift of any amount will help to provide immediate aid to those devastated by this tragedy.

Please, open your heart today to the victims of this terrible tragedy. Let the children and families of Iran know that you care.

Click here to donate Family Survival Kits right now.

God bless you for your ongoing support, and for helping to save lives this Holiday Season.

Thank you,

Richard Stearns

President, World Vision United States

P.S. Many people don’t get time to closely follow the news during the Christmas season and may not know the magnitude of this tragedy. After making your donation, please help us rush aid to the children and families of Iran by passing this email along to 3 friends or relatives that you know would want to help. Their gift of any amount will go to work immediately to help Iran’s earthquake victims and save lives.

More information available online...


Founded in 1950, World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization, serving the world's poorest children and families in nearly 100 countries.

Questions? Donations by phone?
phone: 1.888.511.6514

If this email was forwarded to you by a friend, subscribe here.

Saturday, December 27, 2003
The Gift That Keeps On Giving...'Til It Hurts

No blogging from me since Christmas. Why not, you ask? (More like: Who cares? you ask.) Let's just say, it was something I ate. Unlike my fellow monkey R.B., however, I think I'd better leave it at that.

The latter part of Christmas day was eventful. We drove through pouring rain, killer mud, and high winds to my parents' house in the mountains high above San Bernardino. The power was out. We opened presents by candlelight and drank brandy. The roast beast became pan-fried steak, but that was fine. I don't think that was what did me in, but it's possible.

Anyway, I scored more booze and a Playstation 2, which is something I promised my wife a year ago. Also, I got socks and underwear. (It's a funny thing: I'm now of the age when I genuinely appreciate receiving haberdashery.) So the wife has spent much of the last day or so playing "Ratchet and Clank." I, on the other hand, have spent much of the last day or so in the fetal position, praying to God for a quick and merciful death.

I feel much better now, thanks.

Friday, December 26, 2003
Finding Stem Cells

Joe over at Evangelical Outpost not only answered my call for a Biblical approach to fear and bravery, but did so after a post yesterday on a scientific development that may make the debate over stem cells from "discarded fetuses and cloned tissue" moot. While the "reversine" molecule is a fascinating reason for hope, I have to wonder if it will make it through the seeming blockade, if you will, that the choice-crowd seems to have succesfully fostered between the Life-crowd and the media.

The reason for my doubts about whether "reversine" will make it into the debate? Well, I've long been puzzled about why we never hear of the research value of stem cells "harvested" from umbilical cord blood. The stuff goes to waste in nearly every birth in every hospital (at least in this country, as far as I know), but it contains perfectly good and usable stem cells. From the Cord Blood Registry:
Umbilical cord blood stem cells are the "youngest," safely available stem cells and they are the product of another miracle-a live birth. Freezing these cells essentially stops the clock and prevents aging and damage that may occur to the cells later in life.
There are press releases, but have you ever heard of cord blood?

Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I don't really think that alternatives to using human embryos and discarded fetuses, even when they offer equally usable stem cells, will be welcomed by those who have ground to be gained through promoting practical "justifications" for abortion and cloning.

Speaking of calling me names, I found a new one for myself: Marlin. Yep, we got Finding Nemo for Christmas. The father clownfish, Marlin, had that same sort of overprotective thing goin' on that I suffer from. How much of a worry-wart am I? Well, enough of one to have done the Cord Blood Registry thing and had my second son's cord blood stored away for our own use, just in case. But you don't have to store it for your own private use. You can go through the steps of having the kit sent to you, having your OB collect the blood, and having the courier show up to speed it off to the facilities of a not-for-profit or for-profit cord blood bank. There it can be used as transplants for those in need who fits the similar genetic indicators as the donor, or it can be used in research to find cures and treatments for a long list of diseases. Think about it. Not only could it do some immediate good, but the involvement of more and more families might help bring this alternative stem cell source out of the shadows.

There are still some ethical and legal issues to deal with, but none with anything close to the gravity of cloning or using the tragic remains of abortion.

But here's hoping and praying that Joe's right about reversine and the effect it could/should have on the future of the issue.

Apologies in Advance (a rather gross post)

Earlier, Robb mentioned today's Lileks post. Robb seemed to connect with the parts about the experience of "having daughters." I, on the other hand, connected with the first paragraph, in which Lileks wrote:
A note to the College of Canine Medicine: as of 12 AM, I am happy to report that a 45-lb dog can eat eight Hershey’s Kisses with no ill effects, the supposed poisonous effects of chocolate on dogs notwithstanding. He ate them foil and all. For once in my life I cannot wait to see what he craps out tomorrow. I almost expect this one to be gift-wrapped.
You see, as some may remember, I recently began following the Zone Diet. While I aim to get 40% of my calories from carbs, it's important that they be "good carbs" (i.e. those with a low glycemic index, so they don't enter the bloodstream too quickly and result in a sugar-high and a sugar crash). So my wife loaded my Christmas stocking with "Sugar Free" chocolates and peanut-butter cups. Carried away in the sprit of the season, and having decided to relax my total caloric intake restrictions for this one festive day, I gobbled them up. For some reason, I had completely forgotten about what my research on "Sugar Free" candies had turned up just a few days before:

the sugar alcohols in the product may have a laxative effect

For the first part of the day, I kept thinking that it was just the lima beans that are a part of my wife's holiday tradition. Too many beans. Yes, that's why I feel bloated. Later, I received more "Sugar Free" candies. Mmm, chocolate...

So, last night while I was watching the one of the documentaries discs of The Two Towers (another present, and the documentaries do address Robb's concern about mixing the end of the second book with the third movie), and still blaming the lima beans, I absentmindedly gobbled down the rest of the "Sugar Free" peanut-butter cups and more of the chocolates.

My wife wound up sleeping in a separate room.

And this morning, when I visited the bathroom, I was reminded of those films we've all seen: the slow motion footage of the low-altitude bombing runs by the fighter planes in Vietnam – not the napalm, but when the plane would drop two, say, 500-pound bombs, and those interlacing shock waves would ripple through the jungle... Yep, that's exactly what it was like.

The Return of the DenouementThe Return of the Denouement

Our mail has dropped off a bit, so I thought I'd poke the "Lord of the Rings" bear again:

I saw "The Return of the King" last weekend. Yes, WEEKS after The Chosen Monkey. We grovel before his press pass. I feel like I need to see it again to figure out if the things that bugged me about this film are serious flaws. But here's my "first viewing" criticism:

*** Major Spoiler Warning ***

Here's the thing - there are magnificent parts in this film. The battle of Minas Tirith is simply freaking amazing, with "stand up and cheer" (if you're inclined toward such things) moments throughout. And Shelob is rendered more realistically than I could have imagined. It IS, as James said, a surprisingly emotional film.

Nonetheless, I was let down. The biggest frustration, I think, was the inevitably anti-climactic destruction of the Ring and defeat of Sauron. After eleven hours of build-up, it is most likely impossible to convey a sense of victory that satisfies the tension that has built up. An alternative would be to portray the emotional effects of the audience's anti-climax in the characters themselves, but the film doesn't really do this, either.

My second "disappointment", and this is not really any fault of the author or filmmakers, was the fact that it's "over". I finally understood, after seeing this movie, why so many epic stories end with the death of all of the characters. It's easier to walk away from something like this if you know there really is nothing else to the story. But almost all of the main characters live. Amazing, really - of the original members of the Fellowship, only Boromir dies. So, apart from tens of thousands of nameless orcs, elves, goblins, men, etc., you can count the deaths of major characters on one hand: Boromir, Gollum, Sauron, and...that's pretty much it. What happens to all of the rest of them? Do Frodo and Bilbo get bored living forever with the Elves? How many times does Aragorn have to sleep on the couch because Arwen doesn't like the way Eowyn looks at him? Can the elves and dwarves do anything bitchin' with their rings now that they aren't ruled by the One Ring? Are the clearly homoerotic overtones in the relationships between Merry & Pippin and Legolas & Gimli ever consummated?

Next, I experienced some frustration associated with the way the movies were broken up. You see, my ritual for each part was to watch the theatrical release, THEN read the book, and finally watch the extended DVD version. This allows me to enjoy the movie for what it is, without being bummed out about what they left out from the book, or what they chose to do differently. Unfortunately, almost an hour of this movie was actually material from the book "The Two Towers". The additional material on the "Towers" DVD was, with the exception of the whole Denethor/Boromir/Faramir conflict, pretty faithful to the book. But there were several places where the third film fiddled with the end of the second book, and I probably would have been able to deal with it more easily if I had seen the film first. Instead, I was agitated when, for example, Frodo enters Shelob's tunnels without Sam. I had JUST FINISHED the book 6-8 weeks ago, so the encounter was fairly fresh in my mind. Similarly, the absence of a final confrontation with Saruman was disappointing.

One final weakness of the third film was, again, probably inevitable, but quite annoying. Because of all of the story lines that had been developed over the previous eleven hours, and the fact that there is (hopefully) zero chance that this will be turned into a series on the Sci-Fi channel, they had no less than twenty minutes of "and I'll miss you most of all, Scarecrow" at the end of the damn film. Every time you thought it was over, there was another round of bowing and/or hugging. And some of it is just so amazingly saccharine. You hate to WANT a film to end, and about half way through the goodbyes, I did. It was three very long films' worth of denouement, and that's hard to swallow all at once.

I wonder if the extended version of this film will correct any of these weaknesses. I kind of doubt it, but I would like to see the movie again and see if I can appreciate the strengths of the film more now that I know what to expect from the weaknesses.

Current Song: "Misty Mountain Hop" from the album Box Set by Led Zeppelin

LileksI've gotta stop reading Lileks, because he makes me feel so, well, talentless. Seriously, today's bleat just makes me feel like I will never be able to articulate the experience of "having daughters" in a way that is nearly as engaging and insightful as he does. So why try?

My Emily is about the same age as his Gnat. She and her "big sissy" have a herd of My Little Ponies that rivals all of Rohan, and she received the very same castle last month for her birthday. And between that birthday and Christmas, my fingers are numb from untwisting little wires that secure a thousand tiny plastic accessories to their cardboard packaging. And the hair! This year, the girls received three "princess" ponies with extra long manes. Gah!

Oh, by the way, Emily made it home from the hospital on Christmas Eve and appears to be feeling much better. She's still on "soft bland foods", but there were no major problems, thank God. Erika's short-lived 102 temperature also appeared to be short lived.

Thursday, December 25, 2003
The Booty, Part I

What I asked for:
  • Bourbon

  • New shows

  • A Hugh Hewitt action figure
What I got:
  • Cognac (VSOP)

  • New shirts

  • Electric nose-hair trimmer
Also, a couple of DVDs and an electronic chess game. So, as you can guess, it's the best Christmas ever, with more to come later today.

Oh, and I bought the wife a new TV and DVD player for our bedroom. I damn near killed myself trying to wrap the TV, which weighs about 100 pounds.

It's raining here. We're supposed to go to my parents' compound in the mountains high above San Bernardino to open more presents and consume roast beast and brandy. So far, reports say no snow. Looks like we're in for a soggy Christmas, then. But that's OK. Grandpa and Grandma will lavish the boy with gifts, and a good time will undoubtedly be had by all.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003
I'm Dreaming of a Poor Christmas

I didn't go as nuts as my wife feared I would ("Don't go crazy!" she called after me as I bounded out the door this morning). But once I get that kooky Christmas Spirit in me, I'm like an unstoppable force... or something! All I can say is, thank goodness for 37-months of zero-interest, same-as-cash financing. Otherwise, this time next week, they'd be hauling me off to debtors' prison. (They still have debtors' prison, don't they?)

Ah, well. Truth is, we took it down several notches this year. The last-minute shopping spree was a lot more pleasant than I'd hoped for or expected. Ample parking. Little rudeness. Decent selection. The only thing I couldn't find was a particular Richard Stark novel for my dad. I splurged for my wife, but I always do. I even splurged a bit for mom and dad. The least I could do.

No funny stories to tell, no odd occurences to report... except that I almost killed myself wrestling a large box out of the back of my van. But more on that tomorrow.

We're going to look at Christmas lights in about an hour. Some opportunity for mischief there.

Well-being Update

My boys are camped out on the couch watching PBS morning programming. Both are sick now.

What prompted me to take a minute to write was the response I felt to hearing the buzzy Emergency Broadcast tone crackle through the interstitial. My internal reaction and hurry to look around the corner at the tv screen left me wondering if perhaps I haven't "lost" a little to the terrorists. I was quite relieved to get a view of the screen so I could read, "THIS IS A TEST." But I was also immediately reminded of Lileks' Bleat this morning. God bless those who have had the courage to press on without changing the behavior.

I should be easier on myself about the fear I expressed at the sound of the EBS signal. After all, it was just yesterday that I got to explain bravery to my 4-year-old. He had just come through getting a shot of anti-biotics for his ear infection. I told him he was brave for handling it the way he did. He told me that he wasn't brave – he was scared. Of course, I explained to him that being brave is exactly about being scared and doing what you ought to do anyway. If you're not scared, then you're not being brave. As my 8-year-old knows, I often go on to explain that without the fear that qualifies bravery, one is simply being foolhardy, oblivious, or ignorant; but not brave.

Thankfully I spared my younger son the unabridged edition. I'm sure he'll hear it soon enough. Time to go check their temperatures now.

UPDATE: I should note that there are times that not being fearful even in the face of apparent peril can be wise. I'm thinking specifically about those frequent admonitions from Jesus and throughout Scripture in which we are commanded, "Do not fear..." (Of course, we are commanded to fear the Lord.) Perhaps someone (Joe Carter, or Jon?) can help me get a handle on the differences between the fearlessness of wisdom and the fearlessness of folly. (Oh, and of course I should enlist the aid of Robert Tagorda, whose blog is aptly titled Priorities and Frivolities.)

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

Truth be told, it's been looking a lot like Christmas around the homestead for a few weeks now. This is our first Christmas in the new house, which is no small deal for us. My wife was out first thing the day after Thanksgiving hanging lights. We were, I'm proud to report, the first on our block to have lights up this year, a simple, tasteful arrangement of white and red. Next year, the wife has ambitions to cover the roof with lights. And she's making noise about some kind of animatronic Santa. We shall see.

On the question of the tree: We had planned to be out of town this week, but that idea was cruelly thwarted by work-related catastrophes. We didn't know that three weeks ago, however. Because of the original plan, we debated long and hard about what to do about a tree. Would we even have one? Of course we would! Real or fake? I know that, for some, there is no question: the tree must be real; fake trees make Baby Jesus cry. But real trees have the unfortunate habit of drying up and catching fire. And after our little misadventure in October, I wasn't interested in tempting fate twice in one year. So we settled on a lovely seven-and-a-half-foot tall imitation Madison Fraiser fir. My wife was a bit miffed that the fake-tree people apparently no longer make trees without the lights already attached, but I didn't lose too much sleep over it. Then again, I didn't exactly set up the tree, either. My dad and I were too busy re-running coax cable to the other side of the living room, but that's a story best left for another time. (Like never.)

Anyway, the house is in pretty good shape, Christmas-decoration-wise. My wife has a real snowman fetish, so the place is lousy... er, replete, I mean, with Frostys of every shape and size. We also have a little village, which is periodically terrorized by our cat. So far, only one villager has been decapitated this year. That's down from two a year ago.

So it's Christmas Eve day. Mama's ailing with whatever the Monka and I had a week ago or so. Worse than cold, not quite flu. He still has a cough, but he's in much better spirits. We're keeping our fingers crossed, at any rate.

And as for me? Well, I have some shopping to do today. In fact, I have to do just about all of my shopping today. It's 9:20 in the morning as I finish writing this. Maybe I'll check in later with a report on the carnage. Man, I just love Christmas.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003
No more MonkeysTwo More Monkeys Jumping On The Bed

Well, we're down to two Monkeys now. Dave's gone, Brad's got a sick four-year-old, and now both of my girls are out of commission:

Emily, my own four-year-old, just came off an EIGHT DAY bout with the flu. After 40 hours fever and symptom free, she complained of abdominal pain this morning - okay, "my tummy hurts" was the exact quote. Early this afternoon, it was off to the doctor, and from there to the ER. They ran an abdominal CT and now she's checked in at the hospital because her small intestine won't move. Rats.

Her six-year-old sister, Erika, stayed with grandma while we dealt with Emily. As of 8:30pm MST, grandma reports that Erika, who we diligently kept away from her contagious sister for eight straight days, now has a 102 degree fever. Double rats.

Hopefully Ben and James will take up the slack (I've been pretty remiss in my posting as it is) while Brad and I deal with our sickies.

I leave you with this: Scottsdale Healtcare kicks ass. If you're in the Phoenix area, and you're going to get amazingly sick, have a baby (or two), or have your vas deferens severed and/or your uterus removed laproscopically, I heartily recommend the North campus.

Hubris? Or Insanity?

Holy crap, I just had a terrifying thought: What if America suffers an acute bout of political psychosis and Howard Dean really catches on? (And, no, I'm not drunk!)

Thanks for checking in on us

Can't blog – my 4-year-old has the flu, full on. Plus an ear infection. His name is Sammy in case you want to add him to your prayer list. I asked the doc what the chances were for the other three of us, even with obsessive hand washing. He said, "Slim."

So, I doubt that I'll be posting much over the next few days, particularly when you factor in the holidays. I'm not sure how jolly they'll be for me and mine.

Oh, and co-Monkey David is in Mexico, somewhere totally off the grid.

So... posting here has been light. Thanks for continuing to check in on us. I'm assuming Ben, Robb, and maybe even James will continue to keep this ship afloat.

Suggested reading: Evangelical Outpost, and Lileks (yep, he's cancelled the hiatus). Oh, and Fraters Libertas (as always). EO and FL are good places from which to follow links. (Don't miss this.)

Monday, December 22, 2003
Literacy: The Gift That Keeps on Giving

The Claremont Institute has a short symposium on book recommendations for Christmas. Some interesting and inspired choices, if I do say so myself. Plans for a follow-up Kwanzaa book symposium have fallen through, however.

Legalize drugsDrugs Support Terrorism

Mitch Berg quotes this New York Times article about the Navy seizing a shipment of hashish from dealers with ties to Al Qaeda.

Note to Bush Administration: If the "War on Terror" is such a priority, then end the hopeless, wrong-headed "War on Drugs". Legalize all of it. Every damn pill, leaf, poppy, and chemical any fool wants to pump into their system. College kids wouldn't be buying their drugs from Osama Bin Laden if they could just grow it on their back porch. Demand reduction doesn't work. Seizures don't work. Zero tolerance doesn't work.

And while you're at it, stop making me get an appointment with my doctor just so I can buy cough medicine that actually works.

Friday, December 19, 2003
It should go without saying...

It would be hard for me to believe that anyone is reading our blog without regularly checking in on Fraters Libertas. Just in case you're one of the oddballs, or if it happens that you haven't checked in since early this morning, you must see this post. (Of course, a cursory knowledge of the Hugh Hewitt radio program and the antagonism between Hugh and the Fraters' Elder is helpful in order to "get" the post, but then I expect you're most likely up to speed on that too.)

And let me plug (again) their very worthy cause of the Northern Alliance Fundraiser for the Misericordia Orphanage in Chihuahua, Mexico. It's worth a PayPal donation, no matter how small. C'mon... you can do it.

Just a quick comment before I leave for Phoenix--this Libya announcement is big, much more important than catching Saddam (this one is a lot more likely to make it to the history books in a discussion of the Bush Doctrine).

I look forward to seeing Dean try to downplay this one...(prediction: he'll try to give the British credit, or Powell, but not Bush).

Arrr...If nautical nonsense be something you wish...

My daughters are cool. Very ill right now, but they have excellent taste in children's television programming.

Arrrrrgh, I be just a painting of a head!

The Canon's Thunder
Professor Bainbridge has a great Wine Canon recommended reading list.

I'd add two works to this list, however:
Wine For Dummies by Ed McCarthy and Mary Ewing-Mulligan
The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson

Yes, yes, I know how annoying those "Dummies" books are. But this one is great. And the Wine Atlas is mainly because I love maps, but the text by Robinson is also wonderful.
(By the way, both of the woman authors above are Masters of Wine).

Thursday, December 18, 2003
Tim Blair does the best hypotheticals in the blogosphere.

Monkey Business

No, I haven't been posting much over the last couple days. Had to bring the first semester to close at school. That and we're actually working on, and testing out MovableType. I know, you thought we were just talking smack about getting off of Blog*Spot. No this isn't a formal announcement. Oh, and in case it takes us a little time to get a real post about it up (everything seems to take us more time than we expect), check out this important post at Fraters Libertas. And while you're there, don't miss the opportunity to scroll down to their preceding post.

He's got some quality readers

Lt./Citizen Smash has an engaging question posted this afternoon:
If you could go back in time to witness one historical event, when would it be?
Click here to see the responses.

Moral Idiocy Watch

Richard Cohen, writing in the Washington Post today:
This column may be the most futile of my long career. I am about to plead for Saddam Hussein's life. I do so not because I have the slightest doubt that he is a killer, responsible for taking the lives of many thousands, but because sparing his life would send a message to the world that judicial death—so often abused—is no longer acceptable.
Well, at least he knows what he's up against. In the very next paragraph, however, Cohen notes that the death penalty is "already illegal in most of Europe," which is about where I stopped reading. Still, it's a clarifying piece—or, more accurately, I suppose, paragraph and a half. For some, no crime, no matter how heinous, can ever justify execution. We need to "send a message," to "take the moral high ground." For that reason, Cohen provides us with today's reminder of just how much, and how little, has changed since September 11, 2001.

Help! Help! I'm Being Repressed!

"Is the [Bush] administration seeking to stifle domestic criticism? Absolutely. Is it carrying out a war on dissent? Probably not—yet," writes James Bovard in The American Conservative.

And Speaking of Demagogues...

Mr. and Mrs. America, Howard Dean!

(Via Hugh Hewitt.)

One Step Closer to Madness

Bill O'Reilly is a known demagogue, a petty opportunist, and a fraud. But is he crazy, too? Could be.

Coming to bookstore near you: The Autobiography of Michael X. Michael Jackson and Louis Farakhan, somehow it makes sense. Like Oscar and Felix. Ernie and Bert. O.J. and Kato. It just works in a crazy mixed up kind of way. maybe this a sign of the Apocalype. Michael Jackson becomes a militant black Muslim. Weird man... weird.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003
Gimli, Defender of Civilization (Expanded Edition)

Andrew Sullivan has a much better link to the John Rhys-Davies interview I cited yesterday. This transcript is quite good. Read it.

The Ring and The Rings

Alex Ross notices some parallels between Tolkien and Wagner in this week's New Yorker. I don't think I buy it all, but it's an interesting piece.

(Via Arts and Letters Daily.)

"A Visit from St. Nick"

Thurber does Hemingway doing Moore (or was it Livingston?). I'd never seen this before. In a word: brilliant.

(Hat tip: Our Girl in Chicago at About Last Night.)

Heretical Thoughts About Albright's Heretical Thoughts

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright now insists she was joking when she suggested to Mort Kondrake yesterday that maybe, just maybe, the Bush Administration has Osama bin Laden under wraps someplace and is waiting for the right moment—a month before next November's election, say—to reveal the fact to the world. Kathryn Jean Lopez over at The Corner thinks Albright is nuts. And Baldilocks chastises Albright for being too flip. "[W]ith rank comes responsibility," she writes. "It is frightening to consider that this irresponsible woman was a couple of steps away from the presidency."

Let us concede that Albright ain't too bright. Bad enough she made the comment to a reporter, never mind that they were off the air. Didn't she realize she would be quoted? Good Lord, woman! Never trust a journalist!

That said, would somebody please explain why the statement is crazy on its face? Is it because of the partisan angle? OK, I could buy that. But let's not forget that much of the War on Terrorism is covert in nature. At the outset, President Bush said some of the victories in this war may never be known to the public. Indeed, it would not be unprecedented for a government to keep secret the fact that it is holding a top terrorist until it has the intelligence it needs. Take Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the "brains of al Qaeda." He may or may not have been captured on March 1 of this year. (And we shouldn't be surprised if it's revealed later on that Saddam was taken sometime before last Saturday night.) As Mark Bowden observed in a very important essay in the October Atlantic Monthly,
It is likely that some captured terrorists' names and arrests have not yet been revealed; people may be held for months before their "arrests" are staged. Once a top-level suspect is publicly known to be in custody, his intelligence value falls. His organization scatters, altering its plans, disguises, cover stories, codes, tactics, and communication methods. The maximum opportunity for intelligence gathering comes in the first hours after an arrest, before others in a group can possibly know that their walls have been breached. Keeping an arrest quiet for days or weeks prolongs this opportunity. If March 1 was in fact the day of Sheikh Mohammed's capture, then the cameras and the headlines were an important intelligence failure.
So, is it out of the question to even entertain the idea that the U.S. is holding bin Laden in a secure, undisclosed location? Maybe for the reasons Albright thinks. Otherwise, I'm not so sure.

Update: Holy serendipity, Batman! James Taranto makes a similar point, and even cites the same Bowden quote, in today's Best of the Web.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003
Common Sense for a New Century; or: Profiles in Banality

I'm on the "Dean for America" list because I need more reasons to laugh, to cry, to drink. Pour yourself a nice double something and take a gander at the Dean campaign's new fundraising manifesto. In a word: Ugh.

Gimli, Defender of Civilization

A fascinating piece on the final "Lord of the Rings" film appears at a Christian movie-review website. (Read the whole thing here, but be advised that it contains a few spoilers.) In it, John Rhys-Davies, the actor who portrays Gimli the Dwarf, offers a spirited defense of Western Civilization:
There is a change happening in the very complexion of Western civilization in Europe that we should think about at least and argue about. If it just means the replacement of one genetic stock with another genetic stock, that doesn’t matter too much. But if it involves the replacement of Western civilization with a different civilization with different cultural values, then it is something we really ought to discuss—because, [hang it all], I am for dead-white-male culture!
(Hat tip: Baldilocks.)

Logic: Saddamite vs. European

From Mark Steyn today: "In fairness to the non-urinator, 'How can I urinate when my people are in bondage?' is a model of sound logic compared to the latest all too pissy talking-points in Europe."

Leonard "J." Crabs and His Rodeo of Lawyerin' Destruction!

Please let me commend you to this harrowing tale of legal combat involving some nice young fellows who run a little website and a freakish bearded lady who... uh... also runs a website of some kind.

Bush Signs First National Anti-Spam Bill Into Law. This is funny. Because I get spam from all the time. I don't know know he got my e-mail. And it's always messages like: "I did this, I did that-- now give me some money for my campaign. Now!" Yeah..

Those Kooky Catholics, Part II

You know you're kinda out of touch when even Iran disagress with you:
Ayatolla Ali Khamenei said he was relieved at the capture of "a bloodthirsty wolf in the shape of a human being."
Of course it goes without saying that the Ayatolla stills hates America's guts, but even he agrees that Saddam is bad, and not worthy of pity.

Now that all said, I still think my idea of putting Saddam in a giant cage at the Smithsonian or something-- where every tax-paying American would get to poke him with stick could really work.

For $80 billion dollars I think I deserve something. iI President Bush did that, he would definately get my vote. f I live in New York, so it wouldn't really matter. But still. I wanna poke Saddam with a stick. That would be so cool.

Them Kooky Catholics!

I just want to say thank God I'm not a Catholic. It's not to besmirch Catholics in general or anything, or lay people. It's just that the church leadership is totally out of touch with the world:
Cardinal Says U.S. Treated Saddam 'Like a Cow'
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - A top Vatican (news - web sites) official said Tuesday he felt pity and compassion for Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) and criticized the U.S. military for showing video footage of him being treated "like a cow."

Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the Vatican's Justice and Peace department and a former papal envoy to the United Nations (news - web sites), told a news conference it would be "illusory" to think the arrest of the former Iraqi president would heal all the damage caused by a war which the Holy See opposed.

"I felt pity to see this man destroyed, (the military) looking at his teeth as if he were a cow. They could have spared us these pictures," he said.

"Seeing him like this, a man in his tragedy, despite all the heavy blame he bears, I had a sense of compassion for him," he said in answer to questions about Saddam's arrest.
It's nice to know that the Vatican has pity for a mass murderer isn't it? Hey Vatican, how about showing some pity for the thousands of people Sadddam killed? How some pity for he thousands of people he routinely tortured? Treated like a cow? Compared to those Vatican Saddam got off easy. Anyhow Vatican, your pity for such an evil man means you no longer have any moral credibility with me. So shut up.

I sorry you guys had to witness such an ugly incident. But the Vatican needed to be bitch-slapped. And The Chosen Monkey is the offical bitch-slapper of this blog.

Philosophy SelectorI love quizzes! See Brad's post for hat-tips. My results:

1. Spinoza   (100%)
2. Kant   (94%)
3. Aquinas   (93%)
4. St. Augustine   (85%)
5. Ockham   (83%)
6. Prescriptivism   (81%)
7. Jean-Paul Sartre   (81%)
8. John Stuart Mill   (74%)
9. Jeremy Bentham   (64%)
10. Epicureans   (59%)
11. Stoics   (53%)
12. Aristotle   (51%)
13. Ayn Rand   (50%)
14. Nietzsche   (45%)
15. Nel Noddings   (43%)
16. David Hume   (32%)
17. Plato   (24%)
18. Thomas Hobbes   (23%)
19. Cynics   (19%)

Greg's gonna kill me about the Spinoza thing.

Monday, December 15, 2003
Catholic Eye for the Protestant Guy

Professor Bainbridge kicked off the latest round of quizmania. (Shhh! Don't tell Spitbull.) I found the Ethical Philosophy Selector by way of Evangelical Outpost.
My Results:
1.  St. Augustine   (100%)
2.  Aquinas   (89%)
3.  Ockham   (76%)
4.  Spinoza   (57%)
5.  Kant   (53%)
6.  John Stuart Mill   (48%)
13.  Plato   (35%)
It seems that my Plato score was lowered considerably by my factoring in such verses as Romans 14:21 and 1 Corinthians 8:13.

Where the Posts Have No Name

Recent Monkey posts on Christian music (Thur. & Fri. below) have spawned follow-ups across the Northern Alliance. Mitch Berg chimes in at Shot in the Dark, and King at SCSU Scholars adds his proverbial two cents.

Latenight Potpourri [Updated]

The Nikkei is up 3.2%, the dollar has gained over 1% on the Yen, and the price of oil has come down about 4%. No, we're not really a breaking news blog. I just thought I'd bookend my thoughts from early Sunday.

In related news, no one seems to have picked up my rather strained reference to Hussein as "the Una-Saddam-er" moniker. Well, "it's a fine line, really."

Lastly, let me register my disappointment in The mods appear to have been late in even getting a "comments thingee" [sic] posted on the capture. Worse still – not having a Photoshop category specifically dedicated to the Saddam pictures. Yes, there are close to a zillion comments/rants/flames/jokes posted, but even the regular contributors are coming up with only a handful of Hussein Photoshops in the comments thread, and fewer in the regular Photoshop threads about other topics. To be fair, I should note that some of what's there brought a good laugh, but I really expected more from these usually timely and often painfully funny folks. (And if you think that Farkers may have suddenly discovered something too grave to poke fun at, you haven't been reading FARK.)

UPDATE: Lileks comes out of his self-imposed break to deliver a Bleat AND a photoshop.

UPDATE 2: Okay, it's Monday afternoon now. Nothing noteworthy happened here in our markets. You told me so. (well, you were thinkin' it)

Sunday, December 14, 2003
The joy I feel about capturing Saddam is again tempered with sadness that we haven't captured Osama Bin Laden. I say out loud that he's been neutralized so it's irrelevant, but I know in my heart that I want to see him in chains or in a pine box. I remember the horrible feeling of sitting in the Rainbow Room in October 2001 and looking south to the eerie glow of the search crews working on the still burning devastation of Ground Zero. I want Osama to pay for that.

The realistic assessment is that it took eight months to find someone in a country we control a lot more than we do Afghanistan, more than we do the U.S. (witness bomber Eric Rudolph's more than five-year run), and certainly more than the places Osama is likely to be.

But the optimist in me remembers what we learned again today: all it takes is one person coming forward with the information. There may only be two or three people who knows where Osama is, but if one of them does something that clues someone else in, who tells someone...there is hope.

Mr. "Underhill," I presume?

For the Tolkien aficionados among our readership (and yes, we recently found out there are a few), I should point out this post on today's news over at Captain's Quarters. While you're there, scroll around and check out some of his other posts on t-shirt sales, and Churchill paraphrases, and more.

Round-up round-up

Atrios takes a page from The Elder's sports commentary stylebook:
"Capturing Saddam ... may improve things slightly, or it could even make it worse..."
Meanwhile, major collections of bloggers' reactions (including Iraqi bloggers) are taking shape at Lt./Citizen Smash, The Truth Laid Bear, and Jeff Jarvis' Buzzmachine.

UPDATE: James Taranto has published a special Sunday edition of OpinionJournal's Best of the Web Today.

If you want to truly experience the sheer joy of the capture, go to Snoop Dogg's helpful translator and type in your favorite news site. For example, here's the translated CNN news:
"We Got the Dude's Ass." President Big Baby Bush: "A dark 'n painful era is over n' shit. A hopeful day has arrived, know what I'm sayin'?" Former Iraqi president wuz wearing pistol but did not fire that shiznit. Saddam wuz "hella disoriented" at da time of tha dude's capture. "The former dictator of Iraq will face da justice tha dude denied millions," President Big Baby Bush be like in a short televised address from da White House, "For da Baathist holdouts responsible fo' da violence, there will be no return da corrupt power 'n privilege they once held, know what I'm sayin'?
"This afternoon I has a message fo' da Iraqi muthas: This is further assurance that da torture chambers 'n da secret fuzz are gone forever, know what I'm sayin'? Yo' ass will not has fear da rule of Saddam Hussein ever again."

Blogging in excelsis

Evangelical Outpost has not only written a fine little blurb on the Significance of Military Virtue, but also a brief round-up of what some of the self-described liberal bloggers are saying. (He's done a much better job at it than I could have done – I was stopped in my tracks by the unrepeatable blather over at Democratic Underground, where it was hard to believe the posts weren't parodies.)

Evangelical Outpost: I gotta love a guy whose blogroll is categorized in Latin.


The folks over at Oxblog are finding some excellent video, some new, some vintage. First see this one, and note the text that accompanies the link. Watching the second video linked there, I was reminded of the "two minute hate" in the film version of 1984, except this was spontaneous. What must have been going through the minds of those guys by the podium? If we could hear the voices inside their heads, I imagine they would have sounded like Waylon Smithers. "Um, sir?"

Then, if you're not opposed to a little more lightheartedness in the wake of such a serious subject, see this Flash animation that Oxblog's Josh Chavetz reposted.

(Hat tip to Robert Tagorda's Priorities & Frivolities for the Oxblog pointer, and the Pejman link in my previous post.)


While the coverage over at Pejmanesque is worth reading by itself, I just had to pass along this Comment added by Southpaw
"I just woke up my house laughing out loud at the video of his medical examination. I was against the war, etc - but this is just so fucking awesome...this calls for a cold, refreshing, 3rd Sunday of Advent beer. Cheers!"

Break out your Motorhead

Juan Williams mentioned something about the Ace of Spades. Without missing a beat, Brit Hume suggested that SH now be called the "Ace in the Hole."

Carnival of the Capitalists: "Stop the Presses!"

Neil Cavuto was just commenting on FoxNews, making some interesting points. This may have a huge impact on on the financial markets wordwide. Any time a major "uncertainty" factor is removed from the playing field, investors and other important financial players take a few steps closer to what I'll call rational exuberance. I'd also love to hear someone's take on what can be said for the American dollar, given the report that SH had about $750,000 in U.S. bills. It's not excatly an "endorsement," but it's gotta say something about the stature of the dollar.

Furthermore, it will be very interesting to see whether SH will be put in a position where he'll have the incentive to spill the beans on those countries who financially supported his regime outside of the sanctions. Early reports indicate that he is still acting "defiantly" (for someone who has been dragged out of a hole in the ground). I'm convinced there are reams of details that can/will come out about the perfidy of a few certain western European countries and their weapons which were sold on credit.

I hope the effects of this this are equally as huge (as I expect) on the so-called "Iraqi street." Message to the worries that have lingered in the backs of most Iraqis' minds, and the fears that have stiffled the hopes of others: HE AIN'T COMIN' BACK TO POWER! Of course, there's still a faction to be defeated there, but this is a huge development.

As I type, I'm hearing a report that there is some dancing in the street. Still no video, so it may be simly metaphorical. Woop, just poked my head around the corner to glimpse the tv and there really was a crowd of folks dancing and waving (red?) flags. A former Iraqi exile (now back in Iraq) presently on the phone with FoxNews just had his cell call interupted by a celebration that spilled into the street around him. I wish you could hear how openly thankful he is. On the same coin, he predicts that only now will the flood of stories of the true horror of Saddam's regime begin to pour forth, now that fear of retribution has been squashed.

As for (frozen) Robb's self-described cynical surprise over the capture before the news cycle ramped back up on Monday... it goes without saying that there would be delay in acting on the fleeting intelligence on this High Value Target. That being disclaimed, I will pretend to enter the realm of cynical speculation by postulating that the capture breaking today allows for the markets to open with the news having been confirmed, and the whole story of SH's humiliating circumstances released: looking like the Una-Saddam-er (I wish I knew who came up with the phrase "The Mother of All Mugshots"), in a hole, being checked him for headlice, having his beard shaved, and his passive surrender. He had a pistol, and hadn't he promised a Tombstone-style showdown? Take that, suicide bombers.

[Hold: President's coming on tv.]

Yep. No triumphalism. Just a reasonable, subdued announcement (no pun intended). SH will now receive "the justice that he denied to others." You gotta like that. It was also nice that he had quiet praise for the U.S. troops.

One thing missing: praise for the U.S. intelligence community. Perhaps it may have come across as to rah-rah, but it seems that they have been doing a good job lately. Today's news, I think, shows how human intelligence can sometimes trump technology- and firepower-driven force.

It's time for me to make my initial admissions about the Saddam capture:

1. I'm surprised they caught him.
2. I'm REALLY surprised they didn't kill him. Not a shot was fired, they're saying. How does that happen?
3. I'm a cynical bastard, so I'm fairly surprised they captured him today and not tomorrow, when the administration could milk the herd politics of having everyone standing there at work with all of their peers when they heard the news.

I still think going to war with Iraq was wrong, and I still think King George is a bad guy, but I've got to give serious props to the military on their execution of this thing. If you're going to invade a country, killing people and breaking things, then this is the way to do it. Amazing that we have the technology and patience to execute a war with so little collateral damage.

It's been a long time since we held a war crimes tribunal. Here's hoping we hang the guy in the public square.

Jerry Garcia beardYeah, Saddam looks a little like Jerry Garcia, but he looks a LOT like Karl Marx. Or Michael Palin as the "It's" guy on Monty Python's Flying Circus.

My work is done. I slogged through the snow, went to work, just you people can wake up and look at the cover of my magazine and go: "Man, Saddam kinda kinda looks like Jerry Garcia."

I now return to Brooklyn. I leave the blog to my fellow Monkeys to put everything into perspective.

The Chosen One out.

Well, I'll admit, it's kinda fun-- doing the news thing. And once I kinda got some food, it's not too bad. man, Sadddam has a really big beard. Jerrry Garcia big. Man, he looks so disgraced. Like O.J. or something.

Saddam Hussien Sucks

So I work at a newsmagazine. I won't tell you which, but I'll tell you this: " Time sucks!!!" enough hints. Anyhow, I'm doing my thing y'kkknow, and I'm kind of a night owl, and I have have the TV on. And there there is Dan Rather, and he's like, "they got him! They got is ass! I don't believe itman!" Like that. And I realize, I have to go to work. I curse like a sailor. I curse the world. It's snowing. It's cold man. It's toasty in my apartment. Everything is just right. fucking Saddam. He's calls himslef a leader? He couldn't hold out until Tuesday? Mother fucker. Anyhow, I'm at work. Which means I blog.

Saturday, December 13, 2003
Just got back to my hotel room after the show, and it was quite a whirlwind experience. Here's the skinny:

At about 10:45am Phoenix time my plane finally lifted off the runway, 30 minutes late. A few hours later I was landing on runway 12 at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport. Runway 12. I had no idea there was such a big airport up here in the tundra, but there you go. I mean - San Francisco International only has four or five runways. Anyway, I took the shuttle from the airport with a couple people who, I swear, were extras from the movie "Fargo". "Well, jeez, that sounds like a swell show you're gonna see, uh huh." I was prepared for one of those "more stereotypical than the stereotypes" experiences.

At 5:00pm Minneapolis time, Atomizer and the Atomizerette picked me up from my hotel in Mendota Heights. We had a nice chat on the way to the show, and at 5:30 we met the entire Fraters Libertas crew at O'Donovan's Irish Pub, right across the street from the club where we were going to see the show. The Elder, who knows more about baseball than anyone else I've ever met, brought Mrs. Elder along to the show. St. Paul and JB Doubtless were, like me, going stag. Or perhaps they were "together", but that is simply wild and unsubstantiated speculation that has no business in a respectable weblog.

O'Donovan's was a gabfest. I have to admit that I was a little bit wary about meeting the Fraters, as I'd only corresponded via e-mail, and I can be pathologically introverted, so I was quite relieved that we all had much to talk about and the conversation was not "forced" at all. I had two Power's Gold Label Irish whiskeys, on the rocks, and I also enjoyed O'Donovan's Irish Breakfast (eggs, sausages, Irish bacon, black & white pudding, fries, and grilled tomatoes) since I hadn't had much of anything to eat all day. The rest of the gang had a combination of beers (mostly stouts - Guiness and Murphy's) and Irish whiskeys, and the Atomizers had some delicious-looking potato soup.

A little after 7:00, we walked across the street to the First Avenue, a famous Minneapolis nightclub, and I received multiple chastisements for never having seen Purple Rain. The club was horribly crowded, but we were committed to having a good time. I was advised to buy a very large beer, as it would be difficult to get back to the bar once we were down on the floor. I took the advice, buying as large a bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale as possible. I would have purchased Fat Tire or some other better ale, but Newcastle was as good as the establishment could offer.

The show started with The Flops, an acoustic band consisting of John Munson and Matt Wilson, both Trip Shakespeare alumni. Semisonic leader (and Matt's brother) Dan helped out on several songs as well. They opened with a very old Trip Shakespeare track, "Two Wheeler, Four Wheeler", and followed it up with "Drummer Like Me" from Trip's "Across the Universe" album. John and Matt then proceeded to play several Flops originals and a couple of Matt's solo songs. At the end of the set, Dan joined them again, and then performed several pieces of his own solo material. After the "acoustic" portion of the show, the screen was dropped while the crew prepared for the second half.

When the band took the stage again, the electric guitars were out in force, and they ran through several Semisonic classics, including "Singing In My Sleep", "Down in Flames", "One True Love" and, of course, "Closing Time". They only played about 30-40 minutes of Semisonic material, surprisingly (since Semisonic was technically the headlining band). Matt joined them on second guitar for many of the songs. They did not leave the stage, but after "Closing Time", the band was transformed into Trip Shakespeare, the band who I had come to see. Unfortunately, Elaine Harris (Trip's original drummer) could not be at the show, but Semisonic drummer Jake Slichter did a fantastic job in her absence.

They proceeded to play about 80-90 minutes of Trip Shakespeare material, including great classics like "Toolmaster of Brainerd" and "Unlucky Lady". They played "Reception", an older track that I was very pleased to hear them perform, and several other great songs. During the encores, they slipped in a couple of extra Semisonic songs, "Never You Mind" and "Across the Great Divide". I was sad that they didn't play "The Crane" or "Applehead Man", but was extremely pleased to hear as much Trip Shakespeare music as they played.

I brought along a Sony Minidisc recorder and digital stereo microphone to attempt to record the show. I had sent an e-mail about a week prior to the band asking if they had any objections, and got no reply. I have many recordings by "taper friendly" bands, but this was my first foray into recording the shows myself. Unfortunately, early review of the mini-discs reveals that the microphone was extremely overdriven, resulting in virtually unlistenable levels of distortion. You live and learn - I'll have to figure out if there's any way to reduce the input volume next time.

But the show was great - I got much more Trip than I expected, and it was great to see John, Matt, and Dan all on stage rocking hard to the classic Trip Shakespeare songs as well as Semisonic tunes. The Fraters guys were exceptionally gracious hosts and very pleasant to be around.

More tomorrow - right now I'm completely exhausted.

The Frozen Monkey

White Chariot of Freedom No More; or: Ka-boom!

I will never forget the day: October 3, 1995. It was the day I bought my first car. Before that, I'd driven my parents' 1977 Chrysler Le Baron. Green. Two-door. Smashed rear-fender on the driver's side, thanks to an uninsured punk who tried to play Mario Andretti with my mom one morning and ended up on his roof. The very anti-thesis of cool. Before that, during my college years, I drove my parents' 1981 Dodge Ram Van. Great vehicle. It helped move me in and out of three apartments, and transported my drums around throughout my junior and senior years. But for reasons too complicated to go into here, I couldn't use the van when I got out of school, and the Le Baron was my only option. Then the rear-end went out and that was that. I was a grown up. I had to buy my own car.

Which isn't to say that my father didn't have plenty of good advice. We looked around. We ended up at a Chevy-Olds dealer in Pasadena, California. After much deliberation, I settled on an Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. White with charcoal gray leather interior. CD player. Really had the get-up-and-go. And so my dad came with me and played good cop to my bad cop (rule number one: never, ever trust a car salesman), and we made a deal. I drove it off the lot on October 3, 1995. Why can't I forget the date? Because it was the same day as the first O.J. verdict.

I called her the White Chariot of Freedom. And now she's gone. Well, not gone exactly... still sitting in front of my house. But she won't run. She can't. Her engine is blown. Block is cracked. Transmission's ruined. Nine years, 162,000 miles later, it's over.

It's hard to explain what happened. It doesn't really matter. Losing the car is the topper of a long, exhausting, frustrating, awful year. But rather than enumerate the bad, I am trying very hard to be thankful for the good: great wife, wonderful son, nice house. And the rest of it? Well, here's hoping 2004 is a better year.

Okay, I'm in my hotel room in Mendota Heights, MN, connected over free Wi-Fi to announce that Atomizer will soon be picking me up for the Semisonic show. It's very cold here. Full report later, but for now, you will be the falcon, and I will remain...

The Frozen Monkey

HilariousThis is freaking hilarious.

(hat tips to, in reverse order, Anthony in the comments section of Harry's Place, linked to by Matt Welch @ Reason Online, linked to by Instapundit)

Say A Little Prayer for Me

I have a nameless fear that one day the actor Ashton Kutchner will elected president of these United States. he'll run on a platform of lower taxes, and a promise restore the honor to the office after its tarnishment by the Affleck Administration.

He'll say all of the right things in all of the right ways. He'll be telegenic and affable. And the fact that he was that he was in the that sitcom "That '70s Show' will be an asset not liability. President Kutchner will betray the people, even more than President Affleck, which is a thing hard to imagine. But he will.

He'll raise taxes, even though said he'd never do it. And in an address to the nation he'll explain it like this: "Dudes, I know I totally said I wouldn't raise taxes. But I'm totally gonna hafta. Sorry America-- you got punk'd!!!!!"

Anyhow that why every before I go to sleep I say this little prayer:
Dear Lord,
This is your obedient servant, The Chosen One. Dude, first I want to totally thank you letting me see "Lord of the Rings: Return of the King" before everybody else at Infinate Monkeys. And the dudes at fraterlibertas. And Hugh Hewitt. I totally want to thank you again for letting the Lakers sign Karl Malone and Gary Payton.

I totally want to thank you for the performance of my fantasy basketball team. We struggled early Lord, but they're doing a lot better. I want to thank you for injuring the L.A. Clippers' Elton Brand. It totally screwed over Rob's team. I know its your will Lord, that I'll win that pot of 350 dollars. I know you don't approve of gambling Lord. But if someone is going win this thing, it should be someone worthy-- like me. The other guys in the league are heathens Lord. And unclean. They blasphemes. I heard them use your name in vain on serveral occasions. Especially Rob. I might even venture to say a few of them are uncircumsized. Not that I've looked or anything-- it's just a guesstimate. and none of them go to church Lord. Sure, I know I don't go to church Lord. But its football season, and I can't miss my NASCAR. While we're here, I'd like to thank you for Matt Kenseth's Winston Cup championship.

I also totally want to thank you for that German chick you sent me-- man, who would've thought Germans loved black people that much? I know you didn't approve of some of the things we did. Especially the thing I did to her... well you know what I talking about Lord. Yeah, that. I beg your forgiveness for that, and the thing i let her do to me... yeah that.

Anyhow Lord, thanks, and if its possible if something really, really horrible could happen to Ashton Kutchner and Ben Affleck I'd really appreciate it.

You humble servant,
The Chose One

Of Mandibles, Music, and Monkeys

Last night I gathered the family around the tube to watch the Boston Pops Holiday Special. (I'd be interested to know if Ben, or even Dennis Prager, thinks that this is tantamount to getting one's classical music in a styrofoam container from a McDonalds drive-thru.) Anyway, one of the guests was Vince Gill. Near the end of the program, his wife Amy Grant (I had no idea) came out to perform a duet with him. While I was studying the spot where her jaw approaches her ear (and up just a bit), I noticed also that she seemed to have those clear braces, or some sort of appliance on her teeth. Might this have ramifications for her mandible?

Speaking of classical, this morning my son asked to watch our holiday standard: a laserdisc of Baryshnikov's 1977 version of The Nutcracker. Again, I ask Ben: is this the musical/cultural equivalent of drinking wine from a box?

Lastly, a reward for those loyal readers who have suffered through this odd weekend post. In searching for anything that might confirm Amy Grant's wearing braces, I noticed a site that linked to our friend's Mandible page (linked above). Curious, I scoped the site out and found this QuickTime featurette worthy of official Monkey Shines status (which will make more sense if we one day get our MovableType site up). The lighting is spot-on.

Friday, December 12, 2003
Drunk worms!!!!!!! 'Nuff said.

What do you do when your political opponent does something perfect, from every angle? Well, it's not pretty.

(The obvious corollary question, "why is a supposedly non-biased reporter a political opponent?" is one I'm tired of even thinking about.)

The Great Baseball War

So I 've been watching with interest all of the off-season moves the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox have been making. I gotta say, it's like watching Hitler and Stalin go at duirng World War II.

"Mein fuhrer, we need starting piching!"

"Nien! I vant a slugger! I vant Gary Sheffield!"

"Mien fuhrer, but he's a cancer in the clubhouse!"

"Nein! Nein! NIEN! I want Gary Sheffield like I want Stalingrad."

"But mein fuhrer, Stalingrad holds no strategic value! It's sheer folly I tell you!"

"I will have Stalingrad, just like I will have Gary Sheffield...."

Coming Soon on Infinite Monkeys

R.B. will post something about an article written by evangelicals who note that, while the Catholic makers of the film The Passion of Christ do not share their exact theological beliefs, many themes and motifs of the original books behind the screenplay are visible in the finished film.

Shortly thereafter, co-Monkey Robb will get off his chest something about how the popular habit of referring to The Passion of Christ as a "Christian" movie is technically an anachronism, since "Christianity proper" could not begin until after the Resurrection, and this movie is based on the Crucifixion and the week preceding it.

Then James (or "The Chosen Monkey," as he is now called) will post something about how absurd it is to view the Jesus character as some sort of Messiah figure, and then he'll claim that the apostles and the founders of the early Church were men of pure reason who thought believers to be rubes.

Amidst all of this, one of us will write something that deeply offends Star Trek fans. Emails to us will bounce back with "Inbox Full" notifications for weeks.

Now I've done it. I've angered Christian music fans. Sigh...
Chosen One,
I dare you to come to church with me on Saturday or Sunday and tell me that
our music is not good. I attend Christian Assembly in Eagle Rock, California between Glendale and Pasadena. The church is located on Colorado Ave. Our music leader is amazing and nationally acclaimed. Rick A.Torkelson
I'm going to have to stick to non-controversial topics like the TV Guide crossword puzzle. Are there any TV Guide crossword puzzle fans out there? I hope not, because its the suckiest and least challenging crossword puzzle out there-- and that's saying a lot, especially when you take into account the Los Angeles Times . Which isn't worthy of the name "puzzle."

*whooo* I'm glad I got that off my chest.

Well, I should look at the silver lining at this. Rick DID call me The Chosen One. I am THE CHOSEN MONKEY. I have seen "Return of the King" before everyone. Even Rick. That he'll never be able to take away from me. Ever. Because the power of the blog is with me. I am one with the blog. Blog is the blog, and the blog is the Blog. Something like that.

Return of the Return of the King

Well now I've done it. I've pissed off the Tolkien fans. I wasn't talking about Tolkien-- I was talking about the movies. I thought i made that clear. The movies are humanist. THE MOVIES. And stop telling me to read The Silmarillion! Stop sending e-mails about Balrogs, some dude named Valar, and how Gandalf is either a Christ-like or some kind of angelic force.

I was talking about a movie. A movie. A talking picture. Not the Bible or the Koran or any other holy text. I was talking a movie based on a book about hobbits and elves and drarves and orcs and wizards. Y'know Dungeons and Dragons type stuff, but well written. Relax man... just relax....

Speaking of bad Christian music, the other day I was at the gym and Clay Aiken's (from American Idol) "Invisible" comes on. I scream "God, this is like bad Christian music!" My workout partner laughed and said, "Isn't all Christian music bad?"

It's a crying shame. There's good Christian-- it's called Gospel. The Authentic Gospel. Not the "we're gonna R&B-hip-hop it up Gospel"-- just the plain Gospel music y'know. Now that is good Christian music. This whole thing to make Christian music contemporary-- bah humbug. I say let the fat ladies with soul make a joyful noise unto the Lord. That's my opinion.

Thursday, December 11, 2003
Christian Wishful ThinkingThe Return Of...Christian Deconstruction

I have long been weary of what seems to me to be "wishful thinking" on the part of a lot of Christians. I grew up in the church, I'm about the same age as most of the other Monkeys, and I certainly went through a lengthy phase during my "musical awakening" where I wanted to think all of the bands I listened to were secretly (or not-so-secretly) Christian bands. U2, The Alarm, Simple Minds, The Call, all of those bands that used a lot of Christian imagery or spiritual themes in their music. I hated (and still do) almost all "official" Christian music (except for Larry Norman, who still kicks ass), and growing up in Bible Church Youth Groups meant getting a lot of peer pressure to listen to the horrible Christian version of the horrible "secular" music that Top-40 radio played. If I could say, "But U2 ARE Christians", then I wouldn't have to listen to Farrell & Farrell, Sheila Walsh or Stryper. My "enlightened" friends and I would listen to "Declaration" by The Alarm and extract all of the (in hindsight, less-than-subtle) spiritual "messages" and think to ourselves, "If only more people understood the real message here..."

Well, eventually, I'd like to say I got over that whole thing. I do think I became more honest about my real motives - Christian music, like most popular music, simply sucked, and was often extra bad because it was intentionally derivative of secular counterparts. That's still true, by the way - who can seriously argue that Rebecca St. James wasn't trying to be "The Christian Alanis Morrisette"? I liked The Cure, R.E.M., and Love & Rockets - not "Christian" by a long shot. Yes, I also really liked U2, but not really because they were Christians. Oh wait! This is a good place to stick this:

Current Song: "If There's a Heaven Above" from the album Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven by Love And Rockets

Where was I going with all this? Oh, yes: Because of my intimacy with the "wishful thinking" experience, I am particularly sensitive to it when I see postmodern Christians "deconstructing" current media. A fantastic example is the reaction to the first "Matrix" movie. You can't throw a digital rock in cyberspace without breaking the window of some website reading WAY too much into a movie made by the same guys who wrote and directed "Bound". It's exasperating, primarily because I think relying on non-Christians to carry the Gospel into the world is asking a bit much.

Now, I don't want to trivialize the importance of praising art that elevates our culture - we should praise "Chariots of Fire" and "Gods and Generals" both for their execution AND their message. But let's not get too mystical about the deeper meanings of "The Matrix" or "The Game", okay?

This is where I actually meander back to "The Lord of the Rings": So far, I've absolutely LOVED the movies, and the books as well. In keeping with my general movie-book principles, I have refrained from reading "Return of the King" until after I've seen at least the theatrical release of the film. Because of this, I fully accept that I could be proven wrong about some of the things I'm about to say. But, based on the first two books and movies alone, I have to agree (in part) with James (um - I mean "The Chosen Monkey" - I think I'm gonna have to start referring to him as "TCM") that these are not predominantly "Christian" works. It is clear that that Tolkien's deeply Christian worldview strongly informs his work, but if you want to read fantasy that is Christian for the sake of being such, then read C. S. Lewis.

Tolkien didn't like allegory, and he was trying to construct a kind of English mythology. I think it is telling that, at least in the first two books, nobody makes any direct reference to any God, creator, providential guardian, or ontological source of "good". You get extremely elliptical references to "secret fire" and things that are "meant to be", but none of the "noble" creatures - Elves, Hobbits, or even Men, seem to have or engage in any religion that directs worship at anything in particular. The movies actually seem SLIGHTLY more positively religious than the books: in "Fellowship", Aragorn on more than one occasion performs a little gesture that looks like a primitive version of the Catholic "sign of the cross". But there is little more than this to suggest that anyone believes in a transcendent, ontological source of "good".

By contrast, the concept of "evil" as an ontological force is constant. Sauron is the embodiment of evil, and it seems like all evil flows from him and his Ring. This is not an "orthodox" Christian concept at all. In a truly Christian worldview, God is the personal, transcendent source and definer of "good", and "evil" is any action or attitude that fails to live up to God's standard. "Evil" does not exist in a metaphysical sense - it does not have "being", nor does it have a "source" that has being. Sauron is profoundly more powerful and "real" (in the ultimate metaphysical sense) that Satan/Lucifer/The Devil in Christian orthodoxy.

I have mixed feelings about embracing TCM's label of "humanist", though, at least based on the first two books/movies. You DO get the impression throughout "Fellowship" and "Two Towers" that Frodo (for example) is driven by a transcendent purpose that is higher than himself or his fellow creatures. You get all of those "you were meant to have the ring" moments. And Aragorn has a persona that is much more Arthurian than it is Humanistic in any post-Enlightenment sense. It's all so...English. It's Celtic and Anglo-Saxon mythology re-built. If the philosophy must be labeled, I think I would call it something like "Christo-pagan", if that isn't blasphemy.

They're great movies and great books. They praise noble virtues, and they make the reader/viewer long to live in a world that is soaked with such beauty, horror, purpose, and rich inter-connectedness. They are not anti-Christian works, but neither are they "Christian", as I see them. And thank God that He allowed Tolkien's rich gifts to produce "The Lord of the Rings" rather than crap like the "Left Behind" books.

Return of the King, part II

Being the only person here who has seen the entire "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, I have World intepretation of films as a kind "christian" is a kind of overreach. In fact, I'd say the film is a affiirmation of humanism. About beings taking charge of their own destinies, deciding their own fates, taking responsibilty for their actions.

The movies, especially was an appeal to humanity. An important was being asked of all of the characters: "Will you answer the call?" As humans we'll all be tested. In many different ways. it's a truth of life. Will you give in to despair? Will you stand aside silently? Or will you answer the call?

The last scene of the movie, and this won't ruin anything for you, is of Sam and his family. Frodo had given him the book that contained The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings . There pages remaining, and Frodo told to finish the book. He told him that his story about his family was just as important as the first two, even more so.

To live a free man, there is a price. To live a life that is free of others imposing on you, has a price. And that price has to be paid by the will of men. I'm going to be curious what everybody here thinks after seeing "Return of the King." But World got it wrong. After "ROTK" I can with authority, these movies are humanism to the core.

Philippa who?

I wish what I had read was only the first of a multi-page article, but alas. Still, it's a tasty tidbit, particularly for those still reeling from "the interview that wasn't."

That thing Ben mentioned about Colin Powell naming James Brown "secretary of soul and foreign minister of funk" is pretty funny. Though I'd have to say, I'd be curious to see what the senate confirmation process would be like:

The Battle Over James Brown

WASHINGTON-- Even in an era when bitter confirmation fights are routine, the nomination of singer James Brown as secretary of soul and foreign minister of funk, is shaping up to be one of the most contentious yet for the Bush administration.

Attacks on Brown have been under way since the day he was nominated almost three months ago, with critics denouncing the 71-year-old's musical philosophy and temperament, and vowing to block a conservative nominee they fear is being groomed for higher office. Although no date has been set for a hearing before the Senate, opponents say it could come as soon as next week, and supporters say Brown had better be prepared for rough sailing.

"I expect he'll get tougher treatment than Miguel Estrada," says Eric Claeys, a conservative assistant professor at St. Louis University School of Law who has written about the Senate confirmation wars. "He has a paper trail. He has written performed hundreds of songs. And Estrada didn't." Sacramento lawyer Steven Merksamer thinks Claeys could be correct, and says it's true the musical icon likely will face hostile questioning.

"He is smart, he is charming, he gots the funk, and he sings with great skill, confidence and integrity," the Nielsen, Merksamer, Parrinello & Mueller partner says. "Now what I worry is, will it matter how well he does? Will senators simply believe this is a Bush appointee they simply don't want and not vote on his qualifications?"

The bashing of Brown -- nominated in Decmeber at the urging of Secretary of State Colin Powell -- is expected to get more intense as the confirmation date approaches. Opponents are actively lobbying senators to vote against her, and a highly critical, 2-month-old report by the NAACP, the People for the American Way and the National Organization for Women is being distributed throughout the Senate.

Nan Aron, president of the left-leaning, Washington, D.C.-based Alliance for Justice, says opposition will come from all fronts -- not only black groups, but also women's organizations, police groups, and the music industry.

"We will do everything we possibly can to ensure that he's not confirmed," Aron says. "We are working on a report and plan to release it to coincide with the announcement of his hearing."

Brown is famous for ourageous lyrics and sexually suggestive antics on stage. But one person familiar with the Senate says he might face more scrutiny for some of his more over-the-top songs.

"I had initially thought that he might be spared a filibuster," this person says, "but I think he's basically in line with the selected handful that the full Senate has reserved for that procedural mechanism -- just because he has a lengthy track record as a singer, and his songs, in particular, say more about him than his opinions about rythym and blues. They reflect a sort of philosophical or ideological bent, irrespective of the funk. And let's be honest, that police car chase he was in while back certainly won't help matters."

But one Brown defender, Santa Clara University School of Law Professor Gerald Uelmen, says that's just not true. Brown's a libertarian, he argues, not an extremist. "I admire his wit, his courage and his independence," he says. "Those are qualities that we need to look for in federal appointments, and I wish we focused the process more on personal qualities than on labels."

Uelmen also says Brown's life story -- going from sharecropper's son in the deep South to a musical icon -- will work to his advantage.

"It's an amazing story that appeals to the electorate," he says. "I think his story alone will actually be a motivating factor."

Opponents, Uelmen says, should look closer at the two songs for which Brown is often criticized -- one in which he called himself a "sex machine" and another in which he declared it was "a man's world."

"'Sex Machine' was a celebration of life," Uelmen says. "And sure, I'll be the admit 'Man's World' is is problematic. But man made the car, to take us over the road!
Man made the train, to carry the heavy load! Man made the electric light to take as out of the dark! Man made the boat for the water, like Noah made the ark! This is a man's world! But it wouldn't be nothing! Nothing! Without a woman or a girl."