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Friday, October 31, 2003
Trick or Treat? Sounds Like a Trick To Me

So, I'm visiting the numerous Bear Flaggers tonight, in between servicing the ghosts and goblins, when I discover Patterico's item about L.A. Times columnist Steve Lopez. Can this be true? What manner of voodoo journalism is this? Clearly, the benefits of toiling in the fields of the vast right-wing conspiracy aren't as lucrative as I've been led to believe.

It's Halloween!

As of 7:45 p.m., we've had at least ten vampires, four Frankensteins, four ninjas, a couple of teenage girls dressed as babies, a handful of actual babies, five Hulks, many clowns (some quite ugly... "Insane Clowns"?), half-a-dozen "Scream" guys, seven or eight witches, a dozen or so vaguely threatening teenagers, Woody the Cowboy, Buzz Lightyear, a "gothic slayer," and the littlest veterinarian. Strangely enough, no firemen. All told, we've had about 80 kids tonight. No damage, er,...tricks just yet.

Update @ 8:35 p.m.: We've had another vampire, a Monopoly-style plutocrat, a cowboy without his hat, a lady-in-red, and a football player with a real injury.

You Can Have My Toy Gun When You Pry It From My Cold, Dead Hand

Wasting no time after the bad pre-Halloween craziness in the Capitol yesterday, Rep. Ed Towns (D-Brooklyn, NY) is pushing a bill he introduced earlier this year that would make the manufacture, sale, or possession of a toy gun a federal crime. Madness. Simply madness. Here's the text of the bill.

Hey, Are The Grocery Clerks Still Striking?

My wife just called to report that the picketers have left the Ralphs down the street from her workplace. Did I happen to know why? As a matter of fact, no, I didn't. But thanks to the magic of the Internet, I learned quickly that the grocery clerks' union powers-that-be pulled the picketers from Ralphs and moved them to Vons in a desperate divide-and-conquer negotiating tactic. By making nice with Ralphs, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union hopes to regain a little customer goodwill and portray Vons and Albertsons as—hmmmm... what's the term?—"unconscionable ballbreakers" (my phrase*, not the union's, just so you don't think I'm pulling an Arkin).

Anyway, I don't think it will work. I didn't think it would work before half of Southern California burnt to a cinder. No way it will work now.

* Borrowed, of course, from Nicholas Pileggi and Martin Scorsese.

Catholic Priest Good Guys (So Good, They Drive Bad Ghosts Away!)

Mark Gauvreau Judge recounts the fascinating tale of Fr. Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin and "truest ghost story ever told" on the Taste Page of today's Wall Street Journal.

Catholic School Bad Girls (So Bad, They're Good!)

"The girls came and started kicking him and punching him, so I wasn't going to stop them," says a Philadelphia man who stood by as some 20 Catholic school girls pummelled the living hell out of a serial pervert. Good for them. The moral of this story? Don't miss with those Philly Catholic girls, man. They don't even care when the blood gets on their saddle shoes.

Thursday, October 30, 2003
Panther Kicks Arse
Part 1 - introduction

Pardon my, um, Anglo, but there just isn't a better way to describe the latest release of Apple's Macintosh OS X operating system. This is version 10.3, a "mere incremental upgrade", but don't let that fool you - there are easily enough new features in this release to justify the cost. And for those of you who, like me, are among the few Mac users in your otherwise Windows-dominated environment, this release is a godsend.

It is my hope that I will be able to offer a somewhat uncommon perspective on this product. You see, I am a "switcher". My Titanium PowerBook G4 is the first Macintosh I have ever owned, and practically the only Mac I've ever used, and I have worked with technology for almost 20 years now. At sixteen, I brought home my first computer (a Kaypro 4, running CP/M before IBM and Microsoft conquered the desktop), and I've never had a job that was not in the technology field. Currently, I am a partner in a consulting firm that specializes in systems management, chiefly of mobile and remote systems. We're Microsoft Partners and we know the MS server and desktop technologies inside and out. Before drinking the Microsoft Kool-Aid, I was a die-hard OS/2 booster.

Because of my experiences, it took me awhile to get used to the Macintosh. The way I described it during the first three months was, "using the Force", or "turning off my brain and embracing the Zen of my Mac." More accurately, I was "un-learning" Windows. Everything in Windows (and even OS/2, for that matter) was encumbered by the legacy of MS-DOS, and how that base operating system accomplished things. If you are a Windows "power user", you are always thinking about the underlying file system, the "foreground" and "background" processes, the different subsystems. Since the underlying OS on the Mac is BSD Unix, all of those systems were different, and I assumed I needed to understand them thoroughly in order to use my Mac effectively. But I was missing out on something that lifelong Mac users had long enjoyed - a GUI and application development model that truly shields the end-user from the underlying "machine" and still lets that user accomplish just about anything they want. In a certain way, I had to ask myself, "If I had never used a computer before in my life, what would I try?"

The most straightforward example I gave to people was burning a CD. Historically, if you wanted to burn a CD with Windows you used a "CD Burning Application" such as Roxio's Easy CD Creator (the PC counterpart to Toast). You started a project, selected your files, arranged them in the directory structure you desired, inserted a blank CD, and committed the project to disc. When I first desired to burn a data CD on my Mac, I started scouring the Applications folder for the CD composition application, without success. "If I had never used a computer...what would I try?" I inserted a blank disc into the drive slot, it appeared on the desktop, and I started dragging files to it as if it were any other disc, removing and renaming files as I desired. When I went to eject the disc, it asked me if I wanted to "burn" the disc and commit the changes. Nothing more to it.

I didn't need to understand that my Mac was storing pending changes in a cache and not actually writing them to the disc, the OS just took care of that for me. Now, before you start sending me e-mail about this, I know that WIndows XP does this, finally. But Windows 2000 didn't. Windows NT didn't. Windows 95/98/Me didn't. Microsoft, after years of forcing users to rely on third-party applications and understand the underlying file system and restrictions associated with CD composition, finally deigned to shield the user from all of that.

Last December, I bought my PowerBook. My father-in-law had purchased one earlier in the year, and I played with it during visits to their house and family vacations with some curiosity. My only previous, and very limited, experiences with a Mac had been with the original "tan box" Macs and, later, OS 7. I didn't care for the older Mac OS, and I still don't, although I've grown somewhat more patient when I have to boot into OS 9 to allow my daughters to play some older games and educational programs. In the last ten months, I have grown to love my Mac, and I have also grown intimately familiar with many of its failings. In this series of articles, I will try to share both my love and my perspective on these weaknesses, in the (perhaps vain) hope that some of this will both reach and resonate with the folks at Apple, and future releases of the OS will be even better than the one I already love.

Continued in the following post(s):
Part Two
Part Three

Al Franken Is Just An Idiot

"Supply-Side Jesus": This is offensive on so many levels, not least of which is its humorlessness.

The Verdict Is In

Hard to argue with this, although I bet some of my lawyer friends could make a strong case for a calamari compromise.

Pay no attention to that...

It takes a lot of words for someone who's blog is named It's Still the Economy, Stupid to deal with today's news that the GPD grew 7.2% in the last quarter. Now, I'm not the one to critique Teddy's assertions that the outlook is still bleak. Is it just boilerplate? That's for co-Monkey David and the others who contribute to Carnival of the Capitalists to decide.

The Case Against Editors

Maybe Kaus is rite. I say, let's hang the mad dogs!

Update: Terry Teachout, quite coincidentally, posts a lament for the lost language of goons (a.k.a., factcheckers).

...And Don't Forget to Wear Pants!

Michael Williams reminds me why I'm so very glad to be married.

I'm Saving Up My Pennies and Thinking About Taking Out A Second Mortgage... anticipation of hearing the L.A. Philharmonic perform in the new Disney Concert Hall. Here are a couple of off-beat accounts of the three-night opening gala extravaganza spectacular: The New York Observer and L.A. Alternative Press (hat tip: L.A. Observed). One of my colleagues was a guest of a major donor on the second night and reported that it sounded as good as advertised. Michael Tilson Thomas is conducting Mahler's 6th in December. Can't wait. Oh! Berlioz in January! And Shostakovich's 8th in April! Time to sell more blood, I guess.

Pessimistically Optimistic

So I went back to bed around 4:30 this morning. Just as I was drifting off, the cat decided to puke on the comforter. I think I managed to get back to sleep around 5:15.

Why didn't I sleep well last night? I thought for certain that my parents' house in Running Springs was going to burn down. The TV footage from there looked mighty grim. That house isn't my ancestral home exactly, but I have a lot of memories there. Literally. Most of the artifacts of my college days—articles I wrote for the student newspaper, letters, classnotes—are stored there. An entire wing of my library is housed there. So is my collection of New Republics and National Reviews, going back to 1989!

But it's more than that. I proposed to my wife in that house. I holed up there with 10 gallons of water, about two weeks' worth of Dinty Moore beef stew, and many guns just in case Y2K went bad. My wife and I spent the first month of our marriage there, before we found our apartment. My son enjoyed his first Christmas with Grandma and Grandpa at that house, and saw snow for the first time. (He liked to look, but he did not like to touch.)

A lot of memories.

Well, the news this morning is pretty good. No homes were lost in Running Springs last night. The firemen held the line. And the weather is improving. We're not out of the (flaming) woods yet, but things are looking up.

The Riverside Press-Enterprise is posting frequent news updates. Here's a graphic mapping the fire fronts. And here's a pretty nifty shot of a firefighter keeping watch on Highway 18 near Running Springs yesterday.

Update @ 4:35 p.m.: KNBC's Chuck Henry (who lost a van the other day) just reported that firefighters in Running Springs have lost the fire! They don't exactly know where it is, but they're pretty sure it's still burning on at least three sides of town. The fog up there is pretty thick.

So far OpinionJournal reports having "raised a grand total of $1, which exceeds our expectations by 100%. If the money continues coming in at this clip, we should have enough to go to Hawaii by 2020." So, perhaps James' candidacy for Black Leader, and his free trip to Hawaii, may be delayed. But can the nation wait?

In other fund drive news, the... um – well, let's just call 'em utilitarian photoshop "skillz" of one of the Fraters Libertas have spawned this Hummel horror. Read the text there for the details on this creepy but worthy cause.

Lastly, there is a much more serious cause that deserves your attention. To make the most impact on the California fire relief effort with every dollar, the Salvation Army is the most trustworthy and efficient way to go. Taken straight from their official site: "Monetary donations, earmarked Disaster Relief, may be sent to your local Salvation Army or made online at or by calling 1-800-SAL-ARMY." They don't limit their aid based on faith. They share with all who are in need. And they do so with just about the lowest overhead costs of any charity out there. You know you've been thinking about ways you can help. Go ahead. It's quick. It's easy. [Insert Wilford Brimley quote here.]

Schwarzenegger To Aid McClintock?

The Times yesterday ran that headline without the question mark. I added it, not because I don't believe the story but because I'm curious what it will mean a year from now (and I'm too punchy to ponder it in detail at this hour). Anyway, McClintock apparently will not have a rich, moderate Republican challenger in the March primary, about which I was wrong and the Irish Lass was right.

You Get What You Pay For

Headline in today's Los Angeles Times: Wildfires Give Schwarzenegger a Chance to Reopen Tax Issue. It's a Skelton column, not an actual "news" story. Old George is practically drooling on his keyboard at the prospect of the governor-elect raising taxes. "The fires are giving Arnold Schwarzenegger a golden opportunity. They're allowing him to quickly choose the kind of governor he wants to be: practical or political. Flexible or rigid." He concludes: "The more people who move into the brushy foothills — or onto the mud slopes or the flood plains — the more it's going to cost to live in California. That means higher taxes."

I hate to follow a gross oversimplification with another (hey, it's 3:30 a.m., I should be in bed. What's Skelton's excuse?), funding for public safety in California suffered because legislators and the governor decided to shovel surplus money into failed social-welfare programs and a massively bloated public-school bureaucracy, to say nothing of the long-term electricity contracts that locked in rates at absurdly high levels, and pay-offs to the public-employee unions. Oh, and illegal immigration isn't cheap, either. In other words, the more people who vote for spendthrift legislators, bond measures, and idiotic ballot initiatives, the more it's going to cost to live in California. That means higher taxes.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003
A hearty belly-laugh goes out to Greg Knauss's "Devil's Dictionary". A particularly appropriate entry:

Slashdot, verb
To test, experimentally, what an infinite number of typing monkeys will produce. See also USENET.

Aloha from Hawaii

One of the only things I don't like about Opinion Journal's Best of the Web Today feature is that it's like a blog that doesn't give you the ability to link directly to one of its several daily stories / posts. [UPDATE: When they refer back to a specific part of BOTW the following day they have access to the direct links. So I lifted one and replaced the general link above.] Tuesday's final entry read:
Josh Marshall, who's been perhaps the blogosphere's biggest innovator when it comes to including actual reporting on his blog, took up a collection to raise money for a trip to New Hampshire. Marshall says he'll spend the last week and a half or so before the Democratic primary reporting on the Granite State campaign exclusively for his TalkingPointsMemo blog.

The fund drive was a huge success, raising nearly $5,000 in less than 24 hours. In fact, Marshall says he's raised far more than he needs for the trip and is offering to give some back.

Like all good ideas, this one is subject to refinement, and it strikes us that there's one shortcoming to Marshall's plan: There are already hundreds of reporters in New Hampshire; what difference does one more make? Why not raise money to report on an under covered political event?

There's a vote on Feb. 24, or maybe it's March 2; campaign calendars we've consulted differ. Just to be safe, we'd like to spend almost all of February and the first few days of March on the scene, offering exclusive reports from this crucial state to Best of the Web readers. So how about it, who wants to pony up to send us to cover the Hawaii caucuses?
[emphasis in original] Now, that's a fine idea. But what about our co-blogger James' candidacy? No, he's not running for President. But how much could there really be to cover at the Hawaii caucus? They'll need a good story like James running for the position of Black Leader: clearly an under reported political event. No, we don't have our "donate" button up yet, but that shouldn't stop you from emailing your credit card number, expiration date, and security code number (usually the last three digits on the back of the card, by your signature) to infinitemonkeys at (Replace "at" with "@"). Pledges will work too. I'll email you my PayPal account info.

As I've written before, "Won't you (dear reader) please consider throwing your support behind James and his candidacy? Okay, perhaps James hasn't convinced you that he's your man -- you've still got to admit that he's right about the need for a recall. It's an ironclad case. A no-brainer. (Okay, well... it's darn fun idea, anyway.)"

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

The Fire This Time

In my last dispatch, I reflected that maybe it would have been a good idea to clear the dry brush from our backyard before the outbreak of the largest wildfire in California history. Woulda coulda shoulda. Too late.

We were evacuated early Sunday morning. No, that isn't quite right. The passive construction doesn't do justice to the experience. I'll start again.

We had to flee our house around 3 o'clock Sunday morning, chased out by a roaring wall of fire. An hour earlier, we thought the danger had passed. In fact, my wife felt safe enough to go to bed. As we watched the orange glow creep southward, I quipped, "Well, unless the wind decides to make a sudden right turn, we should be OK." I should have kept my mouth shut.

The wind shifted. Hard. I kept looking out my front window every ten minutes or so. The smoke was getting thicker. Was it getting hotter? My neighbor across the street thought so. About 10 minutes to 3:00, I went into my next door neighbor's backyard. Their wall is adjacent to the main boulevard that runs to our neighborhood, across from which a 20-foot-high wall of flame, driven by extremely hard Santana winds, moved quickly through the open, brush-filled field. The fire was maybe 15 feet from the road.

What I would give to have seen the look on my face at that moment.

I ran home. Gasping for breath, I shook my wife awake. "We... gotta go... now! The fire... is almost... to the road!"

Let me tell you something about my wife. She is the very essence of grace under pressure. A model of composure. We've been through a lot in the last month, but she's handled it all pretty well, a few sleepless nights notwithstanding.

"Calm down," she said. "You'll wake the baby."

Well, yes, I just might wake the baby. We have to go! Now! No time to waste!

I ran back outside. The fire had already reached the edge of the road. I figured it would only be a matter of minutes before the wind took the flames to our side of the street.

Back into the house. "GET GOING!" I hollered. And then to the backyard I went, to give the bushes and the eaves one last hosing down.

I prayed. I cursed. I got a mouthful of ash. I prayed some more. I saw the flames leap up behind my neighbor's wall. I dropped the hose and made tracks for the house.

My wife was up, and our son was crying. "Get the cat," she said. "I'll get the van ready."

The cat was hiding under the bed. "Kitty! Kitty!" I said, as calmly as I could muster. I snapped my fingers a few times. That's usually how I get her to come out. "Here, kitty! Come on out! Kitty!"



Okay, so I lost it a little bit. "Come on, kitty...please?" Still nothing. I didn't want to leave her, but the fire was moving awfully fast.

I went out of the bedroom and retrieved a few things—my cel phone, my keys. My wife came back in the house. "Where's the cat? Didn't you get her?"

"No, she's hiding under the bed... we gotta go."

"Not without the cat, we don't."

Back into the bedroom. My wife closed the door. I moved the bed, and pounded on the mattress. The cat came running out. Thank the Lord! I snatched her up. My wife raced for the front door.

From inside, I could hear her yelling to somebody across the street. It was our mysterious neighbor! We've only lived in this house for four months. In that time, we've never seen the people who live two houses to our left. "Hey! Look behind you!" my wife yelled. The roar of the fire was almost deafening. The flames were licking at the palm trees in mystery neighbor's back yard.

"Oh, my God!" mystery neighbor cried. "I've been asleep! I thought the house was on fire!"

"You've got to go!" my wife called back.

Yes. So did we. I had the cat, but I didn't have my bags, or my laptop. My wife went to close the front door. "Wait, no!" I said. "I gotta get my stuff." She went back. "No!" I hollered. "Take the cat, take the boy, get out of here!"


"GET OUT OF HERE!" She got of there.

I grabbed my things. At least I had the presence of mind to lock the front door. All I knew as I sped away was that our house wasn't burning. But I fully expected to return to smoldering ruins.


At midnight, the police came around to announce that a voluntary evacuation was underway. Many people, including our next door neighbor with the big house adjacent to main avenue, packed up their essentials and left. We gathered up the important documents and some pictures, as well as baby clothes and a few personal items. I packed a bag and my laptop and set them near the front door, just in case. Then I went into the back yard and started to hose everything down. We have a good tile roof, but wooden eaves. And all of that desert shrubbery that the previous owner bequeathed to us. We should have rented some goats.

My wife and I decided that we wouldn't leave unless we absolutely had to. I put on a pot of coffee. We had more than one way out, so I wasn't too concerned about getting trapped. But I worried about those bushes. We kept the sprinklers running and my wife and I worked 15-minute shifts with the garden hose for the next couple of hours. Our 16-month-old son slept the whole time, blissfully unaware of the trouble outside.


We drove a couple of blocks down away from the fire and pulled over next to the local fire station. I got out of the car. The wind was blowing so hard, it almost took the door off. When I looked back, all I could see was a bright orange glow through the smoke. I was choking on ash.

I called my mom. "We had to leave," I said, calmer now.

"Oh, God, no! Is there anything I can do?" she said.

"Just pray for us," I said. "We're coming over."

Then my mom started to cry.


We took the 210 freeway through Rancho Cucamonga, Upland, Claremont. The fire followed us. Part of the 210 was burning. The Baseline Avenue exit, which is usually the exit I take to get to work in the morning, was closed and an open field next to it was in flames. A wall of fire descended the mountain above Towne Avenue in Claremont, into Claraboya. It would consume 50 homes before the night was out.

I was numb. My thoughts turned to The Aftermath. Our insurance would cover the cost of rebuilding the house, but not much else. All of my books, some of which I spent years looking for, would be gone and very difficult to replace. All of my music would be destroyed. A lot of our photos, including our wedding pictures, would be lost. On the bright side, we'd get to build the place the way we wanted. And we'd get to buy new wardrobes. For some reason, in the midst of trying to corral the cat I suppose, we forgot to take our clothes. (I did remember to pack a couple days worth of clean underwear, though.)

My wife said, "Until we see it, our house is still there." I pretended to believe her. That's the beauty of our marriage. She's the soothing yin to my raging yang. Or something like that.

We arrived at my parents' house around 4:00 a.m. We reeked of smoke and sweat. I didn't unwind until maybe 5:00, and even then I barely slept.

My dad was at my folks' place in Running Springs, hoping to wait out the Old Waterman fire. They lost power up there the day before, and the phone lines weren't working very well. He had to leave Sunday night. It's touch and go right now, and they're not too optimistic. I didn't get ahold of him until 7:30 Sunday morning. He sounded sad at the news, but hoped for the best.


When our son woke up, he was a little surprised to discover that he was in a different house.


We began the trip back to Rialto around 8:30, stopping along the way for coffee, face masks, goggles, and gloves. We heard about the destruction in La Verne and Claremont on the radio, and learned that the Grand Prix and Old fires had merged and now threatened Devore and Glen Helen. But there was no news about what may have happened to our neighborhood, which lies only a few miles south of there. Most maps, in fact, haven't included us in the fire perimeter.

The television coverage, needless to say, ignored us entirely.


We arrived at our street around 9:30. Lo and behold, the house was there. The neighbors' houses were still there, too. Miraculously, no homes were lost in our neighborhood at all. Some trees were singed. Some grass was torched. Several telephone polls burned up across the street, and a few were still burning when we got there. But the firemen did a remarkable job. We owe them a great debt.

That said, two days later, the place still smells like bad smoked cheese. But at least we're at home, safe and sound.

Big Mother [Note: this is a pretty cheesy, sub-par post. New visitors would be well advised to scroll down to the next post, in which David discusses the fires.]

"[In Norway, baby formula] is conspicuously absent from hospitals, and advertising it is banned."

Today, Dennis Prager is talking about lacto-fascists. (My term, not his.) Yes, the La Leche League. Actually, that's just the American branch of the camp (I was going to say "coven" but that's so "American Movie"). Dennis was discussing this New York Times piece on Norway making a big societal-manipulation push away from bottle feeding. His point is about the larger issues of how in societies where moral clarity is lost or abandoned, people generally channel the energy that would normally be focused on moral issues into (oftentimes trivial) matters of health. He's got a point there.

Having had two boys in the last eight years, my family and I have had our run-ins with the lacto-fascists. Hopefully I'll get to write about the grilling I got from the friendly folks at B.E.S.T.fed when I tried to buy some high-end bottles and about breast feeding in church pews later tonight.

[I'd also like to point out a shocking connection discovered by Lileks today. Scroll down to the Atkins logo.]

Unfortunately, I've got a test and two quizzes to administer today, and parent-teacher conferences, plus IRS details to clear up regarding our school's tax exemption paperwork. Yep. Busy, busy Monkeys. Ben's got a big deadline looming, so he's probably either evacuating his San Diego home or hunkered down in the office editing away. Robb is probably driving all over creation on business, since most flights between Arizona and So-Cal are cancelled. David is... well, no one knows what David and James are doing. I'm guessing they're putting together James' campaign platform.

UPDATE: Ben doesn't live in San Diego. He lives in Rialto. That's in San Bernadino County. I think they call it the Inland Empire. Yes, there are fires there. They're just different fires than the ones burning San Diego. Now that I've received a lot of flak over my poor California geography, I'm beginning to remember that it's David who lives south of L.A., closer to San Diego. Robb and I live in Arizona, in different 'burbs around Phoenix.

UPDATE: David writes, "I'm in La Jolla, which is in the city of San Diego."

An unbelievable number of close calls with the fire--but my friends are all safe.

My friends Terri and Allison were sure their home in the back part of Poway (near Rock Haven) was gone, but they got back and the fire had jumped Highway 67 but was stopped at their road, Coyote Creek Trail--it burned down to the road and no further. Another friend, Russell (who's promotion to Chief Petty Officer I swear I'm going to blog about soon) had a close call in Poway, but his house was OK. My friend Tom lives in University City near the 805, and had the fire get within a 1000 feet of his house. Ben had an even closer call and will blog on it here soon. My friend Magnus the blacksmith, who is on the 67 just south of Scripps Poway Road, had his home/workshop survive (thankfully--he's not insured and all the tools of his livelihood were there) but the wrecking yard and recycle center next to him burned. Another friend in Valley Center fled flames in the fields all around his house, but returned to find it intact (but all the fences around it burnt, and scorched earth inches from his back deck). (I literally just changed this sentence from "he lost his house" because I just got the e-mail.)

A lot of close calls. Here's my favorite story, from a guy I know named Mark, who's wife Sandy's brother left his house Sunday:
Sandy's brother, the one who lost his house Sunday morning, spent Monday evening driving one of his company's fuel trucks around to give diesel to the fire crews. At the end of the night they agreed to take him up the closed El Monte Road to see what was left of his place. They had run out at 4:30 in the morning when the fire came without warning. The last they saw of the place, the whole property was in flames, including the grove of oaks in which the house was nestled--a burning canopy around the house. Today, the property is scorched and black and the trees are burned and stark, as they stand with naked fingers surrounding and protecting his unscratched house.

Monday, October 27, 2003
Doh! Time to improve my outlook:

You are Lamentations
You are Lamentations.

Which book of the Bible are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

The who of the whaaaaa?The who of the what?

I should like to add this: Age of Chance's "1000 Years of Trouble" was the, uh, "record you were embarrassed to admit you liked, but you didn't need to be embarrassed, because nobody heard of the damn thing anyway" of hip-hop.

Here's a challenge for those of you who can even listen to hip-hop long enough to compare it to real music. Name the hip-hop equivalent of these records:

1. The Velvet Underground - "Loaded" (i.e. the "commercial" album by a critically acclaimed band that you really liked the best, but told everybody you liked "The Velvet Underground and Nico" because it was cooler to like that record)
2. The Clash - "London Calling" (i.e. album by a previously good and critically acclaimed group that was now "firing on all cylinders")
3. R.E.M. - "Murmur" (i.e. debut album that caught everyone off-guard and effectively started a completely new "scene")
4. The Beatles - "Let It Be" (i.e. absolutely wretched excess that effectively ended the career of a previously magnificent group)
5. Joy Division - "Closer" (i.e. album by a group that everybody pretended to like, but were actually complete crap, unless you were one of the five people on earth like Paul Morley who had some kind of gnostic experience causing them to worship Ian Curtis as the new messiah of rock)

Bonus: Name the hip-hop equivalent of the "Xanadu" soundtrack, and explain why.

Sunday, October 26, 2003
Quiet Weekend

Okay, so I've deliciously wasted the weekend. Yes, I've been worried about Ben's house and David's friends. But beyond some prayers, I've been distracting myself. Lots of tv. Little thinking. When VH1 finally took a break from "I Love the 80's Strikes Back" (hey, I was brushing up on my trivia skills... yeah, that's the ticket), they unveiled a new program called Supersecret TV Formulas. Not a bad show. But what struck me most about the show was the graphic design of the show's opening and promo graphics. They seemed strikingly reminiscent of Lileks' Institute of Official Cheer. Strikingly.

While seeking the links at VH1's site, I ran across a mention of the Barenaked Ladies' latest, "Another Postcard" which is all about monkeys. I heard the song several weeks ago, but negelected to comment on it out of respect for the Fraters' Atomizer. I can understand why some may loathe the Ladies. I've never bought anything of theirs, and hadn't considered them, well... very much at all. Until I caught their comments during the 1989 episode of VH1's aforementioned 80's show. Remember, '89 was the year that the Beastie Boys' album "Paul's Boutique" came out. The Barenaked Ladies guys had it exactly right: the first and biggest single, "Hey Ladies," was the weakest track (though still a fun keeper) on the album. Yep. I turned to my wife and she shot me that look that says, "Yes, yes, you think Paul's Boutique is the Sgt. Pepper's of hip-hop." And it is. And the Barenaked Ladies get it. The segment went on, and the BNL guys rattled off an impressive string of Paul's Boutique lyrics.

So, between that, and the new BNL single and video heavily featuring monkeys, I have to grant the Barenaked Ladies a second chance.

And because I can't foresee another opportunity to throw it out there, I'll follow up my Paul's-Boutique-as-Sgt.-Pepper's theory with the only slightly less emphatic claim that the Beasties' "Check Your Head" is the "Physical Graffiti" of hip-hop. And yes, I was thrilled that in the '88 episode of I Love the 80's, Doug E. Fresh proclaimed Public Enemy's track "Don't Believe the Hype" THE hip-hop jam of '88. Now, this isn't a long standing theory of mine -- I'm thinkin' off the top of my head on this one -- but I'll argue that "It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back" is the "Never Mind The Bullocks" of hip-hop. (Yes, I can hear the Fraters and even Mitch Berg typing in protest already.)

Observations while typing: HGTV's Space Pads show was really disappointing. Also, I was rudely shaken from my self deception -- that I might be able to go on with the rest of my life never having to hear "Walkin' On Sunshine" again. Oh, thank you Fisher Price, for punishing me with your Sweet Sounds Dollhouse ad. Oh, and Ed's Michael Ian Black is dern funny. (Hey, shows that he was "Johnny Bluejeans" on Viva Variety.) Car ad music is better than most of the music I hear on the radio (electronica streaming channels through iTunes radio not included).

Okay, regular Infinite Monkeys programming resumes Monday.

On CNN, Larry King is talking about Lady Di.

If this were a trashcan fire in Manhattan, they'd be on high alert, total coverage.

Someone I know through the San Diego Burning Man community just lost his house in Valley Center...he was having a huge party there next weekend; I imagine the energies of the community now will be focused on helping him clean up.

Update: I was supposed to fly to Houston today, but flights out of San Diego were delayed or cancelled because the Mirimar air traffic control center had to be evacuated. So I'm going tomorrow. But at least I still have my house.

Another update: The local news is calling in "FIRESTORM 2003." Man, I don't like local news. At least this time no reporter has made this mistake.


Saturday, October 25, 2003

The so-called Grand Prix fire in western San Bernardino County, which has been burning more or less out of control since Tuesday, is now about two miles from my house. We had a bit of a scare Friday morning, when the fire actually jumped the Interstate 15, but it didn't get very far. The winds died down and later shifted to the west, which came as something of a relief.

Tonight, however, the situation is quite different. The winds blew the fire back down Lytle Creek canyon, across the road, and up to Interstate 15 once again. This time, police shut down the main road leading from our neighborhood to the freeway. We watched as flames crept ever closer to the service stations at the Sierra Avenue exit. Then, in a sudden burst of blue flame, the lights went out across the freeway. Then the streetlights went out on Riverside Avenue. We still have power in our neighborhood, but perhaps not for long.

Still, it beats the chaos that's descended upon Rancho Cucamonga, Alta Loma, and parts west, to say nothing of the more than 200 families who lost their homes today in the Old Waterman fire, which broke out this morning and moved rapidly across the San Bernardino mountains and drove hard down the canyon. We can see the flames quite clearly from our backyard. Pretty big.

My next door neighbor stopped by a couple of hours ago to report that we're "on alert" and that we may be evacuated. I'm not too worried right now, but all the same we've got the important documents and a few other things ready to go. My wife and I keep going outside every few minutes to see if the orange glow to the west is getting brighter. Ominously, perhaps, the wind is blowing in our general direction and it's gotten a bit more smokey in the last 20 minutes or so.

For what it's worth, TV news has been next to worthless about the progress of the Lytle Creek part of the fire. But I guess that's to be expected. There's more destruction 10 miles or so to the north.

Update @ 11:28 p.m.: The great orange glow to the west has dimmed considerably, which I take as a good sign. But the air reeks of smoke and the wind continues to blow our way, so who knows?

Update @ 11:39 p.m.: Upon reflection, it probably would have been worth it just to pay some guy to clear all of the dry brush out of our backyard. When this thing is over, I believe we'll do just that.

Gregg Easterbrook has lost his mind.

That's too harsh, really, but he's certainly lost his way. I loved reading his Tuesday Morning Quarterback column (no link, as ESPN made it disappear completely--Soviet-style--when they fired him for his ill-advised remarks on Jewish Hollywood executives--no link for that either, as the whole thing is tiresome and easy to find on The New Republic website).

I loved reading TMQ because it was fascinating to see a detail-oriented policy wonk apply his amazing mind to football. He always had a fresh take on things, and many, many nuances.

But maybe blogging isn't his metier, or the anti-Semitic accusations put the zap on his head, but now he's lost all his nuance and is going for quick hits. Take a look at this nonsense about Iraq. Let me get this straight--we should abandon Iraq?

This is actually the position of a lot of Congressional Democrats, even those who voted for the Iraq resolution, and it's frankly disgusting. Surely even if (perhaps even especially if) the reasons for the war were wrong, we have a strong responsibility to see that the vacuum left by the removal of the fascist Baathist party is not filled with something equally as bad. In fact, we have a responsibility to ensure that a democratic government is put in place, and we had that responsibility from the moment we took military action (that was in 1991, if I remember correctly).

Coming from the "loyal opposition" in Congress, it's transparently demagogic. But coming from Easterbrook, who is smart enough to know better, it's horribly sad, and possibly the death rattle of a once promising career.

I stopped by the Apple Store tonight at about 8:30 (the one in Newport Beach; we were up there to have dinner with friends), and there was a rope line, with a guy acting as bouncer and only letting people in slowly to buy Panther. I was wearing my Drew Carey-style glasses, and I wanted to walk up and say “man, look at me—I’m wearing the nerd glasses, I got my first Mac in 1985, if there were ever a line I should get to cut in front of, it’s this one! I'm on the list, I swear!”

But I didn't. I decided to take the advice of Ogden Nash: if you're called by a panther, don't anther.

Thursday, October 23, 2003
So Much For That

Looks like my seasonal drink theory is out the window. We've had record-breaking, near-apocalyptic heat this week. The mercury has broken 100 degrees here in southern California for the last four days. A hundred in October! And there is little relief in sight. So it's back to gin . . . well, I'm still drinking brandy and soda, and the occasional Manhattan. But the gin is back in regular rotation. I make this confession, because the Elder compelled it. But I learned a lot about beer in the process.

Geek Chic

As USA Today proves once again, I was a man ahead of my time.

So I've been thinking about the Ghettopoly" scandal. And me being me, I starting thinking about what could be even more offensive. So I'm thinking and I'm brainstroming. And I think I've come up with a winner: "The Jive Bible." The Holy Bible translated into jive talk. That would be brilliant. And because I'm black, I'm protected. And the more they protest, the more I say things like, "why you protestin'? I'm jus' tryin' to take religion to my peoples in the street." And the more they protest, the more they look like idiots, you know?

Ach! Earworms!

At first, I thought this was going to be about the thing they put in Chekov's ear in "Wrath of Khan." But it's interesting in its own right. Turns out, I'm infested with the buggers.

The Smearing of Janice Rogers Brown

Having the thinnest of pretexts to oppose President Bush's nomination of California's Janice Rogers Brown to the D.C. Circuit Court, the NAACP and the inaptly named People for the American Way have resorted to out-and-out racism to stop her. Powerline and NRO's Byron York have the disgusting details.

Current drink: Coffee. Current song: "One Little Victory" by Rush on "Rush in Rio."

One More Signpost...

...on the steep, downward slope of European civilization: porn karaoke!

Terri Schiavo: A Constitutional Lesson

I cannot top Ken Masugi, so you should just go read him yourself.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003
One Long Day, part three

(start here and work your way up)

15 minutes later, as I wait by the elevator, someone finally arrives with my keys. I move to the new room, check my e-mail, and wish I hadn't ever asked for a room with working Internet access. My company's new web hosting provider has responded to one of my technical support requests, and has added an additional note that they "noticed" that Moveable Type is installed in one of our subdirectories. This is "not supported" and "banned" from their servers, and I have 24 hours to remove the files before they delete them. WTF????? This account includes a specific amount of storage space AND a limited amount of bandwidth. What could they POSSIBLY object to about our having Moveable Type installed? I can't imagine. But I'm furious and I respond accordingly.

I'm also late for my shuttle. I race downstairs and manage to barely make the bus. While on the bus, I sit in the back and try to make a couple of calls to take care of outstanding business. Each time I start talking, the coach driver gets on the intercom and decides to tell us something "interesting" about Anaheim. I am unable to carry on a conversation, so I give up, exasperated. When we pull into the parking lot at Disneyland, he reminds us to take our tickets. Tickets??? Doh!!! In my rush to make the bus, I have left my pass in my room. Not only am I going to have to ride back to get my pass, I am going to have to wait ANOTHER 30 minutes for the next bus, because they can't wait for me to run up to my room and come back.

While riding back, a plan is hatched: My hotel is the last of three hotels where this shuttle stops. If I get out at the first hotel, I can run across the parking lot, race up three flights of stairs to my room, and get back down to the lobby in time for the bus to arrive at my hotel. Despite my tremendous girth and generally poor physical condition, this plan actually works. I'm able to avoid the extra 30 minute wait, and somehow also avoid a fit of vomiting and/or a heart attack.

From here, things start going "my way" a little more. I am able to get three good rides in before DCA closes, and then I walk across the lot to Disneyland and enjoy the "Nightmare Before Christmas" version of the Haunted Mansion two times without a significant wait either time. This modified version of the classic ride is a surprising improvement. I really appreciated the amount of re-decoration they were able to do while preserving the basic ride. I loved the movie, and the "little touches" were lots of fun. My favorite part? The room with the "Christmas Lists". "Good little boys and girls" are indicated with a jack-o-lantern, and "bad little boys and girls" are indicated with a skull and crossbones. Who were the bad little boys? Tim (Burton), Danny (Elfman), Vincent (Price) and Johnny (Depp). Delightful touch.

When I got back to my hotel, I called home and talked to my girls. I've been coming to Orange County quite a bit recently, and every time I call home, Erika (my oldest at 6) asks me which rides I went on. I always seem to tell her that I had to work late and didn't get to go on any rides. She usually follows up by encouraging me to get up early and ride a couple of rides before I start work the next day. Sweet. Tonight, I tell her that I actually got to ride on FIVE rides, including some very exciting ones. "Good for you," she says, earnestly. No jealousy, nor any ambivalence because she wasn't able to participate - she is genuinely happy that her daddy got to take a break from work and enjoy himself. I almost cried. Super Fly wouldn't have cried, but I almost did.

This put the evening on track. After a generally frustrating day, my trip to the parks, followed by a call home and this martinis-and-steak outing have really taken the edge off. I'm now on my third giant martini, blogging unselfconsciously and thinking about the days to come: Tomorrow, after work, I will fly up to Oakland and enjoy a reunion show of one of my favorite bands (Monks of Doom - with Jonathan Segel opening!) in Berkeley, and follow that up with an easy day of work in San Francisco that will pay all of my expenses except for the liquor.

Things are pretty good. I may have to get up at 5:00am every now and then, and I may occasionally waste a trip, but I have a good job and two daughters who love the hell out of me. So what have I been bellyaching about?

One Long Day, part twoOne Long Day, part two

I receive a call at 9:30 - the plane is about to take off from Ontario. 45 minutes later, I'm sharing the squareness of my mini-van with someone else. No, wait. There will be no sharing here - she gets in the car and teases me, "Is this the best you could get? What happened to the convertible Mustang?" Grrrrrrr.

We're heading down to Chula Vista for our "second" meeting. My passenger has a hankerin' for something at Jack in the Box (no, she isn't pregnant - I can't explain it) so we find one and go in to kill some time. No skin off my nose - they have Coke products, and my 6:00am latte is starting to wear off. I'd better get some more caffeine in me before I hold up a liquor store just for kicks.

Meeting #2 goes as well as can be expected. We've been holding this customer's hand for about a year, and they have yet to make a commitment of any significance. On a recent account management call, we nominated them for "Biggest Financial Sinkhole 2003", and there is no serious competition at this point. This is not really anyone's "fault", per se. They've had a couple of notable organizational changes, and we've had to start over a couple of times. But it's still hard to get jazzed about flying to San Diego for a meeting that's not really going to go anywhere.

Also, Meeting #2 reminds us that Meeting #3, originally scheduled with other folks within the same organization, is not going to happen. The latest reorganization of responsibilities has rendered this meeting irrelevant, so I am reminded that I got up early to fly to San Diego for a meeting that could probably have been handled over the phone. [Sigh]

We finish up Meeting #2, and head back to the airport. I'm not flying home yet - I have an appointment in Orange County tomorrow, so I'm just going to drive up to Anaheim. We spend the drive moping about how we ever got into this position with this customer, and muse about how we might get things back on the right foot. I drop my salesperson off at Terminal One, and I get on I-5 and head north to Anaheim. It's early, and maybe I can squeeze a little something out of this trip.

I have a "Southern California" pass for Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure. It's "supposed" to only be available to people who reside in Southern California ZIP codes, but they'll sell the thing to anybody who asks. When I bought it, I asked for the SC pass, produced my Arizona driver's license, and they processed the payment, no questions asked. DCA closes at 6:00pm, and Disneyland at 8:00, so maybe I can squeeze in a ride or two.

The hotel is about a mile south of the park, and I stay there because they have complimentary high-speed Internet access in the room. You see, it's not enough to work 8-12 hours at the customer site, I need to be able to blog and/or work into the wee hours of the morning. I make great time driving up I-5, and arrive at my hotel at around 3:10pm. The next shuttle to the parks is at 3:35, so I've got plenty of time to unpack, check e-mail, and get back down to the lobby.

But my Internet connection doesn't work. I replace the cable with my own, and still no IP address. Gah!!! I just want to check my stupid e-mail. I call the front desk, and they say they'll send someone up to check the connection. I make a phone call or two, and still nobody arrives. I call down again, and they let me know that my room has some sort of problem, and they'll send someone up with keys to a room with working Internet access. Another 20 minutes pass - valuable ride time is being consumed! I call down, and ask if I can just come down to the front desk and get the keys myself. They insist that someone is "on their way" to deliver my keys.

[side note - I love the olives in my martini. I know this is sacrilege - the olive is for decoration, not for eating - but I always order an extra olive. Delicious!]

One Long Day, part oneOne Long Day, part one

I'm back at the Outback Steakhouse in Garden Grove, after one freaking long day where things took a LONG time to get on track. There is a giant Bombay Sapphire martini on the table, and I'm about to try to settle down.

It all started at 5:00am. I know a lot of people get up at 5:00am every day, but it usually takes an act of divine intervention to get me up that early. I stay up late, and I get up late, and I'm fortunate enough to have a job that lets me get away with that most of the time. But today I had to be at a "sales call" in La Jolla at 9:00am, so I had to drag my sorry self out of bed at 5:00. Oh, did I mention that I didn't go to bed until 1:00am the night before? Yeah, it's going to be quite a sales call. The customer will look into my bloodshot eyes, see my hands shaking from the recently ingested triple breve latte, turn to our salesperson, and say "why should I trust this drug addict to manage my remote and mobile systems?"

At 6:00am, I stop and pick up the aforementioned latte. My favorite coffee house, the Soma Cafe which serves Tully's Coffee, isn't open yet when I drive by, and neither is the backup (Hava Java), so I have to settle for Starbucks a little closer to the airport. Fortunately, the barista knows how to steam the half and half properly, and I don't get a cup full of foam. Things are looking up. I get to the airport, walk up to the Southwest Airlines electronic kiosk, and get my boarding pass. It's 6:30 and I'm still in the "A" group. This is good news - a fairly empty flight. We board on time, push back on time, and take off on time. As we're speeding down the runway, my head nods against the window, and I'm asleep.

When I wake up, things have gone horribly wrong. It's after 8:00, we're still in the air, and the captain has come on the intercom to tell us that there's a horrible fog over San Diego, and we're going to have to circle around for awhile until there's enough visibility to land. I nod back off, worried but too tired to care - nothing I can do about this, right? At 8:45, he wakes the plane up again and tells us we're going to be able to land. Again, I nod off until we're at the gate. 9:00. I'm supposed to already be at the meeting. My salesperson is flying down from Sacramento, and she's supposed to land about 10 minutes before my flight, but she's probably late, too.

I call her cell phone, and it rolls straight to voice mail - rats! I don't have the customer's phone number (or even the contact name) to call and tell them we're late and why. Seconds later, my phone rings. She's in Ontario - they couldn't land in San Diego, and had to put down there until the fog cleared. Our 9:00am meeting (the reason I got up at 5:00 - remember?) obviously wasn't going to happen, but hopefully we'd still be able to make our second meeting, with a different customer, at 11:30. Hopefully. I'll go get the car and wait for her at the park across the street from the San Diego Airport.

At the rental car place, they've decided that the perfect car for the perfect day is a Ford Windstar mini-van. When I fly in to Orange County, they seem to always give me a convertible Mustang, but in San Diego, I get a mini-van. I am reminded that Super Fly would never drive a mini-van, but today, I will not only be square, I will have my squareness on display for all to see.

[side note - Nik Kershaw's "Wouldn't It Be Good" is playing over the intercom at Outback. Ironic that I should be whining about my day as he sings "I've got it bad. You don't know how bad I've got it. You've got it easy. You don't know when you've got it good." Probably a lesson to be learned here, but the first martini is gone, and has started to kick in. No lessons will be learned tonight.]

And You Wonder Why I Want a Vacation from Politics?

Because when I read stories like this, I just shake my head. What idiots.

A Day Without Hugh is a Day Without Sunshine

I'm taking a break from talk radio. Just for awhile, until the next issue goes to bed. I have three articles to write (an op-ed, a shorty, and a review-essay on progressive education that I've put off for a long, long time) and I don't need the added distractions. Besides, with Rush gone and Dennis Prager out today, I almost had no choice. When I tuned into Medved on the drive to lunch today, I found myself switching over the the classical station after a few minutes. I don't even remember what he was talking about. I just . . . didn't want to know. Burnout? Yeah, I guess so. Sorry, Hugh.

So, I turned my attention to the large pile of CDs that have amassed on my desk over the last few months. (I know, I know. CDs are sooooo 20th century. I'll leave the MP3/iTunes discussion for another time.) There are the new CDs, and there are the perennials. If it's production time, that means Bruckner. Symphonies 5 and 6, especially. (Dresden Staatskapelle, Eugen Jochum conducting, in case you were wondering.) Sometimes twice a day. And, of course, there's always Mahler. I love Mahler. Why people think he's depressing, I don't understand. Well, maybe a little.

Truth is, my musical inclinations are fairly promiscuous. Today's playlist: Supergrass, The Raveonettes, Mahler, Queensryche, Johnny Cash, Vaughn Williams, early Bowie, more Mahler, Soullive, Bruckner, more Bruckner, Tom Jones, yet more Bruckner, and Rush (the new live album, as a matter of fact).

Why do I mention all of this? Ego, I guess. Look at me! See all the cool stuff I listen to? Also, if you click on the links and buy one or more of the albums, the place where I work will collect a couple of sheckels, which means my son eats, my wife is clothed, and I can . . . uh, buy more CDs. Mostly, it's a diversion from politics, from the day job. After the recall, after the war, after everything that's happened in the last couple of months, I could use a break. Break, shmeak. Got bills to pay.

Busy, yes, but...

Should have mentioned this before. Hugh Hewitt blogs:
I have heard from my friends at Powerline and Little Green Footballs that denial-of-service ("DOS") attacks from Al Qaeda-connected web sites in the far east. The primary target of the DOS attacks was Internet Haganah. The best response, of course, is to drive legitimate traffic for Internet Haganah through the roof, thus bringing attention and support to the very site the bad guys want to shut down. Freedom at work.
Has anybody heard about the DOS events being reported in the mainstream media? I haven't had time to look around.

Additionally, Hugh is really getting the hang of this blogging thing. Check out his entries over the last two days.

UPDATE: Well, at the end of the day, there's just one media story showing in a Google News search... and it's on WorldNetDaily.

For a blog's take on events, see Mitch Berg's mini-round-up.

And, just for the record... no, it wouldn't be Infinite Monkeys without one of use (okay, me) mentioning Hugh Hewitt. Noteworthy progress: I didn't mention his show today – just his blog.

Busy Monkeys

I'm swamped finalizing first quarter grades. Let me point out other items worth reading. Top on my list: A vitally important column by Claudia Rosett in today's OpinionJournal (WSJ). It's not easy reading. No, it's not full of George Will-words or Dickensian sentences. It's tough on the soul. But it has to be read. Most importantly, she links to a just released report called, "The Hidden Gulag: Exposing North Korea's Prison Camps." It's from a group reputable group called the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea.

North Korea should be on your radar, and not just for nuclear matters. Don't be part of the ostrich caucus.

I also have to second Ben's recommendation of Lileks today. It's an exemplary Bleat.

Lastly, I'll point to Monday's Best of the Web Today (another OpinionJournal - WSJ feature). The lead article about the Easterbrook flap is the first one I've read that really explains the whole matter well.

Can't Blog, Editing...

I can't account for my fellow monkeys, but I'm much too busy with paying work to blog anything worthwhile until tonight. Meantime, read Terry Teachout's "About Last Night" and, of course, James Lileks.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003
"The Kid Stays in the Picture" is one of the best documentaries I've ever seen. Stylistically, it's wonderful, but it's also the amazing story of Robert Evan's life. So I'm intrigued (but a little horrified) that Comedy Central is turning his life into a TV show.

Tagline: "One man has seduced the hottest women in the business, broken every box office record, and brought Hollywood to its knees. And that was just this morning. Kid Notorious: a life so unbelievable it had to be animated."

St. Paul's recent posts about Paul Westerberg and the Replacements reminds me of how much I used to wish I lived in Minneapolis. The Replacements, Hüsker Dü/Bob Mould/Sugar, Trip Shakespeare/Semisonic. How great would it have been to see those bands live and in their prime? I'm a complete Trip Shakespeare fanatic, and it kills me that I wasn't able to hear them perform "Toolmaster of Brainerd" in person, complete with all manner of extemporaneous lyrics.

One of my favorite TS songs is called "Lulu", a nostalgic song about a girl who loved Hüsker Dü even more than her man:

Lonely when I hear that band
That used to play when we were looking for music
Lonely when I hear that band
Do you remember, do you recall?
Remember when you held my hand,
You used to say "I love them so much."
Lonely when I hear that band
Do you remember, do you recall?

Hüsker Dü, for those who remember the band OR the board game, means something like "Do you remember", and to make things even more clear, the album sleeve for Lulu included the quote as, "Dü you remember, dü you recall?"

Sigh. On the other hand, I've never had to dig my car out from under a snow drift in order to go hear my favorite local band, either.

Now, what song should I listen to...ah, yes. Here's one that will do double-duty:

Current Song: "Dead Set On Destruction" from the album Volt by Trip Shakespeare


This little tester isn't quite as good as the survey I linked to yesterday (for starters, there is simply no way that I've pissed away $45,000 at bars . . . at least, as far as I can remember), but it is, as its creators say, "a bit o' fun." (Hat tip: The Corner.)

A Brief History of the Imminent Threat Canard

Stefan Sharkansky breaks it down so that even a Los Angeles Times editor could understand.

Not "Why" So Much As "How"

Former CIA chief James Woolsey reviews Gerald Posner's Why America Slept in today's Wall Street Journal. Woolsey finds a number of embarassing errors of fact, but seems to endorse the final result: "The 'why' may be unknowable... Whatever the reason, Mr. Posner's mosaic seems to me to get the big picture right with regard to 'how.'" As Robb's post below suggests, America still has a "how" problem. I was shocked, but not surprised, to read the Transportation Security Administration flack's statement about the indictment of the box-cutter kid yesterday. "Amateur testing like this does not in any way assist us or show us where we have flaws in our system." Right. Five weeks. Obviously, the TSA is doing a fine job on its own.

Update: A choice bit from James Bovard's Terrorism and Tyranny:
On October 20 [2001, just five weeks after 9/11] [Transportation Secretary Norm] Mineta, responding to reports of continued airport security flaws, publicly conceded that "an unacceptable number of deficiencies continue to occur. And the result is a growing lack of confidence and increasing criticism of the actions that are being taken by the Federal Aviation Administration. And I want to reverse that trend."... Six days later, Subash Gurung, a 27-year-old Nepali, was arrested at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport after he successfully passed through airport security with seven knives, a can of Mace, and a stun gun. A checkpoint security screener confiscated two knives from Gurung but did not detect all the other potential weapon, which were discovered when he was selected for a random baggage search before boarding the plane. Mineta responded to the debacle by swearing he would have "zero tolerance" for airport security failures and vowing: "When I say zero tolerance, that means zero tolerance."
I believe Mineta has kept to his word, which is why the feds are throwing the book at this kid. What? You don't think he meant somebody would get canned, do you?

NitwitIncompetent Government Agency Guidelines, page 6928:

When you are not accomplishing your goals, arrest someone who has drawn attention to your failure.

Sobran on the PledgeSobran on the Pledge

Brad asked for less hyperbolic commentary on the Pledge, and former National Review editor Joseph Sobran is an excellent source. In this article, Sobran clearly and concisely explains how both "sides" in the Pledge controversy are missing the point.

On liberals' objection to "under God":
But the phrase wall of separation between church and state isn’t in the U.S. Constitution. It was coined by Thomas Jefferson, who also referred to “God” in such official state documents as the Declaration of Independence, the reading of which in public schools would presumably violate the Constitution too, by the logic of the San Francisco judges. So, in fact, would every oath of office taken on a Bible by public officials, including these judges themselves.

Once again the Constitution has been treated as a “living document” by the ineffable Federal judiciary, which keeps surprising us by discovering novel meanings in old texts. It always turns out that our ancestors didn’t realize what they were saying. We need modern liberals to explain their words to us

On conservatives attachment to the pledge:
But conservatives treat the Pledge itself as if it were a founding, authoritative, and virtually sacred document of the Republic. It is not. It was written late in the nineteenth century — by a socialist, if memory serves — and the words one nation, indivisible were meant to indoctrinate children with the idea that no state may withdraw from the Union.

What other purpose does the Pledge really serve? It teaches an unreflective loyalty to the government, rather than an intelligent attachment to the principles of the Constitution.

And the solution?
The solution is so obvious that it hardly occurs to anyone: the total separation of school and state. Tax-supported schools should not exist. The government should have no say at all in the formation of children’s minds. Education should be a purely private matter, left to parents and those who want to support them voluntarily. That way we could avoid endless and irresolvable quarrels about the Pledge, religion, sex education, phonics, the New Math, “values,” and all the rest.

Never mind that private schools outperform state schools and that home schooling beats them both. This is a matter of right and principle, not of what (according to the state) “works.”

Read the whole thing, and then spend some time perusing Sobran's archives. He's a refreshing, pleasant advocate of the ideals of freedom.

Oh, here's one more quote, from Sobran's light-hearted "speech" introducing his "candidacy for the presidency":

What about the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance? I would delete them. Lest you suspect I’m pandering to the atheist vote, I would repeal the entire Pledge. Americans should not be taught that they owe their allegiance to the government; the government is supposed to be their servant, not their master. The Pledge has helped make Americans the submissive sheep they are today.

Monday, October 20, 2003
Hit piece

It wasn't long ago that the NPR Ombudsman confirmed Nina Totenberg's "shock jock" status. Now, Matthew Hoy points out that, with the General Boykin flap, Nina's takin' it to a whole new level.

Meanwhile, away from the bar...

Robb's post yesterday, pointing to an anti-Pledge of Allegiance post at Polemics, which in turn pointed to an article by Thomas DiLorenzo, wound up starting quite a conversation between the Monkeys offline. First off, David and I were amused at how DiLorenzo snuck in a whack at a familiar California-based think tank:
The Pledge of Allegiance is an oath of allegiance to the omnipotent, Lincolnian state. Its purpose was never to inculcate in children the ideals of the American founding fathers, but those of [the Bellamy cousins] two eccentric nineteenth-century socialists. (Not surprisingly, among its staunchest contemporary defenders and promoters are the Straussian neocon Lincoln idolaters at the Claremont Institute.) [parentheses in original, emphasis added]
Now, this was an interesting angle. I looked into the "defenses" from the Claremont Institute, but really couldn't find much more than defenses of the "under God" line by Krannawitter, Eastman, and the usual Claremont suspects when it has come up as a current news issue. I asked a Claremont fellow directly about the DiLorenzo's allegations, but he couldn't think of anything that strayed from the limited grounds I previously mentioned. Humorously, the unnamed Claremont insider added, "And I don't think we've come out in favor of Christian socialism, but I was gone for most of the month of September, so I may have missed the announcement."

But why the DiLorenzo left-field swipe at the Claremont Institute? Well, in his review of DiLorenzo's book, The Real Lincoln, Claremont Vice President Tom Krannawitter had ended his article describing DiLorenzo thusly:
His unreal Lincoln inhabits an unreal world, so crudely and tendentiously drawn as to beggar belief. One wonders if the libertarian neo-Confederates have run out of front-line troops. In this screed, at any rate, they have sent a giddy, careless, half-educated boy to do a man's job. And it shows.
Ouch. Now, I'm less than fully versed in the Lincoln-as-American-Atilla (or worse) school of thought, so I Googled the phrase, "The Union created the states," which DiLorenzo attributes to Lincoln. That lead me to a Donald Livingston article called, The Litmus Test for American Conservatism. (The only bright spot on that page was noticing that he had also written a book titled, Philosphical Melancholy and Delirium. C'mon, given the context, that's just funny...) From there, I sought some balance, and there it was: just a few results down the Google page: a Claremont Institute article – Mackubin Thomas Owens' The Case Against Secession. [What a first name... And really, I wasn't looking for a Claremont-only reading list – the search results just came back that way.]

It's been a long time since we've gone down the Neo-Con vs. Paleo-Con road, but the Page Title for Livingston's "Litmus Test" article about Lincoln was "WHAT IS PALEOCONSERVATISM?" so I'll blame him for bringing it up. There's no way I can really convey the rest of the Monkeys' offline conversation. You just had to be there. But what follows is a retracing of my reading yesterday morning.

After the articles mentioned above, I sought out more on the intra-conservative conflict, turning to Harry Jaffa's The False Prophets of American Conservatism. That was interrupted when an email arrived, suggesting that I read "Charles Kesler's piece [All Against All] on paleos, neos, and declaration cons, disguised as a book review." About half-way through, I... realized... that – yep, I've read it before. But it was worth reading again, and more fruitful now that I have some more exposure to the Paleo camp under my belt.

But I could use more. There's got to be someone more coherent than DiLorenzo out there. (I mean, for example, his claim that the phrase under God "only serves to deify the state" is unsupported [unsupportable?] and it's just silly.) What would you recommend as the equivalent of Jaffa's and Kesler's articles, but from the other end of the intramural field? (infinitemonkeys at

Blender Bender

In my results from the web-based Cocktail Selector [see below], I got mostly girlie drinks, what with my being a super-taster and all.

Some of the "selections" were reasonable, but the #1 drink made me hang my head in shame: Fuzzy Navel.

The Manhattan came in at my #17.

Some of the questions were difficult for me to answer well...

Like the one about how the drink appears. Well, I said yes, that's important to me – thinking, I don't want it to look like a fruit cup or Hurricane. Just a straight highball glass and no garnish, thank you. But I think the selector thought I wanted drinks like the Blue Moon and the Malibu Barbie.

I shouldn't have mentioned those here, as I'm sure I'll never live them down. (No, I've never ordered one.)

Of course, I'm reminded of the Kids In The Hall skit about the guy who becomes a Girl Drink Drunk and keeps blenders and those little paper umbrellas hidden all over his home and office.

(Cheers to Ben for coming up with the KITH transcript link.)

Mmmmmmmmm, Monkey Glands...

I ordered a Monkey Gland at my regular bar once. It's OK. They didn't have Benedictine, so I had to settle for Pernod. Obviously, Pernod is not for everyone. (Neither is Benedictine.) Francophobia notwithstanding, I happen to like both. Sometimes, I'll add a little Pernod to my mixture of gin and vermouth, which transforms a martini into something other than else. But too much Pernod in this or any other cocktail will kill the drink. I don't trust myself to free pour even a splash of the stuff, so I carefully pour into the bottle cap, just enough to cover over the bottom.

Drinkboy's recipe seems to emphasize the fact that less Pernod is more. And Paul Harrington doesn't use nearly as much gin.

I think it's a good name

We've been sharing the results of our "selected" drink results offline [see post immediately below], but I just had to share this one:
Monkey Gland Cocktail -

Bad Name. Good Drink. 2 ounces gin, 1 teaspoon Benedictine (or Pernod, per your tastes), 0.5 ounces orange juice, 1 teaspoon grenadine. In a shaker half-filled with ice cubes, combine all of the ingredients. Shake well. Strain into a cocktail glass.
Haven't had a chance to try it yet.

Why, Yes, I Would Care for a Manhattan!

This is just spooky.

Taking a NAAAAP

In addition to recalling demagogic Black leaders, I'd like to second Mr. Patterico's motion to change the outmoded and offensive name of a venerable civil-rights group. Let's bury these regressive relics of the last century once and for all.

The Primates' Influential Opinions

"In Atlanta, Bishop J. Neil Alexander of the Diocese of Atlanta said the primates' statement reinforced his belief that the Anglican Communion would eventually work through its theological differences."

Well actually, I was predicting schism. But no, the "primates" mentioned are not yours truly - we Monkeys. Nope, in what I thought a very odd term (to only recently come into my lexicon), the delegates to the Episcopal summit were called "primates." Though I was raised a lapsed Episcopal, I'd never heard of such a title. Of course, I'll be asking my great uncle about the origin of the term. His favorite website,, uses the term with a capital P, but I can't find a search feature, dictionary, or message board there. I'm pretty sure they have a list-serv email thing going. Perhaps we can solve the mystery of the term's origin with that.

Have your own answer / theory? Email us at infinitemonkeys at (Replace "at" with "@" obviously).

Sunday, October 19, 2003
Sunday Reading

Two non-political books I've got to get ahold of: According to the Rolling Stones and Cosmopolitan: A Bartender's Life. Both are reviewed in the New York Times today. A good review should tell you something interesting about the book, the author, the subject, or all of those things. Above all, it should leave you wanting to buy the dang book. Joe Queenan and Robert Harris accomplish that task very well, I think. Unless, of course, you care nothing about the Stones or bartending. In which case, carry on, nothing to see here.

State WorshipA big "Amen" to Jon Luker at Polemics for his take on the Pledge of Allegiance. Here's his post, and I'll pat myself on the back with a link to my own rant back in August.

Saturday, October 18, 2003
Missed it by that much

Earlier this month, in the wake of NPR labeling Hugh Hewitt a "shock jock," co-Monkey David pledged, "I'm going to start calling Nina Totenberg a shock jock."

Well, NPR's Ombudsman points out that it's not Nina who's the shock jock – it's Fresh Air's Terry Gross.

Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan. (Click on Sullivan's link for the meat of the Ombud's excerpted quote.)

Quick Clarifications

Just a quick response to Brad's response to my response to Ben and Brad's original posts:

Traveling from church to church: Hyperbole, perhaps, but the article does quote speeches from three different churches in a single year. This wasn't exactly a one-off.

"These people" are the people we are killing, and who we "need to kill" in order to "defend our faith". Not Muslims in general, but not just "radicals", either. For example, we killed thousands of soldiers in Iraq who, as far as we know, did little other than defend their country's borders. Seeing as King George the 41st pretty much carpet-bombed the soldiers who invaded Kuwait into oblivion, and ten years had passed since without an invasion of another country, we can't pin that crime on the people we killed. We pretty much killed a bunch of Iraqis who refused to overthrow their ruler when we asked them to. When are we going to invade Cuba? Are we going to send troops into Forsyth County, GA to flush out the KKK menace if the Georgia National Guard doesn't hurry up and take care of things? And don't forget the Chinese - they've got an ass-whoopin' coming, for sure. Of course, we took care of the Branch Davidians when they wouldn't revolt against their despot. Maybe we should have just send the BATF in to set fire to Baghdad.

Sorry, that was more of a rant than a clarification. The point is, he's connecting the killing to the defense of Christianity. It doesn't matter who "these people" are in that context.

"The General is talking about followers of Bin Laden" - Ah, so then why are we killing people in Iraq again?

"Back up the truck / back the truck up" - Actually, believe it or not, I was never aware of the "Nerf curses" angle there. I was just trying to get the "vehicle" of our conversation off of the "side road" of the L. A. Times' (significant journalistic) error (which Lileks addresses exquisitely - see the link in Ben's post) and back to the "crossroads" where we ask the right question: Is "Christian Jihad" a fair editorial characterization of General Boykin's position. Based on the MSNBC article we've been discussing, I think that answer is quite clearly, "Yes."

Current Song: "Let's Have A War" from the album Repo Man: The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack by Fear

(sorry, too perfect - I also considered "Killing In The Name" by Rage Against The Machine)

Speaking of casting one's opponents as "evil"...

Did anyone else notice how the sound crew at Yankee Stadium played the Star Wars "Imperial March" theme behind the announcement of the Marlins' lineup for Game One of the World Series?

Yep, then for the Yankees' players they switched to one of the familiar "good guys" themes from Star Wars. (Which, beyond the initial irony of the Yankees casting the upstart Marlins as "imperial," meant that the Yankees' music was a "rebels'" theme – see, they're the "Yankees." Oh, nevermind.)

I didn't think it could get any cornier until I saw Clay Aiken (Star, American Idol guy) come out to sing the National Anthem. I really think that sometime soon we're going to find out that Clay isn't real - he's just another one of Martin Short's characters/personas.

As long as I'm griping about ball game singers... whose idea was it to get Smashing Pumkins' Billy Corgan to sing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" for the Cubs in the NLCS Game Seven? Hometown boy or not, you didn't need hindsight to tell that was a bad idea. "Hmmm... a Depression Rock 'singer.' That's what'll get 'em motivated in Game Seven!"

Let me take a few moments to wiggle my way back from that "egregious" charge in Robb's post.

The "equivocation" was based on the quote from the LA Times article that said nothing more than:
On at least one occasion, in Sandy, Ore., in June, Boykin said of President Bush: "He's in the White House because God put him there."
...and on the controversy that the comment had caused according to Medved's show earlier in the day.

That's what Mark Roberts was responding to. He didn't reference, and I had not seen, the MSNBC article at the time. Yes, the now evident (to me) particulars of Boykin's views go beyond the basic concept that "there is no authority except from God." But the arguments that I was responding to yesterday were really addressing that plainly orthodox idea - not the details of how Boykin weaves a construct from them. But you're right, Robb; miracles and general sovereignty are disparate chapters in any systematic theology.

As an aside, I must note with some amusement, the odd image that popped into my head when I read that MSNBC piece this morning and got to the part in Boykin's slide show where the account reads, "[PICTURE OF SATAN]" I mean, I wonder what sort of "picture" it was. All I can see in my head is a clip from the South Park movie, with Satan and Saddam in bed.

I'll let your comment about "depos[ing] another country's ruler while killing thousands of soldiers and others who never attacked us," go with little more than a link to this substantive piece by Jon at QandO ("Questions and Observations") and a link to the executive summary of the Kay report. (A shorter summary of the summary can be found here.

Now, it sounds like Robb's zeal for distancing himself from Boykin's theological details may have caused him to swerve toward "obscuring the truth" of the General's overall position. Robb characterizes his actions as "traveling from church to church, suggesting that we need to kill these people in order to defend our faith." That reads to me as though "these people" means Muslims as a broad category. Perhaps I'm just reading it wrong. It's certainly not what the end of the Times article has the General advocating:
In his public remarks, Boykin has also said that radical Muslims who resort to terrorism are not representative of the Islamic faith.

He has compared Islamic extremists to "hooded Christians" who terrorized blacks, Catholics, Jews and others from beneath the robes of the Ku Klux Klan.
The General is talking about followers of Bin Laden – not followers of Mohammed. Yes, at one point in the MSNBC article he is quoted as saying that the enemy is is not Bin Laden, but Satan. But I think that reads pretty clearly as one lesser enemy being subordinate (rhetorically speaking, though it does read as a bit of a pun) to the greater enemy.

Speaking of puns, I think that the objection that speaking in local churches may have an effect on international policy or opinion seems to me to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Without the media spotlight and furor, these sorts of comments wouldn't really reach the "Muslim street."

Okay, if I go into my disagreements over the nature of why they hate us (no, not just because we "meddle" in the Middle East, but over issues of their resentment of modernity, and other things) I'll never ever get this post up on the blog. I'll save that for a time when I've got matters better organized (yeah, I that makes me laugh too).

No, I don't agree with Boykin's reasoning on exactly how Bush wound up in the White House, on his understanding of the nature of the modern state called Israel, or his end times outlook and its attendant rhetoric. But I don't think the whole controversy is just about him. I should also like to point out that my original post on the topic dealt almost entirely with the LA Times' manipulative handling of quotations and inferences.

Lastly Robb, the saying isn't "back up the truck." It's "back the truck up" (see, so it's just a letter or two off from saying, "back the f--- up." Which may or may not have been the tone you were going for.)