A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

It's Bogut

So the Bucks take Bogut, and as CBS Sportsline notes, they are no longer a doughnut team (hole in the middle). I think it was the right pick, though I don't think you could go wrong with either Bogut or Williams. With T.J. Ford recently cleared for full contact basketball, the Bucks might not suck next year.

That would be cool.

Heavy Stuff

No, not neutron star heavy, but philosophical and stuff. Temporary Costello responded on his blog to my post chiding him for agreeing with this guy. In the process of writing a comment on tc's blog, I reread Rod's comment on my blog (follow all that?), and I found these two bits both wise and dead on ball's accurate (it's an industry term):

I find this entire liberal/conservative ...thing.. just very very sad.

If you find yourself calling yourself a "liberal" or a "conservative" then maybe just maybe you are as closed minded fearful and ignorant as the "other" side. open your mind and step to the middle for a while where it is OK to change your mind..you just might find it "liberating"

Amen, brother, on both counts.

Folks on both ends of the political spectrum love this country. They do. Ann Coulter saying liberals don't doesn't make it so. Howard Dean saying republicans are brain-dead doesn't make it so. The vast majority of liberals and conservatives, democrats and republicans alike want what's best for this country. They just often disagree on what is best and how to achieve it. That's okay. That's natural. That's good.

What isn't good is the emphasis in today's politics on winning at any cost. Not just winning-- naturally everyone wants to win-- but winning at any cost. Winning an election by damaging the infrastructure our republic is built upon is, longterm, very bad. Which is why you have to give Al Gore credit for not pursuing the 2000 election any further than he did, and you have to criticize him for taking it as far as he did.

An example. Lots of conservative derided Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon and such like for their criticism of the war and of Bush. I disagree with Robbins and Sarandon on their criticism, but I respect them nonetheless, and I believe their opinions need to be heard. Why? Because they clearly do care about America and are concerned about the direction they see it headed. And there's always the possibility they are right. Maybe not on everything, maybe not even on most things, but on some things, it seems entirely possible, even likely. How will we know if we silence them before they can say anything?

Another example. Fewer conservatives have ripped on Johnny Depp for his comments regarding America, and I think that is completely backwards. I disagree with Depp and I don't respect his position because I really don't think he gives a dingo's kidney about this country. He ridicules and laughs at it. Go stick your head in a bucket Johnny and shut the fuck up. You we can do without.

Karl Rove is good at winning at any cost. Really good. Which is too bad. The goal shouldn't be to get the presidency, it should be to get the best person possible into the presidency and to govern as well as possible once the office is achieved. Something which both parties in this country seem to have completely lost sight of. Completely and totally on nearly all levels.

We need to shake the scales of "politics as usual" off their eyes and remind them, all of them, that they work for us. And for U.S. We need to build a coalition in the middle. Reasonable people who realize that compromise is not a dirty word, that changing your mind does not make you wishy-washy, and that party affiliation is not more important than the well-being of the country.

How do we do that you ask? More on that tomorrow, but I leave you with one of tc's wisest quotes to date:
Which leaves us in the sitch that Nick suggested earlier, finding and pushing a third party outsider candidate.

Idiotarian Award Nominee

Take a bow Kevin Brown of the Texas Rangers! You are the ace pitcher for a baseball team that is attempting to stay within shouting distance of the division lead (7.5 games back) or at least the wild card (3 games back), so naturally after a bad outing you punch a water cooler. Good thinking! That should inspire your teammates. Of course, you'll miss at least one start in the rotation after breaking a bone in your hand, and might even wind up on injured reserve, but don't let that bother you! After all, even if your team misses the playoffs because of your stupidity, you are now, and always will be, a nominee for the prestigious Libertarian Librarian Idiotarian Award-- which ya gotta admit is a cool sounding name.

Really. Say it outloud. It rocks. Sort of like the ones Brown is using for brains.

UPDATE: Troy, quite correctly and with little or no snarkage, points out that I am ripping on the wrong dude. Though Kevin Brown, who is actually a pitcher for the Yankees, was a strong candidate for last year's Libertarian Librarian Idiotarian Award, he is not Kenny Rogers of the Texas Rangers. Who is this year's nominee. The dude I meant to ridicule above.

Oops. I don't think that qualifies me for my own award yet, but I'm making a run!


Monday, June 27, 2005

Racine: Stupidest Place on Earth


I like where I live, I really do. The neighborhood is great, I have a nice piece of property, the house, which was a pile of dingos' kidneys when we bought it, is progressing nicely, and all manner of things are well. Except for my school district, and all of the Racine voters that actually believe the school administrators, which is the worst in the state. Probably one of the worst in the country.

Not the teachers. The ones I've met have been dedicated, professional, and effective. Though their union, on the other hand, is disingenious, bloated, and counter-productive. But that's another story.

We had a referendum last week to see if Racine tax payers wanted to pay an extra $90 per $100,000 in property values. This referendum was to maintain the extra money the tax payers have given the school system for the previous two years. It was the only thing on the ballot, and it came less than three months after a referendum for even more money was soundly defeated back in April. The election cost the county about $25K, and by the county I mean the tax payers, of course, but that's a separate gripe.

Anyway, we received fliers decrying the death of civilization as we know it if we didn't pass the referendum. And I'm only half-kidding. One flier claimed crime would go up if we didn't fork over more money to the schools! I wish I was kidding. Others lamented the darkened stadiums in the fall as sports programs were eliminated. Really, really wish I was kidding.

This to subsidize a school system that has over 70 adminstrators making $100,000+. 74, I believe is the number. You think that $8M+ might come in useful somewhere? This to subsidize a school system that recently paid a consultant $1.2M to ask the teacher's what their dream classroom would look like. $1.2 MILLION! You think that might go a good ways toward bridging our $9 million dollar shortfall this year?

But the voters fell for it. For the "We'll have to cut sports," hysteria and the "We'll have to close schools" fears. For the "Sky is falling!" claptrap that school systems are getting very good at disseminating.

It's not entirely the voters fault. The deck was stacked against the NO voters. With nothing else on the ballot, a lot of the folks that voted NO last time didn't go this time, and the YES voters, who were far more fanatical about this than the NOs, did. There was no organized effort on the NO side to counter the YES side propoganda-- talk radio covered it extensively, but I would imagine that 80% of the folks listening to those programs were going to vote NO anyway. The local paper fell all over itself running article after article on the horrors of not passing the referendum, and the big paper in the area, ie, the Jourtinel, of course backed passage of the referendum.

What a farce. There's $100+ I won't be seeing any time soon.

On the plus side, now that other systems realize that they can get the tax payers to cave by threatening sports and school closings, I'm sure lots of other folks in Wisconsin will be sharing my pain in the near future.


OTIT: The Whole UW System

Man, when the Jourtinel editorial board is taking you to task for wasting tax payer's money and bad public relations, you are in some deep doodoo, my friends. Which is not to say that the UW doesn't deserve every single criticism for the way they handled the Barrow's situation and many other similar ones. They totally do. They must if the Jourtinel is calling them out for their wastrel ways.

Key bit:
"I can't think of another state agency or private sector that would provide a safety net for highly paid administrators that screw up," said Rep. Rob Kreibich (R-Eau Claire), chairman of the Assembly Committee on Colleges and Universities, in a Journal Sentinel article Friday. "If that's the case, we need to overhaul the practice."
Yes, we do. It is time. Long past it, perhaps.

Friday, June 24, 2005

The NBA Finals

Great game last night. Really fun to watch. Almost makes the ridiculously long NBA season worth it. Almost. But it doesn't. Ever. I say, cut all major league seasons (excepting the NFL, though even there I think at least the preseason should be shortened) by 25%. That would make the NBA and NHL 60 games long, and MLB 120 games long. More than enough, when you factor in 1-2 months worth of playoff games. Purists will rage at me, and the economists will decry the loss in revenue, but in the long run I think it would be good for all of those sports as each game will mean more, and instead of 82 (or 162) games played at 75% (or 50%) capacity, you'll play 60 and 120 at 85-90%/65-75%. By time the season is FINALLY over for these sports, most people just don't care any more. I have trouble believing that can be good for business.

One other NBA note. How does Tim Duncan win Finals' MVP? He was 10-27 in game 7, for crumb's sake, and his horrendous free throw shooting in game 5 nearly cost them the championship (I don't think they win it all if Detroit takes game 5). The dudes that lit the fire under the Spurs' in their four wins were Ginobli and Horry. Duncan was very good, dependable (though not at the foul line) and uninspiring. Pretty much sums the guy up. When the Spurs needed a spark it came from Ginobli, Horry and Bowen, not Duncan. I'm not trying to completely belittle the guy, he's a great player, but he was not the series MVP and I wouldn't put him anywhere near the top of the Greatest Power Forwards Ever list. I'd have given MVP to Ginobli. He's the guy that broke down the Pistons' D to allow Duncan to make even 10 of 27, and he's the guy with the intangibles that inspire a team. If not Ginobli, then Horry, who will not be a Hall of Fame player, but may be one of the top 10 pressure shooters in league history.


Friday's List, part ii

Wow, this was HARD. Trying to narrow it down to 25 is really restrictive. I could come up with 25 great lines just from Ghostbusters. But okay, bite the bullet, so to speak, and see what I can come up with. My list, contrary to the AFI list, is biased towards the comedies, because I think the great comedic lines stick with us, and are used by us, far more often than the dramatic ones. For a great movie line site, go here.

Top 25 Movie Quotes of All Time:

25) Ball 4... Ball 8... Ball 12. How can they be laying off pitches that close? Major League, 1989. So many great lines in this movie. Uecker was awesome.
24) Strange women lying about in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Monty Python and the Holy Grail, 1975. Another movie that could get you 25 great lines easy.
23) Well, I believe in the soul, the cock, the pussy, the small of a woman's back, the hangin curveball, high fiber, good scotch... that the novels of Susan Sontag are self-indulgent overrated crap. I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, I believe there ought to be a Constitutional ammendment outlawing astroturf and the designated hitter. I believe in the sweet spot, soft core pornography, opening your presents on Christmas morning rather than on Christmas Eve, and I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three nights. Bull Durham, 1988. Now that's a quote.
22) Dyin' ain't much of a livin', boy. The Outlaw Josey Wales, 1976. Classic Clint.
21) Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria! Ghostbusters, 1984. Only one of many, but perhaps my favorite of them all.
20) May the force be with you. Star Wars, 1977. Not a top 10, like AFI has it, but deserving nonetheless.
19) There's no crying in baseball. A League of Their Own, 1992. Gotta have at least one Tom Hanks line on the list.
18) Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son. Animal House, 1978. The AFI list didn't even have the best Animal House quotes on their list.
17) Cinderella story here at Augusta, former groundskeeper comes from behind to lead the pack. Caddyshack, 1980. Another movie that could fill up 25 quotes easy.
16) What we have here is a failure to communicate. Cool Hand Luke, 1967. Not all of the AFI picks were horrible.
15) Dr. Rumack: Can you fly this plane and land it?
Ted Striker: Surely you can't be serious.
Dr. Rumack: I am serious, and don't call me Shirley. Airplane, 1980. Awww... subtlety, thy name is not known to the Zucker brothers. Thank goodness.
14) It's 106 miles to Chicago. We've got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark, and we're wearing sunglasses.
Hit it. The Blues Brothers, 1980. Ah, Johnny boy, we hardly knew ye.
13) Here's looking at you kid. Casablanca, 1942. Gotta have a Bogart quote in here. It's like a rule.
12) Indiana Jones: There's a big snake in the plane, Jock!
Jock: Oh, that's just my pet snake, Reggie.
Indiana Jones: I hate snakes, Jock! I hate 'em!
Jock: C'mon, show a little backbone, will ya? Raiders of the Lost Ark, 1981. Just my personal favorite Indi quote.
11) I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die. Blade Runner, 1982. Rutger Hauer is a very underrated actor, and everything about this movie was fantastic.
9) YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH! Son we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Whose gonna do it? You? You, Lieutenant Wienburg? I have more responsilbility here than you could possibly fathom. In places you don't want to talk about at parties, you want me on that wall...you need me on that wall. We use words like honour, code, loyalty...we use these words as the backbone to a life spent defending something. You use 'em as a punchline! I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it! I'd prefer you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you're entitled to! A Few Good Men, 1992. There is so much more to this line than just the first sentence. And you gotta have at least one Jack Nicholson line in a top 25 list. It's like a rule.
8) Yippie Kie Yay, Motherfucker! Die Hard, 1988. Perhaps the ulitmate action hero line. Makes Schwarzenegger's lines sound kinda lame.
7) Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn. Gone With the Wind, 1939. Nearly 70 years later, this one still resonates.
6) So i get a job loopin' for none other than the Dhali Lama himself, the bald head, the flowing robes...striking! So we get up on the first tee and he whacks off about a 10,000 foot crevice down into this glacier, a big hitter the llama....Long. So he turns to me and says oonga-lagoonga..oonga-goonga-lagrunga. So we finish 18 and he starts to walk off...you know tries to stiff me and I say 'Hey Dhali! Hey Lama! How about somethin' for the effort you know? ....a little moola' and he says 'Oh there will be no money but on your deathbed you will receive total consciousness'....so I got dat goin for me....which is nice. Caddyshack, 1980. Simply outstanding. Maybe should be higher?
5) We're on a mission from God. The Blues Brothers, 1980. Pretty well sums it up, huh?
4) I love the smell of Napalm in the morning. Apocalypse Now, 1979. Who doesn't?
3) Are you suggesting coconuts migrate? Monty Python and the Holy Grail, 1975. Set the stage for all the inspired lunacy that was to follow, in this movie, in their other movies and in tons of other peoples' movies.
2) I know what you're thinking, punk. You're thinking, did he fire six shots or only five? Well to tell you the truth, I forgot myself in all this excitement. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and will blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself a question: do I feel lucky? Well do ya, punk? Dirty Harry, 1971. Hard to beat Clint at his best.
1) I'll make him an offer he can't refuse. The Godfather, 1972. Brando at the top of his game takes home the prize. There are tons of lines in this movie that are unforgettable, but this is the one that sums it all up.

UPDATE: I realized I left off two of the AFI quotes that were actually worth having on the list. Brando in On the Waterfront (AFI's #3) and DeNiro's "You Talkin' to Me?" in Taxi Driver (#10). They should both probably be in the top 25. I'd peg Brando at 10, and De Niro at 17. Which bumps Uecker and one Python quote out of the top 25. Maybe I shouldda cheated and put in ties. Nah.

So there it is. It was tempting at times to just pick a movie (Ghostbusters, The Godfather, The Holy Grail, etc.) instead of just one or two quotes from those movies, but that seemed cheesy. I had about 50 lines that could've made the list, and obviously half of them didn't. Here are my honorable mentions in no particular order:

  • Did we give up when the German's bombed Pearl Harbor? No!
  • They can take our lives, but they'll never take our freedom!
  • I think he broke his freakin' neck.
  • Where's your other hand? In between two pillows. Those aren't PILLOWS!
  • Run away! Run away!
  • I hate Illinois Nazis.
  • I'll be back.
  • Wax on, wax off.
  • So it's sort of social-- demented and sad, but social.
  • Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas any more.
  • Ya shouldn't hang me on a hook, Johnny. My mudder hung me on a hook, once. Once.
  • Ask him about the twinkie.
  • Son of a bitch bastard! I'll get you for this!
  • It's good to be the king.
  • Yes, I want a handjob.
  • Bond, James Bond.
  • Don't drive angry.
  • Get your hands off me you dirty damned ape.
  • Whoa, this is the ugliest hat I've ever seen! Do you get a free bowl of soup with that hat? Oh, it looks good on you though. Whew!
  • Say hello to my little friend.
  • Nice Beaver. Thank you, I just had it stuffed.
  • In Vegas, everybody's gotta watch everybody else. Since the players are looking to beat the casino, the dealers are watching the players. The box men are watching the dealers. The floor men are watching the box men. The pit-bosses are watching the floor men. The shift-bosses are watching the pit-bosses. The casino manager is watching the shift-bosses. I'm watching the casino manager. And the eye-in-the-sky is watching us all.
  • Disturbing the peace?! I got thrown out of a window! What's the fuckin' charge for getting pushed out of a moving car, huh? Jaywalking?!
  • So, can you name all the films those quotes go with? Alright intrepid readers, snark goggles on. Target acquired. Ready, aim, fire.


    Friday's List, part I

    Okay, I was going to do sports, but then even Gym Jim thought the AFI quote thing would make a great Friday list, so I bow to the wishes of all you freaks with nothing better to do than read my ramblings. Who am I to buck the freak train? Before presenting my own list, let's take a look at the list that inspired it: AFI's 100 years... 100 Movie Quotes.

    AFI did 100, I'm only doing' 25. As a baseline measure, here's AFI's top-25 (which is heavily weighted to dramas and old movies I haven't seen) with my commentary in green:
    25. "Show me the money!" Jerry Maguire, 1996 Hmm... good line, but #25? Bit high.
    24. "I am big! It's the pictures that got small." Sunset Blvd., 1950 Never saw the movie and I don't recall the line making it into the popular culture. How could this be #24?
    23. "There's no place like home." The Wizard of Oz, 1939 Good line, but does The Wizard of Oz really deserve two spots in the top 25? I think not.
    22. "Bond. James Bond." Dr. No, 1962. Short, sweet, universally known and borrowed upon.
    21. "A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti." The Silence of the Lambs, 1991 Oh yeah, this one really rolls off the tongue, doesn't it? Please, what a lame entry this high. Maybe in the top 100, but not here.
    20. "Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship." Casablanca, 1942 See #23, though I think this line is even less deserving than Dorothy's. "Play it again Sam" should be on the list ahead of this even though it never actually occurs in the movie. Actaul "Play it" quote is #28.
    19. "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" Network, 1976 Huh.
    18. "Made it, Ma! Top of the world!" White Heat, 1949 Yes? Vaguely aware of this one. 18?
    17. "Rosebud." Citizen Kane, 1941 Great movie. Wouldn't put this one word quote this high.
    16. "They call me Mister Tibbs!" In the Heat of the Night, 1967 Great movie. Wouldn't put this five word quote this high.
    15. "E.T. phone home." E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, 1982 Oh pleaze! How this movie ever got this popular is beyond me, but it does not stand the test of time. Put the Close Encounters of the Third Kind chords in ahead of this one.
    14. "The stuff that dreams are made of." The Maltese Falcon, 1941 Great movie. Wouldn't put this seven word quote this high. (I sense a theme).
    13. "Love means never having to say you're sorry." Love Story, 1970 Ackphblttt! Sorry, hair ball. All I can say here is... No.
    12. "I love the smell of napalm in the morning." Apocalypse Now, 1979 Now we're getting somewhere. Yeah, this is top-15 material.
    11. "What we've got here is failure to communicate." Cool Hand Luke, 1967 Ditto.
    10. "You talking to me?" Taxi Driver, 1976 Good line. This high? Maybe.
    9. "Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy night." All About Eve, 1950 Top 10? A stretch.
    8. "May the Force be with you." Star Wars, 1977 Yeah, this seems about right.
    7. "All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up." Sunset Blvd., 1950 Hmmm... #7?
    6. "Go ahead, make my day." Sudden Impact, 1983 Great line. I still prefer "But being this is a 44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and will blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself a question. Do I feel lucky? Well do ya, punk?" (#51 in abbreviated fashion) but I admit there is something to be said for brevity.
    5. "Here's looking at you, kid." Casablanca, 1942 Timeless. Works for me.
    4. "Toto, I've got a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore." The Wizard of Oz, 1939 Top 25, sure, but not top 5.
    3. "You don't understand! I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I could've been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am." On the Waterfront, 1954 Great line, but I don't think this one has permeated pop culture the way most these others have. #3 is too high.
    2. "I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse." The Godfather, 1972 Dead on balls accurate.
    1. "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." Gone with the Wind, 1939 Yeah.

    Upon further review, I realize that it isn't just weighted heavily toward dramas, the entire top-25 quotes are from dramas. Nary a comedy among them, with Jerry Maquire being the closest to a comedy. The highest actual line from a comedy is #33: "I'll have what she's having" from When Harry Met Sally. Further proof the AFI list is crap-- two quotes from Jerry Maquire made it in. Yeah, right. Further, further proof-- the first, and only, Bill Murray quote is all the way down at #92.

    I believe you could make a pretty good top-10, maybe even 25, just with Bill Murray quotes. Anyway, there's AFI's list with my snarking added in for free. Next post will be my list, and you guys will have to add the snarking.


    Thursday, June 23, 2005

    Simple Things

    Too hot to cook today. So I made pb&j for dinner for the kids, the wife being at work. I hadn't had one in a long time. Those things still rock. Cool glass of chocolate milk to wash it down, and life is pretty good. Then I watched the kids play in our little pool (blow-up, but a pretty big one-- probably 6-feet long and 4 long).

    Finally had to plunge in there with them.

    Simple things. They rock.

    Wednesday, June 22, 2005

    Book Recommendations

    Currently reading Stephen King's long, but really, really good, Dark Tower series. In the middle of book three and loving it as I haven't loved a King novel since The Stand or The Shining. It has all the good stuff I remember from King's early work-- great characters, awesome atmosphere, good tension throughout-- without any of the dreck and bloatedness of much of his later novels. Truly a joy to read.

    Other book recommendations: I have hooked on with a few other writers, including Mr. John H one of the frequent commentators on this illustrious blog (no, his writing is not political in any way shape or form-- at least not the stuff I've seen) to bounce ideas of each other and the like. This group includes a novel by JJ Ace which is due to be published shortly by TechnoBooks. I admit to not having read it, though I do intend to-- but I can state confidently that if you enjoy adventure/action novels, this book will not disappoint. A brief synopsis can be found here.

    Okay, back out to the hammock for another tough day of vacation.

    Tuesday, June 21, 2005

    OTIT: UWM Fine Arts Quartet

    In case you don't live in Wisconsin, and have been blipping over my occassional 'Taxes in Wisconsin are to high' rant, the state is in a major financial pickle. Has been for several years. During the hay days of the lated 90s, when everyone was running a surplus, Wisconsin prudently reinvested that surplus into huge benefit/pension plans for its public employees. The rethult? Penthions and benefiths are thapping... hang on a thec. [Tugs tongue out of cheek where it had gotten deeply implanted].

    Sorry about that. Did Wisconsin provide tax relief with the surplus? No. Reinvest the money in the energy sector or attempt to revitalize areas that were on the decline? No. Stick it in a savings bond and at least make 2% interest on it? Nope. We gave our public employees whopping huge pension and bene plans (which I shouldn't bitch so much about because I am part of those plans-- but I'm willing to eat a bit less at the public trough for the good of the state). Then the surplus dried up, the dot.com bubble burst, and we still have whopping huge pension and bene plans.

    Leaving the state in a big ole' hole, and looking to cut programs departments statewide. The biggest feeder at the state trough? The University of Wisconsin System. Roughly 2/3rds of the UW budget comes in state aid, so when the state is struggling, the UW System has money problems. Although our budget is by no means finalized, it appears that cuts in the UW System are pretty much inevitable, and there is the chance that 200 or so positions may be eliminated system-wide (there are 13 schools in the UW system, with Madison and Milwaukee being the largest by far).

    Okay, so there's the background. Then you read this story about four "professors" of music at UW-Milwaukee pulling down $93,000 annually to perform 16 concerts ALL FRICKIN' YEAR! 16 concerts? I'm sure they have to practice and stuff, but 16? For $93K, plus benefits, tenure and the don't have to teach anyone, ever?

    Nice work if you can get it.

    The truly fun part of the story? UWM commissioned two consultants, to the tune (hah!) of an additional $2K to take a look at the Fine Arts Quartet and make a recommendation. Which the two consultants did. Their recommendation?

    Get rid of the Quartet as the money being spent on those four "faculty" members would be much better spent on actual teaching faculty. You know, the ones that actually spend time with students and help further their education? What a radical thought. UWM apparently thought so as well, choosing to completely ignore their $2000 consultants and maintain the Quartet exactly how it is, $400K per year be damned.


    Yet administrators, faculty members, and staff scream bloody murder when they're budgets are even threatened or not increased as much as they'd hoped. Why? Because the students will be hurt. The students won't receive as good of an education because of the cold, hard politicians.

    I hate hypocrites.


    Monday, June 20, 2005

    Illinois Nazis

    Okay, not really. But Dick Durbin is a senator from Illinois, and he's invoking the old Nazi canard, mostly I think because nobody had done so in at least two weeks. A week ago today, Durbin read an FBI report on abuses at Guantanamo into the Senate record, and then said the following (which you may well have already heard, since this is somewhat old news-- what can I say, I'm on vacation):
    “If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime — Pol Pot or others — that had no concern for human beings.”
    Jon Stewart, a comedian who has managed to remain pretty funny despite his obvious dislike of the Bush administration, perhaps because he rips on both parties and the wide variety of idiots available across party lines, pretty much nailed it with his A Relatively Closer Look: Hitler References which you can watch in its entirity here. But the essence of his satiric look at the over-the-top use of Hitler and Nazis to ridicule someone you disagree with can be found towards the end, at the 4:48 mark:
    So to sum up, please stop calling people Hitler when you disagree with them. It demeans you, it demeans your opponent, and to be honest, it demeans Hitler. That guy worked too many years, too hard to be that evil to have any Tom, Dick and Harry come along and say, 'Hey, you're being Hitler.' No. You know who was Hitler? Hitler!
    Right on. We hear a lot of bitching about moral equivalency these days, and for my money comparing pretty much anyone but Stalin to Hitler is a perposterous comparison.


    Will Smith, Money Player

    So, Will Smith, the French Prince of Bel-Air stepped it up in crunch time of yet another NBA Finals game. Truly the man is a marvel. He can sing, write music, act, and rain down 3-pointers at critical moments of the biggest games of the year. I don't know why teams keep getting rid of Mr. Smith-- the only thing he does with his new team is go to the NBA Finals, get jiggy with it, and knock down key three-point shots.



    Robert Horry? You sure? Huh. Hang on a sec. Okay. Will Smith:
    and Robert Horry:

    I guess they could be two different people. But what are the odds? Two guys in the media glare that look that much alike? Weird old world.

    Okay, in all serious, how lucky is Tim Duncan to have Will... I mean Robert on his team? I think Duncan may have just pissed away any chance he had at "best power forward ever" after throwing up brick after brick after brick from the free throw line come crunch time in the biggest game of the Finals to date. That was painful to watch. But it would have been ever so much more painful if his clanks had cost them game 5.

    Friday, June 17, 2005

    Some Thoughts on Iraq

    Austin Bay is in Iraq, traveling with our troops there. Interesting stuff on his blog about it. What struck me, though, is the concluding few sentences:
    This is the Bush Administration’s biggest strategic mistake– a failure to tap the reservoir of American willingness 9/11 produced. One afternoon in December 2001 my mother –after reading a column of mine in her local paper– called me long-distance. She told me she remembered being a teenager in 1942 and tossing a tin can on a wagon that rolled past the train station in her small Texas hometown. (Plainview– one reason I know Lanc-Corporal Solis’ hometown– it’s my parents birthplace.) Mom said she knew that the can she tossed didn’t add much to the war effort, but she felt that in some, small, token perhaps but very real way, that she was contributing to the battle being waged by our soldiers. “The Bush Administration is going to make a terrible mistake if it does not let the American people get involved in this war. Austin, we need a war bond drive. This matters, because this is what it will take.”
    This is dead on balls accurate (It's an industry term). We don't feel connected to this war. It's something happening way over there, and isn't it a shame, and boy won't it be nice when all our soldiers can come home? It's almost like it's a movie or documentary to us-- nothing is asked of most of us, with the exception of those families who have people actually risking their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    As much as Orson Scott Card has been getting pretty screedy lately, he was writing this same thing back in January of 2004 (scroll down about half way). I totally agreed with him then, and I still do. Bush made a tactical error in listening to Rumsfeld's anti-army rhetoric which is what lead to too few troops in Iraq from the get-go, but his biggest strategic error has been trying to isolate the public from the war. Here's the key bit, in my opinion, and where Card gets it exactly right:
    It's time for President Bush to do what should have been done starting on 9/11: Ask the American people to make real sacrifices to win this war.

    Right now President Bush is doing a better job than Lyndon Johnson did on the military side, but he's making the same crucial mistake on the civilian side.

    When you tell Americans to go about their business, we can't believe in the war and support it the way we did in World War II, where the entire country was mobilized in a life-or-death struggle.

    We're trying to fight this war as if we could do it in our spare time. Record's accurate message is that it's a very dangerous way to fight and the risk of inviting adventurism from our other enemies is too high to bear.

    What we needed on 9/11 was a President who did not tell us to go back to business as usual -- spending money to keep the economy going.
    Emphasis added by me. Going back to business as usual was a monumental mistake. Doing so completely ignored the fact that the world as we believed it existed pre-9/11 was a fantasy. Doing so encouraged us all to wrap ourselves back in the security blankets of our comfortably worn ruts and to pretend 9/11 was just an abberation, not likely to be repeated. Which is what a large percentage, well over half, of our country has done. To the detriment of both the war effort and the country.

    One other thing that I think Card got right a year and a half ago:
    Here's the fundamental miscalculation that Lyndon Johnson, Bill Clinton, and now George W. Bush have made about the American people.

    They all believed that asking people to sacrifice would turn them against the war.

    The opposite is true. Asking them to sacrifice commits them to the war. Keeping them from sacrificing -- from feeling the pinch every day -- makes the war seem distant and unreal. People who are not sacrificing for a war do not feel or insist on solidarity.
    The other problem with the approach Bush has chosen is that when people do have to sacrifice, by having loved ones sent overseas or, worse, having those loved ones hurt or killed overseas, it seems to come out of nowhere. Because we aren't expecting to have to sacrifice. Every death, every set back, every time there is proof, or even an allegation, of mistreatment of prisoners of war by our troops, it's a shock. Because they feel like isolated, separate, or spontaneous events rather than part and parcel of a larger, group effort.

    Communication is not George W. Bush's strong point, unfortunately. But he can make a strong and stirring speech if properly prepared. It's time for him to do that again, and to re-emphasize what he stated shortly after 9/11. This war will not be short. It will not be easily won. It will not be without cost.

    He also needs to call for greater sacrifice and support from the American people. The doomsayers will crow, and many Democrats will seek to use such a call for their own political advantage. So be it-- it's Bush's second term, and no other issue is as vital as winning this war, so now is the time.

    Now must be the time before this whole thing slips away from us and it takes an even more ghastly attack than those on 9/11 to fully awaken us to our peril.

    Labels: ,

    Friday's List: Songwriters

    Well, we could go all the way back to Mozart and Bach and Beethoven, but that would be silly. So. Best songwriters of the last 50 years. I am defining a songwriter as the person who writes both the lyrics and the music, or a tandem working together to accomplish the same thing. Lyrics without music is poetry, not a song. Music without lyrics is Muzak (well, not always, but you get the idea).

    People who wrote as part of a duo/band and as a solo artist get credit for both, but there will only be one entry per person-- there will be no separate entries for John Lennon and The Beatles. My list is inevitably weighted heavily toward rock/pop since I don't listen to much country, motown/r&b, rap, or punk, and it will-- as Troy will no doubt note with disdain and snarkiness-- contain mostly folks over 40. I am not over 40, but I must admit most of the music I listen to is what is now characterized as classic rock. Plus, I think to qualify as a great songwriter, one of the best of a half-century, you need to have produced a pretty substantial body of work-- which is hard to do if you are younger than 40. So, sue me. Or make your own lists.

    Blah, blah, blah. Enough prevarication. On with the list:

    25) Ray Charles. Maybe should be higher, but his genre is not my genre.
    24) Randy Newman. Mostly soundtracks, but the variety of those soundtracks is astonishing.
    23) Frank Zappa. Not terribly commercially successful, but constantly creative and he broke songwriting ground in so many areas.
    22) Sting. I much prefer the Police days to his later solo stuff, but even sappy ballads have their place, from time to time.
    21) Michael Jackson. Freak or not, pedophile or not, you don't get to be the King of Pop without some talent.
    20) Michael Stipe/Mike Mills. REM is the ultimate college band making it big. The reason? The music, the lyrics, the feel. Plus they're under 50. So there, Troy.
    19) The Ramones. Set the stage for the punk revolution. Stripped it all down to the basics and wrote some of the best rock songs ever.
    18) Paul McCartney. A long solo career does not always equate to a good solo career. Still, he writes a great silly love song, and the collaborations with Lennon during The Beatles years were pretty awesome.
    17) Elvis Costello. Carved out a nice niche being quirky, irreverant and catchy all at the same time.
    16) Tom Petty. Good infusion of folk music into rock, plus a sense of humor.
    15) Johnny Cash. There are likely other, more significant, country songwriters, but I don't know them. The Man in Black I know, and his stuff is great.
    14) Bob Dylan. Never been a huge fan, but the impact he's had is immense, and his voice aside, the songs stand the test of time.
    13) Stevie Wonder. Nearly 500 songs. Set the stage for many who have followed.
    12) Roger Waters. Doubtful many others would put him this high, but hey, I'm a Pink Floyd nutbag, so there it is. His solo stuff isn't as good as his Floyd stuff, but it's pretty darn good.
    11) Pete Townsend. His stuff set the stage for the punk revolution and he pretty well invented the rock opera. Solo stuff didn't get the same attention, but the lyrics and music are still arresting and compelling.
    10) James Hetfield/Lars Ulrich. You don't get to be the biggest, baddest, best-selling rock band of all-time if you suck. These guys don't suck.
    9) Chuck Berry. In large measure, he invented rock n' roll. But he could, and did, write blues and r&b as well.
    8) Elton John. Okay, having him play at the Harley 100th was a bad idea, but this guy can write songs.
    7) Bono/The Edge. I don't like their recent stuff as much as the "classic rock" stuff, but I give everyone else credit for reinventing themselves, so I best do the same for the U2 boys.
    6) Jimmy Page/Robert Plant. At their best as a writing duo, no question. But the solo stuff and the other collaborations do add a little to the huge gravitas of the Led Zeppelin catalog.
    5) Benny Andersson/Bjorn Ulvaeus. ABBA sold over 150 million (some put the figure at 500 million) albums. Then these Swedes penned two hugely successful musicals. The ultimate pop music songwriters.
    4) Mick Jagger/Keith Richards. Their solo stuff isn't horrible, but it isn't great, but the Stones' body of work is monumental.
    3) John Lennon. Died too young, but his Beatles' stuff and his solo stuff were superior to Sir Paul's by a substantial margin. Loopy as a loon once he hooked up with Yoko, but even then, the talent was undeniable.
    2) David Bowie. Writes an amazing variety of stuff both for himself and others. Constantly reinventing himself and his music.
    1) Paul Simon. Okay, let the stoning begin. I drew up a list of about 40 folks and I couldn't find one that I'd put in front of him. Variety in the music, depth of the lyrics, catchiness of the tunes, durability of the music. It's all there. Lennon maybe could have made a run at the top spot, but he was killed too young.

    Just missing the list for a variety of reasons: Bob Marley, Curt Kobain, Bruce Springsteen, Sheryl Crow, Don Henley/Glenn Frey, Neil Young, John Fogerty, Freddie Mercury/Brian May, Jeff Lynn, Eric Clapton, Brian Wilson, Bonnie Raitt, Leonard Cohen and Muddy Waters.

    Okay, there's my old fogey's list of Best Songwriters of the previous half-century. Feel free to snark, suggest, tweak or reinvent as you see fit.


    Thursday, June 16, 2005

    Art Garfunkel: One Lucky SOB

    Don't get me wrong-- Art Garfunkel has a lovely voice. But man, to get paired with Paul Simon, one of the best, maybe the best, song writers of their generation? That's some good fortune, because lots of other guys have lovely tenor voices-- there are a handful of people in the world with Paul Simon's talent, creativity and drive.

    Seriously, today I was listening to Disk 2 of his greatest hits compendium, and the dude is just awesome. Slip Sliding Away, Late in the Evening, Born at the Right Time. Just awesome. Great music, great lyrics, great songs. His stuff didn't get stagnant the way a lot of artists did across a 40+ year career-- he kept reinventing his material by adding raggae, or african beats, or rhythm and blues, or gospel, or... well, you get the idea. All of that, yet somehow he makes it his own, takes it and gives it the Paul Simon stamp of approval.

    Why the music ramble? Not sure. Mostly because Slip Slidin' Away really stuck with me today-- the hook is infectious, but the words are really sad--yet uplifting all at the same time. Perhaps because of the music.

    But maybe its time for a music based Friday's list. That's a plan. No specifics yet, but yeah, a music based list tomorrow.

    In the meantime:

    And I know a father who had a son
    He longed to tell him all the reasons for the things he’d done
    He came a long way just to explain
    He kissed his boy as he lay sleeping
    Then he turned around and he headed home again

    Slip sliding away, slip sliding away
    You know the nearer your destination, the more you slip sliding away

    Tuesday, June 14, 2005

    Light Blogging

    I'm on vacation today, tomorrow and Thursday, so blogging may be a bit light. I'll be back on Friday if for no other reason than to maintain the pointless tradition of Friday lists. In the meantime, I will leave with these quotes to ponder upon:

    A Bible and a newspaper in every house, a good school in every district - all studied and appreciated as they merit - are the principle support of virtue, morality, and civil liberty.
    When the people find they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.
    These profoundities brought to you by Benjamin Franklin.

    Monday, June 13, 2005

    One View of Conservatives

    TC wrote a nice little homage to Jack on his blog. What I don't really get is why this kind of drivel (the link that tc's piece contains) appeals to otherwise intelligent, persceptive individuals. I mean, how many over-reaching, and generally patently absurd, generalizations can you lump into one post? Let's see there's:

    Most of these people [conservatives]are not Nazis, but they are the perfect raw material for our own, homegrown American Rightwing Demagogues; obedient, stupid, bigoted and easily frightened.
    And because everything – their very souls – rest on the foundation of the infallibility of Dear Leader, they'll happily kill anyone in any numbers who might force them to face up to the fact that Dear Leader is a duplicitous, lying sleazebag who has played on their fear and ignorance and patriotism to turn them out like $2 crack whores.
    and to top it all off
    Built in to the Right Wing DNA is the same congenital defect, and since they will happily burn the world to the ground before they admit they might actually have been wrong about Bush, it falls to us to keep them backed into a corner as best we can, because once events out here in Realityland begin to pound through the perimeter denial defenses, what comes after ain't gonna be pretty.
    There's more, but that sums it all up pretty well.

    Come on tc, you really telling me you agree with this guy? I understand being angry, and maybe a little confused as to how Bush could actually have won twice (I'm still a little stunned by it myself and I voted for him one of those times), but does this kind of silliness help in anyway except to make you feel superior? And does that really help? Give you an accurate picture of "Realityland" as the author rants about? Or just ensure that a big chunk of Democrats remain completely out of touch with the majority of the country that disagrees with them on some fundamental issues but is willing to compromise and maybe embrace some other fundamental issues?

    Seriously. There are good and bad ideas on both sides of the aisle. There are good and bad people on both sides of the aisle.

    Do not buy into this kind of hate speech, because that's entirely what it is. Hate speech. It derides a large group of people. It makes sweeping, unsubstantiated negative generalizations. It makes the author and those that agree with him feel superior because it rips down those that disagree with him. The fact that the targets of this particular hate speech are conservatives rather than gay people or black people or women does not change the content of the material.

    Hate speech should be opposed by intelligent, concerned individuals at all times in all places. It does not matter if we also don't like the target of a particular hate speech-- the invective and poison must be opposed. To do otherwise is to tacitly condone it and aid the spread of it.

    So, here's the question tc. Do you really agree with this guy? You've written thoughtful, well-argued comments here at my blog. You've had disagreements with John and me and some of the other more conservative readers here at my blog, but they've generally been above the ad hominem attack and usually both sides have had some substance to support their positions, right or wrong. I know lots of smart people, both conservative and liberal, and I have to tell you, none of the conservatives are cowering numnuts who just want to be protected and not have to think, and none of the liberals are anti-American communists who want our troops to die. I'm sure there are folks out there that fit both categories. I'm also sure they are most definitely a small minority of the available pool.

    This guy hates, tc. Really, deeply hates. Do you want to be like that? Eaten up by your rage and hatred of folks that simply disagree with you? Knowing Jack, and knowing some of his friends, I seriously doubt that you do. I hope that you don't.

    I hope none of us do.


    Journal Math

    A few years back the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel had the following headline for a small story in their sports page: Bucks' Appearances on National TV Increase 200%. Or something to that effect. The problem was, the number of appearances by the Milwaukee Bucks that year was 2. Up from 0. Going from 0 to 2 was a 200% increase according to the Jourtinel. Now, when anyone in our group of friends makes an egregious math error, he or she is roundly ridiculed for using Journal math.

    Why do any of you care? Well, you probably don't, but if you live in Wisconsin, you should perhaps be aware that Governor Jim Doyle is attempting to use Journal math to justify his potential vetoing of the legislature's proposed budget. Here's the poop on the legistlature's proposal, with the key bit being this:
    Still, the $458 million in additional money that would go to K-12 schools over the next two years is less than half what the governor wanted or the schools expected. The decision prompted Democrats to blast the proposal as an assault on education because they say the funding would not keep up with rising costs. Republicans countered it took "Madison math" to see such a large infusion of cash as a cut to education.
    Doyle is already calling the Republican-backed budget proposal a cut of school funding. "The big picture here is that they have cut education in a way that they know school districts simply can't live with," Doyle said. $458 million is a cut to Jim. Err... hello? A 2.8% increase of school spending this year and a 3% increase next year is NOT a cut. It may be an insufficient increase, though in the fiscal mess Wisconsin is currently in, one we need to accept, but it is not a cut.

    In the Jourtinel's case, the bad math was just some staffer being a product of the Wisconsin Public School System (sorry, Snark alert). Our governor, on the other hand, presumably knows the difference between an increase and a decrease. He also, presumably knows that its a lot easier to whine about a cut in education than it is to whine about a cut in the size of an increase in education.

    But, he's a politician, you pretty much expect politicians to be disingenuous. Goes with the job. What excuse does the Madison-based Capital Times newspaper have for their headline: GOP slashes school funds; Gov may veto 'cruel hoax'? Truthfully? None. None whatsoever. There is no reason to categorize the Republican budget as "slashing school funds" except to make the Govenor look like a good guy, and the Republicans look like bad guys. And, of course, the Govenor is a Democrat and the Republicans are, naturally, Republicans.

    But there's no liberal bias here folks. Move along, nothing to see.

    A Sign of the Covenant

    A most gorgeous rainbow early last evening. The colors were as vivid as any I can remember, and there was that rare second, though much fainter, rainbow above it. Very, very cool. It arced all the way across the sky, too, with a full bottom on both ends. Hung around for a good twenty minutes. Quite remarkable, and towards the end of the show the setting sun added this rosy sort of glow to the entire spectrum that was really quite remarkable.

    The point? Mostly just that no matter how long you live on this amazing little planet of ours, there are always new wonders to discover. Or old ones to discover in a new way. I have seen my share of rainbows, but never one quite like the one last night, with that vivid rosy glow about it that made you wonder if maybe, just maybe, you could find that little pot of gold at the end.

    I should think that it would make even an atheist or an agnostic wonder if maybe there wasn't some sort of divine presence around to come up with some of the natural wonders of our world.

    Friday, June 10, 2005

    Go Doug Melvin!

    For those who don't know, Doug Melvin is the Milwaukee Brewers' General Manager, and he is slowly turning the Brewers from a perennial doormat into a competitive squad. They won't challenge for the playoffs anytime soon, but they aren't a nearly automatic W on other teams' schedules any more.

    Melvin's latest move seems to be nothing but good, yummy baseball delight for fans of the Brew Crew. He traded 2nd baseman Junior Spivey, who is batting a pathetic .236 this season and is a defensive liability, to the Washington Nationals for Tomo Ohka, a promising young pitcher who has notched a 4-3 record with a 3.33 ERA. You can never have too much pitching, and if Ohka is a legitimate sub-4 ERA pitcher, he's an excellent acquisition for a questionable player.

    On top of that, Spivey's departure opens a hole for AAA sensation Rickie Weeks, who is batting .320 at that level and is one of the hottest minor league prospects in baseball. I would imagine Weeks will be packing his bags for Milwaukee soon, and if he pans out, the Brewers will have improved their rotation and their offense-- which desperately needs improving.

    Nice move Doug.

    Friday's List

    Okay, since Gym Jim wants a list not loaded with gentlemen in tights and capes, let's try something new for this Friday's list. No superheroes, no special powers. I thought about sports, sports are always good, and one of these days will take a look at the biggest draft busts, but if we're going for the antithesis of guys in tights, and having just watched a Bond flick, I am opting for hot women. Lots of those around, so we'll have to limit it some.

    Let's see... movie star (at least two films, please), and since the definition of hot covers a lot of ground, I'll go with most beautiful. This is slightly different from being the sexiest. Covers the entire era of motion pictures, silent films to present day. Clearly this will be a subjective list, but then, aren't they all?

    Okay, here goes:

    25) Greta Garbo. It was another era, but she helped Hollywood define what was beautiful.
    24) Jennifer Love Hewitt. Would be much higher on the sexy list, but still stunningly beautiful.
    23) Heather Graham. See previous entry. I like her smile.
    22) Catherine Deneuve. A lovely French export.
    21) Halle Berry. A Bond girl and Catwoman? Pretty much guarentees she's beautiful.
    20) Veronica Lake. One of the first Hollywood blonde bombshells.
    19) Audrey Hepburn. I'm not as huge a Hepburn fan as many, but she was a beautiful woman.
    18) Lana Turner. Sad eyes. Very pretty, but sad.
    17) Rita Hayworth. Classic looks-- that helped define what classic looks were.
    16) Claudette Colbert. One of the first Hollywood babes.
    15) Raquel Welch. Back in the day... yowza.
    14) Alicia Silverstone. Lovely. And funny. Great mouth, great smile.
    13) Liv Tyler. Lovely body, lovely mouth, lovely woman.
    12) Sophie Loren. A gorgeous Italian export.
    11) Uma Thurman. Goofy name, gorgeous woman.
    10) Drew Barrymore. Beautiful woman, great smile, sassy attitude. Works for me.
    9) Ava Gardner. Always hard to compare across eras, but Ava is a top 10er.
    8) Elizaberth Hurley. She's drop dead gorgeous, has a sense of humor, and darker side. What's not to like?
    7) Ingrid Bergman. Classic face, and she always seemed a little sad to me, which for some reason I found appealing.
    6) Brigitte Bardot. An even prettier French export than #23.
    5) Jennifer Aniston. The all-American girl-- and she can act!
    4) Marilyn Monroe. The prototype on which the beautiful woman is often based. Looks, attitude, sensuality, and mystery.
    3) Grace Kelly. Regal, without being cold. Lovely, lovely woman.
    2) Elizabeth Taylor. It's easy to forget just how beautiful Liz was before she became a nutbag.
    1) Nicole Kidman. I may be the only one who'd put her this high, but that's okay. It's my list. I think it's something about her eyes.

    Okay, so assuming I don't get divorced for making this list, let the counterlisting begin. This was done a bit on the fly, so I'll probably look back on the list and think, "Why is she that high?" or the like, but heck, that's the fun of lists. Any glaring omissions?


    Bond, James Bond

    Watched part of For Your Eyes Only and was struck quite solidly by how much Roger Moore sucked as Bond. Sean Connery, as many having noted, simply was the quintessential Bond. Pierce Brosnan brings enough panache and understated coolness to be a pretty darn good Bond. Even Timothy Dalton brought a lot of intensity to the role, and made the License to Kill aspect of Bond intriguing. Moore just sucks.

    He is stiff, he is unbelievable, and the whole time he is on the screen, his character just tries WAY too hard to try to be cool. Thus failing utterly to be so. Moore is also curiously effiminate, which has to be the ultimate no-no for anybody playing James Bond. In one scene, Bond is reclining at the beachside house of Countess Lisl, in Greece. She's wearing a translucent wrap, he's wearing a robe. First problem, she's getting the champagne for them both while he watches-- Bond was nothing if not a gentleman, or, if you prefer, a chauvanist. No way he lets the girl get the drinks.

    Even more egregious, though, is the way Moore is lying there waiting for the girl to bring him his drink. He's on his side, head on his hand, and he looks like he's at a photo shoot. Then he starts rubbing one foot up his other leg. ICKY! His pose, his actions-- they are all feminine. Of course, Moore was handicapped by the late-70s, early 80s sensibilities of disco, Ziggy Stardust, and the like, but still-- this is James Bond!

    Moore is also handicapped by the horrible late 70s/early 80s film-making style that drags out nearly every scene long beyond necessary, thus often rendering even good films from this era, for example, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, difficult to watch or prime candidates for the fast forward button. Above and beyond all that, however, Moore just sucked.

    Thursday, June 09, 2005

    More Conservatives Who Aren't

    Stand up Congressman Pete Sessions (R-Texas), and take a bow as this month's Conservative Who Isn't. Times were that conservatives were big fans of Federalism, the basic tenet that local and regional governments be given the ability to make their own laws and statutes with only the biggest, most over-arching issues-- national defense, foreign relations, transportation, etc.-- were regulated by the Federal Government. Not so much these days, as the Federal Marriage Amendment folks clearly illustrate.

    But there are smaller infringements on Federalism all time. Like Sessions'.

    Sessions has proposed a nationwide ban on municipal Wi-Fi networks because the poor, poor telecommunications industry is being inconvenienced. I'm sure the fact that Sessions used to work for Southwestern Bell has nothing to do with his decision to introduce the legislation.

    Something I Don't Get

    There is a move afoot in Milwaukee to move the Potawatomi casino from its current location-- a few miles from downtown in a very industrial/debilitated area-- to the downtown area. I have no problem with this. By all means, bring a casino downtown and make downtown someplace people want to actually go to do something other than work. Works for me.

    What I don't get is why there is such a confusion over what to do about the current casino in the Menomonee River Valley, several miles from downtown. The general consensus seems to be that it would have to be closed. Why? The building and infastructure are there. Why close it? Leave it where it is, and make that casino the "cheap" casino and the bingo hall. Instead of tons of $1 and $5 slots, table games that start at $5 a hand (if you're lucky), make that casino the place the non-highrollers go to.

    Slots and video poker ranging from a nickel to a quarter. Maybe a few dollar ones. Table games with $2 or $3 minimums. Keep the bingo hall and the restaurants and the live-act theater and build a whole new casino downtown that features the higher end minimums ($5 or even $10) on table games, and starts with $.25 slots and goes up to the $5 versions. Build a new upscale restaurant there (none of the ones at the current casino are really upscale).

    Personally, I rarely play table games at Potawatomi because the minimums are higher than I like. If they were lower, I'd likely go more often. The old casino won't make the revenue it used to, but it should still turn a profit, and you don't have to abandon a $135 million dollar complex to disuse and decay. The greater Milwaukee area is big enough to support two casinos, as long as they target different clientele.

    Am I missing something?

    Death to the Evil Empire

    No, not that one. The Yankees. The Brewers won two close ones against the Steinbrenner's money boys, but last night, he got a bit of value for his $1.2 Billion roster. Okay, it's not quite that much. But I do know that their only slightly better than the Brewers, record wise, and the Brewers are only paying their roster about 38 cents per player. Okay, it's not quite that low.

    I am encouraged despite last night's shalacking. The Brew Crew has a pretty solid rotation (Sheets, Davis, Capuano, Santos and Obermueller), a strong bullpen that hasn't been overworked (yet) and really lousy hitting. But it's easier to get better hitting than it is better pitching. Bring up Rickie Weeks!

    Anyway, though they have a worse record right now then they had last year at this time, the Brewers are definitely a better club than last year. I think they avoid the post-all-star-game slump that obliterated them last year and hang around .500 all year. Which doesn't seem like much until you realized that we haven't been around .500 at the end of the season since Teddy Roosevelt was in office. Okay, maybe not that long, but it seems like it.

    And the whole season will be worth it if the Yankees finish out of the playoffs. It will be outstanding if they finish third or worse in their own division.

    Death to the Evil Empire!

    Wednesday, June 08, 2005

    The Sky is Falling!

    Okay, not really. Just legs. Okay, leg. You may have already heard about this, but I thought Pam Hearne's comments were pretty remarkable. A lot of people, myself likely among them, would have tried to say something witty. Some people, hopefully not many, would have said something crass, or threatened to sue for "emotional distress." Pam said this:

    "But I am very glad that I live where I do,” she said, ”so I don’t have to run for my life like this man probably was doing.”
    Which is pretty classy, I'd say.

    Be Like Jimmy V

    Jim Valvano, a longtime basketball coach at NC State, died of cancer back in 1993. Knowing he was dying, he continued to coach, continued to touch the lives of young men, started a foundation to fight the disease that was killing him, and battled for the precious gift that is life with all his might. Not in a bitter or cynical way, but rather trying to squeeze all that was good out of life in the time he had left. One of his last speeches was at the 1993 ESPY awards, and it was there that Jimmy V expanded on his trademark motto of "Don't give up. Don't ever give up." It was a hell of a speech, and I recommend listening to or reading it in its entirity to anyone, sports fan or no, but there is one passage that always resonates with me. Something I go back to from time to time to ground myself, and it is this:
    To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. Number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you're going to have something special.
    Indeed. So, you may ask, what brought on the Jimmy V nostalgia? It was a recent comment from Jack that contained the following:

    I don't know who he is, but John H. is so completely full of shit that it makes me gasp. His are the worst, but most of the other comments make me hang my head in despair.

    And yes, Nick, I know. I'm not keeping an open mind, and I've become inflexible. Sure. I guess that's that way it has to be. Perhaps it's my karma. It may be hard for your to fathom, but I'm perfectly comfortable with that.

    I find these discussions, and almost all of the other ones that you all have linked me to (even TC's), to be drivel. It's not your content, Nick. I find it to be better on balance than a lot of it. But, I'm elitist. I'm liberal. I'm am resistant to external control. I've been reading for some time now, but I'm signing off.

    I'm being distracted from my search.

    Which made me very sad. I've known Jack for a very long time, and in many ways he has had a tremendous influence on my opinions, preferences and overall approach to life. Older than I, he blazed a number of trails and left enough guideposts for me to follow, or to use as a general roadmap as I forged along a different route.

    Clearly, we no longer see the world the same way, and I think that's okay-- if everyone did see the world the same way, it would likely be terribly, terribly dull. But the fact that he does not even wish to try and see the world differently, even briefly, even just long enough to reassure himself that he still likes it the "normal" way, makes me sad. And I wonder just how exactly he is conducting his search and how successful the search can possibly be if he has indeed become inflexible and closed of mind. I hope that is merely hyperbole.

    Inflexible people in general make me sad. Their world just seems so terribly limited-- how do you grow and change and experience life if it is all already cast in stone? I suppose it's easier in some ways, and I harken back to B.F. Skinner and his rather scary believe that most people simply wish to be told what to do so they can't be held responsible for their own bad decisions.

    And now I'm just rambling. Perhaps its the new allergy prescription I'm on. I blame the trees. Where's a good dose of napalm when you need it? Just kidding, just kidding.

    As for me, I suppose I will continue my own search through my traditional means and through some new ones. This blog is a new one, and so far I find I like it rather a lot. Since Jack if the first defectee of my small, but dedicated, core group, perhaps you guys do as well. I hope so, because one of the things I like about the blog, other than having all the power and control, is the dialogue and the debate between smart, savvy people who have very different ways of seeing things.

    Don't give up, don't ever give up.

    Tuesday, June 07, 2005

    Athlete Idiocy

    My wish for all professional athletes who feel either A) Put upon because they just aren't making enough money playing a game or B) Believe that playing a game can in any way, shape or form be compared to combat or war? That said athletes would get their collective heads out of their collective rectums, shut up, and be ever so happy that God blessed them with enough phyical skills to play their game of choice at its highest levels for large quantities of cash and adoration.

    Is that so much to ask?

    There's Kellen Winslow, Jr., who said of playing football, "It's war. They're out to kill you, so I'm out there to kill them. ... I'm a [expletive] soldier." Winslow later apologized, and then went on to ruin a fledgling, though promising, NFL career by nearly killing himself on a motorcycle, the one vehicle specifically prohibited in his NFL contract. Alex Rodriguez, who plays the ever so violent game of baseball, cares not a whit for the opinion of anyone but those of the, "guys who go to war with me." And, just so we don't leave out basketball, Kevin Garnett, talking about his pregame preparations for a game 7 showdown:

    "It's Game 7, man. That's it. It's for all the marbles," Garnett said. "Sitting in the house, I'm loadin' up the pump. I'm loadin' up the Uzi. I got a couple M-16s, a couple 9s. I got a couple joints with some silencers on them. I'm just loading clips, a couple grenades. I got a missile launcher with a couple of missiles. I'm ready for war."

    Not nearly as annoying, though far more plentiful, are the athletes who feel they are oh so underpaid and exploited. Look, I have no problem with athletes negotiating for as much as they can get, but I do have a big problem with them whining about it to the fans and media like we should feel their pain and pat the poor things on the back.

    The most egregious examples? Sam Cassell whining about not being able to "feed his family" on his lowly $14 million dollar salary. Barry Bonds, Frank Thomas, and Gary Sheffield all threatened to hold out despite being under long-term contracts, paying them, respectively, $83 million, $107 million and $104 million (stat from this 2001 article). And, of course, every single player in the NHL who preferred sitting out an entire year rather than conceding anything to the owners which might prevent the cash strapped league from drifting into complete insolvency.

    And then there's Javon Walker, in a class by himself for combining both of these afflictions. Having had one very good year, Walker has chosen not to negotiate in good faith with the Green Bay Packers for a possible extension of his contract. Instead, he is skipping mini-camps and other team activities, and when questioned on his actions, he pops off with this:

    Anybody can (say), 'OK, he had a great year, let's see if he can do it again.' That's like trying to tell a person to go to war in Iraq, but let me see if you can go to war again and come back and then we'll give you a Medal of Honor. You can't send a soldier out to a battlefield twice for him to be consistent.
    What a friggin' twit. Yeah, Javon, catching a ball for millions of dollars is just like that. Except, you know, without all the bullets, bombs, and people trying kill you. I can see where anyone could confuse the two.

    Our Messed Up Immigration System

    In Wisconsin, our governor wants to reward illegal immigrants by allowing their children to pay in-state tuition, the number of illegal immigrants has doubled since 1990 to somewhere in the neighborhood of 100,000-150,000, and yet we deport Abesha "Bobbie" Zenebe, a productive person, married to a U.S. citizen, because the paperwork for her marriage got filed late. Split a family, the Zenebe's have two children, that tried to do it the right way, while we look the other way on so many other cases.

    Another ridiculous example is playing out right now, here in Milwaukee, where Regina Bakala had been detained by federal agents since March. Regina's crime? Trusting her lawyer. Otherwise, she and her family played by the rules, yet she faced imminent deportation to the Congo, where she likely faced torture and even death by the dictatorial government of that country. Fortunately, she was reprieved, at least temporarily, but that doesn't change the fact that our immigration system is a frickin' mess. Absolute mess.

    I'm not sure what should be done, but we definitely need to do something as it's current application is arbitrary, often contradictory, and completely out of whack.


    Fallujah Update

    Remember Fallujah? "Resistance Fighter" stronghold of the Sunnis where this happened and many assumed that this would be the result of our intrusion there. The doomsayers and critics of the Bush administration would make interesting historical constructs such as this:

    The United States was once celebrated as a non-colonial, sometimes anti-colonial, power in the Middle East, renowned for more than a century for its educational, medical and charity efforts. Since the Cold War, however, the United States has intervened increasingly in the region’s internal affairs and conflicts. Things have changed fundamentally for the worse with the invasion and occupation of Iraq, particularly with the revelation that the core pretexts offered by the administration for the invasion were false. And particularly with growing Iraqi dissatisfaction with the occupation and with the images of the hellish chaos broadcast regularly everywhere in the world except in the United States—thanks to the excellent job done by the media in keeping the real human costs of Iraq off our television screens.
    My emphasis added. To which I submit this:

    "We're certainly not trying to turn this into the equivalent of an American city," says Williams. "But it will be first class for an Iraqi one and that's going to win the hearts and minds of the people." From the smiles, the thumbs up, the waves, and the cries of "Hello!" in Arabic I got from the children in even the worst parts of the city, I'd say they're being won.
    And ask, "How many of these images of the rebuilding and thumbs up from the population are being seen ANYWHERE in the world thanks to the excellent job done by the media in keeping the real human improvements and accomplishments in Iraq off our television screens?"

    Are things perfect in Iraq? No. Does the Bush administration deserve some significant criticism for their lack of post-invasion planning? Yes. But how come we aren't hearing and seeing more of this kind of story coming out of Iraq? Certainly there was enough coverage of the chaos and death in Fallujah before, during and after the late fall assault.

    Conversely, how come atrocities in Zimbabwe, Dafur, and Uzbekistan aren't receiving much media or world political coverage at all? Well, not to worry. The International Criminal Court is revving up to do something about Darfur, at least. So, that's a relief. After all, it appears there will be a stern, stern, investigation:
    Moreno-Ocampo will brief the United Nations in New York later this month about his plans to investigate Darfur.
    Which must have Omar al-Bashir and the Janjaweed militia absolutely quaking in their boots in between killing and raping their non-Arab countrymen and women.


    Friday, June 03, 2005

    Friday's List

    Due to popular demand (okay, because Troy mentioned it and I thought it was a cool idea) the Friday List is back. As a starting point, here's Bravo's "Ultimate Supervillains" list:
    20) Jabba the Hutt
    19) Dracula
    18) Clown
    17) Bullseye
    16) Syndrome
    15) The Mummy
    14) Magneto
    13) James Bond Villains
    12) Dr. Evil
    11) Freddie Krueger
    10) Hannibal Lecter
    9) Dr. Doom
    8) Doc Ock
    7) The Riddler/The Penguin
    6) Chucky
    5) Darth Vader
    4) The Terminator
    3) The Joker
    2) Lex Luthor
    1) Green Goblin

    Wow! What a horrible list! I thought their superhero list was pretty bad-- this is ridiculously bad. Let's start at #1-- The Green Goblin? What is Bravo's fixation with Spider Man? Are they owned by Sony (the studio that makes the Spider Man movies)? I'm not even sure I'd put the Green Goblin at #1 for Spider Man villains, much less #1 overall. Yikes!

    Lex Luthor at 2? I never found Lex all that interesting. If he wasn't Superman's archfoe, I doubt he'd even make the top 20, much less the top 10. Maybe that's just me, but really I found Lex to be a pretty lame villain.

    The Terminator? Umm... he was the bad guy in one movie. He was actually a good guy in the other two (I think-- I never actually saw #3). Can we even consider him a supervillain? How does he outstrip folks like Dracula, the Mummy, or even Freddy Krueger? Good grief.

    Chucky? C'mon, I'll admit the guy is too young to have the reputation as an NFL coaching genius, and I'll grant you that the Raiders and the Bucaneers are two of my least favorite teams, but #6?... What? Oh... the stupid doll. Gotcha. Okay, still pretty ridiculous.

    Hannibal Lecter? Cannibalism is pretty creepy, and Hopkins was brilliant in Silence of the Lambs (didn't see the pre/sequel thingie), but come on-- tenth? Top 50 sure, maybe the top 30, but he never cracks the top 25.

    Dr. Evil? Parody. Which makes him even less viable as a villain than Austin Powers as a superhero.

    Why do all the James Bond villains get lumped together, but the Batman and Spidey villains get separated out? And if you're listing the Penguin and the Riddler together, why not include some of the other interesting less known villains like Two Face?

    Syndrome-- great villain, great movie. Please note the lack of a plural. One movie doesn't get you into the top 20. Sorry Buddy.

    Bullseye? I dunno, maybe. I was never a big Daredevil fan, so maybe he rates this high.

    Clown? Umm.... what? Is this the guy from Spawn, the guy from the Flash, or does it refer to all the evil clowns that have graced comics, cartoons, movies and tv shows? I honestly don't know, I didn't see the actual Bravo broadcast (I was so unimpressed with their superheroes show I didn't bother to see when the supervillains segment was on). If it is The Clown from Spawn, this is just silly, if it is Clown from the Flash, it is not quite as silly, but it's close. If it is all the evil clowns ever, than a case can be made that Clown should be higher in this list. Check out this list, for example. Add to that the clown from Poltergeist, the various Twilight Zone and Outer Reaches episodes that featured clowns, Harle Quin from Batman, and various others... and it's a pretty strong group.

    Why is Dracula way the hell down at 19? That's perposterous. The vampire is one of the, if not the, oldest villains/evil beings in recorded human history.

    Jabba the Hut? How long is he in those movies? Twenty minutes all together? Maybe he's a force, hah!, in the second (err... first) three movies which I haven't seen, but even so, I don't see him in the top 20. Biggest thing he had going for him was getting Leia on a leash. That by itself does get him close to the top 20, I have to admit.

    Okay, now the ridiculously glaring oversights. HAVE THESE PEOPLE NEVER HEARD OF THE WEREWOLF? Is that possible? Even less likely, HAVE THESE PEOPLE NEVER HEARD OF FRANKENSTEIN'S MONSTER? That's like listing the greatest golfers of all-time and leaving off Jack Nicklaus, or listing the greatest empires of all-time and leaving off the Romans, or listing the worst dictators of all-time and leaving off Josef Stalin, or... well, you get the idea. The lack of the werewolf, and especially Frankenstein's monster, from this list just completely invalidates it, in my mind. Complete farce. This list was either put together in five minutes or by braindead studio synchophants. Probably both.

    Okay, end of rant. Up next, my list. No real people (Stalin and Hitler are right out). Same general criteria as with superheroes-- appealing to me, long-lived, in a variety of media, and impact on society and popular culture. Also, no lame "All Bond villain" groupings. Some of the Bond villains were excellent. Some were so-so. A few were pretty lame. A villain is good enough on his/her own or not. Monsters/villains that have been played in different variations (vampires/Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, the Werewolf, etc.) over the years are not included in this prohibition. Does that seem wrong and arbitrary? Oh well, deal with it. Okay? Okay. Here goes:

    25) Apocalypse
    24) Doc Ock
    23) Morgan le Fay and Mordred
    22) Ghosts (kinda generic, I know, but there it is)
    21) Michael Myers
    20) Freddy Krueger
    19) Shredder
    18) Juggernaut
    17) Lord Voldemort
    16) Poison Ivy
    15) Ming the Merciless
    14) Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale
    13) Goldfinger
    12) Evil Clowns (aren't all clowns evil?)
    11) The Undead (zombies and mummies and skeletons, oh my!)
    10) Darth Vader
    9) Green Goblin
    8) Magneto
    7) Werewolves
    6) Kingpin
    5) Lex Luthor
    4) Dr. Doom
    3) The Joker
    2) Vampires/Dracula
    1) Frankstein's Monster

    No doubt I've forgotten someone terribly evil and villaneous and one of you will remind me, making me say DOH! to the surprise and consternation of those around me at the time. These are the villains that d/n make the cut, but which I considered: Dr. No, Harle Quinn, The Alien, Jason, Pinhead, Martians, and, the granddaddy of all villains, Satan. Really, Satan wins this thing hands down, but somehow he didn't seem to really fit the "feel" of the list. So, I left him out. Hopefully that doesn't cause me trouble down the road.

    'K, there it is. Rip away!


    Nanny Statism

    First, a definition:
    The law of unintended consequences, often cited but rarely defined, is that actions of people—and especially of government—always have effects that are unanticipated or "unintended." Economists and other social scientists have heeded its power for centuries; for just as long, politicians and popular opinion have largely ignored it. [From the Concise Encyclopedia of Economics]
    Now, here's the application, relative to Appleton, Wisconsin's recent banning of smoking:
    On April 5, voters in Appleton approved a workplace smoking ban due to take effect July 1. The ban, the most stringent in Wisconsin, will prohibit people from lighting up in all workplaces, including bars and restaurants, along with other indoor public locations, such as Laundromats and hallways of apartment complexes.
    The unanticipated effect?
    Two convention groups planning future events have decided that Appleton is no longer the place for their meetings because of the upcoming workplace smoking ban.
    So, the city banned a legal activity because it's unhealthy and citizens apparently aren't capable of deciding to go to non-smoking venues on their own. They need to be protected for their own good. Even more amazing, is that this was a referendum-- the citizens apparently agree that they are too stupid to make informed decisions and need to be protected for their own good. Lucky them, they now get to pay more in taxes and risk losing businesses because they are too stupid to make informed decisions for themselves.

    In other nanny state news, I saw a piece on a local newscast talking about Brookline, Massachusett's ban on spanking. It's a non-binding, hah!, resolution, but still... should the government be telling parents what is, and isn't, acceptable in the disciplining of their children? I'm certainly not supporting child abuse, and I don't spank my kids as a decision Jennifer and I reached collectively, but I don't automatically assume that spanking is inappropriate. As with any other coercive measure, it's how you apply the method, not the method itself, that bears scrutiny.

    As a minor bias note-- the report had clips from three residents, all in favor of the ban. There were no clips from anyone who opposed the ban on spanking-- despite the fact that the resolution passed by a relatively close 89-80 vote. Probably those that voted against were too busy thumping their bibles and sharpening their pitchforks to talk to the tv people.

    Favorite quote: "Well, I was spanked as a child and it wasn't any fun at all." Ummm... DUH!That's why it's a punishment! It's not supposed to be fun. Though there are folks out there that do enjoy that-- which raises the question, were this a binding resolution, double-hah!, would grown adults with... different sensibilities be prohibited from doing what they do?


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