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A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote
Friday, July 29, 2005
Friday's List: 25 Greatest Americans
25) Cesar Chavez.
24) John Glenn.
23) John F. Kennedy.
22) Jonas Salk.
21) Ulysses S. Grant.
20) Jackie Robinson.
19) Audie Murphy.
18) Jesse Owens.
17) Marie Curie.
16) Eleanor Roosevelt.
15) Frederick Douglass. Born a slave, Douglass escaped to freedom and became involved in the abolition and women's rights movements. He rose to prominence as a speaker and a writer, and eventually advised President Lincoln during the Civil War.
14) Harriet Tubman. Born a slave, she escaped via the fledgling underground railroad. Free in the north, she returned again and again to help other slaves to freedom. During the Civil War, she worked as a nurse and a spy, and after the war's conclusion as a strong advocate for African-Americans and women.
13) Benjamin Franklin. Inventor, writer, diplomat, ladies man. Franklin was the Renaissance man of the 18th century, doing a little bit of everything. Well-loved by the French, or he might be higher.
12) Alexander Hamilton. From everything I've read about the man, he was an ass. But he was a very smart ass (no pun intended), and he was dead-on balls accurate (it's an industry term) when it came to creating a Federal Reserve, or national bank, for the fledgling republic of America. Without his influence, our nation might well have collapsed into insolvency before it had a chance to realize the tremendous economic potential it would demonstrate in the 19th century.
11) Theodore Roosevelt. The Panama Canal, the breaking of many of the monopolies that were strangling the American economy, the National Park system. Roosevelt also reinvigorated the Presidency after a string lackluster "party men." Oh, and who else could've given us "Speak softly and carry a big stick" AND the teddy bear?
10) John and Abigail Adams. Bit of cheat, putting them together, but they truly were a team. History hasn't treated John as kindly as it has most of the other Founding Fathers, but it was his stubborn New England practicality that helped make Jefferson's glorious prose into hardnosed reality. Abigail was the prototype for the strong women who were to come in subsequent generations-- intelligent, capable, outspoken, and a confidant for John.
9) Franklin Roosevelt. Much like Reagan, he helped America remember itself during the Great Depression. He was also the driving force behind U.S. action in World War II, and there was that whole polio thing he overcame.
8) Susan B. Anthony. Fought for the abolition of slavery, women's rights, and equality throughout her life. Proved that being a strong, vocal, independent woman was not only possible in American, but laudable. Pity her coin was such a dud.
7) Martin Luther King, Jr. Would his legacy have been greater or lessened if he hadn't have been killed far too young? We'll never know, but I think it would have increased. Regardless, the legacy he leaves behind is quite remarkable. The Civil Rights movement needed a strong, charismatic, well-spoken leader, and MLK fit the bill perfectly.
6) Ronald Reagan. As little as five years ago, I probably wouldn't have included Reagan in my top 50, much less #6. But things change, people change, perspectives change. And I've learned a lot more about the man than I originally knew. He was the right man in the right place at the right time, and he handled it graciously and well.
5) Thomas Edison. In many ways, Edison epitomizes the American dream-- self-made, free-willed, inventive, and undeterred by adversity and set-backs. And, of course, he was a frickin' genius.
4) Thomas Jefferson. The American sphinx. If he lived as he wrote, he would likely be #1 or 2 on this list. But he didn't. A strong opponent to slavery in his words, his deeds spoke otherwise, as, unlike Washington, he never freed the slaves he owned. But his legacy as the principle writer of the Declaration of Independence, the securer of the Louisiana purchase, and his amazingly broad and profound writings earn him top 5 honors.
3) Abraham Lincoln. Since it's founding, slavery had been the 600 pound gorilla in the United States' living room that nobody wanted to talk about. It fell to Lincoln to finally start to deal with that gorilla, and while his handling of the situation may not have been perfect, it was sufficient to preserve the union and to emancipate the slaves. The cost of success was high, oh so very, very high, but the cost of failure would have been much higher.
2) George Washington. Father of the country. Not as eloquent as Jefferson, as passionate as Adams, or as intellectual as Franklin-- but he embodied all of the strengths and greatness of the American ideal. Dedicated, fierce, savvy, gracious, humble, willing to admit his mistakes and rectify them, merciful, responsible and inventive. Most of all, a tremendous leader.
1) Every single soldier who has risked life and limb in defense of this great country of ours. I did not serve in the military-- at the age I would've been useful in such a capacity, I held the armed forces, and those that serve in it, in low regard. For this I am ashamed. The brave men and women who serve our country, willingly sacrifice their time, their energy, and sometimes their lives so that the rest of us can go about our daily business. God bless you all.
Have a good weekend, everyone.
Thursday, July 28, 2005
Eats, Shoots & Leaves: Sports Edition
In that spirit, I offer the following passages from recent online reporting on sporting events. It's enough to make one wonder if you actually have to know how to write to be a reporter these days. My commentary is in green.
- Milwaukee failed to reach .500 for the first time since May 28 (24-24), and missed an opportunity to be at the break-even mark this late in a season for the first time since 1998.
Wow. This sentence basically says exactly the opposite of what the writer meant. He meant to say that Milwaukee had a chance to reach .500, a position they haven't been in since May 28, and instead said that yesterday was the first time they haven't been at .500 since that date. He also said this is the first time Milwaukee hasn't been at the break even point this late since 1998. Again, the exact opposite of what he meant. Nice work.
- Jenkins led off with his 13th homer off Brandon Webb (8-8), then Russell Branyan singled and Damian Miller doubled to chase Arizona's starter.
Again, wow! 13 homers off of Brandon Webb! If only he could hit against that guy every day.
- Michaels has been the play-by-play man on Monday Night Football since 1986, the last three with Madden as analyst.
The last three WHAT with Madden as analyst?
- And you certainly can't forget it, especially now that the former bride himself -- Ricky Williams -- is scheduled to soon end his one-year estrangement from the league and the life that he so happily ditched.
Wow, Ricky is scheduled to end his life? Huh. And he seemed so committed to returning to the NFL. Wonder how he's going to end it.
- The same friend says Williams possesses a love for the game, but no love for the business of the game. Nor is he in a hurry to become the post-NFL version of Earl Campbell, who like Williams, is a former Texas running back who won a Heisman Trophy, led the pros in rushing and now inhabits a body so battered and scarred that he struggles to walk.
Maybe Ricky is scheduled to end his life because his body is so battered and scarred? If nothing else, I have to believe that his return to football will be hampered if he is struggling to walk.
There are more, oh so many more, but those five were easy to find. Feel free to pass along any other examples of rich, nugety incorrect prose. As much as I bemoan the snarkiness of today's world, really bad grammar is always worth ridiculing.
Friday's List: The Worst Lists Ever
There are a lot of top 10/25/100 lists out there on the web. Loads of 'em. Most are movie lists, or quote lists or the like. Some of them are quite, quite odd. Some are just plain silly.
And some of them are just... wrong.
So, this is my quirky Friday list-- the dumbest or wrongest lists out there. It's a tad abbreviated as I am on vacation today, so I did this last night, and I did not have time to build a complete top 25. So sue me.
Some of the lists are just by folks, so you can perhaps excuse them their personal foibles, I suppose, but many of them are "expert" lists or compilations of lots of people voting. These are less excusable. At any rate, here 'tis:
14) Channel4 100 Greatest Albums. Any list that has a Madonna album in the top 10 of all time is crep. Any album that has an Alanis Morissette album ahead of Zeppelin IV is crep. Still, it's a much better list than some of the ones that come later in this list.
13) Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time. Vito Corleone at 1 is okay, though I'd probably put Bond there, but Fred C. Dobss at #2? Scarlett O'Hara at 3? Annie Freakin' Hall at 6? Some credit to them for putting Carl Spackler (Bill Murray's character in Caddyshack) in the top 20, but the Terminator (40) ahead of Darth Vader (84) and Dirty Harry at 42? Come on.
12) The AskMen.com top 20 Classic Rock albums of all-time list. The top 10 isn't too bad-- Zeppelin, Beatles, Pink Floyd, and the Rolling Stones in the top 5, I'm okay with that. But man, that 11-20 list is AWFUL.
11) Brett Meisner's Top 10 Most Influential Bands of All-time. Who is Brett Meisner. Well, he's a musician. And apparently dumb as a Box of Rocks. Poison? Emerson, Lake and Plamer (sic)? Poison?!? This would be higher, but it's just one nincompoop.
10) The Top 50 Television Shows of All Time. As picked by members of an MSN group. This list isn't as bad as some (see below), but any TV list with Seinfeld at 19 (behind the Brady Bunch!) is pretty bad.
9) Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Better than Q Magazine's (see below) but worse than AskMen.com. But I would've expected better from Rolling Stone. Bob Dylan #1?
8) Bernard Goldberg's 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America. Goldberg claims that the main issue in his book is "that America has lost its civility, and its public demeanor is held hostage by trashy TV shows and celebrities, where profanity and near-nudity are the only way to get a producer's (and the consumer's ) attention." Which is why the top-10 contains 0 TV personalities, and no nude celebrities (thankfully-- do you want to see Ted Kennedy or Jimmy Carter naked?). This is liberal bashing, pure and simple, and it's unfortunate-- because there is a serious loss of civility and public demeanor in America these days, and Goldberg's little money/publicity grab with this book actually feeds it.
7) ESPN's Top North American Athletes of the Century. Okay, for starters, any "greatest athletes" list that doesn't have Jim Thorpe in the top 5 is off to a lousy start. Secondly, any "greatest athletes" list that has Babe Ruth at #2 has issues. No offense to Ruth-- but #2? As Ty Cobb noted, "Ruth runs pretty good for a fat man." Lance Armstrong not on the list? Hmm... Secretariat at 35? They do know he was a horse, right?
6) Q Magazine's Greatest 100 Albums of All Time. I know nothing about Q Magazine but judging from their best albums list, the editors called it Q because they weren't sure they could spell anything more complicated. Either that or they were all stoned beyond the point of knowing what they were voting for-- Nirvana #1? Radionhead #2? Madonna at 17? Eminem at 5?
5) The Guardian's top 100 Books of All Time. Could this list be any more pretensious? Four Dostoyevsky novels? Three Tolstoy works, three Kafka novels? ONE Hemingway? One Dickens, and not even his best work? Salinger or Steinbeck? Nada. And certainly not anything low brow, like Tolkien, or Stephen King.
4) IMDb Top Rated "Comedy" Titles. It's good they put comedy in quotes, because a fair number of the films listed here just flat out aren't comedies. The Sting, The African Queen, Forrest Gump, The Incredibles? All good to excellent films. All not comedies. If not for AFI, this would be the worst film list I found.
3) TV_vote: best 5. Apparently only blithering idiots are allowed to vote at this online site. It's the only explanation I can find to explain Angel, Scrubs, Star Trek (the original series), Grounded for Life and Roswell in the top 16.
2) AFI's 100 Years 100 Laughs. Most of AFI's lists are pretty bad. This one is just horrendous.
The top 2 feature cross-dressing men-- apparently that's just Da Bomb over at AFI. Had 'em rolling in the aisles wathcing Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon and Dustin Hoffman in dresses. Only way I can figure Tootsie to even make the top 50, much less as #2. No Ghostbusters, no Caddyshack, no Animal House, no Holy Grail in the top 25. 'Nuff said.
1) The Discovery Channel's 100 Greatest Americans of All Time. I don't know who all was allowed to vote in this thing, but apparently they know as much history as... well a rock, and have the brains of... well, a rock. And this is not rocking in the Rod sort of way. Madonna? Elvis? Bob Hope? Bill Gates? Clinton? Bush? George Lucas? Rush Limbaugh? Are all of the voters on medical marijuana? Donald FREAKIN' Trump?! Ye Gods what a dreadful list.
Feel free to send along links to other dreadful lists. I wouldn't mind updating this one when I get back on Monday.
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
Why Do People Have to Get Old?
I can no longer do, at 36, some of the things I could do at 26 or 16. I can't play outside in the blazing summer sun all day long-- I would probably die or at least pass out. I can't throw baseballs and footballs around for extended periods of time without feeling sore in the morning. I can't carry my golf bag around nine holes, much less 18... well, I probably could, but why would I want to, when someone has ingeniously built little carts for golf bags that I can pull behind me instead?
With age comes wisdom, they say-- and part of that wisdom is figuring out different, better, ways of doing things than you used when you were younger because you can no longer do some of what you could do when you were younger. Instead of trying to deadlift a large rock from point X to point Y, for example, I now use a lever, a cart, a wheelbarrow, or some other device... which may take slightly longer, but won't wrench my back clean out of whack.
But age also takes a bit of the shine off of adults for kids, and I think that's probably good... to a point. We went to Six Flags Great America (large theme park and water park all in one) last Friday and had a blast. My daughter was fearless at seven in a way I don't think I ever was-- she went on the Demon (big roller coaster with quite a few loops and tight turns) and loved it, and tried the American Eagle (big roller coaster with no loops but big drops and it's really fast) and didn't like it so much. But she tried it.
I tried the Demon and nearly threw up-- it used to be my favorite ride! Ah well. After we rode and Nicole wanted to go on it right away again, I had to say that I couldn't. No way. She was quite surprised... she had weathered the Demon better than her dad? An interesting look of pride and sympathy seemed to cross her face-- 'Cool, I rock' mixed with, 'Maybe being older and bigger isn't always better.'
Not to worry though-- I loved the American Eagle, and came off of that ride in much better shape than her. I think the upside down loops of the Demon got me, while the drops on the Eagle, where it feels like you might just fly out of your seat-- particularly if you're 7 and only weigh about 60 pounds-- got her.
As to Six Flags... I went with trepidation. I hadn't been there in over a decade, and I wasn't sure how my old body was going to do. But it was a lot of fun. Weather was good, the lines weren't too bad, and the water park-- which is new this year-- was a great afternoon diversion when it started to get a bit warm for standing in line for the rides. It was bigger than the last time I was there, too. Not just the water park area-- which probably added about 50% to the overall size of the place-- but the rest of the park as well.
The moments I most remember as a kid at Great America, we'd go as a family at least every other year or so, was being there at night. As the lights came on all over the park it transformed what was already a really cool place to be into something magical.
Still does. It actually gave me shivers on the long slow ride to the top of the Eagle's first big drop-- looking out over the twinkling lights, hearing the music on the warm summer air, watching the people down below, getting smaller and smaller. Of course, then your car reaches the top and plunges down to the bottom at about 60 miles per hour and you're hanging on for dear life... but man, that view is spectacular. Added bonus at night, all the rides are less crowded as many folks head home by 7 or 8 o'clock!
And it was comforting to realize that the magic I found in the place was still there, despite my balky stomach, despite my allergies, despite all the crap of daily life, and the worries of being not just an adult, but also a parent. It was magical to see all the lights, to feel the wind in my hair on the rides, to eat cotton candy and popcorn and get my picture taken with Daffy Duck.
But mostly it was magical watching my kids get to experience all that and more for the first time.
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
We're Back Baby
God speed and safe return.
There's Always Been Baseball
Particularly the latter these last two years, because I've been the assistant coach for my daughter's team. Not actual Little League (with the capital letters), but competitive kid baseball, nonetheless. Great fun. She's been in the 5-7 category, and its co-ed at that level-- next year she moves up to 8-10, and into fast pitch girl's softball. Big step I hear. We'll see how she does.
Regardless, I know it is fun working with the kids at this age because it seems like there's just a moment when they GET it. Go from hearing what you're saying but not being able to really execute, to just... getting it. It's so much fun to see. I can't wait to see how Jacob does with it next season. The only downside I find is that the season is so short-- 10 games in five weeks. It seems that just as the kids are getting it, the season is over.
But there's always next year.
Anyway, I also saw Field of Dreams again a week or so ago, and as sappy as the ending is, that's a fun movie-- worth seeing just for the interaction between James Earl Jones and Kevin Costner:
Terence Mann (Jones): I'm gonna beat you with this crowbar until you go away.but also because of the obvious love Costner has for the game-- it's infectious. Top it all off with a recent trip to Miller Park to watch a great game between the Brewers and the Nationals, and I'm a fan.
Ray Kinsella (Costner): You can't do that!
[Mann takes a wild swing; Kinsella falls while dodging it.]
Terence Mann: Oh, there are rules? There are no rules here!
Ray Kinsella: You're a pacifist!
Terence Mann: Shit.
Baseball will never supplant football (at least, I can't really imagine that happening), but it's moved past basketball. A combination of the fact that basketball is... not very good right now, and the fact that I've really grown to enjoy baseball. I'm sure it doesn't hurt that my hometown team, the Brewers, is playing pretty decent ball these days, but that's only part of it.
Speaking of football-- Training camps are opening! Woot!
Monday, July 25, 2005
On Moral Equivalency
Why do they keep niggling at me to the point where I am writing this? Partly because the post is just, factually speaking, wrong, but mostly because of the moral equivalency inherit in it. For the record, I would define moral equivalency somewhat different than mojo does in the thread linked above. I would say that moral equivalency is to find two acts, good or bad, to be similar enough to be compared regardless of the context of those acts, or the reality of whether they are truly alike at all. Essentially, all bad acts weigh the same, as do all good acts-- there is no judgement allowed as to which is worse, or what sorts of mitigating factors might be involved. These equivalencies seem to be much more predominant on the negative side of things.
Thus, Bush is compared to Hitler because his actions resulted in death and so did Hitler's. Obviously in context, the comparison is ridiculous. Hitler murdered millions by his orders, and killed millions more via the war he started. The closest you can get Bush on the murder thing is probably his unwillingness to consider commuting death sentences while governor of Texas. Last I checked, he hadn't started sending any U.S. citizens to the gas chamber. As to people dying because of the war he "started," I'm pretty sure it's a lot less than millions. I also think the War in Iraq was started for legitimate reasons, but obviously tc and many others would disagree with me on that. Regardless, the comparison of the two is pretty much laughable.
Yet the comparison is made.
Moral equivalency-- what Bush did was bad, what Hitler did was bad, therefore saying Bush is just like Hitler is legitimate. The flip side would be something along the lines of saying my mom is just like Mother Theresa because she fed me while I was growing up and Mother Theresa fed people, too. Obviously, feeding me was a good thing, and I'm grateful to my mother for doing that and for the sacrifices that went with it-- but I don't think it quite puts her on the same level of sacrifice or goodness as Mother Theresa. No offense, mom.
Okay. Now, onto the bits that niggle at me. I posted commentary from a prominent Canadian Muslim woman that was critical of fanatical Muslims, and the parts of Islam that feed fanatical Muslims, terrorism and jihad. In particular I highlighted this passage:
The underlying problem with Islam, observes Manji, is that far from spiritualising Arabia, it has been infected with the reactionary prejudices of the Middle East: “Colonialism is not the preserve of people with pink skin. What about Islamic imperialism? Eighty per cent of Muslims live outside the Arab world yet all Muslims must bow to Mecca.” Fresh thinking, she contends, is suppressed by ignorant imams; you can see why she has been dubbed “Osama’s worst nightmare ”.tc's response was as follows:
The underlying problem with Catholicism ... is that far from spiritualising Western civilization, it has been infected with the reactionary prejudices of Middle Europe: “Colonialism is not the preserve of political powers. What about Christian crusadism? Eighty per cent of Christians live outside Italy yet all Catholics must submit to the Vatican.” Fresh thinking ... is suppressed by ignorant bishops; ....The emphasis is tc's.
Her words are opinion. Whether they are whitewash or propanda depends to a large extent on whether you agree with them.
First my problems with the comparison on a factual basis. Which essentially boils down to two things-- one, whatever Christian crusadism there has been-- ie., conversion by the sword-- is long, long past. Christianity has changed since the Middle Ages, and that's rather the point, don't you think-- to improve and change for the better as you go? Two, the comparison breaks down in that not ALL, not even most, Christians must submit to the Vatican-- so maybe Christianity is a bit more diverse than Islam and maybe, just maybe, some of that "fresh thinking" Manji wishes for in Islam has already spread within Christianity? Even within Catholism, while the final authority is the Pope's, priest's, bishops, and Cardinals are allowed to voice their disagreement without fearing for their lives. In many parts of the world, to be a moderate Islamic cleric is to be a dead Islamic cleric. To equate the two is disingenuous.
But that stuff is minor. tc was trying to make an analogy, and those don't always work 100%. What REALLY troubles me, is this:
The actual point, mojo, was that while Nick and others are totally up in arms about Islam, the same tendencies in cultures which are closer to home go without remark.Subtler? No. It is moral equivalency, and I think it is, sorry tc, rather stupid. To say that bad things have been done by others does not excuse the bad things done by radical Muslims, and to pooh pooh Manji's statement because she is talking about problems with Islam but does not reference problems with other religions and cultures seems, at best, ill-conceived (how could any point be made, then, without including EVERYTHING that could possibly be relevant?) and at worst, petty and petulant. It certainly doesn't invalidate what Manji said, as even tc admits.
As I said, subtler. It's not that HER point lacks credence; it's that it's not a onesided issue as it is presented. The world was f-d up before radical muslims started blowing innocent people up; furthermore, people OTHER than radical muslims are blowing shit up.
I'm not a Catholic or a Muslim; I've got no horse in this race.
And what exactly is the other side of this not onesided issue? The implication is that we had it coming, the Ward Churchill school of thought, because of our policies in the Middle East and our aggression in Afghanistan and Iraq. That's the only other "side" of the argument I can think of, and if that is it, then I wonder if maybe tc didn't fall and hit his head at Summerfest.
Also, I'm not up in arms about Islam, I'm up in arms about fanatical Muslims who believe it is acceptable to blow innocent people up, cut off innocent people's heads, and hang the burned bodies of their victims from bridges to accomplish what they desire. Are those the "same tendencies found in cultures closer to home" you're talking about, tc? If yes, let me know where exactly that's happening, and I'll get up in arms about it-- I can't get up in arms about it if I don't know about it. If not, what are these insidious "tendencies" and do you really think they are equivalent to ramming planes into buildings, blowing up buses, setting off bombs near where children are playing, commiting genocide in the Sudan, etc., etc.?
That the world was f-ed up before fanatical Islam reared it's ugly head is rather self-evident-- does this mean that we must accept fanatical Muslims because not all the evil things in the world are done by them? Down that path lies madness, chaos, and lots and lots of death. The same argument could be made that we should not have opposed Hitler's aggression because our ally, Britain, had done evil things during its l0ng and expansive colonial period. For that matter, we had done bad things to the Native American people, so who are we to call Hitler, Tojo and Mussolini evil and to use force to stop them? The same argument could be used ad infinitum to excuse evil acts and evil people throughout the world and throughout time.
Ultimately, it's about judgement. Is killing another person evil, either by our actions or our inactions? Yes? What about self-defense? If you had been alive in 1942 and had a chance to kill Hitler, would you? Even if it meant killing hundreds of others near him? Thousands? What if it's 1938 and you're pretty sure the guy is crackers and will cause much mayhem and death, but you're not sure? Kill 'em? No?
Where do you draw that line?
The thing that bugs me about moral equivalency, about appeasement, is that the ultimate result of the thinking is that you NEVER draw the line. Because how can you be sure you're drawing it in the right place?
Anyway. My point, not subtle at all and rather far afield from tc's, is that it was refreshing that Manji was calling out the thugs and despots and fanatics that are despoiling her religion, and that our world would be a better place if more Muslims would join her. Because, while I have issues with Catholicism's complete unwillingness to accept gay people, I have a much bigger problem with Islam's nearly complete unwillingness to condemn people within the faith for blowing people up, cutting off people's heads, commiting genocide, etc. etc. The two problems are not of equal weight, and the fact that I don't talk much about the first does not render me incapable of making judgements on the second.
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
The Final Beam Up
Rest in peace, Scotty.
So, let's see-- Ann Coulter doesn't like the pick and neither does Chuck Schumer.
More Baseball Bias
But did they have to finish the paragraph with, "...Milwaukee counts on Sheets and lefty Doug Davis to give them quality starts."? I mean, why? Why the diss for Milwaukee? Or rather, why the diss on Milwaukee's pitching? That makes no sense. Our pitching isn't as good as St. Louis'-- nobody's is-- but it's definitely better than average (5th in the NL and 11th overall), and the starting rotation is solid from 1-4, and if Victor Santos ever gets his head screwed back on straight, the number 5 guy don't suck either. Every one of our starters has an ERA under 4 except Davis (4.18). Indeed, at this point, #3 guy Chris Capuano (10-6, 3.68) is arguably our best starter-- but we count on Sheets and Davis for quality starts?
I know Milwaukee has sucked for a long time, but if you're going to slap us down, at least pick on the parts of the team that deserve it-- namely everything BUT the pitching. And maybe, just maybe, you could mention that the Brewers are 6-3 against Washington, Atlanta and St. Louis (all with winning records) in their last 9 games? Nah... because how could we do that with only Sheets and Davis to give us quality starts?
One final Brewers note-- JJ Hardy is 6 of 12 in his last four games against two of the best pitching staffs in baseball (Washington and St. Louis). Hardy has a great glove at short stop-- if he actually learns how to be a .260 hitter or better, watch out.
Drew Vader: Hero?
But credit where credit is due. He saved a toddler's life, and prevented a family's vacation from becoming a total nightmare-- one which would've haunted them for the rest of there lives. Good work Drew.
Now stop being such an a-hole about everything else.
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
London Terror Attack Update
In all of these examples, then, the "trigger" for terrorist action was not any newly adopted Western posture of force and defiance. Rather, it was a deepening of the targeted public's wish to deal with terrorism through avoidance and accommodation, a mass descent into the psychological belief, so often disproved by history, that if we only leave vicious attackers alone, they will leave us alone. It is hardly surprising that by actively trying -- or merely indicating that they wished -- to bury their collective heads in the sand, the societies were led not to peace but to more violent attacks. Al Qaeda and terrorist groups in general have tended to press their campaigns of violence against civilians in areas where they have sensed disunity and a lack of forceful opposition. In the manner of clinical sociopaths, they seem to "smell fear" -- and to find in it, not any inspiration to show mercy or accept accommodation, but a compulsion to torment all the more vigorously those who exude it.and
What the result of that violence will be is by no means certain. Early polls suggest that the majority of the British public has been sharply and tragically reminded of what its true interests and who its true friends are, whatever the momentary shortcomings of this or that government or administration in London or Washington. Is this only a temporary reaction to outrage? Perhaps, but this much is certain: While we in the West, in our efforts to defeat al Qaeda's terrorist network, occasionally elect unwise or even duplicitous leaders and courses of action, there is no lack of wisdom so profound (to paraphrase the often duplicitous FDR) as that produced by fear. As it feeds historical distortion and ignorance, so does fear feed terrorism -- indeed, it is terrorism's very DNA. Citizens afraid of future attacks, along with ignorant protestors and careless celebrities, do no good -- do, in fact, the work of terrorists for them -- when they divide the members of the most important Western alliance by displaying faintheartedness at a time when the West needs above all to maintain its unity. Just now, that unity must be defined as seeing the Iraq endeavor through to some sort of safe conclusion, if only because al Qaeda have themselves made it clear that their fate hangs on their ability to demonstrate their potency, as well as gain a new home, in Iraq.Interesting thoughts. On a more encouraging note, this is most definitley not propoganda or whitewash. Key bit:
The underlying problem with Islam, observes Manji, is that far from spiritualising Arabia, it has been infected with the reactionary prejudices of the Middle East: “Colonialism is not the preserve of people with pink skin. What about Islamic imperialism? Eighty per cent of Muslims live outside the Arab world yet all Muslims must bow to Mecca.” Fresh thinking, she contends, is suppressed by ignorant imams; you can see why she has been dubbed “Osama’s worst nightmare ”.Now if only it didn't feel like Manji's voice is falling on deaf ears throughout the muslim world....
Nanny State Update
"It's terrible. I'm 60 percent down," said Terry Olson, co-owner of Ole 'N Rick's North Side Inn, 1026 N. Sherman Ave.but at least those bartenders won't have to worry about second hand smoke while they are standing in line at the unemployment office.
He said he's cutting back shifts for three or four bartenders, starting Monday, and "if we can't make it with that, we'll have to lay somebody off."
His concerns are echoed with varying degrees of worry and bitterness by tavern owners who report sales declines of 20 percent to 60 percent and blame the smoking ban for threatening their livelihood.
"It's terrible, absolutely terrible," said Cal Beecher, owner of the Tip Top Tavern, 601 North St. "I've been here 32 years. It's going to close me down."
Interestingly, the ban in Madison is less comprehensive than the one being proposed for Milwaukee. At least in Madison, you can still smoke outside. The recently proposed smoking ban for Milwaukee makes it illegal to smoke outside if you are anywhere close to the entrance of a building.
But I'm sure that if enacted, the ban in Milwaukee won't have any adverse effects on city businesses.
Our Next SCJ
Our court system is a mess. Inconsistent, corrupt, and riddled with so much unfairness that the blindfolded lady would be cringing were she not cast in marble. Reform must come from the top, and the basis must be the Constitution. Not political correctness, not liberal or conservative ideology, not even precedent-- as that beastie has mutated so badly as to be unrecognizable to its progenitors.
The frickin' Constitution people.
It was an incredible, far-sighted, and dead-on-balls-accurate (it's an industry term) document when it was written over 200 years ago, and it is no less so any of those things today.
Back to the basics.
Monday, July 18, 2005
The Globalization of Al-jazeera?
Right next to the link to those lovely cartoons is a link to this article, by Soumayya Ghannoushi, who is a researcher in the history of ideas at the School of Oriental & African Studies, University of London. She is also a woman, and she berates Al-Qaeda for the damage they have done to the "legitimate complaints" of Palestinians, Iraqis and other downtrodden muslims and arabs. What are the odds that even five years ago the major pan-Arab news agency would feature an anti-Al-qaeda editorial on its website, let alone one authored by a woman?
Yes, I know it is also an anti-Western, "you guys had it coming" blatheration that gets most of the facts completely wrong, and puts all of the blame for Al-qaeda's actions on the West. And yet. It's a muslim woman openly berating the chief muslim/arab terrorist organization on the chief arab/muslim news agency's web site. Money quote is the concluding quote:
But the mindless killing of the innocent in Madrid, or New York is the wrong answer to these real grievances. These are illegitimate responses to legitimate causes. Just as occupation is morally and politically deplorable, so, too, is this blind aggression masquerading as Jihad.Why? Given Al-jazeera's track record, would you have expected them to run anything negative about Al-qaeda, or that puts even a smidgen of the blame on the actual terrorists rather than on the U.S., Israel, and Britain? I wouldn't have.
My best guess is globalization-- Al-jazeera is feeling the need to reach out to a broader demographic than can be found in Syria and Iran and the like. They need to reach average, normal Muslims and Arabs who don't really give a rat's ass about the Al-qaeda jihad, and who think that blowing up tanker trucks near a mosque might not be all that good of an idea.
There's also the question of legitimacy. The Arab world, the Muslim world, wants a news agency that the rest of the world finds legitimate. And being wholly in favor of the London or Madrid bombings, or covering only people who think that everyone in the twin towers on 9/11 had it coming doesn't get you legimacy. It keeps you on the fringes. If Al-jazeera wants to be seen as an actual news agency, rather than a propoganda arm, it must move towards the center.
Now, given that it started as far from the center as, well, these guys, there's a lot of wiggle room there. They can move a long way toward the center and still be well away from actually being centrist-- though given the leanings of the BBC and various other news agencies, the trip to where many Western news sources currently reside might not be that long a trip after all.
Still it's interesting. And slightly encouraging.
Of course, what is also interesting, and not at all encouraging, is that Soumayya Ghannoushi, a woman who clearly despises Israel and thinks that Bush's "fundamentalism" is equivalent to Al-qaeda's is a faculty member at the University of London. She is researching (maybe teaching-- it's hard to tell from the tagline) at a London university and she espouses the following:
The causes al-Qaida extremists speak for are certainly just causes. The sanctioning of genocide and occupation in Palestine, slaughter of hundreds of thousands in Iraq through exposure to depleted Uranium and years of barbaric sanctions first, then through bombing and shelling without bothering to count the dead, brutal invasion of the country, destruction of its infrastructure and humiliation of its people undoubtedly rank among modern history’s bloodiest crimes and darkest tragedies.Got that? Al-qaeda is right, they're just going about illustrating their correctness in a wrong-headed manner. But I'm sure her personal beliefs and biases won't affect her moderate and balanced presentation of history and culture in her papers or any presentations she might make. Right?
Friday, July 15, 2005
Friday's List: Dinner with Dead Folks
Right. Tough. Very tough-- I could easily list 100, but in keeping with tradition, here our my top-25 dead folks I'd like to have dinner with:
25) Jim Thorpe. Arguably the greatest athlete ever. What would he make of professional sports and the progress and trials of Native Americans?
24) Thomas Edison. Genius fascinates those of us who lack it (Edison isn't the only genius on this list), and it would be incredible to pick this guys brain. Also to see what he thinks about what his inventions have lead to.
23) John F. Kennedy. What he think of the Democratic party of 2005? How would he justify the affairs, and what would his impressions of the near cultlike status he's achieved in some circles?
22) Crazy Horse. The last great Native American warrior. What would he make of Indian casinos, the Marquette Golden Eagles, and the plague of alcoholism and gang violence that is afflicting much of the Native American population in America today? Oh, and let's not forget about that monument that's due to be finished in about 2218.
21) Karl Marx. A bit risky-- dude could be boring as cold porridge. But I'd really like to ask him if he still thinks he's right even in the face of so much evidence that he was wrong. And the cult thing, I wonder what he would think of that?
20) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. That whole genius, creative mind thing. Plus, I need to know if he really laughs like Tom Hulce in the movie.
19) Winston Churchill. His steadfastness, keen intellect, and way with words would serve our world well a this particular junction in history. I would love to talk politics, war, good and evil, and so many other things with this guy.
18) Mother Theresa. To look into the eyes of someone like Hitler would be to see evil, I think. To look into the eyes of Mother Theresa must be to see good, I would also say. Man, the stories she could tell.
17) Julius Caesar. Da Man. I have to imagine he is about as charismatic as anyone in history.
16) Benjamin Franklin. Such a character. From the standpoint of a sheer dinner conversationalist, Franklin may be the best on this list. And I'd love to see his reaction to how the 21st century makes use of electricity.
15) John and Abigail Adams. A bit of a cheat putting a couple together as one entry, but hey, it's my blog, my list. These two were the ultimate power couple before there was any such thing. And John is underrated amongst the Founding Fathers, imo.
14) Albert Einstein. What would he make of Chaos theory? Computers? Where would that remarkable brain take you over a nice leg of lamb?
13) Mahatma Ghandi. Set the standard for non-violent protest, something which has fallen out of favor and influence of late. What we he make of that and the escalating trend to extremely violent protest? How would he view his beloved India and his influence on its development?
12) Willaim Shakespeare. What do you suppose would be his reaction to knowing that his plays are still being performed nearly 400 years after his death?
11) Martin Luther King, Jr. Would he consider the progress made in the past 40 significant? What would he think of Jesse Jackson, the NAACP, and folks like Senator Byrd?
10) Marie Curie. Would she trade her discovers with radioactive materials in if she had known of the dangers ahead of time? It would also be interesting to get her thoughts on the progress in science, the progress of women in science, and affirmative action programs.
9) Mohammed. The definitive answer of whether the Wahhabists or the moderate muslims have it right, wouldn't you say? Curious to know his thoughts on the turmoil in the Middle-East for the last several thousand years.
8) Abraham Lincoln. What would he make of the state of Union 140 years after he helped save it? And there's all kinds of interesting family questions as well.
7) Harriet Tubman. What a fascinating and courageous figure. And the Civil War is right up there with my Colonial times fascination.
6) Cleopatra. Women are often much better conversationalists than men-- and don't you think she'd have some fascinating stories to tell? It would be interesting to see if she is as beautiful as history portrays her as well.
5) George Washington. Father of my country, brilliant strategist, magnanimous figure. And there's always that cherry tree to ask about.
4) Adolph Hitler. What was it about this fairly unremarable man that made him the most notorious figure of all time? It would be a creepy dinner conversation, but a fascinating one, I think. Would you truly be looking into the eyes of evil if you talked with this guy?
3) Thomas Jefferson. I have a fascination for the remarkable men who were America's Founding Fathers, and of that group, Jefferson is probably the most enigmatic. Railed against slavery, owned slaves. Preached the politics of unity, and through surrogates often viciously maligned his political opponents. A deep, deep thinker, I wonder what he'd make of the Republic he helped found 225+ years down the road?
2) Leonardo da Vinci. Possibly the most creative mind ever. There's always the chance that he's a lousy conversationalist, but wouldn't you like to see his reaction to all the stuff we have? Oh, and the code-- if there really was one.
1) Jesus Christ. Anyone that can inspire a religion with billions of believers and is the incarnate son of God seems worth talking with. And I would love to know what he thinks of all the different ways his teachings have been used and interpreted over the last 2000 years.
I don't think there are any grievous oversites in there, but I'm probably wrong. Other folks I considered for the list (in no particular order): Teddy Roosevelt, Attila the Hun, Ghengis Khan, Eleanor Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart, Florence Nightengale, Jack the Ripper, Charles Darwin, Oskar Schindler, Sigmund Freud, Isaac Newton, Marco Polo, Susan B. Anthony, Nostradamus, Malcolm X, Paul Revere, George Washington Carver, Christopher Columbus and Georeg Patton.
And it would not be hard to add dozens more to the list. But, there it is, for your viewing pleasure.
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
James Wolcott is... not a turd?
Stone is a conspiracy nutjob, that much is true, but he is definitely not a bad filmmaker (well, not always) nor a has-been (not yet-- if this one flops, maybe). Just because his politics are whacky and waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay far-left d/n impugn his talent. Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon and Johnny Depp are all very talented actors, irregardless of their political beliefs. Credit where credit is due, people, and lets watch it on the censorship side of things, k? Personally, I say let Stone make the film-- and then don't go to it if you think it will be dreck, or because you feel some sort of ethical obligation to protest any project he's connected with. To raise a rucus over what might happen, ie, Stone manages to sully the memory of 9/11 or make it a political screed, seems petty and, well, like the sort of action that many right of center folks decry about those on the left.
All of the above only more so for Spielberg. If he botches the film because of his ideology, then you bash him-- but he has earned some respect and witholding of overbearing opinion with Schindler's List alone. Plus the six million other good movies he's made.
Oh, and never fear, in the very next post Wolcott puts up, he most definitely proves he's still a turd.
It's a start
One denunciation isn't exactly a resounding repudiation of terrorist tactics by muslims, but it's more than has been heard in the past. Events in history seem to revolve around tipping points, and while it's easy to see such tipping points in retrospect, it is nearly impossible to determine where and when they will occur in real time. Any actions that push Islam away from terroristic violence and jihad and toward cooperation and tolerance is a good thing.
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
Stop the PC Madness!
Then why, oh why, did Bud Selig think it was a grand idea to have the home run derby become some sort of "world outreach" program instead of a competition between the best home run hitters? Shouldn't you get into the Home Run Derby because you are good at hitting home runs, not because you happen to decent to above average in hitting home runs but from a small or under-represented country?
Here's the deal for those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about. Baseball has there annual Home Run Derby during the All-Star break festivities. If you had hit more home runs than anyone else to that point in the season, you were almost certainly going to be in the Home Run Derby, unless you were injured or a jag, like Barry Bonds. Until this year, it has featured eight of the best home run hitters based on that season's statistics up to the all-star break. They weren't always the eight best statistically, because of a variety of factors, but I think its reasonable to say they were almost always in the top 10, and certainly in the top 15.
This year, Bud Selig decided the Home Run Derby needed a more "international" flare. Never mind that baseball is already the most international of any of the major pro sports in the U.S. Baseball needed to be more inclusive. So, each of the eight participants in the Home Run Derby had to be from a different country. Only one American, please, and for that matter, only one person from the Dominican Republic.
The result? Three, yes three, of the current MLB home run leaders were in the Home Run Derby-- Andruw Jones (tie 1st, 27, Curacao), Mark Teixeria (third, 25, USA), and Carlos Lee (tie 7th, 22, Panama). Of the other seven in the top 10, five are from the US and two are from the Dominican Republic-- which was represented by David Ortiz, tied for 11th with 21 homers. Of the next six (tied for 15th or better) players, all of them are either American or Dominican.
In all, 19 of the top 23 home run hitters so far this season are either from the U.S. or the Dominican Republic. Yet only one from each of those countries could participate this year. What a crock.
Meanwhile, to round out eight participants, MLB invited Justing Bay of Canada, who is tied for 30th with 16 home runs, Hee-Seop Choi of Korea, who is tied for 51st with 13 home runs, and Ivan Rodriguez of Puerto Rico who is tied for 166th! with six, yes six, homeruns. Presumably Pudge got the nod because he plays for the host Detroit Tigers, but that's a crock, too-- Carlos Delgado, who is actually in the top-20 with 18 home runs, should've been representing Puerto Rico.
And I don't care that Rodriguez made it to the finals-- he never should've been there to begin with.
I dunno. Maybe it was a marketing ploy, but even that seems stupid. I have to believe that the fans would rather see guys like Derrick Lee, Manny Ramirez and Albert Pujols (all in the top-10) in the Home Run Derby than freaking Hee-Seop Choi or 0-fer "slugger" Justin Bay (Canada). Or maybe none of the good hitters wanted to participate. If that's the case, then I think MLB is in deep doo-doo.
It's bad enough that the All-star games have largely become popularity contests that often have little connection to how the players actually performed on the field-- do we have to actively hunt for ways to not offend people now?
Monday, July 11, 2005
Brewers at the Break
So, how are the Milwaukee Brewers doing? Well, to paraphrase Gym Jim, they're not good. But, then again, they're not really bad, either. They are mediocre. Which is pretty good for the Brewers. This is a team, after all, that hasn't had a winning record since 1992, and has had less than 70 wins nine times in that twelve year span.
With that kind of a pedigree, 77-85 doesn't look so bad, and that's the pace the Brewers are currently setting. But I think they could actually finish better than that. They're rotation is one of the most solid in baseball-- all five starters have sub 4.15 ERAs-- and their bullpen has been very good (though a bit shaky just lately). Offensively, they've frequently been offensive, but the addition of Rickie Weeks, and recent surges by Geoff Jenkins and Bill Hall, have added enough to the bats of Carlos Lee, Brady Clark, and Lyle Overbay to make the offense decent if not good. Defensively, they stink, and if they don't approach .500 this year, it will be because they piss away a number of wins by commiting errors. We'll see.
Longer term... well, if new owner Mark Attanasio is willing to pay a bit more than the current payroll, it could be bright. Ace pitcher Ben Sheets is signed for four more years, and rookies Weeks and J.J. Hardy are the Brewers until at least 2008 (I think). Carlos Lee and Doug Davis are under contract through next year, as is Chris Capuano. For good or ill, Jenkins is under contract through '07. Most of the rest of the Brewers roster are free agents next year.
Presumably Lyle Overbay will be moved to make room for Prince Fielder at first base, so hopefully the Brewers will get some value for Overbay. Next year? Again, it depends on who they resign and who they get via free agency, but if they keep Sheets, Davis, Capuano together and improve on, or keep, Santos and Ohka, the starting pitching will be very good. There's depth in the bullpen, so they should be okay there. Offensively, if Weeks and Fielder are the real deal-- and so far they seem to be-- and you add in Lee, Jenkins and maybe Clark... offensively we could be average, which would be a big upgrade from this year.
Defensively... well, a lot of that has to be coaching, doesn't it? Both at the majors and down in A through AAA ball. We'll see. If the Brewers have an achilles' heel that will prevent them from making a playoff run next year, it will probably be their defense (or stinginess from Attanasio-- or both).
I like Doug Melvin as GM, and I am iffy on Ned Yost as manager. I like his aggressive approach, and I think he's a good motivator, but I still find myself shaking my head an awful lot when it comes to his game management. He leaves his pitchers in too long, and platoons players too often. But we'll see-- he learned under Bobby Cox, and that's a pretty good pedigree.
All of which probably means nothing, since I really don't know much about baseball. Football, sure, but baseball is a relatively recent interest, and I am still learning. Still... well, my predicition is the Brewers play better than .500 ball in the second half of the season, and there really will be a shot at the playoffs next year.
Julian Bond: Uniter or Schizophrenic?
All of which would make a good topic for the keynote address at the NAACP Convention being held here in Milwaukee, no? So, what does NAACP Chairman Julian Bond choose to focus on during Sunday's keynote address? Bashing Republicans in general and President Bush in particular.
Despite saying that, "Our values are American values. We value tolerance, we value inclusion, we believe in equality, we celebrate the worth of every human being," Bond blithely, and apparently without any thought or regard for the inherent contradiction went on to say:
NAACP Chairman Julian Bond bashed President Bush and other conservatives Sunday, warning they have tried to seduce black clergy, created "fraudulent" civil rights organizations and backed federal judicial nominees who come from a "dim and gloomy legal netherworld where few Americans wish to dwell."Tolerant, inclusive, equal and celebrating the worth of every human being. Right. Of course, his comments are relatively tame compared to the ones he issued in 2001 at the 92nd Annual NAACP Convention. In that speech, he said of Bush's judicial choices that they came from "the Taliban wing of American politics." Great timing, as less than a year later Bush would be Commander in Chief over the incredibly successful effort to get rid of the actual Taliban. No doubt many of those in the Taliban were shipped back to the U.S. so Bush could nominate them for the Bench.
The irony is that Bond rips on Bush for claiming to be a uniter while actually being a divider--a claim I would generally agree with-- yet he is totally oblivious to the fact that his ridiculous rhethoric is a virtual mirror image of Bush's. Also ironic is Bond's continued claim that the NAACP is still non-partisan. Please. Perhaps it can become so again, but it is really, really hard to read Bond's screeds from '01 or '05, or many of his other published writings/addresses, and maintain any believe that there is no political partisanship there.
But whatever-- if that's where the NAACP wants to go, then go. But don't try to tell us you're mainstream, and don't be such hypocrites about the whole thing. To do so in the face of so much evidence to the contrary merely marginalizes what should be a vibrant and energetic agency for change in America.
Friday, July 08, 2005
Friday's List: Best TV Shows Ever
Longevity was a factor, but quality was a more important factor, and consistent quality throughout the life of the show was an even bigger factor. Shows that lost it at the end despite a fantastic beginning are ranked on the entirity of the show's run, good and bad. Thus, SNL does make the list, but barely, since it has been inconsistent and rather unfunny in stretches.
Right. Here goes:
25) M*A*S*H* Got very preachy at the end, but it had some of the most affecting moments in television and a great ensemble cast.
24) The Powerpuff Girls. Saving the world before bedtime. A fine trick to turn, having a show that appeals to kids and their parents alike. PPG makes it seem effortless.
23) Hill Street Blues. I don't remember this show that well, but I remember being riveted by it back in the day. You know, before I became an old fart.
22) Cheers. It lost it a little at the end, or it would be higher on this list.
21) Saturday Night Live. It's had its share of unfunny moments, particularly of late, but it was revolutionary for its time and hilarious for much of its existence.
20) Married With Children. Completely lost it the last season or this show would be much higher. Gut busting hilarity and some scathing social satire.
19) Law and Order. Fifteen years is bound to bring some mediocre efforts, but overall this show has had great writing and great acting. And some bad spinoffs.
18) Fawlty Towers. God this is a funny show. Unfortunately, it had a very brief run, only 12 episodes. Otherwise it would probably be higher on this list.
17) Friends. The chemistry between the six stars was undeniable, and the writing remained crisp and funny despite the somewhat unbelievable number of times Rachel and Ross broke up and got back together.
16) Columbo. A great PI series, with Peter Falk in the perfect role for his talents.
15) South Park. I haven't seen the show much lately, but the first few seasons were awesome, and what I have seen of the last few seasons has not disappointed.
14) The Twilight Zone. A little inconsistent, but so inventive and so good when its good.
13) ER. It's been on too long, and the quality of both the cast and the writing has slipped, but in its hay day, it was the best drama on TV. The best hospital drama to hit the airwaves.
12) Soap. Irreverent, hilarious, satirical and yet still affecting at times. Also groundbreaking for its time, and with one of the best ensemble casts ever.
11) The Muppet Show. The best variety show ever. Muppets rock.
10) The X-Files. This show would be higher, but they tried to keep it going despite losing Mulder and then Scully. Still, a groundbreaker and damn fine TV viewing.
9) The Rockford Files. Jim Garner was perfect as Rockford. Classic stuff.
8) Homicide: Life on the Street. Great show. I was disappointed it got cancelled, but on the plus side, it never had a chance to get stale or lose its edge.
7) Fraser. Consistently excellent. Like Seinfeld, it benefited from a stable cast, and unlike so many long-lived comedies, it did not lose it at the end.
6) CSI. Took Quincy and made it cool. Vegas helps. Great cast, great writing.
5) NYPD Blue. All the people that died around Andy stretched credulity a bit, but otherwise, this show never lost it. Even the finale wasn't over the top.
4) The West Wing. It's not quite as good now as it was in seasons two and three, but it's close. And, unlike many shows, it hit the ground running-- even the pilot is good.
3) Seinfeld. Who would've thought a show about nothing could be so funny?
2) The Simpsons. Consistently funny, edgy and satirical and able to make full use of the freedom animation gives them. Oh, and they've done it for over 15 years.
1) Monty Python's Flying Circus. Set the stage for so much of what would come after. Hilarious, irreverent, bawdy, satirical, ground breaking, unconventional. This show was the best. Ever.
All right. Those are my top 25. Here's a list of shows that just missed or weren't quite "good" enough to make the cut: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, News Radio, St. Elsewhere, The Bullwinkle Show, Star Trek: Deep Space 9, Sports Night, Night Court, Barney Miller, Max Headroom, The Tick, Highlander, Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, Sesame Street, Doctor Who, Gilligan's Island, Police Sqaud!, and Dennis Miller Live.
I'm off to swim. Boy, all these vacation days are rough on a guy.
Thursday, July 07, 2005
Riots Sweep Muslim World
"Islam is a peaceful religion, a tolerant religion. These al-qaeda terrorists do not represent our faith, and we condemn their actions," was the official statement from a highly regarded Imam. That sentiment was echoed by the throngs that filled the streets in Pakistan, Syria, Egypt, and elsewhere in the Muslim world.
Muslims threw tomatoes at a picture of Osama bin Laden, and burned the terrorist's screed against Westerners in protests Friday from Iraq to Indonesia over the alleged desecration of Islam's holy principles in the London bombings.
Waving copies of the Quran, many of the thousands of demonstrators across the Middle East and Asia chanted anti-al-qaeda slogans and demanded an apology from the terrorist group, as well as punishment for those who treated the religion with disrespect by killing innocents in U.S., Spain, and London.
Al-qaeda operatives claimed responsibility for the London blast, but contend it was merely a response to England's involvement in the War in Iraq and deny that their actions reflect poorly on Islam. Friday's protests were organized before the operative's comments in Europe.
Many Muslims were outraged two years ago when a similar attack was perpetrated against the Madrid subway system. "The defilement of our holy religion is outrageous because we consider it to be the word of God," said Asiya Andrabi, head of the Daughters of the Community and one of about 50 women clad in black Islamic veils who marched through Srinagar, India.
Some marchers burned symbolic copies of bin Laden's rants against Western culture and effigies of the well-known terrorist. School and offices were closed for the demonstration in Srinagar. Later, police fired tear gas and used batons to disperse hundreds of men who gathered outside a mosque.
Police watched many of the rallies, which were mostly peaceful and organized by Islamic groups around the world shortly after reports of the London bombings were received.
In the Egyptian city of Alexandria, some 12,000 Muslims and followers of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood filled a three-story building and spilled onto surrounding streets, which were sealed off by riot and street police.
Through loudspeakers, speakers called on the government and Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, grand imam of Al-Azhar Mosque, the Sunni Muslim world's most prestigious seat of learning, to demand an apology from the terrorist organization.
"Oh arrogant extremists, the Quran is our constitution," read some banners.
A demonstration in downtown Cairo drew about 1,000 people, mostly lawyers, who were surrounded by twice as many riot police. In the Lebanese capital, Beirut, about 1,000 demonstrators burned pictures of bin Laden and his chief advisor, Zarqawi, and held black banners with the inscription, "No God But God, Muhammad is God's Messenger."
The protests also spread to Sudan, where thousands gathered outside the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum and called for a serious investigation into all violations against Christians by Muslims throughout Africa.
Nearly 1,000 people demonstrated in the predominantly Shiite southern Iraqi city of Basra to protest the alleged desecrations.
Two straw dolls of bin Laden and Zarqawi were beaten with shoes and slippers.
More than 15,000 people marched in Pakistan, including the cities of Islamabad, Karachi, Quetta and Lahore.
In Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, a small crowd of protesters in the capital of Jakarta pelted a portrait of bin Laden with tomatoes. The 50 demonstrators were outnumbered 4-1 by police.
Now, wouldn't it be nice if I had written this without my tongue firmly, firmly planted in my cheek? Sadly, it is not so. Most of the text is from an AP article discussing the riots in the Muslim world following the false Newsweek allegation that the Quran had been flushed down the toilet at Guatanomo. Flush a book, riots and outrage. Bomb innocent people going to work, killing dozens and injuring thousands, nary a peep.
Sigh. By way of comparison, here is the original AP piece, by Maggie Michael on May 28, 2005, that I modified above.
CAIRO, Egypt Muslims spat on the American flag, threw tomatoes at a picture of President Bush and burned the U.S. Constitution in protests Friday from Iraq to Indonesia over the alleged desecration of Islam's holy book at Guantanamo Bay prison.
Waving copies of the Quran, many of the thousands of demonstrators across the Middle East and Asia chanted anti-American slogans and demanded an apology from the United States, as well as punishment for those who treated the book with disrespect at the U.S. lockup.
U.S. investigators admitted Thursday there was mishandling of the Quran but contend it was mostly inadvertent and deny that one had been put in a toilet. Friday's protests were organized before the officials' comments in Washington.
Many Muslims were outraged earlier this month when Newsweek reported interrogators at the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, flushed a Quran down the toilet to get inmates to talk. The story later retracted sparked deadly riots in Afghanistan.
"The defilement of our holy book is outrageous because we consider it to be the word of God," said Asiya Andrabi, head of the Daughters of the Community and one of about 50 women clad in black Islamic veils who marched through Srinagar, India.
Some marchers burned symbolic copies of the U.S. Constitution and the American flag, and school and offices were closed for the demonstration in Srinagar. Later, police fired tear gas and used batons to disperse hundreds of men who gathered outside a mosque.
Police watched many of the rallies, which were mostly peaceful and organized by Islamic groups around the world shortly after the Newsweek report came out.
In the Egyptian city of Alexandria, some 12,000 Muslims and followers of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood filled a three-story building and spilled onto surrounding streets, which were sealed off by riot and street police.
Through loudspeakers, speakers called on the government and Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, grand imam of Al-Azhar Mosque, the Sunni Muslim world's most prestigious seat of learning, to demand an American apology.
"Oh arrogant America, the Quran is our constitution," read some banners.
A demonstration in downtown Cairo drew about 1,000 people, mostly lawyers, who were surrounded by twice as many riot police.
In the Lebanese capital, Beirut, about 1,000 demonstrators burned American and Israel flags and held black banners with the inscription, "No God But God, Muhammad is God's Messenger."
The protests also spread to Sudan, where thousands gathered outside the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum and called for a serious investigation into all violations against Muslims held in Guantanamo.
Nearly 1,000 people demonstrated in the predominantly Shiite southern Iraqi city of Basra to protest the alleged desecrations.
Two straw dolls of Bush and a rabbi were beaten with shoes and slippers, and American, British and Israeli flags were burned.
More than 15,000 people marched in Pakistan, including the cities of Islamabad, Karachi, Quetta and Lahore.
In Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, a small crowd of protesters in the capital of Jakarta pelted a portrait of Bush with tomatoes. The 50 demonstrators were outnumbered 4-1 by police.
Labels: War on Terror
How will England respond?
It's a dicey question. I think it could go either way, given the growing opposition to the war there. On the other hand, being attacked on your home soil and having the victims of that attack be normal, average folk just going to work on a quiet Thursday can also galvanize a populace to the necessity of opposing such terror always and everywhere.
UPDATE: I am encouraged by the responses of many Brits as posted over at Andrew Sullivan's blog. Sullivan, for all that I have found him hard to read of late, has always been a staunch supporter of the war against the monsters of al-qaeda and other fanatical Islamic groups, and as an British ex-patriot, he can offer some interesting perspective on the British psyche.
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
Some of Sir Charles' Politics
I wish the entire interview was posted as I have absolutely no faith that David Zirin, whoever he is, didn't cherry pick his quotes to fit CounterPunch's far left readership. In fact, I'm pretty certain he did cherry pick. But the ones that were picked are interesting, no doubt.
UPDATE: As a counter balance to some of the views expressed in the above article, it occurs to me that if Barkley got even a few million votes it would likely drive Ralph Nader nuts. Which would be cool. And how cool would it be if the first minority elected to the White House got there because of people, and not because of the Democrats or Republicans?
UPDATE: Another interesting article about The Round Mound of Rebound. This one from Salon in 2000.
Two Interesting Links
The first link is to Orson Scott Card's most recent piece at ornery, and it is an interesting examination of animal rights, autism, and, perhaps unitentionally, a portrait of how different individuals with the same goal (better care for animals) often take very different approaches to reaching that goal. I'll let you judge for yourself who's done more to help animals, PETA or Temple Grandin.
The second link is to the first of a two part Bleat from Lileks, and I found it to be an excellent reflection on life and what is truly important. Check them out for some brain food.
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
Getting the Chuck Wagon Rolling
- Hillary Clinton
- Bill Frist
- John Kerry
- John McCain
- Any other mainstream political figure
And that's our selling point. For you liberals, or consevatives with liberal friends/contacts, Chuckie can be sold as a charismatic centrist who strongly believes in what the Democratic party of John Kennedy stood for-- a hand up, rather than a hand out, and a strong national defense. For you conservatives, or liberals with conservative friends, Chuckie can be sold as a charismatic centrist who epitomizes what the Republican party envisioned by Ronald Reagan entails-- fiscal conservatism, inclusiveness without overreaching governmental interference, and a strong national defense.
How do we sell him? With a long-term process, digitally driven via the internet, yet reliant on the sort of one on one personal interaction that actually changes people's minds. A sort of whispering campaign, if you will. Or the ultimate Ponzi scheme. My job? To get all of you to talk to, wheedle with, and otherwise convince everyone you know that voting for Barkley is not a wasted vote. That's it is the right time and the right situation for a downhome, gods honest, revolution of the people (maybe some different rhetoric for selling to conservatives) . Time to take back our government and elect somebody we actually want, not just the lesser of two evils, but somebody we actually want. Time for a shake up of the political structure driven by a popular desire for anything but business as usual.
Start it out real casual like. "Have you heard about the grass roots drive to get Charles Barkley elected President? No? It's interesting-- probably won't work, but definitely interesting. Gotta be better than the hacks the dems/republicans have been forcing down our throat. You might want to check it out at: http://I_should_get_this_website_up_soon.html" (not a real web site... yet). Follow that up the next time you see the person with something like, "Yeah, I'm seriously thinking about Barkley, man. I'm so sick of politics as usual, and Barkley has a lot going for him. I think I'm going to get on the Chuck Wagon."
There'll be the usual protestations, "Wasted vote", "No chance of winning", "Don't know where he really stands," but I think all of those are answerable. I really do. If each of us convinces 10 people to vote for Barkley, and of those 10, 5 are convinced to go out and convince others, gathering 10 more, 5 of which... well, avalanches can be starting by just a few loose pebbles rolling down and dislodging a few more pebbles, and a few more, and then some bigger rocks, and BOOM, thousands of tons of rolling destruction heading downhill.
One hundred years ago, heck 15 years ago, this could never work. No way to reach enough people distributed across a wide enough geographic area, ie., the entire country. But today-- today the majority of people are online, and even those that aren't are in constant contact with people who are, and I believe a huge percentage of those people are dissatisfied with their political options. Today... well, today, I think it is possible to get several million write-in votes. Let's go for it. To quote Gene Wilder in Young Frankstein:
It... could... WORK! [Loud crash of thunder!]
Smokers: Lepers for a new generation
So now the smokers (I am not one) who are engaging in a perfectly legal act with a substance that is available from virtually any grocery, convenience or drug store in the country, can't even huddle outside the door in the rain or sub-zero weather. The little clutches of nicotine addicted wretches are to be cast out by The Man for the greater good. Because the rest of us are STILL too stupid to know that second hand smoke is bad for us and incapable of choosing whether we wish to go to places where people smoke. It's for our own good, don'tcha know.
ACK! Look out!! Smoke just drifted in through the door that last guy opened on his way in. Take COVER! TAKE COVER! Oh no, it's spreading throughout the room. Quick, save the children!! Gas masks on. Stop, drop and roll (oh wait, that's only if you are on fire). It's insidious stuff, I tell ya. Insidious. Can't be trusted. Ban it! Ban it! For the sake of the children!!
Honestly these people drive me nuts. If you aren't aware of the potential negative health effects of second-hand smoke by now, you are too stupid to live. If you are incapable of making an informed decision based on your knowledge of the potential negative health effects of second-hand smoke by now, you are too stupid to live. If, in fact, you are too stupid to live, why oh why, do government officials and other useless bureaucrats feel it is their obligation to keep you alive, regardless of the impact on those of use who aren't too stupid to live or the economy and jobs associated with the community containing those too stupid to live?
Milwaukee is in the middle of attempting to revitalize itself. It's a bit of a haphazard effort, and nobody seems really sure how to go about it, but I have a pretty strong suspicion that making it harder for restaurants and bars to stay in business is not a good start. There's talk of getting a House of Blues downtown-- are they going to want to plunk down a venue where you can't even smoke OUTSIDE of the building? Seems unlikely.
Irony alert. It is illegal to shoot flying rats (ie, seagulls) in the U.S. and consequently there is a veritable plague of them in the Menomonee River Valley in Milwaukee. The noxious beasts crap all over everything, they are actually attacking some construction workers, and they are taking over an area the city is attempting to redevelop with commercial ventures like the Potawatomi Casino and the proposed Harley Davidson museum. But they're protected.
Milwaukee, where dirty, smelly, in some cases vicious, birds are protected and tax paying individuals who might actually wish to spend some cash in the city but like to engage in a legal, freely accessible activity are treated like leperous untouchables. Yeah, I see big things in the city's future if this bill goes through.
GB Trudeau: Shill for the Mainstream Media
His current over-the-top caricature? Bloggers. In case you missed it, he manages to squeeze every stereotype of bloggers into last Sunday's strip. Well, not every stereotype. His prototypical blogger is not wearing pajamas-- which might have indicated a bit of tongue in cheek irreverence, something which is totally absent from the actual strip. Otherwise, he pretty much nails all the cheap and easy, and for the most part completely inaccurate, mainstream media templates of what a blogger is: crackpot, geeky, angry, untalented, semi-employed loser, and, the piece de resistance, the conclusion that we all eat cat food.
But disregard of the "blogosphere" by the mainstream media is not new, as Ed Driscoll notes, and I think its just an indication of how out of touch many in that media are. Trudeau would like '05 to be "the tail end of the media's fascination with blogging," and, I suspect, most of the old school medias would like that, too. The problem they face is that blogging is not driven by said "fascination" of the media, but rather in spite of it. Blogging is an outlet for folks who are tired of the mainstream media monopoly on news distribution, on both sides of the political spectrum, and all across thousands of topics that the mainstream media touches on briefly if at all.
Which is why I think this medium is so remarkable and so freeing. It allows regular people with important, amusing, or thoughtful ideas to present them to others all across the country and all across the world. Amazing stuff, truly.
Get On The Chuck Wagon!
Misterrrr... Charles Barkley! [Wild applause and chanting! Chuckie! Chuckie!]
10 GREAT reasons to vote for Barkley over any empty suit the donkeys or elephants attempt to foist upon us:
10) Barkley is not part of the mainstream political arena.
9) Barkley is not a lawyer.
8) Barkley is an independent political thinker, as these quotes illustrate.
7) Barkley already has a political philosophy, "I want to help poor people, Bob. Somehow, I'm going to help poor people."
6) Barkley is both irreverent and on the money: "I hope a lot of these young kids look at [Dwayne Wade], who went to college. Everybody is in such a hurry. Hey, the money is not going anywhere... and if you go to the right college, you can get paid there... Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee."
5) He's electable-- black people love him, women love him, and white guys who wish they could dunk love him.
4) He does not pull his punches: "I got two pet peeves: If you watch American Idol, or you're one of those doofuses who dress up as Star Wars and sleep outside, you're a stone-cold loser."
3) He's a centrist: voted for Clinton and he voted for Bush.
2) He's telegenic, charismatic and thinks quickly on his feet.
1) He already has name recognition, has a built in base, and would likely really peeve a large portion of the established political bureaucracy. Which can only be to the good.
So, there it is. I am withholding formal endorsement of a Barkley Presidential bid until I have an opportunity to fully vet the candidate, and to get feedback from you guys, but I have a good feeling about it. We can sell Barkley to others, convince them that its better to vote for a guy that actually cares and will deal honestly with them than to vote for the empty suits and power-hungry twits that the political establishment has been feeding us for years.