Discussions on politics, foreign affairs, religion, and the state of American culture...oh, heck with it. It's an electronic soapbox where I get to spout off about all the idiocy that manifests itself in this day and age.
WHO IS THIS GUY?
Benjamin Kepple is a journalist in New Hampshire. He is a former reporter/writer for Investor's Business Daily,
Heterodoxy, and FrontPage Magazine. He has also been published in the Daily News of Los Angeles,
the Ottawa Citizen, AlbertaViews, and other publications. He was also a contributing editor for the 2nd edition of "Choosing the Right College," published by ISI Books.
Throughout his reporting career, Kepple has thrown questions at everyone from former presidential candidates and
major Washington lobbyists to ex-leftist militants and defenders of domestic terror groups. First as a magazine writer
and then as a hard-news reporter, Kepple has written on education, economics, cultural affairs, and politics --
as well as car accidents, police shootings, and school board meetings.
As a student at the University of Michigan, Kepple was prominently mentioned in a 1998 Detroit Free Press
article on race relations at the school's Ann Arbor campus. Also that year, Kepple briefly appeared as a student
panelist on "NewsHour" with Jim Lehrer. In 1999, he was a guest on The Mike Rosen Show (KOA, 850-AM, Denver)
regarding Boston College's Mary Daly controversy.
PROUDLY SERVING THE BLOGOSPHERE SINCE SEPT. 2001
Patior ut potiar
"It's people like you who I would not hesitate to hit with my car
if I saw crossing the street, thinking I would benefit society."
-- J. Artz, Mar. 11, '98
"Right now, your problems are the last thing on my mind."
-- Dr. Progressive, Mar. 26, '01
"It's like a blog on steroids."
-- Matt Rubush, Nov. '01
"Benjamin Kepple runs a fine Web log. . ."
-- Ken Layne, Dec. 2, '01
"Ben, you remind me of my mother in law."
-- Jason Hirschman, Dec. 26, '01
"Give him five years and we'll be able to find him eating Thai cuisine as he hosts his very
own Tuesday night TBS movie show."
-- Jesse Kepple, Jan. 10, '02
"You're going to be the Steve Jobs of blogs!"
-- Matt Rubush, Jan. 24, '02
"Truth be told, I see very little that's French in Ben, save for the fact that he works 35 hours and smokes 16 packs of cigarettes a week." .
-- Chris Weinkopf, Mar. 22, '02
"Ben Kepple is so witty. Thank God somebody is."
-- Allison Barnes, Mar. 28, '02
"We all know you're witty, Ben. That's why we talk to you."
-- Matthew S. Schwartz, Mar. 30, '02
"The most convincing anti-smoking editorial I've ever read."
-- Clay Waters, June 1, '02
"As usual, Brother Kepple, I disagree with almost every word you type. But damn! I sure am glad you're there."
-- Brian Linse, Jul. 31, '02
"Not as succinct as Phil, but side-splittingly funny."
-- Sasha Castel, Oct. 23, '02
"Actually, you're WRONG!"
-- Oliver Willis, Dec. 5, '02
"Permanently aghast and agog."
-- Oliver Willis, Feb. 25, '03
"Ben Kepple is a festering sore on my buttocks."
-- Dean Esmay, May 15, '03
All work published on this site, excluding external links and citations, as well as some imagery, is (C) 2001, 2002, by Benjamin Kepple.
All rights are reserved. Said work may not be republished in any medium or form without the prior consent of
Mr. Kepple. However, favourable quotes praising my work are welcomed and appreciated, especially if you are
a working journalist.
"We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility," he said in 1994. "It's easy to say 'It's not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.'
Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes."
Gee, I Love New Mexico OK, I've just got to say that. Sure, some people call New Mexico the "Land of Entrapment," but I really don't think that's fair. I mean, the climate there is just wonderful, there's plenty of open land, there's places to live with no pesky neighbors. And if the Santa Fe New Mexican is any indication, the place is about as safe as New Hampshire. Consider these shocking headlines:
"Behind Each Miner is a Great Woman"
"Candidates Prepare for SFCC Election" (community college trustees)
"Officials Need Help Naming Roads" (New Mexican visitors -- please suggest "Kepple Boulevard")
"New Buses Could Ease Congestion"
Even the police blotter is boring. So it's official -- when I'm ready to retire, I'm heading to New Mexico. Besides, they've got those funky yellow license plates with the strange design on them. That's not as cool as "Live Free or Die," but we've all got to make sacrifices!
I swear I am not making this up. An intrepid Associated Press reporter spent a good deal of time reporting on and writing this story out of the Silver State, and papers across the United States have seen fit to publish it in their pages. In this story, we learn that Republican Gov. Kenny Guinn has proposed a tax on entertainment and admissions. This tax would generate over $80 million in its first year. But as brothels aren't included in either the list of taxed entertainments or those which would be exempted, the pathetic johns of the world may find themselves paying a bit more than the agreed-upon fee. 7.3 percent more, the AP tells us.
Now, we could go into the salacious details on this site, and I was until I decided that I had an image to maintain as a Curmudgeonly Oldfashioned Type. We will, however, point out that the dateline on the story is Pahrump, Nev. Yes, Pahrump. I've never been there, but I understand it's about what you'd expect from the name alone. But what amazes me about this whole debate is that only a few folks seem to care about one very true outcome: taxing that gives that legitimacy. Why in the name of God would anyone want to have that happen?
Bleeeeeaaaaaaah. Tim Blair reports that men are now among those going naked to protest a potential war on Iraq. He links to a Herald Sun (AU) article on the subject that, incredibly, fails to make even one double entendre or suggestive phrasing of a sentence about the affair.
The Road Trip Jones The two days of great weather we've had here in Manchester makes me realize that I, Benjamin Kepple, Need to Go on a Road Trip Something Fierce. Now, I know that I can probably take a relatively decent road trip in April -- in fact, I plan to head back Ann Arbor way to see the gang at the Michigan Review, and along the way make the traditional stops in central New Jersey, Washington, western Pennsylvania, and Ohio. But that's only about a thousand miles or so, everything taken together, and as such isn't a real road trip. A real road trip means going to states where your strange license plate draws stares; going where there are long stretches of road where it's just you and the sky; going places where you can get a decent non-chain-oriented meal after a long day and kick back in an old hotel room. Stark beauty, time to think, great experiences all around.
Sadly, I don't yet have the time to really take a good road trip cross-country. One does have to return to his home and castle eventually, as much as one might enjoy traveling across the country. But I will have the time soon -- to be perfectly exact, I shall have it in 2006, when I will have enough time to take two weeks off at a clip. Then, I can drive to California and back, and have a great time all the way -- plus I'll have over a week remaining, in case the car breaks down in Wyoming.
It doesn't hurt to plan, though. It doesn't hurt to dream.
There's the question of where to go ... ah, what a great question to have. You've got to have a destination, after all: it makes the whole thing a quest. But where, though? I mean, take any of those old standard Southern California destinations, and I've been there, I think. Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles (even if on Pico, not Manchester), check. Universal Citywalk, check. Mann's Chinese Theatre, check. Santa Monica Promenade, check. Malibu, check. Hollywood, check.
I lived three blocks from Venice Beach, so that has a major check. Howard's Famous Bacon and Avocado Burgers, been there. That big open market downtown, been there. I even went to the Famed Cerritos Auto Square*, just because I could. I wouldn't say that visiting the Home of the Big B** was something that made my life complete, but hey. I went, I saw, I ate some flavorless noodles at the Yoshinoya nearby and got back on The Ten.
But after giving it some thought, I realized that I could easily bypass Los Angeles and hit Southern California in a different way. I could go up to Ventura and visit Chris and Mary Kate, who will probably still be there in ought-six. Cool, eh? Also, it would mean that I could copy my father's road trip across country back in the early Seventies -- a time before everything in American life really went to hell*** and a man could travel all over our fair country with ease.
Now, Dad and Mother went across the nation in three weeks back then. Starting in the exotic locale of "Chicagoland," they headed to the American Southwest, through New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, up the California Coast, then back east across the northern route to Chicago. Their only trouble was when they went into Mexico -- one could still do that then -- for a short spell. For, as I was told, the Federal Government sent forth hither Swarms of Agriculture Officers, who confiscated all the fruit in their car. This strange practice of "agricultural inspections" still lives on today in California, although I know from personal experience that the only thing the agriculture officers do is hand out tourism brochures detailing the wonders of the High Desert. But it was a great trip, and Dad seemed quite nostalgic when he and I drove cross-country
My goal is to repeat this journey across the Southwest. Now, provided that nothing horrible happens on the way out of New England ("Ben! How's the trip going?" "Well, it's fine, except there's this guy who keeps turning up whenever I stop for a bite to eat."), I will have quite a trip. I even figured out a tentative itinerary. But if any of my readers know any great places that I must see while I am in New England, the mid-Atlantic, the Midwest, the Southwest, or even in the True West -- ya know, like Scotty's Castle -- then drop me a note.
* The self-proclaimed world's largest concentration of automobile dealerships.
* Browning Oldsmobile/Mazda/Kia/etc., notable for its ubiquitous radio commercials in Southern California. You're welcome, I'm sure.
* As we now know, our nation hit its modern low-point in 1979, with the infamous Disco Sucks riot at Comiskey Park in Chicago. Fortunately, we're all behind that silliness now.
"If Washington is Hollywood for ugly people, then Hollywood is Washington for the simple-minded." -- Sen. John McCain (Ariz.)
Oh, Gad. Just when we all thought we were safe from celebrities intruding on affairs best left to their more intelligent brethren in Washington, word comes down the pike that the Grammy Awards presentation will be chock full of anti-war sentiment. This is unfortunate. Yesterday, I had been pleased to see that CBS had decided to pull the microphone if things got out of hand, but now the New York Daily News says that the musicians will be given free reign to make badly thought-out anti-war statements.
In the Drudge Report's original story on the matter, one CBS executive made this point: "There is a time for political commentary -- this is not one of them!" This same source also told Mr Drudge that he "would hope the artists will remember they are on stage because of their music."
A few points here:
* One. These people are not artists. They are musicians at best, entertainers if one wants to be accurate about most of them, and talentless hacks at the very worst. One could go further and say they are only artists in the sense that Luna, Diane Keaton's very-bad-poetess-character in Woody Allen's Sleeper, is an artist, by which we clearly mean not an artist at all. We could go further and say that pop musicians are only artists if one considers television sitcom writers to be artists, or if one considers C-list movie directors artists. It's appalling that the value of the word has been cheapened over the years.
* Two. People who have not studied an issue should not comment on that issue. For instance, you don't see me offer up music reviews on Latin music albums, because I know nearly nothing about Latin music. Instead, I read Rubush's site, where I can find lots of knowledgeable reviews about quality Latin music. Hence, it does not do entertainers any good to mouth off about things they know little about. Perhaps I'm just looking through rose-coloured glasses here, but I don't recall that celebrities were so mouthy in the past about public affairs. I recall, though, that they had a tendency to serve in the armed forces.
* Three. However, now that I think about it, maybe it's not so bad that these folks are speaking out. Because points one and two hold, their yammering about the issues of the day really won't change anything.
"But It Sounded Like a Good Idea at the Time." A national anti-war group is planning to blast the offices of the U.S. Senate with telephone calls, fax transmissions, and mass e-mails next Wednesday to protest a potential war with Iraq, according to the group's Web site. The idea is for people opposed to a war with Iraq to Make Their Voices Heard by their representatives in Congress. After reading their plan to do that, however, I guess the organizers want Their Voices Heard by the chino-wearing interns who answer the telephones at said representatives' offices.
Having known -- and knowing now -- a few of those folks down in Washington, I know they're often engaged in real drudge work (answering phones, filing, running errands, etc.) for the legislative branch. This work is usually performed at either a meagre or even no salary. As such, I can't imagine that their day next Wednesday will be very fun. In fact, I think it will be downright horrible, especially when it comes to the phone call bit. Now, I have no problems with people calling their elected representatives, don't get me wrong. It's just that, when I was working in Los Angeles, I had personal experience being on the receiving end of similar calls.
Many of the callers, of course, were erudite, pleasant, and rational. Unfortunately, there were other callers who hadn't really thought through what they wanted to say, which caused problems right from the get-go. Then the callers would consult the little cards they were given about the issue, or their spouse started shouting at them in the background telling them what to say, or they started screaming incoherently at the top of their lungs about subjects of little relevance to the topic at hand. Then -- after the patience of the underpaid, overworked, tired, stressed-out employee was worn down to his last nerve -- the callers would occasionally become irate, profane, or downright creepy.
Therefore, I would ask that the God-fearing people of America (or even those who aren't God-fearing) planning to take part in next Wednesday's activities to prepare what they will say before they call. This is not because I'm all that concerned about whether people are pro-war or anti-war, but rather because the poor guys and gals answering the phones at Senator So-and-So's offices are going to have headaches this big when the day is all over. Go easy on 'em, will ya?
All Summer in Two Days It was nearly 50 degrees here in Manchester yesterday. Gee, I wish we would have this weather all the time -- it would be absolutely perfect. Absolutely perfect. It sure felt that way today. Walked out of the office about 4 p.m. and it felt like summer; got into the car and marveled that I could actually drive without having to warm up the engine first; drove with the windows down and oldies on the radio. It was so nice. Even now, it is only 32 degrees, although I expect that will drop between now and the morning.
We have one more day of this veritable heat wave, and then a storm comes in from the Midwest and the South to dump horrible amounts of snow and ice upon us. Actually, it may be even worse than snow and ice. It may involve the worst weather in the world, the very mention of which causes a New Englander to shudder inwardly and curse the time and place of his existence -- the Dreaded Wintry Mix. With the cold, freezing rain, the inches-deep puddles of slush, and the constant, never-ending hail of ice and other precipitation, it resembles the third circle of Dante's Inferno more than actual earthly weather.
Enjoy it while it lasts, that's what I say. I have every intention of being out in it, rather than be cooped up inside. After all, we'll literally have 10 hours and 47 minutes to enjoy the day.
Yeah, Like That Will Work Saddam Hussein will go into hiding when the action starts in Iraq, The Times of London reports. Apparently the Iraqi dictator has told his generals to fight on without him, and take orders from Hussein's despicable son Qusay, who is even more a bastard than Hussein.
One interesting note from the Times report:
US officials are concerned that Saddam’s system of doubles and constant moving could enable him to evade capture in the way that Osama bin Laden did in Afghanistan.
Ha! Little does the Times realize that US forces are eminently capable of finding and destroying so-called doubles, and then eliminating the original fellow for which they're looking. In fact, we here at The Rant have received information from the Pentagon on this very matter. It seems that due to bad planning and a shortfall of funds, Hussein has had to go on the cheap when procuring his doubles -- thus causing US forces to be on the lookout for this man:
US to Germany: Bye Bye! The United States will remove its bases from Germany and place them in Central and Eastern European countries, The Sunday Observer of Britain reports. The move, which will cost the German economy billions of euro, will not just affect "on the ground" expenditures, but will also extend to commercial contracts and defense arrangements, the newspaper reports. "We are doing this for one reason only: to harm the German economy," one US source told the newspaper.
Accuse us of being a pushy hyperpower, we'll start acting like a pushy hyperpower.
Interestingly, the Germans also seem to realize that things aren't exactly swell in their relationship with the U.S., with the influential Frankfurther Allgemaine Zeitung blaming a "diplomatic faux pas" for causing the nation's reputation to be "ruined":
This three-way relationship [between the US, UK, and the FRG], which was not even all that secret and which functioned to everyone's advantage for decades, has now been destroyed by the ongoing diplomatic faux pas in Berlin. Americans see Berlin's behavior as treasonous, and are bitter about it. It is also doubtful whether the French are really completely happy about having an ally that is clinging desperately to its knees and has no more influence on the other side of the Atlantic. NATO and the EU will survive the current turbulence in some form or another, but Germany's reputation on the international stage is ruined for some time to come.
Jones, a former Army officer, drew perhaps the biggest round of applause after the subject turned to America's showdown with Iraq. He said that war is sometimes necessary.
"All people have to be prepared," Jones said. "If we are going to be the police, we also have to be the guardians. We can no longer play games. I was not against the war in Bosnia. I was against it taking so long. I was not against the war in Somalia. Again, it took too long, and we didn't finish the job. We should've stayed and finished the job. About this pending war, I just think we should've finished that war the first time."
But wait! Where was he speaking? The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. Imagine that -- getting the biggest applause of the night for those words at a university!
Well, That's Interesting, But ... Here's one for the Dumb Headline Department: "One million U.S. troops could die," reports Britain's Evening Standard newspaper. Of course, not only do we not have one million troops in the Persian Gulf, I don't think we even have one million active duty personnel.
Not that you could tell such a thing from the European press, I guess. It kind of puts the whole Armed Empire Mentality in the wash.
30,408,186,000 Reasons to Buy American Amidst growing calls for a boycott of French goods, many American bloggers -- and folks commenting on their sites -- have inquired about what exactly the United States purchases from France. Since we here at The Rant believe it is everyone's patriotic duty to buy American goods wherever possible, we present a list of the most imported goods from the French nation. A full list, sorted by the type of goods imported, is courtesy of the U.S. Census Bureau's Foreign Trade Division.
TOP U.S. IMPORTS FROM FRANCE, 2001
1. Civilian Aircraft -- $5,413,708,000.
2. Engines, Civilian Aircraft -- $2,885,344,000.
3. Artwork, antiques, and stamps -- $2,238,207,000. 4. Pharmaceutical prep -- $1,849,504,000.
5. Automobile parts and accessories -- $1,007,808,000. 6. Organic chemicals -- $1,002,472,000.
7. Toiletries and cosmetics -- $830,791,000. 8. Wine, and related products -- $829,363,000. 9. Alcoholic beverages, excluding wine -- $646,548,000. 10. Telecommunications equipment -- $587,066,000.
Goods in bold type are those which average U.S. consumers could reasonably drop in favour of American-made products.
In total, the French exported over $30 billion to the United States in 2001, the latest year for which statistics are available. This also includes $191.6 million in tobacco products, $173.5 million in general foods, $122.6 million in textiles, and $73.6 million in baked goods. Yes, baked goods. In addition, that figure includes $1.14 billion in American goods that the French returned to the United States. Of that $1.14 billion, French sources confirmed that $921 million -- or 81 percent -- of those goods were returned because "my brother-in-law didn't realize that this thing came from your vinegar-swilling, franken-burger chomping imperialist hyperpower."
There was both encouraging and disheartening news in the report. Imports of French wines, listed above at $829 million, have actually fallen since their peak in 1999, when $1.056 billion worth of wine products were imported. This may be due to the increasing popularity of Australian and Californian wines, which Americans feel they can purchase without Paris laughing at them. Or, it may be due to the notorious quality of certain French wines, which are increasingly distilled into vinegar.
Fertilizer imports have also fallen, from $193.9 million in 1997 to $98.8 million in 2001. However, it is unclear how much production from France's Foreign Ministry will reverse this trend. Finally, we note that imports of hard liquor have increased nearly 50 percent over the past five years, which should appall any connoisseur of Kentucky whiskey. Given this post, however, perhaps we should replace connoisseur with aficionado.
Back Home Years Ago (Note: Many sites seen with bad Google translations).
I received a fascinating e-mail tonight detailing more history of House Kepple. I realize this may not hold all that much interest for anyone but me, but I can assure you that I've found a way to make it compelling. Actually, it should be quite compelling. You see, while doing some research on House Kepple's ancestral home of Dehlingen, Alsace, I found that it was very close to the site of American military actions during World War II.
Now, earlier, I had reported that the home of my first ancestor in the United States -- Johann Andreas Kepple -- remains standing on its original property in Western Pennsylvania. The house, which was built with his son Johann Jacob Kepple, was built sometime around 1790. However, John Andrew Kepple actually arrived in Philadelphia in 1764, according to ship's manifests which document his age, hometown, and destination. As was typical for manifests in those days, they screwed up his name something fierce; but what interested me was this home town. Dehlingen? I thought. Where the hell is Dehlingen?
Well, according to a French Web site to which I link frequently throughout this post, this village in Alsace was founded in AD 737 -- Gad! -- through a land grant from a nearby monastery. (Although, interestingly enough, the site informs us that the Romans had some sort of settlement there as early as the 1st century A.D.) The village's original name of Dilquifiguia eventually corrupted over the years, and Dehlingen's name finally stuck in 1361.
Well, we all know what happened in 1940. Or we should know. In any event, here is a Historical Reconstruction of those fateful events:
REYNAUD: "We have been defeated! We are beaten!"
REYNAUD: "The Line, they went around it!"
CHURCHILL: "What do you mean they went around it? Didn't you plan for that?"
REYNAUD: "Who knew they were going to go around it?"
CHURCHILL: "I don't believe this!"
REYNAUD: "Besides, you know how dark and spooky the Ardennes is. We didn't guess the Germans would tear up the place with tanks."
CHURCHILL: "Criminy. I swear ... (pause) ... well, what about the strategic reserve?"
GAMELIN: "There is none."
CHURCHILL: "HOW? HOW can there be none? Jesus!"
REYNAUD: "Winston, if I ..."
CHURCHILL: "Not a word out of you! I've got to go round up some boats."
A few weeks later, when France went kaput, the Maginot Line surrendered on orders of the French high command. But help was on the way for Dehlingen, as we can see:
The 4th Armored Division was heading towards Singling, just up the way and a quasi-strategic point, according to a U.S. military history ("Small Unit Actions," American Forces in Action Series -- Facsimile Reprint, 1982, 1986, 1991; CMH Pub 100-14 Center of Military History, United States Army, Washington, DC). The following description tells us a bit about Singling -- and by extension, Dehlingen -- more than two centuries after Johann Andreas Kepple's birth in 1732:
From the military standpoint, Singling is important not as a town but as a terrain feature. An agricultural village of some 50 squat stone houses, it is strung along about half a mile of the highway from Achen (near the Sarre River) east to Bitche and the German border. Around the simple square church, the brown stone schoolhouse, the market square, cluster the houses whose concreted walls are painted white, red, yellow, blue, pink, and roofed with red tile. As in most Lorraine villages, the stables are on the main street and the manure piled in the front yards. But the picturesque insignificance of Singling conceals a military reality.
Some of these farm houses have 3-foot reinforced concrete walls; the garden walls are high and thick; concrete pillboxes stand guard at the entrances to town east and west, on the hills and in the valley north, and on the ridge south. For Singling is in the Maginot Line, and its position along a southwest-northeast ridge is tactically important. In the Maginot fortification scheme, oriented north and east, Singling was a focal point in the secondary system of forts.
Lt. John Daniels, US Army, served in the 738th Field Artillery Battalion during World War II. He remarks:
On 6 December 1944 the battalion arrived at Dehlingen. A number of flat tires and lack of patching forced many vehicles to remain behind.
This was the only mention of Dehlingen I could find, so I think it's safe to say it wasn't a major battle site. Still, the pictures that I saw of Singling make me wonder how much of anything was left in Dehlingen after we threw the Nazis out.
CLEANING UP: Photos taken at Singling, just a few miles from Dehlingen, Dec. 11, 1944. PHOTOS: U.S. Army
Despite the havoc of war, it seems that the town of Dehlingen is doing all right nearly 60 years after U.S. forces liberated it. Still, looking at those photos and reading the history made me feel very fortunate that my long-ago ancestor made the decision to come to the United States. Not only did he pave the way for the life his descendants enjoy today, his decision very well may have kept us from suffering from slavery, starvation, and death.
The Blizzard of Ought-Three Attention citizens: There is NO reason to panic! Remain calm! I said remain calm, dammit!
The snow is coming down relatively heavy here in Manchester; we've probably seen an inch of snow thus far in the last two hours or so. The roads are bad but the crews are out and sanding the major city streets. The grocery stores are packed; no shortages of anything, but it's clear that people are buying goods as fast as the shopkeepers can get things on the shelves. Notable concern: I was unable to purchase kim chi at the grocery today. Dang. That stuff lasts for a good six months!
Panic in Chicago Kills 22, Injures 65 Over 20 people were killed during a stampede at a nightclub on Chicago's South Side, Reuters reports. Apparently the club's management was trying to break up a minor fight, and came up with the bright idea of pepper spraying the individuals involved. As other patrons attempted to flee, the people in charge reportedly locked most of the exits.
I can't even imagine how horrible this was. To put this in perspective, consider this: were such a thing to happen in New Hampshire, it would likely be the worst disaster here since the 1960s. That's when a plane with about 30 people on board crashed en route to Lebanon, N.H.
Weatherman: Oh, right. I'm on the scene on highway 590, covered in ice as inches of snow continue to fall. Behind me is a thirteen car pileup and what I believe is the flailing body of a trapped driver.
Driver: Help me! For the love of God, help me...
Weatherman: No way dude, I worked all day to get this live shot, I'm not letting you (of all people) ruin it.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Area resident Jerry Lundegaard reacts after learning he will spend the winter in northern New Hampshire, a harsh and bitter land where that season lasts for six months out of the year. (FILE PHOTO)
Now Here's Something You Really Won't Like Well, don't that beat all. I get top billing on Oliver Willis' site, and what happens when I go over to see his response to my earlier riposte? It seems his site has been hacked by crazed rogue Brazilian programmers. I'm serious. For the last two hours I have checked his page every 30 minutes or so, and this funkadelic cyberpunk imagery comes up with a message: that said group of Information Terrorists has cracked his site's security. Also there is a lot of stuff in Portugese.
I'm serious, I said. My eyes are not deceiving me here. My site's coming up fine, and so is everyone else's -- it's just his site that's acting weird. This either means that a) there's something wrong with his site, or b) the Brazilians have hacked my system and are making long-distance calls on my telephone line, even as I speak.
I haven't been this annoyed since I came back from the movies one day and found that some derelict teenagers had keyed the Taurus. Gad.
Speaking of guns, by the way, did ya hear that Smith & Wesson has come out with a .50 caliber handgun? This new weapon is three times as powerful as the weapon wielded by SFPD Inspector Harry Callahan, which as we all know was previously the most powerful handgun in the world. The hunting model, which is a full foot-and-a-half long, even comes with a shoulder strap. That's right, a revolver comes with a shoulder strap.
Now I am not a gun enthusiast, and as I have never owned or even fired a weapon, I can't speak to whether any reasonable person needs that much stopping power. It seems awfully excessive, not to mention dangerous. But the new weapon does have its advantages: namely, it gives me a chance to use the following sentence in a blog entry:
"It'll ..." -- come on, now, say it with me -- "blow your head clean off!"
"Emerging Pornographic Majority" Claims Yet Another Victim A college student in Cerritos, Calif., is soliciting on-line donations to ... um ... how to put this ... augment her chest. I swear I am not making this up. Interestingly enough, one can hear sounds of disapproval coming from The Rittenhouse Review's James Cappazzola, which declares the site in question to be "so friggin' pathetic I'm speechless."
Personally, I don't find it pathetic in the sense that such a site deserves contempt, although I would agree that the student behind the project may be deserving of our pity. One can imagine that the girl -- provided that all the information on-site is true, of course -- has some Serious Self-Esteem Issues in play. As such, one can also surmise that the on-line route was the only place to which she felt she could turn. That's unfortunate.
Of course, lest my readers think for a moment that I am going all compassionate on them, I do think it's appalling that -- again -- this type of thing is brought into the public domain. Gad. Quite frankly, I really don't care what people do in the privacy of their own homes or do during their down time, but for the love of God, must we all know about it?
Also, as an aside, would someone please inform Oliver Willis that he has won the battle for the American language on this topic? "Emerging pornographic majority" is a really useful phrase, although I will continue to hope beyond hope that this is all just a temporary aberration on the part of American culture.
Addendum Speaking of the good ol' EPM, could we classify David and Clara Harris as two other victims? Now this was something -- rich dentist wife kills rich orthodontist husband with expensive automobile. What was even more something, though, were all the private details of the marriage exposed in court. Here we have a man, who despite having a successful, intelligent, and relatively attractive wife, sleeps with his secretary; driving said wife to engage in a maddened frenzy of behavourial changes to satisify his sick demands. Meanwhile, the wife -- upon realizing that doing such things failed to win back the cad's affection -- runs him over not once, not twice, but thrice with her Mercedes Benz.
Some have said that 20 years is too light a punishment; others have said it is far too harsh. I think it's perfectly reasonable, myself. It was obvious she meant to do the fellow in the moment she put the Benz in reverse and ran him over a second time, and then ran him over a third time. But I also agree that it was a passion-driven crime; after all, even the best of us might become irrational if we saw the love of our life in flagrante delicto.
* I listened to a song by someone called "50 Cent" while out driving today. Today's discussion question: if one takes something on purpose, and that something has no possible artistic or monetary value, is it theft to take that something without permission? Oh, yeah, I know; but I will say this: anyone who gets sued for downloading this guy's stuff could fashion a defense around it. For extra credit, discuss whether it is cosmically just to steal from an artist whose lyrics glorify a criminal lifestyle.
* Speaking of music, I spent part of the day listening to "oldies" music on my car radio while out and about. Unfortunately, the station here in town which plays said music devoted much of its airtime to playing love-oriented songs. That was due to Valentine's Day. There I was, minding my own business, and I got subjected to songs like this:
I knew I had to say hello
She smiled up at me
And she took my hand and we walked through the park alone
And I knew... I knew... I knew... I knew... I knew...
She had made me happy... happy... Happy...
She had made me very happy...
Flowers in her hair... flowers everywhere
STIIIIIIMPY! MAKE IT STOP!
* Sasha has a great post on Life in Maine. How long does it take for a native New Yorker to start picking up a Noo England dialect? (The correct answer, of course, is: "Ayuh.")
The Pain! The Pain! Somebody call up General February and tell him I surrender already. As I write this morning, the weather here in Manchester is a balmy one degree (all temps in Fahrenheit), and that makes the city one of the warmest places here in the Granite State. The wind is acting up, so the top of Mount Washington has the worst of it: 33 degrees below zero, windchill not included. Include it and the wind chill is ... well, it's 87 degrees below zero. Dear God Almighty. That's a good solid winter temperature all right, if you're on Mars.
But the thing is, this isn't the worst of it. Oh no. Tonight, the temperature is supposed to drop down to between 10 and 20 degrees below zero here in the city. You can imagine what this will mean for the windchills, which at the forecast 15 mph NW wind will be between fifty and sixty degrees below zero.
Now, look. I did not come to New Hampshire to act like the main character in a Jack London story. I did not come here to suffer through temperatures that crushed the Wehrmacht. I especially did not come here to find that the car needs a jump, and believe me, I don't think the Taurus -- even with its new battery -- can survive such a miserable, awful, Godforsaken night out in the parking lot. You lucky people in the tropics -- by which I mean anything south of Buffalo -- can point out all the positives you want: we have only three more months of this, it's good for the ski slopes much of the time, what have you. Screw all that.
I want warmth.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go warm up the car.
Dude, You're Getting Arraigned So the Dell guy (nee actor Ben Curtis) got arrested for allegedly buying a little grass on Sunday night. In proof that America still hasn't lost its sense of humor, most folks have had a bit of fun with the story. My favourite headline came from Fox, which spun the story this way: "Dude! You're Getting a Cell."
Still, as the nation has Collectively Snickered over Mr Curtis' incredibly bad luck in getting pinched for pot in New York City, one can't help but notice that the Dell computer corporation hasn't decided whether to keep Mr Curtis on as its public face.
A spokesman for Texas-based Dell said no decision has been made on Curtis’ future promoting the company. “We are following the situation and really trying to understand what happened here,” Venancio Figueroa said.
Well, let's see. He's 22. He's in college. He's a drama student. He's in New York. This is not difficult to understand at all. As such, I would ask the Good People at Dell to refrain from corporo-sanitizing this one facet of their marketing campaign and continue to keep Mr Curtis on as their pitchman. Because those commercials with the Dell interns? They really suck.
The Scariest Thing I Have EVER Seen It's not a demonstration. It's not commentary from Rodong Sinmun. It's not even a Very Special Television Event Starring Scott Baio, Tina Yothers, Robert Hays and Dana Plato all at the same time. The scariest thing I have ever seen is ... this.
Now, I can't tell you what this is, because that would spoil the surprise. But I will reveal one line that describes that of which I am speaking:
"Where Central Wisconsin Meets the Concorde Age."
You take your cue from that. Don't think hard about the implications of that statement, either. After all, that would promote the idea that Central Wisconsin was missing out on something because there was a time when this ... thing ... was not there. That would be a slander, even considering Central Wisconsin.
Pulchritudinous Idiocy Once in a great while, one comes across something so badly-argued, so illogical, so damnfool, and so plain stupid that it boggles the mind. I like terming such things "pulchritudinous idiocy," for they are beautiful and heartwrenching and downright flawless examples of human imperfection. They serve as constant reminders that no matter how high Man rises over the base animals, he is ever damned to languish below the spiritual realm.
Here ya go, kids. Here it is, from the New York Sun.
Despite that I'm now safely back in the Granite State, I just can't get over the fact I was in Maine. Speaking as a native Midwesterner, I can say with authority that when I was growing up, Maine was one of those states which I never -- never -- thought I would visit. Indeed, even though I have lived in New Hampshire for close on to two years now, before last month I hadn't really any need, desire, hope or plans to visit the Pine Tree State.
For one thing, we've got everything which Maine has, here in New Hampshire: beaches, lobstah, cool summers, lobstah, small-town life, lobstah. For another, as a resident of the Granite State, I had second-hand knowledge that Maine -- like the other states of the Northeast -- was a cheerless and generally dismal place, notable for its high taxes and despairing, beaten-down workforce. The end result was that, in my mind, Maine was just there, over to the east -- in the same way Vermont sits to the west. Despite their proximity to New Hampshire, I can't remember the last time either of those states has affected in my life in any way.
But then Sasha and Andrew suggested that I come over and spend a day in Portland, Maine's largest city. Suddenly, the Pine Tree State loomed large in my trip planning.
Wouldn't you know I actually kind of liked the place.
Now, Lord knows the signs were ominous as I headed north. When I say signs, I mean that literally. It was, as I later concluded over a beer, as if you could feel the Invisible Hand of Regulation bearing down on you as you traveled. For one thing, the speed limit was only 55 miles per hour for those few miles, which is never a good sign. Then came the innumerable highway warnings, messages, service propaganda, and other communiques which proud but decayed Augusta proclaims to visitors -- a selection of which appear below:
ARE YOUR TIRES SAFE? LIGHTS MUST BE ON WHEN WIPERS IN USE SPEED LAWS ENFORCED BY MARKED AND UNMARKED CARS AND AIRCRAFT MAINE HAS TOUGH DRUNK DRIVING LAWS: FOR YOUR SAFETY FIREWORKS ARE ILLEGAL IN MAINE
Compare those to the signs you see, both publicly and privately maintained, when you travel in New Hampshire's border areas:
NH LIQUOR STORE -- EXIT 6 SWEEPS TICKETS CIGARETTE OUTLET
Maine also had large signs proclaiming the existence of construction machinery in the median of its highway, which any fool couldn't miss even if he was driving whilst talking on his cell phone, eating a pastrami sandwich, and changing the radio all at the same time.
But the grey skies cleared as I entered Portland -- population 64,000 -- and things started looking up. Sure, I wasn't all that impressed as I entered the city, as it reminded me of my old home town of Kalamazoo, Mich., which is slightly larger and generally better off. But then I spent a couple of hours in the city's Old Port section, down by the water, and I must say that I was greatly impressed with it.
What really impressed me the most about the place was how damned friendly everyone was. Gad. I mean, it was the sort of genuine pleasantness that puts a hardened type on edge. I would even venture that people in Portland were friendlier than they are in New Hampshire, and a bloody sight much friendlier than they are in my home state of Michigan. Back Home, folks are pretty guarded; but here, everyone seemed open and honest and pleasant. Everyone was young, too; and full of life, and all-in-all seemed contented. Even happy, one might say. Even happy.
I think that's what did it, really; that people were happy. The Old Port itself wasn't something one might call unique, in either its "boboness" (that's the sense of bourgeois bohemianism, as David Brooks has termed it) or its atmosphere. It had free alternative weeklies available all over the place. It had a plethora of stores with punny names. It had a store entirely devoted to selling prophylactics. It had young people with oddly-coloured hair and establishments selling overpriced coffees. One can find those type of things in any of one hundred college towns in the United States. Nor was the atmosphere all that wildly different from other places: it felt a lot like Portsmouth in terms of architecture. And if my memories of both Ann Arbor and Princeton serve me right, those tranquil spots seemed to be more "in place" with their respective towns than the Old Port did.
But Gad! if one of my coworkers wasn't right in saying that I would really like it. Portland was a place as calm as Santa Monica on an idle Sunday morning. Yes, it was a different ocean and different weather; but it was still full of vibrancy and creativity and hope, and people who seemed to approach each new day as they should. As something precious and exciting and wonderful.
Oh, God. I'm 27 Actually, this is a bit misleading. Were one to be a bit more accurate, the actual turnover on the odometer doesn't happen until Feb. 7; and were one to be a bit more precise, it does not happen until 10:07 A.M. on this Friday. Still, I cannot escape the fact that yet another year has passed in my life, and that much work remains to be done.
However, I recall well the messages sent last year, when I engaged in much wailing and gnashing of teeth about my lot in life. Those writers, who were older and wiser than I was then and am now, kindly offered a few compelling points: that I hadn't done all that badly for myself, that I had quite a bit going for me, and that life really begins at age 40. Looking back over the past year, I have to say that I think that these correspondents were correct in all three arguments. But I'll focus on the last of the three, since I think it's really the most important one.
I mean, let's face it. I'm 27 years old. I like to think that I'm a smart 27 years old, and mature, and at least somewhat wise and savvy in the ways of the world. But, God and the American Medical Establishment willing, I have a lot of time left to pursue my craft, to write, to learn, to mull over matters spiritual and temporal. So it's a reasonable deduction to say that I'm in the early stages of my professional and personal life, and further to say that I have plenty of time before I begin truly considering things like marriage, having my own family, and such. That's not to say I'm not on the lookout for those things now, it's just that I've taken a more reasonable view towards these things.
Kind of like that old saying -- God is with the patient, if they but know how to wait.
Now for more important matters. For one, there will be limited blogging from now until Monday, as Someone Was Clever Enough to Schedule a Long Weekend. For another ... well, hey, I'm going on holiday. Have fun and see you in a few days :-).
Blast from the Past Update So my brother sends me an e-mail today and what do I find contained therein but an old version of "Balance of Power," a game that we had on the old family computer -- an Apple IIGS -- somewhere in the era of 1990. Gad. Thirteen years ago. It was a very cool game; a type of geopolitical simulator where you had to outfox The Other Side in the Cold War. The amazing thing: the entire set up for the game was just 130KB in total.
"Earlier today, the United States presented compelling evidence to the United Nations Security Council detailing Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs, its active efforts to deceive UN inspectors, and its links to international terrorism..."
"The clear and present danger posed by the Saddam Hussein's regime requires a united response from the community of democracies. We call upon the U.N. Security Council to take the necessary and appropriate action in response to Iraq's continuing threat to international peace and security."
-- Statement by the Foreign Ministers of Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia in response to the presentation by the United States Secretary of State to the United Nations Security Council concerning Iraq.
This is to be expected, of course. These guys know evil when they see it.
Sec POWELL:Let me begin by playing a tape for you. What you're about to hear is a conversation that my government monitored. It takes place on November 26 of last year, on the day before United Nations teams resumed inspections in Iraq. The conversation involves two senior officers, a colonel and a brigadier general, from Iraq's elite military unit, the Republican Guard.
COL: Sir, could you speak with Abdul down at the deli?
COL: It's about the lunch order.
COL: The order for everyone here in the office.
GEN: Yeah, yeah.
COL: Yeah. Sir, you ordered the schwarma, right?
COL: Well, we don't have an order here for that. You're stuck with lentil soup.
GEN: Lentil soup? You didn't order lentil soup! You don't have ...
COL: By God, I've got one with your name on it!
GEN: Which? From Baghdad Garden?
COL: From al-Aqsa catering ...
COL: Al-Aqsa, sir.
GEN: I don't believe this! It's the third time this week they've screwed up our order!
GEN: What part of schwarma do those idiots not understand?!
GEN: Yeah. I'll go over there in the morning with some of the crew. I'm going to have that guy's head on a pike! A pike, right in front of the armory, by God! And we'll take care of the kitchen staff too. I'm worried that the effectiveness of those modified chemical agents we stored is wearing off. Hey, that gives me an idea. Did you evacuate everything from the facility?
COL: We evacuated it all.
GEN: Shit. Those inspectors never would have looked in that kitchen.
Well, actually, I am a little bit shocked. Even the Palestinians, who danced in the streets after the September 11 attacks, were smart enough this time around to offer their condolences to the families of everyone on board. But not Iraq. As Western reporters in that nation are routinely followed by minders, just as in North Korea, I suppose we could surmise that Iraq was more than happy to let the comments of their citizenry go out to the world as a whole.
Go ahead and laugh, you wretches. You have four weeks.
Perhaps more disturbing than the comments out of Iraq were some comments that came out of Canada today. I'll quote the relevant portion from Fraters Libertas:
Listening to the C-SPAN open phone lines this morning, a couple of citizens of Canada called in. Both of them had basically the same comments. They remembered the Challenger tragedy back in 1986 and said they felt great sadness then. But they feel differently this time. Yes, they clinically acknowledge the human tragedy for the families involved, then each of them said they could not feel any sympathy for the United States. The reason, because of what George Bush is doing to the world and where he’s leading this country. The tone of their voices expressed an almost gleeful “I told you so” attitude.
There are also reports that a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reporter, in a move that I hope will cause much wrath and derision to be heaped upon him, asked an interviewee whether U.S. "arrogance" was to blame for the crash.Yes, really.
While clearly such comments are not reflective of most Canadians' views -- and I know some Canadians who are undoubtedly writing angry screeds based on these reports even as I speak -- it does make you wonder. How pathetic is the anti-American wing of Canadian life when they can't even stop their reflexive, knee-jerk Yank-bashing even when a human tragedy like this occurs?
While there is no official word that Columbia has been lost, the images on television show there is almost no hope that the six Americans and one Israeli on board could have survived. The trajectory of the spacecraft is almost straight down; it is clear the craft has broken up.
Prayers for the seven astronauts on board would also be warranted -- both for their safety, in the event they can be saved; but also for their souls. FOX News has former astronaut Buzz Aldrin on the air right now, and Mr Aldrin has said that the pictures being broadcast now appear similar to those which appeared after the Challenger disaster.
St Maximilian, interestingly, also happens to be one of three patron saints of journalists. The other two are St Francis de Sales, sometimes described as the world's first journalist; and St Paul the Apostle,whose writings appear in the New Testament. Of these three, St Maximilian seems to get the least amount of exposure. Maybe that's because he lived in the modern age; or perhaps it's because the renown of both St Francis and St Paul is greater in comparison. But St Maximilian too has an incredible life story.
The most compelling aspects of that story, perhaps, were the accounts of how St Maximilian suffered and died at the hands of the Nazis, in 1941. The Catholic Forum Web site -- which has detailed listings for all 4,231 saints in the faith -- has the details. The short version of the story, though, is that as the Nazis were meting out a collective punishment because of an escape at Auschwitz, St Maximilian volunteered to die in the place of another prisoner at the camp.
Back when I was a boy, I was once told the details about what happened to him. Looking back across the years, it seemed like one of those unbelievable stories which schoolchildren are prone to embellish. There was no mention of St Maximilian by name, and some of the minor details that I can recall being told weren't accurate. But as I did my own research this night, I found to my amazement that the story -- for all intents and purposes -- was true.
We know that the human body can go without food for a long time. Weeks, if not months, can pass before one's body consumes its own inner sources of energy and finally gives up the ghost. However, the human need for water is considerably greater.
Take my own experience in this, for example. When I had my diabetic shock in 2000, my body essentially took in no water for about three days time. Because of my elevated sugar levels, I was stuck in a Catch-22 in which the more I drank, the thirstier I became. At the end of this 72-hour period, I was so weak that I had to be carried out of my own apartment. I lost 30 pounds. I was in the hospital for close to a week. It took me two more weeks to really recover. In short, it was close to miraculous that I managed to get out of the ordeal without any significant damage to my health, and keep in mind that I was young and hale.
St Maximilian, who had long suffered from tuberculosis, lasted for three weeks without food or water. My God! How? How, in that wretched hell, how was he able to not only survive such torture, but continue to stand and look his persecutors in the eyes? And even after those three weeks, he kept on doing it -- until the Nazis, infuriated, injected him with a lethal poison.
St Maximilian was also a strong believer in using modern-day technology to spread the Christian message, as the Washington Postnotes.
Combine St Maximilian's work in newspapers and publishing -- click some of the above links -- and his own selfless sacrifices in the face of evil, and it becomes clear that St Maximilian would be a worthy patron of one of mankind's most important innovations. Or, barring that, he would certainly be a worthy patron for bloggers in general. We might never get that same call to make the sacrifices he did; but he could guide us in our work to spread the inherent Truths we all believe in: intellectual honesty, liberty, and justice.