Monday, June 30, 2008

Not good

Apparently someone has been going around and flagging sites on Blogger that are critical of Barack Obama. So if you try to access me sometime and can't, that might be why.

I like a candidate whose supporters are so confident that they try to shut down free speech. Don't you?

Might be time to investigate WordPress. . . .

Sunday, June 29, 2008


They are Spartacus, apparently. The New York Times brings us the happy story of supporters who have taken the middle name "Hussein" in solidarity with their personal savior, Barack Obama. From the article:

The result is a group of unlikely-sounding Husseins: Jewish and Catholic, Hispanic and Asian and Italian-American, from Jaime Hussein Alvarez of Washington, D.C., to Kelly Hussein Crowley of Norman, Okla., to Sarah Beth Hussein Frumkin of Chicago.

As best as I can understand this, the notion being proffered for why one would adopt the "Hussein" moniker is because there is a fear out there that since Obama's middle name is Hussein, it lends credence to the notion that he's either a Muslim or otherwise someone who falls outside the parameters of the American mainstream. And if young mopes like these folks are willing to change their name, at least symbolically, to match that of Sen. Obama, they defuse the controversy.

Harmless fun? Perhaps. A little creepy? Yeah, I kinda think so. I think the picture with the NYT article is especially amusing, as the five supporters hold their precious Warholesque Obama sign and sport the facial expressions and postures that one might ordinarily see on the cover of a Death Cab for Cutie album.

When I was that age, there were thousands of people walking around wearing "Relax" t-shirts in solidarity with this long-forgotten pop phenomenon. What was most amusing about the Frankie Goes to Hollywood thing is that a lot of people didn't understand what Frankie was really talking about (link not safe for work). People are always looking for some way to connect with the zeitgeist, to be part of something greater than themselves. Obama has capitalized on this quite nicely. So relax.

Over the transom

I almost didn't see the e-mail because it got directed to my spam filter. But there it was. It was a note from a local politician that I have written about in unflattering terms. The note was gracious - he wanted me to know that while he recognizes that we are on opposite sides politically, he has enjoyed reading my blog, especially the non-political stuff.

Since it was a private note, I'll not reveal the author. But it was a reminder of something that we all need to keep in mind; we should always be careful about how we discuss issues. It's pretty easy to get personal in politics, especially since politics is one of the most personality-driven things around. And the closer you get to where the action is politically, you can learn things about politicians that you might be able to use against them. But the focus should remain about issues and philosophy. I see a number of bloggers who are playing oppo wannabe games, trying to make a name, trying to spread dirt about candidates. I don't want to do that here.

And to the author of the note: thank you again for the kind words.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

What would be more absurd than William Jefferson (D-LA) sponsoring an ethics bill?

Having David Vitter and Larry Craig be listed as co-sponsors of the Federal Marriage Amendment. It's stuff like this that makes life easy for the late night comedians. It's also the reason that we'll never completely forget Francois, Duc de La Rochefoucauld.

(h/t - Allahpundit)

Friday, June 27, 2008

Forever Changes

(photo from Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune)

Okay, I'll admit it. I'm stumped by what the Woofies did yesterday. They drafted the talented but potentially troublesome O.J. Mayo, then shipped him off to Memphis in the middle of the night. In return they received Kevin Love, the talented but shortish UCLA center. There were others involved in the deal and the most significant part of the trade was getting rid of the useless and expensive Marko Jaric.

Still, I really wonder. Love is clearly a talented guy, but he's not quite 6-8. He'll probably play center for the Wolves, which will allow Al Jefferson to move to power forward. That much makes sense. But I really wonder if Love is big enough to play the position. The last guy who was Love's size to be a successful center in the NBA was Wes Unseld. But that was a long time ago.

Every time the Wolves make one of these draft day deals, it seems to blow up on them. The Wolves had Ray Allen and traded him away. The Wolves had Brandon Roy and traded him away. Now it's Mayo. Maybe this time things will be different. But there's reason to doubt it. My guess is that Love will be a perfectly good player. But I also suspect Mayo will be a big star. And since he's in Memphis, he'll have a chance to remind the Wolves of their mistake several times a season.

I do like what my beloved Bucks did, though. Richard Jefferson is a very nice player and Joe Alexander should be a very good NBA player, too. And getting rid of Bobby Simmons was long overdue. While trading away Yi Jianlian might turn out to be a mistake, it's worth remembering that he didn't really want to be in Milwaukee. Alexander does. That matters. Jefferson and Michael Redd should be a pretty dynamic duo for the Bucks. Things should get better in Milwaukee soon.

Another White Sox Look

Of all the looks the Mighty Whities have perpetrated over the years, this was the worst. And to model this happenin' gear, we bring you
an obscure guy. Sports Illustrated had a history in the 1970s of putting a hot rookie on the cover their magazine. In 1979 they chose this guy, Harry Chappas. Harry Chappas was one of the smallest men to ever play in the major leagues. He was 5-3, 150. He made his major league debut in September of 1978, straight off the roster of my beloved Appleton Foxes, the White Sox A-ball farm team. Chappas had a fantastic year in A ball on a very good Foxes team (among others who played in Appleton that season were two pitchers who had decent major league careers, Britt Burns and LaMarr Hoyt). He was a dynamic middle infielder with some power and great speed. He stole a lot of bases in Appleton and hit for a very high average. But the thing was, that was A ball. What worked against the Quad Cities Angels didn't necessarily work against the California Angels. Once Harry got to the big leagues, he was overmatched and he didn't last long - he didn't even stick long enough to be around for the Disco Demolition. But he did make the cover of SI. That's more than most people can say.

We Won't See This Again

It's Dick Allen juggling three baseballs and a heater. 1972 is really getting to be a long time ago now. By the way, Allen was the American League MVP that year. Anyone who can juggle, smoke and hit 37 home runs probably deserved to be MVP. Allen is a guy who could be in Hall of Fame, but he'll probably not get there until all the sportswriters he feuded with have retired.
(H/T to Rich for the idea)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The essence of Brewerdom in the 1970s

For about a year and a half, Von Joshua was my favorite baseball player. He had a decent year for the Giants in 1975 and then came over to the Brewers in the middle of the 1976 season and manned center field for them through the rest of that year and 1977. He was a steady, unspectacular player who didn't do anything especially well. The stats show he hit about .260 for the Brewers and hit about 15 home runs over the course of about 1 1/2 seasons. In other words, he was the kind of guy you were looking to replace. And when Larry Hisle arrived in Milwaukee as a free agent in 1978, Von was gone.
Von Joshua became my favorite player because we all had to have one growing up. Unfortunately, the pickings were rather slim among the Brewers in that era. My best friend's favorite player was the aforementioned Bob Coluccio, who was traded to the White Sox in 1975 for some guy named Bill Sharp and then posed for that ridiculous porno star baseball card pose that I posted yesterday. Another good friend chose the immortal Pedro Garcia as his favorite player. Garcia was later traded to the Tigers for a package of Red Man and some of Al Kaline's pocket lint, I believe.
Last I heard Von Joshua was a coach in the Cubs minor league organization. I'm sure he does a fine job. Some 30 years ago, he provided the fans of Wisconsin with some intermittent excitement. Thanks Von, wherever you are.

Stubborn Kind of Heller

After a couple really bad calls, the Supreme Court did get one right today, ruling 5-4 to strike down the complete gun ban in Washington, D.C. I'm not an outdoorsman and I haven't spent much time in the company of guns, but it's clearly the right call.

Meanwhile, in Chicago, Mayor Daley is very angry about the fact that his city's gun ban is now in danger. He seems to think that William Holden and the rest of his Wild Buch pals are going to set up shop on LaSalle Street. As usual, Hizzoner machine gunned an advance army of strawmen:

"Does this lead to everyone having a gun in our society?" Daley asked while speaking at a Navy Pier event. "If they [the Supreme Court] think that's the answer, then they're greatly mistaken. Then why don't we do away with the court system and go back to the Old West, you have a gun and I have a gun, and we'll settle it in
the streets if that's they're thinking."

"We think we're such an improved society," he added. "The rest of the world
is laughing at us."

This is rot, of course. In most places with concealed carry laws and essentially unfettered gun rights, Wild West behavior is pretty rare. But in places where gun bans exist, like Washington, D.C. and Chicago, murder by gun is distressingly common. I lived two blocks from the western border of Chicago for five years and there was never any question about the amount of guns that were out there. The Bulls won two championships during the time I was there and you could hear people firing off guns all night long.

The best part of the decision is this: now that the Supreme Court has, however tenuously, affirmed my right to own a gun, I probably don't need one anymore.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Beloit College's Gift to Major League Baseball - Part Two

Besides Ginger Beaumont, my alma mater also claims as an alumnus one of the most innovative executives in baseball history, Leland Stanford "Larry" MacPhail. MacPhail ran the Cincinnati Reds, Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Yankees. Among his many creations:

1. First night game in the major leagues

2. First televised game (August 26, 1939)

3. First to introduce "Old Timers' Games" to the majors

4. First to establish pension funds for club employees throughout all levels of baseball

5. Headed first committee for players' pension funds, the finest in sports

6. First to use air plane travel for baseball teams

7. First to shake up New York City by broadcasting all home and road games. (The first radio broadcast of a baseball game in the majors was by Harold Arlen in Pittsburgh in 1921.)

8. First to introduce yellow baseballs, which were never accepted in baseball came to the fore in both tennis and golf

9. First to regularly schedule doubleheaders

10. First to install a stadium club

11. First to introduce season ticket plan

12. First to develop and introduce protective batting helmets

In large measure, the game we watch today comes directly from the vision of Larry MacPhail. The link above provides a great deal more information about this remarkable man. His son Lee MacPhail built the great Orioles teams of the 1960s and later was president of the American League. Grandson Andy MacPhail was the architect of the 1987 Twins. That's a pretty influential family.

About the only thing the Brewers won in the 70s

I remember this was a really big story in Wisconsin in 1975. Sports were absolutely dismal in Wisconsin back then - the Packers were terrible, the Bucks had traded Kareem away, the Badgers were terrible in everything and the Brewers. . . well, the Brewers were trying to market a team with ace pitcher Pete Broberg. So when Dirty Kurt Bevacqua won the bubble gum blowing championship, we finally had something. Check out the high-tech calipers.

Another Nice Looking Member of the White Sox

It's former White Sox pitching sensation (and one-time Appleton Foxes star) Steve Trout.

Here's Another Nice 70s Look

It's former White Sox great (and Brewers great) Bob Coluccio. Now I know where Robert Smigel got his look for those "Da Bearz" skits on Saturday Night Live. More amusing 70s players on the way.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Beloit College's Gift to Major League Baseball - Part One

The gentleman on the right is Clarence "Ginger" Beaumont. Ginger attended my alma mater Beloit College in the 1890s and played most of his career for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He patrolled center field for the Pirates and has three primary claims to fame: he led the National League in hits three times; he won the National League batting championship in 1902 with a .357 average; and as the leadoff hitter for the Pirates, he was the first man to bat in a World Series.

Beloit College does not exactly have a stellar sports history but if you're going to have a big league ballplayer from your alma mater, this guy is not a bad one to have. He's not the only one, though. Beloit also has an alumnus who is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, a fellow with a direct familial link to the modern-day Twins. I'll tell you about him tomorrow.

Accept No Substitutes

Bombo Rivera. Ask for him by name.

The best hair in MLB history, bar none

Any questions?

Million Dollar Outfield - 1912 Red Sox

Duffy Lewis, Tris Speaker and Harry Hooper. Speaker and Hooper are in the Hall of Fame. This group led the Red Sox to multiple World Series championships in the 1910s. These were the guys who patrolled Fenway Park when it first opened.

I'm thinking about baseball this week and I'll be posting some more old baseball pictures along with the usual stuff, mostly because baseball is cool.

Monday, June 23, 2008

George Carlin, RIP

Comedy is a tricky business and many of the greatest comedians were essentially unhappy people. For the most part, I don't think that description applied to George Carlin, who died yesterday at the age of 71. While he did issue some pretty bitter stuff late in his career, the routines that he did that will ultimately live on are the ones where he looked gently at the absurdities of life and language.

While Carlin became known as a "counterculture" comedian and is probably most famous for the bit that Strolling Amok references over at his place, the Carlin routine that I'll always cherish is this one, where Carlin compares baseball to football. His love of language and his outstanding ear are present throughout and the comparisons are all hilarious. See him for yourself here, but the best part is the end, to wit:

In football the object is for the quarterback, also known as the field general, to be on target with his aerial assault, riddling the defense by hitting his receivers with deadly accuracy in spite of the blitz, even if he has to use shotgun. With short bullet passes and long bombs, he marches his troops into enemy territory, balancing this aerial assault with a sustained ground attack that punches holes in the forward wall of the enemy's defensive line.

In baseball the object is to go home! And to be safe! - I hope I'll be safe at home!

I hope that George is safe at home now, too. RIP.

Brew Crew Bows Out in AL Tourney

The mighty Brewers are done after losing to the Mets this evening at Southpoint Park in North Oaks. Superior Met pitching told the tale and one very rough inning was enough to finish things for our guys. Ben finished up nicely, stroking a double in his last at bat and scoring later in the final inning as a late Brewer rally fell short.

While the kids lost more games than they won, I feel pretty good about our season. We had excellent kids on our team and it was a privilege to have a chance to coach them. It's highly unlikely that any of our kids will ever play in the major leagues - one or two will have a chance to play high school ball, perhaps. But the lessons you learn from sports - teamwork, sportsmanship, accepting the good and the bad - are lessons that will last even when the only ball these boys play is slowpitch softball in some beer league. Perhaps one day one of the boys will have a chance to coach as well. I hope so.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A thought experiment

One of the reasons that Gov. Pawlenty is often touted as a strong vice-presidential pick for John McCain is that his popularity would somehow spill over into the neighboring states of Iowa and Wisconsin, potentially helping McCain in those places as well.

Do you believe that? Here's a little thought experiment.

Quick - name the governors of Wisconsin and Iowa. Here's a hint - they are pictured above.

The guy on the left is Chet Culver. If you didn't know any better, you'd probably assume he's the governor of Wisconsin, since that is the state that is responsible for bringing Culver's Restaurants to the world. (Mmmm.... butterburgers.) But Chet Culver is not the governor of Wisconsin. He's the governor of Iowa. The bald dude is Jim Doyle and he's the governor of Wisconsin. Both of these gentlemen are Democrats and both were highly instrumental in helping Senator Barack Obama win elections in their respective states.

Do you think that if Sen. Obama decided to pick either one of these guys to be his Veep (and there's almost no chance of it happening, by the way), that it would make your average Minnesotan more likely to vote for Obama? If you answered not a chance, give yourself a gold star.

Tim Pawlenty may have a number of things that recommend him to John McCain as a potential runningmate. But he won't do a thing to win over voters in Wisconsin or Iowa for John McCain.

Le mot juste

JRoosh at Roosh Five, discussing the current state of the debate over energy:

That's what Bill Richardson says is President Bushs' answer to our energy crisis.

"You know this president, all he wants to do is drill, drill, drill. There is very little on conservation, on fuel efficiency for vehicles. Just last week the Congress failed to pass a solar tax credit — give more incentives to renewable energy, solar and wind. A one track mind — drill drill drill — that's not going to work," Richardson said.

(As if he has a better solution than bitch, bitch, bitch.)

No kidding. Read the whole thing.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

So who won the contest? Update: Now with Entertaining Video Links!

Update: I've now added some rich video goodness to this post. Especially note the cool 3-wheel car in the Radar Love video and the pretty racy (for 1966) Nancy Sinatra!

Glad that you asked. As you'll recall, I posted a quiz on Tuesday with 15 random song lyrics. I will get to the results anon, but first, let's revisit the quiz and provide the answers.

1. But something is happening, and you don't know what it is. Do you, Mr. Jones?

Some of you did know what was happening. The answer is "Ballad of a Thin Man," from Bob Dylan's classic 1965 album Highway 61 Revisited. I am inclined to give Night Writer credit for suggesting "Me and Mrs. Jones," since clearly Mr. Jones had no idea what Billy Paul and the missus were doing every day, at that same cafe.

2. So I took a big chance at the high school dance with a missy who was ready to play.

This one was pretty easy and everyone who played got it right. It was "Walk This Way," by Aerosmith. I am fond of the Run-DMC version, too.

3. It's a teenage wasteland.

Indeed, it is a teenage wasteland. But the name of the song is "Baba O'Riley," and the band is The Who. From their great 1971 release, Who's Next.

4. Got to have a Jones for this, a Jones for that, but this runnin' with the Joneses boy, just ain't where it's at.

Hey boy, you'd better bring the chick around, to the sad, sad, truth, the dirty "Lowdown." So sang Boz Scaggs back in 1976.

5. Some people call me Maurice.

Others call him Steve Miller, though, even when he speaks of the pompatous (pompitous?) of love, as he and the Steve Miller Band perform "The Joker." Not suprisingly, everyone got this one right.

6. Dig if you will a picture, of you and I engaged in a kiss.

Can you picture this? Everyone did. It's "When Doves Cry," from our local hero Prince.

7. Good heavens, Miss Yakamoto, you're beautiful.

This was a tough one. It's not so much a lyric as an aside, but it's in the song. And the song is "She Blinded Me with Science," by the mostly-forgotten Thomas Dolby.

8. That's 1 for you, 19 for me.

Given that this is a generally conservative blog, there was no way that anyone would miss "Taxman," by the Beatles. And no one did. Declare the pennies on your eyes.

9. I've been driving all night, my hand's wet on the wheel.

No more speed, I'm almost there. This was also an easy one - "Radar Love," by Golden Earring.

10. L.A. is a great big freeway, put a hundred down and buy a car.

It may not have been fair to the younger readers of this feature to include this one, but hell, I'm old. And back in 1968 or so, Dionne Warwick asked the musical question "Do You Know the Way to San Jose." This song is so old that Silicon Valley was pretty much confined to Hewlett and Packard's garage when it came out.

11. If you want to find all the cops, they're hanging out in the donut shops.

My kids asked for this one. It's from a band that's made two "Guilty Pleasures" appearances, and yes, I think of them as a guilty pleasure. It's that late 1986 novelty, "Walk Like an Egyptian," from the Bangles. Thing is, most everyone got this one. Not sure what the means, but it must mean something.

12. So much rhythm grace and debonair for one man? Lord.

The Night Writer insists that this line is about him. I'm not about to argue. But the line itself comes from the eternal boogie down classic "The Rubberband Man," from the Spinners.

13. Kids if you want some fun, Mr. LaPage is your man.

Okay, this was the tough one. Most of the songs on this list were singles. This one wasn't. But it's from my favorite 70s cynics, Steely Dan. And it's "Everyone's Gone to the Movies." While no one knew the name of the song, give mad props to Rich and Strolling Amok for identifying the band. That's a hint.

14. You've been lyin', when you should have been truthin'.

The correct answer is, of course, "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'," by Nancy Sinatra. The best answer was from the Night Writer, who suggested it was an excerpt from a Ron Paul speech. I read that in my cube during my lunch hour and started laughing out loud. I'm quite fortunate that no one hauled me away....

15. I need a photo opportunity, I need a shot of redemption.

That's Paul Simon with "You Can Call Me Al," from his 1986 album Graceland.

Tie breaker: Singer Paul Carrack has hit the Billboard charts with more than one band. Name the bands he has fronted and at least one single from each.

This was a tough one and no one got all three, but several of you got two of them. Paul Carrack first hit the charts in 1975 with the band Ace and the song was "How Long." He returned in 1981 at the helm of Squeeze with "Tempted," a song that's probably more popular now than it was back in 1981. Later on in the decade, he hit the charts several times with Mike + the Mechanics.

So who won? It was close, but our favorite portside commenter RICH is the winner, with Strolling Amok and Night Writer right on his heels. I'll be in the Chicago area in August, Rich, and I'll see if I can hook you up with a fabulous prize when I get there. Thanks to all who played - hope you had fun.

An excellent question

Per Michael Barone:

If George W. Bush was wrong about the surge from summer 2003 to January 2007, Barack Obama has been wrong about it from January 2007 to today. John McCain
seems to have been right on it all along. When asked why he changed his position
on an issue, John Maynard Keynes said: "When the facts change, I change my mind.
What do you do, sir?" What say you, Sen. Obama?

Read the whole thing, of course.

Wrong Slogan, Sir

Did you see this? I am amused that the guy (or his campaign) would be presumptuous enough to actually put a version of the Great Seal in front of their guy. But he's got the wrong slogan.

It shouldn't be "Vero possumus." The slogan he's looking for is what appears on the masthead of this fine publication and speaks more directly to his constituency. What he's looking for is:

Tu stultus es

Meanwhile, the redoubtable Learned Foot has found that another candidate has come up with a far superior Great Seal.

Friday, June 20, 2008

She's Burnin' Up, Cap'n

So the newest hero speaking truth to power went to Capitol Hill today, raised his right hand and told us. . . well, nothing.

Scott McClellan explained to the bien pensants at the Judiciary Committee that while he doesn't know anything, he has suspicions. As U.S. News & World Report reports:

A key question Friday: Did Cheney order the misleading information about the Plame leak? McClellan said he didn't know but that "there's a lot of suspicions there. There's a cloud that lies over the vice president's office."

He doesn't know. Go figure.

I have suspicions, too. I suspect that Scott McClellan doesn't know what to say unless someone tells him what to say. At the Bush White House, he said whatever they asked him to. Someone else told him he could make a lot of money by bashing his former employer. And so he is.

Another suspicion that I have: since he's clearly a dry well for the scandal mongers up on Capitol Hill, his fifteen minutes are about up.

Congratulations, Mr. McClellan. Just a guess - in 34 years, you'll be remembered in Washington for the same reasons that this individual is remembered now. But please don't jump into the Tidal Basin, okay? No one wants to see that.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Money Don't Buy Everything, It's True

But what it don't buy, Barack Obama can't use. He wants the money.

Rather, he doesn't want the public money. He's decided to forego public financing for his presidential campaign and all the strictures that come with it. He is now free to milk the suckers, er, I mean his devoted supporters for as much money as he can. And thus does Barack Obama strike a mortal blow to the most cherished legacy of his opponent, John McCain. McCain-Feingold, he dead.

Mr. McCain will now be hoist on his own petard. McCain faces a choice - either accept his own handiwork and get his tuchus handed to him, or eschew his legacy and face the calumny that will be heaped upon him for abandoning his most beloved accomplishment. As much as I want McCain to win, he richly deserves this dilemma.

While I imagine the party line is that I should be upset at Obama's own blindingly obvious hypocrisy on this issue, I have to admit that I just don't care that much about it. One of the main reasons I opposed McCain in the primaries is that McCain-Feingold is one of the worst things in American politics, because it is a limit on political speech. It assumes that money in politics is the root of all evil. It's actually the opposite - too much politics in money. Or as P. J. O'Rourke so memorably put it, as long as buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first thing to be bought and sold are legislators.

It's become increasingly clear in recent weeks that Barack Obama is Michael Corleone in a Bobby Kennedy suit. He'll throw longtime supporters under the bus without batting an eye. He'll throw long-held and noisly-proclaimed principles under the bus as well. All this should be abhorrent and should disqualify him from office, but he'll get a pass on all of it. It's remarkable, really. The only way that McCain can beat this guy is to abandon his principles as well, on campaign finance, on environmentalism, on all of that.

Just a prediction: before the election, one of the major contenders for the office of President will call for drilling in ANWR. I'll bet that it's Obama.

Cross-posted at True North

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Joltin' Joe Has Left and Gone Away

As I mentioned the other day, my cousin Joe Heuring died on Saturday night in Appleton. His passing comes as a shock to all of us. He is the first family member of our generation to leave this world and he leaves too soon, at the age of 47.

Joe was a good egg. Joe was the first son of the first son on my dad's side of the family, which meant that he faced a lot of expectations throughout his life. Although I am only 3 years younger than he was, I didn't know Joe that well as he grew up in Stevens Point, a river town about 65 miles west of Appleton, and we only saw him on occasion. He ended up moving to Appleton as an adult, but I'd long since left there by then.

Joe raised two children with his former wife Elly and remained an important part of their lives even after he and Elly divorced a few years back. From what I understand, Joe's life was pretty complicated in recent years but now is not the time to discuss those complications. There will be time for all that in due course.

Joe was a smart, diligent guy and had a dry sense of humor, but in a quiet way. In an extended family with an inordinate amount of wise guys, Joe wasn't the guy to hold court and let fly with the one-liners. You had to listen carefully. If you did listen, you were rewarded. I am convinced that he had a lot more wisdom to share, but it is not to be. God bless you, Joe.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Time for A Contest That I Predict Night Writer Will Win: UPDATE

Update: as of 8:30 on Wednesday, the leader in the clubhouse is Rich, with the Night Writer and Strolling Amok close behind. I'm going to leave this open until Friday evening. Let's see if anyone else is up to the challenge....

There's a boatload of bad karma going around right now and frankly I'd rather not think about it, much less write about it. So now is a good time for some harmless fun.

At my current freelance gig there is a weekly Friday trivia contest. You throw a quarter in the bucket and answer questions written by the previous week's winner. If you win, you get the pot (usually a lucrative $3 or so) and then you write the next week's questions. Not to brag, but I win a lot, which won't surprise some of you. So this week I had to write the questions. And I'm going to share them with you.

Since there is essentially no overlap between the Mr. Dilettante readership and my current co-workers, I can post this tonight and then submit it for Friday without having anyone spoil the fun. Here is how you play:

Below are 15 random song lyrics. You need to name (a) the song and (b) the artist that performed the song. You can email the answers to me at meheuring at yahoo dot com. The first person to provide all the correct answers will get a fabulous prize of some sort. Don't post the answers in the comments section, because that will help your opponents. If you want to offer trash talk about your encyclopedic knowledge of popular music in the comments section, feel free. We like that sort of thing. By the way, I think that most of these are pretty easy. And I know that you can probably Google up the answers to all of these in a matter of moments, but what's the sport in that?

Here you go:

1. But something is happening, and you don't know what it is. Do you, Mr. Jones?

2. So I took a big chance at the high school dance with a missy who was ready to play.

3. It's a teenage wasteland.

4. Got to have a Jones for this, a Jones for that, but this runnin' with the Joneses boy, just ain't where it's at.

5. Some people call me Maurice.

6. Dig if you will a picture, of you and I engaged in a kiss.

7. Good heavens, Miss Yakamoto, you're beautiful.

8. That's 1 for you, 19 for me.

9. I've been driving all night, my hand's wet on the wheel.

10. L.A. is a great big freeway, put a hundred down and buy a car.

11. If you want to find all the cops, they're hanging out in the donut shops.

12. So much rhythm grace and debonair for one man? Lord.

13. Kids if you want some fun, Mr. LaPage is your man.

14. You've been lyin', when you should have been truthin'.

15. I need a photo opportunity, I need a shot of redemption.

Tie breaker: Singer Paul Carrack has hit the Billboard charts with more than one band. Name the bands he has fronted and at least one single from each.

Based on what I know, I think the clubhouse favorite for this contest is the Night Writer. If you want a dark horse, look at the Anonymous Truck Driver (if he sees this in time). A hint for Dan S. - none of these songs are regularly performed in the 7th inning at Wrigley Field.

Play on, playas!

Monday, June 16, 2008

St. Sabina and St. Adalbert - V

Photo from Nancy Stone, Chicago Tribune

(Parts I, II and III and IV of this series are linked)

Father Michael Pfleger returned to St. Sabina Parish in Chicago today. Did he learn anything from his two weeks away? It would appear not.

"I want to say one thing today. The [Chicago] Tribune asked, can you be Catholic and an activist? I say, absolutely. Absolutely. You cannot be Catholic and not be an activist. That's the Gospel," he said.

Fr. Pfleger is right, up to a point. One of the signal differences between Catholics and other denominations is the emphasis on both faith and works. Catholics believe that God does call us to service. Where it gets sticky is interpreting what works are needed.

The patroness of Fr. Pfleger's church was a wealthy woman who, legend has it, came to the faith through the intercession of her servant. Sabina was persecuted by the emperor Hadrian and was martyred some time in the early days of the Church. She would not necessarily be the model for the type of ministry that Fr. Pfleger espouses. Her faith was ultimately selfless. That's typical of most saints. And one of the reasons we pay attention to saints is that they provide a model for sinners like us.

And selflessness is precisely where Fr. Pfleger comes up short. Here is another passage from the Chicago Tribune article linked above. See if you notice something.

"I'm good. I'll speak Sunday and give my talk then," Pfleger said as he sifted through a desk full of papers. "I'm grateful to be back and to do what I'm called to do. I'm grateful to the cardinal for letting me back."

When asked if he was the same "Michael Pfleger" as before, he said: "I'm me, I'm not changing. This is how I've been since I've been born. I'm not changing."

Is Fr. Pfleger a little fond of speaking in the first person? It would appear so. Count 'em up - 12 first person references in two short paragraphs. These are the words of a narcissist.

Cardinal George does Fr. Pfleger and St. Sabina a disservice by allowing this to continue. As much as his parishioners love Fr. Pfleger, there is a danger in following a narcissist. It's easy to lose sight of God when all you see is the great man. Fr. Pfleger's narcissism was the reason he could stride to the pulpit of Trinity United Church of Christ and publicly mock a fellow Christian in such a callous and shocking way.

Fr. Tim Kernan was many things - he could be a firebrand. His politics weren't much different from Fr. Pfleger; were he still alive today, I could easily envision Fr. Tim trying to find a way to support Sen. Obama. He was much closer to Dorothy Day than Opus Dei. But the key to understanding why Fr. Tim was an effective pastor goes back to the things he told us that late autumn evening in 2000.

While people sometimes need sympathy, what they really need is dignity. Dignity is not something Tim Kernan bestowed on anyone. He came to Frogtown with humility and a keen understanding of his own human frailties. Because of his humility, Fr. Tim was able to treat everyone he met with dignity. Fr. Pfleger seems to lack that - he may be charitable a thousand different ways, but his wrath toward those he considers enemies is frightening.

Social justice is paramount, but it is not possible without social cohesion. Frogtown got better during Fr. Tim's time there, but it wasn't because of any political crusades. Things got better because he ministered directly to the community. And Fr. Tim, because he was part of the community, didn't make excuses for those who were not making an effort to make things better. He recognized that the social forces from without were only powerful to the extent that the social forces within the community were lacking. He didn't blame the guy who owned the liquor store or the gun shop. He tried to help people understand that there was a better way. Fr. Pfleger has done plenty of ministry in the community, but a lot of it has been to threaten the external forces. It hasn't worked.

People can change reality; their own, at least. If Fr. Tim were alive today, he would admit that his own failings had made some of his previous parish assignments unsuccessful. He did not do well at the helm of a large suburban parish. In some respects, St. Adalbert was his last chance. He had to change his own reality to make a difference and that meant getting sober and learning how to ask for help. He had to learn humility.

You don't have time to wait. Fr. Tim Kernan made the most of his tenure at St. Adalbert. Fr. Pfleger has done many great things at St. Sabina. Now the crusading young priest I saw on my television screen nearly 20 years ago is the comfortable. self-satisfied representative of the status quo. Fr. Pfleger may not understand it, but the hour is short, likely far shorter than he understands.

Cardinal George missed an opportunity - he could have sent Fr. Pfleger somewhere else, a place where he would have been outside of his comfort zone, a place where his passion for justice might have awakened Catholics who are too comfortable in their own sinecure. We'll see if Fr. Pfleger has learned anything in his all-too-brief time away from St. Sabina. He needs our prayers.

Say a prayer

My cousin Joe died Saturday night at the age of 47. There's a story involved in his death, but now is not the time to share it. He leaves behind a son and a daughter, both teenagers. Above all, they need your prayers.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day

Hope all you fathers out there had an excellent, enjoyable Father's Day. My kids treated me to a nice Sunday brunch and then we had a ball game this evening (Rays 12, Brewers 2, Ben was 1-1 with a walk and a single).

Maria made me some posters as a Father's Day present. I had to post this one, because I think it's great. I like cherries - cherry pie, cherry yogurt, you name it. Maria notices stuff like this and honored me on Father's Day with this "Cherry Man" poster. One of the best gifts I'll ever receive.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Something for the Valley

Found an Appleton-based blog that I like and would like to recommend for those who are interested in what's happening back there. It is the Appletonian. At present, this blog is paying particular attention to the upcoming race for the seat in Wisconsin's 57th assembly district, but based on what I see, there is ample coverage of other issues as well.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Night Writer Runs the Numbers

The Night Writer has an interesting piece up about commuting over at his place. I've written about this subject any number of times and it's a bit of a sore spot for me, especially light rail transit. As usual, NW runs through the issues in typically entertaining fashion. He commutes to downtown Minneapolis and can get to the Hiawatha line. Go read the piece in its entirety, but the Reader's Digest version is this: it probably makes sense for him, as he will save enough money to offset some of the inconveniences involved in using the services of Metro Transit.

At this point in my life, transit does nothing for me. My commute is from my home in New Brighton to my gig in south Burnsville. The distance is 29.2 miles and travel time varies from about 35 minutes (on a good day) to 3 hours (when the snow is falling). On average, I get to Burnsville in about 40-45 minutes and the return trip takes about an hour.

So, if I were to attempt this commute by transit, arriving at my desk at 8 a.m., what would happen? Here's what the Metro Transit trip planner tells me:

The trip from 1500 FOSS RD (NEW BRIGHTON) to 2800 SOUTHCROSS DR W (BURNSVILLE) is not possible.

As the old dudes sitting in front of the gas station in Maine would say, "can't get theah from heah."

Let's be clear about something - if you can use a bus or train to get to your location, it's worth doing. I worked in downtown Minneapolis for the better part of 10 years and, depending on where I lived at the time, happily took either the 94H, 33 or 4 bus to get there. And for the 5 years I lived in the Chicago area, I used the Congress El train just about every day; Mrs. D and I didn't even own a car then and we didn't need to. For reasons that Night Writer makes quite clear, commuting can be pleasant. And every time I slog through the hideous construction snarl that MnDOT has unleashed at the junction of 35W, 280 and 36, I definitely miss the clattering ol' ride on the 4. The thing is, most people don't take public transit because the tradeoffs are too severe. The mother who has to schlep her kids to day care first, the sales guy, the shift worker and the multitudes who commute from suburb to suburb cannot use the system.

We could design a transit system that would work for more people; there's no question about it. But it won't be built with trains. But for those who can use the system, go right ahead.

Tim Russert, RIP

Tim Russert died today preparing voiceovers for a broadcast that he would never complete. Only 58 years old. I didn't watch a lot of his work in recent years but he was probably the best of the Sunday morning talk maestros. He was a tough interviewer but was generally gracious and tried to be as fair as possible to all his guests.

No one is objective; we all have points of view and as it happens, most people in Tim Russert's profession tend to be politically and socially liberal. What set Russert apart from many of his colleagues is that he genuinely tried to understand the arguments that conservatives made. He might not have agreed with the arguments, but it was clear that he had thought about the arguments and was willing to give conservatives the opportunity to explain what they believe and why they believe in their own words. That courtesy is what we'll miss. Rest in peace.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Right Hook Makes the Blog House

The members of the Boots On crew are all good friends of this feature and I hold them all in very high esteem. Right Hook had a very interesting post over there the other day and it has caught the attention of Tim O'Brien, who runs the "Blog House" feature at the Star Tribune. O'Brien selectively quoted RH's piece, which strongly suggests that Sen. Norm Coleman does not deserve conservative support in this election. Here is the quote as O'Brien rendered it:

From the actions of the good Senator and many in the GOP it seems pretty
obvious that we are not held in very high esteem anyway.It is common knowledge
within the GOP that Senator Coleman has privately acknowledged a very cynical
"where else will Conservatives go?" attitude. His campaign has made the
calculation that he can maximize his vote total by moving to the left....
It's high time we Conservatives started a we're as mad as hell and we aren't going to take it anymore campaign against the RINOcracy, and the Coleman campaign is an ideal place to start it.

This is a pretty good example of how to use someone's words in a way that alters the message (an O'Brien specialty, by the way). RH is a very smart guy and he knows better than to take his ball and go home. What RH is suggesting is that Coleman gets our votes and nothing more. But unlike O'Brien, I'll let RH speak for himself:

I need to make it perfectly clear that I am not advocating that people vote for Al Franken. Rather my position is to urge people to vote for Norm Coleman if
their conscience allows it, but make it clear to Senator Coleman that a vote is
the only support he will receive - no phone bank time, no campaign
contributions, no literature distribution, no promotion on our blogs, etc. Think
of it as a kind and gentle throwing under the bus rather than one of extreme

I'm not sure if this the right approach or not, but I wouldn't reject it out of hand. It's a tough call, because Al Franken is so odious that I'm not certain I want to gamble with withholding support for Coleman if doing so would mean Franken would go to Washington. I like about 65% of what Norm does in the Senate. I would like about 0% of what Franken would do. That is what makes this a tough call.

In any event, I'd strongly recommend you go read RH's piece and judge for yourself. We cannot flinch from tough questions. And that means I'll have to come up with an answer, too. But not tonight, it's getting late....

How do you play Boumediene?

The Supreme Court says that enemy combatants get habeus corpus rights. Amazingly bad idea on a lot of levels. People will call this a rebuke to George Bush, but it's worth remembering that this decision also blows away a law that Congress passed with bi-partisan support. Here's my guess on what happens.

1) We'll close down Gitmo. No reason to keep it open now.

2) We'll repatriate a lot of these dudes to their home countries. They'll all miss Gitmo once they get subjected to the tender mercies of the "justice systems" of Hosni Mubarak and the Saudi princes, among others. One or two might get away and return to the fray and probably that will mean that Americans will die as a result of this decision. I guess Kennedy, Breyer, Souter, Ginsburg and Stevens can live with that. Oddly enough, these enemy combatants won't respect us more because of the actions that our enlightened philosopher-kings undertook on their behalf.

3) Going forward, we won't capture illegal combatants when we encounter them. We'll just shoot them instead. Bullets are a lot cheaper than battling ACLU lawyers.

Brewers Fall Short Against Mariners

Another tough one for the Brewers as they lose to the Mariners 13-5 at Perry Park this evening. Ben pitched the final inning and did a pretty good job, giving up one run and getting the side out with only 12 pitches. It's amazing what happens when you throw strikes.

The Brewers close out the regular season on Sunday evening against the hated Devil Rays. Game time is 6:30 p.m. at Perry Park. Playoffs to follow. Follow all the action right here!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Guilty Pleasures Part Twenty-Three -- '79

Where were you in 1979? I was halfway through my glorious high school years (cough, cough), living in Appleton, Wisconsin. But not all year. For half the summer I was someplace else entirely - Guatemala City. My high school had a Guatemalan exchange program and each year a bunch of kids from Guatemala would come to lovely Appleton, while in the summer a bunch of us would go to Guatemala. I haven't written much about that experience here, but at some point I will. Put it this way -- with the Somoza government falling in nearby Nicaragua, it was a very interesting time to be in Guatemala.

But this series is about music and 1979 was very much a year of transition. Disco fever started to break that year and the symbolic event that signaled that disco had finally jumped the shark took place on a hot Friday evening on the South Side of Chicago. At 35th and Shields, to be precise. There, in between games of a doubleheader against the Tigers, the White Sox allowed a Chicago disc jockey named Steve Dahl to undertake a "Disco Demolition" night. Dahl blew up a bunch of disco records on the field and, hard as it is to believe, a certain cohort of drunken Sox fans essentially took over the field and tore it to shreds. Somehow, disco was never quite the same after that.

But when we look back at the music of 1979, disco was still pretty big. Donna Summer was all over the radio, as was our first contestant. It was easy to miss it at the time, but there were some awfully good musicians playing disco music. Two of the best were Nile Rogers and Bernard Edwards, the masterminds behind Chic. This 1979 smash was perhaps their biggest hit and certainly has one of the most frequently ripped-off bass lines in music history. It's our new state of mind, because these are the

The dudes at Comiskey didn't agree, of course. And so the time was ripe for something new. Thing was, there were a lot of things competing for new at the time. One thing was Europop. It wasn't disco, but you could theoretically dance to it. And a lot of it looks and sounds dated now. But here's one that I remember well from that year. I couldn't decide if I liked this song or not at the time and I guess I'm still not sure. But it's pure 1979. As M reminds us, whether you are in New York London Paris or Munich, everybody talk about

I got back to the States in the middle of July, about a week after the fun at Comiskey. And the song that was exploding all over the radio was from a Michigan band that was being marketed as a sort of new wave Beatles. They weren't anywhere close to that, of course, and they were resented quite a lot in certain quarters for this marketing. In fact, while they had a few singles after this initial splash, they are remembered today for this song only. But it was a lot of fun and it was definitely the single of the summer in '79. Here they are, from a performance on Japanese television. It's the Knack, with:

I remember thinking a lot about music in 1979. Like most teenage boys, I had no use for disco and was glad to see it going away. I was hardly a musical sophisticate at the time. I owned Styx albums. But the experience away from Appleton gave me an idea that there was more out there than the endless rotation of Styx, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Jethro Tull and Bob Seger that was on the local radio stations. I was ready for something new, but I wondered what was coming next. Pop Musik and My Sharona were fun enough, but they weren't what I was looking for. I had heard about the new wave, but didn't know much about it. But some of the cooler kids had a few ideas. One band I learned about late that year was a bunch of refugees from the Rhode Island School of Design. They would become huge in the years to come, but in 1979 they weren't quite there yet. But I heard this song in the fall of 1979 and liked it a lot. What's not to like about a song with a line like: "this ain't no party, this ain't no disco, this ain't no foolin' around?" It's Talking Heads, discussing

But it was at the very end of 1979 that I heard the album that changed everything, at least for me. I'd only heard of the Clash once, in a news report talking about unrest in England. The film showed three guys bouncing around on a stage and that was about all I knew. But the record they released would become an eternal classic. I've owned it in one form or another ever since. And while the breadth of songs and the incredible ambition of the record remain something that I marvel at, it's still the chiming opening chords of the title track that get your attention. It was the Clash, with the title track from:

Place your votes and, if you feel like it, share where you were in 1979. And yes, I realize that a few of my readers were holding rattles at the time.

Shocked, shocked

And you don't need to point out that the guy running McCain's VP search team is a lobbyist, too. Of course he is. Says so right in the linked article. They all are. That's part of the decision we have - do you prefer the slimy lobbyists who favor Republicans, or the slimy lobbyists who favor Democrats?

Why not have another early SNL reference?

So John Kerry went out and defended Jim Johnson's role in coordinating the Obama veepstakes, then Johnson resigned within hours of Kerry's defense.

While praising the leak-free process Johnson ran in 2004, John Kerry found himself downplaying Johnson's importance in the Obama campaign by saying on a Wednesday conference call with reporters that Johnson "hasn't been proposed for a confirmable position."

Poor guy got his horse shot out from underneath him in a hurry, huh?

In the immortal words of Emily Litella, "Never mind."


Barack Obama would have preferred a "gradual adjustment" to the higher gas prices we now see.

Mitch McConnell, not so much.

Y'know, this campaign may turn out to be about ideas after all.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Giants Top Brewers in SAYB Action

Our mighty Brewers lost another one tonight to the Giants at Southpoint Park in North Oaks. The score? Well, let's just say it wasn't optimal. On the good news side, the Brewers did rally strongly in the final innings and Ben was 1-3 and made a very nice play at 3rd base, throwing out a Giant runner on a close play.

The Brew Crew will attempt to dodge raindrops and play the Mariners on Thursday at 6:30 at Perry Park in Arden Hills. Weather permitting, we'll be there!


A quick note regarding an earlier post.

We had a little situation take place where a number of commenters brought up criticisms of Barack Obama. Another poster took offense and mounted a spirited and to my mind fairly persuasive counterargument, especially about rumors floating around about Sen. Obama's wife. Unfortunately, the discussion led to the floating of an old canard about Sen. McCain, which bothered me quite a lot, along with a comparison of some participants here with the Richard Hofstader theory of the "paranoid style" in American politics. That bothered me even more.

So we're clear about it, here's where I stand.

We have free speech at Mr. Dilettante, but my expectation is that commenters here choose their words carefully. I don't want to traffic in rumors and innuendo here and I certainly don't want to see discussions turn into flame wars. I am quite fortunate that the people who visit my blog are almost uniformly smart, gracious people (except for this ne'er do well). Vigorous discussion is welcome; ad hominem arguments, not so much.

Muchas gracias.

Monday, June 09, 2008

St. Sabina and St. Adalbert - IV

(Parts I, II and III of this series are linked)
I had planned to talk about what Fr. Tim could teach the errant pastor St. Sabina in tonight's post, but events in Chicago have blown that idea away. According to the website at St. Sabina, Fr. Michael Pfleger will return as pastor of the parish a week from today. The only restriction that he faces is this:

Cardinal Francis George informed us that on Monday, June 16th, Fr. Pfleger can return to his duties at St. Sabina without any restrictions except the one that was put on him recently about not publicly mentioning any of the candidates’ names and not campaigning for any candidates.

I'm disappointed in this decision, but not for the reasons that many others might be. As hateful as Fr. Pfleger's performance was at the pulpit at Trinity United, his political views aren't especially out of the mainstream of many American priests. It does no good to pretend otherwise. And let's be honest about one other thing - whether Fr. Pfleger must pretend to treat Barack Obama's name as they treat the name of Voldemort in the Harry Potter novels, Fr. Pfleger will still be in a position to assist the Obama campaign. And he will. And Cardinal George won't stop it from happening.

The problem isn't political, though. The problem is spiritual. The hateful comments that Fr. Pfleger offered were symptomatic of what has become of the bold young priest that I saw on my television nearly 20 years ago. This is a man who has lost his way. And when a priest with great charisma loses his way, he can take a lot of people with him.

For a very long time now, Fr. Pfleger has been pursuing his own agenda. He has openly defied Church rules by adopting children. He brought Al Sharpton into St. Sabina's in 2003, while Sharpton was a presidential candidate, which put his church and the entire Chicago archdiocese at risk of losing its tax-exempt status. And Fr. Pfleger said the following about a gun dealer in 2007:

"He's the owner of Chuck's. John Riggio. R-i-g-g-i-o. We're going to find you and snuff you out… you know you're going to hide like a rat. You're going to hide but like a rat we're going to catch you and pull you out."

Those are not the words of a man of God. These are not the words that an apostle of Jesus should speak.

The overarching problem is this: Fr. Pfleger has been in the same place for 25 years. For too long, he has had a sinecure, not a parish. The experiences he has had at St. Sabina have become all that he really understands. He viewed Mrs. Clinton through the prism of his own experiences. This is normal, but his view was distorted, as his remarks proved. He didn't need a time-out; what he needed was a new assignment. And the parishioners of St. Sabina, whether they recognize it or not, desperately need a new pastor.

While parishioners like to have the same pastor, there is a lot of wisdom in moving priests around to different assignments within a diocese. A priest needs to see more of the world than the view from the window of the rectory. Before Fr. Tim Kernan arrived at St. Adalbert, he had served at St. Peter Claver, a parish with very similar demographics to St. Sabina. That experience, coupled with an earlier stint at a suburban parish, gave him a wider perspective and was why he was able to make a difference at St. Adalbert.

The pastor at my current parish, St. John the Baptist, is Fr. Michael Skluzacek. Fr. Skluzacek came to our parish after serving for a number of years at the Cathedral of St. Paul. He has been here for two years now and it's taken time for him to adjust to our parish. The previous pastor at St. John's, Fr. Bill Murtaugh, was much beloved by many at St. John's. Fr. Bill was a garrulous priest who would at times give a homily that should have had a two-drink minimum. He is a gladhander and a bit of a good time Charlie, which caused him difficulties at times. Fr. Bill made things fun, but I always felt that our parish had become a little self-satisfied under his leadership. Fr. Bill has now moved on to an associate role at another suburban megaparish and is on the glide path to retirement. By contrast, Fr. Skluzacek couldn't gladhand if he tried. He is learned, gentle but reserved and is certainly more "by the book" when it comes to doctrine. Fr. Skluzacek may never be beloved, but he is respected and he has gently steered the parish back to a more traditional approach toward matters of faith. As a parish, we have learned from Fr. Skluzacek. And Fr. Skluzacek has learned from us. To my mind, that is part of God's plan.

Because Fr. Pfleger's behavior has been so outrageous, he has generated a lot of anger. A lot of people wanted Fr. Pfleger to be defrocked. Some have even called for him to be excommunicated. Not me. For all his narrowness, for all his outrages, he remains a talented man who could bring people closer to God. While I fear that his imminent return to St. Sabina will foreclose that possibility, I remain convinced that God has a plan for Fr. Michael Pfleger. And I will continue to pray for him.

Next: the previously promised lessons that Fr. Tim could offer to Fr. Pfleger

What will the price of a gallon of gas be on New Year's Day 2009?

Let's have a contest, shall we? I'm taking predictions on what the price of a gallon of regular unleaded will be in the Twin Cities on New Year's Day. I am willing to make a prediction on this, to wit:

I say the price of gas will be what is showing on the sign I've posted. $2.499.
I think that picture is in Chicago, by the way, although I'm not sure of the exact intersection. Maybe Rich will know.

Place your bets in the comments section, folks. The answer that is closest to the actual price on New Year's Day* will get some sort of fabulous prize from me. Unless I win. Which I will.
*Number will be the "local price snapshot" average on at noon CST on 1/1/09.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Giving Inevitability the Acid Test

The juggernaut is a comin' and it's going to crush everything in its path. The giant wagon of righteousness is rolling now and the nasty GOP is going to get its just desserts. As a conservative, I'm supposed to crawl under a rock in this election cycle and accept my fate. The Democratic Party, avatars of all that is good, decent and whole, are going to take over in the fall and bring us out of these evil days. I have heard that message a lot in the past year. It's simply inevitable. Don't question it, don't be skeptical. Just accept what is.

The Democrats must be confident in their inevitability. I mean, really confident. How else can you explain that they will be sending these guys out as their standard-bearers in the fall?

Two questions for the audience:

What does it say about the bench strength of the DFL that a candidate as obviously unqualified and ludicrous as Al Franken gets a first ballot endorsement to run for the Senate?

When you watch Barack Obama fluster and stumble through situations where he has to think on his feet and doesn't have his TelePrompTer, do you feel hope?

Not this year - 31 years running

Big Brown didn't make it today, finishing dead last in the Belmont and becoming the latest horse to lose out on the Triple Crown. I watched the race and it seemed like something was wrong with the big bay colt. Too bad, it would have been fun. Congratulations to trainer Nick Zito, whose horse Da Tara is the latest spoiler.

Brewers Lose Heartbreaker - Stop Us If You've Heard This Before

The heatbreak kids of the American League lost another tough one this afternoon, falling 7-6 to the Phillies at Sitzer Park in Shoreview. The Brewers lead 6-5 heading into the final inning, but a furious rally carried the homestanding Phillies to victory.

Ben continued his hot hitting ways, going 2-3 with a key two-out hit in the 5th inning that plated a run and kept a rally going. It's been exciting to see Ben's improvement at the plate in recent games. Unfortunately, it's still been not quite enough. The Brew Crew returns to action on Tuesday with a 6:30 game at North Oaks against the Giants. As always, count on Mr. Dilettante to keep you abreast of all breaking developments in SAYB action.

Friday, June 06, 2008


The generation that fought for us is fading from the scene quickly these days. Up to 9,000 Allied soldiers were casualties on that first day of battle, a staggering total. Mitch Berg has a wonderful post up at his place with an amazing collection of photographs. And if you missed it on Memorial Day, go over and read the Nightwriter's poem June 6. When two of very best bloggers in Minnesota have the subject covered this well, there's little more for me to add, except to commend their work to your attention.

Marty has moved

Marty Andrade has finally made the move over to his new place. He's always worth reading and I would encourage you to give him a visit when you can. You will not be disappointed.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Guilty Pleasures Part Twenty-Two - Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five

We were in the middle of the decade in 1985 and things were going to change, but not quite in the way I'd imagined. It was an important year for me personally. I graduated from Beloit College in May and spent most of the summer trying to figure out what to do. As it turned out, I ended up staying in Beloit for two more years, joining the staff in the public relations office as sports information director. And although I didn't realize it at the time, the most important event of the year happened at the end, when I met a young sophomore from Minneapolis. She would become pretty important in my life later on. But that's not why you're here.

Musically, 1985 was a bit of a comedown. 1983 had been the year that Michael Jackson's late 1992 release Thriller detonated and became the soundtrack for the decade. 1984 saw the release of two landmark albums, Bruce Springsteen's Born in the U.S.A. and Prince's Purple Rain. Nothing that noteworthy happened in 1985. The number 1 single of the year was the odious "We Are The World," the self-congratulatory, lowest common denominator record from "USA for Africa" that may have offered relief to the famine in Ethiopia, but was one of the worst songs of the decade in my opinion. So we'll dispense with that and look at some other things instead.

Springsteen's Born in the U.S.A. was a huge seller, of course, and it spawned hit singles well beyond its initial release. One of the last singles was a hit in 1985 and it's the song I like best from the album. As I get older, the wisdom and good humor of the song is more evident, as time slips away and leaves you with nothing, mister, but boring stories of:

Back in 1980, Steely Dan tried, with evident futility, to explain why Aretha Franklin mattered to a bored ingenue in "Hey Nineteen." By the time the ingenue turned 24, she found out, as the Queen of Soul made a huge comeback with a great summertime hit. And any time you can get Clarence Clemons into a contest twice, you've got something. Drop the pedal, let's go on the:

Meanwhile in England, Mark Knopfler had been playing his guitar tastefully with Dire Straits, earning a decent living but not exactly superstardom, watching in puzzlement as Duran Duran and other similarly situated Europop bands stormed the charts with the aid of catchy music videos played on MTV - hard as it is to believe, they used to play videos on MTV. Mark wanted some of that. And he got some. With a little assist from Sting, he played the guitar on the MTV and got some:

Finally, 1985 was perhaps the darkest year in NFL history. It was the season that Team Satan, the true Focus of Evil in the Modern World, won the Super Bowl. It was those nasty ursine wretches from Chicago, da Bears. And to top off the perfidy of the season, they actually put out their own bragging music video during the season. But give them this - they backed it up. And in doing so, they created one of the strangest and most retrospectively amusing cultural artifacts of the decade. Here they are, in all their disgusting glory - the punky QB, Samurai Mike, Speedy Willie and the rest of the rogue's gallery doing the:

Polls are open. And know that any votes for the Super Bowl Shuffle will be viewed with great suspicion in these quarters.

St. Sabina and St. Adalbert - III

By 2000, our young family was growing again. Our son Ben had arrived at the end of 1995 and our daughter Maria arrived 15 days into 2000. We hardly imagined that, following that joyous event, we would lose both my mother and Fr. Tim Kernan within a year's time. By the time we brought Maria to St. Adalbert for baptism on April 29, she had already been through a lot. Maria was born with a cleft lip and palate, a fairly common and easily treatable abnormality, and by the time of her baptism she'd already undergone the first of several surgeries to repair her lip. She'd been the beneficiary of a lot of prayers in her young life and outside of Maria's immediate family, I have no doubt that Fr. Tim was the clubhouse leader.

Things were getting better at St. Adalbert by then. The school building had been sold and the new charter school would begin operation the next year. The church had recently completed work on a new parking lot. The previous year, for the first time in over a decade, the parish had not run a five-digit deficit. The Vietnamese parishioners were now well-established and several of the community elders were now on the parish council. The future looked brighter than it had been at any time in the previous decade. At this moment, Fr. Tim's health was beginning to fail. He had suffered a heart attack several years before and had a defibrillator implanted. That had helped for a time, but now he was ill more often than not. He would end up spending significant time in 2000 in the hospital, as his huge, fragile heart began to give way.

On Maria's baptism day, Fr. Tim was strong. It was a beautiful spring afternoon and he was in high spirits. Helping another child join the fold always brought Fr. Tim great joy, probably more than anything else. He gave me the needle that afternoon about making sure to keep enough money in the parish budget to pay for holy water; he knew that I would be back at the parish house two weeks later with my green eyeshade for the annual parish budget meeting.

Those budget meetings were often pretty contentious. Not once did we have an operating budget that was over $100,000. While you can run a household for less than $100,000, running a Catholic parish with an aging physical plant for that kind of money is not an easy proposition, even when the pastor has taken a vow of poverty. The key was to ensure that St. Adalbert did not retreat inward. St. Adalbert needed to be a place of hope in a tough neighborhood. That simply wasn't negotiable. And to the end, Fr. Tim insisted that the church budget included whatever was possible to ameliorate conditions in Frogtown. If repairing the boiler had to wait a year, or if the leaking roof was a problem on the east side of the church, we'd simply have to defer the maintenance. Taking care of the parishioners and the larger community could not wait.

As Fr. Tim's health continued to fade, the monthly finance meetings became sporadic. While the rest of the world was paying attention to hanging chads, we met again in the dining room of the rectory. It would be the last time. Fr. Tim had recently returned from a two month stint away from the parish, mostly spent in the hospital. My mother had died during the summer and I had the sense that I'd be attending another premature funeral all too soon. We took care of business pretty quickly that evening and then he began to talk to us about some of the things he'd learned from his time at St. Adalbert. I wish I'd taken notes, but I do remember much of what he told me that evening, as images of political operatives running around Florida flickered in the background on the muted television. I necessarily have to paraphrase a bit, but here are a few of the things he said:

  • While people sometimes need sympathy, what they really need is dignity. Even if someone has been victimized, few people really enjoy the role of victim. People need something to believe in that is greater than themselves and if a priest forgets that, he cannot be effective.

  • Social justice is paramount, but it is not possible without social cohesion. Frogtown had shown the ability to pull together in tough times and those were the times that things got better. He was concerned that it was getting tougher with each year. He had tried to do outreach with other parishes and churches in the neighborhood and had been successful to an extent. He hoped that it would continue, but he wasn't sure if it would.

  • People can change reality; their own, at least. He had seen it in his own life; kids who were running the streets, people mired in drug abuse and despair, had turned it around. It's difficult but it can be done.

  • You don't have time to wait. Tim Kernan was praying hard to get better, but I think he knew the curtain was coming down. He had more that he wanted to do. He would have to find another way to make an impact in Frogtown.

In January of 2001, Fr. Tim Kernan passed away, at the age of 60. He left the entirety of his modest estate to St. Adalbert. Others would have to carry on his work.

Next: what could Fr. Tim Kernan teach to Fr. Michael Pfleger?