Sunday, November 30, 2008



The act of behaving like a dilettante, of being an amateur or "dabbler", sometimes in the arts. Also the act of enjoying the arts, being a connoisseur. Can be perceived as superficial.

When I chose the name of this blog nearly 3 years ago, that was the first word that popped into my head, so I ran with it. I've never fancied myself an expert on anything, although I know a lot about certain things. But this blog is, and always will be, the work of a amateur and (I hope) a connoisseur. And while there's little doubt that treatments around here can be a bit superficial, it's always been my goal to avoid being superficial.

We're at a point now, with over 1,100 posts on the blog, to make a few changes. As I mentioned last week, I am going to be joining the team over at Truth vs. the Machine, one of the pre-eminent spots for conservative commentary in the Minnesota blogosphere. The team there includes some really smart, perceptive and talented people and I count myself both honored and fortunate to have the chance to play in their sandbox. But in order to participate there, it will mean that I will have to change the way I operate this blog.

Here is what I envision will happen once I am fully onboard at TvM:

  • Mr. Dilettante will be, generally, less political. I'm not going to be able to give my best effort at TvM if my political writing stays here. The one exception to this rule will be political discussions involving local issues, i.e., directly related to issues in the City of New Brighton and House District 50B. That will stay here, because it's not the ground I intend to cover at TvM.
  • Mr. Dilettante will have a larger focus on popular culture concerns. I already write a lot about sports and music here, but I'm equally interested in film and other media. Expect to see more of that in the coming days and weeks.
  • In my preliminary exchanges with Gary Miller, the proprietor and majordomo at TvM, we have talked about having an emphasis on both politics and Catholic issues. Their current lineup tends to be more evangelical, although they aren't entirely a bastion of sola scriptura and the topics that TvM has covered are certainly more catholic (and heterodox) than conservative politics and theology. Among other things, TvM is the current perch for Carnivore, one of the best 2nd Amendment bloggers going. Gary and I have more to discuss about my role there and it would be premature to speculate, but it's reasonable to anticipate that a fair amount of my work at TvM will concern the intersection of Catholicism, especially Catholicism in the American idiom, and the political and social scene. It's a topic of great interest and rich with potential. Having said that, I don't envision my role to be simply that of another conservative voice and/or armchair theologian. Part of what has made TvM such a good blog is that the team has a sense of humor and an understanding of the absurdities of the passing scene. There's plenty of opportunity for fun, too.
  • I will continue to cross-post articles at True North when and where it makes sense, both from TvM and from here. True North is an excellent resource and we owe it to our colleagues like AAA and Chief to keep it going.

I appreciate everyone who has supported this enterprise as it has developed over the past 3 years. Writers all hope to find an audience and the audience that has found this blog is one that I cherish greatly.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

You know what's really cool?

That LIFE magazine has put its entire photo archive on the Web. So much cool stuff to see. Like this shot of Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn backstage at the 1956 Academy Awards.

Let's Get Small

From the things we know that aren't apparently so department: now that the election is over, the myth of the small Obama donor is starting to fade into the mist:

It comes down to which definition of "small donor" you accept:

Someone who donated to the Obama campaign by scraping together $199, period.

Or someone who donated $199 to the Obama campaign several times, perhaps totaling close to the $4,600 legal limit for the primary and general elections. In aggregate, that would vault him/her out of the small donor category that was so useful to the political campaign's public relations campaign portraying the donor base as about two times as broad as it really was.

The reported numbers show that Obama actually received 80% more money from large donors (those giving $1,000 or more total) than from small donors.

The bottom line is pretty simple -- you simply can't get elected without having a lot of people who provide big bucks to your campaign. It would be helpful if people stopped pretending otherwise. McCain had a lot of sugar daddies and mommies, too. No doubt about it.

That's why I still contend that the way to deal with campaign finance is simple -- let people give whatever they want, but they have to give it under their own name and the amount needs to be up on the internet, even if the gift is $1. If some nasty plutocrat of the imaginings of the Left wants to buy Sarah Palin or some other Republican the White House in 2012, so be it. Just as long as we know.

They said you must be joking, where did you get those shoes?

Your tax dollars at work. Well, fortunately not yours unless you're visiting this site from the U.K. From the Daily Mail:

Drunk women who stagger about in high heels are to be protected - at public expense - from twisting their ankles.

They will be handed flip-flops to wear by police outside nightclubs as they wend their way home. The scheme is part of a £30,000 drive by police and councillors to prevent 'alcohol-related harm'.

It has been prompted by fears that women wearing stilettos or similar footwear could tumble over.

Officials also claim that female revellers are at risk of cutting the soles of their feet by walking barefoot.

The flip-flops will be given to anyone whose footwear is 'uncomfortable, inappropriate or soiled' and will be paid for with a Home Office grant.

The scheme is to begin next month in the centre of Torquay, Devon, a popular destination for hen and stag parties. It will be run by Safer Communities Torbay, a partnership between police, Torbay Council and the Local Education Authority.

Police officers will carry bags of coloured flip-flops on their rounds and will hand them to those who look unsteady on their feet.

Publicly-subsidized practical footwear: just the thing for your hen and stag party! I'm thinking this program won't be coming to the Warehouse District, Rush Street or College Avenue any time soon; at least until May or so when the whether is nicer. Handing out Sorels would get pretty expensive.

Apparently prospective officers will need to add an internship at Famous Footwear to their coursework at the Police Academy. To serve, protect and provide a proper fitting. Given our continuing slide into the nanny state this does seem, well, fitting.

(H/T: The Corner)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Fearless Dilettante Football Predictions - Not Much Left Edition

There aren't many games left to pick. High school football around here is concluding, it's done in Wisconsin and the colleges we care about are awaiting their next assignments. But we need to pick at least four games. So let's go for the O.

Oklahoma Sooners 41, Oklahoma State Cowboys 17. The Sooners convinced me by thrashing Texas Tech. Sooners could be headed for the national championship game. That won't stop this week, although the Cowboys are pretty good.
ACTUAL RESULT: SOONERS 61, COWBOYS 41. Oklahoma has now score 60+ points two weeks in a row. Pretty impressive and the reason they've apparently leapfrogged Texas in the BCS standings, even though Texas beat them earlier. By the way, the BCS is full of FAIL, but that's another post.

Oregon Ducks 24, Oregon State Beavers 21. This game matters to the Big Ten and specifically to our Badgers and Gophers. If the Beavers win, they go to the Rose Bowl and chances are Ohio State gets knocked out of the BCS. Unless you want the Gophers in the Motor City Bowl, you'd better be rooting for the Ducks in the game known as the Civil War.
ACTUAL RESULT: DUCKS 65, BEAVERS 38. And thus the Gophers probably go to Orlando for the Champs Sports Bowl, since the Badgers would prefer a trip to Arizona. Neither gets to visit Detroit for the holidays, which they greatly appreciate.

Green Bay Psychos 31, Carolina Panthers 24. Who knows which Packers will show up this week. Better be the team that whipped on the Bears, or this season is pretty much ovah.
ACTUAL RESULT: CAROLINA 35, PACK 31. I've already seen plenty of commentary blaming Aaron Rodgers for what is becoming a lost season. Well, Aaron Rodgers didn't give up 86 points in the last two games. Go 0-4 against the NFC South? Stay home for the playoffs. It's really that simple.

Munsters of the Midway 31, Purple Helmeted Love Warriors 17. The Vikings can't stand prosperity this year. Our friend Brad Carlson is calling for a new quarterback for the Purple next year. Too bad it can't be this week. I just have a feeling that this one won't go the Purple's way.
ACTUAL RESULT: VIKINGS 34, DA BEARZ 14. The Bears share one thing in common with the Packers -- they are running out of guys because of injuries. The Vikings are healthy and playing better now. Give them credit. Purple fans have to hope that Roger Goodell stays his hand in re the Williamses. If the suspension comes down this week, suddenly the Vikings are low on guys.

Fried Chicken and French Silk Pie - A Dilettante Family Thanksgiving

This is long overdue -- a guest post from Mrs. D! Enjoy.

For the last couple of Thanksgivings, the four of us have spent the day together. At first it seemed too quiet and a bit strange to prepare and eat a Thanksgiving dinner with only four people at our table while other relatives spent the holiday gathered at their own homes having their own dinner. I started to not look forward to Thanksgiving.

However, now that we have a couple of small Thanksgiving celebrations under our belt, I have come to enjoy the holiday again. A huge benefit to having only the four of us at the table is that we can have a "Burger King" meal. Like the old commercial said, "Have it your way, have it your way at Burger King." We all have input with the menu. This year, I purchased the basic items (turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie) early in November. Last week, the kids informed me that they do not really like pumpkin pie. So, when they went to the grocery store with me on Tuesday for the weekly regular run, we just "happened" to come home with French silk pie. In addition, Maria asked me if we could have fried chicken. Not to replace the turkey, just to go with the turkey. As we passed the deli counter, Maria saw the fried chicken and lobbied again for me to buy some since it was already made it would be quick and easy and a great addition to the Thanksgiving meal. Sorry Maria, one meat main dish is a tradition that I am still sticking with year to year.

So, I hope that all of you had the kind of day we had yesterday. A day to sleep late, time to enjoy a big breakfast, a quiet afternoon playing a favorite board game, a good dinner composed of food everyone enjoyed and a classic movie to round out the night all added up to a wonderful Thanksgiving day.

Blessings to all,

Mrs. D.

No Bargain

The New York Daily News reports that a man was trampled to death in the doorway of a Long Island Wal-Mart this morning:

Witnesses said the surging throngs of shoppers knocked the man down. He fell and was stepped on. As he gasped for air, shoppers ran over and around him.

"He was bum-rushed by 200 people," said Jimmy Overby, 43, a co-worker. "They took the doors off the hinges. He was trampled and killed in front of me. They took me down too...I literally had to fight people off my back."

Maybe the people who did this will be able to watch the news reports about it later on their new $599 LCD television sets. And did this horrific event cause anyone a second thought?

Before police shut down the store, eager shoppers streamed past emergency crews as they worked furiously to save the store clerk's life.

"They were working on him, but you could see he was dead, said Halcyon Alexander, 29. "People were still coming through."

Only a few stopped.

"They're savages," said shopper Kimberly Cribbs, 27. "It's sad. It's terrible."

Hard to argue that.

Nothing to Do But Feed All the Kangaroos

Have you been out shopping yet? Well, why not? America is depending on you! In honor of this guy, I bring you a little Black Friday doggerel:

Black Friday

We must fight impending doom

Heed the mandate - go consume!

Join the buying polyglot

In the Rosedale parking lot

Time to fight financial stress

Get out and buy that GPS

Hank Paulson's fought the stormy seas

Of manufactured urgency

The Big 3 come with cups in hand

As mendicants to Waxmanland

Detroit's adrift, or so it seems

With pension plans as Ponzi schemes

The bills are steep, the air is rank

With wealth transfers to Citibank

You try to run, nowhere to go

With your drained portfolio

Do you dance? Or do you cry?

With brokers falling from the sky?

The sun gleams through my windowpane

It always does despite the rain

Of finances sour and dispatches bleak

And tragedies that fill the week

How do you face it? Are you pissed?

I'd rather be an optimist

I'll be here all week. Try the veal.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

(Photo from Orlando Sentinel)

Count your blessings -- chances are pretty good you don't root for the Detroit Lions. And if you need any further reason to be grateful on that score, check out the invaluable Curse of Bobby Layne website. A splendid compilation of 50 years of futility and probably one of the better concentrations of schadenfreude you'll find on the Web.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Guilty Pleasures Part Thirty-Four -- Thanksgiving 1983

You know what I'm thankful for? That we're already 25 years past 1983. Was it really a quarter century ago? It's hard to believe that we're that far away now. It's amazing when I look at the Top 100 chart for the year and I remember every single song. 1983 was a year of great transition in our family. I was in the middle of my college years and we ended up moving to a new home on edge of town. In order to make things work, my dad had to go through a series of very complicated financial transactions and for a few painful months was paying mortgages on 3 houses. I can't even imagine the stress that must have caused, especially because interest rates were just awful -- a typical 30-year loan carried a 13.4% interest rate. That financial strain changed my life, because it meant that the semester I'd planned for the following winter, which was supposed to be in Spain, ended up being back at Beloit. Goodbye Spanish major and hello, English major. As a consolation prize, I ended up running the school newspaper instead.

In those days a lot of my interest was in drinking beer and listening to music. And it was a good year for both drinking beer and for music, despite such dubious milestones as Frank Stallone's "Far From Over" and the collected works of Laura Branigan. But there were some songs that are easy to forget that would push your fun button. And the videos were always a hoot, in the classic 1980s incoherent way. Remember any of these?

Dead Giveaway, featuring Jody Watley getting all robotic

Der Kommissar, with icy Eurobabes and unexplained tarantulas

Twilight Zone, with gratuitous chorus girls dressed in dominatrix outfits

Our House, with moms in drag and great Wallace and Gromit-style wallpaper

Come On Eileen, with fashions by Oshkosh B'Gosh

Just a festival of odd random stimulation! When you try to sort all that stuff out now, it makes it easy to understand why beer was so necessary back in the day.

So, you know the drill -- pick your favorite (if you have one) and/or tell me what was going on for you back in 1983.

The rest of us are playing for second place

Why? Because Iowahawk owns the blogosphere.

Change You Can Believe In

I am pleased to announce that I will be joining the team at Truth vs. The Machine in the coming days. This is an exciting opportunity to work at one of the most prestigious addresses in the Minnesota blogosphere, with a very high-level group of bloggers. We're still working on the details but I'll have more to tell you soon.

In case you are wondering: this feature will continue, but it may undergo a bit of "repurposing" as a result of my move to TvM. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Uneasy Lies the Crown

If you've followed this feature for any length of time, you've likely noticed that I post regular, somewhat tongue-in-cheek updates on my son's (and my daughter's) various teams. If you've read these breathless dispatches, you've also noticed that, in the main, my son has played on teams that haven't been especially, ahem, successful. But right now things are very different. And it's making me a little queasy.

Big Blue, my son's in-house Irondale basketball team, is off to a 3-0 start in the 7-8 in-house league. All three games have been routs, including the last one, a 72-29 thrashing of another Irondale team. As has been the case with most of these teams, I've been serving as an assistant coach, mostly because my voice carries pretty well. While my son really has enjoyed the experience of playing with a group of very talented kids, especially at an in-house level, winning by 43 points is problematic. It's no fun for the kids on the other team. I know, because 2 years ago Ben was on a basketball team that lost a game 70-6.

As it happens, a couple of the kids on Ben's team this year were on the team that did the thrashing 2 years ago. Both of these kids are fine young men and are good sportsmen -- they do not play unfairly, but they and their teammates have significantly more talent than some of the kids on other teams. And as a result, they are dominating. We've seen some of the other teams that our lads will face later on and there's no reason to believe that these teams will fare much better than the teams we've played thus far against our talented squad. It's good for Ben, because he'll have a lot of fun playing on a winning team. The key is to keep games from turning into this (initial part of this link not safe for work). That is my job this year, because it's no fun to get your butt kicked when you're a 13-year old kid. Teaching basketball is only part of the process. Teaching good sportsmanship is much more important.

Two Men Say They’re Jesus, One of Them Must Be Wrong

Obama promotes fiscal restraint, big spending

No wonder he won the election. That takes talent.

Does anyone at the AP even bother to read the headlines anymore?

Monday, November 24, 2008

WPA Blues

So it sounds like we're going to be piddling around again. Barack Obama has proposed a jobs program to repair infrastructure that could employ up to 2.5 million Americans by 2011. It's the WPA all over again.

The WPA and similar New Deal programs were everywhere and you still see evidence of the work that was done today. Walk down the steps at Minnehaha Falls and you'll still see evidence of the work that the WPA did there. The picture I've posted is of the Outagamie County Courthouse back home in Appleton, an FDR-era structure that is one of the finest examples of Stalinist architecture that you'll ever see, with the extra special irony of a larger-than-life sized bust of Senator Joseph McCarthy inside the building.
And that is only one of the many ironies of the WPA and similar New Deal-era programs. The problem with them was pretty simple - they didn't really work because they unsurprisingly misallocated the time and talents of the participants. And by tying up so many workers for so long, they simply prolonged the Depression. WPA had its hands in just about everything -- including the "Voodoo Macbeth" that a very young Orson Welles staged as part of the Federal Theater Project.
The people who participated in the WPA tended to be ambivalent about it. Besides the efforts of Welles and others involved in the various arts programs that the WPA sponsored, the organization itself brought on some interesting art of its own, including the WPA Blues written by Casey Bill Weldon, in which the protagonist worries that in the name of progress, that the WPA is going to tear down his domicile:
Everybody's working in this town and it's worrying me night and day
Everybody's working in this town and it's worrying me night and day
If that mean working too, have to work for the WPA

Well well the landlord come this morning and he knocked on my door
He asked me if I was going to pay my rent no more
He said you have to move if you can't pay
And then he turned and he walked slowly away

So I have to try find me some other place to stay
That housewrecking crew's coming from the WPA
We're going to learn a lot more about what the president-elect has planned in the coming weeks. I don't think it's necessary to man the ramparts -- it's possible that my friend Rich's theory is correct and that Obama is more of a centrist than he might have appeared to be. But that's the problem with a guy who is still tabula rasa for most people. And we don't know if the housewrecking crew's coming from the WPA.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Iowahawk Is A Genius, Volume XXXIV (or thereabouts)

Remember how Congress sent the mendicants from Detroit back on their corporate jets last week because they didn't come with a plan? Iowahawk has figured it out. Just read it.

Happy motoring!

Stasis You Can Believe In

Victor Davis Hanson asks a good question:

So a mere two weeks after victory, 'hope and change' and 'a break from the past' reified into parceling out posts to dozens of Clintonite retreads, plenty of the old requisite Ivy-League law degrees, ample influence from establishment ex-lobbyists, de rigueur Sidwell Friends for the kids, and apparent sudden existential angst and uncertainty over FISA, getting out pronto from Iraq, closing down the Constitution-shredding Gitmo, and overturning the McCarthyite Patriot Act—and all to acclaim and relief from aristocratic Beltway pundits of both parties? So that was all the election was about? Just new faces on the same old, same old?

Here's one more question: if it tuns out that President Obama pursues many of the same policies that George W. Bush pursued, but receives acclaim instead of denunciations, what does that say about those bien pensants who have been doing the denouncing over the past 8 years?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Big Blue Wins Again

Three in a row for Big Blue, as the Irondale 3 team cruises to a 72-29 victory over Irondale 6 (the Orange team) at Island Lake Elementary School in Shoreview. The game followed a familiar pattern with the Blues jumping to a big early lead and cruising from there. Ben had a good overall game, scoring 4 points including a buzzer beater at the end of the 6th period (we play eight 5-minute periods in this league).

The team takes a break next week for Thanksgiving then resumes play on Saturday, December 6 against the mysterious Mounds View 73 squad (sounds like a Grateful Dead album, eh?) Game time is 1 p.m., again at Island Lake. Remember, Mr. Dilettante is the place to go for exciting coverage of Irondale 7-8 in-house youth basketball.

Hecker's Veto

If you live in the Twin Cities and your domicile isn't under a rock, it's almost certain that you've heard the name of Denny Hecker. Hecker built a hydra-headed empire that sprung out of his small armada of car dealerships. In recent years he also acquired Advantage Rent-A-Car and for a time even got into the home mortgage business. He was a friendly looking, ruddy-faced guy and you'd see his mug on at least one commercial just about every day if you watched even an hour of television, it seemed. His earworm jingle and slogan "Good people helping good people" is pure Twin Cities.

It all seems to be spinning out of control now. I'd heard rumblings that he was in trouble and there were reports that he was fighting it out with various suppliers and had filed a federal lawsuit against Chrysler Financial Services, which had allegedly cut off financing that Hecker had needed to finance his operations.

But now we learn that Hecker has had to close six of his dealerships and has sold 3 others. Some of the dealerships in question are pretty big ones:

In a news release late Friday, Hecker said the shutdown of the Blaine Bargain Lot, Forest Lake Chrysler Jeep Dodge Mitsubishi, Monticello Dodge Ford and Mercury Suzuki Kia, Rosedale Hyundai, Shakopee Chrysler Jeep Dodge and Stillwater Ford Lincoln Mercury has resulted in layoffs for about 400 employees, about a third of Hecker's workforce.

In addition, Hecker's Inver Grove Heights Hyundai, Inver Grove Heights Volkswagen and Peninsula Dodge in Redwood City, Calif., were sold.

It's difficult to tell if these moves will stop the bleeding, but it's yet another sign of the overall weakness we're seeing in the economy. People are afraid to make big purchases now. Mrs. D reminded me of that with an observation she made this morning. She noted that on our street, no one has bought a new car, or even a used car, in the past year. We live on a short street and there are 24 houses on it from beginning to end. You know everyone's vehicle on a street like that and nothing has changed here. Until people are willing to spend money again, the changes won't be happening on short residential streets, but the changes will continue on the main thoroughfares where car dealerships are located. And eventually, different changes may come to our short residential street.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Speaking of State Championship Teams

Behold the 1963 Xavier High team, state champions. The young man who is second from the front on the left side did fairly well for himself later on in life. This year is the 50th anniversary of XHS basketball and for the most part it's been a highly successful run. We'll probably have a few more vintage posts of this sort over the course of the next few months.

Kimberly 28, Verona 14

Congratulations to the alma mater of Stinger, Coco and Marge. And my dad, too. 28-0 over the past two seasons and two Wisconsin state titles in Division 2. Not bad at all.

The Recount Continues

I'm really trying not to watch the Coleman v. Franken recount play out, because it's enough to make you crazy. But if you want the raw numbers, go here. And if you want to know what's happening, let the redoubtable Gary Gross be your guide. Gary has been all over this story and he'll follow it through with his usual combination of tenacity and good sense.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

November 21, 1995

I remember it being a cold but sunny Tuesday morning. As it turned out, two things happened that day that are historic. First, the Dow Jones industrial average climbed over the 5000 mark for the first time. At Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the Dayton Peace Accords were initialed, marking the end of the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. And at 1:52 p.m. CST, in a room at United Hospital in St. Paul, our first child was born.

We'd had a bit of a scare a month earlier and Mrs. D had spent about a week in the hospital with pre-term labor. She'd returned home and had been on bed rest. When we woke up that morning, it was clear that something was up. We called the hospital and they told us to come down. We worked our way down from our townhome in Shoreview, stopping once so I could get my cup of morning coffee. Momentous events require coffee.

Once we got to the hospital, we went to our room and Mrs. D went through the experience. Things were progressing along slowly but it seemed possible that this would be the day. The nurses and doctors came and went, none seemingly too worried about things. It was possible that it might be days before the baby would arrive, we were told, or the baby might come today. It seemed like a long morning. We'd been through the Lamaze classes and we were clued into what we might expect. We'd brought music to listen to and Mrs. D's favorite teddy bear, which she'd received as a gift in college. Whatever it took.

As the morning dragged toward noon, she turned to me and said, "look, I don't think anything is going to happen any time soon. Why don't you go and get some lunch. Take your time." Knowing that she was in good hands, I left the hospital and walked down to a Subway shop on West 7th. I got myself a turkey sub and a Pioneer Press and had a good long hour of decompressing. Although we were both excited about the possibilities of the day, it was good to get away and think about things other than the life-changing event that might happen. I strolled back to the hospital, got on the elevator and headed for the maternity ward.

When I got back, it was obvious that Mrs. D had had an eventful hour in my absence. She was rocking uncomfortably back and forth in the bed and she looked at me and said, "you can't leave now." There was a nurse nearby and we were told that the obstetrician would be arriving shortly. "It looks like the baby is going to come today," I was told. The next hour was a blur. I remember trying to hold Mrs. D's hand, and hold the teddy bear to give her a focal point. I remember trying to fish through our bag to change the tape (yep, we still had cassettes). I put on some Miles Davis - Kind of Blue, a favorite and something that would be comforting enough. As the bottom of the hour passed and we headed toward 2, it became pretty clear that this was the time. A close family friend had arrived to offer support and was pretty much horrified to realize that she had walked in at the moment of truth. She quickly beat a hasty retreat the waiting room. I will never forget the look on the friend's face.

Meanwhile, the moment had arrived. Childbirth is simultaneously amazing, frightening and a little bit bizarre. As the song "All Blues" wailed softly in the background, I saw the baby emerge. It was our son. As the nurses quickly took him to the side table to give him his first exam, the Apgar score, he let out a healthy wail. Mrs. D looked at me. I looked at her. It was the beginning.

My son is a 7th grader and is straddling the childhood he is leaving and the exciting world of adulthood that is beckoning. He's turned into a bright, energetic kid with a quick wit and a great enthusiasm for learning more about the world he entered that cold, clear Tuesday. He's been a source of great joy.
At times, it's obvious that 13 years have passed. But it still seems like we just brought him home from the hospital.

Fearless Dilettante Football Predictions - Manos de Piedra Edition

If you're as old as I am (and if you are, enjoy that Early Bird Special!) you probably remember the great boxer Roberto Duran. He was a fearsome figure in the ring and he was said to have manos de piedra, which translates to "hands of stone" in English. That's a good physical characteristic for a welterweight boxer, but not so much for an NFL receiver. We'll get to that in a moment. First, let's talk about some other games. And a tip of the sombrero to this guy for suggesting the title of today's picks.

Kimberly Papermakers 41, Verona Wildcats 10. Tomorrow's game decides the WIAA Division 2 championship and, at least theoretically, this should be a tough game for the Papermakers. But the last four games should have been, too, and the red-clad scourges from just north of Darboy have been leaving a path of destruction in their wake. No reason to assume it's going to end tomorrow.
ACTUAL RESULT: KIMBERLY 28, VERONA 14. Congratulations to the Papermakers!

Wisconsin Badgers 31, Cal Poly Mustangs 14. This one probably looked like a walkover when it was scheduled, but the Div I-AA Mustangs come into the contest 8-1 and have the look of a team that merits respect. If the Badgers lose this one, they could be looking at a very bad bowl game, so they need to take care of business. The guess here is that they will but that it won't be easy.
ACTUAL RESULT: BAD-GERS 36, POLY 35 (OT). Polly wanna cracker? Poly needs a kicker. My goodness, what an embarrassing performance. But it could be worse. Read on.

Minnesota Golden Gophers 24, Iowa Hawkeyes 20. Iowa has really turned it around after a poor start to the season and the Gophers are probably still sucking wind after their tough loss in Madison last week. By all accounts, this is a game the Hawkeyes should win. That's why I'm picking the Gophers.
ACTUAL RESULT: IOWAY 55, LAKELAND DENTAL ACADEMY 0. I'm not sure who should be more embarrassed - the Gophers for offering the worst performance they've ever offered in a Big Ten game, or me for actually thinking the Gophers would beat Iowa. Feh.

Green Bay Packers 34, New Orleans Saints 27. As much as I love my Packers, they've been a little, shall we say, schizo this year. They really had it going on against the hated Bears last week, which augurs a bit of a letdown against an erratic but dangerous Saints team. Drew Brees is very good but the Saints don't play much defense. The guess here is that the Packers play a little bit more.
ACTUAL RESULT: SAINTS 51, PACKERS 29. What do you call a team that wins 37-3 one week and loses 51-29 the next? 5-6 sounds about right.

Jacksonville Jags 24, Purple Helmeted Love Warriors 21. Remember Troy Williamson? He was the speedy wide receiver the Vikings drafted a few years back with the hand-eye coordination of the Venus de Milo. He's been shunted off to Jacksonville this year where he has accomplished, well, nothing. For some reason, he's blaming Brad Childress for his inability to play the position at an NFL level and has apparently challenged the Chiller to a fistfight at the 50-yard line. This may be one of the more hilarious developments surrounding the utterly humorless Purple in some time. Do you suppose that if Troy Williamson can't catch a pass, he would have the ability to catch Chilly's jaw with a right cross? I'm thinking Troy Williamson will punch more like these guys than Roberto Duran. I think it likely that the Jags will say "no mas" to this sideshow pretty quickly. As for the game, the Vikings don't do well on the road, or in Florida. Hard to see either trend changing this week.
ACTUAL RESULT: VIKINGS 30, JAGWIRES 12. Jagwire, as in haywire. The Vikings are offered repeated gifts and have the wit to accept them. Give the Purple the nod.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Doing the Right Thing

If you follow golf, you may have heard of J. P. Hayes, a PGA tour veteran and 2-time winner on the tour. As it happens, J. P. went to Xavier High School and was a classmate and friend of my brother Pat. He had a tough hop at Q-School, but his misfortune is a tale of honor. Stinger has the skinny -- go read it because it's a good story. Anyone who is an alumnus of XHS should be proud of this guy.

Party Like It's 1999

Looks like all those forlorn Democratic operatives are starting to wipe the dust from their eyes and are now emerging from their covens along the Potomac. So far the prospective Obama administration has more retreads than Bandag. Tom Daschle! Eric Holder! Hillary Clinton! Rahm Emanuel! Hey, we're getting the band back together!

In some respects, none of this is especially surprising. One of the main bones of contention surrounding the President-elect's campaign was his lack of experience, so it would be churlish to deny him the opportunity to avail himself of some experienced Washington hands. Every president needs people around him who know what's going on, because there's simply too much information for one person to process. And while the old Clinton hands aren't the people I want running the government, there are worse people that Obama could have chosen. It's not as if he's named Ramsey Clark as attorney general, or William Ayers as secretary of education. So far, at least.

I am amused at how retrograde "change" turns out to be, though.

Morning Reading Part II

Two things worth noting:

This new website, How Obama Got Elected, is interesting. Some people are arguing that this proves that people are stupid or somesuch. I don't believe that. I do believe that people can only make informed decisions if they are informed, though.

Also, since there's never a bad time for a fisking of Nick Coleman, let's go to the experts over at KAR. As always the language is saltier than a drum of anchovies so as they say, content warning.

And Norm Coleman won the election again yesterday. His effort to win it again begins today. And if he wins this recount, look for Al Franken to keep finding someone to count things to his liking.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Two Requests

Two questions for the vast North American Mr. Dilettante audience.

  • What portside blogs do you read? Are there any that you recommend? I have historically had a few that I admired, but frankly they've all gone a little nutty in the most recent election cycle. In the interest of making my blogroll a little more heterodox, I'd like to add at least one or two. What say you?
  • Also, does anyone here have mad Photoshop skillz? I have a simple project that I need help with but I don't have the program or the talent to do it. Click on my profile and send me an e-mail. What I have in mind won't take long and you'll get great extravagant credit from me for sharing said skillz. Danke schoen!

Monday, November 17, 2008

I Didn't Even Know Poetry Was Sick

Looks like we have a new blog to watch for. It's called Where Poetry Goes to Die. The author is one W. B. Picklesworth. And his output appears to be worth at least a pickle. Perhaps two.

Developing. . . .

Cuban Slide

First we had Tom Petters. Now, Mark Cuban?

The Securities and Exchange Commission has charged that the flamboyant internet entrepreneur and owner of the Dallas Mavericks engaged in insider trading. The allegation stems from a 2004 transaction involving shares in, a search engine company. The complaint alleges that he received word that an offering of stock in was in the works and he sold his interest in it, saving about $750,000.

This guy is a billionaire. He's also an odd duck. But you have to wonder -- why the heck would he do something like this, given the vast wealth he's accumulated in other ventures? It's been said that there's a bit of larceny in every human heart, but to put himself at risk seems pretty bizarre. Then again, the guy wants to buy the Cubs, so maybe he's got something wrong in the ol' cabeza.


The pirates are about again, me buckos. But it's not funny. Not funny at all.

Somali pirates have commandeered a Saudi oil tanker off the coast of Africa. That these pirates have taken over the Sirius Star is a serious problem. The tanker has 2 million barrels of crude oil on it. The value of the oil is about $100 million or so, but the problem isn't necessarily the monetary value of the booty. It's the fact that these pirates could unleash an environmental catastrophe on the African coast that would dwarf the damage done by the Exxon Valdez. There's about 20 times the amount of oil on the Sirius Star as their was on the Valdez. It would be very easy to imagine these guys running arground somewhere, or scuttling the ship if their demands are not met.

The continuing problem is that Somalia is essentially a lawless state and there's no one who seems willing to undertake the effort to control these guys. The report I've linked from the Times of London indicates that the pirates have greatly expanded their range and are now operating well into the Indian Ocean. The attack took place some 450 nautical miles southeast of the Kenyan coast, which is a long ways from Somalia.

There are a lot of problems in the world and we certainly don't have the means to solve them all. An incident like this is a pretty good reminder that no matter the results of this election, we don't have the option of turning inward too much. To do so would be, well, inconceivable.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Grassy Knoll Nick

So the NTSB came out with its report on the 35W bridge and the report said the same thing that the preliminary reporting said. The bridge had a faulty design and was ultimately doomed. The construction equipment on the bridge simply delivered the mortal blow. Nowhere was it suggested that the Pawlenty administration, or MnDOT commissioner Carol Molnau, had any responsibility.

Star Tribune columnist Nick Coleman has written incessantly about the bridge collapse and his columns have consistently suggested that somehow Pawlenty and Molnau were to blame. Now that the official report has come out and utterly undercut Coleman's long-held thesis, one might think that the reasonable response would be to either (a) apologize for being wrong or (b) simply slink away and go back to bashing Archbishop Nienstedt or something else on his usual to-do list.

But if you thought that, you'd be thinking that Nick Coleman was capable of a reasonable response. And he's long since disabused us of that notion.

Consider this reasoned, measured response:

"Premature?" How about unveiling plans for a new bridge while victims were in the river? How about hiring a firm supposed to investigate independently that ended up partnering with the NTSB and fingering the gussets (before the wreckage was examined)? Premature? A week after the collapse, Pawlenty declared it "unrelated" to any shortcomings in inspection or maintenance.

Fast work, T-Paw.

This is grassy knoll stuff. Has it occurred to Coleman that maybe the reason an independent firm and NTSB came to the same conclusion was that it was the correct conclusion? And surely Coleman knows that, by now, the wreckage has been examined. And even after the examination, the gusset plates are still the culprit? I suppose it's possible that maybe Clay Shaw and Santo Trafficante conspired with Karl Rolvaag to plant the gusset plates, with the help of the Bavarian Illuminati, who count among their members the suspiciously named Frau Carol Molnau. It's a theory that makes as much sense as anything that Nick Coleman is proffering at the moment.

Nick can believe that the government doesn't spend enough money if he wants. That's a defensible opinion. Blaming Tim Pawlenty and Carol Molnau for the bridge collapse is no longer defensible. Then again, I'm not sure too many people would be able to defend Nick Coleman's continuing employment at a major metropolitan newspaper, either.

Cross-posted at True North

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Big Blue -- Irondale Team 3 Update

Ben wasn't a part of it because he was camping, but his teammates seemed to do just fine in his absence, cruising to a 50-21 victory over Roseville Team 6 at Brimhall Elementary in Roseville this afternoon. Big Blue got off to a fast start, leaping to a 14-0 early advantage and then cruising from there. The Roseville team was game but undermanned against Big Blue's superior size and athleticism.

That brings the team's record to 2-0. Ben will rejoing his squad next week for a grudge match against Irondale 6 next Saturday at 3 p.m. at Island Lake School in Shoreview. It should be a good one. As always, look to Mr. Dilettante for continuing coverage of north suburban 7-8 in-house basketball.

Got Bored, So. . . .

I changed up the fonts and the color scheme a bit. Better? Worse? Meh? Lemme know.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Dim Sum Room

Sometimes nostalgia is overrated. It's been a long time since I spent a lot of time out clubbing on a Friday night and, to be honest, I don't miss it very much. It's very much a young person's game.

For the most part, I remember avoiding dance clubs. Things were especially dismal at my alma mater, Beloit College. There you typically had a choice between the campus pub, an iniquitous dive misleadingly named the Coughy Haus, where the air was chokingly thick with smoke and the music veered wildly between extended Grateful Dead jams and stuff like Flipper, depending on which bartender was on duty. You could theoretically dance there, but those that tried typically had their feet stick to the floor. And it's awfully hard to dance to Flipper.

There was another reason it was easy to avoid dance clubs. Frankly, there weren't any. The other bar that Beloit students typically went to was Goody's, a classic Wisconsin tavern that had a great jukebox filled with solid gold hits from the 1960s, cheap beer and slightly oddball versions of bar activities, including a vintage shuffleboard table and a bumper pool table. We liked Hemingway in those days and we considered it a clean, well-lighted place. But it wasn't exactly a festival of 80s zeitgeist. So the young coeds who wanted to dance were mostly stymied. Except for one semester, when we had the Dim Sum Room.

You couldn't make this place up. The local Elks lodge had a large upstairs space that for some reason they had decided to turn into a Chinese dim sum place, complete with rolling tea carts and the whole shebang. It was a short-lived experiment, since no one in Beloit had any idea what dim sum was. To make a go of it, these entrepreneurial Elks also decided to flex their liquor license and open up the place on the weekends. They hired a Beloit student to spin records. And so, for the winter of 1983, the coeds had a place to dance.

It was a strange place indeed, festooned with strings of hanging beads but otherwise with the ambience of an airplane hangar. But when the music would play and the coeds would dance, it had a certain twisted magic. And on Friday nights, I can still recall the mix of anticipation and dread upon entering this spare but kitschy kingdom. Some of the coeds were girls we wanted to know a little better, so we ended up hanging out, dimly, in the Dim Sum room.

As dance music goes, it wasn't bad. The student deejay was a New Yorker and had a pretty good record collection. He could keep it going most of the evening and a typical night might have sounded like this:

That's the way I remember it. It was better with beer, though.

Teaching Maria to Play Cribbage

My son is off camping up at Stearns (fortunately in a shelter) so today seemed like a good night to start teaching my daughter Maria how to play cribbage. I learned to play cribbage when I was a youngster and I've always loved playing it. Besides being a fun game to play, it's an excellent game for teaching math skills and at 8 1/2 years of age, Maria is at the perfect age to learn.

So we sprawled out on the living room floor and I started teaching her the rules. Eventually Mrs. D came over and started helping Maria a little bit. As the hands continued and the pegs moved around the board, you could see the light come on, little by little. And by the end of the game, Maria had won, finishing off with a nice 16-point hand. She was delighted. And so was I. Besides, I'm used to losing to my kids in cribbage.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Let's See a Movie

They really don't make movie trailers the way they used to. Here are a few movie trailers that really make you want to see the movie.

North by Northwest


The Day of the Jackal

The Manchurian Candidate


The NTSB Speaks

As expected, the NTSB will issue its final report tomorrow. And as has been expected, it turns out the bridge was doomed from the beginning. So here's my suggestion to all those people who tried to make political hay over this tragedy. Let the report come out, read it carefully and make sure you understand the recommendations. And put your knives away.

Fearless Dilettante Football Predictions - What a Bear Does in the Woods Edition

The game schedule is diminishing further. But we'll pick what we've got:

Kimberly Papermakers 41, Marshfield Tigers 14. It's the state semifinals in Wisconsin, so in theory the opponent should be pretty good. I even imagine that the Marshfield Tigers are pretty good. But Kimberly is applying a terrifying smackdown on everyone its path. That doesn't stop this week.
ACTUAL RESULT: KIMBERLY 40, MARSHFIELD 7. I don't think the Papermakers are worried about either Verona or Sussex Hamilton, next week's opponent. Pretty amazing, really.

Wisconsin Badgers 31, Minnesota Golden Gophers 17. All of a sudden this ancient rivalry is getting hot. It's pretty clear that Brett Bielema and Tim Brewster don't like each other very much and there's already been a lot of smack talk this week. The game will get settled on the field and I think the calculus comes down to this: without Eric Decker to stretch the field, the Gophers have offensive issues, even though Adam Weber might be the best quarterback in the Big Ten. Meanwhile, the Badgers now have two excellent running backs in P. J. Hill and John Clay. The Gophers defense has improved, but not enough to win in Madison.
ACTUAL RESULT: WISCONSIN 35, MINNESOTA 32. The axe stays in Madison. Barely.

Green Bay Packers 21, Chicago Bears 16. I'm not really confident about this pick at all, but I get the sense that the Packers are due for a better week. The Bears really dominated the lines of scrimmage the last time these two teams played and there's a chance that could happen again. But I think the Packers will learn from what happened last week. And even if it were the 1985 Bears against the 1976 Packers, I still wouldn't pick the Bears. Just can't do it. Just won't do it.
ACTUAL RESULT: PACKERS 37, DA BEARZ 3. I know this result won't make Bear fan Gino feel any better. But it warms my evil little heart rather a lot. Lotsa Lambeau Leaps in this one, too, which is always a welcome sight. And meanwhile, there's a real logjam at the top of the NFC Norris, because. . . .

Tampa Bay Bucs 24, Purple Helmeted Love Warriors 13. Adrian Peterson is a wonderful back. But the guess here is that the Bucs get up early and the Vikings are forced to rely on Gus Frerotte to win the game. That never seems to go well.
ACTUAL RESULT: TAMPA BAY 19, VIKINGS 13. As I said, when you have to depend on Gus Frerotte to win the game, it doesn't go well.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Gino's On the Mend

And now a word about my friend Gino. As you may know, Gino had surgery about two weeks ago to remove a carotid tumor, a pretty serious deal. The surgery was a tough one and he's had a tough row to hoe in recent weeks, although he's slowly getting his strength back.

Gino is a hell of a guy and his blog, Such is Life, is definitely worth your time, despite the fact that he let me befoul it recently. Even when I disagree with Gino on an issue, he always makes me think twice, especially when I'm indulging in the bad habit of being too clever by half. One of the best parts about blogging is that if you come to it with an open mind, you'll get to know people who help you to understand the world better. Gino has done that for me. He does that for a lot of people, actually, which is why he has a very loyal following.

Rest up, good sir -- better days are ahead!

Give The Dork a Little Love

As a reminder, if you need a break from politics, there's a very worthy destination on my sidebar. Dorky Dad has been issuing forth consistent hilarity for a long time now. Just hit the link and keep scrolling -- I'm certain you'll find several things that will make you laugh out loud. And the most impressive part is this: he never works blue (unless you count occasional references to early childhood bodily functions) and if he has a political view, he consistently keeps it to himself. That's a good trick. And the most amazing part of all -- like me, he is a New Brighton resident. And as we all know, New Brighton is hardly a font of mirth. Click that link.

Stinger and Amanda Discuss Prop 8

I'm really going to try to avoid politics on the blog for a few days, but that doesn't mean that political discussions don't take place elsewhere. My brother the Stinger has a post up at his place concerning Proposition 8, which also references a post from Amanda at Memeopolis. Go read both -- even if you don't agree with them, they both have a take worth considering.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

How's the Whither?

It usually seems to follow the same trajectory for the side that loses the election. First you have the posts with sadness. Then for about a week or so the long knives come out. Now, one week on, it's time for the whither check.

What Do We Do Now? The posts are all over the place. The invaluable Ed Morrissey warns against ODS (Obama Derangement Syndrome) and gets over 700 comments, with over half of them demonstrating a certain level of derangement. Jeff Kouba over at TvM offers a sampling of possible responses from others, including an especially interesting and mordant one from P. J. O'Rourke. Jim Treacher offers some context. Iowahawk takes the long view, reminding us all of the progress we've made:

In his famous speech at the Lincoln Memorial 45 years ago, Dr. King said "I have a dream that one day my children will live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." Let us now take pride that Tuesday we Americans proved that neither thing matters anymore.

Ya know what? I think the best thing to do is this -- don't worry too much about what Obama is going to do, or not do. You can't do much about it right now anyway. The next thing that will matter on the political calendar is the official start of the recount in the Coleman/Franken Texas Cage Death Match. That starts on November 19. Until then, I'd recommend not thinking about politics at all. That's what I'm going to try to do for the next week.

Instead, let's remember that there are better things to think about in life. Like this. And this. And this. And this. And this. And this. And this. Find some of your own this and enjoy.

Hoist on His Own Petard, Volume XXXIV

So Barack Obama blows off campaign finance limits, raises a bajillion dollars in ways that at a minimum skirted the law and the FEC plans to do. . . nothing.

Meanwhile, John McCain dutifully complies with the rules that he did so much to promulgate and his campaign faces a statutory audit that will likely cost millions.

Mr. McCain-Feingold, he dead.

Just Say No to. . .

Jamie Gorelick. While I think we conservatives owe Barack Obama the courtesy of letting him pick his own team (a courtesy that our portside friends didn't always extend to George W. Bush), it's really a good idea to keep this particular person out of any position of power. Why? Well, let the New York Times explain her "baggage."

Carries as baggage: Her work at Fannie Mae, which had to be bailed out by the government in September as part of a $200 billion deal. Ms. Gorelick left the company just as it was coming under attack for huge accounting failures. She has also drawn criticism for her role at the Justice Department, in which she allegedly created an intelligence “wall” that hindered counterterrorism agents in the years before the Sept. 11 attacks. Conservatives called for her removal from the Sept. 11 commission, but her fellow members rallied around her and said critics were distorting her record. The criticism grew so heated that the F.B.I. investigated a death threat against her family, and President Bush had to intervene personally to stop the Justice Department from releasing sealed reports involving her. Some conservative bloggers have already begun trying to derail Ms. Gorelick’s possible nomination as attorney general, pointing to her experiences at both Fannie Mae and the Sept. 11 commission.

Emphasis mine. Count me as one of those bloggers. The "distored" evidence in re Sept. 11 is pretty clear -- she did write the directives that hindered intelligence agencies and the FBI from working together. Where the rubber met the road, that caused a big problem. The FBI had nailed Zacarias Moussaoui prior to 9/11, but that information never made it anywhere. The "wall" was the reason. I understand what Gorelick's concerns were about giving the spooks too much power; indeed, those are concerns that I share. Still, it was absurd that Gorelick was on the 9-11 commission when she should have been testifying in front of it instead. And moreover, her role in the Fannie Mae alone should disqualify her.

Bottom line: there is a veritable constellation of Democratic operatives that Barack Obama can choose from. It would be far better if he steered clear of this one.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Guilty Pleasures Part Thirty-Three -- Recount Edition

I've already vented my spleen about the recount and all the shenanigans that are taking place, so I'll spare you that today. One way to make yourself feel better is to channel your bad feelings into something creative. So let's spin some more records on the theme of the recount.

I've found some real chestnuts in the vast YouTube forest this evening. First up, let's consider the one big hit for the unfortunate Archie Bell and his Drells. Bell's big hit single started to climb the charts while he was stationed in Vietnam. By the time he was able to get back to the States, the moment had passed. But it was a wonderful moment indeed. He could, as he claimed, sing and dance as good as he wants. So let's do the

Round about the same time, Booker T. and the MG's had one of their biggest instrumental hits. The video here is a little dicey but you can see Booker, Steve Cropper, Duck Dunn and original drummer Al Jackson in action, with a few reaction shots from Credence Clearwater Revival, who happened to be on hand. So enjoy it, because

We'll dedicate this next one to various election officials along the Iron Range and here in the metro. A very amusing video featuring gratuitous shoplifting and supermarket pole dancing from the always entertaining Jane's Addiction:

Next, we go back to 1982, for what was I believe Paul McCartney's 6th supposed comeback. Sir Paul has always been at a minimum competent as a solo artist and here we have one of his better efforts, with Ringo on the droom kit.

And finally, a great tune from the Bobby Fuller 4 with some really kick-butt go-go dancing. We love our go-go dancing 'round here, of course.

Pick your favorite or add to the meme!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Memo to T-Paw, Kate Knuth, The One, Etc.

Before you start crafting your Brave New World carbon emissions cap-and-trade scheme, think hard about what you are doing. And read this piece from Canada's National Post. If author Norman Solomon is right, carbon could become a de facto currency. And a very volatile one. If you think the mortgage-backed securities and other Byzantine financial instruments that Wall Street conjured were complicated, just imagine what happens when you try to securitize carbon.

(h/t: Instapundit)

Saturday, November 08, 2008


Catching up on a few loose ends. . . .

  • Sidebar changes: I decided to move some blogs that are moribund to a new section called "Gone But Not Forgotten." The good news is that two of the bloggers in question, Leo Pusateri and esteemed MOB Mayor JRoosh, are still in the game, but now blogging at Freedom Dogs and Shot in the Dark, respectively. I still recommend all these blogs as a resource, because they were really good. But we need to look forward. I've also added six new blogs to my recommended blog list. Two of these bloggers, Cuffy Meigs and Jim Treacher, have well-deserved national followings. I've also added Currency Lad, an Australian blogger that I came across recently who is really a wonderful essayist. And I've added three MOB blogs that I like: Bike Bubba's Bits, Joe Repya's Eagle's Nest and The Far Wright.

  • The election is over, so I've deleted the links to the campaign websites. I sincerely hope that I get to add some of those websites back to my sidebar when the next election cycle begins. That will probably be in about 10-15 days, I'm afraid.
  • I'm considering a few changes to my comments section. I've always allowed anonymous commenters, but I'm not sure that I want to continue that practice. As it happens, my most prominent anonymous commenter isn't anonymous at all because he signs every comment he makes. Still, as this feature continues to mature, I'm feeling a little less comfortable with having anonymous commentary. I haven't decided on anything yet, but that may change. Let me know your thoughts on this.

More soon - thanks to all for your continuing support of this feature.

Basketball Jones -- Irondale Team 3 Action

It kinda snuck up on us with the election and all, but basketball season is again underway for Irondale Youth Basketball. This year Ben is on Team 3, a/k/a Big Blue. And their opening foray was highly successful, as his squad cruised to a 43-22 victory over Irondale 7 (wearing red). Ben scored one basket, had a few rebounds and played lockdown defense against the Irondale 7 point guard. A very satisfying beginning and Ben's team looks like it could be pretty good this time.

Next week Big Blue will take the mysterious Roseville 6 squad at Brimhall Elementary in Roseville. As always, Mr. Dilettante is your source for exciting Irondale Youth Basketball action.

You Don't Say

Already we have disgruntled interest groups worrying about whether or not President-elect Obama will keep his campaign promises:

Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, self-styled head of the al-Qaida front group the Islamic State of Iraq, said in a speech posted on an extremist Web site that it would be better "for you and us" to "withdraw your forces," according to the SITE Intelligence Group that monitors militant Web sites.

Emhpasis mine. Meanwhile, al-Baghdadi released this video concerning the results of a recent battle.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Who They Are, What They Do

I had really, really hoped that it wouldn't be this way. Should have known better. Al Franken and his bobos are working feverishly to steal the election. The miraculous reports keep coming in -- oops, we missed 100 votes in Pine Island, and another 100 in Mountain Iron, and a few more here and there. Pretty soon Al Franken will be leading by a vote or two. And then it will be time to stop counting. This is what happened in Florida in 2000. It didn't work. This is also what happened in Washington state in 2004. It did work then.

Pretty simple, GOP. Pretty simple, Tim Pawlenty. You have to stop this now. Are there mistakes made on election day? Sure. But it would stand to reason that some of the mistakes would redound to the benefit of Coleman, or maybe Dean Barkley. That they all seem to be working to benefit Franken leaves an unmistakable smell. You know exactly who the Secretary of State is and his history. You can't let this stand, folks.

You know what's happening, kids. It's not the people who vote who decide a close election. It's the people who count the votes. If you wonder who I'm paraphrasing, here's a hint. And if you think I'm overreacting, think again.
Raise your voices. Don't let this happen.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Guilty Pleasures Part Thirty-Two: Music Is Life Edition

If you've spent any time around here, you know that music is one of my great passions. I can't imagine how someone can go through life without music. No matter how dire the circumstances, a song, if it hits you just right, can instantly change your mood and make things seem better. So after what's been a very disheartening week on the political scene, let's go back to something better. Let's go back to music.

I let my media player pick five songs for tonight. As it happens, it picked well. There's outright joy, great songwriting and some remarkable talent on display. And I was able to find something representative on YouTube for all five songs.

First up, we have a very young Frank Sinatra, from 1943, as always reaching into the Great American Songbook for one of the greatest of all American songs. This is a song he returned to with different, more swinging arrangements later on; as usual, I prefer the 1950s version that he recorded during his great period at Capitol Records. But this more formal, old-fashioned version has plenty to recommend it. Whether near to me or far, it's no matter, darling, where you are. I think of you. . . .

Next, we head to the end of the 1960s. This group had already nearly 20 years in the business when they hit it big with a song that clings very closely to the zeitgeist of that era. Still one of the best horn charts in the history of rock, too. I can't tell you who to sock it to, because it's the Isley Brothers singing

Next we go further another six years, to 1975. We're in that odd time, at the dawn of the disco era, when the music world had essentially bifurcated and the music lovers were starting to form opposing camps. Still, there were some records that got played everywhere, mostly because they were really good. I'm especially fond of this big hit from one of the best singles acts of the decade, the Spinners. It's one of their sweetest songs, but listen carefully because there's more than a little undercurrent going on, too. Why, mostly because

Then we move forward four more years, to 1979. Disco is at its zenith but about to head for a precipitous fall. A child star who had consistently charted throughout the decade with his brothers now was ready to take the stage by himself and dominate. This was a huge hit back in 1979 and while disco itself hasn't necessarily aged that well, the vocal performance and the dazzling Quincy Jones arrangement still sound fresh and vital nearly 30 years later. My goodness -- has it really been 30 years? It's pre-weird, pre-facelift Michael Jackson with

Finally, we head back about 30-40 years. It's perhaps the greatest all-around American musician of the 20th century, leading his orchestra through its paces with another durable from the Great American Songbook. As Stevie Wonder so memorably described him, it's the king of all, Sir Duke, with:

Now tell me -- how can you listen to such great music and not feel better about life? There's plenty of stupidity and hatred in the world, plenty of people cutting you off in traffic or selling you a line of crap. We have entire industries that spend their days chronicling our worst moments. But we have music. God has blessed us, indeed.

Pick your favorite or, if you'd like, suggest a song that makes you feel better about life, and tell us why.

Fearless Dilettante Football Predictions - We're Running Out of Games Edition

It's the time of year when seasons start to end, so this week's list is shorter than before. But as long as there are games to pick, we're picking 'em. Here goes:

Mounds View Mustangs 21, Rosemount Irish 17. We're down to the final 8 in Minnesota and this game pits our beloved Mustangs against the confusing Irish of Rosemount, a Lake Conference power with the nickname of Notre Dame and the uniforms of Michigan (maize and blue with the winged helmet). Mounds View's colors are the same as Michigan State, which beat Michigan. So we'll go with our heroes.

ACTUAL RESULT: ROSEMOUNT 12, MOUNDS VIEW 0. Good season for the Mustangs, but they lose tonight to a superior opponent.

Kimberly Papermakers 45, Kaukauna Ghosts 14. It's a rivalry game for the right to go to State in Wisconsin. Kimberly has crushed everyone in its path thus far, including Kaukauna earlier in the year. Not gonna change this week.

ACTUAL RESULT: KIMBERLY 55, KAUKAUNA 7. This was the state quarterfinals, mind you. Kaukauna is a very good team, you see. I have to wonder if Kimberly isn't the best team in Wisconsin, period. Marshfield is the next pebble in the path of the Papermaker juggernaut.

Beloit Bucs 31, Grinnell Pioneers 24. Beloit closes out its season against the perennial footwipe of the Midwest Conference. You may not know this, but back in the 1920s Grinnell used to play in the same conference as Nebraska, Missouri and the other schools that eventually formed the Big XII. But they haven't been good in at least 70 years. And my beloved Bucs are improving.

ACTUAL RESULT: BELOIT 34, GRINNELL 12. A nice way to end the season. Last year my beloved Bucs were 1-9 on merit, including a loss to (ahem) Macalester. This year? 5-5. That's real progress.

Wisconsin Badgers 41, Indiana Hoosiers 17. Bucky has had a tough year, but Indiana loses to teams like Central Michigan. Bucky is a lot better than Central Michigan.

ACTUAL RESULT: WISCONSIN 55, INDIANA 20. 441 yards rushing? Now that's a Badger result that I can recognize. Meanwhile, the Gophers await.

Minnesota Golden Gophers 31, Meeshegan Wooolverines 24. Beat 'em while you can, Coach Brewster. Go Blue is down, but they'll be back.

ACTUAL RESULT: MEESHEGAN 29, GAFFERS 6. No little brown jug. I don't suspect the Ax coming back here, either, and probably not the pig. But the Gophers should really enjoy the Motor City Bowl.

Green Bay Packers 27, Purple Helmeted Love Warriors 19. I see the Packers scoring touchdowns and the Vikings kicking field goals. Not the result the locals will want unless they have Ryan Longwell on their fantasy team. My beloved Packers are playing well and getting healthier. That's not what's happening in Minnesota.

ACTUAL RESULT: VIKINGS 28, PACKERS 27. One of the stranger football games I've seen. Not too often do you see two safeties, an interception return for a touchdown and a punt return for a touchdown. Give the Vikings the nod; despite Gus Frerotte's repeated attempts to give the Packers a win, the Purple was the better team today. My guess is that the inevitable four-game losing streak starts whenever the Williamses finally have their appeals run out.

The Saddest Video You'll Ever See

Oh, the humanity!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

One Recrimination and Three Things to Watch

Now that the McCain campaign has lost, the long knives and finger pointing have begun. Ya know something? It's been less than 24 hours and I don't suspect that anyone really gives a rat's ass who is to blame. It doesn't change the result.

I am going to offer only one recrimination, because I think it speaks to the larger problem that Republicans have to overcome. John McCain made one absolutely crucial mistake in this campaign, which was this: he accepted the framing of the debate that the MSM and the Obama campaign offered and spent the entire election arguing on their terms.

A pertinent example of how this played out -- McCain and his handlers let people who didn't support Sarah Palin create the narrative for her portion of the campaign. Why, precisely, were the interviews with Charlie Gibson or Katie Couric so consequential? Because the McCain campaign let them be. We could see what was coming. We had every reason to know that the networks would edit Palin's responses in an unflattering manner. This is standard procedure. But instead of putting Palin out there more frequently, on local channels, or on cable interviews, or with talk radio broadcasters, they accepted the self-appointed role of the the MSM.

Another example -- since Obama didn't want to talk about Jeremiah Wright, and the MSM didn't either, McCain dutfully pulled it from the table. Well, considering the central role that Rev. Wright has played in the President-elect's life, it sure the heck seemed like it shouldn't have been off limits. I can only assume that McCain didn't want to be accused of doing something dishonorable or racist. Well, he faced those accusations anyway. Would this association have made a difference? We'll never know. Meanwhile, a 527 rushed out a Wright ad in the last week of the campaign, and I was treated last night to watching Tom Brokaw and David Axelrod discussing how dishonorable the McCain campaign was for running the ad, even though it hadn't. If you're going to get blamed anyway, there's no good reason to keep your powder dry.

The next Republican candidate will have options. And the option I'd recommend is to go over the heads of the MSM. Take your message directly to the people, whether it's over the internet, through alternative media outlets or on television spots. Your message may not get to the general audience unscathed, but you can reach the audiences who are receptive to your message and make sure they hear it without mediation.

Now, three quick things to watch in the coming days:

  • The fate of Patrick Fitzgerald. I have written about this issue a number of times in the past and it still matters. I don't harbor any dreams that somehow Tony Rezko is going to turn state's evidence and send Obama to the federal pen. But cleaning up politics in Illinois matters greatly. Patrick Fitzgerald is working on getting the information needed to prosecute the corrupt governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich. He's also working on matters that could eventually point all the way back to the real power in Illinois, which is in the mayor's office. Obama could pretty easily protect his pals. He has pledged not to get rid of Fitzgerald. If he does, you'll learn something pretty ugly about the new Leader of the Free World.

  • The early hires. The first pick out of the box is not a good one -- it's Rahm Emanuel, the former Clinton hand and current congressman/button man, for Obama's chief of staff. Not to put too fine a point on it, but this guy has the potential to be an H.R. Haldeman type. Obama needs an effective, cool-headed executive in this role. Bill Clinton to his credit chose Leon Panetta, who was exactly the right sort of guy. Obama doesn't need a hot-headed, take no prisoners partisan. But that is who he has hired. It doesn't send the right message. I'll be watching the next few choices closely. They will tell you a lot about how Obama will govern.

  • Watch the lame duck session closely. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid will certainly feel emboldened and they are likely to try to get a head start on the next four years in the upcoming lame duck session, with the first order of business being another "stimulus" package that will be a festival of pork. Obama could establish a healthy precedent by talking Pelosi and Reid out of this idea. I hope he will.