Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

This picture is Times Square, 1938. As we kick 2008 to the curb, it's worth remembering that, more than 70 years on, there's more reason for hope with each passing year. The world was a considerably more desperate place 70 years ago than it is today. Still, people came to Times Square because they had hope for a better tomorrow. As do we.

God bless! See you in 2009!

Fearless Dilettante Football Predictions - Bowl Extravaganza Edition

Okay, tomorrow is New Year's Day, so there are finally going to be some bowls worth predicting. Now, the Meineke Car Care Bowl is darned compelling, but it's tough to get excited about a bowl where the winning team is presented with the tailpipe from a 1983 Cadillac Cimarron, although it is a very tasteful presentation, I've heard. Generally it's easier to pick games when you've actually heard of the schools competing in the game, too. When I think of a matchup between Louisiana Tech and Northern Illinois (the combatants in this year's Independence Bowl), I'm not thinking bowl game -- I'm thinking a game that is shown on tape delay at 2 a.m. on Versus, but only if the infomercial falls through.

Anyway, on to the real bowls!

Outback Bowl: Iowa Hawkeyes 31, South Carolina Gamecocks 27. This is the only game that I think the Big Ten will win in this cycle. The Hawks have been getting better as the season has progressed and I'm guessing that Gamecock Coach Steve Spurrier will momentarily lose focus when he inadvertently hears the sounds of drunken rutting Iowa fans over his headphones.

Gator Bowl: Clemson Tigers 24, Nebraska Cornhuskers 20. Nebraska has fallen a lot from their glory years but they're getting better. Clemson hasn't really been entertaining in a bowl game since Woody Hayes punched one of their linebackers in the late 1970s, but they should have enough talent to win this one.

Capital One Bowl: Georgia Bulldogs 34, Michigan State Spartans 21. Georgia has had a disappointing season, but they'll be plenty good enough to beat Sparty, which was really a mirage all season long. Javon Ringer is a nice running back, but Georgia's unfortunately-named Knowshon Moreno is better.

Rose Bowl: Southern Cal Trojans 34, Penn State Paternos 24. Penn State will make a good accounting of itself in the game, but Southern Cal is really, really good. And they're really, really mad about blowing the game to Oregon State, otherwise they'd be playing for the BCS championship.

Orange Bowl: Cincinnati Bearcats 27, Virginia Tech Hokies 23. VaTech is a legit program, but you have to wonder what the heck Cincinnati is doing in a BCS game. Still, I'm thinking that Cincy is the better team. Still, while the Big East may be hell of a basketball league, it should not be part of the BCS.

Cotton Bowl: Texas Tech Red Raiders 42, Ole Miss Rebels 27. Texas Tech is the school that lost out on the round-robin for BCS spots out of the Big 12 South. I suspect that both their quarterback (Graham Harrell) and their top receiver (Michael Crabtree) will both have long careers in the NFL. Ole Miss beat Florida, so they are no slouch. But take the Red Raiders.

Sugar Bowl: Alabama Crimson Tide 31, Utah Utes 17. I've been reading a biography of Bear Bryant recently, so all I have to say is, Roll Tide!

Siesta Bowl: Texas Longhorns 51, The Ohio State University 14. Texas is still very angry that they were left on the outs for the BCS championship game. Ohio State has some nice players, but they'll have burnt orange skid marks on their uniforms after this one is over.

BCS Championship Game: Florida Gators 45, Oklahoma Sooners 38. I'm not sure these are the two best teams -- you could make a very good argument for Texas and USC instead -- but this game should be a lot of fun. I think Florida's overall team speed on defense will be good enough to stop Sam Bradford's offense when it really matters.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

il miglior fabbro

I'm still recovering from the crud and frankly I'd rather not post something substandard just out of a sense of duty. So instead, I would like to commend to your attention an excellent post by our friend the Night Writer, who makes an elegant and utterly necessary point about the real meaning of what's happening in Gaza right now. It's very much worth your time.

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Per the Chicago Tribune, it appears that Rod Blagojevich will name Roland Burris as the new senator to replace Barack Obama. I'll say this -- Blago has stones the size of the ones that Wile E. Coyote tried to drop on the Road Runner. And Burris is the perfect pick tactically -- not JJJ, a loyal Machine hack and African-American to boot. Blago is probably just daring Harry Reid not to seat this guy.

Get your popcorn -- this is gonna be fun.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Four Sets of Earphones

We're not always early technology adapters in our household, but it was a pretty techy Christmas for us. Mrs. D and the kids all have received new mp3 players in the past week. I was setting up all the tunes today and downloading various things to their respective players tonight. The kids only wanted Beatles and a mix CD that their beloved Uncle Stinger made for them a few years back, while Mrs. D wanted her usual assortment of classic R & B, Stevie Ray Vaughan and a few other faves, leaving room for a few podcasts.

As the family music obsessive, I view this development with some ambivalence. The good news is that the family can choose the music they want and don't always have to listen to my random selections -- my mp3 player is liable to deliver Peggy Lee and Run-DMC back to back at any moment. Still, there was a moment when all of us were listening to our respective mp3 players and that meant that four different songs were playing in our house. Musical taste is idiosyncratic and utterly individual, but hearing music is a communal experience. It's why people go to rock concerts, to the symphony or even gather around a talented busker on the skyway. It's why some of my favorite memories in college were sitting around on a lazy afternoon with my friends as we spun vinyl records. Music is an experience to share and the best music can bring joy to just about everyone. In fact, if you ask a musician what his (or her) primary purpose is, chances are that the response will be something about sharing the joy of performance. So while I'm delighted that everyone in my family can now take their tunes to go, I hope that we don't forget that the wonder of music is in the sharing.

Stubborn Kind of Fellow

Between the holiday, travel and the crud that's going around both my office and back in Wisconsin, it's been tough to get back to posting the past few days. So what do you do when the world keeps moving even when you can't? Easy – slow it down with a few bullets.
  • Not surprisingly, there was a fair amount of chatter in the blogosphere in response to Paul Mulshine's anti-blogger cri de coeur over the fate of newspapers that appeared over the weekend in the Wall Street Journal. Mulshine writes for the Newark Star-Ledger and is one of the more iconoclastic columnists around; I may be the only person who thinks this way, but he occupies space in my mental filing cabinet with Ruben Navarette and Steve Chapman, since all three of them are sensible on some issues and nuts on others. I'm not offended that Mulshine doesn't think much of bloggers, because in the main he's right. There's a reason why most bloggers have a blogroll. Anyone who is honest knows that the majority of blogs out there aren't worth your time. It's work to find the good ones. I'm sure it galls a guy like Mulshine that his industry is dying in the face of competitors that he couldn't have even imagined when he began working in the newspaper business 900 years ago. Mulshine and his colleagues are on the business end of Schumpeter these days. It can't be pleasant.
  • Which brings us to the news that long-time Twin Cities sports columnist Patrick Reusse will be the new morning man over at KSTP, paired with the eternally vanilla Jay Kolls, whose career conclusively demonstrates the importance of marrying well. Our astute friend Brad Carlson has a good writeup on the topic. It's a gamble for both Reusse and KSTP to do this, but it's pretty obvious that Reusse's main employer is circling the drain right now. Might as well try something new while you can. Reusse is a lefty but he's very funny and my guess is that he'll find quickly that he'll do better with humor than polemics. I wish him well and suspect that he'll be a big improvement over Willie Clark, the guy that KSTP ashcanned.
  • Christmas was a lot of fun and it's always good to get home to lovely Appleton. Since I wasn't feeling well, I didn't get out and about much during the time I was there, but you can see that the Fox River Valley continues to thrive. There's a vast, Woodburyesque shopping area on the southeast side of town that has developed in the last 5 years. The stores are all thriving, too. Appleton's main industry has always been papermaking; while there might not be as much newsprint being sold these days and a huge mill in nearby Kimberly recently closed, my hometown looks to be pretty prosperous these days.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Fearless Dilettante Football Predictions -- Lovely Appleton Edition

Reporting live from scenic Appleton, it's time to pick some games. We would have put something up sooner, but it was buried under all the snow that's fallen here. All picks will be filled with obscure Appleton references, of course. Most people won't get these references, but trust us, they're hilarious. No, really! Better yet, this edition is Stinger Approved!

Wisconsin Badgers 31, Florida State Seminoles 27. This is the matchup in the Pond's Sport Shop Bowl. The Badgers have never played the Seminoles before and it's not clear that either of these teams is exactly representative of what their respective programs should be like. At one time the Seminoles were feared, but not so much anymore. The boys at the Anderson's Resale like the Badgers, though, so let's go with them.
ACTUAL RESULT: FSU 42, BAD-GERS 13. Turns out you shouldn't listen to the boys at Anderson's Resale. Do you sense the natives are getting a little restless at the recent performances of Brett Bielema's boys? I've recently been reading a biography of Bear Bryant and ol' Bear liked to party like Brett apparently does. The difference is that Bear took care of the business end first.

Rock Chalk Jayhawk 37, Minnesota Golden Gaffers 27. The Gophers are playing in the tradition-laden Tippy's Taco House Bowl. The last time the Gophs appeared on this stage, Glen Mason got fired. Tim Brewster probably won't be fired after this game, but one may never know. Kansas is not a traditional football power, but they play in a better league and should win. And remember, Smile with Smith!

Green Bay Packers 49, Detroit Lions 7. The Packers have been snake-bit this season. The Lions have been snake-bit for 50 years. Of all the things that are sad about the Lions this season, perhaps the saddest is watching the once-proud Daunte Culpepper getting his rather ample butt kicked. He has the mobility of the statue in Soldiers Square.
ACTUAL RESULT: PACKERS 31, LIONS 21. The Pack does enough to put the final donut on the Lions. And now I make another prediction: the Lions, having hit absolute, 100% rock bottom on the frozen turf of Lambeau, now begin to rise. If (a big if) the Lions hire a first-class football man to run their operation, they go to the Super Bowl within 5 years time. Let's be honest, NFC North fans -- is there another team in the division that you see that will be an insurmountable force any time soon?

New York Football Giants 24, Purple Guy 21. The Vikings need this game more than the G-Men do. The Vikings always lose games like that. Ask this guy, who will be coming to Appleton after the season is over to enjoy a tasty patty melt at Damrow's Restaurant, followed by drowning his sorrows with a pitcher of Schlitz at Kaiser Bill's.
ACTUAL RESULT: VIKINGS 20, GIANTS 19. Better to win it outright than to back in. It looks like their reward is a visit from the red-hot Eagles, currently laying waste to the Cowboys as I write this.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Joyeux Noel, Baby

That's College Avenue, the main drag in Appleton, Wisconsin. That's where I'm headed for the next few days. I may get a post up while I'm there, as my brother has about 40 computers at his house, but in the meantime, I hope you have a wonderful, joyous Christmas. Jesus is coming!

An important new blog -- Ramsey County Exposed

Jim Schottmuller, the impressive candidate who nearly unseated Tony Bennett for a seat on the Ramsey County Board in the last cycle, has started an important and timely new blog, Ramsey County Exposed. One of the main reasons Jim ran for office was to help expose some of the darker corners of local government and to apply that greatest of disinfectants, sunshine.

I would strongly encourage you to give Jim's blog a look. I will be cross-posting articles on Jim's blog periodically as well. There are a lot of stories to tell and Jim will tell them well.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Hellish Efforts of a 45-Year Old Man to Keep Up with Things -- Mr. D's Best New Songs of 2008

When we come to the holiday season, many publications pick the top songs, or books, or movies of the previous year. As a music obsessive I wanted to do that, but as regular readers of this feature know I'm not exactly up-to-date on the current scene. But why let that stop us? So herewith, I present Mr. D's best new songs of 2008.

The criterion for making the list? It has to be a song I hadn't heard before this year. In some cases, that means the song came out a while back. But if it's a good song, it makes the list. So what are some of the top new songs of 2008 in my skewed world? First, a few that actually came out in 2008, I think.

White Winter Hymnal, Fleet Foxes, which has a cool kinda madrigal thing going on.

Electric Feel, MGMT, which has an electric feel. Truth in advertising!

Boots of Chinese Plastic, Pretenders -- Chrissie Hynde might be 900 years old, but she can still rock.

Shut Up and Let Me Go, Ting Tings -- kinda an unholy cross between Chic's Good Times and maybe, what, Deee-Lite? Catchy, though, and the singer is simutaneously sassy and fetching, of course.

Then there are the songs that I suspect came out before this year:

27 Jennifers, Mike Doughty, which is very amusing. Amusing counts for a lot in my world.

Chicago, Sufjan Stevens, who puts out albums based on states and this one was on an album about Illinois. This song establishes a mood that reminds me of, I dunno, maybe Baker Street as envisioned by New Order, maybe? I dunno. Sounds good, even if the vocal is a bit on the wimpy side.

Sly, Cat Empire. Gotta like flugelhorns.

Short Skirt Long Jacket, Cake. Again, humor counts for a lot. Gotta like girls who are touring the facility.

Bottom line? When you're 45 years old if you try to be hip it tends to come off as pathetic, unless you're an A&R man (do they still have those?) But it doesn't make much sense to make your peace with KQRS and crawl back into your 30-year old records. If you do that, pretty soon you find yourself shaking your fist at kids walking down the street and shouting "you punks stay off my lawn." Not ready to do that, yet.

Fearless Dilettante Election Prediction

Norm Coleman will go back into the lead tomorrow. Here's why.

Remember that the two campaigns made about the same number of challenges. Al Franken withdrew more challenges than Coleman did, about 500 more. This was a tactical decision on Franken's part. Because the challenged ballots were adjudicated first, Franken had 500 more votes to add than Coleman did in the challenge phase. Not surprisingly, Franken went into the lead. He got the headline he wanted, which was the whole point of the exercise.

But the remainder of the previously challenged ballots get added back into the totals this week. That means that when the ballots that were challenged but withdrawn are added back into the mix, Coleman will add about 500 more votes than Franken does. Norm will be back into the lead by about the same margin he's been leading all along, about 225 or so.

It will go to litigation, of course. And those absentee ballots are potentially a problem. But when the final results of the litigation take place, I predict the following things will happen:

1) The phantom votes from Dinkytown will get withdrawn, because there is no physical evidence that they exist. Since Franken and his people are insisting that they count every vote, they won't be in a position to demand that votes that don't physically exist be counted. No one can find the "missing" votes for good reason. They don't exist.

2) Taking away those 133 ballots from Franken will mean that Norm is essentially about 400 votes up.

3) If the additional "wrongly rejected" absentee ballots get counted, Franken would have to get almost 1000 of the 1600 to overtake Norm. That's possible, but highly unlikely, especially since some of the votes will belong to Dean Barkley.

I might be wrong, of course. But I doubt I am. If I am wrong, tell me why.

Cross-posted at Truth vs. the Machine

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Big Blue Update - 122008

Big Blue got off to a tough start and struggled all day, losing to a tall, talented and undefeated Roseville 5 team 52-28 this afternoon at Brimhall School in Roseville. This was by far the most talented team that our charges have faced this season and things got out of control early, as several early shots did not fall and the Roseville squad got off to a 7-0 lead. Things never really got closer than that, despite the best efforts of our players.

Ben did not score but played well in defeat, grabbing a few rebounds and playing good defense, often against taller opponents. Big Blue's record now stands at 4-2 and the squad will get a holiday break, returning to action on January 10 for a rematch against Mounds View 73. Game time is 2 p.m. at Island Lake School in Shoreview. When you want coverage of 7th and 8th grade in-house basketball in the northern suburbs of Ramsey County, and who doesn't, there's no better place to find it than Mr. Dilettante.

Keep Tia in Mind

I'm hearing that a lot of charities are struggling this year, which isn't surprising. Locally, the Salvation Army and Toys for Tots have both really had a hard time getting donations at a time where the demands for their services are increasing. Holiday giving is a big part of the season and chances are you are winnowing through appeals from dozens of charities these days.

I'd like to suggest you consider one more charity this year. The Tia Foundation is based in Phoenix and assists people living in desperate poverty in Mexico. What makes Tia different and worthy is the approach it takes. It doesn't simply parachute in, drop supplies and then leave. The services that Tia provides are designed to people in these communities take control of their own care, which is the best way to improve of the health of their citizens. From the Tia website:

In the poor rural villages of the developing world, the most basic of health clinics are scarce. Often, providing a clean environment for childbirth, or treating the most basic illnesses and injuries are close to impossible. In the communities where Tia works, most family homes have dirt floors and no doors or windows. A daily struggle to raise enough food using unmechanized farm tools just to feed the family occupies much of their time. Village farm families live up to a twelve hour walk from the nearest hospital and vehicles are nonexistent. Women still die in child birth and young children are lost to diseases compounded by undernourishment.The lack of essential services can mean the difference between life and death, not only for an individual, like a subsistence farmer, but also for the vulnerable family. For that farmer, the arduous long journey over rough mountain roads to the nearest medical care means that a major laceration or fracture can be a death sentence. The loss to his family compounds with the resulting downward poverty spiral of malnutrition and disease. With a trained health care technician who has a modest medical kit, the farmer can be sufficiently stabilized to endure the trip to a regional hospital, thus mitigating the risk to the susceptible family.

To guarantee long-term village health, the most effective way is to train local health care workers and give them the essential tools necessary to treat common illnesses and injuries. The key to long-term solutions involves implementing a sustainable program that teaches villagers the skills they need and provides them with links to necessary local resources, so they can become self-determining.

The individual in charge of the Tia Foundation is a friend of mine, Laura Libman. I met Laura nearly 30 years ago when we served together on the district board for Key Club International, the world's largest high school service organization. Even as a high school student, Laura was a smart, committed leader and someone who believed in teaching people rather than simply dropping a check or a care package on someone's doorstep. Laura started Tia because she has spent a lot of time in Mexico and has seen firsthand what the challenges are. The Tia Foundation is doing great work. I'd encourage to to check their website and see for yourself.

An Amazing Story

Something like this just isn't possible. So don't even try.

As Glenn Reynolds Would Say


Friday, December 19, 2008

Guilty Pleasures Part Thirty-Five -- Holiday Romance Advice Edition

I'm lucky. I've been married to the lovely and talented Mrs. D for over 17 years. She has tolerated my idiosyncrasies for even longer than that.

I don't think I'd want to be looking for romance these days. It doesn't look like things have gotten any simpler since I was courtin'. We have many more means of communication, but it's pretty clear that the quality of the communication hasn't improved very much. A Dear John text message might be more efficient, but it's not any warmer. And it probably will have weird phonetic spellings, too.

So if you're out looking for romance, you probably know that the holidays are a source of potential opportunity. People are feeling all warm and fuzzy and there's mistletoe and New Year's Eve opportunities galore for the restive singles. But while the opportunity is there, communication remains pretty important. Which is why today's selections are a cautionary tale.

Guys struggle with communication. It's a given. Some people are better at it than others, though. In my experience the ladies tend to prefer something like this over the first contestant in tonight's contest, Richard Thompson, whose knowledge of l'amour seems, well, a bit theoretical.

One of the keys is getting out there, of course. Oddly, the ladies don't seem to just come knocking on your door (unless you're Marvin Gaye, perhaps). So sitting back and speculating about your bad fortune isn't a good strategy. Just ask Joe Jackson.

So you get out there. But you need to have a strategy. As Bruce Springsteen might say, don't be like this guy.

It also helps to work on your social skills. There's an art to conversation. Avoid an approach of the sort portrayed in this obscure cautionary tale from Crazy Joe and the Variable Speed Band:

But let's be optimistic. I think it will go well for you. People are looking for love. But if you start a relationship and it doesn't seem to click, try not to take the approach offered here by the Ben Folds Five, which seems a smidge adversarial:

Well, I hope that you have better luck than these dudes did. Pick your favorite song, then get out there and mingle. And watch that egg nog....

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Fearless Dilettante Football Predictions - Prestigious EagleBank Bowl Edition

So, do you think there are too many bowl games? Let's put it this way -- the University of Iowa Hawkeyes managed to edge the Gophers 55-0 about a month back and the Gophers were rewarded with a bowl game. I have been scanning the bowl roster to see when Capella University takes on Herzing College, but I have it on good authority that the game will take place someplace near the Crystal Airport. And why shouldn't these two schools play? Everyone else is. And to honor the bowl season, we'll include in our picks the first game of the bowl season, the legendary Eagle Bank Bowl. And be warned -- if you click on that link and you have the sound up on your computer, it will sound like electronic goose farts. But we have D-III action first.

UW-Whitewater Warhawks 31, Mount Union Purple Raiders 19. Whitewater defends its D-III title against perennial powerhouse Mount Union. I'm from Wisconsin. Who do you think I'm going to pick? And since my current boss and my old high school buddy (and former XHS cross-country great) Pat Van Dyke are both Whitewater alums, ya gotta go with the Warhawks.

Navy Midshipmen 27, Wake Forest Demon Deacons 22. This is the matchup in the EagleBank Bowl. Ooh, that's an attractive game, huh? I'm going to pick the Middies because I like USNA grad John McCain better than Wake Forest alum Billy Packer in an epic battle of imperious bald dudes.

Green Bay Packers 37, Chicago Bears 3. That was the score the last time these two teams played. Nothing has changed since then, right? I'll await Gino's gloating.

Atlanta Falcons 31, Purple Helmeted Love Warriors 24. Since everyone is now on the T-Jack bandwagon, I'm of course going to be a contrarian. Here's a hint, Vikings fans: Atlanta needs this game more than the Vikings do. And without Pat Williams, Michael Turner is going to have a big day.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Lazarus the Lumina

Posting has been a little light lately because, like hundreds of Minnesotans, I've been fighting ugly, soul-deadening commutes the past few days. I've also been having car trouble during this most recent spate of global warming. The picture I've posted here is of a 1997 Chevy Lumina. It is pretty close to the spitting image of the car that I use for commuting from my home in the northern suburbs to far Burnsville each day. On Monday, my car froze in the parking lot at work. I had to finagle with Mrs. D to get back home and have been borrowing her car the last few days, while we tried to figure out the logistics of getting a dead car home.

Today, with the sun shining and the temperature back up to a balmy 4 or 5 degrees Fahrenheit, I went out to my forlorn, snow-bedecked ride, just to see if I needed to get the thing towed away. I put the key in the ignition and, like Lazarus, the Lumina started. This evening we went back down to Burnsville to get it and bring it back home. Sorry that you lost out on the business, Burnsville Towing. But not too sorry.

I've had this hoopty for 10 years now. It has about 150,000 miles on it. It has made umpteen trips throughout the metro and many sojourns to Wisconsin, Illinois and other places I tend to frequent. It has been a remarkably reliable vehicle over the years -- I haven't had to put that much money into it aside from routine maintenance. It's about ready to go away now, but it's answered the bell just about every day for well over a decade.

GM and the rest of the Big 3 are in trouble now. There are myriad reasons why this is the case, most of which are only tangentially related to the production of automobiles. You hear a lot of people who tell you that Detroit metal is no good. While one person's experience is not a statistically useful sample, it's worth noting -- my Lumina has done everything I have asked it to do for many years. And no matter what car I get next, it almost certainly won't be as good or reliable a car as this wizened old ride.

Since no one else seems to be saying it, I will. Thank you, GM. Please know that you have at least one satisfied customer.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Don't Worry, Nick Coleman -- I Have a Job For You

As the fun continues at the abattoir on Portland Avenue, it now appears that one of the latest victims is longtime Metro columnist Nick Coleman. Coleman's dyspeptic column has long been a rich source of material for the local blogosphere. I would guess that well over half the members of the Minnesota Organization of Bloggers (MOB) have fisked a Nick Coleman column at some time or another, although some of the more prominent ones have been trying to kick the habit lately.

Let's face it -- Coleman has been very good to Minnesota conservatives. He's one of the most reliable suppliers of straw men in this market. He's never hestitated to make a cheap political point at the expense of conservatives or conservative values, whether the topic was his crusade against Frau Molnau and the evil forces of MnDOT, or pre-emptive trashing of Archbishop Nienstedt. He is the very model of the modern major metro liberal and his familial ties (brother of the St. Paul mayor, namesake son of a longtime state legislative force) have given him a kick-butt street cred in the skewed version of Minnesota political royalty, which operates in ways that are similar to the ward-based dynasties of Chicago, except that famous sons in Minnesota sometimes lose elections.

Really, it would be a shame for ol' Nick to be sidelined now. His value as a conservative piñata is unparalleled. The dude needs a perch, and sharing a cube with Eric Black over at MinnPost hardly seems like the right way to go. Since fortune favors the bold, here goes.

Nick, you can work for me. And you can start tomorrow.

So what are the advantages of moving your operations to Mr. Dilettante? Oh, there are so many.

  • Prestige galore. The Mr. Dilettante brand is known throughout the blogosphere for a devotion to discussions of politics, music and the arts and there's reason to believe that at least a few dozen other bloggers have read Mr. Dilettante in the past. And as a contributor to True North and Truth vs. the Machine, you'll have the opportunity to leverage your readership into triple digits, easy. Based on the current circulation numbers at your soon to be former employer, you'd have to be thrilled with that. I've actually met Gary Miller and Andy Aplikowski and would be happy to put in a good word for you.

  • Complete freedom. No nervous bean counters or supercilious metro editors here, telling you what to say or suggesting that you tone it down a bit. In fact, I'd be highly supportive of letting you say whatever you'd like, Nick -- may I call you Nick? The more outrageous, the better. And I'm reasonably certain that you'd see a lot of links from other bloggers, who are always eager to offer their trenchant analysis of your work. Conservatives are very supportive and nurturing that way.

  • A commitment to lifelong learning. At Mr. Dilettante, we've been able to triple the usual readership of this feature from time to time by picking the right people to insult. You've never been especially hesitant to criticize someone, so you have a leg up on other potential candidates for this opportunity. I've noticed that you have not been in the habit of criticizing Jim Oberstar much, but I'd be happy to teach you. I'd even be willing to share my secret methods for getting web hits by mentioning more arcane targets. For just one example, you'd be amazed how many hits you can get by mildly criticizing Eric Carmen's solo career.

  • A very steady, devoted readership. No reason to worry about declining readership here -- this blog almost always gets double digit hits every day. Click on the Sitemeter and see for yourself.

  • A generous compensation package. I'll be willing to split the proceeds I make from publishing this blog with you 50/50. Try and get an offer that generous from anyone else. Just try.

Nick, I think this is a wonderful opportunity for you. It would be a shame to see your voice be stilled just because the economy has hit a rough patch. What would the Archbishop do without having you around to correct him on doctrine? How would the structural engineers and infrastructure experts cope without having you around to contradict them? Dammit, you're needed. Don't just take the abuse from those mouth-breathers at Avista -- seize the moment. Carpe diem, baybee!

What have you got to lose? Pick up the phone, Nick. Give Mr. D a call.

Cross-posted at True North

Time for a Music Check

Here's mine. What's yours?

Last 5/Next 5

Can't Hide Love, Earth Wind & Fire
Ruby Baby, Donald Fagen
Groovin' High, Dizzy Gillespie
Raised on Robbery, Joni Mitchell
Trampled Underfoot, Led Zeppelin

Got to Give it Up, Marvin Gaye
Love Vigilantes, New Order
Phone Booth, Robert Cray Band
Big Time, Peter Gabriel
Dolly Dagger, Jimi Hendrix

Monday, December 15, 2008

Say a prayer

Sad news -- the Lady Logician lost her father-in-law to illness last night. Her family can use your support and prayers.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Barone Does Blago

The Blagojevich case is so mind boggling that I've had a hard time making sense of it. Probably the best explanation of the forces at play comes from the always-reliable Michael Barone, who has a long history of studying Chicago politics (and everywhere else, for that matter). His astringent take is here. Two money quotes:

I've long since come to the conclusion that Rod Blagojevich is clearly the stupidest governor in all of our 50 states, and he may be the stupidest governor I've had occasion to write about in the four decades when I've been co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. And a stupid man (or woman) in high political office can be very dangerous to all concerned. I have long said that as a political operative I would prefer a smart opponent to a stupid opponent. If you're pretty smart yourself, you should be able to figure out what another pretty smart person will do. But whether you're smart or stupid, it's hard to figure out what a stupid person will do. That's even more true when the stupid politician is your political ally. Stupid people do all sorts of things that are against their own interests. Like tell the press on Monday that you wouldn't mind being taped, even when (as we learned on Tuesday) that you've been saying all kinds of things that you should have known could easily send you to the slammer.

Stupider than Sarah Palin? And here we had it on good authority that wasn't possible. And then there's this primer on how it works in Chicago:

"The most fascinating part is yet to be told," Jennifer Rubin writes, "how someone this unhinged gets to be governor and gets re-elected without anyone blowing the whistle." Well, the short answer is that this is Chicago, and Chicago politics is unique, as I argued in this blogpost, which starts off with an examination of the question how the unrepentant terrorist William Ayers thrived in the Chicago civic establishment or what I call le tout Chicago. The answer to the question of how Ayers and Blagojevich rose is family connections. Ayers is the son of a former Chairman of Commonwealth Edison (now Exelon). Blagojevich is the son-in-law of 33rd Ward Democratic Committeeman Dick Mell. Ward committeemen are hugely important in Chicago politics: Dan Rostenkowski and his father had been the 32nd ward committeemen from 1935 to 1995; the ward committeemen from the 11th ward since some time in the 1940s have been Richard J. Daley, Richard M. Daley and John Daley; the 13th ward committeeman Bill Lipinski, retiring suddenly from Congress in 2004, was able to get the Democratic nomination for his son Dan Lipinski from a group of ward committeemen despite the fact that Dan Lipinski was a political science professor at the University of Tennessee and hadn't lived in Chicago for years.

The Lipinski case is probably the most egregious case of how it works. In Chicago the wards are the modern-day equivalent of fiefdoms. Blago marrying a Mell was good enough to get him entree into Chicago politics. As it happens, Blago's perch prior to running for the governor's office was as a Congressman. The seat once belonged to Dan Rostenkowski, who became one of the most powerful men in Washington before he was derailed in a scandal of his own. Blago took the seat away from a Republican placeholder who won the seat when Rosty went down. Interestingly, the seat is now held by Rahm Emanuel.

There's a lot more in Barone's piece, including insights on Jesse Jackson Jr. and David Axelrod. Read the whole thing.

Big Blue Blasts St. Anthony

Ben's Irondale 3 Big Blue squad returned to their winning ways today, getting out to a big early lead and coasting to a 52-29 victory over St. Anthony 5 this morning at the St. Anthony Community Center. Ben played hard but did not score, which was hardly surprising since he was coming off an all-night youth event with his church group. I got tired just watching him. Fortunately, his teammates were more than equal to the task against a game but outmanned St. Anthony squad.

The win brings Big Blue's record to 4-1 on the season. They take the court next on Saturday, Dec. 20 for a battle against Roseville 5 at 1 p.m. at Brimhall Elementary School. Remember, Mr. Dilettante is your exclusive home for exhaustive analysis of northern Ramsey County in-house youth basketball action. If you can find better coverage anywhere, I'd be quite surprised.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The BCS Solves Nothing, Again

So, how do you suss out the college football season? We are presented with a championship game of Oklahoma vs. Florida. Florida has lost a single game this season, to Ole Miss. Oklahoma has lost a single game this season, to Texas. Both have fine credentials for the championship game.

But why is Oklahoma in the game and not Texas? Texas has lost only one game, to Texas Tech. Coincidentally, Texas Tech has lost only one game, to Oklahoma. Texas Tech is not even in the BCS, having been shunted off to the once-prestigious Cotton Bowl, which is no longer part of the in-crowd, while Texas gets to lick its wounds in the Fiesta Bowl against perennial BCS participant (and of late footwipe) Ohio State.

Why is two-loss Ohio State in the BCS, when Texas Tech is not? Here's a guess -- OSU brings the Cleveland (#15), Cincinnati (#32) and Columbus (#34) television markets to the game, while Texas Tech brings Lubbock (#147). Should the games be based on the talent on the field, or the potential numbers of eyeballs back home? Good question.

Arguing about which team is the true national champion is as old as college football. The national champion used to be chosen before the bowls and occasionally it would cause a problem -- in 1960 the pictured Gophers were declared national champions, but then lost the Rose Bowl to Washington. Then the job was turned over to the wire service polls, which led to split champions on several occasions. The BCS was supposed to be the solution. It hasn't worked out that way.

I'm sure that the winner of the Oklahoma/Florida game will be a worthy champion. But is Texas better? How about one-loss Alabama, which happened to lose to Florida at the worst possible time (in the SEC championship?) What about USC, which has dominated most of its opponents this season, but stubbed its toe in Corvallis, Oregon earlier in the year?

Who knows? The only way to know for sure would be to have a playoff. But that's not going to happen anytime soon. So the arguments rage on. And the BCS chugs along, a solution that solves nothing.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Fearless Dilettante Football Predictions - Louise Lasser Edition

Louise Lasser? Sure, why not. First person to figure out why and leave a comment in the comments section wins a fabulous prize, or at minimum a hearty congratulations. Since we're running out of games to pick, I'm including some hot D-II and D-III action this week.

UW Whitewater Warhawks 37, Mary Hardin-Baylor Crusaders 24. Doncha think with a school name like Mary Hardin-Baylor, the team's nickname ought to be Cougars? Just sayin'. Let's give the alma mater of my boss a little love this week. Whitewater is a perennial D-III power anyway.
ACTUAL RESULT: WHITEWATER 39, MARY HARTMAN 13. Good for the Warhawks. Now it's a rematch against perennial power Mount Union.

UMD Bulldogs 41, Northwest Missouri State Bearcats 27. The Bulldogs aren't just for hockey anymore. UMD is raising the flag of the Northern Sun Conference quite high these days.
ACTUAL RESULT: UMD 21, NMSU 14. Congratulations to the Bulldogs on remarkable season.

Green Bay Packers 21, Jacksonville Jagwires 17. I know, no reason to believe this will happen. But it's still my blog.
ACTUAL RESULT: JAGS 20, PACKING IT IN 16. What do you call a team that can't get its defense off the field when it matters? 5-9. Memo to Tradedown Ted: you're looking for defensive linemen next year, right? Right?

Arizona Cardinals 34, Purple Helmeted Love Warriors 24. Somehow we have to hope that there are no more Visante Shiancoe sightings. The Cardinals are actually very good at home and I expect that Darren Sharper will be pretty tired after chasing around Larry Fitzgerald and Anquin Boldin all day.
ACTUAL RESULT: VIKES 35, CARDS 14. In which Tarvaris Jackson does his best Joe Montana imitation, something we've not seen before. Good for him. And with team MVP U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson on the case, the Vikes look like a dangerous team all of a sudden.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Guilty Pleasures Part Thirty-Five -- Cowbell! UPDATE: EVEN MORE COWBELL!

UPDATE: You want cowbell? Well, yeah, who doesn't? Here's a really good list with a whole buncha cowbell. Fellas — I'm tellin' ya.

Christopher Walken was right, of course. We need more cowbell.

So let's pick this time from several songs that make notable use of the cowbell.

Low Rider -- War

Stone Free -- Jimi Hendrix

Honky Tonk Woman -- Rolling Stones

Mississippi Queen -- Mountain

And of course:

Don't Fear the Reaper -- Blue Oyster Cult

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Online Art You Can Appreciate

What you see here is my daughter Maria's art. She did a nice job and they have posted her work online at Give her a visit and an "atta girl."

Welcome to the Machine

I'm now up and running at Truth v. Machine. Just so ya know.

Blago gets busted

The federales finally came for Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich today. Turns out they have a bunch of good stuff on this guy, besides the usual pay-to-play stuff that's long been endemic in Illinois politics.

The fun story is that apparently Blago was trying to auction off Barack Obama's Senate seat and was offering to help the struggling Tribune Company sell off Wrigley Field, as long as it would fire certain editorial writers at the Chicago Tribune that were proving peevish to Blago.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but this guy is a moron. He had to know the feds were listening in on his conversations – in fact, he as much as invited them to do it. Per the Chicago Tribune:

"I should say if anybody wants to tape my conversations, go right ahead, feel free to do it," he said. "I appreciate anybody who wants to tape me openly and notoriously, and those who feel like they want to sneakily, and wear taping devices, I would remind them that it kind of smells like Nixon and Watergate."

Apparently, so does Blago. A good rule of thumb for a corrupt politician: the best way to come acropper is to yell, "come and get me, copper!" More to come.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Reality Defeats Tribune

The self-proclaimed World's Greatest Newspaper is in a lot of trouble. And it's not the only one. The news that the Tribune Company has filed bankruptcy would have been shocking just a few years ago, but the journalism business may be even sicker than the automobile industry.

Dead tree media are struggling, no doubt about it. But there may be a model for the future. At least two newspapers, the Capital Times of Madison no longer publishes a newsprint edition but is now strictly an internet publication. Next year the venerable Christian Science Monitor will follow suit.

The bottom line for most newspapers is pretty simple -- they can't recover their costs from what they sell through subscriptions or on the newsstand. The advertising dollars that have long sustained newspapers are not there, especially classified advertising. Advertisers get a lot more bang for their buck from competitors like Google and Craigslist and there's no reason to believe that the trends will turn back to the newspapers' favors.

Conservatives have often argued that the liberal bent of the MSM has hurt it. There may be some truth in that, but the Chicago Tribune historically has been known as the Great Voice of Midwestern Conservatism. Today's Tribune is a lot more liberal than it was when it was calling elections for Thomas Dewey, but it's nowhere near as liberal as the Star Tribune, for example.

Here's the question for conservatives. If conservatives really believe that newspapers would do better if they were conservative, now would be a good time to test the hypothesis. It would be possible for conservatives to pick up a number of media properties for pennies on the dollar these days. I don't sense that any conservative financiers are interested in making such a purchase, though.

The newspaper business may go the way of the typewriter business, but journalism won't go away. The new home of journalism? You're reading a tiny part of it right now.

Rejected Quizno's Menu Item

Odd that they turned this one down, considering the source:

President-elect Barack Obama added sweep and meat to his economic agenda on Saturday
Mmm.... sweep and meat. That's good eatin'.

No cert. for the Cert

So the fever dream dies that somehow, some way the Supreme Court would deny Barack Obama the presidency because certain people have talked themselves into believing that the man who was elected to be next president somehow managed to fake his birth certificate.

Good. Conservatives should oppose the incoming president with all their might when it is necessary, but the opposition should be rooted in political philsophy and policy differences, not conspiracies. Time for Leo Donofrio and Philip Berg to go away.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

MU 61, UW 58

(photo from Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

It's always a highlight of the winter sports calendar in Wisconsin and one of the best but oddest rivalries in college basketball. Every season, the Wisconsin Badgers take on the Marquette Golden Eagles. In recent years the Badgers have become a very good program and Marquette has steadily re-built its brand to a level approaching the glory years of Al McGuire. As a result, the games have been very close in recent years and yesterday's game was no exception, with MU prevailing 61-58 in Milwaukee.

It is an odd rivalry because, other than the annual game, the paths of the two schools rarely cross. The Badgers of course are charter members of the Big Ten, while the Golden Eagles hold forth as the westernmost outpost of the Big East, although historically they've played just about anyone, anytime. It's easier to wrap your mind around traditional Big Ten rivals like Purdue and Minnesota than it is to envision a conference game against Rutgers or South Florida, which Marquette now faces each year. In a lot of ways, UW and MU share a home state but little else.

Every time I see the game, I'm conflicted. I grew up with the great McGuire teams and one of the sports highlights of my childhood was the magical 1977 season when Marquette ran a gauntlet of Kansas State, Wake Forest, Cincinnati, UNC-Charlotte and finally Dean Smith's North Carolina Tar Heels to win the national championship. I can still see it my mind's eye -- Marquette in their garish uniforms with untucked shirts, the Butch and Bo show, mighty Jerome Whitehead scoring crucial baskets, the talented Bernard Toone providing instant offense from the bench. It was a great team and a great time and while college basketball gained even greater popularity since then, it was wonderful.

In those days, the Badgers were the footwipe of the Big Ten. MU got the better of the rivalry then but since the 1990s, things have changed. The Badgers finally started to get their act together when Michael Finley came to Madison in the early 90s and under Dick Bennett and his successor Bo Ryan, the Badgers have become a force in college ball. And the rivalry has become even more intense. I root for the Badgers in most college sports, but I just can't bring myself to root for them against MU. In sports, as in everything else, you never forget your first love.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Big Blue Update

Big Blue, Ben's Irondale in-house team, lost a hard-fought 31-27 contest against the mysterious Mounds View 73 team this afternoon at Island Lake School in Shoreview. The game was a defensive struggle with two talented teams but foul trouble left the Irondale squad depleted and an injury to another player allowed the Mounds View squad to prevail down the stretch, scoring an insurance basket with about 15 seconds left to seal the deal. Ben scored a key basket in the second half and played a strong overall game.

The loss leaves Big Blue's record at 3-1 and they will return to action next Saturday with a 10 a.m. matchup against St. Anthony at the St. Anthony Community Center. As always, Mr. Dilettante is the go-to blog for breathless reportage on in-house basketball in Northwest Ramsey County.

Behold the King of Portugal

You may not have heard about this development, but ostensible senate candidate Al Franken is the King of Portugal.

Wait, you say. What evidence do you have that Al Franken is the King of Portugal?

But you don't understand. You don't need evidence. You merely need to make an assertion and it's true*.

So I say that Al Franken is King of Portugal. Not a bad gig for the foul-mouthed product of St. Louis Park. Enjoy your reign in Lisbon, good sir!

*It must be true, because they offer "reality based commentary." Just ask them.

Friday, December 05, 2008

NFL Quarterbacks 1961

Isn't this a cool picture? It's the incumbent NFL starting quarterbacks in 1961. You'll probably be able to spot a few you know in there. Quarterbacks look a little different now.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Appleton with Alcohol, mid-80s

It's Cleo's Brown Beam Tavern, Appleton, Wisconsin. Mixed drinks in high-ball glasses the size of a paint bucket, dirt cheap. Oh my goodness, did we kill brain cells in this place (well, technically next door, because this is their new location). And when we got home, we'd flip on the television and see this. Or this. Or maybe this.

The problem was that, about 8 the next morning, younger siblings like this guy would burst in, demanding that older, recovering siblings watch the Smurfs. Stinger is actually pretty lucky to be alive.

Fearless Dilettante Football Predictions - Come Back Stalin Colinet, All Is Forgiven Edition

This week this particular series is feeling more like a court docket than a tote board. The ongoing saga involving the Williams Wall is now going from the local courts to the federal courts and a hearing will take place tomorrow. Since the Vikings are slated to play the gigantic, soothing bowl of chicken soup that is the Detroit Lions this week, it probably doesn't matter what happens in the courtroom tomorrow. Meanwhile, unfortunately named former Viking great Stalin Colinet waits patiently by his phone.

Florida Gators 34, Alabama Crimson Tide 17. Alabama is #1 right now, but no one outside of Tuscaloosa really thinks they are better than Florida. But I think we can all agree on this much -- the SEC is getting pretty insufferable.
ACTUAL RESULT: FLORIDA 31, ALABAMA 20. The Gators look like a very tough team to beat. . . .

Oklahoma Sooners 48, Missouri Tigers 27. The rules in the Big XII say that the North champion has to play the South champion, so Missouri is in the game even though they probably would have finished no better than 4th in the South. The Sooners get the nod for this game even though they lost to Texas. This is the result of the BCS computer rankings, which are chock to the brim with FAIL. The Longhorns will take out their frustration on someone else (perhaps Ohio State) later on.
ACTUAL RESULT: BOOMER SOONER 62, MIZZOU 21. But so does Oklahoma. Sorry, Night Writer.

Boston College Eagles 31, Virginia Tech Hokies 26. One of these teams will get in the BCS. Why, I don't know. Let's throw Stalin Colinet another bone and pick his alma mater.
ACTUAL RESULT: VT 30, BC 12. A nice win for the team with the ugliest uniform colors (maroon and burnt orange?) in sports.

Green Bay Packers 34, Houston Texans 21. It's been a disappointing season in Green Bay and there's a post or two (or three) in that, but suffice it to say that the Packers should have enough talent and motivation to beat the enigmatic Texans.
ACTUAL RESULT: TEXANS 24, PACKERS 21. See last week.

Purple Helmeted Love Warriors 24, Motor City Kitties 7. While I enjoy making fun of the Lions as much as the next guy, the situation in Detroit is pretty grim all the way around these days. In fact, outside of East Lansing this might be the grimmest football fall in state of Michigan evah. About the only interesting part of this matchup is that Daunte Culpepper is at the helm.
ACTUAL RESULT: VIKINGS 20, LIONS 16. Good news for the Lions -- they get a trip to Lambeau, where the home team never wins lately.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A question for the audience

As you know, your friendly local blogger is a bit of a music obsessive. The thing is this -- I stopped trying to stay current on music about 20 years ago. It became clear, even back then, that it was too much work and that, in the main, a lot of what was out there was not worth knowing. It didn't seem necessary to know the difference between Keith Sweat and Al B. Sure, or the subtle distinctions between Johnny Hates Jazz and the Information Society.

Now it's 20 years on. For the most part, I'm at the embarrassing point where I see a list of songs on the pop chart and I can't be sure which is the song title and which is the name of the band. And when I talked with the Stinger about it last night, it even got more embarrassing:

Mr. D: So, I'm trying to at least find out a little bit about some new music.

Stinger: Good for you. What have you listened to lately?

Mr. D: Well, I heard a song I liked from a band called Cake.

Stinger: Cake? Yeah, they're pretty good. They've been around for about 10 years, though.

Indeed they had. And the song that I liked by Cake apparently was recorded in 2001.

So my question is: have you reached the point where keeping up with the current music is no longer important to you? And if so, when did you reach that point?

And if you want to know what's hip now, you can always ask Stinger's buddy Amanda, the Holly Golightly of the local blogosphere (and I mean that as praise, by the way). I'm drawing a blank on most of her list, but I've at least heard of the Ting Tings.

I'm Too Saxby for My Shirt/Franken's of Maplewood

Have tried to stay away from the Senate mess, but two things happened yesterday that merit comment.

  • First, Saxby Chambliss wins his runoff election in a rout. That pretty much puts the 60-vote, filibuster-proof Senate dream of Harry Reid to rest. Will that mean that Reid will now have less reason to attempt to seat Franken, as has been rumored?

  • Meanwhile, 171 votes from Maplewood surface that hadn't been counted on election day, giving Franken an extra 37 votes. While that probably won't make a difference in the end, it's still disconcerting for two reasons: first, that Franken is already waaaaay too close, and second, it makes me wonder what has happened to the citizens of Maplewood, which is usually a fairly sober precinct. Maybe something that 3M buried in the ground years ago is leaching into the water table?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Last Five/Next Five

And the Dilettante MP3 player delivers:

I Feel So Good, Richard Thompson
Rock Steady, Aretha Franklin
All or Nothing at All, Frank Sinatra
Don't Leave Me This Way, Thelma Houston
Age of Consent, New Order

It's Tricky, Run-DMC
The Windows of the World, Dionne Warwick
Mother's Little Helper, Rolling Stones
Guess Things Happen That Way, Johnny Cash
Black Beauty, Duke Ellington

What are you hearing today?

Thanks, Mom!

Your eldest son is now another year closer to enjoying the Early Bird Special!

Monday, December 01, 2008

I Got the News

In handy bullet format, too!

  • So it turns out that, out of the 135 people currently involved in the Obama transition team, 85 are old Clinton hands. I guess you have to look at it this way: it's better that old Clinton hands are involved than really old Carter hands or really, really old LBJ hands. And Ramsey Clark isn't the only old LBJ hand out there. When you look at it, suddenly retreads like Larry Summers don't seem so bad. I do think they should alter the slogan to "(The More Things) Change (The More They Stay The Same) That You Can Believe In," although that makes it look like an old song title for the Human League.

  • On the topic of old Clinton hands, someone actually did notice that Barack Obama was pretty critical of Hillary Clinton's foreign policy chops during the campaign. The response the president-elect provided was pretty revealing, because it follows a pattern that Obama and Biden used during the campaign. When a tough question gets asked, they laugh at it, then deflect it. It's an effective tack for now, but some of the issues the Obama team will face aren't very funny. And it's not enough to slough off the words Candidate Obama said as mere rhetoric now.

  • Which brings us to the matter of Mumbai. Mitch Berg has an excellent essay at his place about the meaning of Mumbai and its implications for the rest of us. He ties what happened in Mumbai to the importance of understanding why the Second Amendment, at bottom, is the guarantor of all the other rights we have. "Citizens in any 'free society' should be a pack, not a herd or flock," Mitch concludes. Just so.