May 31, 2007

Bloggin' Barry

My close personal friend and world famous music critic Barry Lenser is now blogging over at It's sure to be a regular read - so go here to check out "Weak Sauce."

(And since he probably will immediately get 10 times the readers I do, he is now obligated to link to me on a weekly basis.)

Nichols Nails It

I often ridicule progressive author John Nichols' various columns, but I can't say I disagree with a single word of this one.

May 30, 2007

Brewin' Up Some Lovin'

Today’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel features an article about how the Brewers are trying to make inroads with their female fan base by… offering more Brewer-related women’s clothing. (A male friend of mine suggested they could make more inroads with men by featuring Caitlin Suess more prominently - something I wouldn't have noticed, of course, since I am married.)

Some professor of “women buying sports clothes” or something is quoted:

"They know women are just as much a fan as men are . . . ," Reamy said. "Women are demanding this type of look, and they want it to be a more feminine look."
First of all, let’s dispel this myth that women as a whole are equal in intensity to male fans. There, of course, are some women that are crazy Brewer and Packer fans. But for the most part, women go to Brewer games to drink and socialize. In fact, women are a large reason teams are building new stadiums – they are trying to attract people who aren’t all that interested in watching the game by offering more off-field options in the stadium. Actual baseball fans were fine with sitting in County Stadium and watching the game.

Furthermore, this idea of women as equal sports fans to men is contradicted higher up in the same article:

“But perhaps the best reason to pitch to women is having an exciting team that's drawing national attention - especially a young team populated with attractive single men.”
So wait – I thought women were these big Brewer fans: but they go to games to ogle J.J. Hardy’s butt? I consider myself a die-hard Brewer fan, but I honestly haven’t ever gone to a game in the hopes of catching a glimpse of Bill Hall’s undulating cheeks.

My research on the "hotness" of the Brewers led me to the Channel 6 "Hottie of the Week" contest, which once featured J.J. Hardy. It seems I may be underestimating the physical allure of the Brewers' soon-to-be-All Star shortstop. (If I were unscrupulous, I would make a joke about how a lot of ladies wouldn't mind seeing Hardy go "deep into the hole," but my impeccable morals won't allow me to peddle such filth.)

Of course, now that I think about it, I might actually prefer watching the Brewers play the rest of the season naked than watching Derrick Turnbow pitch a single more inning.

May 29, 2007

Major Breaking Bratwurst News

The Capital Times today has a shocking exclusive:

"Brat Fest Hailed as 'Best We've Ever Had'"

Oh really? Amazing that Tim Metcalfe wouldn't say "actually, it was complete disgrace this year, one of our worst years ever." In reality, they only sold 157,000 brats, over 30,000 less than their high of 2004. A lot of that has to do with the hassle of now having to drive all the way to the Dane County Expo Center, and a lot probably has to do with the cost of the brats being increased $1.50.

Amazing that people will complain bitterly about oil companies when the price of gas goes up a nickel, but Johnsonville jacks the cost of their brats up 50%, and everyone's okay with it? I'm being gouged by so much "big sausage," I feel like Paris Hilton.

(Thank you, thank you... that was really the whole reason to do this post.)

Also, there's this:

To pump up sales next year, Metcalfe said he's seriously considering selling a double brat on a hard roll, a traditional style of eating for die-hard brat lovers.
First of all, this is cheating, trying to artificially pump up the numbers of brats sold. They already include sales of the execrable boca soy brats in the total, which is an abomination. Secondly, sales of a "double brat" will kill 20 Madisonians. And I am not kidding.

May 28, 2007

The Brewers' Deperate Move

Seeing as how calling up Ryan Braun couldn't keep their losing skid from hitting six games, the Brewers today announced they were calling up an even more talented prospect:

He's only 18 months, but we have a birth certificate that says he's 21. And yes, I am aware that 40% of my posts are now either pictures or videos of my children. Here's your money back.

Weekend British Experience

Just by chance, I spent most of the weekend watching Brtitish-related TV. On Friday night, I watched "The Blair Decade" on PBS, which illustrated what an astounding politician Tony Blair has been during his tenure. Tony Blair as Prime Minister is akin to having Robert Deniro as our President - it's like having the best actor in the country run the show.

Case in point: I also watched the movie "The Queen," which features Blair prominently. The movie re-enacts Blair's famous "People's Princess" speech after Princess Diana had died. Yet Blair's original speech was five times more convincing than the trained actor they hired to portray him.

See for yourself - check out Blair's speech here. It's an Academy Award winning performance by a politician if there ever was one.

The PBS documentary also painted an unflattering picture of Gordon Brown, Blair's presumed successor as Prime Minister. He is portrayed as stubborn, power-hungry and volatile. Even Blair came around to proposing competition between British hospitals in order to improve services - a move Brown steadfastly opposed. And, of course, it is unlikely that Brown will share in Blair's enthusiam for working with the U.S. in the War on Terror.

I also share Pugnacious J's enthusiasm for "Prime Minister's Questions" on C-Span. Again - another testament to how great Blair was. Does anyone believe George W. Bush could stand up in front of Congress while they fire questions at him? Blair was a master at jumping out of his seat with his giant book and just obliterating the fools asking unfair questions of him. Just a sight to behold.

In fact, I propose we actually do that here in the U.S. In some ways, it would almost be like Campaign Finance Reform. Instead of anonymous third parties shaping the message during campaigns, why not have your congressperson be able to ask the President directly what he (or she) thinks? It would focus a lot more of the public's attention on legitimate questions of the President, rather than carefully planned press statements.

Then I watched "About a Boy" which has British people in it.

May 27, 2007

My New Law Suggestion

Apparently there were fireworks on my street this morning, as a man and a woman, both drunk, pulled their car over outside my house and started yelling at each other. I, of course, slept through all of this. The arguing got so loud, several neighborhood families called the cops.

From my neighbors' accounts, the police showed up, and weren't able to charge either of the individuals with drunk driving - even though both were belligerently drunk and they had clearly just pulled up. Apparently, since the police couldn't determine who was driving, they couldn't charge either of them with driving under the influence, instead charging them with disturbing the peace.

This seems a little odd to me - people are arrested on suspicion of drunk driving all the time, as in cases when someone causes an accident and drives off. I haven't checked the state statutes, but is there really nothing they could have been charged with? Couldn't there be a law that applies equal blame to two drunkards in the same car if it can't be determined who was actually driving?

This seems like a no-brainer law. So all the Capitol people that read this blog - get to it. Does this mean I have to register with the state ethics board if I lobby for my new law?

Oh, and if the fine young lady in the car feels like coming to pick up the shoes she threw at her companion, they're still here on the curb:

May 23, 2007

Dying of Laughter

The Capital Times has a cure for what's ailing you:

Start an imaginary lawn mower and follow it around the room. When the mower runs out of gas, try another laughter exercise. Put a straw in your mouth and smile -- it's especially funny when everyone in the circle does it, too. Dance the Hokey Pokey, and let yourself chuckle loud and often. Soon it will be spontaneous, and the laughter becomes contagious.
They go on to report all the health benefits of laughter as medicine. Seems perfectly reasonable to me. But let me go on record: If someone tried to save my life by pushing an imaginary lawn mower around the room, I would end up dying a painful death.

The article discuss laughter as it relates to terminal patients:

So it's not surprising that when people are near death and given a choice, 84 percent chose humor over seriousness, says hospice researcher Doug Smith.

Another study published in the American Journal of Hospice Care found that 85 percent of terminally ill patients felt that humor would be helpful in their care, but only 14 percent experienced humor from caregivers.

Really, 84% choose humor over "seriousness?" Seems like a pretty limited survey. If I conducted my own poll, I would bet 100% would choose "lap dances" over "humor."

And you mean Hospice Care isn't a field that's drawing our top humorous talent? It would seem that caring for the dying is a gold mine for jokes.

"Gertrude, as soon as you feel like taking a 15 minute break from dying, I'm going to make lawn mower noises."

Actually, the last really good laugh I got was when I saw the Cap Times' circulation numbers. That extended my life by at least 5 minutes.

May 22, 2007

Oh, and Did I Mention...

...that I'm a "know it all suburban lefty?"

I believe this is in response to my post where I say Ludacris really is a symptom of a corrosive culture, not a cause. And I tried to merely disagree respectfully and offer examples. Unfortunately, I wasn't paid the same respect. And there isn't even a hint of an argument offered in return - I'm merely called an "ACLU disciple" and accused of "throwing stones from my cushy armchair." (Actually, my armchair is a little un-cushy, so if someone has one to offer, I'll take it.)

By the way, I still think James Harris is an important addition to the blogosphere, and I agree with him in most of his critique of liberals. Now if there was any way I could get him to sign this ACLU membership card...

UPDATE: James e-mailed me to tell me his post wasn't about me. However, I am still accepting offers of cushy chairs.

May 20, 2007

Only in Dreams

Just for the record: I am 100% against people telling me about their dreams. If someone in your office begins a sentence with "Last night I had this dream..." it is your duty to throw on the headphones and pretend to be working on an Excel spreadsheet or something. Otherwise, you're going to be treated to some rambling, incoherent recitation of a meaningless dream about a purple crocodile eating a donut or something.

That being said, last night I had a dream about a celebrity that caused me to think. It was a female celebrity (I won't say who - you haven't heard of her), that I never would have considered to be a candidate for one of my dreams (it's a pretty high standard). In fact, until that dream, nothing really stood out about her - she was fairly unremarkable, or so I thought.

But the dream now has caused me to rethink things - is the little man in my subconscious mind telling me something about this person that I need to be more consciously cognizant of? Does this person possess some trait that I find attractive that I was just never aware of? Of all the potential dream subjects, why did my brain pick this person?

I had this discussion with myself my freshman year of college, when I had a dream about a girl I knew in high school. She was an acquantaince, someone I kind of knew in passing. And I never really considered that she might be attractive. But then I had this dream, and wondered if my brain was trying to tell me something. Was my subconscious telling me that I should be paying more attention to her? Was my inner Chuck Woolery trying to make a love connection?

I immediately pulled out a pen and paper and wrote her a letter - she had gone to Boston University. Of course, I didn't mention the dream - I just tried to be friendly. Kind of a "hey, how ya doin" type of thing. Naturally, I never heard back. In fact, she probably never even got it (not like e-mail today, where you can instantly make an ass out of yourself).

Of course, this all would have been easier had my brain told me this when I still saw her every day in high school. That goes to show you how lazy I am - even my own subconscious can't get around to making recommendations about potential girlfriends until it's a year too late. Of course, late is better than never, as Dream Chris was the only one getting any action at the time. Maybe a year from now my subconscious will show up to make me feel guilty about secretly being hot for Lois Griffin.

The worst is when you have a dream about a co-worker, and things get really weird when you show up at work the next day - for no reason at all. They'll be going about their day, while you'll be looking at them in an entirely new way. Of course, telling them about the dream virtually guarantees that they will never speak to you again. But it's not your fault - you didn't pick them. You can't control what you dream about - otherwise, I'd dream of nothing but being stranded on an island with a machine that makes double whoppers. With cheese.

Man on the Bench

I went to Kohl's department store on Saturday, and on my way I noticed an elderly man sitting on the bench outside the store. He was wearing enormous sunglasses, just sitting still, watching the world go by.

I froze and watched him. For a moment, I wondered what that guy must be thinking. Is he saying to himself, "I've lived a full life, raised a family, fought in a war, and now here I am - the old guy on the bench outside Kohl's?" Is he satisfied with the way his life turned out?

I immediately realized that there's a 100% chance that someday I'm the old guy on the bench outside Kohl's. And I wondered what I would be saying to myself while sitting on the bench. Would I be satisfied with my life up to that point? Would I be wondering if I did enough to change the world in any real positive way? Would I think I did enough to teach my kids right from wrong? Would I have any lingering regrets about the way I led my life? Or would I just be saying to myself, "God dammit, there's so much more I could have done, but now I'm just stuck here on this damn bench watching people shop at Kohl's?"

Then I bought some socks.

May 18, 2007

Falling Far From the Tree

In news likely only interesting to me:

My family's origins are in Park Falls, Wisconsin. I've been told the Schneiders up there pretty much run the place. I have a sister who is attempting to write a family history, and through interviews dug up this little piece of trivia:

My great grandfather William lived in Park Falls and was a determined liberal Democrat. He openly despised Republicans. Supposedly, he ran for local office quite a few times and never actually won anything. However, according to family lore, John F. Kennedy actually visited Grandpa William in his home twice - once, during the 1960 campaign, and again after Kennedy was elected President. Apparently, a Park Falls Herald newspaper photo exists of the two of them together in my gramps' home.

Here's a photo my sis dug up of Grandpa Bill keeping it real - The resemblance is obvious, since this is how I wear my pants:

Remembering the Bombing

The Wisconsin State Journal today reports on a plaque being mounted at Sterling Hall to remember Robert Fassnacht, who was killed when anti-Vietnam War protesters bombed the University of Wisconsin-Madison building in 1970.

This prompted me to go back and revisit information about the bombing, and I ran across this State Journal website that compiled many of the original press accounts of the bombing and trial. Check out the media links on the left side of the page - some of it is truly chilling reading, including this passage:

In an April 1995 Wisconsin State Journal story, Karl Armstrong reflected on the bombing by saying, ``It was something that tore the community apart. After the bombing, people stood back and took a look at the violence on both sides.''
Lastly, check out this guy, who was student body president at the time. Clearly, he's a hippie, but he's urging students to arm themselves in the wake of the bombing. His comments are incomprehensible.

May 17, 2007

The Ludacris Dissent

In the wake of rapper Ludacris being announced as a performer at Summerfest, I posted a semi-defense of rap music the other night. The blogosphere is still wrestling with the issue of "gangsta rap," given the recent shooting of a four year old girl in Milwaukee. Some local personalities who I respect, some who I like, and some, well... some who have radio shows - are suggesting that there's a link between Ludacris' profane persona and the tragic shooting of Jasmine Owens. Nothing could be further from the truth. It's misguided to suggest somehow one has begotten the other, merely because they both happened in a close time period. Therefore, I respectfully dissent.

Regarding Ludacris' appearance at Summerfest, James T. Harris says:

I’m calling on Mr. Smiley and the Summerfest board to reverse their asinine decision. This is not the time to arm enemy combatants with weapons of ideology. That is what the rap culture is. An ideological weapon of mass destruction.

Milwaukeeans, Wisconsinites and who ever else reads this blog: It is time to view the culture of violence in a new light. We can no longer just be serious about this. We must take the problem personally.

It is time to live and or die by principles. Right now, children are dying for nothing at all. If we’re not careful, that’s what they’ll be living for, too.

As far as I know, Ludacris didn't shoot anybody. Suggesting that he, a popular entertainer, is in any way responsible for violence on the street has it exactly backwards. That's like blaming the importation of cocaine into the U.S. on Tony Montana. Jasmine Owens was shot by a criminal. And why people who usually abhor those who blame the criminal actions of individuals on society are now handing the killers a "rapper made me do it" defense is beyond me.

The nihilistic culture of violence and sexuality exists in our inner city, and Ludacris is holding a mirror up to that way of life so it can see itself. Ludacris is a byproduct of that culture - the culture is not a byproduct of Ludacris.

Rappers aren't millionaires because they sell CDs to black people. Rappers gain fame worldwide because they sell CDs to white people. Suburban white kids eat this stuff up because it makes them feel "authentic." If you looked at Ludacris' record sales, I bet you'd see just as many CDs sold in Brookfield, Menomonee Falls, and Franklin as you do in Milwaukee. But where is the violence in those "white" communities? If Ludacris was such a negative influence, why aren't all the white kids in Oconomowoc gunning each other down? I'be been listening to rap virtually my whole life - including some of the most objectionable - and yet I've miraculously avoided capping anyone in the ass.

It's simple - because the culture comes first. Fatherlessness. Poverty. Lawlessness. Those are the problems that face our inner cities - rap music just packages those themes and markets them to the world. In fact, much of rap music emplores African-Americans to rise up against the tide of racism to succeed. If rappers were so influential, why hasn't that happened?

There's plenty of sewer-grade entertainment out there for white people to consume, and some of it is very popular. When Quentin Tarantino movies feature sadistic violence and drug use, we write it off as entertainment. When the group Slayer "sings" the following on their CD "God Hates Us All," nobody bats an eye:

I'm suicidal, maniacal, self-destructive
You leave me no hope, no life
Nothing worth living for I've taken it, can't take it anymore
My worst nightmare
You make me want to slit my own f***ing throat
Just so I'll be rid of you
Just to get rid of you
You self-righteous f***
Give me a reason not to rip your f***ing face off
Why don't you take a good look in these eyes
Cause I'm the one that's gonna tear your f***ing heart out
My hate is contagious; you've got no one to run to
Just tell me f***ing why everything becomes an issue
Your opinion is always senseless - f*** this
You make my f***ing skin crawl
I've lived with it - can't stand anymore
My worst nightmare
I want to take a bullet in the f***ing head
Every time I think of you, every time I think of you

Slayer actually played in Milwaukee in July of 2006, and no faces ripped off or bullets in the f***ing heads were reported. But why do we tolerate this garbage from white artists? Because it's white kids listening to it - and we presume that white kids know wrong from right. Culture comes first.

Ludacris is an easy target, and one that's tangible. Ergo, we pressure Summerfest to get rid of him, and we feel we've accomplished something. The scourge of absent fathers, drugs, and failing schools are intractable problems without concrete answers. So while we may all feel good that people willing to pay their money to go see Ludacris won't be able to, in the end we really haven't accomplished anything but self-gratification.

One could argue that I'm setting up a false choice - that you can't object to Ludacris' lyrics if you're not willing to also propose a panacea to cure all social ills in the black community. That's certainly not true - obviously, the content of a lot of rap is galling, and people are free to object. But this train left the station a quarter of a century ago for rappers, and it ain't coming back. The Ludacris song bloggers are linking to as an example of his lyrics (Move, Bitch) is six years old. Remember when Bill O'Reilly urged a boycott of Ludacris a few years ago for signing a deal with Pepsi? Ludacris' big punishment was that he became one of the most popular rappers of this century and had a prominent role in a movie that won the Oscar for Best Picture (Crash).

I'm not defending all of what Ludacris or any other rapper says, how they portray women and drug use, or anything else. Obviously, a lot of it is garbage, and it certainly doesn't do anything positive for society. But not only are there going be rappers like Ludacris for the rest of our lives, there will always be kids willing to buy their music. In the grand scheme of things, rappers aren't even a blip on the screen of the cultural challenges we face. The only hope that we have is that we've done a little parenting by the time it hits our kids' ears.

News From Iraq

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, my kid sister was deployed to Iraq as a physical therapist for detainees. We've been swapping e-mails since she went over there, and I thought the most recent one was pretty interesting. This was in response to my questions about how much security she gets when treating the detainees, how they're treated, and what she does to keep busy:

Well, before we got deployed we had to make a "prosperity plan" of things that we wanted to accomplish while we were here in Iraq...well my #1 priority is starting/finishing my doctorate, working out more/losing 20 lbs, flossing daily, and one of the big ones is remembering birthdays and other special occasions/sending out cards. So I succeeded so far!

We do have security with us at all times. In addition, they get searched on their way in to the hospital, they are in restraints the whole time unless I feel it necessary that they need to be removed to do an exam. The other day I did a whole knee exam, wrapped his knee up and was sending the guy on his way and then he wanted to stop and lecture me about why America is a problem. My first reaction was to defend the US and explain to him why it is such a great country, and if he hasn't been there to see it for himself then he should just shut it, but I refrained and just sent him on his merry way.

On one hand the detainees do have it rough - they are stuck in these compounds with very little to do but sit on the dusty ground, although they do have soccer, volleyball, and table tennis to keep them occupied. However, they are getting paid $300/month and are able to make free cell phone calls home and even able to webcam with their families...well my internet connection isn't even fast enough to accomodate webcam yet, so in some respects they have it better than me!

I am always interested in the story behind their injuries and why they are here - I might have mentioned before, but there is a guy with a new leg amputation in the hospital right now that lost his leg while setting up an IED. He was using his cell phone as the trigger device and he was just about done when his wife called him and it went off. There is also a 15 year old whose IED went off prematurely, and he lost one arm and the entire left side of his abdomen. There are also detainees that are in the hospital due to violence in the compounds - one corrupt Iraqi policeman that was suffocated to death by other detainees and then resuscitated in the hospital. Just this week we had our first death - a detainee that was stabbed repeatedly by other detainees and was brought to the hospital DOA.

She's also taken up photographing camels, and has a broad portfolio of pictures she keeps sending me.

UPDATE: I thought about this a little more, and I'm kind of starting to feel bad for the guy blown up by the phone bomb. We've all gotten nagging cell phone calls from our wives, but I think that one takes the cake. I mean, here you are, doing your job, trying to blow up some Americans, and his wife probably called him to tell him for the fourth time to get some milk on the way home from work. She probably nagged him some more when he showed up at home with no legs.

What is Happening to Me?

Last night, terrorists broke into my house and forced me at gunpoint to watch "Music and Lyrics," a romantic comedy starring Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore. After the movie was over, a disorienting sensation came over me - I realized that I actually now liked Drew Barrymore. After a lifetime of abhorring every movie she came within 20 miles of, suddenly I found myself taken. Maybe I just need to rent "Charlie's Angels" to get my life back.

This is disquieting, to say the least. When I awake on Friday, I find it equally plausible that I will:

1. Be a woman
2. Be running the Sharpton for President campaign, or:
3. Not find mustaches funny anymore.

As for the movie itself, it really wasn't all that bad save for a preposterous ending. I think I actually even liked it more than my wife, who has "Volver" all queued up for us this weekend.

May 15, 2007

A Semi-Lucid Defense of Rap Music

Volumes have been written about the societal impact of music and lyrics, and I wouldn’t even pretend to know where to start. But seeing as how I have been of rap for as long as I’ve owned a tape player, I thought I’d toss in a couple of moderately-considered points, given the recent controversy surrounding rapper Ludacris' upcoming appearance at Summerfest.

I will concede off the bat that rap music may have a different meaning to me than it does to its target audience, African-American males. I’ve always been a white suburban Catholic kid with two parents that drilled me – often painfully so – with lessons of right and wrong. I’ve always consumed rap music, rather than allowing it to consume me. I’ve always been able to compartmentalize it as mere entertainment. That being said, there’s nothing Ludacris or anyone else today that’s doing anything that hasn’t been done for 20 years in rap music.

I don’t listen to much anymore, because not much of it is really any good. Outkast, The Roots, Rhymefest, Ghostface Killah – all making quality contemporary hip-hop. Rap music is a young man’s game, and the themes don’t really interest me all that much. But while the lyrics often are foul and ignorant, the overall theme of youthful rebellion is one that is attractive to young people. The overarching theme of rap is a swagger and confidence that appeals to people – in rap, you can say all the things you want to, but can’t. Ludacris exists because old, white conservatives hate him. And the more he can do to offend the old folks, the more popular he will be. Take him out now, and we’ll be having this same discussion about someone else a year from now.

But for normally right-thinking people, rap music provides escapist entertainment, just like any other numbers of mediums. The academy award for Best Picture last year went (deservedly) to The Departed, a movie featuring foul language, drug use, illegitimate pregnancy, and a boatload of grisly shootings. Yet nobody is picketing the outside of the theaters showing it. The best television show I’ve seen in the past few years has been The Wire, which certainly depicts inner city life in an unflinching manner. I concede that each of these examples are miles ahead of Ludacris in terms of artistic value, but each are also replete with the same glorification of sexuality and violence found in rap music.

Furthermore, there’s plenty of “white” music that deals in the same themes as rap. Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer” managed to become one of the cultural landmarks of the 1990s, despite its refrain of “I want to f*** you like an animal.” In the late ‘90s, teenage boys flocked to see appalling rap-metal bands like Limp Bizkit, whose lyrics make Ludacris sound like Camus by comparison. Yet no protest of any kind took place, with the exception of people with taste. It wasn’t until Eminem started ridiculing homosexuals that he ever got any public attention.

Granted, all the goth and rap-metal concerts aren’t accompanied by much of the violence and shooting deaths that have been seen at rap concerts. This is where my understanding might diverge from an African-American rap fan. In many fatherless inner city homes, there may not be the teaching and discipline I received growing up, so many of the anti-social themes might sink in to minds that didn’t have anyone to teach them better. There might be more of a proclivity to actually live that lifestyle if one isn’t exposed to any alternative. But whether rap music reflects the African-American community or whether the African-American community reflects rap music is anyone’s guess.

Sadly, complaining about foul rap lyrics now is just a signal to the black community that white people are completely out of touch with their situation. If I were African-American, I would be skeptical of any white person that acted like they just learned - GASP! - that there was swearing in rap music. I might wonder what else about black culture those white people had been ignoring for the last quarter-decade. I’d also laugh at all the attention Ludacris is getting, since there are rappers that are a lot raunchier and less talented that could be made examples of.

The most salient point about modern rap music is the one often discussed after the Don Imus controversy - that it's hypocritical to call for Imus' firing when rappers are selling millions of records by degrading women. Naturally, the rules of society take into account the context of the message and ethnicity of the messenger when deeming something appropriate, when in fact none of those qualifiers should make any difference.

Will I be attending the Ludacris concert at Summerfest? Ummm… no. I hope for everyone that it’s peaceful. But if it’s not, I would tend to blame the people who instigate the violence, rather than the artist who is there giving those people what they want.

War Criminals of the World

May 12, 2007

Photo ID Throwdown

Last week on Wisconsin Public Television's "Here and Now" show, my friend Jamie Kuhn argued that the movement to require photo identification for voting in Wisconsin is a broad Republican plot to suppress votes.

The producers asked me to come in and film a rebuttal, which I did this week. I think both of our commentaries represent the pretty standard arguments for and against photo ID. Have a look.

Here's Jamie's:

And here's mine from this week:

May 9, 2007

The Great Chubby's Debate

Big trouble in the Town of Thorp, where a new nude dancing establishment has drawn the ire of local residents. Many long-time residents are objecting to the opening of Chubby's, a new "gentleman's club" in the Town (and nothing says "gentleman" like a guy throwing money at a woman to see her chest.)

I was most amused by the reaction of local mother Kristine Rudnick:

Kristine Rudnick, a mother of four boys who has lived near the Chubby’s site for 26 years, fears club owners will be lenient on keeping underage patrons out.“I am scared to death,” Rudnick said. “I have a 17-year-old. What stops him from going to the parking lot and looking at the prostitutes.“He already saw a stripper and told his friends she had a nice body. He found that exciting,” she said.
That sound you heard was Rudnick's 17 year old son jumping off a bridge out of embarrassment. Can't imagine he'll hear about that at school. MOM!

The article concludes with this epic passage:

“The strip club will cause friction in marriages and the area will see a steep increase in divorces. There is nothing we can benefit from this,” Nitz said.

Karen Koltis, who operates a mental health clinic in Stanley, says she has already seen effects of the new business.“It makes my heart bleed knowing the corruption that is occurring and that I might not be able to help,” Koltis said. She said that on Monday a young couple came to her facility seeking counseling because of the strip club.“She was crying because her husband might go there,” Koltis said. “They are truly hurting and destroying this community and that is not fair to us God-fearing people.”

Just having a strip club near your house causes divorce? I would think a more realistic cause of divorce is having a wife that's so crazy, she actually thinks having a strip club in the town affects your marriage in any way.

Can you imagine this poor guy whose wife pulled him into counseling because she thinks he might go to the strip club? If this guy actually agreed to go see a marriage counselor, then this woman has nothing to worry about. I would have paid the counselor by stuffing a wad of singles into her underwear.

Just imagine what'll happen when Kevin Bacon rolls into town and starts dancing.

May 7, 2007

Baseball Roundtable

I was sick as a dog all weekend, but I have to admit that Prince Fielder’s trash talking of the Pirates’ Matt Capps had to be a high point of my year so far. You know the story – Saturday night, Capps drilled Fielder with a pitch that almost hit him in the head. On Sunday, Fielder came back, hit two home runs (and barely missed a third), and scored the go-ahead run when Bill Hall singled off Capps. After he slid home, Fielder jumped up and started screaming at Capps – the TV announcers kindly said he was merely excited, but it was clear he was screaming at the Pirates’ pitcher, who was standing behind home plate. The replay clearly showed Prince was politely accusing Capps of engaging in intercourse with one of his closest relatives.

I, for one, applaud Prince for his trash talking. It wasn’t like he didn’t back it up – he came out like a man and got it done. And after watching the Brewers sleepwalk through a morose two decades, it’s great to see some fire and emotion back in the team. Unfortunately, it’s too late to retroactively name my son “Prince.”

Of course, the Brewers, despite their league-best 21 wins, still remain invisible to ESPN. I turned on “Baseball Tonight” last night at 6:00 to catch some highlights. The hosts talked about Roger Clemens’ return to the Yankees (currently in last place) from 6:00 to 6:18. When they went to commercial, they promised “more on the Roger Clemens” signing later in the show. Sure enough, at 6:30 we got a live update on the Clemens situation from Michael Kay, the Yankees’ broadcaster. They squeezed in a few highlights from the day, then finished up the show with – you guessed it – more Clemens news.

It goes without saying that anything in baseball outside of New York and Boston doesn’t merit coverage from ESPN. But this is ridiculous. When Christ finally returns from the dead to forgive us of our sins, he better sign with the Yanks or the Sox – otherwise, nobody will ever know.

ESPN also deserves criticism for their reporting on a poll they conducted that shows divergent opinions between blacks and whites with regard to Barry Bonds. The poll shows that by a nearly two to one margin over whites, African Americans take Barry Bonds’ side on everything. For instance, 76 percent of whites believe Barry Bonds knowingly used steroids, while 37 percent of blacks believe he did.

Of course, through ESPN’s view of race, the only conclusion that could be drawn from these numbers is that whites are unfairly treating Barry Bonds. They inexplicably brought on Stephen A. Smith to hammer this point home.

They don’t even consider the flip side of the equation – that 63% of blacks are willingly deluding themselves into thinking Barry Bonds didn’t knowingly use steroids. Let’s back up for a moment – Barry Bonds has admitted to using steroids. That isn’t in dispute. He contends that he was somehow tricked by his trainer for years into taking the cream and the clear, which contained human growth hormone. The question is whether you believe that he knew what he was taking or not – and 63% of blacks must believe Bonds is the dumbest man alive.

I read “Game of Shadows” cover to cover. It documents Bonds’ steroid use in great detail, year after year. If you believe Bonds didn’t knowingly use steroids then you either haven’t looked at the evidence or you are willingly fooling yourself. Reasonable people can disagree about what that steroid use means, or whether Bonds is being unfairly targeted, but to argue that he didn’t knowingly cheat says more about yourself than about Bonds.

In trying to convince you you’re a racist if you abhor Barry Bonds, ESPN ignores another monumental fact. Part of what’s so galling about Bonds is that he’s about to steal the most sacred record from Hank Aaron. Hank Aaron is… black. Yet Aaron handled his career with grace and dignity, which is antithetical to Bonds’ entire being. So we’re unfairly injecting race into our opinion of Bonds because he’s about to steal a record from another African-American? How does that make any sense?

Yet ESPN is willing to throw this hand grenade of race out there, without having either the decency or intellectual capacity to argue both sides. It truly is despicable.

On Jackie Robinson Day, you may remember the wall-to-wall complaining on ESPN about how there aren’t enough African-Americans going into baseball – as if this were a matter of national importance, rather than simply of personal choice. That being said, is it pretty cool that the Brewers have four American-grown black players? Yes it is.

UPDATE: I got home from work at 9:30 tonight, turned on ESPN just in time for SportsCenter. And what was I treated to? That's right - Clemens, Yankee highlights, and more Clemens. Incidentally, one more note on the Rocket - in the steroid era, when something happens that nobody has ever seen before, it's impossible to believe it. We may never know what substances Clemens was taking (there's no test for human growth hormone), but it's awfully coincidental that a 45 year old can go out and throw 95 miles per hour - something completely unheard of before he did it. And if someone ever documents his cheating? I'll have just as much vitriol for Clemens as I do Bonds.

The UW Gets it Right

Frontpage Milwaukee has posted an article this week about the UW-Milwaukee fingerstyle guitar program, complete with videos of some of the students. They are fantastic, across the board - this UW program almost makes up for the existence of Kevin Barrett. Check it out:

See, how great is that? First, the guy's name is Cole (my son's name), and he'a a kraut. And I would seriously give up one of my lungs to be able to play like that.

Check this one out, too.

In fact, watch them all here.

Story of the Year

Think State Representative Joel Kleefisch will be happy with this representation of his work to punish sex offenders?
The bill's author, state Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, has pounded away on sex offenders since he took office in 2004.
I almost coughed up a lung when I saw that. Awesome.

May 3, 2007

Is "Money Laundering" in the Dictionary?

This one goes back a couple of weeks, but is interesting nonetheless:

Remember the Milwaukee woman accused of stealing $306,000 over a period of seven years from a charitable food bank? Here's a refresher:

A former employee of America's Second Harvest of Wisconsin was charged Thursday with three felony theft counts in connection with $306,000 in cash that went missing from the food bank's coffers between 1998 and 2005.

The complaint says Shuntell Whittaker-Tucker, 38, of the 7300 block of W. Florist Ave., used a quirk in the software then used by Second Harvest to record payments from non-profit organizations that purchased food so that the organizations were credited for full payment, but other financial records showed the organizations had paid much less than they actually had.

Did Michael Bolton design this software program for her? Did she stay up all night with Samir looking up "money laundering" in the dictionary?

If found guilty, I hope she doesn't end up where I think she might.

Ummm.... yeah.

May 2, 2007

Disturbing the Brewer Balance

As a friend of mine keeps saying, I'm not sure whether I can live in a world where the Brewers are the best team in baseball. It's totally throwing off my balance. Up is down, left is right. Literally, nothing would suprise me any more. If I got home and the squirrels in my yard started giving me investment advice, it wouldn't surprise me one bit. Before you know it, even Neil Heinen will begin to make sense. Once that happens, the universe is up for grabs.

I generally spend at least 45 minutes a day wondering why I root for the Brewers. Now, that time is completely free. I'll have to figure out what to do (aside from practicing my robot dance, of course).

And as if that weren't enough, the Brewers are getting national attention - not because of their play on the field, but because of this:

Yes, friends - that would be a 12-person beer bong unveiled in the Miller Park parking lot. An engineering feat of epic proportions. This contraption has now replaced the Calatrava as Milwaukee's signature architectural monument.

Oh, and special thanks to the Chorizo for showing up for work yesterday.

The Apocalypse is Upon Us

Good grief.

May 1, 2007

A Day With Omar

Everyone who works at the Capitol knows who the most valuable employee on the square is. It's not the governor, and it's not the attorney general. It's not even the speaker of the Assembly or the Senate majority leader. The true cognoscenti know that Omar from Quizno's is the most indespensable worker in downtown Madison.

Any square worker can immediately identify Omar's mellifluous "for you?" accompanied by his machine gun recitation of your possible toppings. Only the most veteran sandwich orderers can get their full order in to Omar without him asking you a follow-up question. The denouement occurs when he smiles and gives you his money line:

"For herrrrre....

...or to go?"

Honestly, if you took Omar and stuck him in a legislative office, he'd be the best constituent service guy in the Capitol. If you took a bipartisan poll of Capitol workers, he'd be the only political figure to get a 100% approval rating. He knows how to treat the customers, which was evident today.

Omar and the rest of the staff at the Capitol square Quizno's are all Latino. There's nary a gringo in the bunch. All of them are good workers, at least looking in from the outside. And as I was in Quizno's today, you could look out the window and see the big "Day Without Latinos" rally on the Capitol steps 100 yards away. Must have been interesting for those folks to be at work watching the festivities. Did they feel awkward by not being at the rally? Did they all choose to come to work because they had to, or because they wanted to?

In any event, rather than saying something negative about the protesters, I wanted to thank the staff from Quizno's for showing up for work today. Omar was there, happy as always, ready to deliver me the savory stack of processed lunch meat I so richly deserve. And good for him.

Someone's Excited

So this guy just hops out of the womb and he gets to watch a good Brewer team? Where's the justice in that?

However, he'll probably have to wait until he's my age to see another winning season. Might as well get him addicted to the misery early.