Apr 29, 2008

Family Safari in the Dells

Last weekend, the fam and I did what any self-respecting family does when they want an exotic vacation in Wisconsin. We hit the Kalahari indoor water park in Wisconsin Dells.

At first, I was apprehensive about the trip, having never been before. If you don't like being places where there are a lot of people, it isn't exactly an upgrade to go places where there are a lot of people without shirts on. Add to that the fact that I realized I would actually have to be in a public place without a shirt on, which I'm pretty sure I hadn't done since birth. (When shortly thereafter, my dad slapped a "Baby for Sale" t-shirt on me.)

After checking in, my kids immediately wanted to hit the water park. Right away, I noticed that there was a channel on the resort TV station that allowed you to watch the water park live from your room. Basically, a channel for lazy parents and perverts. Me being the former, I tried to beg out of going down to the park, but my wife exercised her substantial veto power (still constitutional, FYI) and made me go.

And I have to admit, I was glad she did. It really was a lot of fun. I decided to suck it up (or in, as the case may be) and go shirtless. I just tried not to look down at myself and to stand as close as I could to people fatter than me to make myself look slim by comparison.

Of course, finding large people in there wasn't exactly like finding a polar bear in the Serengeti. The Kalahari water park is a sea of pale, cellulosic, heavily tattooed flesh that should never see the light of day. Obese people with swim trunks clinging on for dear life. Teenage girls with tattoos that might as well say "UNEMPLOYABLE." We actually saw some 12 and 13-year old girls with press-on tattoos on their lower backs. Starter tramp stamps, if you will.

Then again, I count myself among those that could probably stand to lose a few. It's pretty clear that the reason most of the people there can afford the hefty water park fee is because they haven't wasted their money on Jenny Craig.

In any event, my daughter demanded to go on all the scariest water rides. At four years old, she is fearless. When I screamed all the way through one of the rides, she lectured me on how I shouldn't be such a sissy.

My son greatly enjoyed stepping on the little fountains that spray out of the ground. My sister-in-law's boyfriend explained to me that when he was a lifeguard, it was common for kids to actually sit down on those fountains, unknowingly giving themselves an enema. They would then proceed to poop in the pool, as they couldn't control their bowels. Honest to God - he said they had to close the pool at least once a week when this happened.

I was able to sneak off occasionally to catch the Packers' draft - fortunately, I was able to see enough to recognize that the Packers are now set at the quarterback and wide receiver positions for the next 263 years.

My favorite ride had to be the one we affectionately called the "toilet bowl," where you shoot directly down into this giant bowl and spin around a few times before it dumps you head first into the water 10 feet below. It's kind of like experiencing birth all over again.

At night, we toured the inside of the resort a little bit. I can say that the Kalahari isn't exactly the place you want to go if you're looking for decorative nuance. Every inch of that place is covered with paintings of elephants, cheetahs, giant tusks, and so on. The only thing missing is the malaria.

For some reason my son is absolutely enthralled by elevators, and the glass elevator there was his favorite yet. He loves pressing the buttons and getting in and out. So for him, the whole trip was going to visit the elevator, and there just happened to be a water park attached.

The biggest kick of the weekend that I got was in our hotel bathroom, where a small sign on the wall lectures you to re-use your towel, in order to conserve water and save the environment. This from a resort that cranks out hundreds of millions of gallons of chlorinated water for people's amusement, using up enough electricity to power Waukesha. That place's carbon footprint is probably the size of Nebraska. So pardon me if I would like a fresh towel. Thank you.

All in all, a successful trip. Got to spend my birthday with the whole family and have a good time doing so. Naturally, at times it seemed like my family was playing the "who wants to be strangled first by daddy" game, but fortunately nobody won.

Madison - the Apple of Jessica's Eye

As the state's leading Albatomist, I have to pass on a story about my girl that actually has a local angle.

On Jessica Alba's only moderately legible blog, she confesses to being a big fan of the "Apples to Apples" board game. She was able to quit reading my blog just long enough to type the following with her perfect little fingers:

"Been playing a lot of board games lately…apples to apples is a new favorite of mine. I know super cool right J"

(As long as she teaches our child how to write a complete sentence, I think I might be able to put up with her assassination attempt of the English language.)

As many may know, Apples to Apples is the creation of Wisconsin-based Out of the Box Publishing, currently headquartered in Dodgeville. When you think about it, this is way bigger news than dopey Johnny Depp showing up in Wisconsin for 36 hours.

Consequently, I am offering to referee any kind of Apples to Apples worldwide competition, as long as my girl agrees to be there. Plus, there will be plenty of room on my futon in case she needs a place to crash. Unfortunately, I won't be able to join her, as my wife will be busy burying my dismembered body in the backyard after she finds out I made the offer.

The Common Cause Forum, 4/28/08

For the last couple of days, I've been selling out arenas nationwide on the Pro-Corruption World Tour. Last night's stop included the Humanities building on the UW-Madison campus, where Common Cause held a debate on the merits of campaign finance reform. I debated Senators Mike Ellis and Jon Erpenbach, along with poor Gail Shea, who wasn't able to get a word in edgewise with all of our hot air taking up the time.

Here's how it went down:

Ellis and Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, said they hope to pass legislation that would limit the amount of money interest groups are allowed to spend on political campaigns. The bill would require disclosure by advertising groups on how much they are spending and where the funds come from.

Heck said legislation on campaign finance reform could easily pass, except legislative leaders are “philosophically opposed” to the idea and would not bring the issue to light.

But according to panelist Christian Schneider, a fellow at the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, there is strong ground for opposition to Ellis and Erpenbach’s campaign finance reform because of the right to freedom of expression.

“If the First Amendment is meant for anything, it is to protect unpopular political opinions,” Schneider said. “It is condescending to voters to say, ‘You’re not smart enough to see through negative television advertisements.’”

Schneider added negative advertisements can bring harsh truths to light and often increase voter turnout by making voters more interested and invested in campaign issues.

However, Erpenbach and Ellis were quick to defend their campaign finance reform legislation from Schneider’s attacks.

“I do believe firmly in the First Amendment,” Erpenbach said. “I think everybody has the right to free speech — but you can’t go into a crowded theater and yell ‘fire.’”

Erpenbach added huge contributions collected by special interest groups can mute individual opposition voices.

But Ken Mayer, UW political science professor, questioned Erpenbach’s idea of campaign finance reform as a shield to defend the individual opposition voices.

“I’m a little uncomfortable with this idea of using government power to redistribute funds,” Mayer said. “There is no reason to punish those with more money.”

And despite my disagreements with virtually everyone in the room on this issue (except Mayer, apparently,) everyone was extremely welcoming and pleasant. In fact, they were so interested in what I had to say, they asked me every question during the crowd Q&A period.

From what I understand, video of the event will be available on WisconsinEye at some point. I'll post it when it goes up so you can see me spar with Ellis and Erpenbach.

Apr 28, 2008

Burning Up the Airwaves

This morning, I got up way too early to be a guest on Joy Cardin's show on Wisconsin Public Radio. We discussed campaign finance reform and why I am so in favor of corruption.

You can listen to it here.

Apr 25, 2008

A Scheduling Note For Your Consideration

I’ll be on the Joy Cardin show on Wisconsin Public Radio Monday morning, April 28th at 7 AM (ouch) to talk a little campaign finance reform. I’ll be on for a full hour. If I sound older, it’s because it will be the day after my birthday.

Also, on Monday night, I will take part in a roundtable discussion on campaign finance reform sponsored by Common Cause. I will begin receiving my verbal enema from the other four pro-finance reform panelists at 6:30.

Apr 22, 2008

Why the closer is the most overrated player in baseball

As much fun as it is to be right, it stinks to be proven correct when you predict a disaster for your favorite baseball team. Like most Crew fans, I cringed when GM Doug Melvin announced the Brewers would be paying washed-up, HGH scandal-tinged Eric Gagne the princely sum of $10 MILLION DOLLARS to be the team's closer this year.

Taking a step back, I cheered Melvin when he didn't cave into Francisco Cordero's ludicrous demand for a four-year $40 million+ contract. For a while there it looked like Melvin was going to wisely go against conventional wisdom and field a team without a highly-paid save specialist. Then he picks up Gagne (bad) for $10 million (worse) for only one year (thank God). But while it's obvious Gagne's signing was a bad idea, I hereby submit that paying any closer anything more than a poverty wage is a mistake.

Without further ado, here are the reasons why the closer is the most-overrated man on the roster.

1. People wrongly assume the closer is important because he's the only player who enters a game to his own theme music like a pro wrestler. MLB needs to make a rule that if the home team's closer stalks out of the bullpen with "Welcome to the Jungle" or something similarly awesome heralding his arrival, he must endure a head-hanging walk to the dugout after a blown save while the sound guy plays something quiet and sad by a Lilith Fair artist.

2. With apologies to Rollie Fingers and his mustache, the save is sort of a made-up statistic that wasn't even officially recorded until 1969. Look at all the ways a closer can "earn" a save. Sometimes a closer can throw one pitch and he'll show up in the box score next to the winning pitcher with an equally-important looking stat.

3. Starting pitchers and position players are way more important than closers. If a starting pitcher gives a team 7 quality innings in 30 games, that's about 200 innings of service. Closers typically pitch one inning per appearance. How many innings does the average closer pitch in each season? 70 innings in 70 games? By my calculation, your closer is about one-third the importance as one of your starting pitchers. And while a starting hurler can win for you every five games, a position player can win games for you every game. I will vomit with rage the day Prince or Braun leaves the Brewers for the Yankees saying, "I woulda re-signed with Milwaukee but Doug Melvin gave my $10 million to a guy who doesn't even figure into the equation in half the games."

4. There is nothing so special about the ninth inning that you need to have one specific guy to pitch that inning. While the game may be "on the line" in a close game in the 9th, the game can also be "on the line" in the sixth inning of a 2-2 game if the bases are loaded with nobody out. It's easy to remember the closer's strike out that ends the game, but the other 26 outs recorded that game were important too.

5. I'll take a reliever who offers a change of pace from the starter over some flame thrower. I don't remember what the Brewer paid Doug Jones when we had him at the end of his career, but he, his 70 mph fastball and his mustache saved 36 games in 1997. A closer is just another relief pitcher. Relief pitchers just need to chew up innings and throw strikes. Doug Jones threw strikes.

Thanks for sticking with me. That went longer than I expected. If you only take two things away from this post, remember this: 1.) closers are the most overrated players in baseball, but 2.) the most effective Brewer closers have sported outstanding mustaches.

Memo to Gagne and Turnbow, get in touch with these guys immediately!

Can You Smell What Barack is Cooking?

People may think the Pennsylvania primary is Tuesday, but little do they know, this contest was decided over the weekend:

Honest to God. What have we become? So political ads aren't protected speech but this is?

Apr 21, 2008

Brewin' Up a Melting Pot

So I know I'm not supposed to be happy that the Brewers have four American-born African Americans on their roster. I'm supposed to be color blind and root for them no matter what their heritage. But I have to admit, it is pretty cool. After all, the lack of home-grown black players in baseball seems to be a big deal to a lot of people, so anything that makes the Brewers notable in a good way is fine with me. And if it interests more African Americans in Brewer baseball, then better yet.

As it turns out, black players aren't the only multicultural selling point the Brewers have. Last year, Ryan Braun became the most notable Jewish player in baseball when he won the Rookie of the Year award. This year, he's joined by Gabe Kapler, who also happens to be a devout Jew. In fact, according to Kapler's Wikipedia page, he has a Star of David tattooed on one leg, with the inscription "Strong Willed, Strong Minded" in Hebrew, and the post-Holocaust motto "Never Again" with a flame and the dates of the Holocaust on the other.

(Apparently, the "record" for most Jewish players on the field at one time is four, in 1941. Kapler joined two other Jewish Boston Red Sox on the field in 2005. Apparently, someone keeps track of this.)

So, basically, it's pretty cool that the Brewers keep making strides in areas important to a lot of people. It's unknown whether the Crew has any gay players, but Eric Gagne spoke only French until he got to junior college, so that's probably close enough. And regardless of actual sexual preference, Kapler seems to be a big hit on gay sports sites, as pointed out by HeatherRadish.

In fact, speaking of ethnic identities and the Brewers, check out this question Tom Haudricourt received during his Brewer Mailbag today:

Q: Maurice of Milwaukee - Hi i'm a african American who is a big Brewers fan? So here my question With six picks in the first two rouds what positions/Pitchers you think they will look at ?

A: Brewers Mailbag - Wow, it's way to early to project that stuff right now. They don't even get their first pick until No. 16, I believe. The draft board doesn't firm up until the final days before the draft. Check back then.

What in the hell does his question have to do with the fact that he's African-American? From now on, people in the Mailbag should identify themselves by race before asking Haudricourt a question:

Q: Hi, I'm Saul, a Jew from Milwaukee. Why is Fielder batting fourth?

Other Brewers notes:

There's no doubt Ned Yost is doing an excellent job, given the team is 11-7 and still not hitting a lick. And I was one of the people ready to burn him at the stake after "beanballgate" last year.

Now, I concede that fans always tend towards being in favor of playing "smallball." It gives them a chance to prove how much more they know about strategy than their manager. But it still seems like the Brewers botch an inordinate amount of chances to score runs in tight games. Of course, there are plenty of variables that we as fans don't know.

For instance, J.J. Hardy gets a leadoff single in the 9th yesterday in a 1-1 game. Ryan Braun is up. Maybe Braun is a terrible bunter - but it seems that would be a good time to move the runner over. (As it is, Braun walked, and Fielder hit into a double play behind him, and Corey Hart grounded out.) The same thing happened in the 10th inning - and the Brewers would have wasted a couple of runners had Edwin Encarnacion not booted a tailor made double play. It just seems like the people who advocate for a more station to station approach seem to be winning over Yost at this point.


It seems like Bill Hall would be a great guy to play with. And I'm not saying that just because he's coming off a productive series. He's always encouraging his teammates, giving hi-fives, and never complained about being shuffled around on defense. Seems like the kind of guy you'd want around.


I noticed that at one of the upcoming games, the Brewers are offering free prostate exams before the game. Come in, get checked, and get two free tickets. There are several problems with this:

First, once you realize what a prostate exam is, it sounds a lot less like a good idea. It ain't like getting your ears checked, folks. Although if I had the choice between having the doctor's arm halfway up my rectum or ever watching Derrick Turnbow pitch again, grab the rubber glove.

Secondly, what happens if you get checked and the doctor there actually finds something? One would think that the people getting free prostate exams at a Brewer game are the same people that might not have health insurance. So Bernie Brewer gives you an exam, tells you you have cancer, and gives you two free tickets. Off you go now. Enjoy the game.


Last year during a FOX game, Geoff Jenkins mentioned that Craig Counsell's nickname was "The Grumpy Rooster." I demand that the announcers mention this every time Counsell steps to the plate.


Speaking of announcers, I think Bill Schroeder and Brian Anderson are outstanding. They are as good as the Bucks' Paschke and McGlocklin are unbearable. And that's saying a lot. I mean, seriously - if you were starting a franchise tomorrow, are Paschke and McGlocklin the two guys you're hiring from scratch? Of course not. But because of their history with the team, they lumber on from year to year to year, making watching games even more unbearable.


Except for the obvious exception (Gagne), the bullpen has been outstanding this year. Torres, Mota, and Riske have all been good. They're a big reason the team is 11-7. But that makes last year's season all the more hard to take. Because the team hit lights out last year, but still ended up fumbling away the season. Had the bullpen been merely bad, instead of execrable, the Brewers would have won the NL Central by 6 games. And yes, the fact that I'm still sore about last year means I need some kind of counseling.


One camera shot into the dugout this weekend showed Ben Sheets hi-fiving some players after scoring a run. The Crew should hire a coach whose sole responsibility it is to make sure no other players come within 5 feet of sheets at any time. In the bathroom, there shouldn't be anyone within three stalls of him.


Two years ago, any team in baseball would have been envious of the Brewers' young crop of talent. Hardy, Weeks, Hall, and Fielder all looked like they had enormous potential. As it turns out, it looks like Hardy and Weeks may not turn into the stars we had once thought. They may certainly turn into decent players, but appears both might be headed for light-hitting middle infielder roles. If that's the case, Hardy's first half of the season last year may turn into one of the greatest statistical anomalies in Brewers history. (Slightly ahead of the year John Jaha played in 148 games, hit 34 home runs, and was only arrested for drunk driving three times.)


Gallardo's going to be an All-Star this year. Bank it.



(That would be the Brewer reliever carrying an artery-clogging 9 ERA. You know, the one who complained last week about being relegated to "mop up" duty? The one who Yost had to go to tonight despite carrying an unheard of 14 pitchers on his roster? Fortunately, Turnbow is now back to his regular role as Designated Game Blower. The world is right again.)

Apr 16, 2008

There Won't Be Blood

As many of you know (primarily because I won't shut up about it), the Virginia Tech Alumni Association sponsored a blood drive with The Blood Center today in honor of the victims of the April 16th, 2007 campus shootings.

At about noon today, I got a frantic e-mail from Todd, the president of the VTAA-WI. He said a TV reporter from a Milwaukee station was going to be down at the Wauwatosa Blood Center at 2:30, and he wanted to make sure people were there so it didn't look empty. I think everyone at home realizes that people were trickling in throughout the day, but I can appreciate a good visual, so I agreed to make the trip to do it. On the drive in, I prepared myself for the role of my life: "Guy getting stuck with needle in background."

Let me state up front: I absolutely HATE needles. This is good for the times when I consider trying intravenous heroin, but bad for when I need to give blood. My Mom likes to tell a story about how it took three nurses to pry me off a door frame to get a shot when I was a kid. Plus, I once had a humiliating experience giving blood, which I will describe at the end of this post. But there's the setup.

I got to the Blood Center just in time. They handed me the stack of paperwork I had to fill out and sequestered me in one of their little offices, lest anyone catch a peek at my answers. (People would definitely want to cheat off me, since my answers were at least 80% accurate.) For the survey, it took me a while to calculate how many prostitutes I've used in the last few years. I told the nurse there that I'd need to look at my credit card statements to give them an accurate answer. (That's actually not true. Me and my prostitutes always use an Indian-style barter system, where they give me sex and I give them a raccoon hat.)*

While trying to recall how many intravenous drug using men from Cameroon I've had sexual contact with, my phone buzzed. "Chris, it's Todd. The TV guys called about an hour ago and they can't come. There was some explosion in Whitewater or something."


At this point, I have to forge ahead, lest I look like a royal d-bag. Plus, you know, giving blood helps people, and all that stuff. The lovely Bonnie came in and pricked my finger for a little blood appetizer. I was wondering exactly how many holes I was going to walk out of there with today.

We walked together to the main room, where Todd was sitting there, already hooked up. He seemed coherent, so I figured this wasn't going to be too bad. They sat me in the chair, and I made the obligatory jokes about how they might need a couple needles ready, in case my muscular arms kept bending them. They asked me how much I had to drink today, and I said about a fifth of Wild Turkey. (I actually really am this annoying in person, people.)

In went the needle, and I couldn't watch. After about 30 seconds of feeling like I was going to faint, I heard the most dangerous words a blood giver can hear: "Uhhh... Donna? Can you come over here for a minute?"

This, of course, meant something was awry and she needed help. I immediately guessed that they couldn't find a vein. My sharp mind deduced this from the fact that they were actually fishing around in my arm with the needle. I suddenly had become a pincushion with shoes. A very sad pincushion. But with very nice shoes.

After a few minutes of trying some 'ol crafty bloodletting tricks on me (putting the blood pressure pump thingy on me, getting me to squeeze a ball, leeches) they gave up. After wiping my tears away, the blood drawing technician told me that I should have had more to drink during the day before I came in. I told her that 8:30 AM Chris appreciated her advice.

She told me I had two options: A) We could call it a day and try it some other day, or...

"I'll take A," I whimpered.

I walked into the waiting area, and Todd was there, smiling and drinking a water. I told him that there was no luck, since my blood ran cold with the revenge I would seek on him for making me do this. He looked at the scrolling news on the TV, and it said that there was nobody hurt at the explosion in Whitewater. So, ironically enough, if the TV reporter really wanted to see someone injured in an accident, he should have stuck with the Blood Drive story. He could see the carnage that was my left arm - it would have been a ratings blockbuster.

We chatted for a little while, and I considered telling him my dumb joke about prostitutes and filling out the forms. But I figured those kinds of jokes in a blood center were probably treated like jokes about bombs in airports. So I held off. His loss.

I wandered over to the cookies and juice staging area, and wondered what their policy is for unsuccessful blood givers. Sure, my blood was still safely in my circulatory system, but I was pretty thirsty. So I grabbed a Diet Coke and sprinted out of the place.

So, in sum, I drove three hours for a staged media event that never occurred, and my reward was that I got jabbed in my veins for no reason. It appears that I will be able to selfishly enjoy the delicious blood running through my veins all by myself. None for you, future motorcycle accident man.

On the plus side, they did say that a few people had come in or called about giving blood since the drive started. So even though I was a flop, we helped some other people down the road.

Oh, and I should explain my trepidation about giving blood in the first place:

After my freshman year at Tech, I was home for the summer. Having too much time on my hands, I decided to be a do-gooder and go to the Red Cross and give blood just because I thought I should actually do something good for mankind for a change.

A few weeks after I gave, a letter from the Red Cross showed up at my house. It said that my blood was unusable, since it was infected with something. Or, at least that's what I think my mom said it said, when she marched into my room crying, opened letter in hand.

Thinking I had contracted some kind of horrible sexual disease, my mother demanded to know all of my sexual activities up until age 19. Fortunately at the time, my list of sexual experiences was about as long as a list of "Great Eskimo U.S. Presidents." But having to explain to your mother that you're a total loser is something I wouldn't wish on the inmates at Guantanamo. Alberto Gonzalez couldn't even justify that.

When I called the Red Cross for clarification (I thought it unlikely that I could contract anything from Cinemax), they just said that I probably had a mild cold or something when I gave. In other words, I wasn't dying. (Although after discussing my sex life with my mother, I kind of wish I had.)

So while I realize giving blood is a safe and useful thing to do, you can understand the trauma I have felt in my adult years about the process. On the positive side, if you need to tell someone they're dying of a killer STD, my mom is now available to do it for you.


*-SIDE NOTE: So if you're caught publicly with a prostitute and decide to one day give blood, what do you do? Are you instantly disqualified? "Sorry Mr. Spitzer, not today."

The Virginia Tech Shootings as Political Theater

I will admit up front that I am extremely sensitive to groups using last year's tragic shooting at Virginia Tech as a platform to espouse their political beliefs. I don't think the Tech shootings make the case for or against gun control, and I bristle at attempts to use the tragedy for political advantage. That's why I went nuts on former Senate Majority Leader Judy Robson for using the shootings to push for more UW funding during state budget negotiations.

I was hoping to get through today's one year commemoration without having to address this, but it looks like the peaceniks are forcing my hand. Apparently, a group of peace activists is participating in a "lie down" in Milwaukee today to push for more gun control - and climbing over the graves of the Tech victims to make their point. State Representatives Jon Richards and Leon Young should be ashamed of themselves for taking part in this classless charade.

As mentioned in my last post, the Virginia Tech Alumni Association has organized a blood drive to commemorate the shootings. We thought this would be a much more positive way to recognize the dead than to have some sort of political demonstration. Naturally, the Journal Sentinel is on the spot to cover the demonstration, without any mention of our efforts, which were actually intended to help people.

I sent the following e-mail to Journal Sentinel reporter Linda Spice, to clarify some points in her Blog Post:


As Vice President of the Virginia Tech Alumni Association - Wisconsin Chapter, I have a little problem with your weblog post about "Milwaukee" marking the Virginia Tech shooting anniversary. From the title of the post, one would think that the City of Milwaukee is somehow commemorating the shootings. Yet it appears that it is only a small group of peace demonstrators gathering to further their political cause, and using the shootings as a platform.

Furthermore, we here at the VTAA-WI chapter have organized a blood drive in commemoration of the shootings. Blood centers throughout Southeast Wisconsin are participating - details follow this e-mail. It is our hope that this method of remembrance actually helps people in need, rather than serving as a political demonstration.

Thank you,
Christian Schneider
Virginia Tech Alumni Association, Wisconsin Chapter

Here's a "Here and Now" segment I filmed last April, where I make essentially the same point about groups piggybacking their own cause on the shootings:

UPDATE: The Journal Sentinel has added an article about the VTAA-WI's blood drive effort. Thanks to Linda Spice for following up on this.

Apr 15, 2008

In Remembrance

In remembrance of the April 16, 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech, the Virginia Tech Alumni Association - Wisconsin Chapter is sponsoring a blood drive this Wednesday. Details below:

As part of the Day of Remembrance activities scheduled for Thursday, April 16th, the Wisconsin Chapter of the Virginia Tech Alumni Association is partnering with the BloodCenter of Wisconsin to host a Virginia Techforlife Blood Drive at numerous locations throughout SE Wisconsin. Our blood drive is part of a broader campaign launched by Virginia Tech (under the VT Engage program) which has spurred alumni association blood drives across the nation throughout the month of April (and beyond).

Many of the victims of the Virginia Tech shootings needed immediate blood transfusions and are alive today because of blood donors like you. Help us honor those who were lost on April 16th by donating blood to save lives here in Wisconsin.

There is an immediate need for most blood types. To participate, simply schedule an appointment and donate at any one of the BloodCenter of Wisconsin’s donor centers. If you are unable to donate on April 16th, you can still donate through the end of the month and have your donation counted towards our Day of Remembrance campaign.

Call 1-877-BE-A-HERO (1-877-232-4376) to schedule your appointment. You can also find donor center information and schedule your appointment online at www.bcw.edu. When scheduling, please reference code #004256 to be registered under our Day of Remembrance campaign. We have designated the BloodCenter of Wisconsin in Wauwatosa (next to Children's Hospital & Froedert) as our primary donation center, however donations can be made at any of the other 11 centers located in Milwaukee, Waukesha, Kenosha, Brown Deer, Greenfield, La Crosse, Manitowoc, Marshfield, Racine, Sheboygan, and West Bend.

Every two seconds someone in the United States needs blood, and more than 38,000 blood donations are needed on a daily basis. Every single donation can save up to three lives!


Note: For those that don't have a BloodCenter of Wisconsin donation center in your area, please reach out to the American Red Cross (ARC) or any other blood donation center to donate. The ARC is working with VT on other campaigns across the country, and welcomes your donation as part of the Virginia Techforlife campaign. Additional information will be sent via email next week -- if we are able to establish other donation sites elsewhere in Wisconsin, we'll include that information in the subsequent update.

Thank you,

Wisconsin Chapter - VT Alumni Association

Scalia Hath Spoken

This weekend, I happened to catch a question and answer session Justice Antonin Scalia did with local D.C. area high school students. Naturally, it is outstanding. For those of us Scalia enthusiasts, it is like mainlining heroin for an hour.

You can watch it here.

SIDE NOTE: The high school kids are from Thomas Jefferson High in Northern Virginia, which is a public school for geniuses. One of my best friends growing up went there, and TJ was in our conference for sports. I actually once went 2 for 2 with 2 doubles against them in a high school baseball game. This isn't relevant in any way, but I rarely played, so it's my one chance to brag.

Appetite for Replication

For those of you looking to get in on the Guns n' Roses tribute band phenomenon, look no more. I received the following e-mail last week:

"Nearly five years ago, Guns N Roses cover band Mr. Brownstone stormed into Madison to deliver it's first blistering Halloween performance. In July 2007, a second GNR cover band named Paradise City played the Club Tavern, which according to a blog commenter (who must be the little brother of a band member) was "at capacity."

Thus, "Mr. Brownstone v. Paradise City" displaced "Roe v. Wade" as the new national debate that dominated the public discourse...until now.

In a development that could completely change the "Mr. B v. PC" dynamic, a third GNR cover band has emerged and it will be playing in Madison on April 17th. "Appetite for Destruction" will be rocking the Majestic on Thursday, April 17th. (Doors open at 7:30. Show starts at 8:30. $10.)

Judging by their website, these guys tour all over and this is more than just a hobby for them.

Consider this: there are twelve songs on the album Appetite for Destruction. Mr. Brownstone and Paradise City are two of them. Could it be possible that a band that has named itself after the whole album is twelve times better than the other bands named after only one song? After rigorous statistical analysis, the answer is: probably.

Anyway, even if they stink, you wouldn't want to miss the beer-fueled audience mayhem that accompanies a GNR cover band show.

- W. Axl

Apr 11, 2008

The King of All (Public) Media

I appeared on the "Here and Now" show this week to discuss the new Wisconsin Government Accountability Board's actions with regard to campaign advertising. Before clicking on the video below, be warned: it might take a couple viewings to figure out exactly what happens. Be prepared to say: "Did he just do what I think he did?"

Oh yes. He did.

When the State Legislature finally decides to completely de-fund Wisconsin Public Television, this video clip will likely be the final nail in the coffin.

Also, yesterday I participated in a Milwaukee Public Television roundtable discussion about Wisconsin's tax level. It will air on the "4th Street Forum" show at the convenient times of 10 PM on Friday night on Channel 10, and at 3 PM on Sunday afternoon on Channel 36. Video will be made available online via podcast at some point, so I will link to that when it goes up.

Apr 10, 2008

Take a Hike

I thoroughly enjoyed this piece by Andy Moore (my "Here and Now" producer), in which he bemoans the decline in hitchhiking as a standard practice in America:

Hitchhiking is dead. It's hard to say which came first, drivers who no longer pick up hitchhikers or people who no longer hitchhike. But I bet you couldn't fill a booth at the Rathskeller with college students who have even once thumbed a ride.

It is what it is, but it's too bad. A whole generation and, it seems, generations to come will miss out on one of the defining legs of the American journey.

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, hitching for me was an aerobics course in expectations. It began with an act of sheer positive thinking, a belief cast in blind faith that complete strangers, traveling in their own arc, would enter my life and take me further on.

There were therapeutic benefits to hitchhiking. Mental-health strategies that people actually pay professionals to learn. Hitching required patience. It demanded you slow down your pace, accept that you're not in control of the universe and be okay with that. It asked you to hope for the best and accept disappointment.

While the limit of my patience was tested waiting for rides, I can't say I was ever disappointed by my encounters with the people who picked me up. Frightened by them, yup. Intimidated, bored, maybe. Offended, amused, encouraged, and inspired, too.

Oh, and I'm on the show Friday.

Not Your Father's Milk

In an effort to get people exactly like me to do exactly this, the "Got Milk?" people have unleashed mustache rocker "White Gold" on the internet. I believe the kids call that "going viral."

I fully expect White Gold to do more for the Wisconsin economy than the cheese curd.

All of White Gold's videos can be seen here.

Apr 9, 2008

Run, Fatboy, Run

Ever since my trip to the doctor last week, I have made a valiant effort to get my health on. It's been a week since I've eaten fast food, and I've run my four mile route four times. I feel like I need to go club some baby seals, just to restore balance to my life. From the depths of my colon, my doctor retrieved the secret to good health - eating right, more exercise, and paint huffing only in moderation.

The eating healthier thing hasn't been as bad as I thought it would be. At first, it felt like my best friend had left me. My sweet, delicious, greasy, salty best friend. But when you realize that best friend was secretly plotting to kill you, it makes it a little easier to break up.

The exercise has been much harder. The first day I ran my route, I ended up walking a good part of the last 2 miles. That's always so embarrassing, as you feel like the people driving by are laughing at you. There's a wicked uphill climb at the end of my route, and I actually tried to motivate myself by saying things out loud, like "if Kansas can win the national championship, I can make it up this hill." In fact, the homeless guy I hired to carry me up the hill thought it was really weird.

But I was stunned at the progress I made after just a couple runs. I can now make it the whole route without hearing the Reaper's footsteps behind me. I'm still afraid to step on a scale, though. I'm afraid that when the scale sees me coming, it will scurry out of the room. (This has now offically become my audition to start writing "Cathy" cartoons.)

So the next time any of you see me, don't be shocked when you see that I have the body of Adonis. My next project is to become three inches taller.


Here's a song.

The Cobain Chronicles

I'm just finishing up Charles R. Cross' excellent but intensely depressing biography of Kurt Cobain, entitled "Heavier than Heaven." It's an unflinching look at Cobain that doesn't spare any detail about his drug use, cruelty, and selfishness. And now I'm completely bummed out.

Reading this book has kind of given me a glimpse of how book reading will probably be in the near-future. I read a big chunk of it while hooked up to the internet and logged on to YouTube. So when something happens in the book, rather than taking the author's word for what it was like, you can often go right to the clip and see for yourself.

For instance, take the time when Nirvana appeared on the British "Top of the Pops" show. The producers made the band play "Smells Like Teen Spirit" over a pre-recorded sound track, while Kurt sang live. Not quite lip-synching, but close. This irritated Cobain, so he made a mockery of the performance, performing it in a crooner-type style. After the performance, the band had to scramble out of the studio, as the show's producers were livid. Later, Kurt said he was merely trying to pay tribute to Morrissey.

Thankfully, in one click, I was able to find the clip:

You can also find a now-infamous clip from British television where Kurt announces that Courtney Love is the" greatest f*** in the world."

This seems to be an interesting opportunity book publishers can use to augment their written texts. When they publish a book, they could have video clips and other materials online to broaden the readers' experience. In fact, when I finally write my book exposing Cap'n Crunch as a war criminal, I'll be sure to provide plenty of online supplementation.

Some other observations, as long as we're on this topic:

I'm not really clued in to how books like this are written, but I imagine it takes a lot of cooperation from friends and family of the subject. As a result, the book gives a fairly glowing assessment of Courtney Love. I imagine she allowed Cross access to all of Kurt's materials, and it appears the author may have taken it easy on her as a result. This, after all is a woman who admittedly used heroin before, during, and after her pregnancy. While Kurt was missing the week before he killed himself, Courtney was trolling drug houses looking for more heroin, instead of searching for her suicidal husband. All of this is mentioned, but only briefly. (At one point, Cobain's manager is quoted as saying something like "it's so unfair that people think you can't be an addict and a good parent at the same time.")

People forget that Courtney Love essentially wrote the blueprint for the drug-addled, self obsessed train wrecks that we see today in the likes of Britney Spears. She was a crazy addict before it was cool. In fact, the Foo Fighters are still good for one anti-Courtney song per album. ("How can it be/I'm the only one who sees/your rehearsed insanity," from "I'll Stick Around," for instance.)

What also struck me while reading the book is that the Nirvana Era might be the last time we'll see the best music being made that also happens to be the most popular music in the world. Since then, the music industry has fractured, with many of the best acts having to settle on being marketed to niche audiences. One could argue that Radiohead has gotten close, and I'm not too much of a music snob not to appreciate some of Dave Matthews' best work, but I can't think of a recent time when critical and commercial praise were so far apart (with all apologies to Lou Bega.) I am open to being debated about this.

The book also briefly details Nirvana's time in Madison, where they laid down some of the first tracks that would eventually become the "Nevermind" album - widely considered one of the best albums of the past 25 years. It blows my mind that somewhere in Madison, these tapes are sitting there collecting dust. For music fans, these tapes are like the Shroud of Turin - and they're right here in Wisconsin. This should be front page news every day. If these were the original tapes for "Abbey Road" or something, Madison would be crawling with poorly dressed Europeans, pining for a peek at them. I demand that the State Historical Society recognize this fact and that we get a day off from work in remembrance.

It's also remarkable that the three month-old baby featured on the cover of the Nevermind album is now 17 years old. Spencer Elden's Wikipedia page says he was accepted to Princeton for next year (so it must be true). Oddly, I feel some strange affinity for this kid. Not like he's my child, but the child of my generation. So I wish him the best in college, as long as he doesn't call me and ask for beer money.

UPDATE: A friend e-mails me with a story about the Nevermind tapes in Madison:

"An old friend/acquaintance of mine who had a band was doing some recording at Smart Studios. He invited me and another friend to the studio. He showed us around, and was talking about all the amps they had that they could just grab and use for the recording. Then he showed us the tape archives. He picked up this tape and said look, this is the original tape of the Nirvana Nevermind sessions. It was labeled Nirvana Master Tape or something like that. The tape was just sitting there on the shelf, like the CD's in my basement."

Pray for Me, Jesus

For 34 years, I've tried to live a good life. I've (often times) been kind, courteous and giving. Yet this video alone has shaken my belief that God exists. I can forgive typhoid fever and tsunamis. But no benevolent being would ever allow people to see this:

On the one hand, this makes me want to go vote for Obama. But on the other hand, I now know what being a Vietnamese prisoner of war must be like.

MAJOR UPDATE: The McCain Girls have a special, heartfelt message for me.

Constituent Phone Calls Redux

In response to yesterday's post about the voice mails crazy drunk people leave with their state senators, another office has sent me a gem that they received. There's really no setup for this one, but I tried to offer some visual aids in the video to help you follow the story. Then I just quit.

Apr 8, 2008

Drunk Dialing Your Senator

Back in 2006, the proposed Wisconsin smoking ban was still a hot issue. Those of us working in the Legislature had to field all kinds of calls from people angry that the government was going to take away their right to smoke in bars. Generally, these calls came from people physically present in a bar at the time of the call.

The real gems, however, were the voice mail messages you heard in the morning, when you got into work. Inevitably, some guy would call from his barstool and leave a completely incoherent message at 2 AM.

Here's the best one I heard, from the voice mail of now-deposed State Senator Ron Brown. At the time, Brown had sent out a newsletter looking for input on the smoking ban, and this gentleman would like to register his feelings on the matter. This is just one of many that we heard, and I assure you it is 100% representative of the anti-smoking ban calls that we got.

The audio is a little rough, since it was taken off an office phone, but stick with it. And it is not safe for work, unless you work in a bar.

The anti-smoking forces have to be shaking in their boots with a lobbying effort like this. Nice to see this guy exercising his right to petition his government for the redress of grievances. Unfortunately his grievance happens to be the desire to get BLAZED!

The Civil Rights Controversy of Our Era

I hate to get all Jeremiah Wright on everybody, but I noticed something at the grocery store this morning. Maybe this is my inner liberal coming out, but for some reason I still cringe when presented with the choice of buying Aunt Jemima or Mrs. Butterworth's syrup.

And yes, apparently Mrs. Butterworth is black, although it has been decades since they've used her as a human image. Maybe their company recognized that this matronly image was an affront to African Syrup Americans.

In fact, you'd be much better off buying Uncle Jemima's Mash Liquor:

Apr 7, 2008

Rock, Chalk

So within the same week, my sister gets home from Iraq and her alma mater, the Kansas Jayhawks, win the national championship. Not bad.

More importantly, I picked Kansas to win when I filled out my bracket, which was the only thing I managed to do right. After two rounds, I was ranked 92nd in a pool of 104 teams. With the KU win tonight, I finished a respectable 26th - although dead last among people who picked Kansas to win.

And while Derrick Rose is probably crushed at the Memphis loss tonight, just imagine how excited he'll be later in the year when he's drafted by the Bucks.

(Actually, I take that back - someone might want to make sure there aren't any sharp objects near him on draft night.)

Oh, and Billy Packer is still an insufferable prick. That's just a little bonus observation.

Apr 5, 2008

Trousers Product Review: White Castle Microwave Burgers

For months now, I have passed the frozen foods section of our grocery store with an eye on a product that it seems couldn't possibly be any good: White Castle microwavable burgers. But having put down six Whiteys sliders after a concert in Chicago a few weeks ago, I thought it was time to give them a try, if only for the sake of my own amusement.

Surprisingly, they're not really all that unhealthy. 17 grams of fat per two burgers, which is the same amount as one hot dog. You have to wrap a pack of two burgers in a paper towel, and microwave them for 60 seconds.

Admittedly, when I first had the idea of doing this post, I thought I was going to go into great detail about how disgusting they are. But I have to admit - they're actually not half bad. Perhaps the main benefit they have going for them is that the actual food they are meant to replicate is so bad to begin with. Whiteys sliders are good for a 3 AM after bar meal, but aren't exactly a delicacy at noon. So because the bar is so low to begin with, they actually meet it easily.

In fact, given the microwave directions, the heating is just perfect. The meat gets hot, while the bun warms up, but doesn't get soggy. Naturally, you're better off having plenty of ketchup nearby to make the taste more tolerable.

So if you're looking for a 60 second snack that takes you back to the old days of getting hammered at the bars and scavenging for food ("old days" = "last week"), you could do a lot worse than White Castle frozen burgers.

Four out of five trousers.

Caught in a Jam

Last night, my wife and I headed down to the High Noon Saloon to see Vampire Weekend in concert. There are very few bands we can agree on, so I was happy we could finally go see a show together. The show barely lasted an hour, which was fine with her, since she's usually in bed by 10:00. It was really nice to have a little "alone time."

Rewind to about a month ago, when I was at a bar to see a friend of mine who had come into town for a day. A bunch of his friends got together to celebrate his return. In the midst of the evening, I ended up talking to two nice girls with whom I shared a common friend. (These two were among a host of both males and females I ended up meeting that night.)

After the show last night, my wife and I are walking to our car, and of course - we bump into these two girls. I couldn't remember their names, but one of them said, "Chris... right?" I immediately sensed trouble.

What followed was perhaps the most awkward attempt ever of introducing people to your wife.

"Hey, Honey... these are some girls... uhhhhh..... that I met in a bar. Girls that I met in a bar, this is my wife."

Fortunately, I think all involved recognized the weirdness, and had a good laugh. Although I have a little pain in my neck for being forced to sleep on the couch.

Apr 2, 2008

For Gableman, The Work Now Begins

My thoughts on the Gableman-Butler Supreme Court race are up over at the WPRI blog. I argue that while conservatives should be happy with Gableman's victory, much of the hard work is yet to come. With jokes.

The Constitution Gets an Extreme Makeover

I'm working on a couple hours of sleep, but I feel like I should say something about last night's elections.

First, I am positively giddy about the Frankenstein Veto Constitutional Amendment passing. As many people know (and as I have been happy to mention about 20 times), I worked for the State Senator who authored this amendment at the time she initially introduced it. And while the amendment passing with 70% of the vote makes it seem like a no-brainer, consider this: the bill's authors got a Democratic Senate to vote for a constitutional amendment to limit the veto authority of a governor from their own party. It's hard for people to understand how much of a long shot that was. But in the end, reason won out. Arguments actually carried the day. Yesterday was a day that people could truly be proud of their Legislature, both parties included.

With such a big project, there are a number of people that deserve to be thanked. First, State Senator Sheila Harsdorf for introducing and pushing for the bill. Her staffers Jack Jablonski and Matt Woebke for crafting the strategy (Jablonski was able to overcome his mental defect of being a Viking fan and actually do some great work). Senator Scott Fitzgerald and his staff, including the now-departed Mike Prentiss, who is now practicing his vigilante brand of public relations in Cincinnati. State Representatives Don Friske and Jeff Stone pushed for the bill in the Assembly, with their staffs Tim Gary and Michael Pyritz. And yes, Democratic Senators Russ Decker and Fred Risser deserve credit for standing up to their governor and passing this restriction on his power.

As for the other races, I'm not sure what I have to say. I'm still stunned about Mike Gableman's Supreme Court win. When I sort out what I think, I'll probably post them over at the WPRI blog.

However, the biggest win of the night was Jill Didier's victory as mayor of Wauwatosa. I take 100% full credit for this win, and I expect to be offered a high-level job in the Didier administration. I will just sit here and wait for my phone to ring.


Nothing yet...


UPDATE: My thoughts on the Supreme Court race are up at the WPRI Blog.
Any minute now...

Apr 1, 2008

The Reaper At My Door

As hour two of Sunday's Jens Lekman concert started, I could only think of two things: 1. Do Swedish people really dance that badly?, and 2. Where's the bathroom? You see, for the last week or so, I have had to "go" constantly.

At first, I thought this might just be a by-product of getting old. I've never been in my mid-30's before, so how am I supposed to know how often someone that age has to pee? The rest of my body aches, why would my prostate be any different? I just accepted that I had the bladder of a 132 year-old nun and decided to move on.

I talked to another friend of mine who is the same age, and he said he was having the same problem. I hate going to the doctor, so I told him to go see a doctor and find out what I have. At the very least, I was hoping I had a tapeworm, since it's nice to have someone to talk to occasionally. I could buy him a little Brewer hat and take him to baseball games and such.

Finally, I relented, and today I went to see the doctor. When they asked for a urine sample, I just pulled out one of the samples that I keep in the trunk of my car. Who knows when it could have been from.

Even as I dreaded the exam which I knew was coming, there were more surprises. Apparently, for the first time in my life, my blood pressure was a little high. It wasn't fatally high, but I had moved out of the "circulation of a f'ing racehorse" phase to which I had become accustomed. Even when I started putting on weight, I could always fall back on the fact that my veins were golden. In that respect, I was deceptively fat. Chunky but fit.

So this was really a shock to find out that the innards are starting to go. My body's kind of like an old Ford Pinto - a little rough on the exterior, but the engine of a Ferrari. But now my doctor was telling me my spark plugs aren't firing the way they used to. I attribute this to my attempt to set the world caloric intake record from the beginning of the NCAA tournament to now.

As part of the exam, they made me step on the scale. The digital number that came up was a number that had previously been unknown to me. I quickly tried to calculate the weight of my boots, belt, wallet, phone, clothes, hair gel, and sandwich I had for lunch. Even if I was carrying a bowling ball in my pants (not unlikely, incidentally), I was still about ten pounds on the scary side. So either I'm fat or my tapeworm now weighs ten pounds.

During part of the exam, the doctor started asking some pretty personal questions. He asked if there was any blood in my stool. "No, not accidentally," I said. Then things got touchy:

Him: "Are you sexually active?"

Me: (Fighting off urge to make a joke) "Uhhhh, yeah."

Him: "With your wife?"

Now what the hell kind of question is that? I totally should have said, "No, actually with your wife."

Naturally, nobody wants to know the actual remaining details of the exam. They are what they think you are. I generally have an "exit only" policy for my rear, but it's really more of a guideline than a rule. I was hoping he'd find a t-shirt I'd been missing in there, but no luck.

As it turns out, I do have some sort of prostate/bladder infection. They sent me down to the pharmacy to get some pills that the pharmacist told me might make my eyes extra-sensitive to light. I threw the pills on the desk and yelled, "But they're for my grumpy wiener, not my eyes!" The cops then escorted me out.*

I just wanted to mention this as the beginning of the end for me. I'm heading downhill from here. Keep this post in mind when I am inevitably found keeled over dead while in line at the Culver's drive through. (Anyone who dies at a McDonald's runs the risk of becoming part of the menu.)

Sadly, there will be no telethon for people like me. It is the bladder infection victims who suffer quietly, often with their legs crossed, afraid to cry for help. When aid is finally given to these poor souls, it is often too late - and a mop and bucket on aisle 6 is necessary.

Fortunately, I hear there are pills you can buy online to help your wiener. I don't care if it takes months; I am going to hunt down one of these rare pill buying opportunities and turn my life around.

Oh, yeah - and the Jens Lekman show was good. Here's a song of his:

*-This did not happen.

The Revolution Will Be Televised

I have been booked to appear as a guest on Milwaukee Public Television's "Fourth Street Forum" show, which films on April 10th. It airs on MPTV on April 11, then again on April 13th.

The subject of the roundtable is "Wisconsin Taxes? What's Enough? What's Fair?" Other guests include State Representative Jason Fields, State Senator Mary Lazich and Jack Norman from the Institute for Wisconsin's Future.

Fortunately, they podcast full episodes of the show - so in the highly unlikely event that you miss it, you'll be able to go online and catch it.