Saturday, April 26, 2003


This is getting too easy. Before 5 PM on Thursday, I'd already seen a Hyundai Excel (just 3 miles from my own house), a Volkswagen Fox (somewhere on I-90 in western Wisconsin), a Chevy Citation (a few blocks from my mom's), and a Dodge Lancer (actually, three of them, in Mason City). So I guess I need to ratchet up the degree of difficulty a little bit. Hence, my four new additions to the list:

1. Mercury Lynx (4/18)
2. Lincoln Mark VII
3. Nissan Stanza
4. Ford Granada
5. Pontiac Fiero

Well, that list oughta take a while to complete.

Sorry, folks; I thought I'd be able to access Blogger from my mom's computer, but it balked. We are home now and I will resume blogging shortly--but we've got a lot of stuff to unpack!

Wednesday, April 23, 2003


. . . until the Bengals choose this year's "Mr. Irrelevant."
set vacation_mode = ON

We're off to Iowa for a couple days. I'll still be blogging, but a little bit less than usual.

Senator Rick Santorum--#3 man in the GOP--doesn't think you should have a right to privacy. Sir, I beg to differ.

To the surprise of everyone--including themselves--the Minnesota Wild beat the Colorado Nordiques last night to take the best-of-seven series and advance to the next round of the NHL playoffs.

I always said hockey would pay a stiff price for having the temerity to leave Minnesota--Hockey Central, USA--without a team after Norm Green chased the dollars all the way to Dallas. Verily, that has occured. Two of the "Original Six" NHL teams made it to the playoffs, and they both lost in the first round. Half the remaining teams have been in existence less than 10 years. Take that!

The chill of spring is in the air today, but it's a minor quibble when you're faced with a cloudless sky, a negligible breeze, air so clean you can see for 15 miles, and oh, by the way, only a half day of work.

We are bound for Iowa this afternoon, back to my ancestral homeland for the first time since Thanksgiving. It's been too long, far too long. The walls have been closing in around me lately, living in the eternal triangle of Home-Milwaukee-Madison, lather, rinse, repeat. I need different things to look at, and I need them now. The comforting, stuck-in-1985 nature of Mason City will do. It's still a good sample of life the way I remember it and prefer to live it--laid back, no need to impress the neighbors, scarcely anything around which makes you think of money and how you can get more of it.

Lent chews up us clergy types. It's an occupational hazard. Try doubling the pace of your job for six straight weeks and see what happens to you. The end result is, we all come into the post-Easter period with our bodies demanding that we slow down whether we want to or not. I slept till 7:30 this morning, which is late for me on a work day. I'm usually up an hour before that. And last night I went to bed at 11, a good 2 hours before my usual bedtime. (Yes, I do only sleep about five and a half hours a night, and it's been that way for years.) It's almost like God himself is enforcing my Sabbath.

Small matter. It's a beautiful day for a drive, and that's good since there's 300 miles between there and here. We won't be leaving until late afternoon, but in my mind I'm already gone.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003


A journalism class at the University of Illinois is claiming to have solved one of the greatest mysteries in recent American history: the identity of the Watergate informant "Deep Throat". I'll not tell you who they've fingered, but they have done their homework, quite impressively, and I think they could be right.

Since I know some of you don't click on links, I'll just tell you that it's not Diane Sawyer, nor is it Pat Buchanan. But once you find out who it is, everything about Watergate will make more sense. Good job, students.

A self-motivating Dodge Daytona was spotted this noon hour, so cross that one off the list. Oh, and guess what else I saw? Would you believe a Renault Alliance? I almost put that on my original list, but I figured that, since it had been at least five years since I'd seen one, that was unfair.

So anyway, here's my current "seeking" list:

1. Hyundai Excel (added 4/18)
2. Volkswagen Fox (4/18)
3. Mercury Lynx (4/18)
4. Dodge Lancer (4/22)
5. Chevy Citation (4/22)

. . . yes, there's a car club for every car ever manufactured. Even these.

Over at Arguing with Signposts, Bryan is still on the story about the Army chaplain who, according to the Miami Herald, was refusing to allow soldiers to bathe unless they agreed to be baptized. Maybe you've been e-mailed that story? I know I have--13 times, at last count, with 6 calling the chaplain a hero and 7 a villain.

Guess what Bryan has discovered? It didn't really happen that way at all. There was no "bartering of baptisms for baths." Sounds like the reporter ran wild with speculation, know that she had a killer story on her hands--so long as she didn't investigate it any further! Bryan has some nice things to say about the report's journalistic integrity, or lack thereof.

Since it's generally accepted among Christians that baptism alone isn't sufficient to make a person a Christian, but needs to be joined by a real faith, it's unlikely the chaplain in question would ever have resorted to such tactics. (Unless he was profoundly ignorant, that is.) I mean, think about it: if all you needed to do to convert people to Christianity was baptize them, preachers wouldn't need pulpits, just fire hoses.

Go directly to Real Live Preacher and read this. The Preach is a powerful writer, and this article about going on a long hike with his daughters will almost stop your heart. An excerpt:

My vision was a simple one. In a flash I knew what was walking right in front of me. We all think we know what we want. We definitely know what we've had and lost. To know what you have is the rare gift.

It’s not foresight or hindsight we need. We need sight, plain and simple. We need to see what is right in front of us.

I feel graced.

More on the concerns over Franklin Graham's Samaritan's Purse organization's humanitarian efforts in Iraq can be found here. The article makes Graham's organization come across as somewhere inbetween evil and bumbling, noting they snuck 30,000 Arabic-language Bibles into Iraq after the first Gulf War. The truth is probably closer to the latter than the former--ham-fisted evangelism may produce short-term conversions, but sustained commitment requires sustained relationship-building.

Over at Blogcritics you can read this post about jazz guitarist Pat Metheny accusing Kenny G of "musical necrophilia" for adding saxophone overdubs to Louis Armstrong's recording of "What A Wonderful World." Quoth Metheny:

With this single move, Kenny G became one of the few people on earth I can say that I really can't use at all - as a man, for his incredible arrogance to even consider such a thing, and as a musician, for presuming to share the stage with the single most important figure in our music.

Go to Blogcritics and read the rest of the article. Metheny manages to uncork 20 years of mainstream jazz's pent-up rage towards G the Usurper. It's some of the most fiery invective I've ever read.

And yes, Kenny G had it coming. Although I don't think he's ever consciously promoted himself as a jazz artist, that's how the public perceives him. And even if he makes no claims to jazz authenticity, surely he's not so dumb as to be ignorant of who Louis Armstrong is and what he represents: the man who built the playground that all jazz musicians play in. As such, Louis Armstrong is above redaction. His work is now canonical. Adding post-modern R&B soprano sax to one of his recordings--any of his recordings--is an act of depraved Philistinism not unlike painting a McDonald's into the background of van Gogh's "Starry Night."

Ironically, I actually heard Mr. G's redub of "What A Wonderful World" yesterday. (Appropriately enough, I heard it in a gas station restroom.) It ranks right down there with one other such pointless and self-indulgent project I heard in the past: Bruce Hornsby despoiling the Cowboy Junkies' otherwise-perfect "Rock and Bird" with his amped-up sugar-free jazz piano. It was abominable. He even had the audacity to play over the killer mandolin solo.

It will not do simply to call such products crass and commercial. We must must call them what they are: musical hate crimes.

Man. Either I need more coffee, or there is just no news this morning. Since even James Lileks could only scare up about three paragraphs today, I'm voting for the latter.

Monday, April 21, 2003


Spotted today, both in Hartford, WI: not one but two Chevy Celebrities, both moving under their own power, and a Dodge Daytona at a used car lot. Which doesn't mean it's running, of course, but one must assume.

It's been a long time since I've seen a Ford Fiesta, but let's face it: it's been a long time since anybody's seen a Ford Fiesta.

Over the weekend, the Iowa Hawkeyes' spring football game ended in a scoreless tie. According to the article, this was a sign that "the defense is now this team's meal ticket."

Or that there's absolutely no offense. After all, last week I told you that the Hawks didn't have any running backs. Now, who are going to believe: me, or somebody who was at the game?

The best used book stores are always in the worst neighborhoods.

I formulated this law having just returned from Half Price Books on Brown Deer Road in Milwaukee--just outside a mall that closed recently due to some security and image problems. I'll grant that the neighborhood it's in is hardly unsafe (it's another suburban Mobius-strip mall), but that fact would be lost on you if you paid attention to the Milwaukee media--which I don't, for the most part.

However, I have known some great used bookstores in some dodgy neighborhoods--the Midway Book House in St. Paul; Dean's Books in Topeka; Duane Johnson Bookseller in Fargo (OK, there are no bad neighborhoods in Fargo, but the area surrounding DJB is as close as it gets); Renaissance Books in Milwaukee--fascinating places all, but you wouldn't leave you car unlocked outside any of them.

By the way, the one factor all great used book stores have in common? Big racks of old magazines. That's what makes them great. Duane Johnson is the best in this regard. If you wanted a TV Guide from 1974 or a "How to Beat Pac-Man" book, he's got that; if you're looking for Nigerian literature from the 1980s; he's probably got that, too. I spent the better part of the summer of '96 slowly buying out his stock of Car & Driver and Motor Trend. Or at least I thought I was, until Duane informed me, "I've got lots more of those downstairs in the warehouse; you catch me on the right day, and I'll let you go down and take a look."

I am still kicking myself that I never did that. Something tells me the chance to rummage through Duane Johnson's warehouse would be like Heinrich Schliemann discovering the lost city of Troy.

Remember last week when some genius jumped on the field during a White Sox-Royals game and attacked an umpire, who turned out to be an ex-Marine? Would you believe that he'd been drinking all day? Yeah, me neither.

"And on the third day, we flushed."

I'm a new man, in just about every possible way-relaxed, well-rested, and finally free of obligations for 24 whole hours. I plan to spend it doing a whole bunch of nothing, although I've already made a date with my wife to have dinner at a favorite greasy-spoon of ours. But that's about it. The coffee's almost done (decaf, of course), and the rainy skies have killed off any sense of adventure within me, so there's nothing but me and nothing.

Sunday, April 20, 2003


The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that Nicole Kidman appears to be practicing Sc**nt*logy no longer. (Sorry for the asterisks--they've got lawyers like you wouldn't believe.) I guess there must still be a few Thetans stuck in her system after all.

Head on over to the new, improved CalPundit to check it out.

It's over. Lent is over!

Don't get me wrong--I love Lent and I'd miss it if it wasn't around. But after six weeks of writing two sermons, getting pinned down on every last little detail about Holy Week, and just in general being up to my eyeballs in work from 8 in the morning until 10 at night, it's good to see the end.

Easter 2003 saw over 200 people in church, most of whom ate themselves stupid at the Easter breakfast. About 11 AM the sun finally poked through for the first time in four days, which led to me making a lame joke about this being the latest sunrise service I'd ever been a part of. We came home and barely picked at our lunch, then fell asleep in front of the E! True Hollywood Story Paula's still out, in fact. As for me, I'm going to pick up the disgusting, soggy towels on the bathroom floor and wash them--did I neglect to mention that the toilet's still clogged? Tomorrow morning won't get here fast enough . . .

A happy Easter to all of you. Since I'll probably be at home all day tomorrow waiting for the plumber, I'm sure I'll have stuff to say here on the blog.

I think that this is about the 14th article written in the past week about how poorly the Bengals have done in the draft recently. I anticipate about 37 more by the time the draft starts on Saturday. No, I will not comment on all of them.