Friday, September 29, 2006

This Just In

By Steve

Koufax Still Refusing to Pitch on Yom Kippur

LOS ANGELES, CA -- Former Los Angeles Dodgers pitching great Sandy Koufax announced today that he remains adamant in his refusal to pitch on the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur.

(Left) The feared hurler as he appeared to opposition batters. Koufax won 165 games during his illustrious career - but none on Yom Kippur.

The 70-year-old Hall-of-Famer, who last threw a ball in competition in 1966, stunned the baseball world in 1965 when he refused to pitch the opening game of the World Series against the Minnesota Twins due to its falling on the Jewish “Day of Atonement.” In a packed press conference today in the parking lot at Dodger Stadium, the left-hander said his feelings hadn’t changed.

Addressing reporters with the same steely-eyed determination he used to intimidate an entire generation of National League hitters, the famed southpaw spoke forcefully. "If I get a phone call and get asked to pitch, and it falls on that day, the answer is still no," Koufax said. "That's not to say I couldn't do it; the arm's feeling pretty good. Hell, I pitched shutouts on two days’ rest, just think what I'd be able to do after forty years.

"But it's a matter of principle,” he added. “If they call me in, I just won't go. If they hand me the ball, I just won't throw it."

Koufax, who now owns and operates a small kosher deli in the Brentwood Hills section of Los Angeles, abruptly ended the conference after announcing that he would also refuse to pitch on Rosh Hashana, Labor Day, the Friday after Thanksgiving, Christmas, Arbor Day, and any day falling in the month of Ramadan.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Opera Notes

By Hadleyblogger Drew

I was going to link to that piece about the German opera that Judith wrote about yesterday as well, but after what she wrote there's nothing more to be said.

But speaking of opera criticism, check out the Star Tribune review of what appears to be yet another mediocre staging from the Minnesota Opera , an organization that seems to have forgotten two things: 1) the opera's supposed to be theater as well as music, and 2) people don't really care about your pet ideological ruminations as much as they do seeing and hearing grand opera. (Favorite line: La Donna del Lago was "a feast for the ear rather than the eye.") Get the point?

Now, if you want to see a great opera rip job, check out this review by Jay Nordlinger in the New York Sun of the Met's opening night performance of Madama Butterfly. You have to read the whole piece to savor the true flavor, but I'll give you a few samples:

"I had not thought it possible for Mr. Levine - the all-understanding and all-expressing - to conduct with such indifference."

"Throughout Act 1 [Cristina Gallardo-Domas, portraying Butterfly] was quavering and uncertain, missing several notes. She was also repeatedly sharp."

Marcello Giordani (Pinkerton) was "in wretched form: full of tension, straining, lunging, braying. . .Plus, he was a stranger to rhythm, and almost to pitch."

About the puppet used to portray Sorrow, Butterfly and Pinkerton's son: "From my seat, this item looked like Yoda, the big-eared creature from "Star Wars." This may be a child only a mother can love."


Nordlinger notes that for all that, the audience seemed to enjoy it. I'll have to check around the rest fo the opera blogosphere to see what others think.


By Hadleyblogger Drew

Two passings I thought should be noted this week:

Sir Malcolm Arnold, the British composer and conductor, died on Saturday at 84. Most people in this country might remember him (if at all) as the Academy Award-winning composer of the score for The Bridge on the River Kwai, but there was a lot more to him than that. As the Telegraph obit points out, he came along at a time when the in-thing was atonal music in the fashion of Schoenberg. The lush sounds of a Vaughan Williams were already becoming "old fashioned," and Arnold risked being labeled a lightweight with his "jolly," "bright" music. But there was even more to this varied musician than that:

He admitted once in an interview that the major influences on him had been Berlioz, Mahler, Sibelius, Bartók and jazz (he wrote a clarinet concerto for Benny Goodman). These adumbrate a style in which primary colours predominate, with added harmonic complexity and, most of all, a profound knowledge and understanding of the orchestra, deriving from his years as an orchestral player.

Arnold endured a difficult, perhaps a typical, artist's life. according to the New York Times: "a diagnosis of schizophrenia in his early 20’s; heavy living, heavy drinking; and mental breakdowns so devastating he was institutionalized several times and had a range of treatments that may or may not have included a lobotomy." For the last few years he was under the care of a full-time caregiver. It was a harsh toll to pay for art, perhaps, but he leaves us much to remember him by: nine symphonies, seven ballets, concertos, and a huge range of music for chamber ensembles, chorus, brass band and more.


And then the is the hall-of-fame golfer Byron Nelson. They called him "Lord Byron," this man who died in his native Texas yesterday at the age of 94. But Byron Nelson was as American as they came. He didn't have the steely aura of Hogan perhaps, or the flair of Snead - two of his principal rivals. He had enough, though.

He was a modest man - "gentle", "grace", and "style" are the words most often associated with him. He was reluctant to talk about his accomplishments, but he left a bagful of records to speak for his place in history: the staggering season of 1945 when he won 11 straight tournaments and 18 overall. He finished in the money in 113 consecutive events. He won 54 PGA Tour events overall, including the Masters in 1937, the 1939 U.S. Open and the PGA Championships in 1940 and 1945.

The shadow that Tiger Woods casts over golf today is an enormous one, and most of the talk surrounds Woods chasing Jack Nicklaus' record of 20 major championships (including, as I do, the two U.S. Amateurs that Nicklaus won). But every few years, when Tiger goes on a tear as he did this year, you'll hear discussion about Nelson's consecutive-victories record. It seems at times inevitable that he'll catch the Golden Bear; perhaps, although I think it's more unlikely, he'll match or surpass Nelson's record as well. But there's one legacy Tiger probably won't surpass, and in that he won't be alone, nor should he be ashamed. For there are few in golf, or anywhere for that matter, who can match the legend of Nelson the man.

Byron Nelson once said, "I want to be remembered as a good man and a Christian man. That's all that really matters." Indeed.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Islam: 1, Christianity: 0

By Judith

We often write about religion and we often write about opera, but seldom do we end up combining them. But, the Berlin Opera has opened the door for us, so here we are.

In a statement Monday, the Berlin Opera has decided to cancel a production of Mozart's "Idomeneo" because the production, by Hans Neuenfels, includes a scene in which the severed head of Mohammed is displayed. Although the production is three years old, the scene is, predictably, controversial. On the one hand, there are those who don't wish to offend the Moslems. On the other hand, there are those who don't wish to offend "Art" and pale at the mention of any possible censorship.

Why are we even bothering with this story? Two reasons. First, this is entirely the invention of the producer, Mr. Neuenfels. Mozart had nothing to do with it. It's popular these days in opera to be so bored with the composer's vision that it must be changed and updated to be more "relevant." (See previous posts on the Minnesota Opera.) In the news story, Kenan Kolat, a leader of the Turkish community in Germany is said to have "encouraged Muslims living in the West to accept certain elements of the traditions here, noting an opera production is not equivalent to a political point of view." That's either naive or disingenuous. What play or film or opera production these days isn't fraught with a political point of view?

The second, more important point, is that in addition to the head of Mohammed, the heads of the Greek god Poseidon, Buddha, and Jesus Christ are presented. Something for everyone. So where is the hue and cry about not wanting to offend Buddhists (Hollywood where are you?) or Christians, or, for that matter, pagans. Why is it that the Berlin Opera is only afraid of offending Moslems? Or is it that they are merely afraid? Chances are the Buddhists and Christians aren't going to go on a rampage blowing up planes or trains in reaction to this opera. If the Moslems weren't so free with displaying their emotions, the production would go on in peace and audiences would just accept that it's high art to show disrespect for people's religious beliefs.

I don't recommend that anyone take violent action against those that offend them. However, perhaps Christians and Buddhists should take a page from the Moslems and speak up when their religious beliefs are mocked. At least we might not have to endure bad art posing as freedom of speech.

The European Takeover

By Hadleyblogger Bobby

The demolition of America by Europe in the Ryder Cup again with the same score shows Europe's complete control of the US -- the US is now a slave of Europe.

This finished our demise.

Europe now has control over our government. In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court decided European laws override U.S. laws when it regards standards (the "constitutional' right to sodomy came from European laws) and punishment (the new rule stating 16 and 17 year olds can't be given adult punishment for adult crimes was also taken from European law).

Is this defeat of America, which Grantland Rice would call the implosion of the U.S., where European troops sliced and diced, killed our soldiers, and destroyed our flags, and showed the U.S. is trash, part of the European metaphor of the fact European laws override U.S. laws?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

This Just In

By Steve

Local Man Offers Public Apology After Re-Hitting Already Lit Elevator Button

MAHTOMEDI, MN -- Local window shade salesman Fred Smedrick has issued a public apology after he re-hit an already lit elevator button in the parking ramp of the IDS Center in Minneapolis last Thursday.

(Pictured) A recreation of the fateful moment from last Thursday, demonstrating how Fred Smedrick's right finger headed toward a clearly-illuminated elevator button.

"I could tell the second I did it that I had really mucked up,” said Smedrick, who was visiting downtown after a trip to the State Fair with his wife, Maude. “The mood in the elevator shifted immediately. When we got on there had been smiles and polite nods. But when I reached over and punched the up button to go to the 2nd level - even though it was already plainly illuminated - you could feel a sudden, stark chill. It was as if people felt I didn’t trust the work they’d already done, that somehow me, the new guy on board, was disrespecting them. It was just horrible. One guy, the way he was looking at me, I could tell he was thinking, "I'll bet you don't even remember where you parked your car." I just kept my head down and waited for our floor. It couldn’t come fast enough.”

Fred plans to take out a newspaper ad to publicly express his regret, and has decided to take the stairs exclusively the next time he's in the city.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

All the King's Men Revisited

Classic Our Word

With the release tomorrow of the remake of All the King's Men, we take a look back at what Mitchell wrote about the Pulitizer Prize-winning novel (what he called a "gothic political horror story") back in December 2004:


All the King’s Men, the fictionalized story of former Louisiana governor Huey Long, is what you might call “serious” fiction (just look at the number of reviews on from students who’d been assigned to read it). It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1947, and was adapted into a movie that won the Best Picture Oscar two years later. As such, it has all the gravity that one might expect. But it has more, much more. It has language.

The book has recurrent themes – motion, for example (the motion of cars down the highway, the motion forward in the quest for knowledge and the journey both away from and towards God, the motion of heading toward one’s destiny while at the same time trying to escape from it). And always, there’s the underlying question of good and evil (at one point, Willie Stark, the Huey Long character, comments that all good comes from evil because evil is all there is to work with).

Perhaps because of the novel’s basis in fact, the ending has a preordained feeling that allows Warren to concentrate on other elements of the story. It is true, as many critics have pointed out, that Warren digresses from time to time – in particular, two sub-stores go far afield from the main narrative, and in the hands of a lesser writer you might even forget what he’d been talking about before.


Read the entire piece here.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Da Ring

By Hadleyblogger Drew

Well, Steve, I'm not sure this is as good as German pirate songs, but how about German opera rap? Specifically, the winners of the CBC's "Remix the Ring" contest, held to celebrate the upcoming Canadian Opera Company's performance of Wagner's Ring Cycle. Follow the link to check out Baddd Spellah's hilarious "Rhyme of the Nieblung." And he's right - if you stick it out long enough, there's a pretty good payoff. (H/T: John Birge at MPR's Comparing Notes.)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

It's International Talk Like a Pirate Day!

By Hadleyblogger Steve

"Strike three? That pitch was way outside!"

Wait - sorry, wrong pirates.


Or, if you prefer (are you reading this, Drew?), here's a German pirate song:

Ick heff mol en Hamborger Veermaster sehn,
To my ho dae!
To my ho dae!
De Masten so scheef as den Schipper sien Been,
To my ho dae ho dae ho ho ho ho!

Dat Deck weur vun Isen, Vull Schiet uns vull Schmeer.
To my ho dae! To my ho dae!
"Rein Schipp" weur den Käpten Sin grötstet Pläseer.
To my ho dae ho dae ho ho ho ho!

Dat Logis weur vull Wanzen, De Kombüs weur vull Dreck,
To my ho dae, to my ho dae!
De Beschüten, de leupen Von sülben all weg.
To my ho dae ho dae ho ho ho ho!

Dat Soltfleesch weur greun, Un de Speck weur vull Moden.
To my ho dae, to my ho dae!
Köm gäv dat bloß an Wiehnachtsobend.
To my ho dae ho dae ho ho ho ho!

Un wulln wi mol seiln, Ick segg dat jo nur,
To my ho dae, to my ho dae!
Denn leup he dree vorut Und veer wedder retur.
To my ho dae ho dae ho ho ho ho!

As dat Schipp weur so weur Ok de Kaptein,
To my ho dae, to my ho dae!
De Lüd for dat Schipp weurn Ok blot schangheit.
To my ho dae ho dae ho ho ho ho!

Enjoy the day, mateys.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The "Triumph" of Leni Riefenstahl

By Hadleyblogger Drew

Finally, Riefenstahl.

It's been so long since I started this thread that's it's difficult to recall what the point of it all was supposed to be. (And I'm glad I haven't been kicked off the blog for being so late in getting this up!)

But this whole discussion started with the death of Elisabeth Schwarzkopf last month. As was mentioned back then, virtually every obit of the great opera star mentioned her past association with the Nazi party in WW2 Germany. And I supposed it's a natural segueway, once you've talked about Schwarzkopf, to look at the lives of two other prominent German artists: Leni Riefenstahl and Richard Wagner. (Günter Grass doesn't really count, since he wasn't part of my original plan and, anyway, I've already talked about him enough.)

And in looking at their lives, we continue to be drawn to the central question of the discussion: what is the relationship between the artist and the art? As Roger Ebert has noted, it raises the “classic question of the contest between art and morality: Is there such a thing as pure art, or does all art make a political statement?"

Leni Riefenstahl was one of the great film documentarians of the 20th century. From Wikipedia: (I'll quote liberally here, since I have no desire to get this blog tied up in a plagerism accusation:

Riefenstahl's techniques, such as moving cameras, the use of telephoto lenses to create a distorted perspective, aerial photography, and revolutionary approach to the use of music and cinematography, have earned Triumph recognition as one of the greatest propaganda films in history. [...] The film was popular in the Third Reich and elsewhere, and has continued to influence movies, documentaries, and commercials to this day, even as it raises the question over the dividing line between "art and morality."

But, as you might have gathered from the above paragraph, there’s that Nazi thing again. Of all Riefenstahl's documentaries, none is perhaps as famous - and infamous - as Triumph of the Will. It is a magnificent, terrible film of a horrible story - the Nazis and their Nuremberg rallies during the '30s. And in telling that horrible story, it also ensured that filmmaking would never be the same again.

Film historians have seen Riefenstahl's influence in movies ever since. Star Wars, Citizen Kane, Gladiator, Lord of the Rings - all bear the marks of Riefenstahl's style. The famous opening scene of Triumph, in which the camera moves through the clouds to capture an aerial shot of the city of Nuremberg (to the music of Wagner, naturally) must have influenced Wim Wenders' opening of Wings of Desire. The sports documentarian Bud Greenspan, one of the finest filmmakers of the 20th century (Ken Burns could take a chapter from him), considers her one of the greats.

It's an assertion few would dispute, in the academic sense. But can’t you detect just the smallest bit of embarrassment whenever one praises the work of Riefenstahl? True, Triumph of the Will is a staple of many “best all-time” lists, but there’s this sense that even when we praise Riefenstahl, we must immediately apologize or explain away the praise, lest we fall under guilt-by-association. The closer we get to her work, the more we edge away from it. It’s not likely you’d hear Seinfeld emerge from the theatre saying, “It’s about Nazis! Not that there’s anything wrong with that.” (Warning: Do not insert any Soup Nazi jokes here.)

No, you’ll never hear anyone say there’s nothing wrong with being a Nazi. In our time the Nazi brand is, as I've said before, the Scarlet Swastika, an accusation so accursed that its use has become widespread, indiscriminate, a self-parody. And yet it is a charge that carries power, a negative sort of prestige, a stigma that taints whatever it touches. And we ask ourselves if we should be ashamed by our admiration and praise of the artist’s work, if we can morally separate the ideology of the artist from the art itself.

Riefenstahl’s work does not allow us that luxury. The subject matter of Triumph of the Will is in your face, and you can't ignore it. As the Wikipedia bio puts it, "it is nearly impossible to separate the subject from the artist behind it." She “claimed that she was naïve about the Nazis when she made it and had no knowledge of Hitler's genocidal policies. She also pointed out that Triumph contains ‘not one single anti-Semitic word’“; but it is difficult (although not impossible) to conceive of her as both ingénue and naïve girl, the brilliant and innovative filmmaker who was still a babe in the woods when it came to world politics. This is what she would have liked you to believe, but her actions often belie that contention. Roger Ebert points out, "the very absence of anti-Semitism in Triumph of the Will looks like a calculation; excluding the central motif of almost all of Hitler's public speeches must have been a deliberate decision to make the film more efficient as propaganda." And so, given all this, we’re tempted to see in her films things that aren’t really there, images that dance before us like the ghosts from black & white TV. Only these are real, the ghosts of Hitler’s victims that only become clearer as the picture is drawn into sharper focus.

Therefore, as viewers do we punish the filmmaker because of the subject of her films? Do we hold Riefenstahl accountable for her Nazi associations? And if so, do we also apply the same standards to Sergei Eisenstein, who exploited Russian nationalistic pride in Potemkin and Alexander Nevsky? (Yes, I know Eisenstein had his quarrels with the authorities, but large families often do that.) Eisenstein is often ranked in the pantheon of filmmaking, Potemkin appearing on most ten-best lists, but I rarely see him carrying around the baggage that accompanies Riefenstahl. And we won't even get into the almost-paranoid, conspiracy-laden propaganda of liberal filmmakers like Oliver Stone?

Now, it's true that Eisenstein wasn't a documentarian as was Riefenstahl. Nonetheless, his movies were fraught with nationalistic fervor, clearly designed to influence and inspire the viewer. (The Communists, in fact, thought Eisenstein worried too much about things like art and budgeting, and wanted even more propaganda in the content.) As for Stone - well, we know most of his films have an agenda.

Some like to pair up Triumph of the Will with Frank Capra’s direct answer to them, the Why We Fight series of films. (And, by the way, given how anti-American Hollywood has become, it would have been interesting to see how Capra's reputation might have suffered had he been young enough when he made this series. Surely in the Hollywood of the late 60s through today, he would have been seen as a toady for the government.)

In fact, however, the true companion to Riefenstahl’s masterwork might be D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation. This truly was a landmark of filmmaking, but most today remember it only as a racist piece of propaganda, glorifying the Ku Klux Klan. True, perhaps, but Griffith's influence, like Riefenstahl's, cannot be denied. True also that Griffith, like Riefenstahl, is held at arms' length by most.

So what's the point here? It's not an apology for Leni Riefenstahl (or D.W. Griffith, for that matter). It's merely an observation on how we allow our politics to color the way we see things. As I've asserted in the past, it is hard to believe that Riefensthal would be held in such contempt had the Triumph in question been Lenin's October Revolution.

As we watch the ridiculous accusations of Nazism that are so commonplace nowadays across the political blogosphere, and perhaps most absurdly from the Muslims who brand the Jews with the contemptuous tag, we are reminded that Nazism is the singular golden sin, the mark from which its bearers cannot recover. It is reminiscent of the "unforgivable sin" that Christ warns us of, though most of those wielding it would fail to recognize that analogy since they don't recognize the source.

National Socialism keeps us in a trance, as perhaps it should. It holds the figures of history hostage, as perhaps it might. But we do not diminish the horror of the truth it represents to assert also that the word "Nazi" is the crown jewel of political correctness, the golden spike to be driven through the heart, the one word that guarantees the discrediting of its intended. Some would wear the title as a badge of honor, an ideology to be embraced, others are shamed with a scarlet letter and their lips burn with Judas' kiss of betrayal, and still others feel the sting of its indiscriminant application.

But while Schwarzkopf shrugged off the label, and Riefenstahl tried to run from it, Richard Wagner might have welcomed it with open arms. But that's for another time.

Friday, September 15, 2006

This Just In

By Steve

Newest “Lindbergh Family” Discovered in Pygmy Tribe in Central Africa

ITURI RAINFOREST, The Congo -- DNA tests on a 46-year-old man have confirmed the existence of a new “Lindbergh family” living among the Mbuti Pygmy tribe in the Congo in Central Africa.

Ndeki (“Chuck”) Mbato had for many years claimed to be the son of famed American aviator Charles Lindbergh. When it was discovered in 2003 that, in addition to his well-known American family Lindbergh also had a “secret family” consisting of a wife and three children in Germany, Mbato’s claim garnered increased attention. DNA tests have now confirmed his claim.

(Left) Famed aviator Charles A. Lindbergh was known as "Lucky Lindy," apparently for good reason.

“We always knew Chuck was a little different,” says his Pygmy cousin Unduzi, speaking through an interpreter. “For one thing he is about 1.9 meters (75 inches, or about 6’3”) tall, has curly blond hair, and loves wearing khaki, brown leather jackets and aviator shades.

“Other than that,” Unduzi said, “he fits into the tribe pretty well.”

Noted Lindbergh biographer A. Scott Berg blamed the 1932 kidnapping and murder of Lindbergh’s son Charles III for the aviator’s later behavior. “Just as a rich man who’s been robbed will often scatter his assets in different accounts to protect him, it’s obvious that Lindbergh, after the death of his infant son, decided that the only way to truly keep his progeny safe from harm was to spread them around the entire world. Of course, in this case it required a different kind of coordination than an ordinary financial transaction normally would, but the principle of having multiple locations for making his deposits still holds true.”

(Right) Award-winning actor James Stewart portrayed certain aspects of Lindbergh's life in the movie The Spirit of St. Louis.

Additional reports of “Lindbergh children” are now being investigated in a small village north of Beijing, China, in Bombay, India, and in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada. “It’s good to see that the Spirit of St. Louis is still soaring, so to speak,” said Berg with a chuckle.

When asked to sum up the aviator’s legacy, young Mbato's answer was simple. “My father loved flying,” said Chuck, who is in negotiations for a book and movie about his life.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

September Song

By Judith

Oh, its a long, long while from May to December/ But the days grow short when you reach September.

These words from September Song (Maxwell Anderson/Kurt Weill) are about one's life winding down like the seasons going from Spring to Winter. But they can be taken literally, too, for when we reach September the days are shorter; only a few weeks ago I could still read by daylight at 8 o'clock at night. Now, I can barely see out on the balcony by that time.

The real revelation comes in the day time, though. Today was the first completely sunny day we've had in some time and it shed a new light on what's been happening day by day in the great outdoors. Suddenly, there are a few yellow leaves on the aspens. Twigs with leaves still attached have fallen to the ground and are starting to look a little rusty. The sumac is blushingly red. I didn't see this happening in the clouds and fog that we've had for the last week. Fall is sneaking up on us.

I have to laugh at Minnesotans who think this is Color, though. They wax poetic with how much they love Autumn because of all the Color. It's like the scene in Crocodile Dundee when a punk in the subway pulls a switchblade and Dundee smirks, "That's not a knife. This is a knife." I'm from Maine. This isn't Color. Not by a long shot.

With the exception of the banks of the Mississippi and a few people who have deliberately chosen trees for the leaf-color-turning ability, this part of Minnesota just doesn't have the bumper crop of sugar maples that Maine (and the rest of Northern New England) does. There Mother Nature takes out her primary-color paint set during the warm, sunny days and apple-crisp nights of September and paints the maple leaves that Century-21 gold and ING orange and Target red. (Sounds like a set of soda-pop drink mixes from when I was a kid.)

Over the next few weeks I plan to spend some time on the parkways by the river; we might even be able to take a drive around the bluff country. I enjoy seeing the last, desperate barrage to keep the enemy Old Man Winter from advancing. It won't work, but it's breath-taking to watch.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Five Years Ago

By Mitchell

Like Drew’s post below, I also have September 11, 2001 on my mind. There’s very little I could add to what he said, and what I could say might be even harsher than what he’s written. (And for those of you out there who might take exception to them, I have to tell you that today I just don’t care.)

For me, however, that day five years ago has a much more personal connection.

I worked in downtown Minneapolis at the time (same as now, but for a different company), and in the initial panic, when nobody knew what city might be hit next, we’d been sent home. It had already been a gut-wrenching day when I receive a phone call in the early afternoon from my friend Gary.

“I have bad news for you,” he began. Or maybe he used the word terrible; “I have terrible news for you.” I guess it doesn’t really matter, because either word would have been appropriate. I was already sitting down when I answered the phone; considering what had already happened, I was prepared for the worst possible news.

And that it was. Our mutual friend Duane had died that morning of a massive heart attack. It had happened early in the morning while he was working out; he never knew about the attacks that were probably less than two hours away. I’m grateful for that, although I’d surely have been interested in getting his take on the whole thing. The doctors said later that he never knew what hit him, and I'm grateful for that as well.

Duane was only 50 or so; he had a wife and two kids who must have been under the age of 12. He’d had some heart problems earlier that year (at least I think it was that year) including an angioplasty, so it wasn’t a total shock in that if I’d been told that a friend was going to die of heart trouble well before his time, I’d probably have figured it would have been him. Still, he was supposed to have been all right; everything was supposed to have been taken care of.

Duane was my treasurer during my campaign for the state legislature in 1998. Of all those who pledged allegiance during the genesis of the campaign, he was the only one who saw it through to the bitter end. His task – fundraising and keeping track of the finances of a losing campaign – was a hopeless one, but he never complained about it. Check that, he did plenty of complaining – part of his job, after all, was to keep us out of jail – but he always complained about the right things, and he did it with a dry sense of humor. There was a commercial featuring the Three Stooges running at the time, a radio spot that featured Curly replying to something with the line, “We’re not normal. We’re morons.” Duane always said that this commercial reminded him of us trying to run the campaign, and we’d laugh about the truth of that. He had a wonderful laugh, the kind that made everyone around him laugh as well.

We were supposed to have lunch that week; I’d taped a TV show he’d appeared on, and he’d wanted me to drop off a copy of the tape for him (he didn’t have cable in his home – a waste of money, he thought, and he was probably right). The tape sat on my desk the morning of September 11 as we watched the horror going on in New York and Washington, and it sat there on September 12, when I returned to work much sadder than I had when I’d left the day before.
His funeral was on Friday, September 14, the same day of the memorial services in Washington that so many people remember. It is his funeral that is the memory for me of that day. That, and the wake afterwards when so many of his friends and family shared stories about him, and we’d laugh as if he’d been there telling the stories himself. His friends had very little in common other than him, but what I remember most was that Duane appealed to all these disparate people for the same reason – his sense of humor, his friendship – and that we all remembered him in the same way. His brother played a tape recording of Duane laughing, and that seemed appropriate. That night, Judie and I watched Wall $treet Week, Duane’s favorite show, as a kind of final tribute to him. That seemed appropriate too.

He was an investment manager who sometimes seemed to look at the simple pleasures of life with a little too much of a bottom-line dollars-and-cents mentality, but who also had a wonderfully bawdy collection of stories that could make even the most straight-laced person in the group roar with laughter. (I wish I could share some of them with you, but this is a family site after all.) If that combination of traits seems a dichotomy to you, I guess it just describes the mystery of life that resides within us all.

He was a loyal treasurer and a loyal friend to the end, and I remain loyal to him. I just checked, and I still carry his business card in my daytime. No reason to get rid of it any time soon.

Requiescat in pace, my friend.

Five Years Later

By Hadleyblogger Drew

I know this is outside my normal scope of commentary, but I hope you don't mind me offering a few thoughts on this sad anniversary. A lot of words will be written about today, and you don't really need more coming from me, so I'll keep them brief and to the point.

It's hard sometimes to remember that we're a country at war. We don't act like it, we've been encouraged to keep living normal lives, and except for the threats that occasionally pop up we seem to be content to let it drift into the background. Most of the time we don't think about it unless it's to complain about the latest security measure.

But there are people out there, evil people who are dedicated to destroying us and our way of life. They murdered thousands of innocent people five years ago today, and they've been at it ever since, though not in numbers so spectacular as those. The Islamofascists are nothing if not xenophobes, with a paranoid fear of anything and anyone different from them. Unless they're stopped they intend to try to finish what they've already started.

Now, there are those who say that we brought on the terrorist attacks ourselves, with our support of Israel, our arrogant stance in the world, our hedonistic lifestyle. The more conspiracy-minded even doubt that there were terrorists involved at all. And then there are the Nervous Nellies out there who wring their hands and fret about just war doctrine and how we're treating our prisoners and whether or not we might actually be killing people during this war. There are others who discount the whole Islamofascist movement, who say that it's ridiculous to think that these terrorists could actually take over the world, and that if we just ignored them the theat would go away.

There's probably a bit of truth in each of these propositions. I think, for example, there's a lot of merit to the idea that September 11 represented a chastisement from God, a warning that as a country and a society we'd gotten too far away from His will for us. (After all, you'll remember that it had been just a few days previously that Bush had made his disasterous stem-cell decision.) Unfortunately, things have, if anything, gotten even worse since then. If September 11 was the first chastisement, I shudder to think of what the next one will be.

But we must remember all the innocent men, women and children - not only in this country, but around the world - who, by the very fact of being alive, stand in the terrorists' crosshairs. Whatever else its sins may be, and they are legion, our government owes it to these innocents to protect them from those who seek to destroy them. It may be true that the idea of the Islamofascists conquering or converting the entire world is a preposterous one. What is not preposterous is the idea that these insane barbarians can destroy the world, nor is it absurd to suggest that they lack the will to do so. "Better Dead than Red" was the joke of the Cold War era; in this era of the shooting war, "Better Dead than Non-Islam" might be their rallying cry.

It's thought somewhat insensitive nowadays to be in favor of "total victory" in war. But that is what this defeating the terrorists is going to require. Total victory, no matter how hard it may be, how long it may take, how difficult it may get. The threat is out there, a threat to our lives and our way of life. As you watch the memorials today, as you remember the images of people leaping to their deaths from the burning towers, of the pictures of missing ones that lined the walls of buildings in New York for weeks afterward, of the candlelight vigils that took place, keep in mind that these murderers are still out there, with bloodlust in their hearts. They must be destroyed, each and every one of them.

We cannot afford to wait for them to strike again. They have already made their intentions known, and we must do the same. This does not mean that we resort to their tactics, that we become animals as they are, that we toss away the last shreds of morality that we may posess. There is a just way of waging war, and we have to follow that. We also have to recognize the folly of doing anything without the presence of God in our thoughts, our plans, our way of life.

Can it still be done, at this late hour? Only God Himself knows. But we do know our task. The threat must be met, head-on. The Islamofascists must be defeated and their reign of terror ended, however long it may take. If this bluntness offends anyone I'm sorry, but that's just too bad. The people responsible for this, and those like them, must be killed, defeated, destroyed.

The clock is running.

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

This Just In

By Steve

Aussie Police Searching for New Suspects in Irwin Killing
Single Ray Theory Coming Under Increased Suspicion

QUEENSLAND PARK, AUSTRAILA -- Police investigating the death of media naturalist Steve Irwin are reportedly searching for new suspects in the case just days after it was originally thought to be the work of a single stingray that allegedly stabbed Irwin in the heart with a poisonous barb.

“We’re finding it very hard to accept that a single ray, acting alone, was able to bring down this wily and experienced outdoorsman,” said Detective Inspector Keenan Wallabee, referring to growing speculation that what appeared at first to be an open-and-shut case might not be so straightforward after all. “I mean, this man hog-tied crocodiles before breakfast, for land sakes, and now we’re supposed to believe that some squishy little semi-fish that kids hand-feed in zoo ponds was able to do this by itself. I’m no conspiracy nut, mate, but who’s going to believe that?”

(Left) A stingray similiar to that pictured here currently stands [sic] accused of killing Steve Irwin

Suspicions first arose after the discovery of an amateur video tape that purports to show the gruesome incident. The tape, belonging to an elderly tourist, Mr. Abraham Zapruder Jr., who was filming at the beach where Irwin was snorkeling at the time of the attack, has not been made public. A government official who has seen it, speaking off the record, says it raises more questions than it answers.

“You can see the ray all right,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, “but you can also see a shadowy dark object come in to the frame of the picture from this sandy knoll off to the right. It’s hard to make out, they’ll have to do more analysis, but there’s definitely something maybe there.”

CNN legal analyst Roger Cossack said such statements could prove damaging to any future prosecution of the suspect ray. “When you have police officials making these kinds of comments, casting doubt on their own evidence, what’s the public going to make of that?” Cossack said last night on Larry King Live. “If I’m on the defense team, I’m going to keep drilling it into the jury’s consciousness. The police aren't even sure of their own case. If that’s not reasonable doubt, I don’t know what is.”

Investigators, perhaps trying to downplay such speculation, are discounting rumors which have spread on the Internet since Irwin’s death, suggesting a link between the stingray and the similarly-named James Earl Ray, convicted assassin of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Officials were quick to point out that Ray died in 1998 and that, while the average life of a stingray can be up to 30 years, such a connection was unlikely.

(Right) The so-called "Magic Stinger," which skeptics contend could not possibly by itself have caused Irwin's death.

The Zapruder tape, however, has fueled interest in what some are now calling the “Sandy Knoll” theory. Irwin’s television crew apparently captured the attack on tape as well, but Zapruder’s tape, made from a different angle, supposedly documents the chaotic moments after Irwin’s rendezvous with disaster, when his crew ceased filming to run to the stricken superstar’s aid.

Zapruder, now in negotiations with major cable outlets for the footage, agrees that something seems amiss. “It was strange the way Mr. Irwin acted after the stingray jumped at him. He kind of fell toward the ray when you think he’d be jumping back. It's almost as if there was some type of force or impact from behind propelling him forward. You can see for yourself just as soon as the lawyers get all the contracts signed.”

Local police, meanwhile, are still holding the lone stingray in custody while the investigation continues. The ray has made no public comment since its arrest, but has reportedly asked for legal assistance from a representative of the National Wildlife Fund or the Cousteau Society. Plans are to move the ray to a more secure location on Sunday morning.

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

I Rest My Case

By Hadleyblogger Drew

From last week's Mallard Fillmore comic strip (assuming you all know that's a conservative comic):

"A celebrity charged with drunken driving early this morning spewed a string of anti-Christian slurs that could affect his career...

"...he's just been offered two movie deals, a record contract, and his own TV show."

(Rim shot)

Which was the point I've been trying to make the last couple of weeks. I'm not the only one who thinks there's a double standard.

P.S. It's much funnier if you click here and see the strip for yourself!

Günter's A** Is Grass

By Hadleyblogger Drew

Just to show you that some things never change, Mitchell called my attention to this item from his vintage TV Guide collection that he thought I might be interested. From the November 11, 1967 issue, it's a program called "The Creative Person," which aired at 8:30 p.m. on Friday, November 17 on channel 2, Minneapolis' local PBS station (or educational TV, as it was called then). The creative person in question is:

Günter Grass, playwright, novelist, poet, sculptor, painter - and political activist. The life of this creative person is profiled as films show him at home in West Germany, at a political rally (urging voters to defeat neo-Nazi candidates) and reading his poetry at an air force base.

As we know by now, Grass' "creativity" extended to covering up details of his own Nazi past. Wouldn't you like to know what he told the people at that political rally? Bet it wasn't, "Do as I say, not as I do."

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