June 28, 2003

This is Gettin' Ugly

Just when you thought California politics couldn't get any more screwed up, here's an article from the San Francisco Chronicle which shows they can.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 08:54 PM | TrackBack

Consulting Firm Claims Ownership of Witty Saying

A Virginia-based consultancy has claimed ownership of the phrase "clue-by-four," according to Perpetual Beta and other sources in the blogosphere. Not only that, said firm is sending out cease-and-desist letters demanding removal of the phrase "clue-by-four" from said Web sites.

One of the best responses I've seen yet on this has come from David Tepper, who informs us that the "clue-by-four" trademark is for a foam board:

I'm damned if I'm going to capitalize or put a ® in front of a phrase in common use, appropriated by a company I've never even heard of. Personally, I suspect this is just a way for him to get free publicity. Let's give it to him. Let's all point at him and laugh, children.

Yeah, I'd buy that.

A few years ago, the Good People at Despair, Inc. trademarked the ":-(" emoticon, and joked they were going to sue anyone who had used it in an e-mail. This was a really neat trick. The company received worldwide publicity and then joked they would sell Frownies (TM) to the community at large. (By the way, Despair's products are really cool).

Despair did everything right in that instance: they did something really clever, and they didn't actually do anything that might negatively impact ":-(" users. These consultants, on the other hand, have done everything wrong. For one thing, it's been done, which means it is no longer cool and with it. For another, "clue-by-four" has about as much current coolness as the phrase "show me the money!" And lastly, actually sending out cease-and-desist letters only antagonizes and appalls the God-fearing Blogging Public, which takes such things as an invitation to ... well ... Fact Check Your Ass.

Heh. Didn't Layne come up with that? Somehow, I don't expect to see him down at the U.S. Patents and Trademarks Office anytime soon!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 05:00 PM | TrackBack

France's Earthly Salvation?

Regular readers of The Rant know that I have been in rather a disagreeable mood towards France as of late. Yet, this morning, I saw a pair of stories so inspiring that I about stood up and sang The Marseillaise.

Now, while some readers already know this, all should know that as odd as it may sound, I have a very strong interest about what goes on in France. You see, I've got a French connection -- and something fierce too.

Tracing back the direct paternal line (my father to his father and all that), one finds that it leads to the tiny village of Dehlingen, in Alsace. Indeed, Hans Peter Koeppel, the fourth of his line (1644 - 1719), was a lay-magistrate and even the town's mayor. And since there are reportedly Kepples all around Dehlingen to this day, I maintain a fond hope that they will be liberated from the Fifth Republic's stupider ideas.

Well, we may have found a liberator.

The Telegraph reports that Sabine Herold, a 21-year-old university student, is leading a charge against the vicious public strikes that have paralyzed France as of late. Her true activism started out with demonstrations in favor of our war against Iraq; there was later a small address in front of city hall in Paris. Now, she's addressing crowds of up to 80,000 people at a time. She has also been the subject of an impressive profile in The Telegraph, written by Alice Thomson. You ought read the whole thing:

Back on Oxford Street, she wants to go to the cheapest stores. "Our Left-wing newspapers say that I must be rich not to champion the workers. They say I dress only in Hermes. But my coat is from Etam. My mother is a school teacher who refuses to strike, my father a professor. My brother is a table-tennis player. We are from a small village near Reims. We work hard but I have no family money."

Next, she wants to go to Speakers' Corner. In one corner, a Christian is ranting against sex in public lavatories; in another, a Muslim is sounding off against the Iraq war. "In France," says Sabine, "we have no freedom of expression. Being different is frowned upon. Everyone must conform. I want to give power back to individuals."

It's a fabulously inspiring story. And, in an age where we have few heroes, I daresay that Mlle Herold is well on her way to becoming one of mine.

-----
UPDATE, 3:57 PM: Andrew Dodge est en désaccord tout à fait avec force avec mon poteau sur Mlle Sabine. Bien, chacun a droit à son avis, je supposent. Cependant, je trouve la description de Mlle Sabine comme 'fraud' tout à fait dure et injuste. Je ne sais pas le bon tour de l'expression ici, ainsi j'emprunterai cela de Graham Greene dans The Quiet American: "dites vous quand vous parlez à une dame."

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:48 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 27, 2003

Oh No! It's Time Again for ...

BAD CINEMA WITH BEN
A Semi-Regular Feature

TODAY'S FILM: 2Fast 2 Furious

As I was planning my day this morning, it hit me that it had been a long while since I had taken a chance on a movie at the theatre. True, I had seen The Matrix: Reloaded just a few weeks ago, but I knew beforehand that I would likely enjoy it. Still, it was all the way back in January that I had taken a chance on Narc, the excellent crime thriller with Ray Liotta and Jason Patric. So it was time to give the movies another go.

Now, as I scanned the movies playing at my local chain theatre, I found myself presented with options that ranged from the moderately-good to the awful.

There was Alex & Emma, a movie that might have worked, provided it had a director other than Meathead Rob Reiner at the helm. Then there was The Hulk, but I wasn't going to see that because Oliver said it was boring. Charlie's Angels 2: Full Throttle looked all right, but I really wasn't in a "Democracy! Whiskey! Sexy!" kind of mood. Also there was some movie about talking fish.

Well, folks, I should've gone and seen the movie about the talking fish, because I got Democracy, Whiskey, Sexy up to my freakin' earlobes with 2Fast 2Furious.

Naturally, these three elements were not portrayed the way I would have liked. You had Democracy, if you consider the anti-social actions of an angry mob to be democratic. You had Whiskey, in two ways: first, because everyone in the movie seemed to be involved in strange MTV-style parties all the time; and second, because I suspect the writers and producers behind this miserable film got smashed a lot while making it. And you definitely had Sexy, in that nearly all the characters were portrayed as oversexed dolts clueless about how to find proper clothing. No, wait a minute. Sexy is not at all the right word to describe that state of affairs.

Anyway, here's the plot. In a strange parallel universe where Los Angeles and Miami are devoid of civilian traffic on their surface roads, decadent and immoral young people race souped-up automobiles for large amounts of cash. Said young people are all shameless and awful stereotypes, we might add. For you have the Rugged White Guy (Paul Walker), the Angry Black Guy (Tyrese Gibson), the Hispanic Gangster-Type (Amaury Nolasco) and the Asian Girl (Devon Aoki).

But in the end, it doesn't matter, because it's not as if any of these characters are three- or even two-dimensional. In fact, the only thing in the movie with any personality or depth is the rat used in a particularly nasty and unnecessary scene. Besides, the story -- or what once may have been a story -- is so breathtakingly moronic that I had to bite my lip.

The first truly-stupid thing about 2Fast is that the law enforcement figures in it are depicted as bumbling, out-of-touch dolts who can't even work out simple matters, such as jurisdictional issues. They are not, however, so incompetent that they cannot corral our Rugged White Guy Hero after a bit of street racing. Since said White Guy is a former LAPD officer -- yes, the film is that carried away -- the authorities are not inclined to be happy with him. However, they will conveniently make a deal with Rugged White Guy if he agrees to work undercover to bring down a Colombian drug lord. He enlists the Angry Black Guy (who also happens to be his Long Lost Pal) in this endeavor. Much street-racing and silliness ensues.

I suppose this could have all been marginally tolerable if every main character wasn't such a blooming idiot. That's the second truly-stupid thing. And let me clear about this: every single actor or actress in this film seemed incapable of delivering their awful lines with any flair or verve. Watching Messrs Walker and Gibson deliver their supposedly-witty banter gave me such chest pains I almost asked other patrons if they had any nitroglycerin. Not even the people you'd expect to be smart -- like Federal Law Enforcement Officials -- came off as such.

But the third stupid thing, which others have also noted about 2Fast, was that none of the main characters suffered the types of injuries you'd expect from such reckless or anti-social behavior. Of course, it helped that this existed in a strange world where Regular Folks All Used Mass Transit, but come on.

So, anyway, here's the final verdict:

I would hope that the good people in Hollywood would take the advice I offer to heart, but I fear that they shall not. According to the film's Official Web Site, the American People paid out $50.3 million to see this foolishness in the first three days of its run. At the rate they're going, Hollywood may just decide a third movie is in order.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 05:38 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

A Time to Kill, Part II

Wow. I think we just set a record for reader reaction here on The Rant. I'd first like to thank everyone for chiming in; you've all brought up a lot of good points, and I've done a lot of hard thinking about what you have all said.

Looking back at what I had written, I don't know if I dealt with the issue with the gravity it deserved. I meant what I said, but I think I addressed the topic a bit too tongue-in-cheek. It's no joke, and I probably ought have not been so sarcastic.

One thing that folks brought up was the issue not merely of self-defense, but defending one's family and children. I suppose I ought to clarify that when I wrote, I was thinking much in terms of my own self-defense. I'm a pretty big fellow -- about six-foot-four -- and I've been lucky to never have really felt physically threatened in my adult life. So I'll admit that colored my own view a bit.

If my eventual family -- my wife, my children -- was under immediate physical threat from someone who clearly had the intent to do them harm, I would not hesitate to use deadly force. I would also not hesitate to put myself at mortal risk, either, in doing so. That would be my duty as a husband and a father -- as a man. That said, I agree with Kevin White that I would also owe it to my wife and kids to do what I could to ensure I was still alive after the confrontation. Does that mean a gun would be my only option? I honestly don't know. Perhaps it would be; perhaps it would not.

I also appreciate the arguments about teaching kids gun safety: if one is to keep a gun in the house, that would seem mandatory. But I'm not so much concerned about having a gun in the home with young children as I would be with older children. That may sound odd, but hear me out. With younger children, they are far more likely to obey their parents like they ought and they are far less likely to, well, act like teenagers. What concerns me is that a teenager would somehow figure out the combination to the quick-safe, or find the keys to the trigger locks. What if -- although I believe it would be a miniscule chance -- he then went and did something awful?

Perhaps that is paranoia on my part, and perhaps it would simply be wise to ensure a weapon was very, very well hidden -- perhaps in a floor safe or other accessible yet unknown hiding place, with the ammunition somewhere else, and with all the other safety mechanisms attached. In such things I am very risk-averse, though; and I would much rather I did what was needed to avoid such risk.

SS asked if I would feel the same way if I or a loved one had been a victim of a violent crime, and also if I was a woman. To be honest, this was not something I had considered at all.

I can say I have been very fortunate that none of my family or friends have been victims of violent crime. When I lived in Los Angeles, the only crime they -- my friends -- experienced was property theft, primarily auto theft. I had a couple of close shaves -- one which could have theoretically involved a "home invasion" -- but fortunately I kept my wits about me. ("Your baby is choking? You'd like to use the phone?" I said through the closed door at 4 a.m. on Sunday. "I'll call the police for you.")

Still, I do recall one case in particular at my first job when a female acquaintance was carjacked at gunpoint in the parking garage at work. Thank God she wasn't hurt, but it was a horrible experience and the carjacker in question was a desperate criminal -- he held up a number of banks in the greater Los Angeles region. Would a gun have helped her in that situation? Perhaps, but perhaps not.

But let us not forget the case of Susanna Gratia Hupp, who watched as her own parents were gunned down in 1991 at a Luby's cafeteria in Killeen, Texas. If you don't remember that story, consider that Hupp had a weapon in her car -- but it would have been against the law at that time for her to take it into the restaurant. One could argue that had she done so, she could have saved her parents' lives and those of the 21 other people who were murdered that long-ago day.

So I do agree that there are places where the benefits can outweigh the costs, and as a man I must admit that I forgot the very real concern that many women have for their own safety. I also agree that if I had been a victim of violent crime or had known someone who was, then I might have a very different view on the matter.

Finally, Dean joked that I was "disturbed" by guns in the link via which many of you came, and I do want to defend myself here! I'm not disturbed by them, but I am reluctant to own one and I'm uncomfortable around them. I've actually never fired a weapon -- not once -- and I am concerned that I'd end up hurting myself or someone else with it. I guess a shooting course would fix that, but even still, it does concern me.

I do want to make clear that I feel my neighbors and others in our society can look out for themselves on this issue; and I can see a time may come when I have some very hard thinking to do myself on it. In the meantime, though, I'm going to hope and pray that such a time never comes to pass.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 01:13 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 26, 2003

A Time to Kill?

Brian Linse has recently written an interesting post on the whole issue of guns and their proper storage at home. It's especially interesting since Mr Linse reveals that he himself owns a weapon, when his past commentary might lead one to erroneously believe that he was among the unarmed citizenry.

Some readers may also find my own views on guns pretty interesting: namely, that I can't stand the things and have no intention of ever owning one. Yes, that's probably a surprise, and yes, that is very un-macho. But I have my own reasons for this.

You see, if I can help it in this life, I don't want to be responsible for the taking of another human life, whether that's via a direct action on my part or an indirect one. It would be a truly awful thing were I forced to take another person's life, even if that was to protect my own person; and I would never, ever forgive myself if a weapon I owned somehow fell into a child's hands.

Now, let's say that I came home after a long day at the office, and I found myself in the unwanted company of a burglar in the spare room I don't use.

Knowing me, this burglar would be of the erudite sort, and he would be pawing through the Bookshelf of Good and Evil which I maintain in that part of the apartment. "You there!" I would say in my most imperious voice, "Put down that copy of 'The Nightmare Years' and back away towards the window!" Said burglar, naturally fearing his own capture, would then either bolt towards the window -- or towards me.

Now let's also say that in the bureau at which I write The Rant that I kept a loaded .45 calibre Magnum pistol, which'll blow your head clean off. By the time I went and retrieved this veritable hand-cannon, the burglar would have pounced upon me and a mighty struggle would have ensued. Because I have some basic self-defense skills, it is entirely possible that I could free myself from the wretch's grasp and ordered him to stand down. But let's hypothesize further and say that he made the mistake of lunging for me.

Well, he'd be dead -- because when you use a gun, you don't use it with the intent to wing people like in the movies. You use it to kill.

That is not something I want to carry with me for the rest of my days -- I just don't. I'd rather he stole my copy of The Nightmare Years and the really nice Gibbon set and even my cheap television which I've refused to upgrade on general principle.

Still, there are worse outcomes than merely the spiritual pain of having to justifiably end someone's life. What about the horror of finding out my son or daughter found a gun I kept and, God forbid, used it?

A long time ago, I remember seeing Alfred Hitchcock's "Bang! Bang! You're Dead." (It was one of the old Alfred Hitchcock's Theatre episodes).

Basically, the plot involves a Suit-Wearing Relative who visits a Nice Clean-Cut Fifties Family living in the suburbs. Said relative has just come back from an exotic trip, and the dope has a handgun in his suitcase and leaves it on the bed. Meanwhile, little Billy or whomever absconds with the handgun and runs around Pleasantville pointing it at people. Pulling the trigger. Did we mention there's one bullet in the revolver?

Now, adding to the tension there is that Billy -- he's about six -- is pointing it at the girl who won't let him on the penny merry-go-round, the Mr. Hooper type down at the grocery, and so forth. There are great visuals in which you have a first-person-shooter view, and they make you just sick with suspense and worry.

It's an especially cautionary tale in this day and age, when you don't have happy endings. The bullet doesn't happen to miss when the weapon is fired. The consequences are all too real, and all too tragic.

So if my neighbor wants to own a rifle or a .38 Special, that's his business. But it's not a tradition in which I plan to take part.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:55 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

June 25, 2003

What IS It With Some People?

Robert Prather has written a great post today in which he takes aim at a (likely) European commenter who believes the EU will challenge the United States' primacy on the world stage.

You should know that this commenter also believes that the United States wants to rule the world in its entirety, comparing us with the despotic regimes of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. Indeed, he argues, if we do not cease this supposed policy of putting the world's eight corners under our roof, we shall feel Europe's wrath.

Now, at first, I admit this concerned me a bit. After all, you can imagine the danger to America if the French were successful in making working propellers for their aircraft carriers. Of course, I joke. But what concerns me is this idea, popular among some Europeans, that we Americans want to rule the world.

Look. We don't. Really, we don't. The only reason we've engaged in war overseas is because we're concerned about threats to our own way of life and our own people. Eventually, though it may take a while, we're actually going to leave the places we've temporarily subjugated. Sure, we might get some sort of economic benefit from that vis-a-vis Iraq, but you had your chance to join in and share in that. You didn't. Better luck tomorrow.

Really, think about it for a minute. I mean, we don't even want Canada, and if we had any plans for world domination they'd be first on the list. After all, they've got all that oil and uranium and timber -- plus they make really good poutine. Of course, we like the Canadians a lot, and closer cooperation with them on certain issues would make a lot of sense -- but quite frankly, we're not even ready to do that. So you shouldn't expect any occupying troops in Ottawa soon, much less Prague or Bratislava.

Nor should you blame us for our economic strength or our cultural domination. As Mr Prather noted, you could have the same if you made some certain decisions, but you like things the way they are now. Fine. It's also not our fault Europeans and others like buying American cultural goods. We're good at making them. This, we might add, is proof of the immutable law of Comparative Advantage. It's why you buy our movies and our music, why we buy -- well, bought -- your wines and cheeses, and we both buy electronics from East Asia.

It might actually be nice if Europe got a bit more involved in affairs on the world stage, because then we could focus our attention on other matters. Mr Prather mentioned Bosnia as an example of that. Bosnia was yours. We were more than willing to let you handle it. But you didn't. You left it to us to throw Serbia down to the ground.

So, I hope that this serves to quell any rumors that we Americans are plotting to conquer the world. However, do be warned that in case anyone else starts getting sneaky, we're working on even more things to make the world safe for free peoples everywhere.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:08 PM | TrackBack

I Will Never Complain About Phone Service Again

Why, you ask? It's because Mohammed Ismail, a 60-year-old man living in Dhaka, Bangladesh, has finally had his telephone installed. That may not seem amazing, but consider: Mr Ismail, a retired bank employee, applied for his telephone when I was just over three months old.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 01:12 AM | TrackBack

Now THIS is Opinion Writing

KIRK ELDER: "I was convinced I had stumbled into the departure lounge of Hell."

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:48 AM | TrackBack

Brits: Baghdad Bob Behind Bars

by AMBROSE JENKINS-SMYTHE
London Bureau Chief
BENJAMIN KEPPLE'S DAILY RANT SYNDICATE

LONDON -- Former Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf has been captured, according to a report from the Reuters wire service.

The agency's report was based on an article which appeared in The Daily Mirror, a brash London tabloid known for its coverage of sport and the peccadilloes of British politicians. The exclusive was a boost for the paper, whose reputation had sunk to previously-unimaginable lows after it hired John Pilger.

"Clearly this is a boost for Britain's 'Newspaper of the Year,'" said Kevin K. Brinker, a professor in the University of Michigan's undergraduate journalism program. "God knows it needed it. I mean, really. Imagine -- actually reporting on the news as it happens, instead of hyping three-sentence editorials and celebrity gossip."

"Say, is that a spare copy of The Scotsman?" Brinker continued. "May I borrow it?"

No Mirror copy was cited in the Reuters report, but Brinker believes the story may note "SHOCK FURY AT NO. 10 AS COMICAL ALI CRASHES WILLS' PARTY IN PINK DRESS HORROR."

"That's what every other story in the Mirror seems to cover," Brinker said. "Why don't they just offer a lot of crosswords instead?"

As of press time, the story had already hit the widely-viewed Drudge Report in America, although there was not yet any mention of the rumor on a fan site for al-Sahaf.

The chief spokesman for Iraq during the quick conflict between the United States and the despotic regime of Saddam Hussein, al-Sahaf quickly rose to prominence for his daily claims that all was well with Hussein's regime.

As the stupidity of such claims grew ever more obvious, however, al-Sahaf quickly became an object of ridicule and laughter in the West. His reputation was further damaged when the U.S. military distributed playing cards with al-Sahaf's face on that one card that specifies the pack's manufacturer, along with other playing-card features.

Al-Sahaf's whereabouts since that time have been unknown. However, rumors persist that al-Sahaf had surrendered to the Americans in the hopes of opening his own theater in Branson, Mo.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:39 AM | TrackBack

June 24, 2003

It's Not Weather, It's The Third Circle of Hell

I was in the third circle, where it rains
Eternally, icily and implacably;
Weight and direction are invariable.

Great hailstones, muddy water, mixed with snow,
Fall through the darkened air without respite;
They rot the ground they fall on, and it stinks.

Cerberus, a cruel and outlandish beast,
Barks like a dog, from his three throats at those
Who, under that downpour, are submerged.

-- Inferno VI, 7-15

-----

It's raining again here in Manchester -- and yes, it's nearly as bad as the above description.

And quite frankly, it's starting to really tick us off. You should know that since the beginning of this year, we here at The Rant have enjoyed about 90 minutes worth of weather that was sunny, temperate, clear and did not aggravate our sinuses something fierce. The rest of the time, there was always something hideously wrong with the conditions, and we wailed and gnashed our teeth accordingly.

All we want is a day or two of summer. Is that too much to ask?

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 01:30 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 23, 2003

Blogging and Dating

I realized this evening that it has been something on the order of three years since I've had an honest-to-God date. Three. Freaking. Years.

Now this lack of dating on my part isn't, I think, a sign that I am not "all that and a bag of chips" (although the girls I have dated would likely say otherwise). Really, when it comes right down to it, a key reason for my lack of dating is that I have been too busy doing other things.

In Los Angeles, I was too busy scheming to move Back East, and I was disillusioned with California girls anyway. Here in Manchester, I find that I throw myself into my work both at the office and here at home.

Of course, working too much isn't the only reason. It doesn't help that the few times I have gone out here, I've felt pretty out-of-my-skin. I detest trying to meet a woman in a bar, because both of us have probably had a bit too much; and that's about all I've found in the way of venues around here. Add to this the fact that ... well, to be perfectly honest ... I'm not all that and a bag of chips.

I'm not merely talking about the physical imperfections: I mean, I can't for the life of me seem to figure out the type of things that will make me seem "keen" and "with it." To be honest again, my pickup lines are no good, and my conversation has been pretty boring as of late. In short, I am in a slump worse than a major-leaguer who just found out he got slapped down to the minors.

But am I going to let this stop me? No! I shall valiantly press on with trying to meet a Nice Girl Who Will, After a Reasonable Period of Time, Agrees to Marry Me and Have a Family and Such. I am going to Get Back in the Game. I am going to succeed at this, come Hell or high water!

Say. Anyone else smell sulphur?

In any event, this leads me into my question of the day.

Now you should know that I was over at Sheila's fine site recently and have very much enjoyed her description of her dates with the Nice Irish Fellow Who Shall Remain Nameless. (Actually, if you haven't been reading Sheila's site, you really ought to do so).

Now, naturally, because I am human, I want to share my stories about how my eventual dates have gone. The trouble is how to broach this subject with a girl I date.

After all, I'm a writer. It's going to come out eventually that yes, I do happen to have my own Web site, and yes, it draws a semi-respectable amount of Internet traffic. If I write about our dates and I don't tell her, she will a) find out about it anyway; b) concoct some sort of mediaeval torture especially for me and my vital organs; and, worst of all, c) inform every other woman in New England that I am a cad. And as we all know, once a man gets on that list, he basically has to move to Europe.

Now, I already know that I wouldn't refer to my date by name, merely with an appellation that describes her. This appellation would basically run something like "Foxy (Personality Descriptive Word)(Career/Occupation Descriptive Word) Girl."

But I'm worried that she would completely freak out were I to bring up the matter. I mean, I can see this type of thing happening:

ME: You know, I really had a lot of fun tonight. Can I give you a call sometime?
FOXY GIRL: Sure.
ME: Cool. Say, do you mind if I blog this?
FG: What!
ME: You know, blog our date. On my Web site!
FG: You never told me you had a Web site!
ME: Well, I was meaning to tell you, and ...
FG: I can't believe it! How could I have been so stupid as to think you were ACTUALLY NORMAL?!
ME: No, no, I'm not going to go into particulars, I just want to ...
FG: You make me want to throw up!
ME: Now look, it's really not what you're thinking. I can close out the comments section, and ...
FG: COMMENTS SECTION? Oh, great, so now you're going to have a committee judge our date?
ME: It's not a committee!
FG: I think I'm going to faint.
ME: What! Well, here, let ...
FG: Why, you! ...

SMACK!

ME: OUCH! Look! I don't have to do this, I just wanted your permission first, that's all!
FG: I'll bet you've already posted about the first date we went on! I can't believe I agreed to go out on a second with ... you.
ME: Well, no one's perfect, are they? (wince)

SMACK!

Clearly, this is a situation I want to avoid. So what I've decided in the interim is to keep things quiet until I get to the All-Important Third Date. By this time, we will both know if I need to start saving up for an engagement ring just in case, and by then I should have enough of a handle on things to actually ask. However, if anyone out there has any advice on that or any other aspects of dating, I would appreciate it. At this point in the game, I could use it.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 02:02 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 22, 2003

Mandatory Retirement Scheme A-OK, Economist Says

Say! Where'd this $12 trillion in projected tax revenues come from? The answer to that, my friends, is over at Megan McArdle's ever-useful Web site. So go read it. In the meantime, I'm going to shed any of the remaining guilt I haven't yet purged from my system.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:38 PM | TrackBack

The Story That Keeps Getting Weirder

One of the nice things about blogging (and, also, reading blogs) is that it's generally a very intellectual pursuit. You can usually find great discussions about theology, public policy, and other important issues that Truly Matter. Furthermore, no matter what one's own beliefs are, one can always find grist for one's mental mill with just a bit of reading.

Well, for the moment, screw that. I came across a bloody great story that keeps getting weirder as time goes on. And since hardly anyone else is talking about it, I will.

You should know that Andrew Luster, a perfectly loathesome trustafarian and a fugitive from justice to boot, has been captured down in Mexico after a few months on the run. Apparently, Luster -- who was convicted in absentia of drugging and then raping three women -- didn't like the prospect that he'd receive similar treatment from the inmates at Folsom or Cocoran.

Anyway: Luster ran, he got caught, lot of wire copy resulted. Yet how much play did this get from bloggers? This afternoon, a Google search for Luster's name and the word "blog" received a mere 456 hits. Gad! I mean, given the other aspects to the story, you'd expect a bit more reaction. Oh, sure, TalkLeft: The Politics of Crime had a practical exclusive back on Wednesday -- but that's because the guy gal running it knows the bounty hunter who captured Luster.

This is where the story begins to get interesting.

After Luster's capture, Mexican authorities arrested the bounty hunter in question, Duane "Dog" Chapman of Hawaii. As Fox News put it so well, Mr Chapman, two of his sons, a TV producer and an actor will face "charges for leaving Mexican police out of the dramatic capture." As if that wasn't enough, news of Mr Chapman's activities got a lot of bounty hunters and bail-bondsmen in California rather upset.

WOULD MAX CHERRY have gone to Mexico to bring back a fugitive from justice? We think he would, but he'd have been a bit more discreet about things. (More Info)

All this is interesting stuff, but it's the other things about this story which really amaze me. By "other things," I refer to the Cosmic Levels of Decadence and Stupidity present.

To me, at any rate, Andrew Luster is proof positive that decadence can ruin a perfectly good family in just two or three generations, if that family isn't careful about things. For instead of learning a profession or engaging in academics, Luster wasted the 39 years of freedom he had surfing, drinking, and playing Casanova. I mean, from all the news accounts, the guy has done nothing with his life. That's just pathetic.

Now, the moral offensiveness of such idleness could have been lessened if the guy was at least a likable fellow or had a bit of wit about him. (As Jimmy Foster said, when asked if he had ever made a dollar on his own, "No, but I have plans!") But Luster couldn't even manage that -- the journal he kept in Mexico shows the man has the social IQ of a senior in high school.

Of course, Luster is also apparently dumb as a bag of rocks, if you look at his escape plan. First, instead of going to a locale where a) he wouldn't be noticed and b) there wasn't an extradition treaty with the United States, he went to Puerto Vallarta. He stayed at a hotel next to a police station. He never turned off his mobile phone. He even went to parties, according to other news accounts.

Luster's family doesn't exactly seem all that classy either, if you ask me. According to Mr Chapman, Luster's mother wished her fugitive son good luck while on the lam. Let's make clear that she allegedly did so during a television interview.

If that is true, that's disgusting.

Now, it's one thing for Luster's mother to not actively assist the authorities in their search for her son -- but it's another thing entirely if she publicly insulted the victims of the crimes her son committed. To me, openly hoping for your son to evade the authorities is such an insult. She ought to have kept silent about the whole matter -- or, at the very least, asked her son to turn himself in. That would have been the smart move from a legal point of view anyway.

But then, this family doesn't seem to have a lot of smarts. Who knows? Perhaps Luster himself will get some as he serves out his 124-year-sentence.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 02:15 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Hello, Readers!

Say, everybody! It's that time -- yet again -- for another Reader Recognition Entry, in which we here at The Rant publicly thank our readers for visiting the site. You see, one of the neat things about moving to our own domain is that we have a great handle on where readers come from. So, without further ado, let's begin:

* First, we would like to thank the good people at the U.S. General Accounting Office for visiting The Rant. We think the GAO is one of America's most underappreciated and most valuable Government agencies, and we have always found the reports it produces quite useful. So thanks for visiting, and keep up the good work.

* We'd also like to recognize the hardworking students over at Cornell University for their visits to The Rant. Especially since we think The Rant is a better read than the Cornell Daily Sin. Er, Sun.

* But speaking of hard work, we can't leave out the good people at the Mayo Clinic either. We know how hard doctors work to keep us alive -- even though we are notorious at failing to follow our physicians' instructions. So we hope that this provides you some enjoyment while "on call."

* Hello, Bank of America guy! We're glad you've taken time to visit The Rant too. However, because you are not a "premium visitor," we're going to have to charge you $2 to see the index page.

Sucks, don't it? Now you know how I felt when I was a BofA customer.

* Hello, Boeing employees! Give Airbus hell!

* Finally, we'd like to say hello to our visitors from the Ideologically Sound Nations of Britain, Italy, Spain, Australia, Japan and Chile! Thanks for visiting -- we hope that you enjoyed your time here at The Rant.

That's all for now, but we hope all our readers will check back regularly for more of the insightful commentary and updates into our insane life you've come to expect.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:51 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 20, 2003

Song Captures Angst I Had Five Years Ago

I was listening to the radio last evening when I heard a particularly catchy song from the band Bowling for Soup. I am sure the song, "Girl All the Bad Guys Want," was manufactured and overproduced and all of that. But as much as I hate to admit it, I have to say it did a particularly great job of capturing the angst I routinely had five years ago in terms of romantic issues.

Just look at this selection from the lyrics:

It's like a bad movie/
She's looking through me/
If you were me, than you'd be
screaming "Someone shoot me!"/
as I fail miserably
trying to get the girl all the bad guys want

She likes the Godsmack and I like Agent Orange/
Her CD changer's full of singers that are mad at their dad/
She said she'd like to score some reefer and a forty/
She'll never know that I'm the best thing she'll never have

And when she walks/
all the wind blows and the angels sing/
But she doesn't notice me! ...

Now that's just disturbingly catchy. Presently, of course, my formerly angst-ridden soul has instead turned to acting hopeful and yuppified. You can tell this because of my switch in musical tastes. Yes, I do like "Girl All the Bad Guys Want" as a song, but I still prefer Cake's "Short Skirt, Long Jacket."

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 04:54 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Logistics of Marriage

Allison Barnes has informed us about a particular item which her sister, Steph, has placed on her wedding registry. While we imagine that Steph and her fiance have asked for the usual items, like a toaster and a set of pretty but rarely-used serving dishes, Allison notes that Steph has also registered for a $4,000 home hot tub.

While we here at The Rant know little about hot tubs, we would note that we think this is a nice hot tub. Not only does it hold seven people, the description says the machine also comes with approximately $1,098 in allegedly FREE goods and services. These range from FREE curbside delivery -- a $200 VALUE! -- to a cover lift -- a $169 VALUE!

Now, Allison writes there is no way that Steph and her fiance will receive this hot tub as a wedding gift. To this, I would respond, "Never say never." Since weddings are intended as a once-in-a-lifetime event, they often cause many invited guests to temporarily take leave of their senses. True, this most often results in one's relations scheming in concert to purchase a newly-married couple a total of twelve food processors, but in theory it could result in lavish expenditures of a hot-tub class calibre. I would add that if anyone reading this has been invited to Steph's wedding, that such a hot tub would really be a nice gift for her and her fiance.

You know, I've never really thought about weddings before, but Allison's post put a thought in my head: "Gee, there really are economic benefits to marriage." Oh, sure, there's expansion of the tax brackets and child credits and potential two-income earning power. But think of all that FREE swag a newly-married couple gets out of a marriage: everything they might need to set up their own house, PLUS the potential for significant cash accumulation.

What? Look, I'm a man, I'm genetically disposed to look at it this way. For, as a man, I have the inherent genetic instinct that my job during a wedding consists of only three things. Those are a) to show up on time; b) to ensure the best man does not get drunk and make a spectacle of himself during the reception; and, c) do everything and anything my future wife wants during the planning process. In fact, it would just be best if I stayed out of the way altogether and made a little cue card reading "That's great, honey," that I could hold up whenever my fiancee asked me a wedding-related question.

For a wedding is not just "her day," it is a realm which the fairer sex have seized and claimed for their very own. Indeed, if you look at some of the bridal-planning books out there, there are no men in them. Sure, you can't have a wedding without the groom; but when it comes to the reception, the groom is accorded less importance than the place-settings.

This is not to say that women weren't smart to create this state of affairs over the centuries. We men are hopeless about such things, and if we had our way, we'd probably see a lot more receptions at the Stanley Cup playoffs, or perhaps the Notre Dame-Michigan game. On the other hand, women excel in this area to the point where they bring to the table not merely a civilizing influence, but a refined elegance.

Hence, as Martha Stewart might say, it's a good thing that men have relinquished whatever role we may have ever had in planning weddings. To turn serious, we must say that as we have attended a number of weddings in our day, women do a fabulous job at planning them. We must also note that women do a fabulous job of getting men to focus on the truly important things in life -- God, love, family and the home -- which, although we men may not immediately realize it, lead to true happiness.

So I do hope that Steph and Vince will accept my heartfelt congratulations on their upcoming marriage. May you both have many happy and wonderful years together, and may God bless and keep you as you embark on this greatest of all journeys.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:27 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 19, 2003

Boycotting the French, etc.

Over at Samizdata, Alex Singleton in London has called for the Americans to stop boycotting French goods and services.

In his remarks, Mr Singleton argues that there is really a lot of nice stuff to French culture -- although about all he can come up with is their fashion sense and minor nod towards social libertarianism. A commenter, who gave her name only as Becky, agrees with Mr Singleton's argument:

I'm also puzzled why it is only France that attracts so much opprobrium. Surely Germany, Italy, Spain et al. have similar welfare state set-ups? I suspect it's some sort of acceptable outlet for repressed xenophobia. If you're going to boycott French products, why not German products? Or New Zealand products, for that matter? It's absurd.

Well, it could be that France, by virtue of its seat on the United Nations Security Council, did far more damage than any other nation to the American war effort. They led the European condemnation of our efforts to free the Iraqi people. As such, Americans ought not purchase products from such a country if at all possible.

Besides -- and let's be honest here -- it's a heck of a lot easier to avoid French products than those from say, Germany. (We can't think of anything that New Zealand makes off the top of our head, so never mind). When you look at French imports to the U.S., you see that for the average consumer, the key products such a consumer would buy are: wines, cheeses, perfumes, films, and automobile tires.

For the average American, the first four goods can be easily substituted with domestic goods or products from Ideologically Sound Nations. The fifth less so, because the French do make very good automobile tires, and you don't want to put cheap tires on your car.

But my point is clear: even if you can't avoid buying all French products and services, you should substitute wherever you can. So why not substitute the Roquefort with a bit of domestic bleu cheese, or substitute the French red with the California red?

I think Alex has got a lot right. I live in France, and yes the government bureacracy is atrocious. But socially, it's nonetheless a breath of fresh air when you get off the Eurostar. You can get a drink whenever you want. You can find a restaurant to serve you dinner at midnight. The attitude towards sex is refreshingly unpuritannical, unjudgemental. There's a certain swagger on the streets that you don't see in London...

OK, let's see. You can get a drink whenever you want, you can find a restaurant to serve you dinner at midnight, no one cares about sex, and there's a certain swagger on the streets. Say! Becky's just described Southern California. As the song goes -- sorry, sayonara, try tomorrow. You're going to have to do better than that to convince me the French have discovered some great secret formula to life.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:46 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

City Official Schemes to Ban Toy Guns

I swear there is a full moon or some similar phenomenon going on tonight, because the news stories that have come over the wire are just plain weird.

Latest up on this Cavalcade of Stupidity is an effort by Annapolis, Md. alderwoman Cynthia A. Carter to not only ban toy pistols in the city, but add penalties if they are used in committing a crime. Let's look at The Washington Times report on the matter:

(Mrs. Carter) said the law would ban all toy guns except for clear, brightly colored plastic guns. Mrs. Carter said the law also would give prosecutors more leverage against defendants who use toy guns to hold up banks or other establishments.

"If someone commits a felony with one, they will not only be charged with the crime but also with using a toy gun," said Mrs. Carter, who has been a member on the Annapolis City Council since 1997.

Mrs. Carter said she doesn't know how much of a fine she will propose. She said she hopes her legislation, which she plans to introduce next month, will set a precedent for other cities to follow. Four of the nine city council members have come out in support of Mrs. Carter's proposal.

Well, it sounds like this measure has a pretty good chance of passing. So I must congratulate Mrs Carter for her brave stand against vicious and brutal criminals who use toy weaponry. Yes, thanks to this law, no longer will career criminals like Virgil Starkwell terrorize the streets of Annapolis.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:52 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 18, 2003

Canadians to Resume Clubbing Baby Seals

Environmentalists are infuriated after the Canadian Government has given its OK for people to club baby seals in the country's northern wastes, The Washington Times reports.

But the Canadian Government isn't being meek about its decision:

The seals "look like very cute and cuddly animals in the white coat," said Steve Outhouse, a spokesman for Canada's Fishery and Oceans Ministry. "People forget they grow up to be 500-pound animals that destroy the livelihood of people and destroy fishermen's gear and nets, and a lot of the groundfish, such as cod, which is necessary for Newfoundland and Labradorians."

He said animal rights activists fail to mention that Canada closely regulates the seal harvest and that only one in 10 seals is clubbed; the rest are shot.

You know, after thinking about it, I suppose that I could have also given this the title, "It's Not Just a Used Car Commercial, It's Official Government Policy."

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:49 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Now I'm REALLY Shocked and Appalled

The American Association of Nude Recreation is expanding a network of camps which let teenagers parade around naked on camp grounds, The New York Times has reported. According to the Times report, the camps are aimed at children ranging from the ages of eleven to eighteen.

Yes, that's disgusting; and no, I'm not kidding around. This is from an Actual News Article published in one of the nation's largest daily broadsheets:

Naked summer camp might strike non-nudists as illegal or prurient, or like striking a match to the gasoline of adolescent hormones.

Anti-nudity statutes in Florida and other states, however, say that nudity on private property is perfectly legal, even among minors, as long as there is no lewdness. And camp rules, drawn up by campers themselves a few years ago, guard against that. "Do not allow nudity and lust to mingle," they state. "No improper touch. Nudity must not be humiliating, degrading or promote ridicule." Even the occasional clothing, worn in the camp's shuttle van, must not be "sexually alluring."

"Might strike?" What's all this "might strike" talk about? How about "DOES strike?" I mean, after all, if these teenagers are raised in homes where the parents consider open nudity to be "fine" and "with it," one can infer that they probably haven't received the traditional moral or social teaching about modesty in other respects. Add in the fact that they're teenagers, and we find it quite unlikely they would have any qualms at all about having at it behind the canteen.

But wait, some might say. There are Camp Rules in place to prevent any of that! Oh, yes. Thank God we have the Camp Rules. They'll be sure to stop any licentiousness and other depraved goings-on. Look! The campgoers are hormone-crazed teenagers! At least some will pay no attention to the Camp Rules. Heck, they wouldn't pay attention if the Camp Rules dealt with things like curfew and visitation, much less a prohibition on sexual activity.

What really gets me, though, are the parents who send their kids to these types of places. Now that's thinking I really can't understand. I mean, it's one thing if the parents decide to take a week once a year and go in secret to frolic in the buff. It's another thing entirely for said parents to introduce their kids to such things, and the consequent dangers that might come along with them.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:37 PM | TrackBack

All Work and No Play Builds My 401(k) ...

... but leaves little time for blogging. This is why I have been away for the past four days or so without any notice, warning, or other announcement to you, the loyal Rant reader.

Also, to be perfectly honest, I've had a hell of a week. I would go so far as to say that the past ten days of my life are among the worst that I've had in a very long time. I've gone through everything from nearly losing a close relative to really tough days at the office. Then, today, just when I thought things were looking up, I had to make an emergency run to the tire store because I thought I had a flat on the Family Truckster.

But all that is behind me now, for I am tanned, rested and ready to continue blogging! Well, OK, just ready, but you get the gist.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:23 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 14, 2003

Comparative Advantage at Work

Hardly anyone in America bothered to notice when an English soccer player and his singer wife visited the United States recently, the Reuters wire service writes. (The Reuters story is based on a New York Post report.)

The story informs us that David Beckham, O.B.E., a Real Madrid Manchester United player and his wife, ex-Spice Girl Victoria, were in the U.S. on a promotional tour. However, little actual promotion apparently took place. It was so underwhelming that the Post informed Posh and Becks -- or, as one would say in Cockney 'rhyming slang,' Bosh and Drecks -- they ought not "come Beck."

Ouch.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 01:08 AM | TrackBack

I Refuse to Pay $240 for Sunglasses

Folks, I need your help with a fashion question. Here's the trouble:

The new Agent Smith sunglasses -- as in Agent Smith from the recent movie, Matrix: Reloaded -- are due to be released at the end of this month. Now, given that Agent Smith rules, my own sense of style, and some physical parameters -- most notably my pasty, quasi-clean-cut complexion -- it is clear to me that I ought to purchase a pair of Agent Smith sunglasses.

Here comes the problem, however. An authentic pair of Agent Smith sunglasses costs $240 in God-fearing American currency.

When I saw the price tag, I about choked on my own bile. Two-hundred-and-forty-dollars-for-freaking-sunglasses? Oh, hell no! I said to myself. I don't care if they're inlaid with platinum and turn into a laser when you adjust the earpieces -- I will not pay $240 for sunglasses.

After all, paying $240 for sunglasses would not merely be a lifestyle choice: it would be openly defiant of the financial literacy I've accumulated over the years and violate my notorious sense of frugality in certain areas. For thanks to the magic of compounding, I could take this $240 and invest it. With just a five percent inflation-adjusted return, I could have $1100 in today's dollars when I retire. Then I could buy a pair of Agent Smith sunglasses and all sorts of neat accessories when The Matrix: Version 12.0 hits theatres in 2033. Besides, I still have my cheap television set from college, and it works fine. No way am I going to purchase sunglasses for a sum equal to six or seven times my TV's present market value.

Then again ... they're Agent Smith sunglasses ... and they have titanium frames ... and they're just like in the movie ... and they're really cool.

Shit.

There may be a way out for me, though. After doing some on-line searching, I found sites where I could purchase a Cheap Knock-Off Pair of Agent Smith sunglasses for about ten percent of the above sum. But this too presents a problem. While the cheap knock-off pair is priced so that even I could purchase them without guilt, the lenses and frames are of lesser quality and it is pretty obvious.

So my questions to my readers are these: should I grit my teeth and hand over $240 to a sunglasses firm, just because the frames and lenses are a wee bit better and more 'authentic' looking? Should I make that extravagant purchase just so I can look far out and with it? Or, should I purchase the lesser set of sunglasses and hope no one notices they're not exactly the same?

Maybe neither option works. But since I know little about fashion -- I've never really cared before about these types of things -- I am pretty clueless.

----
RELATED NOTE: An e-mail to The Rant inspired this post. Said writer, whom we shall refer to as Mr Johnson, writes as follows:

You should get a new pic of yourself in the dark suit and tie, hair slicked back, add the dark glasses and put it up on the site and see if anyone else can figure out what I already have: that YOU ARE Agent Smith!

Now I had a great laugh at this! A really great laugh. Heh heh heh! Heh heh.

Heh.

Mr Johnson.

We here at The Rant have no idea what you are talking about. We have absolutely nothing to do with a machine-oriented conspiracy to conquer the human race. We will let you have your little joke; however, we would remind you that you have a medical exam next week. Yes. A medical exam.

You don't remember that? Ah, but you do, it's all right here in our files. Now, we know that you want to do the right thing, and don't want to inconvenience your medical practicioner or your insurance carrier by missing it. Remember, it's at 10 a.m. sharp. on Tuesday. Ten a.m. See you then!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:27 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

June 13, 2003

The Lost Art of Contempt

"Dwight Meredith has a must read post for anyone who has been following the disturbing saga of a certain out of control blogger ...

Such was the first line of Brian Linse's most recent entry this morning, and if you're anything like me, it was a line that made you sit up and take notice.

Mr Linse links to reports that a certain blogger, who bravely uses a pseudonym, has been running amok and nastily criticizing other bloggers in false, yet very personal terms. Other bloggers have also stepped in to declare that such behavior is inconsiderate, uncalled for, beyond the pale, etc. etc. While I'm not familiar enough with the situation at hand to comment on it, I can say that this brings up a question I've been meaning to address. Namely: is it better for one to rhetorically bastinado stupid criticism of one's views, or simply ignore such idiocy?

The answer is: it depends on the situation.

Now I must say that my answer does not apply to reasoned, legitimate criticism of one's arguments. One ought to address such things if one becomes aware of them, because failing to do so can tend to weaken one's position. But that's not what we're talking about here. What we're talking about is criticism that comes straight from the outfield: badly-formed ideas and ill-thought out rambling so intellectually pathetic that it's downright offensive.

There are times when this merits a response, but only for one of two reasons. First, I think one should respond to such things if one can be really funny about it. The second is when the blogger in question is of equal or greater importance to oneself. In such instances, I feel it would be warranted to either issue a dismissive, one-line response noting the foolishness; or cast said foolishness down to the depths like Capernaum.

But we're not really talking about that either -- primarily because bloggers who have achieved some measure of fame in this endeavour of ours don't often write stupid things. Well, once in a while they do, but you get my point. Rather, the uninformed ad hominem attacks primarily come from previously unheard-of players on the scene. As such folks are unheard-of for a reason, this is where the Lost Art of Contempt can enter onto the scene.

I mean, let's face it. There are some things, some ideas, and some arguments out there that do not deserve the dignity of a response. Combined with the fact that such a state of affairs is intolerable for the yammering morons who enjoy throwing around false, ad hominem attacks, it is a win-win situation for the reasonable fellow who finds himself under fire. Through ignoring such idiocy, reasonable people not only save time, they express their dissatisfaction in a pretty damning way. Best of all, though, is that the stupidity is not given any further exposure.

So while I am sure the folks dealing with this particular situation are well-meaning in openly criticizing this pseudonymous blogger, I would humbly suggest they try a different tack: absolute - freakin' - silence. Cast this odious personage out into the darkness, and go back to enjoying the party as this person wails and gnashes his or her teeth.

Also you could ban said person's IP address.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:48 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 11, 2003

A Big "Thank You" to Our Readers

As The Rant nears its first week on the new server, we here have been positively astounded at the number of visitors to our site. We do not use that word lightly, either. We mean we were flat-out stupefied when we saw the latest numbers, and we were calling each other over to the monitors, and jumping up and down excitedly.

We are pleased to tell our investors that site traffic to The Rant is up an estimated 336 percent from its all-time high. This traffic has thus far been sustained and is increasing. While we think it will level off and perhaps recede a bit, we have been incredibly pleased with the reception to The Rant's new home.

We would further like to thank Dean Esmay, the force majeure behind our switch to our own hosting service; Emily Jones; Brian Linse; D.C. Thornton; Ken Layne; Oliver Willis; Sasha and Andrew Castel-Dodge, Bryan @ AWS; Illinigirl and all the others who have updated their links, given us a mention, or otherwise contributed to the cause. If we've missed you, please drop us a note and we'll make sure to add you onto the list.

We would also like to thank the UnaBlogger for his link to our site. While our Internal Code of Ethics prohibits us from actually linking to the UnaBlogger's Web site because of its ...um ... you know ... content, we must say we appreciate his interest. We admit we don't understand why he is interested in our site. But he apparently seems to feel we deserve a mention, and we thank him for the 91 hits he has sent our way.

We would also ask who the girl is this time. Please advise.

Sincerely,

Top Management
Benjamin Kepple's Daily Rant, Inc.
"Your Hometown Nostalgia Source"

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:03 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Awful Ad Campaign Draws Lileks' Ire

James Lileks has written an absolutely wonderful Bleat today.

You should know that in this Bleat, Mr Lileks aims and fires at a local fusion restaurant whose advertising campaign is notable solely for its crassness. We further learn from Mr Lileks that the proprietors of this restaurant think it's neat to imply the items on its menu may cause patrons severe gastro-intestinal distress:

Big article in the Strib business section today - billboard ads that go out of their way to be edgy. Money quote: “If you think diarrhea jokes are a bad way to sell Mexican food, you probably won’t be stopping to eat at Chino Latino. And that’s fine with them.” See, they’re the “leading practitioner of edgy advertising. If you don’t get the joke, then they don’t want your business.” ...

... I wouldn’t waste the pixels on this drivel had it not been for this thumb-in-the-eye quote from the holding company’s president, Phil Roberts. His response to people who don’t like the ads: “he’s probably wound too tight to eat there. Go to Applebee’s.”

During this section of the Bleat, Mr Lileks also announces that he finds such an advertising campaign stupid and unclassy. He is quite right. Fortunately, what he does not say -- and hence, what I now get to do -- is proclaim the whole idea behind the restaurant stupid and unclassy, despite the proprietors' attempts to have the establishment seem cool and with it.

Now, some of my readers may say to themselves -- or tell me in the new comments section we have here at The Rant -- "Kepple, you have never been to this restaurant! How, therefore, can you render judgment upon it?"

Well, that's simple -- I'm not judging the Chino Latino restaurant per se, I'm judging the thought-process behind it. The restaurant may have perfectly fine food and eighty-seven tequilas and attractive people in abundance. That still doesn't mean I'm going to like a place fashioned around awful parameters. Besides, thanks to the Internet, there are gobs of reviews and information floating around about it.

For another thing, I am a proud former resident of Los Angeles, Calif., a city that truly figured out fusion cuisine. As such, I am capably qualified to express my opinion on this. As I see it, this place in Minneapolis has everything that Los Angeles figured out in oh, say, 1980; but since then, time has made those ideas pall. Further, it throws in some horrible ideas from the Seventies that should have been excised from the culture along with wide lapels and feathered hair.

Let's look at the first problem with this case in particular: the place has no sign. Indeed, the good people at citysearch.com advise instead: "Can't find it? Look for the place with all the glittery gold stuff above the door--and the line of people waiting to get inside."

Okay, so not only is it hard to find the place, I've got to go find a line and stand in it. Yeah, that's really going to get my dining experience off to a good start right there. Aside from imagining what that's like during Minnesota's eight months of winter, let me say this: if I wanted to stand in line, I'd go to a nightclub.

Of course, that's likely the idea behind it. There are plenty of nightclubs in Los Angeles and the rest of the country that have no signs and are out of the way to boot. Dumb people take this to mean that the place is exclusive and special. This is not true at all. Rather, what it means is that the smart nightclub owner makes bank on other people thinking the place is exclusive and special, plus he cuts his utility expenses. If the owner is really smart, he will keep the lights very low inside the place so his patrons don't realize he last redecorated in 1978.

In short: it's been done, it's worn out and tired, please come up with a new schtick.

Problem No. 2: "Drink Trinkets: Mixed drinks come with little umbrellas and plastic animals. Order something besides a beer if you like cute souvenirs," says Citysearch.com.

I thought this was a Latin/Asian place. Doesn't cerveza go naturally with Latin/Asian food? Ah well. That takes away from my point, which is this: in this year of our Lord 2003, restaurants ought not serve drinks with plastic umbrellas. That's a trend we've fortunately gotten away from -- it reminds one of a Polynesian/Chinese restaurant, circa 1962 -- and any establishment that voluntarily resurrects it ought to be criticized.

Problem No. 3: Voluntary use of orange in a decorating scheme:

"The global menu is perfectly matched with the wild, complicated decor. Chino Latino features a cushioned, orange vinyl wall..."

Enough said.

But the most bothersome issue is the food. People, if Minneapolis-St. Paul Magazine's review is any guide, those in charge of this establishment are taking perfectly fine ethnic cuisine and screwing it up. Now they may not be, but what I've read has me a bit concerned.

From my reading of this review, I can see that instead of offering true fusion cuisine, what these folks are doing is offering A) Latin food B) Asian food and C) likely doing neither as well as they ought. I mean, portobello satay? Gad. Beef with peanut sauce, yes; Chicken with peanut sauce, yes; Italian mushrooms, no.

I do think the writer of this review sums it up nicely when he writes:

From a purely culinary standpoint, few items on the extensive menu of Asian, Latin American, and tropical specialties hold a candle to better and lower-priced versions available at our area’s growing collection of ethnic restaurants. But for those who care about atmosphere, there is no more dramatic dining room in town.

Please, America. Spare me the drama when I go out to eat. Spare me the glitz and the glamour and the brazenness of it all. Just make decent food and serve it an atmosphere where I can actually hear myself think and other people at my table talk. Is that too much to ask?

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:33 PM | TrackBack

June 09, 2003

Irate Help at Calif. Sizzler Trashes Customer's Home

A God-fearing and virtuous California family found their home vandalized just hours after a dispute with a waiter at a Norco Sizzler, the Associated Press reports today.

Police have withheld the identity of the waiter, but say the man got into a dispute with Wayne and Darlene Keller after Mrs Keller asked for vegetables with her meal. The waiter, his girlfriend, and the waiter's two younger brothers were arrested about 1 a.m. after the Kellers found their house doused with a gallon of maple syrup and raw eggs. Also, their house was TP'ed.

Say it with me, folks: "That's -- just -- wrong." However, there is good news: the waiter has been sacked.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:10 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

New York Woman Kills Man with High-Heeled Shoe

Gad. Those things are dangerous!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:53 PM | TrackBack

Support from an Unexpected Quarter

My best friend in all the world has called me an idiot. Other bloggers have called me insane, even delusional. But my post on the Pittsburgh Steelers has drawn some support from an unexpected quarter.

Sure, Boston-area blogger Oliver Willis takes issue with some of my post, but he does agree forcefully with me on one key point: that the Cowboys do not deserve the mantle of "America's Team."

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:43 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

When Men Go Wrong

Normally, Mondays are rather uneventul days for me, littered with mundane errands and idle conversation. I head to work so that I may earn my daily bread; I go to the grocery or get a haircut; I do some laundry at home. In short, they are the ordinary days of an ordinary man.

When I arrived home this evening, I went to check my e-mail, as I ordinarily do. And among the messages was something so unordinary, so chilling, and so disturbing that it sent a shiver down my spine. For at the bottom of this note from a dear friend was a message that, in part, read: "If memory serves, you know this guy. He brought you a twoonie, right?"

"This guy" whom my friend was referring to was a fellow by the name of John Noster Jr., 38, of West Hills, Calif.

As I learned today, the Federal Government suspects Noster was allegedly plotting to carry out terror attacks on as-yet unknown targets, as the Daily News of Los Angeles reported last week.

The Daily News writes:

(Noster), who was sentenced to 16 months in prison in January for vehicle theft, now is under investigation by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which described him as "an anti-government extremist."

Authorities said they seized weapons from a stolen pickup truck and storage units in Lancaster and Culver City that included two incendiary devices, three pipe bombs, six 55-gallon drums of highly explosive jet fuel, five assault rifles, thousands of rounds of military ammunition, smokeless powder, cannon fuse and electric matches, and $188,000 in cash.

"He had put together everything that was needed to cause severe destruction to some type of building or location," sheriff's Sgt. John DeMooy said during a news conference at Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department headquarters in Monterey Park. "I think he was very close."

Now, I did not know Noster very well at all, but I did know him vaguely. Chris Weinkopf, my best friend in California who sent me the note -- and who also happens to write for the Daily News -- knew him better than I did. You should know that Chris has written a sad article on the matter for that newspaper in which he describes how he knew Noster, his one-time buddy and, at times, friend. As we bloggers say, you really ought to read the whole thing.

And I can confirm Chris' belief that Noster did in fact bring me a $2 Canadian coin once -- it was back during one of my occasional Canada kicks, remember?

But after doing a lot of thinking, that is all I really remember of him. The recollection I have of Noster is largely that which Chris had. He was a nice, quiet guy, and perfectly mild-mannered. I wish I could remember what Noster and I spoke about on those few occasions when I ran into him, but I have to think it was just small talk and sports. Certainly it was nothing that would give me any hint that he would plan something like this -- if he did in fact do so.

But if he did ... dear God! What if the authorities hadn't caught on?

Chris expresses it best when he writes, "If John planned such horrific attacks, then the victims he could have harmed, the lives he could have claimed, the families he could have devastated are all real."

It is a chilling thought, and one which may sum up an awful reality.

Long-time readers of The Rant know -- incredible as it may seem -- that this isn't the first time I've run into someone accused of plotting a terror attack. I once wrote of my chance encounter with the late Irv Rubin, the then-chairman of the Jewish Defense League, at the Long Beach Convention Center:

If I remember rightly, he asked who I worked for, and I told him. He was of short-to-average height, and a bit heavy set--not as much so as the photo Yahoo is showing right now--and he was with one of his sons. He came off as strident, not militantly strident, but quietly so. After I told him who I was, and who I worked for, he seemed pleased at that, and handed me one of his cards.

I so wish I could find that card now, it would validate this story. Alas, I was never good at organizing. But what I can't get over is that I have such a clear memory of that card, a cream-coloured base with blue lettering and the Star of David, with Rubin's name on it, and the legend, "Never again. Never forget."

About a year or so later, I found Rubin's card along with some things which I had brought with me from California. As it turned out, my memory was mostly accurate, but not perfect. I had the legend wrong -- it merely said, "Never Again" -- but it did have the cream-colored background and the Star of David. The star was filled in, and extending into its centre was an upraised, clenched fist.

Rubin is dead now, so I will never learn why he was allegedly plotting to do the things the Government accused him of planning, or the defense which he would have offered at trial. That said, I do not expect the fate which befell Rubin to befall Noster, and if he is tried on terror charges, then perhaps in his case I will learn such things.

But if they did plot to do what the authorities accuse them of planning ... then let me just say I will never be able to understand what goes through the minds of some men. Nor will I ever understand how their morality becomes so corrupted they can justify barbaric acts against their nation and its people.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:08 PM | TrackBack

So Bryan @ AWS Thinks I'm Insane, Eh?

Bryan, over at Arguing with Signposts, has argued that my love for the Pittsburgh Steelers is proof that I am deranged.

I would first like to express my sincere condolences to Bryan. Clearly, in his days as a football fan, he has failed to grasp just how glorious and wonderful the Steelers organization is. This is made obvious in his post condemning America's greatest football team. You should know that Bryan makes a snarky comment comparing the Super Bowl championships the Steelers have won with the victories scored by the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys.

That's just wrong.

You see, even though the Cowboys and 49ers have each won five Super Bowls, while Pittsburgh has only won four, there are crystal-clear differences which prove the Steelers are the better group.

To take San Francisco's example, I would note that two of their Super Bowl victories were against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Clearly, those can't count as true victories, since it would violate natural law for the Bengals to actually win the NFL championship. I would sooner expect Einstein's laws of relativity to be overturned than to see the Bengals win the Super Bowl. Hence, it is clear that San Francisco has only won three Super Bowls on the team's own merits. The other two were, for all intents and purposes, free for the taking.

Secondly, I do not understand how one can compare the valiant, God-fearing Steelers squad with the Dallas Cowboys. I present this excerpt from the Houston Chronicle of August 4, 1997, to make my point:

... the Cowboys are trying to restore their image as "America's Team" and rid themselves of the jokes about being "America's Most Wanted."

Five players have been suspended for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy, including two of the team's biggest stars, wide receiver Michael Irvin and defensive tackle Leon Lett. Lett currently is serving a year's suspension, his second, for drug use.

Last year, Irvin was sentenced to four years probation after pleading no contest to cocaine possession. Earlier this year, he and Erik Williams were stung by a woman's false accusations that they had assaulted her.

Williams had just completed two years probation on a drunken driving charge...

These type of things just wouldn't happen in Pittsburgh -- or, if they did, certainly not on a scale that would expose the franchise to mockery, ridicule, and public disdain. That's not how things are done in Iron City. So I utterly reject these baseless and foolish claims that the Cowboys and the 49ers are better teams than the Steelers.

The Steelers are America's team, and always will be. End of story.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:25 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 08, 2003

Artist Cajoles 7,000 Into Public Nudity Stunt

A New York artist somehow convinced seven thousand otherwise law-abiding people to strip nude in public for one of his photographs, the Associated Press reports.

The mass demonstration took place in Barcelona on Sunday morning. The AP's report makes clear that Spencer Tunick, the artist in question, is a modest and unassuming figure:

"I want people to feel uncomfortable that they've demonized the body," Tunick said in an interview with The Associated Press shortly before staging his Barcelona installation. "I want them to feel uncomfortable at first and then realize it's just skin. Yes, the body can be a shape."

He called the Barcelona installation a great visual success. "I created a river of bodies like I've never made before. It was an amazing pink and tan carpet."

Okay! I'm officially creeped out. Well, that and nonplussed.

Sure, maybe Mr Tunick has reason to be snarky. It is no joke to get 7,000 people to do anything, much less convince them to take leave of their senses and parade around Barcelona without wearing clothing. But I don't see why this qualifies as a work of art, unless we can refer to public-relations stunts as such.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:20 PM | TrackBack

June 07, 2003

Inherent Coolness, Explained

Some readers may have wondered why the Pittsburgh Steelers, America's greatest football team ever, are imbued with "inherent coolness."

Two words: Immaculate Reception.

Raiders still bitter, plus video of the play.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:12 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Official: Cincinnati Bengals Stink, Violate Lease

A county commissioner in the Cincinnati area has sued the National Football League and its Cincinnati Bengals franchise because the team sucks, the Associated Press has reported.

According to the wire service, Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune claims the hapless Bengals' lousy performance has shortchanged the county and its taxpayers. It seems the Bengals, who only managed to win two out of sixteen games last season, aren't drawing in enough revenue. Mr Portune alleges this violates the team's lease agreement on its new, sales-tax financed stadium.

Lawyers for the team and the league say that's bunk, according to the AP:

"They're asking you to find, as a matter of law, that the Bengals had some implied contractual obligation to win a certain number of games, unknown, unstated," Bengals' lawyer Robert Stachler told Judge Charles J. Kubicki Jr. in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court. "That is preposterous."

Mr Stachler, who as a lawyer is skilled in the art of diplomacy, left unsaid one line of argument which we believe applies here. Namely, that the voters of Hamilton County knew very well what they were getting into when they approved that tax increase back in 1996. The Bengals were awful then, they are awful now, and they will always be awful. Only an act of divine Providence could change this state of affairs.

I mean, they're the Bengals. Gad. I mean, their past record should have told you they're going to consistently underperform. And it wasn't as if the Bengals had some sort of inherent coolness to them, like the Pittsburgh Steelers. They've always been a third-rate team, and they'll never keep any of their good players, and they'll always struggle to win even four or five games much less get to the playoffs.

Don't give me any of that "What about when they went to the Super Bowl?" crap either. Yeah, they got to the Super Bowl -- twice, in the Eighties. And they lost. Even more amusing, they lost to San Francisco both times.

So give up. Go home. Stop whining. Don't worry -- there will be other seasons.
We'll mock you then too, of course.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:56 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Blogs Present Academics with Brave New World of Jargon, Blandness

Well, it's not even 10 a.m., and we at The Rant are so agitated that our spleen and gall bladder have demanded that our brain do something relaxing, such as watch The McLaughlin Group.

You should know that this state of agitation was brought about when we visited an Official Web site at Harvard University about blogs. It was at this point that we realized the academicians had discovered blogs and blogging. Not only had they discovered them, we realized the academics had started to apply jargon-loaded phrases to blogs which really ought not be applied to them. Phrases like "personal web publishing communities."

Now look. If I once more hear the word "community" applied to anything other than a small municipality, or local civic, business or government activities related to such municipalities, I'm going to throw up.

The blogosphere does not exactly conform to the academic definition of community, which generally boils down to "a like-minded group of people who have views with which we agree." More often, the blogging "environment" resembles intellectual cock-fighting. One or more individuals get annoyed with something and pile on that something in an attempt to tear it into tiny bits. Other individuals then oppose this maneuver. As this conflict takes place, a whole bunch of people gather on the sidelines and cheer on their respective squads. Also, there is drinking.

But the above was just one thing on this site that raised our hackles this morning. Now, you should know we learned of it through the yeoman's efforts of Brian Carnell, who gleefully shredded the site's pretentious academic definition of what a "weblog" is. As Mr Carnell's work is laugh-out-loud funny, I would strongly suggest you read his excellent fisking of the site in question. But let's be clear -- the page about which Mr Carnell wrote annoyed me far less than some little bullets contained within another page on the Harvard site.

Specifically, I refer you to the following parts of Harvard's blog site:

"Who can create a weblog?

Anyone who has a harvard.edu email address can create one. For now, we have to create the site for you. And for the next few weeks as we get the site ready, we'll probably ask you to wait ... "

People! You don't have to wait at all. All you have to do is contact Dean Esmay and he'll set you up with a domain name, hosting service, and blog for like $20 upfront and $5 a year month after that. Just think, your own domain name, instead of some unmemorable, lame-o collegiate site. Or, if you're really just starting out, use one of the free services.

"Are there rules? Yes, there are."

Um, I don't like the sound of this ...

"What are they?

We're working on it. We want to be sure that all activities on Harvard-hosted weblogs are respectful of Harvard, and don't exist for the purpose of promoting a product, or political cause or candidate.

Of course the people who create and run weblogs are encourged to review products they like (or don't), to express and exchange their opinions, political or otherwise. That's what the Web is for. But these weblogs may not be used to in any way to convey an endorsement by Harvard University of any product, political party, or anything particular at all. Much in the same way you couldn't use Harvard telephones to run a telemarketing operation, there are limits to how you can use a Harvard weblog."

Now, I suppose one could be charitable. One could say the fellow writing this merely meant to write that bloggers using Harvard's servers ought to make it clear via disclaimer that their views are their own and do not represent the views of Harvard University, so on and so forth. Fine.

But what's this "respectful of Harvard" stuff all about? For students, at any rate, one of the great joys of college life is being disrepectful to one's university and things like its constant fundraising efforts. Sure, it's a private school, they can do whatever they want -- but this comes across as if the heavy, ever-stern hand of the college's Administration is ready and waiting to slap down anyone who criticizes the bad cafeteria food. That, as we would say here at The Rant, is "dumbsville."

We would also suggest that because Harvard Law is considering censoring speech it happens to find offensive, that some Harvard-based blogs might be ... we don't know ... more milquetoast than they otherwise might be? You know, kind of like Harvard's site about blogs and blogging.

One last snarky comment on our part. Harvard's site is going to be "open." In academic talk, this means the following:

In this context open means we're going to share what we learn, so other educational institutions can learn from our experience. We hope others will do the same, that the spirit of the Web will infuse all our efforts. It works best when we work together. That's a key part of our philosophy.

We suppose we could offer praise for this, but we'll stick with our original thoughts on the matter. Those are: "The machines! The machines are tunneling towards Zion!"

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:06 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 06, 2003

Plane Crashes into L.A. Apartment House

At least ten people were hurt on the groundwhen a small plane crashed into a three-story apartment building in Los Angeles' Fairfax district, the Associated Press reports.

All aboard the plane are presumed lost.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:17 PM

Spot of Damnation with Faint Praise, Anyone?

Andrew Castel-Dodge recently posted a rather scathing review of a computer game called "Shadowbane" on the Blogcritics' Web site.

The object of this game, as we witnessed when we saw Mr Castel-Dodge give the thing a test-go in person, is to run around killing things whilst avoiding the feeble-minded adolscents which populate this "virtual world."

So, you ask, how bad is it? Consider this. In the prime "praise" position -- namely, the second paragraph -- Mr Castel-Dodge only finds praise for the fellow who kindly sent him the review copy. Things get nastier from there.

So, if you are into computer gaming -- I personally prefer the strategy ones, myself -- give it a looksee. From Mr Castel-Dodge's description, his review shall save you $30.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:09 PM | Comments (1)

Religion-Parody Website Only Mocks Protestants

A Web site which pokes fun at Christians only focuses on Protestants, we have discovered tonight.

Lark News, which bills itself as "a good source for Christian news," has articles this month snickering at a litany of Protestant groups, ranging from Southern Baptists to United Methodists. Seemingly no Protestant offshoot escapes condemnation, and even the Mormons get a bit of mockery directed their way.

Yet, weirdly, after we went through six full months of Lark News' on-line archives, we found not one article bashing Roman Catholicism or its counterpart, Eastern Orthodoxy. We fully admit we have no idea what to make of this development.

On the one hand, we here at The Rant are quite pleased to see that the Roman and Eastern Churches are not the target of Lark News' rhetorical slings and arrows. But on the other hand, we are quite displeased to see that this Web site ignores two out of the three main branches of Christianity -- just like a very small minority within that third branch makes a point of doing on a daily basis. For Pete's sake, it all started with us; can't you just admit that and get over it?

Ah, well. In any event, Christians of all stripes -- well, most Christians, anyway -- will enjoy the good-natured humor Lark News provides. So go give it a read.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:39 PM

A Follow-Up Note

A Florida court has refused to let a Muslim woman receive a driver's license unless she takes off her veil for the license photograph, the AP reports.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 06:11 PM | Comments (2)

My Last Blogspot Post

(Just in case you didn't see it at the old site).

What? You’re still here?

It’s over. The site’s over.

Over here, that is, at the new benkepple.com. So go. Go there.

Yes, we here at The Rant have finally made the crucial decision to switch publishing systems. Thanks to the good, fine people at Dean Esmay’s site – did we mention they’re good, fine people? -- we now use Movable Type 2.6.4, an excellent program which has a lot of noteworthy features. These features include archives that don’t disappear; a type-setting that’s easier to read; disturbingly-high levels of reliability; and a posting system that makes a point of not swallowing our posts into the ether, and then subsequently throwing them up as a foul-smelling, noxious rush of half-digested computer code.

As such, we here at The Rant will be able to post more medium-high to high-quality content than ever before. No longer will we have to subcontract with our veritable army of cheap foreign laborers to have each entry lovingly type-set. No longer will we incur great expense having each entry telexed to our satellite offices in the Caribbean before publishing, just so our professional staff can “give it a once-over” before they “throw it out on the stoop.” Yes, thanks to Movable Type and Dean Esmay, Benjamin Kepple’s Daily Rant now has state-of-the-art technology—a move which we think means great changes in the weeks and months to come.

But it will also mean changes for you, the loyal Rant reader. They include:

“ON-DEMAND ARCHIVES” – Want to read a back post on The Rant? Now you can -- with just a click of the mouse. That means no searching for lost files; no trying to remember the old site’s weird file-naming system; and no unpleasant hassles when trying to figure out why the old site suddenly swapped The Rant’s archives with those of a blog written by an embittered lumber-yard manager in Vancouver, Wash.

“READABILITY” – Want to read The Rant at any time of the day or night, when it’s convenient and easy for you to do so? Now you can – just type in the address or click from your favorites, and the site loads almost instantaneously. That means no more frustration when the site doesn’t load; no more wondering if Blogspot hit its supposed bandwidth quota for that day; and no more wondering whether the sheer volume of hideous faux- English from teenagers’ text messages has again clogged the Internet.

“COMMENTS” – Want to give instant feedback about an entry at The Rant? Now you can! No more … oh, never mind. Look. We brought ‘em back, they’re working, they’ll let everyone rant back, yada yada. And lo! The Lord saw the Comments Section, and saw that it was Good. Because, the Lord said, it was about damn time that Kepple got them up and running again.

“BRANDABILITY” – When we here at The Rant first came up with the idea of a “personal Web journal to express our views, meet interesting people and make use of the precious down time we have left in life” (or “blog,” for short), we had no idea that people whom we didn’t even know would begin visiting it. As such, we gave the site a name that meant a lot to us. BJKINNH stood for Benjamin Kepple in New Hampshire. Sadly, we soon found this was about as memory-friendly as a random ham radio call sign. Now that we’ve switched, we have the much easier to remember “benkepple.com” address.

“COMPATIBILITY” – Now that we here at The Rant are “far out” and “with it,” as the kids say today, we can take advantage of all the neat MT “doo-dads” that let us connect with other users. For example, we can automatically let other sites know that we’ve linked to them, for instance. Also, we can get notify folks about updates, and all that jazz.

So – to recap. You’re still here? This site’s over. Go to the new one – at benkepple.com. As the saying goes, we’ll leave the light on for you. Or something.

Sincerely,

Top Management
Benjamin Kepple’s Daily Rant Inc.
Manchester, New Hampshire
“Your Hometown Nostalgia Source”

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:39 AM | Comments (4)

Greenspan Declared "Honorary Black Man" at Washington, D.C. Event

I swear this is not a story from The Onion. This is honest-to-God fact.

The Washington Times reports today that Alan Greenspan, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, was declared as such at an event for middle-schoolers in the District of Columbia. Also, he was declared "a bad brother."

The event, which took place at John Philip Souza Middle School yesterday, sought to teach kids about personal finances.

FILE PHOTO: Markets fell sharply on the day of this 1997 speech by Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan to the Washington-based Cato Institute. "The fish was this big," Greenspan exclaimed as he detailed the exploits of a recent fishing trip to North Carolina. He also spoke about derivatives.

PHOTO CREDIT: Associated Press

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:19 AM

Whoa. SAUCY.

This post over at OxBlog will undoubtedly be of interest to young men enrolled in undergraduate or graduate-level studies. It seems that Josh Chafetz, OxBlog's owner, sallied forth and requested that readers take part in a contest to come up with philosophy-oriented pick-up lines.

Sasha Castel thought up the best of them, I thought. I mean, how could you go wrong on a college campus with a line like, "Wanna see my means of production?"

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 08:52 AM

By 1944, Hitler's Europe had become a seemingly impenetrable fortress, protected in the west by what came to be known as the Atlantic Wall. The Atlantic Wall is perhaps the most massive fortified position ever in history and had become a formidable obstacle for the Allied planners. It was created by order of Hitler's Führer Directive No. 405 and comprised of a massive WWI-like trench system, reinforced with massive concrete strong-points. This wall was filled with machine-gun nests and pillboxes. Some of the more heavily fortified concrete bunkers were home to massive 66, 75, 88, 115, and 155mm gun emplacements. The beaches were also heavily fortified with hedgehogs, Belgian gates, log ramps, wooden posts, and Rommel's asparagus.

Hedgehogs are star-shaped, six-foot high obstacles that were constructed of solid steel. They were topped with mines and were designed to rip out the hull of any boat that passed over them. Belgian gates are large pieces of steel perpendicular to the beach and facing the water. They were ten feet high and topped with antitank mines. The log ramps and wooden posts are bits of wood angled toward the sea and topped with mines intended to destroy any passing boats. The beaches were also covered with barb wire and minefields intended to stop any invading army from exiting the beach. By the time D-Day finally occurred, Rommel had laid 6.5 million mines and was working towards his goal of 11 million. Rommel's asparagus is the nickname for the poles the he had driven into the ground in any field that was suitable for landing a glider, these stakes would rip the glider up when it tried to land.

-- Andrew Ferguson

---
THE ABOVE PHOTOGRAPH was taken from the deck of a small U.S. Coast Guard landing vessel, just off the shores of Omaha Beach, on June 6, 1944, just north of the French town of Bayeaux. It is a haunting and powerful reminder of what free men and nations must sometimes do -- not only to safeguard their own liberty, but also to liberate those nations suffering under the cruel hands of tyrants.

Few things, I think, capture so well this time in history. Fifty-nine years ago, our soldiers did so much more than serve with honor, dedication and courage. As they fought and suffered, their sacrifice gave free men hope: that soon would come a time when all was finished, and soon would come the time when Nazi Germany was thrown down to the ground.

PHOTO CREDIT: National Archives

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 08:31 AM

June 04, 2003

It's An Offer You Can't Refuse

Say, everybody! Blogger-extraordinaire Dean Esmay, a gentleman and a scholar, has offered to help folks whose blogs are subject to the tender mercies of a Certain Unreliable Service move their blogs to Movable Type, the blog-publishing system whose archives don't disappear!

As one of the three bloggers who have greatly appreciated Mr Esmay's free assistance -- the only cost to you is $15/year for a domain name and a mere $5 -- $5! -- per month for a hosting service -- I can vouch that Mr Esmay is not kidding. Not only is Mr Esmay not kidding, he will provide you the Rotarian Ideal of Service as you go about moving your blog to this new setup. How easy is it, you ask? Well, let's just look at this dramatization:

DEAN: OK, it's easy. I have this blue pill and this red pill. If you take the blue pill, you forget all about this and you wake up, believing whatever you want to believe. But if you take the red pill ...
ME: I'll have the blue pill.
DEAN: What!
ME: I'll have the blue pill. I'm serious. If I switch, I'll be cast adrift into some sort of technological nightmare, and ...
DEAN: No, no, you don't understand. It's easy. Really easy. And look at all the benefits you'll get -- your own domain, a new e-mail address if you want it, the ease of the MT system with its undisappearing archives, quick and fast publishing, cooler layouts, cooler graphics, and ...
ME: Gimme the blue pill.
DEAN: Dammit! Will you let me finish!
ME: Now look, I'm set, really I am, and ...
DEAN: Your archives won't disappear. It's easy to post. The service is really reliable. There really isn't any downside to this.
ME: That's what they told me at college!
DEAN: What has that got to do with it?!
ME: Nothing, but you see where I'm going with this.
DEAN: You don't even know where you're going with this.
ME: No, but I have plans!
DEAN: Wretched little ... !
ME: Bring it on! BRING -- IT -- ON!
DEAN: Yeah?! Well, you just ...

(a scuffle ensues)

ME: All right, all right! Criminy. I'll do it!
DEAN: Honestly, you're the only person I know who would put up such a fuss.
ME: Well, it's not my fault I'm a technofeeb. Now, anyway, let's try this MT thingy ... publishing easy ... fast ... quick ... dear God ... I'm having chest pains ...
DEAN: Oh, God. He's going into cardiac arrest.

Ha, ha! I am actually kidding. Dean will provide you with helpful and friendly and courteous service all through the process, which is actually less painful than having to read the above dramatization. Furthermore, if you're somewhat computer literate, it will probably be really simple for you -- and only take a short amount of time. So I would encourage anyone laboring under the tyranny of ... you know ... to go consult Mr Esmay today. Hey, he freed me, and he can free you too. And in all seriousness, I do say this is probably one of the best choices I have ever made during my 18 months as a blogger.

DEAN: Yes, but what is choice? And did you ...
ME: Grrrrrr.

---------------------
NOTICE:

DUE TO A SURPRISING AMOUNT OF PROGRESS on The *Mostly New* Benjamin Kepple's Daily Rant, I am pleased to announce the New Site Will Go On-Line on SATURDAY, JUNE 7. That's Saturday, JUNE 7.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:41 PM

Proposed U.S. Expansion Horrifies Guardian Man

Rod Liddle, writing in today's editions of The Guardian, is concerned that a select group of people in the United States have designs on Mars. Yes, that Mars, the fourth planet from the Sun.

As Mr Liddle tells it, there are hundreds upon hundreds of influential groups in America which want to terraform Mars and make it a human-friendly habitat. Such a proposition horrifies Mr Liddle, who warns that these patriotic Americans want to seize Mars from the microbes which currently inhabit it, and claim the planet for their own. He further argues that we humans ought not focus on space exploration when we have so many problems on Earth with which to deal, but this quasi-conclusion is secondary to his main claim: that the Americans want to conquer Mars, and they're going to ruin the place.

Now, I take great umbrage at this sensational and silly claim, especially considering that it comes from a skinny-toothed, round-shouldered, wretched Englishman.

This is not to say that I do not care for the English; I do very much. In many ways, that great and proud nation has much we as Americans ought to respect, just as Greek civilization rightfully received great respect from the Romans. But let's make no bones about this. When it comes to lording it over foreign territory, the British have few equals in history. As such, to have to suffer through a lecture about colonisation from this embittered scribe is nauseating. Perfectly nauseating.

But this got me to thinking. Why shouldn't we Americans take over Mars? No, really. I mean, Mr Liddle notes that we Yankees "have all the science," and it's not as if any sentient intelligence is doing any good with the place now. If we could ever make it economically feasible, I would say we ought to give it the old college try -- because so many non-economic factors and even some economic factors are in our favour.

For one thing, I don't doubt that we could find plenty of colonists willing to escape the wretched corners of the Earth where they now live, such as Sheffield. For another, if we provided that the American system of Government -- the best form of Government ever designed -- was imported to far-off Mars, we could ensure that the place would not turn into a wretched despotism in space. If we provided the proper tax incentives for people who moved to Mars -- let's start with no federal income tax, for instance -- we could jumpstart investment into the new realm. Finally, such a system would likely have great benefits for the people back home -- after all, it'd paralyze the bureaucrats from doing anything too rash if the common people could hitch a permanent ride off-planet.

Sadly, there are complications to this plan. The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 forbids any national polity from laying claim to space itself or any non-Terran celestial bodies therein. As an American citizen and alumnus of the University of Michigan -- the only two institutions whose flags have been placed by Man on lunar soil -- I find this treaty useless and dumb.

After all, just think what we could do if we made the perfectly reasonable claim that the Moon belonged to the United States. Not only could we do something important with the Moon -- such as store lots of really powerful weapons there -- we could easily ignore the carping of other nations and start developing it. I mean, surely there have to be precious metals and minerals someplace on the worthless rock. No one would care about nuclear power plants damaging the environment. The low-gravity environment would have all sorts of neat advantages. It would, for lack of a better term, rule.

Besides, as an American, I think I should note that the world's problems exist largely because most non-American Governments are corrupt and despotic. If the rulers of these said nations would clean up their act and grant their long-suffering inhabitants some measure of freedom, and develop a system of law which respected private property, they'd probably be much better off. So don't blame us, Mr Liddle, for the fact that most Governments on Earth still take great joy in looting the public fisc and sending irregular combat forces into their neighbors' territory to loot and pillage. It's not our fault, pure and simple.

So, I say we press forward with an agressive and far-reaching plan to seize the Moon and other celestial bodies in the Solar System, and claim them for our own. With so many positives on our side, combined with America's long-standing respect for the rule of law and private-property rights, we could make a really good go of things. And it might even have positives for folks like Mr Liddle. After all, if we Yanks are all working on colonizing Mars, we're probably going to care quite a bit less about the problems elsewhere on Earth. For someone of Mr Liddle's views, I suggest that could just be a win-win situation.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 08:34 PM

June 03, 2003

Manufactured Beauty

There's a fascinating if short post over at Ken Layne's site about how high-definition television sets reveal the physical imperfections of actors and actresses which prior technology had successfully masked. Specifically, Mr Layne links to a post from Jeff Jarvis on the subject, in which Mr Jarvis notes how the actress Cameron Diaz appears on a high-definition set. We learn that Ms Diaz has suffered from the occasional outbreak of acne, the scars of which become visible on the ultra-clear picture which the new format provides viewers.

It's a fascinating story in many respects. First, it shows the entertainment industry's amazing ability to package and promote certain of its actors and actresses in ways that highlight and exaggerate their natural beauty, and to a degree which those who have no connection to the industry would not realize. Second, it says a lot about our own society, which unfortunately prizes physical beauty over intellectual and spiritual matters. Thirdly, such technology could help liberate us from this genetic bondage we have imposed upon ourselves. And last, but not least, it lets me tell my story about how I met Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker.

Yes, really, but let me be clear. As readers of The Rant know, as a younger man I spent three years living in Los Angeles. For the first two of these three years, I worked in a capacity that gave me a peripheral connection to the entertainment industry. By this, I mean I would occasionally see or meet famous if not A-list actors in my professional capacity, had the opportunity to have drinks once in a while with capable if not-yet famous actors, and learn a small bit about an industry which seems glamorous and amazing to many folks unfamiliar with it. Also I began to suspect that pop musicians were manufactured in secret at some hidden warehouse-factory complex in Van Nuys, but that is neither here nor there.

Anyway, I met them. Or to be more precise, I once shared an elevator with them in the building in which I used to work.

You should know that this building, a badly-designed and modest mid-rise structure on W. Pico Blvd., was where I worked for the first two years of my employ in the City of Angels. On the top floor of this structure, there was a management firm which handled the affairs of screen actors and actresses. So I suppose it was only a matter of time before such an incident took place. To fully understand how this came about, you should also know that this building had but four elevators, all notoriously inefficient and slow (I was stuck in one once, with all my coworkers, in another weird story), and this building further had a confusing layout. The end result is that these elevators would become packed, and visitors would have no idea which floor they needed to exit upon to get to the attached parking garage, so on and so forth.

Now sometime during the day I had reason to take the elevator down -- I think I was going to the pharmacy next door -- and I got on to find myself with one anonymous suit, Mr Broderick and Ms Parker. It was an uneventful experience, to say the least. Mr Broderick and Ms Parker -- who are both awfully short people, at least compared to my six-foot-four frame --were not exactly in movie-star form. They seemed like regular, normal folks, except Mr Broderick seemed dressed a bit, um, casual. But you can get away with that when you're a creative type, though.

We'll leave it at that -- I can give you more details in private, if you'd like -- but the point was they acted like regular, normal folks. And no, neither I or the suit said anything out of the ordinary or asked for their autograph or anything like that. Dammit, we were Angelenos -- we didn't do that type of thing, because we were "with it." Besides, what was I supposed to say? "First floor. Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?" No! And it wasn't as if I could say, apropos of nothing, "Boy. Godzilla -- did that suck. What in the hell were you thinking?" The only thing I did say was to the suit, after the two had left the elevator:

"Was that who I thought --- ?" "Yeah."

I will note that I was given much grief when I returned to the office from the women therein, who demanded to know why I had not brought Mr Broderick up for a round of introductions.

But it is incredible how Hollywood is able to package up its actors and actresses. I have always found it about as amazing as the medical miracles which have artificially prolonged my own life in these past 27 years. One of the commenters -- that's not a word, but it's late -- over at Ken's site put it very well when he described being at a party with the actress Natalie Portman, and not being impressed (!!!) with her looks: "We all agreed: Wow...is film makeup a wonderful thing, or what? I could look like Tom Cruise with that kind of magical makeup." Now, this commenter must look better than I do, because no amount of makeup could make me look like Tom Cruise. But really, even in the high school plays I attended as a teenager, I was always amazed to see just how much makeup was caked on to the faces of those performing in them.

Still, speaking as a former Angeleno, I think one's constant exposure to the entertainment industry sours one on it. That's because you see it for what it really is -- a service industry like any other. Aye, it's a different and specialized and meaningful service, to be sure. But when you strip all the glitz and glamour away from it, and you see movie stars not at premieres but at the frozen-yogurt place at Olympic and Westwood, it goes from the new and exciting to the mundane. That's not to say that I don't have respect for actors: I do, because I know I couldn't do what they do and it takes a lot of hard work to succeed in that jackal-infested business. But I don't worship them or even really revere them like so many Americans seem to do.

Which brings us to the next point -- why is it that we value physical beauty over intellectual pursuits as a society?

I can't say I have the answer to that. I've often joked about my Patented Inverted Sense of Celebrity (e.g. "Oh my God! It's Laurence Tribe!") that makes me jumpy and act nervous around intellectual heavyweights as opposed to famous people who also happen to be beautiful and appear on the silver screen. Perhaps it is merely the market at work -- everyone, I think, wants to be seen as beautiful or attractive, and beauty is a more sought-after and rarer commodity than intellectual production. There are plenty of smart people out there, and there's a glut of work for them to do, and a glut in terms of their production.

What I do know is that beauty without intelligence does nothing for me, personally. I mean, really -- nothing. Oh, sure, I can appreciate that beauty on an intellectual level, judge whether a woman is beautiful or a man handsome on first glance. But if said beautiful person is not all that bright, the novelty wears off quite quickly, and it usually means I end up politely excusing myself from the conversation three minutes later. I am too old to waste my time frantically racking my brain for trivial bits of information about the latest fads I likely know little about. Conversely, though, I am young enough so that beauty combined with intelligence will do quite a bit for me, and if I happen to meet an extremely smart woman who also happens to be quite pretty or even beautiful, it will generally leave me a bit weak in the knees. On rare occasions, if the stars are right and all the ingredients combine together, I can be a wreck for a good week -- or until reason reasserts itself.

But I digress. Even though Mr Layne sounds a discouraging note about the effects of high-definition television (to wit: "Nobody needs to see anybody that goddamned close up in such perfect detail."), I actually think this could be a great boon for our society. It could prove to be a great equalizer which we could really use: one that brings the self-appointed yet horribly vapid beautiful people down a good peg, and which subsequently scraps or diminishes the foolish and irrational value system which certain elements in our society have trumpeted for so long. As that diminishes, we can hope that it will mean more opportunity for others engaged in creative professions, as well as for those involved in the intellectual pursuits at which so many in our society labor.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 02:27 AM

June 01, 2003

Depression-Era Technology Now Chic

We have learned this evening that the good, fine people at Fossil Inc. have developed a wrist-watch that doubles as a "personal digital assistant." Users of this product can store addresses and telephone numbers, write memoranda, update to-do lists, and do other productive tasks -- and all for just $295.

Now, we here at The Rant are sure this device was developed with the best of intentions, and the good people at Fossil Inc. are honorable businessfolk simply out to make a living for themselves. But let's be clear. Not only do we here at The Rant see absolutely no use for such devices, we find them abhorrent and repellent in nature.

I mean, Gad. Clearly the introduction of this device means that we as a society have started to slide down some sort of slippery technological slope.

Consider that this is the first such device of its size and scope to be put on the market. Soon our engineers will realize the decades-old dream of creating wrist telephones, complete with technology that would put Dick Tracy's old wrist-radio to shame. It will then be only a matter of time before the marketers will ruin this technology with suggestive advertisements, useless features, and calling plans that not even an auditor for the Internal Revenue Service could understand.

You do see where I'm going with this, right? People! These devices will not bring you freedom! These devices, and all the others that will come after them, will only lead us all farther along into some sort of horrible Bradburian dystopia, a dystopia in which God-fearing men and women are bombarded with obnoxious, decadent advertisements for dental products, reality television shows, and sexually-tinged magazines.

Therefore, I call on all right-thinking people to reject these and other invasive forms of technology that have enslaved us to their tinny beeps and cutesy chimes.

Well, everything except for my Instant Messaging. As the commercial put it, I can't live without my Instant Messaging.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:10 PM | Comments (1)

New Test Post

This is a test post to my new Movable Type site. I rule!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 07:19 PM | Comments (1)

Good Day Sunshine!

Merry Christmas, Ben. :-)

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 02:29 AM | Comments (7)