September 29, 2003

Internet Search Questions Answered

HERE AT THE RANT, it is always a source of amusement to see the content of Internet searches which lead people to our site. This is not to say that some of these searches are not reasonable requests for information available on-line; indeed, some of them are. That said, most of the queries make us fear for the safety of The Republic.

However, in the interest of spreading good will among men, we are providing Quick, Snappy Answers (TM) to some of the searchers who have stumbled across our site, wondering about things which show us they clearly have too much time on their hands.

Q: rob lowe net worth

A: It's more than yours. Next question!

Q: ricki lake metrosexuals

A: Don't watch the former, don't know many of the latter. This may be because metrosexuality largely conflicts with our Scottish heritage, which deems it unmanly to spend large sums of money on hair products.

Q: jennifer and ben breakup september 23

A: So you're to blame for all this! Please -- in the name of God -- stop caring about celebrity events, once and for all. Start reading The Economist instead.

Q: ben affleck and jay lo breakup

A: Gad!

Q: posh and becks slang

A: Bosh and drecks. Hey, it rhymes.

Q: fun and skiing in aspen prospects

A: Few and far between! Oh, yeah, that's exactly what we'd want to do on our winter vacation -- spend time with a bunch of chi-chi fou-fou trustafarians whose idea of engaging conversation is kowtowing before a toilet, offering fervent prayers to Bacchus as their body expels mass quantities of poison ingested a short while beforehand. Go ski in Vermont or something.

Q: inflatable punching doll

A: Consider outpatient therapy.

Q: europe's nudists

A: Now we'll have nightmares.

Q: ben and j-lo what's going on

A: Oh, not you again. Look. There's a wonderful world outside -- why don't you go explore for a bit?

Q: railed or municipality or negated or sunbelt or spleen

A: We don't even want to know.

Q: cluttered or incentives or repetition or colonizing or incendiary

A: Comprador lackeys oppression! Or something.

Q: sabine herold

A: Finally! An actual meaningful request! Well, you can see my entry on Ms Herold here, and ...

Q: just kidding*

A: Why you wretched ... !

Q: ghetto white boys

A: And if you search twice, we're gonna kick your lily ass.

Q: cheering team

A: Huh?

Q: president amin

A: Good riddance.

Q: j-lo and ben affleck did they break up

A: How the devil should we know? GO. AWAY.

Q: latest news on ben and j-lo break up

A: Damn you! WHY must you persist in torturing us, you wretched scoundrel? Did we not make it abundantly clear that we haven't ANY interest in all in that topic? Did we not make it abundantly clear that we thought that was a nonsense story? Why do you read it? Is it to keep you occupied and unworried about issues that will have far more impact on your life?

Q: ben and j-lo back together again

A: GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

Q: mansions wedding reception maryland shore

A: We said, GO AW ... oh. Sorry. Got ahead of ourselves there for a moment.

As long as you and your bride aren't paying for the mansion rental yourself, then we wouldn't worry about it. If you are, and you don't have the money, then we would suggest you consider a humbler venue. On the other hand, if you do have it, then go contribute to our continuing economic growth.

Well, that's it for now in terms of Quick, Snappy Answers (TM) to Readers' Search Queries. Tune in at a later date, when we address our readers' questions about economic policy, foreign affairs, and ... oh, you know.

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* OK, not an actual request, but hey. We couldn't resist.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 28, 2003

Christ, Like, Revealed

WE HAVE LEARNED that Thomas Nelson Inc., a Nashville-based publisher of Christian books and other material, has come out with a version of the New Testament aimed at teenaged girls. We also don't know how exactly we ought to deal with this.

After all, we recall Christ's admonition in Matthew 19:14, in which we adults are instructed not to hinder children in such matters, as theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. We also recall the words of Dr Lewis: that Christians ought take great care in expressing their views on doctrinal issues, unless the audience for such views is also entirely Christian. As such, we are mindful of the need to temper our words accordingly.

That said, it's a Bible that looks like a magazine. Or, to use the publisher's phrase, it's "a Bible that looks like a magazine!" Hence, as one might expect, there are within the pages of this new New Testament magazine-style articles that focus on topics from relationships to Christian books.

Christianity Today has an extensive look at this new New Testament, which is no longer called the New Testament, but rather "Revolve." Why did the publisher think "Revolve" up? Here's why:

In focus groups, online polling, and one-on-one discussion (the company) has found that the number one reason teens don't read the Bible is that it is "too big and freaky looking." This fashion-magazine format for the New Testament is the perfect solution to that problem. Teen girls feel comfortable exploring the Scriptures and over 500 further-study notes because of the relevant format!

Revolve is the new look for teen Bible publishing!

Now, when we were teenagers, the last thing that kept us from reading the Good Book was that it was too big and freaky looking. There were quite a number of other things that got in the way, such as our waning faith in the Methodist cause and our interest in things that seemed more important at the time, such as, we don't know, everything. Look, when you're sixteen years old, you're more interested in girls and cars and homework and Taco Bell and going out for the night than you are in your immortal soul. It's because you're sixteen.

Nor did we ever feel uncomfortable about reading Holy Scripture -- bored, perhaps, because being young and immature we failed to realize the majesty and the power of it. Even if one does not believe in it, one cannot deny that it is some of the most beautiful writing ever produced.

In short, it took us a while to get it.

And we think it does take a while for most people to get it. Even if one was brought up in a particularly strict house, we are not convinced that one can truly appreciate religious matters until one has lived a bit, until one has truly experienced life. That's not to say that religious education is meaningless; certainly we believe that our parents' decision to bring us up in a Christian house helped solidify our later beliefs. But we know that we didn't fully understand just what we were taught until later.

True, there are exceptions to that rule; but even John Paul II was known to ski and dance in his youth.

So what to make of all this? "Revolve" has already sold 40,000 copies, which Christianity Today tells us is an impressive accomplishment for such a title. And still, while we do not deny that some -- perhaps a lot -- of good may come out of that, we suspect that a majority of those 40,000 copies were purchased by well-meaning but decidedly not with-it parents. For that matter, the folks behind "Revolve" seem decidedly not with-it.

Consider this excerpt from Christianity Today:

Add to this a great sense of caution over girls and guys praying—yes, praying—together present throughout the book. The editors published the opinion of a boy in "Guys Speak Out" who believes that girls and guys should not pray together before engagement! Another boy, when asked if girls and guys can pray together, advises everyone not to "get carried away."

Also imparted within "Revolve" are various screeds forbidding teen girl readers from, for instance, calling guys they like. As such, we can clearly see from these and other examples that the editors of "Revolve" live in the goateed-Spock universe*.

But let's discuss the two things that, quite frankly, trouble us the most about "Revolve." We do not refer to the name, although we think they probably could have come up with something better. Nor do we refer to the fact "Revolve" uses the New Century Version of the Bible, which we consider simplistic and politically correct. Besides, one can't forget St John's old admonition (see Rev. 22:18-19).

The first issue we have is that there's far more -- too much more -- than just the New Testament. If you read the Christianity Today article, you will see that there are apparently a lot of photos and such within "Revolve." One wonders if that will take away from the message inside. Indeed, as the Washington Times notes:

Then there's "Blab," a column interspersed with the holy writ.

"I'm nearly 14 and I have never even had a boyfriend," one question reads. "Am I the only one? All the people in my class must think I'm pathetic!"

Another question: "What about replacement curse words? My church and my parents don't believe in saying 'Gosh, darn or dang.' Is that wrong?"

Calendars also appear in the text. For Nov. 12: "Grace Kelly's birthday. Be extra feminine today!" For June 30: "Pray for a person of influence. Today is Mike Tyson's birthday."

But May 18 — Pope John Paul II's birthday — is not noted.

No, they wouldn't mention him, would they?

But that little omission not-withstanding, our second issue is with a list of the "Top Ten Great Christian Books" listed within the pages of "Resolve." Christianity Today also didn't think much of it:

On page 186, the girls can find "Top Ten Great Christian Books." C. S. Lewis and Dorothy Sayers haven't made the list. Top honors go to Witnessing 101 by Tim Baker and published by Transit Books. In fact, all of the top ten books have been recently published by Thomas Nelson, most of them through Transit Books.

Here's another curiosity: The eighth of the top ten great Christian books is titled Why So Many Gods? Its authors are Tim Baker and Kate Etue. Kate Etue is also the senior editor of Revolve. She was the one promoting the biblezine on CNN recently ...

Of course, in Revolve, such rules don't apply. It's not a magazine. It's not a Bible. It's not even a study Bible, (Laurie) Whaley told me. It's "an inspirational and motivational Bible product."

The Word of God is not the only thing this product is selling.

Let's be very clear: we find this state of affairs appalling.

It is bad enough that mediocre theological tracts are presented as representative of the best which the Christian tradition offers. That is a gross indecency, and we hope that in future editions the publishers of "Revolve" will correct their list accordingly. After all, in theory, the kids could then move on from "Revolve" into some greater works, such as Dr Lewis' Mere Christianity, for instance. Yet what do we have instead? Well, we shall be charitable and say only that there are better things out there.

The trouble here is that the children who actually end up reading "Revolve" may very well exclude those better works in favor of books like "Witnessing 101." As noted above, this particular book is No. 1 on that list. (And here we thought it would be The City of God!)

From its description, "Witnessing" apparently strives to be with it and down for whatever. It also deals with spreading "the true gospel message." To make it clear to the kids, the book--according to the publisher's Web site--goes into detail about what IS and what ISN'T the Gospel, that latter section dealing with "cults and other religions."

While we have not read "Witnessing," we will say that description definitely sounds a warning bell for us here at The Rant. However, in the interest of Christian fellowship, we will say only that we are concerned for the kids who read "Witnessing," and then eventually stumble upon the Book of Wisdom.

But we also find it crass that a book publisher would so flagrantly seek to profit off selling the Bible, to the point where the power of its words and messages are arguably diluted.

That is not to say that we take issue with the profit motive when it comes to selling religious books. We see no problem with publishers serving God and making a reasonable profit at the same time. However, we do find it unseemly and gauche that a publisher would be so quick to suborn religion to what certainly appears to be capitalist motives. That brings into question not only the publisher's integrity, but the integrity and value of the works that publisher produces.

We would argue that a Christian book publisher, publishing the Word of God, ought not do such things.


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* "goateed-Spock universe." We think Lileks came up with this first; at least we think he used it. Anyway, it's not our turn of phrase, and it refers to an old episode of "Star Trek" where Kirk and Bones are thrown into a parallel universe, and the evil Spock within that universe has a goatee. This is how you could tell he was evil. This is not to say the publishers of "Revolve" in the above entry are evil, of course. Just that ... well, Gad. You get the idea.

(Links via Bryan Preston).

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:59 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

September 26, 2003

Bene Legere Saecla Vincere

SAY, EVERYBODY! Our good friend Scott Rubush is back to blogging after a long hiatus -- it seems he has finally fixed his lap-top. Do pay Mr Rubush a visit, and do so often.

Michael Williams has organized a symposium featuring short stories from quite a few recognized bloggers, including our good friend Andrew Dodge.

Dean Esmay is doing yeoman's work publicizing an American soldier's drive to bring toys to Iraqi children. Go take a look. It's a truly good endeavor, and in addition is a way to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people during the re-establishment of their Government.

Ken Layne knows music -- and has the finished CDs to prove it. Go buy some.

What in the ... hell?

What in the ... um ... well, Gad.

By the way, we will give MAJOR style points for anyone who can identify the fellow to the left of Maria Bartiromo in our new Web banner. The Swami, one of our many loyal Rant readers, knows!

If you're looking for left-of-center news and views on the Democratic Presidential primary, Oliver Willis is your man. How serious is he taking it? Well, on his index page right now, there's not one picture of a hot girl.

We just had to point out that we're a Primo Blog over at Richard Bennett's site. We offer our sincere thanks to Mr Bennett, and humbly note that we do, in fact, rule.

That anonymous guy over at Curveball -- WHOMEVER HE COULD BE --has a damning review of "The Brotherhood of Poland, N.H." It seems that, as per usual, Hollywood has screwed up again in portraying how the Granite State operates. Gad. Also there is haiku.

Illinigirl enlightens us about someone called Bob Guinney, whom we are told is searching for a wife on television. We are reminded that a key reason that Joseph Heller finished Catch-22 was because so much of what was on television was crap. Even back in the Fifties.

Tim Blair is excited about Australia's rugby championship. We wish Collingwood all the best of luck.

Finally, if you are going to be in New York on Oct. 5, you owe it to yourself to go see Sheila O'Malley perform LIVE. The details are here.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:15 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

People Castigating People, II

We hesitate to even mention ... you know, those two idiots ... again, but we have to applaud Dan Klores, Jennifer Affleck's publicist, for his sheer chutzpah in dealing with the whole engineered controversy surrounding her and B-Lo. Consider his remark made to ABC News:

"She's not doing great. She's doing good. She's figuring it out," said (Mr) Klores, the actress-singer's New York publicist. "She's 33 years old. Leave her alone."

(blink for a moment)

Oh. Well. We here at The Rant must offer our sincere apologies. Here we were, thinking that Jen, at the tender age of 33, would be capable of dealing with issues and problems like an actual thinking adult. Silly us! Clearly we were misinformed of this fact.

Unfortunately, this gives us a rather uncomfortable dilemma. Since we deal with issues that pertain to actual thinking adults here on The Rant, we are inclined never to mention these two incorrigibles again. On the other hand, we gain a great deal of enjoyment castigating these two individuals for their crimes against culture-in-general.

Gad. Well, it will give us something to wrestle with during our down time, when we are not worrying about national economic policy.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 03:09 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

People Castigating People

So Barbra Streisand has announced to the world that she finds her own songs boring. We here at The Rant found this very funny. Allison Barnes, of course, had the perfect comment about this state of affairs: "News flash, Barbra. It ain't just you."

We leave it to Rant readers what to make of Ms Streisand's forays into the realm of public policy.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 02:41 PM | TrackBack

September 24, 2003

That's. Just. Wrong.

HOW DO YOU KNOW it's a European advertisement? Well, if you're not offended by advertisements that are rather suggestive, just look closely at this poster involving the euro and the dollar.

All right, mister. You can have your little joke and your little overvalued foofy currency with no discernible national symbols. But just wait!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:22 PM | TrackBack

We're Sorry to Say It, But We Were Right

WELL, THAT WAS QUICK.

It would appear that what we here at The Rant predicted just over a week ago has already come to pass: Ben Damon and Jennifer Love Hewitt, or whatever their names are, have gotten back together again.

Well, that's -- just -- swell. Gad.

We must say that we were pleased to have a short respite -- two or three days, if we remember rightly -- when we did not have news about those two oversexed morons. Yet this brief feeling of relief quickly turned to annoyance when we learned that Bennifer had appeared at a Georgia courthouse for the intended purpose of securing B-Lo a firearms permit.

Oh, Gawd.

Forget what we wrote about those feelings of annoyance: what we meant to write was that we are now officially concerned. Based on our public perception about B-Lo, we believe him to be the last person in the United States who should be allowed to carry a weapon. It concerns us greatly that such a person of amazingly-mediocre abilities and arguably-questionable judgment would be allowed to have, on his person and without any supervisory authority, a loaded and fully-operational device capable of sending the average citizen into the next realm.

It's not just the question of whether B-Lo would actually use it, either. That's bad enough. What's nearly as troubling is that such an act, if God forbid it ever were to happen, would result in weeks if not months of news stories about these two insufferables. That, we would argue, would be more than any civilized person could bear.

RELATED: Matt Labash over at The Weekly Standard declares Jennifer Lopez "a climber," "a spoiled brat," and "materialistic" -- among other descriptives we can't publish here at The Rant. It's great fun!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:06 PM | TrackBack

Incredible New Food Breakthrough

AMERICAN FOOD SCIENTISTS have come up with a radical new invention sure to change eating habits across this great nation -- cheeseburgers and french fries combined into an easily-snackable food product!

Yes, the good people at the Advance Food Co. of Enid, Okla., have successfully welded together these two great American creations into one fat-laden, grease-dripping, artery-clogging snack! It also comes in Jalapeno flavor!

We here at The Rant fully expect our European readership to be appalled at this development. This is because in Europe, such things are considered gauche and nauseating; corruptions, if you will, of pure beef and cheese. We do not deny this fact in the slightest -- but would rather stress the portability and convenience and sedative (lit., "food coma") qualities inherent in cheeseburger fries and other fine American food products.

Indeed, we daresay that if Europeans were to eat one helping of cheeseburger fries per day, they could pull themselves up out of their economic doldrums, solve their pensions trouble, and see firm productivity shoot through the roof! After all, why would one waste perfectly good work time at lunch when one was forced to eat some of those?

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 08:06 PM | TrackBack

September 23, 2003

California in Translation

THEN THE VOICE which I had heard from Heaven spoke to me again, saying, “Go, take the scroll which is open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.” So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll; and he said to me, “Take it and eat: it will be bitter in your stomach, but sweet as honey in your mouth.”

-- The Revelation to John, 10:8-9

SANTA MONICA -- I WAS WALKING ALONG the Third Street Promenade on Thursday night, feeling quite relaxed and with a lovely girl at my side, when I saw something that I now realize symbolizes just how different California cities are from the rest of the United States. It struck me odd at the time, but it wasn’t until I returned to a place where the real work of the nation is done that the import of what I had seen really hit.

For those of you who have never been to this city along the Pacific, one of a thousand districts that patched together make up the greater Los Angeles area, you should know that Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade is a three-block pedestrian shopping mall. It’s a pleasant place, full of relatively upscale and with-it eateries and retail stores and street performers; and prone to cultural displays infused with diversity and wonderment that seem to matter quite a bit to a few folks, but merit.little attention from most. Yet it was what I took as one of these things which happened to catch my eye.

Strung above the Promenade’s center walkway at one point was a large banner emblazoned with a pentagram.

Now, I do not wish to disaparage the fine people of Santa Monica, so let me say that I am sure it was a good pentagram, if there are such things. It had lots of runes and other strange mystical markings, things that I do not doubt symbolized peace and love and karmic goodness with Gaia, or whatever it is the neo-pagans believe in these days. Still, it was not something that one would find in Boise, Idaho, or Kansas City, Kan., or Erie, Pa. And I wondered how open the famously tolerant people of Santa Monica would have been to having a banner incorporating the Cross stretched across the Promenade.

Yeah, Santa Monica’s different. And so is L.A. and Frisco and Sacto and all the rest. And after seeing greater Los Angeles again, after an absence of over two years, I had quite a bitter feeling in my gut.

BUT PERHAPS DIFFERENT isn’t the right word for it. Perhaps things in southern California are simply more pronounced and dramatic than in the rest of America; perhaps things are merely more open there than they are in Boise and Kansas City and Erie. The luster of materialism is brighter; the erosion of traditional values is greater; the corruption is more open; the incivility is more notable and the apathy towards one’s civic duties, towards one’s civic obligations, is more palpable.

Consider one minor example on that last point.

You should know that for four days, I traversed greater Los Angeles from a point near Los Angeles International Airport all the way up to a point northeast of Ventura. I will admit that I did not spend time in the center city itself, nor in the San Gabriel or San Fernando Valleys. Still, I did spend considerable time in the northern suburbs and western Los Angeles, and was shocked to see just three lonely signs about California’s recall election being held two weeks hence.

Yes, that’s right. Three. And, if you’re wondering, they were for Sen. McClintock’s campaign and involved his pledge to “Stop the Car Tax.” (Could such a thing be possible in the Golden State?) It was my good friend Chris Weinkopf who noted a few months back that California’s politicians, in their desperation to raise $38 billion to solve the state’s budget woes, proposed tax increases on everything from diapers to bullets. (As Mr Weinkopf noted, those depressed over the state of taxation in the Golden State ought not shoot themselves).

This state of affairs, by the way, did not at all please the shuttle-bus driver taking me to my rent-a-car, who bemoaned the $261 she would now have to pay in tax on her used Japanese auto. While she appeared to have misheard my state of residence—she kept talking about New Jersey when I had mentioned I was from New Hampshire—she certainly seemed enthused about a state where there was no income or sales tax. In fact, she seemed amazed that such a place could exist at all.

Anyway, here are some other observations I had about California during our time out there:

* Holy mackerel, has the state’s economy crashed. I never thought I’d see empty spaces on the Third Street Promenade for lease, but there they were. A couple of vacancies were for restaurants, which I suppose shouldn’t have been a surprise—but it was quite a shame to see that “Teasers,” the bar in which I would watch the occasional Michigan game, had closed up shop.

* Seen on Lincoln Boulevard in Santa Monica: a coffee shop called “The Legal Grind” which proclaimed to offer both coffee and counsel. No, really. It did. It was $25 to speak with an attorney and you could file for bankruptcy or divorce for a few hundred bucks, according to the sign. Again—you know the state’s economy is bad when an attorney sets up shop and sells coffee on the side. Even in California, there’s usually more money in lawyering than coffee.

* Attention wealthy California residents! If you own a high-performance imported automobile, such as a Ferrari, you ought not live in southern California. Especially the person driving the one in front of the car I was in—you ought to be ashamed of yourself for acting all with-it and then idling the dang thing as you creeped around the mall parking lot. Not even you can get a parking space, buddy. Take the thing out on the 58 or something instead.

* I saw unleaded gasoline selling at a high of $2.38 at one store, and the $1.85 Arco station where I did fill up the car was mobbed. Repeat after me: That ain’t right.

* I saw “Lost in Translation” at the movies this past weekend. Sure, it’s no Gi … oh, wait, I said I wouldn’t mention that really awful waste of celluloid again.

Actually, I daresay “Lost in Translation” is the best movie I have seen this year—in fact, one of the best movies I have seen in a long, long time.

Since loyal readers of The Rant have continued to check-in despite my vacation to California, as a special bonus I am going to provide you with a mini-cinema review. Perhaps we could call it “Good Cinema With …”

Nah.

In any event, if you have not yet seen “Lost in Translation,” you ought to do so at your earliest convenience. In fact, I will go even farther and say that it is your civic duty and obligation as a right-thinking American to go see this movie. That’s because we as cinema-goers must use our purchasing power to convince Hollywood to make more movies like “Lost in Translation.” For the film excels on a variety of levels. It has a fine script, and beautiful cinematography, and a story that will pull at your heart. As for the acting, it is phenomenal.

I dare not spoil the plot for you, but I will share a few things about “Lost in Translation.”

First, that the performances of Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson, as two Americans in Tokyo who find themselves trapped in difficult marriages, are simply amazing. One might not expect Mr Murray to act in such a role, given his mostly comedic repertoire; but I certainly hope that he acts in a lot of serious roles in future.

Second, it was nice to see that the folks behind “Lost in Translation” were given the green-light to actually make a serious film for adult moviegoing audiences. For it is a remarkably intelligent film to come out of Hollywood, and it is a remarkably mature film as well. It’s not merely that stupidity is mocked at every turn, either. You see, there are no gratuitous love scenes in which a cinemagoer feels as if he has caught two people in flagrante delicto. There is also no violence of which to speak. Instead, there is a story, and it is told very well.

Third, I am the type of person who very rarely cries at movies. Yet I was – this close – to openly sobbing at the end of it. God! There are few movies that have had that much of an emotional pull on me; but “Lost in Translation” is funny and sad and clever and engaging all at the same time. It is a movie, yes, but it seemed like true life on the screen. Like true life.

* I paid $3.75 -- $3.75 – for a medium Diet Pepsi at the movie theatre. True, I didn't mind at all, and the container of Diet Pepsi was more than sufficient for two people and required a forklift to move—OK, so I’m exaggerating a bit, but Gad. This is a general-principle type of thing. And that’s the type of price I would expect to pay if Hurricane Tad hit shore at Portsmouth and barreled inland, North Korean artillery began lobbing shells at Seoul, and there was a breakdown at Pepsi-Cola Syrup Storage Facility No. 16 simultaneously.

* Paying taxes on everything sucks. Paying California tax rates on everything really sucks.

* I wandered around the Santa Monica Pier on Friday morning. Watched a man in a shark costume jump off the pier as part of a radio-station/energy-drink stunt. If you think that’s pathetic, consider that about 100 other people also watched the man in the shark costume plummet thirty feet to the ocean below.

* I think I got ripped off down at the rental car agency, and it is probably my fault.

Now, you should know that somewhere along the line, I lost the particular Kepple ability to rent a decent car at an incredibly cheap price. Indeed, I can assure you that when the Kepple family went to Sint Maarten on vacation some summers back, your humble correspondent’s father did secure a rate much cheaper than those offered by the main-line car hire agencies located at the island’s Princess Juliana International Airport. Mr Kepple did this by cutting out the middlemen entirely and renting from a local operation, and haggled with the operation’s owner in some out-of-the-way, cluttered rental office whose sole source of cooling was from a half-operational ceiling fan. It worked too.

Well, I’m sure as hell not my father. For you should know that the good people at the car hire agency did present me with a full range of automobiles, and I had no idea which one to choose. I knew that this was a sneaky attempt to have me pick out the Bradley Fighting Vehicle or whatever the hot car model is these days, and then charge me $80 per day for it. Unfortunately, I overcorrected. I ended up picking out an even cheaper car than the one I had originally intended to rent. The end result was a rental car with no power locks, no power windows, and no power steering. It also had no parking brake of which to speak, and I was half-expecting the thing to roll down any hill I had parked upon.

I may just buy it as my next car.

* Oh, and don’t get me started on Los Angeles International Airport. Gad. I am convinced that the operations people there took their cues from the Kwantung Army when they set about designing the place. How exactly they expected that many people (approximately 100,000) to fit into a terminal designed to hold about one-hundredth of that number is beyond me. Oh, and it didn’t help that it was the Southwest terminal and there were lines stretching from the ticket counters to Glendale. After the first hour I was annoyed; as time stretched on, I can assure you that I—your normally cheerful and friendly correspondent—was a seething, angry, generally surly mass of humanity.

Ah, Los Angeles. The place is sweet like honey in one’s mouth, and bitter in one’s stomach.

BUT THAT IS NOT to say that my trip to Los Angeles was bad; it was a fabulous and wonderful and enjoyable time. In part, that was due to my great friends Chris and Mary Kate Weinkopf. But the main credit goes to the wonderful and lovely and amazing girl that I’m dating, and with whom I spent much of my time with there. She is truly a fabulous person, and means so very much to me.

And that, when all is said and done, is what mattered about this trip to the Golden State and the City of Angels.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:42 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 17, 2003

The Rant Will Return Sept 23

Until then, have a look at the fine sites on our blogroll, and take care of yourselves out there!

Also, do check out my good friend Matthew Schwartz's blog. Mr Schwartz, a law student at Case Western Reserve University, writes from Cleveland.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:00 PM | TrackBack

September 16, 2003

Usual Suspects Face Blame Again

FOX NEWS CONTINUES in its efforts to put us in a gloomy mood all of the time. You see, we learned today that certain American parents are not only spoiling their children to an awful and unheard-of extent, they are even accumulating debt to do it:

From overnight slumber parties at F.A.O. Schwarz to custom-crafted playhouses with marble floors, some children of the new millennium are getting the chance to live out their hearts' desires, thanks to their folks' willingness to overspend and desires to outdo the neighbors.

"Parents are going into debt and taking out loans to satisfy their children," said Dr. Susan Bartell, child psychologist and author of "Stepliving for Teens." "They use their kids as a projection of themselves as a means of impressing people."

Whether it means purchasing a $40,000 motorized mini-Ferrari Testarossa or life-size Lincoln logs from KinderTimber, some parents are taking extreme measures in an effort to top the presents bought by their fellow PTA members.

The Fox story even informs us that there is a Web site entirely devoted to selling such outrageously-priced goods, such as Palm Springs II Crib Linens, a steal at $1,528. There is also a $47,000 children's playhouse for sale.

Yes, that's right. Forty seven thousand American dollars. For a playhouse.

When we were young, back in the Seventies, we also had a playhouse. This particular playhouse was lovingly constructed out of cardboard, and may have cost something on the order of $10. We had many hours of fun with it. Then we moved to Michigan, and our father threw the playhouse away with sundry other unnecessary household goods, such as that inflatable punching doll we had that ended up on the roof one time. Or maybe that was broken earlier; we can't remember.

Anyway, we were rather distraught at losing our favorite playhouse, but Mr Kepple's decision stood. Of course, this was the right decision, as we forgot about the playhouse until this evening. Also it was one of many important lessons we picked up as children. Namely, that life was often unfair and unpleasant and no, we were not going to have our way or get everything we wanted. Also, we ought eat everything on our plates -- including the tiny scraps of meat which we failed to detect as still being on the chicken, but which our parents, using skills they picked up from their parents who had been through the Depression, were able to glean without any extra effort at all.

This is not to say that we grew up in an overly strict household or one in which we were deprived of the necessities of life. Indeed, we can assure you that we had adequate shelter, food and medical/dental care. We were even granted use of an adequate but non-flashy used car at the age of 17 years and six months.

That said, we know that our parents STILL have that old West Bend popcorn popper from the mid-Seventies in use; and we suspect they would STILL have that old plastic furniture in the basement, made by the good people at Syroco, except that it finally broke in the mid-Nineties. Hence, if we had ever asked for a $47,000 playhouse as children, we would have been met with gales of laughter from both our parents. If we had persisted, we probably would have been sent to our room for being so impertinent.

This may help explain why we are so befuddled at the idea of any rational adult spending $47,000 for a playhouse. The sheer amount for the product makes such spending wasteful and decadent, even though we fully realize that plenty of people (plenty being about 50,000 in all of the nation) could afford or justify buying such a thing. In fact, it is so wasteful and decadent that we found ourselves grinding our teeth into powder, and recalled the bitter words of rightfully-forgotten German poets, and generally stewing in our own discontent.

This is not to say that we agree with von Selchow, the writer we had in mind, as we find what little we know of his work anti-democratic and quite disagreeable. But we do know that no matter how well we do in life, we will teach our children the same tenets our parents taught us. Namely, that if one wants something, one has to work for it.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:42 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 15, 2003

The Answer is Yes; By Which I Mean, No.

Sheila O'Malley, the New York-based blogger whom you ought read on a daily basis if you are not presently doing so, recently took a look at a pressing issue to the American people.

Namely, Ms O'Malley wrote about whether Ben Lopez and Jennifer Affleck, whom we are told are popular entertainers, had ended their romantic relationship. We here at The Rant are a bit "out of the loop" about this development in their personal lives, as we were more focused on the collapse of the World Trade Organization talks in Cancun.

That was quite something, actually, because there was a glorious row when the North American delegations had the Indonesian delegation impaled on their own cut-rate steel. Heh. Then Pascal Lamy, Europe's chief negotiator, had this really impressive hissy fit, in which he kept lapsing into French like some peasant, and ...

OK, so that didn't happen at all. But few people in America would have noticed if it had, because few people anywhere care about cool things like global trade talks. In general, people are more interested in whether some actor married some musician. We have a theory that this is because trade talks aren't "with it" or "sexy." We must say, though, that we hope folks are following those goings-on out of a true interest in "Jen and B-Lo." It would sadden us if they were following that situation because they wanted to avoid thinking about things like the WTO debate.

In any event, Ms O'Malley echoed the thoughts of bloggers everywhere when she asked the questions we thought when we were informed about the breakup between Ms Affleck and Mr Damon. These questions were:

Is it actually true that Ben and J-Lo have split?

Do I dare get my hopes up that I never ever ever ever ever have to hear about that couple again?

Is it too soon to rejoice, to breathe a thankful sigh of relief?

We are glad Ms O'Malley asked these questions, as we were wondering the answers to them ourselves. For answers, we first turned to Edward "Ted" Callahan, our unpaid intern and popular-culture expert who mistakenly thinks he can use his internship to get credit towards his studies at UC-Davis. Heh heh heh. Oh, is he in for a shock.

Unfortunately, "Ted" wrote us and said he was being sued by the recording industry, and as such had fled to Belize. So for answers we had to turn to Quinn Quimbley, our latest vice president of marketing here at The Rant.

Mr KEPPLE: Sheila wants to know whether it is actually true that Ben Cocktoasten and Jennifer Grey have split up. Is that true, Quinn?

Mr QUIMBLEY: Sir, it's Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez.

Mr KEPPLE: What?

Mr QUIMBLEY: You recall, sir. They were in that bad movie, Gi--

Mr KEPPLE: Oh, yes. You will note, Mr Quimbley, that Interoffice Style Guide Memorandum No. 26 forbids employees from even mentioning the name of that really horrible film. Instead you must call it "that insufferable waste of celluloid."

Mr QUIMBLEY: Heh. Yeah. They were in that really insufferable waste of celluloid.

Mr KEPPLE: Thank you, though. My therapist will thank you also. You see, now I'm going to remember just how bad that movie was, and I'm probably going to have to go back into analysis again.

Mr QUIMBLEY: Crix nix doubleplusungood awful vehicle stop greenlight ridiculous verged on crimethink stop bellyfeel crapwise prolefeed.

Mr KEPPLE: What the devil?!

Mr QUIMBLEY: Oh, that's just marketing talk. Anyway, the answer to Sheila's question can best be paraphrased in a line from "The Simpsons" -- "The answer is yes, by which I mean no." The International Herald Tribune, which ought not report on such things, noted that the two "have split, at least temporarily." So we can clearly say that it is a sure permanent thing. Unless it isn't.

Mr KEPPLE: And this means what for Mr Damon and Ms Fuentes?

Mr QUIMBLEY: We -- namely, the marketing staff -- give it six weeks to three months before they're back together again and it makes the cover of People magazine again. Also we predict they will get married on Minorca.

Mr KEPPLE: Minorca.

Mr QUIMBLEY: Yep. Oh, not because it's especially out-of-the-way or anything like that, just because we think one of those two will get the idea that Minorca is authentic or happening or some such.

Mr KEPPLE: Minorca.

Mr QUIMBLEY: Minorca, Tegucigalpa, beats the hell out of us. But we're pretty sure this breakup will be temporary. Not that we know. But we're guessing.

Mr KEPPLE: Quinn, that doesn't seem to bode well for Sheila's other two questions about Mr Wilson and Ms Knowles.

Mr QUIMBLEY: Absolutely not, sir. Absolutely not. Let's say they really did break up and that's the end of everything. It will still be in the news for weeks upon weeks. We think Ms O'Malley may get two or three days without hearing about them at some point, but once "Jersey Girl" his theatres you can forget about it. However, there is an upside. We predict that movie critics, having enjoyed giving Gi -- er -- their last movie a beating so bad that it was left for dead, will take a renewed interest in criticizing "Jersey Girl." Thus, Ms O'Malley will have to deal with renewed stories about Mr Affleck and Ms Lopez.

Mr KEPPLE: Who?

Mr QUIMBLEY: Never mind. Anyway, it is probably too soon for Ms O'Malley -- or anyone who could care less about Mr ... oh, forget it -- to breathe any sighs of relief. At all.

Mr KEPPLE: Swell.

So there we have it. A continual and unceasing cacophony about Bennifer will persist throughout the land, and lo! the LORD sent thunder and hail, and fire ran down to the earth. And the LORD rained hail upon the land of Egypt; there was hail, and fire flashing continually in the midst of the hail; very heavy hail, such as had never been seen before in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation. Yet the multitudes would NOT give up their file-sharing, and the LORD did harden the RIAA's hearts. And the people trembled, for a plague of process servers was UPON the land.

And only God knows what's going to happen with Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez when all is said and done.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:55 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 10, 2003

Independent's Man in L.A. Can't Hack America

ANDREW GUMBEL, The Independent's man in Los Angeles, may have done more to damage Anglo-American relations than any incident in recent memory with his latest essay on life in the United States.

Mr Gumbel, it would seem, does not like patriotic songs. Specifically, the patriotic songs being sung in his first-grader's elementary school classroom. These offend Mr Gumble because -- shock fury horror -- they actually portray the United States in a positive light. He finds this disturbing because to his point of view, the United States is usually in the wrong.

But let's turn to the videotape, as they say. Let's see what Mr Gumbel has to say on the matter:

Sooner or later, anyone who lives abroad reaches a defining moment when the desire to understand and fit into the foreign culture hits a brick wall of absolute resistance. In my case, living in California, it came a few weeks ago at my son's elementary school open house.

We leave it to our readers' imagination as to why Mr Gumbel did not hit this moment when he was forced to cover the recording industry for the first time, or when he was undoubtedly caught in a traffic jam on the Santa Monica Freeway, or when he was given an obscenely expensive parking ticket, or found he always had to valet-park his automobile.

The first-grade classroom was transformed into a showcase of art projects, spelling bees and mini-science workshops on the life cycle of insects. So far, so good. But then the children of Room 63 started to sing, and my internal refusal mechanism went haywire. In unison, they launched into "America I Love You": ...

We have no words to describe our fundamental incapacity to understand how any sane human being could be disturbed at this development. We mean, we have none.

Granted, I'm not a big fan of patriotic sentiment in any context. But this got my goat in ways I just couldn't shake.

Kids, this is Mr Gumbel, the trans-national socialist!

First, there was the niggly matter of historical accuracy. (What are black, Asian or Native Americans supposed to make of that line about welcoming all the races?)

We are going to give Mr Gumbel the benefit of the doubt and assume that those two sentences were written without either racial animus or sly cleverness. We are also going to say how surprised we are that the sub-editors at The Independent did not catch it. If you're wondering why we wrote that, read the above selection again. Closely.

However, to address his point: the Asian, American Indian and black children singing the line are first-graders, i.e. six years old. Hence, they probably still haven't had adults like Mr Gumbel fill their heads with empty nonsense yet!

One also had to question the dubious taste of singing about a "do or die land" in the wake of a controversial war in Iraq that many parents in our liberal corner of Santa Monica had passionately opposed.

No, one does not have to question it. It's a children's song. CHIL-DREN'S SONG.

What really riled me, though, was that the song had absolutely nothing to do with education. The words were lousy, and the music wasn't a lot better. It bore no relation to the rest of the classwork on display. So what was it doing there? I might have understood better if my son's teacher were some raving flag-waving patriot, but she isn't. She, and the other parents, beamed proudly and generally acted as if the song were a normal part of the American school experience.

Mr Gumbel -- please take note that you're living in Santa Monica, Calif. You are living in a city where the people are considered flaky and weird by other Los Angeles-area residents. If the other parents don't have any problems with it, maybe you ought not have any problems with it either.

Which, as I quickly discovered, it is. Patriotic songs are sung up and down classrooms at Grant Elementary, just as they are at every other school in the land. Mostly, they go without challenge or critical examination.

Well, having lived in the United States for 27 years compared to Mr Gumbel's five, we'd say they always go without challenge or critical examination, except when some moron foreign correspondent decides he wants to write a feature.

In third grade, for example, the daughter of a friend of mine merrily sang her way through "It's a Grand Old Flag", which includes the lines: "Every heart beats true/'neath the Red, White and Blue, /Where there's never a boast or brag ..." Her father, an old Sixties radical who doesn't like to keep quiet about these things, gently asked her when they got home whether the whole song wasn't in fact a boast and a brag. His daughter went very quiet as she thought through the implications of his question. Challenging received wisdom in this way is something she never encounters in the classroom.

She's in third-grade, you wretched old fool. She can challenge received wisdom when she's a teenager, like everyone else.

Even after five years in the United States, I continue to be surprised by the omnipresence of patriotic conformism. This phenomenon long predates 11 September. When my son started playing baseball this year, he and his friends were made to recite the Little League pledge which begins: "I trust in God. I love my country and respect its laws." What has that got to do with sportsmanship?

What does your essay have to do with journalism? Oh, and for that matter, last time we checked, the United States did not force youngsters to Take Part in the National Pastime. If you don't want him to take part in a privately-sanctioned baseball league with rules that have been in place since God knows when, don't have him play.

When, a few weeks later, he and I went to see our first ball game at Dodger Stadium, I was flabbergasted all over again when the crowd rose to sing the national anthem. This was just a routine game, not an international fixture. So what was with all the flag-waving?

The man has been in country five years, yet had not, apparently, attended one single professional sporting event before that game. (Not even an NFL game, which is really how you learn about America, but never mind). We can deduce that because the national anthem is sung before every game in every major sport. It's tradition.

But what, we wonder, would Mr Gumbel think when he learned that at routine contests between U.S. and Canadian teams, they play both "O Canada" and "The Star-Spangled Banner?"

There's more to it, of course; it is a lengthy essay. All of it, to use the common American expression, is crap. We here at The Rant are not amused in the slightest. In fact, we are rather appalled. We feel it unjustly slanders our great nation. We further feel that it would be no different than if we moved to Britain, and wrote that the people there were all skinny-toothed pasty-faced materialistic atheist alcoholic old-thinking Keynesian demand-siders. Which is, of course, not true.

But enough. We figure that if Mr Gumbel gets ticked off at patriotic songs, we may as well give him one to be ticked off about:

THE BATTLE HYMN OF THE REPUBLIC
by Julia Ward Howe

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord/
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored/
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps,
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps:
His day is marching on.

I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
"As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,
Since God is marching on."

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat:
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.

Chew on that, Mr Gumbel. Chew on that!

(link via Tim Blair)

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:18 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 09, 2003

PAGING ART MODELL. PAGING ART MODELL. Your Mom's on the phone! She says: Your team sucks!

AH, HOW WONDERFUL it is to bask in the glory of yet another Pittsburgh Steelers victory. As if it was icing on the cake, the valiant Steelers crushed the evil Baltimore Ravens 35-14. So much for that fancy-schmancy defense of theirs!

Of course, that wasn't all that happened in the football world. Partisans of the Washington Redskins -- ugh -- were delirious with joy that their team eked out a three-point victory over the New York Jets on Thursday night. The Jets, for God's sake. We shall wait with bated breath to see what they think of the brewing situation involving Lawyer Milloy.

Speaking of Mr Milloy, we were sorry to see that the Buffalo Bills kicked the New England Patriots in the teeth during their first match-up. Well, OK, not sorry; but we did feel sorry for New England's fans. They've had a really crazy year (see: Sox, Red), so we can definitely sympathize with their situation. We do hope that New England does well for itself in the AFC East and that it makes it to the playoffs, because we Steeler fans want a rematch. And this time, we shall win.

Now, it may seem odd to feel that way about a rival football squad. But we know lots of Patriots fans, and they're good people. We can't say the same for Philadelphia Eagles fans, who once again played the parts of uncouth, mannerless louts: this time at their home opener. Of course, this was no surprise, as we here at The Rant think Eagles fans are often a miserable and wretched lot.

Notice we said "often." We have no doubt there are civilized Eagles fans out there; we just think they're smart enough to stay home and watch the games on television.

Cincinnati lost. Heh. It's going to be another very long year in the Queen City.

Finally, Ben Domenech asserts that ESPN's Tuesday Morning QB column has "jumped the shark." We don't read the column much, so we really can't comment on Mr Domenech's argument. However, we would say that we think Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder has every right to build himself a 30,000 square foot mansion with 17 cedar closets and a marble-floored wine cellar.

But we're pretty damn sure that's something The Chief wouldn't do.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 07:19 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 05, 2003

Clarification

As regular readers of The Rant know, we recently updated our blogroll. In our entry discussing those changes, we had suggested that, due to the sports-oriented writings on Stephen Silver's site, Mr Silver would be the type to shout "Buckner!" in a south Boston pub.

Upon reading this entry, Mr Silver wrote us about his time in the Northeast and said that his remarks about the Red Sox were in jest. We believe him about this because he admitted to being a fan of the Minnesota Twins, which takes guts. We also believe him because he clearly recognizes what it means to exclaim "Buckner!" within 250 miles of Boston. And he assures us he would never do such a thing.

So because we here at The Rant value honesty and accuracy, we have corrected the record. Now go visit Steve's blog.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:59 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Shock Fury at Depp Comments in Euromag

IT AMAZES US that in this day and age, there are still famous actors who spout off on political subjects, yet don't bother studying up on the subjects of which they're speaking. We find it amazing for two reasons. First, when one is famous and one is also on the record, it behooves one to study the issue to which his remarks apply. Second, the consequences of making unfortunate comments can often be dire when it comes to one's career.

That said, we are not convinced that Johnny Depp, an actor who shot to fame after his stint as "Glen Lantz" in "A Nightmare on Elm Street" and starring in some screwed-up Tim Burton film, did not mean what he said to the German newsmagazine Stern. We are also not convinced that he did not say it in the first place, as his people now claim. However, he said enough so that we here at The Rant are convinced he is an idiot.

Mr Depp told Stern, according to a Reuters account, that America is like a stupid puppy:

The 40-year-old actor told the German news magazine Stern he was happier staying in the south of France with his wife, the French actress and singer Vanessa Paradis, and their two children.

“America is dumb, it’s like a dumb puppy that has big teeth that can bite and hurt you,” he said.

“My daughter is four, my boy is one. I’d like them to see America as a toy, a broken toy. Investigate it a little, check it out, get this feeling and then get out,” said the star.

Depp slammed George W Bush’s administration for its criticism of French opposition to the US-led war in Iraq.

“I was ecstatic they renamed ‘French Fries’ as ‘Freedom Fries’. Grown men and women in positions of power in the US government showing themselves as idiots,” he told Stern.

Except, Depp said later, he didn't say that at all, according to a later Reuters report:

The magazine quoted the actor as saying "America is ... like a dumb puppy that has big teeth that can bite and hurt you, aggressive." He was further quoted as saying he wanted his children to "see America as ... a broken toy" that they should explore, get the feel of, then "get out."

Explaining his comments a day later, Depp he had been using a metaphor that was taken "radically out of context," adding, "There was no anti-American sentiment."

"What I was saying was that, compared to Europe, America is a very young country and we are still growing as a nation," he said. "My deepest apologies to those who were offended, affected, or hurt by this insanely twisted deformation of my words and intent."

Now, we don't know about the rest of you, but we didn't understand how ellipses not in one news account could suddenly appear in a second account from the same media source. So we went and sought out the actual transcript from Stern itself. Unfortunately for Mr Depp, it does appear that he did in fact call America a stupid puppy. Using the words "stupid puppy." Ein dummer Welpe. Don't just take our word for it. However, please do note we've cleaned up the transcript, which was probably re-written into German from English, for The Rant's loyal readers:

Q: Das Verhältnis von Amerika und Frankreich ist nicht das beste.

DEPP: Amerika ist wie ein dummer Welpe. Mit großen Zähnen. Er kann dich beißen und verletzen. Ein aggressives Land. Die amerikanische Regierung und die Medien haben die Franzosen beschimpft, Präsident Chirac sei ein Tier. Ich war froh, als ich las, dass Pommes frites von "French Fries" in "Freedom Fries" umbenannt wurden. Erwachsene Männer und Frauen in Machtpositionen, Leute in der Regierung outeten sich auf einmal selbst als Idioten. Ich dachte: Endlich zeigt ihr der Welt, was für Volltrottel ihr seid. Man muss nur unseren Präsidenten anschauen, unglaublich. Ihm ging es im Irak nur ums Geschäft. Um Kontrolle. Geld. Und er ist einer der schlechtesten Lügner, die ich je gesehen habe.

We used on-line translation software to figure out what this roughly meant. The first three lines are literally translated, "America is like a stupid puppy. With large teeth. It can bite and hurt you."

Interesting what was left out of that first Reuters dispatch, although to be fair, that was just written as a news brief. But it would appear that Mr Depp not only compared America to a stupid puppy, he called us an aggressive nation. He also said that President Bush "was one of the worst liars whom he ever saw," and that our attack against Iraq was solely about money. Indeed, Stern goes so far as to call Depp's words violent criticism (lit. heftig kritisiert) of the American Government.

Hence, until Mr Depp wins a clarification, a correction or a court judgment, we shall believe the Germans.

We would add that we do not know which annoys us more, Mr Depp's original remarks or his pathetic attempt to weasel out of them. We are appalled at the idea that America should take lessons from France or Germany in terms of politics or economics -- although we would say that here at The Rant, we have a great deal of respect for our Italian compatriots. Out of all the nations on the Continent, it is Italy which best "gets" how America works, and we personally appreciate Italy's and Prime Minister Berlusconi's support for our nation's foreign-policy initiatives.

But we must say we were pleased to see one little bullet included at the end of the second Reuters story:

His spokeswoman added that the Kentucky-born Depp, 40, lives in the south of France with his family because his wife, actress-singer Vanessa Paradis, is French.

That the lady felt the need to explain that tells us that yes, the shit did indeed hit the fan.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 07:51 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Air Conditioning for Our Boys!

THE WASHINGTON TIMES has the story on this really neat private effort. The article also lists a Web site for how you can help.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:30 AM | TrackBack

Sweet MERCY.

MATT DRUDGE CALLED THEM "The Crappys." After reading this Reuters story about the new awards-program for reality-based television shows, we don't think we could have summed it up better ourselves:

LOS ANGELES -- Would you believe it? Reality television shows will get their own prime-time awards program so that "Joe Millionaire" can rub shoulders with Oscar.

ABC said on Thursday it will, in conjunction with Don Mischer Productions, create a prime-time awards show honoring broadcast and cable reality programs.

Nominees for the two-hour awards show, set to air this fall, will be chosen by a panel of about 200 people, the network said, and winners will be chosen by the public via Internet balloting.

Mischer is a veteran of TV awards shows, in particular the prime-time Emmys, and the new, as-yet untitled program will feature both series honors like "Best Series" as well as reality-appropriate categories like "Best Twist."

Awwwww, isn't that sweet? Personally, I'd suggest categories like "Best Performance by a Weasel of an Executive Producer," "Best Staged Moment Involving Supposed Interpersonal Conflict," "Best Groveling Before Network Executives," and "Best Profit Margin Made from Using Actors Who Didn't Have SAG Cards."

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:26 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

News From Seattle Even More Depressing Than Usual

WE HAVE LOOKED ON with bemusement at the brewing—ha!—controversy in Seattle over that miserable city’s proposed espresso tax. It seems, according to The New York Times, that certain folks there have decided that a ten-cent tax on each cup of that powerful stimulant would be a good thing. This is because the tax would help children. Or, to be more precise, it would create more municipally-funded slots for poor families with young children at child-care centers.

We are not sure whether this would help the children or the parents, but never mind. The dime’s really and truly and honestly going to go for the kids, supporters say. Or, to be more precise, services for the kids; but in the minds of those behind a municipal referendum on the matter, that is all the same thing. So if voters approve Initiative 77, the ballot measure that would enact the levy, supporters say the kids would get $6.5 million per annum. That’s 65 million cups of espresso per annum, or 115 cups annually for every man, woman and child in Seattle proper.

Now, whether Seattle’s municipal taxes should be increased is a matter for the good people of that city. They’re the ones going to vote on the matter, of course, and we shall reserve our opinion on the general issues of taxation and sin taxes in particular. However, we here at The Rant do feel we can say this. If Seattle voters do approve the measure, they’re even weirder than we thought they were.

Gad. We don’t know about the rest of you, but to us the idea of regularly paying $2.50 for a single cup of coffee is anathema. We do not care if it has sprinkles or caramel or yak’s milk in it: it’s a cup of coffee. Hence, while we admire Seattle’s capable businessmen for conning the American people into regularly spending such sums on the beverage, we have a dim view of the people living in that city. After all, they were the first to succumb to the overpriced-coffee trend; and, if they succumb to this ballot initiative, we think they’ll get what they deserve. And again, this isn’t a question about whether to raise taxes—we avoid that here. Fundamentally, this is a question about whether a municipality should try an untested and potentially burdensome taxation scheme in an attempt to raise a very small amount of revenue.

For it to work, a few things would have to happen. First, people would have to keep drinking espresso as opposed to any other chi-chi fou-fou coffee drink. Second, firms would have to agree to take on the burden of accounting for each dime on one specific product. Given the labor-intensive and high-rent nature of coffee sales, we suppose that could cost more than the profit each cup of espresso generates. Third, Point Two would not occur, and hence the city’s revenues would not be further reduced due to lower overall coffee sales, business failures, job losses, and so on. Fourth, people and businesses would not find ways to avoid or evade the tax, such as going to Tacoma or finding a way to make an espresso substitute. Fifth, people would have to actually give a … bean … about their coffee money going to the kids. We just think they’ll want their coffee.

However, the people behind Initiative 77 believe Items One through Five will take place:

"Seattleites love our coffee and we also love our children," said John R. Burbank, executive director of the Economic Opportunity Institute, a nonprofit organization that came up with the idea for the ballot initiative. "We believe that we should have a kid-friendly community in which we actually don't leave children behind. Unfortunately, with current funding, we are leaving a lot of children behind."

Mr. Burbank said the tax was a fairer way to raise money at a time when the economy was weak because it would affect people with higher incomes more than it would affect the poor.

"Lower-income people drink less espresso than upper-middle-class people," he said. "I've already had two tall double lattes, and I'll probably get another today."

He added: "If you don't want to pay it, you can buy drip coffee or tea. But I believe people are more likely to want to consume espresso if their morning purchase doesn't just go to giving them a buzz but goes to children.”

This is no different than saying that people are more likely to buy Ben & Jerry’s ice cream because part of the profits are given to various charitable causes. And we here at The Rant don't buy that a bit. That’s because during one “Free Scoop Day” at a Ben & Jerry’s retail operation in west Los Angeles a few years back, we were encouraged to donate to one of their hippy-trippy causes in return for a free scoop of ice cream. We vocally refused, and others in a crowd of ice-cream fans voiced their agreement with our refusal. Or they at least found it funny. Hence, we do not see how this would be any different. Furthermore, since coffeehouse workers are not exactly affluent, we fail to see how the potential of putting those adults out of work is deemed acceptable.

We would also add that we see this proposed tax as potentially dangerous. We mean, this is coffee. If coffee houses stop selling espresso or even move away because of the levy, then coffee-drinkers might get upset. If the espresso tax, because it is a tax, was ever increased, then the situation might get worse. And then the coffee-drinkers might get VERY upset. They might even get this upset:


SEATTLE, 2006. HEROIC CIVIL AUTHORITIES lead a charge against a crazed horde of coffee-drinkers in downtown. Meanwhile, in the city’s famed International District (inset top), riot police launch tear gas against the maddened crowd. But the riots, caused by sudden and severe withdrawal symptoms among coffee-drinkers, caused millions in damage (inset bottom).

OK, so the chances that would happen are pretty much zero. But maybe a series of tip jars would work better.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:03 AM | TrackBack

September 03, 2003

No Surprise Here

If I was a nation, the quizzes say, I'd be Singapore. If I was a European, the quizzes say, I'd be a Bavarian. Guess what my battle cry is?

What Is Your Battle Cry?

Stalking across the cliffs, swinging a meaty axe, cometh Benjamin! And he gives a cruel grunt:

"I'm going to smack you until you bleed puke, and plunge you into financial ruin!"

Find out!
Enter username:
Are you a girl, or a guy ?

created by beatings : powered by monkeys

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:35 PM | TrackBack

We Have Updated the Blogroll

SAY THERE, MISTER! We've updated the blogroll here at The Rant!

We'd first like to direct our readers to Kevin White's excellent site. Mr White's work deals with a variety of topics, ranging from academia to finance, and we can assure you that you will find it always well-written, interesting and thought-provoking. Hence, we encourage all readers of The Rant to read Mr White's site regularly.

Next, we'd like to direct our readers to Stephen Silver's fine blog. Mr Silver is a professional journalist in New York -- or, to be more precise, Hoboken, N.J. As such, he has the professional journalist's often-cruel yet very funny sense of humor. He covers topics ranging from politics to popular culture with a quick wit and keen eye.

However, we must warn our New England readers that Mr Silver seems to be the type who would shout "BUCKNER!" in a Southie watering hole. Yes, we know how serious that charge is, but we don't want you to say we didn't warn you.

We also encourage readers to check out Andrew Dodge's neat group-blogging effort over at Dodgeblogium. A good site for world politics and other popular culture news.

Readers will also notice that we've screwed around with made some minor changes to the order of our blogroll. We do think, however, that this will prove easier to manage on our part, as well as more convenient for regular Rant readers.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:59 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Reflections on a Cold Grey Morning

THERE ARE ONLY A FEW SELECT THINGS I would describe as being particularly constant in my life, but certainly the weather is among them. It is a cold, grey morning here in Manchester, and the temperatures are hovering in the high 50s if I had to guess, and it's one of those days when you'd rather stay in bed than do anything else. It is patently miserable weather, fitting after this miserable summer. It serves as a reminder that Manchester, so beautiful in the fall, will eventually again turn into Pyongyang-on-the-Merrimack; and in two months, maybe more, the ice and snow will come.

Soon, now -- in just eight days -- the second anniversary of the worst day in this nation's recent memory will come. Now no mention of that date can go without noting Michele's work over at A Small Victory to remember and record what happened on that horrible day. But my focus today is something a bit different: namely, the reaction we've seen to reports that the major broadcasters only plan to cover the anniversary in their own news coverage, and will not have any special programming devoted to the attacks themselves. This news has outraged Rachel Lucas and appalled Sheila O'Malley. And since I think those two are pretty good barometers, I would say that a lot of other people are angry too.

As for me, I suppose I'm feeling a bit gloomy about Sept. 11.

One part of me knows very well that it's a day that will never be the same for any American, whether one living now or one born thirty years hence. For those future Americans, I suppose the gravity of just what happened will never really hit -- kind of how those of us not alive during Pearl Harbor will never fully understand the horror of that day back in 1941. So that part of me wants very much to do all we can to remember what happened that day, to keep that memory alive.

Another part of me, however, wants to focus much more on the never again aspect of Sept. 11 as opposed to the never forget. In my heart, I must admit that I still want a lot of trampling out the vintage. I want a lot of terrible swift swords to fall upon those bastards who would plunder our economy, ravage our country, burn our cities and take the lives of our people. It is not that I have necessarily had an epiphany, or that I've seen the coming of the Lord; I just want to ensure that those who would do us harm are speedily dispatched to face Him. I do not particularly care how it is done: I simply want those scum thrown down to the ground. And I don't want them to get back up.

So what will this mean in terms of how the day plays out in our national conscience? Hell if I know. I just hope the stories about our soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq get a lot of play on the nightly news, and I just hope that the combination of the day and the hour will spur reflection on why we've done what we've done. And I think in both cases, that will happen.

Because I don't buy the whole monolithic media argument -- the idea that what the nation sees and hears is decided by a handful of executives in some smoky back room. I am sorry, but I don't. And I daresay that if you took a random three reporters from the print media, and a random three from the radio stations, and a random three from broadcast and from the new media, and you locked them all in the same room, they couldn't decide on what to have for breakfast, much less plan a coordinated media assault.

Now, I will admit that, at nine in the morning on this cold grey day in Manchester, I am writing in a vacuum; I don't have access into all the newsrooms of America. But I will say that I expect the cable networks to make the day very focused on Sept. 11; and that the newspapers will treat the day with gravity; and that the yammering on the radio might just get toned down a bit. The idea that The Media Does Not Want the Public to Remember Sept. 11 is not only based on false premises, it is flat-out wrong. Flat out wrong.

And if all goes as I think it will, I think on Sept. 11, 2003, we'll see a combination of coverage looking at what happened on that day in 2001, and what has happened since. There will be a lot related to trampling out the vintage. But there will also be much more related to the healing of the nations.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:37 AM | TrackBack

Death of the CD Salesmen

A Massachusetts research outfit claims that DVDs and CDs will go the way of the eight-track as physical means for distributing video and audio content. The news was recently reported in the Hollywood Reporter.

Forrester Research, a Cambridge-based firm, performed the study.

Hollywood will win the war against illegal downloading but the battlefield will be littered with casualties, including the DVD and CD formats as physical means of distributing video and audio ...

The study predicts that in five years, CDs and DVDs will start to go the way of the vinyl LP as 33% of music sales and 19% of home video revenue shifts to streaming and downloading.

Part of that stems from the continued proliferation of illegal file trading, which has caused an estimated $700 million of lost CD sales since 1999. But it will be due more so to efforts by the studios, cable companies and telcos to finally deliver legitimate alternatives like video-on-demand, Forrester researcher Josh Bernoff said.

"The idea that anyone who has video-on-demand access to any movie they are interested in would get up and go to Blockbuster just doesn't make any sense," Bernoff said. "(The decline) begins with rentals, but eventually I think sales of these pieces of plastic are going to start going away because people will have access to whatever they want right there at their television set."

If Hollywood can win the war against illegal downloading, then I fully expect the Federal Government to win the war on drugs, Interpol to win the war against global crime syndicates, and the American Dental Association to win the war against people who don't floss their teeth.

Look. There are plenty of reasons why fewer people are buying CDs. All of the reasons are economic or business-related, and can be generally traced to the recording industry's idiocy.

First: CDs are expensive. Second: CDs are expensive and usually quite bad. Third: These expensive and usually quite bad CDs only have one or two decent songs on them. Fourth: No one wants to shell out $20 for a CD which only has one or two decent songs on it, especially if the rest of the album sounds as if it was recorded in the bass player's basement.

Besides. The industry's incredibly stupid move to hunt down and sue illegal downloaders has not won it a lot of friends. For one thing, suing relatively defense-less college kids isn't all that nice; and for another, the recording industry isn't exactly known for its virtue in terms of how it conducts its own operations. (cough)*Payola!*(cough)

Now movies are a different story, and there's no denying the studios are getting clobbered in terms of DVD piracy. I do think they can stem the worst of those problems through having tighter security before the movies actually go into general release. If that means locking down all the copies of the film in a guarded warehouse, and making sure the PAs can't steal bootleg rough cuts, then so be it. But I'm not convinced that the studios have anything to worry about in terms of DVDs, and I'm definitely not convinced that video-on-demand will take off any time soon.

Recently, I bought a copy of a mediocre science-fiction film (2010: The Year We Make Contact) for the princely sum of $9.99. This is pretty much equivalent to the cost of renting the thing twice at my local video store. Because the economics worked, I actually bought the stupid thing; and if every DVD was $9.99 I daresay the video stores would soon find themselves in dire straits.

If the movie studios and the record companies finally learn that they'll have to adjust their pricing policies to prevailing market conditions, they won't have any trouble at all. If they don't, then they'll be in for a world of hurt. Even still, don't shed any tears for them. They may not be smart, but they are cunning; and they'll figure out a way how to get back in the game. And if they don't, then others will do it instead.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:07 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack