My holiday love letter to the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board is up over at the WPRI Blog.
I’ve had a few days to think about this, and I am still completely at a loss for words. You just have to see it for yourself. In one sense, it’s just silly nonsense, and people should be able to do what makes them feel better. But in a small way, it bruises my soul.
I love how it’s just thrown in as a parenthetical at the end that the reporter talked to a doctor who thinks it’s all quackery. Perhaps this doctor has not felt the power of magic laughing dust.
I mentioned a few posts ago that I recently spent some time at the State Historical Society combing through old microfilm for some work research. There really can be no more entertaining endeavor than sitting for hours soaking in the zeitgeist of some past era as told by the newspapers of that time.
In my hours there, I noticed an interesting phenomenon – there appeared to be a pack of elderly gentlemen spending a great deal of time reading old newspapers, but not for any real reason. They just sat there, hour after hour, quietly reading newspapers from a half a decade ago. They didn’t take any notes, and only stood up to pull another reel out of the endless rows of microfilm files on the walls.
It was only after I left that I realized what might be going on here. These might be old men who are wholly disillusioned with current popular culture, spending time reconnecting with the events of a happier era. Essentially, if you don’t like today’s culture, the miles of microfilm housed at the Historical Society just allows you to pick a new era and live there for a little while. Little, insignificant stories from your younger days might trip something in your brain that takes you back to a time when things were simpler. You can just check out of America 2008 and be magically transformed back to the Eisenhower days, before crudity became the cultural standard and kids could actually run a lemonade stand without a permit from the city.
Imagine your life if you’re a 75 year-old recent widower. You can hop into the way-back machine for a few hours and comb through the world when you and your future wife had just met. You can soak your senses in the JC Penney ads that were running when you got up the nerve to ask her out on your first date. It’s as close as you can get to the sensation you felt at the time, when the world was your oyster – and you didn’t realize one day you’d be spending your days trying to reclaim them by steadily scrolling through faded microfilm.
Of course, this is all speculative on my part. Maybe they’re just old men killing time, bored to tears by their retirement years. But I almost feel like I need to go back and talk to some of these guys, to see if I’m right.
Going back to the beginning of this post, here’s an example of what I was talking about when I mentioned the entertainment value of combing through old newspapers. Here’s a news analysis that ran in the Wisconsin State Journal in January of 1984. God bless their hearts.
If you’re at work, counting down the minutes until Christmas, then waste some time perusing The Smoking Gun’s Top 20 Mugshots of the Year. Also, check out this short movie, which played before Wall-E in theaters. It’s a big hit in my household:
This afternoon, I had to run to the bank to deposit one of my meager paychecks. When I got out on the road, I grew very worried. Every road in Madison was jam-packed with cars. I wanted to know what I was missing – it looked exactly like it would look if there were an impending nuclear attack on Central Wisconsin and everyone was trying to get out of town at once. Remember – I was a little kid when the movie “The Day After” showed on TV, so I have lived my life in constant fear of a nuclear attack. If you’re my age, you’re generally afraid of three things: the Soviet Union launching a nuclear missle at us, the Japanese taking over the entire auto industry, and having to take Long Duk Dong to your school dance.
Apparently, the only impending threat citizens were under was the threat of not getting an extra dollar off of wool socks. It appears that all of society just shuts down the entire week of Christmas.
So naturally, as I got to the bank, there was a line about 12 people deep. The bank had three tellers working – an old lady, a dude, and… well, there’s no way to beat around the bush on this… a hottie. She had long brown hair and was wearing a fire red sweater that she likely picked out just for me.
I was aware that I had some time to kill, so I looked at the people ahead of me and ran the odds of me ending up at her window. It was a complicated formula – I figured the guy with the club foot would take a little extra time, the lady tapping her foot seemed like she was in a hurry. I suddenly had a plan in place that was only slightly less complicated than the invasion of Normandy. I was going to get to that window. (I had about 20 minutes to think about this, as half the people in line seemed to be taking out home mortgages right there at the teller window.)
As I got to the front of the line, the skies opened, the sun shone, and she called me over. I sauntered toward her window, adopting my best devil-may-care attitude. I tried to adopt a Don Draper-like persona: calm, cool, and mysterious. (I tried to hide the true intent of my visit to the bank – to put money in my checking account – until the very last minute, just to keep up the aura of mystery.) I flipped my check and deposit slip onto the desk, cocked my head to the side, paused, and said “deposit, please,” as if James Dean himself were there standing in front of her bank terminal.
She smiled, looked at her computer and began typing. Then she looked at me and leaned forward. I braced for the seductive verbal bouquet that was about to trickle off her lips. She began speaking in a hushed tone, and said:
“Your credit card is delinquent.”
I grabbed my receipt and shuffled out. I think I’ll go through the drive-thru next time.
TAKE A GUESS:
My team has lost three of its last four games, dropping out of the playoffs – during which time I have thrown exactly one touchdown and six interceptions. The one game we did win was on a fluke miracle defensive touchdown against the Bills when they inexplicably tried to throw the ball while running out the clock.
In my past three games, I have thrown for 137, 207, and 187 yards. I have not thrown for 300 yards once this year.
Despite leading the NFL in interceptions, I made the pro bowl on my name alone. My 21 touchdowns are middle of the pack in the AFC, and padded by one 6-touchdown game against the Cardinals where Arizona turned the ball over a ridiculous seven times.
The guy I replaced has now led a team that went 1-15 last year to a spot ahead of us in the playoff chase.
Four of my team’s losses have come against powerhouses like Oakland (4-11), San Diego (7-8), San Francisco (6-9) and Seattle (4-11).
While taking time off from leading the AFC in interceptions, I found time to call a team and offer them tips on how to beat my old team, thereby exposing myself as a petulant, vindictive jerk.
WHO AM I?
(Answer after the jump:)
I’m not usually one to blow my own horn (which I don’t think is legal in Wisconsin anymore), but I do have to admit – I am the greatest snow driver of all time. I consider those of you who stay home because a little snow falls to be weak of spirit and onion-deficient. My 4-wheel drive and I are like Batman and Robin. Peanut Butter and Jelly. Gin and Tonic. Hall and Oates. You get the picture.
In fact, my drive to work today was reminiscent of the opening scene of “Undercover Brother,” in which he spins out for 30 seconds while failing to spill a drip of his Big Gulp:
Enjoy your hot cocoa at home – I’ll be here at work defending freedom. And shopping on eBay.
I was reading some old newspaper microfilm in the State Historical Society the other day, doing some research for work. As long as I was there, I thought I’d look up the press account from a family tragedy that befell us in 1977. And I have to admit it – going back and thinking about it made me a little misty. (Although not as much as a typical episode of “Friday Night Lights,” which gets the water works going every episode.
This got me thinking about a question I hadn’t really given much thought to in the past. Why do we cry?
When you think about it, the human body is an amazingly efficient machine – virtually every human physiological process has an explanation. When we get hot, we sweat to cool ourselves off. When we get cold, we shiver to stay warm. When we exercise, we breathe more deeply to get more oxygen to our blood cells. When we exercise our muscles, they get stronger to adapt. When our bodies think it’s time to have sex (for me, any time I turn the DVD player on), it…ummm… reacts accordingly. The future of humanity depends on it.
But what purpose does crying serve? Seemingly, there is no physical challenge overcome by tears streaming from your eyes. There’s no cause that produces the effect. While other animals have tear ducts (like monkeys and Michael Moore), humans are the only ones that cry. Biologists have pretty much nailed down the physiological process – the nervous system stimulates the cranial nerve, in the brain and this sends signals to the neurotransmitters to the tear glands. The largest tear gland, the lacrimal gland produces the tears of emotion and reflex. But that doesn’t explain what triggers the response, or what purpose it is supposed to serve.
I suppose one could argue that tears are the body’s way of releasing pent-up feelings. But why would these feelings come of of the eyes? It seems the body already has several mechanisms for expelling things – imagine if, instead of crying, we just soiled ourselves. When Red says “maybe I just miss my friend” at the end of Shawshank Redemption, I’d have to make a beeline for the can every time.
As I mentioned, animals feel pain and sadness, but they just howl. Why are humans different? Maybe Baby Jesus makes us cry. St. Francis of Assisi supposedly cried until he was blind. So when I lose my sight, that’s what I’ll blame it on.
Alright, I’ll stop shampooing and get right to it. My dad sent me my Christmas gift already – some gift cards to Best Buy. A few weeks ago, I lost my iPod, and I’ve been lost ever since. My life is devoid of meaning. I even accidentally ate a salad. So clearly, I need another iPod Nano. (Set aside, for a moment, the question of whether spending your Christmas gift cards before Christmas is actually appropriate. I believe the Bible is silent on the issue.)
The 16 GB Nanos at Best Buy are $199.99. (Thank God they’re not $200 – I might not be able to swing that.) And these gift cards will cover a big chunk of it. Sounds like a match made in heaven, right?
Only there’s one thing that sticks in my craw. If you go online shopping, like at B&H, the same iPod is $174.95. Twenty five bucks cheaper, for those of you educated in MPS. So while I can buy from Best Buy at a cost of nearly zero to me, I know I’ll be paying too much. I’d almost rather pay the full price myself, and be satisfied that I got a deal, rather than pay nothing, but at an inflated price. It’s crazy, I know.
Also, on a related note, I have a proposal that will kick-start the nation’s economy. It’s pretty clear that putting the letters “e” or “i” in front of anything makes people 50% more likely to buy it. Those two letters confer status on products – as if they’re from the future. When the iPhone came out, people stormed stores to pay whatever they had in their bank accounts for these phones, because of one letter.
So I propose putting the letters “e” and “i” in front of everything. Housing market down? Someone buy my “iThreeBedroomTwo iBath.” Looking to sell your crappy car? Advertise for an “eLemon.” Who doesn’t get a little more excited about paying their taxes when they know they can e-file?
This could actually apply across the board. Just think – if your doctor sent you an e-mail telling you you had “iCancer,” you’d be like “oh, that’s not too bad.” If you find out your husband is having an “e-affair,” you’d say “oooh – sounds cutting edge.”
(I’ll get right to it after I open “Simply Arms.”)
Readers of my blog know that my favorite post every year is when I comb back through all my music for the past year and list my favorite CDs. As always, I don’t claim to be an expert, so I wouldn’t presume to name the “best” CDs – because there is no such objective thing.
I’m excited this year to do it in podcast form, since I’m generally terrible at describing music. So you can listen for yourself to see if you like any of it – and I think I picked some pretty good stuff.
Joining me on the podcast is my friend Barrett Kilmer, owner (along with his lovely wife J.J.) of Indie Coffee on Regent Street in Madison. Clearly, the best place in Madison to get an independent cup of coffee, or a sandwich. (He bought me pizza tonight, so there’s his plug.)
In any event, have a listen. (I apologize for the echo – lesson learned not to sit in the same room.)
(Or you can download the file by right clicking here and choosing “Save As.”)
Chris’ Top 10:
10: Gentleman Jesse / Introducing Gentleman Jesse
9. Flight of the Conchords / Flight of the Conchords
8. Horse Feathers / House With No Name
7. Fleet Foxes / Fleet Foxes
6. Dead Confederate / Wrecking Ball
5. Army Navy / Army Navy
4. Blind Pilot / 3 Rounds and a Sound
3. Vampire Weekend / Vampire Weekend
2. British Sea Power / Do You Like Rock Music?
1. Bon Iver / For Emma, Forever Ago
Barrett’s Top 10:
10. Department of Eagles / In Ear Park
9. Spiritualized / Songs in A & E
8. Girl Talk / Feed the Animals
7. My Morning Jacket / Evil Urges
6. Explorers Club / Freedom Wind
5. Okkervil River / The Stand Ins
4. Blitzen Trapper / Furr
3. Bon Iver / For Emma, Forever Ago
2. MGMT / Oracular Spectacular
1. The Hold Steady / Stay Positive
Ole: Well, Sven, now that my Democrats are fully in charge of this state, we’re finally gonna see some changes around here.
Sven: I’m not really into politics, Ole. Howdya mean things’ll be different?
Ole: Well for starters, we Democrats are finally gonna do something to stop people, especially the teenagers, from smoking. Our Governor says raising the cigarette tax $1.25 will prevent 84,000 kids from being adult smokers. And we’re gonna prevent drunk driving and all the other problems associated with excessive drinking by raising the beer tax.
Sven: Oh, I get it! Taxing an activity makes people less inclined to engage in said activity.
Sven: So when the Democrats say they want to raise the income tax, they want to deter income production and job creation. And when they say they want to raise the gas tax, they want to deter driving. And when the Democrats try raising taxes on hospitals, they want to make it tougher for people to afford health care.
Ole: Woah, hold on Sven! When we say we want to increase the income tax, it would only be on rich people who don’t deserve it. And we’d only tax the “excess profits” of oil companies, whatever those are. And we wouldn’t be raising taxes on hospital patients, we’d be “leveraging” free money from the feds. And everybody knows that money from the federal government isn’t your tax dollars or anything!
Sven: Wait, I don’t get it. If Democrats themselves specifically say they want to raise taxes on cigarettes and beer because they know it will make people smoke and drink less, how can they simultaneously ignore the fact raising income, gas and hospital taxes will discourage people from working for a living, driving a car or going to a hospital?
Ole: Um… Sarah Palin is stupid! Bush is a war criminal! Hope and change! Hope and change!
Each year, the senior class at the UW-Madison Journalism School issues a magazine they call “Curb” that serves as their class project. This year, they honored me by publishing a story about blogging featuring yours truly:
Christian Schneider led a double political life. By day, he was a diligent aide to a Republican state senator. By night, he fashioned himself as blogger Dennis York, jabbing away at both aisles in Wisconsin’s Capitol. For nearly two years he played his dual roles, never letting on at work the ideological Batman role he played at home.
“[My boss and I] were in a meeting one time with another state senator, and we were talking,” Schneider recalls. “He turned to my boss and said, ‘You know, I really agree with Dennis York on this and this and this,’ not knowing that it was me.”
In his blog, “Stand Next to This Money,” Schneider wrote with the voice of the everyday unsung hero, filling his pages with witty euphemisms and juicy politics.
“Just working up in the Capitol and dealing with drafting new laws and the insider politics … you see a lot of things that seem like they’re really misrepresented of how things really happen,” Schneider says. “Being someone who was on the inside, I thought it was a good idea to start a blog to explain a little bit of what goes on inside the Capitol.”
Despite the fact that close to nobody knew who the real Dennis York was, hundreds of people, both citizens and legislators, tuned in daily to read his opinions and innermost thoughts. The blog became well-respected and well-read throughout the blogging community until its end in February 2007.
Better not let my former boss see this article – she would most certainly argue with the characterization of my work as “diligent.”
Last night, the Curb staff held a party in honor of this year’s magazine release, and I was able to briefly attend. They all seem like a great group of future journalists, and I wish them all the best of luck.
Today’s Deadspin makes fun of Kentuckian Kige Ramsey, who conducted a ridiculous (and hilarious) live blog of the SEC championship football game this weekend.
It appears Mr. Ramsey is also a self-styled YouTube relationship counselor, as seen in this video:
This is EXACTLY what I think I look like when I’m on TV.
I have to admit that I’m a little squeamish about laughing at this guy. This is either a wonderful put-on, or he has some truly challenging problems. Or problematic challenges. One or the other.
From the New York Post:
Prior to Yankee GM Brian Cashman’s meeting with CC Sabathia yesterday in Las Vegas, there was a feeling in the baseball universe the stud free-agent lefty would eventually re-sign with the Brewers.
Since the Yankees’ six-year, $140 million has been in front of Sabathia for more than a month, there are reasons he hasn’t taken it. A popular theory is, he doesn’t want to work in The Bronx.
Now, there is talk of the Brewers, who have offered five years for $100 million, exploring ways to entice the 28-year-old Sabathia, who went 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA in 17 starts after being acquired from the Indians.
According to a source who has talked to the Brewers, the club has enough money to sweeten the pot and offer “contract flexibility” that could include an opt-out clause after three seasons.
The Yankees have believed it’s been between them and the Brewers for a while. The Angels and Giants are looking for hitters before pitchers.
If the Brewers re-sign CC, I am going to openly weep. I will also be there for when he turns bread into fish.