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New National Post Column From Me -- ‘The U.S. Version of Adult Supervision’: In which I fret about our deliberate policy of not devolving global responsibility to our friends. The column kinda chops off at the end there, due to space and quality reasons, and to my inability to turn in a column at a decent hour. If you want to, go read it, and then come back here and finish off with this strange nugget:

The surprise is that they haven’t been joined by a more mainstream group: The Wilsonians.

As The New Yorker’s Zakaria put it, “Almost every American President in the past half century has been, at least rhetorically, a Wilsonian.” Woodrow Wilson despised colonialism, and believed passionately in the right of nations to form their own democratic states, a truly radical concept in an era of competing empires.

Wilson reckoned, just like his intellectual descendants would eight decades later in the newly opened countries he was instrumental in creating, that free, responsible democracies made for the most trustworthy allies, and gave humanity its best chance for world peace.

Modern-day Wilsonians are too busy debating the weighty issues of the day, like the looming war in Iraq, to notice that the very “national self-determination” Wilson championed is being undermined worldwide by the dominance of the U.S. military, no matter how noble its intentions and actions. America can’t bear every burden indefinitely. It’s time to spread the risk … and the responsibility.

10/19/2002 04:21 AM  |  Comment (15)

Team Southern California: When I lived far away, conversations with strangers would often go something like this:

Stranger: So, where you from?
Me: Uh, Long Beach, California. Southern California. Right next to L.A., with the port.
Stranger: You live in Hollywood? No shit!
Now, of course, I actually live in Hollywood, or at least two baseball heaves away from the Franklin Avenue border of the proposed (and doomed) new Hollywood city. But then, I was a kid from the Lakewood Village panhandle of northernmost Long Beach, which is about as close to the glamour, excitement and possibility of Hollywood as Skopje, Macedonia is to Paris, France. It wasn’t even close to the beach.

Where I grew up, everyone’s dad (including mine) was an engineer, McDonnell-Douglas was the biggest employer, Mexicans lived in apartments (while white people lived in the three basic varieties of tract houses), teenagers not brave enough for punk rock had little options on Friday and Saturday nights besides high school football games, and cruising for parties where people’s parents weren’t home. It was flat and sunny, all the school teachers moonlighted as real estate agents, and absolutely everyone was a baseball fanatic.

You know how it takes moving away from your hometown to truly understand how abnormal it is? Of all the things about Long Beach and Lakewood Village that I’ve come to appreciate over the years, its role as a baseball factory stands far and away above the others. Example? I played a little ball growing up, peaking at age 12, though with some good moments in the summer of ’85. I played third base on the second-best team in my Pony League. Here’s what the first-place team looked like:
1B: Brian Hunter (who would go on to have a 10-year major-league career).
2B: Dave Hansen (12 years and counting in the bigs).
SS: Brian Grebeck (13-year minor leaguer, and brother of 12-year big-league veteran Craig Grebeck).

I played on the same high school infield as 11-year veteran Damion Easley, who was two years ahead of the very Grebeck-like Chris Gomez (10 years and counting), and my last competitive at bat, if I’m not mistaken, was in Connie Mack league off of the skinny future big leaguer Larry Casian, who also played at my alma mater Lakewood. And trust me -- those three little guys were not remotely the best players on the block (though Easley had a monster senior year). We had a lot of bonafide million-dollar talent get squandered on ten-cent heads, plus the usual assortment of injuries. Still, our modest, five-team high school league (including Long Beach Poly, Wilson, Jordan and Compton) has given the world Tony Gwynn, Bobby Grich, Jeff Burroughs, and more. And when you grow up there, you get to watch and then play at Blair Field, a beautiful park, larger than most MLB stadiums (it was 347 down the line when I played there), where thousands of people and dozens of scouts would track your every move. Fantastic.

It’s getting late now, and I’m not going to finish the point I intended to start here. So I’ll cut to the chase -- if you look at a map of the greater Southland region, start from Long Beach, and then head out east, letting your coverage area run north along the 91 freeway, and south along the coasts. This is a region much-maligned for its conservative politics, white trash habits, and poor culture. La Habra, Riverside, Garden Grove, San Juan Capistrano, the Inland Empire. Against the mountains, it’s all terrible smog, and crumbling memories of ‘50s car-hop glory. On the desert fringe, it’s full of scary meth kids, biker dads, and KLOS hippies. In downtown Anaheim and Costa Mesa, it’s surprisingly upscale culture venues, and rich shopping malls. Newport Beach has the college kids from Irvine, while Laguna has the stranded hippie artist colony. This is County Fair territory, where “the river” means Lake Havasu, where you drag your boat & ATC for the weekend. This unloved swath is working class tracts, yuppie gated communities, country line-dancing bars, glass boxes full of tech companies, and the densest Latino and Asian-immigrant neighborhoods in California.

And it’s Angels country all the way, baby.

They love that Woody Allen over there in Europe, and I finally grew to enjoy some of his movies, since they were showing all the damned time (I really liked “Manhattan,” “Shadows and Fog,” and even the dreadful “September”). But when Woody would tell some terrible clichéd joke about Southern California, and people would laugh, I’d just shake my head. Do you people have any idea how not Hollywood the vast majority of this weird place is? While Woody was winning Oscars for making jokes about bean sprouts and Evian, I was wolfing Hamburger Helper, trying to learn to like Coors Light, and searching desperately for a kind of movie theater that might show Woody Allen movies.

So when you’re watching the World Series, and checking out our goofy fans over at the Big A, spare a kind thought or two. Most of the magical advantages people naturally assumed were given to you by dint of living close to Hollywood, we got none. But we got Cal Worthington instead, and Gwen Stefani, and crazy Bob Dornan, and crazy Loretta Sanchez. We always played second-fiddle to the fancy Dodgers, with their blow-dried Garveys and Redfordesque Russells, but we actually liked it that way.

Which is why, uh, I live in Hollywood, real close to Dodger Stadium. Go Angels! I’ll be back posting come Tuesday.

10/19/2002 04:12 AM  |  Comment (17)

Fact-Checking a Fact-Checker’s Ass: Some valuable work by Slate’s Tim Noah, parsing through the merits (and lack thereof) of Rhonda Shearer’s attack on William Langewiesche’s American Ground: Unbuilding the World Trade Center. (Via Romenekso)

10/18/2002 01:45 PM  |  Comment (1)

Bloggers Who Get Drunk Together…: … start drunken blogs together.

10/18/2002 11:38 AM  |  Comment (1)

Take My Statehouse, Please: Mickey Kaus is desperately seeking a write-in candidate to stand up and add zang to the California’s dreary gubernatorial race:

[T]his is the political opportunity of a lifetime. Californians (and California political reporters) dislike both the official party candidates, Republican Bill Simon and incumbent governor Gray Davis. They're desperate for an alternative. Jump into the race now, and you're sure to get a surge of media interest. Even as a write-in candidate, you'll become the vehicle for massive voter discontent. And if the protest vote is large enough, you might just ... O.K. you won't win. But it's only a two-week commitment!
There are five days left. He’s accepting suggestions.

10/17/2002 10:11 PM  |  Comment (6)

Are You Cool or Lame? Political or Apolitical?: Ryan “Gimpysoft” Olson charts 30 blogs. (Via Stephen “Vodkahard” Green)

10/17/2002 09:04 PM  | 

Three Degrees of Blog Separation From Tragedy: When there are too many deadlines & other obligations, there just isn’t much time for common Web-surfing-for-the-bloody-hell-of-it. So tonight I was strolling through Rick Bruner’s site, followed his link to an Elizabeth Spiers post, which made me realize, rather dumbly, that I’d never really spent time at her Capital Influx site. So I poked around, with a smile on my face, and noticed her link list included a section called “MeFi-ers,” or, as the rest of us might call it, “members of the group weblog MetaFilter.” One of the links was for “Stavros,” otherwise known as “stavrosthewonderchicken,” a name I recall from back when I still read the site as someone who had either criticized me personally, or written several things I disagreed with.

So I went to check out his site, and discovered that Stavros’ good pal Rick Gleason was one of the travelers mangled in the Bali massacre. He’s alive, but not in very good shape, with burns all over his back and face, trauma in his heart and brain, and more. Stavros (real name Chris Kovacs) is using his blog as a clearinghouse for all information related to Gleason. Recommended reading, however painful, especially if you haven’t felt any connection to the faraway bombing.

10/17/2002 08:48 PM  | 

The First Person, Probably Ever, to Praise My Design Skills: That would be online veteran Michael Duff, who has very kind words to say about this site in an essay on his weblog philosophy. Since I’m having a narcissistic day, and since certain people have strong feelings about my choice of photo on this site, I’ll quote an excerpt:

Matt does three things right, immediately. He leads with his name in big, bold letters right across the top. He leads with his email address, although I wish that was a mailto link, and he puts his face right there up top for you to see.

Never underestimate the impact of a personal photograph. Personal sites are about people and people have faces. A photograph conveys a sense of fun and intimacy, and that's really what the web is all about.

Michael also objects to the “unfortunate” name.
I hate the term "War Blog." I had a weblog long before this war started and I'll have one long after it ends.
Words are funny, aren’t they? (See previous post about Colby Cosh). I used it back then as a wake-up slap in the face … at least I think I did (what a strange and almost embarrassing jolt to read the first post on this site, which begins “Welcome to War”).

OK, enough narcissism for today. Thanks, Michael!

10/17/2002 07:29 PM  |  Comment (4)

He’s Fisked as Hell, and Won’t Take it Anymore!: I present this Colby Cosh post in its entirety:

Attention webloggers.

After you read this, you no longer have any excuse to use the verb "fisking", as in I fisk, you fisk, he/she/it fisks. It is "blogger" jargon, a twee little in-group signifier, for an activity which has many fine Anglo-Saxon names. If you want to take the piss out of some journalistic jackass, go ahead and do it. There is no need to "fisk" him, or to credit someone else with having "fisked" him. Yes, the joke at the expense of the extremely lamentable Robert Fisk was funny enough at first. But it would take a very funny joke indeed to hold up after a year of frontline warblogger deployment. The purpose is no longer to induce even a grin. The purpose is to preach, by means of semiprivate language, to the choir. Well, the choir gets damn sick of it after a while and starts thinking that maybe macramé would be a hobby which doesn't involve so much self-satisfied sniggering. Party lines, right or wrong, become abominable when they are enforced by reflexive phrasing implanted in the reptile brain. This, this, is Why Orwell Matters. Friends don't let friends "fisk", drunk or sober. Pass it on.

10/17/2002 07:07 PM  |  Comment (22)

Link of the Day, to Someone Who I’ve Inexplicably Never Linked to Before: It’s Kevin Drum, otherwise known as one of those people who has the word “pundit” in his url! Kevin and I, it turns out, have a few things in common. He was born in Long Beach, in a year ending in the number 8; I was raised in Long Beach, and born in nearby Bellflower in a year ending in the number 8! Our first and last names, when added together, have nine letters, which is unusually short! Drum’s mum is a retired schoolteacher in Garden Grove; I just finished writing an article about an unretired schoolteacher in Garden Grove! Kevin attended Cal Tech -- so did my stepdad! Kevin was city editor of his college paper; I was assistant news editor of my college paper. Kevin has an older sister who’s first name starts with a K, and who works in the performing arts field in Orange County; I have an older sister who’s first name starts with a K, who works in the performing arts field in Orange County (well, she’s a classical pianist, and a teacher).

OK, sorry. Anyways, Kevin posts interesting stuff, like this survey of the average word-count-per-post of 30 bloggers, dominated by Little Stevie Den Beste with 1,240 a pop, with the spartan Brian Linse clocking in at 71. (Adding fuel to those who think we’re all attached at the hip, Layne, me and Blair came in 20th, 21st and 22nd, with an average of 127, 124 and 121, respectively).

And here’s a thoughtful take on that blog-model business I was talking about. Mostly, there are smart takes on current events and whatnot.

10/17/2002 05:38 PM  | 

Targeted Blogger Fundraising Redux: A few nights back, I posted a 10-second idea about bloggers holding fundraisers for specific content rewards. For those interested in such things, Henry Copeland and Amy Langfield picked up the trial balloon and ran with it; meanwhile, revenue king Andrew Sullivan has written a blogonomics column for the Times of London.

10/17/2002 04:28 PM  | 

Two New Websites!: Interested in seeds? Hard-boiled novels about Echo Park, published in French? Gardening with native plants? Sketches from Afghanistan? Weeding out corporations from your own back yard? Welcome to the UndergroundGardener.com, the first bit of online activity by our good pal Liz Stromme! Emmanuelle designed the site, which is not yet a blog, though it should contain all of Liz’s new columns for the Silver Lake Press. She’s not very experienced with the ways of the Internet just yet, so don’t freak her out by sending a bunch of lengthy “Longborgings” or whatever, but if you’re interested in a unique & detailed take on horticulture, or just want to read a good book, this site may be of interest.

Another chum, David Galbraith, seems to have finally thrust himself into blogging full-time. David has been Nick Denton’s partner in crime and/or business for almost as long as I’ve been alive. He’s already complaining about right-wing bloggers, left-wing humorlessness, and nausea-inducing libertarianism, so I can see he’s making friends already! David, who’s an architect-turned technology wizard of some sort, had the best dot-com idea I may have ever heard -- show up to networking events, wearing a badge that said "www.mangovan.com," and then explain in all earnestness that you were providing real-time mango-delivery solutions....

10/17/2002 04:06 PM  | 

Humor Time! First, enjoy this Achewood comic strip. Poor Philippe can’t catch a break! Next, try Eric Neel’s 10 things I like about this World Series. I laughed out loud three times.

10/17/2002 03:36 PM  |  Comment (1)

R.I.P., Jerry Bobbitt: He was my grandfather, and he died last night.

Great man; I wish you all could have met him. Had a terrific, sharp-as-nails verbal wit that was intimidating yet thrilling to a poor-spoken California kid like me. Eloped with my grandmother more than 60 years ago. Dragged his family of four kids all over the damned country -- Newport News, Salt Lake City, Compton, wherever -- in search of work, before finally settling on Portland, Oregon after the War, and conceiving a fifth. Had some great stories about Southern California during the ‘40s. He was an engineer -- worked for Peterbuilt, if my memory is accurate -- and loved flying model airplanes, fixing up junky old cars, taking stuff apart & putting it back together. One of his favorite phrases, usually delivered after someone asked how something could be done, was: “It takes modeling skill and daring.” Another classic was “You gotta know more than it knows.” He was a great hunter and fisherman -- to my knowledge, he never went out on the boat without bringing something back, even when everyone else was shut out (the last time I went along me & my Uncle Tom got nada, while Gramps landed a salmon and a small shark).

Until his health started giving way in his 80s, he was the picture of restless, wiry vigor. Was immediately bored with retirement, so taught himself how to ski. This led to a foot injury; which just meant he needed a cast flexible enough to let him go back out on the slopes again … whereupon the other foot got smashed. (I’m going here from my memory, which is probably unreliable in places, but the overall picture is accurate.) When bypass surgery forced him to slow down, I remember him being seriously pissed off at the insult of it all, though I think he continued golfing until not that many years ago. Loved scuba diving, singing, visiting Central America, and doing the New York Times crossword. Had a great Playboy collection, which I inherited a couple years back.

He was long the dominant figure of the family, and he leaves a painful void. I probably don’t take after him much, aside from maybe his curiosity, but I always wanted to. Suppose it isn’t too late to take up hunting elk.

10/17/2002 04:11 AM  |  Comment (13)

What He Said: Original reporting is the killer app for news organizations, as banal as that is to say. Meanwhile, reporting-lite punditry starts to bore as soon as it becomes predictable, though its cheapness to produce is legitimately revolutionary. I’ve long wondered why there aren’t more small vanity publications, with energetic staffs of five, doing original reporting and essaying work on the Web….

10/16/2002 12:56 PM  |  Comment (2)

Fashioning Blog-Finance Models Out of Partisan Bitch-Slaps: A while back, the blogger known as Doctor Weevil started collecting pledges from like-minded folks to send warblogger-baiter Philip Shropshire on a one-way ticket to Baghdad. The “Shropshire Challenge,” as it was known, now seems to have come to some sort of impasse….

Anyway, I’d rather claw out my own kidneys than wade into some tedious partisan screech-fest between people who use the term “chickenhawk,” and those who see “multi-culturalists” behind every mulberry bush -- what interests me about the Shropshire Deal is how it actually might prove to be an interesting blogging model. Now that Amazon and PayPal tipping has become passé, while Blogads and other new schemes remain in infancy, I think the time is ripe for Targeted Blogger Fundraising (TBF). Create a hyper-specific project that the kids want to see, for a set price, and I think you can fund a new kind of something-or-other. Who wouldn’t want to see what Tony Pierce could do with a fancy new digital camera (and some live Thai “massage” for his carpalled tunnels)? Why not send Charles Johnson on a fact-finding mission to Saudi Arabia? Ban Kaus from the beach, and make him report about welfare reform in South L.A. for a month! Let Greg Beato and Glenn Reynolds mudwrestle on the “digital piracy” side-stage at South By Southwest! I’m obviously tired and lacking any original thoughts, but I’m sure cleverer people could come up with one or two damned interesting projects for each blogger that they enjoy (don’t be afraid to use the comments button below). With PayPal you could do it in such a way that the person in question can’t withdraw the money until the target is completely met….

The Shropshire thing is especially interesting because it was fueled by a gleeful and impressively energetic spite. There must be all kinds of markets there…. Buy Ken Layne a razor … send Nick Denton a one-way ticket to Kansas. Pierce just flew to Aruba after some fund-raising/art gimmick, and I understand there’s an infamous credit-card junkie who makes people mad. If you actually put a set price on something that would guarantee to produce sweet & relevant content for readers, well, wouldn’t that be interesting?

10/16/2002 03:35 AM  |  Comment (11)

Neyer and Pierce Give it up for the Angel Fans: Rob Neyer:

[T]he Angels ... ah, the Angels. I won't recap their sad history here, because various media outlets have done a fine job of that over the last couple of weeks. Suffice to say, the franchise has probably suffered more bad luck over the last four decades than any other two teams combined. And getting back to the emotional side of things, are there any fans that deserve a World Series more than Angels fans?
Tony Pierce:
let the dogs leap from the yachts in mccovey cove and scrounge the Old Navy splash hits deposited by the likes of anderson, glaus, salmon and kennedy. the angels have tried to turn their park into disneyland too, but the fans always have the last laugh and the fans know they're in orange county so they all dress alike and they're all white and they bang their plastic bangers and they buy their monkeys and crack open fortune cookies from panda express that say you will always have this moment so dig it.

these are two teams that i don't like very much and two ball parks that can burn for all i care, but i do love the fans and these two teams have fans that have waited a while for this, but the best fans this october, im surprised to say, are those in anaheim, and im happy their team will win.

10/15/2002 04:00 PM  |  Comment (2)

You Will Want to Read Tim Blair From the Past Few Days: If you are interested in a passionate, intelligent and Australian reaction to the Bali mass-murder.

10/14/2002 12:58 PM  |  Comment (6)

Busy, That’s Where!: Just a quick note to say hello, and thank you for the all warm thoughts regarding the ridiculous Angels. As Donald Rumsfeld might say, there’s no question but that I can’t even talk about it properly. Woo-hoo!

I was at the tense game Friday, then off in Palm Springs for the weekend, and now I’m traveling through a little place called Deadline Hades. I guess I should enjoy it while it lasts.

10/14/2002 12:35 PM  |  Comment (7)

Hi! What are you doing down here?

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