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21 June 2002  

ON OTHER PAGES

Mmm…bourbon. Two fine articles have recently appeared on that quintessential American beverage known as bourbon. Both Matt Labash of The Weekly Standard (a Maker's Mark man, and so obviously a fine fellow and boon companion) and Guy Gugliotta of The Washington Post filed good stories after being taken along on a "Bourbon Trail" tour organized by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. Talk about a public-relations slam dunk: how could you not get good press after ferrying journalists around Kentucky and Tennessee and plying them with free liquor?

My favorite part came at the end of the Labash piece, when master distiller Jimmy Russell of the Wild Turkey distillery shared his secret mint julep recipe with the assembled journalists:

"To make the perfect mint julep," Russell intones, "You have to have a sterling silver mint julep cup, and 200 milliliters of Wild Turkey 101 proof. You got to shave the ice in that mint julep cup—you don't want to put it in crushed. Then you go down to the spring where the fresh mint's growing, and early that morning, you take eight to ten leaves of the fresh mint. You put it in, you mash it up to get the juice, then you take about a teaspoon of powdered sugar and enough water to dissolve it. Let it sit for about ten minutes, so you get the sweetness of the mint flavor. Then you strain it into your shaved ice. You take a sprig of mint, with all the leaves, and stick it down into the cup, ice and all."

At this point, all of us journalists are writing scrupulously, eager to impress our friends at our next Kentucky Derby party, which even the non-horse-racing enthusiasts among us are now planning on throwing. "At that point," Russell continues, "you walk to the back of your porch, throw it all away, and drink the 101 Wild Turkey straight," he says, as we all stop scribbling. "Did you get all that down?"

Though I dearly love my Speyside malts, the world of single-malt Scotches has attracted far too many Martha Stewart-esque yuppie gourmet types in recent years; and so it is refreshing to note the contrast as an icon of the bourbon world gleefully pokes a finger in the eyes of such precious dilletantes. I may have to order myself a Wild Turkey in Russell's honor the next time I am down at the pub.

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Adios for now, amigos. This concludes week nine of The Goliard Blog. It may have set new records both for shortness and for percentage of soccer-related content, but I hope that those of you who have kindly stopped by have found at least something of interest here. See you on Monday.

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Quixote, thy name is Nihil Obstat. Vociferous denunciations from fellow bloggers recently attracted my attention to a new blog called Nihil Obstat, which bills itself as "St. Blog's official proofreader". Steve Schultz of Catholic Light seems to have spoken for many when he, with the help of some impressive ASCII graphics, invited Nihil Obstat to kiss his moose.

I join my fellow bloggers in wondering just why the person behind Nihil Obstat has decided to devote time and energy to pointing out linguistic glitches on other peoples' pages, but I do not share their annoyance and even anger at this Quixotic quest. Maybe this is because I am a perfectionist by nature, and once assisted with copy-editing at a daily newspaper, and so many of the errors that Nihil Obstat notes leapt off the page at me too…though I must say I never felt the need to hector anyone about them. Or perhaps it is because on my own weblog I write as if I were planning to submit my posts for publication—and so I edit and tweak and check and double-check every last one of them. Having already tried to please my own internal editor, who is every bit as strict as Nihil Obstat, I am not worried by the prospect of his or her further scrutiny; and indeed I would welcome corrections to the errors which have inevitably crept in to The Goliard Blog despite my best efforts, so long as they were politely offered and accurate.

But then again, perhaps my fussiness—along with Nihil Obstat's—is not a virtue but a failure to enter into the true nature of the weblog medium, which in hands other than mine is typically unedited, spontaneous, freewheeling, casual, and conversational. Perhaps my output would not be so low compared to blog icons such as Amy Welborn and Glenn Reynolds, nor my hit counter so anemic, nor my blog e-mail box so frequently empty, if I were less deliberate in the composition of The Goliard Blog. Maybe fussy characters such as Nihil Obstat and I belong in some other medium altogether. What do you think?

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Ow! My eyes! There is good news and bad news today in blogland. The good news is that David L. Alexander, an intelligent bloke who corresponds with your humble author from time to time, now has his own blog, man with black hat. The bad news is that, at least for now, Alexander's color scheme is liable to make the reader's eyes cry out in pain. No doubt he will get this fixed soon; until then, I recommend that you copy the text from his page and paste it into Wordpad or similar before reading. It will be much easier that way…trust me.

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SPORT

Noooooooooo! The United States was knocked out of the World Cup today by a single header off of a set-piece play. The lads played well, and were unlucky not to have done better. But the Football Gods have a way of punishing those who waste their chances (cf. Argentina vs. Sweden in the first round), and the Americans wasted plenty in Ulsan. Fitness also appeared to be an issue, as the U.S. spent the last ten minutes of the first half back on their heels fending off a hail of German free kicks, and were notably slower and sloppier in attack in the last desperate twenty minutes of the second half. Still they were the superior team for most of the match and were very unlucky not to win, as even Franz Beckenbauer admitted. Beckenbauer also agreed that the Americans were unfairly denied a penalty when one potential equalizer was barely kept out by the forearm of a German defender.

As for England vs. Brazil, the eagerly-anticipated matchup somehow failed to leave much of an impression on me, though Ronaldinho's strike was certainly memorable and may well go down as the free kick of the tournament. Brazilians will probably also not soon forget the bizarre sending-off of Ronaldinho just minutes later, which stands as a clear shining example of the dodgy officiating at this World Cup, which I have been expressing concerns about since the beginning. Now some big guns at FIFA are starting to join in the chorus as well, including the great Pelé, and even Sepp Blatter himself has now publicly stated that there is an officiating problem. Let me not waste this rare opportunity to offer wholehearted praise of Blatter: the FIFA president was entirely correct to place most of the blame on the linesmen, to say that the Italians were especially hard done by, and then to conclude by criticizing the Italians for their hyperbolic protests anyhow. Good on ya, Sepp, you crooked old Swiss. (Oops…there I go again.)

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20 June 2002  

SPORT

Quarter-final predictions. The quarter-finals of the World Cup are now only hours away from kick-off. Here are my impressions of the eight teams, and my guess as to their likely fates:

• England: The defending of Rio Ferdinand and Sol Campbell has helped this team put in some very strong performances, despite the fact that some of the stars at the other end of the pitch have not yet been showing their best form. This team can beat Brazil and go all the way…but will they? Since the Argentines also clearly had the ability to win the whole enchilada—and even put that ability on full display much of the time in Japan—yet failed even to escape the first round, I will not even dare to guess.

• Brazil: The Brazilians have been good so far in this tournament—how could a team featuring the "Three Rs" of Ronaldo, Rivaldo, and Ronaldinho not be?—but not yet great. This team still needs to "gel", and play tighter defense, if Brazil hopes to claim its fifth World Cup. The matchup with England promises to be an epic one, and the outcome will likely tell us not only which team is going home, but just how far the survivor is liable to get.

• Germany: The Germans have not produced much in the way of thrilling soccer…but really, when have the Germans ever done so? Germany has typically achieved World Cup success by simply hanging around while other, more popular teams flame out. Any Hungarian or Dutchman will tell you that the Germans are world-class party poopers, and my personal nightmare scenario for this tournament is for them to claim the prize by pooping three beautiful parties in a row: those of the Americans, the Koreans, and the Senegalese. If the Football Gods permit this to happen, you will know that we are all being severely punished for some terrible offense (the re-election of Sepp Blatter, perhaps?).

• United States: Even after the Americans upset Portugal in the opening round, many Europeans simply refused to take this team seriously. If the Germans buy into this Euro-arrogance (Germans? arrogant? nah…could never happen) they will find themselves in deep trouble. The U.S. defense is tight, well-organized, and aggressive, and proved in the Mexico match that it can absorb an awful lot of pressure without cracking. It will require Miroslav Klose's very best effort to put one past the Americans on their current form; and if he is not successful in doing so, then the quick and gratifyingly lethal American counter-attack should be able generate just enough chances to put the United States over the top. All of this, of course, is contingent on the flat, uninspiring side that lost to the Poles not showing up tomorrow; if it does, the U.S. will get killed.

• Spain: Having won all four of its matches so far, this team looks to banish Spain's well-earned reputation for World Cup underachievement. The effort will prove a spectacular failure, however, if the Spaniards are sent home by the surprising Koreans. That this could very well happen is evidenced by Spain's second-half effort (or lack thereof) against Ireland. Sitting contentedly on a one-goal lead almost cost them their place in the quarter-finals; and pulling the same stunt again on Saturday will most assuredly prove fatal…likely by way of another Korean golden goal.

• Korea: This team plays with such spirit and desire, and is buoyed by such incredible home support, that one can never safely count them out, however increasingly improbable it may seem for them to keep advancing. And then there is this: In 1998, hosts France scored a golden goal (the first ever in World Cup play) to win their match in the round of 16, and went on to win their country's first World Cup. In 2002, hosts Korea scored a golden goal to win their match in the round of 16, allowing them to continue their quest to win their country's first World Cup. Were the Football Gods trying to tell us something when Ahn Jung Hwan hit the back of the net?

• Senegal: The Africans' win over Sweden was, I thought, the best performance turned in by a team in the round of 16. In the second half especially, Senegal played with such unbelievable speed and agility and flair that the golden goal seemed inevitable when it finally came. The tournament-opening victory over France was no fluke, however much it may have been explained away when it happened. Senegal versus Turkey is the only quarter-final match where I feel comfortable making a clear call: Senegal will win this one; and what is more, if they make it past the England-Brazil winner, I will be favoring the Senegalese to prevail in Yokohama on the 30th.

• Turkey: A single poorly-defended corner kick proved enough to send the Turks into the quarter-finals, devastating the Japanese who were not only knocked out of the World Cup but, even more seriously, eclipsed by their bitter rivals across the Sea of Japan. One stray bit of luck will not be enough to defeat the Senegalese, who display vastly greater skill on offense than Japan, and I for one will not mourn the Turks' passing, even if they did behave themselves fairly well (by Turkish standards, anyway) in their last match.

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THURSDAY POEM

After wading through a sea of love-sick odes in my search for this week's Thursday Poem, I found myself primed for something a little more tart and cynical; and so I eagerly seized upon this one, a poem written by one of the more enduringly popular candidates proposed as the "true" author of Shakespeare's works.

A RENUNCIATION

IF women could be fair, and yet not fond,
Or that their love were firm, not fickle still,
I would not marvel that they make men bond
By service long to purchase their good will;
But when I see how frail those creatures are,
I muse that men forget themselves so far.

To mark the choice they make, and how they change,
How oft from Phoebus they do flee to Pan;
Unsettled still, like haggards wild they range,
These gentle birds that fly from man to man;
Who would not scorn and shake them from the fist,
And let them fly, fair fools, which way they list?

Yet for disport we fawn and flatter both,
To pass the time when nothing else can please,
And train them to our lure with subtle oath,
Till, weary of their wiles, ourselves we ease;
And then we say when we their fancy try,
To play with fools, O what a fool was I!

— Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford

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19 June 2002  

WEDNESDAY BOOK

"The D'oh! of Homer". I believe that this week's Wednesday Book, The Simpsons and Philosophy: The D'oh! of Homer, is just about everything a contemporary goliardic text should be. A light-heartedly learned collection of essays by writers who manage to have become well-educated in the traditional sense while still keeping an eye on pop culture, this book does not just make the reader chuckle and sharpen his appreciation of The Simpsons—it also causes the reader to think, and even teaches actual philosophy, sometimes while the reader is not looking.

The Simpsons and Philosophy starts strongly with Raja Halwani's essay "Homer and Aristotle", which looks at the Simpson paterfamilias through the lens of Aristotle's Ethics with surprisingly edifying results. William Irwin and J.R. Lombardo's "The Simpsons and Allusion: 'Worst Essay Ever'" was also a favorite of mine, deftly discussing allusion, its aesthetics, and its crucial role in making The Simpsons what it is. Carl Matheson's "The Simpsons, Hyper-Irony, and the Meaning of Life" contains some good general cultural criticism along with its primary explanation of whether at the heart of the humor of the show lies something truly bleak, cynical, and cold.

A number of other essays in this book are also quite fine. The Simpsons and Philosophy, along with its predecessor Seinfeld and Philosophy: A Book about Everything and Nothing (which was produced by many of the same people), is almost enough to induce one to stop inveighing against the introduction of pop-culture studies into collegiate curricula.

Almost.

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18 June 2002  

SPORT

Current odds. Here are the current odds being offered by major British bookmaker Ladbrokes for each of the quarter-finalists to win the World Cup:

Brazil: 2/1
England: 7/2
Germany: 7/2
Spain: 7/2
South Korea: 14/1
Senegal: 16/1
Turkey: 18/1
USA: 33/1

My advice to punters: Don't waste your money on the top four, as the possible payout is much less than it would take to justify the risk (any of the four could easily go out in the next round, and that's only the first of three more wins required to take the Cup). Instead, put a fiver or tenner down on the Americans just for fun (or, if you're a fellow American, as your fun patriotic duty), and then feel free to take a flyer with a similar amount on either the Koreans or Senegalese. Just don't bet any more than that unless you can afford to use $100 bills to light your cigars, since the only thing that can be counted on in this World Cup is that anything—and I do mean anything—can happen.

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I don't believe what I just saw. Tomorrow I will give you my run-down on the now-concluded octavos de final (as the folks at Univision call it) of the World Cup. Tomorrow I will give you my thoughts and predictions on the upcoming quarter-finals.

Tomorrow I will do these things.

Today, I am still too wound up from Korea's stunning victory to think, too excited to write, too emotionally drained to do anything but perhaps go out and sip some coffee at Starbucks while staring into space.

I have been pulling for the Koreans all along—except when they played the United States, of course—and when Ahn Jung Hwan's golden goal went into the net I could feel the rapture of all Korea, despite the thousands of miles and many hours (since I was watching the game on videotape after getting home from work) that separated me from the delerious scene in Daejon. I was actually physically trembling. I can appreciate many other sports—I like some of them quite a lot, in fact—but only soccer has the power to do this sort of thing to me, and leave me crazed with devotion. God bless this beautiful game.

Senegal, the United States, and Korea have all now arrived in the quarter-finals of the World Cup, all of them for the very first time, two of them on the wings of golden goals. Unbelievable. On the outside, I am still my ordinary, calm, quiet self; but this tournament has nearly stupefied me with wonder and amazement on the inside. And the quarter-finals have every chance of being just as good. Or even (dare I say it?) better. Did I mention that I love this game?

Public advisory: The next fellow American who mouths off about soccer being "boring" within my earshot will get smacked. And then (perhaps more painfully) said person will be regaled with every last World Cup story I know. You have been warned.

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TUESDAY QUOTATION

Today, two from Gilbert Keith:

Self is the Gorgon. Vanity sees it in the mirror of other men and lives. Pride studies it for itself and is turned to stone.

Nine times out of ten, the coarse word is the word that condemns an evil and the refined word the word that excuses it.

— G. K. Chesterton

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17 June 2002  

WORLD

About those French elections. France went to the polls over the weekend, voting in the second and final round of their parliamentary elections. The newly-arranged "Union for the Presidential Majority" (UMP) alliance scored a landslide victory, ensuring freshly-reelected President Jacques Chirac a solid majority in Parliament. I suppose that I should write something long and insightful about this result, as I have been slowly building a reputation here in the blogsphere for detailed analyses of European election results, but right now I simply can't be bothered. This is for several reasons:

1) The UMP's victory means very little as best I can tell. The election results, combined with the vagueries of Fifth Republic power structures, should give Chirac the ability to do just about whatever he wants over the next five years. But just what does Chirac want? He is already promising to use his strengthened authority to bring about sweeping reform; but personally I think that would be about as likely as Brigitte Bardot taking up clubbing baby seals for a hobby. Chirac and his allies are Euro-establishment politicians through and through—even to call them "center-right" is a misnomer; they are, at best, "center-center"—and so would be allergic to true reform even if they weren't soaked in statism-fostered corruption…which they are. The prospect of the UMP gang spending the next five years mollifying the electorate as best it can within the usual Eurocrat parameters, pretending it is reforming France while actually changing as few things as possible, and doing everything possible to keep Chirac's corruption-tainted keister out of the fire just doesn't excite me. Wake me up when the next Le Pen storms onto the scene.

2) An even more serious problem is that the French elections seem to always be contested exclusively by French persons…and French persons who are politicians at that. If the folks in Paris who are in charge of elections and things could figure out a way to change this dreadful state of affairs, that would help an awful lot.

3) Most crucially, I was able to find precious little in press accounts of the French elections about the truly important things in the world right now—namely, about certain groups of men who put on same-colored shirts and run about on rectangular patches of grass kicking at a certain sort of round ball. Instead, on Sunday the French seemed to be consumed with activities such as marking little slips of paper and then depositing them into metal boxes, which of course is unutterably pointless by comparison.

But then Dad always told me the French were a strange bunch.

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SPORT

World Cup update.

U – S – A! U – S – A!U – S – A! U – S – A! U – S – A!U – S – A!U – S – A!

You could say I'm pretty happy about today's result. Yeah, you could say that.

U – S – A! U – S – A!U – S – A! U – S – A! U – S – A!U – S – A!U – S – A!

Don't worry; I'll be back to normal in another 13 days or so. Or as close to normal as I ever get—which, truth be told, isn't really all that close…

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MONDAY FUNNY

Today's Monday Funny is very short, as will be much of the content on The Goliard Blog during those times when World Cup madness threatens to incapacitate me entirely.

Please note that I am very fond of the Norwegians; but the following was first told to me (by a Swede) as a Norwegian joke, and so it shall remain:

Q: Why did the Norwegian carry sandpaper with him into the desert?
A: So he would have a map.

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