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29 June 2002  

This one went into extra time… but now week ten of The Goliard Blog is complete. As usual, thanks to my readers for stopping by, and I hope you were pleasantly surprised to see some extra bonus blogging on a Saturday. See you on Monday.



Grand Final preview. At seven o'clock tomorrow morning (Eastern time) the Grand Final of the 2002 World Cup will kick off. I can't even describe to my fellow Americans how big an event this is. This is bigger than any single Olympic event, and way bigger than the Super Bowl. One and a half billion people are expected to be watching, the largest audience for any television program in history; and the defining moment or moments of the match will live on in the hearts of most of them forever.

I suggest you not miss it.

Here are some interesting facts about the World Cup Grand Final:

• Both Brazil and Germany will be making their seventh appearances in the Grand Final. The only other countries to have played in the Grand Final more than twice are Italy (five times) and Argentina (four times). Brazil is the only nation to have lifted the Cup four times; the Germans join Italy as the only nations to have won three times.

• Despite all their World Cup appearances, Brazil and Germany have never before played each other in any stage of the World Cup. This would appear to be their first-ever match that has meant anything (i.e. that wasn't a "friendly" exhibition match), and it happens to be for all the marbles.

• It was not until 1970 that two past winners of the World Cup met each other in a Grand Final (that one was Brazil vs. Italy). It then happened four times in a row (1982, 1986, 1990, 1994); tomorrow's match will be the sixth such occasion.

• Brazil will be the second country to have played in three straight Grand Finals. (The other country is Germany, which lost in 1982 and 1986, then won in 1990). If Brazil should lose, they will become the third to have lost two Grand Finals in a row (joining Germany in this category is the Netherlands, which lost in 1974 and 1978).

• The first Grand Final to feature teams from different continents was in 1958 (Brazil vs. Sweden). All but three of the Grand Finals since then have pitted Europe against South America (1966, 1974, and 1982 were all-European affairs).

• Only four of the 16 World Cups have been won by a team from outside the continent where the tournament was played. All four of these victories were by South Americans, and three of them were by Brazil. (Brazil won in Sweden in 1958, Mexico in 1970, and the United States in 1994. Argentina won in Mexico in 1986.) Only Brazil, in 1958, has ever brought home a World Cup from across an ocean.

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We're number 202! We're number 202! The World Cup championship will not be the only title at stake on Sunday. The two nations at the very bottom of FIFA's world rankings, 202nd-ranked Bhutan and 203rd-ranked Montserrat, are to face off just hours before Sunday's Grand Final to decide who is the world's worst national team. Neither side is embarrassed to be appearing in this match, however, as Bhutan and Montserrat are not only small countries but the newest members of FIFA, and both are no doubt anticipating leaving the likes of the Turks and Caicos Islands and American Samoa (tied for 200th place) in the dust given time.

Loyal readers of The Goliard Blog are no doubt breathlessly awaiting your humble author's thoughts regarding the probable outcome of this important contest. I would bet on Bhutan simply because of the choice of venue, Changlimithang Stadium in Thimphu (the capital of Bhutan). Not only will the Caribbeans be suffering jet lag after their 14,000 mile journey, but they might also find the altitude a bit, er, challenging. The elevation of Montserrat ranges from zero to 3,000 feet above sea level; Thimphu sits at an altitude of over 7,500 feet. (Denver, Colorado is a lowland town by contrast, at only 5,200 feet.)

One other factor may work in Bhutan's favor. There is only one airport in Bhutan (at Paro, a nearly two-hour journey from Thimphu), and only one airline permitted to service it, the Bhutanese national carrier Druk Air, which has a whopping two planes at its disposal (both BAe 146-100s, which can seat 70-84 passengers). The approach to Paro through the Himalayas can be spectacular but also hair-raising; and I do not imagine that the Druk Air pilots were all that motivated to minimize the latter factor when they brought the Montserrat team's flight in for a landing.

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An excellent opening act. Turkey defeated Korea today 3-2 in what was pretty much an ideal World Cup third-place match. Both teams played highly entertaining football (the Turks set a World Cup finals record by scoring their first goal in just eleven seconds), but not at so high a level of skill as to cast any doubt as to whether the two teams contesting tomorrow's Grand Final belong there. Both teams tried hard to win, but played without the extreme pressure of playing for the Cup itself. Best of all, after the final whistle players and supporters from both countries put on a great show of friendliness, goodwill, and sportsmanship, as befits two nations which didn't appear to have a chance in Hades to be playing in this match when the tournament began, and thus were almost equally happy to be earning either third-place or fourth-place medals.

The Turks were deserving winners, I thought, and they played a brand of football so unlike their first-round performances that at some point I simply stopped hating them…and what a strange sensation that was. I even found myself starting to admire their goalkeeper Recber Rustu and striker Ilhan Mansiz (scorer of two goals today), who both played some excellent football in this tournament. As for the Koreans, defensive lapses kept putting them behind, which exposed their Achilles' heel: poor finishing. This team played 210 minutes in the quarter- and semi-finals without scoring a goal for a reason—their skill and spirit and fitness created plenty of opportunities but the Koreans simply could not turn these opportunities into decent shots on goal. Even though they managed to score twice today (the second goal coming on a fluky deflection at the very end of the match), the story was still much the same; as the match wore on I heard Univision's commentators go from describing the Korean strikers' efforts as malo, to muy malo, to finally horrible.

Still, the Koreans played far better overall, and went much farther in the tournament, than anyone ever had a right to expect, and they deserve hearty congratulations for their achievement. As do (I can't believe I am saying this) the Turks.

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Red Army headed for Moldova… …the "Red Army" of Aberdeen supporters, that is.

My favorite soccer club qualified for European competition by finishing fourth in the Scottish Premier League last season, and Aberdeen fans were closely watching the draw for the UEFA Cup last week. Having been embarrassed in their last European outing two years ago with a first-round loss to Irish part-timers Bohemian, Aberdeen fancied the idea of avoiding this year's Irish entrants (Dundalk FC) and drawing an even more obscure first-round opponent. They got their wish in being paired with Nistru Otaci, second-place finishers in the Moldovan league last season. Aberdeen manager Ebbe Skovdahl says he has never heard of them before, and he's not the only one…I would wager that even in Moldova he will find plenty of company.

(Reason why European soccer is cooler than American professional sports #562: When was the last time the Los Angeles Dodgers or Pittsburgh Steelers wound up playing games—important tournament games, no less—against teams they'd never even heard of before?)

It looks as though I'll be unable to make it to the away leg on 15 August in Otaci, Moldova, which is unfortunate, as it promises to be quite an adventure. Otaci is an out-of-the-way town in an already extremely out-of-the-way country, and Nistru's Calaraseuca Stadium reportedly has a capacity of just 1000. (Note that I said "capacity", not "seating capacity", and note also that it has not yet been specified whether that figure includes goats, sheep, and stray dogs.) At least I ought to be able to catch the play-by-play from Northsound radio's streaming audio on the web…if the boys from Northsound are able to find anywhere in Otaci to plug in their remote broadcast equipment, that is. As a backup plan, they may want to consider looking for an extremely long piece of string to attach to some tin cans. (I suggest they bring along their own tin cans, since such luxury items might be difficult to find once they are in Moldova, and also because the beans in the tin cans will provide a much more appealing pre-game meal than the locally-available foodstuffs.)

UPDATE: It has been announced that the match has been moved from Nistru's home ground to Moldova's National Stadium in the capital of Chisinau, a venue which boasts of a whopping 18,500 capacity and has electric lights and everything. So the Northsound folks can forget about finding the long piece of string. I would advise them, however, to still bring along the cans of beans.

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28 June 2002  


From the Thin Skin Dept. A little while ago I posted a note intended to gently and indirectly encourage fellow bloggers to calm down a bit in regards to a certain fervently-disliked proofreader. After reading some recent posts by Anthony Marquis on his blog Veni Sancte Spiritus, I am afraid that a more direct and firm statement on the matter is now in order, and like a fool (what befits a goliard more, after all, than playing a fool?) I am nominating myself to make it.

And so I will frankly say that I believe Marquis crossed the line when he posted the following yesterday:

Harassment Report

A blogger that I will not link has been reported to BlogSpot as violating BlogSpot's terms of service by ongoing harassment. BlogSpot has been contacted to tell said blogger to cease and desist from her harassment of my blog.

This may make me thin skinned. However, since the blogger in question acts in a cowardly manner (no means of identification nor contact), my only recourse is to make complaints to

The blogger that Marquis high-mindedly refuses to link to is the pesky Nihil Obstat, which has been pointing out errors in various Catholic blogs—sometimes in polite enough fashion, but sometimes rather…um…uncharitably. The unbidden copy-editor soon replied to Marquis' attack, for once taking on the substance of a post rather than the grammar:

"I am not a constitutional lawyer or scholar ..."
Neither are milllions of citizens, but many of us know about the Fair Use Doctrine.

An apt and correct response.

I happen to be both a lawyer and a scholar-in-training, and my informal take on the situation (not to be relied on by anyone as actual legal advice, please note) is that the only harassment going on here is that perpetrated by Marquis, in his efforts to get Nihil Obstat restrained, censored, or shut down by the powers that be at Blog*Spot. Also, while I offer no defense for Nihil Obstat's nasty streak, I do believe there is a benefit in having someone out there urging us to be less sloppy in our use of words if we are to presume to share our writings with the world, even if we are employing a format as informal as a weblog. Furthermore, I believe that even if one could not find any benefit in what Nihil Obstat does, he or she would nevertheless clearly have a right to do it unhindered, unharassed, and uncensored, so long as he or she steered clear of anything which smelled of actual libel.

In light of these considerations, I have three things to say to my peers in the Catholic sector of the blogsphere. First, you should either be prepared for people to scrutinize and criticize the articles you place on your weblog, or else refrain from hitting the "Post" button. Second, when that criticism happens to be petty, unkind, or ill-founded, the noble blogger should either offer a measured and sound refutation or simply ignore the critic. To instead bash, complain, and attempt to censor is extremely bad form (I think calling it "thin skinned" is actually far too kind). Third, if anyone should actually succeed, despite the law almost certainly being against them, in the ignoble task of censoring or shutting down Nihil Obstat against its author's wishes, please know that The Goliard Blog intends to pick up the fallen red pen and begin to regularly proofread web sites maintained by any and all persons who had a hand in Nihil Obstat's demise, and to publish on this page the resulting corrections (which will, of course, be as accurate and respectful as your humble author can make them).

P.S. If Nihil Obstat should find anything amiss in the above post, all he or she need do is call it to my attention politely and it shall be promptly and cheerfully corrected, without any hubbub of any sort.

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Why the Pledge of Allegiance decision made sense (even though it was wrong). No, I haven't finished this one yet. I'll be sure to post a notice farther up the page when I do.

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Goodbye Earl. Alabama Congressman Earl Hilliard, friend of Mu'ammar Gaddafi, Yasser Arafat, and other savory characters around the world, supporter of partial-birth abortion, unrepentant practicer of nepotism and waster of public funds, and a man who is just plain embarrassing to listen to when he speaks in public, was defeated for re-nomination by attorney Artur Davis in this week's Democratic primary runoff. The Goliard Blog congratulates Davis for his upset victory and the voters of the 7th District for their good sense, and hopes that Davis was right when he claimed that his victory "signaled an end to the dominance that black political machines have exerted over who represents the black community" (as The Birmingham News rendered it yesterday). Black voters deserve to see open, issues-oriented, and (dare one hope?) multi-party competition for their votes—and to have representatives much, much better than the likes of Hilliard emerge from them.

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27 June 2002  


I score five out of five. Somehow I managed not to stumble across the newish blog Cacciaguida until now, which is odd since the author is particularly interested in attracting readers who are interested in Catholicism, conservatism, law, the Middle Ages, and opera. Such excellent taste in interests is more than enough to earn Cacciaguida a spot in my coveted (okay, how about sometimes-mildly-appreciated) links section.

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Welcome to Corporate Catastrophe Coliseum. The lovely and entomological Zorak of E-Pression has linked to three stories about the connections between stadium-naming deals and business failure; in reverse chronological order, they are "Live From Failure Field…" by Scott Thurm of the Wall Street Journal, "Enron woes written on wall?" by Chris Isidore of CNN/Money, and "A Poor Score for Stadium Sponsors' Stocks" by Sam Jaffe of BusinessWeek. Perhaps new pieces in a similar vein will soon be written now that the MCI Center looks to be added to the roll of dishonor.

The linked articles are all worth a look, but I would like to shamelessly recommend that you first read the piece on the same topic that I posted back in week one of The Goliard Blog, "Against Naming Rights"…that is, if you haven't read it several times already like a good blogwatcher.

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Today's Thursday Poem is by William Topaz McGonagall, who is to be honored by the city of Dundee on the centenary of his death by the engraving of his verse on a walkway by the river Tay. The residents of Dundee—a city I usually describe to fellow Americans as a Scottish version of Cleveland circa 1987—proudly boast of McGonagall, their city's "most famous nobody", as the worst poet ever to have written in the English language. If, after reading the poetic gem below, the reader wishes to learn more about McGonagall, or is just plain masochistic, I recommend the website McGonagall Online, especially the profile from Scotland on Sunday which is reprinted there.

UPDATE: If you've already read "The Tay Bridge Disaster" over at E-Pression or elsewhere (or, still worse, were already familiar with it before this week), check out instead McGonagall's glitteringly wretched attempt at composing an Irish ballad, "The Rattling Boy from Dublin".


Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silv'ry Tay!
Alas! I am very sorry to say
That ninety lives have been taken away
On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember'd for a very long time.

'Twas about seven o'clock at night,
And the wind it blew with all its might,
And the rain came pouring down,
And the dark clouds seem'd to frown,
And the Demon of the air seem'd to say-
"I'll blow down the Bridge of Tay."

When the train left Edinburgh
The passengers' hearts were light and felt no sorrow,
But Boreas blew a terrific gale,
Which made their hearts for to quail,
And many of the passengers with fear did say-
"I hope God will send us safe across the Bridge of Tay."

But when the train came near to Wormit Bay,
Boreas he did loud and angry bray,
And shook the central girders of the Bridge of Tay
On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember'd for a very long time.

So the train sped on with all its might,
And Bonnie Dundee soon hove in sight,
And the passengers' hearts felt light,
Thinking they would enjoy themselves on the New Year,
With their friends at home they lov'd most dear,
And wish them all a happy New Year.

So the train mov'd slowly along the Bridge of Tay,
Until it was about midway,
Then the central girders with a crash gave way,
And down went the train and passengers into the Tay!
The Storm Fiend did loudly bray,
Because ninety lives had been taken away,
On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember'd for a very long time.

As soon as the catastrophe came to be known
The alarm from mouth to mouth was blown,
And the cry rang out all o'er the town,
Good Heavens! the Tay Bridge is blown down,
And a passenger train from Edinburgh,
Which fill'd all the peoples hearts with sorrow,
And made them for to turn pale,
Because none of the passengers were sav'd to tell the tale
How the disaster happen'd on the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember'd for a very long time.

It must have been an awful sight,
To witness in the dusky moonlight,
While the Storm Fiend did laugh, and angry did bray,
Along the Railway Bridge of the Silv'ry Tay,
Oh! ill-fated Bridge of the Silv'ry Tay,
I must now conclude my lay
By telling the world fearlessly without the least dismay,
That your central girders would not have given way,
At least many sensible men do say,
Had they been supported on each side with buttresses,
At least many sensible men confesses,
For the stronger we our houses do build,
The less chance we have of being killed.

— William Topaz McGonagall

posted by The Goliard |  Link  | 

26 June 2002  


Today's Wednesday Book is Alexander Hamilton: A Biography by Forrest McDonald. I choose it for three reasons: first, it is an excellent biography; second, it is a biography of the Founding Father dearest to my heart; and third, it is by Professor McDonald, who is unmatched as a contemporary historian of the early American republic.

As for the virtues of the book as biography, you can consult the review "Great Man, Great Book" by Fred Lybrand found on the Amazon page linked to above. I find Professor McDonald's book to still be the best biography of Hamilton, even though other capable treatments of the man can also be found on my bookshelf (such as National Review's Richard Brookheiser's good recent effort).

As for the virtues of Hamilton, well, why not read the book to learn all about them? Uppermost in my mind are Hamilton's integrity, cleverness, financial acumen, attention to detail, and his vision of America as a commercial Republic, the last of which managed to prevail over Thomas Jefferson's preferred quasi-landed-aristocracy over the long haul even though Jefferson's Democratic-Republicans have outlasted Hamilton's Federalists by close to two centuries now. Hamilton is far from the only man responsible for the United States becoming the global economic colossus it did in the post-World War II era; but he was the first of them, and is high on the list of the most important.

As for McDonald, his virtues as a writer, historian, and thinker are of course on display in this book and others—notably his great Novus Ordo Seclorum: The Intellectual Origins of the Constitution—but if you would like a shorter and more bracing measure of the man and his view of the world, I highly recommend Professor McDonald's final classroom lecture as a regular member of the faculty at the University of Alabama, which has been posted on the Alabama history department's website under the simple title of "The Speech". (Link requires Adobe Acrobat to view.) "The Speech" is part farewell address, part jeremiad, part advice to the lifelong student of the liberal arts, and part statement of hope—and above all it shows him to be a true Thomas Morean, even if he has barely even heard of my beloved alma mater. One of my favorite passages from "The Speech" is when Professor McDonald criticizes the verbose jargon of the professor or government functionary:

The attraction of this ponderous way of speaking and writing is that it is easy because it avoids thought. You will find it easier—even quicker, once you have the habit—to say, "In my opinion it is not an unjustifiable assumption that" than to say, "I think." Too, if you use ready-made phrases, you not only don't have to hunt for words, you also don't have to bother with the rhythms and rhymes of your sentences, since these phrases are generally so arranged as to flow forth freely. One shirks all responsibility simply by emptying one's mind and letting the cant of the day come crowding in. It will construct your sentences for you and think your thoughts for you. When you do meet a person who does not talk in such clichés, who does not think in clichés, who does not, in short, live in a reduced state of being, you will find that he is some kind of rebel, expressing his own opinions and not a "party line."

Forrest McDonald is the farthest thing from a man who inhabits a reduced state of being, and the University of Alabama will be lucky if it ever sees the likes of him join its faculty again.

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25 June 2002  

Is your favorite listed? Astute readers of The Goliard Blog will have noticed that I have added a "Favorite Posts" list to the left-hand column. If there is a post you particularly liked that I have not listed there, why not e-mail me and let me know? And if there is a post that is listed there but you have not read before (a shocking oversight, if I do say so myself), well then, by all means click on the link right away and give it a look.

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Today, an extract from Justice Antonin Scalia's recent article in First Things, God's Justice and Ours, which was adapted from his excellent remarks to a conference on capital punishment at the University of Chicago Divinity School. At the time, Justice Scalia's remarks were most noteworthy for his discussion of Catholic teaching on the death penalty; but now it can be seen that he was also giving a preview of his dissent from last week's Atkins v. Virginia decision in the following passage:

If I subscribed to the proposition that I am authorized (indeed, I suppose compelled) to intuit and impose our “maturing” society’s “evolving standards of decency,” this essay would be a preview of my next vote in a death penalty case. As it is, however, the Constitution that I interpret and apply is not living but dead—or, as I prefer to put it, enduring. It means today not what current society (much less the Court) thinks it ought to mean, but what it meant when it was adopted. For me, therefore, the constitutionality of the death penalty is not a difficult, soul–wrenching question. It was clearly permitted when the Eighth Amendment was adopted (not merely for murder, by the way, but for all felonies—including, for example, horse–thieving, as anyone can verify by watching a western movie). And so it is clearly permitted today. There is plenty of room within this system for “evolving standards of decency,” but the instrument of evolution (or, if you are more tolerant of the Court’s approach, the herald that evolution has occurred) is not the nine lawyers who sit on the Supreme Court of the United States, but the Congress of the United States and the legislatures of the fifty states, who may, within their own jurisdictions, restrict or abolish the death penalty as they wish.

This is a direct assault on the majority's reasoning in Atkins. I highly recommend reading Justice Scalia's dissent in that case—where at the outset he memorably alleges that "seldom has an opinion of this Court rested so obviously upon nothing but the personal views of its members"—in its entirety, along with his article in First Things.

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Score a goal, somebody! Saturday's World Cup quarter-final matches were showpieces of offensive futility, as the four teams involved played over three and a half hours without scoring until Ilhan Mansiz' golden goal brought the day's play, and Senegal's World Cup campaign, to a close. The day was not a total loss, as Korea's penalty-kick victory provided ample drama (at least at the end) and gave the World Cup the most shocking semi-finalist in memory, while Senegal and Turkey both played aggressive soccer and created plenty of chances (the Turks were incredibly unlucky not to have scored at least two goals by the end of regular time). Also, the Turks were reasonably well-behaved for the second match in a row…but this is certain to change when they meet Brazil in a reprise of their brutal opening-round match, which Brazil won 2-1. As for the astoundingly fast and talented Senegalese, I found them the most fun to watch of any team in this tournament, and they will be sorely missed. When will you finally reach your first World Cup semi-final, oh Africa?

Overall the quarter-finals were a letdown after the incandescent round of 16. Brazil vs. England was okay but neither team seemed in its best form, and the wrong team won (according to my personal preferences, that is). Senegal vs. Turkey was goalless for ninety-three minutes, and then the wrong team won (ruining my one unequivocal prediction for the quarter-final round). In United States vs. Germany, the really, really wrong team won. Korea vs. Spain inflicted 120 scoreless minutes on the world, but at least the right team won (though I felt bad to see Spain, a deserving side and long-suffering country, make its exit).

And the Koreans won in a most intriguing manner. Back on Friday I took note of the following coincidence:

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?

On Saturday the plot thickened. In 1998, hosts France played 120 scoreless minutes in their quarter-final match, and finally prevailed in a penalty shootout. In 2002, hosts Korea played 120 scoreless minutes in their quarter-final match, then finally prevailed in a penalty shootout. I ask again: Are the Football Gods trying to tell us something?

UPDATE: Okay, maybe not…

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24 June 2002  


Memo to World Cup footballers. Putting your hands in the air may once have served you well as international sign language for "I didn't touch him, referee, honest!" but it is clearly no longer a viable ploy. The gesture has now become international sign language for "I just fouled my opponent"—or worse, "I just fouled my opponent, but I believe you the referee are so stupid that you will think that if my hands are in the air now, then I couldn't possibly have used those hands to commit a foul a half-second ago"—and the officials are showing little hesitation in blowing their whistles accordingly. So give it up already.

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Memo to Kim Dae Jung. Dear Sir: You are the president of South Korea. This is the part of Korea which is not a Communist dictatorship. Therefore, when you are sitting in the President's box for Korea's next World Cup match, you should try to stop emulating the half-embalmed Politburo members who used to stand atop Lenin's tomb showing less emotion than a person who has had one too many botox injections. Loosen up, have a couple of drinks before the game, and as your country continues to attain unprecedented and unimaginable World Cup glory, try cheering a little, dammit!

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It's not easy being green. Amy Welborn's In Between Naps is now sporting a new look. Judging from the comments, some readers love it, others hate it. I don't really have strong feelings one way or another, though I did find the lack of any continuity between the old format and the new to be a bit jarring. The great InstaPundit provided a fabulous recent example of how to pull off a major face-lift without making the site look completely unfamiliar; but then, Papa Blog's makeover was professionally done.

Perhaps some kind readers of Amy Welborn who aren't completely skint (as I am, alas) could offer some assistance in paying to give In Between Naps the patented Sekimori treatment. As she is the leading member of St. Blog's—in my opinion anyhow—and was the primary inspiration for The Goliard Blog and many others, I think Amy richly deserves it.

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Top, top, top of the pops. Just today I stumbled across "The Leaderboard", a page which ranks the "Christian Blogosphere" according to links from other sites. I was encouraged to see that I only had to hit "Page Down" once to find The Goliard Blog. Such positive feedback, even if it is just a simple link-rating, helps to lift a person out of the "nobody reads me, I don't know why I bother" moping that I (and, I suspect, not a few other bloggers) slip into from time to time.

Jonah Goldberg never has such worries, plus he gets paid, lucky fella.

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Tally ho and bring on the tea. Eve Tushnet and The Widening Gyre called my attention to a quiz posted on the Grauniad website titled "How English Are You?". Those who know your humble author well will not be a bit surprised to learn that, even though he is an American with pronounced Scots sympathies, the quiz pegged him as "the epitome of Middle England".

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Today's Monday Funny is a joke that is not very funny at all if you just read the little script on your computer screen, but if you actually try it out on a friend—and if you and your friend are at least a little bit weird, like your humble author is—then I think you'll find you have trouble keeping a straight face. Credit (or blame) goes to my sister, who thought up this joke back when she was a high-schooler.

YOU: I've got a new joke for you.


YOU: All right, here's the joke. Ask me if I'm a fireman.

FRIEND: Are you a fireman?

YOU: No.

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