Saturday, April 30, 2005
Us, South Parkified
Seems like every blog I look at these days features a South Park version of the blogger. The Planearium South Park Studio is very popular. We finally checked it out, and, of course, ended up making a South Park version of our family. It's clickable below.
Check out the South Park Studio and get animated.
Thursday, April 28, 2005
The Best Laid Plans...
We didn't make it to church tonight... shortly after my last post, Willow got sick. Since she vomits at the mere mention of a car ride if she's ill, we decided we'd better not go. The church we've been going to is an hour away over a country road filled with what seems like thousands of S curves. We didn't want to push our luck. Anyway, I'll post a follow-up to my last post when I have, in fact, followed up on it.
Wayfaring Strangers, Part 4
(Wayfaring Strangers is a continuing series about our experiences as my wife and I study to convert to Catholicism.)
Questions About Mary
I'm going to meet with Father Ken tonight. I have a list as long as my arm of questions for him. Some of them… the most important ones… are about the annulment process. Most of them, though, are about the great stumbling block for Protestants who are converting to Catholicism. That stumbling block is the Holy Mother herself.
I'm posting these questions mostly because I wonder if others, converts and birth-Catholics alike, have ever wondered about them. I'm posting them before I meet with Father Ken because I don't want to spin them later, in light of what he may or may not tell me. That way, I suppose, I'll write more honestly about it later.
Anyway, my questions about Mary include:
From the third chapter of Mark:
31 His mother and his brothers arrived. Standing outside they sent word to him and called him.
32 A crowd seated around him told him, "Your mother and your brothers (and your sisters) are outside asking for you."
33 But he said to them in reply, "Who are my mother and (my) brothers?"
34 And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers.
35 (For) whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother."
I hope to have a better understanding... or at least to be on my way toward a better understanding... when I post about this again.
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
Wayfaring Strangers, Part 3
(Wayfaring Strangers is a continuing series about our experiences as my wife and I study to convert to Catholicism.)
Interacting With Catholic Haters
I wrote to my friend Jamie with a list of questions about his experiences as a Catholic, and he was kind enough to respond in depth by bringing me several photocopied pages from books on Catholicism that have been helpful to him. I took those pages to work with me the other day, hoping that I'd have a chance to read them if we had some down time.
As it turned out, we had quite a bit of downtime due to an equipment failure. I read the pages Jamie had copied for me and made careful notes in the margins, regarding things I wanted to read about in the Bible. Then I remembered that there was a copy of the Bible in the lab that tests our product next door. I used to be a technician in that lab, until about a year and a half ago, when I had the opportunity to train on and work another job in another department at our mill. That's the job that I still work today.
Anyway, one of the techs in the production lab, a guy that retired a long time ago, left a number of personal reference books and reading materials in the lab. Among those was a Bible and a dictionary. Since we had some downtime, I went next door and asked to borrow the Bible. I got a few strange looks, I guess the only thing odder than there being a Bible in an industrial lab is that an employee from another department would come and ask to borrow it. Nonetheless, the techs, all of whom I knew from the time I spent working in that lab, told me that it was fine for me to borrow it. I got it and went back to my department's break room, where I looked a few things up and jotted a few things down.
A couple of words I was reading were new to me, so I went back to the lab to borrow their dictionary. At this, the lab techs I'd worked with until a year and a half ago got curious about what I was up to. I was reluctant to tell them exactly what I was doing at first… it's rarely a good idea to discuss religion at work unless you're in the clergy. However, they pressed me about it, and I began to get uncomfortable about the idea that maybe I was hiding from them the fact that I was studying to convert to Catholicism. I didn't want to seem like I was ashamed or afraid to admit it, so finally I told them what I was doing.
You have to understand, I suppose, that there is a great deal of anti-Catholic sentiment among the people in this area. I'm not sure why. Maybe just because there aren't a lot of Catholics around here, so it's easy to pick on a minority. I often tend to believe that it's because the prevalent faith in this area is of a Southern Baptist bent, and I often allow myself the prejudice of believing that Southern Baptists simply hate everything. I try not to believe that, and I remind myself that it isn't true when I detect that generalization present in my conscious mind. I don't want to believe or perpetuate stereotypes against Southerners, my own people. Nonetheless, I have to admit that the stereotype of the bitter, closed-minded Southern Baptist is rooted in a nugget of truth, as almost all stereotypes are. I was raised by Southern Baptists, I have lived with them and worked with them all my life, so I feel qualified to make that observation. I try to be patient and decent when I encounter anti-Catholic bias and remind myself that it usually is rooted in a lack of education and in fear of anything different, but I have to admit that, at their worst, Southern Baptists can be arrogant, pushy a--holes.
I should have remembered those things at work the other day before I "outed" myself as a Catholic convert. I should have, but I didn't, so I was taken aback by the anti-Catholic vitriol of one of my co-workers.
"Why do you want to do that?" asked L---, a horse of a woman with a blond mop of hair, a Harley Davidson T-Shirt, and bibbed overalls.
"Well," I said, treading lightly, "my wife and I think it might be the right faith for us."
"I'd worked with L--- long enough for her to know that Wendy and I had each been married before and that we each had kids from our previous marriages. Knowing all that, she said "But I thought the Catholics wouldn't take you if you were divorced."
"Not at all. We will, however, have to have the church annul our previous marriages."
"That will mean your kids are bastards," L--- said.
This pissed me off. Immediately. A LOT. I've learned, however, that I need to carefully watch what I say when I'm angry… especially when my anger is justified.
"God, No!" is all I said.
L--- was on a roll by now, though. "Well, I just don't know about this business of having to go talk to a priest," she said, referring to confession.
"Then you shouldn't convert to Catholicism," I said.
"I just think you should be able to talk to God directly."
"So do I," I said. "Catholics do talk to God directly. L---, do you even KNOW any Catholics?"
"As a matter of fact, I have a niece who's Catholic. But she still believes that Jesus Christ is the savior."
I guess I just blinked my eyes, dumbfounded, for a minute. "Catholics believe that Jesus Christ is the savior, L---. Catholics are Christian. It's a Christian religion."
Then L--- asked "Why do you want to do this, anyway? Is it because of all of this pope shit?"
That's exactly what she said: "All of this pope shit."
"Look, L---, Wendy and I have been wrestling with this decision since late last year. We just believe that this is the right way for us to worship. I have to go." With that, I left the lab. I didn't see any point in standing there and arguing.
I guess I should be prepared for more of this. It isn't even the first encounter I've had with it since Wendy and I started going to Mass a few weeks ago. When I told my own mother that Wendy and I were studying to convert, she informed me that Catholics "worship Mary," and that they "believe they can buy their way into heaven." Of course, it's a lot easier to be patient and loving when you're talking to your own mother. It's easy to try to correct her misperceptions in a kind, loving way. You don't have to remind yourself that you love your mom.
I guess that's what I'll have to do over the next year. I'm sure that is what Christ would have me do. I'll have to remind myself that Christ wants me to love those around me, even those who hurt my feelings or frustrate me with the things they say. I'll try to remind myself that they think they're doing what's best for me, that they assume they are presenting me with questions I've not had the common sense to look into for myself, and that they are helping me.
For what it's worth, I have a lot to sort out over the next year. I was raised Southern Baptist, and sola scriptura is engrained deep in me. It might be to the bone. Sola scriptura is, however, an impediment to Catholic worship. To what extent is it a useful doctrine for me and to what extent is it simply slowing me down and preventing me from a richer spiritual life? I don't know. I read a lot, but I just don't know yet. I've also got a lot to sort out about the Catholic beliefs about Mary. Some of what Catholics believe and teach about Mary is comforting and logical to me... some of it is confusing... and, as of now, some of it just doesn't ring true to me. At some point over the next year, I'll come to one conclusion or another about all of this. I'll also need to reconcile the fact that I strongly support the war in Iraq and John Paul strongly condemned it. And there's so much more, so much more.
I don't know for sure yet that Catholicism is right for me. I do know for sure, though, that the Southern Baptist traditions of my childhood are not right for me. It's all too much of a sore spot, and I don't know if it will ever heal.
Wayfaring Strangers: An Index
June 27, 2006
What follows is an index of links to blog entries I wrote as my wife and I spent a year discerning our calling to the Catholic church. I had decided early on… even before we started RCIA… that I'd like to keep a "blog diary" of my thoughts and experiences, if only for my own reflection. I called the series "Wayfaring Strangers" with deference to an old folk spiritual that has always resonated with me and moved me.
As I look back over these entries, three things stick out at me: One, most of what I've written here is disjointed and rambling. Two, I sure do have a propensity to get up on a soapbox. And, three, it seems obvious to me that even early in the process I was aware that I wanted to be Catholic. Our year of discernment was really a year of learning, a year of making friends and preparing to be confirmed. Mostly, it was a year spent watching from the pews as our Catholic brothers and sisters received the real presence, and waiting with hungry souls for the day that we'd be able to do the same.
I also realize, as I read the older posts, that some of my beliefs have changed. I'd hope to say that I've "matured," but I want to emphasize that any maturing I've done is more to the credit of those who've helped me than it is to myself! Anyway, keep in mind while reading the older posts that some of my beliefs and understanding have grown and evolved along the way.
A bit about my religious background might be useful: In a nutshell, I honestly believe that I was born with a Catholic heart in a Southern Baptist / Fundamentalist family. My church experiences prior to my conversion to Catholicism were unfulfilling and often upsetting. I still carry some bitterness toward fundamentalism with me, and it's often obvious in these blog entries. If you are a fundamentalist or an evangelical and you read something here that I've written… something that offends you… I simply and humbly ask that you pray that I'll get past my bitterness. I want to be able to eventually be able to look at all of my Christian brothers and sisters with the same love and trust.
And now, if you've read all that and you still want to read the notes I made during my conversion, just click the links below:
Wayfaring Strangers, Part 1, Our Journey Begins
Wayfaring Strangers, Part 2, What I Believe
Wayfaring Strangers, Part 3, Interacting With Catholic Haters
Wayfaring Strangers, Part 4, Questions About Mary
Wayfaring Strangers, Part 5, Off To Church
Wayfaring Strangers, Part 6, Notes Toward Answers On Mary
Wayfaring Strangers, Part 7, Any Catholics Out There?
Wayfaring Strangers, Part 8, Purgatory: No Pain, No Gain
Wayfaring Strangers, Part 9, Saints Preserve Us!
Wayfaring Strangers, Part 10, Struggling With My Nature
Wayfaring Strangers, Part 11, Thrown For A Loop By Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Wayfaring Strangers, Part 12, Humility, War, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Wayfaring Strangers, Part 13, Knots
Wayfaring Strangers, Part 14, The Acts of the Apostles
Wayfaring Strangers, Part 15, Romans: WOW!
Wayfaring Strangers, Part 16, Deeper Into Romans
Wayfaring Strangers, Part 17, Paul and Thomas Aquinas
Wayfaring Strangers, Part 18, Aquinas, Plato, Aristotle, and a Side Order of Nietzsche
Wayfaring Strangers, Part 19, Corinthians and Beyond
Wayfaring Strangers, Part 20, War, Darfur, Politics, and Faith
Wayfaring Strangers, Part 21, On Harry Potter and Christian Parenting
Wayfaring Strangers, Part 22, Mega-Churches, Lutheranism, and Catholicism
Wayfaring Strangers, Part 23, Life, Faith, and Death
Wayfaring Strangers, Part 24, Apologetics and "Christianity-And-Water"
Wayfaring Strangers, Part 25, Mary's Prayers
Wayfaring Strangers, Part 26, The Last Entry: Personal Advent
Post Script: Baptized, Confirmed, Contented
I Love The Smell of Cat Urine In The Morning
“Everyone gets everything he wants. I wanted a cat, and for my sins, they gave me one.” – Captain Willard, Apocalypse Now
OK, maybe that’s not what exactly Martin Sheen actually said in that classic movie, but it’s a pretty good description of how we feel right now.
We have this cat named Anne Murray. This is her:
Only a cat could be pretentious enough to think it looks positively regal lying in a cardboard box.
Anyway, here’s the problem... We had a double-glass door walled in recently, and ever since the remodeling was done, the cat has been urinating and crapping in front of the new wall. We’ve tried everything we can think of to make her stop, but no dice. We’ve tried spraying that stuff that’s guaranteed to make your cat and dog stop doing his/her business in any given area, and what we’ve learned is that stuff really only adds a vaguely chemically after-smell to the smell of cat urine. The cat CONTINUES to do her business along the wall, and nothing seems to help.
If it were up to me, I’d just get rid of the cat. The thing is, this isn’t so much “our” cat as it is “Wendy’s” cat, when you get right down to it. And every time I suggest getting rid of the cat she bursts into tears and calls me a rotten heathen bastard.
Any cat owners out there with any suggestions, please fire away. I’m desperate and sick of my family room smelling like cat pee pee.
Friday, April 22, 2005
Snopes is Fun
I mentioned Snopes in my last post. By the way, there's lots of fun stuff at Snopes, and it's easy to end up killing an hour or more there. You probably know that, but you never know who might not be familiar with the site. Anyway, check this out:
Don't Loose Sleep Over Toby
According to the good folks at Snopes, the "Save Toby" website is a scam. It's not even that original. This prank has been pulled before... recently, as "Save Bernd" at European website.
Rest easy folks. It seems that the only thing being done to Toby is shameless exploitation.
On the other hand, I'm still well short of the $7.50 I demanded, and I swear, if someone doesn't come up with the money, Mr. Peeps gets it!
A Real Narnia Movie Website!
I got tipped off to this from the Narnia blog... finally Disney is putting some oomph into the website dedicated to their movie based on The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe. It's worth checking it out. Click the image below to do so:
Axis of Evil: A Comment and a Follow-Up
Someone with a Chicago area ISP stopped by and left an angry comment on my post about the “Axis of Evil: The Secret History Of Sin” art exhibit at Columbia College. He or she has stopped back by a couple of times… I suppose to see if I’d respond. I do so hate to disappoint, so here we go:
First, I’ll note… as I’ve pointed out before… that a liberal almost always resorts to three ways of arguing when he realizes his arguments don’t hold water:
To his or her credit, Chicago didn’t rely on the hypothetical. He or she did, however, rely pretty heavily on crutches two and three. I’ll get to that later. First, I’ll respond to the meat of the comment:
Freedom of speech and expression, isn't that our first amendment right?
Yes, yes, and nobody is trying to take that right away from you. Just for the record, I rely on that freedom, too. You have the right to create all the propaganda you want in the name of art, and I have the right to call it what it is.
Saying that it is not art is completely ridiculous.
Wrong. Anything that proposes to be art is, by that proposition, interactive and open to subjective interpretation. The opinion of the viewer is as important as the piece itself. The piece is just a product until the presence of art in it is confirmed by the viewer. That doesn’t always mean that the viewer will be drawn to or agree with the piece. Joel Peter Witkin’s photographs, for example, are repellant… but they are clearly artful in expression. My opinion is that the drivel produced by Al Brandtner and his ilk isn’t art. Brandtner is expressing nothing. He's only trying to incite. He wants the viewer to do all the work. He’s lazy and uncreative. Now, I know that by stating that opinion, I reveal something of myself… just as you do a little later with your hypocritical comment about Thomas Kincade….
The number one goal of all of the artists who exhibited was to create art that expressed their views or opinions …
Al Brandtner's piece "Patriot Act" is titled as such because it is commenting on the Patriot Act…
A postage stamp deplicting a gun held to the president’s head is a comment on the patriot act? Right. Tell me again how stupid I am.
Ruffling the feathers of conservatives like you is just an added bonus.
Nope, it’s not a bonus. It’s the goal. Anyone capable of common sense sees that.
I'm sure you're the kind of person that thinks that Thomas Kincade's landscape paintings are real art.
Well, since you brought it up, I think Kincade's work is boring. It doesn’t do it for me. Nonetheless, I think it’s interesting that someone like you, who defends the rights of the artist to express himself, would mock Kincade. In fact, with that comment about Kincade, you really played your whole hand. Could it be that you don’t consider Kincade’s work to be artful because it doesn’t express something you agree with or are drawn to? Could it be that your high-minded defense of Brandtner has more to do with your political beliefs than any understanding you might have of art? I think so. And I think you know it, too... which is why you then resorted to the typical liberal defense mechanisms I noted above:
It's obvious that you've had no educational background in this subject
OK, good, a personal attack. Since that’s how liberals concede that their arguments don’t hold water, I accept your concession.
I'm not going to waste any more of my time on someone who has no idea what they are talking about.
Concession number two. Check and mate. Thanks for playing, come back again any time.
Thursday, April 21, 2005
In Which I Degenerate Into Goofy Fanboy…
Alright, I admit it. I downloaded the new Nine Inch Nails album, With Teeth, which comes out May 3. I couldn’t wait for it. Yes, of course, I’m still going to buy it. In fact, I’m going to buy the 5.1 surround sound dual disc so I can listen to it on our system while I’m playing Crimson Skies. To be honest, I’d have bought the damn thing even if I didn’t like it, for two reasons: One, out of guilt for having downloaded it early. (Typically I only download albums that I already own, having bought them in the dark ages on cassette, or having bought and lost or damaged the CD. I figure I already own the license to listen to the music since I did buy it.) Two, I own every Halo anyway, and I’m kind of a completist when it comes to Nine Inch Nails. (For the uninitiated, a Halo is an official NIN release.)
Anyway, Halo 19, With Teeth, is the 2005 album of the year. I can say for sure now that there won’t be an album released this year that I’ll like better, and I feel compelled to post a quick review.
All of the following is presented as my opinion as a NIN fan, and should be disregarded by everyone who reads it. I’m just another fan with a big mouth, so don’t take anything I say seriously. I don’t see myself as an authority.
With Teeth is Reznor’s most song-centered album since Pretty Hate Machine. It’s not an album-centered album. There aren’t really any musical or lyrical themes that form cohesive threads throughout the work. It’s just 14 catchy, kick ass industrial/pop/rock songs, and might qualify as Reznor’s most angst-free album yet. Here’s a song by song review:
Track 01 – "All The Love In The World" -- A surprisingly mellow album opener, reminiscent of the “deconstructed” versions of old songs on Still. It’s catchy, though, and builds to a heavier, louder bridge at the end of the track. It seems at first to be a strange track for an album opener (especially for those of us who expected an opener like “Wish” or “Mr. Self Destruct”), but sets a tone for a different kind of album, and I think it was probably a calculated and smart choice to begin the album with.
Track 02 – "You Know What You Are?" -- Heavy, angry, loud… classic NIN. The obscene ranting of the chorus just begs to be screamed-along-with in concert, and this track will probably be the album favorite of fans of NIN’s heavier songs.
Track 03 – "The Collector" -- This album has almost a funk/dance feel, more so than any NIN album since PHM. That feel really begins in earnest with "The Collector". Like much of the album, it’s percussion heavy and driving and has an infectious bass line that stays in my head. If this track doesn’t remind other listeners of PHM, then I suppose I’m probably out on a limb in my instance that this album is comparable to the debut.
Track 04 -- "The Hand That Feeds" -- The first single, which, just as I imagined, sounds better in the context of the album than it does by itself. One more catchy, loud, bombastic rock song. I like it more each time I hear it.
Track 05 -- "Love Is Not Enough" -- One of only two songs on the album that I don’t like yet. I emphasize “yet” because I won’t be surprised if this track grows on me. So far, NIN has only ever done two tracks that I genuinely dislike (the awful “Deep” from the Tomb Raider soundtrack, and “I’m Looking Forward To Joining You Finally” from the otherwise perfect album The Fragile). This one has more potential than either of those songs, and I’ll keep giving it chances.
Track 06 -- "Every Day Is Exactly The Same" -- Screams out to be the second single from the album. Catchy, mid-tempo, classic Reznor.
Track 07 -- "With Teeth" -- I didn’t know what to make of this song the first time I heard it, all I really noticed was Reznor’s affected delivery of the title in the chorus: “Witha Teethha!” Then, the second time through, the track just clicked with me big time, and right now it’s one of my four favorites on the album. I like the tempo and tone... jumping, from a heavy Black Sabbathy beginning to a delicate middle section, back to a louder, angrier read of the first part of the song. After three listens, the song lodged itself in my brain and now I walk around mumbling “Witha Teethha!” at work, getting weird looks.
Track 08 -- "Only" -- The second of the two songs on the album that I don’t like yet. This one will most definitely grow on me as soon as I get used to the silly lyrics in the chorus “There is no f—in’ you, there is only me!” Musically, the song is pure, catchy “dance” Nails (like “Down In It” or “Sin”), only funkier than anything else Reznor has done. This song got some big-ass funk. It deserves to be the opening credit track for the next Shaft movie.
Track 09 -- "Getting Smaller" -- I LOVE this song. I LOVE IT. As of now it is my favorite track on the album. Loud, fast, catchy. Impossible not to sing along with. Be careful listening to this track in your car, as you might glance down at the speedometer and ask yourself if you’ve really been going 95 for the past three minutes.
Track 10 -- "Sunspots" -- My second favorite track on the album. A catchy, driving, bass heavy mid-tempo track like track 06, but catchier, bass heavier, and better. “Catchy” seems to be the watchword for this album. This track is a prime example.
Track 11 -- "The Line Begins To Blur" -- Good rock music should make the muscles in your gut tighten up when you listen to it. This song does that. Man, what a buzz. What noise, what force, what drive. This is my third favorite track on the album. Tracks 9, 10, and 11 are a great 1, 2, 3 punch.
Track 12 -- "Beside You In Time" -- The only track on the album that is sonically comparable to my favorite NIN album, The Fragile. A droning, sustained guitar and minimalist percussion work well to create a mood, and Reznor’s lyrics about loss sustain it. I predict that the teenie-boppers who buy the album will hate this track and those of us pushing 40 who’ve been NIN fans since we were teenie-boppers ourselves will love it.
Track 13 -- "Right Where It Belongs" -- What a good album closer, and as much of a surprise as the opener was. At no point on this album does Reznor slip into “Oh, woe is me” mode (See “Hurt,” see “Something I Can Never Have,” etc.) I expected a real mope to close the album, since there hadn’t really been one up til the last track… and since, well, let’s face it, mope rock is something Reznor does better than anyone. “Hurt,” in fact, manages to convey something really genuine, and it’s impossible not to mope right along with it when you listen to it, especially as covered by Johnny Cash. There’s not a mope on this album, though, even in the closing track. Instead, Reznor goes for something poignant and thoughtful, and it works. The tempo is slow and the melody is really… well, catchy. It works and works well.
Just for a bit of context for other NIN fans, I rate this album a 4 on a 5 scale, and here’s where I rate some of the others:
Pretty Hate Machine: 4
The Downward Spiral: 5
Closer To God: 3
Further Down The Spiral: 4
Further Down The Spiral (European Version): 4
The Fragile: 5 (My favorite)
Things Falling Apart: 2
And All That Could Have Been: 5
OK, yeah, I tend to rate NIN pretty high. I think Reznor is a genius. Maybe I should give some more context with where I rate notable albums by other bands:
Metallica – Master of Puppets: 5
Metallica -- Reload: 2
Tool -- Undertow: 3
Tool -- Lateralus: 5
Toad the Wet Sprocket -- Fear: 5
Toad the Wet Sprocket -- Bread and Circus: 1
The Cure -- Disintegration: 5
The Cure -- Japanese Whispers: 2
Ya know what, this isn’t really working either. At this point I’m probably just writing for my own masturbatory purposes. Why are you even reading this?
I’ll end this with one serious note: Don’t play With Teeth around your kids. The lyrics are… well, it’s a NIN album. If you, like me, have kids and love NIN, you know what to expect. Trent drops the F bomb a lot.
And I’ll also say that I can’t really comment on the lyrics to the album because, as a Christian, I ignore most rock lyrics. Those that seem like an affront to my beliefs go in one ear and out the other, and the rare ones that give me something to contemplate end up as cherished exceptions. Reznor has his issues with religion, so I’ve come to expect that his lyrics will be of the in-one-ear variety. The one exception, of course, is the series of thoughtful and meaningful lyrics to the songs on The Fragile. It’s telling, though, that my absolute all-time favorite NIN song is the instrumental, “Just Like You Imagined.”
And I’m done!
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
$50,000 Cash or the Bunny Dies!
I learned about this from Kristine at Willow Crossing, and it probably doesn't speak well of me that I think that this is extremely funny:
Toby is the cutest little bunny on the planet. Toby will DIE on June 30th, 2005 if you don't help. I rescued him several months ago. I found him under my porch, soaking wet, injured from what appeared to be an attack from an alley cat. I took him in, thinking he had no chance to live from his injuries, but miraculously, he recovered. I have since spent several months nursing him to health. Toby is a fighter, that.s for sure.
I don’t want to eat Toby, he is my friend, and he has always been the most loving, adorable pet. However, God as my witness, I will devour this little guy unless I receive 50,000$ USD into my account from donations or purchase of merchandise. You can help this poor, helpless bunny’s cause by making donations through my verified PayPal account by clicking on any of the Donate buttons on this site, or by purchasing merchandise at the Savetoby.com online store.
I'm laughing my butt off, here. What a great way to shake down the PETA crowd for money. It gives me an idea:
SAVE MR. PEEPS
Boosting Brooks, Fisking Fea
A couple of editorials got my attention over the past week, one by David Brooks and one by John Fea. I’ll praise one and fisk the other, so let’s start by playing nice.
In an article titled Public Hedonism, Private Restraint in our local paper, and published under other headings elsewhere, David Brooks puts forth a refreshingly optimistic take on the issue of teen promiscuity:
The fact is, sex is more explicit everywhere — on ‘‘Desperate Housewives,'' on booty-quaking music videos, on the Internet — except in real life. As the entertainment media have become more sex-saturated, American teenagers have become more sexually abstemious.
… The percentage of 15-year-olds who have had sex has dropped significantly. Among 13-year-olds, the percentage has dropped even more.
… Half of all high school boys now say they are virgins, up from 39 percent in 1990.
… People can seem raunchy on the surface but are wholesome within. There are Ivy League sex columnists who don't want anybody to think they are loose. There are foul-mouthed Maxim readers terrified they will someday divorce, like their parents. Eminem hardly seems like a paragon of traditional morality, but what he's really angry about is that he comes from a broken home, and what he longs for is enough suburban bliss to raise his daughter.
…(Young people) seem happy with the frankness of the left and the wholesomeness of the right. You may not like the growing influence of religion in public life, but the lives of young people have improved. You may not like the growing acceptance of homosexuality, but as it has happened heterosexual families have grown healthier.
I enjoy Brooks’s optimism, even if others don’t. Writing for the New York Press, Russ Smith says:
I have no interest in Brooks' own high school romances—maybe he was a stud, maybe not—but just as kids in the 1960s and 70s had more sex than their parents as teenagers, it follows that today's youth is even more active in that area. As for the surveys on the high school boys claiming they're virgins, surely Brooks knows that people respond to such questions depending on what the inquisitor wants to hear.
Smith, of course, is selectively critical. I don’t have any idea exactly how accurate the numbers Brooks sites are, of course. Smith is within reason to question them. But Smith argues that “it follows” that today’s youth is more sexually active than the previous generation. That, of course, is a hypothetical that can’t be proved or disproved. Smith is refuting the uncertain possibility Brooks advances with nothing more than another uncertain possibility. All Smith is really arguing for is his preference for pessimism. Thanks, Russ, but I get plenty of that. Let me enjoy Brooks and his optimism for a few minutes.
The other item that got my attention, by John Fea, was a response to the general good will of Protestants on the passing of Pope John Paul II. You’re sure to have noticed that everyone, Catholic or otherwise, seems to be sympathetic and mournful about the loss of such a popular and productive religious leader. Protestant religious figures have issued praiseful statements about the late pontiff. You might even get the idea that Protestants and Catholics have come together, closer than ever, during this time of loss.
Well, John Fea isn’t having it. He doesn’t want Catholics and Protestants coming together, and he’s doing his part to reinsert the wedge and drive it as deep as he can. Fea’s column is literally a laundry list of crimes perpetrated by Protestants against Catholics for the past five hundred years:
Martin Luther and John Calvin, the two most influential leaders of the Protestant Reformation and heroic figures to most contemporary evangelicals, believed that popes of their time were the "Antichrist…"
Roger Williams, a Puritan and one of early America's champions of religious liberty, described the pope as the "son of perdition…"
Lyman Beecher, a popular evangelical reformer of the (pre-Civil War) era, said that he feared that Catholic priests would settle in the American West and use their "sinister influence" to undermine the creation of Protestant and republican institutions…
In 1945, (Carl) McIntire announced that the Catholic Church was the "greatest enemy of freedom and liberty that the world has to face today."
Uh… not that you’re keeping score, right Mr. Fea? I mean, for pity’s sake, a list of grudges like that might give readers the idea that you don’t want Catholics and Protestants to share any unity. Could that be the case? Let’s read on:
As cultural and social issues such as abortion and gay rights began to play a prominent role in American politics, evangelicals found an unlikely ally in the Roman Catholic Church and its charismatic leader, John Paul II. Today, evangelical cultural warriors such as James Dobson and Pat Robertson applaud the late pope's unbending moral convictions. Evangelical and conservative Catholic leaders have united to produce "Evangelicals and Catholics Together," a statement affirming what these two branches of Christendom hold in common.
Ah, I see. Could it be that unity between Catholics and Protestants is a threat to Fea’s left-wing causes? I think so. Unity between Catholics and Protestants could bring about a serious conservative drive with regard to the legality of abortion and gay marriage. That clearly bothers Fea. Why didn’t he just cut to the chase in the first place? Why did he need to go back 500 years to rub salt into wounds that Catholics and Protestants might be trying to heal? I guess that’s just the way liberals do things.
Let’s continue reading. Maybe Fea might have something good to say about the unity of Catholics and Protestants:
This new ecumenical spirit between Catholics and evangelicals should be celebrated as an important step toward healing old wounds dating from the Reformation of the 16th century.
Wait for it… wait for it…
There it is!
Yet evangelicals' embrace of the pope's social views has been limited at best. The differences between the social teaching of today's conservative evangelicals and the social teaching of John Paul II are profound…
Well, yeah… there are big differences. I suppose that might explain why the Protestants are… well, Protestant, rather than Catholic. Ya think?
Conservative evangelicals may no longer view the pope as the Antichrist…
(But they used to! They used to! John has a whole list of complaints! Don’t you forget, Protestants used to call the Pope the Antichrist! Oh, yes they did! John Fea has proof! He wrote it down!)
…but don't expect them to embrace John Paul II's legacy fully anytime in the near future. To do so would force them to rethink their politics, and that they're unlikely to do.
Well, to embrace John Paul II’s legacy fully would also require Protestants to become Catholic, too, wouldn’t it? Look, Wendy and I are converting to Catholicism, so let’s settle for two Protestants at a time for now, OK? Maybe it would be acceptable to simply rejoice in the newfound unity between Catholics and Protestants, and the shared brotherhood of all Christian faiths. Maybe? Nah, couldn’t be. That might end up giving a lot of liberals reason to worry about their own political causes, wouldn’t it, Mr. Fea?
When I got to work yesterday afternoon, I immediately heard from my co-workers that a new pope had been named. Since I’d spent the morning not downloading the new Nine Inch Nails album over the internet, I’d heard nothing of the news. I wondered who the new pope might be, and I called home to ask Wendy, who I was sure might have heard something on TV.
“I think they said his name was John Ratzenberger,” she said.
Well, close. John Ratzenberger, of course, is the name of the actor who played Cliff on the TV show Cheers. I was pretty sure they’d not named him the new pope. Can you imagine the kind of rambling, off-topic masses we’d hear from Pope Cliff? Just imagine the crowd scratching their heads in St. Peter’s Square as Pope Cliff delivered the following:
“You know, there, Normie, the interesting thing about this whole Cathological Mass type situation is the belief, there, of what they call the transflageration of the, uh, uncherist. Oh, yeah, it’s a fascinating concept…”
No, no, no… we don’t have Pope Cliff heading things up in Rome, and it’s a good thing. We have Pope Benedict XVI, formerly known as Joseph Ratzinger. A close enough name to John Ratzenberger, so a mistake is easy to make.
I’d been reading about the likely candidates for the papacy in Time Magazine, and the little bit I read about Joseph Ratzinger made me like him… and the more I read, the more I like.
For someone beginning the year-long process of converting to Catholicism, I think Pope Benedict is going to be the right guy at the right time. For one thing, he’s being called very conservative by the mainstream press, which is always a good sign. Keep in mind that the mainstream press uses the word “conservative” as a slur… where as they don’t even seem to know the word “liberal.” Think about it, have you ever heard Bill Clinton described as a liberal in the mainstream press? The code-words they use to describe someone as liberal include “dynamic,” “controversial,” and “vibrant.” They’d never actually out one of their fellow leftists.
Not only am I happy to hear that Pope Benedict is conservative, I’m happy to hear that he’s a hardliner when it comes to Catholic orthodoxy. I hope that he is, and that is papacy will create a good proving ground for Wendy and me. If strict interpretation of church guidelines becomes the norm, Wendy and I can rest assured that our beliefs are being compared to and instructed by a pure, undiluted Catholicism.
And I hope I don’t seem irreverent (I don’t mean to be) when I point out that while the new pope doesn’t look anything like John Ratzenberger, he looks a lot like Nicholas Colasanto, the late actor who played Coach during the first couple of seasons of Cheers.
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
Wayfaring Strangers, Part 2
(Wayfaring Strangers is a continuing series about our experiences as my wife and I study to convert to Catholicism.)
What I Believe
The conversion process, of course, involves a lot of fellowship with the Catholics we know, and a lot of introspection. Part of the conversion process... for me, anyway... is to read everything I can get hold of about Catholicism. That's the way I do things anyway. When I get interested in something, I read about it. In excess, maybe.
I can't just read, though. I think it might be a good idea to set down on paper (or at least on hard-drive) what my own core beliefs are. If I write it down, I can refer to it and see if my beliefs are changing. That will keep me honest with regard to my own beliefs. As a journal it would provide cause for reflection, too.
This is a partial list of the things that I believe. I mean deep-down believe. These are beliefs that go to the bone with me. If I learn that these beliefs conflict with articles of Catholic faith, then I'll need to ask myself the difficult questions about whether or not Catholicism is really for me.
I honestly believe these things:
These are the things I believe to the core of me. As of now, I have no reason to doubt that those beliefs will fit in the fold of Catholicism. Nonetheless, I must guard against any tendency I might have to compromise those beliefs. I enjoy and admire the ritual, history, and tangibility of the Catholic Church. I must not let my desire to join a church I feel so much affection for take precedence over the beliefs that I feel I've come to understand through God. It would make me the worst kind of Christian and the worst kind of Catholic if I did.
Psssst.... Don't Tell A Soul...
OK, I’m not suggesting that anyone actually do this, because it would be illegal… and if you actually DO do it, then you are obligated to actually buy the album on May 3… anyway, the new Nine Inch Nails album has been leaked, in case you didn’t know.
I didn’t know until this morning. And this album ABSOLUTELY KICKS BUTT. Or, uh, I imagine that it will when I hear it for the first time on May 3rd, of course. Because I’d never download it in advance, and if I did, I’d still plan on buying it. Which I do plan on still doing to get the 5.1 surround sound version. So it's not like I'm encouraging you to download it and hear how friggin' amazing it is. Right? Right. That's my story and I'm going to stick to it.
Just keep this on the down low. And if you blog about it, don't crosspost it.
I HAVE to go to New Jersey
I'm willing to bet those words have never been uttered before... especially by a southerner.
Nonetheless, At New Jersey's Six Flags Great Adventure, THIS is opening this spring:
Kingda Ka, the world's tallest, fastest roller coaster.
This hydraulic launch coaster goes from 0 to 128 MPH in 3.5 seconds. The first drop is 456 feet.
Monday, April 18, 2005
Wayfaring Strangers, Part 1
(Wayfaring Strangers is a continuing series about our experiences as my wife and I study to convert to Catholicism.)
Our Journey Begins
Wendy and I are at the beginning of the year-long process of converting to Catholicism. I wasn't sure if I was going to blog about this or not. I worried that doing so might, in some way, deprive the process of some of the reverence I feel it warrants. I decided to go ahead for several reasons. One, this process will inform my opinions and ideas, so it would be silly to try to hide it. Two, along this spiritual journey, the input of others will be important. Anyone who wants to post a comment or send an e-mail, be they Catholic, Protestant, or Other, is welcome and encouraged to do so. Feel free to offer encouragement or to test our resolve. It's all in God's hands at this point.
Initially, I'm only going to write a little bit of background about our decision. Our family began attending a Nondenominational Christian church in late 2001. We wanted to pick a family church, and since we'd both been raised protestant, it seemed natural.
Wendy was raised Lutheran, and her formative church experiences were very positive for her. I was raised Southern Baptist, and my early church experiences weren't positive at all. They were negative. At this point in my life, I'm not trying to cast blame or point any fingers. There was a time when I was, though. In my teens and twenties I considered myself an agnostic and pointed to what I (in my infinite wisdom) judged to be the hypocrisy of the Baptists as the main reason. I was very bitter and looked for reasons to blame the Baptists for just about every spiritual failing in my life. Thankfully, after a divorce, a year of AA meetings, and 9/11, I somehow grew out of that. I began to hold myself accountable for my own spiritual wellbeing, and realized that blaming the Baptists for my own religious missteps wasn't the answer. The Baptist faith, I now realize, is a fine faith for those who find it rewarding and draw closer to God because of it. It is, however, not the faith for me.
Anyway, Wendy and I started attending that nondenominational Christian church I mentioned, and it was there that I discovered C.S. Lewis, Richard Foster, and a wealth of writers and theologians who conspired to draw me back to faith. I credit Lewis's Mere Christianity as the book that finally made Christianity resonate for me. It was more than that, though. Mere Christianity made me want faith. It made me want what Lewis had. I became the prodigal son of the parable, and I'd no sooner turned to return to the Father than I saw him running to greet me. My faith is the strongest and most rewarding it's ever been at this point in my life. I know for certain that there is a God, and that my avenue to him is through the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the thing in my life that I am most certain of.
However, even as my faith was growing (and Wendy and I were growing in faith as a couple) we found ourselves growing apart from the church we'd been attending. The Bible study classes we'd once enjoyed had switched from what we thought of as serious, demanding theology to what we think of as Wal-Mart theology: Max Lucado, Bruce Wilkinson, etc. There's nothing wrong with those books for those who enjoy them. And if you get something out of those writers, I'm happy for you. They don't do it for us, though. They leave us cold. Reading Lucado is, for me, like watching a Hallmark commercial. I pursue theology with something of a vengeance, having missed out on so much of it during my younger years due to my own stubborness. I don't want to read books that simply make me feel good. I want to read books that challenge me, that inspire me to action, and that help me find new ways to make my faith practical. It's not that I'm trying to earn late-game points... it's that I now realize what I'd been craving all along.
Also, our church began changing the way the worship services themselves were conducted. New kinds of "new-agey" Christian music became part of the service. Non-traditional elements were introduced. A number of people in our church enjoyed these new components of worship, but Wendy and I did not. We're both very traditional. We like the old hymns, the old styles. Call us sticks-in-the-mud if you want, but we're happy being sticks in the mud. The bottom line was this: our church was no longer the right place for us to worship.
Last year, Wendy and I started spending a lot more time with a Catholic family who are dear friends of ours. To their credit, they never tried to force their style of faith on us. Instead, they were simply kind and forthcoming and open with us when we'd ask them questions about their church, their faith, their way of worship. We began to grow jealous of them. We began to want what they had. We came to think that the demanding, tangible, reverent, awe-inspiring type of worship we were craving was available to us through the Catholic church. When we asked our friends if we could begin attending mass with them, they were delighted.
For the past few weeks, our family has been attending mass with our friends, and Wendy and I are working with a great priest who is helping us figure out where we fit, spiritually, and if the Catholic church is the right fit for us. As of now, we believe that it is.
Over the course of the next year, I'll use this blog as a sort of journal to document this experience for Wendy and myself. I think it would be useful to me to throw my ideas out there and read any feedback that I might get… and it would also be useful to have a journal available to read back over and try to monitor my own growth.
Thank you if you've taken the time to read this entry, and if you take the time to share your ideas with us.
I hope that by sharing these experiences, we are doing the right thing and that we might, in some way, play a role in helping others find their own path.
Pat Sajak: Pundit
Who would have thought that Pat friggin' Sajak is not only a conservative but also a blogger with a very readable blog? I wouldn't have. But Kill Righty had the scoop. Turns out that Sajak's blog is pretty good. Here are a few highlights:
Arguing with Liberals and Why I've Stopped: -- I was discussing the United Sates Supreme Court with on of my many Liberal friends out in Los Angeles when she said, without any discernable embarrassment, that Justice Anton Scalia was “worse than Hitler”. Realizing she wasn’t alive during World War II and perhaps she may have been absent on those days when her schoolmates were studying Nazism, I reminded her of some of Hitler’s more egregious crimes against humanity, suggesting she may have overstated the case. She had not; Scalia was worse. As I often did when my parents threatened to send me to my room, I let the conversation die.
Bill Clinton and Republicans: -- The ironic twist is that Clinton, despite those political and personal setbacks, remained and remains extraordinarily popular among Democrats, and that popularity does not appear to be transferable. Just ask Al Gore. Mr. Clinton—and his wife—are the only true stars of the Party, and that means that everyone else fades in the face of their glow. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Clinton cost John Kerry more votes than he gained for him whenever they appeared together. Imagine being part of a crowd enraptured by the presence of Bill Clinton, and then having to listen to a speech by John Kerry!
A Nation of Decides: -- Changing demographics do seem to favor "red" America. The growing Hispanic population tends to be socially conservative. And, as more and more African-American voters see their economic conditions improve, they are becoming less apt to vote as a bloc. It's trends such as these that seem more likely to cause shifts rather than what the politicians, reporters, talking heads and bloggers try to convince people to do... That's the trouble with trying to influence an undecided voter. First you have to find one.
This guy's good. Why isn't he writing a regular column somewhere?
Friday, April 15, 2005
Axis of Evil: The Secret Hypocrisy Of The Left
My ex-wife asked me what I think about the “art” exhibit known as “Axis of Evil: The Secret History of Sin,” and I had to admit that I’d not heard of it. So I looked into it and found out that “Axis of Evil" is another of those so-called “art” exhibits where the main goal of the… ahem… “artist” … is to incite the anger of conservatives and the praise of liberals.
It's not art. Let's get that straight right off the bat. The goal of the "artist" is NOT to create art or express something. The goal of the artist is simply to enrage people he disagrees with. Those who defend the "artist" are really only defending him or her because they have the same political enemies as the artist. Nobody actually enjoys this kind of "art." Even those who support it really just enjoy seeing us conservatives get our panties in a knot. That's really what it's all about: "Let's see how worked up we can get those closed minded, jack-boot neo- Nazi conservatives today." I tend to believe that the best way to deal with these idiots is to ignore them.
You remember Andres Serrano from a few years back? He’s the moron who put a crucifix in a bottle of urine and photographed it for art’s sake. Remember Chris Ofili? He’s the waste of oxygen who felt that pornographic clippings and elephant dung were an appropriate medium to represent the Virgin Mary. Well, “Axis of Evil” is more of that same kind of crap. It's primarily the work of one Michael Hernandez deLuna. The “art” of this genius and his buddies, as displayed at Columbia College, is really something:
The Columbia exhibit features 47 artists from 11 countries and depicts powerful religious and political leaders worldwide on mock postage stamps. One, called "Citizen John Ashcroft," shows Ashcroft's face fashioned from images of naked bodies at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Another piece -- "I saw it in a movie starring Steven Segal" -- shows a series of images of an airplane nearing, then crashing into the Sears Tower, and ends with the Chicago skyline without the skyscraper.
The exhibit drew the attention of the Secret Service, due to a series of stamps that deplicted a gun held to the president’s head:
A Secret Service spokesman, Tom Mazur, would not say Tuesday whether the inquiry had been completed or whom the Secret Service had interviewed, but he said no artwork had been confiscated. "We need to ensure, as best we can, that this is nothing more than artwork with a political statement," Mazur said.
Hernandez has drawn the attention of the authorities to himself before:
In 2001, authorities said they suspected (that Hernandez) was behind a bogus stamp that bore a black skull and crossbones and the word "Anthrax." It was sent through the mail during the height of the anthrax scare... Hernandez refused to talk about the 2001 incident... that shut down an area of Chicago's main post office. Hernandez and another Chicago artist routinely sent fake stamps through the mail, then sold them for thousands of dollars.
This, of course, has the leftist morons and their “artist” buddies ranting and raving about Big Brother:
"It frightens me ... as an artist and curator. Now we're being watched," Hernandez said. "It's a new world. It's a Big Brother world. I think it's frightening for any artist who wants to do edgy art."
So anyway, I read those articles and planned to send a quick e-mail back to my ex, agreeing with her that these “artists” were idiots, but probably not mention it here at the blog… then something occurred to me:
Lately the left has been raising a lot of hell because Tom DeLay suggested that left-wing activist judges would eventually answer to a higher authority:
DeLay did express regret for saying, after the death of (Terri) Schiavo, that the judges who refused to reinsert the brain-damaged woman's feeding tube would one day "answer for their behavior."
Democrats have criticized DeLay's remark, which Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., said could incite violence against judges.
So Tom DeLay expresses his opinion about leftist judges and is lambasted for saying something that could be misinterpreted as an encouragement of violence against judges, and DeLay has to apologize. Alright, fine… but what about this idiot piece-o-crap “artist” with his postage stamps showing a gun held to the president’s head?? Maybe I’m kinda jumping to conclusions here, but do you think that an image like that might… oh, I dunno… ENCOURAGE VIOLENCE AGAINST THE PRESIDENT??!?
Nah, couldn’t be. After all, Tom DeLay is a Republican, and therefore, everything he says is wrong. Michael Hernandez deLuna and his buddies are artists, and if I think their work incites political violence, that just indicates that I’m a closed-minded, jack-boot neo-Nazi conservative who doesn’t understand their sensitive form of expression. Right? RIGHT??!
Remember when liberals were patriotic? Remember FDR? Well, cherish that memory, pal… because FDR was the last liberal worth a damn that this country ever produced.
Michelle Malkin -- Unhinged Liberal Products For Sale
Brad Edmonds -- Freedom of (Blasphemous) Expression: A Proposal
The Tate Values Excrement More Highly Than Gold
Brooklyn Cheese Artist Installs Bed Of Ham
Thursday, April 14, 2005
Vote Rick James, B!#ch!
From Fox News:
Rick James is the name of both a Hattiesburg City Council candidate and the flamboyant singer of the 1981 hit "Super Freak," who died last August just as he was poised to make a comeback.
The self-described "king of punk funk," jailed later in his career for drug abuse and violence against women, is the subject of a recurring skit on the Comedy Central cable-TV hit "Chappelle's Show," in which host Dave Chappelle, dressed as the singer, acts bizarrely and randomly shouts out "I'm Rick James, b*tch!"
According to the New York Post, people in Hattiesburg have been stealing "Vote Rick James" signs at such a rate that the aspiring city councilman's wife has asked Comedy Central for compensation.
Nadia Turner and American Idol
Wendy watches American Idol, so I watch it with her. I don't know why I feel compelled to begin every post about the show with those words, I guess I'm somehow trying to distance myself from the program... or make it seem that, yeah, I watch it, but I'm somehow above the rest of the people that do. I guess I'm full of it.
Anyway, Nadia Turner was voted off the program last night. Nadia was both Wendy's favorite performer on the program and my favorite, as well. That's rare, because we usually have seperate favorites. Last year I was a Latoya London fan and Wendy liked Diana DeGarmo. The year before, I was rooting for Kim Locke and Wendy was a big fan of that pansy, Clay Aiken. This year, we were both rooting for Nadia, and we're both bummed that she's gone.
I don't suppose I'll watch the program any more this year. I have no idea how people like Anthony Fedorov and Constantine Maroulis and Anwar Robinson get enough votes to stay week after week, and someone like Nadia Turner doesn't make it into the top three. Nadia was not only the best singer the competition has ever had, she was also the most drop-dead gorgeous contestant the program has ever featured. She has a smoldering smile and eyes that could melt the polar caps. If she weren't such a good singer, she could pursue a career in modeling. Every week she was consistantly elegant, fresh, and interesting. She wasn't doing the same old crap that everyone else was doing, she always had a surprising song or a new take on an old one. Nadia was really the only reason to watch the program. I have to say that I agree with Dave McGurgan, who wrote the following:
Nadia is like a job seeker with excellent credentials that somehow ends up applying for a low-paying job she’s way too good for. Someone of Nadia’s caliber shouldn’t even have been on the show in the first place.
Keep your eyes open for Nadia Turner. I'm sure she'll be back in the spotlight somewhere.
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
Fahrenheit 9/11 in Retrospect
Thanks to Fedora Pundit for the tip on a nice NRO article on the ultimate effect of F911:
Fahrenheit 9/11 never had the sort of national appeal that its maker and its publicists claimed. The truth was just the opposite; deep inside the dense compilations of audience research figures that are used by movie studios to chart a film’s performance was evidence that Fahrenheit 9/11’s appeal was narrowly limited to those areas that were already solidly anti-Bush.Moore’s daily pronouncements about the movie’s success in pro-Bush areas, and the growing anti-Bush movement it was supposedly engendering, were little more than wishful thinking. In the end, Karl Rove was right. There was no need to worry.
I don't think I'll ever get tired of letting the air out of Michael Moore.
Monday, April 11, 2005
Busch Gardens: A Rambling Photoblog Entry
Busch Gardens was a blast, as it always is. Wendy and I, along with all three kids and my mom and step-dad, left for Williamsburg at 5:30 Saturday morning, and got to the park just as it was opening. The day started out with a good omen, as we found out that the upgrade we’d purchased over the internet for our tickets entitled us not just for a second day at the park, but actually free admittance every day for the rest of the summer. Wendy and I hope to make a trip by ourselves later this summer, if we happen to get a day or two without the kids.
Once inside the park, everyone had to go to the bathroom… and my wife, who has never received any awards for noteworthy tact or elegance, came out of the ladies room to join us, shouting ”There’s free tampons in there! You don’t have to bring tampons to this park! They give ‘em away for free! That’s right, FREE TAMPONS IN THE LADIES ROOM!”
Once she stopped shouting and the rest of us came out of hiding to join her, we headed off in search of rides.
Wendy and I are roller coaster fiends, and there are four good ones at Busch Gardens. The Big Bad Wolf, The Loch Ness Monster, Alpengeist, and Apollo’s Chariot. All four of them are well worth standing in line for, even the smallest and tamest of the four, The Big Bad Wolf. Here are a few pictures and details, if you care:
The Loch Ness Monster was the world’s first roller coaster with interlocking loops. It has a 113 foot drop and reaches a top speed of 60 MPH. Wendy and I were able to talk Hailey into riding it with us, and although he was nervous while in line, by the time we were half way through it, he was shouting about how “awesome” it was and begging to go again. It really is a great ride.
Loch Ness's awesome interlocking loops
Another look at the loops with a train
Here's Hailey, Wendy and I riding the Loch Ness Monster
The “baby” of the four, the Big Bad Wolf only drops 99 feet and doesn’t quite reach a top speed of 50 miles an hour. Still, a suspended coaster with as many twists and turns as this one has... including a trip through a Bavarian Village... and that last big drop directly over the river… make it worth riding.
Here's Wendy and all 3 kids riding the Big Bad Wolf
Alpengeist is my favorite roller coaster. Granted I’ve only ridden 9 or 10 of them in my life, but none of them compare to Alpengeist when it comes to fun. This ride is 100% fun. Starting off with a not-too-shabby 170 foot drop, Alpengeist reaches 67 miles an hour over a course including six inversions (two corkscrews, two loops and a cobra roll) and 3.7 attention-grabbing G’s. Alpengeist is not just the most fun that Busch Gardens has to offer, but it’s kinda the center-piece of the park, as various parts of it jut up here and there all over the place. Once you see it you can’t help but want to ride it, and once you ride it, you can’t wait to ride it again. Wendy and I talked my 61 year old mother into getting on it with us (it literally took two days of begging), and once she got off, she insisted that we ride it again. It is the most addictive roller coaster I’ve ever been on.
This is Alpengeist's cobra roll.
A good look at some of Alpengeist's twists and turns.
Apollo’s Chariot, Busch Gardens’ big daddy, is one hell of a roller coaster. With 9 drops, starting with a 210 foot, 75 MPH plunge toward the river, Apollo’s Chariot is the only roller coaster left that still scares me. The drop time over that first fall is amazing. It’s 4 and a half seconds, but it seems to take forever. You literally have time to think “Are we ever going to get to the bottom?” before it finally hits the bottom and starts up the next hill. Over the course of the 9 drops, Apollo’s Chariot drops riders a total of 825 feet, and you feel every foot of it, because the train’s unique restraint system only uses a single lap bar to hold each rider in. It’s as close to flying/free falling as a human being is ever likely to feel. Wendy and I weren’t able to talk anyone into riding this one with us. We’d have to sneak off and ride it by ourselves while the kids were with the grandparents riding trains or exploring kiddie parts of the park. It’s the main draw for us to hopefully go back by ourselves again. Apollo’s Chariot never fails to provide a thrill. I’m amazed at how that first drop never gets old.
A couple of quick notes about Apollo's Chariot: One, we made a mistake of making this the second thing we rode on our first day in the park. After that, nothing seemed quite as thrilling. Ride all the roller coasters at Busch Gardens, but save AC for last. And, two, yes this is the roller coaster that made news a few years ago when it slammed Fabio face-first into a bird. No, I don't think that's funny... and no, I don't think you should click this link and laugh at the picture.
Here's how the first drop looks from outside the ride.
Wendy and I, in the lower right, in the throes of Apollo's Chariot
It was a great trip, but looking at the photos gives me a moment to reflect on how fat and bald I've gotten. The hair on top of my head has gotten so thin that I got the worst sunburn of my life right on top of my head. It feels like someone placed a hot cast-iron skillet on top of my head. And the bright red glow really sets off my expanding girth nicely. (If you click that link, by the way, just know that Liam was having a good time in spite of his facial expression of hateful rage.)
Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, VA is a great park. I can think of a lot of great reasons to plan a trip there… and for roller coaster enthusiasts, I can think of 4 undeniable reasons.
Friday, April 08, 2005
Stupid, Stupid, Stupid People!! Stop Renting Movies!!
There’s a new video rental place in town, and we decided to check it out. We were going to rent Sideways, since we didn’t see it in the theater, and we were glad to see that the store had about 20 copies in… but they were ALL FULLSCREEN!
Excuse me while I rant and rave for a minute and get this out of my system:
FULLSCREEN SUCKS! Why, oh, WHY did the manufacturers of DVD EVER decide to start offering movies in EITHER fullscreen OR widescreen? WTF??!!? There's no excuse for it. If they MUST produce the shabby, pointless pan-and-scan fullscreen versions, they should only do double-sided discs with one version on each side.
But, they shouldn't produce fullscreen versions of theatrical movies in the first place. Fullscreen is for TV. Movies, which are filmed in the widescreen ratio, are intended to be viewed in widescreen! Lemme break this down to third-grade terms... A movie screen is not a square, like a tv screen, is it? No. It’s a rectangle! Like a widescreen!
Wendy and I had a nice conversation with the guy at the counter at the video store, who sympathized with our situation, and understood that, yes, movies are SUPPOSED to be viewed in widescreen… but he told us that, by far, most movie renters prefer fullscreen. In other words, most movie renters prefer to watch tv rather than movies!
What is with these idiots that prefer to only see part of a movie? I don’t mean only part of the chronology of a movie… I mean only part of each image. Why would anyone prefer that? Is the idea of a small black bar at the top and bottom of the screen really that big a deal?? After ten minutes you don't notice it anymore, anyway.
For God’s sake, a fullscreen version of a movie like The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King shouldn’t even exist. Need proof? Check this out.
The guy behind the counter told us that some recent study shows that people who buy movies tend to buy the widescreen DVD and that movie renters tend to prefer to rent the fullscreen DVD. That’s all well and good, I suppose… if you can AFFORD to buy every movie you have a mild curiosity about. But if you aren’t 100% that you’re going to love, oh, for instance, Ocean’s 12, why should you be forced to see it in the dumbed-down fullscreen mode just because you’d rather rent it than buy it??
Look, movies are filmed in the widescreen ratio and should be watched in the widescreen ratio. If you don’t get that, stay home and watch Fear Factor. Leave movies to those of us who actually appreciate them.
I feel better.
We saw Sin City the other night. I enjoyed it quite a bit, and so did my wife... though I'd hesitate to recommend it to anyone bothered by gore or violence or cannibalism or sexual assault or etc, etc, etc. The movie is about all these things, but doesn't glorify them... and the movie's heroes, such as they are, are the people who fight against those things.
So I'd recommend it to anyone with a strong stomach who enjoys comic-book movies and film noir and wants to see something totally unique.
And I'd recommend the movie's official website to geeks like me who are easily amused and would enjoy putting together their own Sin City ID, like the one below:
No Tool For Jesus
Turns out that Maynard James Keenan of Tool did not, in fact, find Jesus:
On Thursday morning, Keenan 'fessed up to the world on the Tool Web site, and in a final e-mail to MTV News, he said: "I was actually quite surprised people bought it. Especially considering most of the subject matter of my work."
I was one of the ones who kinda bought it.
Very funny, Maynard.
Wednesday, April 06, 2005
Film Geeks Gone. For Good?
The blog film geeks has been accidentally deleted. I've been trying to e-mail blogspot to see if there is any way to save it, but so far, no luck. It may be gone for good. In which case, I really can't see me trying to recreate it. I'll just start posting movie reviews here, I suppose. Nonetheless, I just wanted to at least try to clue in anyone who might see this post, since we actually had managed to gradually build up a small but loyal following.
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
A Tool For Jesus?
I’m a huge fan of the band Tool. I think they’re great.
I’m also a Christian. So that means that sometimes I simply disregard rock lyrics if they don’t jive with what I believe… and sometimes I find alternate interpretations of rock lyrics; interpretations that support and/or challenge and/or harmonize with what I believe.
Tool has always been a band that gave me a lot to ponder, spiritually. Especially with the lyrics on their last album, Lateralus. In fact, there’ve been times when I’ve almost been sure that Tool’s lead singer and lyricist, Maynard James Keenan, was exploring some of the same spiritual ground where I’ve found myself.
So I was pretty interested in this news story from MTV’s website:
Recent postings on two Tool web sites — one of them purportedly by Keenan himself — contend that the singer has found religion and has left Tool. Could this really be? On Tuesday afternoon (April 5), MTV News' Kurt Loder e-mailed Keenan for confirmation, and this is what he e-mailed back: "I did, in fact, find Jesus. More news to follow. God bless ya."
Keenan's letter to fan site toolshed.down.net explains that "some recent events have led me to the rediscovery of Jesus" and that "Tool will need to take the back seat." A posting on Tool's Web site alludes to Maynard's newfound Christianity as well, but who wrote the post is unclear. It reads, "I went to the studio to give Maynard a bottle of wine ... [and] not only wasn't Maynard there, but ... I was told Maynard has indeed 'found Jesus' and that, for this reason, he's abandoned the project for the time being, if not entirely."
Alright, the odds here are that I’m the willing victim of a huge April Fools joke. Tool is known for their warped sense of humor, and they’ve been known to play April Fools jokes in the past.
But it could be true. Probably not, but it could be. Maybe I’m fooling myself here, but I’ll go out on a limb and suggest that it’s possible that Maynard has been alluding to Christianity in his lyrics for a while now.
Check out these lyrics from the song The Grudge. Could they be a reference to a sort of baptism?
Saturn comes back around to show you everything
Let's you choose what you will not see and then
Drags you down like a stone or lifts you up again
Spits you out like a child, light and innocent.
Give away the stone…
Let the oceans take and transmutate this cold and fated anchor.
Give away the stone.
Let the waters kiss and transmutate these leaden grudges into gold.
I’ve often wondered about the spiritual implications of the lyrics to The Patient:
If there were no rewards to reap,
No loving embrace to see me through
This tedious path I've chosen here,
I certainly would've walked away by now.
Gonna wait it out.
If there were no desire to heal
The damaged and broken met along
This tedious path I've chosen here
I certainly would've walked away by now.
Then there’s these lyrics to the wonderful song Parabola:
We barely remember who or what came before this precious moment,
We are choosing to be here right now. Hold on, stay inside
This holy reality, this holy experience….
Twirling round with this familiar parable.
Spinning, weaving round each new experience.
Recognize this as a holy gift and celebrate this chance to be alive and breathing.
This body holding me reminds me of my own mortality.
Embrace this moment. Remember. We are eternal.
All this pain is an illusion.
My favorite Tool lyrics, however, are to the title track from Lateralus. Maynard may not have had the Christian experience in mind when he wrote these lyrics… in fact, he probably didn’t… but when I listen to the song, it becomes something very personal, very spiritual, and very Christian to me:
Feed my will to feel this moment urging me to cross the line.
Reaching out to embrace the random.
Reaching out to embrace whatever may come.
I embrace my desire to
feel the rhythm, to feel connected
enough to step aside and weep like a widow
to feel inspired, to fathom the power,
to witness the beauty, to bathe in the fountain,
to swing on the spiral
of our divinity and still be a human.
Even the Tool songs that seem at first to be critical of Christianity are really, to my way of thinking, simply critical of hypocrisy in all it’s forms. I love, for instance, the lyrics to the song Eulogy:
Standing above the crowd,
He had a voice so strong and loud and I
Swallowed his facade cuz I'm so
Eager to identify with
Someone above the ground,
Someone who seemed to feel the same,
Someone prepared to lead the way, with
Someone who would die for me.
To ascend you must die.
You must be crucified
For your sins and your lies.
There are, however, other songs that seem to be outright indictments of the Christian faith. Opiate, for example… and the song Judeth, by Maynard’s other band, A Perfect Circle.
I suppose we’ll find out if it was a joke for sure in the next few days. It may simply be Maynard’s way of mocking Brian “Head” Welch, the former Korn guitarist who’s decided to devote his life to Christ.
Nonetheless, as a Tool fan and a Christian, I love the idea of Maynard James Keenan turning his songwriting skills to an exploration of the same path I’m on.
See The Resemblance?
Is it just me, or does Tony Blair look a lot like actor Michael McKean?
What Happened At The Hospital
First, I guess I should explain why we were at the hospital in the first place.
Saturday, Willow got sick enough to have to go to the ER, where it turned out that she had an extreme bladder/kidney infection and had to be admitted to the hospital and go on an antibiotic IV drip. Wendy stayed with her the entire time (From Saturday morning until Monday evening), and that meant that it was up to me and me alone to get Liam off to school Monday morning.
Our answering machine has been going bad for some time now, and we’ve been saying we had to replace it for several days. It’s gotten to the point where every message people leave us sounds like the teacher on Peanuts cartoon specials. (Whaa whaaa, whaaa wha, whaaa whaa whaaaa, wah.). Monday morning, Wendy called from the hospital to make sure I was awake and getting Liam ready for school (I wasn’t), and therefore I woke up to that weird, robotic drone on the answering machine.
I decided then and there that we had to replace the answering machine immediately.
So I took Liam to school and went to the hospital and sat with Willow while Wendy ran out to take care of a few things. Then, when Wendy got back, I ran to Wal-Mart to get a few things for Willow and to also pick up a new answering machine.
Alright, you know those things that they wrap around the boxes of new electronic devices to prevent shoplifting? Turns out, they’re called “spider-wraps.” If you don’t know what I’m talking about, reference the picture below:
The new answering machine / telephone I decided on was wrapped with one of those spider-wraps. Four legs wrapped around the box, with one flashing and pulsating “spider body” in the very front. So, I picked up the answering machine and finished my shopping and headed to the check-out lane.
The cashier scanned my items and was unsuccessful in her attempts to scan the answering machine and disarm the spider-wrap. I had expected her to remove the spider-wrap before I left the store, but she didn’t. Instead, she told me that she’d not been able to disarm it, and that when I got to the exit door, if the store alarm sounded, I should, and here I quote, “just run.”
The last thing I was going to do was bolt for the car while the Wal-Mart alarm went off, so when I got to the exit door and the alarm DID go off, I went back in and showed the Wal-Mart greeter the answering machine and the receipt. The greeter got her anti-shoplifting-disarming-device-thingy and scanned and scanned and scanned all around the answering machine, trying to disarm the spider-wrap. Nothing doing. It wouldn’t disarm. So this time, I actually asked her to just remove it. “Can’t we just take this security thing off?” I asked. “Oh, noooo,” she said. And at that, she called over the cashier, and they had some sort of secret-handshake type of conference and finally they were in agreement about what to do. “Just go ahead and leave,” they both said to me, “and when you get to the door, if the store alarm goes off again, just run.”
I still wasn’t happy with the idea of “running” while the Wal-Mart robot told everyone present that “YOU HAVE ACTIVATED THE WAL-MART SECURITY SYSTEM. PLEASE RETURN TO THE STORE TO HAVE YOUR ITEMS CHECKED.” So when the store alarm DID go off again, I turned around and called to the greeter “OK, I’m going to go ahead and leave with my answering machine, which I’ve just paid for and not stolen, JUST LIKE YOU TOLD ME TO DO, since I am NOT A SHOPLIFTER. Bye!” She nodded and waved me on.
I returned to the hospital and took in the items for Willow, and since I am an electronics geek, I took in the new answering machine, too… you know, so I could read the instruction book while I was hanging out in the hospital. Here follows a list of the things that happened:
1) I took the answering machine box out of the bag and saw that it was, of course, still wrapped in the spider-wrap. Wendy asked why they didn’t take the spider-wrap off at the store. I told her the whole story.
2) I realized that I was going to have to cut the spider-wrap off of the box in order to open the box. I have a small key-chain knife on my key-chain. I used it to try to cut through one of the strands of the spider-wrap. It was like trying to saw through a steel cable with a butter knife. I thought it was just made of plastic. Wrong. The thing actually had a small steel cable (really) inside of it.
3) Wendy suggested that I try the scissors she had in her purse. God only knows why women keep the things in their purses that they do, but she produced for me what she called “a pair of scissors,” but what I’d think of as either a medieval weapon or a device for pruning redwoods. In any event, it was more than strong enough to cut through the cable.
4) I cut through the cable.
5) At that EXACT MOMENT, Willow’s urologist entered the room behind me.
6) The spider-wrap, which I now realize is designed to produce a LOUD, SHRILL, REPETITIVE ALARM should anyone break the connection but cutting the cable, lost it’s friggin’ mind.
7) BEEEEEEEP! BEEEEEEEP! BEEEEEEEP! BEEEEEEEP! BEEEEEEEP! BEEEEEEEP! BEEEEEEEP! BEEEEEEEP! BEEEEEEEP! BEEEEEEEP! BEEEEEEEP! BEEEEEEEP! BEEEEEEEP! BEEEEEEEP! BEEEEEEEP! BEEEEEEEP! BEEEEEEEP! BEEEEEEEP! BEEEEEEEP! (Etc)
8) So there I stand holding an answering machine and the Wal-Mart anti-shoplifting device that I’ve just clearly tampered with, and Willow’s urologist looks at me and asks in his charming and reassuringly doctorly middle-eastern accent, “You are having a problem, then?” He doesn’t so much ask this as scream it overtop the horrible din of Item # 7 above.
9) I say “I didn’t steal it and bring it to the hospital! They wouldn’t take the thing off at the store! They told me to leave!”
10) The doctor says “Alright.” And then just waits for me to figure out what I’m going to do with the loud beeping monstrosity in my had. Finally I realize that I have to do something. It was at this point, as I remember it, that the Mission Impossible theme started playing in my head.
11) I’m paranoid about walking through the hospital with a clearly-tampered-with anti-shoplifting device, so I shove it in my pocket. This does nothing to remotely mute the sound of Item #7 above. I head for the elevator and push the down button.
12) People all over Willow’s floor are sticking their heads out of their rooms to see what the hell is going on. Is it a fire alarm? Is it a bomb? WTF??
13) The elevator door opens and I step onto the elevator with an elderly lady.
14) This is the conversation in the elevator on the way down to the lobby:
“What’s that noise?”
“It’s a… uh, it’s a thing in my pocket.”
“Is it a Gameboy?”
“Is it alright?”
“No. It’s, uh… I didn’t steal it. I’m defective. I mean, it’s defective. I broke it so I could read about the answering machine. I’m sorry.”
(Facial expression changes from concern to mild panic)“Oh. I’m sorry.”
15) I bolt from the elevator and walk quickly down the hospital hall, and everyone I pass turns around to see where the godawful beeping is coming from. People are asking each other what is going on. Is it a fire alarm? Is something wrong? What IS THAT?
16) I burst out of the door by the hospital cafeteria and slam-dunk the spider-wrap into the wastebasket. As I turn to go back into the hospital, I notice people in the hospital parking lot, pausing to look in my direction and ponder what they are seeing.
I was really worried about all of this, what with today’s highly necessary hightened security measures. I don’t know what I would have done if a hospital security person had stopped me and asked me why I was beeping. I suppose I’d have started babbling about having not stolen the answering machine and how I cut the spider’s leg off just as the urologist walked in, so I had to go.
The moral of all of this is, if you buy an electronic device wrapped in a spider-wrap, MAKE SURE THEY REMOVE IT BEFORE YOU LEAVE THE STORE. Especially if you’re going to a hospital.
Sunday, April 03, 2005
More C.S. Lewis-Inspired Rambling
I don’t have the goal… not a conscious goal, anyway… of turning this into The Southern Guy Who’s Obsessed With C.S. Lewis blog. He’s my favorite writer, though, and Disney is releasing a film based on his best known book later this year… so these things are going to happen from time to time.
Here’s an interesting tidbit on Disney’s marketing of said film:
The entertainment giant, which bills itself as a "Magic Kingdom," has carefully avoided religion for most of its history. Yet Disney has launched a 10-month campaign aimed at evangelical Christians to build support for "Narnia," a $100 million, live-action and computer-generated animation feature it is co-producing with Walden Media.
Disney has hired several Christian marketing groups to handle the film, including Motive Marketing, which ran the historic grass-roots efforts for "The Passion." That film has grossed $611 million worldwide and is now in rerelease.
"From a marketing point of view, it could be a marriage made in heaven -- if the movie is any good," said Adele Reinhartz, professor of religion at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario.
Armand Nicholi, who for decades has taught a Harvard University seminar on C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud, agrees. The entertainment world realizes there's a big audience "that embraces a spiritual worldview," he said. How well these groups interact "will determine how successful this marriage is."
"…The departure of the prickly, anti-Christian Michael Eisner and the advent of the 'Narnia' project might open lines that could lead to a new understanding," (Bob Knight) said. "Political realities are catching up to Disney as well, as wiggle room disappears in the culture war."
I also noticed this mention of Lewis’s name with regard to the Terri Schiavo case:
Years ago, Christian scholar C.S. Lewis noted this dichotomy in the 1940s. In an essay titled “The Abolition of Man,” Lewis describes conflict between advocates of natural law or universal moral codes and relativists such as Friedrich Nietzsche.
Because the relativists don’t believe in any sort of objective truth, Lewis reasoned, they foster tyranny. In his view, relativists changed the question from “Which policy is more just?” to “Which group has the most power to impose its will on society?”
I can’t say much about Nietzsche, but I’d bet that C.S. Lewis’s take on Terri Schiavo’s condition would have been pretty much as noted above. (Read Lewis's amazing, life changing Mere Christianity for more along those lines.)
And by the way, the latest Zogby Poll indicates that the average American wasn’t as gung-ho to unplug Terri’s feeding tube as the major media outlets might have you think:
"If a disabled person is not terminally ill, not in a coma, and not being kept alive on life support, and they have no written directive, should or should they not be denied food and water," the poll asked.
A whopping 79 percent said the patient should not have food and water taken away while just 9 percent said yes.
Anyway, back to Lewis:
A few days ago I posted an entry noting that I was reading Till We Have Faces, and that half-way through it, it was already a mind-blowing book. I finished it the day after I wrote that, and the end of the book was as good or better than the beginning. I’d feel safe saying that I have a new favorite work of fiction. The book, by the way, would make a wonderful movie in the right hands.
I won’t get my hopes up.
John Paul II Begins Chapter One
And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.
-From The Last Battle
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