Wednesday, June 29, 2005

 

SoCon Consumer Reports



In Praise of Products That Do What They’re Supposed To:

Dyson Vacuums :

We got our Dyson DC07 Animal as a wedding present last October. It’s great. It sucks. It really, really sucks, in that good way that a vacuum is supposed to. I think this thing could suck grass right out of the ground. If it ever has to be replaced, we’ll replace it with another Dyson.


Scrub Free Mildew Stain Remover:

Wendy and I have a simple policy about cleaning our bathroom. We believe it should be done once every 70 years. There are a number of bathroom cleaners out there, but only one has worked so well that we were surprised by it. Scrub Free Mildew Stain Remover does exactly what the product indications say it does. Spray it on the mildew and you can basically watch it disappear. It doesn’t matter if the mildew has been there 24 hours or since you were in kindergarten, Scrub Free gets it done.


Hot Shot Max Attrax:

A few years ago, right after we bought our house, some ants turned up in the kitchen. I checked Wal-Mart for anti-ant products, and picked up a box of Hot Shot Max Attrax. It’s a gel, you put down a couple of beads in corners, and the ants eat it and carry it off to the hive. It kills them and/or sterilizes them and/or simply drugs them and causes them to fall into a deep depression and throw themselves in front of trains. I don’t know how it works, and I don’t care. By the next morning, all the ants were gone and they stayed gone.


Kong Dog Toys:

Our dog is a power chewer. Give her an anvil and half an hour, and she can destroy it. She’s reduced every toy we’ve given her into a pile of plastic shreds in a matter of minutes. Every one, that is, except for her Kong. She can’t do anything to it. She loves to play with it, but it looks just as good as the day we got it, except for the slobber factor.


Miracle Gro for Tomatoes:

We’ve been using it since we started gardening, and our tomato plants usually get about as tall as I am and produce more tomatoes than we can think about eating. Granted, the plants themselves do have a tendency to grow wild if you use this stuff, so you have to keep an eye on them and get the “sucker” branches off as soon as they pop up... but that’s just part of gardening. Miracle Gro for tomatoes also works on other vegetables. We never spend a summer without it.


A Pox Upon These Products That Don’t Work Worth A Hoot:

Round-up Dandelion Killer:

Dandelions think of this stuff as Kool Aid. I swear, the times I’ve used it, I’ve actually heard the dandelions laughing at me as I applied it. I’ve applied it just as the direction’s indicated, and gotten up the next morning to find all the original dandelions in tact, along with new ones, all smirking and flipping me the middle finger as I stare at them out the kitchen door. Round-up is a waste of time and money.


Logitech Xbox Wireless Controllers:

Actually, they work great... for up to fifteen minutes after you first plug them in. Then, they start flaking out. You push buttons and nothing happens... or else, other buttons stay stuck in the pushed position. This can be annoying if, for instance, you’re playing a stealth game and trying to sneak up behind someone and your M60 keeps firing off random bursts into the floor. The one good thing about these controllers is that, since they’re wireless, they’re easy to throw.


Banana Hangers:

We’re big banana eaters. I have to have one a day, and both of our boys love ‘em, too... so Wendy picked up a banana hanger a few years ago. I was thrilled with it, at first. It is, after all, a great idea... keep the bananas hanging and they’ll ripen evenly and won’t get bad spots from surface contact, right? Well.....

Our experience with the banana hanger was that if you hang a bunch of bananas on it, you then have to spend about 90 minutes trying to balance it precariously, in just the right position, so that it doesn’t tip over. Building a house of cards while drunk with one hand glued to your forehead is probably easier. If you accomplish this mean feat, you then have to ban anyone from walking into the kitchen, as the slightest movement will cause the banana hanger to collapse like a Styrofoam trailer in a hurricane. If you rig it so that it CAN’T fall over, using counterweights, ropes, nails, glue and outright threats, it WILL actually hang your bananas and not drop them... but then you learn that suspended bananas ripen in about three minutes, so the green ones you had when you went to bed will be fly-covered brown, oozing turd-like banana zombies when you wake up in the morning. This makes cutting down all that rope and prying out all of those nails an especially bitter experience.


 

Liberal Letter Writing Made Easy!



Hey, liberals! After President Bush’s speech, you may have been tempted to write an angry letter to the editor… only to find yourself unable to do so because of those same old problems. You know how it goes... your ability to express your indignant rage on the written page is subverted by those same old pesky annoyances:

  • No real understanding of the issues you're angry about


  • No firm grasp on the English language


  • That classic liberal laziness


  • Well, now, thanks to MoveOn.org, you’re anger no longer has to take a back seat to your stupidity! Your friends at your favorite PAC are more than happy to do your thinking for you! That’s right, MoveOn.org makes it easy for anyone to write an angry letter to the editor, regardless of his or her ability to reason, communicate, or actually write! If you know your name and your zip code, you can write an angry letter to the editor of your own local newspaper, just like those smart conservatives do!

    It’s just this easy:

  • Follow this link: http://www.moveonpac.org/lte/?lte_campaign_id=23


  • Enter your zip code, name, and a few other personal details.


  • Cut and paste our ready-to-send “talking points” into the “letter” field of the form.


  • Hit send!


  • That’s it! Now, as far as the editor of your local newspaper knows, you can think for yourself, you’re good and angry, and you’re ready to give ‘em a piece of your mind! (Only you and George Soros know the difference!)

    Moveon.org! Herding the sheep and giving them an opinion in these troubled times.



    (Hat tip: Kill Righty)

    Tuesday, June 28, 2005

     

    Tuesday Reading - No More Mr. Nice Guy



    I've been staying away from any kind of sensitive politics to some degree, lately... and I can't remember why. I may have lost sight of why I created this blog in the first place. Until just recently, I guess I've had it in the back of my mind of late that, as a Christian, I shouldn't offend anyone. That's nonsense. I shouldn't harm anyone, and I should make some effort to express myself without ranting... but if I never post anything that might offend anyone, I'll have to stop blogging entirely.




    Hat tip to Where Have You Gone, Ronald Reagan? for this item... Bono has actually said something nice about Dubya:

    "Well, I think [President Bush has] done an incredible job, his administration, on AIDS. And 250,000 Africans are on antiviral drugs. They literally owe their lives to America ... Yes, there's a lot of pressure on President Bush. If he, though, in his second term, is as bold in his commitments to Africa as he was in the first term, he indeed deserves a place in history in turning the fate of that continent around."


    Wow. I gotta give Bono more credit. It's easy to assume that a liberal celebrity falls right in step with the US-hating left and has nothing positive to say about President Bush at all. That is, in fact, one of the main differences between today's left and today's right. Ask a conservative to name a couple of good things about Clinton's administration and he'll think about it and then actually name a couple of good things. Ask one of today's leftists to name a couple of good things about George W. Bush, and he'll balk and instead rant and rave about how Dubya is the antichrist. Bono, unlike so many leftists, seems to actually be paying attention and thinking for himself. Good for him.




    I picked this item up at Weapons of Mass Distraction:

    “I cannot swallow whole the view of Lincoln as the Great Emancipator,” (Barack) Obama said. “As a law professor and civil rights lawyer and as an African-American, I am fully aware of his limited views on race. Anyone who actually reads the Emancipation Proclamation knows it was more a military document than a clarion call for justice.”


    I agree with Derek on this one; Barack Obama is right.

    The Emancipation Proclamation was carefully thought out, deliberate, and important... but it really had nothing to do with freeing anyone. It was a political move, pure and simple. Lincoln was a great president, but the giving the Emancipation Proclamation credit for freeing anyone is as simple-minded as saying that the Civil War was entirely about slavery.




    If you think you're bugged about the Eminent Domain issue? Try living in New London, Connecticut.


    The redevelopment program at issue in yesterday's case -- the plan of the Connecticut city of New London to turn 90 acres of waterfront land into office buildings, upscale housing, a marina and other facilities near a $300 million research center being built by pharmaceuticals giant Pfizer -- was also expected to generate hundreds of jobs and, city officials say, $680,000 in property tax revenue.

    New London, with a population of about 24,000, is reeling from the 1996 closing of the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, which had employed more than 1,500 people.

    But owners of 15 homes on 1.54 acres of the proposed site had refused to go. One of them, Susette Kelo, had extensively remodeled her home and wanted to stay for its view of the water. Another, Wilhelmina Dery, was born in her house in 1918 and has lived there her entire life.


    Tom at MuD & PHuD is doing a great job keeping up with the crisis in New London. Click here for a great deal of information and links, and click here for the latest, as of now.




    The Gun Toting Liberal has some good observations about the Supreme Court and the Ten Commandments:

    Just how in the HELL do you explain 9 Supreme Court justices all showing up together at work one morning; still rubbing the sleep out of their eyes, still sipping their morning coffee, engaging in a little "small talk" to begin their day, then things get SERIOUS.

    Then, in the tradition of their predecessors established over decades and DECADES... they all suddenly bow their heads together in unison to hold their morning prayer to GOD; something they've always shared together in this freaking COURTHOUSE they consider to be their place of employment, for the entire time they've been employees here.

    After they all have finished praising God, asking Him to help them to guide them in their decisions, it is time for them to go to work. Before long, the majority of them agree that the 10 Commandments have no place in a COURTHOUSE. Yes, that is correct. I am not making this up. I couldn't make it up and try to pass it off as "fact"; you, the reader, would call "B.S." right away. But yep, this actually DID happen today (source: The Star Ledger). At the Supreme Court of the United States of America, even. …

    With damn near every ruling they've come out with lately, I'm evermore convinced these people are little more than snobby, mental midgets who've been entrusted with more personal power than I'd feel comfortable granting to my own county licensing commissioner, much less, to the top law construers of the land.


    Hey, he might call himself a “liberal,” but I’m pretty sure that the Gun Toting Liberal is a liberal of the FDR, Woodrow Wilson variety. You know, the kind of liberal that actually loves this country and doesn't see himself as the ultimate authority on everything. The kind of liberal that thinks that concepts like right, wrong, and common sense are valid, rather than thinking that such concepts aren't "nuanced" enough for the world today. Yes, it's true! Such creatures once existed! And it looks like there's still one out there! We need more of these kinds of liberals. GTL is one of the good guys.




    Nobody has time to read every blog out there, and good ones are always going to fall between the cracks. Thanks to Fedora Pundit I found out about the Gay Patriot. I agree with what he has to say about this quote from Karl Rove:

    Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 in the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers.....Let me just put this in fairly simple terms: Al Jazeera now broadcasts the words of Senator Durbin to the Mideast, certainly putting our troops in greater danger. No more needs to be said about the motives of liberals.


    Gay Patriot says:

    First of all, Karl Rove is absolutely correct...

    ...Rove said "liberals"... not necessarily Democrats. But wow, the Democrats who, in the 2004 Presidential Election couldn't run fast enough from the word "liberal" now seem to be embracing it wholeheartedly in their "outrage" I also never saw a Democrat refuse to take campaign money from MoveOn.org and their ilk.

    ...a brilliant chess-move by Karl Rove to refocus the country on the matters of national security and the War on Terror (Worldwide Theatres). There is no doubt in my mind that Republicans do see this as a war, while on the whole, Democrats/Liberals see this as a "police action"....in the words of John Kerry.

    Karl Rove was spot on... and the Dems fell for the bait: Hook, Line & Sinker


    Damn! Couldn't have said it better myself! I'm happy to add Gay Patriot to my blogroll.

    He's absolutely right, and so is Rove. I don't know what it's going to take to make today's left wing nutjobs wake up to the real threat of terrorism. The smoke was still in the air above New York City after 9/11 when they started talking about how the threat of terrorism was imaginary. These people are so caught up in their self-congratulatory "enlightened" world view that they can't tell how far up their butts they've rammed their heads.

    Today's liberals are mad as hell, and they're not going to take it anymore... trouble is, they have no idea what they're mad at. They don't understand the issues they talk about. Their grasp of world politics is as brief and insubstantial as the bumper stickers they express themselves with. They are protesters in search of something to protest, and they'll settle for issues that are beyond their comprehension. It's pointless to argue with them.

    Still, Rove was right, and it needed to be said. Good for him.

     

    Ever Read Pet Semetary?




    FrankenweenieOn one hand, I read this story and I think "This can't be real. It's some sort of outlandish prank." But it seems to be real. So, I sit here and try to decide what to think about it, and I find myself dumbfounded. It just seems wrong on any number of levels. The concept of "playing God" seems to get tossed around an awful lot these days, with regard to stem cell research, cloning, etc... I agree that stem cell research, to the extent that it involves harvesting fetuses, is wrong. Human cloning seems wrong to me, too... but far to sci-fi a concept for me to have thought much about. Genetic engineering (the whole designer baby concept) seems wrong to me, too... but all of those issues are pale in comparison to this. If I saw a movie based on the premise that this was happening in labs today, I'd laugh it off as a flimsy premise... but it is happening in labs today! This is real! It's just beyond belief, at least in my opinion. If this isn't the absolute text book definition of "playing God," then I don't know what it is.


    Blood Swapping Reanimates Dead Dogs

    In a series of nightmarish experiments straight out of a horror flick, scientists at a leading university have killed dozens of dogs — then brought them back to life.

    The hapless pooches, who have their blood drained for up to three hours, are being reanimated in a bid to develop the use of suspended animation to help humans who are injured in combat or crime.

    "From our standpoint, we believe it's a very important area of research," said Dr. Patrick Kochanek (Read his biography) , director of the Safar Center for Resuscitation Research (search) at the University of Pittsburgh.


    So many horror novels come into my head. Pet Semetary, of course, and Frankenstein... and movies like Re-Animator and Night of the Living Dead and Flatliners.

    What's that line from Jurassic Park? Something like "You were so concerned with whether or not you could do it, you never stopped to ask yourself if you should do it."

    There are things worse than death. This is wrong.

    Monday, June 27, 2005

     

    Bitter In My Belly



    I went to the angel, telling him to give me the little book. He said to me, "Take it, and eat it up. It will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey. - Revelation 10:9

    I don't claim to have any serious understanding of the Revelation of St. John. Still, for whatever reason, that verse comes into my head when I read things like this:

    Rader calmly describes 10 BTK murders

    Dennis Rader pleaded guilty this morning to being Wichita's notorious BTK serial killer. In an extraordinary hearing, Rader said he killed because he wanted to fulfill sexual fantasies. He described the killings in detail in a voice devoid of emotion.

    He started by telling how he killed four members of the Otero family. After cutting the phone lines at the house, he nearly lost his nerve and left, he said, but "the door opened, and I was in."

    Thirty minutes into the hearing, he was still describing how he murdered the Oteros -- two adults and two children.

    In a matter-of-fact way throughout the proceeding, he talked of struggling with frantic victims, strangling them and photographing their bodies.

    He said he had "hit kits" to help him commit the crimes; in at least one case he carried supplies in a bowling bag.


    I oppose the death penalty. I believe... in fact, I know... that as a Christian, I have to oppose the death penalty. Saying that I oppose it sounds right. It feels right. In my mouth, the words are sweet. However, when I read things like that, those words are as bitter as Hell in my belly.

     

    The Peace MEME



    Here’s how the Peace MEME came to be (I won’t be furnishing links to the nasty parts in this post... anyone who really wants to see the gory details can dig around at this blog and at other blogs I link to and read all about it):

  • I posted a picture of a person and made fun of him.


  • Another blogger took exception to my remarks and posted a response.


  • A few bloggers, myself most definitely included, got into an increasingly ugly argument.


  • One other blogger and I got really cruddy with each other.


  • That other blogger and I subsequently made up in a touching, apology filled, slobbering hugfest via e-mail.


  • People started making up all over and playing nice again.


  • We all locked hands and sang "I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing"


  • The hostess of the other other blog told us we were all jerk-offs.


  • However, at some point along the way, MCF (another blogger, the voice of reason) changed the topic with what I’ve come to think of as the Peace MEME. As one of the bloggers who fought during the time of war, I think it behooves me to participate in the Peace MEME now that War is over. God bless the Peace MEME. Long may it’s tranquilizing effects bring men to lay down their arms.



    The Peace MEME



    Coke or Pepsi?
    Pepsi tastes better. It’s sweeter and doesn’t burn. But if you need to dissolve a few roofing nails and a pound of bacon over the weekend, it’s always Coca Cola.

    DC or Marvel?
    Marvel. It’s not even close. DC is a one trick pony; Batman is the only title they’ve got worth reading.

    Boxers or Briefs?
    Depends.

    Clinton or Bush?
    Look, pal, I think I’ve made it clear that I am loath to discuss politics at this blog.

    Ginger or Maryann?
    I put a lot of thought into this one. Finally, I went to Google Images, where I typed in “Maryann” and then typed in “Ginger.” I found this picture of Maryann and this picture of Ginger. I gotta give it to Maryann.

    Cats or Dogs?
    Dogs. Cat’s are devious, selfish, and, I’m convinced, clairvoyant.

    Tastes Great or Less Filling?
    Tastes great trumps less filling every time.

    Piercing Ears vs. Piercing Genitalia
    My left ear is pierced. Twice. I never wear ear-rings in it anymore, and chalk it up to being “18 and drunk,” nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more. As far as pierced genitalia, I gotta say that people who pierce their genitals are fr… uh, they’re expressing their aesthetic individuality.

    Wolverine or Lobo?
    Oh, Wolverine. Come on.

    Richard Simmons--straight or gay? Tom Cruise? Mike Piazza? TheWriteJerry?
    If Richard Simmons isn’t gay, he’s missing a golden opportunity. Tom Cruise might be bi, I dunno. I don’t really care, I’m a big fan of the guy’s acting either way. Mike Piazza, of course, is a flaming drag queen. The Write Jerry is as straight as a board and twice as smart. ;)

    Christianity, Judaism, Other, or None of the Above?
    Christianity. It’s based on a great book (the guy comes alive again at the end! It’s wonderful!)

    Godfather I or II?
    Godfather I, in spite of the wonderful performance by De Niro in the sequel.

    Hasselhoff or Shatner?
    As ballast? Either one will do.

    Star Wars or Star Trek?
    Star Wars by a nose. I’m not a fan of either, but have a higher tolerance for Star Wars.

    Yankees or Mets?
    Mets. The closest I’ve ever followed a baseball season was in ’85 (or was it ’86?) when Strawberry and the boys did me proud.

    Urkel or The Nanny?
    The Nanny has the better bod, but I gotta give it to Urkel for personality.

    Pullman or Paxton?
    Paxton.

    Demi or Deh-mee?
    Dummi.

    And finally, If a tree falls in the forest, DOES it make a sound?
    Nope. Never. Trees never make sounds. I refuse to believe otherwise. (Cover’s ears) LA LA LA LA LA! I CAN’T HEAR YOU!

    If you're reading this, consider yourself tagged... especially if you participated in WWIII, also known as The Tattoo Slugfest. ;)


     

    The Southern Liberal?



    Two issues where I find myself agreeing with the left:

    Issue one: The Supreme Court blew it on eminent domain. Actually, just about every person I've heard weigh in on this topic... be they liberal, conservative, or whatever... seems to agree. It paves the way to ruin.

    Issue two: flag burning. Yeah, I think you have to have rocks in your head to want to burn the flag... or, at least, you have to be incapable of expressing yourself in any meaningful way... but I still believe that one of the basic rights all Americans should have is the right to make an ass of yourself. Cox and Forkum, as they usually do, hit the nail on the head:




    Sunday, June 26, 2005

     

    Ooops, I Did It Again



    The other day, I posted this picture:




    I followed it with some snide but, I thought, fairly funny comments about the guy and his tattoos. I thought it was one of the most innocuous posts I’d ever put up at this blog. It never occurred to me that I’d be offending every reactionary on the internet. I have a couple of tattoos myself, so the it's not that I'm opposed to tattoos... I just think that the guy pictured above looks pretty darn goofy.

    The comments section at the original post is full of heated exchanges between me and other bloggers about the picture and my opinions. One other blogger, Meepers, (who’s blog I enjoy, by the way, even though I think she’s wrong about damn near everything) even posted an entire entry about the topic. Comments here and there as well indicate that just about everyone thinks I’m a closed-minded gargoyle with the rocks in my head.

    I guess offending people comes naturally to me. Nonetheless, I refuse to go the mea culpa route. I won’t back down. I think the guy looks like a freak. He probably wants people like me to think he looks like a freak. Big freakin’ deal.

    I’ve decided that, from now on, if I’m going to offend people, it will be intentionally.



    Kitten Stomping: I’m For It.



    The subject of kitten stomping doesn’t get near as much attention as it should these days. It seems that many people just aren’t willing to touch such a hot-button issue. Just about everyone has opinions about the issue, but there aren’t many people with the backbone to make their opinions public. I’m not one of those people. I’m in favor of stomping kittens.

    Look at these faces:












    They’re so cute. So innocent. So adorable. I think that the only rational reaction that a God-fearing, patriotic American can have to them is to want to stomp on them.

    If you’re opposed to stomping on kittens, you are a communist. If you’re opposed to stomping on kittens, you’re a Satan-worshiping, crack-smoking, flag-burning homo. If you don’t find great satisfaction in stomping on kittens, you are a coward, a liar, a jay-walker, and a mentally-retarded, tattooed, whore-mongering chronic masturbator who’s parents were never married.

    The best boots to wear for stomping on kittens are the ones below:




    Doc Martins: They hold up well, they’re rain proof, and they are steel toed. That is important, because kittens can scratch through regular boot toes and leave ugly scars.






    Black combat boots
    : Kitten gore washes away with little effort.






    Jackboots: If there is one boot made for oppression, this is the one. Kittens cower in fear when I put mine on.






    Woodsman boots: Sturdy, rugged, and heavy-treaded. Great for recreational kitten stomping, but strong enough for the professional kitten stomper as well.



    Kitten stomping is a a proud American tradition and a way of life. It can be traced back to the early 1300’s, when Christopher Columbus flew to America in the Space Shuttle and began the noble traditions of keeping down minorities, destroying the environment, forbidding gays to marry, and immunizing little babies against their will. Plus, kitten corpses can be recycled into oil byproducts for the benefit of Exxon and Coca Cola, so it is the right thing to do.

    Kitten stomping: I’m for it. Who’s with me?


    Thursday, June 23, 2005

     

    Sympathy for the Devil



    I can’t help but see a connection between these two stories.

    First there's this one:

    Ex-Klansman receives 60 years for three 1964 killings

    A judge sentenced Edgar Ray Killen, the Klansman convicted of manslaughter in the 1964 slayings of three civil rights workers, to the maximum term possible, 60 years in the state penitentiary.

    Circuit Court Judge Marcus Gordon ordered Killen, an 80-year-old Baptist preacher, to serve consecutive 20-year sentences for each victim slain by a Klan mob organized by Killen.


    Then there's this one:

    What makes an ex-dictator happy? Doritos

    Saddam Hussein loves Doritos, admires President Reagan and considers both Presidents Bush "no good."

    Those and other details of the deposed Iraqi leader's life in U.S. military custody appear in the July issue of GQ magazine, based on interviews with five Pennsylvania National Guardsmen who guarded Saddam for nearly 10 months.

    Saddam was friendly toward his young guards and sometimes offered fatherly advice. When (a guard named) O'Shea told him he was not married, Saddam "started telling me what to do," said the soldier. "He was like, 'You gotta find a good woman. Not too smart, not too dumb. Not too old, not too young. One that can cook and clean.'"


    The connection, I suppose is that both of these men seem old now… even innocuous to some degree. They seem harmless. Saddam Hussein comes off like a quirky oddball, and even seems almost grandfatherly. Edgar Killen is in a wheelchair and on oxygen. He’s ancient. He’s not going to hurt anyone, now.

    It’s easy to feel sympathy for them now.

    However, at one time, each of these men was young, full of life, and purely evil. Saddam Hussein has killed more people than we’ll ever know. Edgar Killen played an leading roll in the murder of civil rights workers because he didn’t agree with their beliefs and didn’t regard blacks as human.

    Remember that. Look at the old men they are now, but don’t forget the monsters they once were.

    The simple things have such a profound impact. I can't get my mind around the things that Saddam has done, the people he's killed. I can't imagine his crimes... but I can imagine a confused old man, sitting in a cell, chatting with his guards and enjoying Doritos. He's human to me, now. He genuinely is the monster I've always thought him to be... but he's a person to me now, too.

    These are the feelings, as hard to articulate as they may be, that cause me to oppose the death penalty even though almost every other conservative I know is in favor of it. It's a "culture of life" thing, I guess. I don't think we're allowed to kill. Period. No genocide, no homocide, no abortions, and no death penalty either.

    Don't forget what these guys have done, though. Don't ever stop seeing the whole picture. They must be punished for their crimes. They must be removed from society.

    I’m not saying that the sympathy we feel for these old men is bad. Our compassion, our ability to see them as humans with lives as valuable to God as our own, is the main thing that separates us from them.

    Wednesday, June 22, 2005

     

    Durbin Joins Fonda and Byrd in the Kinda-Sorta-Apology Department



    Tom over at Mud & Phud summed up the Durbin pseudo-apology pretty succinctly:

    ...he basically said: You know, some people are overly sensitive and causing me some real political problems. To you, I say, "Sorry"...but to everyone else I say, "Rock On! Fight the power! Impeach Bush!"

    Rock on, indeed.

    Tuesday, June 21, 2005

     

    And Then, There's This...



    Now and then, out of the blue, a photograph will pop up that just leaves me confused and scared. For instance:



    This is from a tattoo enthusiasts convention. The guy looks plenty weird enough to begin with, and the fact that he seems unhappy about having his tattoos photographed makes me wonder what he's doing with his shirt off at a tattoo enthusiasts convention in the first place.

    He's wearing orange eye shadow.

    He has the McDonnald Land characters and the golden arches tattooed on his chest. Below that, there's a big hamburger and some hotdogs or something that seem to still be in progress. If you look closely (and I understand if you'd rather not)you can see that his hotdog/hamburger motif is being applied to hide a South Park tattoo. (You can see Kenny in the background, there.)

    Wendy noticed that he also has Count Chocula and Booberry on his arms.

    I don't know what this fellow is trying to express, here... but what he is, in fact, expressing, is the following: I have stopped taking my meds.

    Somehow, my couple of small, easily hidden tattoos seem so conservative now.

    Monday, June 20, 2005

     

    Senator Robert C. Byrd, Exalted Cyclops



    Hot on the heels of Jane Fonda’s sort-of-almost-kind-of-an-apology in her recent autobiography, Democratic Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia laments in his new book that his past membership in the KKK is a matter of public record:

    "It has emerged throughout my life to haunt and embarrass me, and has taught me in a very graphic way what one major mistake can do to one's life, career and reputation," the West Virginia Democrat says in an autobiography being released Monday.

    “Haunted and embarrassed,” indeed. Have you ever been to West Virginia? Try to find two roads or bridges that aren’t named after Robert C. Byrd. You can’t. Oh, you CAN go to Beckley, West Virginia and cruise down Robert C. Byrd Drive, where, once you cross Robert C. Byrd Bridge, you can stop for a quick meal at the Robert C. Byrd Hardees. I recommend the Robert C. Burger, it’s delicious. And before you leave, be sure and visit the Robert C. Byrd Men’s Room and relieve yourself in one of the three Robert C. Byrd Urinals.

    Byrd was quite the lil' booster for the KKK, too:


    He recruited 150 members, and when Grand Dragon Joel L. Baskin came to a meeting in Crab Orchard, Byrd was unanimously elected Exalted Cyclops.

    "You have a talent for leadership, Bob," Baskin told him. "The country needs young men like you in the leadership of the nation."


    Leadership or not, Byrd definitely has a talent for getting pork barrel money into West Virginia and having things named after him. Maybe he can demonstrate that his regret about his past KKK membership is sincere by having a few West Virginia projects named after minority members. How about the George Lopez Dialysis Center? Maybe the OJ Simpson Anger Control Workshop? Or, possibly, the Michael Jackson Center for the Study of Repeat Sexual Offenders.


    Byrd says he never resented blacks, Catholics or Jews, but he failed to "examine the full meaning and impact of the ugly prejudice behind the positive, pro-American veneer."

    Oh, yeah… that’s believable. If there’s one thing the KKK is known for, it’s their patriotism. Hell, when someone says KKK, the first things that come to my mind are mom, apple pie, and Ol’ Glory. Why, I don’t think about white supremacists! I don’t think about cowards who hide behind hoods while they murder, torture, and destroy! Of course not! I think about the 4th of July.

    Speaking of the 4th, since he’s so patriotic, maybe Senator Byrd can arrange for some federal dollars to be sent to the mountain state next month. Just picture it... the Robert C. Byrd Statewide Fireworks Extravaganza! If not, I'm sure Byrd can always arrange for a few cross burnings. The very idea makes me proud to be an American. As they say in West Virginia, "Yeee Ha!"


    Sunday, June 19, 2005

     

    A Sign Of Better Times?



    Hat tip, Solomonia:

    Iran holds a presidential election on Friday under international scrutiny over its nuclear programme, its rocky relationship with the United States and the direction the Islamic Republic will take after the presidency of reformist Mohammad Khatami.

    But, here's the kicker... look at this Iranian woman's shirt:





    Saturday, June 18, 2005

     

    Bad PETA! No Treat! Bad, BAD PETA!



    Hat tip, Weapons of Mass Distraction, news item from CNN:

    AHOSKIE, North Carolina (AP) -- Two employees of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have been charged with animal cruelty after dumping dead dogs and cats in a shopping center garbage bin, police said.

    Investigators staked out the bin after discovering that dead animals had been dumped there every Wednesday for the past four weeks, Ahoskie police said in a prepared statement Thursday.

    PETA has scheduled a news conference for Friday in Norfolk, Virginia, where the group is based.

    Police found 18 dead animals in the bin and 13 more in a van registered to PETA. The animals were from animal shelters in Northampton and Bertie counties, police said.



    Stupid, stupid, stupid PETA.

     

    Oh, Those Horrid, Horrid Ruffians!



    What else have those terrible, abusive guards at Gitmo been up to? Here's a partial list of some of their latest offenses:

  • did not share the only copy of Tony Hawk Pro Skater for PlayStation


  • borrowed musical albums yet did not return them


  • did not support the writing ambitions of one very talented terrorist author even though he is really really good


  • ate entire box of Triscuits even though "al-Qahtani" was clearly written on it


  • tipped consistently below 18% when eating out causing acute embarrassment to the fragile sensibilities of at least 5 enemy combatants


  • forced prisoners to wear white shoes after Labor Day


  • See the whole list at one of my favorite blogs, Where Have You Gone, Ronald Reagan?

    Thursday, June 16, 2005

     

    Abortion Beyond the Pale



    Derek at Weapons of Mass Distraction clued me in to this. You might not want to read this if you are sensitive to horribly graphic, grizzly stories. This is just so hard to believe:

    A Kansas City abortionist is out of business after investigators discovered a grisly house of horrors at his clinic – with fetuses kept in Styrofoam cups in his refrigerator and one employee accusing him of microwaving one and stirring it into his lunch.


    I don’t even know what to say. It's like a nightmare.

     

    A Soldier's Blog



    Check out A Soldier’s Blog, the web journal of Shawn Richardson, who is a Christian, husband, brother, son, and Soldier, stationed in Iraq. It’s really remarkable.

    I am so sick and tired of hearing the brave men and women in the American military slammed in the press. These guys are risking so much for something they really believe in. Meanwhile, the soft, pasty-white, collegiate leeches in the media are busy focusing on supposed Koran mishandling at Gitmo, prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, military recruitment problems… basically anything they can come up with to make our soldiers look bad. I can’t remember the last time I saw a legitimate story designed to pay tribute to our men and women overseas. Even on Memorial Day, the media tributes I saw were spun so that they not-so-subtly criticized the war effort. It makes me sick.

    Shawn Richardson’s blog affords a real look at the life of a soldier who lives and works in Iraq, and deals daily with things that are remote to the rest of us. This is compelling stuff… he isn’t talking about Iraq academically or hypothetically. He lives there. This is his world.

    Here’s a brief passage about handing out toys and school supplies to Iraqi children:

    Fair is not something that these kids are used to and they appeared to not care if their playmate got nothing, and they got multiple items. It could be that all kids are like that while in a frenzy. I guess I should analyze my childhood before I slam these kids for being selfish. All kids seem to be selfish at one point in their lives, and these kids definitely have more of a right to be than I ever had.


    God bless him and every man and woman who has so much on the line overseas. Their sacrifices are unimaginable to the rest of us, and their journeys will continue long after they get home. They need and deserve our prayers, support, and admiration.

    Click the snapshot of the blog below to read that story. And, the blog regularly. It’s really something.






    Wednesday, June 15, 2005

     

    Wayfaring Strangers, Part 18



    (Wayfaring Strangers is a continuing series about our experiences as my wife and I study to convert to Catholicism.)

    Aquinas, Plato, Aristotle, and a Side Order of Nietzsche

    I haven't posted a Wayfaring Strangers entry in a while because I've been waiting to come up with something conclusive to post about what I've been reading. In the last episode, I had been reading Thomas Aquinas, trying to further my understanding of Catholicism by studying the theology of this sainted philosopher's Summa Theologica. Aquinas's work was heavily philosophical and daunting, so I decided to go back further and learn something about the Greek philosophers who'd influenced him; namely, Aristotle (who's work had been something of a template for Aquinas) and Plato, who'd taught Aristotle. Along the way, I took a quick look at Friedrich Nietzsche, who's work I'd tried to understand when I was young, confident, impressionable, agnostic, and desperate to be an "independent deep thinker."

    After all this reading, I have something conclusive to report: I can report that I have concluded that all of this philosophy I've been reading has been a fun, irrelevant distraction. It's been a little illuminating, I guess, to really take in these influential perspectives... but it's been a side-bar item, at best, and contributed little to my study of Catholicism in specific, or my spiritual development in general. I think it's time to get back to the Bible.

    However, since I have done this studying, and since I do have some ideas about what I've read, I'll go ahead and post a bit.

    Plato




    Play-Doh PlatoPlato's philosophy IS very useful to me as a Christian, actually... although it seems now that I've been "Platonic" in my thought processes without even realizing it. I'd probably have continued to be so if I'd never read anything about Plato. It is easy to see his clinical influence on the theologians I love. Plato's ideas about "the Good," and his beliefs about the virtues of wisdom, temperance, courage and justice, fit perfectly into a Christian belief system. In fact, you could almost think of him as a pre-Christ Christian. I like his geometric approach to virtue. It's something like this: Even if humans hadn't stumbled across the concept of a circle, the idea of a circle, the perfect, ideological form of a circle, would still exist, independent of our awareness of it. The same is true of virtues like justice. Even if a person or a society is totally unjust, the virtue of justice still exist. From evidence in our lives and the fact that we are drawn to virtues like justice naturally, Plato theorized that life was dualistic... that our spiritual lives were as real as our physical ones. Of course, that agrees with Christianity. I also like Plato's illustration of human existence as "a man in the cave," seeing only shadows on the cave walls. Plato believed that the journey to real truth was like the slow, arduous, dangerous journey out of a dark cave. Many people... most, in fact... are simply unwilling to make that journey. Plato also believed that we are the product of conscious design, which jibes with Christianity, of course. I don't think his "great society" idea was anything more than idealistic dreaming, even if it was the headiest, smartest kind... and I think that Plato probably knew that, too. That kind of society isn't obtainable in this life. Still, Plato's methods are important to Christian philosophy, and contain early blueprints for a basic Christian life.

    Aristotle




    Play-Doh PlatoAristotle was a student of Plato's who studied his teacher's ideas intensely and decided that a great many of them were off base. If I understand his work, he felt that Plato's ideas about abstract forms were too academic to be of any real value, and that it was almost a waste of time to contemplate them. It might be fair to argue that Aristotle was more "pro-active" than Plato, or at least more concerned with the physical world than his master had been. Aristotle zeroed in on ideas about God that were, by and large, harmonious with the Judeo-Christian ideas about God. It's easy to see how his work and methods would have influenced Aquinas. I like Aristotle's ideas about form and matter, and how pleasure and happiness are rarely the same thing. I also draw a lot of comfort out of his ideas that everything in the world is naturally drawn to God, and that we have to behave counter to our best interest and natural inclinations in order to draw ourselves away from God. It was probably inevitable, in fact, that he'd be a favorite of Aquinas's. He took Plato to a higher level, made his master's philosophy more "practical" and less purely academic. If it weren't for Aristotle, I doubt that Plato would have ultimately influenced Christian philosophy as much as he has.

    Aquinas




    Play-Doh PlatoWhen I last wrote about Aquinas, I wrote that I was having trouble understanding a lot of what I'd read by him. He was a bulky writer. His masterpiece, the Summa Theologica, is longer than the complete works of Aristotle, in fact. What I like about Aquinas is that he was very clinical. Not "academic," so to speak, but very clinical in his approach. Thanks to a very elementary text that I read, I have a better understanding of the metaphysics behind Aquinas's "five proofs of God," and I think that they're all as sound and valid as I could have wanted them to be. The fact that I am a professing Christian who is still looking for "proofs of God," however, is another matter. It might be an indication that I'll spend the rest of my life fighting doubts. I hope not. It isn't really necessary for me to cover this ground again and again. I'm trying to really decide if I keep covering this ground repeatedly because I just like doing it, or if I have some larger internal doubts that I have to address.

    The big lightning bolt that struck me from Aquinas's work, however, was his ideas about the division between the intellect and the soul. Aquinas believed and taught that the intellect exists independent of the soul. He believed that it is possible in a single person for one (the soul or intellect)to be corrupt and the other healthy. I believe that myself, and it is also a fundamental belief of Catholicism. From my readings, I've learned that many protestant churches do not believe that. It seems that many protestant churches do believe that the intellect and the soul are connected, and that if the soul is corrupted, the intellect will naturally suffer and deteriorate. I don't know specifically which protestant churches believe that, I haven't had much luck in tracking down that info. In any case, I have to say that I agree with the Catholic church on this one. It's yet another sign that Catholicism is the faith for me. I do believe that it is possible to have a terribly injured and neglected soul and still have a brilliant intellect. Which brings me to the next guy:


    Nietzsche



    When I was young, I was desperate to understand Nietzsche. He seemed like the "cool" philosopher, and I believed that if I read his work and understood it, the people I admired would admire me, too.

    I mentioned that I was just a kid, right? Teens and early 20's. What did I know?

    Nietzsche was an atheist and a philosopher... sort of... who believed that life was pointless, that there was no God and no hope, and that the best thing a person could do was accept that and find their own belief system and rely on it entirely. He believed that morals were a lie, and that people who tried to live their lives by moral guidelines where "slaves." He believed that the only people who were masters of their own lives... supermen, as he called them... were those who'd shaken off ideas about morality and were living in the moment, focused on their own self interest. Nietzsche believed that each person had their own perspective, and that each person's perspective was as valuable and "real" as anyone else's. He believed that the only things that are actually "good" are those things that lead to each individual's happiness, and that ideas like "absolute good" were "lies" and "errors."

    I know all of this because I've just read a text about Nietzsche. It's almost impossible to understand his beliefs by reading his writing itself. Nietzsche seemed to enjoy playing games with his readers, and wrote in a subversive style that read like crack-head poetry or the bizarre ranting of A.A. Milne on acid.

    In fact, I think that's the best way to describe Nietzsche and his pithy sayings and self-congratulatory ideas. He was like a product of A.A. Milne on acid... sort of an evil Winnie the Pooh, designed to appeal to Christopher Robins who've shaken off their dependence on the original Pooh and are looking for a new stuffed animal.



    Nietzsche's ideas didn't even agree with themselves. For instance, if the best thing you can do is to adopt your own belief system and live by it, wouldn't the person who adamantly believes in God in the face of an atheistic society be as much a "master of his own life" as anyone else? And for that matter, if each person's perspective is as much a "reality" as anyone else's, wouldn't the perspective of a devoutly religious person be as real as Nietzsche's atheistic perspective? And, for that matter, if ideas about "absolute good" are "lies" and "errors," wouldn't there be a "truth" and a "correctness" to compare them to? Nietzsche's ideas didn't stand up when compared to themselves, much less to any other philosophers. The poor guy died insane and penniless in his 50's.

    It's easy to see why Nietzsche would appeal to young know-it-alls, like I used to be... even if I couldn't understand him, myself. At this point I'd submit that nobody can really understand him, but since his ideas are all impossible to understand, anyone who wants to can argue that they get it and anyone who doesn't get it is simply ignorant of the truth. Whatever. I have to believe that Nietzsche's ideas weren't real philosophy, they were simply his attempt to destroy all the philosophy and theology that came before him and maybe gain some fame and make a little money along the way. Nonetheless, I am glad that I went back and finally figured out where I stand on the guy.

    So, anyway, there's the grand results of my philosophical side-trip. Not much else to report. As far as what I'll be reading next, I'm ready to get back in the Bible itself. With regard to Catholicism, I have pretty much accepted and embraced a lot of the church's teachings. I believe in transubstantiation and in purgatory, and I've pretty much come around on birth control, as well. I've agreed with the Catholic church on the death penalty and abortion and other "culture of life" issues for some time now. I've still not found any personal satisfaction on the issues of Mary's assumption or coronation. Those are the areas that I need to be working on. Will I come to believe them or won't I? I still can't say for sure. We'll see.


    Tuesday, June 14, 2005

     

    Producing Produce



    Summer backyard vegetable gardening passes in three stages:

  • 01) When will those plants finally produce?


  • 02) Oh, good, those plants are starting to produce!


  • 03) Good grief, what are we going to do with all these (tomatoes/squash/cucumbers/whatever)??!?


  • We've just entered stage two:

    Tomatoes! Tomatoes! About a month to go and then ... mmmmm...



    The peas, of course, are going to be the first thing we pick n' eat. We can't wait, especially Wendy, who loves fresh peas.



    There is nothing like putting a little brown seed in the ground, seeing a tiny little green thing poke up a week or two later, watching it grow, and then getting fat on it's life's work. Ah, gardening. Life is good.

     

    Not Losing Sleep About "Koran Abuse"



    Max Boot, as usual, is informative and concise:

    All the headlines about “Abuse of the Koran at Gitmo” are absolutely accurate. Brig. Gen. Jay Hood’s internal investigation has uncovered some shocking incidents. On at least six occasions, Korans were ripped up. They were urinated on three times, and attempts were made to flush them down the toilet at least three other times.

    Why aren’t millions of Muslims rioting in response to these defilements? Because the perpetrators were prisoners, not guards. As John Hinderaker notes on weeklystandard.com, the most serious desecrations of the Koran at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility were committed by the Muslim inmates themselves.


    The bold emphasis above was mine. But, wait... read on...

    At Gitmo, personnel receive instructions: “Do not disrespect the Koran (let it touch the floor, kick it, step on it).” They must “handle the Koran as if it were a fragile piece of delicate art.” This means ensuring “that the Koran is not placed in offensive areas such as the floor, near the toilet or sink, near the feet, or dirty/wet area.” Only Muslim chaplains and interpreters are actually supposed to touch a Koran, and then only if wearing clean latex gloves. Moreover: “Two hands will be used at all times when handling the Koran in a manner signaling respect and reverence...."

    Some of the most inflammatory allegations, such as guards flushing a Koran, appear to be the result of unsubstantiated rumors spread by inmates who may have been following al-Qaida instructions to falsely claim mistreatment. Or maybe they were simply trying to deflect blame for all the Korans they were mutilating on their own.

    Too bad Islamic states such as Saudi Arabia, far from handing out Bibles at government expense, make it a crime to possess that holy book. Too bad Islamic fanatics have no compunction about blowing up churches and synagogues and slaughtering Christians and Jews. Too bad the murderous intolerance of Sunni terrorists extends to Shiite “idolaters” as well.


    Read the whole article. It's worth your time.

    Sunday, June 12, 2005

     

    Got Google?



    I think this is kinda cool, although, admittedly, I'm easy to amuse. Google has picked up our family homepage we started a few days ago. If you go to Google and search for us, it'll tell you where we are. Gnarly.

    Saturday, June 11, 2005

     

    I Am A Sheep



    Just following the herd, doing another MEME:

    TEN Words you love to say:
    Dichotomy, Apologetics, Aesthetics, Derivative, Influx, Mandarin, Grandiose, Hubris, Onomatopoeia, Obfuscation


    NINE Guiltiest pleasures:
    Doritos, Butterfinger Crisp, violent video games, American Idol, Meat Loaf (the musician), meat loaf (the food), scaring my wife when she doesn’t know I’m in the room, my pointlessly ornate vocabulary, cleavage


    EIGHT Favorite items to wear (clothes or otherwise):
    pants, belt, shirts, underwear, socks, shoes, glasses, wedding band



    SEVEN Sexiest celebrities:

    Tyra Banks, Kelly Rowland, Halle Berry, Vivica A. Fox, Jada Pinkett Smith, Naomi Campbell, Nell Carter



    SIX Most irritating celebrities:

    Janeane Garofalo, Barbra Streisand, Al Franken, Courtney Love, Whitney Houston, Bobby Brown


    FIVE Favorite things about summertime:
    Summer visitation with my son, fresh vegetables, summer movies, longer daylight, theme parks



    FOUR Books you've read most recently:

    Oh, for pity’s sake, see my book MEME


    THREE Words you've been meaning to look up (and their meanings, if you're ambitious):
    -Paradigm - One that serves as a pattern or model (I was right)
    -Preominate - To ominate beforehand (I was right again)
    -Uvula - A small mass of tissue suspended from the soft palate (I was WAY off base)


    TWO Funniest gifts you've been given:
    - Monty Python’s “The Meaning of Life”
    - “Primary Colors” (I’d asked for “Wag The Dog”)



    ONE thing you both fear and find wildly intriguing:

    Death

    Friday, June 10, 2005

     

    Historic Oakland Grove Presbyterian Church



    About half a mile from our house, there's an ancient church in disrepair. Oakland Grove Presbyterian Church was used as a makeshift hospital during the Civil War, and the surrounding grave yard is the final resting place of many men who died in the war. The site is a Virginia Historic Landmark, and it's a shame that it's in this shape. Then again, it's as much my responsibility to take care of it as it is anyone's, I suppose.

    Sometimes, fresh eyes can make something familiar seem new again. Wendy, who didn't grow up around here, is a little fascinated with the church. Yesterday, she went down there and took a number of pictures, and then experimented with the tint and hues on the PC. I was surprised at how compelling they were when she was through. This is what I think of when I think southern gothic, and it made me appreciate the old church more than I had.

    Click the picture below to see the photos and story at her blog.





    William Faulkner might be proud of her work.

    Thursday, June 09, 2005

     

    Working on our Family Home Page



    We've been adding stuff to our new family home page, including a family photo album, if you care to check it out.

    Wednesday, June 08, 2005

     

    Our New Family Site Thing



    Wendy and I checked into registering a domain name, and we couldn't believe how cheap it is now. And it's so cheap to get some server space, too. Since blogging and internet stuff is the main hobby that Wendy and I share, we decided to go ahead and grab an easy to remember domain name and get a little server space.

    Made up of the first three letters of my name and the first three letters of hers, our URL is a no-brainer. There isn't much there yet... mostly just links to bring you right back here... but check out darwen.us sometime if you're of a mind to.

     

    Man With Bloody Chain Saw Let in to U.S.



    This is NOT a sick joke.
    This is REAL
    .



    BOSTON - On April 25, Gregory Despres arrived at the U.S.-Canadian border crossing at Calais, Maine, carrying a homemade sword, a hatchet, a knife, brass knuckles and a chain saw stained with what appeared to be blood. U.S. customs agents confiscated the weapons and fingerprinted Despres. Then they let him into the United States.

    The following day, a gruesome scene was discovered in Despres' hometown of Minto, New Brunswick: The decapitated body of a 74-year-old country musician named Frederick Fulton was found on Fulton's kitchen floor. His head was in a pillowcase under a kitchen table. His common-law wife was discovered stabbed to death in a bedroom.

    Despres, 22, immediately became a suspect because of a history of violence between him and his neighbors, and he was arrested April 27 after police in Massachusetts saw him wandering down a highway in a sweat shirt with red and brown stains. He is now in jail in Massachusetts on murder charges, awaiting an extradition hearing next month.


    Read the whole story.

    Look at the guy! Good grief! He shouldn't have been let in if he'd turned up at the border armed only with a bouquet of roses and a mandolin.

    I don't usually say things like this, but somebody needs to lose their job over this. Somebody screwed up bad, either on the policy level or on the immediate decision-making level, and they need to be fired. Entire bus-loads of people probably need to be fired over this.

    OH, and get this...This is the part that blows my mind TOTALLY (if it wasn't blown already):

    Police believe the dispute between the neighbors boiled over in the early-morning hours of April 24, when Despres allegedly broke into Fulton's home and stabbed to death the musician and 70-year-old Veronica Decarie.

    Fulton's daughter found her father's body two days later. His car was later found in a gravel pit on a highway leading to the U.S. border. Despres hitchhiked to the border crossing.


    That's right, he HITCHHIKED to the border, bringing along his BLOODY CHAINSAW, HOMEMADE SWORD, HATCHET, KNIFE, AND BRASS KNUCKLES.

    Somebody saw him walking along with his big bag o' fun and said "Ya know, I could use some company on this ride. HE looks like a great conversationalist."



    Hat tip to Swimming in Champaign for the story. I also blame Swimming in Champaign for the nightmares that are bound to plague me over this.

    (OK, now for the sick joke.)

    This guy also needs to be sued for ripping off the look of the punk band, The Misfits:



    And, totally off topic, check out Sean at Swimming in Champaign's profile. He does the questionnaire from "Inside the Actor's Studio." Megacool.

    Tuesday, June 07, 2005

     

    Photoblog: Gardening For By Dummies And Other Off-Topic Adventures



    Wendy and I love gardening. We LOVE it, and we refuse to be hindered by the fact that we have no idea what we’re doing.

    Last spring, we decided to make a couple of flower beds around the side of the house where there was basically nothing ornamental. We put out hostas and daylilies because we’d read on the internet that they’re hearty plants, that they thrive in poor soil and low sunlight, and that you can’t kill them without napalm. We figured they were the perfect plants for people like us, who’s thumbs aren’t as green as we’d like.

    What they don’t tell you on the internet is that the second year, when the plants come back, they’re roughly five bazillion percent larger than they were the first year. So the cute little hostas and daylilies were spaced so well and seemed so unimposing last year are now huge, gargantuan vegi-monsters, competing with each other for limited space.



    ”A little elbow room here, fellas!”



    I haven’t seem a crowd packed this tight and looking this uncomfortable since my last Metallica concert.




    Wendy is all about the flowers, I’m all about the vegetables. My reasoning being that you can’t (or shouldn’t) eat flowers. We’ve got little space for veggie gardening, so we use the back perimeter of our chain-link fence for growing foodstuffs.



    There’s nothing prettier to the horticultural epicure than the first tomato blooms of the season.






    The squash, which we planted from seed, is doing well, too.






    This is a pea blossom, and I kinda like this photo.






    Getting off topic, this is a woodpecker who was busy working away at something in a telephone poll during a pouring rain. I kinda admired his work ethic.






    Now, totally off topic, this is a picture of my stepson, Liam, who I call ”Leeman,” for reasons I can no longer remember. Liam is famous around these parts for his “Liamisms,” some of which seem absurd and some of which have a zen-like quality about them. For instance:

    Me: “Liam, I couldn’t understand what you just said.”
    Liam: “That’s because I was talking in cursive.”

    Wendy: “Liam, what do you want for your birthday?”
    Liam: “I can’t tell you, or it won’t be a surprise.”

    Us: “Liam, what would you like for Christmas?”
    Liam: (Look of intense concentration) “Soup.”

    One day, from the back seat, he announced that he'd changed his name to Leslie Littleworm. It must be from a cartoon or something, he was totally oblivious to where or how he came up with the name. Whatever the source, Google knows nothing about it. We're pretty sure that's not a nickname he'd like to have follow him to high school.

    The other day, on the way home from Wal-Mart, Liam and my son were jabbering away in the back seat and Wendy and I were discussing groceries up front. We got on the topic of bologna, and we noticed that, in the back seat, Liam had started repeating a little song that went “Eatin’ Bologna, Eatin’ Bologna,”.

    Then he started modifying the color... “Eatin’ Red Bologna, Eatin’ Blue Bologna,”.

    Then, he started modifying the verb... Throwin’ Green Bologna,” etc.

    Then, he found a combination that, for some reason, he really liked... and you can imagine the horror we felt when we realized that, for some reason, he was repeating over and over again “Pump The Black Bologna, Pump The Black Bologna, Pump The Black Bologna...”

    Those lyrics might be appropriate for Ja Rule, but we moved to quickly silence his artistic expression. Call us closed minded if you must.

    By the way, here's a cool set of pics (a bit odd, but cool) at another blog. Check 'em out.



     

    Shingles Sucks Part II: Learning About Pain



    The other day, I wrote that my experience with shingles has been somewhat mild, compared to many people. Some people go through an absolute hell dealing with the disease; especially elderly people. For older folks, shingles can turn into a condition called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), which is basically a lifetime of constant pain caused by the shingles-related nerve damage.

    For me, the pain is different every day… sometimes every hour. I didn’t go to work Sunday, I just spent the day hanging out, playing video games, and munching on Vicodin. Vicodin seems to help, one dose Sunday morning lasted a long time… but it makes me pretty groggy, and I can’t take it and go to work. Last evening, the pain was just kind of a dull ache, so I decided to take Motrin with me and return to work, hoping for the best.

    About two hours after I got to work, once things got busy, the pain kicked in pretty hard. It was a burning, tingling pain, and it was pretty constant for a long part of the night.

    I’ll try to rank the pain of shingles on a personal pain scale from one to ten. For context, a one would be someone stepping on my toe. The two things that come to mind for a ten are when I had a catheter removed after surgery, and when I got a third degree burn last autumn and they scrubbed it at the hospital. I’d rather go through almost anything than go through a “ten” again. Anyway, I’d say that the pain of shingles, at it’s worst, is a five or a six. The thing that makes it so bad is that it’s unpredictable and pretty constant when it kicks in. It’s a burning pain, and when it fades, it just fades to that dull ache I mentioned above. The ache is a paradise compared to the burning.

    I’m kind of a crybaby when it comes to pain, and I can end up getting stomach-aches and head-aches because I stress about it. I only make things worse on myself by doing that, I know.

    So I have three things to be hopeful about on the horizon: One is that shingles usually doesn’t come back once you beat it. The second thing is that, if it does come back, there are techniques that can be learned for dealing with chronic pain. I think I’m going to be part of the lucky majority and not have to worry about it again, but if it comes back worse, there are people who can help me deal with the pain. Thank God for them, and God bless them for what they do.

    But the third thing I’m happy about is the advent of a new shingles vaccine, which will hopefully eradicate this damn ailment off the face of the earth. If you’re eligible for the vaccine, you ought to look into it. Shingles is no fun, and it’s worth your time to avoid it if you can.

    This could end up being my "cause." A lot of people have a "cause," typically related to a personal experience of some sort. Maybe I'll become the anti-shingles guy. Point me in the direction of the pro-shingles guy, so he and I can have it out.

     

    Check Out Peachwater, Tx



    Along with a very readable blog, Peachwater, Tx has a set of outstanding photos that I recommend taking a look at. My favorite of them is below, and you can click it to visit the Peachwater photography archive.





    Thanks to Jeff, the webmaster, for giving me permission to republish that beautiful shot at this blog.

     

    Fellow Bloggers, Can You Relate?



    This made me laugh out loud.

    Monday, June 06, 2005

     

    Wrong Line of Work



    I'm in the wrong line of work. I should have been a rollercoaster designer.

    I'd love to get paid to design rollercoasters.

    I'd be happy to get paid just to ride roller coasters.

    Heck, for that matter, I'd be happy just to get paid to sit here and play Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 all day.

    Check out the view from some of my killer rides, dude.

    ....
    ....

     

    One Year Of Blogging



    Wow. What a year. Blogging has turned out to be a lot of fun; a new hobby that I just might have for the rest of my life… or at least, for some time to come.

    I started this blog a year ago today. I was just one of the many people caught up in the fanatical nature of the presidential campaign, and my friends and family were tired of me ranting and raving about my opinions. I decided to start a blog where I could rant and rave at will, surrounded by other ranters and ravers who wouldn’t mind me on my soap box, since they were on theirs, as well.

    After the election, I lost interest in blogging for a while. I’d been blogging pretty much exclusively about the election, and there simply wasn’t anything to talk about. I didn’t post a single entry in the month of December.

    Then, during the post holiday blahs, looking for something to do to entertain myself, I found my way back to the blog.

    I just started blogging about whatever. The notion of staying on topic was gone, at least to the degree that I’d thought that politics would be the topic of my blog. Now the topic of my blog was me. Just whatever I felt like writing about. To my surprise, there’ve been a few people who’ve actually been interested.

    Thanks to everyone who’s left comments, good or bad, and to everyone who’s sent me e-mail or forwarded a link, or been kind enough to blogroll me. I hope I’ve repaid the favors in turn, and if I haven’t, let me know. I promise you, if I owe you a link, the negligence on my part is due to absent-mindedness, not due to apathy.




    Now, if you’ll excuse the further tooting of my own horn, I’d like to propose a list of what I think have been my best blog entries over the past year.

    The Ego Has Landed (June 6, 2004)

    My very first blog entry, a year ago today. I pretty much spilled my guts in this one, spelled out my political stance, and hinted at my religious beliefs. I continue to link to this one at the top of my right column as my “mission statement.”

    Bowling For Complicity: Liberals and Michael Moore (June 7, 2004)

    Day two of blogging and I was already attacking Michael Moore. This is the summation of the things I’d been saying about Moore since before I started blogging. I hope you don’t mind me patting myself on the back a little when I point out that I was right about the election, and I maintain that I was right about the role Moore played in it.

    The War On Reverence (June 30, 2004)

    My first reference to my hero, C.S. Lewis, and a subconscious indication of how my thinking is influenced by Plato, and, ultimately (I hope), by Jesus Christ. It’s interesting to me to look back on this and realize that, while I clearly understood that I didn’t fit in with the liberals, I didn’t yet realize that I don’t really fit in with the neocons, either. Yet, it’s obvious by what I wrote that, subconsciously, my personal beliefs were having less and less in common with many of today’s conservatives. As of now, a year later, I find myself to be, politically, a fish out of water… or a fish with no pond I belong in, other than the Christian church. When I look back over this particular essay, it’s easy to see my ideas beginning to evolve.

    My Fahrenheit Incident (July 13, 2004)

    In which I get into a public shouting match outside a theater. Yep, I’m a model of decorum.

    Election Day and DOOM 3 (November 2, 2004)

    Nobody else seems to like it, but I still think the clickable graphic I came up with at the bottom of this page is hilarious.

    Homespun Symposium XII (Week of February 7, 2005)

    The one time I’ve participated in the weekly symposium at Homespun Bloggers lead to a lot of debate between me and another blogger. I think Tom and I both argued our points as well as either of us could, and I hope the debate was as informative and positive as it could have been.

    Grammys, Schammys (February 15, 2005)

    The feedback I got on this photo captioning send-up indicates that it went over well with at least a few people.

    Coffee 101 (March 18, 2005)

    There are few things in life that I am as passionate about as I am about the proper way to brew a good cup of coffee.

    What Happened at the Hospital (April 5, 2005)

    This is a true story. None of the names have been changed to protect the innocent. In retrospect, I’d like to congratulate Wal-Mart on the tenacity of their anti-shoplifting devices.

    $50,000 Cash or the Bunny Dies! (April 20, 2005)

    My friend Brian maintains that this is the funniest thing I’ve ever done or said. That is a good indication that Brian is as sick and twisted as I am.

    American Idol: A Sentimental Look (Yaaaaawn) Back (May 25, 2005)

    Another attempt to write something funny that seems to have actually worked out fairly well, based on the feedback.

    Wayfaring Strangers (Ongoing)

    Some of the most honest and personal stuff I’ve ever written.




    Thanks again to everyone who has stopped by the blog, left a kind word (or an unkind word, for that matter), sent an e-mail or added me to their blogroll. It’s hard for me to believe that I’ve had close to 11,000 hits since I added the counter in August of last year. That’s small potatoes for a lot of bloggers, but a mindblower for me.


    Sunday, June 05, 2005

     

    Tagged by MCF; A Good Topic



    MCF invited me to participate in this MEME topic, and I thought it looked pretty good, so here goes:

    Total Books Owned, Ever:

    No clue. Not the first clue. Bunches and bunches and piles and gobs o’ books.


    Last Book I Bought:

    Selected Writings by Thomas Aquinas (compiled by Ralph McInerny)

    Last Book I Read:

    I am usually simultaneously reading one to three books at any given time. Right now I’m reading a text on Plato, the Aquinas book mentioned above, and I’ve been reading a little of the first chapter of Wendy’s copy of Master of Space and Time by Rudy Rucker. I think it will be the next book I read, just to take a break with something light.

    However, I suppose that the last book I actually completed was The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

    Five Books that Mean A Lot To Me:

    There’s no way I can limit myself to five. I can do ten, though… and in no particular order, they are:

  • The Bible

  • ‘Nuff said.

  • Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

  • My textbook for life.

  • A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis

  • This lends so much balance to the confidence and surety that C.S. Lewis wrote his early theology with. Lewis could expound on pain, loss, grief, and fear, but he’d not dealt much with those things personally. When his wife died painfully of cancer after only a few brief years of marriage, Lewis suddenly found himself living a life that had only been a theoretical, academic idea to him before. This diary (which he wrote without ever intending to publish) is the most compelling, personal glimpse of a man I’ve ever read. It brings tears to my eyes, and restores my hope in the face of any darkness.

  • Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis

  • The masterpiece of Jack’s fiction. It’s beautiful, startling, breath-taking. I can’t recommend it enough.

  • The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (if I had to pick one of the seven chronicles, it would be The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.)

  • It’s hard to pick one. The first one, LWW, does stand out, though. If I had to take only one volume from the series to read again, that would be it.

    A note to parents or anyone who hasn't read the Chronicles... the reason I didn't include a link to any of the bound volumes of all seven books, or any of the boxed sets, is because the Harper Collins editions have the books IN THE WRONG ORDER. They begin with The Magician's Nephew because it is the origins story. However, The Magicians Nephew is the SIXTH of the SEVEN BOOKS and must be read sixth in the series! Harper Collins is messing with the sequence of the books in a criminal, unexcusable way. Buy Paul Ford's wonderful, brilliant Companion to Narnia, which details the proper order to read the books in. You'll be glad that you read them in the proper order when you're done, and Ford's book is a wonderful resource and source of fun in and of itself, as well.

  • Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

  • So funny, so dark, so cynical, so angry. It was something of a bible to me during my “angry young man” years, and I still enjoy it.

  • The Shining by Stephen King

  • His masterpiece. He never wrote this well again. If his work is remembered 100 years from now, this is the book that people will still read. By the way, avoid the Kubrick movie like the plague. It gives away just enough of the book to ruin it for a potential reader, and yet strays so far from the story itself that it basically just ruins it. This is, to my knowledge, the only time a Kubrick movie fell short.

  • Maximum Bob by Elmore Leonard

  • Pure pulp, pure enjoyment. I grin from the first page to the last.

  • Communion by Whitley Strieber

  • The scariest book I’ve ever read. This book still gives me nightmares. It’s about alien abduction, a topic I always thought was a little silly before I read this book. My friend Jamie dared me to read it, assuring me that it would scare me. I read it to prove him wrong, and instead, I proved him right. This book terrifies me. It made my list purely on the strength of Strieber’s prose. It’s scary, scary stuff.

  • Modern Manners by P.J. O’Rourke


  • The funniest book I’ve ever read. What a rich, brilliant send up of our self-destructive society. I literally bray with laughter every time I pick it up and flip through it again. It's so funny, so vulgar, and so dead-on with what it has to say about the way we've become.

    Now I'm supposed to tag five other bloggers and suggest that they post their own responses to this topic. I don't want to do anything that even smacks of a chain letter, though... so I'll be a coward about it: If you're reading this, consider yourself tagged.

    Wendy's list, titled after a terrible Moxy Fruvous song, is pretty good, too.

     

    House Bad. House Make Head Hurt.



    I've been sitting here reading blogs and Wendy's sitting behind me, on the other computer, looking at Jay Leno's headlines website, and cackling like a maniac. She showed me the the item below, and I just can't imagine how a house like this gets built.


    Forget that those stairways have no rails and look terribly dangerous. Forget that the steps are covered with ice, in fact. The stairs go nowhere. The doors are 10 or 15 feet in the air, over the garage doors. WTF?? Who designed this house? M.C. Escher?


     

    A Death In The Homespun Bloggers Group



    Mike Reed, who bloged as Bunker Mulligan, died of a heart attack Friday morning. My sincerest sympathy to his family. Put simply, Bunker was a heck of a good guy. You can read the Homespun Bloggers version of his obit here.

     

    Shingles Sucks



    A week ago, I started feeling some soreness in my right side, and noticed a raised, bumpy area on the right side of my back and torso. I thought at first that it was a sudden onset of acne, and panicked because... well, how would you feel if you thought you were getting zits in a big, concentrated area on your back? I did what I’d like to think many people would have done: I jumped in the shower and scrubbed my back feverishly.

    After a day or so, it turned into a red, swollen rash, and I thought I recognized the familiar sign of poison oak or poison ivy. I am highly allergic to both, and I’ve trained myself to stay away from them, after a painful episode in which I learned to identify them the hard way. I was fairly disgusted with myself for having somehow gotten into poison oak or poison ivy and not realized it. Still, it struck me as odd, because it was only on the right side of my back and torso, in one band that seemed to be spreading incrementally. It wasn’t on my hands, so I wondered how it could have gotten to my back without getting on my hands.

    The last time I had a severe outbreak of poison oak/ivy was in college. I was doing a leaf collection for a biology class. I gathered and pressed what I thought were leaves from one tree or another, but they turned out to be poison oak and poison ivy that must have been growing ON the tree. Hey, I never said I was John Gerard. After pressing the leaves and getting their toxins all over me, I came down with a case of poison oak/ivy that should have been documented in medical text books. I was in bed for a week with my eyes swollen shut, glowing like a red coal. It was an awful experience.

    This time, though, it wasn't quite the same. So after a couple of days, I began to doubt that it was poison oak, since it wasn’t spreading through accidental contact to my eyes, lips, etc. I take Allegra daily for allergies, and I was using calamine lotion, but nothing was helping the original band of sores. They were just getting more pronounced, more painful, and concentrating themselves more and more in a band around my right torso and back.

    Long story short, I called my momma. Mom is a nurse, and she’s pretty good at a quick diagnosis. She took one look at my back and said “That might be shingles.” This was yesterday afternoon. Last night I went to work, where a co-worker looked up the symptoms of shingles on the net for me, and I thought it might be a match. Coincidentally, last night was when the bumpy rash decided to make itself known as forcefully as possible. The pain started getting pretty bad, even a fan blowing across my shirt was painful. My boss asked me what was wrong, and I pulled up my shirt and showed him the bright red milky way that was throbbing on my right torso. My boss said “Go to the hospital. Now.”

    I went to the hospital, and I was diagnosed with shingles. The doctor gave me medicine and Vicodin for the pain, and sent me home to rest.

    Just for the record, David Letterman's list of the Top Ten Good Things about Having Shingles is pretty thorough.

    If you’ve ever had chicken pox, you are a candidate for a battle with shingles later in life. What happens is, the virus that causes chicken pox seems to be beaten when you get better from that childhood disease, but in reality, it’s retreated from the skin to the nervous system, and is waiting to flare back up when you least expect it. I had a severe case of chicken pox in fourth grade, accompanied by intense fever, seizures, etc... I beat the chicken pox, but not the virus, which was hiding in my right side, waiting to strike again. It gets its chance when the immune system is weakened due to stress or another ailment.

    Compared to many shingles sufferers, I haven’t had it too bad. My ex-wife had shingles as a kid, and she’s described to me an absolute hell of pain and suffering. Many shingles sufferers describe an unrelenting pain. For me, the pain comes and goes... the tingling and burning stays with me. As of this morning, the pain feels more like a muscle ache instead of the hot, branding-rod sensations I was getting off and on yesterday and last night. Mostly, right now, I just feel like I took a bad beating and now I’m sore. Compared to some shingles sufferers, who describe the experience as something like the Spanish Inquisition, I’m pretty lucky.

    Nonetheless, I hope that somehow, somebody will learn from my mistakes. If you had chicken pox as a kid, and if you get a painful rash that forms a band along one side of the torso, the waist, or the face and neck, DO NOT assume that it is or isn't anything. Not acne, not poison oak, not anything. Go see a doctor and have it looked into right away. It’s worth it, because if it turns out to be shingles, you’ll want to have it treated ASAP.

    This link has a picture of the symptoms, if you're interested. It's a bit gnarly, so don't click it if you're kinda squeamish. Here's a chart I stole from msnbc, if you're interested in a clinical kinda thing:




    Saturday, June 04, 2005

     

    Mark Felt's Answering Machine in 1999: "If You'd Like To Leave A Message For Deep Throat..."



    In 1999, Timothy Noah, writing for Slate as Chatterbox, marked the 25th anniversary of Richard Nixon’s resignation by calling Mark Felt to ask if he was, in fact, Deep Throat, the secret source for Woodward and Bernstein. Of course, as of now, we know that Felt has admitted to being Deep Throat. However, in ’99, Felt was still denying it.

    There’s been some speculation that Felt, who most agree is suffering from the effects of age and is no longer completely in his right mind, has been forced into this admission by his family, who hoped to profit from the publicity. In that context, I found it sort of interesting to read about Noah’s attempt to contact Felt in ’99:

    Earlier today, when Chatterbox first attempted to phone Felt (now an octogenarian living in California with his daughter Joan), he got an answering machine. "If you'd like to leave a message for Joan, Rob, Nick, or Deep Throat," it said, "you may do so after the beep." Naturally, Chatterbox got a little excited when he heard this. But when Chatterbox phoned back a little later, Joan Felt said it was a gag message that she had put on her phone last night after having a bottle of wine with some friends, and that this morning she'd thought better of it and taken it off.

    It’s hard not to speculate that there’s been friction in the family for years about Felt’s identity, when to make it public, and what the payoff might be. The idea of Felt’s daughter getting drunk and outing him on their answering machine certainly is uncomfortable. Not considering his actions during Watergate one way or the other, I can’t help but feel bad for him, given the appearance of his present living conditions.

    Of course, over the past 30 years, there’s been a lot of speculation about the identity of Deep Throat, and I think it’s interesting to look back and consider some of the guesses and the certainty (or lack thereof) with which they were made:

    John Dean, the infamous Whitehouse Rat, had a number of ideas about the identity of Deep Throat. He insisted in ’75 that it was prosecutor Earl J. Silbert, then in ’85 he was sure that Alexander Haig was Deep Throat. In 2002, Dean took another convoluted stab at the subject, and was wrong again. It’s unfortunate for Dean that Felt revealed his identity late last month. Had it remained secret, Dean might have eventually made the correct guess.

    Adrian Havill, who wrote a book on Woodward and Bernstein, thought that Deep Throat was George H.W. Bush. Well,he said he thought so anyway. I'd wager, however, that he simply liked the idea of accusing the former President.

    Stephen Ambrose, Eric Burns, and Edward Jay Epstein all thought that Deep Throat was a composite; no real single person at all. Their arguments seemed pretty persuasive, too.

    Leave it to the academics to come up with confident, bold, and spurious assertions about… well, anything, really…. and Deep Throat in specific. "Deep Throat was Pat Buchanan!" "Deep Throat was Fred Fielding!" Deep Throat was Carl Rove! Well, OK, they never came up with that last one, but given time, they might have.

    Polling public opinion wasn’t really the best way to find the suspect, either. In a poll released earlier this year, Editor and Publisher readers came sorta close to the mark on the identity of Deep Throat. Mark Felt was close to the top of the list of suspects… he came in second, in fact. The poll showed that most E&P readers thought that Deep Throat was Chief Justice William Rehnquist. Timothy Noah, who seemed to be convinced all along that Felt was Deep Throat, never bought the Rehnquist idea for a second.

    In June of 2002, CNN.com published a piece about Deep Throat, and invited their readers to guess between a number of possible candidates in an informal poll. I looked at the results of the poll, and saw that while Mark Felt was included among those named, he wasn’t the number one suspect in the minds of most CNN readers:



    Friday, June 03, 2005

     

    How Do These Things Slip Past Me?



    Odds are, you already know about this. I didn't. Wendy and I just saw this on the internet today, and became aware that it's been a global sensation that, somehow, passed us by.

    Does this guy look familiar to you?




    If he doesn't, then you, like me, didn't realize that he has taken over the world.

    Click here to see what the fuss is about...

    Then, click here to see his dedicated followers.

    His name is Gary Brolsma. He is either an evil genius, a cult leader, or a Jedi.

    And, speaking of Jedi, Wendy and I just saw this thing for the first time today, too.

    First, click here to watch the original video. It's a couple of minutes long. It seems to be some kid who taped himself either goofing off or possibly seriously trying out his ninja skills. Sit through the whole thing.

    Then, click here to watch the remix that someone came up with, which makes the whole thing worth it.



     

    It Just Ain't Right



    It ain't good, and it ain't right... but it made me laugh. Click it.



    I like the guy in the background, playing video games, oblivious to the whole thing.

    Thursday, June 02, 2005

     

    Wayfaring Strangers, Part 17



    (Wayfaring Strangers is a continuing series about our experiences as my wife and I study to convert to Catholicism.)

    Paul and Thomas Aquinas

    I said in my last Wayfaring Strangers post that I wasn't sure what I was going to read next. In fact, I took a week or so off from scriptural and theological study, and I think I needed that break. I may have burned out if I'd kept going without breaking for a few days.

    The last book of the Bible I read was 1 Corinthians, which I didn't enjoy at all and didn't get anything out of. It wasn't at all like Romans, Philippians, or Ephesians, all of which put Paul (the author) in a positive light. Those books were warm, instructive, theological, and inspirational. 1 Corinthians, on the other hand, reveals to me a Paul who was angry, arrogant, condescending, and full of himself. I basically got nothing out of it, except that Paul was capable of ranting and raving out of anger. I'll come back to it again another time, when I'm in the right frame of mind to search the book for value and meaning. I'm not at that point with 1 Corinthians now.

    I think it's good, though, to try to see Paul more completely. He was a great theologian, and is responsible more than anyone else (except Christ) for the spread of Christianity. Still, he was not the Savior himself, and he reveals his flawed humanity very clearly in his tone and style in 1 Corinthians. It's amusing to me to read that book and think about the Biblical revisionists who charge that Paul basically "invented" Christianity. I could almost see the appeal of the idea when I read Romans, Philippians, and Ephesians. I read 1 Corinthians, though, and the idea falls apart. At his worst, Paul was so counter to Christ, so angry and self-centered and down-right crazy, that it's hard to imagine anyone willingly following a religion that flowed only from him. It's just a silly idea. I'm sure that the early Christians looked to Paul for instruction, and looked beyond him, to Christ himself, when Paul fell short.

    So, for now, I've put the Bible down and I've found my way back to theology, in the form of St. Thomas Aquinas.

    Thomas Aquinas was one of the earliest and most influential apologists in the Catholic church. He lived and wrote in the 13th century, and his Summa Theologica laid an early foundation for Catholic doctrine. Aquinas was a serious and dedicated student of philosophy, especially Aristotle, and his influence on my favorite theologians is immediately apparent. Nonetheless, his writing is very dense, very demanding, and I'm having a hard time reading and understanding it. Aquinas offers five proofs of the existence of God that I can almost (but not quite) get my brain around, and I'm struggling to understand a lot of what I've read. I picked up an 800 page volume of his selected writings, and it's safe to say that I won't be flying through it in a week. Any one page of his work is so demanding that all I can do is read a bit, sit there and ponder what I've read, and then go back and re-read it five or ten times.

    It's a nice change from Paul, though... especially from 1 Corinthians. Don't get me wrong, it's obvious to me what I've done here: 1 Corinthians rubbed me the wrong way and made me uncomfortable, so I retreated to my area of comfort: logical, clinical, unemotional theology. I see that I've done that, and I realize that I need to examine my motives and drives in having done it... but at the moment, I just don't have the capacity to "wrestle with the angel," if you will.

    So, for now, it's St. Thomas Aquinas and the Summa Theologica. I'll write more when I think I've come to my version of enlightenment on what I've read.

    Wednesday, June 01, 2005

     

    Richard Nixon, Anakin Skywalker, and Deep Throat



    “Always give your best, never get discouraged, never be petty; always remember other may hate you, but those who hate you don't win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself.” – Richard M. Nixon




    One of my earliest memories of television… one of my earliest memories in all of life, in fact… was seeing Richard Nixon resign the presidency. I was a kid, not quite six years old, and of course I didn’t understand what was really going on. I did know, however, that Nixon was the president, and the president was the most powerful man in the world, and that he had to quit his job because he’d done something wrong. I didn’t understand, but I was aware that what I was seeing was terrible for us all.

    I’ve been fascinated with Watergate, Nixon, and the media ever since. I did two papers on Watergate in high school, two more in college, and went through a period when I read everything I could get my hands on about the topic. Other kids knew things like what rank Grand Moff Tarkin held in the Empire in Star Wars and what Pete Rose’s batting average was… I knew things like exactly what G. Gordon Liddy was convicted of and who Alexander Butterfield was.

    Hey, I never said I was conventional.

    Yesterday, Mark Felt, who was a high ranking FBI official during Watergate, admitted in Vanity Fair that he was Deep Throat. If you don’t know why that’s huge news for Watergate buffs, here’s Deep Throat in the smallest of nutshells: Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward were the Washington Post reporters who reported on the Watergate scandal over a two year period, and eventually brought Nixon down. Much of the information they published and followed up on came from a secret informant who’s identity they protected and have protected for years. That informant was nicknamed Deep Throat. For thirty years, people have guessed who he might have been. Now we know. Woodward and Bernstein have confirmed Felt's admission.

    For us Watergate buffs, Felt’s admission that "I'm the guy they used to call Deep Throat" is as important as ”Luke, I am your father” was in the 70’s to Star Wars fans.

    Nobody in US poltics is more fascinating than Nixon. Few people in all of history are. He was a terribly flawed, brilliant man. His good works (go to Google and look for "Nixon" and "China" if you don't know) will forever be in the shadow of his downfall. He was conflicted, paranoid, and deeply patriotic. I love the line in Oliver Stone's movie that sums him up, and why we demonize him. To paraphrase, when we look at Jack Kennedy, we see what we want to be. When we look at Nixon, we see what we are.

    By the way, Star Wars fans: Screw Anakin. If you really want a story about inner conflict, lost potential, a dual nature and a tragic downfall, you need to read about Nixon.

    There’s been a lot of speculation over the years about who Deep Throat was. I’ve heard everything from the laughable (“It was Liddy!”) to the possible (“It was John Dean!”) to the bizarre (“It was Nixon himself!”) to the so-crazy-it-might-be-true (“There was no Deep Throat, Woodward and Bernstein made him up so they could publish their hunches.”) Turns out, the truth wasn’t so scandalous. Mark Felt was second in command at the FBI during Watergate, and his has always been one name on a long, long list of suspects.

    Hmm. Now we know.

    More reading, if you’re interested:

    UPI News: Deep Throat's Family Wanted Cash For Their Story

    MSNBC: Nixon's Aides Say Felt Is No Hero

    MSNBC: Deep Throat was the Biggest Secret in US Politics and Journalism

    Washington Post: Conflicted and Mum for Decades

    Sydey Morning Herald: The Man Who Killed Nixon (Registration Required)

    Nixon's Farewell Address to his Staff


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