Friday, July 29, 2005
Fawndoo's "Old Coot" Blog Party
Fawndoo at The Boiled Egg of Infinity is throwing an Old Coot Blog Party, and being an old coot, this is right up my alley.
The topic: What’s changed since you were young? Which changes have been good? Which have been bad? What do you regret, and what do you predict?
Of course, the topic invites some serious discussion… but I do enough serious railing against change at this blog on a normal day. For today’s topic, I’ll just briefly rant about the differences between my childhood and the childhood our children are enjoying.
When I was a kid, we spent the summertime outdoors. Barefooted. We played with our dogs and caught bugs and frogs and the occasional garter snake. We swam and ran and played ball and had to be tracked down by our parents when it was time to come in. We’d eat a quick dinner, get the day’s filth scrubbed off of us, and then sleep real hard for eight hours so we could get back up the next morning and do it all again.
Today, it’s just not safe to let your kids have the run of the neighborhood. Our kids play outside in our fenced in yard in our relatively quiet, peaceful neighborhood… and still Wendy and I feel like we have to be outside with them at all times for fear some serial killer will grab ‘em.
And, truth be told, our kids only go outside when they are forced to. To get our kids off the couch and away from the Xbox and the Gamecube, we usually have to resort to begging, blackmailing, bribing and threatening.
And, that’s another thing. When I was a kid, video games looked like this:
That’s Pitfall for the Atari 2600. Remember Pitfall? Remember how, at the time, the graphics were AMAZING?
These days, video games look like this:
That’s Super Mario Sunshine for the Gamecube. The kids love it. And, who wouldn’t? Look at those graphics! It’s like playing a Saturday morning cartoon!
Oh, yeah… that’s another thing. When I was a kid, we watched our cartoons on Saturday morning, and we were glad to have them. These kids today have sixty gazillion cartoon networks that all show cartoons 24/7. Kids don’t have to wait to watch cartoons once a week now a days.
We didn't have all those options, all those different channels, when I was a kid. In fact, until I was in 9th grade, we only had FOUR CHANNELS! We had the local ABC, NBC, and CBS... and we had Sesame Street on PBS. That was it! And we were glad to have those channels!
By the way, when I was a kid, our cartoons made sense. Remember these shows?
Our kids watch shows like Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh! and Dragonball Z. I haven’t got the slightest idea what is going on in those shows. I can’t tell the goodguys from the badguys. I’m totally lost. The kids, however, claim that they know what’s going on. Pokemon is the worst. There must be about a thousand of the little animals known as Pokemons (Pokemen? Pokemoni? Beats me.) Each creature has a type and a form and an evolved form and yadda, yadda, yadda. Why should watching a cartoon involve as much study and memorization as school work?
And speaking of school work, don’t even get me started. When I was a kid, we studied reading and writing and arithmetic. The kids still study some form of those subjects, I suppose… but everything these days is done on a computer. That’s fine, computers are basic and fundamental these days… but shouldn’t a kid be able to do some stuff in his or her head?
Oh, and computers. Holy moly. Talk about changes, I guess the biggest change of all from the days when I was a kid is the internet. You know what they say, every possible good and every possible bad is out there. Just for a recent example… when I was searching for clips from the classic cartoons above at Google Images, I was able to quickly find them. However, along with the images above, I also saw pornographic cartoon images involving the characters from The Jetsons and The Flintstones. Why? Why does that even have to happen? Who enjoys those kinds of images? On second thought, I really don’t want to know.
Wendy and I have a “blended” family… two kids from her first marriage and one kid from mine. When I was a child, people just didn’t get divorced. These days, it seems like everyone has been divorced at least once. That rise in the divorce rate can’t be good. Then again, I grew up with two parents who hated each other and went for years at a time without talking, and that’s certainly worse than divorce. I guess that divorce in general is, of course, a bad thing…. But there are things that are worse.
When I was a kid, black people were black people, white people were white people, Indians were Indians, Chinese people were Chinese people, etc. These days, you never know which label is preferred by any given group. And, politically correct whites make it all that much worse by constantly changing what they tell each other is the preferred label or class or race term, or what have you. Here’s why that topic is on my mind: A few weeks ago, we were visiting our friends, the Morris family. My buddy Jamie and I were watching a band perform on television, and my eight year old son was watching them with us. Either Jamie or I, I can’t remember which, made a comment about how talented one of the musicians was. My son asked me which musician on the stage we were talking about. I told him “That one guy; the black guy on the left.” My son frowned at me and said “African American, Dad. Don’t say ‘black.’” I asked him if “African American” was the term they were teaching him in school this month, and he said that it was. I told him to keep saying the term they were teaching him, but explained to him that I hadn’t meant anything racist or derogatory by using the word “black.”
Geez! Lectured about political correctness by my eight year old son! It seems like six months ago I was wiping the boy’s butt for him, and now he’s frowning on my extreme lack of racial sensitivity.
I could go on and on, but I think I’ve run out of steam. Besides, you young whipper snappers out there probably don’t want to read any more of my ranting, anyway.
And that’s another thing: When I was a kid, people listened respectfully when their elders were ranting!
Thursday, July 28, 2005
All The Links That Are Fit To Click (And One That Isn’t)
Alright, I’m going to warn you right now… there’s a picture at the bottom of this post that might make you spew your Wheaties. I’ve censored it to some degree, but it’s still pretty darn rough…
Having said that, on with the roundup:
Air America is being investigated in New York for diverting federal/local funds--possibly "hundreds of thousands of dollars"--meant for inner-city kids and seniors into the station's coffers.
Hey, look… those seniors need liberal nutballs on the radio arguing against the Bush Social Security plan MORE than they need Meals On Wheels, right? And, those inner city kids are far better off hearing the astute opinions of Janeane Garafalo and Al Franken than they would be with after school programs and and clean, healthy summer activities. Right? RIGHT?
Congratulations, Air America. Along with Affirmative Action and low income housing, you’re doing your part to help the liberals keep the minorities down.
…one of the Republicans is a really quiet girl who doesn't speak up very much in the group setting, and the other Republican is a very vocal, very yuppie-white-male-capitalist-atheist, "I think, therefore I'm a Republican," type. I tell him that I'm not his sort of Republican. Actually, everyone was surprised to discover that I was a big red "R". As one of my more liberal colleagues said to me, "I don't get you -- you're so compassionate," -- her exact words, I kid you not -- "and you're a Republican?!? And you like Bruce Springsteen? I've never met a Republican like you."
Read the whole thing at Till We Have Faces.
If you were born on the 30th or 31st, then you are truly blessed beyond measure. Health and prosperity are yours for the next year if you eat a can of beets while singing "Bohemian Rhapsody."
Jamie Dawn is always funny, always interesting… and this time, she’s outdone herself.
That’s from the “Breasts, Not Bombs” anti-war rally in Berkley on July 23rd.
War is indecent. Sure. And big hairy women with their naked breasts hanging down around their hips are wonderful family fair.
Click here for coverage (pardon the pun), but consider yourself warned... these are at least "R" rated photos, and they aren't "R" rated in that guilty pleasure, pleasant to look at kind of way. They're "R" rated in that jab-wildly-at-the-monitor-trying-to-turn-it-off kind of way.
Why do the lyrics from a Marilyn Manson song come to mind?
Shout your stupid slogan and
Everybody sing along!
Do we get it? No!
Do we want it? Yeah!
This is the new sh**,
Stand up and admit!
Thanks, I think, to Little Green Footballs for the link on that one.
Now get out there and start clickin'.
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
More Roller Coaster Tycoon Antics
The last time I posted stills from a day spent doing nothing more involving than playing Roller Coaster Tycoon 3, I was amazed at the response I got. It seems like the game has a really rabid following, and a lot of the players happen to read this blog.
Today, other than going to visit my physical therapist, Torquemada, I didn't do much. I spent a couple of hours this afternoon playing RCT3, in fact, and I'm developing a park with a big ol' hoedown western theme... here are a few grabs if you want to check them out:
It's surprising how addictive this game is, and how much down-time you can kill playing it.
I'm 100% Catholic?
Ever taken the Belief-O-Matic test over at beliefnet.com? It's pretty interesting. I don't know how much I take it to heart, but I do think that the results probably are a good general indication of the right church for the test-taker.
I've taken the test, oh, maybe three times in the past five years. Every time I've taken it, the results of my combined beliefs indicated that the things I believed were at odds with the church I was attending.
Well, guess what... I just took the test again for the first time in a long time and, according to the Belief-O-Matic, I'm 100% Roman Catholic.
My beliefs also fit totally compatibility with the Eastern Orthodox Church, which was the first church to ever split off from the Catholic church, and which is fundamentally more similar to Catholicism than any other church out there.
Here's a clickable thumb of my results, if you care:
My first reaction to this is, "Cool!" The church I've been attending and the faith I'm studying to convert to is the faith that actually matches the things I believe deep down.
However, when I really think about it, I think that the odds are that my answers to the questions were probably a bit biased by my current enthusiasm about Catholicism. I mean, after all, I was raised Southern Baptist. How could I actually be 100% Catholic... every bit as Catholic as the Pope... after five or six months of study and practice? It can't be.
Nonetheless, I think it's a good thing... and, if nothing else, it's an indication of the enthusiasm I feel for the Church. I'm not going to take the Belief-O-Matic too seriously either way. The very name of the text implies that it isn't really that clinical. It's an informal internet quiz, and not something to base my life on.
It's neat, though!
A Story About My Sister
This is a true story about my sister, and it’s a very funny story. However, it’s also a fairly embarrassing story. Therefore, to protect my sister’s anonymity, I will not refer to her by her real name, which is Donna. I will, instead, refer to her by a totally fictional name I’ve just made up, which is Dawnah.
Dawnah bought her car at a dealership about sixty miles away and started having trouble with it within a month. She took it back to the dealership a couple of times for repairs, which was a major inconvenience due to the distance and the time it took to have the work done. When the car acted up a third time, Dawnah called the dealership and spoke to the salesman who’d sold her the car. She told him that she was going to bring the car back a third time and insisted that this time they keep it until it was fixed for good or else replaced. She also insisted that the dealership provide her with something to drive in the meantime. The salesman agreed to everything she asked for.
The next morning, when she got to the dealership, Dawnah was disgusted to learn that the salesman had neglected to arrange for a car to be provided to her while hers was in the shop. This was the last straw. Dawnah had really been through the wringer over this car, and she was furious. She asked to speak to the manager.
The manager apologized all over himself and told her that he would personally, immediately, call the car rental agency down the road and have a rental car delivered to her then and there. He said that a rental agent would deliver the car and that someone from the dealership would then give the rental agent a ride back to the car rental agency. He invited Dawnah to wait in his office while the car was delivered… but by now, she was so angry and indignant that she told him she’d prefer to wait outside. The manager called the car rental agency and told her the make, model, and year of the rental car that was going to be delivered to her… he also told her that it was a blue car.
Waiting outside, Dawnah was so angry that she forgot the make, model, and year of the car. All she was able to remember was that it was a blue car. After quite a few frustrating minutes of waiting, Dawnah saw a blue car pull into the dealership parking lot. This must be the car she was waiting for, she figured. The car was driven by an elderly black gentleman, and he was looking around the lot as he slowly crept toward the entrance. Dawnah presumed that he was looking for her, so she waved to him and he nodded and drove slowly over to where she was standing.
By this point, Dawnah was so frustrated with the dealership that she’d decided that she’d just get in the passenger seat and ride back down to the car rental agency and drop the rental agent off at work again herself. After she’d dropped him off, Dawnah would just leave for home from the rental agency.
When the blue car pulled up for her, Dawnah got in the passenger seat and greeted the elderly black gentleman behind the wheel. Then, she looked around the car and noticed that it wasn’t very clean. There was an empty styrofoam coffee cup in the cup holder and a couple of blankets and a paperback novel in the back seat. The disheveled state of the car was like insult to injury, and Dawnah was just mad enough to say something about it.
“My dear Lord!” she said. “Don’t you think you could have cleaned this thing up a little bit before you drove it down here?!”
The elderly gentleman’s jaw dropped. He blinked at her a couple of times and said “I’m sorry?”
“You should be! This car is filthy!”
The elderly gentleman just looked at her in an apparent state of confusion and fear.
It was at this point that Dawnah noticed that the dealership manager had come outside and was frantically running toward the car, waving his arms, shaking his head, and shouting “NOOOOO!”
By now, you’ve figured out what Dawnah was about to guess… the blue car she’d gotten into was not the car from the rental agency at all. It was another car that the dealership was scheduled to repair that day. The elderly gentleman was not the car rental agent. He was another of the dealership’s customers.
Dawnah saved face the only way she could. She looked at the elderly gentleman one last time, said something like “Hrrmph!” and got out of the car. She shut the door and walked toward the dealership’s manager, who was by now beet red and breaking a sweat.
The manager walked back into the dealership office with Dawnah and explained everything to her. Of course, by now, she’d figured it out on her own.
None of us know what happened to the elderly black gentleman, or if anyone explained to him what had just happened to him. I prefer to believe that he must have thought that the dealership had hired it’s own version of a Wal-Mart greeter… a greeter who was much younger, far less friendly, and a great deal more critical than any greeter Wal-Mart would ever employ.
This is only one of the many embarrassing stories about my sister that I could relate here. I’ll allow a few days, and if she doesn’t get wind of this and come here looking for my head on a spike… and if I get any feedback indicating that anyone enjoyed this story… I may post another.
Demons, Ghosts, and People
What scares you?
I posted a list of my top ten scary movies at film geeks, and when I review the movies, it’s obvious that I’m afraid of demons, ghosts, and people. Vampires and werewolves and zombies don’t really scare me, and movies that center around them are sometimes entertaining, but usually just silly.
Demons, ghosts, and people, on the other hand, scare the pants off of me. I suppose that’s because I believe in all of them. If you don’t believe in demons and ghosts, that’s fine. That’s your prerogative. I do, though, and I think they’re scary. People, of course, can be the scariest thing of all… and if you don’t believe that, just watch the news this evening.
The one movie on my list that doesn’t arguably fall into those three categories is Alien, but I believe that, at heart, Alien is a movie about a demon encountered in space. I guess that’s a subjective interpretation, but that’s really what I get out of it.
Anyway, if you’re interested, you can read the list of my top ten scary movies of all time at film geeks.
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
What Caught Darrell’s Eye Today
The truth of the matter is that action beats reaction most of the time, of course, and so police mortality rates, in the line of duty, were relatively high. Then the trend shifted toward officer survival, with techniques taught for bringing firearms to bear safely in situations where there was a reasonable and heightened likelihood that a suspect may bring deadly force to bear. This resulted in much lower officer death rates, as well as lower rates of criminal deadly force usage in comparable incidents, since suspects who otherwise might have used a knife or gun realized that the officers "had the drop" on them. Criminals usually don't want to die either. When the boys in blue bring the guns out, the criminals almost always give up.
Now, go read the whole thing.
Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday deplored attacks in "countries including Egypt, Turkey, Iraq and Britain".
Israel said he had failed to mention a 12 July suicide bombing in Netanya that killed five Israelis.
The foreign ministry said it would be interpreted as "granting legitimacy to... terrorist attacks against Jews".
"We expected that the new Pope, who on taking office emphasised the importance he places on relations between the Church and the Jewish people, would behave differently," the ministry said in a statement.
Surely, nobody for one minute really sees this as anything than a simple oversight. I'm certain that Benedict’s CONSTANT prayers are with Israel. There is no way he’d consciously do anything to legitimize terrorism against Israelis. No Way.
Former US president Bill Clinton has been offered 40 goats and 20 cows for his daughter by a love-struck African government official.
Mr Clinton was offered the deal on a recent trip to Kenya.
He was offered the animals as a traditional African way of getting a father to give away his daughter's hand in marriage.
The dowry is a very generous one by the country's own standards.
Very generous by Kenyan standards. Hey, that’s good enough for me. I’d take it. I mean, refusing it would simply be rude, don’t you think? And, besides, Bill could probably use another cow.
That's it for the day!
Somebody Shoot Me Now
The thing that really chafes me about this is that my wife, who wears Birkenstocks, was wearing a hemp necklace when I met her, who has been to MULTIPLE PHISH CONCERTS and actually was ON TOUR WHILE PREGNANT WITH HER DAUGHTER during her first marriage, is LESS HIPPIE THAN I AM, according to this test.
Man, this is BS. I am SO totally not a hippie. There is no WAY I am one quarter hippie! I should have been Zero Flippin' Percent Hippie! I despise hippies! I'm practically Eric Friggin' Cartman!
I think the Grateful Dead were the worst band ever, and I think that Phish were the Grateful Dead. I violently vomit at the sight of a dreamcatcher. I believe in chopping down redwood trees randomly for recreation! I EAT BEEF! RARE BEEF! PRACTICALLY RAW! I think Birkenstocks are best used for kindling. I don't put a bandana around my dog's neck! I've never inhaled nitrous!
I've been continuously employed since high school! Since 11th grade, in fact!
I GO OUT OF MY WAY TO BUY EXXON PRODUCTS!!!
I VOTED FOR BOB DOLE IN '96!!! I'M PROUD OF THAT! I BRAG ABOUT IT! I'D VOTE FOR HIM AGAIN!!!
I LOVE "THE MAN!"
I AM HELPING HIM
"KEEP YOU DOWN!"
This can't be right! I mean, I OWN MERLE HAGGARD ALBUMS!!! I like them! I listen to them! I am NOT remotely hippie!
I WEAR A TIE WHEN I BATHE!!
This can't be right. This can't be right. It just can't be. It can't be. It's not right. It can't be.
"I said, I don't like hippies. I don't like cornbread. I don't like much."
Monday, July 25, 2005
Meandering Through The Blogosphere
Just chillin' out today, poppin' Percocets and surfin' the web...
HILLARY CLINTON TO SUPPORT BUSH COURT NOMINEE
Senator Hillary Clinton has confided to associates that she intends to vote FOR Bush Supreme Court nominee John Roberts, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned.
Well, of course she is. Duh. She’s still trying to play to the heartland… still trying to lock up a few social conservative votes for the big Hillary In ’08 campaign… still trying to buffalo the country by pretending to be conservative herself. Of course, her voting record proves otherwise. But she’ll give it the ol’ college try. Besides, if she by some horrible twist of fate DID win the presidency (God forbid), she’d really like to have it on record that when she was in the Senate, she didn’t stand in the way of judicial nominees, now did she???
Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, is working on an amendment that sources said would address the treatment of detainees and rules of interrogation.
Mr. McCain's spokeswoman, Andrea Jones, would not provide details on Friday, but said, "Senator McCain does plan to introduce legislation next week."
I got wind of that courtesy of Michelle Malkin. Ya know, McCain has become as transparent as Hillary, putting on a show for the same reasons. Both think they’re a shoe-in for their own party, now they’re trying to reach out to the other side. Both of them are probably doing little more than alienating their base and annoying the voters they’re trying to BS into supporting them. And both of them get on my dang nerves.
PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania (AP) -- Written apologies will be sent to the family of a dead Marine who was upset that the lieutenant governor appeared uninvited at his funeral last week, Gov. Ed Rendell said.
Lt. Gov. Catherine Baker Knoll went to the July 19 funeral of Staff Sgt. Joseph Goodrich, passed out her business card and made a remark about the state government being against the war, family members said.
At some point, do some people literally go through a genetic change… do they literally completely lose every shred of their humanity and morph completely into another species called Homo Politicus? It’s the only explanation I can come up with. (Hat tip for this story, by the way, to Right On!.)
Another way of saying the phrase ”No good deed goes unpunished” is: ”If the forces of evil are not bothing you, you are not bothering them. So try harder.”
A Roman Catholic like her husband, Jane Roberts has been deeply involved in the antiabortion movement. She provides her name, money and professional advice to a small Washington organization — Feminists for Life of America — that offers counseling and educational programs. The group has filed legal briefs before the high court challenging the constitutionality of abortion.
I came across that at a blog that's new to me, Thumos. See? Blog Explosion subscribers actually do read blogs.
It is a frequent misconception that Lutherans, lumped in with Reformed churches, oppose the use of a crucifix (that is a cross with the statue of Jesus on it). Nothing could be further from the truth. Crucifixes universally adorned Lutheran altars until about 50 years ago…..
I did hear a Lutheran pastor one time say that we shouldn't use the crucifix because, y'know, Jesus isn't still on the cross. This is to suggest that a bare cross somehow reflects the bodily resurrection of Jesus. But I have NEVER understood this reasoning. Rev. McCain rightly points out that the cross would have been empty whether Jesus rose from the tomb or not. I have also often noted that Christians who object to the crucifix on the grounds that Jesus is not still on the cross seem to have no trouble with nativity scenes. Is Jesus still in the manger?
Enjoy all of those links and such. Tell 'em Darrell sent ya.
Saturday, July 23, 2005
H.L. Mencken Is Alive And Well And Working For CNN
(Please read the late amendment at the bottom of this post)
Can you believe the flat out regional prejudice of this?
Fighting toothlessness in Appalachia
STANTON, Kentucky (AP) -- With a silvery Airstream trailer as a dental office, Dr. Jeff Bailey goes about his work, brightening the often gapped smiles of people in a part of the country with the highest rate of toothlessness in America.
Bailey, one of many volunteers who are bringing free mobile dental care to poor people in the hills and hollows of Appalachia, sees case after case of severe tooth decay and gum disease -- the consequences of sugary foods, cigarettes, chewing tobacco, a lack of fluoridated water, and simple neglect.
Oh, it’s fine to mock white southerners... but can you imagine CNN running a story with a headline like, oh, I dunno...
Teaching Personal Hygiene In Compton
Combating Laziness In Puerto Rico
Fighting Gay Promiscuity In San Francisco
Fat chance. But go ahead and mock those whites in the Appalachian south all you want, right? H.L. Mencken would be proud.
Hat Tip: The Therapy Sessions.
Amendment: After thinking about what Allen and Dave have had to say in the comments, I think that I really am tilting at windmills, here. I think this grouchy post resulted from a few things… one, the fact that I’m always quick to jump to the defense of southerners and mountain people, even when the offense is minor, or trivial… or imaginary. And, two, the slipped disc situation, combined with the missed wages it’s caused have probably made me even more irritable than normal.
In fact, I must admit, I’m just a little embarrassed by this post. I won’t delete it, though. This blog is a reflection of my ideas, values, and behavior… and it should be an accurate reflection, even when I say things badly and post opinions that I later rethink.
One of the few things I can actually do with my back messed up is sit here and read blogs and write posts… that’s gonna result in fairly frequent posting, and of course that will leave more room for transgressions on my part.
Hey, sometimes I’m a thin-skinned A**hole! Oh, well… off to pop another Percocet! ;)
Sara Gilbert and 30 Chinamen
Two totally unrelated items to mention today:
01) Part of being a big ol’ fat redneck is that I am required, as per the machinations of my soul, to not keep up with the latest on gay celebrities.
So I was shocked to learn (and I’m sure that I am the last person to know) that Sara Gilbert, who played Darlene on Rosanne, is a lesbian.
She’s a gay female homosexual lesbian with a gay female homosexual lesbian partner, and they have a child together.
Sara Gilbert is the kinda girl that every geek guy (including myself… that’s right, I’m a big ol’ fat redneck geek) find’s totally cute. A guy like me could develop a lifelong crush on a girl like Sara Gilbert in about ten minutes.
So I was kinda bummed to find out that no geek guy will claim this particular prize for our team.
Isn't she adorable? Oh, well…. Alas, Darlene, we hardly knew ye.
Nonetheless, I wish her the best of everything. This is not a gay bashing post, nor has this ever been a gay bashing blog.
Regardless, it is kind of a bummer.
02) Thankfully, the Wet Noodle cheered me up when I saw the following in the archives:
Check out more of the same here.
Friday, July 22, 2005
Don't Miss This
I want to join The Write Jerry in applauding this, and asserting that nothing I'd write about the topic would be this powerful.
Read MCF's post today. It's really outstanding. MCF is a regular read for me, and if you haven't been reading him, I'm sure that this post will change that.
Wayfaring Strangers, Part 21
(Wayfaring Strangers is a continuing series about our experiences as my wife and I study to convert to Catholicism.)
On Harry Potter And Christian Parenting
You may have heard that the Pope has reservations about Harry Potter:
The Pope believes the Harry Potter books are pure Hogwash and "distort Christianity in the soul", according to two letters published online.
The comments were made to a German author who wrote Harry Potter - Good or Evil? which criticises JK Rowling's popular tales.
"It is good that you enlighten people about Harry Potter, because these are subtle seductions which act unnoticed and by this deeply distort Christianity in the soul, before it can grow properly," he wrote.
As a Christian father in a Christian family, I can attest that Wendy and I are trying as hard as we can to raise our children in the faith. We are regular church goers, usually at least twice a week. We say grace before supper, we talk about our faith openly with our children, we encourage them to have questions and to draw their own conclusions. As a Christian, I believe that each person must have his own individual relationship with Christ. It's my goal to help our kids each form his or her relationship personally, not to try to make them carbon copies of Wendy or me. Christ has lead Wendy and I to the Roman Catholic Church, and I'd like to think that our family will attend church together from now on. Down the road, if one or (for that matter) all of the kids find a different road to Christ, I should hope to think I'll accept that and celebrate it.
If one of the kids strays from Christ, I think that my job should be to provide love and support, to provide a Christian example, to pray for our child and to pray that I'd be the kind of parent Christ would have me be.
All of this is serious to Wendy and me. We talk about it a lot, we go to great pains to try to make sure our parenting is all that it should be, and we try to keep the focus always on Christ first.
We also take our kids to see the Harry Potter movies, and we enjoy them as much...maybe more... than the kids do.
It bothers me a little when I hear Christians voice the concern that Harry Potter has an evil effect on children. I try to take that concern seriously, and I suppose that it is a legitimate concern in certain instances. I insist, though, that Harry Potter could only influence a child negatively if the child is not benefiting from proper parenting. A child more influenced by Harry Potter than by his or her own parents has bigger and more immediate problems than Hogwarts.
Our kids are too young yet to read J.K. Rowling's massive six and seven hundred page books... the day might come, though, that they want to read them when they are older. I suppose I'll have to read them too, at that point. In the meantime, our exposure to Harry Potter is strictly cinematic.
A protestant uncle of mine, who I consider to be more than a little flakey, once told me that we were exposing our children to the threat of satanic possession by taking them to the Harry Potter movies. A co-worker of mine, a Pentecostal, flat out told me that "Harry Potter is the devil," and that he's teaching his three sons to believe that to be the case. In both of these instances, I had a strong negative reaction. Basically, what I had to say was "You're nuts," and left it at that.
That is not to say that I totally disregard the concern that some Christians feel about the books and movies.
I've read some of what other Christians have had to say about Harry Potter, and to some degree, I do share their concerns. The Reverend Dr. Robert Leroe wrote the following:
Parents need to decide whether Rowling's books are helpful or harmful. Although the books encourage children to push away from the TV and read, are they also opening the door to occult practices? Do they offer another religion, different from that which we are trying to teach our children?
That's a fair question, and an important one. After all, there is nothing in the movies to suggest that Rowling is a Christian, or that she is consciously trying to impart Christian values in her stories. There is a basic good-and-bad element in the movies, though. The children, wizards and witches though they may be, are clearly good people at odds with evil. I suggest that the movies can provide fodder for important conversation between children and parents, and that while Harry may not be a Christian, his behavior in times of trouble is more often than not the kind of behavior Christ would probably approve of.
With regard to the ultimate effect the stories have on children, I believe that how they are discussed and interpreted afterwards by the family is more important than the movies themselves. There are even a few elements in the films that allow parents to very easily work Christianity into a discussion of the movies with their children. For instance, in the first movie, A Christmas tree is present in one scene. I admit, a Christmas tree is really more of a secular symbol than a religious one. Still, it does present a door that parents can open as they talk with their children. In the second film, the monstrous villain at the end is a snake, a symbol that the movies share with Christianity. In the third film, a condemned prisoner turns out to be a decent fellow after all. These are all avenues of opportunity for parents when they discuss the movies with their children. Harry Potter need not be an "alternative" religion. Like most other secular entertainment, it can be fashioned into part of the foundation of the development and enrichment of a spiritual life.
Of course, not all Christian voices are in opposition to the Harry Potter stories.
"'The Wizard of Oz,' for our time, was your Harry Potter," says Dr. Timothy Jackson, pastor of Greater First Baptist Church. "In my mind, one of the things we have to be careful of is that we don't stifle the imagination of people. I knew when I read 'The Wizard of Oz' that that's a make-believe world. To me, [Harry Potter] does not confuse, nor does it orient me to false teachings about the real world and what we can know of the spiritual world. So I don't see where the Harry Potter books are all that damaging for believers."
He also has suggestions for Christian parents who don't wish their kids to be attracted to the occult: "The best way to tell a counterfeit dollar bill is to study what a real dollar bill actually feels like. My perception is, if churches and parents [are] teaching truth, then their children will understand, 'this is not true, this is make-believe.' Everything has to be evaluated with a reasoning mind and a spiritual mind."
I agree with Dr. Jackson. The elements that shape a child's spiritual growth shouldn't come from movies and fantasy books. Movies and fantasy books are pure entertainment. If a parent is doing the real work of raising children properly, fantasy will not take on a context other than it's own.
I am encouraged also by other Christians who see the Harry Potter books as potential tools to impart the basics of Christianity:
(Theological professor Reg) Grant believes that an increasing number of Christians are "seeing there are many lessons we can celebrate and shake hands on." He also credits the Harry Potter films for the apparent change of heart. "I think the movies illustrated how much Christian theology has in common with the message of Harry Potter. Without the movies, we would still have a huge uproar."
And an increasing number of Christian writers are going further. Connie Neal, John Granger, Gina Burkart and John Killinger -- a former youth pastor, classics teacher, creative writing professor and Congregationalist minister, respectively -- are making a case to their faith community that Harry Potter is a parable.
Their theory? That instead of leading children down the path of the occult, J.K. Rowling is using magic in the way that Christian authors C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien did, as a way of enchanting children into hearing the story of the Gospel.
Of course, C.S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia may be the best example of popular modern Christian fantasy. Lewis's fables of Narnia, where people and events mirror the major themes of Christianity, have been beloved favorites of Christian families for years. (As an aside, we're reading the Narnia books to our kids now, and when my son restlessly asks "When will Aslan get there?" it gives me a quiet thrill.)
The Christian themes of the Narnia books are so apparent, in fact, that many people believe that Lewis intentionally crafted them as religious parables. That isn't so. As Stephen Burnett writes:
Evidently Lewis' fans last century thought that for sure any Christian symbols or messages got into Narnia because Lewis put them there intentionally. They assumed that surely Lewis wrote only to preach Christianity - so they figured he decided to study the market, sneak the morals and messages in to his audience with a fairy tale, inject some child psychology and make up the allegories on purpose, right?
"This is all pure moonshine," Lewis himself said. "I couldn't write in that way at all."
Instead, Lewis explained, "everything began with images; a faun carrying an umbrella, a queen on a sledge, a magnificent lion. At first there wasn't even anything Christian about them; that element pushed itself in of its own accord."
You mean - Lewis didn't try? He didn't want to copy off things that were selling at the secular bookstore? He didn't become appalled at what children were reading and decided he had to provide a Christian Alternative? You mean C.S. Lewis actually just - wanted to tell a timeless story first?
Well, it worked, didn't it?
It might come as a surprise to learn that Lewis didn't intentionally craft his fairytales as Christian metaphor. It was a surprise for me. If you've read the books, you know that the presence of Christian parable is so strong and so apparent in the stories that it's hard to believe that Lewis didn't start with his faith and write his stories from there.
In fact, it happened the other way around. Lewis started with the stories. His Christianity was so inherent and so strong in him, it couldn't help but work it's way through as he wrote. Lewis didn't intend to craft Christian fairy tales. He just couldn't help himself.
I'd like to suggest that, with the Harry Potter books, the same imparting of Christianity that happened when C. S Lewis wrote of Narnia can actually happen in reverse. J.K. Rowling may not have intended her books to do the work of Christ. However, in the hands of Christian parents, as shared with Christian children, the lessons of the Lord will come through whether Rowling intended them or not.
Thursday, July 21, 2005
Book Review: Chuck Palahniuk's Haunted
|"Every artist is a cannibal,|
Every poet is a thief.
All kill their inspiration
And sing about their grief."
Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk is a really, really awful book. I wish I hadn’t read it. Having said that, I have to admit that when I did read it, last week, it was the major preoccupation of my free time. I couldn’t put it down, even though I regretted every new page I turned. Haunted is the literary equivalent of crack-cocaine. Once you start you can’t stop, no matter how much you want to.
Palahniuk is the writer behind Fight Club, a novel that was translated into a movie I enjoy very much. I also enjoyed two of his earlier books, Choke and Diary. Both of those books are odd, even perverse... but not too perverse. Neither of them flat out bothered me when I read them.
Stepping back from Haunted, thinking about the book as a whole, it’s fairly obvious what Palahniuk is trying to do, here. The book is an angry satire of the cult of celebrity. Palahniuk seems to be disgusted by our “reality TV” culture and the way we glorify and celebrate the worst possible behavior. I agree with the message I think the book intends to put across; that we’ve come to a place culturally where we revel in (and reward) even the most tawdry kinds of conduct on television. I agree that mass media entertainment is at an all time low. I believe, though, that in his disgust, Palahniuk has crafted a story as hideous and repugnant as the culture he’s lambasting. Maybe even more so.
The inside of the dust jacket advertises the book as a combination of The Canterbury Tales, Frankenstein, The Real World, and Alive. That’s fair, all of those elements are there. What the dust jacket doesn’t warn you about, though, is the very real gruesome level of horror that the novel conjures up. The dust jacket describes the book with words like “extreme,” “provocative,” “stomach-churning,” “mind-blowing,” and “hilarious.” Those words are fair descriptions, too. The problem is, phrases like “stomach-churning” and “extreme” have been over-used these days to the point that they don’t really mean anything.
This is a story so gruesome that reading it will literally make your stomach churn. You may, very literally, very really, have to fight back the urge to vomit.
This is a story so repugnant, so disgusting, that you may have nightmares after having read it.
All of that is fair to say about Haunted, too… and, to be honest, it’s also fair to say that the book is often laugh-out-loud funny and very, very smart.
The question is, given the strong negative reaction I had to the book, can I recommend it? Can I recommend it for it’s finer qualities in spite of it’s flaws? Can I recommend it because it did, at times, actually make me laugh out loud? Can I recommend it it for being such an addictive page-turner?
Really, I can’t.
The premise of Haunted is odd, but the satire is apparent. Haunted is the story of a writer’s retreat gone bad, told in the usual kind of exagerated Palahniuk narrative. The story is also told with poems about the characters and short stories by the characters. The organizer of the retreat really has a social experiment in mind, and he holds the writers hostage for three months. Over the course of those months, each of the captives degenerates into something sub-primitive. There isn’t a crime or an offense you can imagine that doesn’t take place at some point in Haunted. Blackmail, murder, rape, dismemberment… even sexual perversion, pedophilia, cannibalism, and self-mutilation are all elements of this story.
In order to convey the depravity of Haunted's characters, Palahniuk holds nothing sacred. Abuses are committed against people, animals, even human fetuses. This is not a book for people with delicate sensibilities. This might not even be an appropriate book for anyone with even a shred of humanity.
Palahniuk simply goes too far, and at some point he crosses the line between satirizing a corrupt culture and actually celebrating it’s depravity. I heard that same argument made against Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers, a satire of the mid 90’s obsession with crime and criminals. Personally, I didn’t feel that Stone’s movie did cross that line. I think that Natural Born Killers is a justifiably hostile critique of a culture going down the tubes. I can’t say that about Haunted. There are images in this book that, once pictured in the imagination, simply serve to horrify the reader, and do nothing else.
And yet, this is an awful age, culturally, and it really is ripe for vicious parody. It needs to be parodied. If a picture is worth a thousand words, consider the following:
Hey, there’s no getting around it… Culturally speaking, things couldn’t get much worse.
As awful as it is, Haunted is a smart book with, at it's heart, a message I agree with. I appreciate the way Palahniuk skewers the fascism of political correctness in this story. Some symbols are blatantly obvious: A group of feminists commit a horrible crime against a woman as punishment for having things they don’t possess: beauty and happiness. A college student justifies her generalized attraction to American Indians by saying “I know it’s racist, but it’s the good kind of racism.” Elite socialites abandon their fundraising events for the cause of the week, stop bathing and start eating out of dumpsters because “poverty is the new wealth.” Yes, a lot of the book is brave and bluntly honest about the hollow heart of modern times.
I credit Palahniuk for crossing lines that need to be crossed. Political correctness and the cult of celebrity are awful, destructive elements of our world today, and they should be railed against. It’s a shame that, in his anger, Palahniuk seems ready to flush everything down the toilet. With the debauchery in Haunted, Palahniuk ultimately adds to the very evil that seems to be driving him mad.
Wayfaring Strangers, Part 20
(Wayfaring Strangers is a continuing series about our experiences as my wife and I study to convert to Catholicism.)
War, Darfur, Politics, and Faith
I'm going to try today to write about issues that bother me; issues where I have no real clear ideas about wrong and right. If you decide to read this, be aware that it'll probably be meandering and maybe even self-contradictory. I don't claim to have all the answers. Sometimes I act like I think I have all the answers, but when I really examine certain ethical and religious issues, I realize that I don't know one damned thing.
A while back, I wrote that I didn't feel that I could keep supporting the war in Iraq, but that I'd continue to support our troops and simply pray for an end to the bloodshed. I felt compelled to take that stance by what I had been reading in the Bible, in the Catechism, and in books by Dietrich Bonhoeffer and others.
These are complex issues, but I try to have my thoughts directed by one simple fact: At no point did Christ advocate war or violence. In fact, to the contrary, Christ told his followers to turn the other cheek to our enemies, to be submissive, to give to our enemies with a glad heart, and to give twice what we've been compelled to give.
That's a tall order. That's really, really hard.
Pope John Paul II was opposed to the current war in Iraq. Our current Pope, Benedict XVI, is opposed as well. He's been clear about that. Before his pontificate, when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger, he wrote the following:
"There were not sufficient reasons to unleash a war against Iraq. To say nothing of the fact that, given the new weapons that make possible destructions that go beyond the combatant groups, today we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a 'just war'."
It's hard for me to accept that. I struggle with it, I try to embrace it and find access to it, but I keep coming back to the fact that, deep down, I believe that Iraq is better off now than it was with Saddam Hussein in power. I didn't say that Iraq is perfect now, I don't think so for one minute. I recognize the problems there and the long road ahead, but I do believe that the removal of a brutal dictator the likes of Saddam is inherently good for Iraq.
So was it worth it? Ultimately, if I have to answer that question with a "yes" or a "no," I have to admit that I would say yes.
Was our invasion of Iraq what Christ would have had us do?
Boy, there's a tough one. I don't know. My first, gut reaction, is to answer "No" to that question. Our invasion of Iraq happened in order to preserve our national security. All credible international intelligence suggested that Saddam was assembling WMDs. The leftists can harp and moan that "Bush lied" all they want, but no reasonable person believes that. Bush believed, as did the majority of the world, that Saddam was arming himself with WMDs. It certainly appeared to be the case. It turned out to have not been the case, but I believed then and still believe that Bush, Blair, and all other involved parties really believed that Saddam was armed and very dangerous.
Clinton screwed up. That's apparent, and only the most unreasonable partisan leftist would disagree. On Clinton's watch, Saddam got stronger, cockier, and seemed to be more deadly than ever. Had Clinton been a better, stronger leader, that never would have happened. Sanctions and controls against Saddam were not enforced during Clinton's watch. He made a few speeches and launched a few missiles at isolated spots, putting on a little show... but he really did nothing. He was afraid of the backlash, afraid that his "legacy," such as it is, would be marred by the outrage of a draft dodging president sending the military into harms way to prevent Saddam from regaining power. The oil for food mess took place on Clinton's watch, and like the situation in North Korea, he simply turned a deaf ear and crossed his fingers and did nothing. I'm not saying that I know exactly what he should have done, exactly how he should have handled it... but it's clear that he handled it as badly as it could have been handled. Clinton, through negligence, made this mess. Bush, whatever you might think of him, has simply inherited Clinton's mess. I don't know that what he's done in Iraq was 100% correct... but I don't know what else he could have done. Clearly, something had to be done.
At least Bush did something. Say what you like about what he did, but at least he did something. That's more than Clinton did.
It's easy for any of us to second guess the President. It's almost sort of a national passtime. The fact is, though, that one man was faced with that crisis, and that one man was George W. Bush. I don't envy him the position he found himself in for one second. It's all very easy for those on the left to gripe and bellow about how he did the wrong thing... but I wonder if any of them have stopped to ask themselves what they would have done. Speaking for myself, one little conservative in Virginia, I can only say that I don't have the slightest idea.
So what would Christ tell us about the invasion of Iraq?
I have tried to think about Iraq in terms of World War II. Comparisons between Saddam and Hitler are obvious and justified. I think it's reasonable to believe that our actions in World War II, while delayed, were justified. Hitler had to be stopped. I believe that. I believe that I could look my Savior in the face (if it's possible for any human to do that) and say that our actions in World War II were supported by our faith.
And so, there's the link to Iraq. I struggle with the justification of "preventive war," but I'm certain, absolutely certain, that removing Saddam from power was right. He was a butcher and a madman. Removing him from power was a just outcome of the war.
Thinking that gives me no peace whatsoever, though... because of Darfur.
What's going on in Darfur is absolutely barbaric. It's probably more comparable to the butchery of Nazi Germany than even Saddam's Iraq. The Moslems in power in the Sudan are doing great evil to the Africans in Darfur. They're killing and raping them in uncountable numbers. They're starving people to death. They're murdering children, for God's sake! Children! What they are doing is evil, pure and simple. There are few things in the world situation right now that seem black and white and clear cut to me. The Genocide in Darfur is one of them. It's evil, pure and simple.
It's hard for me to believe that Islam isn't simply an evil religion. I struggle to not believe that. I don't want to believe it... but it certainly seems to be a religion that justifies the most heinous of crimes. It seems that wherever Muslims come into power, butchery follows. That's not politically correct, of course... but I'd be a fool and a liar to say that my impression of Islam is any different than that.
So, what do we do?
Was the war in Iraq justified since it resulted in the removal of Saddam? I don't know. Maybe. I want to believe it was.
Was it right for us to get involved in World War II and help to bring about the end of Hitler's reign? I think that's a little easier to answer. I think it was right. I think we were compelled to stop Hitler. Even Bonhoeffer, that great champion of peace and passiveness, was involved in a plot to assassinate Hitler. He simply saw it as something that had to be done.
And now, Darfur. What do we do?
My gut reaction is that it is incumbent upon the free world to stop the genocide. Stop it by any means necessary, and, of course, that means with military force.
How can we just sit by and watch this happen and simply shake our fingers and say it's bad, but really do nothing?
And, at the same time, how can we do anything? Our military is stretched so thin in Afghanistan and Iraq as it is.
I know how the liberals would respond to that... in the same way that liberals always do. They'd say that the reason our military is stretched thin is because of Bush's "illegal, immoral" war in Iraq. Liberals are so good at casting blame and making speeches. Unfortunately, they're not good at actually doing anything. Liberals love their anger, they love their indignation. They love to point their fingers at everything but themselves. Indignation doesn't allow much room for introspection, and liberals seem totally incapable of examining their own emptiness.
I don't really get any answers... at least, none that satisfy me... from the Church. Before he died, John Paul II expressed concern and sympathy for the people of Darfur. He called for humanitarian aid and for the basic human rights of the people in Darfur to be respected... but is that enough? My gut tells me that it isn't. What are the chances that these butchering Muslims will stop the slaughter in Darfur simply because the primary voice of another faith asked them to? It's a rhetorical question with an obvious answer.
What do we do? That's not intended to be a rhetorical question. It's an urgent one.
In a way, I envy those angry, irreverent liberals. When your world view amounts to nothing more than casting blame and protesting, it's easy to tell yourself that you're doing something positive. I almost envy them their cockiness and their chest-swelling pride. Being angry and indigent is fun. It brings with it such feelings of superiority and self-worth. It doesn't involve introspection, so it doesn't hurt. If you get angry enough about things you don't understand, your anger can drown out the really hard questions, the ones that draw blood when you try to handle them.
I don't know what we should do. I wish I could stop thinking about it. Private monetary donations for aid and relief are good for easing the personal conscious for a few minute... but not for any real long term peace of mind.
What do we do?
I don't have the first hint of an answer.
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
"I'm hunger. I'm thirst. Where I bite, I hold till I die, and even after death they must cut out my mouthful from my enemy's body and bury it with me. I can fast a hundred years and not die. I can lie a hundred nights on the ice and not freeze. I can drink a river of blood and not burst. Show me your enemies."
- C.S. Lewis
Torquemada and John Roberts
I like it when my physical therapist shocks my butt.
I went to physical therapy today. I have gotten to where I look forward to going to physical therapy because, when I go, my therapist hooks me up to a machine that really eases the pain of my slipped disc. That’s a picture of the exact machine to the right. What happens is, my therapist attaches these sticky pads to my butt, and the pads are attached to the machine by wires. Then, the machine shocks my butt for fifteen minutes and when I get up, the pain is typically gone (or at least dialed way down) for as much as two hours.
I like my physical therapist. She’s a young blond thing who looks a little bit like Kelly Ripa, with the same goofy, bubbly personality and friendly demeanor. Typically, when I go to physical therapy, my therapist shocks my butt for fifteen minutes and then has me do a few light stretches and walk on a treadmill or something. Then I leave, feeling a little better for having gone.
Today, my physical therapist transformed from Kelly Ripa into Torquemada. For starters, the butt shocker (which, technically, is called the Exel Ultra IV or something) was dialed way down today. It hardly delivered any impulse at all, and I could tell that I wasn’t going to get as much relief out of it today. Secondly, the exercises and stretches she had me do today weren’t light. They were really difficult and they hurt like hell. And they were repetitive. I realize that physical therapy for a herniated lumbar is going to be painful, but up until now it had been relaxing, and I guess I’d been lulled into a false sense of security. The hard stuff began today, and I felt like I was being knotted into a pretzel by a little blond thing in her early 20’s that might weigh 95 pounds. If I’d thought it would have helped, I’ve have started screaming ”I admit it! I admit it! I’m a heretic!”
We’ve tried to take advantage of my laid-up time as well as possible. We’ve been reading the Chronicles of Narnia to the kids, and they’re loving it. Especially Hailey, who’s the oldest and might be at the best age for the stories. If you’ve never read The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe or the other books to your kids, you really should… especially before the movie comes out and deprives them of seeing the stories first in their own imaginations.
I have read a little bit today on the net about John Roberts, the president’s nominee to replace O’Connor on the SCOTUS. I don’t think I’m particularly well informed about him, but at this point I feel safe in saying that my first impression is a positive one.
Of course, the liberal broadcast media outlets have branded Roberts already. NBC and ABC say he’s not just conservative, but “very conservative.” On CNN, Paula Zahn was concerned that Dubya hadn’t nominated a woman…. Yadda, yadda, yadda, yadda.
Michelle Malkin has a good list of opinions and links about Roberts.
I like what William Kristol had to say, it makes me a little optimistic:
The occasion was an opportunity to reshape the Supreme Court. Bush seized the opportunity, in two ways: He moved the Court a solid step to the right (to speak vulgarly), and he elevated its quality. It's true that Roberts is a Rehnquist, not a Scalia or a Thomas. He'll be a little more incremental, a little more cautious, than some of us rabid constitutionalists will sometimes like. But he is a conservative pick, and a quality pick--and, to my surprise, a non-PC, non-quota pick.
Of course, all the pro-abortionists are yapping and chasing their tails because Roberts has expressed his concern that abortion on demand might not be such a good thing:
Abortion rights organizations declared their opposition to Roberts, a 50-year-old federal appeals court judge. But as yet, there were no outright calls for his rejection from any of the Senate's 44 Democrats.
A liberal organization, NARAL-Pro Choice America, announced its opposition to Roberts even before Bush formally made his selection public in a prime time televised White House appearance on Tuesday. The group planned an "emergency demonstration" against the nomination across the street from the Capitol at midday.
The good news is, political forecasters think Roberts ought to squeak through:
"The White House managed to find a nominee who will move the court to the right without having the kind of provocative characteristics that could cause problems during confirmation," said Dean Spiliotes, a political scientist at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm's College.
One other item I checked out today, after my friend Jamie mentioned it in an e-mail… It seems that the White House is doing everything it can to keep tempers cool between us and China:
"The United States does not consider China a threat, the White House said today after China protested about a Defense Department report which expressed concern about its military buildup.
'We're committed to peace and stability in the region, but that should not be viewed as us viewing China as a threat,' White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters.
The report was released only days after a Chinese general reportedly warned that Beijing would retaliate with nuclear weapons if the US military intervened in a conflict over Taiwan.
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
Tattooed Freaks Revisited
MoveOn.org is trying to clean up it's act.
Over the weekend, the liberal activist group MOVEON.ORG hosted over a 1,000 house parties across the nation to stop President Bush from nominating a "radical right judge" -- and the DRUDGE REPORT obtained an exclusive invite to one of their hottest parties.
Charles Fazio of Alexandria, VA was the host of one of the most widely attended MOVEON parties in the Washington, DC area.
One ... suggestion from Fazio to his liberal MOVEON party-goers: "Oh, because a photographer will be here, might I suggest we put away our Bush is a Liar t-shirts. Let's look like they do."
This infamous rogue's gallery of left-wing flakes and howling nutjobs must have, somehow, figured out that most Americans don't take their ilk seriously. Cox and Forkum sees right through them:
Writing for PittsburghLive.com, Dimitri Vassilaros concludes:
It could have been worse. Some of the partiers could have been wearing "My candidate went down the toilet and all I got was this lousy 'Bush is a Liar' T-shirt." Presumably none of the shirts was a product of a Third World sweatshop.
By the way, who exactly are "they" and what do "they" look like? Surely, MoveOn is not engaging in stereotyping or profiling. No, that couldn't be -- they are liberals after all.
The talking points must have worked. The Washington Post puff piece dutifully quoted attendees at different parties. One complained about "the fascist government," and the other, "the fascist administration."
That must be how "they" talk.
Noise In The Hood
A school district in Southern California approved the "affirmation and recognition" of Ebonics into its curriculum as a way to help black students improve academic performance. The San Bernardino Board of Education says a pilot of the policy, known as the Students Accumulating New Knowledge Optimizing Future Accomplishment Initiative, has been implemented at two city schools, according to the daily San Bernardino Sun. Ebonics, a dialect of American English spoken by many blacks, was recognized as a separate language by the Oakland, Calif., school board in 1996. Mary Texeira, a sociology professor at Cal State San Bernardino, believes the program will be beneficial to students.
"Ebonics is a different language, it's not slang as many believe,' Texeira told the Sun. "For many of these students Ebonics is their language, and it should be considered a foreign language. These students should be taught like other students who speak a foreign language."
This is idiotic.
Of course, this is a racial issue. Therefore, I'm less interested in the idiotic meanderings of a school district in SoCal than I am in the opinions of smart black bloggers:
Monday, July 18, 2005
...Oh, Yeah, That, Too....
Just a few more random bits and pieces...
This And That. And That, Too.
I'm just doing a little blog housekeeping today... updating the blogroll, making a few format changes, etc.
-To be a good democrat, you have to believe the AIDS virus is spread by a lack of federal funding.
-To be a good democrat, you have to believe that guns in the hands of law-abiding Americans are more of a threat than U.S. nuclear weapons technology in the hands of Chinese communists.
-To be a good democrat, you have to believe that hunters don't care about nature, but loony activists who've never been outside of Seattle do.
(Liberals) bother me because these liberals walk around, safe in the knowledge that theirs is the popular view and that everyone who disagrees with them is just filled with hate. They know that nobody will ever call them on the hypocrisy because it's too un-PC. They have slowly but surely taken over the zeitgeist of our country and twisted it toward their own depraved agenda. And if you don't blindly jump on board, you're just a big mean meanie....
I've said it before. Most of the people on the left constantly harp on and on about diversity. But God forbid it be diversity of thought. That, they cannot tolerate. You're allowed to be a different color. It's OK to be a different religion (unless it happens to be Christian). It's OK to be of a different sexual orientation. Hey, whatever floats your boat. But what is not OK is suggesting that people take care of themselves and be strong. It's not OK to disagree with anything anyone does in the name of tolerance.
Well, now THAT was a rant if ever there was one. I feel better now.
Whew! I feel better, too!
Sunday, July 17, 2005
From CNN Money:
Martha Stewart, whose three-year odyssey in the criminal justice system will end just about the time she turns 64 early next month, is about to figure in the nation's psyche in a big way.
Stewart already has revealed "M. Diddy" as her prison nickname in a cover story in this month's Vanity Fair. She's just wrapped up filming for her own edition of the Donald Trump reality series "The Apprentice."
That's not all. Looking for its slice of Martha mania, NBC rival CBS plans to broadcast in September its second unauthorized movie about the Stewart saga. "Martha: Behind Bars," also starring Cybill Shepherd, will detail Stewart's recent stay at a minimum-security womens' prison in West Virginia.
For whatever it’s worth, here’s the official SoCon take on Martha Mania… I’m really getting kinda sick of hearing Martha mocked, maligned and slandered. She was convicted of a crime and she served the sentence she received. Now she’s on her way back to being what she once was, a successful business woman. What's wrong with that? Good for her. I think that her success is the real reason so many people hate her in the first place. Martha Stewart is an indication that the American dream still works. If you’re willing to put in the work and if you’re determined enough, nothing will prevent you from succeeding in this country. I don't know what kind of person she is to work for, but of course her reputation is pretty bad. She's always portrayed as a "bitch," a spiteful, angry shrew with an axe to grind. Why is it that any woman who succeeds at business in this country is invariably portrayed that way? (The one exception is Oprah. Heck, even I love Oprah. I don't trust people who dislike Oprah.) Ya know, now that I think of it, anyone who is a financial success, male or female, is often seen as money-hungry, paranoid, and/or downright evil. Look, Martha found her niche, capitalized on it, and succeeded tremendously. There ain't a damn thing wrong with that. I have tremendous respect for Martha Stewart.
Saturday, July 16, 2005
Salty's Music MEME
Salt Lick tagged me with a quick MEME, and at the moment, sitting up is bearable... so I'll do it. Besides, the topic is music, one of my all time favorite topics to ramble about.
On this one, 750. Not sure about the other one.
Must have been Prince’s Purple Rain, which I owned on cassette throughout my teens and saw at Wal-Mart for $8.00. I still enjoy it, too, I’m glad to report.
Nothing… but the last song I heard was “Jenny (867-5309)” on the radio. I'm sure that was the last song I heard... because it's stuck in my head at the moment.
Pearl Jam – 10
U2 – The Joshua Tree
Counting Crows – August and Everything After
Metallica - Master of Puppets
Elton John - Madman Across The Water
(That's just five off the top of my head... the first two, Pearl Jam and U2, are probably my two favorite albums of all time.)
You reading this? Consider yourself tagged.
Friday, July 15, 2005
15 Painless Minutes
I'm in the middle of a Percocet daze right now, which means that my back hasn't hurt for 15 whole minutes... And I've been able to sit up and read a few blogs!
I've just discovered one that will be a regular read for me now... If you read this blog regularly at all, you probably know that a blog with a title like Southern Catholic Convert is custom made to catch my eye.
Check out Anastasia's blog and read her conversion story, which I found myself identifying with right off the bat. Here's a snippet:
Many times, I found myself saying, “Lord, I do not understand this teaching, but I will accept it. Please show my heart and intellect the reason for this teaching.” This was a hard thing for me to do and remains a hard thing to do, because I question everything - why is my favorite word. However, I found out by submitting myself to God’s will He would provide me the answers I needed. Submitting myself to Our Lord in this way softened my heart to the point I could hear and understand what was being taught.
This was well worth getting out of bed to read!
Thursday, July 14, 2005
Where I've Been and Why
I haven’t blogged much lately, and probably won’t for a while. All I’ve been doing for the past few days is laying on my right side, and popping Percocets like M&Ms between trips to the hospital. I have a herniated lumbar between L4 and L5; one of the many back injuries that apparently falls under the heading “slipped disc.” Standing up hurts, and sitting down is an absolute hell. In fact, I’m dictating this brief entry to Wendy because I can’t sit down and type it. Yet one more reason why she’s an angel for putting up with me. (I could see her head swelling as I dictated that last sentence).
Anyway, there’s a lot of physical therapy and probable surgery in my immediate future. How ironic; all this time off from work and I can’t pursue my favorite lethargic hobby, blogging.
Not to worry, I’m sure I will be back offending you all with my close-minded outdated redneck opinions before you know it.
Sunday, July 10, 2005
The Horror Down The Road
This item is horrific, and, I’m sure, will be troubling to most readers. It certainly is to me.
SPEEDWELL — A mile outside this Wythe County crossroads, Deputy Bryan Bard responded to a call that 65-year-old Esther Crigger was dead.
He headed toward the Criggers' crumbling mobile home where he had broken up fights and served warrants several times in the past. Each time, the dirt and the smell of dogs and chickens that lived in the trailer had left him stunned.
Bard pulled up to the trailer. Inside, he found Esther Crigger lying on a dirty mattress on the floor, surrounded by a pack of dogs eating her body.
Then Bard looked to his left and saw Crigger's 37-year-old son Don standing at the stove about 10 feet from his mother. He was eating eggs from a pan.
After Bard told Don to help shoo away the dogs, he looked at Esther.
The dogs had chewed on her left arm. Her thumb was gone. The oxygen machine that helped her breathe was silent. Its electrical cord was lying on the floor, unplugged.
This is like something out of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
The human reaction, I suppose, is to look for someone to blame. There really isn’t anyone, though. It’s just depressing.
Six months later, the prosecution suspended its case against the Criggers. All three (the father and two adult sons) were found incompetent to stand trial. Don moved in with a friend. Dan and Elmer went home to their trailer. Their lives soon returned to the way they were before their mug shots were published in local newspapers and a television news truck camped out on their neighbor's lawn.
Who, if anyone, could have saved (Esther) from such a horrific end? What is life like today as her son and husband cope with the same conditions that may have contributed to her death — and the lingering stigma in the small community where they have spent their whole lives?
Asbury Place at Wytheville is a brick building with white columns and a grassy yard with blooming flowers. Esther Crigger lived on the nursing home's second floor in unit C for about eight months before she returned home just four days before she died.
She had severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a debilitating lung disease that left her coughing, wheezing and unable to catch her breath. When she arrived at the home, she could not stand or feed herself.
In hindsight, it is easy to question the decision not to check on Esther Crigger immediately after the Asbury call came in, Hall said. But ultimately, he believes the agency is not to blame for her death.
"The choice was up to her," he said. "Mentally competent adults have the right to make choices that you or I might not consider good choices."
It seems so ironic that Mrs. Crigger was deemed competent enough to decide to leave the nursing home and return to her home in Speedwell… and yet her sons and husband aren’t competent enough to stand trial for neglect. I'm not being sarcastic. If you read the article, I'm sure you'll agree that they clearly aren't capable of understaning what has happened.
I don’t know what the answer is in cases like this. Conservatives take a bad rap by people who believe we’re opposed to all forms of welfare and social support. That’s not the case. We’re opposed to rampant welfare abuse, but we’re not opposed to helping people who really need it.
It seems like the Criggers don’t know how to get by one their own. It seems to me that they need help. But what do you do? Do you arrest them and make them wards of the state against their will? Do you hold them prisoner, knowing full well that they’ll leave and go back to their way of life if they get the chance?
Do you stand by and watch them live and die this way?
What do you do?
Friday, July 08, 2005
Hillary's Campaign In Early Death Throes
Lots of news stories about Hillary "Fraud 'Em" Clinton have been popping up left and right lately. It seems that she’s losing friends in the Democratic party as quickly as she’s losing credibility. Regarding her presidential bid...
“It is a wide-open field,” (Senate Minority Leader Harry) Reid said. “The person who is leading at this stage is Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton, of course, has lots of money. She comes from a state with lots of people in it, but she still has a few ties to Arkansas. I think she is the person to beat, but that doesn’t necessarily mean she is the best candidate.”
Reid is wary of Clinton’s bid for president, saying there are other Democratic senators and governors who might be better candidates.
Wow. If Harry Reid is already edging back from Hillary, can the rest of the party be long? Who knows, the Democrats might end up nominating someone the Republicans CAN’T beat easily. I’d almost like to see that, just for the sake of keeping things interesting.
Reid isn’t the only one putting air between himself and Little Miss Senator:
Even longtime Clinton aide Harold Ickes, who masterminded her 2000 Senate victory, has expressed doubts, telling Time magazine last year, "I'm one of the few in the semi-inner circle who [doesn't] think she can win" the White House.
"Hillary Clinton is never going to be president," former Michael Dukakis campaign manager Susan Estrich argued in her column last year. "There is no more divisive figure in the Democratic Party, much less the country, than the former first lady."
As Democrats flee the Hillary pre-campaign like a sinking ship, Clinton is making a transparently desperate attempt to reach out to conservatives. She's even trying to learn to communicate with a group she knows little about… Christians:
Hillary Clinton is reportedly consulting with a prominent evangelical minister who's coaching her on how to communicate with Christian fundamentalists, a top clergyman said this week.
"She has engaged the former president of the National Association of Evangelicals, Assemblies of God minister Dr. Don Argue," Rev. Rob Schenck said Thursday. Schenck is president of the National Clergy Council.
Appearing on Bill Bennett's "Morning in America" radio show, Rev. Schenck told fill-in host Steve Malzberg that Rev. Dr. Argue had visited with the Clintons "numerous times in the White House" and is now helping Mrs. Clinton "learn the language of evangelicalism."
Hillary supporters are, in fact, so desperate to appeal to Christians that they have even tried to spin the cordial, kind words of Billy Graham into an endorsement. Not to worry, evangelicals. Reverand Graham’s spokesman, his son Franklin, has cleared matters up:
"For a long time," Franklin Graham wrote, "my father has refrained from endorsing political candidates and he certainly did not intend for his comments to be an endorsement for Senator Hillary Clinton ... his political views, as well as mine, are quite different than the Clintons..."
Even the little things seem to be falling apart for Senator Clinton. Her bid to bring the 2012 Olympics to New York was a failure. Then, there's the obscene new book, The Truth About Hillary, by Ed Klein. As a conservative who’s seen most of my political heroes smeared by everyone from Kitty Kelly to Michael Moore, I disapprove of this kind of trash journalism. It’s seedy, it plays to the lowest common denominator, and it misses the point entirely. Albert Mohler sums it up quite well:
…taking pleasure in this book will divert our attention from what really matters--the battle of ideas and the hard work of intellectual engagement. We should direct our energies to engaging the policies, proposals, and ideological commitments represented by Hillary Clinton---not to dirt-throwing contests over scandals without evidence.
Besides, the book gives Hillary’s supporters an easy dragon to slay… and at this point, they’ll take all the comfort they can get:
In New York, "The Truth About Hillary" is having the unintended result of inspiring female solidarity. At a fancy all-girls lunch party on Fifth Avenue on Tuesday for, in Kleinspeak, the Powerful Network of Women who control the dinner access in Manhattan, "Ed Slime" was a withering topic of conversation, which seems to have been good news for his Amazon listing.
Of course, there are feminists who will back Billary (Both Mr. and Mrs.) to the ends of the earth, based on the insane idea that they’ve done a lot for women. There are, of course, women who’d disagree:
Paula Jones, Elizabeth Ward Gracen, and Juanita Broadrrick all received unexpected IRS audits (after they went public with their claims against Bill Clinton). Clinton supporters assembled an attack team to smear Kathleen Willey, a grief stricken widow, after the media covered her story. Both Willey and Gracen had to deal with stalkers. In fact, while jogging, Willey was threatened by a man who knew the names of her cat and her children. He instructed her to lie during her upcoming deposition in the Paula Jones case. Furthermore, almost none of the women profited financially from their short-lived fame. In fact, because of their legal fees, many of the women profiled in the book face financial struggles to this day.
In the end, though, Hillary’s Achilles Heel isn’t Ed Klein’s book. It isn’t her husband’s grossly incompetent presidency, either... nor his trashy personal life, nor his "junior mafia" way of covering up his transgressions. Hillary’s desperate attempts to court Christians, while totally transparent, won’t be her undoing, either. Democrats are abandoning her because she can’t be elected. As Christopher Adamo puts it:
Hillary’s venomously ultra-liberal track record still stands, and occasionally surfaces in her speeches and voting patterns. Thus, her occasional efforts to present herself as socially conservative, hawkish on the terror war and, at times, deeply religious, can only succeed if she retains absolute control of the information circulated among the public.
The underhanded and desperate need of Hillary and the Democrats to reckon with their past deeds highlights the situation in stark and undeniable terms. Truth itself is the one enemy against which liberalism cannot prevail.
Sorry, feminists... it looks like you'll have to wait a bit longer for that strong, admirable female president you've been wanting. But, who knows? Maybe one day, Condoleeza Rice will decide to run. Then, you just might get the real thing!
How Long Must We Sing This Song?
Remember, when you talk about Thursday’s bombings in London, you must not mention 9/11 in any context. That’s how it works, right? I mean, every time the president mentions 9/11, he’s accused of co-opting it, hijacking it, and manipulating it to fit his own agenda. Obviously, as we’ve learned from the op-ed pages and the liberals in the house and senate, 9/11 is not linked in any way to terrorism, Muslim extremists, rogue nations in the middle east, or attacks on innocent civilians. Therefore, it has no connection whatsoever to the bombings in London either, and must not be mentioned when discussing them.
I mean, just because 9/11 was the defining moment of the last 60 years of our history doesn't mean that the president can actually talk about it. That goes for all of us.
The thing that puzzles me the most is how these imaginary, fictional (uh, excuse me, I mean “fictious”) phantoms managed to set off bombs in London, anyway. It just blows my mind. They don’t exist, they aren’t a real threat, they're just a device the Republicans cooked up to keep us in fear, right? RIGHT??!? And yet, these figments have managed to KILL PEOPLE AGAIN. Hmmm….
Not everyone who’s written about the bombings is as bitter as I am, of course. I’ve found interesting and worthwhile ideas and observations from all kinds of sources.
Rhodster’s imagination is so good, I’d almost believe he was there. Read the whole thing, not just this appetizer:
…These people aren't carrying firearms or wearing flak jackets and steel helmets because they don't expect to have their lives snuffed out suddenly by maniacs. As the train rolls along, a young man is reading the advertisements posted above the window and thinking about how pretty the girl is in that picture. He doesn't even notice the brand of gum she's advertising because he's too fixated on that beautiful face and lovely figure. He hopes to marry a girl that pretty some day, but also he hopes she has a good personality, because that's even more important when it comes to marrying a girl…
I like the resolve expressed by Nile Gardner and John Hulsman, even if the cowboy imagery they conjure up seems a bit tired and silly:
The terrorists fail to understand the British bulldog tradition of rising to meet every challenge. They also fail to comprehend that when the chips are down the U.S. and UK, like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, come out shooting together. This terrible atrocity will not alter these fundamental facts; rather, it will only strengthen the Anglo-American resolve.
Remember, London has seen this kind of thing before. There was the IRA... and, the air raids during the last world war took a terrible toll, and Londoners are as gutsy now as they were then:
"As Brits, we'll carry on — it doesn't scare us at all" said tour guide Michael Cahill, 37. "Look, loads of people are walking down the streets. It's Great Britain — not called 'Great' for nothing."
One of my regular blog reads, The Boiled Egg of Infinity, is written by a Scot in Glasgow. His response is humble, humbling, and profoundly real. This isn’t a world away for Fawndoo. This is immediate:
Bloggers, journalists and writers with a galaxy more talent than I can ever muster will be writing about these incidents now, so I'm going to wrap up and let you get away to do some actual reading about this horrible thing. Then I'm going to worry. And check the news.
The Write Jerry feels it, too:
Yesterday I was depressed at first, then angry, then dismayed. Today, I feel a bit snarky, but am resisting the urge to toss out comments like "why hasn't Bob Geldhof organized a benefit concert yet?" or "which actor or actress will be first to publicly condemn the loss of life, but not the goals of the criminals who bomb innocent people?"
Oh wait, I guess I didn't resist that urge…
The Wall Street Journal has crafted a hands-on response:
The best response would be for G-8 leaders to immediately expand their commitments to both countries (Iraq and Afghanistan). Islamists are most dangerous when they sense weakness. And they can be forgiven for detecting it as they've watched debates in Europe and the U.S. in recent months. The calls to close Guantanamo, the recriminations over rendition of terror suspects, the demands for a "date certain" to withdraw from Iraq: In the mind of al Qaeda these are all signs of the West's flagging will to prevail.
Peter Brown asks why we haven’t seen further attacks on our shores since 9/11:
… we might also consider the possibility that the U.S. government's response to 9-11 has been working. What if we have thwarted active terrorist plots or discouraged al-Qaeda's planners from focusing here, forcing them to concentrate their efforts overseas?
After all, it would seem that the New York, Boston, Chicago or Washington subways, San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge or Los Angeles' freeways or shopping malls would be just as inviting for the low-tech kind of terrorism that occurred in London and Madrid.
If that is the case, then perhaps the Bush administration's efforts -- which have raised the hackles of civil libertarians who argue the stepped-up security endangers individual rights -- are working...
Or maybe opposing the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq has used up al-Qaeda's men and money, forcing it to concentrate its battle against America there, since those parts of the world are closer to al-Qaeda's home.
Could it be? Could it be that the invasion of Iraq and the election of a free Iraqi government has actually damaged the resolve and resources of the terrorists, to some degree? Is it possible that there has been a generally positive outcome, on a world scope, from Iraq? One soldier, bound for Iraq, certainly sees a connection:
Finally I just wanted to state one more time, Iraq is the whole bag of marbles, if our ideas win there, then militant Islam will wither on the vine and eventually die. If we lose in Iraq, the world will become a much darker place where the evils of the past such as slavery and holy wars will become the norm. I ask the people of America this question; We are the last hope for this planet to realize its potential, the Europeans are too weak to do it, what kind of world do we want for our children to live in? I made my choice, and now I leave to do what I believe is my duty. God bless my family, God bless our brave men and women in uniform, God bless all Americans and God bless America.
I’ll wrap with Victor Davis Hanson, who sums it up succinctly, in terms I agree with:
Failed states in the Middle East — autocratic, statist, unfree, intolerant of women and other religions — blame the West for their self-inflicted miseries. Sometimes they are theocratic, like the late Taliban or the current Iranian mullahs. But more often they are dictatorial like the Syrians, Pakistanis, Saudis, or Egyptians, who all, in varying degrees and in lieu of reform, have come to accommodations with the terrorists to shift popular anguish onto the West and the Jews.
That is the Petri dish of Islamic fascism, an evil that will only disappear when the dictatorships that allow it or nourish it do as well. Whether the jihadists are in Iraq, the United States, or Europe, they all share a sick notion that someone else (the decadent Western oppressor and unbeliever) is responsible for their own poverty and backwardness rather than the fundamentalism, corruption, bias, and intolerance endemic to the Middle East….
In the short term, Bush and Blair will appear as islands in the storm amid an angry and anguished public. But as 7/7 fades, as did 9/11, expect them to become even more unpopular, as the voices of appeasement assure us that if they just go away, maybe so will the terrorists.
It is our task, each of us according to our station, to speak the truth to all these falsehoods, and remember that we did not inherit a wonderful civilization just to lose it to the Dark Ages.
Thursday, July 07, 2005
From The Mind Of Dave
Stop by and check out From The Mind Of Dave, a new blog by... well, Dave. Dave is the husband of Kelly, the blogger at Paradoxes and Problems, another blog that Wendy and I enjoy.
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
The Game Is Afoot
Hillary "The Great Satan" Clinton is really campaigning hard... campaigning to pull the wool over your eyes, that is:
"Our current immigration laws need to be reformed," she urges. "We need a better solution to the question of illegal immigration which recognizes the conflict between the need to enforce the law, and the reality that too many employers are using undocumented workers today."
Clinton says that while "this administration has failed to provide the resources to protect our borders, or a better system to keep track of entrants to this country ... I welcome the addition of more border security."
Sounds downright conservative, doesn't she?
Where have we seen this before?
Oh, yeah, her husband Slick did the same thing in '94. Remember Newt and the Contract for America? Remember how all the liberals (the ones in the media, the ones in office, etc) blasted it as a hard-line right-wing contract on America? And, remember how Slick co-opted damn near all of it right out from under the GOP and pretended to be a moderate conservative so he could get re-elected?
Remember how the pseudo-conservative act worked like a charm?
This crap disgusts me. You have to be an absolute moron not to see right through Hillary. You have to have your head so far up your butt that you can remove your own tonsels with your teeth to believe a word this woman says.
These people have no shame... and if we let this yammering, transparent FRAUD B.S. her way into the White House, then we as a nation deserve to have her as our president.
Bill Clinton, as I've mentioned before, is responsible for the political birth of at least one conservative: this one. I thought I was a liberal until we screwed up and actually put one in office. Once I saw what Clinton and his ilk were all about, I woke up the hard way.
I fell for it in '90. I supported the guy. I'm ashamed of that, but come hell or high water, I'm going to do everything I can to help expose his bitter-half for what she is.
Don't fall for it, people. During the Clinton presidency, bin Ladin bombed the World Trade Center for the first time and got away with it. During the Clinton years, with no real leader at the helm, al Qaeda got stronger. Saddam got away with oil-for-food murder, and North Korea got nuclear, right under our noses, breaking every promise that Clinton swallowed. The economy cruised along on the dot-com wave and then crashed and crashed hard. Low pay service jobs became just about all that was available, and the Clinton White House tried to fix that problem by campaigning to raise the minimum wage. It was a disasterous time for America. The Clinton years damn near wrecked us. We CAN NOT AFFORD for Slick's ol' lady to have her shot at turning the screws.
New (To Me) Virginia Blogs
I've found out about two darn good Virginia blogs over the last couple of days, and I'm proud to add them to my blogroll and encourage you to read them, especially if you're a fellow Virginian:
Allen Thornburgh at Thornblog describes his slice of the web this way: Discussing politics, theology, policy, humanity, society, and culture - without vitriol - in the pursuit of wisdom, knowledge and action. And probably quite a bit of silliness as well. An accurate and inticing description, and it's well worth a look.
A sample from Thornblog:
Given the progress to date in Iraq - which we ought to see as an overwhelming success, it seems to me - the only reason to avoid a withdrawal date would be the "fish in a barrel" scenario. I.e., the American action in Iraq draws foreign terrorists to our forces, so that we can kill them en masse, before they can carry out devastating attacks against civilians overseas or on our own soil.
And, perhaps, that one opportunity is the secret primary reason that we invaded all along.
This guy's blog won me over pretty quick with his Jerry Kilgore banner and his photos of the D-Day Memorial in Bedford. I love that memorial, I get all choked up about D-Day, and Insane Hippie has a great set of pics from the memorial that you should check out.
A sample from the blog:
The Koran in Gitmo is treated like it truly is a piece of God himself. No non-muslims can touch it without wearing gloves. The PRISONERS foods are cooked and maintained with the same Islamic rules as if they were in their own countries...
We don't treat school children in America this good, yet for some reason we treat these prisoners like the second coming of Jesus. It drives me flat out crazy. We treat these pieces of trash so good and what will they do if we let them out tomorrow? They'll STILL want to chop off our heads.
Check out Thornblog and The Insane Hippie. Tell 'em the Southern Conservative sent ya.
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
"Mama Didn't Love Me"
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (AP) -- The owners of the other contestants in this year's World's Ugliest Dog Contest may have thought their pooches had a chance - until they saw Sam.
The 14-year-old pedigreed Chinese crested recently won the Sonoma-Marin Fair contest for the third consecutive time, and it's no surprise.
The tiny dog has no hair, if you don't count the yellowish-white tuft erupting from his head. His wrinkled brown skin is covered with splotches, a line of warts marches down his snout, his blind eyes are an alien, milky white and a fleshy flap of skin hangs from his withered neck. And then there's the Austin Powers teeth that jut at odd angles from his mouth.
How ugly is Sam? This ugly:
This dog's name shouldn't be "Sam." It should be "Sam Hell."
A face only a mother could love... if, in fact, she could.
If God loves irony, I bet this is the gentlest, best behaved, most loving dog in the world.
Sam is a Chinese Crested, and even at breed standard, they are odd looking dogs:
So, the odds were kinda against Sam all along. Even if he'd been the perfect example of a Chinese Crested, he'd not likely star in the sequel to Because of Winn Dixie.
Poor thing. My gut reaction was “It looks like a demon!” Wendy pointed out that it looks like one of the creatures in the movie Jacob’s Ladder. Good call. That's one of my favorite scary movies.
Or, it was.
A Loaded Question, A Slanted A.N.S.W.E.R.
Ask yourself this question:
If an American is patriotic and loves his country, is he more likely to be a liberal or a conservative?
I know, it sounds like a loaded question, but stay with me here. I DO have a point.
This is from Ellen Goodman’s most recent column, entitled The Silenced Majority:
I automatically read "Support Our Troops" as a proxy statement for "Support Our Commander in Chief." The yellow ribbons tied for soldiers fighting in Iraq seem to have morphed into a collective blue ribbon for the president handling this war.
I think it’s fair to say that, at least from Goodman’s point of view, most of the people who express support for our troops are conservatives, or Republicans, or at least they support Republicans.
Goodman is a very bitter woman:
Today, few Americans see either a clear way forward or a clean way out of Iraq. When a war begun on false premises slogs on without an exit strategy, when a war against terrorists becomes a terrorist training ground, when the body count rises — 1,700 American troops and counting — it's time to give up the notion that dissenters are the dangerous ones.
Who has that notion? Who believes that the dissenters are the dangerous ones? Is it arguably true that those who are opposed to the war are in some way dangerous? Let’s examine the evidence.
On September 24th of this year, The A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition hopes to organize a massive protest of those who are opposed to the war in Washington DC and other major American cities.
Thousands will march on Saturday, September 24 in Washington DC, San Francisco, Los Angeles. The A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition urges the antiwar movement to come together for a united demonstration.
Certainly, the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition would qualify as a group of dissenters, people who are opposed to the war in Iraq. What do we know about the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition?
For one thing, it was founded on September 14, 2001. That’s right, THREE DAYS after the worst attack against us on American soil, the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition formed in response to the American invasion of Afghanistan… before we invaded Afghanistan.
A.N.W.S.E.R. stands for Act Now To Stop War And End Racism. If only they’d added something about saving the environment and banning handguns, they’d have covered every trendy liberal cause. I guess the acronym would have been harder to figure out. But, I digress.
The A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition was formed, in part, by Ramsey Clark. He was Attorney General under Lyndon Johnson in the 60’s. Since then, he’s lost his mind.
Ramsey Clark is a member of Saddam Hussein’s legal team. He has supported other war criminals in the past, including Slobodan Milosevic and Elizaphan Ntakirutimana.
But Ramsey Clark doesn’t represent the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition all by himself, does he? Of course not. Other organizational members and prominent endorsers include The Korean Truth Commission and Pastors for Peace. What do we know about them?
The Korean Truth Commission and Pastors for Peace are staunch allies of Kim Jong Il and Fidel Castro, respectively, and both groups continue to support these murderous regimes’ violation of International law.
And what of the others behind A.N.S.W.E.R.?
…two other ANSWER Steering Committee members, the Muslim Student Alliance (MSA) and the Free Palestine Alliance (FPA), continue to contradict ANSWER’s alleged commitment to peace and ending racism. The Free Palestine Alliance is an outspoken supporter of the intifada, the Palestinian Uprising that has killed thousands of Israelis.
I could go on, but I think that a reasonable person would agree that the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition is made up of staunch supporters of those who perpetrate genocide and murder and those who work for the destruction of America.
Contrary to Ms. Goodman’s assertion, it may be a little soon to “give up the notion that dissenters are the dangerous ones.” At least with regard to the groups organizing the September protest.
By the way, that protest, such as it is, likely won’t amount to much:
The groups listed in the ANSWER coalition are mostly individually small and almost all appear to be left wing. The main centers for demonstrations that the group has so far announced are all East Coast or West Coast cities in states that went predominantly "blue" for the Democrats in last November's presidential election. So far they have shown no sign of significant grassroots organizing support in any, let alone many, areas of the Republican political base across the United States' vast continental Heartland. And over the past 4 1/2 years every attempt to mount significant left-wing popular protests in the streets of Washington has fizzled.
So, let’s get back to my original question…
If an American is patriotic and loves his country, is he more likely to be a liberal or a conservative?
Like it or not, the general appearance as of now is that patriotism and love of country are exclusively conservative traits. Troglodytes like Ellen Goodman will, of course, insist that that’s because the Republicans have co-opted patriotism, stolen the flag, claimed the heart of America as their own, yadda, yadda, yadda.
I’d like to suggest that there is another, far more important reason for the perception.
It’s not that conservatives have co-opted patriotism. It’s that, over the past 30 or so years, liberals have aligned themselves more and more with the angriest, bitterest, most passionately anti-American fringe groups out there. What started in the 60’s as a kind of relevant and important national introspection has devolved into the ugliest possible self-hatred.
Liberals were once concerned with recognizing our flaws and changing them. Now, they’re concerned with punishing some American.. or some American group... for all sorts of crimes, both real and imagined.
Liberals want to punish successful American corporations for succeeding.
Liberals want to punish white American males for being white, American, and male.
Liberals want to punish American gun owners for owning the guns they’re constitutionally allowed to own.
And, most of all, liberals want to punish America for being the most successful free nation in the history of the world.
I could go on forever.
Am I wrong?
If I am, I really hope to see proof. I’d love to see liberals speaking out in droves against the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition and it’s ilk. I’d LOVE to see Liberals who are opposed to the war going out of their way to make it clear that A.N.S.W.E.R. does NOT speak for them.
It's a given for conservatives, isn't it? It doesn't matter if I support the war or not, the mere fact that I'm conservative makes it a given that A.N.S.W.E.R. disgusts me.
Why is that?
I think it has less to do with the way conservatives behave and more to do with the way liberals behave... or, at least, the way they've behaved in my lifetime. I know that liberal Americans haven't always been the way they are now.
Nothing would make me happier than to hear some group of liberals... or some liberal leader... say “YES! We are liberal, and we are opposed to the war, but we love this country and we will not associate with those who support it’s enemies!”
Who's up to that?
Who's the liberal who'll speak out against this kind of hatred?
Once that happens, my “loaded question” will look foolish, rather than seeming entirely relevant.
I’m not holding my breath.
Monday, July 04, 2005
Rather than waste any more time here, go on over to the Chronicles of Rhodster and check out something well worth reading on this Independence Day...
A story about a remarkable experience in the service of our country:
...I was honorably discharged as an E-3 in 1981, which was no great accomplishment. But on this ONE day, I had accomplished something that may have turned out to be my whole reason for having been there in the first place. Most of the people on that boat were near death and the corpsman later said that a few of them would have certainly died within a few days if we hadn't picked them up. I'm certain that we would have passed them right by if I hadn't been scanning the horizon with the big eyes that day and had caught sight of the little white something that turned into a sail, then into a tattered tablecloth and eventually became a little, battered boat...
And some outstanding commentary...
...In the past America has had to defend it's freedom from the possibility of tyranny, and people should know that the 4th of July is not all cheeseburgers, hotdogs and fireworks- it's blood spilled and sacrifices made to protect our freedom. Because of the 4th of July you may convert to the Jewish faith tomorrow if you'd like, or become a Catholic. You can even become a Muslim. You can say awful things about George Bush (and people certainly do, all day long) without having to worry about your family being dragged off in the night by soldiers and you never seeing them again. You can burn an American flag in public and the most you'd get is a ticket for having a bon-fire without a permit. I don't recommend it though, because it's a good way to get your ass kicked by a vet. (I know because I'm the vet)...
And while you're there, be sure and thank Dave for his service to our country. We wouldn't have jack squat without our vets, and we owe them all the gratitude we can muster up.
Sunday, July 03, 2005
It's The Little Things...
We've been outside for the past 15 minutes watching a baby blue jay learn to fly.
Life can be beautiful out of the blue.
Serious Identity Problems
I have said for ages that I think that Laura Ingrahm is hot... and today my wife pointed out that Laura looks a lot like Steven Cojocaru.
So now, I have a dilemma... I still think that Laura is hot, but Wendy is right. She looks like Cojo.
Does that mean I think Cojo is hot, too?
Somebody just kill me.
If you're not sure who Cojo is, he's that
guy who shows up all the time on VH1 and on Entertainment Tonight and on the news whenever there's a fashion segment, etc, etc, etc. He's on TV every ten minutes. He is the most annoying human being in the world. I'm reluctant to even call him a gay guy; he's like some parody of a gay person.
I presume that he is to gay people what this is to black people, what this is to asian people, what this is to Irish people, and what this moron is to guys like me.
Cojo is beyond gay. He's like a walking, talking stereotype or a cartoon. I'm not even sure if he is a gay man. He might be an alien. RuPaul, I'm sure, would feel that Cojo needs to tone down the gay thing a little bit. It's that bad.
And, it seems, I find him attractive.
I'm going to need years and years of therapy because of this.
Miracles: Jeanna and Akiane
You probably already know about this… from what I’ve read, the case received “worldwide media attention,” but I’ve just heard about it today.
On a Sunday morning last September, 15 year old Jeanna Giese removed a stray bat from her church, St. Patrick Catholic Church, in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. The bat bit her. By the end of October, she was dying of rabies in a Milwaukee hospital.
In her situation, it was uniformly fatal. Standard practice would be to make Jeanna comfortable until she died. (Dr. Rodney) Willoughby, father of two small children with a third on the way, knew it would be hard to leave the Gieses without hope. They would ask: Isn't there something more you can do?
There was. But the treatment couldn't even be called experimental. It was just a theory, perhaps no more than a prayer. And success could come at a terrible cost: Jeanna could survive severely brain damaged or paralyzed, her green eyes staring from a leaden body.
Doctors could only explain the risks. The Gieses would have to make the decision, and make it soon.
Now, fast forward to June 29 of this year. Last Wednesday:
It's a wonderful story that continues to unfold. Jeanna Giese, the only person in the world to survive an advanced case of rabies without a vaccine, is now more active than ever. The Fond du Lac teen spoke Wednesday night at a benefit raising money for Children's Hospital of Wisconsin.
Jeanna Giese is the first person in recorded history to survive rabies without vaccination. Only five have survived it with vaccination.
Akiane Kramarik is a painter and a poet. She lives in the Midwest. Her mother is an immigrant, and Akiane is fluent in Lithuanian, Russian, English and sign language.
I like her poetry, but poetry isn’t really my thing, so I can’t really offer any critique of it. Her paintings, though, to my untrained eye, are outstanding.
About seven years ago, Akiane experienced a spiritual transformation, and ended up converting her family to Christianity. Ever since, her paintings and poems have focused on Christian and spiritual themes.
Akiane, by the way, will turn eleven years old this Saturday, July 9.
I don’t know how you define “child prodigy,” but I know one when I see one.
When she grows up, Akiane Kramarik wants to be a “wife, mother, song writer, artist, poet, chef, lecturer, movie director, doctor, photographer and dancer.” She probably will.
Oh, yeah… on top of everything else, the kid is absolutely adorable. You can look at her and tell she’ll be a beautiful woman when she grows up.
I’m starting to hate her! ;)
Click the pic of her painting below to visit her site. This kid is really remarkable.
Hat tip: Tales from the Dorkside, who was ranting and raving about this kid when she drug me out of bed this afternoon. (I'm working graveyard shift this week.)
Saturday, July 02, 2005
High On You
Against my wishes, one of the local radio stations plays “High On You” by Survivor CONSTANTLY. Like, once very 15 minutes or so. Usually, when the song comes on, I scream, start jabbing wildly at the radio with one hand, and start digging around in the car for a CD with the other hand. Any CD will do, really. Even one of the kids’ CDs. I’d rather listen to the soundtrack to Pokemon: The First Movie than listen to “High On You” by Survivor.
Lately, though, for one reason or another, I’ve found myself actually having to hear the song. I’ll be in a store, for instance, and they’ll be playing that station, so I have to hear the song. Or, I’ll be in someone else’s car and won’t have control of the radio. Or, whatever. So I’ve actually paid attention to the lyrics, and I’ve come to the conclusion that “High On You” by Survivor might be the most important rock song ever recorded.
At first, I thought that the song was just stupid. These lyrics go beyond stupid, though. They’re so far beyond stupid that they might actually be smart… like some sort of zen koan that seems to make no sense on the surface but conveys a deeper wisdom within. Or something. Honestly, these lyrics could not have been crafted simply for their own value. On the surface, they are far too idiotic. There must be something more there, some secret code or deeper meaning, that must be cracked. There simply HAS to be something more there. Something secret. Something eternal.
I’m convinced that the secret of life is tied up in the riddle that is “High On You” by Survivor.
I’ve started studying the lyrics, trying desperately to decode them. I’m having no luck so far, but I’ll keep at it. Here’s a look at the lyrics and where I stand in my studies.
There you stood, that’ll teach ya
To look so good and feel so right
My first reaction to these two opening lines is “Sorry, what?” But I’m looking for that deeper meaning now, and I believe that the lyrics indicate that standing somewhere will teach us to look good and feel right. But, where? Where? I must find out, so that I can go stand there.
Let me tell you about the girl I met last night
With this line, the song’s account of a mysterious woman begins…
It’s understood, I had to reach her
I let the wheel of fortune spin
It may be that she works in a casino.
I touched your hand before the crowd
Started rushin’ in
A very popular casino.
Now I’m higher than a kite
The use of narcotics will enable us to better understand the true message of this song.
I know I’m gettin’ hooked on your love
And on narcotics.
Talkin’ to myself, runnin’ in the heat
This will result from overindulgence in narcotics. This is a warning.
Beggin’ for your touch in the middle
Of the street
It will also result in public behavior that is best confined to a private room. Beware.
I can’t stop thinking ’bout you, girl
I must be living in a fantasy world
I’m so high on you
What does that mean? WHAT DOES IT MEAN? I must solve it.
Smart and coy, a little crazy
Alright, back to describing the mystery woman… sounds intriguing so far…
The kinda face that starts a fight
Holy cow! Does she look like Mike Tyson? I suppose that’s part of her enigma, though. She’s smart, coy, somewhat insane, she looks good, she feels right, she works in a casino, and she resembles Mike Tyson. I must remember these clues.
Let me tell you ’bout the girl I had last night
Piercing eyes, like a raven
(Note to self, check aviaries for further clues)
You seemed to share my secret sin
Is it shoplifting? Or back to the narcotics? What could it be?
We were high before the night
Started kickin’ in
It must be the narcotics.
Now I’m screamin’ in the night
Yes, narcotics. Been there.
I know I’m gettin’ hooked on your love
Talkin’ to myself, runnin’ in the heat
Again, honestly, this can lead to no good.
Beggin’ for your touch in the middle
Of the street
This is going to get you arrested.
I’ve searched the whole world over
To find a heart so true
Such complete intoxication
I’m high on you!
Oh, what could it mean? WHAT IS THE ANSWER?!!?? I must get to the bottom of this mystery.
I stumble around the blogosphere blindly. I click a link at my own blog, and then I click a link at someone else's blog, and then I click somebody's comments profile and check out their blog, and then I click somebody in that guy's blogroll, etc, etc, etc.
So I end up reading all kinds of blogs.
Extra Strength Boredom Relief seems to be a blog by one of those South Park Republican types you hear about these days... like "The Jesse Factor" and others... who are young, pretty smart, very foul mouthed, and pretty darned conservative.
Clupbert, the blogger there, posted a proposed list of Suggested Tourism Slogans For Other Countries that made me laugh out loud:
Rwanda: "As seen in that movie with Don Cheadle." Japan: "Don't bother, we'll come to you. We're actually visiting your country right now." Azerbaijan: " No, we're not made up." Saudi Arabia: "Those aren't ninjas, they're chicks."
Really, the whole list is funny. Brace yourself for some foul language and go check it out.
Friday, July 01, 2005
War of the Worlds
I've posted a review of War of the Worlds over at film geeks, along with Wendy's review. I'm mentioning it here because I link back to a burried post here, wherein I have a few ideas about the politics of the film. If you're interested, check it out.
Or, if you've already seen the movie and don't mind reading spoilers, and if you give a crap about my take on the political elements of the movie, you can read that part of my review, which I've stuck on a back shelf here at the blog.
Wayfaring Strangers, Part 19
(Wayfaring Strangers is a continuing series about our experiences as my wife and I study to convert to Catholicism.)
Corinthians and Beyond
I haven't written a Wayfaring Strangers post in a while because I try to make these posts somewhat coherent and focused. Lately, my study and my thoughts have been even more scrambled than usual... so bear with me if I'm all over the place, here.
Epistles to Corinth
After fairly detailed studies of Acts and Romans, I thought it would be a good idea to devote similar studies to the other major books of the New Testament, one at a time. I Corinthians knocked me on my butt, however... and II Corinthians was just as difficult. In the first epistle, Paul seems law-obsessed, angry, and full of gloom and doom. In the second, he strikes me as a bit aloof and even seems to mock the reader at times. I can't get much out of either book as a whole, and I'm nowhere near ready to try to study them in terms of major themes, contextual threads. They aren't as purely theological as Romans, as instructive as Ephesians, or as lyrical as Philippians, and my grasp on them is limited. There are, however, passages and verses that seem to speak clearly to me, and I will write a little about them.
Paul Alludes to Purgatory
(I Corinthians, 3:11-15) ... no one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there, namely, Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, the work of each will come to light, for the Day will disclose it. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire (itself) will test the quality of each one's work. If the work stands that someone built upon the foundation, that person will receive a wage. But if someone's work is burned up, that one will suffer loss; the person will be saved, but only as through fire.
I don't claim to offer an authoritative interpretation of this passage, but as I read it, it supports my own understanding of Purgatory and how it works. The reference to being "revealed with fire" really got my attention. I have accepted Purgatory as an internal, personal belief. It makes sense to me and actually strengthens my faith in God. (My hero, C.S. Lewis, by the way, believed in Purgatory. I learned that recently.) Catholic or not, my belief in Purgatory and it's purpose will stay with me, I'm sure, from now on.
Treasures in Earthen Vessels
(II Corinthians, 4:7-12) ... we hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.
Wow, what a beautiful passage. What a resonate image of how something as fragile and weak as a human being can actually be a vessel that receives the grace of God. It's heady stuff. In some translations, the phrase "earthen vessels" is read "jars of clay." I suppose that's where the Christian rock band got their name. Nice.
Was Paul Gay?
Bear with me here. To some, that's going to sound irreverent or even blasphemous, but that question has crossed my mind as I've read the Corinthian epistles. I'm not arguing for one answer or another to that question, I'm just saying that it has crossed my mind. Here's why.
In the first chapter of Romans, Paul expresses serious concern about Christians who sinfully engaged in homosexual acts. Sexual impurity is also a focus of I Corinthians. I know that there were specific issues in Corinth that needed to be addressed, but stay with me, here. In chapter 7 of I Corinthians, Paul writes about marriage, and while he doesn't forbid single people and widows in Corinth to marry, he does discourage it to some degree. He says it would be good for them to remain single, and only really sees marriage as preferable to succumbing to lust. He admits that he's expressing his own opinions in that passage and not speaking for the Lord. It's a very personal matter to him. In II Corinthians, Paul writes about a "thorn in his flesh," some sort of apparently physical affliction that plagues him. It might be a disease or an injury or a handicap, but it might be something else, too. Paul says that he's prayed three times to have the "thorn" taken from him, and that the Lord has basically told him that he'll have to live with it.
I think it's worth considering that the "thorn" in Paul's side may have been a very specific lust or attraction that was counter to his religious beliefs. It may even be that he was predisposed to gayness and that it was something he wanted to change and struggled with. If that is the case, that type of inner conflict and pain must have been torturous for him. The idea that Paul was struggling with something that monumental tends to temper my negative reaction to some of his angrier passages. The idea that Paul was dealing with that kind of duality is humbling for me, and a reminder that nobody is beyond a role in God's plan. Anyone can play an important, even formative role in the church. Any prejudice I might take on about other Christians is my problem, not theirs.
In church a few weeks ago, the Deacon who delivered the homily mentioned that we have a responsibility as Christians to reach out to those who've been spurned by their families and who are suffering, including homosexuals. I agree with that, I think it should be a given. It's nice to hear that kind of thing instead of the gay bashing I'd been hearing at the protestant church we used to go to. I suppose that whether Paul was gay or not isn't really as important as the humility, charity and compassion I might come closer to by considering the possibility.
After the idea crossed my mind, I checked on the net and found out that if I am crazy for considering it, I'm not the only crazy person out there.
The Didache (pronounced DID-Uh-Kay) is one of the earliest authenticated documents of the Catholic church. It was probably written in the first century. I discovered it recently after hearing it mentioned on The Journey Home. I read it and I couldn't get over how beautiful it is. Passages of the Didache are some of the most meaningful nonbiblical Church writing I've ever read:
Where is the merit in loving only those who return your love? Even the heathens do as much as that. But if you love those who hate you, you will have nobody to be your enemy.
You are to have no malicious designs on a neighbour. You are to cherish no feelings of hatred for anybody; some you are to reprove, some to pray for, and some again to love more than your own life.
Do not parade your own merits, or allow yourself to behave presumptuously, and do not make a point of associating with persons of eminence, but
choose the companionship of honest and humble folk.
Give without hesitating and without grumbling, and you will see Whose generosity will requite you. Never turn away the needy; share all your possessions with your brother, and do not claim that anything is your own. If you and he are joint participators in things immortal, how much more so in things that are mortal?
Thou, O Almighty Lord, hast created all things for thine own Name's sake; to all men thou hast given meat and drink to enjoy, that they may give thanks to thee, but to us thou hast graciously given spiritual meat and drink, together with life eternal, through thy Servant. Especially, and above all, do we give thanks to thee for the mightiness of thy power.
I'd never have discovered the Didache in our old church. I thank God for it, and for the history of Catholic tradition that has preserved it.
The Eucharist and Transubstantiation
Every week at mass, Wendy and I watch the sacrament of the Eucharist and every week I long more and more to participate. At this point, I can't wait to be confirmed so that I can receive the Host. The concept of transubstantiation has struck me as important and real ever since I first learned about it years ago. I've always been aware of it's absence in protestant communion. As I draw closer and closer to the day when I can receive the Real Presence, I become more and more certain that the Catholic Church is my spiritual home. In fact, with regard to transubstantiation, the only real adjustment I've had to make over the past few months was to overcome my fear that my protestant loved ones will think I'm crazy. That's been a real fear and I've been very self conscious about it. I've been afraid that my protestant family members will wonder how I can actually believe in a concept like transubstantiation; how I can say that the emblems become the Real Presence inside of me when I receive them. That self conscious fear is gone, now. I don't even think about it anymore during Mass. All I find myself thinking is that I really long to participate in that two thousand year old Communion. I want the fullness of the Eucharist, to be part of it, to bring it into me and to bring myself into it.
Progress on Mary
Did you know that Martin Luther and John Calvin both believed in Mary's perpetual virginity? I didn't until recently. Learning that makes the doctrine seem less Catholic-specific and more generally Christian. I've come to believe in the Immaculate Conception, by the way, as it relates to my belief in Purgatory. If I believe that we must be purged of the residue of sin on our way to God, it follows that Mary would have had to have been conceived without original sin in order to be capable of bearing God himself on Earth. I realize now, though, that the idea of Immaculate Conception doesn't mean that Mary was stainless and sinless in the same way that Christ was. That was my big hang-up with the concept. Rather than deifying the Holy Mother, Immaculate Conception is a doctrine that presents her as the first Christian, entirely mortal, and saved from conception by the Grace of Christ. Her relationship with Jesus was very special, that goes without saying. She was, after all, his only blood relative on earth. It was her great honor, her unique gift, to be the first to receive his saving grace through her faith in him. How can that have happened? How can she have been saved by her Son previous to her own birth? Beats me. I never said I believed in a Savior I could completely understand or explain on my own terms, though.
I still have problems understanding the Assumption and, to a greater extent, the Coronation. I've put those issues in God's hands, though. He will reveal to me the understanding that He wills for me in His own time. My job is to receive it, not to schedule it.
Regardless, the Holy Mother has become for me the best possible example of Christian obedience. I think that my goal as a Christian should be to try to relate to the Savior as she did; to receive him readily and without qualification, to devote myself entirely to him, to suffer when he suffers, to celebrate when he celebrates, and to say of him "Do whatever he tells you."
So that's where I am as of now with Catholicism. The experience becomes less of a study and more of a homecoming with each Mass.
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