Wednesday, August 31, 2005

 

Constant Template Problems



It's been brought to my attention that the new template looks like crap, too. Old posts have odd characters in them where quotation marks and apostrophes should be... and the font in the blogroll randomly changes sizes. Randomly! On it's own! Plus, the spaces between paragraphs don't show up when you look at the site with IE.

Back to the drawing board, I guess.

Update

I think I have the %$#@$%# thing fixed. It's 4 in the morning, I'm going to bed. Wendy will kill me for staying up this late working on the template. And, she'll tell me I'm a dork-geek-loser. But, I think I might actually have something decent looking now.



UPDATE 2.0... Wednesday Morning, 11:00 AM or so

I think I fixed it. You guys, PLEASE let me know if I fixed it. Does this blog look OK to everyone now?

By the way, Jerry, I know you're right. (You're "right-jerry.") I need my columns to be coded in terms of percents rather than absolute values... but I can't figure out how to do that kind of code in style sheets. I used to be a decent amateur HTML writer about 5 years ago, but this new stuff makes my hair hurt.


UPDATE 3.0... Wednesday afternoon, 3:20 PM

I give up. I GIVE UP! I can't make it look right. I'm sick of trying. I'm honestly at the point where I'm just about ready to quit blogging.

AAAAAGGGHHH!




Tuesday, August 30, 2005

 

Relax. I Am In Control Now.



I went to see my surgeon today for a post-surgery check-up. He told me that I'm recovering well, based on the fact that I feel pretty good. Well, duh. Unfortunately, he also told me that the piece of herniated disc he removed from my spine was pretty big, about as big as his thumb, and that it would be a good while longer before it's safe for me to return to work.

I'm really getting bored sitting around the house, watching the paychecks not come in.

Since I had a couple of hours in the car today to listen to the news on the radio... and another sixty or ninety minutes of waiting time at the doctor's office to read newspapers and Time magazine, I'd say that I'm pretty up to date on what's going on in the world around me at the moment. Basically, everything sucks. That's as simply as I can put it.

I've been afraid for some time now that it would come to this, and, unfortunately, it has. Everything in the whole world is so messed up right now that I feel that I have no choice but to declare myself in charge of the entire world from now on. As of now, and until such time as I feel that it is safe to return to previous practices, I will be taking control of the entire world. From now on, all of you are to consult with me before making any decisions, taking any actions, or having any thoughts. That goes double for government officials, television programmers, and anyone associated with the recording of popular music.

Trust me. It is for your own good.

Now that I am in control, I think the best thing to do is to issue a few new laws. These new laws are all mandatory, nonnegotiable, unilateral, universal, and unisex. Don't think they don't apply to you. They do.

Here are Darrell's new laws, all of which must be obeyed by all of you until further notice.

NEW LAW NUMBER ONE
Hurricanes are now illegal. Anyone caught trying to incite a hurricane will be suspended without pay for a period not to exceed three months. Anyone aiding or abetting an already-existing hurricane will likewise be suspended without pay and punched directly in the nose by a drunken Dallas Cowboys fan.

NEW LAW NUMBER TWO
Anyone caught looting during a hurricane will be beaten with a rake for my amusement. Since I am not amused by the sight of a person being beaten with a rake, this might take a particularly long time. Nonetheless, the beating will continue until I find it funny.

NEW LAW NUMBER THREE
Any $#!%-head liberal columnist who writes a column blaming a Hurricane on George W. Bush will be handcuffed to Pat Robertson for a period of no less than three months.

NEW LAW NUMBER FOUR
People who show up at the funerals of slain war heroes to stage protests will be repeatedly kicked in the groin for a period of no less than three months.

NEW LAW NUMBER FIVE
The following awful songs will never again be played on the radio:

And, all songs by Good Charlotte, 50 Cent, Ja Rule, and any Aerosmith song recorded after 1982.

NEW LAW NUMBER SIX
The following very good songs will never again be played on the radio, simply because I'm so sick of hearing them that I could puke:

All songs recorded by Aerosmith prior to 1982

NEW LAW NUMBER SEVEN
Any store, commercial website, or catalogue business promoting Christmas shopping in August will be required to reduce the price of each item of merchandise they sell to $1.25 for a period of no less than three months but not to exceed six billion years.

NEW LAW NUMBER EIGHT
Gasoline will cost $0.55 a gallon, the way the Good Lord intended it.

NEW LAW NUMBER NINE
Scientists will be required to find a way to make gasoline out of old Aerosmith CDs.


NEW LAW NUMBER TEN
The members of PETA will be required to eat no less than three hamburgers a day while wearing mink coats, leather shoes, and big fur-covered pimp-hats with peacock feathers in the bands.


NEW LAW NUMBER ELEVEN
Before PETA will be allowed to organize any campaign wherein celebrities disrobe to promote animal rights, I will be presented with the list of celebrities and I will have the right to strike names from the list and make substitutions.

NEW LAW NUMBER TWELVE
Any member of PETA caught encouraging Tommy Lee to disrobe for an advertising campaign will be forced to tour with Motley Crue for a period of no less than seventy years. They will also be required to share a restroom with the band. Furthermore, said members of PETA will be required to come out on stage with the band every night and dance the hokey pokey while the band plays "Smoking In the Boys Room."

NEW LAW NUMBER THIRTEEN
Anyone convicted of killing puppies will be doused in bar-b-que sauce and placed in front of Michael Moore.

NEW LAW NUMBER FOURTEEN
People like Cindy Sheehan, Michael Moore, and Jeneane Garafalolollolo will no longer be referred to as "anti-war." From now on, they will be referred to, much more correctly, as "pro-terrorist".

NEW LAW NUMBER FOURTEEN
Reporters, political cartoonists, interviewers and columnists seem to have had a secret meeting and decided to use the word "turd" without reservation from now on (example one, example two, example three, example four... you might have to use the "find" feature, but trust me, the turds are there.) Therefore, they are now required to work the word "turd" into every article, every opinion piece, every weather forecast, and every sports report they publish. Furthermore, the Los Angeles Times is required to immediately change it's name to the Los Angeles Turd. The Washington Post will be known from now on as The Washington Turd. And, The New York Times will be known as The Turd New Turd Turd.


NEW LAW NUMBER SIXTEEN
The number "fifteen" will be replaced with an additional number "fourteen" from now on. This is not simply to cover for the fact that I screwed up and put two "fourteens" on this list. It is a deeply personal matter and I am not willing to discuss it further. Return to your homes. there is nothing more to see here.


Monday, August 29, 2005

 

Good Reading Comes In Threes



I enjoyed all three of these items and wanted to pass them on:

  • Uncommon Descent is an outstanding blog that promotes belief in Intelligent Design. (Hat Tip: Where Have You Gone, Ronald Reagan.) Among the intresting items I found at Uncommon Descent was an article by Beverly Kelly for the Ventura County Star, called Public Not Buying 'I.D. Is Not Science' Argument. Here's a quick bite of it:
    Intelligent design advocates who purists find so infuriating are not your father's "the world was created in six days" Bible-thumpers. They are, for the most part, credentialed scholars who identify two scientific developments that, they claim, could undermine Darwinism. The first is the molecular biology revelation that life is staggeringly and unexpectedly more complex than evolution can explain. (See Michael J. Behe's "Darwin's Black Box.") The second is a set of mathematical findings that casts serious doubt on the power of natural selection to accomplish macro-evolutionary changes. (See: William A. Dembski's "The Design Revolution.")

    The whole thing is good. Go read it.


  • Homocon recently found his way back to Narnia. Here's some of what he said:
    The writing is better than I remembered -- vivid and descriptive without going completely overboard on depictions of landscape and character history (as in, say, much of The Lord of the Rings which, in my opinion, stretched on far longer than seemed really necessary). The mythology is vaguely Christian (though C.S. Lewis sometimes denied overtly crafting them so . . . but, really, does anybody believe him on that point?)


  • Want to learn how to post like a liberal? Cake Or Death has a great primer. Here's a couple of his ten steps:
    4. Find a leader. The most qualified person would be someone who has lost something dear because of the person/policy you are protesting. A good example would be a mother who lost a son in a war that she doesn't agree with. This is quite possibly the most unimpeachable spokesperson you can have. Once you loose a loved one, your cause becomes bullet proof regardless of what kind of diarhhea comes out of your mouth!

    9. Use props. If say, you're against a war, make crosses of those killed in said war and paint the names of the fallen on them. Post them around your site. It looks really cool. (Nevermind getting permission to use names of soldiers killed who you do not know. Your cause is just. They and the loved ones left befind won't mind at all.)

    The whole list had me grinning... go read all of it.


  •  

    The New Reality Show: "Grief Factor"



    Remember when grief and mourning were a private, personal matter for loved ones and family?



    That's Cindy Sheehan and her entourage of cameras and reporters. In the middle with her, competing for the spotlight, is the right Reverend Al Sharpton.

    Don't they look good together?



    Why do I have a warped remix of "Like A Prayer" in my head?



    Just like a dream....
    You are not what you seem......"



     

    The Blogroll Is Back



    I've put the blogroll back down the left side... I'd gotten enough negative feedback about it being a clickable link to convince me that I needed to bring it back to the front page.

    I've also added a couple of graphics and things to the right to try to ballance things out.

    No, I am not going to let the new template get as junked up as the old one was. Not yet, anyway.

    Since I am a natural born follower, I've added one of those niftly little blog polls that everyone else seems to have these days. Scroll down about half way and you'll see it on the left-hand side, under the blogroll. Be sure and click your selection.

    That is all! At ease.


     

    Everybody Else Is Doing It...



    Seems like everybody else is taking this test right now, so I took it too. I think my results are fairly accurate... at least with regard to the apathy it noted.

    If I had to pick a RotN character to say I'm the most like, it would probably be Booger.

    Here's my results:

    Tri-Lamb Material
    60 % Nerd, 43% Geek, 60% Dork
    For The Record:



    A Nerd is someone who is passionate about learning/being smart/academia.

    A Geek is someone who is passionate about some particular area or subject, often an obscure or difficult one.

    A Dork is someone who has difficulty with common social expectations/interactions.



    You scored better than half in Nerd and Dork, earning you the coveted title of: Tri-Lamb Material.

    The classic, "80's" nerd, you are what most people think of when they think "nerd," largely due to 80's movies like Revenge of the Nerds and TV shows like Head of the Class. You're exceptionally bright and smart, and partly because of that have never quite fit in with your peers or social groups. Perhaps you've realized, or will someday, that it is possible to retain all of the things that you like about being brilliant and still make peace with the social cliques around you. Or maybe you won't--it's really not necessary. As the brothers of Lambda Lambda Lambda discovered, you're fine just the way you are and can take pride in that. I mean, who wants to be like Ogre, right!?

    Thanks Again! -- THE NERD? GEEK? OR DORK? TEST



    My test tracked 3 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
    free online datingfree online dating
    You scored higher than 46% on nerdiness
    free online datingfree online dating
    You scored higher than 55% on geekosity
    free online datingfree online dating
    You scored higher than 96% on dork points
    Link: The Nerd? Geek? or Dork? Test written by donathos on Ok Cupid



    Sunday, August 28, 2005

     

    Working On The Family Page



    Along with trying to spruce up my own blog a little, Wendy and I have been using Blogger to get our home page in a little better shape. Basically, we're going to start managing the family home page with Blogger because it's so much easier. One thing we've always intended to do with the home page is share music with friends and family. We'll only share songs that are legal to download, copy and listen to... but there's a lot of really good stuff out there that's totally free if you're willing to dig around the internet and find it.

    The first song we've uploaded is "Let It Fall" by Glen Phillips and Nickel Creek. It's a beautiful song, and well worth downloading.


     

    Tick Off A Liberal, Win An iPod Shuffle!



    One of my favorite blogs, Where Have You Gone, Ronald Reagan, is having a great contest right now, and you all should check it out.

    Here's the deal... come up with a humorous headline designed to enrage liberals and you'll win yourself an iPod Shuffle.

    I'll certainly enter the contest myself, as soon as I come up with the best entry I can think of.

    It's just too good to be true, especially for us right wing bloggers who are constantly trying to tick off liberals anyway. Liberals, after all, have no real sense of humor and are just soooo easy to offend. I realize that it sounds like I'm generalizing with that remark, but as is often the case when it appears that I'm generalizing, I don't care.

    Go check it out, and good luck.


    Saturday, August 27, 2005

     

    The SouthCon True Hollywood Story



  • Margot Kidder immerged from her neighbor's bushes this week, long enough to officially become a US citizen.

    Actress Margot Kidder became a U.S. citizen Wednesday to avoid possible deportation to her native Canada when she begins protesting the war in Iraq, she said.

    The actress, best known for playing Lois Lane in the 1978 movie Superman and three sequels, was among 19 people who became citizens during a naturalization ceremony in Butte federal court.

    Kidder said in an interview after the ceremony that her sole motivation was to protest the war in Iraq.


    Kidder, who played Lois Lane in four Superman movies, is also known for the three days she spent missing in 1996, only to be found in her neighbor's back yard, hiding in the bushes. She was missing several teeth. She had cut her hair with a razor, in an apparent attempt to disguise her appearance. At the time, Kidder claimed that her ex-husband and the CIA were following her.

    For it's part, the CIA denied Kidder's claims, stating that they were too busy rounding up and deporting people who are opposed to US government policy to spend their time stalking unemployed actresses.

    Today, Kidder is far more stable, thanks to a process known as "orthomolecular medicine."

    "(It's) a process whereby you take the toxins out of your system and you put the nutrients in, and you try to stay away from psychiatric drugs if you can or minimize them," she explains.


    Because of it's avoidance of psychiatric drugs, "orthomolecular medicine" is believed to have been developed by Dr. Tom Cruise, noted psychiatry expert and occasional actor.

    Kidder attributes her newly even keeled life to Cruise's program, and isn't shy about praising him for his medical advances. "He can fly! He belongs in the sky! Here I am like a kid out of school, holding hands with a god! I'm a fool! Can he read my mind? Does he know what is is that he does to me?"


  • For his part, Cruise had a busy week, between planning his Arabian Knights themed wedding to Katie Holmes and denying claims that he is William Shakespeare reincarnated. Or, to be more specific, Cruise spent the week denying claims that he had made the claim that he is William Shakespeare reincarnated. Cruise also either denied that he is a reincarnated Scientology prophet, or possibly simply denied that he had claimed that he is a reincarnated Scientology prophet. It is worth noting that William Shakespeare never confirmed nor denied his status as a Scientology prophet.

    Understandably, there are those who believe that this proves that Cruise IS both a reincarnated Scientology prophet AND William Shakespeare reincarnated. "If Tom Cruise really isn't a reincarnated prophet, then why is he so adamant about denying that he's a reincarnated prophet, huh? Huh??!" asked my friend Dave, noted Tom Cruise expert. "I mean, if somebody accused me of being a reincarnated Scientology prophet, I'd just laugh and be all like 'Yeah, right,' but Tom Cruise gets all huffy about it, so I'm like, hey... I think the dude really IS a reincarnated Scientology prophet, you know what I mean?"

    I did not know what he meant.


  • Cruise's week was made all the more difficult by another noted medical expert, stunt driver and occasional actor, Dr. Scarlett Johansson. Johansson reportedly blasted Cruise for his stance on psychiatric drugs, stating that Cruise was "ignorant." Johansson continued, saying " "I think people have their own right to choose whether or not they want to stop taking a drug. I can go into a very lengthy conversation with anyone about a woman's right to choose and things like that, but I don't believe in forcing my opinion on people." Johansson is also capable of going into a lengthy conversation about human cloning, having recently stared in a very bad movie on the subject, during the production of which she memorized several technical-sounding terms.


    Johansson's medical credibility became undeniable last February when she revealed to reporters that stem cell research could possibly "eliminate diseases like Alzheimer's and polio." Johansson refused to speculate, however, on the chances that stem cell research might also eliminate Cow Pox, lycanthropy, or Saturday Night Fever, stating that thus far her research has been inconclusive.


  • America hating, lying, fat commie bastard Michael Moore checked himself into a posh health spa this week, admitting that he is as much as 200 pounds overweight. The fat farm is just outside of Miami, Florida, and costs $3,800 a week for enrolment. That's nearly half of the money Moore spends weekly on Little Debbie products. Displaying that "Shoot for the moon" spirit that has made his hometown of Flint, Michigan so famous, Moore has told friends and relatives that he hopes to lose as much as twelve pounds. In May of 2003, Moore told Oprah Winfrey's website that Ronald Reagan was responsible for his obesity. At the time, Moore was reading a book called Fit From Within by Victoria Moran, in an attempt to lose weight. Moore did not lose weight after completing the book, and therefore he intends to produce a film about Moran's lies.


  • Between fighting in the Crusades and slaying dragons, British Knight Sir Ian McKellen occasionally acts in motion pictures. McKellen made headlines this month when he encouraged other knighted homosexuals to come out of the royal closet and reveal their sexuality to the world at large. "Acting, in my case is no longer about disguise," McKellen revealed. "It's about telling the truth." This news was greeted enthusiastically by fans of the Lord of the Rings movies, who were delighted to realize that McKellen really is a powerful wizard.

    This week, McKellen blasted the Vatican because of the Catholic Church's stance on the blasphemous novel The Da Vinci Code. " "The idea that it shouldn't be read, which I think is the official Vatican line, is pretty pathetic." When asked how he felt about GLADD's stance that people shouldn't listen to the music of Eminem because of the rapper's anti-gay stance, McKellen responded "Be silent! And keep your forked tongue behind your teeth! I did not pass through fire and death to bandy crooked words with a witless worm." He then waved his magic staff and turned those present into spiders.
  • Labels: , ,


    Friday, August 26, 2005

     

    The "Comic Book Lady's" Secret Identity!



    When Wendy and I can afford to pick up a few comic books, we buy them from B & D Comics. The lady who runs the shop knows what titles we enjoy and always holds a few things for us that she knows we'll like. She's a really nice lady.

    We've been going there for years, but we've never learned her name. She's an instantly familiar face, and she knows us by name, but we've always just called her "The Comic Book Lady."

    That's not intended to be disrespectful. If you know us, you know that we're such big dorks that, if we give you a title with the words "Comic Book" in it, it's an ultimate sign of respect.

    Anyway, it turns out that "The Comic Book Lady" has a name. Her name is Terry Baucom. We know that now because she was interviewed in the local paper the other day. The paper did a piece about Christian comic books (like just about everything else written by the Roanoke Times, it's another example of the local paper publishing an article about a subject it doesn't really understand).

    The article about Christian comics was complimented by an interview with Terry Baucom, "The Comic Book Lady" herself. There was a nice picture of her, too, in the article... but it's not included at the web version.

    By the way, if you find yourself in Roanoke, VA, looking for comic books, be sure and stop by B & D Comics and say hi to "The Comic Book Lady." By day, she travels in the guise of mild-mannered Terry Baucom.


    Thursday, August 25, 2005

     

    Three Sub-Humans Attack Iraqi War Heroes In Seattle



    This is from KIRO TV's Website:

    Two war heroes were beaten outside a Seattle nightclub, and it's all caught on tape.

    Seattle Police say unwanted touching and a food fight led to the beating.

    The problem started outside a Pioneer Square night-club.

    A man groped a woman waiting in line to get in. The trouble escalated, and much of it was caught on tape.

    Seattle Police say a witness recently came forward with a video-tape of the brutal beating in progress.

    According to detectives, one woman, then another, were both groped outside of Larry's night-club around 2:30 a.m. on Sunday, July 31st.

    One of their husbands then got involved.

    "He did not take kindly to his wife being groped by an individual so he verbally confronted that man and a heated conversation ensued," said Sean Whitcomb from Seattle Police.

    To avoid further conflict, the women and their companions left.

    But when one in their group threw a hot dog into the face of the alleged groper the suspect gathered his friends, and followed the group to 1st and Yesler, then beat two of the men.

    "The two victims who were knocked to the ground are both gulf war veterans, they both served a year in Iraq and came back last January, so here they are back in Seattle and this is the kind of welcome they receive," said Whitcomb.

    Those victims suffered broken jaws, split lips and possibly a broken arm.


    If you can stomach it, you can watch video of the attack here.



    This is just sickening. For whatever it might be worth, I don't think these animals singled out the men because they were vets, and their status as recently returned war veterans is almost an aside in the general story.

    Nonetheless, being who I am, I can't help but generalize about it. What the hell is going on in the Pacific North West? For the past few years, it's seemed that the whole area is an asylum where the inmates are in charge. Seattle, with it's WTO riots and then violence to mark the anniversary of those riots, isn't even the worst. Portland is so full of nut-jobs, flakes and maniacs that it's actually picked up the nickname "Little Beirut."

    If you're traveling to either of those cities, don't drink the water.

    Hey, I'm sure there are plenty of good folks in both of those cities... maybe even up to a dozen decent people in each of those cities. It's just that it's been a while since I heard a news story about Seattle or Portland that didn't include the words "violence erupted when...."


     

    The Glorious Results Of A Misspent Youth



    I guess I'm officially old now, because I'm getting to the point in life where I really, really enjoy nostalgia.

    The good thing about it, I suppose, is that I've come to a better understanding of the awesome power that nostalgia used to have over the adults I knew when I was a kid.

    My mother, for instance, always seemed very sober and serious when I was a teenager. She did love oldies music from the '50's, though... and I remember specifically that she liked Buddy Holly quite a bit. The little Buddy Holly bobblehead to the left would probably be a great novelty gift for my mom. Now, when I was a kid, she was pretty serious most of the time... but, now and then, nostalgia would take hold of my mom and shake her like a rag doll. It wasn't an every-day thing, in fact, it was very rare.... but sometimes an Everly Brothers or Buddy Holly song would inspire my mom to get up and sing and dance around a little. As a teenager, I was horrified whenever this happened. When you're a teen, you only want your parents to do two things: be as quiet and invisible as possible, and hand you the car keys. So when nostalgia would occasionally overtake my mom, it was an affront to everything I believed in. It was like watching some kind of demonic possession, as my mom would twist around and heave back and forth, her aging back and knees clearly outraged that they were expected dance on command. I can remember one instance in specific, one summer evening when I came home, walked into the kitchen, and saw Mom contorting like a palsy victim, warbling how "That'll be the day, when you make me cryy-eyeee..."

    I've spent years trying to block that out.

    Of course, Buddy Holly wasn't my idea of good music. Like all teenagers, I was a big fan of music that horrified my parents. I'm sure my grandparents were disgusted by Elvis and Buddy Holly when my mom was a kid, just as she was disgusted by Iron Maiden when I was a kid. That was a big part of it, actually. Knowing that the adults despised Iron Maiden made them oh-so much more appealing to me.

    I've been thinking about Iron Maiden for the last couple of days, ever since I found out about the scandal involving their last performance at this year's Ozzfest. Ozzfest is a traveling heavy metal festival, headlined by Ozzy Osbourne, and although the members of Iron Maiden are all about 115 years old (making them nearly half as old as Ozzy himself), they've been on this year's tour. Apparently, Maiden's lead singer, Bruce Dickinson, had been making offhand remarks during the shows; mocking Ozzy's status as a comic reality show figure and a doddering old clown. That must have been too much for Sharon Osbourne, the Osbourne family matriarch, who apparently arranged to have Iron Maiden's last performance on this year's tour turned into a debacle. There's been a lot of accusations tossed around by both sides since the show. Ultimately, though, it's the fans who really lost out in the end.

    Basically, it's a big, dumb, heavy metal soap opera.

    My point, though, is that after reading that story, I had a hankering to drag out Live After Death, Maiden's stalwart double-live album from 1985. Live After Death was pretty much my favorite album when I was a teen, and hearing it again was like a flood of happy memories and sentimental reminiscence. I was surprised at how well I remembered it, how easy it was for me to sing along with songs I haven't heard in years and years, and how willingly I turned into a head-bobbing, warbling fool, listening to my ancient metal and bopping around to the best of my ability.

    God help me, I'm turning into those old farts from my family... the ones who used to perplex me so much when I was growing up.

    The really funny thing about Maiden, though, is the innocence of their music and their scene. Today's kids (and I mean this in the grouchiest possible way) listen to the worst music you can imagine. So-called artists like Slipknot and Kid Rock and 50 Cent... it's all garbage. It's repetitive, boring, stupid, loud, and abrasive. It's not like those good old Iron Maiden songs from my youth; songs that had actual melodies and fun little lyrical themes.

    People who don't know anything about Maiden are probably at least familiar with Eddie, the zombie who serves as a band mascot and is on the cover of all of their albums. When I was a kid, Eddie posters were just about the coolest thing you could have in your room. And the main reason for that was because our parents hated Eddie. They thought he was some sort of satanic symbol and saw him as evidence that heavy metal music was corrupting the minds of their kids. That was probably the main thing that made Eddie so cool. Iron Maiden still uses Eddie as their mascot and band symbol, but now that their fans are all rushing headlong into middle age, I don't imagine Eddie posters are quite the big seller they used to be. However, Eddie bobbleheads, like the one to the left, probably can be found on desks here and there.

    Lyrically, Maiden typically stuck to three topics... English history, war, and the devil. Of course, our parents looked at the album artwork and assumed that Iron Maiden's lyrics were all of the "praise hail satan" variety. The joke was on the grownups, though, and I remember getting a big kick out of that. Maiden's devil songs were always like little soundtracks to horror movies, with heroes who opposed evil and tried to stop it. It was kinda like the heavy metal version of a musical comic book, and being a dorky 15 year old, I ate it up.

    For the most part, however, Maiden didn't do many "devil songs." English history and war were the bands primary lyrical preoccupation.


    There goes the siren that warns of the air raid
    Then comes the sound of the guns sending flak
    Out for the scramble we've got to get airborne
    Got to get up for the coming attack.
    Jump in the cockpit and start up the engines
    Remove all the wheelblocks there's no time to waste
    Gathering speed as we head down the runway
    Gotta get airborne before it's too late!



    Now, when I look back at Maiden's lyrics, I realize that being exposed to them not only didn't hurt me, but may have actually done me some good. For one thing, they triggered an interest in European history (and specifically English history) that no teacher was able to achieve in me. For another thing, some of Maiden's songs got me interested in classic literature that I'd never have taken a personal interest in without them. One of their songs, for instance, is basically Samuel Taylor Coleridge's epic poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, set to music. Others quoted G.K. Chesterton. Of course, as a 15 year old, I didn't know who Chesterton was. I wouldn't develop an interest in the famous Christian Apologist until just a few years ago. Imagine my surprise when I made the connection: You mean This is the guy that Iron Maiden used to quote in their songs?




    O God of earth and altar
    Bow down and hear our cry
    Our earthly rulers falter
    Our peolple drift and die
    The walls of gold entombe us
    The swords of scorn divide
    Take not thy thunder from us
    But take away our pride.





    It's kind of funny, now that I think about it. Our parents were convinced that we were listening to dope-smoking, devil-worshiping music... and, really, we were just a bunch of dorky teenage boys listening to stories about Winston Churchill and the London Blitz and the The Crimean War, all set to the strains of screaming electric guitar.



    The horse he sweats with fear we break to run
    The mighty roar of the Russian guns
    And as we race towards the human wall
    The screams of pain as my comrades fall
    We hurdle bodies that lay on the ground
    And the Russians fire another round
    We get so near yet so far away
    We won't live to fight another day



    To this day, I have an intense interest in World War II and Normandy, and a fascination with "the greatest generation," and if I have to give credit to any specific source that sparked that first interest, it would probably be the lyrics of Iron Maiden.

    Of course, kids today think that Iron Maiden is lame. But, what do they know? They don't know anything about lame. It's not like I'm listening to Buddy Holly or something, right?

    Well, maybe it kinda is.

    Wednesday, August 24, 2005

     

    The Three R's: Readin', Rritin' and Resentment

    Everybody went back to school this week.  

    Well, I think everybody did.  I'm not sure if my son started school this week or not.  He lives with his mom during the week, almost two hours away, so he goes to school there.  He starts third grade this year, and for the last three years I've gone down to see him on his first day of school so I could do the whole pictures/videotape thing.  Last year he behaved as though I was forcing him to wear a skirt and sing the Banana Boat Song or something.  It sucks when you realize your kids have gotten to the point where your very presence is an embarrassment.   Last year he made it clear that it was to be the very last year that I would be allowed to videotape him and take his picture on his way into school the first day.  I talked about it with him this summer, and he stood firm.  No more embarrassments from dad on the first day of school.

    I'll get over it.

    What I know for sure is that Wendy and Liam and Willow went back to school this week.  Willow was excited to go back, and I presume that's because she's a girl and school is an important social situation for girls.  I never thought of it that way, and I can guarantee you that Liam doesn't think of it that way.  Liam's opinion is pretty cut and dry:  "School sucks."

    I can relate.  I felt that way about school when I was a kid... but I don't think I took that attitude as early as Liam has.  He's in first grade.  I think I was still enjoying school at that age.  Liam already has it figured out, though.  School is an attempt by "the man" to suppress his individuality and make him conform to the social expectations of the world at large.  School is for the birds.

    Part of the problem is that, while he speaks English, Liam often defines words differently than the rest of us do.  So we'll have entire conversations with him and none of us will have any idea what we're talking about.  The other day, when Liam got home from school, he asked us "What town do I live in other than this one?"  We asked him what he meant.  He said, "You know, like I live in this town, but I also live in Virginia."  Ahhh... OK, we thought, maybe we know what he's talking about.  So we told him that he lives in our hometown, which is part of  the state of Virginia, which is part of the nation known as the USA.  Nope.  Wrong answer.  "I KNOW THAT," Liam said, "but what other town do I live in?"  We  kinda shook our heads for a minute and told him that he only lives in one town... and he just rolled his eyes at us and said "But what OTHER TOWN DO I LIVE IN??!!?"

    Same language, same words, but two totally different worlds.


    It became something like a frenzied contract negotiation, with Liam making demands we didn't understand and us insisting on terms he just couldn't accept.  Finally he started phrasing himself differently, saying things like "Look, I just want to know what else I am."  He wants to know what else he is?  Ah, OK, we thought... what he really wants to know is what nationality he is.  We told him that he's an American, and, as you can imagine, the eye-rolling reached a critical level.  "I know!  But WHAT ELSE AM I??!?!!"  We cycled through a few random answers ("Asian American?  Irish American?  African American?  German?")  Finally, with "German," we hit on one he liked.  Liam proudly proclaimed himself to be a German.  

    If that entire difficult hour of angry demands and failed negotiations didn't prove that he is, in fact, German, I don't know what would.  

    Wendy started classes at the local community college again this week, and came home with stories to tell about seeing people she hasn't seen since last spring.  One girl in particular seemed memorable.  I think Wendy said her name was "Aja."  Wendy described her in detail:  Aja is very smart.  She's also breathtakingly beautiful.  She has a gorgeous face and a body to die for, she's very popular and very well liked by everyone on campus.

    Naturally, Wendy hates her.  

    I told her not to waste her time hating Aja because, clearly, the girl is a robot.  She's some kind of synthetic life-form engineered by evil liberal scientists from New England who want to make real women feel bad about themselves and eat lots of Ben N' Jerry's.  

    Willow seems to be thrilled to be back in school, although this year she doesn't have any classes with any of the friends she made last year.  That's not an issue, though.  Willow makes friends pretty easily and will make a whole gaggle of new friends this year.  Willow is probably going to blossom into one of the popular little "princesses" at her school over time.  

    Her mother will have to beat her for that.


    Monday, August 22, 2005

     

    The New Look of The Southern Conservative



    This is a Sticky Post, and will be at the top for a week a few days or so.

    Update: Oh, good grief! Where are all those spam comments coming from??!? Look at all those spam comments below! AAAGGHHH!

    I hated to have to do it, but now, when you leave a comment at this blog, you'll have to look at the little picture of the letters and put them in the little box when you post your comment. I know, it's a pain in the butt, but it's the only way to keep those %##$#@@'s from filling up my comments section and my e-mail box with spam.

    Anyway, I'm trying to get a little more air between the main column and the two columns on the sides. I may have that right now, I'm thinking it looks OK. I'm moving on to working on the comments section. It looks like garbage.


    Alright, have at it.

    This is the new template. Whattaya think?

    Have at it. Pick it apart. Recommend tweaks. Praise it. Slam it. Tell me what you think.

    I've saved the old one, I can go back if to it if everyone absolutely hates it.

    Right off the bat, let me point out that the blogroll is now a clickable "Department," you'll find it to the upper left. You'll still find your links there, I hope that's ok with everyone.

    Thanks to those who helped me with the tweaking process as I got this "first draft" of the new template together. You know who you are.

    It's still up for debate. What do you guys think?

    Friday, August 19, 2005

     

    Ho. Hum.



    I'm really sick of the cluttered look of this blog. I've got to do something about it.

    For one thing, I've got about five billion different banners, ads, etc... and it all just looks like a pile of junk. I need to delete some of it, I guess.

    I think that what I really need is a three-column blog template, but Blogger doesn't have any to pick from. I've looked around the net for free blog templates, but I can't really find anything that works. Some of them aren't freeware or linkware, so they're out of the question, anyway. I'm off work with a back injury. Right now even paying the water bill is a struggle. I can't even think about plopping down $20 or $60 for a flippin' template.

    There are lots of free ones out there, but none of the ones I've seen really suit my needs. Some of them just look awful... others are related to themes or subjects that just wouldn't work here. I can't imagine this blog with, for instance, an Anime theme, or a Corvette theme, or a naked-chicks theme.

    Part of the reason for the clutter is that I have a thousand Amazon ads, none of which I really need... but I love music and books and like the idea that I might turn someone one to a good read or a good listen, so I put those ads up. My blogroll is also really in need of attention... but I don't want to ditch any of the blogs in there because I read 80% of them on an almost daily basis. All of those clickable banners really ad to the clutter, too... but they're all for causes and interests I really support, so I hate to get rid of them.

    There are blogs that I read that look great, but I imagine that the guys and gals who have them are a lot better at html and code than I am. Jerry's blog looks really great, and he has a lot of content, but it isn't cluttered. Derek Gilbert's Weapons of Mass Distraction is just about the coolest looking blog out there, and I noticed that Derek uses Wordpress, which is freeware... so I downloaded it and tried to learn how to use it. Brain surgery would be easier for me to pull off. The Rhodester has a really sharp looking blog, too... I think I'm going to have to face that fact that, in order to make my blog look anywhere near as good as some of these blogs look, I'm gonna have to just ditch some of the clutter.

    Sigh.

    Thursday, August 18, 2005

     

    For Those About To Rock



    Greetings, music lovers, it's time to check in on the world of pop, rock, hip-hop, soul, funk, and polka with another SoCon Rockin' Music Update!

  • Members of mega-popular Canuck power-pop band Nickelback recently stopped by MTV studios to talk about Side of a Bullet, their newest super-catchy, radio ready steamin' slab of Canadian bacon! Side of a Bullet is a moving tribute to Darrell "Dimebag" Abbott, guitarist for metal bands Pantera and Damageplan, who was killed by a fan during a concert in December, 2004. Nickelback's guitarist, singer, song-writer, mascot, cover-boy and spokesman Chad Kroeger penned the song shortly after Abbott's death, and the eloquent lyrics express his vulnerable pain:

    "The windows dirty, the mattress stinks
    This ain't no place to be a man,
    Ain't got no future, ain't got no past,
    And I don't think I ever can.
    The floor is filthy the walls are thin.
    The wind is howling in my face
    The rats are peeling, I'm losing ground
    Can't seem to join the human race.
    I'm living in a hell hole."


    Oh, wait... I'm sorry, those are actually the lyrics to Hell Hole by Spinal Tap. The lyrics to Nickelback's Side of a Bullet are as follows:

    "How could you take his life away
    What made you think you had the right?
    How could you be so full of hate
    To take away somebody's life?
    When I heard you let him die
    and leave the world, I wondered why..."


    Wait, let me double-check, those might be Spinal Tap lyrics, too...

    Nope, it says right here that those are the real lyrics to the Nickelback song.

    Anyway, Nickelback fans are sure to be moved and touched by this moving, touching tribute from mover and toucher, Chad Kroeger.


  • Hip-hop producer and performer, actor, clothing mogul, politico and formerly relevant celebrity Sean Combs has announced that he's changing his name once again. In the 1990's, Combs was known in hip-hop circles as "Puff Daddy," but was also referred to as "Puffy," "Puff," and "Coo Coo For Cocoa Puff" Combs. In 2001, after a lengthy trial in which he was convicted of dating Jennifer Lopez, Combs changed his name to "P. Diddy" in order to make a fresh start. Now, Combs has dropped the P. "The P was getting in between us. We had to move the P. We had to simplify it. Diddy is more personal," Diddy told APTN. "We are entering into the age of Diddy." Combs revealed that he'd finally decided on the nom de dumb "Diddy" after considering other choices, such as "D. Piddy," "Pee Diddle," "Poo Dootie," and "Poodle Puddle."


  • Members of heavy metal band Slipknot are considering a lawsuit against Burger King because of the fast food chain's new "Chicken Fries" commercials, which feature a mock heavy metal band called Coq Roq. In a tersely worded letter to Burger King, Slipknot's legal representation aledges that Coq Roq was created as a "look-alike, sound alike 'band' in order to influence the Slipknot generation to purchase Chicken Fries."

    Close examination of the two bands proved the claim to be warranted when, after first examining pictures of one group...



    and then the other...



    I completely forgot which was the real band and which was the pretend band.

    Slipknot's potential legal action is not primarily a matter of commercial viability or copyright infringement. Rather, the band is concerned first and foremost with the health and wellbeing of their fans. If heavy metal fans are known for anything, it's good nutrition. Eating these so-called "chicken fries" could be the beginning of a slippery slope that might result in headbangers drinking carbonated colas, consuming candy, or even, God forbid, using tobacco products.

    In response, Burger King has filed a federal suit against Slipknot, seeking a judgment that the Coq Roq commercial promotion "does not violate any rights, including rights of publicity or trademark rights" of Slipknot. Asked for a comment, shock rock creator Alice Cooper said that he hoped to "get in at least nine holes today before the rain hits."



  • And that's it for today's SoCon Rockin' Music Update! Catch you next time, music lovers!

    Wednesday, August 17, 2005

     

    Stop Drudge's Popups!



    If you, like me, read the Drudge Report on a fairly frequent basis, you're probably as sick of Drudge's Popup ads as I am. Drudge's slick java popups even manage to get around Firefox's popup blocker, which is otherwise very reliable.

    Well, I'm glad to report that I've found a fix. You can click here to read the fix at the page where I found it myself, or you can just do the following:

    To block pop-ups from plugins, open your Firefox browser, type about:config in the address field.

    Right-click in the resulting config page somewhere and select New -> Interger.

    Type privacy.popups.disable_from_plugins in the resulting dialog, hit OK, type 2 in the next dialog and you're all set.

    This pref can actually take three values:

  • 0: open allowed

  • 1: the opened windows are treated as popups, but they're allowed to open (we limit the number of these types of popups)

  • 2: the window is a popup, block it


  • There ya go! Back to reading the Drudge Report without all of those %$*#&*@ popups!

     

    Anyway, Where Was I?



    Oh, yeah… before the whole slipped disc thing, I was one of those right-wing nutcase bloggers, right? Lemme get back on the horse, here…

  • Cindy Sheehan

    Look, if anything happens over the next few weeks or months to indicate that I'm wrong, I'll issue the mother of all mea culpas right here on this blog… but as of now, I'm convinced that this woman is using her son's death to catapult her own career as a left-wing pseudo-celebrity and political gadfly.

    She has the right to grieve as publicly as she wants, I'll grant her that. She has the right to say anything she wants about the war, the President, Iraq, neo-cons, whatever. But let's be honest, here… this woman is couching a political protest in the "no-touch" zone of a mother's grief. The position of many of her supporters is pretty cut and dry: If you agree with Cindy, feel free to chime in… but if you disagree with her… well, pal, you better just keep your mouth shut, lest you come off as a guy who mocks a woman who is mourning her dead son.

    Our local paper sure seems to see it that way. In one of their famously bad editorials, the Roanoke Times had this to say:

    "The wall of grief that surrounds this one mother, whose vigil outside President Bush's Crawford ranch has galvanized opponents of the Iraq war, may have made her impervious to criticism."


    Disagreeing with Ms. Sheehan, it seems, it unforgivably insensitive… However, the Roanoke Times sees nothing wrong with setting up a message board and inviting it's readers to craft hypothetical letters to the President over the imaginary deaths of their own theoretical soldier sons. Nothing insensitive about that, I suppose. I mean, it's not like the Roanoke Times is trivializing the death of Casey Sheehan in the name of politics, right? RIGHT?

    (Smell that? That's sarcasm.)

    Of course, our local paper isn't the only left-wing propaganda machine using Ms. Sheehan as a mascot. Have you seen Michael Moore's website lately? Here's a quick grab of what it looks like as of this writing. Cindy Sheehan is Moore's latest willing puppet, and I guarantee you that he'll keep feigning support for her as long as she's a marketable media touchstone. Once she drops off the news, though, watch for Moore's attentions to wander elsewhere.

    Cox and Forkum, as usual, are precise and succinct:



    Click that cartoon and go to the Cox and Forkum site for a great bunch of links where you can find out more about Cindy Sheehan's vigil… for instance:

    What PR plans do the left-wing protest-choreographers have for milking the most out of Sheehan's stay in Crawford?

    We should call her "Mother Sheehan". We should never call her Cindy; I don’t know her. "Mother Sheehan" is her title, and expresses her ceremonial status as a bereaved mother, calling forth over the dead body of her son. ...

    We should use the word “sacrifice”. She has sacrificed the most precious thing a mother has, the life and promise of her child. ...

    We should not use the name of her son. Her son is a symbol of all sons who have been sacrificed for this useless and criminal war. ...

    If there are any persons who are theatre professionals at the Sheenan vigil, they should arrange things much more theatrically.


    The emphasis above was mine.

    Click the Cox and Forkum cartoon for more on Cindy Sheehan's opinions on Israel and terrorism:

    "You get America out of Iraq and Israel out of Palestine and you'll stop the terrorism."


    Of course, anti-Semitism of the "Get Israel out of Palestine" variety sounds vaguely Islamo-fascist... so it's no wonder that Cindy Sheehan is backing off of that quote, albeit a bit indelicately. Her televised conversation with Anderson Cooper went this way:

    COOPER: You were also quoted as saying, "My son joined the Army to protect America, not Israel. You get America out of Iraq and Israel out of Palestine and you'll stop the terrorism." How responsible do you believe Israel is for the amount of terrorism in the world?

    SHEEHAN: I didn't say that.

    COOPER: You didn't say that? OK.

    SHEEHAN: I didn't -- I didn't say -- I didn't say that my son died for Israel. I've never said that. I saw somebody wrote that and it wasn't my words. Those aren't even words that I would say.

    I do believe that the Palestinian issue is a hot issue that needs to be solved and it needs to be more fair and equitable but I never said my son died for Israel.


    The always timely Michelle Malkin has more on that.

    As Cindy Sheehan's one woman publicity crusade continues, the destructive effect it has on her family is undeniable. Members of her family sent a letter to Matt Drudge condemning Cindy's actions. Her living son has asked her to come home to her family, and her own husband seems to see her as a lost cause:

    …yesterday, Reuters news service reported that her husband, Patrick Sheehan, filed to dissolve his marriage on Friday in Solano County Superior Court, according to records on the Web site of the local court in Northern California. Neither could be reached for comment.


    Meanwhile, Cindy Sheehan presses on, filming television commercials and basking in the cable news media spotlights.

    All of this is ostensibly because she'd like to have one more meeting with the President to discuss the death of her son. She's met with him before, of course. She met with Dubya a year ago and they exchanged kisses and made nice. Of course, that's not the kind of meeting Cindy Sheehan has in mind this time.

    So, should Dubya meet with Ms. Sheehan again? Cal Thomas thinks so, and I agree:

    Other relatives of dead and wounded soldiers and some of the soldiers, themselves, should be included. He might also invite a few Iraqis who support the effort to free a people long held in bondage by Saddam Hussein and who face new bondage under the totalitarian dictatorship of Islamic facism if this effort fails.

    The president should hold the meeting in a public place. Let the criticism flow, but let Iraqi women tell their stories about rape and torture at the hands of Mr. Hussein's now-dead sons. Allow Iraqi men to tell about life under Mr. Hussein and how grateful they are that he is gone. Wounded soldiers and families of the dead would speak in support of the war effort. Members of Ms. Sheehan's own family could come.


    Of course, when all is said and done, Cindy Sheehan will ultimately have moved the American left a little further from the mainstream… and made liberals a little less likely to regain the White House. James Lileks sums it all up to my satisfaction:

    The hard left in America needs to realize a bald, cruel fact: Anyone who sees no moral distinction between Israel and the mullahs of Iran, or sees the U.S. attempt to set up a constitutional republic in Iraq as equivalent to the Syrian occupation of Lebanon, suffers from incurable moral cretinism. The more the fervent anti-war base embraces these ideas, the more they ensure that no one will trust the left with national security. Ever.


  • Gaza

    If you want a legit reason to get good and ticked off at Dubya, try this one... how about a bald-faced lie about the Israeli pull-out from the Gaza strip:

    "The disengagement is I think a part of making Israel more secure and peaceful," (President Bush) said in a rare interview with Israeli media, excerpts of which were broadcast on Israel Radio Friday.


    Yeah, right. Appeasement always works with Islamist extremists. Right. And I'm the Queen of Spain.

    Dubya isn't that stupid. He knows better. He's lying with a straight face.

    It really bugs me that the President expects anyone to swallow that line of garbage. He's bound to know that Israel's cave-in on the Gaza Strip will only move the front line of the Palestinian war against all Jews closer to Jerusalem. That is, after all, exactly what the Palestinians have in mind:

    Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia Wednesday said Israel's planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip would eventually lead to its surrender of the Jews' ancient capital – Jerusalem.

    “We are telling the entire world, today Gaza and tomorrow Jerusalem. Today Gaza and tomorrow and independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital,” Qureia said while reviewing PA security forces in Gaza.

    How can Dubya even pretend that this massive betrayal of Israelis by their own government is good for Israel?

    You want to get outraged about something? Get outraged about this:


    Those are Jews being forced by their own army to abandon their homes on the Gaza strip.

    And if that doesn't do it for you, get outraged about this, courtesy of Little Green Footballs:

    The United Nations bankrolled the production of thousands of banners, bumper stickers, mugs, and T-shirts bearing the slogan "Today Gaza and Tomorrow the West Bank and Jerusalem," which have been widely distributed to Palestinian Arabs in the Gaza Strip, according to a U.N. official.

    The U.N. support of the Palestinian Authority's propaganda operation in the midst of the Israeli evacuation of Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip has provoked outrage from Israeli and Jewish leaders, who are blaming Turtle Bay for propagating an inflammatory message that they say encourages Palestinian Arab violence.

    Of course, if this is the first time you've found reason to get outraged about U.N. corruption, you just haven't been paying attention.


  • Wrapping Up With A Glass Of Sham-PAN-Ya

    MuD&PHuD gave me one little item to laugh about, thankfully:




    Yep, you can click that banner to visit the home page of actor Christopher Walken's campaign for President in 2008.

    Well, not really:

    …the actor has "no intention of running," his rep says, and the Web site, registered in Los Angeles under the name Christopher Walken for President, is "100 percent false."

  • Tuesday, August 16, 2005

     

    Surgical Success



    Thank you so much to everyone who left comments or sent e-mail wishing me luck with my spinal surgery yesterday. I'm home now, and things went very well. Here's a brief summary of yesterday's events, some of which were humorous and surprising.

    We got in the car yesterday morning around 6:00 AM and I said a Rosary on the way to the hospital. It made me feel better and helped me focus on turning the process over to God instead of stressing over it. We arrived at the the hospital about 7:15 AM and started waiting for my surgery to begin. And waiting. And waiting. And waiting. You know how that goes. It's the same everywhere, I suppose. The wait is just a given.

    Luckily, my back wasn't bothering me too much yesterday morning. I never had any way to predict how I was going to feel on any given day, and I was happy to wake up Monday morning and not feel too bad. There's just no way to know how a herniated disc will behave from day to day. I'd been sleeping in the recliner in the living room for the last few nights, and I think that had helped.

    The surgery I'd gone in for is called a Lumbar discectomy or a microdiscectomy. I've even heard it called a "lumbarectomy." Either way, it comes down to cutting a chunk off of the herniated disc so it will stop pressing against my spine and nerve roots, causing me to lay in the floor at Wal-Mart and yell horrible things at strangers. Frankly, by yesterday morning, I didn't care what the surgery was called. They could have called it a "back hacking knife fest" and I'd have wanted it done. I just wanted my life back.

    After what seemed like three weeks of waiting at the hospital yesterday morning, I was led back to a room to put on one of those "Seymour" hospital gowns and hospital bootie-socks by a very severe looking nurse who seem to speak little English and didn't have much patience for patients who had to shuffle along with an aching back. So I got back to my room and changed into my gown, and another nurse came and asked me if I had forgotten to remove any jewelry other than my wedding band. I told her I still had my wedding band on, and that I'd like to take my Rosary with me into the operating room, if possible. She said that was probably fine. Later, a male nurse came in and I mentioned taking my Rosary with me again, and he was pretty adamant that it would be fine for me to do so. He said "We have a policy that we let Cherokee Indians bring their medicine bags into surgery with them, and we let other members of other religions bring their artifacts with them to surgery. It's a spiritual thing, and we respect that."

    So after a while I was wheeled into pre-op, where a male nurse who looked like the lead singer of Disturbed (facial piercings, tattoos, and all) and a female nurse who looked a little like Barbara Hershey, came over and, with great fanfare, took my Rosary away. They said it just wasn't practical for me to keep it with me during surgery. I suppose if I'd been a member of the right race or a practitioner of the right religion, I'd have been allowed to bring my medicine bag or my war spear or my brass Buddha to surgery with me. I, however, had the bad taste to be a white male Christian. So the Rosary Nazis took my Rosary away. "No Rosary for you, six week!"

    The anesthesiologist came in a little later, and he looked like this "oh, that guy" actor from Mystery, Alaska and Black Hawk Down. He was pretty pleasant and friendly and made jokes about the process. Then, he went over to talk to the elderly woman in pre-op who was there for knee surgery. You're not supposed to eat for 24 hours prior to surgery, so he asked her if she'd had anything to eat that morning and she said "MY LEFT KNEE!". I think he was able to sort it all out. I don't think she'd really eaten her own left knee for breakfast.

    Once I got into the operating room I was out like a light... and it seemed like three seconds later that I woke up in post-op. I had general anesthesia once before when I had a bladder biopsy, and I think the anesthesiologist at that previous hospital wasn't very good, because I have hazy memories of the surgery. I could vaguely remember what seemed like lots of people playing tug of war with me. This time, though, the anesthesiologist was a pro. I was out like a light, and then I woke up with no memory of anything or even any sense of time having lapsed.

    The hospital staff wanted me to try to stand and walk as soon as the anesthesia wore off... and as soon as I did, I could tell that I'd been fixed. There is, of course, a lot of pain in my back in the area of the incision... but the pain I'd been having for so long now is completely gone. In fact, I feel better than I have in years. I didn't realize how long my back had been deteriorating, but I do now. I feel like Dr. Vasick took my whole back out and replaced it with a new, bionic one. The surgery hurts, the pain from healing muscles is pretty bad... but as soon as that gets better, I think I'll be ready for whatever.

    The doctors wanted me to walk as much as I could so that they'd be comfortable sending me home last night, and I really wanted to go home... so Wendy and I walked all over the hospital. We walked out to a little outdoor veranda, where I saw an old black lady, wearing a muumuu, sitting on a park bench. I started to walk over and sit down beside her and ask her how the Matrix works, but thought better of it.

    They took good care of me at the hospital, and I have no complaints. The staff was friendly, the surgeon was a really classy guy, a real pro... and the whole experience was positive. The long wait at the beginning kinda sucked, but that's to be expected.

    The hospital brought me a dinner, and at first I was grateful to get it, since I hadn't had anything to eat since the previous evening... but I lost all interest in it once I took the cover off and saw it and smelled it. I've had some pretty bad hospital food before, but this was the worst I've ever seen or tasted. Wendy studied the main course for a while and determined that it was probably pork with some kind of spicy sauce... but it tasted like an envelope with ketchup on it. I ate two bites and decided I'd rather be hungry.

    When we left the hospital, I was starved. We went to the Red Palace Chinese restaurant in Roanoke, one of our favorite places to grab a bite. I had to go to the bathroom as soon as we got there. To go to the restrooms at the Red Palace, you walk through one central door that says "Restrooms," which leads into a small lobby. In that lobby, there are two doors, one marked "Men," which is straight ahead... and one marked "Women," which is to the right. So I went into the lobby, went into the men's room, took care of business... and then, in my still-groggy stupor, I came out of the men's room, made a left instead of going straight, and walked into the women's room. Thankfully there wasn't a soul in there, and I was able to get out and back into the restaurant undetected.

    At the Red Palace, while we were eating, a young mixed-race couple came in and sat down at the table behind us. They looked to be in their early twenties. What caught Wendy's attention was, after they placed their order, before a bit of food was on their table, they held hands and said a blessing together. For whatever reason, that made both of us feel really good. It was a little surprising, and I thought of it as the antidote to the whole Rosary experience at the hospital.

    This afternoon, Wendy took the dressing off my incision, as the surgeon had instructed us to do. It's pretty gnarly looking. It's about three inches long and covered with dried blood and etc, etc. If the imp of the perverse gets the better of you, you can click here to see what Wendy saw when she took the dressing off. I had her take a quick digital pic so I could see what it looked like myself, and I'm just evil enough to post that pic.

    So there's my story. Again, thanks to everyone who checked on me and who offered prayers on my behalf. It really makes me feel good, and It's really appreciated.

    Friday, August 12, 2005

     

    I Don't Know Nothin' 'Bout No Beer



    When I was a younger and far more irresponsible guy, I used to like to drink a lot of beer and then laugh for a long time and fall down. My friends and I thought that there was no better way to spend our weekends than by drinking far too much beer and behaving irresponsibly. I'm not proud of that, but it's not particularly unusual… lots of guys go through that in their twenties. I was one of them.

    I didn't drink any alcohol at all from the age of 26 to the age of 35. When I got sober, I realized that the only way to curb my dysfunctional drinking was to stop drinking altogether. I'm glad I did, I really believe it took those nine years of absolute tee totaling for me to get mature enough to be able to have just one beer and stop.


    Part of it is my compulsive nature… and other part of it is that I really was just a flat-out drunk in my early and mid twenties. I finally got to the point that I had to quit because I was behaving really badly. Several years after I quit, during a difficult part of my life, I started attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. There, I learned that what I'd done was quit drinking without ever dealing with the issues that were causing me to abuse alcohol. By no longer drinking, I'd really just treated the symptom, but never really addressed the disease. I was letting myself off too easy. There were real issues that I needed to address and that I'd never addressed. I'd quit abusing alcohol, and that was good... but that didn't let me off the hook. There was more work to be done.

    Anyway, long story short, after years of church and counseling and hard work to get my life back on track, I'm finally able to drink like a grown man should drink. That is to say, once in a blue moon, I take a notion to have a beer. Wendy and I will get a six pack and we'll each drink one… then, a few nights later, we'll have another beer each… and then finish the last two off a week or so later. We never have a beer in front of the kids and we never have a beer while we're out. Once you've had bad beer habits, it's a good idea to remember your history vividly.

    I said all of that to say this: I've always thought myself to be something of a wise guy about beer; kind of a beer connoisseur. I know the good stuff from the bad stuff (or so I thought) and I don't drink the crappy stuff, I drink the good stuff.

    One night last week when I was at work, someone brought in a magazine that listed the top 100 beers, according to some survey. I was interested in the article, and I was distressed to realize that I'd only ever heard of maybe twenty five of the beers. Turns out, at some point during my nine years of absolutely no drinking, the beer world moved on without me.


    One of the beers listed in the magazine was Samuel Adams Utopias, which isn't really a beer because it contains five times more alcohol by volume than the legal amount of alcohol for American beer. That's it, there in the picture to the left. Check out that fancy-shmansy bottle. Looks more like a blunt medieval weapon than a beer bottle, don't it? And for every twelve ounces of the stuff you drink, you've consumed the alcohol content of five regular beers. No thanks. I've got kids. Somebody could get up in the middle of the night and fall down the stairs and knock a hole in his or her head, and then I've gotta get 'em to the emergency room. I can't be drinking that super beer stuff. I'll leave that to suicidal college kids and guys with iron stomachs.

    Anyway, as it turns out, my suspicions were right. The article in the magazine implied that I no longer know anything about beer, and I've just confirmed it tonight on the internet. I checked out ratebeer.com, which really is a pretty cool website. There's a page there dedicated to just about every beer you can think of, with a rating that combines the opinions of all the beer snobs who are registered at the site. Well, as it turns out, not only have I not only never heard of the highest rated beers at the site, but the ones I genuinely like are rated pretty darn low. All this time, I've been turning my nose up at Coors and Budweiser and Old Milwaukee, preferring instead to sip my occasional import… and, as it turns out, the beer world doesn't give a rip about imports anymore. All they care about are these odd beers from microbreweries and family owned breweries that I've never heard of.

    The top rated stuff in the world is beer like "Raspberry Ale" and "Chocolate Stout" and "Honey Lager," etc. I'm just out in the cold on that stuff. I wouldn't know what to do with "Raspberry Ale." I'd rather pour it on pancakes than drink it.

    Anyway, for what it's worth, here's my top five beers for occasional sippin' and relaxin'. As it turns out, I have the unrefined taste of a sewer-dwelling cretin, so you'd probably do well to ignore this list and check out ratebeer.com instead… but, for what it's worth…


    My all time favorite beer is Bass Pale Ale. I think it's absolutely delicious. It has a bit of a bitter taste, a little bit of bite to it… which is to say, it actually tastes like beer instead of tasting like Sprite that someone served in a dirty glass that once had beer in it. My big problem with American beer is that it's so watered down, so bland, so tasteless. You can actually taste Bass Ale. It announces it's presence with authority. It has an actual flavor to it, and a nice aroma, too. Again, as it turns out, my taste in beer is totally bottom rung, but this schmuck prefers Bass Pale Ale over anything out there.


    Fosters Lager is, in my opinion, the second best beer out there. It comes down to a matter of how it tastes, and I love it for the same reason I love Bass: It tastes good. It doesn't have quite the bite of Bass, and it is a little smoother, which actually gets a little old to me by the time I finish a Fosters. Still, the taste is pleasant, and just bitter enough to keep my attention. What's more, Fosters is the only beer I know of that actually tastes good in a can. Those famous Fosters "oil cans" must be made out of some mystery alloy or something, because they don't ruin the taste of the lager at all.


    Lowenbrau is kind of an "old timer's beer," I suppose. It's been around for a long time, and from the time I was five years old or so, I knew their TV commercial jingle from the '70's by heart. ("Here's to good friends, tonight is kinda special, the beer we'll pooooour, must be something more somehow….") Anyway, Lowenbrau Dark is my prefered Lowenbrau brew, and around here it's kind of hard to find, but it's really very tasty. It's hard to find around these parts, anyway, it might be as common as dirt elsewhere. I don't know. I prefer dark and heavy beers to light, crisp, "sorority" beers, and Lowenbrau Dark is worth picking up now and then.


    Dos Equis Dark is the only Mexican beer I have any use for. I know a lot of people like Corona, but I think that stuff tastes like lemonade. I just can't stand it. Dos Equis Dark is a darn good dark beer, but it's gotten really hard to find, too. It used to be that I could get it at just about any Mexican restaurant I ever went to, but that's not the case anymore. Oh, sure, you can still get that nasty ol' Corona, but I'd just as soon order a Coke. Another thing: I never understood the whole thing of putting a wedge of lime in a beer. I've seen people do that with Corona a thousand times. My take on it is, if you liked the taste of Corona to begin with, you wouldn’t have to doctor it up.


    Killian's Red is a decent "cheap beer." You can usually find it at places that only have cheap beer, and at four and a half bucks for a six-pack, you don't have to go in debt to drink it. I was surprised to find out that Coors brews Killian's, considering that I think that Coors beer is absolutely awful. Killian's is pretty good, though. It's not great, but it has a little more flavor than the usual convenience store brews out there, and you can do worse than to grab a six-pack of it from time to time.

    Those are the five beers that I enjoy the most in the world… and until recently, I thought they were pretty good beer. As it turns out, they're nothing special, but I still like them.


     

    This Town Has A Weird Flippin' Name



    At first I thought this was a doctored photo, but nope. It's for real.

    Jamie Dawn over at Jamie Dawn's Mindless Blather has a daughter named Courtney... and Courtney has her own blog. Anyway, the family was traveling recently, and passed through the town of Flippin. I think it must be Flippin, Arkansas.

    And that's how they happened upon this church:



    Can you imagine some of the conversations that may have taken place over the years?

    "Where does your family go to church?"

    "We go to the Flippin Church Of God."

    Well, you don't have to get angry about it!"


    Thursday, August 11, 2005

     

    Under The Knife On Monday



    Well, it's official. My back is wrecked. I'm having surgery Monday morning.


    Today I went and met with my surgeon, Dr. Vascik, and I was very reassured when I met him because he looks a great deal like George C. Scott. Like any redblooded American male, I'm very comfortable with the notion of George C. Scott operating on my back. If I get to the hospital and find out the anesthesiologist looks like Charles Bronson, things will be all the better. It's nice to know that, no matter what, if Nazis or street punks storm the operating room during my surgery, I'll be in good hands.


    Dr Vascik went over my MRI with me and showed me the pictures of my messed up lumbar. The MRI pictures where the problem was most obvious (to my layman's eye) were the ones that appeared to be in cross-section. The healthy lumbar looked kinda like donuts. The messed up lumbar looked like a donut with a cruller growing out of it. All in all, the whole process made me hungry.

    Which reminds me, Dr. Vascik told me that if I don't lose some weight, I'll have this problem again eventually. I think he's a good doctor, anyway. I started to ask him for a second opinion, but I was afraid he'd say "OK, you're fat and stupid."

    Anyhow, if I don't do much posting after Monday for a while, that's why. As an aside to my Christian friends, if you happen to mention me in your prayers, that would really be great. To my Buddhist, Wiccan, or otherwise heathen friends, if you could do a chant or perform some odd interpretive dance in my honor, that would be really cool, too.


    Wednesday, August 10, 2005

     

    Today's Bordom Killers



    My back is all out of whack again. I'm seeing a surgeon tomorrow... in the meantime, I'm at home, popping Percocets and trying to relieve bordom.

  • If you are totally and completely bored, there's a full explanation of the picture below over at film geeks. Click the picture for that post.



  • Of course, I haven't had to resort totally to childish displays for entertainment. The blogosphere is full of neato stuff...

  • At The Political Teen, I learned that even after all these years out of office, Bill Clinton still hasn't learned a thing. He's still convinced that appeasement is the best route for dealing with terrorists:
    "We cannot kill all our enemies," he said. "We need a strategy which will create more partners and fewer terrorists. Americans` destiny is closely tied to that of other people."

    Somebody wake this idiot up. Give him a cup of hot coffee... or just throw one on him. Our enemies don't want to be our "partners." They want an Islamic world government and they are willing to kill to get one. What part of that, even after 9/11, does Slick Willie STILL NOT UNDERSTAND??!!?!??!?


  • Liberals, of course, are great champions of freedom of speech… unless, of course, they disagree with what you happen to be saying. Case in point:

    An Air Force Reserve colonel could face criminal charges for allegedly vandalizing cars at Denver International Airport bearing pro-Bush bumper stickers.

    Lt. Col. Alexis Fecteau, director of operations for reserve forces at the National Security Space Institute in Colorado Springs, is believed responsible for defacing at least 10 parked vehicles between December and June, police spokesman Sonny Jackson said Tuesday.


    The biggest disappointment about this is that, oh yeah, there are a few liberals in the military. I can't remember the blog where I found that item this morning, but if I do, I assure you, the appropriate hat tip will be added to this post.


  • Want more liberal hypocrisy? Look no further than MuD&PHuD for this wonderful little item:

    An online animated video sponsored by Planned Parenthood's San Francisco-area branch features a superhero character drowning an abstinence promoter in a trash can and blasting into oblivion several pro-life picketers protesting in front of one of the organization's facilities.

    The eight-minute "A Superhero for Choice," posted on the Planned Parenthood Golden Gate website, has a bespectacled black woman in San Francisco morphing into a red-suited flying enforcer, bent on making the world safe for the organization's values. [Note: Since this story first was posted, the video has disappeared from the front page of the Planned Parenthood website.]

    Viewers see three teenagers talking with an ugly green-faced man sporting a top hat and bow tie who tries to tell the kids abstinence is the only sure way to protect against sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy. The teen girl rebuts the man, naming several birth-control methods.

    Retorts the little green man: "Those are instruments from the devil's toolbox!"


    Yeah, liberals hate closed-minded people who make crass generalizations and portray those they disagree with as cartoonish morons… except, of course, when the liberals are doing it themselves.


  • When it comes to hypocrisy, though, nobody can touch the New York Times. This bit is so funny, it reads like fiction… but it's absolutely true. The Therapy Sessions noted this inconsistency, and I got a real kick out of it.

    On August 2, the Times wrote this in an editorial:

    If there's a positive side to President Bush's appointment of John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations yesterday, it's that as long as Mr. Bolton is in New York, he will not be wreaking diplomatic havoc anywhere else. Talks with North Korea, for instance, have been looking more productive since Mr. Bolton left the State Department....


    On that same day, the Times published this about talks with North Korea:

    North Korea's main nuclear envoy said Tuesday that no progress had been made at talks seeking to persuade his country to abandon its atomic arms, the first public comments from the North after eight days of negotiations.


    Yep, thank God John Bolton hasn't been around to prevent all that progress that hasn't been made with North Korea from not taking place.

    How do these knuckleheads look themselves in the mirror in the morning?


  • I got a kick out of this, too… You know who Fred Phelps is, right? He's the nutball who considers himself a Christian preacher, but is really a hatemonger. This is the guy with the "God Hates Fags" message. He presides over a, ahem, "church" in Topeka, Kansas… a church that's in the basement of his home on his block-wide, fenced in compound. Basically, he's a lunatic with severe issues about homosexuals.

    If you knew anything about him already, chances are, you knew all of that.

    But, did you know, he's a lifelong Democrat?

    Did you know about his involvement with the Al Gore and Bill Clinton campaigns??!?

    Hee heee hee, haa haa haa haw. Yep, it's true. Homocon turned that info up:

    "In 1988, Phelps housed campaign workers for Al Gore's first presidential run; in 1989, his eldest son, Fred Jr., hosted a fundraiser for Gore's Senate campaign at his home . . . Because of their years as loyal Democrats, the Phelpses have even been invited to -- and attended -- both of Clinton's inaugurations."


    Oh, man, that's so great. And, really, it's no surprise. We all know, after all, that the Democratic party is the party of the KKK's Exalted Cyclops, Robert C. Byrd. Senator Ernest Hollings, a strong opponent of segregation, was a Democrat, too. I guess we can just lump Phelps in with all those racist, sexist, homophobic Democrats.

    (You must know, I get a huge measure of giggling joy out of saying things like that.)


  • From The Mind Of Dave, I found out about the following:
    SEOUL, South Korea - A 28-year-old South Korean man died of exhaustion in an Internet cafe after playing computer games non-stop for 49 hours, South Korean police said Wednesday.

    Lee, a resident in the southern city of Taegu who was identified only by his last name, collapsed Friday after having eaten minimally and not sleeping, refusing to leave his keyboard while he played the battle simulation game Starcraft.

    How could anyone play Starcraft four 49 hours straight?? I mean, Tetris, sure, that I can understand…. But Starcraft?


  • Tuesday, August 09, 2005

     

    Stuff I Done Seen Today



  • I got a real kick out of this cartoon:



  • Have any need for a pair of fake nipples? Of course not. But that doesn't mean you can't buy a pair.


  • Al Franken has finally spoken out about the Air America Scandal… and, to his credit, he's being fairly honest:

    "Here's the deal," the Air America host said. "The first guy who was chairman of the board of Air America - Evan Cohen - was a crook, it turns out. I mean, I guess that's the only way to put it."


  • One of the internets smartest and most informative bloggers, Arthur Chrenkoff, is hanging it up. This is actually fairly old news, I've meant to post it for some time. Arthur was one of the first bloggers who was kind enough to link to me... and his blog is always one of the best, one of the smartest and most informative. He'll be missed.


  • The Rolling Stones are desperately grasping for rock n' roll relevance as they stumble, drooling, into their bicentennial year as a band… That's the only explanation I can offer for the lyrics to their new song, as reported by Drudge:

    "You call yourself a Christian, I call you a hypocrite/ You call yourself a patriot. Well, I think your are full of sh*t!... How come you're so wrong, my sweet neo-con."


    I've been saying for years now that it's time for the Stones to hang it up. When's the last time they did an album, or even a song, that didn't suck? Maybe '75? Mick looks more and more like the illigitimate lovechild of Dr. Frank N. Furter and Grandpa Simpson every year... and George Romero never came up with a creature any scarier than Keith Richards is these days. This kind of desperation to seem hip and current just makes them all the more pitiful.


  • Monday, August 08, 2005

     

    Blog Party: Five Favorite Places




    When MCF first announced the topic of his blog party, I had mixed feelings. On one hand, I wanted to participate. On the other hand, the topic was the five favorite places you’ve been, and frankly, I haven’t been anywhere. Oh, sure, I’ve been to a few places… I’ve been to Pittsburgh and Long Island and Columbia, SC, and Washington DC… but nothing much has happened while I was there to make any of those trips memorable. When I was in Pittsburgh, it was to see U2 on the Zoo TV tour, and it was a great show, but that memory seems more fitting for a “favorite concerts” blog party. Anyway, the point is, I didn’t feel informed or experienced enough to contribute anything meaningful to the party… and yet, I’ve never let my lack of knowledge or experience stop me from ranting and raving about topics that I basically know nothing about.

    I decided on a compromise of sorts. Kind of. Maybe.

    Darrell’s Five Favorite Destination Locations
    A Travel Brochure For The Pretentious Home-Body


    Number five on my list of Destination Locations can be described in many ways. It is at once a personal health spa, a recreational water park, and a library. It’s known simply as OUR BATHROOM. Thanks to a collection of three old Readers Digests and a National Review from 2004, a visit to OUR BATHROOM can be simultaneously relaxing and informative. But wait, there’s more! Because of the presence of a sink and a bathtub, younger visiters to OUR BATHROOM have found it to be full of opportunities for adventure! Beyond that, there seems to actually be something in the water of OUR BATHROOM that makes these youngsters stronger and more creative! Many is the time I’ve found myself marveling at how that water has effected the children, giving them the ability to get both water and toothpaste on the ceiling.

    My fourth Destination Location isn’t so much a vacation spot as a compulsion for me. Because of my intense interest in anthropology, I’m often drawn back, again and again, to OUR BASEMENT. A little time spent searching for clues in this primitive wasteland has unearthed many marvels that still hold my fascination. It is my belief that we can learn much about our own culture by studying the mysteries of OUR BASEMENT, and trying to understand the people who placed such strange artifacts in there. What, for instance, would have inspired them to save a cardboard box containing a broken toaster and the eyes, ears, nose, feet, and moustache of a long lost Mr. Potatohead toy? Why would the apparent leader of this tribe have bought several Craftsman tools that he can neither identify nor figure out how to use? Those are just some of the questions I’ve had opportunities to ask in OUR BASEMENT. Other questions I’ve asked have included “What is that huge bug?” and “Did anyone hear me scream just now?” Yes, OUR BASEMENT can be elusive and dangerous, and it may never reveal all of it’s mysteries to us. Still, we owe it to ourselves to try to understand our own world a little better by learning as much as we can about the one with the cinderblock walls.

    Every culturally sophisticated society has to have a “central nervous system” of sorts, and the hustle and bustle of my number three Destination Location is just that. OUR REC ROOM is “info central,” thanks to not one but two state of the art (as of 2002) personal computers. Visitors to OUR REC ROOM are afforded the opportunity to “cruise the net” with our lightning-fast 300K connection, and then relax with a game of “Rollercoaster Tycoon 3” or “Windows Solitaire.” But wait, there’s more! In fact, OUR REC ROOM is really two complete worlds in one! The north half of the room is “the technology center,” but the south half is often thought of as “Magical Toy Land!” Locally, the south half of OUR REC ROOM is known as “The kids’ half of the room,” or simply as “that damn mess.” The south half of OUR REC ROOM is a child’s fantasy land of delight, featuring many toys and games, some of which have not yet been broken. “Magical Toy Land” isn’t all about mindless play, though. In fact, this half of OUR REC ROOM is entirely educational. While playing, children are also learning the answers to questions like

  • How many Hot Wheels cars can we shove under a couch?

  • Will the dog eat a magic marker?

  • How can I blame one of my siblings for feeding that magic marker to the dog?


  • Whether you're a nature lover, a wildlife enthusiast, or simply a seeker of adventure, you'll find what you're looking for in OUR BACK YARD, my number two Destination Location. Of course, the local wildlife and vegetation are legendary for their exotic beauty, but visitors to OUR BACK YARD also enjoy the chance to marvel at the strange and mysterious customs of the indigenous peoples. And, what's more, during the "growing season," backyard visitors are often treated to fresh produce, absolutely free! Just a simple compliment to the gardener on his skills has ended up sending many visitors home with a luxurious Wal-Mart bag full of red, ripe tomatoes! While visiting OUR BACK YARD, be sure and "soak up the sun" in one of our posh, green, plastic lawn chairs… while enjoying a "Diet Coke" straight from the can it grew in! Nature isn't just a vacation spot in OUR BACK YARD. It's a way of life.

    Imagine whiling away the hours in a tropical paradise. Imagine a beautiful local where ocean-side vistas and lush mountain getaways are equally accessible. You can use your imagination like this, or any way you want to, when you visit OUR LIVING ROOM! But, why entertain yourself with your imagination when OUR LIVING ROOM contains so many entertainment options designed to preclude the human imagination! For instance, you can feast your eyes on the lavish beauty of our magnificent 22 inch color television set! Enjoy reruns of "Cops" in syndication, and new episodes of "Ed, Edd, and Eddy!" Then, browse through our DVD collection and find a movie you'd like to watch! Or, enjoy not one, but two video game consoles! Our Nintendo Gamecube features a library of over six video games, including titles such as "Super Mario Sunshine," "Super Mario Kart," "Super Mario Advanced Sunshine Kart," "Super Mario Sunny Party Advancy Kart" and "Tetris!" But wait, there's more! OUR LIVING ROOM also features a state of the art Xbox video game console unit, with a library of over five games, three of which we've learned how to play! During your visit to OUR LIVING ROOM, you can enjoy music from our CD collection, or dance to the unrestrained rhythms of the occasional random obscene hip-hop song, blasted at an aggressively loud volume by those damn kids next door! Then, unwind in our posh relaxation spots, such as the recliner, the sofa (except for Darrell's corner), the floor, or, if guest capacity requires it, a chair brought from the kitchen! And at the end of your stay at OUR LIVING ROOM, rest assured you'll return safely to your car, guided by the security and comfort of our front porch light. Remember, next time you have a vacation to plan, there's nothing like OUR LIVING ROOM!

    Well, there you go. Yeah, like I said, I've never been anywhere. But, that doesn't mean I can't be a showoff about it.

     

    John Roberts, Adoption, The NYT, And More



  • The National Council for Adoption has issued a tersely worded criticism of the New York Times and their efforts (as uncovered by Drudge) to dig up the adoption records of Judge John Roberts:

    NCFA denounces, in the strongest possible terms, the shocking decision of the New York Times to investigate the adoption records of Justice John Roberts’ two young children. The adoption community is outraged that, for obviously political reasons, the Times has targeted the very private circumstances, motivations, and processes by which the Roberts became parents.

    The adoption histories of four- and five-year old children have no bearing whatsoever on the suitability of Justice Roberts to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court -- or in any other position, for that matter. Rather, this abject invasion of privacy shows a shameful disregard for the integrity of the family in general and the adoptive family in particular.


    The statement, which I agree with entirely, is available here as a PDF file.


  • Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) is outraged about the NYT's adoption digging, too. For her, this matter hits close to home.

    Citing "simple decency," Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison demanded Friday that journalists quit poking around for details on Supreme Court nominee John Roberts' adopted children.

    "Some boundaries should be placed on inquiries into the private lives of public figures," said Ms. Hutchison, who faced some uncomfortable questions after she adopted her son and daughter four years ago, when she was 58 and husband Ray Hutchison was 68…

    Ms. Hutchison called the newspaper's actions "reprehensible," saying the inquiry crossed the "fine line between legitimate background inquiries and invasion of privacy."


  • Roberts, as it turns out, has worked pro bono to prevent discrimination against homosexuals... and doesn't brag about his pro bono work, either:

    A decade ago, John Roberts played a valuable role helping attorneys overturn a Colorado referendum that would have allowed discrimination against gays — free assistance the Supreme Court nominee didn't mention in a questionnaire he filled out for the Senate Judiciary Committee.

    The revelation didn't appear to dent his popularity among conservative groups nor quell some of the opposition of liberal groups fearful he could help overturn landmark decisions such as Roe v. Wade, which guarantees a right to an abortion.


  • The more we learn about Roberts, the more he seems like a fairly complex guy. I like that. I get the impression, more and more, that he is personally governed by temperance, a belief in justice, and a very Christian kind of compassion. Regardless of how you feel about homosexuality, it’s incumbent upon the Christian to work to ensure that gays are treated fairly and decently, just as anyone else would be. “Hate the sin but love the sinner,” right? Isn’t that what we tell each other? Could it be that Roberts’ pro bono work in this case indicates that he actually lives by that creed? I don't know much about that pro bono case in specific, I need to learn more about it... but for now, I'm willing to give Roberts the benefit of the doubt.

    Hey, maybe I’m naïve, but I think the guy might actually be more interested in matters of right and wrong than he is in politics. Could it be? I hope so. I’m starting to think so.

    Of course, the liberals in the media are going into an absolute tailspin about Roberts. They can’t pin him down, but they’re still sure that they can pin all Christians down, and so they’re writing and publishing shrill screeds like this, from Diane Carman:

    When the details were revealed last week about John Roberts' energetic involvement in overturning Colorado's anti-gay-rights amendment, it created some real cognitive dissonance in the evangelical community.

    This is a group, after all, that likes its issues - and its judges - uncomplicated.

    So how do you sing hosannas for a guy who contributed lots of valuable Hogan & Hartson legal advice to the cause of gay rights - even if he does look like a reliable anti-abortion-rights vote?

    Could he believe in - gasp - moral relativism?

    And, given his willingness to obstruct the religious right's relentless campaign against gays, is supporting him now in the hope of getting Roe vs. Wade overturned making a deal with the devil?


    Sometimes, I wonder why I bother. These goofballs understand Christians better than we understand ourselves, right? Well, no. Here we go, one line at a time...


    This is a group, after all, that likes its issues - and its judges - uncomplicated.

    I love that. I love that classic liberal take on Christians. I love the mindset it reveals and how oblivious these lefties are to their own hypocrisy. Isn’t it interesting that sweeping generalizations like that are only OK when they’re made against Christians? If a columnist applied that exact sentence to any other sociological group, you know what would hit the fan, and know how much. But Christians? Go ahead and portray them as a closed-minded, simple, cookie-cutter group of morons. After all, all the really enlightened people know that to be true, right??

    So how do you sing hosannas for a guy who contributed lots of valuable Hogan & Hartson legal advice to the cause of gay rights - even if he does look like a reliable anti-abortion-rights vote?

    Actually, Ms. Carmen, we only sing hosannas for one Guy in particular… and he’s not nominated to the Supreme Court of the United States at the moment. But, I digress.

    Could he believe in - gasp - moral relativism?

    Or, could it be that he simply doesn’t believe in mistreating people? Could it be that his morals are actually far from relative, and are, instead, simple, basic, and Christian? Nah, that couldn’t be the case… after all, we all know how closed-minded and hateful those Christians are, right Ms. Carmen??

    And, given his willingness to obstruct the religious right's relentless campaign against gays…

    Oh, that’s right. We nutcase Christians have as many gays burned at the stake as possible, don’t we, Ms. Carmen? Why, our relentless campaign against gays is almost as fevered and bloodthirsty as the liberal media’s relentless campaign against Christians.

    Let’s look a little deeper into Ms. Carmen’s piece...

    I mean, if Roberts could rationalize advocating for gay rights, good heavens, that means he's capable of supporting women's rights, too….I know, I know. It seems ridiculous, but it's not inconceivable.

    I’m sure Roberts is a big believer in women’s rights, Ms. Carmen. I’m sure he also supports all the same basic human rights for gay people. And, I believe that he very well may support those same rights for the unborn.

    That’s where we’re really going with this, isn’t it? To people like Ms. Carmen, the issue of women’s rights really comes down to her belief that women should have the right to have sex without consequences and that they should have the right to murder their children before birth as a matter of convenience. That’s wrong. That’s not moral relativism, that’s not politics, that’s simply a matter of right and wrong, black and white, good and evil.

    Why is it that the right to sex without accountability is the only right that people like Ms. Carmen worry about guaranteeing for women? You don’t hear these so-called “women’s rights” advocates frothing at the mouth about any other issue… but suggest that murdering an unborn child shouldn’t be an available form of birth control, and these pro-abortionists turn into ranting lunatics. Could it be because, deep down, they realize on a basic level that it’s simply wrong?

    Oh, there I go again, being all Christian and everything. Shame on me.


  • Another item, totally unrelated to Judge Roberts...

    Robert Novak apologized Friday for swearing on the air and walking off a CNN set, but said it had nothing to do with the federal probe sparked by his revelation of a CIA officer's name in a 2003 column.

    "I apologize for my conduct and I'm sorry I did it," he said in an interview...

    The incident occurred Thursday as Novak and Democratic operative James Carville were handicapping the Senate candidacy of former Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris. Novak said the opposition of the Republican establishment in Florida might not be fatal for her.

    "Let me just finish, James, please," Novak continued. "I know you hate to hear me, but you have to."

    Carville, addressing the camera, said: "He's got to show these right wingers that he's got a backbone, you know. It's why The Wall Street Journal editorial page is watching you. Show 'em that you're tough."

    "Well, I think that's bull---- and I hate that," Novak replied. "Just let it go."

    As moderator Henry stepped in to ask Carville a question, Novak walked off the set.


    I saw a clip of the segment on CNN. Carville was doing everything he could to antagonize Novak. That's Carville for you.

    One of these days, somebody is going to get even more fed up than Novak did. One of these days, somebody is going to knock a couple of Carville's teeth down his throat. And, as much as I know I shouldn't, I'm going to laugh soooooo hard.


  • Sunday, August 07, 2005

     

    Uno!



    We’ve just finished a game of Uno with the kids. In our family, Uno is treated like a matter of life or death. I’m surprised, when I think about it, that none of our Uno games have ended with knife fights.


    UnoYou can tell a lot about people by the way they play Uno. Wendy and I typically dedicate each hand to doing everything we can to beat up on one and other. We always sit right beside each other and both of us constantly reverse game play so that we can pound each other with as many “Draw 2” cards and “Draw 4” wild cards as possible. I don’t think either of us cares much about winning, so long as the other ends up holding fifty cards at the end of a hand. I think it's fair to say that both Wendy and I will do things that damage his or her own of winning, so long as it causes the other person to lose and lose badly. I'll hold a "Draw 4" forever, if possible, in order to make sure that I'm playing to her when I play it. To Wendy's credit, and to mine, too, neither of us cheat. I think that should be expected, of course... I just want to make it clear that neither of us is willing to compromise the integrity of the game in order to hammer the other one. Knife fights might be a possibility, but cheating is not.

    Each of the kids, however, has a distinctly different approach to Uno.

    Hailey: The Performance Artist

    For Hailey, the rules of Uno seem to be more of a suggestion than a rigid system. Not only will he occasionally, for instance, try to play a red one on a blue seven… but he’ll actually announce his intentions. “I’m going to play a red one,” he’ll say. We’ll remind him that he can’t do that, and he’ll say “Oh, man!” It isn't that he's bummed because we didn't let him break the rules... I think he just hates it that none of us understand the bold artistic expression he was trying to make.

    Willow: The Exhibitionist

    Willow likes to sit throughout the game and announce what’s in her hand. “Oh, all I’ve got is yellow,” she’ll say. Or “I can’t wait to play this draw four wild card!” Somehow, in spite of this, she manages to win quite a few hands. Maybe it’s some kind of reverse psychology trick.

    Liam: The Card Shark

    Even though he’s the youngest at six years old, and even though he never organizes his cards, but instead sits with a jumble of cards in both fists, Liam wins more hands than any of us. And, he’s very competitive about it all. He will make a good poker player someday, because he can read a competitor’s face like nobody’s business. Today, for instance, when I was playing to him, he could tell that I was about to play a “Draw 2” card. Even before I could fish the card out of my hand, he got this squinty expression of disdain, looked at me and said “Butthole.” We all got a good laugh out of that. I didn’t get mad, either. That’s the way Uno is played in this family. Hey, if he played a “Draw 2” to me, I’d have called him a butthole, too.

    Uno is a lot of fun… it’s one of those eternal family games that never gets old. So far, every game we’ve played has ended with no reported internal bleeding, too.


    Friday, August 05, 2005

     

    Never Forget Terri Schiavo



    We don’t know as much about comas, brain damage, etc., as some would have us think we do:

    When Sarah Scantlin woke up earlier this year after two decades in a semi-comatose state, she was ready to resume her life. Her body was not...

    For 20 years, Scantlin, the victim of a hit-and-run accident, was cut off from the world, unable to communicate. But it's now clear that - at least some of the time - she could see, she could hear, and she could understand what was going on around her.

    Shortly after she began to talk earlier this year, her father asked her what she knew about something that had happened years earlier, Sept. 11."

    "Sarah, what's 9-11?" Jim Scantlin says he asked. "And she says, 'Bad…Fire…Airplanes… Building. Hurt people.' Now, that's pretty good."


    Lucky Sarah… none of her loved ones were pressing to exercise her “right to die” for her.

    Hat tip: Dymphna’s Well.

     

    An Unforgivable Intrusion (Update - Thank You)



    I just want to say that I’m moved and touched by the e-mail and comments I’ve gotten on the matter of the New York Times and the personal adoption records of Judge John Roberts. I admit, sometimes I have a tendency to be hypersensitive about certain issues. And, God knows, I can be a bit of a knee-jerk reactionist. From the feedback I’ve received on this, however, I get the feeling that I’m pretty much on target here. It means a lot to me to hear from others who are as bothered by this matter as I am.

    I think, too, that our shared concern is a matter of our shared humanity, and that it crosses political lines. Some liberals are as bothered by this as conservatives. Speaking out against this kind of intrustion isn't something done simply to show support for Judge Roberts and/or his politics. It's a way of showing support for adoptive families... and for families in general. I like to think that there are lines that just shouldn’t be crossed… that there are standards that must be upheld in the name of common decency… and that there are those of us who might disagree passionately on political issues, but who still stand together in the name of public civility. It means a lot to me; it really does. So, thanks you, sincerely, from the bottom of my heart... and God bless you.

    Thursday, August 04, 2005

     

    The Watch Song



    Jamie Dawn recently mentioned an odd little song that her grandfather taught her when she was young. She asked her readers if they knew any other comparable songs.

    That reminded me of The Watch Song.

    For better or worse, here’s the story of The Watch Song.

    I honestly can’t remember when or how or why I learned it, and I don’t know anything about it’s origins. It’s a song I’ve known since I was a kid. By today’s standards, the lyrics to The Watch Song are pretty tame… but back then, when I was a kid, it was considered smut of the first order. When I was a kid, my friends and I loved The Watch Song, and we’d sing it every chance we got… but always safely away from our parents, lest they hear us singing it and ground us for life.

    The Watch Song was one of those secret delights of childhood… something that made us feel older and mature and wise beyond our years when we’d sing it. In terms of artistic value, we considered The Watch Song to be possibly the most important creation of all time.

    The lyrics to The Watch Song are, as follows:

    I was sittin’ in a bar room,
    Drinkin’ my beer,
    When a cowboy walked in,
    And he made himself clear.
    He said “You’ve been seen with my wife.
    Now, I want your life.
    We can do it outside,
    Or we can do it in here.”

    Now, I’m a meek minded fellow,
    But I’ve never been yellow,
    So I stepped outside
    And kicked him in the crotch.
    That slowed him down,
    But, when he came around,
    He stomped on me
    And he stomped on my watch.

    Oh, John Cameron Swayze,
    I know this sounds crazy,
    But my wristwatch was busted
    Beyond repair.
    A cowboy stomped it flat,
    And I freaked out over that,
    And now I am headed
    For the electric chair.


    When my son was just a baby, I used to sing The Watch Song to him when I was putting him to bed at night.

    I didn’t put a lot of thought into it, and if I’d had some small portion of a brain, I’d probably have realized that The Watch Song was a horribly inappropriate song to sing to a baby.

    It never crossed my mind, though.

    Before my son was two years old, he was capable of singing The Watch Song in it’s entirety.

    As you can imagine, his mother was horrified. However, as a dad, I couldn’t have been prouder. I’d introduced my son, and by extension, his whole young generation, to the joy that is The Watch Song.

    I mentioned that at Jamie Dawn’s blog this morning, and today, while I was outside, I remembered that I actually had a recording of my son at the age of two, singing The Watch Song.

    Of course, these days, he’s an eight year old and he’s deeply concerned about doing or saying anything that might be “uncool.” So in the interest of propriety, I checked with him and I got his permission to post an MP3 of him singing The Watch Song. It was recorded about a month before his second birthday.

    This is him now… and as you can see, he’s the very picture of dapper coolness.


    This is a picture of him at about the age of two, when he was just beginning to hone his skills as a vocalist.


    And the MP3 linked below is my son just before he turned two, singing a wonderful protest song about watches, bar fights, and the death penalty.

    I know, I know… parents can get annoying when they try to shove pictures and movies and recordings of their cute kids on people… so just ignore this if you want. Or, if you’re of a mind to, you can click this link, and hear a toddler sing The Watch Song in all of it's glory.

    Just please, please don't tell my mom.


     

    An Unforgivable Intrusion



    See update above.

    The New York Times has offended and disgusted me in the past. Nevertheless, I’ve always considered their left-wing editorials and the obvious liberal slant they put on supposed straight news items to be mildly amusing. It’s somewhat funny to watch the “old gray lady,” as the paper is known, as it spirals out of control. What was once the pride of the nation’s print media has turned into a well written (but entirely transparent) commercial version of a socialist hippie ‘zine.

    There are, however, lines that I never thought that the New York Times would cross. I can forgive their left wing slant. I can forgive the liberal spin they put on every “straight news” story they publish. I can not, however, forgive this:

    According to a recent report, The New York Times is investigating the adoption records of Bush Supreme Court nominee John Roberts. Roberts and his wife adopted their two children - Jack and Josie, age four and five respectively - from Latin America. While there could be nothing more kind, compassionate or loving than adopting a child and raising it as your own, The Times apparently sees such a move as an opportunity to uncover possible skullduggery.


    As an adoptive father, I’m offended to the very core. When I adopted my son, during my first marriage, I knew that I’d spend the rest of my life worried that somehow, someone might intentionally (or unintentionally) say or do something that might cause schism in our father-son relationship. It is something adoptive parents worry about. Other adoptive parents might understand what I mean... you love your kids, you'd die for them. You give them everything you can give them, do everything you can do for them, and in the back of your mind, you live with the fear that somehow, someday, somebody will wreck your life by uttering the words "not really your dad."

    It's a vulnerability you learn to get used to, but it never, ever leaves the back of your mind. You try to control it by planning for it, you imagine every scenareo, every possible problem that might arise, and you try to be ready. You run through conversations in your mind in advance, try to come up with what will be the right words to say or the right thing to do in the event of some catastrophe... and you wait... and you wait... and you wait...

    I can't imagine what Mr. and Mrs. Roberts are going through right now. What kind of horrible accusation is the Times preparing? What kind of trouble are they trying to stir up? What will be the issues raised, and how will Mr. and Mrs. Roberts explain all of this to their kids, someday down the road?

    Adoption is an issue that should be kept private. Adoptive parents and children should be allowed to work out any and all issues about adoption in privacy and with loving delacacy. For the New York Times to make this kind of intrusion into the most intimate details of the lives of the John Roberts family is absolutely beyond the pale.

    I first read about this at DDot’s Rants, an I am happy to join him in expressing my disgust to the New York Times personally. I’ve sent them an e-mail letting them know just how I feel, and I’ve left a voice-mail message as well. I’ve never done anything like that before. I just didn’t see how I could let this go, though. I had to comment.

    I’d like to join DDot’s Rants in encouraging you to do the same thing.

    If you’d like to express your feelings about this to the Times, here’s the information you need:

    Telephone: (212) 556-7652

    E-Mail Addresses:
    publisher@nytimes.com
    president@nytimes.com
    executive-editor@nytimes.com
    managing-editor@nytimes.com


    Wednesday, August 03, 2005

     

    A Dismal Year (So Far) For Backyard Gardening



    I know I said I’d get back to irresponsible rants and leave the photo blogging behind pretty soon, but I couldn’t help myself.

    We got outside and did some yard work and gardening this afternoon. It felt nice to be outside doing stuff after having been laid up with a slipped disc. I went back to work Monday, and life seems to be returning to normal.

    This time last year, we were starting to get more fresh veggies out of the garden than we could stand. This year has been different. This year, nothing much has been producing.

    I usually baby my tomatoes, but nothing I’ve done this year has really helped. Here’s a prime example… one decent looking red beefsteak, sure… but the one above it has bugs, and the plant, as you can see, has a lot of dead vegetation.



    A couple of tomato plants, at least, are making a valiant effort.



    The basil is getting big, but the leaves don’t look that healthy. The cage, by the way, is just to protect the plant from the dog.



    I still have hope for the squash. This is the first year we’ve planted any, and I’ve always heard that once they start producing, you’re up to your ears in squash. I hope so. Wendy and I love fresh squash. This one is the first one to show up so far, but there’s still tons of blossoms on the plants.



    The cucumbers have been a terrible disappointment. Instead of growing long and straight, like straight eights are supposed to, we’re getting a lot of these little “cucumber balls.”



    Here’s Wendy hosing off everything in sight.



    There’s nothing better than being a kid in August with a backyard sprinkler. The kids had a great time outside today, if nothing else. I’ll end with a few pics of them.











     

    When Iranian Lady Police Officer Ninja Babes ATTACK!






    I found this at Bombshell Photo Lab. It's a picture of Iranian female police cadets putting on a demonstration.

    A demonstration of what, I do not know. Maybe what they're communicating is "We love this building. We love to guard it and crawl around on it. You'll take this building from us over our dead bodies!"

    I'm scared, saddened, and mildly aroused. It's such an odd world.

    I don't know why I've been doing so much photo-blogging lately. I promise to get back to irresponsible, closed-minded ranting and blatant, shamless plagerization soon.


     

    The Big Dumb Loud 80's



    Between writing my piece for Fawndoo’s Blog Party the other day and trying to decide if I should go ahead and buy that Hall and Oates Greatest Hits album or not, I’ve been feeling particularly nostalgic as of late.

    I know that the 80’s nostalgia thing has been done to death lately. After all, that’s what VH1 is for, apparently. So please forgive me, please bear with me, for a little stroll down Darrell’s memory lane....





    Remember this guy? The kids today have bin Ladin. When I was a kid, this was the face we associated with turbaned evil.






    I think I was pretty ambiguous about Uncle Ron during the actual decade of the 1980’s. I don’t think I really appreciated him until we elected Slick in ’92.






    A friend of mine told me about the Challenger between classes. I was getting a book out of my locker and my buddy Shaun walked up and told me what had happened. I spent the rest of the day thinking “What? What?”






    Oh, yes… the singular beauty of the 1972 Dodge Coronet. It was the first car I ever owned, bought with $200 grass-mowing money. This is not a picture of the one I owned. This picture is just some Coronet. The one I owned was the Coronet. If I ever win the lottery, I won’t buy a Lexus or a Porsche or whatever. I’ll buy a ’72 Coronet and restore it to brand new condition.






    I didn’t play. I had friends who played. I didn’t have the patience to learn.






    My buddies and I thought that anything they did was funny.






    My grandmother and I thought that anything he did was funny.






    Enough said.






    This was more my taste in music. Maiden was my favorite band when I was a teen. Enough said about that, too.






    The first R rated movie I ever saw in the theater was Purple Rain. Me and a kid from school snuck in, swearing to the girl at the ticket booth that we were both 18. She probably knew we were lying, but let us in. We were both 15.







    I really wasn’t a TV junkie when I was young, but at some point I did get addicted to St Elsewhere. I still don’t think there’s been a medical drama that could touch it.







    Remember the last episode of St Elsewhere? If you, like me, were a fan, then this image is probably still stuck in your brain. What a series finale. One of the best ever.







    Oh, yeah… Hall and Oates. They could have recorded themselves belching into a mason jar and it would have been a hit.








    Of course, these days, it’s the other one’s turn to wear the facial hair.






    Hey, it could be worse. Remember when they looked like this? What music industry marketing genius came up with this look? "You know, boys, your blue-eyed soul sound is nice... but what's really selling these days is overtly gay, hair-gelled, metalic vampire music."




    I’ll wrap this up with a couple of pics that have no specific bearing in my life… I just saw this on the net and thought it was funny… and it is on topic for this post.



    That’s Toby Keith. If you don’t know, he’s the big dumb country music star of the moment. His music really, really, really sucks… and his image, as the blue-collar working guy who happens to be a musician is a total marketing ploy.



    Especially once you remember what he looked like in the 80’s. This guy will package himself in any way that might sell. Ain't he cute? He'll make somebody a pretty little wife someday.


    Tuesday, August 02, 2005

     

    80's Withdrawal



    I am this close [ ] to buying this thing unless some reasonable person can talk me out of it.

     

    Don't Miss the current issue of National Review



    Usually, when I read NR I flip through and read the articles I’m most interested in, then go back and read the ones that didn’t catch my eye right way. There are often a few I don’t read at all. This issue is one of the best I’ve seen in a long time, and may be the issue I’ve enjoyed more than any other. Almost every article in the current issue was read on the first viewing.

    Here’s some of what I particularly enjoyed…

  • “Expensive Talk” by Anthony Daniels is an extraordinary piece about the politics of the entertainment industry:

    The kind of morality preached by (those in) the entertainment industry has, of course, many attractions for young people who are ever on the lookout for reasons to excuse, justify, or render morally unimportant their own frequently selfish behaviour. It allows them to think that their moral responsibility increases as the square of the distance between themselves and the moral problem; and as the world offers an inexhaustible supply of reasons for righteous indignation, which is one of the few human emotions apart from resentment that never lets you down, they will always be able to think well of themselves. Moreover, their indignation almost always demands sacrifices of others, not of themselves, and to demand sacrifices of others is a pleasure in itself. Shrillness is next to godliness.


  • Mark Steyn’s column about the nomination of John Roberts had me laughing out loud. Steyn has become my favorite columnist over the past year, and he makes me laugh out loud regularly. Here, we find him musing over a conversation previous to the nomination, during which he and some friends speculated about the pick, Steyn writes:

    …we’d done the whole Gonzales-is-Spanish-for-Souter routine, and then gone in for a lot of identity-group psephology, taking for granted the soundness of John Derbyshire’s line that one thing you can guarantee is it won’t be a white male. We mused on how the politics of Swingin’ Sandra’s retirement demanded a woman replacement, and so that meant Bush would probably want to pick the first Hispanic-American female, and then the legal experts aboard airily threw around likely candidates whose jurisprudence the rest of us pretended to be familiar with: Conchita Rosalita Alcantara Cortez, Carmelita Juanita Suarez Angarita, etc. (I quote from memory.) After a couple of days of being berated by NR readers furious about illegal immigration, it occurred to me the president might want to start the amnesty with a splash and nominate the first Undocumented-American to serve on the Supreme Court.


    Then, in a serious summary, he knocked my socks off with the following:

    When nobody’s paying attention, the president nominates the first black female secretary of state and the first Hispanic attorney general, and gets no ethnic rah-rah points for it. But, when the media’s got the quota fever, he nominates a white male. The president’s willingness to evaluate candidates on (as someone once said) the content of their character is a too rare virtue, and we should treasure him for it. He doesn’t boast about an administration that “looks like America,” but he’s got one in the most important sense — they made it on merit.


  • Clifford D. May has a remarkable, and remarkably sound, theory about exactly who outed Joe Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, as a CIA agent. May believes that it may have been Wilson himself, and he argues his point persuasively, providing detailed information about how he researched his theory.

    If (Reporter Robert) Novak did not identify Plame as a secret agent, who did? The other day I realized that I didn’t know the answer to that simple question. When I asked others who were following the Wilson story, I was surprised to learn they didn’t know either. So I conducted a little research to find out who had been the first to use such words as “secret” or “covert” in regard to Plame. It turned out to be David Corn, writing on The Nation’s website, two days after Novak’s column appeared…. Corn’s article contains not a single source — named or unnamed — except one: Joe Wilson.


  • John O’Sullivan’s piece on the conditions in London that allowed the 7/7 terrorist attacks is a real eye-opener… and, frankly, those conditions are a scary mirror of the so-called multi-cultural state of affairs in the US today:

    A blind eye was turned to illegal immigration (in England) — an official report suggests that at least 500,000 illegal immigrants live in Britain. (This figure is probably an underestimate.) Legal immigration procedures were quietly relaxed — and lies to conceal the fact were told to Parliament. Organizations such as Hizb ut-Tahrir, banned in most other countries, were allowed to operate freely. Among those admitted into Britain were vocal supporters of 9/11, Osama bin Laden, and Islamist terrorism in general. Over time a “jihad railway,” bringing together radical Islamic organizations, Pakistani madrassas, terrorist training camps, and disaffected young British Muslims gradually came into being.


  • I was especially effected by “Ask Not,” Ramesh Ponnuru’s piece about the nomination and confirmation processes by which new Supreme Court Justices are selected. He argues persuasively that, while Democrats have done a great deal of work on behalf of those who support abortion on demand, Republicans have, practically speaking, done little to advance the cause of those of us who would work to limit abortion:

    Republican appointee after appointee has voted to uphold Roe. The current Court contains 6 pro-Roe votes. Three of them — Kennedy, O’Connor, and Souter — were appointed by Republican presidents committed to overturning Roe. Surely one reason for these disappointments is that Republican presidents have not taken the obvious step of asking prospective nominees where they stand on Roe. Democrats do not share this reluctance: President Clinton pledged to nominate only judges who supported abortion rights, as did John Kerry, and few people suggested that this litmus test violated some code of judicial ethics.


  • Besides all of that, there’s an interesting piece about anti-Bush crusader Charles Schumer (the cover story), an item that exposes the shameful failings of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, several interesting reviews and the usual good work by Rob Long and William F. Buckley, Jr.

    I don’t usually make a special effort to encourage readers of this blog to pick up a specific magazine just because I’m subscribed to it and have read it… but this one is a keeper.

    Buy it. Read it all, cover to cover.

    Monday, August 01, 2005

     

    Wayfaring Strangers, Part 22



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

    Mega-Churches, Lutheranism, and Catholicism

    Sometimes, I wonder if I've really done Wendy a disservice by bringing our family to the Catholic Church. It's not that I have any doubts whatsoever about Catholicism... I don't have any. I'm surer and surer every day that the Roman Catholic Church is the church for me. However, the differences between my religious upbringing and Wendy's religious upbringing are huge and fundamental. Wendy was raised Lutheran, and her experiences in the Lutheran church have always been positive and spiritual and important to her. I was raised Southern Baptist, with occasional trips to the Noninstrumental Church of Christ. My church experiences as a child were uniformly negative. I felt then, and still believe, that the churches I attended as a young person were angry and driven more by fear than by love. By converting to Catholicism, I'm sure that I'm doing what's necessary for my salvation. On the other hand, I'm sure that Wendy could have continued worship at a Lutheran church and been absolutely A-OK.

    Neither Wendy nor I were attending a church of any kind when we started dating. As our relationship got more and more serious, we realized that we needed God in our lives in order to raise our family the way we wanted to and to be the kinds of people we wanted to be as individuals.

    As a family, we started attending a nondenominational Christian church in the area about 4 years ago. Except for the preacher, who was kind and supportive and a wonderful councilor for us, our experience at that church was entirely negative. The church was made up almost entirely of people who've bought into the whole "mega-church" thing.

    These were people who'd smile at us on Sunday, but turn their heads and act like they hadn't seen us at Wal-Mart. Some of them taught Sunday school classes we atteneded, and always with odd results. One woman, named Carla, taught a class for adult women that Wendy always described to me as something like "the church of Carla." One fellow who was geuninely very friendly and outgoing every time we talked to him rejected studying C.S. Lewis because he was "too hard."

    Eventually, we got to the point where we dreaded going to church.

    While we were there, I assumed that our congregation's obsession with "church growth" and with mirroring the "mega-churches" was an isolated problem. It was only recently that I realized that the mega-church movement has been as destructive and negative for other churches as it was at the nondenominational church we'd been attending.

    I read Burr in the Burgh regularly. It's a blog by a Lutheran pastor, and he recently mentioned the mega-church issue. It seems that he's as troubled by it as I am, and at his blog I found links to a couple of articles that I really enjoyed.

    Dr. Gene Edward Veith has some observations that resonated as absolute truth with me:

    ... notice how aging Boomers still tend to listen to the same music they listened to when they were sixteen. We Baby Boomers (and remember I include myself in all of these criticisms) do not consider that it might be a sign of some infantile clinging to childhood when we do not allow our taste to change and mature. We tend to think that we are the ones who are not only cool but contemporary.

    Many churches today feel the need to be contemporary. The assumption is that in order to reach people the church should throw off its old-fashioned styles and get with the times. The hoary liturgy should be done away with and those archaic hymns should be replaced with music people are listening to today.

    Notice that these assumptions -- that old forms are not relevant, that people today are somehow different from those of the past, that being alive means being entertained -- are relics of the Baby Boomer generation. In fact, it is usually Baby Boomer pastors who are implementing these kinds of reforms.

    Now here is the irony, which is immediately recognized by Generation X-ers -- contemporary worship services, with their "contemporary" music, are seldom contemporary at all. The ubiquitous "praise songs" have more to do with the style of Peter, Paul and Mary than with actual contemporary music today.


    I read that, and I thought "That's it!" That's it, in a nutshell. The mega-church movement, a product of the baby boom generation, is simply replacing liturgy and tradition with their personal tastes. They're destroying church history in order to make sure that the one hour they spend each week in church is as innocuous and as inoffensive and as comforting to them as the rest of their lives are.

    A few years ago, a protestant friend of mine talked me into attending a "Promise Keepers" rally with him. I was willing to give it a chance, I was at the point where I was still hoping to find serious Christians among the people around me; people I could learn from and study with and grow as a person with... as opposed to helping them collect warm bodies so that they could grow as a church. Anyway, about 15 minutes into the Promise Keepers rally, I wanted to leave. There's something about watching grown men dance together and shout the lyrics to Christian rock songs that just gave me an extreme case of the creeps. I couldn't wait to get away from it. I'd gone in looking for reflection and study and contemplation, and instead I got a "feel-good" assembly of Baby Boomer generation men who seemed to be behaving no differently than they would at a Foghat concert.

    Ultimately, it was a depressing experience.

    That became exactly the same problem for me at our old nondenominational church. I came to feel that church tradition and real reverence were being dumbed down to make the middle-aged congregation more comfortable. They seemed to be uncomfortable by anything that required them to examine themselves, to really do anything difficult. This was, after all, a church where confession not only wasn't practiced, but was abhorred as an erroneous Catholic practice! This was a church that preached "sola fide," the doctrine that you are saved by faith alone, and that good works aren't really necessary for salivation. This was a church that sung horribly goofy, folky type songs on Sunday morning; songs that never even mentioned Jesus by name. Oh, sure, Jesus was mentioned in church, but for the most part, he was a mascot rather than a savior.

    Our church-growth-obsessed, pseudo-contemporary church was far more interested in itself than it was in the Savior, the world around us, or the message we're supposed to convey from the one to the other.

    Writing for Dallas News, Clint Rainey talks about the disillusionment he began to feel about the mega-church he'd been a member of:

    As megachurches go, ours is the quintessence: a skate park, a sports league with enrollment exceeding the city YMCA's, a cafe and a game room outfitted with a half-dozen Xboxes. When baptisms take place during the service in the nearby "baptismal sanctuary," the word "LIVE" appears in the corner of our auditorium's three Jumbotrons as the event is telecast to us.

    All of this, we've been reminded interminably, is to "attract seekers." I've grown very disenchanted with this concept. Attract seekers to what? A sanctuary worthy of Broadway production? An auditorium mimicking a convention center? A complex of expensive buildings?


    Rainey is certain that the distrust and disillusionment he felt about his mega-church, and that I felt about our church that was trying to become one, is typical for our generation:

    Studies say our generation is the most conservative in decades on issues of religion, suggesting we're averse to the risks that churches with a flashy, pop-culture bent take to appeal, ironically, to us… So when we grow up, we'll likely look for religion elsewhere.


    I agree. That explains my own attraction to the Catholic church. I grew up in a church that talked about Jesus but taught anger. As an adult, I attended a church that really didn't talk about or teach anything but it's obsession with becoming a bigger version of itself.

    I wanted meat, they were giving us milk. I wanted in-depth Bible studies and serious theological review... they gave us Max Lucado's hallmark card stylings and The Prayer of Jabez. I wanted the Savior, they gave me pop songs and pot luck suppers.

    This was all as frustrating for Wendy as it was for me... but not because she was still looking for a church that was more substantial. For Wendy, it was frustrating because she'd grown up in a church that was truly substantial. Wendy's grown up in the Lutheran Church, and the more I learn about it, the more I realize that if we'd started attending a Lutheran Church instead of a Catholic Church last spring, I'd probably have been as happy there as I am with Roman Catholicism.

    There are other problems for me, though. I have come to believe in and want confession. I have come to believe in transubstantiation, not consubstantiation, and I want a Eucharist that changes entirely. I've come to love and revere the saints and Mary. In short, I've become Catholic, and I'm becoming more so every day.

    It's a problem more-so for me than for Wendy. She grew up in a church that had 99% of what we're learning already. For her, it's a small move to Rome. For me, it's gigantic. Wendy says not to worry about these things, that she sees herself as still Lutheran AND Catholic, and that it's not really an issue for her.

    It's an issue for me, though. Wendy's church experiences as a child were as positive as mine were negative.

    Sometimes, I worry that I'm asking her to "throw out the baby" so that I can get rid of my "dirty bathwater."

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