Monday, October 31, 2005
Those Top 100 Novels
There was a time when I devoured novels... but not the "good stuff." I read mostly pulp. These days, 90% of what I read is non-fiction and theology, so I'm still not reading the good novels... nonetheless, I have managed to actually read a few (a very few) of the novels in Time's Top 100. Here's my list:
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe: C.S. Lewis
It's hard to argue that Lewis ever wrote a work of fiction that was better than this, although I'd suggest that Till We Have Faces is just as good.
Animal Farm: George Orwell
I read it as a teen and loved it, congratulating myself on having both enjoyed and understood a smart, funny novel. Of course, every time I re-read it, I get something new out of it and tell myself that I've never really understood it before.
Catch 22: Joseph Heller
So subversive, so much fun. I think everyone should read it by the time they're 25.
The Painted Bird: Jerzey Kosinski
Kosinski claimed (some say falsely) that this was based on his experiences as an orphan during World War II. The controversy over the degree to which it is fact-based has overshadowed the work itself, for many people. That's a shame. This is an amazingly powerful book. There are images in the book that are very believable, and others that seem to be presented as a child's fantastic interpretation of what he's seen. The line blurs again and again, lending all of it an other-worldly feel. It's not a pleasant book to read, and some of the images are grotesque and horrifying enough to stay with you forever... but given the subject matter (war through the eyes of a child), that's probably appropriate.
Slaughterhouse Five: Kurt Vonnegut
I suppose it's legit to argue that this is Vonnegut's best work. People who've read all of his stuff, however, are always going to have their own favorites, and I've never met a Vonnegut fan who names SH5 as his or her pick. I suppose my two favorites are Cat's Cradle and Breakfast of Champions, although SH5 is probably a fitting and appropriate way to introduce yourself to Vonnegut's stuff.
Here's a list of books on the list that I have started and never completed:
The Catcher In The Rye: J.D. Sallinger
I've tried to read it a couple of times and I have just hated Holden so much that I can't stay interested.
One Flew Over The Cukoo's Nest: Ken Kesey
A friend told me once that I should read Kesey, that I'd love him. That might be true. I took his advice, but I overextended myself. I checked this book and Sometimes a Great Notion out of the library at once, started both of them, and never finished either.
On The Road: Jack Keroauc
Some people just aren't cut out to read and enjoy some kinds of books. Ten pages into this, I wanted to punch Keroauc in the face. Thinking back on it, I still do.
The Lord Of The Rings: J.R.R. Tolkien
I read The Hobbit in middle school and enjoyed it, although I can't remember a thing about it now. I decided to follow it up with the trilogy, and checked it out of the school library. I carried it around for a week, thinking "Gosh, this is a big book." I think I put it back without reading more than twenty pages of it.
Above, I mentioned that I have read a lot of "pulp," and some of it is actually very good.. I don't hesitate to recommend some of it, regardless of how Time Magazine would rank it. Having said that, it's worth your time to read the following:
The Shining: Stephen King
Desperation: Stephen King
Maximum Bob: Elmore Leonard
Diary: Chuck Palahniuk
The Exorcist: William Peter Bladdy
I Want To Buy A Vowel: John Welter
Frankenstein: Mary Shelley
Saturday, October 29, 2005
Another Sign Of The End Of The World
Have you ever heard a song made you pause and listen carefully, thinking "Wait a minute... they can't possibly be singing what I think they're singing... nobody would be stupid enough to sing that."
Have you ever heard a song that was too brainless to be offensive... and yet, too offensive to be really brainless?
Have you ever heard a song that made you think that you just might be the victim of some huge practical joke, perpetrated by a combined effort of pop singers, record companies, radio stations and MTV?
I, dear reader, have just heard such a song.
Friday, October 28, 2005
Eerie October, Part 7: Why I Believe In Ghosts
I've thought about posting this story ever since I started blogging. I've never quite worked up the guts to do it, though, because I know that there are people who'll think I'm crazy. Others might read it and think that it's nothing much worth talking about.
And still there are others, I suppose, who might read it and nod in recognition.
I guess a little background is necessary.
I graduated high school in 1987, intent on pursuing a career in commercial graphics. I intended to leave for college that autumn, and to make a little spending money and have some fun over the summer, I got a job at one of the two local radio stations.
Long story short, college never happened. I fell in love with radio. I spent four years at that station. I might still have been there, playing 45's (do they still make 45's?) and reading the weather forecast, if they hadn't automated the station in '91 and laid off all the DJs.
When that station laid us off, I had two choices: stay in radio and try to find another gig, or get a straight-world job. I tried the straight route first, going to work as a retail salesman at a local department store. I was there less than two months. Real work just wasn't for me.
I applied for jobs at other radio stations, but I had no immediate takers. I eventually got on as the continuity director at a middle-market station in West Virginia, but that wasn't for two years. In the meantime, I went to work at the other local small time radio station, just so I'd have a paycheck while I shopped my resume around.
Getting on at the other station was easy. For starters, this really is a small area. There are only two radio stations here, and at least half at the people at either of them had worked at the other, as well. The manager of the other station had tried twice to hire me before the first station laid me off... and once I realized that work in the straight-world wasn't for me, I was ready to take him up on his offer. I left the retail store job on a Tuesday morning and was working at the other station that afternoon.
The radio industry is kind of a closed circuit, especially in a small town. Not only did the two local stations share a lot of the same employees over the years, but we also knew a lot of each other's dirty laundry. I'd heard from various people over the years that Station Two was haunted, and if I thought about it at all, I suppose I thought it was kinda neat. It must be cool, I supposed, to work in a building with a little bit of local folklore.
Of course, shortly after I went to work at the second station, I started asking questions about the ghost stories. Some of the employees, but only a few, told me not to worry about it, that there was nothing to it. Others told me that it would probably only be a matter of time before I saw and heard enough to be able to make up my own mind about the situation.
It crossed my mind that all of this might be a practical joke or some kind of "initiation" for a new employee who'd come to work from the competition. I almost expected some sort of elaborate scheme to scare me by some of the other DJs. Disc jockeys are famous for playing elaborate practical jokes on each other (I could fill this blog with tales of practical jokes I either pulled off or had pulled off on me). Still, there was something about the way that my new co-workers would tell these stories. There wasn't a glint of humor or scheming in their eyes. At least none I could see. Some of them seemed reluctant to talk about it. I supposed that I'd find out soon, one way or the other, if there was anything to the stories or if I was being set up for a real hum-dinger of a joke.
There were a few different stories about the station and the property it was built on. Within a week or two of my employment there, I guess I heard them all. I never did anything to look up and verify any of the stories I heard... never checked local property records, never looked into the history of the area, never did anything remotely investigative. I suppose I might have done so if my experiences with the haunting at the radio station were intriguing or mildly interesting... but they weren't. My experiences with whatever it was at the radio station were terrifying.
One of the stories about the property involved an old man named "Jake" who had owned the property around the turn of the last century. Apparently, the county had taken the property from him because he wasn't able to pay the taxes on it. The story went that he died alone and destitute, swearing that he'd return to his land eventually.
Another story had it that a house on the property had been rented out to a young couple who were having marital problems. The story was that the woman was cheating on her husband, and that she and her boyfriend lay waiting for the husband to come in from work one night, ambushed him, and cut his throat. The story continued that the wife became so guilt-ridden and depressed about what she'd done that she hung herself in the house within a few days.
Then there was the story about the first owner of the radio station itself. According to that story, the man who'd built the station and originally owned it had been a terrible alcoholic with an awful temper. He had been given to particularly violent tantrums, I was told, and used to swear oaths against God during the worst of his fits. According to the story, he'd was at the station one day, trying to get an old mimeograph machine to work and having trouble with it. As he got more and more frustrated with the machine, his swearing and yelling became more and more heinous, and finally he dropped dead of a massive heart attack, right there in the station.
Everyone referred to the presence at the station as "Jake," however. Even though everyone believed that there were multiple presences at the station, they just called them all "Jake," and left it at that.
I was told that sometimes, blood-curdling screams could be heard in the station, late at night, while only the DJ on the air was on the premises. I was told that ghostly figures could be seen in this room and that, from time to time. I was also told that strange and sudden knocking on the walls and ceiling were common, and that from time to time, objects would fall from shelves and counter-tops... objects that had been securely and safely placed a moment before.
I was also told that Sunday mornings were the worst times to be in the radio station. Being a small town southern radio station, we played gospel and Christian music and church services from 6:00 AM until noon on Sunday mornings. I was told that whatever it was at the station seemed to despise Christian music and preaching, and that as soon as I worked on a Sunday morning, I'd be able to make up my mind about the stories.
Of course, right off the bat, I was assigned the Sunday morning, 6:00 AM till noon shift. My regular shift was weekday afternoons, noon til 5:00 PM... but we all had to have a weekend shift, too, just to make sure there was coverage of those hours.
I listened to the stories with some degree of fear, but I was also a bit skeptical. I had to give them credit; if these stories were fake and part of an elaborate joke, they'd really cooked up some doozies. If my co-workers were planning to scare me, they really had their hooks in me right away. They sure seemed to be taking all of this seriously... but the coincidence between the supposed activity on Sunday mornings and my Sunday morning shift seemed a little questionable.
To be honest, I don't remember if I had anything happen on my first Sunday morning or not. It might have been a couple of weeks before that one Sunday morning... the one I'll never forget... when things went all to hell.
I think I'd been on the air about half an hour or so when the knocking started. First, it was on the walls... first this one and then that. I waited for the "Gotcha"... waited for a co-worker or two to jump out and have a laugh, but it never happened. It seemed that I really was in the building alone.
After a while, the knocking started on the ceiling. Not just random knocking, either... rhythmic knocking, in time with the music I was playing... but increasing in loudness and force, as though something was saying "I hear that music, and I don't like it." The knocking would go on sometimes for twenty or thirty seconds, and then stop.
The things that happened when I was actually talking on the air were the worst, though.
I'd "crack the mic" (as we used to say) and start reading live ad copy or the weather forecast, or what have you, and the tape racks to the left and right of me would begin swaying, as if someone was pushing them from behind. There was no question about it now, I was scared. I was scared out of my wits. What was happening now could not, as far as I could see, be chalked up to a hidden co-worker. What was happening now was impossible for me to explain.
Something was in the building with me, and it didn't like me.
The last straw came when I went over to a large shelf of records in the back of the room. I sat down to look for a record on the bottom shelf, and as I looked through the stack, I heard it:
WHAM! WHAM! WHAM!
Something or someone was in the next room, immediately on the other side of the wall, and seemed to be kicking the wall not two feet away from my head. That was it.
I put on a tape of an hour or so worth of gospel music and I went out and sat in my car. Trembling. The tape had long pauses between the songs, and a DJ is supposed to be there to start music from another source, or to start another form of audio, as soon as a song ends. Too bad, though. I wasn't going back in there. Nothing doing. Those five or ten second gaps of "dead air" would just have to do.
The DJ who let me off at the end of my shift pulled into the parking lot about fifteen minutes before his shift began. As soon as he saw me in my car, he started smiling. He got out of the car and said "Did Jake get ya this morning?"
I let him know, in a long, rambling, terrified rant, that SOMETHING had indeed gotten me, that I'd had enough, that I'd raise the roof if it turned out to be a co-worker or group of co-workers who'd been responsible for what was going on, and that I was going home. He just smiled. No, he assured me, it wasn't a co-worker. It was real. It was Jake. And, now that he'd broken me in, he'd probably back off a bit.
He did, too. For the rest of the time I was at the station, Sunday mornings were mild compared to that one. There'd still be knocks and occasionally things would move on their own, but for the most part, Jake seemed satisfied that he's established my place in his personal pecking order.
Over the year and a half that I was at the station, I actually got somewhat friendly with Jake. All of us did. It was a way of staying sane, I suppose. One of the legends about Jake was that he loved Hank Williams, Sr. If you were at the station late at night and heard knocking on the ceiling, it was common to treat it as a request for Hank, Sr. from Jake. "Alright, Jake, I'll play some Hank," you might say... and put on Your Cheatin' Heart or On The Bayou. Anything to keep Jake happy.
There are a few other specific incidents about Jake that are worth mentioning here. Some of them are personal, and a one was related to me by someone who seemed to really believe what she was telling me. I didn't for one minute think she was pulling my leg, anyway. I'll relate those stories now, starting with the personal ones.
The radio station had a broadcast studio and a production studio, both of which faced each other and both of which allowed a view into the station's lobby. Both studios had large picture windows to allow a clear view of most of the rest of the station. On the particular night of this incident, I was in the production studio with another employee, producing a thirty second commercial for some local business. The disc jockey on the air was about to end his shift, and the disc jockey who was going on after him was in the studio with him. The disc jockey who was about to get off was waiting for a friend of his, who was going to meet him at the station. The guy he was waiting for was named Joey, and he was a local musician who'd been to the station a number of times. Nobody expected Joey to knock at the front door, he'd been there so frequently that we all expected him to just walk in when he arrived. Besides, all of us knew Joey and were friendly with him, so nothing could have been more casual than him coming by the station.
Anyway, I was in the production studio with "Jim," another DJ... and "Marc" and "Wayne" were both in the broadcast studio. As I said, we all had a clear view of the lobby from both studios, although since it was past business hours, the lights were off in the lobby. Still, it wasn't that dark out there, thanks to the light from the two studios.
From where "Jim" and I sat, we saw a tall, dark figure... very distinctly human and very distinctly real... walk though the lobby. Great, we thought, Joey must be here. Let's walk out and say hello. When we got to the lobby, we saw "Marc" and "Wayne," who'd both walked out of the broadcast studio, expecting to greet Joey themselves. The only problem was, there was no one in the lobby. All four of us had seen someone walk through the lobby... but when we converged on the lobby from two different ends and turned on the lights, there was nobody there.
Later, when Joey did get there, he was greeted by four very freaked out DJs.
Another time, I was sitting in the broadcast studio talking to another DJ. I wasn't on the air, I was just there at the station hanging out. I think it's relevant to say that sometimes "Jake" incidents would be so few and far between that we'd have enough time to let our guard down a little bit... which only meant that the next time something happened, we'd get that much more scared. Anyway, this particular time, I was sitting in the broadcast studio when something walked past me on my left. It wasn't generally very clear, it seemed to be composed mostly of smoke, and it was gone almost as soon as I'd seen it. Still, for the brief couple of seconds that I could see it, I could make out the seam of a pants leg. It was that close to me, and that one small bit of it was that clear. Then, before my eyes could really lock in on it, it was gone. Of course, I left immediately, leaving behind one ticked off DJ who thought I should have the courtesy to stay with him until his shift ended.
A third time, I was on the air doing a live call-in program. This was a Saturday morning program, and since we didn't have a receptionist at the station on Saturday mornings, the DJ had to man the phones, take the calls, and do the on-air part all by himself. This meant that your hands were really full. As I said, the broadcast studio had large picture windows, one of which was right in front of the broadcast board, so when you sat there doing a call-in program, you had to face that window. The whole time I was doing that call-in program on that particular Saturday morning, something was outside that window, mocking me. That's the only way I can describe it. It was like a cloud of smoke, it appeared to be about a foot high and about two feet wide, and was hanging right about where head-level would have been if someone had been standing there. It seemed to be moving back and forth, left and right, as though it were dancing for my benefit. I was convinced then, and remain convinced now, that whatever it was, it knew I was there, it knew I was scared, and it was enjoying itself. Finally, it went down the hall and disappeared. I never saw it again.
Other DJs saw and heard things like this all the time. One of them, a guy who has remained one of my best friends, saw the form of someone hanging from the ceiling in the same area where I'd seen the "dancing cloud." I didn't see it, but he told me about it, and I'd bet my life that this guy wasn't lying to me. He's like a brother to me, and I believe him.
Another DJ told me that Jake used to pick out records for him to play. He'd ask Jake if there was anything he'd like to hear, and as soon as the words left his mouth, a record would fall from the shelf to the floor.
This last story, though, is the one that scares me the most. This is the one I think about sometimes when I wake up at night. It didn't happen to me, but I believe the woman who told me about it. She told me with the same tone and attitude one might use to describe a terrible car-wreck one had survived. She might have been lying, or she might have imagined all of it... but I don't think that was the case. I believe her.
This woman had worked at both local radio stations, like I had... but in the opposite order. She'd started out at the second station, where she'd been the general manager when she quit and came to work as the sales manager at the station where I got my start in radio. I'll call her "Jane."
A few months after I started working at the second radio station, I ran into her. She asked me how it was going, I told her it was OK. I also told her about Jake, and asked her if she'd had any encounters with him/her/it while she was there. This is the story she told me, after at first saying that she didn't want to talk about it:
While she was the manager at the station I'd gone to work at, Jake-related activity reached a real high. People were starting to quit their jobs because of it. People were terrified to come to work. One DJ claimed to have felt cold hands around his neck and to hear laughter while he was on the air one morning. He was freaked out. Something had to be done.
"Jane" decided to find a clergyman who'd be willing to exorcise the building. She wasn't able to find anyone willing to try that, but did find someone who said he'd come to the station and give a blessing, with the hopes that doing so would settle everyone's nerves.
When the clergyman got to the building, he left after just a few minutes. He didn't give the blessing. He said that it just didn't "feel right," and he was in a hurry to leave.
"Jane" placed a few more calls, and found someone else who was willing to come the next day and give another blessing.
That night, at home, in her bed, "Jane" was awakened by something at the foot of her bed in the middle of the night. She said she couldn't see it distinctly, that it just seemed to be a dark cloud of some kind. Nonetheless, it was able to communicate with her. She didn't really tell me how it communicated, but she made it clear that it was getting through to her. It begged her not to have another clergyman in, and to leave it alone. It begged her not to make it leave it's home. She told it that it needed to leave, that it didn't belong here with us anymore, that it needed to go on to where ever it was supposed to be.
It started crying, she said. Then, it became angry. It took on a threatening tone. It told her that it knew her children.
"Jane" told the second clergyman not to come the next day. Within a month, she was working at the other radio station.
So that's my story. That's why I believe in ghosts.
I think about all of this from time to time. Now and then I'll tell people about it, and the stories usually hold people's attention pretty well. Sometimes, I chalk it all up to something explainable... mass hysteria, or delusions, or some sort or electrical problem at the station that caused odd sounds and images to seem to appear.
Sometimes, though, even all these years later, I remember it all like it happened five minutes ago. Sometimes I wake up remembering it, in fact. When that happens, I lay awake, stare at the ceiling, and listen....
Other Eerie October posts:
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
We've had an addition to the family. Details and pictures at the family homepage, if you're interested.
UPDATE: We've added a couple of new pics and a short VIDEO to that page! Isn't that great?! Isn't he cute?! Ain't we annoying??!
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
MCF wants answers:
1) They're finally making the movie of your life and, after narrowing the role of YOU down to three actors, they've asked for your choice. Who are the three actors, and which person do you ultimately choose?
The three actors are Jack Black, Pruit Taylor Vince, and my choice, Philip Seymour Hoffman.
2) You're at a fancy restaurant with your significant other, when your arch nemesis shows up with his gang to rob the place. You left your costume home tonight, and you wouldn't want to reveal your true identity unless there was no other choice. How do you handle this one?
Being a super hero means putting it all on the line, every day, not really having a secret identity. Just get up and deal with it, Wolverine style. SCHNKT! SCHNKT!
3) 4 +X/8=15Y-23Z; solve for each variable.
4) They're turning my blog into a sitcom! Quick, who's playing me?
Philip Seymour Hoffman.
5) What was the scariest moment of your life?
When my son's heart stopped beating, twice, in the womb.
6) After much thought and deliberation, you realize the best thing you can do with your life is form your own team of superheroes. Keeping in mind that you don't actually possess any powers or a dual identity in this scenario, how do you go about selecting your team, what abilities do you look for in potential allies, and what do you call your group?
Oh, gosh. Phillip Seymour Hoffman?
7) If a hypothetical train is traveling East at 70 MPH, and a hypothetical truck is traveling North at 55 MPH, then name 3 famous people you feel shouldn't be famous.
Bam Marjara (sp?)
8) A freak accident caused by lightning or radiation or genetic engineering or whichever origin suits you, bestows upon you the ability to step INSIDE your television set and interact with the characters. Where do you go first, and why?
Springfield! As far as why... I think that "why" is a more relevant question for anyone who wouldn't want to go to Springfield.
9) After winning a karaoke contest, you're awarded the grand prize from a local radio station: you get to perform ONE song alongside your favorite group! Who do you sing with and what song?
When I Fall by Barenaked Ladies
10) A blogger you read regularly posts a pop quiz. Do you take it? Please list your reasons either way.
Yes, I take it. About three questions in, I realize that I'm not really up to it right now, that most of my cylinders aren't firing, that I'm not coming up with anything really good... but I stick to my commitments.
11) The quiz goes all the way up to 11.
Well, it's one higher, isn't it? It's not ten. You see, most blokes, you know, will be quizzing at ten. You're on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you're on ten on your answers. Where can you go from there? Where?
Sunday, October 23, 2005
Eerie October, Part 6: Dreadful Dave's Petrifying Pics
Halloween is getting closer, and in the next week or two (whenever the mood hits me), I'm going to post a story about my own true-life encounter with a ghost.
I'll give you just a little info on my story here, though, if you're interested....
About 15 years ago I worked at a small-town radio station here in my hometown area. It was a country-and-western station with a partial-day broadcast license, strictly small town stuff. The building was old, a bit dilapidated, and completely haunted.
While I worked there, I saw a ghost on two separate occasions, and I heard and saw evidence of what some might call "poltergeist" activity on more occasions than I can remember.
I was not the only one, either. In fact, there were more employees of this radio station who did see and hear these "paranormal" occurrences than there were employees who didn't experience any of it.
I've remained close friends with one of my former co-workers from those days, and I've asked him if he'd like to write up any of his own memories of the experiences. I think he's a little reluctant to do so, and his reasons are probably numerous and perfectly good. I respect that. Not everyone should be expected to dig around in their own mental graveyard just because I've decided to do a little excavating in my own.
This is a picture of the building, the broadcast studio and offices of the radio station. Sometimes, I look back on my memories of the things that happened there and just chalk them up to interesting experiences, fun stuff to amuse guests with once I've gotten to know them a little bit.
Other times... especially if I wake up in the middle of the night unsettled for any reason, and I can't get back to sleep... I remember the things I saw and heard in a state of absolute terror. Some of it, to be honest, I've tried to block out. Most of the time, it stays blocked... but I occasionally remember those specific things, and the way that they made me feel, in the dead of night.
Some people will think that I'm crazy when I post the story... but, heck, I've given ample evidence of my insanity at this blog already. I don't guess I exactly have a sterling reputation at risk here.
Anyway, in the meantime, here's a couple of good pictures that were forwarded to me by Dave at the Chronicles of Rhodester. Dave knows I enjoy this stuff (for whatever reason) and was kind enough to pass these along. Click the pics to visit the pages dedicated to them at the Coast to Coast website.
If People Were Dogs...
A Year In The Life
Wendy and I have been married for one year today. We were married by our former minister (a great guy, and the one reason we had kept attending a church where we had doctrinal differences) outdoors at a state park near our home. It was a simple ceremony, just us, our kids, and our immediate family... it was really kind of a celebration of the blending of our two families into one. Afterwards, we had a family cookout, rather than the typical wedding reception, and we all had a nice time.
My main two memories of the day were that Wendy looked beautiful in her dress and that it was so cold that we all huddled around the grill at the cookout, trying to stay warm while we ate our burgers. In spite of the cold there was a lot of laughter and a lot of love, and we all had a great time. It was a wonderful day.
Wendy has posted an entry about it at her blog, where she makes me out to be a far better guy than I am. That's what I love about her... she looks at this fat redneck and sees Brad Pitt. Women this forgiving and this blind don't come along but every so often.
Our anniversary gifts to each other were probably a bit unconventional... but they reflected our individual tastes and our understandings of the others passions. Since the traditional first anniversary gifts are paper, we each gave the other books. I gave Wendy the first in Greg Rucka's Queen and Country series along with a gift certificate... and she gave me two books I've wanted for a long time. They're both by my favorite author and theologian, C.S. Lewis. One is The Great Divorce and the other is The Problem of Pain. Those gifts might seem odd or unromantic to some people... which is proof of just how lucky I am. I've found someone who really is on the same wavelength I am on.
I didn't think about it until Wendy pointed it out to me this evening... but it does seem kind of ironic to give your husband, as an anniversary present, books with the words "divorce" and "pain" in the title. We both had a good laugh over that, and I told her that I was just grateful that Lewis never wrote a book called I Hate You, You Fat Bastard.
Anyway, it's been a wonderful year, and I expect and hope for many more to come... as long as she can continue to stand to be with someone as wonderful and perfect as I am. Cough, cough, cough.
Friday, October 21, 2005
Mark Steyn And The Racism Of Abortion
What's the bottom line on the Bill Bennett issue from a few weeks ago? Mark Steyn, in his column in the current National Review, nails it... as he usually does. One of the ugliest aspects of abortion on demand (and there are so many ugly aspects to pick from) is the racism of it all. Steyn says:
...when you set aside moral objections to abortion, the utilitarian approach is a question of balance. Abortion doesn’t fall on all fetuses equally. In China and other Asian cultures, it lowers the pool of girl babies, resulting in very disproportionately male societies. Thus, “a woman’s right to choose” leaves you with a lot fewer women to choose from. Even in America, not all women exercise their right to choose equally: The abortion rate for black women is four times higher than that for white women. “A woman’s right to choose” has become, like so many other “progressive” causes, an issue in which one’s enthusiasm for it is inversely proportional to one’s engagement with it. For middle-class female Democrats, “a woman’s right to choose” is like “Free Tibet”: a bumper sticker that appropriates some other crowd’s problem for the purposes of advertising your moral superiority.
Nobody knocks it out of the park like Steyn. He's dead on, of course... although the white American liberal does make for such an easy target. Of course, we are talking about people who're lead around by the nose by Michael Moore and his ilk... people who think that plastering your car with bumper stickers qualifies as actually doing something.
Steyn continues, pinpointing what's really wrong with the whole Bill Bennett flap:
Bill Bennett explicitly rejected as “reprehensible” the hypothetical mass abortion of black babies, and the usual charlatans, race-baiters, and shakedown artists jumped all over him. But the statistics suggest that that mass abortion of black babies is actually going on, and their community’s self-appointed spokespersons are largely silent. You can’t blame Howard Dean for preferring to beat up Bill Bennett. Nor can you blame the official racism industry, now so large and lucrative and employing so many highly remunerated panjandrums from the Reverend Jackson down that it has a far greater interest than the Ku Klux Klan in maintaining old-school racism. But even the most cursory glance at the facts suggests an ever wider divergence of interest between two key pillars of what’s left of the Democrats — the self-congratulatory white liberals and the black-lobby fodder.
Such an irony. Bill Bennett, who does oppose the abortion of black babies, has been labeled a racist by those who support it.
Only in America.
Thursday, October 20, 2005
A Wonderful Discussion About Faith
If you're a Christian, or even someone who's interested in Christianity, be sure and check out a really good thread that's going on right now at the Hidden Blog.
The Unseen Blogger asked us the following question:
What would it take for Christians to attain unity? Is Christian unity possible?
The discussion that's followed has been really solid stuff, in spite of the usual, rambling, meandering entries from yours truly.
Anyway, click here and check it out, and please jump in with your own opinions... I really like hearing with people have to say about this. It's a really good thread, don't miss it.
Now and then, the left-wing rag that passes for a newspaper around here posts an opinion piece that seems to be little more than bait for angry reactions. It's rare, though, that the paper publishes something as transparent as today's pseudo-intellectual rant from Virginia Tech architecture professor Dennis J. Kilper.
I can almost hear keyboards being pounded across the area, and expect a deluge of angry letters to the editor over the coming weeks.
The op-ed piece in question almost isn't worth responding to... but you know me, I can't resist. Here's just a few highlights, and my take:
Jesus was the classical liberal... We don't even know if Jesus was gay. He had 12 guys he loved and few women.
In the usenet days, before blogs, we used to call this "trolling."
I'm sure that it's safe to assume that Kilper is smart enough and informed enough to know that Christians see sexuality as a spiritual exchange (rather than a mere physical one) between two people. I'm also sure that he knows that we Christians believe that the spiritual side of Christ was divine, and transcended any and all forms of mere human spirituality, including sexuality. By arguing that Jesus was possibly gay... and, likewise, by arguing that he wasn't, we're really arguing that he was a mere mortal. For a Christian, it's an unwinnable argument, best ignored. This kind of baiting is really just lazy.
If you want your student to be fairly judged among his peers, you had better hope he is the student of a liberal teacher. The liberal teacher has no ideology to promote and mostly loses arguments with ideologues, because the ideologue is a dogmatist -- certain he is right without the need for argument.
Wow. That's absolutely amazing. Talk about circular logic. Kilper argues, with a straight face, that even though liberals lose most of their arguments, their beliefs are still inherently superior to those they argue against. I think they used to call that "sour grapes."
So, yeah, right... I hope that my child is the student of a liberal teacher because I want my child to learn to lose arguments and congratulate himself for it. Sure.
Reactionaries believe in theocracy as a fantasy that our founding fathers invented, despite the Christian country they sought to escape in search of religious freedom. Pathetic, isn't it? Our founders did not invent a Christian nation -- they hoped to avoid it. .
I know that people with all kinds of perspectives assign their own beliefs to the founding fathers regularly, but this is beyond the pale.
Then, there's this nugget:
There are but three phrases necessary to preserve a democracy.
The first is "social awareness." It means the people of the democracy are aware of the inequity that surrounds them.
The second is "social conscience" -- belief that when one suffers we all suffer, and it is our communal responsibility to rectify the inequity.
The third phrase is "social responsibility" -- that we all bear the burden, and we should all have equal opportunity for success, education, health care and subsistence support when we are disabled or otherwise unable to provide for the well-being of our household. .
OK, so the three concepts that preserve our nation are social awareness, social conscience, and social responsibility. We need to be aware of the world around us and respond to one another with love and respect. Hmmm. Where've I heard those things argued for before? Oh, yeah... In church every Sunday.
But, how could that be? Our founding fathers wanted to avoid centering the nation on Christian ideals, right?
And, by the way, it's my less-learned opinion (and I'll argue this with anyone who wants to approach the topic) that of all the governmental systems that provide for those three concepts, the one that does it best is democratic capitalism.
Anyway, it was bait, and I took it. I hope that most of my fellow conservative Christians can see this piece for what it is.... and if they, like me, take the bait, I hope they do it as lackadaisically as possible. Arguments like the ones Kilper presented here don't deserve passionate responses.
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Eerie October, Part 5: Boo! Pictures
The internet is full of spooky pictures and stories. Many of these have been around for ages, and have been mentioned on the Discovery Channel, A&E, etc. Here are a few of the really good ones. Each picture can be clicked to visit a page dedicated to the subject at hand:
Raynham Hall in Great Britain is home to the ghost known as the Brown Lady, captured in this photograph from 1936.
Myrtles Plantation in St. Francisville, Louisiana is reportedly the home of Chloe, the ghost of a young woman who was a slave there in the 1800's. Chloe's life was terrible. It's believed that she suffered from sexual abuse and punishment by mutilation. What's more, she never recovered from the accidental murder of two children that she loved. It's no wonder that many believe she haunts Myrtles to this day. In the picture above, you can see what is said to be her ghost, moving across the grounds, unable to rest.
This picture, circa 1966, has been examined by experts from Kodak, who determined that it had not been tampered with. It was taken by the Reverend Ralph Hardy at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England. It's been said that spectral visions have been seen, and ghostly footsteps have been heard, in the area of this staircase.
Hampton Court Palace in London was built around 1525. King Henry VIII lived there with his third wife, who died in labor on the premises. Many people believe that her ghost haunts the palace. This photograph was taken by security cameras in 2003, and has never been explained.
Another capture from a security camera, this one in a Japanese parking garage. There's little more information available than that. This capture, however, isn't simply a photograph, it's a video… and it's actually pretty spooky. You can download it in RealVideo format by right clicking here, or click the image above to go to the page where I found it.
Other Eerie October posts:
Monday, October 17, 2005
The Toledo Nazi Riot Situation
The situation in Toledo this weekend was really ugly. Over the next few weeks, there's going to be a lot of talk from all sides, representing one point of view and then the other... but in the meantime, there's recently been some stuff on the news that just ain't right.
There's been a lot of talk in the media about the riots, and I've heard it said that the riots were started by "Virginia Nazis" and a "Nazi Group from Roanoke Virginia." That's not right.
I've even heard it said that competing groups of Nazi skinheads were going at each other in Toledo. From what I can tell, that's not the case. It appears to me that a group of Anti-racist skinheads showed up in Toledo to protest against the Nazis. (Yes, there are anti-racist and anti-Nazi skinheads.)
It's the term "Virginia Nazis," however, that gets deep under my skin. As a Virginian from the Roanoke area, I really want to set the record straight:
01) The Nazis who marched in Toledo are not a Roanoke Virginia group.
The Nazis who gathered in Toledo call themselves the National Socialist Movement. Their leader is a guy named Bill White (or William A. White), a slumlord who lives in and owns rental property in Roanoke. Bill White is NOT from Roanoke. He moved here from the Washington, DC area in 2003 and bought several rental properties. The guy is a neo-Nazi, so understandably, his appearance in Roanoke stirred up a lot of resentment. He has a Nazi website and newsletter, etc, and while I'm not going to link to them, you can round them up at Google pretty quickly. If you must.
From what I can tell, White isn't even really a Nazi, just kind of a generic troublemaker. He's been involved with groups who call themselves "socialist," groups that call themselves "anarchist," and just about every other fringe assemblage you can think of. I get the idea that "Nazi" is his flavor of the week. He seems like a pretty dedicated anti-Semite, but other than that, his brand of hatred seems to change with the wind. Just your average garden-variety sh!t-head with a mandarin vocabulary.
So, for the record, the leader of the Nazis who started all the trouble in Toledo currently lives in Roanoke, but this guy is not from Roanoke. From what I can tell, he was the only Roanoke resident in Toledo this past Saturday. This was not, despite what you might have heard, a case of Virginia Nazis raising hell in Ohio.
Lest anybody get the idea that Roanoke is a "little Berlin circa 1936," the fact is, Roanoke is probably more accurately thought of as San Francisco East. We're not overrun with Nazis. It might be safe to say, though, that Roanoke has a fabulous number of gay people.
02) Not every punk with a shaved head is a Nazi or a racist.
If there were "skinhead" groups in Toledo who were there in opposition to the Nazis, it probably wasn't because they were a competing group of racists. They were more than likely a group of "Sharps" or "Straight Edgers" who hate Nazis and everything they stand for. Don't assume that every punk rock kid with a shaved head that you see is a neo-Nazi. Based on my brief experiences with Sharps and Straight Edgers, they are pretty good kids.
And, while I hope it isn't necessary for me to say this, I want to make it pretty damned clear that even though my own head is shaved in the picture at the top left of this blog, I am NOT a damned Nazi. I no longer shave my head, but when I used to do it, it was simply because it's far, far, far more physically comfortable. It also makes getting ready for work far quicker. The thing is, I hate getting out of bed. If I can get an extra ten minutes of sleep because I don't have hair to wash, dry, and comb, that's cool with me.
03) There's not much difference between the rioters and the Nazis.
Somebody has to say it.
Look, if you're a nutcase, you're a nutcase. I don't care if you're a white sicko with a swastika on your arm or a black sicko with gang-banger tattoos and a stolen handgun... as far as I'm concerned, garbage is garbage.
So, in summation:
Sunday, October 16, 2005
Louis Farrakhan on Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans:
"I believe that we can charge the government with criminal neglect. I firmly believe that if the people on those rooftops (in New Orleans) had blond hair and blue eyes and pale skin, something would have been done in a more timely manner. We charge America with criminal neglect."
From the Roanoke Times:
"William A. White, a Roanoke landlord known for posting racist and anti-Semitic remarks on the Internet, was among the organizers of a neo-Nazi group whose planned march in north Toledo, Ohio, sparked massive rioting Saturday afternoon."
"White said he is the only Roanoke member of the group, which also calls itself America's Nazi Party, and he said he was joined Saturday by NSM members from Michigan, Kentucky and Illinois, in addition to supporters from Toledo."
In recent years, White has emerged as a controversial figure in Roanoke, largely for his real estate purchases, which included at least 15 properties in Roanoke's West End since the spring of 2004. Some critics question why the editor of a white supremacist Web site would want to buy property in a racially mixed neighborhood."
Farrakhan on New Orleans:
"I heard from a very reliable source who saw a 25 foot deep crater under the levee breach. It may have been blown up to destroy the black part of town and keep the white part dry."
Roanoke Landlord Bill White:
"I wouldn't be out here buying and fixing up houses if I had some agenda against the black community. I don't have anything against black people. The Jews, I despise. They hate me. I hate them. They can kiss my ass."
"White people are potential humans - they haven't evolved yet."
From ABC News:
Police began receiving word midweek that gangs were going to descend on a neighborhood where a riot erupted over a planned march by a white supremacist group, but the resulting disturbance was worse than expected, the police chief said Sunday.
The riot broke out Saturday when protesters confronted members of the National Socialist Movement who had gathered at a city park. Rioters threw baseball-sized rocks at police, vandalized vehicles and stores, and set fire to a neighborhood bar, authorities said. More than 100 people were arrested and one officer was seriously injured.
“FEMA is too White to represent us and so is the Red Cross.”
Martin Luther King:
"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal." I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today."
Friday, October 14, 2005
Check Out The Liberal Wrong-Wing
Young right-wingers aren't that rare these days, thanks to the proliferation of South Park Republicans... but young conservatives who express themselves well aren't that common. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy South Park Republicans; I get a kick out of their irreverence and their absolute disdain for political correctness and their mistrust of liberalism... but many of them strike me as right-wingers who aren't really conservative. There is a difference.
Kevin W., who blogs at The Liberal Wrong-Wing is an exception. One month into blogging, and what I've read at his blog indicates that he's conservative. Really conservative, as opposed to just being anti-liberal.
What's more, he expresses himself well. In an age when expletives seem almost unavoidable, it's refreshing to read the opinions of a 16 year old who knows that how he says things tells us as much about him as what he says.
Check out a few snips:
President Clinton has began a precedent dangerous to the sanctitiy of the Highest Office in the Land. Never before have former Presidents taken such a role in criticising current Presidents. This only pulls the position of President down to a more partisan level. Shame on President Clinton. (again.)
To learn about our existence on earth we should be at least represented with and taught all viable theories available to us. Intelligent Design has support through the Bible, the Koran, the Scribes etc. etc. The sheer fact that almost every culture on earth has believed in some form of (Intelligent Design) is support enough to introduce into as theory into our schools.
I attend High School here, were I am indoctrinated daily with liberal propaganda. Its all rather intriguing to watch the American liberal buy into this and then bash me when I tell them otherwise....Even this year, with only a month behind me, I have witnessed more liberal bias than every before. In Spanish, we don't learn any of the language but rather we learn of the horrors of American foreign policy in destroying the lives of Latinos all across Latin America.
I disagree with some of what Kevin has written, agree with a lot of it, and enjoy it as a whole. Check out The Liberal Wrong-Wing and see what (some of) these kids today are up to.
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Eerie October, Part 4: Photo Blogging With Poe
Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow-
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.
I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand-
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep- while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?
(Photos 1, 6, 8, and 9 by Darrell Loudermilk. Photos 2, 3, 4, 5, and 7 by Wendy Loudermilk. All photos taken in Alleghany County, Virginia. Melodrama courtesy of Edgar Allan Poe.)
Other Eerie October Entries:
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Eerie October, Part 3: "Mad" Ann Bailey
If you believe the stories told around these parts, the Alleghany Mountains in Virginia are literally crawling with ghosts. That isn't that surprising, considering that the history of the area is full of the things that supposedly lead to ghostly presences. Early settlers in the area were often at war with the Native Americans, and even during times of peace, lives could end tragically due to drought, disease, and the elements. While slavery wasn't common in this area, it wasn't unheard of, either. The Civil War, of course, was fought literally in our back yards. Many people who believe in ghosts believe that spirits from the past cling to the places where their conflicts remain unresolved. Given this area's record of painful conflicts, these mountains may remain peopled with the lively dead.
About ten years ago I worked at a radio station in this area where I believe I saw a ghost on at least two occasions, and heard it more times than I can remember. That radio station will remain unnamed for now. I will say, however, that I wasn't the only employee at the station who heard and saw things that he couldn't explain; things that scared me out of my wits at the time. I'll tell those stories later in the month, when we're closer to Halloween.
Today's feature, however, is the legend of "Mad" Ann Bailey.
"Mad" Ann Bailey
The things that are known and documented about "Mad" Ann (sometimes spelled "Anne") Bailey and the life she lived two-hundred years ago are fascinating. Her story would be worth constant re-telling even if it wasn't believed by some that she still haunts the mountains she cherished.
Ann Hennis was born in Liverpool, England in or around 1742. When she was about 19, she immigrated to Virginia's Shenandoah Valley and married Richard Trotter, who'd settled in the area. They had one son, who the named William. In 1774, Lord Dunmore, then the governor of Virginia, called for the formation of a militia among the whites to fight the local Native Americans. Richard Trotter enlisted.
Under the command of Colonel Andrew Lewis, Trotter was one of about a thousand militia troops who were camped in Point Pleasant in what is now West Virginia on October 10th, 1774. Lewis was prepared to meet with troops under the command of Lord Dunmore and invade the Ohio Valley, which was under Shawnee control. This convergence of troops was prevented when Shawnee leader Cornstalk lead 300 to 500 men in an attack on Lewis and his troops. Thus, the Battle of Point Pleasant began, and lasted for hours. By the end, both sides were literally reduced to hand-to-hand combat, and as the heavily outnumbered Native Americans took casualties, they had not choice but to retreat across the Ohio river. It was a major victory for the Virginians, who'd lost only about 75 men.
Richard Trotter was among the white men killed at the Battle of Point Pleasant.
Ann Trotter was devastated by the loss of her husband. Many believe that it was his death that lead to a blood oath she swore against all Native Americans.
Stories about Ann's exploits are legendary, and it is often hard to separate folklore from fact. What is generally acknowledged about her, however, is that after the death of Richard Trotter, Ann began dressing as a man and attending militia musters, urging men to join the Continental Army and fight against the Indians. Not content to simply be a booster, however, Ann took on the dangerous job of courier, relaying messages between the white settlement in Point Pleasant and the one here in Covington, Virginia. (The Covington fort, Fort Young, has been rebuilt as a historic attraction. That's a picture of it to the left.) It's said that during these trips between encampments, Ann dressed, rode, and behaved like a man of her time. She is said to have traveled on a black pony named Liverpool, and to have kept a rifle, axe and butcher's blade with her at all times. By the time she remarried, this time to John Bailey, a leader of the Southwest militias, stories about "Mad" Ann Bailey were as popular in this area as the legends of Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett were in other parts of the country.
Some accounts of "Mad" Ann's exploits are hard to believe, and it's said by some that if they aren't true, they ought to be:
". . . On one occasion, when she was pursued by Indians, she came to an impenetrable thicket where she was obliged to dismount and leave him [her fine black horse, Liverpool] for their capture. She then crawled into a hollow sycamore log. The Indians came and rested on the log, but without suspecting her concealment within. After they had gone she followed their trail, and in the darkness of night recaptured the animal, and, mounting him, when at a safe distance from being shot or taken gave a shout of defiance and bounded away."
From Southeast Ohio Magazine...
The Shawnee Indians living along Anne's route encountered her seemingly everywhere. They came to believe she was a charmed being, and that no bullet or arrow could touch her. Fearing this strange phantom rider, they watched from afar as she glided through the dark foliage on the plains of Kanawha, but no one would do her any harm. To this fact, Anne probably owed her life.
The most amazing thing attributed to "Mad" Ann isn't folklore. It's a matter of historical fact.
"From The History of West Virginia, Old and New by James Morton Callahan...
In 1791, (Fort Lee near present day Charleston, West Virginia) was besieged by a large body of Indians, and to the terror of the garrison, it was found that the supply of powder in the magazine was almost exhausted. A hundred miles of wilderness lay between Fort Lee and Lewisburg, the only place from which a supply of powder could come. Colonel George Clendenin, the commandant at Fort Lee, asked for volunteers to go to Lewisburg, but not a soldier in that garrison would brave the task. Then was heard in a female voice the words "I will go," and every inmate of the fort recognized the voice of Anne Bailey.
The fleetest horse in the stockade was brought out and the daring rider mounted and disappeared in the forest. Onward she sped. Darkness and day were one to her. It was a ride for life and there could be no stop. Lewisburg was reached; there was but a short delay, and she was returning with two horses laden with powder. The garrison in Fort Lee welcomed her return, and she entered it, as she had left it, under a shower of balls. The men thus supplied, sallied forth and forced the savages to raise the siege.
Given these exploits, it's no wonder that many believe that "Mad" Ann Bailey still rides these mountains... still trying to avenge the death of Richard Trotter.
From The Ghosts of Virginia by L.B. Taylor, Jr...
It is said, too, that the Indians called her "The Great White Squaw," and believed that she was protected by the "Great Spirit." Perhaps it is under that protection that "Mad" Ann Bailey apparently still rides through the rugged terrain near Covington. She has been sighted numerous times, always under a full moon, astride her faithful horse, bounding through the foothills.
One who has seen her is B.B. Strum, a teacher at Radford University. "We used to see her during summer camp years ago," Strum says. "She was riding a pale horse, and she was always sighted out towards Lake Moomaw (left). She seemed to be calling for her son, William." Her apparitional rides became so well known, in fact, that in recent years, reenactments of them have been performed during the summer outings at the camp.
But there is no doubt in the minds of B.B. Strum and her companions, a generation ago, that they saw the real, or spirited, "Mad" Ann Bailey, rifle strapped to her back, gliding effortlessly through the woods on her way to fulfill yet another perilous mission.
As a sidenote, be sure and check out this particularly spooky entry at Swimming in Champaign. Make sure you read the details of the video before you watch it... and when you DO watch the video, try hard not to blink.
Other Eerie October entries:
Friday, October 07, 2005
First, the one my wife tagged me with:
Here's how it works... you pick a musical artist or band and answer the following fifteen questions only with song titles by that artist. I picked one of my favorite singers, song-writers, and musicians, Elton John. This is one extremely silly meme, but I can't resist anything music related.
1.) Are you a male or female?
2.) Describe yourself:
Madman Across The Water
3.) How do you feel about yourself?
Sixty Years On
4.) Describe your ex boyfriend / girlfriend:
The Bitch Is Back
(To any previous girlfriend who might read this blog: No, you're not the one I was thinking about. It was that other one. The really mean one.)
5.) Describe your current love life:
The Greatest Discovery
6.) Describe your current location:
7.) Describe where you want to be:
8.) Your best friend is:
9.) Your favorite color is:
10.) You know that:
I'm Going To Be A Teenage Idol
11.) What's the weather like?
12.) If your life was a TV show, what would it be called?
Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting
13.) What is life to you?
I'm Still Standing
14.) What is the best advice you have to give?
I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues
15.) If you could change your name, what would you change it to?
The Hidden Blogger also tagged me with The Lucky Sevens
7 Things That Scare Me
01. House Centipedes (I've been known to scream like a little girl)
03. Death of loved ones
04. Losing my hearing
05. The fact that some people supported this.
06. Racist Skinheads
07. Looking up from the couch and seeing this.
7 Things I like most
06. Roller Coasters
07. Moose Tracks
7 Most important things in my room
01. Alarm clock
04. The book I am currently reading
05. Curtains (I hate light in the bedroom)
07. Reading lamp
(This is the same list of seven that H.B. had. I could relate totally.)
7 Random facts about me
01. I'm an adoptive father
02. I can learn the lyrics to almost any song by hearing it twice
03. I can't spell worth a krap
04. I often lose interest in things and don't complete them.
7 Things I plan(hope) to do before I die
01. See the Grand Canyon
02. Go to Scotland
03. Own a big ol' truck.
04. Have another child, hopefully a boy, and name him after my grandfather (I've been saying that for years).
05. Wrestle a gator into submission and pick it's pockets.
05. Have some more Moose Tracks.
06. Ride Kingda Ka.
07. Celebrate riding Kindga Ka with a big bowl of Moose Tracks.
7 Things I can do
01. Bake pretty good honey oat bread from scratch
02. Grow a decent garden
03. Put together a darn good mix CD.
04. Build a working PC from parts
05. Teach a dog to speak
07. Lie about being able to fly
7 Things I can't do
01. Work on, understand, identify or get interested in cars
02. Develop an interest in professional sports
03. Go a day without music
06. Stomach reality TV
07. Beat my wife at Tetris
7 Words I say the most
01. Alright, then.
02. Suits me.
03. Little bit.
05. It'll do.
06. Far out.
7 Celeb crushes
01. Tyra Banks
02. Kim Catrall
03. Lindsay Lohan (Not blonde, skinny, skanky Lindsay 2.0. I like Lindsay 1.0)
04. Dana Owens
05. Laura Linney
06. Brooke Burke
07. Kirsten Dunst
7 People tagged:
The first seven people who read this. Talk amongst yourselves to figure out if you were one of the first seven.
Thursday, October 06, 2005
Dr. Dr. Bob Ballard found the wreckage of Titanic.
Howard Carter led the world to King Tut's tomb.
The North Pole revealed her secrets to Robert Perry and Mathew Henson.
These are the men I admire. This is the short list of my heroes. These are the men who, facing insurmountable odds and the public's scornful doubt, rose up with confidence and bravery and said "I can. I will."
I had to join them. I had to add my own name to the list.
The great mysteries of our age are solved. Things lost have been found, ages forgotten have been remembered, and the last frontiers have yielded.
How, then? How would I make my mark? What mystery would I reveal to the world? What question would I answer? What secret would I drag, kicking and screaming if need be, into the daylight of inspection?
There was only one. Only one mystery that remained unsolved. Only one dark, clandestine corner that remained unknown to the human eye.
I had to unmask the Mysterious Cloaked Figure.
The Mysterious Cloaked Figure is a blogger from the north. His name and visage have remained hidden for lo this long year, although much is known about his life, his family, his dreams and his goals. Those of us who read his blog have gone from casual curiosity to outright obsession. Now that we knew so much about him, we had to know what he looked like. Promises of a "revealing" photo-blog entry were often made, and yet little was seen, much was left in shadow.
I had to do it. Bloggers all over the world would thank me. I had to unmask him.
I didn't have much to work with. There were photos, but like the infamous bigfoot film from the 70's, they were indistinct, unclear, and as mysterious as the man himself. Could they, somehow, be combined to reveal a greater sum? Was there a way? Could these few photos, when properly studied and understood, show us something more?
Like my heroes before me, I knew that I'd have to rely on the best technology of my age. What tools were available to me? What were the resources from which I could draw inspiration and resolve?
I searched the net.
Adobe had many options available, but their focus is largely commercial. I'd need something forensic, something scientific. Alas, Adobe was not to be.
The raw materials I had to work with were scant and minute. I'd need something sophisticated. Something specifically designed for facial compsition. Unfortunately, my limited resources confined me to products available on a "shareware," "freeware," "trialware," or "warezware" basis.
Ultimately, I realized, I'd have to draw primarily from my own resolve.
I studied the experts in the field, learned as much as I could, tried to reach their hights and share their vision. I wanted forensic construction to be second nature to me, I wanted it to be as casual as respiration, as easy as whistling, and as common-place as shoveling great handfuls of Fritos into my mouth.
It wasn't enough to "understand" forensics. I had to "become" forensics.
But, alas, without tools, without navigation, without instruments to shine a light to see by, even at my most skilled, I was still like a blind man in a dark room of mystery, bumping repeatedly into the furniture of circumstance, trying to desperately grope for the doorknob of revelation.
And then, I found it: My deus ex machina, my answer, my creative apex: there was software available that I could afford. It was rudimentary and basic, yes... but so was I. That cold, hard fact would stop neither of us.
I combined my resources. What were the pictures I had? What could I discern?
Long nights were spent in front of the PC. Much coffee was drank. Many friends and family members grew concerned, as my obsession neared dementia... and, alas, I missed an episode of "House."
In the end, it was all worth it.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to reveal the answer to all our questions.
Click here to see the full and total countenance of the Mysterious Cloaked Figure.
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
Eerie October, Part 2: TRICK OR TREAT!! No Compromises!
Every year about this time I find myself getting giddy and excited about the ghost stories and costumes and all the fun stuff associated with Halloween, and every year about this time some fundamentalist protestant comes along and tries to rain on my parade.
I've had some serious arguments with people at work, family members, people I used to go to church with, etc, about Halloween. Maybe you've heard the rant, maybe you haven't. It might be a typically southern thing, or it might go on elsewhere, I don't know. Here's the way it works 'round these parts:
Right about the time the Halloween costumes and candy corn start showing up on the shelves at Wal-Mart, a select few of the normally rational and likable people I know start freaking out. They go into fits of convulsive exclamations, bringing down their own petty, personal versions of the wrath of God on those of us who're enjoying ourselves.
Halloween is of the DEVIL! It is EVIL! Halloween is evil and vile and satanic! No good Christian should allow their kids to participate! Candy corn is the Devil's communion! Dressing up like Frankenstein and werewolves and ghosts is a sure-fire and irreversible ROUTE TO HELLLLLL!!!!!!! Thou shall not partake of the heathen jack-o-lantern! Thou must rebuke Satan and his demonic night of popcorn-balls and Snickers!
And don't even get me started on R.L. Stein. Oh, and by the way, Harry Potter is EVIL, TOOOOOOO!!!
I hear that kind of talk every year, and I know it when I hear it. I also know it for what it is when I see it, and I'm accustomed to seeing it drawing flies in cow pastures.
When I was a kid, I loved dressing up as a monster. I've still got, somewhere, pictures of me dressed as the Devil, as Frankenstein, as a werewolf, as a green-faced ghoul ... all before the age of ten. Sometimes, not even on Halloween. Sometimes just out of boredom, out of the blue, right in the middle of summer. My favorite picture of myself along these lines is a pic of myself in a hand-made, generic "monster" costume. It involved an over-sized hand-me-down t-shirt, some plastic monster fangs, a tube of fake blood, and number of scars (I thought they looked like scars, anyway) made with my mom's eyebrow pencil.
I just liked monsters. I still like 'em. I think all boys go through their "scary" phase, when they're interested in horror movies, stories, etc. I never grew out of it.
I think the concern of a lot of parents... and it's a justifiable concern... is that an interest in scary stuff (Halloween included) will give way to an interest in the occult, which will lead to witchcraft, Satanism, etc. I suppose it does happen from time to time, if kids aren't getting the proper guidance and can't tell reality from fantasy. I maintain, though, that if parents have an active role in their kids lives, it'll make all the difference in the world. Our kids know that Halloween is for fun, it's not something serious, and it's a harmless good time. Our kids also know that when we go to church twice a week, it IS something serious, it is real and important to us, and it is what shapes us (I hope) into the people we are.
Church is real. Christ is real. Halloween? Halloween is play-acting, plastic masks and candy.
I have believed for some time that part of growing up, part of finding out who you really are, is experimenting with who you are not. Playing at being a "bad guy" or a "monster" is natural for kids, and they'll all do it. It's important, too, I think, in their development. Kids who aren't allowed to even play at being bad often end up really attracted to the bad side later in life.
We all know the cliché about "preacher's kids." I remember a few preacher's kids from high-school who were walking, talking, pot-smoking, hard-drinking, sexually active personifications of those clichés. Would it have helped if they'd been allowed to dress as the "Wicked Witch of the West" and collect candy with their classmates on the last day of October when they were nine years old? Maybe. Maybe not. It's irrelevant to them now.
I'm bracing myself for more of the same this year. There's one particular uncle of mine who really gets on the anti-Halloween kick every year. I haven't seen him much in the last two years, and I doubt if he's figured out that I've chosen not to see him because I'm sick of his soap-box sermons.
This same uncle, by the way, loves his Left Behind books and movies. I guess he thinks that his brand of scares and thrills is ok, as long as it's conjured up in the name of Jesus. I often wonder if he has any idea of what it really means to take the Lord's name in vain.
I also have a friend and co-worker, a Pentecostal, who goes utterly bat-crap every October about how evil Halloween is. He and I've come close to shouting matches over it. I really hope I don't run into that guy at all in the next month or so.
He's a good guy the rest of the year, though.
A couple of bloggers I read have some interesting posts along these lines right now. Pastor Scott at Burr in the Burgh is trying to find a compromise between himself and his son about the boy's costume this year. I think Pastor Scott is being a loving and responsible and reasonable parent with regard to this, let me make that clear.
Also, MCF seems to be fending off some kind of furry gremlin or another. I don't know if it's Halloween related, but it's eerie, nonetheless.
If you're interested, here's a link to my first post in this series, Eerie October, Part 1.
Monday, October 03, 2005
How I Spent My Summer Vacation
In about an hour and a half I will return to work after having been off for most of the last three months. My spinal surgery was a success, I'm all fixed up and ready to get back to life.
Of course, that'll mean less blogging, but maybe it'll mean that when I DO blog, the entries will be better, more worth your time, and more interesting.
The main point of this entry is to thank those of you who made the past three months so much fun. The blog has really been a fun hobby, and hearing from those of you who read it has given me something to look forward to and a way to distract myself from the paychecks not coming in.
So thanks. You guys are, as all the cool youngsters like to say, "dah bomb." Or maybe it's just "the bomb." No, I'm sure there's an affectation to the way it's spelled... "da bomb," maybe? Something like that.
Each of you is an explosive device of some kind, I'll just leave it at that. Your comments and e-mails during my recovery period have been a lot of fun. Thanks, sincerely, and from the bottom of my heart.
Saturday, October 01, 2005
Eerie October, Part 1
It's October, which means (among other things) autumn colors, football, apple cider, and Halloween.
I love Halloween. I love everything about it; the ghost stories, the scary movies, the costumes, the candy and the scares. I suppose that's because I have the heart of a small boy. I keep it in a mason jar under the bed.
BWAAA HAAA HAAA HAAA HAAAAA!
Alright, seriously, when it comes to Halloween and all the spooky stuff associated with it, I just never grew up. I really enjoy getting the daylights scared out of me, and I'm more than willing to suspend disbelief and do everything I can to help a good ghost story do it's work on me.
Every October, when the Travel Channel and Discovery and all those other channels do their "Haunted Travels" and "Top Ten Spooky Locations" specials, I try to catch them all. I eat that stuff up. I still read scary books and watch scary movies when I can, and I'm always disappointed when they don't actually scare me. I enjoy going on "ghost tours" of historic locations, and nothing pleases me more than a good scary story about the history of our local area.
So, since I enjoy this topic so much, I'm going to use October as an excuse to feature ghostly stuff at this blog.
I'll start out in grand style with some links and information about what is supposedly the most haunted house in the world, 50 Berkeley Square in London, England.
50 Berkeley Square
This is 50 Berkeley Square, a rather bland, unassuming row house amid many others like it in historic London. Like most of those around it, 50 Berkeley Square was built in the 1700's. Unlike those around it, however, it's had a malevolent reputation for ages. For over two hundred years, people interested in the paranormal have included 50 Berkeley Square on their sight-seeing tours of London. Ghost stories about the building are almost as old as the building itself. However, unlike many ghost stories about frightful but innocuous specters, the stories all indicate that whatever haunts 50 Berkeley Square is violent and dangerous. Maybe even outright evil. Those who've seen it have reportedly died of fright or been driven insane by the experience.
A passage from Charles Harper's 1907 book, Haunted Houses, as quoted at London Walks:
Many theories have been put forward to account for the haunting of 50 Berkeley Square. Charles Harper reported that the house had once belonged to a Mr Du Pre of Wilton Park who locked his lunatic brother in one of the attics. The captive was so violent that he could only be fed through a hole, and his groans and cries could be heard in the neighbouring houses. When the brother died, his spectre remained behind to chill the blood and turn the mind of anyone unfortunate enough to encounter it. Another hypothesis holds that a Mr Myers, who was engaged to a society beauty, once owned the house. He had set about furnishing the building in preparation for their new life together when, on the day of the wedding, his fiancé jilted him. The disappointment undermined his reason, turning him into a bitter recluse. He locked himself away in the upstairs room and only came out at night to wander the house by flickering candlelight. It was these nocturnal ramblings that, so the theory goes, gave the house its haunted reputation.
From Obiwan's UFO-Free Paranormal Page:
Sir Robert Warboys was a frequent visitor to London from his seat, Warboys Hall, in Bracknell, Berks. He was a young man and was spending the day in company with his friend Lord Cholmondley, who introduced him to John Benson, who at that time owned No. 50 Berkeley Square. The subject of conversation turned to the hauntings of the house and Sir Robert said that he did not believe in ghosts. As a result a wager was set that he would not spend a night in the haunted room, even for 100 guineas. Sir Robert accepted the challenge.
Arrangements were made for a bell to be rigged up so that if he should require assistance he would be able to ring for it. Whilst his friends remained in the drawing room downstairs Sir Robert retired to bed in the haunted room, pistol in one hand and bell-pull in the other.
It was shortly before 2 am that the bell rang, followed a second time by a more urgent pealing of the bell. The gentlemen raced upstairs towards the room in which Sir Robert had retired to bed. They heard a shot ring out and as they entered they found him lying across the bed with his head almost touching the floor. His face showed the sheer agony of terror. The 30 year-old baronet was dead but there was no sign of a gunshot wound.
From the Learning Page:
One of the most well known incidents involved two sailors who, after a night on the town, saw the house standing empty and broke-in to shelter until the morning. They chose a room on the top floor to sleep in. Soon they were disturbed by bangs and crashes - then footsteps that made their way to the room in which they were sheltering. The door opened and a ‘horrible shapeless object’ slid into the room. One of the sailors managed to escape past it. He ran down the stairs and into the street. Later he returned with a policeman to search the house. They found no sign of a ghost but discovered the mutilated body of the other sailor. He was impaled on the railings below the window of the haunted room, his neck broken and his features still reflecting the horror that drove him to jump to his death.
From Tom Sleman's Haunted World:
In January 1937, Mrs Mary Balfour, an octogenarian lady of a stately Scottish family, moved into a flat in Charles Street, which lies adjacent to Berkeley Square. One night Mrs Balfour's maid summoned her to come to the kitchen situated at the rear of the flat. The maid was staring intently through the window at the rear of a house diagonally opposite. It was the rear of Berkeley Square. The maid drew Mrs Balfour's attention to one of the rear windows of number 50, where a man stood dressed in a silver-coloured coat and breeches. He wore a periwig and had a drawn, morose ashen face. The two women thought he had been to some New Year fancy dress party, because his clothes were centuries out of date. The man moved away from the window, and Mrs Balfour and her maid were later shocked to learn from a doctor that they had sighted one of the ghosts of number 50 Berkeley Square. The doctor told them that number 50 was currently unoccupied, but workmen in the building two months back had seen the phantom of a little girl in a kilt on the stairs.
Today, 50 Berkeley Square is not a personal residence, but rather home to Maggs Brothers, Ltd, and antique book dealer. Reports of ghostly happenings at 50 Berkeley Square have largely dissipated over the years. Nonetheless, the building's reputation continues to draw tourists interested in the supernatural.
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