Wednesday, May 31, 2006


Flagrant Brown-Nosing

You guys have seen me lavishing praise on a favorite blog, The Burr In The Burgh before. I think Pastor Scott's blog is outstanding. It is, in fact, my favorite blog by a LCMS Lutheran Pastor in the entire greater Pittsburgh area. ;)

Well, today I left him a comment that he felt was worthy of actually mentioning in the form of a whole post.

The question at hand is, I suppose, addressed at my Christian brothers and sisters in the Protestant churches: What forms of Christian devotion do you think of as exclusively Catholic? Or, maybe as just too Romanish? If you're a Protestant, are you reluctant to cross yourself? Why? What about the Saints, crucifixes, etc? What about Mary? Are there elements of Christian devotion that you're denying yourself for fear of seeming... (gasp!) "CATHOLIC"?? This makes for some good conversation, and I think it's a lot of fun. I feel extremely honored to have played the role I've played in getting it started. Now go check it out and throw your two cents in.



One day back in February I posted a major gripe session, wherein one of the things I complained about was that some jackass had stolen my Visa card and used it to the tune of FIFTEEN HUNDRED DOLLARS at the local Wal-Mart.

Yep. This moron just stole my card, walked into Wal-Mart, made a $1,500 purchase, signed MY NAME, and walked out.

I said in that post in February that I couldn't talk much about it because there was an ongoing investigation and the police had asked me not to run my mouth very much until something was resolved.

Since then, I'd only heard from the police department once. On that occasion, I received a letter from the cops telling me that they recognized that I'd been the victim of a crime and that they wanted me to know that they had emotional counselors standing by 24/7 in case I needed to have a good, long cry.

I don't need emotional counselors to vent to. I have a blog.

Anyway, today I got a call from the Chief who wanted me to know that after all this time THEY GOT THE BUM. He explained to me that police work is often very slow and very tedious and that it involves building an air-tight case, yadda yadda yadda.

So big props go out to our local police department. They kick butt.

But the main point I want to make is THEY GOT THE BUM. Between his crimes against me and another guy, he's been charged with eight felonies.

I'm going to get to go to court and everything. This is so cool. I won't get to do much, I don't guess... just testify that no, I didn't know the guy and, no, I didn't authorize him to use my card. I won't get to have my big Perry Mason moment wherein I arch one eyebrow and ask the perpetrator about the night in question.

Oh, well. I guess I shoulda been a lawyer if I'd wanted to have my big Perry Mason moment.

That's not the point, though. The point is, as I may have mentioned






Cool Shirt

This shirt makes me laugh. I want to buy this shirt. I want to buy it, and I want to wear it.

Lame reason to bother with a whole post, I know. Oh, well.


Whole Lotta Bunny

Imagine going out one morning to check your garden patch and finding one of these guys munching on your green beans:

Better bring more than some scatter shot. Better bring a bazooka.

And get this... they're real. I checked it at Snopes.

These guys are specimens of the Flemish Giant rabbit breed.

God help us all if they ever unite.

Hat tip to the Swamp Hare, where I first learned about one of those big bunnies, and then the other. Click those links to read more about them. And, if you're a backyard gardener like me, shudder in horror.

It's occurred to me that I might have a Flemish Giant Blogroll. I try and try and try to reign it in and it just grows and grows and grows.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


A Couple Of Movies, Etc

I've still got the film-reviewing bug for now. I've posted reviews of Murderball and Wolf Creek at film geeks if you're interested.

By the way, happy 132 Birthday to a brilliant Catholic apologist who played such an important role in my own discernment that I felt obligated to name a dog after him.

And by the way, go read this outstanding piece from the Roanoke newspaper. I am, honestly, shocked that a newspaper that leans as far to the left as the Roanoke Times would publish it. It's by Major John S. Phillips, who is currently stationed in Iraq. This is a man with firsthand information and insight that you aren't going to get from network news and the New York Times.

Much of what Major Phillips has written here fascinated me. For instance, the mainstream media would have Americans believe that Iraqi insurgents are an underground army that just can't be stopped. From the perspective of Iraqi police and the burgeoning Iraqi military, the insurgents are something more akin to common street gangs, like the ones here in our own big cities. Major Phillips also does a great job (and it can't be done often enough) of shattering the illusion that Iraq was a peaceful place before the war.

War isn't pretty. War isn't glamorous, and it shouldn't be treated like something it isn't. Nonetheless, the Iraqi people really stand to emerge from this war much better off than they were before. If you're not convinced that at least that's possible, please go read what Major Phillips has to say.

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Sunday, May 28, 2006


Loonier Toons

This is one of my favorite classic cartoon shorts... but this version has a slightly modernized twist.


Now How'd I Miss THAT?

I stop by fairly regularly and check out the Captions Outrageous Photo Caption Contest at The Right Place.

It's your basic photo caption contest kind of thing... Mr. Right puts up an amusing picture of one political figure or another and everyone submits possible captions for the photo in the comments section.

I don't often actually submit entries because I can't usually think of anything that's as funny as the stuff that other folks are throwing out there. I just read the funny captions, laugh, and go on about my business.

Now and then... very rarely... I will leave a caption if a funny line pops into my head.

The last time I submitted a caption was for the Saturday, May 14 edition... and guess what? I'll be darned if I didn't take first prize!

How'd I miss that? I guess it's just that I sometimes forget about the Captions Contest, and I'll go back and read the winners in a big clump, several weeks worth at a time.

Anyway, if you're interested, here's the photo that I submitted a caption for, with my award winning caption at the bottom. Please save your applause until you've read the whole thing. ;)

"Well, the President put this up my behind on
Tuesday, November 2, 2004. I've only just now
gotten it back out."

Friday, May 26, 2006


My Non-imaginary Non-iPod

I don't have an iPod. My wife has one. MCF has an imaginary one. I don't even have an imaginary one.

Alright, I admit, I used to have an imaginary iPod, but my imaginary giraffe ate it during an imaginary parade.

I've mentioned I'm on heavy duty pain killers, right?

Anyway, my wife posted some random lyrics from some random songs on her iPod the other day, and MCF posted some random lyrics from some random songs on his imaginary iPod not long after. I thought I'd join the crowd.

Thing is, I don't have any kind of an iPod. What I have is a CD burner. So I just rip songs off of favorite albums and put together mix CDs for myself to listen to in the car or on my discman while mowing the grass, or whatever.

Here are a few snatches of lyrics from the next mix CD I'm going to put together for myself. See if you can guess them. Like MCF, I've made the lyric samples clickable so you can click and get the answer if you're stumped... but, like Wendy, my emphatic rule is no fair Googling.

And, yes, there is an intentional lyrical motif among the songs chosen for this mix CD. But, no, I did not just chose songs with lyrics that fit my purpose. Each of these is a song that I actually either like a whole lot or that I flat out love.

Ready? Here they are:

Number One
Dreaming about providence
And whether mice or men have second tries
Maybe we've been livin with our eyes half open
Maybe we're bent and broken, broken

Number Two
I've been unable to put You down
I'm still learning things I ought to know by now
It's under the table so
I need something more to show somehow

Number Three
Now, let my people go, land of Goshen
Go, I will be with thee, bush of fire
Blood, running red and strong, down the Nile
Plague, darkness three days long, hail to fire

Number Four
Teach me how to speak
Teach me how to share
Teach me where to go
Tell me will love be there
Oh, Heaven let your light shine down

Number Five
The First Born Son, He died for my sins
Nothing to worry about
And all these years I was the hard man
I always knew I’d find myself and prove
Because You told me the truth, it’s all I wanted from You

Number Six
Whenever I'm alone with You,
You make me feel like I am free again.
Whenever I'm alone with You,
You make me feel like I am clean again.

Number Seven
And I see them in the streets
And I see them in the field
And I hear them shouting under my feet
And I know it's got to be real
Oh, Lord, deliver me

Number Eight
...The flesh will get weak
And the ashes will scatter
So I’m thinking about forgiveness

Number Nine
And the whirlwind is in the thorn trees
The virgins are all trimming their wicks
The whirlwind is in the thorn trees
It's hard for thee to kick against the pricks

Number Ten
Let Your pain be my sorrow
Let Your tears be my tears too
Let Your courage be my model
That the north You find will be true

Number Eleven
Holy Moses let us live in peace
Let us strive to find a way to make all hatred cease
There's a man over there what's his color I don't care
He's my brother let us live in peace

Number Twelve
Your world was made for you
By Someone above
But you chose evil ways
Instead of love.

Number Thirteen
Twirling round with this familiar parable.
Spinning, weaving round each new experience.
Recognize this as a holy gift and
Celebrate this chance to be alive and breathing.

Number Fourteen
I read the story that You died
I turned the page, You were alive
With hope and love, but mostly faith
One day I'll see You face to face

Number Fifteen
I know You will complete this work started in me
I need You more than ever now that I know who You are
I know You will complete this work started in me
I need You more than ever now that I've come so far

Number Sixteen
When I close my eyes
I hope to find You, I hope to find You
When I leave my body
I want to be ready, willing like You were,
And in my darkest hour I will be freed.

Thursday, May 25, 2006


American Idol And Other Stuff

I'd like to extend a big, sincere, manic CONGRATULATIONS that comes from the heart of my bottom to Taylor Hicks, who soundly defeated Katherine McPhee to win this year's American Idol singing and smiling competition. Taylor had to make it past some pretty tough competition, including the amazing talents of some guy, some other guy, some cheery black chick, and a bald dude. This year's final two was a pretty close match, and although I didn't watch, I understand that Taylor's victory was decisive... he defeated Katherine by singing the Supremes classic Baby Love while simultaneously delivering a roundhouse kick to Katherine's forehead. Ouch. That's gonna leave a bruise.

Wendy and I didn't watch American Idol this year. Well, anyway, I didn't watch it. Wendy snuck in an episode or two and told me, confidentially, that the bald guy was her pick since he was a good singer and also since he was "dreeeeeamy." That was fine with me. My pick was which ever one of the contestants was most likely to quickly fade away into obscurity. I think I got my wish. My bet is that this Taylor Hicks guy will be singing Barry Manilow songs during free promotions at car dealerships by this time next year.

Now, I will cop to having watched American Idol in the past. I watched it the second season, when Ruben Studdard beat this nitwit to win the big prize. That made me happy because I thought Ruben was a nice guy and a darn good singer. Then he released a couple of absolutely unlistenable, gaud-awful top 40 songs and faded away into obscurity. Whatever.

Then, the next year, an annoying rat-on-crack named Fantasia Barrino won, instead of the infinitely more talented (and more deserving) Latoya London, and Wendy and I both swore in disgust that we'd never watch the program again.

But we gave in. We watched it again the next year. And we sat through the whole season, watching in slack-jawed boredom as some generic blonde country singer named Carrie SomethingOrOther won the contest, beating out a bunch of other generic Whoevers. There was one singer, a beautiful young woman named Nadia Turner, who Wendy and I both liked a great deal. Know why? Because she could actually sing. It also didn't hurt that she has the prettiest pair of bedroom eyes since the young Susan Sarandon. But, otherwise, last season's American Idol was a complete waste of time, I mocked it here at the blog, and I vowed to never watch the damned thing again.

And I kept that vow.

So, once again, another season of American Idol has come and gone. And, once again, I don't care. The difference this year is that I'm not bitter over having wasted two hours a week watching that crap.

And good riddance.

By the way, I'm reviewing films at film geeks again. For the time being. This morning Wendy and I watched Incident at Loch Ness and I liked it quite a bit.

And before I forget, thanks to Lorna for sending me this link about the government of Canada doing what they can to help out in Darfur:

Canada will immediately increase its aid to Darfur by $40 million, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Tuesday.

Harper said Canada will continue to provide humanitarian aid, which includes food and water, and assistance building sanitation services, to the violence-plagued region in western Sudan.

God bless ya, our neighbors to the north.

I feel that I should also pass on a bit of info about something that I discovered only a few minutes ago: If you go to Google Image Search and look for pictures of Veronica from the old Archie comic books, you'll be surprised to learn two things: One, for some reason, lots of people name their cats after Veronica and post pictures of said cats on the internet. Two, there are a lot of sickos out there who draw and post pornographic cartoons of Veronica and Betty.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


Film Geekin' Again

So, what did it take to get me to write something for film geeks after all this time?


Pure, unadulterated bile.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Random Tuesday

Monday, May 22, 2006


So Dark, The Con Of Liddy Wales

Checking my stats at Statcounter is always interesting, and it seems that lately the majority of my hits are coming from people combing search engines and looking for information on Liddy Wales.

The last time MCF did a McFAT quiz, the bonus question was who is Liddy Wales. Like everyone else who took the quiz (and there were quite a few participants), I tried to come up with some kind of answer to that question.

Here's the thing. I tried to make it clear that I have no freakin' clue who Liddy Wales is. Looking around a bit at various search engines has turned up little information, too. From the best I can tell, Liddy Wales is believed by many to be a who or a what... or maybe a where... associated with the TV program Lost.

I don't watch Lost. I don't care about Lost. I don't watch much television at all, and when I do, I never watch shows that involve as much thought and commitment as Lost apparently involves. My wife watches Lost and, to be totally honest, even listening to her talk about the program exhausts me to the point that I have to go take a nap.

I tried digging around at search engines about Liddy Wales... and I turned up little information. Partly, I think, that's because the producers of Lost are trying to keep people guessing about the topic. However, another reason I didn't find much information about Liddy Wales is because every search engine I checked showed my own stupid post as one of the top three sites for information on Liddy Wales!


I mean, look at this stuff:

Apparently, SouthCon is one of the world's leading authorities on Liddy Wales.

Go figure.

So, for the benefit of everyone who ended up here looking for information on Liddy Wales, I think it's time I stopped pretending.

Yes, it's true. I really am one of the world's three leading authorities on Liddy Wales. To be honest, the past few weeks have been exhausting and nerve-wracking for me. It's been hell on earth going through the motions, denying that I know anything about Liddy Wales, pretending that the subject is a mystery to me. I can't take it anymore. I can't keep up the façade. I'm coming clean right here and right now.

In the next few brief paragraphs I will finally elucidate everything I know about Liddy Wales. The questions, the intrigue, the rumors and the deception have to stop now. RIGHT NOW. Right here. With me. I can carry this burden no longer.

As I indicated in my original post on the topic, Liddy Wales really is, in fact, this man. "Liddy," of course, is a nickname. Nobody would actually give their child a name like "Liddy." No, his actual first name is "Lidworthington." Many of us pick up nicknames in grade-school, and Lidworthington Wales was no different. By the middle of second grade, all of his friends were calling him Four-Eyed Poopy Britches Wales. That nickname didn't sit well with Wales, who asked that he instead be referred to as Liddy. In an effort to accommodate him, the other second graders began calling him Liddy while hitting him with sticks. Only Liddy's dog, Silas, provided comfort during this difficult time. Others boinked Liddy with sticks. Silas simply fetched them.

Early in his youth, Liddy Wales demonstrated an interest in the middle ages and European history. Evenings and weekend were spent reading encyclopedic volumes of books on Florentine architecture, the crusades, and the collapse of the Byzantine Empire. Teachers found Liddy's focus and interest impressive. In fact, most thought him to be a prodigious student of Reformation Histiography. So, it was no surprise to anyone that after he graduated high school, Liddy attended many Renaissance Fairs while studying to be a nurse's aid at the local community college.

At many of the Renaissance Fairs that Liddy Wales attended, local artists would have a tent set up in which they sold their wares. Liddy had often browsed in these tents, and on one occasion he decided that he'd like to buy a painting to hang in his uncle's basement, where he lived. While considering a badly done reproduction of Leonaro da Vinci's famous The Last Supper, Liddy made an important discovery.

Much to his surprise and horror, Liddy discovered that the price for the print was $27. Unfortunately, Liddy only had $15 to spend on a painting. With a sign, Liddy resigned himself to looking through the "discount" prints, unframed and mounted on simple cardboard, that were propped against a table.

After five minutes of browsing the stack, Liddy was thrilled to find, at an amazing price, a reproduction of one of his favorite works of art:

Liddy bought the Dog's Playing Poker print for $5, took it home and hung it on the basement wall. There it hung, unregarded and inconspicuous, for almost a year.

Then, one day while eating an egg salad sandwich and watching a rerun of What's Happening!, Liddy glanced up at his print of Dog's Playing Poker and made a shocking discovery. A visceral hush filled the room. The reliably entertaining dancing of Fred "Rerun" Barry, which typically made Liddy snort with laughter, went unnoticed. With a soft "thwuck" sound, the egg salad sandwich fell to the floor. Liddy's shock would have been palapable to anyone who'd been in the basement with him, had there been anyone else there. Staring with disbelief at his well-loved print, Liddy noticed something that forever changed the meaning of the masterpiece. Something that might change the meaning of civilization as he knew it. Something that the artist, with quiet deliberation, had subtly communicated to anyone with an eye for detail who'd simply take the time to study his work.

Liddy couldn't believe what he was seeing:

The white bulldog, a steadfast pooch who's moral fiber Liddy had never before questioned, was cheating.


The implications were tremendous. It all hit Liddy like a ton of bricks. The bulldog was cheating. He was slipping an ace to another dog; a dog who's face was turned away from the viewer. Who was that other dog? Who was this clandestine canine with the leather collar and the slightly back-tilted ears? The ramifications hit Liddy's conscious mind like an avalanche of scandal, each realization boinking against his brain with the loud, boinking clarity of cognizance. The world as I know it is a fraud, Liddy thought. This could forever alter the way that dog lover's perceive their purebred partners. Man's best friend? Indeed! Man's paramount deceiver!

Something must be done. But what?

As as he stood considering his options, Liddy's brain was once again boinked. But this time, it wasn't the poignant boinking of truth. It was an actual, physical boinking... a boinking with a stick... a sensation Liddy remembered all too well from his days in the second grade.

It's said that a shadowy canine figure was seen leaving Liddy's basement that evening... and investigators never found the stick with which Liddy was boinked.

Most shockingly, Liddy's Dogs Playing Poker print was missing.

Saturday, May 20, 2006


My Heart In My Throat

From time to time, SouthCon readers will mention news stories to me, and I always appreciate it because I don't do as good a job of keeping up with the news as you might think.

Recently, Lorna thoughtfully took the time to leave me a comment mentioning this horrifying news story, which I hadn't heard about:

Reports of Iranian plans to force Jews, Christians and other religious minorities to wear color-coded badges in public sparked a flurry of outrage in the Bush administration and elsewhere yesterday, despite an emphatic denial by the only Jewish member of Iran's parliament.

Canada's National Post newspaper reported in yesterday's editions that a law passed Iran's parliament earlier this week that would require Jews to wear a yellow strip of cloth, Christians red and Zoroastrians blue.

Iran's only Jewish member of parliament, Maurice Motammed, denied the report late yesterday, calling it a "complete fabrication" and "totally false," according to a dispatch by Agence France-Press from Tehran...

Emphasis above was mine.

I read that and my heart literally leapt into my throat. I didn't even know how to go about addressing it at the blog. It just struck me as an overwhelming and absolutely depressing act of evil.

Surely the world has learned the lessons of the Holocaust, right? Surely we can't and won't get back on that slippery slope, right? I mean, even Iran, a nation that seems backward and downright barbaric to many of us Westerners, wouldn't really do something like that, right?

Well, it turns out (Thank God in Heaven) that there is increasing evidence that Iran really isn't considering such a plan... or else, it might simply be that Iran has had the good sense to back down from from it:

Representative of Iran’s 25,000 Jews in the nation’s parliament, Maurice Motamed, the only Jewish MP there, told the western press that the report dealt a severe blow to the Jewish image in Iran. “I was there when they discussed the law, and it was about the dress of Iranian Muslim women. Restrictions for minority or other religions were not mentioned,” Motamed said.

So I read that and I breathe a sigh of relief, thanking God that we're not headed toward the next Holocaust.

And then I remember that the next Holocaust is already going on in the Sudan. I've written about Darfur before, and I am still as baffled and as confused, and feel just as directionless about the situation now as I did then.

I honestly started this blog with the intentions of commenting on politics, culture, and the world around me. But, the more I pay attention to the world around me, the more I just want to write about candy bars.

And the more I think about it, the more I realize that simple escapism really isn't the solution. I call myself a Christian, and I'm sure that Christ wouldn't approve of me just pretending that Darfur doesn't exist. But is writing about it at my stupid blog doing enough? No. Is giving a few bucks here and there to Darfur relief groups doing enough? Probably not. What exactly is doing enough, then? I don't know.

When I think about one of my heroes, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I feel ashamed at how comfortable and safe I am. And that shame leads to a feeling of uselessness, which leads to depression and that depression leads to doing even less.

So, clearly, as much as I pontificate and blog from my soapbox, I'm still totally full of crap.

My gut reaction is that if there's any nation state in the world forcing Christians to wear a red armband, I should wear one, too. And if there's a nation state forcing Jews to wear a yellow armband, then I want to wear one as well. If they start forcing homosexuals to wear a pink triangle again, then I want to wear a pink triangle. If they force anyone to be separated, mistreated, and backed into a corner simply because of who they are, then I want to be in that corner with them.

Big talk, huh? It's so easy for me to sit here in my comfortable home and write words like that. Even if I did start wearing armbands and triangles, etc, I'd still really be doing nothing. Symbolic support is no real support at all. It's like all those yellow ribbon magnets people have on their cars these days. How is putting a magnet on your car really helping anyone?

It's like all those the hippies who disgust me so much; driving around in cars covered with 50 bumperstickers: Free Tibet! ... Think Globally, Act Locally! They're really convinced that putting a bumpersticker on the back of an old Ford Tempo (for instance) is supporting the cause. And here I sit, complaining about the hippies and doing absolutely no more than they are doing.

And there I go again, chasing my tail.

Anyway, thanks to Lorna and to everyone who leaves comments and sends e-mails about these kinds of stories. I mean that sincerely. I think that comfort is an impediment to faithful Christianity... and even if I don't yet know what I should be doing, at least I know that I should be doing something.

Something other than enjoying my comfort.

Friday, May 19, 2006


Grizzly Man

Go read Dave's review of Grizzly Man. No need for me to rave about how good his review is and how much I agree with it, I already did so in the comments there, and you can read my rant there if'n you want to do so.

And, yes, I know, film geeks is in a sorry state of neglect. I'm a bad person. Wendy is a bad person. We'll get back to reviewing films soon.




Raising The Bar

This co-review by Wendy and me is also posted at her blog.

On the way home from Church this morning, Wendy and I got on the subject of candy bars when we stopped at the grocery store and noticed that Reese's has a new candy bar out. Of course, that lead to reviewing and rating candy bars.

For reference, our scale is one to five. A one means that the candy bar isn't fit to feed to pigs and a five means that this is probably something that they eat in Heaven.

Also for reference, things that come in bite-size portions (M&Ms, Rolo, Hershey Kissables, etc) were not considered eligible for consideration.

We'd also like to cop to having swiped a lot of our graphics from this highly informative and interesting website.

Having said all that, on with the reviewing.

Wendy's Rating: 4.5
Darrell's Rating: 3

Wendy says: "Most times when I get a candy bar while in line at the grocery store, it's this one. It's lower fat and it's just as good as most higher fat candy bars."

Darrell says: "Eh. It's OK, I guess. It's a good stand-by bar. If you offered me a free one, I wouldn't turn it down."

Wendy's Rating: 3
Darrell's Rating: 3

Wendy says: "It's better than most candy bars that have rice in them because of the caramel."

Darrell says: "I really don't get the whole thing of having Rice Krispies in a candy bar. This one is pretty good, though, because the caramel is good and makes up for the rice."

Wendy's Rating: 3.5
Darrell's Rating: 3

Wendy says: "This is my mom's favorite candy bar. I had one the other day and it brought back fond memories. I like the caramel and the peanuts."

Darrell says: "You know what I hate about the Baby Ruth? Every time I eat one... and I mean EVERY TIME... a few of the peanuts get wasted because I take a bite and they break off and fall in the floor. I HATE that. It tastes good, I admit that... but eating one of these bars just triggers every obsessive compulsive tendency I have and, psychologically speaking, it just isn't worth it."

Wendy's Rating: 5
Darrell's Rating: 5

Wendy says: "It just doesn't get any better than this. This is my favorite candy bar right now. The peanut butter is awesome, the cup is thick, and the peanuts just set it off and make it perfect. Eat them while you can because they probably won't be around for long."

Darrell says: "Need proof that there's a God? Eat the Reese's Big Cup With Nuts. Oooooh, it's so good. Sooooooo good. When I get one, before I even take a bite, I like to take it out of the wrapper and take a big long smell first, and grieve for the angels because they ain't got 'em."

Wendy's Rating: 2
Darrell's Rating (Qualified... see below)

Wendy says: "I don't like Butterfinger. I don't like the filling getting stuck in my teeth and being there for weeks. Every time I eat one it's like my mouth gets exercise that it doesn't really need."

Darrell says: "OK, when they're fresh, there's nothing better than a Butterfinger. I'd give a fresh Butterfinger a 5. The filling is so light and tasty and just melts in your mouth. But when they're stale and the filling gets hard and mega-chewy, and you want to go home and get a coat-hanger and dig around in your mouth trying to get all that brown gunk out of your teeth... oh, man, that's awful. A stale Butterfinger get's a 1.5 from me."

Wendy's Rating: 2.5
Darrell's Rating: 4.5

Wendy says: "I guess I just don't like Butterfinger. At least the filling doesn't get stuck in my teeth. But, it's dry. It's like eating paste. The chocolate tastes good, though."

Darrell says: "The good thing about Butterfinger Crisp is that the wafers keep the peanut buttery filling from getting stuck in your teeth. The bad thing is the wafers themselves. Wafers are filler. But at least you can taste the filling and don't have to worry when you buy one that if it turns out to be stale you'll have to change your plans for the evening."

Wendy's Rating: 5
Darrell's Rating: 2.5

Wendy says: "When I was a kid, the Tooth Fairy brought me a dollar and a king-size Caramello for every tooth I lost. It's a wonder I didn't have cavities as a kid. The caramel is soooo creamy and soooo rich and sooooo bad for me, but it's an outstanding bar."

Darrell says: "Who wants caramel on their arms, chin, and shirt?"

Wendy's Rating: 4.5
Darrell's Rating: 3

Wendy says: "When they say Chunky, they mean Chunky. The peanuts and raisins and big chunky chocolate are like a meal in itself."

Darrell says: "I'd have scored it higher if it weren't for the raisins. I don't like the consistency of raisins in chocolate. It's like squishing bugs or something."

Wendy's Rating: 1
Darrell's Rating: 2

Wendy says: "I like Reese's peanut butter, but the nougat is so over-powering and so hard and chewy that you can't even taste the peanut butter. It's like chewing on a shoe, and I don't like to chew on shoes."

Darrell says: "Look, Reese's peanut butter is always so good that even in this bad combination it still deserves at least a 2.

Wendy's Rating: 2.5
Darrell's Rating 3.5

Wendy says: "I just don't like chocolate by itself. It's good chocolate, but it's just boring. It makes me want something in it."

Darrell says: "It tastes good. That's enough for me."

Wendy's Rating: 4
Darrell's Rating: 4

Wendy says: "Finally, they put something in my Hershey's bar! And, boy, is it good! And, boy, do I feel ripped off if I only get one almond!"

Darrell says: "It's good chocolate, and it's better with the almonds. It's a classic combination. But I once worked with a guy who told me very believably that he once found a worm in an almond in a Hershey's bar and I still think about that when I eat one of these bars. I really hate that guy."

Wendy's Rating: 2
Darrell's Rating: 5

Wendy says: "I just don't like dark chocolate. It's bitter."

Darrell says: "Oh, man, this is good stuff. Goooooood, strong chocolate. I think maybe I started liking the strong stuff from my days as a smoker when dark chocolate was the only chocolate I could taste. Anyway, I still like this. It's an all-time fav."

Wendy's Rating: 3
Darrell's Rating: 3

Wendy says: "Good, but not great."

Darrell says: "Like the Three Musketeers, I wouldn't turn down a free one."

Wendy's Rating: 4
Darrell's Rating: 3

Wendy says: "Bigger is better in this instance. Because it's bigger, there's more creamy chocolate between wafers. I like creamy chocolate between wafers."

Darrell says: "Same feeling as the original Kit Kat. It's OK, nothing special."

Wendy's Rating: 1.5
Darrell's Rating: 1

Wendy says: "I don't like Rice Krispies in my chocolate. It's too crunchy."

Darrell says: "What is RICE doing in my candy bar? This doesn't belong here. I just do not get it. Who is it out there that wants crunchiness so badly that they're willing to eat a candy bar with RICE in it? Celery is crunchy, too... why not throw some celery in there? BAH."

Wendy's Rating: 4.5
Darrell's Rating: 2.5

Wendy says: "I eat all the chocolate off first and then I enjoy the nougat and the caramel as it melts in my mouth. For a long time I considered this my favorite candy bar and I still love it."

Darrell says: "It's a Snickers without peanuts. What's the point?"

Wendy's Rating: 5
Darrell's Rating: 2.5

Wendy says: "Bring on the nuts! I love peanuts in chocolate, but these are hard to find. But, when I find 'em, I eat 'em."

Darrell says: "Looking for Mr. Goodbar? Why? There are, like, a hundred better bars out there."

(See our reviews for the Krackel Bar. They're the same thing.)

Wendy's Rating: 2.5
Darrell's Rating: 2.5

Wendy says: "The caramel just makes it better than the regular plain bar."

Darell says: "It ain't bad, I guess. The caramel is pretty tasty... but I'm still annoyed by that superfluous rice. They might as well have couscous in there as far as I'm concerned."

Wendy's Rating: 3
Darrell's Rating: 3.5

Wendy says: "It's good, but it didn't make a lasting impression on me."

Darrell Says: "While I have many of the same complaints with the Nutrageous that I have with the Baby Ruth, this bar has the advantage of that Reese's peanut butter. That's a big advantage."

Wendy's Rating: 3.5
Darrell's Rating: 2

Wendy says: "I don't like coconut, but I do like this bar. I think it's because of the almonds."

Darrell says: "Two little bars, two little bites. Just enough candy to make me mad."

Wendy's Rating: 2
Darrell's Rating: 2.5

Wendy says: "Dark chocolate and coconut just aren't a good match for me."

Darrell says: "It's better than the Almond Joy because it has the dark chocolate, but it's still two tiny bars, two tiny bites, and one fat redneck who feels ripped off."

Wendy's Rating: 4
Darrell's Rating: 4.5

Wendy says: "It's a classic. It's a good stand-by. I just wish it had nuts in it."

Darrell says: "Hey, you can't go wrong with the original Reese's. It's just tasty. Remember when the ones you could buy at the movie theater had 4 cups in them instead of 3? When did they change that? And, why? Just to make me mad? Because, if so, it worked."

Wendy's Rating: 3.5
Darrell's Rating: 3

Wendy says: "It's not great, but it does have lots of that creamy peanut butter."

Darrell says: "It tastes really good, but it's only about as big around as a Sharpie marker and only about three inches long... so, once again, it was just enough to get me good and miffed."

Wendy's Rating: 3
Darrell's Rating: 2.5

Wendy says: "Each one sounds better than it actually is. The one with the caramel was the most disappointing."

Darrell says: "What Wendy said, only even less enthusiastic."

Wendy's Rating: 3.5
Darrell's Rating: 4

Wendy says: "When I want nuts I'd rather have a Mr. Goodbar. When I want caramel, I'd rather have a Caramello. You get the point."

Darrell says: "I've never had a Snickers I didn't enjoy thoroughly."

Wendy's Rating: 4
Darrell's Rating: 3

Wendy says: "This is the creamiest chocolate. And, the toffee chips and almonds just give it a nice crunch. If I got one of these when I was a kid, it was because I was a good girl. Symphony kept me on the right track.."

Darrell says: "You know what this reminds me of? It's like a Heath bar, only not as tasty. It's OK, I guess... but I prefer Heath."

Wendy's Rating: 1.5
Darrell's Rating: 4

Wendy says: "They've got too much stuff they're trying to do here, and none of it tastes good together. It makes my mouth confused."

Darrell says: "I like chocolate-covered pretzels, so this was a good idea to me. And, once I tried one, I thought it was as good as I'd thought it would be. Tasty. Very tasty.

Wendy's Rating: 3.5
Darrell's Rating: 1

Wendy says: "It's like having a candy-bar version of the Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies. Plus, it's low fat. What more can you ask for?"

Darrell says: "When I eat a York Peppermint Pattie, I get the sensation of having a mouth full of chocolate and mouth-wash at the same time. Then, I throw up."

Wendy's Rating: 2.5
Darrell's Rating: 3

Wendy says: "I just don't like white chocolate enough to care about this bar. I've tried so hard to enjoy this one, but every time I always feel disappointed."

Darrell says: "It's dense. Like a breakfast bar or a power bar or something. It's OK, and it tastes good, but it just didn't impress me very much. Like the Three Musketeers, though, if you're givin' 'em away, I'll take one."

In conclusion, we'd both agree that the candy bar to run out and buy right away is the Reese's Big Cup With Nuts. Oh, man, what a good candy bar.

(Darrell would like to dedicate his contributions at this post to the late, lamented P.B. Maxx. The P.B. Maxx was the best candy bar ever. I don't know why it was taken off the market, but I'm sure that somehow, Bill Clinton is to blame.)


Thursday, May 18, 2006


Redneck 101

What do you think of when you see this image?

If you're like most people, you probably think of harmless goofballs like this guy:

Or maybe you think of Civil War re-enactors like these folks:

I guess the worse case scenario is that you think of scumbag lunatic wastes-of-oxygen like these reptiles:

I guess all of that is to be expected. It seems like any symbol that's adopted by public groups gets forever associated with those groups. The Confederate Battle Flag, however, means many different things to us Southerners. Most of us react to it in a way that is somewhat summed up by this common bumper sticker:

A lot of folks, myself included, do see it as a symbol of our heritage and our rich cultural history. And yet, it's come to mean something else to me in recent years. Something maybe a bit surprising.

Personally, the Confederate Battle Flag isn't something I associate with the Civil War first and foremost. I don't think much about the Civil War on a personal level, to be honest. The majority of my ancestors came to this country in the early 1900's, after the Civil War was over... and the few ancestors I have who were in this country during the war lived in northern states. If they fought in the war at all, it would have been as Federal troops, not Confederates.

To me, the Confederate Battle Flag has become a reminder that those who mock the South and Southerners in general... well, they are the ignorant ones. The South has produced many of the finest statesmen, artists, leaders and visionaries that the world has ever known... but to many people, if you come from the South, you are bound to be an inbred hillbilly:

Oh, well. Far be it from me to try to talk people out of treasured ignorance, especially if they draw some comfort from it.

Nonetheless, the Confederate Battle Flag is becoming a symbol of a different kind to many Southerners. I'll try to explain.

Many Southerners have adopted the word "Redneck" as a badge of honor, and we refer to ourselves as "Rednecks" with some degree of defiant pride. I guess it's similar to the way many young black people have turned the hateful, ignorant word "nigger" into the empowering, affectionate word "nigga." Or the way that many homosexuals have embraced the word "queer." Once you embrace and adopt a word that was invented to cause hurt, it changes the word itself. It removes it's power to do harm and changes it into something different. Something positive.

It's the same for many of us with the Confederate Battle Flag. What is often seen by outsiders as a symbol of our imagined ignorance and uselessness is, for many of us, simply a symbol of unity. Consider how many homosexuals have embraced the pink triangle as a symbol of unity and pride in who they are. I think there's also a correlation with the song "Yankee Doodle," which was originally conceived by British troops as a way to mock pre-revolutionary Americans.

And lest you think that the Confederate Battle Flag is a symbol that's only been adopted by white Southerners, I think you ought to know about men like H.K. Edgerton and J.J. Johnson, both of whom are black men who see the Confederate Battle Flag as something more complex than a simple symbol of racism and ignorance. It's not a white thing, it's not a black thing. It's not a "thing" that can be summed up with a quick bumper-sticker explanation, really. It has something to do with who we once were, with who we are now, and with the long, hard road and difficult lessons that got us here.

And it has something to do with the way we're portrayed in the media, in the movies, on television, and in the popular culture at large.

Now, we know that we're not going to change that libelous image any time soon. The American South is the last region in the world that it's safe for our politically correct society to mock. Especially white Southerners, who are pretty much universally portrayed and viewed as stupid devils. Yeah, it gets old and sometimes it does hurt our feelings. And, yes, it is nice when fellow Southerners who just happen to be black (like Edgerton and Johnson) speak out in our defense. The south has had a long row to hoe since the days of the civil rights movement. As a white Southern male, I have to admit that it feels good when our black Southern brothers give us a pat on the back and tell us we're doin' pretty good.

So what about the rest of the world? The people who see us as the last source of safe mockery? Can we change them? No. Are we going to change ourselves? Hell, no.

Does it matter? Not as much as it used to.

Because, ya know what? A lot of the characteristics of the south that others mock are things we're actually proud of. Yes, we tend to be religious people. Yes, we value the outdated concept of the nuclear family. Yes, many of us take offense at the things we see in today's secular culture. Yes, we like NASCAR. And, yes, we still think that Mayberry is the ideal that any community should strive for.

And, by the way, we're a force to be reckoned with at the polls.

We're here. We're Redneck. Get used to it.


The Tin Foil Hat Troopers

I left most of this idea as a comment at another blog earlier, and I decided that it was something I felt strongly enough about to mention here. The early word is out that the Da Vinci Code movie is apparently just not very good. That's really not that big a surprise. There are more bad movies released every year than there are good ones, so just by playing the odds it's a safe bet that Ron Howard's movie ain't gonna be great.

Still, why has the book been so popular in the first place? Why are so many people frothing at the mouth to see the movie? Why do people buy into this stuff on such an epic scale?

I think it comes down to this: People LOVE conspiracy theories! They just eat that stuff up! I'm surprised at the large number of otherwise-intelligent people I've met who believe that JFK was assassinated by a cabal of CIA and Cuban operatives... or who believe that the government is hiding alien spacecraft in Nevada... or who believe that FDR allowed Pearl Harbor to happen... or that Proctor and Gamble are in league with Satan... etc, etc, etc. For whatever reason, people love the idea that any large organization is corrupt and involved in a cover-up conspiracy of some kind... and they're even willing to believe that about the Church itself. It never ceases to amaze me that so many smart people can't believe in the obvious and undeniable existence of God and yet can believe in the wackiest conspiracy theories imaginable!

We live in a world that, by and large, argues that religious faith as an antiquated, small-minded, silly fantasy. At the same time, we've got Cynthia McKinney and Charlie Sheen advancing the nutty notion that the government played a roll in 9/11... and there are people who take him seriously.

Beam me up, Scottie. This place is full of morons.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


The Best Speech I've Ever Heard

I had an appointment with my surgeon this morning; a check-up to make sure I'm doing OK two weeks after my surgery. I'm doing fine. That's not the point.

On the way to my appointment, Wendy and I were listening to Laura Ingraham, who played several long clips from the Commencement Address given by General Peter Pace at the Citadel on May 6th.

The speech was given a week and a half ago, and it might be old news to many of you, but it was new to both Wendy and me. We'd never heard a word of it. It was, to put it succinctly, the best speech I've ever heard in my life.

Wendy and I both sat in the car in rapt attention. By the time we got to the doctor's office, we were both wiping away tears. It was that good.

I encourage you to listen to General Pace's speech no matter who you are. It's the kind of thing that anyone would benefit from hearing and pondering at any point in his or her life. General Pace has four pieces of advice for the students in his address, and I felt deeply moved and inspired by his remarks.

The things he had to say will stay with me for some time to come.

You can read a transcript of Genral Pace's speech here, and you can download and listen to an MP3 of the speech here. The MP3 is an 8 meg file and the speech lasts about seventeen minutes. Seventeen minutes very well spent.

It took me a few tries to get the MP3 of the speech to download... I think the Citadel's server must be pretty busy today. I'd have spent an hour trying to get this speech if I'd had to. It's that good. If you're serious about getting it and can't get it to download, send me an e-mail and I'll put it up on my server space. I feel that strongly about helping people hear what General Pace had to say.

It's rare to hear such truth spoken so powerfully and with so much focus.

My only question now is how we go about getting this guy to run for President.

Monday, May 15, 2006


Now That's Odd

I'll wrap up today with a hat-trick of MCF's Phantasmic Links for the week:

Friday, May 12, 2006


Homegirl Does Good!

My wife, the lovely and talented Wendy, graduated from college tonight!

Everybody be sure and stop by her blog and congratulate her. She worked her butt off to get to this point and I'm as proud as a one-legged peacock in a room full of rocking-chairs. Or, words to that effect.

Being the official family AV guy, it was my job to take the video and the pics at tonight's graduation ceremony.

I've had better luck, as some of the highlights below will demonstrate:

The guy in the middle in this first picture... well, he's hiding his face behind his mortarboard in shame. He's thinking "Doh! How could we have possibly left that light fixture right in Darrell's way?!? Stupid light fixture!"

It doesn't matter where you sit... if you're an audience member, you are not going to sit in a convenient place to photograph your loved ones... as evidenced below:

When the graduating class elects to skip "Pomp and Circumstance" and, instead, march in to the strains of "Another Brick In The Wall," you should be prepared for this kind of weirdness:

Here she is in all her graduating glory, Wendy herself! This is the moment she's worked so hard for. The grand result of all her toil, sweat, tears and sleepless nights. The very moment when she crosses the stage and is handed an empty diploma holder.

As you can see below, a number of celebrities showed up at the reception:

All in all it was a great night... even the mega-liberal professor who gave the mega-liberal commencement address couldn't spoil things for us.

So stop by The Dorkside and give her a pat on the back in the comments section. She deserves it!


Mama's Day

My mother once chased me into the street waving a butcher's knife.

I'm going to explain that in a bit, and yes it really is true. It makes a really great "keep 'em reading" opening sentence for a Mother's Day post, don't you think?

This is Mother's Day weekend, and I've been inspired by Jerry to write something about my mom. A number of my favorite bloggers have written some very nice entries about their mothers over the years. My favorite has to be Rhodester, who's post about his mom won't load for me for some reason, but maybe you'll have better luck. It's the one at the top of the list.

I started out with the purest of intentions. I'd write something heartfelt and honest about all of the struggles and hard work my mom had to put in to raise my sister and me. Have you ever seen the movie Primary Colors? There's a great scene about half an hour into that movie wherein the Bill Clinton-inspired character and his top aids, all Southern boys, are sitting around at the end of a long dinner and they've all had quite a bit to drink. One of them tells an anecdote about how hard his mother worked when he was young. Another tops him with an anecdote about how much his mama loves the Lord. The next one talks about how his mama always taught him to do what's right. By the time they've made it around the table they're all sobbing and passionate. "Oh, great," observes the Hillary Clinton-inspired character off to the side, "they've gotten off on a mama-thon."

Southern boys really are like that. Get us started on our mamas and we'll absolutely grind you into the ground. And it does become competitive. My mama worked harder than your mama. Oh, yeah? Well, my mama prayed harder than your mama. Really? Well my mama made the best damned baked macaroni and cheese in the world and I'll whup any man who says different. Oh, yeah?

You get the idea. We're passionate and we love our moms, even if we ain't that bright.

I wanted to pen a quick tribute to my mother by recording a brief list of her accomplishments and some examples of what a saint she is, but when I sat down and started thinking about mama-stories, that butcher's knife tale was the first thing that came to mind.

Here's the deal:

I was an awful kid. Really, really bad. I was just heinous. When I look back over my childhood, I have no idea how my mother kept from killing me. On at least one instance, she did come close to it.

I was really awful. I wouldn't do anything I was told to do without a federal act and I would sass and put up a fight about everything. One of my favorite things to do (and I'm not proud of this) was this: after I'd finally been worn down and done whatever chore I was asked to do, I'd go into whatever room my mom was in and say something smart-allecky... and then I'd run away before mom could get her hands on me.

Just thinking about it makes you want to thrash the kid I was, doesn't it? I know I'd like to go back in time and kick my little ass. I know I deserved it.

Anyway, on this one particular instance, after I'd finally done whatever I'd been asked to do, I'd gone into the kitchen where mom was washing dishes (by hand) and said some smart-allecky thing... and then, when mom turned around to give me a swat on the behind, I'd run away, as usual. Only this time when I got out of the kitchen I heard footsteps that indicted that mom was right behind me. Oh, yes. This time she was going to get hold of me and turn my behind bright red.


So I took off down the steps to the front door, fully intending to dart out into the yard if she came down the steps after me. I looked behind me and saw that, yes indeed, she was coming after me... and I had never seen such a look of intense concentration on her face before. This time, she really was going to thrash me good. And I knew that there was nothing I could do about it... and what made it worse was that I knew I deserved it.

I mentioned she'd been washing dishes by hand only a second before this happened, right?

When mom turned around to come after me, she was apparently washing the butcher's knife... and she still had it in her soap-suds covered hand.

Years later, talking about the incident and laughing about it, mom told me that she didn't realize she hadn't put the butcher's knife down yet at the time. All she was thinking about was whatever horrible thing I'd said and how she was absolutely sick and tired of my smart mouth.

So down the steps she came, and out into the front yard I ran.

Imagine the look on the neighbors' faces as a screaming nine year old came flying out the front door, followed in hot pursuit by an absolutely livid grown woman waving a butcher's knife. I'm sure that each of our neighbors thought that they'd get the chance to be on the news that night, saying stuff like "They always seemed like nice people, we never thought anything like this would happen."

I can't remember how things were resolved that day. I do remember that I didn't come home until waaaaaayyy late into the evening. I am glad to report that mom didn't kill me, even though I deserved it. I'm also glad to report that I hadn't caused any blood vessels in her head to burst.

I'm also glad to report that I didn't stay an awful kid. At least I don't think I did. Mom frequently tells me these days that she's proud of the way I turned out, so I guess some of what she was trying to teach me finally sunk in.

My mother is in her sixties now and I'm closing in on forty. Mom is a registered nurse and she works at the hospital that's about a mile from where I live. My mama has a hard time sitting on a chair because she doesn't have a behind. She doesn't have a behind because she worked it off putting herself through college to get her nursing degree and raising my sister and myself. Mom is a heck of a good nurse. Everyone I meet, when they find out who my mom is, has a story to tell me about the time they were in the hospital, or the time their relative was in intensive care, and how good my mother was to them. I just nod and smile and thank them for sharing the story with me.

When, in my twenties I came home with a pregnant girlfriend and announced my intentions to marry her and adopt her son, mom took her in like one of her own. Mom has doted over my son ever since the day he was born, and the issue of "adoption" has never crossed her mind. In fact, if you ever said anything about the issue that didn't sit right with mom... well, just make sure she ain't washing the dishes at the time.

My mom has also treated my two step-kids by my second wife like they're her own, too. Mom doesn't consider these kinds of issues. She just loves people.

My mom really is a saint; and, no, I don't think she'd have really killed me that day. She really is a devoutly religious person, and she really is one of the hardest workers I've ever known. She instilled in me and my sister a fear of God and a sense of responsibility that eventually got through my thick head. I don't know how she did it.

And, by the way, my mama does make the best baked macaroni and cheese in the world.

I wouldn't challenge me on that if I were you.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


Tech Reviews From A Non-Techie

If you care, here are my totally amateur opinions of some of the latest software I've been using... and tips on a few programs that I think every PC owner should have.

Microsoft has a new version of Internet Explorer available as a free download in beta form. Internet Explorer 7.0 seems to be Microsoft's attempt to recapture the browser market, which they've more or less lost to Firefox. Microsoft knows that they've dropped the ball, and the splash screen at the website is something of a caveat:

I love that wording. It might as well say "OK, fine! We admit it! Our browser sucks! We'll try to do better, we promise!"

So what does IE7 have to offer? Well, as far as the security issues go, I'll have to take Microsoft at it's word. I know my way around Windows exactly enough to do the stuff I want to do. As far as trying to test IE for security bugs and faults, I'm in no position to offer a critique. I only know if my computer's security has been compromised after the fact. But, since I use a router and firewalls on both of our PCs, I've never had a problem.

Of course, part of the reason I've never had a problem is that I browse with Firefox.

So security issues leave me out of my depth... but I can offer my opinion on whether or not IE7 is any "easier." The question is, is Microsoft Internet Explorer 7.0 a better browsing experience? The answer is, eehh.

Oh, it's better in some ways than IE6.0 and all of it's updates were. Finally, Internet Explorer has woken up to the whole tab browsing phenomenon. Now, for the first time with a Microsoft browser, you can surf the net with tabs. And, I have to admit, the interface looks kinda slick:

Looks good, right? In fact, it looks a lot like Firefox.

Yes, the tab interface is clean and easy to use. Click the small tab to the right of your taps to open a new, blank tab. Did you notice the two small tabs to the left? One opens a dropdown menu of all the tabs you have open. The other one, the one with the little boxes, opens a full-screen menu that shows you a thumbnail of ALL of those tabs at once:

OK, I admit, that's pretty cool. If you're like me and you often have fifteen news stories open at once, it is neat to be able to jump quickly to the one you're trying to pull a quote from instead of looking for it by flipping through all your tabs. It saves clicks and might save, oh, I dunno... 20 seconds? So I guess that feature is kinda neat.

And that, really, is the only element of IE7 that I would like to see Firefox eventually cop for itself. The other changes to the browser are either bad or unimportant.

For instance, one way that IE7 makes your browsing better is by making the browser more "streamlined" and less "cluttered." And basically, what that means is that before, you might have had to dig through a bunch of menus to find the option that lets you do what you want to do. Now you have to go up to the tools button and first load those menus before you can dig through them:

Tell me again how your making my browsing experience easier, Microsoft?

And here is my biggest complaint; the one that just leaves me with smoke coming out of my ears: Since I've been using Firefox, the only reason I ever even open IE anymore is for FTP, so I can upload graphics and stuff to our server space. And, I admit, IE's FTP interface is clean and easy. Just like Widows; drag it, drop it, no fuss, no muss.

So what's my complaint? Well, with the new version of IE, you can't do FTP anymore! Try to go to your password protected FTP space and you'll get THIS message:

I dug around at the discussion boards for IE at the Microsoft website and found out that there IS a way to kinda make IE7 work with FTP... and what I learned is that making it work is such a big pain in the butt that, for me, using IE7 is much worse than using IE6.

Now, granted, this browser is still in beta, and this bug might be fixed eventually... but given Microsoft's history with browser issues, I don't see me switching from Firefox anytime soon.

Regarding Firefox itself, my only complaint with it has been that you can't do FTP with it. Firefox is a nice little browser and I can't imagine going back to surfing without it, but it's lack of FTP interface has been a major annoyance.

The latest version of Firefox can access FTP sites, and when I access my server through FTP, I get the classic index-style view. Nice for checking file names and doing a quick inventory of files... but most of the time, if I access my server space with FTP, it's because I need to upload something. Usually just small graphics for the blog, but that's uploading nonetheless.

So I'd been forced to resort to IE for FTP and wait for a plug-in that allowed FTP access with Firefox.

Well, I'm happy to say that such a plug-in now exists.

FireFTP for Firefox is a neat little plug-in that.... well, it lets you do FTP with Firefox, doesn't it? I guess that's obvious.

The interface is a bit clunky, but it opens a split-screen browser window within Firefox that serves my purposes. On the left is a window that let's me browse my hard drive, on the right is a window that shows me my space on the server:

Now, what I always liked about FTP with Internet Explorer was that it let me treat the server like just another folder, and you can't quite do that with FireFTP. You can, however, drag the separator that splits the two windows all the way to the left so that you're only seeing the server window... and you can drag and drop things out of folders and onto the server that way. So I got that going for me, which is nice.

All in all, though, I guess the easiest way to FTP with Windows XP at this point is to do it through My Network Places. Just create a new Network Place as a shortcut to your server space and treat it like any other folder. Of course, that is only going to really be safe with a totally secure PC. At home or in your office, fine... but at the library, for instance, is another matter.

Now for quick links to two pieces of freeware that I don't think anyone should be without:

One is Irfanview, the image viewing/changing/manipulating software that I've used for years. Irfanview lets you do a lot of things with your images that few freeware programs allow. It can open pretty much any image format out there, and it has a great interface for creating thumbnails and HTML pages with your images. It's great. I've been using it since the '90's and I can't believe it's still free. If you're not using it, check it out.

The second is DVDShrink. It's quick and simple, and lets you make backup copies of your DVDs with little to no trouble. Plus, it gets around encryption and copy-proofing issues and allows you to make "region free" copies of your stuff. You have to actually burn the DVDs with your own burning software, but DVDShrink lets you create compact, compressed files that will fit on a DVD-R... and as far as my eye can tell, the compressed video still looks as good as the original copy.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


Three Quick'uns

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


Brief Items

Congrats to Kelly (of Paradoxes and Problems) and Dave (From The Mind Of Dave), who are expecting their first 80% daughter. Well, their first child, who is going to be 80% girl. That is to say, the technician who did the ultrasound is 80% sure of it. Oh, heck... Kelly explains it better than I do. Stop by her blog and check out the earliest of all possible baby pictures.

I want to join Ms. Elanaeous in Roanoke in expressing disgust at the way three local teenagers decided to behave during a recent trip to New York:

New York City police have charged three Roanoke County High school students with felonies for throwing buckets of paint off a hotel roof over the weekend.

The N.Y.P.D says 18-year-old Cave Spring high school senior Tyler "Moses" Moore, 18-year-old Cave Spring senior Sean McGhee and a 17-year-old Hidden Valley female student threw seven buckets of paint off their New York City hotel roof early Sunday morning.

Police say the cans hit several police cars and debris from one even hit an officer in the face.

The three students are all charged with criminal mischief, criminal trespass for being on the hotel roof and reckless endangerment and assault with intent to cause physical injury for throwing the paint cans.

All four of the charges the teens face are felonies.

I'd also like to extend an apology, for whatever it might be worth, to the good people of New York City, the NYPD, and just generally decent people everywhere. These three lunkheads don't represent the average Roanoker or the average Appalachian Virginian, and we're sincerely disappointed and embarrassed by their behavior. Feel free to cane 'em before you send 'em back.

Thanks to MCF, I was able to find out what it would look like if 1,024 Cheerleaders help up placards to form a picture of our basset hound, Chester:

Remember when David Blaine did interesting "magic" tricks? When was it that he changed from a magician into just another reject from MTV's Jackass?
Magician David Blaine left the hospital Tuesday where he had been admitted for observation after being submerged in an 8-foot fish bowl with an oxygen mask for a week followed by a 7-minute breath-holding stunt.

Rescue divers jumped into the 2,000-gallon saltwater tank Monday night and hauled up the magician as he struggled to break a breath-holding record of 8 minutes, 58 seconds. Blaine, who had spent some 177 hours under water, went without air for 7 minutes, 8 seconds as a finale to his endurance stunt.

After being given oxygen, Blaine, 33, looking weak and wrinkly, addressed the large crowd that had gathered around the tank on the plaza of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

The challenge had taken a toll on the magician’s body, including liver damage, pins and needles in his feet and hands, some loss of sensation and rashes, said Dr. Murat Gunel, who heads Blaine’s medical team and is associate professor of neurosurgery at Yale University School of Medicine.

(Emphasis above is mine.)

OK, remember that weird kid in elementary school? The one who'd do stuff like eat bugs and put mud in his hair to amuse the older kids, hoping that they'd be his friends? But, really, they were just making fun of him and he was too silly and sad to know it? That kid grew up to be David Blaine.

The stuff he's been doing isn't magic. It's a desperate cry for help. It's time that we, as a society, stopped enabling him. Calm down, David Blaine. It's OK. You don't have to be weird to get our attention. We like you as you are. Here... here's a deck of cards... show us one of your neat magic tricks, OK? Calm down, David. It's all going to be OK.

Monday, May 08, 2006


Ever Heard A Didgeridoo?

We hadn't either... but somehow we ended up on the topic and, next thing ya know, we'd found all the didgeridoo MP3s we think we'll ever need to download.

It's interesting... but I don't think it's gonna replace the electric guitar as my favorite instrument.

"Bun Bun Ga" is my favorite MP3 on the list. It has a good beat and you can dance to it, but be prepared to get weird looks if your wife walks in the room. The song really is kinda cool... It has a slow, mellow intro... kinda like "Black Country Woman" on Physical Graffiti. Once it gets going, though, it moves along to this really cool Pantera style riff that just stays in your head. Whether you want it to or not.


LEAVE The *($@ CELLPHONE In The %#$% CAR!

Wendy and I went to mass this morning, and I had kind of a transcendental experience while the priest was consecrating the Eucharist. Suddenly, during the most reverent and holy part of the whole service, I started hearing music. Classical music! That's right, the strains of beautiful classical music suddenly seemed to fill the air in the sanctuary.

Or, at least, they seemed to fill the pew in front of us.

Alas, shortly after the magnificent strains of music began to fill my ears, they were silenced again. The music stopped because the woman in front of us who'd BROUGHT HER CELLPHONE INTO THE SANCTUARY suddenly lunged toward her purse, grabbed the cell-phone, yanked it out of the purse and turned it off.

There's just nothing quite like an unexpected, loud, obnoxious classical-music ring-tone to really add a little variety to holy communion.

This all happened during the most important and reverential part of the mass; the very moment when Father had lifted the host in consecration. For those of us who believe in transubstantiation, the moment of consecration is of tremendous importance. I personally try to make mass, and especially the blessing of the Eucharist, a very reverent and humble experience. Taking in the presence of the Lord in the emblems themselves is very real and important to me. So the second part of mass, after the homily, is probably the time in my life when I'm at my most reverential. Now imagine that you've done the meditation, prayer and contemplation necessary to reach your own height of personal reverence... imagine that you're feeling that right now. Try to conjure up some memory of the last time you had that feeling.

Now, click play on the embedded midi file below.

Kinda takes you out of the moment, doesn't it? Go ahead, let that little midi file play for a while and try to sustain that reverent frame of mind, even if only for ten seconds. Now imagine that while all of this is going on there's a woman in front of you desperately grabbing items from her purse, hoping each time that the next thing she pulls out of her purse will be the one making the noise so she can stop it.

Alright, here's my point. I'll sum it up in six succinct words: LEAVE THE CELLPHONE IN THE CAR. When you're in church, do you really need to have your cellphone right with you? Do you REALLY have to be attached at the hip to that stupid thing? Maybe... oh, just MAYBE... isn't it possible that CHURCH is one place where there are things more important than the temporal accoutrements of modern life? Think about it, for pity's sake. Is there REALLY ANYONE who's call just can't wait long enough for you to spend an hour before God? Is there REALLY a call that important? So important that, if that call comes through, God is just gonna have to wait?

If nothing else, can't you just leave the stupid phone in the car as a courtesy to your fellow church-goers?

It's not enough to put the phone on vibrate, either. I don't want to see you digging around for that stupid vibrating thing and I don't want to have to hear even a whisper of your conversation.

Neither is it enough to turn the phone off. I don't want to see you turning it back on again the second that the service is ended. I don't want a reminder of who your real God is. I don't want to see you making the necessary adjustments as you get back to your real priorities.

For pity's sake... For God's sake.... if nothing else, for my sake, please leave the stupid cellphone in the car. Those of us who actually need to be in church will be eternally grateful.

Saturday, May 06, 2006


M.c.F.A.T. Twelve: Series Finale or Season Finale?

MCF has been hinting that he's done posting M.c.F.A.T. questionnaires... so for all I know, the current one might be the last one. Have we, in fact, now seen the last series of probing interrogations from the Nexus of Improbability? Only the cloaked one knows for sure.

1) What are some of your favorite season finale cliffhangers from your favorite shows over the years?

The first season finale cliffhanger I can remember... and, as far as I know, the one that established the trend wherein every show has to end each season with a cliffhanger episode... was the famous Who Shot J.R. cliffhanger episode of Dallas. When I was a kid in the summer of 1980, that was the burning question on everyone's mind. I even had one of the t-shirts pictured here.

Like I said, to my knowledge, Dallas invented the season-ending cliffhanger with that story arc. Dallas also famously turned the concept into a joke with the Season Eight Was A Dream cliffhanger resolution.

If I had to pick a favorite season ending cliffhanger, I suppose I'd pick the Who Shot Mr. Burns episode of The Simpsons. That's almost a default pick, partly because I think The Simpsons is the greatest show in the history of television and partly because it was such a funny parody of the whole season ending cliffhanger concept in the first place.

To be honest, I am not now a big TV watcher, and I never really was. I think I said once before in another M.c.F.A.T. that my favorite series finale (as opposed to season finale) would either be the last episode of Cheers or the last episode of Newhart.

I guess that, if I’m completely honest, I have to admit that I think that the season ending cliffhanger is an overdone cliché and one of the many things I don't like about television.

2) As we grow older time, at the very least by our perception of it, elapses faster and faster. True or false? Is it a good thing or a bad thing?

True. Absolutely true. It just makes sense. If you're a year old, from your perspective, a year is a lifetime. By the time you're two years old, a year is only half a lifetime. By the time you're ten years old, a year is only a tenth of a lifetime. Etc, etc, etc. I don't know that it's a good thing or a bad thing, but I'd guess it comes down to each person's outlook on life. I think a lot of it comes down to the attitude we choose to adopt. There are some people who are very old, chronologically, who are more alive than most teenagers.

3) What do you remember about your first day of school?

I had a Fat Albert lunch box... and, surprise, surprise! I was able to find a picture of the very one on the internet. Wow. Now that brings back some memories. Remember when lunchboxes were aluminum instead of plastic or vinyl? Those things were big and heavy, and you could really do some serious damage to the back of another kid's head with one of those.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

My first day of school revolved around my Fat Albert lunch box. The first thing I can remember happening was that right after we got to our classroom, the kid who sat in front of me turned around and told me that my Fat Albert lunch box was stupid.

What would you have done? Honestly, what choice did I have?

I picked up my Fat Albert lunch box and smashed him right in the back of the head with it.

Look, it was the first day in a new situation. A whole new culture, new turf to be staked out and divided up, new pecking orders to establish... the whole Lord of the Flies thing, right? I knew that there was basically little chance of me being the alpha male of Mrs. Anderson's class, but I was absolutely NOT going to be the painted bird, either. The kid who sat in front of me had to see that I wasn't going to let him call my Fat Albert lunch box stupid and get away with it. If I'd let that coast, what would have been next? Would he have told me that my Speedbuggy t-shirt was stupid, too? Didn't kids like him always eventually tell you that your Speedbuggy t-shirt was stupid unless you stopped them in their tracks? Had we learned anything from history if we'd not learned that?

So I clocked him. And I got sent to the office for it. I can't remember what my punishment was, but it didn't involve a Turkish prison sentence, so I think I made out OK.

Anyway, that day at lunch I decided that I didn't want to drink all of my carton of chocolate milk. So I closed it up and put it in my lunchbox. By the time we got back to the classroom, I'd left a trail of chocolate milk all the way from the cafeteria. The teacher freaked. Finally, once she calmed down, she explained to all of us that if we weren't going to finish our chocolate milk, we'd have to throw it away.

It wasn't the best day I ever spent in the public school system... and yet it really wasn't that different from all the ones that followed it, either.

4) What's the best thing to put on ice cream?

Magic Shell. Twix Magic Shell.

5) How do you defend the things you enjoy?

With my Fat Albert lunchbox.


Are we sure that's a who rather than a where? Is Liddy Wales the person who shot J.R.?

Man, I have no idea. Let me look into it.

OK, a quick look at Google Image Search for the search term Liddy Wales brings up, among other things, a picture of this guy. Therefore, the correct answer to the question "Who is Liddy Wales?" would have to be "This guy." I hope this resolves the matter. Let us never speak of it again.

Friday, May 05, 2006


Happy Friday: Go, Beetis! Go, Beetis!

My grandmother and a number of other relatives have had Diabetes. I am not trying to make fun of that awful disease by posting these two videos. However, I also have to admit that they're so silly that they make me laugh until I'm in physical pain:

And before you finish the workweek out, be sure and stop by the Hidden Blog and take a neat little test to find out how many earths we'd need if everyone on the planet lived the same lifestyle that you live. Name Hidden is kicking much butt with 6.3 earths. I'm not doing as well, as my results indicate:

Disclaimer: The pseudo-scientific survey used to determine how many planets you'd require is complete and total horse crap.

Even if it were possible to come up with such a figure (and it isn't), and even if that figure could be accurately calculated with just a few mouse clicks at somebody's website (and it can't), the people who've put that website together aren't living in mud-huts in the Serengeti. They're living thoroughly modern, wasteful lives... just like you and I... or they wouldn't have their own webpage designed to apply enough guilt to convince you to adopt their political views.

Remember, people who argue for their political views with guilt rather than logic do so for a reason. The reason is this: Logic isn't on their side. So continue to live your life, and try to live it as responsibly and in as much moderation as possible... but don't let propaganda like the Earth Day Footprint Quiz effect the way you think one way or the other. Scare tactics and guilt are always the weapons of choice by those who have no choice but to use them.


A Day Without Communists?

Who was really behind the "Day Without Immigrants" protests on Monday? Were immigrants and illegals really used simply as props for others with a more nefarious cause? Why were the marches and protests held on May 1, a communist holiday, rather than on May 5, a traditional Mexican holiday?

Could it be that honest immigrants and illegals with good intentions... many of whom are conservative, religious people with strong family values... are actually being manipulated by groups who advocate the violent overthrow of the government?

Che Guevara was the right hand of Fidel Castro during the communist revolution in Cuba. Guevara was responsible for the political torture and execution of thousands of dirt-poor Cubans in the '60's. How has he become the face of the modern struggle of immigrants?

What's really going on here? Do the events of May 1 lend credence to the beliefs of many that immigration reform is really a national security issue? Are the hard-working Mexican immigrants who really just want a better life for themselves and their families simply caught in the middle?

On The Fence Films has put together a short film that brings to light a number of startling questions. Watch it here.

Hat tip to Little Green Footballs.

Just for the record, I'm not suggesting that I have the answers. I'm still struggling to sort out this complex issue. Reliable studies indicate that the large majority of illegals from South America are Christian, conservative, and family-focused. Most of them would make better neighbors than the America-born neighbors I have now. Still, these questions have to be asked... and they have to be answered.

Thursday, May 04, 2006


ACLU: Anti-Common-Logic-Union

This is another Fred Phelps story. If you're not sure who Fred Phelps is, here's a bit of background:

Fred Phelps is a self-styled Baptist preacher and life-long Democrat from Topeka, Kansas. When Phelps is not busy campaigning for Al Gore and attending inaugurations for former President Clinton, Phelps like to spend his time spreading his "God Hates Fags" message.

Yep, he's a nutcase. And, no... I don't think it's fair to align him with the Democratic party any more than it's fair to align him with all Christians. But, hey, if I'm gonna try to paint a picture of the guy, I want to paint the whole picture. Leftist love to use this guy as a symbol for everything they hate about Christianity. Clearly some of us see him as a symbol of another group.

Now, read this and get up to date on Phelps and his latest stunt:

Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church is one of the most notorious anti-gay hate groups in the country. Consisting primarily of members of Phelps' family, it has traveled the country for years picketing funerals--most notoriously, Matthew Shepard's--and many other events that mourn for, celebrate, promote, or acknowledge the lives of lesbians and gay men. Not satisfied with this notoriety, Phelps' clan has taken to picketing the funerals of U.S. soldiers with bullhorns and signs reading "THANK GOD FOR IEDS" [improvised explosive devices] and "THANK GOD FOR DEAD SOLDIERS." Phelps' logic--to whatever extent that it can be called logic--is that soldier deaths (and the civilian casualties of 9/11) are signs of God's wrath against Americans for not persecuting lesbians and gays enough.

If you're not good and mad yet, look at a few pictures of these nutcases carrying out their "protests" at the funerals of soldiers:

Now, get this: The good people of the state of Kentucky decided that this BS was just unconscionable and they weren't going to have it. In March, Kentucky signed into law a ban on Phelps and his cronies protesting within 300 feet of a funeral. Sounds pretty reasonable, right? Of course it does. It does to me, and I'm sure it does to you... it sounds reasonable, in fact, to all reasonable people.

Which is why it's no surprise, I'm sure, that the ACLU is against Kentucky's law.

That's right, the ACLU is once again revealing itself for the America-hating group of slimeballs that it is by arguing on behalf of Fred Phelps and his ilk:

The American Civil Liberties Union's Kentucky chapter filed a federal lawsuit Monday on behalf of a man who sympathizes with the notoriously anti-gay Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church. The plaintiff, Bart McQueary, is challenging two new state laws that limit protests within 300 yards of a funeral...

... the Kentucky ACLU affiliate chose to take action on its own in defense of free speech. "The Commonwealth cannot prohibit free expression because it doesn't like certain activities," said Lili S. Lutgens, the staff attorney of the Kentucky chapter. "Nor can it suppress the speech of groups or individuals because it doesn't like the message. The First Amendment applies to all of us."

You got it, pal... the ACLU thinks that the best way to protect your constitutional rights... and my constitutional rights... is to guarantee Fred Phelps and his followers the right to show up at the funerals of fallen soldiers with the signs pictured above.

All of which compels me to, once again, make my standard offer to the ACLU:

I hope you'll excuse the hostility. It's just that some things really bring up the bile.

If you're wondering how these Phelps nutjobs can possibly justify their actions, go to Blonde Sagacity and watch a video of the daughter of Fred Phelps on Hannity and Colmes. Both Sean Hannity and Alan Colmes try to talk some sense into this troll of a woman and, of course, get nowhere.

Phelps and his wackjobs are almost beside the point, though. The focus, as far as I'm concerned, is the ACLU. Phelps and his followers are a small group of crazy people, and they're really best ignored. The fact that the ACLU is actually fighting for them, however, is beyond belief. To argue for something this disgusting in the name of an academic "freedom" is beyond the pale.


More Surgical Success

The only thing I have to complain about with my record of surgery is the frequency of it. Other than that, I seem to be pretty lucky. Just like last year, this year's lumbar discectomy was a "by-the-numbers" affair. I didn't feel that I had as much immediate relief afterwards... but I think that's because I was surprised by the level of immediate relief last year, whereas this year I was hoping for it. I set myself up for a letdown.

Oh, yeah, I had another incident wherein the hospital staff confiscated the contraband religious sacramental item I was trying to smuggle into the operating room. Last year I tried to sneak my rosary in with me... this year I just tried to leave my crucifix necklace on, but they took it away before they took me to pre-op. I've decided that next year, if I can afford it, I'm definitely getting a rosary tattoo, but not on the foot, like so many of the pictures in those links. I'm thinking I'll go for the arm or calf. Then I'll have a rosary with me... on me... at all times. Let's see them take that rosary away from me if I have to have surgery again! Ha ha ha! The joke's on you, heathen surgeons!

No, seriously, I have nothing but gratitude and appreciation for the staff at Lewis Gale Hospital and for my fine surgeon, Dr. Vascik. Once again, they've bailed me out. And thanks, too, to those of you who left good wishes for me here and at my wife's blog. It means a lot, and I hope you know how much it's appreciated.

Hey, I've just noticed that the spell-checker on Outlook Express wants to change the word "discectomy" into the word "disentomb." Should I be freaked out about that?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


More Surgery

I might be away from the blogosphere for a little while... I'm going in for more back surgery in the morning. I mentioned a week or so ago that my back was all messed up again, and it looks like another discectomy is just what the doctor ordered.

It is, in fact, exactly what the doctor ordered. He ordered it for tomorrow and he's going to perform it at Lewis Gale Hospital, which is a large, impressive hospital that looks extremely medical. I found out from the internet, though, that it used to be a smaller, less medical-looking building back about a hundred years ago. You can judge for yourself in the pictures to the left. Looking at the way that Lewis Gale Hospital looks now certainly inspires me to want to go in and have several of their best-selling kinds of surgery performed on me without delay. Looking at the way Lewis Gale Hospital looked back then, however, isn't quite so inspirational. I'd be reluctant to have a splinter removed in that antique looking building.

My doctor, once again, is Dr. James Vascik. You may remember him as the surgeon I described last year by saying that he reminded me of George C. Scott. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to have my surgery performed by Dr. Vascik this year because my employer changed my medical insurance from a reputable company to another company that seems to be managed by retarded, angry monkeys. Turns out that Dr. Vascik, saint that he is, accepts my crappy insurance company's version of medical insurance. So I’m glad to report that I'll be operated on again by the capable Dr. James Vascik... and I'm also glad to report that he still looks a bit like George C. Scott. If you're gonna have somebody stick a knife in you, you want that person to look like George C. Scott. Either George C. Scott or Clint Eastwood, anyway.

I learned from the internet that my surgeon also owns an award winning winery, which is also pretty cool. I just hope he saves the award winning wine for a post-surgery celebration. And I'm sure he will. Honestly, this guy is the kind of surgeon who inspires a lot of confidence.

Last year when Dr. Vascik went over my MRI films with me, I mentioned that the discs in the pictures reminded me of donuts. This year, Dr. Vascik actually compared my discs to "squashed jelly donuts." As you can imagine, hearing my discs compared to jelly donuts was very upsetting. After all, I prefer Boston creams.

And that's part of the problem. I'm going to have to lose weight or else I'm going to have to get used to constant back problems. So no more donuts of any kind for me. No more pizza, no more beer, no more chips and burgers and fries and shakes and thick steaks smothered in A-1... no more ice-cream and no more Cap'n Crunch and no more quart-sized bowls of pure cane sugar covered with maple syrup and marshmallows. I have to start eating healthy stuff like celery and lettuce and cardboard. Oh, well. It's either that or I can plan on surgery once a year for the rest of my life. I suppose I can put mustard on the cardboard.

Last year I had my surgery done at Roanoke Memorial, a big, fancy hospital that's made half out of brick and half out of glass and basically look's like God's vaporizer. Every time I drive past it I imagine a giant cloud of Vicks Vapor Steam coming out of the top of it.

This year I'm having the surgery at a hospital named for the two doctors who founded it in 1909... Dr. Joseph Gale and Dr. J.N. Lewis. One of them looks a bit like Wyatt Earp and the other one apparently only had one eye. A pirate? Maybe.

Cowboys, pirates, George C. Scott. Throw in a Jedi and this would all bode about as well as it possibly could.


First Listen Review: Tool - "10,000 Days"

A train leave San Francisco traveling east at one thousand miles an hour. At that moment, another train leaves Cambridge, England, traveling at one thousand miles an hour. The train that departed from San Francisco contains the music of heavy metal band Metallica. The train that left from Cambridge contains the music of legendary acid rock act Pink Floyd. Ignoring the obvious fact that the Atlantic Ocean separates the two trains, our supposition is that when the two trains collide, the resulting trainwreck produces the glorious, monstrous cacophony that is the music of the "acid metal" band Tool.

Tool is one of my favorite bands. In the top three. I think they're amazing musicians, and I'm always excited to hear their infrequent new album releases.

Tool's first album in five years (and only their fourth full-length album since '92) is released today. This is largely intended to be a "first listen" review of 10,000 Days..

Of course, dumbing-down Tool's music by saying it's a cross between Pink Floyd and Metallica is the easiest and silliest way to convey some sense of their sound to the uninitiated. There's a lot more going on in the confines of a Tool album than that simple description implies, and really the best way to discover their sound is simply to hear the band. I'd recommend picking up any of their full-length albums as a way to sample the band. They're one of the few great "album rock" groups that exists these days. Their work is almost always centered around the complete listening experience of an entire album; they aren't a singles band. Tool produce big, throbbing, loud, demanding albums. They pack a lot of sound and sonic force into about an hour of listening.

The thing is, appreciating Tool's amazing music is the only easy part of being a Tool fan. Tool's guitarist (Adam Jones) and drummer (Danny Carey) craft some of the most intricate, ambitious, and-yet catchy music in all of rock... so getting into the albums is a no-brainer. Being a fan of the band itself is more of a challenge. The band's singer, Maynard James Keenan, is an able and often amazing vocalist. Unfortunately, he's also the classic posturing, self-possessed, B.S. rock star. In true Jim Morrison fashion, Keenan sees himself as a poet/prophet/rock-star for the ages, and his fans (as distinct from Tool fans) lap up his pronouncements like Mother's Milk. Keenan's meanderings run the gamut from frequently thoughtful observations to juvenile pranks engineered solely to offend those he looks down on. For fans of progressive rock/metal, listening to the guy sing is a sublime experience. For people over thirty, however, his off-stage antics are just annoying.

Being a Tool fan is also difficult because, based on my experience, 99.9999% of the other Tool fans in the world are complete a-holes. For one thing, many of them presume that, if you're a Tool fan, you buy into all of Maynard's anti-Christian, anti-Conservative, "forward thinking" garbage. It never crosses their minds that you can enjoy a guy's singing and never once give a crap about the words he's singing, much less the words he says in the press. Based on my experience, Tool fans are often so pretentious and goofy that they're downright funny. You know the comic book guy on The Simpsons? Imagine him with cheesy tattoos and dirty hair. Now imagine him wearing a "Tool" t-shirt. Now, imagine him telling you that you obviously don't really get Tool's music... that he really gets Tool's music... and that you don't deserve to call yourself a Tool fan. Now, bite your lip and struggle to control that fist that seems to want to nest in his face. The great irony is that the silliness of their fans isn't lost on the band itself, given the vulgar (but spot-on) lyrics to one of their songs.

The new Tool album 10,000 days is playing as I write these words. Here are my first impressions.

Track one - Vicarious Wow. Great, great rock track. Man, I love Adam Jones and his nack for riffs. I can't understand people who consider Tool inaccessible. This song is a prime example of how damned catchy Tool's music can be. Catchy and complex at the same time. You don't always see where a song is going, but it is always rewarding when it gets there. Wow. This song is like a freight train. I'm back to the train references. Great song.

Track two - Jambi This one doesn't grab me right away. OK, now it has me. Damn, Adam Jones knows his way around a guitar. To hell with Keenan, for me, Tool has always been about Jones. I guess that's why I never got into "A Perfect Circle." Maynard without Adam is like jelly without peanut-butter. Wow. OK, there it is... that tightening-of-the-gut that you get from an insanely good rock song. Yeah, this is Tool. Damn. Man!

Track three - Wings For Marie Sounds like a Tool "intro," like Parabol on the last album. This could really end up as something amazing, like Parabol's second half, Parabola. Actually, this is more accessible than Parabol was. I don't think this is as easy to predict as those two tracks on the previous album were. This song is building to it's own force, it isn't necessarily just an intro. Sounds good. Swelling. Taking off.

Track four - 10,000 Days Alright, this is where Wings was going. It doesn't begin with a sonic boom like Parabola did. If Parabol was really just an intro to Parabola, then Wings and 10,000 Days seem to really qualify as more of a two-song suite. Building slowly. Hey, cool... thunder, rain sound effects. That's actually the first time I've heard that effect used without a cheesy result since the first Black Sabbath album. It actually works here. Man, this is good. The song is going somewhere without the typical rock bombast. Nice. This song conjures up images from the trailer for the upcoming film Apocalypto. It does for me, anyway. I'm loving this. This is my favorite song on the album so far. Wow.

Track five - The Pot A cappella intro. Wow. Never heard that in Tool music before. OK, here comes the bass, guitar, etc. Oh, yeah... good ol' Tool riffing. Nice bass. Fat bass sound. Good groove. Justin Chancellor on bass really stands out here. I guess this is a "pallet cleanser" after the last track. More of a "classic" Tool sound. Reminds me of the stuff on Undertow. OK, yeah... here we go. Sounds great. This is one of those songs that needs to be played loud. I gotta crack this a little bit. Oh, yeah. This works. Good track!

Track six - Lipan Conjuring OK, this has intro written all over it. It's like the silly little "transitional" tracks that the band threw into the otherwise awesome album AEnima. This is a little odd. It's native American chanting or something. OK, whatever, as long as it's not eight minutes of this kind of thing.

Track seven - Lost Keys Lipan Conjuring was just a short transitional track. We're into the next outright song now. Slow Adam Jones guitar intro. Sounds pretty good. OK, spoken word stuff. Theatrics; a nurse talking to a doctor. What's this, then? Operation: ToolCrime? I don't know what this is supposed to be about, it sounds like filler to me.

Track eight - Rosetta Stoned Alright, Lost Keys was an intro. That's fine. Here we go. Whoa. Weird vocals. Cool. I kinda like this. Odd song. Good guitar part. Oh, yeah... this works. Wow. Good deal. Could have done without the hokey intro, but this works really well. I like it. Oh, MAN! Oh, MAN! DAMN! Yeah, this is it. This is the good stuff. This album is going to OWN my CD player this summer. Man, this sounds so damn good. ... ... ... OK, we're at the four minute mark in an eleven minute song and I'm anticipating a tempo change and not getting one. This could get a little bit monotonous. We'll see. ... ... ... alright, seven minute mark and I'm into it again. Good bass, drums... It isn't going to turn into a Ticks and Leeches kind of thrasher like I was expecting, but it still works. Good track. Again, the Apocalypto kind of thing. I'm into it.

Track nine - Intension More sound effects. I'm getting a little tired of the sound effects. I guess I was expecting more of a Lateralus kind of album.... just more of a straight-forward music-focused thing. I guess that's what I get for thinking I knew what to expect from Tool. You should never think you know what to expect from Tool. This is pretty good, though. Good sound. Let's see where it goes... ... ... I like what Carey's doing percussion-wise. That's going to be what gets me into this song eventually, but I don't think this is the kind of song that'll grab me in the first few listens.

Track ten - Right In Two Seamless transition. I didn't notice the track had changed until I noticed the big change in direction of the music. ... ... ... OK, six minute mark and I'm LOVING this song. The first part up 'til here reminded me a bit of Jimmy on AEnima... now this is reminding me of that album's title track. Which is fine, a band with a sound as distinctive as Tool is going to be a bit self-derivative from time to time. Damn, this song sounds good. This is going to be one of those songs that I really look forward to hearing on this album. Wow. Good track.

Track eleven - Viginti Tres Alright, one of those soundscape type things to close the album. One of those tracks that would only work after listening to the whole album at one time. The kind of thing Tool does all the time. Remember, they're an album-oriented band. This is really creepy sounding stuff. Weird noises, voices, etc. It works as an album closer. It's giving me some serious chills! Creepy, man. Kinda like the first time you hear that guy ranting from the "Art Bell" show at the end of Lateralus. Wow. Freaky.

Overall, I have to say that this album is really good, based on the first listen. I don't think I'll like it as much as Lateralus, my favorite Tool album... but then again, the first time I heard Lateralus, I didn't think I'd like it as much as AEnima... and I didn't originally think I'd like AEnima as much as Undertow... so, heck, ya never know.

Wow. New Tool. My summer's listening is pretty much planned out for me now.

Monday, May 01, 2006


Dance, Mohammed, Dance!!

Click this graphic for a good time:

Translation: Our prophet can out-boogie your prophet.

Hat tip to my blogging buddy with the facial bandages.

Or maybe you'd rather check out some Peter Griffin Kung-Fu action:

Hat tip on that one to MCF.

Or, if you're feeling kinda angry and kinda dumb, you can go play Border Patrol, the internet flash game where the goal is to kill illegal aliens. Click the link below, stop thinkin' and start shootin'. Yeee-haw, etc.

I was tipped off to that one by ABC News.

They call him Dr. Love:

Philip Winikoff is seen in an undated police photograph. Winikoff, claiming to be a doctor, went door-to-door in a Florida neighborhood offering free breast exams...

Gosh, I dunno... maybe the women should have been tipped off by the fact that he was wearing this t-shirt:

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