Friday, June 30, 2006

 

Superman, Church Music, And The Ubiquitous Metallica Mention



More of the usual… religion, rock and roll, and at least one post that's about both:


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Thursday, June 29, 2006

 

Mary, Marketing, Mutants, Movies, Metallica



Here's today's ramblings and absurd observations...



That's all I got for today… and, frankly, that's plenty.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

 

AOL And The Myth Of Customer Service



Like just about everyone else in the world, Wendy and I both cut our internet teeth with America Online. We no longer use it, but there have been a couple of times over the years when "exciting new features" promised in the latest version have lured us back to try it out again. We've always figured out pretty quickly that the "exciting new features" were really the same old crap packaged differently… or else they were AOL's versions of services that could be obtained in a better form elsewhere. So we were lured back a couple of times and we ended up canceling our membership shortly thereafter both times.

The thing I remember most was that canceling an AOL membership was like pulling teeth. The sales reps that I spoke with were extremely pushy and determined to talk me out of canceling. They'd beg, bargain, argue… they'd do everything except provide me with actual customer service. Since I was an AOL customer and since I wanted my account canceled, it's my opinion that acceptable customer service would have been to simply cancel my account without hassling me about it.

The last time we canceled an AOL account, the telephone interaction with the service rep went so badly that I ended up actually yelling "JUST CANCEL THE DAMN ACCOUNT!" about three times before the guy finally agreed to do what I wanted. I'm not proud of that, I shouldn't have yelled, I shouldn't have sworn. I do believe, though, that if I hadn't sunk to that level, I'd have been on the phone with him for probably ten more minutes.

Apparently, I'm not the only person who's had this kind of trouble with AOL.

If you haven't seen Vincent Ferrari tell his AOL horror story on the news, check out the YouTube clip below:



Check out Vincent's blog, Insignificant Thoughts, where you can read his post about the incident with AOL. You can also click here to here the entire, unedited tape of the phone call with the AOL rep.

Hopefully, this will have a snowball effect and maybe… just maybe… lead to some positive changes at AOL. They're share of the ISP pie is smaller and smaller every day. They need to give people reasons to want their services instead of reasons to believe that signing up with AOL is like making a deal with the devil.


Tuesday, June 27, 2006

 

Da Vinci, Darth Vader, DMV, Etc, Etc...



I've reviewed The Da Vinci Code at film geeks if you care.

And thanks to the Unseen Blogger, I've also been insulted by Darth Vader while he tried to guess what I was thinking of in 20 guesses.

By the way, he didn't pull it off. It took him 23 guesses! HA!

By the way, if you've got any reason to think about moving to Virginia, you can go to the state's DMV website and get a virtual version of your personalized plates all ready to go.

And let me tip my hat to Strange Culture, who clued me in to a really worthwhile blogging effort. Check it out if you'd like to pay tribute to one of the people who died on September 11, 2001.


Monday, June 26, 2006

 

Monday Links



Just a few things I stumbled across on the 'net and the blogosphere this morning:




Saturday, June 24, 2006

 

Does That Make Me Crazy?



I mentioned the other day that my favorite current hit song is Crazy by Gnarls Barkley. The chorus of the song is "Does that make me crazy?" That chorus inspired the introspection that lead to these observations about myself:




Friday, June 23, 2006

 

Friday Fundamentals: A Return To My Roots



With my bandwidth issues behind me (at present), let me get back to what I do best: irresponsible, extremist right-wing tirades:




Wednesday, June 21, 2006

 

Bandwidth Theft: Summation



One week ago tonight I checked the server stats at darwen.us (our family site) and noticed that about 70 percent of the bandwidth getting pumped out was actually being stolen. Stolen by a process called hotlinking, which had been done by various MySpace-Cadets, assorted forum posters, and sundry other internet riffraff.

I won't bother to recap everything that's happened between now and then. I blogged about all of it and it's in the archives if you care to read it.

Suffice it to say that I tried everything I can think of to solve the problem:



So far, here's what I've figured out how to do:

01) Check my server stats and see how much bandwidth is being stolen.

02) Express my frustration with several vulgar words and a grunt.

03) Move all of our family blogs to our central server space so that stolen bandwidth is easier and quicker to find among my stats. No more long hours will have to be spent combing the stats, looking for bandwidth fraud. I can catch 'em at a glance. In short, if a file is going anywhere other than darwen.us or one of it's subdirectories, it's a big red flag.

04) Continue changing the graphics being stolen so that they lead to something other than what the bandwidth thief thinks he or she is getting.

So I guess that's how I'll continue to handle the situation. However, instead of taking the trouble to create an elaborate and time-consuming graphic with the goal of embarrassing the bandwidth thieves, I'm simply going to replace everything they steal with this huge, obnoxious, ugly graphic. Hopefully, this ugly thing will so badly screw up the look of their pages that they'll notice it right away and take it down.

In the meantime, thanks to all of you who've put up with my ranting about this topic. Thanks, also, to those of you who've taken the time to update our links (mine, Wendys, and film geeks) at your blogrolls. Your kindness is honestly appreciated.

And thank you to my wife, who has put up with me during what has honestly been an unhealthy obsession. I've actually lost sleep about this.

You'll also notice that there's a new Department at SouthCon. This department is simply called Bandwidth Thieves, and it's just a post where I'll expose people when I catch them. I scrapped an old post so I could hide this thing deep in the blog. Mostly because I'm a little sick of it. If this kind of thing interests you (and I guess that's possible), feel free to check that department from time to time. I must admit, I do enjoy exposing them.

And, with that, other than in that one specific department, I don't intend to ever mention the topic here at SouthCon again.

Until the next time I think about it and get good and PO'd and wanna gripe about it.


Monday, June 19, 2006

 

Still Working On Code



Still trying to prevent bandwidth jacking. No luck so far.


Sunday, June 18, 2006

 

Working On The Bandwidth Theft Thing...



...so things might look kinda screwy around here for a while. I'm trying to learn some new kinds of coding. Meantime, if SouthCon looks weird, that's because as of yet, I don't know what I'm doing. Be patient.


Saturday, June 17, 2006

 

MyWar 5... A Quick Update



I got an e-mail from a Karen Swain KarenKaren07@hotmail.com which simply said "Thanks for the VD." Well, I assumed that she was one of the MySpace-Cadet Bandwidth suckers who'd been stealing my bandwidth. So I checked to see who'd recently taken the "smartbomb" banner down and came across two.

One was our buddy "Terry" (you might remember him from yesterday's post). Terry decided to stop stealing my bandwidth and no longer has a social disease. Good for you, Terry.

I also found that someone who calls herself Sonia Pneumonia had wised up and taken the banner down. Could Sonia Pneumonia possibly be Karen Swain?

I noticed that Sonia Pneumonia listed herself as living in Santa Cruz, California. So I did a Google Search for Karen Swain and Santa Cruz. One of the things I came across was an East Bay Municipal Utility District Directory in PDF form, which does have a listing for a Karen Swain ... with phone numbers and everything. I think there's a good chance that we've got a positive ID on this culprit. ;)

So, Sonia Pneumonia, all I can say is that you never know what you might end up with when you suck on a stranger's bandwidth. I hope you learned your lesson.

The war continues....


 

MyWar Part 4: The Jihad Against MySpace Continues...



If you're not up to date on my little personal war against MySpace, you might want to read over some of the previous day's posts. Or, you can settle for the Readers Digest version, which is as follows:

Point One: This is a picture of the MySpace users who have been stealing my bandwidth:


Point Two: This is a picture of me:



So now, on with the latest.



Striking back at bandwidth thieves is downright addictive.



It's safe to say that I'll be using the "MySpace smartbomb" banner as a replacement for EVERY bit of code that a MySpace-Cadet jacks from me from now on. It's a good multi-purpose banner, and I'm sure it'll accomplish my goal regardless of who ends up displaying it through bandwidth theft.


Friday, June 16, 2006

 

Me Vs. Myspace... Part 3



Read part one and part two if you're not up to date so far.

It is amazing to me how many of these MySpace users just don't bother to check their websites. That Vonnegut picture that they'd been bandwidth jacking from me... the one I changed into a Larry the Cable Guy image.... well, most of them still have it up at their site.

Somebody offered me a good explanation for that:

I was told that most of these MySpace users are just looking for someone to hook up with... they don't really care about their site, they just create it and let it sit there and hope that the e-mails and instant messages start rolling in.

Apparently, from what I'm told, MySpace is just used as a quick and meaningless way to arrange a quick and meaningless date.

Once that knowledge sunk it, the whole Larry the Cable Guy graphic seemed futile.

Therefore, the code that once linked to a Vonnegut picture... and that then linked to a Larry the Cable Guy picture... now links to the banner below:



If you're still seeing Larry there, hit refresh so the new banner will load. I think that maybe I'm going to replace every bandwidth-jacked image of mine with this banner from now on.

Here's a list of the MySpace sites that are still stealing my bandwidth. This is just BOUND to get their attention and get them to stop stealing my bandwidth, right? You can check them whenever you feel like it and see if they've wised up or not... and I'll update this list, just like I've been updating the original Larry list.

Remember, you may have to hit the REFRESH button to see the new banner.

Let's start out with this one.

Then this one. Update: Thanks to The Governor for pointing
out this one... one of this moron's friends has noticed
the poster and left a comment: "What the hell? You better
take down that VD poster, Terry."


Here's one.

Here's another.

And another.

Here's still one more.

And another.

One More.

Hey, how about another?

This guy has the banner in his "Who I'd Like To Meet" list.

And another one.

Yet another.

Here's one last one.

This war, of course, will continue until they stop stealing my bandwidth... or until the English have me drawn and quartered with me screaming "FREEDOM!! the whole time.

They can take my bandwith. They can steal my graphics. But they can never take away my honor.


Thursday, June 15, 2006

 

My MySpace Campaign Continues



If you didn't read yesterday's post about how I'm striking back at the MySpace Bandwidth vampires, then go read this first. If you did read it, you might want to check it anyway, as you'll notice that I'm keeping tabs and posting updates.

Anyway, I've been checking the stats and finding a TON more instances of bandwidth theft by MySpace-Cadets. And, of course, I've been messin' with 'em.

Now, keep in mind that any one of these doofuses could notice the changed image and get rid of it at any time, and then the fun is over. But, surprisingly, sophimost of them seem to be staying up for a while.

Today, I'm not taking the time to craft elaborate images, like the Larry the Cable Guy graphic. I just don't have the time... instead, I'm just pulling random, obtuse images from the net. I don't have time to get elaborate today. I DO, however, want to make sure that these MySpacers get Punk'd.

I have no idea how long the images will remain up before any given MySpace-Cadet notices what's happened and makes a change, but in the meantime, here are a few that you might get a chuckle out of:



That's all I have time for today. But rest assured... this war is far from over.


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

 

How I Screwed The MySpace Bandwidth Vampires



(Update: I'll be posting the latest on the MySpace links below when I notice that they've stopped jacking my bandwidth. If you see one that's changed, let me know.)

Alright, so I was checking my server stats today and noticed I was getting a heck of a lot of hits from MySpace. I figured What the ever-lovin' HECK is going on here?"

I looked into it and found out that I was being jacked for bandwidth.

You see, some time ago, I put up a picture of Kurt Vonnegut at in a post at film geeks. It was this picture here:



When I got to looking around at some of the MySpace sites that were tagging my server space, I saw what was happening. See, these MySpace losers were using my Vonnegut picture on THEIR website. Now, don't get me wrong, if they wanted to download it and put it up on THEIR OWN server space, that'd be fine with me. How do you think I got the picture in the first place? I got it the same way they did: by doing a Google Image search and finding it.

The difference is, I saved the picture on my own server space. These losers on the other hand just jacked my code and pulled the picture right off my server, using up MY BANDWIDTH for THEIR STUPID MYSPACE PAGES!

As you might imagine, I felt a bit violated.

If you want to see some quick examples of the MySpace pages that were using my image, pulling it right off of MY server, you can click for thumbnails here and here and here and here and here.

Of course, you know that this meant war.

I looked around at their MySpace sites a bit and asked myself... "what's the best way to get back at these pretentious, smug little snot-noses?"

It didn't take long to come up with an answer. I simply changed the code of the old Vonnegut picture and then created a new image and loaded it up on the server with the same name as the oldVonnegut picture.

This is the new image I created:



So that means that the MySpace scumbags are still stealing my bandwidth... or, at least, they will be until they eventually notice that where they once had a picture of their beloved counter-culture hero Kurt Vonnegut they now, instead, have a picture of that abrasive idiot Larry the Cable Guy.

I encourage you to check these MySpace profiles for yourself... just as a little experiment to see how long it takes them to find out that they're now promoting Larry as their favorite comedian.

Here's one of them. Update: Replaced with a picture of
Eeyore as of 6/16.


Here's another one.

Here's another.

And another.

Here's still one more.

And another. Update: Replaced With Keira Knightley as of
about 10:30 PM, 6/14. And that makes sense: "Kurt Vonnegut,
Keira Knightley, whatever...as long as I seem like Mr. Cool Guy, right?"


And another.

One More.

Hey, how about another?

This guy has Larry in his "Who I'd Like To Meet" list.

And yet one more. Update: Replaced with a new picture of
Vonnegut, this time jacked from another site. Wendy noticed
the change about 9:30 AM Thursday 6/15.


And another one.

Yet another.

Here's one last one.

So let that be a lesson to all you little MySpace idiots. Steal SouthCon's bandwidth, get SouthPunk'd.

Word.


 

Big Piece Of Pi, Thieves With Bad Taste, Hitler Youth, Etc



These stories caught my eye because one of them involves a semi-local kid... one involves an area local to where Wendy used to live... and one involves an area where I used to live...




Tuesday, June 13, 2006

 

Play The Spot The Fake News Game



What follows are my summaries of five news items. One of these news stories is from the parody site, The Onion. The other four are real, legitimate news stories. Can you figure out which one is fake without checking the links?






After you've finished and figured out which story is fake, check out Strange Culture, where I first learned about one of the real stories.

And then, if you've got nothing better to do, read my new review of Contact at film geeks.


Saturday, June 10, 2006

 

Church Chat



Just a few notes about some news stories that caught my eye because they specifically mentioned my faith:

Catholic Pharmacist Fired

A federal judge has supported Wal-Mart for firing a Catholic pharmacist who refused to fill prescriptions for birth control:
(Judge John) Shabaz said Wal-Mart and Medical Staffing Network accommodated (Pharmacist Neil) Noesen's religious opposition to contraception by having other pharmacists fill prescriptions. But he said Noesen went too far by putting customers who called about birth control on hold indefinitely and refusing to get service for those who showed up in person without notifying other pharmacists.

Noesen's firing was justified because he was disruptive and failed to meet Wal-Mart's expectations, the judge wrote in his 12-page ruling.

This is a tough one for me. I share the pharmacist's religious beliefs about birth control. So I sympathize with Mr. Noesen. Nonetheless, he took a job where he just had to know that he'd be expected to act in opposition to his religious beliefs. My gut reaction: It sounds like Wal-Mart went out of their way to help the guy observe his beliefs, but they just couldn’t make it work. I hope he's able to find a job where he can use his training in a way that's consistent with the religious beliefs that I share with him.




Nicole Kidman Is Catholic?

Wow. I never knew that. It might explain why she wasn't able to make things work with Tom "Scientology" Cruise. Nicole is now engaged to marry the country singer Keith Urban, and apparently wants to return to her religious roots as well... at least, according to this story:
"For Nicole, you know this is a spiritual homecoming, coming back to the church and her faith in her old parish," said Jesuit Father Paul Coleman, a longtime friend of the Kidman family who advised them on the annulment of Kidman's marriage with Tom Cruise.

Father Coleman is chaplain at Mary Mackillop Chapel in North Sydney, one of two Jesuit-run parishes in the Sydney Archdiocese. In January, Kidman mentioned the chapel as a possible wedding venue. The Kidman family lives nearby, and the parish is where Nicole and her sister, Antonia, went to school. Kidman, accompanied by her parents, Anthony and Janelle, attended Good Friday and Easter Sunday services there.

Alright. Well, I think Nicole Kidman has done some good work in some good movies... and I think Keith Urban is a really annoying pseudo-country singer... and I wish them both the best.




Randall Terry, Catholic Convert

The founder of Operation Rescue has apparently come home to the Mother Church:
Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue, left his evangelical moorings and quietly joined the Roman Catholic Church. Now a Republican candidate for the Florida Senate, Mr. Terry heads an entity known as the Society for Truth and Justice.

In a delayed disclosure, he told the National Catholic Register he was finally able to surmount the "theological hurdles" of papal infallibility, Marian dogma, and purgatory. He was confirmed in the faith by a long-time priest friend during Easter week at a church in Binghamton, N.Y.

Mr. Terry, 46, founded Operation Rescue in 1987 and led it for its first seven years. He was arrested more than 40 times during civil-disobedience protests at abortion centers, and served jail sentences. Lawsuits stemming from those protests forced him into bankruptcy in 1998.

I share Mr. Terry's opposition to abortion, although there have been times that he's said things that rubbed me the wrong way. I agree with him that abortion is wrong and that life is sacred, but I haven't always agreed with his methods. Still, it's better to do something to try to get folks to wake up to the horror of abortion than to do nothing at all. That's not the point, though. The point is, Randall Terry has come home. Welcome home, Randall.




The LA Times Bashes Benedict And Picks Open Old Wounds

Daniel Jonah Goldhagen wrote the following about Pope Benedict's recent visit to Auschwitz in an LA times editorial:

Benedict's historical fabrication to Christianize the Holocaust is ... a moral scandal because it obscures the troubling truth about the Catholic Church: Its churches across Europe tacitly and actively participated in the Jews' persecution. Pope Pius XII, the German bishops, French bishops, Polish church leaders and many others, animated by anti-Semitism, supported or called for the persecution of the Jews (though not their slaughter). Some, such as Slovakian church leaders and Croatian priests, actively endorsed or participated in the mass murder.

Since Vatican II, the church has forcefully condemned anti-Semitism, even declaring it a sin. Yet Benedict stood in Auschwitz negligently silent.

Benedict has shown much goodwill in continuing to improve the church's relations with Jews today. But with his whitewashing of the past — exonerating both the German perpetrators and the church, universalizing the Holocaust and deemphasizing its purely anti-Jewish thrust — he turns the clock back on what the Catholic Church had, in the decade before his papacy, been acknowledging: that the church must confront the anti-Semitism of its past, that many Catholics participated in the Jews' persecution; that the church should have aided the assaulted people more.


Oh, Lord, where do I begin.

First of all, there is ample evidence to exonerate Pope Pius of complicity in the Holocaust. But some people have decided that Pius is, was, and will remain a Holocaust villain in their eyes, regardless of the facts. Nothing will change their minds. Oh, well.

Secondly, It seems evident to me that, to people like Goldhagen, any real reconciliation between Christendom and Judaism would actually be counter to his goals. People like Goldhagen and his ilk make their living by creating and maintaining divisiveness and conflict. There's nothing much we can do to change that either.

Look, I don't propose to speak for all Christians... but I can speak for myself and I feel somewhat comfortable speaking for the Christians in my family and the Christians I know. Here's the thing: We have tremendous respect and love for Judiasm and the Jewish people. We see them as our Older Brothers in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Yes, the Holocaust was a terrible thing and it should never have happened. Yes, surely there was more that Christendom could have done to stop it. But rather than focus on the past, can't we try to heal those wounds and try to be more united instead of further apart? After all, there is a new Holocaust going on in the world right now... Maybe we should pay a little more attention to the present.

Just remember to get all of the facts when you read something as hateful and venomous as Goldhagen's editorial.


Friday, June 09, 2006

 

McFAT 13



It's baaaaaack.

1) What were some of your scariest vehicular experiences, either behind the wheel or as a passenger?

I've been in two serious wrecks, both while listening to Metallica at full blast on my car stereo.

The first was entirely my fault. I was, like, 18 years old and driving irresponsibly. I had Disposable Heroes BLASTING, and I ran a red-light. I hit a Ford Bronco. I was driving a Ford Escort. Both of us were going about 40 MPH. Nobody was seriously injured, although I did get flung into the car windshield and my forehead shattered it. My left side slammed against the driver-side door so hard that I actually embedded the window crank into the car door. I had a big bruise on my arm from that for weeks. I remember walking around at the wreck site, spitting out glass, waiting for the cops and my parents to arrive. Basically, it scared me straight. I've been a careful driver ever since.

Which is why my second accident was not my fault. An old man ran a stop sign and plowed into my car (the same Ford Escort). I was listening to side two of ...And Justice For All at the time, but I'm not absolutely certain what song was playing. I think it was Harvester. Anyway, this time the Escort was totaled. They had to cut me out of the car with the jaws of life and everything. I had a sprained neck, but other than that I was OK. However, since I was complaining of neck pain, of course they strapped me to a gurney and took me to the hospital in an ambulance (Wheeeee!) and did a bunch of x-rays and stuff.

The lesson I've learned is that one shouldn't drive around blasting Metallica at full volume. Unfortunately, I have never once practiced the lesson I learned. I still drive around blasting Metallica on a nearly daily basis.

2) Are you going anywhere fun this Summer, and does Summer even mean the same to you as it did when you were younger?

We try to take summer trips with the kids every year. Amusement parks, natural wonders, museums, etc. This year, with me having missed so much work due to my surgery and because of the surgical bills, we'll have to restrict ourselves to free stuff... hikes, picnics, etc. All of which can be as much fun as anything else. Now that I'm a parent and get to plan the summer trips and get to vicariously experience the fun through our kids, summer trips mean more to me than ever.

3) What was your favorite childhood toy, and how did it influence you over the course of your life?

This is a picture of me on Christmas day when I was eight years old:



'Nuff said.

4) Speaking of childhoods, since I cast a Thundercats movie, Rey cast a Dungeons & Dragons movie, and Wendy made a comment about casting Atlas Shrugged, now it's your turn. Choose a cartoon, novel or other favorite work of fiction that's never been made into a movie, and tell us who you'd like to see star in it. If you're among those who’ve done this exercise before, of course you can do it again with something different.

Ah, crap.

The Shining is my favorite novel, but it's already been filmed twice... once for the big screen and once for TV.

I'd pick a comic book, but nearly all of them have already been made into movies, too.

I'm going to go over to my bookshelf and pick a book at random with my eyes closed. Be right back.

Oh, crap. This is the book I picked: The New Complete Brittany by Maxwell Riddle. This is a training guide for owners of Brittany spaniels, such as our dog Tilda. Not that there's anything wrong with this book. It is, in fact, a very useful book for owners of Brittany Spaniels, especially those who hope to train their dogs for bird hunting. Brittanys are natural born bird dogs.

How am I supposed to cast this book?

Alright, to the extent that our own dog would have a walk-on in the movie, I suppose she should be played by Tilda Swinton. Wendy and I have both been big Tilda Swinton fans for a long time, and that's why we named our dog after her. I think she could probably do a good job playing our dog, too. All she'd have to do is bound into a room on all-fours, jump up on the couch, lick everyone's face, and then lay in the floor and chew manically on one of her own legs for a few seconds... then drift off to sleep. I can see Tilda Swinton in that role. I think she could convey some real sense of the Brittanyness of our dog.

I've just flipped through the book looking for a picture of Maxwell Riddle himself, but there isn't one. I'm not sure who should play him. His name is rather enigmatic, don't you think? Riddle. Something about that name is mysterious. He's clearly an authority on the breed, and yet he's a bit of a puzzle. An authority and a mystery.... Who can pull that off?

Alright, Lawrence Fishburne should play Maxwell Riddle. He'd be kinda like Morpheus in the Matrix movies, only instead of helping people escape the false-reality of the Matrix, he'd be helping Brittany spaniels learn to get along in the human world. He'd say things to our dog like:

The house is a system, Tilda... but the system is your enemy. You look around, what do you see? Carpets? Linoleum? All of which you want to poop on. But remember, you are dependent upon the humans for your sustenance. You must use the system of the humans to get what you want. You want that which is known to us as the doggie treat. You want the scratching on the ear. Use the system, Tilda. Use the doorway. Go through the doorway. Poop outside. But remember, once you go through that doorway, once you poop outside, there's no coming back to poop inside.


As far as casting the other characters, I don't really know. There are some cute puppies pictured in the book. I think they should all be played by Dakota Fanning. Use CGI to replicate her so she can play all the puppies at once... just like they did with Hugo Weaving in the second Matrix movie.

Another Matrix connection.

You know, the more I work on this, the more I realize that my book on how to train Brittany Spaniels was really just a big Matrix rip-off from the start. And, to think, the first time I read it, I thought it was really original. I feel so stupid.

5) Your Current Age/2 = A
A + (A/2) = B
Your Current Age = C


If you say so.

What was your favorite pizza topping at A, B, and C respectively?(Providing the numeric values of A, B, and C is of course optional).

Oh, it's a two part question? Wait a minute. Let me go back and read the first part again.

5) Your Current Age/2 = A
A + (A/2) = B
Your Current Age = C


I don't know what that means. I don't like math. Numbers frighten me and make me uncomfortable. I hate and fear change. Please make the spinning stop. Make the spinning stop, I beg you. Please.

What was that about Pizza again?

What was your favorite pizza topping at A, B, and C respectively?(Providing the numeric values of A, B, and C is of course optional).

Oh, man. Oh, man. Oh, God, oh, man. Providing the respective numberistric values for my favorite pizza toppings, I would have to say that the answer is 5. Please tell me if I'm right.

I do like pizza. But, I like to eat it rather than do math with it.


SPECIAL BONUS QUESTION: If you could know one thing about MCF that you didn't, what would it be?

The same question that every guy eventually asks every guy buddy of his... if you had to pick one of the original Charlie's Angels, which one would it be?

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Back To Basics



Alright, Copyright Violation Week officially ended with my last post... now it's back to my regular schtick: irresponsible right-wing propaganda, flagrant acts of liable committed against well-meaning liberals, and just your basic nutcase conservative extremist raving. You know how we do, dawg.




The Many Faces of Al-Zarqawi


I think I like the one in the middle best.

Yes, it is wrong, uncharitable and unChristian to rejoice at anyone's death... but this guy was a monster. I do believe that his death will potentially lead to fewer political murders in Iraq.

I believe it will also probably weaken the moral of Iraq's gangs of thugs that the US media insists on calling "the insurgency." Will someone explain that to me, by the way? Here in America, if you're a psycho killer, we call a spade a spade. Scum-of-the-Earth roving street-gangs that kill people are referred to as just that: Street gangs. The ones in Baghdad, however, are called "The insurgency." That really ticks me off because that term almost sounds like we're dignifying or respecting what they're doing. They're not "insurgents". They're disgusting slaughterers of the innocent. They're criminals. They're nothing more than common murdering hoodlums. Insurgents? Bullsnot.

By the way, some reports indicate that Al-Zarqawi's death has been met by joy in the streets of Baghdad.

Al-Zarqawi's family wants his body returned to them so they can give him a proper Muslim burial. You know what I say to that? Do it. Send them back his body as respectfully as possible. Demonstrate the difference between us and maniacs, such as their son.




Saint Jimmy Carter... Racist?

I'm not a Jimmy Carter fan, but I never thought of him as a racist and an anti-Semite. Julia Gorin, however, has a different perspective.



Moore Trouble Every Day

Guess who's getting sued by one of the many people he's told lies about? That lying, hypocritical idiot Michael Moore!

Sgt. Peter Damon, from Middleborough Massachusetts, is suing Moore because he claims that the filmmaker never asked for his permission to use a clip from a previous interview on NBC Nightly News for Fahrenheit 9/11. According to CBS News, Damon lost both arms when the tire on the Blackhawk helicopter he was servicing in Iraq exploded.

Damon alleges that while Moore presents him as disagreeing with the war effort, what he was really discussing in the NBC interview was the pain resulting in his injury.


Go get the S.O.B., Sgt. Damon. Your country supports you and is proud of you. We were proud of you when you served us in uniform and we're proud of you while you serve us by doing what you can to yank the carpet out from under that lying, manipulative, disingenuous, piece of rotting lard from Michigan. Hoooah!




New Metallica

Metallica have been playing a new song, ostensibly from their upcoming album, at recent shows. The bootleg of the song floating around the net isn't super quality... but, in my opinion, the song itself sounds REALLY promising. Pure Metallica. Reminds me of Ride The Lightning era stuff. Some reports indicate that they've also been playing the classic album Master of Puppets in it's entirety lately. That's gotta sound awesome, considering that new bassist Robert Trujillo is easily the most talented musician who's ever been a member of the band (except, maybe, Lars.) It's encouraging that they've been so enthusiastic about rediscovering their roots lately... especially since they're working on their next album with Rick Ruben, a producer who's been able to get outstanding work out of everyone from Johnny Cash to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. It is entirely possible, old school Metallica fans, that our band is coming back to us. Sorry, teenie-boppers. Oh, well... there's always Nickelback.






I'm Totally 80's!

As evidenced by my certificate below! How 80's are you? Click the graphic below and find out!

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Copyright Violation Friday: Cat Blog Friday



With apologies to Cube who always wraps up the week this way.

I figured I'd end the week with pictures of four cats I've known over the years.





This is Tiger. We got him when I was in third grade and he lived for more than eighteen years. Single greatest cat I ever knew. I'm not really a cat-guy, I'm a dog-guy... but Tiger, he was something else.





This is Digit. He isn't my cat, he's my sister's cat. Digit likes to sleep in sinks. He got his unusual name because he was born with a number of extra toes on each foot, each of which had to be surgically removed so that he'd be able to walk correctly. He's a very friendly cat in spite of his "Whatta you lookin' at??" expression in this photo.





This is Easter. I had my first experience with debilitating surgery in '95 and I couldn't leave my apartment much at all for months afterwards. Since I lived in an apartment and couldn't have a dog, my sister got me Easter as a get-well present. I really got attached to this little cat. She only lived three years, though. She died of liver failure for some reason. I spent several hundred dollars trying to keep her alive, and the vet tried everything he could think of short of an actual liver transplant, but it wasn't meant to be.





This is our current cat, Anne Murray. She's named for the singer of the same name, and I can't remember why. Anne Murray lives in our basement. She isn't allowed out in the rest of the house because she insists on doing number two on the carpet instead of in her litter box. And she's not allowed outside because she was declawed when we got her, so she'd be dog food in a matter of hours if she got out. So she spends her time in the basement, usually all alone, hopefully eventually figuring out why.





This is Inky. He looks like a cat to me. He's here as a way of sneaking in one last copyright violation for the week.

Have a good weekend, everyone!


Thursday, June 08, 2006

 

Copyright Violation Thursday: Theological Thievery



Since I'm focused on the faith today, I want to say thank you to the many Christian bloggers I read. The things they write and the ideas that they express have been helpful to me in the development and maintenance of my own faith. So thank you to fellow Christians, including (but not limited to) Name Hidden and The Write Jerry and Jamie Dawn and W-H-Y-G-Ronald-Reagan and Rey and, of course, the indispensable Pastor Scott at The Burr In The Burgh.

My apologies to other Christian blogging pals I may have failed to mention.

And I hope you don't mind if I make special mention of those bloggers who share my specifically Roman Catholic Christian faith. I've really enjoyed their blogs. So thank you for sharing your faith with me, either through long and explict blog entries or through subtle but telling asides. Thank you, fellow Catholics such as A Catholic Life and The Cafeteria Is Closed and Dymphna's Well and A Southern Catholic Convert and Thoughts of a Regular Guy and MCF and Willow Missing Crossing.

I'd be amiss if I didn't single out my real life friend, the Jambander, for special mention. One of my two oldest friends in the world (along with The Governor, who comments here frequently), Jambander and his family took my family under their wings during our discernment of the Catholic faith. Jambander was my personal sponsor, his luminous wife was Wendy's sponsor, and they are the godparents of all three of our children. As a family, our gratitude to them is more than we can express.

But enough with the mushy thank you stuff. On with the blatant copyright violations.




Ask The Seen SouthCon Blogger

The Unseen Blogger regularly invites his readers to ask him questions about his faith... questions he then answers at his blog. I've decided not only to steal that idea, but to steal one of the questions in it's entirety. Namely:

What is the bare minimum one must believe in order to be a "Christian"? I've come up with four general ideas, but I'd like to know what you think.

My bandaged buddy answered as follows:

I believe that anyone can be considered a Christian if they:
1) Believe in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as the Trinity,
2) Believe that Christ was crucified as a sacrifice for our sins.
3) Believe that Christ was resurrected.
4) Believe that Faith in Christ will lead to Salvation through God's Grace. I know some denominations believe that other things are needed, such as Baptism and good works, but Faith is also included in their beliefs of what is needed for Salvation.
5) Possess the Faith included in #4.


Now, believe it or not, this is an issue I struggle with. The question seems basic, and the answers provided by the Unseen Blogger are simple, concise, and unavoidably true. So why do I struggle with it? Well, for a number of reasons.

What about the people who go their entire lives and never hear the name of Jesus Christ? What about the people who are exposed only to a hollow, inaccurate, downright anti-Christian idea of what Christ is? What about people who are faithful followers of other religions and live inherently Christian lives?

All of those questions have simple, basic answers as well. Missionaries are doing all they can to spread the Gospel of Christ across the world. It's up to each of us as Christians to set a truly Christian example, so that others will know that those who do evil in Christ's name aren't really Christian.

The thing is, in Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis made an argument that has really won me over. I won't try to quote the entire argument here, it would involve copying pages and pages of the book. I won't try to paraphrase Lewis either. That's like trying to edit one of Mozart's symphonies into a three minute radio mix. I will, however, present the idea as I understand it, and I will apologize in advance to anyone I offend. I especially apologize to those who understand Lewis better than I do if I've misunderstood his argument.

Anyway, as I understand it, Lewis made an argument that comes down to this: It is not our place as humans to place our limits on how Christ can work in the lives of others. As we understand it, in order to come to know about Christ, one has to hear the Gospel and make a knowing and conscious declaration of faith in Christ... and then lead a Christian life. However, it is possible that Christ works in ways that go beyond our understanding. It is possible that Christ is working in the lives of people who have never heard of him. It is possible that Christ is even working in the lives of people who practice other religions. He told us, after all, that he has other flocks that he has to attend to.

I am prepared to be branded a heretic or a blasphemer because of that idea. I don't want to assert that I believe it to be an absolute truth.... it's just an idea that I'm willing to consider. Part of the reason for that is because of the book of Romans, part of which I'll quote here... Romans 2: 12-16

"All who sin outside the law will also perish without reference to it, and all who sin under the law will be judged in accordance with it. For it is not those who hear the law who are just in the sight of God; rather, those who observe the law will be justified. For when the Gentiles who do not have the law by nature observe the prescriptions of the law, they are a law for themselves even though they do not have the law. They show that the demands of the law are written in their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even defend them on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge people's hidden works through Christ Jesus."


It comes down to this... Christ asked his followers to love the Lord God with all their hearts, souls, and minds... and to love their neighbors as themselves. I believe that there are those who do that without even knowing it. I also believe that there are those who believe that they do those things and yet don't do them at all.

I also believe that the passage I quoted above from Romans indicates that each of us is born with an innate understanding of what God expects from us. C.S. Lewis called it Natural Law. I believe that it is possible (as nutty as this sounds) to live a very Christian life and to never even consider the very idea of Jesus Christ.

Now, I am prepared to admit that I am possibly WAY off base here, and I'll concede so right off the bat. Feel free to comment about my ideas, but I'm not going to argue the concept because I can't defend it, other than to say that it's what I believe.




The Rock That Rocks

There were other things I wanted to cover here... I wanted in particular to write something about my devotion to Saint Peter. Dymphna's Well has featured some nice posts about various saints, and I wanted to steal that concept today, too. Peter is my favorite Saint and I find myself very drawn to his example. To be honest, I've wanted to write something about Saint Peter for a very long time now... but every time I try to sit down and find the words, I end up unhappy with what I put together.

Basically, what I want to do is write something that conveys why I love the guy so much, why I draw so much comfort from his example, his mistakes and his successes. Peter was such an important apostle. He was, after all, the rock upon which Christ built his church... and yet he was a terribly flawed guy. He denied Christ when it mattered most. He over-reacted during the Transfiguration to the point that God had to literally tell Peter to chill out and just listen to Jesus. And talk about over-reacting, think about that tantrum in the garden when the temple guards came to arrest Christ! Then, after the resurrection, Christ had to repeat himself three times in order to get Peter to understand the importance of tending to the Lord's sheep. My favorite typically Peter passage, though, is in the book of Acts. It's the part about the dream wherein animals are given to the hungry Peter and the Lord tells him to eat them, but he refuses to eat them because they aren't kosher. Yep, good ol' Peter, basically saying "I can't do what you tell me to do, God, because I'm too religious!" Nonetheless, he did get it right later when he realized what that dream was really about.

Oh, and how about when the angel freed him from the prison after he'd been arrested for preaching about Jesus. Most people would have said "Now's my chance, I'm getting the heck out of Dodge!" Not Peter. They found him again, the very next morning, right in front of the jailhouse, still preaching about Christ. The idea of running away never crossed his mind. He was too concerned about the Gospel. You gotta love that.

Basically, Peter was often thick-headed and narrow-minded. He often acted before he thought, and he sometimes behaved shamefully. And yet, he was the ROCK. He was well-loved and honored by Christ himself.

If a loveable lunkhead like Peter can be so important to the Lord, I guess I have a chance of salvation as well.

Someday I'll sit down and write about Peter... if I ever find the words to do the guy justice. Peter was the rock... and, in my opinion, Peter really rocked!




I guess that's all as far as Theological Thievery goes. I'll wrap up with a few pictures of St. Andrews Church in Roanoke. Wendy and I stopped by there the other day to pray. It's beautiful inside. I took a few pictures, but I felt weird about using the flash inside, so I didn't. Thus, the pictures aren't great... but there are some clickable thumbnails below.




Wednesday, June 07, 2006

 

Copyright Violation Wednesday: PBW - Beartown



With apologies, of course, to MCF, who's Photo Blog Wednesdays are always fun. While he may choose to remain mysterious and cloaked, giving us nary a glimpse of his visage, MCF has done something quite unique... he's shown us the world through his eyes. Gotta admit, that's cool.

I should also apologize to my very own child bride, who's subject matter I've stolen as well.

And while I'm at it, before I get on with my own pictures, I want to make sure I recognize a number of other bloggers who've posted pictures that have warmed my rusty old heart.

As I mentioned Sunday, I'm doing this Copyright Violation theme to celebrate my second anniversary as a blogger. As much fun as I have writing at my blog, the real fun for me is in the reading... and in the viewing... especially when my favorite bloggers post pictures like these:






Having said all that, on with PBW.

Last weekend we took the kids to Beartown State Park in West Virginia. Beartown is known for it's unusual rock formations, and it's kind of a neat place to visit.

I have no idea why it's called Beartown. The name is a bit misleading, and I think the kids were disappointed that we didn't see any bears. Wendy tried to make it up to them with her doctored pictures at her blog.

The kids did, however, really enjoy the unusual rock formations. They weren't bored, they really got a kick out of it... and that made the whole trip worthwhile.


The drive to Beartown affords a number of scenic views of the valleys of Greenbrier County, West Virginia. I love stuff like this.






Beartown is navigated by visitors by way of a complicated system of boardwalks.






The boardwalks form kind of a giant maze... and I think the kids thought that the maze alone was worth the trip.







The rocks are technically sandstone. I'll leave it to geologists to decide if that's a cool fact or not. I just think they look neat.






Narrow passages, rocky edges... you can't help but have a little bit of an Indiana Jones feeling while exploring Beartown.






I kept waiting for this big rock to speak to me. It looked like something out of a movie with it's ancient face covered in moss and with that thick, grassy head of hair.






Yeah, it's a posed shot. Getting them all together in one frame is a nightmare; they have a tendency to scamper in three different directions. So I said "Just stand still for a second and act like you're looking at something interesting." This is what I got.






Wendy had a good time, too... until a bunch of caterpillars showed up and spoiled things for her. Wendy hates caterpillars.







I actually spent most of my time with the video camera in hand... which explains the two minute video here at the end. The quality of this video is crude, I used a high compression rate when I copied it to the hard-drive so it wouldn't be 500 megs in size. Basically, this is a two minute tour of Beartown with musical accompaniment by Tool.

Why in the world would anyone put together a two minute video of a natural park and put Tool, of all bands, in the background? Because I happen to like Tool, that's why.




Tuesday, June 06, 2006

 

Copyright Violation Tuesday: Life In Hollywood





With apologies to Rhodester.

My Hollywood experiences are limited since



I do, however, consider myself qualified to write about the Hollywood experience, ala Rhodester, for the following reasons:



Of those three qualifications, I suppose that the story behind number two is the most interesting... therefore, SouthCon presents:

Behind The Music:
He's My Biggest Fan



Don Henley is the rock star's rock star. He first achieved fame as a member of The Eagles, easily the most popular pop-rock band to emerge from southern California in the early '70's. The secret to the band's success was that the group was made up of musicians who were each capable of superstar status as solo acts. The original line-up of The Eagles included such consummate rockers as Glen Frey, Timothy B. Schmidt, Joe Walsh, Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, Ted Nugent, Charo, George Lucas, Hank Aaron, Spiro Agnew, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Shari Lewis and Lambchop. There was no way that they could fail.

By the early 80's, The Eagles were growing weary from years of stress and overindulgence. Life on the road and in the studio had taken it's toll. For years, the band had hit after hit, thanks to the Glen Frey/Don Henley songwriting formula. Now, the two songwriters had grown so distant that Frey reportedly learned Mandarin Chinese and spoke it at all times in order to necessitate the use of an interpreter when he and Henley would write songs together. And the band had another problem: Cocaine. They simply couldn't find any, and when they did, Joe Walsh always snorted it all up by himself and didn't share any with the rest of the band. Henley had had enough.

Don Henley's solo career began with the release of I Can't Stand Still, a hit album with a hit single, Dirty Laundry. Another album, Building the Perfect Beast followed, along with hits such as The Boys Of Summer and All She Wants To Do Is Dance. However, by the early '90's, Henley's career was waning. Bands like R.E.M. and Pearl Jam had claimed the music scene and made it their own. Was there still room for a Don Henley in a world full of Kurt Cobains? What were these new, successful bands doing that Henley wasn't doing?

After a lot of thought and creative self-evaluation, Henley realized that if he was going to recapture the marketplace that he'd lost to rock's new breed, he'd have to do what they were doing. And what were they doing? Why, they were saving the world.

The rock bands of the early '90's had one thing in common: Hand-wringing. They wrung their hands about minority rights. They wrung their hands about the homeless. They wrung their hands about corporate America... but, mostly, they wrung their hands about the environment. They wrote songs about how the big, bad, terrible human race was messing up good ol' planet Earth and how nobody seemed to give a damn except for the rock stars themselves. After all, they needed good ol' planet Earth to be healthy and prosperous in order for it to continue to produce marijuana.

Henley decided to cash in on the hand-wringing... but, to his credit, he one-upped the new rockers. Henley didn't do just one song about the environment... he didn't do just one album.... no, Henley did a book! Don Henley decided to put together a whole big book, with words and pictures and everything, called Heaven Is Under Our Feet. That'll show 'em, right? I mean, anybody can write a song about whales and whatnot... but doing a book? Come on! To do a book, you gotta be really serious about the environment.

Of course, doing a book means writing a whole big bunch of pages. Maybe ten. Maybe even more. How would Henley ever get enough pages together to justify putting them between two covers? Another brilliant idea hit him. He'd have all of his celebrity friends write essays about how much each of them loved the environment. How could they refuse him? To refuse to write an essay about the environment is like refusing to give food to a starving kid, right? And so, as though by providence, Heaven Is Under Our Feet came together, featuring essays from such noted experts on the environment as Cher, Bette Midler, Janet Jackson, etc.

In or around 1992... I can't remember the exact year... Henley made an appearance at a bookstore in Roanoke, Virginia, to sign copies of Heaven Is Under Our Feet.

I'd grown up listening to the Eagles and Henley's solo albums and I jumped at the chance to get to meet him, shake his hand, get his autograph. He was, after all, one of my favorite musicians, song-writers and singers. The only problem was that Henley had his publicity people put the word out that he absolutely, positively, most assuredly would not be signing copies of his albums. Or his posters. Or anything to do with his career as a musician. He would only be willing to sign copies of Heaven is Under Our Feet. You wanna meet Don Henley? You want his autograph? Fine. But you gotta buy his book.

I wanted to meet Don Henley so bad that I bought his book. In fact, I bought two copies so I could get the second one signed and give it to my sister as a birthday present.

I went to the bookstore on the appointed day about six hours before the signing was to begin. I found myself to be the second person in line. Yes! I was actually going to meet Don Henley, get his autograph, and everything.

This story is growing long and tiresome, so I'll try to wrap it up fairly quickly.

Imagine standing in one place behind the same guy for six hours. Imagine about thirty minutes before the celebrity you've come to meet is supposed to show up, a bunch of news people, publicity people, security people, etc, rush in. Imagine the thrill as you get that first glimpseof Mr. Celebrity himself! There he is, walking between two other dudes! Here he comes, toward the table! He's about to sit down and then they're going to let the line file past and I'm going to get to talk to Don Friggin' Henley!

Now, imagine that the first words you hear Mr. Celebrity utter in person are to a member of his entourage, ostensibly a security person, and that those words are "No f**king cameras, no f**cking news crews. I made this f**cking clear, didn't I? Get your sh*t together."

I don't have to imagine any of that. I actually experienced it.

Looking back, I can think of a number of possible first impressions that Don Henley could have made on me. I remember that he looked older than I'd thought he'd be. I remember that he was far shorter than I'd thought he'd be, and that his clothing looked brand new, like he'd only been wearing it for an hour or so. I remember those things in retrospect... but the first impression that Don Henley made on me... the irreversible, life-time first impression that his words and actions left on me forever... was that Don Henley was an arrogant prick.

A few minutes later, as I still stood there feeling a bit stunned, the security people let the line start moving. The guy ahead of me went first, shook Henley's hand, exchanged a couple of words and got an autograph on the inside cover of his book. Then it was my turn. I had two copies of the book to sign, which didn't sit well with Mr. Henley. When I laid my two copies on the table, Don looked at his security guy and said "We said one copy each, right?" I didn't hear the answer. Either way, Henley did sign both copies for me. One for me, written out to my name... and one for my sister, written out to her.

I was flustered. I was tense. I wanted to say something... anything to the first actual real-life celebrity I'd ever met. Two possible phrases came into my head. One was "Don, I've always been one of your biggest fans." The other was "Mr. Henley, you've always been a favorite song-writer of mine." Looking back, I wish I'd said one of those phrases. Only one of those phrases. Unfortunately, what I said was a bit of both of those phrases. The two possible remarks merged together into one in my brain, and what ended up coming out of my mouth was this: "Mr. Don Henley, you've always been one of my biggest fans."

He looked at me with the driest, most humorless smile I've ever seen and said "Of course I have."

Then, Security guy was touching my shoulder, giving me the "move along," so I did just that.

On the way to the car, walking past the line that stretched out of the bookstore, down the street and around the corner, I had one thought and one thought only in my head: Never in a million years will I actually read this book.

I never did. And I don't even know where it is right now. It may have been lost in one of my many moves over the years. I don't know. I don't care.

I still listen to The Eagles and to Henley's solo albums, by the way. I guess the lesson I learned is that the more you enjoy someone's art, the further you should stay away from them.


Monday, June 05, 2006

 

Copyright Violation Monday: 10 Things I Learned This Weekend



With apologies to the Unseen Blogger:

1) You know that hot red pepper relish that they have at Subway? I love that stuff. I always get a ton of it on my Subway sandwiches. However, much to my dismay, you can't buy that stuff by the jar in any of the grocery stores around here. We've found a pretty decent red bell pepper relish that's kinda tangy, but we can't find the hot stuff. Bummer.

2) Playing Splinter Cell can be very frustrating. However, sitting and silently watching someone else play... and make the same mistakes you made the first few times you played... and having to keep your mouth shut the whole time.... man, that's frustrating on a whole new level.

3) If you send a 37 year old man and a nine year old boy shopping for a birthday present for an eight year old girl, you better plan on them spending most of the day trying to figure out what to buy, wandering around the store, staring at their shoes.

4) Nothing ruins a picnic like abundant insect larva.

5) West Virginia is always about thirty degrees colder than the rest of the world. If you plan a day trip to a state park in West Virginia in early June, you'd better bring long sleeve shirts. Sweaters. Jackets. Parkas. And a kerosene heater.

6) Our Basset Hound is not capable of destroying a regulation football. Our Brittany Spaniel, however, is.

7) One of my oldest real-life friends has started a blog. Stop by and say hi. He's a great guy.

8) When you use Google Image Search looking for a variation on the Unseen Blogger's much beloved Pr0n Monkey, you'd better be prepared for some truly disturbing, odd, and unexplainable images to pop up.

9) One of those disturbing images is this one:



10) Survival tip: You know those two guards arguing with the drunk in the first episode of Splinter Cell? Just sneak past 'em! SNEAK PAST 'EM, FOR PETE'S SAKE! You can crawl down the steps and pull yourself up on the ledge and they'll never see you. There's no need to fire your sidearm, it only draws attention! I mean, GEEZ!


Sunday, June 04, 2006

 

Copyright Violation Week




My second anniversary as a blogger is coming up this week (June 6), and I've been trying to decide how to celebrate.

Friday I had a little fun with Rhodester, putting on like I'd stolen his awesome new banner.

Which gave me an idea.

Beginning this Monday and ending on Friday, I'm not going to come up with any of my own original ideas for blogging. Instead, I'm going to spend the week stealing concepts from some of my favorite bloggers. You can expect to see blatant rip-offs posted at SouthCon all week long.

So sue me. ;)


Saturday, June 03, 2006

 

Veeeeeery Interesting



Well, maybe not very interesting, but Wendy and I thought it was kinda cool.

Excuse the post if this happens to be a topic you already know top to bottom.

Anyway, take a look at this picture and try to guess what these things are:



Looks like some kind of bizarre tropical fruit, right? They reminded Wendy of peppers or large corn kernels. I thought they looked like something you'd see growing on another planet in Ray Bradbury's imagination.

Turns out, those things are cashews in the shell.

Yesterday Wendy just happened to say "I wonder why you never see cashews in their shells at the store?"

Hmmmm....

So we looked it up and learned the following:

Long ago the U.S. passed laws against importing the nuts in their shells (all cashews sold here are imported from China, India, or Brazil). (Fresh and unshelled,) they're toxic.

Cashew grove: Imagine a tree covered with small, yellow-red apples. From the bottom of each grows something that looks like an inflated lima bean. That's the nut. It has a thick outer shell and thin, membranous inner shell, between which is an oily liquid that is quite irritating and potentially toxic. When cashews are processed, the outer shell is removed, the liquid drained off, the nuts are dried, and the membrane shell is removed, and the detoxed nuts are packed in tins for export. The oily liquid is recycled into bug spray. Lurking in the branches of the cashew's family tree are a couple of nasty relatives: poison oak and poison ivy.


Eeech. (The emphasis above was mine.)

I think I'll keep letting the good folks at Emerald Nuts do the work for me.


Friday, June 02, 2006

 

Sprucing Up



Just sprucing up a bit, trying something different. You like? ;)


Thursday, June 01, 2006

 

Metal Up Yer Blog



When did VH1 become the list show network? Everything they do these days is a list show. Pop Music's Twenty Greatest Divas. The Thirty Most Rockin' Moments of Television History. Forty Celebrity Couple Break-Ups That Rocked Your World.

Whatever.

May, the month that just ended, was Metal Month on VH1. Now that people in my age group are officially old farts, VH1 is trying to cash in on us. We grew up with metal, we still love metal, and VH1 realizes that the people out there with the expendable income... in other words, the people that McDonnalds and Ford want their commercials shown to... aren't driving around in Studebakers listening to Mel Torme and Peggy Lee. Nope. We're driving around in minivans listening to bands like The Scorpions and Van Halen. We're buying onesies for our babies like the one to the right.

So welcome, my fellow mid-to-late-30s headbanging brothers and sisters, to what people in marketing refer to as the Age Targeted Demographic. We are now the people who buy the cars, the televisions, and the laundry detergent. We're the ones who stop and pick up the Happy Meals, and we're the ones who decide what breakfast cereal our little curtain-climbers will be eating each morning. WE are the ones that the marketers want. Therefore, WE are the ones the programmers are trying to please.

You know what that means? HA HA HA HA HA! It means that at last... at long last.... we have realized our goal! We have conquered the world! Yes, my fellow Headbangers, the dream has come true! WE HAVE THE POWER!!

And, therefore, VH1 has had an epiphany... an epiphany in the form of an advertising angel with long hair and a flying-v guitar.

So VH1 presented their current list show the other night, the Forty Greatest Metal Songs Of All Time. Being an unrepentant headbanger who spends much of my time hauling my kids around in our minivan while listening to Metallica, I actually sat down and watched the stupid show. Some of the songs they listed were songs I love, so I was happy to see them on the list. Some of the songs were songs I hate, so I had my obligatory Oh-Ya-Gotta-Be-Kiddin'-Me moments. The song that they named the greatest metal song ever is a song I am so sick of and have come to hate so much that I can no longer be objective about it.

Look, I worked in radio for eight years. There are songs that I have simply because I've heard them over and over and over and over and over and over again. I can't be objective about them anymore. I never want to hear Sweet Home Alabama again. I never want to hear Foxy Lady again. I never want to hear Stairway to Heaven again. And I ABSOLUTELY NEVER EVER want to hear Paranoid again.

Anyway, having sat through the whole stupid show, listening to people like the singer from Papa Roach and some comedian I've never heard of and some porn star (really) spout off about Heavy Metal, I decided to do a little spouting myself.

Therefore, SouthCon is proud to present

The Final, Absolute, Authorized List Of The
Ten Greatest Metal Vocalists Ever



10: Bruce Dickinson
I've written about Iron Maiden before... about how they were the first metal band that actually got me to pay attention to lyrics. Unlike all the other bands out there who were singing about sex, drugs, and rock and roll, Maiden were writing and recording songs about history, epic English poetry, science fiction... you know, stuff a 14 year old kid is interested in. Well, the stuff besides the sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Bruce Dickinson was Maiden's second lead singer and partly responsible for their breakthrough success after their first two albums with another vocalist. Dickinson had a vocal style that became sort of a template for about a thousand bands that followed Maiden. First of all, you had to be able to actually sing. Just screaming wasn't good enough. Secondly, now that you could sing, you had to be able to scream, too. And I don't mean scream like a scared girl. I mean scream like an eagle, like a monster, like a wounded animal. Really call up big, guttural screams from the gut. Dickinson was like a cross between an enraged grizzly bear and Roger Daltrey. Dickinson deserves credit for setting an important standard.




09: Lemmy Kilmister
The first time anyone sees Motorhead, the first thing they think is "Oh, my lord what an ugly bunch of guys." And, the ugliest of them all is Lemmy, the lead singer and guitar player. Now, the cool thing about Lemmy is that, as ugly as he looks, he sounds even uglier. Lemmy has a voice like a decrepit dumptruck or a half-rusted out motorcycle. He sings from the gut, but that doesn't really describe it. And it's not enough to say he sings from the groin, either. Lemmy sings from his feet; like every ugly ounce of him is being forced through his vocal chords. And there is nobody who could fit Motorhead better. Motorhead embodies an ugly, dirty, greasy element that rock and roll just can't do without. And Lemmy, warts and all, embodies Motorhead. 'Cuz, ya know what? Metal is supposed to be ugly. That's what always bugged me most during the hair-band, glam-rock wussy years in the late '80's when butt-sucking bands like Warrent and Poison and Winger were having hits. Their music was lame, their videos were always on TV, and those guys were just so pretty. God bless ya, Lemmy. God bless you and your big, ugly, gnarly head.




08: Brian Johnson
With the release of Back In Black, AC/DC did the impossible... they survived the loss of their most distinctive and valuable band member, Bon Scott. And not only did they survive him, they actually continued growing after his death. AC/DC actually refined their sound, with guitarist Angus Young stepping up to become the band's driving force. As important as Angus was in the post-Bon AC/DC, he couldn't have saved the band by himself. And he didn't have to... because the impossible act that AC/DC pulled off was they found the perfect new vocalist to replace the late Bon Scott. Brian Johnson sounded just barely enough like Bon so that his vocals didn't change the AC/DC sound... and yet Brian had something distinctive that was all his own. Brian had a growl, a gravely resonance that just worked with the band's sound. He fit AC/DC just as well as Bon had, but in a different, idiosyncratic way. Johnson's voice is shot these days, but in his day, he was a monster.




07: Ronnie James Dio
OK, yeah, it's easy to make jokes about Ronnie James. He's a tiny little guy. He takes himself so seriously. The whole Dark Knight of Mystery schtick that he tries to pull off seems silly. But then you listen to songs like "Holy Diver" and "The Last In Line" and you realize that this guy was just made for metal. First of all, metal really is supposed to be kinda pompous, kinda self-important, kinda grandiose. That's part of the appeal. That's part of the escape. And Ronnie James Dio (who is, to my knowledge, 2'10" tall) really delivers the goods on his songs. Those goofy "Ride the tiger through the midnight sea" lyrics actually take on a kind of majesty when Ronnie belts them out. When he sings one of those songs, he actually becomes a dark knight, ready to do battle. When you listen to those songs, you're ready to ride into battle with him.




06: James Hetfield
I might catch some crap over this one, but I think that James Hetfield of Metallia has always been a damn good Metal vocalist... and I think (here comes the crap-catching part) that he's gotten better and better over the years. Go back and listen to those early albums. Songs like Seek and Destroy and Escape really don't show much vocal range. Oh, yeah, they rock like a mutha, but they don't have a lot to offer vocally. Now, go listen to newer (and, arguably lamer) Metallica albums. Check out the vocals on songs like "Bad Seed" and "Invisible Kid" and "Lowman's Lyric". Say what you want, but the guy's singing just gets better and better. Part of that is because he's becoming more and more confident as a vocalist. Part of it is coming with age, too. Now, I will out myself as a Metallica fan who still enjoys the new stuff, too... but I'm being as objective as I can possibly be when I say that James Hetfield becomes a better and better singer on every album that Metallica releases.




05: John Bush
Both with his first band, Armored Saint, and on the four albums he did with Anthrax, John Bush proved himself to be one of those guys who was just born to sing metal. He couldn't have done anything else... and, besides, metal needed him. There's a phrase I've heard used to describe a lot of metal singers, and that phrase is "He sings from the balls." I think that phrase may have been invented to describe John Bush's vocal style. Bush can get down really, really deep... he can push his voice into this amazingly raw territory... and he still stays on key, he still sounds melodic, he still sounds great. If you're a metal fan and you don't own Anthrax's album "The Sound Of White Noise", you really don't know what you're missing. It's one of the best metal albums ever... one of my top three albums of any genre... and you have got to own it. Go to half.com and look for it, for Pete's sake. You can probably get it for a couple of bucks... and Bush's vocals on that album will BLOW. YOUR. MIND. I don't know what Bush is doing now that the original line-up of Anthrax is back together and he's out of the band... but I hope he's doing something. Metal needed him twenty years ago and we need him now.




04: Phil Anselmo
This guy has been in more bands than I can count and has sung on more metal albums than I could try to name... but he is on this list exclusively for his work on two albums and two albums alone: Pantera's Vulgar Display of Power and Far Beyond Driven. There's been a lot of talk since Dimebag Darrell died about how his guitar playing really was the creative force behind Pantera's sound, and I won't deny that for one minute. Still, I can't imagine the two Pantera albums I listed above without Anselmo. Phil Anselmo can do the big, growling, rage scream metal vocal thing better than anybody in the business. A lot of metal bands think that just having a guy do a gravely Cookie Monster sounding scream is good enough for metal. Not so. The thing with Anselmo is, no matter how raw and unhinged he sounded, you could always understand the lyrics and he was always still on tune. Then, on certain songs, he'd stop the "metal" thing altogether and simply sing melodically... and damned if he couldn't do that, too. Even if he had never recorded another album (and, as far as I'm concerned, he didn't), Phil Anselmo would be as high on this list as he is just for Vulgar Display and Driven. Those two albums rock like nobody's business.




03: Bon Scott
AC/DC's first vocalist and the absolute living personification of rock and roll. I seriously doubt that any of us would have ever even heard of AC/DC if it hadn't been for Bon and his amazing vocal ability. Bon put so much into his vocals; sounding cocky, abrasive, drunk, self-depreciating, and scary all at once. Look up "swagger" in the dictionary and there ought to be a picture of Bon Scott. Look up "Dangerous," look up "Over-The-Top." Oh, heck, just look up "Rock And Roll" and there darn well ought to be a picture of Bon right there. Nobody ever did that full-bore rock-vocal kind of thing before him, and there's been nobody since who could pull it off like Bon did. Even Brian Johnson, AC/DC's excellent replacement for their late singer, was no Bon Scott. Over the years I've heard a thousand bands that sounded to me like their singer was trying to be the next Bon Scott. Remember Ugly Kid Joe? Remember a band called Rhino Bucket? You might not remember either of those bands, and the reason you don't is because they sucked and they faded away quickly. A lesson to metal bands everywhere: Don't try to find the next Bon Scott. There'll never be another.




02: Mike Patton
Here's another one that might cause me to catch some crap for having him so high on the list... but I don't care. Mike Patton is an AMAZING vocalist. There is absolutely nobody who can do what he can do with his vocal chords. For starters, Patton can actually sing. Listen to tracks like "Take This Bottle" or "A Small Victory" and listen to the guy just flat out sing. He's got chops, man. I'd put him up against anybody you've got. Michael Stipe? Forget it. Art Garfunkel? Don't bother. Patton can out-sing any of 'em. Then, when he gets into his whole freak-out thing... when he starts doing that stuff that he does and that only he does... well, there's just nobody who can come close. That moron who sings with Korn has tried to be the next Mike Patton, and he just looks stupid. Then there's Fred Dust from Limp Bizkit, another weak Patton knock-off. Forget those guys. Mike Patton is the real thing. It is a shame... an absolute crying shame that most people only know him as the singer behind the one hit wonder "Epic." That's a good song, but it doesn't get within 10% of what Patton can do vocally.




01: Rob Halford
Rob Halford is the greatest singer in the history of popular music. I've said it before and I'll say it again, Halford has never gotten the props he deserves. As far as metal fans are concerned, I think each of us should at the very least send Halford a "Thank You" card through the mail, because the music we love wouldn't have been the same without him. Even if you're not a Judas Priest fan... even if you've never heardJudas Priest, there is simply no denying that Heavy Metal would have faded away and died in the mid seventies without them. Priest saved metal, and Rob Halford is the heart, soul, guts and lungs of Judas Priest. Rob Halford can sing anything. Honestly, he can sing anything. You name it, he could pull it off. Rob Halford could sing opera, country music, hip-hop, polka. Fageddaboudit. Rob Halford is simply the man. There's just no other way to say it. And we metal fans are truly privileged, because Halford loaned his talents to the music we love.

As a personal tribute to Rob, I try to make sure that I always pronounce the word "fortune" just like he does: "FAH-Chune."

Rob Halford is the greatest singer who ever lived. Rob Halford can sing notes that don't even exist yet. Rob Halford's vocals cure the common cold. Don't believe me? Next time you feel sick, listen to "Victim of Changes" and see if you don't feel better.

All hail Rob Halford, the king of heavy metal vocalists.




There, the list is definitive, eternal, and complete. There is no need to speak of this anymore. If you ever hear anyone arguing about the greatest vocalist (or the ten greatest vocalists) in the history of heavy metal, simply send them to SouthCon and set them straight.

So let it be written. So let it be done.

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Rhodester Channels Dashiell Hammett



Update, 6/5/06: I've just heard by e-mail that Rhodester has taken the post down... it must have been intended to temporarily serve as a "Work In Progress" sign. So with the post down, the comments are down, and so is the story. You'll just have to trust me on this one... it was short, sweet, funny and a whole lot of fun to read. So what are you doing wasting time here, anyway? Go read Dave Rhodes.

Dave Rhodes is redesigning his blog; working on a film noir look, and he's asking for reader input.

The other day he gave us a glimpse of a work in progress, his new banner. I'm not going to post a link to the banner itself, I want you to go read the whole post and click on the link there to look at the banner.

In short, I think the banner is AWESOME.

I liked it so much that I threatened to steal it. In response, Rhodester wrote a hard-boiled little story about tracking down the guy who stole his banner.

This quick little story, something Dave just threw together just to be friendly, literally has everything in it. Everything. Damn, but this guy is a good writer. I said that back when I first discovered his blog... but the thing is, once you get in the habit of reading someone daily, you get to where you take their chops for granted.

I can say that about almost everyone in my blogroll, by the way, lest anyone feel slighted.

Anyway, Rhodester threw together this quick little story as a fun, friendly comment and I loved it. It made me laugh, it totally engrossed me, and it ended up getting me kind of misty... as you'll see if you read my followup comment.

It makes me sick, ya know? Not in a mean way, just in a jealous way. I know that Dave just tossed this story together in fun, probably put little thought into it... and it's still an outstanding read. A short, fun, silly, outstanding read. For some people, writing well just comes naturally.

It could be that I'm a sap... or it could just be that Dave Rhodes can freakin' write. I think it's both.

Go read the post and read the comments.



 

Busted! Part 2



Wendy and I live in a teeeeny, tiny, tiny, tiny little town with a local newspaper (circulation: 12) that's so small and silly that it might actually qualify as quaint. We used to subscribe to it, but we got frustrated with Man Walks Dog stories and started subscribing to the Roanoke paper. Roanoke is the largest nearby city. Anyway, we stopped subscribing to the Roanoke paper, too, because Wendy got tired of me ranting and raving at the breakfast table about the extremely leftist leanings of the Roanoke paper.

I'd post a link to the local newspaper's website article about the arrest that was made in my case, but the local newspaper's website is actually even more pitiful than the print version, and they don't have anything on the web about the arrest.

I did, however, buy a copy of yesterday's local paper and I did scan the brief article, and here it is if you're interested:



I looked the perp's name up at Google, just to see if by chance he had a MySpace site or whatnot. I only found one listing for the bum's name. This one.

Given the nature of that page, I thought it was a bit ironic and downright funny.


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