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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Huzzahs!

No, this is not the beginning of a "walk in to a bar" joke:

Jewish and Muslim scholars protest English city's deletion of "Christmas" from city Christmas light display.

Executive Director of the from the Woolf Institute of Abrahamic Faiths, Dr Edward Kessler, who is Jewish, said: "'people of all faiths in this country should recognise that such developments are a curb on all our religious freedoms. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. If Christmas lights cannot be named as such how can the religious festivals celebrated by Muslims, Jews, Hindus and so on be openly celebrated? If restrictions are only imposed on Christian festivals (for the time being), the interfaith endeavour is threatened."

Prof. Kessler's Muslim counterpart is downright acidic:

Muslim colleague Dawud Bone, Stone Ashdown Director of the Centre for the Study of Muslim – Jewish Relations at the Woolf Institute said: "To call this political correctness would be to flatter those who have arrived at this policy. I am unaware of any academic research that suggests anyone of any faith is offended by Christmas lights. They are therefore responding to a problem that almost certainly does not exist and in doing so they are creating a greater problem. I believe actions such as this can only damage community cohesion and reduce the respect individuals have for each other's faiths."

A hat-tip and thanks to you both!

[H/t to the incomparable Mark Steyn.]

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Of solid rock.

One thing that can't be said of Matthew Stafford: the rookie from Georgia lacks guts.

The man gets his shoulder separated and still comes back in on the next play to throw the winning touchdown (thanks, Eric Mangini!).

The latest in a line of would-be franchise saviors, Stafford is faced with the unenviable task of cleaning up after the Millen-ium, eight years of Peter Principle-confirming horror which culminated in numbers which need no further explanation: 0-16.

He looks like he's game to try.

Yeah, I know it was against the Browns, a strikingly awful team in its own right. I mean, who the hell blows a three touchdown lead against the Lions?

But it's much easier being a Lions fan than a Dawg-Pounder this week. I'll take it.

I'd also take the chance to actually see them in a game they could theoretically win, if it's not too much trouble in a farging economy featuring 30% unemployment downtown and 18% in the metro area. Big Al Beaton, the dean of Lions blogging, was rather more direct in his critique of the blackout rules, culminating in the memorable "Die in a fire, [Roger] Goodell!" A more restrained approach can be seen at his new gig here.

Is Sunday's win a turning point? Nah, probably not--turning points involve beating good teams, rivals. And we've seen plenty of fool's gold draft choices with flashy games, then nothing, over the past decade. But now, at least, there's some evidence that both the coaching staff and front office are capable of processing clues. That's a start.

[Eventually, I'll get around to my Michigan Wolverines post-mortem. It will involve repeated uses of the word "purgatorial."]

Monday, November 23, 2009

Fan. Tastic.

Oops.

I forgot the "Effin" in the middle.

The five men facing trial in the Sept. 11 attacks will plead not guilty so that they can air their criticisms of U.S. foreign policy, the lawyer for one of the defendants said Sunday.
Scott Fenstermaker, the lawyer for accused terrorist Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, said the men would not deny their role in the 2001 attacks but "would explain what happened and why they did it."


A great moment for our nation, the opportunity to listen to mass murderers lecture us from the stand.

A shameful decision.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Mad busy.

Which, given the post immediately beneath this one, is a good thing.

Nevertheless, I'd be remiss if I didn't note the unveiling of yet another joint blog I'm joining,

"Almost Chosen People." It covers the history of America from the first explorers to the end of Reconstruction, featuring such knowledgable bloggers as Donald McClarey and Paul Zummo.

Tolle, lege.

Oh, and I'm going to slightly amend my review of The Sword of the Lady: God used astrology to achieve his purposes, so that gives some wiggle room to the visions vouchsafed to Rudi. Feel free to discuss, as well as to set forth what you did and did not like about the book, per the author's express encouragement.

Happy days are here again.

Someone should have told the recently-shuttered building supply business I passed by this week the good news about the recession being over.

The marquee read:

Thanks for 40 years.

Pray for our families.

Heart-rending doesn't being to say it.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Once and Future (High) King.



"Fated to dree a hero's weird."


With The Sword of the Lady, the Changeverse series makes a gradual transformation into the Artosian Mythos. And I use the Arthurian paraphrase deliberately.

The second series has focused on Rudi Mackenzie and his companions' quest for the titular Sword to battle against the malignant supernatural evil embodied by the Church Universal and Triumphant, which has to date destroyed the powerful LDS state of Deseret and co-opted the equally powerful United States of Boise.

The close of previous book The Scourge of God saw Rudi and Edain crossing the Mississippi on a difficult quest: to retrieve the looted art collected by the orders of the hereditary Governor of Iowa, Anthony Heasleroad. Which is held in several wagons without horses, a tricky task for two men, no matter how gifted.

In the course of resolving that task, Rudi also comes to grips with the cancerous power of the CUT, literally coming to blows with one of its possessed adepts. From there, pursued by the dauntless CUT troopers bent on stopping him, the action gallops across the country from Iowa to Wisconsin to Maine and finally Nantucket, surveying the wrecked and not-so-wrecked parts of the Sunrise Lands along the way. Not, alas, including Michigan, fellow Peninsulares. But we do see the good, the evil and the downright ugly of the survivors east of the Mississippi. We also see a famous ship whose fate proved different in this world, too. Blink and you'll miss it. New allies are also collected, new cultures growing in the ashes (this time, Norse Aesirtru), crucial alliances formed and, sadly, a perspective character dies, albeit an heroic, redemptive and hope-filled death.

At the very end, we do see the Sword, and we get a strong hint of the Arthurian end awaiting Rudi/Artos at life's close.

The good: It flies. A breakneck pace, and yet the detail does not suffer. Far from it--Steve's mastery of landscape description remains unmatched. I wrote him after I received the draft of a scene where the heroes enter the Wisconsin farm country in October, and I told him I could smell the autumn air and see the way the sunlight shone off the trees. It captured it that well.

Also good: battle scenes, including the "supernatural" ones featuring Fr. Ignatius and Rudi battling the CUT adept. You might think there's nothing remarkable about the latter two holding their own in a sword fight, but you have to remember the adept usually doesn't have to draw his own weapon. The characterization also remains strong, with, as could be hoped, more depth to the characters as they move along. Even Sandra Arminger continues to show glimmers of genuine humanity, despite her ruthless practicality and lack of allegiance to any ideals larger than the survival of House Arminger.

Rudi and Mathilda move closer together (not in *that* way, to Rudi's emotional and physical discomfort), but how close I'm not going to tell you, to quote Monty Python.

Continuing to be good: the Catholic bits. Again, as I feel compelled to do, I am just the advisor/sounding board on this particular aspect. 99% of the time, Steve presents something to me and I say the equivalent of "Yep, looks good!" in an uneconomical thirty-plus words.

And yes, Sean, I hear your objection. I'll address it momentarily.

Evil here is evil. Not misunderstood, or the product of a broken home, but stench-of-the-pit evil. You can admire the virtues of a Peter Graber, raised to fight for an awful cause, but you are left wanting him to lose at every second.
Also, there are references to what happened in other parts of the world, including the new Islamic corsair states of west Africa, and the Imperial English sea power which keeps swatting them down.

The usual pop-culture references are dropped into the text, and nods to other authors appear like Easter eggs, sometimes only on the second reading.
At the last, we get a nice throwback to the Island series, and strong hints toward an explanation of the why, and perhaps who (in the sense of the good principalities vs. the bad ones) was responsible for the Change. Along with suggestions as to its permanence.

The bad: lack of space means relatively short shrift to the allies battling the bad guys out west, though it does adequately convey that it is going badly. It jumps from the shores of Lake Superior to northern Maine with just a bare reference. I understand why--the publisher's not giving him another 100 pages until his last name changes to "King." But it's still a bit jarring. Also jarring is Fred Thurston's newly-declared religious allegiance. Yes, there were signs it was going that way, but it's still a bit abrupt.

Finally, to what I *think* are Sean's objections: the Norse oracle and the respective visions of Fr. Ignatius and Rudi at Nantucket. Yeah, it's a bit pluralistic, to use the trendy theological term. To which I reply, yes, but (1) it's not a Catholic novel by a Catholic writer, (2) it's as palatably presented as pluralism could be from an orthodox standpoint, and (3) Fr. Ignatius gets an explicitly Christian vision and explanation for what the others are seeing. Added together, yes, I know, that means it's not orthodox. But we don't usually get this favorable a hearing/presentation in the first place, so I'm disinclined to complain. If I want to, I can write my own.
All told, I think it's the strongest in the second series, which now stands fully apart from the original trilogy and is not merely the continuation. Take, read.

My musical tastes are definitely in transition.

Or perhaps they're just broadening: I recognized pretty much every song played during the parts of the Country Music Awards I saw last night.

And I knew Brooks and Dunn had called it quits a couple months back.

Yippie-ki-yay!

What's more disturbing is that country is pretty much all Heather listens to on "live" radio these days. Had you told me twenty years ago in college she'd be listening to country music, I'd have responded "Steer clear of the brown acid next time."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Isaiah 2:4.

A few months back, I got myself into a brutal flame war with the Catholic blogger who goes by the name of Morning's Minion. After a carpetbombing fisk and volleys fired in other fora, I began to ponder whether or not I had done right, let alone well, in this particular fight. After a halting effort on my part to reach out to MM in another forum, he responded very graciously. I took down the fisk shortly thereafter. Upon further consideration, I came to the painful and unavoidable conclusion that I had behaved like a jerk and a jackass. And not for the first time. I conveyed that to him, and he offered a heartfelt apology for his part.

Lord, grant me the grace that I always remember there's someone else at the other end of my responses, and that not every season under Heaven is open season.

Unpaid testimonial.

Thanks--as in huge, sanity-and-identity-saving thanks--to Bob Ward for cleaning the particularly nasty virus off our computer last night.

Bob operates Bob's PC Pro, LLC, and he was able to remotely access our badly-infected computer and remove the "full-featured" virus that was threatening it. He was remarkably patient with the technically-impaired gent he was working with, and successfully outfoxed the ugly thing that was making our computer unusable. He also made some recommendations for upgrading our computer, removed the ineffective name-brand virus "protection" software, replaced it with something effective and downloaded some useful protective surfing software which will help us well into the future. All at a fair price.

As a very, very happy customer, I can recommend him without hesitation!

Well said, Mr. President.

He hit every note perfectly. And avoided the rhetorical elephant trap about "backlash."

It's about the victims, their service and their grieving families, and his speech honored them all.

Bravo!

Friday, November 06, 2009

And the harassment excuse needs to get snipped, stat.

I would never dismiss the harm caused by religious or racial harassment. It's grim, dehumanizing and hurtful. It should be dealt with swiftly and thoroughly, as our legal system allows, to its credit.

However, it sure doesn't excuse murder.

If there was any group of Americans with grounds to snap at the hateful policies of the government and military, it would have been the Nisei living in the continental U.S. after Pearl Harbor. Rounded up en masse and sent into camps by Executive Order simply because they shared the same ancestry as one of our enemies, Japanese Americans had ample reason to be bitter and vengeful toward the country that turned on them.

Instead, they responded by volunteering to serve that country. The rest, as they say, is history--21 Medals of Honor worth.

Just something to ponder over the next few days.

Good work, Sergeant.

Sgt. Kimberly Munley stopped Nidal Hasan with four well-placed bullets at close range.

"It was an amazing and an aggressive performance by this police officer," [Base Commander Lt. General Bob] Cone said.

Munley was only a few feet from Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan when she opened fire.

Wounded in the exchange of bullets, the 34-year-old Munley was reported in stable condition at a local hospital.

The diminutive Munley - she stands 5-foot-4 and weighs about 120 pounds - served as a cop in Wrightsville Beach, N.C., before she moved to Texas to enlist in the military, friends said.

She is married with two daughters and is no longer in the armed forces.

"She's the happiest, sweetest, most fun-loving girl you'd ever want to be friends with - and never want to cross," Peterson said.

Munley could not be reached Friday. In a posting on her Twitter page, she wrote: "I live a good life....a hard one, but I go to sleep peacefully @ night knowing that I may have made a difference in someone's life."

The hero cop spent Thursday night phoning fellow officers to let them know she was fine and to find out about casualties in the attack - the deadliest ever on a military base in the U.S., Cone said.


Yes, the jihadi was taken down by a woman. Given his disdain for the fair sex, that's an ironic delight.

The bigger question is why nobody intervened to address the man's obvious problems. The fellow pulled the pin on the grenade a long time ago. [Reynolds' SNL reference is absolutely perfect.]

Actually, the question answers itself: PC. And now it comes with a body count.

One last thing, a bit of unsolicited advice: cancel the pity party. The actual victims are in the morgue or the hospital right now, along with their families.

For future reference, the proper response is "How can we help?"

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Yeah, but...wouldn't they have to be?

An interesting, thumbs-up review of the V reboot which starts on ABC tonight.

Leaving the political subtext aside, I found this part about the religious angle interesting:

A handful of dissidents holds out against the rapturous reception given the Vs. Some are simply uneasy, such as the youthful priest Father Jack, who sharply criticizes the Vatican's embrace of the Vs as divine creations: "Rattlesnakes are God's creatures, too."

Unless they were machine life/generated, they'd have to be part of the divine creative order, correct? I'm a little nervous about the Vatican part potentially devolving into a "Visitors' Pope" plot thread, but I'll hold fire until it happens.

Discuss!

[Oh, and one more thing: it's nice to see that they preserved that part of the original, which featured a Catholic priest as a member of the resistance, one determined to convert the aliens, to boot. The Sci-Fi Channel re-broadcast the original two series over the weekend. It held up OK, but shows its age in spots. The main problem is the acting, which, apart from the ever-reliable Michael Ironside as the cynical mercenary-turned-resistance mastermind and Robert Englund as the naifish friendly (!) alien, was generally flat.

Memo to producers of sci-fi series: forget the effects budget. If you want it to work, get a good cast. That will save you even when you lose the thread of the plot. See, e.g., Galactica (2004), Battlestar.]