Friday, December 17, 2010
From a letter written by a Canadian soldier, recently found by an historian.
According to the letter, written December 30, 1916, another truce took place in 1916:
Here we are again as the song says. I had quite a good Xmas considering I was in the front line. Xmas eve was pretty stiff, sentry-go up to the hips in mud of course. I had long rubber boots or waders. We had a truce on Xmas Day and our German friends were quite friendly. They came over to see us and we traded bully beef for cigars. Xmas was "tray bon" which means very good.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
It's funny because it's true.
And this part depicts my gift-wrapping method with camcorder accuracy:
Men do not like to wrap gifts. I think it was Dave Barry that said the first gifts given were the gifts to Baby Jesus. "Hence the term "wise men". Men don't understand the point in putting carefully coordinated paper with oodles of expensive ribbon on a package just to rip it off. (lingerie though is a whole 'nother idea).
Give a women a 15 inch scrap of decorative paper and she giftwrap a Sikorsky in less than 10 minutes. A man will carefully lay out the present, cut a swath of paper the size of Nebraska, and when he's done, there will be a gap in the back where you can see what the gift is. I realized in my anthropology courses that the Pharoahs had to be wrapped after death by women, otherwise the back of the mummy would be held together by a big piece of Scotch Tape.
Such an analysis may strike fans of the movie as a bit off, given that, on a certain level, it is a cornball movie. It’s a Wonderful Life has corny dialogue, corny humor, slapstick, hijinks and low-jinks. But beneath all that, it also is a very dark film. Opening with George’s friends praying that he can be found before he does the unthinkable, death hangs over it, and each death, even the deaths George prevents, sends him in directions he does not want to go, pulling him further and further from his dreams and ambitions, turning him into every bit the “warped, frustrated young man” that Mr. Potter says he is.
Read it all.
Monday, December 13, 2010
There simply aren't the people in what was once one of the country's greatest cities.
Did you know that Detroit came within an ace of getting the 1964 and 1968 Olympic Summer Games?
Now, she's less than half the size she used to be. If the 2010 Census shows the City to have a population north of 800,000, I'll be stunned. And dubious.
The mayoral administration has recognized the obvious, and is looking to reconcentrate the population in the viable areas (i.e., closer to Downtown or the viable neighborhoods along the borders with the suburbs).
More than 20% of Detroit's 139 square miles could go without key municipal services under a new plan being developed for the city, with as few as seven neighborhoods seen as meriting the city's full resources.
Those details, outlined by Detroit planning officials this week, offer the clearest picture yet of how Mayor Dave Bing intends to execute what has become his signature program: reconfiguring Detroit to reflect its declining population and fiscal health. Yet the blueprint still leaves large legal and financial questions unresolved.
Until now, the mayor and his staff have spoken mostly in generalities about the problem, stressing the need for community input and pledging to a skeptical public that no resident would be forced to move.
But the approach discussed by city officials could have that effect. Mr. Bing's staff wants to concentrate Detroit's remaining population—expected to be less than 900,000 after this year's Census count—and limited local, state and federal dollars in the most viable swaths of the city, while other sectors could go without such services as garbage pickup, police patrols, road repair and street lights.
I imagine there would have to be the occasional show of police force within the abandoned zones, though--otherwise, Very Bad Things are certain to be cooked up there.
Jeff Culbreath asked me on Facebook what could be done to reverse the situation, and suggested homesteading--focusing on bands of enterprising Catholics reclaiming (and sustaining) neighborhoods. I didn't answer because I wasn't sure how to respond.
Certainly the only thing that will save the City are more people--lots more people. But the only way you will get homesteaders in is if there is some level of independence afforded to the would-be settlers. By that I mean some liberty from the dead hand of bureaucracy which has helped to create this unprecedented American nightmare in the first place. Imagine trying to homestead in Permit Purgatory, red tape bidding fair to strangle the effort in its cradle. You'd have to pass something like the old Homestead Acts to carve through the inevitable problems.
But at this desperate hour, out of the box solutions are the ones that need to be tried.
Friday, December 03, 2010
Charming--and the scoundrel's "just a joke" defense was happily ineffective.
But some Greens seem enamored with the "whack 'em!" solution.
Chris Johnson found a new approach leading to the same result: using a Mayan goddess as a mascot for a U.N. climate change convention.
Great idea: nothing says "reason and creativity" quite like a goddess worshipped by a culture which was big on human sacrifice. Including children.
Sign me up.
Not so by the way, Hernan Cortes died 463 years ago yesterday. As Ms. Figueres' mascot diety makes clear, Cortes deserves to be regarded as a great, if largely unwitting, humanitarian.
In a speech that drew a standing ovation, Thomas talked about "the whole question of money involved in politics."
"We are owned by propagandists against the Arabs. There's no question about that. Congress, the White House, and Hollywood, Wall Street, are owned by the Zionists. No question in my opinion. They put their money where there mouth is…We're being pushed into a wrong direction in every way."
No, seriously--it's a delight to see a seminar ostensibly aimed at countering "anti-Arab bias" degenerate into anti-Semitism. Bravo.
"You know what's always bothered me about the Christmas story, Clark: Why so many Jews?"
Monday, November 22, 2010
I was gone for a full week--a real rarity--but it was something that had to be borne. Since I know Chicago about as well as the topography of Mars, I was cabbed about a lot. Returning to my hotel room on Tuesday evening, I looked forward to dinner and an early sleep. Waiting for the elevator, I arranged my things and grabbed for my hotel key card.
Hmm. Wallet's not in that pocket.
Cue the Wallet Search Macarena--slapping from pocket to pocket until it's found. Very arhythmically, but there you go.
By pocket slap five, I'm starting to develop a nervous tic. Lather, rinse, repeat. No wallet.
It probably fell out in the cab--no worries. I'll just call the cab company using the receipt.
Receipt's basically illegible, with the only recognizable sections saying "Cab Transportation."
I sprint to the service desk of the hotel for some help. Any help. Help! The nice lady behind the counter helped me as much as she could, but Smudge Taxicab was not one she was familiar with.
"Maybe they ran the charge, and you can call your credit card company to find out who it is?"
Great--and clever advice. After struggling to get a good contact number, I called the card company. To quote Mr. Spiccoli: No shirt, no shoes--No Dice.
Hadn't been run yet. But at least they could cancel the card before any damage was done and send me a new one before I checked out of the hotel three days hence.
Which was a start--but I was still without ID. Try to enter any major buildings today without an ID? Can't recommend it. In fact, I was facing the fact I couldn't even get back into my hotel room.
The head of security greeted me, and quizzed me about the contents of my room. We went up to the floor, and he entered the room--carefully shooing me away so I couldn't cheat.
He exited the room, a clear and rising note of exasperation in his voice: "Now, listen Mister..."
I cut him off quickly, and pointed out something I had just noticed: "We're on the 18th floor." At the outset, I had told my room was on the 21st.
Instant mollification: "Oh. Guess that would do it."
We get to the 21st, and after a thorough examination, he said "All right--you check out. By the way, you're going to need to make a police report so you can get on the plane to leave town."
I thanked him, and settled in with the prospect of being stuck in the room, unable to do the work I was in town to do, being sans ID. But at least I was in my room, and ran an internet search for all of the cab companies in Chicago, hoping to find something from Smudge.
There are a lot of cab companies in the Windy City. Defeat.
In despair, I called my wife, eager to hear a sympathetic voice. I finally get through, and we talk for a little while, but not long, as she's driving home with the kids. She'll call when she gets back home.
Ten minutes later she calls back, lottery-winning excitement in her voice:
"CHUCK FROM BLOCKBUSTER CALLED!! HE KNOWS WHERE YOUR WALLET IS!"
As in, yes, Blockbuster Video. She then rattled off a contact number for Chuck, whom I mentally surnamed Easily The Greatest Human Being Walking Our Planet.
But the phone number was odd--it was a home (for us) area code, not a Chicago number.
I shrugged it off--perhaps Chuck was a clairvoyant. I called.
Chuck picked up the phone--yes, he knew about my wallet. And yes, Chuck worked at the Blockbuster nearest our home. How did he know about my wallet?
As it turns out, Chuck had been contacted by a woman named Kristi, who had found my wallet and called him. Chuck gave me her number.
Two orders of bafflement magnitude then became three--Kristi also had a Michigan area code. Never mind. This was good bafflement.
I thanked Chuck profusely, falling just short of offering to name a hypothetical son after him. Charles is a sound boy's name, though...
I call Kristi's number.
A pleasant voice answers and says--Yes! I have your wallet! In Chicago!
She'd found it on the street, walking around with her daughter after visiting the American Girl store on the Magnificent Mile. She'd be delighted to turn it over to a fellow Michigander! Her family's hotel was about a mile away.
I ran an internet map and walked over without incident. By the way, some advice--avoid walking unaccompanied on Columbus Drive at night--it seems like a bad call. The fact I was disheveled, big and moving with a purpose probably helped.
I reached the hotel and met Kristi, who turns out to live in an Oakland County suburb with her children and husband. She saw the wallet sitting there, opened it up and decided she had to get in touch with the poor guy from her home state who had to be in full freakout mode (yep!). She didn't want to fish through the wallet, so she pulled my Blockbuster card and used that to contact me.
Really? Really. We also talked about daughters and the American Girl store, including my Rachel's recent purchase of Lanie. Not so BTW, the American Girl store would be an easy place to go bankrupt.
I thanked her profusely (Kristi's a good name for a girl, too--but we have a Christina, after all) and floated back to my hotel, praising God's providence and the good-heartedness of complete strangers.
I'm also going to Blockbuster and pricing wallet chains.
[Thomas D.] Sawyer is a bladder cancer survivor who now wears a urostomy bag, which collects his urine from a stoma, or opening in his abdomen. “I have to wear special clothes and in order to mount the bag I have to seal a wafer to my stomach and then attach the bag. If the seal is broken, urine can leak all over my body and clothes.”
On Nov. 7, Sawyer said he went through the security scanner at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. “Evidently the scanner picked up on my urostomy bag, because I was chosen for a pat-down procedure.”
Due to his medical condition, Sawyer asked to be screened in private. “One officer looked at another, rolled his eyes and said that they really didn’t have any place to take me,” said Sawyer. “After I said again that I’d like privacy, they took me to an office.”
Sawyer wears pants two sizes too large in order to accommodate the medical equipment he wears. He’d taken off his belt to go through the scanner and once in the office with security personnel, his pants fell down around his ankles. “I had to ask twice if it was OK to pull up my shorts,” said Sawyer, “And every time I tried to tell them about my medical condition, they said they didn’t need to know about that.”
Before starting the enhanced pat-down procedure, a security officer did tell him what they were going to do and how they were going to it, but Sawyer said it wasn’t until they asked him to remove his sweatshirt and saw his urostomy bag that they asked any questions about his medical condition.
“One agent watched as the other used his flat hand to go slowly down my chest. I tried to warn him that he would hit the bag and break the seal on my bag, but he ignored me. Sure enough, the seal was broken and urine started dribbling down my shirt and my leg and into my pants.”
The security officer finished the pat-down, tested the gloves for any trace of explosives and then, Sawyer said, “He told me I could go. They never apologized. They never offered to help. They acted like they hadn’t seen what happened. But I know they saw it because I had a wet mark.”
Humiliated, upset and wet, Sawyer said he had to walk through the airport soaked in urine, board his plane and wait until after takeoff before he could clean up.
“I am totally appalled by the fact that agents that are performing these pat-downs have so little concern for people with medical conditions,” said Sawyer.
Are any of us more safe because we can be groped and soaked in our own urine before flying? Is there some history of seniors with colostomy bags hijacking or plotting to hijack planes I'm unaware of?
Hey, Madame Secretary--it's against *my* religion to be groped by someone who isn't my wife. When can I expect some "adjustments" on *that*?
Thursday, November 04, 2010
Still, I was following some national races with interest (the state/local ones were less compelling for whatever reason), and generally speaking the candidates I was rooting for pulled it out: Marco Rubio, Allen West, Dan Webster, Sean Duffy, and Chip Craavack. The last was especially satisfying, as it resulted in the ouster of the faux-life Jim Oberstar, who deserves a lot more of the blame for the failure of the Stupak amendment than poor Bart Stupak.
But, overall, not particularly giddy--both parties have a lot of work to do to get us out of this mess, and the old bumpersticker sloganeering of the past isn't going to cut it.
After the plane touched down in Singapore, the engine closest to the fuselage on the left wing had visible burn marks and was missing a plate section that would have been painted with the red kangaroo logo of the airline. The upper part of the left wing also appeared damaged.
One passenger, Rosemary Hegardy, 60, of Sydney, told The Associated Press that she heard two bangs and saw yellow flames from her window.
"There was flames — yellow flames came out, and debris came off. ... You could see black things shooting through the smoke, like bits of debris," she said.
Although it was nearly 90 minutes from the time of the explosion to the plane landing, there was no panic inside the aircraft, she said.
The captain addressed the passengers immediately by saying "'I'm sure you realize there's a problem. We have to find out what the problem is,'" she said. Shortly after that, the captain explained that an engine had failed and needed to dump fuel before landing.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
"So, is he done entertaining the nerds yet?"
Steve laughed out loud at that one. Jan and Steve are wonderful folks, and a great time was had by all. I managed to avoid any embarrassing fanboy moments. At least I think so. I also understand why Steve decided against being a lawyer, and I can't blame him.
Thanks, my friends!
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Richard Warman continues his war against free speech and has filed
yet another lawsuit-for-intimidation-purposes-only against the Canadian free speech blog, Blazing Cat Fur.
Any financial help you can provide would be greatly appreciated.
Can't say as I care for what you're breeding up there, Canada.
In our new home, there is a Catholic church about four blocks due north. On a pleasant Sunday, it's a fine walk. It's also worthwhile--the Mass is reverent, the homilies solid, the people friendly to us and our squad. Architecturally--whoof. Built in 1956, the high altar is still intact, and there's even a baldacchino still in place. The spiritual descendants of Constantine V have not found this place.
But I think one of my favorite things about the church is that you can hear the bells toll on the hour from 9 am to 6 pm, every day. The beginning and ending hours usually toll hymns. So far, I've identified Pange Lingua Gloriosi and To Jesus Christ Our Sovereign King.
I think we've found the right house. Thanks be to God.
[Update: My Much Better Half reliably informs me that the hymns play at noon and 6pm.]
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Monday, October 25, 2010
Somewhat interesting, but mostly the same old same old. Still, I was baffled by this reference:
Thomas Peters, who runs the popular "AmericanPapist" blog, said fellow orthodox Catholics have embraced the Web because they feel they finally have a platform that can compete with well-established liberal Catholic publications, such as the National Catholic Reporter. (Some conservative bloggers call the paper "the National Catholic Destroyer.")
I'd never heard that one before. Tom's never used it. I've read "National Catholic Distorter," yeah. But "Destroyer"? Never.
Curiously, a Bing search reveals that every single reference to the "National Catholic Destroyer" is from this article or commentaries on it.
Not a single independent reference. If bloggers are using it, you'd think there'd be some actual evidence for it on the internet. Peculiar.
Friday, October 22, 2010
In the past, Winters was a sometimes-challenging read, but his increasingly-venomous streak has made it not worth the bother.
And in even better news, a group of American and Canadian Muslims stand up for free speech. I especially appreciate this part:
We are concerned and saddened by the recent wave of vitriolic anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic sentiment that is being expressed across our nation.
We are even more concerned and saddened by threats that have been made against individual writers, cartoonists, and others by a minority of Muslims. We see these as a greater offense against Islam than any cartoon, Qur’an burning, or other speech could ever be deemed.
Bravo, ladies and gentlemen! Thanks for standing up and being counted.
The traditional capital of the Safavid dynasty, Esfahan is an architectural marvel, as well as a center of Persian culture. Indeed, the city is so justly proud of its heritage that it uses the couplet: "Esfahan, nesfeh jahan!" Esfahan, half the world! The following photos should demonstrate why.
Shah Abbas I was the greatest of the Safavids, the Shia dynasty that ruled Iran and the surrounding areas for over 200 years. A perpetual thorn in the eastern side of the Ottomans, the Safavids made life miserable for the Sultans in Constantinople, committing the powerful Ottomans to a draining second front during the peak of the Turkish empire. Abbas triumphed over the Ottomans, and used his wealth to create architectural masterpieces like the Sheikh Lotfallah Mosque (above). He moved his capital to Esfahan in 1598, and naturally, he had to spiff it up to his demanding specifications.
As impressive as it is on the outside, it is the interior of the Lotfallah mosque that truly dazzles.
The dome is simply a marvel.
Shah Abbas was known for genuine tolerance of Christians, once saying he'd prefer the dust off the lowliest Christian's foot to the presence of the kingliest Ottoman. He resettled Armenians liberated from the Turks in Esfahan (which was followed by a steady stream of Armenian immigrants) and permitted them to build the Holy Savior Cathedral.
The Cathedral frescoes are stunning. Note the similarity of certain decorative motifs in both the mosque and the cathedral.
There's even a memorial to the Armenian genocide in the Cathedral courtyard.
Despite the glory of the Lotfallah, Shah Abbas was not finished adorning his new capital. Yet another mosque, even grander, arose: the Shah Mosque.
But that will have to wait for another post.
In the end, NPR did not post the cartoon, although it is readily available around the Internet. Many listeners wrote to say that they were disappointed with that decision.
. . .
Listeners who are strong First Amendment advocates say NPR's response is insufficient. Many have written asking that NPR join with other American media and stand up to extremism and intimidation. But NPR also has, in my opinion, an obligation not to exacerbate the tensions that already inflame relations between Muslims and non-Muslims. Would posting the cartoon help or hinder the goals of free speech and a free press in the Muslim world?
To put in another way — would NPR post racist or anti-Semitic cartoons on its Web site in the name of free speech? Or do the values of public radio demand another, more measured response?
NPR may have a special role in this: In radio, the shock of the visual can be avoided by clearly describing why the cartoon is considered offensive. This does not compound the offense by re-publishing it. There is a value in euphemism, even though the temptation to poke radicals in the eye is strong.
NPR resisted that temptation, much to the dismay of some listeners who want NPR to use the cartoon as a weapon against radical Islam. In reporting this story, NPR has been clear, but not provocative. It's been a tough call all around, but I think that NPR did the right thing.
Translation: we submit--don't behead us.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Mike Inman informed me that he's no longer blogging, but you can find him on Facebook, the last refuge of the ex-/hibernating blogger.
Thomas McDonald, Plenipotentiary Gamemaster and Lord Savant of Fun, has the State of Play blog up and running at high speed. Game reviews--electronic and board--aplenty. Read--a lot.
Any other new blogs/updates I should be aware of?
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
The merry band of lassies and lads at the Reporter claim to be appalled--just appalled!--by a pastor's decision to cover a mural of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I agree--it's a horror. The Archbishop is screwing this one up.
But...color me skeptical that the folks at the Reporter are truly upset by the actual covering, though. The Reporter piece reeks of opportunism, getting the chance to rage at a despised bishop to their right (which, yes, is most of them). I mean, how can the same people who rip out baldaccinos, high altars, altar rails, statuary, crucifixes, etc. at the drop of a hat really be upset by the covering of a mural above the altar? Or am I to believe that the Reporter crowd suddenly got the bulletin from II Nicaea, rekindling that ol' time religion?
Even better: there's evidence for the opportunism. From right here in Michigan, when some of the late bishop Untener's apparatchiks did the exact same thing to a Hispanic parish in Saginaw, removing the statue of the Guadalupana commissioned by the Mexican families in the parish back in 1961. Reporter coverage of that abuse of the religious sensibilities of Hispanic parishoners? Zilch. Try it yourself. I used "Guadalupe statue" and "rainbow parish."
Can't embarrass the administration of a late progressive hero, can we? But the Devil Chaput? Avengers assemble!
Nice bit of canned outrage by the folks in KC. Need to work on making it less transparent next time, though.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Look, the media can’t have it both ways. They cannot criticize the public for concerns over Islam and then pull this stunt over a fear they may get stabbed in front of a Starbucks. If their governing principle in the newsroom is fear, then they should admit it and get the hell off our backs for feeling pretty much the same way."
--Greg Gutfeld, commenting on the Washington Post's decision to pull a cartoon that mentioned Muhammad.
Friday, October 15, 2010
Today’s USD slide and EUR, GBP, JPY & AUD gains serve to highlight the ever decreasing (or perhaps that should be unvirtuous) circles of FX intervention and reserve diversification, i.e. Asian central bank intervenes (buys USD), then diversifies USD, thereby putting renewed downward pressure on the USD, which in turn forces more intervention. I believe this is known both as ‘chasing your own tail’ and an ‘accident waiting to happen’.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
No no no no no--not by the Pentacostal microchurch led by Terry Jones.
Because, you know--they didn't actually burn any Korans.
No, I'm talking about Charles Merrill, the wealthy gay artist-of-some-sort. He actually destroyed an artistically-significant Koran gifted by King Hussein of Jordan (and valued by some at $60,000) back in July 2007. He did it to protest Islamic gay-bashing. Even sent out a press release and invited people to his website.
Media reaction? The sound of crickets. Crickets after a lungful of sarin. The closest thing to actual media coverage? A squib in the gay newspaper The Advocate.
But but but, you say--nobody's ever heard of Charles Merrill. He's a carnival-barking nobody busking for attention.
Fair enough. After all, the guy can't even get a mention in Wikipedia, of all places.
But. So is--was--Jones.
Why the discrepancy in coverage?
Might I humbly suggest that it's because Jones is the perfect demon-figure for lazy journalists marinating in Elmer Gantry and Inherit the Wind stereotypes about Christianity. Lord, the man's straight from Central Casting:
MSM: "It's a slow news month, and we're interested in Needlessly-Provocative Ignorant Backwoods Reverends to Caricature."
CC: "Wellll...let's see. Swaggart's pretty well clapped out, and Oral Roberts seems to be...er, dead. Hey--how would you like a guy who looks like the underfed love child of Paul Teutul and is threatening to burn the Koran?"
MSM: "EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!! Perfect! Eleventy!!!!!"
Gay quasi-artist who points out Islamic violence against homosexuals--not so much. "Deer in the headlights" doesn't quite capture the flavor of a reporter being detailed to cover Merrill's stunt. He might even have to ask some difficult questions, and ruin the narrative by pointing out how Muslims are--you know, at least on occasion, once in a blue moon--victimizers and not just victims. There's no clear backlash angle, either. Best to just pretend it never happened.
But Jones, with his congregation of upwards of 20? The reporters rappelled down from News Copters 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9 and 10-13 inclusive for a Two-Minutes Tut-Tutting and Worried Frowning About The Rising Tide of Intolerance.
As the President would say: Let me be clear--I'm not a proponent of desecrating other people's holy objects or symbols as a general rule (argue about them--sure. Destroy--no). Not remotely. Which is why I can't cheer Artiste' Chagoya's gay Mohammed "tapestry." Do unto others...
But I am a major proponent of a vigorous free press that reports the facts, no matter how discomfiting it may be to groups it wants to coddle. And not a snooze bar media that pulls out comfortable templates to guide its air-cover reporting.
Friday, October 08, 2010
A truck driver from Montana who is accused of destroying a controversial piece of artwork at a public art gallery in Loveland was scheduled to appear before a judge through a video link on Thursday afternoon.
Kathleen Folden allegedly screamed "How can you desecrate my lord?" on Wednesday at Loveland Museum and Art Gallery just before breaking some plexiglass surrounding the print of "The Misadventures of the Romantic Cannibals" with a crowbar. She then allegedly tore the print and sat on the floor until police arrived.
"Romantic Cannibals" was a 12-panel lithograph that depicted Jesus involved involved a sex act and it also included comic book characters, Mexican pornography, Mayan symbols and ethnic stereotypes. It was part of an 82-print exhibit by 10 artists that opened in mid-September and was scheduled to run through late last month.
"Criminal mischief." Feh! How narrowly bourgeois. How typically philistine.
Nay! Miss Folden is an artist herself! Mischief? Nonsense! She was engaged in a transgressive dialogue with Prof. Chagoya, expressing her interpretive viewpoint via sound, motion, blank verse, creative impact and metaphoric exploration. Clearly Chagoya is suffering from a cramped, narrowly conventional viewpoint which needs to be shaken up by bold new approaches and vistas. Open your mind, Chagoya! Shatter the mental shackles of your quaintly upper middle class academic lifestyle, and interact with the real working class, as exemplified by daring avant-gardists like Folden! If you dare.
Okay. Sarcasm off. If only Chagoya could take off the clown nose for five seconds:
Chagoya told CBS4 by phone he was upset to learn the news that his art had been attacked. He says his work is a critique of corruption in religious institutions, not people's beliefs.
"I don't expect people to agree with me but let's have a civil discussion, you know. I've been getting a lot of hate mail that doesn't have any logical discussion behind it," Chagoya said.
Yeaaaah. He was not trying to attack beliefs by portraying Jesus in a sex act, but rather attacking institutions. That might work on Anne Rice, but if you are getting more oxygen, it's bullshit.
Let's try it this way: I want to dialogue with Chagoya about his Mexican clown pr0n, using his approach. I'll have to open the "civil discussion" with "Hello, Professor. I understand your mother was the town bike before she died of syphilis and your dad was an energetic molester of dairy cattle. What were you thinking when you barfed up that crap you miscall 'art'?"
What is it?
How about this:
The threatened burning of copies of the Holy Qu’ran this Saturday is a particularly egregious offense that demands the strongest possible condemnation by all who value civility in public life and seek to honor the sacred memory of those who lost their lives on September 11.
The problem is with the word "Holy." If you're a Catholic, the Koran doesn't get that adjective. Period. I understand the need to be good neighbors, and I'm actually a fan of civility, if haphazard in my observance. But grownups understand that faithful members of one religion can't call someone else's holy book "Holy."
Muslims know this, as this Muslim interfaith outreach demonstrates, reserving the adjective only for references to the Koran, even though it respectfully quotes the Holy Bible. Which is perfectly fine--it was written by Muslims, and they can label as they like. No offense intended or taken.
But. If it's an interfaith statement, then make it neutral. Or be a grownup and politely object. Alas, the Archbishop Emeritus of Washington is best known for his efforts to be the ecclesiastical version of Spinal Tap bassist Derek Smalls.
"We're very lucky in the band in that we have two visionaries, David and Nigel, they're like poets, like Shelley and Byron. They're two distinct types of visionaries, it's like fire and ice, basically. I feel my role in the band is to be somewhere in the middle of that, kind of like lukewarm water."
Sounds like another one of those interfaith "dialogues" described by a rather hardbitten Vaticanista to the noted polemicist Ibn Warraq:
Nearly ten years ago, I was the guest of the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies (PISAI) of Rome. PISAI is dedicated to interfaith dialogue between Christians and Muslims. But as the director at the time said to me, “There is no real dialogue, since Muslims never reciprocate the goodwill gestures made by the Christians. The result is we sit down together, and the Christians say what a wonderful religion Islam is, and the Muslims say what a wonderful religion Islam is.”
All I can say is that the last few weeks have been entirely too eventful. The good news is that my mother in law will be going home on Monday. No, that's great news, and thanks for your prayers. What we had feared might be dementia proved to be temporary disorientation, thanks be to God.
The family's doing fine, too. We're settling in, and I should have pictures up soon. Elizabeth turns 1 next week, and she's starting to stand up on her own. She also jabbers like a maniac, and one of her identifiable words is "Daddy," which sounds like "daah-in!" That's pretty cool.
We have a renter for the house, too, which is a godsend, and a bit of a financial relief valve.
There's also bad news (not directly involving us) which I'm not going to reveal right now, if ever. Just pray for a change and regeneration of heart for someone we know. Hate to be cryptic, but there you go.
Finally, I'm getting clear/settled, so I'll start posting here again. This time for sure, to quote the great moose.
Friday, July 30, 2010
The first kicker--we didn't find out until yesterday. The good news is that she was the one calling to inform us. She seemed better, if weak, yesterday. She was eating and able to hold it down.
The other kicker is that she is going to have to be in for another week to ten days for continued IV antibiotics and physical rehab--she's too weak to walk now. After she is discharged, she will need another 3-5 weeks of IV antibiotic as well.
Prayers and good thoughts welcome--this was a scary one. Kicker 3--yesterday was Heather's birthday. "Happy Freakin' Birthday!" as our good friend Shelly put it.
Finally, you Michiganders may have heard about the plane that went down in Lake Michigan as it was taking a patient to the Mayo Clinic. It took off from my hometown's airport, and our family knew everyone on the plane. I worked for co-pilot Earl Davidson's construction company one summer back in college, and Dr. Hall was the father of one of my friends in high school and my sister-in-law's physician. They were both fine, community-minded men, and my Mom and Dad speak well of the Pavliks and Jerry Freed, the only survivor. It's torn a hole in the heart of my birthplace, so prayers and good thoughts are welcome there, too.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Well, it's not like I haven't been busy. We successfully acquired the larger house, the 1720 sq. footer I mentioned waaay back in April. It passed the inspection and the neighborhood examination quite well. It's quiet, and festooned with Lawn Nazis (I mean that in the best possible sense of the phrase, of course). My car insurance is even cheaper, which is nice.
Have I mentioned that I hate moving even more than househunting?
The upshot is, we closed at the end of May and are still moving in. We've lived at the address for the better part of two weeks, but there's still some stuff left to move from the old place, which then will go on the "market." With ten-plus empty properties within a quarter mile of the same street, I'm not at all confident. But, enough gloom. My wife and children now have room to breathe and grow, and I'm happy with that.
So, I have a good excuse for not posting anything, and apologies for slow e-mail responses, too. I'll get back on the horse over the next week or so, including book reviews [esp., yes, "Taint in the Blood," which involves horrifying, as opposed to cuddly, shape-shifters and vampires. Including one named "Dale," I'm sorry to report. :)]
Hope you're all well.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
So, we kept looking. And found another bungalow. Only bigger (1700+ sq. ft). And in better overall condition, everywhere--save an ancient (if functional) furnace, which gives me pause. But it's a beaut, and the fourth bedroom is ideal. The downside--and mostly from the reaction standpoint--is that it's north of, but mighty close to, Eight Mile, though you'd never be able to tell from driving about. We're within easy reach of Harper Woods, if that helps with the coordinates. Then again, because it is close to 8M, that means you get a lot of house. Moreover, this isn't a "bars on the windows" neighborhood--far from it. Kids are riding their bikes around, the elderly (including the seller) move about unmolested and so forth.
With our price (no pun intended) range, it's big house close to 8 as opposed to little house with big(ger and bigger) problems the further north you go. The tradeoffs are a zero sum game, as has become painfully evident. We need big. We're going big. Here's hoping it passes the inspection, because it's a really, really nice one.
Monday, April 12, 2010
The upshot is that we've managed to find a likely candidate over the past week and have outbid the impudent lout who dared to submit an offer. We are going to be having the place inspected over the next week or so, and if it passes muster will likely be moving in May. It's a 14oo sq ft brick bungalow with an addition, bath and a half, a partially finished basement, a two car garage, a deck, central air, a yard big enough to play and garden in, and a dishwasher (as opposed to the dishwasher I married, as my Much Better Half puts it). Oh, and a nice neighborly widow to the north with two statues of the Blessed Virgin in her yard and an unfeigned delight toward our brood.
Our heads are spinning, and prayers and good wishes are welcome. Thus, updates will follow accordingly. As will email responses--sorry I've been neglectful of that, too.
Any heads up on landscapers who can supply black dirt (the back yard was scarred by an above ground pool and some exercise in canyon-digging), and a Metro Detroit moving company would be greatly welcome. I'll even invite you to the housewarming and cover your first several rounds...
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions." In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we desire will ruin us."
Thursday, March 18, 2010
As a meditation on men who fight--on all sides--both against their external foes and the often more-paralyzing, if less bloody, infighting, 2020 remains second to none. It also offers rather tart observations about the dysfunction of Arab and Russian cultures, and how each bedevils the Japanese and Americans respectively.
It was thus with some enthusiasm that I looked forward to The War After Armageddon, his most recent novel. I can recommend it, albeit not with the same enthusiasm I can 2020. However, that's because about three-quarters of the way through it, I realized Peters wasn't writing it for me. Indeed, he's not writing it for anyone who sees the current twilight struggle with Islamic terrorism as necessary. Rather, Peters wrote War for those who don't, as a slap-in-the-face cautionary tale. In fact, it can be, with tongue planted in cheek, described as The Military Companion to The Handmaid's Tale.
War features as its admirable protagonist an American Army Lt. General, Gary "Flintlock" Harris, a devout Catholic commanding what is left of the old U.S. Army in an American "liberation" of the Holy Land. Actually, you need a little backstory first. In roughly 20-30 years, after years of increasing friction and violence, the Western Europeans give up their attempts to manage ("assimilate" being entirely the wrong term) their Muslim minorities and decide to rid themselves of the Muslims instead. Not genocidal (though the deaths of any such persons are laughed at by the European soldiers in the book), but certainly inspired by the successful examples of ethnic cleansing in the late 20th Century. The U.S. attempts to facilitate as humane a possible rendition of the Muslims, and shortly after its efforts sees a couple cities nuked.
Rage follows, and to this extent War mirrors the excellent Caliphate by Tom Kratman, previously reviewed here (with a visit from the author, to boot). [Speaking of which, Kratman's "A Desert Called Peace" is in the review queue, too. Ah, assonance!] On balance, however, I found Kratman's scenario of the American reaction more realistic (and thus more horrifying) than Peters', though I think Peters' depiction of Europe's ethnic cleansing is more chillingly likely than the supine Europe of Caliphate.
In War, a charismatic Arkansas preacher named Jeff Gui rises shortly after the mushroom clouds (there's speculation it's not coincidental) and preaches hell-fire and damnation to Islam, along with the same to those who don't share his peculiar interpretation of Christianity. It becomes wildly popular, and sweeps aside/co-opts the existing political parties, with Gui finding himself as Vice President. In a religious fervor heretofore unseen, America seems to be transitioning to a functional theocracy.
Which is where War almost lost me. Unlike in Caliphate, which cleverly gave the reader how the American Empire was born in the form of "contemporary" book published in a glasnost-like thaw, America's Cromwell Ascendant moment is, for the most part, not shown, it's mentioned. And it's far less effective because of that. Unlike Europe getting its Milosevic on, Peters doesn't show America getting Theonomist. He tells it, instead. Which is a disappointment, given Peters' successful world-building in 2020.
Moreover, it's not convincing. Yes, I know America has a minor experience of theocratic government (Puritan Massachusetts) and has a tattered fistful of actual more-or-less theocrats. But since Peters for the most part doesn't show how America reached its present state, it has the effect of "Meanwhile, back in Hindu Dublin..." Whoa, wait--what? How? It's about as effective as Atwood's "Handmaid's Tale" in that respect. Which is to say, not particularly. And much more disappointingly.
Instead, we are told of an America suspending the First Amendment, creating a Christian SS in the form of the Military Order of the Brothers In Christ (MOBIC), which marginalizes and weakens the American regular forces, women being banned from the military, mob violence against the insufficiently devout and so forth. It doesn't work, not nearly as well as it needs to. And given America's DNA, it would take a careful world building to make for a successful suspension of disbelief.
Be that as it may, after the European backstory (in which Harris participates), the scene shifts to the shores of nuked Israel (Israel and Iran come to blows), where Crusader America is launching an ostensible liberation of the parts of the erstwhile Jewish state that don't glow. The MOBICs are lead by Sim Montfort (sigh--not too subtle there), the prize convert of the Rev. Gui, a military commander whose motto is "Kill all!" and whose tactical sense is right at the level of Ambrose Burnside. Harris leads the supporting regulars, with inferior equipment but far superior smarts and compassion for the Muslim locals. Who, to Peters' great credit, are depicted with all the pathologies and virtues held by the current Muslim locals. In fact, one of the strengths of the book is Peters' convincing argument that American values leave us at a disadvantage in the region. Let me hasten to add: he is notnotnotNOT arguing that we should abandon those values, but rather should recognize that the current Middle East is, in the main, a basket case impervious to transformation by those values.
The book depicts combat quite convincingly and unsparingly (a Peters specialty), and the infighting with equal conviction. Harris rightly rejects the American techno-fetish and recognizes men have to fight when the gee-whizery fails, as it does quite often in the book. It's an electronic warfare hell, offered with absolute clarity. All the while, Harris and his troops try to preserve their decency against the hell-tide of butchery being wrought by both the MOBICs and their external enemies. Harris also can't quite shake the worry that the enemy still has nukes in reserve...
The action rolls to a climax, the knife-fighting between the American branches grows bloody and betrayals mount. It's a harrowing and unpleasant read, and the postscript is horrific. It is to Peters' great credit that it works as well as it does, the implausibility notwithstanding. One last complaint: the heroes are multifaceted and shown with their flaws, but the villains are pretty much moustache-twisting cardboard from central casting, with no depth whatsoever. I like my human villains to have layers--not necessarily to the point of demanding sympathy (which is the opposite sin), but at least having some complexity. There really isn't any here, apart from one of the Muslim junior leaders.
That said, it's still Peters and showcases his strengths quite well. I give it a seven out of 10. If you're more paranoid about Christianists!, you'll probably make it a nine. And Peters will be happy that you got the message.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Monday, March 08, 2010
That's not a function of the particular battle between Don Juan and the Sultan: rather, it's just the way naval battles go. Boots on the ground decide the matter, not rudders in the water.
Feel free to brickbat away!
Friday, March 05, 2010
I suppose I should start blogging again. The funny thing is I gained three followers since I stopped almost two months ago, which is kinda hilarious. A hint, maybe?
For the curious: Things are fine, actually. Hectic, but fine. We're trying to get short sale approval for the fridge box we are currently living in. The process is best described as proctological. From the recent market surveys of houses nearby, it seems likely that you can have our home for a few artfully-arranged rolls of nickels. Feng that shui. Hey, it could hypothetically be a future historical landmark, or some kind of Amityville redux, what with the cat skulls in the crawl space.
Heather and the offspring are doing well, with Elizabeth tipping the scales at around 17 pounds at four months.
As to the blog, I'm going to change up slightly, weaving in a lot more book reviews, since that seems to be a fun area of discussion and I have the proverbial buttload o' books from which to choose. Ditto matters historical. I also have a yen for short fiction, but that may stay on the shelf. I have a pending request for a Byzantium post (no, seriously) which I will indulge. I'll still drop the occasional fisk, but they are pretty time intensive, and time is a commodity I don't expect to have in abundance for this year.
Thanks for checking in, and stay tuned.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII'MMMMMM SAILING AWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYY....
Oh, and I'm waxing wroth with the new commenting system, which is supposed to work (since, you know, I paid for it). The dashboard pretends not to know that I have, you know, paid for it.
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
Any advocacy of the death penalty for homosexuals is horrific. It should go without saying, you'd think.
Monday, January 04, 2010
The transition to the new commenting software should be completed in a few days, so be patient. Hope you and yours had a blessed Christmas (which continues through Saturday, not so BTW) and a good New Year's celebration.
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