Thursday, October 28, 2010

Our dinner with the Stirlings.

Steve Stirling and his wife Jan were in town for a local sci-fi convention two weekends ago, and they generously offered to take us out for dinner. Apparently, Dale III overheard me talking to Heather about what he was doing in town, and asked, as we pulled up to the hotel to meet them:

"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

Free speech isn't free.

Former Canadian "Human Rights Commission" employee and noted

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.

The tolling of the bells.

They toll for us. Beautifully.

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.]

Monday, October 25, 2010

The first rule of Purge Club is you don't talk about Purge Club.

The Catholic blogosphere, rather like the rest of the net, is a mixed bag. Even the orthodox ones run the gamut. For some reason, that's news today. It's not particularly impressive, though it does correctly note that blog reporting brought to light the problems with CCHD fund recipients. And, yes, some Catholic bloggers who pride themselves on their orthodoxy misplace the charity button and behave like jerks. But overall, the reporting carries with it the suggestion of cultural incomprehension: a coastal reporter discovers and is repelled by the weird rituals performed by the bumpkiny types in flyover country. Note the terms used: purge, enraged, starkest, dissecting. Hard to see a similar article looking at the Kos bloggers or even the staff blogs at the Reporter, despite the recurrent nastiness of Mr. Winters at the latter publication.

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

The perils of undergoing a classectomy.

The side-effects are lifelong and difficult to treat, as a distinctly churlish commentator at the Reporter demonstrates.

In the past, Winters was a sometimes-challenging read, but his increasingly-venomous streak has made it not worth the bother.

Thank God for grown-ups.

A Muslim writer protests the Williams firing.

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.

Half the World.

Waaaay back, during the abortive attempts of the Iranian people to be free of the Revolutionary Guard and the Jew-hating messianic dwarf who fronts for them, I said I was going to post something about one of my favorite cities: Esfahan (Isfahan), Iran.

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.

"I think he can *hear* you, Ray."

Juan Williams' sin was simply in voicing NPR's own fears out loud.

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


Mark Sullivan moved, quite a while ago (not that I updated my link--yeesh) to The Jury Box. Sorry, Mark. And start blogging again--you're making me nervous.

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

Crocodile tears.

Or, "Progressives pretend to be upset about the iconoclasm they've tried to ram down everyone's throats since 1965."

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

Finally--they're getting the turbo encabulator off the ground.

Good news in this video press release.

Who's the "Islamophobe" again?

"Think about it: if the average Joe expresses anxiety over Islamic fundamentalism, they’re called Islamophobes. But if an editor removes a comic in which Mohammed isn’t even present, that’s not honest to Allah Islamophobia?

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

Star Trek meets Kesha.

The results are surprisingly good. Then again, James Tiberius Kirk classes up every joint he visits, so maybe it's not such a surprise.

It will change your life. Forever.

I bring you...Italian Spiderman.

No, no. Don't thank me. I do what I do...out of love. Your joy is thanks enough.

Apparently Echo flounced off in a snit with the template upgrade.

I will attempt to retrieve them as soon as I can. We apologize for the technical difficulties. In the meantime, the Blogger comment system should be functional.

The Currency Wars are getting closer.

Enjoy the spiraling ride:

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

Here's the new abode.

The Burrow 2.0:

Yes, we are positively giddy about it. Home, sweet home never meant so much as it does now.

Lazy narratives to push.

Did you hear the one about the Koran being burned as a protest of Islamic doctrine?

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.

That's odd.

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, 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?"


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

It's the Artists!

Some are describing this as "vandalism" or even "violence":

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'?"


There's one glaring problem with this otherwise-laudable statement from a Catholic perspective.

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.”

I like blogging. Honest.

Trust me.

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.

The world continues to spin on its axis. Albeit with unwelcome sound effects...

Life goes on, and it occasionally surprises with good news. As in,  "Hey, your student loans have been forgiven under the PSLF program!...