Saturday, November 12, 2005

Cool as Luke


My newest Retro Rocket review column is now up at the Average Joes, and I'm reviewing Cool Hand Luke, one of the best movies you've never bothered to see.

Read it NOW.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The Hate Is On

From KHOU.com:

Texas voters Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, making their state the 19th to take that step... The contest in Texas was decided quickly -- the ban was receiving about 76 percent support with about a third of precincts reporting.

"Texans know that marriage is between a man and a woman, and children deserve both a mom and a dad. They don't need a PhD or a degree in anything else to teach them that," said Kelly Shackelford, a leader Texans For Marriage...


Why is it that intelligence is always devalued by these sorts of people? Is it, to bastardize C.S. Lewis, Mere Inferiority? Are they so intimidated by the sort of language and argument deployed by people with PhD's or degrees that they need to consistently infer that intelligence equates to godless heathen-ism?

It explains a lot. The stubborn anti-intellectualism of evangelical moralists like Kelly Shackleford displays a remarkable anger toward the unknown, of which there appears to be more than a little. This Xenophobia, this hatred of the "other," is at the root of almost every dispute between social progressives and social traditionalists. They fear change, not because what they have is wonderful, but because change is bad.

Do I sound holier-than-thou? It strikes me that I do, maybe, just a little. It's not my intention. It just tweaks my biscuits to see someone deny another human being civil rights, especially when that person's reasoning includes a vehement rejection of education in knee-jerk anti-intellectual moral righteousness.

Meanwhile, in more evolved climes:

Maine voters reversed themselves on a contentious issue Tuesday by embracing the state's new anti-discrimination law, giving supporters of gay rights a convincing referendum win after two previous losses... The vote reversed a trend that dates back to 1998, when voters narrowly rejected a gay rights law in a special election. Voters again opposed a gay rights law in a follow-up referendum two years later.

(links courtesy of chud.com)

Easy Like Sunday Morning

My girlfriend and I were discussing religion last night. She's a "heathen" (read: unbaptized by the church) and she seems to take a certain pride in that fact. We haven't had many in-depth theological discussions, mostly because she's generally uninterested in abstractions, and so I was relishing the opportunity to trade thoughts.

She said something to me which I thought was pretty interesting. "I like your religion," she said, "it's easier." That got my attention, so I asked what she meant by that. Perhaps thinking me insulted by the assignation of "easier" to my personal religious beliefs, she was quick to explain that she was referring, essentially, to my lack of outward religious signifiers.

I wasn't insulted in the slightest, but I was taken by what she seemed to find "harder" about religious belief. Maybe it's just my rampant liberalism, but I tend to feel that outward displays of faith, whether its going to church, praying in front of others, or wearing crosses, are really the "easy" parts of religion.

It's not all that difficult to show up for an hour of church every Sunday. Most of the Italian Mafia seems to make the effort. It's very easy to slap on a cross or brandish the Bible and call yourself a Christian. It's the other stuff that's always been more difficult for me. "Love thy neighbor as thyself." Is there a single law as difficult to follow consistently? If there is, it escapes me.

I quoted what is one of my favorite passages from the Good Book to my girlfriend as a response to her explanation. I think it's an important one.

And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.
But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father, who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.
- Matthew 6:5-6

Founding Fathers and Faith

In their famous correspondence at the end of their lives, Adams and Jefferson wrote a lot about religion. When Adams concluded that his personal creed was "contained in four short words, 'Be just and good,'" Jefferson replied, "The result of our fifty or sixty years of religious reading, in the four words, 'Be just and good,' is that in which all our inquiries must end."

Amen.

(taken from 'Al Franken talks about God,' from "The Truth (with jokes)")

Carlin Sums It Up

I appreciate George Carlin's view of the world. He's been labeled a "cynic," but I don't think that's accurate; he's actually one of our great humanists. And he's a lover of language. That's a love I understand.

Carlin was interviewed for last week's Onion A.V. Club (the much-underrated "serious" entertainment arm of the Onion newspaper), and the interviewer notes that Carlin's humor doesn't tend to favor one political side over the other; that there's no clear "leftist" or "far right" bent to his observations. His response is worth reprinting.

I believe the difference between right and left is that the right, for the most part, the bulk of their philosophy is interested in property, and the rights of people to own property and gain and acquire and keep property. And I think on the left—though they blend and mix—on the left primarily you will find people who are more concerned about humans, and the human condition, and what can be done.

Let's suppose we all just materialized on Earth and there was a bunch of potatoes on the ground, okay? There's just six of us. Only six humans. We come into a clearing and there's potatoes on the ground. Now, my instinct would be, let's everybody get some potatoes. "Everybody got a potato? Joey didn't get a potato! He's small, he can't hold as many potatoes. Give Joey some of your potatoes."
"No, these are my potatoes!" That's the Republicans. "I collected more of them, I got a bigger pile of potatoes, they're mine. If you want some of them, you're going to have to give me something." "But look at Joey, he's only got a couple, they won't last two days." That's the fuckin' difference! And I'm more inclined to want to share and even out.

Me too, George.

Read the interview (including an interesting discussion on Carlin's contribution to Constitutional Law classes across the nation) HERE.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Triumphal Return of the Non-Platonic Philosopher Kings


When I was but a young lad, attending Trinity College in Hartford Connecticut, I used to love to drive over to our local Borders by myself at odd hours of the day or night for some alone time. I'd spend an hour or two just picking through the bookshelves, listening to cd's at the listening stations, and taking chances on the music and literature that spoke to me.

Of all the wonderful music that those hours introduced me to, the band I'm most grateful to have discovered was The Philosopher Kings. It's terribly hard to describe their sound. The nearest I think I can come to it is to ask you to imagine how the Red Hot Chili Peppers would sound if they recorded a cool-as-coltrane Jazz album.

Since their last album the band has been concentrating on side projects, including the producing duties on Nelly ("I'm like a Bird") Furtado's first album. But on November 15th, we're getting a new Kings album, Castles, and in my excitement over that prospect I urge you to try out some of their musica.

Over at Amazon you can listen to clips of their eponymous cd. I recommend the acoustic ache of "Ain't No Woman Around," the rainy-night swirl of their Bob Dylan cover "Just like a Woman," or the rattle-n-funk, crash-n-clatter of "Turn my head Around."

I hope you enjoy. Is there a simple pleasure more savory than the discovery of music that gets under your skin?

I think not.

(philosopherkings.com)

Kansas Redefines Science

From a March, 2005 article on MSNBC:

Advocates of "intelligent design" are pushing the board to reject a definition limiting science to natural explanations for what's observed in the world.Instead, they want to define it as "a systematic method of continuing investigation," without specifying what kind of answer is being sought.

Today on MSNBC:

TOPEKA, Kan. - Risking the kind of nationwide ridicule it faced six years ago, the Kansas Board of Education approved new public-school science standards Tuesday that cast doubt on the theory of evolution....In addition, the board rewrote the definition of science, so that it is no longer limited to the search for natural explanations of phenomena. (emphasis mine)

They rewrote the definition of SCIENCE.
Heaven help us.

Heterosexuals Make Miracle Babies, Homos Just Make A Mess


I feel nothing but the deepest, bewildered pity for people like Mr. Robert Morrow. Their hate is like a physical thing, and as hard as I try, I cannot understand it.

So, I'm going to write Mr. Morrow and ask him a few questions. Should he respond, I'll post his words here.

UPDATE!
Here are my questions to Mr. Morrow, as sent:

Dear Mr. Morrow,

I'm writing you in response to the flyer you sent out on Proposition 2, a measure which was voted on today in your home state of Texas.

I am a web journalist interested in your views as far as homosexual rights are concerned, and after reading your flyer I had some questions which I hope you will take the time to answer.

1. You write that "maybe 1/200 gay 'couples' want to adopt kids." Would you be so kind as to provide the source of that information for me? Did you read that online? Was it part of a study you could cite for me?

2. You urge concerned parties to contact their churches about Proposition 2. Do you believe that homosexuality is a sin? Or is your objection to the practice based upon the inability of homosexuals to procreate?

3. If inability to procreate is an objection, do you believe that sterile heterosexual couples should not be allowed to marry? What about hetero couples who opt not to have children? Should they be denied the special benefits of marriage? Or are they greedy as well?

4. Are you aware that not all women breast-feed their children? Should non-breastfeeding mothers be denied marriage's special priviledges?

5. You mention the "Boyz Cellar," a gay bar in Texas. How is it that you came to be aware of this bar, and that you know it by name? Have you ever visited this establishment, just for a quiet drink? Not, you know, for gay reasons, but just to hang out?

I'm particularly proud of that last one.

(courtesy of T_M at chud.com)

You Will Never Be This Manly

From Yahoo:

BENTONVILLE, Ark. - It looked like a crime scene, but no charges will be filed after Wayne Goldsberry killed a buck with his bare hands in his daughter's bedroom. The engagement lasted an exhausting 40 minutes, but Goldsberry finally subdued the five-point whitetail deer that crashed through a bedroom window at his daughter's home Friday.

Of course, there was always the non-fatal option...

On Monday in Pine Bluff, the principal of Coleman Elementary School rid his building of a deer by opening a door.


But what sort of story does that make? Give me fourty-minute deer wrestling!

Our Chemical Romance

From The Independent:

Powerful new evidence emerged yesterday that the United States dropped massive quantities of white phosphorus on the Iraqi city of Fallujah during the attack on the city in November 2004, killing insurgents and civilians with the appalling burns that are the signature of this weapon.

On 10 November last year, the Islam Online website wrote: "US troops are reportedly using chemical weapons and poisonous gas in its large-scale offensive on the Iraqi resistance bastion of Fallujah, a grim reminder of Saddam Hussein's alleged gassing of the Kurds in 1988."

But now new information has surfaced, including hideous photographs and videos and interviews with American soldiers who took part in the Fallujah attack, which provides graphic proof that phosphorus shells were widely deployed in the city as a weapon.


For the rationally skeptical amongst you (myself included), here's the VIDEO.

Claiming moral authority in the use of these weapons is dangerous territory, especially when we've harmed civilians in the process. At what point do our actions and the actions of a dictator cease to become distinctive? Does our core excuse for it lay in the belief that our country is acting in the best interests of the citizenry? If so, what is the rationale behind harming those same civilians with the same sorts of weapondry used against them by their oppressive dictator?

I have no answer for those questions. But they are, in my humble opinion, worth consideration and considerable thought.

(courtesy of dailykos)

Church v. State

From CNN.com:

LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- The Internal Revenue Service has warned a prominent liberal church it could lose its tax-exempt status because of an anti-war sermon a guest preacher gave on the eve of the 2004 presidential election, church officials say.

The Rev. George F. Regas did not urge parishioners at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena to support either President Bush or John Kerry, but he was critical of the Iraq war and Bush's tax cuts.

The IRS warned the church in June that its tax-exempt status was in jeopardy because such organizations are prohibited from intervening in political campaigns and elections.

Interesting. Does criticism of war equate to intervention in political campaigns? If so, I'm curious to know if the churches which actively proselytized for Bush are recieving the same IRS scrutiny?

(courtesy of chud.com)

Everyday Heroes


Some things in life are worth celebrating. Some are big things, like new jobs, or a first kiss, or being asked to be Best Man at your friend's wedding.

Some are small things, like Rescue Rick, the Grass Cut Man.

In September 2003, I had a serious lawn mower accident, resulting in the partial amputation of my left foot...Consequently, I want to create awareness regarding the frequency and severity of lawn mower accidents. I am the only yard safety advocate acting as an individual in the world. Indeed, I am the first yard safety super hero in the history of the world.


I am ashamed to say that, at first, I thought Rescue Rick might be an ironically created site. It is with great pleasure that I report Rescue Rick and his singular mission to be, apparently, quite sincere.

You may understand my initial skepticism if you visit his site, which is chock-a-block with such rough-hewn gems as:

I want to find a cure for yard accidents, in particular grass cut accidents. I believe that the solution partially rests in the analysis of human behavior via cognitive psychology, etc. Nonetheless, we all need to improve.

or this...
It is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Dr. King was a promoter of non-violent social change. Like Dr. King, I believe in servant leadership; I have a dream also. In particular, I want to rescue people from experiencing yard accidents. Yard accidents do not discriminate.

or this...
Rescue Rick the Grass Cut Man (sm) seeks to adopt a faithful sidekick � a three-legged dog amputee who survived a lawn mower accident. The doggy will be called Tripod the Dog (sm). Tripod (sm) has a big brother named the Trilateral Commissioner (sm).
If Rescue Rick is a satirist, then he is an obsessive, near-frighteningly-committed one. If he is sincere, then he is more than a little loco en la cabeza. Still, his message is an admirable one. Keep on keeping on, Rescue Rick!

Support Rick's miniature crusade by purchasing his merchandise, which includes a woman's pink t-shirt bearing Rick's horribly mangled, amputated foot.

Of such stuff is work procrastination made of.


(courtesy of acilublog)

NAS(TY)CAR

Beloved ladies and gentlemen, I give you NASCAR Romance novels:

She was five foot six of spandex-wrapped,thigh-high-boots-wearing, bustier-clad woman. And she wasn't happy...Bob's chubby-cheeked face remained blank. It was one thing she despised about him. No, envied, this ability he had to remain unruffled no matter what the circumstances. He was like one of those mimes you saw in the park, able to keep a straight face even as some dog doodooed on his leg...
Cece tottered over to Bob's desk, not caring that her breasts all but fell out as she leaned over the papers strewn on it. "Look, Bob, I've had a really bad day. Some man offered me a hundred bucks if I'd let him sniff my underwear.Another asked me to do a threesome. An evangelist talked my ear off for an hour because he was convinced he could save my soul. To say I'm in no mood for this would be an understatement. My feet hurt, I have a rub spot on the back of my knee and I'm convinced a bird pooped in my hair...

Verily, the mind doth boggle.

Monday, November 07, 2005

KKK Kontinues Krazy Konfrontations


From The Austin American Statesman:
Ten men and four women calling themselves members of the American White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan gathered at City Hall plaza Saturday for a brief and hugely contested rally against gay marriage.

At the 40-minute rally, the Klan showed its support for a proposed Texas constitutional amendment banning gay marriage that is on Tuesday's ballot.

"We're asking Texans to vote for Proposition No. 2," Klan chaplain Steven Edwards told the crowds through loudspeakers set up on the plaza. "Not because the Ku Klux Klan supports it but because God supports it."

Further proof that when you claim to speak for God, you're usually drunk-on-the-blood-of-Kali insane. As noted already by Mssr. Oliver Willis, if you're supporting the gay marriage ban, you and the Klan see eye-to-eye.