Bookmark me or the Baron will pull my heart plug thingy.

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Kauai Photoblogging 4: Okolehau Trail

The Okolehau trail starts near the Hanalei bridge. It is two miles long and just about two miles up... or at least if feels that way. It is twice as strenuous as the Sleeping Giant trail featured in Kauai Photobloggin 2, Mountain to Ocean, but the payoff is twice as good. (Don't get me wrong when I say strenuous. Anybody in good shape can hike up this trail in a few hours.)

To see Kauai Photblogging 2 go here and scroll down until you hit the pictures. (The way picassa works each picture is its own post, so you have to do it this way.)
To see Kauai Photoblogging 1 go here and do the same.

Back to today's post. From the plateau at the end of the Okolehau trail hike you can see about 1/5th of the island. In front of you, if you face makai, or towards the ocean, is Hanalei Bay, maybe the prettiest place on Earth, and as you turn right the ocean stretches from there all the way to the airport at Lihue, where it is hidden behind the Haupu mountain range. As you continue to turn right you end up facing mauka, or towards the mountains, the center of the island, so that you are seeing Mount Waialeale, whose peak is the wettest spot on earth. The pictures aren't really put down in any order, and weren't taken that way.

I'm kind of cheating here, as I didn't do this hike this weekend. I'm still recovering from a nasty bug. Hope you enjoy!

Beautiful Hanalei Bay. None of these pictures really do the scene justice. This was my old camera, a digital Elph. It was good but not nearly as good as my A95. Hanalei bay is arguably the most beautiful place in the world. Then again anything is arguably anything. But honestly... Hanalei is incredible.  Posted by Hello

Those are powerlines. This is about halfway up the trail.  Posted by Hello

This is looking waaaay over towards Lihue, Eastern side of Kauai. That's the edge of Sleeping Giant, maybe... Don't really remember.  Posted by Hello

That's a ti leaf in the foreground. Ti leaves all over the summit.  Posted by Hello

Hanalei bay. Posted by Hello

Mauka yet again.  Posted by Hello

Mauka again, West or left of Hanalei bay. Posted by Hello

Mauka again. Posted by Hello

Makai just west of Kilaue lighthouse. Posted by Hello

Makai East of Hanalei bay. Posted by Hello

Looking mauka. Posted by Hello

Zoomed view of Hanalei river and the bay. Big waves that day.  Posted by Hello

Friday, April 29, 2005

Musical Political Influences

This is another gravitational pull-up. And here I am completely stumped.

Little musical background info here:
My favorite band growing up was Devo. Then I was all about Prince. Then Al Green. (Okay, to be honest, I did go through an A-Ha phase, but it was short!) Interspersed with all this was a steady love of Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye and Boz Scaggs specifically, and old Motown generally. Then I entered a rap phase and loved De la Soul and Digital Underground until Gangsta rap ruined rap for me for a while until MC Paul Barman came along. Finally came the D'Angelo, who I found to be a combination of Prince and Al Green and I was like- whoa!!!- I practically worshipped the guy, but to be honest, I was going through a little period of Extasy use when I discovered him and quite a few of my best D'Angelo moments involve E and women on E and soft sheets and sweat, so I don't know if he should count. I still get flashbacks if I listen to him while stoned. Now I dig Alicia Keys and thassabout it.

There are politcal messages in the music I've loved, yet I have no musical influences on my politics. The idea is absurd to me. The overtly political bands actually just annoy me, especially the mad ones. I imagine pissed off middle-class adolescents with no philosophy and too much time on their hands; they are mad at the world because they have little money and can't get laid. They make up songs by paraphrasing leftist cliches and voice their frustration and get some booty from dumb girls who call their whining angst. They think the approval of these poor girls (well, it could be worse for the girls, they could be Hell's Angels or Black Panthers groupies instead of whining skinny dorf groupies) validates their political message, build a swagger that a whole new group of idiots associates with talent, and now they are making money AND getting laid. This new group which mistakes talent's swagger for talent ('cause they're too inexperienced to know real talent) now mistakes talent(lessness in this case) for political acumen.
Next think you know people are saying The Clash was a band full of political genius. No. Sorry. Here's an example of their political genius.

o get back to work an' sweat some more
The sun will sink an' we'll get out the door
It's no good for man to work in cages
Hits the town, he drinks his wages
You're frettin', you're sweatin'
But did you notice you ain't gettin'?
Don't you ever stop long enough to start?
To take your car outta that gear.

LOL! And I can only think that a teen might like that because he/she thinks there is a hidden truth there... Hidden from who? His/her parents and their whole generation, right? That teen never quite realized that it isn't hidden, it is a series of sophomoric cliches his parents ignore, or dismiss as ignorant and rude. One day he will learn what his parents know- that parents who actually work and live the life these never-held-real-job-musicians think they are exposing know that their lives are fuller and richer and more COMPLICATED than a series of bass backed cliches can express. But what really pisses me off is the snob quotient:

Compare the above lyrics to this:

Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening by Robert Frost.

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it's queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there's some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Frost's narrator is different than The Clash's. He is not a snob who thinks he is beyond or above hard work and/or duty, or that he's smarter than everybody who has made choices he would not make. He is fully aware of the circumstances of his life, and wishes to end his life, but he will persevere. He is dignified and noble, quiet and strong, though tired. Here he is, stopped, preparing to start again. To me this poem answers The Clash's question very well, and provides a bit of a lecture.

"You don't know everything, kid. You don't know shit. Someday you'll be a man. Until then you'll be a child, and that isn't your fault. But it is your fault that you're whining like a little bitch. If you were just a little bit humble, you'd realize you don't know everything, and shouldn't judge so harshly, those whose shoes you've never tried on, much less walked in."

I was never one of those kids who thought I was smarter than everybody. My sister, 7 years my elder, was. She was also a Deadhead. I think she cured me, well, vaccinated me, so I could not let my politics be influenced by musicians. I don't think I would have been one of those kids, anyway, though. I mean I was sort of... vacant... Up until I was about 27 the world was the sun- I kept looking at it and kept getting dazed, only to walk around dizzy for a while before I looked again.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Islam, Polygamy, and Gay Marriage

Here is a classic Steyn piece that combines these three subjects in some unexpected ways:

Quick excerpts:

The better advocates of gay marriage are an ingenious crowd, full of artful arguments to support their claim. Initially, most of us on the other side found it hard to believe a countervailing argument was necessary, and by the time it became clear that neither "Oh, come off it, you can't be serious" nor "Well, I dunno, it just don't sound right" were going to suffice, the gays were already on their way to victory in the only arenas that matter--the media and the courts.

But the activists' intellectual rigour only goes so far. If you suggest, as some defendants of "traditional marriage" do, that gay marriage is the slippery slope to polygamy and bestiality, the activists roll their eyes and go into "Oh, come off it, you can't be serious" mode. Like the chichi gay couple from New York who've built their dream home in rural Vermont, they don't want any other incomers muscling in. Gay marriage, they assure us, is the merest amendment to traditional marriage, and once we've done that we'll pull up the drawbridge.

But there's a very obvious constituency for polygamy, and it says something about the monumental self-absorption of the gay marriage crowd that they seem unaware of it. Indeed, it's already here. Earlier this summer, Le Monde leaked a government report revealing that polygamy was routinely practised in Muslim ghettos in France. Anecdotal evidence suggests things aren't so very different in the Islamic communities of Ontario: as The Christian Science Monitor airily put it, polygamous unions "are being performed by the same religious figures adjudicating matters under sharia"--i.e., under the province's Muslim-friendly Arbitration Act.


If the push for polygamy came from the white male elders of that breakaway Mormon sect in Bountiful, B.C., it'd be dead in the water: all you'd get from The Globe and the CBC and Maclean's would be a lot of stories about the abuse rumours, and shots of stern Old Testament patriarchs, and comments from various Grits and NDPers about how this is not compatible with "our Canadian values." If you're one of Bountiful's nubile nymphettes and you make it across the town line, you can write your own ticket on The National; they'll put you down for one of those major multi-part documentaries that takes up 52 minutes of the show for an entire week.

But, if it's not horny, stump-toothed white guys from the backwoods, what's the betting then? Once it gets all multicultural, the media back away from the in-depth investigations, happy to take the spokespersons for the relevant lobby groups at their word. If it's a Muslim who finally makes it to the Supreme Court of Canada with a polygamy case, I'd reckon their lordships will rule that forbidding it is an unwarranted restriction of charter rights. And I'd wager a few of those justices will be happy to license polygamy if only to prove that their demolition job on "traditional marriage" was legally grounded rather than mere modish solidarity.

Velly velly interesting... So what's the solution? If you're like me, and you want gay marriage to be legal, but you don't want polygamy to be legal, then the solution is to win gay marriage through the legislature, as opposed to through the judiciary. I think most of America is ready for civil unions, or would be if they were persuaded for a while, and I think that gay marriage is just a hop skip jump away from that. But if gay marriage is legalized through a backdoor end-around democracy, by judicial fiat, what's to stop polygamy from being next? Nothing.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

How readable is the UPC?

How readable are the Unpaid Pundits?

How ‘readable’ are the Unpaid Pundits? This site claims to have the answers! It visits your site and uses algorithms to decide how easy your site is to understand, using three criteria. I have liberally stolen from this site to make this entry. Please visit them and check them out so I won't feel so guilty. There is a lot of interesting stuff on there. And I suppose it could be a useful tool for improving one's writing.

Gunning-Fog index: gives a rough measure of how many years of schooling it would take someone to understand the content.

Flesch Reading Ease: gives an index number that rates the text on a 100-point scale. The higher the score, the easier it is to understand the document. Authors are encouraged to aim for a score of approximately 60 to 70.

Flesch-Kincaid grade level: Like the Gunning-Fog index, it is a rough measure of how many years of schooling it would take someone to understand the content. Negative results are reported as zero, and numbers over twelve are reported as twelve.

Now I know all the blah blah blah can’t quantify etc. objections. This is for fun. So, in descending order of Gun Fog Index here we go:


Gunning Fog Index 12.10

Flesch Reading Ease 59.74

Flesch-Kincaid Grade 8.74


Gunning Fog Index 11.37

Flesch Reading Ease 61.25

Flesch-Kincaid Grade 8.02


Gunning Fog Index 11.13

Flesch Reading Ease 61.87

Flesch-Kincaid Grade 7.76


Gunning Fog Index 9.92

Flesch Reading Ease 68.37

Flesch-Kincaid Grade 6.60

Pike Speak

Gunning Fog Index 9.32

Flesch Reading Ease 68.16

Flesch-Kincaid Grade 6.11


Gunning Fog Index 9.29

Flesch Reading Ease 65.12

Flesch-Kincaid Grade 6.21

Comment from Left Field

Gunning Fog Index 9.11

Flesch Reading Ease 66.34

Flesch-Kincaid Grade 5.80

Left of Center

Gunning Fog Index 8.80

Flesch Reading Ease 76.84

Flesch-Kincaid Grade 5.78

Blue Glow Worm

Gunning Fog Index 8.67

Flesch Reading Ease 65.46

Flesch-Kincaid Grade 5.52

My Analysis:

Libs like big words. Fester likes them the most. Note that I said “like” not “know.” I know big words, too! Some comparisons on the Fog Index scores:

6 TV guides, The Bible, Mark Twain

8 Reader's Digest

8 - 10 Most popular novels-



10 Time, Newsweek

11 Wall Street Journal,



14 The Times, The Guardian

15 - 20 Academic papers

Over 20 Only government sites can get away with this, because you can't ignore them.

Over 30 The government is covering something up

What does all this prove? You tell me.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Harkonnendog on Slate!

This is quite the honor for your humble servant of the Baron Harkonnen. If you go here and scroll a bit more than halfway down you'll find:

Guns, tans, and steel: Florida Gov. Jeb Bush today signed the "Castle Doctrine," a law that relaxes the standards under which one can use deadly force in self-defense. "Common sense is slowly returning to our gun laws, and crime is going down. Maybe the Brits should take note!" rejoices Opinions? ...We Don't Need No Stinking Opinions. Last week, Harkonnendog at The Unpaid Punditry Corps, a blog dedicated to "multi-partisanship," compared gun control in Britain and America: "England's overly civilized way encourages the barbarians, whereas Florida's overly barbarous way encourages gentlemanly behavior. An armed society is a polite society."

"I can think of a few people who will not be vacationing in Florida. Might as well vacation in Iraq," groans self-described "aging peace activist" Tram on Aquarian Conspirators. "I understand and can agree with the spirit of the law, but the general way it will be implemented scares the hell out of me," writes a government employee living in Washington, D.C., on Mainstream Shadows.

Many thanks to Slate editorial assistant Bidisha Banerjee for linking to the UPC!!! (And yes, that is her (I assume it is a her) real name. And yes, a name like that would really match with an uber-hot bodacious super hero or villainess. I'm picturing Pam Grier with a magic whip she punishes evil doers with- the problem being they like it and so commit more crimes.

Take that nasty boy! (CRACK)
Uh... You're missing the point, here.

Great news out of Lebanon

Via Instapundit come these two articles:
This one, from the Guardian, shows Syria intelligence forces, as well as their armed forces, are out of there. A good read.
This one, from Spirit of America, explains why this is so important.

Lebanon may be the only place in the world where you can buy a necklace with a Christian cross and a Muslim crescent moon fused together as one. What other country would even think of making something like this? I've never seen one before. But now I own two.
(see caption below)

Lebanon is approximately 40 percent Christian and 60 percent Muslim - that is if you count the Druze as Muslims, something they themselves don't do. Most people who live here - but sadly not all - have had enough of hatred and sectarian violence. They desperately want to bury the past. They spent the last 15 years learning to tolerate one another without going on rampages. Now they are moving beyond mere tolerance and are learning to like each other. It's so easy to break a truce. Much harder to break a friendship.


Some of the tent-city residents have told me their goals are not only national. The goals of some of them (but not all of them) also are global. They truly believe they are resolving the clash of civilizations here in Beirut by proving that Christian and Islamic civilizations can co-exist in peace and in friendship. Lebanon has long been a bridge between East and West. In the future it may play the crucial role of a peace broker.

Wow. Iraq emboldened Lebanon to throw off Syria, and now Lebanon may embolden tolerant Middle Eastern Mulsims (which I assume are a silent majority of all Middle Eastern Muslims) to tell the Islamist Muslims to STFU.
This is very good news. I fear Al Quaeda et al are mobilizing to turn Lebanon into a war-torn hellhole to forestall such a horrible defeat, but this fear may be unfounded. Many of the guys who would run to fight the Christians and Druze in Lebanon died fighting the Marines in Fallujah.
We can't win a war of attrition with Islamists in the Middle East unless we recruit more anti-Islamist Middle Easterners than the Islamists recruit. What's happening in Lebanon may prove to be decisive in that regard.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Gravitation Pull-Up

Topic: Which comic/humorist in history has gotten the best knocks on politics and government - has picked it apart best for both humor and critical benefit?

Tough topic, but in a good way. In the way same way that figuring out where to start at the Bellagio buffet is tough.

My first thought was Jonathan Swift. Remember this?

I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee or a ragout.

Then I thought of Mark Twain. From Huckleberry Finn:

She put me in them new clothes again, and I couldn't do nothing but sweat and sweat, and feel all cramped up. Well, then, the old thing commenced again. The widow rung a bell for supper, and you had to come to time. When you got to the table you couldn't go right to eating, but you had to wait for the widow to tuck down her head and grumble a little over the victuals, though there warn't really anything the matter with them. That is, nothing only everything was cooked by itself. In a barrel of odds and ends it is different; things get mixed up, and the juice kind of swaps around, and the things go better.

After supper she got out her book and learned me about Moses and the Bulrushers; and I was in a sweat to find out all about him; but by-and-by she let it out that Moses had been dead a considerable long time; so then I didn't care no more about him; because I don't take no stock in dead people.

Pretty soon I wanted to smoke, and asked the widow to let me. But she wouldn't. She said it was a mean practice and wasn't clean, and I must try to not do it any more. That is just the way with some people. They get down on a thing when they don't know nothing about it. Here she was a bothering about Moses, which was no kin to her, and no use to anybody, being gone, you see, yet finding a power of fault with me for doing a thing that had some good in it. And she took snuff too; of course that was all right, because she done it herself.

Her sister, Miss Watson, a tolerable slim old maid, with goggles on, had just come to live with her, and took a set at me now, with a spelling-book. She worked me middling hard for about an hour, and then the widow made her ease up. I couldn't stood it much longer. Then for an hour it was deadly dull, and I was fidgety. Miss Watson would say, 'Don't put your feet up there, Huckleberry;' and 'don't scrunch up like that, Huckleberry—set up straight;' and pretty soon she would say, 'Don't gap and stretch like that, Huckleberry—why don't you try to behave?' Then she told me all about the bad place, and I said I wished I was there. She got mad, then, but I didn't mean no harm. All I wanted was to go somewheres; all I wanted was a change, I warn't particular. She said it was wicked to say what I said; said she wouldn't say it for the whole world; she was going to live so as to go to the good place. Well, I couldn't see no advantage in going where she was going, so I made up my mind I wouldn't try for it. But I never said so, because it would only make trouble, and wouldn't do no good.

Now she had got a start, and she went on and told me all about the good place. She said all a body would have to do there was to go around all day long with a harp and sing, forever and ever. So I didn't think much of it. But I never said so. I asked her if she reckoned Tom Sawyer would go there, and, she said, not by a considerable sight. I was glad about that, because I wanted him and me to be together.

Okay, having read that- how can you not go with Mark Twain? I mean Swift was great, but look at how dense, how PACKED the above is with social commentary! And so much of it is current!

But then I thought I was cheating, and that I should pick someone current. And hell, this is a blog, so I should pick a blogger. So I'm going with Iowahawk. The excerpt below is from his:

What Happens In Davos, Stays In Davos


Jordan Eason: Thank you Arsenio, and thank you delegates. It's a real pleasure to speak to you today. I originally intended to center my remarks around building global news market share, but as we have all seen, this is becoming increasingly difficult in our fragmented media world. On the one hand, we have see the welcome emergence of ethical competitors like Al-Jazeera [applause], but we have also seen an infestation of sleazy fly-by-night operators like Fox [boos] ...and unregulated blogs [boos] ...who have spoiled what once was a golden goose for many of us.

While it would certainly be wonderful to regain share, ultimately we need to focus on the bottom line. At CNN we have paid close attention to carefully containing costs, but in such a way that does not impact our news product. For example, we achieved significant cost savings by accelerated depreciation of Larry King's suspenders, and outsourcing our teleprompter feed to the Democratic National Committee. And, while we certainly didn't support the invasion and occupation of Iraq, it allowed us to cancel our bribe contract with Ba'athist officials -- freeing up essential bribe budgets for our other stations in the Mideast. As they, say, every cloud has a silver lining.

But, I don't want to be blithe about our the challenges we face. For example, if we don't get some control on the US Military deliberately targeting and shooting our field reporters, we are certainly going to face some steep increases in health care premiums for our employees. Second... umm, yes? Congressman Frank?

US Congressman Barney Frank: With all due respect, Mr. Jordan, what the fuck? I mean... what the fucking fuck!?

Jordan: Excuse me?

Frank: You just stood there and accused American soldiers of deliberately targeting, hunting down and shooting journalists.

[extended silence]

Jordan: Yes... I guess I'm just confused on the point you're trying to make.

Frank: My point is, do you actually have any evidence of that? I mean that the US military is deliberately killing journalists?

Jordan: Oh. Umm, okay, I think I see where you're going with that. Well, there are certainly accusations of that, and obviously we wouldn't be doing our jobs as journalists if we didn't recognize the existence of the accusations.

Frank: But you just stated it as fact.

Jordan: Well, duh. It's a fact: there have been accusations.

Unidentified Voice: I am a journalist, and the Imperialist American soldiers killed me.

Jordan: See [pointing]? Well, there you go. Jesus, Barney, what's with the third degree here? I thought you were gay.

It is tough... I'm going to go with Twain. Swift is #2, and IowaHawk gets an honorable mention.

Loss of perspective...

Today's post of the day involves lack of perspective. Why does the far left of a fair democracy make common cause with a totalitarian movement against the far right of a fair democracy? Lack of perspective.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

France okays China invading Taiwan

Read abou it here.

An excerpt:

"The anti-secession law is completely compatible with the position of France," he said in a joint press conference with his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao (photo).

France supports you starting a war against an old democracy. The French official further stated that he would like to sell French weapons to China.

He did not specifically say that these weapons would hopefully be used to kill Americans, who would almost certainly come to Taiwan's aid rather than see millions of free people become subjects of China's communist government.

Nor did he specifically say China should look to France for the big "Thumbs Up from the West!" wherever and whenever it wanted to invade free countries, (excluding France) so long as China would prop up France's failing economy.

Finally he did not specifically say "Kill all the Jews!" nor "Freedom is Slavery!" nor "Heil Hitler!"

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Deadwood and American Idol

From Wikipedia: “The Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything is a concept taken from Douglas Adams's science fiction series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.”

Okay. I was cool with that for years. I mean, why not? But I have found a better, a truer, a more definitive answer. The real Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything” is the realization that Deadwood’s Al Swearengen and American Idol’s Simon Cowell are the same person.

Simon Cowell = Al Swearengen
They are the heart of things, the Big Man, and while they are hated and despised for their character flaws and insensitivity, they are loved and respected for their honest and because they provide everyone with a living. They hate the powers that be, and have found a way around them, until they ARE them.

Randy Jackson = Dan Dority
They are basically useless people who have success and prestige due to their positions of influence with the the Big Man.

Paula Abdul = Johnny Burns
Morons who are loved and tolerated because, like puppies, they are loving and perky and incapable of betrayal, plus they pee on the carpet by accident only.

Ryan Seacrest = EB Farnum
They are in it for themselves. They think they should be the Big Man, and that fate has cheated them, not due to circumstance, but due to the fact that fate made them weak and insignificant, untalented, compared to the Big Man. Thus they have made mutual agreement with the Big Man, though they despise him and covet his Big Man – ness.

A quick disclaimer… When I say Paula Abdul is a moron, above, I don’t mean Paula Abdul is a moron. I don’t know her and wouldn’t want to guess. But she certainly play “Paula Abdul the moron” on American Idol. And I think that all four of those mentioned above are really playing the caricatures of themselves on that show, at this poing. So there you go. One might ask who Seth Bullock is, or Calamity Jane, or Cy Tolliver… Some people from some other shows, I guess. You tell me.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

I'm moving to Idaho because of this.

Hat tip to Arts Journal: About Last Night:


Be It Resolved by the Legislature of the State of Idaho:

WHEREAS, the State of Idaho recognizes the vision, talent and creativity of Jared and Jerusha Hess in the writing and production of "Napoleon Dynamite"; and WHEREAS, the scenic and beautiful City of Preston, County of Franklin and the State of Idaho are experiencing increased tourism and economic growth; and WHEREAS, filmmaker Jared Hess is a native Idahoan who was educated in the Idaho public school system; and WHEREAS, the Preston High School administration and staff, particularly the cafeteria staff, have enjoyed notoriety and worldwide attention; and WHEREAS, tater tots figure prominently in this film thus promoting Idaho's most famous export; and WHEREAS, the friendship between Napoleon and Pedro has furthered multiethnic relationships; and WHEREAS, Uncle Rico's football skills are a testament to Idaho athletics; and WHEREAS, Napoleon's bicycle and Kip's skateboard promote better air quality and carpooling as alternatives to fuel-dependent methods of transportation; and WHEREAS, Grandma's trip to the St. Anthony Sand Dunes highlights a long-honored Idaho vacation destination; and WHEREAS, Rico and Kip's Tupperware sales and Deb's keychains and glamour shots promote entrepreneurism and self-sufficiency in Idaho's small towns; and WHEREAS, Napoleon's artistic rendition of Trisha is an example of the importance of the visual arts in K-12 education; and WHEREAS, the schoolwide Preston High School student body elections foster an awareness in Idaho's youth of public service and civic duty; and WHEREAS, the "Happy Hands" club and the requirement that candidates for school president present a skit is an example of the importance of theater arts in K-12 education; and WHEREAS, Pedro's efforts to bake a cake for Summer illustrate the positive connection between culinary skills to lifelong relationships; and WHEREAS, Kip's relationship with LaFawnduh is a tribute to e-commerce and Idaho's technology-driven industry; and WHEREAS, Kip and LaFawnduh's wedding shows Idaho's commitment to healthy marriages; and WHEREAS, the prevalence of cooked steak as a primary food group pays tribute to Idaho's beef industry; and WHEREAS, Napoleon's tetherball dexterity emphasizes the importance of physical education in Idaho public schools; and WHEREAS, Tina the llama, the chickens with large talons, the 4-H milk cows, and the Honeymoon Stallion showcase Idaho's animal husbandry; and WHEREAS, any members of the House of Representatives or the Senate of the Legislature of the State of Idaho who choose to vote "Nay" on this concurrent resolution are "FREAKIN' IDIOTS!" and run the risk of having the "Worst Day of Their Lives!" NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the members of the First Regular Session of the Fifty-eighth Idaho Legislature, the House of Representatives and the Senate concurring therein, that we commend Jared and Jerusha Hess and the City of Preston for showcasing the positive aspects of Idaho's youth, rural culture, education system, athletics, economic prosperity and diversity.BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we, the members of the House of Representatives and the Senate of the State of Idaho, advocate always following yourheart, and thus we eagerly await the next cinematic undertaking of Idaho's Hess family. BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives be, and she is hereby authorized and directed to forward a copy of this resolution to Jared and Jerusha Hess, the Mayor of the City of Preston and the Principal of Preston High School.

According to Arts Journal it passed 69-0-1. I friggin' love it. Loved the movie too.

Quick Hits

Israel continues to provide rope. Palestine continues to hang self. At some point Israel will stop supplying rope, and Palestine and the UN will claim Israel and the US are choking Palestine. Maybe Palestine will pull a n ew Jenin, that the MSM will again fall for?

Nobody is talking much about No Child Left Behind. No news is good news, as the MSM wants NCLB to be forgotten if it succeeds, or be the story of the year if it fails.

Iraq is out of the news. No news is good news, as the MSM wants Iraq to be forgotten if it succeeds, or be the story of the year if it fails.

If the Liberals lose it will be one man's fault: Captain's Quarters. Good news for Canada if it happens, better news for the U.S., as it will open up more of Canada's oil reserves.

There has been a spate of arrests, all over the West, of Islamist terrorists who were stopped before they were really able to begin. No news is good news, as the MSM wants The War on Terror to be forgotten if it succeeds, or be the story of the year if it fails. However, this is scary in that these arrests might be coming now because something big is in the works, and the cops are trying to "sweat" all Hajis in order to stop it. Yikes.

The Pope:
The Pope is Catholic, which pisses off a lot of liberals. Already many of them are saying "Well, at least he's old and will die soon. I hope it is soon!"

Ocean's Twelve:

UFC 52:
Awesome. Guillotines and Mata Leao submissions. ZHOO ZHITSU!!! ZHOO ZHITSU!!! (That's a Brazilian accented Jiu Jitsu! Jiu Jitsu!

The NFL Draft:
Doesn't matter. Raiders will win the Super Bowl regardless. Patriots will not make the playoffs. The "Tuck Dynasty" is over.


Smart and very puzzled by how stupid China is.

Smart and very puzzled by how stupid China is.

Smart and very puzzled by how stupid China is.


Monday, April 18, 2005

Kauai Photoblogging 3

But the pictures ain't mine. The Bear who made and maintains the ubiquitiouis eco-system (on which I am a lowly slithering reptile, thought I used to be more) shares some of his honeymoon pics here.

I recognize every place on Kauai he photos, but I have only takes showers under 1 of the two waterfalls...

Women are our Nuclear Weapon vs. Islamism

Great post of the day by New Sysiphus. The following excerpts tell the story of the story:

As Shelby Steele has so eloquently written about, one horrific side effect of the otherwise righteous movement for civil rights and black emancipation in the late 1950’s to the late 1960’s was conditioning the wider population to view victimization as a claim to moral authority and, through that authority, political power.

The result has been an ever-expanding culture of victimization, where every small interest pressure group fights to prove and establish facts that lay claim to its special victimization, its unique suffering, as a means to power. Environmentalists focus on the harm done to our forests, feminists on rape, homosexuals on hate crimes, and child advocates on child abuse. Only by demonstrating that the wider culture—consciously or unconsciously—has victimized the target group can that group lay claim to the power of modern liberal guilt; and, through that guilt, legislation designed to promote or protect that group’s perceived interests.


the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), have adopted the liberal/left language of victimization in order to gain political power. Thus, CAIR spends all of its time searching for Muslims who’ve been called names in small-town 7-11s or inflating completely minor incidents after 9/11 into a mythical “anti-Muslim” backlash. And, most importantly, they and like-minded groups seek to demonize any criticism of Islam or Muslims as “Islamophobia." As amazing as it might sound to Americans, who seem, almost alone in the world, to really care about freedom of speech, "Islamophobia" is now a crime in both Canada and the United Kingdom.

This is the type of legislative power true victimhood status brings, which is why a Muslim auto worker beat up in a bar is worth his weight in gold to the grandees of CAIR and other similar groups.

What are conservatives to do in the face of such tactics?


As we have pointed out before, one of the advantages we in the anti-Islamist camp possess is that the Islamists, like the National Socialists before them, are so in love with their ideology that they are loathe to hide it.


Given the Islamist agenda, we anti-Islamists have a natural ally not only in approximately 51% of our own populations, but, incredibly, also in 51% of the enemy’s population. As recent elections in Afghanistan and Iraq, not to mention pro-democracy protests in the Islamic Republic, have recently proved, the Islamists have a huge, gaping weak spot, and it has double X chromosomes. Statements like the above cannot help but contrast the diffent deal being offered women by liberal democracy and Islamism.

Our strategy, then, should be this: to form a popular front resistance movement to Islamism with liberal and left forces founded upon our shared conviction that women should, and in fact do, possess legal, social and cultural equality with men and, further, that this value is central to modern Western Civilization. Not only would this popular front serve to lessen the domestic opposition to the War on Terror, it would also serve as effective propaganda beamed right into the veiled sitting rooms of women all over the Islamic world.

Great post, great idea, great strategy. Of course you MUST READ THE WHOLE THING TO REALLY GET IT ALL!!! Western women, at the moment, don't really need to choose between Islamists and the West. They can complain of getting paid .75 to each Western man's $1.00 for the same work. They can complain that there are Western dead beat dads. They can complain that many Western men want them not to have abortions after the 1st or 2nd trimester.

But what if they were forced to make a choice between Islamism and the West? I don't see how the West can lose, with Democracy and Women's Rights on our side. What if Hillary Clinton were asked to thank George Bush for expanding women's rights a thousand fold more than she and her husband ever did? Imagine Condoleeza and Hillary going at it- and Condi saying she had done more for women than the Clinton's ever imagined. Oh joy. Pure joy.

Bewares versus Chills

I'm caught up in the game. This post, Christians on the Defensive, and this post, The American Taliban!?!, both from my blog, are about anti-Christian hysteria, as I call it. Hugh Hewitt calls it "religousrightitis." Shamaniac has been arguing me in the comments section of the American Taliban!?! post (second one linked above, click there and scroll down to read her comments) and her rather compelling arguments have led me to the idea that I may be suffering from anti-Christianitis paranoia.

Which is it? Is "religiousrightitis" rampant, or am losing it? I'm caught up in the game, and, while I believe I've maintained perspective, believing that requires that I question it. So, like Archimedes, I need a place to stand- not to move the Earth- but to see it from the outside. (There was a time when I'd do one of several drugs to sort of lose myself to find myself, but that time has passed. Sigh.) So this entry is to get my thoughts in order.

An Overview of the Right Side of The Debate. First let’s name the debate:

“The Beware America’s Christian Theocracy Movement” versus “The Chill Out there is No Danger from any American Christian Theocracy Movement.” Beware V. Chill for short, BVC for cool. BVC was born of the Terry Schiavo debate and grows fat on the Judicial Filibuster Debate and the Gay Marriage Debate. It involves several of the net’s heavy hitters, and at least two UPC members, me and John Pike.


Andrew Sullivan:

But the point about the religious zealots who run the GOP is that they are immune to calls to restraint or moderation or limits on power. God is on their side.”

“you begin to realize what a crew of zealots and charlatans now occupy the conservative pedestal. But they will fall soon enough. And the hysteria they are now creating will only accelerate their collapse.”

“You can't have a clearer statement of the fact that religious right morality trumps constitutional due process. Of course it does. The religious right recognizes one ultimate authority: their view of God. The constitution is only valid in so far as it reflects His holy law.”

John Pikes:

“The Republicans are going to lose a bunch of us "fiscal" and "strong-defense" voters...there are more of us than there are religious kooks Religious Right.”

“Don't take us for granted, Republicans...I will vote for Ross Perot again!”


Hugh Hewitt:

“THE TERRI SCHIAVO TRAGEDY has been seized on by long-time critics of the "religious right" to launch attack after attack on the legitimacy of political action on the basis of religious belief. This attack has ignored the inconvenient participation in the debate--on the side of resuming water and nutrition for Terri Schiavo--of the spectacularly not-the-religious-rightness of Tom Harkin, Nat Hentoff, Jesse Jackson, and a coalition of disability advocacy groups.
The attack has also been hysterical. After Congress acted--ineffectively, it turned out--Maureen Dowd proclaimed that "theocracy" had arrived in the land. Paul Krugman warned that assassination of liberals by extremists was not far off. And the Internet frenzy on the left was even more extreme.”

“But a strain of thought is developing that the political objectives of people of faith have second-class status when compared to those of, say, religiously secular elites. Of course, not only would such a position have surprised all of the Founding Fathers, it would have shocked Lincoln and Reagan, too.”


“Now, having exercised their right to vote, (which btw, being a Christian does not take away) and having won a vast majority in the Legislative branch as well as having their man in the Executive branch, Christians find that judges who agree with them about abortion, prayer in school, or access to public spaces, are automatically unqualified. The Democrat minority won't have them, because their beliefs coincide with many Christian beliefs. Is it any wonder that many Christians feel Democrats are anti-Christian?”

So there’s a very brief overview. Now, where shall I go for a place to stand? I’m going to go to the Instapundit. Why the Instapundit? Three reasons:

1. He is the definition of center right. He’s libertarian but he respects religion. He’s big on the judiciary being independent but he’s not necessarily against the filibuster. He though Schiavo should die, but he didn’t think people who supported her living were evil.

2. His influence is such that, he often times will CREATE the center right position. I mean he is the blog father- his influence is such that people will moderate their own positions only to bring them inline with the Instapundit’s. Out of respect.

3. I have been disappointed with his stance, over and over.

So now I will go back through the Instapundit archives, and see what I can see. And I shall be bound by the Instapundit’s judgment. If he says the Beware’s are in the right, I will believe I’m a bit paranoid. (Note that I don’t say I’ll STOP being paranoid.) If he says the Chill are right, I will bask in the confirmation of my wisdom.

Here we go:


MEGAN MCARDLE: "Are we now back at the point where our Progressives are raving about the dark future in which a Popish conspiracy conquers western civilization and ushers in a thousand years of darkness?"

I disagree with a lot of the Religious Right's agenda, but the constant wolf-crying about theocracy on the left doesn't help. Of course, neither does the occasional idiocy on the right. Sigh.

April 15th:

I STILL THINK THAT BILL FRIST would have been better off following my advice.

Josh Chafetz observes: "I can think of few better ways to drive me and my fellow independents into the arms of the Democrats."

UPDATE: James Joyner: "I support Frist's efforts to get judicial nominees an up-or-down vote and even support invoking the so-called 'nuclear option' to get it done. However, this particular move is not only unseemly but likely to backfire. . . . This is clearly an issue the Republicans should be able to win on the merits. The idea that the president's nominees should not be able to get a vote in a Republican majority Senate is simply bizarre. But arguing that Democrats are defying Jesus with their obstructionism is unlikely to turn this one around."

Hugh Hewitt feels differently.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Matt Rustler: "Is it any wonder that some people believe the 'Religious Right' is trying to establish an American theocracy? I'm starting to worry, too, and I am -- er, was? -- mostly on their side."

March 31st

Although I've always tried to be pleasant to the Christian Right folks even where we disagree, I really think it's best if I don't weigh in right now. I turned down a slot on Hugh Hewitt tonight because I was afraid I'd use words that would get him an FCC fine. But I'll refer interested readers to this post-mortem at Blogs4God, and these thoughts on federalism from Right-Thinking. And Bill Ardolino is right about the Hillary 2008! implications of a lot of this stuff. And, if you've got a strong stomach, you can read this.

UPDATE: But here's the good side, from reader David Prentice:

I saw you on Kudlow's show with Hugh H. and John H. last week and had intended to write earlier. I have just learned about your hate mail (and your wife's) from some the right and wanted to give you some encouragement and thank you for what you do.

After I watched the show I had wanted to say how much I appreciated the dialogue you all had on that show because it showed by example how you could debate very opposite sides of an issue without rancor and bring light to it. I am what Andrew Sullivan would derisively call a right wing religious zealot. Full disclosure: I disagreed with your position on this matter, but I do so appreciate your spirit in putting forth your ideas, I always have appreciated your writings even when I disagree.

I love your blog, have been reading it for about a year now along with Powerline and Hugh Hewitt (You are my bookmarked 3!). I appreciate all of your view points and most of all your civility and the ability to find good information.

I am very disturbed to hear about the mail you have received from others who believe as I do. It is shameful and despicable and belies what they (myself included) claim to believe. I apologize for their horrible judgment, and want to encourage you to keep your weblog going strong in spite of all the nastiness.

Thank you again, you are appreciated by some of us "religious zealots" out there.

Well, I always hope that people can disagree without being disagreeable. The people who can't usually wind up losing. Some people certainly get this: Hugh does, and John Hinderaker -- who's been the target of moonbat assaults from the Left himself -- certainly understands the difference. Not everyone does. Those people are the fringey minority, for the most part, though I have to say that I was taken aback, and disappointed, by the Jonathan Last assault I mention below.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I've gotten a whole lot more emails along the lines of David Prentice's, for which I'm quite grateful. You know that the nasty folks are unrepresentative, but they're so damned energetic about it that it's hard to keep that in mind at times.

March 25th:

I APPRECIATE Andrew Sullivan's quoting me, but he's wrong: Unlike Andrew, I don't think that America is in danger of being taken over by religious Zealots, constituting an American Taliban and bent on establishing theocracy. I think that -- despite their occasionally abusive emails (and most aren't abusive, just upset) -- the people that Mickey Kaus is calling "pro-tubists" are well-meaning, sincere, and possessed of an earnest desire to do good. I don't think that they're nascent Mullah Omars, and I think that calling them that just makes the problem worse. This is a tragedy, and it's become a circus. Name-calling just makes you one of the clowns.

But I do think that process, and the Constitution, matter. Trampling the Constitution in an earnest desire to do good in high-profile cases has been a hallmark of a certain sort of liberalism, and it's the sort of thing that I thought conservatives eschewed. If I were in charge of making the decision, I might well put the tube back and turn Terri Schiavo over to her family. But I'm not, and the Florida courts are, and they seem to have done a conscientious job. Maybe they came to the right decision, and maybe they didn't. But respecting their role in the system, and not rushing to overturn all the rules because we don't like the outcome, seems to me to be part of being a member of civilized society rather than a mob. As I say, I thought conservatives knew this.

I’ll stop with that last one. I think the verdict is clear. I’m not paranoid, though I’m in with some bad company. The Beware side should CHILL. Remember Say Anything, where Lloyd tells the drunk dude “You MUST CHILL! YOU MUST CHILL!”

Heed those words.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Christians on the Defensive

The post of the day is about how Christianity is targeted by secularists and member of other religions. Read the whole thing, if you are wondering why Christians are voting, (maybe more now than ever before) as Christian-Americans. Three excerpts follow:

The clash of cultures, between spiritual and secular America, was on full public display.
Secularists such as Miss Birch cite Jefferson's wall in their fight to exclude God from public life, proposing to ban creches at city hall, Christmas carols in public schools, graduation prayers at colleges and grace over meals at military academies -- as well as the more than 4,000 stone and concrete testaments to the Ten Commandments across the country.
They're part of a network of organizations that shares logistics, troops, board members and funding sources and includes radical feminists, humanists, atheists and liberal Jewish and Christian groups. Four organizations furnish most of the leadership.


In 2003, the ACLU urged the National Park Service to remove plaques inscribed with Bible verses from three overlooks at the Grand Canyon but did not protest the names of park buttes -- Brahma Temple, Vishnu Temple, Shiva Temple, Osiris Temple and others -- commemorating Hindu and Egyptian deities.
ACLU President Nadine Strossen says her group correctly ignored the rest.
"Most people would not see those as religious, but as religious art," she says in an interview. "Would a reasonable observer see those as a government endorsement of religion? If it's such an exotic religion that most people wouldn't know what the symbol is?"

Another exerpt:

Litigation and protest has split communities, sometimes inviting sectarian hard feelings. School districts across the country have banned Christmas carols, Nativity scenes and -- in Texas -- even the traditional Christmas colors of red and green at a holiday party in an elementary school.
"I blame my fellow Jews for the situation," columnist Burt Prelutsky wrote in the Los Angeles Times last year. "When it comes to pushing the multicultural, anti-Christian agenda, you find Jewish judges, Jewish journalists and the American Civil Liberties Union at the forefront. The dirty little secret in America is that anti-Semitism is no longer a problem in society -- it's been replaced by a rampant anti-Christianity."

Yet another:

Chirac plays the Hate America care one more time!

He is really getting desperate. Will it work?


The American Taliban?!?

I'm having a hard time dealing with this article from the NYTimes: An excerpt:

As the Senate heads toward a showdown over the rules governing judicial confirmations, Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader, has agreed to join a handful of prominent Christian conservatives in a telecast portraying Democrats as "against people of faith" for blocking President Bush's nominees.

First, take a very careful look at the wording of the above paragraph. It doesn't say Frist will portray Democrats as "against people of faith for blocking President Bush's nominees," it says he will join Christian conservatives in a telecast that will portray Democrats that way. As far as we know First will denounce that portrayal, or try to soften it. But wait... What evidence does the author have that Democrats will be portrayed that way?

Fliers for the telecast... depict a young man holding a Bible in one hand and a gavel in the other. The flier does not name participants, but under the heading "the filibuster against people of faith," it reads: "The filibuster was once abused to protect racial bias, and it is now being used against people of faith."

Okay, so does that translate into a "Democrats are against people of faith bash-fest" or not. Well, maybe so, maybe not. Could it be, rather, that the telecast will specifically target people who believe Christians must not be allowed on the Supreme Court because they cannot be trusted due to their religion? There is good reason to believe that many Democrat senators hold this view.

The most anti - Roe v. Wade voting bloc is Christian, and the first Democrat litmust test for Supreme Court nominees is Roe v. Wade. The voters most supportive of people (of any religion) being allowed a moment to pray in schools are Christians. The second Democrat litmust test for Supreme Court nominees is prayer in schools. The voting bloc which thinks that the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, and the cross in L.A.'s seal, and the decision of a Christian group not to allow gay men to lead Boy Scout troops, are all okay, is primarily Christian, and Democrats are against judges that okay any of those things. Now, given all of the above, is it really that crazy to say the Democrats are blocking judges who are not anti-Christian?

1. Often times, in liberal majority areas, Menorahs are allowed in public spaces, while nativity scenes are not. It is okay to say "Happy Hannukah" but "Merry Christmas" is out. (As explained here, by a Rabbi) (here as well)

2. "The Thomas More Law Center is involved in numerous cases across the country dealing with the public display of Christian religious symbols, including a similar lawsuit against the New York City public school system whose written policy permits students to display the Jewish Menorah and the Islamic Star and Crescent, but prohibits students from displaying Christian Nativity scenes. That case is on appeal in the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals." (Read that article here)

3. Teachers are changing the words of songs to get the "Christmas" out of traditional Christmas songs sung at schools. They'll keep the song, but not the Christian part of it, lest they offend non Christians at school. However, it is fine to teach a whitewashed version of Islam to middle school kids.

So when Christians read the Democrats claim that they are pro civil rights, and not anti-Christian, we basically laugh. In Canada, where liberals rule, Muslim Sharia courts are in place, but a Christian citing the Bible can go to jail for hate speech. In Philadelphia, Christians who dared to read the Bible at a gay event face 47 years in prison. So yes, Christians have become very politically active, AS CHRISTIANS. They feel infringed upon, and rightly so. Or maybe NOT rightly so, it is complicated. But they played by the rules... They voted, and they won.

Now, having exercised their right to vote, (which btw, being a Christian does not take away) and having won a vast majority in the Legislative branch as well as having their man in the Executive branch, Christians find that judges who agree with them about abortion, prayer in school, or access to public spaces, are automatically unqualified. The Democrat minority won't have them, because their beliefs coincide with many Christian beliefs. Is it any wonder that many Christians feel Democrats are anti-Christian?
Liberals will say "Boo hoo for this huge majority in America." Okay. And they have a point. I mean liberals believe civil rights exist to protect minority groups from the majority. And if that were true, they would be right in believing it is okay to bash Christians while protecting members of other religions. However, civil rights are NOT about protecting minority groups from the majority. No. They are about protecting INDIVIDUALS from the majority.

Now, having said all that... I think the article and the brouhaha it has caused are just another example of the current wave of anti-Christian hysteria sweeping through the MSM and the blogosphere. Consider that fact that THIS HAS NOT HAPPENED YET. Consider the fact that THE REPORTER IS GUESSING IT WILL HAPPEN THE WAY HE SAYS IT WILL. Consider that FRIST HAS NOT SAID WHAT HE WILL SAY AT THE EVENT. Now, consider the huge attention and panci and I-told-you-so-smugness this article has garnered. It is an article about something that may or may not happen, which may or may not happen the way the article says it will (or will not), and it is all people are talking about.

Talk about "The American Taliban" all you want, but don't think this kind hysterical raving helps anyone, or will build momentum. This hysteria will pass.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Is Dune an allegory for the Middle East?

This just occurred to me two days ago. Spice is oil. Fremen are Bedouin, or any less assimilated Arabs, I guess. The Harkonnen's are... Americans? Israelis? Ottomans, and Paul Atreides is Lawrence of Arabia? Dune is a rewrite of Lawrence of America? I guess the Sardaukar would be the Americans...

I loved this book. I mean this book went deep into my psyche, DEEP, to the point where it might have changed some root programming, you know? MILLIONS AND MILLIONS of people have been affected by this book. I wonder what the net affect was? And how could I have not seen that connection before?

After some googling I've found this is a popular idea. Here are a couple of sites if you want to explore this.

From here:

So if Dubya is Rabban (and the comparison is too scary to ignore), and the Harkonnens are the Bushes and the
Atreides are the Clintons, who is Feyd?

Feyd is handsome, charming, cunning, and trained since birth to warfare and politics.
For a while, I thought it was going to be Jeb. But now...

(Koresh, I hate to do this.)
He sounds a lot like Wesley Clark - currently being hailed as a savior, the only Democrat who can beat Bush.

This site demonstrates the etymology of many of the made-up words in Dune. Excellent resource. One especially interesting note: Kwisatz Haderach is a Jewish term...

"Shortening of the Way.' This is the label applied by the Bene Gesserit to the unknown for which they sought a genetic solution: a male Bene Gesserit whose organic mental powers would bridge space and time. Paul Atrides says that he is the Kwisatz Haderach, a super being. Several visitors to this site indicated that this term means "shortening of the way" in Hebrew, with possibly Kabbalistic roots...

Anyway, just something interesting to think about.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Post of the day regards drug research.

I'm not talking about you and your friend comparing skunk bud with purple-crap-coming-off-it bud, but clinical research on life saving / extending drugs. There is a common and completely wrong meme circulating which says that drug companies are evil institutions that profit off the research done with government grants or by government institutions. This is not just a lie- it is a HORRIBLE lie- for if it takes hold drug research will be crippled.

This post, and the discussion that follows it, show the truth.

Movie Review: Sideways

I saw Sideways the other day and I dug it. I can't feature why, given that I liked only one character in the entire thing, and in the end she turns out to be an idiot. I've decided to make a Top Ten List to better explain me to myself: (and you get to share!!!)

Top Ten Thoughts on Sideways.

10-5 The Good

10. Sandra Oh when she replies to being called a "bad, bad girl" with "I know. I need to be spanked." Then she slaps her ass/hip like a stripper as she walks away!!! Excellent. The slap was subtle but there. I dug it.

9. Giamatti's (Miles) long explanations about the different qualities of wines. Not enough movies take advantage of the Moby Dick Effect. I can't stand wine. I sip Heiny or Steiny to be social and slug single barrell bourbon (if I can get it) to get buzzed and I think wine sucks. But I don't particularly care for whaling, either, and yet I dug Moby Dick's whaling scenes. People like to learn.

8. When Giamatti's love interest Maya explains to him why she likes wines. This is a woman who just came back from a metaphorical hell, where every defense, every pretension, was ripped from her like the way the little boy in the Narnia book who got turned into a dragon had his dragon skin ripped away by Aslan. If you've been there, if you've done that, you know where she was and knew what she was doing and loved her a little bit for it. She might seem vulnerable in that scene but she is not. She is past that. Lovely.

7. The friendship. It is a buddy picture and they are buddies for all the right reasons- neediness, loneliness, and boredom. They love and hate each other just about equally, with love coming out ahead. This is a true friendship, as opposed to some movie friendships. It's reminiscent of that sex scene in that movie where the Russian and German snipers faced off... Part of me was like, whoa, did they just actually fuck?

6. The end that should have been. When Giamatti downs that great bottle in the fast food joint, I thought that was perfect. I thought 1. the movie finally made a judgement and 2. Giamatti (Miles) is finally going to hit bottom and start working up...

The Bad 5-1

5. Giamatti rips off his mother. Now, maybe I'm being a judgemental dick, but I'm sorry, that's it for me. I'm not going to like him after that. I just... can't. How can you? (Don't tell me I'm not SUPPOSED to like him. I am. I'm supposed to like him despite his flaws. But that was too much. I mean the movie went from being enjoyable on one level- empathy- to being enjoyable on another level- the freak tent at that travelling carnival. I never bought a thing Giamatti said after that.)

4. Oh is banging this guy for a day and she brings him into her daughter's life??? WTF?!? Hey, you want to make a no message movie about middle-aged neurotic assholes being middle-aged neurotic assholes? go ahead I dig it. But leave stealing from mothers and breaking daughters hearts OUT OF IT. Some might not see this the way I do, so let me explain. How would you feel if Church's character beat the living crap out of Oh, and then Oh was with him the next day, 'cause she deserved it? Would that sort of knock you out of the story? Yeah. Well, that's how I felt with the daughter exposure and stealing from mother scenes. I guess I'm old fashioned.

3. 2.
These both have to do with Giamatti's love interest falling for Giamatti. Okay, first of all, she had a brain. So...
3. she should have been holding back guffaws of laughter at Giamatti's "I love Pinot because, like Pinot, I am a delicate grape that needs love and nurturing, not a rough grape that can make my own way in this inthenthitive world" speech.
2. she should NOT have called him. That was just fucking ridiculous.

And the number 1: bad thing about Sideways:
1. Nobody gets his. I mean bad behavior is not punished, and good behavior IS punished, (she calls Giamatti- bad for her). Which means nobody learns, nobody develops, nobody grows. So, basically, this movie says that assholes, once they pass a certain age, are assholes forever.

Okay... so now do I know why I liked it? Not really. I wouldn't recommend it, but I would probably watch it again. Weird.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Two Extremes on Self-Defense

When it comes do defending one’s life and/or property, Great Britain grows ever more civilized, whereas the United States of America grows ever more barbaric.

From Reuters:

People in Florida will be allowed to kill in self-defense on the street without trying to flee under a new law passed by state politicians on Tuesday that critics say will bring a Wild West mentality and innocent deaths.

The Florida House of Representatives, citing the need to allow people to "stand their ground," voted 94-20 to codify and expand court rulings that already allow people to use deadly force to protect themselves in their homes without first trying to escape.

The new bill goes further by allowing citizens to use deadly force in a public place if they have a reasonable belief they are in danger of death or great bodily harm. It applies to all means of force that may result in death, although the legislative debate focused on guns.

The "Stand Your Ground" bill passed the Senate last week on a 39-0 vote and now goes to Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, who indicated he will sign it.

"This is about meeting force with force," said House sponsor Republican state Rep. Dennis Baxley of Ocala. "If I'm attacked, I should not have to retreat."

So now you don’t have to run away if you feel your life is threatened and you have a gun on you. (Which in Florida is not as uncommon as one might think.) You can just shoot the bastard. This a pretty far jump from the old rule in Florida:

A license to carry a firearm is not a license to use it. Under Florida law, you can use deadly force only if you reasonably believe yourself or another person to be in danger of death or serious personal injury, or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony (such as rape, robbery or carjacking). There are two important concepts to remember: The first is the "Duty To Retreat"; this means that if you can avoid the danger by running away, then run away, no matter how you may feel that this affects your honor. The second is the "Castle Doctrine", which means that you do NOT have a "Duty To Retreat" when in your own home or place of business; you can stand your ground and defend your premises and possessions even if you could avoid personal danger by running away.

Florida previously expanded the ‘Castle Doctrine’ to workplaces and cars, but now one’s Person is one’s Castle.

England, on the other hand, has gone the opposite route. England once had their own version of the Castle Doctrine, (I assume we stole the idea from them in the first place) but they scrapped it. As a result, if a Brit assaults some teenage punk that broke into his house to nick the telly, the HOME OWNER goes to jail. From Mark Steyn: (what he calls a “hot” burglary Americans call a home invasion- that is, a burglary that takes place when the home owners are at home)

Just over 10 per cent of US burglaries are "hot" burglaries, and in my part of the world it's statistically insignificant: there is virtually zero chance of a New Hampshire home being broken into while the family are present. But in England and Wales it's more than 50 per cent and climbing. Which is hardly surprising given the police's petty, well-publicised pursuit of those citizens who have the impertinence to resist criminals.

These days, even as he or she is being clobbered, the more thoughtful British subject is usually keeping an eye (the one that hasn't been poked out) on potential liability. Four years ago, Shirley Best, proprietor of the Rolander Fashion emporium, whose clients include Zara Phillips, was ironing some clothes when the proverbial two youths showed up. They pressed the hot iron into her flesh, burning her badly, and then stole her watch. "I was frightened to defend myself," said Miss Best. "I thought if I did anything I would be arrested." There speaks the modern British crime victim.

Her Majesty's Constabulary has metaphorically put a huge neon sign on every suburban cul-de-sac advertising open season on property owners. If you have a crime policy that makes "hot" burglaries routine, it's a reasonable bet that more and more citizens will wind up beaten, stabbed or dead.

It is a scene right out of A Clockwork Orange. (I blame the pernicious influence of the French) On the other hand, one imagines reading of this scene in Florida:

Dan Blitz, father of three, was killed last night after challenging Johnny Derringer to a fistfight. Blitz had been drinking heavily in a local bar following a fight with his wife,, when Derringer stepped on his foot. Blitz stood up off his stool, swore at Derringer, and told him to step outside “for a beating.” Derringer stepped back, drew and fired once, into Blitz’s left eye. Questioned and released by the police, Derringer said he felt his life had been threatened, and that he saw no reason to try to run or avoid the fight, given that he is, in his own words, “a fast draw, a dead eye, a man with ice in my veins where blood ought to be.” Derringer continued- “Don’t start nothin’ won’t BE nothin’ yo!”

I’d rather fear getting shot for being a belligerent drunk than fear going to jail for fighting to defend my home and/or family. England’s overly civilized way encourages the barbarians, whereas Florida’s overly barbarous way encourages gentlemanly behavior. An armed society is a polite society. England has not only taken away her citizens’ arms, but now wants their balls.

Again, I blame the French. What thread of thought in England’s past could have led to this? I mean can you imagine Henry the 5th cowering in the corner while somebody robbed his castle? I guess Hamlet might go in the corner to hear himself talk for half an hour while he got robbed, okay, but is England all Hamlet and no Prince Hal? Where have all the Falstaff’s gone?

Gravitational Pull-Up: About Religion

From the UPC comes this week's assignment:

This Week's Gravitational Pull-Up: About Religion

Time to delve into faith a bit. A simple question can complicate so many things:

Is the religion or belief structure that you practice, or try to follow, a matter of personal choice?

Very interesting question! I'll duck the free-will, omniscience/omnipotence of God, existential nature of this topic, and just talk about the choice I have made and continue to make.

Two paragraph summary of my religious background:

I was born and baptized a lapsed Catholic; the last non-lapsed Catholic in my family was my great grandmother, a picture bride from Portugal. Grandma lapsed first, though she was baptized, confirmed, and whatever else it is real Catholics do until they become professional gamblers the way Grandma did. Mom was baptized, but I don't think she was confirmed. Mom got the necessary amount of religious instruction, from Grandma, necessary to decide Christianity was just a way to control women. Woe to the Evangelical that knocks on Mom's door, Bible in hand, ingratiating smile in place. The women especially.

Mom and Dad were amused, if not alarmed, when I sought religious instruction in my early teens. Whence came this strange desire- what vacuum needed filling? Personally I think it was the long-lived influence of all those Narnia books I so loved. I had no idea they were Christian propaganda. I didn't like Church much, though, and was content to feel The Big Hunch, and identify myself as a lover of Christ.

It happened:
Then IT happened. I was 16, climbing up the dry part of a waterfall's face, and I slipped. It wasn't that far to the bottom, it probably wasn't death or anything, but it was a broken bone, or maybe a cracked and bleeding skull, and a long hike, rock hopping back up the river to civilization for an ambulance... a lot of pain and helplessness and embarassment. And I prayed as I slipped, and I felt a more real reality, and both my feet and both hands suddenly and at the same time found perfect purchase at once. I had slipped only a foot.

So... It isn't that the slide stopped. That's no scientific proof or anything. And it isn't that I was going to be hurt and then I wasn't hurt. It is the More Real Reality part. What happened is I had a mystical experience... I felt touched by God. I felt incredibly safe, I felt wrapped in a Golden Caress of Love, I felt... I felt Him. I don't know what to call it or how to describe it. But I had prayed for Jesus to help me and then I felt this incredible feeling which I felt was He.

The Choice:
Now, you can call it hallucination if you like. You can call it whatever. More important, though, is the fact that I can. This is the Pulp Fiction Conundrum, if you will. Jules tells Vincent he's going to walk the earth because they are alive through a miracle. Vincent says it was a freak occurence. Jules says Vincent is thinking about it the wrong way. It happened. Jules makes one choice, Vincent another. I don't know whether or not Jules felt the glow I felt... he doesn't mention it... but I certainly wasn't ready to mention what I felt that day for several years. The point is, I'm not going to try to rationalize it away. That moment of golden glowing was more real to my senses than any other moment of my life. It was steel to my every day reality's amorphous smoke rings.

Only I can't remember it, exactly. I remember feeling it. I remember an echo of what I felt, and I remember it happened. That's my choice. I can choose to betray God and myself- to ignore that mystical moment by rationalizing it or forgetting it or downplaying it- or I can acknowledge it and be true to it. I'm never true ENOUGH to it, but I can at least acknowledge that it was real, and hope that that is enough. So that is my personal covenant with God.

And it has become a contract from me to myself, as well. The contract is more or less: Will I humbly acknowledge what really happened, or will I be a superior cynic, looking down my nose at those dumb enough to think such things can be real?

Long rambling story short: I'm a Christian by choice.