December 31, 2005

State of the blog 2005: The year behind

Call it the Year of Best Intentions.

If 2003 was the year I discovered that blogging was sustainable as a hobby, if 2004 was the year I determined what, exactly, the Crusty Curmudgeon was all about, then 2005 was supposed to be the year that I decided how, specifically, that vision would take shape.

It didn't exactly happen as I planned. But then, what does?

How I did

Sacra Eloquia: A year ago, I started a second blog, Sacra Eloquia, as a space where I could "do" expository biblical theology free from the distractions of a general-purpose blog. It was easy enough to maintain as long as I had pre-existing material to draw on, but I got bogged down when I ran out. Nonetheless, because I started on schedule and stuck with it for as long as I was able, I can fairly declare this particular goal met. Besides, Sacra Eloquia isn't dead yet.

Reading and reviewing: I planned to review at least one book review every two weeks: 26 reviews. I successfully wrote one. Chalk this one up as a failure.

In my personal reading, which I log on my sidebar, I planned to read through the remainder of the works of Stephen King, Dorothy Sayers' mysteries, and Tolkien's The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. I tackled one or two of King's novels, but none of the rest. Another miss.

Theatre time: Wanting to increase my output of movie revieiws, I planned to work my way through the films of Joel and Ethan Coen. Well, I did complete my review of Blood Simple, I have viewed all of them up to O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and I have a half-dozen half-completed reviews to show for it. Despite that prodigious hard work, I can't exactly chalk this goal up as having been attained, can I?

I had also planned to work through a series on the best science-fiction films of the last five decades, and the ten Star Trek feature films. Neither idea got off the ground.

Other plans: As I intended, I did make a few ventures into music reviewing. It confirmed a suspicion I had: even though I am myself a musician, and though I listen to an awful lot of music, I feel out of my depth when I try to write about it. Nonetheless, my review of Dire Straits' Brothers in Arms, commemorating the 20th anniversary of its release, was one of my favourite pieces of writing for the year, and I am gratified that it received such a favourable response from my friends in the blogosphere.

Summing up: It's a lot easier to maintain a blog when you just react to what others are saying. I commented on dozens of odd news stories, derided a number of public figures caught in flagrante stupido, and faithfully summarized the best of the blogosphere almost every week. But my own, original contributions were embarrassingly light. I can do better.

End-of-year roundup

My best idea: This September's Art Deco-inspired redesign of the blog stretched my creativity, not to mention my graphic and Web design skills to the limit. If I may say so myself, I'm still quite satisfied with the result three months later.

Best intentions: The September SF moratorium paved the way for CanLit Reading Month. Out of five planned recommended works, I finished one and a half. How was I to know at the time that a course in moral theology was going to dominate my reading time through to November? But, at least, I still have the list!

Books read: I kept faithful track of all my recreational reading this year, for the first time since 1994. Since at the moment I am in northern Ontario and my spreadsheet is in Ottawa, I can't do a count at the moment. Stay tuned for an update.

Movies viewed: I didn't keep count, but it's safe to say that the number of films I watch over the course of a year is somewhat greater than the number of books I read. My favourite movie of the year, hands down, was Serenity. The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Narnia were also well worth the wait. In addition, I was blessed this year to discover the films of acclaimed Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. This was the first time I had watched a Japanese production that didn't involve anime or giant green lizards, and I look forward to seeing more in the coming year.

2005 in the wild

Best new blog of the year: Was there any doubt? Phil Johnson did warn us that PyroManiac was a "fully armed and operational battle station," and this June we witnessed his rhetorical firepower, as half the blogosphere alternately tried to get Blogspotted or to fire a well-placed proton torpedo down his exhaust port. Frequently controversial, never dull.

Best re-branding effort: With a tweak here and there, Frank "centuri0n" Turk's blog, ... and his ministers a flame of fire, gradually became one of the most visually distinctive on the Net.

Most improved: Over the past couple of years, there have been a number of fine blogs that I might have read more than sporadically if they had an RSS or Atom feed, so I could read them in my aggregator instead of constantly having to check the site itself for updates. Steve Camp's CampOnThis, moved to Blogger from his own site, was one; Stand to Reason's excellent blog was another; Douglas Wilson's BLOG and MABLOG was a third.

Finally, I Created an Entire Category in My RSS Reader Just for People Like You: Seriously. My folder of "Whiners" was inspired by the temper tantrums of Michael Spencer, the Internet Monk, who was shocked to discover that there were people out there who had the audacity to read and respond to what he posted publicly to the Web. We can't have that, oh no. So over the course of the year, the IMonk shut down his blog, restored it, shut down comments, shut down comments on his group blog, the Boar's Head Tavern, shut down his blog again, deleted some controversial posts, made others available only to those who asked to read them, generally groused about the persecution he was suffering, and banned a number of sites from discussion at the BHT. The "Whiners" folder has since been populated at various times with pomos, emergies, lefties, Roman apologists, N. T. Wright fanboys, and "reformed Catholics" - but the IMonk got the ball rolling.

That was the year that was. In my next post I'll look ahead to the year that will be.

December 27, 2005

It's the most fraudulent time of the year

Once again, La Shawn Barber has posted her annual response to "Kwanzaa," the pseudo-celebration invented by a radical black nationalist and Marxist as a humanistic, blacks-only alternative to the Christian Christmas:

Kwanzaa was invented in 1966 by Dr. Maulana “Ron” Karenga, a former black militant, Marxist and convicted felon. Claiming to have the unity of black people in mind, Karenga committed most of his crimes against blacks.

Just five years after his invention, he was convicted of torturing two black women by stripping them naked, beating them with electrical cords, placing a hot iron into the mouth of one and mangling the toe of the other in a vice. During the ordeal, he forced them to drink detergent. . . .

Attention Christians: Kwanzaa is a made-up creed cobbled together by a man hostile to the very God you claim to worship! According to Karenga, Christianity is a myth. He does not believe in the God of the Bible. He says this about Christianity: “Belief in spooks who threaten us if we don’t worship them and demand we turn over our destiny and daily lives must be categorized as spookism and condemned.” He believes that the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, the whole rationale behind Christianity, is a myth.

[Read Kwanzaa with Commentary]

La Shawn's views aren't universally appreciated amongst black people, even black Christians, so she is to be commended for taking it on the chin each year.

December 25, 2005

The mouth of the LORD hath spoken it

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shined.
You have multiplied the nation;
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
For the yoke of his burden,
and the staff for his shoulder,
the rod of his oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
and every garment rolled in blood
will be burned as fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. (Isa. 9:2-7)

I had planned for this Christmas to rewrite and post a Church history essay I wrote this spring on Athanasius' De Incarnatione, but I ran out of time to complete it. And then the whole incarnation/theotokos fooforaw came along on BaptistBoard and I got a little sick of the whole subject, if that were possible.

So instead I thought I'd just post a verse from a much-loved Christmas carol, albeit a verse that appears in relatively few hymnals, at least that I have seen:

God of God,
Light of Light,
Lo! He abhors not the Virgin's womb;
Very God, begotten not created:
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord!

Merry Christmas, all.

December 19, 2005

Go west, this is what we're gonna do

Fred over at Hip and Thigh ruminates on the plot of Brokeback Mountain and gives it a big "ho hum," wondering in particular what is supposed to be so "groundbreaking" about a gay-themed romance.

I'll go one further: What's so groundbreaking about gay cowboys?

The Village People's 1978 single "Macho Man" - note Randy Jones, gay cowboy, on the left.

December 15, 2005

Ransom's least favourite Christmas songs

Yesterday I posted my five favourite songs of the Christmas season. Those are the songs I can't get enough of. These, on the other hand, are the songs I have had enough of. If someone were to invent an electronic device that monitored your stereo speakers and replaced the songs on this list with the songs on that list, I would be first in line to buy one.

  • "Christmas All Over Again": This is a perfectly typical Tom Petty song, and in that respect it isn't bad. But he simply cannot be forgiven for the following lines of wretched, non sequitur doggerel: "And Christmas is a rockin' time / Put your body next to mine." A sure station-changer, every time.

  • "Away in a Manger": This song isn't a Christmas carol so much as a photo-op for proud parents of two- and three-year-olds, dressed up in Daddy's white dress shirt and a tinsel halo, then wrangled on-stage by their Sunday-school teachers to sing off-key while making hand signs that may represent rocking a baby in their arms. But it's not a particularly good song, and I think I first started hating it around the time I was one of those three-year-olds.

    Plus, it's bad theology: "The little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes" suggests that as a baby, Jesus wasn't quite human. Crying is what normal babies do. How did he tell Mary he was hungry? Did he write her a letter?

  • "Up on the House-Top": Ho-ho-ho, who wouldn't go postal if they were subjected to this number every year? We were forced at gunpoint to sing at every annual Christmas assembly in elementary school, so my hatred of it goes back a long way. Yes, we all know now that reindeers don't have paws, they have hooves. Please don't tell that stale joke ever again, and please don't make me sing this stale song ever again.

  • "Do They Know It's Christmas": 1984 was the year of the mass-pop-singer-choir charity pop song. Bob Geldof wanted to raise money for Ethiopian famine relief, so he got on the phone and got Duran Duran, Paul McCartney, U2, Culture Club, Sting, and various other Brit-pop singers into a studio for this charity single. And thus Band-Aid was born.

    The thing is, with all these songwriting giants in the crowd (Sir Paul, Bono, and Sting, fercryingoutloud!), why couldn't they come up with something better? It's heavy-handed and preachy ("And the Christmas bells that ring there / Are the clanging chimes of doom"), and the chorus ("Feed the world, do they know it's Christmastime") needs a few more words and a few less repetitions. Oh, and it says, "there won't be snow in Africa this Christmastime." That's true. It's because Africa is mostly tropical, and those parts that do get snow, probably get it in June, not December.

    In the meantime, this song has been covered twice: by Band-Aid II in 1989, then Band-Aid 20 last year. Sadly, it charted at #1 all three times by people with very short memories.

    And, the #6.022 × 1023 song on Ransom's Christmas list is . . .

  • "The Christmas Shoes": Grumpy man in line doing some last-minute Christmas shopping is persuaded to give a few bucks to shabby waif to buy a pair of shoes so dying mama will look good for Jesus. Now he understands "just what Christmas is all about."

    Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. NewSong's tear-jerker is, hands down, one of the most contrived, melodramatic, manipulative, and vomit-inducing songs ever to be released in time for Christmas. Apparently "what Christmas is all about" is this: Don't be grumpy in line, or God will kill a little boy's mother to teach you a lesson. Whenever I hear this glurge on the radio (which happens only infrequently, thank heaven), I want to stick a fork in my eye.

    Oh - and it needs a cement mixer to lay on the schmaltz. Gravel-voiced country-type singer, because we all know that country music is honest, emotional, hurtin' music. Key change! Cue the children's choir! Gag.

There you have it. Please don't play or perform these songs near me. To round out the Season of Lists, I'll post a few comments about my favourite Christmas albums after the weekend.

Nestorius lives!

In the late fourth century, the bishop of Laodicea, Apollinarius, developed a novel doctrine of the natures of Christ. He taught that Jesus had a true human body and soul; however, he did not have a human spirit, but instead was animated by the divine Logos. This view was condemned as heretical at the Council of Constantinople, in 381. Other Christian leaders were quick to condemn Apollinarius and propose alternative Christologies, but none were particularly helpful. (Millard Erickson has written, in his Christian Theology, that there is effectively no orthodox understanding of the relationship of the human and divine in the person of Jesus. Every time one has been attempted, it has been condemned as heresy.)

One of Apollinarius' opponents was Nestorius, who became the patriarch of Constantinople in 428. Nestorius wanted to correct the deficiency of Apollinarius' Christology, which downplayed the humanity of Jesus. But he, too, went too far. He denied that Mary could be in any sense the theotokos, or "God-bearer," since giving birth was an essentially human activity. He preferred terms like christotokos ("Christ-bearer") or anthropotokos ("man-bearer"). What he wound up doing was dividing the two natures of Christ: instead of human and divine in organic union, Christ was simply a perfect man linked to deity. It is debatable how much of this reflects Nestorius' personal theories, as opposed to his followers'; nonetheless, this Christology, too, was condemned at the Council of Ephesus in 431.

Why is this important? Because it is inevitable that a historically myopic subculture like contemporary Evangelicalism will repeat the same kinds of errors, not realizing they have already been dealt with conclusively.

Case in point: the statement that Mary was the theotokos, or the "Mother of God." Properly understood in its historical context, this title is perfectly orthodox. It says that Jesus, whom Mary bore, was true man and true God, and that the union of human and divine was a true union, not merely a linking of human and divine attributes. In other words, the point of calling Mary theotokos was actually to say something about Christ - not, as later theological developments would do, to exalt the person of Mary herself. However, because of the association of Rome with the veneration of Mary, many Evangelicals are "Romophobic" to the point of rejecting this title, even though properly understood it has nothing to do with Romanist dogma concerning the Virgin.

Read this thread on the BaptistBoard, where you will find such statements as:

Mary the mother of Jesus is correct. [as opposed to "Mary the mother of God"]

Mary is the mother of only the 100% man.

Not one single atom of what Mary gave birth to was, is, or will be God. Mary gave birth to a physical vessel used by God.

Mary gave birth to Jesus, to His physical humanity but she did not give "birth" to ANY of His divinity.

That made her the physical mother of the physical child, Jesus. . . . However, when we speak of GOD, we are talking about spirit, and there is NO mother of God.

Mary simply gave birth to the physical human part of Jesus.

And these occur just in the first few pages of what became a very long thread! (I asked numerous times whether Jesus was fully divine in the womb, or where his "divine part" was hanging around while Mary gave birth to his "physical human part," but never received an answer.)

It gets worse as you read the thread, as a number of participants are, for lack of a better word, "cornered" into making other heretical affirmations rather than admit that they are misunderstanding or misconstruing what "mother of God," properly understood, has meant to the Church all these centuries. (And if you value your sanity and don't want to give yourself a concussion from banging your head against the desk, definitely don't go read this thread, where one of the participants in the first thread attempts to make the same arguments in a non-denominational forum and is drawn to make even more extreme claims. [Give a guy enough rope . . .])

One of the arguments that later develop is that Mary was not truly the mother of Jesus, but was actually an "incubator" or a "surrogate mother" of some kind. This, too, is heretical: it is a variation on the theme of Docetism, the denial of Jesus' humanity. Not that the BaptistBoard denizens are denying that Jesus' flesh was merely an illusion, as did the Docetists proper. But it nonetheless remains an implicit denial that Christ was a member of the human race, because it removes him from the family line of Adam.

The early church correctly realized that the Incarnation had soteriological ramifications, which is why they were so determined to refute false Christologies. This was especially true in the Eastern Church where Appolinarius, Nestorius, Cyril of Jerusalem (who oppoesed Nestorius at Ephesus), and, significantly, Athanasius, the great defender of the Incarnation, were. If Jesus were not God, then he could not have been a perfect sacrifice. But if Jesus were not a true man, then he could not have been a suitable substitute for sinful men. And if Jesus were not truly a descendant of David the king, then he has no valid claim to be King of the Jews, and we can throw his Messianic claims out the window as well. We are, as Paul might say, "of all people most to be pitied" (1 Cor. 15:19).

December 14, 2005

Ransom's favourite Christmas songs

With a week and a half to go before Christmas, I decided it was time to get into the spirit of the season a little more than I have up to now. So I thought I'd do something completely unoriginal and get on the Christmas song bandwagon.

Here is my top 5 list of personal favourite Christmas tunes, in order of preference from least most favourite to most most favourite. Some I have included for the sake of the song itself; for others I have a marked preference for a particular rendition.

  • "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch": The high point of the old How the Grinch Stole Christmas television special is this signature tune, played as the Grinch slips through the Who village purloining their goodies. Boris Karloff was the voice of the Grinch, but veteran voice actor Thurl Ravenscroft was his singing voice.

    The charm of the song comes from the increasingly hyperbolic, mock-macabre woes piled upon the Grinch, from "You're as cuddly as a cactus / You're as charming as an eel" to "Your heart is full of unwashed socks / Your soul is full of gunk" to the superlative "Your soul is an appalling dump heap overflowing with the most disgraceful assortment of deplorable rubbish imaginable mangled up in tangled-up knots." Pure sing-along fun all the way through.

  • "How Great Our Joy": This song makes my list because it's a great one to sing, especially in parts, and especially the refrain. These days, it seems that this traditional German hymn is found more in medleys than on its own, and that's a shame.

  • "Jingle Bell Rock": Not just any version, but the one that appears on Point of Grace's A Christmas Story. I was out buying this album the day after I heard it for the first time, on the strengths of its jazzier numbers: "Jingle Bell Rock," "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," and a medley of "Let it Snow" and "Sleigh Ride." The entire album embodies the best things about Christmas music, but "Jingle Bell Rock" alone is worth the cost of the whole thing.

  • "Anthem for Christmas": With words by Gloria Gaither and music by Michael W. Smith, this anthem appears on the latter's 1987 album Christmas, and in at least three Christmas canatas I've participated in since 1998. So this is another one that slips in on the basis of its being a joy to perform. Also, I don't think Smitty gets the attention he deserves as a hymnodist.

    For the rest of the year, a less Christmassy version of this song appears on Steve Green's album The Mission, under the name "Anthem."

    And, the #1 song on Ransom's Christmas list is . . .

  • "For Unto Us a Child is Born": Handel's Messiah is properly an Easter oratorio, but with so much of its content being about the Christmas story, it gets a lot of play around Christmas. In fact, the first time I heard it in its entirety was a Christmastime performance. One local church even has an annual event in December, in conjunction with an amateur music society, where it invites the audience to join in, offering a number of rehearsals and a discount ticket price for singers. (I haven't participated yet, but I will if I can ever work up the courage to tackle Handel's score.)

    There are many beautiful choruses in Messiah, but this one is representative of all that is good and lovely about the oratorio.

Coming soon: The five Christmas songs I could use a lot less of.

December 13, 2005

The few, the proud, the geeky

Of course, I knew this already.

My computer geek score is greater than 62% of all people in the world! How do you compare? Click here to find out!

(H/T: What Attitude Problem, where the few aren't as proud or as geeky.)

December 12, 2005

Cue the rioters

The Governator just announced that clemency for Stanley "Tookie" Williams is denied.

December 11, 2005

Defying description is fun

I love it when I pick out some music at the library, almost at random, and it results in my finding something genuinely original and interesting.

Today's discovery: Comfort Eagle by Cake.

This is possibly one of the most genre-bending albums I have ever heard. Is it rock? Funk? Dance? Hip-hop? Jazz? Help me out here. (I don't think I've detected notes of Baroque anywhere.)

Anyway, it will certainly be worth searching out some of their other releases.

Secular brownshirts seem a little unclear on the concept

From the you-can't-make-this-stuff-up department: Diane Carman, columnist for the Denver Post, complains about some Christian's attempts to turn Christmas into a religious holiday:

With 19 shopping days left until Christmas, the effort to put Christ in every promotional parade and every discount-store advertisement is in a fulsome, unholy frenzy.nbsp;.nbsp;.nbsp;.

All of which explains why about 200 people ventured to Montview Presbyterian Church on Sunday evening to discuss what many consider the biggest threat to religion in America.

It's not a godless Parade of Lights.

Or Target.

It's what Rabbi David Saperstein, co-chairman of the Coalition to Preserve Religious Liberty, calls the "attack on the wall of separation between church and state."

[Full Story]

Christmas-as-religious-holiday violates the separation of church and state? It's Christmas in Bizarro World, with all of the folks at home.

(H/T: Real Clear Theology Blog.)

December 10, 2005

Cloud-ing the issues

Just when you think psycho-fundamentalism couldn't get any more irrelevant, you read something that proves you wrong once again.

The hat tip goes to Nephos for directing my attention to an article on Way of Life, the Web site of David Cloud, from whence he pontificates long and hard about virtually everyone whose belief and practice are not in lockstep with his particular independent, fundamentalist Baptist tradition.

In the article in question, "C. S. Lewis and Evangelicals Today," Cloud takes issue with the writings and theology of the great 20th-century apologist. I'll grant you that despite the reverence with which Lewis is treated, he is not above criticism and that his theology was weak in certain areas (for example, an unusual theory of the Atonement). So it would have been nice if Cloud had taken up an informed critique of Lewis' theology. Instead, however, he rides his usual hobby-horse of "separation," spending the most verbiage on the fact that Lewis the apologist wrote for an ecumenical audience: the "mere" Christian. But he also makes some downright bizarre assertions, such as this one, which seems to have no logical connection with anything else in the article, before or after:

In the book A Severe Mercy by Sheldon VanAuken [sic], a personal letter is reproduced on page 191 in which Lewis suggests to VanAuken that upon his next visit to England that the two of them “must have some good, long talks together and perhaps we shall both get high.” In light of this, it is interesting that in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Lewis’s fantasy children’s tale, a hero named Edmund meets a magical witch who conjures up for him a box of Turkish Delight, which Edmund devours and begs for more. Turkish Delight is a name for hashish.

First of all, without knowing the context of the letter from Lewis to Vanauken, it is hard to know precisely what he meant by "get high." The common use of the phrase, meaning to seek a drug-induced euphoria, had been in use since the 1930s, but admittedly it seems a bit incongruous coming from Lewis. (If the image of a stodgy old English professor lighting up a J and using hippie slang gives you a fit of the giggles, you aren't alone.) Victor Reppert, author of C. S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea (InterVarsity, 2003), suggests alternative explanations on his blog. Knowing what little I do about Lewis' personal life, I would take a guess that if he had any "recreational chemicals" in mind, it was most likely alcohol. I have access to Vanauken's book, so I may investigate further.

Now it gets really weird. Fact #1:

Cloud, you dummy, Edmund was not a "hero."

Quite the opposite, in fact. Edmund is the Judas-figure in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. In the scene Cloud describes, Edmund was enticed by the White Witch into persuading his brother and sisters to come to Narnia with him. She knows (he does not) that if two kings and queens sit on the four thrones at the castle of Cair Paravel, her power over Narnia is destroyed. Later, Edmund does what she asks and betrays them to her. It is this act that necessitates the death of Aslan on the Stone Table in exchange for his own life.

Fact #2:

Cloud, you incredible nincompoop, "Turkish Delight" isn't hashish, it's candy.

Turkish Delight is a soft, boiled confection made primarily of sugar, corn starch and water, and flavoured with rosewater. It comes in little pinkish cubes dusted with sugar to keep the pieces from sticking together. Wikipedia has an article detailing the history of Turkish Delight along with a basic recipe. I have never made it, although I have tried it: here in Ottawa, Sugar Mountain carries bulk Turkish Delight. I like to buy a few squares on occasion. (They also carry Cadbury's and Fry's Turkish Delight bars, imported from England, for those who prefer their Turkish Delight coated with chocolate rather than corn starch.) It's pretty tasty, but it's also fairly soft and sticky, and an acquired taste if one is unused to eating rosewater-flavoured foods.

In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, it is explicitly stated that the Turkish Delight is enchanted to make the eater crave more. It is the tool the Witch uses to entice Edmund into betraying his siblings. But for Cloud to issue a warning that the Narnia books promote drug use is just idiotic. I guess that his rhetoric just wouldn't have stirred the psycho-fundies to the right level of indignation if he had claimed Lewis was teaching kids to take candy from strangers.

But in any case, is it too much to ask that Cloud a) read what he presumes to criticize, and b) speak from a position of knowledge instead of ignorance?

December 09, 2005

Sanity prevails . . . I think

Remember this guy?

Sometimes your huge, crazy, dancing holiday light display can be a little too popular.

Cops asked a Deerfield Township, Ohio, man who covered his house with 25,000 Christmas lights rigged to dance when holiday music plays to pull the plug on the display after a car wreck Tuesday night, according to Cox News Service.

Carson Williams, the owner of the house, told police he would turn off his holiday decorations indefinitely. . . .

Sheriff's deputies couldn't reach the scene of the accident because of the cars lined up on his neighborhood streets, Williams told a local Cincinnati TV station.

[Full Story]

It looks like Clark Griswold remains the reigning Christmas light champ.

December 06, 2005

KJV-onlyist finally clues in, but proves he's still clueless

I recently noted how Internet KJV-only activist Teno Groppi came to the conclusion opposite to the logical one after a Swedish pastor charged with hate speech argued the case for the traditional Christian opposition to homosexuality using the New International Version.

Two weeks and 20 blog posts later, it's finally dawned on Groppi that his "logic" wasn't being bought. In fact, he has attempted to defend his illogical rant against the NIV, writing:

Of course he omitted my follow up [sic] comments about Bible versions getting so bad that the NIV is now considered a "conservative" version (sort of like George Bush is considered a conservative despite five years of liberal behavior).

[Full Text]

Apparently, Groppi - who posts as "RexText," certainly an appropriate userid since he makes a wreck of all forms of sound reason - thinks that the NIV doesn't really oppose homosexual behaviour, it just looks like it does, because other Bible versions are softer on sin. In other words, the proper way of determining whether the NIV properly condemns homosexuality is by ignoring what the NIV actually says about homosexuality.

This is something like saying that since Alice will have a baby in January, Betty isn't really pregnant because she isn't due until April. (Hey! Stop looking at that ultrasound!)

The fallacy here is in confusing absolute and relative properties. Absolute properties are ones like blue, round, dead, and so forth - they tell you something about their subject that can be determined independently. On the other hand, relative terms are ones like small, near, strong, and so on - there is an implied comparison with some other thing. A big dog is only big when measured against the standards that apply to dogs; a small elephant is bigger than a big dog.

The NIV condemns homosexuality describes an absolute property of the NIV. Liberal and conservative, on the other hand, are relative properties. The NIV condemns homosexuality is true regardless of whether the NIV is more conservative than other Bible versions is true or not.

But logic has never been KJV-onlyism's forte.

As an aside, Ake Green was acquitted.

December 03, 2005

Transpo dodges another bullet

Looks like the city and the union have reached a tentative agreement. Although it has yet to be ratified, it at least means that, once again, the city averts yet another work stoppage at the last minute.

December 02, 2005

'Tis the season to hate OC Transpo

Fares on OC Transpo went up yesterday. The new fare is a whopping $3.00. If Transpo isn't the most expensive bus service in the country, then its competitor is being run by Boss Hogg. Apparently the average cash fare in Ontario is around $2.25.

I use a monthly pass, the cost of which skyrocketed from $65 to $71.25. Fortunately, after running a few calculations, I determined that the pass has still already paid for itself by the 24th ride.

Since I have lived in Ottawa, fares have now risen $1.15 from 1.85 in 1997. By contrast, the much larger (and obviously better managed) Toronto Transit Commission has had, by my count, two fare hikes in the last 11 years, comprising an increase from $2 to $2.50. I think we get about two hikes a year here now. When I lived in Toronto in 1994, I was surprised at how expensive it was to ride the bus there. Not any more.

Not long from now, some boneheaded bean-counter is going to realize that ridership (and therefore revenue) is down, and some genius will call for a fare increase to make up the shortfall. Because that is the kind of mushy-headed bureaucrat that operates a transit service.

Meanwhile, negotiations between the City of Ottawa and the Amalagamated Transit Union continue. At this point, ironically agreements have been hammered out on every issue except for wages. I hope someone points out the obvious to Transpo: they now get an extra quarter per passenger now and that fuel costs are on their way down again. Unless an agreement is reached by Sunday night, the buses stop. Since I live (somewhat) close to downtown - if you can call a 45-60 minute walk "somewhat close" - this isn't a real major issue for me, at least immediately. But there are students living in the suburbs with exam season just around the bend. The last person I would want to be was a U. of Zero student boarding in Barrhaven.

November 29, 2005

The inevitable happens

Following a motion of non-confidence in the House of Commons yesterday, the Liberal government of Paul Martin has fallen. Today, the writ was dropped, Parliament was dissolved, and Canada once again goes to the polls on January 23.

An election in Canada takes place no less than 36 days after it is called. Jan. 23 is 56 days away, making this the longest election campaign in 25 years, as well as the first winter election in 25 years. The general election of 1980 was held on February 18; the campaign was 66 days long. Ironically, this election was also the result of a non-confidence motion against the minority Conservative government of Joe Clark, which lost to a majority government of Liberals under Pierre Trudeau.

Will history repeat itself in 2006?

If the last general election is any indication, the DIM BULBs du jour over the next two months will be enough to illuminate a runway at Ottawa International Airport. Stay tuned.

November 26, 2005

Ultraviolet light my way

Sam, the world's ugliest dog, whose tiny doggy brain finally realized it was animating a walking zombie body and decided to finish the job, is not forgotten. His memory lives on in blacklit glory.

Advocating fragging can be a career-limiting move

Remember the grammar-challenged English professor in New Jersey who tried to bully a student because she was promoting an upcoming lecture by a member of the military? Now he's an ex-professor, according to a statement by the school:

The College became aware of the impact of the instructor�s comments when it was inundated with local and national opinions from the public. Responding to that, the Board of Trustees and administration moved as quickly as possible to review and address the issue. A board meeting was scheduled for last night to present the issue to the Board; however, while the administration was preparing for that meeting, the adjunct instructor Mr. John Daly submitted his resignation. The Board of Trustees voted to accept his resignation at last night�s meeting.

[Full Statement]

Also interesting is the school's stated intent to review and draft "tolerance policies" for staff. Apparently, they're taking Rebecca Beach's advice to put people like Daly through "sensitivity training" seriously.

Daly, who wrote to Beach that "[r]eal freedom will come when soldiers in Iraq turn their guns on their superiors," just learned an important lesson: being a one-man PR disaster for your employer is not the fast track to career advancement.

(H/T: Michelle Malkin.)

November 25, 2005

Friday in the wild - November 25, 2005

Yay, Friday! Here's my weekly roundup of the interesting and informative from my little corner of the blogosphere.

The dogs at Fide-O did a good trilogy on the deity of Christ. This was especially pertinent to me because I happen to be involved in a "discussion" on a Web forum with some KJV-onlyists claiming that modern Bibles "deny" or "weaken" claims of Christ's deity (and I notice that Jason is able to defend Christ without resorting to King James' Bible):

The only way to know Christ is through the Bible. That is why the Scriptures are so revered by us. The Bible is not our god or more important than God; it is not superior to Christ by any means. But the Bible is the only way to know God. Thus, we believe that Jesus desires for His bride to trust His Word. His Word represents Him and reveals Him. To know the Bible takes the power of the Holy Spirit revealing the text. The test of whether that revelation is from God is proven by the fact that it will be in sync with the rules of hermeneutics.

[Read Jesus is Eternally God]

See also: Jesus is Equally God and Jesus is Essentially God.

Since thanks to my Remembrance Day series, World War I was much on my mind in recent days, I enjoyed reading Joel's post about the Christmas Truce of 1914 on On the Other Foot:

Well, no war is ever really fought decently. And World War I was bloodier and grimmer than most, with little to show at the end. But the Christmas Truce of 1914 shows that soldiers can be men as well as weapons. . . .

The last man who was there when the guns fell silent and the soccer balls came out died today.

Alfred Anderson lived beyond the Western Front to see death camps, a cold war, and suicide bombers on British soil. He was living proof that war doesn't have to take the humanity out of the men who fight it.

[Read When wars were fought by gentlemen]

Michelle Malkin has had enough of leftist critics who think Asian women are good at being whores but not thinking independently.

The racist and sexist "yellow woman doing a white man's job" knock is a tiresome old attack from impotent liberals that I've tolerated a long time. It is pathetic that I have to sit here and tell you that my ideas, my politics, and my intellectual capital are mine and mine alone in response to cowardly attacks from misogynistic moonbats with Asian whore fixations. My IQ, free will, skin color, eye shape, productivity, sincerity, and integrity are routinely ridiculed or questioned because I happen to be a minority conservative woman. As a public figure, I am willing to take these insults, but I cannot tolerate the smearing of my loved ones. Because I have always been open and proud about his support for my career, my husband has taken endless, hate-filled abuse from my critics. His Jewish heritage, his decision to be a stay-at-home dad, and even his looks, are the subject of brutal mockery.

[Read Just a Yellow Woman Doing a White Man's Job]

The Pedantic Protestant reveals all: the poorly kept secret of his identity.

Even though the full moon was a week and a half ago, that didn't stop the Google insanity from reaching absurd heights this week:

Until next week? Enjoy!

Calling occupants of interplanetary, most extraordinary craft . . .

I am so glad this guy's political star set almost 40 years ago.

A former Canadian Minister of Defence and Deputy Prime Minister under Pierre Trudeau has joined forces with three Non-governmental organizations to ask the Parliament of Canada to hold public hearings on Exopolitics -- relations with "ETs."

By "ETs," Mr. [Paul] Hellyer and these organizations mean ethical, advanced extraterrestrial civilizations that may now be visiting Earth. . . .

Mr. Hellyer went on to say, "I'm so concerned about what the consequences might be of starting an intergalactic war, that I just think I had to say something."

Well, if by "consequences" he means bug-eyed monsters eating his brains, in his case, they might go away hungry.

And who, do you suppose, is the biggest threat to global security? Who do you think?

Hellyer warned, "The United States military are preparing weapons which could be used against the aliens, and they could get us into an intergalactic war without us ever having any warning. He stated, "The Bush administration has finally agreed to let the military build a forward base on the moon, which will put them in a better position to keep track of the goings and comings of the visitors from space, and to shoot at them, if they so decide."

The article goes on to detail Canada's quite reasonable opposition to space-based weaponry, but then takes a final turn for the batty when it concludes:

"Time is on the side of open disclosure that there are ethical Extraterrestrial civilizations visiting Earth," The [sic] spokesperson [for a relateed NGO] stated. "Our Canadian government needs to openly address these important issues of the possible deployment of weapons in outer war plans against ethical ET societies."

[Full Story]

I am really curious about the basis for this "spokesperson's" assumption that "ET societies" would be "ethical." How does he know this? Does he simply assume, in naïve Gene Roddenberry fashion, that more advanced civilizations would be pacifistic? If 20th-century history has taught us anything, it is that human beings with superior technology simply become better-armed barbarians. Assuming these societies even exist (an assumption for which there is precisely zero evidence), how does he know that their advanced technology won't simply make it easier for them to swoop down, probe our orifices before sucking our brains, stealing all our fresh water, levelling Tokyo, and finally using the entire planet in a giant game of planetary snooker?

Paul Hellyer is awarded today's DIM BULB du jour, with special Black Helicopter Cluster, for moonbattery above and beyond the call of duty.

I, for one, welcome our new extraterrestrial overlords.

November 23, 2005

Didn't they spot him in Texas just the other day?

Here we go again:

Mexicans have set up a shrine at a plant pot on the grounds of a beach resort on the Caribbean island of Cozumel after an image said to depict Jesus appeared on it following Hurricane Wilma a month ago.

A receptionist at the Occidental Grand resort noticed the image likened to Jesus' face as shaken guests emerged from a storm shelter after huddling for three days while the hurricane hurled rain and debris. . . .

"The first person who saw it was a receptionist. Then the guests started coming to see it and before long people were praying and lighting candles," said a security guard near the pot, which is roped off with a crimson cord strung between brass poles and has a simple candle burning in front of it.

[Full Story]

It takes all my mental prowess not to accidentally read this as "Mexicans have set up a shrine at a pot plant" - which, combined with the ubiquitous candles that miraculously appear at Jesifications, would explain the increase in sightings of Jesi on household objects in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, Mary's pulled out of Texas too, and headed for the West Coast:

Believers say a statue of the Virgin Mary outside a California church appears to be crying a drop of blood. . . .

Hundreds of people are coming to see the statue for themselves. Many say it's a sign from God.

[Full Story]

And now . . . this - Nov. 23/05

Say it ain't so!

I don't know whether to be sad about this or not:

Sam, the dog whose ugliness earned him TV appearances, limousine rides and even a meeting with Donald Trump, has died.

The pooch with the hairless body, crooked teeth and sparse tuft of hair atop his knobby head died Friday, just short of his 15th birthday, said his owner, Susie Lockheed. . . .

Lockheed said she had Sam euthanized after a veterinarian told her Sam's heart was failing.

[Full Story]

No kidding. Because you know what? If it was my job to pump blood through that abomination and keep it alive, I'd pack up and leave too.

But, officer, it's my job!

Italian Formula One racing star Giancarlo Fisichella has lost his driver's license after speeding 2.5 times the limit on the outskirts of Rome, according to the Electric New Paper.

To make matters worse, the incident happened only six days after the Renault driver appealed to Italy's teens in a newspaper, asking them to refrain from street-racing after a 16-year-old's high-speed death in Rome.

Cops caught Fisichella, 32, early Sunday cruising at 148 km/h (95 mph) in a 60 km/h (35 mph) zone, Italian news agency ANSA reported.

[Full Story]

The irony at that moment was flying so fast they clocked it on radar.

The perfect corsage for your prom date

Its scent has drawn comparisons to garbage and spoiled meat, but that isn't stopping crowds from flocking to see - and smell - an unusual plant in bloom at the U.S. Botanic Garden.

The titan arum plant, nicknamed "corpse plant" for its rank smell, is attracting thousands of visitors during the day or two it remains in bloom. . . .

Now that it's in bloom, the plant has also started emitting a smell that's drawn comparisons to garbage, spoiled meat, and rotting fish. But the plant's stench is actually the key to its survival: carrion beetles and other pollinators in its native Sumatra are attracted to the smell, Kress said.

"These beetles usually lay their eggs in rotting animals, so this plant pretends to be a dead animal," he said.

[Full Story]

The plant rarely blooms, too, making hundreds of people ask themselves: "I waited five years for this?

News flash: Art now causes vandalism

If you thought art galleries were quiet havens of contemplation, think again. Looking at great works of art can inspire a strong, sometimes irresistible urge to destroy, Italian researchers have found.

Dubbed the "David syndrome," after the statue of the young Hebrew king by Michelangelo, the condition can provoke an overwhelming desire to damage the art being viewed, the psychoanalyst who identified the malady told Reuters.

"It's a range of strong emotions which go from enchantment, through vexation, aggression, a vandalistic impulse, right through to panic attacks," said Graziella Magherini who is leading a group of doctors, psychiatrists and art historians looking into the syndrome.

[Full Story]

I think that in the case of "David," it's probably just envy.

Heaven knows I get my fair share of Emma Watson Google hits . . .

 . . . but this one was kinda funny:

"Harry Potter" star Emma Watson is being sent Bibles by furious Christians who believe the magical movies are a work of evil.

The screen beauty, who plays the boy wizard's best friend Hermione Granger in the series, is building up a collection of the holy books from religious viewers who think she needs "guidance". The 15-year-old confessed: "I have a collection of about 20 in my room. People think I need to be guided."

[Full Story]

Well, she's a wealthy movie star, right? Perhaps she should return the favour: send them a Harry Potter novel, along with a polite suggestion that they get a life. (News flash, brethren: It's a story, and she's playing a rôle.)

They're Marifying trees now

Here we go again . . .

Believers are flocking to a Dallas home to see what some say is the outline of the Virgin Mary on a tree. . . .

Dozens from around the area have come to see the tree, honoring the image with candles and prayers.

[Full Story]

Meanwhile, though, her son is getting in on the candles 'n' kitsch action too:

An image on a truck tailgate has sparked a new wave of religious pilgrims in Texas.

Portraits of Jesus Christ and a table full of candles surround what some are calling a miraculous image.

Believers say the face of Jesus is visible in the dirt on the tailgate.

Since word of the vision got out, at least 150 people have made a pilgrimage to visit the truck.

[Full Story]

And if you think that's a miracle, you're really going to flip when you find out that the image of Jesus looks exactly like the remains of a car decal. See for yourself:

[Jesus on a tailgate]

[Jesus on a decal]

It's a miracle!

(H/T: Free Republic.)

November 22, 2005

From harmony, from Heav'nly harmony

Not being a part of a liturgical tradition, I don't typically pay much attention to the traditional calendar of saints' days. There are exceptions: as a musician and an English graduate I have a fondness for St. Cecilia's Day, which is commemorated on November 22.

Cecilia is regarded as the patron saint of music, and said to be the inventor of the organ. She was a noble woman of Rome, thought to have been martyred in Sicily in the late second century under Marcus Aurelius, along with her husband and other friends who were converts to Christianity.

Cecilia has inspired many works of art, poetry, and (of course) music. My own way of observing St. Cecilia's Day, then, is to sit down and listen to Handel's Ode for St. Cecilia's Day. Handel composed this secular cantata in 1739, setting to music the words of John Dryden's 1687 poem "A Song for St. Cecilia's Day."

The cantata begins with a suitably dramatic overture, then continues with a recitative for tenor, as creation is sung into existence:

From harmony, from Heav'nly harmony
    This universal frame began.
  When Nature underneath a heap
    Of jarring atoms lay,
  And could not heave her head,
The tuneful voice was heard from high,
    Arise ye more than dead.
Then cold, and hot, and moist, and dry,
  In order to their stations leap,
    And music's pow'r obey.

Then the chorus breaks in:

From harmony, from Heav'nly harmony
    This universal frame began:
    From harmony to harmony
Through all the compass of the notes it ran,
  The diapason closing full in man.

Then comes a soprano aria, nice and slow with a long introduction featuring primarily low strings and harp, about Jubal's invention of the first musical instrument:

What passion cannot music raise and quell!
    When Jubal struck the corded shell,
  His list'ning brethren stood around
    And wond'ring, on their faces fell
  To worship that celestial sound:
Less than a god they thought there could not dwell
    Within the hollow of that shell
    That spoke so sweetly and so well.
What passion cannot music raise and quell!

Now the tenor has a rousing, dramatic aria, accompanied by the chorus. The way the "double double double beat" rolls off the tympanis is sublime:

  The trumpet's loud clangor
    Excites us to arms
  With shrill notes of anger
      And mortal alarms.
  The double double double beat
    Of the thund'ring drum
  Cries, hark the foes come;
Charge, charge, 'tis too late to retreat.

Next comes an instrumental interlude, a march, which is suitably martial (but not as martial as the double double double beat, by a long shot). The soprano returns for an aria singing the praises of flute and lute, accompanied, not surprisingly, by flute and lute:

  The soft complaining flute
  In dying notes discovers
  The woes of hopeless lovers,
Whose dirge is whisper'd by the warbling lute.

Then the tenor does battle with the violins in a dramatic aria:

  Sharp violins proclaim
Their jealous pangs, and desperation,
Fury, frantic indignation,
Depth of pains and height of passion,
  For the fair, disdainful dame.

But when the subject turns to St. Cecilia's instrument, the organ, Dryden's ode, voiced by the soprano, reaches its lyrical pinnacle:

But oh! what art can teach
What human voice can reach
  The sacred organ's praise?
Notes inspiring holy love,
Notes that wing their Heav'nly ways
  To mend the choirs above.

She continues to sing the next stanza, in praise of Cecelia herself:

Orpheus could lead the savage race;
And trees unrooted left their place;
    Sequacious of the lyre:
But bright Cecilia rais'd the wonder high'r;
  When to her organ, vocal breath was giv'n,
An angel heard, and straight appear'd
    Mistaking earth for Heav'n.

Finally, in the Grand Chorus, the world ends as it began, with music, as the trumpet sounds and the dead rise, and the soprano and chorus belt out:

As from the pow'r of sacred lays
  The spheres began to move,
And sung the great Creator's praise
  To all the bless'd above;
So when the last and dreadful hour
 This crumbling pageant shall devour,
The trumpet shall be heard on high,
  The dead shall live, the living die,
  And music shall untune the sky.

and with a last flourish of trumpet & tympani, it's done.

My recording is of the English Concert and English Concert Choir, on period instruments. The soloists are Felicity Lott and Anthony Rolfe Johnson. Trevor Pinnock conducts and play harpsichord and organ. This recording was made in 1985, and it sounds to me like the engineers were fairly new to full-digital recordings, as there is a lot of what sounds like stage noise - pages turning, odd clicks, and so forth. In a few pieces they become a bit of a distraction, but otherwise this is a clear, excellent disc.

But . . . but . . . I thought the NIV was pro-gay?!

Recently, on one of the more militant KJV-only mailing lists, KJB vs The Modern Versions, moderator Teno Groppi had this to say about Ake Green, the Swedish Pentecostal pastor who was recently arrested and put on trial for "hate crimes" for opposing sodomy:

Notice the Pastor who is in trouble for preaching against sodomy got in hot water on the Bible version issue. If someone is not King James ONLY - they have no more final of an authority than the atheist lawyer who nailed him on the issue. They are wide open for just that kind of attack, and have no defense for it. If they have the right to pick a version they like, the liberals and atheists have the same right, and the "conservative" has no grounds to dispute them.

[Full Message]

Here's the only problem with Groppi's assertion: Green wasn't opposing homosexuality out of a King James Bible:

The prosecutor asked Pastor Green several times what version of the Bible he was using. When Pastor Green politely replied that he used the New International Version, the prosecutor replied that Pastor Green was using a "bad translation" and to "get a new Bible" � one that does not question homosexual behavior. (emphasis added)

The problem is, the New International Version is claimed by many (if not most) radical KJV-onlyists to be soft on homosexuality, if not, indeed, pro-homosexuality. Psycho-fundy David Cloud, for example, claims that the involvement of Virginia Ramey Mollenkott as an English style consultant on the NIV committee biased the translation in favour of homosexuals. Mollenkott is the co-author (with Letha Scanzoni) of the book Is the Homosexual My Neighbour? (HarperCollins, 1978); she came "out" in the mid-70s as a lesbian, albeit one who still maintained a high view of Scripture (a position it appears she has abandoned in the meantime). Cloud writes:

If we had known earlier what we know today, we would not have hesitated, as we originally did, to suggest that the New International Version is weak on homosexuality due to the influence of homosexuals. The parallels are too striking to be incidental. . . .

We will probably never know exactly what role Woudstra,1 Mollenkott, and perhaps other homosexuals had in the translation of the New International Version.

Yet if the NIV is so soft on homosexuality, how is it that Pastor Green could be brought up on hate-speech charges for preaching against it from that version? The prosecutor did not berate him for using a wishy-washy translation, but one that was too strong.

KJV-onlyists like to point out that the NIV (and indeed no other English translation of the Bible in common use) uses the word "sodomite" as the KJV does. Hence, the argument goes, the NIV weakens the biblical warning against homosexuality. But what the KJV-onlyists don't explain is why the word sodomite is better than the word homosexual which, thanks to constant media exposure, everyone understands quite well. (The term homosexual didn't even exist in 1611 when the KJV was translated; it was coined in 1869 by Karl Maria Benkert, and popularized by Sigmund Freud's writings. The translators of the KJV used the appropriate word for their day; the NIV uses the appropriate word for ours.)

But if homosexual is a weaker word than sodomite, then why would Cloud use the word so frequently in his article? I hate to be the kind of pedant that makes his point by counting words, but I counted 70 instances of the word homosexual or some derivation; by contrast, he used the "stronger" word sodomite a measly 18 times - and one of those referred not to a homosexual, but a resident of Sodom. If sodomite is the better word, why would he use the inferior one more frequently? Cloud's argument would appear to be self-defeating.

Of course, for the most pathological KJV-onlyists, reality isn't really something they contend with on a regular basis. In a subsequent post, Groppi actually argues that if "the INFIDEL lawyer really thinks the NIV is anti-queer, that's a sure bet that the NIV is pro-queer." (Remind me to update my KJV-only Fallacies Page one of these days. This is a transparent example of argumentum ad odium, known in English as the Appeal to Spite.)

Groppi then makes what has to be the most foolish argument in the KJV-only bag of tricks:

NIV 1 Cor 6:9 "... HOMOSEXUAL OFFENDERS ... will not inherit the kingdom of God."

This certainly can be taken to mean that those who offend homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom. We'd better not offend those homosexuals like God does in Romans 1 - He might not inherit His own kingdom. Could that be why there were two sodomites on the NIV committee (NT stylist Mollencott [sic] and OT Chairman Woudstra)?!

Some defend the peculiar wording of this verse in the NIV by claiming that it can be taken as either homosexuals committing the offenses, or homosexuals being offended, and they choose the former interpretation. However, the fact that it *can* be taken either way is a problem with the NIV. Which rendering would a homosexual rather use?

The issue is not which rendering a homosexual would rather use, but what the word offend means in this context. As a transitive verb, to offend means "to cause displeasure, to hurt the feelings of": Your cigarette smoke offends me. But in this case, an offender is one who offends: and in that instance, to offend is an intransitive verb meaning "to break the law." A drug offender is one who breaks the law concerning drugs. A repeat offender is one who breaks the law repeatedly. And a "homosexual offender" (1 Cor. 9:6 NIV) is one who breaks God's law concerning homosexuality. If only G. A. Riplinger, the Blessed Virgin of the KJV-only movent, hadn't made the same kind of argument in chapter 9 of her potboiler New Age Bible Versions, we could laugh this kind of idiocy out of existence.

In fact, in the Real World, we do. Groppi's kinds of arguments don't last very long on open forums such as the Bible Versions Discussion Board. They can only thrive where KJV-onlyists themselves are able to control, moderate, vet, edit, and censor opposing views. Indeed, if you continue to read the thread in KJB Vs. the Modern Versions, Groppi admits to doing just that. If a theory can't withstand close scrutiny, it isn't worth defending.


1 Old Testament theologian Marten H. Woudstra is often cited by KJV-onlyists as another example of a homosexual on the NIV translation committee who biased the translation in favour of his views. I have made repeated requests on multiple forums for evidence of this allegation that does not come from a KJV-only rumour-monger. None has been forthcoming. Indeed, if you search for woudstra homosexual on Google, the entire first page of hits consists of pro-KJV-only Web pages. All the evidence points to this being one more KJV-only lie.

Is there such a thing as too much Christmas spirit?

Indeed there is. [MOV file]

November 18, 2005

How it's really done

A travelling salesman, finding himself driving through sparsely populated farmland after dark, decided that since there seemed to be no hope of finding a hotel, he would appeal to one of the local farmers for lodging. So he pulled off the country road and drove up the long driveway to the nearest farmhouse, got out of his car, climbed the steps to the front door, and knocked.

The farmer was more than happy to put the salesman up for the night, having a very nice guest room on the ground floor. After a good home-cooked meal and a belt of whiskey over conversation in the den, it was time to turn in. The farmer told the salesman, "Just before you go to bed, there's something I have to show you."

He led the salesman up a flight of stairs, through a wooden door, up a flight of stairs, through a steel door, up a flight of stairs, through a wooden door, up a flight of stairs, through a steel door, up a flight of stairs, through a wooden door, up a flight of stairs, through a steel door, and up a flight of stairs and through a big, heavy reinforced steel door into a very large room on the top floor of his farmhouse. This room was completely empty except for a steel cage in its exact centre. Sitting in the cage was a big, sullen pink gorilla.

"This is the most important thing I have to tell you," said the farmer, sternly. "You are more than welcome to stay the night. My house is your house. But, I must warn you: whatever you do, no matter how tempted you are, do not touch the gorilla."

So the farmer and the salesmen left the big room, went through the big, heavy reinforced steel door, down the flight of stairs, through the steel door, down the flight of stairs, through the wooden door, down the flight of stairs, through the steel door, down the flight of stairs, through the wooden door, down the flight of stairs, through the steel door, down the flight of stairs, through the wooden door, down the flight of stairs and down the hall to the guest room, where the farmer said goodnight to the salemen and then turned in himself.

Despite the comfortable warmth of the room and the softness of the farmer's excellent guest bed, the salesman found it impossible to sleep. Try as he might, he just couldn't take his mind off the pink gorilla or what possible reason the farmer might have to forbid him to touch it. He tossed and turned for an hour. Finally, he could stand it no longer. Pulling on his robe, he left the guest room and went down the hall, up the flight of stairs, through the wooden door, up the flight of stairs, through the steel door, up the flight of stairs, through the wooden door, up the flight of stairs, through the steel door, up the flight of stairs, through the wooden door, up the flight of stairs, through the steel door, up the flight of stairs, through the big, heavy reinforced steel door and into the big room with the gorilla in the cage in the exact centre.

He reached out his hand to touch the gorilla. But at the last minute he came to his senses. "What am I doing?" he said. "This farmer gave me a bed for the night and only told me not to do this one thing. How can I go against his wishes like this?" So he left the big room, went through the big, heavy reinforced steel door, down the flight of stairs, through the steel door, down the flight of stairs, through the wooden door, down the flight of stairs, through the steel door, down the flight of stairs, through the wooden door, down the flight of stairs, through the steel door, down the flight of stairs, through the wooden door, down the flight of stairs and down the hall and back to the guest room, where he doffed his robe and got back into bed.

But again, the salesman could not sleep, because no matter what he tried, he could not stop thinking about the pink gorilla. After tossing and turning for another two hours, again he got out of bed, put on his robe, left the guest room and went down the hall, up the flight of stairs, through the wooden door, up the flight of stairs, through the steel door, up the flight of stairs, through the wooden door, up the flight of stairs, through the steel door, up the flight of stairs, through the wooden door, up the flight of stairs, through the steel door, up the flight of stairs, through the big, heavy reinforced steel door and into the big room where the morose pink gorilla glared at him from the cage in the exact centre.

This time, the salesman gave in to temptation, reached through the bars of the cage, and touched the pink gorilla. It was very nice and very soft. But suddenly the pink gorilla was somehow energized. It got to its feet, grasped the cage bars, and to the salesman's great shock, the cage door was unlocked and began to swing open. As quickly as he could, he dashed out of the room, through the big, heavy reinforced steel door, down the flight of stairs, through the steel door, down the flight of stairs, through the wooden door, down the flight of stairs, through the steel door, down the flight of stairs, through the wooden door, down the flight of stairs, through the steel door, down the flight of stairs, through the wooden door, down the flight of stairs and down the hall.

He looked behind him and saw the pink gorilla in hot pursuit. Not stopping to grab his overnight bag, he ran through the kitchen, out the front door, down the stairs, and into his car. He started the car, turned around and sped down the long driveway to the country road, and drove away from the farm as fast as he could.

A few minutes later, the car engine sputtered and died, and the car rolled to a stop. Out of gas! Glancing in the rearview mirror, the salesman was shocked to see the gorilla still chasing him down the road. With no time to lose, he opened the trunk of the car and pulled out a motorcycle. Starting the engine and kicking it into gear, the salesman continued his escape.

It wasn't long until the motorcycle engine quit and the bike rolled to a stop. Again, he was out of gas! The salesman looked in the rearview mirror and again saw that the pink gorilla wasn't giving up. With no time to lose, he pulled a bicycle out of the saddlebag of the motorcycle, mounted it, and started pedalling away like a madman.

Soon the back tire of the bicycle blew out, and the salesman was thrown into the grass by the side of the road. Looking up, he saw that the pink gorilla was still headed his way. With no time to lose, out of the pannier on the bicycle, he pulled out a skateboard, stepped on it, and rode it to freedom.

A half hour later, the skateboard split down the middle, nearly dumping the salesman into the middle of the road. Looking over his shoulder, he couldn't help noticing the big pink gorilla bearing down on him. With no time to lose, quickly he pulled the wheels off the remains of his skateboard and strapped them onto his own shoes. Soon he was rollerskating away from danger.

But the rollerskate wheels were inferior and they wore away in a matter of minutes. The pink gorilla was nearly upon him! With no time to lose, he ripped the wheels off his shoes and began running like hell down the country road.

In fact, the salesman ran so hard that he quickly wore the soles off his shoes. (Being a shoe salesman, he made a decision to quit his job and find work with another shoe company.) He could hear the gorilla growling as it came ever closer. With no time to lose, the salesman tore off his shoes, threw them into the ditch, and continued running in his socks.

Of course, socks are no better footwear for running in than shoes, and so they wore out considerably faster. Now he could feel hot gorilla breath on his neck. With no time to lose, he ripped off his shredded socks and tore off down the road in his bare feet.

But he was unused to running, and the hard road caused the soles of his feet to blister. In intense pain, the salesman could run no farther, and he fell to the ground. He closed his eyes and braced himself for the end.

The sullen pink gorilla stopped inches from the salesman, poked him hard in the chest . . . and said, "Tag, you're it."

(H/T: Reflections of the Times. Sorry Carla.)

Friday in the wild - November 18, 2005

The Friday roundup resumes this week with this week's fun and interesting dose of bloggy goodness.

It would be funny if it weren't so sad that some psycho-fundies try to micro-manage others' private lives in such detail: On his blog The Texas Baptist Underground, James Spurgeon describes an idiotic church regulation:

Some things I hear about LBT are just so unbelievable that even I don't believe them at first. This is one of those things. I first heard whisperings of this about a year ago, but I have recently had it confirmed from a reliable source - with more details. . . .

Letters were sent out - official letters on LBT stationery - to all staff families, missionaries out of IBWM, college students, and families of LCA students forbidding any staff lady, wife, missionary's wife, TBC student, wife of a TBC student, or LCA student from wearing Victoria's Secret undergarments.

Yes, my friends. Gray is very much concerned about what you ladies wear in the bedroom. It must be appropriate.

[Read Victoria's Secret]

Kim at The Upward Call notes an important Canadian historic milestone:

Today marks the 120th anniversary of the execution of Louis Riel. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this figure in history, I�ll fill you in a little. . . .

Riel and his supporters took issue with what they saw as a rather high-handed way of surveying the land. They wanted to be able to negotiate with the Dominion of Canada on their own. When the surveyors came into their neck of the woods, Riel and his followers physically barred the way to their entry. This was the beginning of a resistance.

[Read Canadian history moment]

No Google insanity this week for some reason. So, apart from that, enjoy!

A foretaste of the new Who

Tonight was appeal night - a telethon, I assume, although naturally I couldn't watch - for the BBC's annual "Children in Need" charity. In honour of the occasion, the producers of Doctor Who threw together a 7-minute mini-episode.

Plot-wise it's nothing earth-shattering: after a quick recap of the first season finale "The Parting of the Ways," Rose (Billie Piper) tries to cope with the sudden regeneration of the Doctor (David Tennant). After all, it's not every day you see a balding Lancastrian explode into a toothy Scot. But the fun is getting a taste of how Tennant is going to play the tenth Doctor: manic, talky, somewhat physical, and not unlike the seventh Doctor, Sylvester McCoy (coincidentally, another Scot, although McCoy also didn't fake Received Pronunciation).

See it here in Windows Media and RealVideo formats. The quality isn't incredible, but it's better than having to lie to your friends.

Matt Stone and Trey Parker are so getting sued

Tom Cruise better fire another publicist.

I heard that this week's episode of South Park was going to take on the Church of ScientologyTM. But none of the channels I get show it. Fortunately, it's one of the most pirated TV programs out there, so I swallowed my usual moral qualms about downloading shows from the Net and snagged a copy.

I then spent the next 20-odd minutes alternately staring in bug-eyed amazement or laughing out loud as the criminal cult got itself thoroughly pwn3d.

Wanting to save money for a bike, Stan goes in search of free fun. Unfortunately, the first thing he comes across is a Church of ScientologyTM offering their "free personality test." They convince him that he is depressed and in need of "auditing," so he forks over his savings. The results of the auditing convince the ScientologistsTM that Stan is in fact the reincarnation of their founder, L. Ron Hubbard, himself.

The set-piece of the episode (and the best part) is a pretty darn good explanation of Scientology'sTM "Xenu" legend, as presented by the "President" of the Church:

You see, Stan, there is a reason for people feeling sad and depressed. An alien reason. It all began 75 million years ago. Back then there was a galactic federation of planets, which was ruled over by the evil Lord Xenu. [Xenu: Ha ha ha ha ha ha!] Xenu thought his galaxy was overpopulated, and so he rounded up countless aliens from all different planets, and then had those aliens frozen. [Alien: Oh no! Aaaah! Xenu: Ha ha ha ha!] The frozen alien bodies were loaded onto Xenu's galactic cruisers, which looked like DC-8s except with rocket engines. The cruisers then took the frozen alien bodies to our planet, Earth, and dumped them into the volcanoes of Hawaii. The aliens were no longer frozen. They were dead. The souls of those aliens, however, lived on, and all floated up towards the sky. But the evil Lord Xenu had prepared for this. [Xenu: Ha ha ha ha!] Xenu didn't want their souls to return and so he built giant soul-catchers in the sky. The souls were taken to a huge soul-brainwashing facility, which Xenu had also built on Earth. [Alien souls: Aaaah!] There the souls were forced to watch days of brainwashing material, which tricked them into believing a false reality. Xenu then released the alien souls, which roamed the earth aimlessly in a fog of confusion. At the dawn of man, the souls finally found bodies which they could grab on to. They attached themselves to all mankind, which still to this day causes all our fears, our confusions, and our problems.

This is shown, in all its crudely animated glory, with a banner declaring "THIS IS WHAT SCIENTOLOGISTS ACTUALLY BELIEVE." Mind you, they got a few minor details wrong - for example, they mangled some of the cult's weird jargon (there's no such thing as a "thetan level"), and Hubbard didn't live on a ship crewed only by young boys (though he had a staff of personal servants composed almost entirely of scantily clad teenage girls). But in the main, that is basically the core of Scientology'sTM secret doctrine.

Or should I say former secret doctrine? It's hard to believe that it has now been over ten years since Scientology'sTM secret "scriptures" were posted to the Internet and described in detail in the Washington post, resulting in a lawsuit that entered them into the public record. The floodgates opened: in December 1995, Wired ran a classic article about Scientology'sTM war against the Net. In 1996, investigative reporter Mark Ebner joined ScientologyTM for a few weeks, then used his experiences to write a blistering article for Spy magazine in 1996. (I have heard that Stoen and Parker used Ebner as source material.) Ten years ago, virtually no one would have mocked this crap in public like this; today, ScientologyTM "secrets" are ridiculed openly and cartoon scriptwriters dare the cult to sue them. (The episode ends with Stan revealing that it's all a global scam and taunting Church officials to sue him; when the credits roll, everyone is named either John Smith or Jane Smith.)

A mildly humorous subplot involves celebrity ScientologistsTM Tom Cruise and John Travolta hiding in Stan's closet. Both actors have been dogged for a number of years by rumours that they are secretly gay and are being blackmailed by the ScientologistsTM to prevent them from "blowing" (quitting the Church). A few years ago, Cruise successfully sued a gay porn star who defamed him by claiming they had had an affair.

Not surprisingly, Chef (voiced by longtime ScientologistTM Isaac Hayes) was nowhere to be seen.

I wonder how the cult will retaliate against Stone and Parker?

  • Will they find promotional material from local mortuaries on their front doorstep? Robert Welkos, the reporter who co-authored a 1990 special report for the Los Angeles Times did.
  • Instead of a brochure, will it be a dead cat? ScientologyTM critic Robert Minton, a millionaire who has bankrolled former Scientologists'TM lawsuits against the cult, claims someone left one on his property in 1997.
  • Worse, will they come home to find their dog drowned in the swimming pool? That's what happened to California superior court judge Ronald Swearinger, while he was presiding over a major lawsuit against ScientologyTM.
  • Will a ScientologistTM stage a false hit-and-run incident to frame them? They did that to then-Clearwater, FL mayor Gabriel Cazares, because he opposed the secret takeover of his town by the cult. While he was visiting Washington, a "reporter" (actually a Scientology agent) was driving him somewhere when she hit someone (actually another Scientology agent).
  • Or will the Church frame them for terrorist threats? After author Paulette Cooper wrote a scathing criticism of the Church, The Scandal of Scientology, in 1970, she was indicted for making bomb threats against the Church. They had stolen some of her stationery (with her own fingerprints on it) and forged the threats themselves.

In closing, this seems like as good a time as any to reveal my own South Park character, created at South Park Studios:

[Scott as a South Park kid]

Pretty good likeness, too. Ain't it cool?

(And I note also in closing that coincidentally, the TOS of, the free site hosting a number of my images, prohibits URLs with the word "scientology" in them. Respect their authoritah!)

And now . . . this - Nov. 18/05

Murder most foul

Here's the latest conspiracy theory from the Middle East, which can cook these things up almost as quickly as they can in Michigan or Idaho:

Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat died after a poison was injected into his ear, according to statements made by senior PA official Ahmad Abdul Rahman that appeared yesterday in the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper.

[Full Story]

Yeah yeah. I'd believe it, if I hadn't already read Hamlet.

I guess it's safe to say Arafat never saw that one coming. Whether he heard it is still up for debate.

What they're teaching in English class these days

According to this news article on the Web site of the student group Young America's Foundation, a freshman named Rebecca Beach sent an email to the faculty of her school, Warren County Community College in Washington, NJ, announcing a lecture by Lt. Col. Scott Rutter to discuss "American accomplishments in Iraq." One faculty member, English instructor John Daly, sent her a nastygram in reply.

Here is his response, unedited, as posted in the article. Forget the political content for the moment and note what I have highlighted. Remember when you are reading this that he's an English teacher who "enjoys teaching writing most of all":

I am asking my students to boycott your event. I am also going to ask others to boycott it. Your literature and signs in the entrance lobby look like fascist propaganda and is extremely offensive. Your main poster "Communism killed 100,000,000" is not only untrue, but ignores the fact that CAPITALISM has killed many more and the evidence for that can be seen in the daily news papers. The U.S. government can fly to dominate the people of Iraq in 12 hours, yet it took them five days to assist the people devastated by huricane Katrina. Racism and profits were key to their priorities. Exxon, by the way, made $9 Billion in profits this last quarter--their highest proft margin ever. Thanks to the students of WCCC and other poor and working class people who are recruited to fight and die for EXXON and other corporations who earning megaprofits from their imperialist plunders. If you want to count the number of deaths based on political systems, you can begin with the more than a million children who have died in Iraq from U.S.-imposed sanctions and war. Or the million African American people who died from lack of access to healthcare in the US over the last 10 years.

I will continue to expose your right-wing, anti-people politics until groups like your won't dare show their face on a college campus. Real freedom will come when soldiers in Iraq turn their guns on their superiors and fight for just causes and for people's needs--such freedom fighters can be counted throughout American history and they certainly will be counted again.

Prof. John Daly

Is he just naturally a poor writer, or have his personal politics deranged him to the point that he can't handle a keyboard properly? I don't know, but Prof. Daly has earned himself the DIM BULB du jour for spelling and grammar blunders that would have gotten my wrist slapped in grade 9. And that's just on formal grounds, let alone his unfocused, incoherent raving about every leftist pet peeve in the book.

I point out also, as an aside, that WCCC's main page has apparently been temporarily replaced with a splash disclaiming Prof. Daly's remarks, though not going as far as condemning sedition.

Postscript (Nov. 19): Edited to correct the spelling of "Washington, NJ." Don't tell me about the irony of the situation. I'm already aware of it.

November 16, 2005

And now . . . this - Nov. 16/05

Best. Headline. Ever.

"Paris Hilton Attacked by Monkeys."

Too bad it's not technically accurate, since there was only one monkey involved:

Paris Hilton has been attacked by her pet monkey.

The sexy socialite was out shopping buying lingerie with her new primate pet, Baby Luv, in Los Angeles on Saturday (12-05-05), when the animal went bananas.

According to reports, the monkey bit Paris and clawed at her face as she entered the Agent Provocateur shop with the simian on her shoulder. Luckily, the 'Simple Life' star managed to pull the monkey off her face and then hooked Baby Luv on a leash which she attached to a cabinet so she could shop in peace.

[Full Story]

Hee hee! Monkey.

And you thought cell phones ringing in theatres was bad

A stunned Italian actor had to stub out the cigarette he had lit up on stage after a spectator complained, forcing the theater to change the script of an Arthur Miller play to make it smoke-free. . . .

Lo Monaco was smoking, in line with the script, while playing the main character Sunday in Miller's "A View from the Bridge" at a theater in the northeastern city of Mestre, when a woman from the audience shouted "Put out that cigarette."

After a 15-minute suspension, the performance resumed with a modified script and a non-smoking protagonist.

[Full Story]

I'm guessing that "Just watch the play and forget the censorship, you ignorant cow" was not considered as a response. Which just goes to showt that if the liberal sacred cows of censorship and smoking butt heads, smoking wins.