May 31, 2005

I love it when sacred cows lock horns!

And now . . . this, from this morning's edition of CBC's morning newsmagazine, The Current:

It's been called the "Magic Bean" - hailed by nutritionists as a wonderfood - it's rich in protein and apparently cuts the risks of all kinds of diseases. We're talking about the soy bean. And we’re afraid we’ve got some bad news about a food that's been called "nature's medicine."

Precisely because of these many health claims, there has been a dramatic rise in soy consumption around the world. And while soy bean producers and traders have been rubbing their hands gleefully, environmentalists are worried about the crop's popularity - especially in Brazil. Because as long as soy remains lucrative, more saws will continue clear bigger swaths of the Amazon rainforest.

Full Story]

It's also well known that vegetarians are more flatulent than non-vegetarians. Eat meat: save the rainforests and stop global warming. I did my part today at dinner with a nice juicy pepper steak at Kelsey's.

Deep Throat reveals himself at last

Today's top news story: One of the great mysteries that has fascinated history buffs for 30 years has been solved. Former FBI deputy W. Mark Felt revealed that he was the infamous informant "Deep Throat" who helped WaPo reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein follow the money trail that uncovered the White House coverup of the Watergate break-ins that ultimately brought down Richard Nixon. [Full Story]

Since I was three at the time Nixon resigned, effectively there has never been a time for me without the mystery of Deep Throat. Today's revelation seems somewhat . . . anticlimactic. I guess a world with one less Big Mystery in it is just a little emptier, somehow.

May 30, 2005

And now . . . this - May 30/05

What is a British pastime sillier than Morris dancing, Alex?

It did, at least, make a change from the traditional bank holiday pastimes of DIY and garden centre visiting. But there was also more danger inherent in chasing a cheese down a hill than you might at first suspect.

Following a patently ridiculous but 200-year-old tradition, dozens of people put their safety at risk yesterday in Gloucestershire to chase cheese down a 1-in-2 incline.

Watched by at least 4,000 spectators, contestants gathered on Cooper's Hill, in Brockworth, to chase cheeses downhill for 200m, hoping to emerge victorious and win an 8lb double Gloucester as their reward.

[Full Story]

Well, at least it does get style points for silly fun. I think I'll go out and buy a wedge of Double Gloucester in its honour, especially after reading the last part of the story:

But not everyone was happy with proceedings. Vegans branded the event "unethical" and said the cheese should be replaced with a non-dairy alternative.

Yvonne Taylor, chair of the animal rights campaign group Peta, said: "It's just not fair that vegans cannot enjoy the fun of the cheese rolling contest."

Not fair? Ha! Have some cheese with that whine.

Meanwhile, in another part of England

A woman who is wheelchair-bound and "virtually blind" drove her boyfriend home after an evening drinking because he was so drunk, a court heard.

After crashing into two parked cars, Sheree Smith told police that she was not doing too badly until her legs seized up and her eyes "went blank".

She told officers: "I am virtually blind. I used to have a provisional licence years ago but I did not take my test as I'm scared of the road.

"The person who drives the car was drunk. As I turned into my road, my eyes went blank and my leg seized up. I could not move the brake and the clutch. I could not see. I had my hands over my eyes."

[Full Story]

Now you know why drive-through ATMs have braille on them.

May 29, 2005


The 89th Indianapolis 500 is in the books, and the winner was English driver Dan Wheldon. No great surprise here; he's won four of the five races of the IRL season so far. He is, however, the first British winner at Indy since Graham Hill took the checkered flag in 1966.

But, of course, everyone's talking about Danica Patrick. Not only did she make history by becoming the first woman to lead the race, but she came back from a botched pitstop that dropped her to 16th place and then a second setback when her car was damaged, to retake the lead of the race with ten laps to go. With a splash more fuel, she could have taken the flag herself, but a fourth finish at Indy is no slouch either.

All in all, the most exciting Indy 500 I've seen since Scott Goodyear lost by a nose in 1992. (Mind you, I kind of ignored Indy for a few years until the IRL acquired some drivers people had heard of.)

P.S. to Robby Gordon: Get back into your slow car and shut your pie-hole, you hick.


Danica Patrick started 4th and inished 4th in the Indy 500.

Robby Gordon started 25th and finished 27th in the Coca-Cola 600.

The moral of the story: Stop whining and lose some weight.

May 28, 2005


Get that tinfoil out of the kitchen cupboard and start putting together helmets.

I just learned today that Constance Cumbey, conspiracy theorist and author of The Hidden Dangers of the Rainbow, has a blog. Titled "My Perspective - What Constance Thinks," it is

News and views of Constance Cumbey concerning "Radical Middle", New Age Movement, Communitarianism, "planetary humanism", "global governance", European Union, Javier Solana, Jeremy Rifkin, "New Age Politics, law in the USA, combined with life in general -- sometimes humorous, sometimes not!

Wanted: Someone with a B.A. in Weirdology to parse what all that is supposed to mean.

It's a relatively new blog and doesn't appear to say anything too freaky yet, so Ms. Cumbey only gets one black helicopter, at least for now. ?!

Singing, dancing, running as fast as we can

In the comments to my 20th-anniversary review of Dire Straits' Brothers in Arms, a poster named Chris asked me whether I had heard Roger Hodgson's album In the Eye of the Storm, saying it was "like the last good Supertramp album." I had heard it, a number of years ago, when I lived with a guy who was a big Supertramp fan.

Part of the character of the original Supertramp lineup was the contrast between Hodgson and Rick Davies, who traded off lead vocal duties from song to song. After Hodgson left the band in 1983, they proved they could continue without him, with fairly decent work such as the albums Brother Where You Bound and Free as a Bird. But they wouldn't be able to match the success of their masterpieces such as Breakfast in America or Crime of the Century, as Hodgson took most of the band's best sound with him: not only his distinctive falsetto voice, but the more introspective songwriting as well. Immediately after embarking on a solo career, he hit success with his debut album, In the Eye of the Storm.

But is it the "last good Supertramp album"? Yes and no. Certainly many of the typical hooks are there; the distinctive keyboard style, and of course Hodgson's voice. The first cut begins with a droning note, over which is overlaid various clips of babies crying, people speaking, etc., that are reminiscent of such songs as "A Soapbox Opera," "Take the Long Way Home," or "Fool's Overture." On the other hand, In the Eye of the Storm relies more on synthesizer and electric guitar, and less on the Rhodes electric piano that was so much a part of Supertramp's best work.

Here and there, though, you get glimmers of the old Supertramp sound, and in the last three tracks, "Give Me Love, Give Me Life," "I'm Not Afraid," and "Only Because of You," it comes out full-bore. The closing track is, in fact, exactly the sort of slow, climactic, layered song that always seems to close Supertramp's best LPs.

In the Eye of the Storm is, to my ears at least, a step away from the natural evolution of Supertramp's sound had Roger Hodgson stayed with them. But it's a good listen nonetheless, and at least fans of Supertramp will find themselves in familiar territory.

Some people have a flair for dramatic entrances

And encouraging us to witness the firepower of this fully armed and operational battle station scores pretty highly in my book. On that note, or perhaps to the sombre notes of the Imperial March [MIDI], Phil Johnson enters the blogosphere.

I'm the author of the mock threat Phil quotes in his initial post, and though it was meant in jest, the sentiment certainly wasn't. I'm anticipating his contributions to this particular incarnation of the Great Coversation.

May 27, 2005

Ransom Radio is on the air

At this very moment:

  1. Winamp is pumping out the greatest "classic" (I feel so old) hits of the 1980s. However, all sound output is being sent to NULL. Instead, it sends it to . . .
  2. [Screenshot]the SHOUTcast DSP plugin, which smashes the bits down to a more manageable rate and sends them to . . .
  3. the SHOUTcast Server, which I then connect to via . . .
  4. iTunes, which assaults my ears with all sorts of New Wavey goodness which is, at the time of writing: "Cars," by Gary Numan.

Is this completely Rube Goldberg, or what?

Actually, this little exercise is just to make sure it works. What I really want to do is try and broadcast over the home LAN . . .

Friday in the wild - May 27, 2005

Every Friday I like to run down the three or four posts that I found most interesting, funny, or thought-provoking in the previous week.

Responding to an article on the STR blog, Rusty at New Covenant goes one step further and addresses the practice of teaching bad theology, pointing out as an example what is probably the most misappropriated verse of the entire Bible:

For instance, how many times have you heard Jeremiah 29:11 quoted as indicative of the blessings God is just waiting to bestow upon us? I've argued before that one must at least read Jeremiah 29:10-14, which is the paragraph that contains verse 11. This is an application of the Never Read a Bible Verse tactic that Greg Koukl, among others, teaches. When this approach is used on the paragraph just mentioned it should become clearly evident that the two sentences which bookend the paragraph, verses 10 and 14, indicate that the blessings mentioned were time, place, and recipient specific.

[read Bad Theology...]

(By the way, am I the only one who doesn't read the STR blog half as much as I ought to, just because they lack an RSS feed?)

I love Sola Scriptura posts, and Aaron over at Grace and Peace to You posted a nice one:

Apostolic auhority is communicated by the canonical writings of the apostles, which carry with them apostolic authority. The Bible as the Word of God [is] the believer’s sole authority for faith and practice. It teaches him what to believe and how to live. God has graced the church with both men and women who possess the gift of teaching. They are invaluable to the well-being of the church, and their importance should never be minimized. Still, God has located ultimate and final authority in his infallible and inerrant Word. . . .

[Read Sola Scriptura - His Word Governs the Church]

Tim Challies, in one of his best posts ever, shakes down the marketroid behind the phenomenon of The Purpose Driven Life:

Pyromarketing is a term developed by Greg Stielstra who was the marketing guru behind The Purpose Driven Life. It is a type of so-called "viral marketing" as it is based on passing information from one person to the next. This is in opposition to marketing that relies on mass media advertising such as television commercials. Think about it, and you'll realize that in all likelihood you never saw a television commercial for The Purpose Driven Life. In fact, it is entirely possible that you never saw any media marketing for it whatsoever. The book did not receive any significant coverage in the press until very recently, long after it had established itself as a major success.

[Read Pyromarketing and The Purpose Driven Life]

Going in the other direction, the weird and wonderful search queries that bring other people to me were pretty dry this week. There was one notable exception. Sometimes you have to wonder why people choose the search terms they do: read the magician's nephew text now arrgh. International Talk Like a Pirate day isn't for about four months.

Finally, I am happy to add two additional blogs to my blogroll: Real Clear Theology Blog and Triablogue. Eric Svendsen and Steve Hays, respectively, both write clearly and plainly to separate theological wheat from the chaff. While I skim many theological blogs and read articles through that catch my attention, these two blogs are amongst the relative few that I read through constantly.

Until next time, enjoy.

May 26, 2005

And now . . . this - May 26/05

Wouldn't little tinfoil helmets be cheaper?

A home in Sacramento's south Natomas neighborhood is surrounded by sheet metal, and neighbors are calling it an eyesore.

The D'Souza family lives in the home on Timberwood Court, and claims the aluminium pieces are necessary to protect them from unknown neighbors who have been bombarding them with radio waves and making them sick.

[Full Story]

Michael Menkin gives this creative solution two black helicopters. ** **

Stuck in a con job you can't get out of

Instead of rocking with Bono and The Edge, hundreds of U2 fans were forced to "walk away, walk away" from the sold-out FleetCenter show Tuesday night when their scalped tickets proved bogus.

Some heartbroken fans broke down in tears as they were turned away clutching worthless pieces of paper they shelled out as much as $2,000 for. . . .

It took Whelan and his staff a while to figure out what was going on, but a pattern soon emerged. The counterfeit tickets mostly were computer printouts bought online from cyberscalpers. . . .

Ticketmaster's ticketFast technology allows online buyers to print out a ticket on their home printer with a unique bar code. The system is credited with helping to stymie scalpers because who in his right mind would hand over $1,500 to someone he doesn't know for a sheet of paper printed from the Internet?

[Full Story]

Well, now we know the answer to that question.

"Your call is important to us"

Are you in Charlottetown on Friday night and feeling suicidal? If so, there's no one to talk you out of it until next Monday:

A Canadian province will shut its 24-hour suicide hotline and replace it with one that operates only during business hours.

Prince Edward Island, a small province on Canada's East Coast, says it is too expensive to operate the hotline around the clock. Starting June 1, it will be open only between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

[Full Story]

Make your lightsaber a "lot safer"!

Definitely a few laugh-out-loud moments in this safety film. Useful advice, too.

"Don't show off too early. You could injure yourself and your opponent."

For example, here are a couple of would-be Jedi who would have benefited from seeing this film:

Two Star Wars fans are in a critical condition in hospital after apparently trying to make light sabres by filling fluorescent light tubes with petrol.

A man, aged 20, and a girl of 17 are believed to have been filming a mock duel when they poured fuel into two glass tubes and lit it.

The pair were rushed to hospital after one of the devices exploded in woodland at Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire.

[Full Story]

(H/T: Observations from the Roof of a Building and Ramblings' Journal.)

May 25, 2005

Pathetic, isn't it?

At the time of writing, if you were to look at my sidebar where I list the last ten books I have finished, you'll find a whopping 2 authors represented.

Half a year ago, I declared a moratorium on all science-fiction reading for a month because my sidebar reflected only that genre, let alone a mere two authors.

Nonetheless, there's a method to the madness: one of my current library books is an omnibus edition of James Bond novels which I originally borrowed just for one of them. Howver, when I realized that all five of the novels published therein were representative of Ian Fleming's earlier stories, I decided to start reading through the entire series in order of publication. FYI, that order is significantly different from the production order of the Bond series of featue films, and goes (so far) like this:

  1. Casino Royale (1953)
  2. Live and Let Die (1954)
  3. Moonraker (1955)
  4. Diamonds are Forever (1956)
  5. From Russia With Love (1957)
  6. Dr. No (1958)
  7. Goldfinger (1959)

I haven't worked out the order of the remaining novels except for For Your Eyes Only being next. When I'm finished, I may blog a summary of some kind.

As for Peter David, I recently borrowed one of his Star Trek: New Frontier novels that happened to have all the previous ones in PDF format on CD-ROM, so I've been reading through those whenever I had my Palm on hand but not some other book, which turns out to be quite a lot of the time.

It's actually not as monotonous a diet as you might think. In fact I've been reading a bunch of other books as well, only they don't show up on the sidebar until they're finished.

May 22, 2005

Christless, theology-free "worship" song du jour

Apart from the capitalized pronouns, there's about as much Jesus in this song as there is in Joseph of Arimathea's tomb. Sometimes, you gotta wonder how these sappy torch songs actually get into the repertoire of a church.

Draw me close to You
Never let me go
I lay it all down again
To hear You say that I'm Your friend
You are my desire
No one else will do
'Cause nothing else could take Your place
To feel the warmth of Your embrace
Help me find the way
Bring me back to You

You're all I want
You're all I've ever needed
You're all I want
Help me know You are near

The culprit for this Jesus-is-my-boyfriend tune: Kelly Carpenter; © 1994 Mercy/Vineyard Publishing. (Surprise, surprise, surprise!)

May 21, 2005

You can't make this stuff up

And now . . . . this poster boy for tort reform. Somehow this story from April 27 slipped under my radar, and it's slid off all the usual news sources, so I'll have to depart from my usual practice of referencing primary sources and link to the archived article (originally from the Windsor Star) at Free Republic:

A Windsor hairstylist who suffered "recognizable psychological injury" after discovering a dead fly in a bottle of Culligan water has been awarded more than $340,000 in damages. . . .

On Nov. 21, 2001 Mustapha and his wife Lynn, who was seven months pregnant, were preparing a new bottle of Culligan water to put in their dispenser when she saw something dark in the bottle. Both looked closely and saw legs and wings and realized it was a dead fly.

[Full Story]

Here's some of that "recognizable psychological injury":

Lynn Mustapha vomited immediately and Martin vomited later in the evening.

Justice John Brockenshire heard that after discovering the fly Mustapha "could not get the fly in the bottle out of his mind."

Mustapha told court he would have nightmares about falling into a ditch face down in water and he could not sleep more than four hours a night.

But wait! There's more . . .

He also testified that he lost his sense of humour and became argumentative and edgy.

But that's not all:

The doctor prescribed anti-depressants to help him relax and sleep.

He was also prescribed stool softeners for constipation which Mustapha attributed to the fact that he used to drink eight glasses of water a day and now drank none.

Since the incident, Mustapha said he was unable to get the image of the fly out of his mind, and often pictured flies walking on animal feces or rotten food and then being in his bottled water.

Prior to the fly incident Mustapha would shower daily, singing while doing so.

Afterward Mustapha would stand in the bathroom contemplating whether to shower or not and would often just get dressed and leave or wipe a cloth under his arms before applying deodorant.

Following therapy Mustapha was able to stick his head under the water so it would not touch his face and later had therapy where he would stand in the dry shower in a bathing suit.

After the incident Mustapha began drinking coffee made with only warm milk and instant coffee but after therapy was able to drink coffee made in the traditional manner.

Mustapha was unable to resume drinking water by itself.


"Mustapha" must be Arabic for "never been on a picnic."

(H/T: vaalea, via comments left on another journal.)

May 20, 2005

Friday in the wild - May 20, 2005

In the Crusty Curmudgeon Lectionary, these are the readings for Friday Before May Long Weekend.

Cindy Swanson was fortunate (?) to be a part of history last week while on a school field trip, when she was evacuated from the Capitol building in Washington when that small plane flew into restricted airspace:

Our group of fourteen--six girls, six boys, my husband and myself--were waiting in an awning just outside the Capitol building to visit the House of Representatives gallery. We were next in line to go inside the building, when suddenly the group that had gone ahead of us starting coming back toward us. "They're telling us to leave," a woman explained helplessly, and that was when we started hearing people urgently yelling at us to "run, get out, move, run!!!"

People started running frantically off the grounds, herded by police officers and other staff members who kept shouting at us like drill sergeants--one cop even shouted loudly, "Don't you remember 9/11? This is not a drill! RUN!!!"

[Read I was evacuated out of the U.S. Capitol]

One of these days, when I've gotten all those other failed serieseses out of the way that I've started, I'm going to do one on my five "straw Calvinists" - the most common misrepresentations of Reformed theology. Meanwhile, though, Rand capably tackled one of the most common:

You don't have to be debating Calvinism too long before the "robots" argument surfaces. The idea is this: if God forordained and predestined everything for everyone, then are we not all just fulfilling a program already determined by God? Are we indeed mindless robots marching on towards glory or condemnation, depending on our programming?


Calvinists do not believe that we are robots.

We are CLAY.

[Read Watch Out For Them Calvinist Robots!]

Remember Dawn Eden reports on a new PR strategy they are considering: in addition to posting stories from women who aren't sorry they had an abortion, how about posting stories from women who are sorry they didn't?

Just imagine - once the kids of those regretted pregnancies are old enough to read, they can log on to the Web and read their resentful moms' stories about how those mean old "pro-lifers" allowed the little parasites to see the light of day.

[Read Miss Odious Regrets]

"Stupid Commenter of the Day" goes to "left brain," who writes in Dawn's comment section:

These days if someone comes out and says that they are sorry they had an abortion, or they don't regret not having one, they are practically made a saint. Those who have an opposite opinion are more likely to be shot or bombed by the likes of Eric Rudolph, Clayton Waagner or other "pro life" individuals.

And if I believed that was anything but extremist rhetoric, I would never venture farther north on Bank St. than Slater, because it would be a bloody war zone.

P.S. While we're on the subject of abortion, does this get you mad?

Meanwhile, it's been an . . . interesting . . . week for people looking for stuff on the Web and finding me by mistake.

That is all.

May 19, 2005

Wine, psycho-fundamentalism, and liberalism

There is a common knee-jerk reaction amongst psycho-fundies. If you suggest the horrible, dangerous notion that perhaps the Bible does not support the premise that imbibing beverage alcohol is sinful per se, you will be accused of endorsing all sorts of vices: drunkenness, recreational drug taking, adultery, or pornography, just to name a few. (If the fundy is especially psycho, you might personally be accused of drunkenness, recreational drug taking, adultery, and pornography.)

Similarly, if you suggest to some KJV-onlyists that God might minister to his people through the NIV translation, then you will be accused of "relativism": questioning whether the King James Bible is exclusively the Word of God is tantamount to endorsing any so-called "holy book," whether it is the NIV, New World Translation, Quran, or Book of Mormon.

In other words, it's all or nothing with these people.

The debate over alcohol has flared up once again on the Fundamentalist Forums, and I have seen this kind of reaction no less than four times in the last 24 hours. Here's one such message (all-caps, spelling and grammar mistakes all as in original):





Responses of this kind are so common, I am convinced that the psycho-fundies simply switch off their brains and go into auto-pilot when they are confronted with a challenge to their extra-biblical "standards" (or, as they should be known, STAAANNNDEEEEERRRRRDSSSS!!!!). The effect is not unlike Pavlov's dogs that were conditioned to drool when he rang a bell. (I recently took up posting nothing but "Here doggy! *ring ring*" in response to these kinds of macros.)

The problem with this kind of thinking (or lack thereof) is that it confuses liberty with libertinism. Liberty, in the Christian sense, is the freedom to follow one's conscience in matters where there is no consensus amongst Christians, and no express statement in Scripture one way or another. Examples of such situations include the eating of meat sacrificed to idols and drinking wine (Rom. 14:21). Libertinism, on the other hand, is the rejection of all moral restraint: the supposed freedom to do whatever one wishes. The failure of the psycho-fundies to distinguish between the two is not the fault of those who wish to exercise their liberty. At best, their knee-jerk reaction is a straw man argument; at worst, it is an ungodly slander against fellow Christians. "[T]he kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost" (Rom. 14:17).

Some of the fundamentalist reaction against a moderate position on alcohol also appears to be based on revisionist history. It is a common claim that when the Bible uses the word "wine," it does not necessarily mean an alcoholic beverage. "Context," we are told, must determine precisely what the word means. While this is sound enough advice taken at face value, invariably it seems that "context" always supports the prohibitionist position. Here the critic is guilty of circular reasoning: having already presupposed that alcohol = sin, he automatically assigns the meaning "alcohol" to any negative mention of wine, and the meaning "grape juice" to any positive mention. (This methodology does not withstand scrutiny on Scriptural grounds any more than it does logical: Isaiah 25:6, for example, speaks of "aged wine," or "wine on the lees," which can only mean fermented wine.)

My friend Coyote made a very good point about this kind of reasoning. It is indistinguishable from the kind of thing theological liberals say about doctrines such as hell or substitutionary atonement. No way would a loving God demand justice! Bloodshed as atonement for sin? How barbaric! Hence hell cannot exist, and the death of Christ accomplishes victory over sin in some manner other than penal satisfaction. Similarly, the fundamentalists cannot reconcile their preconceived notions of Christian ethics with the plain language of the Bible (if they are right, it also means that 500 years of Bible translation has been wrong!), and hence they redefine the terms to something more sympathetic to their own position.

It just goes to show that, sadly, worldly thinking is not absent even from those who claim most strongly to defend Christian truth against worldliness.

May 17, 2005

Kick the tires and light the fires!

What military aircraft are you?

F-15 Eagle

You are an F-15. Your record in combat is spotless; you've never been defeated. You possess good looks, but are not flashy about it. You prefer to let your reputation do the talking. You are fast, agile, and loud, but reaching the end of your stardom.

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz
Brought to you by quizzes and personality tests.

May 14, 2005

And now . . . this - May 14/05

Paging Jimmy Carter

A Rhode Island man charged with stomping to death a Canada goose and five goslings said he did it because he felt threatened by the birds.

John A. Sanders, 33, pleaded innocent at his arraignment Monday in Attleboro District Court on charges of animal cruelty and disorderly conduct.

The industrial engineer from North Kingstown, R.I., was working at a Texas Instruments plant in Attleboro on Saturday. According to the police report, he was walking on the campus when an adult goose hissed at Sanders, who slipped and fell in mud.

"Angered by this fall, he began his rampage, chasing the goslings and kicking them," the report said.

[Full Story]

The feathered menace:

Canada goslings

Can you blame him? Sheesh, one of those guys might take your arm off.

The chili plot thickens

It took eight weeks, but investigators finally know where the finger came from that a woman claimed she found in her bowl of Wendy's chili.

It didn't belong to a dead aunt of Anna Ayala, who made the claim. Nor was the owner a woman who got too friendly with her pet leopard.

The finger came from a man who lost it in an industrial accident and gave it to the husband of Ayala, who allegedly planted it in a scam to get money.

[Full Story]

Hmmm . . . yeah, I feel the need for another celebratory chili coming on.

Harry Potter teaser is out

While Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire won't hit screens until November, the teaser trailer has been released.

After a few flashback shots of the principal characters, the trailer focuses on the events of the Tri-Wizard Tournament. The visuals of Harry squaring off against a dragon looks particularly impressive.

Renounce your faith, embrace the occult, grab some popcorn, and enjoy. 8-)

May 13, 2005

How ironic

I have a book due today at the library. I have already renewed it once, which means I have had it in my possession for six weeks. To date, I have read the first ten pages.

What is this book? To find out, you'll have to read on . . .

Hold on . . .

Wait for it . . .

It's . . .

How to Read a Book, by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles van Dore.

I'm so embarrassed.

Friday in the wild - May 13, 2005

It's Friday the 13th! If you are triskaidekaphobic, it's not going to get any better, so go back to bed until tomorrow. Otherwise, smash a mirror and step on the cracks in the sidewalk while walking under a ladder in front of a black cat, and join me in enjoying some of the cool stuff I've encountered in the blogosphere in the last (lucky) 7 days.

La Shawn has announced that she has purchased the domain name to start up a group blog to document a pernicious form of the "noble lie": people who manufacture crises by fabricating hate crimes against themselves for attention. Her goal is quite a bit more ambitious:

I’ve decided to start a group blog that will not only expose idiots who do this, but one that will mock the very laws and lawmakers themselves. If I may be so ambitious, I’d like to start a grassroots campaign to dismantle these laws, or at the very least, raise awareness of how unnecessary they are, how open they are to abuse, unintended consequences, etc.


Francis J. Beckwith, the philosophy professor who wrote the best book refuting the rhetoric of abortion-rights activists, has started the Atheocracy Blog:

a site dedicated to supporting the political liberty of religious citizens to participate in America's liberal democracy. The purpose of this blog is to advance this cause by pointing readers in the direction of important resources and commentaries.

Not much there to look at yet, but I'm looking forward to it.

Aaron Shafovaloff wants to know whether non-denominationalism can be cultish, and concludes it can, because of non-denominational churches' reluctance to express theological truth in concise statements. I am reminded of a remark Charles Spurgeon made in one of his most famous sermons, in 1862:

I glory in that which at the present day is so much spoken against—sectarianism, for "sectarianism" is the cant phrase which our enemies use for all firm religious belief. I find it applied to all sorts of Christians; no matter what views he may hold, if a man be but earnest, he is a sectarian at once. Success to sectarianism, let it live and flourish. When that is done with, farewell to the power of godliness.

[Read God's Will and Man's Will]

The PolSpy makes an art suggestion that might get me going downtown a little more often:

It would be fitting to remove all of the remaining Sea King helicopters from service, have the lot of them welded into a giant sculpture and have it placed opposite Parliament Hill. I'd name the slag-heap the Chrétien Statue of Regret and dedicate it to serving future generations with a stark reminder of what happens when ego and partisan politics are allowed to run unfettered. I'd suggest that each crew member who lost their lives during the operation of these relics have a cenotaph constructed in their honour at the site. An obelisk made from a bronzed engine from a Sea King would be a nice touch.

[Read Another Dud Sub? They’re All Duds]

No interesting search queries pointed to the CC this week. However, I have been inundated with queries about Dennis "Cat" Avner - in fact as of now I'm Google's #3 hit on the subject. This is divine retribution; it's what I get for editorializing on weird news. (If you're reading this because you found me on Google, let me make this easy: He's a freak, and he and Jocelyn Wildenstein ought never to get together and reproduce.

Anyway . . . Until next week, don't open any umbrellas in the house, and enjoy.

May 11, 2005


I've been memed.

This "tag" game has been going around the blogosphere for a couple weeks now, so it was inevitable that I'd get tagged sooner or later. Given a list of things I could be, I now have to choose five and finish the sentence "If I could be a . . ." So here goes, in no particular order:

  • If I could be a musician . . . I'd be a guitar hero! Freeeeeow! Twang twang twang!
  • If I could be a missionary . . . I'd be a Bible translator in some part of the world where the Word of God didn't yet exist in the local tongue.
  • If I could be a chef . . . I would be infamous for my legendary Kraft Dinner Cordon Bleu recipe.
  • If I could be a writer . . . I'd have a shelf full of Hugo awards by now for the epic SF novels I've had in mind for the last decade.
  • If I could be an architect . . . I'd singlehandedly revive the Art Deco style.

Now I have to add an "if I could be a" of my own and tag three friends. Here's the new list:

  • If I could be a scientist . . .
  • If I could be a farmer . . .
  • If I could be a musician . . .
  • If I could be a doctor . . .
  • If I could be a painter . . .
  • If I could be a gardener . . .
  • If I could be a missionary . . .
  • If I could be a chef . . .
  • If I could be an architect . . .
  • If I could be a linguist . . .
  • If I could be a psychologist . . .
  • If I could be a librarian . . .
  • If I could be an athlete . . .
  • If I could be a lawyer . . .
  • If I could be an innkeeper . . .
  • If I could be a professor . . .
  • If I could be a writer . . .
  • If I could be a llama-rider . . .
  • If I could be a bonnie pirate . . .
  • If I could be a servicemember . . .
  • If I could be a photographer . . .
  • If I could be a three-year-old . . .
  • If I could be a televangelist . . . (that's mine)

Brandt, Kristine, and Julie . . . you are TAGGED.

May 10, 2005

Gimme a swirly

About once a year, I like to redesign my various Web sites. It's an exercise in creativity and a way of keeping my Web design skills as current as I can.

For the past couple of days I've been looking at various Web sites, commercial graphics, etc. for inspiration. For example, first I noticed this logo:

Quiznos Q

And, I thought, that's pretty neat and something along those lines will make an interesting exercise in graphic design. But then I happened upon this one:

Mountain Dew logo

Then I went downtown and saw this logo:

Ottawa Public Library logo

which is, of course, a variation on this logo:

City of Ottawa Wordmark

In fact, as time went on, I discovered that swirly/swooshy/spirally logos proliferate, and there are even Web pages intended to critique this phenomenon.

So what's up with this? Is there a conspiracy afoot to make us all dizzy? (And if it's afoot, is Nike behind it?) At first I was starting to be disappointed because if I designed my own swirly logo, I wouldn't be all that original. Now I'm worried that I'll be left out if I don't have one. Maybe I should rebrand to something like this:

Crusty Swirly logo

Mind you, it does look darn fine as a splash graphic on my Palm.

Postscript: Practically no sooner do I post this than DC Comics unveils its new logo. And it's got - you guessed it - a nice blue swirly that, according to the Publisher's Note, "will be spinning onto the whole line in June":

DC Comics logo

No kidding. I'm dizzy already.

(H/T: Ramblings' Journal.)

May 07, 2005

Please make up your mind!

Here we go again! The de-Marified Chicago underpass has been newly re-Marified:

A stain on the wall of an expressway underpass that some believe resembles the Virgin Mary is again attracting visitors after two car wash employees cleaned graffiti and brown paint off the image.

Rosa Diaz and Anna Reczek used a degreaser to clean the wall Friday on their lunch break.

[Full Story]

Don't put away the votive candles and tacky paintings just yet, folks.

Well surprise, suprise, surprise.

Gotta admit, I didn't see this one coming.

You are Ephesians
You are Ephesians.

Which book of the Bible are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

(H/T: notes from the front lines.)

Can't get no antidote for blues

Today is an important anniversary in the history of popular music. May 7, 1985 was the original release date of Dire Straits' blockbuster album Brothers in Arms, in my opinion, the finest rock record of all time.

[Brothers in Arms] I became a fan of Dire Straits entirely by accident in the summer of 1985: I thought they were Bruce Springsteen. His single "Glory Days" was relatively new to the radio and, having heard it only once or twice, I didn't know better than to confuse one catchy organ riff for another when I heard "Walk of Life" for the first time (in Canada, this single charted before "Money for Nothing"). Eventually I sorted the confusion out, but nonetheless I was hooked on Mark Knopfler's bluesy guitar and Dylan-influenced vocals.

Since then, I have worn out three copies of Brothers - one LP, one cassette, and one compact disc.

At this point I've probably alienated half my Fundamentalist readers whom, I am sure, have (barely) tolerated my preferences in reading materials. (And movies! Horrors!) But now I have finally ventured into music criticism and chose some of that **** rock music (substitute any adjectives you like; I actually had "ungodly heathen" in mind) for my first specimen. Surely this must be the last straw. What is Scott thinking?

As a Christian, I am commanded not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but to pursue excellence, as Paul said:

[W]hatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. (Phil. 4:8)

  • Brothers demonstrates musical excellence. Back in 1985, appreciating Dire Straits was my first step away from the banality that top-40 radio was becoming. Mark Knopfler is a virtuoso at the guitar, demonstrating both skill and originality of style. As such he merits both appreciation and emulation. Knopfler made me want to learn the guitar. (I'm still trying.) Virtually nobody in the contemporary Christian ghetto is worthy of this level of appreciation, because CCM is, by and large, derivative and disposable. Bands that stand out from the rest of the pack frequently take heat from other Christians for naming secular artists as influences. But when you are the cream of the CCM crop, who else are you supposed to name? Floyd Cramer? Virtually every CCM artist wants to sound like U2, which is fine . . . but I already like U2 as it is.
  • Brothers demonstrates lyrical excellence. Dire Straits' history is one of transcending the fashonable music of the day: the commercial success of their debut album flouted the popularity of the rising punk movement. Simlarly, the intelligence of Brothers was a foil to the lyrical codswallop of New Wave artists such as Duran Duran. This album is varied in subject matter, from the bittersweet sentimentality of "So Far Away" to the biting satire of "Money for Nothing" and the anti-war confessional of "The Man's Too Strong."
  • Brothers demonstrates technical excellence. The first fully digitally recorded album to be released, it was in part designed to show off the new compact disc medium. It is a reference-quality CD - one of the three albums I use on those rare occasions when I want to evaluate new stereo equipment. Every instrument is crystal clear; the high frequencies of the cymbals sizzle while the bass rumbles; the atmospheric padding of the organ and synths fill out the sonic space.

Taking advantage of the longer CD format, the total length of Brothers is over 55 minutes. Almost ten minutes of this running length was cut for the vinyl release, which is how I first heard it. Personally, I prefer the shortened LP tracks; for the most part, the additional length is superfluous. The exception is the mournful trumpet solo by Randy Brecker that opens "Your Latest Trick," which was omitted from the LP release.

The first cut is "So Far Away," a bittersweet love song about trying to maintain a long-distance relationship over the phone. Supposedly Mark Knopfler wrote this tune for his wife while touring. It's a low-key beginning to such a monumental album, starting only with a pulsing bass and tapping on the hi-hat, before the song's main motif, a dobro slide, comes in.

Hoover movers! "Money for Nothing" is the song everyone remembers best about Dire Straits. The guitar work is phenomenal - as one guitarist in my school band quipped at the time, you shouldn't be able to make some of those sounds. Knopfler famously copied the lyrics on the spot as he overheard a worker in an appliance store ranting about performers on MTV. "Money" is an ironic commentary on MTV and pop fame, especially so since it was the Straits' biggest commercial hit. Listen for Sting singing "I want my MTV" in the style of the Police song "Don't Stand So Close to Me." The music video for "Money" [QuickTime MOV, 17 MB] was the first to make use of computer animation; as primitive as it looks today, it was groundbreaking at the time (and its creators went on to form Mainframe Entertainment, makers of the seminal CG cartoon ReBoot).

My favourite cut is the single "Walk of Life," an upbeat tune about a busker playing guitar in the subway tunnels. My preference for this track is partially due to sentimentality (it was my first experience with Dire Straits, after all) and partly to the catchy keyboard riff. This is the only song on the album where the keyboard is right up front; for the most part, elsewhere it provides colouration and atmosphere rather than melody.

After these three faster cuts, the album shifts down for the melancholy "Your Latest Trick," another bittersweet song about a late-night affair. Here the band substitutes jazz voicings for the blues, and the signature motif is the solo by jazz saxophonist Michael Brecker.

The album moves from regret to comfort in "Why Worry," a soothing, acoustic cradle song. Its earthly sentiment, that the sorrows of the present will not last forever, echoes the loftier Christian hope of the resurrection of the body and eterna life. While this is not a bad cut by any stretch, it is rather unremarkable, and my least favourite.

The last four tracks of Brothers (the B-side of the LP and cassette) are more or less unified by their anti-war theme. The Caribbean-styled "Ride Across the River" tells the story of soldiers of fortune who "don't give a damn who the killing is for," although, contradictorily, "the cause it is noble and the cause it is just." This is arguably the most atypical song of the album, if not Dire Straits' entire catalogue.

"The Man's Too Strong" is about an "aging drummer boy" - a war criminal confessing his sins to the priest before he faces the firing squad. The haunting acoustic arrangement contains my favourite musical hook of the album - the refrain is punctuated with guitar stabs that contrast dramatically with the otherwise quiet dobro accompaniment.

The penultimate track, "One World," begins as a complaint against the petty annoyances of life, but by the end, Knopfler sings the punchline: "They can't find a way to be / One world in harmony." Some fans have described this blues-based number as Pink Floyd-ish (I'm inclined to agree somewhat).

Finally, Brothers ends as quietly as it begins with the Celtic-tinged title track, a song about loyalty, cameraderie, and longing for peace. The long, slow, and intense guitar solo that closes this track is the perfect ending to the album.

It's hard to believe Brothers in Arms is actually 20 years old. But in these days of forgettable, throwaway pop junk (where will Britney or Justin be in 2025? Do we care?), it's great to give a fresh listen to a timeless album. No one's CD collection is complete without this quintessential recording.

May 06, 2005

The iconoclasts strike again!

Remember Our Lady of the Salt Stain?

A man was arrested for allegedly scrawling "Big Lie" over a stain on an expressway underpass that some believed was an image of the Virgin Mary.

Authorities then painted over the stain because it had been defaced, police spokesman David Banks said Friday.

Authorities charged Victor Gonzalez, 37, of Chicago with criminal damage to state supported property, a misdemeanor. Witnesses had seen him painting the image, Banks said. A telephone listing for Gonzalez could not immediately be found.

[Full Story]

OK, I don't condone vandalism, but frankly, I am having an awful lot of trouble feeling any sympathy for all the saddened "faithful" who have flocked to the "apparition" for the last two weeks. Go clean up all your candles and other assorted Jesus JunkTM and find a better superstition.

The article also mentions the former Clearwater Bank that became the home of another "apparition," Our Lady of the Dirty Windows, which prompted the Shepherds of Christ to buy the building and turn it into a shrine-cum-kitsch-magnet. You'll notice that their Web site doesn't show all that many current pictures of Our Lady, because some kid de-Marified the building with a rock. Score: Iconoclasts 2, Mary 0.

Friday in the wild - May 6, 2005

Here's some of the fun and interesting stuff I've seen around the blogosphere this week.

The Thinklings celebrate the second anniversary of the infamous Gatorade post, which has at the time of writing garnered 730 comments and is still going strong. (What colour is that stuff, anyway?)

Rebecca encourages other readers to add to her list of the words we love. Any list that has "curmudgeon" in it can't be all bad. It's not necessarily a Good Thing to have an expanded vocabulary that leaves your friends scratching their heads on occasion, but on the other hand it does give you a whole lot of options to choose from. Here are my top 5. It shouldn't come as any surprise that my favourite words are largely related to the (mis)use of language and rhetoric:

  • Codswallop. Rebecca had this one down too, but I had it first. It's a wonderfully descriptive word for all sorts of abject nonsense. (And when you don't have time to say "codswallop," crap will suffice.)
  • Ostensibly. I overuse this word, but there isn't a better one for "by all appearances."
  • Ipse dixit. This is my favourite Latinism. When someone presents a load of codswallop without evidence, they expect you to accept it on their ipse dixit.
  • Bloviated. If you think this word sounds an awful lot like "bloated," you're half right. When someone compensates for a lack of something meaningful to say with torrents of verbiage, he is bloviating.
  • Umlaut. This is an in-joke. Maybe one or two of my friends who have known me long enough to get it happen to be reading this blog.

Over at Semper Reformanda, Julianne has started a weekly habit of posting a difficult word of significance to Christian thought to see if her readers can guess what it means. This week she's going easy on us: the word is hallel. I know what it means; do you? Answer on Saturday.

No interesting searches this week, although it looks like all those papers on Life of Pi aren't due yet.

Till next time.

May 05, 2005

And now . . . this - May 05/05

Arnold Layne had a strange hobby

An Indian man who left his wife and two young children two years ago shocked his family when he returned home as an eunuch, wearing garish red lipstick, the Asian Age newspaper said Thursday.

After a fight with his wife, the jobless Nabiullah left his family in Hathipur town in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh in the summer of 2003 to look for work, the paper reported.

During his absence, he got himself castrated and became a eunuch, earning money by singing and dancing, a common form of employment among India's ostracized community of eunuchs.

[Full Story]

OK . . . cross your legs, guys.

Some controversies just can't die

A pop culture controversy that has simmered for decades came to a head when a middle school marching band was told not to perform "Louie Louie."

Benton Harbor Superintendent Paula Dawning cited the song's allegedly raunchy lyrics in ordering the McCord Middle School band not to perform it in Saturday's Grand Floral Parade, held as part of the Blossomtime Festival.

[Full Story]

So I'm guessing "Mony Mony" probably isn't on the menu either . . .

See the venerable Snopes for the real lyrics to this notorious song, as well as the hilarious history of how it unjustly gained a reputation for being obscene.

Life imitates political puffery

Al Gore may have been lampooned for taking credit in the Internet's development, but organizers of the Webby Awards for online achievements don't find it funny at all.

In part to "set the record straight," they will give Gore a lifetime achievement award for three decades of contributions to the Internet, said Tiffany Shlain, the awards' founder and chairwoman.

[Full Story]

In other news, Erich Segal will be changing the title of his bestselling novel to The Al and Tipper Story. There is no word yet whether Winston Groom will be changing the title of his bestseller.

The wonderful thing about human freaks is that I'm the only one!

Looking freakishly like a tiger has gotten Dennis "Cat" Avner lots of attention. But it hasn't paid many bills.

"I really don't care what people think, so I really don't pay much attention," Dennis "Cat" Avner of Guatay said about the occasional hostile reaction he gets from passers-by.

That's one reason why Avner is leaving the tiny East County community where he has lived for six years and moving to Washington state. There's not much demand in San Diego County for a computer and electronics technician with tattooed stripes on his face and fangs in his mouth.

Avner, 46, began his transformation 25 years ago, undergoing up to a dozen surgeries. He offers a simple explanation for enduring all that pain.

"It's something I need to do," he said. "I have to do it. It's part of who I am." . . .

He said his need to transform himself into a form of human cat stems from his Indian background as a member of the Huron and Lakota tribes. He grew up in Michigan and was given the Indian name of Stalking Cat. Following an ancient Huron tradition, Avner said he is changing himself into his totem of a tiger.

[Full Story]

Yeah, we all know how Michigan was hip-deep in tiggers before the white man came over. Oh well. Maybe he and Bagheera or Baloo can double-date sometime.

Cause of death is . . . undetermined

A man shot himself five times before driving from his Godfrey, Ill., home to a bridge -- a distance that took 10 minutes -- and jumped from a bridge.

Sixty-seven-year-old Franklin Carver shot himself three times in his head and twice in his chest, but none of the shots was immediately fatal, police said.

A motorist witnessed the jump and called 911 from a cell phone, but Carver drowned before emergency workers could reach him, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Tuesday.

[Full Story]

<tasteless>If I were that bad a shot, I'd jump too.</tasteless>

May 02, 2005

The blog of firsts

After church yesterday, I had lunch with my friend Michel; we talked about this and that over Subway, and one subject led to another until I started tallying the number of things I wasn't able to do while I was still living at home, because I lived in a small town without many of the amenities I took for granted in Kitchener-Waterloo (and still do here in Ottawa).

It occurred to me at that point that the first month of university for me was probably the biggest concentration of "firsts" in my life. And I'm not talking about the first time living away from home, either, but small things that are now a part of my regular, everyday life - even though they were unavailable to me until I moved to a city larger than 6000 people.

During September 1989, I did the following things for the first time:

  • drank Tim Hortons coffee
  • drank flavoured coffee (raspberry chocolate)
  • drank Earl Grey tea
  • ate chicken wings (i.e. not counting the wings you get in a bucket of KFC)
  • ate salsa
  • ate fajitas
  • ate at Subway
  • ate at Taco Bell
  • paid bus fare and rode a bus to get to the mall
  • drove a vehicle with a manual transmission (it was also the only time)
  • rode a bicycle in urban traffic
  • watched a movie in a theatre with surround sound
  • went to a rock concert
  • went to a nightclub
  • went to a keg party (though I wasn't drinking at the time)
  • went to a football game
  • heard house music
  • watched any incarnation of Star Trek on a weekly basis
  • sent and received email
  • looked up library books in an online catalogue instead of index cards
  • used an ATM
  • played Tetris
  • did my own laundry

Looks like I spoke too soon . . .

when I noted a few weeks ago that "Brother" R. G. Stair doesn't talk about "Planet X" all that much anymore.

I was wrong.

Sometimes, it seems, science is its own worst enemy. About two weeks ago, the news broke that European astronomers using telescopes in Chile and Japan as well as Hubble have photographed an extrasolar planet for the first time. About 120 such planets have been catalogued so far, but their existence has been deduced by irregularities in the motion of the stars they orbit. But the gas giant orbiting the brown dwarf star GQ Lupi, thought to be five times the size of Jupiter, is the first one actually captured by a lens.

"Is Planet X real?" asked "Brother Stair" last night. He then gave the answer by reading a news story about the extrasolar planet, and then wrapped up his shtick by noting how "Planet X" is in fulfillment of [unspecified] Bible prophecy.

Here's the problem.

"Planet X" enthusiasts claim that there is a massive tenth planet, which some have dubbed "Nibiru," in our solar system. It has an elongated orbit that brings it around the sun once every 3600 years. It supposedly was going to cross the Earth's orbit very closely in May 2003, causing a "pole shift" that would flip the Earth upside-down and cause massive destruction.

This is precisely the story "Brother Stair" (and other paranoid "Christian" whackjobs like Pete Peters, Texe "Conspiracy Boy" Marrs and these guys) was telling before May 2003 as though it were prophecy being fulfilled before our very eyes. (Of course, it's a crock, and let's never mind that most of the "information" about "Planet X" also happens to have come from a nutcase of a woman who claims to be channeling aliens rom Zeta Reticuli.) Now that "Planet X" hasn't shown up to kill us all, he seems to think that evidence of a planet serenely orbiting a completely different star is evidence of a planet wreaking global destruction while on its way around ours.

This is the voice of the "Last Day Prophet of God." You gotta laugh.