October 31, 2005

Happy Reformation Day

Forget Hallowe'en.

On this day in 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg to stimulate discussion and debate. Someone copied them and took them to a printing press, and the rest is history.

488 years later, no one has managed to put out the wildfire that Luther's little spark touched off.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Ah, crap

The Prioress
You scored 13% Cardinal, 56% Monk, 52% Lady, and 45% Knight!

You are a moral person and are also highly intellectual. You like your solitude but are also kind and helpful to those around you. Guided by a belief in the goodness of mankind you will likely be christened a saint after your life is over.

You scored high as both the Lady and the Monk. You can try again to get a more precise description of either the Monk or the lady, or you can be happy that you're an individual.

[Etc., etc., etc.]

Link: The Who Would You Be in 1400 AD Test written by KnightlyKnave on Ok Cupid, yada yada yada.

I don't know what's worse, being a ScientologistTM or the Mother Superior.

October 29, 2005

I'm sorry, I just can't help myself . . .

Sulu says: "Captain...the gaydar is off the scale!"

No, no, no, please no

You fit in with:

Your ideals mostly resemble those of the Scientology faith. You strive to find the truth in all matters, but you also have a lot of faith in people and things. You are very logical, smart and charismatic and you value the truth above all else.

20% scientific.
40% faith-oriented.

Take this quiz at QuizGalaxy.com

This is just . . . wrong . . . on so many levels.

Well, at least I'm in good company: David Heddle and Rebecca also score as honorary Ron-bots.

There's at least two fatal flaws with this quiz, anyway: One, it assumes "faith" and "reason" are antitheses. Two, it assumes "science" and "spirituality" are antitheses.

October 27, 2005

Pop quiz!

Courtesy of MCF's Nexus of Improbability:

1) They're finally making the movie of your life and, after narrowing the role of YOU down to three actors, they've asked for your choice. Who are the three actors, and which person do you ultimately choose?

Well, Sean Connery is now retired, and Tom Cruise is too pretty. However, Michael Rosenbaum still resembles me, somewhat.

2) You're at a fancy restaurant with your significant other, when your arch nemesis shows up with his gang to rob the place. You left your costume home tonight, and you wouldn't want to reveal your true identity unless there was no other choice. How do you handle this one?

Easy. While pretending to cower under the table, I secretly explode their guns with my heat vision. At this point the other patrons, jaded by 9/11, will go Todd Beamer on the gang's sorry unarmed selves.

3) 4 +X/8=15Y-23Z; solve for each variable.

Solving equations in which x = 120y - 184z - 32 are against my religion. Even if I did have the other two equations a solvable system requires.

4) They're turning my blog into a sitcom! Quick, who's playing me?

Scott Baio.

5) What was the scariest moment of your life?

The time I was driving home one night and thought an oncoming 18-wheeler was in my lane. (It was an optical illusion due to a gentle curve in the road.)

6) After much thought and deliberation, you realize the best thing you can do with your life is form your own team of superheroes. Keeping in mind that you don't actually possess any powers or a dual identity in this scenario, how do you go about selecting your team,

Either by taking out a classified ad in the Fortean Times, or recruiting James Randi Challenge rejects.

what abilities do you look for in potential allies,

Obviously a wide variety of non-overlapping abilities and special powers are a must in order to be able to tackle the greatest number of challenges, but primarily I'd be looking to maximize our killing power.

and what do you call your group?

The Stark Blunt Instrument of Justice.

7) If a hypothetical train is traveling East at 70 MPH, and a hypothetical truck is traveling North at 55 MPH, then name 3 famous people you feel shouldn't be famous.

Paris Hilton, Cindy Sheehan, and Frederic Nietzsche.

8) A freak accident caused by lightning or radiation or genetic engineering or whichever origin suits you, bestows upon you the ability to step INSIDE your television set and interact with the characters. Where do you go first, and why?

Obviously, since I have been freakishly endowed with superpowers, my only recourse is to be the oblique cross-reference of the week in Smallville. Runner-up: haranguing Jean-Luc Picard until I am humiliated by his clear moral superiority.

9) After winning a karaoke contest, you're awarded the grand prize from a local radio station: you get to perform ONE song alongside your favorite group! Who do you sing with and what song?

I join Dire Straits and sing the "I want my MTV" bit on "Money for Nothing."

10) A blogger you read regularly posts a pop quiz. Do you take it? Please list your reasons either way.

I don't believe I read your blog regularly. Does that count as yes or no?

11) The quiz goes all the way up to 11.

Yes, it does.

And now . . . this - Oct. 27/05

Who will speak for the poor, defenseless fish?

The city of Rome has banned goldfish bowls, which animal rights activists say are cruel, and has made regular dog-walks mandatory in the Italian capital, the town's council said on Tuesday.

The classic spherical fish bowls are banned under a new by-law which also stops fish or other animals being given away as fairground prizes. It comes after a national law was passed to allow jail sentences for people who abandon cats or dogs. . . .

The newspaper reported that round bowls caused fish to go blind. No one at Rome council was available to confirm this was why they were banned. Many fish experts say round bowls provide insufficient oxygen for fish.

[Full Story]

OK, I can believe that it's possible to tell if a goldfish has gone blind. But how can "animal rights activists" tell whether little Swishy likes or hates being in a round bowl vs. a square aquarium? Does no one in the media stop to ask these questions?

You bringee better ad, chop-chop!

An Oregon high school newspaper has refused advertising from a local restaurant run by a Korean man, because he stereotyped himself:

When John Lee designed the logo for his Cedar Mill restaurant, he opted for an illustrated cartoon he thought resembled himself: a Korean man.

But that logo, which depicts an Asian man waving an "OK" sign, is now at the center of a conflict between Lee and Sunset High School's student-run newspaper.

Last week, editors of "The Scroll" banned Lee's advertisement for the Hawaiian Grill after running it once, saying his logo stereotypes Asians and negatively portrays members of a minority group. . . .

"I think they're wrong," Lee said. "I'm Asian American, so why would I want to make fun of Asians? Why are we pushing the racial issue to the farthest extent?"

[Full Story]

There is practically nothing more sanctimonious than a bunch of white liberals feeling offended on someone else's behalf. Except, perhaps, for those self-righteous folks who give donations "in your name" to Greenpeace. ("Thanks! I made one in your name to Operation Rescue.")

October 26, 2005

Woe to those who call good evil and evil good

At the best of times, Mark Morford's San Francisco Chronicle column is blistering, sarcastic, Bush Derangement Syndrome-suffering moonbattery. But in one of his most recent, "God Does Not Want 16 Kids," he crosses the line into pure, raw, seething hatred.

The column is a bitter, acidic, insulting, personal attack on the family of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar of Arkansas. Mrs. Duggar delivered their 16th child about two weeks ago. This didn't sit well with Morford:

It's wrong to be this judgmental. Wrong to suggest that it is exactly this kind of weird pathological protofamily breeding-happy gluttony that's making the world groan and cry and recoil, contributing to vicious overpopulation rates and unrepentant economic strain and a bitter moral warpage resulting from a massive viral outbreak of homophobic neo-Christians across our troubled and Bush-ravaged land. Or is it? . . .

Perhaps the point is this: Why does this sort of bizarre hyperbreeding only seem to afflict antiseptic megareligious families from the Midwest? In other words -- assuming Michelle and Jim Bob and their massive brood of cookie-cutter Christian kidbots will all be, as the charming photo suggests, never allowed near a decent pair of designer jeans or a tolerable haircut from a recent decade, and assuming that they will all be tragically encoded with the values of the homophobic asexual Christian right -- where are the forces that shall help neutralize their effect on the culture? Where is the counterbalance, to offset the damage?

Where is, in other words, the funky tattooed intellectual poetess who, along with her genius anarchist husband, is popping out 16 funky progressive intellectually curious fashion-forward pagan offspring to answer the Duggar's squad of �ber-white future Wal-Mart shoppers? Where is the liberal, spiritualized, pro-sex flip side? Verily I say unto thee, it ain't lookin' good.

[Full Story; have barf bag handy]

It's the last paragraph that is most revealing. Morford represents the Insane Left. Read his other columns, and you find out he's all for gay "marriage," porn, kinky sex, you name it. He lives in San Francisco, where some estimates are that 20% of the population is homosexual. He wishes his gay progressive anarchist liberal pagan friends would have more sex and produce more kids. It's boring old normal heterosexual monogamous child-producing married sex he can't stand, especially when it's all being had by evil conservative Christians with big families.

It was La Shawn Barber who brought this column to my attention. She asks,

I wonder what this liberal would say about single, welfare-dependent women who have children they can't afford with different men who don't want to marry them? I get the feeling Morford wouldn't touch it. But an intact Christian family is fair game.

Morford and the Insane Left are jealous. Their aggressive promotion of the three B's - birth control, buggery, and 'bortion - means they're being out-bred by couples like the Duggars. It burns their toast that they are the party of sexual liberation, yet it's people like Jim Bob and Michelle who are obviously, well, pretty damn liberated.

In any case, Mark Morford receives the DIM BULB du jour with an extra Oak Leaf Cluster for Cluelessness Beyond the Call of Duty.

Postscript: Welcome, La Shawn Barber's readers. To paraphrase one of the pithier comments she's received to her post: Whatever happened to "every child a wanted child," anyway?

October 25, 2005

For Harry, England, and Saint George!

Lest I forget before going to bed: Today is St. Crispin's Day, upon which Henry V fought and won the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, thereby being recognized as the heir to the throne of France (although he did not live long enough to take it).

The battle is arguably best known because of Shakespeare's fictionalized portrayal of it in Henry V, in particular the rousing pep talk Harry gives his troops. While his fictional rendition is obviously not what Henry stirred up his troops with - the real speech, apparently, was little more than a reassurance to the noble-born officers that if captured they would be ransomed for a fair price, and a warning to the common soldiers to fight hard to avoid being killed - but it's one of the most memorable passages in the Bard's works:

This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say "To-morrow is Saint Crispian":
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say "These wounds I had on Crispin's day."
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

The real St. Crispin was a Roman who fled to present-day France with his brother (who was named Crispian; apparently Shakespeare confused the two) to escape persecution and preached Christianity to the Gauls. They were martyred in 286.

The proper way to watch Smallville . . .

. . . especially if (like me) you aren't an avid comics fan, is with the program on one screen and Google on another to search for every character that is introduced by name.

Case in point: in this week's exciting episode, Clark Kent and friends encounter a super-fast swimmer/lifeguard type named Arthur Curry, and Clark meets his brilliant history professor Milton Fine (played by James Marsters, looking significantly un-Spike-like post-Buffy).

At no point, however, are the names "Aquaman" or "Braniac" ever uttered.

I haven't seen this much intertextuality since second-year English, and that was primarily in theory.

Rosa Parks, 1913-2005

Civil rights pioneer Rosa Louise Parks died yesterday in her home at the age of 92.

Mrs. Parks was one of those rare people who lit a tiny spark that resulted in a wildfire that couldn't be quenched. Her simple refusal to yield her seat to a white man on a Montgomery bus on December 1, 1955 set off a chain of events that led to the ascent of Martin Luther King, Jr. as the figurehead of the civil rights movement, the Montgomery bus boycotts, and ultimately the outlawing of racial discrimination in public accommodations. She wasn't the first black woman to practice this kind of civil disobedience, but she was the last straw.

October 24, 2005

Here we go again

Yet another "100 best" book list - this time, Time lists the 100 best English-language novels since 1923. (1923 was the year Time began publishing.)

Cindy notes that she has read a whopping eight of these novels. Do I fare better, or worse? Let's find out. I've read (in alphabetical order):

  • Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (one of my favourites and still a regular read)
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger (bleh)
  • A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (a classic of dystopian SF)
  • Deliverance by James Dickey (a great novel made into a great movie)
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis (but who hasn't?)
  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding (less bleh than Catcher
  • The Lord of the Rings by J. .R. R. Tolkien (everyone should)
  • Native Son by Richard Wright (it's all The Man's fault; literature for liberals and intellectuals, as Rene Auberjonois once remarked on Deep Space Nine
  • Neuromancer by William Gibson (influential, but overrated)
  • 1984 by George Orwell (oughta be required reading for everyone)
  • Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (typical Vonnegut weirdness)
  • Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson (in my opinion, a better example of the cyberpunk genre than Neuromancer)
  • The Spy Who Came In from the Cold by John le Carré (about real spies, not glamour spies like James Bond)
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston (how I would imagine Faulkner or Hemingway writing if they were black women)

Final count: 14. Better than Cindy, but still not exactly evidence of being a man of letters. . . .

October 21, 2005

Friday in the wild - October 21, 2005

After a week's hiatus, Friday in the Wild returns with a vengeance. Here's the stuff that made the blogosphere a better place this week.

Ryan DeBarr missed out on a visit by über-fundy David Cloud to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary:

Once again, while some of his points have a dash of truth to them, he is up to his usual game of leaving out important facts and speaking without full knowledge. However, I am encouraged to see that he is finally admitting that Southern Baptist seminaries have substantially changed.

[Read David Cloud was in town.]

Ryan points out how Cloud, in his usual hyper-separatist way, misses the forest for the trees. He criticizes the bookstore for carrying "heretics" like C. .S. Lewis, F. F. Bruce, and Kurt Aland, as though he can't reasonably expect seminary students to be able to critically evaluate what they read. He plays the "guilt by association" game by linking faculty members such as Albert Mohler to the Evangelical Theological Society and thereby to heresies such as Open Theism, but ignores Mohler's own efforts at opposing that doctrine. In short, David Cloud is representative of everything that is wrong with psycho-fundamentalism.

Cindy Swanson wants to know what we're supposed to make of Hallowe'en. Of course, it's that time of year again, and there's a lot of it going around:

As I see it, there are different ways of dealing with what has become second only to Christmas as the favorite family holiday. Some Christians think it's perfectly harmless, and joyfully enter into the fun...others decry the dark pagan roots of the holiday. Some provide alternatives like Harvest or Hallelujah parties. How do you feel?

[Read What do you do with Halloween?]

Meanwhile, over at Pros Apologian, James White just started a series on the theology of The Da Vinci Code. He began by answering the criticism that it's only a novel, and not worth the time:

You will see that the story of this book reflects Brown's own "research" on the subjects. You don't do "research" for years on material that is merely "fiction." Instead, the book is presented as fiction based on facts. The book itself begins by stating that what it says about art, architecture, and documents, is authentic. Authentic is not a synonym for "fiction." And that brings us to the key issue: no one is arguing Langdon or Teabing actually exist. They are the fictional characters. But the assertions they make, in the guise of setting the foundation for the central conspiracy theory of the book, are presented not as fiction, or mere speculations. They are presented as unquestioned historical facts.

[Read First Objection: It's Fiction, Dummy]

(BTW, readers interested in a good conspiracy theory are directed to the book Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Baigent and Leigh. But take it with a grain of salt. Incidentally, the authors are suing Dan Brown, apparently for plagiarizing their "non-fiction." Heh.)

Albert Mohler notes that today is the bicentennial of Admiral Nelson's combined defeat of the Spanish and French navies at Trafalgar. Take that, frogs.

While the Parableman blogs his search queries but he tries to help the searchers, I prefer to alternately boggle or laugh at them. Here's this weeks silliness:

Until next week . . . enjoy!

It's true: You get what you pay for

My blog is worth $0.00.
How much is your blog worth?

Coincidentally, that is the precise amount of money I have put into creating and maintaining the Crusty Curmudgeon.

(H/T: Brandywine Books.)

October 20, 2005

Google Reader?

I happened to catch a URL from Google Reader in my referrer logs over the last day or two.

This is new to me. I haven't fiddled with it too much, but it appears to be an RSS aggregator. Anyone out there who has and can give a quickie review?

October 19, 2005

Lewis and Serenity

So it isn't just me who thought that Serenity was a near-perfect SF movie. According to Bruce Edwards of the C. S. Lewis-oriented blog Further Up & Further In (as well as the excellent C. S. Lewis & The Inklings Resource Site) writes that Lewis, himself an SF writer and one of the most prominent critics of the genre in the first half of the 20th century, would have loved it too:

Now I said all that to say that I think Lewis would find Joss Whedon's speculative universe in the newly released (but previously envisioned in the late Fox series, Firefly) Serenity very satisfying. Serenity is that rare space movie that truly cares more about its characters than its special-effects, more about what human greed and sin do to the soul than whether or not everyone will live happily ever after. There is in Serenity what Lewis prized most about really good fiction of any sort: realism of presentation. There is, he said in An Experiment in Criticism, a modern penchant for prizing realism of content over realism of presentation; that is, fantasy and science-fiction tended to be dismissed out of hand as inferior "popular" genres - since, obviously, they lacked "realism of content." But, Lewis averred, realism of presentation can redeem a narrative focused on the fantastic - if it plays by a consistent set of rules, and stays within the genre to produce its own kind of realism. Even genre fiction, Lewis argued, could bring its own realism to its storytelling as long as it did not pretend to be something else. Lewis's favorite example of this: Middle-Earth.

[Read Serenity and C. S. Lewis]

(H/T: do I dare to eat a peach?.)

Hysterical new meme

Basically, you just google the phrase "your first name here needs" and list the first ten results that come up.


  1. Scott needs Mozilla. (Already have done.)
  2. Scott needs nude models. (Yeah, baby, yeah!!!)
  3. Scott needs to ask himself how he would have handled an officer who put concerns for a friend over the demands of the job. Then he needs to punish himself accordingly. (I'm a bad, bad man.) The bottom line: Scott needs to back up his regrets with action, but his credibility may already be beyond repair. (I hang my head in shame.)
  4. Scott needs to get over his issues, whatever they are.
  5. Scott needs a partner. (A nude partner?)
  6. Scott needs more of Mike's guitar. (Scott already owns all of Scott's guitar, however.)
  7. Scott needs access to all seven sites. (At which point the world will come to an end, presumably.)
  8. Scott needs no introduction. (A twofer from the previous site!)
  9. Scott needs to hire his own man on the bench.
  10. Scott needs a way to be less parochial in his thinking. (Hey!)

(H/T: Rebecca Writes.)

For those who might have been worried

This site is certified 63% GOOD by the Gematriculator

(H/T: The Fat Triplets).

October 17, 2005

And now . . . this - Oct. 17/05

More superstitious idiocy from the Religion of PeaceTM

From the earthquake zone in Pakistan:

He set up a massive outdoor kitchen, cooking 1,200 meals a day for earthquake survivors.

From Mohammed Mustafa's point of view it was plain common sense. . . .

But this is Ramadan, the time of year that Muslims fast between sunrise and sunset.

And that is why Mohammed Mustafa ran into a problem. . . .

But one of the local mullahs did not see it that way and he paid Mohammed Mustafa a visit.

"What are you doing?" he shouted. "Don't you know it's Ramadan now? This is just not permitted.

"You can't cook food during the day. It's against Islam. Stop or I'll burn this place down - your tents, your pots, everything."

[Full Story]

No good deed goes unpunished. Heaven forbid you should show compassion to the victims of a major disaster, lest you enrage a local mullah and find your generosity going up in flames.

Compare the attitude of Jesus, whom Muslims claim to revere as a prophet, towards the law: "Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath" (Matt. 12:11-12). Jesus' ethic states that a man does not violate the spirit of the law even if he violates the letter of the law for compassionate reasons.

But in Islam, it seems the letter of the law trumps compassion. Well, to paraphrase Charles Dickens, if that is Islamic law, then Islamic law is an ass.

(H/T: Dhimmi Watch.)

Disharmonic convergence; Or, How to make Ransom do a full body shudder

My friend Brandt embedded a Tiffany song in a blog entry. No, really. On purpose. I think Dantë described a special circle of Hell for people like him.

It's like all the bad parts of high school condensed into 3:45.

It was only made worse by the fact that at the exact moment I started hearing it, the local newscast did a story on belly dancing classes. So in addition to hearing the Horrid Hits of 1987, I was also subjected to simultaneous visual images of Women of Unusual Size, in short skirts with little dangly things, um . . . shaking.

I need therapy.

October 10, 2005

Best. Solo Thanksgiving dinner. Ever.

I don't get home for Thanksgiving much these days, since my parents usually spend the first week or so of October. Sometimes friends at church will get together for an impromptu Thanksgiving dinner/potluck thingy, which can be fun. But not this year. So I was stuck on my own.

But that's all right, because my friend Jen suggested a really simple, yet potentially tasty, curried turkey recipe that I wanted to try. So I did, and man, am I glad.

Here's what I did. Measurements are approximate, as I tended just to approximate on the ingredients. Also, where I deviated from the script, I've noted it.

  • 1 lb boneless turkey breast, sliced into strips (no turkey on hand; I used chicken)
  • 1/2 can coconut milk
  • 2 Tbsp Thai curry (approx.; I wanted to use the dangerously hot red kind, but couldn't find any, so I used the milder green kind and added some diced jalapeno to the recipe)
  • 2 Tbsp peanut butter (approx.; I used the crunchy all-natural kind)
  • Juice of one lime (I added this to the mix myself; it certainly did no damage to the recipe)
  1. At this point I would encourage my readers to crack open a suitable beer to drink while cooking. However, in honour of the occasion, may I instead suggest a fine Canadian cranberry wine, or perhaps my favourite white, an Australian Semillon?
  2. In a large frying pan with a little oil, brown the chicken - I mean, turkey, heh heh heh - slightly.
  3. Add the coconut milk, curry, peanut butter, and lime, and stir together.
  4. Simmer, covered, until the turkey is cooked through (1 hour is probably a safe bet).

At the end I found that the liquid in the pan was starting to get a little thick - it's the peanut butter's fault, I think - so I stirred in a little water until it reached the consistency I wanted.

Serve over rice with whatever extinguishers (my first attempt was quite spicy) or festive beverages you want. I finished off with a "dessert" of sorts that was another taste of Asia: a big mug of Chai tea.

Bon appetit!

October 07, 2005

Friday in the wild - October 7, 2005

W00t! In just under the wire this week with the Friday roundup.

Since I've talked about Rick Warren's views on Hurricane Katrina before, it's only fair to highlight Tim Challies' take on Warren's recent appearance on the Larry King program:

Now there were two things in this brief exchange that grabbed my attention. The first was Warren's insistence that Katrina was not God's will. Warren says that God's will is not always done on earth, suggesting that these things somehow happen outside of His will. That position is biblically indefensible. Of course Warren attempts to prove it from Scripture, stating that we need to pray "thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven" so that God's will can be done here and now. But this is not at all a satisfactory explanation of the meaning of those verses.

[Read Where is God in the Storm?]

Julie at Observations from the Roof of a Building notices how uncannily often an article about Tom Cruise's and Katie Holmes' love child uses the word "fetus," and takes the opportunity to do some pro-life apologetics:

[W]hile we may condone abortion for the sake of women who were thrust into a cirumstance beyond their control, it's no longer become about that. Rather, most abortions reflect the lack of responsibility that our society wants to take for its actions. Loose lifestyles that worship the god of "whatever feels good to me" produce problems where a woman discovers playing with matches will start a fire, and no one can tell me that the women who sign their names on the dotted line of an abortion request didn't know where babies come from before they got themselves into trouble in the first place. But we, as a culture, no longer hold people accountable for their actions - we give in to the pervasive sense of entitlement where it's your right to do whatever you want whenever you want without reaping what you sow. So, abortion becomes less about "righting a wrong" (as much as I disagree that killing a child will make something like rape any better . . . more on that to follow) and more about covering up our sins or selfishly seeking to maintain our me-centered lifestyles. So the "what about rape, etc." line no longer cuts it for me.

[Read It's a . . . Fetus!]

While it's a bit old now, a recent post at What Attitude Problem put me on to this absolutely true satire of Canadian film posted at The War Room (one great comment: "We are the only country that has a national cinema that it's [sic] own populace will not watch"):

Cerise: Wow! The new Egoyan. I am soooo jazzed.

Bella: They say he�s the best Canada has to offer. Even if it stiffed at Cannes.

Cerise: This stiffed at Cannes? I thought Egoyan was like, king there?

Bella: Well, I guess Egoyan won�t be �goyan back to France anytime soon. �Cause they hated it. So did some American critics too. Said it was David Lynch wannabe poseur stuff.

Cerise: Americans. Pffft. Nazi�s. Apparently the MCAA is trying to censor it.

Bella: You mean the MPAA?

Cerise: Whatever. They say the three-way sex scene between Kevin Bacon, Colin Firth and some actress means the film gets an NC-17 rating. They�re all a bunch of fascist, homophobic, mouth breathing trogle�troogle�trogela

Bella: Troglodytes?

Cerise: Yeah. Babykillers all.

[Read Behind Enemy Lines: Censorship & the Toronto International Film Festival]

I see from my referral logs that Google Images has started indexing my pages, and I'm starting to get hits on specific pictures I've uploaded. I wish I could tell what search queries gave those hits. But speaking of hits, here is this week's rather lengthy set of misses:

Until next week, enjoy!

A letter

King and Prime Minister
The Custodian of the Two Holy Shrines
His Majesty Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud
Office of HM the King
Royal Court
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Your Majesty:

There are many foreign workers within Saudi Arabia. No doubt many of them are not Muslims. I am sure that on occasion they would enjoy a tasty meal of roast pork, baby back ribs, or souvlaki. Moreover, nothing goes better than a decent Chardonnay with a good pork roast, or a cold ale with ribs.

However, it has come to my understanding that Islamic law strictly forbids the sale and import of pork products and alcohol. I am sure that you can see, sir, how this ban is insensitive to those foreign workers whose culture or religion has no restriction on the consumption of pork or alcohol. To some of them, no doubt, it is not merely insensitive, but offensive.

Thank you in advance for lifting the restrictions on these products. I am very sure that you wish nothing except to show tolerance of the beliefs of others within your borders, even when their culture is significantly different from your own.

Yours very truly,

Scott McClare

(H/T: Dhimmi Watch [here and here], and Mark Steyn.)

October 03, 2005

Dubious milestone

Given that I receive approximately 60-80 visits per day, then sometime in the last calendar day the Crusty Curmudgeon received its 20,000th visitor, at least as reckoned by Sitemeter since I first installed it on the blog.

Congratulations, whomever you are. Whether you take that as a singular honour, or as damning with faint praise, is up to you.

Proof by mysticism

This is a phenomenon you see often amongst Christians, particulary the more pietistic variety. When they see a contentious debate, for example over some nuance of Christian theology or praxis, they might say something like: "I know how you can end this debate. Why don't each of you get on your knees and pray to God that the Holy Spirit will reveal to you the correct position to take on this issue? If everyone did this, then we would all know the right answer."

Even beyond the Holiness-inspired anti-intellectualism of the idea, it's just plain wrong - and poor theology to boot.

First, the Word of God is the normative principle by which matters of doctrine and practice are decided, not the subjective impressions we may feel and attribute to the Holy Spirit. There are a few narrative passages in the Old Testament that describe priests or prophets consulting God directly for instructions in specific situations, but never is this practice commended as normative. On the other hand, there are numerous times in which Jesus or an apostle appeals to the Law and the Prophets - the written Scriptures - as the authority to follow.

The London Baptist Confession states about the interpretation of Scripture:

The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience, although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God and his will which is necessary unto salvation. Therefore it pleased the Lord at sundry times and in divers manners to reveal himself, and to declare that his will unto his church; and afterward for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan, and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which maketh the Holy Scriptures to be most necessary, those former ways of God's revealing his will unto his people being now ceased. . . .

All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of ordinary means, may attain to a sufficient understanding of them. (LCF 1:1,7, emphasis added)

What are "the ordinary means"? Study, research, hard work, proper hermeneutics, other tools of that sort. Yes, these would include prayer for wisdom, and an open heart and teachable spirit that is ready to submit to the commands of Scripture. But prayer, in and of itself, is not the ordinary means by which we come to a correct understanding of God's Word.

Imagine, for example, that a well-known Bible teacher wrote a commentary on one of Paul's epistles, and he continually appealed to arguments like this: "When Paul wrote such-and-such, this is generally taken to mean x, but I prayed to God and the Holy Spirit revealed to me that Paul really meant y." Who would take such a commentary seriously? It would be grossly irresponsible for a reputable publisher to even accept a manuscript that appealed to this kind of reasoning. Yet, it seems, as long as the dispute remains unpublished and a non-scholarly dispute between fellow Christians, this kind of thing becomes perfectly acceptable. There is not one standard for professional theologians, and another for amateur Bible students.

Second, it is a purely subjective criterion, and as such it completely defies verification. Suppose that to the above, I responded: "I did pray about this, and the Holy Spirit revealed to me that those who disagree with my position are the most wicked heretics alive, and I ought to tie them to a stake and burn them to death." There are those who will scoff at this, and who will berate me for making such a tasteless joke. But that's just the point. How do they know it's a joke? After all, they cannot read my mind, so they have no empirical evidence that the Holy Spirit didn't command me to put heretics to the torch. Furthermore, there are plenty of examples in Scripture of God commanding his faithful people to put his enemies to death, so they can't claim my "revelation" is unprecedented, either. "But God just doesn't want people to behave that way," my opponent protests. I shrug. You have your subjective impression, I have mine, and we're no closer to an answer to the debate than we were before.

Most fundamentally, I think that 99% of the time this kind of argument is a "sanctified" argumentum ad verecundiam, the appeal to authority. When someone claims that "I prayed, and God revealed to me x" (where x is some controversial position), it implies: "God told me x. You don't want to oppose God, do you?" Well, if "God" apparently stands opposed to the use of right reason and the "due use of ordinary means," I guess I do.

Postscript: In the comments, Tom Harrison asks a good question: "But isn't citing Scripture also an argument from authority?" Yes, it is, but it is not a fallacious appeal to authority. First, in a dispute between fellow Christians, in theory there should be no dispute about the authority of Scripture. It is an appeal to an authority that both parties accept as authoritative. Second, Scripture is an objective authority that is equally available to any party in the dispute. You can't say that about the subjective impressions supposedly given by the Holy Spirit to a person; since they cannot be verified objectively, they are of dubious authority. Not all appeals to authority are fallacious; I submit that appeals to a subjective experience are, and I could have made that more clear. Good point.


Try this next time the Mormons come to call.

And now . . . this - Oct. 3/05

Homosexuality is the least of Tinky Winky's problems

While we knew that Tinky Winky was gay, TSG was unaware of the Teletubbies cocaine connection. When federal officials in New York yesterday announced the arrest of 22 members of an international drug cartel, they revealed that cocaine shipments seized by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents were labeled with a sweet portrait of the colorful cartoon quartet.

[Full Story]

Things that make you go, "What the hell?" What purpose is served by slapping a Teletubbies sticker on a bag of cocaine? To distinguish it from some rival cartel's contraband that uses the Flintstones?

(H/T: Boing Boing.)

In case anyone cares

Due to not having the overabundance of free time that I usually hope for when I have a lot of reading to do, "CanLit September" has turned into "CanLit September, October, and Maybe November."

Out of a reading list of five books, I've completed one and am a touch over halfway through the second. I'm committed to all five whatever it takes. It's just one of those things that happens.

October 02, 2005

FridaySaturdaySunday in the wild: September 23, 2005

Intentionally late with the end-of-week blog roundup this time, as I decided to focus on yesterday's Serenity write-up instead. But anyway, here we go.

The Pedantic Protestant did a lengthy and enjoyable series on narcissism and victimhood, starting with:

The Victim sees himself not as a responsible agent in the world, but, as the title implies, he rather sees himself as a victim. His identity, far from being wrapped up in positive endeavors, is wrapped up on himself: how he has been oppressed, how others have been mean to him, how large portions of the world are against him, and how people haven't done as good of a job defending him as they should. In turn, the victimhood of The Victim further victimizes The Victim.

The Victim aggressively seeks out opportunities to be victimized or feel victimized, and this in turn feeds the victim complex manifested by The Victim. The Victim can then publicly display his hurt, his pain, his pathos; he can beat his breast and wallow in self-pity, and he can lobby for the sympathy of others, whereby he can further expound his victimization.

[Read The Victim and the Narcissist]

Look out also for the continuation, and specific applications involving Martha Burk and academic leftism.

The Parableman posted a good one answering the presupposition that law is not based on morality:

Well, there go the laws against murder, theft, rape, and almost anything else that we legislate. They keep distinguishing between laws based on a moral code and laws against child porn. Why do we make child porn illegal? Because it's wrong! Why is rape illegal? Because it's wrong! Why is theft illegal? Why is murder illegal? Our laws are thoroughly based on a moral code. That's the primary justification for them. We might distinguish between different sorts of things that are wrong, enforcing some and not enforcing others, but that's not what these people are doing. They're trying to distinguish between the things we should have laws about and the the things that are moral matters. If there's no moral justification for preventing something, why bother having a law? It's just completely ridiculous to frame the debate this way.

[Read Moral Justifications for Laws]

The PyroManiac has recently begun posting messages he has sent to questions via e-mail. In this one, he takes issue with the ersatz "genuineness" that involves imitating the lowest common denominator of culture:

As you have described it above, body modification and combat boots are a significant and deliberate part - if not the very centerpiece - of your evangelistic strategy. You seem to imagine that if you try hard enough to fit into the punk culture, you might actually win people by convincing them that Jesus would fit nicely into their lifestyle, too.

But wouldn't you yourself actually agree that there is - somewhere - a limit to how far Christians can legitimately go in conforming to worldly culture? Surely you do not imagine that the apostle Paul's words about becoming all things to all men is a prescription for adopting every vulgar fashion of a philistine culture. Do you?

[Read Still more from the e-mail outbox]

Finally, Pecadillo of I Drank What? posts a rant about ugly dogs that is quite possibly, bar none, the most fall-down hilarious thing I have ever read on the Internet. And that's saying something.

Meanwhile, the googling weirdos have returned to their former glory:

Until next week . . . enjoy.

October 01, 2005

You still can't take the sky from me

The 2002 Fox/Joss Whedon (Buffy) SF series Firefly is one of those cult TV phenomena that probably got more press after the fact than during its unfortunately short run. And that's too bad.

For those unfortunate souls who never saw Firefly: 500 years in the future, humanity has abandoned earth and colonized another star system comprising well over a hundred terraformed planets and moons. Ten years prior to the series' setting, the Anglo-Sino Alliance representing the central planets attempted to assert a hegemony over all inhabited space, leading to a war of independence between the Alliance and the "Browncoats."

Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) was a Browncoat officer, and hence on the losing side. After the war ended, he purchased a secondhand Firefly-class cargo ship, Serenity (named after the decisive battle of the war), crewed by Zoe (Gina Torres), who fought with him in the war; Hoban "Wash" Washburn (Alan Tudyk), Zoe's husband and a skilled, wisecracking pilot; Jayne Cobb (Adam Baldwin), hired muscle of Very Small Brain and an unusual name; Kaylee Frye (Jewel Staite), a farmgirl with unusual and intuitive mechanical aptitude; and Inara Serra (Morina Baccarin), an aristocratic sex professional, or Companion. They travel from planet to planet on the fringes of inhabited space, where the people are poor and the technology of the Alliance is not in evidence, looking for work - sometimes legal, sometimes less than legal.

In the series' pilot, Mal acquires two passengers: a wandering preacher, "Shepherd" Derrial Book (Ron Glass) and a gifted young doctor, Simon Tam (Sean Maher). They later discover that Simon smuggled aboard his younger sister River (Summer Glau), who is even more brilliant than him, profoundly disturbed, gifted in ways only hinted at, and apparently a fugitive from a government facility where they were experimenting on her. River is the series' MacGuffin: much of the plot (and the on-board conflict, particularly where the opportunistic and jealous Jayne is concerned) is driven by the tension between finding work and not attracting unnecessary attention to Simon and River.

The series was wonderful: it looked good, it was well-acted, had rounded characters and a plot line that made it far superior to anything in the Star Trek franchise. Given a chance it could have outshone even the redoubtable Babylon 5. Then Fox decided its ratings weren't good enough and cancelled it after 11 episodes. Of course, they completely botched the broadcast order of the episodes and frequently pre-empted Firefly for baseball games, so a good part of the ratings slump was arguably their own fault. What the hell were they thinking?

Fortunately, someone was thinking, only it was the good people at Universal Studios, not 20th Century Fox, that saw the promise of a feature-length sequel and greenlighted Serenity. Thus Universal's fanfare, not Fox's, introduces this movie. Some Fox executives are kicking their own ankles raw right about now. So far, this is the best SF film I have seen this year. Yes, better than Revenge of the Sith and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, even - and I was anticipating both of those just as eagerly, if not more.

Serenity picks up eight months after the beginning of Firefly. It begins with a flashback to Simon's rescue of River, in the form of a holographic recording being viewed a high-ranking government operative (Chiwetel Ejiofor). He reveals the reason the Alliance wants River back so badly: she is an experimental human weapon whose abilities include mind-reading. Key members of Parliament were unwisely given access to her; thus the likelihood exists that River has learned some secrets from them must never be revealed.

Meanwhile, on Serenity, Mal and crew are, as always, needing money. On some backwater planet where the Alliance doesn't care much and hires a private security company to keep the peace, Serenity's crew plans a simple heist of their payroll. Mal decides it's high time River started earning her passage, so they bring her along hoping her sixth sense might give them a tactical advantage. And it does: During the heist, she senses that the town is being attacked by Reavers - atavistic, cannibalistic raiders who, confronted by the nothingness of deep space, went completely stark raving berzerk - and suddenly the chance of easy money is secondary to survival.

Later, while Mal pays off debts to some of his contacts, a subliminal message on a video screen triggers River into a spectacular martial-arts fight that practically destroys the bar where the deal is conducted. Simon is able to subdue her with a post-hypnotic "safe word," but not before the security cameras take her picture and grab the attention of The Operative.

The main reason that I always preferred the first six Star Trek movies to any other Trek incarnation, was that the budget and length of the feature film format allows for stories of a broader scope than your typical 48-minute television episode. The same goes for Serenity. It isn't just an extended TV show. After Whedon brings the newbies up to speed with the backstory and some typical Firefly action, he launches right into a full-bore conspiracy story, the true depth of which was only just touched upon in the series with the barest of hints. And as you, my faithful readers, already ought to know by now, I just love a good conspiracy story.

The world of Serenity probably has more in common with that of Ridley Scott's 1982 cult film Blade Runner than the more familiar socialist utopia of Star Trek. Sure, the Federation has its shadier side (e.g. Section 31), but for the most part it is, as Khan put it, "one big happy fleet." Not the Anglo-Sino Alliance. They are hegemonic and expansionist, self-serving, and Machiavellian. After winning a civil war to centralize control of human space, they don't really care too much about the colonies on the fringes, allowing them to languish in relative poverty while the core worlds enjoy an easy, high-tech civilization. Think The X-Files in space. Yeah, it's a bit over the top, but Joss Whedon's pessimistic view of the universe is at least more realistic than Gene Roddenberry's optimistic one.

Fillion as Mal wisecracks his way through this movie, just as he did the series. I can't imagine that it's easy to navigate the cowboy-talk-cum-technobabble-cum-Chinese that is the patois of the Alliance, but he seems pretty comfortable with it. Joss Whedon is a killer dialogue writer, and the one-liners in Serenity fly fast and furious from all sides. But even though Mal appears in nearly every scene, this movie is really Summer Glau's, her portrayal of the damaged River Tam getting an order of magnitude more depth than 15-odd hours of Firefly ever gave it. Glau is a ballerina by training, and she puts all that flexibility to good use in a couple of spectacular fight scenes. It's hard to believe that the 24-year-old actress was unheard of less than four years ago. Most of the rest of the ensemble cast put in a good job as well, most notably Tudyk as Wash and Baldwin as Jayne, respectively as smartass and dumb as ever.

Unfortunately, however, Glass' appearance as Shepherd Book is little more than a cameo. This is an injustice, as Book is the most enigmatic character - Whedon dropped many hints that the easygoing missionary was better connected than he ought to have been. Sadly, all that intrigue just doesn't pay off in the end. But when Ejiofor's cold, amoral, and professional Operative is on screen, all is forgiven anyway.

Mal Reynold's world looks far better on the big screen than it did on TV, and there is a space battle near the end that puts even Revenge of the Sith's swashbuckling to shame. Serenity ties up all the major loose ends of the series in a satisfying payoff - I would love to discuss some of those themes here, but it would give away too much of the story. It offers a hint, too, of a possible sequel (even if no specific promises have been made by the creators). If you enjoyed Firefly, you must go see Serenity. If not, then first buy or rent the series DVDs, watch them, then go see Serenity. Otherwise, you're just missing out.

Down syndrome teen killed by botched abortion

The autopsy report of a Texas teenager who died here last January reveals details of a horrific death caused by complications of a third-trimester abortion received at Women's Health Care Services at the hands of the notorious George R. Tiller. . . .

Tragically, sometime in 2004, Gilbert, who had Down's Syndrome [sic], was sexually assaulted. As a result, Gilbert became pregnant. On January 10, 2005, Gilbert was brought by her family to Women's Health Care Services for a third-trimester abortion in her 28th week of pregnancy. There her baby received a digoxin injection to the heart and she was prepared for labor and delivery of her dead child.

Gilbert was sent to her hotel. The following day, January 11, Gilbert was taken back to WHCS where the abortion was resumed and a D & C performed. She was again sent back to her hotel, which doubled as both labor and recovery room for Tiller's abortion business. This hotel was not equipped to handle the life-threatening complications that may result from dangerous third-trimester abortions. There, Gilbert's condition began to worsen. . . .

[Full Story]

Be sure to read the whole sordid thing, and while you do, repeat the mantra to yourself: "Safe and legal, safe and legal, safe and legal" . . .

(H/T: On the Other Foot.)