November 29, 2005

The inevitable happens

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

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

Will history repeat itself in 2006?

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

November 26, 2005

Ultraviolet light my way

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

Advocating fragging can be a career-limiting move

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

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

[Full Statement]

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

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

(H/T: Michelle Malkin.)

November 25, 2005

Friday in the wild - November 25, 2005

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

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

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

[Read Jesus is Eternally God]

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

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

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

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

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

[Read When wars were fought by gentlemen]

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week? Enjoy!

Calling occupants of interplanetary, most extraordinary craft . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Full Story]

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

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

I, for one, welcome our new extraterrestrial overlords.

November 23, 2005

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

Here we go again:

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

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

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

[Full Story]

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

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

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

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

[Full Story]

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

Say it ain't so!

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

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

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

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

[Full Story]

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

But, officer, it's my job!

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

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

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

[Full Story]

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

The perfect corsage for your prom date

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

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

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

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

[Full Story]

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

News flash: Art now causes vandalism

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

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

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

[Full Story]

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

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

 . . . but this one was kinda funny:

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

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

[Full Story]

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

They're Marifying trees now

Here we go again . . .

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

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

[Full Story]

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

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

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

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

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

[Full Story]

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

[Jesus on a tailgate]

[Jesus on a decal]

It's a miracle!

(H/T: Free Republic.)

November 22, 2005

From harmony, from Heav'nly harmony

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

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

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

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

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

Then the chorus breaks in:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Full Message]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Is there such a thing as too much Christmas spirit?

Indeed there is. [MOV file]

November 18, 2005

How it's really done

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday in the wild - November 18, 2005

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

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

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

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

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

[Read Victoria's Secret]

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

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

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

[Read Canadian history moment]

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

A foretaste of the new Who

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

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

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

Matt Stone and Trey Parker are so getting sued

Tom Cruise better fire another publicist.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Scott as a South Park kid]

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

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

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

Murder most foul

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

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

[Full Story]

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

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

What they're teaching in English class these days

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

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

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

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

Prof. John Daly

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

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

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

November 16, 2005

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

Best. Headline. Ever.

"Paris Hilton Attacked by Monkeys."

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

Paris Hilton has been attacked by her pet monkey.

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

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

[Full Story]

Hee hee! Monkey.

And you thought cell phones ringing in theatres was bad

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

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

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

[Full Story]

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

Can't say I didn't see this one coming

You are Schroeder!
You are Schroeder!
Which Peanuts Character are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Not so coincidentally, Schroeder happens to be my favourite Peanuts character.

The funny thing is, it didn't even ask me about my extensive Beethoven library.

November 14, 2005

Anyone got a compass?

Prufrock wants to know who would write an ode to the infinitive. Other than him? I don't know, but in the spirit of oneupmanship, I'd like to point out that Samuel Taylor Coleridge once wrote a lengthy poem about constructing an equilateral triangle on a line:

A Mathematical Problem

If Pegasus will let thee only ride him, Spurning my clumsy efforts to o'erstride him,
Some fresh expedient the Muse will try, And walk on stilts, although she cannot fly.



I have often been surprised that Mathematics, the quintessence of Truth, should have found admirers so few and so languid. Frequent consideration and minute scrutiny have at length unravelled the cause; viz. that though Reason is feasted, Imagination is starved; whilst Reason is luxuriating in its proper Paradise, Imagination is wearily travelling on a dreary desert. To assist Reason by the stimulus of Imagination is the design of the following production. In the execution of it much may be objectionable. The verse (particularly in the introduction of the ode) may be accused of unwarrantable liberties, but they are liberties equally homogeneal with the exactness of Mathematical disquisition, and the boldness of Pendaric daring. I have three strong champions to defend me against the attacks of Criticism: the Novelty, the Difficulty, and the Utility of the work. I may justly plume myself that I first have drawn the nymph Mathesis from the visionary caves of abstracted idea, and caused her to unite with Harmony. The first-born of this Union I now present to you; with interested motives indeed - as I expect to receive in return the more valuable offspring of your Muse.

Thine ever,


[Christ's Hospital], March 31, 1791.

This is now - this was erst,
Proposition the first - and Problem the first.


On a given finite Line
Which must no way incline;
To describe an equi -
- lateral Tri -
- A, N, G, L, E.
Now let A. B.
Be the given line
Which must no way incline;
The great Mathematician
Makes this Requisition,
That we describe an Equi -
- lateral Tri -
- angle on it:
Aid us, Reason - aid us, Wit!


From the centre A. at the distance A. B.
Describe the circle B. C. D.
At the distance B. A. from B. the centre
The round A. C. E. to describe boldly venture.
(Third Postulate see.)
And from the point C.
In which the circles make a pother
Cutting and slashing one another,
Bid the straight lines a journeying go,
C. A., C. B. those lines will show.
To the points, which by A. B. are reckon'd,
And postulate the second
For Authority ye know.
A. B. C.
Triumphant shall be
An Equilateral Triangle,
Not Peter Pindar carp, not Zoilus can wrangle.


Because the point A. is the centre
Of the circular B. C. D.
And because the point B. is the centre
Of the circular A. C. E.
A. C. to A. B. and B. C. to B. A.
Harmoniously equal for ever must stay;
Then C. A. and B. C.
Both extend the kind hand
To the basis, A. B.
Unambitiously join'd in Equality's Band.
But to the same powers, when two powers are equal,
My mind forbodes the sequel;
My mind does some celestial impulse teach,
And equalises each to each.
Thus C. A. with B. C. strikes the same sure alliance,
That C. A. and B. C. had with A. B. before;
And in mutual affiance,
None attempting to soar
Above another,
The unanimous three
C. A. and B. C. and A. B.
All are equal, each to his brother,
Preserving the balance of power so true:
Ah! the like would the proud Autocratorix do!
At taxes impending not Britain would tremble,
Nor Prussia struggle her fear to dissemble;
Nor the Mah'met-sprung Wight,
The great Mussulman
Would stain his Divan
With Urine the soft-flowing daughter of Fright.


But rein your stallion in, too daring Nine!
Should Empires bloat the scientific line?
Or with dishevell'd hair all madly do ye run
For transport that your task is done?
For done it is - the cause is tried!
And Proposition, gentle Maid,
Who soothly ask'd stern Demonstration's aid,
Has prov'd her right, and A. B. C.
Of Angles three
Is shown to be of equal side;
And now our weary steed to rest in fine,
'Tis rais'd upon A. B. the straight, the given line.

In other words, what Coleridge is talking about is this (how well did you do?):

November 11, 2005

"It will be one of the biggest things in Canadian history"

When the Germans retreated from Paris in 1914 and the battle lines stabilized, they held Vimy Ridge in northern France, a 14-kilometer long stretch of high ground near the town of Arras. This was a powerful position, supported by a network of trenches, tunnels, and natural caves; machine-gun and artillery emplacements; and a light rail supply line. The ridge was thought by Allied commanders to be impregnable: British and French forces had lost 150,000 men trying to take it.

Then the Canadians came on the scene in 1916. They rehearsed on a full-scale mockup of the ridge so that they knew what they could expect from the enemy. Tunnels were excavated to move Canadian troops and ammunition out of view of the Germans. No operation on the Western Front was more thorougly planned than the assault on Vimy Ridge.

Starting on April 2, 1917, the Canadians began a shock-and-awe campaign against the Germans: an intense artillery battering in which a million shells were launched. It was the largest barrage in history to date, and it is said that the noise could be heard in London.

Then in the early morning of April 9 - Easter Monday - in the freezing cold in the middle of a snowstorm, under the command of Field Marshal Julian Byng and his subordinate, General Arthur Currie, the first wave of 20,000 Canadian soldiers advanced on Vimy Ridge behind a rolling barrage. By the end of the day, the Canadian Expeditionary Force had achieved the impossible: they had taken Vimy Ridge. All of their objectives had been achieved by April 12. The most significant of these objectives were the near-miraculous taking of Hill 145, the highest and best-defended ground on the Ridge, by the inexperienced 85th Battalion against overwhelming odds; and the capture of Hill 120, known as The Pimple, the northernmost hill of the ridge from which German machine-gun fire threatened the Canadians' left flank.

The battle of Vimy Ridge was of limited strategic value. In fact, it was but one skirmish in a larger operation, intended as a diversion while the British and French attacked the Germans elsewhere. The British and French commanders were not optimistic that it would succeed. In the end, Vimy Ridge was the one resounding success amidst failure. But it was not without cost: 3,598 Canadian soldiers were killed and over 7,000 injured.

It is said that Canada became a nation on April 9, 1917: not that our political situation changed, but because the Canadian Expeditionary Force ceased on that day to be a colonial army. At Vimy Ridge, Canada took its place amongst the great nations of the world. Four Victoria Crosses were given to Canadian heroes because of their valour at Vimy. In no other battle before or since have as many of the British Commonwealth's highest honour been awarded.

Today the Canadian National Vimy Memorial stands atop Hill 145, on 250 hectares of land granted in perpetuity to Canada by France. Its massive twin spires are a tribute to all who died serving their country during the First World War. Upon the memorial are inscribed the names of 11,285 Canadian soldiers who died in France but have no known gravesite.

Private Percy Winthrop McClare, my grandfather's second cousin, is one of those names.

Winnie McClare was part of the 24th Battalion. Their objective - met in about 30 minutes - was to push through to the Germans' second line. Winnie made it through the battle with only a minor shrapnel wound. Writing home a week later, he said that "[i]t was some battle and I am glad to say that I was through it, as it will be one of the biggest things in Canadian history." It was.

Sadly, that was Winnie's last letter home. He was one of 31 soldiers who died in a German attack on the French village of Acheville, just east of Vimy Ridge, on May 5, 1917. He had been at the front for less than a month. He was 19.

World War I was 90 years ago. That is enough time for me to have lived my life nearly three times over. It is certainly long enough for the sacrifice of thousands to become less "real" and more an abstract historic fact. At this time last year, Canada had eight surviving veterans of the war. Today, there are five, and their average age is 105; this is the first year since 1919 that no WWI vets were present at the national remembrance ceremony in Ottawa. As they pass on, World War I becomes more abstract. Digging up this little bit of family history over the last year has gone a long way toward making the war real for me. We remember best what is closest to us.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.


I've let the letters of Winnie McClare stand on their own for dramatic purposes; it's time to give credit where due. All letters are taken from Intimate Voices from the First World War, edited by Svetlana Palmer and Sarah Wallis (New York: Morrow - HarperCollins, 2003). This book collects personal accounts of WWI from letters, diaries, and eyewitness accounts. Thirteen different countries on both sides of the war are represented.

I have preserved spelling, punctuation, etc. as printed. The editors cite as their source The Letters of a Young Canadian Soldier During WW1, ed. Dale McClare (Dartmouth, NS: Brook House, 1999).

Private P. W. McClare is also memorialized on page 279 of the First World War Book of Remembrance displayed in the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill.

16th April, 1917 France

My dear Mother.

I can only write a short letter this time, but hope I will be able to do so soon. I have not written a letter for over a week an a half as I have been in the trenches for 9 days, and it is impossible to write up there.

You have no doubt heard before this of the big advance of the Canadians and the capture of Vimy Ridge. I was in the whole of that battle and it was Hell. I got a small splinter of shrapnel through the fleshy part of my shoulder. It was very slight and I went through it all with it. It was some battle and I am glad to say that I was through it, as it will be one of the biggest things in Canadian history.

We are out for a few days rest, and, believe me, we need it. I don't know how Roy and Lyle came through it. I have not seen them yet but expect to soon.

Well, Mother, if you can, please send me some socks when you can and anything else you care to send in the line of eats.

I got about all my mail last night. There was 21 letter and the parcel of gum and the family H. Thank you very much for them.

Well, Mother Dear, please don't do any worrying as it does no good. But remember me in your prayer. I know you do that, and it helps me a lot.

Well, Mother, I will close now. Give my love to all.

I remain

As Ever

Your Loveing Son,


November 10, 2005

Somewhere in France
29th March 1917

My Dear Sister,

I am writing to you again this week, and I may say I have few things to say that may interest you. I will first remark upon the weather. It is rotten. It has been raining hard all day and all last night.

Next, I am well and hope that you and all the rest at home are the same.

Now, over with all that. I will tell you a little secret, and, as it is a secret, I know you will not say anything to the others around there. Well, I have been writing to a girl in Liverpool, England, but I never saw her - as I got her ad from Norman Black. He had been writing to a girl there that he knew and his friends friend wanted somebody to write to, so you see that.

Well, this Girls name is Miss Dollie Parkin, and I wrote and told her of you and she thot that she would like to write to you. She is a very interesting corespondent and writes very interesting letters.

I have said that I have never seen her or even a photo of her, so all I can say is what I heard from others and that is that she is not awfully pretty but has a very cheerful tounge and is witty.

I think that you would like to correspond with her. I have been writing to two or three girls. I wrote to Minnie and Aunt Winnie today, and the girl I met in Hove I write to them when I feel like it. I guess that is a good thing that I like writing . . .

Well, Girlie, I guess that I will close now, as I have a book to change at the Y.M.C.A. library. So Good Bye.

With Love to All.

Your Loveing Brother,


Ex-cellent . . .

[2006 Cyberman]I thought that the (relatively minor) makeover of the Daleks for the new Doctor Who was great.

Now, in advance of the second season, the BBC has revealed the upgraded version of my personal favourite Who villain: the Cybermen.

Cybermen descending the steps of St. Paul's Cathedral in the story "The Invasion" is one of the more chilling images in Doctor Who history, if not the history of television itself. But imagine the terror if this unholy abomination came into view. No Princess Leia helmet, moon boots, or tin-foil outfits here - the new costume looks like a cross between C-3PO, a metal Karloff Frankenstein, and the Terminator. The sunken-cheeked, skull-like helmet is the best feature (it's nice that they kept the distinctive look of the old-style eyes and mouth, too - sans glass chin, of course), but the carapace-like breastplate is a nice touch as well. (Click the image for a high-res version.)

If it sounds as good as it looks, they're going to have to bury BBC headquarters under a heap of technical Emmys.

Hope the new Cyberman-related story doesn't disappoint in 2006. The Dalek ones certainly didn't.

(H/T: Behind the Sofa Again and the BBC).

CSI and proof by arcane science

I love watching CSI. It's intelligent, it's stylish, and it's an original spin on the crime drama, showing the plot from the point of view of the investigating forensic scientists, instead of the police or the lawyers. Hence, for the most part, the stories revolve around science (albeit occasionally dodgy) and puzzle-solving instead of action.

So it was surprising to see last week's episode, "Secrets and Flies," take a distinctly un-scientific turn. The primary plot focused on the dead mother of an infant that had been conceived in vitro and implanted in his mother. This was accomplished through "Project Sunflower," an agency that takes the position that the unborn, even frozen embryos, are fully human persons worthy of protection. So they take abandoned embryos from fertility clinics and gave them to women willing to "adopt" and carry them to term, as an alternative to destroying them.

Then again, this is prime-time programming. So, of course, the rules say that deeply religious people are weird, ignorant, superstitious, and misguided - and indeed Dr. Emily Ryan, the director of Project Sunflower is portrayed as glassy-eyed and smug, not to mention irritated when investigator Catherine "Cat" Willows questions her medical credentials. By contrast, the savvy Cat knows as much about Church history as blood spatter patterns:

Cat: If I understand your program correctly, you take these embryos and you place them in available wombs?

Ryan: We seek out special unselfish women who are prepared to adopt at the embryonic stage of development. We believe that the soul is infused when sperm meets egg. That's when life begins.

Cat: Are you aware that throughout much of history, the official Church position held that a child's life begins when the mother first becomes aware of movement?

Ryan: Oh, that's your opinion.

Cat: In the 16th century, the Pope proclaimed that embryos less than 40 days old are not human. That is not my opinion.


Ryan: You've had an abortion, Miss Willows.

Cat: Huh! No. Thank God I decided not to have one. But we are not talking about me, Dr. Ryan. . . . Are you a medical doctor?

Ryan: I don't care for that insinuation.

Cat: Oh, it's just a question. I take it that's a no?


Ryan: I have a very busy afternoon. What exactly can I do for you?

Later in the episode, Cat gives a reason for her hostility toward Dr. Ryan: she is pro-choice and in favour of stem-cell research. (I guess she is disappointed that a frozen embryo gets a chance to be made into a baby instead of experimented on.)

Instead of making Dr. Ryan into a shady character - since it didn't matter to the plot anyway and was just a gimmick to give Cat a reason to threaten her with a court order - how difficult would it have been to have her answer something like this?

Cat: Are you aware that throughout much of history, the official Church position held that a child's life begins when the mother first becomes aware of movement?

Ryan: That might be true, Miss Willows, but that mistaken idea is the product of a pre-scientific era. A medieval Pope couldn't have dreamed about everything that modern medical technology has told us about human reproduction. A human embryo is a living, genetically distinct individual from the moment sperm and ovum fuse and start to develop. In fact, other than conception, there is really no other time where we can say that something came into being that wasn't there before.

We have to at least give Aristotle credit for one thing: in a pre-scientific era, there was precious little way to detect a pregnancy. At least the time of "quickening" offered some sort of empirical evidence that a baby was on the way. Aristotle didn't know any better. He couldn't have.

But in 2005, this is obsolete science. Aristotle lived 2000 years before the invention of the microscope - let alone X-rays, sonograms, amniocentesis, or laparoscopy. He hadn't a clue what a cell was, let alone DNA. He had never observed mitosis in action. Today, a high school biology student knows more about pregancy than Aristotle did, and anyone with a library card can obtain a reputable textbook on biology or obstetrics and become more knowledgeable than him in a matter of hours. Unfortunately, by Aquinas' day, the science wasn't much better. However, for him, Aristotle was the philosopher, and in large measure Aquinas himself was the theologian of the medieval Roman church. Thus ancient scientific ignorance became ossified as "fact" for far too many centuries.

A few weeks ago, someone (who claimed a graduate degree in philosophy) made this same argument to me in favour of early-term abortion. He argued that life begins at quickening, and therefore abortion should be permissible up to that point. He cited Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, and "the official stance of the Catholic Church" in support. However, it was obvious that I was dealing with a dilettante after only a few rounds; he couldn't justify his continued appeals to medieval philosophy over and above 21st century medicine, and became abusive when pressed on the point.

The odd thing is that this pre-scientific Greek notion would be cited as an authoritative fact, intended to be intellectually respectable, on a television program that at least pays lip service to reason and good science. Today we do know better. A human embryo has begun to develop human features practically before the mother realizes she is pregnant. A fetal heartbeat can now be detected at about 22 days; only a couple weeks later its brain activity can be measured on an EEG.

One would assume that a forensic scientist - not to mention a mother - would know this. Instead, solely to make the pro-abortion-rights-slash-pro-embryonic-stem-cell-research position into the intellectually respectable one, the scriptwriters make the scientist sound not like a scientist, but a pseudo-intellectual philosophy graduate.

(As an aside, note how Cat seems to assume that citing "the Church" and "the Pope" ought to settle the matter. Yet there is no indication, before or after, that Dr. Ryan is a Roman Catholic, hence no reason to assume that Catholic opinion carries any weight with her.)

A few minutes later in the episode, Cat's supervisor, Gil Grissom, tells her she should have cited Leviticus 17:11. After all, if "the life of the flesh is in the blood," then the verse ought to be a show-stopper for any theologically-minded person, or so he said. The writers are no better theologians than they are scientists, it seems.

The handful of posts this episode generated was really the most interesting thing in the blogosphere this week, and I eagerly anticipated seeing yet another CSI-related summary pop up. In lieu of this week's Friday in the Wild, I offer a selection of critiques:

  • Melinda at the Stand to Reason Blog comments on Amy K. Hall's critique, noting that the writers would have us believe that allowing embryos to develop into children thwarts the efforts of stem-cell researchers.
  • The Pedantic Protestant calls the episode "Dumdum TV" and challenges Grissom's theological blunder: "[S]ome writer somewhere felt as if he could attack my position [and those of other Christians] by the moronic reasoning exhibited. You'd think the writers would be able to tell what the context of a passage is."
  • Blogcorner Preacher posts his take on Leviticus 17:11 as well.

Feb 1917, Somewhere in France

Dear Sis,

As I have nothing to do this afternoon, I thot that I would write you another letter. It is raining to beat the band out now and muddy as it is almost possible for it to be.

My boots and puttees, almost up to my knees, are covered with mud, and my greatcoat is the same up to my waist. Oh, this is a lovely place, I guess not . . .

With love to all,

Your Loveing Brother,


P.S. Excuse pencil please. My fountain pen has dryed up like myself. P.W.M.

November 09, 2005

6th November 1916, Upper Dibgate

Dear Herbert.

Look here, Kid. Take a tip from me an stop wanting to enlist. You could do nothing but go in the home guards and stay there awhile, and it would be a deuce of a awhile. You hold your horses awhile and go to school every day, and by the time you are seventeen you can get out and enlist.

Don't be afraid that the war will be over by then, because if you ask me, it is going to last some time after 1920. So be a good boy and stay on the farm for a while, and go to school every day you possibly can, as that is the best thing you can ever do. I am haveing a pretty good time just now, but I don't know how long it is going to last. Most of the men here are not near as well off as I am by a long sight.

Well, old boy, I must close now hoping to hear from you soon.

Your Loveing Brother,


6th October 1916

My dear Helen

You must be having a great time this fall. Your letters sound like it.

Herbert is the one that ought to go to school, if anyone should. I wish every day that I had more schooling, and if I ever get back to Canada, I am going to go to school again. A fellow can't get along in this world unless he knows something, and I know nothing so far.

Don't you think I ought to take a course in penmanship? I am an awfull writter. I am not improving in writing, but I can write an awful lot faster than I could before I came to England. That is some improvement as I used to be so slow.

With love to all,

Your loveing brother,


And now . . . this - Nov. 9/05 (Drunk moose alert!)

It was only a matter of time . . .

From Stockholm:

They rarely have problems with drunks or rowdy animals, but residents of an elderly home in southern Sweden had to deal with both when a pair of intoxicated moose invaded the premises.

The moose - a cow and her calf - had become drunk over the weekend by eating fermented apples they found outside the home in Sibbhult, southern Sweden, said Anna Karlsson, who works there.

Horrors! Underage drunk mooses!

But it gets worse. Turns out these mooses were angry drunks:

Police managed to scare them off once, but the large mammals returned to get more of the tempting fruits. This time the moose were drunk and aggressive, forcing police to send for a hunter with a dog to make them leave.

[Full Story]

Meanwhile, they're getting rowdy in Norway, too:

An angry and aggressive moose has been chasing residents of the Norwegian city of Molde, mostly when they're out jogging in the woods that border on a residential neighbourhood.

Moose mothers are known for protectng their young, but one in Molde appears overly aggressive.

Kari Holmås is among those who suddenly found a moose on her tail during an otherwise solitary jogging round.

"I just managed to see the moose's face before it hit be [sic] from behind," Holmås told local newspaper Romsdals Budstikke. Holmås suffered injuries in her leg, thigh and hip, but says she's glad she survived.

[Full Story]

This moose, however, still appears to be on the wagon.

And in non-cervine news . . .

Guinness World Records has officially recognized L. Ron Hubbard, acclaimed author and the founder of Scientology Dianetics, as the world's most translated author.

This new world record, officially verified as 65 languages, beats the previous record of 51 languages set in 1997 by American author Sidney Sheldon. It also exceeds the unofficial count of 63 for "Harry Potter" novelist J. K. Rowling and the 64 languages translated for "The Diary of a Young Girl" by Dutch teenager Anne Frank.

[Full Story]

And it's still horse puckey in all 65 of 'em . . .

November 08, 2005

Upper Dibgate Camp
23th August 1916

Dear Mother,

I think it is about time I wrote a letter to you. If you ever forget my address or don't know where I am, be sure and address all letters to Army Post Office, London; and have my name and number, for they would never find me without the number, which is #488944.

We are being drilled pretty hard, and I expect to be through with the drill part of the training and get shooting and bayenet fighting and bombing. When we finish that, I will be ready for the front. It may not be long now. There are men going from this Batt. every week in drafts.

There is all kinds of clubs here for the soldiers. We get good meals here, the finest I have seen in the army yet.

I have not been able to get a pass to London yet, but will as soon as we pass the most part of the drill. It is a pass that the King gives all Canadian soldiers, and is a six-day pass. Norman Black and I are going together. He is that fellow from Windsor that was my bunk mate at McNabs Island.



November 07, 2005

There's an audiophile born every minute

And you thought "wine snobs" were bad.

In their quest to eke out one more hertz of distortion-free performance from their audio equipment, there are actually audiophiles out there willing to spend obscene amounts of money: $30,000 for speaker cables (!!!). $150 for "cable elevators" to raise your $30,000 cables off the floor (I guess to cut down on vibrations caused by all those fast-moving electrons). An "Intelligent Chip" containing "quantum material," that, when laid on top of a CD player, "upgrades the disc" and improves sound quality. And my favourite: a $485 wooden volume knob to cut down on "micro vibrations" from standard plastic volume knobs that "find their way into the delicate signal path and cause degradation." Of course, the product descriptions and reviews are technobabble, complete codswallop.

There is a relatively new branch of psychology known as psychoacoustics - the study of how humans perceive sound. If we know what humans actually hear, then audio engineers can concentrate on improving how we hear that and ignore what we can't. For example, the MP3 file format is an application of psychoacoustical analysis: relatively small file sizes are achieved by discarding inaudible data. To my ear, there is no audible difference between a 160 kbps MP3 file and the CD track it was ripped from.

Of course, all that science (spit!) is just a wasted effort compared to the power of audiophile cognitive dissonance. Persuade a sucker to pay $1500 for a power cord, and he'll think his CD player sounds like the angel choir on the first Christmas Eve. Check out the praise heaped on the Audio Magic Clairvoyant Power Cord:

The Clairvoyant's ability to recapture the subtle dynamic shades of each musician's instrument highlighted the nearly telepathic interplay among this amazing trio on the track "Whisper Not." Adding to this, complete and dimensional sound portraits appeared and were gone with such suddenness that this ushered in newly perceived harmonic detail and dynamic contrast, bringing the event into the room.

If you thought that the purpose of a power cord was to deliver electricity to stereo equipment, think again. Not only does the Audio Magic Clairvoyant Power Cord squirt juice into the amplifier, it also EQs the frequency response, upgrades your cheap JVC speakers to B&Ws, renovates the acoustics of your living room, and time-travels back to the Van Gelder studio in 1964 to remaster John Coltrane's recording of A Love Supreme that you love listening to so much.

It's magic! It's like homeopathy for stereos!

(H/T: Boing Boing).

Definitely not just for nerds anymore

Once again, the University of Waterloo tops Maclean's Magazine's annual ranking of Canadian universities, according to today's Daily Bulletin:

Waterloo has held onto its position as the number one "comprehensive university" in Canada, as well as its number one "best overall" ranking by reputation in the nation, in Maclean's magazine's annual universities issue. The magazine will hit newsstands across Canada later today.

UW has been "best overall" in Canada in the reputational rankings for 14 of the 15 years Maclean's has offered that title. Waterloo was also named "most innovative" in the national reputation survey, and swept all the reputation categories - No. 1 Highest Quality, No. 1 Leaders of Tomorrow, No. 1 Most Innovative, and No. 1 Best Overall - among comprehensive universities (those with a broad range of undergraduate and graduate programs, but without a medical school).

[Full Story]

Meanwhile, the high school up the street tries to eke out some kind of moral victory.</gloat>