July 31, 2005

And now . . . this - Jul. 31/05

Maybe he just wants to play a round

A yearling moose wandering through town has decided to stay a while to enjoy the shade and water of a miniature golf course.

"He was headed somewhere when he came in here. We're hoping that he takes a rest and one of these evenings returns to his journey," state Game Warden Roger Bredehoft said Friday. . . .

The moose has spent several days at Oasis Mini Golf on the city's south side. If it doesn't move on, the Game and Fish Department may have to sedate and take the animal to the Snowy Range west of town.

[Full Story]

I think they're missing out here on the obvious potential for promotion. "Make the moose leave, win a free game" or something like that.

Extraordinary popular delusions and the madness of crowds, 2005

Here we go again. Mary-shaped salt stains and statues weeping oil are one thing, but now statuary is coming to life. Great googly moogly, these stone juggernauts will kill us all!

Dozens of believers in New Jersey are holding a vigil this morning near a statue that they say - came to life.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus statue is the centerpiece of a nativity scene outside the Jackson Street public housing complex in Hoboken.

Some witnesses say they saw the statue open its right eye, and turn its head toward the crowd.

Many call the event a miracle that could help rescue the neighborhood from problems like drugs and violence.

[Full Story]

Mark my words, it won't be long before the "healings" begin or "Jesus" starts mumbling vaguely pious religious platitudes about "returning to his Sacred Heart," or telling people not to take the Eucharist in the hand, or whatever. "Catholic" superstition never fails to amaze. (I wish I could say that many evangelicals were not often so deluded, but alas, it isn't true: Gold fillings, anyone?)

July 30, 2005

Well, that didn't last long

Guess who's back?

And now . . . this - Jul. 30/05

What, no eggs, toast, juice, and oatmeal?

THE ANGRY manager of Rugby Library has apologised to Muslims after a slice of bacon was found in a copy of The Koran.

The rasher had been placed in the pages of a reference copy of the book, which is available for general use.

Library manager Sandra Barnsley said: "I cannot believe anyone would do this, but they're not going to win."

[Full Story]

What's the problem? If more Qurans had bacon bookmarks, the smell alone would be an enticement to read it.

(H/T: Dhimmi Watch.)

July 29, 2005

Friday in the wild - July 29, 2005

Heading into the long weekend, it's time for the usual Friday roundup of the interesting, the fun, and the bloggy.

Tim Challies lays out some good guidelines for authors who want to cite Scripture in support of their arguments:

Before we go any further, let's establish the purpose of using the Bible in a book. The goal in prooftexting or quoting from the Bible is to accurately represent and interpret God's Word. We do not use the Bible to prove what we want it to say. Rather, we turn to the Bible to learn from God Himself, and then share what we have learned with others. We must have our priorities straight.

[Read The Proper Use of Scripture in Books]

The PyroManiac turns his flamethrower on the Fad Driven Church�:

So why has the recent culture of American evangelicalism - a movement supposedly based on a commitment to timeless truths - been so susceptible to fads? Why are evangelical churches so keen to jump on every bandwagon? Why do our people so eagerly rush to buy the latest book, CD, or cheap bit of knockoff merchandise concocted by the marketing geniuses who have taken over the Christian publishing industry?

. . . [E]vangelicals and fundamentalists alike "have a genuine affection for the ugly and the superficial, whether in their art, their preaching, or their devotion." A few years ago, marketing experts learned how to tap into evangelicals' infatuation with the cheap and tawdry and turn it into cash.

[Read Shall we sell our birthright for a mess of faddage?]

At Biblical Christianity, Daniel Phillips asks what the big deal is about the Trinity?

I've used this comparison. Suppose someone asks me if I am a Sean Connery fan.

"Love her!" I say.

Puzzled, the other asks me to describe Sean Connery.

"Oh, she's a young Jamaican Country-Western singer, about 25, five foot five, braided hair, with a pegleg and a parrot on her shoulder."

Obviously, we're not talking about the same Sean Connery.

And so, if two people claim to love "God," but one says that He is a single solitary person who sometimes adopts the guise of Father, sometimes Son, or sometimes Holy Spirit; and the other says He is one Being who has eternally existed in three distinct Persons - they are not talking about the same God. Theoretically, either may be right, or both may be wrong; but they cannot both be right. And it matters, given God's hatred for false worship (Exodus 20:3; Leviticus 10; etc.).

[Read Trinity, Flinity, what's the big?]

I thought I got some weird search queries now and then, but Jeremy at Parableman made me laugh out loud by posting searches on non-existent things, such as doctors who give non-pregnant women abortions. Jeremy's blog is actually hit #127, which means this guy actually searched through 13 pages at least trying to find something on this subject.

Speaking of weird Google searches, come Thursday evening, I thought I was actually going to get away with another week of relative sanity. Then I was hit with requests for emma watson's phone number, which I don't have, and info about emma watson's secret abortion, which I definitely don't have. (If I did, it wouldn't be a secret, would it?)

July 28, 2005

"I was just made by the Presbyterian Church"

Um . . . severe localization issues, to say the least. Matthew in Beirut posts vidcaps of a Chinese pirate DVD of Revenge of the Sith, complete with hilarious and inept English subtitles.

This is the sort of thing that happens when you translate from English to Chinese and back again, probably with the help of a machine.

Read it and laugh. I was crying.

(H/T: Ghost of a Flea.)

July 27, 2005

Looks like I spoke too soon

NASA grounded future shuttle flights Wednesday because a big chunk of insulating foam flew off Discovery's fuel tank during liftoff - as it did with Columbia - but this time apparently missed the spacecraft.

"Until we're ready, we won't go fly again. I don't know when that might be," shuttle program manager Bill Parsons told reporters in a briefing Wednesday evening. . . .

The loss of a chunk of debris, a vexing problem NASA thought had been fixed, represents a tremendous setback to a space program that has spent 2 1/2 years and over $1 billion trying to make the 20-year-old shuttles safe to fly.

"Until we're ready, we won't go fly again. I don't know when that might be," Parsons told reporters in a briefing Wednesday evening.

[Full Story]

Ah, crap. Perhaps someone can explain to me how NASA can send men to the moon, but 35 years later, given two and a half years and a billion dollars, they can't figure out how to keep insulating foam stuck to the side of a frickin gas tank?

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

Stupid poetic justice

Vardan Kushnir, notorious for sending spam to each and every citizen of Russia who appeared to have an e-mail, was found dead in his Moscow apartment on Sunday, Interfax reported Monday. He died after suffering repeated blows to the head.

[Full Story, emphasis added]

I think my italics pretty much speak for themselves.

Tasty beverage treat - only £42,000

An artist's latest work - a bottle of melted Antarctic ice - may have been stolen and drunk by a thirsty thief.

Artist Wayne Hill filled a two-litre clear plastic bottle with melted ice to highlight global warming.

But the artwork, valued at £42,500, went missing while on display at a literary festival, reports the Scotsman.

[Full Story]

The headline read: "Thief 'drinks' work of art." The headline should have read: "Thief drinks work of 'art.'"

And speaking of bad art

THIS year's edition of one of Europe's top summer arts events has been described as a pretentious catastrophe after angry audiences booed or walked out of a series of performances.

Critics attending the three-week Avignon theatre festival in southern France said it had plumbed new depths of intellectual obscurity and warned that a contempt for the mainstream public was placing the future of a national institution in jeopardy.

"What purgatory!" said the news magazine Le Point on its culture pages. "Loyal spectators are sad, disorientated and haggard." A commentator for the communist newspaper L'Humanite said this year's offerings were marked by "a triumphant sense of masturbatory autism". . . .

On Tuesday there were shouts of abuse during a show - part dance, part installation - by choreographer Christian Rizzo. Either the well was deep - a reference from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland - was accompanied by a cacophony of electronic noise that the audience found unbearable.

A two-part work titled A lovely blonde child and I apologise, in which actors draped dolls of young girls in lascivious postures over coffins, also drew boos of derision and was accused of being an incitement to pedophilia. . . .

Much of the audience walked out of After/Before, described as a piece of "theatre-dance-music-video" by director Pascal Rambert. The first 40 minutes are taken up by a film of interviewees answering the question, "If there were a huge catastrophe, a new flood, what would you bring with you from this world to the next?"

In the second half, 21 actors reproduce word for word the quotes from the film and then, having stripped off, perform them a third time in song and dance. "What have you got against us?" a spectator was heard to shout as he walked out in exasperation.

[Full Story]

You know the avant-garde has hit rock bottom when even the frogs find it pretentious.

Her Royal Who?

I think I knew this already, but it turns out that the Queen is a big Whovian:

Britain's Queen Elizabeth is a massive fan of the latest Dr Who series and has reportedly ordered a DVD box set for her holiday.

She rates Christopher Ecclestone [sic] as one of the best incarnations of the Doctor and was hugely disappointed when the actor quit after his first stint as the Time Lord.

Royal aides say the monarch is also a huge fan of the Daleks and she intends to spend her holiday evenings watching the series. . . .

The monarch has followed the programme since it began in 1963 with William Hartnell as the first of nine actors to play the famous hero.

By tradition, broadcasters give members of the British royal family recordings of their favourite shows before they are available in the shops and the queen's courtiers have ordered the 13-part DVD set from the BBC.

[Full Story]

(H/T: The Great Separation.)

People Exterminating Thousands of Animals


It looks like the nitwits at the animal-rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have been hoist on their own petard: 62 charges were recently laid against the organization for felony animal cruelty after allegations that they put down over 10,000 dogs and cats between 1998 and 2003.

Now, in the recent "Annual Philanthropy Issue" of Variety magazine, the Foundation for Biomedical Research took out a full-page ad listing celebrity members of PETA's "Honorary Committee" for their 25th anniversary celebration. The list includes the usual suspects: Pink, Charlize Theron, Woody Harrelson, Kim Basinger, and Moby, amongst others.

FBR's advice: "Fire your publicist."

(H/T: Museum of Left Wing Lunacy.)

July 26, 2005

Back on their feet again

After being grounded for two and a half years following the accidental destruction of Columbia in February 2002, the shuttle Discovery's STS-114 mission began flawlessly today from Cape Canaveral this morning.

In addition to resupplying the International Space Station, this shuttle flight is a test mission for a new suite of tools and techniques for inspecting and repairing the shuttle in the case of liftoff damage. This suite includes a 50-foot orbital inspection boom that enables the crew to look underneath the shuttle, and the Laser Camera System designed by Neptec Design here in Ottawa, which can detect irregularities as small as one millimeter. In addition, Discovery will be visually inspected from within the ISS.

Congratulations, NASA. Half the job is done. Now bring them back safely.

July 25, 2005

What's the Pentecostal word for "jihad"?

A controversial Toronto imam warned Public Safety Minister Anne McLellan at a closed-door meeting to stop "terrorizing" Canadian Muslims.

"If you try to cross the line I can't guarantee what is going to happen. Our young people, we can't control," Aly Hindy, the head of Scarborough's Salaheddin Islamic Centre, recalls telling the minister at the May meeting she held in Toronto with dozens of Muslim leaders.

The meeting was part of an effort by Ms. McLellan to reach out to Canadian Muslims amid complaints that the RCMP and Canadian Security Intelligence Service are engaging in racial profiling. . . .

He made the point to the minister. Several people who attended shrugged off the imam's remarks, but some Muslims and government agents later approached Mr. Hindy asking him to explain himself.

"The police came to me and said, 'This is a kind of threat,' and I said yes," he said. "But it's for the good of this country.

"And they said, 'Do you know some of the names of those people you expect to cause some problems?' And I said, 'You just open the telephone directory.'"

[Full Story]

You know, the last time I checked, we still had laws on the books against sedition.

New Doctor Who revealed

Well, not exactly. Everyone who cares already knows that David Tennant is to replace Christopher Eccleston in the second season of New Who, because we've already seen the hilarious "Barcelona" bit.

What we didn't know until now, though, is what the new Doctor was going to look like. Traditionally the Doctor has always sported a unique and outrageous costume: Tom Baker's infinite scarf, Jon Pertwee's ruffles and smoking jacket, Colin Baker's whatever-that-was. With the revival of the series in 2005, the producers decided that it was time for a change, and so Eccleston's costume was a completely inconspicuous leather jacket and pullover sweater. (This didn't stop Charles Dickens from saying he looked like a "navvy" or a fellow time-traveller to taunt him with "U-boat captain.")

Now the BBC has released new publicity photos for Tennant's run as the Tenth Doctor. It looks like this time they've taken a halfway approach: a brown trenchcoat and pinstriped suit that look like they came out of a gangster movie set in the 40s. (Oddly enough this was an idea I had for a new Doctor's costume back in about 1990 when I dabbled for a while writing some fan fiction, only I preferred greys to browns.)

Tennant says:

I think we've come up with something distinctive that's both timeless and modern, with a bit of geek chic and of course, a dash of Time Lord! Most importantly Billie [Piper] tells me she likes it - after all she's the one who has to see me in it for the next nine months!

[Full Story]

Filming of the second season also started today. Only 4 months to Christmas!

Incidentally, I haven't had anything to say about the new Who series, although I meant to. Don't take my silence as indifference. It isn't. It's great! I'm thrilled to see Doctor Who back on the air again as it was such an important part of my childhood.

Sign I'm Getting Old #1,483: Tennant is the first actor to play the Doctor who is younger than me. [shudder]

In fact, I've been so impressed with Christopher Eccleston's performance as the Doctor that I've started looking into other things that he's done: most recently, 28 Days Later and Jude. Incidentally, the latter also includes a bit part by Tennant as a "Drunk Undergraduate," which got me thinking: Is this the first time that two actors who played the Doctor have ever appeared together in a non-Doctor Who-related production? And the answer is no. In fact, the first two Doctors, William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton both appeared in a movie called Escape in 1948, fully 15 years before Doctor Who went on the air. Hartnell later appeared with the third Doctor, Jon Pertwee, in 1953's Will Any Gentleman...?. Finally, in 1993, Jon Pertwee, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, and Sylvester McCoy all appeared (with a few other Dr. Who alumni) in a TV movie titled The Airzone Solution, but frankly there are so many of them in one production that I doubt it was coincidental.

July 24, 2005

"Oops! I did it again."

One of the blogosphere's undeniable theorems:


  • t is time, and
  • r is the probability that a postmodern reformed whatsit gets fed up with us Modernist, Platonic, Evangelical Philistines and shuts down his blog in a huff,


  • as t increases, r approaches 1.

Case in point. Again.

July 23, 2005

Table 14

I just came back from a wedding reception. It's been practically a yearly ritual every July: one of my friends, usually named Steve, gets married. Oddly enough, I don't seem to get invited to weddings in any other month, and this time it wasn't a Steve, as I've run out of single friends named Steve.

One thing about the yearly wedding ritual that always seems to be a universal constant: According to the seating plan, I am always seated at Table 14, which is always adjacent to the kitchen. Intellectually I understand perfectly that the relatives of the bride and groom get the preferred seats near the head table, but more viscerally I have to wonder if my "friends" all secretly hate me and want me out of their line of sight for a few hours.

Actually, more than anything else this fact affirms my faith in God. It is proof that there is a rational intelligence behind the workings of the universe. Everything else in my life may be completely uncertain, but I can always be sure that every July, I'll be at a friend's wedding eating a catered meal in my seat at Table 14, near the kitchen.

And when the day comes for (God forbid) my own wedding, I've added one note to my plans: The head table is to be numbered 14 and, if possible, situated by the kitchen. After all, who am I to argue with Providence?

Better browsers breed better lowlives

It's been said that advances in antibiotic and pharmaceutical biology may, in the long run, breed "superbugs" - bacteria and viruses that are resistant to drugs and therefore incurable.

It looks like the same thing is starting to happen with Web browsers. After about two years of using Mozilla Firefox as my principal browser - which, unlike IE until relatively recently, has had pop-up blocking as a standard feature all along - nonetheless in the last couple of weeks I am seeing an increase in pop-up windows anyway.

Looks like it's time for the Mozilla people to rethink a new blocking strategy.

July 22, 2005

Friday in the wild - July 21, 2005

Pottermania hits the blogosphere this week!

The Jollyblogger just doesn't get the fervour of many of Harry Potter's critics:

IMHO, evangelicals have gotten so wrapped up in moralism that we have lost the ability to read and understand a story. . . .

In all of the stuff I read about Harry Potter I see the same thing happening. There are a large number of Christians who only want to talk about the witchcraft and spend lots of time accusing Rowling of trying to seduce their children into the occult.

[Read Harry Potter is Heating Up Again]

Manasclerk adds:

They're still not great books but can you think of a kids book that is? They're also fairly conservative books, as the guy Wayne quotes points out. Evil is evil, not simply misunderstood. Bad people get what's coming to them. Heroes aren't the strong or the powerful but those who are willing to lay down their lives for their friends. Or people. Or even an idea, like "freedom" or "liberty."

Most kid books are conservative, you know. Children are incredibly reactionary. They live in a much nastier world than their parents think that they do, and I'm not just talking about middle schoolers. Children live in a world that is constantly falling apart, a world with very real monsters like bully kids or older siblings or pressures to be good, even. Parents rip them from the worlds that they create in play, a catastrophe that can happen at any time, without warning it seems to them. They see a darker world than they admit to their parents.

Of course, some kids don't know this fear, having been protected from it by their parents. They are sad creatures. They feel amoral to me, as if something human in them was lost. I wouldn't want to have them on my team, and I certainly wouldn't trust them in a fight. Give me someone who has been afraid, truly afraid.

[Read Harry Potter: Won't Someone Think of the Children? Oh, the Humanity!]

Doug Groothuis risks wrath and shunning from curmudgeonly folk everywhere by changing the name of his blog to Culture Watch.

Ryan DeBarr is making an effort to understand the "emerging church" movement-that's-not-a-movement-but-a-"conversation." Specifically, he has been reading Jacques Derrida and trying to grasp deconstruction, and he doesn't see what all the fuss is about:

Toward the end of the book, Derrida quotes Rousseau: "[Writing] substitutes exactness for expression." To Rousseau, writing is a substitute, or representation, of reality. The representation is prone to limited to modified by the one who is writing. And again by the one who is reading. This makes accuracy difficult, but the greatest violence comes through the conventions of literacy. Words are given fixed meanings, and we tend to force reality to fit our words, rather than conform our words to reality. Over time, written language becomes detached from reality and this obscures the truth.

But never does Derrida say that the truth does not exist or that the truth is unknowable. I grant that I have not read all of Derrida's books, nor have I ready any substantial amount of Foucault. In fact, Derrida repeats Rousseau's belief that truth can be known through the senses.

[Read Words cannot express]

I saw this on CPAC thanks to the magic of videotape and a helpful landlord; The Evil Traditionalist provides the transcript of Dr. John Patrick's testimony before the <deep breath> Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs:

Dr. John Patrick's testimony before the Canadian Senate Committee regarding the same-sex marriage bill is simply outstanding. He deserves a medal of honor for this speech, petulant interruptions by some of the senators notwithstanding.

A Canadian reader sent this to me on Friday, and I've just finally gotten to it in its entirety today. It's long - that's what was taking me so long - but it is without question one of the finest affirmations of what is good and right in a society gone completely wrong that I have yet seen. It is well worth your time to read.

[Read A Canadian Who Makes Some Sense]

Nature abhors a vacuum, and with the relative sanity of Googlers last week comes relative insanity this week.

Till next time, enjoy.

If first you don't succeed, exploit, exploit again

They're not nearly subtle enough to pull off this kind of con, but you have to give the Church of ScientologyTM credit for persistence:

It's the belief system which actor Tom Cruise says has changed his life and made him a better man.

But the controversial Church of Scientology was criticised last week after claims it was preying on people caught up in the London bombings.

Packs of yellow-shirted believers arrived at the scenes of carnage, offering "spiritual healing" to distraught relatives - and £3 booklets titled How To Improve Conditions In Life.

[Full Story]

The remainder of the story recounts the author's experience at London's ScientologyTM headquarters, taking the "free personality" test and various other aspects of the cult's hard sell tactics.

This isn't the first time the cult has tried to take advantage of tragedy to recruit new suckers. After the September 11 attacks, FOX News scrolled a phone number offering "National Mental Health Assistance" - only the number was 1-800-FOR-TRUTH, well known as Scientology'sTM info line.

(H/T: Religion News Blog.)

July 21, 2005

And now . . . this - Jul. 21/05

How could he have kept something this good to himself?

A man who called a radio station to brag about his role in a bank robbery may be regretting picking up his phone.

The caller described the exact amount of cash taken, noted an employee was in on it and bragged that the group had since been "buyin' Louis Vuitton this, Blass that, everything, man."

Authorities quickly traced the call back to Washington's cell phone and arrested him.

[Full Story]

(H/T: Tim Ellsworth.)

Mmmm . . . beer

And not just any beer: open-source beer.

Now, if someone would invent a good freeware cigar.

July 20, 2005

And now . . . this - Jul. 20/05

Suport publik edumukashun

The word "fail" should be banned from use in classrooms and replaced with the phrase "deferred success" to avoid demoralising pupils, a group of teachers has proposed.

Members of the Professional Association of Teachers (PAT) argue that telling pupils they have failed can put them off learning for life.

[Full Story]

I wouldn't want to call the good people at PAT "stupid." Let's just say they suffer from "misplaced intelligence."

(H/T: In the Agora.)

Beamed up one last time

James Doohan, the burly chief engineer of the Starship Enterprise in the original "Star Trek" TV series and motion pictures who responded to the command "Beam me up, Scotty," died early Wednesday. He was 85.

Doohan died at 5:30 a.m. (1330 GMT) at his Redmond, Washington, home with his wife of 28 years, Wende, at his side, Los Angeles agent and longtime friend Steve Stevens said. The cause of death was pneumonia and Alzheimer's disease, he said.

[Full Story]

That's too bad. Scotty, at least in the original series, was always my favourite character. Sadly, this was inevitable, as Doohan was only a few months younger than the late DeForest Kelley, who died in 1999.

Nerd alert: A nitpick with CNN's reportage: No one ever said "Beam me up, Scotty" on the original series. Mr. Scott responded to that command precisely once, in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home in 1986.

One small step

36 years ago today, Neil Armstrong stepped off a ladder, flubbed his lines, and made history by being the first man to stand on the moon.

In honour of the occasion, the good people at Google have set up Google Moon, using the Google Maps interface to display some NASA moon imagery commemorating the six moon landings.

If you zoom right in, you can almost see human artifacts!

July 19, 2005

Big churches: a heaven's eye view

In honour (as dubious as that may be) of the inaugural service in Joel Osteen's new Lakewood Church, I thought I'd do some Google sightseeing this week of some big or significant churches.

Here, for example, is the culprit itself: the 16,000-seat Lakewood Church in Houston, formerly the Compaq Center, where the Houston Rockets used to play. This is now the largest church in the United States. And I thought my church, with around 1,700 regulars, was hard to get to know people . . .

But speaking of evangelical megachurches, here's one a little more my speed (not to mention a bit more meat than Osteen's gospel-free pabulum): Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, pastored by John MacArthur. I wonder if it looks as interesting from the ground as it does from the air?

Here is Canada's largest church: St.-Joseph's Oratory in Montreal. It is a Roman Catholic basilica, built between 1924 and 1967; the dome is second only to St. Peter's Basilica in size. Montreal has three other basilicas: Marie-Reine-du-Monde Cathedral, seat of the Archbishop of Montreal; Notre Dame Basilica; and St. Patrick's Basilica.

Taking a turn for the unorthodox, the Community of Christ (formerly Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) temple in Independence, Missiouri is probably the most distinctive church building I've ever seen. That helical spire is just plain funky.

Way out in left field is the former Cedars of Lebanon complex in Los Angeles, a major Scientology centre (it used to be the world headquarters). Also check out their "spiritual headquarters" in Clearwater, Florida: the former Fort Harrison Hotel (with the tile roof and swimming pool). The building to the east with all the square turrets is the so-called "Super Power" building, which has been unfinished for a number of years. (Guess those powers aren't super enough to cough up some cash). Scientology owns something like $40 million worth of downtown Clearwater, and have driven away all the legitimate business.

And now . . . this - Jul. 19/05

Toronto City Hall: full of used pa nang, again

The perennial socialist municipal government in Toronto, which never met a form of political correctness it doesn't like, has done it again.

Toronto native Natalie Glebova won the Miss Universe contest in Bangkok a few weeks ago, and has since become a goodwill ambassador of sorts for Thailand. So it's not surprising that the organizers of the annual Tastes of Thailand festival wanted to invite Ms. Glebova as the star attraction this weekend.

No way, said City Hall. The rules for Nathan Phillips Square ban "[a]ctivities which degrade men or women through sexual stereotyping, or exploit the bodies of men, women, boys or girls solely for the purpose of attracting attention," so no beauty queens allowed. She can be "an individual of note contributing to our community," but not Miss Universe.

Read Mike Strobel's commentary in today's Toronto Sun.

This is the same city where, in 1991, mayor June Rowlands banned the Barenaked Ladies from playing in Nathan Phillips on New Year's Eve, because their name was deemed offensive. (Of course, the media attention only caused their career to skyrocket.) The next year, she banned the Salvation Army for "discriminatory policies" (since, as a Christian organization, they have an official position that homosexuality is immoral). Banning decent folks for stupid reasons is a Toronto tradition. Why stop now?

Business as usual in Miami-Dade, Floriduh

It was a rather unusual moment in Miami-Dade County bond court Friday morning when a woman waiting to approach the judge bared all.

Nicole Babb stripped off her clothes, raised her hands in the air and then got down on all fours as those in court looked on. . . .

Babb's bond was set at $5,000. She is accused of identity theft.

[Full Story]

That is not, I'll admit, the first charge I would think of laying.

Dew knot trussed yore spell chequer

Here's an ironic news report about the winner of this year's National Spelling Bee, held last week in Washington:

After two days of harrowing competition against some of the smartest and best spellers in the country, Anurag Kashyap of Poway, CA takes the top prize at the 78th Annual National Scripps Spelling Bee.

[Full Story]

Fair enough. But here's the third paragraph:

After spelling "appoggiatura," a melodic tone, the straight-A student raced over to his father and broke down in tears. He claims about $30,000 in prizes and a handsome trophy, not mention [sic] the admiration of kids and adults everywhere who had know [sic] idea how to spell most of the words the finalists correctly spelled with ease.

And the moral of the story is: Spelling bees aren't just for kids anymore.

July 18, 2005

Well worth the wait


and the Absorbing Read

Pardon me if I don't blog too much over the next day or so.

July 16, 2005

Just title this one . . .


and the Inconvenient Occasion

I've got one of these in my grubby little hand right now. No, literally, I've got it in my hand, and I'm typing with the other:

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince cover

Problem is, I'm busy. I've got a Sunday school lesson to prepare for and a bad case of writer's block. So apart from the 40-odd pages I read on the bus on the way back from the bookstore (which were quite interesting), I probably won't get to read much of it until tomorrow. Feh. I think something like this happened to me when Order of the Phoenix came out, too.

July 15, 2005

And now . . . this - Jul. 15/05

Me, me, me!

How many pop divas does it take to change a light bulb? One: she holds it in the socket and the universe revolves around her. Prima donna Mariah Carey is complaining that if it weren't for the September 11 attacks, her album Glitter would have done better:

Diva Mariah Carey confessed recently that she blames the terrorist attacks from 9/11 for her album's fiasco. Mariah said she released her album around 9/11 and, because of the tragedy, "Glitter" was shadowy.

She said: "I released it around 9/11. I became a punching bag. I was so successful that they tore me down because my album was at No. 2 instead of No. 1. The media was laughing at me and attacked me."

[Full Story]

Reality time: You suck. Furthermore, your voice attracts dogs from all over the neighbourhood.

And speaking of denial . . .

An Indian Muslim organisation has declared that it owns the world's most famous monument to love, the Taj Mahal.

The Sunni Waqf Board says it owns over 100,000 properties in the state of Uttar Pradesh, where the spectacular marble mausoleum is located.

It says since the Taj Mahal houses several Muslim graves it falls under its jurisdiction.

[Full Story]

Two can play at this game. Many of my ancestors are buried in Ireland, therefore it is mine. Hand it over.

And we all shine on

A 12-year-old boy who was firing bottle rockets at cars was chased into traffic Friday by an angry driver and killed by another car, authorities said. . . .

The death came soon after midnight in this small town south of Tacoma, where the preteen and a 12-year-old cousin had been hiding in bushes while shooting the bottle rockets, trooper Johnny R. Alexander said.

A car stopped, and passenger Tyrone Sherrod got out, chased the cousin and started beating him, Alexander said. The driver, Mario N. Haley, chased the other boy, who ran onto the highway and was struck by a car driven by a 17-year-old girl.

[Full Story]

Well, as the song says, instant karma's gonna get you.

Just to show that all the stupid doesn't come from the kids

Police apparently came prepared for gang warfare when they sent three squad cars and a helicopter in response to a 911 call. Instead, they found an 11-year-old girl who had thrown a rock to defend herself as neighborhood boys pelted her with water balloons.

Little Maribel Cuevas says she didn't mean to hurt the boy - who admitted to officers that he started the fight and was quickly released from the hospital after getting his head stitched up.

But police insist she's a criminal - she's being prosecuted on a felony charge of assault with a deadly weapon. "We responded. We determined a felony assault had taken place and the officers took the actions that were necessary," said Fresno Police Sgt. Anthony Martinez. . . .

Maribel, who speaks limited English, spent five days in juvenile hall with just one half-hour visit from her parents. She then spent about 30 days under house arrest, forced to wear a GPS ankle bracelet to monitor her whereabouts. She's due in court Aug. 3.

[Full Story]

Read the whole thing to see the full extent of the police overreaction to this hardened criminal. It must have been a slow day down at the cop shop.

No comment necessary

Martha Stewart is using some of her time under house arrest to write a guidebook for entrepreneurs who want to follow her path to business success.

[Full Story]

Friday in the wild - July 15, 2005

It's Friday, and that means it's time for the end-of-week roundup of interesting reading around the blogosphere. It was a busy week, making up for a couple of lacklustre ones.

Philosopher and theologian Douglas Groothius has a new blog: The Constructive Curmudgeon. How can I not plug it with a name like that?

My blog is called The Constructure [sic] Curmudgeon because I believe that truth-tellers, no matter how malligned [sic] or ignored, are crucial for living a serious and honest life. The curmudgeon is bothered by poppycock, humbug, bovine excrement, and any form of lies or intellectually lazy communication or inauthentic living. Curmudgeons have little tolerance for trendiness, cliches, or fashionable nonsense. Although they may be old and jaded, there hero is the little boy in the fable who said, "The emperor has no clothes." Indeed, curmudgeons denude pretense and prevarication for the sake of truth. That is the aim, the goal, the ideal - however inadquately [sic] realized. The curmudgeon himself needs to be corrected by fellow curmudgeons.

[Read Curmudgeonhood: Opening Salvo]

This curmudgeon agrees: allow me to point out that constructive, maligned, and inadequately were the words Dr. Groothius was reaching for. 8-)

Update: I have been informed by the good doctor himself that the correct spelling of his name is "Groothuis. Mea culpa; I'm especially embarrassed since my own name is frequently misspelled. This is why neither one of us calls himself the Infallible Curmudgeon, I'm sure.

Adrian Warnock caught my eye this week with a bit of speculative theology: Did Paul ever meet Jesus during his earthly ministry?

All my Christian life people have told me Paul never met Jesus during his ministry. I have somehow instinctively never quite believed it. Why you ask? The main reason is psychological. Paul was driven by such hatred to persecute christians it seems hard to believe he hadn't met the object of his fury. I suspect Paul had met Jesus, indeed I wonder whether many of Luke's Pharisee encounters were actually told to him by Paul.

[Read Did Paul meet Jesus when he was on earth?]

Don't forget to read the continuing discussion in the comments section.

I was going to highlight The Howling Coyote's excellent post on C. S. Lewis and Douglas Adams, but then he outdid himself on his other blog, The Texas Baptist Underground. James points out that certain fundamentalist "leaders"' attitude toward women stands in sharp relief to the Lord's:

Though Jesus sometimes leveled harsh words toward his enemies, he never did so toward a woman. Though Jesus often launched epithets toward the religious leaders of his day, never toward a woman.

In what opposition we find the ministry of Bob Gray to the noble portrait Scripture paints of Christ. Time after time after time I have heard Gray demean and humiliate women from the pulpit. If you have had any exposure to his ministry at all, and if you are honest, you will have to admit the same.

Heifer, whore, hussy, mammy-woofer, these colorful metaphors find their way into almost every sermon in some way or another and they are all used to describe women in general or sometimes even specific, individual women in Bob Gray's sermons.

[Read Demeaning the Fairer Sex]

("Mammy-woofer"? Never heard that one before.)

Here's a post from the Thinklings that caused a few waves over on the Fightin' Fundamentalist Forum. It turns out that the world's biggest rock star, of all people, has a better Christian testimony than the pastor of America's biggest church:

Okay, so Bono has a knack for using profanity. He is soft on ecumenicalism. He is probably a universalist or at least an inclusivist of some sort. He is "liberal" when it comes to politics and most social issues (including, I think, abortion and gay rights). Put all that on hold just for a second. Because when asked pointed "religious" questions by a mainstream journalist, Bono preaches the whole gospel - sin, grace, Jesus, the full deal. He even manages to contextualize it for his audience (in this case, the interviewer and the interviewer's readers), but the gospel of Jesus Christ is right there shining clearly.

[Read Bono Preaches the Gospel]

The award for "Most Incoherent New Blog of the Week" goes to Thucydides 67, an anonymous nitwit who apparently decided to grab the Blunderbuss O' TruthTM from above the mantle and go postal on pretty much everyone. Blogging while medicated should be outlawed. And that's all I have to say about that.

The Googlers have been sane this week; not a second's worth of search-engine weirdness has come my way.

Until next week, enjoy.

July 13, 2005

Let the television pre-emptions begin

NHL team owners and the NHL Players' Association have reached a tentative agreement that will end the NHL lockout.

Short version: The union caved. TSN has the details.

This is, of course, very good news for hockey fans, but very bad news for those of us who have been enjoying "Movie Night in Canada," which the CBC has been using to fill in the airtime they would normally need to broadcast Hockey Night in Canada. Too bad; they've been playing some really topnotch films; better, the CBC even likes to broadcast the letterboxed versions.

July 12, 2005

That was the race weekend that was

This week's Google Maps feature is racetracks again, the last weekend being a major one for open-wheel racing.

On Sunday, the British Grand Prix ran at Silverstone Raceway, one of the great old race tracks. Built on the site of an old RAF airbase, it is still a functioning airfield and is, in fact, the busiest airport in Great Britain on race weekend!

Despite being a great, fast track, however, this year's GP was rather dull, apart from a good fight for the lead between F1 championship points leader Fernando Alonso and Juan Montoya, who won.

On the other hand, the 20th running of Molson Indy Toronto was a real race. The Molson Indy track is a temporary street course run on and near the grounds of the Canadian National Exhibition, featuring a long front straight along Lakeshore Drive. The dark V shape in the parking lot is the footprint of the former Exhibition Stadium, where the Toronto Blue Jays played before the SkyDome Rogers Centre was constructed. It was rumbled in 1999. The island with all the diamond-shaped thingies is Ontario Place, an entertainment attraction that includes a major concert venue, a water park, and the Cinesphere, the world's first permanent IMAX theatre.

Local boy Paul Tracy and last year's winner Sebastian Bourdais duked it out for the first half of the race, until a fight for position out of pit row resulted in contact between them: Bourdais clipped Tracy's front wing off, cutting a tire and losing several positions. Tracy continued, incredibly, to hold the lead for several more laps until a yellow flag at a strategically poor moment closed the pits and caused him to run out of fuel. (Whoops.)

[Mario Dominguez slams into A. J. Allmendinger at the 2005 Molson Indy Toronto]Molson Indy Toronto is known as a race of attrition, hard on cars - and worse; racer Jeff Krosnoff died in the 1996 race after his car was launched off the track into a fence. The first 50 laps of this year's race were uncharacteristically tame. In the second half of the race, though, the carbon fibre was flying as collision followed collision, culminating in a spectacular smash involving A. J. Allmendinger and Mario Dominguez that all but shredded both cars. In the end, Justin Wilson took the chequered flag, with Oriol Servia and Canadian Alex Tagliani joining him on the podium.

July 11, 2005

He doesn't look a day over 480

Over at White Noise, H.C. points out that yesterday was the birthday of none other than John Calvin. He was born 495 years ago on July 10, 1509.

July 09, 2005

And now . . . this - July 9/05

From the Hall of Dubious Achievements

Daredevil skateboarder Danny Way rolled down a massive ramp at nearly 50 mph and jumped across the Great Wall of China on Saturday, becoming the first person to clear the wall without motorized aid, an event sponsor said.

Way botched the landing on his first attempt but then successfully completed the jump across the 61-foot gap four times, adding 360 degree spins on his last three tries, sponsor Quiksilver, Inc. said.

"I was aware of the dangers and my heart was pumping in my chest the whole time, but I managed to pull it off with the help of my team, and I'm honored to have my visions embraced by the people of China," Way said in a statement.

[Full Story]

Yeah, but could he be seen from space?

Once again, the secret word is . . .

Ouch. Ouch, ouch, and ouch.

Today was again the day of the traditional San Fermin festival in Pamplona, Spain, featuring the yearly "running of the bulls":

[Some guy gets trampled]

Who thought of this tradition, anyway? "Hey, Fernando, I'm bored." "Me too, Salvador. Hey, I know, why don't we get completely blasted and taunt some larged horned beasts?"

July 08, 2005

And so it begins . . .

Well, that didn't take long. Only one day after a group of Islamist barbarians bombed four locations in London, the woo-woo crowd has already started formulating conspiracy theories. After all, it's an undeniable rule of life that there is no such thing as coincidence or accident, Western governments are infallible and omnipotent, nothing can possibly take them by surprise.

Here are a couple of the ideas I've heard tossed around on the radio so far today. Have a few grains of salt on hand:

  • Tony Blair did it. The Labour government masterminded the bombings to manufacture a crisis that will legitimize the implementation of national ID cards, currently considered a very unpopular idea.
  • The Joooooos did it. Benjamin Netanyahu, who is in London, was warned not to leave his hotel early yesterday morning. (Remember the rumours that circulated after 9/11 about all the Jews who were supposedly warned not to go into work at the World Trade Center that day?)
  • Rudy Giuliani was there. In fact, Giuliani was about a block away from Liverpool Station when it blew up. No one has yet proposed a good reason why this should be suspicious. But there's no such thing as coincidence, remember?


And now . . . this - Jul. 8/05

Unclear on the concept

London was the scene of carnage on Thursday after a series of deadly blasts but American R&B crooner Omarion, who suffered no injury or inconvenience, wants people to pray for him. . . .

He was in London for Saturday's Live 8 show, his publicist Shana Gilmore told Reuters from Los Angeles. Asked why anyone should pray for him, Gilmore said, "He wasn't hurt or anything, but just the fact that he was there and all that."

[Full Story]

Maybe we should all pray that no more narcissistic R&B singers will be inconvenienced by terrorist bombings?

Life imitates The Simpsons

A melon caused a Cambodian truck to overturn, killing one person and injuring 30, officials said on Thursday.

The melon rolled under the truck's brake pedal and the vehicle overturned as the driver tried to unjam it, they said.

[Full Story]

The remaining survivors were rescued by . . . let's say, Moe.

At least the walls aren't oozing blood

One could say that St. Mark United Church of Christ is bee-deviled. The church in Clarion County, about 60 miles north of Pittsburgh, has been infested with bees in its walls for about seven years. The church tried an exterminator and that didn't work. Now the problem has gotten so bad that honey oozes through its walls.

[Full Story]

On the other hand, hey, free honey.

Note they do not so much fly, as plummet!

First one sheep jumped to its death. Then stunned Turkish shepherds, who had left the herd to graze while they had breakfast, watched as nearly 1,500 others followed, each leaping off the same cliff, Turkish media reported.

In the end, 450 dead animals lay on top of one another in a billowy white pile, the Aksam newspaper said. Those who jumped later were saved as the pile got higher and the fall more cushioned, Aksam reported.

[Full Story]

Even lemmings don't hurl themselves over cliffs for real. And tell me that this reporter didn't have a blast writing that second paragraph.

Coincidentally, Pete actually found a theological point to make about this sort of thing.

Friday in the wild - July 8, 2005

Thanks to Canada Day, I skipped last week's installation of Friday in the Wild. So this week, I'm posting two weeks' worth of stuff, which really wasn't all that much to begin with. I hope the blog posts haven't gotten too stale!

The Howling Coyote has started his C. S. Lewis reading with Surprised by Joy and so far, he's pretty impressed:

How do we view God when we approach him? I imagine a lot of people, and not just children, view God as a celestial Santa Clause whose only purpose is to be there, on the ready, to be conjured up when we need him most to make some change in our lives which, in our view, will make us happier.

How many times do we approach him "without love, without awe, even without fear"? How often have we expected him to just show up on our bequest, not "as Savior, nor as Judge, but merely as a magician; and when He" has done what we require of Him, we suppose he should "simply - well, go away."

What a tremendous insight into our sinful, selfish thinking about God! It makes me think now when I approach God in prayer, am I approaching him right? It makes me wonder what portrait I am painting of God to my children. How can I convey the proper attitude toward God that they should have - the proper attitude in prayer, in worship, in their thinking, in their relationship with him?

[Read How Do You View God?]

J. Mark Bertrand takes a well-aimed swipe at the purveyors of bland "Christian fiction" in the Christian Booksellers Assocation:

The CBA is not a bastion of great books - or even good ones. More often than not, I pick up a CBA novel only to find it unreadable. All I can think is that the standard for publication is too low. Of course, this isn't true of every CBA title. (Some people reading this will already have their hackles up. "If you concede that not all CBA titles are like this," they wonder, "then how can you paint with such a broad brush?" In other words, if there are exceptions to the rule, how can you still maintain that there's a rule? Hopefully the absurdity of the objection speaks for itself.) There are certainly - to borrow a phrase from Paste Magazine - "signs of (aesthetic) life" in the CBA, but if you ask me, the way to nurture them is not to start pretending that they aren't bucking the trend. CBA readers, writers and apiring writers can be a defensive lot, and I'm as reluctant as the next person to cause offense, so there's a natural tendency to curb well-meaning criticism. I do it all the time. I will probably start doing it again once this post is up. But for now, I'm going to make an effort at transparency, even if it results in a certain type of reader writing me off as uninformed, unfeeling or unsaved.

[Read The [Same Old] New Christian Fiction]

As so often happens, the debate that ensued in Mark's comments section makes as good, or better, reading. Incidentally, he references an article from World Magazine, "Out of the Ghetto," that makes good reading as well.

Following up on yesterday's terrorist bombing in London, Adrian Warnock reports that the situation could have been a lot worse, if not for a few fortuitous circumstances:

I give thanks for two remarkable coincidences which seem likely to have contributed to the survival of victims because these circumstances facilitated medical care getting to the victims quicker: Firstly, the bomb on a bus went off outside the headquarters of the British Medical Association where doctors were attending meetings and were able to attend victims immediately. Secondly, a meeting of trauma doctors just happened to be occuring at the Royal London Hospital which meant that 18 top trauma doctors could quickly be airlifted to the scenes of these disasters to treat patients who remained trapped.

[Read Giving thanks in the middle of the disaster]

Is it proper to thank God for Providence? Doesn't matter, I'm going to anyway.

The good people at the World Magazine Blog announce the award for world's ugliest dog. Keep children, clocks, and mirrors out of the room before clicking.

Finally, judging by the Google searches that hit me in the past couple of weeks, we just had a full moon or something:

Until next time, enjoy.

July 07, 2005

Barbarians attack London

Four explosions have racked London this morning: three blasts in the subway system and one on a bus.

At the time of writing, 43 persons are confirmed dead and close to 1000 are injured.

A group of barbarians calling itself the "Secret Organization of al-Qaeda's Jihad in Europe" or some other such bombastic idiocy has claimed responsibility for the attack, citing the involvement of Britain in the fight against terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Adrian Warnock and Phil Johnson are both in London and are all right, though apparently Adrian's brother had a narrow escape. Both of them are reporting what they know.

July 06, 2005

Once again, Internet quizzes reflect life

Once again, the Internet confirms what I already knew about myself . . .

You scored as Reformed/Presuppositional Apologist. You do apologetics in the tradition of reformed and presuppostional apologists. You may have considered going to Westminster to study theology. You've studies important works by Van Til, Francis Schaeffer, and Alvin Plantinga.

What kind of apologist are you?
created with QuizFarm.com

P.S. Nice hairstyle, Cornelius.

The consequence of ideas comes up and bites an MP in the rear

Apparently, an N-Dippie MP from northern Ontario got a rude awakening this spring:

Charlie Angus and Celina Symmonds had their lives turned upside down when they were told by their parish priests that they could no longer take communion because their stands on social issues conflicted with church teachings.

Angus, a New Democrat MP who represents a northern Ontario riding, ran afoul of the Roman Catholic church over his support for the federal government's controversial same-sex marriage bill. . . .

Symmonds, who once managed the now closed Planned Parenthood office in Medicine Hat, Alta., had to find another place to be married about a month before her wedding in September 2002 after her priest discovered from a newspaper article that she was pro-choice on abortion.

"I was shocked," says Symmonds. "When you grow up Catholic you grow up awaiting the day where you can walk into that great big cathedral with your husband. It's something you dream of as a little girl.

"And it got crushed within seconds." . . .

Symmonds remembers well the day when the priest's assistant phoned, and she hasn't attended church since the incident. "It hurts that you're told that you're not welcome to be a part of something that was very precious in your life,'' she said, her voice trembling.

[Full Story]

Awwwwww, poor babies! If their church was so "precious" to them, they should have submitted themselves to what it teaches rather than demand that it accept every sort of errant nonsense that comes into fashion. Of course, the church is not required to practice the separation of church and state, though it seems Angus and his wife want to retain the separation of church and life.

(H/T: Angry in the Great White North.)

July 05, 2005

Looking for a little literary help

Last year, I declared a "No Science-Fiction September" on my reading schedule, after realizing that I had had an all-science-fiction August and deciding I needed a little variety in my reading habits. As a result I read a bunch of books that I wouldn't have done otherwise, and generally speaking I enjoyed the month immensely.

I want to do something similar this September. This time, however, I'd like your help. I blogged a few weeks ago that my exposure to Canadian literature has been woefully limited, and I'd like to correct that.

So I am soliciting suggestions from you, my faithful readers. What four or five Canadian novels should I spend September reading? Drop me a comment suggesting titles, along with a one-sentence synopsis of the books and why it's worth reading. A few general guidelines:

  • Already on the list is Stephen Leacock's Sunshine Sketches. My sister gave me a copy for Christmas, and I haven't started reading it yet, so this is as good a time as any to commit myself.
  • In a comment to another blog post, someone suggested that I ought to try a collection of Alice Munro's short stories. Can anyone suggest a title?
  • I would prefer to balance newer literature with older, e.g. if Life of Pi is on the list, then so is something considerably older such as Barometer Rising.
  • I don't want to re-read anything I've read before, so Life of Pi is not actually going to get on the list.
  • Novels focused arond aberrant sexual relationships are severely frowned upon. I really have no interest in reading about adultery, homosexuality, child sexual abuse, or affairs with bears, no matter how many Governor-General Awards it may have won.
  • Votes for The English Patient need not apply. (Suggestions for other works by Michael Ondaatje are welcome.)

In the end: No voting, no random drawing, nothing like that: I'll just take all your suggestions under consideration and choose the ones that I find most appealing. I want to start gathering these in mid-August to make sure they're on hand for September, so selection will run until, say, August 7.

Help me out!

And now . . . this - July 5/05

Oh, come on . . .

A Russian astrologer is suing Nasa for crashing a probe into a comet, claiming it has distorted her horoscope.

Marina Bai is seeking $300m (£170m) in damages, saying the probe's impact on Comet Tempel 1 violated her "life and spiritual values." . . .

"It is obvious that elements of the comet's orbit and associated ephemera will change after the explosion, which interferes with my practice of astrology and deforms my horoscope," Ms Bai told the Izvestia daily newspaper.

[Full Story]

Astrologers. You gotta love 'em. They're so flaky they could keep the Head & Shoulders people in business singlehandedly.

Woo hoo!

That Blogger-related formatting problem I've been complaining about for almost two weeks has been fixed.

The good folks at Blogger made some necessary formatting changes for the implementation of Blogger Images, which unfortunately broke the formatting of normal posts on many Blogger blogs, including mine.

Basically, they've made those formatting changes optional. The fix is posted over at Blogger Buzz. (Love the blue and orange!)

July 04, 2005

Another coupla reasons to like Google Maps

As much as I watch racing on TV, I never really get a good sense of the shape of the track. Ovals are self-evident, of course, but road and street tracks are often a little bit difficult to visualize from ground level.

Once again, Google Maps comes through.

Here, for example, is the Magny-Cours track in France, site of yesterday's Grand Prix of France. Check out the long left-handed hairpin, a rarity in Formula 1, where the vast majority of races run clockwise, including this one. Had Michael Schumacher won the race instead of Fernando Alonso, he would have broken a record: no one has ever won the same Grand Prix event more than seven times.

And here is the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, the 1.5-mile tri-oval where yesterday's IRL Argent Mortgage 300 was held. Tony Kanaan won this race in one of the closest finishes ever in IRL, edging out Dan Wheldon and Vitor Meira by a nose. I'm not the biggest fan of oval tracks, but the speeds open wheel race cars can attain on tri-ovals and other super speedways make for good racing. (My favourite race of the season, prior to the CART/IRL split, was not Indy, but the Michigan 500 held at the Michigan International Speedway in Brookyn, MI.)

Finally, here's one of my favourite courses: Burke Lakefront Airport, home of the Grand Prix of Cleveland, always one of the best races in the ChampCar World Series. Paul Tracy took the checkered flag last Sunday for the first time since 1993, which also happened to be the first time I watched this particular race. Even though the airport is a very busy one for the rest of the year, the race lays so much rubber on the track that the racing lines remain visible in the satellite photo.


Seriously, this is very cool, although I am waiting to hear what the usual crowd of "prophecy" doomsayers has to say about it ("Revelation 6:13! Stars falling from the sky! We're DOOMED! Doomed, I tells ye!"):

A 400-kilogram NASA probe successfully smashed into a comet early Monday, a strike scientists hope will help them learn more about the origins of the solar system.

It's the first time a spacecraft has touched a comet, setting off a burst of light in the sky about 130 million kilometres from Earth.

[Full Story]

Now this is the kind of science I really like: finding new and interesting and big ways to smash stuff.

July 01, 2005

Happy Canada Day 2005

Once again, Ottawa is the home today of Canada's biggest street party on this, our 138th birthday.

Last year, on the Crusty Curmudgeon's first Canada Day, I began a practice of collecting Canadian patriotic songs and writing up a thumbnail history of them. I started, understandably, with our national anthem. This year's entry is "The Maple Leaf Forever": a song which could have been, and almost was.

In October 1867, Alexander Muir, principal of the elementary school in the village of Leslieville (now part of Toronto), was searching for the theme of a Confederation-celebrating poem, which he wanted to enter in a contest. While he was walking with local businessman George Leslie, a maple leaf fell from a tree and stuck to the arm of Leslie's jacket.

The maple tree under which they were walking still stands at Memory Lane and Laing Street.

Leslie suggested to Muir that since the maple leaf was a symbol of Canada, he should build his text around it. Muir had found his theme; he quickly penned a poem and had it in the mail within hours. It won second prize.

Here is the text:

In days of yore, from Britain's shore,
Wolfe, the dauntless hero, came,
And planted firm Britannia's flag
On Canada's fair domain.
Here may it wave, our boast, our pride,
And joined in love together,
The Thistle, Shamrock, Rose entwine
The Maple Leaf forever.

The Maple Leaf, our emblem dear,
The Maple Leaf forever.
God save our Queen, and heaven bless
The Maple Leaf forever.

At Queenston Heights and Lundy's Lane
Our brave fathers, side by side,
For freedom, homes, and loved ones dear
Firmly stood and nobly died;
And those dear rights which they maintained
We swear to yield them never!
Our watchword ever more shall be
The Maple Leaf forever!


Our fair Dominion now extends
From Cape Race to Nootka Sound;
May peace forever be our lot,
And plenteous store abound:
And may those ties of love be ours
Which discord cannot sever,
And flourish green o'er Freedom's home
The Maple Leaf forever!


A few explanatory notes for those who may not understand all the allusions Muir makes:

  • James Wolfe was the general who established British rule over Canada, defeating the French forces of Louis-Joseph de Montcalm on the Plains of Abraham on September 13, 1759. Both generals lost their lives in this decisive battle.
  • Queenston Heights was the location of a major battle of the War of 1812, in which the forces of General Isaac Brock successfully repelled an American invasion over the Niagara River at Queenston on October 13, 1812. Brock himself died in the battle; the Canadian War Museum displays his uniform, with a bullet hole through the breast.
  • The Battle of Lundy's Lane took place on July 14, 1814 in Niagara Falls. It was the bloodiest battle ever fought on Canadian soil and the last attempt ever made by an American army to invade Canadian territory.
  • Cape Race is the southeastern corner of the Avalon Peninsula in Newfoundland. As a point of interest, the lighthouse that stood on the cape in Muir's day now stands on the lawn of the Museum of Science and Technology here in Ottawa.
  • Nootka Sound is an inlet on the western shore of Vancouver Island.
  • The thistle, shamrock, and rose are, of course, the national flowers of Scotland, Ireland, and England, respectively.

Some of these references pose an interesting conundrum. Neither Nootka Sound nor Cape Race were part of Canada in 1867. British Columbia joined Confederation in 1871, and Newfoundland in 1949. However, it is known that Muir made several revisions to "The Maple Leaf Forever," and it is also possible that he employed a little poetic license (or perhaps even wishful thinking).

Here is a low-quality MP3 of a military band playing "The Maple Leaf Forever." The music, as well as the words, is Muir's; unsatisfied with any tunes available for sale, he wrote his own.

Muir paid $30 for the printing of 1,000 copies of "The Maple Leaf Forever," no small amount for 1867, and never received back his money in sales. Nonetheless, the poem became so popular that it was practically Canada's unofficial national anthem. However, by the mid-20th century, it had fallen out of favour, probably partly because it was perceived as "anti-French." Of course, being strongly pro-English is not the same as being anti-French. Muir praises General Wolfe, but he does not vilify General Montcalm. Both men are regarded as Canadian heroes. As a staunch Presbyterian and a member of the Orangemen, it was only natural that Alexander Muir's patriotism had a strong British, Protestant flavour. However, he was sensitive to the fact that in Confederation French and English were joined together as Canadians, so in one revision to the first verse, he wrote: "The Lily, Thistle, Shamrock, Rose, / The Maple Leaf forever."

In 1997, the CBC's "Metro Morning" program in Toronto ran a contest to find new, more politically sensitive lyrics to "The Maple Leaf Forever," and began to promote it to Canadians. Unlike Muir's original, this bland ode to the land is divorced from any distinctive Canadian history or heritage, and the less said about it, the better.

A few facts about the maple leaf, Canada's national symbol:

  • Its first documented use as a Canadian symbol was by the Societé Saint-Jean-Baptiste, in 1834. It appeared as part of Canadian military emblems in both World Wars.
  • There are many varieties of maple tree, but the Canadian maple leaf is patterned after the hard sugar maple. The stylized leaf on the Canadian flag has 11 points; a natural leaf typically has more than twice as many.
  • The maple leaf flag became the official flag of Canada on February 15, 1965. It was chosen out of nearly 6,000 submissions.
  • The exact size and placement of the maple leaf on the flag was determined after extensive testing in the National Research Laboratory Wind Tunnel. The Canadian flag is therefore the only one in the world to have undergone aerodynamic testing before being released.
  • Along the same lines, the Canadian flag is unique in that the white "pale" (vertical stripe) covers one-half the flag's area instead of one-third.