June 26, 2007

But then again . . .

Perhaps I spoke too soon.

Once again I made one of my regular forays this evening to parts distant under the auspices of OC Transpo. Between where I live and the nearest bus stop is a large condominium complex with some pretty nice terraced garden beds. As I sauntered past one of them, something squeaking caught my attention. When I turned to look, I nearly jumped out of my skin.

Bloaty has a family.

Seeing one dead skunk in an urban environment is unusual. Seeing a live skunk is a real rarity. But seeing two . . . ? Yep, there were Mrs. Bloaty and Bloaty Jr., rooting around in the perennials. (Given that I'm not an expert at sexing skunks, I'm assuming it was Mrs. Bloaty.)

Last year, I might have occasionally seen a rabbit hopping around in the shrubbery. This summer it's not unusual to see two of them in the same night. They even chase each other around and get into fights. I've started calling the condo property "Australia." Next summer they are going to be hip-deep in bunnies and the high-rises are all going to sink into the giant network of rabbit holes. But now the skunks are moving in too; it's becoming a regular zoo.

It was bad enough coming across one dead skunk. I definitely don't want to cross paths with a family of freaked-out, live skunks.


The Great Roadkill Hostage Situation ends peacefully

So last night I was unfortunately compelled to take another trip up to the bus stop. Knowing that Bloaty the Roadkill Skunk (thank you Carla!) was lying by the side of the road destroying all that is good and healthy and wholesome about breathable air, I began making mental plans to find an alternate route downtown.

Happily, it appears that the city people donned their bright yellow PVC hazmat suits and carted Bloaty away. So hooray for that.

Interestingly, Bloaty's penultimate resting place is now marked by a small patch of dead grass. I knew skunks were noxious, but that strikes me as downright Lovecraftean.

June 24, 2007

I think I've discovered the worst smell in the world

As I was walking to the bus stop last night, I spotted a curious piece of roadkill. It looked like an enormous black squirrel that had been hit on the road, knocked flat on its back, and become quite bloated as it decomposed.  If that thing gets punctured, I thought to myself, this neighbourhood will be unlivable.

How mistaken I was.

When I walked past on my way to church this morning, I noticed that - for some reason I cannot adequately explain - someone actually approached this carcass and turned it over. It's not an obese squirrel; it's a skunk.

At 10 this morning, the dead skunk smell was noticeable from half a block away, and I could already feel my stomach starting to turn. When I came back in the early afternoon, it was still there and flies were starting to gather.  I breathed through my mouth the rest of the way home. If someone from the city doesn't dispose of Pepe le Pew by tomorrow, you won't be able to walk up the street without a gas mask.

That is all. I'm just testing out a new blogging client. Substantial posting should resume shortly.

June 10, 2007

Reclaiming History - holy moly!

A few days ago, Fred Butler posted a favourable impression of prosecuting attorney Vincent Bugliosi (best known as the prosecutor of Charles Manson and the author of the bestselling true-crime book Helter Skelter, based on the Manson murders), with respect to his newest book, Reclaiming History, about the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

At the time I had already placed a request for the book at the public library. It arrived (by surprise) yesterday, so I went to pick it up.

My first impression: This book is heavy. Anvil heavy. Family Bible heavy. New York City phone book heavy. I was reading it on the bus, and now my arms ache just from holding it up. It's oversized and still comes in at over 1500 pages - and if that isn't enough reading for you, it includes a CD-ROM just for the endnotes. When it gets published in paperback, I think they might have to do it in two or three volumes, because I don't think perfect binding is even physically capable of containing that many pages.

Anyway, I'm about 100 pages in, maybe a little more, and I'm quite enjoying it. Bugliosi makes no secret of his contempt for JFK conspiracy theories, and this new book purports to debunk them. A few years ago I was willing to entertain the possibility that JFK's death was not all it seemed. But then I read Gerald Posner's book Case Closed. No more. I'm fully convinced that John F. Kennedy died a meaningless death at the hand of Communist and general failure Lee Harvey Oswald. Interestingly, I've skimmed a few sections of Bugliosi's book, and it looks like he really doesn't like Posner, even though they reach the same conclusions.

I've never tackled 1500 pages before in three weeks. It'll be interesting to see if I can finish Bugliosi off before I have to hand the book off to the next borrower. I'd hate to have to read such fascinating subject matter in shifts.

June 09, 2007

Slow news day

Apparently nothing important happened yesterday. A bawling rich girl went to jail, and the news media jumped the shark.

Jay Leno summed it up nicely (and since NBC really doesn't like their clips being posted, enjoy it while you can:

In other news, shuttle Atlantis had a perfect launch last evening, the first one I had watched in ages. It still gives me a thrill to see one of those machines lift off. But does anyone else's heart still stop for a moment when ground control reports "go at throttle up"?

June 07, 2007

7 random facts

I bin tagged!

Yeah, it was a while ago that Julie tagged me with this blog meme:

Each player starts with 7 random facts/habits about themselves. People who are tagged need to write on their own blog about their seven things, as well as these rules. You need to choose 7 people to get tagged and list their names. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them that they have been tagged and to read your blog!

I hope no one thinks I'm being a bad sport by not tagging seven people of my own, but it has been nearly a month. So here are my 7 random facts, which I am pretty sure I have never reavealed to anyone before, so consider it a world premiere.

  1. I prefer my video games 8-bit. Battlezone is still the best game ever made, bar none.
  2. I was a diehard Trekkie by the time I was 11 or 12, but without having ever seen a complete episode of Star Trek, or even most of them before 1 was 20. This was thanks to the short story adaptations by James Blish. The real thing didn't quite match up to my imagination.
  3. I have borrowed Larry Niven's A World Out of Time from the library four times, the latter three without realizing I had already read it once. Even so I still don't remember what it's about.
  4. I have been known on occasion to take a swig of Louisiana Hot Sauce from the bottle, though usually just to prove a point. Usually.
  5. My three biggest food weaknesses: Sour cream and onion potato chips, szegedi or gyulai sausage, and chicken wings.
  6. By my estimate I have listened to She's So Unusual by Cyndi Lauper at least 600 times, assuming at least twice a month and a lot more when the album was still current. "Time After Time" has been my favourite song since it reached #1 in 1984.
  7. When I first moved to Ottawa I bought a bicycle. I rode it home from downtown to Kanata, an approximate distance of 22 km. It was my first time on a bicycle in 4 years. I don't recommend it.

So there you go. Laugh. Enjoy.

June 06, 2007

And the Stanley Cup goes to . . . Disney

OK, I admit I'm hardly a hockey fan. It's something fun to watch with friends, or to go see live (if you can get - and afford - decent seats), but it's hardly something I usually go out of my way to watch. Especially with never-ending reruns of CSI that I haven't seen yet on every channel.

But there's something about it being the home team that makes even diehard hockey haters into temporary home-team cheerleaders. And I'm not a hater, just indifferent. Still, I felt pretty much the same way when I was living in Waterloo and the Jays cleaned up the World Series in 1992-93 (and then the 1994 baseball strike pretty much cooled my interest in baseball). Getting on the home-team bandwagon was the thing to do.

Oh well. That passed. Now that the Sens have lost the Stanley Cup to the Anaheim Ducks, a team named after, of all things, a Disney kids' movie, I can get off the bandwagon and back to my ordinary boring life. Also, the Sens won't be pre-empting Smallville anymore, at least until the fall.

June 05, 2007

I blew up the clinic real good

There is an informal group of anti-abortion advocates - really domestic terrorists - who have become disaffected with what they think is a lackluster response to the scourge of abortion by the mainstream pro-life movement. Calling themselves the Army of God, they consider themselves at war with the forces of evil, specifically the abortion industry. Infamous anti-abortion activists such as Paul Hill and clinic bomber Eric Rudolph have claimed to be members.

Movie Review
Soldiers in the Army of God
Directed by Marc Levin and Daphne Pinkerson
HBO, 2000
71 minutes

Soldiers in the Army of God is a 2000 HBO documentary directed by Marc Levin and Daphne Pinkerson, based on a February 1999 Esquire article titled "Neal Horsley and the Future of the Armed Abortion Conflict"1, by co-producer Daniel Voll. Like many of the documentaries I've viewed recently, this one is shot cinema verité-style: rather than editorializing, the creators just point the camera and let their subjects speak for themselves.

Neal Horsley is the webmaster of the radical anti-abortion Web site christiangallery.com. He and Jonathan O'Toole, a young radical anti-abortionist, also formerly maintained the Nuremberg Files, a Web page listing the names and addresses of abortionists and abortion-clinic employees. Any who were killed or maimed by anti-abortion violence were struck off the list.2 Horsley is additionally the founder of the Creator's Rights Party, an extremist political party advocating, amongst other things, Southern secession. En route to the White Rose Banquet - an annual gathering of the most radical of anti-abortionists - O'Toole remarks that if God told him to kill for the cause, he would kill.

Bob Lokey and Rev. Donald Spitz, webmaster of www.armyofgod.com.Bob Lokey lives in Alabama, where he has erected a giant, graphic anti-abortion billboard on his property. A trucker, he drives his rig to Washington D.C. to attend White Rose - as Lokey describes it, the "hardest core" of the pro-life movement. Though, he hastens to add, they are not hardcore enough for his liking. At the banquet he remarks to another attendee that he came hauling a load of ammonium nitrate; while he was sure it was purely for agricultural use, he expresses hope that there is an outside chance it might be used for something "non-agricultural." (Timothy McVeigh had an effective "non-agricultural" use for fertilizer.) And when Lokey starts talking to Neal Horsley about how he circumcised himself with a pocketknife, the weirdness factor shoots off the scale.

The centrepiece of Soldiers in the Army of God is a prison interview with convicted murderer Paul Hill, then biding his time on death row for the shooting of abortionist John Britton and a clinic escort in Pensacola in 1994. The documenters had already shown Hill, via the magic of home video, screaming "GOD! HATES! MURDERERS!" at the clinic. Now, awaiting execution, with a friendly grin on his face and no visible trace of remorse, he explains to the filmmakers how God told him to buy a gun and become a murderer. The irony of his situation must have escaped him.

Paul Hill Bad theology often begets worse theology. But for the Army of God, it also begets worse action. I don't even want to know what motivated Bob Lokey's self-circumcision; clearly he needs to read Paul's letter to the Galatians more closely. But nearly every major player in this documentary states, at some point, that if he felt God wanted him to kill for the sake of the unborn, he would kill. I've spoken at length elsewhere about why subjective feelings are a completely useless means of knowing God's will. God has made known how he feels about murder: what is so hard to understand about "Thou shalt not kill"? But a Paul Hill has a feeling that God wants him to blow away an abortionist, and that trumps all other considerations, including what God has actually revealed. The very assertion shuts down all arguments to the contrary. Bad theology begets bad consequences.4

Romans 13 reads:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. . . . for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. (Rom. 13:1,3-4)

God has given the sword to the civil government: that is, they are his ordained instruments of justice, authorized, if necessary, to kill lawbreakers. Notably, Paul does not say this power is granted to the Church or to individual Christians. Outside of individuals in civil or military service, or churches exercising discipline on its members, Christians are simply not given the authority to administer justice, execute wrongdoers, or wage war. Violent vigilantism, in short, is anti-Christian. This conduct is not even (as the cliché puts it) taking the law into one's own hands; it is lawlessness. I get no pleasure in seeing a professing Christian like Paul Hill executed, but he has received the due penalty for his act.

I've avoided, as much as possible, using the term pro-life to refer to members of the Army of God. They may be anti-abortion, but they are not pro-life. Their kind of activity is actually inconsistent with the pro-life philosophy: it is wrong to take the life of a human person without justification. Pro-lifers may disagree over the appropriateness of capital punishment, but no consistent pro-lifer can support private citizens deliberately destroying life or property.

There's no question where the filmmakers stand: the documentary concludes with a memorial service for Dr. David Gunn, another Pensacola abortionist shot to death in 1993. Ironically, however, in the end it's the hardcore anti-abortionists that have put forward a halfway cogent rationale for their position, however repugnant it is. By contrast, Gunn's supporters gather in a Unitarian church to sing touchy-feely protest hymns. The choice between toxic radicalism and vapid emotionalism is hardly useful.

Postscript (June 7): Looks like the Rev. Donald Spitz, webmaster of armyofgod.com, saw my review and linked to it. Looks like he was a little too enthusiastic, though: I guess he must have read it afterward, because there's nothing there now (but see the post slug for the evidence). D'oh!


1 Daniel Voll, "Neal Horsley and the Future of the Armed Abortion Conflict," Esquire, February 1999, 110-16, 118-19. The article is included on the DVD release.

2 404'd footnote: The Nuremberg Files were shut down by court order in 2002, although mirrors still exist internationally.

3 Dying in vein footnote: Hill was executed by lethal injection in 2003.

4 The sheep are scared footnote: And speaking of aberrant conduct, it's also worth noting that both Horsley and Lokey have served time; Horsley for drug dealing, Lokey for first-degree murder. Additionally, Horsley has admitted on more than one occasion that he engaged in bestiality as a youth, arguing that this is normal behaviour for rural Georgia. No, really.