February 25, 2008

"We'll meet again somewhere beyond the sky" - Larry Norman, 1947-2008

Steve Camp reports that Larry Norman, arguably the finest Christian popular musician in my living memory, passed away Sunday.

I first heard Larry's music in 1992, thanks to a friend back home (and my former youth group leader), who was a big fan back in the day. Since my Christian music at that time was basically limited to Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, and Petra, hearing good Christian music that dated back to the early 1970s (if not the 60s) was like something completely new to me.

To this day, Only Visiting This Planet remains my favourite Christian album. Coincidentally, only a few days after hearing Planet for the first time, I heard Steve Camp play "Great American Novel" in concert in Sudbury. (Say what you want about Larry's politics - and he was probably a little too leftish for most Christians' tastes - but that is one fine tune.)

Larry Norman in concert, Oshawa, Ontario, Nov. 30, 1996I had the chance to see Larry in concert twice. The first time was in Toronto, in 1994 - just him and his guitar. The second time, my friend Reed and I drove from Waterloo to Oshawa and back one Saturday, where he performed his first set solo, and his second with full band. Despite the fact that thanks to age and chronic health problems he didn't look as youthful as on his album covers, just hearing him play those old, familiar tunes was like taking a trip back in time.

Actually, while looking for a good picture to scan and use for this entry, I came across the notes I had made of his set list; it made for a good bit of nostalgia.

  1. The concert kicked off with a quick "Testing, 1-2-3" and then Larry and his guitar opened with "Why Don't You Look Into Jesus."
  2. "My Feet are On the Rock"
  3. "Soul on Fire"
  4. "U.F.O."
  5. "God Part III"
  6. "Six Sixty Six"
  7. "Feed the Poor"
  8. "Sweet, Sweet Song of Salvation"
  9. "Great American Novel"
  10. "Reader's Digest"
  11. "Watch What You're Doing"
  12. A song I've noted as "Been Reading," but can't identify now
  13. After a 20-minute break, Larry came back and sang "Weight of the World."
  14. "Let the Rain Fall Down"
  15. At this point, Larry brought out his band, and they did "Why Don't You Look Into Jesus." (Again, I assume - it's been a few years!)
  16. "My Feet are On the Rock"
  17. "Soul on Fire"
  18. "Long, Hard Road"
  19. "The Rock That Doesn't Roll"
  20. "One Foot in the Grave"
  21. "Goodbye, Farewell" - Reed, a guitar player, scribbled down all the chord changes as he played.
  22. "Rock the Flock"
  23. "Elvis Has Left the Building"
  24. "Woman of God" ("Don't just go looking for a woman with a beautiful face and a great . . . job," he quips)
  25. "Outlaw"
  26. "Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music"

Afterward, there was a reception (with cake), where I got Larry's autograph and asked a question about one of his songs, which he politely avoided answering.

The church has lost a treasure. He'll be missed. So long, farewell.

February 22, 2008

When dhimmis fight back

It has been two years since the riots that resulted from the publication, a few months earlier, of the Dread Cartoons of Blasphemy.

In September 2005, the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten called for cartoonists to submit caricatures of the Islamic false prophet Mohammed. The request was meant as a commentary on self-imposed journalistic censorship, after a children's author couldn't find an illustrator for a book about Mohammed. The 12 submissions received, when published, touched off a firestorm of rage amongst Muslims living in Europe. But seeing that the rest of the Ummah wasn't seething enough, a few imams decided to fan the flames with a tour of the Middle East, Dread Cartoons in hand (along with a few rather obvious forgeries to really whip the gullible locals into the appropriate levels of frenzy). The result: riots, demonstrations, burnings, and dozens of killings - over a few harmless drawings.

Meanwhile, major news outlets showed their cowardice in the face of Islamic offense, reporting on the unrest but refusing to show the reason for the unrest. Only a few Western publications dared duplicate the Dread Cartoons, and in a few of those, their editors were disciplined for so doing. One of the few that did was Alberta's Western Standard. They didn't provoke any car torchings; rather, retaliation came in a more typically "Canadian" form. Syed Soharwardy, imam and head of the self-proclaimed Islamic Supreme Council of Canada, filed a discrimination complaint with the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission against Western Standard publisher Ezra Levant, arguing that since he had "published cartoons depicting Prophet Muhammad as terrorist [sic]," he had "defamed me and my family because we follow and Related to [sic] Prophet Muhammad."

The Canadian Human Rights Commission was set up 30 years ago (and its provincial counterparts at various times) to protect people from genuine discrimination: for example, someone denied housing because of his race, that sort of thing. The HRCs weren't intended as a weapon for people who take offense to use against the controversial ideas that offended them - indeed, Alan Borovoy, Canada's leading civil libertarian, who helped establish the commissions, has stated that "[n]obody ever thought the commissions would have anything to do with expressions of opinion or the dissemination of news reports. That wasn't on the table."1 Worse, it costs nothing to make a complaint (apart from the time to prepare it), while the respondent must pay for his own defense, and the taxpayer of course foots the bill for the whole process.

In short, an HRC is an unelected, pseudo-judicial body (whose adjudicators are bureaucrats, not judges nor even necessarily lawyers) that is able to levy fines and penalties on respondents but is intrinsically biased in favour of complainants. This is the kangaroo court that Levant was subjected to by Soharwardy's complaint. But rather than be cowed into submission by the Star Chamber proceedings, he prepared a statement defending not the specific actions of defending the Dread Cartoons, but his Charter right to be as controversial or offensive as he wished. Moreover he excoriated the HRC and his inquisitor there in the room, questioning the right of the government to tell him what kinds of speech he could freely express, and even questioning the very legitimacy of the hearing itself. And then, having brought a camera to the hearing, he posted video clips of the salient bits to YouTube - where they became very popular in short order.

Seeing that popular opinion was with Levant, Soharwardy has since decided to drop his complaint against Levant. He now claims that

I was unaware of the ongoing debate about whether . . . such commissions are the right venue in which to argue questions about hate speech. . . .

[M]y complaint was beyond what I now believe should be the mandate of such a commission.2

Apparently, Soharwardy was also unaware that insulting the False Prophet Mohammed is not a crime in Canada, as prior to lodging his complaint with the AHRCC, he had tried to have Levant arrested.

It's not over for Levant, however. He believes Soharwardy has basically admitted to abuse of process, and intends to sue him to recover the cost of defending himself against this frivolous complaint. Additionally, another complaint, filed by the Edmonton Muslim Council, still stands. And, of course, we cannot forget the complaint filed with the Canadian Human Rights Commission and British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal by four law students working with the Canadian Islamic Congress against columnist Mark Steyn, after Maclean's published an excerpt from his book America Alone (which, by the way, everyone should read).

Soharwardy himself, ironically, is now himself the target of a human-rights complaint, filed by three Muslim women who say he treats them as second-class citizens in his mosque. Since this seems to me to be an internal religious matter, it will be interesting to see how it plays out in a secular hearing. Meanwhile, however, one of the complainants has been assaulted in her own home by a Muslim man and woman. I'm sure there's no connection whatever.

And I'm sorry, but in honour of the occasion, I just can't help myself:

Bomb-wearing Mohammed cartoon, redone in iPod-ad style.


1 Alexandra Zabjek, "Defense of Free Speech Must Be Absolute: Advocate," Edmonton Journal, 22 January 2008, Canada.com, 21 Feburary 2008, <http://www.canada.com/edmontonjournal/news/cityplus/story.html?id=449e1994-5d1d-4808-abca-aa7b1f096f66>.

2 Syed Soharwardy, "Why I'm Withdrawing My Human Rights Complaint Against Ezra Levant," globeandmail.com, 15 February 2008, <http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080215.wcomment0215/BNStory/National/home>.

February 18, 2008

Happy @#$% Family Day.

Today is the inaugural "Family Day," a brand-new statutory holiday implemented by the provincial McGuinty Liberal government, for no apparent reason apart from there being no other stat holiday between New Year's day and Easter.

Ostensibly, the holiday is intended for workers to spend more time with their families - noble enough, I suppose. But only something like half of the people who work in the province are actually entitled to the day off. Federal employees work. Restaurants are open. Essential services (like police and firemen) are still on call.

Unfortunately, I am not one of those. I work in the private sector, and I work freelance, so I'm not entitled to holiday pay.

Worse, I'm single and living away from home, so I have no family to spend more time with. (I could hop the bus and go home - if I worked today and got paid.)

So I'm stuck commemorating a silly-named government holiday at my own expense. What should I do? I know, I'll go to the library. Oh, wait, library's closed. I'll go shopping. Oh, can't do that either - even at the stores in Ottawa's designated tourist areas, since apparently no one bothered to tell them they had to apply to stay open on Family Day, so they're closed. I need a haircut, but the barber shop is closed. I could just stay home and get drunk. Except that I'm out of beer and the liquor store is closed.

We don't need a special holiday to spend time with our families. We need a culture that values family and makes provisions for them to function as a family. That means employers not demanding ridiculous hours of overtime (and workaholic employees refusing to take it) so that families can eat together. It means parents helping their kids with their homework, and everyone staying home most nights rather than rushing off to 5,000 different extracurricular activities. It means Christian families sitting together in church rather than instantly segregated into a myriad of age-appropriate programs. It's the culture that needs changing, not the work timetable.

As for me, I'm bored as hell. I'd rather be working.

February 14, 2008

Wabbit season!

First, Palestinian Jihad TV for Kids had Farfour the Cheap Rip-Off Mouse. But he died at the hands of evil Jewish landowners:

So he was replaced with Nahoul the Lion-Baiting Bee:

But Nahoul got sick and died, because the dirty Egyptians wouldn't give him health care, so now we have his brother, Assoud the Jew-eating Rabbit:

Of course, Assoud's days are numbered too, because everyone knows Elmer Fudd is a Zionist son of pigs and monkeys.

Two takeaway lessons from this tale of tragedy:

  1. Assoud has a human mother, a mouse cousin, and a bee brother. There is something very, very weird going on in his family.
  2. Furries are the most pathetic people in the universe.

That is all.

February 09, 2008

Celebrating 16 years of kookiness

My last entry a few days ago got me thinking about all the various bizarre radio personalities I have listened to over the years, particularly those that have come and gone. I can still remember the first day that I sat down with a shortwave radio and heard conspiracy theorists for the first time: January 20, 1992. My roommate had just brought his ham radio from home and had been playing with it, and I wanted to see what else I could hear. After scanning the dials and hearing some foreign-language broadcasting and a few hams (naturally talking about their equipment and little else), I accidentally came across the late-night broadcast on WWCR at 7.435 MHz. And the rest was history.

A little disclaimer is probably necessary at this point. For me, conspiracy theory is almost strictly entertainment. Naturally, I believe there are such things as conspiracies, which occur every time two or more people agree to do something illegal. But conspiracy theory, on the other hand, is a worldview in which no major events happen by accident or outside the control of a shadowy group of powerful people. This I reject. However, continual listening to conspiracy radio and other kookery has had a couple of side benefits. First, it has sharpened my critical thinking skills. When someone like Alex Jones, for example, reports that Ann Coulter has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, it is important to remember that Jones habitually blows mundane facts right out of proportion. The truth is that Coulter did say so on Hannity & Colmes, but her skill with words doesn't come out nearly as well on live television as it does in writing, and she has since backtracked on that statement. This hasn't stopped Alex Jones from claiming that The Powers That Be have already selected Clinton as the winner. Second, it made me realize (a few years before learning it in political science class) that newsgathering organizations are as much about agenda-setting as they are about merely "reporting the news"; they have other, competing interests such as political axes to grind, ratings, or advertising dollars, that affect what stories are reported, and how. (And let's not forget how all the major networks have been caught red-handed at some time manufacturing the news!)

So without further ado, here are the most significant "go-to" guys that I have listened to over the last 16 years for my nightly fix of nuttiness.

  • Tom Valentine was the very first person I ever heard on shortwave, apart from foreign-language and amateur broadcasts. He used to have a program called "Radio Free America" that ran from 10-midnight EST every weekday on WWCR. Although the first broadcast I heard was fairly mundane (likely about the presidential primaries then under way in 1992), it wasn't long before the bizarre nature of American commercial shortwave manifested itself: bizarre financial conspiracy theories by anti-Semitic economist Eustace Mullins, Ruby Ridge, the Waco seige, the Bilderbergers, alternative "medicine" - and, on Friday nights, junk science. "Radio Free America" was sponsored by Liberty Lobby, an organization headed by professional Jew-hater Willis Carto, and so Jewish conspiracy theories (including the so-called "Jewish tax" on kosher food) featured prominently. The most memorable program I heard was a Friday night interview about the Philadelphia Experiment, an apocryphal military project intended to render naval ships invisible that supposedly resulted in some rather horrific effects. While Valentine was generally ready to believe anything someone told him, as long as it contradicted the mainstream, the phone calls coming in that night about time travellers and similar phenomena were too much even for him. In the summer of 1993, Valentine was followed by, and he had an ongoing feud with,
  • William Cooper. For a while in 1992 and early 1993, "Radio Free America" was followed at midnight by "The Hour of the Time," hosted by one Milton William Cooper. This program was the perfect midnight listening: it began with an air-raid siren, a deep voice announcing that "It is the Hour of the Time. Lights out for the curfew of your body, soul and mind," then marching feet, dogs barking, and women screaming. The program itself consisted of an hour-long monologue by the creepy-sounding Cooper on the subject of the day. The first time I heard this program, he was explaining the Illuminati code words in the Bette Midler song "The Rose."1 Later he would also decode the occult imagery in Disney fare such as the Lion King. He and Tom Valentine had an ongoing feud at one point, with Cooper accusing Valentine of being a Freemason or Illuminist (based on a book Valentine had written about pyramidology and his supposed affiliation with an occult organization called the Stelle Group); Valentine, in return, accused Cooper of being a CIA disinformation agent. William Cooper was probably the most paranoid personality I have ever heard of. He died in 2001 in a hail of police bullets rather than be arrested, after he had threatened a passer-by with a handgun. But before that, after his radio program became inconvenient to listen to, I had started listening heavily to
  • Brother Stair. R. G. Stair, the "Last Day Prophet of God," was actually one of the first personalities I ever heard on shortwave - again, on that first night, where his program came on at 2 am weeknights, after Valentine, some "prayer line" program, and low-rent Gene Scott wannabe E. C. Fulcher. In those days, Prophet Stair's program was a pre-recorded half hour, rather than the 24/7 broadcasting he would later do. But what he lacked in quantity, he made up for in intensity: the leather-lunged "prophet" would scream at the top of his lungs about the evils of women in short hair, women in pants, going to church on Sunday, living in cities, watching television, and whatever else struck him as wrong. Theologically he was a mess of Seventh-day Adventism, Branhamism, Arminian Holiness and hyper-Calvinism (no, really!), King James Onlyism, and various other incompatible belief systems. Stair would frequently proclaim that The End Is Nigh thanks to some astronomical phenomenon in the news, such as comets Hale-Bopp or Shoemaker-Levy. But he really went off the deep end in about 2002, when he got on the "Planet X" bandwagon, declaring The End Is Nigh because Planet X would cross Earth's orbit and flip the planet on its axis in May 2003. Whoops, nice try there, "Prophet." Not long after this, Stair got in trouble with the police because he couldn't keep his hands off the young ladies on his compound, and went to jail. Since reruns were boring, I moved on to
  • Texe Marrs. Texe cashes in on his credibility as a former Air Force officer, university lecturer, and published author (his book Dark Secrets of the New Age was a Christian bestseller in 1988) to promote blithering nonsense in the name of Christianity. I like to quote what Phil Johnson said about him in his famous bookmarks: he never met a conspiracy he didn't like. Over the years Marrs has bought into the usual banking/New World Order/Illuminati conspiracies, but he also was banging the "Planet X" drum (which gave him yet another opportunity to hawk stored food, which no doubt had been taking up unnecessary space in a warehouse since Y2K) and other assorted nuttery. To give you an idea just how out to lunch Marrs is: in 2002 he claimed that the numerous World Cup soccer stadiums being erected were really giant antennas in disguise. Their purpose was to transmit instructions, via extremely low frequency (ELF) radio waves, to nanobots - injected into unsuspecting citizens who thought they were getting a vaccine - which would then proceed to kill the subject or control his mind. No, really: he meant this seriously.2 Anyhow, my current address has lousy shortwave reception, so now I listen to
  • Alex Jones. I had heard Jones on and off in the years prior to 9/11. His use of the Imperial March as theme music was unmistakable. In recent years, however, he has risen to become the King of Konspiracy Kooks thanks to his spearheading of the so-called 9/11 "truth" movement. His Hoarseness' favourite schtick is "bullhorning": like some sort of 20th-century Don Quixote, he uses an electric megaphone to tilt against the windmills of the New World Order, the 9/11 "inside job," and the extermination of 80% of the world's population so that the global elite can have life-extension technology all to themselves. In June 2006, he was detained by Customs in the Ottawa airport when he came to bullhorn the meeting of the Bilderberg group; in all fairness to Jones, he hadn't done anything wrong and being a raving lunatic isn't a crime.

I'm sure I could talk in depth about some of the other nuts that have entertained me over the years: Chuck Harder, Pete Peters, "Bo" Gritz, Ted Gunderson, Art Bell, David J. Smith, and Dave VonKleist and Joyce Riley, just to name a few. But the above are the true crème de la crème of kook radio: the ones I would give 4/4 black helicopters.


1 Some say love, it is a footnote: Coincidentally, the late Aaron Russo, who produced the movie The Rose, was a tax-protesting conspiracy theorist himself: shortly before he died, he produced a "documentary" titled America: From Freedom to Fascism.

2 Extremely Low Footnote: If you thought that a former Air Force officer and assistant professor of aerospace studies should have known that there is no way that a nanobot could receive ELF transmissions (where would it put the required miles-long antenna?), well, now you know better.

February 06, 2008

Mammas, don't let your babies grow up to be moonbats

Somehow, this doesn't actually surprise me.

I was listening last night to the Monday podcast of conspiracy-mongering nutcase Alex Jones' show. He promised a surprise guest later in the program. This turned out to be none other than country music legend, hippy-dippy peace activist, and fellow Austinian Willie Nelson.

It didn't take long for the conversation to take a turn for the weird, as Jones asked Nelson almost right off the bat for his views on 9/11. The answer:

I saw those towers fall, and I've seen the, an implosion in Las Vegas, there was too much similarities [sic] between the two, and I saw the building fall that didn't get hit by nothing, so how naive are we, you know, what do they think we'll go for? . . . The day it happened, I saw one fall, and it was just so symmetrical, I, uh, wait a minute, I just saw that last week at the, you know, uh, casino, over in Las Vegas. And you see these implosions all the time, and the next one fell, and I said hell, there's another one. And they're trying to tell me an airplane did it? And that's, you know, I can't go along with that.

Here's WTC 7 not getting hit by nothing:

Well, marijuana is psychoactive.

The Red-Headed Stranger earns himself a nice shiny DIM BULB du jour, for observing while possibly high. Let's add a couple more bulbs into the box for Alex Jones and his hangers-on, for thinking that a prominent member of the cannabis culture can actually explain reality to the rest of us.

February 02, 2008

Spot this, Wiarton Willie

So apparently the report from Western Ontario is that our official prognosticator, Wiarton Willie, didn't see his shadow and thus spring comes early this year.

I can't imagine how he would have missed it. Could it be because he was buried under three freakin' miles of hard-driven snow?

Seriously, it's been a zoo on the roads in Ottawa for the last couple of days. I don't get what it is about drivers here; we're in the middle of the snow belt, and everyone seems to forget the fact that when it snows, driving is hard.