Friday, June 30, 2006

All you blog babes out there

Gimme a Hells Yeah!

Found this first on It Comes in Pints and now it's making the rounds. I personally like Sheila's idea - let's do Ms. Dejevsky's research for her and list all of the distaff bloggers on our sidebars.

The Pantheon is a select group, but we'll start with the three lasses above:

Emily of It Comes In Pints? - Ms. Dejevsky would be well-advised to stay on her good side. Movies? Do it right, bucko. And money-sponging brainwashers need not apply.

Tree Hugging Sister of the Coalition of the Swilling - because them wimmins isn't very bright with the math or the science.

Sheila of the Sheila Variations - I've seen this live. It rules all possible worlds. And if you're not reading Diary Friday, my friends, then your calendar is missing a day.

Dawn Eden of the Dawn Patrol - music is an avocation, though normally she walks the line of culture and faith.

Tracey of Worship Naked - well-written, inspirational, and again, check the variety of topics. She organizes them into a helpful sidebar just for you, the reader. (Soon to be renamed. I hope there's cake.)

Stacy of Better Left Said - she left saying entirely for a while, but she's back. Shhhhh, she's got an entire political section.

Fausta's Blog - a Jerseyenne specializing in political affairs, but delving wheresoever she may.

Suzette at Bob the Corgi - life happens. She measures the happening, wherever it happens.

Jennifer Shiman of Angry Alien - a blogger? No. Only the absolute genius behind "As Told By Bunnies." Red rum!

And others I probably should have on the list:

Andrea Harris, A Crafty Madness (also the admin at Tim Blair's site, which makes her twice the blogger I am);
The Anchoress;
The Bitch Girls;
Shannon of I'm Seriously, Dammit;
Lisa of This Life;
and last (but not least, lest she hunt me for sport), Sheila Ferguson.

There's about eleventy thousand other ladies blogging as well. In the meantime, Ms. Dejevsky and Ms. Parker can get together and whinge about how unfair it all is, and how mean, and how boys are stinky...

Thursday, June 29, 2006


update and bump - I got my name. If you haven't gotten yours yet, get going.

An excellent idea to honor those who died in the September 11, 2001 attacks - a personal tribute to each individual by a blogger.

By now this effort is gaining critical mass; over 20% of the people have a testimonial lined up in under two weeks. The organizer has promised to re-assign names if it runs over, so don't hold back. Sign up.

(a HUGE w/t to It Comes in Pints for this)

Holy cow, was I right?

After having to bail early on a chat, the inestimable Joe Morgan returned to Sports Nation yesterday. (If you're an "ESPN Insider" you can see the entire thing here.)

My joke theory was that he was pulled aside and warned to dumb himself down for the paying audience. I leave it to you to decide if that was farfetched. But since FJM has already fisked the darkness, I decided to take a different approach and light a small candle instead. Below, I have handled the questions that FJM reproduced from the chat as if they were asked of me instead of Joe Morgan. (I've included his answers as well, in Spoiler Vision - you need to highlight the gaps to see it.)

Nora (St. Louis): What do you think of sign stealing? Do you consider it a perfectly ok way to gain a competive edge, or do you compare it to other forms of cheating (steroids; doctoring baseballs)?

Nightfly: There's no comparison here. Stealing signs is far less of a problem. It's really a slender edge to begin with - even if the hitter knows what's coming he may miss the pitch or hit it dead to a fielder. Steroids are a permanent, decisive advantage. More importantly, Ken Caminiti didn't die of stolen signs.

Joe Morgan: Unfortunately baseball has its own set of rules to determine what's cheating and what's not. I think it's cheating. Guys corking bats, guys scuffing balls, etc. I think it's all cheating. It's all cheating. It changes the game from being a fair game to giving an advantage.

Matt (DC): 'Fly, where would you rate David Ortiz among the all-time great clutch hitters in the game?

Nightfly: Well, you'd usually rather have the guy with the 13 game-winning hits than the guy with none. But because of the nature of the game, even a great clutch hitter is going to be put out more often than not, whether or not it's the first or the last of the ninth. The better measure of Ortiz' value is
his overall production. A lot of Boston's games don't require last-licks heroism because Ortiz and his teammates can bash you into submission in the first eight innings. Also, notice that Papi's numbers are a bit down so far this year from last (OPS of .928 from 1.001, for example). And a guy considered soft in the clutch, Alex Rodriguez, just won today's game in the bottom of the 12th with a 2-run homer.

Joe Morgan: Thank you for your kind words. I can't rate players among all-timers, but I've said David Ortiz is the best big-time hitter in the game today. The game was different in the past, the pitchers were different, the hitters were different. But you can say he's the best big-game hitter today. And that's by a big margin. some guys seem to focus better when the game's on the line.

Shawn(Kewanee, IL): Hello 'Fly. With the horrendously sloppy game on Sunday and another shut out loss last night, do you think it is time for the Chicago Cubs to part ways with Dusty Baker and begin a mini firesale with some of their veteran players?

Nightfly: Past time, I'm afraid. The team's window to contend has closed, and Mark Prior and Kerry Wood may never be the same after all the overwork. It's not entirely fair to Baker to pin it on him, especially once Derrek Lee got hurt, but the team doesn't even seem competitive any more - an eight-game losing streak, two sixes, and a five that they just broke this afternoon. It's not even the All-Star Break yet.

Carlos Zambrano is still only 25; he issues a lot of walks but is the closest Chicago has to a healthy starter. If the Cubs can hold onto him while they rebuild, he will be a veteran entering his prime years just as the rest of the team is ready to contend. They have to protect him from overwork lest he break down as well, and Dusty Baker is not easy on his starting pitchers.

Joe Morgan: As you may or may not know, Dusty is a friend of mine and I'm a big fan. Everyone Who Has Ever Heard Joe Morgan Speak: (in unison) We know.But that doesn't keep me from being objective. It's not all Dusty's fault, but if you continue the way they are, you have to have a change. They've built their club on Prior and Wood and they've been hurt. If you fire Dusty, then you're back to the pre-Dusty era and that's the way they're playing right now. The Cubs can't continue along these lines. I think Dusty one of the best managers out there. I don't think you can fire him until the season's over anyway.

Dustin (hampton,tn): will the yankees pick up another outfielder or pitcher, or do they need one to make it to the post season?

Nightfly: The problem is that the Yankees really don't have anyone they can move to get someone of everyday quality. Teams are beginning to jockey for help with about five weeks left before the trade deadline - LA moving Jae Seo and Dioner Navarro, for example. The Yanks don't even have two players like that to spare. The rotation will be all right, I think, but the outfield is the big problem. Melky Cabrera, after a shaky start, has picked up admirably for Hideki Matsui. But Sheffield's out two more months, and what's left of Bernie Williams isn't going to cut it in right field. If Damon gets hurt again, it will be a very long summer.

Joe Morgan: The Yankees, like everyone, has weaknesses. (…) (And here FJM cut the answer, so I assume it wasn't bad.)

Andy (New York): 'Fly, I think it's a shame that Alex Rios isn't even on the All-Star ballot. The average fan isn't going to write him in. Thoughts on this and the All-Star voting process?

Nightfly: Since Rios is
only a third-year player and hadn't distinguished himself before, it's not that surprising he wasn't on the ballot. Outfield is a crowded place. Since the game could get his team home-field advantage in the World Series, Ozzie Guillen will likely give him proper consideration as a reserve.

MLB has an online system for voting, which ought to give breakout players a shot at All-Star recognition. Unfortunately, you have to go through registration, uncheck the "send me annoying emails" boxes so you don't get spammed, and then scroll down to the write-ins - which are limited to TWO. This really limits the voter.

Joe Morgan: The All-Star process has always been flawed, even when the players voted themselves, the players voted the veterans in. There is no perfect way to do this. I look up and see the Yankees have more votes than anyone else…There are so many flaws that I don't think you'll have a perfect system. I prefer for the players to have more of a say in it. But it's for the fans. It's a tough situation.

Joe Morgan: The reason I say that, I was elected both ways and I was elected by the players and the fans. I got the most votes by the fans a couple of times. It's hard to say which way was better. I was happy in both cases. There is no perfect system.

Tom (East Lansing): Mussina, HOF bound or not?

Nightfly: If it was up to me, no, he just misses. He's been very good for very long, sort of the Don Sutton of his era, and Sutton got in; but you never got the "wow, let's go to the park, Sutton's pitching tonight" feeling. But the reality is that Mussina will get in if he can pitch three more solid seasons. He will probably hit a lot of the important career milestones: 3000 K (currently at 2500), 250 wins (he has 233 now); he already has 3000 IP. His runners per nine is a respectable 1.177 and his ERA is 3.63 in one of the most explosive offensive cycles in baseball history. Mussina's been in the top-five of the AL in a bunch of categories a bunch of times, but has rarely led the league in anything. He's never topped 218 K, and he has one runner-up in the Cy Young ('99). Great, but not dominant.

Joe Morgan: I don't think his career is over yet. To my knowledge, he hasn't won 20 games, which means he wasn't a dominant pitcher in his era, but then we have to see how many total wins he finishes up with. There are a lot of guys that have a lot more wins that aren't in. It's a number crunch from here on out.

Prince (Pittsburgh): What would you say is the main reason the Pirates can't win? Individually the players are talented, although a bit young, why can't this team at least be competitive?

Nightfly: The Penguins look like they have a promising future, so hopefully the new owner won't move them out of the city. The Pirates, however, haven't got things so good. The sweep to Kansas City was extraordinarily embarrassing, of course; the overall picture isn't better. The Buccos are bottom third of the majors in most of the major categories (OPB, ERA, runs scored) and they don't have as much talent as some of the other younger teams in baseball. One of the very few assets the team has, Craig Wilson, got hurt tonight, too. Unfortunately, even after the current slide ends (13 losses and counting) Pittsburgh isn't going to break the streak of sub-.500 seasons (2006 will be 14).

Joe Morgan: I think that's a very good question and I don't get to see the Pirates very much. I haven't seen them to judge myself to see how good they are individually. In this era, we seem to overrate how good players are. These last four or five years, people have overrated talent on certain teams. I see a lot of inconsistency there with overrated talent. I can't give you a real good answer, because I haven't seen them play as much. But make no mistake, a lot of times guys are overrated in their ability.

Larry (WEST ISLIP,NY): It certainly looks like some semblance of parity is returning to baseball. The Braves are finished and the Yankees are not far behind. What do you think?

Nightfly: Hey! Fellow Lawn Guy Lander. Welcome.

The Yankees are certainly in trouble. The outfield, we've covered; that great infield has kept them in things but unless Boston stumbles badly they are probably out of the playoffs. The Braves haven't got the pitching, and without Chipper Jones or Andruw Jones at 100% they've got no chance to catch the Mets.

But I wouldn't call it parity. You don't see a huge logjam at the tops of the divisions, just the normal cycling of decent teams improving and other teams struggling. We're not used to seeing the Braves and Yankees back in the pack after 10 year-runs of excellence, but those extended runs were the unusual thing, not the current downside of the cycle.

Joe Morgan: I don't like the word parity, I say mediocrity. There are a lot of mediocre teams out there. The talent pool is thinner now than it's been. You can go from first to last and last to first. I don't know if it's parity as much as mediocrity.

Sam (St. Louis): The Cards have lost seven straight games. Seven. Seven straight. That stings. It actually stings. Please, give me something to hope for. The Cards will pull out of this.. wont they?

Nightfly: Luckily for the Cards they got Pujols back, and remain a dangerous hitting team. But Mark Mulder's arm has got to worry them. Their starters (outside of Chris Carpenter) have really blown hot and cold this year. Mulder himself struggled before finally going on the DL, with his ERA shooting up by nearly 2.5 runs in the space of just six starts. I don't think they're to be caught from behind by a team like Milwaukee. Houston could challenge - maybe - but six games is surprisingly hard to make up in half a season, and it usually requires an extended struggle from the team(s) above them.

The big challenge will come from Cincinnati. The Reds' starting rotation has been better, their hitting has been worse; they're only a couple of games back. They play Cleveland while the Cards get to fatten up on KC for three days. After that, it really depends on if Mulder can come back in good form, and whether St. Louis can continue to get a strong contribution from young Anthony Reyes (after four starts, he has a 2.16 ERA and 0.8 WHIP in 25 IP).

Joe Morgan: I think they'll pull out of it, because they're making me look bad. I picked them to win their division and play the Mets for the championship. The big problem, the starting pitching hasn't done as well as anticipated. I think it starts with their starters. They need some consistency.

Mike (St. Louis): Joe, have you noticed catchers giving multiple signs with no runners on base? I don't remember that happening in the past. Why is that?

Nightfly: Could be a lot of things. Remember the sign-stealing question from before? Some teams may be trying to keep things complicated to forestall that. Others may want to keep things somewhat consistent and not constantly switch systems with runners on base.

Joe Morgan: I think you're very observant, because I've noticed it as well. (...) [Again, little or no continuation. Next time I have to copy the thing myself.]

Jarron (Cleveland, OH): Hello, Mr. Fly. Between all the interviews, chats, research, and watching and calling games, how much time in season do you think you spend per week?

Nightfly: Well, I have a day job. In fact, I'm not answering these within a minute or two like a journalist would do during a chat - I have to do the research that a paid professional would (hopefully) already have done. So far it's taken me about three hours just to get this far, thanks to the excellent resources at and

Joe Morgan: That's difficult to say, because I'm a fan first - I read the newspaper and watch the highlights as fans do. But I don't have an hour time, or whatever. I spend quite a bit of time on baseball, but it's just part of what I do, because I enjoy the game.

Ryan (Buckhead): 'Fly, do you think Vernon Wells is the best all around CF in the game?

Nightfly: He had a very good 2003, and is having a great 2006. He needs more than that. But he is in the mix along with Andruw Jones, who's a little off this season but has historically been productive for much longer than Wells; and Carlos Beltran, who is rebounding from a poor year. You could probably put Torii Hunter in there as well - better on the bases, and at least as good with the glove. There just isn't a lock greatest CF right now, just a bunch of very good ones who've either had a subpar year recently or who have been hurt.

Joe Morgan: Well, I would have to say he's in the top 2 or 3. He's had the potential. The problem in the past has been his consistency. (…)

Ben (Boston): Has American league pitching gotten better, or has the hitting just become worse. And if it is better pitching then why haven't there been any NO-NO's in the past couple of years.

Nightfly: A single-game accomplishment isn't enough to draw a good conclusion for the entire year, and especially a no-hitter; too many fluky things can happen in one game to break up a no-hit bid, and sometimes the darndest guys wind up throwing one. Was Doc Gooden a better pitcher from '84-'90, or when he got his no-hitter for the Yanks in '96?

For everyone who seems to be running in place offensively in the AL, you could point to others who are suddenly hot. Giambi has his swing back, though his part in the doping of baseball is such that his accomplishments are suspect. Wells (as mentioned above) is having a great season, but Ortiz is a little down. Jim Thome has been rejuvenated in Chicago. Travis Hafner and Grady Sizemore are slugging well. It's tough to point to a startling decline in overall hitting.

Joe Morgan: I don't really think the pitching has gotten better. I watch games and maybe in the some cases the pitching is better, but I don't think it's gotten better. I just think there are a lot of things that say the hitting is down a little bit overall. We might as well be blunt and say that the testing for steroids and other drugs is part of the reason. Amphetamines may be as big a problem as the steroids.

At this point in the chat, things broke up. Morgan finished up and Ken Tremendous of FJM started pulling his every utterance to bits. And then I sat up twice as long as I thought I'd need to in order to finish my little experiment. God bless Joe Morgan, anyway. I don't think I'll be doing this next week.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Feel the Crazy

Via Tracey of Worship Naked - the Parade of Bad Toys! She's covered several of the best, but there's still enough fun left over for the Hive. Behold:

Hanging Skeleton - for that kid who always wanted his room to look just like a fifth-grade science classroom. Apparently getting stuffed into lockers at school isn't enough for some children: they want their friends to come over and stuff them into the linen closet.

Mind Reading Magic Card - both kids look terrified, as if the kid doing the trick suddenly realizes that he's summoned Cthulhu's minions by mistake.

POP Gun - fun for all ages! Suzie, plug little Johnny in the forehead! Whee!

Secret Agent 007 - I'm not sure what would make Sean Connery angrier: the rip-off or the picture of him wearing lipstick.

Life Like Snake - if only the same could be said of the children.

the next one - no words. Just a picture of a pyramid filled with alternating checkers, next to a horseshoe filled with alternating checkers - sort of a cosmic Othello game with no rules. One of the two men on the packaging has "?" popping out of his head. I agree.

UFO Wonder Gun - Spare Ammo - Tracey already covered this, but there's still one nagging question: why would you show the product in the hands of the ALIEN? He's a Creature of Unspeakable Horror - he's large enough to crush a battleship in one hand, and the other is pointing a firearm roughly the size of the Chrysler Building. "Here, kid, defend yourself with this ten-cent plastic-disk launcher." Uh, what do I do if the monster hides behind a large sheet of paper? "Then you PRAY."

Dangling Skeleton with Moving Eyes - the cousin of the Hanging Skeleton, only with moving eyes. Hell with all that. I want the toy of the guy in the deep-sea get-up that's dueling the skeleton with a rapier. I mean, who wouldn't prefer a deep-sea swordfighter dude?

Jumping Animals - featuring such famous Leapers of the Animal Kingdom as the lobster, the armadillo, and the octopus. Maybe they have a point with the octopus, though - it has 13 tentacles and a skull-face pattern on its body. In fact, I think the UFO Wonder Gun has failed and the Creatures have cross-bred with Earth's aquatic life.

Peeping Skeleton - for pity's sake LAY OFF THE SKELETONS ALREADY. Did the manufacturer raid Tutenkhamen's pyramid? Is the factory built on a mass Indian burial ground? Will the TV swallow my kids after I bring this into the house?

Magnetic Spunky Dogs - the real pity isn't the crappy toy, but that they wasted such a sweet font for "Spunky Dogs" on the crappy toy.

Toys - yup, that's it. Generic Toys; the toy which implies all other toys to come. Advertised by showing a line of animals lining up to buy them, because no self-respecting human child would be caught dead within the same city block as one. At least the Richard Scarry knock-off fox pup has balloons. He'll still die of shame, but he'll die happy.

And a bonus - a picture not on the site, snapped with my own little digital during my Christmas vacation:

Meow.  Or moo.  Whatever.
Yup. Cat and Dot. No Cogs, however, for $2.50. I feel cheated.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Picking up the slack

Update and hint, 6/28, 8:10 pm - in the situation below, you are listening to the air conditioner hum. You have also expressed plans to drink all the salty margaritas in your particular location.

Friend Brian of Memento Moron will not be able to run his normal Music Geography series for a little while, so herewith I volunteer to step in for a bit.

Query - if you still wake up in the morning with shaking hands, and you're trying to find a girl who understands you... where are you?

Answer in the comments. I'll be by later this evening to check on all y'all.

Down n' dirty captioning

Cullen has a snapshot that needs an improved tagline. You know what you must do.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Top Secret

update, June 25, 2:00 am - well, I didn't get a mention in the results. The guys were looking for a theory, not a skit; therefore you get to see it here. But check out the other theories as well [warning - may contain NSFW language].

The folks at "Fire Joe Morgan" are holding a little contest. Morgan's most recent online chat session went belly-up when he had to take an emergency phone call. The few available details are funny enough, but FJM wants more: they want the readers to totally make up surmise the facts behind the call.

The best way to do that is to lie my ass off recreate the call as if I was really mean actually there:

[SCENE - JM is chatting with Sports Nation, typing a particularly sharp reply to a question about pitchers setting up hitters to chase outside. His cell phone rings and he sees “JAFFE” on the ID.]

JM – Uh-oh. [Quickly he types to the moderator, “Big Man on Line Two. Front for Me.” Then he answers.]
Jaffe – We are not pleased, Joseph.
JM – I don’t understand.
Jaffe – No. You do understand, and that is the problem. We don't want understanding here.
JM – What? I don’t follow you.
Jaffe – Do you know why you are on Baseball Tonight?
JM – I’m a baseball analyst.
Jaffe – That is incorrect, Joseph. You are on Baseball Tonight because you have a famous name.
JM – That doesn’t make any sense.
Jaffe – Precisely. You aren’t supposed to make sense. You’re supposed to act like a dumb jock who doesn’t keep up with baseball; you’re supposed to inspire fans who hate you and websites that want you fired. Those are the types of people who tune in to ESPN. Yet I watch your chats and broadcasts, and you are beginning to show alarming signs of competence.
JM – Oh, not this crap again.
Jaffe – You dare!?
JM – Hell, yes! I DO dare. I’m sick of looking and sounding like a particularly stupid Muppet! Hell, people think I don’t care about OPS? In '76 I put up a 1.020 from second base, dammit! I even made it the last four digits of my phone number. Now I’m supposed to blather all day long about “heart” and “grit”?
Jaffe – You MUST, Joseph. Those are statements that cannot be quantified, and thus cannot be disproved, only argued about – and that keeps ratings high.
JM – Do you have any idea how much work I put in to keep up with the game? I’m on Baseball Prospectus four hours a day; when I’m on the West Coast I fact-check with Schwab until it’s three in the !#$^*!& morning back in Bristol. I have to replace my laser printer twice a year ‘cause the rollers strip smooth from all the use.
Jaffe – You have gone far wrong, Joseph. We are here to ENTERTAIN, not EDUCATE. If fans learn from you, they will no longer need to watch sixteen hours a week of our programming. Do you really think Berman is that dumb? The man wrote a doctoral thesis on the mental state of injured athletes whose teams improve while they are sidelined – it spawned the whole sports psychology industry. Harvard offered him a humanities fellowship in ’83. But we convinced him to stick with the Boomer shtick for the greater good.
JM – This is ridiculous. You don’t want me to be good at my job?
Jaffe – Of course not. Look at your coworkers. Phillips couldn’t qualify as a FedEx driver at this point, how is he going to keep up with an intelligent discussion? We’d be forced to lay off dozens, and the drops in ratings would cost even more jobs. Probably lose the Deuce entirely, come to think of it. Do you want to go back to sets that look like “The Price is Right,” and “Wide World of Sports” reruns in prime time for all of August? Do you want to cost a hundred jobs and millions of dollars just to look good at what you love to do?
JM – But…
Jaffe – Kenny Mayne doesn't give me this crap. Don't make me do you like I did Charlie Steiner.
JM – I’ll… I’ll go to another network!
Jaffe – Heh. Heheheheh. HUAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Fool! Olbermann and Eisen once thought as you do. Even Kruk – but the medication solved that problem very nicely, indeed... You WILL do my bidding, Joseph.
JM [tired…. So tired…] – As you wish…
Jaffe – Good! Now go out there and tell them you’ve only seen the highlights!
JM [weeping softly] – Yes, my master.


* "Jaffe" is Al Jaffe, ESPN's VP of Talent.
* OPS - on-base + slugging, a good rough indicator of a player's hitting ability.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Don't me forget about you

As is par for the course, your narrator has screwed up.

To recap, in brief - Raving Athiest suggested that chastity had something to recommend it, and that people ought to look past its association with religion to consider its merits. I sampled the replies in the comment section and posted on them. Early on I mentioned Thorngod's teaser, but by the time I was done, I'd forgotten to come back to him. Turns out that he hadn't even posted his thoughts yet.

That reply is finished. It's much higher caliber than the ones I'd pulled, as he himself promised. So now it's time to keep my promise and respond.

[RA's] comments I found interesting enough, though the Dawn/Jill dispute as such would not have captured my interest sufficiently for me to have taken one side or the other. [Thorngod is referring to this - NF] I can agree somewhat with RA's judgement that Jill got overheated, but almost all of us who like to contend will often contend too hastily.

Boy, he got that right. In the near future I will be sharing a recent example of my own.

-- The point that RA attempts to make regarding "...some point in a relationship that Jill would consider to early for sex..." seems lame to me--and unfair. We all must draw somewhat arbitrary lines constantly, and we draw them at different places according to our individual judgements or needs.

So far, so good.

Dawn's line for sexual intercourse is drawn at marriage, which is the church-sanctioned and therefore traditional, "safe," and, in this country until a few decades ago, the quasi-legally-enforced point of sexual entitlement. It remains the easiest and safest line to choose (and to defend), but Jill has an equal right to select some other.

And this is even better. The discussion, as Thorngod rightly understands, isn't over enforcing chastity (a mistake many other commenters made) but in why one ought to choose it freely over the alternative. I think Jill's position on sex is wrong, but I'm not about to blockade her bedroom door.

As messy and risky as casual sex and non-marital arrangements often are, marriage is no less messy and risky, and I trust I need not offer statistics or examples in order to convince you.

Sadly, he doesn't. But I would contend that a large contributor to the current condition of marriage in our society has been caused by the loss of respect for chastity; in other words, marriage is no less messy and risky than unchastity precisely because so many married couples are unchaste. They never leave behind the attitudes they had while they were "still looking" and as a result, they find that the non-sexual ties within marriage are too constricting when the sexual tie no longer holds their interest.

The only serious problem I see with non-marital sex as opposed to marriage is in the production of unwanted and unloved children, and there are far too many of these in traditional two-parent homes.

I'm reminded here of a poem a fellow writing student wrote back when I was at Rutgers:

"But staying together for the sake of their kid
Was surely in their mind the best thing they did."

I wish I still had a copy. It was a strong poem, if depressing: the couple in question clearly loathed being together and took it out on the narrator (the kid), each using her against the spouse. But while powerful, the poem thus tends to contradict itself, since this couple clearly wasn't staying together for the child; their treatment of her is evidence enough. I see the same problem with that as Thorngod.

Chaste marriage strongly implies welcoming the children that result, so I would put this down as another reason to encourage chastity. Thorngod's observations are spot-on, especially his notice of the consequences of pulling chastity out of marriage - but I think his conclusion is incorrect. The solution to the problems of unchaste marriage is not to give up on chastity altogether.

-- On another tack, RA contends that "...most people, if asked whether they believed that it was preferable to engage in loveless sex, would answer in the negative without debating whether inappropriate judgmentalism were involved." Preferable to whom? To all those who would disparage "loveless sex," of course! But so-called "loveless sex" can be a unique and uniquely rewarding experience, and unless I'm misunderstanding something, it's the kind of sex I hear most guys, married and single, constantly talking about and obsessing over!

If that's so, I feel sorry for most guys. They are not standing against the tide of the times but allowing the undertow to suck them out to sea. But this does introduce an idea that Thorngod carries to its fully-logical conclusion - based on his observation of the divorce of chastity and marriage, he pushes for a similar divorce of love and sex everywhere.

-- And now, the sharpest point of all: The phrase "loveless sex" refers, of course, to sex between people who do not love each other. I would contend that that accounts for most sexual experiences.

He may well contend correctly - but this is precisely the sort of thing that chastity seeks to prevent, with all of the attendant problems that he so succinctly describes. If one doesn't care for the results, I'm not sure why one would argue strenuously for the cause.

There is great confusion concerning "love" in the contexts of sex and marriage. The term "love" is always misused when used as a synonym for sex. People do not "fall in love." They are consumed by sexual desire (lust, if you will). Do you disagree?

Hells yeah!

Then I ask you what is meant by "love at first sight"! You can experience an overwhelming sexual urge on first seeing someone, but can you actually love someone instantly?

Looking back at the moment they've met, many true lovers do say "it was love at first sight." Nor do I think they're dishonest, though of course their memories may be coloring the outlines of the facts quite differently than an outside observer. And being around so many other hockey players at bars after games, I've naturally heard a hundred variations (all equally vulgar) of the phrase "I'd do her in a second."

The difference is, the lovers actually have a past to look back to. The unchaste generally do not; their devotion to the deed rather than the beloved works itself out and soon their fires fade. They move on. The chaste couple has much better odds in this case. Thorngod correctly sees that love is different from sex, but doesn't seem to give it credit for being able to do what sex cannot do alone. In this case, love has the power to reach back and lend all sorts of meaning to events that hadn't seemed to mean anything at the time. To use a common turn of phrase, love "blooms" - the initial meeting is the seed, watered and pruned and tended by the subsequent events and the lovers themselves. Looking back the couple themselves see the seed and immediately recall all the rest, and conclude that "it was love at first sight."

This is necessarily poetic and no doubt many would dismiss it haughtily on such grounds; however, it all holds together. It is a description of what, in fact, does often happen between couples in love, and what nearly never happens between mere sexual partners unless love starts to intrude on what had previously been solely physical interaction.

When two people engage in sex, the couple for the sake of sex, not for love. Sex is not the expression of love, but the fulfillment of sexual desire. A woman who is "not in the mood" for sex may submit to husband or lover because she loves him, but the sex act is performed for the purpose of sexual pleasure--for the man's whether or not for hers. It is not performed so the man can express his love for the woman!

This is where I lost Thorngod's argument entirely. He's totally pulled sex and love away from each other to consider them in isolation - the very definition of unchastity. Everything he writes from this point out works out along those lines. It's quite logical in its way. In fact, it winds up answering the question on hand: "Why is chastity preferable?" If Thorngod's description is the only alternative, then sign me up for the chastity NOW.

So why do we confuse sex with love, and use the word "love" when we mean sex? Because that usage encourages the notion of "true love" and "meant-for-each-otherness," which encourages marriage, which in turn offers the best protection so far devised for the next generation of our species.

I disagree here. Anyone can confuse them, of course, chaste and unchaste alike, but chastity, by insisting on love (in the form of commitment) before sex, is meant to safegaurd us from the error of reversing the process: from thinking "This is love" because the sex is good, and then bailing on both love and sex once the passion fades, as it always does by its own nature.

The chaste may say one when meaning the other, but they recognize not the difference, and they also know which must come first for both to remain special. Chastity puts sex into harness, as Thorngod clearly understands. The chaste love, and therefore sex is a gift to the beloved. Since no chaste couple is perfect this isn't always so. There's plenty of "not tonight, I have a headache," and "All you care about is," and times when the sex is dull and distracted and uninteresting. But there's also "make up sex" and "thank God you're home sex" and "you remembered Aunt Gladys' birthday! sex," and given that the act itself may be the same each time, sex itself could not account for the difference in interest or quality.

Even saying, "well, they're just more into it sometimes" doesn't really get to the heart of it - why are they more into it? The answer is love. They are renewing their commitment to each other, and as a result all the other things in their life are renewed - all the things that, without love, would quickly become drudgery: their appreciation for each other, their passion, their desire to talk and pay their bills and walk their dog and raise their kids. One of the great rewards of a loving and chaste relationship isn't just "love at first sight," it's that so many of the other sights are just like the first.

We have never been conscious, of course, of our reason for using the term "love" in the contexts of sex and marriage. The reason is not exactly "ours." it is another Darwinian effect.

I agree that the reason isn't exactly "ours," but at this point we get into an entirely different discussion - Whose reason it is. In any case, I'd like to thank Thorngod for a thoroughly rewarding discussion. (In fact, I congratulate him on being a better evangelist than I am.)

Thursday, June 22, 2006

When they said, "Big Christian Retreat"...

...they didn't mean THIS. (w/t to the Dawn Patrol)
By 578 to 242 the House of Deputies refuses to consider, resolution D058 entitled, "Salvation in Christ Alone"
The resolution reads as follows:

Resolved, the House of _____ concurring,

That the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church declares its unchanging commitment to Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the only name by which any person may be saved (Article XVIII);

and be it further Resolved, That we acknowledge the solemn responsibility placed upon us to share Christ with all persons when we hear His words, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No-one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6);

and be it further Resolved, That we affirm that in Christ there is both the substitutionary essence of the Cross and the manifestation of God's unlimited and unending love for all persons;

and be it further Resolved, That we renew our dedication to be faithful witnesses to all persons of the saving love of God perfectly and uniquely revealed in Jesus and upheld by the full testimony of Holy Scripture.

In other words, 70% of delegates to the General Convention of the Episcopal Church refused to publicly commit to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Refused the Great Commission that He gave to "go and make disciples of all nations..." (Matthew 28:19) Refused to believe the most well-known Bible verse on Earth, John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son..."

First the Presbyterians, and now the Episcopalians... Sometimes I feel like tossing myself in front of the nearest moving object.

Listen - we are the Church of Christ. If we are ashamed of Him before men, He shall be ashamed of us before the Father in Heaven. (Luke 9:26)

And take a cursory look at the post-modern society we live in. People are hungry for meaning in their lives. How can we possibly offer them what they need if we drain the Gospel of its depths, with a Jesus reduced to nothing but platitudes? That is not food for the human soul or the human mind. He promised that if anyone opened the door to Him, He would enter and abide with them (Revelation 3:20) - what possible reason can we give to lock those doors on Him when the seekers of truth knock?

He knew that His words were true - indeed, most people are willing to admit that He was a great moral teacher - but if so, He certainly was wise enough to realize that people don't much care for great moral teaching. He came to a people that had spent 2000 years with a wonderful set of morals, a covenant between themselves and the Father, and that they had not kept it. Do we think Him so foolish that He would simply give the Sermon on the Mount and expect people to usher in the Kingdom of God? And even if they kept such rules, what of it? "...if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith ... you are still in your sins." (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17)

He knew better, and thus went further, and people noticed - "for He taught them as one who has authority..." (Mark 1:22) When challenged by the Pharisees and scribes to name that authority, He went even farther - He gave God's proper name, spoken from the burning bush to Moses. It was death for a man even to speak that name, and He gave it as His own name. (John 8:58)

He claimed not only the power to teach, but the power to forgive sins - and again, when challenged He went further. "What is easier, to say 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, ' Rise and walk?' But so that you know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins ... I say to you, rise, take your mat and walk." (Matthew 9:5-6)

He took the laws of Moses and amended them - by going further (Matthew 5:21-48). He didn't just give teachings to large crowds, He fed them in the body as well (Matthew 14). And after giving in word and act, He gave His life itself that we may live in Him. The constant example of Scripture is that He offers more than just helpful advice - He offers Himself. Without Him there is no power behind His admonitions to love, to pray, to believe; without Him there is nothing for us to be transformed by, or into. And if we leave Him out of our lives and our example, then we have nothing to offer to anyone in need that they can't get from the blargin' Desiderata and a Grateful Dead concert. If we're serious about proclaiming redemption and salvation, we can't go all squishy marshmallow about the Redeemer and Savior.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

With friends like these...

One of Dawn Eden's regulars is a blogger named The Raving Athiest.

With a bloghandle like that, it's not hard to determine where he stands on the existence of a Creator of all things - but he's got a particular habit of considering things on their own merits that sometimes runs him aground with many of his regular audience.

Take the post "
Chastening Thoughts." In it he writes, "I believe that the opposition to pre-marital abstinence (and chastity generally) is a case of good ideas facing rejection because of their historical association with theistic orthodoxy." And rather than leave it from there he spells out what he means and why he means it.

He must have had a point with the original, quoted premise, because some of the commenters demonstrate it, in language not suitable for framing. It must be hard to scroll through such poorly-considered rejoinders and blaring self-contradictions from those who would otherwise tend to agree with him. (And if he should ever conclude that orthodox theism itself is a good idea worth considering, he should expect seventy times seven times worse.)

Rather than leave a 10,000-word essay on his site, I thought it better to handle a selection of the biggest howlers here and track back. The originals shall be in red, with replies below - the number is that of the original comment on RA's site.

#1 - qedpro - "But for religious people, it's not enough for them to privately practice what they believe, everyone else has to be doing the goosestep (missionary style) or it undermines their beliefs."
This is something believers see a lot: religion misunderstood as yet another earthly system of controlling the believer. It's not hard to see why an atheist would think this, either. To them, Earth is all there is, so they assume that, deep down, Earth is all there is to anyone, and thus anyone who talks about God or eternity must be making it up. It's not true. Christians really do believe that there is a God who has made us for Himself, and that therefore His rules of conduct are important. Others' disobedience does not invalidate those rules (or our belief in them) in the slightest. We advocate our side of things vigorously (as
Dawn's book and website show) because we think it true, and that others who follow will see the same (or greater!) benefit in their lives as we see in ours.

#2 - Jahrta - "Saving yourself for marriage is retarded. Your wedding night is no time to find out that your new mate can only get off when you clamp jumper cables to his nipples while covering him in vanilla pudding and reading from 'Horton Hears a Who.'"
Comic exaggerations aside, this is one of the prime practical reasons behind chastity - one's evaluation of a suitor isn't merely as a sexual partner. If one intends a lifetime commitment, basing the relationship on sex alone means possibly blinding oneself to other deep-seated flaws such as a controlling personality, irresponsibility with money, or a violent temper. "Trouble in bed" isn't the only thing that scuttles a marriage, and great sex isn't capable of saving one by itself.

Ok, an extreme example to be sure, but many marriages fail (or suffer) due to sexual incompatibility or dissatisfaction with someone's techniques or equipment.
Given that there are far more couples having sex than getting married, I'd say that the chances of dissatisfaction with a partner are greater for the unchaste than for the chaste. The reasonable reply is that the unchaste are free to simply try again if they're stuck - but so are the chaste, with the difference that they try again with each other. For the chaste, the sex can always improve as the couple learns more about each other and what they're doing. The unchaste couple denies themselves that joy because they simply cut and run. Chaste lovers get the fun of looking ahead to a lifetime of mutual discovery without the pressure of having to act like performers before a critical audience, because their commitment is to each other, not to a particular bodily function. Their impulses are their servants, not their masters.

#3 - HappyNat - I never understood how sex before marriage can be dirty, evil, and make women sluts, but then after 'I do' it is the greatest thing in the world. Are people really silly enough to believe that saying those words in front on people suddenly makes sex OK?
Apparently, some people are silly enough to think that this is what Christians hold, based on 70's era Norman Lear parodies of Catholicism from the mouth of Mike Stivic. It is no secret that theologians, poets, and lovers themselves use fire as a symbol of passion, so let's recast Nat's statement in those terms and see if it casts some light: I never understood how fire in a forest, warehouse, or apartment complex can be destructive, but after putting it in a fireplace it's the greatest thing in the world.

Sex is a fun enjoyable activity that mature adults can engage in, like having a couple beers or snowboarding. ... It is as natural as taking a piss, but it has been put on a huge pedestal and now it freaks everybody out.
It seems that the alternative to "Sex is great when in its proper context" is "Sex is common and therefore deserves no grandeur." I think this alternative settles for far less - it's factual, but it's only one fact - not the most important one, either. Sex as a physical act is common, not only to all humanity but to the whole animal kingdom (and a lot of the plants, too) - but lovers are not. Their fidelity is not to a deed but to a beloved, and there is only one of her in all the world. That's what transforms the common deed into an uncommon experience. I mean, money is common too, does that mean that everybody should have access to your checking account?

#5 - Thorngod - Chastity is its own punishment. But I think the taboo and the shame trip laid on illicit sex by religion also serve to make the experience even more exciting. As to the "love" recommendation, there is a lot of confusion involved in the sex-love equation. More later.
He's not kidding with the "more later" but multiplying by zero doesn't increase his contribution. [see below - NF] "Sex-love confusion" is a problem among the chaste, of course, but who is more foolish - those who make the mistake, or those who think the mistake proves that there is no difference at all? The real solution is not only to know the difference, but to know which is the cause and which is the effect. Sometimes I suspect that those who are all for sex without restriction realize these things just as chaste lovers do, only they fear the implications. Love has a natural desire to promise fidelity - it focuses on a particular person rather than an action - so some choose to confine themselves to sex without love, and they slander love's tendency to commitment as "a shame trip laid on illicit sex."

update, June 24 - Thorngod answered with something that turned out to be far more than zero. It's posted above with my reply - not surprisingly, my rebuttal there runs very much along the lines in the paragraph you've just read. But Thorngod's original is excellent, a far greater effort than anything else on this original list.

#9 - Mookie - Chastity makes priests molest children.
My absolute favorite on the list - there are nearly as many errors in this sentence as there are words.
1. Chastity prohibits molestation, so it is false to state that it causes it.
2. Mookie may well mean to say "celibacy" rather than "chastity" - but making that substitution doesn't make the statement any less self-refuting.
3. Married men molest children as well, so obviously neither chastity nor celibacy is the issue.
4. If priests' desire to escape celibacy were the issue, well, why not simply leave the clergy and get married? For that matter, why go in for ordination at all?
Seems obvious to me that child molestation is nothing more than a straw man in this discussion, meant to equate depravity with self-discipline regarding sex. Wrong on every possible level. For efficiency, concentrated illogic, and spite, it's hard to top those five little words.

#18 - it's unfair to Ms. Tressider to have her on this list: we've had our share of debate and it's always been friendly and honest. She is neither a frother nor a fool, as the majority of the comment demonstrates. I just feel it's important to make a point about the Church by highlighting the final sentence: "Part of it comes from the cultish attitude of Catholics to sex - that its special nature is only available to the initiated because of their inside knowledge."

This is a great description of gnosticism, but not Christianity; the Church has always explicitly rejected gnosticism. Every believer is described in Scripture as "the elect," not merely those with some secret esoteric knowledge - indeed, knowledge is secondary to love and commitment to Christ. (It is no accident that marriage is one of the symbols of the relationship between Christ and His Church.) The important "inside knowledge" is about the first thing you hear: "If you believe in your heart and profess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord, you will be saved." Everything else, including sexual morality, is merely a description of how that decision impacts our everyday lives; by definition, this means everyone, not only "the initiated." #19 makes much the same case in reply, (nicely done, Lily!) and Ms. Tresidder agrees - again, friendly and honest.

This seems to start a trend, where people actually start putting up points and counterpoints in a calm and reasonable fashion. But there are flashes of non sequitor, such as Genghis Dirt at #37: "It is certainly true that the words "chastity", "marriage", "virtue", etc. are enormously loaded terms, rightfully associated with misogyny, slavery, oppression, and really bad psychology. But this does not automatically dismiss RA's point! ... Without the age-old shackles of religion distracting us (hopefully), atheists are uniquely able to see clearly about sexuality." It really deserves its own post - one in which I'd probably wind up repeating a lot of the above. In brief: chastity is not misogynist, marriage is not slavery, virtue is not oppressive - the only term-loading going on here is in this commentary. I strongly suspect that this clear sight about sexuality will result in the "age-old shackles" being replaced with shiny new ones, each chain forged in logic and machined to economic and political specifications.

And to cap it off, #39 - Mark Plus - "That way of doing things has fallen way out of step with other trends in our society, along with fealty oaths to the local lord and lifetime employment in corporations. These days it makes a lot more sense for men and women to treat one another as temp workers or free agents you can make short-term contracts with for mutual convenience. See, for example,
Intimacy in a Fluid World, by F.M. Esfandiary."
The best reply is an idea one often finds in CS Lewis - believing something only because it is in fashion means being doomed to changing one's mind on everything every decade or so. Given enough time most ideas, good or bad, have a renaissance. This suggests that something other than the calendar is in play here - in fact, it implies that human nature is consistent, since in every age and culture we see many of the same competing theories vying for our attention, enjoying their recurring status as a fad.

If human nature is consistent, then something may simly be true for all humanity, regardless of its unpopularity, in spite of superstitions and excesses - and that brings us right back up to RA's original post. One of those somethings, by his reckoning, may well be chastity. It has something to contribute to anyone, across age and culture. That's why we still find relevance in a Lewis or an Aquinas or a Plato - they stuck to immutables. An example of the alternative is the foolish residents of the City of Claptrap in Lewis' Pilgrim's Regress, who had to come up with a new opinion every week lest their masters cut off their food - and isn't it peculiar how we can readily point to people in our day who live exactly like this, even though Regress was written 70 years ago?

By now there are probably more than the forty comments that were there when I started, but if I keep going I'll never finish.

Is it soup yet?

Nope - not yet. But my thanks for the greater-than-average traffic over the past week. I'm still cooking up something that I hope to have ready later tonight. In the meantime, I hope you like what you've seen so far.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

We'd better fight to win

Bad enough that these brave men lost their lives, and that their families grieve. Worse still is that the barbarians responsible savaged the bodies and then booby-trapped them in hope of killing those who would retrieve them.

I'd better avoid people for the next couple of days, because I will no doubt hear or see some educated nitwit say that the cruelty of the enemy only proves that we're the wicked ones for fighting back against them. And then I may well wind up leading the evening news.

(You can read more at It Comes in Pints and the Coalition, and a Tangled Web, and of course the heavy hitters are on the job.)

Snap, Crackle, Pop

update, 5:30 pm - I'm bumping my thanks to the Coalition of the Swilling for the story - and the conversation is really rolling over there. Go see!

And why not? It makes as much sense as this proposal.

LOUISVILLE, March 22 (UPI) — Participants at this summer's national meeting of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will be asked to ratify a paper that says the Trinity is female.

The 217th General Assembly will be asked to ratify the 40-page report, "God's Love Overflowing," which suggests "Mother, Child and Womb" as terms equally appropriate to "Father, Son and Holy Spirit."
We've all seen this sort of thing before, only from the other end. It's really much more of a reflection of the Spirit of the Age than the Spirit of God. One need not be a man (or a priest) to be in the Kingdom, any more than one needs to be a prophet or an interpreter of tongues. This much, the social upheavers got right - but they've gone on from the true observation to one of two errors:

1. Because men and women are equal, they are also the same.
2. One need not be a man to be worth anything, therefore men themselves are not worth anything.

From whence we get silliness: for example, we now need studies to demonstrate that men are actually useful in the family. Now, I don't agree with the author's assertion that these studies are a waste of time: some people apparently need the reassurance, and for those who are inclined to disagree on principle, it's good to be able to show them some hard data to support a rebuttal. But I understand his frustration. Since men and women are equals, why do some insist that the only way to prove it is to eradicate the distinctions between them? What is gained by making women and men identical?

And now, it's not enough to do that on Earth - some are insisting that we extend our own peculiarities into the heavens. From a true observation - "no figures of speech can describe God's extraordinary affection towards us; for it is infinite and various" (John Calvin, as quoted in the report) - comes the false conclusion that therefore any figure of speech is as good as another.

Some people have a great deal of trouble relating to a divine Father, just as they have trouble relating to the earthly variety. Scrapping either model isn't a solution - it just avoids the whole problem.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Did I just hear that?!?

Overheard on ESPN News two minutes ago - Paul Silas complaining about the foul called at the very end of the Dallas-Miami game: "That wasn't a foul! I mean, Jesus Christ!"

I've heard people toss "hell" and "damn" into their sports invective, but rarely if ever does someone reference the Man that way on the air. Mark Cuban, no stranger to a good rant (as his fine history demonstrates), limited himself to f-bombs during his press conference (bleeped during the clip the network showed).

Even if I were not a believer that would have surprised me.

PS - the proper use of an indoor arena is currently underway in Raleigh. This is Game Seven, for the greatest trophy in sports. Good luck, men.

Ten thousand Hive maniacs

As of this afternoon (sooner than I thought!) this humble blog will have its 10,000th visitor since August 7, 2005.

Thanks to the still-mystery web-walker! For you and all, I've been crawling around my archives and have come up with some of the better entries in the pre-counting days. You'll notice odd shifts in font and template, and that none of the posts' comments have survived the eventual shift to Haloscan. It's a shame because I had some great feedback: I picked up more than a few links for the Pantheon and several good posts.

Read, and hopefully enjoy - it's the best thank-you I can give you for having come by in the first place. In return I only ask one favor - if you have a comment for one of these posts, feel free to leave it, but let me know in an email (nightflymail AT aol DOT com - just trade out words for symbols where applicable). Haloscan has a very erratic comment notification system. In fact, I found a comment on a post from February, and never knew it until this afternoon. (Bobby C, if you're still interested in Deck Hockey in New Jersey and you don't get my email, this is where we play now.)

The rundown:

* The first post, September 30, 2004.
* My first foray against Skip Bayless.
* Steroids in baseball? I’ve been doing some research for a while.
* My Corey Hart friends may appreciate this take on the Skyliners, and you also get to see an update in the look, because when researching I saw a typo and, being unable to let that sort of thing go, I fixed it.
* My man-crush on James Lileks goes back a ways, and my mental irregularity goes back even further. They converged here.
* A football post, with my explanation of the “One for Two, Two for One” rule.
I've been reading Bill Simmons, the Sports Guy, for about five years now. (Indirectly, he gave the Pantheon of Links its name.) He ran a Super Bowl contest that I gladly took on, with fun results (Part I and Part II).
* A little something on John Paul II just before the sun set.
* Some of my longest blog buddies are over at the Coalition of the Swilling. This is the beginning of that association.
* This got good feedback at the time, including remembrances of HoJo Restaurants, Peek Freens (extraordinarily serious cookies!) and other lost stalwarts of my youth.
* More music parody. (I really liked this one, even though the subject is a Jersey local.)
* I've always been grateful for the support, but ironically, the comments I mention here are gone now, a victim of the changeover to Haloscan.
* Violence in youth athletics is nothing new, unfortunately.
* A double from April '05 on the new pope and the new food pyramid. (Sorry if my Firefox friends struggle with these - this was an unpopular and short-lived look for the Hive.)
* This is another recurring theme for me: the line between sanity and morality. I think that, like Cyrano, I have done better since on this topic.
* A little philosopy on sex. (There's nothing I can't demagogue!)
* How about a little Sleight of Mind?
* Another contemplative post - on the intersection of philosophy and everyday life. Come to think of it, haven't been to Muley's World lately. (Oops, he hasn't been either.)
* This one's for Cullen - my first exposure to the music of the Anderson Council. (And when's that new album coming?)
* Movie Tag! I revisited this topic recently, but this is the original.

Given some time I should be able to give you another such roundup from the post-counting era, and another where Haloscan was finally up and running (actual feedback!). In the meantime, please accept my thanks again. The absolute best part of this, the part that keeps me coming back despite bouts of ennui (and the occasional lost entry as this almost became) is the discussion that follows a good post.

Friday, June 16, 2006


You have never heard of Rose Ismail.

If you log onto your ISP and browse the news, the headlines are concerned with others - war widows, folk-country has-beens, mermaids up trees, people famous for documentaries and documentaries from famous people. But you've never heard of Rose Ismail.

That's not surprising. None of the above celebrities have heard of her either. They're too busy protesting - brave dissent, as they are usually quick to point out themselves. It's the best kind of brave dissent, in fact: the kind that is neither brave nor contrary. It's all over the papers, leads most broadcasts, and spawns countless blogs. The subjects risk nothing, and find a large ready audience of approval, an audience that will even pay large fees to go to hear "the things they don't want you to hear."

(update - thanks to the Coalition, a recent demonstration.)

If I could ask you a favor, I'd rather that you hear this.

A joint Chinese New Year-Hari Raya gathering, where I would probably eat an orange, a handful of peanuts and a biscuit or two, should not turn me into a traitor of the religion.
But as it turns out, the ulamas are wringing their hands in worry that Muslims attending such events may go astray. ... It seems to suggest that our faith in God is so fundamentally fragile that, on the slightest pretext, we can be persuaded to jump ship.

That the ulamas consider events which promote friendship, respect and consideration for one another to be potentially damaging to the soul is most perplexing indeed.
Yet, the Quran emphatically says: “O mankind, we created you from a single pair of male and female and made you into nations and tribes that you may know each other, not that you may hate each other.” ...

Perhaps the ulamas are no longer confident in the religious lessons which almost all Malaysian Muslims would have had from young. [sic]
Perhaps, they realise that what they’ve taught us over the years has not adequately prepared us to face life’s thorny dilemmas?

Rose Ismail is not alone. It speaks well for Malaysia that a newspaper could run her comments, and run a poll whose results bear them out. You'll notice, if you go on to this article, that people are airing their concerns and exchanging ideas. No violence, no death threat. And there is also no sensational grandstanding by people concerned more about how the cause looks than about the cause itself.

In too many other places, nobody would say what Ms. Ismail has because their lives would be in peril. And in others, the brave dissenters would rather take stands in the crowd than support Ms. Ismail - and many of them are standing against those who are seeking to bring to millions the same freedom they and Ms. Ismail share.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Toucan ever, Sir, enter

Most guys my age suffer from Early Eighties Nostalgia.

Those were good times – most houses still had TV antennae, even those with the magic box that bestowed Fraggle Rock, MTV, and out-of-town UHF stations. Heck, MTV actually played music then, and thus, said music was doubly cool.

Yeah, it was largely a collection of lame synth hooks, one-hit wonders, and thinly-veiled references to self-manipulation – but it was on television. And you’d get Van Halen or “Money for Nothing” if you waited all of seven minutes. And Martha Quinn! Shut up, Elton, and let someone who can appreciate – oh, crap, it's Mark Goodman. What’s the next song?

Corey Hart, “Sunglasses at Night.” Time for homework, then.

OK, so that’s not really fair, but it’s hardly untrue, either. I can look back and laugh – after all, I’m laughing at myself as well, and why not? In fact, today at work “Sunglasses at Night” popped up on the Randomizer, and I was struck all over again, step by goofy step, by the living comedy.

Start with the hook:

Those opening bars sound like something Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox cooked up as a gag when they were hung over, then thought about for 2.3 seconds and said, “Ha ha ha, OK, seriously, let’s go write Missionary Man.”

Then, the image. Corey’s wearing sunglasses at night, dude! Excellent! It must be serious and cool and other adult things. (At least, as long as he doesn’t do any actual adult thing like drive a car.) Oh oh oh - check it, he’s gonna sing about it!

I wear my sunglasses at night
So I can, so I can
Wonchle weavie breeze the pony’s flies

Uh, wha-?

I wear my sunglasses at night
So I can, so I can
Boffle jackal visions in my eyes!

OK, not only was that still gibberish, it wasn’t even the same gibberish. How can you have any vision at all in the dark while wearing Ray-Bans?

While she’s deceiving me
She cuts my security and
She’s got control of me
I turn to her and say –

Finally! Answers!

Don’t plushie shave on a guy in shades, oh no!

Oh, no.

Don’t masquerade on a blithe Kincaid, oh no!
I can’t believe it!

Can’t believe what? SPIT IT OUT, jackass.

You’re wearing plaid with a flying shade of gold!

Well, that would be a fashion nightmare.

We had access to music videos, but not yet to 100,000-song lyric databases, so we were forced to give up at that point. I just assumed it was spy talk,* sort of like Golden Earring’s “Twilight Zone,” except this was a special-needs secret agent with light sensitivity issues. And maybe there was something to that, after all. Consider the clues:
  1. synth riff stolen from the Eurythmics’ dumpster
  2. by a hero so super-secret he wears shades in the dark
  3. lyrics mumbled in code
  4. a mysterious, deceptive woman who endangers and controls the hero, who
  5. shouts more mumbled codes at her
  6. and nobody can quite peg where any of it is going.
You know what I think now? I think that Corey Hart is really Dan Brown, and the entire song was accidentally left out of The Da Vinci Code. Everything makes much more sense that way.

* Martha, by the way, is still a cutie.
* Nope. It was this. But you can forgive the many people who thought otherwise.
* Of course, all clips hosted by Castpost.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Enjoy the Painbringers

I thought that I didn't like Skip Bayless' work, but these guys are killing poor Joe Morgan - and unlike Skip, Joe's a Hall of Fame ballplayer.

Even though it's called "Fire Joe Morgan," it looks like they'd settle for the head (or hat) of MSNBC's Mike Celizic. And "HatGuy" has written some doozies, such as this: "...some managers are better than others. There aren’t many of them, but they’re the guys who always seem to make teams better. Billy Martin used to be able to do that before the asylum that was the Bronx Zoo and the mad shipbuilder Yankee owner drove him so far into the bottle he never climbed out."

People have said a lot of nasty things about George Steinbrenner, and some of them are true, but read anything about the Yanks of the 50's and you hear that Bill Martin always had that ferocious personality, and was as hard-partying off the field as he was hard-nosed on it.

This post, however, may require an addition to the Pantheon of Links. "I did not hear the second starting five of Intangibly Good Teammates, but I assume it was Magic, Cousy, Shaq, Bird, and Jordan, with Dr. J, Kareem, Wilt, Teen Wolf, and Jesus Christ coming off the bench."

Then, when you're done, scroll the archives. It's a compendium of bad writing blown to smithereens. (Naturally, this means that Skip gets his share.) I am Not Worthy! I am Not Worthy!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Meanwhile, I'm still thinking

* Why is it always the small stuff that annoys the most? I'm far more forgiving of actual offense or harm than I am of minor inconvenience - I'll rant if the Mets lose, but not if my own team does, even though I have no control over the first and some control over the second.

* Bingley's odd spam problem seems to be catching. At work there's been a mini-run of the wierd name combos. At least they're using some interesting vocabulary words. My favorites so far? Tanzanias M Panoplies (no longer confined to ancient rulers), Charismatics F Coppola (Pentacostals for the Godfather?), Ludicrous V Enthrals (rap album? hypnotist? who knows), Impunity D Exclamation (and no-one can stop him, so there), and Ethnologist A Dateline (ripped from the pages of National Geographic).

* I saw a red Pontiac Grand Am, circa 1988 or so, jetting down the highway the other day. It had a small Italian flag decal on the back, just above the license plate - the single most redundant car adornment ever. For pity's sake, here in Jersey they sold that car with a free six-pack of ribbed tank-tees in the glovebox.

* Hopefully Big Ben won't contract Gary Busey Disease - but it's a long leap from "should have worn the helmet" to "therefore, the state must make him wear one." If a multi-million dollar career, endless material perks, the devotion of an entire city, and one's own health aren't enough to keep you from acting like an ignoramus, then there's no helping you. Meanwhile, that screech you hear was Charlie Batch suddenly realizing that he's got to take over a team with huge fan expectations, no goal-line back or second wide receiver, and a huge bullseye on its collective back.

* Wait, a city referendum can't overrule the Second Amendment to the US Constitution? Fascists.

* Recent college graduate pulls illegal U-turn to duck DUI checkpoint, gets busted anyway. This is every weekend in every county of the union, mind you, but not every college graduate could go top-ten in a professional sports draft. Break out the kid gloves, and while you're at it, the shovels for the amount of Bravo Sierra likely to pile up - good kid, isolated incident, yada yada frickin' yada.

* Talked with Mom on Sunday and she said that even in southern Florida, this was causing a lot of wind gusts and quick rain storms. My thoughts go out to those who are more northern and getting worse right now.

* So after all of that dodgy bloviating - including, of all things, playing the race card! - Kennedy is going to cop a plea: yet another confirmation that the Congress is almost indistinguishable from a fraternity of snooty scions of privilege.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Blog fatigue

Things I think of when I can't finish a post:

* At this point, it's a two-man race for Most Useless Movies: Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler. (Rob Schneider, mercifully, isn't nearly as prodigious.)

* "Ciabatta" is the new "focaccia."

* "Inspired by actual events" may as well mean "We made it up, but used real peoples' names."

* It ought to be admitted - I talk a lot about playing hockey, but it's exclusively deck hockey: everyone on foot, including me in goal. I've played roller hockey, but only in leagues where they let the keepers stay on foot (ball hockey). My current league is here, though currently my team is taking a season off. *poser!*

* Playing during this post - the MST3K episode "Cave Dwellers." Lordy, but it's bad.

* It's going to be a tough few years, no matter what you enjoy. Sports? Keith Jackson has already retired. Vin Scully, Myron Cope, and Bob Shepard won't stay long. We'll lose the greatest living hitters from the left side and the right side soon. Acting? Take your pick, there are plenty of 75-and-ups: Newman, Douglas, Bacall, Connery, Scofield, James Earl Jones, Angela Lansbury... For music, the bar starts a lot lower thanks to the ravages of the lifestyle, so I wouldn't bet on too much more from the Stones, Sir Paul, Ozzie, or what's left of the Who.

Normal, I know. We grow into a certain background, familiar sights and sounds that have always been there, a background painted in light on smoke. The wind picks up a little more each year. But I think my demograhpic gets the worst of it: when you're young you don't feel the sting as much. My parents were shocked when it was Elvis, John Wayne, and the Berlin Wall, but why shouldn't it have been? I wasn't old enough to have an established backstory.

But now my generation is beginning to lose bits of that backstory, people we've grown accustomed to have in our mental landscape, people behind our best memories. We start to lose parents and grandparents, and then, before long, friends. Soon the background settles in again for our children as we age. As morbid as the preceding sounds, I actually find it comforting to know that we help to leave behind something for them. We have much more to lose but it's left in good hands, if we can master the art of letting go gracefully.

* Czechs 3, US nil. As in zero, no goals, the Big Bagel. Oh, next game is Italy. See you in 2010.

* For cartoons you've got Bill Amend, Darby Conley, Stephen Pastis, and Mike Twohy. Scott Adams is still good, but those four are the in the lead pack right now.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Aslan wept

update and bump, June 10, 11:08 pm - reader KG points out that this is hardly the worst mascot ever. I am forced to agree. Click here if you dare - Atlanta's '96 entry is easily the worst, probably got stuffed in his locker a lot at mascot school. Seoul '88 was kinda nifty, tho.

See, this is the problem with not being widely read. My warnings go unheeded:

Would you offer yourself, in the pale moonlight, to the lion with the red red rose?
This is bad. Shockingly bad. Heinously bad. If we wrapped Jim Henson's coffin in copper wiring we could probably power Berlin for the remainder of the World Cup.

The abomination is named Goleo VI, and as the name suggests, he ought to be shot into deep space, never to return. His buddy is Pille the Talking Football, who seems pleased to offer himself for ninety minutes of kicking several times a week until it's over. Given that we can't do that to the designers of these things, we'll settle for second-best. Really, who couldn't enjoy kicking Pille, savoring the cries of shock and pain, the "Mein Gott, why? Why me?", and giggling like a schoolgirl if it should come down to penalties? I'd string the nets with razor wire to make it happen.

Then we could set Goleo's mane on fire and use him to fuel the rioting in the champion country. Good times!

(w/t to DJ Gallo of's Page 2)

update - there can be only one! Jumping Judas on a trampoline, what's wrong with these people?

Friday, June 09, 2006

Best of the Badness

Or, "Sheila started it!"

The Underrated Movies series of posts led to underrated performances - beginning with the specific mention of Kee-An-U in Something's Gotta Give. This sent Tracey off on a list of turning point performances (no, not that Turning Point). (PS - Cullen too.)

I can't keep up. I don't follow film closely enough, don't know the craft enough to offer more than the amateur's "liked it/didn't" sort of critiques. In a way, it's almost like beer - I can tell the difference between good beer and bad but am not much of a consumer thereof. (Bingley wept.)

But let me blurt anyway: behold, enjoyably bad movies! Criteria:

1. inane concept
2. ridiculous twists (either plot or character)
3. the Excuse Factor - in other words, was the whole project a thinly-veiled excuse to smuggle in lots of nudity/explosions/special effects?
4. good actors slumming or not yet discovered
5. cheesy music
6. clichéd dialogue/too much exposition
7. unintentional comedy
8. The X-factor: a catchall based on the timing of the movie, becoming a cultural phenomenon, and other less-defined factors.

And here are three to start:

1. The Rock. A surprisingly high score with a lot of, er, "positives" - screwy plot, stupid twists, and excuse factor all a perfect five out of five, notes-by-rote soundtrack (solid four), lots of Slumming (Connery, Ed Harris, David Morse, the late John Spencer), high X-factor (8 of 10), and a decent comedy rating (3 of 5: they lost one point because some of the jokes were intentional). It doesn't take quite top honors, though. Connery is perfect in a movie like this thanks to his Bond training - he even riffs on that, because this character was also in Her Majesty's Secret Service. But Nic Cage loses them a point because he just fits here too well. Connery is obviously taking a step down, Cage not so much. Harris also loses a point, but in a different way - he's wonderful. He actually makes chicken salad out of the chicken feather concept, skills he mastered in The Abyss. You care about what happens to him. 37 of 45.

2. - Commando. "Aul zat matters nau is Jen-ny!" And with that, we are OFF to the races. A lot of movies like this could be considered, but would probably only rate in the 20's. This one, though, takes the rather common action conceit of "forcing good guy to do bad stuff or else" and ramps it up - Ahnold really raises his game here. The twists are preposterous, the set pieces are all cosmically goofy (high Excuse Factor), and the dialogue is a perfect five (never have so many died so often to so many bad dispatch lines - in fact, check the trivia for one that got left on the cutting room floor). Four of five for the music, which is nearly as clichéd as Ahnold's dialogue. (Oh - James Horner. Of course.) No slumming, and discovery factor is low (a young Alyssa Milano), but Dan Hedaya's hilariously-miscast (and misnamed!) South American warlord, Arius, scratches out two points. 36 of 45.

3. Top Gun. The überbadness. Surprisingly loses a point on the twists and the concept, which are corny but so predictable that I can't give it a five. But it takes full marks for Excuse Factor (half of that just for the "oiled guys playing volleyball scene," topped by Hollywood's flexing) and the electro-Loggins soundtrack. Slumming/Discovery is a five thanks to Tim Robbins, Meg Ryan (her first real big role, IIRC), Anthony Daniels, Mr. Strickland from Back to the Future, Tom Skerrit looking bored as hell, and Val Kilmer taking it all to another level - in fact, his performance actually results in a six out of five for Unintentional Comedy, topped by the "Sorry about Goose. (snif!) Everyone liked him. (SNIF!!!!!)" speech. But the Crooze, of course, makes the film. He has zero chemistry with Kelly McGillis - anti-chemistry, even. It actually doesn't even seem odd that he'd rather be late for his dinner with her than miss out on the oiled volleyball game. And then he asks to shower at her place! (Smoooooooth.) It all comes together in the "love scene," a mandatory feature of 80's movies - he looks almost as serious as he does in the sailor suit photos, and soaring above it all, the leaden notes of Berlin's "Take My Breath Away." It did, but only because I cracked three ribs laughing. You have to HAVE breath first, Tom. McGillis should have gotten an Oscar nod for "Best Carrying of Both Sides of a Cinematic Romance." 44 of 45.

The floor is open to other nominees.

(w/t to Sheila for the Crooze Salute, part of this comments thread. Put down your beverages before you read.)