Friday, April 27, 2007

Waiting for the hammer to fall

update, May 4, 2007 - ESPN's Gene Wojciechowski got the memo. He nicked my domino metaphor, too, though it wasn't exactly well-hidden.

The authors of Game of Shadows, Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, escaped jail time, but it looks pretty bad for a lot of the folks they were writing about. Even juiced dominoes fall once the first one tips, and today comes breaking news that a particularly largish piece may have just dropped into investigators' laps.

Kirk J. Radomski, a New York Mets clubhouse employee between 1985 and 1995, has pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in San Francisco to distribution of a controlled substance - a schedule three anabolic steroid - to "dozens of Major Leaguers on teams throughout the league." He also pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering.
This looks like the smoking gun to me. Up til now it's been the players getting caught, or their various "nutritionists," "personal trainers," and "therapists" on the hook for the distribution. Now we've got a former baseball employee who used his daytime job as access to players for the purpose of making a buck off the juice. HUGE news.

The documents we reviewed ["we" are the Sports Illustrated reporters, Luis Fernando Llosa and Jon Wertheim -NF] - an affidavit for an application for a search warrant - indicates [sic] that: "Numerous significant deposits from current and former [Major League Baseball] players and some affiliated individuals" were made to Radomski. According to the documents, he received more than $23,000 in more than 20 different payments between 2003 and 2005 that are alleged to have been made in conjunction with steroids purchases. Already cell phone numbers belonging to current and former MLB players have been identified.
So he made his contacts, developed his client list, and eventually reached a critical mass with the players. He didn't need the day job anymore; they would find him.

At least one Major League baseball player associated with BALCO has also been implicated in this investigation. ... Also, we're told that Radomski, as part of the plea agreement, is cooperating with former Senator George Mitchell's investigation into steroid use in Major League Baseball. ... "This individual was a major dealer of anabolic steroids and performance enhancing drugs including human growth hormone," says Matt Parrella, a federal prosecutor working on the case . "[His] clientele was focused almost exclusively on Major League Baseball players and [his] work spanned a decade.
Worse and worse. At this point I wouldn't be surprised if they searched Barry Bonds' locker and found a cassette tape with 18½ minutes erased.

Radomski, 37, is a former bodybuilder with a listed residence in Lindenhurst, N.Y., which was allegedly his base of operations, warehouse and communications base.
And that's just the capper. "Former bodybuilder" (riiiiight) who just happens to have worked for my favorite baseball club, operating out of my birthplace. I am SPORTS TYPHOID. I'm like the Sipowitz of fankind - everything I root for or am associated with breaks, loses, gets hurt... or goes to jail.

Much better than Slap Shot 2

It's shorter, better-written and acted, and doesn't have a Baldwin in it.

As we've all seen first-hand, YouTube is responsible for some gawd-awful slop, but you find some hidden gems. Star Nicholas Vachon even has the right name for a goalie. He's not as good as Rogie, but I'll admit he's better than me.

So, why am I smiling?

Arrr, mateys, man the penalty kill!  Lively, now, ye bilge-rats!
Because I am not left-handed!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Meet the new false, same as the old false

John Spong, currently a High Potentate in the Church of the Squishy Marshmallow, was once the archbishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark, as I recall... on occasion, he and then-Archbishop Theodore McCarrick (now a Cardinal in DC) would throw down about God (or the lack thereof) in the local press. It was always entertaining. And now, the fun continues.

Mr. Spong has a question to consider. If Jesus was really all about the nonjudgment, why was He always doing things that presupposed, not only a judgment, but one against us? Even saying "His love transcended judgment" starts with the concept of something that requires transcending. His words and acts made it painfully clear that this wasn't something we could do on our own. His big thing is forgiving sins, which seems rather pointless if there are no such things; doubly so if He knew all this while yelling at other people for their hypocrisy.

Spong also says that Jesus can't be the Christ, the Son of the living God, because it's fantastic and unlikely. People don't do miracles today like He did then, therefore He didn't do them either. This eventually becomes circular: there are no such thing as miracles, therefore Jesus didn't do miracles, therefore he wasn't God, therefore there is no such thing as miracles...

I think the truth is much more simple: He was the Christ. That is, by definition, undeniably fantastic and unlikely, an utterly unique event. In that case, it becomes the most likely thing in the world that He should do unlikely things. It's one of the things the apostles were always noticing in the Gospels: "What manner of man is this, that the wind and the waves obey him?" His actions were no less incredible to them in person than they are to us on testimony. In the end, their only possible conclusion was that this was the real thing - the only Real Thing there ever was, next to which their own lives and freedom were like straw in the fire.

Instead, Spong asks me to believe in a far more fantastic and unlikely Jesus than the one the Gospels called the Christ, the Son of the living God; one whose actions make no sense apart from His divinity and His mission. It's only in His miraculousness that He is of any help to us; if He isn't the God of Creation, his love wouldn't transcend jack squat.

Skeptics and scoffers were doing this sort of thing to His face, and have kept it up ever since then, so this "new" book is just as old as the Gospel. Spong's Jesus for the 21st century is the same one he was talking about forty years ago; and soon enough it will be the 22nd century, and He will want revising. All such revisions are as stale as the tomb He left behind on Easter.

U2's "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" has sounder theology than Spong's watery skepticism. It explains why the rank-and-file ECUSA can't stand the beats, and are asking for the check in record numbers.

(via Molten Thought, whose presence on the sidebar, long overdue, is now secure)

I ... am the afternoon!

UPDATE - duhhhhhh.... it would help to actually link the ISB when I say "I'm linking the ISB."

This is... well... wow. I'm linking the ISB on this because he deserves the traffic as a reward for bringing this to greater light.

Your favorite scene may be the iconic image of Gotham's Twilight Avenger haunting the first-story rooftops of suburban Poughkeepsie, NY... or the vigorous training sessions behind the neighborhood Circle K... or Stately Wayne Apartments... or Bats telling his 'old chum' (who may actually be older) that it's time to roll... or Robin nearly choking on his own uniform shirt... or the Riddler unwittingly revealing his long-cherished dream of being a drum major.

According to Chris, there's a sequel. Possible titles:
  • Batman: the Hands of Fate
  • Batman Conquers the Martians
  • Hoodie 2: the Vengeance

Let's just say that if you wrapped Bob Kane's coffin in copper wire, you could power a small city for three days.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Art in a cage

Lileks put up some pix from a ChiCom ballet.

It's called "Red Detachment of Women." He writes, "According to Wikipedia - the three most trusted words in information! – this play was one of eight permitted to be shown during the Cultural Revolution..."

EIGHT. That's all they got. And you can tell by looking at the pictures. These are artists, and this unworthy product was all they were allowed to pour themselves into, so they did it. Look at the smile on the woman in particular. To me, that doesn't say "beholding the revolutionary road." It says, "Thank God I'm doing what I love, for the people I love." Glorious Revolutions can bite the wax tadpole, there's a show to put on.

His writing is great, as always... but my heart breaks thinking about these dancers and singers, happily extolling five-year plans and Chairman Mao, all the while denied Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, and the Marriage of Figaro. I mean - look at this. Grace, power, beauty? Pffft - it's nothing next to the glories of the state.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

One From Sample "B"

It looks like Floyd Landis has, as my sister would say, crooked pee:

PARIS - Follow-up tests on backup urine samples by Tour de France champion Floyd Landis found traces of synthetic testosterone, the French sports newspaper L'Equipe reported Monday.
The tests on seven "B" samples clearly showed traces of the banned substance, the paper said on its Web site. Landis had insisted the follow-up tests weren't necessary because the primary "A" samples tested negative for banned substances during the Tour.

Floyd should have called Barry B or Victor Conte and asked, "Can you hook me up?"

You got me...

In alphabetical order**.

...A- Available or Single? Available, no. Single... technically, but I wouldn't act on that knowledge if I were you.
...B- Best Friend. "Will... YOU be my psychic FRIEND?" No? You sure? [/walkenvoice]
...C- Cake or Pie. You made both? How sweet. Pie is better, but I won't say no. (And flan is best - the Happy Dessert!)
...D- Drink of Choice. Way too much coffee, I'm afraid. I'm trying to do better.
...E- Essential Item. Lots of things come to mind, but they rotate... I can't do without a particular book or something for a month, and then pffft! But I'm on the computer quite often, so go with that. - OH! Duh. Music. Nearly any genre, too. Gimme my music!
...F- Favorite Color. I've always been a green-blue sort of fellow.
...G- Gummi Bears or Worms. Ew, worms? Maybe if they were GUMMI Worms. See, for me, G stands for Grammar - and I'm full-tilt Strunkian, baby.
...H- Hometown. Lindenhurst, "Lawn Guy Land." I've been exiled for about 20 years, though, so the accent only emerges under duress, sort of like My Fair Lady, only without the domineering.
...I- Indulgence. I loves me a good nap. And for some reason, I've had an ice cream jones the past few days, but file that under E for "comes and goes."
...J- January or February. January. It's the month to enjoy all your holiday swag and general good cheer. February in New Jersey is just cold and mean and grasping. Trust me: January is your friend, but February HATES you, and doesn't care that you know it.
...K- Kids. Reminds me of a popular little ditty on the radio around here: eight seven-seven kars for kids
.......K-A-R-S, kars for kids eight seven-seven kars for kids
.......donate your car today
Not that I know much about them, but that's what the internet is for.
...L- Life is incomplete without …. My Ladybug.
...M- Marriage Date. Soon. Exact day is classified - and I hate to do that to you, but there are reasons.
...N- Number of Siblings? 2.
...O- Oranges or Apples? Sorry, but I can't compare them.
...P- Phobias/Fears. I dislike bridges. Not a phobia anymore. When I was a kid on LI, my parents had to take the tunnels to get anywhere, or I would freak out hard. Ironically, I got myself over the worst of it by running away from home at the age of nine. To get to Grandma's house, I had to cross the overpass spanning Sunrise Highway. Major freak out, but I did it - for FREEDOM! (Like Grandma would have let me stay there and not told Mom and Dad, right? "Sorry, I haven't seen him." :::winks at Young Nightfly, who is stuffing his face with flan::: "He sent me this postcard from Timbuktu. He wears a fez now.")
...Q- Favorite Quote. I'm a quoting fool: Twain, Chesterton, Mystery Science Theater. But an everyday quote I keep in mind is from my dad - "If it's worth doing, it's worth doing well."
...R- Reasons to smile. My best girl. My friends. Great books. All the gorgeous blooming stuff everywhere right now, allergies be hanged. Purring kitties. Babies. Music. Smile = good.
...S- Season. Born in late summer, but I'm a spring sort of guy at heart.
...T- Tag Three. I do NOT tag. But it is a magic number. (Yes, it is!)
...U- Unknown Fact About Me. Hitherto unknown fact about me, you mean. That you want me to put on a blog read by tens of people weekly.
...V – Vegetarian or Oppressor of Animals. Seems to me that the "or" is optional. One could eat only vegetables while harnessing the power of 137,400 hamsters on wheels for one's washing machine. Hey, hamsters are cheap, right? So, why not "Vegetarian or Freedom-Lover"?
(Ironically, I went lentil/noodle/fruits/nuts today without planning it.)
...W- Worst Habit. I'm too loud. On top of that, I have been known to blurt Things People in the Room Presently were Not Meant to Know in my Italian Loud voice. Much better now than formerly, so other bad habits are trying to pick up the slack.
...X – X-rays or Ultrasounds. I prefer the F-Ray. "And for the love of God... don't let it fall into the wrong hands!"
...Y- Your Favorite Foods. Indian is good. Pizza is very good. Flan on special occasions. My mom's lasagna and creme puffs. (Sorry, Ms. Sister, it had to be said.) And at the Omega Diner, anything with maple-peppered bacon, which are the three greatest words in the history of lunch.
...Z- Zodiac. What's my sign?? Let me put it this way - I'm old enough to get the joke, but young enough never to have been on the receiving end before. Domestically, I'm in Virgo; going Far East Side, I'm in the Year of the Rat, which was NOT a hit for songsmith Al Stewart. This should narrow down my temporal point of origin pretty closely for anyone so inclined... if reading this far hasn't exhausted your interest in me.

Swiped from Tracey, as seen everywhere fine blogs are written.

** note - NOT "a-b-c order." (Even though "alphabetic" translates roughly as "a-b order," again, I wouldn't try it that way around the Ladybug.)

Monday, April 23, 2007

The philosophy of poker

KG had a multi-faceted rant at the FFO this week, but his first graf was the one that stuck out at me:

[expletive] off to the [bung]holes playing poker that continually get lucky when they make stupid plays. [same expletive] you, I've taken a lot of time and effort to learn how the game is supposed to be played only to have you hit a two [gerund expletive] outer on the [violation of the Third Commandment] river and take a monster pot that should be mine.

Yup. We'll put this in the files:

  • The guy who called all my raises in limit with Q-9 offsuit and eventually nailed the straight - beating my pocket aces
  • After the flop [A-7-2, off-suit], with two pair [A-2], I raised; then called the all-in re-raise of a lady with pocket fours - and she nailed the third four on the turn
  • Pre-flop, called an all-in with a pair of tens, which is a four-to-one favorite over the pair of eights my opponent had - until the third eight shows up on the flop
  • Flopped the nut flush, and slow played, calling after the flop [5-Q-10], the turn [a nine], then raising the bet after the river [another nine] - and guess who had a full house, nines over queens?
So, what's the common thread? Well, all of the four examples above happened to me, but with one twist - in that last example, I was the guy with Q-9 and Martin (I've mentioned him before) was the guy trying to drain me dry.

In example four, I was the lucky one. But there's a reason WHY I was lucky - it's because I wasn't that good at poker at the time. An experienced player would have had warning bells going off in his head when his opponent just called the flop bet, especially with a possible flush on the board. Even after turning the two pair, I should have checked to Martin, forcing him either to bet (driving me out of the hand) or, if he still wanted me around, to check and give me a free shot at the full house (the only way I can win the hand). I didn't play it totally stupid, only mostly stupid; but it was still a rookie play. Learning better in the future led me to make much more accurate plays in the other three examples, only to get beat down each time.

Now, in almost everything else, luck follows skill. To use two familiar examples: in hockey, over time the bounces will eventually favor the better teams and players, especially on my level where there is a wide disparity between the best and worst. (In the pros, not so much - they are all so good that the bounces even out.) A guy will happen to be in the right spot, and the rebound will just happen to find him - and he will bury the chance before anyone can recover. Bad luck, yes - but borne of his experience (to know where to be, almost before he's aware of it) and practice (to be able to make the most of the chance).

Same thing in chess. The board goes crazy, pieces are flying everywhere, and the patzer thinks he's got the expert - but the expert's odd-looking move fifteen turns ago has given him a knight or a pawn or an escape square in just the right spot to turn the game his way. His experience and practice have given him a better feel for what pieces work best together, the right order for moves in a combination; the geometry of the game is second nature and he just gives himself more opportunities to work things to his advantage.

Poker, however, is an odds game, and as a result, best play means that you will always be making the high-percentage play: either you will have your money in with the best hand, or you will make a bet that you know your opponent can't match. Therefore, by definition, if you lose, it's because you were unlucky - your opponent catches the miracle card, and his unwise bets make him rich at your expense. Mentally, it's THE challenge for a poker player, the knowledge that the better you get, the unluckier you must be. It drives pros crazy, as anyone knows who's watched ESPN when Phil Hellmuth or Mike Matusow take a tough loss.

Courage, KG. As craptacular as it is, bad beats mean that you are getting better.

Musical Monday - hockey edition

Friends, I don't want anyone to think that a little disagreement between hockey blogs means that we're not all fans. So, the news that Columbus fired GM Doug MacLean has prompted a little musical interlude...

Not too long ago
The NHL expanded, though nobody's certain why
They gave Columbus town a chance
To field a team that could advance
And maybe give the Stanley Cup a try

But every April made fans shiver
As every year the team got sicker
Bottom of the standings
There were no happy landings
The owner gave the man nine years
But the playoffs were never near
And so the GM was cashiered
It's time to find a new hire

So bye-bye Mr. Blue Jackets Guy
Drafted players traded later
While the team lost each night
I saw good ol' fans snack on nachos and beer
Singing, "Soon the team will start to play right...
Soon the team will start to play right" ...

Not to disappoint anyone, but it would be a lot of work to cook up eight minutes of verses at this point, so if anyone who cares happens to see this... be my guest.

Friday, April 20, 2007

The City of Brotherly Love...

...was never more true

A dedication ceremony was held Wednesday afternoon to unveil street signs to define Philadelphia's famed "gayborhood."

Singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," a group of about 100 gathered at the corner of 13th and Locust Streets, in the Washington West neighborhood, where one of 36 discreet rainbow signs were unveiled. The sign is the same size as the Locust Street sign and fastened directly beneath it.

Tami Sortman is president of the Philadelphia Gay Tourism Caucus:
"Philadelphia four years ago started a gay-friendly campaign here to bring gay travelers into the city, and we felt that it was really important for these gay travelers to know when they are in the 'gayborhood' area. I live right here, just a block away, and I get people asking, 'Am I in the gayborhood yet?' "

The new signs are being erected between Broad and 11th, Chestnut to Pine Streets.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow? Judy Garland is very popular in gay culture, but then that may be too much information.

A New World Record

.47 BAC will definitely put you in the Wino Hall of Fame.

REDMOND, Wash. (AP) - A woman arrested following two car crashes last week registered a .47 blood-alcohol content on a breath test - nearly six times the legal intoxication threshold and possibly a state record.

Deana F. Jarrett, 54, was taken to Evergreen Hospital as a precaution following her arrest April 11, the Washington State Patrol said Wednesday. No one was injured in the accidents.
Jarrett blew the .47 on a portable breath tester after she collided with two other vehicles in quick succession, the patrol said. A check of all 356,000 breath tests administered since 1998 in Washington turned up only 35 above .40 - and none of those was higher than .45.

The legal intoxication threshold in Washington is .08.
Jarrett did not appear to have a listed phone number, and it was not clear if she had obtained a lawyer.

Only a trained and experienced professional can be conscious enough to get behind the wheel at that level. This woman was sucking down the hard stuff for many moons.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Bleat goes on

Lileks rules again.

I swear, when some people hear that civilization is over, a small voice deep in the dark cranny of their heart surely whispers: good.

As Chesterton wrote much longer ago, there's a healthy pessimism, and an unhealthy - the healthy pessimism serves to remind us that we can fall short of ideals, so that we will work harder to achieve them. An unhealthy pessimism, far from saying how things can go wrong, insists that we will inevitably fail, that the ideals weren't worth aspiring to in the first place. As Chesterton puts it, the dishonest pessimist says, "I'm sorry to say that we are ruined," but he's lying - he's actually not sorry at all.

I was thinking of both of those things, while also thinking of a different Chesterton book that I'm looking forward to re-reading over the next few weeks, The Everlasting Man. His premise there is simple: that the best way to understand something is either to be a part of it, or else to be so far away from it that you have perspective and objectivity. And in a sense, that runs together in my mind with his earlier observation of the optimist and the pessimist. They aren't parallels - together they form sort of a philosophical Punnett square.

Both the optimist and the pessimist (honest variety) have their home within a country or a church, and they both also have a place in the distance. The particpating of each type, we've already been introduced to: working together to improve and enjoy the thing they both love. The observational optimist (to use a clunky phrase) thinks the best of those distant folks, finds friends across all sorts of sectarian and cultural lines, and generally lives and lets live. The observational pessimist finds all sorts of analogues in the flaws and shortcomings of his own set and in others. But in finding the parallels, each one in his way begins to think that there may be something to that distant group that deserves some respect.

Now it gets a little trickier. You can tell by the date of the Bleat that this is something I've been thinking at for a while, and I'm not sure I've got it. I think that Lileks is observing pessimism gone to seed - but I also think that, once it does, the fruit of it is that a person within a group, the participants from before, starts to sound as if he really wants to leave it. Worse, he usually never gets so far out of it as to be able to regain the perspective of the pure observers. Chesterton describes it as a constant state of reaction. The dishonest pessimist, in the end, becomes a traitor to himself much more than a traitor to his previous affiliations. He is so concerned with refuting, confronting, and denouncing that he can truly be said to be controlled by his rejected points of view. Nothing seems worth saying unless it can somehow be twisted to include a dig at his former mates. Far from being free of them, he's trapped himself in their shadow.

So there's that, all of which seems perfectly rational and plain.

What seems equally plain to me is that optimism can also go to seed, and spoil a soul just as badly. I'm not talking about the "Pollyanna" phenomenon, as if good cheer and hope were themselves to blame. I'm talking about an optimism untempered by any discretion or sound judgment. People talk about shades of grey in morality; the dishonest optimist sees only shades of white. Every failing of the soul becomes excused instead of absolved, by labelling it an illness, or bad upbringing, or circumstances, or anything and everything other than the free will of the soul in question. It's a symptom of an intellect that has long since decided to let mere moods do all the thinking.

Another effect is that any concrete and observable difference becomes inadmissible to the dishonest optimist. All things are equal - meaning equally good. All ideas are equal - meaning equally valid. The only thing they have to reject is rejection itself. And of course in doing that no evil or outrage is rejectable. For all his tsking of others over their "intolerance" and "closed-minded behavior," he doesn't actually go on to say that he is really in the right and they are really in the wrong, but only that they aren't being constructive. "It's inappropriate at this time," implying that it would be quite appropriate later. And for all his talk about how equally good and valid all things are, he does an incredible amount of apologizing to people. In this broad-minded view, both imaginary and real grievances are equally deserving of his self-abasement; that he personally has nothing to do with it and couldn't remedy the problem in any way makes no odds. (And if he was at fault, and could fix it? Well, all the better for his ego that he's accidentally correct - but you'll notice that he usually just stops at the apology, and thus in the one area he can actually help, he does nothing of much value.)

This dishonest optimism is what makes one a "squishy marshmallow." It's not a Pollyanna attitude. Many dishonest optimists are in fact depressing individuals: perpetually sad over everything that's wrong with the world, but unable to see anything that's right; lacking the courage to choose any concrete response to either good or evil, and self-blinded to the differences between. They too get trapped in the twilight, too close to their former home to miss it and too far away to see it properly.

But for all that, they have one advantage over the dishonest pessimists. The pessimists are constantly waiting for something that really isn't going to happen: in fact, something that may never have happened in all of history. He's waiting not just for the fall of one particular civilization, which occurs regularly, but the end of civilization itself. And that is really a losing proposition. Humanity has been up against it far tougher than it is today - for centuries there were far fewer people around than now, and with far less natural knowledge. A plague would wipe out a quarter of an entire continent, in a world that could far less easily spare them; and everyone lived shorter lives. If there was famine or conquest, it wasn't simply a matter of going to Costco, or hopping the next plane to Canada (as they always seem to be promising to do).

And yet in all of that, in a tougher and nastier world, people were civilized. They cared about right conduct and working hard. They had a culture and laws and shared activities. They wondered about their gods and their world. Pretty much as soon as man had enough fellows to have a society, they organized. And sooner or later, independently of each other as far as I can tell, these enclaves of man began to tell, not only their histories, but their legends. They developed language, and instantly turned it into poetry. They wrote in pictures, but also drew them. They left behind pottery bowls and pottery statues.

One could say that of course civilized people do those things, but what of before? And one would probably be correct. There may have been a before. In that case, the whole idea of civilization is even more of a miracle. Mankind give birth to civilization at the first opportunity. Moreover, whenever a civilization does perish, the surivors, far from seeing it as proof of the folly of society, immediately go about giving birth to a new one to take its place.**

In fact, it reminds me of an argument a relative made to me once, that man wasn't any better than other animals, and in fact a darn sight worse. "If we lost everything today," he said, "had no guns, no bows and arrows, no civilization or progress whatsoever - what do you think would happen to mankind?" I thought for a second and said, "The same thing that happened the first time we had none of those things - we'd invent every last one of them." The animals had their shot at us when all of that was utterly unknown, and they utterly failed.

And really, if we were no better than they, why did we alone of all the animals have the idea that, the first thing we need is to be civilized? Because it was our only defense against being eaten? Possibly. But that leaves no reason to keep going after that. Why not stop at the level of a pride of lions, or a troop of baboons, or a herd of elephants? Why not gang up in a hive like insects? I think that it runs deeper than mere survival value. The fact is, it wasn't enough merely to survive. That alone isn't civilization. Mankind wanted more. It wanted to pass itself on, not only physically with children, but culturally. Man has a mind, and wanted to pass on the life of the mind in perpetuity - in culture and religion and law and custom. And when all of those things break down utterly under barbaric regimes such as Nazism, you find that, more than scraps of food or clothes, people cling most desperately to scraps of civilization. There are simply too many instances of sacrifice, tenderness, and creativity under duress to be freaks of individuality. It is an essential trait of man.

So, the dishonest pessimist, in the long run, is bitterly waiting for mankind to stop being human. There are certainly enough brutalities and faults to give them a sense of perverse hope, too. But it is those things that are the freaks. They are common, but they are unnatural. In the account of my faith, they are damage to the integrity and dignity of man, inflicted in the Fall, and thankfully repairable in anyone who wishes to remain in the family of man. Those who don't? The common term for them is psychopath - human ability, intellect, and will, utterly divorced from the thirst for civilization that makes someone human. The pessimist who says "good" to that - to a world completely occupied by brutal homunculi - is not only a liar, but a fool. And his punishment, as Chesterton foresaw, is to be forever in the company of the squishy marshmallows they so despise - one loves all the paths, and the other hates all the paths, so neither of them goes anywhere worth being.

** This is, in fact, a main point of The Everlasting Man; cooking up this post and deciding to read the book again started working hand-in-hand. But I haven't re-read it yet, and when I do, I fear I may find that I remembered it wrong. Well, that's what God invented the comments for.

Just what we needed

Via On the Other Foot, a sordid little exclamation point to the Virginia Tech shootings.

I hadn't heard about Westboro Bastard Church's planned attendance. I'm not particularly surprised. Thankfully, I'm still human and thus am sickened - but not surprised.

Here's an interesting mental exercise: take what you've learned about Cho through his manifesto and his apallingly brutal works of fiction, and compare them to what WBC likes to say about everyone and everything. Consider their similar sullen demeanors and seething rage.

What is the difference between the two, save that Cho actually pulled a trigger?

No wonder they're celebrating the killer's handiwork.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

I just read it for the articles

When is porn not porn? When Shell Oil says it's not:

Shell Oil Co. has determined "Playboy" and "Penthouse" no longer are pornography, but instead are "adult sophisticates," according to a company statement.

The issue arose when the Florida Family Association contacted Shell about the sale of such explicit magazines at convenience stores owned by Circle K in southeastern parts of the United States.

David Caton, executive director of the pro-family organization, said his group asked Shell to require Shell-branded Circle K Stores to stop selling the pornography, as it has done in the past with other retailers.

"Adult sophisticates." Yeah, that's the ticket! Is that what you're going to tell the Mrs when she finds this stuff?

Monday, April 16, 2007

Stay off the roads

There is no room for both your car and eleventy-thousand gallons of water.

That is all.

NO... ok, wait, there is one more thing. It's been raining all over New Jersey for two solid days, some towns are under about four feet of water, and the roads are impassable everywhere. So, when confronted with a long line of cars waiting patiently, one can safely reason that the drivers are NOT out for fun, admiring the weather. Therefore it's a bad idea to drive down the wrong side of the double-yellow lines to pass them all. At the next traffic light, there's another quarter-mile line of cars who are now uncomfortably staring at YOU, Mr. Too-Good-to-Wait-in-Traffic. Get a clue.

Friday, April 13, 2007


update, 10:00 pm - this should be it for the night. I actually drew a hockey comment, too, which makes me happy. It takes so little...

I've got nothing, mentally or physically. I figure that the best way around this is to blog. Herewith, a running diary of my astounding day home from work:

7:20 - alarm.
7:30 - snooze.
7:40 - snooze.
8:30 - slept through the last snooze. Finally woke, and sat up with difficulty directly proportionate to the weight and payload of the truck sitting on my chest.
8:32 - inventory. Stuffed head? Check. Scratchy throat? Yes, a new item in stock. Well, they give me sick days for a reason.
9:03 - after a nap, a call to the Boss to make it official.

9:04-10:55 - oblivion. Not sweet. Involved dreams of being lost on major highways utterly devoid of fellow travelers. All towns abandoned. Standard anxiety crap, I suppose.

12:40 pm - finished a biography of Wyatt Earp, by Casey Tefertiller. Very well-done, heavily researched; an even account of Earp comes through in all the conflicting sources of the day. Time for lunch and a shower, but not in that order.

1:45 - turns out that I need a new razor; the outside of my throat is now as scratchy as the inside. I thought that I had this thing licked last night. Ladybug even stopped by for a surprise visit, with soup and vittles (she's a sweetie); felt right as rain by the time I went to bed last night, but like a pile of spoiled leftovers this morning. Getting a little better now, though. More soup. Soup is a beautiful thing, my friends.

2:00 - hey! It's ESPN Classic, a great way to waste time watching that which has already gone. In this case, a discussion of American and National League rookies on This Week in Baseball! Yay, Mel Allen.

2:15 - date of original broadcast? My sixth birthday. Ron Guidry is celebrated for a complete game win, 20th of an eventual 25 (and the Cy Young Award for the AL). There's Thurman Munson talking about the Gator now. And the rookies, holy cats: Alan Trammel, Lou Whitaker, Carney Lansford, Paul Molitor, Bob Horner... And who holds the (then) National League record for most homers by a rookie?

2:25 - ooops. I guessed Ralph Kiner, but I was wrong twice: Wally Berger and Frank Robinson, with 38. (It may be more now, but I honestly don't know and don't care to look it up now.) I whistled along flawlessly to the closing credit song, too. It never goes away. (Amazingly, it doesn't seem to be on You Tube, but the opening theme is here - click the "classic TWIB theme" link near the top of the page.)

3:08 - missed two phone calls, which I must return. Be back a little later. ...

4:21 - it's later, now. (And when will now be then?) Looks like the Islanders, in defiance of any hope and common sense, could get their concussed franchise goalie back for tomorrow's game two. I shall say nothing. RDP's health is fragile enough.

4:27 - my PC mouse is annoying me. It chooses to scoot from where I'm clicking up to the close window box, or down to the opposite corner, the 'start' button. Luckily, Blogger won't let me close a page with 'unsaved changes' so I haven't accidentally lost my post. It's an optical mouse and I've done everything I can think of to solve this problem, short of tossing the thing out of the window. (Admittedly, that would not solve the problem either, but it would be cathartic.)

4:30 - what the heck was that?

4:31 - hm. It's the emergency radio for my buddy, an EMT. He usually doesn't leave the radio on when he goes to work. I almost had to tell them to come over here because they just gave me half a heart attack.

5:13 - I'd been following this post on a favorite blog for some time. The upshot of it seems to be that, because a few players (from an archrival, some objectivity right?) got mad at the Islanders' ice-cleaning crew, the poster (and a few of his commenters) have decided to take umbrage. But not because of the crew's behavior, but because that crew is made up of cute girls in tight outfits. I finally had to inject a couple of facts into the discussion (horrors), and quoted the rulebook. The reply I got is simply unsatisfactory to my mind. Again, let me repeat - the Islanders did NOT create this job. They simply hired different people to fill it. And what gets me is all of the harping on about their looks - as if a pretty young woman can't act professionally, and that having them on the ice during TV timeouts somehow detracts from the game. If they hit the rink for a few double salchows or something, I would fully agree, but how on earth can they distract from the game when the only time they're out there is when the commercials are running - and to do a legitimate job? It makes no sense, and the whole "get them wimmins off the ice while the menfolk play their hockey" attitude is a howling farce. What is this, the Syrian Hockey League?

5:23 - yeah, I ruined a perfectly good post with hockey.

5:26 - the past week, my computer has insisted every single day on running some cockamamie updates and then restarting at the drop of a hat. The only thing it seems to accomplish is to make me stop what I'm doing every ten minutes. Seems not to be happening after today's reboot, however.

5:33 - for the chess players in your life, a fascinating page from a fellow named Tim Krabbé. There's a lot of depth, and some fascinating stories behind some of the games and players: this gentleman, for example. (And "The Full Morphy," heheheheheh.)

More later...

7:07 - welcome back. (Gee, that's optimistic.) Did my taxes while I was gone, because I've been procrastinating. I had calculated everything on paper, but I remembered the mass of useless clicking involved in e-filing and it put me off until the third-to-last minute. Small refund. Anyone want to institute a flat tax? Mitt? Rudy?

7:09 - one thing that I did not claim on my return: the imaginary ten thousand dollars I won playing fake cards. Got pretty lucky, actually - I busted a player on the very first hand, and had an exceptionally loose player right behind me. Took him down on the third level of blinds, built a commanding chip lead, and bled the other folks dry. My one lucky call was catching three of a kind on the river to beat a guy with two pair (I had him on a straight draw and got very lucky). If it were that easy in real life I wouldn't have to ref games in my spare time.

7:13 - I should consider some sort of dinner product soon. Perhaps more soup? ...

8:15 - back again. The Ladybug talked with me, agreed that dinner product was good, and brought over some pizza. And now, the nominees for Luckiest Fella Alive.

8:44 - mmmmmm..... pizza. But the Ladybug was sad - at the counter of our favorite local place, she saw a sign reading, "Support the Revolution: Vote for Sanjaya." Uhm... NO. Stern can lay the hell off. It's terrible trying to spoil other people's innocent fun. Even the Vote for the Worst guy says that he doesn't expect to actually determine a winner, and his site actually helps the show's ratings and bottom line. So who is Horrible Howie, anyway, to try to decide what shows are good enough? How is it, when a parents group or something organizes a protest they're painted as intolerant, backward dolts, but when a single person decides to use his platform to dictate to others, it's a laugh? Or worse, a "revolution"?

9:00 - Life is Worth Living, from 1954. Speaking at the remove of three generations, Bishop Fulton J Sheen makes more sense in two minutes than most modern speakers make in a year. Oddly enough, his topic applies to Stern and American Idol - the two halves of freedom: freedom FROM and freedom FOR. To sum up - freedom from is concerned with means: to be uncoerced, free from violence, unrestricted; freedom for is concerned with ends: towards what goal is one directing those choices? His point is that either without the other leads to grave errors, and in a small way Stern displays this. He abuses the first freedom, with no positive goal in mind. He gains nothing and merely causes others trouble; at the worst, he costs people their jobs. As Sheen recognizes, in practice this means freedom only for the strong, who impose their choices on everyone else.

Sheen's analysis, with barely any updating, applies in a much larger fashion to the wider world. The West is guilty of having only the first freedom, as he well recognized - freedom of choice with no end to direct those choices. He used the analogy of a farmer. "I'm free to plant whatever crop I please on my own land," he says, but he has no goal in mind; he tries several different crops only to give up on them after a few weeks. The result is that he does much more work than other farmers, constantly ploughing and resowing; and for all that extra work he reaps no reward, no harvest. In Communism (Sheen argues), the reverse is true. They have the second freedom; freedom for an end, a definable goal. In order to achieve the goal, they simply deny anyone any choice that opposes it. "You are free to do and say what you please, so long as it pleases the state." And this destroys the will of man, made free by God, usurping His authority to such an extent that it enslaves man in a manner that God Himself does not do. It does not fulfill man's will, it abrogates it.

Well, read "Islamism" for "Communism" and you will be miles ahead of just about every expert in understanding current affairs.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Surprised that it took this long

I used to listen to Imus until about 12-13 years ago. (I think I stopped because I grew up.) I'm surprised that it took this long for this fossil to get called out on racist remarks. He was saying this kind of Pferdkaese 15 years ago.

What makes it different now is that Imus has revivied his show via an incestuous relationship with PMSNBC. His show is broadcast on the cable network and many NBC news figures appear on it. He is now more than a comedian.

Only the government can censor. According to the Radio Equalizer (whom is doing great blogging about Imus
here), what's going to do Imus in is the marketplace. Advertisers are already pulling out. Will his good liberal NBC guests still come on his show when he gets back from suspension?

One clown (Imus) begging forgiveness from another clown (Revvum Al) while a third clown (Revvum Jesse) pickets the PMSNBC studios.

No job is worth debasing yourself before Al Sharpton.

Thank God Churchill's not around to see this

Being one who served but was never in harm's way, I was reluctant to comment on the Brit marines & sailor's fortnight at Mamoud's. That is until they decided to cash in. Retired Marine Major Michael McBride put it best:

It is hard to imagine that those Sailors and Marines are derived from the same lineage as those who defended Roarke’s Drift, battled the Luftwaffe over London, or manned the HMS Sheffield.

I am also a bit surprised that one's honor goes as cheap as £250,000 these days. Had I allowed myself to be paraded around by an abject terrorist, with a smile on my face, and with my Persian goody-bag, I’d be looking for a rock, under a boulder, in a cave, in the far corners of Death Valley under which to hide, and hoping no one recognized me…I wouldn't be hawking my "story" of shame and recalcitrance. Their performance when threatened smacks of inadequate training, and irresolute individual will…to sell that, shameful.

Lastly we should be leery of those pushing our participation in coalitions when the Brits don't have the courage to fire off a few rounds against the Iranian puppet masters, we are truly in a position where we may have the only combat forces left in the world.

Warriors fight…get a helmet and fire your rifle.

Read the rest here.

Really, can you imagine McCain, Stockdale and the other POWs getting off the plane from Hanoi carrying swag bags?

Thursday, April 05, 2007

We have a winner

The caption contest is finished, by virtue of (a) having no more new entries; (b) remembering what I was supposed to be doing on Tuesday. Great entries, too. Here are your top three:

  • Bronze - Cullen: "You see, Abe, I eat planets. So, no, I can't just eat the slave owners. Tell you what, just for you, I'll give you guys another hundred years."
  • Silver - the Judge, Rob Going: "Look! Our American Cousin's playing at Ford's Theater tonight!"
  • Gold - newcomer Jeff of "Three words, Abe - Hostess Fruit Pies."
That just kills me. Anyone who read enough comics in the seventies will remember ads like this one. If only Tony Stark had remembered the good old days, when evil was thwarted with a few well-placed snacks, Cap would still be alive.

It didn't even have to be pies: click this picture for a closer look at hardened crooks dropping sacks of money and jewels mid-heist to gobble pastries. It's brilliantly cracked. (Bonus points for Peter Parker sewing up the annual "Suddenly Clark Excuses Himself Award" by saying that, in the middle of a brazen daytime robbery, he "just remembered something" - he HAD to have him some week-old preservative-packed baked goods.)

The crook couldn't help himself, and neither could Petey. You think people won't believe that? They can accept without question that somehow, while ducking out for a snack, Pete still got awesome eye-level pictures of Spider-Man hanging upside down from a forty-foot ceiling. Trust me, the Hostess thing is no stretch. We're lucky that MJ and the guard didn't join the scramble.

So there's your winner. Rob takes second for making me duck and cover under my desk, waiting for the skies to open on me for laughing at his caption; and Cullen sneaks through a crowded field to show.

Until next time, true believers - excelsior!


Bob Clark has gone to his major award, too soon. His son was killed with him, which makes it twice as awful.

Frickin' unlicensed drunk driving can just FTFO.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

X-Men 7, Dolphins 0

I've heard of a guy getting faked out of his shoes, and I've heard of a guy simply getting run over. But you've got to be good to go right through a guy - literally:

And that's not the only issue the guy has with the game, as you can see from a list of his postings. The Chancellor has not found retirement to be very relaxing...

Some people still think it's April first

As Mr. Leghorn was wont to say, I'm cutting but he ain't bleeding.

Listen, it's nothing personal, Ken - I simply have high confidence that going below the fold on either of those posts will result in piercing eye pain and huge therapy bills. I can barely afford this blog as it is, and it's free.

That is your heart EXPLODING after seeing Ken's pictures.
Just sayin', is all.

Safe Terrorists

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while, my boss is actually trying to make me earn my paycheck and I still haven’t figured out how to post from my home computer, but here goes:

You Jersey dwellers may have already caught this one about the Burlington High hostage drill and the choice of fake terrorists that they will never face:

Two Burlington Township police detectives portrayed the gunmen. Investigators described them as members of a right-wing fundamentalist group called the “New Crusaders” who don't believe in separation of church and state. The mock gunmen went to the school seeking justice because the daughter of one had been expelled for praying before class.

All over this story we are told how realistic this drill was. Except for maybe the hypothetical terrorists. It isn't just the desire not to offend, but the school had to choose bad guys from a group that would not put the school at risk if offended.

We have this same problem in Tampa, where the media kissed CAIR’s tush.

Monday, April 02, 2007

80s music is creepy

We all knew this, of course. Sting’s lyrics could occupy us for several weeks, if we wished:

“Peeking through your windows
Hiding in your bushes
Intercepting your mail
I’ll be watching you…”

Today’s focus is on the lesser known Wang Chung. If you’ve seen the Blender/VH-1 “50 Crappy-Assest Songs” (or whatever they called it), then you’re familiar with their hit record “Everybody Have Fun Tonight,” which was so horrible that it sank all the way to #3 on the countdown, and the hosts spent about 25 minutes crushing it.

They covered the strange video, where they filmed each of the singers doing the chorus and then spliced them together, frame by frame, in Nausea-Vision; they mentioned that, for a party song, the singers were awfully somber. Of course, they mentioned the weird lyric – “Everybody wang chung tonight.” But they never mentioned the oddest thing about it: we are repeatedly urged to wang chung during the song; we are never told how. One of the backup singers, fed up about two-thirds through the song, even asks, “Does anyone know what a wang chung is?” He’s so confused he doesn’t even know if it’s a verb or a noun.

In other words, the band is insisting we perform an act that they themselves cannot define – but they’ve named themselves after the term anyway.

All this is more felt than heard upon a casual listen, but it’s there, wearying the mind and nagging the soul; part of the reason, I suppose, that I always preferred “Dance Hall Days.” Not that it was ever a great song. “Come Dancing” blows it right out of the water, and then floats the pieces just to have the fun of sinking them, one by one. But it wasn’t played into the ground like many other 80s hits, and it had that pretty synth bit at the beginning of the chorus, so I always had a little smile for the tune.

Picked it up on an 80s compilation the other day, and popped it into the best sound system I own – my car – and paid more attention this time. First verse was odd, but oh well… and then came the second verse:

“Take your baby by the hair
Pull her closer, there there there.”


“Then take your baby by the ears
And play upon her darkest fears…”

…the hell?!??!

Yup, that’s what they say. Apparently “wang chung” means “psychological torment.” THEY NAMED THE BAND THIS. (The name “Sadist Minstrels” must have been taken.) And at the end we’re told, “You need her and she needs you.”

What the blazes kind of a relationship is this? Did they hear “Wrapped Around My Finger” and decide that it didn’t go far enough? I mean, the rest of the song is more bizarre than anything else – in her mouth, an amethyst?? – but this is off-the-charts. It’s like the guys sat around and said to themselves, “We need a good, romantic wife-beating ballad. Let’s take this Russian novel and set it to that leftover Spandau Ballet riff you’ve been fooling with.” The album must have been called “You Make Me Hit You.”

I’m deleting from the shuffle… and backing… slowly… away.