Thursday, May 31, 2007

A Squishy Catholic Church?

I thought only squishy churches gave up their pulpits to unbelievers.

A packed house welcomed Minister Louis Farrakhan to St. Sabina Catholic Church on Friday night with a standing ovation and cheers for his health.

The 74-year-old provocative Nation of Islam leader, who has endured a series of health setbacks, didn't speak from the Quran but from the Bible.

"Even though I am a Muslim -- I don't apologize for that -- I'm also a Christian," he told the crowd at 1210 W. 78th Pl. "Islam considers the Bible a sacred book."

"A good Muslim is a Christian, and a good Christian is a Muslim," he added later, stressing the common aspects of the faiths. "Whenever Christ's name is mentioned, I feel at home."

Farrakhan flashed a wide smile as he entered the sanctuary alongside his friend, the Rev. Michael Pfleger, pastor of the church.

A few months ago, Pfleger was at Farrakhan's bedside as he recovered from surgery. Farrakhan promised to speak at the church, as he has done many times before. (emphasis by the Spider)

"Tonight, we're celebrating a healed man," said Pfleger, who called Farrakhan "one of the most prophetic voices of our times."

Whose speaking next Sunday? Jim McGreevy? Mitt Romney? Joe Redner? Me? I have no problem with extending comfort to Calypso Louie, but what is this obsession with offering up the pulpit to unbelievers? Unbelievers who spout Pferdkaese?

On Sundays in my church, an evangelical guy is at the pulpit teaching evangelical doctrine. I would assume in a Catholic Church on Sunday a Catholic guy is at the pulpit teaching Catholic doctrine and not some nutjob from the Nation of Islam. What if some guy walks into that church the Sunday Calypso Louie is speaking and hears this "a good Christian is a good Muslim" crap? What conclusions would he draw?

Fly, Pope Benedict needs to crack down on this before the American Church goes Episcopalian. Or you guys will have openly gay bishops quicker than you can say Gene Robinson.

Correction: Calypso Louie was speaking on a Friday night, not Sunday - but still!

Elijah Dukes

Elijah, where are you now?
We're waiting and hoping somehow
That God can guide our hearts and minds
True contentment start to find
Elijah, where are you now?

As surely as the Lord God lives,
Life is the greatest gift God gives.
-Lost and Found

Young and talented Elijah Dukes of the Rays is crushing the baseball, and allegedly his wife as well.

In late April, Tampa Bay Devil Rays outfielder Elijah Dukes barged into his wife's middle school classroom at lunchtime.

He was so irate that she ran to get the principal and a deputy, who banned Dukes from the property, records show.

His wife, who said she fears for her life, sought a restraining order and told the court it was the latest in a string of outbursts by the 22-year-old rookie player.

Dukes' wife, NiShea Gilbert, 26, a teacher at Beth Shields Middle School in Ruskin, told the court in another filing Thursday that her husband threatened to kill her and sent a photo of a handgun to her cell phone.

She played the St. Petersburg Times a voice mail message she said was from Dukes:
"You dead, dawg," says an angry voice. "I ain't even bulls-------. Your kids, too."

Dukes is in his first season with the Devil Rays, and his eight home runs - the most by any American League rookie - speak to his professional promise.

This article is a week old. A court hearing 5/30/07 had a judge ordering Dukes to stay away from the Mrs for one year and submit to a checkup from the neck up.

Dukes will be 23 in about three weeks and has five kids from four women, a little less than halfway to Shawn Kemp status.

Oh, and he hit two more dingers for a total of ten.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Lousy news


Three Iranian-Americans, including academic Haleh Esfandiari, were charged with endangering national security and espionage, Iran’s judiciary spokesman said yesterday.

This is very alarming. It’s also not at all a surprise, considering how easily they got off kidnapping British Royal Marines and sailors back in March.

Now, you’d think that Americans taken into captivity by Iran would touch a nerve, considering the history. You’d think this would be front page news. You’d think that a paper would bump a human interest story about middle schoolers campaigning for the Statue of Liberty to be named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. And then you’d find the human interest story front page, over the fold, in today’s Newark Star-Ledger, and a small blurb about Esfandiari directing you to page six. (That beats CNN, which didn't have the story anywhere on its front page OR it's World Page as of 12:18 pm.)

Lady Liberty, were she asked, might prefer a story about actual people yearning to breathe free rather than a puff piece on her directly, but leave that aside for just a moment. The first thing I noticed about the blurb was the wording:

“Three Iranian-Americans, including academic Haleh Esfandiari, were charged with endangering national security and espionage, another example of…”

OK, so far it’s pretty much rip and read. I decided to write my own ending.

“…another example of the hard-line government’s crackdown on academic and political freedoms.”
“…another example of the increasing campaign against freedom of information in Iran.”
“…another example of Iran’s strong-arm tactics to intimidate and provoke the West.”

The last is a little slanted, I think. But it at least has the virtue of being, you know, true and factual. The actual ending chosen by the Star-Ledger copy desk keeps the slant rather than the truth.

…another example of Iran’s accusations that America is trying to use internal critics to destabilize the government.

It's not on the AP story as quoted by CBS news in the link above, which makes me think that somebody noticed, complained, and got subsequent releases changed. The original demonstrated the Mirror Principle – a term I use to describe the tendency of some to accuse others of the precise thing they themselves do, or would do in the same circumstance. For example, the media make this accusation of America all the time – they have inculcated that much mistrust of our own country’s motives in everything. In the end, anything that happens – even the open kidnapping of our citizens abroad – sounds, to them, like nothing more than a rebuke to our nation, a rebuke they hear all day long in their heads.

(Occasionally that rebuke leaks out. From page seven, a AP story titled “Sheehan gives up her battle” – “In what she described as a ‘resignation letter,’ Sheehan wrote in her online diary on the Daily Kos blog: “Good-bye America … you are not the country that I love and I finally realized no matter how much I sacrifice, I can’t make you be that country unless you want it.’”

Awfully big of her to finally admit that she doesn’t love her country. I won’t question her patriotism, but I do feel the need to question what nation, exactly, she’s patriotic for.)

Chris Muir must get tired of being right sometimes.

So, this is how Iran accuses American citizens of being harsh criti uhm, "spies":

The 67-year old Esfandiari has for years brought prominent Iranians to Washington to talk about the political situation in Iran, some of whom have been subsequently detained and questioned at home … Esfandiari had been trapped in Iran since visiting her 93-year old mother in December, when three masked men with knives stole her luggage and passport as she headed to the airport to leave, the Wilson Center said. In the weeks before her arrest, she was called in for questioning daily.

Darn those destabilizing critics! (It is immaterial that they have valid criticism.)

This is old hat to the mullahs. I took a screen cap as well, in case the story goes away (it’s from 2004), but the latest act of war really shouldn't be surprising. And, in another wonderful example of the rebuke leaking out, the small “get video” blurb on the right side is captioned as follows: “Nearly half of the Iranian parliament is critical of general elections proceeding despite the belief that they will not be free or fair.”

[Update: as Joel said in the comments, I seem to have misplaced a comma. My fault. I'm letting the italicized stand but moving it over to the Syrians, where it more properly belongs. Apologies. -NF]

Meanwhile, next door in the paper and the Middle East: Assad got 97% of the vote just yesterday in Syria, running unopposed. It's illegal to form an opposition party to the Baath ruling party, unless they agree with the Baathists, a fine example of orderly democracy in action. Yeah, I know they’re rigged the way Allah intended, but somehow, Moqtada, I’m not sure about this. Are they still too free? What if we only get 96% of the vote? Will Jimmy Carter give his blessing?

Together, these fine folks have been destabilizing Lebanon (and now Iraq) for years, with something a little more pointed than criticism. They'd destabilize Israel permanently given the opportunity. And the stability of the tomb and the well-ordered prison isn't generally what most free people are hoping for.

Don't forget Ms. Esfandiari, or Kian Tajbakhsh, or Parnaz Azima.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Avoiding talkin' baseball

I'm not an ESPN Insider, so I'm only able to see the first paragraph of Joe Morgan's latest chat:

Jason (West Orange): Do you see anything wrong with Bobby Abreu?
Joe Morgan: I don't see him enough to make that evaluation, but Joe Torre said that he's not as aggressive as he normally is. A lot of guys get off to slow starts. He's a proven hitter so you'd expect him to pick it up before the season is over.

Wow. The very first sentence. It must be revenge for the name of the site - it kills those guys when Morgan claims that he doesn't watch enough baseball, when basically he's paid to do nothing but watch it all the time. This must be on purpose, now. He should just go right ahead and start a blog named "Give Ken Tremendous a Stroke."

For the record, Joe Torre has a lot of problems right now: besides his craptacular outfield, injured players, and duct-taped pitching, the tabloids are thirsting for his job on a pike to parade through Times Square.

I don't think "lack of aggression" is really Abreu's trouble, by the way - he was never an aggressive hitter in Philly, either. He far prefers to walk than to hit a bad ball. Neither was he ever the masher people recall from that one fateful Home Run Derby - he's had two 30+ homer seasons, with his excellent OPS fueled primarily by walks and doubles. He's a gap hitter with decent power: certainly a fine player to have, but not the second coming of Mickey Mantle... He's more comparable to this fellow: walks more and goes deep less, but it's there.

Note that sudden start of decline round about age 33? That's where Abreu is now. I tend to agree with Morgan in that Abreu can't be as bad the whole year as he is currently (he's slugging LOWER than his on-base percentage, which defies belief) - but it's not likely that he'll rebound to .300/.400/.500.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Raise a glass

As we grill and laugh and relax... we should enjoy every minute all the more because others sacrificed to make our country free and safe.

To both my grandfathers and one grandmother, my Uncle G, the Spider and his family, Cullen, THS and Major Dad, their many commenters like Mike Rentner and JeffS, and all the many more whom I haven't space to name - thanks, and have a happy, fun Memorial Day.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Option

Over in one of the infamous FFO threads, a favorite target is rude driving.

Usually, it's the fancy cars - Beemers, Lexii - or SUVs. You also get the double-whammy: Escalades and such, belonging to both classes, which increases the effect exponentially. You know, 'cause a guy shlepping around in a Hyundai can't possibly be heading to anything as important as their golf and cocktail hour at the Snotty Yacht Club.

(OK, that's a brutal stereotype.)

One commenter called it "The ***hole Option" and guessed that it was a dealer upgrade for certain makes of car: tinted windows, blinkers that don't work, hi-beams that automatically come on whenever you tailgate; that sort of thing. Lately, though, I suspect that it's an after-market product, because the unlikeliest cars are beginning to show evidence of the Option... minivans.

Either people are buying them as a post-ironic expression of hipness, or they're trying to be less obvious targets for traffic citations, or they're just parents who never outgrew the Option. Whatever the class, they are demonstrating the same utter lack of consideration for fellow drivers. I wonder if considerate driving is going to be extinct within my lifetime, with the roads of New Jersey emptied of all but the hardiest souls, who don't mind swapping paint with fellow commuters, holding themselves ready to ram or be rammed at any moment.

Until then, I've decided to make the Option work for me. I mean, if someone else is hogging the passing lane, why should I be the one sitting patiently behind them, taking the heat from a guy who obviously needs to start brain surgery in fifteen minutes? I simply slide to the side. If Hokey Pokey thinks I'm a hassle, wait until he has two tons of light truck inspecting the molecular structure of his trunk. Enjoy your SUV enema.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Instant karma got him

It's 450 tons of poetic justice.

A man tried to kill his girlfriend Monday by parking their car in front of a speeding Metrolink commuter train, but instead died when debris from the crash struck him after he had been ejected from the car, police said.
His girlfriend, who was in the car when the train slammed into the vehicle's passenger side, was seriously injured but is expected to survive.

The email alert I got today stated that the debris was, in fact, the man's own vehicle flattening him as he tried to flee. Police may find out more from the woman once she recovers - and I certainly hope she does so soon.

One is tempted to say, good riddance - but that's not how the psychology works. There's going to be a good part of her that needs to mourn his death. Then there may be a small part of her that feels guilty that they were arguing just before he did this. It's a bad situation all around. God bless her.

And guys? If you have to pull over and take a walk, do it in a parking lot, not in a railroad crossing:

Denise Tyrell, a Metrolink spokeswoman, said its trains in that area go through crossings at up to 79 mph. ... "It is very rare for you to survive being hit by a train in your car," she said. "A train is massive — 450 tons. Your car is to a train what a soda can is to your car."

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Practically giving it all away

OK, let's get this movie thing out of the way.

You remember the groundrules - guess the ten movies based on IMDB's plot keywords, which usually left much to be desired. I also gave some cheater clues, which you can still see in the post by highlighting the "blank" spaces. (Think of it as the cyber equivalent of those "Yes and Know" books.)

So far, 3-8 and 10 are correctly identified, as follows:

3. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (Nick)
4. Star Wars (Dave E.)
5. Rocky (Dave E.)
6. The Manchurian Candidate (original) (Nick)
7. Raiders of the Lost Ark (Dave E.)
8. The Wizard of Oz (sarahk)
10. Slap Shot (sarahk)

To keep this from dragging on any more, here are your remaining three movies, with blatant giveaway clues:

1. England, Reformation
2. Giant Cartoon Robot, Harry Connick Jr.
9. Coen Brothers, Spoof of Fight/Chase Scenes

And a warm welcome to the Hive for Nick! It's good to get back in touch with you, bro. Drop me an email.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A Tale Told by an Idiot

Jesse Macbeth didn’t slander his brothers, he slandered those who achieved what he couldn’t.

SEATTLE -- A man who tried to position himself as a leader of the anti-war movement by claiming to have participated in war crimes while serving in Iraq is facing federal charges of falsifying his record.

Jesse Adam Macbeth, 23, formerly of Phoenix, garnered much attention on blogs and in some alternative media after he began claiming in 2005 to have been awarded a Purple Heart for his service, which he said included slaughtering innocents in a Fallujah mosque. His story was contradicted by his true discharge form, showing that he was kicked out of the Army after six weeks at Fort Benning, Ga., in 2003 because of his "entry level performance and conduct."

A complaint unsealed Friday in U.S. District Court in Seattle charged him with one count of using or possessing a forged or altered military discharge certificate, and one count of making false statements in seeking benefits from the Veterans Administration.

This piece of dirt couldn’t even make it out of boot and he slandered my brother, his son and all others who served and are now serving in Iraq. This guy should be making little rocks out of big ones @ Leavenworth till he qualifies for Medicare.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Not winning any awards

Fastball: 88-92 mph
One game at rookie minimum salary: $2,345.68
"Yankee Clippard" headlines: one dime per dozen
Beating the Mets: useless.

I mean, gee, that leaves them all of 10½ back, right? Down to 9½ now that they've beaten Boston tonight, but really... the Yankees are supposed to feel good all of a sudden about their team? Yippee, the Orioles and Devil Rays didn't catch us tonight! And we only have six pitchers on the disabled list!

Now, you may say that's a little harsh. They do have A-Rod and Jeter on the left side of the infield. And Posada's a pretty good catcher, hitting very well this year. And there's this guy:

.253/.336/.358, 9 hr, 17 sb

Lousy OPS, and the slugging is strangely down for a guy with 9 homers... oh, wait, my bad. That's not a guy. That's the ENTIRE OUTFIELD. That's 614 plate appearances - 533 at-bats, 67 walks, 4 hbp and 10 sac hits/flies. Add Giambi and the line goes to .257/.350/.377, with six more dingers. That's no way to live.

To put it in perspective, check this line:

.317/.380/.476, 9 hr, 6 sb

Not as much speed there, but a very good on-base average, decent slugging, and believe it or not, the exact aggregate extra-base-hit line - 25 doubles, 2 triples, 9 homers - only in 353 total at-bats, rather than 533. (You can't make this up.) Whose outfield is this? It's the Mets outfield, WITHOUT Carlos Beltran. Add him the way we added Giambi above and the line moves to .311/.381/.493, with 8 more homers and 7 more steals, in 24 fewer plate appearances than the Yankees' five-man gang.

Pitching? The Yankees will presumably drop this guy for Clemens. So it's Rocket, Mussina, Pettitte, and Wang with Sir Soon to Be on the DL, trying to outdo the Red Sox by 10 games over the rest of the season. Granted that the Boston outfield is hitting almost as badly (Crisp and Drew are ridiculously bad right now), but that's a tough call.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Will she be on the campaign trail with Bill?

Pornstar Jenna Jameson endorces Hillary.

Money quote (You can’t make this up):

The Clinton administration was the best years for the adult industry and I wish that Clinton would run again.

Tagged again

A movie deal this time, from Joel. The deal is, pick ten favorite movies, write down the top five "plot keywords" for each movie (according to IMDB), and see who can guess those ten movies.

I'd pick different keys for a lot of these, I'll have you know. Oh, and these are simply ten of my faves, since we've established previously that I have difficulty winnowing the field - in no particular order.

  1. 1. Tony Award Source, Ethics, Historical, Nobility, Political - pretty good. We're off to a fine start.
  2. 2. No Opening Credits, Junkyard, Human-Android Relationship, Government Agent, Tragic Hero - WHAT??!?? "No Opening Credits" is a keyword? And "Human-Android Relationship" sounds like Leisure Suit Larry in Electric Ladyland. Immdibb is a little wack.
  3. 3. Cult, Mother-Son Relationship, Miniature People, Grandson, Atmospheric - I'm strongly reconsidering my participation in this meme.
  4. 4. Computer, Hyperspace, Outer Space, Martial Arts, Invented Language - Oh. My. Word. I don't even know this one and it's my list.
  5. 5. Eggs, Kiss, Competition, Motivation, Inspiration - but not... well... the one single keyword that would make everyone actually recognize the movie?
  6. 6. Kissing, Punch, Political Thriller, Sniper Rifle, Bathing Suit - better, but still head-scratching. It's almost like all the people who voted for Sanjaya went to IMDB to write up keywords for movies.
  7. 7. Hit By Truck, Amazon, Zombie, Good Vs. Evil, Bondage - this made me laugh like the Joker for five minutes. You are never guessing this movie, unless it's also on your list.
  8. 8. Allegory, Teenage Girl, Friendship, It Was All a Dream, Black and White Seques into Color - that's a gimme, which just goes to show you how amazingly goofy some of these plot keys are. Really, these are the five major features of this plot?
  9. 9. Merchant, Scam, Nightmare, Pistol, Parenthood - with the exception of "nightmare," these could be the plot keys to the Steely Dan song "Don't Take Me Alive" - I'm a bookkeeper's son/ I don't wanna shoot no one/ But I crossed my old man back in Oregon/ Don't take me alive...
  10. 10. Ice Skating, Radio Talk Show, Parade, Marital Problem, St. Bernard - oh, that is IT. This is one long frolic through the catnip. Enough.

I'm doing this again, with my own keywords - below, in Spoiler Vision - for those who can't get the movies with the above list. Same order. Don't highlight the blank space if you want the fun of guessing wildly like a moron shouting at the TV during "Jeopardy." Go one or two words at a time, though, because these will probably make them far easier.

  1. This one you should get.
  2. This one, too, but my five would be - Robot, Boy, Friendship, Army, Hero
  3. Contest, Eccentric Characters, Moral Lessons, Musical, Imagination
  4. Sci-Fi, Good v. Evil, Mysticism, Friendship, Hero - admittedly a little broad, but all of these are the main points of the movie.
  5. BOXING. (I mean, what the hell was so hard about that?) Other four, if you really want them: Underdog, Romance, Inspiration, Oscar Winner.
  6. Political, Thriller, Brainwashing, Solitaire, Assassination.
  7. Swashbuckler, Relics, Nazis, Daring Escapes. That's all you need.
  8. Fantasy, Musical, Tornado, Friendship, Quest... A lot of candidates for #5. This actually is harder than the ones IMDB gave, except for the gimme #3.
  9. Offbeat Comedy, Kidnapping, Chases, Bounty Hunter, Visions. Actually had to leave out a few on this one.
  10. Not "ice skating," you incredible buffoons. HOCKEY, Comedy, Steel Town, Hired Goons, Fight Scene. They get the DOG, but not the SPORT that's the WHOLE POINT of the movie.

And there you have it, the double-dipped Movie Meme, bonus fun for one and all. Leave your guesses below!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

My pettiness

If you know your regular keeper is out for the day, and you email me and ask me to sub for you, and I say yes... and you know I can play because my team has won the last two leagues, and your team usually goes 1-8 every season, and I've played and won for you before...

...why would you show up for the game with another goalie?

This could have been prevented.

OK, I'm a petty little snot for advertising, but I'm a little miffed at getting left like that; besides, I'm very competitive. I'm reasonably sure I could have won that game, since the actual winners were missing their best player and had exactly one substitute. (Ball hockey is so ghetto.)

NB - The new guy coughed up as many in one game as I have in my last five games combined (plus one extra period).

Chattering away

FJM has another Joe Morgan chat session up. I've decided, again, to take his place through the miracle of cut-and-paste... These are the answers I give to the questions; Joe's answers (with incredulous fisking by Ken Tremendous) are at the link. My groundrules: I won't look too much stuff up, and I won't read JM's or KT's answers until I'm done.

Brandyn S. - Chicago: Fly, what are your thoughts on the success the Red Sox have had without major contributions from David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez to this point in the season?

I think they've gotten good production from other members of the lineup, like Youkilis and Lowell, and made it harder for pitchers to avoid the big guns. Ortiz is actually hitting well, albeit not quite his arcade-level production for the last few seasons. Jason Varitek has been poor, Coco Crisp has been almost nonexistent... if they also start hitting nobody could possibly catch them. Plus there's all the good pitching they've gotten. Jonah Keri had a great story on Tim Wakefield's strong start; Beckett's been wonderful, the bullpen is doing well right now. I don't think the Sox are worried.

Matt (Knoxville, TN): Would you name some palyers (past and present) who changed/are changing the way baseball is played?

Well, obviously the biggest names - Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson - have had bookshelves full of stuff written about them, and justly so. Let me give you a few lesser-known guys I think have left permanent marks on the game:

Moe Berg and Mickey Cochrane - early catchers who helped pioneer the position. Berg, who coined the term "the tools of ignorance" about catching gear, was better-known for his oddities and his intellect (he spoke something like seven languages) but belongs on this list.
Curt Flood - without him there is no such thing as free agency. He paid a terrible price for challenging the reserve clause, too.
Carl Hubbell - I don't think he invented the screwball, but he was the first to dominate with it. (And for that matter, you don't see the scroogie too much anymore - it's very hard on the elbow - but what a tough pitch to deal with, almost like a lefty-specialist tossing curves at your lefty bats.)
The inventors of the curveball and the stolen base - I'd have to look up the names, but both date back to the 19th century.
Cal Ripken Jr, Robin Yount, Joe Morgan - before these guys, your middle infielders were nearly always defensive specialists whom you tolerated as holes in the batting order. These guys were among the first of a crop of plus-hitters who also gave above-average defense. Shortstop is now a glamour position with a lot of dangerous hitters; and Rey Ordonez is unemployed because .235 and 2 homers per year won't cut it unless you're a pitcher, or got hurt on April 10th.
Bruce Sutter - again, not the inventor of the splitter, but the guy who gave it critical mass. Unlike the scroogie, it's stuck.
Hoyt Wilhelm - a representative for the knuckleballers of our time.

At the moment, I have to confess an inability to give you the inventors of modern bullpen use and the platoon system, but those would be managerial innovations outside of the scope of your question.

Mike (NYC): Do you see Roger Clemens making a serious contribution to the Yanks? I think a rotation of Wang, Pettitte, Moose, Rocket and Hughes can be tremendous.

I have to disappoint you, Mike. Clemens will still help, but Moose has a point, the Yankees aren't adding quite the same guy as they got in the late 90's. In fact, the big thing about the Yankee rotation is that Mussina's comment applies to every last one of them. It's all 2- or 3- guys, except for Hughes, who is a 20-year old rookie. That's four decent enough pitchers you wouldn't mind rolling out every fifth day, somewhat above average, but none of them are aces. Say they win 12-15 games each. That gets the Yankees to 60 wins; how are they going to get to 90? Does Hughes win 20 of those in his rookie year?

Grady Sizemore (Cleveland): Fly, what's wrong with my bat right now? People have said I'm as good if not better than Beltran, but I sure don't feel like it right now. Any thoughts?

Well, if it's the real Grady Sizemore, I'll say that you ARE in a funk if you're writing to me. If it's a frustrated fan, let me reassure you that Grady is, in fact, a very good hitter. His OBP is .394, he's leading the Indians in runs (29), he's 12-for-12 stealing, and his defense is still solid. It's hard to rack up 90+ extra-base hits per year. That will come around.

One thing that would help - he hasn't had a game off since 2005. Eric Wedge should give him a day exclusively devoted to spitting sunflower seeds and giving Travis Hafner a hotfoot while the Indians are in the field.

Norman (NY): Good morning Fly. I was wondering what your thoughts are on the fast starts for both JJ Hardy and Prince Fielder. Can Hardy keep up this MVP like pace and do you think that Prince Fielder can already be considered one of the elite power hitters in the game?

Fielder played very well last season, so this is a promising follow-up. A lot of great rookies have become mere mortals later because pitchers adjusted to them, but they were unable to re-adjust. I'd wait to see if he's still slugging .600 at the end of the season to call him "elite," however. The same with Hardy, really - SS is a demanding position physically, and it will be interesting to watch him push through the dog days of August. Still, he wasn't hitting well on the road coming into the current trip, but he's got six hits and three homers in those five games. I see him dipping a little but let's invent some numbers: he should finish around .925 or .950 OPS, 25-28 homers.

Wade: (Nashville, TN): Joe, what rookie do you think will have the biggest impact on their team the rest of the season?

Jack Cust has gotten off to a great little start, so let's hope he isn't just Kevin Maas. You've got Dice-K in Boston, Josh Hamilton in Cincinnati... You notice that all of those guys are older, 25 or so. They've handled a lot of life, they're finally getting their chance (in Hamilton's case, a second chance after some really stupid decisions), and they're doing well so far.

David (RedLegs Nation): Hey Fly Whats up you see any thing turning the reds around or are we stuck in the basement?

You certainly won't catch the Brewers, who look like the genuine article; but only four games separate the Reds from the second-place Astros. Cincy should catch the Cards and Pirates, especially since they have such trouble scratching out runs. The big thing is that the Reds' pitching staff is "Harang, Arroyo, and cursed fro-yo." They already brought up Bobby Livingston to replace Eric Milton; it may be too early for Homer Bailey. The Redlegs need one more arm.

Sam Perlozzo (Baltimore): Fly, I had a horrible 9th inning in Boston Sunday followed by a near fight in the dugout last night between Mora and Payton. Is my time as manager drawing short?

I don't think so. Perlozzo's been with the team a while, and it's unlikely that he's in immediate danger. And the fight isn't a negative in this context - Mora and Payton are two vets who care about the direction of the team and that sort of healthy competitive fire is going to pop the lid of the pot every once in a while. The real failing is that nobody can hit the ball hard out there, and Perlozzo didn't trade and sign for these guys. Peter Angelos is unfortunately the bigger obstacle to the Orioles success. Of course, he won't fire himself, but if he's smart he won't fire Perlozzo either.

Brian(NY): Fly here's a tough one for ya...if you we're to start a franchise from scratch for the next 5 years who would you're infield team be, mine would be Pujols, Kinsler, Reyes and Wright.

Decent choices, though Kinsler and Wright have been coming down to earth this season. Still, defensible picks. Wright is the better of those two.

For the next five years, I'd take Pujols, Chase Utley, Reyes, and Alex Rodriguez, who's only 31.

Dave (Richmond VA): Hey Fly! How good do you think that Phil Hughes can be this year? Is he a legit number 2 or 3?

As I shared above, the Yankees have to hope that he's a legit number one. He's got very good stuff - better than one K per inning, WHIP just about 1.0 - so it's a question of when he puts it together. But I think he needs a year or so, and the Yankees just sent him back to Scranton so I think that they agree.

And that's it. Holy cow, I see KT also tossed Moe Berg out there. Good times.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

There are the 9-11 Truthers...

…then there are the Fatima Truthers:

THE Vatican tried yesterday to draw a line under a conspiracy theory that has dogged the Catholic Church for decades - that it has been harbouring details of the predicted apocalypse.
The Pope's second-in-command, Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, denied that the church was suppressing a vision of the end of the world said to have been revealed by the Virgin Mary to three shepherd children on a hillside at Fatima in Portugal exactly 90 years ago.

Hey, Fly! You guys holding out on us?

UPDATE from the 'fly - no. The anniversary of the apparitions was May 13, so it's a seasonal affliction. A lot of the 'secret of Fatima' seems like inside-baseball stuff and people read more into it than is really there. (These are usually the same people who reject actual doctrine as "too complicated.") So usually what you get is, "Ooooh! The Apocalypse! Lakes of burning pitch! This is the good stuff!" And then you tell them the truth, that the three parts of the secret have a) already been revealed, and b) already happened decades ago; and they say, "But that's BORING." Then they make one of two errors: they either go back to their lives as if the message was never important, or they say "Obviously there's some conspiracy or deeper truth we're missing - so what is it, really? Knights Templar? Da Vinci Code?"

In short, your description of them as "Fatima truthers" is perfect.

This may take a bit, so please be patient. (Then again, the official missive is a lot longer - Cardinal (then-bishop) Bertone starts off, and near the end there's a terrific commentary from then-Cardinal Ratzinger, plus reproductions and translations of Sister Lucia's original written letters.) In the middle of the link you find a great summation by Angelo Cardinal Soldano, given on May 13, 2000:

The vision of Fatima concerns above all the war waged by atheistic systems against the Church and Christians, and it describes the immense suffering endured by the witnesses of the faith in the last century of the second millennium.

Along the way, there's a lot of the sort of thing that makes Steven Camp's eyes go buggy - the 'three parts of the secret' talk a lot about Mary's role in the world.

Part 1 - the vision of Hell. Sister Lucia says that it lasted only an instant, but for all that, "I think we would have died of fear and terror" had they not been promised earlier by Mary that they would go to Heaven. (Alarm Bell #1 - who's Mary to say who goes to Heaven? The answer, of course, is that born-again believers say it of themselves and others all the time, without the advantage Mary has of already being there. They base this on Scripture, and the authority of the Holy Spirit. Well, so does Mary.)

Part 2 - the warning to devote the world (and Russia in particular) to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Alarm Bell #2, big time. Ratzinger's commentary (awaaaaay down near the bottom of the link) explains why this isn't idolatrous - Mary's heart ("the centre of human life, the point where reason, will, temperament and sensitivity converge, where the person finds his unity and his interior orientation") was the greatest earthly example of unity with God's grace. "To be 'devoted' to the Immaculate Heart of Mary means therefore to embrace this attitude of heart, which makes the fiat - 'your will be done' - the defining centre of one's whole life. ...from whom might we better learn in every age than from the Mother of the Lord?" In short, we're not praying to her, but holding her up as an example all ought to strive for, unity with Christ. "Do whatever He tells you," as she herself said at Cana.

If one is disinclined to trust a guy who wound up being Pope, there's the evidence of history. In this part of the secret, Mary said that if Russia was converted, then there would be lasting peace; if not, "she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred; the Holy Father will have much to suffer; various nations will be annihilated." Done, and done. Right after, she promises that Russia will be so consecrated and eventually converted, and "a period of peace will be granted to the world." This is really the only part that hasn't happened yet - Pius XII did the consecrating, and John Paul II extended it to the whole world, but it's been less than 20 years since the Soviet Bloc crumbled, so one must take a longer view.

Part 3 -

...pointing to the earth with his right hand, the Angel cried out in a loud voice: 'Penance, Penance, Penance!' And we saw in an immense light that is God: 'something similar to how people appear in a mirror when they pass in front of it' [and] a Bishop dressed in White. 'we had the impression that it was the Holy Father.'

Other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious going up a steep mountain, at the top of which there was a big Cross of rough-hewn trunks as of a cork-tree with the bark; before reaching there the Holy Father passed through a big city half in ruins and half trembling with halting step, afflicted with pain and sorrow, he prayed for the souls of the corpses he met on his way; having reached the top of the mountain, on his knees at the foot of the big Cross he was killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him, and in the same way there died one after another the other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious, and various lay people of different ranks and positions.

Beneath the two arms of the Cross there were two Angels each with a crystal aspersorium in his hand, in which they gathered up the blood of the Martyrs and with it sprinkled the souls that were making their way to God.

This was written down in 1944 by Sister Lucia but not made public for many years; the attempted assassination of John Paul 2 is widely seen as an example of the described persecutions of the prophecy, but the great pogroms against faith conducted by the athiest powers of the 20th century are fulfillment enough, and many bishops and lay religious or many denominations shared in that. As Cardinal Ratzinger said in his commentary, is "will probably prove disappointing or surprising after all the speculation it has stirred. No great mystery is revealed; nor is the future unveiled." In brief, it's the standard warning of the Gospel - "Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand."

There is, though, Alarm Bell #3 - why the blood of the Martyrs, and not Christ? Ratzinger gives a good explanation, but again, not everyone trusts papal authority, so I'll use CS Lewis' "Mere Christianity." He describes the new life of Christ as 'a good infection': if you get close to Him, you will catch it and then spread it around. In Scriptural terms, we are made the Body of Christ. ("Why dost thou persecute Me? ... I am Jesus, whom thou art persecuting." -Acts 9:4, 5) That's what this sprinkling means - it means that the martyrs of the faith, His Body, by being united with Him, spread the new life to others. We are a community of believers united beyond time and place. The blood of men, powerless of itself, is in communion with Him and therefore brings Him to the world.

Now, people seize more readily on movie thrills: they don't really think about it, but instead settle for a vague imaginative picture - if you're lucky, you get something like "The Stand." More likely it's the Horsemen of the Apocalypse (looking rather like Brad Pitt, Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman, and Christian Bale), doing the slow roll against a background of explosions while guitars wail. Then Walker, Papal Ranger (Mel Gibson), a former priest with a crisis of faith, roars into action. More stuff explodes, there's a hot sex scene, a heartfelt talk with an older mentor (Sam Elliott), big final battle with the Devil (Clint Eastwood), Jesus (Denzel Washington) literally saves, annnnnnnnd - credits!

Uhm... NO. Lewis writes elsewhere that 'quite ordinary people' are going to be doing the fighting, again echoing Scripture: God chooses the lowly and the humble to confound the proud and the mighty (1 Cor 1:25-29).

So, that's it. Turns out that it's just the Gospel, 'nothing exciting,' just the boring old great struggle of the Kingdom of God in revolt against the occupying powers of Hell for the fate of humanity, in which anyone may strike a crucial blow at the front lines, and become an eternal hero. Ho-hum.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Movie Day @ Brokeback Junior High

The main feature:

A suit was filed on behalf of a 12-year-old girl who claims she suffered psychological distress when a teacher showed in class the gay-themed movie "Brokeback Mountain."

The girl, Jessica Turner, and her grandparents Kenneth and LaVerne Richardson, are seeking more than $400,000 in damages under the suit filed Friday against the Chicago Board of Education and others.

In her lawsuit, a 12-year-old girl claims she suffered psychological distress after watching "Brokeback Mountain."

According to the suit, a substitute teacher introduced herself as Ms. Buford to Jessica's class at Ashburn Community Elementary School, 8300 S. St. Louis Ave. She then said, "What happens in Ms. Buford's class stays in Ms. Buford's class," the suit claims. Buford then had a student close the door, and started showing the controversial R-rated film, which features two men engaged in sex.

The suit alleges Ashburn's principal, Jewel A. Diaz, was aware that the tale of the love between two cowboys set in the West of the 1960s was being shown to the minors.

Now you know why people homeschool.

The next time you hear of public schools trying to get parents involved remember this incident. Do you think Ms. Buford has any respect for the parents and guardians of these children?

The Church of the Squishy Marshmallow turns 100

If readers are wondering what exactly a "Church of the Squishy Marshmallow " is, Joseph Loconte of the Wall Street Journal has it pegged.

It isn't the social activism that makes a church squishy. It's that the social gospel is not the Gospel:

Surely there is much in the tradition for which to be grateful. Yet even a brisk reading of Rauschenbusch's work suggests crippling weaknesses, at least from the standpoint of faith. We're told that the larger social message of Jesus' teaching--especially his concern for the poor--was sidelined by the cultural assumptions of his followers. The culprits: the doctrine of sin and the "crude and misleading" idea of a coming apocalypse. Generations of believers wrongly came to regard earthly life as a snare and turned inward for personal salvation. "Such a conception of present life and future destiny," Rauschenbusch wrote chidingly, "offered no motive for an ennobling transformation of the present life."


It is hard to see, though, how Rauschenbusch's theology could be called Christian in any meaningful sense of the term. It required no repentance or atonement and carried no fear of judgment or bracing hope of eternal life. He famously denied the doctrine of Christ's Second Coming--with its promise of perfect justice and enduring mercy. The result was a flattened view of the human condition. "It is not possible honestly to confess that Jesus is the Christ of culture," Niehbur wrote in "Christ and Culture" (1951), "unless one can confess much more than this."

The Christian confession of faith, by itself, offers no guarantee that either individuals or societies will be transformed. But, for believers, not even the smallest steps forward can be taken without it.

This is why churches have U2-charest, where Bono music is played and the focus is on starvation in Africa. They have six days to work on the ills of the world, but on the seventh they profane the Lord's Supper ("Do this in remembrance of Darfur?') by ignoring Him. This is why the "Christian" Peacekeepers proudly proclaim that they do not proselytize: They wet themselves over Abu Graib, but don't give a rat's toenail that the place these folks without Christ are going will make Abu Graib look like Club Med.

Read this carefully before you reply. My beef with squishy churches is not the activism; it's that they've become the DNC with holidays and denied the Gospel.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Scenes from a suburban supermart

I ran low on stuff. This meant a trip to the SnS (sorry Ricki) for needfuls.

Good start - I got decent parking. It's not usually a concern but my knee is a little painful right now. As a result, it was harder to elude the man who drove all the way here from Texas in a Canyonero.

Inside safely, and stumping up and down the aisles with my cart. It's nice in here, even if the produce is a little sketchy. This will also sound petty, but I like the dried apple rings if I can get them, and they never seem to have them here. Dried apples keep longer than the fresh apples and I can nosh during the workday without worrying about cores, or where to put a half-eaten apple where it won't get on my work, or roll onto the floor.

On the plus side, the sales are usually very good. So far, most of what I was looking for is discounted in some fashion. Found single-serving juices on one of those deals and stocked up; it's usually cheaper to buy a half-gallon but I never finish them before they go infectious.

First impressions in the coffee and tea aisle...

Happy - I love the smell of the fresh beans in their dispensers. Sad - it reminds me how much of the stuff I've been drinking lately. It's a little Simpsons-esque:

"I gave up coffee for Lent."
That's good.
"Five weeks later, I'm back up to three cups a day."
That's bad.
"But I only had one today!"
That's good.
"...but I also had two cans of Coke."
. . .
"That's bad."
Can I go home now?

So - on to the tea. Hey, sale on green tea. Let me pull over so as not to block the tea section and stand off to one side and look. And now, let me look for five minutes at the back of the grouchy lady who cut right in front, spent teabag in hand, trying to match it with a new supply. Possible responses:

a) "Nice sale, isn't it? Do you see anything you like?"
b) Nothing. Just narrow-focus disapproval, a hot pinpoint between the shoulder blades, like burning leaves with a magnifying glass.
c) "Gee, it's lucky I stopped here for no damned reason - if I was shopping for tea I couldn't see a thing."

I chose d) wait for eye contact and smile politely. I would have loved a reply in kind - I would even have settled for b) - but I got e) blank, indifferent stare. She made me feel inconsiderate for waiting for her. It was if I were actually a cardboard cutout in the middle of the aisle: why is that there? I could get cardboard lint on my sweater as I brush past it!

Life's short. Moving on.

Cereals are NOT on sale. They make it quite clear that the half-buck rollbacks are permanent, everyday prices. The companies do this every couple of years, as I recall, perhaps drawing inspiration from Charlton Heston in the Ten Commandments, busting into the granaries to feed the starving Hebrews. Henceforth, heavily-sweetened grain products shall be made affordable to the masses, and not just to moneyed special-interests. Lay down your McMuffins and donuts and eat healthily, orphan and Warbucks alike!

I didn't actually talk that way out loud at Stop n' Shop. For one thing, there was a guy there, thoroughly describing the selections over the phone - I didn't want to look weird. One suspects that the overseer was the actual shopper, and the guy with the phone was his instrument, his projection into the actual shopping world while he lived the higher life of the mind elsewhere. Even at affordable prices, Warbucks doesn't have to do the actual legwork for his breakfast.

Down the seasonal aisle - because "Nifty Yet Slightly Cheap Crap You Don't Need, but it Seemed Like a Good Deal at the Time" doesn't fit well on a placard. I didn't buy a sun hat, or a soft-sided mini-lunch cooler with knock-off thermos, or Blondie's "Parallel Lines" on CD, or the sixth Harry Potter book in paperback, or a beach chair, or patriotic paper cups and plates, or "snak-n-go snacks" too cheap to afford either correct spelling or a spot alongside respectable brands in the actual snack aisle.

Frozen entrees - check. New toothbrush - check. Sport drink for next game - check. (Pain-free knee? Hope so by then.) Shampoo, conditioner - check. All on sale, actually. Cereal was not among my purchases, since it's about all I actually have plenty of in the house. That poor guy may still be there, reading nutritional data for all I know.

The self-chekcout may be an excuse for stores not to hire as much help, but I really like them. You avoid the whole "38 items in the express lane" people, pack your stuff so watermelons are underneath eggs and potato chips, stuff like that. The Acme folks have it down to a science: they give you the scanner, and next to it, where the normal conveyor would be, there's a three-bag-wide stuffing station. The SnS, however, has roughtly the same setup as a standard checkout, with the long automatic belt hustling your purchases to a small staging area - only it's longer. As a result, you send your groceries down ten feet of wasted space for them to stack up so quickly that the scanner scolds you: "Please bag some of your items before scanning the next purchase."

The next person in line huffed off - I'm the 38 items guy now, I suppose. But there are three other self-checkouts open, and an actual express lane. Oh, and for the record - whose dumbass idea was this layout? The self-checkout seems to strongly imply solo shopping, as in "nobody at the other end of the conveyor to bag for me." Why make me chug back and forth like I'm rallying on the baseline with Pete Sampras?

So, off I go, stumping down to bag... only to hear the scanner complain in the distance: "If you are finished, please select your method of payment, or hit 'Cancel.'" This device sounds the way tea lady looks.

And in the end, I got 34 of the 38 items at discount, and saved thirty-two bucks, and can now brush my teeth and go to bed.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Pure excitement

Tonight, you will be transformed from dead-eyed suburbanites into white-hot grease fires of pure entertainment!

All except you. You're not working out. I'll be playing your role:

Awwww, maaaan...
I mean, some guys own penthouses, and others own islands - this guy has his own frickin' private star, and it's very restful. (Not the first adjective that comes to my mind in that discussion, but then again, I'm not the most remarkable man who ever lived.)

It's fair to question whether she's crazy about this, or just generally barking nuts.

  • Hi, incredibly small woman I just rescued from doom! I know you're only 3' 9" but would you like to play basketball with me?
  • Yo, doll-face. I need you to shoot me up with the clear. You in?
  • Hey... I was checking you out from across the ward. I heard you're Cleopatra. I'm a Super-Wizard named Stardust. You want to share a Prozac sometime?
I'd be crazy about it!

All this madness comes to us courtesy of the Ace of Spades (with credit to David Thompson), from the unfathomable mind and pen of Fletcher Hanks. At least, some people may fathom it. For example, this starts out reasonably, if badly-drawn - the late 30's isolationist paradise of the United States is threatened by Fifth Columnists, who luckily are total idiots who think conquering South America first is a winning strategy. (Maybe they were counting on the three bonus armies per turn.) You'd think that, even if they didn't anticipate the mind-reading guy that flies around in a "tubular spacial," any fifth columnists would tackle the dangerously-unprepared superpower and then dig in. But, oh, on page two we see that they have secret allies.

Believe it or not, it gets a little weird at that point. The secret allies are sky-demons from Mars. Luckily, Stardust has a ray for everything: super-accelerated solar rays, fusion rays, paralyzing rays, repelling rays, shadow-transfer rays, Fay Rays (used exclusively on simian threats)... Admittedly, the first story I ever wrote featured swirl-rays - but they were planet-based and not wizard-based technology. My witch character worked exclusively in spells. And was the bad guy. And I was 5 years old.

Onward - to the most stupendous thing you are likely to see this calendar year:

Man are THESE guys in for a let-down when they get topside.
You're seeing this correctly - he freezes everyone and then sends them whizzing up to meet him in the clouds, leaving the good guys behind.

It's the Inverse Rapture.

By the next page, he's brainwashed and kidnapped a bunch of demented schoolchildren and sent them to fight the enemy soldiers now entrenched across an entire continent. To recap - the Super-Wizard, "the most remarkable man that ever lived," likes to spend his time playing at evil mirror-universe Jesus (complete with a new heavens and earth), when he's not hitting on fourth-graders who think he's just dreamy. He can't be counted on to risk his own remarkable self doing any of the actual fighting. He just yutzes around with some David Copperfield crap and lets his enemies blow each other up, while little Johnny and Stevie are swapping fusion rays with the Nazis - who for the purposes of this story have gotten to South America before, rather than after, WW2. (It may be historically true, I suppose, but if so I'm willing to guess it was an accident.)

It is such a bizarre story at this point, it must be expressed mathematically.

((Ator + Santa Conquers the Martians + the Watchtower) * negative art talent)² ÷ cos(bad writing) = Suckitude

It almost seems quaint and plausible that this guy hangs out on his own private star with vibrating crime detectors.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Near the street where I live

Tracey asks, I answer - because actual content is too-oo-oo harrrrd...

1) What is/are the major grocery store(s) and which one do you like? Why, please?
Around here, it's ShopRite, PathMark, Foodtown, Acme, and Stop n' Shop. The local SnS has the best produce, Acme has great sales, and the rest are just there. SR and PM have that annoying capital with no space in the name (minus points). Oh, and we also have A & P, which was my regular shopping choice for years until I moved too far off.

2) Do you have Target stores?
I loves me my Target. We have three I visit commonly, one near my job and two in Ladybug's general area. Tons better than the WalMarts (grrrrr on annoying capital with no space) - they are less well-kept, and thus feel cheaper and tacky.

3) How many Starbucks have you personally visited (guesstimates okay) and will you blow them up for me?
Honestly, I'm a Dunkin's guy. Have gone to a few Starbucks, mostly in bookstores or on long road trips.

4) Do you have Ikea stores?
Exit 13-A, New Jersey Turnpike. A big ol' mooma jooma of a store. I'm not a fan. Minus points - my old hockey league played in a place called RexPlex, across the parking lot, until about two years ago, when we got padlocked. (I wouldn't call the number anymore, btw.)

5) What is the price of gas right now?
$2.75 per gallon is the leader in the clubhouse. I've seen as much as $2.99, but that's at the crazy station that is always a dime higher than everywhere else.

6) What is a popular chain restaurant, what kind of food do they serve, and do you go there?
We have them all here in Central NJ - Chili's, Applebee's, On the Border, Bennigan's, Pizzeria Uno, Longhorn Steakhouse, Olive Garden, Johnny Carino's, Macaroni Grill... I've probably even missed a few. Chili's is my favorite of the list (hence first), and Applebee's is probably last, for two reasons - first, Pepsi products; and second, the "no medium-rare" rule.

7) If you don’t have professional sports teams, what city’s teams are geographically closest to you and do you root for them?
We have the Nets (basketball) and Devils (hockey); and in football, the Giants and Jets, though named elsewhere, are geographically in the swamps of Jersey. There are also a host of minor league teams in the four majors, and even pro soccer in shouting distance - the Red Bulls.

The Spider, who is from South Jersey, would list all the Philly teams, because it's really a different state down there. And north of here, you get a lot of Rangers (hockey) fans to mix with the baseballers who prefer the Yankees or Mets. New Jersey is pretty conflicted.

8) Do you see lots of 20-somethings wearing pajama bottoms as pants, you know, in public?
You know, here and there now that I think about it.

9) Do you have a neighborhood that is known as the gay neighborhood? What is it called?
Asbury Park, NJ, has a large gay population that has been rejuvenating the town where all else have failed. New Hope, PA (60-75 minutes off) is also gay-friendly. In nearby Philadelphia they have something they call the "gayborhood," and have even put up discrete rainbow signs to help people locate it. We don't have clever nicknames here, though.

10) What is the latest thing that everyone is talking about?
The plot to carry out a suicidal assault on Fort Dix, NJ. At least they were actually targeting soldiers and not civilians. I'm much more fearful that the next plot will center around a mall or something.

22% of my fellow citizens...

...are out of their minds.

Overall, 22% of all voters believe the President knew about the attacks in advance. A slightly larger number, 29%, believe the CIA knew about the attacks in advance. White Americans are less likely than others to believe that either the President or the CIA knew about the attacks in advance. Young Americans are more likely than their elders to believe the President or the CIA knew about the attacks in advance.

More of them are Dems.

Democrats in America are evenly divided on the question of whether George W. Bush knew about the 9/11 terrorist attacks in advance. Thirty-five percent (35%) of Democrats believe he did know, 39% say he did not know, and 26% are not sure.

Seriously, this is tin foil hat-wearing stuff. If you are one of these people, read this book immediately!

Okay, so they're not whores...

....because they're giving it away.

Not many years ago if someone wanted to find out what was in the newspaper they had to buy one. But not anymore. Now you can just go to the newspaper's Web site and get that same information for free.

The newspaper industry wonders why it is losing young readers. Those readers might be young, but many of them are smart, not to mention computer-savvy. Why would they buy a newspaper when they can get the same information online for free?

Newspapers initially created their Web sites with the best of intentions. After all, newspapers are in the information business. And rather than fight the new medium, the Internet, why not embrace it? Wanting to be the leading information providers and thereby have the most popular Web site in the community, they posted all of their news online for free.

My local fishwrap, the Tampa Tribune, recently canned 70 people and offered to deliver the paper to me for $4 a month. That's not enough to pay the guy to deliver it. The Trib has local columnists who make no bones about their hatred of evangelical Christians. And their website makes it easier for me not to contribute to their salaries.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Coming attractions

Late last week I got to take a business-related trip out to Ellis Island.

You know, I AM standing on an old fort.  I still take my job seriously.
Got some great pictures to share with everyone during the week. In the late evenings, I will try to put them up, so that in the morning you will have the fresh content that discerning viewers require in today's hustle-bustle, fax-and-calculator world.

ALSO - I hear tell that SiteMeter permits certain unsavory cookies. I am somewhat late to the knowledge, but grateful, and so a wing-tip to fellow Futurama fan Johnny Bacardi for the information. (And to answer your question: I've heard early Rod Stewart, and it just makes me madder at what he's become. He sings worse than I do now.) As a result, I'd like to officially thank the 22,408 of you who visited in the past 21 months. Today begins a new era - the StatCounter Era.

(PPS - JB is also a hockey fan. 'Tis a Batman/Superman Adventures lass in a Flames sweater, so be a good red-blooded male and click it.)

Friday, May 04, 2007

I'll see your gay priest

....and raise you a Nigerian bishop.

Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori is confronting Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola head-on with a new demand that he not install Truro Church rector Martyn Minns as head of a parallel denomination this coming weekend. At the ceremony, scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at Hylton Memorial Chapel in Woodbridge, Archbishop Akinola and four other Nigerian bishops will make Bishop Minns, 64, the head of the Fairfax-based Convocation of Anglicans in North America. He has headed CANA, in addition to pastoring the 2,300-member Truro, since he was consecrated as a bishop Aug. 20 in Abuja, Nigeria.

What's happening is that 11 Episcopal Churches in Virginia are breaking away from the American Church and joining an Anglican convocation headed by Bishop Akinola. These churches left the American Episcopal Church because of the abandonment of God's Word including acts of squishiness like ordaining gay bishops (and gay ex-governors as priests).

BTW, Bishop Akinola is no stranger to standing up for Biblical truth.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Estimated prophecy

From the comments to your front page. Teflon, three days ago:

The curious thing about the Episcopal church of our generation is not that it ordains gays, but that it ordains atheists. Why not just become a Unitarian and have done with it?

And, the un-curious here and now:

Former New Jersey Governor James McGreevey, who resigned and divorced his wife after announcing he was gay in 2004, now reportedly wants to become an Episcopal priest.

McGreevey, who was raised Roman Catholic, became an Episcopalian this past Sunday at St. Bartholomew's Church in Manhattan, according to its vicar, the Reverend Kevin Bean.

Of course, he could just be going for his M.Div. without ordination. The major obstacle is not his orientation, as Tef noted; in fact, it's not even my primary question about it. The real issue lies in St. Paul's instructions to Timothy (1 Tim 3:4-9) on the qualifications for the office.

He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain, but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.

It's not like James McGreevey is an obscure fellow, either. It's hard not to notice that he abandoned a second wife and family, failed in his elected office, resigned amid a cloud of scandal, wrote a book to profit off of the whole mess - and then entered the seminary pretty much the same day he entered the church. He's the anti-Timothy.

That sound you hear is St. Paul up in the yonder slapping his forehead V-8 style. He wrote this for a reason, and it wasn't to be a big meanie who condemns instead of forgives, either. The above passage is not just a leader giving orders, but a description of reality. He isn't just telling Timothy "do it my way," but describing for him what a good presbyter will be. Willfully ignoring the description is nothing more than deciding that you don't want good presbyters in your church. But if you want a healthy church that can actually minister to people who need it most, why wouldn't you seek out people who fit the description Paul gave Timothy?

I am far from saying that the guy ought to report to the outer darkness for wailing and gnashing of teeth; on the contrary, he and I are both in need of the Savior - and of a church willing to do the hard things on our behalf. Giving McGreevey a collar does neither his congregants nor he himself any good. (As one of the sheep of His flock, I really want a shepherd who can fight off wolves, and not a fellow sheep who'll get eaten alive. It does neither of us any good.)

(It is fair at this point to note that in my own church, we have occasionally had actual wolves in shepherd's clothing. This is, if nothing else, proof of the dangers of ignoring 1 Timothy 3.)

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Three to the third

Snitched from Tracey, also done by Sheila. Name three characters:

1. you wish were real so you could meet them:
....Ebenezer Scrooge, from A Christmas Carol - mostly to see the the before-and-after contrast, to see the pinching, grasping miser suddenly made into as good a master as the old town had known.

....Sherlock Holmes - just because, dammit. It would be worth feeling like a dolt to see him glance up, distracted, from a chemical experiment to tell me that I play hockey, eat too much junk food, work as a secretary, and prefer cats to dogs based entirely on my hat and shirt cuffs. And then ignore me until my problem proved sufficiently unusual for him to actually solve.

....Mr. Spock - that would be cool. I'd love to be in the crew (red uniform? oh crap). For that matter, I'd dig being on any of the ships, except for Voyager. My nerdiness cannot be sated.

Oh, what the heck - bonus dudes - the Weasley Twins. They're a hoot, and they wouldn't scorn a couple of beers with a muggle. I'll explain the Lord's Own Hockey to them (a more violent Quidditch - they'll be hooked).

2. you would like to be:
....Indiana Jones - you need to be told why? The man is INDIANA JONES. He's smart, tough, and as he himself says when asked his next move, "I don't know. I'm making this up as I go." One of the most human of action heroes, as was discussed once on Sheila's blog. When the big German hits him, we see him from the waist down... and then the knees wobble and he goes right down on his butt. Even World Adventurers hurt when they take one on the chops. There's no Crouching Archaologist, Hidden Superpowers.

....a Jedi knight - not that superpowers don't come in handy. I mean, what's so great about the Jedi? Well, besides the telekinesis.
--And the inhuman reflexes.
--And that mind trick dealio.
So, yeah, moving things with your mind - including other people's minds.
--And the fighting skills (with reflexes).
--Limited clairvoyance!
[sigh] OK, OK: telekinesis, reflexes, fighting, mind tricks, clairvoyance...
--and, uhm, that light-sword or other.
FINE. So, besides the saber, the martial arts, the reflexes, and the mental crapola - what's so great about the Jedi?

....Puddleglum, from The Silver Chair - in fact, I think that I'll start campaigning for this role right now. I'll kidnap Alan Rickman, tie up David Thewlis with a bunch of projects that don't exist, and arrange for Paul Bettany to be temporarily deported to Algiers.

3. who scare you:
....Iago, from Othello - remorseless and calculating; somewhat like Shylock from "The Merchant of Venice," save that he holds his mask in place so well that he succeeds. Shylock's no treat, but he's more out in the open: "If I but once can catch him on the hip/ I shall feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him." The guys in Venice know what's up with him, but only turn his way when out of options; then Portia rules his world and that's that. He becomes a sympathetic figure, not only undone but painfully aware of it. Iago works from within disguised as a friend, and that's serious business.

....Mrs. Iselin, from The Manchurian Candidate - Holy crap, is Angela Lansbury scary; the moreso because up until I'd seen this movie, I only knew her from stuff like "Murder, She Wrote" and "Bedknobs and Broomsticks." I couldn't play solitaire for weeks.

Surprisingly, I'm having trouble coming up with a third. A lot of the characters who spook me are not normally the villains. They could kill me or whatever, but not scare me. And then there are those who are small, priggish, cramped souls who are more pitiable than frightening. OK, this is as good as I've got:

....Batman - if you are his target, he will bring you down; if you are his enemy, he will deal with you. In one sense, it's nothing personal, just the thing he does. In another, it's the ONLY thing he does, because it is intensely personal. We just get mad if we hear of some criminal outrage, but Bats, from his childhood, swore vengeance on every such act, and worked to make it possible. So, if you beat on a 90-year-old lady for her Social Security check, here's what you're dealing with: a brilliant detective/chemist/engineer, relentlessly motivated and disciplined, trained to the ultimate in physical performance, with access to vast technological resources. This is a guy who regularly holds his own against super-villians - and he is freakishly compelled to come down the same way on garden-variety punks and carjackers. And really, how often does he really fight the Joker, Two-Face, Ras-al-Guhl, etc? All of that maybe takes up three or four weeks of his year. Then he pals around with the Justice League part-time say, another four weeks - and they fight inter-dimensional badasses, and he handles his end of things. Supes, Wonder Woman, the Lantern? All of them are godlike creatures who are ALSO scared of Batman.

So: that leaves 309 other days for him to smoosh YOU. If you're in Gotham and you feel like pulling a gun on some payroll guy, think twice - there's an 84.6% chance that one of the shadows is going to come to life and wreck your face.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Ecological advice from Queen

Get on your bikes and ride!

Why can't we give love one more chance?
The destruction of one's property (or others', in France) is not necessary, but preferred.

This billboard has been paid for by the carbon offsets of several concerned local celebrities. Thank you for your time.