Tuesday, May 31, 2005

A need-to-know basis

[Please be warned - follow the links at your own discretion.]

Via the Coalition, the tale of a young man searching for advice about the propriety of honeymooning with his lovely bride.

It turns out that honeymoons are "alien to Islam." I guess this cruelty was OK because it wasn't a honeymoon, then? (Wing tip to Mr. Summers of "It Comes in Pints".)

Insufferable wretches.

UPDATE - the trackback URLs did not work, so I've gone back and fixed the links.

Blogged down

A programming note: there hasn't been a lot of new content here because of a great deal of new content in the real world. My adventures included (but are not limited to) a flat tire, a matinee showing of Episode III (about what I guessed it would be), and huge work projects. The leftover time went into the Mother of Unfinishable Stories rather than the Hive. I simply hadn't much to say, and would rather fall silent from time to time than write pages of nothing; I may have more tomorrow or Friday, depending.

From now on I'll try to give notice beforehand, rather than apologies after. In the meantime there are some interesting posts at Dawn Eden and Muley's World (a hot newcomer).

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Evil will always triumph...

...because good is dumb.

You know, kids, they sell these things at the flippin' bookstore, now, complete with genuine sound effects. Sixty-five quid ($90 American) will set you up in nerdvana for hours. Or you could do what we used to do when we were kids: duel with two wiffle bats and make your own sound effects.

At the very least, they could have watched the safety video.

(Wing-tip to NRO, the Corner, for the original link.)

Even the Grinch is sad

Thanks for everything, Thurl Ravenscroft.

One of the most recognizable voices, and least recognizable faces, Thurl Ravenscroft had a long, varied career in song and voice; but for my generation he was famous primarily for two things: "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch," and Tony the Tiger.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Dash it all

One of the most frustrating things about not having the Force is that yelling at the TV screen has no effect on what you're seeing.

Flashback - two on, one out, Roberto Hernandez pitching to Alex Rodriguez; the Mets cling to a 3-1 lead provided by Pedro Martinez' wicked stuff. Nightfly, he don't worry. For a guy currently leading the AL in homers and RBI, Rodriguez is mighty mushy in the clutch. Yup - popped it up.

Now it's Hideki Matsui, and I start to worry. Here's where you'd want a lights-out lefty like John Franco was all those years. The current applicant, Dae-Sung Koo, is pretty good, but he started this inning and was lifted after those two guys got on: both on errors. Still, we should get out of this.

Then Hernandez starts throwing the same pitch over and over - sinkers outside. He still throws them mighty hard, but against any major-league hitter, you have to change speeds and locations. Otherwise, you've got nobody to blame but yourself when the final pitch winds up rattling around the outfield. This is where I started to yell. "Bust him high and tight!" Matsui was trying to go to left the entire at-bat, so jam him, let him pop out too, or nub it to the infield. Instead, it was a fifth sinker outside, and to no-one's surprise, it was dumped into left for the tying runs.

The Mets went on to lose. Thankfully, I can't choke people by pointing, either. But if the Mets fail to reach the playoffs, it will be because their bullpen can't hold leads. "You have failed me for the last time, Mr. Hernandez..."

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Pander bears

Somehow the NBC affiliate managed to locate seven Republicans in the state of New Jersey and gathered them into captivity for a one-hour debate.

It highlighted the difficulties of primary debates. They had no commercials, indicative of the level of interest generated by Republicans in our state. Each person got precious little time to impress potential voters. (Then again, who would want to see any more?) I wasn't taken by any of the questions, either.

Gabe Pressman asked whether the candidates supported "outlawing gay marriage with a constitutional amendment." None of the seven asked him how one was supposed to outlaw something that has never been permitted before. That's important ground in the debate - there has never before been a legal recognition of gay unions, and somebody should have called Gabe on it. Nope: surrendered, uncontested. Only Doug Forrester said no; "The state Constitution is not the proper mechanism for something like that." But he favored legislation against.

Reporter Pat Battle took the prize for silliness by asking the candidates, "Everyone has done things they are not proud of. What is your biggest regret in life and what lesson did you learn?"

See, now this is the big reason why I could never hold an office. My answer is, What on earth has that to do with holding the office of Governor of New Jersey? How is it at all relevant? Ms. Battle basically wanted all the Republican candidates to tell an embarassing story on television. Jon Corzine himself couldn't have come up with better. (Todd Caliguire turned it around nicely, saying his big regret was not asking his wife to marry him sooner. Good job, immediately lessened by Pressman noting that he must be working the women's vote.)

My general impression was that this isn't the most impressive array of talent - because of the short format nobody stood out particularly. The front-runners, Forrester and Bret Schundler, were all over each other. Robert Schroeder goofed during his closing statement by addressing Pressman, not the audience. Caliguire undid his good answer with a poor closer. Paul DiGaetano was the only one who actually remembered to ask for my vote.

They've been doing this all around the state, according to reports. (Note that the story errs by identifying Forrester as the former mayor of Jersey City; Schundler was.) Primary is June 7th. Oh boy.

Meanwhile - Yanks at Mets on TV, Pedro on the hill. Time to go.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Soft-bristled brushes with greatness

Today was the day NJ 101.5's Dennis and Judi show went to the Official Diner of the Hive. They are my favorite of the station's shows, and I was sold on the prospect of listening to them broadcast live while I ate the famed honey mustard chicken sandwich at leisure. ("Maple-peppered bacon" are the three greatest words in the history of lunch.)

They were fun, and gracious - their commerical breaks were spent chatting with and signing autographs for similarly geeked-out fans. I got a shot that I will post once it's developed.

It's been that kind of a week. Last night I was in Toms River and passed the newly-renovated Ocean County Library's main branch. I heard someone singing "Black Coffee in Bed," solo and acoustic. I said to my reflection, "That sounds an awful lot like that guy from Squeeze."

His name, incidentally, is Glenn Tilbrook, and it WAS him. He looked very like the August '03 picture on his homepage. Cool.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

For Getting the Point

Funny in life how one starts to notice a pattern forming. On Monday, Dawn Eden saw one of those two visionaries at the train station.

I confess to a certain... weariness when I see stuff like that. My first, unworthy thought usually runs, "Thanks for making my job harder." Or as Gandhi put it, the thing that kept him from converting to Christianity was the Christians.

From within it's simple to see why, because we are sinners and aware of it (more or less). We can see the gains Christ makes in our lives. We know it is His power and not our own that motivates us to live the Gospel. But from without, people see the flaws and presume that they disprove the message. They don't consider that it just disqualifies US, and that's why Christ came in the first place - to requalify us, in so many words. And they aren't really convinced that they need a cure like that. A typical conversation with a friend of mine once ended with him saying, in effect, "I'm a good guy, so what does Jesus offer me?"

And it was hard to answer that. If I'm interested in just being good, then there's a certain standard of decency that isn't terribly hard to adhere to; informed by Christian virtue and honed by practice, we can all be reasonably good. In that sense, Christ's demands are by definition unreasonable. He doesn't want nice people. To borrow Screwtape's words, he wants "saints, gods, things like Himself." He wants us to surpass our own expectations and goals because they are too meager compared to what He's made us for. 'Good' isn't 'sanctified.' (In one of our bible studies, someone noticed wonderfully that Christ calls the weak and lowly, not the strong and proud - and intends to give them out gifts far greater than mere power and goodness: holiness, righteousness, joy, and peace.)

Picture not playing your regular numbers the one week they hit and pay out millions. Recall some small kindness you withheld from sheer indifference, only to never have that chance again. Multiply together and raise the result to an infinite power. That is the essence of "Turn or Burn!" At Judgement, knowing that it was all there for you but you couldn't be bothered, must burn. It's true, as far as it goes, but it goes so very little distance: about the stretch from nose to navel. No wonder people find it so unappealing. The real journey is yet to even begin: all that lies beyond, the One we turn to, and His description of what life with Him in eternity will be - again, because it must be that good, an essential consequence of our salvation and not a cherry on the sundae. But for someone who already 'has it all right,' it's hard to see it that way, and easier to regard Heaven as no more than a neat extra.

I know people see evil in the world and question God, believers the same as skeptics. But I look at the offer Christ makes and the utter stupidity I show in my halting reply to Him, and I think that He must love us dearly to offer anyway.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Larry David finds religion

If he did (or maybe he already has?) it would sound something like this. (Link courtesy Dawn Eden.)

I can actually get behind what Joey ran into, because it's common all over, even here in the hinterlands. Yesterday's Mass reading from 1 Corinthians was just on this topic - one body, many gifts, given for the good of all. Too many times we start competing instead of cooperating. More subtly, people buy into the false idea that those with different gifts aren't genuinely Christian - or "saved," "born-again," or "in a personal relationship with Jesus as Lord and Savior." (In fact, sometimes people think that about people simply for using different words to describe it.)

I've known people who were seriously into a particular devotion or discipline letting it influence their opinion of others. I'm going to Hell, appararently, not for my sins but for my taste in music and beer. Another well-meaning guy recently told me that two Irish visionaries had said of Pope Benedict XVI, "He has no soul."

I suppose that makes him a divine jive turkey. What I really want to know is, if this is true, shouldn't one of these guys have spoken up before the conclave? Say, during the previous fifty years that Joseph Ratzinger's been a priest? Or are these two guys simply disgruntled Traditional Catholics still irked about the Second Vatican Council?

One of the standing orders from the Captain is "Love thy neighbor as thyself." I take it to mean that Jesus was totally about the people. There are always times for a believer to put God first (it comes with breathing), but that doesn't mean that our neighbors get nothing unless we are under exceptional circumstances.

Set phasers to maximum dweeb

"Ready, sir."

Thank you, Mr. Lileks. Fire at will.

I mean, I knew I was going to love the column the instant the picture popped up. That brightens a geek's lunch hour, eh wot? I loved Deep Sleep Nine, especially once they woke up Avery Brooks and told him that he was on the clock. Couldn't get into Voyager the same way as DS9 and Next Generation, especially Captain Lameway, who surely should have been court martialed for all the times she ditched the Prime Directive. (More specifically, ditched it without Kirk's brio and style.) Therefore, I'll take Lileks' word for it on Enterprise, a show I disliked. Terminal "Prequelitis" - no matter what you see, you know how it turns out. It severely hampers your creative efforts, which is probably why it could only squeeze out four years. (And for hockey fans, Scott Bakula looks too much like Flyers forward John LeClair, and he's not even captain of his own team.)

Allow me one concession: the finale is in fact cribbed directly from what I think was Voyager's best episode. Good on them for borrowing from the best, especially if it's the only way they could reasonably close the series.

On a related note (HA - I do have original content today!) TNT played "Insurrection" yesterday on the telly, and it was kind of fun to see; it hits all of the high notes for a Trek movie: Obvious Moral, the ship and crew nearly buy it, and F Murray Abraham's turn to hold the prestigious Serious Thespian Slumming fellowship. (They should have thrown in Data giggling like Tom Hulce in Amadeus, just for the hell of it.) No, it wasn't the best of them. Any fan fictioners who wish to indulge can write the "Enterprise" Finale-style story of how history shows that this was the lowest point in Captain Picard's otherwise stellar career: risking it all on the society that modelled itself on M Night Shyamalan's "The Village." (I love the one guy who tells Picard that the minute they pick up a gun to defend themselves, they become no different than the guys who want to kidnap the whole lot of them and destroy their planet and their precious way of life. My instant response, in the theater [bad habit of mine] was, "So, you want us to do it for you since you don't like us anyway?" I'd be a bad Federation Captain.) I won't be that guy, though. I enjoyed it for what it was, screened out the preachle*, and watched the pretty boom-booms. It's probably good training for Episode III, now that I think about it...

*preachle (n.) - a sickly combination of preaching and treachle; it sticks in the throat and may cause the dreaded disease cringivitis.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Meeting's good in the neighborhood

After our normal semi-monthly meeting, we repaired to the Appleby's for food, drink, and chat - there to be joined by Mr. Bingley (one of a select group). Much enjoyment all around.

Arguments about stuff are sometimes fun, often informative, but only important inasmuch as the topics impact real people. And that's why I blog. I like meeting people. I love getting to know them in their conversations. I enjoy working through whatever topics may cross our path. It's a treat when I get to shake hands with somebody I've been bantering with for months. My friends will laugh - I'm usually going on about something or other, and in fact that's what drew Mr. B's attention to where we were sitting (I might as well admit it) - but the friends are the thing. And the readings we covered for our Bible study last night say it quite well.

By the way, Mr. B - sorry about the Hawaiian shirt. Still in the wash.

Monday, May 09, 2005

The Red Hour strikes

Courtesy the Barking Spider comes a link to a tale about an occupation slightly older than motherhood.

It's interesting to come across this a few days after the mighty chastity debate over at Dawn Eden's. (Click the comments for the full treatment.) Nobody's saying that following (for example) Planned Parenthood's precis for psycho-sexual fulfillment will of necessity lead to the red light district; one of the organizations under their umbrella, the Sexuality Education and Information Council of the US, tries to be careful (and click at your own risk on this one - the page is relatively tame but I'm sure the rest of the site offers "far more," if that's the apt phrase). The linked page starts off by mentioning how many kids regret not waiting longer and offers a helpful checklist for the ambitious young virgin. Taken piece by piece one can say that it's a responsible overview - but taken as a whole, there are a few problems. (Dawn delves into some of them here, my source for the SEICUS link, so do send some hits her way.)

First, it's apparent that they presuppose a level of reflection and maturity that most teens simply can't have. They haven't lived long enough, nor seen enough. In fact, seeing too much too soon usually causes problems for us. (There's a reason why we set legal age requirements to drive, vote, sign contracts, and go to war.) A teen is going to tick off a lot of these items based on feelings and not thought.

Second, they assume that going some of the way first is a prerequisite for completing the trip. They never seem to consider the alternative - that it would cloud one's moral judgement instead of clarifying it.

Third, they never mention any sort of commitment, much less actual marriage. They talk about empathy, intimacy, pleasure...anything but a promise. CS Lewis once observed that people who pooh-pooh promises to keep betray that they have never been in love themselves; love cannot be deterred from swearing fidelity and steadfastness. If you consider what sex entails, it's clear why. The safest possible environment for it is in a permanent relationship, bound by oaths and sanctioned by witnesses. Some will yet say that there are other arrangements, not as desirable but still acceptable; I'm not trying here to debate where the line falls, but it's clearly a line, and not a broad fuzzy scale, slowly running through every shade of gray. This is a black and white thing - either you have the promise, or you don't; either you've had sex, or not.

This is something that teens suspect for themselves. That very first line, mentioned and then ignored, about all the people who gave their whole consent to sex, only to realize later that they had been fooling themselves? That phenomenon is not an accident, and it's not caused by lack of education. There are facts chock-a-block, but those only get you half-way home. This is a moral choice. There are a world of clever cons out there; intelligence just makes them better at being naughty.

Mark Twain once said that at 17, he thought his father was an idiot. "Then I was 24, and I was amazed at how much the old man had learned in seven years." Kids still need the strong example from adults about sex; they need to know who they are, they need to stand against peer pressure and rash emotional impulse. They may hate it, and fight to break away, because by nature kids are meant to stand on their own when reaching adulthood. This raises the natural question: how will they learn to stand if their parents spend the teen years rolling over on the big issues?

That checklist is ultimately ridiculous - it's all about impulses and pleasures, how far you've gone, what you enjoyed and what you talk about doing next. SEICUS presents sex as an entree for the discerning palate, a recipe to refine until one's epicurian tastes are fulfilled; they don't mention that it calls upon a whole person, body, mind and soul. They don't acknowledge how it changes and molds the man and woman to each other (cleave is the Biblical term). They culpably omit every consideration save sensation.

So forgive me, dear readers, but I have to note the affinity between something like the SEICUS claptrap and the "Are You Happy in Your Work?" approach to the sex trade as outlined by the AP. The only difference is the target demographic.

Happy Mother's Day after

Mom is quite well; she got my card in time and declared it a keeper. That means something, even for a guy whose mother still owns two tongue depressor-and-ceramic tile trivets made in day camp 25 years ago. And even from 1100 miles away, she gives good lasagna advice.

Consider this another pebble in a mountain of thank-yous.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

An unlikely South Park conservative

Yeah, the Nightfly likes to "go down the Shore" from time to time.

What's in the player? Talking Heads.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

That was close

Sports Guy is OK. Apparently he was just kidnapped for Cinco de Mayo.* However, Jeff Van Gundy has problems. Oh, yeah, and his team may lose its playoff series.

* A geek could call it '05³. A super geek could then call it "125" and wait for the blank stares after explaining it. Under no circumstances would either class of geek be invited to any '05³ fiesta. So why do I mention it? Because I'm on a geek kick. Be there, or be a rhombus with right angles!

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The Don will see you now

Jeff Van Gundy, Houston Rockets head coach, complained about the refereeing a few days ago - so far so good, since all coaches do it. But he suggested that an anonymous ref had confided in him that the league had the fix in, and that is too much. David Stern, aka Darth Commish, fined him 100 large for that. Heaven help Deep Whistle should he ever be found out.

At least Van Gundy was lucky. On Friday April 29, Bill Simmons posted an article which read, in part:
I don't think the NBA fixes games, but they have one trick that they use for situations like this – when they want a home team to win the game, they invariably assign the worst referees possible to that game for two reasons: Bad referees have a tendency to get swayed by the home crowd, and bad referees never have the stones to make a tough call on the road. ... And yes, the referees in the NBA – as a whole – have never been worse. But there were six referees that stuck out as being especially terrible. Here they are:
Yup, Sports Guy named names. And he hasn't been heard from since. I'm almost afraid to even link to him.

PS - keep going, there's another new post today...

One little vowel

There comes word now that Ms. Lynndie England isn't wrong - just sick. (Wing-tip to our friends at the Coalition.)

Lame-O. The big issue is of course the impact on morale and the support for the troops back home. There's another big issue coming into play, though, and that's the general mad rush (and yes, it is madness, not just a turn of phrase) to make all moral defects some other sort of defect. You're not wrong, my dear child - just deprived, or disturbed, or ill. The only guilty thing is your conscience, and it's time to be cured of that bothersome fiction!

Naturally, this means that nobody is responsible for anything ever. You might as well close down every criminal court and turn the buildings into psych wards. You can't punish a psychological condition. You can only heal it. See how much more kindly and humane that is?

Except... it means that instead of punishment, the detainees get treatment, whose effectiveness and duration are judged solely by the jailors. The end result is endless, indeterminate sentences, with those in stir subject to any amount of psychological meddling. (Why, yes, I did read "That Hideous Strength." Lewis really knew how to make a point.) Paradoxically, this is far worse than simply clapping the guilty in irons and sticking them in a concrete box for ten years. At least they know how long they've got left to serve, and at least their mind is their own, and not the playground of well-meaning fools.

What's more, treatment will be doomed to failure, because there isn't anything mentally or physically wrong with a great majority of these people. They're not deprived, but depraved; not sick, but wicked. They need to choose better, and then they will discover that they in fact become better. "Children learn what they live," the old poster says. Start behaving civilly and you become a more civil person. That's a lot simpler than a yakfest about root causes and trauma - which they will only resent. And in contempt, they will play the system. "Still sick, Your Honor," says the three-time rapist. "Low self-esteem," says the gang-banger. "Not breast-fed," says the pimp and the pusher.

So, it's crueler to the criminals themselves, and an absolute disaster for the innocent. Too bad the parents will have so little chance to keep them straight from the beginning. Raising children at all becomes an impossibility if right and wrong are medical conditions. The doctors, who know best (especially Dr. Phil and Dr. Ruth), will do it scientifically. And that's how you get such anti-concepts as, "He doesn't know any better," "they're going to have sex anyway," and "Whatever you believe is true."

And those concepts are hard to fight. Even the judge is buying it. Nota bene, friends - criminals are basically career opportunists. There are real children who really are born addicted, and adults who suffer real mental and physical illness. How will they get the help they need if their aid programs are clogged with able, clever wrongdoers?