Thursday, June 30, 2005

The roundup

via the public library - for once, our tax dollars at work!

I've had some flattering news during semi-hiatus. First, I got a promotion in
TTLB's ecosystem. Second, I found out why - Mr. Bingley, by far the cleverest fellow at the Coalition of the Swilling, had tossed my name into the hat for a Carnival Blog. Niftiness.

Since I'm a guy who sucks up returns favors, I've tinkered with the Pantheon: a button highlighting the Carnival Folks, directly below my upgrade in evolution. I also gave a link to J. Rob at the House of Opinions. (I didn't know he'd linked me until I looked it up!)

Anyone who needs some substantial meat for their minds to chew ought to go over to the Dawn Patrol and see this, and then this. Read the comments, too. Dawn attracts some savvy folks from across the spectrum.

Another fine site (this one out of Colorado) is Not a Desperate Housewife. I've been stopping by every now and again; her current post (as of 5:30-ish this afternoon, EST) is oddly-titled but, as usual, proves to be good reading. Go Hockey Rockies.

Speaking of hockey: lay off Jeremy Roenick. The guy's right. The people who are complaining that the hockey players are greedy aren't fans of the league. (There's maybe fifty of us left, and we can tell on sight if you aren't on the mailing list.) In fact, they're not all that quick on the uptake either. The owners locked the players out. Half of the players are now overseas or in minor leagues. How is this their fault?

Further in sports... Kenny Rogers, Texas Rangers pitcher, assaulted a cameraman. He'd already missed a start after breaking a finger while beating up a water cooler in the dugout. The Rangers should have disciplined him then - without him the pitching is in desperate trouble, and he cost them two weeks of his services; docking his pay for that period would only be fair. Now they will have it done for them.

And a final programming note - my monitor cost less separately than with a system, so I bought it first, planning to save up and wait for a really great sale. It was delivered on Tuesday. I don't have anything to hook it up to, but it's a duplicate of ones I've seen before and it ought to be sweet. In the meantime, it looks like Dell has introduced a new line of midrange PCs, and that ought to mean discounts on the superceded models before very long. The Hive shall be rewired soon enough. Everything is proceeding exactly as I have foreseen... :::evil cackle:::

Friday, June 24, 2005

I Love You, Fr. Alice B. Toklas

Every once in a while, a few folk decide that voluntary membership in a free-will association gives them the right to muddle with the rules by fiat. Witness this faux-dination by some lasses in Europe. (w/t to The Curt Jester; and check out his caption contest. I hope he'll consider the title to this post.)

Holy Orders is a bit of a sticking point for many; the Catholic church ordains only men as priests, feeling itself subject to the wishes of its divine Captain in this matter. There's a lot in the Catechism that explains it better than I could. (Very briefly, the priest stands "in the person of Christ" and his sex is a necessity to the character of his office.) My own thought on this is that it reflects an understanding of the nature of God that other groups have missed, working from our level upward rather than His level downward.

That's the rub - that "His" referring to God, the Father. Many prefer "Creator." I have known a priest who started Masses by saying "God, who is Father and Mother to each of us..." Some people like to try to be fair, I suppose, and others are uncomfortable with the concept of masculine nature being rooted in more than just biology. That strikes me as upside-down thinking. Biology is the way it is because masculine and feminine were there first - the sexes are a spiritual reality expressed materially. God is called "Father" and "Lord" not because He's a dude, but because He holds a particular relationship with us. Not coincidentally, this relationship is one much under fire in our country today - fatherhood is considered a helpful extra option instead of a necessity.

You won't find me, here or anywhere, defending the old double-standards of "men who score" vs. "easy women." I do note, however, two things - first, that this stereotype is hardly universal. You can just as easily find descriptions of such men as sinister, rutting cads, and women who surrendered their affections to them as misled victims. (Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice gives an excellent example.) Second, the double-standard is a diseased, false expression of a true observation - men and women are different creatures, beyond their physical differences. (Depending on your age and neighborhood, you may also have noticed, as I have, a general discomfort with, if not outright hostile rejection of, masculine character and gender differences.)

As regards the topic at hand, the ladies involved in this ceremony fail to notice this, and decide that in order to be equals before God, they have to assume roles that their Church has never held to be theirs. It is only the first of their errors. The second is clerisy - the presumption that a Church is exclusively its clergy, or that the priests are the only full initiates of the creed. A third is (irony of ironies) a certain double-standard of their own: they feel that the Church has no right to tell them they can't be priests, but they have no problem dictating terms in the other direction - they don't have to subordinate their own wishes in any way. (Again, you may have observed that this is a common error - the Church apparently has no right to insist on any code of conduct for its members, in sexuality, abortion, charitable giving, what have you.)

The whole case relies on a key Biblical quote, "In Christ there is neither male nor female, Greek or Jew, slave or free; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" [Galatians 3:28] and the Catholic teaching that conscience is binding on the individual; i.e. if one thinks it wrong to do an otherwise innocent thing, one sins in disregarding that thought.

Nonsense, I fear. The whole third chapter of Galatians makes it clear that the Church of Galatia had a problem with legalism and artificial divisions among its members - and the division between clergy and laity is, as mentioned before, one such example. Salvation is not exclusively a matter of ordination; all who are baptized already belong to Him, and the immediate context [Gal 3:27 & 29] says that baptism is what St. Paul is talking about: "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. ... . 29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise." Second, the Church holds that, due to primacy of conscience, one is obliged to properly inform oneself, which means (in part) reading the Church's teachings on the matter in question. If those teachings are so unimportant, why the mad rush to be ordained a priest - one whose responsibility it is to safeguard and promote them?

Neat bit of self-refutation, that. Par for the course, as it's one example of the larger contradictory thought: "This Church is my home and I have every right to be here, regardless!" The question is, what makes a particular expression of faith unique? And if those unique things are changed, how are we talking about the same thing anymore? It's as if I said, "Hockey is my sport and I have every right to play it!" Well, if I insist on using a lacrosse stick and wheeling around the rink on a bicycle, then I'm not playing hockey anymore. I've excluded myself. Likewise, Catholics for Choice and other dissident groups that insist that core teachings are mutable are destroying the walls of the home they insist that they love and honor. Knock down enough of them and you no longer have a home, you have a pile of rubble; what's more, none of the rest of us have a home, either.

And, bless me, but the accompanying pictures look as ridiculous as the muddled thinking that they started with. "Uh, father, ma'am? The high school called - curtain's in ten minutes, and they need their Technicolor Dreamcoat back."

I'd like to thank the local public library for the use of their public computers for this post.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

In the blog, but not of the blog

Don't mess with Texans. Today Muley consumed my lunchtime reading with a dynamite post on what it means to have a Christian blog:

Sure, I am a Christian, and this is a blog. But does that automatically make it a “Christian blog?” It’s the same sort of question that a Christian who writes books might wrestle with. Do they consider themselves a “Christian writer,” a “writer of Christian books,” or “a writer who just happens to be a Christian?”

Muley asks a great question. I aspire to be one of those "Christian writers," myself - which is to say, I aspire to both halves of the description, both salvation and skilled writing. So let me try to answer.

I want to approach with a quick peek at two rejections of Christian culture, in any of its manifestations. First, some reject it because it's not authentic Christianity. A "good" example would, sadly, be what Christ spoke of in Revelations: being lukewarm, tepid Christians. "I will spew thee from my mouth," he warns; but luckily He permits us some advance notice - people begin spitting long before we get to Judgement. We've all been to these overtly "churchy" deals, where everyone simpers and smiles and offers dead-fish handshakes, speaking the Tongue of Nice. Pleasant company, perhaps, but next to the passion and fire of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, or Billy Graham, or John Paul II? It's a mile wide and an inch thick. One gets the feeling that there's no actual God to deal with, just a set of helpful teachings, and who wants that? It's too "goody-good" for people who still revel in their sins, and not good enough for anyone hungering and thirsting for righteousness. There is no Christianity without Christ Himself.

Then there's the things that aren't authentic culture. One of my laments at the beginning of my own walk with Him was the dearth of good music. Too many people seemed to think that putting "Jesus" in the lyrics meant that one needn't bother learning to play well. The production values were even more laughable. And the few who got it to sound professional were so over the top that it became impossible to listen casually - it was like being at services constantly. It was no wonder I preferred to listen to Motown or New Wave.

Now, sixteen years on, I've discovered a few things. One, the perfectly healthy desire to be immersed in Christ does not necessarily mean that I need to lay waste to the personality He started me with. In this case it means discovering bands like Sixpence None the Richer, and re-discovering U2. Good times. In fact, Bono and Co. are the perfect example of what I'm trying to convey [should have just brought them up first!]. Their music rocks, and it clearly belongs to Him.

Question two is the reverse of this. If I call myself a Christian (and I do), should I be writing about what I'm writing about at all? Should I be far less concerned with the frivolities of the material, fallen world, and instead be more concerned with topics of spiritual significance?
I wouldn't advise unconcern. We need to ask ourselves if we're being moved closer to God, or further; and especially we want not to put others off the trail. But very few people start on the trail; we needn't worry for them, I think (though I hope they worry for us!). The others may find the trail first precisely because they happen to be a fellow fan of, say, the Simpsons, or odd photography, or even just of eclectic blogs themselves. That common ground becomes the first place where an unbeliever comes across the fruits of faith. Following that, they may go far into lands they never knew existed.

For me that common ground was reading. I ran across the Narnia books in middle school and guzzled them - even did a report on them for a class. I didn't reach the path until college, but I was pointed in the right direction. Much of my reading since has confirmed the validity of the approach. It almost became a sort of AFI's "100 Best Christian-in-the-World Quotes." (As you'd guess, the Bible comes up a big winner in this category!) "In the world, but not of the world" is a big one, as is St. Paul's recollection of his own evangelizing career, becoming "all things to all men, that I might save some." A favorite concept I've run across in many forms from CS Lewis is that of redeeming the things around us. "The Great Divorce" has a fine example, when the narrator sees one of the saved surrounded by a huge train of animals. His companion, George MacDonald, tells him that it's due to the saint's love for the things around her on earth: "There is love and joy enough in one finger of yon saint to waken all the dead things of earth to life," he says (paraphrase alert).

I see no reason why that process can't begin now, especially since my church has been "baptizing" secularity for many centuries, taking pagan feasts and directing those celebrations into Christmas and Easter; and more recently, using the Communion of Saints as a common thread to reach native polythiests throughout the Americas and bring them into Christianity. (Admittedly, this teaching is much-disputed among the denominations today, but the Catholic missionaries can't be blamed for using what they had.)

The ephemera of pop culture and sports may not last, but, again to paraphrase Lewis: "One who has religion ought not to spill it. But what if those bright drops served as the first steps for someone in need, to eventually follow to the river to drink?" (I think that's the intro to the second edition of "The Pilgrim's Regress," a fine, underrated book.) If nothing else, one's varied interests reassure the worldly that one is not a monomaniac - another obstacle to belief for the questioner, the fear that they will become "God-bots," as it were. Just as faith can't be a filmy gauze over all, neither can it be a mile thick and one-inch wide. Such a faith can only address one part of us, but Christ intends for the whole of us to follow. Someday I will leave the world behind; until then I will use as much of it as I can to point to way to Jesus.

If your fellow Stooges fans are asking themselves why you never seem to use rude words or slander others, you're obeying the Great Commission. "Preach the gospel as loudly as possible. When necessary, even use words," as St Francis put it. From that initial connection it's up to the Spirit to move us all down the path. We all have to pass that point of deeper commitment, where we realize that Christ cannot remain in our varied circle of hobbies - He must become our bedrock. He goes from spoke of the wheel to the axle, so to speak - but the interests we still have, the true spokes, run out to the rim (our visible personality) and help us move.

What do you think, fellow bloggers who are Christians? How do you see yourselves, and your blogs? Can you and I promote chuckling at jackalopes and comedy teams and fun-loving nuns and still be using our time and talents profitably for Him?
A few friends and I went to a steakhouse last night. I actually saw a stuffed jackalope, and gave him a friendly pat between the antlers (eight point - what a buck!). I have no quarrel with him. Neither does God, I suspect. When the Bible says to beware the World (capital W) they don't mean the objects, they mean the tendency for our lives to be only about objects: hoarding and consuming with no thought of where they've come from or where we're going after we've done with them; trying to plug material things into the spiritual hole at our center.

Muley, my friend - your question has inspired your readers to really think about their spiritual lives, and your blog was the tool you used to pose it. At the minimum, you're edifying your brethren. Your blog is fun, well-written, and in your character. I think you may have answered your own question.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Good morning, Mr. Phelps...

You are, no doubt, familiar with this soldier killed by terrorists while serving her country in Iraq.

The young lady in question was a recent high-school graduate in Idaho, who planned on attending law school after her hitch. I understand that this is rather a long distance, since your (ahem) "church" is located in Kansas. However, since you have previous expertise and willingness to travel, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to picket her funeral.

If caught, of course, we will disavow all knowledge of your activities. This message will self-destruct in five, four...


Oh, sorry, Freddie. Bad timer and all. I guess it was God's will, you pathetic wanker.

PS - yes, this now makes two posts post-PC death. This idiocy just could not pass unremarked. Many others agree with me.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Too good, too bad

Ah, an evening out of the Hive... Walking with YACHT friends along the Pt Pleasant boardwalk. We went shop-hopping and people-gazing, and debated the joys of deep-fried Oreos.

It occurs to me that the realtors have a point when they say "Location, location, location." Company is key, but one needs a medium conducive to enjoying the company. Case in point - chess in the park. I and two friends took in an evening pushing wood in Lakewood Square a few weeks ago. I'd been before a couple of times and had fun; but I hadn't yet met Vincent.

Vincent was sort of the live-action equivalent of Leeroy. I was losing my game and Vincent and his girl happened by to watch. "I want to watch," he said, helpfully. It wasn't tournament conditions (not that it would have helped me against Brian), but Vincent got impatient watching me slowly shoved around the board.

"No, man! Don't do that!" He actually grabbed my arm after one move. "Man, I'm so mad! I'm gonna throw my liquor!" He hopped around impatiently. After my loss, I surrendered the chair to Vincent, who decided that watching was for chumps and chose to prove he could beat Brian.

Soon we all realized why Vincent was so confident - his pieces moved in ways heretofore unknown to chess. It didn't stop him from dropping his queen a few times. "Man, you all too good... I gotta get back to the computer and practice. I haven't played since I got out of jail."

"You were in jail?!?" Vincent's gal yelped. Too much for her, I suppose, since she left very shortly afterward; but it didn't keep her from asking if Vincent had a light. "Nah, I don't smoke no more, girl," he said.

He had a cigarette in his mouth at the time.

From now on, I'm sticking to walks on the Boardwalk.

-- posted from the Mobile Command Unit (thanks!)

Friday, June 17, 2005

Daisy, daisy...

First it was the monitor. Then it was the printer. The rear speakers in the 5.1 stopped working. The War Horse was showing its age - performing gallantly, but erratically. Registry gunk was building up despite the best efforts of Norton Utilities. I began to get unrepairable problems. Finally, after months of intermittent crashes, the home system has failed completely.

I can't complain, since it was a refurbished system that was at least a year old when I first got it. Now it is a $450 cinder block. Even my savvier wizard friends (three of whom have home-assembled their own systems component by component) are stumped. It is so fubar that I can't even reinstall the OS. It will boot up, but only in safe mode. It will not run any program at all without complaining about missing DLL files and general protection faults. It's almost as if someone microwaved the CPU while I was at work yesterday.

By the kind permission of the Greatest Boss in the Known World, I get to post this from work. Naturally it's a kindness I can't abuse, so expect reduced content for a couple of weeks. Luckily the code was on the wall for a while and I was already saving up for a new rig, hopefully with such advanced features as extra RAM, a video card, and working peripherals - the delay shouldn't be too long.

RIP, War Horse (August 2000 - June 2005). You were a good little PC.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

More corporate wimping-out

There we all were, re-convened at the local restaurant after our Bible study. Feeling peckish, I chose a hefty burger, intending to follow up with some enhanced coffee beverage. Medium rare, please, sir.

"I'm sorry - we're not allowed."

That brought me out of my happy place right quick. You're not allowed? You mean, I'm not allowed. Why not?

"We got sued. Somebody in Long Island, or north somewhere. The grill won't prepare it any lighter than medium well."

Oy. It used to be that, if one gave instructions, one implicitly accepted the consequences. One chose to run the slight risk of some E. coli for a savory cow product. Nope, sorry - no risk allowed! All because some ridiculous killjoys decide that they're entitled to a reward for being a little unlucky. I know food poisoning is unpleasant - been there. But I wouldn't blame the restaurant unless I knew that they had handled the food improperly, an event that can make one sick even from the most-thoroughly-cooked item. If not, well, it's nobody's fault and I'll get through it.

Not any more. Now, I don't mind a well-done burger. It's not how I prefer them, but I'll eat it that way. The point is that, because of someone else, I can't be trusted to be an adult in a commonplace situation. I'm assumed to need protecting from my own choices.

I got a bowl of soup, a sundae, and water instead - my only possible protest - so I figure the restaurant lost ten bucks on the exchange. And no, I didn't stiff our server; it was hardly Josh's fault. Besides, he was very cool about it - he treated the sundae like a main course and gave me the "with entree" discount on the soup. That's a well-trained waiter, and a young man poised to make a mark for himself in the world.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Speaking of dumb California parents

If you're scared enough of your dog to lock your son in the basement for his own safety while you're out, you may consider a more permanent solution before something tragic happens.

Oh... well, never mind then.

Milady Faibish never considered locking the dogs in the basement? You know, the critters without opposable thumbs? The ones that weren't her own child? Then again, she doesn't seem to broken up by this: "I put him down there, with a shovel on the door," Faibish said in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle. "And I told him: 'Stay down there until I come back.' Typical Nicky, he wouldn't listen to me. ... When you're born you're destined to go and this was his time."

Sweet jumping Judas on a trampoline...

(w/t to the Corner)


A few programming notes here at the Hive:

1. The Muley's World link had been verklempt. Now it is repaired.
2. Speaking of the Pantheon, you'll have noticed that it's been a little crowded. Most of the changes were cosmetic - moving a couple of people a little higher, dropping the Google News link, which nobody ever used, etc. Here are the changes, from top to bottomus:
. . . A. The links have been numbered - we are now up to a Superb Sixteen.
. . . B. ChezJoel has been added, #5, directly below the Dawn Patrol, an oversight I'd meant to correct since this fantastic vignette. Wow.
. . . C. Checking in at #7, It Comes In Pints? Somehow they're related the the Swilling folks, so I grouped them. Good stuff - check Ken riffing on movie quotes, among many others.
. . . D. Numbers 8-12 are "Big Internet," but Mr. Lileks (seven times we bow in his presence) stands alone, #3 - his new Screedblog is fisking fun at its finest.
. . . E. Newest but not least (est) are #15 and #16. Evilwhiteguy would have made this list just for this marvelous peek into online gaming, but he's also got a strong post on the Second Amendment and other goodies. Then there's Doug TenNapel, whose multitalents leave this humble bug agape. (Wing-tip to Ms. Eden.)
3. Returning is Mr. Tim Blair, because I like the fellow's stuff. He had been out for a bit because I bollixed the link, and I didn't repair it right away because lunch hour is only so long. Please, Andrea, don't hurt me.
4. BTW, new content around here, and not just this post - there's just a bit more Jacksonalia, and a grumble related to Mayor Bloomberg's Quixotic tilt for the Olympics in Manhattan. Do read - and then complain! Comments are open, and you can always click "Anonymous" to bypass the Blogger registration stuff. (Just sign the message at the bottom so we can all follow - or not, as you like it.)

Monday, June 13, 2005

Oh, heavens, NO

NEW YORK -- (AP) In a last-ditch effort to land the 2012 Olympics, the city will substitute a planned baseball stadium for the football stadium rejected by state leaders earlier this month, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Sunday.

Noooooo, no no no, not another publicly-owned athletic palace boondoggle, and especially not in the pursuit of the Olympic friggin' Games. Once people started boycotting the things back in the 80's the bloom was off that rose. Once the athletes turned into chemical factories, paid for their services, there was nothing left but thorns. "Dream Team," my hindmost.

The article claims that the stadium will be privately funded by the Mets, and built whether or not the Olympic bid succeeds. If so, why is Mr. Bloomberg suddenly so keen on the idea? And if so, why was the west-side football stadium such a big deal for the bid? Were they going to hold all sorts of track and field events there? Boy, the Jets would have loved that. Something isn't adding up here.

On the bright side, the current Shea Stadium is rather a blecchy place to take in a ball game, and the sooner they crater it, the better. Hopefully they can use the highly-combustible Met bullpen as primer cord.

Jackson's Victory Tour

The world's most famous ethnectomy patient has beaten the rap. "Creepy beyond all reason" was apparently not on the list of charges.

This might be one of those deals where convictable evidence was scarce, but anecdotal evidence is convincing. There's no doubt in my mind that this guy is bad news for kids, and that any half-sober parent with a shred of common sense should spot this guy as a perv a mile from the front gates of Neverland. I didn't even bother to follow the case at all - I just figured they'd toss him in jail after a while, the fitting consequence of 15 years of rumors and settlements, so I decided to get a head start on resuming my life. It never crossed my mind to consider otherwise.

On a related note, a buddy sent me an email he closed with "I report, you decide." His local Sheriff's office sent him a recorded 'Megan's Law' message about the release of two known sex offenders in his county. Both of them lived in the same apartment complex, ten minute's walk from a shop he described as "The Wal-Mart of Porn."

Parents, let's recap - pervs go where the supply meets their demand. Do NOT let your kids near this thing, or any thing like him.

Update: pertinancy from the incomparable Rick Brookhiser in NRO's Corner:
Michael Jackson got big after I stopped listening seriously to rock n roll, i.e. after 1965. But he was huge. ... There is a reason he owns the Beatles catalogue, or half of it, or whatever: he sold more records than they did. He was about one hundred times more talented than Madonna. Our fascination with him is how such a lively figure became such a moral and physical gargoyle.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The year is 2071...

The scene is dying.

Life is just too tough to get going. People don't innovate; they survive. The young hepcats are frustrated with conventional, fixed-form jazz, but nothing can be done … until a young ivory-tickler from a rag-tag blues combo blows her trust fund on a boss horn section.

They all grab a loft on Ganymede and toss together everything they know – the blues, the jazz, the beats of all the colonies, and the home they all lost fifty years past.
Nobody knows what to call it. Nobody cares.

The group debuts with a gig in the basement of some ghastly biker bar. From there they tour the satellites, the asteroids, the dives nobody sane would visit; they pull in crowds and send them back out happy.

Soon the word is out on the 12-piece. They play Portos Lagos– “the Vegas of Mars” – and people flock to their standard. One critic says, “When you see the show, buckle yourself in,” and from then out, the crew is named Seatbelts. The scene is officially blown.

The year is 2071. Life is still tough, but the music is sweet.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Re-hashed Dash

Or, "Rising From the Graves":

The New York Mets have signed free-agent reliever Danny Graves, who was released by the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday after clearing waivers, ESPN's Peter Gammons reported Tuesday. ...

General manager Dan O'Brien found limited interest in a trade for the 31-year-old right-hander, due in part to a contract that guarantees Graves $6.25 million in the final season of his three-year, $17.25 million deal. The contract includes escalators that would increase the salary if he were traded.
This was called in this space two weeks ago (check the comments). It's not a bad move: worst case scenario, he's still terrible and they waive him in a month; middle scenario, he's OK and the money comes off the rolls at the end of the year; best scenario, he provides a reliable bridge from starter to closer and the Mets get to the playoffs. That would be worth it, especially since they have a decent little ballclub in most respects.

(Y'all can tell the Fly's been a Met fan for waaaaay too long.)

A bug of a different kind

Insignificant Microbe! I have much to learn and far to go to scale the dizzying heights of Mr. Instapundit (tops by far in links), His Mightiness James Lileks (33rd? Recount!), or milady Dawn Eden (Patrolling at #212 in daily traffic). And this fascinating article (thanks, NZ, and welcome to the Pantheon) details some of the process behind the process.

And I'm working the process. "Patience, Monty... Climb the ladder..."

We don't want to know Jack

The Newark Star Ledger's Ricky Retro column has caught on to "The Jack, 101.1-FM" and the perfidy of Infinity Broadcasting.

I'm on board, Sir Retro.

Friday, June 03, 2005

The new WCBS-FM, New York City...

UPDATE (June 07, 2005) - the WCBS page I previously linked to below now holds a message from the program director of the old format. The station lives online, for those with the inclination and hardware to stream it from the web. And Mr. Chad Brown is quite gracious in his remarks. stands for Whacked Corporate Bull S*** Format-Monkeying.

They are no longer a 60's oldies station. They are now another cookie-cutter Infinity Broadcasting tool. And oh, how they're trying to sell us:

Jack in New York is a dramatic change from traditional radio formats.
This dramatic change means sounding like the mutant spawn of classic rock stations like New York's Q-104.3 and The Hawk, 97.5 out of Philly.

You told us that you are tired of stations that play the same 300 songs over...and over...and over. 101.1 Jack FM is playing what we want…the best songs from the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, right up through today no matter where you first heard them.
So glad my personal memo got through. C'mon, you're not fooling anyone. You're losing market share and just want to elbow your way into the trough. News flash: the only thing in the trough is swill.

Just listen, it's like your iPod on shuffle.
My shuffle at work spit out the following ten songs to close the day:
1. Grateful Dead, "Eyes of the World"
2. Steely Dan, "Blues Beach"
3. Dave Brubeck Quartet, "The City is Crying"
4. Seatbelts, "Too Good Too Bad"
5. Leroy Andersen, "Sleigh Ride"
6. the Cantina Theme from Star Wars
7. Dire Straits, "Skateaway"
8. "Revenge Rocco Style" from Interstate 76
9. Yes, "Lightning Strikes"
10. Sly and the Family Stone, "Stand!"
Better or worse isn't the point. The point is, how many people have heard even half of that list on any radio station?

Join Jack as we blast away the traditional rules of radio with something different...
CBS-FM was the only major oldies station left in the New York metropolitan area. The only thing approaching it is the weekend programming of NJ-101.5. On my way home from Target, they were playing Elvis, the Beatles, and the Spinners. You were playing "Sultans of Swing," "Synchronicity II," and "Heat of the Moment."

Maybe a whole evening will reveal a more balanced listening portrait, but I don't want to bother. WCBS had the same format for longer than I've been alive. Some of the DJs have been staples on the air: Cousin Brucie, Harry Harrison, Bob Shannon... even Mickey Dolenz had his 100th broadcast just this morning. You didn't even tell them they were off the air as of today - not only were we shocked, but they didn't even know. What a petty, pissy little move.

Now you're playing ELO's "Turn to Stone" even as I type. What a drag. You can cram it with walnuts, boys, because I am not listening to you, ever. I will sign whatever protest letter crosses my path. And on the very off chance that my little backwater is graced by their visits - Thanks, Bob. Thanks, Brucie. Thanks, Bill Brown (who once played a listener Brown Bag that I sent in!). You guys deserved so much more. One and all, I'll miss you.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Stop the Presses!

Violence at a rap concert!

I am aghast. What's the world coming to?

Double vision

I love parallel construction, and this post, "Ten Things I've Never Done", has inspired it.

I'm pretty sure that this fellow is not the
John Derbyshire of National Review, so there's one doppleganger. And his list of ten things he's never done has inspired an analogous reply here - I will list my reactions to his list, and then follow it with one of my own.

So for those of you following at home, that's two J. Derbyshires, and two lists of ten - twin parallels, so this post is a rhombus!

The original list (in red, with my comments in black):

- read Lord of the Rings [he hasn't, I have - see below]
- driven across America [nor have I, but I have driven to Florida and back, solo]
- voted for a party other than Labour [ok, definitely not the Derb]
- found anything written by Slavoj Zizek illuminating [who? Oh. I'll take his word for it]
- crossed the equator [I've never even been off the Eastern Seaboard. what a provincial!]
- seen Citizen Kane [likewise, but I loved Orson in The Muppet Movie]
- tasted caviar
- 'got' Steely Dan [another true skeptic for you, Ms. Sister and Mr. Bingley!]
- been skiing [hey! let's fall down this mountain! yikes]
- read Alain Badiou [again...who? Oh, yeah. Looks like a happy guy.]

And my own Ten Things I've Never Done:

- gone to London. Always wanted to.
- smoking or drugs. (This is one I plan to leave on the list.)
- read the Iliad. I want to go back and fill in what I missed before the Odyssey.
- met
James Lileks. But I'd need to be sedated first. You think I'm kidding.
- developed super-powers. (It wouldn't be healthy. Many fellow motorists would be smoking piles on the highway if I had Mega Wrath Vision.)
- played ice hockey. (This would require me to develop another set of super-powers.)
- played a live poker tournament. (I deal, but would like to try active participation.)
- been a dynamic rock frontman. The only thing I'm missing is a voice, an instrument, and discernable talent.
- finished the Mother of Unfinishable Stories

Which reminds me - back to work! But please, post your own lists in the comments and bat the topic around...

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Sleight of mind

Until I read the Dawn Patrol today, I hadn't heard of this guy or his amazing million dollar challenge.

The propriety of his offer to the Smithsonian is covered by Dawn's whip-smart commenters; I'm more concerned here with the challenge itself: "a one-million-dollar prize to anyone who can show, under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event."

Now, a professional magician is in on the joke, so to speak; that's why they call them magic "tricks". And this may be Randi's greatest trick of all, because the offer and the concept are both nonsense.

From his point of view, any unexplainable phenomenon is simply a trick whose secret isn't understood yet, much like sawing a lovely assistant in half. The reasoning is very simple - we used to think the skies were a crystal dome until we made telescopes; we used to think people had humours or demons until we discovered medicine. Like the Cottingly fairies, a simple investigation will expose the deception. Therefore all paranormality may well be divine fakery, the sleightest hand of all.

That naturally brings up the big question - in that case, who is the Magician? A trick presupposes a trickster; to trick on a cosmic stage, one needs a suitably-scaled being.

The second problem is with the offer itself. "To date, no one has ever passed the preliminary tests," the site says. Q.E.D. But how should one even start to go about this business of testing, naturally, a thing that is not natural? A paranormal event is by definition outside the realm of science, the very thing Randi demands must measure the event. It would be like using a ruler to measure the hours or listening to a color. The moment the event becomes duplicable, it becomes scientific - and Randi can then conveniently explain that it isn't supernatural and therefore he doesn't have to pay up. (Q.E.D.)

Incidentally, the Intelligent Design folks are prone to the same base assumption as Randi, and go about answering it the precise opposite way. The Magician is, in fact, a Divine Clinician. Everything He does proves that He is, and they are just as determined as the skeptics to eventually explain it all. They are trying to photograph the fairy. In succeeding, they may inadvertantly prove Randi's point - if it's measurable, it's natural, and his faux-challenge remains unshaken.

Either way, there's no magic left for us. One man claims that it is all smoke and mirrors, and the other claims that the smoke and mirrors are in fact magnificently made. One tries to disprove everything, the other tries to prove everything.

I have run into the same problem, on a vastly smaller scale. As you may know, I write stories with Laser Beams, and one protest I run into a lot is that such things aren't serious. Perhaps not. But the only two solutions offered to me are preposterous. The first? Stop wasting my time writing and settle down to a reasonable pursuit. (It's actually quite funny to hear my well-meaning baby-boomer elders say that.) The second? Write prosaic, "deep" modern novels about people's neurotic little problems - make the world of imagination itself as small as the world of fact. I've read a few of these. Trendy, bitter leftist Jane Smiley wrote a dandy called Moo, recommended to me as a sensible alternative to Lord of the Rings; "That's not literature," my critic friend sniffed. Friends, after reading Smiley's miserable tome I guarantee you that fifty years from now most of her own family won't even remember a word she wrote - but LOR will last forever. I may as well follow the first advice as write a book like hers.

Or I can go ahead and write up all the Laser Beam stories I can because I enjoy them. And that isn't just the answer to my problem, it's also the answer to Randi's challenge. He says I have to duplicate a paranormal event under observation to claim my million; I say that the magician saws the same damsel in half five shows a week, and he doesn't earn nearly that much. Doing it again is no proof. And for the truly amazing things, demanding them again is crass and ungrateful. Could Randi himself be duplicated under identical conditions? He is himself a great work of imagination. And the ID folks are so busy with fluid dynamics that they sometimes fail to notice that water flows. It also burbles, rushes, ebbs, chatters, runs, swirls, dances, and pours.

Our mind is a tool, and not always the best one for the job. Our hearts serve us better when it comes to knowing what is, and is not, magic.

UPDATED - Joel of chezjoel strikes with some pertinent commentary. You should read all the comments, especially the entertaining troll dancing.