Wednesday, May 31, 2006

And You Thought I Was Overly Ironic

Matt LaBash of the Weekly Standard writes of his devotion to CNN anchor Anderson Cooper in an article called "Cooper Duper Newsman."

Writes Labash:
We now recognize the host of CNN's 360 the way we recognize the sun and moon, which are always before us, as Anderson is. He is silvery and sleek, the son of Gloria Vanderbilt, the friend of mankind. He is an enigma wrapped in a mystery ensconced in a French blue shirt, which really makes his eyes pop, by the way. Not that he cares about shirts. He doesn't really need one. In fact, if it were up to him, he'd probably do every show naked. Because that's how he comes to the story. And maybe because of that nakedness, he tells better stories. Which, strictly speaking, is a Nissan slogan. But I wouldn't be surprised if Nissan became one of his sponsors, since, they, like Anderson, understand narrative nudity.

....His first name is Anderson, which of course means "son of Andrew," as in the first disciple called by Jesus. And like our Lord and Savior, he is omnipresent. He's on two hours a night on America's News Leader, the second-place network CNN. He writes for Details, poses for Maxim, and is called one of the sexiest anchors alive by Playgirl magazine. There he is crying in New Orleans. Wait, no! Now his throat's tightening in Niger. Time out! Isn't that him vacationing in Rwanda at the genocide museum, since he says he hasn't been in a while? Hold up a second! What's that rustling? Is that Anderson under the bed, finding the news, emoting over it, smothering it with a pillow until its legs kick and twitch, then sliding out the bathroom window before anyone notices?
The piece might just make Anderson cry, which is okay, because Anderson feels and he loves and he grieves.

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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Buck Stops Here

When I was in Tanzania last year, one of our translators had just visited America for the first time a few weeks earlier. The thing that amazed him most here was the way people treated their dogs.

"In America, people keep the dog in the house. And they name the dog! And they love the dog! They buy it special food, and they stop what they're doing to go home and take care of it." This was stunning to him, and also quite ridiculous.

His voice was ringing in my head on Friday when we adopted a nine-week-old golden retriever puppy after a year of me saying "no way" in the face of the constant begging of my children. For the last three days, the dog has only been slightly more in need of attention than your average newborn infant, while inflicting substantially more damage.

Over the objections of my family, I've named him Buck (after the late Cardinal broadcaster Jack Buck). I figure I'm at least entitled to naming rights since I'll still be feeding this beast and paying vet bills on him long after my children have moved out, gone off to college, and gotten married. It's a darned fine name for a (soon-to-be) 90 lb. male dog, and I don't care who disagrees (which, as it happens, is everyone so far).

On the other hand, we may not have him as long as we think we will, since the local alligators, in addition to eating a sizable portion of the general human populace, are now trying to eat golden retrievers too.

According to the story:
Rubin ran to help his dog and saw her head in the mouth of the alligator. He jumped in the muddy water, which reached his neck, he said, and began beating the beast with his fist.
Somehow he pried the dog out of the jaws of the seven foot alligator, and the dog is fine except for a few scrapes.

There are brave people in this world who will jump on an attacking alligotor to save their beloved dog. And let me say with all the courage I can muster, if the same thing happens to Buck, we ain't gonna be going that route. So I'd stay away from the canals if I were him.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Airport '06

I know it's de rigueur to criticize air travel these days, but it really has to be done since there's so much worth criticizing. I had a few beefs last year, but picked up a couple more this week.

Tuesday and yesterday, I was in Pittsburgh, a town which, though it was considered a national joke only a few years ago, is really a lovely place to be. On the way back to Florida, the plane was packed to the gills. Because the airlines are all bankrupt, they now oversell tickets to the point that every seat is stuffed, with many still waiting at the gate to get on.

When I travel, I usually carry a relatively small shoulder computer bag onto the plane with me. Now, I'm 6-2, and most commercial airliners are not a comfortable ride for me. My knees are often brushing up against the seat in front of me, and I need every bit of leg room I can find. So I put my computer bag in the overhead compartment. But what I've been finding more and more is that flight attendants are wanting to ask people like me, who are carrying on small bags, to put them under the seat in front of us so that bigger bags can go in the overhead compartments. To which my answer is a big, fat no.

At what point in this country did a carry-on go from being a purse or a backpack to a suitcase the size of a Volkswagen? Do you need to have the entire contents of your home with you to help you get through a couple of hours in the air? What I think is happening is that many people want to save themselves 15 minutes at the luggage carousel after the flight by bringing their main luggage on board with them, rather than checking it. To which I say, "tough luck, buddy." I simply refuse to sit with my knees smacking me in the nose and my circulation cut off below the thighs for three hours while gangrene sets in so that some putz can save himself 15 minutes of waiting for his bag at the end of the flight. And to give those people preference, as if dragging all their worldly possessions onto the plane entitled them to a favored overhead compartment instead of people who carried on carry-ons is borderline criminal. Instead of everybody else having to cater to them, they should be politely told, "Sir (or ma'am), this is an airline flight. It's not summer camp. You're not moving in. This only takes you where you're going, and it only takes a couple of hours. You're not actually establishing residency on board. So you need to go check your washer/dryer combo with the gate agent."

But that pales in comparison to my second beef. Does the drink cart really need to take up every available bit of space in the aisle? Would it completely destroy that oft-noted airline hospitality (sodas and peanuts!) to narrow the cart by about an inch on each side? Is there so much high technology packed into that cart that it has to take up every available micron between the aisle seats? Last time I checked, they don't even serve meals anymore. Couldn't you pretty much carry cans of soda and seven-count bags of pretzels in vendor's trays like you find at the ballpark? Do we really need this enormous mechanism in order to distribute wafer-thin shortbread cookies and thimbles full of flat Coke?

The reason I ask is because, while I know the rules about putting your knees or feet into the aisle, I occasionally will take one of those peaceful airline naps (during the 30 quiet seconds between the attendant explaining how you can deploy your under-seat life preserver as the plane nosedives into the drink by merely connecting six interlocking straps and pulling a series of ropes and pulleys to inflate it, and the pilot blaring over the intercom system to tell you that flight control has given him the official okey-dokey to ascend from 37,500 to 38,000, meaning that he'll be able to have you into Atlanta-Hartsfield sixteen seconds ahead of schedule). During that sleep of angels, as a guy who's 6-2, sometimes my knee may stray about 1/16th of an inch into the No-Man's Land known as the aisle, where it is promptly sheared off by the 1400 lb. drink cart. This, which happens on every flight to every person sitting on the aisle, is usually followed by a brusque "sorry" from the flight attendant, as if to say, "You knew the rules and violated them, and you deserve to be kneecapped and crippled for life." After approximately three dozen times of being wakened from a deep sleep to find part of my kneecap missing while the bloody stump leaves a crimson brushmark along the side of the passing drink cart, I'm thinking maybe there'd be a way to establish a one inch zone of grace on each side of the cart. Maybe they could take notice of the fact that most people don't naturally fit into a 12-inch wide seat and allow for the occasional, accidental elbow or knee flop. Or perhaps they could put very sensitive lasers along the aisle that will alert a buzzer in your seat if any part of your body encroaches the plane of the aisle. I'm just saying.

Oh, and while we're fixing things, could we get the flight attendants to stop telling us that "we'll be on the ground in 15 minutes"? I need a bit more specificity here. I want to know when we'll be landing. "On the ground" seems to offer a margin of error that frankly I'm not too comfortable with.

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Friday, May 19, 2006

Renowned Author Dan Brown Staggers Through Book

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that those who think that The Da Vinci Code book is well-written are essentially ferns.

Here, better than I could ever say it, is the best-yet literary deconstruction of Dan Brown's clunky cultural touchstone. It's written by Geoffrey K. Pullum, a professor of linguistics. He writes:
Brown's writing is not just bad; it is staggeringly, clumsily, thoughtlessly, almost ingeniously bad. In some passages scarcely a word or phrase seems to have been carefully selected or compared with alternatives. I slogged through 454 pages of this syntactic swill, and it never gets much better. Why did I keep reading? Because London Heathrow is a long way from San Francisco International, and airline magazines are thin, and two-month-old Hollywood drivel on a small screen hanging two seats in front of my row did not appeal, that's why. And why did I keep the book instead of dropping it into a Heathrow trash bin? Because it seemed to me to be such a fund of lessons in how not to write.

....[Brown] is a huge, blockbuster, worldwide success who can go anywhere he wants and need never work again. And he writes like the kind of freshman student who makes you want to give up the whole idea of teaching. Never mind the ridiculous plot and the stupid anagrams and puzzle clues as the book proceeds, this is a terrible, terrible example of the thriller-writer's craft.
Celebrate the film's release today by reading Pullum's piece on what a steaming load the book is.

(Hat tip: Thinklings)

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Thursday, May 18, 2006

If I Only Had A Sponge

I saw an interesting story on the web today: Hillary Clinton: Right Wingers to Blame for Abortion.

I suppose it's noteworthy that Mrs. Clinton thinks anyone needs to be "blamed" for abortion in the first place, since we don't tend to assign "blame" for things that are good or right. I assume it must be part of her attempt to move away from the politically suicidal Democratic Party policy on abortion, which could be summed up as, "keep 'em comin', and more of 'em!"

Still, it sounds like she may have some glitches in her thinking as she tries to hang what she acknowledges is a problem on many of those who have been dedicated to eradicating that problem. She claims that availability of contraception (or the supposed lack of it) is the the cause of abortions. Says Hillary:
They're waging this silent war on contraception by using the power of the White House and their right-wing allies in Congress.
I may be out of touch on this. Are contraceptives hard to get? Because I can't even seem to walk through the pharmacy aisle at the supermarket without seeing dozens of methods and variations of contraception, both male and female, available. Where is this war, and what's so difficult to obtain? Hillary ominously adds:
Low-income women, denied access to contraception, are having more unwanted pregnancies - four times as many as those for higher income women. And almost half of all unwanted pregnancies end in abortions.
Hmmm. So let me make sure I have the logic on this straight, so I can understand how I've actually caused the abortion problem. By the millions, women who can't pull together walking into Walgreen's to buy easily-acquired, over-the-counter contraceptives are making surgical appointments at far-away clinics for hundreds of dollars to have abortions? Is that the deal?

Gee, who could argue with logic like that?

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Could You Help Me Hold This Grudge?

I received this email yesterday through the address associated with this blog:
Re: Floyd Patterson

Sad to see such a class act and true sportsman pass away last week. Just curious whether this means you won't be joking about him "soiling himself," as you did on Sports Talk radio back when he first started showing signs of Alzheimer's/dementia.
Just to give you an idea, it's been seven years since I last did a sports radio show. Glad to know my memory still lingers, though.

Truth be told, I don't really recall making the unfortunate jokes about Floyd Patterson. I'm certain that I did, though. It's just the kind of thing I would have done.

All I could really do is write back to the guy and admit that I said lots of things when I was in sports radio that I probably shouldn't have. Hopefully I've grown up a little bit since then (though regular readers of this blog might dispute that). Floyd Patterson was a wonderful guy (I met him once in Las Vegas), and Alzheimer's causes anguish for millions and isn't funny. So I apologize to anyone who still takes offense at things I said back in the old days.

But I have to admit, I wonder how many others there are out there who've hated me all these years for things I don't even remember saying?

(For the record, however: In case someone else is planning to email me, I do remember the Joe Dimaggio jokes, where we kept cutting away to "see if Joe Dimaggio's dead yet." And I remember that we'd then play the sound of an EKG machine. That never really got old. C'mon, you know it was a little bit funny.)

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"Da Vinci Delusion" Rerun

For those of you kind souls who missed the documentary and have asked me if it will be aired again, I see that according to TBN's website, they have scheduled a re-airing for midnight eastern time (11pm central, 9pm Pacific) this Saturday, May 20th.

We'll be on against the infomercial with the hyperactive bearded guy who cleans any surface with his miracle solution.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Hope Not To See You Later, Alligator

By now you probably know that alligators are eating people down here. Like we didn't have enough to contend with from the bi-weekly hurricanes, the current drought, and the Third World road conditions (about once a month someone is literally impaled by a piece of debris flying through their windshield while driving down I-95).

Frankly, people are kind of freaked out by it. They keep telling us that the odds are still higher of being struck by lightning than getting attacked by an alligator, but I'm not consoled because A). I know a pool guy who's been struck by lightening twice down here, and B). The odds are getting better (worse?) now that three people have been eaten in the space of half a week, with a fourth attack resulting in a better outcome. Plus, if they had to choose, I think just about everyone would much rather be struck by lightning than be chewed up and digested by a reptilian monster, generally speaking.

A couple of years ago, much ado was made about the shark attacks that were happening, but people seem to be much more nervous here about this alligator stuff. In a post-Chevy Chase world, in order to get eaten by a shark you generally have to go in the water. But these gators are attacking people while they're just going about their business. These alligators are everywhere down here. All of the Ft. Lauderdale area is a series of interlocking canals in which alligators live. They find 'em in the canals, in people's backyards, and sometimes in the road. It's not terribly unusual for dogs to be eaten right off their backyard leashes. One famous local church found a little one in the prominent fountain out front (though they think that was probably the work of pranksters, miscreants, or possibly ne'er-do-wells).

Even the normally virile and courageous (like me) are finding themselves a little jittery. I actually had a dream the other night that I was being grabbed by one, and I remember thinking "Great, I've worked my whole life to accomplish something, and the world, my friends, and my family will all now forever remember me as the guy who got eaten by an alligator." I also tried punching it in the nose, but I don't think it worked. You know how it is with dreams--I think the alligator had some sort of force field around it that slowed my fist down right in front of its nose. I couldn't get any power behind it. It was the same frustrating feeling I have in the dream where I'm trying to dial an emergency phone number in a hurry, but I keep hitting the wrong numbers. "Rats! That's 9-1-2! Okay, okay, I can do this. Argh! That was #-1-1!" (Etc. etc., ad infinitum.)

The first victim was merely out jogging, and the attack took place only a few miles from my house. My wife's been bugging me to go camping for a while, and we were looking at going this weekend. The thing is, I hate camping. So if I can leverage this right and really get everyone else in the family as freaked out by it as I am, I may be able to salvage the weekend and spend it as the good Lord intended: in front of the TV in my air-conditioned house watching sports.

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Friday, May 12, 2006

For Whatever It's Worth

I try not to shill personal projects around here too much, but one week from today is the worldwide release of "The Da Vinci Code" movie. If you're not completely burned out on that subject and are looking for some information about the real facts, a documentary I co-wrote and co-produced will be airing nationally this weekend called The Da Vinci Delusion.

It features scholars like Darrell Bock, Gary Habermas, Peter Jones, Paul Maier, and many others, and if I do say so, I feel like it came out rather well.

It airs on TBN Saturday evening at 7pm eastern, and again Sunday at 11am. It's also syndicated all over the country. As the old saying goes, check local listings for times and channels in your area. And, of course, set your TiVos, wake your kids, and phone the neighbors.

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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Prominent Atheist: Intelligent Design is Winning

Prominent atheist and professor of philosophy Michael Ruse has released correspondence with superstar evolutionists Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett telling them that they "are absolute disasters in the fight against intelligent design -- we are losing this battle..."

A fairly incredible admission indeed, especially when viewed in light of the usual, dismissive triumphalism presented publicly by the anti-ID movement. Ruse makes clear what most people have known all along: that the Darwinian movement is driven more by ideology and anti-religionism than by science.

William Dembski (who reprints the correspondence with Ruse's permission) notes the highlight of the exchange, with Ruse writing here to Dennett:
I think that you and Richard [Dawkins] are absolute disasters in the fight against intelligent design -- we are losing this battle, not the least of which is the two new supreme court justices who are certainly going to vote to let it into classrooms -- what we need is not knee-jerk atheism but serious grappling with the issues -- neither of you are willing to study Christianity seriously and to engage with the ideas -- it is just plain silly and grotesquely immoral to claim that Christianity is simply a force for evil, as Richard claims -- more than this, we are in a fight, and we need to make allies in the fight, not simply alienate everyone of good will.
For his part, Dennett, in responding to some of Ruse's criticisms, gives quite a bit of inadvertent insight into how the Darwinian movement works--threats, power politics, and all:
I'm afraid you are being enlisted on the side of the forces of darkness. You may want to try to extricate yourself, since you are certainly losing ground fast in the evolutionary community that I am in touch with.
It's interesting that the supposed science of Darwinism is so quick to excommunicate dissenting members. Is that how they encourage the pursuit of raw truth wherever it might lead?
(Hat tip: The Pearcey Report)

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Monday, May 08, 2006

Monday Meanderings

  • I keep seeing ads on the internet for stock advice from investing guru Wayne Rogers. I also see him regularly on Fox News' financial show on Saturday mornings. What I'm wondering is, am I the only one wondering about the pink elephant in the room? Wayne Rogers is Trapper John from M*A*S*H.

    As I recall, M*A*S*H wasn't some obscure little show. Yet in all these ads and on the Fox News show, they act as if everybody tuning in isn't saying "Wait, that's Hawkeye's bunkmate!" I mean, they don't have to dwell on it, but don't you think it would at least come up? Because when I'm watching, it's all I can think about.
  • So imagine my surprise when I accidentally tuned in to "Wall Street Roundup with Gary Burghoff" on CNBC. Who'da figured.
  • It seems that President Bush's longtime strategy of alienating his conservative base and governing like a moderate Democrat has oddly backfired.
    Just 33 percent of the public approves of Bush's job performance, the lowest of his presidency. That compares with 36 percent approval in early April. Forty-five percent of self-described conservatives now disapprove of the president.
    But I'm sure it's all just part of evil genius Karl Rove's master plan.
  • This morning, I was reading the latest story about the ever-annoying David Blaine. I mentioned him to my friend in the office across from mine.
    Me: Somebody needs to beat that David Blaine with a stick.

    Him: If they did, he'd probably make a TV special out of it.
  • I'm currently in sole possession of first place in my fantasy baseball league at 4-1. Oddly, however, I have yet to equal my score from the first week of the season--the one game I lost. The keys to success so far have been Albert Poo-holes, who was my fist pick and has not disappointed, and Greg Maddux, who I took deep in the draft and has been terrific. I say let's end the season now.
  • I've been told by some young people that it's considered cool now to wrap your sneakers in duct tape. That sounds like a good idea--drop a couple of hundred of your parents' bucks on Nikes, then cover them in duct tape. I know the things that my generation did seemed pretty stupid to my parents (parachute pants, anyone?), but the things young people are currently doing really are objectively, irredeemably stupid. Did anyone else know about this phenomenon? Or are they just jerking me around on this one since I'm old and out of touch?
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Thursday, May 04, 2006

Good Repor'

I finally got around to watching Stephen Colbert's much-discussed performance at the White House Correspondents dinner online today. And you know what? It was funny. Quite funny. Obviously they can't all be gems, but Colbert got off as many good lines as anyone who's ever hosted this thing.

Because of the sad fact that I don't have a life, I actually watch this thing live on C-Span almost every year. On a Saturday night. This was the one year where I had a life for about a week and missed seeing it. But the point is, I've watched enough of these to know one thing: the headliner always falls flat in the room. It's not the material. It's a bad room.

The press laugh when the headliner makes fun of the president, but they don't like it when they're made fun of (which Colbert did in abundance). It's also an inherently uncomfortable situation, where someone is supposed to skewer a man five feet from him who has the power to launch nuclear bombs. Everybody expects the president to get up and make jokes, and then they skewer him for "making jokes at a time like this." It's just an awkward deal.

Broad, lame, gentle humor generally goes over best there. Remember Laura Bush's supposedly uproarious "Desperate Housewives" schtick last year? The reviews were ready to crown her the new Lucille Ball. And a few years ago, I think Ray Romano even showed his home movies. They liked that. What they don't like is barbed satire, which is what Colbert has to offer. But that says more about the thick-headed, humorless press corps than it does about the material.

Fact is, I like conservatism, but I like really good comedy even more. And Colbert, lefty-liberal though I'm sure he is, provided it.

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Wednesday, May 03, 2006


Jared Bridges over at TruePravda has a good post on The Da Vinci Code book. Writes Jared:
Having recently finished The DaVinci Code, I’m left a bit mystified — and not at whether or not Jesus married Mary Magdalene. I’m just wondering how such a mediocre novel has gone so far in the first place. All heresies aside, it’s just not that good of a book.
I can't tell you how many times in discussing this book I've had someone say to me, "Yeah, I know that the facts aren't true and his history is a mess, but gosh, the book is just so darned well-written."

To which, in my gentle way, I'm forced to respond, "Um, actually no. It's complete crap as fiction too. It's horribly written. The exposition is clumsy at best, and the dialogue makes Tom Clancy's dialogue sound like Shakespeare."

I suspect what they actually mean when they say "well-written" is that it's well-plotted--that it's a page-turner. That's probably the book's strongest point, yet even there it falls well-short of excellence. The last third of the book is silly, didactic, and clumsy even from a pure action standpoint. The plot completely falls apart, and the characters do things that make no dramatic sense.

So when you hear someone telling you how "well-written" The Da Vinci Code is, what you should actually hear them saying in your head is "I'm a hyperactive chimp with the attention span of Larry King. Yet even I didn't get totally bored with this book, because its 105 chapters are only three to four pages each. It's the one book I've actually finished in my adult life, because it fit perfectly into my bathroom breaks."

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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Never Forget

I went to see "Flight 93" last night, and not only is the time appropriate for such a film, but I think everybody ought to have to see it. It should be mandatory.

It's not an easy movie, and it's certainly not fun. But it's a necessary reminder of the true enemy, despite our president's weak-kneed assertions that Islam is really a "religion of peace" while fighting a supposed "war on terror" in which he evidently cannot identify the opposition.

Islam is the demonic religion of a violent people, and the few exceptions merely prove the rule. "Flight 93" powerfully brings home the reality of the evil lurking in the hearts of terrorists. In an age when so many pillow-biters and pantywaists regularly claim that "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter," America needs to see the dramatized images of cowardly adherents of an evil religion with a satanic god and a vile "prophet" partaking in their (quite typical) animalistic orgy of violence. It's a scene played out by the practicioners of the "religion of peace" every day in various parts of the world.

Some have carped that it's "too early" for this film to be released. If it wasn't "too early" for Michael Moore to release "Fahrenheit 9-11," then this movie is on the late side, if anything. The American media has committed a virtual crime by intentionally burying the graphic footage of what happened on that Septemeber day. The American people need the reminder provided by the images of those planes hitting the Twin Towers, and they need it regularly. "Flight 93" helps provide it.

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Monday, May 01, 2006

Getting The Message

On the way to work today, I didn't once get stuck behind a slow-moving lawn service pickup truck with fourteen guys crammed into the back. And when I got lunch at the drive-thru, the cashier spoke English to me.

Danged illegal immigrant boycott.