Friday, September 29, 2006

Oliver's Twist, And Other Meanderings

Oliver North makes a very interesting (and perhaps surprising) observation on Clinton's recent hissy fit (in which Bubba fumed, "I worked hard to try to kill [Osama]. I authorized a finding for the CIA to kill him. We contracted with people to kill him"). I haven't seen North's point made elsewhere:
To put this little piece of braggadocio in context, it should be noted that no other American president has ever admitted to such a serious violation of law. Although assassination is specifically forbidden as a course of action open to U.S. officials, including presidents, no one seems to have noticed what was being said--perhaps because they were so caught up with the theater of what was happening on the screen.

....The tape of a former president arrogantly proclaiming on international television that he personally authorized the assassination of a foreign foe may be great stuff for the screenplay of "Rambo V," but U.S. and international law specifically forbid it. Over the course of fighting the jihad being waged against us, Mr. Clinton's intemperate words will come back to haunt us many times over. And of course, he won't be the one to pay the price.
I don't completely share North's view on assassination. If we had been able to assassinate, say, Hiter, we would have been right to do so, in my opinion. But a ban on the practice is unquestionably a fact of current U.S. and international law, and Clinton does seem to be admitting a blatant violation of it. I personally wish he had taken out Bin Laden when he had the chance, but this kind of language--"We contracted with people to kill him"--is the language of La Cosa Nostra, not the presidency. If George W. Bush uttered those words, we'd never hear the end of the Left's caterwauling about his "arrogance" and his "cowboy" ways. When Bush merely said we wanted Bin Laden "dead or alive," they practically got the vapors. So where's the pique now?

In any case, will anyone be shocked to hear Clinton's talk of hiring hit men to whack Bin Laden used to justify future acts of terrorism against the U.S.?

Some other bits from around the web:
  • Nobody's been hitting President Bush harder than Pat Buchanan in recent weeks. Today he rips the president a new one on the economy--the one thing that seemed to be going rather well:
    America as the most self-sufficient republic in history is history. For decades, U.S. factories have been closing. Three million manufacturing jobs have disappeared since Bush arrived. Ford and GM are fighting for their lives.

    Bushites boast of all the new jobs created, but Business Week tells the inconvenient truth: "Since 2001, 1.7 million new jobs have been created in the health care sector. ... Meanwhile, the number of private sector jobs outside of health care is no higher than it was five years ago."
  • Slate has a piece from a baseball card fanatic who actually got to live out his childhood dream of working for Topps. Turns out it's pretty much just like working anywhere else:
    Upper management was a distant, nepotistic network descending from a mysterious, largely invisible septuagenarian CEO. Below that, departments feuded with other departments. Middle managers skirmished in snarky, caps-locked e-mails CC'd to higher-ups. "Good mornings" seethed with passive aggression.
  • And while we're at Slate, they also give the ever-tiresome Mitch Albom a much-deserved ripping:
    Albom is literally a teller of fables, a peddler of shallow morality tales for the masses. You can see it in his risible sports writing, and you can see it in his best-selling books. A representative of Starbucks, which will sell For One More Day as part of its new books promotion, told the Los Angeles Times that the chain wanted its literary selections to be "deeply felt." Albom's writing is deeply felt, and dimly thought. He's a huckster evangelist for the soccer-mom set.
    If you hate Albom (and you should), you'll find the review cathartic.
  • I've written about this before, but I can't remember where. But back in my sports radio days, I used to bump into Albom from time to time at the big events (i.e. heavyweight bouts, the Olympics, the Super Bowl, etc). The thing I remember most about him wasn't his writing, nor was it his broadcasting. It was his freakishly large head. He's a tiny guy--maybe 5-5, and his head seems to make up about a third of his body. To give you an idea, the sketch in the Slate review (at right) isn't a caricature--it's anatomically correct.

    All I know is that, of the first Five People I Meet in Heaven, this gargantuan cranium better not be among them.

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

By The Light Of The Silvery Moon

Does anyone happen to have a high-powered sniper rifle I could borrow for a minute?

That couple dancing on the roof in silhouette in the online ad has popped up on my browser one too many times. I'm gonna take 'em out once and for all.

But they move around a lot, so it might take a few extra shots.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A Prophet In His Hometown...

An actual conversation in my home last night:
WIFE (to daughter): You're such a good writer. You should start one of those blogs!

DAUGHTER: But I don't have anything to write about.

WIFE: That's okay, neither does Daddy.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Around the Horn

  • Bill Clinton's fevered rant against Chris Wallace the other day is the talk of the web. His former political advisor Dick Morris, who knows him better than most, writes a fascinating column today on the incident. As usual, you can tell Clinton is lying because his lips are moving:
    From behind the benign face and the tranquilizing smile, the real Bill Clinton emerged Sunday during Chris Wallace’s interview on Fox News Channel. There he was on live television, the man those who have worked for him have come to know – the angry, sarcastic, snarling, self-righteous, bombastic bully, roused to a fever pitch. The truer the accusation, the greater the feigned indignation.
  • Philosopher Edward Feser has a thought-provoking take on why conpiracy theories persist:
    A clue to the real attraction of conspiracy theories, I would suggest, lies in the rhetoric of theorists themselves, which is filled with self-congratulatory descriptions of those who accept such theories as "willing to think," "educated," "independent-minded," and so forth, and with invective against the "uninformed" and "unthinking" "sheeple" who "blindly follow authority." The world of the conspiracy theorist is Manichean: either you are intelligent, well-informed, and honest, and therefore question all authority and received opinion; or you accept what popular opinion or an authority says and therefore must be stupid, dishonest, and ignorant. There is no third option.
    It's not harmless, and it's not neutral. Chronic conspiracy theorizing is a character flaw. It's as simple as that. (Hat tip: Joe Carter)
  • This may only be of interest to me, but Slate magazine reviews the oddly-vanished career of erstwhile super-director John Hughes and discovers (surprise!) that he was a Republican.
  • Christianity Today has finally published online it's excellent story about the resurgence of Reformed theology. The piece springs off of a conference I was fortunate enough to attend back in April.
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Friday, September 22, 2006


Maybe I just live in a weird neighborhood, but...for over a week now, at least three homes near us have already been decked out with Halloween decorations. And I'm not just talking about some little witch-smashed-into-the-phone-pole decoration (and that one just gets funnier every year)--I'm talking mock graves in the yard, lit ghosts and witches, and orange lights in the trees.

I mean, it's September 22. People always complain about how early the Christmas decorations seem to go up, and I agree it's overdone. But I don't know anybody who puts up Christmas decorations six weeks ahead of time.

I'm not one of these wildly anti-Halloween people. I don't get all wadded up about it like some of my fellow Christians. But I've gotta wonder about an adult who gets so excited about a "holiday" in which kids dress like Superman and go begging for Milk Duds that he can't even restrain himself until October before running out to plug in the full-yard spinning-goblin-in-a-lit-plastic-dome.

"No, honey, I ain't letting Halloween season get away from us again this year. We get so busy during the season it'll just suck all the joy out of you if you let it. Well not me. This year, I'm going to savor it. It's already Labor Day--get me all our white sheets."

I could never let somebody with that sort of Halloween fetish operate on me or represent me in court. Change my muffler, maybe. But that's it.

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

"...Only I Can Call The President The Devil!"

Why am I skeptical of the sudden Democratic denunciations of Hugo Chavez and his inflammatory (but disagreeably amusing) comments before the United Nations yesterday?

(An aside: I know this is politically incorrect to say among conservatives, but I actually laughed out loud at the "I still smell sulfur up here" bit. Is Chavez dangerous and evil? Of course. But he's got a way with words, I've gotta give him that.)

The thing is, Chavez didn't say much that Howard Dean doesn't say on any given day. So why the umbrage? Is it possible that some folks are starting to realize that having your general sentiments voiced at the podium of the U.N. by a communist dictator doesn't do much for the polling numbers? It's better to say the right thing than the wrong thing, but nobody's going to convince me that Nancy Pelosi and Charlie Rangel didn't agree with Chavez's comments until they stuck a finger in the wind and gauged the strong public reaction against the speech.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Around The Horn

  • The final memorial service for Steve Irwin was held earlier this week in Australia. So in one last tribute we offer you a good laugh from "The Crocodile Hunter" himself in this ESPN SportsCenter promo taped only a couple of years ago as part of the most consistently brilliant (for something like ten years now) ad campaign in television history. This alone is worth your visit today:

  • As long as we're on the subject of ESPN, it's good to see baseball guru Peter Gammons back in the game after nearly dying of a brain aneurysm this past June. His column, after recounting his medical experience, delves into heavy-duty pitching analysis. And he'll be back on the tube (in a limited role, for now) beginning tonight.
  • I like all of Aaron Sorkin's stuff, for some strange reason. (It might be because he and I seem to be interested in the exact same subjects--the presidency, sports, television production, sketch comedy, etc.--though from wildly different perspectives.) But TIME Magazine has his style absolutely nailed this week in their review of his new behind-the-scenes-style take on sketch-comedy television shows, "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip":
    In terms of craft, Studio 60 is very good. Sorkin is probably incapable of writing a bad show. But self-satisfied, self-serious and self-congratulatory--that he can do. From the mood lighting and stirring music to the hot-button story lines to the characters' arias on the august legacy of their show, Sorkin makes running a comedy program seem like negotiating an arms treaty. Is your beef with sketch shows that they used to be daring social critiques--("Chizzburger! Chizzburger!")--or that they used to make you laugh? Worse, Studio 60 fails to show us that Matt [Matthew Perry] and Danny [Bradley Whitford] are actually funny. (Witty, yes, but so was President Bartlet.) In Episode 2, Matt has to come up with a knock-'em-dead opening sketch for his first show. His idea is--wait for it--a Pirates of Penzance parody. Studio 60 treats it like comic genius.
    It's the single most accurate paragraph on Sorkin's work I've ever seen. Yet the guy still manages to sucker me in every week.
  • I don't get to watch much television these days, but I do read a lot about television. Out of nowhere, the HBO show "The Wire," heading into it's fourth and final season, is suddenly getting all kinds of rapturous buzz. I don't think I'd ever seen a thing written about it before this month. What gives? Because of all the hubub, I went to Blockbuster and rented the DVD of the first three episodes of season one to take a look myself. It was reasonably good, but it's not like it changed my life or something. It was like "Law and Order" with more graphic cursing. Did HBO suddenly send every TV critic in the country a Beamer?
  • I also rented the first disc of "Lost." Never seen it, but I'm tired of hearing about it. So I'll take a look. But I think we need to go back to the days of sitcoms, where you could jump in at any point. I feel like I'd have to clear aside 60 hours just in order to get caught up to date on any one of these supposedly-engrossing, narrative shows I keep hearing about. "24"? There's no way. They're telling me right up front how much time I'll have to invest in it, and I just don't have it. Who has time to get engrossed in one of these deals? Do a miniseries called "5" and I'll think about it.

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Monday, September 18, 2006

Another Incendiary Quote

More from Gregg Easterbrook's review in the liberal Slate e-zine of physicist Lee Smolin's book The Trouble With Physics, which claims (from within) that the scientific establishment is ignoring massive flaws in string theory because of greed and ideology:
Maybe string theory eventually will prove out; maybe the apparent vibrating nothing on which we are based is but a slice of some far grander reality. But string theory seems to contain significant helpings of blather designed to intimidate nonscientists from questioning the budgets of physics departments and tax-funded particle accelerator labs. And consider this. Today if a professor at Princeton claims there are 11 unobservable dimensions about which he can speak with great confidence despite an utter lack of supporting evidence, that professor is praised for incredible sophistication. If another person in the same place asserted there exists one unobservable dimension, the plane of the spirit, he would be hooted down as a superstitious crank.
Materialism--the philosophical view that matter is the only and ultimate reality--rules modern science, despite the fact that it is a scientifically unprovable assumption. Materialism cannot prove that material is all that exists; it can only assert it. This assertion (though inconsistently held, as the above example shows) is, by definition, driven by motivations other than the emprical, whether they be philosophical, psychological, (anti-) religious, or some combination therof.

The sooner we all realize that, the sooner science will be able to resume its rightful place in human endeavor as one way of discovering a certain kind of truth and abdicate its modern status as the mediator of all truth. Such a return will benefit society and science. But don't hold your breath. "Arbiter of all truth" is a powerful position, and not one many are likely to give up too easily.

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Friday, September 15, 2006

The String Unravels

Slate reviews a new book by former Yale and Penn State physicist Lee Smolin, which says that string theory is kaput. String theory has been the recent dominant theory of the smallest, fundamental particles of matter, popularized in books and PBS documentaries by Brian Green (The Elegant Universe) among others.

According to according to Gregg Easterbrook’s insightful review of Smolin’s book, The Trouble With Physics,
String theory became a media obsession about 20 years ago, with one of its proponents a cover boy of a New York Times Magazine article proclaiming string theorists were super-ultra geniuses cracking the ultimate riddles of creation. Smolin's book suggests that this caused string theorists to believe their media hype and to speak of their concepts as if they were proven…. Yet after decades of attempts, no experiment has detected any hint of additional dimensions, branes, or other core elements of string theory. Meanwhile string theory failed to predict the biggest astrophysical discovery in decades….
Now, see if this begins to sound like anything you’ve heard of before. And keep in mind, this is all happening in that empirical, objective, ultra-rational realm of science, which we are told contains all the answers to all life’s questions:
If you worry that even in the 21st century, intellectual fads have as much to do with university politics and careerism as with the search for abstract truth, The Trouble With Physics is a book you absolutely must read. "String theory now has such a dominant position in the academy that it is practically career suicide for young theoretical physicists not to join the field," Smolin writes. Yet since string theory became ascendant about three decades ago, "there has not been a single genuine breakthrough in understanding of elementary particle physics." Not only is string theory rife with malarkey about imperceptible dimensions, Smolin fears, it may be holding back legitimate science.
Hmmm. A scientific theory based on little more than suppositions and wishful thinking, which has been largely disproved by the evidence, but yet which cannot be safely challenged because of fear of reprisals from the level-headed and dispassionate scientific establishment, which blocks attempts to follow the actual evidence. Why, where have I ever heard of such a thing happening? I’m shocked, shocked.

Perhaps one day people will start to realize that scientists are--just like everyone else--biased by nonempirical philosophical and metaphysical presuppositions, career concerns, desire for professional prestige, and power, among other things. Is empirical science valuable? Of course it is. But we should always bear in mind that most of the scientific beliefs of any generation are overthrown by the next generation. Scientists are not inspired priests mediating all truth of the universe to us. They are people trying to secure grants and get promotions just like everyone else. The sooner we understand this and learn to weigh their opinions accordingly, the better off we—and science itself—will be.

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

From The Bizarro Universe Of Truth

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
The White House
September 14, 2006

Hearing this morning about the death of former Texas Governor Ann Richards, I have to be honest: I never really cared for her. I found her to be a boozy, sharp-tongued harpy, and this is coming from a guy who’s hoisted a few Miller Lites of his own.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I’m glad that she’s dead. But I won’t miss her, that’s for sure. Texans will fondly remember many things about Ann, but probably my own favorite memory of her is when I whupped her tail in the 1994 election. I mean, I booted her sad caboose right out of the governor’s mansion. I wiped the floor with her, and considering that thing she said about my dad at the ’88 convention, I enjoyed it. I wanted to make her hurt. Beat her like a red-headed stepchild.

Well, now she’s dead. And that’s too bad. I suppose.

God Bless America,
President George W. Bush

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Hey, Hey, I'm A Monk-ee

After a few kind notices of Your Humble Servant over the past week, The Internet Monk, Michael Spencer, asks for some sidebar love and receives. (And perhaps this will even be a step towards rectifying my own inexplicable absence on the his blogroll...)

And while we're on the subject, imagine my suprise to find the iMonk get a shout-out in this week's TIME magazine cover story on the health and wealth gospel. (Like with the Salon article, you have to watch a short--and LOUD--ad in order to read the whole thing online, but it's worth it. One of the fairest pieces on evangelical Christianity I've ever seen in the mainstream media.)

Says TIME:
Respected blogger Michael Spencer--known as the Internet Monk--asked, "How many young people are going to be pointed to [Joel] Osteen as a true shepherd of Jesus Christ? He's not. He's not one of us."
I'm sure he's getting a lot of fun reactions to that one.

If all this back and forth linking keeps up, people are either going to think that I've become a squishy emerging Christian, or that Michael has started believing the Bible again. (Oh, c'mon, it's a little joke! Settle down, everybody.)

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

A Trip To Mars

Lauren Sandler, author of a hysterical new screed against Christianity called RIGHTEOUS: Dispatches from the Evangelical Youth Movement, spends some time at Mark Driscoll's Mars Hill Church in Seattle and....hates it. Not surprisingly.

Writing for Salon magazine (you have to watch a brief commercial in order to access the full article, and be warned there is some strong pornographic language from rapper Snoop Dogg quoted in the article for no discernible reason), Sandler, who used to be a producer for that taxpayer-subsidized bastion of fairness, National Public Radio, manages to dredge up a couple of admittedly unappealing congregants (if they are quoted and described correctly, which is never a given), and extrapolates from them to the rest of Driscoll's several-thousand-member church to fulfill her "Christianity is evil" thesis:
Driscoll and his Mars Hills followers epitomize the mounting evangelical youth movement in America. Within this movement lies something as old as America itself, and as terrifying and alluring as anything Orwell predicted; something that is at once political, emotional, deeply anti-intellectual, and more galvanized than you can imagine. I call this population of fierce young evangelicals the Disciple Generation.
(Cue "Psycho" music.) And then they killed kittens and ate babies!

Now, while I don't agree with everything Driscoll does (though I do respect him), I'm willing to bet a great deal that he reads more books of intellectual heft in a month than Ms. Sandler does in any given year. Her manifest lack of rigor, insight, or nuance perhaps betrays her own subpar cerebral abilities. But putting that aside, why does she launch such a vicious attack on people who are obviously trying to be nice to her?
While cultural specifics -- media, music, dress, attitude, and so on -- vary widely in the churches that [Driscoll's church planting organization] encourages nationwide, cultural politics do not. Most significantly, in founding the network, Driscoll has established a nationwide apparatus to push back women's rights through the "liberation theology" of submission. The online application for church planting is an extremist screening device to this effect. It begins with a lengthy doctrinal assertion that every word of the Bible is literal truth; the application plucks out the examples of creationism and male headship of home and church to clarify this doctrine. "We are not liberals," it says. "We are not egalitarian."
Oh, the humanity. It turns out that her main criticism of Driscoll's church is that it preaches and practices orthodox, biblical Christianity, including believing in Heaven, Hell, sin, male leadership, the inerrancy of the Bible, the blessing of family and children, and the exclusivity of salvation through Jesus. You know, pretty much like the faithful church has always preached over the last 2000 years.

Who knows? If Driscoll can find a few more enemies like this, he might finally get a little deserved respect from some of his leery fellow evangelicals.

UPDATE: Judy, one of the members of Driscoll's church made to look so unappealing in the article, has written a letter to Salon saying that--big suprise--she was horrifically misrepresented. (Thanks to Scott for the heads-up.) She writes:
I’m nothing short of furious that Ms. Sandler felt it was ok to pick & choose snippets of our conversation and weave them together to create a more controversial story. I write this, not so much to defend myself, but to defend my family who she’s dragging through the mud in the name of journalism.
Sandler's article had "disingenuous hit piece" written all over it. Now we know.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

9/11 Coverage

  • CNN and Fox News, on their websites yesterday, offered streaming video in real time of their original 9/11 coverage. I had it running on my computer in the background all day long, and even fired it up on my home computer after work. Why, after five years, do I find it impossible to turn away from this? Every ten minutes while watching 9/11 stuff, I think to myself "I still can't believe this actually happened."
  • On the more trivial side of the 9/11 coverage, I couldn't help noticing something that permanently changed (in a small way) cable news: At 11:11am, CNN suddenly introduced a running scroll at the bottom of the screen recounting the known facts and developments to that point. The scroll remains there to this day, and was also quickly adopted by Fox News and MSNBC.
  • While looking through the coverage yesterday, I was also introduced to a fetid little swamp I had heard of but not heretofore experienced: the world of the 9/11 conspiracy nuts. The longer I live, the more convinced I become that chronic conspiracy-think is actually a character flaw. These 9/11 people are impregnable to reason and apt to attack anyone and everyone who disagrees with them in the harshest terms. My own personal experiences tend to bear this out with Konspiracy Kooks of all stripes.

    Popular Science magazine has a new book out debunking the most widely-held of the paranoid fever dreams. They've now also launched a blog that contains links to interesting material on all this. The original, comprehensive article that spawned the book can be found here.
  • Sports Illustrated's cover story for it's September 11 issue is on Pat Tillman, the Arizona Cardinals player who quit the NFL to become an Army Ranger in the wake of 9/11 and was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan. It's one of the saddest things I've ever read. (Be warned that it contains some salty barracks language.) Though I honor his tremendous sacrifice, my image of him as a heroic patriot has been replaced by an image of a tragic, existential Hemingway character, a lost soul taking ever-increasing risks in the vain search for a meaning he never found. Clearly he was a guy with an admirable internal code of honor and a courage most people (including I) will never know. But in the service of what?

    Writes SI's Gary Smith:
    Braveheart. That's who he wanted to be, said a friend who saw the glow in Pat's eyes as he watched the movie about the Scottish warrior. Trouble was, Pat's wisdom quest was too honest, had carried him clean past that plane where good and evil are fixed and far-flung from one another, to a higher ledge up in the swirling fog where a man could see how right and wrong might rotate and trade places. It just became harder and harder to be Braveheart.

    Until 9/11, when for a moment there was moral clarity, a clarion call to arms, a chance to be that man. Sitting atop that bunker, 11 days into the invasion of a country that had hatched none of the 9/11 terrorists, it was dawning on Pat with each blast-wave lighting up the desert: That moment already was gone. Dawning on him that he'd flung himself into thin air on faith, in search of his highest self, toward a hollow tree that might not hold his weight.
    Later, though Tillman apparently no longer believed in the war, he declined an opportunity to be discharged after a tour in Iraq and go back to football--because he hadn't yet "tasted enemy fire." His story is a tragedy in the fullest sense of the word.
  • I watched "The Path to 9/11" on ABC Sunday and Monday night. The whole family was riveted to it. I had no idea it would be as compelling and well done as it was. In five hours, I didn't detect an ounce of fat on it. By the second night, though, I was starting to wonder if Richard Clarke had written it himself. While casting aspersions on both the Clinton and the Bush administrations, the film fawned on Clark to the point where I was expecting him to pull open his shirt revealing the red and yellow "S," fly out the window, and stop the hijacked planes himself. Does anyone really believe Clark was this perceptive, authoritative, or heroic? Me neither. Nonetheless, still an outstanding piece of television. If you missed it, you should see it on DVD or online.
  • If, like many who saw the movie, you're interested in knowing more about John O'Neill, the FBI's former top Al Qaeda expert who was run out of the FBI, only to ironically die as the World Trade Center's head of security on 9/11, check out Frontline's excellent documentary, "The Man Who Knew." It's an important piece of work.

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If You Can't Train 'Er, Cesar

As a recent puppy-owner and the husband of wife who's been hypnotized by this Dog Whisperer guy, I was interested to read Emily Yoffe's piece in Slate about applying Cesar Millan's methods to her unruly 6-year-old beagle. Wonders never cease--it worked.
One night, about a month into the retraining, Sasha jumped on the bed while my husband and I were reading, presenting herself to be patted. My husband said that she seemed like a different dog. The transformation was as dramatic as a Goth teenager getting rid of the black eyeliner and piercings and deciding to try out for cheerleading. Even my 10-year-old daughter was noticing. We had gotten Sasha as a result of her lobbying, but Sasha had been so neurotic and unresponsive that my daughter once called her "the biggest mistake of my life." But now they were playing, and my daughter could take her for walks. "She's not paranoid anymore," my daughter observed. "She's like a real pet."
On an unrelated note, my wife tells me that in his recent book, the Dog Whisperer admits to being an illegal alien.


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Monday, September 11, 2006

Never forget.

Friday, September 08, 2006

America Held Hostage, Day One

Brad Pitt has declared that he will not marry his baby mama Angelina Jolie "until everyone else in the country who wants to be married is legally able." By which, I presume he means homosexuals. (Although, since desire is the only criterion proffered, his comment would equally apply to bigamists, siblings, and any others who "want" to be married. And if you think I'm stretching things--anybody remember Angelina making out with her own brother at the Oscars a few years ago? Just wait.)

If I didn't know that this is merely a public, faux-principled rationalization for his understandable refusal to further entangle himself with the oft-married, psychotic, bisexual, incestuous Jolie, I'd really be amused.

I mean, against whom, exactly, is this putative protest directed? Is his expectation that this announcement will cause fervent opponents of gay marriage (which surveys show to be around 60-70% of the entire American public) to suddenly change course? "You know, I believe that homosexual so-called marriage is an abomination against nature and nature's God, and is an evil that would destroy our society. But if it will get those crazy kids Brad and Angelina together, I'm now willing to look the other way on it! All of my moral and social concerns are trumped by my aching desire to see Brangelina enter into yet another short-lived Hollywood marriage."

Oh, Brad, please don't hold America's affections hostage. Don't punish us. We repent. We'll do anything to make you rethink this. You name it. We surrender. We hereby immediately cease our opposition so that you will do us the incomparable favor of marrying the mother of your illegitimate child.

P.S. I also read that Brad is going to refuse to continue knocking her up until free fertility clinics have been established in every African nation. And unless global warming is halted, he's going to stop groping her.

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Thursday, September 07, 2006

Imagination Time

I'm a subscriber to TIME magazine (yes, that fact mystifies me as much as it does you), and when this week's issue arrived in my mailbox, the cover promised to explain "What We Lost" in 9/11, among other things.

Upon delving into it, I found that the "What We Lost" cover story was a piece written by history professor Niall Ferguson--using the literary device of having been written 25 years from now, in 2031. I didn't count, but the thing probably ran seven or eight pages, if not more.

There was also a column from Joe Klein on "What Bush Should Have Said" in his speech to the American Legion seeking support on the Iraq war. The literary device here is that Klein writes in Bush's obstensible voice, inventing the speech he wishes Bush had given. Among the eminently predictable blather (especially considering the source) was:
I was going to deliver a speech today in which I said, "The war we fight today is more than a military conflict. It is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century."....

....In the speech I planned to deliver, I would have spoken—too easily, too dismissively—about how previous Presidents pursued a mistaken policy of seeking "stability" in the Middle East, which resulted in the terrorist attacks against us.
How clever.

In other words, in this week's TIME magazine--one of the nation's two major newsmagazines--a huge chunk of space is devoted to pure fiction. Imagination. Fairy tales. Even more than usual, two of TIME's banner stories this week are complete make-believe.

I guess this is a taste of that piercing analysis we'll be seeing after TIME's much-ballyhooed switch to a late-week publication date.

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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Death Of A Daredevil

Like most, I'm saddened at the death of Steve Irwin. A couple of years ago, my kids went through a big "Crocodile Hunter" phase where they watched just about everything he ever did. His enthusiasm was infectious, and while he annoyed me for about the first fifteen minutes I watched him, I have to admit he won me over. After a couple of viewings, I found him nearly impossible to dislike.

I'm also not among the culture snobs who will sniff about how overdone the coverage of his death is. In my experience, most people who prattle on about how some celebrity death is receiving "too much attention" while "more important things are happening" are usually merely flailing to display some imagined, desperately desired, above-it-all superiority to the rest of us.

To be honest, I've always wondered why the reaction to a celebrity death mystifies some people. Yes, police officers and fire fighters do more important work, and they die every day. But when someone well-known dies, it's someone whose face and voice we've gotten to know. Perhaps we don't really know them, but we know more about them then we know about people we've never heard of. (For instance, in the wake of Irwin's death, I've discovered that my entire family knew the names of his wife and daughter just from watching the show.) It's only natural that their passing delivers some emotional impact to us, and I'm frankly sick of having to explain this to the uber-sophisticates who incessantly whine about it.

That having been said, while Irwin's death is tragic and sad, the one thing it's not is surprising. In fact, I don't think there's another human being on earth (at least since the retirement of Evel Knievel) about whom I more often heard said, "That guy's insane. He's going to get himself killed." Everybody said that. Everyone I ever watched his show with expressed the exact same thought while watching him thrust his arm into a rattlesnake hole or parry a charging carnivore: "What's wrong with this guy? He's going to get killed."

There's absolutely no doubt in my mind that if we could bring him back from the dead for a day, Irwin would not only demand that his final run-in be televised, but he'd record a voiceover for it too: "Crikey! D'ya just see this little buggah thrust that bahb into my haht? I'm a gone-ahh fah sure now!"

I'm not making fun of him, nor am I being insensitive. I'm serious. That is exactly what he would do, and if you ever watched him for more than a few minutes, you know I'm right. Good taste says the tape should never be shown. But respect for the deceased says it probably should.

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Just The Analogy I Was Searching For

Radio host Glenn Beck on the freakish stingray death of "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin:

"It's like Tony Soprano getting whacked by a 92-year-old woman."

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Home Sweet Home

Sorry about the recent absence. I was visiting the ol' hometown of St. Louis last week. Since it's the internet, I figure it's prudent to not let every psycho in the world know when the house will be empty for a week.

While there, we visited the new ballpark, and I must say that I am very favorably impressed. It's beautiful, well-integrated into the downtown landscape, and staffed by the most helpful people I've found in any public venue ever. A concession cashier actually startled me by saying hello as I passed. Seeing me getting ready to take a picture of my family, an usher came over and volunteered to snap it for us so that I could be in the picture too. No question, I miss the old Busch Stadium. But not as much now that I've been to the new one. It's worthy of the Redbird legacy.

I was also reminded during my visit that people in the Midwest are, oh...maybe a thousand times more friendly than they are in South Florida. And there are no hurricanes there. And gas is about 30 cents per gallon cheaper. And English is the primary language. And they have White Castles.

But I'm sure I moved to South Florida for some reason. Didn't I? Didn't I?