Saturday, May 31, 2008

Obama is an Idiot

Barack Obama was at Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota.

Here's the gist:
Obama said it was his first visit to the landmark.

He did express curiosity about the filming of a chase scene in "North by Northwest," Alfred Hitchcock's 1959 classic starring Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint that included a death-defying scramble over Rushmore's presidential faces.

"How did they get up there in the first place?" he asked ranger Wesley Jensen.

"They didn't. It was a movie set" Jensen told him.

If Bush had asked this question -- the above would be the headline on every Liberal blog -- and probably a few newspapers as well. Anyone who has seen North by Northwest of course knows the Mt. Rushmore death match is on an obvious set. Does this make Obama an idiot? No. And that's the point.

Anyone who talks all the time is bound to say stupid stuff at some point -- and probably often. I do it, you do it, we all do. But Bush -- and Dan Quayle before him got no such benefit of the doubt. They would have their college GPAs researched and professors would come out of the woodworks to spout all manner of BS about their lack of intelligence.

Where's the media mockery of this obviously dumb remark by Obama? Crickets.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Harvey Korman -- Dead at 81

He passed away today. Harvey Korman was one of the funniest men alive. His zenith was on the Carol Burnett Show, but he had some great moments in Blazing Saddles and High Anxiety -- both Mel Brooks films. He and Tim Conway were one of the great comedy teams.

Here they are:

Book I'm reading now...

Fiction: The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis -- with and for my son. He's 8 so he can read it easily, but I'm there to tell him what a "teetotaler" is (for -- not by -- example). It's also a refresher for the next film after Prince Caspian and since my boyhood.

Non-fiction: War Made New: Technology, Warfare and the Course of History by Max Boot. Boot's The Savage Wars of Peace was amazing. I hope to teach a military history course next Spring semester. It's outside my official education, but it's in my wheel-house of avocational reading (I'd call myself an autodidact -- mostly) and the benefits of teaching at a small liberal arts university is the opportunity to be a "utility player" -- "jack of all trades" for any non-baseball playing readers.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Another Book Down

Thomas Hibbs' Arts of Darkness is an interesting and in depth read about film noir and neo-noir and themes of the quest for redemption. He uses Blaise Pascal's concept of the hidden God as a framework for analyzing classic and more recent versions of film noir. Basically that the quest for redemption is in films like Double Indemnity, The Matrix, and American Beauty by their absence -- like the 800 lb. gorilla in the room no one talks about. Or, in the alternative, when they do talk about it they do so imperfectly or without the rhetorical tools to adequately deal with the issues in today's world of "happyness" and shallow emotional responses to substantive issues. A very good book -- it'll make you re-evaluate some of your favorite films.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Michael Monsoor -- Real American Hero

UPDATE: Re-post from earlier this year in honor of Monsoor and all those who have given their last full measure for our freedom.

Greater love has no man than this; that he would lay down his life for his friends.

Navy announcement here.

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- A Navy SEAL who sacrificed himself to save his teammates during combat operations in Iraq will be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President George W. Bush the White House announced March 31.

The parents of Master-At-Arms 2nd Class (SEAL) Michael A. Monsoor will accept the nation's highest military honor on behalf of their son during a White House ceremony April 8. The medal is awarded for 'conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty' by a member of the U.S. Armed Forces during combat against an enemy.

"I was happy to hear Mike will get the Medal of Honor," said Special Warfare Operator 1st Class (SEAL) Tom DeShazo, who worked closely with Monsoor during the mission. "It is not something he would ever seek out or expect; but his clear decision to sacrifice his own life to save his teammates is worthy of this honor."

Monsoor, a 25 year-old machine gunner with SEAL Team 3, was providing security at a sniper lookout post on Sept. 29, 2006 in Ramadi when a grenade hit his chest and bounced to the floor. With only a moment to act, Monsoor threw himself onto the grenade, shielding three other SEALs and three Iraqi Army soldiers from the resulting blast.

"He had a love and respect for his teammates and his platoon. His nature was to complete the most difficult tasks without question," said Lt. Cmdr. Seth Stone, who served as officer in charge of Monsoor's unit during the action. "He was a fantastic warrior."

Although Monsoor died from his injuries, the two SEALs only a few feet from him survived with significant shrapnel wounds. The other SEAL and the Iraqi soldiers were either unharmed or received only minor injuries.

"Mike Monsoor exemplified the SEAL ethos," said Rear Adm. Joseph Kernan, the Commander of the Naval Special Warfare Command in San Diego. "He led by example and protected his teammates to the very end. But more than that, Mike was a brother in our family. We will honor him every day by upholding the values he shared with us as SEALs."

Monsoor is the first Navy SEAL to earn the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq and the second Navy SEAL to receive the award since Sept. 11, 2001. The other recipient, Lt. Michael P. Murphy, was recognized posthumously last October for his valor in combat alongside three other SEALs during a battle with Taliban forces in Afghanistan in 2005. Monsoor is the fourth armed forces service member to receive the Medal of Honor since the beginning of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

Monsoor will be inducted into the Hall of Heroes at the Pentagon during a ceremony scheduled April 9. His name will be engraved beside the names of some 3,401 other service members who have also been awarded the nation's highest honor. Monsoor was previously awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star (with Combat V) and the Purple Heart.

For more information about Master-at-Arms 2nd Class (SEAL) Micahel Monsoor visit

Charles Durning -- Real American Hero

UPDATE: Re-posting this one for Memorial Day from its original posting.

Charles Durning is being given France's National Legion of Honor for his service and actions World War II.

Here's his bio from PBS -- when he hosted the Memorial Day National Concert.

A snippet:
As a 17-year-old infantryman, Durning was among the first wave of men to land on Omaha Beach. During that campaign and later in the war, he was wounded three times and awarded three Purple Hearts and a Silver Star.... Indeed, his war decorations were hard-earned. Durning was the only man to survive a machine gun ambush on Omaha Beach - and he had to rise above serious wounds and kill seven German gunners to do it.

Months later in Belgium, he was stabbed eight times by a German teenage soldier wielding a bayonet; Durning eventually bludgeoned him to death with a rock. He was released from the hospital in time to fight in the Battle of the Bulge, where he was taken prisoner. After escaping a subsequent massacre of the other prisoners, he was obliged by American forces to return to the scene and help identify bodies. Finally, a bullet in the chest a few months later ended his relentless tour of duty - and began four years of repeated hospitalizations for his physical and psychological injuries.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Modern Slavery

Former Miami middle school teacher Maude Paulin and her mother Evelyn Theodore were sentenced to prison by a federal court for enslaving a Haitian girl.

Maude's plea:

"I love Simone with all my heart," Paulin said. "Unfortunately, I can't change what is already done."
More from the Orlando Sun-Sentinel:

Celestin, 22, who testified at trial that Paulin forced her to sleep on the floor and work 15 hours a day, sat quietly in the back row.

At trial, Celestin testified that she was brought to the United States from Haiti when she was 14 and never enrolled in school.When she failed to finish her long list of chores, Maude Paulin and Theodore would beat her with "anything handy," including shoes and kitchenware, Celestin said.

This is just a taste of an enormous problem worldwide. Slavery is alive and well in the world. It's not the 19th century chattel version and it's not limited to a couple of continents. It is one of the dark sides of globalization.

My colleague and good friend has a lot of slavery info on his blog over at SoCal Theologica.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A Beautiful Mind

Stephen Wiltshire, an autistic man, draws Rome panorama after one flyby.

Prince Caspian: Mini-Review

I went this morning with my oldest son and onliest daughter to see Prince Caspian. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a bit long for my 5-year old daughter though she did warm my heart by continuously -- and anxiously -- asking when the "war scenes" were coming. My 8-year old son loved it. I doubt he thoroughly appreciated the themes of justice, courage, redemption, et al., but CS Lewis probably wouldn't have expected him to and besides all that; most of the time those things are there for those who are looking -- like the Christian themes.

I noticed a couple of reviewers were worried about the watering-down of Lewis' Christian themes. Perhaps a bit, especially with the ham-handed "romance" between Caspian and Susan. Susan -- in the book -- is more devoted to Aslan than any puppy-love, but it was a few jokes sprinkled throughout the film and a brief scene at the end and it all blew over. "No harm no foul" as they say in basketball. Aslan also made few appearances and it looks like the director resisted the temptation to turn him into a plush-toy. There were moments where he could've been trivialized, but the director resisted nicely enough. Eddie Izzard had some nice moments and Peter Dinklage is out and out a fine actor.

I highly recommend it. Edmund and Lucy especially shine and the action scenes -- including a single combat scene -- were really well done.

Interview with Chief Judge of CA Supreme Court

From the LA Times -- Chief Justice Ronald M. George talks about his majority opinion granting gays the right to "marry" in California.

A revealing bit:

George said he had voted to void the marriage licenses because he did not think they should be "in limbo" while the courts tackled the constitutional issues. Once he took up the constitutional challenge, he said he did not permit any consideration of political fallout.

"I am very fatalistic about these things," he said. "If you worry, always looking over your shoulders, then maybe it's time to hang up your robe."

Excuse me? Judges are not supposed to be too intertwined in politics, but they are not supposed to set aside all political considerations either -- especially 61% of the electorate on an issue that changes a social institution that is thousands of years old. When a judge stops looking over his shoulder -- THEN it's time to hang up the robe.

He also penned a decision overturning parental notification of abortions for minors back in the mid 1990s. Why do Republicans keep appointing judges who are not conservative? Chief Judge George keeps drawing parallels with the "plight" of gays and the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 60s. I won't rehash the logical holes in that comparison here, but it does highlight the problems a judge can cause when he becomes a crusader instead of a neutral arbiter of real controversies. This decision might be a continuation of our slow decline into a totalitarian state if we don't wake up. His view, you see, is superior to the people's because he has "evolved" "progressed" even. The time was right for him to substitute his views for ours.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

I'm Sure Obama can talk with this guy

Dr. Ibrahim 'Alloush, a Jordanian University lecturer, tells Al-Jazeera that suicide bombers should wear small nuclear bombs when going to Israel. Here's the video clip... It is transcribed at MEMRI as well as captioned in the video clip.

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) is an invaluable resource for videos, books, etc. translations on the lunacy and hatred coming out of parts of the Middle East.

Friday, May 16, 2008

No Spit

No one knows the day or hour.

Dude dies during a spitting contest. That is a Darwin Award nominee for dumbest way to die.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Judicial Fiat

The California Supreme Court today declared gay marriage to be legal, or rather that limiting "marriage to a man and a woman was against the Equal Protection clause in the California Constitution. Gay unions is really besides the main point. The point is -- who is better suited to judge what is right and moral in a society? The "people of California" (who voted 61% to 39% in favor of Prop 22 in the year 2000 which defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman) or 4 appointed Justices who overturned the vote of millions of Californians with the stroke of a pen.
Hopefully this is a bridge too far and folks will wise up. This is going to ramp up Constitutional Amendment talks at the state and federal levels. And who can blame those of us on the conservative side? Why should we trust judges who ignore the mandate of the electorate on controversial issues? Constitutional amendments scare me because tinkering with the document is always dicey (law of unintended consequences and all that), but judges cannot be trusted to use judicial restraint.

Here's the opinion from the CA Supreme Court.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Art, Redemption, Limits

I posted the following on one of my favorite sites Libertas, a conservative film site. They are remaking a Harvey Keitel film called The Bad Lieutenant from the early 1990s. Keitel plays a drug and sex addicted detective who is investigating the brutal rape of a nun. Throughout the film there are recurring themes of redemption through Christ for Keitel's character and he appears to be redeemed by the end. The depiction of the journey earned every bit of it's NC-17 rating -- with graphic sexual material, language, and violence. The question was whether the theme can redeem the filth. I think not. I have no problem with the theme of The Bad Lieutenant or even depicting him sinking low (which he does). That is a realistic tale and common to quite a few Christians who fell to the bottom before Christ saved them. The visual depiction of the behavior is needless. Such depravity can be depicted (or perhaps suggested) without graphic simulated sexual acts. Anyway -- here was my response over there (edited a bit):

Christians don’t usually object to subject matter. The depiction of it is another matter. I can contemplate Christ being tempted to come down off the cross to live a “normal life”, but I don’t need to see him having intercourse with Mary Magdalene visually depicted to get the point. I get that The Bad Lieutenant was “Bad” but I don’t need to see him masturbating in front of a couple of girls to get the point. Such graphic depictions are actually infantilizing and condescending to the audience. It screams — “This guy is a pervert and since you are too stupid and I’m too lazy to show that artfully I’m going to show him actually masturbating in front of the girls. Get it? Get it?” It was shocking in Midnight Cowboy perhaps in 1968. It’s disgusting to see in any case and there are myriad other ways to get the point across.

I agree — the theme of The Bad Lieutenant is very redemptive and Christian, but in a Monty Python and The Meaning of Life sort of way where John Cleese’s teacher actually has sex with his wife in front of the students for sex education. The message of The Bad Lieutenant is redemptive (for those who are attuned to it), the depiction is carnal (where everyone is attuned to that) and overwhelms the message.

We are in the world not of the world.

I debate internally a lot about the boundaries of art and showing graphically problems like human trafficking and the sex slave trade, drug addiction, etc. That using irredeemable methods to redeem the world would be off limits seems to me to be a given. Pornography is obviously off limits and asking real people to get naked and get in sexual positions simulating sexual behavior would seem off limits. Language? Violence? You can't make a decent war movie with "shucks" and "darns" and part of the impact of Saving Private Ryan and Spielberg's tour de force D-Day landing opening was its graphic brutality highlighting war's gruesomeness. The debate as to the limits, utility, and righteousness of theme, method, narrative, etc. in art goes on and on.

Apropos of Nothing -- Darth Vader: Bluesman!

This strikes me as exceedingly silly. Of course -- if a Star Wars character could sing the blues -- it would most likely be Darth Vader -- perhaps post Return of the Jedi Luke. Takes off about 40 seconds in.

h/t: BoingBoing and YouTuber Billyfaithfull

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Semper Fi

The SF Chronicle via SF Gate, in a story that must drive them crazy, reports that the U.S. Marines met 142% of its recruiting goal. All other services also exceeded April recruiting goals. It is an AP Press Report, but they're just as unhappy.

Reporter Pauline Jelinek's conclusion as to why:
Recruiting is easier in a slow economy, which limits other job possibilities that are available. But officials also noted that the Army and Marines have added recruiters as well as bonuses and other special benefits to attract more recruits in the midst of the unpopular war in Iraq.

That's right -- the first sentence of that paragraph is her "reporting" -- not a quote from a Code Pinko. Nice writing Pauline!

I guess school wasn't an option since they're too stewpid for the vast -- and cheap -- array of community colleges and tech schools available for these great unwashed.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day!!

To Paige -- the mother of my children, the love of my life, and my best friend.

Mother's Day

How better to celebrate Moms than to give money so that poor (and disproportionately minority) women the tools with which to extinguish the life that makes them "Mom"?

Planned Abortionhood is evil.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Christian? Believer?

How about "lost" and a "heretic"? A Canadian pastor, Gretta Vosper, of the United Church in Canada has moved beyond Christ and "Christianity". They are so "last 2 millennia" I guess.

The United Church is a union of Methodists, Congregationalists, and most Canadian Protestants and is the largest mainline Protestant denomination in Canada. This is sign #3,789,490 that Western civilization -- and Christ's church, in particular -- has lost its way. Pray tell? Why does Rev. Vosper think Christ is out of date?
Though an ordained minister, she does not like the title of reverend. It is one of those symbols that hold the church back from breaking into the future -- to a time "when the label Christian won't even exist" and the Church will be freed of the burdens of the past. To balance out those symbols of the past inside West Hill, there is a giant, non-religious rainbow tapestry just behind the altar and multi-coloured streamers hang from the ceiling.

"The central story of Christianity will fade away," she explained. "The story about Jesus as the symbol of everything that Christianity is will fade away."

Why surely she'll suffer church discipline. No Protestant denomination would put up with such shenanigans and outright heresy from one its pastors. Not so fast. Here's the head of the United Church of Canada:

The head of the United Church of Canada, David Giuliano, who went to divinity school with Ms. Vosper 20 years ago, said if he felt the way that she does, he would not be a minister. But it is not his job to condemn, he said, and the church is structured in such a way that complaints have to come from the congregation before any action can be taken. And so far there have been no complaints. He also sees the United Church, considered the most liberal of the mainline Protestant churches, as broad enough to encompass a wide range of theologies.

Even Rev. Giuliano agrees that the name Christian -- which carries the baggage of colonialism and other ills -- should probably be phased out. Instead, he would replace "Christian" with "Follower of the Way" or "Follower of Jesus."

Perhaps Vosper would embrace such terms to mark her belief in Christ? No so fast again!

But it is an absolute certainty that Ms. Vosper would not go for "Follower of Jesus."

Ms. Vosper does not believe in the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, the miracles and the sacrament of baptism. Nor does she believe in the creeds, the presence of Christ in communion or that Jesus was the Son of God.

In With or Without God, her book that was formally launched this week, she writes that Jesus was a "Middle Eastern peasant with a few charismatic gifts and a great posthumous marketing team."

She sees religion as needlessly dividing us. We could all get along if we'd just give up our Christ and cross-carrying ways I guess. "Imagine there's no Heaven," as John Lennon said. I know Canada is more European than Europe in many ways, but this is, of course, both outrageous and unsurprising. We are in for a reckoning -- spiritually and culturally.