Monday, June 30, 2008

Radiohead and Romantic Art

What hath Radiohead to do with Gericault and Goya? Got me -- I was just tooling around with ProShow Gold. Actually -- the latter prefigure the former somewhat. Song: Radiohead's Pyramid Song. Most of the art is from Goya's Black Paintings and Theodore Gericault.


Saturday, June 28, 2008

Books into Movies

Dirty Harry has a great thread up on Top 5 Books We Want Made into Films. Not wanting to hijack his thread; I'll expand a bit on my list here, with links.

1. The Wolf and the Buffalo by Elmer Kelton (What Larry McMurtry wishes he were after shooting his wad on Lonesome Dove — a great book, but Larry's lost it — Kelton is a REAL West Texan.

2. Lord Grizzly by Frederick Manfred — this would be riveting, but quiet. Based on Hugh Glass the greatest of the mountain men. This would make Jeremiah Johnson seem tame and - gulp -- revisionist by comparison.

3. Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan. I loved this book as a boy and bought it for my son. Peter and his friends sled Norway’s gold right under the noses of the Nazis. War, bad Nazis, and heroic boys doing men’s work. This would be B.O. gold. I cannot stress enough how much I loved this book.

4. TR: The Last Romantic by H.W. Brands… Teddy Roosevelt really needs a biopic or an HBO miniseries a la John Adams.

5. In the Presence of Mine Enemies by Capt. Howard Rutledge. Harrowing autobiography of Rutledge and his 8 years in the Hanoi Hilton (1965-1973). He rediscovered his faith in Hanoi. In the midst of his torment and torture (today's Gitmo naysayers should read this) he remembers the hymns of his youth and scriptures come back to him little by little. Christ -- the Comforter -- really comes to him. It's out of print I believe, but here's the Amazon link and a jpg of the cover.

Others I'd like to see...
6. Augustine's Confessions -- also could make a great biopic.
7. Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy. OK -- maybe just a biopic of Boethius with the Consolation as a backdrop, etc.
8. Anonymous... Life of King Alfred the Great, education, Vikings, and burned cakes....
9. Song of Roland -- could have extra gravitas given our current struggles.
10. The Book of Nehemiah -- under-read book of the Old Testament. Nehemiah risks it all to ask the King of Persia for a "favor" and to rebuild walls of Jerusalem. In today's biblically illiterate age (and that's just even as literature, not to mention the Truth) this might not sell, but it could be a great movie.

UK: Big Brother -- not the TV show

I'm not really afraid of Orwellian government -- especially here in the radically individualistic and decentralized United States, but this is a bit creepy -- especially from the cradle of our Common Law, the beloved Magna Carta, and all around cultural great great great grandfather....

The spread of Closed-Circuit TV around Britain to "combat crime" is apparently great to scope out the callipygian women of the British Isles. Nice. Here's the story from the Guardian.

Just who are these people, these swelling legions of unelected, ill-qualified monitors who wield such extraordinary power in our surveillance society? Clarification in one case came last year, when the civilian in charge of a Worcester police station's surveillance team was suspended after detectives found, among one day's footage, a 20-minute sequence of close-ups of a woman's cleavage and backside as she walked oblivious through the streets. Whether the woman ever discovered she was the star of a kind of pervert Truman Show is not recorded. But the offending monitor escaped with a warning and was - unbelievably - back in post within weeks.

In some city centres, such as Middlesbrough, speakers have been put on the cameras, so that those monitoring can interact with potential miscreants. Let's hope these remote bossy boots imagine they're involved in some high-level negotiation, in which they talk down a teenager from his decision to drop a hamburger wrapper on the pavement.

Western civilization is in trouble.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

SCOTUS: Heller Ruling

Some great news today from the U.S. Supreme Court. SCOTUS affirms that the 2d Amendment protects an individual's right to keep and bear a firearm just an hour so ago in the Heller case. The opinion is here. It was a 5-4 decision with Justice Scalia writing the opinion. The breakdown was predictable with Breyer, Ginsburg, Souter, and Stevens dissented.

Here's the last paragraph:
We are aware of the problem of handgun violence in this country, and we take seriously the concerns raised by the many amici who believe that prohibition of handgun ownership is a solution. The Constitution leaves the District of Columbia a variety of tools for combating that problem, including some measures regulating handguns. But the enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table. These include the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home. Undoubtedly some think that the Second Amendment is outmoded in a society where our standing army is the pride of our Nation, where well-trained police forces provide personal security, and where gun violence is a serious problem. That is perhaps debatable, but what isnot debatable is that it is not the role of this Court to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct.We affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Venezuela's "The System"

Not so fast... it does NOT refer to what is no doubt Hugo Chavez's labyrinthine gulag system, but to a system of educating Venezuelan in classical music -- beginning at age 3.

A little taste:

It is known as "El Sistema" — the National System of Youth and Children's Orchestras of Venezuela — and it's becoming a model internationally for getting children excited about classical music.

Daniela's orchestra of 6-to-12-year-olds spends afternoons rehearsing Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 and Merle J. Isaac's "Gypsy" Overture in the shade of a mango tree that towers over a colonial-era courtyard.

Many students come from humble families who otherwise couldn't afford instruments or formal training. A cement plant and chicken farms are the biggest employers in this small town, but music is giving the children a new direction.

The System was begun in 1975 and has been financed by successive governments since then. It was born as the dream of a visionary economist, musician and former congressman, Jose Antonio Abreu, who was driven by a conviction that all children should have access to a quality musical education.

Today there are some 150 youth orchestras and 70 children's orchestras in Venezuela. The System involves more than 250,000 pupils, extraordinary for a country of about 27 million people.

This began in 1975 -- very pre Hugo Chavez. It sounds intriguing and I find it interesting that Venezuela is encouraging this when in the U.S. the trend is away from so-called "extra-curriculars" -- or should I say non-sport extra-curricular activities -- arts in particular.

In today's world where the Beatles are the equivalent to Beethoven in artistic quality it's no wonder classical music ("classical" in the broad sense) is not valued by the majority. I know the difference between high and low art, but a broader array of folks appreciated Handel, Mozart, Purcell, et al. than do today. The lack of funding of the arts in public schools is just example #34,678 of how are educational system is failing our children.

It's sad that Venezuela gets that and we don't -- sad for the U.S. I mean. For the Venezuelans -- I hope they continue to cling to and foster this heritage. With Chavez in charge I'm not optimistic. Communists always eventually declare the West to be decadent and outlaw some or all of it. Hopefully Chavez will not be able to consolidate his rule into a "President for life" situation.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Monday, June 23, 2008

Don't Tread on Me

Forvik's Flag

This story is awesome. The tiny island of Forvik, off the Shetland islands in the UK has declared itself a crown dependency and no longer under the sovereignty of the UK, or the EU.

I forgot to mention it has a population of 1. Everyone once in awhile someone like this pops up and they're called a kook or whatever. Maybe he is kooky. I like to think he's part of a larger movement to move away from centralized statist government and back towards a more traditional social contract.

A picture of our nice new tax free haven.

Good luck and Godspeed to tiny Forvik.

UPDATE: Commenter A Forvik Citizen informs me that the above is not a picture of Forvik, but of a place called Weisal. I assume he's correct, but I assumed the media was correct when they placed the photo with the story. Mistake #1 on my part -- trusting without verifying the mainstream media.

Friday, June 20, 2008

As I said -- all things astronomy are cool

A manned mission to an asteroid... Armageddon you say? Perhaps a reality if this group of former NASA employees has anything to say about it.

Shoemaker-Levy got more people inside and outside NASA thinking seriously about the danger of NEOs. In October 2001, astronaut Ed Lu and astrophysicist Piet Hut convened a one-day workshop in Houston with about 20 asteroid and propulsion experts to discuss the possibility of deflecting an incoming NEO. Out of that meeting the B612 Foundation was formed, named for the space rock on which author Antoine de St. ExupĂ©ry’s Little Prince lived. The stated goal of the organization, now headed by Apollo veteran Rusty Schweickart, is to significantly alter the orbit of an asteroid in a controlled manner by 2015, just to show that it can be done.

Not by astronauts, though.

“I’m an old astronaut, so I’m totally for manned flights to an asteroid,” says Schweickart, who was Apollo 9’s lunar module pilot. “But in terms of deflecting one, robotic missions are completely adequate and far more cost-effective.”

Air and Space Magazine by the Smithsonian. Visiting and moving asteroids. I wish I was 15 so I could grow up and do that.

Disability Studies Program at Cal Baptist University

My friend and colleague Jeff McNair has received WASC approval for a new Masters in Disability Studies at California Baptist University. He is the most passionate person I have ever met when it comes to the disabled and the Church's mission towards them. "Zeal" is an insufficient word. CBU has been very supportive.

We also have a partnership with Joni and Friends -- a Christ-centered disability advocate group. I'm happy for him, our school, and the community at large. I'm honored to be teaching a graduate seminar in Disability Law this Fall in its inaugural semester.

Ice on Mars from NYT

I'm agnostic on the issue of extraterrestrial life -- maybe skeptical is a better word... but I love all things astronomy. So ice on Mars -- is incredibly cool and fascinating.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

John Piper on Democracy

Pastor John Piper, in light of the recent disastrous Supreme Court decision granting habeas corpus to enemy combatants, finds the silver lining. He is, of course, right.

Thank God we live in a place were human power is restrained (though we could restrain the Court a bit more). The whole thing is linked above. Here's a taste:

The Supreme Court rendered a decision last week concerning Guantanamo Bay. Unlawful combatants there now have constitutional habeas rights (protection from unlawful detention). The decision was considered a rebuke to the Bush administration and the way the armed services are doing their work under his leadership.

Here is what amazes me and awakens thankfulness in my heart to God. I heard the president from Rome speak these words: “We will abide by the Court’s decision. That doesn’t mean that I have to agree with it.”

Don’t let this go by without wonder and gratitude. Here is the most powerful leader in the world standing in public in the middle of Europe and saying for the whole world to hear that some of his decisions are nullified and his authority is curtailed and that he will submit to it.

Imagine such a thing in Myanmar or North Korea or China or Vietnam or in a half a dozen African regimes. Unthinkable.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Faith and Hope

I came across this today, from Charles Spurgeon:

"We have only waded ankle-deep in faith as yet. We though the water very cold and chill when we timorously ventured in; but having tried it up to the ankles, we have found it good and pleasant. Let us advance until we are breast-deep, yea, and deeper. Blessed is that man who gets his feet off the bottom, and swims in the stream where he has no hope but his God" (Charles Spurgeon, An All-Round Ministry, p. 28).

For more go here: The Spurgeon Archive. The archive is a magnificent resource for all things Spurgeon -- one of the great preachers of the last 2 millennia.

Tim Russert -- R.I.P.

This is a great tribute to Tim Russert from Conan O'Brien. Humor is a great remembrance.

Friday, June 13, 2008

CIty of Shadows

In the early 1990s a Russian photographer named Alexey Titarenko took a series of long-exposure black and white photos in in St. Petersburg, Russia. The showing is entitled "City of Shadows" . The subjects look like ghosts -- hauntingly beautiful. Click above for the whole show.

h/t: BoingBoing

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Cool New Guitar

I'm not a guitarist though I still like to hold out hope that I will yet -- write the latest and greatest rock riff. It goes alongside the screenplay I'll write and the best selling book (fiction or non-fiction I care not which). Learning is on my list.

Anyway... Wired Magazines blog has this new guitar from Moog. It looks and sounds cool. Here's the post.

Here's the video they have of Lou Reed, Vernon Reid, and others giving it a test run. It's only $6495 -- perfect for Father's Day.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Shaddap You Face

Looking for something else on YouTube I came across this. I haven't thought about this song in nearly 30 years. Why would I? 1. I'm not sure how this ever became a hit. 2. It is amusing, though amatuerish. 3. I love the Internet.

If they only cared for little girls as much...

as they do for pandas. I love animals as much as the next guy. OK not as much as some, but still.... Animals ain't people. It's that simple. Why is a dog man's best friend? Because he is ultimately stupid and able to be dominated by humans. I love dogs -- they should not be intentionally harmed, but neither should you have an accident with another human to avoid hitting a dog.

Raising animals to the level of humans only devalues humans.

Don't kick that wall!

I told you.

h/t: BoingBoing

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Socialized Medicine Would've Killed Ted Kennedy

Says an op-ed in the NY Post. Good reading on the coming idiocy-evil of socialized medicine Barack Obama wants to enforce/coerce. He literally scares me (and I hate the adverb "literally", but "scare" is not hyperbole here).

h/t: Dirty Harry's Place

Salute Your Solution

The Raconteurs -- I like Jack White -- my wife does not understand, but she loves me anyway.

I emphatically do NOT salute this guy's solution though.

Pork and Beans

Love this. Spot the Internet viral phenoms. Hard to believe these guys have already been around for over 15 years

The Least of These

I get so wrapped up teaching about the law and criminal justice I often forget the needs of those who are the "consumers" -- the criminals. It's easy to hate them, forget them, toss them aside on the slag heap. That's not the way -- even if it is the way of society -- to treat these men and women.

Here's a great story from John Piper of Charles Wesley witnessing Christ to condemned men in Newgate Prison in 1738. He didn't excuse their crimes and he didn't exempt them from punishment, but they were saved nonetheless.

The quote from Wesley's journal:

They were all cheerful; full of comfort, peace, and triumph; assuredly persuaded Christ had died for them, and waited to receive them into paradise. . . . The black . . . saluted me with his looks. As often as his eyes met mine, he smiled with the most composed, delightful countenance I ever saw.

We left them going to meet their Lord, ready for the bridegroom. When the cart drove off, not one stirred, or struggled for life, but meekly gave up their spirits. Exactly at twelve they were turned off. I spoke a few suitable words to the crowd; and returned, full of peace and confidence in our friends’ happiness. That hour under the gallows was the most blessed hour of my life. (Journal, vol 1, 120-123)

That is the peace that passes all understanding. Christ says it all in MAtthew 25 (NAS):

34"Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

35'For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in;

36...I was in prison, and you came to Me.'

37"Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink?

38'And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You?

39'When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?'

40"The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'

41"Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels;

42for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink;

43I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.'

44"Then they themselves also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?'

45"Then He will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.'

46"These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Michelle Obama Video Clip Rumor

I have taken down the original post about the alleged Michelle Obama "Whitey" video. I know the precious few readers out there may not know or even care, but I will do my meager part to limit the rumor. The Obamas are scary enough for real reasons -- who needs to make stuff up?

The video does not exist -- I would almost bet everything on it.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

William of Orange, Madison, Bismarck, and Bono?

United States of Africa? Perhaps Bono has a point. He argues that it could ameliorate tribal rivalries and identities thus facilitating positive change there.

He may be on to something -- and he sure seems to like and appreciate the United States.

Disabled Teacher's Service Dog Threatened

Let's all say it together now... "by a Muslim student." The student teacher needed the dog to protect him when he has seizures. Muslims think dogs are unclean animals and a Somali high school student reportedly threatened to kill Mr. Hurd's dog.

This was in Minnesota! The Somali Muslim student should be severely disciplined and expelled from school. His father ought to handle it, but I'm sure the usual CAIR lawyers and media machine will work its magic and the superintendent and principal will cave in and somehow Mr. Hurd will have to compromise while this student now learns that he can threaten even a disabled person's service animal and get away with it. Hurd was given credit for 10 of his 50 hours of student teaching in exchange (probably from his lawsuit -- which he should file if for no other reason than to bring this punk to a brighter light0.

This would be ridiculous if not true and becoming more common.

Citizen Policing

Two "civilian" men tailed, chased and caught a bank robber in Moreno Valley, CA -- a few towns over. The Riverside Co. Sheriff's Dept. arrived to finish the arrest.

According to the Riverside Press-Enterprise, the RSD said :
Sheriff's officials said they appreciated the men's work, but emphasized that police don't encourage citizens to apprehend suspects. It's safer to gather information and on an incident and any suspects and call 911, the officials said.

I understand the Sheriff's Dept.'s misgivings here, but this incident is further evidence that we can do a lot more to police ourselves. What makes it more dangerous is that most of us are unarmed and unprepared for such situations because we have been drilled to call 911 or wait for the police to arrive. We have farmed out our own safety to the government. Especially here in unarmed California -- and by "unarmed" I mean most law-abiding citizens are unarmed -- the criminals have plenty of guns.

We can do a lot of our own policing. Perhaps it's time to start rethinking public policy -- especially in this age of state and local budget crises and the coming public pension crash. We may have to do so anyway -- especially when the "Big One" hits us here in Southern California. Katrina proved that. It might save money, protect our liberty, and make us more responsible citizens.

Monday, June 02, 2008

John Piper and Fundamentalists

John Piper has posted "20 Reasons I Don't Take Potshots at Fundamentalists" over at his Desiring God Blog.

Christian fundamentalists get a raw deal. Idiots -- including many in the mainstream media -- think all "fundamentalisms" are equal. Ummm... the fundamentals of Christianity and Islam are vastly different. Hence -- we ostracize and condemn roundly, soundly and vehemently -- those who kill gays, blow up abortion clinics, etc. No mainstream fundamentalist of any renown has ever supported or advocated such acts. The same cannot be said for Islamists who are fundamentalists.

Our fundamentals are "Love they neighbor"; "blessed are the meek"; "bless those who curse you"; among many others. I no longer label myself a "fundamentalist" -- only because the culture has co-opted an otherwise perfectly good word.

Oh well. I still like Piper's list and agree wholeheartedly.

This is just awesome.

As the post says -- it's the answer to a question nobody asked.

Pvt. Ross Andrew McGinnis -- Real American Hero

Pvt. First Class McGinnis was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor today by President Bush for jumping on a grenade saving the lives of four fellow soldiers in Iraq. "Greater love hath no man that this; that he would lay down his life for his friends."

The citation reads:

The President of the United States of America, authorized by act of Congress, March 3rd, 1863, has awarded in the name of Congress the Medal of Honor to Private First Class Ross A. McGinnis, United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Private First Class Ross A. McGinnis distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty while serving as an M2 .50-caliber Machine Gunner, 1st Platoon, C Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, in connection with combat operations against an armed enemy in Adhamiyah, Northeast Baghdad, Iraq, on 4 December 2006.

That afternoon his platoon was conducting combat control operations in an effort to reduce and control sectarian violence in the area. While Private McGinnis was manning the M2 .50-caliber Machine Gun, a fragmentation grenade thrown by an insurgent fell through the gunner's hatch into the vehicle. Reacting quickly, he yelled "grenade," allowing all four members of his crew to prepare for the grenade's blast. Then, rather than leaping from the gunner's hatch to safety, Private McGinnis made the courageous decision to protect his crew. In a selfless act of bravery, in which he was mortally wounded, Private McGinnis covered the live grenade, pinning it between his body and the vehicle and absorbing most of the explosion.

Private McGinnis' gallant action directly saved four men from certain serious injury or death. Private First Class McGinnis' extraordinary heroism and selflessness at the cost of his own life, above and beyond the call of duty, are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.

Obama Racist? Update

Jim Geraghty over at NRO's Campaign Spot is skeptical of the Michelle Obama "Whitey tape". It does not pass the smell test to be sure. It sounds like something she thinks and might even say to her friends or family, but it's too perfect by half.

Where is the tape? No one has that amount of patience. Why? Because there is no tape. Make no doubt -- there's overwhelming evidence of the racism (or at least racial politics)of the Obamas already (not least of which is 20 years of membership in THAT "church"). I wish it were not so. I would hate being called a racist -- especially sincerely (as opposed to an ad hominem to intimidate or shout me down) so I do not bandy about that term lightly.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Christian persecution in UK

2 men were threatened with arrest for handing out Gospel leaflets in a Muslim section of Birmingham, England according to the London Daily Telegraph. From the story:

The preachers, both ministers in Birmingham, were handing out leaflets on Alum Rock Road in February when they started talking to four Asian youths.

A police community support officer (PCSO) interrupted the conversation and began questioning the ministers about their beliefs.

They said when the officer realised they were American, although both have lived in Britain for many years, he launched a tirade against President Bush and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr Cunningham said: "I told him that this had nothing to do with the gospel we were preaching but he became very aggressive.

"He said we were in a Muslim area and were not allowed to spread our Christian message. He said we were committing a hate crime by telling the youths to leave Islam and said that he was going to take us to the police station."

The preacher refused to give the PCSO his address because he felt the officer's manner was "threatening and intimidating".

The ministers claim he also advised them not to return to the area. As he walked away, the PCSO said: "You have been warned. If you come back here and get beaten up, well you have been warned".

West Midlands Police, who refused to apologise, said the incident had been "fully investigated" and the officer would be given training in understanding hate crime and communication.

I'd like to write "Unbelievable", but it's not. England has almost crossed the tipping point culturally it seems. I like to think -- and still do -- that the Brits will realize what decades of secularism, socialized government, and capitulation to Muslims have done to them and fight back. It's in the later rounds to be sure.

It also highlights what I think will be a growing problem for Christians in the West. Our faith is not a uniting force. It will become more and more controversial as people realize that faith in Christ sets standards. People don't like standards -- at least not external ones. Even our cultural and political allies will turn on us (or sit by while enemies do the legal and political persecution necessary) eventually. "Hate crimes" seems like an efficient means to get the ball rolling.

h/t: Instapundit