Thursday, July 31, 2008

This Guy is Sleeping on the Couch

A husband's revenge -- and a pretty good (and dangerous) prank.


video

Blaise Pascal: Still Relevant

I'm slowly making my way through Pascal's Pensees -- see sidebar at right. In between beaches, looking for houses, and other summer activities reading has been slow. Anyway... I came across this -- among other tidbits and it speaks volumes about post-modern culture; political, Hollywood, academic, et al. From Pensees # 78:
Imagination. That is the part of the human being which dominates, this mistress of error and falsehood, and all the more treacherous because it is not consistently treacherous. For it would be an infallible rule of truth if it were an infallible one of lies. But while it is more often false, it gives no indication of its quality, indicating in the same way both truth and falsehood. ....
This proud, powerful enemy of reason, which enjoys believing that it controls and dominates it to show how much it can achieve in every realm, has established a second nature in man. Imagination has those it makes happy and unhappy, its healthy and sick, its rich and poor. It makes reason believe, doubt, deny. It abrogates the senses, it brings them to life. It has its fools and its wise men, and nothing upsets us more than to see it satisfy its guests more fully and completely than reason. Those skillful in imagination are more pleased with themselves than the prudent can ever reasonably be pleased with themselves. They look imperiously on others, they argue boldly and confidently; the others only timidly and warily. Their vivacious expression often wins over the opinion of their listeners, such is the esteem those wise by imagination have with their like-minded judges.
Does that not perfectly describe many in our cultural, educational and governmental intelligentsia today? They make emotional and clever arguments that sound great and silence those who are afraid to be labeled racist, sexist -- against Change. The populace -- done a disservice by our compulsory educational scheme don't know any better and tend to buy the excess of imagination (as Pascal uses that term) as opposed to the reasonable (or rather "reasoned") one. This is neither a liberal or conservative problem though liberals tend to suffer (or benefit in the short run) from it. It has also eaten through the Church.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Tony Romo.... Dude.


Here's a great piece on Tony Romo and his lack of change over the years. Surprising and darn near miraculous given his dating of Jessica Simpson. I know what he "sees" in her. I just don't get what he sees "in" her. Maybe there's a depth there. That wouldn't be surprising if Romo's personality is really this down to earth and given the media's penchant for drama in lieu of a celebrity's mundane side.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Turkish Theater for WWIII

Here's a nice rosy piece from The Asia Times on the coming WWIII in the Middle East. I'm skeptical, but this is interesting.

Here's a taste (read the rest!):
As the price of oil increased rapidly in the past three years, Saudi influence has grown. The rapid decline of the US into a credit crisis has also prompted the need for rich friends in high places, particularly to rescue moribund banks and continue buying bonds issued by bankrupt federal agencies. It now appears that instead of a share of US banks or its corporate that "lesser" Arab rulers may be happy with, Saudi Arabia has been slowly pushing the US to capitulate its Turkish fiefdom.

After stabilizing the Islamist government, the true costs of this bargain for Turkey will become more visible. As the US Army plans to leave Iraq, it will leave in its wake an independence-seeking if not functionally autonomous Kurdistan that embraces territory in the north of Iraq and Iran as well as the eastern part of Turkey. On its western front, Turkey has already been outmaneuvered by Greece on its claims on Cyprus by using the illusory carrot of potential European Union membership.

Turkish nationalism will thus receive two severe blows in the next few years. Coalescing at the center, it is likely that Turks will turn to religion for succor, much as Pakistanis did after the creation of Bangladesh. That they will become cannon fodder in the age-old conflict between Sunni and Shi'ite forces is another matter.

In perhaps less than a decade from now, Saudi Arabia could well control and call on two Wahhabi-inspired armies on either side of Iran, and seek to deal a death blow against the Shi'ites when a convenient excuse presents itself. It is only after Islamic forces consolidate around the Wahhabi establishment that the next phase of the civilizational war against the West will begin.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Mozart Under the Stars

My Mom's in from Texas so we took in a bit of L.A. culture (it does have it!) We had a great evening at the Hollywood Bowl last night. The LA Philharmonic had Mozart Under the Stars and it was incredible. A nice cool evening, picnicking at the Bowl, and great music.

The program:

1. Overture to La clemenza di Tito
2.
"Ch'io mi scordi di te"
3.
Piano Concerto No. 17, K. 453
4.
"Exsultate Jubilate"
5.
Symphony No. 38, K. 504, "Prague"

The mezzo-soprano was Isabel Leonard. Beautiful voice, technique, etc. The pianist was Orion Weiss who was also fantastic -- fluid and commanding.

The Bowl is a MUST if you ever visit L.A. in the summer. It is a great venue, there's not really a bad seat in the house, and it's affordable if that's a concern. The views and sunsets are beautiful and bring a picnic basket -- everybody eats at the Bowl.





Wednesday, July 23, 2008

No One Knows the Day or Hour

Man is pinned to a diner counter by a car -- barely a scratch.

Here's the video. There's a brief commercial there -- it's the BBC's fault.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Media and the Academy Get Another one Wrong

Right after the invasion of Iraq in March/April 2003 Iraq was looted blind of all of its cultural heritage showing that Bush Chimpy McHitler, Rummy, and Dick Hallicheney were evil and insensitive. Right? Right? Wrong.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal on July 15 -- reports of such looting have -- wait for it -- been wildly exaggerated.
A recent mission to Iraq headed by top archaeologists from the U.S. and U.K. who specialize in Mesopotamia found that, contrary to received wisdom, southern Iraq's most important historic sites -- eight of them -- had neither been seriously damaged nor looted after the American invasion. This, according to a report by staff writer Martin Bailey in the July issue of the Art Newspaper. The article has caused confusion, not to say consternation, among archaeologists and has been largely ignored by the mainstream press. Not surprising perhaps, since reports by experts blaming the U.S. for the postinvasion destruction of Iraq's heritage have been regular fixtures of the news.

Of course these mistakes were made in good faith by objective scientists in government and academia because they care about getting it right and not grinding axes. Right? Right?!? Wrong.

Considering the political impact of such data, one would expect the experts to approach the subject with scientific circumspection, using numbers sparingly and conservatively. Too often they seem to have done the reverse. So now, as a matter of course, their method, their probity in sifting the evidence -- do they have a political agenda? -- has come into question.

It's a question that equally hangs over the deliberations of a meeting that took place recently in Dublin of the World Archeological Congress. The members reportedly considered a lengthy statement urging colleagues to refuse any military requests for a list of Iran's sites that should be exempt from possible air strikes. Finally they settled for a shorter July 11 press release. Among other things, the final press release says that WAC "expresses strong opposition to aggressive military action . . . by the U.S. government, or by any other government." The release quotes WAC's president as saying that WAC "strongly opposed the war in Iraq and . . . we strongly oppose any war in Iran" and that "any differences with Iran should be resolved through peaceful and diplomatic means."

If as scholars, archeologists take a priori public positions on political matters, what are we to make of the field-data they produce? How impartial can it be? And with their own credibility marred, who is there left as an impartial body of experts for the public to turn to?

The archaeologists' mission to southern Iraq took place in early June. Besides Prof. Stone, the experts included John Curtis, head of the British Museum's Middle East Department; Paul Collins, a Mesopotamia specialist at that museum; a top German expert; and Iraqi experts. It was conducted through the British military, which is in charge of the area, using a helicopter and armed escorts to visit the locations. They included such celebrated "cradle of civilization" sites as Ur, Eridu (the earliest Sumerian city), Warka (Sumerian Uruk), Larsa (a Babylonian city), Tell el-Ouelli (ancient Ubaid) and Tell el-Lahm (an Assyrian site).

According to the Art Newspaper article, "The international team . . . had been expecting to find considerable evidence of looting after 2003 but to their astonishment and relief there was none. Not a single recent dig hole was found at the eight sites, and the only evidence of illegal digging came from holes which were partially covered with silt and vegetation, which means they [were] several years old." Furthermore, the most recent damage "probably dated back to 2003," to just before and after the invasion when the Iraqi army maneuvered for the allied attack. (According to other experts, looting probably took place when the Iraqi army first moved out of areas near sites to counter the invasion.)

Avoid this McDonald's....

Back in April.... the British Columbia Human Rights Commission (the same outfit persecuting Mark Steyn and this man -- Ezra Levant) ruled that a McDonald's employee at a restaurant on marine Drive in Vancouver, BC had a human right to NOT wash her hands. Nice.

This one's for monkey...

Obviously -- given my huge readership -- it's for the masses.... but monkey (and thud too) will appreciate this little tidbit about his favorite Prime Minister (or his staff rather).

I'm thinking of an old joke about thinking with the right part.....

Star Wars -- Fine Art

A website -- Worth1000.com (get it? pictures words, etc.) -- hosts photoshopping contests every so often -- usually with a lot of clever and well-done entries. They just finished a Star Wars/fine art (well -- they did allow a Thomas Kinkade knockoff) contest. Below is a taste:


A lot more here.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Reason #2,341,979 to NOT vote for Obama

He will accelerate us on the road to fiscal disaster that Bush and the GOP Congress started us on with their fiscal irresponsibility. Here's a depressing essay from the Hoover Institution on The Coming Tax Hike.

I'm not an economic expert by any stretch, but I read a fair amount of history. Growing government and increasing taxes has never (or should I say rarely?) increased the standard of living or freedom of a people. Why would folks vote for Obama? I have no idea (I have some ideas actually). I'm beginning to think he is God's judgment on us. I hope Obama would read these books....

Friday, July 18, 2008

1970s

Over at Dirty Harry's Place, Harry has a post about the 1970s where he extols the virtues of the opening to The Rockford Files. I loved that show and watched it with my parents often. I, however, am partial to this opening...



I know a lot of bad stuff happened (Watergate to Jimmy Carter), but it still seems like it was the last best time to be a kid: unstructured time, the Dallas Cowboys (Steelers notwithstanding), Star Wars and great TV.

Your Hummer Sucks.

My Lamborghini LM-002 SUV will do 130 -- 110 in the sand.

The Bible is Better than "Being There"

Interesting post by Tyler Kenney over at John Piper's Desiring God blog on why we have an advantage through Scripture that the Israelites did not have vis a vis believing.

1. Scripture interprets the biblical events for us.

2. Scripture’s interpretation is inspired.

3. Scripture appeals to our inner being.

There's a lot more at the link.

Krauthammer nails it on Obama.

Charles Krauthammer expertly and eloquently summarizes Barack "Jesus" Obama's sense of self-importance in today's Washington Post.

His closer:

For the first few months of the campaign, the question about Obama was: Who is he? The question now is: Who does he think he is?

We are getting to know. Redeemer of our uninvolved, uninformed lives. Lord of the seas. And more. As he said on victory night, his rise marks the moment when "our planet began to heal." As I recall -- I'm no expert on this -- Jesus practiced his healing just on the sick. Obama operates on a larger canvas.


Self-Defence in the UK?

Interesting post (with more links) over at Samizdata on perhaps the restoration of the right for the British to use force in defending themselves. Let's hope so. When you can't beat down a burglar in your own home without fear of prosecution you are -- by definition -- not free.

Stories from Britain of homeowners being arrested for "assaulting" burglars and muggers trickle out here and there. If Brown's gov't makes this change back to the way things ought to be, then it's a step in the right direction. It's important because those things often seem to find their way stateside.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

No One Knows the Day or Hour...

This woman catches a lightning strike on camera -- close. Apparently she was not struck directly, but caught a finger arc.... She is blessed to be alive.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Don't Tread on Me

I detest speed and red light cameras. I think they are unfair unsporting and totalitarian. South Swindon in the UK has become the first municipality to remove speed cameras. OK. They didn't do it out of principle, but because they weren't receiving the revenue, but who am I to complain? Now, if only the Riverside, CA city council would do the same with our red light cameras. I never run red lights -- really -- but it is the principle. I want discretion, the benefit of the doubt -- humanity in dealings with the government. I don't think that's too much to ask.

Latest DVD... Vantage Point

I saw Vantage Point last night. Not a great movie, but a good one and Dirty Harry is right... it is a movie conservative can watch without feeling sucker-punched. There were no real statements about the war on terror -- just that it was a reality. Sigourney Weaver's character even scolds a reporter for editorializing in what is supposed to be a straight news report. I appreciated that. The movie is a bit weak on plot and character development, but it is fast-paced and there are a few twists and turns. I'd give a deeper review, but it's not a deep movie. That is a good thing. I wanted to be entertained -- and I was. How can a review get much more positive?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Can you feel it?

Football season is almost here.... I cannot wait.



1977 Cowboys Roster ... poster I had on my wall.

A note of appreciation...

I would like to take this moment to note... that one of the great and under-appreciated perks (besides 9-month contracts paid over 12 and getting paid to read books) of being a college professor is having full-time online access to the Oxford English Dictionary. All hail the OED!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Strange Carafes

Perhaps you woke up thinking, "I would love to pour my juice/wine/milk from a carafe that looks like an antler." Ok. Here you go.

Friday, July 11, 2008

End of Britian: An Ongoing Series

Jonah Golderg has all the links over at The Corner.

As Jonah says... Churchill is spinning in his grave.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Shape of Temptation

Sorry -- no cheesecake pictures here.

My friend and colleague Jeff Mooney -- an Old Testament scholar -- links to a blogpost by Tim Challies at Challies.com. The post is on "the shape of temptation" as written about by Old Testament scholar Bruce Waltke in his book An Old Testament Theology. Waltke writes that Satan tempts us the exact same way he tempted Eve -- so that encounter is our model for how temptation works.
We are as skilled in leading others into temptation and tend to follow Satan's model when we do. Here are the 5 basic steps with a taste of Tim's commentary:
1. Be a theologian. "...Satan is a theologian who despises God with every bit of his being. When he turns to Eve and says, “Did God really say…?” he brings Eve into a dialogue that opens her mind to a new realm of possibility, one she would not have thought of on her own. He knows God well enough to know what God has said and done.
2. Turn commands into questions. Satan takes the command of God and rephrases it as a question. “Did God really say?” What was a clear statement suddenly becomes hazy. Posing as a theologian he asks, “Are you sure about this, or is this only Adam’s testimony as to what God said? Are you sure? How do you know? Is this really a command? Can we discuss this a little bit? Is it possible that you misinterpreted what God said? Is it possible that there is some context here we’ve ignored?” Waltke says, “Within the framework of faith, these questions are proper and necessary, but when they are designed to lead us away from the simplicity of childlike obedience, they are wrong.” And so we see Satan raising questions of interpretation and authority necessarily designed to create doubt and confusion and to lead away from the simplicity of a childlike obedience."
3. Emphasize prohibition over freedom. "Satan carefully and deliberately distorts, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden” into “You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?” He overlooks the great freedom God gave Adam and Eve and instead overstates the one prohibition."
4. Doubt God’s sincerity and motives. "Satan casts God’s motives as self-regard rather than love. “God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” He convinces Eve that God is limiting her, that He is not giving her the full measure of humanity. He is holding back, reserving for Himself things that she deserves to know and to experience."
5. Deny what God says is true. In the final step, Satan flatly denies what is true. “You will not surely die.” The fruit of all of the doubt and the resentment is unbelief. If God’s words happen to hinder us from becoming what we want to be or from doing what we want to do, Satan convinces us that we can safely ignore them."
Tim Challies' post has more good stuff on temptation. The above is just a taste.

Satan expertly breaks Eve down, gets her to take God out of her decisonmaking equation, and it's all over but the cryin' by the time she does the same to Adam. This pattern has been followed endlessly and is still the model for temptation. That make it all the more pressing to steel ourselves to protect us from temptation (fleeing it is good advice) as well as to prevent us from becoming tempters.

The book is here:


h/t: Jeff Mooney

Nanny-State: American Style

Want to play Wiffle ball? Want to make your own makeshift Wiffle-ball diamond like days of yore? Not so fast kemosabe. A group of kids built a makeshift Fenway Park to play Wiffle Ball on unused public land and the neighbors are hassling them because of "nuisances" "liability" and "traffic and drainage". Adults need to pull the stick out of their collective backsides. From the New York Times story:

After three weeks of clearing brush and poison ivy, scrounging up plywood and green paint, digging holes and pouring concrete, Vincent, Justin and about a dozen friends did manage to build it — a tree-shaded Wiffle ball version of Fenway Park complete with a 12-foot-tall green monster in center field, American flag by the left-field foul pole and colorful signs for Taco Bell Frutista Freezes.

But, alas, they had no idea just who would come — youthful Wiffle ball players, yes, but also angry neighbors and their lawyer, the police, the town nuisance officer and tree warden and other officials in all shapes and sizes. It turns out that one kid’s field of dreams is an adult’s dangerous nuisance, liability nightmare, inappropriate usurpation of green space, unpermitted special use or drag on property values, and their Wiffle-ball Fenway has become the talk of Greenwich and a suburban Rorschach test about youthful summers past and present.

I didn't wear an official Little League uniform until I hit 6th grade -- yet I played baseball almost every warm day that wasn't footall season. Gloves doubled as bases and when we had too few players someone might be full-time pitcher or play for both teams until some other kid ambled along. Bats? Shared. Gloves? Shared. Drinks? Why out of the water tap at the park or near whatever field we played in.

Kids activities are too organized and not only is it NOT fun if you or your kid is not professional-grade amateur -- it's expensive. Hundreds and maybe thousands of dollars a year. Give kids, bats, ball, and gloves and a bit of guidance and they'll figure it out. One of us checked out Joe Niekro's book out of the library and we taught ourselves to throw knuckleballs.

Parents (and our enablers in law offices, police stations, et al.) are afraid of injury, liability, child molestors, etc. All those things are possible, but not at all probable. Even worse -- it seems to be an insidious striving for equality. Everybody has to have the same awful experience.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

2 Books Down... One Up

Just finished 2 books...



Weigel's Faith, Reason, and the War Against Jihadism: A Call to Action is a crisp little book. It packs a huge wallop in 157 pages. He outlines 15 lessons all of us in the West (the U.S. specifically of course) should draw from 9/11. He was preaching to the choir with me, put he puts things so succinctly it is a great refresher (a "call to action" as the title says). This is a great book to buy for others -- especially for those who are possible 9/11 Republicans -- Dems who are reasonable... Hitchens, Ron Silver types. Maybe not Hitchens as Weigel is a devout Catholic and advocates religion as one of the major cultural tools to fight this war. I'm using this as one of the texts in my Terrorism course this Fall.



Max Boot's book, War Made New: Technology, Warfare, and the Course of History 1500 to Today is also fantastic. I loved Boot's Savage Wars of Peace and this one did not disappoint either. I knew alot of this information already, but Boot ties it all together neatly and with great insight. Victor Hanson has a lock on culture and war, but Boot deftly deals with technology, economics, culture, etc. to show the transformation of the way wars are fought -- and how today's wars are also similar to yesterdays' wars. Suffice to say that technology is not the end all be all... good soldiering and competent officers will always be required.

Book I'm currently reading (and have had on my list for 20 years):

Monday, July 07, 2008

What's Next? Ultimate Fighting Trivial Pursuit?

I give you Chess Boxing. They've just crowned a new world champion too.



From news.com.au:

Mathematics student Nikolai Sazhin, 19, competing under the name "The President'' knocked out a 37-year-old German policeman Frank Stoldt, who served as a peacekeeper in Kosovo until recently.

The loser said he was simply too punch-drunk to fend off checkmate.

"I took a lot of body-blows in the fourth round and that affected my concentration. That's why I made a big mistake in the fifth round: I did not see him coming for my king,'' he said.

Berlin is home to the world's biggest chess boxing club with some 40 members and it is in an old freight station here that the two men settled the matter early yesterday.

The match began over a chess board set up on a low table in the middle of a boxing ring.

Stripped to the waist, wearing towels around their shoulders and headphones playing the lulling sound of a moving train to drown out the baying crowd, the men played for four minutes.
Then off came their reading glasses and on went the gloves and the mouthguards.

For three minutes they beat each other and then, when the bell went, the chess board was back in the ring and they picked up the gentlemanly game where they had left off.

It's gotta be better than watching poker. Here's a ESPN Sportscenter story on it.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Nanny-State Madness

The UK is now reaching into subjects' kitchens. Britons are wasting too much food. Be that as it may... is it really government's job to police this -- or really even deal with it? Does not PM Gordon Brown have nothing better to do?


All due respect to my sometime readers monkey and thud....

UPDATE (07/08/2008): PM Brown had a 6-course lunch and an 8--course dinner at the G-8 Summit yesterday. I'm sure he cleaned his plate. Waste not -- want not.

Terrorist: Criminals or Mortal Threat?

The New York Post gives yet another example of the difference between the average street criminal and our Jihadist Islamist terrorist foes.

At about 5 p.m. yesterday, an unidentified thief with a police record broke into a red van that had been parked at 53rd Street and Second Avenue in Brooklyn's Sunset Park for about a month, a source told The Post.

He was stunned when he looked inside - it was filled with gas cans and Styrofoam cups containing a mysterious white substance with protruding wires and switches.

The street is lined with brownstones, and there's a ballet studio and a small Muslim school. So he drove the van 15 blocks to 37th Street and parked it at a desolate waterfront location behind the Costco store and next to some little-used piers.

Then he got out and called a cop he knows from his run-ins with the law.

"He did the right thing," a high-ranking officer said. "And he possibly saved a lot of people's lives."

Another source said cops are unlikely to file charges for the break-in.

Story by Larry Celona.

I like the redemptive nature of this story as well. Don't get me wrong -- today's street criminal is no walk in the park, but even then, most are not psychopathic killers bent on destruction. This guy is probably a long-time loser, has a record and is addicted to drugs or alcohol. None of that justifies his conduct or excuses him from liability, but he's not a clear-eyed radical from the middle class bent on wanton destruction. If all else is faulty -- Bush's policy of treating terrorism as a national security issue and not a criminal justice issue was spot on.

Those Big Bad Corporations

They hate the environment and the poor -- except when they are cutting down on trash AND helping to feed poor people.

At least one grocery chain, Albertsons, has developed a corporate policy and program for donating the kind of extra inventory and perishables -- everything from computer disks to fried chicken and milk -- that used to go straight to the trash at a cost of $3,000 a year for one Eastvale store.

"The program was developed because the cost of trash fees has skyrocketed along with everything else," said Jim Gonzales, store manager of Albertsons in Eastvale. By donating all types of foods that are still good but a day past their sell-by dates, store officials hope to cut their trash expenses in half this year while helping out community members in need, he said.

Known as Fresh Rescue, the program maintains rigorous health and safety standards, store spokeswoman Lilia Rodriguez said. Qualifying nonprofits must either transport the food in refrigerated vehicles or use cooling systems and thermal blankets to keep the food fresh on its way to those in need, she said.

"The feedback from the families and groups involved has been overwhelming," Rodriguez said. "Clearly it's the right thing to do."


From today's Riverside Press-Enterprise.

Good for them... This is how free market capitalism is supposed to work. Albertson's will get fresher food at a lower cost than any gov't food program and with little to no graft I wager.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Whimsy?



I saw this on BoingBoing. I'm not sure what to say.... It's maker is unknown. Puns make me smile.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Whither the Babies?

Europe's decline is a hot topic these days. Russell Shorto has a story in the New York Times Magazine on Europe's demographic collapse and an oddly sinister concept called "lowest-low fertility". Is a PD James' Children of Men scenario on the far horizon?

In the 1990s, European demographers began noticing a downward trend in population across the Continent and behind it a sharply falling birthrate. Non-number-crunchers largely ignored the information until a 2002 study by Italian, German and Spanish social scientists focused the data and gave policy makers across the European Union something to ponder. The figure of 2.1 is widely considered to be the “replacement rate” — the average number of births per woman that will maintain a country’s current population level. At various times in modern history — during war or famine — birthrates have fallen below the replacement rate, to “low” or “very low” levels. But Hans-Peter Kohler, José Antonio Ortega and Francesco Billari — the authors of the 2002 report — saw something new in the data. For the first time on record, birthrates in southern and Eastern Europe had dropped below 1.3. For the demographers, this number had a special mathematical portent. At that rate, a country’s population would be cut in half in 45 years, creating a falling-off-a-cliff effect from which it would be nearly impossible to recover. Kohler and his colleagues invented an ominous new term for the phenomenon: “lowest-low fertility.”

There is Really Nothing New Under the Sun

Gene Weingarten, of the Washington Post, won a Pulitzer Prize (in part for "originality") for an article he wrote last year on world-renowned violinist Joshua Bell playing tunes at the subway for change. Turns out it wasn't so original. Not because he plagiarized, but because life is so wonderful and interesting.

You may like or dislike my columns. You may think I am a fine fellow or a jackass. But there is one fact you may no longer dispute: I am a brilliantly original thinker.

I would not say it if I didn't have proof, namely, the Pulitzer Prize. I won it for an article I wrote last year about what happened when a world-famous violinist played for spare change, incognito, for three-quarters of an hour outside a subway station. Playing his priceless Stradivarius, violin virtuoso Joshua Bell, a onetime child prodigy, made a few measly bucks and change. Most people hurried past, unheeding. It was a story about artistic context, priorities and the soul-numbing gallop of modernity.

...

In the days that followed, I obtained a copy of the original article from the long-defunct Evening Post. The main story, bylined Milton Fairman, was on Page One, under the headline "Famous Fiddler in Disguise Gets $5.61 in Curb Concerts." The story began: "A tattered beggar in an ancient frock coat, its color rusted by the years, gave a curbstone concert yesterday noon on windswept Michigan Avenue. Hundreds passed him by without a glance, and the golden notes that rose from his fiddle were swept by the breeze into unlistening ears ..."

We learn from this story that two of the handful of songs played by Jacques Gordon were Massenet's "Meditation" from "Thais" and Schubert's "Ave Maria." Two of the handful of songs played by Joshua Bell last year were Massenet's "Meditation" from "Thais" and Schubert's "Ave Maria." Of the hundreds of people who walked by Gordon, only one recognized him for who he was. Of the hundreds of people who walked by Bell, only one recognized him for who he was.

I telephoned Bell -- he, too, had not heard about this other street corner stunt. But, though Jacques Gordon died two decades before Bell was born, Bell knew of him. The two men had shared something intimate. From 1991 through 2001, Bell played the same Strad that Gordon had once owned, the same one Gordon had played on the Chicago streets that day in 1930. For 11 years, Bell's fingers held the same ancient wood.

That which has been is that which will be,And that which has been done is that which will be done.So there is nothing new under the sun. Ecclesiastes 1:9 (NAS)

Why Pray?

A common question -- especially for Calvinists. If God knows the future then why bother -- what difference does it make? Dan Phillips over at the Pyromaniacs' Blog has an interesting post on that.

Here's a taste:
If God knows what He is going to do, and has known since before the first tick of the cosmic clock, and if His will is settled and absolute and unalterable, then what possible impact can our prayers have? And even more to the point, what possible purpose could they serve?

I've made sufficient peace with that issue on two fronts:
  1. God says to do it (Luke 18:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:17, etc. ad inf). If I believe Him, that's sufficient in itself. If I don't believe Him, nothing will suffice.
  2. God carries out His sovereign will through means. My prayers are parts of those means (cf. Ezekiel 36:37-38). It isn't mine to divine His sovereign will, but to pursue His revealed will (Deuteronomy 29:29, and see #1 above).


  1. And his conclusion:

    Here, in one final enumeration, is what I take from this:

    1. God gives believers' prayers a significant place in His plans.
    2. We should never downplay the importance of approaching God in prayer, Biblically understood.
    3. It is the height of folly to let circumstance or human reasoning discourage us from bringing our petitions to God. In other words...
    4. Let God say "No, I have a better plan," rather than, "Since you did not ask (James 4:2b)...."

Much more in this post plus, there's always a lot of good stuff over there.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Post-Christian West

This story on Yahoo news from Adelaide, Australia on the top 10 funeral songs would be funny if it weren't so sad.
At Centennial Park, the largest cemetery and crematorium in the southern city of Adelaide, only two hymns still rank among its top 10 most popular funeral songs: "Amazing Grace" and "Abide With Me."

Leading the funeral chart is crooner Frank Sinatra's classic hit "My Way," followed by Louis Armstrong's version of "Wonderful World," a statement said.

The Led Zeppelin and AC/DC rock anthems rank outside the top 10, but have gained ground in recent years as more Australians give up traditional Christian hymns.

Stairway to Heaven and Highway to Hell are the rock anthems mentioned.

UPDATE: Robert Lindsey's comment made me think of this. It's Christian, but still...


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Devil's Pool

Now this is just too cool. Too bad it's in Zimbabwe.

Big Brother 2 UK -- also not the TV Show

Men Without Hats. Men in the UK are, in some areas -- Yorkshire in this story -- being banned from wearing hats because it interferes with CCTV surveillance. Further evidence that Western civilization is in decline.

You knew of course -- this was coming:

Where the Hell is Matt?

In 2003 Matt Harding (originally from Connecticut) quit his job in Brisbane, Australia and spent his entire savings traveling the world for 14 months. He started a site to keep contact with his family and filmed a video of himself in 42 countries doing a silly dance in front of some pretty awesome sights. Often -- he's got some local help. This is joyous. I hope it makes your day. Thanks Matt -- wherever the hell you are! Here's his site. Below is his video.


Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) from Matthew Harding on Vimeo.

h/t: BoingBoing