Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Apparently The Nutcracker 3D failed its saving throw versus suck

Not that I even knew there was going to be a Nutcracker 3D.  I prefer my trips to such seasonal fair to include the atmosphere of an old time theatre, holly and ivy draped balconies, and local school choirs serenading us with Christmas Holiday carols.  Why anyone would ever want to see a 3D animated version of the Nutcracker featuring rat-faced Nazis is beyond me.  Just writing that last sentence made me restrain myself from laughing.  I can't imagine having two precious hours to waste on such a thing. 

Absolutely awesome storm clouds

Check them out

A Note on Following

The Followers tab has been giving some folks fits.  It's hard for me to judge, since some of the things on my blog come up automatically for me.  Apparently, at least in a couple of cases, it has not worked properly.  Well, I've messed with it, consulted the sage help button, and hopefully that did the job.  So maybe that will do the job.  If not, just let me know. 

Government sponsored desecration of Christ - just in time for the holidays.

Over at the good Smithsonian Institute, there's a lovely gallery heavy on the blasphemous images, and heavier on the sex obsessed libido focused priorities of our modern culture.  The gay supremacy part doesn't surprise me.  In a country floundering economically, where millions may lose their financial lifelines, and treaties with nuclear superpowers are in jeopardy, our glorious media seems most concerned about making sure gays can serve openly in the military.  Homosexuality is, for the post-modern Left, the single most important issue after all. So I'm fine with my tax money going to such an important cause.

But did they have to add images that are offensive to Christians?  After all, we all know that when folks are offended, that should mean that the particular expression that caused the offense is hereafter deemed off limits.  Right?  Anyone?  Or does it only matter if you are the right type of person who is offended, with others not being that important?  There are so many things worth noting in a story like this: The hypocrisy of the Left, the shallow and subjective meaning of 'hate speech' and 'offensive speech', the dismal failure that was the SCOTUS's 1948 decision that brought Separation of Church and State into our mainstream national identity, but just enjoy the article.  It speaks for what our country will be when final resistance has been eliminated and the post-liberal Left has achieved control. 

An interesting review of the Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

Rankin & Bass style.  It's that time of year again when the Rankin/Bass logo will be adorning our televisions after just about every special except Charlie Brown's.  RB was also responsible for introducing me to Tolkien via its 1977 animated television film The Hobbit.  I still have fond memories of that, and try to watch it at least once each year (preferably in November, as that was the month of its release).  Of course other animated attempts to reproduce Tolkien's epic masterpiece were attempted, notoriously Ralph Bakshi's 1978 Lord of the Rings, and Rankin and Bass's own attempt at a sequel in 1980's Return of the King.

I know, I know.  After Jackson went all computerized, many immediately decided that those animated attempts were only good for blowing beer out of noses while laughing at how gawd awful they were.  And yet, call me a heretic, I've never found Jackson's films to be much better.  Sure, there are parts that are wonderful, breathtaking, brilliant. But there are also some pretty bad places as well, especially when Jackson got an itch to chuck Tolkien's story only to try to show us how much better Jackson would have done.  Well, it didn't work, and many parts of the films are the worse for it.  The same goes for the animated films.

It seems as though, to me at least, Tolkien's work was so broad and deep that nothing short of a sweeping mini-series with a box office budget could do the trick.  So each attempt will have hits, and will have misses.  This little review, from a blog I stumbled across appropriately called Black Gate, actually does an excellent job unpacking the most maligned of the pre-Jackson films, the R&B Return of the King animated special.  By the time you're done, you have to admit there are things that stand out there that even Jackson failed to grasp.  And the same goes for Bakshi's vision, too. IMHO.

Wikileaks and the Catholic blogs

Much to my surprise, and chagrin, I've noticed that several in the Catholic blogosphere are cheering on our intrepid data leaker.  My own contempt for this fellow is well known.  I dislike him and his methods because of the haphazard and cavalier way in which he is doing what he does.  I doubt that horrible atrocities will come of it, but if one innocent person should die or suffer as a result, that's one too many.  Or so the Catholic bloggers like to say when it comes to other issues.

Plus, I'll admit it.  Despite all of our hedonism, paganism, anti-Christian rhetoric, and general 'debauchery above all things' attitude, I still love America.  For all its wrong, it was never worse than any other civilization.  As countries go, it's done its best to do its best.  And sometimes that alone is a unique badge for a society to wear.  Sure, nowadays the problems are legion, for they are many.  Our government, our corporations, our apathy, laziness, complacency; our hedonism and narcissism disguising themselves as lofty principles; our general obsession with sex, drugs, and money - and the greatest of these is money - above all things; and the typical moral standard that I don't give a damn what happens to my neighbor as long as it doesn't affect me - are all symptomatic of major problems in our national bloodline.

But the promise of good is still there. And it's that promise that will be hurt along with any potential problems that could be revealed by the data leaks.  I know, it's not some global catastrophe.  But the problem is Assange's dismissive, middle finger, up yours, F-you attitude that mirrors so much of what is hurting our society in a way that most Catholic bloggers typically denounce.  Especially when such attitudes are suddenly aimed at the Church.  So following the old do unto others principle, since most Catholics don't appreciate such flagrant 'go to hell' approaches to our Church, we shouldn't cheer it on simply because it's happening to our country.  Especially - Especially! - if those same Catholic bloggers continue to reap the benefits of that same free and bountiful society. 

Again, I am not one to think the apocalypse is at hand just because Meister Assange has released all the nasty, personal comments about dignitaries' girlfriends and diplomats' opinions of world leaders.  But any harm would be bad, especially if all that these leaks do is reveal embarrassing comments based on issues we are already aware of.  If I can't do wrong that good may come of it, I surely shouldn't do wrong that nothing may come of it. Jumping on the 'leak the data!' bandwagon opens up an entirely new dimension that someday may come back and hit the Catholic Church between the eyes.  And if we whine and cry when it happens, it will more than serve us right if we were the first to yuck it up just because it happened to our own country.

Jim Tressel supports gays! Oh no!

There I am, singing the praises of Ohio State Buckeyes football coach Jim Tressel - may he coach forever - and suddenly I'm notified that Mr. Tressel supports gays!   So I did some digging, and found out that apparently he agreed to be interviewed by a local gay publication earlier in the year.  In that publication he speaks about the importance of people being treated like family, being given their equal share in the role of the team, and how he emphasises the importance of everyone coming to grips with themselves and being who they are.  OK.  And?  

Coach Tressel might adore homosexuals, support the cause, and generally believe that in terms of sexuality, there are no rules, only right.  That's up to him.  That's not why I admire him.  I admire him because he is a good coach.  And from all appearances, a good person.  As long as he is wracking up winning seasons and ensuring that there will be enough demand for Buckeyes tickets that us poor and wretched among the alumni are cast into the upper nose bleed seats, that's all I ask. 

Why did he agree to the interview in the first place?  Dunno.  If he refused, there could have been a backlash.  If he didn't personally support homosexuality, he wouldn't dare admit it, because that can cost some pretty hefty power players their jobs nowadays.  Even if he didn't support gay rights, what would he say?  He wouldn't accept a gay player?  That would be the end of his career no matter how many national titles he had under his belt. One of the enduring myths of our time is that homosexuals as a whole are discriminated against.  In a few legal areas maybe, in some parts of the country, probably.  But nationally, the ball is in their court and if you work anywhere that isn't a right wing or conservative religious organization, you had best keep any non-supportive thoughts about homosexuality to yourself.  I'm of the belief that there are three groups of people in our country when it comes to the issue of homosexuality:  There are those who are against it, there are those who support it, and there are those who are against it but for various reasons - not the least of which is strong social intimidation - would not dare admit that they reject it. 

So who knows? Whatever his mindset, that's between him and his God.  I admire him for his character, his honesty, and his prowess as a coach.  I am perfectly able to disagree with someone, even on important issues, and still admire them in other areas.  That's something I'd like to see a little more of from the gay community, truth be told.

There seems to be about 150 billion things in the world that I care about, and Lady Gaga has yet to make the list

This is why.  I read this and realized it isn't hard to believe that in another hundred years the civilization that was once the cradle of human rights, equality, and freedom will be a thing of the past.  Of course given the rhythmic caterwauling that passes as modern music, it's almost unfair to pin it all on her. Still, their empty, sex obsessed pontificating is about all our cultural icons have to offer, and even that appears to stretch their insights to the breaking point. Sigh. Never in the field of human history have so many said so little about so much.  

Monday, November 29, 2010

On a lighter note, this always brings a smile to my face.

Sometimes you've got to love the Internet.

Irvin Kershner has died

Like Nielsen's death, Kershner's passing more or less brings up memories of times gone by.  As several of my posts suggest, I'm a person prone to bouts of nostalgia reflux.  I couldn't tell much about Kershner, except he directed the only Star Wars movie that I never saw in theatres.  Owing to family issues of the day, and a general growing away from the youthful frenzy of the halycon days of Star Wars mania, I just never got around to it.  The most I did was look through a comic that someone bought me, and decided I would see it the first chance I got.  That chance came years later with the advent of a snappy new invention called the home video recording system.  Since that time, The Empire Strikes Back has become my favorite of the series.  And rightly so.  George Lucas, a genius of storytelling and imagination, and no shake as a techno-geek, was nevertheless on the shaky side of directing.  His early attempts, American Graffiti and of course Star Wars, did well almost despite his directorial demands, rather than because of them.  This tendency is best revealed in that pile of cinematic excrement commonly known as 'the Prequels'.  Thankfully, for the much anticipated sequel to the - then - biggest blockbuster of all time, Lucas stepped aside and let Kershner take over. And the film was all the better for it.  Because the movie brings up memories of a time when the promise of a never ending Star Wars series was still ripe, and makes me remember a period just before the explosion of hormones that would take my mind to less space oriented topics, I have to say thank you Mr. Kershner.  You left me with a quality piece of art that I can enjoy time and again while thinking of pleasant times.

RIP Leslie Nielsen

For my generation he was the affable buffoon from the Naked Gun series and Airplane.  He actually had his serious side in the early days, but gradually moved over toward comedy as his life, and career progressed.  For my part, I first remember seeing him on a television showing of The Poseidon Adventure, as the hapless Captain Smith wannabe.  So it came as a shock to me, who first saw him in such a serious and stand-up role, to see him become the fodder for adolescent comedy everywhere in the 80s.  RIP Mr. Nielson, you made people laugh.  And in a world of so much sorrow, that was a wonderful gift.

When it comes to American politics...

does anyone else get the sneaking feeling that the peasant class has become the rope with which our party leaders play tug-of-war?  So unemployment benefits are set to expire - again.  I realize there are philosophical issues here. I realize there are those who abuse the system.  I realize there are those who through no fault of their own cannot get back into the workplace. I also realize that many American corporations would gladly screw the American worker if they could do so and still make a buck.  With all of that, couldn't our leaders agree to keep the money flowing to those who need it, understanding there will be those who abuse it, and then set to work before next cycle to make sure a final decision is made and solution found so they don't have to lament the absence of a clear strategy for paying the benefits?  Instead I'm getting the feeling Washington is a bunch of kids kicking around an anthill and chuckling as the hapless insects scurry about trying to save themselves. 

THIS is what the Pope said about condoms

Jonah Goldberg eloquently explains what the rest of the MSM failed to grasp.  He also does an excellent job smacking down the ignorance and stupidity that often masquerades as thoughtful criticism of Catholic beliefs.  Well done Mr. Goldberg!

Muslims are dying by the millions in America!

Or you would think so.  According to this story, Muslims in Oregon are pleading for protection in the wake of a young Muslim's attempt to slaughter families at a Christmas Holiday Tree lighting celebration. As I asked here a month or so ago, would someone please show me the evidence that Muslims have anything to fear from Americans?  Has there been rivers of blood flowing from the hapless victims of rampaging hordes of American racists?  Have Mosques been destroyed, or attacked by gun toting murderers?  Have Imams been killed, their women raped and murdered?  Thank the Lord, no.  During the Media's frenzy over the NYC Mosque debate, we were told then that violence was rising all across the land.  Where are the stories?  The only story was that 'violence' was on the rise.  Except for that strange case of a liberal peace worker attacking a cabbie in NYC, and the arson against the Tennessee Mosque, that admittedly looks aimed at the Muslim nature of the site, I can't recall anything. 

In my own neck of the American woods, there have been no stories of attacks or violence against Muslims since a few cases of vandalism shortly after 9/11.  Other than that, nothing.  Local churches have had more violence against them in the last ten years.  In fact, to make sure we don't target Muslims, we have allowed our government to frisk young children and assail little old ladies in our attempts to keep our country safe, despite the stunning lack of violence done to our country by young children and little old ladies. All of this lest we single out those who feel threatened despite our lack of doing anything to threaten them. 

Yes, there was a fire at the Mosque where the attacker worshipped.  That should be investigated.  Those who burned the Mosque - assuming it was deliberate, which it probably was - should be caught and punished.  There is no reason for that.  However, why must every case of anything to do with anything Muslim come back at the entire country as if the US is a nation full of 'knuckle-heads' bent on destruction and murder?  For me, I'm proud of the restraint shown by Americans since 9/11.  Remember, the biggest killer of Muslims in the last 10 years has been Muslims.  Even counting our military presence in the Middle East, Muslim on Muslim violence has still outdone anything we have done by way of our worst policy decisions.  Here at home, it's been even better for Muslims.  So get the folks who did the crime, and for the love of God, stop turning it around as if America is this hell-hole place of terror for Muslims all across our land.  You really want hell hole of terror?  Then you need go no further than any one of a collection of Muslim countries and talk to those religious minorities living within their borders.

I'm no economic expert, but the idea that China and Russia agree to renounce the US dollar

... does not seem to be a value neutral decision on their parts.  Of course we are assured by 'experts' that there's nothing to see here.  And if this occurred in some sort of vacuum, a void where nothing has happened one way or another, I might just ignore this particular development.  But it hasn't.  Each week, each day, there is something else that slowly reveals an emerging picture of a post-American world about which the leaders of various countries (ahem, China, Russia) appear more than gleeful.  Americans, meanwhile, continue to embrace the ostrich as our totem animal of choice, and hope that by blaming ourselves and thinking happy thoughts about everyone else, in 20 more years we'll still be buying our widescreens, our IPads, and not a damn thing will have happened to change any of it.

Pray for the Church in Ireland

Ireland has been trying to catch up with its post-Christian European counterparts in the last couple decades.  The wave of scandalous revelations on the part of the Church has only helped the cause.  Pray that the Church gets its act in gear, makes the right decisions and adheres to the right priorities, and that those in Ireland will see the Light and not follow their continental cousins down the path to ruin. 

Working out the Blog Bugs with Conan

I've just been informed that there are still issues with the Followers tab.  Still giving folks an error.  Don't know what to do about it, just keep trying.  No doubt there are countless billions trying to get it to work, so I'll do my best!  Maybe with some hard work and perseverance, I'll figure it out (or if anyone has a clue why it might cause problems, feel free to let me know).  In the meantime, speaking of hard work and perseverance in the name of my blog, I'm no Conan fan, but this series of commercials makes me laugh:

The ultra-liberal Southern Poverty Law Center labeled as a hate group...

by me.  After all, what is closer to genuine hate?  Holding an opinion about homosexuality that fails to conform to the dogmas of modern progressivism?  Or considering anyone who advances ideals about homosexuality with which you happen to disagree a hate group?  The tiresome, yet effective, tendency of the Left to declare evil anyone who fails to conform to liberal groupthink is becoming troubling at best.  Simply because many on the Left desire to put teeth in their proclamation of moral superiority, one has to oppose their efforts almost on the principle of freedom of conscience and speech.  Even if you agree with their stances on such issues as homosexuality, anyone with a shred of consistency must be compelled to stand up and say enough, people can actually be free to reject liberalism and not have the label 'hate group' hung around their necks.  After all, this is not yet the United Soviets of America.

Crossbow Arcade Game

There's something that ages you when you watch a YouTube video of an arcade game you played in college.  Speaking of memories, my friend Kelly and I also braved the famous Northland Mall crowds of northern Columbus, Ohio that same Christmas break in 1985.  Despite police warnings about the crowds, we went down to watch a movie.  I believe it was Jewel of the Nile.  While waiting, we pumped about 20.00 worth of quarters into this fun little video excursion.  As usual, I was the weak link of the chain, and usually the reason for the need for extra quarters.



I guess YouTube will have to do. The arcade game, like the arcade and the mall that housed it, has long since passed from the scene.

How Spies Like Us became an annual December ritual

Funny how sometimes we just do things because they evoke some memory of the past.  My own experience is that if you try to reproduce a splendid time you had on vacation, or a cruise, or a concert, or anything, it isn't so easy to do.  Go back in a couple years and you might have fun, but you'll probably never reproduce the 'magic' of that first time you went here or did that there.  Yet there are some things I find myself doing every year simply because they're part of my collective memories.  Many of them have developed since I was married, and others since we've had kids.  Some of them have been adjusted to the new demands on time that jobs and growing kids can place upon our schedules.  But some of them manage to find their way on my yearly calendar, if for no other reason than I've always done it.

Take my annual viewing of the 1985 comedy Spies Like Us.  There's not really anything special about the movie.  It's OK.  Some of its humor is there, some of it more or less has gone the way of parachute pants.  Truth be told, I don't particularly like the movie that much.  The first and only parring of Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd seemed as much miss as hit.  Yet since the advent of DVDs and its full screen release, I bought it and have watched it every year in the first week of December.

Why?  Because I first saw it in the first week of December in 1985, toward the end of my freshman autumn quarter at Ohio State.  School wasn't out yet, but a few friends who lived on campus began filtering back home on weekends.  I stayed at home and commuted to a local branch of OSU for the first two years, so I was already milling about, waiting for my former classmates to return with their stories of college life.  The first week of exams was over and since he was done, one of my best friends from childhood, named Kelly, came back that weekend.  As usual, I had exams until the last day of the quarter.  Nevertheless, he was home, our first foray into college life was coming to it seasonal conclusion, and I was anxious to do something with my old buddy.

That Friday night, after stopping by the home of our karate instructor Dale Beam (having moved to Columbus, Kelly had stopped his lessons, but I was still involved), we went to nearby Marion, Ohio to see a movie in the Southland Mall movie theatre.  The movie we picked was Spies Like Us.

Apart from remembering the scene in which Bob Hope makes a cameo, and otherwise thinking it was pretty stupid, I don't remember much of the movie.  Nor do I remember much from the rest of the evening.  I don't remember what we said at the Beam's home, nor do I remember anything else.  Yet for some reason, I've always made sure I watch Spies Like Us sometime around the first of December.  I lift a cold one, kick back, and let the general flavor of that Reagan era, late Cold War comedy lift me up and take me back to pleasant memories.  Even if I can't remember what they were, something inside me says they were happy times. 

Perhaps it's because I'm not trying to reproduce an entire event, or trip, or vacation, the annual ritual works.  There are other things I remember from that Christmas breaks way back when.  There are other memories, particularly from fall and winter, Christmas and December, that flood my mind at different times and in different circumstances.  There are other movies, various songs, smells, weather, sunsets, games and school specials that may ring a bell.  But for some odd reason, watching a movie I don't particularly care for at a given time each year brings back a flood of memories and a chance to remember life from a simpler time.

There's not really a spiritual application here, though I'm sure more clever writers could get one out of it.  Nor is there a link to some story in the news or some crisis in the Middle East, or an attempt to say how ignorant we were of areas like Pakistan in 1985.  It's just something I was thinking about while looking through our DVD case to find the movie.  It's what makes us people, I suppose, and I'll bet I'm not the only one who has those strange, quirky things that when done every so often, bring back memories of people gone on their own ways, times long past, and a hint of yearning for a time that nostalgia alone can satisfy.  So here's to us Kelly, hope life is treating you well, wherever you are.  I'll think of all those times we had in a few evenings when I sit down and watch this stupid comedy from another world, and another time, all those years ago.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

We're on the brink of War!

The war on Christmas that is.  Yes, it's that time of year again, when Conservative groups insist there is a War on Christmas.  I'm of two minds about this whole thing.  On one hand it seems like one big pain in the butt.  Fact is, Christmas has always been part religious, part reason to party.  This goes back a thousand years, possibly two.  There has long been a tendency to embrace our inner hedonism at this time of year while Church leaders desperately try to emphasize the religious aspects.  That age long battle has ebbed and flowed through the centuries.  In America, the biggest threat has apparently come from the rise of our retail industry.  As consumerism and commercialism elbowed their way into the season, a growing intolerance for a faith based on the humble beginnings of a baby born in a manger started to show.  By the early to mid 20th century, let's face it, most new Christmas songs were long on chestnuts, Jack Frost, and nose nipping, and short on angels, Mary, or Jesus. 

By the 70s, when I was old enough to pay attention, I could watch as television stations began to subtly change the exclusive Merry Christmas greeting with the more inclusive Happy Holidays.  Various groups, reminding us of wrongs done in the name of religion (read: Christianity), and aided by secularists who still dream of the eradication of religion from the world, gradually pushed the religious aspects of the holiday out the door.  In addition, the SCOTUS added to the fray by giving public educators the feeling that the less said about the holiday formerly known as Christmas, the better.

By the 1990s, Christmas had been replaced by Holidays, that baby was occasionally talked about but never mentioned by name, Holiday Pageants were all the rage in schools, and most stores were happy to hang 'Seasons Greetings' across their doors.  So what happened? Why all of a sudden is there this 'war'?

FOX News maybe?  Perhaps, though FOX was around when the secularization was already well under way.  If I were a betting man, and I'm not, I'd bet that it was probably the decision a couple years back of a few stores and retailers to forbid their employees from saying the 'C' word.  Americans are funny, and typically rebel against overt censorship.  A store deciding to hang up a non-committal holiday banner to increase the almighty profit is one thing.  A store telling devout Christians that they are forbidden to speak the name of their own holy day publicly, even though the store has every intention on exploiting said holiday for its own god Mammon, was too much.  In stepped FOX News and other conservative outlets, and voila!  You have a seasonal guarantee as reliable as the media's annual 'Jesus was just a myth' stories.

In addition, some believers in modern atheism, which to me is more of a personality disorder than an intellectual movement, have decided to jump in and basically act like the proverbial prepubescent spoiled brat.  With giant signs more or less giving a big middle finger to Christmas (don't expect similar signs aimed at Muslim or Jewish holidays, for cowardliness is another trait in many modern atheist circles), they are adding to the flames and doing their best to be the living carpet tacks on the easy chair of life that modern atheism has become. 

So when stories like this run, which more or less comes down on the side of not much to see here, I come close to agreeing.  Close that is.  Because on the other hand, I admit there is an itch many secularists and Leftists have to just push traditionalists and Christians out the door, even if it takes the iron hand of the government to do it.  That, more than Walmart's worship of the divine dollar, troubles me.  But as for the rest, I'm not some sentimental type who thinks this is new.  Most of what the holiday has become is an orgy of greed, materialism, consumerism, and the depression, worthlessness, and hollowness that such a life brings.  I don't need a culture enthralled with such superficial tastes to help me navigate the spiritual meaning of the season.  If it happens to coincide with my faith, fine.  If it wants to choose to chuck my faith and leave me with a time for God, Church, family and friends, that's fine, too.   My only problem will be when various folks decide it's time to take it to the next step and ask Big Brother to tell me I can't express my faith freely.  Then I will draw the line.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Retailers to American Families: Screw You!

Don't expect FOX News to be pounding the war drums over the War on Thanksgiving by retailers like Sears, KMart, Toys R' Us, and others who have made it clear that when it comes to respecting the value and importance of family, what they really care about is money.  Glorious money.  Wonderful, lovely, fabulous, sing about it, worship it money.

Some retailers have, happily, resisted the urge to throw families of their employees under the bus.  For those who are creeping ever closer to swallowing up Thanksgiving as they long ago consumed that other holiday about the baby in a manger, I say a pox on their houses.  Of course if shoppers didn't patronize their establishments, they wouldn't do it.  The tendency of Americans to believe morality is only important when it affects me is a big reason we are in the mess we are in.  So as much as saving the extra buck may be important, try to think of those who just go royally screwed by the corporate establishment in order to bring you those extra few hours of saving an additional 5%. And imagine what it will be like in another 20 years.

Congratulations Buckeyes!

Congrats to the Buckeyes and the seniors on their smashing victory over that team up north for a seventh straight year.  I admit that hopefully in the future they will win, or the rivalry may lose its steam.  After so many years of losing to Michigan, only to spend the the last 7 in a row winning, the suspense is starting to wane.  Still, I can't help admit I'm loving it, especially after all those years of hearing trash talk from friends who were Michigan fans.  What will this mean for coach Rodriguez? Only time will tell.  But for now we can enjoy the moment, and look to capitalize on it before we face our bowl opponents for this season's wrap up.  Well done gentlemen.
By the way, you've got to love Tressel's typical low key response to the rankings: "There's 10 BCS teams, right?" Tressel said. "Yeah, I think we're one of those."

Wikileaks demonstrates pure evil by living it

Wikileaks, which is fast becoming the best example of consequentialism one can use today, is preparing to release yet more confidential documents.  Naturally, it's in the name of truth and exposure of grave evils.  Of course, military officials, diplomats, and world leaders have warned that there could be grave consequences from the release. The founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, naturally doesn't appear to give a damn about any innocent lives that may be lost.  Utilizing an obvious contempt for the US, and it would seem not really concerning himself about the long term ramifications, he's making a buck, becoming a celebrity, and playing up to the growing international - and national - hatred of America.  Unfortunately, he is also living the very type of reckless and twisted logic that he condemns.  There could be other ways to make the points he is trying to make.  Other ways more careful, more restrained, more cautious.  But no, he merely wishes to make a country he dislikes look bad no matter what, safe in the knowledge that those who share his apparent hatred and loathing will gladly excuse his actions in the name of accomplishing the greater good.  Catholics critical of the US's actions in Iraq and the Middle East be warned!  There are many ways to speak out against what America has done.  Supporting a man who is quickly exemplifying everything that we are warned about in terms of doing wrong that good may come of it is not the way.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

To all of my regulars - and I thank ye - I wish a Happy Thanksgiving. To my new, non-regular visitors or those who just stumble along on their way through the net, thanks for stopping by.  The best to you and yours during this season of thanks.  I hope you'll come back and help me be a better thinker and poster of profound thoughts. 

There are plenty of things to be thankful for.  Despite clouds on the horizon, which always lurk there in any age, we Americans have freedom - so far.  I can do what I want, go where I want.  I don't expect folks to kick in my door and drag me away in the dead of night.  I will go to church where I want, vote how I want, and it will all happen without violence and bloodshed.  While there always are those who would like to put an end to such pesky things as liberty and freedom for everyone who doesn't think the way they think, common sense usually prevails and keeps such things from going that far.  Hopefully that trend will continue.

As I said earlier, don't know how much - if any - blogging will happen over the next few days.  Probably none tomorrow or even the next day.  If something really happens, like a blow up in Korea, I'll watch.  Remember, I only post observations, I'm not an expert nor do I claim to be an expert or even play one on TV when it comes to such things.  At best, for now, I offer my prayers for peace in that region and for those who have already died.  Just like I pray for our soldiers in foreign lands who are fighting to keep me a free puppy here behind the lines. 

Thanks again for everyone who has come by, who has commented, and who has come back.  The blog is starting to take shape, though I'm sure things will be tweaked here and there in the months to come.  I'm heartened by the number of visits and, more to the point, the number of repeat visitors.  I'll work on the problems with the Followers tab and see about Comments services.  But for now, just bear with me, and keep on giving me insights.  I learn from the comments as much as I learn from posting my thoughts.  Enjoy the time with family, friends, and those you care for.  I'll be talking to you soon.  Till then, have a Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving Holiday.  TTFN

MSM continues to talk around the Vatican condom issue

This story is actually a little better. It allows some who are traditional, orthodox Catholics to have a say.  Obviously there is much confusion, and the Vatican spokesman's answers have not helped.  The main culprit, however, which is not mentioned in the AP piece, is obviously the media itself.  If one steps aside and looks at not only the quote from the book, but the subsequent statements from the Vatican, it's clear there is nothing really new here. Perhaps, at best, a reaching across the aisle to find some common ground from which to get the Sex Culture to see the light. The Pope is saying condoms are wrong.  The Pope is saying the modern secular take on sexuality is a mess.  The Pope is saying that someone who uses a condom is at least admitting what the secular progressive movement has tried desperately to deny: that we are moral creatures and have an obligation to others rather than just to ourselves.  But the confusion is there, at least at this point, from headline after headline from the MSM that says 'POPE RADICALLY CHANGES CHURCH TEACHING ON CONDOMS!'  This, along with endless interviews of AIDS, Gay, and Liberal activists who see this a a giant step toward changing the Church to conform to modern desires, has to be adding to the confusion.  My opinion: Ignore the media, the Pope needs to step out and say something, and assume that the Church hasn't just tossed 2000 years of Tradition out the window because of the stellar job flinging condoms at the problem has done for reducing AIDS over the last thirty years.

Coptic Christians go nuts in Egypt?

You'd think that, after reading this article from the AP.  The story left me with more questions than answers.  The whole flavor seemed to suggest that these folks were rioting, destroying property, and threatening officials even though Christians typically live in peace with the Muslim majority.  They complain about discrimination, but without one shred of documentation the AP report insists they usually live in peace apart from "occasional flare-ups of tension and violence."  What's that mean?  How occasional?  And is it the Coptics who do the mischief, or the dominant Muslim majority? 

Later, after mentioning the Church officials were not available to comment, the piece points out that officials are hesitant to approve permits for churches.  Churches get around this by applying for permits for Christian centers.  Apparently, based on anonymous government sources, this is what happened here.  The next paragraph does inform us that human rights groups say violence against the Christians in Egypt is on the rise. A representative from a Geneva rights group insists that discrimination is prevalent in Egypt.  The article then ends with a non-referenced quote that the government insists Christians have the same rights as Muslims.  How does any of this square with the AP statement that they usually live all hunky-dory in Egypt?

WTH?  So the entire first part of the article gives the impression of Coptic Christians going bat nuts and smashing car windows and trying to storm the government, with police trying to keep them at bay.  Then the rest of the article more or less paints an entirely different picture, one that the AP appeared to have missed even though it published the piece. 

Flying snakes to be padded down by TSA

Not really.  Just a cool article about even cooler snakes.  Things like this always make me wonder about evolution.  How does this evolve?  You either have everything it takes to fly through the air, or you crash.  A physicist some years ago said that the phenomenon of flight was the conversation stopper for him.  Specializing in aerodynamics, he said flight simply could not evolve.  Flying is more than having wings.  The entire structure is either geared for flying, or it isn't.  There's no in between.  Furthermore, having only part of what is needed for flying would, in all likelihood, be a hindrance to survival, not a boon.

I've often thought of that.  How could flight evolve?  How could butterflies evolve?  How do the sensory organs evolve?  I mentioned to our optometrist the YouTube video of Richard Dawkins explaining how eyes could evolve, and he just chuckled.  Why did sexual reproduction evolve?  Most college guys should suggest that's doing things the hard way, not the easier way as the teachings of evolution would suggest.   Where is all the proof?   Like I've said, I would love Darwin's theories to be taught - really taught, warts and all, and not just indoctrinated. 

Anyway, the article got my mind to thinking in that direction.  I'd love to hear answers from folks someday about just how a butterfly would evolve.  Or a flying snake for that matter. 

A West Wing Thanksgiving

I know.  The West Wing was more or less an hour long liberal version of Rush Limbaugh in dramatic form.  Still, I liked it.  Count me as one of those folks who thinks it lost something when Rob Lowe left, and I'm no Rob Lowe fan.  I think because his character was the token 'liberal who doesn't always know everything' in the show.  But I liked this episode.  Something about the president using the power of the White House to put one over on a Butterball Hotline operator seemed like the kind of thing we want in our government.  Sure, if it really happened FOX News would be declaring it a national crisis of leadership (or if it was a Republican president, the rest of the MSM would be having specials declaring it to be an abuse of power).  But that's the fun of fantasy.  What we imagine we would like in fiction would probably appal us in reality.  Nevertheless, here is the always reliable Martin Sheen and the equally enjoyable Richard Schiff (fairing much better against administrative red tape than against dinosaurs), along with the WH staff trying to enjoy the glories of all that American life has to offer:

Why I blog

As I've said, I more or less started this because some folks suggested I write about the history lessons I teach.  Not being a professional writer in any stretch of the imagination, I decided I should do something to force my otherwise lazy fingers to start putting down in words what my thoughts are on various subjects.  This keeps me at least somewhat disciplined.  Hopefully it helps me get a little better.  We'll see. 

Truth be told, most posts are just observations or thoughts off the top of my head.  Due to years of schooling, writing sermons, writing articles for church newsletters and other sources, and generally writing this or that, I've developed a rather speedy typing ability.  So I can sit down and pop off a two page reflection in about a minute or so.  I will typically do a spell check, and that's about it.  So they are often very raw thoughts.  Down the road, I may reduce the number of posts and work more on developing the ideas, as well as doing a little more editing.  Right now, the more things I write, the more folks come by to see what's here.  It's the best way I have - being an otherwise nobody that has no other avenue into the public forum - to get my blog out there (unless you visitors like to promote my blog to others - hint, hint).

But in all of this, one surprising benefit of the blog has come to my attention.  It's the comments people write.  Yes, even the ones that call me to task.  Sometimes they point out that I may have said something in a hasty way, as a visitor named Alex caught a few weeks ago.  Sometimes they give insights to me as a blogger.  And sometimes they just hit one out of the ballpark and give me something to think about, reflect on, and build on for future thoughts and posts.

Take this little gem.  I had posted on the Archbishop Pietro Sambi's call for us to evangelize, praising the emphasis on outreach that my Protestant gene often years for.  Then one of my readers, S_Cobbler, posts this in the comments section:
And yet when we show any sign of taking our morality seriously, it's called phariseeism.

Dunno whether that plays into this or not, but I think you may count me in the group that says we have to start by reevangelizing the Catholics.
I've been thinking on that since the post.  I'm still formulating a response to that.  I'll do that sometimes.  A reader some months ago asked me to elaborate on the Church's teachings on justification, and I'm still working that one out.  Despite my tendency to pop things off the top of my head, there are times when I take a little extra to make sure things are correct - especially where theology, doctrine, or history are concerned.  Things I tend to take seriously.   I'll get back to this.  It hits, I think if I'm reading it right, on a subject I've noticed since becoming Catholic.  When I'm ready, I'll post my thoughts.  But all because of this comment I've been able to revisit some ideas and think of new things, realize there are others who may agree with me on some topics, and generally (and hopefully) become a better Catholic thinker because of it. 

Bring on the comments!  They're the best gift I get from this blog, and what really has been that hidden blessing I wasn't counting on when I started the whole thing. 

P.S. This also shows that any correspondence to me, whether by email or in the comments, is fair game for any future posts.  Though in most blogs that usually understood, I thought I'd mention it for future reference.

MSM continues to report what it wishes the Pope said about condoms

As usual, Mark Shea sees the media coverage for what it is:
Is Beatification for Darth Vader next?

(ROME) In a startling change to the Catholic Faith, Pope Benedict XVI announced today that tossing people down elevator shafts could represent a first step in assuming moral responsibility "in the intention of reducing the risk of having your own son electrocuted to death before your very eyes."

The Imperial Mainstream Media Center has taken this as a signal that the Church intends to canonize Darth Vader for his saintly courage in tossing Emperor Palpatine down an elevator shaft as he was torturing his son to death with huge bolts of electric Force energy. In addition, the Imperial Mainstream Media Center has also declared that the Pope therefore means to say that destruction of whole planets, as well as the subjugation of billions of inhabitants all over the galaxy, the betrayal of his closest friends, the slaughter of the Jedi and their younglings, and his conversion to the Dark Side "don't matter". But most importantly, according to an Imperial Mainstream Media spokesman, "The point is, throwing people down elevator shafts is now formally accepted by the Church as moral behavior and Catholic need to think about how to incorporate this new development of doctrine into their lives. If you feel that throwing people down elevator shafts is the safe and right thing for you, then," says the Imperial Mainstream Media Center, "we believe the Pope means to say, 'Do it with my blessing.'"
What shocks me is how people aren't hearing what he said.  He said someone using condoms is at least - and only at the least - admitting there is right and wrong in the arena of sex.  This is obvious, yet anyone over 40 can remember a time when those pushing for sexual freedom based it on the idea that sex had no morals if it involved two (or more) consenting adults.  Of course, there has been a sleight of hand as progressives have made new moral absolutes, not the least of which is the demand for practicing 'safe sex.'  Suddenly, it looks like there are rules and regulations after all.  All the Pope said was this shows people are taking a step once again toward being grown ups.  It's still not good, and if we keep on the current path, the problems will still be there condoms or no.  But it is a baby step away from the now-abandoned 'no rules, just right' ideals which brought the sex culture in the first place. 

That's it.  That's all there is.  Just a nod, perhaps a reaching out.  It's the Pope saying, "Let's face it, the old fairy tale that 'humans are just animals, sex is natural, and therefore sex should have no rules' has gone the way of the dinosaur."  Progressives and liberals have as many absolute values about how sex should happen as any 19th century Victorian.  So here's a bridge.  At least when a person uses a condom, as in a prostitute for instance, but not limited to that of course, it admits what the Church has always taught and progressives and liberal secularists are finally having to admit - that humans cannot live in a value neutral environment, a moral void.  Human nature demands responsibility, accountability, and therefore standards and even rules by which we must live.  Great to see it.

Of course, as this article shows, each time the Vatican spokesman assures the MSM that there is no new teaching under the sun, the MSM responds with POPE CHANGES CHURCH TEACHING!, or CONDOMS ARE NOW ACCEPTABLE,  VATICAN SAYS, or POPE SIGNALS SEISMIC SHIFT IN CATHOLIC TEACHING ABOUT CONDOMS.  FWIW, I always get the hives whenever a reporter or journalist uses phrases like 'seismic shift.'  That's awfully subjective and tends to say more than is called for. 
 
All of this Vatican attempt to get the media to report what the Pope actually said, and the media politely reporting what it wants to report, reminds me of this little gem from the Onion Network a couple years ago:



Sigh.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pray for the three victims in Knox County, Ohio, and their families

Horrible, just unthinkable.  I won't go into the details, but a woman and her son and daughter, along with the woman's friend, were taken and brutally killed.  The story is here, along with their names.  Her daughter is the only survivor, found bound and gagged in the basement of the suspect's home.  One of Satan's greatest coups was getting the world to emerge from the 20th century - of all centuries - firmly convinced that evil doesn't really exist.  Things like this should remind us that it does, but that only means Good, real tangible Good, also exists.  Which is why we can pray to the Father of Light and the Lord of love, the author of every good and perfect gift, to bring comfort and peace to the families, friends, and all who are affected.  And we can lift up the souls of those who were slain and pray that they find final peace in the arms of God, a peace this world so seldom offers.  Saint Francis pray for them.

So is Al Gore lying now?

Or was he lying then?  The problem with such a confession is obvious.  How do we know he's not saying things for political reasons now?  Saying you changed your mind because of this or that belief or because of evidence is one thing.  Admitting you were just wrong is fine, though rare.  But saying you only said something that was part of your effort to save the world because of politics sort of makes me wonder - is it no longer about politics?  Or more to the point, is any of it not about politics? Al Gore is a one man circus star who is largely to blame for the amount of skepticism average thinking people have about MMGW.  Send him packing, and more folks might be willing to sit down and have a listen. 

I am NOT a Catholic blogger!

I'm a blogger who happens to be Catholic.  There are a zillion Catholic bloggers in the world, and I figure we don't need another one.  Rather, this is just a place where I can write a few ideas, sort things out, and more or less toss out a bone or two and see if anyone picks it up.  I am not a Catholic apologist, though I will comment on Catholic beliefs.  As a Protestant Minister, I didn't reckon myself as an apologist, or a theologian.  I was too pastoral for that.  All theology is pastoral, they said.  And when I do think of theology, I tend to see how it actually works in the nuts and bolts of daily living.

But more to the point, I just started this to get used to writing down my thoughts.  Being lazy when it comes to writing, and having had some folks ask if I might write on a few topics I've taught over the years, I figured this would be a nice way to keep me in practice, and who knows, maybe get a little better as time goes on.  So while my Catholic identity will lead me to jump in and comment on things in the Church, especially if my old pastoral eye detects something here or there, it may just as easily focus on the news, politics, sports, lots of history, or any one of a hundred other things that catches my mind at the moment.  And often it will be without the need to bring it back to a Catholic this or a Christian that.  Just thought I would toss that out there since it looks like newer readers are coming by more regularly and might be curious just WTH this blog is all about anyway!

Note on Holiday posting

I'll be gone most of the rest of the week.  On occasion I might pop in here to post this or that, but overall will be pretty scarce.  That will usually be the case around key holidays. 

A Thanksgiving Hymn

Churches have some thanksgiving hymns, but outside of church the only song I ever heard growing up was Over the River and Through the Woods.  We used to sing it in most of the grades during music class right about this time of year. No music accompaniment here.  Sorry, just the lyrics.  Perhaps it will bring back memories for the older folks, and the younger ones will wonder what it had to do with anything, since according to my boys they mostly know this from A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. 

Over the river, and through the wood,
To Grandfather's house we go;
The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh
through the white and drifted snow.
Over the river, and through the wood—
Oh, how the wind does blow!
It stings the toes and bites the nose
As over the ground we go.
Over the river, and through the wood,
To have a first-rate play.
Hear the bells ring, "Ting-a-ling-ding",
Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day!
Over the river, and through the wood
Trot fast, my dapple-gray!
Spring over the ground like a hunting-hound,
For this is Thanksgiving Day.
Over the river, and through the wood—
And straight through the barnyard gate,
We seem to go extremely slow,
It is so hard to wait!
Over the river, and through the wood—
Now Grandmother's cap I spy!
Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done?
Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Pope, Condoms, and Catholic Teaching: Are we confused yet?

So according to Catholic World News, Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, insists there is nothing new under the sun, at least where Pope Benedict and the issue of condoms is concerned.  You can read about it here.  The money quotes from that piece are, IMHO:
The Pope observes that even in the non-ecclesial context an analogous awareness has developed, as is apparent in the so-called ABC theory (Abstinence -- Be Faithful -- Condom), in which the first two elements (abstinence and fidelity) are more decisive and basic in the battle against AIDS, while condoms appear in the last place as a way out, when the other two are not there. It should thus be clear that condoms are not the solution to the problem.
and here:
At the same time the Pope considers an exceptional circumstance in which the exercise of sexuality represents a real threat for the life of another. In that case, the Pope does not morally justify the disordered exercise of sexuality but maintains that the use of a condom to reduce the danger of infection may be "a first act of responsibility," "a first step on the road toward a more human sexuality," rather than not using it and exposing the other to risking his life.
He's more or less saying that condoms are not the solution, while at least the awareness of the need to use a condom suggests a sense of some responsibility, the notion that somewhere out there is some moral standard that needs to be applied to sexual conduct.  This is, of course, true.  The Sexual Revolution was based on the simple notion that 1. humans are animals, 2. animals have sex because it's natural, 3. humans having sex should be natural, 4. therefore any rules or values attached to sexuality is the result of stale old religious norms and values that have no place in a hip, enlightened society.

Anyone beyond kindergarten should therefore see that all the hubbub about the need to wear condoms, the moral responsibility in wearing condoms, the possible need to hold people accountable for having sex and not wearing condoms, more or less says that those wonderful ideals that brought us the whole sex revolution in the first place are, more or less, extinct.

Of course, just as you get this tidbit, Caritas Internationalis issues this statement praising the Pope's comments.  Nothing big there, except it's difficult to see if Caritas is praising the comments because of remaining firm on Catholic teaching, or if it, like many AIDS activists and Gay Rights Groups, they are seeing them as a first step toward at least altering the teaching to fit the signs of the times. 

Meanwhile, our good friends at the Associated Press continue to follow the line of thinking that this must signal something somewhere.  In this article, it focuses on the confusion believers in my own neck of the woods are having about the statement.  So far, the general gist seems to be that those on the Left side of the issues, those who have long believed the Church needed to change some of its teachings and get with the times, are generally seeing this as great news, a bold step into the modern world.  Meanwhile, those who last week believed the Church's teachings were clear, that condoms were simply wrong and any sexuality involved in the use of condoms would be wrong, so there's no point in even parsing the words, are left scratching their heads.

This has led some to rush to defend the Church teachings in some places, particularly comments sections in some of the News pages.  Before folks end up throwing consistent arguments and solid Catholic teaching under the bus, it is probably best to wait.  Right now, if the full quote from the book is where the point rests, then it's clear the Pope is not saying anything new.  He is, as I said above, merely pointing out that in a world in which sex was peddled as the ultimate amoral recreation, a male prostitute using a condom at least shows he is aware that there might be a need for some good old moral rules after all.  Why he chose a male prostitute as opposed to any other example is beyond me.  And maybe that is where the clarification needs to focus.

UPDATE:

Updates, updates everywhere.  It seems the press is running around at light speed trying to get caught up on this story.  The obvious reason is that for some it signals the beginning, the first chink in the Catholic armor.  Beyond the ramifications of what it would mean if the Pope were to say 'Oh well, maybe condoms aren't always that bad after all', many are looking at it as just a high-five for the prevailing notions of modern sexual disease control. 

In keeping up with the Joneses, the AP has issued yet another breaking news piece on this issue.  But my first impression is that it does little but regurgitate what has already been said in other pieces.  The only new part comes from the first paragraph:
Pope Benedict XVI wanted to "kick-start a debate" when he said some condom use may be justified, Vatican insiders say, raising hopes and fears that the church may be starting to back away from its condom ban for its flock of 1 billion Catholics.
Note there is not really any quote.  Only a small phrase in quotation marks out of the context of how it was used.  There is no actual person quoted.  In fact, later on it turns out that this may be just from one anonymous Vatican spokesman.  So while the headline promises 'It was all intentional!  Benedict wants to start a debate (which obviously means he is open to changing Church teaching)!', the actual story appears much ado about nuthin.  More obviously needs to be researched. 

President Obama confirms

What opponents of 'hate crime' and 'hate speech' legislation have been saying.  Like those who once warned that accepting homosexuality would end marriage and open the door to any sex act between two or more carbon based life forms are now seeing their fears realized, those who have seen hate crime and hate speech legislation as the first baby steps toward totalitarian oppression of liberties and freedoms just got a boost in the arm.  Of course this could be a very negative way of interpreting what President Obama said.  But then, we can wonder what the reaction would have been had President Bush said the exact same thing, word for word, about students who question religion, Christianity, or traditional values.  Given the reactions that did happen when far less was done under previous administrations, my guess is there's a rat to be smelled in this, and folks better put the breaks on ASAP.  After all, losing freedoms isn't like getting a bad haircut.  If we decide we don't like it, it just doesn't grow back.

Nice to hear

According to an Associated Press report, some of our nuclear weapons drivers were three sheets to the wind.  That's the sort of thing that helps me sleep better at night.  Of course, this is the same AP that only recently reported that the Pope was changing his mind about all that condom stuff.  So we'll watch this and see if there are any subtle shifts in the story over time.  Not that every story should be distrusted.  But fool me once you know. 

There is no room in the free world for hats shaped like birds

I went to one of my boys' events last week.  One of the mothers in attendance was wearing a large hat shaped like a turkey.  There was nowhere to sit but beside her.  I couldn't concentrate on the event because of that stupid hat.  Had she acted silly, or goofy, or something, it wouldn't have been that bad.  But she sat there, serious, watching her own children perform, almost unaware of the fact that she had a large turkey on her head.  There's simply no reason for that.  No article link or story. I just had to get that off my chest.  She had best not have anything resembling a tree, or worse a Santa or manger, on her head next month. 

More on the great Papal condom controversy of 2010

Lori Pieper, over on her blog On Pilgrimage, writes about the origins of the word 'justified' that found such a predominant place in early reports by the media.  Apparently, the Italian translation of the book excerpt (which would be the language that the Vatican newspaper  L’Osservatore Romano, uses), contains the word 'justified', while it is not in the English.  The early stories stating that the Pope says condoms therefore might just be an honest mistake on the part of the media.  Though again, a mistake that the media now needs to spend as much time retracting.  Sometimes I think it would be beneficial if the media took a day out of each week to emphasis just what was wrong in initial reports.  That way when the early rush to press says 'Pope changes Church teaching on condoms', they might be able to catch a few people and mention that it turns out he said no such thing.  FWIW, I'm still following things and not ready to make a final call until I hear more, including from some spokesman from the Vatican, about what was really said, or at least meant.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln?

I can see it.  He's quite the chameleon actor.  So I can see him being Lincoln in Spielberg's long awaited biopic on Lincoln, which is based on the book Team of Rivals.  It will be interesting what Spielberg does to the book.  Spielberg has been known to turn books upside down.  Jurassic Park, Michael Crichton's Frankensteinish cautionary tale about giving scientists too much of a blank check since they are often wrong, was turned into a cinematic celebration of the infallible perfection of knowledge shared by scientists from around the world. 

The big question will be does Spielberg take the post-American liberal interpretation of Lincoln. That, like most post-American liberal interpretations, involves eliminating any positive influence of religion, judging without mercy anything our modern tastes consider to be racist, and separating Lincoln from any positive results of his administration, unless those results can be interpreted as having been somehow linked to a modern progressive, secular ideal or agenda. 

Of course the temptation to focus on Lincoln as ruthless warmonger, crushing civil liberties and plunging us into a costly war will also be there, and many biographers nowadays, mostly from the post-American liberal movement, prefer that angle.

We'll see. Liberal though his is, Spielberg has always given the impression of having a sliver of more traditional values and world views.  A more classical liberalism that should be somewhat uncomfortable with where the post-liberal Left is heading.  We'll see if those traditional notions have faded along with the color of his hair, or if they are more part of his being than the passage of time can eliminate.

Jim Tressel: Thou art cool

So after the Buckeyes pull another nail biter over the Hawkeyes, Coach Tressel is stopped for the obligatory post-game field interview.  The reporter asks him 'what was the difference in the game?'  Tressel's answer?  We had twenty points.  Love it.  Another cliff hanger compliments of the Buckeyes.  With Wisconsin running roughshod over anything in their paths, it seems unlikely we'll be visiting Pasadena this year.  And since most of the top ten won't do us the service of loosing, any hopes for a national championship have long gone the way of the Dodo bird.  But a nice bowl appearance in the Sugar Bowl or similar venue is still a probability, especially if we handle ourselves well against that team up north this week.

My son, Harry Potter

In celebration of the great media frenzy that will soon pass like a breeze in the night, I thought I would post this little picture.  It is of my oldest son a few years ago on his Christmas present.  At that time, he became interested in Harry Potter largely because everyone said he bore a striking resemblance to the boy wizard.  Some even said he looked more like what they thought Harry Potter should look like than Daniel Radcliffe.  We would see people stare, kids come up to him, people even stopped us in restaurants.  When we attended the - then - last book release midnight party at Barnes and Noble, parents actually asked if they could take their childrens' pictures with him.  Being a bit on the shy side, he agreed to the requests only due to our prodding.  But truth be told, I think he eventually warmed up to it all.  It did get him into reading the books and, along with other literature, helped open up his love for reading and writing.  So all in all, a fair and pleasant time of memories in our lives.  BTW, the glasses were really his.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Pope says sometimes condoms can be justified? WTH?

IMPORTANT: READ UPDATE III BELOW!

In a headline that is sure to create a firestorm, the Associated Press has run a story about an upcoming book featuring interviews with Pope Benedict XVI.  Apparently, while still saying condoms are not a moral solution for male prostitutes, the Pope has said their use could be justified.  Did the Pope really say that?  Was he misquoted?  Did the book say that?  Is it being misquoted?  This will cause an explosion of opinions and articles in the upcoming weeks.  I'm curious to see what happens.  My first guess is he was misquoted, or they are arranging his words to make them sound as if he said something he didn't really say.  Simply because of the context - that it would be justified in the case of male prostitutes?  I'm waiting for clarification from the Vatican before I go much further.  Will it be some strange 'justified does not mean right' argument?  We'll have to wait and see.  If, of course, there was no misquoting or misrepresenting of his views, then this is quite a bombshell, says volumes about a legion of things, and will become a mess for apologists on every conceivable side of the Catholic blogosphere for years to come.

UPDATE:  I just checked several versions of this story, and they all appear to be coming from the same source.  MSNBC, FOX, AP, NPR all are giving little more than the above link.  With so little information at hand, waiting would be the best strategy.

UPDATE II:  OK, as the story starts to filter, and more services are expanding their coverage and trying to figure out what it's all about, more information is coming forth.  So the AP has a more complete story than the original release.  In it, the following quote is given:
""There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility," Benedict said."
With this, it appears more that the Pope is more less saying that it's a step in the right direction, not that it's really right.  Though the use of the word 'justified', if he used it, could be a problem. Even so, it is still a little troubling, and some folks are going to wonder if some strange, subtle form of 'better to add to the sin if it's for the right reasons', thus calling into question such things as the Church's teaching on other philosophical subjects, is happening here.  I'll see what more comes out.  The more comes out, the less bothersome it may look.  Or it may look worse.  We'll have to see.  But for now, this much more has been released.

UPDATE III:

We are finally getting down to brass tacks.  Kudos to the angels and saints over at Get Religion.org.  I was waiting, waiting, waiting for them to sort through the media firestorm, the cheers from Gay Rights and AIDS activists, the finger pointing at liberal blogs and general confusion everywhere else.  As usual, it looks like much of the media has made hamburger from the meat of the story.  Here is the full part of the interview from the book, without any added words (you know, like 'justified') being thrown in:
"This means that the sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalization of sexuality, which, after all, is precisely the dangerous source of the attitude of no longer seeing sexuality as the expression of love, but only a sort of drug that people administer to themselves. This is why the fight against the banalization of sexuality is also a part of the struggle to ensure that sexuality is treated as a positive value and to enable it to have a positive effect on the whole of man’s being.

There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants. But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection."
It's Pope Benedict's actual response to a question about the media firestorm that broke out in 2009 when he mentioned that a reliance on condoms could make the HIV pandemic worse.  Note there is no use of the word justification, permissible, or anything of the sort, despite headlines like:

Pope says condoms sometimes permissible to stop AIDS
Pope Says Condoms to Stop AIDS May Be Acceptable
Pope Benedict says that condoms can be used to stop the spread of HIV?
Pope signals historic leap in fight against Aids: Condoms can be justified


Some even had the 'quote' in their stories with those words inserted.  Geesh.  Is there any wonder that, as Mark Shea says, getting the truth about religion from the media is like milking a bull?  Read the analysis of the media coverage at Get Religion here.  It's posted by the ever reliable and always enjoyable Mollie Ziegler.  This, by the way kiddies, is why I wait until I hear from sources other than the first media headlines before formulating an opinion about things.

Lesson to learn: Do NOT take your instruction about religious teachings from the media!

Littering the Earth with children: Thoughtful insights from the Joy Behar Show

This article references Joy Behar's show.  I've said it before and I'll say it again, Behar makes Glenn Beck look like a Rhodes Scholar.  That the media obsesses over Beck's strange and loony postulating while giving a free ticket to brain dead moronic idiocy from places like Behar's show on HLN shows the sympathies possessed by most of the media.  As a result, people who otherwise would never grace the threshold of Beck's asylum have no problem throwing their lot in with Behar, the feminine shadow of Beck, only cubed.

So we have a discussion on this particular episode in which the stigma related to not having children is being debated.  Well not really debated, since Behar, like most progressive media types, tends to want only those who agree with her to discuss the topics du jour

Now, to be fair, several blogs are picking this up as if one of the guests, Professor Helen Fisher, said having babies is like littering.  Not really.  If you listen, when discussing the Octomom phenom of baby by manufacturing, she merely said 'many people say it's like littering.'  She technically isn't saying it herself, but merely commenting on what those rascally 'many people' are saying.  And she is saying it in reference to the new trend of women having as many babies as money and science can provide.

But beyond that, what I took away from this clip was chilling nonetheless.  It was chilling to hear the continued lack of respect or regard for human life that is coming from the post-modern Left.  The conversation displayed a contempt for any human life that stands in the way of me, me, me, demonstrating that the Left continues to learn all the wrong lessons from the past two hundred years.  It seizes on all the philosophies and ideals that propelled Europe headlong into the 20th century, ready to lead humanity into its most murderous century in history.  It fails to learn any lessons about how important the sacredness of life is, or how wrong it would be to reduce humanity in any form to an inconvenience. 

Instead, unlike the European thinkers of old who obsessed about what breed of humanity is convenient based on lofty notions of nationalism, ethnic purity, or world domination, the post modern Left adopts the same basic contempt for the animal called humanity, but does so in order to increase the joys of money, sex, and hedonistic narcissism.  That the entire segment addresses the miracle of children with all the callous buffoonery one expects from a British American Idol judge, all centered around how kids truly interfere with the cocktail hour, illustrates how perilous is the emerging post-liberal movement. 

One more thing.  I especially liked Behar joking about Italy's 0% population growth.  I guess she knows 0% population growth is essentially demographic suicide.  But then most American post-liberals like Behar, Olbermann, and Maher don't appear to read the papers when it comes to the unfolding implosion and inevitable collapse of the civilization soon to be formerly known as Europe.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A reader sends along this insight into today's public education

And asks that I post it on the blog.  Being one of my legions of fans, how could I refuse?  Read and enjoy:

“The conference is a collaborative and world-wide community effort to significantly increase opportunities for globally-connecting education activities.   Our goal is to help you make connections with other educators and students”Apprently it's a teacher or educational professional reflecting on a conference about improving our schools. Some food for thought, and a glance into the ideas being tossed about in the hopes of pulling America out of its downward spiral.  I have my own ideas about these things, but will hold off for now.  Any other observations? 
The world of today is not the world of yesterday, but it is also not the world of tomorrow. Yesterday I took part in the Global Education Conference.

What this means is turning students toward being more globally minded, globally interactive learners who not only think about other countries and learn about their histories etc., but they are encouraged to reach across the oceans using technology (like blogs) to do projects and interact socially and educationally with students in another part of the world.

The subjects of the sessions for this conference are very broad. Some focus on infusing 21st Century skills into the classroom- or other learning environments. Some focus on different aspects of teaching. Each one has a unique take on Education.

The ones I have attended so far are more focused on 21st Century skills and teaching in different ways.

Inviting Authentic Student Question: If you ask them to question - sooner or later they will question you
The title was interesting but not exactly what the focus of the session ended up being. The presenters began with asking those who were attending the session to give reasons that students do not ask questions in class. The responses that they received I don’t think were the ones that they were expecting. This being an all American crowd they focused on the social interaction aspects.
Responses like – not wanted to be wrong, being made fun of, feeling dumb if they asked a question, bullies etc.
This was clearly not where the mindset of the presenters was at. The focus was supposed to be on the teacher not being open to questions. And telling them about how they can make their students more willing to ask questions- “outside the box” to discover what they really want to learn about. Or “Learner centered education”.
There were some great ideas, innovative thinking as teachers to move from book learning to applied learning. But they really missed the issues that are affecting classes today. The ideas they spoke of would never be able to happen in many schools due to funds, overcrowding, lack of time, and behavioral issues. As a teacher I did employ similar tactics in my classroom. From having small centers where the 2-3 students in each group could discuss openly the ideas that they had about the subject at hand and could say to this small group- I don’t get it and not feel threatened; to removing all the desks from the classroom and taping off sections on the floor to represent the amount of space the pilgrims had coming over on the Mayflower. The students then had to stay in their space each day until we reached the “New World” – or were able to go outside and explore.  This was in a classroom of less than a dozen kids however so it was unfeasible to do. I cannot imagine going to a classroom full of 28 kids and trying that same project. It would not work. For one thing the space in itself would not exist. Kids are crowded in their desk areas probably with less space than the Pilgrims had. They would probably not take the same away that my other class did.
If teachers are to be able to do innovative things to help students go beyond the normal learning we may want to reconsider how schools are set up.
Assessing your Innovation Capabilities
Speaking of reevaluating how schools are set up, the next session I attended was focused entirely on how schools would rate on a rubric that the presenters had created and been using to see the innovation capabilities of schools around the country. The first thing they pointed out made me think they were actually trying to go about things in the right way. They said that only schools that are able to teach the curriculum fully and are succeeding at this aspect of education could move forward and be innovative.
There were many criteria that schools had to meet to move up the ratings on this rubric. It was nice to see that even though they were looking to move from basic skills to applications of learning and student centered learning that they saw it as a process to not jump into until your school was ready.

My take on so much of these types of 21st century thinking and ideas is that we as a country are not there yet. Our schools are still living in the 20th century and not doing very good at that. Too much focus on the latest agenda they are supposed to make sure gets taught, too little money and too many demands on teachers. Give the teachers a chance to have a classroom where they can truly take the reigns and not be called out for any number of things like “racism, censorship, bigotry, etc” just for trying to control the classroom that probably does not have the proper equipment, is over crowded, and has students in the class that continually cause problems but they are not allowed to deal with them in a way that would right the situation. In the perfect environment, in the perfect world the teacher could help students progress in learning beyond the basics. But since we do not live in a perfect world and they do not have the perfect set up for their classes be happy when they are able to teach the students the basics successfully. Then we can move forward and try to find ways to help teachers move out of the box and innovate.

U.S. State Department's Report on Religious Freedom

The link is to the executive summary.  You can go country by country by navigating around the page.  What I noticed is how unique real religious freedom is in the world.  There are places where it is more or less the norm, with a few exceptions - mostly in Europe and the United States.  But by and large, religious intolerance is fairly common.  This is particularly the case in many Muslim countries and countries throughout Asia.  In America, though we hear tales of rampaging hordes of racist, Islamaphobic Americans storming the Mosques and making the streets run red with the blood of hapless Muslims, it's somewhat noteworthy that these things really don't happen that often.  Remember the New York City Mosque debate, when for a couple of weeks the MSM obsessed about that story?  What did we hear?  We heard that violence was erupting all over the country. That was the story.  That violence was happening everywhere against Muslims.  There were no actual stories of violence, the fact that violence was reported was the story.  Anyone hear any specific stories?  Apart from the Mosque under construction that was burned in Tennessee, I don't recall any.  And I've not heard of any since.  Almost makes me wonder.  Don't think I don't. 

So despite our insistence that America is a hotbed of religious intolerance, the facts appear to suggest otherwise.  Sure, there are some, particularly among religious traditionalists, who appear increasingly intolerant, and some folks are starting to suggest that Islam may not be welcome in America after all.  Likewise, in a strange twist of events, some of the Left are beginning to suggest that religions that do not embrace progressive Goodthink should be handed the second-class citizen card and barred from further participation in the public discourse.  But as of now, these are not followed through with violence, persecution, or legal action.

Compare that to other countries.  In most cases, the best of them include instances where various religious majorities are taking advantage of loopholes in national law to dominate and intimidate those not of their faith.  In many cases, particularly in many Islamic countries and Asian societies, the persecution is from the top down, either legally sanctioned because of constitutional provisions, or at least legally encouraged.  People are dying in some of those places. Even if the governments aren't doing it, they have fomented a culture in which the violent oppression of religious minorities is tolerated, if not encouraged. 

So there's a lot to look at.  Enjoy the read.  Pray for those who are persecuted no matter what their faith.  Pray that we, in America, continue to champion freedom of religion, and that means freedom for Muslims of good faith and even religious conservatives who do not celebrate secular or progressive values.  And pray that those places around the world, who make up the bulk of the international scene, where religion is not free, eventually change their tunes for the sake of all involved.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Charles Rangel to remain in Congress

Good for him.  According to what I've seen on the news, folks seem pretty content with this decision.  But I admit it's getting harder and harder to object to folks who say all politicians are liars and crooks.  Not to mention those who say Washington is corrupt and no longer has any morals, values, or care about the common person. 

Despite fifty years of propaganda, 6 out of 10 Americans don't think marriage is becoming obsolete

See how easy that was?  Notice the focus.  A whopping 6 out of 10 Americans still think marriage will be around for a while because it's important.  Of course most news stories are covering it the other way, focusing on the fact that 4 out of 10 Americans, according to a Pew Research survey, believe marriage is becoming obsolete.  You might be justified for taking that approach.  After all, that's up from almost 3 out of 10 in 1978.  It is also the logical consequence of opening up the definition of marriage to any two or more people who want to call their relationship a marriage.  But considering that our public education system, our higher education system, the bulk of our national news media, and most of our venues of popular culture have been promoting the European style death of marriage for almost four generations now, I'm rather shocked at how many still think it will be around.  When virtually every avenue of information is in near agreement that something is old fashioned, archaic, a source of oppression and bigotry, and - most importantly - stands in the way of the nation of narcissistic hedonism where I should care about myself above all other things, I'm still amazed at how many folks reflexively cling to what has typically worked, even if it involves such painful concepts as self sacrifice and commitment.  Perhaps they can't help but notice that Europe, the basic model for most American progressive attitudes, is plunging into the Abyss even as we speak.  Maybe it shows the power and influence that religious belief - which typically tends to support such anachronistic notions as marriage - has on people.  Or maybe Americans have just looked across the landscape and noticed that the increasing march toward hedonism and narcissism progressive style, seems to mirror America's plunge into the Abyss of has-been nations along with its European mentor. 

It's raining on the hajj

Just another play by play story of the annual Islamic pilgrimage.  The MSM has done a good job covering this, and I've learned a little more than I already knew.  It didn't fall into 'what kind of beer or shoes would be best for this time of year' coverage.  It didn't try to set up a market for aiding Madison Avenue.  It didn't focus on the controversies, the inner-Muslim violence, the terrorism, the divisions and discord within Islam.  It allowed the readers to remember that of the 1.5 billion Muslims in the world, most are just folks who are going through an important part of their rich religious tradition.

Now, in a little while, let's see how the MSM does with Advent, Christmastide, Epiphany and all the other sacred and holy celebrations that over 2 billion Christians will observe.  Let's see if they can separate it from our country's annual orgy of consumerism and commercialism.  Let's watch and see if they can actually let Christians speak for themselves about why it is meaningful without endless stories about debates and divisions, controversies and scandals, and the annual 'Jesus was all a Myth' special issues.  Let's compare.  I would like to think the coverage of both will be the same.  I'm not holding my breath, but I would like to think it.