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Monday, January 31, 2005

END OF AN ERA: After ten years of mayhem, WWWF Grudge Match is closing down

This is the end
Beautiful friend
This is the end
My only friend, the end

Of our elaborate plans, the end

Of everything that stands, the end
No safety or surprise, the end
I'll never look into your eyes...


And in the end, not even Mister T was powerful enough to keep a good thing going forever.

Maybe this is the way it should be: "That is the way of things," the wise Yoda told us. I mean, life is good. But a life without end is meaningless. And having all the time in the universe won't make it any more rich. No, a measure of mortality is required, lest we be condemned to an eternity of pointless debate.

But still... man, this takes all the hot air out of a balloon that took a lot of us to situations we never thought possible, and even across the horizon for a glimpse of things yet to come. Coming to the end of the road like this is going to cause no end of emotional turmoil for some people. Including me.

After very nearly ten years of fighting the good fight on the World Wide Web - longer than most people have even been able to use the Internet at all - the WWWF Grudge Match is being retired. It started as a rumble in the 'hood between Gary Coleman and Emmanuel Lewis in the halcyon days of 1995, when Jar Jar Binks existed nowhere outside the mind of George Lucas and the Blair Witch was not yet an original idea to be ripped off by a jillion camcorder-armed amateurs . It ended with a "Hail to the king, baby!" for Ash Williams. It covered just about every conceivable genre and corner of pop-culture in the history of anything along the way.

And it's gotta be said that plenty of its matchups became not just classics to the site, but to the entire web. The infamous English Soccer Hooligans vs. the French Army battle from 1998, I've probably seen linked to from other sites at least a dozen times over the years. The same goes for the "wheelchair demolition derby" between Stephen Hawking, Larry Flynt and Doctor Strangelove. The proto-"Iron Chef" bake-off between Hannibal Lecter and Jeffrey Dahmer prompted some rallying on Usenet for Dahmer's dish, but even that paled in contrast to the threatening e-mail sent by terrorists at Georgia Tech calling themselves "The Braveheart Jihad (There Is No Jihad)" in response to William Wallace vs. Groundskeeper Willy. "The Moppet Show" of Harry Potter against Anakin Skywalker got more votes than any other fight in Grudge Match history, while John McLane's running amok inside the Death Star is considered by some to be the site's all-time funniest contest.

That Grudge Match lasted THIS long is testament enough to the hilarity of its premise, but it managed to make a few marks of its own on the cultural landscape during its run. For one thing, it's widely considered to have been the principle inspiration for MTV's Celebrity Deathmatch. The spring of '98 saw the publication of Grudge Match in bookstores everywhere. At one point there was discussion of even turning Grudge Match into a TV show of its very own: I can only imagine how hilarious THAT might have turned out to be!

But I'm going to remember Grudge Match because during its long run, I made a lot of good friends in one way or another because of it and though they might not know it, a lot of them offered some much-needed encouragement during a particularly rough period of my life: initially I was going to be a guest commentator for Darth Maul vs. ConnorMcLeod but when my grandmother died a week before my part was due... well, that tends to take the humor out of a guy. Steve(tm) and Brian(tm) bared with me though and let me do The Godfather vs. The Equalizer a few months later. There's also the lil' matter of "The Night the Lights Went Out", the idea for which was literally conceived and put online (including graphics) within a span of fifteen minutes, and it's always been a thrill knowing that one moment of madness will forever be part of Grudge Match lore. I wrote the accompanying spoof of "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" in about a half-hour... what the heck kind of cold medicine was I on that night?!

There's no telling how many websites I've visited over the years. The number that readily come to mind that were on my "must-see" list is probably less than ten. Grudge Match was one of them, but not just for the humor: it was a really unique place for camaraderie and friendship. It was a family. It was like Cheers where "everybody knows your name" and now it's closing time.

It's not going to be the same web for me anymore. Not without one of the very first websites I discovered no longer churning out new material (though the site and its archives will apparently be up and operating indefinitely). But to go on and on and on and on without end would keep Grudge Match from its destiny as a classic. It broke new ground as a web pioneer, and now it gets to enjoy a glorious ride into the sunset.

Thanks for all the hard work and good laughs over the years, fellas. It's been an honor to have been both a fan and have had a small role in this site. Come back in another ten years or so when the ground is fertile again: there should be plenty of crap-tacular culture to knock by then :-)

Sunday, January 30, 2005

It's been two days since finishing Halo 2...

Halo, the original, I bought at the Target down the street just before they closed for Christmas Eve. "Weird" Ed and me located an Xbox for Lisa (and prolly the LAST Xbox on sale to be found in the state of North Carolina before Christmas) and since Ed, and Josh, and Kyle, and everybody else on Earth that's got an Xbox has been raving about how good it was, I got Halo just to see what the hulabaloo was about. We were in Georgia a day or so later when I finally put the disc in and started playing.

This ain't a videogame. This is art. And I'm kicking myself HARD in the butt for putting it off as "just another first-person shooter" all this time. It's beautiful. It's VERY deep in plot. It's the first videogame that intelligently implements the concept of religion. It's funny, especially the stuff that the Grunts say (I coulda sworn that I heard one scream "Don't kill me I got a wife and kids!"). It feels like the real world with all its physics and geometry and nature. It's got mystery. It's got backstory.

This is the videogame I wish had been around when I was 12.

So I finished Halo one evening last week, and saw the ending that has Master Chief and Cortana alone in their shuttle heading back to Earth, and after the end credits you see the Guilty Spark AI zooming through space and you gotta wonde what he's up to. Lisa got me a Target gift card for Christmas so last Friday, with a winter storm coming in I used it to spring for Halo 2. And got to the ending of that on Friday.

In the name of all that's good and holy... WHAT THE HECK IS THAT?!?

There'd better be a Halo 3 coming out and like yesterday, else someone oughtta go medieval Brute-style on Bungie Studios' butt. Nobody should be made to endure a cliffhanger that leaves not one or two, but maybe five plot threads dangling. For Lord only knows how long.

It seemed shorter than the original, but that may have only been because I was so used to how to play it by this point. It definitely improves on the first game though: more scenery to take in, a LOT more locales to play around, more weapons and bad guys and vehicles, the ability to now hold guns in both hands, and one other little twist that to the best of my knowledge I've never seen anywhere in a videogame before, but was done here (but saying anymore would entail serious spoilage).

But that's gotta be the most cruel way to end a story since the final episode of Blake's 7. At least then Terry Nation had the good sense to force his fans to watch all their favorite characters get killed off one by one. Bungie didn't even give us that much sense of closure.

Some thoughts on today's Iraq elections

Most places reporting that there's a 72-74% turnout of voters. If only we could see that kind of interest in our own elections here in America.

Am hearing that there's some dispute about the figures though: is that a percentage of ALL eligible Iraqis, or a percentage of those Iraqis that registered to vote? If it's the latter, some are suggesting it's only 7-10% of the eligible population that registered at all.

There's been a massive turnout at the polls from the Kurds. Gotta wonder if they'll get enough political pull to demand a separate homeland. They were easily the #1 domestic enemy that Saddam Hussein had when he was in power. And the ones with brass ones enough to FIGHT the guy on a regular basis. If any group has earned the right to vote in a free election, it's the Kurds. Said it before and will say it again: freedom cannot be granted, it must be earned. Whatever else is said about 'em, they proved they earned it.

It's the REST of the country that I'm wondering about. And history ain't exactly on their side. But, still hoping for a good outcome from a bad situation anyway.

This is too much like the "protection" the Soviets used to extend visitors

You know why I post stuff like this?

It's 'cuz when things get REALLY bad, I'll never have the guilt of knowing that I didn't do anything to stop it on my conscience. And however bad things might get, I can either live a long and happy life or die a slow and painful death knowing that I didn't capitulate and that I tried my damndest to get others to say "no" just one more time than these bastitches said "yes".

More proof that we're becoming a fascist state, courtesy of the Washington Post (free website registration required to read full article):

...I had arrived early to get a head start on mingling among the roughly 6,000 people eating and dancing to celebrate the president's reelection. Unaware of the new escort policy (it wasn't in place during the official parties following the 2001 inauguration), I blithely assumed that in the world's freest nation, I was free to walk around at will and ask the happy partygoers such national security-jeopardizing questions as, "Are you having a good time?"

Big mistake. After cruising by the media pen -- a sectioned-off area apparently designed for corralling journalists -- a sharp-eyed volunteer spotted my media badge. "You're not supposed to go out there without an escort," she said.

I replied that I had been doing just fine without one, and walked over to a quiet corner of the hall to phone in some anecdotes to The Post's Style desk.

As I was dictating from my notes, something flashed across my face and neatly snatched my cell phone from of my hand. I looked up to confront a middle-aged woman, her face afire with rage. "You ignored the rules, and I'm throwing you out!" she barked, snapping my phone shut. "You told that girl you didn't need an escort. That's a lie! You're out of here!"

With the First Amendment on the line, my natural wit did not fail me. "Huh?" I answered.

Recovering quickly, I explained that I had been unaware of the escort policy. She was unbending and ordered a couple of security guards to hustle me out. I appealed to them, saying that I was more than happy to follow whatever ground rules had been laid down. They shrugged, and deposited me back in the media pen.

So if Bush and crew can't buy a journalist, they send goons to follow them around at events to make sure they aren't doing anything that they don't want them to be doing.

So now it's that "freedom of the press" thing that's getting bulldozed all over by this bunch. Some of us knew that already. Looks like they're getting more brazen about it now.

But he's "a good Christian Republican" so it doesn't matter...

Saturday, January 29, 2005

We were told there would be no draft. So why are these people calling for a draft?

"Letter to Congress on Increasing U.S. Ground Forces", written to several members of Congress by Project for the New American Century.


"The United States military is too small for the responsibilities we are asking it to assume."

"The United States will not and should not become less engaged in the world in the years to come."

"...the defense and promotion of freedom in the post-9/11 world require a larger military force than we have today."

"So we write to ask you and your colleagues in the legislative branch to take the steps necessary to increase substantially the size of the active duty Army and Marine Corps."

"There is abundant evidence that the demands of the ongoing missions in the greater Middle East, along with our continuing defense and alliance commitments elsewhere in the world, are close to exhausting current U.S. ground forces."

"The only way to fulfill the military aspect of this commitment is by increasing the size of the force available to our civilian leadership."

"...we can afford both the necessary number of ground troops and what is needed for transformation of the military."

"We can afford the military we need."

"Reserves were meant to be reserves, not regulars."

"Our regulars and reserves are not only proving themselves as warriors, but as humanitarians and builders of emerging democracies."

"We can honor their sacrifices by giving them the manpower and the materiel they need."

"Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution places the power and the duty to raise and support the military forces of the United States in the hands of the Congress. That is why we, the undersigned, a bipartisan group with diverse policy views, have come together to call upon you to act."

"You will be serving your country well if you insist on providing the military manpower we need to meet America's obligations, and to help ensure success in carrying out our foreign policy objectives in a dangerous, but also hopeful, world."

It's signed by 34 individuals who figure bigtime in military, the defense industry, and what's come to be called "neo-conservative" policies. But curiously it's missing signatures from some people who did sign PNAC's Statement of Principles: Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Jeb Bush, Gary Bauer, quite a few others...

The word "draft" itself doesn't figure anywhere in this letter. But really, what else can they be referring to? Maybe these guys are smarter than we give 'em credit for: I mean, it would raise eyebrows all over the place if the current Vice-President of the United States and Secretary of Defense put their names on a letter urging the draft be brought back, no doubt.

If it is, the response from American young people should be the same: don't go until we see Jenna and Barbara getting shipped off to Iraq with rifles in their hands.

Mmmmmmmmm... beer!

Oh great, Bush can protect Iraq's borders with OUR Border Patrol agents...

...but when it comes to our own borders...

Read. Just read, 'kay?

The man's a traitor. Plain and simple. Too bad he's protected by a Republican majority in the House and Senate... but that says a lot about a man's character that he needs that kind of seeming immunity from whatever evil he thinks he can get away with.

Anyone who posts a comment defending this in the slightest bit, or alludes that Bush is still a great President despite his VIOLATING THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION IN A MORE GROSS FASHION THAN BUBBA CLINTON EVER DID, is not just a traitor but a damned idiot.

A history professor in college once told us how a nation's leadership does deserve any punishment met out to it, if that leadership is so ignorant and uninterested in serving his own people. Especially if that ignorance results from the leader's desire for personal profit or comfort. Louis XVI was "a nice enough guy," he told us, "but he wanted to party too much. He was told all the things that were going wrong but he'd only answer 'oh okay, that's bad. Where's the party?' He may have been the nicest king France ever had but he more than deserved getting executed for that."

I'm finally beginning to understand what he meant by that.

Maybe it's genetic and the man can't help it though. I mean, now that it's come out that Bush is a descendant of the Irish king who sold out his own island and people to the English, along with a few other unsavory barbarians, seems like he's just following a family tradition of being disloyal to fellow countrymen. But we knew that a few generations ago with Prescott Bush and the Nazis anyway, right?

By the way, just as the edge of the snowstorm was approaching I went out and bought the new Star Wars novel (and direct prequel to Episode III) Labyrinth of Evil by James Luceno. I'm a little more than 100 pages into it and it's fast becoming one of my all-time favorite Star Wars stories. But Labyrinth of Evil is also a very strong attack/indictment against President Bush, no subtlety at all. In Luceno's hands, Palpatine is Bush. He even slams things like Homeland Security, the TSA and warantless searches. And Palpatine brushes off the criticism because "the Constitution is a living document": his exact words. And there's some alluding to the idea that the Republic's political factions are a way of distracting everyone from the REAL evil that the Sith have been working against everyone.

As a strict Constitutionalist, this book is a hoot to read. I've met Luceno before, a few times: genuinely nice and brilliant guy. Feel now like we're philosophical kindred as well.

Hey who knows: maybe when Episode III comes out in theaters enough people will REALLY start to wake up to what's going on in real life. I sure as Hell wouldn't mind being part of a Rebel Alliance ;-)

Finally saw the new Battlestar Galactica last night

Something I can't understand: if these are supposed to be humans from WAY out there in another part of the galaxy, who are descended from humans who colonized twelve worlds after long ago coming from Kobol, the original home planet of humanity, and who now faced with extinction their only hope is to find a mythical thirteenth colony: the planet that their legends call "Earth"...

HOW the heck are these humans, however much they ARE identical to us, using and speaking English, have the same style of clothes as North Americans, have the same religious customs etc., when there shoule be HUGE differences between us and them after thousands of years of "cultural drift" from the separation?

I don't get that. The only theory I can come up with is that humanity started off on Earth, then migrated to Kobol and then to the twelve colonies, and after awhile the real story got muddled-up in their history. So when Galactica does reach Earth, it's going to be the Earth of our distant future.

That's the only thing I can conceive of that makes sense.

But there's only one thing that can be said about this new Battlestar Galactica: this is an AWESOME show!!

I can forgive the previously mentioned incongruity, and will make it a huge thing to commit to watching this regularly, if they keep it this strong and fresh and bold. I've a lot of catch-up to do, but last night's episode started with a freak accident that killed dozens of people onboard the ship, especially their fighter pilots. Which is a HUGE loss given that there's not many people in the convoy anyway and fighter pilots are too desperately needed. But here's the thing: how many times do freak accidents like this happen in a TV show, much less a sci-fi show? Goes on all the time in real life, for no reason that makes sense at all. But to lose a bunch of people in a way that DOES NOT make sense and has no purpose at all... that's both an unattractive thing to base a show's episode on, much less make it captivating for the viewer.

Last night's Battlestar Galactica did that though. It made me realize that this is one of the very, very few TV shows - of any genre - that really does focus on the characters. It didn't seem like a sci-fi show at all, felt more like a reality show or a documentary film (my wife asked from the other room if this was a reality show even, not knowing what I was watching but she could hear it).

Oh yeah, they did some space fightin' in last night's episode. And whenever they showed outside the ships, in the blackness of space, there were no sounds at all. No guns firing, no loud explosions. Just silence with a very subdued ambient thing in the background. There shouldn't be sound at all, and the last time anyone was that accurate on this was Stanley Kubrick and 2001: A Space Odyssey back in 1968. There was no sound in space during the fights... but that made it no less exciting to watch or accept. In fact, it made me buy into it even more that these were real people and a real ship, and they really were out there somewhere. I'm a science-minded type guy and was looking for anything like the "particle of the week" technobabble that Star Trek: The Next Generation became notorious for. If there was any, I couldn't find it here: the only thing that violates known physics is having a ship that big moving faster than light (and have read that there's even a strong basis for that in theoretical physics).

Man, this was so far off from what I was expecting. It's NOTHING like the original Battlestar Galactica, other than the names of most of the characters - Starbuck is a girl(?!) in this new take - and even the opening theme music has nothing to do with the original's beautiful score. Just going by last night's episode, I'm sorry that I've missed watching it all this time because the new Battlestar Galactica is television the way the medium should be.

Rush has a moment of reality (maybe the drugs are wearing off)

So now Rush Limbaugh is condemning Bush and others for wanting amnesty for illegals and ignoring security at the borders. Says that this issue threatens to destroy the Republican party. When all this time he's been shilling for Bush and practically promising that life as we know it would come to a halt if we didn't re-elect El Jorge and go along with him.

But now that he is in a second term, Rush is finally comfortable enough to see and talk about the truth? That Bush and his kind are putting American sovereignty in jeopardy and don't care a flying rat's butt that they're doing it.

What they're doing in exposing our border with Mexico is pretty much what Benedict Arnold did at West Point... but on a much grander scale. If Arnold merited being hung for that (which he wasn't: he died bankrupt and despised in 1801) how much moreso do our "brilliant" modern leaders deserve?

I stopped listening to Rush a long time ago. He used to be engaging, thought-inspiring and darned funny back in the day. He's now so full of himself that he can't confront the hypocrisy he espouses unless he sees that he's destroying himself with it. The man has no more credibility in my book, and there's a lot better places to find original ideas than an ethically bankrupt sad individual who's wasted his life supporting a political party that he didn't even stop and consider if they were worth supporting to begin with.

Friday, January 28, 2005

California elementary students forced to wear microchip ID by power-mad principal (kids should do what Gandhi did and burn 'em)

This is one of those stories that I had to make sure wasn't from The Onion. It ain't, folks.

From KFWB News 980 in Los Angeles comes this:

School Officials Make ID Badges Mandatory for Elementary Students

SUTTER, Calif. (AP) 1.28.05, 9:50a -- Parents of Sutter elementary students told school officials Thursday they're concerned about the school's new policy that requires students to wear security badges.

Brittan Elementary School District Superintendent Earnie Graham said the school is doing a test run to see if the technology improves campus security.

The badges contain a "passive antenna" that emit radio waves to a reader mounted above the doorway in each classroom. The readers picks up the child's ID number and sends it to a handheld computer that tracks attendance.

But parent Dawn Cantrall said the badge was "creepy and cumbersome," and complained that it had too much information on it, including a student's picture, full name and identification number.

"Now somebody can come up to her, see her name, and tell her, 'Your mom told me to pick you up,"' she said.

The school board approved the trial run last summer for kindergarten through eighth grade students. All staff members and volunteers also wear badges, said Graham.

The school board approved the free test run unanimously last summer. Graham held a special meeting Thursday for parents who had concerns about the new policy. Graham apologized for the scant notice given to parents, but said it was to increase school security.

"It's not an option," Graham said. "(The badge) is just like a textbook, you have to have it. I'm charged with running the school district and I get to make those kinds of rules."

The badges are supplied by InCom, a technology firm based in Sutter. The owners offered the school a small donation for the inconvenience of testing the badges and attendance scanners.

"I get to make those kinds of rules."

Read that again: "I get to make those kinds of rules."

Just the polite way of saying "I am a government official with power over your children, meaning that I have power over you. If I want your kid to be nothing but a numbered piece of meat, that's what he'll become and there's not a damned thing your or anyone can do about it, because I have more money and power and lawyers and men with guns than you'll ever scrape together. Who the Hell do you think you are to question my power anyway, you pathetic little plebian. Now shut up and take your number like a good serf should."

It's people like this guy who honestly don't believe that they're doing anything wrong. And they'll insist that they were always innocent right up to the moment that they're lined up against the wall or marched up the scaffold.

Let me put this another way: no children of mine will ever be in a public school. But if they were, and the principal tried to force THIS to them... I would kill him. And anyone else who'd attempt the same.

These people are in the same mindset as the Nazis were, except they're worse: see, they've chosen to be this way, despite all the history that they can't possibly claim ignorance of. The way I figure it, we either put the fear of God in them now, by ourselves if we have to, or we shoot 'em. The only other alternative is to be in fear of them and wait for our turn to be shot or gassed or bayoneted, whatever.

I went to Brittan Elementary School's website and found the latest school newsletter. Regarding the badges it says that "The badges are very durable, but students who lose or destroy their badges will be accountable for the cost of replacing them." About as galactically a STUPID a thing to impose on kids as there is, 'cuz kids being kids are naturally going to LOSE something like this somehow or another. But what the &$%# sick kind of bastiches FORCES something THIS expensive on ANYONE, much less SOMEONE ELSE'S CHILDREN and then dares tell them that they will PAY for something that THEY DIDN'T BUY, EVER APPROVED OR WOULD HAVE PROBABLY WANTED ANYWAY!?

Hey, why not just stick this radio ID chip in their forehead or right hand? That'll keep 'em from losing it for sure, no doubt.

Here's the badges themselves in action, by the way. There's more info about 'em at InCom Corporation's homepage about their "InClass" product:

"Badges? We don't need no steenkin' badges!"

But before we resort to the bullet box, we still have the soap box. So this is what the good people of Sutter should do against their would-be masters...

A hundred years or so ago, Mahatma Gandhi burned his British-imposed pass that all non-white people in India were forced to carry. It was the beginning of the "passive resistance" that ultimately saw an independent India.

This was the the parents of Brittan's students should encourage their kids to do, not just for themselves but for children all over this country: have a public burning of these damnable badges. They are nothing but glorified versions of the same passes that Gandhi and those he inspired burned: if they didn't have to live under that kind of rule, then our kids sure as Hell don't deserve it either.

Burn 'em, folks. Do it in front of God and everyone. Make sure this principal and his kind know that you're doing it. Thumb your noses at them and don't apologize for it. Let 'em know damned well that the children do not belong to the school or the government or anyone else but to God and their own families.

If that ain't worth fighting, however that fight is carried out, then I don't know what is.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

"WAR!" Huh-yeah, What is it good for?

Something about seeing "WAR!" like that, sorta just tacked-on to the REAL crawl, makes me giggle inside. Like for all the horrific darkness that George Lucas has promised in this movie, the kind of stuff that will send the toughest geek fanboy running home crying for Momma, for all the GRUESOMENESS (and it'll be gruesome, believe you me... I've seen stuff the public ain't yet), Star Wars Episode 3 will be like the others and still not take itself seriously somehow!

So if you're curious as to what the text will be for the opening crawl on this, the final Star Wars movie of all time (unless The Plaid One chooses to make one about 80-year old Han Solo and drags Harrison Ford out in another twenty years... which should be before they finally get to work on that Indiana Jones 4 they keep promising) 'cuz this is what always sets the tone for the movie to follow, here ya go, courtesy of Paul and Pablo and Steve and Jim and Rick (and George 'course) and all the other good folks at StarWars.com:

Episode III

War! The Republic is crumbling under attacks by the ruthless Sith Lord, Count Dooku. There are heroes on both sides. Evil is everywhere.

In a stunning move, the fiendish droid leader, General Grievous, has swept into the Republic capital and kidnapped Chancellor Palpatine, leader of the Galactic Senate.

As the Separatist Droid Army attempts to flee the besieged capital with their valuable hostage, two Jedi Knights lead a desperate mission to rescue the captive Chancellor....

"Heroes on both sides"? "Evil is everywhere"? The first hints at nebulous morality, which is good for this series. Lot of fans - myself included - are of the belief that Dooku is NOT all that bad a guy: that the only reason he threw in with the Sith is because he saw how corrupt and decadent the Republic had become while the Jedi did nothing... so he said "to Hell with it, and screw you Yoda!" and went his own way to make things right. He's not in it for the power (which doesn't make him a real Sith at all anyway), he just wants enough power for the moment to effect some much-needed changes. He's got the right motive, it's just that his methods are lousy. That's just one example though, and it's good that Lucas is getting more bold as his series matures (hope it carries on into the TV show in 2006).

As for "evil is everywhere"...

Heh. Heh-heh. Heh-heh-heh. Heh-heh. Heh. Heh-heh.
Good crawl. Seems like Lucas is going to let his saga go out with a bang :-)

He's not sorry for wasting dozens of lives in Iraq, yet Bush regrets getting caught in op-ed parlor trick on American people

After being discovered paying ANOTHER op-ed commentator to hawk his schemes, President Bush has ordered his staff to no longer hire columnists.

But if he's supposed to be so moral and ethical, why did he start doing it to begin with?

Given how dishonest a practice this is, what kind of public official even conceives of such a thing?

Why would the President of the United States do this?

Why would Bush spend our money to try to trick us like this?

With each passing day I'm becoming all the more glad that Bush won(?) the election. It would have been better for his political career to have died quick and mercifully. Now he begins to suffer death by a thousand cuts. Twenty years from now, he will be regarded as one of the worst Presidents in American history... even surpassing Bill Clinton. I'm a patient man: I can wait to gloat at the Bush-bots for awhile, when there's nothing they can do about it by that point.

I just wish that he could prove his incompetence in a better way than having so many American soldiers dying without purpose in a country whose people are now far worse off now than when we "liberated" it from an already evil dictator. The man who's sent well over a thousand to die meaningless deaths yet has never so much as acknowledged their "sacrifices" by attending a soldier's funeral is now threatening more of this nonsense:

"We value life and we weep and mourn when soldiers lose their life," the president said. "But it is the long-term objective that is vital, and that is to spread freedom."
At the rate his madness is accelerating, I'm tempted to pray for God to send a CvS (people in the know will understand wink-wink).

Gotta wonder something: if Bush is not paying any more commentators after these two were discovered, how many more working in television or print media have whored themselves out that we don't know about yet?

Idol's Leroy Wells singing a new song: "In The Jailhouse Now"

Remember Leroy Wells, the guy on American Idol from my last post? Looks like he's been a bad bad boy. Here's the lowdown from WPMI's website:
American Idol hopeful Leroy Wells watches his performance from the lockup
Last Update: 1/26/2005 11:00:19 PM
Posted By: Ron Reams

(MOBILE, Ala.) January 26 -- An American Idol hopeful, gaining notoriety, but not just for his shot at stardom. T-V viewers found Grand Bay's Leroy Wells on national T-V Tuesday night. However, on Wednesday, the would-be “idol” could be found in Mobile Metro Jail.

While millions of American Idol fans kept it locked into Leroy, Leroy was locked up behind bars for failing to appear in court.

The 22-year-old Grand Bay, Alabama native wowed fans with his rendition of "Got Your Money" by O-D-B. Even though he wasn't able to watch his performance from home, sheriff’s deputies tell NBC 15 they did allow Leroy and other inmates to watch American Idol from jail.

Mobile Police spokesman Marcus Young says Leroy Wells was arrested earlier this month for reportedly shooting a hand gun into an occupied vehicle. “Apparently they were arguing over how the cars were in the roadway at which time Mr. Wells allegedly shot the victim in his hip,” Young says.

Ahh geez, what a waste. EVERYONE was talking about this kid all day after his "performance" on Tuesday night's show. It was a hilarious moment that made a lot of people smile and to know it's marred by something like this...

"Violence. Don't play that game."

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

"GECRUNKPRAJESUSCAYUDIGIT?!?" Tonight's American Idol one of TV's funniest hours ever

EDIT: leroy-wells.com has the video from American Idol in streaming Windows Media format. Please don't watch if you've just come out of gall bladder surgery as the intense laughter can open the incision.
Tonight's show was the auditions in New Orleans. And the guest judge was Gene Simmons from KISS. Factor in how an American Idol audition is always a magnet for the really strange over the real singers. It was like the perfect storm of hilarity waiting to happen!

This would have still been classic if the only ummm, "unique" person to show up was Daron Beck, the guy in all-black who sang "I Put A Spell On You" by Screaming Jay Hawkins. And believe you me, he had every nuance of that song down pat and maybe did a hella better "You're MIIIIIIIIIINE!!!" scream than Hawkins.

Then came Leroy Wells. Remember William Hung, whose rendition of Ricky Martin's "She Bangs" last year made him a household name (despite the fact that, as he admits, he sang lousy)? And the year before that it was Keith, the guy at the Atlanta audition in the big green turtleneck sweater who sang Madonna's "Like A Virgin". If every season of American Idol must have a mascot standout who didn't make it past the audition, Leroy Wells has season 4 all "crunked" up. Folks, by any means necessary, you absolutely MUST watch the footage of this guy. You're probably going to see him anyway, on TV shows and websites devoted to him. Maybe even t-shirts with his face. We only understood four things he ever said: his singing "I Feel Good" by James Brown, that he did something with paint for a living, "praise Jesus" and the thing that I told my wife is going to be this decade's answer to Flip Wilson's "The Devil made me do it" 30 years ago...


The real scary thing is, I don't think Leroy is on drugs or did this as "an act" at all. And one contestant who auditioned the same day affirms that what we saw tonight is 100% undiluted personality. I couldn't make it out but everyone who watched it tonight said that he talked about "getting crunked" or something.

This was the hardest we've laughed in a long time.

I called Mom at the next commercial break and she was hysterical with laughter. This was... geez how do you describe someone that you can't even understand what the heck he's saying?

Here's hoping that whatever it is that he's supposed to be, that Leroy Wells will go far. He's definitely his own person and that's a rare thing in this world. That, and because he (and most of the others tonight, save for two) were extremely gracious in being turned away. Success is never guaranteed, but that's okay, 'cuz I saw a lot of people able to walk away and smile that they at least gave it their best.

Including Leroy Wells :-)

Sunday, January 23, 2005

NO MORE TO COME: Tea-Time ends for Art Fern, Aunt Blabby goes quiet, Floyd R. Turbo fires his final shot, Carnac reveals the last great mystery...

Johnny Carson died today.

Another legend has gone.

Bill Clinton to get third term? Pray it doesn't happen... for his own sake.

This story is bat guano. It'll be a cold day in H-E-double toothpicks before the Republicans grant this concession (and they'd be showing themselves to be the biggest hypocrites after how they went after him in '98). But I'm wondering what would happen if the way was opened up for this, and if he did run and win. From NewsMax.com so take it with a grain of salt:
Saturday, Jan. 22, 2005 8:36 p.m. EST

Strategists Eyeing Deal for Clinton Third Term

Political strategists are reportedly pondering a deal that would allow Bill Clinton to run for president again by getting Republicans to agree to a change in the constitutional ban on third terms.

Calling it "a long shot," U.S. News & World Report says the deal would work like this: "Congressional Democrats will OK a constitutional amendment allowing naturalized citizens like California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to run for president if Republicans help kill the 22nd Amendment."

"Right now it's the talk among political strategists," says the magazine's Washington Whispers section. "But look for it to spread on Capitol Hill when Sen. Orrin Hatch reintroduces his plan to let naturalized citizens run for president after 20 years."

Clinton himself has boasted that he "could be re-elected" one more time...

Funny that I'm reading about this now (if it's true that is) 'cuz this morning my wife and I got into a conversation about the current state of things, and how - loathe that we were to admit it - in a buncha ways the Clinton years were a lot better time than we've got now. I shared something with her that I've really come to believe in, now that Clinton's been out of office long enough and there's been time for contemplation: Bill Clinton did a lotta things that messed up this country, and diminished our capacity for self-defense. Not to mention the maybe irreparable damage he brought to the office of President because of what he did with that intern and a cigar.

But in hindsight, I believe that Bill Clinton gave as good a performance in the capacity of President as he was able to muster. Will even go so far to say that - and this is going to become increasingly obvious as the years go by - that Bill Clinton was a very flawed man that came in the way of what might actually be a very sincere heart. What might inherently be a good heart, even.

Yes, I'm quite aware of the alleged rape of Juanita Broaddrick (he should have served hard prison time a loooong time ago if true... and there's plenty of evidence that it did occur). And selling out a lot of our national security to communist China (which in olden days would have had him in front of a firing squad for treason). And the inordinately long list of people associated with the Clintons that have died under suspicious circumstances. And the handling of the Elian Gonzalez incident. And his administration's botching the Branch Davidian thing at Waco (David Koresh could have easily been picked up anywhere on the street away from the compound: instead it had to be a "show of force" by the government). And all the other women who've come out over the years with claims and corroboration that Clinton sexually violated them. And the Arkansas prison blood scandal. And the rampant cronyism. And his use of the IRS to harass and intimidate political enemies. And his betraying his oath of office and the sanctity of the law that he long ago pledged to serve by lying under oath. And literally dozens (hundreds?) of other things that if committed by the average American citizen, would in a sane world have either landed him in prison or driven him to madness and suicide.

And let's face it: anyone who let's their Christmas tree be decorated with condoms, drug needles and sex toys is obviously suffering from a diseased mind. That would be disturbing behavior for anyone... but when it's the President of the United States doing that in our White House... well, you get the point.

On issues, I couldn't have disagreed more with the guy. I'm very strongly pro-2nd Amendment, while Clinton wanted more handgun control. He's pro-fetucide (sorry, I just don't see how it can be called "pro-choice" at all) and I'm adamantly pro-life. He supported NAFTA and I saw back then that we would come to regret it.

I do not like, or have ever approved or appreciated, the things that Bill Clinton did as President. Back in the day, you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who was more looking forward to his impeachment: I'll readily admit to literally praying that if God was so willing, that He would see Clinton taken out of office. By force, if necessary.

Did I hate Bill Clinton? Yeah... yeah, I think I did. I know I did. But I don't know if that was a hatred of the things he did, or a hatred that was just projected onto Clinton out of frustration and exasperation that he'd be so stupid as to led a life like this and then let it wash over the rest of us. But so far as pure hatred or fear goes for the man himself... it doesn't seem like that was ever there, looking back from today.

Everything wrong that Clinton did, he should be held accountable for committing them. I wouldn't want to see harm come to anyone, even if called for by the rule of law... but his entire term in office was one long begging for the rule of law to be acted upon. Making him answer for his misdeeds would have reinforced the belief that ours is a nation of laws and not men. But it wasn't. It was ignored out of political expedience... on both sides of the aisle! And I can see where the failure to prosecute Bill Clinton as any other American might have been from similar acts has only served to make not just the executive branch, but the entire government far more removed and less answerable to the American people and the law that they do still adhere to.

All that said, and even knowing that he more than likely deserves more punishment than most people... I feel sorry for Bill Clinton. Because I've also seen a lot of things in his life to make me think that there's a good person in there, somewhere, that has never known how to come out.

This is a man who was born into dire poverty and grew up in a town so criminal, it never occured to most residents that it's biggest industry was illegal gambling run by the Mafia. His natural father was killed three months before Clinton was born and his step-father was an alcohol-enraged compulsive gambler who regularly abused Clinton's mother and half-brother. By every indication, Clinton was a young man bereft of any real love or chance to escape for something better. But when it did come, he poured every iota of passion and effort into its pursuit.

Unfortunately, while it's one thing to escape your circumstances, it's quite another to escape your wounds. Sooner or later they must be confronted. And instead of forcing himself to do that, Clinton ran away from it and threw himself into his ambitions and abilities that much more.

And then, however much wrong he had done already was compounded by another tragedy. Perhaps the worst mistake that Bill Clinton ever did with his life: he met and married Hillary Rodham.

You'd have to be either very blind or willingly stupid to not see that Hillary Clinton only married her husband because she saw that he "was going places" and had to attach herself to him. Hillary wanted power and Bill was the vehicle she intended to ride to a helluva lot of it. And when he had outlasted his usefulness to her and she was where she wanted to be... well, how many times since he left office have we really seen Bill and Hillary together? We see plenty of Hillary nowadays: as New York's Senator, as a possible Presidential candidate in 2008... but as a "wife" at all? Can't say that I've seen that even once since his term ended (and it was pretty rare during it already).

That still doesn't exonerate him from his sins. But the longer Bill Clinton is out of office and the further he remains from the woman who exploited his good fortunes, the more he's going to finally start to grow up. And understand that he's got to face up to some things. His recent heart attack must have had some effect on him to cause reflection and consideration. Who knows, but maybe that brush with mortality made him realize that life is short, and not about pursuing money or power or sex at all. And that there is still time to make something of it that would be far nobler - and of far more lasting value - than anything he did while serving as President of the United States.

Consider a man like that, who was born into a broken home with nothing. Not even a moral compass apart from what little his own desperate and hardened conscience knew about. Whose had considerable God-given talents... and then became an instrument to be used by petty, godless despoilers who otherwise had no route toward that for which they lusted. Who obviously has a lot of human weakness and committed much unatoned-for wrongdoing. Consider someone like that who would want to be clean in his conscience before God and other men.

Now, contrast such a man to one who was born with every privilege and comfort. Whose sense of morality derived mostly from an aura of elitism and aloofness from others. Who had no desire to develop whatever talents God gave him and instead chose to "coast" through life on the charity of others and affluence of his name. Who has boasted that he cannot and will not be held accountable for anything, that he has not made any mistakes or apparently is capable of making a mistake at all. Who has also done much wrongdoing... and then let it be magnified by bringing on the deaths of thousands of his own people and countless more in distant lands. Who instead of letting his conscience be broken in the sight of God, is so brazen as to wield the name of God as a talisman against others, so that he might continue his own damnable desire for power unhindered?

One can confess sin and wrong (but could still do a lot more). The other believes he does not need to confess any wrongdoing (and has let his unrepentant heart cause misery toward others beyond measure).

I can't hate Clinton anymore. I can't hate Bush either, for that matter. Both are men who, just as I or your or anyone else, God is trying with all His might to bring Home to Him someday. But first, that reconciliation must be desired... and Jesus had some words about the kind of man it would be who would have it:

And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

-- Luke 18, verses 9-14

Something to consider.

One last thing: I just noticed that although George W. Bush won this past election by the most votes ever cast for a winning candidate and by a wider margin of victory than in his 2000 run against Al Gore, the best he's been able to muster was 1/3rd of the percentage that Clinton got in the 1996 election, when Clinton drastically increased that margin over what he got against George Bush I and Ross Perot in 1992. Clinton also was first elected with the largest percentage of turnout from eligible voters since Nixon beat McGovern in '72 (Nixon's percentage margin of victory in that race remains the biggest since Franklin Roosevelt's in the 1936 election).

When you run the numbers, Bill Clinton statistically had a greater mandate from the American people than George W. Bush has ever been able to boast, if we're gauging this by how big a slice of participating voters approve of a candidate.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

WOW! Alzheimer's damage is "reversible" with "rapid recovery", study finds

Hot damn!! This just keeps getting better and better!

First was yesterday's news that the "master gene" triggering cancer has been discovered. So far as medical research goes, that's maybe bigger than Enrico Fermi figuring out controlled nuclear fission. With a bit more studying, we might stand a chance of wiping most and maybe even all cancer and very soon at that.


I don't care how ridiculous that comes across. Dammit, I've lost too many people over the past few years to cancer and Alzheimer's. So don't NOBODY suggest that that was over-the-top because I've damned-well earned the right to rejoice as loud as I wanna get about this. Oh yeah, what's that other news? From the AP via the San Francisco Chronicle:

Mouse experiment on clearing of brain plaques may offer hope in Alzheimer's research

JIM SALTER, Associated Press Writer
Thursday, January 20, 2005

(01-20) 14:31 PST ST. LOUIS (AP) --

Brain cells in mice recovered rapidly after brain plaques characteristic of Alzheimer's disease were removed, offering hope that plaque-clearing treatments could benefit patients with the disease, Washington University researchers said Thursday.

Results of the study will appear in the Feb. 5 issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

No one knows for sure if the sticky plaque -- amyloid beta peptide -- is the true cause of Alzheimer's, a brain degeneration disease that eventually robs victims of memory and the ability to communicate and care for themselves. About 4.5 million Americans have the disease.

But the plaque is a prime suspect, and several companies are developing drugs to target the buildup.

Researchers at Washington University injected mice with an antibody that cleared plaque in parts of the brain. Where the plaque was cleared, swelling on nerve cell branches disappeared quickly, the researchers said. They cautioned that while encouraging, more studies are needed to determine if similar effects might occur in people.

Removing the plaque "often led to rapid recovery of normal structure over a few days," said Dave Holtzman, senior author of the study and head of the Department of Neurology at Washington University.

He said that confirmed benefits of plaque-clearing treatments and "also gets us rethinking our theories on how plaques cause nerve cell damage..."

If this is as effective in humans as it's been in mice, our grandchildren might never know firsthand the pain of watching a loved one slowly slip away from this. And we can look forward to enjoying their company all the more as hope burns bright for our having a full and active life with them.

To quote Jasper when he came out of Apu's freezer on that episode of The Simpsons: "Hmmmm, Moon Pie! What a time to be alive!" :-)

Friday, January 21, 2005

Best news in a LONG time: scientists identify cancer's "on-switch"!

Please. Let. This. Be. True.
Scientists identify a single 'master' gene that seems to turn on cancer-causing action of other errant genes


January 20, 2005

An international team of scientists believes it has found cancer's master switch with the discovery of a gene they dubbed "Pokemon."

Like the electronic game figures - tiny monsters with bad tempers - the cancer-triggering gene apparently instigates the misbehavior of other cancer-causing genes, leading to tumor formation.

In today's issue of the journal Nature, researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan, in collaboration with teams in Japan and Britain, announce that the gene plays a key role in starting a malignancy. As a result, scientists now believe they have stumbled upon an important new target for an anti-cancer drug...

"This is the master switch that interacts with other genes... It acts differently than other oncogenes. Others regulate cell growth, but Pokemon impacts on critical properties of cancer cells."

Among those key properties, Pokemon enhances a cancer cell's ability to resist aging and death. This immortalizing factor essentially endows cancer cells with a Peter Pan-like quality that renders them robust indefinitely, the very trait that makes tumors difficult to treat...

Read the full story at Newsday.

If this is as big a breakthrough as I'm inclined to think it might be (always thought that it would come via researching telomeres... but hey who's complaining?!?), it's plausible that we might see most - and Lord willing, all - forms of cancer eliminated within the next decade. It's definitely within the realm of possibility now.

And who'da thunk that looking for Pokemon would actually have a real payoff? :-)

Well, if Peggy Noonan found it disturbing... (and something else Nazi-ish about Bush)

Peggy Noonan is prolly one of my favorite people to ever come out of mainstream politics in the last 20 years or so. Didja know that she's the one who helped Reagan with his speech on the afternoon after the Challenger exploded? Still makes me cry whenever I read the words of that.

Well, she's also someone who ain't afraid to note when something is terribly out of kilter, no matter who it's regarding. And in "Way Too Much God", she's got some choice words about Bush's inauguration speech. It's a good read and worth contemplating and there's a lot I could cite from it, but here's the heartmeat of her beef about what was wrong with Bush's mindset yesterday:

"This world is not heaven."
A man can follow Christ. A man can be the world's most powerful leader. But a man cannot be a Christian world leader in the sincerest sense at all unless he surrenders to what that statement means.

Also found this, "Will Bush Side with the Property Thieves?" published at the Future of Freedom Foundation's website. Never heard of these guys but they oppose gun control, federalized education and socialized medicine... so they're hitting on all the right cylinders in my book. The author of this piece, one Sheldon Richman, is noting that the Bush Administration is coming down on the side of local governments that condemn and seize the property of average citizens and small businesses, then sell the land to major corporations (Wal-Mart has been involved in a number of such incidents) to develop as they please. The rationale posed by the municipalities is that big companies - like Pfizer, mentioned in the article - will produce much more tax revenue for these governments than do small-fries like Joe Sixpack and Pop's Corner Grocery. Doesn't look like they've done anything official yet, however according to Richman's piece...

The twist is that the Bush administration — self-proclaimed champion of the "ownership society" — will apparently give its blessing to the land heist. According to the Wall Street Journal, "[The] Administration may file an amicus brief against property owners in an upcoming Supreme Court case concerning eminent domain." Several property-rights advocacy organizations have publicly asked the administration to side with the landowners but — ominously — there's been no response.
If they support this seizure in such a way, the Bush Administration will be saying, in effect, that in the eyes of American law that some really are "more equal than others". But somehow I don't think that even Orwell would have conceived of a day when in the United States a large corporation - an artificial entity - would be given greater consideration and priority over a flesh-and-blood individual.

Someone in the comments recently suggested I was being foolish for comparing Bush to Hitler. Well, that Bush is even considering putting his support behind this kind of practice is as damned close to what the Nazis held to as you can get: National Socialism was a centralized authoritiarian government much like that of the Soviet Union. But unlike the Communists, National Socialism didn't just allow but encouraged private industry, especially large corporate entities... so long as they contributed to the sustenance of the government's power. Whatever was deemed necessary to keep the trains running on time for the political and industrial leaders, was carried out... and individuals be damned!

Folks, what Bush is close to giving a wink toward was standard procedure of the Third Reich. And if he has no problem with letting ordinary Americans having their homes and livelihoods destroyed for sake of a major corporation, what might such a mind do if he deemed it required that such sacrifices be made for "the homeland"?

There is either the right to possess your own property in America without feeling threatened by undue seizure, or there is NO right at all and what you think of as "yours" is ultimately government's to take at its pleasure. If the latter is the predominant mindset behind this government's motive, then there exists no basis for freedom or liberty in America at all, since the right to own personal property is the absolute foundation upon which all other rights and liberties are derived.

Thus, President George W. Bush has set himself up as the sworn enemy of freedom and liberty for the American people.

Thought y'all would like to know that.

And I'll close this post with a final remark relating to all this: was in a history class in college years ago that was discussing this very thing on a philosophical level. And it was agreed upon - by FAR more than those opposed to it - that if such a thing were to ever start happening in America, that we owed it to ourselves and our posterity to preserve the right to private ownership, and defend our own homes accordingly. And if that meant assassinating those who so lusted after that which was rightfully ours that they tried to take it by force of government... well, there would be a moral obligation to do so.

No, again I don't want to see anyone killed. But gotta admit, there's something to be said about instilling a healthy dose of fear in would-be tyrants when those they would lord over realize that they need not so eagerly take up the rifle, but merely keep it ready beside the front door.

Don't trust anyone, unless you're fully convinced they're worth trusting. The Founders did a work of genius when they intended there to be a level of tension between those that govern, and those that extend their grace to be governed.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

It was Newspeak's finest hour...

"Hey, all you 'evangelical Christians' that voted for me..."

"...UP YOURS!"

After reading this, the dark "id" creature dwelling in the recesses of my heart is licking its chops, salivating in anticipation of the next four years. So many people are going to be made out before one and all as being deluded fools who preferred a lie more than they would adhere to the truth.

Tonight they party. Tomorrow comes the hangover.

It'll be tough, but I promise to try and not gloat when the hard reality finally strikes them in the face...

"We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world... So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world."

Bush also said this, a little over four years ago: "But we can't be all things to all people in the world. I am worried about over-committing our military around the world. I want to be judicious in its use. I don't think nation-building missions are worthwhile." (Presidential debate at Wake Forest University, October 11 2000).

"America will not pretend that jailed dissidents prefer their chains, or that women welcome humiliation and servitude, or that any human being aspires to live at the mercy of bullies."
This from a guy who used to explode frogs with firecrackers and start vicious whisper campaigns against college classmates that he was jealous of. And so far as pretending that dissidents shouldn't be silenced: Hey Bush, stop using the "free speech zones" and having people arrest for the "crime" of wearing a Kerry t-shirt. Then we'll talk, bucko.
"The leaders of governments with long habits of control need to know: To serve your people you must learn to trust them."

THIS, from the biggest control-freak who ever sat in the Oval Office?! Who trusts people in lands 8,000 miles away more than his own?!

I'd suggest that those who voted for this guy should now feel ashamed for their ignorance... but they tend to be the ones who don't have a sense of shame anyway, so why bother?

"From all of you, I have asked patience in the hard task of securing America, which you have granted in good measure. Our country has accepted obligations that are difficult to fulfill, and would be dishonorable to abandon."
Translation: Prepare for more breast-fondling and strip-searches of 80-year old WWII veterans by the TSA goons whenever you fly. And pay no attention to the millions of illegals and Lord knows who else coming across from Mexico.
"All Americans have witnessed this idealism, and some for the first time. I ask our youngest citizens to believe the evidence of your eyes. You have seen duty and allegiance in the determined faces of our soldiers. You have seen that life is fragile, and evil is real, and courage triumphs. Make the choice to serve in a cause larger than your wants, larger than yourself - and in your days you will add not just to the wealth of our country, but to its character."
In other words you might as well sign up for the military as this gang's cannon-fodder now, before the inevitable draft coming down soon takes you in anyway.

Say, when do Jenna and Barbara enlist? I mean, they were up there with their Daddy: shouldn't they be setting the example by proving to the rest of us that there's some integrity behind his words? Seems like it would be a thing to uphold the honorable name of a parent, y'know.

"America has need of idealism and courage, because we have essential work at home - the unfinished work of American freedom. In a world moving toward liberty, we are determined to show the meaning and promise of liberty."
Liberty in America was secured by idealistic individuals with guns aimed at tyrants. To add anything more would possibly incur a visit from the feds, but you catch my drift.
"Self-government relies, in the end, on the governing of the self. That edifice of character is built in families, supported by communities with standards, and sustained in our national life by the truths of Sinai, the Sermon on the Mount, the words of the Koran, and the varied faiths of our people. Americans move forward in every generation by reaffirming all that is good and true that came before - ideals of justice and conduct that are the same yesterday, today, and forever."
Someone already did a better job than I in commenting on this: here's Sabertooth's take.

So did Bush write this himself or did he use a speechwriter? If someone else drafted it, Bush should fire them immediately: this entire thing is filled with little (anything at all?) but empty rhetoric and blatant falsehoods. If Bush himself wrote this...

...Well, it's said that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. His grasp of the concept of human liberty is downright lethal.

If he's serious about "creating" freedom and democracy around the world, he's already damned to be one of the worst Presidents in American history. You can't bestow freedom on a people that aren't ready to achieve it on their own. Iraq should be more than adequate proof of this.

There's no way he can fulfill all of this without a massive replenishment/reinforcement of the armed forces: they're far too stretched across the board as it is, and in situations that a defensive military was never intended for at all. Considering that the neocon hawks are now hot about - and heavily hinting at - invading Iran, there's going to be no logical option but to build up more military forces via a draft if they're seriously hellbent on committing to this. And when it's factored-in that Iran has quietly been acquiring some pretty scary ordnance (like the Sunburn anti-ship missile) for well over a decade, well... it wouldn't be as nicely a "mission accomplished" as Iraq was by any stretch.

Bush is not prepared for what he's suggesting, either in conceiving so vast an endeavour or to accept the consequences of his own actions when it fails.

All of this and more leads me to feel pretty thankful tonight, that I've chosen not to align with this lot.

(And with this entry, The Knight Shift has hit the mark for 100 posts made :-)

Awright, put down that Da Vinci crap and check this out

So far no one in my circle of friends has told me that I absolutely must read The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown (right now we all seem to be reading Michael Crichton's State of Fear, re-reading all the current Harry Potter novels, or the first serious biography about Oskar Schindler... that's me :-). Not really expecting anyone too either. And already plenty confident that I won't waste a single dime or moment of life reading this tripe.

We're told that The Da Vinci Code is a "phenomenon". Heck, Ron Howard is doing the film adaptation (starring Tom Hanks) right now: I like both of 'em but I'm not gonna plunk down good money to see their movie either. In fact, they're making a huge mistake by having anything to do with this project. No doubt it seems like THE sure-fire hit right now, but enough people have complained that the story is "juvenile", badly manages its plot and boasts characters with all the depth of a kiddie pool. Ten years from now it'll be laughed at, but The Da Vinci Code will no doubt dazzle enough people to merit a mini-franchise... all because of its central premise: that Jesus Christ was married to Mary Magdalene and had children through her and that a centuries-old secret society has concealed this knowledge from lay Christianity.


This crap is so old that it long ago ceased being "intriguing" at all. The Prieure de Sion, the Cathars and Knights Templars, those pesky Merovingian descendants and their "sang raal", whatever is laying around Rennes-le-Chateau in southern France... I'd already known more about this stuff than probably anything Brown put in his tale. And that was years BEFORE I'd even read Holy Blood, Holy Grail... by every indication the book that Brown shamelessly ripped-off when he wrote The Da Vinci Code!

Speaking of which, Holy Blood, Holy Grail, first published in 1982, is currently ranked #50 on Amazon's list of top-selling books. It's the original source for this theory, which doesn't validate it at all 'cuz it's a curious mix of journalism, archaeology, religious conjecture and conspiracy theory: from which the resulting syncresis should not be taken at face value. Not "dissing" Holy Blood, Holy Grail per se, just that it's... odd. Definitely to be read with a discriminating mind.

But if this is the sort of thing that strikes your fancy and you want something REALLY juicy to focus your curiosity on, this lil' item is just what you're looking for. Wanna say this: my jaw literally dropped when I saw this on television this afternoon. Because as recently as 10 or 12 years or so ago, there were no photographs of Otto Rahn that were known to exist anywhere.

While randomly searching for something to watch on the tube I came across the Discovery Times channel and something called "Nazis: The Occult Conspiracy". It was a two-hour documentary on the religious underpinnings of Hitler and his followers... something that's been sorely under-researched or publicized despite its eighty-plus years of history. It was just starting and I tuned in and about halfway through it or so, they start talking about Otto Rahn: perhaps the most baffling and mysterious figure ever associated with the Third Reich yet a name so obscure that even many credentialed experts on Nazism have never heard of him.

Born in 1904, from an early age Rahn showed an intense interest in history and literature, and then of things occultic in nature. In 1929 he began excavations of Montsegur - once a fortress of the Cathars - and from his studies determined that it was most likely the Montsalvat from the Holy Grail stories. The Cathars, Rahn believed, had been the custodians of the Holy Grail itself.

Well, long story short, being the time that it was and that he was German, Rahn aroused the attention of one Heinrich Himmler. Himmler (a) had a jones for occult weirdness second only to Hitler (that thing in Raiders of the Lost Ark about Hitler being "obsessed with the occult" was WAY real, y'all) and (b) was just made head of a new group called Schutzstaffel... better known as the SS. Himmler recruited Rahn to be a civilian attached to the SS, which sponsored his further research into Grail lore. It was pretty clear that Himmler intended to locate the Grail and make it another relic (like the Lance of Longinus) that the Nazis would draw strength from. In effect, Otto Rahn was the real-life Indiana Jones looking for an object of reputed unimaginable power... albeit for the bad guys!

What happened after that is... well, no one's sure what happened exactly. Otto Rahn was found dead in 1939 in the Tyrol Mountains: no cause of death was ever given. Some say he was killed by the SS. Others hold that Rahn killed himself, in a manner that paid homage to the Cathars he long studied (and may even have adopted their faith as his own), because his conscience could no longer bear the burden of knowing that his life's work was being exploited by a evil regime readying itself to unleash war upon humanity.

Now, The Da Vinci Code and most of its associated lore is speculative, at best. The story of Otto Rahn is quite real, and as much a part of modern history as that of any other 20th century figure. And it's a most fascinating story, at that.

And until this afternoon, I'd always wondered what exactly Otto Rahn looked like, but no source ever produced an actual photograph of the man. Looks like a LOT has happened in the field of Nazi history in a few short years, 'cuz the Discovery Times documentary must have shown at least four or five pics of Rahn. I did a Google search and located even more of him. Would be neat to know where these have been all this time.

But anyways, if you read The Da Vinci Code and maybe found it lacking but wonder if there was ever anything legit to all this, you owe it to yourself to look into the story of Otto Rahn. I left a lot of stuff out of the story for you to discover if you're so inclined, and plenty of it is sure to raise your eyebrows a bit. Sure as heck did mine when I first stumbled on the tale :-)

"Then during The Duel, the potato masher shoves Anakin Spudwalker into the hot oil..."

...and the only thing keeping him from being a fish and chips dinner for Ewan McGregor was when this once-innocent potato was pulled from the fryer by his dark master and given new life behind the terrifying blackness of a breath-mask.
It's Darth Tater!
PAWTUCKET, R.I. (AP) _Jan. 19, 2005 — Hasbro Inc. is promoting its latest Mr. Potato Head figure, Darth Tater.

The toy spud will be available next month, ahead of the May release of "Star Wars: Episode III _ Revenge of the Sith," the latest installment in that film series.

Darth Tater will come with a light saber, cape and helmet, in addition to the regular Mr. Potato Head accessories such as eyes, mouth and nose.

The Pawtucket-based toy maker says children will be able to "have all kinds of mix n' match, Mr. Potato Head fun with this wacky spud dressed as the infamous `Star Wars' villain, Darth Vader."

The toy will retail for $7.99.

"Star Wars: Episode III," starring Ewan McGregor, Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman, will open in theaters nationwide on May 19.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

Hey, it took ten years but at long last Lucas Licensing is finally redeemed for giving us the Star Wars Bend-Ems :-P

Seriously though, it's a great time to be alive when your childhood favorite bad guy is set to be THE hottest-selling toy again. Between this Sith-lord spud and stuff like the Darth Vader Voice Changer and the upcoming Episode III LEGO sets (like the Vader Transformation... but at "Ages 6 and up" WHAT THE %*&# IS LEGO THINKING wanting kids to play with something THAT f'ed-up CREEPY?!?) looks like 2005 is going to be a big year for the original Man in Black.

Bored with Bush. Bored with politics. Bored with America... but I'm having a GREAT day today!

Funny thing: all my friends will attest that most of my life I've been addicted to politics. Even from a very young age no matter what or where or who, if it was political I had to study it some. Probably because of why I had to make the drive to Washington D.C. last June (twelve hours after an already long drive back from Georgia) to watch the procession carrying Ronald Reagan's casket from the White House to the Capitol and why the following night was spent waiting to go through the Rotunda (was there for the next-to-last changing of the guard, by the way). I was one of the Reagan generation, and that was the neatest time for a kid to grow up amid so much history: I was prolly the only kid in third grade who knew that much about Andropov in Russia or Walesa in Poland. When most of my peers were out riding bikes in summer of '87, I spent my pre-eighth grade days watching the Iran-Contra hearings. At 17 I started writing letters to the editor of the nearest big newspaper, and soon after was seeing some full-bore op-ed pieces getting published. Couldn't wait to participate in the grand experiment that is American democracy, so the day after turning 18 I registered to vote (originally as a Democrat, then years later as a Republican... so I've been all over that board).

It led to some pretty bizarre stunts, too. Like the night before the '96 election when two friends and I printed up dozens of posters and stuck 'em all over our college campus: Hillary Clinton in black S&M leather holding a whip, with the caption "Put yourself in bondage: Elect Clinton on Tuesday!" Glad I can finally 'fess up to that openly now :-)

Will admit this too: I really wanted, after college, to find a career that was associated in some manner to the political realm. It almost sent me to work for a very well-known leader in conservative circles. The opportunity came and out of hundreds of people considered, they told me I was one of two finalists. Obviously, I didn't get it... but they say that when God closes a door He opens a window: if I'd had to move that far away, I would have never met the beautiful young lass who would become my wife, so I can't complain.

In hindsight, my fascination with politics had to do with my intense interest in ideas and beliefs. That at an early age I perceived a vast "arena of ideas" in the world around me, and I couldn't wait to come of age and partake in that battle. I wanted to understand The Truth of things, ya see, and all of this political process was the engine that was driving us toward that, fueled by raw thinking and consideration.

That's what led me to major in history in college. And now... I'm wondering what good was it, when the America I grew up - the America that I believed valued things like honor and integrity, and openly welcomed the individual's efforts in making the shining city on the hill that much brighter - doesn't even exist anymore, at all.

Maybe this means I'm getting older. Or getting wiser. Or getting more weary of things that I'm coming to increasingly realize that those which are not eternal, really are of no worth at all. Or that I'm just too damned fed up with how screwed-up this world is to really care anymore.

Except whenever I tell my dear wife that, she always tells me "Oh Chris, but you do care, even when no one else does. That's one reason I fell in love with you!"

Charles Schultz - who I believe will be marked in history as one of the greatest Christian theologians and commentators the Western world has ever known - once said "I love mankind; it's people I can't stand." I'm finally understanding what he meant by that. Because I do love my fellow man, as a whole. Like Anne Frank, I still like to believe that "in spite of everything that people are really good at heart."

Except that too many people in this world are either (a) complete morons or (b) all too willing to let themselves be ruled by complete morons. All of which meaning that I like to entertain the hope that people eventually come to their senses... but in the meantime I'll admit to the temptation of wanting to beat the living crap out of them for chronic stupidity that affects the rest of us. And if they get screwed royally... well, they had it coming.

Except, again, that I do care, in the end. Even for the morons.

Today is Inauguration Day 2005. In another hour or so George W. Bush will get sworn in for a second term of office. And I wish him well, and all the best, and my prayers will go up for him that he'll be a capable and honorable servant of the citizenry for the next four years.


He's not our "king", or our "Caesar". He's an employee of the American people. I'm going to pray that he keeps that in mind too, and far moreso than he has the previous four years. If he does not... well, history tends to level a better judgment beyond the ken of our mortal years. That's a good thing to remember no matter what circumstance you find God (or man) has put you in.

But otherwise, today's events are a dreary bore for me, and it has nothing to do with party alignment (I'm un-affiliated, by the way) at all. Instead it's because I cannot be persuaded away from what I've come to understand: that our current mode of government is unrestrained force, with no real respect toward its founding documents or even an acknowledgement that there is such a thing as the rule of law instead of men. That the political process I desired to partake in for so long is revealed to be an illusion projected by government, and a corporate-driven media, and thousands of petty tyrants and yes-men. That the vast majority of the American people are so entranced by this illusion that they would not break free from it, though they might know of it. That everything we are expected to buy into as being "the reality" is a facade over the REAL nature of things: that there are those among us who would keep their brothers in bondage, and forever ignorant of the freedom that could be theirs... if they would but reach out and grasp it.

I voted for Kerry this past election, though I never supported him in any way. Logically, it seemed that if the polls were running that close then pitting a Democrat President against a Republican Congress would at least produce enough gridlock to keep either from really messing this country up more. I was foolish to have voted for Kerry though, I see now, because in the end it wouldn't have really mattered: I made the mistake of giving the illusion that much more credence than it deserved.

As a Christian, I - and the rest of us who profess a belief in Christ - are taught to seek and know and live in truth, and for truth. Why should or even can we buy into a sphere of lies that only serves to make us ignorant of truth? Can somebody tell me how it is that ANY devout Christian would want to be a part of that, at all?

Maybe now some of you will understand (and if not, I don't care: if you don't want to consider my arguments now, you never were going to anyway) why I've been railing against Bush in particular lately, and the entire messed-up system of American politics in general. I'm bored with the politics... but I'm frustrated and put-out as Hell at my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who should have known better for too many years already than to prostitute what we are called to be, for sake of worldly power.

And why the &%*@ should I want anything to do with an entire "scheme of things" that doesn't give a damn about concrete values and original ideas anymore? The way to get things done in today's America is to start the ugliest rumor, hurl the lowest insult, write the nastiest diatribe, condemn others to hellfire and brimstone because they're "Democrats", lend weight to false documents because they target "Republicans", do anything and everything in one's power to discredit and destroy another because they stand in the way of power without ever wondering if one even deserves that power anyway...

I dunno. You tell me: why should this day's Presidential inauguration really interest, or matter to me at all, when the outcome was already established years ago? It makes no difference if that's Bush or Kerry getting sworn in today: either would perpetuate the illusion for the masses. And guys like me... don't really fit into that mess, at all.

Four years ago today, I had a helluva good day when Bush got sworn in for the first time. It was snowing in Atlanta and Lisa took me all over downtown and the Underground area. Later that afternoon we saw Stomp perform at the Fox Theater. I had no idea or even cared that we had a new President at all until the next morning when they showed Bush getting sworn in on the news.

A day without a moment wasted worrying about who it is or isn't becoming President. Now, that's a heckuva good day. That's the kind of day that most Americans used to have, once upon a time. Too bad that it's my lot that as a Christian and a historian, that I'm called to keep an eye out on how bad this guy might mess up and warn others accordingly.

But, I don't think he's going to do too much of that this day. So I'm going to take off now, and put it out of mind, and occupy this afternoon with much more meaningful endeavours. And if something REALLY important happens that warrants my attention, I'll look into it.

Now go out and play. It's a beautiful day outside :-)

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

"Deep into that darkness peering..."

"There are some secrets that do not permit themselves to be revealed."
-- Edgar Allan Poe
There's something about this whole story that... well, it's one of those things of enigma that nowadays run scarce in this world. We shouldn't be able to explain everything and though it would probably be pretty easy to find out exactly why this takes place every year, we don't really need an explantion, or need to know anything else about the people responsible. Whoever they have been, their tradition should be revered for its own sake, and given the respect it's due as a uniquely American mystery...

The three roses and bottle of cognac left by the Poe Toaster this year (held by Jeff Jerome, curator of the Poe House and Museum)

January 19th is the birthday of Edgar Allan Poe. And on its night, every year since 1949 (at least) someone steps out of the Baltimore night, enters the Old West Burying Ground cemetary, and places three roses and a half-empty bottle of cognac on Poe's grave. The darkened figure then disappears into the shadows as quickly as he arrived.

The "Poe Toaster", as he has come to be called, came to honor Poe's birthday again this year. Herein lies the tale, as relayed from the AP via Yahoo!

Mysterious Fan Marks Poe's Birthday
Wed Jan 19, 7:16 AM ET
U.S. National - AP

By KASEY JONES, Associated Press Writer

BALTIMORE - The mystery man was dressed for the cold rather than tradition, and some spectators were not quite as respectful as in years past. But for the 56th year, a man stole into a locked graveyard early on Edgar Allan Poe's birthday and placed three roses and a half-empty bottle of cognac on the writer's grave.

Jeff Jerome, curator of the Poe House and Museum, who has seen the mysterious visitor every Jan. 19 since 1976, gathered with about 20 people Tuesday night to glimpse the ritual.

"It was absolutely frigid," Jerome said of the sub-20 degree temperature.

No one, not even Jerome, knows the identity of the so-called "Poe Toaster." The visit was first documented in 1949, a century after Poe's death.

This year, the visitor arrived at 1:10 a.m. in a heavy coat and obscured his face with a black pullover, Jerome said. He was not wearing the traditional white scarf and black hat.

"He put the roses and cognac at the base of Poe's grave and put his hand on top of the (tomb) stone. He paused and put his head down," the museum curator said. He left after about five minutes, Jerome said.

The visitor's three roses are believed to honor Poe, his mother-in-law and his wife, all of whom are buried in the graveyard. The significance of the cognac is unknown...

Incidentally, so far as is known there is only one photo of the Poe Toaster known to exist: an image that Life Magazine ran in July 1990. Supposedly this is the original Poe Toaster, the one who began the tradition. When he came in 1993 a note was found that said "The torch shall be passed". During a later visit another note was left behind, saying that the man's sons were continuing the tradition and that the original Toaster had died.

That ain't the only communication there's ever been from the Poe Toaster(s). Two years ago, on the eve of the Iraqi War this was found alongside the mementos: "The sacred memory of Poe and his final resting place is no place for French cognac. With great reluctance but for respect for family tradition the cognac is place. The memory of Poe shall live evermore!", obviously a smack against France not participating in the war. And two years before that the Toaster honked off all of Baltimore when he rooted for the opposing team in the Super Bowl: "The New York Giants. Darkness and decay and the big blue hold dominion over all. The Baltimore Ravens. A thousand injuries they will suffer. Edgar Allan Poe evermore."

First time I heard about this tradition was well over ten years ago. Never forgot it and one of these days, I'm going to make a trip up to Baltimore and watch this happen.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Fantastic Four trailer now online...

...but geez I'm conflicted on this. Hate to admit but it's not really resonating/feeding the "wanna see" factor with me like the movies for Spider-Man and X-Men, and even Daredevil have done. I mean, it looks good:
Those are all the right visuals - except the Thing could stand to be bigger, and boast a larger brow - but having watched the trailer 3 times now, it just doesn't feel like the spirit of the original Jack Kirby/Stan Lee comics (gotta wonder where Lee will cameo in this one :-)

The origin of the Fantastic Four is structurally similar to their beginnings in the comic, but it screams too much government-funded mandate and one little nuance that I loved from the Marvel mags is that Reed Richards basically hijacked his own test rocket ship so that he could try it out before they cut the pursestrings. He conned his best buddy Ben Grimm to fly the thing... not to mention letting his girlfriend Susan and her hot-headed little brother Johnny tag along for the ride, not knowing they were all gonna get zapped by cosmic rays and get superpowers. This trailer looks like not only will EVERYONE know they're doing it anyway, but that Doctor Doom is involved in it somehow. Which is where this movie REALLY blows already: ya see, Doctor Doom is not the main villain to use for the first movie about the Fantastic Four. He should be saved for the second one, and keep him Richards' old college roomie who messed around with that machine so he could talk to his Momma's soul in Hell and wound up getting his face scorched off in the process. Yeah, bring Doom in for part 2, as the dictator of Latveria that Richards is the only one who can contest his bid for world power. But since this is the Fantastic Four and pitting them against Mole-Man out the gate wouldn't be any fun, they should have used this guy for the first movie's baddie:

I would pay to see this movie at least ten times if they'd chosen to use Galactus instead and that alone would have cemented Fantastic Four as a classic movie. So, say Galactus takes notice of Earth somehow (via the same cosmic event that empowers the Four?) and comes to devour the planet. That would have set up a BRILLIANT attempt by Richards to persuade Galactus to spare Earth, instead of fighting him outright. Given that Richards is a man of science and Galactus is a fundamental component of nature beyond normal understanding... well, it would have been more faithful to the comic's spirit that way, and have catapulted Fantastic Four beyond anything like usual superhero movie fare instead of making it a cliche "good versus evil" flick.

But anyways, here's the trailer for Fantastic Four (Quicktime format). Gotta say that the Human Torch effects look pretty darned good though :-)