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Thursday, April 21, 2005


I recently made the following statement in a post on this blog:

“I find it interesting that people will, with some regularity, kill in honor of their religion, but never, to my knowledge, has a group of people decided to kill in honor of their favorite artist or movement.”

It has occurred to me that, given the current fog of war and the most recent version of “Code Phrases for Bigots: A Compendium,” this statement could be misconstrued as some sort of slander against Islam in particular and all people of a religious bent in general. That was not my intent.

First, let us consider Islam. I make no claims to expertise when it comes to Islam. Ignorance of Islam is more my claim to fame, and it is an ignorance I hope to one day remedy. However, that day will come when I have a proper amount of time on my hands to delve into it. I’ve read some about the various (or should I say “numerous”) interpretations of the text in the Quran concerning the number of virgins that a martyr is supposed to come into possession of in Paradise, most of which dispense with the entire notion of virgins, and have come to realize that this is not a pursuit to be undertaken lightly.

Of course, that could apply to any sacred text. None are what they seem. I’m sorry, my fundamentalist friends, but I think it is a mistake to read any sacred text in the same way that one would read a profane one, such as Time Magazine or a newspaper. Since they are intended to get at ideas that are beyond ordinary comprehension, they must be written in a way that is poetic. And it is my belief that if God can make the heavens and the earth, then he can also make a metaphor. Or five.

Second, the correlation between religious belief and violence is an ancient one and is hardly limited to any particular sect or group. I keep thinking of a line from “The Simpsons” in which Roger Meyers, Jr., the producer of the “Itchy and Scratchy” cartoons defends cartoon violence. He says (and I’m paraphrasing here), “I’ve been doing some research and it turns out that there’s always been violence. Take the Crusades, for example. Darn thing went on for 20 years. Extremely violent. Many people dead.” I think that one man’s jihad is another man’s crusade, just as one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. What doesn’t change is the killing.

Of course, the jihadists and the crusaders are always members of a fringe and should not be taken as representatives of the main body of believers. And yet, we do, attaching labels and stereotypes to Christians, Muslims, Jews, and anybody else we can in an attempt to make this ever more complicated world somehow understandable.

As for me, I was raised Catholic but ascribe to no particular religion. I tried the Catholic thing again a few years ago and had to spend a great deal of time deconstructing the teachings and reinterpreting every utterance in the light of mythology. It was a great deal of work to go through in order to be surrounded mostly by hypocrites and sleepwalkers. And so I have come back toward my father’s main religious tenet, which went thusly: “If God is everywhere, then he’s on this couch.”

Whatever anybody else wants to do, however, is their business, and I wish them well.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Brush With Greatness, Once Removed

Okay, so here’s a strange thing. I was reading this morning about the new Pope (Benedict XVI to you), and it turns out that he’s from a town in Bavaria called Traunstein. Well, it just so happens that Traunstein is the town that my father was stationed at after World War II. And then it turns out that the Benedict XVI’s home was used by the US Army as their headquarters. So, there is a very real chance that my father met the once and future pope back when he was grading parts of southern Germany with an Army-issue bulldozer. I have photos him that I will post once we get moved and get the scanner set up next week.

And did I mention that we were moving this weekend? Just down the road to a bigger, nicer apartment in nicer, more affluent complex.

But my Dad had a brush with greatness back in 1945 and ’46. They would have been close in age, my Dad being about a year older. Here they were, one yearning for a career in the priesthood, the other hoping to avoid being shipped out to the Pacific Theater of Operations. My Dad learned a little German while he was there, and loved the town.

It’s a small world when there are so few degrees of separation between a louse like me and the Pope. At least it will give us some small talk to make if I ever meet him at a cocktail party.

This Test Don't Know Nuttin'

I got this from my wife's blog, and she got it from another blog. Since nobody who has a blog reads mine, I guess the buck stops here.

Your Linguistic Profile:

45% General American English

40% Yankee

15% Dixie

0% Midwestern

0% Upper Midwestern

Thursday, April 14, 2005


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One of my favorite moments in the history of "The Simpsons" is the following exchange:

Lisa: Cheer up, Dad. Did you know the Chinese use the same word for "crisis" as they do for "opportunity"?

Homer: Yes! Crisitunity!

Well, I've found myself with a bit of a telecommutitunity. Due to a series of developments at work, I've been able to engineer it so that I can telecommute starting today. I was actually going to wait to start until after we move in eight days, but I realized that I could take some of the strain off my dear wife by starting in sooner.

Will working from home help me in building my radio empire? In the words of the police officer in the Bugs Bunny cartoon where Bugs is being held captive by Rocky and Mugsy, "It might, rabbit, it might." I'm not saying that I would take time away from my regular job while I was being paid in order to work on scripts, but I'm not exactly not saying that either. And Federal law does mandate two breaks a day.

I think that not having to commute uphill both ways will help in that I will have more free time and will be less frazzled day-in and day-out. Commuting in Atlanta has become the thing of legend, and I figure that I'm legendary enough without having fight my way from one side of the city to the other twice a day.

I think I'm going to have my proposal ready for XM Satellite radio by the time we move. The new apartment feels propitious. And I'm ready to move on to the next adventure. Having my office at home is the first step.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

It's in the Stars

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Okay, one of my identifying features is that I tend to zig right about when most everybody figures I'm going to zag. Quite often, I will have told everyone about my intention to zag right up until the moment when I zig. You see, it's not that I'm intentionally dishonest or misleading. It's just that while my brain has said all along that zagging was the smart thing to do, my instincts weren't quite as certain, and so I stalled. Few, if any, preparations for zagging were made, and things just dragged on for weeks on end.

And then some new piece of information comes along, and I say, "Aha!" and zig. It happens almost every time.

Which brings me to the radio show. The other day, I read this article in the New York Times. And trying to get on satellite radio, an idea that has floated in the back of mind for some time, started to seem like a good idea. So, I've started pondering it. I have to revise my business plan, put together a presentation package, and find out who I can send it to. I'm still keeping the business plan I reworked for NPR, just in case, but I think I'll try to squeeze a few dollars out of the good folks at XM first.

If Howard Stern can do it.......

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The Creeping Dark

It really hasn't been my intention to turn this into one of those political blogs, but sometimes politics seep in, much like the contents of a poorly maintained septic system. Well, I wasn't really going to post anything political until I got a gander at this editorial in the New York Times today. I then went around the Internet checking on quotes from different perspectives, and they all read the same.

So, I went to Senator Cornyn's website and sent the following email:

Dear Sen. Cornyn,

I've read reports from several different sources representing varied points of view concerning your recent remarks about the courthouse shooting here in Atlanta and the murder of Judge Lefkow's husband and mother in Chicago. Your remarks were inappropriate, thoughtless, politicized, and foolish.

On top of that, they were plain wrong.

Let me remind you that neither of these crimes was committed out of the frustration of which you speak. The murder of Judge Lefkow's husband and mother was motivated by her throwing out a lawsuit that is precisely the kind of lawsuit you and your Republican cohorts would like to do away with entirely. Her decision was correct and non-political.

Brian Nichols, the shooter here in Atlanta, has been quoted as saying that Judge Barnes was providing him with as fair a trial as possible. And, if the act were political in any way, it was as a reaction against the disproportionate incarceration of black men in this country, an imbalance that is exacerbated by a series of draconian laws promoted and pushed into law by the Republican Party.

Finally, even if these crimes had been committed as a result of the motivations that you ascribe to them, the people who would stand guilty of inciting those crimes would not be the judges, but the politicians, such as yourself, who speak recklessly and who wallow endlessly in a puddle of low cant.

At the very least, you owe an apology to Judge Lefkow and the family of Judge Barnes. To do that is the minimum; to do less is to push us one step closer to the dark.

Barry Goldwater is famous for having said that "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice," however, he was wrong. Extremists are like the crazy people who would kill their families in order to save them. And this is the right-wing approach to liberty. They seek to preserve it by destroying it because they secretly fear and loathe it.

Should anyone wish to contact Senator Cornyn himself, the page where the his contact information can be found is

Monday, April 04, 2005

Time Is a Tricky Little Bastard

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Every April and October, we enter into and exit from a collective deception we call Daylight Savings Time. (Apparently, the middle word of that is supposed to be singular, that is, “Saving,” but the will of the People is a difficult thing to fight in matters of the word, and “Savings” is what we get in real life.) I dread it, each year, and spend slightly more than six months at a time feeling logy and unfulfilled.

The experts talk about energy savings, which may be true, but in a society that vibrates like a quartz crystal 24/7, one must wonder whether those savings aren’t squandered like the Federal surplus was. As a nation, we are not savers, but compulsive wasters. To me, however, Daylight Savings Time is a symbol for how we delude ourselves into thinking that we can manipulate and control time.

Time and its passing has been on my mind of late, thanks in part to the Schiavo case and the death of the Pope. I was raised Catholic and have had my brush with adherence in adulthood, but I am, I guess officially, a lapsed Papist, although I prefer to think of myself, in Woody Allen’s phrase, to be “the loyal opposition.” I find things to admire in it, and its use of ritual—the reenactment of the myth—makes it the one Christian faith I can go steady with. However, the habit of people to reduce the sacred to the level of the profane and the hypocrisy of those who swarm closest to the center of any church (and I’m excluding those who have taken Holy Orders in that statement) have served to keep me at a distance from the Church, interested observer but no longer active participant.

The death of the Pope—which, by the logic the parents and their supporters in the Schiavo case, was suicide—has been dominating the headlines the last couple of days. At one point, a Cardinal was quoted as saying that Jesus had opened the door for him to step through. However, it seems that Jesus actually just looked through the peephole and asked for the password. (“Swordfish,” I’ll bet.) The Pope lingered a while longer.

The previous three weeks worth of news had been dominated by the Schiavo case, in which the remains of a young woman were dangled before the public in a way that was once reserved for relics like the shard of a bone of St. Stephen. And while a few seconds of videotape selected from hundreds of hours worth were played in continuous loops on a few cable news channels as proof of Terri Schiavo’s sentience, examinations of CAT scans and a flat EEG prove that the opposite is true.

It interests me that the people who were trying to keep Ms. Schiavo alive were religious believers. If I understand their beliefs correctly, their stated aim was to keep Ms. Schiavo from the arms of her Redeemer and the blessings of heaven for as long as possible. If I recall my Dante correctly, Purgatory is not much of an improvement from Hell, since we are still denied the ecstasy of experiencing the Glory of God unfiltered.

And why did they wish to do this? Let us consult Mark Twain. (Twain is a wonderful authority on these matters. He had a wisdom forged in sorrow and tempered with laughter.) In “Puddinhead Wilson,”he said, “Why is it that we rejoice at a birth and grieve at a funeral? It is because we are not the person involved."

It seems to me that the real culprit here is not Michael Schiavo or his in-laws, but a medical culture that has the tools at its disposal to keep the carcass going even after the spirit has returned from whence it came. It is an American culture that fears death and that has concocted an absurdist sitcom in which to live based on the tenets of the worship of youth and the denial of death.

At one point, after the feeding tube was removed, Ms. Schiavo’s father was quoted as saying that this wouldn’t happen to an animal. And he was right. An animal would have been euthanized long before. To have kept an animal in the condition in which we found Terri Schiavo would have been considered inhumane. Of course, as John says in A Hard Day’s Night, “We usually reckon dogs more than people in England.” Sometimes that is true in the U.S. as well.

Finally, I'd like to leave you with this pearl of wisdom gleaned from today's entry on the Three Stooges page-a-day calendar I use at work. This is what met my eyes as I tore the page today: "Curly says: 'We're toys of fate. It's Kismet!'" That Curly was a real smart guy.