Thursday, August 28, 2008


Still settling into new duties. Those bastards are actually making me work!

However, I'm still sneaking onto the tubes to keep an eye on the "conservatives" and jeebnuts, and also to get my daily dose of godlessness. Fortunately, my coworkers are heathens, too, so I'm occasionally able to make fun of god in the course of my daily activities. When I do it at home (as I did the other night), I broke my wife's heart. Again, we were on the brink of divorce. It was because we were talking about wafergate.

PZ Myers almost destroyed my marriage. I'll bet you thought you'd never read that sentence. In fact, I can't imagine that you ever actually thought about it.

So today, rather than try to corral some volunteers to cover our front desk, I decided to see what my favourite jeebnuts at Christian Worldview Network were freaking out about today. It's jihad.

If I understand correctly, jihad means struggle. It specifically applies to the individual Muslim and his or her struggle to stay right with god (and their god is kinda bitchy, so you wanna stay on his sunshiney side). But it is often applied more broadly, to mean the struggle of Islam in the greater world: a holy war, if you will. In my opinion, Islam means submission, so Islam ought to just submit.

But nobody asked me.

But back to the jeebnuts. Here's the crisis, in all its panty-twisting details:

When my husband and I moved to the Memphis area a few years ago, one of the first things on my lengthy “to-do” list was to subscribe to the local daily newspaper, The Commercial Appeal (CA). As an avid reader, I appreciate this quiet, “unplugged” method of staying current on a wide variety of issues and events.

A few weeks ago, I was reading the editorial page; as usual, I looked down for the Bible verse that always appeared in the lower left corner. To my amazement, the Bible verse had been replaced by a verse from the Qu’ran. The following day, a Saturday, a verse from the Talmud was inserted. On Sunday, I was relieved to see the Bible quoted, but I had a suspicion that has proved correct: On Fridays, a Muslim holy day, our local paper now features a verse from the Qu’ran, and on Saturdays, the Jewish Sabbath (Shabbat), they print a verse from the Talmud.
The horror! What the hell happened? (And what the hell kind of name is that for a newspaper? Kinda puts the focus right out front, without any pretense.)

Although I suspect this is a case of Political Correctness (PC) run amok, I can offer no evidence; multiple emails to the CA Editor, Chris Peck, have remained unanswered. I asked that the CA discontinue printing verses from the Qu’ran. I suggested more careful editing; at least one verse from the Bible and one from the Qu’ran were taken out of context, twisting their meanings beyond recognition. I provided a short list of Qu’aranic verses that reveal awareness of and respect for God’s previous revelations – the Law, the Gospel, and Jesus. Whether these verses that support Judaism and
Christianity will be printed remains to be seen.
Oh, well, if that's all then. I can get back to the Jumble.

Muslims and their PC defenders will tell you there is no cause for concern. They will insist that Allah and the God of the Bible are the same. Numerous verses in the Qu’ran refute that idea, for they describe characteristics of Allah that are opposed to those claimed by God. Although many verses refer to Jesus, Muslims do not believe He was crucified for our sins or that He rose again; neither do they accept that He is our Savior and our God.
Oh. My. God. People from another religion have different beliefs! How the fuck did this get past me? Who's in charge here?

...Perhaps you think that Jihad refers to the internal struggles that Muslims experience as they mature in their faith. However, Jihad also refers to the struggles Muslims are asked to participate in and promote within a much wider arena. According to Mawlana Sayid Abul Ala Mawdudi, an Indian who is regarded as one of Islam’s great scholars:

Islam is not a normal religion like the other religions in the world, and Muslim nations are not like normal nations. Muslim nations are very special because they have a command from Allah to rule the entire world and to be over every nation in the world. Islam is a revolutionary faith that comes to destroy any government made by man. The goal of Islam is to rule the entire world and submit all of mankind to the faith of Islam. Any nation or power that gets in the way of that goal, Islam will fight and destroy. In order to fulfill that goal, Islam can use every power available every way it can be used to bring worldwide revolution. This is Jihad.
'Cause Christians have always peacefully coexisted with their neoighbours, and would never resort to violence or forcible conversions. Ever. Nor would they ever call for god's law to usurp the laws of man. Hey, kettle? The pot is on line one.

As Americans, we have an obligation and a desire to accept the foreigners in our midst, to demonstrate our values, including freedom, education for all, respect for women, equal treatment under the law, and a clear line between government and religion. Whether Muslims absorb or even appreciate these demonstrations is
unclear. It has been my observance that they prefer to remain apart. In the Memphis area, according to an article in the CA, Muslims are laying the
groundwork for a large complex that will include a mosque, recreational
facilities, and a community center.
Can't even begin to address the hypocrisy here. It's too fucking rich. But at the end, that last sentence? It's too fucking sweet. "In the Memphis area, according to an article in the CA, Muslims are laying the groundwork for a large complex that will include a mosque, recreational facilities, and a community center." Are you kidding me? The fact that they want to build a mosque and community centre is cause for alarm? You know what the C stands for in YMCA?

Thought so. Shut the fuck up, you bigoted bitch.

But the best is yet to come. How does she suggest you defend against the infidels?

More importantly, pray about these issues. We know that only God will be able to change the hearts of those who oppose Him. Nevertheless, we are to be His instruments. Loving our neighbors means doing what is best for them in a gracious manner. If we have Muslim neighbors, let’s do what we can to become acquainted, to help them learn about our values, and to show them Christ in our lives.
Right... Right... Right...

Christian Jihad.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Meet the new boss.

Biden is a mistake. He is further proof that Obama, despite his rhetoric and optimism, is just like everyone else. Meet the new boss, as the song goes, same as the old boss.

Still, here goes: In 2008, I should have dispensed with the optimism, stopped
playing the inside-the-Beltway pundit game of influence, and talked straight. I
should have written that, unless the new administration fundamentally changed
U.S policy -- reducing the nuclear arsenals, cutting the military budget,
launching a full-speed effort to halve carbon emissions, abandoning the
nonsensical "war on terror" -- we would run the risk of Goldilocks.
Hopey McChange my left nut. He's just like McCain, but sexier. And we get to choose between our own Dum and Dee this fall, it seems.

Call me when the revolution starts.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


I was flicking through the channels the other night and I saw that a crappy Left Behind movie was on. Kirk Cameron was in it, and while I was tempted to watch (hello, Antichrist!), I wisely opted for something less craptacular. I don't even remember what it was, but it might have been the second half of Fletch. Which is way awesomer than the Kirk Cameron.

But that Cameron guy got me thinking. Apparently, he used to be an atheist. Then he found Jesus. Just like C.S. Lewis, and a local writer whose pretensions in morality and godliness are exceeded only by his literary pretensions. He's quite a guy, is our Herman.

I understand when people go from one flavour of religion to another. Especially switching from, say Catholicism to Anglicanism. What's the difference, right? And if you believe in god, then why not become a Muslim? Seriously? What difference can it really make? Your religion is an accident of your birth, usually, so why not switch if something cooler or niftier comes along?

But going from non-belief or disbelief to belief is incomprehensible to me, unless you've met god, or are hearing the voices (again, I'd see a shrink before a witchdoctor on that one) there's no real reason to believe. Here's the reasoning:
  1. God exists.
  2. Because a book and/or some preacher says so.
  3. Heaven exists.
  4. Because a book and/or some preacher says so.
  5. Hell exists.
  6. Because a book and/or some preacher says so.
  7. You are going to hell.
  8. Because a book and/or some preacher says so.
  9. You can stop this by believing in this or that saviour.
  10. Because a book and/or some preacher says so.
  11. The bible is the word of god.
  12. You know this because the Bible or the Quran say so, and they are the word of god.
  13. And all this is indisputable and obvious.
  14. Because a book and/or some preacher says so.
How do you get to this place when you haven't started there?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The devil's in the details

Here's an alarmist screed from our good friends at Christian Worldview Network:

It's called "contemplative" or "centering" prayer and if you haven't heard about it yet, chances are unfortunately good that you will soon. It's invading churches like a virus in which submicroscopic pathogens contaminate the body many hours or days before the victim is aware of its presence.
That's pretty frightening, isn't it. It's like AIDS, or herpes, or the flu. What the hell is it?

Contemplative prayer is one of a number of ancient mystical practices or spiritual disciplines, as their proponents refer to them, which are being encouraged at an alarming rate by evangelical churches. It is all part of something called Spiritual Formation and the Emergent Church, a movement that as John MacArthur states in his book, The Truth War, is subtly changing the beliefs and doctrines of the evangelical church as we know it.

In its pure form, contemplative prayer is practiced by sitting still, quieting, and concentrating on your breathing and repeating a word of choice (maybe the name Jesus, for instance) over and over again. You're to concentrate on that word and your breathing, and work to eliminate all thoughts from your mind. Over a period of maybe 20 minutes -- and with practice -- you can enter into "the silence." Your mind is blank. You have, in fact, hypnotized yourself. And it is in "the silence" where "God" allegedly speaks to you.
The horror! I don't understand how an ancient practice of sitting still and getting your shit together contravenes the teachings of an ancient book. I expect she'll tell us, though.

According to the testimony of one former, now-redeemed New Ager I recently read this is the exact method used by New Agers and Eastern mystics to enter an altered state of consciousness that opens a person up to demonic influence...

And don't forget, this is based on the testimony of one reformed new-ager. And we know it isn't "god" talking to you how? If you're hearing voices, it's not god or a demon. You need to seek professional, medical help, before the leprechaun starts telling you to burn things.

Here's the thing: The introduction of these practices isn't direct. It's an insidious offensive by those the Bible would identify as false teachers. As MacArthur notes, "Rarely are their assaults on the truth open and head-on attacks. Instead, they prefer to work underground, drilling little holes in the foundations of truth itself."

Remember Jesus' warning? "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves" (Matt. 7:15).

MacArthur says, "You can't necessarily tell a false teacher by the way he or she appears. Every false religious leader is, after all, 'religious' by definition. Looking saintly is practically part of the job description."

So you may, for instance, be in a wonderful church with fellow Christians who are your fast friends. Everything is going hunky-dory--excellent Bible studies, messages that challenge you, friends you trust -- when all of a sudden there's a new Sunday school teacher or a new pastor on staff. Or maybe it's the same pastor who has taken a class or been to a conference that "changed his life" or "opened his eyes." Slowly, imperceptibly perhaps, change begins to happen.
The pastor starts telling you to sit still and listen to the voices. It'd be a warning sign for me, too.

Oddly enough, the rest of the article has NOTHING to do with contemplative prayer or meditation.

Whoa, Heidi! I thought we were talking contemplative prayer here. Did you change horses midstream?


Yes, you did.

...This is where it starts. It's been tough to figure out how to explain to you the way to identify the beginnings of the Spiritual Formation and the Emergent Church movement when it tiptoes into the church, because it's more the absence of what should be present than it is a stark, head-on attack.
Christians beware. The demons are infiltrating your church. Somehow. And there's meditation involved. And something about changing family structure. The church can do that, you see. And beware of reformation. Because the protestant church has always been the one true church, and never changed doctrine. Ever.

I like these people.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Several kinds of crazy

This beautifully sums up the nuttiness of our favourite flavour of jeebnuts:

John Hagee
John Hagee (whose name was recently in the news for ties to John McCain, who subsequently distanced himself from the Texas megachurch pastor), founded CUFI in 2006. According to its statement of purpose, the group seeks to "provide a national association through which every pro-Israel church, parachurch organization, ministry, or individual in American can speak and act with one voice in support of Israel in matters related to Biblical issues." Christian Zionists believe that support for Israel is not only mandated by God but is required in order to hasten the second coming of Christ (the End Times). They predicate their support for Israel on a desire to bring on Armageddon, and therefore push for policies that they believe will make this happen faster. Their "support" for Jews comes with a major and ironic caveat: after the second coming of Christ, Jews are required to convert to Christianity or else be left behind with the other "non-believers," like Muslims. Prior to starting CUFI, Hagee published a related, and equally disturbing, book called Jerusalem Countdown.
Here's the original article, which gets increasingly frightening.

Monday, August 18, 2008

*bangs head on desk*

I have seen a lot of stupid shit in political campaigns, particularly the current US presidential election, but this might be the worst fucking thing ever.

Campaign Cola Welcomes You
Welcome to Campaign Cola, the one and only website where you can vote for your candidate by purchasing their bottle of cola, regardless of age or residency. Campaign Cola wants YOU to run with the little guy, create some change and cast your vote early for the 2008 presidential election.

There’s no limit to how many times you can vote, here at Jones you can buy your candidate’s way to victory! Votes will be tallied every 15 minutes so be sure to check back periodically to see who is deemed the true people’s champ.

What might be most astonishing is that Ron Paul is in second place. What is close behind is that there is real political analysis on the site if you look for it. It's not much, and it's hardly comprehensive, but it's more informative than FOX News.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


It's been a crazy few days, and as a consequence, I've neglected the blog, and you, dear reader, and for that I am sorry. My job has been redefined (actually, defined), and now I have actual responsibilities. Fortunately, I feel better about work, because I have a purpose. Unfortunately, I have less time for pissing around on the internet and finding crazy shit to comment on. Furthermore, two very good friends of mine got married on the Friday (pain in my ass), and we had to travel, and visit family, and I drank far too much wine, and it was just disruptive all around.

However, they did give me a little fodder. It was a Catholic wedding, longish (but not too bad), and the priest wandered around abit in his homily. At one point he was invoking St. Neil Armstrong, the patron saint of the space traveller and math nerd, but I can't remember the point.

And I don't know what the hell the newlyweds were thinking, but here is one of the readings from the ceremony:

1A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. 2She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. 3Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. 4His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. 5She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. 6The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.
Revelation, Chapter 12. The war in heaven. It's kind of appropriate, considering the topic we've been discussing, but I have no fucking idea what Satan has to do with their marriage. I'd like to think that he has little to do with mine, but I might be married to his sister.

However, that image of Satan kind of kicks ass.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Antichrist

The Antichrist may be my favourite part of Christian mythology. First, it's given us some kickass movies, though admittedly, it's given us a few duds, too. It's part of the crazily abysmal Left Behind Books by LaHaye and some other loser. I know how bad they are. I started to read them, because, you know, the Antichrist.
And finally, he may be responsible for the Olympics. I am not making this up:

Are the Olympics directly tied to the ‘one world AntiChrist’?

I’m not a ‘conspiracy theorist’ and I am not saying that this is true. However, it has been a question that was brought up from ‘the pentecostal past’ because of these factors:
  • All the nations coming together in one place
  • The olympic flag with the colored ring representing the colors of every
    national flag of the world
  • The use of the olympics to subvertly promote liberal social causes
It makes me wonder….
It may make you wonder, but that makes you a delusional nutbar. And I fail to see how believing that Satan is secretly running the world is not a "conspiracy theory".

Consider this a public service announcement: You. Are. Crazy. So's this guy:

No one enjoys the Olympic Games more than I do. Every four years, both in the Summer and Winter Olympics, I watch, enthralled with the athletic ability of the performers, as they routinely, and beautifully, perform feats that are totally amazing. I think every person should enjoy these games to their hilt. Like few other things in our society, these Olympic Games show forth God's handiwork in creating human beings. Surely, as Romans 1:20, states, God's creation shows forth His attributes, His power, and His glory. Surely, these athletes do prove that we are "fearfully" and "wonderfully" created.

However, we shall show today how the modern Olympic Games are being mightily utilized to bring the world into the New World Order. While we cannot say with certainty that this goal was in the minds of the original founders of the Modern Olympic Games, we believe such may, indeed, have been the case. Bear with us as we review some of the evidence.
Where do these people come up with this shit? Tell me that religion is sane. Go ahead. Tell me.

Audiobiography Part 3

We begin at the beginning, in many ways. The first third of my life was largely textured by the music my parents listened to. The next third was essentially defined against my parents: a lot of rock and hip hop. The final third is more interesting in some ways. I began to develop a greater appreciation for everything my parents listened to, and what they didn't, and I went back to fill in some of the blanks. In the second half of the 90s, there were interesting things in music, and while I enjoyed grunge, hip hop and some of the pop, in other ways, I was not listening to much popular music. This narrows my choices in some ways, but also focuses the discussion.

1997-Urban Hymns by The Verve is supposed to be one of those albums that changed everything, but it really didn't. It's a good example of the pundit phenomenon, indicating that they aren't restricted to politics. Our Lady Peace changes Canadian rock with Clumsy. I don't own it, but I wish I did. Natalie Imbruglia's Left of the Middle is an astonishingly good pop album, considering she's an Australian soap star. There is, however, at least one precedent, with Kylie Minogue, And Pat Boone reiterated his irrelevancy by actively becoming a joke with In A Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy. In the process, he alienates the Religious right and has spent the last decade kissing their ass. This year would net a tie, if one album weren't essentially a greatest hits album: Zoot Suit Riot by The Cherry Poppin' Daddies. Great album, part of the ill-fated and much missed swing revival (though it has carried on in many ways, and I am grateful). But the winner for the year has to be So Much for the Afterglow by Everclear. I know it's like their third album, but I don't care. It's probably my favourite, and this is my blog.

1998-A mixed bag this year. Prozzak's Hot Show gets an honourable mention for two reasons. One, they're two bits of one of the best jazz bands out there: the Philosopher Kings. Two, the songs are viral, and they get in your head and stay there. Fastball's All the Pain that Money Can Buy is a mature and intelligent pop album that disappeared far too quickly. And Kid Rock released Devil Without A Cause, and then very quickly became irrelevant, and is now kind of a running gag. That whole Skynyrd thing annoys me, but the Zevon thing coupled with it makes me want to howl. Pardon the pun. But the album for me was The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Another solid, powerful soul/hip hop album from Wyclef, a masterful producer.

1999-A storied year, but not for its music. Britney busts out (pun once again intended) and get pedophiles salivating with ...Baby One More Time. I don't know whether or not I'm ashamed to admit that I own this album, but I do know that I ought to be. Jimmie's Chicken Shack released Bring Your Own Stereo, and while I owned it, it was stolen, and for some reason I can't remember it at all. I remember that I loved it. Whatever. Swollen Members, another good Canadian hip hop band, released Balance this year. But honours go to Eminem for The Slim Shady LP. This guy, for good or ill, rescued rap from obscurity.

2000-The year the US lost their fucking mind, and then blamed Ralph Nader for electing an idiot. Only three albums get mentioned this year: Riding with the King by B.B. King and Eric Clapton, probably two of the four greatest living blues guitarists. Songbook, Texas' greatest hits album was constantly on my discman (remember those?), and I'm sorry I discovered this poppy, bluesy, Scottish rock band so late. But the winner is Whoa, Nelly! by Nelly Furtado. Smart world-music, blues and folk-infused pop. Produced by Gerald Eaton of the Philosopher Kings.

2001-The year the horrible mistake of the US electorate became hideously apparent. Weezer released Weezer (green), one of my favourites of the last decade or so. The Strokes came out with Is This It, channeling the Ramones, or something like them, and gaining critical and popular acclaim. Ladytron snuck in under the radar with 604, a premonition of the synth-pop revival. But for me, Gorillaz are the winner with Gorillaz. I got the album and didn't stop listening to it except to put in some classics or Nelly Furtado. It kept me sane on the tube in the other London. Clint Eastwood may have changed my life. We'll never know.

2002-A little thin this year. I somehow ended up with a copy of Let Go by Avril Lavigne, and I liked it. A lot. I know I should be ashamed of this one, too. Maladroit followed up Weezer and somehow stays in rotation even today, though it's not one of my Weezer favourites. Songs About Jane takes it this year, the debut of Maroon 5. Don't ask me to explain it. They sound like the Commodores. I mean that in a good way.

2003-Apparently I started paying attention to popular music again this year. Michael Bublé debuted this year with his self-titled record, and don't you dare make fun of me. I like the crooners. Probably because I like sex, and crooners get men laid. Joss Stone tripped the pederast in me, but it was her voice first. Honest. The Soul Sessions were astounding. I couldn't believe that this was a 16-year-old British white kid. Nelly Furtado followed up her debut with Folklore, an album that grows on you as you listen. Fergie entered the collective unconscious as the Black Eyed Peas released Elefunk. Where is the Love? is a great song. Don't let anyone tell you different. Jet carries us back to the 70s with Get Born, and then we all get sick of that song because of Eurotrip, which we strangely don't get sick of. Two winners this year. Fountains of Wayne's Welcome Interstate Managers is a fantastically diverse album ranging from pop to classic rock to chicken-fried country. Stacy's Mom is only the beginning. Old World Underground, Where Are You? by Metric is brilliant: timely, sage, cynical, post-post-modern pop/new wave indie rock. This music is so complicated and diverse, Emily Haines became a Canadian icon almost immediately. Check it out. You will NOT be disappointed.

2004-A lot of brilliance this year, and some surprisingly smart pop. Kelly Clarkson is the latter. Breakaway is another album I'm almost ashamed to admit I own, but not quite. William Shatner's Has Been is the former. It's cool on so many levels: ironic, self-deprecating, smart, actually musical, with some great guest musicians. It's meta-pop. Arcade Fire came out of nowhere with Funeral. I just got this album last week (I loved Neon Bible and am going backwards). I haven't even had time to listen to it all, but it's amazing. They did Wake Up with David Bowie and blew the doors off. Find the video on Youtube. Scissor Sisters are a disco revival band, and they released their debut self-titled record this year. It's cool. Trust me. Franz Ferdinand almost gets it this year. Almost. This album is great. Simply great. Critically respected and widely loved. K-os released Joyful Rebellion, and that nearly gets the nod, because Crabbucket will stick in your head forever. And Sounding a Mosaic by Bedouin Soundclash had the same attribute: When the Night Feels My Song is one of my favourite songs ever. Ever. But the winner is Hot Fuss by The Killers. I love every song on that album, and Sam's Town is almost as good. Furthermore, they are awesome live. That is all.

2005-Another lull, sort of. Franz Ferdinand's You Could Have It So Much Better was a damn fine album, and solidified their reputation as a solid poppy rock band. Jack Johnson sneaked into my consciousness with In Between Dreams, and while I like it, it's not enough to make the cut. Black Eyed Peas released Monkey Business, which was a commercial success, and while I like the album, it's just not good enough. TO be honest, Elephunk was a little better, and they get mentioned simply because they were so fucking big. Hot Hot Heat released Elevator this year. The album is smart and fun, and the lead singer is just about the cutest guy you've ever seen. You want to pinch his cheeks. Seriously. He's Little Lord Fauntleroy on the left, there.

But the winner has to be a band you've never heard of: The Detroit Cobras. Their album Baby is garage rock at it's finest: hard, angry cover tunes (with a few originals thrown in), and Tied & True is an amazing follow up. Indie bands are awesome.

2006-Big things this year. The Fratellis gave us Costello Music, with Flathead, which almost single-handedly justifies Apple's use of music in its ads. Apple boosted Feist, too, you'll remember. Prince released 3121, a great funk album, and Black Sweat is maybe the sexiest thing ever. Probably not, but that's the kind of bold statements that get you noticed. Gnarls Barkley came out of nowhere with St. Elsewhere, and while Crazy had promise, the other tracks are a bit disappointing, though still solid. Sam's Town is a great follow up to Hot Fuss, but it's not quite good enough to make the cut. I'm gonna choose two albums for this year: Back To Black by Amy Winehouse, an amazing follow up to Frank, and Long Way Around by the Dixie Chicks. It was a great big fuck you to rednecks everywhere. And as a bigger fuck you, it expanded their audience exponentially. They are brave, intelligent women, and they put up with a lot of shit. Watch "Shut up and Sing". It's awesome, and makes the album that much better. On a personal note, fiddler Emily Robison is getting divorced, which is a drag (call me if you read this!).

2007-The White Stripes redeem themselves with Icky Thump, and that almost gets the gold. Cuff the Duke catches my eye with Sightlines of the City. Cool alt-country. And Bedouin Soundclash defy the odds by being a very good reggae band (though pretty ska-infused), despite the fact that they're 2/3 white and from Montreal. But it was a breakout year for female Canadians, and so they get it. Feist kicked everyone's ass with The Reminder, and that gets a nod. And Tegan and Sarah aren't far behind internationally with The Con. So Jealous is a great album, and The Con follows it up beautifully, that one takes the year. I have a crush on Tegan and Sarah. And yes, I know they're gay. Independent of that, it's a beautiful record. Check it out.

2008-Bonus Time! So far, it's a tossup. Foxboro Hot Tubs are in reality Green Day, but playing some fun garage rock. Stop Drop & Roll!!! is great. And Adele is another wicked soul singer from Britain. Check out 19.

There you go. It nearly killed me, but it was worth it. I hope you found it interesting. If not, tough. My blog. I'll rip into the jeebnuts a little later tonight.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


In a brief discussion with a friend the other day that managed to range from politics to religion to philosophy to literature to sociology and then back to religion again (in about 20 minutes), he suggested a new secular ethics be conceived, a way to finally, once and for all, get god out of the discussion. It's fine, he said, to believe whatever you want, but we need universal rules.

If only it were that simple.

But I agree with him. If we could get god out of the ethical discussion forever, we would certainly be better off, and we might actually make strides toward a more tolerant and idyllic society.

And clearly the Golden Rule isn't going to cut it, because if it did, then that would be it. We're complicated animals, we are, and we need more than just "Be nice to each other." So I've started thinking about it, and while I'm hardly qualified to come up with the rules for a just society, neither were Bill S. Preston Esq. and "Ted" Theodore Logan, and they came up with "Be excellent to each other."

So I've decided to at least nibble at this a bit, well aware of the fact that I may have bitten off more than I can chew. And I've started with a certain premise, which is very much like Bill & Ted's axiom, and a dictate of Dan Savage, more generally applied. It's called the campground rule, and it's this:

In all your interactions with others, you must try to leave them in a better state than you found them.

It's more than the golden rule, which is actually quite passive in application. It's an active mandate to improve the situations of other people, with kindness, gratitude, understanding and charity. It should also be more generally applied, not only to other animals (particularly those we eat), but the environment in general, which is where Savage got it in the first place.

We've done a piss poor job taking care of the place, and if Jesus really is coming back, he'll likely be pretty angry about the mess we've made. We've done a piss-poor job of taking care of each other, too, and both are a result of greed. What's worst is that we've institutionalized greed in virtually every society we've ever built, and when even when it was supposed to be about something else, it eventually became about greed. If we started thinkning about how we could improve the situation overall, rather than for ourselves, it'd be a start.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Cleaning House

A quick reference from a great article on the Information Clearing House website:

Working Poor Unready to Revolt

By Joel S. Hirschhorn

06/08/08 ICH---Once upon a time when governments no longer served most of their citizens it was the most economically disadvantaged that could be counted on to rebel against tyranny and injustice. Times have changed, for the worse, despite the spread of democracy.

Here we are with a two-party plutocracy that preferentially serves corporate and wealthy interests and lets the middle class suffer and sink. Plausibly, the middle class is unready to revolt because it still maintains a relatively good standard of living despite rising economic insecurity. But what about the lowest 40 percent of Americans that are the working poor?

A recent survey of this group by the Washington Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University conducted this past June looked at the beliefs of adults ages 18 to 64 working 30 or more hours a week, not self-employed and who earned no more than $27,000 in 2007. The results show a fascinating dichotomy. Though there is widespread pain and discontent there is also a stubborn faith in the American dream despite little help from government.
It elaborates on some of the themes I've touched on here. If you're into that sort of thing, check it out.


Just a quickie on yet another helpful article from Christian Worldview Network:

Apparently, in some cases, you can be the source of your child's anger, for the apostle Paul said: Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4) (emphasis added)
Oh. So long as the apostles say it.

Hello, Captain Obvious? Unnecesary Bible Verse is on line 1.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Stumbling through democracy

I'm not reading all the polls. In fact, I'm not reading any of the actual polls, just the media coverage of the polls, the pundits on both sides pinning the numbers this way and that way, coming up with great reasons why the most recent numbers say their side is winning. I'm checking both sides of the coverage as much as possible, and is warranted, considering how deeply I loathe the fact that the race is really a two horse race, even though there are five horses in it. It frustrates me to no end to know that some of the other candidates would actually reflect the actual positions of the average American voter, and that the two frontrunners are going to sell out the middle class and fuck the lower class in order to satisfy the rich and very rich.

So I'm paying attention, and I'm listening to the message and the spin, and I'm wondering what the fuck is going on.

John McCain has a reputation, and I don't know how much he deserves it, but it's there nonetheless, for being a moderate Republican. What we'd call up here a Red Tory. Now, it's funny the way these things are measured in the states: you're judged on your "leftness" or "rightness" on ridiculously unimportant things like stem cell research and gay marriage, while the things that matter, like military spending, government privatization, taxes, infrastructure, international policy, and knowledge of actual current affairs are neglected. So while McCain has a reputation for being relatively liberal on social issues, he's been fairly firmly entrenched in the things that have made Republicans Republicans in recent years. However, he has somehow earned this name, and he's pissing it away by tacking even farther right during this election. So while he's continue the policies of Bush et al which have made a once great nation somewhat embarrassing, he's going to continue it's seemingly inevitable slide into theocracy and ignorance. He's trailing in the polls, but not by much.


Because Obama has taken his idealistic, hopeful, charismatic campaign, a platform which has evoked such men as Kennedy (whether or not that's deserved), MKL (ditto), and Mandela (again), and is sliding to the centre. He promised change, and delivering moderation. He promised a difference, and is becoming like every other politician we've seen. He gave the people of the US a vision, and has delivered disillusionment. I realize that there are forces within the Democratic party that are in it to win it, but I'd suspect the way to win the election is to promise change and then actually deliver. To say that you'll return the reputation of that once great nation to its former splendour. To begin to repair ties in the international community. To stop spending more than the rest of the planet (combined) on "defence". To instead invest in pensions and health care and social programs.

To actually be fucking different.

I don't get to vote in the US election, and I'm glad. It's frustrating enough to know that another country is going to make a terrible mistake this fall, no matter which way they vote. I can't imagine knowing it was my country that was stumbling blindly through the democratic process.

There are three candidates promising actual, real, substantial, tangible change. Three candidates getting no fucking coverage at all, either because of or despite the fact that they are actually different. Obama is margianlly better than McCain, but we've seen that electing Democrats doesn't mean shit when it comes to improving the quality of life of the average voter. A junta of war criminals sit in the White House, and Congress could do something about that, but is afraid to. The rich are robbing the country blind, and Congress could do something about that, too. The Pentagon is gearing up for another stupid and illegal war, and Congress is standing by, waiting to approve the order to go to war.

The news coverage of minutae, the endless discussion of tactics and strategy, the sycophantic parsing of speeches, the mild condemnation of attack ads, the validation of ludicrous statements and the endorsement of bland and pointless candidates: it's all sound and fury, signifying nothing. It's a waste of my time, and yours.

And yet this is what we do.

If I were still a fundie, a jeebnut, an evangelical wackjob, I'd figure these were the end times. In a less religious sense, they might actually be, though I'm cautiously optimistic. All I know is that the US is not part of the solution. Not for the next few years, at least.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008


Don't know if you've heard about this crazy dude who cut another guy's fucking head off on a Greyhound bus in Manitoba, but here's the latest. He's asked for death. Then he should have done it in the states. We don't kill people here (we kill them elsewhere). Just not... Canadian. Apparently, he was a cannibal, too.

At a pub the other night, a man mentioned that this was unheard of, beyond the pale, and absolutely horrifying. All true. Until he said it was abnormal.

I then pointed out that it's only abnormal by either an accident of geography or history. People are being publicly beheaded all over the planet. Not in North America, normally, no, but still. And only two hundred years ago, it would not be that unusual to cut a guy's head off. In fact, the reason bounties only called for scalps is because the head was too big and heavy.

Dude finished his pint and moved to another table shortly thereafter.

So yeah, this is crazy, but only because it's the 21st century in Canada.

Monday, August 04, 2008

My life in music part 2

This is a fascinating and astonishingly complicated exercise. It's funny, but you spend hours scouring the lists of albums released, and then when you go back, you found you missed one or two. In fact, I feel that She's So Unusual by Cyndi Lauper to 1983's list of honourable mentions, and I'm astonished that Leonard Cohen didn't appear before today.

But since this will be long enough without any preamble, let's hit it.

1986-Kinda light this year, and as a consequence the choice was easy. Fore! is released by Huey Lewis and the News, which Patrick Bateman critiqued for us so succinctly yesterday, and though it's a fine album, American Psycho is the reason it gets a mention. Licensed to Ill is arguably more important to me personally as a hip hop fan than the album that eventyally will take it, but it's influence was felt by a generation. The winner, like Thriller before it, is much, much bigger than I am, and though I love the album, I choose it because it took a former great and made him releveant once again. Graceland by Paul Simon takes it: political, experimental and gifted. No weak points, and Chevy Chase in a very clever video. I love the Beasties, but Paul Simon gets the nod.

1987-This is about the time I really start listening for myself. I'm twelve, I'm awkward, I'm growing up. Though The Joshua Tree later becomes a favourite of mine, at the time, U2 is just a rock band to me. Meh. Yo! Bum Rush the Show by Public Enemy gets a mention, but won't take the gold for a few years yet. This is their debut album, and ushers in a period when hip hop was both political and pop. And George Michael shakes off the gayness of WHAM! and brings us Faith (which is awesome). I know he got weird later. But this album is cool (though I wouldn't dare admit it at the time). It was the same way with the Pet Shop Boys, who are a great pop band. They release Actually, which contains It's a Sin, What Have I Done to Deserve This, and Heart. Great tunes, all. But at the time my favourite was probably Appetite for Destruction by Guns N' Roses. If you have to ask, you've never heard it. Metal was suddenly mainstream. Really mainstream.

1988-Acne and Erin Capstick are the twin suns around which my psyche revolves in this year (It was largely unrequited, by the way. She liked me, but not really in that way.), and hip hop starts stomping its high tops all over the place. It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back by Public Enemy, It Takes Two by Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock, and Tougher than Leather by Run DMC are notable hip hop albums of note. The winner for the year is a rap album, but I don't want to spoil the surprise. Guns N' Roses follow up with G N' R Lies, which is not quite as good as Destruction, but still pretty kickass. Leonard Cohen comes out with I'm Your Man, containing "Tower of Song", "Everybody Knows", "Ain't No Cure For Love", "First We Take Manhattan", and "Take This Waltz". Fucking brilliant, but not relevant to me until I was in my 20s. So it doesn't make the cut. A-Ha releases Stay on These Roads, and before you say anything, it has "The Living Daylights" on it. Best. Bond. Theme. Ever. Probably. And Weird Al released Even Worse, which was better than Bad, the parody source. Though Bad was pretty bad, by which I mean good. Straight Outta Compton by NWA gets the nod. Gangsta rap was suddenly mainstream. Really mainstream. And it launched the careers of Easy-E, Ice Cube and Dr. Dre. Without this album, there's no Eminem, Snoop Dogg, or the films "Are We There Yet?" and "Are We Done Yet?". It was a mixed blessing, to be sure. But it's influence is undeniable.

1989-My first year of high school, and conversely when I got cooer and nerdier at the same time. If you're not ashamed of the person you were when you were fourteen, you either don't remember or haven't learned from the experience. A bunch of good ones this year: Let Love Rule by Lenny Kravitz, He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince (It was Rock the House which launched their career, and there's no fucking way anyone saw an Oscar coming to Will Smith. No fucking way.), UHF by Weird Al (A good movie, and I don't care what you say.), Unfinished Business by EpMD (I got Strictly Business later-both solid hip hop records.), The Raw and the Cooked by the Fine Young Cannibals, Bleach, Nirvana's debut, Stone Cold Rhymin' by Young MC, and the Batman Soundtrack by Prince. But none of these are quite good enough. Girl You Know It's True by Milli Vanilli was released this year, too, and it's too bad they were such losers, because the songs are fun. But the winner, hands down, without question for me, and for Canadian hip hop fans everywhere, is Symphony in Effect by Maestro Fresh Wes. A great album, with great production and great videos. Single handedly responsible for a Canadian hip hop scene. No K-os or K'naan without Maestro.

1990-This is going to be a twofer, but before we get there, let's have a look at the honourable mentions, shall we? Flood by They Might Be Giants gets a nod for being so damn clever. Poison by Bel Biv Devoe gets mention for surviving the boy band. Bobby Brown was a product of the same band, and while he went on to notoriety, it may be better than the obscurity which surrounds the rest of them. Any thoughts on that? Is there any such thing as bad publicity? For Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown, the answer is, unfortunately, yes. The Simpsons Sing the Blues was also released this year, important because the show was still pretty underground at this time. But two embarrasing, yet spectacular successes also cloud the horizon in 1990: Gonna Make You Sweat by C+C Music Factory, and To the Extreme by Vanilla Ice. In fact, Vanilla Ice almost makes this a three-way tie, but since he became such a joke later on, it's going to remain a twofer. And one nearly makes the cut, but is soundly trounced by two huge albums: People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm by A Tribe Called Quest. Brilliant. But two of the greatest hip hop albums of all time come out this year: one fiercely political, and the other simply underground. One angry and protesting, the other simply bemused. One group became a force unto itself, and the other produced 2Pac (they shall be excused, because it's not their fault that he went all gangsta and postumous). Fear of a Black Planet by Public Enemy scared the hell out of a lot of white people. Chuck D is a helluva poet and a damn fine historian. I learned a lot from him. He's like Howard Zinn and Bob Dylan for the urban black male. Sex Packets by Digital Underground was my favourite album for four or five years. Funny, clever and musical, it borrows heavily from great funk bands of the 70s, and some of the great hip hop of the late 70s and the early 80s. Great stuff.

1991-Even bigger than '90 in terms of great albums: Achtung Baby! by U2, I Wish My Brother George Was Here by Dell Tha Funkee Homosapien, Blood Sugar Sex Magik by The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Derelicts of Dialect by 3rd Bass, Apocalypse '91, The Enemy Strikes Black by Public Enemy, A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing by Black Sheep, and The Low End Theory by A Tribe Called Quest. Again, almost good enough to make the three-way. It's going to be another deuce. Naughty by Nature by Naughty by Nature (I loved writing that), is accessible, fun, and clever. Hip hop expands (and will include such underappreciated greats as the Fu Schnickens and the Lords of the Underground) and goes a little more mainstream. OPP is a great song, but not the best on this album. They just knew a radio winner. The other winner is a Canadian band: And Now The Legacy Begins by the Dream Warriors. "My Definition of a Boombastic Jazz Style" is pretty brilliant, sampling the theme song from an old game show. Pacifist hip hop, if you can believe it: nerdy, too. There's a song called Twelve-Sided Dice. You can understand why this album was so important to a geeky suburban white kid.

1992-For the first year in a while, it won't be hip hop. There was, however, great hip hop being produced: Hypocrisy is the Greatest Luxury was clever, angry, Canadian hip hop by The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy is released. Brilliant, but really off the beaten path. Check Your Head was released, my favourite Beastie Boys album. "So What'cha Want" is great. Just great. House of Pain came out with House of Pain, inventing a whole new subgenre: Irish hip hop. And a few weird kids from Ottawa, including the man who was already but would later be known as Tom Green produced Huh? Stiffenin' Against the Wall as Organized Rhyme. Find Check the O.R. on youtube. You won't be disappointed. But the album of the year goes to Gordon, the Barenaked Ladies sort-of-debut album. There was a kind of bootleg EP released a year or two before that purists claim as their best album, but they're kinda snobby. No misses on this album, though I am sick of "This is Me in Grade Nine".

Whew. I'm tired.

1993-A lot worth mentioning again, and but there's a clear winner this year. It was a close one: Naughty by Nature make the top ten again with 19 Naughty III, and Run DMC release Down with the King, a middle-aged hip hop album, with astonishing religious overtones. Onyx kicks out with Bacdafucup, and invent yet another hip hop sound: grimy. Moxy Fruvous produced Bargainville this year, their first major release. Funny and musically sound, featuring "King of Spain", and "The Gulf War Song". Other noted albums were 12 Inches of Snow by Snow, a white Canadian reggae artist (I know, it's absurd) Great Big Sea's self titled debut sparking a celtic renaissance in Canada, and Everybody Else is Doing It, Why Can't We? by the Cranberries. This is their first major album, and they were to be a fixture of the decade. This almost makes the cut. But the winner is somewhat unexpected: Duets by Frank Sinatra. Taking classics and making them fresh, Sinatra was as perfect as always, and partnered with artist who were amazing in their own right: Gladys Knight, Stevie Wonder, Bono, Bette Midler, Neil Diamond and many others. Two kickass albums.

1994-Short list this year, but all strong selections: Dookie by Green Day, Mellow Gold by Beck, Portrait of an American Family by Marilyn Manson, and Smash by Offspring. All great. But it's going to be a twofer again, one a soundtrack, and the other geekrock. Weezer's blue album Weezer is one sure selection. The other is the soundtrack to Pulp Fiction. I don't care if that breaks the rules. I love that movie. I love that disc.

1995-Clear winner again this year, but let's tour the contenders first. Marilyn follows up Portrait with Smells Like Children, probably my favourite Manson Album. Oasis has great promise with (What's the Story) Morning Glory? but somehow fail to be the next Beatles. Great Big Sea break through with Up, and Ashley MacIsaac is crazy as hell and releases Hi! How Are You Today?, a great blend of celtic roots with punk, rock and hip hop. Pulp almost makes the cut with Different Class, really smart Britpop, but the winner is clear. I don't know what the hell has happened to Gwen Stefani, but Tragic Kingdom by No Doubt takes the gold. A solid album with around eight hits.

1996-More good stuff, and I'm running out of time. Bush produces Razorblade Suitcase, their second big album, with a lot of great songs. A band you might not have heard of, Belle and Sebastian release Tigermilk, beautiful pop that I discovered very late. Cake releases Fashion Nugget, their breakthrough album: clever and cynical. Fun. And Matchbox 20 comes out with Yourself or Someone Like You, a solid album that almost excuses Rob Thomas' later ubiquity. But the CD that stayed in my player nearly nonstop was The Score by The Fugees. I loved every track, and developed an unhealthy crush on Lauryn Hill. Great album that provided the soundtrack to much of my undergrad.

Only 11 more years. Stay tuned.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

The Soundtrack of My Life

You've seen the meme, I'm sure, and this is just the excuse I've been looking for to chronicle my life with the soundtrack behind it.

Music is really how I organize my life. Last night I was in a discussion about Bond movies, and the way I was able to keep them straight was through the themes. I've got a pretty big CD collection (not extensive, by any means), and my tastes are varied, so the list will be eclectic. Furthermore, I've gone between picking albums that were influential to me at the time, to ones that I've come to love later in life. Bob Marley shows up a lot in this list, for instance, and while I wasn't exposed to his music while he was recording, his albums were always on the car stereo in my late teens, twenty years after he died.

My relationship with music is complicated (what in my life is simple, really?); songs are both historical artifacts and art, and I view them constantly in relation to the world around me. Not only when songs were released, but also how they relate to my life when I listen. I'm not saying that clearly enough, but I think you probably get the gist of it. Music is personal, and the function of all art is to elicit a reaction. So while this list contains some of the greatest artistic geniuses of the last third of a century, it's not about them.

It's about me.

So here is my musical narcissistic indulgence.

1975-Not a particularly important year, but nonetheless the year of my birth. Musically, the middle of the decade was a banner year, with some of the best music of the 70s being released. Tom Waits' Nighthawks at the Diner was released, and though I came to Waits very recently, I've been very impressed with that album. Queen's A Night at the Opera was also released, with Bohemian Rhapsody still regarded as one of the greatest songs ever recorded. Not by me, but apparently by some. Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson paired up to release Oscar and Ella. And ABBA's self titled album, while not containing anything significant, still launches the career of one of the least likely phenoms in the music business. But my pick of the year is Live! by Bob Marley and the Wailers. Recorded during the Natty Dred tour, it contains the seminal recording of "No Woman, No Cry", an all-round kickass tune.

1976-I don't know what happened in 1975, but 1976 turned out to be a stellar year: Hotel California by The Eagles, Rastaman Vibration by Bob Marley and the Wailers (you may not know the album, but Jah Live, Crazy Baldhead, and War are really great songs, despite the religious overtones of the first), and Blondie's self titled debut. It gets an honorable mention, though X-Offender and He Rips Her to Shreds are about the only songs on there that I know well. This punk crossover band has big things ahead of them in '76, and though they don't make this list, they're on my iPod for a reason. But I'm going to have to go with Songs in the Key of Life by Stevie Wonder for '76. Ambitious, genius and lyrical, Elton John called it the best album ever recorded. There would be no late 80s or early 90s hip hop without 70s funk, and this album was sampled liberally later.

1977-The year my beloved was born, as well as Apple computers and the Toronto Blue Jays. Trudeau dances behind the Queen, and Star Wars changes SF forever, some say for better, though Jar Jar Binks takes the whole Lucas thing down a peg or three. Fortunately, Jar Jar wasn't even a twinkle in Lucas' eye when he filmed Star Wars, and before there was Jar Jar, there was Carrie Fisher in a very, very small bikini. The Sex Pistols go briefly mainstream with Never Mind the Bollocks, and promptly implode. Eric Clapton releases Slowhand, with Cocaine and Wonderful Tonight. But the gold star goes to Bob Marley again, for Exodus. Check out this track list:

Side one
"Natural Mystic" – 3:28
"So Much Things to Say" – 3:08
"Guiltiness" – 3:19
"The Heathen" – 2:32
"Exodus" – 7:39

Side two
"Jamming" – 3:31
"Waiting in Vain" – 4:15
"Turn Your Lights Down Low" – 3:39
"Three Little Birds" – 3:00
"One Love/People Get Ready" (Marley, Curtis Mayfield) – 2:53

Exodus and Natural Mystic are my two favourites. I once lectured for an hour in a religious studies class about the lyrics in Exodus, and the biblical story. Compelling stuff, really, and on the strength of that one song alone this album could make it for the year. You'll note that five of these tracks make the Legend album.

1978-I ceased to be an only child, and my parents begin regretting the fact that they didn't take advantage of readily available contraception. My sister was LOUD, a strident counterpoint to The Cars and Dire Straits first (and self-titled) albums, as well as Blondie's Parallel Lines. But to be true to my actual experience here, I'm going to go with The Gambler by Kenny Rogers, which my mother played constantly, probably enamoured of the thought of a quiet death, or maybe just with quiet.

1979-A pretty decent song in its own right, but we won't get there until the 90s. Big year here, with The Clash releasing London Calling, Blondie hitting again with Eat the Beat, and Bob Marley getting Survival in (which contains my favourite Marley song, Babylon System). The Bee Gees released their Greatest Hits double album, interestingly leaving two of their best songs off: To Love Somebody (beautifully covered by, most notably, Blue Rodeo), and I've Gotta Get a Message to You. I'm going to give the honours to The B-52's by, you guessed it, The B-52's. Planet Claire and Rock Lobster. That's all I have to say about that.

1980-The long dark period of our soul begins: sould crushing materialism is the dominant theme, and after the oil shock, we shake off the sensible warning and start driving really big shit all over the place, preferring to get our exercise in aerobics classes. People actually drove to the gym to run on treadmills and ride stationary bikes. Just a small glimpse into how fucked up we actually got during the 80s. A slow start musically, but great things are to come, with Prince releasing Dirty Mind (not his first album, and not quite his breakthrough, but establishing him as totally inappropriate). Bob Marley takes it again for Uprising, which I wore out on cassette. I don't care that I've given the honour to him twice already. He deserves it. Redemption Song appears on this album, which is enough, but Coming in From the Cold (my second favourite tune by the Wailers) and Could You Be Loved put it over the top.

1981-Don't know what happened here. All I could find that I found remotely interesting was Stray Cats, by the Stray Cats. Brian Setzer managed to keep rockabilly alive and current during the New Wave era, with a respectful nod to straight-up punk. Oddly never released in the States, it still takes the cigar.

1982-I've read the blogs of two others who did this exercise, and I don't know what they were thinking. Prince's 1999? Pretty fucking cool, fo' shizzle. Rio, by Duran Duran? Yeak, since they made the music video a genre of its own, I'll give it to them. But come on people: Thriller. I know he's crrepy. I know he barely looks human. I know, I know, I know. But seriously. The greatest selling album of all time. My parents bought it twice on vinyl, and then a CD later, because they wore it out. Beat It, Billie Jean, P.Y.T., Wanna Be Startin' Something, and The Girl is Mine. And that's not even including Thriller. I'm afraid there's no contest. Easily the most important album of the year, and arguably the most important album of the decade, and probably the most important pop album of the last century. And while Duran Duran elevated the music video, this one is all by itself.

The Phillipino prisoners, and the original.

1983-The year my little brother emerged squalling, and a solid year musically. Weird Al Yankovic's first album came out, and the parody was about to become almost mainstream again. Bob Marley's Confrontation was released, with Chant Down Babylon to lead off. This cassette was also worn out in the tape deck of my parents' K car later. The Police released their last and possibly best album, Synchronicity, and David Bowie hit us with Let's Dance, the source of much of his mainstream success (Modern Love, China Girl & Let's Dance). In fact, I'm going to go with a twofer this year: Let's Dance, and Sports, by Huey Lewis & The News. Here's Patrick Bateman, from the film adaptation of American Psycho (courtesy of

Patrick Bateman: Do you like Huey Lewis and the news?
Paul Allen: They're OK.
Patrick Bateman: Their early work was a little too new wave for my tastes, but when Sports came out in '83, I think they really came into their own, commercial and artistically. The whole album has a clear, crisp sound, and a new sheen of consummate professionalism that really gives the songs a big boost. He's been compared to Elvis Costello, but I think Huey has a far much more bitter, cynical sense of humour.
Paul Allen: Hey Halberstram.
Patrick Bateman: Yes, Allen?
Paul Allen: Why are there copies of the style section all over the place, d-do you have a dog? A little chow or something?
Patrick Bateman: No, Allen.
Paul Allen: Is that a rain coat?
Patrick Bateman: Yes it is! In '87, Huey released this, Fore, their most accomplished album. I think their undisputed masterpiece is "Hip to be Square", a song so catchy, most people probably don't listen to the lyrics. But they should, because it's not just about the pleasures of conformity, and the importance of trends, it's also a personal statement about the band itself. [raises axe above head]
Patrick Bateman: Hey Paul! [he bashes Allen in the head with the axe, and blood splatters over him] TRY GETTING A RESERVATION AT DORSIA NOW YOU FUCKING STUPID BASTARD! YOU FUCKING BASTARD!
Couldn't have said it better myself.

1984-Came and went without an actual Big Brother, though since then, there has been a marked increase in surveillance and in paucity of thought. Orwell basically pulled the number out of his ass, I know, and he was about 20 years too early. Big year in music: Madonna with Like a Virgin, Prince with Purple Rain, and Bananarama with Bananarama. One of the first albums I owned (that wasn't Sharon, Lois & Brahm or Disney or Sesame Street or some Muppet populated drug haze) was Stay Hungry, by Twisted Sister, which gets an honourable mention for the year. However, the most personally important album for me was Weird Al Yankovic in 3-D. Brilliant, funny, and insightful, it also gave Yankovic a chance to show off his versatility. On one album, he channels Ricky Ricardo, Sting, Michael Jackson, Fred Schneider and Survivor. He plays several instruments, and he's also really fucking funny. Weird Al made me feel better about being an awkward, bright and bookish kid. His persona helped me shape mine, knowing that even real weirdos could find acceptance. It was a licence to grow into whatever I needed to be.

1985-Weird Al, on a roll, brings us Dare to Be Stupid, which continues in the same vein of In 3-D. As much as I want to put it here, it's not as important as several other albums from the same year. Riptide by Robert Palmer was largely ignored until Palmer died, and then the guy's a genius. Power Station's last album came out this year, too. Palmer's videos were a study in sexism, though there was little actual misogyny therein. Corey Hart gave us Boy in the Box, a pretty good follow up to First Offence which gave us Sunglasses at Night. Never Surrender was the hit from Boy in the Box that everybody's sick of now. Two albums from this year, for two reasons. First, both were very popular, and while I don't like one, Patrick Bateman does. So, Brothers in Arms by Dire Straits (with Money for Nothing and Walk of Life), and Whitney Houston's Whitney Houston:

Patrick Bateman: Did you know that Whitney Houston's debut LP, called simply Whitney Houston had four number one singles on it? Did you know that, Christie?
Elizabeth: [laughing] You actually listen to Whitney Houston? You own a Whitney Houston CD? More than one?
Patrick Bateman: It's hard to choose a favorite among so many great tracks, but "The Greatest Love of All" is one of the best, most powerful songs ever written about self-preservation, dignity. Its universal message crosses all boundaries and instills one with the hope that it's not too late to better ourselves. Since, Elizabeth, it's impossible in this world we live in to empathize with others, we can always empathize with ourselves. It's an important message, crucial really. And it's beautifully stated on the album.

There you go. The first third of my life in music. Rickey Henderson was right. It's time consuming and exhausting. But strangely satisfying. Expect a marked increase in hip hop over the next 11 years.

There's something decidedly unchristian about this

And at the same time, it's so midwest American...

Christian Dollar Store open for business in New Concord

NEW CONCORD - Offering quality Christian items at affordable prices is a blessing for owners of a new, local business venture.

"We are proud of what we do. We are selling something that brings a smile to someone's face," said Christina Swartz of Norwich, co-owner and operator of the Christian Dollar Store, located at 17 E. Main St. in New Concord.

The store opened for business on June 15, offering items with Christian themes to fit any budget. Swartz's mother, Thelma Ross of Zanesville, is co-owner.

"I know it's hard for people to find Christian merchandise and that's what we specialize in," she said.

Three things.

First, dollar stores survive by exploiting horrifying working conditions in other countries, and by relying on affordable transportation to get goods from the third world to the first. It's slavery, but it's okay, because we don't actually have to look at it. It's unsustainable, but who give a shit, so long as we keep getting our oil for cheap (we're not, but that's okay)

Second, I would hope that christians would find this distateful: the deliberate cheapening of their faith, the drive to undercut other christian businesses, and the business of selling faith. I wouldn't know, but I'd think that this was exploiting the faith of others.

And third, there is no fucking way that it is hard to find christian merchandise in Ohio.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Hate Speech

I've dealt with this subject before, but it bears another visit, simply because it's so complicated (wonderful turn of phrase, that), and because I have an impetus. Once again, it's the jeebnuts at Christian Worldview Network who provide my blog fodder. From Bill Muehlenberg:

If nothing else, the steady stream of madness and moral decrepitude one encounters on a daily basis at least keeps life interesting. It is hard to stay bored in such an environment. Consider as an example this quite recent news item...
I agree. It's a common thread in my writing. Oh, but you meant liberals. My bad.

...“A Michigan man is seeking millions in compensation from two Christian publishers for emotional distress and mental instability he received from Bible's referring to homosexuality as a sin. Bradley LaShawn Fowler says his constitutional rights were infringed by both Zondervan Publishing Co. and Thomas Nelson Publishing who he claims deliberately caused homosexuals to suffer by misinterpretation of the Bible. Fowler, 39, is seeking $60 million from Zondervan and another $10 million from Thomas Nelson. Zondervan has stated that he's suing the wrong party whether his claims are credible or not because the publishing house does not translate the Bible nor do they own the copyright for the translations.”...
Well, he can't very well sue god, can he? I'm conflicted here, because he has a point, as stupid as it is. I've said before that I'm not a fan of censoring anybody, and I'm increasingly uncomfortable with human rights cases, and I've never liked frivolous lawsuits. There's no fucking way this guy should win, even if he does have a small point. And here's that point.

Here's a working definition of hate speech from Canada's criminal code:
By this definition, the Old Testament is clearly hate speech. Not just for gays, but for women, a laundry list of other religions and ethnicities (fortunately largely wiped out by the Canaanites, and therefore not around to make complaints to human rights tribunals), for violators of the ten (or so) commandments, and for those who disregard The Law (which, the more you read it, looks more and more like a cosmic game of Simon Says). The New Testament is marginally better, but still not compassionate or understanding, and though Jesus was more sunshine and puppy dogs than Old Testament god, he still says some pretty mean-spirited shit.

The thing about hate speech is that it is a call to action, a means to punish people for differences. It's one thing to say that gay people are breaking god's law. Feel free to say it. The problem is that violating god's law comes with a) a prescripted penalty, usually involving crowds with stones, and b) eternal torment, which c) might cause mental anguish if you actually take that shit seriously.

The Bible clearly exposes people to hatred, contempt and even violence. It's dangerous shit, and anyone who tells you otherwise isn't reading the best parts. And so, the Bible is hate speech.

The problem is that I'm not a big fan of censorship, and while this lawsuit raises some valid concerns and points out that religious texts are texts, and therefore subject to the law (no matter what the jeebnuts might say, and I know what they'd say), the law has very little to say about what you can say. Or at least, it ought to.

But while I agree that the lawsuit is frivolous, wasteful and wrong, I've little else in common with the besieged Christians over at CWN.

There are many responses that come to mind here about this bizarre scenario. Let me mention just a few.

Firstly, this is yet another example of the fact that we live in an overwhelmingly litigious society. We now live in age in which everybody is suing somebody for something. We have gone mad with lawsuits, court cases, tort laws, and all sorts of often unnecessary litigation. The motto seems to be, “Don’t just get angry, get even, and sue the living daylights out of the guy”.

Quite right. You don't have the right to remain unoffended. Suck it up, princess (gay joke intended).

This case is also an example of a world in which rights-talk has gone mad. Everyone everywhere seems to be insisting on this right or that right. There are now rights for everything it seems. And these rights are simply being pulled out of the hat. They never existed before, but people are just making them up as they go along.
Actually, as I've said before, the question has never been what rights are, but who gets them. Clearly the gays don't, we wish women and inferior races didn't, and the damn Papists only get theirs because they were here first. Oh, and though the Jews killed Christ, they're still God's Chosen People, so I guess, maybe, we'll let them have some too.
Perhaps one of the most strange and nefarious rights to come on the scene lately is the right not to be offended. I am not sure where this idea came from. It certainly is not found in any major human rights declarations or national constitutions. But it has become all the rage to expect not be offended by anything or anyone.
You know what they say about a stopped clock? But don't worry, it doesn't last:

But I would have thought that daily life in a fallen world will mean offences will arise all the time. If you are in a hurry, a red light will seem offensive. So should we sue the government for red lights? A Coke lover may be offended by a Pepsi. A Manchester United supporter may be offended by any rival soccer club. A nudist may be offended at clothes. A Hindu may well be offended by the exclusive nature of Christian truth claims.
Or by the exclusive truth claims of any religion, numbnuts. What makes your god so special? And what the hell is this thing about the fallen world. If I didn't know better, I'd say you were indirectly blaming god for letting things go to hell...

The list is endless. But surely turning every offence and grievance into a lawsuit or a court case is not the way to go in a democratic society. Lawyers may love it, but it will soon bankrupt any open society.

And in the past, rights never stood on their own. They were always bundled together with duties, obligations and responsibilities. Any society that demands various rights without corresponding responsibilities is asking for, and getting, trouble.
Again, the jeebnut nails it (though the comment is unrelated to the thesis). But he's about to go off the rails:

This case also illustrates the never-ending set of demands of the radical homosexual lobby. Their agenda is never satisfied, and their grievances are endless. Indeed, this is but another example of how militant homosexuals seek to shut down all public debate about the issue. Instead of allowing for the free flow of ideas and values, they want to shut down any and all opposing viewpoints.
Those damned homos. Why can't they be ashamed of themselves, like all good fags (and every sexually active person, but straight fornicators are a lesser evil. It's the sodomites you've got to watch out for. Let's get those homos back in the closet where they belong, and then we'll get the nasty-fuckers.) I also like the idea of a "radical homosexual lobby". I demand you treat me like a real person! How radical.
They may talk all they like about tolerance and acceptance, but this is all just
one-way traffic. They show very little understanding, acceptance, tolerance or
openness to those who happen to disapprove of the homosexual agenda.
I've always wondered about this homosexual agenda. None of the gay people I've asked (and I've asked a lot) have seen the agenda. My brother thinks he might have missed that meeting.
Finally, this case shows the folly of the various types of legislation which have sprung up around the Western world. I refer to various sorts of equal opportunity laws, discrimination legislation, and the like. These bits of legislation are really designed to stifle debate in general and silence Christians in particular. Hate crime laws are the main example of this, and presumably this is what Mr Fowler from Michigan has in mind.
Yes, we do want to shut the Christians up. We've been outed, guys. Cheese it! The cops! I expect Mr. Fowler just wants Christians to stop telling him he's dirty, an abomination, and going to hell.

Indeed, it is becoming quite commonplace now for homosexual activists to claim the Bible is one big exercise in “hate speech”. Because the Bible clearly states that homosexuality is wrong and sinful, homosexuals and their supporters are seeking to argue that the Bible should be banned, because it engages in hatred toward homosexuals.
It is. It does. Should it be banned? No.

These trends, taken together, nicely dovetail in what we now see happening, as exemplified by this Michigan case. A world which is losing its moral bearings, forgetting about common sense, and resorting to neo-paganism, becomes a very nice breeding ground for this sort of insanity. The soil has been nicely prepared for these sorts of nutto cases.
Right, because the gays and the Wiccans are in cahoots. Satan is dancing. I wouldn't bandy the word "nutto" about, you nutto.

Indeed, we can only expect to see many more such cases, as long as these
destructive trends are allowed to continue. It really is only a matter of time
before most Western nations fully outlaw the Bible, all in the name of acceptance, tolerance and homosexual rights. Whether that day comes sooner or later really depends on what we do about it. And can I suggest that silence will only hasten that day.
I can't stress this enough: give me a fucking break. You got all of that one, Billy. Hit that paranoia right out of the park.

Is the idea of Christian persecution maybe just projection?

Friday, August 01, 2008

Because it's not just about gay people and embryos

Christian Worldview Network is a treasure of wiggy articles wrintten with a flimsy premise and a startlingly antiquated agenda, and I'm glad I found it. From articles on GAY SEX to the confusing, disjointed and pothead-like ramblings of Ray Comfort, to freakouts about the communist agenda, there's always something good going down with Brannon Howse and his stable of spastic jesus-freaks.

Here's a good one. It's pretty long, though, so I'll curtail it. The original, if you want to subject yourself to the whole thing, can be found here. It begins with an elegy to the philosopher Bastiat, which is odd in itself, because the religious right isn't a fan of the French. If you'll recall, one of the criticisms of John Kerry was that he "looked French", whatever the hell that means, and as if it has any bearing on whether or not he'd make a good president. The current one "looks simian", and clearly that hasn't helped him.

It’s been more than 150 years since Frederic Bastiat wrote his treatise, The Law, a small work, challenging the ravages of failing socialism thrust upon France as a result of the French revolution.

In that unique pamphlet, Bastiat points out that when the law of any country supports the moral belief systems of a people, defends the rights of said people and their property, the law is perceived as being moral; a defense against evil and those who flaunt it as being immoral. Payment of taxes and civic obligations are perceived as a virtue and those who flout this as criminals.

However, when the law becomes a source of plunder or pits itself in opposition to the morals of the people, the people perceive the law to be immoral and widely despise it. Indeed, in those times, flouting the law is extolled as virtue...
I'm not sure that private property is the be-all and end-all of society, but hey, I just work here. Interesting, though, that the society that is supposed to be the great protector of private property is concentrating it in the hands of a few people as possible, and the government is doing what it can to concentrate that wealth as quickly as possible. If there was ever any doubt that the US had a "ruling class", a sensible look at the current economic and political situation should clarify things.

...In essence, when a government goes from being a protector of private property to
a plunderer of it, it places itself on a course of chaos, economic ruin and its own ultimate self-destruction...
In a way, Bastiat is right here. If private property is a right of the people, then the transfer of wealth from the people to the government is clearly a violation of that principle. However, there is still something called the "public commons", and there are perfectly good reasons for any government to interfere with property rights. Think about it for a second, and I'm sure you'll come up with one or two.
...Socialism is the mechanism which transforms government from its noble role as a protector into a predator and, since the citizens of our fine country seem determined to plow through socialism to its bitter end, we should examine the territory through which these three sad steps lead. The core result of socialism is the destruction of private property and wealth...
This makes no fucking sense. Socialism is a system that involves collective ownership and administration. There are a lot of "socialist"things that we accept, even expect: education, military, infrastructure, police, firefighting, and in radical hotbeds of commies like Canada and the UK, health care. And as I've said before, there are few countries less in danger of becoming socialist than the US. In fact, since Mussolini is supposed to have said that fascism is corporate government (I'm paraphrasing), then the US is far closer to that end of the political spectrum than the other.

...One of the great dangers of any government by the people is that sooner or later their politicians discover they can vote largess from the public trust. Their first experiment at this bold new adventure invariably revolves around social programs enacted in the name of morality and the public good or even solving some current crisis. Who could oppose that? “After all,” it will be argued, “don’t you care about people, or the welfare of the country, or the environment?”

The lure of this argument has been absolutely irresistible from the Roman Empire to the French and Bolshevik revolutions to Socialist Parties (D) and (R) in the USA today...
The premise that Democrats and Republicans are socialists is simply laughable.

...The moral argument that we can finally solve poverty, pain, sickness, and hunger with “free” money seems just to good to be true. It usually is but it sells to the public. To fund these allegedly moral programs, the assets of the gentle citizens must be quietly taxed in the name of the public good.

Only a few wise and isolated voices warn that this baby dragon they have just hatched will grow up to be a fire-breathing monster. But not to fear, the wise voices are generally shouted down by the gentle politicians, who fiercely demonize protestors as selfish “whabbledygots” blocking the road to the perfect society. After all, how could something so noble do anything bad to the country?...
Three different kinds of nonsense, here. The first is that anyone actually believes that simply funding social programs will solve all our problems. The second is that hideous metaphor which only gets worse as the article continues. And finally, the word "whabbledygots". What the fuck is a whabbledygot?

In addition, the transparently inflammatory language and deceptively simple depiction of the "road to socialism" are insulting.

...At first the rich are the only ones asked to pay more of their “fair share.”...
Clearly, it is the rich who are bearing the brunt of the tax structure in the US. Those poor guys.

...At some point, the unwashed masses suspect their politicians aren’t really gentle any more much less benevolent. This is where a silent war between government and people erupts. It’s a blurry transition through never-never land when the politicians still claim to be gentle but the people sense that they have gone from being protectors of the public good and private property to a plunderers of it; from morality to immorality.

The “Bastiat” transition doesn’t take place all at once but, one by one, members of the working class realize they’re toiling like mad and getting no where. What they do make is confiscated in taxes or destroyed in inflation. They have little left over and their life’s savings are being destroyed while the politicians tell them all is just fine, creating cognitive dissonance between the hardship workers experience and the good times the politicians promise...
I don't understand how anyone can honestly believe that the working class is the one that gets screwed first in a socialist system. In fact, it's been socialistic movements that have protected the middle and working class for as long as they have: unions, minimum wages, collective bargaining and labour laws have all bee part of "socialist movements". Socialism gave us the weekend, for fuck's sake!

...The war is not without casualties. As it becomes ever more difficult for small businesses to function in the poisoned atmosphere of taxes, fees, fines, regulations and prosecutions, more of the middle class throws up its hands and goes elsewhere or becomes part of the the dependent poor. Small business goes out of business or operates illegally. As inflation devours life savings, people are wiped out. Retirees have a difficult time getting on as their lifetime achievements are destroyed. Most of the middle class slides inexorably down the slope into poverty...
The natural culmination of the capitalist system is monopoly. That's what kills small business. You think it't rampant taxation that's killing Main Street, USA? It's Wal-Mart, you numb fuck, a decidedly unsocialist entity, smiley face notwithstanding. In fact, Wal-Mart has started trying to influence the votes of its employees, because Obama wants to enact legislation that will allow unions in all workplaces.

The delusions and oversimplifications in the rest of this article prove that rational blindspots are not limited to science when it comes to the Bible-bashing crowd. A pathological hatred and fear of collective action seems also to motivate them.

No country trapped in socialism goes through all the events described above, which is a composite of past histories.
In fact, none of the countries that Loeffler has in mind as examples have gone through this. They tend to become socialist dictatorships through violent revolution (unless he's counting Chavez, and while he's not perfect, he's no Stalin, and he's nothing like this). My knowledge of history is far from perfect, but I know the difference between fascists and socialists.