November 30, 2006

The Dean of Liberals

Think I'm talking Ignatieff? Guess again!

So the Perpetual Party got a superstar to produce the keynote address at their convention, and it wasn't Bono. Though Iggy did note "that's good", so everyone's fears were allayed. Man, he has GOT to stop using that sentence if he wants to overcome the whole "arrogant prick" theme of his campaign...

Anyhow, Vermont Governor Howard Brush Dean (Brush?) was the guest of honour at the convention in Montreal last night, and it went so well that when he got applause for speaking french, it was clear that the delegates had decided who their choice for leader was. Unfortunately, he was rather busy with the whole Chairman of the DNC/Governor of Vermont thing, so the crowd was in for a disappointment.

The speech went well enough, though he didn't seem to realize that the Liberals up here are the centrists, with three major parties to their left (Ye Olde House of Orange, the No One Understands Us Party, and Oh, Yeah, Those Guys):

"And it was our parties who created and believe in the social safety net. We're the ones who believe that a bright future goes through our schools and that college should be available for all. We believe that everyone deserves health care."

Hmm... Actually, the NDP (then the CCF) forced the Liberal's hand on all of those. And lordy, you don't wat to say any of that to the provincial "Liberals" in British Columbia!

"We [Liberals and Democrats] believe in an honest, open government."

I didn't know he was going to announce changes in party policy, but if it works for them...

"...I've found that the path to power, oddly enough, is to trust others with it."

Wait: does he know he's addressing the Liberal Party?

"...Remember it's [power] on loan. Next, fight for what you believe in."

Okay, I'm convinced. Dean actually thinks he's addressing a Habitat for Humanity chapter that's opened in Montreal. Hate to see what's going to happen when is handlers find out...

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posted by Thursday at 10:33 am 0 comments

November 29, 2006

The Insufferable Arrogance of Being

My vote originally for "Most Insufferable Personality This Week" was Michael Ignatieff during his CBC Sunday interview: it is, after all, hard work being patronizing to Evan Solomon!

But he has been superseded but my discovery of a Glenn Beck store! Of all the astoundingly stupid items there (the "Baby's Last Christmas" ornament; the truly awful reading of Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart"), one is perhaps the most jaw-droppingly obnoxious, arrogant, and patronizing item I've seen since a Cheney interview:

It's a bad "art-deco"-ish poster of the World Trade Center towers with the word "Remember" along the bottom, and who looks like The Glenn Himself standing before them. The kicker is that he's signed every copy.

So for those of you who wanted to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the attacks, but weren't sure if just an image of the Towers was enough, here's your chance!

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posted by Thursday at 11:54 am 0 comments

November 28, 2006

Just Making Sure...

The CBC program The Fifth Estate is running commercials for the latest show "The Rat"; it describes the life of a mob informant who decided to turn to the law when an attempted assassination ended up with an innocent bystander paralyzed.

The voiceover begins thusly:

*dramatic music*
"A mob hit gone wrong..."

Now, correct me if I'm mistaken, but how exactly does a mob hit go right? Seriously, either someone gets killed, maimed, or otherwise scarred for life (bad for the victims) or the attacker screws up (bad for the criminal)! Picture it if you will:

(scene: Tim Hortons, 2 AM)
A bored teen mans the till, waiting until the single customer steps back into the cold night so she can crank the music up again. He's been nursing that double-double for twenty minutes now, but she has no real reason to ask him to go.

She sighs silently to herself as someone else approaches the storefront. The shadowy figure stops outside the door, staring at her customer for a long moment before he comes in. Inside, he strides purposefully to the seated man, pulling a gun from under his coat. His target doesn't move, transfixed by the barrel of a Glock pointing directly at his face.

The gunman stops, hesitating here at his moment of truth. Slowly, he replaces the gun in it's holster, exchanging something else in its place. He thrusts it forward, saying:

"I quit this stupid job. Want a lollypop? Go ahead, they're great for quitting smoking, like with Kojak. Remember Kojak? That was a good show."

That's my idea of a "mob hit gone right". Anything else, and something's wrong.

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posted by Thursday at 9:40 pm 0 comments

Getting It

(A few days without power really puts a damper on posting...)

I'm a geek; no secret there, I have been all my life. As such, one of the things I do is tell jokes, especially to any women who are around. So far, there has only been one who now screams and runs away when I threaten humour at her, which is a pretty good record. But what good is humour, what use is it for me?

Obvious part first: when you can make people laugh, they are better incluned towards you. Never a bad thing, be it a woman you're trying to impress or a stranger you just met and want to get along with or what have you. Of course, one of the biggest means to sway someones opinion is how you react to their jokes, and especially their laughter. Nothing feels worse than getting a frown when you laugh.

Less obvious part second: it's a filter. It's a way of determining if someone "gets" you or not. Freud was notorious for telling dirty jokes to women he found attractive as a way of determining how receptive they were: it's a fair indicator still. But beyond that, the joke teller can "find their own kind", for instance:

Q: How do you bring a woman to orgasm?
A: Who cares?

is a joke that can be used two ways. In the first, it's among friends (especially female ones) who know you don't actually think that way as a style of insulting banter. Which, by the way, is what you'll probably get back, perhaps in a rejoinder like:

Q: How do you make a guy come?
A: Don't worry about it, he just did.

But the second way, is among semi-strangers, usually all-male, as a measuring stick to see what kind of people they are. What else can you tell them? What political opinions do they have?

Q: How many feminists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: That's not funny.

I can tell that joke to my friends, because they know what my views are already, but I wouldn't tell it where I wasn't sure of my audience.

But that it's another version of a filter only occurred to me recently: they can also be cultural identifiers. I told one joke that revealed the real story behind Cinderella's night out (fairly long and complex, with added bits, so I won't tell it here) to two different people, and one laughed while the other was confused. This is because the punch line is left to the listener to fill in, and only one of the people was familiar with the nursery rhyme "Peter, Peter". The other didn't have a background that included the needed information. Slang terms or very local events or personalities (the local weatherman or a particularly inept robber, for instance) could be another tribal identifier.

Which brought to mind the third filter that humour can have: intelligence. Or rather, knowledge. This joke, for instance, will get you a lot of strange looks and strained laughs if your audience hasn't heard of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle. That level of knowledge is very attractive to me, even though I understand tha someone can be perfectly intelligent without knowing (or remembering) who Heisenberg was.

A lot of pop culture humour depends on a certain level of sophistication from the audience, from late night monologues ("Buttafuco! Buttafuco! Buttafuco!" - thanks, Dave) to The Colbert Report (Truthiness, anyone?). Likewise, it's usually only people who have had to deal with, or have thought about, racism that understand (and usually laugh) at this.

The best part about learning all sorts of things, from useless trivia to insider politics to other languages, is that with the more you know, the more likely you are to get the joke.

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posted by Thursday at 1:42 pm 0 comments

November 23, 2006

Science: Gather Round the Corpse!

The Skeptics' Circle gathers (dust) once more!

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posted by Thursday at 11:13 pm 0 comments

Hockey: West at the Quarter

Western Conference:

ANAHEIM

The Good: Two recent Norris winners; 4 shutouts in 23 games; highest scoring team in the west; one of the best GMs in the game; lots of contributing youth to go with talented veterans…
The Bad: Don’t like the new team colours much.
The Weird: The Ducks and L.A. have 10 overtime losses between them, while the other three teams in their division are the last in the league with none.
The Future: Got shades?
Note: Rock-solid stability from ownership to equipment manager.

CALGARY

The Good: Rounding into form after yet another slow start.
The Bad: Jamie McLennan has played in one game this year, so Kiprusoff is doing it alone again.
The Weird: Tanguay is on pace for 12 goals after seasons of 26, 25 and 29.
The Future: While they would like Yelle back, there’s no rush.
Note: There’s an odd 1-1-1 nature to this team: they have a single vital player at each position (F Iginla, D Phaneuf, G Kiprusoff) and little else. It seems to work.

CHICAGO

The Good: Khabibulin much better than last year.
The Bad: Injuries (again). With Handzus out for the season, the scoring leader is now… Radim Vrbata? Come back soon, Havlat!
The Weird: Back up goalie Boucher has one shutout in ten games – his only win.
The Future: A long, slow climb back to respectability has started.
Note: The two leading scorers from last season (Calder and Bell) have four goals combined playing for other teams.

COLORADO

The Good: Burnaby Joe. Even missing Turgeon as a second centre, Sakic aiming at another 80+ point season.
The Bad: Missing Turgeon and Leopold for the season so far. Goals for have been okay, but goals against haven’t.
The Weird: Eight separate players have a single game winning goal, and Sakic isn’t one of them.
The Future: A goalie controversy in the making, with Budaj noticeably outplaying the more expensive Theodore.
Note: Getting Leopold back will only help, and he’s close.

COLUMBUS

The Good: Defenseman Duvie Wescott has 8 points in 11 games. He’s injured now, but still, pretty good!
The Bad: Everything else.
The Weird: Massively underperforming team in all fields, except perhaps for goalie Norrena and the aforementioned Duvie.
The Future: Here’s to hoping Hitchcock brought his whip.
Note: Hey, Anson Carter (2g-2a-4pts)! Didn’t you used to score goals in Vancouver?

DALLAS

The Good: Both goalies playing great hockey.
The Bad: A bit of injury trouble, but otherwise not much.
The Weird: Stefan keeps finding work somehow…
The Future: You get the feeling this team is biding it’s time until the playoffs.
Note: Turco certainly is. The playoffs is all he’s thinking about this season.


DETROIT

The Good: Goals against the best of anyone not named Dallas.
The Bad: Goals for far below what they’re used to.
The Weird: Zetterberg leads team in goals (6), tied with… Dan Cleary?
The Future: Zetterberg and Datsyuk are being relied on for their offence, and it’s not happening yet. Still playoffs bound, but once they get there…
Note: The saving grace has been the weak division Detroit plays in,

EDMONTON

The Good: Signing Roloson has been looking smarter every game.
The Bad: Young players getting big contracts after a single great year leads to very expensive average players (Horcoff, Hemsky, Pisani…).
The Weird: The normally solid Jason Smith is at -10 so far.
The Future: Looks good to make the playoffs, but any team in the division can bump them off.
Note: These guys miss Pronger, bad.

LOS ANGELES

The Good: Frolov is becoming a sniper, and Visnovsky is keeping pace.
The Bad: Cloutier has been awful so far.
The Weird: A rookie is their #1 centre. Ever heard of Anze Kopitar?
The Future: The goaltending’s got to get better. Getting Sopel back will help, but that’s not enough.
Note: Cloutier is used to being abandoned, but his team had more offensive talent then, too.


MINNESOTA

The Good: An 8-1-1 home record.
The Bad: Gaborik has only played 7 games so far.
The Weird: The current best name in hockey. Go ahead, just try to say “Goal scored by… BrrrAN-ko…. RADIVOJEVIC!!!” without smiling. (rad-ih-voy-o-vitch)
The Future: The goalies have been going great guns, as expected, but the offence is just hanging on until Gaborik returns.
Note: A ridiculously even division, anyone could end up winning it. The safe money’s on Calgary, but second is Minnesota.

NASHVILLE

The Good: Being in the Central division.
The Bad: Some folks don’t like the jerseys.
The Weird: The team’s “enforcer” is the 5’9” Jordin Tootoo. The reincarnation of Tie Domi, perhaps?
The Future: Easily into the playoffs. This team is the result of years of planning, and it’s solid as any in the league.
Note: Mason has improved from a capable backup to #1 goalie in waiting, but this is still Vokun’s team – for this contract, at least…

PHOENIX

The Good: Getting Mike Ricci back on the ice after neck surgery.
The Bad: Comrie, Reinprecht, Ricci, Perrault and Doan all being out for extended periods already.
The Weird: Laraques is on pace for 40 points this season. Riiight.
The Future: In about two months time, when all the forwards are back, this will be a much better team than it is now. Of course, then four defensemen will be out…
Note: Joseph is having a brutal start to the season, but Phoenix will ride it out, with only Morrison or LeNeveu available. If Cujo even gets back to average, more wins will come.

ST. LOUIS

The Good: Tkachuk starting the season in shape, and it shows.
The Bad: Jay McKee ($4 million) lasted one game before being injured.
The Weird: Lee Stempniak ($450,000) is leading the team with 8 goals.
The Future: This is as stable as the Blues have been in the past decade. This probably won’t mean playoffs this year, but it means a lot to the fans, who have a lot to forgive.
Note: Five total goals from the defense is not good enough.

SAN JOSE

The Good: After hot debate over #1 status, Nabokov and Toskala are making a fine tandem in goal.
The Bad: Mark Bell was acquired to line up with Cheechoo and Thornton – he hasn’t performed.
The Weird: McLaren is on pace for 40 points; he’s never scored more than 25 in a season.
The Future: Cheechoo hasn’t put up last year’s numbers, and is going to be under pressure to prove it wasn’t an aberration.
Note: Watching this astoundingly young team, I still wonder who the team leaders are.

VANCOUVER

The Good: The injuries have been relatively light so far.
The Bad: Goals? What are these things you call “goals”?
The Weird: Four players have only one goal – all are game winners.
The Future: Luongo has indeed shaved half a goal off last year’s GAA, and he’ll need to maintain that for the Canucks to make the playoffs.
Note: Why was Sabourin plucked off waivers? The coach clearly doesn’t trust him to play, and veteran Flaherty is itching for any chance at the NHL again, even as back up.


We’ll see how things change in another twenty games!

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posted by Thursday at 10:58 pm 2 comments

November 22, 2006

Hockey: East at the Quarter

So what the heck is going on out there, anyways? Here, in all my obnoxiousness, is what I think:


ATLANTA

The Good: Having 29 points after 22 games make this a far stronger start than last season!
The Bad: Lehtonen is not doing as well as Hedberg, but at least they have Hedberg.
The Weird: I respect Steve McCarthy and all, but he shouldn’t be leading your defense in scoring.
The Future: Eggs, meet basket. If any of the top three scorers (Hossa, Kovalchuk or the surprising Kozlov) gets injured for an extended period, the Thrashers could loose ground quick.
Note: Lehtonen is better than the sub-.900 save percentage he now has. He’ll pick it up.

BOSTON

The Good: Savard is continuing his torrid scoring pace with 25 points in 19 games.
The Bad: Increased expectations seem to be burdening goalies Thomas and Toivonen.
The Weird: Chistov finally scored his first goal November 22. Fifth overall pick, eh?
The Future: After a very shaky start, there seems to be some stability on the horizon.
Note: Defenseman Mark Stewart was recalled from the minors, skated with the team, and sent back down on the 20th.

BUFFALO

The Good: Where to start? How about 4 losses in 23 games? Over 100 goals scored before anyone else reached 80?
The Bad: Goalie Biron has a GAA over 3.00 for the first time since the 95-96 season. It doesn’t seem to affect the record of the league’s highest scoring team.
The Weird: Chris Drury has picked up 12 of his 22 points this season in the last five minutes of games.
The Future: I know I picked Anaheim to win the cup, and I’m keeping that choice, and these guys look like the most likely opponents.
Note: There were seven hooking penalties called in the first period of their game against Toronto November 22nd. I thought the players were “getting it”?

CAROLINA

The Good: 13 years ago, Rod Brind’Amour got 97 points in 84 games; he’s on pace for more this year.
The Bad: Goalie Ward wishes he was in the finals – you know, when there was no pressure (.894 save % so far this year).
The Weird: They have 6 regulars whose last name starts with “w”: Walker, Wallin, Ward, Wesley, Whitney and Williams.
The Future: Grahame has got to spell off Ward more frequently than he has – this should be a tandem, but Ward has started 20 games to Grahame’s four.
Note: Two of the Hurricanes’ best players from last season (Kaberle and Stillman) have yet to play a game after being injured in the pre-season.

FLORIDA

The Good: Jokinen maintaining last year’s scoring pace.
The Bad: Bertuzzi possibly out until the new year.
The Weird:
The Future: Now that the Panthers and Lightning are both “mediocre with some star power” at the same time, could they please get a decent rivalry going? The last game was a good start (three fights, third period win for the visitors). See also: Edmonton-Calgary, Rangers-Islanders.
Note: There was a mysterious altercation in a hotel bar involving Auld and Belfour, which no one wants to talk about. Looks like Belfour’s acting up again…

LONG ISLAND (New York)

The Good: Yashin is ignoring the “C” on his chest and just playing. As a result, he could have his first 100-point season.
The Bad: After him and Blake, the scoring drops off precipitously.
The Weird: Dunham is outplaying DiPietro by a comfortable margin, but the fans have kept relative calm.
The Future: How long that lasts depends on whether the team makes the playoffs. Then we’ll see.
Note: Ted Nolan has picked up right where he left off, oh-so-many years ago: getting a marginally talented team to play hard and win more than they probably should.

MANHATTAN (New York)

The Good: The highest scoring team in the division, led by Shanahan’s 17 goals.
The Bad: After Jagr (34 points) and Shanahan (28), the highest scoring winger is Adam Hall, with 5 points: Straka and Prucha are both natural centres.
The Weird: For the first time in his 19-year career, Shanahan is on pace to finish a season with more points than penalty minutes, and he has only half the PMs of Jagr!
The Future: With six total goals from the defense, they need to diversify where the goals are coming from, or they are out in the first round of the playoffs again.
Note: After some shaky years, the goodwill built up with the fans last year is lasting into this one.


MONTREAL

The Good: Cristobal Huet has established himself as the undisputed #1 goalie (.931 SV%).
The Bad: While the injury bug has left the team mostly alone, it did take out their best scorer (Higgins – 8g-5a-13pts in 13 games), probably until January.
The Weird: Two of their top three scorers are defensemen, Markov (17 points) and Souray (16).
The Future: Looks like Aebischer is going to take the ride for the rest of the season, returning to a back-up role he loathes.
Note: Ryder is on pace for 45-50 points for the season, and much more is expected of him.

NEW JERSEY

The Good: The goals against is the best in the Eastern Conference (Hello, Brodeur!).
The Bad: The goals for is the worst in the Eastern Conference.
The Weird: Despite a 12-7-1 record, the goals for are actually lower (49) than goals against (52).
The Future: I didn’t expect sophomore Parise to be leading this team in scoring, and I don’t think he will be by the season’s end – not because he’ll falter so much as eventually Elias will remember who he is.
Note: As predicted, Clemmensen has started one game so far this year. Brodeur plays with one eye on the record books.

OTTAWA

The Good: Emery is proving fully capable of a lead role in goal.
The Bad: Gerber was brought in to do that, and hasn’t.
The Weird: They still carry McGrattan, who’s a goon (1a, 46PM), while using Neil (7g-6a-52PM) who can fight and actually play.
The Future: The current standing (12th in the East) is an aberration. The team is too good not to make the playoffs. But then, Vancouver didn’t last year…
Note: So far, none of their very talented defensemen have taken command of the power play. That’s got to happen before the standings improve.

PHILIDELPHIA

The Good: Heh. Um… The pissing match between former GM Clarke and former coach Hitchcock is over. That’s good, right?
The Bad: Five wins in 22 games can officially be considered “the bad”.
The Weird: The ankle giving Forsberg so much trouble this year is the surgically repaired right, instead of the also ailing left.
The Future: Pitkanen is doing what he can, but this is perhaps the worst defense in the league.
Note: No more masking a team that gets torn apart every playoffs – this bunch won’t make it without major revision, and before Christmas.

PITTSBURGH

The Good: Improved just about everywhere, especially in goal.
The Bad: Thibault needs to be more reliable to give Fleury some days off.
The Weird: Hands up everyone who thought sophomore defenseman Ryan Whitney would be getting more ice time than Gonchar and have as many points. Anyone? Anyone? Liars.
The Future: A real threat to make the playoffs for the first time in five seasons.
Note: This team is going to be fiery death to anyone playing against them next year, and they’re pretty good this one.

TAMPA BAY

The Good: Lecavalier is headed for his career first 80+ point season.
The Bad: Yet another season of wild mood swings. Where’s Andreychuk, again?
The Weird: Not many coaches would let one goalie (Denis) take seven goals in a period (vs. Buffalo, Nov. 20) without pulling him without some motivation…
The Future: Impossible to say, but unless Holmqvist is another Lundqvist, .500 may be as good as it gets this season.
Note: None of the team’s top 8 scorers has missed a single game yet.

TORONTO

The Good: Defensemen Kaberle and McCabe continuing last year’s torrid scoring pace.
The Bad: The incredibly durable Sundin being injured. The cracks that FINALLY started showing up last year seem to be continuing into this one.
The Weird: Before Wednesday’s game against Buffalo, the top five scorers all had exactly 19 points.
The Future: Despite Raycroft’s up and down play, there’s enough punch to get to the playoffs with him.
Note: After 15 seasons dry, Sundin is getting damn thirsty to drink from the cup.

WASHINGTON

The Good: Getting Semin back from Russia has paid off in spades.
The Bad: Zednik has misses several games already.
The Weird: John Erskine picked up a 10-minute “aggressor” penalty in their fight-filled game against Atlanta. I have no idea what this is.
The Future: No playoffs yet, but a respectable team, with improvements in every area over last year.
Note: Back-up goalie Johnson is getting his confidence back, and his numbers are going up accordingly.

West tomorrow!

***

Quick addendum: I forgot one interesting bit: Columbus has hired a new coach just before thier game against Philidelphia, the only other team to fire their coach this season. Their new coach is, of course, Ken Hitchcock.

Think they'll be ready to play?

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posted by Thursday at 11:34 pm 0 comments

November 21, 2006

Ah, Romance!

Is this, finally, the death of the Romantics? These head-in-the-clouds dreamers?

I've never seen such a mythological view of the world, as presented by the folks who howled for this war - and I live on the southwest coast of Canada, home of more flakes than Kellogg's. Plus I work in an organic bakery attached to a health food store. Nuts? Flakes? We don't just sell 'em, they work here.

But for all the airy-fairy New Age Aquarian insanity I hear every day, for all the paranoid governmental/pharmalogical/military(ical) conspiracy theories I argue against, there has been nothing quite like the bright-eyed gung-ho optimism that launched the war in Iraq.

The fear was always there, and easy to reach - the fear got the foot in the door. But visions of mothers wearing burkhas, churches being burned down, and daughters being denied all rights could only cow people, not encourage them. So away went the stick, and out came the carrot:

Not only will Iraq become America's bestest buddy in the whole world (they said), but it will be cheap and easy! With our military, no one will get hurt except those nasty folks who really, really deserve it! The people, the common man in the street, have secretly been pining for a convicted felon and con-man to lead them to a new world of buttercups and innocence (and Bic Macs)! Twenty minutes, tops! No new taxes!

Now we end up with a chaotic mess, and three prominent cheerleaders coming to the sad realization that their uniforms are ripped in embarassing places, their pom poms are threadbare, reality is raining on the parade and making thier hair go all flat and they just wanna go HOME!

MOOOOOM!

Somehow, somehow as pathetic as these figures are, all my sympathy for them seems to have been used up. You could see the mistakes they were making, you tried to tell them where it was all going to go wrong, but they were cheerleaders, and you obviously weren't, so they didn't have to listen to you. They, you see, sat at the Kewl Krew table.

I wonder if that makes the crow taste any better?

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posted by Thursday at 12:04 am 0 comments

November 20, 2006

How Does He Run With Those Things?

Under the catagory "Biggest Balls Ever", D'Angelo Brands have hired Ben Johnson (steroid user of Seoul Olympics fame) to sell their energy drink.

The name? Cheetah.

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posted by Thursday at 4:48 pm 0 comments

November 17, 2006

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Over.

And don't we have a freak show going on now, hmm?

First to catch my eye was the astounding decision to publish OJ Simpson's "hypothetical" book discussing how he would have killed his wife and her friend. It's being published by Regan Books, a clearing house for conservative authors and pornography, and there is going to be an interview with, believe it or not, Judith Regan. How softball are those questions going to be, eh?

Face it: you KNOW a concept is hopelessly screwed up when Bill O'Reilly attacks FOX for using it!

Despite Simpson losing the "wrongful death" case brought about by Goldman's family, costing him $33 million in damages, the family has yet to see a cent, and Simpson has reportedly received over $3 million in advance just for the book. No word on what he's getting for the interview, or why the owner of the publishing house that's printing this drivvel is conducting it.


In other "How'd THAT happen?" news...

Bush has another brilliant appointment. Yes, another one, just in case you weren't depressed enough by his track record...

This time, it's Dr. Eric Keroack. Doctor Keroack is all set to be the new Deputy Secretary for Population Affairs (who?). This means he's going to be working at the office that is responsible for the distribution of moneys for all the sexual health programs in the United States just now (including winners like this). Since he's a Bush appointment, it should be clear that he has no actual interest in doing what's best for the greatest number of people, but rather what Jesus tells him to impose on the greatest number of people.

Need a hint? Last June, Keroack was a featured speaker at the 10th Annual International Abstinence Leadership Conference in Kansas City. I'm not even going to bother mentioning the sheer stupidity of using "just say no" instead of an actual plan; it's been done so often that you know it's not a matter of opponents of sexuality cherry picking numbers they like so much as it is them deafened by righteousness.

Check out his rather odd assertion that opiates make a relationship better, but if you love too much, too often, then that love wears out and makes a frowny face in your ganglia...


Speaking of sex making you sad, next up are the "Quiverfull" folks!

Yup, it's Protestant women out-Catholicing Catholics! Not only are they opposed to abortion, they oppose any kind of birth control including the so-called "rhythm method", the only kind of birth control the Pope approves of! Yep, even using a minimum amount of judgement in your life (and with a 25% failure rate over 1 year, the rhythm method can certainly be considered that) is the exact same as opposing God's Plan!

Of course, according to the good doctor above, the more kids you have, the "new contacts" you have, the less you can love. Oh, well! That's the price for squirting out those handy little Jebus-Arrows, isn't it? Sure SOME heathens call them "children"... The Eleventh Commandment indeed.


And in politics (again):

With the much-deserved pounding the current Prime Minister's Office is getting over their treatment of the enviroment (also known as the "If we ignore it, maybe it will just go away" plan), you expect various groups to fire away.

But South Park?

Well, if thousands of scientists and millions of voters can't get the point across, what the hell; maybe a cartoon can.


Last one:

As tragic as this story is, I do want to note that there's a reason why the couple live in Vancouver: he's Japanese, and she's Korean. Neither could tolerate living as a mixed-race couple in the other's country.

Hope he finds peace.

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posted by Thursday at 5:53 pm 2 comments

November 15, 2006

Politics: When You Have Cards This Bad...

...stop playing!

Glen Beck, a talking head in the now classic O'reilly tradition, had as his guest the first ever muslim elected to federal office in the United States, Representative Keith Ellison. Here's how he starts the interview:

"I will tell you, may I -- may we have five minutes here where we're just politically incorrect and I play the cards face up on the table?"

Hoo boy. Here's a quick lesson at decyphering goonspeak: if someone tells you that they are going to be "politically incorrect" for, gosh, just a couple of minutes (or for the sake of argument or what have you) then you know he's got no real excuse for being a total prick.

He continues:

"No offense, and I know Muslims. I like Muslims. I've been to mosques. I really don't believe that Islam is a religion of evil."

This is the same deal as where adding a question mark is supposed to cover your ass, legally speaking. Or saying that you have a black friend.

It's a "wallpaper word", a word or phrase that covers up a hole in your argument. "Naturally" and "Of course" are used in much the same way, showing how reasonable the person speaking is. They are just using common sense, of course. Naturally, you'd be mistaken to disagree with them. They talk to people - just like you - so you can't really criticise them, can you? Why, that would be crazy!

The idiocy continues:

"With that being said, you are a Democrat. You are saying, "Let's cut and run." And I have to tell you, I have been nervous about this interview with you, because what I feel like saying is, "Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies."
And I know you're not. I'm not accusing you of being an enemy, but that's the way I feel, and I think a lot of Americans will feel that way.
"

Except, of course, that's exactly what he's saying, and he just has no clue how to phrase it.

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posted by Thursday at 10:23 pm 0 comments

November 13, 2006

Other: Proof There is No God, Part II

I listen to a wide variety of music, and consider myself reasonably fair-minded about an artist's efforts. I'll admit, for instance, that Justin Timberlake is talented, though I personally don't like his music.

I like jazz of the fusion (Dave Brubeck) and traditional (Miles Davis) variety. I prefer Old Country (Johnny Cash) to New (Garth Brooks), but I don't mind some of Brooks' songs. I listen to punk from the beginning (Ramones) and recently produced (Green Day). I've got old folkies (Stan Rogers) in my collection beside rappers (Eminem) and electronica (Alabama 3). Louis Armstrong and Cole Porter and Stephen Sondheim share time with David Lindley and The Beatles and Johann Sebastian Bach.

These performers all have different values, different sounds, and different moods they fit into or evoke, and different reasons to appreciate them.

But this, THIS is utterly unbearable: The Times They Are A-Changin', a Broadway Musical based on the songs of (how could you!?) Bob Dylan.

Now, the idea could have been decent enough: there is a lot of drama in his music, and lots of it was written at a time of great turmoil in America. So the director decided to go with all the gravitas that Alfalfa, Buckwheat, Spanky and the rest of Our Gang would use for "Puttin' on a SHOW! C'mon, gang! Yay!"

Need proof? Here is Like a Rolling Stone, performed live by a young man that I cannot imagine has ever heard of Bob Dylan, much less listened to him. It comes complete with spandex-clad dancers and, er, what I suppose are rolling stones, in case the audience was blessedly hard of hearing.

All who are responsible for this abomination must be called to task. There have to be laws somewhere, anywhere pertaining to the destruction of decency that these "people", if I may call them that, can be charged with. If not, I'm sure we can improvise something.

Freeze their assets.

Set their homes on fire.

Shave their cats.

Anything to bring them the suffering they have forced upon an unsuspecting world.

***

The first proof is here.

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posted by Thursday at 8:47 pm 2 comments

November 12, 2006

Other: Meaningful Conversation Builds Marriages

As the Significant Other and I were preparing cards to send out:

"I could well have been dreaming Lionel Richie zombies were chasing me through a school; and as we all know, they can dance on celings. Much harder to avoid than regular zombies."

Someday, I'm going to record a day's conversation between us.

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posted by Thursday at 5:30 pm 2 comments

Wanrig! Misspelled Sign Ahead!

Okay, I just switched over to Blogger's Beta format, so there may be some slight nausea and a little weirdness going on for a couple days.

Bear with.

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posted by Thursday at 12:36 am 0 comments

November 11, 2006

Sex: A Better Way

There are times when you have to laugh:

"I am a bit troubled. I believe my son has a girlfriend, because she left a dirty magazine with men in it under his bed. My son is only 16 and I really don't think he's ready to date yet. What's worse is that he's sneaking some girl to his room behind my back. I need help, God! I want my son to stop being so secretive!"

From Fundies Say The Darndest Things


"All this gay sex is thanks to Sean Hannity."

From Eric Nelson


And times when you can't:

"The report said that one pledge was nearly passed out and wearing pink fairy wings and women's underwear. Another student was found passed out on the floor. He was wearing a pink tank top, women's underwear and a blond wig. A third student, a rainbow-colored wig and a diaper was found in a corner crying and in pain."

Link from Shakespeare's Sister

(And a far milder version of the same story.)


Most of the time, it's just a case of shaking my head at idiocy, as in "How are these folks intelligent enough to breathe?" *shakes head* And that's all.

But sometimes I wonder how it is that these desperately ignorant and frightened people can view sex in such a (excuse the term) fucked up manner? What drives someone to such an insane view of sex and sexuality?

Yes, I know about rape being not about sex but about power, but that does not remove it from being a seperate activity. Skating is skating; if you add sticks and a puck, you get hockey, but that doesn't change what skating is.

Anyhow.

I understand power shifts being used in sex: that is the entire purpose of B&D and S/M. Power is why that game works, but what is vitally important is that everyone who is participating understands that's why it works. It's out in the open. Hell, it's studied with great devotion in some quarters. Trusting someone enough to surrender to them is an astoundingly brave act, so you have to know who it is you're dealing with.

So what's my point?

Recently, a co-worker has started asking me questions about a B&D group that the Significant Other and I visit now and again. This is a good thing, as I like people who are curious more than those who aren't. It was a fairly standard set of questions from someone who hasn't had that much variety in their sexual diet: what do you do; what kind of people go to these things; and the recurring standard: aren't you scared?

The answers are: hang out; people like, well, me; and no.

Let's compare, shall we?

If you go out to a night club, especially if you are a reasonably attractive single woman, you are going to be harassed for the entire night. The people around you are either expecting you to want sex, or are trying to determine such. You are going to be surrounded by folks who are there to have sex, and will drunkenly fumble around until they get it, or end up bitter, frustrated, horny and smashed. You're going to be subjected to a barrage of unwelcome advances, unwanted hands, and quite possibly fed intoxicants you don't know you're taking. If some asshole becomes agressive, you have to hope the bouncer sees before anything goes too wrong.

If you go out to one of the parties the SO and I have attended, expecially if you are a reasonably attractive single woman, you will be approached a few times, it is true. And it will be enirely up to you to accept or decline the invitation. If it becomes known that you haven't been before, and only want to observe, you won't find a friendlier bunch of folks anywhere; in fact, you'll probably be invited to observe them "show you the ropes" (no touching necessary!). I also guarantee that you will NEVER be forced into any situation that makes you (mentally) uncomfortable, and no one will press the issue. Anyone becomes overly agressive here, and first they'll be told to piss off; second they'll be told to leave; and if they go further quite bad things can happen to them. They will, after all, be surrounded by very angry people who are disturbingly good with whips and awfully creative...

A big misconception is that S/M can be forced upon you, and frankly that's bullshit. Playing with this is a high-risk proposition, physically and emotionally, which is why people do it: the risk provides the reward. But there is also quite a strict code, the details of which MUST be worked out by those involved before playtime starts.

1) Work out distress codes for "I don't like that" and "Stop NOW!" (These codes often start by being something odd and meaningful to the person, but eventually everyone goes back to "yellow" and "red". You need to think less.);

2) Go slow with someone you haven't played with before (including your own Significant Other);

3) Communicate constantly;

4) Don't forget aftercare - the sub/bottom/"victim"/whatever is probably (hopefuly) going to be pretty wiped by the end of the scene, so meke sure they're okay;

5) Play in public.

Yes, I actually mean that, but with a caveat: by "public", I'm talking about at a play party. There are a lot of people around, and none of them want anything to go wrong. If someone calls for help, help comes at a dead run.

Now compare this lot with the folks at the (now disbanded) fraternity at the Shakespeare's Sister link above. One group doesn't look at sex as some kind of perverse, fearful thing (unlike, say, these folks). They view sexual variety is just another person's groove, and not really a big deal. They are, to put it bluntly, educated about sex.

This doesn't mean that anyone has to try anything they don't want to! I for instance, have no interest in having sex with a sports mascot; but that doesn't mean I hate furries, or want to see them arrested! I'm not actually afraid of them, you see, and when there is no fear, there is little opportunity for anger.

Then again, I've got a bit of a head start on some people as far as exposure to sexuality goes: I practically learned to read using my dad's poorly-concealed pornography. So maybe it's just me.

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posted by Thursday at 10:02 pm 1 comments

November 08, 2006

Science: So, What's With The Cape?

Observe the Skeptic:

often battle-hardened by years of living in a world gone mad with magical thinking and spurious logic;

frequently alone in the fight against codified irrationality;

forced to search far and wide for another candle in the darkness, hoping that one day enough candles together can create the flames of a new renaissance;

sometimes, even these self-assured, strong willed few need a hero.

Presenting the 47th edition of the Skeptics' Circle!

Yes, that's right: it's so big it couldn't fit in the little space I've got available to me here, so the Circle has been forced to relocate to another dimension. Just follow the link above, and you should find it. No worries, eh?

If the thought of leaving this plane disturbes you (and it shouldn't if you've read the last edition!), then here's a list of who's been generous enough to contribute, and some easier-to-reach links:

Tom Nelson at Ivory-Bill Skeptic
Shalini at Scientia Natura
Lambic at Be Lambic or Green
BigHeathenMike at Mike's Weekly Skeptic Rant
Barry Leiba at Staring at Empty Pages
Bryan Gillis at Infophilia
EoR at The Second Sight
Akusai at Action Skeptics (Now there's a good name for this edition!)
Julien at Odd Scoop
Carl Feagans at Hot Cup of Joe
Martin at Salto Sobrius
The Maiden at Hell's Handmaiden
Orac at Respectful Insolence
PLittle at Aurora Walking Vacation
Bronze Dog at Rockstars' Ramblings
PZ Myers at Pharyngula
And as a special guest, Laura Galloway from the TEDTalks brings a Michael Shermer presentation to our attention.

There were a few later additions that I simply couldn't fit in, but are still worth reading:

Jon Swift has a sociological submission,
Neural Gourmet asks a simple question,
and
Abel Pharmboy wonders how easy 100 bottles of wine a day would go down.

And that brings this edition of the Circle to a close! Any comments or complaints about how your post was presented, let me know.

Next up is decorabilia (wear shades until your sense of taste adapts to the ties... Those hideous, hideous ties...), and bear in mind that it will be published on WEDNESDAY the 22nd instead of the usual Thursday.

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posted by Thursday at 10:59 pm 14 comments

Science: This Is The End

Midnight Tuesday has come and gone, and with it went the opportunity to submit posts for this edition of the Skeptics' Circle. But do not fear! As I'm not entirely sure what I've done will work at all, basic links will be provided to the posts here, as well: so if you still wish to apply, then send me a line ("How tall was he?") and if I think it warrants including, it will become part of the list, but not part of the show.

Confused yet? Do not be afraid.

Come.

Join us.

*cue evil music and fog machine*
*whaddya mean we left the fog machine at the Hallowe'en party*
*oh piss is this thing still on*
*will you turn that da*

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posted by Thursday at 1:10 am 0 comments

November 07, 2006

Other: Hmm.

Another quick exchange of emails between my dad and myself:

Him: Just got back from the cancer clinic in Victoria. Things seem to have changed dramatically in the past month. I am now high risk and the cancer has gone into overdrive.
Me: Okay, THAT sucks.
Him: I now have to get chest x rays and bone scans as it may have already spread.
Me: Yugh. Any idea when that will be happening?
Him: They still seem to think that my chances are good. One interesting fact which affects you is that there is a one in six chance of getting it. If your father had it your chance is one in three, if your father and grandfather had it your chance is one in one point five.....that would be you. The key is early detection. Get a yearly PSA test from your doctor.
Me: Already arranged. Found a good guy in Duncan last year, and we've talked.


So it could be an interesting time around here.

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posted by Thursday at 6:37 pm 2 comments

Politics: "History is Written...

...by the Victors."

-Winston Churchill


And it's re-written by the desperate.

-Thursday

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posted by Thursday at 1:52 am 2 comments

November 05, 2006

Science: Of Teen Repellants and Fussy Dung Beetles

That's right, the 16th First Annual Ig Nobel Awards are here!

Go! Now! Enjoy! Laugh, laugh, laugh!

And don't forget to watch the honourable ceremony!

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posted by Thursday at 10:04 am 0 comments

Other: Submit! Submit, You Worm!*

The Skeptics' Circle is coming up soon (deadline Tuesday midnight!), so if you have any: appeals to logic; debunking of psudeoscience; pointing out the falacies of woo; an examination of some interesting story in science; or just a straight-up essay on the philosophy of reason, send them by!


*That is to say, I consider you an extremely useful creature, essential for the existence of any fertile soil, and thus for any other life.

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posted by Thursday at 9:35 am 0 comments

November 01, 2006

Other: The Good, The Bad, and The Damn Weird

Another "around-the-bases" post today:


Religion

Another day at work, another argument with a co-worker. This time it started with the movie "Waking Life", which I found to be a fascinating discussion of perception and reality, presented in a very cool way. The co-worker in question suggested instead... "What the *Bleep* Do We Know?", which is a vacuous waste of both brain cells and celuloid. When I mentioned who financed the film (the channeler of a 35,000 year old god from Atlantis - oops, Lemuria now), she said: "What's wrong channeling other beings?" I have to say, my arguments pretty much died at that...


Politics

The Republicans use, as one of their recurring advertising slogans, the meme that the Democrats are "out of touch with mainstream America". May I present a "clarification" recently made by the Department of Health and Human Services? They are the lot in charge of the oh-so-successful federaly abstinence-only programs:

"We wanted to remind states they could use these funds not only to target adolescents," Horn said. "It's a reminder."

The reminder was that it was appropriate to use the $50 million fund to target 19-29 year olds. No, really. With the smashing success of the programs targeting youth, this should go over brilliantly with actual adults, don't you think? Come now: you've always wanted these proponents of smaller government to tell you who to bang and when, right?


Sex

Where to go after that last story, eh? Well, this is just a little odd note: I'm spent a few days in the past two weeks thinking and talking about 3-ways, 4-ways, gangs and switches, and none of them have anything to do with sex.

I'm taking an electrical wiring course (just for home, nothing professional yet). Electricity, of course, has nothing to do with sex.


Science

How much can preconceived notions sabotage your abilities? Quite a bit, if what this report from the University of British Columbia says stands up - and it looks pretty solid.

And...

In good news against quackery, there's another University report that got my attention, this one from the U. of Western Ontario: twenty out of twenty health food stores had clerks who enthusiastically recommend unproven alternatives to medicine when asked. Why is this good news? Because it might get Health Canada to pick it up a little in regulating claims made by the alties.

Two years ago Health Canada had finally gotten around to creating and enforcing regulations of what can be sold as medicines, and what can be claimed on their labels: up until then, anything sold in a health food store was classified as food, and not subject to the same standards as medicines were, no matter what claim were made. The problem is that the testing takes time, so only around 1,200 of 12,000 products have been tested so far. Still, any step out of ignorance is one I'm happy to take!


Motorcycles

Almost swung a deal for an old Moto Guzzi 850T. Couldn't pull it off, though. Would have looked sweet with the sidecar, though.


Other

While hosting the upcoming Skeptics' Circle is keeping me distracted, so are my hordes of undead football payers.

And a little something for Hallowe'en, even if it is a day late...

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posted by Thursday at 10:09 pm 0 comments