Delenda Est Carthago

Why not delve into a twisted mind? Thoughts on the world, history, politics, entertainment, comics, and why all shall call me master!

Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

I plan on being the supreme dictator of the country, if not the world. Therefore, you might want to stay on my good side. Just a hint: ABBA rules!


Random television shows that I miss occasionally

Not for any particular reasons, just that I miss them. In no particular order:

Win Ben Stein's Money. That was a funny show, especially when Jimmy Kimmel was on it.

Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist. Another funny show. And I loved the squiggly animation. Krys and I still reference the "extras in the movie of your life" bit. I can't remember which comedian did it.

Double Rush. Am I the only person in the world who watched that? Robert Pastorelli, David Arquette, Adam Goldberg - how the hell did it fail?

My So-Called Life. If only we could have gotten two seasons out of it. I blame all of you for getting it killed.

Manimal. Duh.

It's Like, You Know. This could have been one of the most brilliant comedies EVER. But no one watched it. The second show with A.J. Langer in it on this list. She kills shows!!!!

E/R. No, not that one. Although, curiously enough, they both starred George Clooney.

Remote Control. Remember when MTV aired good shows? This was such a neat show. And Kari Wuhrer is a hottie.

The Daily Show when Craig Kilborn hosted it. I know it's far better now, but occasionally I miss him. Especially the 5 Questions.

The Master. Lee Van Cleef as a ninja warrior fighting injustice in the States! How is this not a classic? Demi Moore was in the pilot, for crying out loud!

It's Garry Shandling's Show. Situation comedy as meta-commentary. Brilliant. Let's all sing along: "This is the theme to Garry's show, the opening theme to Garry's show ..."

Mystery Science Theater 3000. Sheer genius. Both hosts were excellent. How can you not love when Mike is freeze-dried 1980s pop star Morrissey and he asks the 'bots with that lilting English accent, "Did I tell you I cried today?"? Mitchell and Alien From L.A. remain favorites of ours - whenever we watch television and someone from the Land Down Under shows up, Krys and I invariably say, in our worst accents, "I'm Australian, you know." I guess you had to be there. The DVDs for MST3K are criminally expensive, but I should go buy some.


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More people who really better hope I never become dictator

I mentioned last week that one of the kids at Mia's school is named Anakin. In the same pre-school class there is also a Takoda (I assume that's how it's spelled, but I can't be sure) and just the other day a new kid joined: Dakota (again, I hope that's how it's spelled). When did "Dakota" become the chic state name to call your child? Why not Minnesota? Or Delaware? Anyway, in Mia's pre-school: Anakin, Takoda, and Dakota. Arrrggggghhhh!

But those people may escape my wrath when I become dictator. After all, the kids have suffered enough punishment with those names, so why punish the parents? However, in yesterday's newspaper, this story made me want to march on Washington and seize power right now, just so I can throw these people in the concentration camps. Go on and read it and see if you don't agree with me.

There's so much in that story that makes me want to scream I don't know where to start. This 16-year-old has two cars, her parents paid $50,000 to rent a house for her 16th birthday party (which was broadcast on MTV's horror show, My Super Sweet 16, which will make your head explode if you watch more than three minutes of it - I push the envelope and watch two-and-a-half!), her party dress cost $5,000, her second car is "for the weekends" - it just goes on and on. You can visit her web site, too - but be warned: when you go there, her crappy demo song plays. Your ears may bleed.

It's not that I loathe Marissa for all this - she is caught up in this culture that claims you're only worth something if you're on television - but I do blame the parents, who know that she's spoiled, but they hope, as her mom says, that it's a "grounded spoiled." How the hell can it be? She hasn't earned any of this. Sure, she's been acting since she was seven, but there's a big difference between playing Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz for the Scottsdale Community Theater and actually having talent. Hell, I played Mayor George Shinn in our high school's production of The Music Man ("like a new Pacino" said our local newspaper), but you don't see me demanding that my parents fly me to Hollywood for auditions.

It's easy to blame the kids in this situation, and I certainly blame Marissa for her horrible singing (seriously - go check out her web site!) and the fact that, according to the episode guide for her 16th birthday party on, some of the "non-popular" kids at her school were so desperate to be invited to her AdoreMarissa-a-thon that they had a "dance-off" to impress her and "earn" their way in. WTF? But, as usual, it's parents trying to buy their kids' love that's the real issue. I really hope I can resist, especially because the issue seems to be with daughters - I guess all sons desire are esoteric things like beating up nerds and scoring with skanky girls, so you can't really buy their love. I'd like to say it's not going to be a problem, but we'll see. I certainly won't be able to spend $150,000 on their 16th birthday parties, because I don't have that kind of money. Phew!

My nemesis, T., has some good thoughts on this, too. Yes, I'm agreeing with T. That strange sight you see out your window is blood falling from the sky and monkeys flying out of somebody's butt. However, T. didn't find the excellent story of Marissa. I think his head might have exploded if he did.

When I'm dictator, this kind of thing won't be happening, you can believe it. Marissa's parents will be thrown in the camps and dear sweet Marissa will have to get a job at Wendy's just like everyone else her age.

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More pictures of people you don't know

Every once in a while I come across a bunch of photographs in my albums and I debate whether to post them. It's not that they're bad pictures, it's just that they're pictures of people, and if you don't know them, who cares, right? But today, at least, I forged on. You may like them. Who knows? And only six or seven people are reading this anyway, so I can do what I want! Bwah-ha-ha-ha!

So: in September 1994 Krys and I went back to Pennsylvania for our "official" wedding parties. We had one in Pottsville, where Krys grew up, and one in Doylestown, where my parents live. Krys took no pictures of the one her family threw her (perhaps because her family is a bunch of horrible mutants, like those people in The Hills Have Eyes), but I was camera-happy at the one my family had. So these are people I'm related to or were friendly with. Deal with it.

This is my good friend Dave. Yes, the same Dave whose wedding I missed in October. He and his brother thought long, stringy hair was "cool" back then. Thank God he finally cut it.

This is my Dad's brother, Uncle Rob (I don't think the "uncle" was officially part of his name). He died not too long after this party - I'm not sure when, but my sister got married in 1997 and he had already died. Cancer. I'm 99% it was bone marrow cancer, which is apparently very nasty. He was a swell guy - he was eight years younger than my father, which means he was in his musical prime in the late 1960s, so he always had interesting records while my Mom and Dad had Herb Alpert stuff. It's weird looking at pictures of people who should be alive but aren't - he should only be in his mid-50s now, but he's gone. His daughter, my cousin, is the one who went to Dubai last year and is now modeling occasionally while she's in college. I have posted her picture before, most recently in this post.

This is Jennifer, the daughter of my Mom's cousin. Does that make her my second cousin or my first cousin once removed? Beats me. Does anyone know? She's a cool chick, even though I don't know her that well. I haven't seen her since this party. It's always interesting to move away from family, because you go decades without seeing them, even though there's always a connection.

John lived next door to me in college, and he's a very interesting guy. Bizarre, but interesting. This was the last time I saw him until earlier this year, when he showed up unannounced on my doorstep. He lives in San Diego but he was in Gilbert, AZ, looking at a bird. He's big into birds. He's married now and presumably his wife is as strange as he is. She'd have to be.

This is my best friend Ken. I'm not exactly sure what he is doing. Probably grimacing wildly in an attempt to mess up my picture. Damn you, Ken!

Not too long before the party, Ken had gotten his first tattoo. He was very proud of it - he took a long time to decide what kind he should get and where he should get it. I think it's a very cool tattoo, even though there is no way in hell I'd ever get one. I'm not sure if he ever got another one or if he regrets getting this one - the subject has never come up. It's pretty neat, isn't it?

That's all for this week. Sorry if they were boring this time around. Next week we're back in Oregon and ready to travel, so the pictures will be all filled with nature and stuff!

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Resegregating schools, evil feminists, book banning, my stripper song, what David Bowie thinks of you, and a new religion - all in the links!

Well, it's been a week in which I was able to cruise this wild and wacky world we call the Web, and I thought I would bring you all the goofiness I can stand and let you waste more hours on the computer than you really should. Before we begin, however, make sure you all go ask Kait how her dissertation is going. I'm totally envious of Kait - she is studying at Oxford and becoming a doctor. Here I am raising two kids like a sucker!

Moving on, we'll start with the serious stuff and slowly get weirder. Although politics, I suppose, is weird enough.


The latest issue of Rolling Stone asks the question: Is George Bush the worst president ever? It's a pretty interesting read. I found the link at Shakespeare's Sister.

Wow. The Republicans are blatantly lying to Hispanic voters. Interesting. Why would they lie so obviously? Do they think Hispanics are that stupid?

Here's a story about a black state senator from Nebraska who wants to resegregate the schools in Omaha. Interesting. Well, if the various races never came in contact with each other, there'd be no racism, right???? I got this from Donklephant.

Speaking of racism, white kids are threatened by other kids - presumably black, but the article doesn't say - and the school district does nothing. I hate to sound like a right-wing crazy, but shouldn't we fight against racism in ANY form? It's never going to get better unless we're willing to call out any racist activity. I read this at Rhymes with Right, a conservative blog I don't read but was led to by Donklephant.

In the wake of the arrests of two Duke lacrosse players (and yes, they are innocent until proven guilty, so I'm not going to comment on it), we get yet another person blaming the obvious reason that women get raped: feminism. Ah, it's all so clear now! I got this from Echidne of the Snakes.

It's been a while since Harry Potter was cited as the cause of why everything in America is going straight to hell, so let's get it fired up again: A woman in Georgia wants them out of the public school library because they're destroying the youth of America! She hasn't, of course, read them. And a 10-year-old girl faxed a letter supporting the books to the school board, saying something interesting: "Never at any time did I think the books were true." Wow - kids can tell the difference between fiction and reality? Shocking! I got this fun nugget at Homo Sum.

And because censorship is all-American, a quite graphic book about manga has been banned from a public library. Charming. Instead of shelving it in the adult section, it just gets banned. This is from Dave Ex Machina, although I've seen it elsewhere too.

Here's an interesting post about how the media hated Al Gore and cost him the election. Lance makes the point that they still don't like Gore, even after they've seen what denying him the presidency illegally has done to the country.

Nuclear energy is excellent! It's pretty interesting. We have one incident twenty-five years ago that showed how well the security precautions worked, and we stopped building reactors. Strange.

Well, isn't this nice: Atheists are denied from holding public office according to several state constitutions. How fun. Good to see we don't force people to worship God or anything. I got this at Respectful Insolence.

This is kind of sad: People are using sex offender lists to find people to kill. Look, sex offenders are vile and disgusting people, but using the registries as a hit list? That might be even worse. Good thing we're protecting the children by allowing them to be killed.

Is the United States turning into the Soviet Union? Hmmm.

We all know about the Flying Spaghetti Monster, right? It's the symbol of those who think intelligent design is a bunch of hogwash - why not teach that the universe was created by the Flying Spaghetti Monster? Well, now comes news that a picture of the Flying Spaghetti Monster hanging in a Kansas school has offended a school board member. Can't have people mocking your unscientific and superstitious biological classes, can you??? I saw this at Shakespeare's Sister.

This is an interesting story about medical studies of marijuana and how the FDA doesn't want to hear about it. It's kind of sad how everything is influenced by politics and what people perceive about a topic rather than facts. Oh well.

Speaking of which, it's a good thing the criminal justice system isn't racist and classist, isn't it?


These are interesting pictures. They're not safe for work, but they're not too bad. More interesting than outrightly pornographic. I found this at 2 Blowhards.

Exactly what is being implied here?

I found the picture at The Great Motorcycle Pizza Tour by way of Dancing the Polka with Miss El Cajon. Actually, that second link has a great conversation between Chris Cope's brother and a Nebraska State Patrolman. Very funny.

Some interesting thoughts about how women are portrayed in advertising (in women's magazines, mind you, which I've often talked about, because they're so sexualized in magazines not marketed to men), with a link to an essay about the ways women pose in ads.

I found this at Republic of Replicants:
Your Stripper Song Is

Closer by Nine Inch Nails

"You let me violate you, you let me desecrate you
You let me penetrate you, you let me complicate you
Help me I broke apart my insides, help me I?ve got no
Soul to tell"

When you dance, it's a little scary - and a lot sexy.

Thomas discovers something in his pants.

Sarcasmo comes up with her own swear words.

Gaze ... gaze upon the scantily-clad hotties ... You must ... gaze ...

Okay, now that you've done that, I can sell you something and probably rip you off. Yes, the sight of an attractive woman will affect a man's judgment. Shocking, I know. More here and here (which is from where I stole the picture).

Just read the headline. I bet Laura's happy. This is from Shakespeare's Sister.


Killer Moth's tools for stopping Batman! They include:


Jake breaks down a comic book called, I kid you not, The Cross and the Switchblade. It includes this awesome panel:

Nicky is awfully full of himself, isn't he?


Laura Bush scares the children at the White House Easter Egg Hunt. Tom Peyer brings it to us and gets mean and nasty comments from conservatives.

You know what? David Bowie judges you! And so does he. I got this from Blah Blah Flowers.

As I surfed around, at Clew's Blues I found a link to You Drunk As Hell: pictures of drunk people with funny captions. Awesome. Like, for instance:

"When the front door is just too fucking far."

From Drink at Work, we get the actual front page of Friday's New York Post:

How can you not love the New York Post?

Help fight the War on Horror! A sample:
"Immediately following the clearing of the body which was notable for its complete transformation back to its human state, a bi-partisan bill entiteled the Freedom of Inquisition Act was hastily drawn up and passed nearly unanimously in both houses, minus three forced abstentions. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Edward Markey (D-MA), and Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) were arrested moments prior to voting and tested on-site for their suspected vampirism by having wooden spikes thrust through their hearts. Federal coroners confirmed that the corpses did not disintegrate into infernal ash, but stated that the politicians' not surviving was evidence enough of their [former] undead status."
There are posters, too!

It's the first picture of Suri Cruise! Be afraid ... be very afraid. It will rule us all soon!

Reasons to change the channel.

From Slactivist we get a handy reference to help you find out if this week's episode of Lost is a rerun.

Haiku about movie characters. Succinct and spot-on.

I can't remember where I found this, so if it was you, sorry for not giving you credit: The New Adventures of Queen Victoria. Damn it's funny.

I found something at Dave Barry's blog. I don't want to ruin it for you. Just check it out.

Bwah-ha-ha. I found it here, but he found it here.

This is a funny story: A man discovers a gift fruit cake from 1962. And in perfect condition!

Tom Peyer linked to this somewhat old but very funny post about, well, it has something to do with this:

That post led me to a follow-up post, which is also funny, but it had a link that I don't think is fake and is definitely not safe for work, but is weird because I haven't heard anything about it, and the person is famous enough that I thought I would have. I'm not going to post it because I have some decorum, but you can go check it out! Anyway, the original posts are very funny.

Here's a letter to this guy's (fictional) ten-year-old son explaining puberty. He has a good reason for writing it, trust me.

Lyle shows us a web page listing all the great things about marriage. Not what the authors intended, probably.

Horrible news segues, courtesy of local anchorman Clive Rutledge.


An Oregon man complains of a headache, and doctors discover 12 nails in his head. He survived, by the way.

T. points out some new jewelry:

You see, that's a living cockroach. On that woman's hand. Oh dear. The story about it is here. And you can of course buy it here.

Did this poisoned wife predict her own death? If so, what an awful story. Red Hot Mamma has some thoughts.


I read about a couple of cool sites on Catallarchy: NationMaster and StateMaster. On these sites you can find all kinds of statistics about world nations and American states. From them I discovered that the largest city in Lesotho is Maseru, you're more likely to fall from a cliff in Austria than anyplace else, and Arizona has the second-highest student-to-teacher ratio in the country. I could spend a lot of time at these sites, let me tell you.

More schools are eliminating recess. Sad. I've said it before - kids need recess. It burns off excess energy and makes them less obese!

How we would look if we were designed intelligently. This is from the Anti-Corporate Patriot.

Roger has found a list of words we all need to know: animal adjectives. Don't say Bush is quite like a weasel - say he's "musteline." Impress your friends!

In case you're interested, here's some interesting stuff about the Gospel of Judas.

This is a neat post about whether Jesus actually existed.


Remember the sculpture of Britney Spears giving birth? Sure you do! What Would Tyler Durden Do? gives us the other view - from the back! I'm not about to put the picture up here, but you can check it out here. It's really not that bad, just ... bizarre.

What the hell is this?

Yes, it's a Kate Moss yoga sculpture!


Here's a fun story: The police arrested a carpenter who likes to work naked. A homeowner came home early and found him in the buff. Man, these people cracking down on the nude carpenters! What would that most holy of all carpenters say? I bet he worked in the nude, too.

On 19 April 1927, Mae West was jailed and fined for putting on a play that "tended to corrupt public morals." I don't believe in censorship, but can't we level some of that olde-tyme morality at, say, Paris Hilton? I found the site at Historic True Crime Blog.

You're dying to buy this book:

Actually, now that I know it exists, I'm dying to buy this book. I found it at an older post on The Columnist Manifesto.

Here's a list of the 50 Worst Albums Ever. Unlike the list of the best albums, I'm not going to comment, but I do own two of them - To The Faithful Departed by The Cranberries (which certainly isn't great, but it's not rip-out-your-eardrums awful) and Midnite Vultures by Beck, which is a very good album and its inclusion on this list makes it all very suspect.

Well, this is weird: Swedish authorities found a man floating on a raft in the Baltic Sea and they can't figure out who he is. The guy is talking, either. Bizarre.


There is a Goat. There is a Pole. The Goat is on the Pole. I found this at Dave Ex Machina.

So that's all for this week. I hope you enjoy wasting your time as much I enjoyed wasting mine! It's the American Way, after all!

¹ Sorry, I just couldn't think of any good quotes to encapsulate the miscellany.

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Mary J. Blige needs to shut up

According to the newspaper yesterday (I couldn't find the Arizona Republic link, but here's the same story), God wants Mary J. Blige to flash the bling. I'll quote the whole thing because it's, well, it's something, I'll tell you that much:

"My God is a God who wants me to have things," the singer tells May's Blender magazine. "He wants me to bling. He wants me to be the hottest thing on the block. I don't know what kind of God the rest of y'all are serving, but the God I serve says, 'Mary, you need to be the hottest thing this year, and I'm gonna make sure you're doing that'."

The sheer awesomeness of that statement is breathtaking. Did everyone know that "bling" can now be used as a verb, as in, "He wants me to bling"? I didn't know that.

Now, before you go criticizing Ms. J. Blige for her statement, I think you better understand your Bible just a little bit more than you do. In Matthew 19:21, Jesus says, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven." What you may not know is that in the second century, the famous Bishop Snoopius of Doggius wrote a letter to one of his flock, a man we know only as Fitty Denarii, explaining that in the original, Jesus went on to say, "The treasure in heaven will be like unto the bling of the earth; therefore, keep thine bling on earth to dazzle the sinners and shine like unto the heavens." When it came time to codify the New Testament, the assembled bishops declared that Bishop Snoopius was a heretic because of his funky beats and edited that part out. Damned interfering bishops!

Hey, Mary: shut the hell up. And leave God out of this. He has enough to worry about.

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Quote of the day II

Krysta Burgas, 20 April 2006, approximately 5:45 p.m., speaking to Demon Child #1:

"Mia, don't eat with your mouth!"

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The Peter Pan-ification of America

I was reading a very interesting article by Adam Sternbergh in New York magazine. Actually, I was reading it in a magazine we get that summarizes all the big news stories of the previous week, but it originally appeared in New York, so let's give credit where it's due.

The article is very long. If you want to read it, start here and go from there. It's about, well, the lack of growing up in America these days. It's something that has bothered me for a long time. But I'm not a hoity-toity writer for New York magazine, so nobody cares what I think!

It's a very funny article. Sternbergh wants to know why people in their 30s and 40s refuse to grow up. They're listening to Death Cab For Cutie; they're wearing New Balance sneakers; they're forcing their kids to wear Misfits T-shirts; they're buying pre-ripped jeans for $400; they're reading books like Neal Pollack's Alternadad: The True Story of One Family's Struggles to Raise a Cool Kid in America. I know very little about Pollack, but what I do know suggests to me that he is, indeed, a tool.

Sternbergh makes an interesting point, one that I have noticed for a long time: music no longer defines the generation gap. He writes:

Once upon a time, pop culture, and in particular pop music, followed a certain reliable pattern: People listened to bands, like the Doobie Brothers or Cream or Steely Dan, that their Frank Sinatra-loving parents absolutely despised. Then these people had kids, and their kids became teens, and they started listening to bands, like the Clash or Elvis Costello or Joy Division, that their Cream-loving parents absolutely despised. And, lo, the Lord looked down and saw that it was good, and on the eighth day, He created the generation gap.

Now, he says, the parents who liked Joy Division think Interpol is totally awesome because the two bands sound alike (I've never heard Interpol and hate Joy Division, so I don't care). This is a very cogent point. When I taught, I listened to as much of the music that the kids did as not, and it was weird having conversations with them about bands that we both knew and liked. There is no longer much in terms of music that can be done, admittedly, and even hard core rap, stuff you might think parents today would object to, is passé. Can parents today really be offended by 50 Cent when they still have their copies of Fuck Tha Police? Sternbergh even quotes a guy - the creator of Love Monkey, the canceled television show - who mentions this phenomenon and can't decide if it's scarier for the kids or for him. I blame the kids. Get your own damned music!

The issue isn't just the music that has "collapsed" in on itself, but culture in general. Everyone looks the same - there are no markers for how old someone is or what kind of job they have. The only thing everyone agrees on is that suits are uncool. We are pursuing the aesthetic - "cool" - to the detriment of everything else. This also means that we are pursuing nostalgia to the detriment of everything else. As Sternbergh points out, new music sounds like music of twenty years ago, vintage rock T-shirts and ripped jeans are hot - and not rock T-shirts that you bought at a concert twenty years ago, but one you got on the Internet for $60.

Sternbergh mentions the work ethic of the Grups, as he calls them, and it's rather fascinating: they are much more interested in doing what makes them happy than doing what makes them rich. This is a great idea, and something everyone should pursue. He mentions that a recent survey showed 54% of people wouldn't want their boss's job no matter how much money you paid them. This is a complete reversal from the way the corporate world used to be structured, and speaks volumes about how companies use, abuse, and throw away their workers these days. I don't have a problem with people wanting to work for themselves, but in his interviews, it's amazing how many of these people want to do one thing: work in entertainment or sports. They want to be famous or near famous people. Fame has replaced riches in the hierarchy of what we want in America. I would love to see a survey about which people would choose if they could only choose one.

There's nothing inherently wrong with all of this. It strikes me as pathetic, but maybe I'm a Grup (Sternbergh's term) myself and don't know it. The problem with this is in child-rearing. As Sternbergh points out:

Here's the bad news about kids: They're not cool. Especially little kids. Like, 2-year-olds? Forget it. Left to their own devices, they don't dress well, they have no sense of style, and frankly, their musical taste sucks.

Here's the good news about kids: They're defenseless. So if you want to put a Ramones T-shirt on your 2-year-old, you don't need his permission. All you need is for someone to have the great idea to make a 2-year-old-size Ramones T-shirt. (And trust me - someone's had that idea.) And if you want to play the Strokes for your 4-year-old son, what's he going to do? I'll tell you what - he's going to learn to love the Strokes.

The aforementioned tool, Neal Pollack, says his son like the Hives. Well, duh! Pollack probably plays them 24-7, which is a crime against nature (the Hives aren't very good). Good job, Neal!

But one wonders if this is - wait for it - good for the children! Won't someone think of the children???? I will admit, I listen to my own music around the kids. When we're in the car or occasionally while I'm feeding them, I'll put in something of mine and we'll all rock out. But a lot of people these days are trying to specifically turn their children into little versions of themselves - because, let's face it, they're so very cool, and nobody wants their kids to be uncool. And the parents run the risk of becoming uncool themselves.

Pollack again:

"You have to have a little bit of Dora the Explorer in your life," he says. "But you can do what you can to mute its influence." Okay. "And there's no shame, when your kid's watching a show, and you don't like it, in telling him it sucks." Yeah! There's no - wait. What? "If you start telling him it sucks, maybe he might develop an aesthetic."

Can you imagine telling your son or daughter to stop watching the Wiggles because they suck? What the hell is wrong with these people?

Sternbergh does interview some parents who are slightly less insane, but they still have this idea about raising kids that doesn't seem to be about raising children and more about raising cool people. He asked one of them what her worst fear was and she said that her kids become Republican. Consider that for a moment. "Republican" obviously means "uncool." I hope she was being facetious, because if my daughters become Republican but have successful lives without being raped, killed, turned onto drugs or alcohol, or abused in a relationship, I'll be a happy goddamned parent.

The problem with this is the kind of people our children will become. The lack of delineation between the generations breeds a lack of respect for the older generation. I'm certainly not the kind of person who thinks that everyone older is deserving of our respect, but what I'm talking about is a general lack of respect for anything that has come before. It is something that is infecting, for lack of a better word, our entire culture. These Grups are a product of the baby-boomers, who thought they could do everything - have a high-stress job that demanded long hours but paid well AND be a full-time parent. They grew up in a system that demanded more maturity from them when they were young, so they therefore rejected that when they reached a point when they were expected to be mature. This leads to a breakdown in respect, as I pointed out. Why should kids respect "adults" who go to the same clubs as they do? More importantly, why should kids listen to those same adults when they tell the kids what not to do? That would be "uncool." It stems from a desire by these parents to be cool, which translates into a desire to be liked by their kids. These people (yes, I'm generalizing, but bear with me) were denied a close relationship with their parents, because their parents were adults and were more concerned with providing a stable life for their kids then bonding with them. There's absolutely nothing wrong with bonding with your kids, but it seems like the people in this article have swung the pendulum completely the other way. It's stuff like this that leads to the parents of Ned Flanders telling the child psychologist about disciplining young Ned: "We've tried nothing and we're all out of ideas." Kids don't need their parents to be cool - they might want it, but kids want to stuff themselves full of marshmallows a lot, too - that doesn't mean we should let them. This also leads to another phenomenon we see all too often in society today - a lack of taking things seriously. I've mentioned this before - we don't take the war in Iraq seriously, for instance - but it's worth pointing out that we have become much more casual about things, and I'm not totally convinced this is a good thing. I'm as casual as anyone - I don't like wearing suits and I dig jeans. But some things I think we do need to take seriously in our lives. Graduations, weddings, and funerals, for instance. It drives me crazy when people act like children at these things. At parties afterward, act however the hell you want. But during the ceremonies, take them seriously. This bothers me because we as a culture are slowly learning that everything is casual, and when something serious comes up, we don't know how to handle it. We're passing this on to our children.

This trend bugs me because I'm in the age group that Sternbergh describes. I don't know what's cool. Am I cool because I bought the new, stripped-down Neil Diamond album? Is that cool? Am I cool because I read comics, or does that make me a geek? Am I cool because I listen to the White Stripes and wear Teva sandals? Beats me. Personally, I don't give a shit. I'm sure these people aren't evil, but when your cultural pursuits override your commitment to your children, we have a problem. Kids like the Wiggles. Deal with it. When you have kids, you might have to skip going out to trendy restaurants and seeing Brokeback Mountain. You might have to miss that Yeah Yeah Yeahs concert occasionally. Your kids are moldable, as Pollack points out during his interview, but that doesn't mean you should force them to like something just because you do. I hope my kids like comics, but I'm not going to tear my hair out if they don't. I hope my kids like me, but I hope more that they respect me and listen to me, because I like to think I've had more experience than they have.

Anyway, the last word in Sternbergh's article goes to an unnamed musician who thinks all of these people are ridiculous. He said in the article, "And you know what? Giving your kid a mohawk is fucked up, too." This is funny because the parents of one of the kids at Mia's school, who may be Grups (or they may be in their early 20s, of course, in which case their behavior is forgivable), named their kid Anakin and gave him, yes, a mohawk. Today his head was shaved, so perhaps they realized how stupid he looked. Three-year-olds should not be deliberately made stupid-looking by their parents. That's just cruel.

Or am I guilty of taking this all too seriously?

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Picture Day goes random until the day of the big wedding!

In July 1994 the little woman and I tied the knot. We both decided that getting married in Oregon rather than in Pennsylvania would save us a LOT of headaches, so we had a tiny ceremony in Beaverton with very little fanfare. My parents, my sister, her boyfriend, Krys's father, Krys's sister, my best man, and two guests - that was it - the only people at our wedding. We paid for the whole thing (except for the flowers - my mom picked that up) and it was a grand day. I highly recommend getting married far away from home so that no one can bother you.

Before we get to that special day, however, some random photographs!

This is where we lived when we first moved to Portland. It was right outside of downtown, on Broadway Drive (in case you're familiar with the area), and we lived at the top. Quite fun lugging groceries up there, I'll tell you that much!

This is Krys at Cannon Beach in early July 1994. I love this picture - she looks so beautiful and free-spirited. This was, of course, before marriage to me crushed the life right out of her! So sad!

Every July the Highland Games are held in Portland on the campus of Mount Hood Community College. 1994 was the first year we went, and we loved it. I don't think we missed it in all our years in Portland. The first year we went we saw this fun animal. That, my good readers, is a Highland cow.

Then we got married. These are not "official" photos, you understand - these were taken by either my mom or Krys's dad while the official photographer was doing his thing, which is why nobody is actually looking at the camera. Deal with it!

Last week I mentioned that we got our wedding pictures taken at Multnomah Falls. We went out early in the morning (before the ceremony) to beat the tourist rush. It was the end of July, so we were pretty confident about the weather, but as we drove out, threatening clouds loomed overhead. Of course, in Portland, if you wait five minutes, the weather changes, so by the time we got out to the falls, the sun was out and everything was nice. We managed to get there before the tourists, except for a group of Japanese tourists who thought we were fascinating. We only had one annoying moment - at one point, the photographer was down at the bottom of the falls and we were up on the bridge leading over the falls (see below) and there were some tourists on the bridge. They saw us, saw the photographer, but refused to get out of the shot. We were going to be there for three minutes, and they refused to move! Finally they figured out what was going on and moved away. I don't know what their problem was.

Anyway, this next picture is Krys and I with Shauna, Krys's sister, and Lamont, my best man. Yes, that's the same Shauna who claims she reads my blog but refuses to comment even to say hello! See if I invite her to my next wedding!

Ah, the charming couple. That's the bridge from which the ignorant tourists removed to move in the background, by the way.

This is us at the actual ceremony. It was a simple church with a kooky minister (as we learned years later when we read in the paper about him having a night-time vigil to celebrate some celestial event) who looked like Tony Curtis. That's him in the background. Thank all that's holy he didn't sound like him, or we would have been laughing through the whole thing.

On our wedding night, we ate dinner at Pazzo Ristorante, which was one of our favorite restaurants in Portland. I have no idea what was wrong with me - I may have consumed all the morphine in the city that day. And check out my coolio spectacles!

So that's our wedding. You can check out some professional pictures here and here. You cannot deny that we have the coolest wedding pictures ever!

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Have you ever tried to unkink and coil a 75-foot hose by hand?

It is really difficult.

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On this holiest of Christian days, a rumination on religion and whether it's necessary or not

As good readers of this blog know, I am an atheist. I have no problem with people believing in God, and maybe I'll have a road to Damascus moment one day and I'll believe, but for now, I'm an atheist. This makes me a greater danger to the United States than terrorists, apparently, but that's fine - I can deal with it.

This is Easter Sunday, of course, the holiest of days on the Christian calendar, and it's a fine time to consider this thing we call religion and whether we need it or not. I have before equated religion with superstition, and I'm sticking with that, but that doesn't necessarily make it unnecessary. Religion is an interesting phenomenon, because everyone automatically assumes it's a good thing, despite a long litany of horrors perpetrated by followers of a certain religion. Everyone just says, "Well, those people weren't true _______ (fill in your practitioner of a religion here)." But is that accurate? Were those people true believers, and should we look at the religion itself as being at fault?

Consider Christianity. Christianity, the world's dominant religion (although Islam is gaining quickly, I understand), is the vision of only a few men, and none of them are named Jesus. The founder of Christianity is Paul of Tarsus, who never knew Jesus and was active in persecuting so-called Christians (those people who thought Jesus was the Messiah, even though they would have probably called themselves Jews) before his conversion on a lonely road to the Syrian capital. Paul, more than anyone, shaped the nascent religion into the world-dominating force we know today. Jesus was a kook - he said things like, "Wouldn't it be nice if we could all be swell to each other?" and "I think you better give away everything you own if you want to go to heaven," but Paul softened this message to fit into a Eastern Mediterranean world view. Paul knew people wouldn't accept Jesus' message as it appears in the Gospels - even though the Gospels weren't written until AFTER Paul wrote his letters - so he gave the people who wanted to follow Jesus what people always want: rules. People are inherently mistrusting of anarchy, which is in Jesus' teachings quite a bit. So Paul said, basically, that Jesus wasn't about anarchy either - here are some rules, and you better follow them. And the masses were happy.

Three hundred years later another man was largely responsible for turning Christianity from a persecuted religion into a persecuting one. In the first three centuries of the Common Era, plenty of bishops shaped Christianity the way they wanted. One, Clement of Alexandria, even wrote a letter telling an associate to lie about the veracity of a portion of the Gospel of Mark that is now not included in the Bible (although the letter could be a forgery, as discussed here). By the first years of the fourth century, however, Christianity had become sufficiently powerful that the Romans were forced to deal with it, and they did, at the famous Council of Nicaea in AD 325. At that council, Constantine the Great, the Roman Emperor (306-337) basically told the bishops how to decide the nature of Christ and the dating of Easter. A pagan (there is still some doubts about when Constantine actually converted) told Christians what to do with some of their most fiercely-debated issues. And that was that. Christianity became the unofficial state religion of Rome (despite some attempts, like those of Julian (360-363) to turn back the clock), and it was on its way.

As for, say, the Anglican Church, this was again the product of one man and it had nothing to do with a relationship to God. Henry VIII wanted to divorce his wife because she wasn't giving him sons and he wanted to bang Anne Boleyn in good conscience. The pope, however, was being held hostage by the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, whose aunt was ... Catherine of Aragon, Henry's wife. So the pope refused to grant the divorce, and Henry created his own church. And so Protestantism continued on its merry way.

This is not meant to be a history lesson, and most educated people have a vague knowledge of these sorts of things anyway. It does point up what "religion" is, however, and why I wonder whether it's necessary. Religious institutions are just that, institutions, and they accumulate power and influence and are loath to give up that power and influence. We can look at the positive things religions have done all we want - and pro-religious people do, without acknowledging the horrific crimes religions have committed. We whine and moan about stem-cell research and claim that it will lead to horrors the like of which we have never seen, but stem-cell research, like anything, is neutral until someone decides to use it. Religion is the same way - it can be a force for good or evil, yet no one ever feels the need to debate whether we need it or not.

I'm just wondering how much religion inspires us to do good deeds. My mother is going to Louisiana in a few months to help with the clean-up. She is doing this through her church, and it's a wonderful thing. But how much does her relationship with Jesus or God inspire her to do it? The church is there to organize the trip and probably help with the costs, but did her Christianity inspire her or did the fact that she's a decent person with no job and time on her hands inspire her? Are the two one and the same thing? I would cite her upbringing as why she's a decent person, but doesn't religion play a big part in that? Well, yes, but what kind of Christianity is hers? What kind of Christianity is any of ours? There are Christians in this world who believe fervently that their God tells them to stone homosexuals to death. And there are Christians in this world who believe fervently that their God tells them to embrace homosexuals. There are Muslims in this world who believe fervently that their God tells them to fly planes into buildings and kill regular people. There are Muslims in this world who believe fervently that their God tells them to love the infidel and debate him in order to convert him.

The problem is, of course, that it's all the same God - at least in a technical sense. But people believe what they want to believe - and they find a God who is going to validate those beliefs. I have heard of very few people whose lives were completely changed by a religious conversion in the mold of Paul on the road - I'm sure they exist, but I have not met these people or even read about them very much. My friend Dave is one such person - he was into drugs and drinking in college and then he had a religious experience and now he's into being a good father and spreading the word of God and exposing the lie of evolution! But, at the same time, he found God but is still trying to find a church - at least he was the last time I talked to him (he could have found one by now, for all I know). He couldn't find a church because none fit into what he wanted - and again, it comes back to what we want from a church, and not what a church can offer us. My mom is a good Presbyterian, and I doubt that she could be a good Catholic, because that's not the kind of person she is. She picked a church that fit her, but would not change to fit into a church. People are going to act in a certain way, and if their church does not validate that choice, they will find a different church.

This leads me back to whether religions are necessary. If we can change a religion to suit ourselves, what is the point of it? Religions serve certain needs, as I've mentioned - they organize charity events, they provide a social network, they may inspire us - but they don't do anything that a secular organization couldn't do, and those are allowed to die all the time. We are locked into this mindset that religions are wonderful things despite evidence to the contrary because we are so conservative by nature, and "traditions" are good. This becomes a problem when religion is allowed to stifle everything else, which may be happening in this country. Look at Islam: it didn't become fundamentalist until, really, this century, and it was a combination of a few things. First, the Western world, which had been slowly catching up to the Islamic world and passing it for centuries, was finally in a position to colonize it completely, and Muslims were faced with a devastating loss of political influence on the world stage and began to experience a psychologically traumatic inferiority complex. Think about it. We want to believe the West has always been a bastion of free thought and achievement, but for centuries the Muslim world was that bastion while the West wallowed in ... Catholic dogma. Even after the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, while the West surged ahead of the Muslim world, Muslims could always point to the Ottoman Empire, which although weakened, was still a factor in international politics until the First World War. After the dismemberment of the empire, Muslims were colonized by European powers, and there was nothing they could do about it. Instead of blaming their new second-class status on the fact that for centuries the pursuit of scientific, artistic, and militaristic achievements had stagnated, Muslims chose to believe that they lost their power due to a loss of morality, and that they needed to be more fundamentalist. Second, the Western world, which had always been fascinated by Arabs (to the extent that there is a whole subculture of "Arabists" in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries), became fascinated by Jews after the Second World War, largely because of the horrors of the Holocaust. Where Arabs were traditionally seen as the underdog (remember T.E. Lawrence?), now Jews were. Arabs were a bit pissed off about this, and decided a return to their "roots" was necessary. Why this entailed anti-Semitism has nothing to do with Islam and everything to do with a feeling of betrayal by the British (the Balfour Declaration, for instance) and by the neo-British, the Americans. I'm not saying that the West shouldn't support a Jewish homeland in Israel, but the fact that for years the West supported the Arabs and then, in the eyes of those same Arabs, betrayed them, makes the Muslim world believe that they need to return to a pure form of their religion to "makes things right."

I would hope we won't have that sort of situation in the United States, but it seems like some people believe that we have betrayed the roots of Christianity and we need to return to it, even though Christianity has always been a fluid faith and there is no consensus on what the "perfect" version of Christianity really is. "Fundamentalism" isn't about Christianity any more than it is about Islam - it's a group of people who are afraid that the world is passing them by and they want to hold onto what they love about it. It's about fear, and all too often, religion is used to justify fear and ignorance. Not always, but again, not all atomic research is going to lead to a bomb. It's all in the way you look at it.

This has nothing to do with spirituality, by the way. Your own personal relationship with God or Jesus or Allah or Buddha is your own business. I just wonder if we need religion anymore. Too often it seems like it leads to all the things we hate about humanity, even though it can lead to all the things we admire about humanity. But as we move through this century, it is a question that I think we need to ask. There is quite a bit riding on it.

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Another reason why the fundamentalist claim that there is a "War on Christians" in this country is laughable

The stock market, the American temple to pure, unfettered greed, is closed today. Why? Because today is the day we celebrate the fact that a man who may or may not have actually existed was nailed to a piece of wood.¹

When Americans talk about a "War on Christians" (it's gone beyond a simple "War on Christmas," you know) it not only makes me laugh, it's somewhat dangerous. These people hold so much power, but Christianity, as I've mentioned before, is a religion for the downtrodden. So these people have to somehow make themselves the victims (while decrying the "victimology" of current American society - only rich, white conservatives can be victims, apparently) while retaining their grip on power. Claiming that the evil secularists are trying to destroy Christianity is one way.

The stock market, people. Capitalism in its purest form. Greed waits for no man! And it's closed. Because of Good Friday. That damned "War on Christians"!

¹ You'll note that I didn't deny his existence. I tend to believe he did exist, although I don't believe he was everything people say he was. It's just that the first places he is mentioned is in letters written by someone who never met him, and in a book written at least 40 years after he died, and there's no archaeological evidence for his existence. That's all I'm saying.

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1970s porn actor OR major baseball player? You decide!

I was watching the Second Entertainment and Sports Programming Network channel tonight because my beloved and very often disappointing Philadelphia Phillies Base Ball Nine were engaged in mortal combat with the Courageous Ones from Atlanta.

The Phillies were employing their back-up catcher for the game, a fine young man (well, younger than I am by three months, so he's young) named Salvatore Fasano. When Fasano first strode to the plate, I wondered why the Phillies were employing a 1970s porn actor.

Seriously, what the hell is up with that look? He didn't always look this way. My only conclusion is that, as a back-up catcher, he has a lot of time to shoot amateur porn in the clubhouse during the game. Who would miss him? His lifetime average is .222!

Someone needs to do an exposé about this scandal!

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"Vacation, all I ever wanted ..."

Woo-hoo! Krys has booked our trip to Egypt! We'll be leaving on 7 November for two weeks! We haven't taken a vacation since 1999, and I think we're due. Two weeks without the children - can we handle the separation? I know I can!

Of course, as Krys often says, she'll believe we're on vacation when we step off the plane. But for now, all systems are go!

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The Columbia Gorge is the star of Picture Day!

If one lives in Portland, one must do certain things as a tourist. One must visit the beach, which we saw last week. One must visit Mt. Hood, which we'll get to. And one must travel through the Columbia River Gorge, featured so prominently during the river boat scenes in the super-fantastic Mel Gibson/Jodie Foster classic, Maverick. The gorge is a beautiful place, and it's chock full of waterfalls, which, as you may recall from Picture Days Past, I dig. So it was only natural that in the spring of 1994 we headed out on the old Columbia River Highway, far above the foot of the gorge and the four-lane superhighway that is Interstate 84. The old highway takes you by all the big waterfalls and deep into the forested hillside of the Oregon side of the river, and it's well worth the day trip. We made it more than once, in fact.

This first picture is the gorge itself. Sorry about the haze - that's just the way it is. On the right is Vista House, which is a small observatory on that promontory. Good views of the gorge from that spot. We later had one of our wedding pictures taken with it in the background.

The next few pictures is Latourelle waterfall. It's a cool scene because the path leads right down to the base, which is where we took these pictures. Actually, a lot of waterfalls in the area allow you to get close to the base, but at this one, you're practically able to walk into the pool where the water is crashing. This one is of the lovely wife, who wasn't yet the wife.

This is the top of the falls, obviously.

That's me on the other side of the waterfall.

This is Multnomah Falls, which is the crown jewel of the Columbia Gorge. This was the first time we were there, and Krys was so impressed that we got our wedding photos taken there. It's quite spectacular, and it's fun to hike up toward the top. We never made it all the way. We suck.

The gorge is a wonderful place to drive through. We would return there a lot in the eight years we lived in Oregon. If you're in the area, it's certainly a neat place to go.

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Quote of the day

Krysta Burgas, 9 April 2006, approximately 9:45 p.m.:

"I could just spend hundreds of dollars on switchplates."

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Great songs, according to me (Part 20)

Despite the fact that some people like Chance have bad things to say about my taste in music (a failing for which he'll pay when I'm dictator, just you see if he won't!), I'm going to keep enlightening you. So let's git it on!

First, the history: An archive of parts 1-15, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, and Part 19. Okay, now let's git it on!

191. Follow You Follow Me (by Genesis on the album ... And Then There Were Three, 1978): This song ends the album, and it's a departure for Genesis in that it's a straight forward love song, and a great one at that. Phil's vocals mesh well with the strange ethereal music of Banks and Rutherford, and it's all very hopeful about love in a world that doesn't always appreciate it. It's really the first song in the assault on the pop charts that Genesis would make in the 1980s, and when you listen to some of that junk, you wonder why they didn't keep writing songs in this vein, because it's poppy but still deep. Kind of a shame.

192. The Fonz (by Smash Mouth on the album Fush Yu Mang, 1997): My sister-in-law (who still hasn't responded to my special post addressed to her) bought this album for me, and while it's certainly not a great album, it's relatively fun, and it has a few great tunes on it - this being one of them. It's a fun song about how the singer can never get people to appreciate him, because he's a loser and a guy he knows is, well, the Fonz. Goofy, yes, but just poignant enough to elevate it to greatness.

193. Foolin' (by Def Leppard on the album Pyromania, 1983): I have mentioned before that Operation: Mindcrime is the best metal album of the 1980s, but this might be second. This song is typical of the album - eerie, haunting, hard, fun pretentious metal lyrics, and crunching guitars. Def Leppard is often a misogynistic band, true, but when they're on, they're excellent. Come on, sing along: "Is anybody out there? Anybody there? Does anybody wonder? Anybody care?"

194. Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man) (by Styx on the album The Grand Illusion, 1977): Remarkably, this is the first time Styx has appeared on this countdown, but that's the way alphabetizing works! It's remarkable because I really like Styx (something I share with Adam Sandler, apparently, which makes me sad). This song is on their masterpiece, The Grand Illusion, and it has those great late-1970s keyboards and that great musical interlude in the middle, and Tommy Shaw is singing about portentous stuff about not allowing yourself to lose your ambition in this cold, bitter world. Another song you know by heart - you know you do!

195. For My Lover(by Tracy Chapman on the album Tracy Chapman, 1988): Tracy Chapman kind of fell off the map after this album, didn't she? I know she still makes music, but she never really achieved that commercial success everyone thought she would. Which is a shame, because she's very good, and this, her debut album, is excellent, with several good songs. "For My Lover" is such a nastily evil song that it just gets under your skin and digs in. It's a deceptively simple song (the great ones often are) about the price of love and how people just don't understand what others do for it. And it has that great line: "They dope me up and I tell 'em lies for my lover, for my lover." You tell 'em, Tracy!

196. Forgotten Years (by Midnight Oil on the album Blue Sky Mining, 1987): Another Midnight Oil entrant on this list, and although Peter is singing about something that remains a mystery to me (anyone know?), I still think this is a great song. I know he's singing about Australia, but beyond that, beats me. Still, his growl is in full force, and the music propels the song on with urgency, and he's so full of bloody conviction that you just have to dig it. Is he talking about the past, or the present? Beats me. I don't care. It's still great.

197. Foxy Lady (by the Jimi Hendrix Experience on the album Are You Experienced?, 1967): Another song you know by heart, and if you don't, shame on you! That great guitar intro, that hoarse whispering, that sly Hendrix pseudo-singing - you can just picture him getting laid as he sings! There's not much else to say about this tune - it's nasty, and it knows it, and it doesn't care! Sing along with Jimi, y'all!

198. Friend of the Devil (by The Grateful Dead on the album Skeletons From The Closet, 1974): I must admit, I dislike the Dead. Not as much as I loathe The Doors, but still - there's very little to like about Jerry and his boys. However, I can admit when they write good songs, and "Friend of the Devil" is one of those. It rambles along, but not for too long (a big problem I have with a lot of Dead songs, especially when they're live), and even thought Jerry (that is Jerry singing, isn't it?) is singing about somewhat serious subjects (his lost love, prison, a kid who may or may not be his, and of course, chasing the Devil), he has that little goofy lilt in his voice that lets you know it's all in fun. The Dead certainly don't take themselves too seriously, which is nice, but generally - yuck. This is still a great song, though.

199. Fugitive (by Indigo Girls on the album Swamp Ophelia, 1994): The Indigo Girls begin this album, a departure from their previous folksy ones, with this dark tale of fear and redemption. The music is bold and brooding, but ultimately there is a reconciliation of the singer's two halves and a hope for the future. It's a creepy song from the girls, and it signaled a shift in their style to darker and more introspective music (yes, they were introspective before, but not terribly dark).

200. The Full Bug (by Van Halen on the album Diver Down, 1982): Diver Down is notable for having a bunch of covers on it ("Pretty Woman" and "Dancing In The Streets," both of which are kind of lousy), but for my money, the best songs on it are the boys' originals, one of which is this song, which ends the album (except for a brief rendition of "Happy Trails," that is). It's a mean little song, with Diamond Dave mumbling through a bluesy introduction and then letting us have it full blast, and Eddie's guitars keeping up with full fervor. All Dave wants to give the woman is the best part of a man - is that so wrong? This is one of those songs that makes Van Halen great. And yet they always play "Pretty Woman" on the radio. What the crap is up with that?

So another ten songs are in the books. I know I have lost your respect for my musical tastes long ago, but if you want to tell me I'm an idiot, I'd be happy to listen. Have at it!

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Let's destroy the United States!

I read a lot of conservative blogs, some for their humor value, because the people writing them are so insane that they make me laugh; some so I can keep track of how serious these people are when they talk about a war on Christians even though, what, 80% of the country is Christian, or how the liberals run things in the country when the Republicans control all three branches of government and homosexuals still can't get married and South Dakota is telling women they aren't in control of their bodies; and some because they're truly scary.

And then there's T.

T. is conservative. T. pisses me off, because he posts very intelligent, articulate, interesting things and he always has something insightful and honest to say about it. He comments a lot over at Comics Should Be Good, too, and he has very good thoughts about the heroic ideal and how DC and Marvel are killing it.

So why does he piss me off? Because he posts these really interesting things, and I disagree on almost every single thing he writes. It's bizarre. He seems like a nice guy, he obviously has a lot on his mind, he backs up his arguments - and I disagree with his opinions pretty much all the time.

Like for instance, this post. T. offers no commentary about the link (I'll get to that), but I have to assume, from his other posts and the fact that he doesn't rip this guy a new one, that he agrees with it. Then I read the article at the link and I almost rip out my own eyes in frustration.

Here's the link. Go read it; it's quite interesting. I'll wait.



This is a speech that was given in 2004 by Richard Lamm, the former governor of Colorado. He outlines eight methods on how to destroy America - "they" are working on it, according to Lamm. Who "they" are is unclear, but because it's a conservative, it doesn't matter - "they" are probably dope-smoking hippies who force Christian women to have abortions while they televise porn during the family hour on network shows as they sodomize each other and invite illegal immigrants into the country. Bastards!

Lamm says that first we need to turn America into a bilingual or multi-lingual or bicultural country, because history shows that no country can long survive this horror. There are a lot of examples of countries that have failed at this, but I would like to point out that the Roman Empire and the Ottoman Empire, two of the most successful states in world history, were multi-lingual and multi-cultural.

Second, "they" invent multi-culturalism and claim that all cultures are equal. Then he says that "they" say there are no cultural differences and that minority dropout rates are solely because of discrimination and any other explanation is verboten. Do you like what he does there? "All cultures are equal" and "there are no cultural differences" are not antonyms - not necessarily. What conservatives want to do is claim that white American culture is better than any other culture, not different. Of course cultures are different, but "equal" is a loaded term, because it implies a scale of goodness and badness. All cultures are equal in that no one culture is better than any other. Every "culture" has horrible things that should be eradicated from it. White American culture thinks tying gay people to fence posts and beating them to death is okay. White American culture thinks that if you're not Christian it's okay to kill you. White American culture celebrates movie stars, athletes, and performing artists over teachers, scientists, and doctors. Are these things okay? Maybe Lamm thinks so. "Culture" by itself has no value judgment attached to it. So saying that "they" encourage immigrants to maintain their culture is not a bad or a good thing - it's neutral. Lamm, like Lou Dobbs, must want to end all St. Patrick's Day celebrations. Can't have those damned Irish immigrants maintaining their popish culture!

Lamm also says that if we encourage all these various cultures to keep their own languages and that if we emphasize our differences rather than our similarities, that will destroy America. I hate to tell Mr. Lamm, but Americans have never assimilated people very well. Any immigrant group that came here did not necessarily give up their culture of their own accord - they were brutalized until they did. Lamm mentions this, and thinks it's a damned fine idea. Lynchings of Mexicans will commence until they start speaking English, damn it! Sure, the other groups assimilated eventually, but it took a while. Lamm wants it done today!

His fourth point pisses me off to no end, considering I used to teach. He thinks that in order to destroy America, "they" should make our fastest growing demographic our least educated and create a second underclass of "unassimilated, uneducated, and antagonistic to our population." "They" would then have that underclass achieve a 50% dropout rate from high school. I've said this before, and I'll say it again - achievement in school takes a commitment from the federal government, the state government, the local government, the community, the parents, the administration, the teachers, and the students that we simply do not have. Don't simply blame the students. When the damned liberals and their hippie ways take over our government, blame them. Right now, I blame the ruling party - the idiot conservatives. My students were no more antagonistic toward the United States than any other angry, pissed-off teenagers are. They were far more antagonistic toward authority figures, because they were kids. And those authority figures were failing them.

He moves on to the culture of the "victim," and that we should teach minorities that it's not their fault that they're kept down, that it's the fault of the majority. I get so angry at people who think that there is nothing keeping blacks and Hispanics from achieving. It's the same thing with Barry Bonds - there's no failed drug test, but everyone knows he used steroids. There is very little institutional racism anymore, because it's against the law. What's not against the law is a cop pulling over a Hispanic kid for speeding instead of an older white man. He has to choose, right? There are plenty of people speeding on the freeway, and who should he choose? Of course there is prejudice and discrimination in our society, and of course it's leveled against minorities. I used to ask my kids (the good ones, that is) if they ever shoplifted. They said no, and for the most part, I believed them. I then asked them what they had to do with their backpacks when they went into 7-11, and they answered without hesitating, "Leave them outside." That's discrimination, because they were teenagers. To say that discrimination doesn't exist is idiotic. Of course it's not an excuse, and I would hope that my students would work hard and prove the racists wrong. But it's there. Ignoring it doesn't make it go away.

Lamm then claims that "they" want to celebrate diversity over unity (anyone else notice a theme?) and stress differences rather than similarities. He again claims that no society in history has been successful when celebrating differences rather than unity and that people who celebrate diversity end up killing each other. Well, yeah, but a lot of cultures that were united failed too. Where's the condemnation of unity that brought about Hitler's Germany? Pol Pot's Cambodia? Stalin's Russia? We can go back further into the past, but those three societies were pretty damned culturally united, and that didn't stop them from slaughtering everyone who disagreed with them. Again, I'm not trying to make the point that one culture is better than another. It's all about how you live in that culture and how you interact with each other. Al-Andalus, the Muslim regime in Spain, lasted more or less 700 years, and they welcomed other cultures to share what they had. I know we're not supposed to praise anything those filthy Muslims achieved, but that state lasted longer than the United States has, and they were pretty culturally diverse.

"They," of course, must then censor any talk about this "problem." Anyone who brought it up would be labeled a racist and a xenophobe and "they" would make it impossible to enforce our immigration laws. Again, where do we place the blame for that? At the feet of our federal government, which is run by conservatives. Lamm finishes by saying he would censor Victor Davis Hanson's book Mexifornia, which is apparently about immigration reform. I haven't read it, so I can't speak about it, but apparently banning The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn wouldn't destroy American, but banning this book would.

This kind of idiotic shit makes me angry, because I doubt if Lamm is, actually, an idiot. Have you ever noticed that the things that are destroying America are the things that one person just doesn't like? Other things that could have destroyed America: giving blacks equal rights, giving women the right to vote, demon alcohol, television (TV is still working on it, so give it time), electing a Catholic president, allowing American citizens of Japanese descent to wander around during World War II, and the Democratic-Republicans of Thomas Jefferson during the 1790s. Oh dear Lord, the horror!

Here's what I think is far more likely to destroy "America" as we know it than "celebrating diversity": Apocalyptic Christians hell-bent on converting everyone to their own brand of Christianity before the Rapture comes; giving a president dictatorial powers and allowing him to continue with them even after it becomes clear that it's a bad idea; making sure that women are once again second-class citizens; ignoring science that says we're killing the planet in favor of accumulating more insignificant green pieces of paper; allowing companies to merge into super-companies, thereby ruining our free-market economy, which was one of the things that made us "great" in the first place.

I'm sure I've missed some things, but the point is that I think those things are a lot more significant than the fact that a bunch of Mexicans don't want to learn English. Listen, countries fail. They always have and they always will. One of my favorite authors, Robert Kaplan (a conservative, by the way), wrote in An Empire Wilderness that he wouldn't be surprised if the U.S. fell apart quite soon. He made the point that Portland and Seattle have much more in common with Vancouver than they do with the rest of the country, and that it would be logical for the Northwest and the west coast of Canada to combine to create a state that was much more Pacific Rim than North American. The point is not that we need to keep the United States together at all costs, but that we need to reach for the ideals of the Constitution at all costs. That doesn't necessarily jive with keeping the country together. The ideals of equality among men is an eternal concept, while the U.S. is an ethereal thing.

People like Lamm make me angry not because I disagree with him, but because he presents his arguments in such apocalyptic terms. We disagree - fine. But how can you debate someone who uses this kind of language? It's the same thing on the left, and I agree with Lamm on that point - how can you debate immigration reform with someone who simply calls you a racist? But in condemning this, Lamm falls into the same trap, and all debate is squashed. It's a shame.

T. is black, by the way. Or at least I'm pretty sure he is. I seem to remember him mentioning it once. I would LOVE to see him do a post on racism and what he thinks about it. I'm sure I'd disagree, but at least it would be thought-provoking!

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