Thursday, January 31, 2008

Collaboration, huh?

Next time someone drags out that old canard about the Vatican collaborating with (or even directing) the Nazis in Germany, show them this article from 1937. It's not popular to say so now, but wherever the Germans invaded, the next people after Jews to be rounded up were the clergy. It's amazing the myths that have developed in 70 years. Any stigma will do to beat a dogma.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

To market, to market, to buy a fatwa

If posting a cartoon of Muslim Arabs being defeated by a western pig isn't enough to bring down the wrath of the jihadists, I don't know what is. Especially since all my teddy bears already have names.

Insult those who behead for Islam!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Darn that Bush!

From the New York Times, a discussion of how the Bush years have blighted the lives of Americans:
Obviously, Sept. 11 and its aftermath have changed the country in countless and irretrievable ways. But even beyond the emergence of war and national security as pre-eminent concerns, there has been a profound reordering of domestic priorities, a darkening of the country’s mood and, in the eyes of many, a fraying of America’s very sense of itself.

A commenter at Villainous Company has his own sob story:
My tale of post 9/11 woe:

Things for me have gone from bad to worse. Sure, I have a 56" HD projection TV, but I couldn't afford the 1080p or the plasma. And what with global warming affecting our normally frigid winter temperatures, all of the time that I thought I'd spend watching it is wasted on outdoor pursuits I would never have considered just a few short years ago.

Bush's economy has simply ruined my job. I'm an IT guy, and all of these new-hires running around, incapable of remembering their damn passwords for more than a few minutes at a time or wanting their new PCs configured is driving me batty.

His disastrous tax cuts have just made things worse at home too. The huge bonuses that I've received for the last few years as the company's business has grown have caused fights of biblical proportions with the wife as we simply cannot agree on vacations to the beach or the mountains. Hey, maybe if this global warming thing keeps going, we won't have to decide: the mountains will have beaches!

And of course, we were silly enough to buy a home well within our means, so now we're paying an extra $1000/month against the fixed-rate 6% mortgage. This means we won't get any of the gov't candy being handed out to the idiots that didn't realize that 'variable' is not synonymous with 'ever-decreasing' or 'immutable,' so I have to live with feeling cheated out of that. Kinda pisses me off a bit, ya know?

And yeah, the soulless corporation I work for actually expects me to follow rules like show up for work, don't grope co-workers (God, how I miss the Clinton years when that was the cool thing to do), and put the lid down on the toilet. In exchange, all I get back is interesting work to do, 12 annual holidays, a 23 day PTO bank, a 6% match on my 401k, and a paycheck.

From where I'm sitting on this barstool crying in my beer, I sure miss the days when I had none of that, but at least I could make my own rules. You know, rules like 'Sleep until at least noon,' 'drink no less than a 12 pack a day,' and 'do not drive with a BAC of less than .15.'

I'm telling you, these are dark days indeed.

You know, the worst financial times I ever had were during the Clinton years. Bush's terms have been fairly prosperous (except for the last year or so, which has nothing to do with the government). A president doesn't really have that much control over the economy anyway; no individual does. The laws of supply and demand are as beyond man's reach as gravity. But if it's bad, it's Bush's doing somehow. And if the next president (probably a Dem) has economic woes during his administration, it'll be a holdover from Bush. Bet on it.

Looking on the bright side

Now that the weather has warmed up to six above here in the high desert, I saw this sign as I was dropping off my daughter at work.

Now I can get back to feeling sorry for the polar bears.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Friday Flick: Private Buckaroo

Now that the holidays are over (thanks be to God!), I think I'll continue the movie theme. Out of curiosity, does anyone actually watch any of these when I put them up? I know my tastes aren't everybody's, but there are some good films out there that have slipped into the public domain, and I do love sharing them along with armchair reviews.

Today's feature has kind of a double appeal. First off, it's a wonderful musical in and of itself. The plot is thin as dishwater, but that doesn't really matter. It's not meant to win any Oscars; it's a vehicle for some of the best music of the WWII era. The Andrews Sisters head up the bill, with some songs that will sound mighty familiar. As far as I can tell, this movie is where the song "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree" originated, in a really surreal USO performance. There's some lovely performances by the legendary Harry James, including a running gag where some kid in boot camp tries to teach him to blow a bugle. In between, there's some cute comic bits from Shemp Howard (the oldest of the Stooges, and the most talented, for my money) playing off Mary Wickes. (Young 'uns will remember her as the crusty old nun in Sister Act.) The film runs just over an hour, most of which is devoted to the music.

The other side of this movie is a much more important one, to my mind. It's hard for us today to believe that there was ever a time when every move the government (and especially the military) wasn't subjected to immediate dissection and critique by any ignoramus who thought he knew better. Today's military actions are presumed to be war crimes until proven otherwise. Actors, journalists and other self-ordained intellectuals actually consider themselves morally superior to soldiers. Americans actually treat the sort of people who block troop supply trucks with their bodies as though they had a valid point of view that deserved to be heard.

But in 1942 things were very different. Private Buckaroo was released six months after Pearl Harbor, and the contrast just jumps out and smacks you between the eyes. Up until the December 7 attack, there were dissenting voices about whether we should or shouldn't get involved in a war. After the bombing, there weren't. Or if there were, they were silenced, not by government force, but by social disdain. (Yes, some government censorship came along with a declaration of war. But most of it was necessary only to keep military movements secret.) Conscription was used to man the armed services, but as a response to an overwhelming number of men all trying to enlist at once. My grandfather tried his damnedest (his word) to get in, but the Navy turned him down for bad eyesight, and the Army because he was missing his trigger finger. He resentfully had to settle for working in a shipyard. This was the norm, he told me, not the exception.

There were conscientious objectors at that time, too: Quakers, Mennonites, and other pacifists. So did they throw things at soldiers or deliver jeremiads in favor of the enemy? They did not. In Britain, they volunteered for Bomb Disposal, a specialty that carried an average life expectancy of two weeks. In the States, a group of 500 Quakers offered themselves to the War Department as human test subjects – guinea pigs. I could respect the current crop of peaceniks if they were willing to do the same. But they don't; they think they're contributing by sneering at their betters.

What plot there is in this film reflects that. The protagonist (Dick Foran) is a singer who has been trying to get into the Army, and keeps getting turned down. Harry James gets drafted, and he's happy about it. (His employer isn't, and gets called a heel for it.) A very young Donald O'Connor gives Foran a one-line lesson in placing duty ahead of pride. One of the Andrews sisters says "If I were a man, the Army is where I'd be." Their subtext all through the film is that men in uniform are the only ones a woman would be interested in. There's even an appalling segment where Foran sings about "the monkey men from Tokyo." The enemy is evil and sub-human, slackers are despicable, the American soldiers are the good guys, and the women are behind them one hundred and ten percent.

Propaganda? Of course. But it's propaganda that won the war. In 1942, an American victory was far from a foregone conclusion. We were trying to fight on two fronts, one of which was against an enemy who had never attacked us directly. (Sound familiar?) Had American industry not worked overtime (and stopped turning out civilian goods), had the Hollywood studios not bolstered morale so one-sidedly, had politicians – as they do today - competed to see who could interfere with the president more obnoxiously, it's entirely likely that America would have been beaten. I doubt that either the Japanese or the Germans had the wherewithal actually to invade and occupy the United States for the long term, but we certainly could have been beaten back to our own shores, and Germany in particular would have posed a serious threat after Europe was finished off. Propaganda went a long way toward unifying the country. Frankly, we're very, very fortunate that we haven't had to be involved in a war for our own survival since then. With our current cultural attitudes, we'd lose. Watching movies like this remind us that America doesn't have to be like it is now.

So here, for both your musical and your patriotic enjoyment, is Private Buckaroo:

Thursday, January 24, 2008

This can't possibly be real

I keep waiting for a punch line, and it's not there.
An adventure park offers a journey back to the Soviet Union with KGB interrogation methods and "beatings" with a leather belt.

The 1984 Soviet Union theme park is located outside the Lithuanian capital Vilnius in an old bunker which served as a secret TV station in case of a nuclear attack.

Visitors to the park pay to be "beaten, interrogated and shouted at" by tour leaders dressed as agents of the Russian secret police, the KGB.

Story here, with video. A tip of the Akubra to Wicked Thoughts.

The Cervix Letters

Probably coming soon to a college campus near you.

You know, back in the 70s there was a fourth-rate smut flick that involved a woman whose voice box was, well, somewhat south of the usual location. I don't recall the name of the film. (And no, I never saw it; only read about it. That's quite enough for me.) But I can't hear about the V-Monologues without thinking of that. Murder Inc.'s new campaign looks to be stupid on the same kind of a scale.

Update: The campy film referenced above was called Chatterbox, and it involved a second larynx or something like that, rather than a dislocated one. I guess it wasn't meant to be smut, either, but really tacky comedy. Such are the vagaries of a twenty-odd-year-old memory.

Election or sitcom?

And is there a difference? You decide. Meanwhile, Dennis the Peasant has some sample theme songs to get it started.

And on the subject, it seems some fellow conservatives are disappointed with the current crop of candidates, especially now that Fearsome Fred has dropped out. Consequently, they've formed the "Get Offa My Lawn" Party, whose logo can be seen in the sidebar. I'll probably still vote for Romney in the primary, and GOP in the general, but I love the platform of the GOMLP.
You want to tax me for the bribes you’re offering people to vote for you? GET OFFA MY LAWN!

You want to impose limits on the kinds of food I eat, based on junk science? GET OFFA MY LAWN!

You want to drag the freest and most prosperous society in human history back to the Stone Age because some wacko claims we’re going to burn the planet to a crisp and drown those cuddly polar bears? GET OFFA MY LAWN!

I am curmudgeon, hear me snarl.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Heh heh!

Am I the only one juvenile enough to think it sounds a lot funnier when you say "Gay caucus" out loud?

And Washington has a big one. Snicker, snicker.

The collective vileness of the human race just diminished slightly

Kenneth Parnell, the pervert notorious for kidnapping Steven Stayner, has died of natural causes. Probably the only natural act the vermin ever committed in his life. The havoc he wreaked on so many lives just for the sake of slaking his revolting thirsts is still having a ripple effect. I've always thought it was horribly unfair that Parnell outlived Steven. I wonder sometimes what ever happened to little Timmy White. He'd be what, 33 now? (In fact, I have a pretty good idea where he is, through the miracle of the Internet. But he's best left alone.)

Unlike my buddy Ken, I can't actually wish for his damnation. That's forbidden for Christians. But on the slim chance that he died repentant and shriven, I still hope he ends up at the far end of Heaven from anyplace I might someday go.

We have a copy of the Mike Echols book about the Stayner kidnapping, and we've had several of our kids read it. The details it recounts are loathesome, but I recommend it for steering them away from strangers both physical and online.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Mei Day has arrived! Thanks to everyone that prayed (and more to those who donated), and especially to the God Who heard them all!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Blaming God

There's a Peanuts cartoon somewhere (I haven't been able to find it online) where Linus fills Lucy in on his latest theological discovery: If you hold your hands upside-down, you get the opposite of what you pray for. That's what jumped into my head when I first read this post from Nina. (Go read it; I'll wait. Sorry about the language. Finished? All right, let's continue.)

Nina didn't have to hold her hands upside-down; she got the opposite of what she was praying for anyway. Repeatedly. With no explanation and for no identifiable reason. And not in little things like finding a parking space: she was praying for things like her dad's recovery from leukemia. All that praying apparently just made things worse.

Now at this point, I can hear Christians saying things like, "Well, we can't know God's will. His ways are higher than ours. It is not for us to question the wisdom of the Almighty. Trust and obey... for there's no other way..."

To which I answer, "Horsecookies."

I'm going to indulge in a flashback here. 1997 was a year of sheer hell in my life. My printshop failed, after having never paid enough to live on in the first place. I had a miserable roller-coaster-like relationship with my ex, who had packed up our 2-month-old son and left me and my 9-year-old daughter the year before. We stocked our shelves at the food bank. I took dirt jobs to make enough to buy groceries, and my landlady (God bless her) actually let me slide on the rent for about six months while I looked for a job. By the time I got hired part-time at the Greatest Newspaper in the Northwest™ in May, I had no phone, no vehicle (the ex had taken it), and a little girl with some pretty heavy-duty emotional issues. I spent the rest of that year catching up bills while my meager check was being garnished by the state for back taxes, and trying to make up for everything my daughter had lost.

Now, I knew that some of the route I had taken to this point involved sin and plenty of it. I knew I wasn't innocent in all this. Because I was a Protestant at the time, a trip to a confessional wasn't really an option. When Protestants repent, they do it directly. And boy howdy, did I repent. A lot. I was sorry for all the things I had done wrong (no need to list them all), I desperately wanted to be on good terms with God, and I would do whatever He wanted me to do to show it.

Like it mattered. God apparently didn't give a rat's patoot if I repented or not. Things got worse in both my spiritual and my temporal life. The more I begged Him for any sign of His love, the more He piled on misery. It became a vicious cycle: God let me down; I ignored Him; He didn't come through; I ignored Him some more; things got worse and worse.

Things weren't quite so bad the next year. I spent New Year's 1999 with my new girlfriend's Christian family, and we went around the room talking about "what the Lord had done in our lives." When I said that I was grateful He had finally let up on me, I was answered with gentle chiding.

"Now, Joel, you mean He's blessed you richly this year. Tsk, tsk. That's what you meant to say, isn't it?"

No I didn't. I meant that God had taken a breather from bitch-slapping me. As hard as I tried to believe in an omnibenevolent God, all the available data indicated that He was in fact a callous bastard. He showered blessings on everyone else; I was the unwanted stepchild.

Now, in retrospect, I can see that I was being a petulant child, and that He had a plan for my life, and blah blah blah. I know He was right and I was wrong. But that's not the point. What I want to know is, why do we thank Him when things are good, but when they're not, we blame ourselves, or the world, or anything but Him? If He is sovereign and all-powerful (as I believe He is), then He is responsible for all of it. The good, the bad and the ugly. Whether He pats us on the head or kicks us in the teeth, it's His doing.

St. Teresa of Avila had it spot on: "Lord, if this is how You treat Your friends, no wonder You haven't got very many."

That's why I don't think Nina's post is all that blasphemous. Sometimes, Jesus actually does smear peas in our faces. Sometimes, I'm certain He's laughing at me. Doesn't matter in the long run. I understand that He's perfect. I'll still follow and obey the best I can. I love Him and I'm grateful for the blessings He's given me. He saved me from hell, and anything else is beside the point on an eternal scale. It's up to Him to decide what treatment to give me, and I certainly haven't earned anything from Him. If He wants to make a shambles of my life tomorrow, that's His prerogative. The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away. But I don't have to like it while it's happening. And I don't blame Nina for not liking it, either.

Catching up

Okay, it's been quiet here long enough. I'm back to work, the baby is sleeping as much as a two-week-old can be expected to, and Christina is now able to extricate herself from a chair without using both a block-and-tackle and the vocabulary of a longshoreman. I reckon it's about time to blog again.

By now everybody's seen the picture of the new baby, Peter. In fact, I got comments from people I haven't talked to in a long time, including my cousin Kenny, whom I don't think I've seen in a decade. (Kenny, if you see this, I started to e-mail you back and my computer crashed. I'll try again in a bit.)

A note on the baby's name: "Peter" is in memory of three people: Christina's stepfather, who died shortly after we were married; my Uncle Pete, who for many years held the prize for most prolific and colorful swearing in Eastern Washington, and Christina's Uncle Piet, her grandmother's brother who came over from Holland. We toyed with spelling our Pete's name in the Dutch fashion, but decided it would make his life tough if and when he ever went to school. (Oddly enough, my Uncle Pete's actual name was John. Nobody in the family seems to know why he called himself Pete.) "Carroll" is Christina's dad's middle name. We also contemplated spelling that one "Karol," but decided against it. Christina's dad is important to her, and there are enough people honoring John Paul the Great that we didn't need to name a baby after him.

I occasionally hear from my daughter, who is in the early stages of rendering me an ancestor. Her baby is due in September. She's 19, which isn't really old enough from either my standpoint or hers, but she's the same age her mother was when she was born, so I guess she'll be all right. Either way, there's not a lot to be done except to love the baby when it arrives. Which I fully intend to do.

The night before Pete was born, I got a call from that same daughter that her grandmother had died. This is my mother-out-law, my ex-wife's mom. (Regular readers may have seen me post uncharitably about an ex in the past; this is a different ex.) Maryann was a wonderful mother, a wonderful mother-in-law (both while we were married and after), and the best grandma my daughter could have hoped for. The world is a lesser place without her. She wasn't all that old, either; only 63. When I was in the hospital with Christina and Pete, I kept remembering one thing about her: this was the person who taught me how to change diapers almost two decades ago. If nothing else, I'll always be grateful for that.

On a more pleasant note, while I was stuck at the hospital my Christmas present from Christina arrived. Back when I was in high school, I was learning Welsh in an evening class, and also singing with the Seattle Welsh Choir. (My singing voice tends to be reminiscent of a warthog passing a kidney stone, but then, I could pronounce the words where many of my choirmates couldn't. It evened out.) The classes were coordinated by David Morgan, who still runs an import shop that at that time specialized in Welsh items. In the church where the classes and choir practices were held, David had donated a stack of scratchy-but-serviceable records in Welsh. These I took home and listened to until I thought my record needle was going to wear out. On those records were a couple of songs by Edward H Dafis, the first rock band to record in the language of heaven. I was hooked. Some years later, I was able to get hold of a best-of collection of theirs on tape. But this... this is a collection of everything they ever recorded, six CDs worth, and has a booklet with all the lyrics to boot. (It's amazing how many I misheard. I comfort myself that their accent is very different from the one I learned in.) So I'm on cloud nine, soaking up the Welsh, much to the annoyance of anyone who rides in my truck with me.

(A piece of trivia: besides his importing business, David Morgan is also a master whipmaker. Remember the one Indiana Jones used? He made that, from kangaroo hide. Not bad, eh?)

I applied for a job last week that both pays better than the one I have and is something I'd really enjoy doing. I don't want to go into details, but I really want this one. I'd be grateful for prayers.

Finally, I just discovered this morning a blog steeped in Portland history. I'll always be a small-town boy at heart, but I lived in Portland for a number of years, and as cities go, it's a good one. I'm looking forward to going through the entries with a touch of nostalgia. It may even rate a spot in the sidebar.

That's all the news I can think of off the top of my head. I have a post percolating in my head, riffing off one that Nina put up a while ago. But that one's going to take a little time. Thanks for your patience, y'all!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Prayer request

Thanks, all, for your patience. As sleep deprivation becomes the norm, I'll resume blogging shortly. I have a lot of stuff I've been meaning to put up, so there'll probably be a flood in a couple of days.

Meanwhile, Dani at Life in 3D is asking for prayers for her nieces, who have been taken from their family by Child Protective Services. If you're not from the Northwest, you may think of CPS as a benign government agency. In Washington, they're not. These are the fine folks who brought you the Wenatchee trials, in the next county over. A visit from CPS in this state is like a knock in the night from the KGB.

I only know the people involved slightly, but Dani knows them well, and she wouldn't take their side reflexively. If she says the seizure is unjustified, it is. I also strongly suspect that the grandparents are suspect in CPS' eyes because they're Evangelical Christians. That was a major factor at Wenatchee, and I think it probably continues to be.

St. Helen of Skofde, friend of the falsely accused, pray for this couple, that their case may be heard by a fair and impartial judge, that the truth might be known and that the false witnesses may be refuted once and for all.

St Dagobert, protector of abducted children, pray for Dani's nieces, that they might be comforted and housed among Godly people. Pray for their safety from the predators who abuse the foster care system, and their protection from those who would turn them against their parents. Finally, St. Dagobert, pray for their swift return to their family.

Our Lady, Help of Christians, pray for us.

Lord, may these prayers from your people strengthen these parents, comfort the children, and bring the truth to light. We ask this in the name of Christ our Lord, Amen.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Cute little cuss, isn't he?

I don't know if other hospitals keep a website for new babies' pictures, but our local one does. Here's Peter's.

One other note: While Christina was in the hospital, I kept hearing a music box play Brahms' Lullaby, and I couldn't figure out what it was. Was it a baby gift someone kept playing, or one of those annoying musical cards? Nope. Turns out the hospital plays it through the intercom every time a baby is born.

Monday, January 07, 2008

A little bit of a break

From blogging, if not from anything else. Tomorrow at seven, my Lovely and Brilliant Wife and I are heading over to Samaritan Hospital (a whole three blocks away) for a scheduled Caesarian. So for obvious reasons, neither of us are likely to be in front of a computer for a while.

This one is a boy, his name is gong to be Peter Carroll Martin, and he is baby number eight. Just so we have all the specifics straight.

Prayers would be appreciated. Christina's a little nervous, as this one has had some minor complications (not least of which is that she's 40). We'll update as the opportunity arises. See y'all later!

Update: He was born at 9:57 this morning. 7 pounds 2, 19 inches, for those who collect stats. They're both doing fine, especially Christina, who's finding that morphine makes everything seem easier. :)

Pictures will follow when the opportunity arises.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

A picture for the virtual fridge

Nina drew this lovely heptopodal giraffe, and nobody has said nice things about it at her place. My readers are a generous and appreciative lot, so please mention how much you like it.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Now hear this

In light of information I received last night, I expect hereafter to be treated with reverence befitting a grandfather. It is not, however, necessary to address me as "Gramps." Really, it isn't.

That is all.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Just enough of me, way too much of you

Ironically, this guy would probably describe himself as "pro-choice."
It's incredible that so few understand and are alarmed by the very high probability that humans will very soon be extinct if we don't greatly reduce the number of people depending on the planet's limited life-support systems.

The United Nations' conclusion that "only urgent global action will do" in dealing with climate change (Nov. 18) is sobering indeed. But since human activity is the primary cause, the solution is a right-in-our-face no-brainer: Reduce human activity! And do it now, with aggressive, mandatory, global birth control! That's clearly a quick, no-nonsense, low-cost solution.

Just as vaccinations are mandatory for the world's most dreaded diseases, we must now have mandatory worldwide birth control until humans, in excessive numbers, are no longer a threat to our planet's health. An analogy: When parasites infest an animal until it dies they simply find another host. Like blind fools, we're doing the same thing to our planet with overpopulation, which, like a biblical plague, is consuming and contaminating all of our life-support systems at an alarming rate...

Without question, large families must now be taboo. Of course there will be fierce opposition to mandatory birth control on several fronts of self-interest, the Vatican being one. But are we going to be serious about saving mankind? There's no time left for arguing.

The author is a 73-year-old retired teacher living in Tillamook. Which means he's old, past his productive years, and sullying with human presence an area of great natural beauty. And yet he adamantly refuses to remove himself from the earth, demanding instead that families like mine be eliminated. By force if necessary.

The jackassery is staggering.

Here's one for the ladies...

... the bloodthirsty little dears.

7-eleven clerk loses job, gains a ton of respect

He shot a robber, despite a company policy against it. I understand why the corporation would forbid things like this; their liability would be on an epic scale if a clerk got shot instead. I can't hold that against them. But with enough of this kind of people, eventually ordinary folks may start winning against these vermin. Criminals consider it positively unfair when you don't play your assigned role of cringing supplier of money and valuables. If productive people are ever to stop being perpetual cash cows for those that neither toil nor spin, a few more bullet holes in the right hides are a good place to start.

I'll bet the guy's phone is ringing off the hook with job offers.

Damn! Damn! Damn!

No! This is unfair! He's still got more books to write! Now we'll never know the skinny on Flashman's time in the War between the States, or Australia, or Mexico!

I knew it was a race against time, as he was getting on in years, but I was really hoping for a few more Flashman novels. I can't think of another author that's brought me so much enjoyment, unless it was Tolkien or Lewis.


Tuesday, January 01, 2008

For my old friend Dave

And my brother Justin, and whatever other jarheads may read this, but especially for Dave. He's a recruiter for the Army National Guard now (after a fair amount of time in Baghdad), but he was a Marine in the last Gulf War, so he'll appreciate this answering machine message.

And he still has to call me so we can do lunch. It's been too long.