Friday, April 30, 2004

Beyond Nancy's Power

She could stop them from making a Ronald Reagan Dime.
She could stop them from making a Ronald Reagan University.

Even Nancy Reagan couldn't stop the graphic designers from giving her a halo.

Source: CNN

He Makes the Dalai Lama Look Superficial

In an effort to appear flexible during an election year, Bush has moved from "Deeply Troubled" to "Deep Disgust."

President Bush: A Deep Man.

Some People Look Great in Glasses

Michael Jackson just happens to not be one of those people.

Source: CNN


Thursday, April 29, 2004


Could you have a stranger headline than "Uri Geller protests ABC adoption show?"

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

$10,000,000 will buy you the Ark of the Covenant on eBay

I hate to rain on someone's parade (nyuk, nyuk, nyuk), but the recently announced search for Noah's Ark is just an exercise in wasting money ...probably donated money provided by nice, God-fearing people. Shame on mainstream news outlets for treating this fool's errand with such dignity.

Didn't these explorers get the memo that real scientists have already explored the heck out of this issue, actually finding a myth-worthy flood?

Haven't they read their Gilgamesh?

Ancient, hard-to-translate writings are, well, famously ancient and hard-to-translate. I'd put "Ararat" in the same category as "Nephilim" as words that are real challenges to translate into a modern religion.

What's intriguing about modern participation in an ancient religion is that people focus on the details. The presence of multiple, competing systems of thought forces adherents to one particular system to present it as watertight. Why do Christians look for Noah's Arc? For the same reason that Muslims feel compelled to discuss virgins in the afterlife or Buddhists have to explain why the Buddha apparently died of food poisoning.

Absent competition from other worldviews, I think that the Arc (and the Ark), virgins in the afterlife, and Buddha's fateful meal would be situated where (some would say) they belong : On the margins of their particular religious systems.

When religions feel the heat of scrutiny, individual members of various religions try to shore up the stories. In so doing, they lose sight of the messages of compassion, understanding, charity, and love that constitute their religions' contributions to the human experience.

Monday, April 26, 2004

They Count Crowds, Don't They?

No one really estimates protest crowd sizes anymore; however, it's agreed that turnout for this weekend's Abortion Rights protest was tremendous. Think twice as large as the "I Have a Dream" speech crowd.

Too bad that the media was too focused on non-issues that the Bush campaign raises against his rival to note this historic event.

(Remember the quote, John: "Well, first off, I'm glad you brought it up -- because we'd love to compare the candidates based on their behavior during the 1970s." You were involved in national politics while your opponent was embarking on a descent toward alcoholism.)

Color in Ulysses' Cheeks

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing has just unveiled a new look to the $50 bill:

Source: CNN/Money

Compared with the other caricatures that grace our money, I feel that Grant has a very human face. Whereas icons like Hamilton & Jackson both appear 2-dimensional and statuesque, Grant looks a little spooked.

It's surprising that our currency would immortalize this very mortal President. How will our modern, publicly flawed Presidents find their way onto our money?

Sunday, April 25, 2004

A Christmas Carol Campaign

The Republican attack machine has decided to John Kerry: Past, Present and Future.

Present Kerry is campaigning under a sweltering barrage of Bush attack ads that (in my view) distort his record. He did not vote again and again to withhold pay and armor from our troops -- he voted against an omnibus bill that was assailed on both sides of the aisle.

Future Kerry is assaulted by Bush attack ads, which claim that a Kerry Presidency would lead to all manner of negative consequences, for example, a $900 billion tax hike. The Bush campaign has publicly acknowledged that they want to define Kerry before he defines himself in the eyes of the American voter, and they have no problem with bending the truth to aid in their definition.

Starting this month, we can add Past Kerry to the mix. Responding in kind, Bushies demanded Kerry release his military records, and now they're trying to poke holes in statements he made as an activist opposing Vietnam.

As much as I dislike attacks on Present and Future Kerry, those strategies make sense's attacking Past Kerry that I don't understand.

Every time a Kerry staffer is questioned on Past Kerry, I'd like them to begin their comments with,"Well, first off, I'm glad you brought it up -- because we'd love to compare the candidates based on their behavior during the 1970s."

Kerry was in Vietnam, Bush was somewhere in Alabama.

Both ran unsuccessfully for public office: Kerry ran for Congress in 1970 & 1972, and Bush sought a House seat in 1978; however, Kerry doesn't have a missing period of drinking (and driving?)

Bush has been content to classify his mid-seventies behavior as youthful indiscretions; however, his campaign's focus on the younger Kerry means that more scrutiny needs to be paid on the President's behavior before he cleaned up.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Aisle Seats Available?

It's fun to mock Congress when it behaves in a silly manner, but a serious Congress is worthy of awe.

I rarely wish I could have watched something on CSPAN, but I wish I'd Tivo'd this Congressional discussion. The House has passed a bill that would allow for special elections in the event that 100 or more of its members were to die in an attack.

With this bill, affected districts would need to hold elections within 45 days of the catastrophe. Without it, we'd be without a complete Congress for nearly a year.

I expect little by way of inspirational comments from Congresspeople, so it's refreshing to read their selfless quotes in the article.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

When I Think of Utah, I Think of Jazz

Where's the first Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant?

Salt Lake City, Utah, of course.

...well, it was there until it was demolished yesterday to make way for a KFC museum.

...because the world needs a KFC museum Salt Lake City.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

How Far We've Come

Before the Iraq War, Rep. Charles Rangel proposed reintroducing the draft, a move I considered political theater designed to impede our hawkish administration -- Rangel seemed to think that Rumsfeld et al. would slow down if their sons and daughters manned the front lines.

Today, Senator Chuck Hagel told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that deteriorating conditions in Iraq may force the US to reintroduce the draft -- the political jest of 15 months earlier seemed poised to become a sad reality.

What a difference a year makes.

This week in 1998, Clinton dodged and denied questions about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Eventually, this peccadillo would lead to his impeachment.

Clinton's bedroom behavior ultimately led to Bush's campaign of "restoring honor and dignity to the White House," and to Al Gore's defeat in the 2000 Presidential Election.

Earlier this week -- in 2004 -- Bob Woodward announced that the Bush Administration had siphoned $700 million away from the war in Afghanistan to prepare for the coming Iraqi War. I'm no constitutional scholar, but I'd say that funds drawn from the treasury without Congress's approval sounds a bit like high crimes and misdemeanors to me.

Meanwhile, Bush backers continue to support their self-destructive candidate, and Bush's lead over Kerry increased in several polls.

What a difference 6 years make.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

A Nephew Scorned

Where should we sort out our little family tiffs? Online, that's where.

I've been unable to find the offending blog, but I'm with you, Ben. Dang Uncles.

Mathematically Offensive

Google has come under fire for keeping an offensive result at the top of the results when people search for "Jew." They've offered an explanation, but it beats around the bush.

The real answer as to why surprising results appear when you're searching for this word -- or the N-word, waffles, miserable failure, or mustache -- is that none of us controls language. Word usage & word meaning evolves, and services like Google can only react.

You don't need to live and breathe Jacques Derrida or Michel Foucault to realize that Google's task will forever be one of catch-up -- in which new and unpredictable linguistic events force them (and us) to react.

Poor Howard Stern is learning about the unpredictable reaction to words the hard way. Howard defined a new word (Blumpkin -- Warning: A somewhat nasty link) on air for his listening public -- in so doing, taking it from the realm of nonsense to the realm of the profane.

It's Hard to Find a Good Contractor

Not to make too much light of a terrible situation, but France and Russia aren't too interested in bidding for those Iraq contracts right now.

Saturday, April 10, 2004

The Human Condition

As of April 10, 2004, this blog pretty much sums it up.

Trading the Posterior for the Anterior

Normally, companies seem to want only our lower regions:
   butts in task chairs, or
   rears in theater seats, or
   feet coming in the door.

In a move I find somewhat dystopian, Toyota's ad agency has finally found a good use for our heads.

Friday, April 09, 2004

Not a Good Idea

Magellan brought Catholicism to the Philippines in 1521.

Today, it's a tough brand of Catholicism.

As Christian mothers around the US ready their daughters' little pink dresses for Easter Sunday services, some people in the Philippines mark Good Friday by nailing themselves to crosses. (Warning: Link is to a bloodless, but nasty picture)

William Saroyan

Listening to KQED's Forum, where the topic is William Saroyan.

Just listening ...and delighting in the quote from the preface of Saroyan's The Time Of Your Life:

In the time of your life, live — so that in that wondrous time you shall not add to the misery and sorrow of the world, but shall smile to the infinite delight and mystery of it.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

The Sky is Falling

CNN has to get the news out quickly.

In such an environment, reusing content means you don't need to reinvent the wheel everytime a story breaks.

My favorite piece of rehashed material is the artist's rendition of an asteroid striking the earth that runs alongside any story about space rocks.

Planet Killer

Source: CNN
CNN's gold standard is Planet Killer. This ominous image shows a tremendous asteroid -- large enough to clearly show the curvature of the earth -- hitting the planet hard. Even though an asteroid of this magnitude far exceeds the stone that doomed the dinosaurs, CNN shows this image alongside stories about 70-meter asteroid near misses.

Bloody Planet Killer

Source: CNN
Perhaps concerned that Planet Killer wasn't alarmist enough, they unveiled Bloody Planet Killer in 2002. This is the same terrifying image as Planet Killer, yet with a distinctly red hue, conveying an added sense of doom. CNN considers it appropriate for stories about 300 to 400 meter asteroids.

Look Out Below!

Source: CNN
2003 brought us Look Out Below! -- an image appropriate for stories about asteroids capable of an impact as powerful as "20 million Hiroshima atomic bombs." Though even 1,000 times Hiroshima is an epicly powerful blast, I find it somewhat ironic that nature's destructive power would be measured in terms of humanity's relatively puny self-destructive impulses.

Trouble Kiss

Source: CNN
Today marks the addition of Trouble Kiss to this impressive menagerie. Debuting alongside a story about all objects larger than 1 km threatening the planet, the curvature of the earth is ever-so-slightly visible on an apparently atmosphere-less Earth at the moment of first contact.

Here's hoping that NASA, et al. get their act together in time such that these images stay in the realm of paintings and never again become photographs.

(Inspired by Silbakor)

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Social Medicine

There are a few things that the good people of Alabama don't have:

1. Money: According to the most recent U.S. Census (.pdf link -- state data is on page 16 of 40), Alabama has 14.6% of its residents living in poverty, a rate that places it 43rd (or 8th, depending on how you look at it) among U.S. states.

2. An Elected Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court: Roy Moore was removed from his elected post during the Ten Commandments scuffle last fall. J. Gorman Houston, Jr. currently sits in his place.

Note that 3. A State Whiskey is not on this list.

...because now Alabama has a state whiskey. In fact, the Alabama Senate followed the Alabama's House's lead, overriding Governor Bob Riley's veto to name Conecuh Ridge Fine Alabama Whiskey the "official state spirit."

If Only I Flossed Every Day

Fortune Magazine has an interesting health quiz* whereby they calculate the effect of certain positive health habits on your expected lifespan.

* A quasi-scientific, new-agey health quiz

Nader Can Stop Leaving Messages on Murdoch's Answering Machine

Who would have guessed that Rupert Murdoch, the owner of Fox "News," is a Bush supporter?

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Covering Christianity

Time Magazine's cover story this week is Why did Jesus have to die? Lately, I feel like Time (and its competitors) have given Christianity a surprising amount of front page coverage, and so I decided to dig a little deeper.

Time publicly archives its past covers, so it's easy to view their covers from any period. I decided to compare Christianity-themed covers from the January 1998 - April 2004 with the same period 20 years prior, January 1978 - April 1984.

What I included:
+ To be included in my count, the whole cover had to be devoted to religion -- collage images with one religious symbol don't count.
+ The main point of the featured article had to be religion, so nuns battling Alzheimer's or Y2K fears don't count.

In both periods, Christian (or Judeo-Christian) themed covers appeared 12 times; however, I was startled to see the difference in how it was covered during the two periods.

From 1978 - 1984, 11 of the 12 covers concern the papacy's role in geopolitics or the Pope as a person.

From 1998 - 2004, the covers address a number of topics, from historical aspects of the Christian myth to the role of Christianity in modern times.

I'll go out on a limb and say that magazines like Time used to discuss organized Christianity when its actions made the news. Now, they editorially interpret Christianity, making it the news.

January 1998 - April 2004
1998  January 26Fidel Castro & Pope John Paul II: What brought them together -- Two giants of the century put their faiths to the test
April 20The Shroud of Turin: Now that it's back on display, the debate flares anew -- Is this Jesus?
December 14  Moses: New research and an epic animated movie offers a fresh look at a hero for our time, The Prince of Egypt
1999 December 14 Jesus at 2000: Novelist Reynolds Price offers a new Gospel based on archaeology and the Bible
2000April 3Pope John Paul II: The Pope in the Holy Land
2001 April 16 What Jesus Saw: Jerusalem Then and Now
September 17Preacher T.D. Jakes: Is the man the next Billy Graham?
2002 April 1 The Catholic Church Dilemma: Can the Catholic Church save itself?
July 1 The Bible & The Apocalypse: Why more Americans are reading and talking about the end of the world
September 30Abraham: Muslims, Christians and Jews all claim him as their father. A new book explores the challenge of turning him into their peacemaker
2003 June 30 Should Christians Convert Muslims?
2004April 12Why did Jesus have to die?

January 1978 - April 1984
1978  August 21Search for a Pope  
September 4  Pope John Paul I: The New Pope
October 9The Church in Shock: Pope John Paul I, 1912 - 1978  
October 30  Pope John Paul II
1979  June 18Pope John Paul II: Triumphal Return -- The Pope in Poland
October 15  Pope John Paul II: John Paul, Superstar
1981  May 25Attack on the Pope: Terrorist's Target -- "Why did they do it?"
1982November 29  Archbishop Bernadin: God and the Bomb -- Catholic Bishops debate nuclear morality  
December 27  The New Missionary: Preaching the Gospel in New Guinea
1983March 14  Pope John Paul II: "To Share the Pain"
June 27Pope John Paul II: Homecoming -- The Return of the Polish Pope
1984January 9  Pope John Paul II: Why Forgive? The Pope pardons the gunman

If Only the Cameras Had Been Rolling the Whole Time

Bobby & Whitney finally wise up a realize that, as long as your lives resemble a reality TV show, they just as well should actually be a reality TV show.

I have almost no interest in watching reality TV; however, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's account of what would be one of the first episodes piqued my interest:

The couple dined Monday night, as cameras rolled, at the Palm Restaurant in Buckhead, ordering multiple plates of Clams Oreganato, a 6-pound lobster and a 24-ounce porterhouse steak, according to Jimmy Logan, a waiter at the eatery. Their 10-year-old daughter, Bobbi Kristina, had her own 3-pound lobster. Even the family dog, a small tan canine named Doogie, supped on steak tartare (Houston dutifully picked out the capers from the dish).
The article didn't mention any channel affiliated with the project, but I'm pretty sure that the Food Network would pick it up.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

In a Perfect World...

...we can all dance like the second performer in this video.


Though most examples of corporate excess turn the stomach, trophy buildings are an occasionally eye-pleasing result of the shareholders' money being spent creatively.

Looking at Fortune magazine's trophy building photo essay, I wish that all organizations would put just a bit more effort into the architecture of their homes.