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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Scarey Jillian

I've never seen an episode of The Biggest Loser and I'm not really familiar with her work, but just from her commercials there's something scary and strangely attractive about Jillian Michaels.

I love how she tells that Bowflex treadmill to give her more incline now.

It doesn't really motivate me to work out, but it does kind of turn me on.

Water Into Wine

This post does an exceptional job offering an alternative explanation of the "Water into Wine" story from the Bible. Trying to summarize the whole thing doesn't do it justice, but I suppose the ultimate point is this:
The “water turned to wine” in the story of the wedding is not water and wine at all but Jesus’ blood.
It's the old, "It's symbolic, not literal" argument, which is fine with me.

I'm all for a literary approach to biblical interpretation in favor of a literal approach, but then again, I'm in the minority on that one.

But as good as the post is, the comments go off the rails in a very bad way.

First, the Leaguers suffer from a major anti-Richard Dawkins bias that clouds their thinking. The inspiration for this post was this exchange between Richard Dawkins and Hugh Hewitt:
Dawkins: You actually think that Jesus got water, and made all those molecules turn into wine?

Hewitt: Yes.

Dawkins: My God.

Hewitt: Yes. My God, actually, not yours. But let me…

Dawkins: I’ve realized the kind of person I’m dealing with now.
Now a case could be made that they're both being asses. Dawkins is the mean ole atheist belittling the believer. And Hewitt is the self-righteous loon looking down his nose on the lost soul.

Fine. They're both asses.

But I get the sense that Chris Dierkes, the author of this exegesis, thinks Dawkins was the bigger ass.

In a comment, he says this:
If you read say The God Delusion you’ll see that Dawkins has really no other conception of how to read The Bible. The reason he asked a question like that is (as I said) because its a perfect under handed tossup for him to make his ideological case against religion. It leaves one with the impression (intended I think) that if you are religious you have to believe Jesus literally turned H20 into Wine.
Woah, hold the phone.

Richard Dawkins, a militant atheist who wrote a book calling God a delusion, is the one promoting this "if you are religious you have to believe Jesus literally turned H20 into Wine" story?

Bullshit.

The atheist is not responsible for the fundamentalist's beliefs. But by all means, blame him for it...say he's the one who doesn't know how to read the Bible.

Later in the comments, Chris Dierkes writes:
I generally recommend reading The Bible as literature.
Me too.

Which is why I don't understand why Dierkes has so many problems with Dawkins's response to Hewitt. If Hewitt were arguing that Hobbits were real and that Gandalf came back from the dead to destroy the Ring, I suspect Dawkins would respond in a similar way. "My God...I've realized what kind of person I'm dealing with now."

Yeah, you're dealing with a kook who thinks the Lord of the Rings is real.

But he makes the same point about the Bible, which is "literature" in the same way that the Lord of the Rings is "literature," and he's somehow out of line??? Weak.

But the weakness doesn't end there. Someone named Ryan makes this somewhat non-controversial statement:
The vast majority of Christians believe that Jesus literally turned water into wine...
Yeah. sounds about right. The vast majority of Christians believe that Jesus was the son of God, that he performed various other miracles (not as metaphors but as actual miracles), that he died for our sins, that he came back from the dead, and that he will someday return.

But E.D. Kain sees this and responds:
The “vast majority of Christians” eh? You guys have statistics on this? Some numbers we could reference? As far as I know lots of Christians actually view miracles and parables as analogous events. As symbols and signs. The Catholic Church believes in the literal meaning of the Bible, but does not preach the literal interpretation of every single story. These gross generalizations that “every Christian” etc. etc. are based not on any evidence but on your own preconceived notion of what Christians are like. Just because the fundamentalists are the loudest of the bunch does not mean they represent the majority.
Sorry, E.D. I love your blog, man, but you're hitting a guy for not providing any numbers, then you do the whole "As far as I know" thing?? Not gonna work.

And yeah, the parables are analogies. (It's kind of the definition of "parable" actually.) But the miracles?

I suppose there are "lots" of Christians who think the miracles are metaphors or analogies, but the "vast majority" of Christians --yes, even the Catholics-- accept them as, well, miracles.

Saying so is not a "gross generalization" based on "preconceived notions of what Christians are like." It's an accurate description of the faith as it is professed and practiced by Christians themselves.

I'm intemperate on this matter, but a commenter named Jaybird puts the nail in the coffin on this idea that the "water into wine" story is just a metaphor when he writes:
Here is my problem with this interpretation:

Let’s pretend that we are Christian slaves in the catacombs and we just heard that our friend watched his children being eaten by lions before he was put to the sword by a gladiator as he knelt and prayed and that the Romans in the stands were cheering.

When we hear this story of Jesus, what is our interpretation?

Let’s say that we are one of the Patriarchs discussing the split of what is to become the Orthodox Church and what is to become the Catholic Church and we hear this story of Jesus. What is our interpretation?

Let’s say that we are a peasant during the black plague and we go to the church and the priest tells this story of Jesus. What is our interpretation?

Let’s say that we’re a poor migrant during the 1930’s dustbowl and a minister tells this story of Jesus. What is our interpretation?

And now it’s 2009.

It strikes me that this interpretation is, well, novel.
Amen, brother.

But, by all means, let's jump Richard Dawkins's case for rolling his eyes at the interpretation most Christians actually believe. Not because he's wrong or anything, but just because he's an ass.

Pbbbbbltttt.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Movies

I watched Street Kings and part of Gran Torino last night, two good masculine movies full of attitude and grit.

When Street Kings came out, I didn't really have any interest in seeing it. Corrupt cops in LA? Seen it.

But then I saw that it had a few things going for it.

First, James Ellroy wrote the original script. It was changed before filming, but you can still feel Ellroy lurking in some of the language, themes, and characters. (For those unfamiliar with Ellroy, he weaves intricate plots with ensemble casts, often a group of males with differing motivations but a single goal. Language-wise, he's very spare and direct, vulgar and racist even. He is definitely his own man.)

Second, it featured Chris Evans (third banana to Keanu Reeves and Forest Whitaker --yawners both of em). Now this guy is a pretty boy. Good looking, ripped, all that. But don't be fooled. He's also got some chops. I've seen him in some bad movies, but he's never given a bad performance in them. (I'm looking at you, Fantastic Four movies.) In fact, if the movie studios were curious about my opinion, they should put him on the "bankable" list because I'll see any movie he's in. Even a dreaded romantic comedy.

Third, Naomie Harris had a small role. I didn't know this until she showed up as a widow about halfway through the movie. Naomie Harris is also on the "bankable" list (and a few others), and she made the most of what she was given. A few scenes, some tears, a little moment towards the end. She deserves to star in her own movie. Perhaps even a dreaded romantic comedy.

Fourth, the violence was painfully realistic. Computer-generated, some of it, sure, but we all know you can't put squibs on a shirtless man and you can't really blow a guy's face off. It's not that I'm a sucker for such spectacles --okay, maybe a little. With so many movies depicting ludicrous, harmless violence, I just appreciate when they try to make it look like it hurts.

Gran Torino was good too, in its own way. Clint is in his late 70s now, and he looks it. He's still got the squint, and there's moments when he spits to show his displeasure, just like he did back in the old spaghetti western days. But I've only watched half of it, so I can't really say much about it. But I liked what I saw, and I liked Street Kings, too.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Median Income

CNN mentioned the "curbing executive pay at bailed out companies" story this morning and Christine Romans mentioned a number I scribbled down.

$50,303

It's the median income for the United States, how much the "average" family brings in a year.

Consider this before you cry any tears over the AIG executives getting 90% pay cuts:

For someone making the median income for the United States, it would take 19.87 years to make a million bucks. Twenty years!

And that's if you didn't pay taxes on it and never spent a dime.

Now consider that even with cutting pay 90% at these incompetent, wouldn't exist without government assistant companies, the paydays will still be quite a bit larger than the median income.
At the financial products division of A.I.G., the locus of problems that plagued the large insurer and forced its rescue with more than $180 billion in taxpayer assistance, no top executive will receive more than $200,000 in total compensation, a stunning decline from previous years in which the unit produced many wealthy executives and traders.
Yep, cut their pay by 90% and they're still making 4 times the median wage.

Sorry, fellas, but you're going to have to rely on Glenn Beck for tears on this one. When it comes to me, you can find sympathy in the dictionary.

A Terminal Disease

Speaking of Andrew Sullivan, I'm going to start referring to him as Dr. Sullivan. Because his diagnosis is spot-on here:
The GOP insults our intelligence with farces like Palin, idiots like Steele, bigots like Inhofe and lunatics like Beck. It expresses anger far more readily than reason or optimism. It rationalizes the evil of torture and the cruelty of discrimination. And its hero worship of the last president would make the most hardcore Obamaphile blush.
Don't forget the double standards!

Defending Rush Limbaugh

...is a full-time job if you're a "conservative."

Here's James Joyner defending Rush Limbaugh from the mean lefty blogs "ginning up controversy" (his quote, in the comments) about Rush Limbaugh saying this:
This guy from The New York Times, if he really thinks that humanity is destroying the planet, humanity is destroying the climate, that human beings in their natural existence are going to cause the extinction of life on Earth — Andrew Revkin. Mr. Revkin, why don’t you just go kill yourself and help the planet by dying?
One word can be used to describe Joyner's contortions.

Weak.

Joyner apparently thinks that "illustrating absurdity by being absurd" is perfectly okay when you're Rush Limbaugh. But if you're a lefty blogger, don't even try it.

Your attempts to illustrate absurdity by being absurd only means you're just being absurd.

It's also funny that Joyner links to Andrew Sullivan on the controversy, who writes:
(I)t's a reminder of just how unhinged the most influential man in the GOP remains. And until someone in the Republican party stands up to him, he will become the GOP in the eyes of independents.
And what happens? Not only does a conservative blogger like Joyner NOT stand up to Rush, he goes out of his way to defend him with a double standard.

Let's review:

Joyner doesn't believe that Rush "actually thinks Revkin deserves to die. Rather, he thinks Revkin is an idiot with really screwed up priorities." So Rush says to Revkin, "why don't you just go kill yourself?" That's perfectly okay. It's just "reductio ad absurdum logic."

On the other hand, if you think Rush Limbaugh is an idiot with really screwed up priorities, you better just keep that shit to yourself.

Freshman Senator Franken is Somewhat Refreshing

Hopefully I'm not making a mistake by quoting Think Progress again without watching the video...but if this is true, Al Franken brought some pawnage to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
FRANKEN: I think we disagree on whether health care reform, the health care reform that we’re talking about in Congress now should pass. You said that the way we’re going will increase bankruptcies. I want to ask you, how many medical bankruptcies because of medical crises were there last year in Switzerland?

FURCHTGOTT-ROTT: I don’t have that number in front of me, but I can find out and get back to you.

FRANKEN: I can tell you how many it was. It’s zero. Do you know how many medical bankruptcies there were last year in France?

FURCHTGOTT-ROTT: I don’t have that number, but I can get back to you if I like.

FRANKEN: Yeah, the number is zero. Do you know how many were in Germany?

FURCHTGOTT-ROTT: From the trend of your questions, I’m assuming the number is zero. But I don’t know the precise number and would have to get back to you.

FRANKEN: Well, you’re very good. Very fast. The point is, I think we need to go in that direction, not the opposite direction. Thank you.
Oh snap!

The Invisible Hand

This is going to hurt the feelings of those "conservatives" (and of course, I use the term loosely) who think that running your company into a ditch entitles you to millions of dollars in salary, stock options, and bonuses.
Responding to the growing furor over the paychecks of executives at companies that received billions of dollars in federal bailouts, the Obama administration will order the companies that received the most aid to deeply slash the compensation to their highest paid executives, an official involved in the decision said on Wednesday.
One thing's for sure: George W. Bush would never do this.

He'd just retreat back to Crawford and clear some more brush, then he'd invite these fuckers over for lunch. The incompetent and the corrupt stick together, ya know.

Mad Men

So I'm watching the first season of Mad Men tonight. Yeah, I know...I'm a little late.

It's perhaps as good as the critics say.

But I'm not buying January Jones as a housewife. Supposedly she's got a few kids, and yet she gets up wearing these cute little pants with this tight little yoga-toned ass and 2% body fat.

A typical 60s housewife? Who are you kidding? That's not typical now!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

One Trick Pony

Jennifer Aniston is on Conan right now. It's a repeat, making an appearance to market her latest rom-com Love Happens. (Actually, I've heard that Love Happens is more of a drama...but it's being marketed as a comedy.)

She's not bad for 40. Nice shiny toned legs, short skirt.

But then I'm thinking, Jen, we need to talk. You're a big star. You know it. Everyone else knows it. You're hot, you're talented, you're funny, and everyone feels bad about the whole Brad Pitt thing.

But you are 40 years old now. It's time to diversify. First order of business...

A two-year (at minimum) moratorium on romantic comedies. We're going to put you in a sci-fi movie. Or a period drama. An action flick? Something besides yet another boring, predictable rom-com.

Consider, in 2002 Sandra Bullock starred in the forgettable Two Weeks Notice. Same year, she was in Murder by Numbers, a thriller.

Remember when Julia Roberts was in Runaway Bride one year, and then the next year, she won a fucking Oscar for Erin Brockovich?

And maybe you don't want an Oscar, Jen, but surely you can see there's not much of a market for a plus-40 lonely girl looking for love in all the wrong, but hilarious, places. Another ten years, Jen, and you won't be getting the single girl parts anymore.

You'll be old enough to play a grandmother. You may be a hot grandma, sure, but there's not much of a market for "hot grandma" rom-coms. And let's face it...with your lack of depth and range, you're not going to be getting the Meryl Streep roles.

Play a cop, one who's looking for a serial killer instead of "the one" so they can live happily ever after in matrimonial bliss.

Get Johnny Depp on the horn and ask him if there's a spot in the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie. You know, ease out of romantic comedy into period comedy.

Just do something...else.

The Public Option

I know who I'm going with. I'm going with the yoga girl.

In all seriousness, I think this is actually a pretty good metaphor for the insurance companies. Not sure about Heather Graham as the public option. The casting is great, but I'm not buying the whole competition angle.

I don't think it would work out this way.

Welcome to the Nam, Cheesedicks

I don't know about you, but I have the movie Platoon memorized, every frame, every word of dialogue, every subtle movement of the face.

It's a great movie with a lot of great lines.

"I don't know if I can do this for a year, Grandma."

"Killing? Whatdya'll know about killing?"

"The worm has definitely turned for you, man."

You can't replicate it in print, but even the way Tom Berenger angrily mutters the word "Motherfuckers" is quotable.

So it was with a great deal of pleasure that I was trading back and forth e-mails with my Uncle Jim the other day, that the opportunity to use a Platoon quote in casual conversation came up.

I was talking about my drivers license situation, then mused, "March, man. Tennessee. Sniff the pines. Sniff that cross-mounted pussy down by the river. Hot damn, boy!"

This was said by the character King as they were burning out the shitters and musing about how short they were.

Uncle Jim, needing no pause, not only recognized the quote as being from Platoon, he knew the scene it came from and he was able to throw more of it back my way:

BROKE A HUNDRED THE OTHER DAY 94 AND A WAKE UP. DEROS. SANTA BARBRA THE SURFIN GONA BE GOOD
That, my friends, is a feat that few men can accomplish.

Memo to Pat Buchanan:

"Traditional Americans" and "white people" are NOT synonymous.

I love this part about the illegal immigrants though:
They watch on cable TV as illegal aliens walk into their country, are rewarded with free educations and health care and take jobs at lower pay than American families can live on – then carry Mexican flags in American cities and demand U.S. citizenship.
So much irreality in this paragraph, it's hard to know where to start.

For instance, there's a lot to see on cable TV - real housewives, girls next door, the Kardasians and Jon and Kate - but I have never seen an illegal alien walk into this country on cable television. Is it because I don't watch Fox News?

Not only that, but Pat is displaying the usual right wing ignorance on how many (most?) illegal aliens get into this country. First...the geography: There are only two countries from which you can "walk" into the United States. One is indeed Mexico, the other being Canada.

I know, it's crazy, but it is physically impossible to walk here from Somalia, Ghana, Vietnam, the Philippines, Korea, or any of the hundreds of other countries where immigrants, both legal and illegal, come from. So how do they get here?

Some, to be sure, come up through Mexico or flow down through Canada. But many (most?) come here by other means. Many of them (most?) come here legally but stay illegally. I have yet to see an account of how a border wall will address that particular problem.

The other argument to be made is...how come you don't hear any hue or cry about the scores of blond blue-eyed English speaking illegal aliens from Ottawa or Dublin or Perth? I'm sure the Minuteman crowd has a perfectly rational explanation --they're more culturally similar, perhaps, or we speak the same language -- but I'm going to assume (with a lack of evidence to the contrary) that these guys aren't entirely sincere in their animus towards "illegal immigrants" in general. It's mostly reserved for "illegal immigrants" of the Latin persuasion.

I'm not saying the Minutemen are racist... Just saying that skin tone is, indeed, a factor.

As for the "free education" and "free healthcare" stuff...I don't buy it. Not for one second.

Where do these immigrants go to get all this free stuff? They have their own schools and hospitals and they're free? Man, if that's the case, I'm renouncing my citizenship and going full "wetback." Just call me Jaime Perez from now on and point me to all this free stuff.

Of course, if Pat means an education in a public school, then it's not exactly free. I'm sure his answer to that would be, "For them! Not for me! They're using my tax dollars."

But are you really paying for their free educations, Pat? "They don't pay any taxes!"

O RLY? So when an illegal immigrant goes to the grocery store, they have a little illegal immigrant card that exempts them from paying sales tax? When they get a paycheck in that deadman's name, there's no withholding?

Since when were foreign nationals prohibited from owning property in the United States? Guess what? They aren't. And guess what else? Being a foreign national doesn't exempt you from paying property taxes either. There...I said it.

Illegal immigrants pay taxes. Get over it.

But even if they didn't, even if they were paid under the table in tax-free cash, they'd still be paying taxes when they spend that dough! (Although with all this free education and free healthcare, why even work? Let the white people take out their own trash, I say!)

And take jobs at lower pay than American families can live on? Dude...if these immigrant families can live on it, then American families can too! They just don't want to. And maybe I'm just reaching back too far into my upbringing, but "don't want to" is not the same thing as "can't."

That Americans "don't want to" grow up to be janitors is no surprise. Every single one of us is one reality show away from international fame and fortune. It says it right there on our money: Hard work is for suckers.

And there's not a bigger sucker than a Mexican who thinks he can make a better life for himself in America. (America? Really? That's so 20th Century.)

Then Pat bemoans the Mexican flags, but I wonder if he cries on March 17th, when the streets run green with Irish pride. The fucking Irish. They never did anything for this country...

And really, Pat, is citizenship such a great thing that we should hoard it so obsessively? Hey, I know they have to pass the quiz and recite the pledge of allegiance, but after that, then what? They join the army like the rest of us?

Come on, man. Being a "citizen" of the United States does not entail much. It provides privileges, sure, but are those privileges so precious that we can't give them to people who already live here?

So you can vote. For who? A Democrat? A Republican?

So you can get a drivers license. Big deal. Now they know who you are, where you live, what you look like, your blood type, your height, your body weight, whether you wear glasses, and they can get to you at any time. (Paranoia? Hell no. A lot of effort has been spent getting us to this place. Most of the time, it's benign. But then they start doing shit like towing your truck out of your driveway and make you take the bus for a year.)

What else? You can qualify for the government programs. You know, the free hospitals and free schools that...they already get? I'm confused. Should we leave this on the list, or strike it as redundant?

You know, maybe they don't want to be citizens. Maybe they just want some respect. Maybe they just don't want to be deported because the evilly banal bureaucrat didn't like their response to "Papers please." Maybe they just want to live here, work, raise their children (citizens, born and bred) and die like the rest of us.

Traditional Americans. Kiss my ass.

If Norman Rockwell were around today, he'd be hanging around my neighborhood, recording the goings on at the lavenderia.

Since it's Breast Implant Awareness Month...

I propose organizing a fund-raising effort to help former Miss California USA Carrie Prejean to help pay for her breast implants. The total damage is only $5200, which is a steal for such beautiful breasts, and while I have spent absolutely no time fondling them, I think they're worth every penny.

So whatdya say? Got an extra twenty bucks to help out a beauty queen? I got fiddy on it.

The best part of this story:

Prejean's lawyers have classified the lawsuit as "part of an 'ongoing smear campaign' against her."

Cuz nothing says "ongoing smear campaign" like paying for your own breast implants.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Fantasy Football

This week's "Man Hands" performance almost makes up for the fact that I neglected to get my "pick-em" picks in and so, in that league at least, get a big ole goose egg.

Check it out, double digits all around, even my boy Troy, back from an injury and still making plays.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Alpine Slide

My nephew's 14th birthday was last week and to celebrate, we went up to Heritage Square and rode the alpine slide.

I love the alpine slide, but the ski-lift...not so much. I'd much prefer tunnels and an elevator. A train? I mean, why do I have to dangle thirty feet off the ground, shaking in the wind?

Dig the slow lane. I let it rip the whole time and still couldn't get much speed.

Dig my nephew ripping it up on the go-kart track. Everyone else thought they were just going in circles. He thought everyone else was an obstacle to overcome. And overcome he does.

Dig the blood-curdling scream as Scott, in the yellow car, sneaks up behind number 15 and cuts him off. The adults irresponsibly cheering him on would be me and his father.

It was pretty skillful driving for a newly minted 14 year old. (PS, he told me he got all As and Bs on his report card and that made me proud.)