Saturday, September 21, 2002

You deserve better check out The Misanthropyst.

He has some good ideas, but it'll be a cold day when they implement this one.

The bottom line

Don't miss Toren Smith's Ye Olde Quote Corner, especially this one.



I'm gonna have to learn to shut off the TV. I just saw the videotape of the event that led to the hunt for Madelyne Gorman Toogood for child abuse.

Maybe you've seen it - she's leaving a Kohl's department store and puts her 4 year old girl in the back of the vehicle, and from a camera some distance away we see some rapid movements which could be construed as a mother beating her child violently. I understand that the whole thing lasts about 55 seconds.

Nobody is in favor of child abuse. But we saw abuse of The Children™ under the previous administration, and there appears to be some here too.

How? Well, we don't know exactly what happened to the child. We do know that when the mother turned herself in (several days later) the child had no cuts or bruises. We know the child was taken away from her mother and the rest of her family, which IMO is at least as traumatic as anything that happened with bare hands in 55 seconds in the car.

I've seen worse, but I'm not a child abuse professional, so I'll withhold judgment of that. What gets under my skin is this:
Toogood's sister, 31-year-old Margaret Daley, who authorities say was with her at the store, was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor count of failure to report child abuse. Prosecutors later added a charge of assisting a criminal. Daley was released Friday after posting $2,150 bond.
Got that? Now you have to turn in your relatives on suspicion of such events, or get busted yourself. I haven't heard of anything like that even in the drug wars.

Pavlik Morozov would be proud.

September 22 is Bilbo Baggins' birthday

It's also the day he set off to Rivendell ahead of the Black Riders, leaving the ring with Frodo.

Admit it, you wanted to know.

96% of all international terrorists fail to eat a nutritious breakfast

For that and many more, look here.

Anti religious nuts part 2

This started as a reply to a comment made by Robert Spiers on this item. It exceeded the 2500 word YACCS limit, so here it goes.

Religion is based on faith, meaning it is based on mystical visions visible and knowable only to the one who has the visions.

You make it sound like one's religion is determined by what he smokes or what kind of mushrooms he eats.

If religious people have had such visions, so what?

Communism and Fascism are, like religions, based on fictions called "the people" or "die Volk".

You have yet to demonstrate that religions are based on fictions.

Objectivism is based on perception and reason

Look, I like Ayn Rand - anybody who writes books with titles like "The Virtue of Selfishness" can't be all bad, and "Atlas Shrugged" influenced me more than any other book I've read.

But you're leaving something out. Objectivism is based on faith in perception and reason.

It doesn't take much perception to see that you can't perceive everything. And it doesn't take much reasoning to show that reason is ultimately based on some assumptions that cannot be proven within reason's framework.

It is not faith that says free markets work. That statement is based on perception and reason.

And faith. You have to believe that human nature and economic circumstances are such that it works. Fortunately I know of no exceptions.

It is not faith that says religion and other collective delusions kill. That statement is based on history.

You haven't demonstrated that religion is a "collective delusion". This must be an article of faith.

Meanwhile, what was the faith of the Mongols? The Huns? The Cold War Russians? The Red Chinese? The Nazis? Pol Pot?

And who attacked first in the Crusades?

Religion is a problem only when it is harnessed by the state, such as in the Spanish Inquisition. Ferdinand and Isabella, the two who had just united Aragon and Castile to make modern Spain and bankrolled Columbus, wanted money. They resorted to the age-old expedient of screwing Jews out of their property. Ha! - some of the Jews converted to Catholicism. But F and I still wanted their property, so they sent for Grand Inquisitors from the Vatican to pronounce them heretics. Then the state could kill them under their heresy laws and take their property anyway.

It's the state power that's the problem. Keep churches separated from the state and then it's clear what is to blame. That's the whole problem with Islam - state leaders can't be trusted with that kind of power over people's lives.

And it is only faith that says that "God" or "the people" exist at all.

I'm with you on the God part - I haven't had one of those visions you're talking about, and furthermore nothing that I know of in the Bible promises me one. I can't speak for other religions.

This reminds me of a story I heard once. State cops came by a house to warn the resident that a flood was rising and he had to leave, but the resident said "no, the Lord will provide". Later some officials came by in a rowboat to rescue him, but he said "no, the Lord will provide". The waters kept rising, forcing the man to get on the roof of his house. A helicopter came by to rescue him and he said "no, the Lord will provide". Then he was washed away and drowned.

Outraged, he confronted St. Peter, who told him "We sent the cops, a rowboat and a helicopter - what more did you want?" If you're expecting your own personal burning bush, maybe you're just too much trouble.

Several of Kurt Vonnegut's books include improbable religions, such as the Church of Jesus Christ the Kidnapped (followers were always snapping their heads around looking for him) and the Church of God the Utterly Indifferent (I'm working from memory, so cut me some slack). Anyway, the latter group said that there was a God, but it was preposterous to think that He would care about what happened to something so trivial as a human being. Hmm.

The fictions of Heaven and angels, just to name a couple of examples, are so transparent that one can only accept them as a guide to action if one closes one's eyes, falls one's knees and inhales incense. Which is exactly why religions encourage such behavior.

But the arrogance of such a statement is here for all to see. Sheesh. I'm no expert, but I don't recall any of that stuff in Sunday school (although they might have given us some Kool-Aid). And that's the last time I was a regular churchgoer.

Until we can see a God or until our reason otherwise tells us he must exist, he does not. And that statement is NOT based on faith.

Yes it is. You are implicitly claiming that everything that exists can be perceived or deduced. We must be creating the universe as we go then, because germs have thus existed for only the last couple of centuries, and quarks for less time yet.

If I told you that germs didn't exist because I can't see them, you'd rightly think of me as deranged. Has it occurred to you that perhaps the reason why you can't perceive any deities that might exist lies not in them, but in your capacity to perceive and reason?

Old jokes

This past week some of us were talking around the water cooler and sci-fi came up. Heinlein's "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" came up, especially Mike the computer.

Mike was pretty smart, but he had a hard time with jokes. This was a problem because Mike was a joker. Humans had to explain to him that some jokes were funny once, and others could be funny repeatedly. And to this day I haven't heard of any computers that were successful in generating non-formulaic funny material on demand. So work on your jokes folks - comedians may be the last people on the planet that aren't displaced by computers and robots.

Humor certainly doesn't age well. Shakespeare has some great lines, but you have to read a dozen footnotes or be familiar with ancient cultures to appreciate them. Likewise for Chaucer, Boccaccio and innumerable others. I really don't want to work that hard.

Even old joke books can be mystifying. The oldest one I've heard of is Joe Miller's Jests, published in 1739. Here's one killer from the collection:
A Westminster Justice taking Coach in the City, and being set down at Young Man's Coffee-house, Charing-Cross, the Driver demanded Eighteen-Pence as his Fare; the Justice asked him, if he would swear that the Ground came to the Money; the Man said, he would take his Oath on't. The Justice replyed, Friend, I am a Magistrate, and pulling a Book out of his Pocket, administer'd the Oath, and then gave the Fellow Six-pence, saying, he must reserve the Shilling to himself for the Affidavit.
Alright, are you composed yet?

There were idiotarians around before they were so named, and their recent "chickenhawk" slur isn't anything terribly original. It reminds me of a joke popular with Democrats around 1988 when Bush 41 and Dan Quayle were running against a nonentity named Dukakis (who desperately needed to get out of Massachusetts before the impact of his policies set in) and future Clintonoid Lloyd Bentsen. When Dem sympathizers weren't accusing Bush of strafing lifeboats in the Pacific Ocean, they were giving Dan Quayle lip about being in the National Guard during the Vietnam War. (This was before it became convenient for them to act outraged whenever anyone questioned Bill Clinton's dishonest behavior regarding military service). Anyway, the joke was "What do you get when you cross a hawk with a chicken?". "A Quayle".

(You remember Dan Quayle, don't you? He was accused of being stupid by people who later supported Al Gore, who couldn't cut it in divinity school during the Vietnam War. And he didn't have a brother with a history of substance abuse and drowned women, so he was 'no Jack Kennedy').

I don't hear so much from them nowadays, but for a long time there has been a charity called the United Negro College Fund. Anyway, back around the early 80s accidents affected black entertainers Michael Jackson and Peoria, Illinois native Richard Pryor. Jackson's hair caught on fire while filming a Pepsi commercial, and Pryor was badly burned while free-basing some cocaine. About then I heard a joke that the two of them were starting a charity - the "Ignited Negro College Fund".

That's all I can think of for right now. Well, I edited out two that concerned a mass murderer - I have some taste.

When the cheering stops

Bob Hayes died this past week. He's still the only athlete who had an Olympic gold medal and a Super Bowl ring. What a shame he couldn't keep his hands off booze and drugs. Link via Oceanguy.

Anyway, the Hayes thing made me think of several others who were heroes for a while, but ended up in obscurity or worse.

It would have been easy to miss the tragic death of Rod Milburn in 1997. He won a gold medal in the 110m hurdles in the 1972 Olympics.

We'll never really know how good Sammy Drummer could have been with the right guidance. He was a hoops legend in Muncie, IN, a basketball-crazy town in a basketball-crazy state. He went on to play for Austin Peay and Georgia Tech, but somehow he never made the pros. Before he was done he was sweeping the gym back in Muncie when he was killed at age 38 in a crack deal gone bad.

At least Sammy got to play in college - then there's Ben Wilson of Simeon High School in Chicago:
As a junior he led Chicago's Simeon High School to the Illinois State Championship. In the summer of '84, he was selected as the top player at the ABCD Camp in Princeton, NJ., (back when it was known as "Nike/ABCD," before Sonny Vacarro took the camp over to adidas). Wilson finished the summer as the highest rated player, and entered his senior year regarded by most as the top high school senior in the country. Just a few days before the first game of his senior year, Ben Wilson was shot, less than a block from his high school campus. He died in a Chicago hospital less than a day later.
Wilson had committed to the University of Illinois, and so far Nick Anderson and three other Illini players from Simeon have worn #25 in his honor.

I can't stop it here, that's too depressing. One more.

Bob Love played pro basketball with the Bulls, and was their alltime high scorer until eclipsed by a guy named Jordan. Love had always had a stutter, and after an injury ended his basketball career he went downhill to the point of being a busboy. Then a manager took interest in him, got help for his speech problems, and at last notice he was back with the Bulls as Directory of Community Relations.

Charles Austin channels Betsy Ross

...right here.

Friday, September 20, 2002

Anti religious nuts

I used to give religious people a hard time, generally good-naturedly. One woman in particular described the results as "vain babblings". I can't say I was charmed at the time, but she was right.

Claudia Winkler has written an excellent Weekly Standard article here. It appears that Stephen Pinker and Simon Schama have the same problem I grew out of.

You'd think that by the time someone had achieved Pinker's stature you'd be able to draw meaningful distinctions. But he apparently thinks that because some nuts from a particularly poisonous variety of Islam carry out some outrageous atrocities, so all of religion must go.

Inevitably these people talk about reason, as if this were somehow incompatible with religion. It would help if they could do a better job of reasoning themselves. Then they'd realize that reason cannot justify itself, without the use of circular reasoning.

Therefore everything always starts from some core beliefs which must be accepted on faith. Which leaves the most militant evolution uber alles ranter standing on a platform no more solid than that of the religious people he ridicules.

Personally, I'm an agnostic. I find the atheists to be at least as clueless and asinine as they claim religious people are. As for the religious, good luck picking the right door.

But IMO most of those doors lead ultimately to the same place. I'm speaking in worldly terms - mostly it's about getting along with people. It's not asking so much to say "thou shalt not commit murder", or "thou shalt not steal", and as far as I'm aware these are fairly universal.

These ideas are awfully inconvenient for those of the religion that dares not speak its name, the secularists. They want to redistribute your property, abort your children, and euthanize your aged to make their idea of heaven on earth. And we've seen what these heavens look like repeatedly by now.

If the last Wahhabist died tomorrow I wouldn't shed a tear. But given a choice between putting up with them or those who would get rid of religion altogether, I'll take my chances with the Wahhabis.

Yak Pizza to Go

While researching the item below I stumbled upon this book. I haven't read it myself, but it sounds interesting. The author calls himself a "professional vagabond", and spends his time exploring and writing about areas like Vietnam, the Galapagos, Nepal, Madagascar and the Middle East. Here's what Amazon has to say.

African pizza

Some occupations turn out to be more multicultural than others. Working in nuclear power exposed me to people from about every corner of India, and nowadays in IT I run into people from about anywhere you can name. At the moment I have a Turk in the next cube, a Hindu across the aisle, a Jordanian a few cubes down, an Iranian a row over, and by the time you make it out of the building you've run into someone from about everybody else.

Many of them know by now that I'm fairly shameless about introducing myself if necessary, asking where they're from, and maybe even debriefing them about world news. Nobody has screamed yet, but it doesn't always go well.

Today someone had ordered a bunch of pizza for a meeting and the surplus was sitting in a common area. Several people were there, including a Tanzanian woman I know with her Chinese and Filipino-Chinese buddies. Instantly, I had to know - what do they put on pizzas in Africa?

Several people heard me ask this question, and some made noises like it was the dumbest thing they've ever heard. My quarry was amused though, and allowed as to how they didn't have much pizza over there - it was still "Italian food". Ouch - if that's not cultural deprivation, what is?

As for the ones who laughed out loud at the question, well, somebody finally Googled for 'tanzania pizza', and by Jove you find a decent list back. From here we learn that "Zanzibar pizza is the local specialty. These are small dough discs cooked quickly on brazier with onions, egg and chillis added. Totally unlike an Italian pizza, it makes a delicious and different treat. " (They also tell us that local ice cream is flavored with ginger, cloves, and lemon grass. No wonder obesity isn't much of a problem there...)

So that's not a pizza to you? Well, call Debonair's Pizza in Tanzania, and also in Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Uganda, Ivory Coast and in it's home in South Africa. (Limited delivery area.)

Go ahead - find that on Instapundit...

Thursday, September 19, 2002


Did Buzz Aldrin really punch the individual who said that men never set foot on the Moon?

We'll see if Santa Claus brings him anything this year.

Sunday, September 15, 2002

Worst movie of all time?

I'm not exactly a movie buff, but I have fun with the Internet Movie DataBase (now a part of

A sane person could use it to look for good movies, credits, showtimes, etc. But how can you appreciate what is good without seeing the bad? So I set out to find the worst movies ever, starting with the worst one I could think of.

And that would be "Oversexed Rug-Suckers from Mars". IMDB rates it at 4.6 out of 10 stars. A reviewer says
Vacuum cleaners rape women, and one falls in love with a man. They spend time together, criminals are involved and the film ends with a chase with everyone on shopping trolleys using groceries as weapons. One good scene to look out for is the sequence where the man and his vacuum lover are reunited and run into each others arms over a bridge to the tune of romeo and juliet!
That seemed like an awfully high rating for such a highly awful movie, so I kept looking. How about "The Pom Pom Girls". Actually the movie had a couple of decent moments (and several indecent ones), but how good can a movie be when the leading man is Robert Carradine (who had yet to develop the acting chops we would see in "Revenge of the Nerds")?

IMDB provides links for writers, cast and crew, so I thought maybe these would lead me to worse. Here's Rainbeaux Smith - what else has she been in? "The Swinging Cheerleaders" - that sounds promising. Yes, a 3.2! One reviewer summarizes it with "Hey! We screwed the wrong team".

Then I remembered a movie I had seen at a drive-in around 1979 or so, called "Cemetery Girls". Believe it or not, IMDB lists three distinct movies that have had that title. Yes, here's one from 1979, aka "Vampire Hookers", "Cementary Girls", "Ladies of the Night", "Night of the Bloodsuckers", "Sensuous Vampires", "Twice Bitten". It got a rating of 1.8. Maybe that's why they had to keep changing the name.

Alright, that's low enough - even Joe Bob Briggs didn't rate the last three. But I'm open for suggestions if you think you can top that one.


If you should catch me at the movies, I'll be the last one to leave. I'm not interested in fighting the crowd, and I read the credits. All of them.

I don't know what most of those people do, but at least I know there are things like a key grip, best boy, etc. This is surely some of the most worthless stuff I know, but I can't help myself - I paid for it, doggone it. And sometimes you'll actually find some good jokes there.

What about TV commercials? No, we don't need to see the credits. But once in a while I get curious about who did what, and I'm not sure where to look. And we can't have that.

Right now there are two commercials in particular I'm curious about. This one is probably easy - who is the guy in the trench coat in the Sprint PCS commercials? (and after years of typecasting like this, will he ever get another job?)

The other one is more obscure. She was the checkout girl in an ad for some gum where they sent us to the "toothpaste aisle", with the short strawberry blonde hair and glasses. And she was a bank teller in an SUV ad, wanting the driver to take her with him.

Sometimes it's the song that bugs me. A few years ago Mitsubishi had a car ad with a song that stuck with me - eventually I found out it was "Ready to Go" by Republica.

Maybe I haven't tried hard enough, but it seems like there would be a systematic way to find out stuff like this. It would seem like marketers and ad agencies would have a way to collect feedback on this - certainly it means that they have caught someone's attention. Maybe they're still blushing at the uh, setback of the Cue Cat.

There goes another - now it's the theme for the trailer for "Monsters, Inc." It's a big-band song - I think it's called "Sing Sing Sing". Arggh!

All original content copyright © 2002 J. Bowen