Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Gambling at Gettysburg

If you are an American, shouldn't this make you physically ill?

Gettysburg was the site of one of the largest battles fought on American soil, but today it is playing host to a different type of fight: Whether slot machines should come to town. A proposal that would bring gambling a little more than a mile away from the Pennsylvania battlefield propelled it to the top of a preservation group’s list of the 10 most endangered Civil War battlefields released Tuesday.

Proposed development was one threat cited by the Civil War Preservation Trust in the naming of the 10 sites located in Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Georgia, Virginia, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Washington, D.C.

“Hallowed ground, where more than 600,000 Americans gave their lives, is being paved over in favor of shopping malls, housing tracts and even gambling casinos,” the trust’s president, James Lighthizer, said Tuesday during a news conference. (MSNBC)
I could blog about this more, but my mother taught me not to blog when I'm angry... or something like that.

SOMETIME LATER: Okay, I'm feeling more in control now. On to the blog....

I have been to the Gettysburg battlefield twice, once as a child and once as an adult (albeit a college-age one). I have been to several other battle sites and places of historical importance, but I didn't necessarily feel an emotional response while visiting them. While I can not say that what I felt at Gettysburg was a "spiritual" feeling, I can say that it was a feeling of being somewhere of vast importance. As I surveyed the landscape and looked at the monuments, I knew that I was at a place of historical significance. I experienced not just the knowledge that what happened there was important, but I also experienced an emotional response of awe and humility.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that Gettysburg is somehow a spiritual place because tens of thousands perished there. I'm only saying that the battlefield has an energetic feel to it. (Although there is certainly a spooky kind of feel to Devil's Den - if you've been there, you know what I mean)

Carnivals have their place, but I believe that there are places in this world that do not deserve to have a carnival atmosphere. To have a casino connected with Gettysburg is to cheapen what occurred there and to belittle the lives of the men who fought there. Lincoln would be ashamed.

Don Knotts, 1924-2006

During my childhood, my parents often told me that there were certain shows that I was not allowed to see. I expressly remember coming home from one outing and immediately turning on the telly to catch the latest enthralling episode of "Wonder Woman." I was just starting to get into the show when my mother loomed over me (I was sitting on the floor) and said in a loud and booming voice, "You are forbidden - FORBIDDEN - from watching 'Wonder Woman' ever again!" Years later when I reminded her of this incident, she claimed not to recall it happening. I can assure that it did.

However, a little thing like my parent's commands didn't always stop me. What can I say, I generally obeyed the Ten Commandments but I wasn't a perfect boy. The temptation to watch the television located in the basement was too great. My parents generally wouldn't hear the basement TV from the living room, so I was able to be sneaky from time to time.

Another forbidden show was "Three's Company." Since the program was generally filled with sexual innuendos and double entendres and a man lived with two women, it wasn't thought of too highly in our house. However, I watched it in the basement from time to time. By far, the best character on the show was Ralph Furley, the lascivious but loveable landlord to Jack, Janet, Chrissy and Cindy. He replaced the Ropers, the original landlords of the show. Furley's facial reactions to situations were classic, thanks to the rubbery face and talent of Don Knotts.

I'm sure Mr. Furley's leisure suits will come back in fashion some day. Anyway, thanks, Mr. Knotts, for giving us such memorable characters in Mr. Furley, Barney Fife, and Mr. Limpet.

psychotherapy & the past

New research has shown that therapists do not need to dive into their client's past in order to help them in the present.
For most of the 20th century, therapists in America agreed on a single truth. To cure patients, it was necessary to explore and talk through the origins of their problems. In other words, they had to come to terms with the past to move forward in the present.

Thousands of hours and countless dollars were spent in this pursuit. Therapists listened diligently as their patients recounted elaborate narratives of family dysfunction — the alcoholic father, the mother too absorbed in her own unhappiness to attend to her children's needs — certain that this process would ultimately produce relief.

But returning to the past has fallen out of fashion among mental health professionals over the last 15 years. Research has convinced many therapists that understanding the past is not required for healing. (NY Times)

Of course, the biggest factor here is what insurance companies are willing to pay for:
Insurance companies likewise often prefer consumers to select cognitive behavioral therapists, rather than psychodynamically oriented practitioners. In the companies' view, scientific studies have shown that cognitive therapy can produce results in less than half the time of traditional therapies.
Exactly. For the past 10-15 years, insurance companies have increasingly dictated the types of treatment to be offered, as well as the length of time a person can meet with a counselor. Brief therapy (the new phrase seems to be possibility therapy) has grown out of that. Insurance companies would much rather pay for fewer sessions than more, so naturally they are going to look at research on cognitive-behavioral therapies, which are much more short-term than psychodynamic therapies.

Spidey in black?!?

It's true. Look.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Mark D. Roberts on the ONE Campaign

Mark D. Roberts has completed his series of thoughts on the ONE Campaign - the series actually began as a reaction to watching the National Prayer Breakfast and noting U2 frontman Bono's involvement. The ONE Campaign is a noble effort, but since it is human-led and human-driven, it naturally has its flaws.

Good stuff. Read the series when you have the time.

Winter Olympics XX

The games in Torino are now history - on to Vancouver! For some wrap-ups, visit the BBC News site and WaPo. The United States completed the games with 25 medals: nine gold, nine silver, and seven bronze. Germany was the most decorated country with 29 medals. The host country of Italy had eleven medals, five gold and six bronze.

Many of the medal-winning U.S. Olympians have their own websites:
The U.S. had nine less medals than it did four years ago at the Salt Lake City (2002) games, but had twelve more medals than it did eight years ago at the Nagano (1998) games and twelve years ago at the Lillehammer (1994) games.

UPDATE: Tomato - congrats on making the cover of Rolling Stone (does anyone really read it anymore?), but you should have left your shirt on.

How to write good

Alex and Bret give tips on how to have good writing in the blogosphere. I should pay special attention to #24.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Hillary Rodham Clinton: anti-choice

From many of the Democrats (but by no means all), we hear a lot of talk about the importance of having choices. The ability to choose is heralded as the great concept of America, as something that the Founding Fathers - and Mothers - held dearly. Breaking off from a perceived oppressive regime and choosing a new form of government is what so many people died for over 200 years ago. Being able to choose is the right of every American child.

To the advocates of abortion, choice is what matters. They argue that a woman must have the ability to choose whether or not she wants to keep the child growing inside her - I mean, the fetus infesting her womb. Every child a wanted child is the mantra. If the government says that a woman is unable to choose, she is not a truly free woman.

Senator Hillary Clinton is for choice, but apparently only when it comes to abortion. If choice is in the form of school vouchers, she is firmly against it. See: she's concerned that if a parent has the ability to choose where her child goes (as opposed to sending the child to an underfunded, poorly staffed government-operated school), that parent might just choose a school run by white supremacists or maybe some Islamic fundamentalists.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton slammed private-school voucher proposals yesterday, predicting that vouchers would eventually lead to the creation of taxpayer-financed white supremacist academies - or even a government-funded "School of the Jihad." Clinton, a longtime voucher foe who earned the backing of the city teachers union in 2000, says government financing of sectarian groups would incite ethnic and religious conflict - and encourage fringe groups to demand government cash to run their schools. (Newsday)

Aren't you glad to know Hillary is looking out for your children? Because, goodness knows, you aren't equipped to.

(H/T: Malkin)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

donaldmarthafeud.blogspot.com ?

I have received so many hits because of this post on the Donald Trump/Martha Stewart feud that I should probably consider changing my blog and writing about them all the time. Good Brownie appears as the #1 site for "Martha and Donald fued", "donald trump - martha stewart fued", "trump martha fued", "trump stewart fued letter", and "martha donald fued" - all on MSN search.

I have my doubts that this is a genuine feud. Trump is a master at marketing, and a fifth version of "The Apprentice" is about to start. What better way to build interest than to make headlines by writing a scathing letter to Stewart about the problems of "The Apprentice: Martha Stewart." He's got everyone talking about it, and Newsweek is continuing the story, and this can build nicely right into the new show.

UPDATED: I figured out that this is happening because I can't spell the word 'feud.' I misspelled the word back in this post. When other people misspell the word and combine it with "Trump" and "Stewart" in some fashion, they are directed here. So, I'm getting more traffic because I can't spell a simple word, I don't use the Check Spelling button that Blogger offers, and other people misspell as well. So perhaps my new blog will cater to people who spell 'fued' instead of 'feud.'

I highly doubt this quiz is accurate...

I am a d8

Take the quiz at dicepool.com

Hey, Olympic sports fans!

Want to know how you can be petty and whiny, yet still win Olympic medals? Ask Shani and Chad.

Shani: "He didn't shake my hand when I won gold - he waited until I lost and got silver!"

Chad: "He didn't skate on the relay team and kept me from probably winning gold!"

*quotes paraphrased, naturally*

In other news: Go, Sasha & Kimmie & Emily!

Want to drink hallucinogenic tea in church?

The Supreme Court says it's okay!
The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Tuesday that a small congregation in New Mexico may use hallucinogenic tea as part of a four-hour ritual intended to connect with God.

Justices, in their first religious freedom decision under Chief Justice John Roberts, moved decisively to keep the government out of a church's religious practice. Federal drug agents should have been barred from confiscating the hoasca tea of the Brazil-based church, Roberts wrote in the decision.

The tea, which contains an illegal drug known as DMT, is considered sacred to members of O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao do Vegetal, which has a blend of Christian beliefs and South American traditions. Members believe they can understand God only by drinking the tea, which is consumed twice a month at four-hour ceremonies.
If your teenager gets caught with pot and says that he was only smoking it so he could "understand God better," now you'll know why.

(Not so) Misc. info: SCOTUS has five Catholics (Roberts, Kennedy, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito), two Jews (Breyer, Ginsburg), one Episcopalian (Souter), and one "Protestant" (Stevens).

"More and more I believe that the CCM world is absolutely based on a lie."

Andy Whitman discusses his view on contemporary Christian music (CCM). The first paragraph:
The CCM industry, like every other industry, exists to make money. We can put a noble face on it and talk about the Christian witness provided in the music, but historically those Christian musicians whose witness hasn't led to increased album sales don't get the chance to keep on witnessing via recorded music. The bottom line is and always has been this: witness all you like, and be as artistic as you like, as long as you make money.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Welcome, Centuri0n readers

Wow - a post from Frank Turk mentioning little ol' me and I get an increase in traffic. Whoever has wandered here from Cent's site, I do appreciate you taking the time to stop by.

Cent mentions Blogdom of God - go here and you'll see that currently he is #201 and I'm #202. I'm not just creeping up on him, I'm tapping him on the shoulder. He talks about the folks at RELEVANT being head of him (us), but I thought Cent would be more upset about the iMonk being #59. Ah, well...

SOMEWHAT RELATED: I'm a Large Mammal in the ecosystem. We'll see how long it lasts... give it a week and I'll go down to Slimy Mollusc again.

Girding my loins for "Blue Like Jazz"

I have recently ordered Donald Miller's "Blue Like Jazz," a book that I have flipped through while perusing bookstores both large (Barnes & Noble) and small (LifeWay) but have not actually read. I've wanted to read the book because two of my relatives seem to hold it in high regard, but I have seen some reviews that paint it as a book filled with experiential anecdotes and poor theology (see here and here - a positive review is here). I am also intrigued because Miller will be speaking at my alma mater, Cedarville University, next month - even though I graduated nearly thirteen years ago (that is not possible!), I am still interested in what occurs there.

These are some questions that I hope will be addressed by reading it:

  1. Will I get a sense of Miller's theology? How does he view God - as Lord and Master, as a nice guy who wants us all to be happy and spread cheer, or what?
  2. In what regard does Miller hold the Bible - as the inerrant Word of God (profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness), or as something less?
  3. How much value does Miller place on the 'experience' of the Christian life as opposed to the 'doctrines' of the faith?
  4. Does Miller discuss how Christians ought to be? If so, what ought they be and how does it relate to what they ought to be doing?
  5. What phrases or words will Miller employ so that he can appear 'hip' or 'cool'?
  6. If Miller is going to discuss Christian spirituality, will he give a definition or just assume I know what he means?
  7. Is this a book that is necessary, or just filler on the bookshelves? What I mean is, will I get an idea as to why Miller wrote it?

Miller has his own site.

Blogging in China

If the Chinese government doesn't like your blog site, it might just be erased.
When Zhao Jing moved his blog to Microsoft's popular MSN Spaces site last summer, some users worried the Chinese government would block the entire service. The censors had blacklisted the last site where the young journalist had posted his spirited political essays, and he seemed unwilling to tone down his writing at the new address.

But Zhao, better known by the pen name Anti, told fellow bloggers not to worry. If the government objected to his blog, he predicted, Microsoft would "sell me out" and delete it rather than risk being blocked from computer screens across China.

He was right. Four and a half months after he began posting essays challenging the Communist Party's taboo against discussing politics, Zhao published an item protesting the purge of a popular newspaper's top editors. Officials called Microsoft to complain, and Microsoft quickly erased his blog. (WaPo)

However, the Chinese goverment can't control everything:
With as many as 16 million people in China writing blogs, the Internet has provided a platform for citizens to express their views, shattering the Communist Party's monopoly on the media. The state still controls newspaper, magazine and book publishing, but the proliferation of sites that let users publish and even broadcast audio and video online have undermined the party's ability to restrict who can address the public and attract an audience.

Many have used the Internet to produce essays, books and even underground films that question the party's authority. But surveys show most Internet users are members of the urban elite who are benefiting from China's booming economy and have avoided writing about politics. As a result, people using the Internet to pursue change often encounter resistance, both from those hostile to their views and from others who sympathize but worry that pushing too hard could imperil the freedoms already gained on the Web. The article describes how Zhao grew his blog and gained readership.

The article goes on to describe how Zhao grew his blog, gained readership, ran afoul of the government, and stirred up a controversy with other Chinese bloggers. Zhao also accused Microsoft of being part of the problem. Read the whole article.

Shame on you, Bill Gates!
How Beijing censors the blogosphere

not one Olympic star, but a plethora

I enjoy reading Mike Celzic's MSNBC.com commentaries on the Olympics, especially this one on the lack of American "star" athletes in Torino.

But, Mike, do we only need one star athlete? So far we have seven gold medalists, five silver medalists and three bronze medalists. Many of them have interesting stories and backgrounds, including Shani Davis who became the first black person to win gold. Speed skater Joey Cheek, probably the Olympian I admire most right now because of his generosity, has won gold and silver. We have a medal in ice dancing for the first time in many years, thanks in part to so many pairs from other countries deciding to try and win by falling down. The guy with the coolest nickname, Flying Tomato, won gold in the men's halfpipe. Why can't we celebrate all our Olympians?

Monday, February 20, 2006

Healthy chocolate??

Yes, chocoholics, there is cause for much rejoicing - chocolate marketed as a health food.
Mars Inc., maker of Milky Way, Snickers and M&M’s candies, next month plans to launch nationwide a new line of products made with a dark chocolate the company claims has health benefits.

Called CocoaVia, the products are made with a kind of dark chocolate high in flavanols, an antioxidant found in cocoa beans that is thought to have a blood-thinning effect similar to aspirin and may even lower blood pressure. The snacks also are enriched with vitamins and injected with cholesterol-lowering plant sterols from soy.

Not so fast:
“To suggest that chocolate is a health food is risky,” said Bonnie Liebman, nutrition director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Recent research has not established a link between flavanols and a reduced risk of cancer or heart disease, she said. And with obesity already a serious health problem, “the last thing we need is for Americans to think they can eat more chocolate.”

"I wish she would be able to take responsibility for her failure."

That's Donald Trump referring to Martha Stewart's version of "The Apprentice." The Donald believes Stewart's version "didn't have the right tone or the right demeanor." He's right, of course - it seemed that Martha was trying to be nice and not too hard on the contestants that she 'fired,' whereas Trump had no qualms telling people how poorly they performed. However, has Donald admitted publicly that his recent casino fiascos were failures? I don't remember that videotape.

I was an avid watcher of the first season, the one with Bill Rancic as the winner and Omarosa as the ultimate reality TV villainess. I watched a few episodes of the second season, and none of the third or fourth. And now I see ads for a fifth? Come on, Donald - time to take a break. Go spend time with that new wife - she's about to have your baby, isn't she?

Renovating Martha - from Newsweek

The Donald writes a classy letter to Martha:
Trump's response: "It's about time you started taking responsibility for your failed version of "The Apprentice"," he wrote in a Feb. 21 missive to Stewart that he shared with NEWSWEEK. "Your performance was terrible in that the show lacked mood, temperament and just about everything else a show needs for success. I knew it would fail as soon as I first saw it—and your low ratings bore me out."

Trump went on to attack Stewart's sidekick on the show, her daughter Alexis, as well as Stewart's practice of writing thank-you notes to contestants she'd just fired. "Between your daughter, with her-one word statements, your letter writing and, most importantly, your totally unconvincing demeanor, it never had a chance—much as your daytime show is not exactly setting records."

'Ambulance brings faster stroke care'

You may not be doing a stroke victim a favor by driving the patient to the hospital. People who arrive by ambulance are far more likely to get fast care once they get to the emergency room, new research shows.

Dr. Yousef Mohammad at Ohio State University studied records on more than 630,000 stroke patients and found that those who came by ambulance saw a doctor sooner and were more likely to be admitted than those who arrived by car, by foot or by public transportation. A second study of nearly 500 stroke patients by researchers in Portland, Ore., found that ambulance patients were more likely to promptly receive crucial tests.

When lights and sirens are blaring, "the floodgates open up and everyone pays attention," as opposed to a woman quietly pushing her husband in a wheelchair, said Dr. Joseph Broderick, a stroke expert from the University of Cincinnati, who had no role in the research. (Indy Star)

Take it from me, I work in a hospital. If you come via ambulance, you are placed directly into a room and the nurses can begin attending to you. If you drive yourself or have someone bring you, you're more likely to sit a bit in the waiting area before you're taken to a room.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

"Don't waste your cancer"

Pastor and author John Piper recently had surgery for prostate cancer, and wrote an article on not "wasting" cancer on the eve of his surgery. A taste:
It will not do to say that God only uses our cancer but does not design it. What God permits, he permits for a reason. And that reason is his design. If God foresees molecular developments becoming cancer, he can stop it or not. If he does not, he has a purpose. Since he is infinitely wise, it is right to call this purpose a design. Satan is real and causes many pleasures and pains. But he is not ultimate. So when he strikes Job with boils (Job 2:7), Job attributes it ultimately to God (2:10) and the inspired writer agrees: “They . . . comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him” (Job 42:11). If you don’t believe your cancer is designed for you by God, you will waste it.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Rhett Smith has written some posts in response to Piper, calling Piper "unreal" in the first and naming him as someone who might "simply throw Bible verses at someone" in the second. Big-time blogger Hugh Hewitt thought enough of Smith to link to them. If you visit, though, be warned: Smith doesn't seem to find much comfort in the idea that God might be present with someone and using their illness for a greater good.

Intriguing news about Alzheimer's disease

Several of my family members have succombed to Alzheimer's, so I am very interested in current research. Two articles, both from the BBC News site, have caught my eye.

Alzheimer's 'faster in educated'
Alzheimer's disease progresses more rapidly in highly educated people, research suggests. It is thought high levels of education may ward off Alzheimer's by helping the brain better tolerate damaging changes. But the latest study, involving 312 Alzheimer's patients, suggests once accumulated damage reaches a critical level, decline is relatively swift.

Exercise 'cuts Alzheimer's risk'
Regular exercise reduces the risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease by up to 40%, US research suggests. The University of Washington study claims to be the most definitive investigation into the effect of exercise on dementia.

Beware the toads!

It sounds like something from a ridiculous sci-fi movie from the 50's, but I guess it's all-too-real.
Toxic cane toads are evolving into an 'eco-nightmare' that are able to cover huge distances, a study says. Scientists, writing in the journal Nature, found the toads are getting leggier, moving faster and further than their shorter-legged counterparts.
Since their arrival in Queensland in 1935, they have been sweeping through Australia leaving a trail of dead creatures in their wake.
The scientists say the toads are causing an "ecological nightmare", killing many native creatures including snakes, monitor lizards and mammal predators, which are poisoned after eating their toxic skin. (BBC)

If I was on "Star Trek"

Your results:
You are Deanna Troi

Deanna Troi
Will Riker
Jean-Luc Picard
Beverly Crusher
Geordi LaForge
An Expendable Character (Redshirt)
Leonard McCoy (Bones)
Mr. Sulu
James T. Kirk (Captain)
Mr. Scott
You are a caring and loving individual.
You understand people's emotions and
you are able to comfort and counsel them.

Click here to take the Star Trek Personality Quiz

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Some quickie observations on the shooting Veep, Torino/Turin, and other things

Let's see...

1. Cheney won't resign just because he shot someone. Maybe if the guy expires...

2. I need to be hitting the gym more often, especially since I'm about to enter the second half of my 30's.

3. Even if Bode doesn't win any medals, he's still a better skier than most anyone out there. Except perhaps Ted Ligety.

4. The regular commentors at Kos will probably never stop thinking that their arguments become stronger if they use more curse words. Of course, many of them think that a single curse word is an argument.

5. I don't care if he won Best in Show - he's ugly.

6. Sure, what happens in Vegas stays there, but go to Chicago to feel magnificent.

7. A child screaming all morning does not make one a happy parent.

8. Whatever you do, be wary of this man and this "movement"

9. Uh, Begala? Milbank beat you to it.

10. We don't need this - one was too much, thank you.

11. He's weird, yes, but Johnny was good and he's in second place. Not bad, not bad...

12. Go, Kelly! Go, Kelly!

13. Out: politics of dancing // In: politics of baking

14. Out: gay cowboys // In: gay Muslims

15. The shroud of Turin isn't real but the shred of Turin is!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

A giving gold medalist

You watch the Olympics. You see the athletes excel in their sport. You hear them talk about how it was their lifelong dream, even though they may be only 17 years old, to win Olympic gold. You become very cynical. You think, how profoundly selfish of them - they only care about the supposed glory of it all.

And then you hear about a gold-winning athlete doing something like this.
Joey Cheek was 14 years old and sitting on his living room floor, his eyes glued to the TV broadcast of the 1994 Winter Olympics, when his life's mission became clear. Norway's famed speedskater Johann Olav Koss was shattering one world record after another en route to winning three gold medals at the Lillehammer Games, and Cheek, a top junior in-line skater at the time, turned to his mother and said, " That's what I want to do next."

Monday at the Turin Olympics, Cheek fulfilled his dream of following in Koss's vaunted steps in more ways than one. The North Carolina native blistered the slow, sticky ice at the Lingotto Oval to win gold in the 500-meter speedskating event. Then, he held reporters' questions at bay at the start of his post-race news conference to announce that he was taking another cue from his idol and donating the $25,000 he would receive from the U.S. Olympic Committee for having won gold to the charitable organization Koss now oversees, Right to Play, which uses sports and games as a tool for helping children in the most needy corners of the world.

Cheek said his donation would be earmarked specifically for children of the Darfur region in Sudan, where roughly 60,000 youngsters have been displaced, and he called on corporate sponsors of the Olympic Games to match his contribution.

"For me, the Olympics has been the greatest blessing," said Cheek, 26, who also won bronze in the 1,000 at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. "If I retired yesterday, I'd have gotten everything in the world from speedskating and from competing in the Olympics. So for me, to walk away today with the gold medal is just amazing. And the best way I can say thanks that I can think of is to try and help somebody else." (WaPo)

Well done, Joey.

The Wife on blogging

The Wife and I went to see Harrison Ford's new flick "Firewall" the other day. (Wait for the DVD - it's great to see Harrison in film, but the movie is so been there, done that - he needs to be in a serious drama, and I don't mean one like this). We were watching the previews, and a screen snapshot came on which read that Coca-Cola has a blogsite.

The Wife turned to me and asked, "Who in the world would have a blog and presume to think that other people would be interested in what they have to say?"

I told her, "I have a blog."

The Wife glared at me. I imagine she would have given me the same look if I had said to her, "You know, sometimes I like to go out to the backyard, pick up worms from the flower garden, and saute them with some nice chardonnay."

I continued. "I thought I told you once that I had one. [Several family members] all have one. I have a few readers."

The Wife replied, "No, you didn't tell me, and that doesn't change my opinion of them."


Chuck Colson on music in the church

When church music directors lead the congregation in singing some praise music, I often listen stoically with teeth clenched. But one Sunday morning, I cracked. We had been led through endless repetitions of a meaningless ditty called, “Draw Me Close to You.” The song has zero theological content and could be sung in a nightclub, for that matter. When I thought it was finally and mercifully over, the music leader beamed at us and said in a cheerful voice, “Let’s sing that again, shall we?” “No!” I shouted loudly. Heads all around me spun while my wife cringed.

I admit I prefer more traditional hymns. But even given that, I am convinced that much of the music being written for the Church today reflects an unfortunate trend—slipping across the line from worship to entertainment. Evangelicals are in danger of amusing ourselves to death, to borrow the title of the classic Neil Postman book. (from pfm.org)

Go here for the lyrics to Kelly Carpenter's "Draw Me Close to You." Colson is right about them - the words are vapid and empty, and may as well be addressed to your girlfriend/boyfriend.

Go here to read about recording artist Steve Camp's call for reformation for contemporary Christian music.

Unfortunately, Colson doesn't write about what happened after he shouted "No!" in church.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Torino 2006

Okay, I'm a little late about this since the Olympics officially began a few days ago, but I always watch them. I wasn't able to see all of the opening ceremonies, but it seemed to have the usual weirdness - acrobats flying through the air, supposedly inspirational songs performed poorly, etc.

Hooray for the Flying Tomato! Make all the other fruits jealous...

Oh no, Ohno! My favorite athlete from SLC 2002, largely because of his name, failed to make the speed skating finals of the 1,500 meters. Ah well, he has three events left.

Is Bode all talk and no action? Perhaps, but I think Mike Celizic goes too far in saying Bode's a bum. He did place fifth, which is nothing to sneeze at.

I was disappointed to hear of the sad end to Michelle Kwan's Olympic dreams. I have admired her grace and beauty on the ice (The Wife makes me watch it with her), and Kwan has had an impressive career. She will now not be able to obtain that elusive prize, Olympic gold. Of course, she had her chances in Nagano and Salt Lake City, but she failed to capitalize on them. Good luck to Emily Hughes!

what do you think of the new template?

Do you like it? Do you hate? Does it look too much like the floor of your bathroom?

I think that having only half my face makes me look rather sinister. If I could figure out how to put a picture of a brownie somewhere on here, I would do so.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Don't go hunting with V.P. Cheney

He just might shoot you!

Notable Posts

- Intriguing article by Eric David on the expression of and troubles with anger in two of 2005's movie blockbusters

- Joshua Claybourn (of www.intheagora.com) stirs up a storm

- Forget cartoons featuring Mohammed; hot cross buns are just too controversial these days

- Tim Challies ponders the ultimate scream (no, not this one)

- Rich Vincent on the impossible dream

- the 100 greatest dogs in pop culture history - #1 is the correct choice

- Sony sets up a website for critics of The Da Vinci Code (the book and the movie)

Wednesday, February 8, 2006

on TV tonight

Good grief, so many choices. Lost is new tonight at 9:00 PM, and it looks to be very good with Sun possibly in trouble - wait a minute, what am I saying, every episode is good! Project Runway 2 is at 10:00 - five designers go down to four, and it seems to be a juicy episode with tension between Nick and Santino. AND - the Grammy's are on from 8:00 to 11:00.

The Wife is away to Orlando for a few days, so it will be The Sweet, The Cute, and me. I'm not going to work tonight, so I don't have to catch an evening nap. What do I watch??? I don't have Tivo, so that's not an option. Hmmm....

UPDATE: For those who care, I watched the Grammy's from 8 to 9, then Lost, then Project Runway at 10 while switching back to Grammy's.

Dems' missed opportunities

Democrats are heading into this year's elections in a position weaker than they had hoped for, party leaders say, stirring concern that they are letting pass an opportunity to exploit what they see as widespread Republican vulnerabilities.

In interviews, senior Democrats said they were optimistic about significant gains in Congressional elections this fall, calling this the best political environment they have faced since President Bush took office.

But Democrats described a growing sense that they had failed to take full advantage of the troubles that have plagued Mr. Bush and his party since the middle of last year, driving down the president's approval ratings, opening divisions among Republicans in Congress over policy and potentially putting control of the House and Senate into play in November. (NY Times)

I can't say that this article brings up any interesting issues or new information, because it doesn't. It does have one bizarre quote, though, by the Democratic nominee for president in 2004:

"We are fighting to find a voice under difficult circumstances, and I'm confident, over the next few months, you are going to see that happen," Mr. Kerry said in an interview. "Our megaphone is just not as large as their megaphone, and we have a harder time getting that message out, even when people are on the same page."

Didn't we just go through a presidential election recently? Yes, I believe it was just 15 months ago that we elected a president. Kerry had plenty of air time to vent all his frustrations with the G.O.P. in general and Bush in particular. If the Dems have a hard "time getting that message out," it is their own fault. This is Kerry at his most ridiculous. No one can hear us - we need a bigger megaphone...

Mommy, make the clown go away

Don't laugh. Coulrophobes are out there, and they no like the clowns.
Although there are no official statistics, some experts believe that as many as one in seven people experience some level of coulrophobia, as fear of clowns is clinically known. Symptoms can include shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, sweating, nausea and overall feelings of dread. In October, a plan to erect dozens of clown statues in Sarasota, Fla., a fabled circus town, was almost scrapped after an outcry from coulrophobes and clown-haters.

Coulrophobia is most commonly triggered by a traumatic experience in childhood, said Steven Luel, a psychologist in New York specializing in anxiety and phobias. Indeed, that was the case with [Beth] Wallace. At the age of 6, she met her first clown at the circus, an encounter she still remembers clearly 25 years later.

“A clown got right up in my face, and I could see his beard stubble under his makeup. He smelled bad and his eyes were weird,” she said. “I guess I never got over it.”
Bozo will get you after you go to sleep tonight if you so much as snicker at this. Seriously. You've been warned.

Killings and the mentally ill

You are no doubt aware of the tragic story of Jennifer San Marco, the former employee at a postal plant who shot and killed seven people in Goleta, California. Persons who knew her described her as having mental problems.

"She was crazy; everybody knew it," said Nita Graham, Ms. Graham's mother, who said her daughter had complained to Ms. San Marco about her loud "singing and yelling."

People who knew her in New Mexico said she seemed to be growing worse, frequently taking her clothes off, seeking to start a racist publication and angrily shouting at unseen people.

It was unclear whether Ms. San Marco was receiving any treatment, though Sheriff Anderson said she was detained for a few days in a mental facility in 2001 after an outburst at the postal plant. Sheriff Anderson said that contrary to previous reports the only encounter his deputies had with Ms. San Marco was in February 2001 when they removed her from work and took her to a mental hospital, where she was placed on an "involuntary hold" for 72 hours. (NY Times)

In light of these and other occurrences, New Mexico is considering a bill that could force treatment on mentally ill persons:

Against the vivid backdrop of recent killings by mentally ill people, both sides in the national debate over whether mentally ill people who have not committed a crime can be forced into treatment are preparing for a showdown in the Legislature here.

New Mexico lawmakers are considering a bill, backed by Gov. Bill Richardson, that would make the state the 43rd with a law allowing family members, doctors or others to seek a court order forcing the mentally ill into outpatient treatment. Typically under the laws, if mentally ill people refuse the treatment, they can face confinement in a hospital. (NY Times)
Proponents of the bill say that it would help those who resist treatment and are in danger of harming themselves or others as their symptoms worsen. Opponents say the bill would violate civil rights, and more money should be made available to those agencies that provide services to mentally ill persons.

Related journal articles and fact-sheets:

Tuesday, February 7, 2006

'I was just trying to be a loving mother'

Michael Jackson famously said that the most loving thing a person could do is to share his/her bed with another person. I can not think of a single way in which what he said could be interpreted as correct. Sharing your bed with someone can sometimes kill, especially if that person is your infant child.

Angela Poindexter thought she was being a good mother when she tucked her newborn son into bed next to her after late-night feedings. But her good intentions turned into every parent's worst nightmare: When Poindexter and her fiancé awoke on a Saturday morning last month, they found the 18-day-old baby cold and lifeless.

Now, Poindexter is heart-broken, guilt-ridden and confused -- caught up in the middle of a growing debate over safe-sleeping practices for infants like her son, Treyvon. "I was just trying to be a loving mother," the Indianapolis woman said. (Indianapolis Star)

People are torn about recommending children to sleep in the same bed with their parents:
The American Academy of Pediatrics, Indiana Perinatal Network and many other medical groups take the firm stance that babies should never sleep with parents because it is too easy for them to accidentally suffocate or be smothered.

But others -- including James J. McKenna, director of the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Lab at the University of Notre Dame, and the Le Leche League -- argue the centuries-old practice is safe when basic precautions are followed, can play an important role in bonding and breast-feeding and helps many babies and parents sleep better.
Barb Himes, SIDS and infant loss coordinator with the Indiana Perinatal Network, said the subject of where and how infants should sleep is controversial and people on both sides hold strong opinions. "There are mixed messages being sent to parents," she said.

Himes touts the American Academy of Pediatrics' "back to sleep" policy that says children should sleep in their own beds, free of pillows, toys and other loose items. She does support infants sleeping in the same room as their parents, but said all babies should sleep in a separate crib or bed and on their backs.

When both our girls were born, we laid them in a bassinette beside our bed for the first few months. They would be close at hand if they started fussing for whatever reason, but still be in their own sleeping area.

MORE: About.com gives suggestions and warnings about sharing a bed.

McCain v. Obama

Apparently, a juicy little fued is breaking about between the crusty Republican senator from Arizona and the junior Democratic senator from Illinois. Read about it here: "In a flaming letter, McCain accuses Obama of 'disingenuousness' for allegedly backing out of a commitment he made to McCain to participate in a bipartisan effort at lobbying reform."

McCain's blistering first sentence: "I would like to apologize to you for assuming that your private assurances to me regarding your desire to cooperate in our efforts to negotiate bipartisan lobbying reform legislation were sincere." The letter is posted on the senator's website.

Here is Obama's letter that so upset McCain. Obama gave a response to McCain on his site.

More from The Hotline.

Monday, February 6, 2006

Is King Kong there, too?

An astonishing mist-shrouded "lost world" of previously unknown and rare animals and plants high in the mountain rainforests of New Guinea has been uncovered by an international team of scientists.

Among the new species of birds, frogs, butterflies and palms discovered in the expedition through this pristine environment, untouched by man, was the spectacular Berlepsch's six-wired bird of paradise. The scientists are the first outsiders to see it. They could only reach the remote mountainous area by helicopter, which they described it as akin to finding a "Garden of Eden". (The Independent)

In the modern era, how many "lost worlds" are still out there? I mean, besides this island.

I'm waiting to hear about a discovered island that has these people on it.

Mohammad, his image, the cartoon wars, and you

Michelle Malkin has the 12 forbidden cartoons (if for some reason you are new to the controversy in Denmark). She also has photos of the reactions by some of the followers of a "religion of peace."

Here's a collection of images of Islam's Mohammad from bygone years - and some more recent. (H/T: Instapundit) My favorite, of course, is the Legos version - it's near the very bottom of the page.

Will the people behind the Brick Testament also bring us the Brick Koran?

UPDATE: The latest on the cartoon wars

Medicare and the mentally ill

Since the prescription program made its debut Jan. 1, some of the estimated 2 million mentally ill Americans covered because they receive both Medicare and Medicaid have gone without the drugs that keep their delusions, paranoia, anxieties or stress in check. Mental health service providers and advocacy organizations nationwide say they worry that scores are at high risk of relapse. Numerous people have been hospitalized.

"The continuation of medications is absolutely critical to keep them in community living," said Steven S. Sharfstein, chief executive of the Shepherd-Pratt Health System in Baltimore and president of the American Psychiatric Association. Last week, the association joined other mental health groups in a lengthy talk with Medicare officials about the myriad problems.

"I really don't know what the future will bring. . . . I have a very deep concern that psychiatric patients will suffer disproportionately," Sharfstein said. "If by the end of February or March, if [federal officials] haven't figured this out, we could have an epidemic on our hands." (WaPo)

This nightmare affects all of society, not just the mentally ill. I've seen numerous people admitted to the hospital because they aren't on medicines that could assist in controlling depressive/psychotic symptoms; this is not because they won't take the meds, but because they don't have the insurance and can't afford the meds. If something substantial isn't done to help Medicare, this will continue to be a nightmare for the many people who need medicine and the friends and family members that care for them.

Sunday, February 5, 2006

'wild' teens trash house

Man, if you wait until she's 15 to talk to your child about the dangers of alcohol consumption and parties with lots of people in the house, it's too late.


Who would have thought I'd come up first on this search?

And who would have thought this? Well, I know from experience that it's true ... and I know that I'm not the only one.

Saturday, February 4, 2006

Bono's remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast

A taste:
I mean, God may well be with us in our mansions on the hill… I hope so. He may well be with us as in all manner of controversial stuff… maybe, maybe not… But the one thing we can all agree, all faiths and ideologies, is that God is with the vulnerable and poor.

God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house… God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives… God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war… God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them. “If you remove the yolk from your midst, the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness, and if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom with become like midday and the Lord will continually guide you and satisfy your desire in scorched places”

It’s not a coincidence that in the Scriptures, poverty is mentioned more than 2,100 times. It’s not an accident. That’s a lot of air time, 2,100 mentions. [You know, the only time Christ is judgmental is on the subject of the poor.] ‘As you have done it unto the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.’ (Matthew 25:40). As I say, good news to the poor.

The whole thing.

Romano Mussolini, 1927-2006

What do you do if you're the child of the fascist dictator that allied himself with Adolf Hitler? You play piano, of course. Romano was the last surviving child of Benito Mussolini.

Of interest:
Romano was married to Anna Maria Scicolone, the sister of actress Sophia Loren.

He started his music career in Naples under an assumed name, but reverted to his real name in the 1960s when his All Stars ensemble won critical acclaim.

He played with jazz greats including Dizzie Gillespie, Duke Ellington and Chet Baker.

SOMEWHAT RELATED: Speaking of Italy, I'm currently reading John Berendt's The City of Falling Angels, which is mainly about the Fenice opera house fire in Venice.

"The Second Chance"

One of my favorite musicians, Steve Taylor, directed the forthcoming feature film The Second Chance, starring another favorite musician, Michael W. Smith. Christianity Today recently interviewed the director and two main stars of the film; read it here. The film is about the church and how it (doesn't) address race relations.

I probably won't catch it in the theater, but I'll certainly rent the DVD.

Spider vs. Snake

Spider wins (H/T: Tim Challies)

Thursday, February 2, 2006

Happy Groundhog Day

Be sure to rent this for today's viewing - it's Bill Murray's best work, so you can forget all the hoopla over Lost in Translation.

My Very Excellent Mother Just Sent Us Nine Pizzas - and quite possibly a tenth

There may be a 10th planet out there.
So what, exactly, is a planet? Astronomers have been deadlocked over this for years, but a decision may finally be forthcoming, because a thing they discovered last year in the solar system's outer reaches has turned out to be bigger than Pluto.

So if Pluto hangs on to its status -- by no means a slam-dunk -- then the fetchingly named 2003 UB313, which is about 30 percent fatter, probably would have to be a planet, too. The 10th. But if Pluto gets demoted, the solar system will have just eight. Either way, textbooks that refer to nine planets are doomed to obsolescence.

"It's only fair," said astronomer Frank Bertoldi of Germany's University of Bonn. "It's my view that Pluto for historical reasons should remain a planet -- otherwise school kids will be confused. Any object that's bigger than Pluto should also be a planet."

This "new" planet may be bigger than Pluto.

"Mr. Eko" delivers state senate prayer

He plays a warlord-turned-priest on Lost. In real life, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje is a devout Buddhist. He delivered the daily prayer before the Hawaiian state senate on Tuesday.
Akinnuoye-Agbaje read the 23rd Psalm, which is also the title of the "Lost" episode during which Eko's violent past and struggle for redemption are revealed. Akinnuoye-Agbaje was invited to deliver the invocation by Sen. Fred Hemmings, R-Lanikai-Waimanalo, after the senator saw the episode featuring Eko's story. (WaPo)

100 Best First Lines of a Novel

Here they are. Can you guess the top one before you jump to the link? The second is from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice: " It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."

Notable posts

A new feature here at Good Brownie will be to offer links to postings from other bloggers that I find particularly useful (in some fashion or another), intriguing, or downright funny. I've offered links to other people's writings before, but I decided that this format would be better than just individual posts that say, "Look at what this dude/chick is saying!" - I may still do that from time to time, so please don't stone me if I do. Check them out and let me know what you think.

- Al Mohler on reading books

- Joe Carter discusses why Kanye West's cover on the latest Rolling Stone is certainly no new attempt by a rapper at being "controversial"

- the folks at blogs4God may be able to give you a good offer on "The Mega Church Game"

- Christian recording artist Steve Camp (who wrote and performed one of my favorite songs, "He's All You Need") relays the importance of not being "stupid"

- Arnold Kling wonders if blogging is just a fad

- Kevin Bauder on the idea of fundamentalism; he follows it up with fundamental doctrines

- The Vodkapundit on the Democratic "Four-K's": Kennedy, Kerry, Kos, and Kaine

- Jonathan Moorhead wants to know if you are certain of your salvation (if you're a Christian, that is)

- After running 23 kazillion different blog sites at once, my nephew-in-law finally settles on one he likes

UPDATE: Since I've blogged about the whole James Frey thing many posts back, I've got to include a link to Mark D. Roberts' relationship to the controversy

- Daryl Wingerd gives a devastating critique of Joel Osteen's Your Best Life Now

Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Frivilous Fours

LaShawn, Stephen M. at ChristWeb, Daniel, ... everybody's doing it, it seems. Here's some trivia about me in fours.

Four jobs I've had in my life:
Grill worker at Wendy's
Bass singer in college quartet
Housing director at a small university
Crisis therapist (my current one)

Four Movies I could watch repeatedly (and have):
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Star Wars IV
Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring

Four Places I have lived:
Dayton, Ohio
Oak Park, Illinois
Springfield, Ohio
Indianapolis, Indiana

Four TV shows I love to watch:
Project Runway 2 (shhhh ... tell no one)
Paula's Home Cooking

Four Places I have been on Vacation:
Panama City, Florida
Denver, Colorado

Four Websites I visit daily:
LaShawn Barber
In the Agora

Four Favorite Restaurant Foods:
Giordanno's deep-dish pizza (Chicago's best!)
Lasagna from Spaghetti Warehouse in Dayton
French toast from Corner Bakery
French silk pie from Baker's Square

Four Places I'd Rather Be Right Now:
Astwood Cove in Bermuda
Grotto Bay Resort pool in Bermuda
Dining at Portofino's in Bermuda
Sunning myself on the pink sands of Bermuda (are you catching a theme here?)

Four People I'm tagging:

78th Oscars nominations

Here is the listing. Lots of politically-oriented films in the pack, whether the politics be that of race, sexual orientation, or government official's actions.

No surprise that "Brokeback Mountain" received the most nominations - it seems a shoo-in for Best Picture at this point, but I hope that "Crash" takes the top prize. Terrence Howard took Russell Crowe's presumed spot (if only Russell hadn't thrown that phone...) - that's okay, I liked Terrence a lot in "Crash." If Paul Giamatti doesn't win, the actor who does better act like Ving Rhames and give their golden guy to him.

Of all the films nominated for an award, I've seen "Crash", "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire", "The Constant Gardner", "War of the Worlds", "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", "Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith", and "Batman Begins." Wow - looking at this list, I realize that these are all the films that I saw that came out in 2005. Am I good at picking Oscar-nominated films, or what?

I' ve been wanting to see these films, and not necessarily because they've been nominated: "Good Night, and Good Luck", "Munich", "Capote", "Walk the Line", and "March of the Penguins."

UPDATED: If you don't remember, Ving Rhames famously gave his 1998 Golden Globe for "Don King: Only in America" to Jack Lemmon.