Thursday, March 30, 2006

File this under: Humor, Lutheran

This is page 67 from The Lutheran Handbook, which was given to me by my pastor as part of my confirmation coursework. It offers lots of good advice, like the following from the section entitled "How to Avoid Getting Burned at the Stake" -- which comes right after the section on history's most notorious heretics (Martin Luther was #5.)

Monday, March 27, 2006

Gunblogger Rendezvous

Mr. Completely is trying to put together a First Annual Gunblogger's Weekend in Reno ca. late October, early November. Sounds like a lark. If you're interested, hit the link and then drop him an email. Hubby and I are tentatively planning on going.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Martyrdom for Abdul Rahman?

Abdul Rahman is facing trial in Afghanistan for the crime of converting from Islam to Christianity. He has been labeled an apostate, and faces death by hanging for refusing to renounce his faith in Christ. Doctors have examined him to determine whether insanity caused him to reject Islam. From what little I have seen and heard of Rahman, he appears remarkably resolute. Video of Rahman refuting the charges here (unfortunately, no english subtitles).

Please pray for Abdul Rahman. Pray to give him continued strength, courage, and hope. God be with you, Abdul.

Michelle Malkin provides details for a planned rally for Rahman outside the Afghan Embassy in D.C.

More at IsraPundit and Michelle Malkin.

UPDATE 3/26:

Looks like Rahman will be released. The reason? Not the lack of any actual crime on his part, but lack of evidence. Whatever that means. And the general sentiment against Rahman in Afghanistan is so vile and vicious, it's probably in his best interest to leave as quickly as possible.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

This One Has a Scope

Obligatory heh. If you can't read it, just follow the link.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Firefly Withdrawals

Hubby and I gorged on five episodes of Firefly this weekend -- the last three tonight.

Now it's over.

I feel sad, bittersweet, cast adrift, just as I did many years ago with the last words of The Return of the King still lingering in my mind or having gazed for the last time on the happy visages of Luke, Han, and Leia in Return of the Jedi.

The party's over. There ain't no more.

I feel like my best friends have packed up and moved away. Far, far away. The good ol' days are gone forever.

A friend has loaned me the first two seasons of Farscape to help me cope, but I have a feeling that it is to Firefly what Sword of Shannara was to The Lord of the Rings. Superficially appealing, but a mere shadow of the latter's inscrutable greatness. (I say this with the realization, of course, that Shannara came after LotR and Farscape did, in fact, I think, precede Firefly, but you get the idea.)

Some Firefly reflections...

Favorite episodes: "Trash" and "Objects In Space."

Favorite characters: Mal, Kaylee, Book.

Favorite moments: Mal kicking Crow into the ship's engine ("The Train Job"); Mal walking butt-naked onto the ship ("Trash").

Characters I most wanted to beat up: Saffron and Early.

Favorite River moment: Pretending to be Serenity in "Objects In Space."

Characters I most want to be alongside in a fire-fight: Jayne and Zoe.

Character most likely to have a spiritual conversion: Jayne.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Note to Brady Campaign: Grow Up!

The Seattle PI published an article today about missing children that got me thinking. According to FBI statistics, 662,196 children went missing last year, for reasons varying from runaway to kidnapping. Furthermore,
[t]he FBI data show that two-thirds of all missing-children reports were for 15-, 16- or 17-year-old youths.

Only 2,223 infants were reported last year.

The files also show that local police classified 16,897 cases -- or slightly less than 3 percent -- as "endangered," meaning authorities feared the children had been kidnapped or were in the company of a dangerous adult.
This leads us to think about other common dangers to children. Drowning, for instance, is scary:
  • In 2000, there were 3,482 unintentional drownings in the United States, an average of nine people per day. (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

  • It is estimated that for each drowning death, there are 1 to 4 nonfatal submersions serious enough to result in hospitalization. Children who still require cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) at the time they arrive at the emergency department have a poor prognosis, with at least half of survivors suffering significant neurologic impairment. (American Academy of Pediatrics)

  • Drowning is the second-leading cause of injury-related death among children under the age of 15. (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

  • 19% of drowning deaths involving children occur in public pools with certified lifeguards present. (Drowning Prevention Foundation)

  • A swimming pool is 14 times more likely than a motor vehicle to be involved in the death of a child age 4 and under. (Orange County California Fire Authority)

  • Children under five and adolescents between the ages of 15-24 have the highest drowning rates. (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

  • An estimated 5,000 children ages 14 and under are hospitalized due to unintentional drowning-related incidents each year; 15 percent die in the hospital and as many as 20 percent suffer severe, permanent neurological disability. (National Safety Council)

  • Of all preschoolers who drown, 70 percent are in the care of one or both parents at the time of the drowning and 75 percent are missing from sight for five minutes or less. (Orange County, CA, Fire Authority)

  • The majority of children who survive (92 percent) are discovered within two minutes following submersion, and most children who die (86 percent) are found after 10 minutes. Nearly all who require cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) die or are left with severe brain injury. (National Safe Kids Campaign)
Here we have a table (I was going to write "nice table," but changed my mind) showing all sorts of accidents from which children die (year 1996). We find in this list that, for chilren 14 and under, the leading causes of accidental deaths are from: Motor vehicle (1404), Drowning (981), Residential Fire (740), Pedestrian Traffic Related (723), Suffocation and Choking (666), Bicyclist Traffic Related (197), Firearm (138), Poisoning (109), Fall (107).

And now we can articulate what we all know about the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. It's not about the kids. It's not about safety. It's not even about doing good in general. It's about one thing. IT'S ABOUT GUNS.

The money they spend is absolutely wasted. I feel very comfortable making the following conjecture: The tens of millions (hundreds of millions?) of dollars spent by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, has had no impact whatsoever on child mortality rates. None. Another conjecture I think is accurate is that that humongous pile of money could have been used in ways that could have actually prevented many of the other accidental deaths listed above. But no, the Brady Campaign isn't really interested in saving children's lives, or the most possible number of children's lives. The utility of the situation eludes them because they are fixated on guns. Their attitude is appaling. It is inexcusable, and unforgivable.

If the Brady Campaign had a conscience, they would become the Brady Campaign to Reduce Serious Childhood Accidents. They could rightly put an entire page on their new website dedicated to gun safety, namely the four rules and other useful safety pointers, and a link to the NRA Eddie Eagle program. I'd give them my money in that case.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Respect Must Be Earned

Arab-American psychologist Wafa Sultan blasts Muslims in this video. Money quote below.
"The Jews have come from the tragedy [of the Holocaust], and forced the world to respect them, with their knowledge, not with their terror; with their work, not with their crying and yelling. Humanity owes most of the discoveries and science of the 19th and 20th centuries to Jewish scientists. Fifteen million people, scattered throughout the world, united and won their rights through work and knowledge. We have not seen a single Jew blow himself up in a German restaurant. We have not seen a single Jew destroy a church. We have not seen a single Jew protest by killing people. The Muslims turned three Buddha statues into rubble. We have not seen a single Buddhist burn down a mosque, kill a Muslim, or burn down an embassy. Only the Muslims defend their beliefs by burning down churches, killing people, and destroying embassies. This path will not yield any results. The Muslims must ask themselves what they can do for humankind, before they demand that humankind respect them."

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Oscar: Who Cares?

My Oscar prediction is that this year is going to be the least-watched, most political, boring, devoid-of-entertainment-and-spectacle Academy Awards show on record. Government and corporate corruption, homosexuality, and racism. Oh, my. The Best Picture contenders are mostly reflective of Hollywood left idealism -- or perhaps more appropriately, guilt -- with no broad appeal. And Jon Stewart as host? The final nail in the coffin of entertainment. I can't wait to read the articles explaining why this year's show was such a dud. But if the opinion of Roger Ebert, whose reviews I mostly enjoy, is any indication, Hollywood will continue to deny why it's losing its audience
The five best picture nominees, however, were (as usual) the kinds of projects passed over by the major studios. We are entering an era when the studios do not often attempt to make Best Pictures, and most of the nominees are generated by independent filmmakers and specialty distributors. This may say more about audiences than it does about studios, which would cheerfully make good movies if they thought they could sell them. Hammered by the idiocy of formula television and video games, a generation is forming that has no feeling for narrative and character. The Oscar nominees represent filmmaking at a high level, but who do you know who has gone to see more than two or three of them?
Ebert has a point, but he is losing sight of the real reason nobody is seeing these movies, and exudes what Kevin at The Smallest Minority describes as ideological hubris. The liberal elite is so immersed in its own microcosm that it understands little of what really drives the rest of the population -- nor does it probably care. Like Pauline Kael's astonishment at McGovern's defeat in 1972 ("How can that be? No one I know voted for Nixon!"), Ebert is mystified by the lack of appeal of the Oscar nominees because everyone he knows probably adores them. No doubt the nominees represent a high level of craft, and American tastes have been dulled a little by years of TV banality and mind-rotting video games. But since when has TV not been banal? And video games have been rotting brains for decades. What stands out with this year's Oscar contenders is the absence of epic and spectacle and the prominence of blatant leftist politicizing, a guarantee to appeal to absolutely no more than a small percentage of movie-goers. Ultimately, for a movie to have broad appeal, it has to tell a story that either reflects the audience's beliefs and values or entertains the audience without insulting them. Take me, for instance, as a representative of typical red-state Jesus-freak movie-goer types. One of my all-time most-esteemed films is 1959's Best Picture, Ben Hur, but I also rather enjoyed 2002's winner, Chicago, even though it represented some of the lowest elements in our society. It was clever and loads of fun to watch, but didn't try to convince me that I should particularly like any of its characters or share their values -- it just entertained.

In previous years, Oscar-caliber movies tended toward broad appeal. They were often big, lavish spectacles like Ben Hur or Gladiator, and sometimes more personal like On the Waterfront or Schindler's List -- but they reflected values that are at the core of American culture: love, duty, freedom, honor, sacrifice. Others, like the engrossing Godfather movies or the energetic Chicago, don't necessarily showcase traditional American values, but neither do they insult them. Now, I have been proceeding on the assumption that the people making this year's Oscar nominees even want to appeal to a large audience. There is certainly a money-making component to Hollywood (a huge component), but the elite also suffer from "the vision of the anointed," and perhaps never more so than now. Look at a list of the previous Best Picture winners and you will recognize films that are adored by many, many people. Most of them set the narrative and technical standards for years to come. But there is nothing lovable or groundbreaking about this year's Best Picture front-runners -- these films won't even set any political standards, because they are just tired retreads of a failed ideology. I get the feeling that the Acadamy either (mistakenly) thinks its in tune with what Americans believe (thus the various and contrived excuses for a declining box office) or more likely that it's acting as a minority arbiter of truth and good, because the American public is too idiotic and unrefined to get it.

Well, Oscar is going to flop, and I hope the Hollywood elite learn a lesson from this. They either miscalculated hugely what mainstream America is all about or they simply failed to thrust their enlightened vision on the unwashed rabble. Either way, here's hoping that in years to come this year's Oscars will stand out as a historical blip -- reflecting a social experiment that failed -- after which we got back to the serious business of entertaining.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Navy to Ground All its Fighter Jets?

That seems a little odd to me. Even more odd would be for them to tell the world about it, even if it's only for half a day. Suppose they need those jets. I suppose they still have them at the ready, even if they aren't in the air. Still, kinda weird. Maybe not. Heck, I don't know. Thpppppt.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Modern Movie-Going Blues

I hate commercials. HATE them. It's a major factor in why I disconnected cable from my TV ten years ago, and it's becoming a factor in why I am starting to avoid movie theaters. (As is the banality, gratuitous sex and violence, political proselytizing, and just general lack of quality of all forms of entertainment in contemporary Western Civilization, but that's the subject of another post.)

I also dislike being subjected to strange and unpleasant odors for prolonged periods, almost as much as I dislike being subjected to strange and unpleasant people for prolonged periods. Yet, these things comprise the modern movie-going experience for me.

Going to the theater used to be fun. There was a time when I would see most of the features released in a year, but now the experience of seeing a movie on a big screen with lavish sound is something I will forego for all but the most spectacular features.

Does it have to be this way?

I don't think it does, and so in the spirit of good fellowship and for the benefit of any movie theater chain execs who happen to be reading this, I herewith provide a list of the most annoying aspects of the modern movie-going experience along with suggestions for how to remedy them.

Commercials preceeding movies. When I have commercials foisted on me before a movie, mindful of having just paid an exorbitant admission fee plus a small fortune for the privilege of eating 10 cents worth of popcorn, I begin to feel, not like a valued customer, but like a rag being rung out for every last cent. I don't mind the silent slide show of local ads that plays before the movie's start time (in fact, I end up reading most of the ads), and I enjoy the coming attractions. Leave these in place, but theaters would generate a lot of goodwill by killing the commercials.

Dirty theaters. The closest theater in our area, the mega-colossal Tinseltown Cinema, is more commonly referred to as the Tinkletown Cinema, because that's exactly what it smells like. It's not often worth it to me to drive across town to find a non-smelly theater, and I will endure the icky smell only for movies that absolutely must be seen on the big screen (and there ain't many of those anymore). Here's a suggestion: skip the 20 minutes of commercials before each movie and use that time to have your employees really clean the theater.

Rude patrons. Movie theater behavior has become intolerable. It is now a common experience to be seated next to some oaf who insists on taking calls on his cell phone during the feature. Either hire ushers to tell these people to shut their phones off or install the hardware to block cell phone signals. Also, people who talk loudly, put their size-12 loafers on the back of my seat, and/or allow their children to similarly misbehave, ruin the experience. Please have ushers take care of this.

With the box office in a slump right now, I would expect the people making decisions for theater chains to pay attention to the things that drive customers away. But it's not looking hopeful, at least with respect to commercials. A quick Google search and these letters written by frustrated movie-goers indicate that a sizable portion of the audience is annoyed with pre-movie commercials. But as theater revenues decline, the response is, sadly, to show even more ads to boost revenue. Sounds like the beginning of a death-spiral. I hope theaters figure out what's going on and pull out in time.