Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Two words you would never expect to hear in proximity of each other: ‘treat’ and ‘McDonald’s’

I stepped out briefly this evening to retrieve some fans to deal with our rural Virginian tropical season. On the way, I stopped by McDonald’s to purchase a treat: a 32-ounce sweet iced tea.

My American readers, as precious few as they may be, will probably understand the importance of iced tea (or ice tea if you’re from my region) to American culture. You just don’t brew some tea, pour it over ice and add a couple of spoonfuls of sugar and stir.

No. You brew about 16-20 orange pekoe tea bags in a quart of water, pour the hot tea over a significant quantity of white sugar, stir, cut the solution by half and pour some over a glass full of ice.

So many establishments outside the South serve you a glass of tea and, when asked if it’s sweet, toss you a packet of sugar.

Uncouth, nekulturny bastards.

I hate to say this, but McDonald’s has actually come up with a task and a recipe that almost none of their semi-skilled (and even skilled) staff members can make pear-shaped. I’m sure they’ve tried, but no luck to date.

Anyway, I’ve had today off since I worked on Memorial Day and have thoroughly confused some of you with my persistent blogging and cross-posting. I’ve met a few new folks (added to the blog list at the right of the screen and near the emergency exit) and will probably make more additions in the coming hours and days.

By the way Carmentza, thanks for getting that INXS song stuck in my head.

It’s been very enjoyable, and I actively encourage you to scroll down a few posts and start spreading the Heather McCartney divorce claims posted below. I have little respect for humanity – why should you?

A post-Memorial Day story, or . . . . Can’t beat that logic, it’d be hitting something stupid and defenseless

A week ago, I assigned one of my reporters to collect information for an advance on Memorial Day events and commemorations.

The public affairs person at one of our two Veterans of Foreign Wars posts said that they had nothing planned. Strange, but innocuous enough since the post was being reformed.

Forward to May 29: My other reporter is in a mad dash to get to the main office so we can get our paper laid out and to press early. What does he pass? The final seconds of the VFW post’s early morning Memorial Day flag and rifle salute ceremony.

Said public affairs person calls Tuesday and asks why we didn’t attend and if we could put something in the paper about it. He’s told that he said a week earlier that they weren’t doing anything.

Close paraphrase of his response: “Well, we weren’t sure we were going to do something and I figured I better not tell you until we did it.”

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Another photo exhibit, with a theme even!

Sundays seem to be rather productive, blog wise. Go figure.

Anyway, another quick photographic exhibition for your viewing pleasure . . .

The family's favorite piece of livestock, Copper, doing a little Hugh Masekela this weekend before I decided to take a little road trip to engage in some marginal remembrance . . . .

This was nice to see. As a high schooler I used to bicycle a lot - partially as exercize when I ran track (supressing sniggers here) and because I liked to get out and enjoy some of the less touristy places in Southwest Virginia. This 1944-period United Mine Workers union hall was an abandoned dump then (circa 1980). Now it's a church.

This little piece of ironwork was highly valued in Norton, Va. as a real-live piece of ordinance from the USS Constitution. Its real story is far more interesting. It's actually a fake, non-fireable iron casting done when the Constitution was restored in 1907. If you visit several towns across the US, they have some of this piece's sisters. Others are set in concrete along the seawall at the Boston Navy Yard for use as bollards (not bollocks).

And another story. Thirty-six years ago, the location depicted above was a pleasant, sloped, grassy corner lot where many of us kids played touch football, frisbee or otherwise did the normal things that kids do. At least it was that way when I walked to school that morning. The return trip revealed a significant excavation on that site, and over the next thirty years, the town's dominant robber-baron family erected the steel skeleton you see. The running joke was that it had one floor for each time th ebuilding permit was renewed, and that was in 1994. The family sold it and a significant chunk of real estate holdings this year, and hopefully this monstrosity will be dismantled. I call it the 'pagoda from hell.'

Never be nostalgic - only remember.

Not by popular request

Okay, I've got to get this out of my system and then I promise, no more Heather McCartney jokes

God, I'm gonna burn for this . . . . .

Top ten specifics of Heather McCartney’s divorce filing:

10) Paul mocked me by buying me a DVD remastering of “The 39 Steps”

9) Kept snickering when he said “this lager doesn’t have enough hops in it.”

8) Inflicted mental cruelty by repeated playing of “Band on the Run”

7) Said he married me because he was a leg man

6) Said on several occasions that there was something wrong but that he couldn’t peg it.

5) Pet name for me: Ahab

4) Friends made cryptic “Deuce Bigalow, Male Gigolo” remarks in my presence (go watch the movie – it’ll come to you.)

3) Opened lingerie drawer – half my stockings tied off

2) Told me I was a natural for base 5 arithmetic.

1) Said we were a natural for the three-legged race at the Apple corporate picnic

Saturday, May 27, 2006

And now for eine kleine schlockmusik . . .

Today I had the experience of listening to the Dixie Chicks latest album release, “Taking the Long Way.”

As many of you all know, the Chicks encountered a rough career patch starting in 2003 when one of their number made a pointed comment or two about the National Command Authority.

That comment devolved into a public shouting match between the Chicks, country music singer/pickup truck shill Toby Keith and various radio stations and fans questioning various parties’ patriotic fervor.

Regardless of what if any position you might have taken regarding those events, the Chicks recently released a DVD purporting to state their positions and attitude about the last three years.

All I can say is: what an incredibly turgid, presumptuous, overblown, whiny collection of tuneage.

I found myself utterly unsympathetic, not with the Dixie Chicks’ stand on the public beating they’ve taken, but with a self-centered effort that focuses on their persecution and not on the general decline and fall of free speech and respect for political positions in the U.S. of A.

I can respect Toby Keith’s efforts in the last three years because they really had no pretense about what they were – cheap, pseudo sentimental rubbish with an eye toward selling records and Ford trucks.

If you want good pop, country or rock political statements, go buy a copy of John Mellencamp’s “Lonesome Jubilee” or “Scarecrow,” or pick up Springsteen’s latest folk collection.

And do yourself a favor - stay away from the Dixie Chicks and Toby Keith.

Pat Robertson's hulkin' out

Pat Robertson’s hulkin’ out!

God love Pat Robertson – somebody has to, I suppose.

From his exploits on the way to and away from the Korean conflict – documented in a nationally-exposed lawsuit around the time Pat was running for the Republican nomination for president a few years ago – to his God-given control of the forces of nature against us heatherns, Pat Robertson has been a superhuman force to guide all us American scum either toward the light of goodness or toward the furnace door of hell.

Okay, it’s more like he’s done everything from getting his daddy the U.S. senator to get him out of a tour in Korea to starting an ‘interesting’ media, evangelical and higher learning empire stemming from a low-rent UHF television station with reruns and pleas for money to do either his or the lord’s work. Oh, and there’s also telling gays and people who don’t accept creationism that God’s gonna getcha with a big storm or flood or something.

But that crazy Pat’s at it again – he’s leg-pressed a ton. Yes, 2,000 pounds. At least that’s what he claims. And he has a video purporting to show him leg-pressing 1,000 pounds

And there’s the claims that he does it all thanks to “his age-defying protein shake. Pat developed a delicious, refreshing shake, filled with energy-producing nutrients.”

All you have to do is register on his website – probably exposing you to a ton of unwanted spam and e-proselytizing – to download his (insert echo from above) AGE-DEFYING PROTEIN SHAKE!!!.

Pat Robertson's shake from


Thanks to the wonder of (insert echo from below) OTHER MEDIA OUTLETS, I can reveal some ingredients of Pat’s (insert echo from above) AGE-DEFYING PROTEIN SHAKE!!!!!!

“. . . ingredients such as soy protein isolate, whey protein isolate, flaxseed oil and apple cider vinegar.”

I think I know what’s so AGE-DEFYING about it. It defies anyone of any age to consider a blended concoction of soybean, skim milk, vegetable oil and vinegar delicious.

I suppose that it might, however, generate enough intestinal distress to help 2,000 pounds achieve escape velocity.

Go get ‘em Pat. If mankind’s going to be killed by 2,000-pound weights from above, you won’t end up like Wile E. Coyote or some members of Monty Python.

Gangsta Spock

Despite a degree in history and two years of graduate school (or maybe because of it), I thoroughly enjoy subverting cultural icons. And here's just two reasons why:

Happy birthday to Christopher Lee!

Besides his cinematic turns as Dracula and Saruman, I still remember Christopher Lee for two performances: businessman/gay biker Luckman Skull in the movie “Serial,” and the Van Helsing-esque hunter of Nixon’s memoirs in the March 25, 1978 episode of Saturday Night Live (I didn’t memorize that date – I looked it up to appear on top of my blogging game).

Happy birthday.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Heading to hell in a handbasket

I seem to have forgotten my self-imposed responsibility as a blogger, but I’ve made a few feeble attempts to respond to some of my blogging acquaintances.

In the blur of activity preceding and following my weekly cycle of publishing, however, I did have a sleep deprivation-induced thought that brought on an insane giggling fit and probably guaranteed me a seat in the tenth circle of hell.

When Paul McCartney’s divorce case finally reaches court, his eventual ex-wife won’t have a leg to stand on.

Let me adjust the thermostat . . .

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Superstitious twits

We have a family friend who recently bough t a new vehicle. The make and type of vehicle are irrelevant to this story, but the temporary tag is not.

Turns out that the tag’s clearly-marked expiration date is June 6, 2006, or 6-6-06.

Said friend, for the first day she drove it around town, garnered several sincere and sometimes horrified questions about how she could even consider driving a vehicle bearing the mark of the beast or at least a fair poker hand.

I look nervously out my window these days, awaiting the return of witch burning. Are we really in the 21st century?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Is it just me, or . . .

does Lt. General Michael Hayden look strangely like Red from That 70's Show?

Cosmic justice

While I'm not a far-left leaning sort of person, I generally believe there are much more pressing problems in this world than passing anti-gay marriage amendments or other conservative knee-jerk social engineering.

Once we ensure that our children are well-fed, healthy and educated; that people have the sorts of opportunities associated with the most powerful nation on earth; and that the citizenry's basic rights are re-established, then maybe life will get back on an even keel.

But while we all wait for that day, I take some comfort in what happened to Pat Roberston and his bastion of American higher education, Liberty University.

Back in the late 1980's Liberty tried to claim the highway in front of its campus under Virginia's Adopt-A-Highway roadsidie cleanup program. Turned out that a gay-lesbian activist organization already had gotten the roadway and had its state-issued adoption signs bracketing the campus.

Liberty and Robertson raised all sorts of hell and threatened legal action but were told to pack it by the state Department of Transportation.

I hope the signs are still up. I still remember Robertson when he was a low-rent televangelist with a VHF station showing Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker in the early morning and Gilligan's Island reruns at night.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

More tales from England

I mentioned Guy Fawkes Night earlier. The closest we Americans have is Halloween, but Guy Fawkes doesn’t have the pseudo-supernatural overtones that a more religiously conservative America ascribes to it. After all, we’re talking about a night where all good Britons come out to burn the effigy of someone stupid enough to be caught in proximity of several barrels of gunpowder in the basement under Parliament.
Google Guy Fawkes and read some of the more serious entries on the web and you may find that Mr. Fawkes was not the suave, swashbuckling role model for V For Vendetta. Rather, he was more of a village idiot in many ways. But he did have the motivation to help plan the Gunpowder Plot, thus his popularity as kindling.
Anyway, the RAF officers and erks in our neighborhood knew how to put together a Guy Fawkes dummy – a flight suit filled with plenty of flammables and enclosed in a Mae West life preserver with a live CO2 cartridge for that extra bang. Mount said effigy on top of a ten-foot pile of scrap wood soaked in gasoline, add a match and stand back for some real family fun before going home for a mug of hot chocolate..

Sunday, May 14, 2006

I'm a usually a calm individual, but . . .

I was just watching a commercial for this Deal or No Deal and thought; if I was trying to make a decision on so much as what to get from a soda machine while Howie Mandel and Regis Philbin were screaming at me, I'd roundhouse Regis, poke Howie in the eyes a la Three Stooges, and steal every one of their briefcases.

Bird watching in England

One of my big (literally) memories from England was the Shackleton. If you’re interested in the minutiae of the Shackleton, just google ‘Avro Shackleton’ - I could prattle on a great length about her, but that’s not the point.
The photo above, while not taken when we lived there, gives a good idea of the view from RAF St. Mawgan’s tennis courts at the upwind end of the main runway in 1967.
Imagine being five years old and watching your parents play tennis when, all of a sudden, approximately 6,800 horsepower surrounded by a few tons of dural, steel, welds and rivets roar over your head.
Actually, I ran for cover in the family car a few times. Still bewilders me how I developed a strong interest in aviation despite the experience.

Home in England

As I mentioned before, home for us was a rather nice little brick row house in an old RAF officers’ housing area. We had what was probably a typical English garden layout, accessed through a large wooden door with iron hinges on the side of the house.
Heat came from a large coal burner in the living room. The kitchen had a shady spot with three meat hooks – breakfast, lunch and tea. All the American enlisted men could afford refrigerators, but a fair number of the junior RAF officers who were our neighbors still used the hooks. This is in 1965-66.
Getting to school was easy: we walked across the field behind our house. It was a sheep field, and the shepherd was walking his flock there around the same time we headed to class. It was also the site of a few local festivals, including some exhibitions of turn-of-the-century steam engines and farm machinery.
Television: BBC was still the main broadcaster, but there was ITC and Armed Forces too. Nothing like a mix of American and British television. My folks watched Big Valley, Bonanza, Burke’s Law, Get Smart, Man from UNCLE and all the home staples. We also watched Man in a Suitcase, The Avengers, The Saint and some other shows of which I can’t remember the titles.
I still have a thing for Diana Rigg, I have to admit.
And then there were the children’s programs. One strange one was Magic Roundabout - it was some kind of existential and surreal version of Peanuts. The RAF patrol training squadron at St. Mawgan had its aircraft named after the Magic Roundabout characters.
Dr. Who, Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet were the big weekly events at our house, at least as far as I was concerned. Especially Thunderbirds – puppets for characters, movie-like soundtrack music and some great special effects. Captain Scarlet also used puppets and the same effects and quality of music, but was pretty dark stuff with killer invisible Martians and resurrection of the dead to do the Martians’ bidding.
On Saturday evenings, we would go out to the fish and chips van, buy an evening feast and settle in to watch the English equivalent of American Bandstand or Solid Gold. Can’t remember the title, but the Kinks, Herman’s Hermits and a slew of other British invasion acts were part of my childhood.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Merry olde England

I spent my fourth, fifth and sixth years in Cornwall when my father was stationed at a U.S. Navy facility (I’ll leave the description at that) on a Royal Air Force station – RAF St. Mawgan - from 1965 to 1968, so my first really coherent memories started there.
We lived in an old Royal Air Force officers housing complex. – row houses with fair-sized gardens in the rear. A field at the rear of our row of houses separated us from the local school.
The neighborhood was just across the road from RAF St. Eval, which had been closed just six years earlier. A couple of large, late WW II hangars still stood, and the runways and hardstands were still visible through the weeds growing there. Some local folks raced small cars around the runways, and the U.S. Navy and RAF families celebrated Guy Fawkes Night by burning a rather elaborate effigy on top of a huge pyre of scrap wood each November.
St. Eval had also housed U.S. Army Air Force bomber crews flying anti-U-boat patrols over the North Atlantic around 1942-43
A shepherd led his flock every morning and afternoon through the neighborhood. Grocery shopping consisted of trips every few days to the butcher and baker, while a greengrocer brought his van through every two or three days. Once a week, we drove into Newquay to visit the supermarket, or the NAAFI (Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes) grocery van stopped in the neighborhood.
We also had a small Navy Exchange at the ‘facility,’ which was more like a general store than your typical post or base exchange. We got our Cokes and other touches of home from there. I had my first Tootsie Pop when the storekeeper handed me one. My first Oreo was in England.
I don’t remember my first plane flight – it was to England. I do remember my second flight – it was to the United States. I also saw my first iceberg on that flight, from 40,000 feet.
My third plane flight was that same day, from McGuire Air Force Base to National Airport. That night, in a nearby motel, I saw my first episode of Star Trek.
A few weeks later, I watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon.
I had missed a couple of years of things on television, like race riots and Vietnam.
Maybe I’ll write some more about this.

I just flew in from Vegas and boy are my arms tired . . . badadaBUM!

Putting out a paper is a real rush - you're rushed waiting for page dummies that come dragging in well after a reasonable deadline and then making deadline.

While pushing through that weekly 'routine,' I rediscovered several 'highlights' in life.

1) Exxon's retiring CEO didn't get his $400 million from price gouging - he got it from gas pump handles with no control whatsoever. Consistently in the past four months I've stopped the pump at the $X.99 mark and twitched the trigger just enough to see it stop grinningly at $X.01.

As one of the characters in that not-so-classic flick "Johnny Dangerously" put it: "Farking bastidges!"

2) My government really, truly does think I'm a moron. The National Security Agency is publicly busted for collecting tens of millions of phone calling records of domestic U.S. citizens, and our so-called President says, yet again, that there was no violation of U.S. laws against domestic spying.

Sidenote: Ever notice how the nominee for the CIA directorship, Michael Hayden, looks like Red from "That 70's Show"? I'm waiting for him to turn around on TV, look at us Americans, and blurt out, "dumbass."

3) Despite the fact that I am the father of a teenage boy (and a basically great kid who's getting the old man's and his mother's sense of humor), I think it's time to allow bounties to control the teen population in super Wal-Marts.

Nothing fatal, of course. Just a beanbag round to the butt, or a paintball in some really atrocious color, or a free whack to the head with a loaf of day-old Wal-Mart French bread. If it's an especially well-fed specimen, maybe pushing over an end cap of sodas on him.

Between the ones with no manners, the ones who stroll around like it's a remake of "Breakfast at Tiffany's," and the ones trying to show off their real or imagined gang props with amazing imitations of Kevin Federline, walking around trying to get some last-minute item is like trying to run a 99-yard touchdown pass.

And it's become contagious among older patrons. I had to take several 100-yard detours to get around family reunions spanning entire aisle widths last night.

And I'm surprised that we don't have more head-on collisions on America's highways, given that most Wal-mart patrons seem to forget the basic rule of drive on the right - not on the centerline or left - when going down aisles.

Just for fun, I was looking for a DVD last night and two teenage couples had decided to nest their social dialogue around an aisle rack. I started craning my head around the backside of one of the males to look at one side of the rack. After more than 60 seconds, his girlfriend noticed that I might actually be interested in the merchandise they were obstructing.

For the next five minutes, it was "lather, rinse, repeat" as I tried to examine all four sides of this rack before they finally decided that I was cramping their style and that they should find some other fire exit passage to block.

$50 per teenager, limit of one per hour per department . . . . should work.

4) See 3)

5) see 3) again, I'm thinking.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

This is a test . . .

I told one of my blogging acquaintances I'd post this for critique purposes,

Certain names and places are redacted to protect my anonymity.

Enjoy, or tolerate.

I should apologize to Dave ---, our sportswriter, for a simple act with profoundly disturbing implications.
Come to think of it, I should apologize to our staff writers Angie ---- and Jim ------- too, for committing the same act last week.
It was so repulsive that it forced Dave out of his office for several minutes on Monday. I felt cruel and embarrassed over what I had done.
And when I performed the same act before Angie and Jim, the collective look of shame and horror in their faces left me in doubt of my humanity and decency.
It hasn't been specified as an offense in our employee handbook yet, but all things come to pass.
I sang.
Some people have a vocal gift so pure and clear that when they sing, it transcends any other sound and uplifts the soul.
Some have a rough, edgy cast to their voices that plumbs the depth of one's feelings and carries the listener to greater and greater heights of soul and emotion.
Then there's me, whose singing voice is automatically a class I felony in Virginia. Punishable by life imprisonment with zero chance of parole or even singing lessons, because the law already knows that I'll be a repeat offender.
But I failed to show that same compassion and respect for human life last week when I regaled Jim and Angie with the tale of how I met Tiny Tim.
Not the little guy of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol." More like the shambling, shaggy-haired, big-toothed, ukulele-wielding apparition which brought you "Tiptoe Through the Tulips."
That story was simple enough - my wife was a reporter for the -------- ------- ------- when we got married, and I tagged along when she went to the now-extinct Western Hills Motel in ------- Virginia to interview the ringmaster of the one-and-a-half tractor-trailer Great American Circus.
The ringmaster? One Mr. Tim, or Tiny to his friends.
We knocked on the door of room 13 and, in short order, a muffled falsetto came from behind the door: "Just a moment!"
And then Tim's insanely merry face appeared in the open door. Whisked into room 13, we were amazed as Tiny - we were friends in a millisecond - offered us a veritable feast of saltines, spray cheese and cheap beer.
Jim and Angie seemed to be enjoying the story, so I continued telling how Tim still had feelings for Miss Vicki and how he saw the Great American Circus as a harbinger of better days to come.
I held Jim and Angie's attention as I described how the ukulele suddenly appeared, and how Tim said he had developed a fondness for many old tunes that carried imagery of the Appalachians.
Just as I had my audience on the verge of applause, I made that fatal mistake.
I tried to imitate Tim's warbling as I sang: "In the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginiaaaaa, on the trail of the Lonesome Piiiine."
It was too late. I'd violated every scrap of humanity in my being. Jim and Angie laughed nervously, but I knew the damage was done when their eyes showed the emptiness and fear I had inspired.
Okay, maybe I put them to sleep. But it was an inexcusable act, and my callousness to their suffering led me to another atrocity this week.
As Dave sat, plugging away at his sports pages, I couldn't resist the urge to belt out a little Frankie Laine - the artiste behind "Rawhide" and a host of other western themes for the big and little screens. And to compound my sin, I picked Laine's rendition of the theme from "Blazing Saddles."
"I have to go for a few minutes," Dave said quietly, with a deep undercurrent of trauma.
Maybe one day Dave will talk to me again, if only to say . . . . shut up.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Tonight . . . the Blazing Saddles mini-forum!

If I had to go throug the rest of my life with a severely depleted DVD collection, the top choice would be . . . .

'scuse me while I whip this out . . . .


This movie has it all - Frankie Laine singing the title song. Mel Brooks with his pants down and holding a paddleball. Slim Pickens. Irish and Chinese. Insults for all races and etnicities. Alex Karras. Count Basie. Madeleine Kahn. Gay dancers. And more than I can list here tonight.

"Something About Mary" was hilarious, I'll admit. And there's been plenty of classic comedies before and after Blazing Saddles.

But where can you find such an assault on one's senses and sensibilities, pride and prejudice - badadaDUM!

For my money ($19.95 plus tax when I bought the 30th anniversary DVD) Blazing Saddles is the most consistently uproarious comedy I've seen.

Please, feel free to respond or counter the assertions in this post. Bring a friend, if you have one. Come back the next night, if I have one.

And, as Madeleine sang . . . "wie fahhhhrrrrren gegen Engeland!!!"

Monday, May 08, 2006

Since my birth, light emanting from the earth has traveled this far . . ..

Light cone
"In general relativity, the future light cone is the boundary of the causal future of a point and the past light cone is the boundary of its causal past." [] This feed lists the stars in your personal light cone.

Unfortunately, I don't have room here for a 43.9 year list of light wayposts. But it was interesting for a while.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

This guy kills me . . .

and I just hope he doesn't decide to sue me, because he is the most un-Christian s.o.b. I've seen in my lifetime in any sort of official position of religious authority.

Cardinal urges legal action against Da Vinci Code
(May 7, 2006)

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - In the latest Vatican broadside against "The Da Vinci Code", a leading cardinal says Christians should respond to the book and film with legal action because both offend Christ and the Church he founded.

Cardinal Francis Arinze, a Nigerian who was considered a candidate for pope last year, made his strong comments in a documentary called "The Da Vinci Code-A Masterful Deception."

Arinze's appeal came some 10 days after another Vatican cardinal called for a boycott of the film. Both cardinals asserted that other religions would never stand for offences against their beliefs and that Christians should get tough.


I suggest that the whole world ought to get tough against someone trying to impose his religious beliefs via lawsuit. If the right honorable Cardinal Arinze wants to initiate a worldwide series of defamation actions over a work of fiction, then let's see how he plans to muffle things like:

- the Vatican's do-nothing attitude while Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and several little allies merrily slaughtered millions of Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals and other "undesirables" as well as good Catholic opposition to fascism;

- the Vatican's role in inciting several centuries of conflict between the West and Islam;

- the Vatican's and Spanish Catholic Church's collective roles in the Spanish colonization of the Americas and the Inquisition.

And people wonder why this country's system of government was based in part on a separation of church and state?

I have no issue with people who observe Catholicism. But given the Vatican's wonderful historic record and its record on things like child-molesting priests, I'm surprised that Cardinal Arinze hasn't burst into flames on contact with holy water after his remarks above.

I think Arinze may have lost sight of what it means to be Catholic, Christian or even a decent human being. I'm positive that he's never comprehended anything he's read about Christ.

Hey Miss Cellania, I passed geography too!!!

You Passed 8th Grade Geography

Congratulations, you got 8/10 correct!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Time to be a little less intense

Now that I’ve calmed down a bit, let’s wind Saturday down with a classic bar joke . . .

A guy walks into a bar with an octopus under his arm. He steps up on the stage in front of the band and yells, “I’ll bet anyone 50 bucks that my octopus can play any musical instrument in the joint!”

The band leader says, “I’ll betcher octopus can’t play this Fender Stratocaster!” The octopus grabs it and plays a full set of BB King, Clapton and Yardbirds and brings the house down.

The bandleader forks over $50 and skulks away. Another band member challenges the octopus to play the trumpet, and it starts playing Herb Alpert as the trumpeter throws down a Franklin in disgust.

Finally, a crazy old Scot steps out of the bar crowd and says “Ah’ll wager yer eight-legged pal canna blow the pipes!”

The octopus takes the bagpipes and starts fumbling with them in a confused manner.

“So yer squidly laddie can’t play the bagpipes, eh?” the Scot said smugly.

“Play?” the octopus shot back. “I’m putting the moves on her as soon as I get her pajamas off!”

Edward L. Henson, Jr.

Part of my outrage on this blog in the last few days was fueled by the death of a professor of mine, Dr. Edward L. Henson, Jr.

Long before John Candy showed up in a John Hughes movie and claimed the sobriquet, Dr. Henson earned the nickname Uncle Buck among my classmates at what was then Clinch Valley College.

And our Uncle Buck wasn't some fat lovable slob in Chi-town.

Buck Henson was probably the finest instructor, finest gentleman and finest American I'd ever known. And if I could ever overcome my weaknesses as a human being, Buck Henson is the kind of person I'd most want to be.

Buck lived a long life, and the last decade left so many of us who knew him in a prelude to mourning as his faculties faded.

But a quarter-century ago, Uncle Buck was a force of nature. Well over 6 feet tall, he dressed very conservatively, carried an old leather briefcase to and from classes, and wielded a ferocious intellect sharpened with a friendly, gentlemanly manner and a sense of humor that could immobilize an entire roomful of people.

My favorite Buck Henson story was in the spring of 1984. I was under a great deal of stress, facing six final exams and completion of my history paper for graduation.

Many of us in the department's class of 1984 shared several classes that spring, and the usual suspects inhabited Buck's U.S. diplomatic history class one morning. One of our compatriots, Hank Williams, Jr. (not the singer, but a well-respected and extraordinarily shy man) was first in the lineup for the day's class presentations on various figures in the nation's diplomatic history.

As Hank took his station at the podium, we all heard Buck's deep-throated chuckle from the back of the room. The chuckling built, as we all looked at each other in a confused manner. Hank got nervous and began checking his shirt buttons and zipper.

After three or four minutes, Henson grinned and said the most memorable phrase I'd ever heard in college or graduate school.

"Mr. Williams, I don't know whether to ask you to give your presentation on Sumner Welles or to sing three bars of "My Cheating Heart.""

Long before that, Buck had earned my undying respect for his ability to humanize history and show his love for his country while being quite willing to make the most direct, dispassionate, articulate criticisms for the idiotic acts committed in the name of democracy at various times throughout the last 230 years.

And Buck was just as willing to admire the great things of this country. Buck loved his family, his community, his country and mankind.

Buck was an infantry officer in Europe just weeks after Germany surrendered, and his tales of duty on the Italian-Yugoslavian frontier left one wondering just what American leaders were thinking after they had conquered the most evil force of mankind to that point. His were not stories of fire-breathing, God-fearing patriotism. They were stories - sometimes funny, sometimes surreal, sometimes sad -of a 20-year old man coming to grips with a world outside Virginia.

My agnosticism doesn't mean I reject the idea of a God. And if there is one, I truly hope that he or she or it has eased Buck Henson's suffering in reward for the effect he has had on so many people.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Just a slight clarification to the previous night’s entry.

I’m not against religion, although I’m a pleasantly maladjusted agnostic.

What I am against is the attempt in recent decades for a right leaning segment of American Christianity to co-opt this country into a theocracy in all but name.

I’m tired of a religious hucksterism practiced by Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. I’m tired of religious intolerance regardless of whether it’s practiced by Muslim, Christian or any other faith or sect.

While the religious right in this country goes on about how this was a nation founded upon a Christian God (with the obligatory self-serving equivalent ‘and on the god of our Jewish friends’) they also show a strong ignorance or intentional dismissal of Thomas Jefferson’s classic Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom. If you haven’t read it, it makes far more sense than some of the stuff that passes for intellectual political discussion these days.

I am, however, in favor of the people of this country being able to observe their own faith or creed under a basic set of rights. Civil responsibility and morality flow from the recognition that we all have those rights, not from a government telling us that they know best even as they trample those rights and ignore their own responsibility and accountability to us.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Where has this week gone? Come to think of it, where has the year gone?

Another week, another newspaper off the press and on the streets.

And while going through that routine, my only contact with the outside world has been NPR on the drive home, some Internet news sites and then some of the regional political blogs I monitor.

Even so, I believe with all my heart that the problem with our current leadership - and I mean the National Command Authority especially - is that they have lost sight of the most basic element of loyalty in this society. When our federal elected officials, military officers, judges and other officials take their oaths of office, they swear to uphold the Constitution.

Not the flag, not Christianity, not the President.

The Constitution.

All this talk of defending the flag, the Judeo-Christian way of life, family values and God-fearing society is horsecrap.

The one thing in this society that even makes the existence of those things - or the pretense of those things - possible is the existence of the Constitution of the United States.

I think that the last six years especially show that our federal executive and legislative branches have paid the lowest form of lip service to the Constitution.

So-called patriots can talk their game about defending the sanctity of the American flag. The flag means nothing if the Constitution behind it is subverted and abused.

Personally, I don't think the occupants of the White House and the Naval Observatory would recognize the Constitution if someone rolled up a copy of it and smacked them across the nose for fouling the carpeting.

Long live the Constitution and the United States, and lifelong dishonor to those scumbags who would trod upon it under the pretense of patriotism.