Tuesday, August 31, 2010

On This Day in History: With a certain English flavor

Diana was the world's princess.
1422 – Upon the death of his father, Henry VI ascended to the throne and became the King of England at nine months of age.  Possibly the youngest monarch in history, a regency council was established to govern in Henry's place until he came of age in 1437.  Although generally ill prepared to be King, Henry's legacy is largely defined by the establishment of Eton College (described as the most famous public school in the world) in 1440 and King's College, Cambridge the year after.

1803 – Meriwether Lewis and William Clark leave Pittsburgh, PA and begin their expedition to the west.  Having not achieved their primary objective of finding the "Northwest Passage," Lewis and Clark are nonetheless responsible for production of the first accurate maps of the west and a better understanding of the region's natural resources.  They also established friendly relations with some of the indigenous tribes, without whom the explorers (33 in all) would have starved to death and/or become hopelessly lost in the Rocky Mountains.

1864 – Union forces, led by Maj. General William T. Sherman, launch a final assault on Atlanta, Georgia.  The following November, Sherman ordered that all military and government buildings in the area to be burned, although many private homes and shops were also torched.  I guess if Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston, who initially led the opposition against Sherman's Atlanta Campaign and later served as a pallbearer at his funeral, would not speak ill of the Ohio native, then neither will I.

1888 – A woman named Mary Ann Nichols is found murdered in the Whitechapel district of London.  She later becomes known as the first victim of Jack the Ripper.

1897 – Thomas Edison patents the Kinetoscope, the first movie projector.

1943 – The first United States Navy ship to be named after a Black person, the USS Harmon (DE-678), is commissioned.  This ship was named for mess attendant Leonard Roy Harmon, who was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for his heroism aboard the USS San Francisco (CA-38) during the Battle of Guadalcanal at the Solomon Islands.

1948 – Robert Mitchum is arrested in a Hollywood drug raid.  He would later be found guilty of criminal conspiracy to possess marijuana and sentenced to 60 days in prison.  Today he is a stoner icon.

1997 – Diana, Princess of Wales is killed in a car crash in Paris, just one year (and three days to be exact) after her divorce from Prince Charles was finalized.  To this day she is more revered in America than most of those who served as President, and for good reason.

Monday, August 30, 2010

From My Own Camera: As the day descends

(click to enlarge)
Located in the southern Ozarks about 50 miles from Little Rock, this is a shot I took some years back aboard a friend's Cobalt (or something similar) on Greer's Ferry Lake in Cleburne County -- named for Irish-born Confederate Maj. General Patrick R. Cleburne -- just off the shore of the Tannenbaum subdivision in Drasco, Arkansas.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunday's Quote: God & Darwin

A couple of friendly acquaintances I know through the blogosphere have been questioning God lately.  One, a non-Believer from the UK named Steven (aka, Vilges), respectfully asked about my position regarding the existence of God, which I have lazily put off until I become organized enough to write a worthy follow-up.  The other, a good-natured agnostic named Holly, recently wrote a piece regarding, among other things, the balance between Faith and proof.  I was tempted to respond, but I was afraid she would misinterpret my rebuttal(s).  So I deferred.

Because separating the Truth from extremism, or any variant thereof, is the ultimate challenge in dealing with a God who plays by His own rules instead of ours, I thought a quote from an unabashed Conservative regarding an issue the non-Believers think they own would be in order:

"My conclusion is that it is not religion but atheism that requires a Darwinian explanation.  It seems perplexing why nature would breed a group of people who see no purpose to life or the universe, indeed whose only moral drive seems to be sneering at their fellow human beings who do have a sense of purpose.  Here is where the biological expertise of [Richard] Dawkins and his friends could prove illuminating.  Maybe they can turn their Darwinian lens on themselves and help us understand how atheism, like the human tailbone and the panda's thumb, somehow survived as an evolutionary leftover of our primitive past."
-- from "God knows why faith is thriving" by Dinesh D'Souza, San Francisco Chronicle; October 22, 2006

Note: The author of over 10 books, including Life After Death: The Evidence, Mr. D'Souza is a graduate of both Dartmouth College and Stanford University.  He is also married to a woman named Dixie.  How could I not love this guy?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Three things you should know about Islam (ما يجب أن تعرفه عن الإسلام)

Considering the inroads Muslims have been making in our once-great society, I thought a comprehensive assessment about Islam from an objective non-religious group would be in order.  I promise you, this is worth a mere eight minutes of your time:

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Iconic Shot: Not the kind of desert you were thinking

(click to enlarge)
You are, in fact, looking at ripples of sand in a desert.  Except this particular desert is located in the Wright Valley of the Transantarctic Mountains in Antarctica.

© Chris Kannen, National Science Foundation

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Guilty Pleasures: Stanford University

So why is one of the world's most prestigious institutions of higher learning a "guilty pleasure"?  I'll explain.

My mother and I flew from Memphis to visit my father and his side of the family in San Francisco during the spring of 1985.  Seeing Alcatraz, Fisherman's Wharf, the Golden Gate Bridge (and Park), Lombard Street and the Santa Cruz mountains exceeded any expectations that a nine-year-old could have, but visiting the campus of Stanford University in nearby Palo Alto remains my most vivid memory.

Over the years I have read about the centuries-old colleges of the northeast, and I've come to appreciate schools such as Amherst, Dartmouth, Hamilton, Middlebury and Williams, just as the academic citadels of the Southland -- College of Charleston, Duke, Emory, Vanderbilt, and Washington & Lee -- also stir no small sense of regional fervor in this unabashed Southern boy.  Yet a little something extra has persisted in my psyche from the day I visited the Leland Stanford, Jr. University a quarter-century ago.

Whether or not my obeisance to Stanford remains from a sense that I failed to make the most of my college experience is debatable.  But my post last December about Heisman Trophy voters snubbing a certain running back who just happened to lead the nation in rushing yards (1,871) and touchdowns (28) is directly attributable to having been a deeply closeted SU fan since adolescence.  Heck, I even follow head football coach Jim Harbaugh on Twitter.

I knew early in my high school years that Stanford's 3.7 GPA and 1400 SAT requirements, not to mention their 10% acceptance rate, put this fine institution well beyond my grasp.  Still I use Stanford's hex triplet [#990000] wherever red is seen on this blog.  (The Dartmouth green [#00693e] is also included as a subtle nod.)  It's just my little way of saying, I wish I could've been there.  Indeed it would have been nice to experience something like "Full Moon on the Quad," but I'll remain a devoted regardless, no matter how quixotic it might be.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sunday's Quote: Fantasy Football

Photo from TwinCitiesDailyPhoto.com
Upwards of 20 million men (and women in some cases) gather around this time every August to grind over the available options for their respective fantasy football team.  And yes, The Eccentric Conservative is no exception.

Just a couple of hours ago I drafted (left, not an actual shot from my draft night) perhaps the most dominating team in fantasy football history.  Of course I say that every year, and I haven't won a championship since 2002 -- although my franchise has made three trips to the title game.  But this season will be different.

Yes, I can feel it.  Back off and bow down, boy.  May as well engrave my name on the Hipner Trophy now.  Victory will be mine.  All mine, damn it!

"Nobody in football should be called a genius.  A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein."
-- Joe Theismann, former National Football League MVP and Super Bowl-winning quarterback for the Washington Redskins ('74-'85)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

List Fest: The 20 most symbolic albums of Generation X

We enjoy lists because they provide a more distinctive means of processing information.  Breaking the initial monotony of plowing through one paragraph after another possibly amplifies our increasing inability to peruse over much of anything for more than five seconds.  Yet our preference for commingling information with some form of entertainment has become the standard nevertheless -- dwindling attention spans be damned.  Hence your humble purveyor is adding a new feature to this ever-evolving blog, simply called, "List Fest."

A piece in the current issue of Esquire (p. 156) described anger as, "The latest in a recent string of sentiments to define the collective American experience."  Truer words may never have been written.  Verily the anger and cynicism that also symbolize America's most nondescript postmodern generation (currently 29-49 years-old) is a recurring theme in the following list that respectfully attempts, through music, to encapsulate who Generation X really is:

#20. Kind of Blue by Miles Davis
Chosen for addition to the National Recording Registry in 2002, Davis's magnum opus also features the equally gifted John Coltrane on saxophone.  Released, astonishingly, 51 years ago this month, keynote instrumentals such as "Blue in Green" invite even the most trendy hipsters to enjoy the inspired work of a master at his finest.  (See also the Liquid Mind series by Chuck Wild)

#19. Greatest Hits 1970-2002 by Elton John
This three-disc collection features over 40 songs, some two-and-a-half hours his all-time best, that span the career of an iconoclast -- to whom virtually anyone can relate -- whose talent is only surpassed by his originality.  (See also Elv1s: 30 #1 Hits by Elvis Presley)

#18. Reason to Believe by Pennywise
Having followed Radiohead's lead by initially releasing their ninth studio album as a free digital download, riff-heavy tunes such as "One Reason," "The Western World" and "Die for You" are the socially thematic songs by which these melodic California punk rockers would be appreciated if only more Gen Xers knew about them.

#17. Singles (original motion picture soundtrack), various artists
Nirvana unknowingly kicked the door in for the grunge explosion during the early '90s, but it's this lineup of angst-ridden songs by which Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and The Smashing Pumpkins owe much of their multi-platinum success.  Despite the prevalence of this Seattle-based collection of songs, it is the melancholic "Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns" by Mother Love Bone that perhaps defines this album best for America's "13th generation."  (See also Ten by Pearl Jam, Dirt by Alice in Chains and Badmotorfinger by Soundgarden)

#16. The Wall by Pink Floyd
A concept double album largely based upon the life experiences of bassist/lyricist Roger Waters, songs that speak of a desire to build a "wall" of protection from the outside world have resonated with both fans and casual listeners for over 30 years en route to becoming one of the best-selling albums of all-time.

#15. Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness by The Smashing Pumpkins
Once billed as "The Wall for Generation X," Billy Corgan broke all ties with the Pumpkin's grunge background with a double album, loosely conceptual in scope, that deals unpretentiously with the realities of life, which is further complimented by a surprising level of emotion and depth.

#14. Reise, Reise by Rammstein
Although the originators of the "New German Hardness" (Neue Deutsche Härte) hit the American scene in 1997 with Sehnsucht (German for Longing), this is the bone-crushing album -- on which virtually no English is spoken -- that requires no lyrical comprehension to be understood.  Dark and heavy as hell itself, industrial masterpieces "Keine Lust" (No Desire), "Amerika" (America) and the disturbing "Mein Teil" (My Part) grab listeners by the neck from start to finish.  Considering the largely nihilistic sentiment of Generation X, this album (similar to #18) would be considered a classic if only more people knew about it.

#13. IV (aka, ZoSo) by Led Zeppelin
Also called The Hermit and ZoSo, this is the purest rock album from one of the greatest bands ever.  Classic Rock remains central to Gen X, and with a roster of songs that receive regular air play nearly 40 years after its release, no further explanation about the importance of IV should be required.  (See also Electric Ladyland by Jimi Hendrix)

#12. Pronounced 'Lĕh-'nérd 'Skin-'nérd by Lynyrd Skynyrd
Still the kings of Southern Rock after all these years, "Tuesday's Gone," "Simple Man" and, of course, "Free Bird" highlight an album that even the most ardent disregarders of this under-appreciated genre', which refects Americana so thoroughly, can appreciate.  (See also Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 by The Eagles)

#11. Thriller by Michael Jackson
Some would argue that the biggest-selling album in music history deserves nothing but the top spot on any list.  Multi-generational in its appeal, Michael Jackson's career defining achievement is only hindered by the fact that Thriller is entirely pop -- a genre' notorious for not always speaking to those longing for a voice to which they can relate.  That said, every Quincy Jones-produced tune is simply amazing.  (See also Purple Rain by Prince and Rhythm Nation 1814 by Janet Jackson)

#10. The Joshua Tree by U2
A band that somehow sounds much larger in scope than merely three musicians and one singer, U2 were already Gen X favorites when The Joshua Tree was released in 1987.  Yet this is the definitive album, the only one that can be called "important," which cemented the Irish foursome's legacy forever.

#9. Metallica (aka, The Black Album) by Metallica
Metallica were playing sold-out arenas all over the world before mainstream America discovered who they were.  Yet this is the release that forced even the most alternative jet setters to listen until their ears bled.  Sadly 17 years would pass before fans would be given a worthy follow-up to this "arena rock" masterpiece.

#8. Nevermind by Nirvana
An album that inspired rich kids to hate their parents and wear flannel in the middle of summer, the unwitting purveyors of a grunge movement-gone-global engendered an unlikely music revolution that wouldn't come to a grinding halt until its poet-king ended his own life.

#7. Untouchables by Korn
All killer with no filler, Korn's finest (and heaviest) release abandons all previous hip-hop influences and gets straight to the point with one anger-fueled assault after another, and Gen X responded in a multi-platinum way.  As one would assume from the covert art alone, this one is strictly for the hardcore.

#6. Under the Table and Dreaming by Dave Matthews Band
An appreciation of bands like Phish and Widespread Panic isn't necessary to understand the infectious vibe of an album which thrust Dave Matthews Band into the mainstream without losing its college town credibility.  Despite the multi-platinum success in the years that followed, this is the one Gen X will always respect the most.

#5. 1984 by Van Halen
David Lee Roth's final appearance as Van Halen's frontman (until further notice) took a stylistically different direction from the band's previous five albums, but the upbeat vibe generally remained the same.  Over a quarter-century after its release, 1984 remains Van Halen's defining achievement.

#4. Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band,
the eponymous "White Album" and Abbey Road by The Beatles

These four lads from Liverpool changed the world of music with every album they released, but their five album stretch from 1965-1969 (minus Yellow Submarine) are what make The Beatles the most important band that will ever exist.  Some 40 years after they broke up, The Beatles remain tops among the bands that impacted Generation X the most.

#3. Back in Black by AC/DC
The spirit of perseverance is thematic from start to finish on Back in Black.  The cathartic reaction this album receives 30 years after its release proves that even the most cynical Gen Xers still possess the utmost respect for real men.  On a side note, the definitive hard rock album of all-time (the second-biggest seller, behind only Thriller) was released on The Eccentric Conservative's fourth birthday.  And yours truly could not be more proud of that.

#2. Core by Stone Temple Pilots
Initially labeled as a grunge rip-off, STP's debut was released to lukewarm reviews that were colored, in part, by the aforementioned genre' that dominated the music landscape.  Yet Core has stood the test of time, as most of the songs -- driven by some of the heaviest power chords of the era -- center upon themes that remain relevant to this day.

#1. Urban Hymns by The Verve
If there was ever an album on which Generation X could have a listen and say, "They know what I'm thinking," then this is most likely it.  "Bitter Sweet Symphony" is the album's most noted tune, but the remaining roster of songs -- "Sonnet," "Space and Time," "Lucky Man" "One Day" and "This Time," among others -- are capable of piercing the hardest of hearts.  Have a listen for any reason.  (See also Kid A by Radiohead, (What's the Story) Morning Glory? by Oasis and the eponymous debut by The Stone Roses)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Iconic Shot: The Big Three

Although the last U.S. combat brigade pulled out of Iraq about 48 hours ago, one of the remaining contentions encompassing America's questionable military presence in a nation formerly run by a dictator who was once supported by our government is perhaps best understood by the picture below, which proves that geopolitical complexities will sometimes demand that the good guys side with a committed antagonist to overcome an even greater threat.

(click to enlarge)
Credited to an unidentified member of the U.S. Army Signal Corps, this original photo from the National Archives, taken 65 years ago amid the waning days of World War II, centers upon British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt, and the aforementioned antagonist, Russian Premier Josef Stalin during the Yalta Conference (also called the Crimea Conference), held at the Livadia Palace in the southern portion of present-day Ukraine.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

From My Own Camera: Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean

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About 100 miles east of Florida, this picture was taken -- albeit, somewhat crookedly -- on a beach in Freeport, Grand Bahama Island, some 12 years ago.

Monday, August 16, 2010

As the college football season approaches...

"Thirty thousand fans don't pack into The Grove at Ole Miss to spend time under the oak trees as individuals.  Rather, we go there to take part in something greater..."

Golf Digest editor Matt Ginella toured The Grove during a rainy, but otherwise pleasant day at Ole Miss in October 2009.  Ignore the first 35 seconds of his six minute piece and have a look at what this visitor from New York was surprised to find in Oxford, Mississippi:

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunday's Quote: Stan, The Man

#6 Stan Musial, c. 1942
It is around time every year in which a long and sometimes monotonous baseball season begins to mean something.  As divisional pennant chases are analyzed by the sports media to the point of delirium, it is good to remember those who dug the well from which today's professional athletes, as it were, continually draw the freshest water.

Stan Musial began playing semi-pro baseball in Pennsylvania at age 15.  Having initially competed as a pitcher, Musial was converted to the outfield during his time in the minor leagues and developed a unique hitting stance that is perhaps best mirrored today by future Hall of Famer, Ichiro Suzuki.

A three-time World Series champion, three-time MVP, seven-time batting champion and 24-time All-Star selection, "The Man" was enshrined into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility with a .331 batting average and 3,630 career hits (1,815 at home, 1,815 on the road, and only Hank Aaron amassed more total bases).  Known for his modesty and class, it is said that fans of the Brooklyn Dodgers gave the St. Louis Cardinal legend the nickname by which he will always be known.  Yet it's the standard he established, both on and off the field, that makes this "perfect knight" my baseball hero.

The summer heat may linger, but we know the pleasantness of autumn is near.  And with that, a new season of football approaches.  But until the titans of the gridiron take the helm, it is baseball -- possibly the most vintage exemplar of Americana -- that holds our attention.

"Baseball is what we were, football is what we have become."
-- Mary McGrory (1918-2004), Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The Washington Post

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Just Thinking Out Loud: Five years ago (yesterday)

August 13, 2005: "Reverend" Al Sharpton, alongside D'Army Bailey and the Memphis chapter of the Nation of Islam, headlined a shindig at Nathan Bedford Forrest Park in downtown Memphis, across from the UT medical school, to rally for the removal of the statue/sarcophagus of Lt. General Forrest (Army of Tennessee, CSA).

Just a couple of miles away, a comparably sized group of born and bred Southerners gathered around the statue of President Jefferson Davis at Confederate Park on Front St.  After giving a couple of brief interviews to the local media, I began wondering about the other side's rally.  No one else was willing to check it out, so I went alone.

I must've stuck out like a sore thumb in my suit and tie, especially in 97-degree weather.  But I went because I care.  And I care, in part, because I have never understood why an entire region -- a fledgling upstart of a nation -- of mostly poor, non-slave-holding Southerners would form a volunteer army to battle against the logistically superior North to merely ensure that a relatively small percentage of the upper crust would be allowed to maintain an institution that was not practiced by 94% of the populace.

In short, the overall experience was fascinating.  Perhaps I will delve with greater detail some other time.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A story in pictures

A few that recently caught my attention, which came together something like a puzzle:

Note: The above-quote is possibly attributable to Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Upton Sinclair.  A consensus has never been reached.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A passion that breeds contempt

File this under vintage Americana --

Hailed by ESPN in January 2009 as the most prestigious college football program since the "modern era" began in 1936, the University of Oklahoma ended last season's campaign with a mediocre 8-5 record, finishing outside of the Top 25 for the first time since 1999.  So it came as some surprise when the Sooners received the #8 ranking in the USA Today preseason coaches poll (released August 6).  In fact six other schools that finished last season outside of the Top 25 -- North Carolina, Arkansas, Florida State, Georgia, Oregon and Auburn -- were ranked in the 2010 edition of the preseason poll, while four teams that amassed double-digit wins for '09 -- Cincinnati, Houston, Brigham Young and Navy -- were left out altogether.

The disposition to give historic powerhouse "name programs" the benefit of the doubt is nothing new, but the preseason national rankings, even when voted on by the head coaches, has always been an example of predictable futility intended to stir enthusiasm for the coming season -- as if that were necessary -- which, more than ever, only validates the growing contention that supports doing away with any such polling until after the first week has been played.

Nevertheless, a 5,000-point power rating system based upon numerous sources and a general gut feeling by the humble and well-intentioned purveyor of this blog, is likely equal to anything for which you would otherwise have to pay.  So debuting below for the first time, your preaseason Top 10 (because 25 is too much) according to The Eccentric Conservative:

Home of the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide
#1  Alabama, 715 pts.
#2  Ohio State, 635 pts.
#3  Texas, 610 pts.
#4  Boise State, 565 pts.
#5  Florida, 530 pts.
#6  Iowa, 485 pts.
#7  Texas Christian, 440 pts.
#8  Nebraska, 360 pts.
#9  Virginia Tech, 345 pts.
#10  Wisconsin, 315 pts.

A not-so-Iconic Shot

And remember kids, stay in school...

A stretch of road near Southern Guilford High School in Greensboro, North Carolina.  Similar mistakes have been made somewhat recently in Miami, Florida and Kalamazoo, Michigan.  

Photo by Joseph Rodriguez, via the Associated Press and the Greensboro News & Record

Monday, August 9, 2010

An immigration analogy

A not-so-fictional short story --

You arrive home after another grueling day at work.  Your boss is a self-righteous jerk and you frequently have to fight off the compulsion to smack at least half of your colleagues.  But the job keeps you from bankruptcy and it beats unemployment.  You are a quintessential Republican.

Minutes later you muster the strength to pour a well-deserved Presbyterian (2 ounces Scotch, 2-4 ounces ginger ale).  A simple protein drink or perhaps a baked salmon dish from that new place around the corner would be healthier, of course, but reveling in your very own Don Draper moment is satisfying enough.

Suddenly there's a knock at the front door.  It's me.  A guest is the last thing you want right now, but always the polite one -- Do unto others, right? -- you force a friendly smile and allow me into your home.  That was your first mistake.

I hang out for a while.  I don't say much, but I feel more than free to dig through your pantry.  I eat your food, drink your beverages -- including the last sip of your Presbyterian -- pass some gas, grab the remote control, flip around to the network of my choosing, and make inappropriate comments to your daughter.

"You're looking mighty fine in that little cheerleader outfit.  Go Panthers indeed!"

I'm wildly pleased with myself at this point.  I ate and drank myself into a stupor, made at least a dozen not-so-subtle advances towards your daughter, and you barely said a word.  Jackpot!

In fairness I would have hit on your wife, too, but she left you for a lesbian several years ago.  They hiked together throughout Europe, got married in Massachusetts, but are now divorced.  Freaking liberals.

There's no way I'm leaving now.  Upon informing you that I'm turning in for the night, I plop myself down in your guest room and begin snoring like a hibernated bear almost instantly.  Assuming I have no where else to go, you graciously allow me to stay for the night.  Believe me, I slept like a baby.

Hours became days, and days turned into weeks.  I've been living in your home for years now and my presence has been less than positive.  I use your credit cards at my leisure to pay for food, gas, clothes, and strippers.  By now I'm on a first-name basis with many of the ladies who work the center stage pole at "The Purple Church" (right).  You have no idea.

But there's a problem.  I have it pretty good, but I'm becoming restless.  I want more.  I'm also catching an uncomfortable vibe from you, and I don't appreciate it.  I don't feel welcome anymore and I'm not understanding the problem.  After all, I've been here for years.  You let me in and you let me stay.  So what if you support me almost entirely?  And who cares about the occasional outbursts of violence and indignation?

Trying to ward off the unfriendliness, I call you a variety of degrading names and make baseless assertions like, "This is MY house!"  But nothing seems to work.  I even got some of my friends to protest in your front yard, but our efforts only angered you more.

After imploring you to treat me better, you finally throw me out and promise retribution if I ever return.  You're such a bigot.

Our nation, at this very moment, is under mass attack by illegals from the south and extremists from the east.  To say or do nothing will engender a future that will turn the bit of humor you just read into a stark reality.  It's that simple.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sunday's Quote: Fighting

The fact that Chael Sonnen (right) survived the first round against pound-for-pound #1 Anderson Silva at UFC 117 last night surprised me.  The fact that Sonnen practically dominated Silva for the first four rounds was downright shocking.  Yet a mistake by the Oregon Republican at the very end, getting caught in a triangle choke by a Braziian jiu-jitsu specialist, kept Sonnen from pulling off one of the great upsets in MMA history.  And so goes life.

Our very existence is a fight that is not so much unlike what is described in the above-paragraph.  Always has been, always will be.  These quote expand on that point:

"Don’t hit at all if it is honorably possible to avoid hitting; but never hit softly."
-- Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), 26th President of the United States

"Should you desire the great tranquility, prepare to sweat."
-- Hakuin Ekaku (1686-1769), Japanese Zen Roshi

"Only a warrior chooses pacifism; others are condemned to it."
-- Unknown

Friday, August 6, 2010

From My Own Camera: Beale Street

(click to enlarge)
A classic from the pre-digital camera era taken way past closing time --

Originally named Beale Avenue in 1841, this nearly two-mile stretch of downtown Memphis digressed into a dilapidated state by the 1970s, prompting some to call for the area to be flattened.  By the 1990s, however, city developers revitalized the district, turning this historic area into a tourist attraction and a point of civic pride that features Silky O'Sullivan's, New Daisy Theater, B.B. King's Blues Club, Hard Rock Cafe', Coyote Ugly, Rum Boogie Cafe', and the W.C. Handy ("Father of the Blues") House and Museum.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

On This Day in History

The Scots are a proud people.
1305 – William Wallace, Commander of the Army of the Kingdom of Scotland amid the Wars of Scottish Independence, was captured by the English near Glasgow and transported to London, where he was put on trial and executed 18 days later.  Scotland would win its independence in 1328.

1583 – Sir Humphrey Gilbert establishes the first English colony in North America at what is now St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, located along the eastern tip of Canada.

1620 – The Mayflower departed from Southampton, England on its first attempt to reach North America.  Because its sister ship, the Speedwell, developed a purported leak (later disproved) and was docked as a result, the Mayflower would not reach Provincetown, Massachusetts until the following November.

1884 – The cornerstone for the Statue of Liberty is laid on Bedloe's Island (now Liberty Island) in New York Harbor.  Having been constructed in France, the statue was shipped in crates, assembled on the completed pedestal, and officially opened to the public by President Grover Cleveland on October 28, 1886.

1930 – Neil Armstrong, the first person to set foot on the Moon, was born in Wapakoneta, Ohio.

1944 – Polish insurgents liberated a German labor camp in Warsaw, freeing 348 Jewish prisoners.  Although the Germans would eventually quell the two-month Warsaw Uprising, the Nazi regime would be defeated by the Allies eight months later, ending World War II.

1952 – The show that would become American Bandstand debuted on the ABC television network and would remain on-air for 47 years.

1962 – Marilyn Monroe, the Lindsay Lohan of her day, died of a "probable suicide" from "acute barbiturate poisoning."  In other words, the Kennedys probably did it.

1981 – President Ronald Reagan fired 11,359 striking air-traffic controllers who ignored his order for them to return to work.

"...so I can do my issues"

I'm afraid this is real.  Don't vote for Basil in the Tennessee gubernatorial primary, but here's his two minute campaign advertisement anyway:

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Is celebrity relevant?

"God is not proud.  He will have us even though we have shown that we prefer everything else to Him."
-- C.S. Lewis (1898-1963), novelist, Oxford professor, essayist, theologian and reformed atheist

CelebAtheists.com, a website presumably dedicated to legitimizing atheism through celebrity star power has, with meticulous detail, compiled an extensive list of famous individuals who do not believe in God.  While names such as Lance Armstrong, humorist Dave Berry and financier Warren Buffett were a bit surprising, others such as Woody Allen, Fidel Castro, Noam Chomsky, Larry Flynt, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, Karl Marx and Mao Zedong not only draw apathy, but are possibly the poorest exemplars for the cause of the non-Believer.

Reveling in their self-centered intellectual vanity, the atheist movement is promoted as an enlightened counterculture that offers freedom from the oppressive bully pulpit establishment, pointing to unspeakable atrocities that would not occur if any such omniscient God existed.  The inexplicable good over which we have no control, of course, is either overlooked or dismissed as pure chance.

Christian oversights and misconceptions are celebrated, if not exploited, while no others are held accountable.  Biblical verses taken out of their intended context are referred to as "contradictions," which has become the norm because, whether atheists confess it or not, they are truculently put off by a God that plays by His own rules instead of theirs.

Have faith in atheism at your own risk.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Lewis Grizzard would be proud

"In the East, college football is a cultural exercise.  On the West Coast, it is a tourist attraction.  In the Midwest, it is cannibalism.  But in the South, college football is a religion, and Saturday is the holy day."
-- Marino Casem, Memphis native and former head coach at Alabama State, Alcorn State and Southern University

Based on e-mail surveys of 122,000 students at 373 colleges, the University of Georgia has been named by The Princeton Review as the #1 party school in the nation.  Having made the list 10 times since the ranking was created 18 years ago, this is the first time that UGA has taken the top spot.

The campus itself, located in the quintessential college town of Athens, is surrounded by nearly 100 bars.  Thus parties are not only common, but an accepted part of life, especially during football season when students (among others) begin mingling on Thursday, and often don't stop until Monday morning.  In a related story, Brigham Young University -- way out in Utah, somewhere -- topped the list of "Stone-Cold Sober Schools" for the 13th consecutive year.  The contrast is mind-boggling.

Listed below are two links I'm posting in recognition of Georgia's most recent accomplishment.  Go Dawgs!

(and yes, I at least partially agree with #3)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Iconic Shot: The 1899 Sewanee Tigers

(click to enlarge)
Amid the earliest era of college football in which most schools played eight games or less per season, the above-pictured team from Sewanee, a small Episcopal university nestled in the mountainous Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee, ran the table like no other school, before or since, compiling an undefeated 12-0 record while outscoring their opponents by a combined 322-10.

The '99 Iron Men are most noted for what remains, some 110 years later, the most impressive road trip in college football history, as team manager Luke Lea -- for reasons unknown to anyone -- scheduled a grueling six-day, 2,500-mile journey against five "big name" opponents: Texas, Texas A&M (in Houston), Tulane, Louisiana State, and Ole Miss (in Memphis).

From November 9-14, The University of the South (as Sewanee is officially known) not only won all five road games, but the rugged Tennesseans prevented each opponent from scoring at all.  In fact, Auburn was the only team that managed to score against Sewanee all season.  However, despite the Tigers' impressive resume', Harvard and Princeton were declared co-national champions for the 1899 season.

Those Ivy League boys are lucky the men from Tennessee didn't schedule a second road trip for the northeast.  That could've been nasty.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sunday's Quote: A national conversation about what exactly?

President Obama recently called, once more, for a "national conversation" about race, which follows Attorney General Eric Holder's infamous "nation of cowards" comment regarding our purported fear (read: apathy) in addressing the matter altogether.  The quandary itself arises, practically as a rule, when such an enigmatic topic centers upon mere skin pigmentation instead of mentality, or "social justice" rather than social philosophy.

Aimed at assessing blame on issues that are customarily narrowed to focus on slavery -- an institution appropriated by every culture at some point during the past four millennia (that's 4,000 years for you brainiacs) -- it seems that many foresee a national conversation that establishes a benchmark for the rabble-rousing firebrand and a whipping post for the grossly uninformed.

A good writer recently expanded on the topic:

"People who advocated welfare reform in the 1990s were accused of being 'racist.'  If you're for border control, you're 'racist.'  If you criticize Obama, you're 'racist.'  If you oppose quotas, you're 'racist.'  If you say that, be it nature or nurture, there are differences among groups, you're 'racist.'  If you want English to be the national language, you're 'racist.'  The word has become meaningless, used only to stifle and stigmatize opposition.  And if calling you a heretic worked in that regard, the left would do that.  And if calling you a Fig Newton worked, they would do that. ...

"The point is that you can't prove you're not a 'racist' to the left, because they'll just define 'racist' as being whatever you are.  In fact, sap conservatives, understand something: You're not going to 'prove' anything to the NAACP.  You're not going to prove anything to the mainstream media.  You're not going to prove anything to any dyed-in-the-fool liberal.  They are enemies.  And enemies aren't interested in proof; they're interested in propaganda. ...

"And understand something else: Leftists are cowards.  They are creatures of the pack, finding their strength only in numbers.  After all, what do you think being politically correct is all about.  It means doing what's fashionable in our time, what makes you popular.  A man who believes in Truth, such as Thomas More, will die for his principles, alone, twisting in the wind.  A liberal goes the way the wind blows and will die for nothing.  Stand up to leftists en masse, and they'll fold like a tent.

"So free yourself.  Laugh at the 'racism'  shtick.  Make it a badge of honor.  Call leftists what they are: cowards, bigots, liars, demagogues, and worst of all by far, enemies of Truth.  Fight fire with fire.  Remember, millions of good Americans are sick and tired of political correctness and will stand with you.  So just say to our leftist legal aliens: If you like name-calling and you want to fight, OK.  I'm a racist, sexist homophobe, and I'm in your face."
-- from "Hello, I'm a Racist, Pleased to Meet You" by Selwyn Duke; July 22, 2010

And one more, just to nail the point:

"I hope that one day African-American politicians will finally achieve racial equality and that they, too, will be punished for their ethical lapses just like people of no color are."
-- Rush Hudson Limbaugh III; July 29, 2010