Thursday, December 30, 2010

Real Music: When Black guys shred

Noted as much for Vernon Reid's mammoth solo at the 3:00 mark, Living Colour's "Cult of Personality" is a prime example of the quality mainstream music that burst onto the scene in 1991.  Have a listen:

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Just Thinking Out Loud: Chuck & Tuck(er)

Happy trails, Iceman.  You'll always be one of the all-time greats of MMA.

Tucker Carlson, in his never-ending quest for legitimacy as a newsman, recently stated that Michael Vick should have been "executed" for his role in a dogfighting ring that got him two years in a federal penitentiary.

I defend Conservatives whenever possible, but Carlson's endeavor to connect Vick to President Obama went overboard.  Additionally, I think it's safe to say that sentencing Vick to death would have been extreme.  And for most, especially Conservatives, that goes without saying.

Did You Know (or Care): Long lost brew dog

A recently discovered crate from Ernest Shackleton's 1907 expedition to the South Pole was opened by archaeologists.  Inside, they found 11 untouched bottles of whiskey.  Samples will be sent to Whyte & Mackay (current IWSC Global Distiller of the Year) in Glasgow, Scotland, where master blenders will try to reconstruct the original recipe for the rare Old Highland malt, which had been lost.

Source: Esquire, December 2010; p. 124.  More can be read here.

Iconic Shot: Big snow

This is what 7th Avenue in New York City looked like two days ago.
(Photo by Gary Hershorn via Reuters)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sunday's Quote: What part of CHRISTmas do you not understand? (redux)

The ACLU recently sent a letter to 137 schools here in Tennessee to remind (read: warn) academic officials about the importance, as it were, of non-exclusion during the holiday season.  One could, and should, take that as an affront to the observance and celebration of the birth of Christ.  In the name of comprehensive fairness, however, the ACLU's stance regarding Ramadan or any Neopagan holiday remains unknown, as it seems offending non-Christians is never part of their agenda.

In the same vein, Inside Washington and NPR contributor Nina Totenberg seemingly went out of her way for the sake of tolerance last week when she said, "I was at a -- you'll forgive the expression -- a Christmas party at the Department of Justice..."

The necessity to "forgive the expression" appears nonexistant, but the ever-evolving shots against Christendom and its requisite traditions is not new.  Indeed the end of such things is nowhere in sight, and yet that should never denote surrender.  Consequently I wrote a piece one year ago yesterday that addressed matters such as these, and it's your Quote for today:


"I could bloviate about those who seek to eliminate any trace of Christianity -- or at least, the authentic criterion thereof -- from the national landscape, just as I could reference any number of acts committed by the secular Left in the name of 'separation of church and state' as if the phrase was pulled from the Constitution itself.  But I will resist.

"I could foil the pugilist with a comprehensive assessment, almost pretentious in length, regarding 'separation of church...' (among other things) from Supreme Court decisions that were taken from their originally intended context to endorse a 'progressive' disposition that concedes to practically anything but Christendom.  Yet I will abstain.

"Eschatology of the Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant creeds warn the Believer about agreeable-sounding pontificators who employ abstract reasoning fused with arguments that take aim (in the seemingly nicest possible way) at the very axioms they hold most sacred; a ploy most commonly achieved by admonishing the born-again, yet inattentive adherent to yield to every outlandish form of pluralism for the sake, and in the name of, tolerance.

"Even more, far too many Christians have become more consumed with what's 'cool' instead of keeping their focus upon what is right (something to which I can truly relate), essentially abandoning the substance of their beliefs -- and thus, depreciating the sacrifices made by those who came before us -- because they became fearful of false characterizations by a faction that unabashedly hates the Truth for which we are called to give our lives if necessary.

"I'm beating this war drum because of a slowly growing entente that abates the less passionate into submission with half-truths, platitudes, and double standards while laboring to dilute, or redefine, our long-established values that are almost entirely based upon the Holy Scriptures.  And thus it may not be much longer before opposing the coalition of enlightened, altruistic, open-minded sojourners of egalitarianism will be deemed a 'hate crime.'

"So say Merry Christmas while you still can.  The clock is ticking."
-- Adam M. Woodford; December 25, 2009

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Iconic Shot: Truth

(click to enlarge)
"The Heritage" by Jolanta Peleckienė-Klietkutė and featured in the 2010 National Geographic Photography Contest (People Gallery—Week 3)

On This Day in History

1000 – Hungary is established as a Christian kingdom by Stephen I.  Nearly a thousand years after his death, Stephen is still regarded as one of Hungary's most revered saints, and the date of his canonization is celebrated as a state holiday commemorating the foundation of the nation.

1642 – According to the "Old Style" dating system, Isaac Newton, simply one of the most influential people in history, is born in Lincolnshire, England.  (The "New Style" calendar places his birthday on January 4, 1643.)

1776 – George Washington and his army cross the Delaware River to attack Great Britain's Hessian (German) mercenaries.  The Battle of Trenton was won decisively the next day, which boosted the Continental Army's morale and inspired a significant number of re-enlistments.

1818 – Written by Father Joseph Mohr and composed by Franz Xaver Gruber, the first performance of "Silent Night" takes place in the Church of St. Nikolaus in Oberndorf, Austria.

1826 – The result of whiskey smuggling for a Christmas party in the North barracks at the United States Military Academy, the Eggnog Riot concludes after beginning the previous night.  The riot involved more than one-third of the cadets by the time it ceased, 19 of whom were eventually court-martialed.

1868 – President Andrew Johnson grants unconditional pardon to all Confederate soldiers.

1899 – Hailed by the American Film Institute as the greatest male star in the history of American cinema, Humphrey Bogart (his real name) was born in New York City.

1990 – Based upon a proposed hypertext system designed to access the many forms of documentation at, and related to, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), the first successful trial run of the system that would become the World Wide Web was conducted by computer scientists Robert Cailliau and, the man credited for "inventing" the Internet, Tim Berners-Lee (and not Al Gore).

2009 – Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian Muslim, unsuccessfully attempted a terrorist attack while on board Northwest Airlines Flight 253 en route to Detroit, as the concealed plastic explosives in his underwear failed to detonate properly.  Abdulmutallab was restrained, arrested, and eventually charged with, among other things, the attempted murder of 289 people.  The would-be "martyr" is currently incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution in York Charter Township, Michigan.

Shown above, "Washington Crossing the Delaware" by Emanuel Leutze (1851) is located at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Profound leadership

Who should the GOP send up against President Obama in 2012?  His name is Allen West.  He's a retired U.S. Army Lt. Colonel, and I think he's more impressive than all the other candidates put together:

Did You Know (or Care): Michael Jackson

According to music columnist Paul Grein, Michael Jackson's Thriller debuted, not at #1, but at #11 on the Billboard chart in December 1982 (released on November 30).  "The Girl Is Mine," a duet with Paul McCartney, was the lead single, but sales did not take off until "Billie Jean" was released as the follow-up.  Despite the slow start, Thriller has sold no less than 65 million copies worldwide en route to becoming the biggest selling album of all-time.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Another good question

I'm not what you would call a "drinker," but Memphis area radio station Rock 103 has asked men a simple, yet thought-provoking question regarding an issue that may, at some point in your life, demand an answer:

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday's Quote/Did You Know (or Care): Elvis

There are a variety of notable topics to address, and I'll get to each issue in the near future.  In the meantime, a recent Beatles documentary on the History Channel got me to ponder a relatively famous quote about Elvis Presley from perhaps the most important member of the Fab Four.  Hence the customary Sunday's Quote is preceded by a Did You Know:

Initially broadcast via satellite on January 14, 1973, Elvis Presley's "Aloha from Hawaii" is believed to have reached over a billion viewers worldwide, which included 40% of the Japanese television audience and at least 90% of the available audience in the Philippines.  An estimated 51% of the American television audience watched when it aired in the United States for the first time on April 4, 1973.

Sources: 1, 2

"Elvis was the king.  No doubt about it.  People like myself, Mick Jagger and all the others only followed in his footsteps."
-- Rod Stewart, one of the best-selling artists of all-time with over 100 million records sold worldwide
"A lot of people have accused Elvis of stealing the black man's music, when in fact almost every black solo entertainer copied his stage mannerisms from Elvis."
-- Jackie Wilson (1934-1984), inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1987
"Before Elvis, there was nothing."
-- John Lennon (1940-1980), co-founder of some group called The Beatles

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Connecting the world

Facebook recently engineered a visual graph of the online social network's 500 million profiles to ascertain its reach throughout the international community.  A detailed explanation can be found here, but the final picture they ultimately came up with (click to enlarge) pretty much says it all:

(click to enlarge)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Iconic Shot(s): "God and country"

(click to enlarge)
The Cadet Chapel at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York has been a place of Protestant worship for members of the Corps of Cadets for 100 years.
Photo by Ahodges7 and released to the public domain under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

(click to enlarge)
Completed 102 years ago, the United States Naval Academy Chapel in Annapolis, Maryland, is one of two houses of worship on the grounds of the Navy's service academy.  Both Protestant and Catholic services are held there.  In 1913, the remains of the Scottish-both and American Revolution hero Captain John Paul Jones were interred in the crypt beneath the Chapel inside a sarcophagus made of 19 tons of Grand Pyrenees marble.
© Dan Smith

Monday, December 13, 2010

The "Silent Night" basketball game

Situated in small town Upland, Indiana, about 75 miles south of Indianapolis, Taylor University is a Christian college with a unique tradition.  Have a look:

On This Day in History: War, and a bit of education

1636 – Headquartered near Boston, the Massachusetts Bay Colony organized three militia regiments to defend against the Pequot Indians.  This organization is recognized today as the founding of the U.S. National Guard.

1769 – Dartmouth College is founded by Protestant minister Eleazar Wheelock on land donated by the British colonial governor of New Hampshire, Sir John Wentworth.

1862 – Outnumbered by 41,500 men, Confederate General Robert Edward Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia put the finishing touches on their convincing victory over Maj. General Ambrose Burnside and his 114,000 Federal soldiers at the Battle of Fredericksburg in Virginia.  Notable Southern legends commanding alongside General Lee were Lt. General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, Lt. General James Longstreet, Maj. General James E.B. Stuart, Maj. General John Bell Hood, Maj. General Ambrose Powell Hill, and Brig. General Jubal Anderson Early.

2001 – The Parliament of India in New Delhi is attacked by the Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists groups, just three months after 9/11.  In all 12 people died.  The attack itself led to a standoff between India and Pakistan that was not diffused until both the United States and Russia intervened.

2003 – Commanded by U.S. Army Colonel James Hickey, the 1st Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division capture former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.  He is found near his hometown of Tikrit, literally hiding in a hole.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sunday's Quote: Churchill

A recent interview with John Fisher Burns, London bureau chief for The New York Times and two-time recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, got me to thinking about the British as military protagonists.  Paraphrasing Burns, much of the world has considered the United States, however begrudgingly, as "keepers of the peace" for generations.  And while this is true, at least some of that inspiration can be attributed to one of Britain's all-time greats:

"Churchill considered Nazism vile and barbaric, a rejection of civilization in every way, despite his respect for the German race.  He was particularly offended by its anti-Semitism, which made Nazism, in some ways, worse than communism. ...  

"Even after Hitler violated the Munich peace agreement of 1938 and conquered all of Czechoslovakia in March 1939, Chamberlain and Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax adamantly opposed a pact with Soviet Russia.  They fundamentally misunderstood Hitler, had too much sympathy for Germany and too much contempt for Soviet Russia, and feared war too much to adjust policy.  They were not as intellectually imaginative, strategically discerning, or obsessively determined to face threats as Churchill.  But Churchill’s standing in the Conservative Party and the nation at large was very low in the mid- to late 1930s, and his warnings went unheeded.

"Churchill was clearly the indispensable man of the moment in 1940, whom destiny summoned to change the course of history.  His overwhelming love of country and civilization, grave sense of obligation to protect and improve on all the good the ages had produced, romantic view of the world, and keen understanding of how history had reached a vital point, made him realize why he and Britain had to battle relentlessly, regardless of the odds.  His firm conviction that individuals can overcome great adversity, his belief that great leaders can redirect global forces, and his uplifting oratorical abilities, allowed Churchill to shape the thoughts and feelings of his countrymen and save his country and civilization."
-- from "Being Winston Churchill" by Michael Makovsky; December 8, 2010

Saturday, December 11, 2010

2010 Heisman (according to TEC)

Although law abiding citizens believe in due process, there is simply no way that Auburn quarterback Cam Newton didn't know about his father's indiscretions, particularly if he and his dad are even half as close as they claim.

Quoting myself from just five days ago: If my services were being offered in exchange for a six-figure sum, I would know about it.  To say or think otherwise, especially in regard to college football, is fabulously delusional.  As a result, Newton is ineligible and his impressive stats (3,998 total yards, 48 touchdowns) go for naught.

The best player in college football is not defined by statistics alone.  He is also measured by his impact upon the team for which he plays.  After much consideration, the second annual TEC "vote" for the Heisman Memorial Trophy is as follows:

1. LaMichael James {Running Back, Sophomore, Oregon} -- 1,682 rushing yards (led FBS), 21 touchdowns (led FBS), 152.9 yards per game (led FBS)

2. Landry Jones {Quarterback, Sophomore, Oklahoma} -- 4,289 passing yards (second in FBS), 35 touchdowns (third in FBS), 329.9 yards per game (third in FBS)

3. Kellen Moore {Quarterback, Junior, Boise State} -- 3,506 passing yards, 33 touchdowns (fourth in FBS), 71.0% completion (third in FBS), 185.0 QB Rating (second in FBS to ineligible Cam Newton), 10.2 yards per attempt (second in FBS to ineligible Cam Newton), 6.6-to-1 TD/INT ratio (led FBS)

4. Denard Robinson {Quarterback, Sophomore, Michigan} -- 2,316 passing yards, 16 touchdowns; 1,643 rushing yards (third in FBS), 14 touchdowns; 3,959 total yards, 30 touchdowns

5. Justin Blackmon {Wide Receiver, Sophomore, Oklahoma State} -- 1,665 receiving yards (second in FBS), 18 touchdowns (first in FBS), 151.4 yards per game (first in FBS)
Honorable Mention
(listed alphabetically)
Some players don't get the recognition they deserve.  In fact four guys from Hawaii -- Bryant Moniz, Greg Salas, Kealoha Pilares and Mana Silva -- immediately come to mind.  If all things were equal the following (aside from Luck, who was left out of TEC's top five for the same reasons as Tim Tebow last year) would receive consideration as well:

* Da'Quan Bowers {Defensive End, Junior, Clemson} -- 15.5 Sacks (led FBS)

* Jayron Hosley {Cornerback, Sophomore, Virginia Tech} -- 8 Interceptions (tied-first in FBS)

* Luke Kuechly {Linebacker, Sophomore, Boston College} -- 171 tackles (led FBS), 14.3 tackles per game (led FBS)

* Andrew Luck {Quarterback, Junior, Stanford} -- 3,051 passing yards, 28 touchdowns, 70.2% completion (fifth in FBS)

* Brandon Weeden {Quarterback, Junior, Oklahoma State} -- 4,037 passing yards (third in FBS), 32 touchdowns (fifth in FBS), 336.4 yards per game (second in FBS)

May as well put Newton's face on this one, too.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Just Thinking Out Loud: Regarding one college mascot in particular...

Years before Ole Miss finally "settled" on the average Bear -- more specifically, the smallest and most common omnivore on our continent -- the original options to replace Colonel Reb also raised a considerable ire among the Rebel faithful.  Upon further review, however, perhaps an updated version of the Colonel on steroids (left) wasn't so bad after all.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

He's an emotional one

Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY, 9th district) is always good for a sound bite, but he went out of his way on this one:

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A good question

For years, the Who Are These Guys? blog has been dedicated to uncovering the identity of these five ultra-cool individuals.  Although unsuccessful thus far, I remain hopeful that at least one of the above-pictured will come forth at some point in the future so I can finally move on with my life.  Any legitimate inquiries or positive identification(s) should be sent to the WATG? blog immediately.

Monday, December 6, 2010

TEC's College Football Top 10, Week 14

If my services were being offered in exchange for a six-figure sum, I would know about it.  To say or think otherwise, especially in regard to college football, is fabulously delusional.

Auburn quarterback Cam Newton regained eligibility just 24 hours after being declared ineligible for one reason only: Texas Christian, ranked #3 in both the Associated Press and BCS polls, does not engender the mass appeal for a multi-million-dollar national title game that Auburn does.  So the NCAA buckled by handing down a decrepit, if not shameful ruling that is destined to be overturned eventually, even if it takes years -- just as it did for Reggie Bush.

Thus, because TEC refuses to overlook the evidence directly in front of my face, both Cam Newton and Auburn University are hereby ineligible for any further consideration in this illustrious poll.  As a result, Auburn drops out, every team below them moves up, and Virginia Tech re-enters the Top 10.  Additionally, the Oregon Ducks are hereby declared the inaugural TEC regular season national champions.  The final Top 10 will be out once the bowl games are complete.

Enjoy the trophies while you can, War Eagles.  The accolades won't remain yours for very long.
Rankings as of December 6, 2010
#1  Oregon (12-0), 680 pts.
#2  Texas Christian (12-0), 635 pts.
#3  Wisconsin (11-1), 615 pts.
#4  Stanford (11-1), 580 pts.
#5  Ohio State (11-1), 545 pts.
#6  Michigan State (11-1), 510 pts.
#7  Boise State (11-1), 450 pts.
#8  Oklahoma (11-2), 375 pts.
#9  Arkansas (10-2), 310 pts.
#10  Virginia Tech (11-2), 300 pts.

Did You Know (or Care): The Tennessee Volunteers

Tennessee is known as the "Volunteer State" for the disproportionately large number of Tennesseans who volunteered for duty in the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the Texas Revolution and the Mexican-American War, not to mention the considerable number of citizens who fought on either side of the Civil War.  The University itself was dubbed "Volunteers" for the first time in 1902 by the Atlanta Constitution following a football game against Georgia Tech, although the defunct Knoxville Journal and Tribune did not use the moniker until 1905.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sunday's Quote: WikiDespotism

It might be a stretch to draw a comparison between President Obama and Julian Assange.  But a noted columnist recently went the extra mile to make a valid point:

"The irony is that Assange represents a purer form of Obama’s own idealism.  According to Assange’s dangerous utopianism, in governance purity must determine means, not just ends.  He is convinced that he has revealed the hypocrisy and corruption of U.S. foreign policy, when in reality all he has revealed is that pursuing foreign-policy ideals is messier and more complicated in a world where bad people pursue bad ends.  We can hope that Obama has been learning that lesson.  Assange, meanwhile, is simply blind to it."
-- from "A WikiLeaks Wake-up Call" by syndicated columnist and editor-at-large of National Review Online, Jonah Goldberg; December 1, 2010

Saturday, December 4, 2010

On This Day in History: Happy Thanksgiving (again)

749 – Born and raised in the present-day capital of Syria, Saint John of Damascus died.  Having initially served as chief administrator to the Islamic head of state (caliph), John was ordained a priest in 735.  Regarded by Catholics as a Doctor of the Church, St. John was a defender of the Faith whose writings and hymns remain current over 1,200 years after his death.
1563 – The Council of Trent holds its final session.  Having convened nearly 18 years to the day earlier, largely in response to Martin Luther's 95 Theses, the council condemned what it defined as Protestant heresies and refined Church teachings in various areas, most of which remain topics of debate among the divisions of Christianity.
1619 – Although earlier gatherings are said to have taken place in Florida and even Texas, the first Thanksgiving is generally believed to have occurred when Captain John Woodlief led newly-arrived English colonists to a grassy slope along the James River in Virginia and instructed them to drop to their knees and pray in thanks for a safe arrival to the New World.
1674 – Father Jacques Marquette establishes a mission on the shores of Lake Michigan to minister to the Illiniwek tribe.  The mission would later grow to become Chicago, Illinois.
1791 – The first edition of The Observer, the world's first Sunday newspaper, is published.  Over 200 years later, the center-left periodical still enjoys a circulation of more than 450,000.
1881 – The first edition of the Los Angeles Times is published.  With a circulation that can top one million on Sunday, the Times is the second-largest metropolitan newspaper and the fourth-most widely distributed newspaper in the country.
1980 – Led Zeppelin officially disbands following the death of their irreplaceable drummer John Bonham.
1984 – Hezbollah militants hijack a Kuwait Airlines plane, killing four passengers.  (All in a days work for the terrorists...)
1991 – Terry Anderson, a journalist who spent seven years in captivity as a hostage in Beirut, is released.  He was the last and longest-held American hostage in Lebanon.

Friday, December 3, 2010

From My Own Camera: When a little says a lot

(click to enlarge)
On the edge of Shelby County, near U.S. 64 and just off Collierville-Arlington Rd., is an unincorporated area located east of Memphis, tucked away nicely from the vestiges of civilization, that's pleasant to drive through whenever I can.  And this little establishment catches my attention every time.

In reference to Monday's post...

The four-letter network recently helped to make my point for me:

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Guilty Pleasures: TMZ & White people

Maybe it's the wacky announcer or the office dynamic among your colleagues, or perhaps you're just a likable guy.  But either way, your hour-long weekend show grabs my attention in a manner that causes me to halfway care about things (celebrities) over which I wouldn't otherwise give a crap.  And that, my friend, is a gift.

"When a white person offers you wine, you take a small sip and say 'Ooh, that's nice.  What country is it from?'  Then they will say the name of the country and you say, 'I love wines from that country, I would love to get a villa in the wine region there.'  White people will nod in agreement as they all want to have a second home in a wine region like Napa, Tuscany or Santa Barbara."

Profound, funny, and very true.

Monday, November 29, 2010

TEC's College Football Top 10, Week 13

A quick story...
Your humble purveyor was questioned rather passionately (via e-mail) by a number of know-it-all fans about why South Carolina was not included in TEC's rankings after the Gamecocks defeated then #1 Alabama seven weeks ago.  I responded with a gut feeling, as Spurrier's upset victory over the Crimson Tide "...felt more like an anomaly than an exhibition of team superiority."  My rebuttal wasn't well-received, but it was soon legitimized: Kentucky, a perennial also-ran, defeated SC the following Saturday.
South Carolina (9-3, AP #18) recently clinched it's first division title, and thus, a spot in the SEC championship game, since joining the conference 18 years ago.  While this accomplishment is notable, it also speaks of a surprisingly weak division in which no other team -- including Florida, Georgia and Tennessee -- won more than half of their in-conference games.  As a result, South Carolina's worth has been proven.  The Gamecocks are competitive, but they're not national contenders.

Based on a comparable process of reasoning, TEC has opted to keep Boise State in the top 10 despite the Broncos' one-point loss at Nevada (11-1, AP #14).  Why?  Because the last two paragraphs wouldn't be necessary had BSU's senior kicker made a 34-yard field goal that he makes 97% of the time.  Thus if Alabama didn't fall out of the rankings after their first loss, then neither will the Broncos.  But God help them if the lose next week to Utah State.
In the end, last Saturday gave us all the more reason to love college football.  Aside from Boise State, LSU & Oklahoma State also lost.  They are replaced by Arkansas and Oklahoma.

Rankings as of November 29, 2010
#1  Oregon (11-0), 660 pts.
#2  Texas Christian (12-0), 645 pts.
#3  Auburn (12-0), 635 pts.
#4  Wisconsin (11-1), 580 pts.
#5  Stanford (11-1), 555 pts.
#6  Ohio State (11-1), 520 pts.
#7  Michigan State (11-1), 480 pts.
#8  Boise State (10-1), 315 pts.
#9  Oklahoma (10-2), 310 pts.
#10  Arkansas (10-2), 300 pts.

Adding insult to injury after LSU's tough loss to Arkansas, here's another shot of Cheerleader Man.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sunday's Quote: God

One of the great Conservatives of all-time perhaps said it best:

"Skepticism about life and nature is most often expressed by those who take it for granted that belief is an indulgence of the superstitious — indeed their opiate, to quote a historical cosmologist most profoundly dead.  Granted, that to look up at the stars comes close to compelling disbelief — how can such a chance arrangement be other than an elaboration — near infinite — of natural impulses?  Yes, on the other hand, who is to say that the arrangement of the stars is more easily traceable to nature, than to nature's molder?  What is the greater miracle: the raising of the dead man in Lazarus, or the mere existence of the man who died and of the witnesses who swore to his revival?"
-- from "How Is It Possible To Believe In God?" by William F. Buckley, Jr., founder of National Review, author of over 50 books, including God and Man at Yale, and possibly the foremost Conservative in American history.

And for good measure...

America's never had a perfect President, nor has any nation or municipality in history enjoyed a leader devoid of imperfections.  Yet there's something about Ronald Reagan that puts a smile on my face.  Inspired by a picture I recently came across of William F. Buckley (quoted above) at The White House with our 40th President, the following are part of a collection housed at the University of Texas:

Ronald & Nancy Reagan aboard a boat in California, August 1964 [archive catalog identifier H43-11]

Ronald Reagan celebrating is election for California Governor at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, CA; November 8, 1966 [H99]

President Reagan at Rancho Del Cielo in Santa Barbara, CA; August 13, 1981 [C3525-20]

President Reagan speaking at a rally for Senator David Durenberger in Minneapolis, Minnesota; February 8, 1982 [C6287-7]

President Reagan meeting with fellow Conservative icon British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at 10 Downing Street in London; June 9, 1982 [C8575-32A]

President Reagan at Ashford Castle in Ireland; June 2, 1984 [C22240-34]

President Reagan poses at the White House; October 3, 1984 [C24744-22]

President Reagan salutes as he boards Marine One on his last day as our nation's leader; January 20, 1989 [C51664-20A]

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Rise of the Black Conservatives (all two of them)

There is no easy way to say this: Black men and women who support the American Right Wing catch a lot of hell.  Although volumes have been written on this topic (monolithic voting blocks rarely accomplish much), it should be noted that freethinking individuals who deviate from this unfortunate norm, not on the basis of race, but upon the premise of philosophy, do exist -- and are thriving.

Allen West (pictured) is a retired Army Lt. Colonel and the Representative-elect of Florida's 22nd congressional district.  Having won his rematch earlier this month against incumbent Ron Klein, the Tea Party favorite and 22-year military veteran will become the first African-American Republican from Florida to sit on Capital Hill in over 130 years.  The University of Tennessee graduate (B.A. '83) will also serve a contingency that has voted Democrat in each of the last three Presidential elections.  So disapproving eyes -- especially the Congressional Black Caucus -- will be watching.

Along with Representative-elect Tim Scott, the first African-American Republican from South Carolina elected to Congress in 113 years, these two men will carry the banner for Black Conservatives once held solely by the former four-term Representative from Oklahoma, J.C. Watts.  And considering the grief that is undoubtedly heading their way, I hope they carry the banner proudly.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

It's hard to know where to begin, but I'm thankful to live in the United States, a nation for whom God undeniably shed His grace.  I'm equally thankful for the Pilgrims, the Founders, Conservatism, our military, and the defeat of the Left Wing.  Anyone offended by that should buy a one-way ticket to North Korea... or Venezuela... or Pakistan... or Ethiopia... or China... or some other oppressed nation where you'd have much, much more to complain about.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Real Music: Tupac

An old Bellevue friend with whom I keep in touch via Facebook recently used a status update to ask his friends, over 1,000 in all, about their personal taste(s) in music.  I responded with the following:

"My preferences include virtually every genre' of Rock, most of the mainstream Pop songs from '79-'95, contemporary and instrumental Jazz, real Country (not the pretty boy crap that's so prevalent today), R&B from the late '80s to mid-'90s, elements of Rap from the same era, and electronic/"mood music" that has grown on me considerably over the past five or 10 years."

Chaz, and another friend of his, liked my comment.  Although most of my social network responses invoke a comparable amount of depth (you'd be amazed), one might be just as surprised to find that I possess any appreciation for Rap at all.  In fact there was a time, not that long ago, when I considered Rap/Hip-Hop a somewhat viable medium worth my time and, perhaps, a little bit of my money.

Those days are gone.  Lacking the creativity and social consciousness that once fueled its fire, Rap has become largely reprehensible (not to mention repetitious).  But this particular release from Tupac Shakur's debut solo album nearly 20 years ago is responsible for showing me what the genre' was intended to be all about, and it remains the greatest song from a truly golden era by perhaps the most skilled and provocative MC of all-time:

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Lest we forget

Some 35 years ago, we were warned about the possibility of a new Ice Age.  Indeed some of the so-called experts felt it was imminent.  But here we are, in the 21st century, about to burn the hell up.  And yet, despite all of the purported evidence, I'm still weighing the climate change protagonists in the balance.

Consider the scene in Al Gore's docudrama, An Inconvenient Truth, where the American seaboard is shown completely immersed by rising sea levels, and contrast that with the $9 million beach house -- 50 yards from the potential threat of the Pacific Ocean -- he purchased in southern California just a few years later.

And then there's Climategate.  Refer to me however you like, but what is a potential believer in these theories to make of other truths deemed inconvenient by those who possibly abide by little more than flawed fear tactics?

Monday, November 22, 2010

TEC's College Football Top 10, Week 12

In short, the top-ranked Ducks were in their bye week, Wisconsin is officially impressive, Stanford has remained impressive, LSU and Ohio State are the most fortunate among the upper echelon, and Nebraska lost.  Replacing the Huskers are the Spartans of Michigan State, who sneaks back into the top 10 for the first time since Week 8.

Rankings as of November 22, 2010
#1  Oregon (10-0), 670 pts.
#2  Boise State (10-0), 655 pts.
#3  Texas Christian (11-0), 615 pts.
#4  Auburn (11-0), 600 pts.
#5  Wisconsin (10-1), 535 pts.
#6  Stanford (10-1), 510 pts.
#7  Louisiana State (10-1), 410 pts.
#8  Ohio State (10-1), 375 pts.
#9  Oklahoma State (10-1), 330 pts.
#10  Michigan State (10-1), 300 pts.

I'm really sick of LSU.  And yes, this pic is authentic.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sunday's Quote: The difference

If you've seen the "Coexist" bumper sticker about town, then you might appreciate a certain reinterpretation (from an unknown source) that addresses the main problem with such a bold, trans-denominational mandate --

Adding to this point is something I read from the American Bible Society several days ago, which conveys a considerable difference between Christianity, at its core, and all the rest:

"The Bible itself is a mystery.  The biggest mystery about the Bible is that it exists at all -- that its ancient texts have survived down the centuries, to exert unique spiritual influence on men and women today.  Unlike sacred writings such as the Koran and the Book of Mormon, the 66 books of the Holy Bible had no single person as their author.  In fact, over an estimated 1,600 years, forty different authors from all walks of life -- including kings, shepherds, priests, prophets, a physician, a tax collector, a leatherworker, and several fishermen -- wrote the poetry, history, laws and teachings found in the Old and New Testaments.  The Bible was not even written in a single tongue: its authors employed three languages -- Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic."
-- from "Inside the Mysteries of the Bible: New Perspectives on Ancient Truths," pg. 94

Just Thinking Out Loud: Look at me!

Everyone laughs at you (behind your back) for taking your laptop to Starbucks.  It's a desperate cry for attention that concurrently announces your adherence to all things trendy.  It's unnecessary and lame.  Don't do it.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Iconic Shot: The 1956 Tennessee Volunteers

Ending the year ranked #2 in the nation behind an Oklahoma Sooner team in the midst of what would become a record 47-game winning streak (from '53-'57), the '56 Vols won the Southeastern Conference championship and finished with a 10-1 record.

Featuring a native son at tailback, Johnny Majors (#45) finished second in voting for the Heisman Trophy behind Notre Dame's Paul Hornung.  It marks the only time in the award's 75-year history that a player from a losing team has won the coveted award (the Fighting Irish went 2-8).  Over 50 years have passed, and many among the Volunteer faithful remain less than pleased about the snub.

And another for good measure...

A two-time Southeastern Conference MVP as a player, Johnny Majors led the Pittsburgh Panthers to a national championship as head coach in 1976.  He returned to his alma mater the following year, ultimately compiling a .645 winning percentage en route to three SEC titles and victories in seven bowl games.

This picture from 1982 (source unknown) is from the Vols' 35-28 victory in Knoxville over Paul "Bear" Bryant and the Alabama Crimson Tide.  It was the first win for Majors in six tries against the legendary Bryant, who retired at season's end and died the following January.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

On This Day in History: Happy birthday, Mickey

326 – The original St. Peter's Basilica is consecrated.  The one that currently stands in its place was dedicated on this day in 1626, exactly 1,300 years later.

1307 – Arrested for not bowing to an oppressive Austrian overlord, a Swiss man named William Tell is offered to be freed if he successfully shoots an apple from atop his son's head.

The Vogt, as the overlord was also known, noticed that Tell had removed two bolts from his holder before the shot instead of one.  Asked why, Tell replied that if he had killed his son, he would have used the additional bolt on the bailiff himself.  In the end, Tell's defiance sparked a rebellion that eventually led to the formation of a Swiss Confederation that lasted nearly 500 years.  Always the hero, Tell died in 1354 while trying to save a child from drowning in the Schächenbach river in Uri, Switzerland.

1493 – Christopher Columbus becomes the first explorer to spot the island known today as Puerto Rico.  He landed the next day.

1928 – Steamboat Willie, the first fully synchronized sound cartoon, is released by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks.  Consequently, today is also considered Mickey's birthday by the Walt Disney Company.

1978 – Jim Jones, a practitioner of "apostolic socialism," led his Peoples Temple cult to a mass murder-suicide by drinking Kool Aid poisoned with cyanide, among other things, in the South American nation of Guyana that claimed 918 lives, including more than 270 children.  Hours earlier, Congressman Leo J. Ryan (D-CA, 11th district) was murdered by members of the cult.

1988 – President Ronald Reagan signs a bill into law allowing the death penalty for drug traffickers.  Ronnie didn't f--- around.

1999 – A 59-foot structure intended for use in the Aggie Bonfire at Texas A&M, so large that it normally required four weeks to complete, collapses at 2:42 a.m.  Traditionally built in each of the previous 90 years prior to the annual game against their chief rival, the University of Texas, 12 people were killed and 27 were injured.  As a result, bonfire festivities would not resume for three years.

Picture above © The Long Now Foundation

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Southern Defenders Series: John C. Breckinridge

Considering the Southern theme that develops from time to time, I have come to realize that the best way to view the South is to possess and better understanding of her defenders.  Hence a new feature of summaries about the Southland's finest has come to fruition:

Born into a prominent Kentucky family, John C. Breckinridge graduated from Centre College in 1839 and attended Princeton soon thereafter, earning admission to the bar in 1840.

Upon serving with the 3rd Kentucky Volunteers during the Mexican-American War, Breckinridge made his way to Capital Hill in 1851 and undertook two terms as representative of Kentucky's 8th congressional district.  Having declined an ambassadorship to Spain, he eventually served as Vice President alongside President Franklin Pierce.  At age 36, John Cabell Breckinridge was, and remains, the youngest Vice President in American history.

He took a seat in the Senate at the outset of Abraham Lincoln's first term, but his nine-month stint abruptly ended when he was expelled for vocally supporting the South's secession, as had 10 other Senators before him.  Subsequently landing a commission in the Confederate Army, Breckinridge broke with his State when the Kentucky Legislature initially voted to remain with the Union.

As commander of the 1st Kentucky Brigade -- nicknamed the Orphan Brigade because of the men who felt abandoned by the government of their home State -- Major General Breckinridge led his troops valiantly throughout the Western Theater, beginning with the Battle of Shiloh (near Savannah, about an hour from Memphis) where he was wounded in action.

After the War, Major General Breckinridge personally oversaw the preservation of both the government and military archives of the Confederate States.  And by doing so, he ensured that a full account of the Southern war endeavor would be preserved for future generations.  In fact, all that I've just written was made possible by the efforts of John C. Breckinridge: American Representative, Senator, Vice President, and Confederate General.

Monday, November 15, 2010

TEC's College Football Top 10, Week 11

Your humble purveyor has some decisions to make.

Despite having dominated every team up to last Saturday, the top-ranked Ducks struggled mightily against an average Cal team that possibly won't make a bowl game for the first time in eight years.  But is Boise State's less-than-surprising 38-point victory over a four-win Idaho squad enough to overtake Oregon for the #1 position?

Despite the increasingly volatile Cam Newton situation, should Auburn jump into the top three because Texas Christian didn't put away a respectable San Diego State team until the very end?  Is Wisconsin's impressive 83 points against lowly Indiana, a game in which every Badger played, enough to stake their claim in the top three as well?

The answer to these questions, at this moment, is no.  Because every possible argument can be made for each contending team, and because there were no major upsets, there is no reason to change the rankings from last week.  But a considerable shakeup can be expected as the regular season draws to a close.  Stay tuned.
Rankings as of November 15, 2010
#1  Oregon (10-0), 670 pts.
#2  Boise State (9-0), 655 pts.
#3  Texas Christian (11-0), 620 pts.
#4  Auburn (11-0), 605 pts.
#5  Wisconsin (9-1), 530 pts.
#6  Stanford (9-1), 505 pts.
#7  Louisiana State (9-1), 410 pts.
#8  Ohio State (9-1), 375 pts.
#9  Nebraska (9-1), 325 pts.
#10  Oklahoma State (9-1), 305 pts.

Carried off by his team last Saturday upon earning South Carolina's first ever berth in the Southeastern Conference championship game, Steve Spurrier is as colorful as he is successful.  Prior to his arrival in Columbia, Darth Visor won six Southeastern Conference titles and the 1996 national championship at the University of Florida: the school at which the Ol' Ball Coach was originally a two-time All-American quarterback and recipient of the Heisman Trophy in 1966.

There's a bitter sweet irony in the Tennessee Vols' longtime antagonist being hoisted by the visiting team on the field in which he initially garnered so much success.  But it wouldn't bother me to see the Gamecocks beat Auburn on December 4, either.  Photo © Associated Press

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sunday's Quote: Defending the (seemingly) indefensible

Yesterday I came across an individual (online) who chose to rail against the placement of the Confederate flag on the grounds of the State capital in Columbia, South Carolina.  Here's my response:

"When someone can adequately explain why such an appreciable uprising of mostly underprivileged, non-slave-holding Southerners would even consider battling against their brethren of the logistically superior North to maintain a slavery establishment perpetuated by the wealthiest 6% of the Confederate populace (according to the U.S. Census of 1860), then, and only then, are you able to convince any thinking individual about the malignancy of the Southern Cause.

"Those who fly the Confederate banner to demonstrate a hatred of anyone do not require a symbolism to exhibit their disdain.  If the Confederacy had never existed, they would still hate.  And let's be especially real about this -- heavy racial issues persist to this day in New York City, Boston, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Detroit, stretching all the way to Los Angeles and many points in between.

"Because all arguments against the flag eventually make their way back to a matter of slavery, let us not overlook the fact that human servitude is a phenomenon that has existed on practically every corner of the planet for nearly 4,000 years.  In fact Free the Slaves, a human rights lobby group in Washington, D.C., claim as many as 27 million slaves exist in the world right now.  Yet it's the South that is hit with the inclusive liability of all racial matters while practically all others, past and present, are given a collective pass.

"Eliminate the Confederate flag, and you accomplish nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  Convince yourself otherwise if you like, but your energy is better served in other capacities.  God bless."
-- Me, just yesterday responding to the impassioned plea of an anti-Confederate activist.  I have opted to identify neither the person, nor the website, as my innocuous rebuttal was removed just hours after it was posted.  Presumably he accepts comments from like-minded individuals only.

Soldiers of Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Regiment, 2nd Marine Division during Operation Moshtarak somewhere in the Helmand Province of southern Afghanistan.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Just Thinking Out Loud: Judging a classic

Having initially committed to read through a select list of transcendent classics, I opted to challenge myself by starting with a book that resists definition.

Included on TIME's list (something they do well) of the 100 best English language novels from 1923 to present, Gravity's Rainbow is commonly regarded by a variety of know-it-alls as both Thomas Pynchon's magnum opus and as the greatest postmodern work of 20th century literature.  Yet having plowed through the first 100+ pages, it has become difficult to invest myself any further into the semi-apocalyptic adventures of Slothrop, Pirate, Roger Mexico and Jessica, among many others.

So what am I missing here?

Perhaps the famously reclusive Pynchon gets his kicks by making intellectual schlubs like me feel that sense of inferiority for which it seems he strives with every word he writes.  But the original criticisms of this largely celebrated work -- "turgid," "overwritten," "obscene," etc. -- appear valid as well.

The mention of such an iconoclast can become a divisive topic.  So much, in fact, that the Pulitzer board eventually overturned its own decision to award Pynchon their prize for fiction in 1974.  It wasn't the first time (it was the eighth such occurrence in nearly 60 years), but it remains the most prominent episode by which the impact of this book is most adequately conveyed.  And that, by all accounts, is exactly how Pynchon prefers it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Iconic Shot (sort of): This isn't very nice of me, but...

Although someone skilled in the manipulative art of Photoshop was trying to make a rather humorous statement with a creation that has since made the rounds all over the Internet-connected world, a relatively well-known picture of Princess Letizia of Asturias (left) and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, Wife of the President of the French Republic (her official title), was meshed with a completely separate shot taken of First Lady Michelle Obama when all three were in Spain making formal visits in April 2009.

Authenticity is preferable, especially in regard to the worldwide praise Mrs. Obama has garnered for being the most notable White House fashionista since Jacqueline Kennedy.  Yet the underlying point of this contrivance, however sophomoric, is anything but lost on the humble purveyor of this blog.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

How 'bout some negativity

An assessment of issues that thrust the GOP to handsome Congressional gains last week was postponed to gauge the fervent and innumerable retorts made on behalf of the Left's embattled Chosen One.  The finished piece will be out soon enough, but in the meantime I thought sharing some humbling statistics from the November 7 edition of The Commercial Appeal (via the Associated Press and Harper's Index) would be in order:

-- According to the latest government figures, compiled two years ago, an astonishing 73% of Black, 66% of Native American, 53% of Hispanic, 29% of White, and 17% of Asian babies are born to unwed parents.

-- About 10 million American adults, 1-in-31 to be exact, are either incarcerated, on probation, or on parole.

And perhaps most sadly...

-- There has been a 37% increase in the number of buttock-augmentations since 2008.

Monday, November 8, 2010

TEC's College Football Top 10, Week 10

Last Saturday's highly touted battles of top ranked schools didn't play out as most likely anticipated, as Texas Christian drilled Utah in Salt Lake City and the Crimson Tide were shocked in Baton Rouge by a Louisiana State team that seemingly the entire nation has expected to implode since the start of the season.  And that's why we love college football.

Along with LSU's re-entry, Oklahoma State enters the top 10 for the first time this season after an impressive win over a very solid Baylor squad.  And for those questioning Boise State's #2 ranking, which places the Broncos ahead of both Auburn and Texas Christian, do not overlook the fact that BSU received more first place votes in the latest Associated Press poll than both of the aforementioned 10-win teams combined.  Please believe me, the Broncos are worthy.
Rankings as of November 8, 2010
#1  Oregon (9-0), 670 pts.
#2  Boise State (8-0), 655 pts.
#3  Texas Christian (10-0), 620 pts.
#4  Auburn (10-0), 605 pts.
#5  Wisconsin (8-1), 530 pts.
#6  Stanford (8-1), 505 pts.
#7  Louisiana State (8-1), 410 pts.
#8  Ohio State (8-1), 375 pts.
#9  Nebraska (8-1), 325 pts.
#10  Oklahoma State (8-1), 305 pts.

Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead (left) celebrates with wide receiver Brandon Kinnie after scoring the go-ahead touchdown in the overtime of their eventual 31-30 victory at Iowa State.  Photo by the Associated Press