Monday, January 31, 2011

Just Thinking Out Loud: Man Rule #1

You have to own it when you sucker punch a guy in the gems.  Don't pretend like you didn't, or that it somehow occurred by accident when purposeful contact was clearly made.  Case in point: last Friday night Boston Celtics forward Kevin Garnett gave Channing Frye a love tap (with his fist) to the groin as Frye attempted to extend the Phoenix Suns' 11-point lead late in the fourth quarter.  Adding insult to injury, Garnett proceeded to act with incredulous astonishment -- something for which he is well-known -- over being ejected from the game for his flagrant low blow.
That's not proper behavior for a future Hall of Famer, KG.  Next time just man-up, raise your hand, and pray that retribution doesn't come when you play the Suns again on March 2.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunday's Quote(s): Rhetoric vs. Substance

Obama and his protagonists have offered a bevy of poignant talking points since the President's State of the Union address last Tuesday.  So have his opponents:

"How do you leftists feel about this?  I know that you all hate Reagan, you have despised Reagan.  Even during the Reagan administration the number one objective of the left has been to revise Reagan history.  I mean all this talk about Reagan cutting taxes for the rich, didn't care about the poor, didn't care about AIDS, didn't care about the homeless.  Reagan was a cold-hearted, mean-spirited extremist.  And these are the people, the ones that have been saying it all these years.

"And now all of a sudden when their little guy gets in trouble, when Obama can't get any traction whatsoever, when he's lost the love, when he's lost all of this messianic stuff that attached itself to him, where do they go?  Do they go to JFK and try to draw analysis and comparison?  No.  They go to LBJ?  No.  They go to Jimmy Carter?  No.  They'd probably love to go to Marx.  They don't dare.  They go to Gorbachev?  No.  They go to Mao Tse-tung?  Only in private.  Who they gonna go to, Reagan, all to draw this illusion that their president, young guy, this man-child is moving to the center?
"In 1989 Reagan was warning us of exactly what we've got, and not just in Obama but the Democrat Party at large.  And yet here comes TIME Magazine and the rest of the Drive-By Media trying to tell us, and Obama himself trying to tell us that he's Reagan.  Out of all the presidents, as he prepared for this latest State of the Union debacle, of all the presidents, it was Reagan that he studied.  Well, we know what he really thinks about Reagan.  He's told us in his books: resentment, dislike.

"They think Reagan destroyed America.  They think Reagan set up this situation here where the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, the widening gap between rich and poor, the unfairness, the inequality.  Reagan was the epitome of heartlessness, had no compassion or whatever.  But this just goes to show that when Democrats need to look back to history, when this regime, when the media, the American left needs to look back to history to try to connect with the majority of people in this country, they have to go to one of the greatest Republican presidents of all time and try to pull it off."
-- Rush Limbaugh, responding to both the President's State of the Union address and the upcoming TIME magazine cover of Obama photoshopped with Ronald Reagan; January 27, 2011

Considering his "new" and "historic" status, it's interesting to see how often President Obama is compared to his predecessors.

"It's as if Obama is daring the voters -- and the Republicans -- to prove they really want smaller government.  He's manning the barricades for Obamacare and he's here with yet another spending -- excuse me, investment -- spree. ... Perhaps this is all to be expected from Democrats -- the party of government -- and from a president who from his very first address to Congress has boldly displayed his zeal to fundamentally transform the American social contract and place it on a 'New Foundation' (an Obama slogan that never took)."
-- from "Obama unbowed and undeterred" by syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, per The Commercial Appeal; January 29, 2011

From My Own Camera: Wandering, pt. 1

Sometimes, without a destination in mind, I simply feel the need to jump in my mid-size SUV and drive around.  I've been wandering (my term for this kind of aimless driving) for upwards of 10 years, and its therapeutic quality has never failed me.

One of the scenic routes I favor is a nearly 50-mile journey (round-trip) that ultimately takes me beyond Shelby County, which has afforded a number of charming pictures that I'll be sharing in future posts.  This particular shot is approximately halfway between where I live and the point at which I turn around to return home:

(Click to enlarge)
A cotton field along Mudville Rd. in Rosemark, Tennessee

Friday, January 28, 2011

Just Thinking Out Loud: A couple of real blondes

When you're at your best, Britney, nobody's better.  And I do mean nobody.  But when you're at your worst, my dear... well, that's another matter.  But regardless of the now characteristic unpredictability, you will always be my favorite crazy chick.

Meghan McCain should make it official and jump to the other party.  Although John's daughter evidently has a lot to say, all anyone really hears when she opens her mouth is, "Blah blah blah ... The Right Wing is too conservative ... blah blah blah ... My dad lost because of Sarah Palin ... blah blah blah ... Obama is awesome ... blah blah blah ... The Tea Party is stupid ... blah blah blah ... My boobs are real ... blah blah blah ... I sold my soul to Satan ... blah blah blah."

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Real Music: Tommy Lee

You might be surprised to find that Tommy Lee produced a handful of respectable, if not decent rock songs minus his Mötley Crüe bandmates.  And no, "Get Naked" (w/ Methods of Mayhem, his initial side project while on hiatus from Mötley) is not one of them.  For anyone interested, have a listen to "Hold Me Down" from his Never a Dull Moment album ['02]:

Did You Know (or Care): More from the Civil War

My lengthy piece last Sunday about the War Between the States led to me uncover something that I put together for later use about a year ago, the initial sources of which have been regrettably lost:

President Lincoln once proposed emigration for freed slaves to Central America, seeing it as a more convenient destination than Liberia.  One of the first attempts was on a small island off the coast of Haiti called Île à Vache, which at the time was owned by a developer named Bernard Kock.

Kock claimed he had approved a Black American colony with the Haitian government.  No one ever substantiated this claim, and following a smallpox outbreak on the boat ride down, hundreds of Black colonizers were abandoned on the island with no housing prepared for them, as Kock had promised.  Additionally the soil on the island was too poor to produce any serious vegetation.  Thus in January 1864, the U.S. Navy rescued the remaining survivors as the tide of the War began to turn and the use of Black soldiers in the Union army became more common.  Once Île à Vache fell through, Lincoln never spoke of colonization again.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Just Thinking Out Loud: Convoluted vitriol

I'm not an advocate of the alternative lifestyle, but people such as Andrew Shirvell and the Westboro "Baptist Church" have become textbook exemplars of what not to do and how not to be.  Whereas opposition shouldn't necessarily denote hatred or extremism, this handful of loons make standing for authentic Truth in this jaded and ever-changing world that much tougher.  And because of their increasing presence, Believers must always make it a point to vocally reject their twisted dogma, as this brand of self-righteousness does considerably more harm than good by creating enemies who might otherwise be friends.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sunday's Quote: Why they fought

Almost unquestionably, the Civil War is the most divisive historical topic in our nation's history.  Adding to the mix, The Washington Post recently published a piece by author and University of Vermont professor James W. Loewen that addressed five perceived myths encompassing this bygone era.

Scholarly at the outset of his assessment, Loewen concluded that White supremacy, commingled with a desire to expand slavery beyond the continental border, provided the driving motivation for the South's secession.  In fairness, perhaps, he added that "Northerners' fear of freed slaves moving north then caused Republicans to lose the Midwest in the congressional elections of November 1862."

Although I'm probably just a "neo-Confederate" hayseed simpleton locked into the mythology and lore of the romanticized Old South, I must say that I've mulled over perceptions such as Loewen's more times than I can count since the mid-90's.  And despite all that I've been commanded to believe, I keep arriving at the same questions:

Why would such a sizable uprising of mostly underprivileged, non-slave-holding Southerners -- a fledgling upstart of a nation -- form a citizen-soldiery to battle against their brethren of the North in the interest of maintaining a slavery establishment that, according to the U.S. census of 1860, was perpetuated by a mere 6% of the Southern populace?  Further, why would these Confederates who knowingly faced impossible odds even consider firing a single shot in the name of White supremacy when, according to Loewen himself, such a mindset (however debatable) was largely shared among their northern counterparts?

Here's a quick history review...

During the second session of the 36th Congress, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution on February 11, 1861 that guaranteed noninterference with slavery in any State.  Undeterred by the eight slave States that remained in the Union, representatives of the new Confederacy (comprised of only seven States at this point) established a provisional Congress and formalized a new Constitution.  They had also chosen Jefferson Davis -- a West Point graduate and former U.S. Army Colonel, Senator and Secretary of War -- as their first provisional president.

Because the resolution failed to draw the seceded States back into the Union, the Crittenden-Johnson Resolution was passed by both houses of Congress on July 25, some three months after those dastardly Southerners took Fort Sumter, stating that war was being waged to "defend and maintain the supremacy of the Constitution and to preserve the Union."  Any document regarding a desire to do away with slavery would not be produced until Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, some 20 months after the War began.

For nearly half my life, I have known what rich and politically influential men of the time have said.  But I also wanted to know about the common man who loaded and fired his musket on the field of battle.  I considered those who were under no delusion about the grievous hardship that awaited them all.  And from this, I was forced to consider if it was possible -- if it was even conceivable -- that these ordinary people from a century-and-a-half ago were driven to fight, suffer and die for reasons other than maintaining human servitude and racial domination.

Consider Judah Benjamin.  Prior to his service in the Confederate Cabinet as Secretary of State, Secretary of War and Attorney General, Benjamin was only the second Jewish U.S. Senator in American history and the first Jew considered for nomination to the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. (an offer he declined twice).

Also consider Ambrosio José Gonzales, a Confederate Colonel and native of Cuba who served as chief of artillery and figured prominently in the South's coastal defense.

And let us not forget Stand Watie (a.k.a., Standhope Oowatie).  The Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, he was also a Brigadier General in the Confederate Army who led the Indian cavalry of the Army of the Trans-Mississippi, CSA.

Did such men fight for the causes of slavery and White supremacy?

Some of Loewen's points are accurate.  Those who wished to keep their slaves absolutely existed and held considerable clout.  But are Loewen's conclusions comprehensive in scope, or is this merely another case of the Southland being hit with the inclusive liability of an institution that has prospered continuously throughout our planet for nearly 4,000 years while everyone else, past and present, are given a pass?

The malignancies and complications of this time in history are undeniable.  But what if I were bold enough to define anyone by only the most negative aspects of their culture?  I doubt that would be very well received.  Hence, I never tell anyone why they have to love the former Confederate nation.  I only tell them why they don't have to hate it.  There's a difference.

"The South will rise again!" is unappealing rhetoric to most, including yours truly.  Yet the act of comparing the unashamed Southerner to Hitler and the Nazis ("Godwin's Law," Reductio ad Hitlerum) invariably makes its way into the conversation, usually when the debate has nowhere else to go.  But more interesting still is how America can always depend on those kooky Confederate flag wavers to be first in line for a fight to defend Old Glory.  Define that however you like, but the unyielding commitment demonstrated time and time again by the sons of the South stems from the reasoning behind why George Washington was placed at the center of the Great Seal of the Confederacy. 

Today we mock the notions of smaller government and States Rights, and we act as if the 10th Amendment doesn't even exist.  At present, we have an uncontrollable national government which, by most accounts, becomes more intrusive with each passing year.  And this is notable because, like it or not, that behemoth was born with Lee's surrender at Appomattox.

Instead of listening to the agenda-driven demagogues of the present, it is better to witness the words spoken by those who experienced the unpleasantness of the time firsthand.  Their viewpoints are not politically correct by our current standard.  But they are indeed correct, and it does matter:

"The Union was formed by the voluntary agreement of the States; and these, in uniting together, have not forfeited their Nationality, nor have they been reduced to the condition of one and the same people.  If one of the States chose to withdraw its name from the contract, it would be difficult to disprove its right of doing so."
-- from "Democracy in America" (two volumes, published in 1835 & 1840) by Alexis de Tocqueville

"Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to abolish the existing government and form a new one that suits them better. ... Any portion of such people, that can, may revolutionize and make their own of so much of the territory as they inhabit."
-- Abraham Lincoln, Congressional Records; January 12, 1848

"The Union is a Union of States founded upon Compact.  How is it to be supposed that when different parties enter into a compact for certain purposes either can disregard one provision of it and expect others to observe the rest?  If the Northern States willfully and deliberately refuse to carry out their part of the Constitution, the South would be no longer bound to keep the compact."
-- from Senator Daniel Webster's (D-Massachusetts) Capon Springs Speech; June 28, 1851

"Wealth has fled from the South, and settled in the regions north of the Potomac, and this in the midst of the fact that the south, in four staples alone, in cotton, tobacco, rice and indigo had exported produce since the Revolution, to the value of eight hundred million dollars, and the North had exported comparatively nothing. ... Such an export would indicate unparalleled wealth; but what was the fact?  In place of wealth, a universal pressure for money was felt; not enough for current expenses... and the frugal habits of the people pushed to the verge of universal self-denial for the preservation of their family estates. ... Under this legislation the exports of the South have been made the basis of the federal revenue. ... Virginia, the two Carolinas and Georgia may be said to defray three fourths of the annual expense of supporting the federal government; and of this great sum annually furnished by them, nothing, or next to nothing, is returned to them in the shape of government expenditure.

"That expenditure flows in an opposite direction; it flows northwardly, in one uniform, uninterrupted and perennial stream; it takes the course of trade and of exchange; and this is the reason why wealth disappears from the South and rises up in the North.  Federal legislation does all this; it does it by the simple process of eternally taking away from the South, and returning nothing to it."
-- from a lengthy and perfectly stated offering by Senator Thomas Hart Benton (D-Missouri) in 1851

"A legitimate union of states depends for its continuance on the free consent and will of the Sovereign people of each state, and when that consent and will is withdrawn on either part, their union is gone.  Any state forced to remain in a union by military force can never be a co-equal member of the American union and can be viewed only as a 'subject providence'."
-- from The Daily Union of Bangor, Maine; November 13, 1860

"If we of the North were called upon to endure one half as much as the Southern people and soldiers do, we would abandon the cause and let the Southern Confederacy be established. ... A nation preserved with liberty trampled underfoot is much worse than a nation in fragments but with the spirit of liberty still alive.  Southerners persistently claim that their rebellion is for the purpose of preserving this form of government."
-- Private John H. Haley, 17th Maine Regiment, United States Army

"With all my devotion to the Union and the feeling of loyalty and duty of an American citizen, I have not been able to make up my mind to raise my hand against my relatives, my children and my home."
-- Colonel Robert Edward Lee, United States Army.  Lee was President Lincoln's personal choice to lead the charge against the Southern uprising.

"I am fighting to preserve the integrity of the Union and the power of the government -- on no other issue.  To gain that end we cannot afford to mix up the Negro question.  It must be incidental and subsidiary.  The President is perfectly honest and is really sound on the [N-word] question."
-- Major General George B. McClellan, Army of the Potomac, United States Army

"Surrender means that the history of this heroic struggle will be written by the enemy; that our youth will be trained by Northern school teachers; will learn from Northern school books their version of the War; will be impressed by all the influences of history and education to regard our gallant dead as traitors and our maimed veterans as fit subjects for derision."
-- Major General Patrick Cleburne, Army of Tennessee, Confederate States Army

"So the case stands, and under all the passion of the parties and the cries of the battle lie the two chief moving causes of the struggle.  Union means so many millions a year lost to the South; secession means the loss of the same millions to the North.  The love of money is the root of this as of many, many other evils ... the quarrel between North and South is, as it stands, solely a fiscal quarrel."
-- Charles Dickens, author of numerous all-time classics, as editor of the British periodical All the Year Round in 1862

"All these cries of having 'abolished slavery', of having 'saved the country', of having 'preserved the Union,' of establishing a 'government of consent' and of 'maintaining the national honor' are all gross, shameless, transparent cheats -- so transparent they they ought to deceive no one."
-- Lysander Spooner, philosopher and Massachusetts abolitionist

"Concerning CSA President Jefferson Davis: He was imprisoned after the war (and) was never brought to trial.  The North didn't dare give him a trial, knowing that a trial would establish that secession was not unconstitutional, that there had been no 'rebellion' and the South had got a raw deal -- but he refused to ask the United States for a 'pardon', demanding that the government either offer him a pardon, give him a trial or admit that he had been unjustly dealt with.  He died, 'unpardoned' by a government that was leery of giving him a public hearing."
-- from "The Civil War" (1953) by James Street 

"The American people, North and South, went into the (Civil) War as citizens of their respective states.  They came out as subjects ... and what they thus lost, they never got back."
-- H.L. Mencken, one of the more notable commentators of the 20th century, and ironically, a noted detractor of the South

Friday, January 21, 2011

Did You Know (or Care): An unforgivable waste

According to the Federation for American Immigration Reform, Los Angeles County spends $600 million yearly on entitlements for illegal aliens.  Nationally, the bill for our government exceeds $113 billion (equal to the bailout Ireland received from the European Union).  And yet, unbelievably, some people still don't understand the problem.

List Fest: Stuff bros like

A definitive list, currently 148 talking points long (and still growing), was recently brought to my attention.  Written in the same vibe as The Art of Manliness, BroBible, Every Day Should Be Saturday, Manofest and Things That Are White Trash, a blog called Bros Like This Site has compiled a list which -- unfortunately perhaps -- describes most young boys/men perfectly.

Listed below is TEC's handpicked top 25 from that bold, illustrious, and perhaps tragic list:

1. Cheerleaders

2. Ultimate Fighting (UFC, Strikeforce, M-1, etc.)

3. Fantasy football

4. Talking about lifting (weights)

5. Blindly hating opposing fans

6. Quoting movies

7. Energy drinks

8. Stories about college parties

9. Events created solely for drinking purposes

10. Talking about how wasted they got

11. Road trips

12. Making fun of tragic celebrity deaths

13. Hating hipsters

14. Giving girls nicknames

15. Arguing about whether a girl is hot

16. Not calling girls when you say you will

17. Making girls cry

18. Birth control not involving condoms

19. Not caring about the environment

20. Loving America

21. Vegas

22. Crashing parties

23. Heckling

24. Throwback jerseys

25. Talking about their dumps (bowel movements, for the less informed)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Just Thinking Out Loud: Pee-wee

Your self-pleasuring antics in a hippodrome of ill-repute cut 15 years from your career.  Ironically such shenanigans might've added 15 years if you pulled that stunt today.  Either way it's good to see you back.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Iconic Shot: The Bahamas

(Click to enlarge)
A fascinating piece in National Geographic last summer told the story of the mysterious blue holes found throughout the Bahama islands.  In this shot, a diver makes his way through a "stalagmite forest" beneath Abaco Island, in which one wrong move could decimate mineral formations formed over a thousand years ago.

Photograph by Wes C. Skiles via National Geographic, and more great shots can be found here.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sunday's Quote: "Never waste a good crisis"

The blame game reached a fever pitch practically a moment after a deranged gunman opened fire on a group of people in Tucson, Arizona eight days ago.  A mere two hours after the tragedy in which six people died, Paul Krugman wrote a piece that placed the culpability on the shoulders of the Right Wing.  One of those Conservatives recently responded:

"On Monday [Paul Krugman] wrote in the Times: 'Where's that toxic rhetoric coming from?  Let's not make a false pretense of balance; it's coming, overwhelmingly, from the right.'  And he continued, 'It's hard to imagine a Democratic member of Congress urging constituents' to violence.  Now Krugman has been a columnist for the Times for a long enough time, covering a sufficient variety of political events, for us to deduce that he is a political nitwit.  Other Nobel laureates have been nitwits, for instance Lord Russell.  There are a lot of political nitwits in this world.  Perhaps the Times could give Krugman a cooking column.  He would be their Nobel Prize-winning cooking columnist. ...

"As I say, liberalism is dead.  This hitherto unthinkable effort to blame the unhinged act of a lunatic on the language of the right without respect to the often more inflammatory language of the left is a cry from the grave.  Rigor mortis has set in, comrades, and even your president suffers.  On the campaign trail in 2008, Barack Obama said, 'If (Republicans) bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.'

"I am eager to read what Krugman does with broccoli."
-- from "More Evidence That Liberalism Is Dead" by editor-in-chief of The American Spectator and Hudson Institute adjunct scholar, R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.

Picture © Reuters/Tim Shaffer

Saturday, January 15, 2011

TEC's 2010-2011 College Football Top 10: Finale

Although late by at least three days, I felt obligated to give the final rankings the consideration they require before arriving at a definitive conclusion.  Such time is necessary because this one-man operation takes some degree of pride in running a better ranking system than the flawed and controversial Bowl Championship Series, not to mention the irrational fan polls scattered throughout the Internet.  Hence, the following are final:

1) Cam Newton is ineligible, thus Auburn University is also ineligible and their bastardized BCS national title is not recognized by TEC; 2) As declared in the Week 14 rankings on December 6, the Oregon Ducks are your regular season champions, and 3) As a result of their win over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, the Horned Frogs of Texas Christian are TEC's national champions.

They weren't the team from the State of Texas most would have suspected, but the respect the Frogs have earned from even the most ardent skeptics is justified.  Congratulations to Texas Christian University.

#1  Texas Christian {13-0}
#2  Oregon {12-1}
#3  Stanford {12-1}
#4  Ohio State {12-1}
#5  Wisconsin {11-2}
#6  Oklahoma {12-2}
#7  Boise State {12-1}
#8  Louisiana State {11-2}
#9  Alabama {10-3}
#10  Nevada {13-1} & Oklahoma State {11-2}

Dropped from the previous poll: Michigan State, Arkansas, Virginia Tech

These are what real champions look like.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Speaking of politicized issues...

President Obama gave a heartfelt speech at the memorial for the victims of last Saturday's shooting in Tucson, Arizona that claimed six lives -- a U.S. District Court Judge and a nine-year-old girl, among others -- while injuring 14 others, including the reported target, U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords.  That being tragically said, is the caption below MSNBC analyst Chris Matthews really necessary?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

On This Day in History: Patriots, et al.

1755 – Alexander Hamilton, once the Commanding General of the United States Army and a Founding Father of our nation, was born in Charlestown, Nevis, British West Indies.

1794 – Chosen by George Washington to serve as the first United States Marshal for the State of Georgia, Scottish-born Robert Forsyth became the first Marshal in American history killed in the line of duty.

1843 – Francis Scott Key, the author of our national anthem -- "The Star-Spangled Banner" -- died in his native Maryland.  An novice poet, Key became inspired to write a prose describing his observation of the British bombardment of Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore in September 1814.  "The Defence of Fort McHenry" was published a week later in the Patriot, by which he urged the adoption of "In God is our Trust" as the national motto in the fourth stanza.  Signed into law by President Eisenhower, "In God We Trust" became our national motto nearly a century and a half later in 1956.  Notably, F.S. Key also served as a Vice President of the American Bible Society for 25 years until his death.

1861 – Following South Carolina, Mississippi and Florida, Alabama seceded from the United States to become the fourth member of the Southern Confederacy.  Three more States -- Georgia, Louisiana and Texas -- followed just prior to the first shots fired at Fort Sumter.  The last four States -- Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina -- were not prompted to join until Abraham Lincoln called for Southern civilians to join the Federal cause.

1879 – The Anglo-Zulu War began with the British invasion of the Zulu Kingdom in southern Africa.  The English achieved victory in just under six months.

1935 – Already the first woman to fly solo non-stop across the Atlantic, Amelia Earhart (pictured) became the first person to successfully fly solo from Hawaii to California.

1949 – Los Angeles, California experiences its first recorded snowfall.

1964 – U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Luther Leonidas Terry publishes a landmark report saying that "smoking may be hazardous to health."  The worldwide anti-smoking efforts inspired by the report continue to this day.

1990 – Over 300,000 people marched in favor of Lithuanian independence from the USSR, which led to the Act of the Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania on March 11.  The Soviet Union eventually dissolved over a two-year period, and the United Nations formally recognized Lithuania on September 17, 1991.

1998 – Religion of Peace: The Sidi-Hamed massacre occurs in Algeria on the last day of Ramadan.  According to the BBC, "An estimated fifty gunmen poured in, attacking children and adults alike; they bombed a cafe where films were being watched and a mosque in nearby Haouche Sahraoui, killing those who fled, and stormed houses to slaughter those within.  According to official figures, 103 were killed and seventy injured."  It was the second of five such Islamic-led massacres to have occurred in Algeria during the year.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sunday's Quote: Unrelated, but culturally relevant

A couple that caught my attention recently...

"Since the first celebrities emerged, mixing their work and their lives in powerful dreams of projected personality, the possibility of confusing art and reality has existed.  The man considered by some (but not me) to be the world's first celebrity, Lord Byron, was a great poet, but that's not why so many admirers asked for locks of his hair that he reportedly had to start sending out clippings from his dog, Boatswain.  Men and women adored Byron because, according to one woman who slept with him, he was 'mad, bad, and dangerous to know.'  The greatest American actor of the nineteenth century, Edwin Booth, thought his career was over when his brother shot President Lincoln.  He soon learned that audiences worshipped [sic] him more — and worshipped [sic] his tortured performances of 'Hamlet' and 'Julius Caesar' more — because they knew about his personal tragedy.  And the great celebrities of the twentieth century ... ran away from the cameras, but this only made their fans eager to see more and know more.  Today, celebrity has become a perpetual enterprise of more, with Twitter acting as both the engine and the agent of unending revelation.  Jump on or jump off. ...

"Kanye [West] has jumped on.  Like every hip-hop artist today, Kanye sees himself as a brand and dreams of total integration of himself with everything that can conceivably be consumed.  But being a brand involves being both more than a human being and less, which may explain why there's a wild, frantic sadness to his personality, or what Cyril Connolly once described as the 'fugitive distress of hedonism.'  To be a brand is ultimately to be a hollow thing.  Like a bell.  The hollowness of Kanye West rings out and his distress only makes him more attractive.  Being a brand has its own demands, and they are growing more and more pressing by the second.  Kanye at least is willing to go all the way.  'I'm living in the future so the present is my past. / My presence is a present, kiss my ass,'  he says in 'Monster.'  All that in just ninety-two characters."
-- from "Why Can't Kanye West Shut the Hell Up?" by Esquire contributor Stephen Marche

"There's a climate of hate out there, all right, but it doesn't derive from the innocuous use of political clichés.  And former Gov. Palin and the tea party movement are more the targets than the source."
-- from "The Arizona Tragedy and the Politics of Blood Libel" by Wall Street Journal columnist Glenn Harlan Reynolds

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Just Thinking Out Loud: "Golden pipes" and some guidos

It's difficult to wipe the grin from my own face when Ted Williams lights up.  His story is a testament to hope, perseverance and God's grace despite his many flaws, and yet it's his sincerity that makes me want to hug him.  Recently hired for voice work by MSNBC, among others, I could not be happier for "golden pipes."  Let's hope he stays on the straight and narrow.

Note: I'm emotionally invested.  God help me if this proves an elaborate hoax.

Nearly 8.5 million people -- practically Super Bowl numbers for a cable network -- tuned in to MTV last Thursday for the debut of Jersey Shore's third season, and I'm proud to say that I avoided the GTL fever this time around.  Perhaps most notable is Deena (far right), the new girl who describes herself as "class in a glass and party in a body," presumably with a heavy northern accent that omits the letter r.  I pray for the end of this phenomenon.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Where Christians aren't the majority

My initial re-commitment to write more in 2011 has been temporarily derailed by the combination of a demanding schedule (in a difficult work environment) and an impromptu head-to-head with a couple of Al Sharpton wanna-be haters.  It's a long story.  Perhaps in the near future I'll write about it.  In the meantime, consider this --

My Christian brothers and sisters throughout Asia, the Middle East and Africa have been getting hammed by their "Religion of Peace" counterparts for over a millenia.  So this should come as no surprise:

For more, have a look at Voice of the Martyrs

Monday, January 3, 2011

Iconic Shot: From the northwest corner of Tennessee

© Tate Brown
Using the iPhone Hipstamatic app, here's a picture an old school friend recently shot of Reelfoot Lake in Tiptonville, Tennessee.

Lens: Melodie
Film: Ina's 1969
Flash: Standard

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Sunday's Quote: "If"

My theme for the coming year, written a hundred years ago by one of the all-time greats...

"If" by Rudyard Kipling
from Rewards and Fairies [1910]

IF YOU can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream -- and not make dreams your master;
If you can think -- and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings -- nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And -- which is more -- you’ll be a Man, my son!

Note: The above work was voted Britain's most favorite poem in a national poll conducted by the BBC in 1995. This exhortation to self-control and stoicism is arguably Kipling's most famous poem worldwide.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

About me

Here are some random facts about the humble purveyor of this blog, just for the record:

1. I think drinking is trite and unoriginal.  I've barely had a drop since my early 20s, and I've never been over the legal limit.

2. It's been at least two years since I've been to church.

3. I've been told that I resemble Edward Norton, and most recently, Clint Eastwood.  I really don't see it.

4. The two-and-a-half years I spent in Virginia Beach and Portsmouth, VA are among the best ever.

5. I've never seen The Godfather all the way through.

6. I probably listen to Sirius satellite radio more than the average subscriber.  I often have it on when I go to bed.

7. My preference in music tends to be heavier than it should be.  I try to avoid it.

8. Diane Lane is my all-time celebrity crush.  Stacy Keibler is a very close second.

9. I grew four inches after I graduated from high school.

10. My college years were a regrettable waste.  As of 2004, I have a degree from a college whose campus I've never visited.  It's a long story.

11. I renounced any remaining allegiance to Ole Miss after Colonel Reb was replaced by a freaking bear.  The University of Tennessee now stands alone as the only college for which I cheer (except, perhaps, for Stanford).

12. I'm one of 10 grandchildren on my mom's side of the family; nine of us are boys.  I'm one of five grandkids on my father's side, and I'm the only boy.

13. I almost joined the Navy (twice).  My commission would have made me a fourth generation "squid."

14. People tend to think I'm about five years younger than I really am.

15. Both of my dogs were previously abandoned.  I couldn't ask for better pets.  I'm now very sensitive to the plight of abused and neglected animals.

Did You Know (or Care): Ballin' chicks

I am probably among the few men who would admit to being fascinated by this, but I have to give credit where credit is due.  Happy New Year, y'all --

Led by the Italian-born Geno Auriemma, the University of Connecticut Lady Husky basketball team recently had its record-setting win streak snapped by the Stanford Lady Cardinal, who were also the last team to have beaten UConn prior to their unprecedented 90-game run.

The Lady Huskies have not lost back-to-back games since the end of the '92-'93 season.  Since that point, they have amassed an unbelievable 573-44 record (prior to 2010-2011) en route to 15 seasons of at least 30 wins, and their seven national titles are second only to the eight won by their chief rival, the University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers.