Friday, March 30, 2007

I Like Chocolate, but JEEZ...

The latest big controversy in the art world is a life-sized, anatomically correct statue of Jesus Christ made from chocolate. The thin-skinned fanatical Catholic League is up in arms about it, which is to be expected. Any excuse to run around in public shouting "blasphemer!" works for them, because it helps them get to heaven when they die, or something. I'm a little cloudy on Catholic theology, and any attempt by my wife to explain it just leaves me even more confused.

Not being an idolater, the "Jesus" aspect of the chocolate figure doesn't bother me. It looks kind of like a crucifixion victim, but it also looks kind of like a nervous man riding a unicycle on a tightrope. Just because the "artist", or chocolatier, if you prefer, claims that it is a statue of Jesus Christ, has named it "My Sweet Lord" (kind of clever, that), and puts it on exhibition during Holy Week does not make it Jesus. That's the artist's problem, not the statue's.

The only offensive thing about the chocolate man is his dangling chocolate wiener. I'm a chocolate lover, and I would eat damn near anything made of chocolate. I draw the line, however, at chocolate male genitals. (If you're wondering "what about female genitals?", remind me sometime to show you a picture of the cake from my bachelor party.) Now that I think about it, I'm not sure I would want to eat a chocolate man (Jesus or anyone else) if he had a loincloth covering the naughty bits.

Best to go for a chocolate Santa Claus; he's fully clothed. Or, if you're looking for something borderline controversial, there's always a chocolate baby wearing a diaper. But that's okay, because it's from Sarris. Or, if I want something life-sized or close to it, I can go to Daffin's Chocolate Kingdom and snack on the Cocoa Rhino. If they would let me, that is.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Run Up The Poll And See If Anyone Salutes It

GOP Bloggers is running another straw poll, blog style, of the 2008 Republican presidential contenders.




Still no Ron Paul! In his absence, I picked Fred Thompson.

Polite, Educated BDS

President George W. Bush has accepted an invitation to deliver this year's commencement speech at Saint Vincent College in nearby Latrobe, PA. A lot of people are looking forward to his visit. Naturally, the news of the president's acceptance has brought a few worms out of the woodwork:

Some students and alumni have raised concerns about the invitation.

The open letter to Mr. Bush drafted by opponents to his visit said St. Vincent's "mission is firmly rooted in 'the love of values inherent in the liberal approach to life and learning.' We believe your administration's disregard of opposing viewpoints has deeply divided the nation and flies in the face of this approach."

"Your poor stewardship of the environment, policies that favor the wealthy while ignoring the needs of the poor and the sick, and reckless squandering of the lives of our troops by clinging to failed tactics in an ill-conceived, unjustified war are at odds with our values," the group wrote.
On the face of it, this expression of concern seems to be an unusually thoughtful expression of dissent. Read between the lines and you will see that the sentiments expressed in this excerpt have more in common with the cute little slogans displayed by sign-waving fanatics with nothing better to do on a nice weekend than stage a protest. To wit:
  • "values inherent in the liberal approach to life and learning" -- By quoting from the college's mission statement, which makes use of the word "liberal", the BDS folks are trying to put a political spin on things. The word "liberal" is a good, decent word whose traditional meaning has been corrupted by the political sense of the word. America is a liberal country with a liberal constitution. Ironically, most people who call themselves "Liberals" today are socialist progressives. There are more classical liberals on the Right than on the Left. The paper protesters won't acknowledge that, though.
  • your administration's disregard of opposing viewpoints has deeply divided the nation -- When the Left accuses a Republican president of disregarding opposing viewpoints, what they mean is that the Republican is not following the directives of the Democrat Party. Ironically (again), George W. Bush has been far too nice to the Dems. Now that he has a Congress in opposition, he seems to be growing more of a political spine. I never did go in for that "uniter, not a divider' crap. The bozos on the other side don't deserve to be treated nicely.
  • Your poor stewardship of the environment -- This is a trope popular among the politically "green" crowd. What this means is that President Bush does not impose environmental fascism on the American people. The truth is, he is a good steward of the environment, unlike some people who talk the talk but don't walk the walk.
  • policies that favor the wealthy while ignoring the needs of the poor and the sick -- This is one of those areas where the Right is as bad as the Left. Everyone wants to do something about the economy. How about leaving it alone? When the government stops trying to divide its citizens into economic classes, America will be a freer country. Talking about "the poor and the sick" is an attempt to appeal to the religious community. (Saint Vincent is a Catholic college.) Government should not be a charity, and in reality can never be, because government can not "help" anyone without punishing someone else.
  • reckless squandering of the lives of our troops by clinging to failed tactics in an ill-conceived, unjustified war are at odds with our values -- The tactics haven't always worked, but they haven't exactly failed either. If they had, the troops would be pulled out of Iraq and the rest of us would be licking our collective psychic wounds. As for justification, well, perhaps you'd be happier with a Saddam running a country than a George Bush. And as for "our values"...
  • Values that—rather than being unique to Catholicism—are universal. -- This is funny because of what the word "Catholic" means. Anyway, this is quite pompous, for in this sentence, the BDS folks presume to speak for EVERYBODY. At least, I assume that "universal" is supposed to include me. I am not Catholic, and I do not share many Catholic values. While I will agree that many such values are, as they say, not unique to Catholicism, I would not go so far as to say that they are universal. Silly twits.

The anti-Bush people at Saint Vincent have every right to write their letter and to protest the president's visit. One infers from the way that their missive is worded that Mr. Bush is President of the Red States, or President of the Republicans, or just President of something that doesn't include Saint Vincent College. That's BDS BS. He's President of the United States of America. He can go anywhere he feels safe, and more to the point, anywhere he's wanted. He's welcome at Saint Vincent. Perhaps these BDS sufferers might feel comfortable relocating to a country where George W. Bush is not Head of State.

Near the end of the letter, the BDSers state that "Your purposes are not our purposes; your beliefs are not our beliefs" and express a desire that "the College's administration can secure a speaker more in line with the values and heritage of our cherished institution". Hmmm. Rick Santorum is a practicing Catholic. His beliefs, values, heritage, etc. fall right in line with the "cherished institution". I wonder if those people would complain if Rick showed up to talk?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

I Am So Spoiled

I had to peek. For once, JUST ONCE, I had to peek. And I'm not bothered in the slightest.

To digress: Back in my college days, when Star Trek: The Next Generation was fresh and new, I avidly followed spoiler alerts on the TNG Usenet forum. It was cool knowing what was going to happen. One feels almost like a privileged insider after reading details of as-yet-unaired programs.

Back to my point: For the last four years, I have been avoiding spoiler information for the reimagined Battlestar Galactica. I've been comfortable taking each episode as it comes along. After hearing that all sorts of interesting things are going to happen in next week's season finale, I couldn't resist.

Not that I'm going to mention any of it here (why spoil it for others?), but if you want to know what happens, go check out Ain't It Cool News and highlight the invisible text. It's Earth shattering. (Or should I say "Caprica shattering"?)

The thing that I've been waiting for is the revelation of the final five Cylons. Or four of the final five. Or four who might be four of the final five. The spoiler was a bit ambiguous about it. Oh, and possibly the fifth.

Those AICN spoilers include some that were revealed in last weekend's show, including "Roslin admits she’s back to doing Kamala". If you do not know who Kamala is, click here to find out. If Roslin were "doing" Kamala, BSG would be too kinky for the SciFi Channel. I believe the spoiler meant "chamalla extract".

Roslin doing Kamala...that image is going to be seared into the back of my retina until next Sunday.

Monstrous

So there's this chick. She's gorgeous, and you love the way she dresses like some kind of classical goddess. She's also larger than life -- literally. And exponentially.

Then, one day, she calls to say that she's coming over, and she's bringing some of her friends to meet you. They aren't what you expected. In fact, they're kind of repulsive. But you're so into her that you don't care what her friends are like. She steps over your picket fence, wanders onto your lawn, looks down at you and smiles. She's so tall that you can see right up her skirt. It's the hottest thing you've ever seen. She tilts her head back, wiggles her butt, and takes a ginormous crap right in the middle of the grass. Her strange friends follow suit, committing equally unspeakable acts of a scatological nature all around your neighborhood.

Weird? Sure. But I figure there has to be some kind of back story for the events in this commercial.



She quickly excuses herself and leaves, taking her misfit friends with her. You're left standing stunned and amazed, wondering what the hell just took place. That's exactly how you feel after seeing the ad.

What's All The Hubbub, Bub?

Cripes, I just noticed something really odd. Really stupid, actually.

The Republican Committee of Allegheny County web site seems to be undergoing a redesign. It used to look slick and professional. Right now it looks like crap. I trust this is going to improve in the near future.

The stupid part is up in the header. Not the header for the page, but the head of the browser way up at the top of the screen.

It says "Rebublican Committee of Allegheny County".

"ReBUBlican"???? No wonder the party can't field candidates for important countywide offices. It can't even get its own name right.

It's inspiring, in a way, though. I'd give real money -- if I had any -- to see the Democrats call themselves "Demoncrats" on their site.

Arlen Stays Put

Every six years, a good solid conservative steps forth and challenges moderate-to-liberal incumbent US Senator Arlen Specter in the Republican primary. Each time, Arlen squeaks by win a win, and goes on to defeat lackluster Democrat opposition in November.

It's going to happen again, if Arlen gets his way:

U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, already Pennsylvania's longest-serving senator, wants to hold his post for at least another decade.

The 77-year-old Republican confirmed yesterday that he will run for re-election in 2010, when he turns 80.

"There are a lot of important things to be done," he said as he dashed from the Senate floor to attend an event on biomedical research. "I'm full of energy, and my wife doesn't want me home for breakfast, lunch and dinner."

On the contrary, Mrs. Specter, your husband needs to spend more time at home. You could encourage him to help out with the cooking. If he's going to be home for three meals a day, let him have a hand in preparing those meals.

Specter's Republican opposition keeps getting closer and closer each time. His 2004 opponent came so close -- and was so worthy -- that he really ought to consider another run:

A moderate voice in a GOP that has moved to the right in recent years, Mr. Specter has often angered rank-and-file members of his party with his positions on issues like abortion and stem-cell research. He faced a tough primary challenge in his last re-election campaign, narrowly defeating Rep. Pat Toomey, who currently heads the conservative Club for Growth in Washington.

Mr. Toomey hasn't made a decision about running again, Nachama Soloveichik,
communications director for the club, said yesterday.


Please consider it, Mr. Toomey. Pennsylvania needs someone upstanding as Senator again. Right now we have Arlen Specter and Bob Casey, and it's hard to tell sometimes which one is the Democrat. Bring character back to our US Senate delegation.

Oh yeah...not wanting to rock the boat, some guy from the Allegheny County Republicans who is supposedly the chairman (though the committee's web site says otherwise) is quoted as saying:

"I think the senator has delivered for Pennsylvania," he said.
In politics, "delivered" is a euphemism for "your tax dollars at work", usually for someone else. Watch out for these guys, and pray that someone better comes along soon.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

A Complete State-ment

Via Rinsem's Rink, another fun quiz. You could call it a geography test, but I prefer to think of it as "Name all 49 states where Ronald Reagan won in 1984, plus the one where Learned Foot lives".

I'm interested in seeing how Mobil fares on this one. He's either taught school, supervised public transportation, or led insurrection in most of them.

For the record, I named all but 3 within the first five minutes. It took me up to the 37 seconds left mark to finish. But finish I did, and I got them all right.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Santorum On Murtha

I have a new post up over at Murtha Must Go!, if you're interested.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Nice Kitty? Yikes!

Imagine my horror when I saw that the Psychosis-Gazette posted an article on its web site this morning entitled "Zoo has hands-off policy with tigers". What the heck does that mean? It sounds like something that would have been in force all along, but the blurb implies that people may once have been able to walk over and pet the ferocious carnivores.

Clicking on the link to the article, it turns out that the hands-off policy applies to zookeepers, and the only tigers that they were allowed to hold and cuddle were baby tiger cubs. Those of us who visit the zoo still may not get anywhere near close enough to scratch Big Tony behind the ear. Good policy, that.

Of course, if you grew up anytime after 1960, you probably have a warped view of what a tiger is like.

Would you sit down at the breakfast table with a tiger? Not unless you want to be his breakfast.

They Ain't Goin' Nowhere

It looks like the Penguins are going to be sticking around for a little while longer. That is, if you consider thirty years to be "a little while".

So far, the details of the New Arena Deal (NAD) look promising. The last thing I wanted to hear was that a new facility would be constructed as a "your tax dollars at work" type project. The Penguins are going to cough up significant capital for the NAD over the length of the thirty year period. It's a lease deal, rather than outright ownership, but it's a start.

The gambling guy from Detroit is also going to be involved. Slots for Mario! And so is the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. What's that, you say? The NAD is taking our hard earned money?

Not unless you let them. In a rare display of common sense, the commonwealth is providing funding "from a gambling-financed state economic development fund". In other words, it's not a tax at all (unless you are among those who consider legalized gambling to be "a tax on the stupid"). At any rate, it doesn't come out of our income or spending money.

If anything, this ought to get hockey fans out to the casinos. Sports fans, I believe, are natural gamblers anyway, even if they don't make bets. You gamble in a metaphysical way just by cheering one side over another. If your side wins, you feel like you've won something; and if your side loses, you feel like you've lost, too.

Every coin you lose helps keep the Penguins in Pittsburgh. So get out there and play those slots!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Up The Sponges!

We've never been into SpongeBob Squarepants at my house. I might like it better if it were more like this.



It's high time someone did an Iron Maiden themed cartoon series.

I'm A No-Go At Costco

There's a lovey-dovey puff piece in today's Trib about Mr. Costco himself, Jim Sinegal. Mr. Sinegal has done some wonderful things in running his business. Critics of WalMart often point to Costco as the anti-WalMart. Reading this article, you really do feel tempted to run out and buy your goods at Costco.

Here's my problem: No one, and no thing, can possibly as exceptionally wonderful as Jim Sinegal and Costco. The Trib article doesn't mention Mr. Sinegal's political activities. I'm not going to shop at a store run by someone who supports Democrats in a major league, big time way.

In other words, I know where Jim Sinegal's money goes, and he's not getting any of mine. WalMart's closer to where I live anyway.

The Utter Futility Of Being A Republican In Allegheny County

Crap in a hat.

There's almost no one to vote for in this year's Republican primary election. It's fun to write in a candidate's name when there's no on on your ballot to vote for, but not when most of the races have no one running. This is just shameful. Since I live in the suburbs, I don't care about there being no candidate in the Pittsburgh mayoral race. But for Pete's sake -- can't the party get anyone to step forward and run for County Executive? We had a Republican Exec just four years ago. Are these Republicans so afraid of (or even worse, in love with) Dan Onorato that they can't come up with even token opposition?

Looks like I'll have to come up with some friend/relative/co-worker to write in for County Executive. And for County Controller. And for County Treasurer. And for District Attorney. And for County Council (District 12).

There are candidates for Sheriff (like most row offices, the Republican is little more than a sacrificial lamb) and for County Council At Large. In fact, there are three Republicans running for the latter. What, none of the three wants to take a shot at Onorato?

Well, according to the Trib article, some kid who's a big shot in the county Republican party says that Dan Onorato is very popular and that the Republican Committee is in a "rebuilding period". Really? When was it last NOT in a "rebuilding period"? They really are scared. And not likely to make any advancement anytime soon.

It makes me wonder whether I ought to bother voting for anyone whose name is on the ballot. Those much-maligned electronic voting machines make writing in candidates very easy. I already decided months ago that I was going to write myself in for Council District 12 if the race was unopposed. (That's for anyone who might say, "Well why don't you run for office?")

Maybe I'll write in Admiral Richmond K. Turner for County Executive. In the absence of a Republican candidate, I'll take a deceased former naval person over any Democrat.

Ann *YAWN* Coulter

So far this week, I have read good conservative responses to Ann Coulter's "controversial" remarks last weekend, both in support of her and in opposition to her. Frankly, I don't care one way or the other. Ann doesn't butter my daily bread, in any sense of the term.

One thing I can say with certainty about her, though: If she ever has the misfortune to meet Reg Henry in person, I hope she plants a big old kiss smack dab on the top of his round, shiny, bald head.

How Dumb Can A Dem Be?

Anyone who steps forward on any issue and says "There oughta be a law" needs a good bitch slapping. Case in point:

When Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell first proposed a tax on oil company profits in early February, its political prospects seemed rosy, since many motorists are angry about huge oil company profits and the projected $760 million a year in revenue would go to bail out struggling mass transit agencies.

But the tax on Big Oil has turned into a tough sell with state legislators, who fear the oil giants will just pass the added costs on to drivers in the form of higher gasoline prices.


I know it's easy to hate "The rich". They can buy nicer things than we can. They are often haughty and condescending when dealing with the rest of us (as I saw almost daily when I worked retail for ten years). But they don't just sit around and mass produce money that they hoard in Jack Benny-style vaults and laugh at the world around them. They create jobs, and they compensate those who perform the work.

Taxing oil company profits to the high heavens doesn't force the rich dudes who run "Big Oil" to reach into their pockets and hand over excess cash to the government. That's because the profits don't squarely land in the hands of the executives. Much of it goes back into the companies, as capital to maintain and improve the way that the industry does its business. It also goes towards compensating the workers (this tax is anti-labor!). Anything that affects Big Oil's ability to produce its product efficiently and to receive adequate compensation therefore naturally affects the end user as well.

In other words, a tax on Big Oil is a tax on those of us who pay for gasoline at the pump.

The P-G article tells us that "Mr. Rendell has said he'll try to stop oil companies from passing the tax along to motorists", but doesn't tell us how, and frankly I don't want to know how because whatever it is, it's going to tick me off.

It would tick me off almost as much as the fact that Rendell wants to use the revenue that he would collect from the oil profits tax to fund the Pork Authority and its counterparts in other Pennsylvania counties. Is there no way to fund mass transit in Allegheny that doesn't involve stealing money from taxpayers? Not if you're Ed Rendell, there isn't.

If Big Oil is so good at making a profit, and he thinks he can make Big Oil do whatever he wants it to do, maybe Rendell ought to ask Big Oil to run mass transit in Pennsylvania. Heck, it can't do any worse that the transit authorities are doing already.

Go, Team, Go

Everything in the local news these days, it seems, is about the Pittsburgh Penguins, and whether they will pack up and leave town to go play hockey in Kansas City. (Or Las Vegas.) If that's what has to happen, que sera sera. Same thing goes for any other sports franchise. Professional sports is a business, and whole metropolitan areas should not be forced to practice socialism just for love of a game. If a team can't stay viable based on ticket sales, merchandising, and (why not?) gambling revenues in a particular market, then it ought to go someplace where it can.

I know it's hard, but I can't be sentimental about this. If the Penguins could afford to build a new hockey arena with multi-purpose potential (Vince McMahon and the Shrine Circus will both need a facility to use when Mellon Arena is gone!), they would have started by now. Mario Lemieux has repeatedly shown his loyalty to the city and the region, but even that has its limits. He has to do what's best for the team, and sticking around in a city where he can't afford to replace the arena, and where no one else will do so, isn't going to keep the franchise financially viable.

When the hockey developers lost the slots franchise, Pittsburgh effectively lost the Penguins. It's just a matter of time before the team leaves.

And now the politicians are getting involved. That's bad news, because everything that politicians do to "help" involves taxpayer funds. Unfortunately, sports mania can cause otherwise sensible people to go all commie just so they have a local team to cheer.

Don't let it come to that. Just let Mario do what he has to do. After all, he knows better than anyone else what's best for the team.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Kara Go: "BOOM!"; Dee: "Yay!"

If you watched the latest episode of Battlestar Galactica last night, you saw Kara "Starbuck" Thrace seemingly die in an explosion during a mind trip while piloting her viper far too low above the surface of an uninhabitable planet. I've been following this show since it debuted almost four years ago, and I count myself among the growing chorus of fans who are tired of the whole "soap opera" aspect of most of this season's episodes. Story arcs are what keep today's science fiction shows interesting. Ever since Xena was boxed in January, each episode has focused on the Miserable Character of the Week.

Enough!

The drama is missing. We don't care anymore who is in love, or who is having the worst luck getting along with the establishment. We want more clues to the identities of the "Final Five" Cylon models. We want to see more of the journey to Earth. The biggest problem I had with the original Galactica was the elimination of the Cylons from the show halfway through the season. The didn't return until the final episode of the season (perhaps the best episode of the show's only season), by which time the show's fate was sealed. The new show is making the same mistake. We're tired of the soap opera. We want the Cylons back, and the action to pick up again.

Blowing up Starbuck is a step in the right direction. I say "blowing up" and not "killing off", because who's to say that she won't wake up in a new body aboard a Cylon base ship? Starbuck could well turn out to be one of the Final Five, and the whole soap opera with her chain-smoking, cancer-suffering mother could just be Cylon programming. Why else would she draw the Eye of Jupiter without knowing what she was drawing? Why else the Leoben visions? I'm having a hard time believing her to be anything but a Cylon.

If that does turn out to be the case, it will certainly make Kara Thrace a much more interesting character, in my opinion. Episodes that have focused on Starbuck have mostly left me cold, unless she's in a situation of extreme peril, from which she always makes a great escape. It's the action Starbuck that I find interesting, not the human Kara -- perhaps because she's not human after all. The Lee-Kara love affair from earlier this season was the kind of arc that might appeal to weepy female fans, but not to the "guy" demographic. I found myself unable to sympathize with either Lee or Kara, and Kara's husband, Mr. Anders, lost his action hero appeal once he joined the fleet. The only affected party with whom I could sympathize was Lee's wife, Dee. She was the only character who seemed genuinely hurt by the other parties' actions, and she's a cutie, so I could easily imagine lending her a shoulder to cry on if I were a character on the show.

Yeah, that's how a guy sees it. "Rebound!" Anyway, I don't recall any scenes in which Dee and Kara made peace after the lovers decided to go back to their respective spouses. Deep down inside, Dee must be partying about Kara turning into a fireball. And I'm there with her.

It will be interesting to see how everyone reacts when Starbuck returns piloting a Cylon heavy raider and demanding the fleet's unconditional surrender.

Friday, March 02, 2007

She Who Would Be Queen Of Heaven

NEWS FROM THE WORLD OF ARCHAEOLOGY:

THESSALONIKI, Greece - A 2,200-year-old statue of the goddess Hera has been found built into the walls of a city under Mount Olympus, home of Greece's ancient gods, archaeologists said on Thursday. The headless marble statue was discovered last year during excavations in the ruins of ancient Dion, some 53 miles southwest of Thessaloniki.
Here is what the existing statue looks like:

Some bits are obviously missing. Educated folks like us are well aware of who Hera was, and to whom she was married:
Hera was the long-suffering wife of Zeus, a notorious philanderer, according to ancient mythology.
Here is a rare photograph of the philanderer-king-god:

Something that this article will not tell you is that the missing bits of the statue are not lost forever, but do in fact reside in an undisclosed location somewhere in the Midway section of Saint Paul, Minnesota.

The missing bits have been reconstructed somewhat clumsily, as seen in the photo below:

We have hired an electronic photography expert with some aptitude in the area of ancient sculpture to produce an estimated 98% accurate reconstruction of what the statue must have looked like intact, in its original form:



Does this look like someone who would like to dominate her philandering husband and place herself above the gods?

Oh, I couldn't possibly comment.

I Am A Smart American!

Via this site, I came across a ridiculously simple quiz.

You Are a Smart American

You know a lot about US history, and you're opinions are probably well informed.
Congratulations on bucking stereotypes. Now go show some foreigners how smart Americans can be.

On one hand, I am quite pleased with myself for acing the quiz and getting all ten questions right. On the other, this quiz was so embarrassingly easy that I feel bad for our country. I mean, think about how many American people aren't going to get it right! Shameful.

At least I'm smarter than they are!