Saturday, January 03, 2004

Favorite Books, 2003. I had hoped to keep a list of books I'd read during the past year, because I'm sure in doing a note like this I'm sure I've overlooked something. But maybe, if I have to go looking for something, it wasn't that memorable to begin with.

The book I just finished reading turned out to be pretty good: The Face by Dean Koontz. The first 100-200 pages, I didn't like it -- it didn't fit any types -- it wasn't a ghost story -- it wasn't a detective story, but it had elements of both. Once we finally got around to looking at the antagonist, an MLA type guy, it got interesting. And the ending addressed larger questions -- like I said, interesting.

But not my favorite book.

Favorite fiction was Jasper Fforde's Lost In A Good Book. No deeper questions here -- just good fun, science fiction and very heavy literary allusions (but not so heavy so as to lose this non-Lit major). This is really a laugh out-loud book. Nevertheless, it is imperative that you start, if you have not done so, by reading The Eyre Affair first. This will introduce you to the heroine, Thursday Next, and the villain, Acheron Hades. Not to mention Goliath Corp., The Socialist Republic of Wales, Jack Schitt, The Crimean War (still going strong after 130 years), and the ChronoGuard. (Did I mention everything takes place in an alternate universe?)

Favorite Non-Fiction was probably Paul Johnson's The Renaissance: A Short History. I really like Johnson's insights, even when I disagree. His book Modern Times is probably the best overview of the 20th Century (and one I hope he again updates). In reviewing Art: A New History, David Gelernter offers comments that are appropriate for this book as well:
[Th]is not so much a book as a sparring partner. It is a chronological, comprehensive narrative, brilliant and cranky by turns. Brilliance predominates, but if you intend to read Johnson seriously (as he must be read), bring boxing gloves.

Johnson’s History is extraordinary in part because his eye is sharp, his prose is dangerous to opponents, and his book is formidable in every way—starting with the fact that it weighs a ton. More important, Johnson is no mere professional art-writer. He is a wide-ranging, deep-digging thinker and scholar whose books on history, religion, and culture are classics in their own time. Johnson disdains the ever-tinier subfields bequeathed by thesis advisers to their academic offspring. (A typical academic specialty today is barely wide enough to turn around in.) He disdains politicized, "postmodern" scholarship. He understands art’s place on the map of human thought, its historical and intellectual context. And Johnson writes about art from the best possible vantage point: he is a painter himself.
Almost all of this applies to The Renaissance, except it is very short, indeed, it can be read in one sitting. It should also be noted that Johnson spends a good portion of this small book on Art, perhaps because he was writing that other one as well. (BTW, I do have the other one, but I don't think I'm going to be reading it anytime soon -- and certainly not in one sitting.)

Criticisms of Johnson's Art here and here.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Temporary Fix. For those of you looking for a temporary fix on the CANN London pages, check this. Hopefully, the elves will be back in full force soon and the unrelenting attacks will, well, relent.
No Doubt. USC is the Number One team in the country.

Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Spot On The transcript of the SNL skit whereby "Al Gore" explains his endorsement of "Howard Dean" has been posted. It's a riot.
"...but come on, Al Gore endorsing your campaign? Isn't this a little like Star Jones endorsing your diet plan?"
- "Chris Matthews" (Darrell Hammond)
Ingham Exposed. Finally, the unconscionable action of shutting down a church four days prior to Christmas is getting some media attention in the US. In the Washington Times, of course.

Personally, I think excommunication is too lenient a punishment for Michael Ingham.

So is burning at the stake -- that's what they did to Polycarp and Cranmer.

Drawing and quartering?

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Change. There will be a, um, slight change taking place in the days ahead. The editorship of the Blithering Idiot will be transferred over to my, um, brother (yeah, that's the ticket), Václav Patrik Šulik. Other than this, you shouldn't notice any difference.

Same idiotic blithering.
What Was Chane Thinking? Chris Johnson reported on this sermon by Washington, DC's Bishop, the Right Rev. John Bryson Chane. Normally, this would be known as a Christmas sermon, but it is not clear that the Right Rev believes in Christmas (-- or, should I say, the Incarnation, because he may believe in a Macy's version of Christmas complete with Santa and Rudoph). You see, in this sermon, he reaffirms the "holiness" of the Islamic scriptures:
And what was God thinking... when the Angel Gabriel was sent by God to reveal the sacred Quran to the prophet Muhammad?
. . . was the Angel Gabriel who appears as the named messenger of God in the Jewish Old Testament, the Christian New Testament Gospels, and the Quran of Islam, really the same miraculous messenger of God who proclaimed to a then emerging religious, global community and to us this morning that we are ALL children of the living God? And as such we are called to acknowledge that as Christians, Jews and Muslims we share a common God and the same divine messenger. (emphasis added)
Personally, I think the Rite Rev just needs more cowbell. A lot more cowbell.
Another View. Here are my mom's comments on the first flight centennial:
December 18, 2003

Time to give you my impressions of the 100 year First Flight celebration. This event lasted five days and everyone who attended talked about how well organized and terrific it was. I agree, the planning that went into the event was careful, thorough and detailed enough to keep everything flowing smoothly. I believe that scientists and engineers spent ten years developing and building the "Wright Flyer" to the same specifications as the original craft. As you know Will, Debbie and the kids came for the event as well as Kathy with dog and cat.

We all got up early on December 17, the big day, to eat breakfast and go to the Marketplace where we would catch a bus to the Monument Grounds. We were on the bus by 8:35. The sky looked a little threatening but by the time we arrived at our destination the sky was no longer threatening. All resemblance of a threat was gone--the skies opened and the ocean poured forth. Rain was horrific! We all had our raincoats and umbrellas, and we trudged off the bus quickly opening our umbrellas and thrusting the little spike points into one another's eyes. The rain flowed off our umbrellas into the little ones eyes, back of their necks etc. No one complained---we all joked with each other and with strangers laughing and chatting. There were approximately 2000 people waiting to go through security into the park grounds to join the many thousands already there. The rain flowed downward in buckets, no one complained.

We spent approximately 35 minutes going through security. No one complained, though we didn't joke quite as much with each other. I had charge of Sarah, I clutched her small hand in mine, poked her with my umbrella, and clenched our precious tickets for admission to the event---no one complained.

Finally we got through security just as President Bush was finishing his opening remarks. Not sure where he was located on the field---rain too hard to see anything although there was a drive in movie size television screen up with his picture on it making his speech---course we could not hear it. No one complained. We pushed our way forward to get closer to the large TV screen so we could hear Pres Bush's remarks. We edged close enough to hear his final "God Bless America" over the loudspeaker. We could not see him but we were happy. No one complained.

Suddenly the rain turned to a drizzle. We were really happy! We got close to the barricaded field in the middle of the park area where we were told Bush's cavalcade of cars would soon be coming by to take him to the Presidential helicopter where he would board to go back to Air Force one. Suddenly the rain stopped, we put down our umbrellas and the jeeps starting coming through the mud with President Bush on board. He went right in front of us and we all saw him in his car giving a thumbs up sign to the crowd. Now we were really happy! Actually, it was a thrill to realize this is our President who came to this muddy field to pay homage to two humble bicycle builders from Dayton, Ohio who changed the world. Even little Emilie, 2 1/2, said "I saw him give thumbs up" holding her little thumb up. We were happy. No one complained. We watched the helicopter with President Bush take off followed by a second helicopter.

At this point there was some hope that the Wright Flyer would be able to make its attempt at duplicating the original flight. In order to see this event since the people were ten deep in front of us we decided that we needed to cross the field and climb the hill by the monument to see the area where the Flyer would make its attempt. This was not a great distance--maybe 500 yards or so but the rain which had returned made the field a sea of water and mud. We crossed. We sank into mud over the tops of our shoes, clinging mud that wanted to retain possession of our shoes, yucky, sucky mud, slippery mud. We crossed carefully trying to stay together as a group. No one complained. After a 25 minute hike we reached our destination---the hill. We climbed half way up the hill and joined the thousands of other people with our eyes glued on the field and the large TV waiting for the Event. John Travolta was speaking on the giant TV. We were excited. We were waiting for the Event. Then it was announced that there was not enough wind---they would try again at 2:00. We were disappointed. We did not complain. John Travolta said he would fly a 707 over the Monument himself at 1:00. Then we were told to look toward the monument for a special surprise. We did. The Stealth bomber came quietly up and flew over our heads. We felt awe, we felt pride! We were glad it was our plane! We did not complain. The rain came down. There was a twelve second pause at 10:35; the time and length of the first flight. We were proud and happy to be on those grounds at that time and happy to be Americans living in the greatest country in the world. We did not complain!

We went to see the NASA exhibits. Awesome! We were thrilled to know that our tax dollars are being used so wisely. We wished Pres. Bush had used the occasion to announce that the United States would begin manned space exploration of Mars. But we did not complain that he didn't. The rains started again. We were cold, we were wet clear through, there were huge lines at the food concessions. It was twelve-fifteen. There was no wind necessary for the flight to occur. We did not complain------but we returned home! An attempt will be made again next December 17 to fly the "Wright Flyer." We'll be there! We will not complain!

(Now, if you have read this long message do not complain to me! I am busy looking outside at the beatiful sunshine and wind perfect for the Flyer to do it's thing---I wonder if Ohio had anything to do with the bad weather in North Carolina on December 17?!)

Monday, December 29, 2003

Who's Running the Asylum? In January 2003, SI had a cover story asking if anyone could beat the Raiders -- of course, we all know that (nearly) anyone could (the exception being the flukey Vikings who can't beat a team on grass to save their [playoff] lives). According to ESPN, the suspension of Charles Woodson and Charlie Garner led to a "near mutiny" before the Charger game. Raider coach Bill Callahan is a dead man walking, which is a shame, because we did have a good run prior to the last Super Bowl.

Never has a team fallen so far.

Coaching candidates? Dennis Green or Art Shell?

Sunday, December 28, 2003

What is Globalization...?. The following e-mail was forwarded to me by my mother.

Question: What is the truest definition of Globalization?

Answer: Princess Diana's death.

Question: How come?


An English princess

with an Egyptian boyfriend

crashes in a French tunnel,

driving a German car

with a Dutch engine,

driven by a Belgian who was drunk

on Scottish whisky, (check the bottle before you change the spelling)

followed closely by Italian Paparazzi,

on Japanese motorcycles;

treated by an American doctor,

using Brazilian medicines.

This is sent to you by an American,

using Bill Gates's technology,

and you're probably reading this on your computer,

that uses Taiwanese chips,

and a Korean monitor,

assembled by Bangladeshi workers

in a Singapore plant,

transported by Indian truck drivers,

hijacked by Indonesians,

unloaded by Sicilian longshoremen,

and trucked to you by Mexican illegals.....

That, my friends, is Globalization
Cute, although, I'm not sure everything is correct -- for example, the WaPo, indicates that the driver of the car was French, not from Belgium; was the doctor American? I don't see any evidence, but I'm not really spending any time on this.
Surprise (not). Tom Leonard, Media Editor of the Telegraph (U.K.) writes that Lord Dubs, British Laborite and chair of the chairman of the Broadcasting Standards Commission, observes "Christianity is an easier and more acceptable target followed, to a lesser extent, by Jews and Hindus."

2003: Best Movies. My favorite movies of 2003, in descending order:
1. LOTR: Return of the King.
2. Finding Nemo
3. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
4. Second Hand Lions
5. Seabiscuit
6. Bend it Like Beckham
Honorable Mention: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl; Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.

Side note: See this webpage for a easy to use database of grosses for the year, which allowed me to make sure I didn't miss anything.