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Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side 

I took this picture on July 29, 2006 from Primm, Nevada. Primm, for those not in the know, is a town on Interstate 15 just over the Nevada border. There are three casinos, a shopping center, and several other businesses in Primm, catering to the crowd of people heading up from Southern California toward Las Vegas. Some of them don't even get to Vegas; Primm is a destination in itself.

But this is not a picture OF Primm; it's a picture taken FROM Primm. The business in the picture is on the California side of the border. And it does a thriving business. Because while there are three places in Primm that you can gamble (not counting the discount shops), the business in the picture is the ONLY place where you can buy California lottery tickets!

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Or maybe people are just tired of the overall concept 

In an article announcing that Survivor's segregated tribes had desegregated by the third episode, E Online cited the following:

Before the new season aired, major advertisers, including General Motors, Proctor & Gamble, Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson and Home Depot, pulled their sponsorship, taking nearly $26 million in ad revenue with them, though the advertisers and CBS claimed the mass exodus had nothing to do with the show's controversy.

Viewers, too, have jumped ship. About 17.7 million tuned in for the season premiere--the smallest audience for a Survivor premiere since its inaugural season--and 17.4 million stuck around for week two. This week's episode drew 16.6 million, according to preliminary figures from Nielsen Media Research.

But I half wonder if the whole Survivor concept has run out of steam. Choose an area in the tropics, put a bunch of people there, etc., etc.

But it's not the only reality show that may have lost steam. I regularly watched the first four seasons of Big Brother, but I think I only tuned in to this summer's Celebrity Big Brother once. I can understand having Dr. Will come back, but Mike Boogie?

Whoa...turns out Boogie won the thing:

STUDIO CITY, CALIF., Sept. 13 -- Mike "Boogie" Malin emerged triumphant last night as BIG BROTHER: ALL-STARS' grand prize winner of $500,000 based on the votes of his former housemates on the jury. Erika Landin will receive $50,000 as the second place winner. Another prize of $25,000 went to Janelle Pierzina for being voted America's favorite juror.

After living in the BIG BROTHER: ALL-STARS house for 71 days and 1,704 hours, Mike "Boogie" Malin, the 35-year-old restaurateur originally from Concord, N.H. and currently living in West Hollywood, Calif. and Erika Landin, the 36-year-old Pilates instructor originally from Chicago and currently living in Los Angeles, faced a jury consisting of the last seven evicted houseguests (listed alphabetically): "Chicken" George Boswell, Howie Gordon, Will Kirby, Janelle Pierzina, Danielle Reyes, Marcellas Reynolds and James Rhine. Jennifer "Nakomis" Dedmon, Diane Henry, Alison Irwin, Kaysar Ridha and Jase Wirey were also present, but were not part of the jury.

After each of the jury members had the chance to ask the finalists questions, the seven members of the jury voted live for whom they wanted to win. By a vote of 6-1, Mike "Boogie" became the grand-prize winner of $500,000. Marcellas was the only juror who voted for Erika.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Friday, September 29, 2006

In all fairness, CAIR *has* voiced its opposition to Al-Qaeda 

In a couple of blogs, I noted that al-Masri's recent statements did not result in mass protest in the Muslim world.

In all fairness, however, I should note that the Council on American Islamic Relations issued this press release on September 11, 2006:

News Releases
Monday, September 11, 2006
CAIR: U.S. Muslims Repudiate Al-Qaeda Rhetoric, Worldview
CAIR 'We will not allow terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda to be the voice of Muslims'

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 9/11/06) - The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today released a statement repudiating the rhetoric and worldview expressed in an Al-Qaeda videotape released on the 5th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks. In his statement, CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad said:

"As we commemorate the 5th anniversary of the tragic 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization in the United States, would like to use this opportunity to challenge the rhetoric and the worldview of the recent videotape released by Al-Qaeda's second-in-command, Ayman Al-Zawahiri.

"To more than a billion Muslims worldwide, Islam is a religion that teaches tolerance, freedom and compassion. Those who understand Islam and know Muslims as friends and colleagues realize that Islam is one of the three Abrahamic faiths and that Muslims are contributing members of societies around the world.

"Unfortunately, for many who know little of Islam or Muslims, Al-Qaeda has come to represent both.

"As American Muslims, this is simply unacceptable and we will not allow terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda to be the voice of Muslims or the representation of Islam to the rest of the world.

"In light of the 5th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, we feel the need to once again condemn and repudiate Al-Qaeda and its myopic worldview.

"Notwithstanding the fact that there are legitimate political grievances in the Muslim world today, Islam has never, and will never, justify the killing of innocent civilians in order to achieve political or religious goals.

"Al-Qaeda's worldview is a complete distortion of Islam because Islamic teachings clearly state that the killing of one innocent life is the moral equivalent of the killing of all humanity.

"As Muslims, we will continue to condemn Al-Qaeda and ensure that the rest of the world learns the true message of Islam and its teachings of peace, justice and compassion for all."

At today's news conference held to release this statement, Awad noted that American Muslim groups were the first to condemn the 9/11 attacks. He also listed several anti-terror initiatives by American Muslims, such as the "Not in the Name of Islam" online petition drive and last year's Islamic legal ruling (fatwa) by U.S. Muslim scholars against terrorism and religious extremism.

CAIR, America's largest Islamic civil liberties group, has 32 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

CONTACT: CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787 or 202-744-7726, E-Mail: ihooper@cair-net.org

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Quickie thoughts on this God and reason thingie.

From the Wikipedia biography of Thomas Aquinas:

Aquinas defined the four cardinal virtues as prudence, temperance, justice, and fortitude. The cardinal virtues are natural and revealed in nature, and they are binding on everyone. There are, however, three theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity. These are supernatural and are distinct from other virtues in their object, namely, God:

"Now the object of the theological virtues is God Himself, Who is the last end of all, as surpassing the knowledge of our reason. On the other hand, the object of the intellectual and moral virtues is something comprehensible to human reason. Wherefore the theological virtues are specifically distinct from the moral and intellectual virtues."

From the Augustine Club at Columbia University:

The promise of Christ is that if we die to ourselves, we will rise to live eternally with him: unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit (Jn 12:24). The sign of his veracity is his rising from the grave to a new and radically better life. The entire Christian faith hinges on this historical fact, because if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain (1 Cor 15:14). It is the assurance Jesus has overcome the world (Jn 16:33), that love is as strong as death (Song 8:6), that we will find the most profound peace and happiness in sacrifice, that we need not be afraid (cf. Mt 28:5,10).

It is an eternal mystery, an unfathomable paradox, an impenetrable obscurity to human reason, but one that bears out every day: man cannot truly live unless he lives for others.

And this topical item from First Things:

Death threats issued to Pope Benedict XVI, Muslims burning the Pope in effigy, promises to conquer Rome and slit the throats of Christians, at least seven churches in the region of Palestine torched, a nun murdered in front of a children’s hospital in Somalia, claims of Benedict participating in a U.S.-Israeli conspiracy against Islam. Do we fail to see the irony in all of this? Violent protests from a religion of peace in response to the suggestion that Islam may be fundamentally misguided in its conception of God. This was Benedict’s underlying argument in reference to Islam last week....

Yet the many commentaries, news reports, and editorials seem to miss Benedict’s central message: Human reason can apprehend the truth—though not the entire truth—of God and man. Reason isn’t at odds with faith. And the modern university performs a great disservice to the well-being of all mankind in relegating the truths of religion to personal preferences and radically subjective, private beliefs. The resulting impoverished Christianity and shriveled secular reason are unable to sustain a culture or respond to challenges.

And, back in November 2001, (former) Iranian President Mohammad Khatami addressed Seton Hall University and said the following in the course of his lecture:

Modern society takes human reason as the organizing principle for all institutions, laws, social and civil relationships, and human rights. Even various forms of collectivism, meant to counterbalance excessive individualism, build upon a plurality of human reason. It is true that in the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments, as well as in the Quran, the human individual is addressed. By listening to the divine call, human reason is elevated to human personhood. Religions teach us that the central prominence of human beings in the universe is not caused by their individuality or their collectivity, but stems from our being addressed by the Divine. The divine call elevates the human spirit and thereby makes possible the establishment of justice in the world. Should we in the modern world realize this truth, and should we prepare ourselves to recognize the divine call, we shall be able to transcend from individuality to personhood.

All human beings have been addressed by God, and are all His servants. As such,
undeserved privileges shall be abolished, and all humans shall be deemed equal in determining their own destiny.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Muslim Nations Condemn al-Masri's Violent Remarks 

Because Blogger is especially slow today, I went to MySpace to write my comparison of the Pope's recent remarks with al-Masri's remarks. If you're not familiar with the latter, here's part of the story:

In a new audio message Thursday, the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq called for explosives experts and nuclear scientists to join his group's holy war against the West. "We are in dire need of you," said the man, who identified himself as Abu Hamza al-Muhajir — also known as Abu Ayyub al-Masri — the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq.

"The field of jihad (holy war) can satisfy your scientific ambitions, and the large American bases (in Iraq) are good places to test your unconventional weapons, whether biological or dirty, as they call them."

He also said that more than 4,000 foreign militants have been killed in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 — the first apparent acknowledgment from the insurgents about their losses.

It was unclear why al-Masri would advertise the loss of the group's foreign fighters, but martyrdom is revered among Islamic fundamentalists, and could be used as a recruiting tool. The Arabic word he used, "muhajer," indicated he was speaking about foreigners who joined the insurgency in Iraq, not coalition troops.

"The blood has been spilled in Iraq of more than 4,000 foreigners who came to fight," al-Masri purportedly said on the 20-minute tape....

He urged insurgents to capture Westerners so they could be traded for the imprisoned Egyptian sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, who was convicted in 1995 of conspiring to blow up New York landmarks.

"I appeal to every holy warrior in the land of Iraq to exert all efforts in this holy month so that God may enable us to capture some of the Western dogs to swap them with our sheik and get him out of his dark prison," the voice on the tape said.

In MySpace, I wrote about the reaction to al-Masri's remarks:

Muslim nations from all across the world voiced their immediate opposition to al-Masri's remarks.

In Washington, DC, Presidents Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan and Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, who are in town for meetings with President George W. Bush, convened a joint press conference to condemn al-Masri. Grasping hands, the presidents declared their opposition to al-Masri's strategy. "He has a dark mentality that is against everything Islam stands for," declared Musharraf. "It is regrettable that such Hitlers arise in the birthplace of modern science and culture."

In Dhaka, Bangladesh, riot police fired rubber bullets and tear gas Thursday at demonstrators protesting al-Masri's remarks.

Hundreds of pilgrims in Mecca chanted loudly as security personnel hung al-Masri in effigy.

The response in Turkey, though more restrained, was no less passionate. "Abu Hamza al-Muhajir is a poor, forlorn, disgraced figure," declared Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. "He is no Muslim, and shames the Muslim people when he declares himself to be a Muslim.

Islamic groups in the United States also protested the remarks. "No self-respecting Muslim scientist would stoop to such a violent act," declared Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). "Al-Masri is a dog and not worthy of anyone's respect."

As you may have guessed, none of the above incidents occurred...

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Methadone - It's Not Just for Heroin Addicts Any More 

Newspaper editors know that they will sell papers if they characterize Anna Nicole Smith in as trashy a manner as possible. Thus, coverage of the death of Daniel Smith, Anna Nicole's son, has included lines such as this:

Anna Nicole Smith's 20-year-old son died from a lethal combination of a drug that treats heroin addiction -- methadone -- and two antidepressants, pathologist Cyril Wecht says.

This was the opening paragraph in the news story, and for those of us who just read the opening paragraphs of stories, the implication is clear - Smith was a recovering heroin addict.

The text above is what displays when you perform a Yahoo search. But when you go to the article itself, the text now reads slightly differently:

Anna Nicole Smith's 20-year-old son died from the "accidental" effect of methadone and two antidepressant drugs interacting in his system, according to a well-known American pathologist who conducted a private autopsy.

And later in the story, the article backs away from the previous implications:

Wecht said he did not know why Smith was taking methadone, a pain-reliever that is also used to ease heroin cravings for recovering addicts.

"It is used for people who have been on heroin or morphine," Wecht said from his home in the Pittsburgh area. "I have made those inquiries. I can only say to you no one has suggested anything having to do with drug addiction in this boy."

But, as another story points out, methadone is not only used for recovering heroin addicts. It has other uses:

One use for the drug is to relieve pain.

"It keeps the pain moderate. Basically I just don't feel pain," said a Kalamazoo man who uses the drug three times a day and who wished to remain anonymous.

"I've had several surgeries, I suffer from chronic pain. I've had two operations for cancer in the past," the man added.

And in fact, when you look at the Daniel Smith story, there's a logical reason - other than kicking heroin - why he may have been taking methadone:

Methadone is a drug most commonly associated with helping wean addicts off heroin. But in recent years, it has also been prescribed as a painkiller.

According to Smith's camp, the younger Smith was treated for back pain, as well as depression, in the weeks leading up to his death.

So it's possible that Smith was taking methadone for his back pain, and the other two drugs for the depression - and someone didn't ask the right questions beforehand. Pharmacies often check prescriptions against each other to make sure that multiple drugs don't result in a toxic combination. For whatever reason, that didn't happen in this case.

Now I'll grant that there are people who are convinced that pain patients should not be taking methadone or oxycontin or whatever, and if they'd just buck up, they could get by with Tylenol or whatever. The underlying assumption is that over the counter medications are "safe" - not just safer, but safe. Don't be so sure about that:

If you take acetaminophen as recommended, serious side effects are uncommon. Effects of overdose include:

bloody or black, tarry stools
decrease in amount of urine passed
difficulty breathing, wheezing
fever or sore throat
nausea, vomiting
skin rash
stomach cramps
unusual bleeding or bruising, pinpoint red spots on the skin
unusual tiredness or weakness
yellowing of the skin or eyes

In some cases, it's better to take one methadone tablet rather than a handful of "safe" over the counter medications.

Just watch out what you mix.

What other medicines can interact with acetaminophen?

medicines for mental problems and psychotic disturbances

Tell your doctor or pharmacist: about all other medicines you are taking, including non-prescription medicines; if you are a frequent user of drinks with caffeine or alcohol; if you smoke; or if you use illegal drugs. These may affect the way your medicine works. Check before stopping or starting any of your medicines.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Wave the flag! 

All baby seal clubbers unite and pledge support for the greatest country in the world! And tell the Communists that they have no place in the land of the free:

7-Eleven Inc. is dropping Venezuela-backed Citgo as its gasoline supplier after more than 20 years as part of a previously announced plan by the convenience store operator to launch its own brand of fuel.

7-Eleven officials said Wednesday that the company's decision was partly motivated by politics.

Citgo Petroleum Corp. is a Houston-based subsidiary of Venezuela's state-run oil company and 7-Eleven is worried that anti-American comments made by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez might prompt motorists to fill-up elsewhere.

Chavez has called President George W. Bush the devil and an alcoholic....

"Regardless of politics, we sympathize with many Americans' concern over derogatory comments about our country and its leadership recently made by Venezuela's president," said 7-Eleven spokeswoman Margaret Chabris.

"Certainly Chavez's position and statements over the past year or so didn't tempt us to stay with Citgo," she added....

So we're proud to be Americans...or are we?

But 7-Eleven had been considering creating its own brand of fuel since at least early last year, and some analysts suggested 7-Eleven may now be hyping the political angle a way to curry favor with U.S. consumers.

"This has nothing to do with Chavez," said Oil Price Information Service director Tom Kloza. "They (7-Eleven) just didn't want to be tied to one supplier."

Kloza said all 7-Eleven did was seek out suppliers who could sell it the cheapest fuel and "that was not Citgo."

But I'm sure that a number of baby seal clubbers will want to congratulate 7 Eleven's management for their strong American stance. But if the baby seal clubbers want to congratulate the management in person, they'll need to book a flight to Narita:

Seven-Eleven Japan and its affiliates have owned a majority stake in 7-Eleven, Inc. since 1991. Following the completion of a successful tender offer and a short form merger on November 9, 2005, Seven Eleven Japan and its affiliates now own 100 percent of 7 Eleven, Inc.

But things started in the USA:

The company was founded in Oak Cliff, Texas, USA, which is now part of Dallas, USA, in 1927, and started to use the 7-Eleven name in 1946; the previous branding of these stores was as "Speedee-Mart". Supermarket chain Ito-Yokado, which operates 7-Eleven stores in Japan, purchased the majority interest of Southland Corporation in 1991. Also in 1999, Southland Corporation changed its name to 7-Eleven, Inc....

In November of 2005, Seven & I Holdings Co. completed the purchase of 7-Eleven, Inc., turning the American publicly-traded conglomerate into a publicly-traded Japanese conglomerate. Seven-Eleven Japan is itself a subsidiary of Seven & i Holdings, which also owns the Japanese Denny's chain of restaurants and Ito-Yokado.

But you can find some American-owned 7-Eleven stores; just go to Oklahoma City:

The only privately owned 7-11 stores are located in the Oklahoma City, Oklahoma metropolitan area. These 100 stores are owned by the Brown Family, and carry a slightly different product selection than other 7-11 stores in the world. They do not serve hotdogs, or nachos but have their own bakery called Seventh Heaven, and have fresh baked donut and cookie/pastry rack in each store, while many other regional 7-11s will carry Dunkin' Donuts. Also, due to this agreement, they carry a similar product in lieu of the Slurpee, the Icy Drink. The one side effect to this being that national advertising campaigns and promotions (e.g. movie marketing tie-ins) cannot be used. This unique marketing agreement can be traced to a merger with the Oklahoma based U-Totem stores in the early 70's.

But if you want to see the modern Seven Eleven experience, cross the Pacific:

The feel and look of the [Japanese] store is somewhat different from that of the U.S. 7-Elevens in Japan offer a wider selection of products and services. Japanese 7-Elevens offer not only food, drinks, and magazines, but also video games and consoles, music CDs, DVDs, digital cardreaders as well as seasonal items like Christmas cakes, Valentine's Day chocolates, and fireworks. Customers can also pay for utilities, buy concert tickets, and withdraw money from their bank accounts using the ATM. Slurpees and Big Gulp super size soft drinks are no longer sold in Japan; these products were not popular when 7-Eleven originally openened in Japan. Instead, hot and cold cans of coffee and cans and bottles of various teas are popular. Food sold includes Japanese as well as Western items. In the refrigerator case are onigiri, udon, sushi, salad, microwaveable burritos, sandwiches with the crusts cut off, and bento. Stores offer to heat up microwavable food on the premises and provide complimentary chopsticks or western style cutlery. On the shelves are instant ramen and other dried noodles, bread and rolls, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce and other condiments, chocolate and other sweets, and snack foods such as potato chips. From warmers, the store provides hot foods like oden, corn dogs and large Chinese meat buns. Physically, almost every Japanese 7-Eleven is laid out in a similar way, with the magazine racks facing a long storefront window. This is intended to prevent patrons from loitering and reading the magazines and comic books by making them visible to people outside the store.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Memo to the magazines - anorexia is officially passe 

From Stacy Nadeau to the real catwalk. Credit Jeff Pope and Evelyn Erives for alluding to this September 10 story on KGGI-FM this morning:

Madrid fashion show snubs skinny models

Organizers of the pageant, known as the Pasarela Cibeles, used a mathematical formula to calculate the models' body mass index -- a measure of their weight in relation to their height -- and 30 percent of the women flunked, said the Association of Fashion Designers of Spain.

The association said Friday it wanted models at the show running Sept. 18 to 22 to project ''an image of beauty and health'' and shun a gaunt, emaciated look....

[T]he Madrid regional government decided to...pressure organizers to hire women who could be positive role models for girls obsessed with being thin and prone to starving themselves, said Concha Guerra, deputy finance minister of the regional administration.

Fashion shows, Guerra said, ''are mirrors for many young women.''

[Jesus] Del Pozo said this was the first time skinny models have been snubbed at a major international fashion show.

And KGGI is airing a parody of Right Said Fred's "I'm Too Sexy," entitled "I'm Too Skinny." With the catwalk references in the original song, it's a natural.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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The Agony of Victory 

I confess something.

As a Redskins fan, I confess that I was very happy when Terrell Owens signed with the Dallas Cowboys.

And I confess the reason for my happiness.

I figured that Owens would be a huge distraction to the Cowboys, thus reducing their winning chances.

But when I thought of "distractions," I thought of Owens mouthing off at the quarterback or the coach or something like that, or possibly refusing to play for some reason.

But I didn't dream that a distraction like this would occur:

Dallas Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens tried to kill himself by overdosing on pain medication, police said, even putting two more pills into his mouth after a friend intervened.

A Dallas police report released Wednesday morning said Owens told his friend "that he was depressed." Details of the report were first released by WFAA-TV.

The friend, who is not identified in the report, "noticed that (his) prescription pain medication was empty and observed (Owens) putting two pills in his mouth," the police report said.

The friend attempted to pry them out with her fingers, then was told by Owens that before this incident he'd taken only five of the 40 pain pills in the bottle he'd emptied. Owens was asked by rescue workers "if he was attempting to harm himself, at which time (he) stated, `Yes.'"

Cubbiejulie is concerned:

As I've stated before, I'm no fan of Terrell Owens and his ginormous ego, but this is just sad....

Come on, Terrell. It's not as bad as all that. Get well soon.

Scores Report is also concerned:

For as much public debate as Owens receives because of his antics and actions, obviously this goes beyond the football field. Owens needs help and I’m not saying that to be condescending in any way.

Sadly what comes to mind is how media hungry and desperate for attention this guy always is. If by some sick way this was all for attention – than he needs help more than any of us could ever imagine.

Either way he doesn’t need to be anywhere near a football field, because the game is secondary to his health right now. This man is in serious need of some help and hopefully the NFL and Dallas Cowboys take the necessary arrangements to get him that support.

This guy is in serious pain right [now], but none of us can really say what he is going through in particular. I don’t know what he grew up with, how is life is now and what he believes is in his future.

I just wish him the best and hopefully he can get himself healthy again.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Monday, September 25, 2006

No, I'm not posting this in every blog I own 

But I did find this nice version of the Backstreet Boys' "Incomplete," courtesy Katie Couric's former employer.

More interesting musically than their Top of the Pops appearance.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Why I'm glad I'm male 

Get this video and more at MySpace.com

Enough said. Taken at the Los Angeles County Fair.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Rabbi Simcha Bunam, the Two Realities, and Self-Referentialism 

Now I don't know if they were stones or papers - you be the judge. In the Ontario Logoblog I quoted from Wes Morriston's paper that quoted from the Rabbi Simcha Bunam. Out in the Quad Cities, here's how Rabbi Karp presented the issue back in 1998:

We come to Yom Kippur, searching out our souls. Asking the questions, "Who
are we? What are we?" We stand between two infinities; the infinity that
is beyond us and the infinity that is within us. We stand at the center of
the universe. So who are we? What are we? Are we the center of the
universe? Or are we a nearly invisible dot, lost within the cosmic
grandeur? Or are we the culmination of creation, the very home of infinity
itself? Perhaps we are one. Perhaps we are another. Perhaps we are all
three. Each one of us must seek out our own answers on this day of Yom
Kippur; on every day of our lives. Perhaps we will find that our answers
reside somewhere in between them all. As Rabbi Simcha Bunam was fond of
telling his disciples, "Everyone must have two pockets, so that he can
reach into the one or the other, according to his needs. In his right
pocket are to be the words, 'For my sake was the world created,' and in his
left pocket: 'I am dust and ashes.'" May the search that each of us
enters into prove fruitful. May we grow from it. May we grow into it.
And may we grow in love and strength toward God and all creation.

Here's some more about Rabbi Simcha Bunam:

Rabbi Simcha Bunam of Pshis'cha
Born: Voidislav, 1767
Died: Pshis'cha, 1827

In his early life Rabbi Simcha Bunam studied in the yeshivot of Mattersdorf and Nikolsburg where his mentor was the gaon Rabbi Mordechai Banet. Having been introduced to Chassidism by his father-in-law, he became the follower of the Maggid of Koznitz. After working as a manager of a timber producer and later as a pharmacist he was influenced and by the Chozeh (Seer) of Lublin, becoming his closest disciple. When Rabbi Yaacov Yitzchak, also called "the Holly Jew", left the Chozeh's circle to establish his own chassidic court in Pshis'cha, Rabbi Bunam followed him there, and upon the Holly Jew's death he succeeded him.

Thousands of chassidim were attracted to the Pshis'cha approach to Chassidism that Rabbi Bunam advocated, accentuating Torah study, introspection, and self searching....

Collections of his thoughts on the Torah were published by his followers under the titles Kol Simcha, Ramatayim Tzofim, Chedvat Simcha, and others.

And here's a story:

Rabbi Simcha Bunam once said, "I have learned the meaning of love by overhearing a conversation between two Polish peasants in a tavern. They were somewhat inebriated and one said to the other "Do you love me? And the other answered ‘of course I do’ and he continued ‘Then tell me where I hurt. And the other said ‘I do not know.’ Then the first man responded ‘Then how can you say you really love me.’ Rabbi Bunam continued, "to be a friend is to know where the other hurts."

But if you want to know more about the Rabbi, check Zoominfo, which generated information on him based upon 23 Internet sources. They were even able to ascertain his employment history. (He was a rabbi.)

However, Zoominfo does not list me. (I checked under my real name, and I'm not listed there either. But neither is Kiira Korpi.)

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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MyChurch in the Larger Context, with a reference to Joel Osteen 

I now have a MyChurch profile.

If you don't know about MyChurch, go here.

I previously commented about MyChurch here. In response to my "unepiscopal" comment, one of the MyChurch people noted the following:

In terms of theology, we treat the churches as autonomous entities. So the members do rule the roost, but we also have some high-level guidelines. We don't allow for LDS, Jehova Witness, and other church denominations that do not fall in line with mainstream Christianity.

So, for what it's worth, MyChurch is a reflection of the views of the people within the churches, and not specifically the official views of the churches themselves. This in itself is not necessarily "good" or "bad," but it should be noted.

Red Herring published an entire article on the trend:

Launched earlier this month, MyChurch is one of the newer contestants to join the littered playing field of Internet social networks. The site is targeting younger generations in an attempt to dip into the widening pool of Facebook, MySpace, and Friendster dropouts.

But what makes MyChurch different, and what will ultimately allow it to live alongside its larger brethren, is that the site makes the church the central, audience-drawing element, according to co-founder Joe Suh.

“Forty percent of Americans go to church on a weekly basis. We want a large chunk of that,” he said. “We want a lot of those people to come on our site, network with a lot of people at their church, meet new people, and just build a stronger community.”

Still, altruism does not a business model make, and the money’s in the details.

The site divvies its services into free and paid sections. In terms of the former, any church can sign up for MyChurch and enjoy 10 MB (megabytes) of space and 70 MB of bandwidth. Jump to the gold package—2 GB (gigabytes) of space and 15 GB of bandwidth—and it costs $50 monthly.

The advertising possibilities seem like a match made in Heaven. After all, the Christian retail market pulled in $4.34 billion in 2004, according to the Christian Booksellers Association.

MyChurch plans to push demographic-targeting (and family-friendly) advertisements to its 250 participating churches and more than 1,000 members, but hitting the seemingly golden formula has been a slow ramp-up.

“Right now, we’re actually making no money at all,” Mr. Suh said.

Maybe the site should try tithing its users.

BloggersBlog notes:

The article discusses tools like Cross Connector, MyChurchEvents, eBible and People2Pray. The article also mentions social networks like Oaktreeidea.com, MyChurch, MuslimSpace and Koolanoo.

If this is all there is in religious 2.0 then the Church Marketing Sucks blog is aptly named. We do know that they missed Xianz and Christianster, two social networks for Christians we found on our list of social networks. There are actually quite a few blogs discussing the term Church 2.0 including TallSkinnyKiwi, MediaShift, Ben's Blog, Relentless Grace, Subversive Influence, Addison Road and Church Marketing Sucks. There is also a blog going by the name Church 2.0 and a documentary film (in progress) called Church 2.0.

I'm probably stating the obvious when I mention that Church 2.0 is much more of a two-way street than traditional televangelism, in which the only thing that flows back to the televangelists is money.

And criticism. In his last sermon before moving to a new church, one pastor made a point of noting that Joel Osteen's prosperity gospel is NOT the gospel of the Bible.

If the pastor had podcasted this particular sermon, I'm sure that the discussion boards would have been howling on both sides of the issue.

Speaking of which, the MyChurch site for Lakewood Church is here. As of this moment, no one from that church has joined MyChurch.org. At this stage, MyChurch is trying to induce people to get involved in the site - hence the recruiting efforts.

If you're so inclined, and if you attend a church in the United States (sorry, Mrs. Loquacious, no Canadian churches yet), I encourage you to join and try the site out.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Next, Oprah fans viciously attack any lawyer they see 

The minions who do Oprah's bidding have created a public relations nightmare for her:

Oprah Winfrey says her lawyers shouldn't have gone after the man who is trying to promote her as a candidate for president.

Not because she's running, mind you.

"I feel flattered by it," the 52-year-old talk-show host told The Associated Press on Monday. "My lawyers overreacted, I think, by sending him a cease-and-desist order because it really is a flattering thing."

It should have been handled in a phone call, said Winfrey, who said she's thinking of calling Patrick Crowe of Kansas City, Mo., herself.

Crowe has been campaigning to urge Winfrey to run for president for years, setting up a Web site that has its own campaign song. A month ago, Winfrey's lawyers sent Crowe a letter demanding that he remove her picture from his Web site.

Winfrey's smiling face remained on http://www.oprah08.net Monday.

Now we have to wonder what will happen next. Oprah has said that her lawyers "overreacted." Will the followers of Oprah now wage war against any overreacting lawyer? Will Oprah devotees crowd outside attorney's offices, yelling, "Don't overreact!"? (Yes, I appreciate the irony.)

But now we should probably question the sanity of Patrick Crowe. I can't see Oprah working with a Congress or a Supreme Court. But Patrick Crowe sees something. This is what he says:

The citizens of the State of Minnesota showed a new way when they elected Jesse Ventura governor as a candidate of the Reform Party. They demonstrated that not only can ordinary citizens become elected officials, but that they can govern as well.

First off, Jesse Ventura wasn't an ordinary citizen. Jesse Ventura was a talented entertainer and a forceful public speaker.

Second off, was he a good governor? While I for one would love to see all of the incumbents get wiped out of the governmental halls, it's not enough to elect a single reform candidate. You have to elect them in multiple positions. As Wikipedia notes, Ventura had no political base in the legislature, and his vetoes were often overridden. You can't be effective if you can't substantiate your position.

So, back to Oprah:

Oprah Winfrey is famous, scrupulously honest, immensely popular and wealthy in her own right. While she has scant experience in politics, this is hardly a handicap in a world where most people have become disillusioned with "conventional" politics. She knows how to run a large and complex organization...like the one she has put together for her talk show, the Angel network and her book club. Furthermore, she has the additional advantage of being the first woman, non-white, non-politician to not only seek this high office, but who also has a credible chance of succeeding and leading our great nation into a new era of peace and prosperity.

As I noted above, Oprah's ability to run a large and complex organization is NOT directly transferable to running the United States government. Congress and the Supreme Court are not going to bend over backward and do her bidding, and even the executive branch is not going to Oprah-ize themselves overnight.

Oprah's only hope as President would be to model herself upon Andrew Jackson.

Jackson's Bank War and its populistic, egalitarian rhetoric shaped the platform and rhetoric of his new Democratic party....By casting himself as the people's tribune against the moneyed elite and their tools in government, he introduced an enduring theme in American politics.

But let's say, for example, that some state passed some law that Oprah didn't like. Sure, she could get air time and deliver an impassioned speech from the East Wing of the White House, an adoring crowd cheering at every word. But would that sufficiently produce a groundswell of change? Probably not.

Mr. Crowe, your proposed plan will only work if you can recruit thousands of people to run for the House, the Senate, the state legislatures, the governorships, and all the city and county positions. And all of these candidates must agree to the following platform:

In my elected position, I will do whatever Oprah tells me to do.

If Oprah, and these thousands of candidates, are elected, then Patrick Crowe's vision of an Oprah-led nation will become a reality.

And maybe we'll all get brand new cars in the bargain.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

And if you violate these rules, you'll be jabbed by a tusk 

The University of Southern California (abbreviation: "UCLA") has some fairly comprehensive trademark and identity protection and branding provisions, as a recent grad informed me.

The USC Graphic Identity Program is composed of a system of coordinated graphic elements, including the USC Logo, the USC Monogram, the University Seal and the Trojan Head, as well as the official colors and typefaces.

The goal of the Graphic Identity Program is to distinguish all university print, digital and product applications as clearly recognizable USC products. When consistently applied with the university’s full name, the Graphic Identity elements work together to convey the unique qualities of the University of Southern California and to create a coherent USC image.

Here's part of what they say about colors:

The university's official colors, USC Cardinal and USC Gold, are a central component of the Graphic Identity Program for all print, product, stationery and Web applications. USC's official typefaces are Caslon 540 and Frutiger. These fonts are used in most print publications and in graphically rendered headers on Web pages. Correct and consistent use of USC's official colors and typefaces helps reinforce the university's identity....

Use the correct Pantone Matching System® colors for USC Cardinal (PMS® 201C) and USC Gold (PMS® 123C).

Process color callouts for cardinal are: C:0% M: 100% Y: 63% K:29%

Process color callouts for gold are: Gold - C:0% M: 24% Y: 94% K: 0%

Do not use maroon and yellow, or red and ochre as a substitute for the USC colors.

For web pages, specific values are provided for these two colors, as well as other colors:

USC Cardinal #990000
USC Gold #FFCC00

Light Gray #CCCCCC
Dark Gray #777777
Black #000000

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Who's in Jail 

We often assume that the right to privacy is a First Amendment right, handed down by the Founding Fathers, for which brave men hath spilt their blood.

Well, I don't know the legal justification for the right to privacy, but in essence there is no such right in many circumstances.

Take, for example, Pinellas County's Who's in Jail website. I only know one person in Pinellas County, and he works for the Sheriff's Office and (hopefully) isn't in the database, but it's amazing what information can be found.

For example, I can see all people who were booked by the Florida Highway Patrol on September 1, 2006. Here's an example of what you can find:

Docket No.
Booking Date
Arresting Agency
Zip Code
Place of Birth
Arrest Age
Scars, Marks & Tattoos

You can also find the offense description, as well as the statute under which the person was arrested.

And people are worried about information that may be left on MySpace. Heck, any Pinellas County employer can do a very quick background check for any prospective employee, from their own computer, free of charge. Granted that the online data only goes back about a year, but it's still something of which you need to be aware.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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We don't care how late you work Sunday night, if you come in late on Monday morning 

When I've had to work very late, I've felt "entitled" to come in to work a little late the next day. Lucky I didn't work for this company:

When I’d been there a few weeks, [IT Director] Edmund called a meeting...[T]he project seemed to be going smoothly, and after he relayed the good word to LaceLand’s CEO, she was so pleased she gave our entire migration team tickets to the Super Bowl game....

Unfortunately, as game day approached -- with our deadline only one week behind it -- we hit a snag....I didn’t care about the game that much, so I volunteered to work on the problem while the rest of the crew enjoyed their party weekend.

For the next two days, working at home, I dissected the data and finally managed to convert it to a format that the new system would accept. At midnight on Sunday I stumbled into bed, fully expecting to be hailed as a hero the next morning.

I figured it would be OK to show up a few hours late. But when I walked in, Edmund started yelling at me, fuming mad because I’d “breezed in” at noon on the first day of the last week before the big deadline. When I told him what I’d been doing over the weekend, he acted like I was making up some ridiculous excuse. Apparently my football-crazed co-workers had never mentioned it to him. Cursing me like a drill sergeant, Edmund went on to praise my fellow IT comrades, who had apparently clocked in at 4 a.m. so they could begin feeding “my” newly converted data into the system....

One week later, when the project went online, my team members were given bonuses. I was let go.

Ah, but Lazy Lester enjoyed the way the story ended:

Two months after that, the system developed hiccups -- and my ex-team members couldn’t iron out the bugs. The CEO called to apologize for the way Edmund had treated me, and she asked me to sign on as a consultant. I told her that I had a new job, a new company car, and a new boss who appreciated my efforts. One who happened to be the CEO of LaceLand’s major competitor.

Speaking of lingerie, did you know that the same people who own Victoria's Secret also own Bath & Body Works and The White Barn Candle Company?

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

OK, now I'm mad 

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Michelle Lissel Has New Job 

I couldn't figure out why my Michelle Lissel searches had suddenly spiked. Then I saw this post at Soccer Golazo:

[I]t is with no small amount of sadness I am reporting that one of our favorites is moving on to bigger and better things.

Michelle has joined the Media and PR department of the new MLS franchise, Toronto FC.

Her last show on the FSW Report will be Friday 22 September 2006.

Of course, more people probably read the blog report of one Bobby McMahon:

Michelle's last week with the FSWR...it is true.
Sep 17, 2006 | 6:31PM | report this

Michelle will be doing her final Fox Sports World Report show this coming Friday. After five years she is off to Toronto to join the Media and PR department of Toronto FC who will be making their MLS debut in 2007. We will all miss her but it is a fantastic opportunity for her and she will do a wonderful job for the newest member of the MLS family.

As I write this, Jeremy St. Louis hasn't updated his blog since August. And the only news story that mentions Lissel is dated:

But why dwell on such unpleasantness when there was so much sweetness and light in the Prem this weekend? You could see it in the way that Fox Soccer's Michelle Lissel became increasingly frisky in her banter, not to mention in her on-air attire-- a rainbow of colorful pastels, like that canary yellow number with just a hint of a lacy blouse showing through that only further underlines her evolution from Molly Shannon to the Suzy Kolber of soccer weenies. How long do you think it will be before she tosses those librarian-like specs in favor of contact lenses and has Jeremy St. Louis barking like a dog? Oh wait, he already does.

Not that Lissel doesn't still have the occasional lapse -- like when she referred to Carlos Tevez as a Brazilian the other night -- but she's trying so damn hard to overcome her Saskatoon, Saskatchewan roots, I, for one, forgive her everything except her weird fascination with Diego Forlan. And besides, Tevez did play for a Brazilian club before he alighted at West Ham along with his amigo Javier Mascherano in the shadiest, sorry, shrewdest, coup of transfer deadline day. Don't get me wrong: I have a special affinity for West Ham (the Hebrew Hammer, Yossi Benayoun, is a proud member of my fantasy team, Missing Foerskins United)....

So you see that I am not the only one who strays off topic.

So Lissel leaves Winnipeg and heads to the big city. Time flies.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Monday, September 18, 2006

Additional observations on Boten Anna 

OK, not everyone is enamored with the song, or the video. For example:

Scandinavia - the strong hold of design and style and impecable taste. This stereotype is true, apartments are stylishly decorated, people are tall blond stunning and oh-so-stylishly dressed. It is enough to give anyone else an inferiority complex . . .

The Danes are not the only ones responsible for bad pop music. The Swedes are still going strong! Another big song here at the moment is "Boten Anna"by Basshunter. You have to watch this one as well. I've linked to the English subtitled version, so you can truly appreciate how cheesy this song is. Whilst Boing is just cringingly awful, this one has a cute cheesy appeal. Many Danes originally thought this song was about a boat, a super boat that cleans up channels, but no, it is about a 'bot', of course, what else. How can anyone have a hit singing about an IRC application!!! This guy needs to get out more. You'll notice in the film clip not only is he paddling a silly boat and dancing as though he is trying to follow a Jane Fonda video, he is also driving a yellow dune buggy type vehicle . . . with his laptop on the seat beside him. He is quite an atractive young man but he really needs to get out.

Is there a problem with a song about Internet Relay Chat?

Lucky that synthetica never really took off. I don't think the world is ready for a series of songs about the Northwest Ordinance of 1787.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Another example of my non-trendiness 

So I live vicariously through the lives of others attending a rave...in Vermont:

During: oh man, it was so great....I king of spun near the table all mu crud was on cause it was really dark, and not many people were there, but i got sooo many compliments from people. I was so happy, all my practice wasn't in vain....

During one song, i dont remember which, a giiiiant circle formed. Like, everyone formed this circle, and of course people were going in and stuff while everyone cheered, and Eddie told me i should go in but i was like "^_^;;;" but after someone came out and no one was going in, Ryan basiclly pushed me in. Lol, so i started spinning and everyone cheered, oh man.. it was so great. I didn't mess up at all while i was in there, and when i got back out a bunch of people were liek "DUDE! That was CRAZY!" lol. i felt really awesome, hahaa....

aaanyway, the last hour finially came around but i was sooo exhausted. Spinning takes so much out of you, x_x.. but yeah, i was so tired, and then i heard Boten Anna comming in and suddenly i had an explosion of energy and i went up to the front where the Djing table was and danced like a mad-woman. Our whole crew went nuts when it came on and we all hyped the croud for it, it was so fun....

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Those who have forgotten the past are very forgetful 

In an interview at Culture Bully, Gary Numan said the following:

I see very little in the charts that has the depth or the power to interest me. So much of today’s chart music is based on looking backwards for ideas rather than forwards and I hate that. It’s too light weight, too wimpy. The heavier, more interesting things struggle to get heard so it never seems likely that they are just about to break and find a bigger audience. Still, it happens from time to time so perseverance obviously has a lot to do with it.

So Numan is criticizing those who look backwards for ideas.


Numan wore heavy make-up and was clearly inspired – self-admittedly so – by David Bowie, Marc Bolan and contemporary electronic acts such as Ultravox! and The Human League, both in their pre-fame incarnations....The music which brought him fame was groove-based, riff-based music performed with synthesisers, Numan's distinctively reedy, cockney voice delivering lyrics which seemed to have been read from the pages of Philip K. Dick. With regard to lyrical content, William S. Burroughs also provided a huge influence.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Sunday, September 17, 2006

Gary Numan for the 21st Century Student 

One of my MySpace friends lives far away and all that junk, and the current song on this friend's MySpace page is a song called "Boten Anna." It was like foreign and stuff, so I had to search to figure out what the song was about:

"Boten Anna"...is a song by Swedish dance musician Basshunter. Due to the song, Basshunter became a noted artist in his native Sweden, as well as Denmark and Norway after the release of the single in 2006....

The Swedish lyrics of Boten Anna tell the story of a female IRC user mistaken for an IRC bot by the vocalist who later finds out the truth; subsequently, however, he states that she will always remain a bot in his eyes. Despite the esoteric subject of the lyrics, the song was well-received by mainstream media, albeit the word bot was frequently mistaken for boat (as many people don't know how to pronounce bot correctly), and the double meaning of channel (IRC channel mistaken for the water body with the same name - channel). The video to the song shows Basshunter riding a pedal boat down a canal, further adding to the confusion.

In the Dutch Top 40 in the Netherlands there is currently (end of august 2006, entering the chart at 27 and currently on #9) a spoof of the song. It is also called "Boten Anna" and it is by "De Gebroeders Ko"....Although they know the original song isn't about a boat, they translated it as if it is about a boat (a boat called Anna). "Boten" is the plural form of "boat" in Dutch.

Kinda like when the Chipmunks covered Devo's "Whip It" - the promotional pictures showed the Chipmunks playing with whipped cream.

And Gary Numan, back in his Tubeway Army days, mined this species confusion genre. He had an instrumental entitled "I Nearly Married a Human". (This same album had "Are 'Friends' Electric?" and "Praying to the Aliens.")

And on that note, I'll repost something from "My So Called Gay Life":

The amazing story started after a night on the town, 6 hours later Jonas "Basshunter" Altberg (21) puts the song "Boten Anna" on his homepage. During few hours the song had been downloaded 30000 times and now the song is riding Scandinavian charts.

Basshunter's web site is here. The video is on YouTube.

[OE 9/18 - For a version of the video with English subtitles, visit this post in the Ontario Technoblog.]

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Saturday, September 16, 2006

My favorite BlogPatrol-recorded search of the day 

09/16/06 00:01:08 can I enter naval academy with a deviated septum? (Google)

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Time Would Be Better Spent Obsessing Over 1% of a Papal Message 

Celebrity Smack references a new protest website, TellParisNo.com:


Someone Has To: Tell Paris No!

Demand Paris Hilton Stop Collecting Illegal Wildlife

Free Baby Luv
The Captive Rainforest Kinkajou!

Alleged singer and celebutante Paris Hilton, desperate for attention – any attention – has recently inflicted her lifestyle on a succession of exotic pets as a publicity ploy. The latest victim of her affections is a captive “pet” kinkajou cloyingly named “Baby Luv,” which has appeared in public draped across Paris as if it were the latest fashion trend.

A kinka-what? The kinkajou (Potos flavus), also know as the “Honey Bear,” is a nocturnal tree-climbing mammal related to the raccoon that lives in the rainforests of Central and South America. Although kinkajous may appear cute and cuddly, they are wild animals that belong in the rainforest eating tropical fruit, not ducking from flashbulbs on fashion runways or sipping lattes in the cafes and trendy clubs of Los Angeles.

Innocent kinkajous such as the prisoner “Baby Luv” are often stolen from their natural habitat and sold abroad through the international wildlife trade. But hey, what does the biological diversity of the rainforest or the welfare of Baby Luv matter compared to Paris looking cool and hip?

Kinkajous are rare and threatened enough in Honduras that the country forbids exporting them without a permit, an effort to prevent the species from being needlessly exploited to satisfy the pet industry or the egos of so-called celebrities. Kinkajous in Honduras are supposed to be protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

The international wildlife trade is a violent and exploitive $6 billion annual industry that threatens wild animals in almost every country of the world. In 2002, more than 38,000 mammals, 365,000 birds, 2 million reptiles, 49 million amphibians and 216 million fish were imported into the United States alone. Cruel practices are often used to obtain and transport these wild animals, and many species are closer to extinction due to the high demand for their fur and body parts or use as “pets.” Since 1996, more than 2,000 species have been classified as threatened by the World Conservation Union, partly due to the negative impacts from the international wildlife trade.

Baby Luv has apparently gained favor over Paris’s pet ferret (which is also illegal to own in California). How many more biting incidents before the self-centered celebrity abandons or discards the kinkajou to keep up with the latest animal trend?

Baby Luv exacted a measure of revenge for the affront of having to put up with Paris’s antics and shrieks, biting her skinny, tormenting arm last month and sending Paris to the hospital. However, Paris’s punishment does not quite match her crime.

In California it is illegal to import or possess kinkajous, ferrets or other wild animals without a valid permit. Fortunately, the state recognizes the serious threats that the international wildlife trade poses, both to wild animals from other countries and to U.S. species when these animals are imported and then abandoned or released.

But apparently Paris does not understand or share these concerns, and she continues to flaunt her violations of several of California’s wildlife protections laws (see Fish and Game Code Sections 2118 and 2185, 2189 and 2190). In a just world, Paris Hilton would be pursued, captured, displayed and prosecuted for criminal violation of these wildlife protection laws, facing civil penalties of up to $10,000 and imprisonment in the county jail for up to six months.

Wild animals belong in their natural habitats, and species like the kinkajou should not suffer needlessly from the horrors of the international wildlife trade. Since her mom or publicist apparently won’t do it, we’re hoping you will TELL PARIS: NO ILLEGAL TRADE IN WILDLIFE....

I return to the beginning of the tirade:

Alleged singer and celebutante Paris Hilton, desperate for attention – any attention – has recently inflicted her lifestyle on a succession of exotic pets as a publicity ploy.

Yes, Paris keeps exotic pets as a publicity ploy.

And TellParisNo.com sets up a website about the whole thing as a publicity ploy.

And I blog about it as a publicity ploy.

What a threesome. And I may be the least skanky of this bunch. Witness this message from the plumbutt chronicles:

I've received a gazillion emails lately from the creators of www.TellParisNo.com pushing their cause. All I can say is that by the looks of Paris in this photo we should all be happy she doesn't own an Elephant.

I guess the fear is that people will...uh...ape Paris Hilton and do whatever she does? Act like a slut? Tons of teenagers are doing just that. Gyrate around a car while eating a Carl's Jr. burger? Paris eats In N Out now. Buy a kinkajou? I don't think it's the latest trend...yet:

Price: £550

Kinkajou babies ready to go out for sale. they are raised from home and of age between 8 weeks and 13 weeks old.very tame, shipping available if neccessary worldwide.The kinkajou babies will come with free cage and toys.the babies are easy to hand feed,used to kids, toys and very exotic. Babies will come with perfect vet papers and shots.they are also raised from adult domestic breeders. and have 100% health guaranteed, any interested lover should contact me for the babies.

But TellParisNo.com can't milk the publicity wagon for much longer:

Paris Hilton reportedly broke down and sobbed after animal authorities took away her pet monkey.

The sexy socialite is said to have been devastated after Los Angeles officials ordered her to hand over the primate - named Baby Luv - because it's classified as an illegal pet.

The blonde heiress, who bought the monkey during a trip to Las Vegas last summer, allegedly refused to part with her hairy friend so authorities went to her home to confiscate the animal.

The funniest part? They called the kinkajou a "monkey," which probably incensed the devoted wildlife lovers everywhere. Kinda like when I call a tardis a "phone booth."

Now they'll demand kinkajou publicity. Maybe someone can teach a kinkajou to draw Mohammed cartoons.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Friday, September 15, 2006

The Hitler comparison is used again - What Pope Benedict said 

We'll get to today's Hitler in a moment. But first, before we consider the allegedly offensive statement that the Pope quoted, I'd like to present something written by a theologian. I'll tell you which theologian wrote it at the end of this post.

[T]he world’s profoundly religious cultures see this exclusion of the divine from the universality of reason as an attack on their most profound convictions. A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion into the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures.

This theologian was speaking of multiple "profoundly religious cultures," including three of the cultures in question here - Islam, Eastern Orthodox Christianity, and Roman Catholic Christianity. But we'll return to this quote later.

Now we'll get to today's Hitler, Pope Benedict. The sound bite version of the story:

Benedict quoted from a book recounting a conversation between 14th century Byzantine Christian Emperor Manuel Paleologos II and a Persian scholar on the truths of Christianity and Islam.

"The emperor comes to speak about the issue of jihad, holy war," the pope said. "He said, I quote, 'Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.'"

Benedict did not explicitly agree with the statement nor repudiate it.

Actually, Benedict said a lot of things in his lecture, 99% of which is being ignored here. (We'll get to the Pope's lecture later.)

The reaction:

The comments raised tensions ahead of his planned visit to Turkey in November — his first pilgrimage to a Muslim country.

Salih Kapusuz, a deputy leader of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's party, said Benedict's remarks were either "the result of pitiful ignorance" about Islam and its prophet, or a deliberate distortion.

"He has a dark mentality that comes from the darkness of the Middle Ages. He is a poor thing that has not benefited from the spirit of reform in the Christian world," Kapusuz was quoted as saying by the state-owned Anatolia news agency. "It looks like an effort to revive the mentality of the Crusades."

"Benedict, the author of such unfortunate and insolent remarks, is going down in history for his words," he said. "He is going down in history in the same category as leaders such as (Adolf) Hitler and (Benito) Mussolini."

Did Salih Kapusuz read all of the Pope's lecture? As will become obvious later, he didn't.

Meanwhile, in Lebanon:

In Beirut, Lebanon's most senior Shiite Muslim cleric denounced the remarks Friday and demanded the pope personally apologize for insulting Islam.

"We do not accept the apology through Vatican channels ... and ask him (Benedict) to offer a personal apology — not through his officials — to Muslims for this false reading (of Islam)," Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah told worshippers in his Friday prayers sermon.

Did Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah read the Pope's lecture? Doesn't look like it.

Meanwhile, in Pakistan:

[A]nger still swept across the Muslim world, with Pakistan's parliament unanimously adopting a resolution condemning the pope for making what it called "derogatory" comments about Islam, and seeking an apology from him.

"Anyone who describes Islam as a religion as intolerant encourages violence," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said.

"What he has done is that he has quoted very offensive remarks by some emperor hundreds of years ago," she added. "It is not helpful (because) we have been trying to bridge the gap, calling for dialogue and understanding between religions."

Aslam said Muslims had a long history of tolerance, adding that when the Catholic kingdom of Spain expelled its Jewish population in 1492 they were welcomed by Muslim nations such as the Turkish Ottoman Empire.

Did Aslam read any of the Pope's lecture, other than the quote? I doubt it.

Well, since we're back in the past anyway, let's take a look at Manuel Palaiologos II:

Manuel II Palaiologos was the second son of Emperor John V Palaiologos (1341–1376, 1379–1390, 1390–1391) and his wife Helena Kantakouzena....

Created despotēs by his father, the future Manuel II traveled west to seek support for the Roman Empire in 1365 and in 1370, serving as governor in Thessalonica from 1369. The failed attempt at usurpation by his older brother Andronikos IV Palaiologos in 1373 led to Manuel being proclaimed heir and co-emperor of his father. In 1376–1379 and again in 1390 they were supplanted by Andronikos IV and then his son John VII, but Manuel personally defeated his nephew with help from the Republic of Venice in 1390. Although John V had been restored, Manuel was forced to go as an honorary hostage to the court of the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I at Prousa (Bursa). During his stay, Manuel was forced to participate in the Ottoman campaign that reduced Philadelpheia, the last Roman enclave in Anatolia.

Hearing of his father's death in February 1391, Manuel II Palaiologos fled the Ottoman court and secured the capital against any potential claim by his nephew John VII. Although relations with John VII improved, the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I besieged Constantinople from 1394 to 1402. After some five years of siege, Manuel II entrusted the city to his nephew and embarked on a long trip to western courts (including those of the Kingdom of England, France, the Holy Roman Empire, and Aragon) to seek assistance against the Ottoman Empire.

So why didn't he think that Muslims were absolutely wonderful? "Please invade me," he should have shouted.

Manuel II stood on friendly terms with the victor in the Ottoman civil war, Mehmed I (1402–1421), but his attempts to meddle in the next contested succession led to a new assault on Constantinople by Murad II (1421–1451) in 1422. During the last years of his life, Manuel II relinquished most official duties to his son and heir John VIII Palaiologos, and in 1424 they were forced to sign a peace treaty with the Ottoman Turks, whereby the Roman Empire undertook to pay tribute to the sultan. Manuel II died on July 21 1425.

Manuel II was the author of numerous works of varied character, including letters, poems, a Saints's Life, treatises on theology and rhetoric, and an epitaph for his brother Theodore I Palaiologos.

And it's one of those works that produced the quote in question.

In 2006 he was quoted by Pope Benedict XVI in a speech at Regensburg University as saying, "Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached," triggering outrage from Muslim organizations...

Here is the "provisional text" of the Pope's September 12 lecture at Regensburg University. The complete text is here:

Lecture of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
at the Meeting with the Representatives of Science
(Tuesday, 12 September 2006, Regensburg, University)

Faith, Reason and the University
Memories and Reflections

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a moving experience for me to stand and give a lecture at this university podium once again. I think back to those years when, after a pleasant period at the Freisinger Hochschule, I began teaching at the University of Bonn. This was in 1959, in the days of the old university made up of ordinary professors. The various chairs had neither assistants nor secretaries, but in recompense there was much direct contact with students and in particular among the professors themselves. We would meet before and after lessons in the rooms of the teaching staff. There was a lively exchange with historians, philosophers, philologists and, naturally, between the two theological faculties. Once a semester there was a dies academicus, when professors from every faculty appeared before the students of the entire university, making possible a genuine experience of universitas: the reality that despite our specializations which at times make it difficult to communicate with each other, we made up a whole, working in everything on the basis of a single rationality with its various aspects and sharing responsibility for the right use of reason - this reality became a lived experience. The university was also very proud of its two theological faculties. It was clear that, by inquiring about the reasonableness of faith, they too carried out a work which is necessarily part of the whole of the universitas scientiarum, even if not everyone could share the faith which theologians seek to correlate with reason as a whole. This profound sense of coherence within the universe of reason was not troubled, even when it was once reported that a colleague had said there was something odd about our university: it had two faculties devoted to something that did not exist: God. That even in the face of such radical scepticism it is still necessary and reasonable to raise the question of God through the use of reason, and to do so in the context of the tradition of the Christian faith: this, within the university as a whole, was accepted without question.

I was reminded of all this recently, when I read the edition by Professor Theodore Khoury (Münster) of part of the dialogue carried on - perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara - by the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both. It was probably the emperor himself who set down this dialogue, during the siege of Constantinople between 1394 and 1402; and this would explain why his arguments are given in greater detail than the responses of the learned Persian. The dialogue ranges widely over the structures of faith contained in the Bible and in the Qur'an, and deals especially with the image of God and of man, while necessarily returning repeatedly to the relationship of the three Laws: the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Qur'an. In this lecture I would like to discuss only one point - itself rather marginal to the dialogue itself - which, in the context of the issue of faith and reason, I found interesting and which can serve as the starting-point for my reflections on this issue.

In the seventh conversation (διάλεξις - controversy) edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the jihad (holy war). The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: There is no compulsion in religion. It is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threaten. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur’an, concerning holy war. Without decending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the “Book” and the “infidels”, he turns to his interlocutor somewhat brusquely with the central question on the relationship between religion and violence in general, in these words: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

There's the quote in question. Let's see what the Emperor, and the Pope, have to say about it:

The emperor goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. God is not pleased by blood, and not acting reasonably (σὺν λόγω) is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death....

The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality.

Allow me to interject here. After a recent re-reading of portions of the book of Job, I don't know that we Christians can rightly assume that God has to be reasonable. Now let's continue, and you'll see that the Pope isn't speaking about Islam at all:

Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R. Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazn went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God's will, we would even have to practise idolatry.

As far as understanding of God and thus the concrete practice of religion is concerned, we find ourselves faced with a dilemma which nowadays challenges us directly. Is the conviction that acting unreasonably contradicts God's nature merely a Greek idea, or is it always and intrinsically true? I believe that here we can see the profound harmony between what is Greek in the best sense of the word and the biblical understanding of faith in God. Modifying the first verse of the Book of Genesis, John began the prologue of his Gospel with the words: In the beginning was the λόγoς. This is the very word used by the emperor: God acts with logos. Logos means both reason and word - a reason which is creative and capable of self-communication, precisely as reason. John thus spoke the final word on the biblical concept of God, and in this word all the often toilsome and tortuous threads of biblical faith find their culmination and synthesis. In the beginning was the logos, and the logos is God, says the Evangelist. The encounter between the Biblical message and Greek thought did not happen by chance. The vision of Saint Paul, who saw the roads to Asia barred and in a dream saw a Macedonian man plead with him: Come over to Macedonia and help us! (cf. Acts 16:6-10) - this vision can be interpreted as a distillation of the intrinsic necessity of a rapprochement between Biblical faith and Greek inquiry.

Wow. I didn't intend to add Greek content to the blog this morning, but I ended up doing so. Heh.

In point of fact, this rapprochement had been going on for some time. The mysterious name of God, revealed from the burning bush, a name which separates this God from all other divinities with their many names and declares simply that he is, is already presents a challenge to the notion of myth, to which Socrates's attempt to vanquish and transcend myth stands in close analogy. Within the Old Testament, the process which started at the burning bush came to new maturity at the time of the Exile, when the God of Israel, an Israel now deprived of its land and worship, was proclaimed as the God of heaven and earth and described in a simple formula which echoes the words uttered at the burning bush: I am. This new understanding of God is accompanied by a kind of enlightenment, which finds stark expression in the mockery of gods who are merely the work of human hands (cf. Ps 115). Thus, despite the bitter conflict with those Hellenistic rulers who sought to accommodate it forcibly to the customs and idolatrous cult of the Greeks, biblical faith, in the Hellenistic period, encountered the best of Greek thought at a deep level, resulting in a mutual enrichment evident especially in the later wisdom literature. Today we know that the Greek translation of the Old Testament produced at Alexandria - the Septuagint - is more than a simple (and in that sense perhaps less than satisfactory) translation of the Hebrew text: it is an independent textual witness and a distinct and important step in the history of revelation, one which brought about this encounter in a way that was decisive for the birth and spread of Christianity. A profound encounter of faith and reason is taking place here, an encounter between genuine enlightenment and religion. From the very heart of Christian faith and, at the same time, the heart of Greek thought now joined to faith, Manuel II was able to say: Not to act “with logos” is contrary to God's nature.

Well, we're only halfway through the lecture, and I can't get through the whole thing. Here's a link, if you're so inclined. For the record, the Pope never returns to the subject of Islam again in the lecture, merely using it as a starting point to examine the question of whether God is reasonable. But he does tangentially talk about us Lutherans:

Dehellenization first emerges in connection with the fundamental postulates of the Reformation in the sixteenth century. Looking at the tradition of scholastic theology, the Reformers thought they were confronted with a faith system totally conditioned by philosophy, that is to say an articulation of the faith based on an alien system of thought. As a result, faith no longer appeared as a living historical Word but as one element of an overarching philosophical system. The principle of sola scriptura, on the other hand, sought faith in its pure, primordial form, as originally found in the biblical Word. Metaphysics appeared as a premise derived from another source, from which faith had to be liberated in order to become once more fully itself.

After some more discussion of dehellenization, the Pope arrives at his conclusion. Allow me to emphasize particular points he makes:

And so I come to my conclusion. This attempt, painted with broad strokes, at a critique of modern reason from within has nothing to do with putting the clock back to the time before the Enlightenment and rejecting the insights of the modern age. The positive aspects of modernity are to be acknowledged unreservedly: we are all grateful for the marvellous possibilities that it has opened up for mankind and for the progress in humanity that has been granted to us. The scientific ethos, moreover, is the will to be obedient to the truth, and, as such, it embodies an attitude which reflects one of the basic tenets of Christianity. The intention here is not one of retrenchment or negative criticism, but of broadening our concept of reason and its application. While we rejoice in the new possibilities open to humanity, we also see the dangers arising from these possibilities and we must ask ourselves how we can overcome them. We will succeed in doing so only if reason and faith come together in a new way, if we overcome the self-imposed limitation of reason to the empirically verifiable, and if we once more disclose its vast horizons. In this sense theology rightly belongs in the university and within the wide-ranging dialogue of sciences, not merely as a historical discipline and one of the human sciences, but precisely as theology, as inquiry into the rationality of faith.

Only thus do we become capable of that genuine dialogue of cultures and religions so urgently needed today. In the Western world it is widely held that only positivistic reason and the forms of philosophy based on it are universally valid. Yet the world’s profoundly religious cultures see this exclusion of the divine from the universality of reason as an attack on their most profound convictions. A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion into the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures. At the same time, as I have attempted to show, modern scientific reason with its intrinsically Platonic element bears within itself a question which points beyond itself and beyond the possibilities of its methodology. Modern scientific reason quite simply has to accept the rational structure of matter and the correspondence between our spirit and the prevailing rational structures of nature as a given, on which its methodology has to be based. Yet the question why this has to be so is a real question, and one which has to be remanded by the natural sciences to other modes and planes of thought – to philosophy and theology. For philosophy and, albeit in a different way, for theology, listening to the great experiences and insights of the religious traditions of humanity, and those of the Christian faith in particular, is a source of knowledge, and to ignore it would be an unacceptable restriction of our listening and responding. Here I am reminded of something Socrates said to Phaedo. In their earlier conversations, many false philosophical opinions had been raised, and so Socrates says: “It would be easily understandable if someone became so annoyed at all these false notions that for the rest of his life he despised and mocked all talk about being - but in this way he would be deprived of the truth of existence and would suffer a great loss”. The West has long been endangered by this aversion to the questions which underlie its rationality, and can only suffer great harm thereby. The courage to engage the whole breadth of reason, and not the denial of its grandeur – this is the programme with which a theology grounded in Biblical faith enters into the debates of our time. “Not to act reasonably (with logos) is contrary to the nature of God”, said Manuel II, according to his Christian understanding of God, in response to his Persian interlocutor. It is to this great logos, to this breadth of reason, that we invite our partners in the dialogue of cultures. To rediscover it constantly is the great task of the university.

Perhaps critics of the Pope should read his whole message, including this part which I will quote again:

[T]he world’s profoundly religious cultures see this exclusion of the divine from the universality of reason as an attack on their most profound convictions. A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion into the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures.

Will the Turks and Lebanese and Pakistanis condemn the Pope for saying that?

Danged sound-bite politics.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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