Saturday, May 20, 2006

Quote for the Day

Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.
From Thomas Paine.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Holyoffice Explains Christianity For You

It's one of the funniest things I've read in a while: The Interpretative Dance Theocrats. Holyoffice, a Livejournalist, breaks down and explains a lot of terms for you. Why?
This underscores that while many people in America are scared silly of Christianity, many of the most frightened know very little about it. Terms like "fundamentalist" and "evangelical" are thrown around with very little concern about their actual meaning, and this is before entering the dark thicket of Preterists, Amillenialists, Prelapsarian Arminian Claims Adjusters, etc.

To be fair to these perplexed and terrified people, Christians are not easy to understand. To begin with, there are roughly 2,000 years of history to grasp, and certainly more denominations and subdivisions than that to take on board. For people who were raised secular, I imagine it's like trying to understand an opera after coming in halfway before the end: the stage is crowded with people, two of them seem to be dead, a woman is wearing a hat with horns, and everyone is making a terrible racket.
And as an example to get you over there to read the rest:
Catholics are the New York Yankees of Christianity. They are the biggest and wealthiest team, and their owner is intensely controversial (this makes St. Francis of Assisi the Derek Jeter of Catholicism: discuss). Catholics all wear matching uniforms, and are divided into "parishes," or "squadrons," to make choosing softball teams easier. Catholics are rigidly controlled by a hidebound hierarchy that starts with priests and ends with priests' housekeepers. Catholics are not allowed to read the Bible, eat meat, or refrain from worshipping statues.
And that's not even the funniest bit!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Embarrassing Crush

Every so often, I develop embarrassing crushes on various television personalities, like FOX13's Holly Hancock or Star Trek: Voyager's Jeri Ryan. It's happened again, and this time it actually is kind of embarrassing. It's the wife in those Sonic Drive-in commercials.

I had no idea who she was until I lucked into finding this page where I learned her name is Molly Erdman! It turns out she's a hard-working Chicago improv actor and part of the legends of comedy, The Second City.

She also has a revue act with her husband (Drat! The good ones always have a husband.) and takes part in a live improv version of Seventies tease-and-sleaze game show The Match Game. Wow.

You can read a bit about the development of the new Sonic Drive-in ad campaign (with the two goofy guys) here.

I always fall for cuties. Women who are unquestionably good looking but never get the label "beauty." Who still have something fresh-faced and wholesome, but frequently have a twisted side. (Not Holly Hancock, I know. Nothing twisted there.)

It's that slightly strange spin that Molly brings to the commercials that's attractive. In one, she hints at a wild weekend in New Orleans her husband doesn't know about. In another, when asked what some Sonic sandwich has that he doesn't, she replies rather blankly, "Bacon." It's the quick pause and the odd intonation that hints at something weird inside her.

And, of course, she's good looking. Definitely.

So there you go. You may commence with the laughter and the mockery now.
Spring Early Summer Bloggers Bash

Let's start with some things preliminarily locked down and see what we can come up with for the next bloggers bash.

How about the first weekend in June? Either Friday the 2nd or Saturday the 3rd, at night. Does that work for most folks?

And where? I like the bashes where we aren't in the main room wherever we are, which tend to be very noisy and busy, so that we can all hear each other clearly enough. Also, large tables for large discussions are nice. Small tables lead to lots of small groups, in my opinion.

Alcohol service is a necessity, and so is nearby smoking area. Though, to be honest and only speaking for myself, I don't mind anywhere that you can smoke. But some folks really don't like it, so there's that to consider.

Any suggestions? Any favorite places? Any restauranteurs or publicans want to tout their place?
Dr. Pepper Berries'N'Cream

The grocery store had sample-sized bottles of the new Dr. Pepper flavor for only fifty cents. (Excuse me, "fitty" cents.) I bought one out of curiousity.

It tastes almost exactly like regular Dr. Pepper. The key is "almost." It's like they were trying to find a cheaper chemical to make the drink with and stumbled on this concoction. "Hmmm. It's sorta like Dr. Pepper but with a berry-ish taste, with a hint of cream soda."

Unfortunately, it still has that "chemical" taste so many new drink flavors have. It's the cheap artificial esters they use in place of real flavoring, which is expensive. I'm old enough to remember real fountain Coke with real cherry syrup mixed in. That was Cherry Coke! Truly delicious. The modern stuff called "cherry coke" is like particle board shelving to the real mahogany of Cherry Coke.

You youngsters have no idea. So many foods these days are so far removed from the original it's just sad. Most "cheeses" these days are extruded milk proteins enhanced with fats, coloring and "flavor enhancers." Look at Velveeta or other "cheeses; they're actually called "cheese food product."

You're stuck with liquid swill like "diet vanilla cherry Coke" or "berries'n'cream Dr. Pepper" nowadays. Heck, even "Coca-Cola" isn't the original stuff any more. Folks old enough to remember the "New Coke" debacle usually don't know that when the Coke company brought back the "original" it was as "Classic Coca-Cola." The reason? They stopped using expensive cane sugars from Africa in favor of cheaper fructose corn sugars! The slight, but telling, change in formula meant they couldn't call it "Coca-Cola" any more. It was a different product!

And now you know.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Grim Economic Realities

Aimlessly tooling around the Internet brought me to this page about the inevitability of an American victory against Japan in WWII.

The author looks at plain economics to show that the moment they launched an attack against America, the Japanes were doomed to lose. He shows how the Great Depression meant we had massive amounts of "slack" in our economy that could be taken up and directed into the war effort, where Japan's economy had almost none.

He also notes that by the end of the war, our navy was larger than every navy in the world combined, a staggering thought.

There's a lot there that benefits a more than casual read. Take a look.
Thought For The Day

From the always-enjoyable James Lileks comes this observation which I share:
I left the mall, feeling, as usual, that everyone is normal, and I think too much about things that do not matter.
Some of My Writing Influences

I was thinking on this last week and I think I can identify five writers who have influenced by non-fiction writing.

James Lileks: I enjoy his gentle, almost apologetic, anger and quiet observational humor. He's a nostalgist, which I fear I am, but embraces modernity at the same time, which I frequently do not.

(Once, I'd have put Garrison Keillor here in place of Lileks. Ever since Keillor's return to Minnesota from his great, failed New York move, there's been a streak of curdled anger and jealousy in his writing that has poisoned him for me. Something was diminished in Keillor by his failure to succeed in the wider world. His resentment and shame ever since makes him unlistenable. He used to celebrate the old but enduring; now he just looks back like a crabbed codger.)

P.J. O'Rourke: In his National Lampoon days, he could sound like he was living the wild life you wanted to live, but more urbanely. He has a magic sleight of hand for slipping the outrageous past your outrage radar and getting you to laugh about it, too. "How to Drive Fast on Drugs While Getting Your Wing-Wang Squeezed and Not Spill Your Drink" is precisely as shocking and funny as the title implies.

George Will: Not today's self-satisfied windbag, but the smart and erudite essayist of the Eighties. Massive command of facts marshalled into unassailable, authoritative arguments, seasoned with humor. I seriously wanted to become a columnist because of him. That same impulse is why I blog and why I wanted Wendi Thomas' job before she chickened out and took it back.

Hunter S. Thompson: Again, not the self-satisfied, tired windbag of his later years but the guy who wrote both Fear and Loathings. Fearless, lay it on the table writing. New Journalism from a parallel, Phil Dickian Psychedelic Wars world. Savage, but with a conscience of sorts; dogged but easily distracted; always at the edges but aimed at the heart of things.

And last, Mark Twain: You cannot be an American humorist or essayist and not be influenced by him. Deeply in love with his country but not at all afraid to point out its flaws, Twain could do that because he knew instinctively how humor makes the medicine go down a bit more easily. And his obvious affection for his subjects kept his criticisms from being mere hate.

I might add H.L. Mencken to this list, but I haven't read enough of him to be sure he's been an influence. He's remembered today largely as the newspaperman's editor and editorialist, unafraid to mock the powerful, but he was also racist and petty.

And, in reviewing this list, I see that all but one are or were at one point in the newspaper business. Oy.