Friday, February 29, 2008

You've Got Mail

A man was in his front yard mowing the grass when his attractive blonde female neighbor came out of the house and went straight to the mailbox. She opened it then slammed it shut & stormed back in the house.

A little later she came out of her house again, went to the mailbox and, again, opened it, and slammed it shut again. Angrily, back into the house she went.

As the man was getting ready to edge the lawn, here she came out again, marched to the mailbox, opened it and then slammed it closed harder than ever.

Puzzled by her actions the man asked her, "Is something wrong?"

To which she replied:

"There certainly is! My stupid computer keeps saying, 'YOU'VE GOT MAIL.'"

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Proverbial Wit

Some old adages I find insightful or just plain amusing:

A clear conscience is a soft pillow.--German Proverb

A close friend can become a close enemy.--Ethiopian Proverb

A dimple on the chin, the devil within.--Gaelic Proverb

A dog is wiser than a woman; it does not bark at its master.--Russian Proverb

A drowning man is not troubled by rain.--Persian Proverb

A friend's eye is a good mirror.--Irish Proverb

A good husband is healthy and absent.--Japanese Proverb

A lie travels round the world while truth is putting her boots on.--French Proverb

A man is not honest simply because he never had a chance to steal.--Yiddish Proverb

A prudent man does not make the goat his gardener.--Hungarian Proverb

A rumor goes in one ear and out many mouths.--Chinese proverb

A single Russian hair outweighs half a Pole.--Traditional Russian Saying

A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.--Greek Proverb

A thief believes everybody steals.--Proverb of Unknown Origin

A wise man makes his own decisions, an ignorant man follows the public opinion.--Chinese Proverb

A woman has the form of an angel, the heart of a serpent, and the mind of an ass.--German Proverb

Advice when most needed is least heeded.--English Proverb

After shaking hands with a Greek, count your fingers.--Albanian Saying

An ass in Germany is a professor in Rome.--Traditional German Saying

An enemy will agree, but a friend will argue.--Russian Proverb

As sluttish and slatternly as an Irishwoman bred in France.--Traditional Irish Saying

Both your friend and your enemy think you will never die.--Irish Proverb

Children suck the mother when they are young and the father when they are old.--English Proverb.

Deal with the faults of others as gently as with your own.--Chinese Proverb

Death always comes too early or too late.--English Proverb

Do not blame God for having created the tiger, but thank him for not having given it wings.--Indian Proverb

Every ass loves to hear himself bray.--Proverb of Unknown Origin

Everyone loves justice in the affairs of another.--Italian Proverb

Glutton: one who digs his grave with his teeth.--French Proverb

God heals, and the physician takes the fee.--French Proverb

Gray hairs are death's blossoms.--English Proverb

He lied like an eyewitness.--Russian Insult

He that marries for money will earn it.--American Proverb

He that seeks trouble never misses.--English Proverb (17th century)

He who knows nothing, doubts nothing.--Spanish Proverb

He who sups with the devil has need of a long spoon.--English Proverb

Heaven lent you a soul Earth will lend a grave.--Chinese Proverb

If you wish to die young, make your physician your heir.--Romanian Proverb

In a calm sea every man is a pilot.--Spanish Proverb

It is better to exist unknown to the law.--Irish Proverb

Laws control the lesser man. Right conduct controls the greater one.--Chinese Proverb

Life without a friend is death without a witness.--Spanish Proverb

Love enters a man through his eyes, woman through her ears.--Polish Proverb

Love your neighbors, but don't pull down the fence.--Chinese proverb

Luck has a slender anchorage.--English Proverb

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Crusades: Myth Vs. Reality

How many times have you read criticism from atheists/agnostics/Islamophiles/anti-Western deconstructionists about the wretched, soul-searing evil of the Crusades--you know, those proto-imperialistic attempts at conquering the noble turbaned savages of Eden. Yes, you've probably read about how Duke George W. I looked across the turbulent Mediterranean and said: "Thou shalt heareth all of us sooneth," or some such grand expression, at which point he and Cheney of Blois, Condi of Lusignan, and papal legate Rumsfeld powwowed about how best to parcel up those oily sands and peaceful townships, for the satiation of God's greed.

The problem is that this depiction is bunk, and anything remotely resembling it is a crock. In fact, if your understanding of the crusades is limited to popular histories and film, you know even less about the Crusades than Osama bin Hiden.

In 632, Muhammed--blessings upon his flea-bitten backside--gave up the ghost and ventured for hotter climes. He had pacifistically conquered a portion of the Arabian Peninsula during his waging of relentless peace. His immediate successor finished that endeavor, saw the rest of the world, and said, "Wow, more kindling for the fire!" And so the warriors of heaven continued in their greatest skill: the art of killing and enslaving for Allah. One hundred years after Muhammed's demise, they had destroyed the Persian Empire, made forays against the Byzantines, taken the Holy Land and Syria, consumed northern Africa (including Egypt), conquered three-fourths of Spain, and invaded France. Charles Martel halted their advance into French lands and sent them fleeing at the battles around Tours and Poitiers. With the exceptions of Arabia and Persia, all of the above lost territories were components of Christendom. The Spaniards--exhibiting Job's own patience--spent the next seven hundred sixty years winning back their stolen country from Muhammed's Peaceniks, in what is known today as the Reconquista.

The Islamic world continued spreading smiles into lands known today as Khazakhstan and Pakistan, as well as Sicily. They also took to beating the peace out of each other, such was their penchant for unity and harmony. The Sunni caliphate of Baghdad began disintegrating, and the Fatimids--Shiites who claimed descent from Muhammed's daughter--ruled over Egypt. A third group of newly-Islamocized nomads, the Seljuk Turks, found Byzantine lands enticing. Even within these three major divisions of Islamic lands, infighting and dynastic struggles ran amok.

During this time period, Western Christendom failed in presenting a united front against expansionist Islam, due to the petty exigencies of surviving swarms of invading Vikings and Magyars. However, the West managed integrating and converting most of these troublemakers by the tenth century's end.

The Seljuks began raiding Byzantine territory--a favorite pasttime of Muslims in the region--and the emperor became worried as these attacks hit close to home. So he reluctantly asked the pope for help. This is an important point: The First Crusade was, in part, a direct response to Byzantine pleas for aid. The pope saw the situation as one in which he could kill several birds with one stone, as it were: He wanted to help fellow Christians in the fight against Muslims, heal the rifts between the Eastern and Western Churches, and even make efforts at winning back Jerusalem, a holy city to Christians. The pope understood the Islamic threat, as north Africa had been utilized already as a launching platform for assaults on western Europe.

Christians didn't call their efforts a "crusade," but an armed pilgrimage. The word "crusade" is a more modern appellation for these events. Christians saw their aid of the Byzantines and subsequent journey to the Holy Land as pleasing to God. The trek to Jerusalem was as much an act of worship as one of warfare. Other crusades to the Holy Land followed from this first endeavor, which began in 1095, and ended in 1099.

Islamic threats in the East and West were tangible, but more immediate in the East at the time of the First Crusade. Virtually since Muhammed's day, Christians had endured numerous onslaughts by Muslims, who violated their boundaries and their women, sacked their towns, and proselytized with their swords. They offered three appealing alternatives: death, de facto or literal enslavement, or conversion to Islam. One cannot make heads or tails of the Crusades outside this critical context: that they were a response to centuries of unprovoked Islamic aggression. Imagine tolerating unrelenting attacks against your friends and neighbors for a period twice as long as America has existed as a nation, then ask yourself: what would I have done?

So we have a history fashioned from myth, a web of lies thicker than that of Tolkien's Shelob.

Lie: Crusaders were the aggressors.

Lie: The Islamic world was peaceful, before the dreaded Christians struck.

Lie: Mesopotamia, Arabia, the Holy Land, and their environs all were united under Islam's banner, just prior to the Crusades.

Lie: Crusaders were imperialists (the Crusades had enormous monetary costs; rich men broke themselves on their behalf, and poor men went bankrupt, losing everything they owned. The absurdity of suggesting that the Crusades were precursors to 18th and 19th century European/white colonialism is demonstrated by the fact that, when a Crusade ended, the vast majority of crusaders returned home).

Were there excesses? Certainly. Undertakings of such magnitude always attract opportunists, ne'er-do-wells, and bloodthirsty hatemongers. But the typical crusader--of high or low station--fit none of these descriptions. His involvement was an act of worship, or penance, or a good work motivated by hope of salvation, however the wrongheadedness of such a works-based outlook.

I think it's pathetic and infuriating that people shriek in outrage about the Crusades, formulating their questions as "How dare those Europeans. . .", or "Why did the Crusaders do. . .", fill-in-the-preferred-atrocity, etc. A sure sign of ignorance is asking the wrong questions within a faulty framework. Often, one's true worldview is found therein. Revealing repugnance toward the West when discussing the Crusades is asinine, when one looks at the actual events, instead of relying upon the works of anti-Western "historians" like Karen Armstrong. It's like condemning Israel for not going belly-up in the course of one of its many wars. Come to think of it, I've heard castigations along those very lines.

My question is: how was Christendom able to stomach so much unmitigated wrecking of its lands and the wholesale murder of its people for so long, before hitting back? That's a far more reasonable question.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Honestly, Abe?

According to a recent (Jan. 14-22, 2008) Harris Interactive poll, Americans consider Abraham Lincoln the overall best President of the United States:

Abraham Lincoln: 20% of respondents labeled him "best."
Ronald Reagan: 14%
Franklin Roosevelt: 12%
George Washington: 12% (tie w/ FDR)
John Kennedy: 11%
Bill Clinton: 7%
Thomas Jefferson: 4%
Theodore Roosevelt: 3%
Harry Truman: 2%
George W. Bush: 1% (tie w/ Dwight Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter, & Richard Nixon)
George H.W. Bush: less than 0.5% ( along w/ LBJ, Ford, John Adams, Jackson, Wilson, & Coolidge)

Looks like all that Yankee propaganda paid off.

Humble Pride

From Foxy News:

Brokeback Osama’s wife, Michelle, is under fire for leaving the impression that she hasn’t been proud of her country until now, when Democrats are beginning to rally around her husband’s campaign.

Speaking in Milwaukee, Wis., on Monday, she said, "People in this country are ready for change and hungry for a different kind of politics and … for the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback."

Isn't that special? Now that Brokeback's in the limelight, with people fawning all over him like he's the second coming of Martin Luther King, Jr.--now she's suddenly proud? The woman was born in 1964. Not once in that time period has she ever found reason for pride in her American identity? Pretty interesting that she requires her husband to be skipping on the cusp of the presidency before she can feel pride in her country. High standards, indeed.

By the way, I love Osama's "Change" schtick. "We need change. Why? Because change is the kind of change we need. Change is good. Don't ask what changes I'll make; that's beside the point. The important factor, here, is that I'm for change, which is a great moral virtue, in and of itself."

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Mist

A better title would've been The Mist Opportunity.

I went and saw it friday night, with my wife. It's based on a "novella" by Stephen King (King has a habit of writing novel-length works of about half the length of his typical six-inch thick tome, and dubbing them "novellas;" this is one of those). If you've never read the story, I recommend it--for the nail-biting suspense, if for no other reason. It's one of his best.

As for the movie: if you scare easily, or have a low threshold for gore, I advise against it. The bloodletting's nasty, though I wouldn't quite call it gratuitous. My wife covered her mouth or hid her eyes several times. Frank Darabont, who directed The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption, also helmed this film. He follows the original story as closely as one could ask of a Hollywood director--until the final five minutes. At this point, Darabont says: "Aw, what does King know? Just because he's sold quintillions of books doesn't mean he knows what an audience wants. Let's throw out his ending and craft our own! Yeah, that's a great idea! Love me for my courage!"

Darabont's conclusion--which I won't detail for the sake of those planning to see this film--is a contrived piece of crap that brings nothing to the table, in terms of story improvement. In fact, it's so twisted and perverse and, yes, evil, that it ruins the entire movie. It's that bad. This is sick even by King's standards, which is no glowing testimonial of Hollywood's decency. King's story has a much better, more organic conclusion. If the director had been present at my screening of his little experiment in the ruination of a plot, I'd have fought the temptation to punch him dead in the face. Some people in the audience were so disgusted, they got up and made their exit en masse.

Aside from this major flaw, the movie's scary and well-made. The acting's universally good, and the special effects are far better than some of the critics have claimed, to my puzzlement.

One other flaw, which one expects from contemporary filmmakers: A major character is a religious fanatic, in the Christian tradition. She reads her Bible, prays, preaches, and literally raves about the End of the World. To his credit, the director doesn't present her as the sole representative of religion; other characters who are not depicted as lunatics express belief in God, and see her as a repugnant, extreme idiot. So whereas there's some balance, the first nut is a far stronger, more dedicated person than the others in her beliefs. It seems the message is that religious adherence is acceptible, but great religious zeal is insane. When the woman is ranting, she mentions the monstrosities of abortions and stem-cell research; but this is in the context of a lunatic's frothings, not the calm attempts of someone reasoning with those steeped in error. Interestingly, I don't recall the original story mentioning stem-cells or abortions, so I suppose the director felt the irresistible urge to "contemporize" it, since anything that happened before yesterday can't be adapted to the screen without drawing parallels with today's headlines--even when doing so makes zero sense.

This movie is a bizarre mixture of respect and contempt for both its audience and the work upon which it's based.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Irrational Atheist

Vox Day's new book, The Irrational Atheist, aptly demonstrates the basic thesis implicit in the book's title: that today's most outspoken atheists have no idea what they're talking about, having utilized a healthy dose of conscious falsehood, illogic, and error in arriving at this point of intellectual "brightness."

Imagine watching Andre the Giant piledrive a blind, quadraplegic midget, and you'll have an inkling of the proverbial head-handing Vox provides. I actually felt sorry for Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens upon finishing the book. Not only do they come across as dishonest, mistaken, and desperate, but they also look like bumbling idiots. These "brights" must have broken headlights.

Vox does not set out to debunk atheism by making a positive case for God; rather, he shows that leading proponents of atheism provide reasoning for their arguments that are anything but reasonable. Their attacks on religion--particularly Christianity--are fallacious, while their attempts at insulating themselves from the logical actions and ends of disbelief make clear the higher standard to which they hold religion. The book's novelty is that it meets atheists on the ground of their choosing--i.e., reason and science--and achieves victory, not content in a mere defeat of the enemy, but gnashing for a full-on rout.

I enjoyed the humor and highly factual nature of the text. The footnotes slow one's reading pace a bit, but they're worth the effort, offering anecdotes, tidbits of information, and snickers.

I disagree with some of Vox's assessments, such as his take on the Crusades and his game designer concept of God, articulated near the book's conclusion. I also question his declaration, "I don't care if you go to Hell," in Chapter One, though I appreciate his candor. But in the long run, these are just quibbles, because they don't constitute the book's focus, nor do they negate its basic premise: that the leading lights of atheism are far dimmer than their followers imagine.

Big Endorsement

"Howdy, folks. I believe the Right Honorable Juan McAmnesty will make an excellent President of the United States of Aztlanica. He's a strong conservative--and by "strong conservative," I mean someone who strongly believes in the empowerment of our divine elder sibling, Big Brother. Take campaign finance reform as an example: Juan believes "there's too much money in politics;" and I agree, one hunnert percent. So what better solution than ensuring that only the most fabulously wealthy citizens can afford to run a political campaign? Makes perfect sense to me. After all, wealth=virtue. We must keep all the Middle and Lower class riffraff as far away from the presidency as an Iranian mullah from a suitcase nuke.

"Additionally, my friend Juan has assured me that he will not stop until everyone on Earth's an Aztlanican. He's a strong proponent of immigration reform--and by "reform," I mean erasing all our borders, welcoming aliens with open arms--especially those of third-world, non-European ancestry--and creating a heterodisingenuous polyglot of perfection, a stock-pot of Balkanized municipalities and communities, a Promised Land where the Amero is our lingua franca, and skin colors, religions, loyalties, and worldviews change starkly, depending upon which side of the street you're standing.

"So I ask potential voters one question: who better than a man who believes in cultural incohesion, and simultaneous unbridled federal power?

"Juan McAmnesty is a true statesman for the twenty-first century. Let him provide amnesty from your doubts and fears."

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Not So Super

After tuesday's orgy of primaries and caucuses, I noted that Yuckabee and Her Scaliness won my home state of Tennessee. Ugh. Ron Paul made a respectable showing in my county, coming in ahead of Giuliani and Thompson.

I heard today that Sniff Romney tearfully dropped out of the race. Ah, well. I suppose he'll just have to go back to working toward godhood via Mormonism, instead of politics.

So all we have left is Juan McAmnesty, Yuckabee, and Paul. That leaves us with an erratic schizophrenic with a bad temper, a socialist for Jesus, and someone who believes the Constitution should be read, understood, and followed--not used as birdcage lining.

So vote for Ron Paul, or don't vote at all. That's how I see it. A vote for anyone else is a vote for socialism.