Friday, December 29, 2006

A well-deserved shout out

As you probably noticed in the most recent post, there's some lovely collapse/expand functionality built-in so that the entire long post doesn't have to initially show up. I found a great way to add this ability to old-style Blogger templates through Beautiful Beta, a great site that has a bunch of template hacks to help you out.
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Thursday, December 28, 2006

The USA: God's Country

Thanks to an interesting article in The Revealer, we now have a better idea of exactly what has infiltrated our government. In the article, the author, Jeff Sharlet, reviews some notes he took during an interview with Sam McCullough, the Christian Embassy's chief of staff. The review comes on the heels of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation catching wind of Jeff's earlier article in Harper's which hilighted military officials speaking benevolently of the Christian Embassy. You're going to love what the CE's chief says during the course of his interview (more below the fold):

Christian Embassy is political.

Unlike the conservative Family Research Council, which McCullough describes as an explicitly political lobby with which Christian Embassy sometimes coordinates, Christian Embassy focuses on “networking, individual counseling, that kind of thing.” McCullough told me that Christian Embassy is apolitical; on the other hand, he also said its ministry has a political impact: “It’s more to help the individual grow as a person in their relationship with God, and then their politics is going to be an outcome.”
Interesting. McCullough would like to distance himself from an organization that is a blatantly political lobby, while characterizing his own organization as one that networks behind the scenes, resulting in political impact. Dude, that's called lobbying. Wrapping an extra step of an individual's consideration of his/her relationship with God between the initial chat and the eventual political impact doesn't change anything.

Christian Embassy believes religion should guide politics.

Christian Embassy believes that politicians, diplomats, and officers should not consider their personal faith separate from their politics and their official duties. McCullough offers as a role model President Bush: “…in terms of the way [Bush] talks, the way he believes, he doesn’t really say ‘Oh I’m going to do religious things now and do other things later.’”
I guess the CE does have a point about Bush. He did once state in the same sentence that he believed that God wants him to be president.

Christian Embassy sees the top brass as its mission field

McCullough on Christian Embassy’s Pentagon presence: “At the Pentagon, we have a flag officers groups. Your stars, basically, 1-4 stars. We also have a disciple group at the pentagon. And there’s a general Bible study that meets Wednesday morning where 70-120 come. Most of our groups that we organize and work with are at the officer level. Flags, a good percentage. We have about 40 that come or are involved with that.”
This is great. Instead of actually doing their fucking jobs, we have officers at the Pentagon who enjoy Bible study every Wednesday morning. Maybe they should dedicate their evenings and weekends to Bible study, if they love it so much, and save the rest of the working day for protecting our fucking country.

Christian Embassy is closely involved with political and military officials.
Those who work with Christian Embassy will typically meet in small groups, under the supervision of a counselor like McCullough, for an hour every week. Counselors typically select a scripture verse for discussion and attempt to draw out its “practical” implications, often through application to current events. Participants can and do call on Christian Embassy counselors for additional advice outside of their cell meetings. These counseling sessions typically take place in the officer’s or politician’s office. The most committed participants may travel overseas on behalf of Christian Embassy or arrange their official government travel to leave time for evangelizing work. This work may sometimes be “covert,” such as a evangelizing in countries where it’s against the law.
That last part really intrigues me: covert evangelizing. Perhaps they're afraid they'll be persecuted for trying to spread a religion that doesn't jive with the state sponsored one. How ironic.

Christian Embassy takes political positions.
Participants may call on Christian Embassy for advice on specific issues. “'What does the Bible say about this?'” is a common question, according to McCullough. He says Christian Embassy will not give explicit policy advice, but as a counselor, he would tell a member of Congress or a military official that a particular position -- pro-choice politics, or pacifism, for instance -- is “contrary to scripture.”

OK. The first thing that's making me crap my pants is the fact that officials are outright asking what a book (that was written over 2000 years ago) advises. And not giving explicit policy advice? Passive/aggressive, tuh-may-toe/tuh-mah-tow. Let's call the whole thing off. The real pant-crapper is that McCullough insinuates with his quote that pacifism is contrary to scripture. Fucking piece and pacifism is contrary to scripture. I had no idea that the Judeo/Christian God was none other than Ares/Mars, ye olde god of war.

Christian Embassy believes the Iraq War may be biblically sanctioned.

On the question of the war in Iraq, McCullough counsels: “We have war all throughout the Bible. Man’s history is war. So what’s the right thing? Not necessarily [the] war in the Bible. But what are you looking for? Is peace possible?” McCullough answered is own question by laughing.

This is so fucked up I truly don't know where to even begin.

Christian Embassy is a lobby in all but name.

McCullough says Christian Embassy is not a lobbying organization, but describes his work thusly: “I often will go visit a member of Congress and say, ‘Hey, there’s this going on, could you be involved in that?’ ... Or I will recommend to some of these groups that are issue oriented as to who might be interested in helping them. I am ware of where people are. So we do try to connect the dots. Network people.” He grees that Christian Embassy participants use the Christian Embassy network to political advantage, but considers this a positive outcome since it gives ambitious political, diplomatic, and military figures an incentive to get more involved with Christian Embassy’s evangelical theology.

Look, you're a theocratic lobbyist. Stop the tap-dancing already, asshat.

Christian Embassy is conservative and mostly Republican.

McCullough says Christian Embassy is bi-partisan, but in addition to President Bush and the Republicans featured in the video, he offered as examples of public figures very involved with Christian Embassy’s work three very conservative Republican senators, Sam Brownback of Kansas, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, and John Thune of South Dakota; and four Republican representatives, conservatives Robert Alderholt of Alabama and John R. Carter of Texas and moderates Vern Ehlers of Wisconsin and Tim Johnson of Illinois. McCullough could think of only one Democrat, Representative Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, a blue dog Christian conservative with high ratings from the Christian Coalition and Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum. He said that McIntyre was living at the time in the Fellowship's special Capitol Hill dorm for congressmen. The video features appearances by former Congressman Tom DeLay of Texas and Representative J.D. Hayworth of Arizona, two more
religious conservatives.

CE is conservative and mostly Republican? Ya think? Why are there so many folks in Congress that are involved with this? Can't they be tossed out on their evangelical asses?

Christian Embassy is influential.

McCullough says there are “about 80 members of Congress that are in our rotation.” More than half are “mature,” by which he means fully in sync with Christian Embassy’s theology. Immature Christians are matched with mature Christians to mentor them in Christian Embassy’s beliefs. Christian Embassy is stronger in the House than in the Senate; their goal is to develop a relationship with politicians and officers at the beginning of their Washington careers—as they did with Brownback—that will allow them access as some of those politicians and officers grow in influence.

Would the Colorado priests be considered mature or immature Christians? After the Foley scandal, I think it's safe to say that there are more immature Christians running around there than mature ones. Molding politicians as soon as they enter Capitol Hill. How lovely. I guess that doesn't say much for the juniors that get their first shot in the legislative branch who fall for this shite.

Christian Embassy thinks separation of church and state has gone too far.

Christian Embassy’s theology, like that of Campus Crusade, might best be characterized as “ecumenical fundamentalism.” They’re not interested in denominational divides. Rather, they’re invested in a critique of culture that sees the United States as in a state of “decay” as a result of inadequate Bible study. They believe the Bible was once part of public life and that it must be restored to its central role in order to achieve “revival.” According to McCullough, separation of church and state has gone too far.

I think their theology should be characterized as simple mentalism. At least he finally stopped his tap-dance routine for one minute to get his plug in for theocracy. McCullough and his ilk routinely evangelize within the government and yet he still thinks that there is a separation between church and state which has gone too far? I guess the only way it wouldn't be too far is if the entire House and Senate was populated with the Christian Embassy. That old domination black magic. Can't stand that you've not yet converted everyone on the planet, can ya?

Christian Embassy's ambition is international.
An elegant booklet that accompanied the DVD McCullough gave me is filled not just with the testimonies of generals and congressmen, but also with those of foreign diplomats declaring Washington a sort of holy city. “The most important thing since coming to Washington from my communist-dominated society is that I that I have discovered God,” writes a “European ambassador,” thanking Christian Embassy. Fijian Ambassador Pita Nacuva, reports the booklet, following his “years of spiritual training in Washington, D.C.” with Christian Embassy, reconfigured his country’s public schools’ “on the model of Jesus Christ” using an American Christian curriculum designed for developing nations, currently exported to around 40 countries.

Silly me. I spoke too soon. We can strike Fiji off of the vacation checklist now.
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Monday, December 25, 2006

Respect to the Godfather

Following is an excerpt from his historic show at the Boston Garden in 1968, on the day I was born.

James Brown: May 3, 1933 – December 25, 2006
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Friday, December 22, 2006

A new time waster for ya!

Found this great site, Meez, which lets you create an animated 3-d avatar that is full of different styles, clothing, backgrounds, and animations. They even have an air guitar animation. So, thought I'd start out as a hippie getting bitchin' digital video footage at a music festival. Not a bad way to start the weekend, eh?

You know damn well you'll be creating avatars all day. Admit it.
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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Please help a Shaker out

Two of the contributors (namely Shakes and Mr. Shakes) to my favorite blog, Shakespeare's Sister, could use a little help. After an encounter with a reckless hit and run driver, their only car is in need of some serious repair at the shop.

If you're not familiar with the blog, give it a good read. If you like what you see, then please consider donating via Amazon or Paypal to help them out. If you don't, I'll get my clawed cats to come kick your ass.

Their blog is the only one (aside from mine of course) that I've ever felt at home in, part of a cool community. Simply put, the cool community members just help each other out.

Rock on, Shakes.

UPDATE: I can't figure out the Paypal link, but you can reach it from their page on the right hand side. Look for the "Make A Donation" button.
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Monday, December 18, 2006

Brand spankin' new..

Brain Damage, the best online Floydzine in the universe, has just revealed its new updated website. It's definitely quite the visual upgrade from the previous design. Head on over and check out all the current Floydian goings-on!


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Random Flickr Blogging: 9684

(Random Flickr blogging explained)

Originally uploaded by liufeifly.

With all major roadways shut down with emergency construction, a bunch of resourceful residents launched from their coastal down in an effort to hit the stores in time for the big holiday sales.

Originally uploaded by Henk-Jan Winkeldermaat.

In keeping with family tradition, little Janey was shown a picture of the boy she is arranged to marry in 20 years.

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Sunday Cat Blogging

In today's episode:

Moon likes to be picked up and carried. However, he had alterior motives this time. When I walked by Lisa's big computer armoir, he climbed onto my back/neck and then sprang onto the top of the armoir to take a look around. (Tip - view the full pic to see some cool reptilian marble-like eyes.)

Feather didn't want any of that, so she was on the nearby window sill trying to figure out a way to get up to the armoir's top.

Resigning herself to not being able to get up there, Moon relaxed, giving me the opportunity for a macro lens close-up.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

What this time of year means to me..

As each year comes and goes, it seems that people feel that the holiday season, as it's affectionately called, cannot come soon enough for them. Retailers kick off their incentive sales in the summer. We actually call the Friday after Thanksgiving Black Friday. I even recall a few weeks ago when Lisa and I were having dinner and overhearing two suburban moms actually discussing their shopping strategy for that specific day.

Once that day arrives, I sit back and watch the lemmings hop in their cars (some of them before 5am... I'm not awake then, but I take it on faith because of the damn sales) and act like a pack of rabid wolves at the malls. It's one of those days that you know you should stay home, unless you need to go to the supermarket for provisions. Even then, you should consider going out wearing nothing less than full body chain mail armor. That's what this time of year means to a lot of people.

For others, it means they have to shore up their defences because they feel their (national) religion, and its associated holiday, is being persecuted and is on the brink of extinction. Nothing like a nice steaming crock pot of shit to go with your dinner. This, from the same folks who think that Harry Potter is effectively the Christian Satanic Verses.

For me, it's all about one thing: A Charlie Brown Christmas.

I have never stopped watching that TV special since I was a wee lad. Vince Guaraldi's jazz soundtrack is nothing short of genius, with "Linus and Lucy" making its everlasting impression on our cultural psyche. How can you not want to make an attempt at dancing like the Peanuts kids who are waiting for the Charlie Brown's direction of the play to start? And yet, there is a most poignant moment that gives me chills to this very day when Linus explains the meaning of Christmas, bathed in a spotlight. I'm a freakin' agnostic who grew up in a Jewish household and that damn Linus speech still gets to me every damn time.

Maybe it's not Linus' story at all, but the bigger truth of trying to remove oneself from the frenzy that the season creates. The reverb on Linus' voice doesn't hurt either.

It's on this Sunday night at 7pm EST on ABC, folks. Try to pencil in some Snoopy time.
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Farewell Peter Boyle

A nostalgic look at one of my favorite Peter Boyle moments.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

New name for the Pentagon

It looks like there are quite a few people in the military who work there that wouldn't mind if the building were to be referred to as the PentaGod.

Please put on a pair of Depends and then head to Crooks & Liars to see a beautiful infiltration of religion into our government.
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Prayers for Ahmet Ertegun

Things aren't looking good for Ahmet, being in very grave condition following his fall at a recent Stones show.

For those not in the know, Ahmet Ertegun has a solid place in music history with the creation of his record label, Atlantic Records. With a keen eye & ear for talent, and a keen head for business, Ahmet was able to sign on artists like Ray Charles, CSNY, Led Zeppelin, King Crimson, ELP, and many others.

Nothing but wishes and hopes for a safe passage, Ahmet... either back to this plane or on to the next.
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Monday, December 11, 2006

Random Flickr Blogging: 9609

(Random Flick blogging explained.)

Originally uploaded by yoshimov.

The Toyotas-For-Tots program is underway with great success.

Originally uploaded by dieselgrrrrl.

Umm, honey? Please use your hanky instead of a leaf. Everyone's watching.

Originally uploaded by cameranaturalist.

Although quite ready and motivated to play, Bill couldn't get enough momentum going to propel his shoe onto the Monopoly board.

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Yuka and Miho @ Japan Society

It's crazy how many people want to go into the city at the exact same time. Since Lisa was already heading towards the city, I thought I'd take NJ Transit's bus to the Port Authority terminal and wing it from there. Well, the traffic getting into the Lincoln Tunnel produced a 30-minute delay in arrival time, hitting the streets at 7pm, with a show time of 7:30. Finding a cab was an additionall challenge. I walked (briskly) to either 7th or 6th before I was able to flag down a cab to take me to 1st. I arrived, rather winded, at Japan Society right when everyone was being ushered into the auditorium. Major score.

Yuka Honda was first to hit the stage. As a Pink Floyd worshipper and prog-rock fan, I was very much in my element with her set. Sean Lennon started off the set on guitar and then moved to bass for the rest. He was quite the conductor, giving clear signals to the rest of the band when the changes were happening. While I thought the drummer was really good, it appeared as though he didn't get in as much practice time as everyone else. The bottom line is that there wasn't one song in the set list that I didn't like. I especially loved the fact that Yuka provided a live soundtrack to her own ending credits projected on the screen. That was a nice touch.

Next up, Miho Hatori. We knew the vibe was going to be completely different when we saw the stage set get populated with a ton of white balloons. Eventually, Miho and her band came onstage all dressed in white attire. Perhaps I should've worn my boiler suit last night. Miho still has quite an amazing voice, and a very percussive and trance-inducing approach to her music. It was all about the beat. With the events earlier in the evening, I was especially happy to hear her scream out against yellow cabs in one of her songs. She came out for an encore and did a fantastic job with a song she admitted to not having rehearsed.

After the gig, Yuka and Miho came to a little reception room to do a little Q with the folks there. I snapped a few pics during that session, so I'll have to review them and then post them up if they seem acceptable. Once the Q was over, Miho stayed to chat with folks and Yuka fled the scene, my assumption being that the meet greet was a bit too overwhelming. There were a lot of people in a fairly small space, so I could certainly understand that. We did manage to run into Sean for a brief moment to say hi and hand him some photos that I took during the Attic gig at Joe's Pub last month. He was very appreciative and greeted us warmly before proceeding on.

I'm definitely going to keep my eyes open for more Yuka and Miho gigs, if they ever pop up again in the area. The one feeling I came away with from this show is the wish to see them perform more of their music.

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Japanamerica book launch tonight in NYC

Roland Kelts, the author of Japanamerica, is having a book launch party at The Cutting Room at 19 West 24th St from 7pm - 10pm. If you're in the area, feel free to come on down!
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Monday, December 04, 2006

Random Flickr Blogging

Originally uploaded by 20cent.

After hours of chasing down the rogue fly, Steve finally saw it right in front of him and went in for the kill.

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Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Who @ Mohegan Sun

Friday, December 1st, was quite the adventure. So, sit right down and you'll hear a tale..ok ok, put the bat down.

Anyway, the day started off with an airport run to pick up our friends, the McMullans. Amazingly enough, the flight landed a little early. My theory is that the pilot put on the after-burners to make sure they missed the storm system that was on the march to the east coast. Then, came the drive to Mohegan Sun. The worst traffic was on the NJ Turnpike just before one of the tolls. Construction + Toll Plaza = Clusterfuck. That's algebra for you.

About 3 hours later, we made it to Mohegan Sun in one piece, and I was especially happy to be out of the damn car (yes, I drove). After a quick freshening up, we acquired our tickets from the box office. Apparently, when we asked for seats in the first 5 rows, they thought that applied to any section in the arena instead of the section in front of the stage. Fucking semantics. Anyway, we ended up in the loge - not horribe, but clearly not fantastic. Obviously, there was no need to bring the camera along.

We finished dinner just in time to make our way in for The Pretenders. Chrissie Hynde was still very much on top of her game. Great vocals and very chatty. I was pleasantly surprised to hear "Precious" from the first album. Martin Chambers on drums was pure chaos. There were drumsticks flying everywhere and every so often he would spray water out of his mouth like a geyser. Since I've never seen them live before, it was a nice treat, albeit too short.

Prior to our boys hitting the stage, we made an attempt to blend in with the folks in front of the stage. We'd have gotten away with it too, if it hadn't been for those meddling kids (and security guards). The guards were pretty dickless for the most part. This one headphone-wearing-asshat even gave us a hard time when we tried heading back to the 2nd empty row in the loge. Prick. OK - on with the show.

There's nothing major to report as far as the setlist goes. It's basically the same as the set from the earlier leg of the tour. Unfortunately, the band just didn't seem very motivated for this particular show. Roger got pretty pissed off at the mics not working properly, blaming the problems on their having been made in China. Ouch. But then he told himself to shut the fuck up and left it at that. Pete was especially put out by that comment, as he pointed out that he was admiring some Chinese women in the front sections when Roger's comment killed his mojo.

I will say that the improvised jam during My Generation was one of the best I've seen and heard. Cry If You Want made its way into the jam as well. They were just in their element for that one, but it didn't carry through for the rest of the gig. During You Better You Bet, Pete had his equipment troubles. His strat refused to produce any sound levels whatsoever. So, he did the only thing that one could do. He took the guitar off, held it at the bottom of the body with the neck and headstock facing away, and hurled it to the right-rear of the stage.

This is the absolute first time I've ever seen Pete lose his temper with his guitar in hand like that. The throw itself had a beautiful arc and trajectory. Great air time and a perfect landing. It landed completely flat without any neck snapping whatsoever. Very impressive! Once they ran another strat to him, he had to screw around with several knobs, switches, and faders to make sure that he got the right sound.

Audio problems solved, the band carried on. Roger's voice was definitely starting to strain heavily when they got into the Tommy medley at the end. Although, he still produced a great strong vocal for Tea and Theatre. All in all, they seemed in relatively good humor, but just not terribly into the show.

The next morning after breakfast, we ran into Roger's in-laws in the lobby and had a really nice chat with them. They're quite the cool couple. The McMullans were taken to New London to catch a train to Boston to see the boys there. Hopefully that show went well, being a major city and all.

We came back later in the day and decided to bail on the George Carlin show in Westbury. It was just too much driving to take in for one day.

And now that Moon is meowing once every five seconds, I guess I should see what I need to provide him.


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