Friday, January 31, 2003

Driving home from work the other day I had the misfortune of pulling onto the freeway just as the traffic suddenly slowed down to a crawl. After poking along for nearly 30 minutes, I finally saw up ahead where the traffic was starting to clear out, but there was no accident and no police cars with flashing lights - just a guy standing on the side of the road holding a sign.
So now I am ticked because the only reason it has taken me an extra half hour to get home and caused me to sit in traffic burning gas is because of people slowing down to gawk at the sign this guy was holding. And here is what it said:
"All Religions Are False Accept For Born-Again Christians"
As I was forced to creep along looking at this guy's sign before finally being allowed to speed up, I was struck by the audacity, the ignorance and the arrogance, not to mention the bigotry of this statement. What exactly was he trying to accomplish with this message? Does he really believe he is going to convert people to his belief system this way?
This pretty much sums up the problem I have with the right-wing fringe of the Christian evangelical movement. This holier-than-thou, simple-minded view of a black and white world where people who think exactly like them are going to heaven and everyone else will be condemned to hell. Sorry, but I don't buy it. The God that I believe in and worship would not send billions and billions of people to hell simply because they were born into families and cultures that did not adopt a specific, narrowly defined belief system. What makes these people believe that God would create such a vastly diverse and complex universe and then insist that everyone and everything adopt the same narrow belief system or risk enternal damnation?
I wish the guy had been holding up a sign that said "Jesus Loves You" and then I could have made it home just slightly annoyed and not so ticked off. Instead, he adopts the slogan that I first heard in the lyrics of a Folk Festival song "Jesus Loves Me, But He Can't Stand You."

I consider myself to be a Christian of the liberal variety which unfortunately seems to be losing ground these days to the fervent fundamentalists. I believe that everyone will one day be judged based on how they lived their lives and how they treated their fellow men and women. If they lived a life like Jesus did, loving their fellow humans here on Earth, then it won't matter whether they were Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists or atheists, they will pass on to the next level and be closer to God. If they do not, well, I'm really not sure what happens but I don't believe in eternal damnation. I think the idea of do-overs makes better sense for a loving and compassionate God - keep trying until you get it right kind of thing. But we shall see.

This is hilarious...

Not quite the way I remember the speech...

Thursday, January 30, 2003

I've recently had the great pleasure of discovering a musical group called Nickle Creek. They were actually recommended to me by my brother-in-law and sister-in-law in Houston who saw the group perform last year at the Houston Rodeo. I checked out the group's latest CD from the library the other day and have been in awe ever since. This is one of those rare albums that I liked on the first listen and subsequent listens just compounds the first impression. Nickle Creek is a young bluegrass group very much in the mold of Alison Krauss and Union Station. I was shocked by how much the female singer sounds like Alison Krauss, and then I saw that Krauss is a producer on the album. But it is actually the male singer who dominates most of the recordings. I'm not sure if they write their own songs or not (I'll have to check), but they certainly have the first two parts of the musical trifecta down - that being the singing and playing their own instruments well. I was completely sold on the album after listening to just the first three cuts. The first is the Grammy nominated instrumental that takes your breath away using just a mandolin, guitar and violin. The first song is the wonderfully strange "Spit on a Stranger." I would never have thought that a song with that title could sound so beautiful. Seems more appropriate for a punk song. The third cut is just great songwriting, plain and simple.

It's not often that I find a new group that wins me over so completely right away. One other example would be the Foo Fighters (although they have been around a while but I just got one of their cds last year). But I have been disappointed by other groups that have been hyped up after sampling their music -- Blink 182, Coldplay are just two examples.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

The best thing about Bush's speech the other night was that it was short. Only about an hour. It was almost like he was watching the clock and as soon as it hit one hour he said "Whew! God Bless America!" and that was it.
I was glad that he spared everyone the theatrics that had become common in so many State of the Union speeches going back to Reagan and extending through the Clinton years. By that I mean the planting of people in the audience who are then recognized and featured in heart-rending or patriotic stories. Of course, it could have been that Bush just couldn't find anyone who has been helped by his programs who he could highlight.
Probably most notable about the speech was all of the things he chose not to talk about. There was no long list of accomplishments to highlight, just a laundry list of initiatives that have yet to be passed, funded and/or show any results. As one commentator pointed out after the speech - Clinton was long-winded in part because he had so many good things to talk about. Bush had a long list of things he didn't want to mention, like rising unemployment, a blossoming budget deficit, a tanking stock market, and so forth.

I'm still waiting for the explanation on why we have to bomb Iraq right now, while it is just fine to "contain" and even appease North Korea. Who do we know for a fact has weapons of mass destruction (WMDs)? Who was caught recently exporting some of these weapons to a nation (Yemen) that harbors terrorists and Al-Quadea sympathizers? Why does containment work just fine for NK, but we can't even wait long enough for the U.N. inspectors to do their jobs before we start dropping bombs on Baghdad? Maybe the recently hawkish Colin Powell will enlighten us on Feb. 5.

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Bush is giving his second State of the Union address this evening. News reports say he is going to try to "rally" the country in support of his war in Iraq. Short of showing secret reconnaissance photos of Saddam and Bin Laden together plotting new terror attacks, I'm not sure what he could do to persuade me that this is the best course of action right now. Even Stormin Norman Schwarzkopf isn't convinced.
It will be interesting to hear the list of cheery things he will come up with so that he can then declare that the State of the Union is very good or excellent or peachy keen or whatever he will call it.

Slate magazine's financially challenged competitor is which has recently taken to asking its readers to actually pay for a subscription to have full access to their content. Fortunately, for us cash-strapped journalists trying to stay afloat during Bush Recession II: The Sequel, they have an alternative where you subject yourself to about 15 seconds of clicking through a lengthy online car ad and then you can read everything for free for the rest of the day.

Figuring out how to put web links in the text of my posts. This is a trial run.

MSN Slate Magazine

The above link takes you to one of the best of the online magazines which is fortunately still published for free thanks to the generosity of Bill Gates and Microsoft Corp.

Monday, January 27, 2003

Finally went to see the latest Star Trek movie this weekend - Nemesis. (George Lucas had already taken the name they really wanted - Attack of the Clone). I'm glad I went to see it before it left the theaters. I think I've managed to see every Star Trek flick in the theaters. It had some good moments and for the most part was a pretty good B-grade action movie. As someone who would just as soon watch a rerun of a Star Trek Next Generation episode as anything else on TV these days, I'd says it was worth going to see. However, it wasn't as good as say, First Contact - the Borg movie, and had some glaring inconsistencies. For instance, it would seem that Picard's young clone, who spent his entire childhood being tortured by Romulans, would first want to use his super-destructo ray (or whatever it was) on the Romulans before trekking across the galaxy in the usual bid to destroy Earth.
I was also very disappointed with the ending as it concerned the character of Data. I won't say anymore so as not to give away the movie, but it is just something that future Star Trek writers will just have to get Q or someother immortal being to fix up.

A much better movie that we caught on DVD this weekend was About A Boy starring Hugh Grant. Lots of thumbs up for that one. Definitely one to squeeze onto my Top 10 films of the year list.

The Super Bowl was kind of a bore this year. I was uninterested in either team at first but decided to root for the Buccaneers because they were supposed to be the underdogs. But after they started stomping all over the helpless Raiders (which made me wonder how the Raiders got there in the first place) I began pulling for the Raiders to make at least a feeble come back effort so as not to completely humiliate themselves - which is what they eventually did. The best thing about the game, of course, were the ads and I particularly wanted to see the movie ads for the upcoming summer blockbusters. The Matix sequels naturally look awesome and The Hulk movie looks pretty good too (although one reviewer noted that the computer-generated Hulk character looks too much like Shrek -- Yes, I miss Lou Ferrigno).
I also want to see The Dare Devil movie since it was one of my favorite comics as a kid.