Thursday, June 22, 2006

Mr. Possum notes

over on his own blog-type place that ABC (All BS Communication) is asking viewers and computer surfers to tell them stories of how Global Warming is affecting them directly. Leaving aside the scientific problems with ABC's perception, well handled by Terry, it made me think of how beings actually affected by our planet's horrid downward spiral towards fiery destruction might respond.

So I present...


"Yeah, umm, hi, am I on? Yeah, so, I was just wandering along, minding my own business, y'know, eating a few prey, stomping around. I mean, y'know, dinosaur things, right? Then, outta nowhere, WHAM! this huge freakin' meteor comes flying down and BOOOOOM!, there's like clouds and dust and ash and stuff everywhere, right? So, like, overnight, there's no sun, the plants are dyin', and there's less things around to eat. And now, like, the government is turning ME into fossil fuel. Can you believe it? They're like, we all have to evolve, there's no problem, meantime all my cousins are lying in tar pits waiting to get found by Multinational bloodsucking Exxon or whatever. There's no justice."


"Hi, I'm Gus, I'm a woolly Mammoth. I used to be able to wander around, stomp a few neanderthals, roll around in the mud, that kind of thing. Now, I'm just hot all the time. The humans want me to think it's just the natural cycle of our planet's existence, but I know this is all because Grak is in the pocket of the business interests. They just want to sell more animal pelts, and who cares what happens to the rest of us."

So there you have it. Global warming from those who know.

* All content is the exclusive property of ABC Cretacious Associates; no compensation will be provided to subjects we edit beyond recognition who never said what we make them say. Nyah Nyah Nyah.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Media's Sense of Irony

seems a bit dull. This headline from the NY Times: Revisiting Sgt. York and a Time When Heroes Stood Tall begs its own question. [registration required. I've found this site helpful in such circumstances.]

The author makes many points about a time when heroes could exist, then punctures the whole idea of it using things like the following paragraph:

It was easier to create heroic stories in 1918 when the press was more pliable and the public more gullible, and the popular media had a fondness for uplifting tales of uncomplicated bravery. Though newspaper articles at the time refer to members of Sergeant York's platoon who challenged the accounts of that day, the doubters were given only enough attention to dismiss them.

The rest of the article goes on to outline all the conflicting stories, reasons for disbelieving the York mythology, etc. Anotherwords, even our heroes are not heroes. There's no such thing as heroism. Every story of a hero is simply a thin shell over the conniving, scheming human beneath.

This is the sort of thing that to me delineates the line between your intellectual, liberal media type and the average person. To them, there is no myth that cannot be punctured, no reputation that cannot be tarnished. "We're only trying to give the readers the truth. Thay have to have the truth" they will say to us, smiling bemusedly down at us great unwashed. "Damn the consequences, we must dig under every rock and let the bright sunlight shine down on all."

See, the problem is, heroism is a complex thing. Take an ordinary guy, put him in impossible circumstances, and if he has the right combination of determination and courage, he will become more than himself. In short, he will be a hero. Underneath it all, he's still the ordinary guy he was before. When the fight is done, he will return to the same person, even if that person was a miserable SOB. That doesn't make him less of a hero, it simply puts his heroism into the context of a complex individual. Dig hard enough, Mr. Reporter, and you'll find the negative on anyone, no matter how much a hero he is.

Take George Patton as a good example of this. A miserable SOB by all accounts, and not the sort of person you might want to spend a weekend at the beach with. But at the head of the 3rd Army? Cutting through Europe at an incredible rate? Possibly saving thousands of lives by helping to shorten the war? One could make the argument that Patton, as the driving force behind his troops, was a hero.

The second problem is that people need heroes and the mythology associated with them. Heroes, with all their faults, are the people that show us the impossible is possible. They show us what dedication to one's nation, one's buddies, one's people, anything, can lead a man to accomplish. Heroes break through the limits of humanity. They can't do it always, and they don't do it in every circumstance, but they still do it. We need those myths to sustain us; we need them to provide us an example of how to perform when the chips are down.

The reporter would have us believe that there is no heroism. The question is begged, and the irony exists, because his colleagues in the media have worked very diligently to puncture every hero we have. There are no heroes because you won't allow them to exist. Did Alvin York really singlehandedly defeat all those Germans? Yes, I suppose as a historian I am interested in the truth of the matter, but does that make York any less heroic? Must we lose the mythology?

The heroes of today's America - the soldiers overseas fighting for freedom, the police protecting us, the firemen saving our lives - remain heroes, whatever their imperfections. I would argue that the imperfections are the very traits that make them so special to our nation. These are regular people who could sit home like the rest of us and get fat watching TV. They've chosen to risk themselves for us, and that makes them heroes. They'll remain that way to me, whatever the NY Times thinks.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

T3 followup

I just note in passing that question #3 below seems to be eliciting some interesting responses that are completely not what I expected when I posed it.

Perhaps this is just the byproduct of being in an Orthodox Jewish community for all my life, but there seems to be for some Jews a period of life where they go through an unofficial and self-imposed Rumspringa. The strictures of the Orthodox life impinge on them too much, and they decide they are no longer going to be observant.

Some do it surreptitiously - eating non-kosher food on the sly, going out to a club or concert on Shabbos, etc. For some it's a wholesale change of life, and they break with their families (or at least fight with them seriously) and become completely non-observant. There's a whole area of sociological study among some types about the Chasidic communities in particular (see this recent entry in the field). What I wondered about other people and their faiths is if there are those who have gone through such a process and returned.

It seems the rest of you had your own interpretation of the question, which I think is interesting.

Blessings Upon Thee, T3

Crap. Crap crap crap.

Forgot I was supposed to come up with T3 questions. I know it was supposed to be about religion.

Think, THINK!

(You know, I believe I've had school-related nightmares like this.)

Fortunately, I should be able to meet those fine Possumblog standards, even at this late hour.

Here goes:

1) Are you now a religiously committed person, and have you always been one?

2) Did you come to your faith on your own, or are you simply continuing traditions instilled by your parents/grandparents, etc. (For the non-believers, feel free to describe your absence of faith in the same vein)

3) Have you ever abandoned your faith and its teachings for any significant period of time, or in any significant way?

So be ye Christian, Mohammedean, or Son of Abraham, feel free to answer in ye comments or on thine own blog. Zoroastrians, Arianists, and Wiccans are on their own.

As for me, here are my answers:

1) I am indeed, and always have been.

2) I'm what they refer to as FFB - Frum From Birth, Frum being slang for observant. I have always been Orthodox, though the meaning of that has changed societally and personally over the years. My family's a little odd in that my Dad is less observant than my mom to a fairly serious degree, though he too has shifted in observance over the years. This is what I grew up with, and the idea of moving to a lower level of observance never really occurred to me. As I've grown older, I've been able to grasp more of what I believe, and establish my own points of faith independent of my upbringing. Most of my experiences have simply confirmed the faith I was born into.

3) Though there were things I wanted to do that my faith proscribed, things I don't want to do that the faith demands, and I have seen co-religionists twist the faith beyond reason, I've never really done what they call locally "fallen off the derech" - literally lost the way, or fallen off the path. Certainly there have been less observant moments or actions, but discarding wholesale the way of life I know and love? Never happened to me. I've known people who have. They spend years of their lives without Shabbos, eating what they want, leading the lifestyles they want. I'm not really jealous, and I don't feel like I've missed something by remaining observant all my life. I've had no reason to leave the faith - nearly everything I want is available within the faith, and the things outside the parameters of my Judaism are things I can learn to live without.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

It's a Grand Old Flag

In honor of flag day, I wanted to mention something that occurred to me yesterday. Via the Corner, I ran across this blogpost from Stephen Pollard, a British columnist.

His essential point is to ridicule the people over in England having a hissy fit because the English are flying their flag (the St. George Cross, rather than the Union Jack, if I have it right). He makes the argument that the left over there is using the display of the flag as an indication of the social status and racism of the flag-wavers. There's also the big issue of the Muslims acting all offended over the cross, and claiming it's all about the crusades, etc.

I'm coming to the conclusion that there's a subset of people, most of them leftists, with some weird problem with the existence of independent nation-states. They want open borders to allow anyone to come in to any country from anywhere. They tout the universalism of mankind personhood, and how no one nation is of any more value than any other (cf the United Nations). The EU and the UN are their ideal organizations - one an inept, bureaucratic, United States of Europe, the other the largest kleptocracy known to man. In their idealized universe, there are no borders, there are no nations, just a giant political and social Pangaea where we all live in harmony and peace.

Needless to say, the first step on that path is the elimination of all symbols of national pride. With one nation the equivalent of all the others, what need could there be for a symbol to represent one separate nation? Besides, that's simply a sign of reactionary thinking, neanderthal global rednecks reveling in the sins their nation committed against other people. The Crusader's Cross oppressing Moslems, The Stars and Bars oppressing Black people, the Canadian Maple Leaf oppressing... oppressing... BEAVERS! Yeah, that's it. ([lefty]What? The Hammer & Sickle? The Crescent Flags of the Muslim nations? No oppression there, nosirree bob. Symbols of freedom and the universality of all peoples. No, I DO NOT know what happened to the Jews under Muslim rule. I imagine they all went to Palestine to oppress the terrorists freedom fighters [/lefty])

I recognize that Nationalism has its downsides. The Nazis are, of course, the best example of what too much pride and emphasis on the superiority of one nation can do to a body politic. But let's face facts here - that doesn't happen in most places, at least not recently. It is possible for nationalistic pride to be a bad thing. But pride in one's nation is not only healthy, I believe it is essential to the best functioning of any nation. If you are not proud of your country, you will not do your best to make it a good place to live. If you do not support your country, it holds no value to you. If no one loves their country, no one will be prepared to give their life for it in times of trouble.

I am proud of the United States of America. I believe that it is a great place to live, and the best place to succeed anywhere in the world. My flag at home, as on most sunny days, is flying proudly. I believe the English should fly the Cross of St. George, and support their nation proudly, even if it's just in honor of a meaningless football tournament. They should be honored to be members of the English nation, and show that honor as they wish.

Let the carpers have their way - these are not Nazi wannabes, whatever the elites think. They are proud members of their nation, and the elites should be ashamed that they cannot match that pride.

Thursday, June 08, 2006


I have to come up with my own questions? Crap.

1) What is my idea of a perfect meal?

Great. I asked myself a hard one to start. My restaurant answer would be the steak place I go to sometimes. I always clean my plate there, so a steak, fries, and some green stuff to balance things out.

If it's at home, I think I'd have to say a totally grilled meal. Maybe start off with some wings; move on to a nice cut of meat, medium well (not a steak - maybe a london broil sliced up); grilled peppers & zucchini, corn; finish off with some grilled pineapple. Great. I made myself hungry.

2) What non-prurient feature of a woman do I find most attractive?

Eyes. My wife is, of course, the perfect woman in every respect. But if I was looking around (which I'm NEVER, EVER doing), and thinking with the proper organ, I'm a sucker for green eyes and dark red hair.

3) What's it all about?

Bowling. It's all about bowling. Don't ask why.

Once again

I have been humongously busy. Between streaming media, intranet meetings, and (believe it or not), actual archival work for the first time in a while, I have had very little time to breathe or do other essential life tasks. Like blogging.

Last week was also the Shavuot holiday, wherein lots of dairy is eaten and we are supposed to involve ourselves in the study of Torah. It being the anniversary of the meeting with God at Mount Sinai. To start off, I intended to leave on Thursday last week (holiday eve) on the early side, but I actually had three separate reference requests on the one day, each of which took a bit of time. When you consider I'm averaging around 75 requests a year, you can see why this is an oddity. Add that to the last minute electronic crises, and one day where I really wanted to hit the road early, I ended up here a lot longer than planned.

We had guests coming, but fortunately I had made the Ice Cream earlier in the week, and the wife is a wonderful woman who handled most of the cooking and all of the cleaning. Guests arrived with dog, baby, and themselves, and we had a lovely time. Not enough sleep over the two days, but that's life. Oldest had her dance recital on Sunday, which the wife of our friends and my mom joined us at. Oldest was cute, but there were certain oddities about the recital. The teachers always do a big dance number at the end (which is often nice to look at), but I thought the musical choice was a bit odd. They were dancing to a gospel number.

Which is fine, except for one detail. See, there are a ton of Jewish kids at this dance studio, and they were kind enough to schedule all the Jewish kids for the first of the three shows at 9AM. Which they did because the Israel Day Parade was happening in NYC that day, and they wanted to let us all get there. (We didn't actually go to it, but that's just us). So they're dancing to gospel, with it's usual mentions of Jesus. To a room full of nobody but Jews.

I'd also point out that there was a little more rump shaking among the 5-8 year olds than I thought entirely appropriate. I can't say it bothered me so much with the teachers (though again, perhaps a little inappropriate for a gospel tune), but I'd vote for less suggestiveness with kids so young.

So that's where I've been.

Ding Dong

the b@st@rd's dead.

As someone once said, "trust but verify." But a usually reliable colleague reports a news conference where they showed the vermin's dead body.

I hope he's enjoying the seventh level of Hell.