Thursday, August 30, 2007

"Purity" Ball

Let me preface this by saying that the concept of fathers and daughters building a strong relationship is, in and of itself, a good thing. But surely I'm not alone in thinking several things about the following are just a little weird (and unhealthy):

Girls will have a unique excuse to put on fancy dresses and prepare for a night of ceremony and dancing in Chandler next weekend at the Valley's first Father Daughter Purity Ball.

The First Southern Baptist Church of Scottsdale and New Life Pregnancy Centers are sponsoring the Sept. 7 event at the Castle at Ashley Manor. Girls and young women ages 10 and older who attend make commitments to live a pure life before God and set personal standards for themselves.

According to event's Web site, fathers also read covenants over their daughters and promise they will protect the girls' commitments and serve as positive role models of purity and spirituality. Their dedication is symbolized by commitment cards the girls sign during the ceremony and white roses laid at the foot of a cross.

"The dads or mentors commit before God to be a living example of purity," coordinator Mona McDonald said. "The daughters are going to try to do their best to honor their fathers' involvement in their life."

... The first Father Daughter Purity Ball was held in Colorado in 1998 by a Christian group called Generations of Light, according to Ashley Ellingson, development coordinator for the Arizona Baptist Children's Services.

"A woman who worked at ABCS heard about these Purity Balls and thought they were a really neat idea," Ellingson said.

... Mona McDonald said about 75 people had signed up for the Chandler event as of Aug. 28, although previous balls in Tucson have attracted up to 200 attendees. She said she chose the Castle at Ashley Manor because of its romantic ambience.

"For a girl it's kind of fairytale romantic," she said, describing the reception hall's new castle-themed building on Price Road. "I can't wait to see their eyes when they drive up."

Mitch McDonald said he feels the ball has become an annual way for his daughters to spend a special evening with their father.

"What really makes me feel good is that I know my daughters are going to be going to dances for the rest of their lives, but the first time they were dressed in a formal, their dad was the first one to slow dance with them," he said.

"I've been able to tell both of my daughters how precious they are to me," he said. "Those are moments in time that are very important."

Somehow, I don't think most girls want their first romantic experience to be with their dad. And I doubt that a slow dance with dear old pops outside of their wedding is going to rank as a stellar memory.

But even if you get past the creepiness of it, it's still a bunch of bunk. Anybody that's seen The Education of Shelby Knox knows where I'm coming from here. If you want to solve the problems of teen pregnancy and promiscuity, don't strap on the chastity belt, but rather analyze the underlying reasons.

"It is an infantile superstition of the human spirit that virginity would be thought a virtue and not the barrier that separates ignorance from knowledge." -- Voltaire

Sunday, August 26, 2007


As much as you hear politicians talking about it(both D's and R's), you would think that ethanol is the answer to all of our energy and pollution problems. Well, not so fast. It's more about courting votes in the pivotal Midwest (specifically Iowa). Ethanol, in general, is not necessarily the problem. It's the specific type ... corn. From Sierra Magazine:

In our beautiful biofuel future, cars and trucks are powered by wood chips, prairie grass, wheat straw, fast-food grease, garbage, and even algae--whichever material is most plentiful locally and least damaging environmentally. With cars getting 40 miles a gallon or better, greenhouse-gas emissions plummet. The biofuel revolution sparks an economic boom by keeping U.S. dollars at home instead of sending them to Middle Eastern sheikhs.

Biofuels can be made from nearly any organic material. By essentially recycling carbon from living things (as opposed to the ancient biomass in coal and petroleum), biofuels help fight global warming. But some could also add to our environmental problems: In an equally possible but less rosy future, governments and agribusiness clear rainforests and wetlands for vast plantations of biofuel crops like oil palms. With arable land increasingly devoted to fuel production, food prices push higher. The roads clog with biofuel SUVs that still get lousy mileage. Global warming slows insignificantly, if at all.

... corn is the source of 95 percent of the United States' ethanol. Although politically popular in farm states, corn is a problematic source of fuel: It requires good land and petroleum-intensive cultivation and fertilization, and it can also readily feed both humans and livestock. (Food prices are already increasing because of competition with ethanol.) If the mill processing the corn is powered by coal, ethanol produces more net greenhouse gases than gasoline does ...

... Putting a dent in global warming requires conservation as well as biofuels. A 3 percent increase in fuel-economy standards for vehicles, for example, would save more gas than the entire 2006 production of corn ethanol. Sadly, we've been driving in reverse: For the past five years, U.S. gasoline consumption has increased by 1.4 percent annually, and diesel by 3.6 percent.

The rush to biofuels is putting the squeeze on wildlife. Nearly 40 million acres of farmland are currently idled under the federal Conservation Reserve Program, which seeks to reduce soil erosion, improve water quality, and provide habitat. The Bush administration has proposed that land set aside under the program be converted to fuel production ...

The answer is to think of it more as a global issue and an engineering issue instead of a political one. We need to stop thinking we can just trade kissing the ass of big oil for kissing the ass of companies like ADM and Monsanto. Ethanol can be part of the answer if done in the right way:

The best sources of biomass for fuel are waste products and native perennial grasses, which provide more usable energy per acre than corn ethanol or soybean diesel. In fact, says a report by the University of Minnesota, fuels made from native plants can actually be "carbon negative," because they store excess carbon dioxide in their roots and the surrounding soil, reducing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

But here's the kicker, and why I am against corn-based ethanol as the whole answer -- It's raising the cost of my beer:

Here's where some get off the biofuel bus: It's raising the price of beer. In Germany, subsidies for corn and rapeseed production are squeezing production of barley--an important ingredient in the national beverage. The effects of higher barley prices are starting to appear at the tap. The price of a liter mug of beer at this year's Oktoberfest, for example, will be up by 5.5 percent.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Loaded Questions

Oh, I long for the day when I don't have to have the kind of exchanges that I had today ...

New client - mom of a chiropractor that's one of my clients. Nice nondescript house. Maybe just a few too many bibles lying around (like maybe 50 too many) but otherwise normal. Then I get into their home office. This is on the wall:

Two cheesy photos with real authentic faux signatures. Nice. Be afraid when someone considers it a point of pride to have given money to George Bush.

Fast-forward about 15 minutes. Everything's going normal. Just fixing their computer. Then the lady comes back in the room and asks me some computer questions. She says that she heard on FOX News that terrorists could bring all the world's computer down at once. Trying not to sound too sarcastic, I comment that that sounds like something that you would hear on FOX. And then I try to soften my disdain by going into an honest discussion of the security of PC's, networks, the Internet, etc.

Next, she talks about some anti-spyware program. She says that it was endorsed by Michael Savage and asked me what I thought about him. I did say, "I'm not a fan" but I wanted to say, "He's a fucking clueless, racist, religiously bigoted hypocrite" who says stupid things like:

"I don't like a woman married to a woman. It makes me want to puke...I want to vomit when I hear it. I think it's child abuse."

... and speculated that Democrats had messed with Supreme Court justice John Roberts' health, causing his seizure.

Some days it's real hard to keep my mouth shut.

Apparently, this is what conservative commentators have been reduced to -- corporate pimps. I'd commented on that very same point back in January, talking about Michael Medved. They must be getting kickbacks.

If I were religious, seeing what so-called "Christians" really value would probably cause me to lose my faith. And if I were a Conservative, seeing how idealism is bought and sold for convenience, I'd give that up too. Kinda makes you wonder if anybody really believes in anything any more.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Arizona Science Center - Global Awareness Day - 500th post!

It's been about 2.5 years of semi-regular blogging and today I've hit my 500th post. A lot of you have been here from very early on. Thanks for continuing to visit even when my posting has gotten a little sporadic or uninspired.

This last weekend saw us visit the Global Awareness Day at the Arizona Science Center. The Arizona Science Center is an interactive science center intended to educate people (mostly kids) about science. We're members there and I had gotten an e-mail flyer advertising the awareness day. I knew it would be a great opportunity for Alex to get exposed to a lot of environmental groups that Michelle and I already knew about but that he wouldn't have. He loved it. We practically had to drag him from each exhibit. The obvious ones like the Sierra Club were there, but smaller groups that I hadn't even heard about like the Southwest Wildlife Rehabilitation and Educational Foundation were also there. There were very nice and have a cool mission:

Southwest Wildlife Rehabilitation and Educational Foundation is a non-profit organization that specializes in rescuing and rehabilitating injured and orphaned wildlife native to the southwest, educating today's youth on the importance of native wildlife and the environment, and encouraging educational career opportunities in environmental science.

There was also some representatives from the Light Rail that is being built in downtown Phoenix. It's set to be operational by the end of '08. It's an idea long overdue in the Valley and I think one that will succeed -- even in a place where idiots are way too in love with cars.

I think the booth that we liked the most was the company, a.k.a Green. It's an eco-friendly building supply center in Scottsdale. Some of the cooler things we saw there were cork and bamboo flooring. But the one we liked the most was countertops made with recycled glass, like these, Enviroglas

I was all trying to show my enviro cred on this day, wearing my Urban Outfitters' global warming ... it's not cool t-shirt and chatting up anybody that would listen (and even those who wouldn't) about going on a Sierra Club service trip. I'm sure all these people who are living a green lifestyle every day of their lives and making a true difference with little fanfare thought I was just some lame yuppie with a guilty conscience. And they'd be right.

But shit's going on and I'm looking to blow up my comfortable, staid little suburban existence. Stay tuned.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Fountain / Pan's Labrynth

In the last couple of weeks I had the chance to watch two very good films, Pan's Labrynth and The Fountain. Alike in many ways, most notably:

- both explore the nature of life and death
- both are like paintings - beautiful and surreal with little dialogue
- both are imaginative -- you are not sure what is real and what isn't
- both have their protagonists escaping into an imaginary world (or is it?) to escape a reality that they have a hard time coping with

To my surprise, I actually liked The Fountain more. That's not to say that Pan's Labrynth wasn't good. It was. But the Fountain just seemed to affect me more.

Without giving to much away, the "fountain" is the Fountain of Youth. The main character Thomas discovers it and either lives a thousand years, or is reincarnated several times or maybe none of the above. Maybe it all is just a metaphor for life and death and what is important in life. It doesn't matter. Through the passage of time, he has to cope with the illness and loss of his wife. It's how he handles this that propels the story.

Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz seem perfectly cast. I always seem to like Weisz in anything she is in. Jackman is incrediby versatile.

The special effects are great but unlike normal sci-fi action pics (Star Wars type movies), it is more for the story than just for the sake of special effects.

If you take it as straight sci-fi, it works. If you take it a romance, it works. If you take it as an artistic representation of the fleeting nature of life, it works.

Pan's Labrynth finds a little girl escaping the grotesque and violent world of World War II era fascist Spain by creating her own fantasy world. This is a world of fantastic creatures and dangerous quests.

Pan's Labrynth succeeds because the transition between fantasy and reality is seemless and not forced. The look of it is is stunning. Del Toro is of the great trio of Mexican directors (Cuaron (Children of Men) and Inarritu (Babel) being the other two). Cuaron is one of the producers of this film.

While being of the world of fantasy films like LOTR and Narnia, it is very much for a different audience. The level and nature of the violence is shocking and this movie is definitely for adults.

I did like Pan's Labrynth but my viewing of it perhaps suffered because I had been told by so many people and critics that it was great. By the same token, I was pleasantly surprised by the Fountain because I hadn't heard a lot about it. Regardless, both of these directors seem to understand that film is an art form and not just a means of making money (a concept lost on a large portion of Hollywood).

I recommend both these films:

Pan's Labrynth Grade: B
The Fountain Grade: A-

"You can shed tears that she is gone,
or you can smile because she has lived.
You can close your eyes and pray that she'll come back,
or you can open your eyes and see all she's left.
Your heart can be empty because you can't see her,
or you can be full of the love you shared.
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday,
or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember her only that she is gone,
or you can cherish her memory and let it live on.
You can cry and close your mind,
be empty and turn your back.
Or you can do what she'd want:
smile, open your eyes, love and go on." -- British poet David Harkins

Monday, August 13, 2007


I feel sorry for anyone that had to witness the most disingenuous, the most delusional, the most pathetic resignation speech of all time today by "Turd Blossom", Karl Rove:

"I'm grateful to have been a witness to history. It has been the joy and the honor of a lifetime," said Rove, his voice quivering at times.

Excuse me while I get sick. Infamy may be the more appropriate word. History will mark your time here but not in a good way. Your legacy will be a level of partisanship and divisiveness unlike any in this country's history. A so-called "boy genius" who leaves a lame duck president with an unwinnable war and a Democratic majority in Congress. Have you gotten "joy" out of over 3,500 American deaths and 50,000+ Iraqi civilian deaths?

"But now is the time. ... At month's end," Rove said, "I will join those whom you meet in your travels, the ordinary Americans who tell you they are praying for you."

They are praying for you because they feel you'll need it. You've got a one-way ticket to hell after selling your soul many times over.

Good bye, Karl. Hopefully we'll not have to listen to any more of your brilliant quips:

"As people do better, they start voting like Republicans - unless they have too much education and vote Democratic, which proves there can be too much of a good thing."

"We will f**k him. Do you hear me? We will f**k him. We will ruin him. Like no one has ever f**ked him." -to an aide about some political stratagem in some state that had gone awry and a political operative who had displeased him.

"The human capacity for self-delusion is boundless, and the effects of belief are overpowering." -- Michael Shermer

Sunday, August 12, 2007


Just in case you needed another reason to hate Wal-Mart (I already had plenty), check out Shrimplate's post on abandoned Wal-Mart stores:

Flip That Box

Friday, August 10, 2007

Movie Reviews

Bourne Ultimatum - Don't go into a Paul Greengrass movie if you just ate. I heard Matt Damon quip on the Daily Show that apparently the director has never heard of a steady-cam. I can attest to that. This is two hours of full-bore, globe-hopping, hand-held camera, little dialogue, action. And it's all glued together with a script that they made up as they went along. Most would think that was probably a recipe for a disaster of a movie. But it's anything but.

Jason Bourne continues his trek to discover who he really is and it leads him to America and the CIA. Continuing with the great character actors of the previous movies (Chris Cooper, Brian Cox, Joan Allen), David Strathairn, Scott Glenn and Albert Finney are added to the mix. Julia Stiles has a larger role and has a scene that evokes the memory of his lost love from the first two movies (Franka Potente) ... and believe me, that's a good thing. I wish I could see Franka in more stuff. Run Lola Run is fantastic.

The scenery, the chase scenes, and fighting action are all first-rate and the snapshot of the inner workings of espionage are very interesting.

This movie "supposedly" ties up the trilogy and there are no plans for more movies, but without giving too much away, it definitely leaves the door open should they change their minds. Considering how much money this is making, I'm sure they will. Grade: B+

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - Despite my accelerated reading schedule so as to read this book by the time the movie came out, I didn't catch up. I read books 2 through 4 in a couple of weeks but had just started Order of the Phoenix when we saw the movie. I had heard indications that this was the shortest movie from the longest book. But, as I said, I hadn't read it yet, so I couldn't be upset by where the biggest cuts were made. My feeling is that there were probably cuts for a good reason. Order of the Phoenix is usually rated as Rowling's poorest (just in comparison) and it's length certainly would make for an unwieldy movie. But the movie that was made certainly doesn't drag. It's dark and it movies fairly quickly. Not a lot of the cutesy, joking around banter of the previous movies. Now that I'm almost done with the book, I can see why. It's pretty dark and Harry Potter is pretty tortured throughout.

If you are not a Harry Potter movie fan or haven't read the books, this movie will probably not be your cup of tea. But, that's OK. You can't reintroduce every character and recap the entire previous movies every time you make one of these. These are movies made for fans. And by the box office of each, that's good enough. The movie (as does the book) does a good job of setting up the books and movies that follow. It's not about your mid-term exams and Hogwarts any more. It's about the end of the free world!

The great British acting talent of these movies (Rickman, Emma Thompson, Gambon, Maggie Smith, Oldman, Gleeson, etc.) is augmented by Helena Bonham Carter. One minor quibble, and this is probably more a criticism of Rowling, is that it seems silly that every book is really about a fight with Voldermort. It's done 7 times and all of us fans keep coming back to drink at the trough. That's like Luke Skywalker fighting Darth Vader in 7 straight movies. Grade: B

Transformers - I find it odd to say so, but those things which are most annoying about Michael Bay's other films -- stylized action, overwrought dialog, corniness, and just a general over-the-top quality -- actually work in this film. Despite my better judgement, I liked Transformers. Shia Lebouf is very likable. And you'll have to forgive my being a male for a second, but the females in this one are very pleasing to the eye. And they're not helpless victim types.

There is very little plot and various holes in the plot there is. But the action and special effects are great and the dialogue is just silly and funny enough to keep you interested in a Terminator-corny-lines sorta way.

I wasn't a huge Transformers fan when I was growing up but I do remember my brother and myself watching most of the episodes. This movie isn't as lame as they were. It's a popcorn movie and I'm OK with that. I certainly wasn't bored. Grade: B-

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Arkansas couple welcome their 17th child

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (AP) -- It's a girl -- again -- for Jim Bob and Michelle Duggars, the proud parents of 17 children.

And after Jennifer Danielle was born Thursday morning, her parents already were talking about having more children.

"We'd love to have more," Michelle Duggar said, adding that the girls are outnumbered seven to 10 in the family. "We love the ruffles and lace."

The family's home in the northwest Arkansas town of Tontitown includes dormitory-style bedrooms for the boys and girls, nine bathrooms, a commercial kitchen, four washing machines and four dryers.

The children are home-schooled by Michelle Duggar, 40. The oldest is 19 and the youngest, before Jennifer, is almost 2 years old. The family includes two sets of twins.

"We are just so grateful to God for another gift from him," said Jim Bob Duggar, 42, a former state representative who sells real estate. "We are just so thankful to him that everything went just very well."

All of Jennifer's siblings also have names that start with J. They are: Joshua, 19; John David, 17; Janna, 17; Jill, 16; Jessa, 14; Jinger, 13; Joseph, 12; Josiah, 11; Joy-Anna, 9; Jedidiah, 8; Jeremiah, 8; Jason 7; James 6; Justin, 4; Jackson, 3; Johannah, almost 2.

The Duggars have been featured on several programs on cable's Discovery Health Network.

Among the "fun facts" listed on Discovery Health's Web page devoted to the Duggars: A baby has been born in every month except June; the family has gone through about 90,000 diapers, and Michelle Duggar has been pregnant for 126 months -- or 10.5 years -- of her life.

Two important tidbits:

- home-schooled

- this quote: "We are just so grateful to God for another gift from him"

See, the Duggars are "conservative fundamentalist Christians" and adherents to the Quiverfull movement whose "distinguishing viewpoint is to eagerly receive children as blessings from God, eschewing all forms of contraception, including natural family planning and sterilization." (from Wikipedia).

Apparently, if you cannot create an evangelical Republican majority in America by the strength of your beliefs and the power of persuasion, you can just breed yourself one. It's an unfortunate fact of life - progressives, because of their understanding of the strain we are putting on our planet, are less likely to have a lot of children than are those on the Right. We are shooting ourselves in the foot. Of course, just because children are born into a fundamentalist (or progressive) family doesn't mean that they will always grow up to have their parents' beliefs. But, there is a high probability.

Just as I said in yesterday's post, sometimes the absurdity of your beliefs is the single best argument against their widespread adoption. All hail the Duggars, poster family for sterilization (I'm only half-kidding)!

"Those who in principle oppose birth control are either incapable of arithmetic or else in favor of war, pestilence and famine as permanent features of human life." -- Bertrand Russell

N.H. Republican fundraiser to feature machine guns

"I don't have to be careful, I've got a gun." -- Homer Simpson

"The end move in politics is always to pick up a gun." -- Richard Buckminster Fuller

From Reuters:

BOSTON (Reuters) - A planned Republican fundraiser in New Hampshire aims to promote gun ownership in America by letting supporters fire powerful military-style weapons -- from Uzi submachine guns to M-16 rifles.

The Manchester Republican Committee is inviting party members and their families to a "Machine Gun Shoot" where, for $25, supporters can spend a day trying out automatic weapons, said organizer Jerry Thibodeau.

"It's a fun day. It's a family day," said Thibodeau of the August 5 event. "It's quite exciting."

Local Democrats say the event is in poor taste amid a spike in violent crime in Manchester and seeks to glorify the use of machine guns for political gain. The right to own guns has come under heightened scrutiny since the April shooting at Virginia Tech where a gunman killed 32 people.

"It is downright offensive," Chris Pappas, the Manchester Democratic party chairman, told the Union Leader newspaper.

Thibodeau said he invited all the Republican candidates in the 2008 presidential race to the event at Pelham Fish and Game Club outside of Manchester, the state's largest city, but he said they declined. He said all shooters would undergo training.

Buying a gun in New Hampshire, whose official motto is "Live Free or Die," is relatively easy.

The state does not require buyers to obtain a handgun license or undergo safety training before buying a handgun, according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, a gun-control lobby group.

Nothing says family fun quite like shooting a machine gun.

It's fairly redundant to even criticize these organizers (or attendees). They are their own worst advocates. They're practically walking billboards for gun control.

And don't tell me it's about liberty. It's about power and politics.

"Force and mind are opposites; morality ends where a gun begins." -- Ayn Rand

"People are bringing shotguns to UFO sightings in Fife, Alabama. I asked a guy, "Why do you bring a gun to a UFO sighting?" Guy said, "Way-ul, we didn' wanna be ab-duc-ted." If I lived in Fife, Alabama, I would be on my hands and knees every night praying for abduction." -- Bill Hicks