Friday, February 23, 2007

Don't be gay, Spark!

A billboard advertising the Phoenix conference (Photo Credit: Daniel Greene)

Yay. Phoenix was lucky enough to host the latest "gay conversion" conference recently, Love Won Out, sponsored by ... you guessed it, Focus on the Family. Now, it would be way too easy to make fun of them for having a conference like this. But just because something is easy doesn't mean we shouldn't do it anyway.

I feel a South Park episode coming on:
Stan: Now, don't be gay! Don't be gay, Spark! Don't be gay!

Mr. Garrison: Gay people, well, gay people are EVIL, evil right down to their cold black hearts which pump not blood like yours or mine, but rather a thick, vomitous oil that oozes through their rotten veins and clots in their pea-sized brains which becomes the cause of their Nazi-esque patterns of violent behavior. Do you understand?

Jesus: A lot of people have asked for my position on homosexuality, and I would like to set the record straight, once and for all.
Voice-over: We interrupt Jesus and Pals for this commercial break!

I heard about the conference on our local NPR affiliate. In addition to the conference, it was announced that Pastor Ted, Ted Haggard, was thinking of relocating to Phoenix after his successful "conversion".

Those associated with the conference seem to be taking great pains to stress that you can't force someone to change and that is needs to be a personal choice to change. But the immersion type therapy that Haggard went through after falling from grace tells me something different. If you listen to the NPR broadcast, you hear a California family interviewed. They are evangelical and they have a 16 year old gay son. They see the conference as an opportunity for him to see God's way. They obviously feel something is wrong with him or they wouldn't have brought him. He, rightly so, doesn't feel there is anything wrong with himself. Who would you say has the healthier attitude? Homosexuality isn't something to be cured. Do you see the gay community having conferences with seminars to help cure heterosexuals?

For a spirited discussion on religion and homosexuality, check out Sadie's recent Killer Post series.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Police

Woo-hoo!! I got tickets to the June 18th Police concert in Phoenix. I rule.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


First of all, I'm going to get the stuff out of the way that really has nothing to do with how good the movie is ... but it sure adds to the overall enjoyment of the experience. To wit, one of the all-time best places to watch a movie: at a movie theater in a casino. We were in Laughlin, NV this weekend and late one night I took in a movie by myself at the Riverside. And why is that a good place to watch a movie, you may ask? Well, with your nachos and Junior Mints, you can buy a tall frosty beer. Even the worst movie looks better when you are sipping 24 oz of lager. But with a very good movie, it makes it into the perfect experience. For example, with a movie like Breach.

Breach is in the vein of true spy thrillers like The Falcon and the Snowman, with Sean Penn and Timoty Hutton. It chronicles how FBI upstart Eric O'Neill helped to bring his boss, Robert Hanssen, an agent who was ultimately convicted of selling secrets to the Soviet Union, to justice. I love spy stories, both fictional and otherwise. I've read many accounts of real operatives and this story rings true.

The cast is very good. Ryan Phillipe is suprisingly effective as the young FBI agent charged with investigating his superior. With movies like this and Crash, Phillipe has done a very good job of casting off the petulant teenager image that I had of him from movies like Cruel Intentions. Chris Cooper is even more effective, not suprisingly, as the convicted spy, Robert Hannsen. The role is a lot like the one he had in The Bourne Identity. Chris Cooper rarely has a bad performance. Laura Linney is also very good.

The movie does a good job of not just portraying Hannsen as a villain. It gives you glimpses into the possible motivations for his betrayel. Phillipe's character while coming to understand how much damage Hannsen had done, also begrudgingly respects him because of his maverick attitude.

It is very intelligent (not dumbed-down) and doesn't get caught up in intrigue that rarely happens in real espionage (car chases, gun battles). Real espionage is more about the details, the routine.

The colors and the cinematography are muted, evoking the drab, gray and white image that one would have of Washington D.C. government offices in the fall. Surely spies must spy on bright days too, but sunny 80 degree days don't quite fit how we imagine it.

Breach is well-crafted and well-paced, not running too long and successfully maintains your interest. I'd recommend it. Grade: B+

Friday, February 16, 2007

VNSA Book Sale

Here are the highlights of the books that I picked up at this year's VNSA Used Book Sale -- 50 years of selling gobs of used books to benefit local charities (AZ Friends of Foster Children, Literacy Volunteers of Maricopa Country, and Toby House:


The Light of Other Days by Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter
Half-Life by Hal Clement
Deus Irae by Philip K. Dick and Roger Zelazny
Schild's Ladder by Greg Egan
(The Lathe of Heaven, The Dispossessed, The Wind's Twelve Quarters) & The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Science Non-Fiction

Dinosaur in a Haystack
The Mismeasure of Man
Questioning the Millenium
Wonderful Life
all by Stephen Jay Gould
From Lucy to Languange by Donald Johanson and Blake Edgar
Abusing Science - The Case Against Creationism by Philip Kitcher
The Demon-Haunted World - Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan
Comet by Carl Sagan and Anne Druyan


An Hour Before Daylight
Keeping Faith
Turning Point

all by Jimmy Carter
Boy Genius (Karl Rove) by Lou Dubose


Twilight of the Idols - The Anti-Christ by Nietzsche
The Conquest of Happiness by Bertrand Russell
Silent Bob Speaks - The Collected Writings of Kevin Smith
also, several books on oriental rugs, art, and a textbook on film

Norah Jones -- "My Dear Country"

I bought my wife the latest Norah Jones disk for Valentine's Day. I was pleased to see that she was not afraid to address current events. My Political Song of the Day:

'twas halloween and the ghosts were out,
and everywhere they'd go, they shout,
and though i covered my eyes i knew,
they'd go away.

but fear's the only thing i saw,
and three days later 'twas clear to all,
that nothing is as scary as election day.

but the day after is darker,
and darker and darker it goes,
who knows, maybe the plans will change,
who knows, maybe he's not deranged.

the news men know what they know, but they,
know even less than what they say,
and i don't know who i can trust,
for they come what may.

'cause we believed in our candidate,
but even more it's the one we hate,
i needed someone i could shake,
on election day.

but the day after is darker,
and deeper and deeper we go,
who knows, maybe it's all a dream,
who knows if i'll wake up and scream.

i love the things that you've given me,
i cherish you my dear country,
but sometimes i don't understand,
the way we play.

i love the things that you've given me,
and most of all that i am free,
to have a song that i can sing,
on election day.

I especially like the last two groups of lyrics. They are a gentle reminder that appreciating the freedoms we enjoy in this country doesn't mean rubberstamping anything our leader says. It means actually exercising those freedoms when we see wrongs being done.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


I'm asking forgiveness for this one in advance ... but I couldn't help myself. Sadie posted the following excerpt from the bible (in an unrelated post):

These six things the LORD hates,
Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:
Proverbs 6:17
A proud look,
A lying tongue,
Hands that shed innocent blood,
Proverbs 6:18
A heart that devises wicked plans,
Feet that are swift in running to evil,
Proverbs 6:19
A false witness who speaks lies,
And one who sows discord among brethren.

Her posting was in a completely different context than I am submitting, but I didn't think my observation was relevant to her discussion and I didn't want to derail it since I'm very proud of her effort over there (a very intelligent, polite discussion on religion).

In any event, I am posting this because I believe someone that we all know very well and who claims to be very godly has violated every single one of these in spades. I found it humorous, ironic and sad all at the same time.

Monday, February 12, 2007


Kudos to the Dixie Chicks for cleaning up at the Grammy's last night.

From the NY Times:

... To some, the voting served not only as a referendum on President Bush’s handling of the Iraq war, but also on what was perceived as country music’s rejection — and radio’s censorship — of the trio.

... the academy represents “the artist community, which was very angry at what radio did, because it was not very American.”

At the awards on Sunday, the band — Natalie Maines, Martie Maguire and Emily Robison — swept all five of the Grammy categories in which it was nominated, including the top three — album, record and song of the year — the first time all three have been swept in 14 years.

The awards amounted to vindication for the Dixie Chicks, who found their career sidetracked in 2003 after the singer Ms. Maines told a London concert audience shortly before the invasion of Iraq that the band was “ashamed” that the president hailed from their home state, Texas. In the furor that followed, country radio programmers pulled the multiplatinum-selling trio’s music from the airwaves and rallied listeners to destroy their CDs.

The storm flared anew last year when the Dixie Chicks released the album “Taking the Long Way,” which included the single “Not Ready to Make Nice,” a defiant and bitter response to the group’s treatment. And things got worse when band members said in interviews that they were not interested in being part of the commercial country music business; Ms. Maguire, who plays the fiddle, said the group would rather have fans “who get it” instead of “people that have us in their five-disc changer with Reba McEntire and Toby Keith.” Country stations once again all but ignored the Dixie Chicks’ music.

The sweep reflected something of a retort to the Country Music Association’s annual awards, held in November, when the Dixie Chicks were shut out.

In an oddly fitting tribute to their moxie and to the the feelings of a large percentage of the country, one of our local heavy rock radio DJ's here in Phoenix said on the air how much he admired the Dixie Chicks and was glad they had won. In the world of entertainment and sports, where people will say something one day, and then recant the next day or where everything is filtered through publicists and corporate boards -- the Dixie Chicks stood up for what they believed in and never backed down even when a huge shitstorm threatened to bury them forever. In the typically homogenized and jingoistic world of Nashville and country music, that is saying something. Their music may sound country, but their attitude is pure rock-n-roll.

How apropos that Joan Baez introduced their performance last night. She knows just a little bit about politics and catching hell.

Not Ready to Make Nice


Also, the Police ruled!!


And something that I never thought would happen, they are actually going to tour:

The Police announce plans for reunion tour

They are hitting both Phoenix and Vegas, so I'm going to try and get tickets for both shows. Money is no object. I'd do anything to catch these shows.

Saturday, February 10, 2007


I was all set to write a post on how good a time we had at the big VNSA Used Book Sale that we go to each year. But that was before we came home from the sale to find our pug, Duchess, listless and laboring to breathe. We rushed her to the vet, but looking in her eyes on the way, it was like a light had been switched off. Even before we got to the animal hospital, I think we both knew it was too late. The vet said it was most likely some kind of autoimmune disorder that finally just hit some threshold that sent her over the edge. We'll never know. Whatever had happened was not reversible and we had to have her put down. She couldn't breathe on her own any more and had lapsed into a coma.

I can hardly even write about it. But I just wanted to say something about what she meant to us. She was our "baby" before we had Alex. Her time with us spanned over half our marriage and the entire life of our son.

We took her on vacations or would have friends and family watch her. We never boarded her even when we went on vacation because were afraid of what she would think. We had adopted her from the Arizona Humane Society and we thought it might bring back memories if we put her in a kennel. Silly, I know. But she was people to us.

She got along great with other dogs (that's her best friend, Tasia) and with kids. We weren't sure how she'd react when we had Alex but she was nothing but loving and protecting from the very beginning. They were best buds and have always gotten along great.

It's obviously not on the level of a relative or close friend dying. But after having Duchess for 7 years, it's damn close. When a pet gets up to 10 years or so, you know that their days are numbered but it still comes as a shock. And usually there is a gradual deterioration. This was sudden. We're not sure what happened. Last night she was normal ... today, this.

I'll miss the way such a small dog could take up half the bed and steal all the covers. I'll miss the way she worked so hard to train us over the years. She would go and stare at her food bowl at 8:00 and 5:00 every day until you fed her. She was like clockwork. I'll miss the way she greeted us when we would get home each day with the kind of unconditional love that you could only dream of from most humans.

I can't even think about getting another dog at this point. I'm sure we will, but right now the pain is too acute.

Thursday, February 08, 2007


We were lucky enough to check out the Bodyworlds 3 exhibit at the Arizona Science Center last night. For those of you who haven't heard of it, it's a traveling exhibition of real bodies that have been preserved through the process of Plastination. They are posed in creative and artistic poses and show various parts of the body. It's very cool and educational and despite how some newscasters portrayed it, it didn't gross me out at all. It prompted a lot of questions by Alex and I think it was a great learning experience for him.

Seeing real organs and muscles outside the confines of a flat textbook and seeing cross-sections of diseased organs allows a person to visualize much easier the effects of smoking and drinking.

Religious or not, what do you think about the sanctity of the human body after death? Is it desecration? The people whose bodies were preserved knowingly donated them for the very purpose. When I told my mom that we had went, I got a funny (odd) response. She's not religious at all and considers herself an agnostic/atheist but she said that she probably couldn't go to a show like that because she just gets an odd feeling around dead bodies. Almost like she senses an aura or force. She's probably just nutty (and I would know) but is there any truth to that? Could there be a presence unique to a person that isn't necessarily tied to religion? I don't think so, but what do I know?

"We all die. The goal isn't to live forever, the goal is to create something that will." -- Chuck Palahniuk (author of Fight Club)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

On Calling Bullshit

by Dan Froomkin
from Common Dreams

Mainstream-media political journalism is in danger of becoming increasingly irrelevant, but not because of the Internet, or even Comedy Central. The threat comes from inside. It comes from journalists being afraid to do what journalists were put on this green earth to do.

What is it about Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert that makes them so refreshing and attractive to a wide variety of viewers (including those so-important younger ones)? I would argue that, more than anything else, it is that they enthusiastically call bullshit.

Calling bullshit, of course, used to be central to journalism as well as to comedy. And we happen to be in a period in our history in which the substance in question is running particularly deep. The relentless spinning is enough to make anyone dizzy, and some of our most important political battles are about competing views of reality more than they are about policy choices. Calling bullshit has never been more vital to our democracy.

... increased corporate stultification of our industry, to the point where rocking the boat is seen as threatening rather than invigorating. There’s the intense pressure to maintain access to insider sources, even as those sources become ridiculously unrevealing and oversensitive. There’s the fear of being labeled partisan if one’s bullshit-calling isn’t meted out in precisely equal increments along the political spectrum.

The return of Democrats to political power and relevancy gives us the opportunity to call bullshit in a more bipartisan manner, which is certainly healthy. But there are different kinds of bullshit. Republican political leaders these past six years have built up a massive, unprecedented credibility deficit, such that even their most straightforward assertions invite close bullshit inspection. By contrast, Democratic bullshit tends to center more around hypocrisy and political cowardice. Trying to find equivalency between the two would still be a mistake – and could lead to catty, inside-baseball gotcha journalism rather than genuine bullshit-calling.

If mainstream-media political journalists don’t start calling bullshit more often, then we do risk losing our primacy — if not to the comedians then to the bloggers.

... Because the Internet so values calling bullshit, you are sitting on an as-yet largely untapped gold mine. I still believe that no one is fundamentally more capable of first-rate bullshit-calling than a well-informed beat reporter - whatever their beat...

That's the deal now days. If I want to get the straight scoop, I have to read a lot of sources and find my own truth. Plus there are some outside of the MSM (Stewart, Colbert, Olbermann) that are pretty good at calling bullshit. The problem with FOX News to a great extent and CNN, MSNBC and the networks to a lesser extent is that they have few people that are the slightest bit interested in cutting through all the spin. They are more interested in staying inside the circle and not losing their access. And with FOX, it's not just about not calling bullshit ... it's about actively creating new BS.

I'm not looking for something that is slanted a particular way. I lean left but I'm not interested in journalism that won't call the hypocrisy on both sides. Chuck Hagel may be a Republican but he deserves credit for his honest stance on the war. Joe Biden may be a Democrat but he deserves every bit of the guff that he is getting for the patronizing, borderline racist comments that he made about Barack Obama.

Maybe it's all a moot point. Nobody in my generation goes to the TV to get informed ... unless they have already been brainwashed. I do have some acquaintances that get their line from Hannity and O'Reilly first and then go to Newsmax or The Drudge Report. But it's all extremely incestuous. Each cites the other as a source. The consumer thinks he has two sources, but he really is just seeing two groups pushing the same bullshit info.

It's all enough to make one's head hurt. So, I do not watch any TV news. I will pop the TV on and watch CNN or MSNBC if something major has happened. Usually in the heat of the moment, news organizations haven't had enough time to develop a spin and they inadvertently tell the truth (for ex. Anderson Cooper during Katrina). But give them enough time to be tainted by politicians or by their corporate overlords and the news will be pointless. So, screw them. My CNN is Laura, Cyberkitten, Great White Bear, Jewish Atheist, etc. You are my bullshit detectors.

"Develop a built-in bullshit detector." -- Ernest Hemingway

Sunday, February 04, 2007