Thursday, March 31, 2005

Chicken

It's a fascinating paper. I wish I had read it before I tried to embalm that chicken.

Conservative Judge Says Prez and Congress Overstepped Authority

Did ya hear? JL Edmondson, the most conservative federal judge in the country, ripped both the President and Congress for overstepping their respective authority. It's true! The same Uber-Conservative who ruled that it was okay to make sex toys illegal in alabama, wrote this opinion (PDF format) on Congress' actions in the Schiavo case. Some choice bits (lots of cutting, all emphasis mine):
An axiom in the study of law is that "hard facts make bad law." The tragic events that have afflicted Mrs. Schiavo and that have been compounded by the resulting passionate inter-family struggle and media focus certainly qualify as "hard facts." And, while the members of her family and the members of Congress have acted in a way that is both fervent and sincere, the time has come for dispassionate discharge of duty. A popular epithet directed by some members of society, including some members of Congress, toward the judiciary involves the denunciation of "activist judges." Generally, the definition of an "activist judge" is one who decides the outcome of a controversy before him according to personal conviction, even one sincerely held, as opposed to the dictates of the law as constrained by legal precedent and, ultimately, our Constitution. In resolving the Schiavo controversy it is my judgment that, despite sincere and altruistic motivation, the legislative and executive branches of our government have acted in a manner demonstrably at odds with our Founding Fathers’ blueprint for the governance of a free people -- our Constitution. Since I have sworn, as have they, to uphold and defend that Covenant, I must respectfully concur in the denial of the request for rehearing en banc.
And:
It is axiomatic that the Framers established a constitutional design based on the principles of separation of powers... (noting that separation of powers is one of the governmental principles “on which the whole American fabric has been erected”). The Framers established three coequal but separate branches of government, each with the ability to exercise checks and balances on the two others. And to preserve this dynamic, the “Constitution mandates that ‘each of the three general departments of government [must remain] entirely free from the control or coercive influence, direct or indirect, of either of the others.’” Mistretta v. United States ... (1989) ... Because of the important constitutional role assigned to the judiciary by the Framers in safeguarding the Constitution and the rights of individuals, see Federalist No. 78 (A. Hamilton), the execution of this constitutional mandate is particularly important when legislative acts encroach upon the independence of the judiciary. ...(citing Federalist No. 48 for the proposition that the Framers enshrined in the Constitution separation of powers principles because of past legislative interference with the judiciary); Northern Pipeline Co. v. Marathon Pipeline Co., 458 ... (1982) (“[T]he independence of the judiciary [must] be jealously guarded.”). Accordingly, we risk imperiling our constitutional design if we do not inquire as to whether Pub. L. 109-3 infringes on the independence of the judiciary guaranteed by Article III of the United States Constitution.
And the payoff:
...while Congress may grant jurisdiction to a federal court consistent with [this Act], it may not “assume[] a function that more properly is entrusted to” the judiciary... By arrogating vital judicial functions to itself in the passage of the provisions of [this Act], Congress violated core constitutional separation principles, it prescribed a “rule of decision” and acted unconstitutionally.
If you want to read all 30 pages yourself, you can find it here.

Some People Should Not Have Pets

(Or access to the Internet, but that is another topic for another time.) Witness this and this. I really don't have more to say on the matter.

Resource Update

The list of Living Will and End of Life resources has been updated. If you have not started working on your own plans yet -- and, really, what's stopping ya?? -- be certain to click the linky and check out the compiled info.

My Birthday is Coming Up

And if you're really pressed for a gift, I would love to have one of these:
The Manhattan! Only from CasketFurniture.com -- Go on ... click it!
Granted, it has three strikes against it: It's expensive, I have absolutely no room for such a thing in my house, and my lovely wife would simply hate it. But would you just look at it. I mean really look at it. You have to admit: The Manhattan Casket Pool Table is truly a thing of beauty!
Thanks to Georg at Running Scared.

Terri Shiavo-Palooza-Thon is Over

As reported by Newsday, Terri Shiavo has died at the ripe old age of 41. Perhaps the media hype is over and she can truly get some rest now. Then again, who knows how long it will take before folks and politicos stop crusading in her name? Well, if they are still "hungry" for debate in this area, there is still the Pope's feeding tube to fall back on. I don't mean to sound cold -- well, actually I do mean to sound cold. Remember, this whole situation should have been a family issue -- not a political showdown. And it would have remained in the family if Terri had bothered with a Living Will. I doubt her parents would have honored such a document, they seemed so hell-bent on hanging on to her, no matter what her condition. But in a (hypothetically) normal situation, the document could have alleviated several headaches, maintained some semblance of peace within the family, and kept Terri from becoming a poster child.

Quotable

Only our own searching for happiness prevents us from seeing it. It is like a vivid rainbow which you pursue without ever catching it, or a dog chasing its own tail. Although peace and happiness do not exist as an actual thing or place, they are always available, and accompany you every instant.

-- Lama Gendun Rinpoche (1918 - 1997)

Lama Gendun Rinpoche was the meditation master and spiritual director of Dhagpo Kagyu Ling, which he founded in France in 1975. Rejoicing in Merit -- though brief -- contains some of his key teachings.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Hadag Nachash: Bumper Stickers Make Great Lyrics

From NPR's The World ... Their name is Hadag Nachash, a nonsensical Hebrew phrase that literally means "Snakefish." But they are using it in another sense:
It's also a play on the term in Israel for a newly licensed driver, someone just entering the gladiatorial combat of Israeli streets. And that, says Hadag Nachash front man Shanaan Street, is how he feels. "There's all these cultures and they're all thrown into a country where busses explode and you can't finish the month with the salary you make. It's small, it's tense and it's multicultural."
This Israeli hip-hop act plays its own instruments and has taken their country by storm. Already this year, they've nabbed "Band of the Year" and "Song of the Year" awards at the Israeli version of the Grammys. And their biggest song is -- get this -- a mix of bumper sticker slogans. Israeli bumper stickers, no less.
Shanaan Street: "Our life consists of all these stickers at very high volume all the time every day. And that's the problem as I see it, you know. Of course I agree with some and hate others, but the real problem is that we're living at maximum capacity all the time."
It's worth a listen, unless you hate hip-hop or confine your musical experience to only bands that sing in English (or some version thereof). Full Story at THE WORLD: PostScript: This entry's title is something of a nod to Groovelily's "Screwed Up People Make Great Art" from their latest release, Striking 12.It's track #28 (Windows Media) if you want to check it out -- and I know you do!

Reflections on Cat Bloggers

Lynn S. of Reflections in d minor likes prophets and madmen (and cat bloggers). Thanks for the love, Lynn. And thanks for pointing out some nifty sites and bloggers out there.

Unrelated!

A Public Service Announcement:
The previous two posts are completely unrelated. Any effort to infer some connection, or even an ulterior motive behind their close proximity in time, is completely unfounded. Thank you. Enjoy your day.
-- the Management

The Cannibal Flesh Donor Program

I'm not making this up:
"As an organ donor, your sacrifice benefits only humans. But as a flesh donor, you would be reducing animal suffering, saving natural habitat from being cleared for agriculture, and saving human lives. How is this possible? Simple! When you become a flesh donor, you agree to donate your body, in the event of your death, for human consumption, thereby reducing the number of animals raised and slaughtered for food."
The Cannibal Flesh Donor Program
I don't know if I should laugh ... or be really, really disturbed.

Terri Has a Tube Buddy Across the Pond

Via CNN:
Pope John Paul II is being fed through a nasal tube in an effort to boost his calorie intake, the Vatican says. "To improve his calorific intake and promote an efficient recovery of his strength, nutrition via the positioning of a nasal-gastric tube has begun," Joaquin Navarro-Valls said in a statement released Wednesday.
Oh, it's going to be an interesting week in the news. http://www.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/europe/03/30/pope.monday/index.html

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

iGod

GetReligion has a link or two regarding the latest thing in scripture studies: The Digital Talmud*. (I cannot wait to see the TV commercial for this thing). It is apparently the answer to a question that ... well, it must have been on somebody's lips:

"How does a commuter study a 2,711-page book?"

Me, I would be wondering if a commuter has to purchase an extra ticket for that 2,711-page book. Doesn't it need its own seat?

---------------------------- * Talmud: considered an authoritative record of rabbinic discussions on Jewish law, Jewish ethics, customs, legends and stories. It is a fundamental source of legislation, customs, case histories and moral exhortations... [more]

Quotable

It is no accident that the most revered sages are dead. They aren't around to correct our misguided notions, to change their teachings, or to make mistakes that might mitigate our reverence. Christ, Mohammed, Buddha, Lao Tsu -- how many of us are actually devoted to the wisdom that they embodied? Or have we made them mere screens upon which we project our own ideas? -- Deng Ming-Dao

One Bright Spot

If there is one bright spot in the whole Terri Shiavo storm cloud that is blanketing our nation, it is this: folks are seriously considering their own living wills. Now, whatever you may think of Michael Smerconish's politics -- and he is admittedly biased toward the conservative side of things -- he does try to be fair. And this time around, he has been more than fair regarding this issue:
He is actually doing something positive.
Rather than pull a Rush Limbaugh and simply froth at the mouth all day long (no, I am not providing any links to Limbaugh, it's bad enough I mentioned him by name here), Michael has teamed with a local lawyer (David Glyn, Esquire) to provide PA residents with a sample Living Will. He spent most of his program today going over the details of this will. It's only three pages long, but when you reflect on the Terri Shiavo situation, I think you will see how important it is to complete these pages and get them notarized. I'm working on them this week and will encourage my wife to do the same. You can find links to download the Living Will with HIPPA language at Michael's Must Read of the Day for March 29, 2005. The Must Read portion of his website is new, so it only has links for the Living Will. But you never know when someone else might stop by later this week, so I gave the date as well. I hope the documents remain archived on his website. I'll keep checking and inform you later. UPDATE: Michael's 'Must Read' links change on a daily basis. So I have archived the documents on my own site: Living Will with HIPPA Language [Word] [PDF]. More Resources: If you know of one or more great resources that I missed, please feel free to post the URL or book title via a comment. Updates:

Monday, March 28, 2005

Terri Schiavo-palooza-thon: Some Links

The Terri Schiavo-palooza-thon rolls on after the Easter weekend.

"I Don't Want the Disk, Dammit!"

MSNBC:
The Associated Press: The FBI admitted Saturday it accidentally gave classified documents back to the American translator who pleaded guilty to taking them from the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

“Someone in the bureau obviously made a serious mistake,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Ricciuti.

A mistake? Ya think?!

Quotable

Life, we learn too late, is in the living, in the tissue of every day and hour. -- Stephen Leacock (1869-1944)

Friday, March 25, 2005

Spaceship Junkyard

The sky is falling! The sky is falling! Remember when Skylab fell? Can you imagine if you had to worry about space junk falling in your lap on a regular basis? Well, that actually is something that worries residents in Baikonur, Russia's biggest launching complex in Kazakhstan. At least, it was a frequent concern as recently as late 2003, which is when I saw a story about it in Orion Magazine (but their article is not available online). You see, Baikonur is land-locked, so Russian rockets do not make it to the ocean before crashing down. That means that these folks are living in a Spaceship Junkyard. Magnum Photos has excellent this series of photos, from which I post this sample image:
"You can't miss it. It's just past the Soyuz wreck near Leo's Farm."
Even though the Orion article is not available online, the above link shows the exact same set of photos that Orion published. Oh, and here is a brief article that also uses the same photo-set.

Quotable

Wind isn't tangible yet it brings change with its breath. Sometimes these changes are barely perceivable. However, if you look carefully, you can see the wind - it is the swirl in a plume of smoke, it is the ripple across a lake, it is the lackadaisical sway in the branches. Recognize the small developments in yourself. You are growing all the time even when it seems like the wind is still. from DailyOM for March 25, 2005: "Spirituality of Wind"

Friday Pet Blogging | Mine All Mine

Milo doesn't often assert himself, unless food is involved. But toys are something that Milo often leaves to his brother, Otis. In this instance, however, Milo decided to lay claim to every single cat toy on the dining room floor:
Milo with toys
Milo has claimed all the toys and is in no mood to discuss it!
The Modulator has a compilation of today's pet posts from other bloggers. Previous Milo & Otis appearances on Prophet or Madman are indexed here ... just in case you missed one.
Photo Date: 2.28.2005 8:37AM

Thursday, March 24, 2005

I'm Just Ribbon Ya

Credits to: Running Scared (great ribbon, mate!), Shakespeare's Sister, and After School Snack
Whether you are a soured Blue Stater, a sarcastic crank, or one of those "I'm-just-plain-tired-of -ribbon-mania" sympathizers, you will enjoy creating your own ribbon. Here's mine...
the 'huH?' ribbon
Watch for more "official" Prophet or Madman ribbon ... coming soon!

LOHAS 9

Per their own marketing spiel:
LOHAS 9 Forum Don't miss out on the event of the year discussing how to bring the Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS) market mainstream. Talk with business executives and thought leaders, rub elbows with celebrities, renown teachers and media heads. Join in the largest conference that celebrates this growing movement. April 25-27th at the Ritz Carlton in Marina del Rey.
OK. Now, I do agree that "Getting to the Heart of Conscious Commerce" is a good -- even a noble -- cause. But here are my questions:
  1. Nicole Richie's pic appears in the rotating set of images that make up the LOHAS 9 homepage's banner heading. What the heck does Nicole Richie know or care about conscious commerce?!?
  2. Why are so many actors speaking at this event?? Yeah, it's great that they have time for activism outside of the occasional B-movie or blockbuster, but shouldn't there be more experts at this kind of gig?

No Name on the Bullet

Thanks to smijer & Buck for the tip.
I've heard of people metaphorically shooting themselves in the foot during a presentation, but Barney should get some kind of award for actually doing the real thing. And in front of children, no less! I love a good teaching moment.

Quotable | Tranquility, Wisdom, Reality

Emotions are running pretty high this week, particularly (or just because of) the whole big Terri Schiavo-palooza-thon that has been playing out in exaggerated intensity. I've already posted a "Quotable" for today, but I think a second offering is more than appropriate...

When confusion ceases, tranquility comes; when tranquility comes, wisdom appears, and when wisdom appears, reality is seen.

-- Buddhist Saying, often attributed to Keizan Jokin (1264-1325)

In other words, running hot with emotion and making decisions from that base will not help in this case. I understand that it is easy to get emotional, and those emotions can seem empowering in the short term. But this situation, much like any hotly contested issue, will only be settled for the highest good of all involved when our minds are free from the cloud of emotion.

(Yes, those last few words came from someone who has been known to fly off on an irrational rant more than once in his life. Deal with it.)

Quotable

The cloud is free only to go with the wind. The rain is free only in falling.
-- Wendell Berry (Kentucky Farmer, Essayist, and Poet)

Knowledge@Wharton | Blogs, Affordable Drugs, and Strategic Management

Well, if something is around long enough, eventually the Wharton School will opine on it (Football, blogs ...). I just received the latest Knowledge@Wharton Newsletter, and there are three stories that caught my attention: Blogs, Everyone? Weblogs Are Here to Stay, but Where Are They Headed?
Recently, blogs have been credited with everything from CBS News anchorman Dan Rather's departure, to unauthorized previews of the latest Apple Computer products, to new transparency in presidential campaigns. The big question is whether blogs, short for weblogs, have the staying power to become more than just online diaries. Will bloggers upend the mainstream media? What legal protections should bloggers have? Is there a blogger business model? While no definitive answers exist just yet, experts at Wharton advise questioners to be patient. Blogging, they note, will be around for a long time. http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/1172.cfm
The Price of Progress: Can Drug Companies Make Medicines More Affordable?
The pricing system for drugs in the United States is broken, according to David Brennan, executive vice president of the North American division of AstraZeneca, the drug maker with headquarters in the U.K. and Sweden. Trouble is, no one, including the drug companies themselves, has any clear idea how to fix it. Speaking at a Wharton healthcare conference in February, Brennan said he doesn't advocate a radical overhaul: Such a move could hurt the productivity of an industry that has contributed substantially to advances in human health and longevity during the last three decades. What's needed, he argued, is realistic cooperation among all the players -- drug makers, insurers, consumers, doctors, hospitals and employers. http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/1174.cfm
Got a Good Strategy? Now Try to Implement It
For nearly 30 years, Wharton management professor Lawrence G. Hrebiniak has taken the art of business strategy and put it under a microscope. Over time, he has brought one critical element into irrefutable focus: Creating strategy is easy, but implementing it is very difficult. In his new book, Making Strategy Work: Leading Effective Execution and Change (Wharton School Publishing), Hrebiniak presents a comprehensive model to help business leaders bridge the gap between strategy making and successful strategy execution. He challenges executives to recognize that making strategy work is more difficult than setting a strategic course - but also more important -- and he documents the obstacles that get in the way of successful performance. http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/1173.cfm

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Brilliant at Easter

Brilliant at Breakfast has a darkly wonderful take on Easter Week and the Terri Schiavo-palooza-thon that has gripped the nation.
Teaser: ...During the course of Holy Week the secular world watches as starvation takes its toll on Terri Schiavo. Few, if any, will make any connection between John Paul II’s breathing tube and Terri’s feeding tube. Religious people of all persuasions fast and pray, and do all manner of penance and sacrifice pleading with Almighty God for Terri and for the world. At 3:00 pm on March 25, Good Friday, the entire world falls victim to absolute, total, complete darkness. Panic and fear grip the masses the world over. Only John Paul II and Terri know what’s going on...
Go read the whole thing ... you have to catch the conclusion to this Easter special. And thanks to Running Scared for the tip.

Environment Under Siege

Other blogs, like smijer & Buck, have already tackled a discussion or two regarding ANWR and proposed drilling. I'll just throw a few more links at ya. General Info: From OrionOnline.org (Opposing Drilling): Support for Drilling:

The Creation of Myth

From OrionOnline.org:

The Creation of Myth The Epic Art of Gregory Colbert

The myths that once validated a social order based on interconnectedness have been supplanted by newer ones -- the myth of individualism, of cultural superiority, of progress and prosperity. The belief systems they engender lead us farther and farther from the underlying truths of the old stories.

In an astonishing body of work, Gregory Colbert's timeless epic of serenity, grace, and poetic connectedness bestows a new mythology upon an age in need.

View Images

Apologies for Tardiness

Hello to the Prophet or Madman faithful -- all two or three of you (an inflated estimate, I am sure). I just want to apologize for not blogging since Sunday. With crazy work deadlines (that are rapidly whooshing by even as I type), an increase in homework (in addition to my weekend class, I have picked up a Wednesday evening class), and my theater schedule (I am already directing one musical and I will soon be drawn into the crew for another upcoming production), any free time I have had has been spent in just sitting on the couch with my saint of a wife. I'll try to do some catching up today and tomorrow. In between breaths, bills, paragraphs and reading assignments.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Quotable | Happy Spring

How about a little Taoist meditation in honor of the Spring Equinox... Sun and moon divide the sky, Fragrance blooms on pear wood bones; Earth awakens with a sigh. Wanderer revels on the path alone. It is the time of equinox, when day and night are briefly equal. This day signals the beginning of spring, the increasing of light, and the return of life to the frozen earth. -- Deng Ming-Dao

Friday, March 18, 2005

Friday Pet Blogging | Cloud 9

That's right. We're dishing out an extra helping of cat blogging goodness today. My lovely wife snapped this pic, and I can't wait another whole week to post it -- I'm already way behind on cat pics!
So here is Otis on Cloud 9, otherwise known as our featherbed (No, no ... "featherbed" is a reference to Cloud 9. Otis, however, is otherwise known as feather-head).
Cloud 9
Me: "Sneaky little ...." the Boss (my wife, natch): "But he looks sooooooooo cute."
The Modulator has a compilation of today's pet posts from other bloggers. Previous Milo & Otis appearances on Prophet or Madman are indexed at the M & O Archives page ... just in case you missed one.

Friday Pet Blogging | Cat's Favorite Program

Milo & Otis are watching their favorite program -- the birds -- live, every morning, from our bedroom window.
Favorite Program
Otis (R): "Oooooh ... there's a nice one." Milo (L): "Yep."

It's a good thing these guys don't have the right to bear arms. Otherwise, I could have quite the situation on my hands (Pull!). Of course, even if they had the right, they would still have to actually purchase a weapon or two ... and some ammo .... and, y'know, it's not likely that either one of them would pass the background checks ... so ...

I guess there's not much for me to worry about after all. Just kitty nose and paw prints on my windows. The Modulator has a compilation of today's pet posts from other bloggers. Previous Milo & Otis appearances on Prophet or Madman are indexed at the M & O Archives page ... just in case you missed one.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Greatest ... Wiki .... EVER!

The Homestar Runner Wiki is a knowledge base dedicated to The Brothers Chaps' niftly webtoons that feature Homestar Runner and Strong Bad.
It is the greatest use of Wiki.
Ever!
Well, it's at least the best Wiki I have seen this week. And this week is almost over, so ... yeah, I'm sticking by my first assessment:
Greatest ... Wiki .... EVER!
I now have easy access to every single Strong Bad email segment ever created. ("Oh, yeah, that's a good one.") Life is good.

Science | 13 Things That Do Not Make Sense

Thanks to my pal Loki for pointing out that NewScientist.com has a report on 13 things that do not make sense. There are a few noticable absences from this list. For example, they do not even try to tackle the Michael Bolton "mullet-to-grammy-nomination" ratio. Nor do they mention President Bush's dismal record scientific policymaking. But, for the record, here is the current list of "things that do not make sense" -- for explanations of each one, refer to the article:
  1. The Placebo Effect (hey, it works for me!)
  2. The Horizon Problem (in my opinion, all minivans are a problem)
  3. Ultra-Energetic Cosmic Rays (as opposed to the lethargic Ray Romano)
  4. Belfast Homeopathy Results (this refers to a healthcare treatment; it has nothing to do with same-sex marriage)
  5. Dark Matter (more mysterious than dark chocolate, but not as good for you)
  6. Viking's Methane (nothing to do with the football team, or Lief Ericson -- they are talking about the 1976 Viking landers on Mars)
  7. Tetraneutrons (tiny versions of Yod, He, Waw, He ... just kidding!)
  8. The Pioneer Anomaly (deviate sister probes -- I'm not kidding)
  9. Dark Energy (this has nothing to do with the Bush Administration's energy policy)
  10. The Kuiper Cliff (the end of the sidewalk)
  11. The Wow Signal (oh great, now the FCC is broadcasting some sort of a cosmic laugh track)
  12. Not-So-Constant Constants (this is news??)
  13. Cold Fusion (it's baaaaack!)

Quotable (with book recommendations)

Let’s have a merry journey, and shout about how light is good and dark is not. What we should do is not future ourselves so much. We should now ourselves more. Now thyself” is more important than Know thyself.” Reason is what tells us to ignore the present and live in the future. So all we do is make plans. We think that somewhere there are going to be green pastures. It’s crazy. Heaven is nothing but a grand, monumental instance of the future. Listen, now is good. Now is wonderful.

-- Mel Brooks (Actor, Writer, Director, ...)

And while we're on the subject of "now"...

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

  • Author: Eckhart Tolle
  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: New World Library (October 1, 1999)
  • ISBN: 1577311523
  • Amazon Link

Way of the Peaceful Warrior

  • Author: Dan Millman
  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: H.J. Kramer; 20th Anniv edition (September 30, 2000)
  • ISBN: 0915811898
  • Amazon Link

Non Sequitur: The Fine Art of Interpretation

Ah, yes. There are times when a cartoonist goes beyond simply nailing a message. Wiley's offering for today represents one of those times. He is two days early in "celebrating" the second anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, but what the heck. Maybe he's just getting warmed up for this. Back on topic ... You can see today's Non Sequitur at Ucomics.com for free -- but only if you catch it within a week of its publishing date. I don't want anyone to miss this gem, so I have taken the liberty of posting a copy right here at Prophet or Madman.
Click image for full-size view:
Fine art, indeed.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Quotable

Friend, hope for the truth while you are alive. Jump into experience while you are alive! What you call “salvation” belongs to the time before death. If you don’t break your ropes while you are alive, do you think ghosts will do it after? -- Kabir (1398-1448/1518?)

Sing it, brother! "We don't need your grim salvation ... We don't need no thoughts controlled ... "

Johnny Depp | Eulogy for Hunter S. Thompson

Great opening:
"Buy the ticket, take the ride." These are the words that echo in my skull. The words that our Good Doctor lived by and, by God, died by. He dictated, created, commanded, demanded, manipulated, manhandled and snatched life up by the short hairs and only relinquished his powerful grasp when he was ready.
Heh. "When he was ready." Read the whole thing at Rolling Stone. Trust me, it's worth it.

(Not So) Big and Rich

I received a link today that really brought back some childhood memories -- and maybe even a twinge of remorse for the way that great television and music are being swept away. Hard to believe that one little link could do that to me, isn't it? Well, that one link is Animal vs. Buddy Rich. That's right! This is a true jazz legend in a drum-off with a freaking Muppet! I cannot believe that Drummerworld.com has archived Buddy Rich's appearance on The Muppet Show. I loved this show in my youth. And can even appreciate it more now. There is very little on TV today that can compete with The Muppet Show in terms of creativity and comedy. Sure, there are better special FX, and we have CGI instead of mammoth puppets. But there just isn't the same dynamic ... the same life OK. That's my lament on missing a show from my youth; what about that music crack I made? Well, I can actually claim a personal connection to Buddy Rich. My uncle, who is also my godfather, is a professional drummer. But long before he made his mark on the California music scene, he was a Rich acolyte. They had a long correspondence and even became friendly. I guess Rich liked my uncle's playing -- and his attitude. Rich was kindy picky in both regards. Well, in the mid-80s, my uncle was able to get Buddy Rich and his entire band to play a concert in our little off-the-beaten-track hometown. Even though I was in high school, I knew this was a big deal. Come on, my hometown is nestled in the Allegheny Highlands and it just isn't on the way to ... anything. I even got to meet Buddy Rich after the show; my uncle was very keen on introducing me to his idol. I was conscious of the fact that I was meeting someone who had helped to shape my uncle. A man whose influence had been second only to two other men in my uncle's life: his father and his oldest brother (my father). Buddy Rich died just a few years after that show ... almost a year after my high school graduation. In this day and age of American Idol, pre-programmed radio, and copy-cat acts, there is rarely a sense of true craftsmanship when it comes to musical performers. But there, in that video clip -- as goofy as it might look -- is a true master. He knows it, but he's not above having a little fun. I'm sure there is a story or two of Buddy being difficult, but it's a far cry from the diva and primaddona antics of today's stars, most of whom will be lucky to leave a "legacy" of a mere one or two recordings. And that doesn't even begin to measure up to the decades-long legacy of someone like Buddy Rich. OK, sorry for the uncharacteristic rant (uncharacteristic in topic, not in meandering), but isn't this the sort of thing for which blogs are tailor-made?

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Quotable

A human being is a part of the whole called by us “the universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and affection of a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of understanding and compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.

-- Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

Monday, March 14, 2005

Quotable

Religion

Is not religion all deeds and all reflection,

And that which is neither deed nor reflection, but a wonder and a surprise ever springing in the soul, even while the hands hew the stone or tend the loom?

Who can separate his faith from his actions, or his belief from his occupations?

Who can spread his hours before him, saying, "This for God and this for myself; This for my soul, and this other for my body?"

All your hours are wings that beat through space from self to self.

He who wears his morality but as his best garment were better naked.

The wind and the sun will tear no holes in his skin.

And he who defines his conduct by ethics imprisons his song-bird in a cage.

The freest song comes not through bars and wires.

And he to whom worshipping is a window, to open but also to shut, has not yet visited the house of his soul whose windows are from dawn to dawn.

Your daily life is your temple and your religion.

Whenever you enter into it take with you your all.

Take the plough and the forge and the mallet and the lute,

The things you have fashioned in necessity or for delight.

For in revery you cannot rise above your achievements nor fall lower than your failures.

And take with you all men:

For in adoration you cannot fly higher than their hopes nor humble yourself lower than their despair.

And if you would know God be not therefore a solver of riddles.

Rather look about you and you shall see Him playing with your children.

And look into space; you shall see Him walking in the cloud, outstretching His arms in the lightning and descending in rain.

You shall see Him smiling in flowers, then rising and waving His hands in trees.

-- Kahlil Gibran (from The Prophet)

Perhaps they should go even further...

And I don't mean going further in meeting their goals. I mean just plain further south!
ChristianExodus.org is moving thousands of Christians to South Carolina to reestablish constitutionally limited government founded upon Christian principles. This includes the return to South Carolina of all "powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States." It is evident that the U.S. Constitution has been abandoned under our current federal system, and the efforts of Christian activism to restore our Godly republic have proven futile over the past three decades. The time has come for Christian Constitutionalists to protect our American principles in a State like South Carolina by interposing the State's sovereign authority retained under the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
That's right, folks. This group of Christian Constitutionalists have a plan to redeem this nation one state at a time. Feel better now?

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Long Weekend ... Short Post

I've been out of town for a few days. On Friday, I conducted a memorial service for my father-in-law, who passed away this week. Quite a task. But I was able to create a very personal eulogy that honored the man. And as near as I can tell, the service went well. I received many good comments from my wife's family. Family members seem to have received the comfort and hope they needed, as well as something to think about. The next day, I had to drive from Bethlehem, PA, to Washington, NJ, to catch the rest of a weekend retreat for my classes. It was already in progress, but I only missed the Friday evening teaching session. I'm back now, and I am beat. My brain is burnt. I'll be back to regular blogging tomorrow. I have an interesting story or two. Just ask me about the disappearing tie bar.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Quotable

We don't have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvellous victory." -- Howard Zinn (author)
  • A People's History of the United States [Amazon Link]
  • You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train [movie clip]

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Stark Effect

This is a Public Service Announcement. The next time you record your own voice on your computer, you really should consider keeping the file separate from your music collection. Otherwise, your vocals might be contributed to the latest Stark Effect remix. You have been warned. So remember: The embarassment you prevent, might be your own. via Monkeyfilter

Beatitudes at the Pentagon?

In light of the recent Supreme Court deliberations on displaying the 10 Commandments, Beliefnet.com columnist Richard Mouw proposes posting the Beatitudes as a substitute:
"Let’s at least be scolded for promoting something that comes straight from Jesus." [link]
He admits it's not an original idea. Kurt Vonnegut proposed it last year. Still, it's an interesting read, as is Vonnegut's original column. Me? I'm waiting for someone to realize there is a wealth of sacred teachings out there, and we can glean something from all of them. Imagine if the Nine Noble Virtues were posted in schools. Or, what if parts from the Havamal were posted in the Senate:
If aware that another is wicked, say so: Make no truce or treaty with foes. (Havamal, #127)
Our House of Representatives could probably use a bit of a nudge from Buddhism's Eightfold Noble Path:
Yeah ... trying to get anyone in Congress to think about "Right Livelihood." I must be out of my ever-lovin' mind.

Quotable

I am the entire human race compacted together. I have found that there is no ingredient of the race which I do not possess in either a small way or a large way." -- Mark Twain

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Death is the Opposite of Time

Note: I consciously chose to make only one post today. It serves to announce my father-in-law's passing (3-7-2005) and provide a means for me to briefly pay my own (virtual) respects to the man. So, for one entire day, this blog stands as a tribute to the man who raised my wife.

We give death metaphors. We cloak it in meaning and make up stories about what will happen to us, but we don't really know. When a person dies, we cannot see beyond the corpse. We speculate on reincarnation or talk in terms of eternity. But death is opaque to us, a mystery. In its realm, time ceases to have meaning. All laws of physics become irrelevant. Death is the opposite of time.

What dies? Is anything actually destroyed? Certainly not the body, which falls into its constituent parts of water and chemicals. That is mere transformation, not destruction. What of the mind? Does it cease to function, or does it make a transition to another existence? We don't know for sure, and few can come up with anything conclusive.

What dies? Nothing of the person dies in the sense that the constituent parts are totally blasted from all existence. What dies is merely the identity, the identification of a collection of parts that we call a person. Each one of us is a role, like some shaman wearing layers of robes with innumerable fetishes of meaning. Only the clothes and decoration fall. What dies is only our human meaning. There is still someone naked underneath. Once we understand who that someone is, death no longer bothers us. Nor does time.

-- Deng Ming-Dao (from 365 Tao: Daily Meditations)

"Death is the opposite of time." I came across Ming-Dao's words as my weekend meditation, just a day or two after I posted Metamorphose and Ego Death (A Beginning). I originally wanted to post the entire passage -- as well as my own commentary -- as a continuation of the thoughts I started in that February 15 post. And maybe I will do that on another day, a different day. Today, however, I post them simply because my wife just phoned to tell me that death has touched our family. Her father died last night, at 11:35pm. My wife drove to Bethlehem late last night. Mom had previously called to let us know that Dad had been taken to the hospital because of complications and intense pain. This was something of a surprise because he had been doing pretty well with his treatments. Within a matter of a few hours, Mom called again and told us that Dad was going "into the Intensive Care Unit and would be on life support." This call came at about 11pm last night. My wife packed, phoned her sister in CA to update her, and on the road to the hospital within 40-odd minutes. That means he was already gone before she even left our house. But she kind of had a feeling that this would be the case. Dad had cancer; diagnosed last year. There was a long process (too long in my opinion) to arrive at this conclusion, but it was not wholly unexpected. About seven years ago, he had had surgery to remove a small tumor (prostate? colon? memory is fuzzy right now). That surgery was successful -- well, he had some leg pain as a result of the procedures -- but as far as we knew, he was cancer-free. As far as anyone knew at that time, he was cancer free. And I say "at that time" not because I want to cast doubt on his doctor's handiwork, but because we really don't know how or when the "new" cancer started. Maybe his current condition resulted from some residual presence of that first tumor. Or perhaps he was simply primed because his body had already been compromised. Like I said, it's all speculation. But this time around, the diagnosis of last year, it was sarcoma. A tumor had developed in his abdomen, and had even grown some kind of "shield" of tissue around itself. And this tumor was fairly well advanced: it was into the blood vessels that ran down his right leg, and it had all but destroyed his right kidney's ureter. But even in the midst of this, there was also cause for hopefulness. Doctors know more about cancer now than they did a decade ago, and are learning more all the time. And there are more procedures, or combinations of therapies available. I won't go into the whole thing, but my father-in-law eventually was able to get scheduled for chemo treatments. And he seemed to be doing well. Of course, some days were better than others. And he was often fatigued as a result of the cancer and his treatments. But he was not confined to the hospital, or even his home. He came to our house to see the new concrete steps and walkway. We visited him -- in his house -- for a Superbowl party. And he was going out with his family every now and then. He even went to a basketball game this past weekend! My wife believes that he knew his time was coming. It's the little things that seem to confirm this. His desire to go out and see that Lehigh basketball game. His insistence that my mother-in-law access the lock-box, to be certain she had the will. The fact that his next chemo had not yet been scheduled. It's strange to think that he is no longer here. He was not a young man, but he was still vibrant in his own way. He had an immense curiosity about and interest in the world around him. Although he had a severe hearing problem, he was still a keen observer of human behavior, no doubt something he had honed as a psychologist and counselor. And he was my wife's financial advisor, taking a very active role in setting up and helping her maintain her retirement funds -- so much so that she has much more money socked away than I do, and my salary has always outpaced hers. The only closing I can think to write borrows from a message I penned in memory of a theater member who passed away over the weekend. It seems weird to be writing these messages so closely together, but I guess that is the way things go. And I don't think either man would mind the bit of shared material. I would like to think that if they met, they would get along famously. So here goes... My father-in-law has left this world and its cares behind. And while we do rejoice that he is free from the ravages of cancer, we acknowledge that his departure marks a time of sadness for those left behind. The tears we shed are shed for us alone, shed for those who loved the man and will miss him. The tears are not for him because this is not the end of his life. Death is the opposite of time, as I've already quoted Ming-Dao, and it is also the opposite of birth. But it is not the opposite of life. Birth and Death bookend a life as we know it here on earth. So his journey may have transitioned to a new stage, but it is only at the beginning of that stage. John Lennon once said, more or less, "I imagine that death is like getting out of one car and getting into another." Well, I hope there are many miles and plenty of great sights in my father-in-law's next vehicle. May we meet again someday and exchange stories of our adventures. Goodbye for now Dad ... I love you.

Monday, March 07, 2005

The Church of National Retail Chains

There is a short, albeit interesting, blurb about the rise of Christianity -- and the squashing of Gnosticism -- compared to the rise of retail behemoth Wal-Mart over at Adventures of an Occult Investigator: Of Gnosticism and Wal-Mart.

Trading a Cursor for Cross-Hairs

MacRaven cites this story about "High Tech Hunters" pushing the envelope. The ethical envelope, that is. You see, these guys are into remote-control hunting, an activity that really distances the hunter from the hunted:
A San Antonio entrepreneur recently created an uproar with a Web site, www.live-shot.com , that aims to allow hunters to shoot exotic game animals or feral pigs on his private hunting ranch by remote control, with the click of a mouse, from anywhere in the world.
As a non-hunter (but someone who supports hunters), I have to agree with MacRaven when he writes: "Killing is not the goal of the hunt: eating is the goal of the hunt ... the means to the hunt (actually stalking the animal) recognizes the symbiosis between man and beast, and our place in the vast scheme of the world." And no one is saying anything against the use of technology as an aid in hunting. The disdain is for anyone who hunts for sport and uses technology to gain an extremely unfair (and unneccessary) advantage.

Quotable

"It is an eternal truth in the political as well as the mystical body, that "where one member suffers, all the members suffer with it"

-- Unknown

Not a Happy Disney Memory

Heard on the radio this morning... Today marks the anniversary of the first homicide in Disneyland. On March 7, 1981, a man was stabbed after touching another man's girlfriend (he pinched her butt). Disneyland was found negligent in the death because a park nurse decided against calling paramedics -- can't have a siren and flashing red lights disturb the other park visitors -- and instead had the victim driven to the hospital in a park van. The victim bled to death on the way. I have not found an actual news story, but I did find net references here , here, here, and here. Or, just do your own Google on Mel Yorba.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Quotable

"If the sharp teeth can live in harmony with the soft tongue, then all of us must learn to live with each other." -- African Proverb

Saturday, March 05, 2005

From "The Confusions" to "Dr. When"

WARNING: This is something completely off-track (but sort of original and hopefully amusing, if only slightly). BUT, unless you have more than just a passing familiarity with Doctor Who, and are familiar with the Beatles' and their lineup (including original drummer, Pete Best), you may find this whole thing somewhat annoying -- or worse, highly intractable. You have been warned, and there is still have time to escape. Still here? You're willing to go on with it? Well, it's all on you then. Here we go.... This whole thing started with a Michael Jantze quote (originally posted here):
Sometimes I wake up and don't know Who or What or When or Where. These are the members of that fab four: The Confusions. "Who" is the cute one, always searching for identity. "What" is the cynical one, forcing us to think about the realities of life. "Where" is the quiet one, the one thinking about place and places and where we're all going in life. And "When?" He's just back there keeping the beat, making the rest of us unaware of the magic of time.
I figured my coworker, Loki, would get a kick out of it. We throw things back and forth via Instant Message (IM) all the time. So last week, I sent him the text of the above quote. In an obvious referral to the last line, he responded, "It's Ringo, Master Of Time!" I laughed, but then inspiration quickly seized me. Before I knew it, I was filling our IM dialogue with the following:
Nah. Pete Best is the Master of Time. He gave up his drumming gig with the Beatles so that he could be a Time Lord. Oh, sure, Ringo claims that the other three fired Pete in favor of Ringo's skills. But Pete left on his own and became a Time Lord working with Doctor Who. In fact, ol' Pete is ultimately responsible for the Beatles conquering the world. Yeah, Pete manipulated their big break, arranged a few well-placed opportunities, and ... viola! .... the Beatles are "bigger than Jesus." And, get this ... His Time Lord title is ... Doctor Best? No! DOCTOR WHEN!
I can hear Loki's laughter wafting through the cube farm (er, office). His response to my revelation is: "Instead of a phone booth, make his TARDIS something like? hmm.....a parrot cage." To which I responded:
No, some really small car ... a Renault! That's right, his TARDIS is a Renault. It moves through time and space ... and space! I mean, over land. Once he's arrived, his TARDIS can travel across the countryside. (Albeit not too terribly well, particularly if there are no roads.)
I'm thinking I have a great pilot to pitch for the next Doctor Who revival.

TARDIS Console
TARDIS Console

Update: The content of this post was updated per comments from my e-pal Jessamyn, who knows nothing about Doctor Who and couldn't care less about it ... or this post ... but she was a real sport about it.


Copyright/Disclaimer -- Just in case anyone is actually reading this ... 

"Doctor When: Pete Best, the Beatles, and Dr. Who" story concept copyright by brainwise (that's me!) on this date (3-5-2005); Doctor Who and the TARDIS are owned by BBC television, etc., etc., so I need their permission in order to actually produce anything based on this idea; and Pete Best and the Beatles are real people, celebrities  but this is a work of historical/science fiction, so I think it is OK to have people portray them. At least on paper. Not certain what to do for TV/film. [Note to self, look into the copyright issues of presenting fictionalized versions of real people]. And, finally, "The Confusions" were mentioned by Michael Jantze ... and Loki sparked this insane story idea with his Ringo comment, so I have to give them both credit for the inspiration.