Thursday, June 30, 2005

War of the Worlds: Don't Bother

I had a rotten day at work yesterday. So when I got home, my Other Half suggested that we go see War of the Worlds. Now, despite my feelings about Tom Cruise, I wanted to go. The original book (by H. G. Wells) is a great favorite of mine and what I saw in the trailers had me convinced that the graphics were superb and this was true to the book.

I had intended to take my kids with me (it's rated PG-13) but I am so glad that I decided to check it out first. Unlike Minority Report (a movie based on a novel by another favorite author of mine), this movie was a terrible disappointment. It does not have the cold, precise elegance of the novel, nor does it catch the wisp of hope that Wells somehow wove into the story.

Instead, it is a bleak movie showing the utter hopelessness and horrors of war - whether it's alien or human. Perhaps Spielberg intended to send that message; he's been known for his anti-war sentiments. And I don't say I disagree with him; but he needed to warn us up front about his intentions.

I found it strange (and other reviewers apparently experienced this too) that the audience laughed at some very odd times (in my opinion, there never was occasion to laugh). I don't know if the laughter was born out of a nervous reaction to the darkness of the movie, but it was unsettling to hear laughter at times when it wasn't warranted. Perhaps this dark movie also brings a bit of darkness out in us, as well.

It's a movie that tries to show a father's developing relationship with his children (Cruise isn't believable in this role) while showing the family desperately trying to escape the invaders. The ending brings resolution to all Cruise's toils, but is too pat and completely unbelievable considering everything that has gone before it.

Tim Robbins makes an appearance that goes on too long. Known for his goofy, off-the-wall roles, he doesn't surprise us this time. We know there is more to this character than meets the eye, but sadly (perhaps due to Spielberg's direction) he somehow never metamorphoses into what he could be. His scene is too long and takes up too much time in a movie that needs to show the overall scope of the destruction that is being visited upon the earth, and any successful struggles that could counterpoint it's bleak message.

The majority of the movie shows humanity at it's worst, with no redeeming virtues that I can see. It sends the message that we are not masters of our own fate, but are doomed to toil and die in misery unless fate happens to step in.

If you must go, take an anti-depressant pill first and bring a pillow.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Gay Marriage Legalized in Canada

Wow is this going to cause a storm of controversy. But you should know a couple things, first:

1. The majority of Canadians approve of gay marriage, where the majority of Americans don't. So comparing both nations is like comparing apples and oranges.
2. It's been debated for months, and won 158-133, with many conservatives vowing to work to unseat those that voted for it. So the law may not stand for long.

I'm going to repeat what I wrote in an earlier blog, because it was written before many of you began participating here:

No matter how you slice it, the law is a slippery thing. More slippery than we'd like it to be. And it all comes down to asking ourselves what is right, and what is wrong. And when you are agnostic, or atheistic, there is no baseline you can measure from (outside of personal convictions, which we can't easily justify or explain - if we are honest with ourselves.)

From a secular point of view, I can't see anything that bars the legalization of gay marriage except for the fact (as reported in The World and I) that they go through as many as 12 or more sexual partners a year on average (even if they're in a 'committed' relationship). Not my business, right? Unless their marriages are almost as frequent as their sex partners. Then it is my business. We would be looking at the potential for a major increase in divorces and the system would be overwhelmed.

'Easy', you say,' hire more people to handle all the divorces! That shouldn't bar their right to get married.' Well, it's not that easy. Because then we're talking about more taxpayer's dollars to hire these people and build (or expand) the courthouses and administrative offices across the country so that we can house them.

'Ah, but what price liberty?' you ask. I would reply that there are times when it is simply not economically feasible to give everyone everything that their hearts desire.

The gay marriage controversy boils down to whether or not it is a choice to be gay. And, there is evidence for each side of the matter. I think at this point less people care if it is a choice or if it isn't. They feel that the point is moot whether someone is compelled to do something or chooses to do it, as long as they're not injuring others while doing it. In my opinion, irregardless of why someone chooses a gay lifestyle, a secular case can be made that allowing gay marriage to be legalized would impact America negatively.

I have friends that are gay, and they know my position on this, and we remain friends. This isn't a personal attack, it is a carefully considered point of view. If gay people wish us to respect them and their point of view, they need to also respect ours even if they disagree with it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Florida Power Trying for More of Your Money

Let's discuss Florida Power and Light (FPL) for a moment. (To my friends out of state: bear with this, you may find it has relevence to where you live, also).

Did you know that they are currently lobbying the state for an increase to your rates? If they won the state's approval, they would be adding only $3-4 a month to your rates (if you're in their area), so it seems pretty insignificant. However, the total $430 million increase is PHAT (Pretty Hot and Tasty) when you look at the overall picture.

The Office of Public Counsel (OPC) is a state appointed organization whose job is to represent the people against government blessed monopolies like Florida Power. (I didn't even know they existed!) The OPC is arguing that Florida Power needs only a $130 million dollar hike.

I understand that it takes money to run an organization, and FPL hasn't raised their rates in 10 years. But that's because they'd been making huge surplusses for a very long time, until the hurricanes hit last year. Suddenly they were scrambling, and they were forced to dip into their reserves. Sorry, FPL, but I have little sympathy. You'd been dinging your customers as much as you could.

For those of us who have TECO or Progress Energy, this applies to you as well. Because FPL sells power to both companies, and if their rates go up, ours will too. Also, if FPL gets the green light to raise rates, the others won't be far behind.

Friends of ours work for Progress Energy. They warned us all to go out and buy generators this year. "You think it was bad last year," they said. Progress has decided that they won't force their employees to race against the clock to restore power this year, as they did last year. They've also cut a great deal of their workforce.

Therefore, those of us who sat around with no electricity in muggy 90 degree weather for weeks last year went and ponied up around $700 for brand new generators. At this point, I will be very disappointed if we don't lose our electricity for at least a day.

So, if these power companies aren't going to be doing much to help us this year, why do they need an increase at all?

And for those of you who didn't know what phat was before, a word to the wise: use it judiciously. Don't tell your wife she's "phat" unless you want to be sleeping in the shed tonight.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Shark Attack

Here in Florida, we have more than our share of sharks. Although attacks are rare, they happen. On Saturday, a shark attacked and killed a 14 year old girl in Tallahassee (which is a far distance from the Tampa Bay Area). Having grown up swimming here (and having children) this is a very unsettling report.

I spent a great deal of time at the beach with my grandparents as a kid, and I remember one day when my grandfather and I had swum out to the sandbar. I was feeling very grown up, having swum as far as I had. My grandpa was a great, tall man and I always felt safe with him. We were talking and walking along the sandbar, when he suddenly told me to climb up on his shoulders.

When I got up there, he said a lemon shark had just passed us by. Needless to say, it didn't touch us (I hadn't taken the threat seriously because I was certain that my grandpa could lick a shark any day). But that's when I first realized just how close sharks can come (and intermingle) with us.

What are your shark stories?

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Boring Blogs

*YAWN* I have been cruising the blogs, discovering that the majority of people on earth are deadly dull. I won't bother to cite any sites (there was a fun phrase!) but I will give you some examples.

First, there is the Family Blog. Boring to me, but it reaches the target audience (their family) with the most recent pics of babies, pets, and party girls. My only question is: why bother to blog? Just email the pics and spare us the boredom. However, I don't think I can class these as truly boring, because they're intended for someone specifically, and not the general public.

Next there is the Introspective Blog. The person (usually a woman) whines to her blog about her problems just as 20 years ago she would have whined to her unfortunate friends. There's always at least one well-meaning friend who responds to every sordid post, hoping to prevent the next suicide attempt, I suppose. The nice thing is that in Blog World, you can leave.

Then there is the I Dunno Blog. This is written by some idiot whose other friends have talked about blogging, and he thinks "Wow, I'm going to be cool, too." So he starts a page and begins it with something like "Here are some random thoughts," and then doesn't proceed to have any that are worth sharing.

Then we get the Character Endorsement Blog. This blog is all about something other than the author. It could be Care Bears, or an actor, or some product like Coca Cola. This is fine, if it's done well. I'd actually welcome an interesting site on Spam (for instance) over some inane, fawning blog that practically drools onto your keyboard. Personally, I don't care how many teddy bears someone owns, and I don't want to see a picture of every one of them. But to a teddy bear enthusiast, they'll think they hit gold: which is why they're sometimes useful (as my son points out). All I would ask of these sites is that they make them visually appealing.

After that, we have the Badly Written Religious Blog. This is somewhat related to the Character Endorsement Blog, but without pictures. For a blog like this, there needs to be pictures. Now, I'm not including well-written or spoof pages. But, I ran across one blog where the man droned on and on about Deaconess Smith's preaching, and what she taught today, what was said yesterday, and what might be said tomorrow. And, I assure you, he was truly writing it to try to appeal to the general public. I had developed a nervous tic by the time I left.

Finally, there is The Business Scheme Blog. This is written by some overly enthusiastic business person (probably a recent business school grad) who is anxiously hoping that you will be as gullible as he was when he signed up for this product. If I wanted to read about the latest business scheme or product, I would go to known sources. I assume others agree with that, since there are never any comments in those blogs.

Everyone, do us a favor. If you don't know what to say, or how to say it, spare us the inane blogs. Use that energy to read and comment on others' blogs, read a book, get out into the sunshine, learn something new, or send me money - right now! I've got this great business scheme I've run across. Deaconess Smith has given it her blessing. It involves the Care Bears, and it's wonderful. Write me, I'll tell you about it.

Friday, June 24, 2005


As Indiana Jones once said, "Rats. Why did it have to be rats?" OK, he was talking about snakes, but I am exercising my poetic license, just like George Bush.

One morning, I woke up to another bright and beautiful day here in warm, sunny Florida. (Note: when waxing poetic, you must always precede the word "Florida" with "warm" and "sunny." If you don't, you are fined and can potentially serve time working in the strawberry fields for farmers at less than minimum wage, with people whose names sound like Juan, Juanita, and Franklin Rothschild the Third. All right, I'm making up the first two names).

For some reason, my nose doesn't start working first thing in the morning. I have to get up, wander about a little bit, and go through my usual morning routine (picture Scarlett O'Hara sashaying about her mansion first thing in the morning). My dog is usually the first to crack open his eyes and see me, and he seems to accept me as I am, even before I brush my teeth. Of course, he has also been known to savor an occasional dead bird. That's why I think that neither of us noticed The Odor at first.

I did notice that the noises I'd been hearing in the attic for a couple days had finally stopped. I seemed to be housing the Brazilian Soccer Team for Rodents upstairs. I had been hoping that whatever it was would decide to seek its fortune elsewhere, and never went up there to see what was scurrying about.

But when I came home later in the day, I decided that Something Was Rotten. I took out the trash, cleaned my garbage disposal out, and opened the windows for a brief time. Here in warm, sunny Florida, the summer arrives with a vengence, so they didn't stay open for long. As soon as I began to swelter, I closed everything up again and turned on the air once more. Problem solved.

The next morning, the odor was strong enough to get my attention immediately. And that's when I realized that my Brazilian Soccer Team had been too quiet for too long.

I am somewhat ashamed to admit that there are times that I use my feminine wiles to my advantage. This time, I convinced My Other Half that I wouldn't dream of going up there in that horrid old attic while he could go up there and find the problem so much quicker, and better, than I could. So, with great reluctance, he went. He found nothing.

The smell persisted for 2 more days, until we couldn't enter the house without putting rags over our noses. So, he went up again. This time, he found the remnants of what he said was the biggest rat he'd ever seen in his life. He said this in between gagging, I should add. "Well," I said brightly, "maybe it's a capybara!" When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

He treated this with the disdain that it deserved, and said nothing while he continued trying to hold down his lunch.

We get a lot of citrus rats in our attics in warm, sunny Florida. They're adorable, dark brown rats with huge eyes. Adorable, that is, until they decide to die in your attic. Not having seen this particular rat, I don't know if he was a mutant like Arnold Schwarzenegger, or if he may have been of another species altogether. I wasn't curious enough to look.

I've had friends that tell me, in an all-knowing sort of way, that if you just put poison up there, the rats will eat it and wander outside to find water. They suggested leaving pans of water around outside (as if my neighbors don't think that I'm strange enough already). But, what would prevent them from wandering inside? I have plenty of water inside. I don't think I want to take that chance. Others have suggested traps. I can't see how I will be able to convince My Other Half to go up and check those traps on a regular basis. I was lucky enough to con him into doing it the first time.

I can always hope that no other rats find their way into my attic. But that may be as blindly optimistic as an orphaned boy at the Neverland Ranch.

Property Rights Dealt a Blow

In a stunning blow to property rights, the U.S. Supreme court ruled yesterday that local governments can seize your property for any reason that they deem necessary. They still have to pay the property owners full market value for their home. However, if their assessment disagrees with the property owner's assessment, the property owner will be still forced to sell.

The Supreme Court's decision was divided; 5-4. The more liberal judges voted for this judgement. My favorite Supreme Court Justice, Clarence Thomas, voted against it. And, "In a scathing dissent, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor criticized the majority for abandoning the conservative principle of individual property rights and handing "disproportionate influence and power" to the well-heeled.

"The specter of condemnation hangs over all property," O'Connor wrote. "Nothing is to prevent the state from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory." - AP

I couldn't have said it any better. I am horrified. I never thought this day would come, and I am not naive.

In Texas, lawmakers are already scrambling to introduce state law that will protect their citizens' eminent domain. Will Florida's lawmakers do the same? We must immediately write to all our Florida legislators, if we are to hope to protect our rights.

If we do not protect our rights, no one else will. And if we allow these rights to be chipped away, slowly, than we only have ourselves to blame when we finally realize "This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but with a whimper." -T.S. Elliot

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Fat Ballerinas

At the risk of turning into the Jerry Springer Show for blogs, let's discuss Fat Ballerinas.

Now, my apologies in advance to all the fat people out there. I know you're the majority of America. And my apologies in advance to the Politically Correct crowd. I know you'd like it much better if we all pretended that fat was as equally acceptable as thin. But if Halle Barry or Nicole Kidman (who could use a sandwich, herself) suddenly put on 200 pounds, do you think they'd be landing all the movie roles that they're landing now? Fat is simply not attractive to most Americans. But if it makes you feel better, we'll do a column on anorexia in the future.

And please don't take me as being insensitive. My best friend in childhood was fat. But her fat (like the majority of Americans) was due to poor eating habits, not glandular or health problems. So (although I love her dearly) I must be honest here: her fat was due to poor self-control. And she's still fat, and very happy... but she isn't a ballerina.

And so, without further ado, let's begin our discussion.

I went to a ballet recital recently. I live in a big metropolitan area and so we have access to a large pool of people. This means that we get ballet recitals for children that are more like ballet productions. It also means that (in the case of this particular ballet studio) there are plenty of talented children to put on stage.

Therefore, imagine my surprise when I saw my first fat ballerina. Now, there are different levels of fat, so let's discuss this briefly. There's "pleasingly plump" (also known as chubby), "fat", and "obese" (also known as grotesquely fat). If there are more subtle levels in between, please enlighten me.

This fat ballerina was obese. Imagine Roseanne Barr at her largest in a tutu, and you get the picture. I later saw a couple other obese ballerinas in the troup. So now, picture Roseanne Barr and Rosie O'Donnell and Rikki Lake (pre-diet) in tutus and tight costumes that showed every ripple, jumping and prancing about. In deference to fat people everywhere, it was not a pretty picture.

Two of these obese ballerinas even did dance solos. Imagine the Hippo Ballerinas in Fantasia, but not as attractive. My retinas are still burning.

As one of my height-challenged friends said after the recital, "Look. I may be able to throw a ball into a hoop, and I may love to run around a basketball court, but there has to be some point in my life where I've gotta come to terms with the fact that I'm not going to be in the NBA."

What were they thinking? I know what the owner of the studio was thinking: easy money. That's a given. But what were the parents thinking? What were the fat ballerinas thinking? Perhaps their self-esteem is too good (yes, everyone, I also think we can have too much self-esteem). If they're intent on pursuing a career in ballet, there is no ballet company that I can imagine which will take them. And there is no serious audience that would want to see them. Are they being set up to fail? Are they being given high hopes with no chances?

You could argue that they're pursuing ballet just for exercise, but if that were true, they wouldn't be spending fortunes on costumes to leap jarringly across the stage next to their slender, agile contemporaries in front of hundreds of people. So they must feel that what they have is worth displaying. When is someone going to be cruel to be kind, and tell them that it isn't?

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Hysterically Funny or Awkwardly Painful

Here in Tampa we have an enclave named Ybor City (it's not a true city - just a part of Tampa). At one time, it was crime-ridden and crawling with the scum of the earth (sorry, Madonna: I tell it like it is. OK, ok, I'm just kidding. Even Madonna wouldn't hang out there).

In an effort to clean up the area, Tampa offered great incentives to lure businesses in. It succeeded, and Ybor City became one of the hottest nightspots we had in the entire Tampa Bay Area (which includes roughly 8-10 cities).

Over 5 years ago, I had just started dating someone who wanted to take me out to Ybor on a particular Saturday night that I had my son with me. At first I told the guy that I couldn't do it, but he pointed out that we could go eat dinner there, visit the shops, and wander about before the nightclubs began to crank up.

So, I agreed; and took my son aside to tell him that we were going out to dinner and we would sightsee a little bit. Since this was at the height of the Goth movement, I warned him that there were people that he might see that could appear scary, but they weren't dangerous. "Look at it this way, baby," I said, "they're playing dress up. It's just like Halloween! So don't get scared." He agreed, and we left for a very nice dinner.

After our dinner, we wandered the streets a little, and decided to stop in a coffee shop for some dessert and coffee. It was both elegant and eclectic, with overstuffed sofas positioned to look out over the teeming masses. We selected our desserts and had just settled into one of the sofas by the front doors when the first Goths of the night strolled by. My son stood up on the sofa, and (excitedly pointing) hollered loud enough for everyone to hear, "Look, mommy! Just like Halloween!"

...We beat a hasty retreat...

Share some of your hysterical stories or awkward moments.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Is This Blog Mine or Yours?

I ran across someone's blog where she declared she had decided to remove some postings all together because she felt the conversation wasn't going where she wanted it to go.

I have always perceived blogging as being a more objective mental sport. The blogger posts her thoughts, and the readers are welcome to contribute and start a dialogue. As long as it's not profane, all contributions are welcome (or at least tolerated). Otherwise, we'd just keep diaries in the solititude of our homes, right? And that is how I will continue to blog.

How do you perceived blogging should be? And how could mine improve?

Sunday, June 19, 2005

My Incredible Father

When I was a little girl, my father was my hero, and still is. He was the most influential part of my childhood. He is now more than a father, he is a man that I respect and can call to debate or discuss issues with. There was a brief time in my rebellious years where I felt he was an old-fashioned neanderthal, but now my goal is to be a parent just like he is and was (with some modifications, of course).

Mark Twain said it best: "When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years."

One of the things I've come to learn is that when people become parents, they aren't living in fixed adult perfection. That was an amazing concept that I discovered when I was well into my 20s. In fact, I remember feeling a tiny bit of irrational resentment when I realized that I couldn't hold my parents to task for things they'd done wrong when I was a child, since they had stopped doing it.

When he was younger, Dad was sometimes a living contradiction. He was sometimes hot-tempered when rushed or stressed, yet when he had time for you he was the soul of patience. But then, how many of us could hold our patience driving to North Carolina on vacation while three children are in the back seat saying "Stop touching me, no you stop touching me, daaaad - he's touching me, no I'm not..." Dad finally saw the value in retreating and gave up family vacations all together.

But Dad was also the most intelligent man I've ever known, bar none. And he was also a man willing to admit to mistakes, so that we could learn that it was OK for us to do it too. And he would try to see issues from all angles, which allowed me to grow and develop my own thoughts and opinions and become my own person.

He tolerated my outrageous pronouncements with a grin, and helped me to develop the sense of humor, writing, speaking, and social skills that I posess today. He introduced me to the love of learning, and told me that even if my teachers were dull - the subjects were not. (Note to Dad, you failed in Math - though). He would let me come to him and talk about anything, and was always open and honest with me.

Dad despised those parents who say "Do as I say, and not as I do". He would force himself to change or improve if he felt we were receiving the wrong message. One day, after scolding me for not memorizing my time tables, I told him defiantly that since he didn't know the 12s tables, I didn't see why I should learn them. (Oh yes, I was a handful). He sat down immediately and memorized them all.

Dad didn't sweat the small stuff. He worried more about the big stuff, like where we were going spiritually, mentally, and physically. He would sit down and interview every potential boyfriend, but would let us pour orange juice on our breakfast cereal ("It all ends up in the same place, anyway," he would say).

Dad couldn't tell you how to get to the local supermarket, but he could tell you how to get to heaven.

He forced me to learn, and read things I never would have touched. I hated "All Quiet on the Western Front" but I learned from it. In the summers, he and Mom would force me to continue my education. I envied the kids who had full summers off, because I never knew a span of three months where I wasn't forced to think. While other kids were watching TV and playing, I was doing book reports. I felt like I was the most tormented child in the world. Thank goodness they made me do it. All parents should force their kids to learn. Heaven knows the schools won't.

Due to the diligence of both of my parents, I have a successful career and am able to talk about anything to anyone. I am open-minded (but not so open-minded that my brains fall out) and I know what I believe and why I believe it. I am a fully functional adult, despite the majority of my generation being a generation of self-indulgent, uneducated dullards.

Thanks, Dad, for not only having me, but for being a Father. I know how you always grumbled that Father's Day was a pointless marketing contrivence dreamed up by money-hungry greeting card companies, but Happy Father's Day. I hope you like this better than a $3 greeting card.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Cat Poop Coffee

OK, in tribute of the Saturday morning cartoons that our kids are watching right now, let's discuss Cat Poop Coffee; otherwise known as Kopi luwak.

Now, this is something I never knew about before, until I saw a TV episode about it last night. Hard as it may be to believe, Kopi luwak is considered a gourmet coffee that is hard to harvest because it is made of coffee beans collected out of cat poop.

Yup. And you thought no one could be that gullible. Here we see a classic example of The Emperor's New Clothes.

And it got me thinking: What can we pass off to these elitists? I'm going through my garbage right now.

P.S. You know, I'm suddenly reminded of a nauseating practice that isn't spoken of much. It took place up through the 1800s. People consumed powdered mummies with the belief that it was a general cure for most maladies as well as being an aphrodisiac.

Saur Grapes

OK, Michelle busted me. She wandered into a blog I was playing around with, but hadn't decided what to do with yet. I'm going to call is Saur Grapes, as in one of my favorite Aesop's Fables: The Fox and the Grapes.

I'll be periodically posting literary gems as the mood strikes me. Feel free to contribute!

Friday, June 17, 2005

Where Do We Go From Here?

Where do we go from here now that all other children are growin' up. And how do we spend our lives if there's no-one to lend us a hand... -Games People Play by the Alan Parsons Project.

I always thought these lyrics were well-crafted and chilling, even when I was young. Now my friends and I are beginning to live them. We all are facing our children aging with some degree of dread.

Many of you reading this are parents. I don't know how old your kids are. My friends and I have kids of all ages.

One of my best friends has two kids that just suddenly became 18. We're not sure how that happened. One day they were in middle school, the next day we were at their graduation party.

And my friend, the woman who always told me everything, including the naughty fact that she would be thrilled to be independant again and couldn't wait to kick them out of the nest... is suddenly casting about aimlessly. She doesn't understand why she is so miserable.

And I, a mom who revels in every stage her kids are in, see mine growing older, and taller, every day. And I am growing terrified too.

My friend is wondering if she should think about remarrying and having another baby. She's 42. I don't know what to tell her. We shouldn't be defined by our having children, should we? And we're all intelligent, strong minded women. What is going on with us?

I know the trite answers to tell myself and others. Get involved in your church and your community, give assistance to the needy, etc. But those don't fill the vacancy for anyone that I know. Is it just like grieving, and it gets better with time? My kids are still pretty young. I am trying not to look ahead, but I know that it is coming.

Where do we go from here?

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

China's Disallowance of Truthspeak

You might be saying, "Wow, that title is a mouthful!" Yup, it sure is. But I wrote the title as I might have to write it if I lived in China. In America, this title is allowed to be "China's Ban on Free Speech."

In China, the government has decided that there are certain words that will be banned from blogs. If they could ban them from the spoken word, I'm certain they would. Bloggers and bulletin board operators must register with the government. They cannot even post a word that is banned; their software won't allow it.

Sure, some of the words that are banned include some pretty foul ones. But apparently the Chinese government considers these words right up there with the four letter ones: freedom, police, Buddha, insurrection, riot, despotism, dissidents, Justice Party Forum, anti-communism, seperation, cult of personality, commie (anything), Jesus Christ, house of correction, protest, democracy, Democratic Progressive Party, democracy movement, democratic front, naive, brainwash, evil, and of course ... anything to do with Tiananmen square.

There are actually 1041 banned words so far, although I'm sure the list will grow. If you want to see it for yourself, go to . I'd also highly recommend and (TS turned me onto this topic in the first place).

Why does George Bush still allow trade with China? At one time, there were high hopes that China might be influenced to behave. But if we can't influence them positively, then let's consider influencing them negatively.

P.S. As for the entire internet, if they can't outright ban something, then the Chinese government manipulates it. They're flooding the internet with mouthpieces who will attempt to influence their subjects into viewing the Chinese government favorably. Good luck, meat heads!

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Senate Apologizes Pointlessly

Today, we can read about how the Senate is now apologizing that they never made lynching a federal crime.

First, lynching was a common practice everywhere (even in Great Britain) before it ever became a KKK/black issue. And just because a person was white didn't keep him from getting lynched. But things like the movie Roots went a long way in redirecting the truth of history.

Secondly, the senate that is apologizing now is not the same senate that refused to make it a federal crime then. And if the senate of yesteryear was resurrected, it would still make no apologies.

So the move was trite, easy, and pointless.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Americans: Get a Life!

OK, we all have heard (and used) the phrase: Get a Life! And we all need one!

What kind of society have we become? We are so caught up in other people's lives that we neglect our own. We watch every reality show that we can find on TV in the desperate quest to fill our lives up with someone else's.

And sports are another obsession. Why should we care about a sports team, when no one on (or surrounding) that team cares about us? If those distant idols know anyone at all, they know us as a name on a seat, or on a wall, that has donated money which allows them to play all day and make even more money.

Yet we are so worried about these total strangers, that we will pay all sorts of money to see how they're doing and support them in their lives. We will watch American Idol and pay money to vote for someone that we will not benefit by.

We care so much about these strangers that we give up our time to read a good book, play with our kids, learn something new, or help our neighbor.

When we grow old, will we look back and say "Thank god I cast that vote for Carrie" or will we regret that we didn't spend enough time doing the right things?

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Missionaries & Proselytizing

A close friend of ours is a famous hairdresser. He's bold, outspoken, witty, interesting...and straight. His book is always full and his referrals are word of mouth. He is continually on the move, juggling color, foils, trims, and perms. One day, a new client arrived that had been referred to him by another client. She sat in his chair and began to ask some prying questions. Was he married? No, but he's in a very committed relationship. Did he have kids? Yes, he said he did... Etc., etc., etc.

Now, these are the types of prying questions some people ask. The reasons they ask vary, but it's usually because they're either interested in trying to pursue a relationship with their 'victim', because they're simply nosy about something that isn't any of their business, or because they have a hidden agenda.

Knowing this, but choosing to not ask why she was prying (so he could stay removed from whatever angle she was coming from), he went off to the back room to mix the formula needed for her hair. When he came back, there was a Christian tract sitting on his work station.

Immediately seeing it, he smiled slightly but said nothing. He now understood that she had been trying to establish a commonality... reasons why he should become a born-again Christian. Noticing that he wasn't speaking, the client asked "Well are you?"

"Well is it?" asked my friend.

Confused, but unwilling to reliquish her pursuit, the client asked again, "Well are you?"

"Well is it?" my friend repeated.

"Is it what?" asked the slightly exasperated client.

"Is it any of your business?" asked my friend, calmly.

The client gasped "Well, I'm insulted!"

"And I'm offended," my friend said (honestly). "Do you really think that my personal beliefs have anything to do with you, or how well I can do your hair?"

"But you're so talented," she said, implying "you would be such an asset to our faith!"

"Look," began my friend. "Don't you think that I know all about Jesus? Don't you realize that when I drive to and from work every day I pass many, many churches? Don't you think that if I wanted to, I could stop in and ask them about what they believe? If I want to, then I will pursue it. When you sat down in my chair, I didn't ask you what you believe, did I? So how is that at all relevant to the relationship that we have as client and hairdressser?"

In the end, they agreed to part ways. He told her that obviously their business relationship wasn't going to be mutually satisfactory and she hasn't returned. The woman who had conspired with this 'missionary' also declared herself to be 'offended', and didn't return either.

Now, if I had to quantify what I believed, then I would say that I'm a born-again Christian. That means different things to different people, and none of us are exactly alike. But for all intensive purposes, let's use that term here. So, most people would think that I'd be on the side of the proselytizing women. But I'd like to tell those nosy people something that they may not have considered. My friend has a valid point. Do you really think that anyone in the United States of America (and most of the world, too!) hasn't heard the gospel? Do you truly think that inflicting your beliefs on others will 'save' anyone except the most needy and gullible?

As my friend points out, it is that type of person that keeps him away from religion. He feels that this type of rabid Christianity is mentally unhealthy. "Obviously," he says, "these types feel fulfilled only by the number of converts they are able to make." He also points out that they probably don't evaluate all their business relationships that way. "Do they walk into restaurants and refuse to eat there if the waitress or owners aren't of their religion?" he asks. "Do they only buy clothes from Christian proprietors?"

If you want quality converts, then you need to use quality means. Sometimes you don't need a battering ram to get in an open door. And sometimes, you need to keep your mouth shut.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Sudden Death, Sudden Shame

I attended a funeral recently. What can be said about death that hasn't already been said? I noticed some things I'd never read about, though. I noticed how time slowed down drastically and days seemed to drag on unmericifully until the memorial service and the subsequent funeral.

Hers was a young life, abruptly terminated. She was pretty and vivacious - a real party girl. She was outwardly sweet and kindly, and never malicious; but perhaps a little vacuous and self-centered. She had done some things recently (that came out at the time of her death) which made many of us squirm.

I don't believe in speaking anything but the truth, and I don't have that superstitious belief that one shouldn't speak 'ill of the dead'. I think she made some mistakes. And I think that it left her family confused. She was at no fault in her own death. It was a simple accident that killed her instantly and made her passing more merciful, but horribly unexpected.

But a twist came when everyone discovered that she had been working a job that would cause embarassment to many in her family when it was disclosed at the time of her death. And she had just decided to end a marriage to a wonderful guy, so that she could begin openly dating the one she'd been having an affair with for over a year. The family made the mistake of choosing to not disclose this to the pastor, so there he stood; speaking of what a great wife she was, and not mentioning the mourning boyfriend with his entourage of (what appeared to be) female strippers that knelt or sat by his side, supporting him in his time of grief. (I really must add here that his time of grief will apparently be short and fleeting).

Many of those attending were wonderfully supportive of her family during this time; family people who were more friends of her family than of hers. Her true friends drifted outside regularly to smoke a cigarette or stand around in clusters looking more like abandoned children with thickly applied eyeliner, than like young adults.

And I looked at those woeful friends of hers and felt great pity for them. They are part of the new generation of young, aimless adults. Many of the women were emaciated from drug use, many of the men covered in tatoos and multiple piercings, all looking as if they lived only to party and use their bodies in jaded entertainment with no care for tomorrow.

I think too often we encourage our kids to live for themselves, and live for the moment. Because we love them, we overindulge them to the point that they know of no other way. But it leaves children who are selfish and unfulfilled...and unfulfilling. And then, when tragedy strikes, we find ourselves lying to ourselves and lying to our ministers.

I have made some mistakes in my lifetime, and I have seen them as an opportunity to grow and change. I hope that my life will be something that I can be proud of. She never had the opportunity to rectify her mistakes. And I suppose that needs to be a lesson to us all. We never know when 'our page in the Book of Life' will be suddenly bookmarked for all to see. I pray that there will be no one that feels that they have to lie for me at my funeral.