Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Wabbit Season!

Duck Season!


Very cool. About 40 years too late for me; yet very cool.

(Via Alarm-Alarm) An article in the New York Times Magazine about conservative Christian Colleges hosting dances on campus.

Mark Oppenheimer writes as a very thoughtful outsider. When confronted by the question, "Didn't these people preach hellfire against dancing?" he makes this insightful comment:

If you want to know why J.B.U. students didn’t dance until now, it makes more sense to look out your window at Siloam Springs than to look down at the Bible on your desk. The Bible doesn’t say you can’t dance. For that matter, it doesn’t say that you can’t drink or can’t smoke. The rules against these vices are what evangelicals call “prudential” rather than scriptural: they don’t have the force of commandment, but you follow them just to be careful. These rules arose as part of a Protestant subculture so determined to eradicate sin that it began to interdict behaviors that might be baby steps on the road to perdition. This subculture is not mandated by the Bible, but it’s the marrow of towns like Siloam Springs and schools like John Brown University.

Despite their professed commitment to Scripture as the sole basis of the Christian life, radical Protestants have always policed themselves even more strictly than the Bible prescribes. New England Puritans, 19th-century Sabbatarians and 20th-century temperance activists all advocated rules against one biblically permissible activity or another...

It’s hard to say which came first for conservative Christians: the cultural prohibitions or the scriptural justifications. The rules against smoking and drinking have a plausible basis in Paul’s metaphor in I Corinthians 6:19 of the body as “a temple,” a sacred site not to be despoiled: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” But other prohibitions seem rooted entirely in prudential culture — where else would we get the notion, enshrined in the rules of some Christian colleges, that boys must keep their hair cut short, lest they confuse gender roles? And how can dancing be prohibited? For Miriam dances after the victory at the Red Sea, and David dances after the ark’s return to Jerusalem. Ecclesiastes tells us there is “a time to mourn and a time to dance.”

Traditionally, the answer was that dancing, like long hair on men, might have been appropriate in biblical times but did not fit with contemporary understandings of temperance, modesty or prudence. But within this answer was a tacit concession that as culture changes, some rules change, too. That understanding has allowed for an extraordinary transformation in how evangelicals perceive dance: impossible as it would have seemed 50 years ago, many of them now believe that dancing is particularly desirable. In the first half of the 20th century, various swing dances, like the jitterbug and the lindy hop, were often associated with juvenile delinquency and miscegenation, what many parents feared. Swing still seems like an artifact of the ’40s and ’50s, but now that era has become, in the evangelical mind, a prelapsarian age before the pill, the Crips or gay marriage. Parents who themselves were forbidden to dance now urge their children toward what has become, standing against the muck of popular culture, a wholesome pastime.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


Yes, I'm a fan of Newt Gingrich.

Not because I think he is has a snowball's chance of being elected in 2008, but because he is such a colorful idea generator.

Newt's response to the question, "Are you running in 2008?", is to say that he's more excited to be generating ideas than to be campaigning. If in September 2007 there is no clear leader in the Republican primaries and his ideas have won a following, he will consider entering the race.

What wonderful sophistry! As though a mighty army of nerds and wonks will rise up, bear him on their shoulders down Pennsylvania Avenue, and install him in the White House by acclamation. Although, when given the choice between a old-line demagogue and Newt Gingrich, boy wizard, give me Newt.

But as Daniel Drezner points out:
Gingrich intrigues me -- he's far more complex and interesting a thinker than the nineties stereotype of him suggested. And if Hillary Clinton can remake herself as someone who's learned from past mistakes, I see no reason why Gingrich can't as well.

However, I can't shake the feeling that because I'm so interested in a Gingrich, he's doomed to fail.
UPDATE: Jim Geraghty, over at The Hillary Spot has this to say about long-shot Newt:

Newt Gingrich: I’ll just note that for those of us annoyed by the state of American discourse – where “Make America a better place to live, work and raise a family,” is taken seriously as a message for a campaign — a Gingrich presidency would instantly make our national dialogue at least fifty percent smarter.

(You have to love a candidate who, when asked by a snotty teen at an MTV forum whether he wears “Boxers or briefs?” responds, “That is a very stupid question, and it's stupid for you to ask that question.” The only way it could have been better is if he made the little punk cry.)

Long before the tech world was contemplating the $100 laptop as a possible solution to alleviate world poverty, Newt was thinking out loud about giving laptops to the homeless. Newt seems like the kind of guy who has twelve ideas before breakfast every morning, and at least some of them are likely to be good ones.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Samurai Sword Mania

Those Scots.
Samurai sword terror as five stabbed

FOUR teenagers were among at least five people stabbed in a street battle linked to gangland wars in north Glasgow.

Samurai swords and knives were used by youths as young as 15 as the Milton area erupted into violence.

As someone who is engaged in a serious study of Japanese Swordsmanship, I find myself torn between curiosity, amusement, and disgust.

What kind of swords are they using? There are at least five different kinds that can be called "samurai swords." The one people are most familiar with is the katana, so I'm guessing that's what they are using.

Where are they getting these things? But I should not be surprised. I was walking by a tobacco store the other day and saw several sets of swords on display. I walked in and confirmed that they were junk, created to be put on display (and not looked at too closely.) But even a scrap of metal can be sharpened to a razor edge and be very dangerous.

How are they affording these things? I bought my own sword (a student sword, called an iaito) in 2005. It cost me ~$600. A real katana would cost in the ~$8000 - $10000. Again, not to be surprised--I just plugged "katana" into Google and found many places that would sell me a "real samurai katana" for less than $200.

Why are these guys getting away with it? Don't the police have that great anti-katana weapon, the pistol? Not to boast, but I'd take any of these guys on one-on-one with a jo (a walking staff.)


Taleena has emailed me a link about, well, some kind `o hero:

English Samurai Saves Police

Real-Life Super Hero Cuts Down Crime

Perhaps inspired by Pulp Fiction (or any number of comic books), a mysterious vigilante with a samurai sword rescued two police officers from a gang of toughs in South Shields, England, last week. It all started when as many as five assailants, armed with knives, chains and a hammer, allegedly forced their way into an apartment and began ransacking the place. Outside, two off-duty detectives, who happened to be passing by, heard the screams of a woman and entered the premises to investigate. They confronted the intruders, but, being out-numbered and out-armed, quickly lost control of situation. Accounts vary, but it appears that just as one of the robbers drew his knife and lunged at one of the cops, a mustachioed do-gooder appeared out of the blue brandishing a three-foot samurai sword.

He cried out, "Leave him alone, he's a police officer!," and then went on a rampage swinging his blade "wildly back and worth and wounding at least one of the robbers." Disoriented by his attack, the gang panicked, allowing police to gain the upper-hand. But, as superheroes tend to do, the South Shields Samurai vanished in the ensuing chaos as quickly as a he had appeared. Police are now seeking his whereabouts and, while not condoning vigilantism, admit "[t]here is no doubt this person assisted." Looks like Batman may have some competition!
Well, it wasn't me. I don't swing my blade wildly back and forth. But you gotta love the "mustachioed do-gooder."

...And you know that the South Sheilds Police would arrest this guy in a New York Minute.

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Astronaut Farmer

I clicked over to this to see if someone was trying to muscle into Robert Heinlein's Farmer in the Sky territory. Instead, it's the story of a guy who wants to build his own spaceship and how the government tries to stop him So it's Rocket Ship Galileo.

Lots of big, wide shots, heartwarming athems building, and Virgina Madsen.

I'll be see it.

Friday, January 05, 2007

What We've Been Missing, Why We're Proud

In the Wall Street Journal's opinion page, Peggy Noonan comments on the funeral of former President Gerald Ford:
The Marines snap their salutes and bear the flag-draped coffin up the marble steps and we hear the old hymns--"Going Home," "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God," "The Navy Hymn": "Oh hear us when we cry to thee / For those in peril on the sea." We don't hear these songs much in modern life, only at formal occasions like this. We lock them in a closet until a state funeral, and then they come out and we realize how much they meant, and how much we miss them.
Man, do I miss those hymns. The best of them contain a great theology lesson in verse form.

Ms Noonan ends her essay with a scene from the House of Representatives:
Time moves, life moves, we grow older together. And now a new era begins, and with another great ceremony. As I write, a new Democratic speaker of the House is about to be sworn in. The great hall of the House is full and teeming--members have brought their children in brightly colored dresses and little jackets and ties. Nancy Pelosi in a russet suit and pearls is standing, laughing and holding a grandchild.

Now a clerk with a high voice is reading, "Therefore the Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi is duly elected . . ." and the House has erupted in cheers. She is escorted to the back of the chamber. And now the first woman to lead the House of Representatives is being handed the gavel by John Boehner, the leader of the opposition. He kisses her. She holds it high. And now she speaks. "I accept this gavel in a spirit of partnership . . . for the good of the American people." "In this House", she says, "we may be different parties but we serve one country."

And so again we remind ourselves who we are. We "show an affirming flame." We are a great republic and a great democracy. We are a great nation and a great people. We peacefully--gracefully--pass power from one group to another. And we start this new time on the right foot, with a cheer.
And this is what America can brag of. Not of her armies, which are the finest and most powerful in history; nor of her navies which sail where they will and defend freedom of the seas for even our sharpest economic rivals; but for the political culture that nurtures and celebrates the peaceful transition of power between parties.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Increasing our Capacity for love

"When apologists for eugenics discuss the potential for human engineering, they almost always mention increasing human intelligence, as if that is the most important human attribute. Funny, how they never discuss increasing our capacity to love. "
Wesley J. Smith in The Corner.

Six Frigates

Mrs. Islander, in a terrible breach of Christmas protocol, gave me the book Six Frigates by Ian Toll. I completed reading it yesterday, and I cannot recommend it too highly.

I am an Army man (Signal Corp, actually), and I don't really have a visceral feel for naval issues. But I have re-read C.S. Forrester's Hornblower Saga more times than I can count, and I am happily working my way through Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey Maturin Series.

In Six Frigates, Ian Toll covers the political and economic conditions that forced the creation and development of the US Navy. Into this setting he weaves the epic story of the Navy's actions on the seas, from the "Quasi War" against France, the war against the Barbary Pirates, and through to the War of 1812, when the US Navy did the unthinkable and defeated several British frigates in one-on-one battles.

This is a real, rip-roaring, salt-spray, cannons-thundering sea yarn that just happens to be true. Huzzah!

Scrubs on Abortion

I don't watch Scrubs, but all the cool kids tell me that it's a very funny and important (popular) show. So I was surprised to see this clip on YouTube.

The point I'd like to make is that I don't find this depiction of Jesus troublesome.

Congratulations to the producers and writers of this episode for taking on what could have been a flaming train wreck and making a well placed point. (Jesus doesn't negotiate.)

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