Thursday, June 29, 2006

"It Could Have Been Me" Dept

This is just the sort of airheaded thing I might very well do myself.

"Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow" Dept

More proof that snowplow drivers make our lives better -- ours, that is, not hers.

"Well, As Long As The Ladies Agree..." Dept

For those of you who have never felt any qualms about the quality of decisions likely to be made in a democracy, remember that this school is a National School of Excellence.

Down with women's suffrage! say these young women...

"Where's Robert Benchley When You Need Him?" Dept

To steal a line directly from Benchley (originally uttered when a horse in a Broadway play committed a grievous social error): "A distressing spectacle, ladies and gentlemen, but Gad, what a critic!"

HT: Surely you needn't ask.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Ditto that

Mark Steyn on The Importance of Being Earnest, with a particularly good (though brief) meditation on the difficulty of making one's play "foolproof":

The Importance Of Being Earnest belongs to that enviable category of foolproof play. In the theatre, that’s the only definition of masterpiece that matters: given the actuarial odds of a great play falling into the hands of saboteurs, intentional or otherwise, the only option the author has is to render the work indestructible by players and stagers. It’s very difficult not to have a good time at Earnest: even in a dull production, when the play doesn’t seem to be about anything or anyone, it bounces jollily enough from epigram to epigram – handbag, carelessness, all women become like their mothers, etc. Some cockamamie concepts pan out – the Jazz Age vo-de-o-do sensibility of Oliver Parker’s 2002 film, for example; others you can’t quite believe you actually sat through – the West End transvestite production a few years ago starring Britain’s drag double-act, a pair of pantomime dames called Hinge and Bracket.

You know the plot: 1895, two chaps, neither called Ernest but both periodically pretending they are, and thus getting into complications with the ladies up in town, down in the country. Oscar Wilde’s play lives because the charm of its conceit is timeless: societal respectability, it posits, is the wispiest of veneers. Jack is a country squire but wholly self-invented, with no idea of who his “people” are. Algy is a Victorian lounge lizard, shifty, unreliable, but very winning. In theory, Lady Bracknell et al belong to a lost world, and thus the play ought to be a period piece, but the idea of gatecrashing society – of being at the party under false pretences – is forever. It’s far less “dated” than Hedda Gabler.
Steyn goes on with comments about specific productions, which comments are also interesting, at least to people who like me love the play and can always be talked into going to see the latest production thereof, even if it's a West End (of Houston) transvestite version.

I might add that the 2002 version to which he refers is as close to a perfect movie as I can think of. Every single character is played to perfection and with relish -- Dame Judi Dench as Lady Bracknell, Colin Firth as Jack, Rupert Everett as Algy (making you wish desperately that you could go back in time and cast him as Wickham in the A&E Pride and Prejudice that, but for the appallingly incompetent Wickham, would have been a practically perfect production itself), Frances O'Conner (whose delivery of lines like, "I intend to develop in a great many directions," frequently makes you want to pause the movie, back it up, and watch that line again), Reese Witherspoon (nailing one of the more difficult roles in the play and doing so with a reasonably creditable English accent withal), Tom Wilkinson and Anna Massey making the third romance endearing as well as amusing. And the gleeful score is perfect for the sensibilities of the piece -- even, perhaps especially, the musical numbers performed by Firth and Everett, in character, without voice doubles.

What I'm saying is, if you haven't seen this one, then do so at your earliest convenience.

"That Which Is Truly Offensive About The Dixie Chicks" Dept

The Hatemongers spread healing oil over the stormy seas of conflict.

I originally wrote "pour the oil of peace into the distraught bosom of the heavy-set one" but that seemed somehow ambiguous. (Meaning, that it inevitably raised the question, "Right, or left?")

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

"The Joy Of Language" Dept

Dave Barry starts with this paragraph:

Jack Bauer is being held captive aboard a freighter by Chinese actors who are still ticked off about a subplot from the previous season that most of us don't even remember. Audrey is still devastated. Edgar is still dead.
He then uses helpful translation software for the benefit of those of his readers who are more at home in French or German or Greek, and then reminds us, still with the help of that translation software, that:

The handle of the farmer is kept for collected with pinakj' da of a plane nay' loy of participants of the Chinese who still becomes with TAC-TICK roughly an assembly of the second degree excluded from preceding the time that the majority between us does not remember even above. The Audrey is still destroyed. Edgar still died.
It's particular fun for me because all three of those languages are languages that I knew in college and don't know anymore; but wading through each successive stage I can just barely make out each place where a phrase goes off the rails. Though it's not as much fun as all that because it's a very forceful reminder that I do not, in fact, still know any of those three languages.

Monday, June 26, 2006

I would love a commute like this

Randy Guidry sent me this link in an e-mail consisting of (other than the link) just a single sentence:

"FYI... Kenny, this is bloggable!"

Indeed it is. Another co-worker wants one of these installed between BP and Clear Lake on the grounds that, "It'd be safer than the Beltway."

Sunday, June 25, 2006

"Give That Man A Florida Driver's License" Dept

My friend Roy sent me an mpeg that caused all productive activity on the seventh floor at BP to come to a halt for several minutes as we watched it repeatedly, slow-motion, frame-by-frame, taking turns saying repeatedly, "Holy @#!$!#!" But the trouble with MPEG's is that I don't know how to post them on the blog.

Fortunately, there is YouTube, and sure enough a quick search of the archives proved that the video had been uploaded to the web so that I could easily link to it -- which I hereby do.

"Now THAT'S An Educational Video" Dept

Words fail me.

But if you are ever mugged by two men one of whom cleverly uses his bandanna to keep the back of his head from being recognizable in a lineup, then thanks to these Japanese dancers you will know exactly what to say.

Hat Tip: Who else?

Friday, June 23, 2006

On deleting posts

Only did this once before, but I regret -- for reasons that I suppose I can best describe as personal privacy reasons -- my most recent post, and I have just decided to remove it.

I want, however, to keep available an interesting link that was posted in the comments, and therefore recommend to anybody interested in Roman Catholic doctrin on human sexuality, this blog post from the exceptionally well-informed Michael Liccione.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Mediocre poem of the day

A few days ago my wife and I celebrated our seventeenth anniversary, which reminded me of what is, I think quite literally, the only poem I have ever written in my life. This would be because (a) I like poetry, (b) I have pretty darn good taste in poetry, and therefore (c) I know that the stuff I write is pretty crappy. So I just don't write any.

But for my wife's first anniversary I sat down and wrote her a poem. A couple of the lines were bad enough that I just can't stand not to correct them, and there's plenty to criticize -- including the fact that despite the fact that this was supposed to be a love poem for my wife, I spend more time talking about myself than her. Typically male, I know...but listen, guys, my point is that she loved it, and I got full credit for the effort (which, I do have to say, was very considerable effort indeed), even though I don't think much of the poem myself.

I would have posted this on our anniversary but it took me a while to find it. Here, with a couple of corrections where I just couldn't stand the original version, is the poem I wrote sixteen years ago, provided for its historical interest. Actually, I'm putting it onto the blog because that way sixteen years from now when I want to see the poem again, I'll actually know where to find it...

10 June 1990

I’ve never been a fisherman. I hear
The devotees of reel and rod recall
Rich days on stream and mere;
Line arcing in the sunlight; flashing lure
Enticing mountain trout to strike with all
Their water-walking might. Then sometimes I, wistful, secure

In my own room, surrounded by my books,
Imagine learning how to fly-fish. Down
A rocky mountain brook
I’d wade, or take a boat, perhaps. My casts
No doubt at first would court the bushes ’round
The bank instead of teasing trout. But, I presume, at last

My wrist and rod and reel would learn to dance
In harmony, not slapstick comedy.
So tell me, what’s the chance
I’d stick it out? Would my ineptitude
Leave me amused, or in a demon’s mood?
– Who’d be along? – for all depends upon the company.

A year ago we wed. No master I
Of understanding femininity’s
Wherefores and reasons why.
A novice, rather, in the lover’s art,
Unskilled in all those sensitivities
That soften sorrow, guide the healing hand and husband’s heart.

Yet never made God glittering salmon bright
As her entrancing eyes, her dancing grin
A-sparkle with delight.
No leaping rill laughs music quite so sweet
As lilts light-hearted all within me when
She comes to my embrace, or after parting brief we meet.

One year gone by. My love will be as deep
When children come, then go; when sometimes we
Catch moments fit to keep,
Or see our parents sleep
In death’s deep life, or age ourselves. No doubt
We’re clumsy yet. But I know we play out
A lifetime love, and sure I am that we will always be
Three comrades: she, myself, and Love, a merry company.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

To appreciate America, it helps to live someplace else first

As Paul could tell you.

HT: Her Anchorship

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Quote of the day

One of Thomas Sowell's most recent batch of "random thoughts":

The beauty of doing nothing is that you can do it perfectly. Only when you do something is it almost impossible to do it without mistakes. Therefore people who are contributing nothing to society except their constant criticisms can feel both intellectually and morally superior.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Wickedly insightful pun of the day

The Hatemongers are objecting to the abuse of the phrase "cycle of violence." Their initial objection to its use in the Israeli-Palestinian context seems pretty on-target to me. (Remember that the immediate result of the unilateral Israeli pullout from Palestinian territory has been that the particular Palestinians who for years have been getting their jollies by killing Israelis, but now thanks to the pullout have no Israelis conveniently to hand, have simply redirected their murderous behavior at each other; as a Loren Estleman character once said of the Apache Indians, "If they were the only people on earth, they would pick a fight with the moon.") Here are the Hatemongers musing on the "cycle of violence" in Palestine:

Indeed, if the Israelis did not respond to Palestinian terrorism, the so-called “cycle of violence” would end — after the Palestinians murdered millions of Jews.
But then the Hatemongers deliver this untoppable piece of pointed wordplay:

If you ask us, a better phrase for the Israeli-Palestinian situation would be “unicycle of violence”: You’ve got one people (those peaceable Palestinians) hell-bent on violence, and the violence would cease if they stopped it.
Gentlemen, I salute true inspiration.

By the way, the Hatemongers are sui generis - a very highly (but amusingly) mannered mix of P. G. Wodehouse's and Judith Martin's tongue-in-cheek highfalutin' tone, along with Dave Barry's technique of introducing the occasional crashing non sequitur into a seemingly straight-faced set of examples. The triplicate list of examples in which the final one is patently absurd may seem like a simple formula, but patent absurdity is a lot harder to achieve than you would think. For example, here is a list from the same article, with the comic third term left blank for you to fill in with your best effort. And remember that the core joke of the whole blog, unless I've badly missed the point, is to send up the liberal stereotype of conservatives as "hateful" by producing one deliberately over-the-top piece of tongue-in-cheek piece of "conservative hate speech" after another (the hate is as deliberately mannered and comically exaggerated as is the pretentious style). So (this is a big hint) you should be trying to come up with a creating and laugh-inducing way to insult somebody, in your best "true conservative [as perceived by liberals]" assumed voice.

...various hip words and neologisms trouble us, sometimes deeply.

For instance, there are the following: “Diversity”; “a teachable moment”; _________ Any sane person (read: Non-academic) should feel his skin crawl upon hearing such ugly words.
How did you do? Here's what I imagine to be the Rush Limbaugh version, for example:

For instance, there are the following: “Diversity”; “a teachable moment”; Hilary Clinton. Any sane person (read: Non-academic) should feel his skin crawl upon hearing such ugly words.
But here's the Hatemonger's version:

For instance, there are the following: “Diversity”; “a teachable moment”; Billy Joel. Any sane person (read: Non-academic) should feel his skin crawl upon hearing such ugly words.
Now take out "Billy Joel" and put in "Cher" or "Barry Manilow" and you've got vintage Dave Barry -- and let's face it, Dave Barry is a lot funnier than Rush Limbaugh. And IMHO so are the Hatemongers.

At any rate, I read every 'Mongers rant for the same two reasons I'm careful to check regularly over at ATB to see what graphics Alexandra has come up with today: I don't know anybody else who's doing exactly what the crack young staff is trying to do; and what the crack young staff is trying to do, they're doing pretty darn well.

Monday, June 12, 2006

What's up with that?

What's the deal with my supervisors, setting a code deadline on the same day as the U.S. World Cup opener?

Sheesh. Bad planning there, guys. Let's do better next time, shall we?

Sunday, June 11, 2006

"Basketball Forum Comment Of The Day" Dept

Best verbal one-two punch of the night in re the NBA Finals, from the Dallas Morning News Mavericks forum (search for "Props to blog reader"):

Total Shaq points, Game 2: 5

Number of people who rented Kazaam! this weekend: 8

Josh Groban song of the day

I just can't tell you much I love this song, which comes close to being the perfect love song...if you can follow the Italian.

My Italian isn't very good anymore; so the appended translation is a caveat lector kind of thing.

Cinema Paradiso (Se)

Se tu fossi nei miei occhi per un giorno
Vedresti la bellezza che piena d’allegria
Io trovo dentro gli occhi tuoi
E nearo se magia o lealta

Se tu fossi nel mio cuore per un giorno
Potreste avere un’ idea
Di cio che sento io
Quando mi abbracci forte a te
E petto a petto, noi
Respiriamo insieme

Protagonista del tuo amor
Non so se sia magia o lealta

Se tu fossi nella mia anima un giorno
Sapresti cosa sono in me
Che m’ innamorai
Da quell’ istante insieme a te
E cio che provo è
Solamente amore

Da quell’ istante insieme a te
E cio che provo è
Solamente amore


If you were in my eyes for a day
You’d see the beauty so full of joy
That I find in your eyes
And that’s neither illusion nor love’s prejudice

If you were in my heart for a day
You could have some idea
Of what it is that I feel
When you hold me tight against you,
And breast to breast,
We breathe together

I’m the hero of your love story
I don’t know whether that’s illusion or love’s prejudice

If you were in my soul for a day
You would know everything that’s inside me
How I fell in love
In that instant, together with you
And what I’m feeling
Is nothing else but love

In that instant, together with you
And what I’m feeling
Is nothing else but love

The Italian poetry is ravishing even when simply read aloud, and both the setting and the voice are perfectly suited to it, on Josh Groban's eponymous first album. (That means the album was named after him: Josh Groban.)

"Well, Duh" headline of the day

Al-Zarqawi's death may not stop civil war. Really? Ya think?

[rolling eyes] I have to go look up the "What Do You Think?" entry from The Onion, years ago, that said something along the lines of maybe it was time we stopped thinking of Middle Eastern conflict as a problem and just celebrated it as part of the local culture...

NOTE TO HUMORLESS PERSONS: If it's quoted from The Onion, it's not serious.

The humor writer's favorite type of comment... the one from the moron who has no clue the humor writer is, um, writing comedy and is not serious.

For example, Dave Barry wrote a piece just before the NBA Finals about how much better Miami is than Dallas -- quite funny, and as is Dave's habit, more or less entirely fact-free (the only time you are expected to believe anything Dave writes is when he says explicitly, "I am not making this up"). And of course notice was taken in Dallas, on the Mavericks fan forum of the Dallas Morning News. So here are a couple of the responses they got in their comments forum.

"James" appears to be responding to this paragraph from Dave's piece (which, actually, is more or less as true as anything I've written on this blog in the past week):

Billionaire owners: Each team has one. The Heat's billionaire is Micky Arison, a quiet, dignified man who pretty much stays out of the limelight, preferring to let the actual basketball players get the attention. The Cows' billionaire is Mark Cuban, who takes a somewhat different approach, which is to do everything possible to make sure that nobody ever, for one second, forgets that he is a billionaire NBA owner.
To which "James" responds:

Not only is Dave Barry a 2nd rate reporter, he's also a lousy researcher. He says (in his op-ed) that Dallas has 1 billionaire, Mark Cuban. If he did his homework (read Forbes 400 Richest people) then he would have known that Ross Perot, Jerry Jones AND Tom Hicks are all billionaires that call Dallas Home. Im sure there are a couple more but I proved my point.
I presume that the point in question is the one at the apex of James's head.

Elsewhere in that article Dave mentions that people all across the country frequently visit Dallas:

They go to Dallas mainly to change planes, which at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport can also be very exciting, as you know if you've ever attempted to get from gate B-36 to gate C-39 (a distance of eight miles) in time to make your connecting flight, which leaves in 13 minutes.
Fortunately "Julie" is fact-checking Dave and is not about to let him get away with factual sloppiness:

Trivial I know but I seriously doubt that the distance between gates B and C is 8 miles.

Steve Blow, however, humor columnist for the Dallas Morning News, knows how to give Dave his own medicine back:

The Miami Heat? According to official government records, you know how many times it has hit 100 in Miami?

Once! In 1942.

Please – 100 degrees? We call that April.

Everyone knows the real problem in Miami. It's not the heat that kills you, it's the stupidity.

And lastly, we must address a delicate matter. I'm sorry to even raise this, but it must be dealt with.

Considering the ethnic makeup of Miami, I'm shocked that Mr. Barry has revealed the ugly truth about himself.

And considering how volatile Miami is, I sure hope this doesn't create loud, frightening protests in front of his mansion.

But after all the demeaning things he wrote in his column about our Mavs owner, we must face the truth:

Dave Barry is anti-Cuban.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Same observation as mine but more pithily expressed

A correspondent of Mark Steyn writes about the Canadian bombers who, according to the Canadian authorites, were mystifyingly without a common thread, and who came from all across the "broad spectrum" of Canadian society. Just to remind you, here are the names of the accused so far as I know them:

Fahim Ahmad
Zakaria Amara
Asad Ansari
Shareef Abdelhaleen
Qayyum Abdul Jamal
Mohammed Dirie
Yasim Abdi Mohamed
Jahmaal James
Amin Mohamed Durrani
Abdul Shakur
Ahmad Mustafa Ghany
Saad Khalid

I asked plaintively if any readers could help me find that oh-so-elusive common thread, and lo and behold T. Rodwell provides Mark Steyn with a theory:

In fact, these lads seem to come from that part of the spectrum that is Islamic, lives in south-central Ontario, admires Osama bin Laden and, more of ten than not, calls itself “Mohammed”.

That part of the “spectrum” ain’t all that “broad”. Would the apologists have been as dismissive sixty years ago if guns and a truckload of explosive had been found in the possession of two dozen young German-speaking males with close-cropped blonde hair, brown shirts and tiny mustaches, three of whom were named “Adolf,” and all of whom who, immediately upon being arrested, demanded to be given their own personal copies of Mein Kampf?

As Dennis Miller put it, when 14 out of 19 hijackers come from the same country and you notice that fact, it’s not “profiling”, it’s “minimally observant.”

Now there's a moral compass for you

Michael Berg: "I'm not saying Saddam Hussein was a good man, but he's no worse than George Bush."

If I may construct an analogous and equally reality-based sentiment:

I'm not saying Michael Berg is a smart man, but he's no stupider than George Bush.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Oldie but a goodie

Seems a good day to go searching back through the Onion's archives for this piece. WARNING: very non-Baptist.

Quote of the day from a couple of days back

Instapundit: "Is it just me, or is the Middle East a lot like 7th Grade with RPGs?

Whatever else happens, it's a good day

Because al-Zarqawi is dead.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

"What If The U.S. Had Had Jane Fonda In 1948?" Dept

Okay, I know you guys have already seen this, since I've seen about thirty different links to it already today.

But it's funny. Unless I suppose you're a very serious anti-war type with no ability to poke fun at yourself. In which case you are welcome to flame me in the comments section; I will take no offense. (But I warn you, I probably won't be able to help being amused, which I fear will just compound my original crime...)

Numbers 6, 4, 3 and 1 are especially on target, but my favorite by far is #2:

"I support the troops, but invading Germany does not guarantee that in 56 years we won't have a President who's worse than Hitler."

P.S. Don't miss the counter in the right-hand margin: "9 [as of this posting] Days Without A Paris Hilton Reference"...

"WHAT Kind Of Chess Did You Say?" Dept

I figure this is an English-language blog and so I usually keep my Russian-based amusement to myself; but I note that the publishers of this article seem to have had English-language search engines in mind when they wrote the headline.

For that rarest of birds, the Russian-challenged American, I will explain three things, just so you'll get the joke I'm sharing with Russian-speaking friends.

1. The headline is "Sexual Chess," or perhaps "Sexy Chess." When Anya and Kinya get back from California maybe Anya can tell me which translation is better.

2. "Sexualniye shakhmati" is, in Russian letters, "Сексуальные шахматы," -- but since even Russian teenagers are used to chasing around the Web in English, you'll get way fewer young men searching for "секс" than you will for "sex." Thus the headline's first three letters are left in English: "Sexуальные шахматы." This actually confused me and it took a while for me to figure out what it meant...thus proving that I'm not as smart as I think and not as sex-obsessed as my wife thinks...

3. In case you're curious, this is an article about Maria Manakova, a young Russian chess master (chess mistress?) who has decided that the sport of chess is just not popular enough among young Russian men, and has therefore chosen the marketing ploy of appearing more or less nude in a big spread in a Russian magazine. Either that or she did it for the money. Don't worry, the picture accompanying this particular article is quite decent.

"...That The Stars Were Still There..." Dept

Quite possibly the worst assault on our national anthem -- in terms both of talent and of preparation -- ever committed in public. Who picked this guy? I love the one cop who's desperately trying (unsuccessfully) to keep a straight face through it all. And what's the only thing that could have made it worse, Mr. Bierce?

[Ambrose Bierce replies posthumously, from the pages of The Devil's Dictionary:]

accordion, n. An instrument in harmony with the sentiments of an assassin.

This is how you do it, people, again

A genuinely good apology is so rare that whenever I see one I have to celebrate it.

Major props to Mr. Hevesi here. I wish he hadn't said it to begin with but I respect anybody who will come right out and say that he was wrong, without excuses. Well done, sir. I tip my hat to you.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

"It's A Man's World..." Dept, Updated

The final number on the handbag auction is in. That would be the handbag in the incident I posted on a few days know, the one that inspired the following opening paragraphs in a gleeful Aussie paper:

A New Zealand rugby player burst into tears when his captain hit him with a woman's handbag in an early morning incident in a Christchurch bar, news reports said today.

The pair were then thrown out by a female bouncer.
The handbag and broken cellphone involved have been sold for 22,800 NZD, or roughly $14,350 U.S.

Fifty bucks says the bloke who bought it hails from the land that gave us Olivia Newton-John, Men at Work and that one actor dude who liked to fantasize about wrestling crocodiles. But hey, at least it takes a male bouncer to kick an Aussie rugby bloke out of the pub...

(That's fifty NZD, by the way -- hey, I have eight kids, you think I can afford fifty American dollars?)

Judge not, lest ye be judged

UPDATED 9 June 2006

Judge not, lest ye be judged.

I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that at least four out every five times that I’ve heard somebody quote that line – and I’ve heard it quoted more times than I can count – the person quoting it has no more intention of living life according to Christ’s moral principles than does your average working-on-marriage-number-seven Hollywood celebrity. People quote it the way they approvingly quote Polonius’s “This above all, to thine own self be true,” without the vaguest notion that they're only quoting part of a sentence (and that the whole sentence doesn't mean what they think it means), or that Shakespeare put those words in the mouth of a man whose perfectly appropriate epitaph is, "Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell!" That is, they quote it, and I have to restrain myself from coming back with them in the persona of Inigo Montoya: "You keep using that phrase. I do not think it means what you think it means."

So I thought it might be interesting to talk a bit about what Jesus’ statement actually does mean, at least so far as I can tell.

“Judge not, lest ye be judged,” comes from a long collection of Jesus’ teachings known as the Sermon on the Mount. Now, one interesting thing about this collection is that it mixes together two quite different kinds of advice.

On the one hand, you have statements that are clearly moral prescriptions – “Turn the other cheek,” for example, or the one that caused Jimmy Carter to come a cropper, viz., if you look at a woman lustfully you’ve already committed adultery with her in your heart. On the other hand, you have statements that are not moral prescriptions, but are instead shrewd advice about how life really works. “Make peace with your adversary before he takes you to court and cleans you out,” for example. So the very first question to ask ourselves is simply this: is, “Judge not, lest ye be judged,” a moral command, or a piece of practical advice?

Different people can have different opinions on this one, but my own opinion is that it’s the latter – although it is paired with a closely related piece of moral advice. Here’s the whole passage having to do with judgment (NIV):

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
Jesus then goes on to add:

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
Note, by the way, that Jesus certainly appears to assume that removing a speck from your brother’s eye is not in itself a bad thing (which rules out the most common interpretation of “Judge not, lest ye be judged,” in the mouth of an American, said interpretation being, “If there’s a speck in your brother’s eye, pretend there’s nothing wrong with that”). His complaint is with the hypocricy of pretending you’re morally superior to others when in fact your own problems dwarf theirs.

But let’s get back to, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” It seems to me that what Jesus is doing here is simply pointing to a fact that ought to be pretty obvious from experience: if you don’t cut other people any slack when they screw up, then you’d bloody well better never screw up yourself or else you’re going to get no mercy. Whatever you dish out, people will generally see that later on you have to take it. If you have dealt out gentleness and mercy, then when your turn comes there’s a good chance that people will react to your own failings the same way. But if you use people’s faults as a lever for their destruction, then God help you when they figure out what your own faults are.

There’s a classic example of the mutually-assured-destruction dynamic going on in the blogosphere right now. A gentleman named Tim Russo has been, shall we say, unkind to persons whose public behavior fails to meet with his satisfaction. He’s done lots of blogging and done, it seems, rather more than his share of judgmental attack-blogging.

This was a very silly thing for him to do, however, for one simple reason: Mr. Russo’s past includes a criminal conviction (case #414621, year 2001) for attempting to disseminate material “harmful to juveniles,” and importuning a minor (that is, he tried to get somebody he thought was younger than sixteen to agree to have sexual relations with him). In other words, this is somebody whom the average person would consider a pedophile and sex offender (though you’d have to be a lawyer to know whether the law would apply those terms to him, which I am not).

Enter “HeightsMom” Cindy Zawadski, a fellow Democrat who was honked off at his constant bitterness and judgmentalism. According to her story, she got to wondering, “What’s up with this guy? Why is he so bitter?” So she did a web search and discovered the court case. She promptly posted full details, complete with links, under the heading, Hypocricy, Thy Name Is Russo. Her fundamental point, as she later explained in the comments, with bold print: “Many people, like me, will take offense to being lectured about morals by a convicted felon.”

And in the end, just a few days ago, Russo’s local paper (at which, unsurprisingly for someone with his tongue, he seems to have acquired an enemy) printed a list of local blogger profiles – and described him as something like “trying to rebuild his credibility after the revelation of his conviction for importuning a minor.” Devastated, Russo has closed down his blog with these two posts. You can't help but feel that it's too bad that Russo's parents never explained to him the two sides of the coin: Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy; but in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Tim’s supporters on his blog miss the point entirely by talking as though Tim was targeted for his ideas. But it is not the content of his ideas that made his destruction inevitable – it was the judgmentalism with which he expressed them. And now, devastatingly, he has been judged. That is how the world works.

But let’s not stop there. Let’s go back to Ms. Zawadski (who no longer blogs, by the way I'm delighted to learn still blogs at -- still very much a Democrat, and a very hard-working blogger with nice coverage indeed of recent Ohio Democratic get-togethers...and also, I am delighted to report, a brand-new baby boy. Pop over to her site and leave her some congratulations on young Konrad...). Cindy had plenty of people in her comments who agreed with her. But it might already have occurred to some of you that Ms. Zawadski could be seen as...well, passing judgment on Mr. Russo. It certainly occurred to some of the people in her comments, who had things to say like, “Yet who annointed [sic] you our defender and Tim’s judge? On whose moral authority did you act?” Or, if you want unintentionally hilarious foaming-at-the-mouth over-the-top reaction:

But apparently, people like you Cindy still believe we should try all sins again and again, even after we have paid for them.

I suppose you'd like a monarchy too. And perhaps an abolition on slavery to go with your penchant for branding others.

In short, Cindy passed judgment; and as a result, others passed judgment on her.

And now here I sit pointing out that those others were in their turn being judgmental...which opens an obvious avenue for commentors here to point out that I'm passing judgment on Cindy's commentors...and as far as I know, there’s nothing to stop the process from going on from now until the end of time.

"Irish Cultural Question Of The Day" Dept

Q. What's the difference between an Irish wedding and an Irish wake?

A. One fewer drunk.

Joke comes your way via a commenter calling himself the March Hare, over at Her Anchorship's.

What could they possibly have in common?

From the Toronto Star (hat tip: Kathryn Jean Lopez):

In investigators' offices, an intricate graph plotting the links between the 17 men and teens charged with being members of a homegrown terrorist cell covers at least one wall. And still, says a source, it is difficult to find a common denominator [emphasis added].
Is it really that difficult? Try this on for size: the names, insofar as the Star provides them, of the accused:

Qayyum Abdul Jamal
Ahmad Mustafa Ghany
Yasin Abdi Mohamed
Mohammed Dirie
Fahim Ahmad
Steven Vikash Chand -- oh, no, wait, since his conversion to Islam he goes by "Abdul Shakur"
Yasin Abdi Mohamed

Hmmm...nope, I don't see any common theme. Perhaps others brighter than myself and the Star could help us out? It's a real poser, this one...

Thank you, Times of London

It's nice, every so often, to hear somebody from the other side of the pond say something like this.

UPDATE: Or this, from the BBC of all things! Wonders will never cease. A red-letter day indeed!

Monday, June 05, 2006

Dragged back into economics

This paper is interesting enough that I think I'm about to get dragged back into thinking, and reading, a lot about economics.

Won't that make my wife happy...

Friday, June 02, 2006

"Parental Ethics Question Of The Day" Dept

If your last name were Hoare, would you name your daughter Anita?

(Yes, yes, I'm perfectly well aware that her maiden name was probably something innocuous like "Mann." It's an ethical question, not an accusation.)

"Why We Shouldn't Let Those D**d American Citizens Into This Country" Dept

Not because they assault people who dare to speak Spanish in their presence -- after all, who wouldn't? -- but because they embarrass the rest of us with excuses like this:

"I accidentally took my shoe off and hit her with it after she punched me."

HUMORLESS PERSONS PLEASE NOTE: The "who wouldn't?" above is facetious.

HT: The Great One, yet again.

I'll say it this way from now on

I've frequently made the point that when Person A accuses Person B of doing something immoral, the accusation is apt to tell you more about Person A than it does about Person B. And that is especially true when it's a blanket accusation: when somebody says, "It's not possible to hate the sin without hating the sinner," he gives you no real reason to think that conservative Christians can't love drug addicts without hating those addicts' addiction, but he does establish that, if for example he happens to think that you are a "homophobe," you may be uncomfortably confident that he hates you.

But today I heard this idea expressed with perfect pith...only I can't remember where. I'll happily give credit where it's due if somebody can tell me the original source of this quote:

"He who accuses the world convicts only himself."