Monday, December 31, 2007

Maybe there's a reason mice fear cats

New research indicates that mice, if genetically altered, lose their fear of cats. Japanese scientists at the University of Tokyo say they have modified mice by removing certain nasal cells." Without the nasal cells, mice no longer smell the cat and no longer try run away--as mice are said to be naturally terrified of cats.

The scientists say that their research shows that mice are genetically designed to fear cats and that it's not learned by experience.

Of course, without the nasal cells the mice would be even more defenseless. They would approach the cat, which would then snatch them up. Cats that I've seen usually do one of the following with mice: kill then and eat them, play with them and then kill and eat them or play with them and then lose them.

Sounds to me like this gene is a survival instinct of mice. Extinction would certainly be a lot more rampant if animals suddenly had no more fear of their predators.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Speaking of John Tesh...

...a fellow Christian and friend of mine in broadcasting tells me that he has met John Tesh a few times and has even interviewed him once or twice on the air. Said to me that Mr. Tesh couldn't have been a nicer man.

I say this just so that anyone reading this blog realizes that my attempts at parodying "Intelligence For Your Life" are for humor purposes only. I can't remember if I mentioned this is my prior post, but Tesh's show is one that helps me get through the early morning hours as I work at a bagel shop (I'm not really a morning person).

Friday, December 28, 2007

Having fun with John Tesh

Let me preface this blog post by saying I love John Tesh's radio show and his "Intelligence For Your Life" tidbits. But as I listen, I can't help but think of how funny it would be to parody them. With that, occassionally I'll be posting "Stupidity For Your Death", as told by someone like Tohn Jesh or Sean Desh.

For starters:

Hi. Sean Desh here. Are you tired of seeing all that money earned from poker trips to Vegas getting eaten up in taxes? Here are some tips on how you can save that money in this edition of Stupidity For Your Death.

1. Hire a shady accountant, one whose silence can be bought with pricey gifts.

2. Store that money in a bank account in someplace like Switzerland or Luxembourg.

3. List yourself on tax returns as an "entertainment consultant".

4. Don't try to claim as a tax write-off visits to Vegas strip clubs. Nothing screams "IRS Audit" more than a blatantly-unauthorized claim on your tax returns.

Following these steps can help you make more trips to Vegas and retire much sooner--preferably to some non-extraditionary island in the Pacific Ocean.

Next time on Stupidity For Your Death: making lots of extra money by pretending to be a debt collector.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Leadership, according to Dad

My father's always been the modest type who prefers not to be the center of attention, so I figure this might embarrass him a bit. In a good way, though. Over the years I've known lots of classmates whose fathers/uncles/friends/relatives have worked for Dad. All have spoken glowingly about Dad and how much they loved working for him. I asked Dad what his view of leadership was and here's what he said.

1. Work alongside your men and don't be afraid get dirty and brave the elements with them.
2. Treat them as equals.
3. Be open to advice on how to solve a problem.
4. Be firm when needed.
5. When you have an employee who's struggling but really trying to get the job done, try to work with him.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

I WAS Legend

If ever there was a movie to be made of the rise and fall of the career that was Tom Cruise's, here's what it could be called:

I WAS Legend.

Synopsis: young actor gets bit roles, gets his big break with Risky Business, becomes a big star with movies like Top Gun and Mission: Impossible before melting down about his "religion", psychiatry and jumping up and down on Oprah Winfrey's couch. His career jumps the couch and before long he's no longer a hot ticket in Hollywood.

Perhaps coming soon to a theater near you...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Michael Jackson's devolving look


When I look at Michael Jackson's face, it reminds me of something very disturbing.

The cadaver of a burn victim that has had lots and lots of plastic surgery.

As you see from this recent pic of Jacko, he is continuing down the slope of going from a handsome black man to, well, it's hard to describe it, but he looks like someone whose face was horribly burned in an accident and has had countless surgeries to try to reconstruct it.

Those things on his face are called "surgical plasters", although I'm not sure what they're used for.

Coming out early next year, according to this article, will be Jacko's new "album"--a 25th-anniversary edition of his hit 1983 album Thriller. This one will be called Thriller 25.

Time to make the Bagels!

The past few weeks, as I work at Bab's Deli in Davison, Mich., this commercial says it all. Just substite "bagel" for "donut"...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iY0Ecn393qI

One of the tricks I've learned to getting up bright and early is getting to sleep early. This has its disadvantages: one of my guilty pleasures is watching reruns of That 70s Show, but right now there is just simply no way to watch that show and get adequate sleep. And I've learned the hard way what happens when you have to get up nice and early and try to do so on a few hours of sleep.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

To the readers of my columns

After talking to my wife and praying about it, I will be taking what I hope to be a temporary hiatus from my two columns: Richard's Ramblings and My Two Shekels. Specifically, they will not be appearing--for the time being--in my hometown newspaper (Beeville [Texas] Bee-Picayune), Saworship.com or Redford, Mich.-based Olive Branch Press. I am not in a financial position right now where I can afford to continue writing columns for free. That being said, RR will still be appearing in places where I'm getting paid, such as the Tuscola County Advertiser and Flinttalk.com. I apologize to any readers who enjoy the columns, but right now I simply am not able to write for free. Perhaps in the future once I am able to get a job that pays the bills.

This is indeed the nature of the beast when it comes to writing. I subscribe to lists where they will display those needing writers for various projects. For the most part, those needing writing wok done want it done for pennies on the dollar.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Some of the names mentioned in the Mitchell Report

Many of the names I'd never heard of, some weren't surprising while some were. Here's a list of some of the names:

Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Jason and Jeremy Giambi, Benito Santiago, Wally Joyner (briefly), Jose Canseco (no surprise), Barry Bonds (ditto), Mark McGwire (ditto), Miguel Tejada, Rafael Palmeiro.

I didn't see Ivan Rodriguez in there, which surprised me a little. He was one name thought for sure to be on the report.

Miguel Tejada just got traded to my favorite team, the Houston Astros. In fact, the Astros traded five prospects to get him. I wonder if they can nullify the trade...

zzzz... Mitchell Report released...zzzz

Have been listening to the Mitchell Report online. Sheesh. Twenty minutes or so of rambling on and on about the people who helped with the report and legal issues. Took Senator Mitchell forever to start naming players. Why does everybody have to beat around the bush? Seems like the senator could've said in five minutes what he took half an hour to say.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Feeling better

Had the 24-hour bug yesterday but am now feeling better. Yech. I hate being sick.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Party last night

Last night my wife and I went to a party with people from work. It was nice to get out with Jennifer and have a "date"--something we haven't done since our 10th wedding anniversary back in June. It was really a great time for both of us.

The Jennifer Love Hewitt Syndrome

On the cover of this week's issue of People magazine is Jennifer Love Hewitt, whom I consider one of the prettiest actresses out there. But she's on it for reasons one might not expect. Photos were taken of the 28 year-old Ghost Whisperer star, who was relaxing at the beach with her fiance. The photos were posted, and mention was made of cellulite Hewitt had and implied that the actress needs to lose weight.

Give me a break.

Hewitt responded on her blog, referencing her dress size and wrote this: "...I've sat by in silence for a long time now about the way women's bodies are constantly scrutinized. To set the record straight, I'm not upset for me, but for all of the girls out there that are struggling with their body image.

"A size 2 is not fat! Nor will it ever be. And being a size 0 doesn't make you beautiful.
What I should be doing is celebrating some of the best days of my life and my engagement to the man of my dreams, instead of having to deal with photographers taking invasive pictures from bad angles. I know what I look like, and so do my friends and family. And like all women out there should, I love my body.

"To all girls with butts, boobs, hips and a waist, put on a bikini -- put it on and stay strong."

When I was at college back in the early to mid nineties, a size 6 was considered an ideal size for a girl. Now, there are people out there that think a size 2 is heavy? And there's actually such a thing as a size ZERO?

I'm married to a beautiful, plus-sized woman and personally feel a woman looks more appealing when she has some meat on her bones rather than starving herself to death and looking like she's just been liberated from a concentration camp. You'd think that with all these models starving themselves to be un-sexy thin, and with talented singers like Karen Carpenter dying in 1983 from complications from anorexia, there would be far less emphasis on how skinny a woman looks. Perhaps I'm biased: when I was in the service, a beautiful female officer I knew constantly threw up, would go a few days eating just an apple and ended up being hospitalized with an eating disorder.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

A humorous look at the life of Fred Thompson

Every once in a while I'll be featuring outtakes of things I submit for publication. Here's the lastest I submitted for a humor publication: a light-hearted look at the life of GOP Presidential Candidate Fred D. Thompson:

Fred Thompson Biography

By Richard Zowie

Whenever I think of the presidential candidacy of Republican Senator Fred Dalton Thompson, my mind is filled with very insignificant thoughts: how can a New York City District Attorney speak with a strong southern drawl? Furthermore, will Hail to the Chief be changed to sound like Law and Order theme?

Thompson’s acting career began when he was injured in a high school football game; he asked the trainers, “How’s the crowd taking it?” When told that the crowd was too busy heading to the concession stand to notice, Thompson showed his natural acting ability by promptly screaming in agony. The entire crowd then carried Thompson on their shoulders to the hospital, and an actor was born.

Thompson earned a law degree from Vanderbilt University in 1967, learning the value of hard work and speaking with a southern accent. Southern Gentleman, good; Cold Washington Insider, bad.

FDT’s life was forever changed when he read Senator Barry Goldwater’s book The Conscience of a Conservative; he went on to start a Young Republican Club and earned a seat on a Republican Executive Committee. In 1968, Thompson met California Governor Ronald Reagan. Thompson admired Reagan’s leadership, dignity, sense of humor and how he always made time for the little people, such as 5’3” Mickey Rooney.

Thompson later became an assistant United States attorney in Nashville in 1969, where he was a tough prosecutor who put away scumbags and—oops—the occasional innocent victim. Thompson served eight years as a United States Senator.

Thompson has two sons by his first wife and a daughter and son by his second wife, whom he married in 2002.

In the meantime, Thompson has kept himself busy by doing radio commentaries, filming ads encouraging Michael Moore to defect to Cuba and calling up Law and Order alumni like Mariska Hargitay and Ice T and asking if they’ll endorse him.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Top 10 things Hugo Chavez says on a daily basis


I recently provided a sample of my comedic style to a potential freelance client. Thought I'd share it with you:
Top 10 things Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez says on a daily basis

10. "What?! You disagree with me? I sure hope you have your life insurance premiums paid up!"

9. "Let's see, what color of shirt should I wear today? Such a tough choice between red, red or red."

8. "Memo to self: the next time King Juan Carlos I tells me to shut up, I'll respond, 'Oh yeah? Your mama speaks Tex-Mex!'"

7. "Sorry, Fidel, but due to the economy, Venezuelan oil will now cost 10 Cohiba cigars a barrel instead of eight."

6. "Red shirt, but what shade of red? Burgundy , crimson, Marlboro, scarlet, auburn?"

5. "Let's review tonight's speech: Bush is evil, blah blah blah, capitalist pigs belong in hell, blah blah blah, it's an insult to snakes to call Dick Cheney a snake, blah blah blah, up with the workers and down with the bourgeois. Looks good."

4. "Sí, Señor Sean Penn, if you run out of cigarettes, you can blame it on President Bush."

3. "I'm bored. Let's torture an opposition leader."

2. "How about if we change the name of Venezuela to Chavez-land?"

1. "It's pronounced Oogo, NOT Hugo!"

Friday, November 30, 2007

Work

Sorry I haven't posted in the past few days. Much of my time has been spent either working or sleeping. I'll add a few posts this weekend.

Yes, I'm very glad the Dallas Cowboys beat the Green Bay Packers 37-27. Would've been nice to see it (my wife's stepfather was at Texas Stadium for the game). NFL Network...GRRRR!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Golden Compass movie

Don’t know if I’ll see this movie. Have yet to see the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy or Chronicles of Narnia. Haven’t read them, either: fantasy literature isn’t a favorite of mine.

I may not watch The Golden Compass, but it’s safe to say that lots and lots of people will. Some because it’s fantasy and they enjoy the genre and others because they want to see if the movie measures up to the controversy. The movie is said to have been based on fantasy literature written by an atheist and that, in the books, God is killed.

Many Christians are angry with this movie and no doubt many ministers are telling their congregation not to watch it. Just as they did with films like Life of Brian, The Last Temptation of Christ and The DaVinci Code. Other Christians are encouraging fellow believers to watch the film, feeling that discussion of the movie will generate opportunities to share the Gospel.

As for the Christians who plan to boycott and be vocal about it, just realize that all your boycott will really do is encourage more people to go watch it. It will spark the curiosity of some and for others, who love to see Christians get offended, they will go watch the movie for that very reason.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Guitar Hero


Played Guitar Hero while spending Thanksgiving at my brother-in-law's house in Ohio. Thankfully, it's ambidextrous since I'm a lefty and can't play guitar right-handed (if you're a righty, try playing a guitar left-handed and you'll see what I mean). Didn't do too badly, though it was a little rough at first. Oldest son, who is learning guitar, reminded me that I was playing the easy level. Someday I'd like to learn the guitar for real...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A photo a friend of mine took


A friend I know through a Christian chatroom, Dan, is in Israel as part of a study program. Dan posted some pics of Israel. He's a good photographer, and above is one I really like a lot. This photo he took is of a girl he knows. Her name is Sofia, and according to Dan, she's modeling the Hula Valley. They were ascending the Gilboa area, where King Saul and his sons (including David's best friend Jonathan) were killed in battle against the Philistines. Pretty good photography, considering Dan said he was working with a simple digital camera.

Photo of me



I was taking pictures with our digital camera a few months ago when I opted for a self-photo. As you can see from the photo, I don't sufer from insanity--I enjoy every minute of it.

This is actually a rare pic for two reasons--I don't really like to smile for pics and I don't often wear eyeglasses in pics. Without glasses, I am very nearsighted, but I've just never liked wearing them for photos. Call me weird. Many have.

This picture does remind me of a time I was visiting at my grandparents' house. I was in the house and had this feeling that someone was behind me. I turned around and there was my Uncle Alfred (Mom's older brother) with a smile similar to the one above.

As you can also see, I have a big schnozz that would probably give Karl Malden a run for his money. There's this recurring nightmare I have where Michael Jackson's doctor calls me and offers me $50,000 for a graft of my nose for Jacko.

Burger King

My wife and I love the new Burger King commercials, the one where a group of concerned mothers try to get the king "whacked" because they feel he's hindering their ability to make sandwiches. Funny stuff.

Dad's health

Spoke to my mom last night...Dad's blood results showed a higher-than preferable level of cholesterol. Otherwise, things are looking fine. Dad, 71, has been in remission from cancer (he's had it several times, but each time it's found in the early stages where it can either be removed or can be treated through chemo).

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Work

Work went great today. Got to sleep in and got up at 3:15 a.m. and arrived at 4:30 a.m. Am looking forward to Wednesday morning for two reasons: I start work at 1:30 a.m. and want to see how fast I can get done. And as soon as work's done, my family and I will be heading to Ohio to celebrate thanksgiving with my brother-in-law Jason, affectionately known as Evan (long story, I'll have to explain it sometime).

One thing you learn in the bakery business is that you can't estimate with the ingredients. The other day I accidentally put in too much water and the result was having a batch of bagels that, despite adding extra ingredients, didn't turn out too well. Rats. You live and you learn.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Work today

Had a hard time getting to sleep last night, due in part to my knees aching from being stood on most of the day. Took three ibuprofens and, several hours later, the pain subsided. Work was smoother today. Getting faster but still would like to see myself get to where I can get all my tasks (baking bagels, clean up, taking inventory, prepping production, making bagels and clean up) in five to six hours. It's a fun place to work, and I truly am blessed to be out again earning a living. Place I work is a Davison, Mich.-based bagel shop.

It's kind of strange to be up and working so early in the morning, and since I'm not a morning person (despite four years in the military), it's a challenge I am enjoying. If you have the type of job where you have to work in the early morning, best thing to do is go to bed early.

Of all the jobs I've ever had, one of my favorite was when I worked in the bakery at Pensacola Christian College. I loved going to work, loved what I did at work, loved the people and genuinely hated to have to clock out.

Nothing like being tired at the end of the day.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Wow! What a day!

Started work this morning at 2:30 a.m. and finished up at around 11:30. I hope to get things down to a better rhythm when I go in tomorrow morning. It's great to be earning a paycheck again. Thank you, God.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Working again

Yee-haw! I now am working 30 hours a week for a bagel shop. I hope to add another part-time job or something substantial during the day. Praise the Lord!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Warren Buffett renews opposition to abolishment of estate tax

Billionaire Warren Buffett reaffirmed his support for the estate tax and voiced his opposition to efforts to abolish it. Called "the death tax" by opponents, this tax is levied on money inherited.

Buffett said this in Reuters: "Dynastic wealth, the enemy of a meritocracy, is on the rise. Equality of opportunity has been on the decline. A progressive and meaningful estate tax is needed to curb the movement of a democracy toward plutocracy."

Why does Buffett, Paul Newman and other proponents of the estate tax seem to presume that everybody inheriting money from an estate either a) is inheriting millions or b) is already wealthy?

Our government is about nine trillion dollars in debt, but it wastes billions of dollars annually in pork-barrel spending. Until it can show itself to be a good steward with the money it already has, why on earth should we allow it to have more money? Does Buffett really think these additional funds from estate taxes are being put to good use?

Hugo Chavez pouts about royal rebuke

If you needed any further evidence that Venezuelan dictator...er, president Hugo "Oogo" Chavez can dish it out but can't take it, this article might provide it.

Chavez was upset regarding the recent Ibero-American Summit in Chile in which he dismissed former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar as a "fascist" and said that snakes were a higher form of life than Asnar. The former prime minister showed amazing class by refusing to dignify Oogo's remarks and instead saying on a Colombian television interview, "I'm old enough to know some people need foreign enemies when things start going wrong back home ... Therefore, I'm not going to fan all that nonsense and lies. I will simply ignore them."

Oogo further said in the story that heads of state must be respected (after his comments at the conference, he was told by King Juan Carlos of Spain to "shut up"; the king used the familiar term "te" instead of the respectful "se", suggesting his cold feelings for Chavez). Funny, considering that Oogo has called President Bush "the devil" and talking about how a lecturn Bush used at the U.N. still smelled of sulfur. Oogo also has called U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice a "sexually-frustrated" woman.

Pretty strong words for a man who is eliminating term limits, putting his friends in power and is trying to shut down opposition media. Sounds like he's becoming the new Castro.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Fabio vs. George Clooney, Round 1

This last Friday actor George Clooney and model/butter pitchperson/production company owner Fabio got into a spat at a Los Angeles restaurant. Kind of funny. Here's an account of it from the website of blogger Debbie Schlussel:

George Clooney and romance icon Fabio stunned diners at Hollywood's swanky Madeo
restaurant on Friday, when they exchanged fighting words over a photo session.

Actor Fabio was dining with friends when one stood to take photos close to a table Clooney was sharing with his girlfriend Sarah Larson...According to In Touch Weekly magazine, Clooney thought the photographer was trying to take shots of him and asked her to stop -- a request that annoyed his fellow diner.

The magazine reports Fabio went over to Clooney's table to explain, but the conversation became heated, and the long-haired actor was overheard telling the "Ocean's Eleven" star, "I thought you were a nice guy. Stop being a diva!" [Emphasis mine]

The encounter reportedly prompted [an] angry Clooney to stand up and approach Fabio. An eyewitness tells In Touch, "The waiters broke it up before it got out of hand. "George looked annoyed. ... George was drinking but he wasn't drunk." Clooney reportedly skipped the rest of his meal, asked for his bill and left.

Fabio's manager has refused to comment about the incident, but says, "George is lucky he didn't end up in the ER."

Nothing better than a girlie-man like Fabio almost beating up a liberal fascist like George Clooney. Please, keep it comin'!

I wonder if Clooney yelled at Fabio (whose real name is Fabio Lanzoni): "I CAN believe it's not butter!"

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Dallas Cowboys win again. Yea!

Final score: Dallas Cowboys 31, New York Giants 20. Dallas is now 8-1 and in sole possession of the NFC East. Next week: at home hosting the Washington Redskins.

When you don't feel like going to church...

I had one of those days today where I didn’t feel like going to church. My wife wasn’t feeling the greatest, and our two youngest were in the same boat. Our oldest son is really getting involved in his youth group, and I really hate to miss church especially for that reason. So we went, and I saw at my favorite spot—up in the balcony at the front of the back row so that I could put my Bible and Day Planner atop the ledge.

Wow, am I glad I went.

The service, preached by Pastor Peter DeKlerk of Lapeer, Mich.’s Calvary Bible Church, talked further in the Book of Acts about the Apostle Paul’s mission work. Talked about how when people got saved they started clearing things out of their lives that would hinder their walk with God. It really challenged me to be alert about what my eyes see on television and what my ears hear on the radio. And then in Sunday School, we continued our exposition into the Book of Daniel. We learned more about King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream that Daniel revealed and interpreted for him. Great stuff, with lots of platinum nuggets of wisdom to ponder. (A lady named Nancy Green especially had some insightful observations to offer on King Nebby).

Moral to the story: if you don’t “feel” like going to church and aren’t sick, get your lazy self to church. Chances are, the “don’t feel like it” attitude is Satan trying desperately to prevent you from getting royal blessings from God. All the times in the past several years that I’ve forced myself to go to church I came away exceedingly glad that I went.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Second vehicle!


Through the help of a family member, the Lord has provided for us a much-needed second vehicle--a 1995 Chevy Astro minivan! It's in great condition and once a few repairs are made, it'll be ready to go.

The one we have is actually teal, whereas the picture you see is one that's plum. It's an interesting vehicle, with light switches like nothing I've ever seen. It's a 4.3-liter V6, which means it'll get decent gas mileage.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Pat Robertson endorses RINO Rudy Giuliani for president

Pat Robertson, a longtime "leader" in the Christian political movement, has announced his endorsement for former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani for the 2008 Republican nomination for president.

Hard to imagine that Robertson is endorsing a RINO (Republican In Name Only), considering that Giuliani supports three things that Christians traditionally oppose: abortion, gay rights and gun control.

IF Giuliani gets the nomination, he'll have a very tough time convincing this conservative not to vote third party. I'd rather cast my vote for a third-party candidate like Daniel Imperato rather than vote for a politician who seems far too similar to likely Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton.

Was Joe McCarthy right?


The late senator Joe McCarthy is villified in Hollywood even today because of his 1950-1954 hearings that investigated Communist infiltration into our government. Though separate from the 1947 House of Representatives' House Un-American Activities Committee (which investigated Communist infiltrations into places like the Screen Actors' Guild), many in Hollywood still associated McCarthy with being blacklisted for refusal to cooperate with the HUAC. Even today, McCarthy is villified in Hollywood--most recently in George Clooney's film Good Night, and Good Luck.

Now, a new book states that McCarthy was right in his investigations and that his efforts saved America from communist infiltration.

The book? Blacklisted by History by journalist and author M. Staton Evans.

Snow

We have snow coming down, and we also had our first flurries of the year yesterday.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Something that Oliver Stone, Jack Nicholson...

...and every other Hollywood liberal, who seems to have nothing but blissful thoughts when it comes to Fidel Castro's island paradise that is Cuba, should have to read. Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby wrote an excellent column on Sunday regarding Cuba's gulags where they keep political prisoners. This article represents one of the countless reasons why Miami's Little Havana will party like it's 1999 when Castro, who's in declining health, finally does die. Column's called "A Hero in Castro's Gulag."

Speaking of Castro, considering how Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez is starting to tighten his control of the media and has said he wants to eliminate term limits, I wonder why Hollywood types like Sean "Jeff Spicoli" Penn* love him so much. After all, they hate the president even though Bush has term limits and doesn't shut down TV networks because he doesn't like what they say about him. Can you imagine the protests that would ensue if Bush tried to shut down CNN?

*Credit for Penn's nickname needs to go to attorney/columnist/blogger Debbie Schlussel, who has written that Penn's nutty political views show that life often imitates art (Penn played the constantly-stoned Spicoli in the overrated film Fast Times at Ridgemont High).

Monday, November 5, 2007

Stephen Colbert ends short 'presidential bid'

Stephen Colbert, a satirist who plays a conservative commentator on Comedy Central's The Colbert Report, has ended his presidential "bid". He made his decision after the South Carolina Democratic Executive Council voted almost unanimously not to put him on the state's primary ballot.

I wonder how many people thought Coblert's campaign was legit.

Dallas 38, Philadelphia 17

Dallas won! Yea! 7-1 heading now into next week's rematch in the Meadowlands against the New York Giants.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Spaghetti

Today, I did something I haven't done in a few years--made spaghetti using mostly from-scratch sauce (I dislike store-bought sauce). Turned out pretty good, although it's a work in progress. Everyone in the family said they really liked it. Charles, my 9 year-old, said it was the best spaghetti he's eer had. (ha ha). I see it as a work in progress since as I ate it and tasted, I noted a few things that needed improvement (garlic needed to be chopped up smaller and its flavor more dispersed into the spaghetti sauce). For the meat we used Italian sausage, which turned out great (apologies to my Jewish friends).

Road to Perdition

My wife and I watched this the other night. Not too bad a film. Very good, actually. Jude Law does a great job of playing a wholly unlikeable character. Interesting premise: father who works for organized crime wants to make sure his son doesn't follow in his footsteps.

Regarding the scene where Tom Hanks' character wounds Law's character, leaves and is eventually mortally wounded by Law: why on earth in the movies don't people ever kill their adversaries when they get the chance? Sheesh...

Friday, November 2, 2007

Trouble at Oprah's South African school

There appear to be problems in paradise, as far as the South African-based Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls goes.

Winfrey opened the girls’ leadership academy at the beginning of this year. According to a Reuters report from Johannesburg, South African police have arrested a former dormitory employee. Charges include indecent acts and abuse. Police said that at least seven girls have submitted statements regarding alleged incidents. They also include indecent assault, alleged assault, “crimen injuria” (specifically, injuring another person’s dignity; this can apply to racial abuse and sexual offenses against children) and soliciting underage girls to perform indecent acts.

As of the posting of this blog, Winfrey has not posted a statement on her Website.

The academy, which costs $40 million, features a first class of 152 poor (mostly black) students selected by Winfrey. The school includes modern facilities that include a beauty salon, yoga studio and laboratories. There are currently about 450 students attending; textbooks, uniforms and meals are free.

Reuters reports that some parents have complained that the school is too strict. No junk food is allowed (which isn’t a bad thing), and when visiting the school, people must go through a security gate (again, not necessarily a bad thing). Some parents, though, took issue with the school’s restrictions on visits, phone calls and email contact and, according to Reuters, they compared the rules to those “in prisons.”

South African police said the school has cooperated with the investigation and that, according to Rapport newspaper, Winfrey even flew in to meet with parents and school officials to apologize for letting them down.

Interestingly, the article reports this: “Reporters who visited the school after reports of abuse were published were denied access to children and administrators.”

Duane 'Dog' Chapman in doo-doo

Reality television star Duane “Dog” Chapman is in hot water, and a large part is his own doing. In a situation eerily similar to that which actor Alec Baldwin went through a few months ago, Chapman—who stars in the show Dog the Bounty Hunter on A&E—used racial slurs in phone conversations that his estranged son taped.

In the phone conversation, Dog used the N-word several times when talking about his son Tucker Chapman’s girlfriend (who is black). He also told his son that he should end his relationship with the woman. Dog also apparently expressed concern about the girlfriend trying to tape and publish proof of his own use of the N-word.

Dog ostensibly didn’t know his son was taping the conversation, nor did he know the son would sell it to that fine bastion of journalism, The National Enquirer. The tabloid’s editor-in-chief David Perel conveniently declined to say how he obtained the tape, but added that what was important was what was on the tape.

Dog has reportedly apologized to his son and to his son’s girlfriend, and to his

This reminds me of how Baldwin’s angry phone message for his daughter somehow wound up leaked to the public. I suspect there would be a lot more ugliness in the world if private conversations were made public, but the point is this: if Dog hadn’t been using inappropriate language, he’d have nothing to worry about.

Dog has tried to clarify his comments. According to the Associated Press, he was “disappointed in [my son’s] choice of a friend, not due to her race, but her character. However, I should have never used that term.”

I suspect A&E will wait and see if Dog’s indiscretion eventually fades away to yesterday’s news. If it does, and if African-Americans who’ve worked with Dog don’t report any racist vibes, then this story will eventually become a punch line down the road.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Cooking

The other morning, I made breakfast for my wife and sons. Fried eggs, bacon and toast. As I cooked, it really made me think of how much I love cooking and how much I'd love to pursue it as a hobby. Perhaps even as a paying job, if the right circumstances arise. I told Jennifer (my wife) that the best times I had at college working in food service were when I was cooking or working in the bakery. Preparing food is a blast. Clean-up is not.

At this stage of being a person who loves to cook as a hobby, my favorite things to use for seasoning include Cavender's Greek Seasoning (based in Harrison, Arkansas, where one of my uncles lives), soy sauce, basil, oregano and garlic powder. I hope to expand this list.

Dave's Insanity Sauce, for those who LOVE hot sauce


I recently came upon a bottle of Dave’s Insanity Sauce. Now, I love spicy food (Chinese Siquan [usually spelled Szechuan] is a particular favorite), but this tests the limits. My brother-in-law, Joe, introduced me to DIS a few years ago. Joe, a New Orleans native who loves spicy foods, warned me that all I needed was a drop. Well, crazy me, I put several drops onto some food I was eating.

What was it like? I can’t imagine sipping acid could be much worse. Joe laughed so hard that Pepsi spewed out of his nose.

These days, I make sure I enjoy DIS in strict moderation. When a hot sauce comes packaged in a miniature coffin, that is great advice to heed.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Cassie the Web Cat


We have two Calico cats. Cassie, the younger one, loves to perch herself atop our computer. My wife calls her “Web Cat.” Here’s a recent pic.

Billionaire Buffett wants to pay more taxes

Multi-billionaire Warren Buffet, one of those who opposes the abolishment of the estate tax, recently stated that he wants to pay more taxes.

Buffet is worth an estimated $52 billion and claimed in a British newspaper story that he pays less taxes than any of his staff—including his receptionist.

This is according to an “informal survey” Buffet took of his staff and revealed on NBC. Buffet claims that the survey of 15 of his 18 staff members revealed that he paid a 17.7% payroll and income tax while his staff averaged 32.9%.

Far be it from me to second-guess a sage investor, but I find it a little hard to believe. Is Buffet being truthful, not being truthful or simply neglecting to disclose all the facts? Or is the “survey” subjective and riddled with errors and misinformation?

They say the survey was done at his office in England, and the Brits generally have a higher tax rate than what we have here in America. How else does a country finance socialized medicine?

Buffet said: “There wasn’t anyone in the office, from the receptionist up, who paid as low a tax rate and I have no tax planning; I don’t have an accountant or use tax shelters. I just follow what the US Congress tells me to do.”

No accountants and no tax shelters? Yeah, right. I find those extremely difficult to believe, especially that a multi-billionaire with countless savings, investments, and so on would do everything himself instead of having a team of hand-picked accountants do it for him.

If Buffett wishes to pay more in taxes, fine. I am amazed in his faith in our government, especially with its startling propensity to waste billions of tax dollars annually in pork barrel spending.

In the article, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce responded to Buffett’s claims, saying that the top 1% of U.S. earners (including Buffett) accounted for 39% of American tax revenue and that the highest-earning 25% accounted for 86%. The COC’s chief economist Martin Regalia had this to say: “Mr. Buffett has made an awful lot of money and if he wants to pay more taxes, I think that’s fine. But I think he should get his facts straight…There’s no question in my mind: if you were to impose [the Democrats’] tax increases, you would see the US go into a recession.”

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Saw IV: Critics are saying beware


I have a morbid sense of curiosity, which might be the only thing that propels me to watch Saw IV. For the record, I have seen the first three films. First film was great. Second film wasn’t bad. I was fairly disappointed with the third film. The fourth one, though, sounds intriguing.

Saw IV, as was Saw III, was not screened for critics. Generally, this is said to be a bad sign for a movie, although Dead Silence (which I thought was a great film) wasn’t screened for critics, either. By not being screened for critics, those who reviewed the film had to buy a ticket just like everyone else.

So, what have some of the reviews been? According to the Internet Movie Database, not very good:

Kyle Smith of the New York Post: “The franchise is getting long in the tooth.” Smith added the movie could instead be called “Saw It Be-IV.”

Elizabeth Weitzman of the New York Daily News: “If an hour and a half of so-called ‘torture porn’ sounds like fun, you’ll find Saw IV situated somewhere between the first in the cycle (a solid original with plenty of energy in it) and the last (a gasping copycat willing to do anything to stay alive).”

Scott Schueller of the Chicago Tribune: “If you like your films disgusting, deplorable and demoralizing rather than smart, scary and suspenseful, go ahead and feed the coffers of Saw IV’s makers. If you don't, please don't give the studio a reason to make Saw V. Please.”

Considering my disappointment with the third film, I can understand the critics’ criticism—to an extent. Still, my experience has been that some of the best movies I’ve ever seen (such as The Butterfly Effect) have been ridiculed by most critics while some of the worst movies I’ve ever seen (such as the hopelessly-overrated Malcolm X, Clerks and Mallrats) have received heaps of praise. Tom Clancy once said that critics are those who can’t do something and are bitter at those who can do something. If I do see Saw IV, it’ll be because James Wan is involved in the project; I consider Wan to be the M. Night Shyamalan of horror films in that the ending often is a complete surprise. Still, I hope they stop soon since movies tend to get ridiculous after the fourth or fifth sequel (and sometimes after the second or third).

I also remember that critics fell all over Knocked Up, which I got to watch a few excerpts of about a month ago. The film was a vile, unrealistic waste of celluloid. There was even a deleted scene where a man graphically complains about a lack of male sexual situations in movies like Brokeback Mountain.


Upcoming My Two Shekels column

I was thinking about what I should write about next. While watching Friday Night Lights, I thought of an issue in Christianity that doesn't seem to get addressed very often--but should. We'll see. Hopefully by November I'll have that one written...

Monday, October 29, 2007

Evan Almighty theology

Not a bad film...even had some thought-provoking theology. I have never seen the original, but this one has an interesting quote of God's (played by Morgan Freeman):

"Let me ask you something. If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If he prayed for courage, does God give him courage, or does he give him opportunities to be courageous? If someone prayed for the family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings, or does he give them opportunities to love each other?"

It really gives you a lot to think about. God doesn't give us virtues on a silver platter but rather gives us chances to build them up, like spiritual muscles.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Reagan Diaries

An interesting read so far. I think it was President Ronald Reagan's journal and his other writings that made even historical revisionists realize that he was actually a very brilliant man. However, Reagan, just like the rest of us, wasn't perfect. He writes in 1981 that he thinks Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O'Connor would be a great lady who would support pro-life causes. Wrong.

Reagan also noted, and you could certainly read the frustration, that reporters would gleefully report of his leisure time but never bothered to learn that any unfinished work at the end of the day went with him to his private study in the White House. He also seemed to have a friendly relationship with Democrat and fellow Irish-American house speaker Thomas "Tip"O'Neill. Reading this book has inspired me to keep a daily journal and lament the year in which I didn't keep one. I hope to use my journal to keep myself up on the memories and thoughts I haven't recorded over the years.

An interesting fact: President Reagan and I share the same birthday. He was born February 6, 1911 and I was born February 6, 1973. He was (depending on when in he day he was born; I was born at 10:11 A.M. CST) exactly 62 years older than me.

Check out this Website, which is the home of Reagan's son, talk show host Michael Reagan. Mike is one of the smartest cookies in the business. He, along with Laura Ingraham, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Michael Medved and, of course, the godfather Rush Limbaugh, are among my favorites in the talk radio business.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Info on 24 trailer: a villain that will shock you

I love the Fox action-drama 24. my family and I discovered it a few years ago and we’ve been hooked ever since. During a break between seasons, we used Netflix to get caught up on the past episodes we haven’t seen.

A few moments ago, I just saw the trailer for this upcoming season. Kurtwood Smith, who played the acerbically-sarcastic Red Forman on That 70s Show is on as a senator who questions Jack Bauer regarding torture methods. Janeane Garofalo is also on it. All during the off-season they kept talking about how someone would return to the show as a criminal. Who? Someone Jack knew. I thought for sure it would be Behrooz, the kid whose mother and father died on Day 4; the last time we saw him, he was taken away by Habib Marwan’s men. Or perhaps it would be Behrooz's mother, played by the brilliant Iranian-born actress Shohreh Aghdashloo; her murder takes place off-camera, giving rise to the possibility that she's somehow not dead. Or perhaps it's the Chinese government official Cheng Zhi (played brilliantly by the Hong Kong-born actor Tzi Ma), who was apprehended by CTU and had held Jack in China for 20 months.

Surprise, surprise.

(Stop reading if you haven’t seen the trailer and don’t want any hints)

(I mean it)

(Final warning)

Ok, here it goes…

…this season’s villain mastermind is Tony Almeida.

Surprised? So am I. Not sure if this will work, since I liked Tony and felt bad for him when his wife Michelle died. Besides, I thought Tony was dead.

Apparently not.

So, Jack goes from answering to senators in Washington regarding his interrogation techniques while once again trying to save America from an impending disaster.

Let’s hope this season doesn’t require a boat chase during which Jack is forced to hurdle his boat over a shark. We’ll find out in January…

Friday, October 26, 2007

Writing fiction

As if looking for a job, freelance writing (journalism, columns and blogging), trying to learn more about God and taking care of my personal life don’t take up enough of my time, I’m also working on my dream job: fiction writer. I hope someday to make a full-time living writing fiction. It’s my first love.

Am right now about 2/3 finished with the rough draft of my first novel (which, at this time, I’d rather not so much as give the title). Also have some short stories that I’m finalizing and getting ready to submit for publication.

Writing can indeed be a lonely job, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Wil Wheaton's decision to leave Star Trek: The Next Generation


For years, not knowing all the details, I thought that actor Wil Wheaton committed career suicide by leaving Star Trek: The Next Generation. Why would anyone want to leave such an ostensibly popular show? I thought, thinking of how Wheaton’s career has been modest in comparison to his Stand By Me co-star Jerry O’Connell.

A few weeks ago, I stopped by Wheaton’s Website, http://www.wilwheaton.net/ and read his explanation for leaving Star Trek. Short form: he was turning down promising film roles left and right because they’d conflict with ST:TNG. Finally, he was offered one that would require him to miss the first episode of the season to film it. The STNG officials told him, no, that the first episode was centered around him. Reluctantly, Wheaton declined the film offer. He then discovered a few days before shooting began on the first episode that his character had been written out of the episode. Upon that, Wheaton contacted his agents and said he wanted to leave the show.

I can respect Wheaton’s decision. It really goes to show, though, that working in Hollywood can be eerily similar to tiptoeing through a mine field.

Frankly, I have never understood why my friends detested Wheaton’s Wesley Crusher character. My attitude was: are you trying to tell me there will be no adolescents in the future?

California's housing problems; the reasons might surprise you

From a homeowner’s standpoint, California Dreamin’ is becoming California Nightmares. And it has nothing to do with the recent fires that have swept across the southern part of The Golden State.

According to a Reuters news report, from July through September more than 72,000 notices of foreclosure (specifically, default against delinquent borrowers) were filed. This was an increase of more than a third from the prior quarter and a whopping 166.6 percent from the previous year.

Does this surprise me? Not really, unfortunately. I lived in California from 1996-1998, when I studied Mandarin Chinese and then Russian at the Presidio of Monterey’s Defense Language Institute while in the Army. California, is one of the most gorgeous states I’ve ever seen, but it is expensive. Gasoline was expensive, and housing is also. Back in the late nineties, a one-bedroom apartment in Monterey, facing away from the ocean and on a bad side of town ran about $500 a month. A few months ago, a former DLI teacher told me that the cheapest houses in the affluent Pebble Beach started at around one million dollars. I’d hate to think of how much the ritzy homes cost.

California also has a very high tax rate, and many spend hours commuting to work every day. Even in a home where both parents work at least one full-time job, it’s hardly surprising, I suppose, that some people fall upon hard times and make their mortgage payments anymore.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Professional chef sounds off on the Laura Ingraham Show

A few days ago I listened to a “Best of” broadcast of the Laura Ingraham Show. Laura, one of the most underrated talk show hosts in America, was talking about the phenomena that is the celebrity chef. Names like Emeril Lagasse and Rachael Ray came up. Laura then took some calls from two men who identified themselves as professional, certified chefs. Their thoughts surprised me. The following represent the chefs’ thoughts, not mine:

Justin Wilson, the famous celebrity Cajun chef whose catch phrase “I gar-on-tee” made him a cultural icon, once showed up at a chefs’ conference and cut his speech short; apparently he had been drinking;

Rachael Ray is a great cook, but her “30-minute meals” take an hour or an hour and a half to do; they can’t be done in half an hour. The chef speculated that Rachael had people behind the scenes to do additional tasks to get things done on time.

Emeril will sometimes put a dirty towel over his shoulder, something a real chef would never do. The chef also told Laura about how a colleague had chosen Emeril had been chosen to oversee a gourmet banquet and that the chef had asked his colleague: “Why did you pick Emeril? The guy can’t cook!”


I don’t have an opinion, good or bad, regarding these three. I think Ray’s show is fun to watch, and while Emeril is fun to watch, I prefer watching The Iron Chef (the Japanese version).

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Jake Gyllenhaal sounds off on the treatment of terror suspects

Some people wonder if we’ll ever have another president who was an actor. The late President Ronald Reagan was president of the Screen Actors Guild and California governor before moving on to the White House. Obviously, California actor-turned governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is currently ineligible since he was born in Austria. There are also the actors out there like Warren Beatty who, though politically active, have never been elected to public office. Other actors have run for office. The late Noble Willingham (who co-starred in Walker, Texas Ranger) ran unsuccessfully in Texas for public office in his latter years.

And then there are the many in Hollywood that you hope never run for office—unless it’s to provide the public with comic relief.

Take Jake Gyllenhaal, for example. Out to promote his latest movie, Rendition, Gyllenhaal was telling reporters that torture is wrong. One has to wonder if he’s merely using a political discussion to promote his film. Or maybe Gyl simply doesn't realize just how complicated the world is, and that getting things done means rolling up your sleeves.

The film, which also stars Meryl Streep and Reese Witherspoon, is about renditions, or the practice of transferring suspects of terrorism to other countries where they could be abused or tortured. Keep in mind that this is a movie and that, such as the case in most cases, may not accurately represent real life.

Gyllenhall plays a CIA analyst who finds himself skeptical of the American government’s allowing of rendition. At the Rome Film Festival news conference, Gyllenhaal said this: “[The movie says] that torture is wrong. I think you can see in the film that it does not work.”

The Associated Press further quotes Gyllenhaal: “But I also think it presents the political side of it, too, which is saying that you could be torturing one innocent man, but at the same time 5,000 people are alive ... because of information that the government elicited through (extraordinary) rendition.”

Thanks for clearing that up, Jake. I like that line about how we can see in the film that torture doesn’t work. Well, that’s more due to the efforts of the screenplay writer, director and actors than it is real life, isn’t it? I wonder what Jake would propose to do if we captured a terrorist who had top-secret information regarding Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts. Obviously, such a terrorist would not talk, so extreme measures would have to be taken.

I think torture should be used in two circumstances only: when you have a prisoner/suspect who obviously knows something critical to our nation’s security and when either conventional methods of extraction have failed or if time is of the essence. If we can’t get physical, what does Jake propose we do instead? Force feed them pork? Make them watch that cinematic great of Great Satan filmmakers: Brokeback Mountain?

There are Hollywood celebrities from both ends of the political spectrum who show an ability to intelligently speak on the issues. I don’t see Jake Gyllenhaal as one of them.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Third Party thoughts regarding Daniel Imperato

One of the things about Daniel Imperato I really, really like is his support of a balanced budget. For years, we’ve been told by fellow conservatives that the Democrats are the sole problem for fiscal irresponsibility in Washington. And when President George W. Bush took over in 2000 with the GOP in control of the House and Senate, many of us thought the problem would be solved. Right?

Wrong.

Unfortunately, President Bush has been guilty also. Granted, he has had to work with Democrats, has levied a tax cut to stimulate an economy that was on the decline when he took over and has had to beef up military spending in the wake of 9-11, but it just seems like the wasteful pork spending continues.

I really hope conservatives can see a candidate—and it’s looking more and more like it’ll have to come from a third party—who truly believes in balancing the budget and spending responsibly. Are tax increases needed to balance the budget? No. When you consider the billions that get wasted every year, I honestly don’t see why we need another tax increase.

Wolfgang Van Halen, Mr. Precocious


He's 16 and the son of rock legend guitarist Eddie Van Halen and actress Valerie Bertinelli, and, believe it or not, he currently serves as bass guitarist for, arguably, the American rock band of the 70s and 80s.

Of course, I’m talking about Wolfgang Van Halen of—who else?—Van Halen.

I’ve never been a Van Halen fan per se, and I was very surprised to hear that that Wolfie was replacing longtime VH fixture Michael Anthony on bass. Not because the potential’s not there (his father Eddie, Uncle Alex and father have all been professional musicians), but at 16…I kept wondering if maybe he was too young. Especially with what’s on the road.

Then came an interview that Eddie and Alex talking about how much of a natural Wolfie is. “This kid can play,” Alex told one interviewer. So far, the reviews have been favorable. Based on what I saw in a People magazine story, Wolfie seems acutely and precociously aware of his father’s infamous struggles with alcohol.

And, of course, perhaps the most important thing for Wolfie—his job as bassist apparently has the blessing of one of the most important people of all—his mom.

Best of luck, Wolfie.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Review of 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding'

This last weekend, my wife and I got around to watching 2002 independent comedy My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Wow. I don't think I've ever fallen in love so much with a movie on the first viewing. It was hilarious, heart-warming and beautifully done. It's about a 30-year-old Greek-American girl named Toula who is increasingly pressured by her parents to "get married and make babies." Well, she finally falls in love--with a man who's the man of her dreams. One small problem: He's not Greek. As the cultures clash, hilarity results.

It was also surprisingly clean. I don't remember any objectionable material, except for the part where Toula's fiance is told how to say things like "Thank you" in Greek--only to be given PG-13 phrases by Toula's impish brother and cousin.

One of these days, when I expand my DVD library, this movie will have to have its own space. Special Edition DVD, preferably. Four out of four stars for one of the best movies I've ever seen.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Tornado in Millington, Michigan the other day


We were very fortunate; early Friday morning a tornado hit the village* of Millington and caused some damage. We actually live about five miles west of the Millington in Arbela Township**. Thankfully, no damage was done in our area, although I did unplug our computer in case we needed to take it downstairs.


*Millington, because of its small size, is actually a village and not a town.

** Michigan, unlike other states like Texas, divides its counties up into areas called townships. This is helpful in identifying the rural location of someone who lives outside a city.
(Photo courtesy of www.tuscolatoday.com)

Monk, one of my favorite shows


Recently, I watched the entire fourth season of Monk on DVD. This is one of my favorite shows on television. It's well-written, hilarious and mostly family friendly. For those of you who aren't familiar with it, Tony Shalhoub plays the obssessive-compulsive detective Adrian Monk, who's afraid of just about anything. He also has a habit of straightening things, which sometimes gets him into trouble (in one episode, his attempts to brush food crumbs off a keyboard ended up accidentally deleting two years worth of autopsy files).

Great show, one of my favorites today. It also contains one of my personal favorite actors, Ted Levine. I was disappointed when Bitty Schram left the show, but I suppose that's life. Besides, Traylor Howard has filled in nicely as Monk's longsuffering assistant.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Daniel Imperato in Washington D.C. at an AFA dinner

On Thursday night, Christian conservative presidential hopeful Daniel Imperato attended the American Family Association Dinner in Washington D.C. Dr. James Dobson was among the Christian conservatives there. At this time, Dr. Dobson has not officially endorsed a candidate, but his frustrations with the Republican Party are well-known. Dr. Dobson is said to be working to support a third-party Christian conservative candidate.

Imperato also was in the nation’s capitol for some International Monetary Fund meetings regarding diplomatic business. A UN representative for a number of organizations, Imperato has relations with many nations across the world.

My 'brothers'

I don't have any biological brothers, and that's something I've always regretted. My father (who has two brothers) and my three sons are a source of envy for me. One of the future Richard's Ramblings writing projects is a projected three-part column about three male friends of mine who are more like the brothers I never had. Those men are Bob, Joel and Howard.

My attempt at satire

As far as writing goes, I recently got my first byline writing for a satirical publication. I thoroughly enjoyed writing the story, and the editor seemed to like it also.

I don’t plan on using my real name on the bylines of my satirical work and will instead be using a pseudonym. Why? Because I’d rather use Richard Zowie for my non-satirical work. I call this the Mel Brooks Principle, meaning that a writer must sometimes alter his identity if he doesn’t want to give a reader the wrong impression of his work; Brooks executive produced the drama The Elephant Man but, because of his work as a satirist, he chose to take his name out of the credits. Brooks was apparently worried people would see his name on the movie and think the movie was a comedy. Satire is an enjoyable delve into fiction, but it’s only one of many things I want to do as a writer. I also enjoy column writing, blogging (Duh! Right?) and hope someday to get into my dream job: fiction writer. We'll see. In the meanwhile, keep reading, and God bless.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A Bible 'contradiction' explained

Yesterday I worked at the local library. As I was making my sweep to make sure things looked tidy on the bookshelves, I noticed a peculiar book. The exact title escapes me, but it was something like “Contradictions in the Bible.” Looking at it, I saw that the author compiled a list of items where he felt the Bible contradicted itself. Of course, if true, this opens a theological can of worms: if the Bible is wrong in one area, where else is it wrong? Because of these “contradictions”, the author said, we must conclude that the Bible is nothing more than a historical book that is filled with myths.

Not so fast, high-speed.

Of the contradictions I was familiar with, most looked easily explainable. For example, the author notes that in First Kings 8:23, 27-30 King Solomon gives a public prayer while dedicating the temple. However, in Matthew 6:5, Jesus encourages the people to pray in private and not to pray publicly, as the hypocrites do.

On the surface, this seems to be a contradiction—unless you realize the context. Solomon’s public prayer was one of sincerity, especially when you read the text of the prayer and consider the painstaking details in planning and building the temple. From start to finish, it took years. Jesus was referring to religious leaders of the day who were trying to show how holy they were by praying in public. He knew their hearts and knew there was no sincerity whatsoever in their prayers. They were trying to please men rather than God. To avoid such an appearance of godlessness, Jesus said, when speaking to God it is better to do so in private.

Does this mean that all public prayers are wrong? I don’t think so. For instance, I don’t necessarily have a problem with the National Day of Prayer as long as it’s approached in sincerity. If you plan to participate because you think it would be great to attend and even get a chance to let the public hear your articulate prayer, then it’s best that you avoid it. If your reason is because you are deeply concerned about our nation and the world and want to join others in offering prayers up to God, then I don’t see a problem there. Again, it hinges upon how your heart is and what your motiviations are.

In the future, I will be posting examples (and writing columns about them in “My Two Shekels”) of supposed Biblical contradictions that can be easily explained by simply understanding the context and the customs of the time. Remember, the eastern mindset is wholly different from the western one.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Christian candidates for president

We’re used to politicians talking about their faith. Some generically describe how their “faith” is very important to them. Some even espouse Christianity while others say that faith is a private matter and should be left as such. There has been lots of criticism of “Christian” politicians, who claim to espouse conservative issues but yet are liberal when it comes to roll calls and signing of legislation.

Here’s another one to consider—third-party candidate Daniel Imperato.

A second-generation Italian-American, Imperato describes himself as a “man of faith” who was baptized by Pastor Benny Hinn. Raised a Catholic, Imperato now embraces both the evangelical Christian community and the Messianic Judaic community. Messianic Judaism is a branch of Judaism that recognizes Rabbi Y’shua bin Yosef (or Jesus Christ, as English speakers know Him) as the Messiah.

Blogger Joseph Oddo had this to say about the candidate: “[Imperato] studies the Torah and has been personally endorsed by several rabbis including Rabbi Moshe Koniuchowsky and Rabbi Eddie Chumney, showing his Jewish support and support for Israel.”

Update: Talk show host Randi Rhodes not mugged BUT was injured

Earlier today on this posting, I blogged about how radio talk show host Randi Rhodes was brutally attacked and mugged near her Manhattan apartment. Now, the police and her attorney, according to the New York Daily News, have now said that report was bogus.

Some thought that Rhodes, a liberal talk show host on the leftwing Air America radio network, had been the victim of a political hate crime. Turns out, no. the police say Rhodes neither filed a report, nor did she claim to have been the victim of a crime. Her attorney told the Daily News that Rhodes was injured in a fall while walking her dog and that she’s uncertain how it happened.

Rhodes is scheduled to return to the air on Thursday and is said to be in a lot of pain.

Again, let’s keep her in our thoughts and prayers that she’s able to recover and have minimal, if any pain. You don’t even have to be a liberal to pray such a prayer for Rhodes.

October 15: Blog Action Day

October 15 was Blog Action Day, a day in which blogs take time to raise awareness regarding environmental issues. What can you do to help out the environment? Here are some important but easy steps.

First, eliminate the hard copy. Print out documents only when absolutely necessary. At one radio station I worked at, the computers were linked. So, I could write up the news from my computer and bring it up in the production room computer, read it for broadcast and be done. Paper wasn’t needed.

Second, recycle. Items like cell phones, batteries, toner cartridges and computers can be recycled. Instead of putting them into landfill, recycle.

Third, conserve water. When I brush my teeth, I turn the water off while scrubbing. I also try to make sure my showers are no more than 15 minutes long--even though where we currently live now is a well water system and, therefore, has no water bill. When you go to a restaurant, please only request water if you intend to drink it.

Fourth, properly dispose of hazardous chemicals. Many counties will have times throughout the year when you can dispose of paint, used motor oil, batteries, turpentine and so on. Don’t simply dump them down the drain or into the garbage.

Fifth and finally, invest in some sturdy shopping bags. They last much longer than standard paper or plastic bags, and with the many sizes, designs and colors, they’re a worthwhile investment.

Remember, it’s our responsibility to be good stewards of the earth God has provided for us.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Prince William and Kate, his potential fair maiden, may soon get engaged

News reports say that Prince William, second in line to inherit the British throne, may soon be getting engaged to his girlfriend, Kate Middleton. I hope they are able to have a happy life together, should they choose to get married.

Things have been tough for William. A few weeks ago, I watched a television interview in which both William and his younger brother, Prince Harry, reflected on their mother’s death. It’s been ten years, but you can tell they still miss their “Mummy” very much.

The British tabloids have been very busy telling us the latest about William’s personal life, including unflattering details of William and Kate’s break-up a few months ago. I sincerely hope the Royal Family has learned from the centuries what happens when you compel a future king to marry someone out of duty rather than love. As beautiful and nice of a woman Princess Diana was, it is clear that Prince Charles was not in love with her. Is it really a surprise why all those kings had mistresses?

Christianity gets negative marks from younger generation

A news report in the San Antonio Express-News says most young Americans supposedly think of modern-day Christianity as "judgmental, hypocritical and anti-gay". Also, many Christians try to avoid the label "Christian" because of its negative connotations.

This is according to a new book that bases its findings on research conducted by the California-based research firm Barna Group. The young group with negative feelings about Christianity consists of ages 16-29.

Christianity could be doing a far better job trying to evangelize the lost and encourage other believers, but I wonder if today's youth really knows enough about Christianity to be qualified to criticize it. I'll never forget that high school friend of mine who had no idea what the story about David and Goliath was about. And, no, the Christianity you see on television and the movies doesn't count.

We learn that the findings are based on a survey of 867 young people, which inccluded responses from 440 non-Christians and 305 active church members. The survey reported that 91 percent of non-Christians felt Christianity was anti-gay while 87 percent said it was judgmental and 85 percnet said it was hypocritial. Among those who were Christians, 80 percent felt the anti-gay label fit, 52 percent felt that Christianity is judgmental and 47 percent think the faith is hypocritical.

Please, don't get me started on polls. I know there are things like probabilty and statistics, but do you really expect me to believe that 867 young people accurately speaks for the tens and tens and tens of millions who are in this country?

One of the premier pollsters, John Zogby, has this to say regarding the accuracy of polls: "It's pure probability and statistics. The same theory is involved as when you take a blood test and the clinician draws only a small sample rather than draining all the blood out of your body."

I wonder if that's an accurate assessment. Doctors generally draw blood only from your arm rather than drawing from a different part of the body each time. I wonder if Zogby, et al, really gathers opinions from across the country or if those polled come from a certain area. Still, I find it very difficult to believe that the less than 900 respondants can accurate speak as a minute fraction of all this country's young adults.

Skepticism against Al Gore’s documentary, award grows

Another science professor has joined the other professors and scientists who are openly questioning the validity of former vice president Al Gore’s Nobel Peace Prize for his work in environmental matters.

According to The Sydney Morning Herald reporter Steve Lytte, Colorado State University professor Dr. William Gray—considered one of the world’s foremost meteorologists—called it “ridiculous” that Gore received the Nobel prize and that it was the result of “people who don’t understand how the atmosphere works.”

Dr. Gray gave his comments at the University of North Carolina and said that global warming is not caused by humans. The 78 year-old professor also alleged that Gore and other proponents of man-made global warming are “brainwashing” children. He added: “We'll look back on all of this in 10 or 15 years and realize how foolish it was… The human impact on the atmosphere is simply too small to have a major effect on global temperatures.”

What’s been the cause of global warming? The professor attributes that to the natural cycle of ocean water temperatures—caused by the amount of salt in the ocean’s water. He expects a cooling period to begin soon and last for several years. Furthermore, according to the article, he pointed out data that showed there were 101 hurricanes from 1900 to 1949, during a time of cooler global weather, compared to 83 from 1957 to 2006 (during the earth’s warming cycle).

Dr. Gray acknowledged that his comments aren’t well received by scientific popular opinion, and he said that though he is troubled by more scientists not speaking out, they probably don’t out of fear of losing grant money.

The professor is the latest official to criticize Gore’s Academy Award-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth. A British court has ruled the documentary is riddled with inaccuracies, and that the film can be shown in schools only after the students have been informed of the errors.

What will the end result be? It’s difficult to say, but I do know this: Dr. Gray is a respected scientist whereas Gore (who has a degree in government from Harvard and briefly attended both divinity and law school) is not.

Doing the near-impossible: trying to determine my eye color





I've always thought I had very strange eyes. In the service I listed my eye color (top photo) as "Green". On my driver's license they are "Hazel". Sometimes they look brown while other times they look very green. In short, underneath they are green with brown mixed in at the top.

This weekend, my wife and I saw these photos (middle and bottom) on Wikipedia. The middle one is a person with Hazel eyes while the bottom is a person with Amber eyes. Jennifer tells me my eyes now look amber rather than hazel.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

For Christians tired of the two-party system...

Maybe you're a Christian who's a Blue-Dog Democrat, meaning you're a conservative democrat. Choice like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama don't appeal to you.

Or maybe you're a Christian who in the past has consistently voted for the GOP. But with each election, you find yourself getting tired of the Republicans' reluctance to embrace its Christian base.

If either of those fits you, check out this Website. It's a Christian who's running for president on a third-party ticket: www.imperato2008.com.

Swedish cartoonist goes into hiding over cartoons lampooning Islam

I was watching Headline News today, and it amazes me the contrasting stories. First you have the Foo Fighters who have released a new album. Surprise, surprise, the new album contains lyrics critical of President Bush and the world on terror.

Perhaps instead of whining about the president, the Foo Fighters, Pearl Jam, Green Day, Bob Seger, et al, should start calling attention the outrages of radical Islam. But then, that would be to acknowledge that Muslim extremists are every bit as dangerous as what conservatives say, and that’s too hard to swallow. The easy way out is to trash a president in a country where freedom of speech is alive and well.

Freedom of speech isn’t as free in other countries. Sometimes it comes with a stiff price. A Swedish cartoonist named Lars Vilks has had to go into hiding over his artistic expression. We remember how back a year or so ago 12 Danish cartoons satirizing the Islamic prophet Muhammad resulted in massive Islamic protests that left many dead. Vilks told Headline News that he wanted to make a statement about artistic freedom, so he drew a cartoon of Muhammad with the head of a dog.

The results are predictable. Swedish police have told Vilks he’s not safe at his home, and he has moved to an undisclosed location. The hatemongerers of Al Qaeda have offered a bounty for Vilks’ death, a la The Satanic Verses author Salman Rushdie. Al Jazeera reported in September that Iraq’s Al Qaeda leader Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, in a statement called for the deaths of Vilks and his editor, Ulf Johansson in a statement:

“We are calling for the assassination of cartoonist Lars Vilks who dared insult
our prophet, peace be upon him, and we announce a reward during this generous
month of Ramadan of $100,000 for the one who kills this criminal. The award will
be increased to $150,000 if he were to be slaughtered like a lamb.”

Lars was shown on HNN checking under his car for explosive devices. He told the network that he remains defiant and unapologetic.

It’s really sad that such a story is now such commonplace that it took a month for it to get widespread attention. In a world where the Christian faith is almost reflexively ridiculed and where Arab nations frequently publish anti-Semitic cartoons, Christian Science Monitor reported that art galleries in Sweden refused to display Vilks’ work. Back in August, the Swedish newspaper Nerikes Allehanda printed one of his cartoons this past summer.

Apparently, the Islamic extremists were upset because black dogs are viewed as evil incarnate into animal form; if any dog licks a container, it must be washed seven times.

Moral of the story: while radical Islam feels it at 100% liberty to offend, threaten and terrorize the world, nobody, absolutely nobody, had better dare to so much as make fun of it. What hypocrisy, and it sickens me that the world refuses to recognize the danger of radical Islam and react accordingly. Seems to me that reacting with violence and death threats proves Vilks’ point in his art.

Nice little visit

Quiet weekend. My wife's brother, Jason, is up for a visit. Nice to see him again.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Al Gore wins Nobel Peace Prize amid growing controversy over 'An Inconvenient Truth'

Al Gore is on cloud nine right now, as he’s been awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to fight what’s popularly known as “man-made global warming” (or MMGW for short) Gore may have lost the controversial 2000 presidential race, but he has received two nice consolation prizes: this and an Academy Award for his documentary An Inconvenient Truth.

Does a peace prize really mean that much, considering that former Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev, the late terrorist Yasser Arafat and former president Jimmy Carter all have one? Gorbachev received his “peace” prize during a time in which he ordered Soviet troops in to crush Lithuania’s (then a Soviet republic) attempt at independence. Arafat was a terrorist whose idea of peace with Israel was for the Jewish people to evacuate Palestine while Carter’s foreign policies were absolute disasters.

Gore’s documentary is facing mounting criticism, and it’s scientists and science professors who are coming out and announcing their skepticism of the documentary’s claims. Gore is accused of either misinterpreting data or making false claims.

If you’re waiting for Gore to hold open debates regarding the criticisms, you might be in luck. Junkscience.com, which has challenged Gore to debates before, announced that he will finally be participating. Meanwhile, Junk Science offers a reward on its site for anybody who can prove MMGW.

If Gore’s claims of MMGW are proven to be false, does this mean he’ll have to surrender his peace prize? You know, kind of like how former Washington Post reporter Janet Cooke had to give up her Pulitzer Prize when it was revealed that the eight year-old heroin addict she’d written about didn’t exist.

I’m not saying MMGW exists or doesn’t exist, but it bothers me when people like Mr. Gore (who, by the way, has no science degrees) insist that we believe them without encouraging people to get all the facts.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Some of the things I’ve learned in life

Each day I have more questions about this life and the next one. And I know that since the Bible is but a brief snapshot of what heaven and eternity will be like, most of the answers will have to wait.

When I get to heaven, the first two people I want to see are two ladies named Kim: my sister, who died in infancy before I was born, and the daughter my wife miscarried.

I think the biggest surprise we as Christians will have in heaven is learning just how pragmatic God is.

I frequently disagree with film critic Roger Ebert but when it comes to movies and—for that matter—books, Ebert said something that I absolutely agree with one million percent: no good movie is too long, and no bad film is too short. I wish the movie Heat could’ve went on another three hours, and I was ready to turn off National Lampoon’s Senior Trip during the opening credits.

One of my biggest regrets about growing up is not trying out for high school football.

I’d never make it as a humanist. The older I get, the less convinced I am that mankind is capable of solving its own problems. Not even close. Not in a world where unborn children are murdered but murders are not only allowed to live but are allotted endless excuses for their crimes. In my steep pessimism regarding this, I become Woody Allen.

There are three phases of a politician’s career: doing what’s necessary to get elected, doing what’s necessary to stay elected and then doing what’s necessary to convince the public that they did a great job.

I love writing, but it can be hard work.

I hate store-bought spaghetti sauce, no matter how much it “tastes like Italy.” I’d rather make my own from scratch.

In my experiences, three of Christianity’s biggest problems are: not demonstrating God’s love to the world and each other, not studying the Bible and majoring on the minors.

If there’s one thing about heaven I suspect strongly, it’s that the iced tea will taste a lot like the tea from Bill Miller Bar-B-Q.

Probably the easiest thing for me to do in life is to get bored out of my mind. That’s why I try to make sure I never go anywhere without a book to read, a pen and notebook.

I’m one of the few Americans who absolutely hated the sitcom Seinfeld. It was exactly as advertised—a show about nothing.

If there’s one thing about South Texas summers I miss, it’s the sound of the cicada bugs.

I get really sick of people saying that actors and musicians “sell out” when they do commercials. Not every musician wants to spend the rest of his life performing makeshift concerts outside bus depots. Just because you’re Robert DeNiro or Gene Simmons doesn’t mean you don’t have groceries to buy and bills to pay.

I don’t consider myself an egotistical person, but I have learned that self confidence—believing in yourself—is an invaluable trait to have.

Life is unfair and filled with sorrow. Get used to it, fellow Christian, and take comfort in knowing someday it’ll be all over.

One thing about Christians that bothers me is the tendency there is to take preferences, support them with out-of-context verses and proclaim them as convictions. I knew one guy at college who would keep his shirt buttoned all the way up to his throat (as if he was wearing a tie) because he felt he was being immodest otherwise.

I get tired of hearing how men are supposedly shallow compared to women. Some women suspect that all men want is for a woman to show up nude, serve pizza and beer and don’t block the television. It’s a stupid stereotype, similar to a man thinking that all women want is to wear makeup, expensive clothes and max out their husband’s credit cards.

My favorite animals, by far, are ducks. One of my favorite things in life is to spray them with water on a warm summer day. You can almost see them smile.

One of the most annoying radio commercials out there are the guys with the New York accents telling you about the “guaranteed picks” in sports betting. I’d rather hear a Miss Cleo commercial…at least she’s entertaining.

Writing is my window through which I look at the world.

As a reporter, I learn how to deal with people. One of the things I’ve learned is that by treating a person with respect and not patronizing them, you can learn lots of great things.

I’ll never understand why ESPN broadcasts poker games. Poker is not a sport.

As a writer, you have to treat hate mail as a comical badge of honor. One angry Seinfeld fan wrote me an X-rated e-mail (I was shocked they allowed this preschooler Internet access), while one angry lady told me I should do the world and commit suicide. I pity these people for not realizing there's a great big world with a wide array of diverse opinions.

Germany punishes racist Iranian-born soccer player over his refusal to play against Israel


It’s nice to see that somebody is holding Iranian extremists accountable for the anti-Semitic nonsense they pull.

German officials have announced that Iranian-born German soccer player Ashkan Dejagah (left) has been permanently suspended from the German-Under-21 team. Dejagah, 20, had refused to play in a match against Israel for the Under-21 European Championship qualifying match in Tel Aviv. He cited personal reasons, but the German daily newspaper Bild quoted the striker as saying his refusal was for “political reasons.” Bild also quoted him as saying, “Everybody knows I am an Iranian-born German.”

Dejagah plays for the Bundesliga side VFB Wolfsburg soccer team.

Ever since the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iran has refused to recognize Israel’s right to exist. It does not allow its citizens to travel to Israel. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has openly called for Israel to be wiped off the map and has questioned whether the Holocaust really took place. In Germany, where millions of Jews died in concentration camps during World War II, it is a crime to deny that the Holocaust took place.

Think this young soccer star is the first Iranian to take such a stand of refusing to play against Israel? Guess again.

In the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, Iranian judo athlete Arash Miresmaeili forfeited a match rather than compete against Israeli Ehud Vaks. A spokesperson for the Iranian National Olympic Committee released this statement at the time: “This is a general policy of our country, to refrain from competing against athletes of the Zionist regime, and Arash Miresmaeili has observed this policy.”

Miresmaeili had this to say, according to an Iranian news agency: “Although I have trained for months and am in shape, I refused to face my Israeli rival in sympathy with the oppressed Palestinian people…” He later claimed that his disqualification was due to weight problems, but reportedly he was observed gorging on food before a weigh-in in an attempt to deliberately be overweight. The Iranian also allegedly was still awarded with $115,000—the prize normally given to gold medalists—when he got home.

Regarding Dejagah and Miresmaeli, I sure wish I knew the Farsi words for “Whatever, you racist pigs.”

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Something I've learned about God

Maybe you’re a Christian like me, and you often get discouraged because you don’t feel God’s presence in your life. I’ve been frustrated by this in recent years, and after a lot of contemplation I have concluded something. A Christian who isn’t spending time every day reading God’s Word, praying and meditating on God and His Scriptural promises really can’t expect God to be there to guide them through life and its challenges.

We remember from the Old Testament that King Saul, near the end of his life, was a broken man. He tried in First Samuel 28 to get guidance from God for his battle against the Philistines (where he would end up seriously wounded and would commit suicide). God chose not to answer his prayers. It wasn’t that God was uncaring, but rather that Saul all of a sudden wanted a relationship with the God he’d disregarded for so long. Saul, described by some as a man “after man’s own heart” rather than God’s own heart, was reaching out to God for convenience rather than for a relationship. Think of the stories of a parent trying unsuccessfully to get together with a child with which they’ve been estranged for years. Very difficult task.

For me, the best time for devotions is in the morning, which is a challenge. I encourage you to make time daily to spend time with God. It makes more of a difference than you can imagine.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Reminiscing about people I've known, Part 1

Every once in a while I’ll provide a list of people I’ve known in an attempt to see if they’re reading this. Am always curious to see where the people I’ve known are and what they’re doing now.

Drill Sergeants Richard Kenner, Mark Copelli, Larry Gilman, William Thompson, Vern O’Bryan, Carlos Colón

People I knew in the Army
Steve Parkhomov, David Hull, Eric Johnson (known in Chinese class as Li Yingbin), Christy Riddell-Simmons, Dean Beckstein, Corporal Nicolas Carriker, Karen Guthrie (nèe Clark), Jory Woods, Amy McGeehee, Brad Smith, Michelle and Josiah John.

Other military servicemembers I knew
Sergeant Olan Tiangco, Staff/Tech Sgt. Dane Lance

From college: Teddy Williams, April Rich, Susan Swigart (last known to be a missionary in South America), Ed Ferrer, and many others whom I can’t remember right now.

If you’re reading this and are one of those above, feel free to drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you.