Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Houston's cash goes to the right place

Sunday's Chronicle had an interesting little feature about which presidential hopefuls are receiving cash from the Houston area, and how much they are getting. The article notes that residents of River Oaks, the "wealthiest neighborhood in Texas," have so far made a half million dollars worth of political contributions. The two biggest recipients have been Giuliani and Romney, who have each received ~$160-170 thousand. (In Texas, only Highland Park has given more presidential cash.)

Both of those candidates actually received more from Memorial area residents (nearly $335 thousand between the two of them), though that area's overal contributions were just shy of River Oaks'. Montrose - probably Houston's most demographically diverse district (and gay epicenter) - is leading the city in contributions to Dems, with Barack taking the biggest prize there.

I went to opensecrets.com to find out how Friendswood has donated so far. Bewilderingly, Democratic candidates have taken the lion's share of residents' cash here, with Hilary raking in a cool eleven grand, almost 40% of all donations. Then again, one family alone (Buzbee) gave her $9,200 (as well as $4,600 to Edwards). Then again... again, only 18 families have even made contributions, so this sample size sucks ass.

Let's try the old school, the 3-2-5, zip code 76903. That's right, I'm talking about the east side of the SJT.

This is more like it; we've got good ol' Mr. Mertz - cattleman, CPA, board member of just about everything, and stalwart parishioner of Sacred Heart Cathedral - leading the way with $2,300 to McCain. Big bucks get thrown around in San Angelo.

Try your own zip code - it's fun!

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Monday, July 30, 2007

Oh my gravy

I haven't had a free second at work since I got back, which is the reason for massive inactivity on here.

The most exciting thing that happened this weekend was a collective viewing of The Simpsons Movie. Score.

The grindstone is calling my name.

Monday, July 23, 2007



I'm at a beach house in Galveston through Wednesday with Maeg and the Buddy, my parents, brothers, sister, and sobrinos. It wasn't until about 3 o'clock this afternoon that I realized it was actually Monday, so we're off to a good start thus far. I'll be back on Thursday, hopefully about 12 shades darker.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Yet another Bad Boys 2 reference?

If you don't read C.H.U.D. daily, you should. The guys are truly fans first, and critics second, yet still tend to remain a little more level-headed (if not more cynical) than the Harry Crew at AICN. If you haven't gathered from my constant linkage to them, I'm a huge fan of both sites.

Right now, C.H.U.D. is running their list of their Fifty Guiltiest Pleasures. Today, Day 14, gives us Demolition Man and Bad Boys 2. Just what does Devin have to say about it?

Bad Boys II is maybe my ultimate guilty pleasure because I hate movies as stupid as this, and I definitely hate movies as overindulgent as this – just when you think the film is over our leads head to Cuba to decimate a chunk of that country. Actually, I take back the claim that Bad Boys II is stupid: that would indicate there is some sort of thought process behind the film, no matter how insipid. Bad Boys II is pure chaos corralled into cinematic form, full of sound and fury and signifying nothing… except one great fucking time at the movies.

People say that Transformers was the movie Michael Bay was born to make, but I really think that film was Bad Boys II. He takes action choreography to such a new level of amorality and wastefulness – just imagine the costs of the first chase scene, when he even throws a fucking boat into the mix! – that you feel like this is the action spectacle Caligula would have made, except maybe with more horse fucking or something. Bad Boys II is sensation without sense, a film whose sensibility is hyperviolence thats so hyper it's no longer cartoonish but just sort of ugly, a juggernaut of metal on metal and director on audience.

Signature Moment: Will Smith and Martin Lawrence carjack Dan Marino and then engage in a high speed chase with a van that is spitting corpses at them. Dead bodies slam into the windshield and get splattered under the wheels of the car and you realize how unlikely it is that any chase scene will ever top this one in terms of sheer disregard for basic humanity.
Doesn't Michael Bay just look like the kind of guy who would make these movies? I love him.

To give you guys a good example of the sort of sick fan-wit that permeates the styles of most of the contributors, check out this standard bit from Nick. He's writing about Guilty Pleasure #32, Kiss of Death (yes, the David Caruso Kiss of Death):

Signature moment: Helen Hunt, who at the time was still mad about Paul Reiser, is living life on the outside while beau David Caruso counts out his days in the hoosegow. Her reward: slamming death from an oncoming truck. She takes its grille, its engine block, the whole damn load and she takes it hard. Somehow it's heartening to see Helen Hunt get devastated by a truck in the first act of a film. I envision an alternate cut of Twister featuring this intro, followed by two hours Bill Paxton banging the daylight out of Jami Gertz and cranking up some Loverboy on his boom box to drown out the cries of the tornadoes.
Fucking genius. No lie.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Heaven on Earth

It's been almost two weeks since Benedict released his motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum, in which he granted greater freedom to the use of the liturgy according to the traditional Roman Rite, a.k.a. the Tridentine Mass, a.k.a. the Traditional Latin Mass, a.k.a. the Mass of John XXIII (see my previous post here). If you've followed any mainstream news coverage of the event, one of the criticisms of the traditional liturgy that is cited most often is the use of a prayer (offered one time, during one liturgy per annum) that is perceived to be anti-semitic.

It's a ridiculous notion, especially considering just how much the traditional rite resembles a pre-rabinnic Jewish sacrifice. One of all my all time favorite modern theologians, Scott Hahn, also wrote one of my all time favorite books, The Lamb's Supper. In it, he reminds us of the ancient (and now, nearly forgotten) understanding of the mass as a reflection of the heavenly liturgy, which - as St. John's Apocalypse reveals to us - is a sort of mega-Passover feast, conducted by Christ himself, who is both the Priest King AND the sacrificial lamb. This is why the Eastern and Orthodox Catholics still refer to the mass as the Divine Liturgy. How's all that for Jewish symbolism?

More obviously Jewish in nature to the layman than even the purely theological, sacrifical underpinnings of the mass are its sacramentals. From the vestments to the incense to the candles to the processions to the altar, the Judaic roots of the Catholic worship style are clearly evident. Such an observation seems almost stupidly intuitive; after all, Christ himself, as well as all the apostles, were faithfully Jewish, culturally and religiously. They would've wanted to, and proudly did, maintain a style of worship that they knew and loved.

At this point I must add a caveat. When I say that the Jewish roots of Catholic liturgy are obvious, that's not entirely true. As Nicholas Frankovich reminds us in yesterday's First Things post, it was in an "ecumenical" spirit that the Church, post Vatican II, "reformed the Mass such that the visible and audible distinctions between Mass and the worship services of the mainline Protestant churches were now greatly softened. (Historically, Protestants "inveighed passionately against the Mass, which they saw as overtly Judaic in its tone, structure, and purpose.")

In taking a "step in the direction of Wittenberg and Geneva... and a step away from was Jerusalem," the Church greatly toned down much of this distinctly Jewish-styled ritual and symbolism. Unfortunately, in a worship context, a loss of ritual will without fail lead to a loss of solemnity and reverence. Such, then, is the current state of the Catholic liturgy in many parts of the world, not the least of which is the United States. Ordained and laity alike now seem to have no qualms about changing, scrubbing, our scratching out altogether parts of the liturgy that have been evolving organically for literally millenia.

Predictably, the results of people taking free reign over their liturgy has led to many an abomination. Liturgical dance, "circling around" the altar, drums and electric guitars, holding hands during the Pater Noster. Search youtube for "Halloween Mass" and you'll see what amounts to a literal abortion of liturgy.* Yes, the consecration of the host at that particular mass was technically valid, but God help us all that a bishop would allow something so appalling to take place. The old aphorism "Give them an inch, and they will take a mile" is applicable in spades here.

[Aside: my own local parish offers something called a LifeTeen mass which, though not nearly on the same scale of bad as the Halloween mass, is still, by no measure of the word, reverent. The last time I checked, a hundred seventeen year old girls in shorts and spaghetti strap tank tops were pretty damn distracting, and in no means conducive to worship. Oh well, at least it's not sacrilegious.]

This, then, is why we rejoice when restrictions on celebrating the old rite are loosened; the mass is truly heaven on earth, and should be celebrated as such. There is a great longing for that symbiotic reverence and awe that come naturally with celebrating according to ancient custom. The "faith of our fathers" is only that much more powerful when we can also worship according to the ritual of our fathers, and our spiritual father remains Abraham. All this mess about the old rite being anti-semitic? Hogwash.

*Or, just watch it here. Highlights include some sort of horned devil distributing the Body of Christ, and the priest changing into a Barney costume before the Ite, Missa est. God bless the children.

And then compare it to a Traditional Latin Mass:

And it's clear we've got a continuity issue.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Well, friends, I was about to sit down and write a post-lunch something or another, but I just got recruited to drive the quarterly review presentation we are giving El Presidente del Compañía Producción. Face time with big bosses = good; not getting to watch Netflix at work = bad.

That means all I have time for is a youtube post. I can't remember if I already put this up or not, but it's worth a second viewing if I have.


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Monday, July 16, 2007

A momentary lapse of reason, or antitheism and me

During this weekend's obligatory 'til-the-sun-comes-up, drunken, religio-political conversation, the antitheism of of Christopher Hitchens was discussed (if that's an appropriate word to use) in heated and sloppy fashion. It's somewhat coincidental, then, that in my first five minutes of internet perusal this morning, I ran across a Wall Street Journal editorial blasting Hitchens as a particular proponent of "The New, New Atheism."

But then again, maybe it's not so coincidental; Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and several other prominent antitheists have been waging an unabashedly militant reverse-jihad against religion for what seems like a good while now, and they've enjoyed a decent amount of media coverage. If I remember correctly, it was fairly recently that Dawkins even had his own miniseries on the BBC used to promote his book, The God Delusion.

As Berkowitz notes, atheism in itself is nothing new. What is novel about Dawkins, Hitchens, et al, he says, is how militant their particular strain is. Again, they are antitheists, in that they not only do not believe in a god, but they maintain that any belief in any god is dangerous to humanity. Science and a deeper knowledge and understanding of the natural world have ruled out God as a creator, so that a continued belief in him is madness.

It's not difficult to follow the sequence of events that led to the West's current wholesale investment in determinism and hyper-rationalism. What is difficult is determining what it will take to overthrow them as the dominant philosophies*. It is terribly damaging (not to mention terribly uncharitable) to society when, with almost universal agreement, academia brushes off religion and belief in god as ludicrous. For one thing, any theological question is [definitively] outside the scope of philosophy in general, and is [without any shred of a doubt] far, far, far beyond the scope of natural science in particular.


Even were he to concede that religion doesn't poison everything, Mr. Hitchens presumably still would cling to his claim that the findings of modern science prove that God does not exist. Thanks to the knowledge we have attained of how the natural order actually operates--in particular the discoveries of Charles Darwin and modern physics--he concludes that "all attempts to reconcile faith with science and reason are consigned to failure and ridicule."

This conclusion, however, contradicts that of the late Stephen Jay Gould, to whom Mr. Hitchens himself refers as a "great paleontologist" and whose authority he invokes in support of the proposition that randomness is an essential feature of evolution. Noting surveys that showed that half of all scientists are religious, Gould commented amusingly that "Either half my colleagues are enormously stupid, or else the science of Darwinism is fully compatible with conventional religious beliefs--and equally compatible with atheism."

These lines are quoted in "The Dawkins Delusion," by Alistair McGrath, who holds a doctorate in molecular biology from Oxford, where he is now professor of historical theology, and by his wife Joanna Collicutt McGrath, who studied experimental psychology at Oxford and is currently a lecturer in the psychology of religion at the University of London. According to the McGraths, Gould was correct to think that both conventional religious belief and atheism are compatible with natural science, in part because "there are many questions that by their very nature must be recognized to lie beyond the legitimate scope of the scientific method." Such questions--toward which the mind naturally wanders, though it is susceptible to ambush by the crude scientism of which Mr. Hitchens occasionally avails himself--include: Where did the universe come from, and is it governed by purpose?
This isn't even close to the most comprehensive criticism of Hitchens I've read lately, either; everybody's got one, and with good reason. I'm far too busy (read:lazy) to dig up some of the better ones, but that's why Google was invented for you.

*Unless you are holding out for Monumentalism, but I think we all know it's got a few fatal flaws of its own.


Ken, thanks again for the party. It was, and always is, good to see all yous guys.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

My fingers are bleeding

After a failed attempt at beating Freya on Expert at Mango's last week, and after wallowing miserably in the subsequent shame, I've been on a mission. It only took me four full hours of attempt/failure iterations, but I finally beat it again. Although I was at that point experiencing post-coital levels of exhaustion and fatigue, I was so inspired that I played through the entire next two setlists (with the notable exception of the Bird).

So anyway, now I'm once again properly prepared to conquer and impress with my shredding skillz. Bring it.

Here's what I was struggling with for so long:

And here's the impossible:

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Cloverfield / 1-18-08 / Ethan Haas / Slusho!

Before Transformers, they showed a trailer for a JJ Abrams movie (not Star Trek, pretty sure). It didn't give a title, but everyone's referring to it as either "1-18-08," or it's code name, "Cloverfield."

Watch the teaser in glorious HD here.

I really dig the intensity of the shakycam style; if they do the whole movie like that, it looks to have a lot of potential.

People have been speculating that the alternative reality game Ethan Haas Was Right may possibly be connected to Cloverfield (check its Wikipedia entry for the reasons why). I've spent a solid two hours at the EHWR website trying to make my way through the puzzles, as the last two have been especially challenging. After you solve each puzzle, you are treated to a video from "Van Mantra," who tells you about the apocalyptic prophecies of Ethan Haas and about organizing some sort of resistance group to the impending doom.

The speculation may amount to naught, however, as Abrams has sent a note to Fat Harry at Aint It Cool saying that EHWR is in fact NOT in any way linked to Cloverfield. Is he for real, or just trying to throw us all off the scent? As with most things, only time will tell (August 1, according to Van!).

Ah, viral marketing. Most of the time it's lame and far too self-aware, but when it's really on, it's pretty fucking cool.


Official 1-18-08 site.
Ethan Haas Was Right
Ethan Haas Was Wrong

And the five messages from Van at EHWR, rolled into one:

UPDATE: New linkage found between all this business and Slusho! Read about it at CHUD.

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Monday, July 09, 2007

Live Circle Jerk

"We are in a transition time in history when the only way we can get to where we need to be is by starting from where we are."

Read that again.

One more time.

That was Algore, the greatest intellectual of the modern era, speaking in Bushism about why it was necessary to fly rock stars around the world for some sort of awareness concert that was held this weekend.

I'm somewhat ashamed to admit that I watched the live feed for about half an hour. I caught the tail end of a mildly entertaining Brazilian act, got up and took a shit during a short film they showed, then nearly threw up when Fall Out Boy appeared at Giants Stadium and started playing that one song they do. Nothing inspires me to change my consumption habits more than Fall Out Boy.

I didn't even realize this was going on until my buddy Jason told me about it last week. (Then again, apparently no one did. Oh wait, never mind, people knew about, but we're just chalking up the poor attendance to global warming.) I asked him today if he watched it; predictably, he said he enjoyed most of it. He told me he even started unplugging everything at his house - excepting the refrigerator and alarm clock - when he wasn't using them. If I didn't like him so much, I would officially de-friend him.

I'm always simultaneously angered, saddened, and sickened that masses of people lack enough principle and moral perspective that for them one the most "important" causes they can focus their conviction on is fucking climate change. Christ Almighty. As if 1.3 million babies weren't aborted in the U.S. alone last year. You really reach the lower throes of depression when you are forced to watch young people try to get worked up for a cause this asinine, just so they can pat themselves on the back and say "I helped!"

All this to say nothing of the fact that there is nothing in the world more annoying than a singer or actor getting off their political jollies. (Of course, Ahnold is the one exception to this because HE'S FUCKING CONAN.) Seriously though, SHUT UP. I want to like you Kanye West - you fucking rock - but you're also a fucking idiot, and it's hard to disassociate that inconvenient truth (zing) when I am listening to your music. Et tu, Bloc Party?? Fuck me.

Further reading:

The Daily Mail gives us the lowdown and lays the smack down on Live Earth's carbon footprint, among other aspects of the event -

The total carbon footprint of the event, taking into account the artists’ and spectators’ travel to the concert, and the energy consumption on the day, is likely to be at least 31,500 tonnes of carbon emissions, according to John Buckley of Carbonfootprint.com, who specialises in such calculations.

Throw in the television audience and it comes to a staggering 74,500 tonnes. In comparison, the average Briton produces ten tonnes in a year.
Go fucking figure.

Also, Mark Hemingway at NRO gives us live blogging action, entitled "Living Through Live Earth... Or testing the limits of human awareness." It's thoroughly entertaining, plus he forms a sharp Tipper conspiracy theory.

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Damn you, Michael Bay.

The beauty of the internets is that someone, somewhere has already written something that corresponds exactly with what you think, and probably better. This is especially true about reviews.

I didn't read any reviews of Transformers before we went on Tuesday night; I thought I'd try and maintain some element of suspense. I've only read two so far - Harry's and Quint's on AICN - and I think I can stop reading now. Quint says it all, and with far greater detail than I ever would've used.

I can't remember the last time I saw a movie that left me this befuddled that it actually existed. Now I know how your parents felt when they took you to see TRANSFORMERS THE MOVIE. "Well, I guess this is what kids like now. Huh." ...

I know it's not fair to drop the B&R bomb, it's like comparing people to Hitler in political discussion. But TRANSFORMERS is honestly approaching BATMAN AND ROBIN proportions of horribleness. You can't say it's as bad, because the lighting is nice and nobody's wearing rubber fetish costumes or pink gorilla suits, but it's a similar type of minding-numbing machine gun barrage of moronic, inept garbage. And it goes on for almost 2 1/2 hours, longer than some interrogations...

I can't see enjoying this on anything other than an ironic or anthropological "human beings really made this!" type level. No matter how it plays this summer, this movie is so full of bad taste and "what the fuck?" moments that I do believe it will live on. Ten or fifteen years from now, when some theater in a college town plays it as a double feature with ROADHOUSE, it will absolutely kill.
The only way I differ from him is that I thought many of the jokes in the movie were actually funny, and I did find myself laughing out loud and having a good ol' time during about the entire first half of the movie. Especially during the masturbation joke. Maybe I was delirious because it was so late at night, or maybe I still have the maturity of a 13 year old. Probably both. Regardless, read on, if you so wish to be spoiled, because Quint nails it.

P.S. Megan Fox is unfuckingbelievably hot in this movie. If Tito wouldn't have been sitting next to me, I probably would've rubbed one out. Several times.

P.S.S. Two other ways I disagree with Quint, but that don't have to do with this movie: I was entertained by Bad Boys 2, and I loved Armageddon. And I'm talking LOVED. As in, I fucking cried when Bruce Willis took Ben Afflek's spot on the suicide run.


God bless it.

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007


I fucking love it.

John Kruk's hair has been on fire this season, and The Sports Hernia has documented it all.

First up, the "Barry Melrose-do complete with Giambi gel slop":

Next, the "Perm Jailbreak":

And finally, though we hate to end on a down note, the "Low Flow Shower Head":

Get out of this funk, Kruk!

The Sports Hernia

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Monday, July 02, 2007

A Catholic in name only

The Village Voice carried a well-detailed piece about Rudy G's Catholicism, or rather, lackethereof.

It is ironic that the most visible Catholic politicians are also those who consistently take firmly anti-Catholic stances on just about every moral issue in the book. Of course, there is a historical basis for their left-leaning tendencies; until only recently (1973) Catholics voted Democrat by default, without fail.

In fact, just the specter of the once-real, historical Catholic-Democrat tie is binding enough that, even today, Democratic candidates have the audacity to proclaim their Catholicism as essential to their identity or informative upon their conscience. The tragedy is that immigrants and minorities, the closest thing to real life pawns in political chess, continue to vote Democratic, even though they themselves are firmly pro-life and pro-family. Ignorance is not bliss.

Whatever. I'm just sick of people who have no business calling themselves Catholic doing so, and doing so for political gain.

Like I say, though, good write up on ol' Rudy.

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