Saturday, December 8, 2007

Update from France ...

NICE, France — All the instructions here on Blogger are in Finnish. That's interesting.
I hate French keyboards; certain letters and symbols aren't where I'm used to them being.
Allow me to explain my absence: A few weeks ago, we had our internet connection terminated because our provider, Orange, did away with dial-up. We tried installing their broadband but found Orange so unhelpful that we told them to go screw themselves. We signed up with AOL instead, but I've had neither the time, energy nor patience to set it all up yet.
Soon after the debacle with Orange, I fell victim to a vicious cold. I hadn't been sick for years—excepting hangovers!—and began to think I had grown immune to infections. The high fever I came down with last Wednesday taught me otherwise.
Ah yes, and work—with the exception of this weekend, I am still doing lots of overtime. Still playing the part of a workaholic and actually liking it. Strange days ...
So, until I fly back to London tomorrow morning, I'm cooling my heels here on the Côte d'Azur, running, reading and lubricating myself with red wine. I sorely needed this getaway. Nice is as gorgeous as ever, especially at this time of year. The Christmas lights lining the date palms along the Promenade des Anglais are a sight to behold.
I hope to be back on-line soon. Just be patient with me. Now, if you'll excuse me, I wish to immerse myself in a hot bath to polish off a nine-mile run.
À tout à l'heure.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Alive and workaholic...

Yeah, I'm still here. And I can understand how people become workaholics. I fear I'm becoming one myself. No overtime is enough for me. I regularly stay beyond my mandatory seven hours and work 7-9 hours every Saturday. And here's the thing: I'm loving it. The burn-out can't be far off, but I'm determined to push it to the limit. I will earn what moolah I can before the possible crash.
I need to shave, but I can't be bothered. The beard is in Irish drunkard mode at the moment; however, it's slowly but inexorably approaching the Wolfman Jack stage. I know I'm going to have to tackle this facial keratin forest soon because the wife is starting to protest. If I leave it for much longer, she'll be protesting loudly. Shaving or nagging? Tough choice.
I hope I can write more seriously soon. Got a lot on my plate but can't bite off more than I can chew.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Chavez decries oligarchy while turning Venezuela into one

Hugo Chavez disgusts me. I hate that fat Commie faggot more than any other tin-Hitler world leader, and that's really saying something given my considerable rage at Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Fidel Castro, the House of Saud, Robert Mugabe and the Burmese junta. Oh yeah, and Ken Livingstone, who really is a third-world leader. He's the mayor of London. 'Nuff said.
But, as for Chavez, well, I've got to hand it to him. Who else would deal with a challenge to his authority by committing a Kent State-style counterpunch? Not even Ahmadinejad sent in his shock troopers when Iranian students were chanting "Death to the president!" (they didn't mean Bush) at Tehran University during a recent protest in the Islamic Republic.
No-one was killed in during the mêlée, which occurred after 80,000 Venezuelans protested against their president, but it demonstrates how committed Chavez' "21st century socialism" is to democracy. Not.
Chavez responded to the fracas by saying that "rich kids" were responsible for the on-campus violence and that, if he—El Gordo Fago—and his supporters responded in kind, "there wouldn't be a building standing belonging to this unpatriotic oligarchy." Imagine Chavez having the cojones—the sheer temerity—to talk of an oligarchy?
Even Chavez' supporters might tire of his anti-U.S. rhetoric. A recent Financial Times article states: "Venezuelans are accustomed to, and vigorously defend, the typical freedoms of a representative democracy. Venezuela is arguably one of the most pro-US cultures in Latin America, and even poorer Venezuelans dream of visiting Disney World for their holidays. Many Venezuelans are more obsessed by baseball than Bolivarianism." And an article for the New American Media website states that: "[A]nalysts here (Venezuela) are questioning how much further President Chavez can take his anti-yanqui rhetoric. Any rupture in commercial relations with the United States would directly impact Chavez's supporters. Plus, Venezuelans are increasingly fed up with confrontational politics, having endured them for more than seven years from both Chavez and opposition leaders."
How free can Venezuelans consider themselves when they have a leader who wants to significantly expand his powers by abolishing presidential term limits, give himself total control over the Central Bank and create new provinces governed by handpicked officials?
Also, let's not forget that Venezuelan law bars state security forces from entering the campus unless university authorities request it. Chavez officially declared that null and void.
Patricia Andrade, who heads the Venezuelan Awareness Foundation said, "'The government is creating chaos in the universities so that they will have an excuse to invade them. Wars are begun by the ones with the weapons, and the students don't have weapons—all they have is book bags.''
Andrade is right. Venezuela is in for a rough ride. A bit ironic that a democratically elected president should warp his country's constitution so much that Venezuelans will suddenly find themselves in the grip of a fascist... what's Chavez' favourite word? Oh yes, oligarchy.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Senseless slaughter does not equal superiority

This just goes to show that the U.S. is not the only country to suffer from gun rampages in schools. Canada, Britain, France, Germany and Sweden have all had their incidents of on-campus slaughters too. And now we can add Finland to the list.
An 18-year-old went on a rampage with a semi-automatic at his high school in a southern Finnish town, killing eight. He then, as is usually the case, turned the gun on himself.
Why did he do it? He considered himself above the human race. In a vid he shot for YouTube, he denounced humans and planned to deal with their inferiority. The t-shirt he wears in the video declares "Humanity is overrated."
But for all the student gunman's bragging about his superiority, he blew a pretty serious gasket and acted just like those he considered beneath him. He slaughtered, he killed, he committed several acts of homicide ... just like some humans do.
Of course, history is littered with those who considered themselves superior to the masses and never once hesitated to bring the hammer down upon them: Saddam Hussein, Josef Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Idi Amin, Pol Pot ... The list just goes on.
And to that list, we can add this scumbag of a non-human. He wasn't a third-world leader, but whatever he was, whyever he was superior—neither of which he mentioned in his vid—he was, in the end, nothing but a psychopathic nutcase.
Know that what alarms me even more than humanity's greed, planet-raping or ignorance is senseless death, human or otherwise.
By trying to "teach the humans a lesson," he ended up just like one. And that, in addition to the innocent lives massacred, is what disgusts me greatly about this tragic story.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

"Ooh, you're such a sexy hunter-gatherer!"

OK, we've got a so-called obesity crisis in this country (the U.K.), right? It's gotten so bad that the British are no longer allowed to make fun of bouncy-assed Americans because they're now well on their way to waddling—as opposed to walking—themselves. They've caught the couch-potato bug too.
We hear, nearly every day, about proposals to ban junk-food advertisements and that obesity-related health issues take up nine percent of our public health care budget. It is reckoned that 14 million people in this nation will be obese by 2010. And, as we've recently heard, obesity causes cancer.
Still with me?
So get a load of this particular madness: It was reported in today's The Daily Telegraph, in a fluff article entitled "The look of love," that smiling faces are more attractive than neutral or scowling faces. Well, bend me over and call me Doris, I wonder how much public money went into that study? I'm not much for smiling myself, but then I'm not looking to attract people to me. As far as I'm concerned, people are like flies—I like it very much when they keep their distance from me.
But, in a sidebar to the article, the researcher, Dr. Ben Jones from the College of Life Sciences at the Univeristy of Aberdeen, also wrote "In a hunter-gatherer society, where size is a signal that a person is successful, being overweight is a turn-on."
Say what?!
Being overweight is a turn-on? So why are so many women starving themselves in an attempt to achieve weight loss? Why are teenaged boys nearly just as prone to anorexia or bulimia as girls are? Why is British society—or the British media anyway—creating such a fuss over an obesity time-bomb that's about to explode on this island?
But then, Dr. Jones works in Scotland, one of the fattest areas on the planet, a place where people scoff deep-fried Mars bars and haggis like it's all going to be shipped overseas tomorrow for Americans to gorge themselves on.
Nevertheless, I would like to ask Dr. Ben Jones one question: What millennium is he living in? Hunter-gatherer society? The only people who hunt these days are toothless, monosyllabic rednecks who are as much of a danger to road signs as they are to animals, and those who gather are pack-rats. There is no—I repeat, no—environmental, physical or societal reason to be overweight at this point in the history of the human species. There just isn't.
Want to talk "signals of success?" What better feeling of accomplishment can a person feel from shedding 20 pounds or more? I ask you.
As for the overweight being attractive or a turn-on, suffice to say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If that's your cup of tea, go for it.
But if someone ever tells me that I should gain weight to embolden my powers of attraction, they're going to get one of my running sneakers shoved down their esophagus.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Kiddie-fiddling Krauts

What is up with the Germans? Can it be that their government officially promotes pedophilia and incest?
The German government's Ministry for Family Affairs provide booklets on parenting which assert that fathers do not pay enough attention to their daughters' vagina, and sexually messaging girls between the ages of 1 and 3 "is the only way the girls can develop a sense of pride in their sex." Amazingly, the booklet also claims that "the child touches all parts of their father's body, sometimes arousing him. The father should do the same." And, according to the booklet dedicated to the ages 4-6, children should be learning the movements of copulation from their parents.
Disgusted yet? Well, these booklets are obligatory reading in nine German regions. They are used in nurseries, kindergarten and elementary school. Author Michael O'Brien, who specializes in the West's "crisis of culture" and who investigated these government-sponsored sanctions of sexual manipulation of young children asked, "Will those children who are not liberated by their parents have special classes in their schools where they're introduced to these practices?"
Germany has become notorious for the blatant pornography in billboards and television advertisements. Teen magazines in the country publish photos of nude adolescents engaging in certain activities, photos which would be declared illegal in many other countries.
And the fun for Germany's youth doesn't end with being sexually messaged before the age of three and taught how to do doggie-style before six. They can sing songs about their sexual liberation as well. The German Federal Health Education Center has also produced a songbook entitled "Nose, Belly and Bum" ("Nose, Bouch und Po"), in which one of the songs declares, "When I touch my body, I discover what I have. I have a vagina, because I am a girl. Vagina is not only for peeing. When I touch it, I feel a plesant tingle." School plays are staged with a cuddly, smiling bear mascot who encourages the kiddie Krauts to sing along.
Bad enough the Germans started two world wars. Now they've gone completely in the other direction. They've started to destroy themselves.
How long can it be before other Western countries start following Germany's über-sick example? I joke about American liberals wanting to hand condoms out to five-year-olds, but now I'm seriously beginning to believe that could happen. I wouldn't be surprised if our Labour government here in Britain started copying this garbage.
I doubt if any futher commentary is required, except to say that while wanting to save children in strife-torn, impoverished areas of Africa and Asia is all very well, I think German children should be added to the list of those who require immediate attention—and of the non-sexual kind.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

An American werewolf in London, the nightdragon version ...


I got into the spirit last night. I wore the same mask and cape as above as well as my kilt. I told the folks at work that I was a vampiric werewolf from the Scottish Highlands.
I have pleasant memories of Hallowe'en. I consider it a duty to honor the kid in me who loved this day so much by keeping the Hallowe'en spirit alive. Who cares that I'm nearly 38?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Time to burn that yoke

This is what it's all about. This, dear reader, is why some people are avid sports fans. Whatever your favorite sport is, you follow it passionately in the hope that your team will make it all the way. In a way, their victory is your victory too, because you invested so much personal emotion into your team's affairs. You are part of another nation.
In my case, I am a member of Red Sox Nation. I started following the Sox, and baseball, in July 1988, during the summer of "Morgan Magic." I saw the Sox through various shades of good and bad since that summer. I was also aware of 1918, the last time we as a team were truly the best. The Sox never seemed to reach a certain plateau, that is, a spot in the World Series. And, if they did, they were doomed to fail. After the Yankees defeated us after 11 innings in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, I was so upset and despondent that my father had to call me and say, "Look, son, you know what being a Red Sox fan entails. Get used to the heartbreak. There's going to be a lot more of it to come."
Oh Dad, how wrong you were. The next year, when it seemed like we would be the Yankees' doormats once more, we responded. Won four straight. Then, won four more straight. Hello 2004, goodbye 1918!
Three seasons later, and just two nights ago, a Red Sox team that was probably even better than the 2004 squad—if that's even possible—brought the trophy back to Boston. Two World Series victories in four years. To don Red Sox clothing is to wear the colors of a winner, of a team that scares the pants off everyone else in the league.
For 16 years, I wore my Red Sox cap as a mark of my die-hard status. A person wearing Red Sox colors seemed to say, "I'm one angry, frustrated, inferiority-complex ridden motha, and I'm proud of it!" No more of that.
But you know what? I miss it. The Red Sox are winners, the Yankees are in disarray—the tables have turned in a way no-one would have dared to predict—but I always thought the Red Sox were the perfect team for me to follow. They gave me something to be angry about. It was like a yoke around my neck and shoulders that I grew accustomed to, a burden I actually began to carry with more than a measure of perverse pride, and once it was removed, I felt naked. I don't feel complete anymore without that chip on my shoulder.
Now I cannot believe what has transpired. Like the Jeffersons, the Red Sox have moved on up. And even when Boston becomes a dull team again, as has got to happen someday, no-one will talk of the Red Sox as loveable losers, of a team that is cursed. Those days are history.
But three years ago, and again Sunday night, I felt part of a victory that no-one can ever take away from us. We won it with hard work and faith. Both events were things of pure beauty to behold.
I am a Red Sox fan. That statement no longer means what it used to—and I'm grateful for it.

Friday, October 26, 2007

On this day, men should be wearing black

Today in Britain is Breast Cancer Awareness Day, sponsored by the Breast Cancer Campaign.
The theme this year, as it has been for several years, is pink. As in, Wear It Pink. Our workplace operated in observance of this campaign too. But I was in a black shirt and blue jeans. I don't "do" pink, dear reader. Never have, never will. I have had enough of these coiffed, ear-ringed, pink-shirted metrosexual men with highlights in their hair. It's just unnatural.
But I digress ...
What about prostate cancer?
Prostate cancer is as much of a menace to men as breast cancer is to women. Yet we have a "wear it pink" Breast Cancer Awareness Day. No similar event is held to highlight prostate cancer and how devastating to men it is. In the U.S., nearly as many men (30,000) die from prostate cancer as women do from breast cancer (40,000) and the ratio is roughly the same here in Britain. In both countries, prostate cancer research lags significantly behind that dedicated to breast cancer. As Alan Heller states in this article, "Commercials, public service announcements, news segments and magazine articles address the issue of breast cancer, but rarely touch upon health issues affecting men ... Fundraisers and events for prostate cancer are rare, at best."
Now, I have serious issues with vivisection. No animal would be sliced up in the name of examining any cancer if I had my way, but that's not really the point here.
The point is sexual discrimination and the politicization of disease. While it's true that men themselves are partly to blame for shying away from discussing their problems—health or otherwise—it's still not right that I should be expected to take part in an event which promotes research toward a cancer I'm unlikely to ever get while a cancer that could very well strike me down is largely ignored.
It doesn't matter that men don't like to think about prostate cancer. The resources for fighting it should exist in the same proportion to those used to fight breast cancer nevertheless. But, as we men are quickly learning day by day, we are losing out to the Goddess of Feminism.
So, no offense ladies, but I won't be wearing pink nor donating £2 of my hard-earned money until my gender's cancer menace is treated as seriously as yours is.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Plz use English correctly b4 i cry k thx

Language is a pretty important thing. We couldn't hope to communicate with each other effectively enough to maintain our society's infrastructure without it. So it's rather nice if people deign to use it correctly.
For instance, this gets to me: If I select a bottle of wine for £2.99, take it to the counter to pay for it and am told, "That'll be two ninety-nine, please," I should by all rights be confused. I am always tempted to reply, "It will be 2.99? Well, what price is it now?" (Of course, I would then have the enriching experience of seeing the yout' behind the counter regard me like he would a space crustacean for a second before going, "Uhhhh ... ummmmm ... hold on, let me get the manager.") Some cashiers do get it right the first time and announce, "That's 2.99, please." But it's the "gonna be" and "will be" that irks me. At what point in the history of English did people decide that using the future tense to refer to the immediate present was acceptable?
But the misuse or total exclusion of apostrophes is what really gets my dander up. I experience a brief but intense flash of temper everytime I see one out of place or dropped altogther. For instance, in our kitchen area at work, there's a sign above the counter imploring us to "please rinse out your bowl's/plate's before putting them into the sink." I used to think that this was commonplace in America due to our dumbed-down liberal education system, but the disease has taken place here too. And then you have corporations like Tesco, a dominant supermarket chain, who announce their line of clothing as "Mens," "Womens" or "Childrens." The writer Bill Bryson excoriated them for this and I am pretty disgusted and alarmed by it as well.
Honestly, is it so hard to use an apostrophe correctly? Is it that taxing on the brain to know when to use "its" versus "it's" or "your" versus "you're"? In fact, I'm beginning to think an ever-increasing number of folks are completely unaware of the form "you're."
Then there's "could/would/should of." I wish people would stop to analyze this. Does "could of" make any orthographical sense? Does it make any sense at all? The problem, of course, is that the past tense "have" is often shortened to -'ve, which sounds exactly like "of." But they are two completely different syllables.
Don't even get me started on this curse known as texting. I could write 100 pages in a state of high piss-off about how much I deplore it and the effect it's having on people's ability to speak, write and spell properly.
Now defending the proper use of English can go too far. The British anchorman John Humphrys gives a classic example in his book "Beyond Words." He writes of people who scoff when offered a nice cup of tea. "What these people want," Humphrys says, "is a cup of nice tea." Even though, he continues, it doesn't take any effort for an English speaker to deduce that it's the tea, not the cup, being referred to as nice, some people are adamant about the correct word order. This could be seen as extremism. After all, the cup of tea is regarded as a collective whole; it's the cup containing the tea that makes it nice. Indeed, if you really wanted to be a schtickler for the correct use of language, you could say that "nice cup of tea" makes no sense at all. Cups of tea aren't charitable nor do they pat us on the back and tell us what a wonderful person we are. A good cup of tea is what we should offer people. However, "nice cup of tea" just became such common parlance in the language that it became accepted to the point where no-one thinks about it.
Which brings me back to my original point. How long can it be before society enshrines "your" to mean you are, "it's" as the possessive form of it, and "could of" to denote could have, because no-one, not even people in positions of power, knows any better? How long, indeed, before we drop the apostrophe, such a useful tool?
Now, dear reader, you may understand why I get annoyed at being told that my bottle of wine "will be" £2.99. That casual misuse of tense just reminds me of the inexorable slide toward a form of English that I no longer recognize, one that will make me weep because I love the language too much to see the scars of its abuse become official.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

There can be no forgiveness for the wicked

Got to hand it to the Austrians. They sure love their history. Especially World War II history. They appear rather fond of that. It explains why the Austrian government refuses to prosecute a Nazi war criminal living in their nation.
British historian Guy Walters tracked the former female concentration camp guard, Erna Wallisch, down while doing research for his book "Hunting Evil". Not only is she living comfortably by the Danube in Vienna, but her surname—Wallisch—is to be found on the push-button for her residence.
"For too long, the Austrians have been unacceptably lenient with these evil men and women in their midst," Walters explained after his encounter with Wallisch. "I suspect their reluctance to confront these criminals is because it would only highlight the extent of Austrian complicity with Nazism."
In other words, the Austrians think it's better to ignore the monsters in their midst than to come clean with their past.
A surviving prisoner in the Polish death camp remembers Erna Wallisch and how she meted out beatings even when she was with child. "The pregnant Nazi monster woman who went crazy and attacked us did not appear among those tried in Duesseldorf after the war," says Jadwiga Landowska. "The pregnant one hit a young boy lying on the floor with something harder than a whip. Blood was pouring from his head and he gave no sign of life or reaction. The sweating, breathless face of that monster was something I will never forget."
Erna Wallisch is number seven on the Simon Wiesenthal Center's list of Nazi war criminals who are still at large. The Centre's head, Dr Efraim Zuroff, was told by Austria's Justice Ministry that it could not prosecute Wallisch under its statute of limitations with regard to war criminals. Poland, however, has no such statute of limitations, and Dr Zuroff is encouraging Poland to take action against her, as her crimes took place in Poland and against Polish citizens.
For it seems justice won't be served in Austria. One of Wallisch's neighbors couldn't understand why anyone would raise a fuss. "It’s all in the past and should be forgotten. People should learn to forgive.
Forgive someone's complicit participation in the 20th century's worst case of genocide? Perhaps someone should spread this message of forgiveness to Pol Pot's surviving victims or those who went through Stalin's pogroms. It's all in the past, right? So let's just throw the concept of justice in the rubbish bin and be done with it.
Honestly, if I had my way, these Nazi war criminals would be tied up and dragged by their feet to jail cells while awaiting their prosecution. And if this treatment proved too much for their fragile, elderly bodies and they died en route to their sentencing, so be it.
Here's hoping Poland will do what Austria will not and set the wheels of justice in motion for all the people Wallisch ever beat to death.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Of smiles and simpletons

Smile, they say, and the world smiles along with you. Smiles spread sunshine.
Or, as I prefer to think of it, smile and everyone wonders what you're up to.
I don't smile enough, it's a fact. I laugh quite a lot. That's because I've got a very dry—almost bordering on dark—sense of humor. I like caustic, sardonic, pissed-off humor, so there's always something that tickles my funny bone. I have no problem laughing.
Smiling, however—that's a different story. I've always considered smiling to go hand-in-hand with stupid, simple humor and the happy-go-lucky idiots that possess it. Y'know, the sort of fools who laugh at "Full House" or "Everybody Loves Raymond," and think that Tim Allen is a comic genius. Forrest Gump would have nothing on these folks.
If they're not the sort of bumpkins that happily cackle at the moronic gutter swill that so often passes for American sitcoms, then people who smile a lot so often turn out to be really arrogant. It's as if they're saying, "hey, world, nothing you do can faze me." I make a habit of shoulder-barging these types of people just to knock them down a peg, just to remind them that life isn't all roses and blue sky. I consider it doing them a favor.
If you want me to smile, you've got to give me a reason to.
You see, I am atypical for an American in that I don't automatically assume a level of friendliness with strangers. As Polly Platt wrote in her book French or Foe?, with regard to the French: "Stranger (étranger) means danger (danger). The two words rhyme in French too. There isn't even a word in the language that means 'friendly' with its resonance of spontaneous warmth toward everybody." Platt also mentions her French son-in-law who once told her: "You Americans have banalized the smile. Americans smile all the time, always the same. For us there must be a reason ... When I am introduced to another man, if he smiles, then I think to myself that he is one of three things: he is making fun of me, he is hypocritical or he's very stupid. If it's a woman, there's a fourth possibility—she wants to flirt."
All very true, in my opinion. Forgive me, dear reader, for daring to agree with anything in French culture. But I do agree very much with the French on this. Smiles have to occur for a good reason, for a shared joke or moment, or something else of an intimate, personal nature. Smiling for no reason, in public? Just makes you look simple-minded or arrogant, depending on the look in your eyes.
I learned a long time ago that my smile is a signal to people that they should take advantage of me. Like the French, and very much like dragons themselves, I started to equate "stranger" with "danger." Needless to say, I soon changed tactics. These days, total strangers receive a glaring, "don't-even-think-of-fucking-with-me" look. It works. People leave me alone, which is how I like it.
This does not, dear reader, mean that I am incapable of friendliness. If you were standing next to me at the train station, for instance, and started talking to me about the Red Sox, running, draconity/dragons or anything else dear to my heart, I'd talk to you for hours. I'd ask for your e-mail address to continue the conversation. That sort of thing actually happened once. I gave one guy my usual "piss off" scowl. But I was wearing my Red Sox cap. The fellow turned around and asked me, "hey, are you a Red Sox fan?!" I was soon talking with him as if I'd known him for years, delighted with his company.
It's also why I adore the Ramones. You never saw any of those dudes smile. They didn't need to. Their loud, fast, no-nonsense punk-cum-surf rock was joyous enough. If they had smiled, it would have been overkill.
Again, give me a reason to give you a smile and I will. Tell me that you're a dragon trapped in this life too. Tell me that you want me to be your running coach. Tell me that you'll give me £5 million so that I can live the rest of my life in complete resplendence.
Otherwise, like the French, you will find me difficult to deal with, even if I do speak your language.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Not your father's—or grandfather's or great-grandfather's—Red Sox?

So this is what it's like to root for a winning baseball team with a confident, angst-free fan base? Even after the exhiliration that was 2004, I'm still getting used to it.
It's amazing how often the Red Sox find themselves crawling out of holes. Oops. Did I say "crawling?" I meant blasting. After the Indians had us down three games to one, we finally recovered and slaughtered them by a combined, three-game score of 30-5. As sports columnist Dan Wetzel writes, "Now [the Sox] are the team with so much talent and tenacity that if you get them down you need to drive a stake through their heart. If not, they'll come back and break yours."
I also love Wetzel's observation that:
"The Red Sox, the team that forever used to dig their own grave, now just dances on their opponents' ...
Whatever you once knew about the Red Sox is gone. This is no cuddly underdog, no loveable loser trying to change history.
This is Goliath."
Amazing, isn't it? After decades of heartbreaking defeats and constant team-manager shake-ups, the Red Sox get to swagger into the World Series, while the Yankees find themselves in disarray and despondently searching for answers. Oh, how the tables have turned!
I wouldn't say that we've become like the Yankees just yet. After all, in 2005, we got bounced out in the first round and in 2006, the Yankees themselves delivered a late-season, 1978-style Boston Massacre II, killing our chances of making the playoffs.
But I'm loving this year. This is even more justice for all the fans of the past who suffered. Bring on Colorado and let's start this World Series! Boston has another trophy to win!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Proud member of the RA: Runners Anonymous

Did I ever mention how much I love to run? Did I ever tell you, dear reader, how much of a lift it gives me and how it allows me an escape hatch from the world, even if it is for only half-an-hour? (If I had more time, I'd surely run longer, as I do on the weekends.)
In this excellent piece, the author envisions her running as "a place where I can escape my problems and enter into a world where I am invincible." This is what I have always thought and said myself, and yet people who aren't runners think of it as torture and wonder how we have not just the stamina but the will-power to pound the earth every day as we do. Sometimes I just want to scream at their ignorance.
Runners are not fools; they are not suckers for self-torture; they are not mad. They are free. I remember once when a runner passed me by as I was walking home from work. "This is the best part of your day, isn't it?" I called after him. "Hell, yeah!" he replied. I didn't have to ask why.
The brain has a chance to clear itself out during a long run. You think about anything and everything and by the time you're finished, you realize that your mind has just had a dump. You feel able to put some thought towards what you need to get done today, as you're not still thinking about yesterday.
And, of course, there's the exhilirating high. I've mentioned this one before, and it's no myth. So, yeah, we runners, when you see us out there, are getting our fix. But what a wonderful, natural and perfectly harmless fix it is. This is the high I am literally chasing after.
It is also why, no matter what the weather—I'll even run in gale-force winds—I'm out there at 4 a.m. every day. I spend the first half of my worknight looking forward to it. Not even when my arthritic right knee flares up do I stop. I just throw my compression brace on and I tell that knee that it is going to help carry me over the course of a 3-mile run whether it likes it or not.
When 4 o'clock arrives, that's my magic hour. That's where I not only step out of the office, but I step out of my life as well. The five minutes worth of stretching before my run is like foreplay. And, once my legs start pumping and my feet start slapping the asphalt (or pavement, grass or dirt), I become a different creature. I actually become the dragon I'm meant to be. Or at least it feels that way. I'll run anywhere, anytime, in any weather—except for heavy downpours—and I'm always thrilled at the chance to do so. For me, this is like spreading my wings.
After my run, as I stretch to cool down and as I freshen up, you can hear my cheerful whistles or humming resonate throughout the entire building. At no other time during the day or night do I act like this. At no other time are you likely to catch me in such a good or friendly mood.
I just wish everyone was "in the know" about running the way we are. Some of us may have started off running for completely different reasons—some just wanted to shed a few pounds, some wanted to build their legs up, some did so to compete with themselves or others—but the addiction was the same for us all. We all fell deep into its clutches. You can find us everywhere.
Running is the heroin of the exercise world. It's not a habit I'm looking to break.
And now you know why we, the great Runners Anonymous, do what we do. We run in order to bite off a sizeable chunk of inner contentment and peace from life's great wheel. And we are always successful.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Because of me some scumbag lives? No, I think not!

According to one of the papers I read last night, two people, who did not know each other, surprised British doctors by requesting a live organ donation—to complete strangers. They both gave their reasons as wanting to reflect human kindness.
Which my cynical brain kicked around like a football for several seconds before completely rejecting it.
Forgive the pun, but I wouldn't be caught dead giving my organs to someone else, unless I knew everything about the person who was to receive them. I'd do it, like most people do, to save the life of a loved one. But a complete stranger? No, never.
Why? Because Murphy's Law has always seemed rather fond of me. And I know that bitch will strike if I ever donate anything, even blood, to help save the life of a stranger. I have this petrifying fear that stranger will turn out to be a fanatical Muslim. Or an animal researcher. Perhaps an illegal immigrant who has no right to medical treatment in this country (but, saps that the British are, get treated anyway). Maybe even a violent prisoner. In fact, there's no end of reasons why I would shudder to think that I helped out someone else that I didn't know.
So, I've never been big on carrying a donor's card or giving blood. I won't even break up fights, not because I'm scared but because I honestly don't care; if I see a battle going on, I cross the street and let the combatants continue their skirmish in peace.
I guess I've never been big on this whole "milk of human kindness" rubbish. And, considering what I am and the sad history of my species, that's hardly surprising.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Another one in the eye for meat-eaters

I was very pleased to read through the "11 Foods Men Should Eat Every Day" article on MSN's Health & Fitness section. Not only did it contain a lot of things I myself ingest, but there wasn't one reference to poultry or mammal meat.
Aside from fish, the list was refreshingly vegetarian. In fact, some of the 11 foods weren't even food, per se. The 11 things essential to male health, according to the article, are:

11. Milk or Vitamin D-fortified orange juice (for calcium and Vitamin D).
10. Coffee (reduces risk of liver cancer and helps to move the bowels).
9. Red wine (contains anti-oxidants and resveratrol which are anti-ageing and heart-friendly).
8. Eight glasses of liquid (moves bowels, hydrates, keeps skin healthy).
7. Fish (low-fat protein, omega-3 fats).
6. Baby aspirin (can reduce arterial ageing by 36 percent).
5. Nuts, especially walnuts and almonds (heart-healthy omega-3 fats).
4. Tomato sauce / tomatoes (heart-friendly, reduces arterial ageing, may fight cancer).
3. Folate (decreases arterial ageing, blood pressure and cancer rate).
2. Fiber (good for bowels and proper digestive function).
1. Fruits and vegetables (rich in minerals and vitamins, good for bowels).

See? No hamburgers, no steak, no poultry. Everything on that list, aside from the fish, is suitable for vegetarians. And I eat most everything on that list, including the fish—because I (unlike Squirrel) am a vegetarian who eats fish and other seafood: a pescetarian, in other words. So, although I like to say that I am a vegetarian, I know I'm technically not. But I don't eat turkey or chicken, I don't eat pork or bacon, I don't eat beef or lamb. I don't want any bird or mammal flesh. So at least I share disgust with true vegetarians, like my wife, over red or white meat. That stuff really does make me sick. (I feel I should mention that I don't eat lobsters because, although they are seafood, I am appalled by the way they are treated. So lobster, like pork, lamb, beef or chicken, is off my dietary list.)
In fact, I would even argue about needing fish. Walnuts, almonds and avocadoes provide lots of omega-3 fats and you can even get healthy margarine like Flora Lite that has omega-3 fats mixed in. The truth is, I still eat fish because I love it and am just not ready to give it up yet. Maybe someday soon I will, and then I can be an honest vegetarian. I hope so.
I just eat lots of nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables and drink milk, fruit juice, and several thousand mugfuls of water at work. I quaff coffee at night and red wine (or Guinness, the black liquid aspirin) in the morning, and have fish and/or seafood two to three times a week—and I am as healthy as I can be. I run 21 miles a week. If I was weak, do you think I'd weigh 170 pounds of solid muscle—I stand 5'5"—and be able to run an average of 3 miles every day?
Great list, "Dr. Oz." I don't know if this was conscious veggie-thinking (or pesce-thinking) on your part, but thanks nevertheless for doing your little part to expose the fallacy of "needing" meat.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

British High Court: Schools must tell the inconvenient truth

Stewart Dimmick is only a part-time school official, but he has earned a major personal victory. Dimmick disagreed with the practice of showing Al Gore's film An Inconveient Truth during science classes in British high schools, arguing that this was dishonest and was teaching young students to accept a politically driven agenda as scientific fact.
A UK High Cout judge agreed with Dimmock's assertion, and ruled that while schools may continue to show the film, a disclaimer must be issued first, alerting students to the fact that An Inconvenient Truth promotes "partisan political views" and that the movie should be seen as a political film and not a scientifically valid documentary.
Dimmock wanted the film banned, but is happy nonetheless with the Court's decision.
This was a good decision by the Court. I don't see the harm in letting adolescent students watch An Inconvenient Truth, as long as they are told that the movie contains only a smidgen of science and that the film is largely political propaganda and speculation. The film will allow students to become aware of environmental issues, but the disclaimer will help them make up their own minds instead of taking everything in the film as fact.
As long as students are aware of the political partisanship with which Gore made the film and that it contains several inaccuracies and mistruths—if they are told the truth about An Inconvenient Truth—then I consider the case of showing the film in British high schools solved.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Why, that must be a lizard scorpion!

OK, there is just no excuse for stupidity such as this.
A family in Northern Ireland found a scorpion climbing one of their living room walls. The beast had come home with them on a bouquet of flowers that they bought at the supermarket chain Tesco.
Now that's not what's stupid. That's careless on the part of the supermarket and their supplier, and it's scary for the family who say they were petrified at the sight of it.
Here's what's stupid:
In the article in the Belfast Telegraph, the reporter referred to the scorpion as a reptile. Twice.
Silly me. And here I was thinking that scorpions were arachnids. You learn something new every day, don't you?
But what I learned is not that scorpions are reptiles. What I learned this morning is that the reporter who wrote the article and the copy editor who I assume checked her work are both dumbkopfs.
So here's a lesson in natural biology for those of you at the Belfast Telegraph: Reptiles are vertebrates; they have backbones. Arthopods, such as arachnids (and insects), don't have backbones; they have a hard outer shell called an exoskeleton.
I knew this much as a boy.
Perhaps the Telegraph could consider employing a ten-year-old with a grasp of basic science to check their articles when they have anything to do with earthly creatures. Because it seems the adults are clueless.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Our nine-year-old world

On Wednesday, my boss asked me if I could work overtime this Saturday, as I did last week. I had to say no, because my wife and I would be in a small cathedral town in Cambridgeshire celebrating our 9th anniversary.
"I don't know what there is to celebrate," I told him with a wry smirk. "It's just been torture."
Seriously, though, I wouldn't have it any other way. Despite the homesickness, and the inevitable arguments and disagreements that come with living closely with another person, I have no doubts whatsoever that I made the right choice on that sunny day in Boston, May 1998, when I told Squirrel over the phone, "I do." After all, if you can say that your spouse is not just your lover or the person you share a house and the bills with, but your best friend as well, then clearly you have made the right decision in deciding to get hitched.

Squirrel and I in Barcelona, 2001

I've learned a lot in these nine years. After seriously thinking that bacherlood was in the cards for me, I am still somewhat amazed to find myself a happily married man—well, a dragon in a man's form—for nine years.
Our marriage has been about togetherness, about teamwork, about a deep understanding between us that we could have with no-one else. Squirrel and I have a world of our own making and nothing will shatter that. This world acts in tandem with the world outside our door, but it's also a world none other can take part in. It is completely ours and that's the way we like it.
After nine years, I can honestly say that still I love that girl with all my heart, and that there are still plenty of moments when I gaze upon her the same way I did the day we first laid eyes on each other. We now begin our journey toward our tenth anniversary and I'm sure it'll be no less precious to me, or her, than all the others have been.
Happy Anniversary, my love.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Viva España: Land of the British car commercial

Or, why I'd appreciate a little visual truth in auto advertising

You, dear reader, are in the marketing business. (I know, you're no whore to consumerism. Well, neither am I. Just pretend, OK?) Now then, it is your job to advertise cars, be they Fiats or Fords, to the great—wha ha ha! Oops, pardon me—British public. You make sure your filming crew is ready for the TV commercials you intend to produce. And so, with lights and cameras and not forgetting plenty of action in tow, off you go—to sunny Spain. ¡Hasta la vista, baby!
Make sense yet? I thought not.
Now perhaps I shouldn't make too big a deal of this point, because I honestly have yet to see a car commercial, in America, Britain or anywhere else, that didn't make me want to commit hari-kari so that I may never again have to suffer such an undignified assault on my senses. The point is, television (and radio, and newspaper) ads for automobiles are the height of absurdity. Actually, seeing Michael Moore on the cover of GQ would be the absolute height of absurdity, but car commercials come in at a pretty close second.
Think about it. As I said, your job is to market cars to the British. If you had any sense at all, you'd make sure that the commercial you produced would contain lots of rain-stained concrete, slick asphalt, grey clouds and downright miserable-looking people in greasy-spoon cafes drinking tea. But lo!, here comes the latest model Vauxhall Corsa, driven by a happy, smiling Rastafarian with reggae playing on his iPod-compatible car stereo, and suddenly the sun shines and people pour out into the street, partying in its wake!
Sound ridiculous? It's supposed to, it's a car commercial! But seriously, that's the sort of thing I'd have in mind if I was to market a car to the British.
Yet, in the nearly eight years that I've made my home in the U.K., I have yet to view a car commercial that didn't contain date palms, suntanned people and architecture that doesn't instantly sink the soul in the background. Hell, there's one Ford commercial that takes place in Barcelona. How do I know? I've been to Barcelona, and, the first time I saw it, I clearly recall exclaiming to myself, "Hey, there's La Sagrada Familia! Hey, that's La Rambla he's driving along! And, oh!, there's Barceloneta beach!"
The point is, I'm getting really tired of seeing the subtropical south of Europe in car commercials when all I've seen for weeks on end is cold, rain and wind. On most days, I have trouble remembering what the sun looks like, though I've heard you can't stare at it too long.
For Pete's sake, if you want to sell me an environmentally unfriendly product—bad enough as it is—at least don't patronize me by thinking I'm going to jump at the chance to purchase one just because some numbnuts was driving it along a palm tree-lined road.
How anyone living in Britain can see their own lives reflected in a commercial shot in Spain, Italy or the south of France is beyond me.
Methinks auto advertisers have been beber mucho sangria. It's the only explanation.

The eco-friendly house is £865,000, but the hypocrisy is free

The Curtis family of Lewes, England are selling their self-built eco-house which won an award for the "greenest" home in the UK from mortgage providers Norwich and Peterborough last year.
Aaron and Raphaella Curtis have five children.
To sum up: This family, made up of seven members, claimed residence in Britain's most environmentally friendly house.
Now for the million-dollar question: What is wrong with that picture?!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

We may have won, but the fun has only just begun

The Red Sox have finally won their first division title since 1995. A few weeks ago, it looked as if they were going to roll over and hand it to the Yankees—on a silver platter, no less—but they preserved their lead and prevented New York from winning the AL East ten seasons in a row. (We also share the best record in baseball this season with the AL Central champions, the Cleveland Indians, at 96-66.)
Even when we won the World Series in 2004, we won as wild-card contenders.
I know, what would I rather have? A division title or a World Series championship title? It's no contest. Still, it'd be nice to win the whole deal, knowing that we weren't shoe-ins but truly the best team in the American League East.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Would de la Hoya be crucified for falling victim to diabetes or MS?

I must admit, I feel more than a tad sorry for Oscar de la Hoya, who, it is alleged by a couple of women whom he had previously partied with, liked to be dominated while wearing fishnets, panties and high-heels. One photo even shows him wearing a tutu-like skirt. Russian model Milana Dravnel published her photos on the paparazzi website, while another woman, a strip dancer named Maria, attested to the veracity of Dravnel's claims, saying that she too experienced de la Hoya's considerable feminine side and is the one who took the photos of de la Hoya and Dravnel together.
Now you may say that cross-dressing is a deviant aberration to the nth degree, that it violates society's ideas of all that is good and proper, that it goes against God and whatever other Mom-and-apple-pie musings you can think of to express your disgust. But you cannot deny that it's an impulse that, however unfortunate and odd it may be, affects men from all walks of life—even a macho boxer. I would classify cross-dressing as a disease myself, and if it is a disease, then it is entirely wrong to blame or belittle the person afflicted with it. You wouldn't poke fun at someone would cerebral palsy or leukemia, would you?
Is de la Hoya a transvestite in the privacy of his own home or hotel room or wherever the public spotlight isn't turned on him? Who can say?
De la Hoya furiously denies any of it and insists that the photos of him in drag are fake. Who can blame the man? He's a boxer. That is his work, his job, his career. It's what he does for a living and it's what awarded superstar status upon him. If these allegations about him turn out to be true, he won't be fit to box anymore. His opponents will have a solid psychological advantage over him. A lot of his former fans will turn against him, and his detractors will get nasty and personal. And that's a crying disgrace, because de la Hoya is a talented fighter.
And that's assuming any of this sub/tranny business is true. What's the motive behind releasing the pictures? Did de la Hoya and one of his lady friends have a falling out for some reason? Did he fall out with both of them? Is this some form of retaliation meant to deliver a crushing TKO to de la Hoya? Whose idea was it, Milana's or Maria's? Dravnel herself has recently expressed remorse, saying she was pressured into releasing them and that she cannot attest to the authenticity of the photos, but Maria swears de la Hoya is a cross-dresser who likes getting raunchy with doms and backs Dravnel's original claims.
So, if it is all true? Then de la Hoya fucked up big-time. He chose to reveal his kinkiness to people he obviously could not completely trust. If you are a boxer with a penchant for wearing pantyhose and saying "yes, ma'am, whatever you say, ma'am," then you cannot reveal this to anyone else. It is absolutely vital that you keep it as secret as FBI files. Admitting your feminine side will destroy you in a testosterone-and-sweat drenched line of work.
Personally, I couldn't care less if Mssr. de la Hoya really is a submissive cross-dresser once the lights go out for the night. That's his business—and that of his partner—and no-one else's. What bothers me is how personal people will get if this information turns out to be genuine, and how they'll blow it completely out of proportion. De la Hoya will then have notoriety on a par with Michael Vick, Mike Tyson, O.J. Simpson or other fallen sportsmen. And that's just not right because de la Hoya doesn't hurt anyone outside of his particular sporting arena unlike the others I've mentioned.
If anything, de la Hoya should be held to account for partying with women other than his own wife. The cross-dressing is neither here nor there, nor should it be.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

"Hey hey, President A., how many people would you like to kill today?"

So some Iranians are absolutely aghast at the idea that their president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, would receive such a poor welcome in New York. Get real. New Yorkers should not be happy that the Iranian leader bankrolls the type of terrorists that attacked their city six years ago. They have every right to express their disgust and anger that he is there.
They should also not be impressed that Columbia University president Lee Bollinger defended his invitation for the Iranian leader to speak at the school. Bollinger said that the invitation was in line with Columbia's tradition of providing a "major forum for robust debate, especially (on) global issues." If Robert Mugabe ever steps foot in the States to address the U.N., will you invite him too, Mr. Bollinger, citing the same raison d'etre for your esteemed university?
Of course, Mr. Bush would never let the likes of Mugabe in. So why the hell did he give the all-clear for Ahmadinejad to enter the country? I don't care how necessary he thinks dialogue with that lunatic is, he should provide the dialogue while the Iranian president has both his feet firmly planted on Iranian soil. Having Admadinejad in New York is a grevious insult not only to New Yorkers but to all Americans. This Holocaust-denying, insurgent-arming, nuke-hungry maniac should not be disgracing our ground or polluting our air with his presence.
Thank God that New York City authorities denied the Iranian leader a chance to visit Ground Zero. That would be like a neo-Nazi touring Auschwitz. In fact, when it comes to dangerously rabid anti-Semitic sentiment, Ahmadinejad and neo-Nazis are on the same page.
I have nothing against Iran. Iran has more than its fair share of decent, intelligent and freedom-loving people. It's Presdient Ahmadinejad and his cabal of religious conservatives running the Islamic Republic that I feel signficantly less than admirably toward.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Of Britney, K-Fed and a bit of common sense

I know. It's very rare when I would comment about anything from the world of pop entertainment garbage—but, Britney losing her kids? Golly gee. Doesn't take a genius to work out how that happened, now does it?
I've never really liked Kevin Federline. He's one goofy numbnuts. But it seems to me that he's a responsible father and will take good care of his kids. You never hear about Federline getting too wild, hardly ever see a picture of him with glassy eyes as he stumbles to the next party venue, and you just know that the paparazzi follow him around too. Kev just does what he does, whatever that is—let's face it, he's only famous because he's Britney's ex—and does it fairly quietly. So I've gotta give the dude credit where it's due.
Britters, on the other hand, shows no sign of putting a lid on her outrageous behavior. It's just one incident after another. Losing custody of her children is the price she now must pay.
I do feel sorry for her, insomuch as I can feel sorry for anyone who's loaded and doesn't seem to realize that they should be happy. I've heard that she's anti-fur, which I respect, but she has worn it on occasion. Too wasted to keep to her principles? That's anyone's guess.
I've tried to like Britney, God's witness, but I'm past the point of trying to understand why she carries on the way she does. How much longer can she remain in meltdown? She must surely realize that there's millions of people wishing her the best, hoping she'll bounce back. Her main problem, as I see it, is that she thinks she can remain famous and in the public spotlight through her partying ways if she can no longer dance or belt out a No. 1 album. Not exactly what you'd call straight, responsible thinking.
But, given that state of her mind, it's easy to see why she's lost her kids to K-Fed.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Got to hand it to O.J.—he sure knows how to make the news

This has got to be the story of the decade.
He got acquitted of double murder through his legal team's manipulation of the race card, right? So all he had to do was retire to his mansion and live with his conscience—not that he's got one. Bad enough he tried to capitalize on the murders last year.
But, twelve years after "getting some get-back" got him off murder charges, he masterminds and carries out an armed robbery at a Las Vegas casino museum to retrieve some memorabilia from his football career?
That's either really stupid or really insane.
Let's see him wriggle out of this one. Maybe life imprisonment will wipe that arrogant smirk off his face.
If so, I hope the bastard lives till 120.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Talk about throwing a paddy

Early in his career, George Carlin cracked an Irish joke on-stage and then quickly said, "Hey, man, that's OK, though, 'cause I hit my own. You're allowed to hit your own."
I've always believed that to be true. Jewish jokes can come from Jews, Italian jokes from Italians ... and Irish jokes from Irish (or Irish-Americans). 
But apparently, those days are heading to an end, if this story is any indication.
In Cornwall—England's southwest peninsula­—Denis Lusby, an Irish Catholic editor of a parish magazine, was forced to resign his post after cracking some light-hearted Irish Catholic jokes. One silly twit in the Cornwall County Council's "Equality and Diversity" office complained, objecting to the use of the word "Paddy," and the resulting uproar was enough to make him resign his post. Mr. Lusby's nemesis on the council urged a boycott of the magazine, forcing his hand.
(If "paddy" is so offensive, how to explain Paddy Power?)
This assumes Lusby knows nothing about racism or prejudice. But as an Irishman living in England since the early '70s, he would beg to differ. "IRA bombings were going on, so I reckon I know a lot more about racial prejudice than she does," Lusby said.
This is just plain sad. Now we have humorless government types telling us that it's possible to be racist against ourselves. Wonderful.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Political correctness and its enforcers won't stop until laughter itself is an offense.
That won't stop me, however. I'll laugh in their faces and if the fuckers don't like it, then they can lock my paddy, spud, thick mick, Guinness-drinking, potato-eating ass in jail.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

September 11 musings

The sixth anniversary of America's worst terrorist attack on her own soil is upon us. And now, just as ever, pundits are asking, "Is the world safer?" Unfortunately, shamefully, this day is always used as a great excuse to lament about the state of the world and how America under George W. Bush has failed in nearly every respect to bring about a safer, smoother world.
You can get political about 9/11 or you can honor the memory of those who perished on this day and remember when you were shocked and enraged by the destruction and death you saw or perhaps even witnessed. I wrote the following one year after the event. It may be a bit dated, but it still speaks volumes about how I view this day.

September 11, 2002 ...
Written by Nightdragon, September 11, 2002. Originally appeared on Diaryland.

This, no matter how it was presented on the surface—and for me it was a business-as-usual work day, complete with deadlines and a board meeting—was not, and could never hope to be, a normal day. At 1:46 p.m. our time (British time), I was showering in the stalls after my swim. I observed the moment of silence that was the law of the land on this sunny, pleasantly mild day. The warm water ran down my back while I just lost myself in remembrance of the terrible thing that happened on this day, at that time, last year. Concentration all day was an effort, office jokes and good humor lost on me. I saw the date "11 Sep" on the digital display on my phone and thought I would fill the trash basket with pure bile.
Lately, I have endured criticism in the papers and in the media about what a failure the American-led War on Terror has been and how pernicious the Americans are to even think about causing further mayhem and destruction by attacking Iraq. So inured was I to this—for it seemed the whole damn country had turned into a seething mass of hippy pacifists from hell—that I forgot that there were memorials and dedications and services that took place here, in this country, in this city. At the American Embassy, Home Secretary David Blunkett declared, after receiving a tattered Union Jack that had been found among the rubble of the World Trade Center, "God bless America." Later, at St. Paul’s Cathedral, where the very same British flag draped across the altar, the American national anthem was played, 3,000 flower petals representing the dead were dropped from a balcony, and many families of the victims—American and British alike—in addition to Princes Charles and Harry and Prime Minister Tony Blair were present to pay their respects. I was heartened while watching news coverage of these events.
It’s as if, for one day, we were all Americans again. It’s as if we all grieved once more, felt the shattered nerves and dug down deep inside our souls. This time, there was no need to think about war, revenge or even justice. Over the past year, we have seen to that and still are in the process of administering justice. Today, on this one-year anniversary of hell on earth, we were liberated from the anger and could truly and refreshingly come to terms with the attack and what it has meant to every one of us. September 11 violated all of us, personally and spiritually, in some way. The fear and the sorrow were real and they served as a reminder that, yes, there really is such a thing as evil. Evil perpetrated by men turned chillingly robotic by fanaticism.
But there is also good. Warm, bright, encouraging goodness. We cannot lose sight of that. Even in the face of detractors whose muddled thinking regarding their opposition to ousting Saddam Hussein is downright scary—one can only wonder what their approach to Hitler would have been—there is good. Even in the face of the self-righteous who declare, as one did in a letter to The Metro, that they plan to spend the moment of silence thinking about the innocent victims of "America’s lust for revenge," there is good. Even in the face of crazy, ruthless, tyrannical men such as bin Laden and [Saddam] Hussein, there is good. The outpouring of sympathy and affection that took place one year ago and which took place again today, all across the world, restores one’s sense of faith that maybe, just maybe, we’ll get through this harrowing era of history alive and well and happy.
Dove or hawk, Left or Right, American or otherwise, this was a tough day to get through—tough for anyone with any sense of compassion or goodwill. Like or loathe the ongoing War on Terror, on this day you needed to contemplate the future and promise to learn from the past and vow to live in the present. It’s all you can do. And it’s certainly enough.
Tomorrow is another day. And, for a whole lot of us, it cannot come soon enough.

Monday, September 10, 2007

BBC: Animal rights extremists more of a threat to life-and-limb than radical Muslims

Anyone who knows just the most rudimentary aspects about life in contemporary Britain knows that we—the Government, businesses, and most of the British citizenry brow-beaten by political correctness—bend over backwards to avoid offending our Muslim community. A lot of members of this very community are hard-working and loyal to this country, no doubt about it. But if you were going to write a script for a medical drama where a bomb goes off at a British bus station, circa 2007, from what community do you think it's likeliest that your bomber originated?
For instance, for roughly twenty years—from the late '70s to the late '90s—if you wanted to write an effective script for a gritty drama involving a bombing in Britain, then you would have focused on the IRA, the Real IRA or any number of little similarly minded splinter groups. You could have made it as clear as possible that you weren't blaming the whole of the Irish community in Britain, that this was only the work of fanatics. But nevertheless, your bomber would have been Irish and he probably would have come from a heavily Irish community that may not necessarily have "harbored" him—they may not even have known about his politically fanatic leanings—but certainly the point would be taken. No matter how apologetically you tried to write the script, the tragedy would have been caused by an Irish man or Irish men.
Still with me? Good. Just for the record, I am half-Irish myself, and proud of it, yet I fully acknowledge the reality of this sort of typecasting. It just would have made no sense to blame the fictional atrocity on any other group because anyone living from 1978-1998 would have automatically thought, in the wake of a bomb blast, "Those bloody Irish!"
These days, it's fanatics from the Muslim community that are attacking us, their sense of grievance being stoked by reactionary mosques across the land. Fact, not fiction, not conjecture. But that hasn't stopped the BBC from ignoring reality and blaming their fictional bombing on someone else as they did with the latest edition of Casualty.
Casualty is a BBC-produced medical drama which takes place in an Accident & Emergency Unit, sort of the British answer to ER, and it's damn good entertainment. But the show's writers have a penchant for making certain "terrorists" out to be a bigger threat than the more likely suspects. A year ago, Casualty had an episode where two animal-rights extremists set out to bomb a medical researcher at her home, but end up accidentally blowing up a veterinarian, who came to the researcher's house to look at her dog, instead. This particular storyline was laughably unrealistic—as if a vivisectionist would spend all day slicing mammals up and then come home to her dog!—but now they're at it again.
This time, two more animal-rights extremists accidentally blow up a bus station, when the incindiery material they place into the luggage area of the coach they were to board ignites for some reason. Although the script-writers made it clear that the two animal rightists did not mean to cause carnage at the bus station, the message somehow is that there are loads of animal-rights extremists swarming across this land, constantly screwing up their plans, maiming and killing innocent people in the process.
To be fair to the writers of Casualty, they originally wrote the script to feature a young Muslim blowing himself up at the bus station. So it's not so much the show's fault as it is their puppet-masters'. The BBC forced the program's writers to re-write the show so that animal extremists get the blame instead, because we all know that the Animal Liberation Front and PETA are greater enemies to our civilization than Al-Qaeda and other like-minded terrrorists. Right?
It's a load of rubbish and the BBC knows it, but they'd still rather peddle this nonsense to people thick enough to believe it. Yet, the fact is, animal-rights extremists do carefully target those places where they know vivisection takes place, looking to disable a facility's equipment or suchlike. Sometimes they'll go after the breeders of animals used for research and, though they can get downright insensitive about it, they are no threat to the general public whatsoever. Yet, ludicrously, we have a situation in this country where stalls disseminating animal rights literature are disbanded by the police, but books by terror-advocating imams can be found in libraries. It seems that the BBC are simply taking their Casualty storylines from Government propaganda.
But money talks. It always has, it always will. There's no money in going after radical Muslims. However, the Government is happy to hop into bed with animal researchers because their legal torture rakes in loads of moolah. So, to placate their sugar daddies, the Government cracks down on the animal rights crowd, telling them sternly, "We won't tolerate your terror!" Gee, we can all sleep easy at night then, huh? Never mind what Mohammed or Abdul may get up to after soccer practice.
I'm not the only one nonplussed by Casualty's latest storyline: Right-wing columnist Richard Littlejohn was similarly bewildered. In his August 21 Daily Mail column "Truth is the first Casualty—again," he writes:
In real life, it's Muslims committing all the terrorist atrocities in Britain these days ... [T]o pretend that the bunny liberation brigade are bombing bus stations is preposterous.
Admittedly, the animal rights movement contains its fair share of violent lunatics. But as much as they love beagles and lab rats, there is no recorded incident to my knowledge of any of them being prepared to lay down their own lives for the cause.
Even if we concede that the decision to pull the Casualty episode was taken for the most laudable of reasons, it is yet more evidence of the institutionalised bias, cowardice and cultural cringe that runs through the Corporation like the lettering in a stick of rock.
The simple fact is that the BBC, like the police, the CPS and so many other of our public institutions, is scared to death of upsetting Muslims.

Again, this should be common knowledge to anyone who knows even the remotest of aspects of life in modern-day Britain. The BBC's most recent episode of Casualty only confirms that beyond a shadow of doubt.

(For more fellow-blogger analysis of the Casualty episode, read Newport's excellent take on it.)