Thursday, August 31, 2006

Know Thine Enemy (my summer book report)

By Arielle

My summer beach reading this year has been a little depressing. I probably should have figured this out when buying a book on the history of al-Qaeda and the plot that led to 9/11.

But it did reveal a few enlightening tidbits about just who these guys determined to kill us in the name of 72 virgins are, exactly.

Take, for example, Osama bin Laden. In his pre-psycho-terrorist, pre-Whitney Houston fantasy days, this jolly jihadist could often be found watching American television classics like "Bonanza" (his favorite) and "Fury," which was apparently about a boy and a silky black stallion. He was one of the few bin Laden boys (he was the 17th of 54 kids born to his father's 21 wives) who didn't get sent to Lebanon for schooling, and this made him stand out as one of the less worldly ones. A former childhood pal described him as "almost girlish."

After he became a scary, creepy radical fundamentalist teenager, he still found time for extracurricular hijinks, like cutting records about jihad:

"Although he was opposed to the playing of musical instruments, he organized some of his friends into an a cappella singing group. They even recorded some of their tunes about jihad, which for them meant the internal struggle to improve themselves, not make holy war. Osama would make copies and give them each a tape."

Later, when he became serious about his religion, Osama had four wives and bought a four-unit apartment building so he could keep one family in each.

When he and his cohorts decided to make the foray into Afghanistan to help fight the Soviets, they were so inept at fighting that the Afghans asked them to leave. (It's not particularly useful when you're trying to fight an invading army and the guys helping you are really just obsessing about martyring themselves, after all.)

But they stayed. And they built caves using the excavators and other heavy machinery owned by Osama's daddy's extremely wealthy construction company.


And then there's Sayyib Qutb, the exiled Egyptian with a Hitler mustache who spent a few months in the United States circa 1948 and ended up turning his poor temper into the intellectual basis of today's fundamentalist movement.

As far as I can tell, this guy was just a hugely repressed fuddy-duddy. He traveled around New York and Colorado and a few other places and wrote angrily about the people around him, turning pet peeves into an intellectual exercise. He was particularly repulsed by women and how...oh god...they tried to corrupt the men around them. Oh!

This is Qutb on football:
"The foot does not play any role in the game. Instead, each player attempts to take the ball in his hands, run with it or throw it to the goal, while the players on the other team hinder him by any means, including kicking in the stomach, or violently breaking his arms or legs...Meantime, the fans cry out, 'Break his neck! Crack his head!'"

(So horrifyingly violent, this calls for mass murder of an entire civilization!)

This is Qutb on the American woman:
"[She] knows full well of the beauties of her body, her face, her exciting eyes, her full lips, her bulging breasts, her full buttocks and her smooth legs. She wears bright colors that awaken the primitive sexual instincts, hiding nothing, but adding to that the thrilling laugh and the bold look."

(The horror!)

This is Qutb on haircuts: "Whenever I go to a barber, I return home and redo my hair with my own hands."

(No wonder they hate us! Jihad!)

I'm not sure exactly the point of knowing all this stuff, except maybe to bring this whole global terrorism thing into an even stranger light. We're at war with a reformed Bonanza lover and failed wannabe mercenary (slash-Bobby Brown rival) who's trying to destroy civilization as we know it. And he was inspired by a sexually repressed misanthrope who hated football and wasted money on grooming.

What fucking assholes.

It would really all be quite comical if it hadn't turned out to be so tragic.

To Boo or Not To Boo or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the F-Bomb

By TPerl

[Author's note: I wanted to wait to post this to avoid blog overload, but I didn't expect Bones to keep cranking 'em out as he has been. So please read the other recent posts as well - I don't want to be accused of "blog-blocking"]

Does A-Rod deserved to get booed right now? I think you'd be crazy not to say yes, especially after that series against the Angels.

But then there's this other question/request going around - shouldn't the fans NOT boo A-Rod, but rather give him their support and encouragement to hopefully help him out of this horrific season-long slump? Obviously, booing him is not going to help matters, and may actually make things worse. Even Brian Cashman has been critical of the fans for such behavior. Let's prop him up rather than tear him down.

Is this what things have come to now? Now it's the fucking FANS' fault A-Rod sucks?

Now the fans are supposed to worry about the self esteem of a guy who can get more houses, cars, and road trip blow-jobs than everyone on the Mets combined (well, except maybe Lo Duca)?

I find it amazing how much we coddle the athletes of today. At least other celebrities have the "stalk-a-razzi" following their every move, fashion, and drunken anti-Semitic diatribe.

But the athletes? Oh - don't boo him. It'll hurt his feelings and he won't be able to concentrate.

This ain't fucking Little League. And this team ain't the Devil Rays. This is the New York Fucking Yankees. And when you come here, you'd better be able to handle EVERYTHING: Fans, media, rush hour traffic, terrorists, runners in scoring position. But all that is just warm-up for the biggest pressure-cooker of them all - October. It's what this team is all about. And if you can't handle everything else, how can you handle the playoffs?

["You think this is abuse? You think this is abuse? You cocksucker? You can't take this - How do expect to take the abuse you get on a sit?" - Alec Baldwin as Blake in Glengarry Glen Ross]

Derek Jeter - A true caption ever since his Opening Day home run in 1996. Booed by Fans? You bet - he was mired in a slump for the first half of the 2004 season, and the fans got on him, despite all his former success. So you know what he did? He went on a ridiculous tear in the second half and ended up hitting just under .300. His postseason batting average is over .300 by the way.

Tino Martinez - took over first base after the retirement of Donnie Baseball, who was perhaps the most beloved fan favorite at The Stadium since Thurman Munson. Got booed mercilessly for every ground out and strikeout for the entire month of April 1996. Then? Then he went on to became "Tino". He did have a rocky playoff start with the Yanks in 96, sharing time with Cecil Fielder. But every Yankee fan remembers his grand slam in 1998 against the Padres that broke open a 5-5 tie in Game 1 - hit into the upper deck in right, followed by the shower of beer cups being thrown in the air as the camera fortunately lingered on the crowd after the ball landed.

Even Jason Giambi had a similar fan experience to Tino, before breaking out of it officially with his walk-off gland slam in the rain against the Twins in extra innings. He's still no Tino, mind you - but I digress.

Even Mo? Well, yes, since even the invincible Mariano Rivera has been booed a few times in the past couple of seasons, especially during one bad stretch where he blew a few saves in the span of a week. His postseason resume speaks for itself.

The point is that the boo-birds HAVE to boo the players, partly since the players can't boo themselves. But basically, we boo because we give a shit, and any intelligent player realizes that. In other cities, maybe they don't do it that way - but in New York we tell it like it is. In a sense, we are going through the bad times along with the players so that the players who can survive it are that much better prepared for the October pressure, and the fan-to-player bond can grow even stronger in the postseason, where our jeers can turn to cheers and we become a true 26th man. We'll quickly forgive a mediocre season for a clutch playoff performance any year.

Then there are the others who couldn't hack it in pinstripes, despite being successful before (and even after) their brief stints with the Yankees: Kenny Rogers, Jose Contreras, Jeff Weaver, Terry Mulholland, Hideki Irabu, Kevin Brown. We boo-ed their sorry asses right out of town and never looked back.

Finally, it's not as if we were booing A-Rod when he got here. And when he comes up to bat, we're still cheering him on to finally get that big hit. But when he strikes out AGAIN with that man on third and less than 2 out, or pops up when he could've at least moved the runner - if you don't boo then, then you're just not paying attention.

And anyone who thinks we should stop should get their head out of A-Rod's ass.

October is one month away - and we, the true fans, still have a job to do.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Case Against Billy Joel

There is nothing wrong with Billy Joel. In fact, there are many things to like if not love about the guy. For one thing, he looks a little like an elfin dude with Down Syndrome or someone with an eye-bulging pituitary disorder -- and he still marries beautiful women.

But when I was asked recently about the relative merits of his music, it was difficult for me to answer right away.

As a 6-year-old growing up in suburban New Jersey, there was no doubt he was the beginning and end of my musical tastes. The first 8-track tape I owned was “Glass Houses,” and I wore the thing out to the point where it wouldn’t even play.

When I took piano lessons at age 9, one of the first real songs I learned (after “Bone Sweet Bone”) was “Piano Man.” His songs were piano-friendly, of course. And not all that difficult to play.

And looking back, the man has written more than a few undeniably great songs. “Piano Man,” “New York State of Mind,” and “Honesty” are standards -- suitable to be covered by world-renown pop orchestras or doomed to accompanying elevator passengers. It’s hard to resist the charms of “Miami 2017,”Captain Jack,” “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant,” "Angry Young Man," “Vienna,” “Goodnight Saigon,” and “Only the Good Die Young.”

But here’s the thing. As I grew up, I began to turn to music more and more for something beyond a nice melody or a cute lyric. Which is why my musical touchstone became the far more formidable and enduring Bruce Springsteen.

Billy Joel is a great songwriter, but his songs don’t exactly live beyond the four minutes it takes to hear them. Perhaps the exceptions are “New York State of Mind” and “Goodnight Saigon,” which stir both nostalgia and melancholy. They can be both meditative and rousing.

But if 1,000 Billy Joels toiled on 1,000 typewriters for 1,000 years, they couldn’t write anything approaching the agonizing emotion of Springsteen’s “Backstreets.”

I listen to music for all kinds of reasons, and there is a place for them all. Music can accompany you on long car rides, it can pump you up for a run around the park or a big game, and it can play in the background to help you study organic chemistry. It can also provide emotional sustenance and help teach you more about the human condition.

What do you really get from “Big Shot”? It’s a third hand knock-off of Elton John’s “The Bitch is Back” which is itself a knock-off of countless Rolling Stones tunes, including “Bitch.”

And how many Billy Joel songs even rock? He’s in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (a fatally flawed institution, to be sure), and so much of his music owes more to Tin Pan Alley, The Brill Building, Broadway and Latin flavoring than “Satisfaction” or “Like a Rolling Stone.”

Billy Joel is to “You Were the One” and “Don’t Ask Me Why” as Paul McCartney is to “Michelle” and “Silly Love Songs.”

And how about “Uptown Girl”? It was once (a long, long time ago) maybe a pleasing update of 1950s “Leader of the Pack”/Frankie-Valli-style pop. Now it is a whiny scourge of soured sentiment, punctuated by a real-life busted marriage.

Maybe I can be accused of unfairly picking on “Uptown Girl.” I mean, Joel has written dozens of songs on about a dozen albums. But those albums aren’t exactly deep with wall-to-wall quality. I like “All for Leyna,” “Close to the Borderline,” "Leave a Tender Moment Alone," “You May Be Right,” “Stilleto,” “The Great Suburban Showdown,” "It's Just a Fantasy," and “Sleeping With The Television On.” But these songs are fluff and filler compared to a guy like Springsteen who holds back more than he ever puts on his painstakingly constructed albums. Aside from some lamentable offerings on his first two albums, the "Dancing in the Dark" video, the mistake of not combining the best of “Human Touch” and “Lucky Town” into one disc, a bit of “The Ghost of Tom Joad” and some of “Devils and Dust,” Springsteen’s core discography doesn’t leave you wondering if he just emptied the vault to complete the project.

And speaking of broken marriages, the bust-up of Springsteen’s marriage produced every song on “Tunnel of Love,” including the downright frightening sentiments of “Brilliant Disguise,” in which a man sings:

Tonight our bed is cold
I’m lost in the darkness of our love
God have mercy on the man
Who doubts what he’s sure of.”

And then there’s “Stolen Car,” in which Bruce imagines a married man so tortured by regret and devoid of an identity, he drives along in a stolen car, hoping to get caught. But he never does, underscoring how hopelessly alone and ghostly insignificant he is.

In comparison, Billy Joel offers us these strained metaphors:

“Well we all have a face
That we hide away forever
And we take them out and
Show ourselves when everyone has gone
Some are satin some are steel
Some are silk and some are leather
They're the faces of the stranger
But we love to try them on.”
What exactly are these leather faces? Is "The Stranger" some S&M freak?

“My Life"? It's the theme song to the Tom Hanks-in-drag sitcom “Bosom Buddies,” sure. But, when considered along with “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)", still nothing more than some effete bits of domestic rebellion. Not exactly The Animals’ “It’s My Life,” covered in ferocious fashion by Springsteen during the 70’s in a way you can actually hear the bad blood between a father and son. And nothing like the frayed-nerve yearning for freedom expressed in his own “Adam Raised a Cain” or “Independence Day.”

OK, OK. This is the flimsiest strawman argument ever. I mean, comparing Billy Joel to Bruce Springsteen is absurd. Bruce is an icon. He's a heavyweight. He belongs in the same discussion as The Who and The Ramones and The Band. He followed all those guys and Dylan and Johnny Cash and Chuck Berry, and he saved rock music when it was in dark peril, bringing it back to its roots and taking it to ballsy new heights.

Billy Joel stands perhaps a step or two higher than Jon Bon Jovi and many steps below his heroes, The Beatles and Ray Charles. The obvious comparison to Billy is Elton. But I give Elton the edge because Taupin's lyrics lend him the absurdity of pretension Joel can't afford as a supposedly earnest singer-songwriter. And I'd say no Joel song has ever affected me the same way as "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters," or "Amoreena." Or "Candle in the Wind" did before it abdicated Marilyn's myth to Diana's.

In Billy’s defense, he puts on a damn fine live show. He works hard, sweats, plays to the back seats and invests himself in his vocals. But for the most part, those vocals aren’t worth the investment.

I suppose he manages to evince some of the emotion culled from his romantic escapades and the demons who provoke his drinking and occasionally prod him to steer his cars into various Long Island trees.

But when his outlet for such emotions is “I Go To Extremes,” I think he’s missing the boat. And mostly, he just lowers his voice into that Ray Charles faux-soul drawl. It’s more of a performance -- like putting on a costume for two hours. Bruce, on the other hand, sings in his own distinctive voice and doesn’t try to sound like he’s black, even when covering something like Gary “U.S.” Bonds’ “Quarter to Three.”

A Springsteen concert is part confessional, part political rally, part barroom bash, part church testimonial. Billy’s concerts serve as a jukebox greatest hits parade or karaoke sing-along.

When it comes to social commentary, Billy belts out “Allentown,” “Goodnight Saigon,” or “Downeaster Alexa.”

These are good songs. Some of his best. But do they really stack up to Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.,” “Atlantic City,” "The River," “Youngstown,” or “My City of Ruins”?

After 9/11, both Bruce and Billy played separate nationally televised all-star charity concerts. These shows served to unite and heal the country as much as to raise funds for the victims’ families. Bruce previewed the desperate fountain of inspiration that would eventually yield “The Rising” with a solemn, rousing rendition of “My City of Ruins.” Originally written for Asbury Park, it was exactly what the country needed to hear in a way we hardly even knew just days after the world changed forever.

In comparison, Billy sang his chestnut “Miami 2017: Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway,” which he told the crowd he wrote as a bit of science fiction in the 1970s during the city’s fiscal crises. “I never thought it would come true,” he said.

And it was fitting, and moving, but still somewhat empty. I mean, what value could be gained from singing about some dystopic vision of the city that never came (and never will come) to be? The devastation he sings about in “Miami 2017” (burning churches in Harlem, aircraft carriers giving The Yankees a lift, the mafia moving to Mexico) was outlandish and self-imposed. I guess we can’t really hold it against Joel (other than for not writing anything relevant for over 15 years), but at least Springsteen had the fortune to have the perfect song all ready to re-dedicate to a more needy cause.

And that’s why I need to listen to Springsteen. Flying to Thailand after living in New York before and after 9/11, I needed “The Rising” to help me stay connected. To remind me what was lost that day. And what was gained.

A fringe but solid band like The Black Crowes might not delve into the same kind of emotional terrain on a regular basis. But they have a soulful white-southern-boy authenticity that allows you to at least imagine they are a younger Rolling Stones/ Faces/ Allman Brothers Band fusion. When they play, you feel like they mean every note.

U2 can offer the same kind of nourishment. They played a concert at Madison Square Garden in October 2001, and songs like “Elevation,” “Beautiful Day,” “Until the End of the World,” and “Sunday, Bloody Sunday,” took on a new resonance. These are stirring, tingling, occasionally angry, yet always hopeful songs. They demand and reward faith.

Billy Joel? He’s the guy you call on when we’re all in the mood for a melody.

Monday, August 28, 2006

9/11 Redux

This week's column echoes an earlier blog exploring 9/11 conspiracy theorists. Which I thought were a fringe group when I wrote it.

But according to a new poll, 36 percent of Americans believe federal government officials may have assisted in the 9/11 attacks or intentionally failed to prevent them so the United States could go to war in the Middle East.

In other words, more than one-third of this country is completely, hopelessly, O.J.-jury nuts.

Friday, August 25, 2006

First of Many Pointless Rants

By TPerl

Has anyone been to an airport since the new rules went into effect? I just flew from Newark to Houston for work, and my (severely biased) grades for the airports are: Newark: D, Houston: A-

I decided rather than risk losing my saline solution and other assorted salves, balms, and ointments (actually, I think balms are permitted), I would pack everything in a single bag and check it. That was a big mistake. Got to Newark about 5:15 a.m. on Thursday for a 6:55 a.m. flight. First problem: If you're checking a bag at Continental there's only ONE line for everyone (except First Class). And there's a lot of fucking people at the airport at 5:15 a.m.! At about 5:55 I finally got my boarding pass and a baggage sticker on my bag. 40 minutes gone - at least I had my iPod.

Now problem #2: You'd think they would just take your bag and drop it behind them on that conveyor belt, right? No - they make you stand on ANOTHER line with your "checked" bag so that you can just leave it in front a big scanner-type machine which will (eventually) scan the contents at some point after you walk away. No identity check, no bar code swipe -- just put your bag down and go. What the fuck did I need to wait on a line for! Ten minutes wasted to carry a bag 10 feet.

6:10 a.m.: Now I have to go through security, which thankfully didn't seem to have a long line. But here's problem #3: It starts out as one line (fine, now I'm used to it), but then it inexplicably SPLITS into two lines toward the end (So what, you ask?). Well it turns out that one way takes you a short 15 feet or so to the last security person you'll have to show your ID and boarding pass to before you pick a metal detector line and start taking off your shoes. That seemed to be about a 2 minute wait. Then there's the other way, which of course is where I ended up -- and for reasons beyond comprehension, this line goes PAST that last security person until you hit a wall about 20 feet later, then turns around and takes you back toward the metal detectors again. It was about five times as long as the other way and took about 20 minutes!!! I'm convinced these assholes at Newark did it just to fuck with us.

I got to the gate about 6:30, just in time to board.

Oh yeah, Houston Airport? I checked in online before I left. Got to the airport at 11:30 a.m. Dropped my bag off at the "bag drop" (for those who checked in online) and they actually TOOK THE BAG FROM ME. Five minutes. Breezed through security in less than five minutes. Now I had almost two hours before my flight departed. What a huge difference in efficiency. So why the A minus? The minus is because they make everyone enter at Terminal C, yet my flight was leaving out of Terminal E (good thing I had all that time since it was quite a walk). At least I had time to watch the start of the Yanks-Bosox series before boarding -- just long enough to see A-Rod ["The Best (paid) Player in Baseball"] fuck up another opportunity with men on base.

I think I'm done with flying -- it just gets worse and worse. Or I'm moving to Houston. Either way, I guess the terrorists really won after all.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Blogging For Dummies

Anyone can do it!

And just to prove that fact, I'm delighted to announce T-Perl and Arielle as new Rolling Bones guest bloggers. Because talking to each other through high-tech media makes a lot more sense than, you know, actual human contact.

I'm looking forward to what they have to say. And then to complain about how seldom they post.

White House......The Edge!

On second thought, I take back everything I've ever said about George W. Bush. He rocks.

Monday, August 21, 2006

W is for Witless

Joe Scarborough debates the president's stupidity, complete with some video evidence. I think the key to understanding the question lies in the various components that amount to overall "intelligence." There's reading comprehension, mathematical skill, wit, memory retention, creativity, social skill, spacial relations, abstract thinking, athletic intelligence, logic, extemporaneous thinking and many, many others. Mostly, Bush shows a staggering inability to articulate even simple thoughts.

But what Bush lacks, above all, is intellectual curiosity. (The dude never left the country until he became president). Combine this with his insistence every complex problem has a simple solution, his refusal to hold anyone accountable for obvious mistakes and his apparent easy manipulation by ideologues like Cheney and Rumsfeld. And I don't know if he's stupid, but he sure is dangerous.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

O'Reilly vs. The Devil

In the spirit of Frank Zappa pissing all over CNN's crossfire goons in 1986, here's a clip of Marilyn Manson sparring with Bill O'Reilly. If ever there was a spokesman for "You Can't Judge a Book By Its Cover," it's Manson.

Conservative blowhards will never understand the value of art that shocks and disturbs. They are too busy judging other people and affirming their dogma to learn anything new about the world they inhabit.

You Bet Your Life

Go ahead. Try and write a headline for an off-track betting parlor story without using a gambling pun. I'm pretty sure it can be done, but the folks at the HNT haven't figured it out yet.

Anyway, here's my latest opus, depicting the kind of folks who spend their days making kissy-kissy noises at horses on TVs.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Recycled Atheism

My most recent column ran yesterday. It might look familiar to fans of this blog (both of you).

But I was surprised by the limited, measured, thoughtful responses I received. Those responses (and my replies) below:

Nice piece in today's paper--a breath of fresh air in a paper too many of whose other columnists indulge in fatuous pieties....hence this bit of fan mail, to counter some of the negative emails I expect you'll be receiving...keep the faith (unfaith?)...Michael Brailove

Thanks for the kind words, Michael. Your email was actually the first and only response I’ve received today. But it’s early…


Hey Rick: Right on. Witty, true and also very sad. A great book is ”The Born Again Skeptic’s Guide To The Bible” by Ruth Hurmence Green, first printed in 1979 but still completely relevant. Good luck in this random world. Gerry Hubbard

Thank you for your kind words and book recommendation. Although I can’t imagine there’s much more I need to learn about being skeptical, I believe you can never read enough about anything. Take care.


Hello Rick!
A friend of yours, Marisel, asked us to send you an e-mail to introduce you to the Purpose Driven Life Daily Devotional. Click the link below or copy and paste it into your web browser to view the Daily Devotional online You can also sign up for the Daily Devotional from this link.

Your friend had the following message for you:
Hey there - I read your article in the paper today and it depressed me that you don't believe in God because of random acts of senseless violence that "God allows" to happen. Just thought I'd tell you that God doesn't allow bad to happen. (e.g. why does a barber allow people to not get a haircut? is it perhaps because they didn't make the step and GO to him???)

God created humans with free will. Unfortunately humans, make bad choices and don't "allow" themselves to believe in God. Despite the fact that all the while, God is crying out to them - choose me! Nevertheless, whatever does happen, God manages to work through it for good. EVERYTHING IN THIS WORLD HAPPENS FOR THE GOOD OF GOD'S PURPOSE. so I read this and thought of you. I hope that one day, you decide to choose God and to believe in HIm. It is easy to be mad at him if you don't know the truth, but God will show you the truth, and the truth will set you free. Just read it in his word (below).

I don't normally do this sort of thing, e-mail a stranger and I don't consider myself a freak, but I suppose you can label me a freak if it means I love the Lord and accept Christ as my personal savior. But i guess you can believe whatever you like. I am just doing my job as God's messenger. so - read on and be inspired.. (or freaked out, whatever). :> God Bless..

p.s. you're wrong about the buddhists - they are petrified of death because they are soooooo superstitious.. i should know my husband's family are all buddhists and will not even mention the word for fear that it will bring bad luck!!!!! silly.. I will say this though - you are right in that death is not something to fear-- if you are saved. any questions, feel free to email me back.. or not.. it's ok. no pressure.

Dear Rick,
I would like to start off by saying that I am indeed a Christian, but please do not assume I am writing this to convert you or change your mind. I just thought that maybe I could provide you with a different perspective.

I just finished reading your article "In a world full of doubt and pain, everyone finds his own truth" from Wednesday's (August 9) paper. I found the article to be very well written in that it was clear and, well, very blunt. As I read it, I remembered when I had thought the very same way not long ago. The line that really struck me the most was this - "So, I figure a God who lets bad things happen to good people is a God not worth worshipping."

At reading this, I immediatly consulted a book I have called "Letters from a Skeptic" by Dr. Gregory A. Boyd. It is a collection of letters from Dr. Boyd (a professor of theology) and his unbelieving father, Edward Boyd. The father writes to his son asking many common questions about God, Jesus, and other aspects of Christian theology. The elder Boyd asks his son this, "If God created this world and cares about it, why is there so damn much suffering in it? (pg. 21)" It seems that you have posed a very similar question.

I am sure you enjoy living in a nation where we are given many freedoms that other countries do not have. America is a pretty decent place to call home. To paraphrase Dr. Boyd, the answer can be summed up in one word; freedom. Dr. Boyd makes the point to his father that God created mankind and gave us free will. This seems to be true seeing that we make decisions each and every day of our lives. We choose what shoes to wear, what to eat for lunch, and which route we will take to work. Personally, I believe this to be true. God gave us the right to choose. He gave us two paths, so to speak. The "right" one, and the "not-so-right" one. I think He makes it clear which is the better way, but does not force you down it. Dr. Boyd writes, "So why doesn't God intervene every time someone is going to misuse his freedom and hurt another person? The answer, I believe, is found in the nature of freedom itself. A freedom which is prevented from being exercised whenever it was going to be misused simply wouldn't be freedom. (pg. 23)" I believe God has given us a freedom that, yes, at times, damages or destroys other people. But without this freedom, we would all just be robots.. right?

I hope you find this in the least bit interesting and take it into consideration. Thank you for your time. -NC

Thank you for writing, NC. One of the many things I would never do is judge someone else for what they choose to have faith in. Especially if that someone has given the matter some deep thought, as you clearly have.

I don't fault you one second for reaching out to share your views and make a pitch (in the kindest sense) for your beliefs. I wrote a column published in a newspaper, which certainly would generate -- if not outright ask -- for responses.

But allow me one reply of my own before we agree to travel down our own paths.

I agree with Dr. Boyd when he writes, "A freedom which is prevented from being exercised whenever it was going to be misused simply wouldn't be freedom." But I don't understand how the choices we make in life have anything to do with death dealt seemingly at random. Natural disasters and illness kill more people each year than people who kill people. What wrong choice doomed them?

If someone chooses God, makes every right choice, gives selflessly to others and lives a completely pious and God-filled life...but his entire family still dies in a his continued devotion to God part of God's master plan? Or is it just the easiest, seemingly sanest way to rationalize the tragedy when he has nothing else to live for?

Everyone certainly needs to make these decisions themselves. And thankfully, I have never been tested to any such extreme. I wouldn't dare presume how I might behave under those circumstances. But I certainly wouldn't blame God. And I don't imagine I'd find much comfort in him, either.

Thanks again for writing. I wish you well.


Boom Goes the Nostalgia

Will someone please stop Newsweek's shameless pandering to Baby Boomers? This week's issue -- in a seemingly endless series of reminiscences from The Greatest Generation Ever to Ditch Their Ideals and Buy Gas Guzzling Cars and Designer Coffee -- brings us Mark Starr's pointless mush about all the sports he watched on TV growing up. Why does this matter? He's a Boomer, of course! Yay Boomers!

Worse than the so-called news weeklies' bi-monthly investigations into something Jesus, these self-important traipses through recent history are so wistful, you can't help end up covered in wists.

Now when my generation turns 60, there won't be much need to slap ourselves on the back for having lived in the most tumultuous of times. We will all simply sit around our government-issued two-way television sets and exchange self-assured glances relaying how proud we are of President Jenna Bush.

Matchstick Men

Two kids playing with matches burned down their home and a go-go bar in Woodbridge yesterday. They lived over the bar, not in it.

And Woodbridge Dems pick their likely next mayor. Though he once worked for Jim McGreevey, by most accounts he is a heterosexual American.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Empty V.

Music Television (a wholly owned subsidiary of Viacom Inc.) turned 25 last week. But sadly, it had died a horrible death long ago.

Having grown up on MTV, I mostly had to cultivate my own taste in music. Looking back, it seems as though most artists and bands I listen to now began recording before 1983 or before MTV launched in 1981. Only a handful of those groups (R.E.M., U2) ever learned to treat video as an art form or anything more than an obligatory three-minute commercial to sell albums and concert tickets. Bruce Springsteen, whose popularity in 1984-85 could only be rivaled by Madonna, Prince and Michael Jackson (between albums at the time) never produced anything more memorable than the horrendously faggy "Dancing in the Dark" video.

That sentence actually offends the term "faggy."

Moving from faggy to nerdy, I remember a friend of mine in college (though not sure who it was) who imagined what he might do with a holo-deck from Star Trek: The Next Generation. On the show, you could program a computer to create a completely convincing, fully immersive and interactive 3-D environment. Want to place yourself in pre-Katrina New Orleans? Or act a part in a Sherlock Holmes story?

My friend thought he'd use the computer to attend unrepeatable classic concerts throughout history. Mozart playing for French royalty. Or Hendrix at Woodstock (perhaps with a good umbrella).

Today, childhood dreams can become a reality with YouTube.

So in the spirit of Bill Simmons' YouTube Hall of Fame and his more recent list of the Best Performances of the Star Spangled Banner at a Sporting Event (need to scroll down toward the very end), here's my list of musical gems I've found.

Hard to believe that only a year ago you'd have to spend a lifetime surfing cable or PBS channels to see this stuff. Or spend a fortune on tape trades and official releases. Fuck MTV. I want my YouTube.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Cruise Missiles

Look. I realize I haven't posted in a long while. And this one won't be all that satisfying. But I want to know something.

How come, when Israel, Lebanon, Syria, and Iran are about to start a steel-cage deathmatch...when we're sitting with targets on our heads in the middle of an Iraqi civil war...when North Korea is itching for a fight...when New Orleans and the entire Gulf Region remains in ruins...when these and a thousand other horrible things are happening in the world...

How come, when I sign on to for my email, I'm greeted with this breaking news headline.

Just wondering.