Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Fantasy Football 2--2006 Roster

I am in two fantasy football leagues. Several posts ago, I listed the roster in my other league. In that league, we have been keeping up to six players for several years, and you can see that I have drafted and traded wisely.

In this league, we started from scratch again (no keepers from last season) but will be allowed to keep up to one player for next season.

I had the fourth pick. This was unenvious, for the trinity (S. Alexander, L. Johnson, and L. Tomlinson) was gone, leaving me with good but not great runningbacks to choose...unless I broke with my usual strategy of drafting runningbacks in the first two rounds. Instead of picking S. Jackson (my next highest rated RB), I opted for Peyton Manning. This is how my team looks. I like it, but I don't love it. We play one QB, two RB's, two WR's, one TE, one K, and one D/ST.

QB's: Peyton Manning, Steve McNair, Matt Leinart

RB's: Willis McGahee, Warrick Dunn, Frank Gore, Greg Jones (who is injured and is slated to be replaced by L. Toefield--presuming that no one above me on the waivers list gets him first).

WR's: Plaxico Burress, Eddie Kennison, Reggie Brown, Robert Ferguson, Amani Toomer

TE's: Todd Heap, Ben Watson

K's: Matt Stover, Olindo Mare

D/ST's: Tampa Bay, Minnesota

Any thoughts?

It Looks Good on Paper, but It's Not

I've mentioned it before, and I'll mention it again. The only reason why something can look good on paper but work out badly in "the real world" is because either

A. the person who thought that it looked good on paper didn't really understand it or
B. Whatever looked good on paper was not completely put on paper or
C. Both A. and B.

In the case of the first possibility (A.), let's consider communism. Many people think that it's a great idea but that it just fails in its application. But communism doesn't look good on paper. It fails to understand the importance of property. It errors in its assessment of labor's value. And it makes myriad other social, political, and economic blunders too numerous and, quite frankly obvious (if you really think about them) to list in this forum.

In the case of (B.), let's take a look at blind dates. People like to set friends up with other friends. In doing so, they tell both friends how great the other is, and they leave out less desirable details. I recall my wife and I (though we were dating at the time) setting up a friend of hers from Albion College with a friend of ours from Hillsdale. We told my wife's friend what a great guy "John Doe" was, that he was really nice, smart, and had a great sense of humor (all true). However, we omitted the fact that he was quite bald, though only in his early-twenties (he had spent some time in the army prior to his studies at Hillsdale). This turned out to be a problem. She didn't want to date a bald guy. He only seemed good on paper because we only put on paper what we knew she would like to see. The same is true, I assume, for many of those personal ads in the newspaper.

Then there's case (C.), and maybe most cases of "It looks good on paper" are actually this (a combination of A. and B.). Consider the war in Iraq. On paper The United States could clearly defeat Saddam's armis, and it did. What the war hawks either didn't realize or didn't mention was how difficult it would be to maintain an orderly conquest. Take your pick on that one. Either they were carelessly naive, or purposefully deceitful--knowing that once American soldiers were there, they wouldn't be pulled out.

So if something looks good on paper but turns out to be a disaster in action, it was either never good on paper or doctored to look good on paper (think photoshop).

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Kris Kristofferson

If you've never listened to Kris Kristofferson's music, do so. He is a real anti-pop hero. He is not pretentious, and he has never put his image or act above his talent (e.g. just about every "star" in music history).

The following list is of only 6 recommended Kris Kristofferson songs, along with lyrics (in no particular order).

1. "The Pilgrim Chapter 33" (I get the Pilgrim part--"Searching for a shrine he's never found"--, but I've yet to figure out the Chapter 33 part. Enlighten me, if you can)

See him wasted on the sidewalk in his jacket and his jeans,
Wearing yesterday's misfortunes like a smile
Once he had a future full of money, love, and dreams,
Which he spent like they was going out of style
And he keeps right on a'changing for the better or the worse,
Searching for a shrine he's never found
Never knowing if believing is a blessing or a curse,
Or if the going up was worth the comin' down

He's a poet, he's a picker
He's a prophet, he's a pusher
He's a pilgrim and a preacher, and a problem when he's stoned
He's a walking contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction,
Taking every wrong direction on his lonely way back home.

He has tasted good and evil in your bedrooms and your bars,
And he's traded in tomorrow for today
Running from his devils, Lord, and reaching for the stars,
And losing all he's loved along the way
But this world keeps right on turning for the better or the worse,
And all he ever gets is older and around
From the rocking of the cradle to the rolling of the hearse,

The going up was worth the coming down

He's a poet, he's a picker
He's a prophet, he's a pusher
He's a pilgrim and a preacher, and a problem when he's stoned
He's a walking contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction,
Taking every wrong direction on his lonely way back home.
There's a lotta wrong directions on that lonely way back home.

2. "Sunday Morning Coming Down"
(For many, this is an anthem. For others, it's a reason to be thankful)

Well I woke up Sunday morning,
With no way to hold my head that didn't hurt.
And the beer I had for breakfast wasn't bad,
So I had one more for dessert.
Then I fumbled through my closet for my clothes,
And found my cleanest dirty shirt.
And I shaved my face and combed my hair,
And stumbled down the stairs to meet the day.

I'd smoked my brain the night before,
On cigarettes and songs I'd been picking.
But I lit my first and watched a small kid,
Cussin' at a can that he was kicking.
Then I crossed the empty street,
And caught the Sunday smell of someone fryin' chicken.
And it took me back to something,
That I'd lost somehow, somewhere along the way.

On a Sunday morning sidewalk,
Wishing, Lord, that I was stoned.
'Cause there's something in a Sunday,
Makes a body feel alone.
And there's nothin' short of dyin',
Half as lonesome as the sound,
Of the sleeping city sidewalks:
Sunday morning comin' down.

In the park I saw a daddy,
With a laughin' little girl who he was swingin'.
And I stopped beside a Sunday school,
And listened to the song they were singin'.
Then I headed back for home,
And somewhere far away a lonely bell was ringin'.
And it echoed through the canyons,
Like the disappearing dreams of yesterday.

On the Sunday morning sidewalk,
Wishing, Lord, that I was stoned.
'Cos there's something in a Sunday,
Makes a body feel alone.
And there's nothin' short of dyin',
Half as lonesome as the sound,
On the sleepin' city sidewalks:
Sunday mornin' comin' down.

3. Me and Bobbie McGee (you probably know Janis Joplin's awesome version)

Busted flat in Baton Rouge, headin' for the train,
Feelin' nearly faded as my jeans.
Bobby thumbed a diesel down, just before it rained;
Took us all the way to New Orleans.
I took my harpoon out of my dirty red bandanna,
And was blowing sad while Bobby sang the blues.
With them windshield wipers slappin' time,
And Bobby clappin' hands,
We finally sang up every song that driver knew.

Freedom's just another word for nothing' left to lose:
Nothin' ain't worth nothin' but it's free.
Feeling good was easy, Lord, when Bobby sang the blues.
Feeling good was good enough for me;
Good enough for me and Bobby McGee.

From the coal mines of Kentucky to the California sun,
Bobby shared the secrets of my soul.
Standin' right beside me, Lord, through everything I've done,
Every night she kept me from the cold.
Then somewhere near Salinas, Lord, I let her slip away,
Lookin' for the home I hope she'll find.
And I'd trade all my tomorrows for a single yesterday,
Holdin' Bobby's body next to mine.

Freedom's just another word for nothing' left to lose:
Nothin' left is all she left for me.
Feeling good was easy, Lord, when Bobby sang the blues.
Buddy, that was good enough for me;
Good enough for me and Bobby McGee.

4. "From the Bottle to the Bottom"
(a typical country song written masterfully by a true Rhodes Scholar--yes, Kristofferson was a Rhodes Scholar)

You ask me if I’m happy now
That’s good as any joke I’ve heard
It seems that since I’ve seen you last
I done forgot the meaning of the words
If happiness is empty rooms
And drinkin’ in the afternoon
Well I suppose I’m happy as a clam
But if it’s got a thing to do
With smilin’ of forgettin’ you
Well I don’t guess that I could say I am

Did you ever see a down and outer waking up alone
Without a blanket on to keep him from the dew
When the water from the weeds has soaked the paper
He’s been puttin’ in his shoes to keep the ground from comin’ through
And his future feels as empty as the pocket in his pants
Because he’s never seen a single dream come true
That’s the way that I’ve been feelin’ since the day I started falling
From the bottle to the bottom stool by stool
Learnin’ hard to live with losin’ you

You wonder if I’m better off
With freedom now to do the things I choose
With all my times my own and
I got nothin’ left but sleepin’ time to lose
There’s no one here to carry on
If I stay out the whole night long
Or give a tankerous damn if I don’t call
I’m livin’ like I wanted to
And doin’ things I wanna do
And nothin’ means a thing to me at all

Did you ever see a down and outer waking up alone
Without a blanket on to keep him from the dew
When the water from the weeds soaked the paper
He’s been puttin’ in his shoes to keep the ground from comin’ through
And his future feels as empty as the pocket in his pants
Because he’s never seen a single dream come true
That’s the way that I’ve been feelin’ since the day I started falling
From the bottle to the bottom stool by stool
Learnin’ hard to live with losin’ you

5. "To Beat the Devil" (If you can't tell by the spoken intro, it's dedicated to Johnny and June Carter Cash)

A couple of years back, I come across a great and wasted friend of mine in the hallway of a recording studio; and while he was reciting some poetry to me that he'd written, I saw that he was about a step away from dyin' and I couldn't help but wonder why. And the lines of this song occurred to me. I'm happy to say he's no longer wasted and he's got him a good woman. And I'd like to dedicate this to John and June, who helped show me how to beat the devil.

It was winter time in Nashville, down on music city row.
And I was lookin' for a place to get myself out of the cold.
To warm the frozen feelin' that was eatin' at my soul.
Keep the chilly wind off my guitar.

My thirsty wanted whisky; my hungry needed beans,
But it'd been of month of paydays since I'd heard that eagle scream.
So with a stomach full of empty and a pocket full of dreams,
I left my pride and stepped inside a bar.

Actually, I guess you'd could call it a Tavern:
Cigarette smoke to the ceiling and sawdust on the floor;
Friendly shadows.

I saw that there was just one old man sittin' at the bar.
And in the mirror I could see him checkin' me and my guitar.
An' he turned and said: "Come up here boy, and show us what you are."
I said: "I'm dry." He bought me a beer.

He nodded at my guitar and said: "It's a tough life, ain't it?"
I just looked at him. He said: "You ain't makin' any money, are you?"
I said: "You've been readin' my mail."
He just smiled and said: "Let me see that guitar.
"I've got something you oughta hear."
Then he laid it on me:

"If you waste your time a-talkin' to the people who don't listen,
"To the things that you are sayin', who do you think's gonna hear.
"And if you should die explainin' how the things that they complain about,
"Are things they could be changin', who do you think's gonna care?"

There were other lonely singers in a world turned deaf and blind,
Who were crucified for what they tried to show.
And their voices have been scattered by the swirling winds of time.
'Cos the truth remains that no-one wants to know.

Well, the old man was a stranger, but I'd heard his song before,
Back when failure had me locked out on the wrong side of the door.
When no-one stood behind me but my shadow on the floor,
And lonesome was more than a state of mind.

You see, the devil haunts a hungry man,
If you don't wanna join him, you got to beat him.
I ain't sayin' I beat the devil, but I drank his beer for nothing.
Then I stole his song.

And you still can hear me singin' to the people who don't listen,
To the things that I am sayin', prayin' someone's gonna hear.
And I guess I'll die explaining how the things that they complain about,
Are things they could be changin', hopin' someone's gonna care.

I was born a lonely singer, and I'm bound to die the same,
But I've got to feed the hunger in my soul.
And if I never have a nickle, I won't ever die ashamed.
'Cos I don't believe that no-one wants to know.

6. "Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I'll Ever Do Again)" (This is possibly the most beautifully written love song that I have ever heard. Waylon Jennings covered it, and I'll recommend his version as well)

I have seen the morning burning golden on the mountains in the skies.
Achin' with the feelin' of the freedom of an eagle when she flies.
Turnin' on the world the way she smiled upon my soul as I lay dying.
Healin' as the colours in the sunshine and the shadows of her eyes.

Wakin' in the mornin' to the feelin' of her fingers on my skin.
Wipin' out the traces of the people and the places that I've been.
Teachin' me that yesterday was something that I never thought of trying.
Talkin' of tomorrow and the money, love and time we had to spend.

Lovin' her was easier than anything I'll ever do again.

Comin' close together with a feelin' that I've never known before, in my time.
She ain't ashamed to be a woman, or afraid to be a friend.
I don't know the answer to the easy way she opened every door in my mind.
But dreamin' was as easy as believin' it was never gonna end.

And lovin' her was easier than anything I'll ever do again.

7. "Why Me" (This is perhaps the finest gospel song ever written. It's not full of the typical Christian music arrogance and pretension--e.g. "I'm saved!"--but is written from a more sincere point of view. Read the lyrics and listen to Krstofferson's version if you really want to see what I mean).

Why me, Lord?
What have I ever done
To deserve even one
Of the blessings I've known?
Why me, Lord?
What did I ever do
That was worth love from you
And the kindness you've shown?

Lord, help me Jesus!
I've wasted it so.
Help me Jesus;
I know what I am.
Now that I know
That I've needed you so,
Help me Jesus,
My soul's in your hands.

Try me, Lord.
If you think there's a way.
That I can repay
What I've taken from you.
Maybe, Lord,
I can show someone else
What I've been through myself
On my way back to you.

Lord, help me Jesus.
I've wasted it so.
Help me Jesus;
I know what I am.
Now that I know
That I've needed you so,
Help me Jesus,
My soul's in your hands.

Jesus, my soul's in your hands.

8. "Jesus Was a Capricorn" (A cynical masterpiece)

Jesus was a Capricorn, he ate organic foods.
He believed in love and peace and never wore no shoes.
Long hair, beard and sandals and a funky bunch of friends.
Reckon they'd just nail him up if He come down again.

'Cos everybody's got to have somebody to look down on.
Who they can feel better than at anytime they please.
Someone doin' somethin' dirty, decent folks can frown on.
If you can't find nobody else, then help yourself to me.

Get back, John!

Egg Head's cousin Red Neck's cussin' hippies for their hair.
Others laugh at straights who laugh at freaks who laugh at squares.
Some folks hate the whites who hate the blacks who hate the clan.
Most of us hate anything that we don't understand.

'Cos everybody's got to have somebody to look down on.
Who they can feel better than at anytime they please.
Someone doin' somethin' dirty, decent folks can frown on.
If you can't find nobody else, then help yourself to me.

Help yourself, brother.
Help yourself, Gentlemen.
Help yourself Reverend.

9. "The Taker"
(This is good advice for fathers of daughters...)

He's a giver, he'll give her
the kind of attention that she's never known
He's a helper, he'll help her
to open the doors that she can't on her own
He's a lover, he'll love her
in ways that she never has been loved before
And he's a getter, he'll get her
by gettin her into the world she's been hungerin' for

'cause he's a taker, he'll take her
to places and make her fly higher than she's ever dared to
He'll take his time before takin' advantage
takin' her easy and slow
And after he's taken the body and soul
that she gives him, he'll take her for granted
Then he'll take off and leave her
takin' all of her pride as he goes

He's a charmer, and he'll charm her
with money and manners that I never learned
He's a leader, and he'll lead her
across pretty bridges he's planning to burn
He's a talker, he'll talk her
right off of her feet, but he won't talk for long
Cause he's a doer, and he'll do her
the way that I never
And damned if he won't do her wrong
'cause he's a taker, he'll take her
to places and make her fly higher than she's ever dared to
He'll take his time before takin' advantage
takin' her easy and slow
And after he's taken the body and soul
that she gives him, he'll take her for granted
Then he'll take off and leave her
takin' all of her pride as he goes

Yes, he's a taker, he'll take her
to places and make her fly higher than she's ever dared to
He'll take his time before takin' advantage
takin' her easy and slow
And after he's taken the body and soul
that she gives him, he'll take her for granted
Then he'll take off and leave her
takin' all of her pride as he goes

10. "If You Don't Like Hank Williams" (This is what I'd like to play for those who can't appreciate music that's not on the current top 40. There's nothing special about the lyrics. It's just the sentiment.)

I dig Bobby Dylan and I dig Johnny Cash
And I think Waylon Jennings is a table thumpin' smash
And hearin' Joni Mitchell feels as good as smokin' grass
And if you don't like Hank Williams, honey, you can kiss my ass

'Cause I think what they've done is well worth doin'
And they're doin' it the best way that they can
You're the only one that you are screwin'
When you put down what you don't understand

I said, I dig Roger Miller, Merle Haggard; George Jones
Shotgun Willie Nelson and them rockin' Rollin' Stones
And Jerry Lee's still gotta be the coolest in the class
And if you don't like Hank Williams, honey, you can kiss my ass.

'Cause I think what they've done is well worth doin'
And they're doin' it the best way that they can
You're the only one that you are screwin'
When you put down what you don't understand

Friday, August 25, 2006

What I Hate Awards

I've been posting this blog for several months now. Although it hasn't even been six months, I'm ready to announce the candidates for the mid-year "Good Response" awards.

While this award involves no money or prize, other than the honor of having made consistently good responses for the past six months, it is the premier award for this blog.

The candidates are:

Golf Guy
Science Guy

Please respond to this post with your vote! Votes will be tallied whenever I feel like it, and they will be posted once I remember to do so.

If you would like to be recognized next Spring at the annual What I Hate Awards, please begin commenting regularly and intelligently.

Fantasy Football 1-2006 Roster

I've completed one of my fantasy football drafts. This one was the keeper league. I kept six players (noted by an asterisk). The rest I just drafted. We start one QB, two RB's, three WR's, one TE, one K, and one D/ST. I think I'm in pretty good shape!

Payton Manning *
John Kitna

Larry Johnson *
Rudy Johnson*
Reuben Droughns

Steve Smith*
Plaxico Burress
Randy Moss
Reggie Brown
Keenan McCardell

Tony Gonzales*
Jermaine Wiggens

Lawrence Tynes
Jason Hanson

Chicago Bears*
Philadelphia Eagles

On waivers--but not yet on my roster--are Priest Holmes (RB) and Bobby Engram (WR)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

A Seinfeld Moment

Did you ever see the Seinfeld episode in which he is scratching the side of his nose in such a way that from the other side it appears as if he's picking his nose, and then his girlfriend sees him and actually thinks that he's picking his nose? Something similar happened to me today, but it does not involve my nose or a girlfriend. Rather, it involves a man in a dirty bathroom. (If this was a TV show, then this would be a great time to cut to a commercial).

So I was at McDonald's today (I have to keep up my Elvis-esque figure--see previous post on Elvis), and I was suddenly overcome with an urge, a burning sensation in my loins that means only one thing in all languages: I had to pee.

So I walked into the bathroom, and noticed that there was only one urinal (and it was occupied, of course), so I opened the door to the unoccupied stall. Before me sat a toilet seat splattered with urine. Oh well, I thought, that just means that I am no longer bound by ettiquet and protocal to lift the lid; so I wizz away. However, I did not expel a haphazard, erratic stream. I hit my target; the mess was not mine.

On the way out of the stall, I heard the door fly open and saw a man grasping at his belt and heading straight for the stall. He clearly had a case of the Virginia Quick-Step. I swung to my side to allow him passage, and I was just at the sink about to wash my hands when I heard him swear. He must have seen the urine spattered toilet seat. While I can sympathize with the guy, he was out of line for saying sarcastically (and loudly), "Thanks. Thanks a lot." That's when I realized that he was blaming me for the mess. I wanted to protest and plead, "It wasn't me!" Instead, I just chuckled and said, "Yeah, that sucks."

The moment that those words left my mouth, I thought to myself, get out of here. And that's what I did.

I'll never know how that man's bowels held up whilst he dabbed toilet paper to the toilet seat. Part of me says that everything turned out all right for him, and that he's just a little bit ticked-off at a total stranger who he will never see again (i.e. me).

However, another part of me thinks that it would be even better if he either A. had to sit on a pee-drenched toilet seat, or B. had an "accident."

Yes, I'll admit that's just mean. However, I have applied the WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) question, and my knowledge of the Gospels doesn't help. I don't know what Jesus would have done in this situation. Maybe he would have turned the pee into wine? Maybe he would have washed the man's feat while he sat on the toilet. Then again, the guy died for our sins. I don't think that he's obligated to wipe up someone else's piss! That means that I did do what Jesus would do, so HA!

Elvis & I (an impromptu and non-alcohol induced commentary)

I have 440 Elvis Presley songs in my iTunes. He was my first favorite singer, and I've probably read a half-dozen biographies on him.

He was one of the few truly unique singers (I decline to call singers "artists," no matter how good they are at it. I can pass gas with the best of them, but I am no "artists"--though maybe a "fartist"?).

By unique, I mean his sound and style. It's all his. No one before him sang the way that he did. When he first went to Sam Phillips's studio in Memphis to record a song, the receptionist asked him if he could sing in different genres. He answered yes. When she asked whom he sounded like, he said, "I don't sound like nobody." (Let's forgive him the double negative). People used to tell Merle Haggard that he sounded like Lefty Frizzell. People used to tell David Allen Coe that he sounded like Merle Haggard. People tell me that I sound like a deaf orangutan with diarrhea. But Elvis never sounded like anyone other than Elvis.

Think about it. The only people who sound like Elvis are those who are trying to sound like Elvis. Anyone who has ever heard a live Elvis recording can also attest to his talent. Most singers sound worse live than they do in the studio, but Elvis's live recordings are perfect. In some respects, they're even better because they are more tinctured with emotion.

One interesting aspect of Elvis's voice is that it was unique and amazing. Most unique voices aren't really that great: Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Tom Waits, Eddie Vedder, Bob Dylan, Hank Williams (Sr), James Brown, Janis Joplin, Jim Croce, Kenny Rogers, Robert Plant, Louis B. Armstrong, Nat King Cole, William Hung...

The thing about great voices is that they really are a dime a dozen. Range and tone are the two key ingredients to a great voice. Consider Frank Sinatra, Celine Dion, Harry Connick (Jr), Josh Groban, Michael Bublé, Julie Andrews (by far the most beautiful female voice ever recorded), Crystal Gayle...

However, a great voice does not necessarily make a great performer. A great performer needs to have emotion and be able to evoke emotion from the audience. Johnny Cash's cover of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt" does this. In fact, it's this key that makes a unique but not great voice possibly more of an accomplishment and more enjoyable.

Compare James Brown's "I Got You, (I Feel Good)" to Frank Sinatra's "I've Got the World on a String." Both songs are essentially about the same thing. "I've Got the World on a String," is lyrically better than "I Got You," and Sinatra's voice towers over Brown's in overall quality; but Brown's unique voice and the way that he performed gives an intangible quality to his song that makes it not just good, but great. It actually imparts feeling good. I'm not saying that Sinatra couldn't sing with emotion. "That's Life" certainly has this quality, as do "My Way" and "Send in the Clowns," but comparatively, a song with emotion trumps one that's just sung well (e.g. good range and tone). That's why no one will remember Celine Dion in twenty years. There's nothing special about her voice. It's just good, and that's just not enough. Even when she tries to be "powerful," all she's doing is putting more air into the words. The emotion is insincere.

Compare cover songs to the originals. Very rarely do the covers have even an iota of the original emotion that made the song so great in the first place. Perhaps the best (and most awful) example of this is Madonna's cover of Don MacLean's "American Pie." In her version, the wistful angst that drove Roberta Flack to write "Killing Me Softly" is gone. However, you also have some successes. Most notable is Pearl Jam's cover of "Last Kiss." The lyrics and the beat remained the same, but Eddie Vedder added his emotionally broken voice--at times almost an in-tune moan--and made the lyrics sound the way a man who has just "Lost my love, my life that night." Jimi Hendrix added power to Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower," and got it so right that Dylan forevermore sang the Hendrix version.

A cover song only works if it is infused with that emotional touch that segregates performers from singers. This is also why great songs should probably not be covered. In as much as covering a song is concerned, Elvis Presley was in a class by himself. His cover of Big Mama Thorton's "Hound Dog" is very different from the original. It had to be, for the original was great. But Elvis brought his own Midas touch to the song, rearranged it and made it his (seriously, had you even heard of Big Mama Thorton?--Golf Guy probably saw her in concert...).

Here's some more:

Elvis and at least five other singers covered David Hill's "All Shook Up," but it's Elvis's version that survives.
"Are You Lonesome Tonight," origianlly done by Ned Jakobs
"Big Boss Man," originally by Jimmy Reed
"Blue Hawaii," first recorded by Bing Crosby (that's right, Elvis did better than Bing)
"Blue Suede Shoes" was great when Carl Perkins did it first, but Elvis made it immortal
"Help Me Make It Through the Night," originally by Kris Kristofferson, whose version is riddled with angst, but Elvis still brought something more
"Lawdy Miss Clawdy" by Lloyd Price--check out Elvis's live version from his '68 Comeback Special). It was his opening song for the special, and it was freaking perfect.
"Bridge Over Troubled Water," a Simon and Garfunkel song done perfectly by Simon and Garfunkel, but Elvis's powerful tenor does something that Garfunkel's angelic alto cannot.
"Love Me," originally by Willy & Ruth
"Love Me Tender" --I don't know the original singer, but I know that it's been covered over 20 times. Do you know any other than Elvis's?
"Make the World Go Away," was a Ray Price original/
"My Way" was a Paul Anka hit Sinatra's magnum opus, but I've got to go with Elvis again.
"Suspicious Minds" (I don't know the original)
"Sweet Caroline," a Neil Diamond classic done even better by The King
"That's All Right," by Arthur Crudup was Elvis's first hit for Sun Records
"You've Lost that Lovin' Feeling," yes, the Righteous Brothers' version is awesome, but Elvis's is perfect--especially in the one live performance when he ad libs, "Baby, baby, I'd get down on my knees for you--if this suit wasn't so tight!"

There are others, but I've made my point. With the exception of a few, Elvis's versions are the ones we remember or enjoy more. Even those ones that may not be better than the original--I'll accept challenges to "My Way," "Bridge Over Troubled Water," "Sweet Caroline," and "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling,"their only problem--if there is one at all--is that they are covers of singers who are darn near peerless in their own rights.

His impact on music and culture is manifest by the fact that so many have refused to let him die. 2Pac fans have done the same thing, but do they know that they're just doing a bad cover of something that Elvis did perfectly the first time?

So why all of this disorganized "Elvis Is Great" ranting? It's because I was looking at myself in the mirror today, and I realized that I'm a lot like Elvis. We both struggle with our weight--fat, thin(ish--in my case), fat, thin, fat, thin, etc. And we both think that Elvis was awesome. I may not have all the talent, money, and women, but let's not nitpick.

If you managed to read through this whole thing, and you have the ability and inclination, test my assertions. Pair Elvis covers with the originals. Pair Elvis originals (or covers) with subsequent covers.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Deep Thought

I caught this one today, and it made me think of Mark.

If they ever come up with a swashbuckling School, I think one of the courses should be Laughing, Then Jumping Off Something.
--Jack Handey

Flipper in Special Ed.

I've always wondered why these supposedly "gifted" creatures can't figure out how to stay away from tuna nets.

It's because they're dumb, like tuna.

It doesn't matter if they're cute. Jessica Simpson is cute. Case closed.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Freedom of Religion AND Speech

I am not trying to offend anyone here. The fact that I need to make such a disclaimer before a perfectly rational argument shows just how irrational is the opposition.

I believe in freedom of religion. I also believe in freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of expression, and a host of other freedoms too numerous to list in this forum. I am a Libertarian, after all, so I believe in the freedom of everything excepting the infliction of deliberate and unjustified physical harm to another person, theft of another person's property, and actions all actions designed to coerce/restrict another's liberty. Did you ever wonder why religion, speech, petition, the press, and assembly were all thrown together into the first amendment? It's because they are manifestations of the same principle: liberty, without which, we are slaves.

That's why I'm so bothered by this whole depicting an image of Mohammad controversy.

Obviously, many (perhaps most--it hasn't been quantified) Muslims were offended when a Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, published satirical cartoons depicting Mohammad, but I'm bothered by the tone of this reaction--violent at times, nonetheless menacing at others. I'm also disturbed by the fact that too few people have stood up in defense of Jyllandis-Posten.

That's what I'm about to do (*gasp*).

First, let me state that I believe the drawings were insensitive--I'll even grant that they were insulting. They were certainly interpreted this way.

This, however, is all that I am prepared to grant to the plaintiffs in this case.

I stated before that I believe in freedom of religion. I am a Christian, and no one has the right to harm me in any way because of this. Jews have the right to their faith without living in fear of persecution, as do Muslims, Buddhists, Voodooists, Atheists, Agnostics, Hindus, etc.

Just because I believe in freedom of religion, I have no obligation to believe that all religions are equal. As a Christian, I have to believe that other religions are mistaken. Some, in my view, can be closer to correct: e.g. Jews aren't too far off. But others, I have to believe--otherwise I don't really believe that Christianity is correct--are dead wrong.

Atheists are wrong. There is a God. They're more incorrect than polytheists. Polytheists are wrong, but at least they recognize divinity. As a Christian, I believe that Jews error in rejecting Christ as the Son of God. However, Jews are at least closer to correct than polytheists, for Jews, like Christians, are monotheistic. The fact that Christianity sprang forth from Jewish roots also means that I believe that Jews are more correct than Muslims.

Muslims actually share quite a bit with Jews and Christians (starting with monotheism), but as a Christian, I believe that the Jewish prophets (e.g. Abraham, Moses, Jeremiah, Isaiah, etc.) were actually prophets. Muslims, however, choose to follow Mohammed as their chief prophet. I do not believe that Mohammed was one of God's prophets. If I did, I'd be a Muslim. Muslims at least admit that Jesus was a prophet, but they deny that he was the Son of God. Since Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, this troubles me. If he wasn't the Son of God, then he was either crazy (for believing that he was) or a liar (for saying that he was but knowing that he wasn't). Perhaps a Muslim friend or an anonymous reader would be so kind as to explain this one for me.

Let's continue. The same set of scenarios that I established for Jesus can be applied to Mohammed. Either Mohammed was telling the truth, or he was crazy, or he was a liar. Since I do not believe that Mohammed was a prophet, I obviously believe that Mohammed was either insane or a liar. Think about it. You might be too "polite" to put it in this way--for fear of offending someone else--but the logic is solid.

Similarly, if you do not believe that Jesus was the Son of God, then you must believe that he was either a liar or a lunatic. You don't stand on good ground if you take one of those cut-and-paste approaches to Jesus: "He said a lot of wonderful things, but I don't believe that he was the Son of God." Nobody is so kind to David Koresh--either a liar or a lunatic--or Jim Jones--a liar or a lunatic--or the Heaven's Gate people--lunatics. Either Jesus is the Son of God, or he was full of B.S. or had no real idea what he was talking about.

So it's clear. I think that Mohammad was either a liar or a lunatic. Nonetheless, hundreds of millions of people are devoted to Islam, and to him he is God's most important prophet. Since they follow a man who, I have concluded, was either a liar or a lunatic, I must believe that they are mistaken at best or lunatics themselves at worse (I opt for mistaken).

I have the right to tell Muslims that they are wrong. That Mohammad was not a prophet, and that Jesus is the Son of God. I have the right to suggest strongly that they shelve their Korans and locate a copy of the New Testament (Matthew 4:17--"Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand"!). I also have the right to draw Mohammad in any setting, sculpt him however I wish, carve his image out of wood with a chainsaw, whatever. What I cannot do is force Muslims or any other non-Christians into becoming Christians. I cannot even force them to respect Christianity. Similarly, I cannot be coerced into believing or respecting the belief that Mohammad was a prophet. If I'm wrong, the consequences that await in the afterlife will be severe enough.

All people have the freedoms of speech, thought, and expression. More often than not, people use these freedoms to make asses of themselves. That's when we use our freedom of speech to say, "You're an ass!"

I do not believe that people, having these rights, should simply go about saying offensive things. However, if they wish to be friendless and jobless, then let them go ahead. What's wrong with good old-fashioned ostracism?

The Egyptian Grand Sheikh Mohamed Sayed Tantawi demands that the editor of Jyllands-Posten be thrown in jail and that the newspaper itself be forced out of circulation. But whatever cartoons Jyllands-Posten decides to print, Muslims will only see them and be thus offended if they read that particular newspaper. If that newspaper is offensive, then don't read it.

Forcing the world to respect Mohammad is very much a step in the direction of forcing the world to become Muslims. Why should people be forced to respect a man whom they regard as either a liar or a lunatic?

The only reason for respecting Mohammad and not believing in his being a prophet is the desire to be a good neighbor. I don't see any gains by offending Muslims, so I don't try to do so. However, if I have done so in the process of this discourse, then I am not sorry. I will never apologize for believing what I believe unless I am otherwise convinced of the contrary.

People who saw the cartoons in Jyllands-Posten and found the cartoons offensive have a few options. They can dismiss the cartoons as in poor taste but continue to read the newspaper. They can also decline to patronize the newspaper anymore. They can also encourage others to boycott the newspaper. What they cannot rightfully do is demand a violent solution.

Polite people won't intentionally try to piss other people off (I never said that I was polite). Impolite people might. That's why we call them jerks (among other things), and why we don't invite them over for dinner. If I'm correct, the argument against creating images of Mohammed is to avoid creating idols--to be thus worshipped. The worship of a graven image is called idolatry, and idolatry is wrong. Should some people make an image of Mohammed, say what you want about what jerks they are, but don't assume the power to punish them. That's worse than idolatry. That's assuming God's role for yourself.

Perhaps Matt Stone and Trey Parker (the creators of South Park) said it best in their two-episode critique of the issue.

Before I am dismissed as being insensitive, remember that I am a Christian. This means that I have heard, read, and seen countless acts of disrespect towards my faith. Throughout it all, however, I dared not suggest that violence be waged against the antagonists.

It doesn't feel right to end here. My gut tells me that there's more to say. However, the last time I listened to my gut, I ended up with a bad case of heartburn.

Friday, August 18, 2006


The Rev. Al Sharpton goes from shouting the ridiculous to stating the obvious

It is wrong, he argues, for society to equate "gangsterism and blackness." He levels blame against Hollywood and the media.

Sure, and Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, Snoop, Ice Cube, 50 Cent, etc. are all just a bunch of Uncle Tom's playing into the man's hand.

The problem is that whenever whites try to don the "Gangsta" persona, they are ridiculed (think Vanilla Ice). "Gangsterism" surely does not represent all blacks, but it does represent some blacks. It is not a "White" thing at all.

Does the Rev. believe that society has blindly associated "Gangsta Rap" with the black community? Are the Crips and the Bloods a racially diverse group?

Would the stereotype fit in, say, the suburbs of Oakland County? Let's try this Eazy-E verse modified for these specifications.

"Woke up quick, at about noon,
Just thought that I had to be at Lakeside soon
I got to eat breakfast before my day begins
So I can play X-box with all my friends."

Who would buy into this? Actually, all I've done is combated one stereotype with another. However, the stereotype of the black "Gangsta" works because black men (e.g. Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Ice-T, 50 Cent, Snoop Doggy Dogg, etc.) created and perfected it. Many academics have noted that "Gangsta" rap chronicles the daily struggles of young black men.

Critics might reply that the aforementioned enterprising individuals simply jumped onto society's stereotype and exploited it fabulously for their own personal purposes.

But let's be honest. The Crips, The Bloods, and the like hail from urban, African-American strongholds. They have no presence in the suburbs, and their membership is not racially diverse. This "Gangsta" stereotype may not apply universally in the African American community, but they do reflect a very real African American sub-culture. (Hint: It wasn't "H.W.A.:--Honkies With Attitude)

Al Sharpton's comments should not be aimed at Hollywood and the media. They should be aimed at the African-Americans who have made (and continue to make) the "Gangsta" stereotype/persona viable. They should also be leveled against the African American men who really live the "Gangsta" life.

How can the trend be put in reverse? Have 50 Cent release an album for children ("Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, I do a drive-by in my car"). Have NWA (sans Eazy-E--R.I.P) reunite for a gospel album (Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, Muthaf---in' Jesus is the Man..." Have Snoop Dogg record songs that don't involve hoes, pimps, violence, bling-bling, ("I got a job at McShizzle's while I study at the Unishizzle of Michizzle...")

It's time for Al Sharpton et al. to stop playing the victim card. Hollywood did not create inner-city gangs and the inner-city lifestyle. Hollywood did not create the mafia, even though it produced The Godfather. It produced The Godfather because it was viable. If it had been set on in a rural farm area of western Saskatchewan, then no one would have bought into it. Hollywood doesn't make reality. There is an Italian-American mafia. They made movies about it. There are Gangstas too, and until there are none, don't ask the recording industry to pretend that there aren't.

Perhaps the real problem is that people actually like Gangsta music. I don't know why, but they do.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Dumb kids

Everyone seems to think that their kids are smart, and then they're shocked when, unsually in junior high, the kid turns out to be pretty dumb. The process begins with denial--my kid is not stupid, he's just special--or he just doesn't like the class. The next step is blame--it's those awful teachers! The final step is acceptance, but this doesn't usually show up until the kid is 30, living at home.

To parents of dumb kids, here are the top ten early signs, courtesy of David Letterman (though I changed #6):

10. Can't find the United States on a map of the United States

9. Nobody knows his I.Q. because he keeps eating the test

8. Sharpens ball point pens

7. He named his dog "Kitty"

6. He reads this blog's comments and says, "Hey, that Science Guy seems really smart."

5. Proudly wears a Knicks jersey

4. Sees photo of himself, says, "Hey, it's that guy from the mirror!"

3. Called FBI terrorism hotline to vote for Bin Laden

2. For his birthday you give him a flashlight and tell him it's a video game

1. Says, "I wish Michael Jackson was my dad!"

Remembering China's Dead

The Chinese government is outraged by Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's decision to visit the Yasukuni Shrine, established in memory of Japanese soldiers killed in World War II.

On the one hand, this is understandable. In the Asian theater of World War II, Japan's armies slaughtered the Chinese. 1,100,000 Chinese soldiers were killed, and 1,800,000 were wounded. Even more significant is the large number of Chinese civilians who died--close to 9,000,000.

On the other hand, these complaints come from a government that has never shied away from murdering its own citizens. In fact, the number of Chinese killed by their own government exceeds those killed by Japanese soldiers by the tens of millions. Consider just one example: Mao's "Great Leap Forward" (a collectivist scheme that led to famine and suffering on a nearly unimaginable scale) led to over 20,000,000 deaths.

To this day, China maintains a strict policy of forced abortion and infanticide--to limit a population growth that had been encouraged under Mao's regime. Political dissidents continue to face deadly persecution, as do Christian missionaries.

See, and

This does not exculpate Japan completely, but it should be noted that the Japanese government that trained, equipped, and deployed its soldiers to China is no longer in existence. The Japanese lost WWII and were forced (by the United States) to draft a new, liberal constitution that forbade the formation of an army capable of waging such a war ever again. Chine, however, continues under the same government, and it's army is massive and continues to threaten war against its neighbors (e.g. Taiwan); it maintains an arsenal of nuclear weapons capable of threatening anyone; and it continues to hold conquered provinces (e.g. Tibet) with an iron fist.

So Japan's Prime Minister is wrong to remember those killed under a now defunct Japanese government, but China is free to neglect its own atrocities? (Chinese textbooks completely omit every single detail!).

Let's be clear: Japan's government is to blame for many awful things from the WWII era. Let's be clearer: China's government is to blame for even more awful things ever since.

We should remember all who died at the hands of evil governments--Japan's, China's, North Korea's, China's, Germany's, Russia's, Iraq's, Iran's, Israel's, The United States', Great Britain's, France's, Vietnam's, Cambodia's, South Africa's, Sudan's, Argentina's, Chile's, Cuba's, Nicaragua's, Bolivia's, Italy's, ad infinitum.

All government's derive their power from their ability to threaten and inflict violence on their own population. There is no such thing as a benevolent government. There isn't even anything like a benign one.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Technical Difficulties

I've had trouble logging in lately, so that's why there have been no new posts. If all goes well, expect some good material tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


If I ever write an autobiography, I promise to omit any recollection of the gastro-intestinal distress that afflicted me this past Sunday.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

In Bad Defense of Mel Gibson

This link is to an article "explaining" for us what Mel Gibson meant in his now infamous, drunken rant of late.

Don't bother reading this post unless you have read this article.

The argument behind this article is flawed in a few ways. First, it presumes to explain what Mel Gibson actually meant--that he blames Zionists (as opposed to all Jews) for the bulk of the government-initiated violence in the Middle East. The problem with this is that, once sober, Gibson did not qualify his statement in this manner. Instead, he apologized profusely for saying very awful things.

Secondly, the author presumes to know Gibson as "intelligent" and "thoughtful" because he (the author) has either read or heard several interviews of the actor. Is the author really suggesting that Mel Gibson is not an anti-Semite because Mel Gibson interviews well?

As far as the first part of the article (the one about the history of Hollywood and Jews), I'm not really sure where he's going. Is he saying that Hollywood is run by Zionist Jews who celebrate "the war-mongering, terrorist, American state" and are thus complicit in Israel's war in Lebanon or that Mel Gibson cannot be an anti-Semite because he works in an industry founded and run by Jews?

What's with the author's suggesting that Gibson cleverly uttered his notorious exclamations concisely so as to capture the attention of the American people without bogging them down with details that an editor (presumably the author of the article) will later, without having consulted Gibson at all, expand in much greater detail?

He states, "It's a fact that Jewish men were founders and primary players in the Hollywood media business." In doing so, he ignores another fact, that gentiles were founders and primary players in the Hollywood media business as well. He also uses the proper adjective "Jewish" when later he distinguishes between the collective Jew and the Zionist Jew. He does not call these "founders and primary players" Zionist Jews. He simply calls them Jewish men (a.k.a. Jews--the collective). Ironically, the author calls this very same equivocation error one of Gibson's mistakes (the other one being his having consumed and excessive amount of alcohol).

The author also states, "Most people, unfortunately, do not carefully listen and analyze the words of others." Hopefully, in his case, the majority of his readers are among this flock.

The article is either by an anti-Semite who is trying to defend an alleged anti-Semite or a very poorly reasoned apology by a Mel Gibson fan who happens to despise the Israeli state. I'm inclined to assess the latter as the most likely.

As far as I'm concerned, there is not enough evidence to convict Mel Gibson as an anti-Semite. What he said is clearly anti-emetic, but that doesn't make him an anti-Semite for a couple of reason. People say and do stupid things when they are drunk. People also make general statements that they do not really believe.

He could be an anti-Semite. It appears that his father is, but we shan't judge the son by the father's sins. Supposing that he is an anti-Semite, will I shun future Gibson projects? I doubt it. Just because the guy is an idiot doesn't mean that I won't enjoy his movies. I think that most Hollywood types are idiots (e.g. Sean Penn, Alec Baldwin, Oliver Stone, Michael Moore, Susan Sarrandon, Tim Robbins, Tom Cruise, John Travolta, etc.), but this has not prevented me from watching movies. Many musicians are idiots too, but I listen to their music because I enjoy their music.

That's about all I've got to say on this topic, unless someone else has something to add.

I'm Irritated

I would like to walk up to some guy wearing one of those Bluetooth headsets and just punch him in the face.

"Why did you do that?" He will cry from the ground.

"Because," I will shout between kicks to his abdomen, "you're not that important! [Kick] It doesn't make you look cool. [Kick] It makes you look [kick] like a pathetic loser [kick] who wants to be cool [kick], but rather than actually be cool, [kick] you try only to look cool."

If you think that this is an extreme reaction, you'll need to be around me on the next 90+ degree day when some guy says, "Hot enough for you?" That's when I will imagine elbowing him in the larynx and saying, "Painful enough for you?"

Of course, I would never really do any of these things. Notice that the first was introduced with "I would like" and the second with "I will imagine." I would also like to be payed a million dollars a year to post blogs bi-weekly. I will imagine that, if this ever happens, I will also have lost a lot of weight, toned up my muscles, and mastered the panflute (to break the Zamfir monopoly).

Thursday, August 03, 2006

I'm Turning 30. Big Freaking Deal

In less than one week, I will turn 30 years old.

Granted, given my philosphical dispositions, my life first began prior to being extricated via Caesarian section from my mother's womb, so I'm actually about 9 (though closer to 10) thirty years old. However, birthday is not conception day, so I'm about to turn 30.

And it doesn't bother me a bit.

Why should it? I am married to a wonderful woman, have two exceptional children--yes, I know that everyone thinks that their children are exceptional, but mine are moreso than yours, so live with it--, a job that pays me to do what I love doing, a house, a dog, cable internet service, and several powerful firearms. What more could I want in life other than a motorcycle, an Xbox 360, a PS3 (when it comes out), and for Catherine Zeta-Jones to lift that pesky restraining order on me?

I have outlived my father by three years. I haven't done anything exceptional, but I'm not finished yet. Time is relative. Take Einstein's example, and I paraphrase (and probably badly): "One minute on a hot stove and one minute beside the girl that you love: That's relativity."

I don't feel older. I feel out of shape, but that has nothing to do with my age (rather it suggests something about my eating habits and non-existing exercise regimen). I don't know why people freak out about age. It's stupid to do so, and I'm not stupid, so I don't, and I'm going to keep adding independent clauses with correlative conjunctions, and there's nothing that you can do to stop me, but I might tire soon, so you can read on and hope for the best, for I'm only a man (though a great one), and I can only be amused by something this inane for so long, and I think that I've reached that point.

See, I tire of it.

Bill of Rights