Nice doggy

August 31, 2006

Remember the Maine mystery beast from two weeks ago?

A mystery beast that frightened Maine residents and preyed on pets was likely a dog itself, preliminary DNA test results in the U.S. suggest.

The animal had a dog as its mother and probably father as well, said Prof. Irv Cornfield of the University of Maine.

[Full Story]

So it might be ugly and mean and strange, but chances are it’s still Man’s Best Friend. Maybe it’s part Chinese crested.

Well spotted Fred and Brandt.

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Science Fiction-Free September III

August 21, 2006

It’s that time of year again, when I declare the annual moratorium on reading science fiction for a month, and instead concentrate on books that I’ve been neglecting or have been meaning to “get around to” for some time. Mind you, it feels a little odd to declare a month free of a genre I’ve read precious little of, so far, in this calendar year. I actually think this is probably the first year since I left school that I’ve read more non-fiction than fiction, in fact.

I’ve decided to limit the reading program this September to two books. This is partly because they’re going to be heavy going, as you’ll see. But the other reason is that my track record hasn’t been all that great at meeting my reading goals. I still owe a half-dozen people the courtesy of reading the Canadian literature they recommended to me last year, when all I managed to get through was a novel and a half. So I’ve decided to reduce the agenda. However, I doubt that the reading load is actually any smaller. And, finally, as always, I never know what books that I have had on reserve for weeks or months, might become available suddenly, and I’m not going to give up my chance to read them just because I’m working through something else.

I think of this year’s theme as “Books With Baggage.” By this I mean that the philosophy of each book constitutes a major driving force in some ideology.

The first book on the list is the Quran. The ubiquitous news footage of masked extremists in the Middle East, waving Qurans in one hand and a firearm in the other, ought to make the contemporary relevance of this “holy book” rather self-evident. However much secondary material I’ve read on Islam, I’ve never read its primary source. (Imagine wanting a scholarly understanding of Christianity, and getting it only from, say, the books of Hal Lindsey!) I’ll be glad to entertain suggestions of a good translation, since obviously I’ll be unable to access the Quran in Arabic. If time permits, I might supplement it with some sort of “Islam for Dummies” type book, or perhaps a critical work such as Why I am Not a Muslim by Ibn Warraq or The Rage and the Pride by Oriana Fallaci, a copy of which should be available to me in two or three weeks.

Second is the 1966 philosophy of history, Tragedy and Hope by Carroll Quigley. This massive tome (1300+ pages!) is a primary source for conspiracy theorists believing that there’s a shadowy cabal running things: Quigley argued that the governments of the U.S. and U.K. were controlled by a small network of elitists such as the Council on Foreign Relations. Many conspiracy nuts think that Quigley, being openly approving of their goals, was confident enough of their success to proclaim the Big Conspiracy openly. (It doesn’t hurt that Bill Clinton praised him as a mentor, either.) Typically, the nuts tend to go farther in their conclusions than Quigley himself did, as well. But the premise of this book has intrigued me ever since I first heard of it.

And maybe, should I manage to read all that, I’ll finish off with some Canadian literature.


When churches go moonbat

August 19, 2006

Symbolism over substance from the United Church of Canada, via today’s Ottawa Citizen:

Forget the bottle, use the tap.

That’s the message the United Church of Canada is sending three million Canadians tied to the church after passing a motion this week to discourage the purchase of bottled water.

Church delegates at a triennial general council in Thunder Bay backed a resolution saying “water is a sacred gift that connects all life” and that “its value to the common good must take priority over commercial interests.” . . .

The church isn’t calling for a boycott, [social policy co-ordinator Richard] Chambers said, only asking its members to avoid buying bottled water wherever possible. . .

Mr. Chambers said there are more than one billion people on Earth who are without a clean supply of drinking water.

Mr. Chambers said the church wants the federal government to sign a United Nations convention that would recognize water as a human right as well as help provinces and municipalities upgrade their water infrastructure.

This comes from the mainline denomination that allows the ordination of practicing homosexuals, blesses homosexual “marriage,” and once elected a national moderator, Bill Phipps, who denied the divinity of Jesus, the Resurrection, and the afterlife. But God forbid that any church member should buy a bottle of Evian!

But how is this resolution going to help those one billion people without clean water? Rather than pass useless resolutions, if the United Church actually wants to do something about the problem, it should spend its time and resources in Africa digging wells and building water-treatment facilities, rather than making Canadians feel guilty because we have great big lakes of fresh water just lying around. (It wasn’t United Church parishioners who put them there, was it?)

Meanwhile, here in Ottawa, you can receive absolution from your sins by listening to classic rock. The Church of St. John the Evangelist, a local Anglican church, is offering forgiveness for 1,000,000 CHEZ 106 Platinum VIP Club points. (By way of comparison, absolution costs 20 times as much as two Who tickets.) Even though it’s a gimmick, you can never be sure whether you’re supposed to take St. John’s or the Irreverent Canon Garth Bulmer seriously. In 2004, they hosted a lecture by author and former Anglican priest Tom Harpur on his book The Pagan Christ, in which he argued that there was no historic evidence for Jesus’ existence. Next Sunday, their bulletin says they “will celebrate Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Pride Day at the 10:15 service.”

[sigh] I think I’d rather go to the clown Eucharist; at least they know they’re clowns.


Our Lady of the Hershey Squirts?

August 18, 2006

Here we go again. A chocolate factory in Fountain Valley, California, has been Marified:

Workers at a chocolate company have discovered a five-centimetre-all column of chocolate drippings they believe bears a striking resemblance to the Virgin Mary.

Since the discovery of the drippings under a vat Monday, employees of Bodega Chocolates have spent much of their time hovering over the tiny figure, praying and placing rose petals and candles around it. “I was raised to believe in the Virgin Mary but this still gives me the chills,” company co-owner Martucci Angiano said as she balanced the dark brown figure in her hand during an interview Thursday.

[Full Story]

At this point, Bodega Chocolates’ product list doesn’t yet include Virgin Mary blobs. Maybe they’re trying to figure out what confection to put in the creamy centre. Cherry fondant seems appropriate. They’re sacrilicious!


And now . . . this – Aug. 16, 2006

August 16, 2006

Paging Mulder and Scully

Residents are wondering if an animal found dead over the weekend may be the mysterious creature that has mauled dogs, frightened residents and been the subject of local legend for half a generation.

The animal was found near power lines along Route 4 on Saturday, apparently struck by a car while chasing a cat. The carcass was photographed and inspected by several people who live in the area, but nobody is sure exactly what it is. . . .

For the past 15 years, residents across Androscoggin County have reported seeing and hearing a mysterious animal with chilling monstrous cries and eyes that glow in the night. The animal has been blamed for attacking and killing a Doberman pinscher and a Rottweiler the past couple of years.

[Full Story]

Be sure to check out the picture accompanying the article. It’s an ugly-looking animal, all right. It’ll be interesting to see what DNA tests say; it’s probably just a weird canine hybrid no one has seen before.

Still . . . it’s definitely one for the weirdo file. Chupacabra, watch your back; we’re coming after you next.

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Pods, holograms, and Antonioni

August 13, 2006

Last fall, I saw the Michelangelo Antonioni film, Blowup, for the first time. Francis Schaeffer used this movie in one of his books as an example of good art preaching a bad worldview (in Blowup’s case, existentialism).

Wanting to understand Schaeffer’s argument better, I was interested in seeing the film for myself. I was expecting an intellectual film to be fairly talky and “arty”. So I was quite surprised at the very visceral reaction I had, rather than the semi-disinterested, I’m-sitting-in-a-lecture one I was anticipating. In fact, Blowup fascinated me so much that I watched it through three times in the week I had it.

At the time, I had started writing a review and analysis, altlough it evetually came to nothing. (I may still revisit it in the future.) But after I spent so much time last weekend viewing grainy images of airplanes, “pods,” and “flashes” in 9/11 conspiracy documentaries, Blowup was practically the first thing that came immediately to mind.

Read the rest of this entry »


And now . . . this – Aug. 11, 2006

August 11, 2006

Think of the poor, tortured cats!

Scottish health officials are putting new restrictions on how long people can play bagpipes, because excessive use of the instrument can damage hearing.

The new guidelines suggest that pipers should play for a maximum of 24 minutes a day outside and only 15 minutes a day in a practice room, The Scotsman reported.

[Full Story]

Actually, if playing the bagpipes for more than 25 minutes a day causes hearing loss, that explains an awful lot . . .