29 July 2007

It ain't E Street, but it'll do, it'll do.

Here is something from the seeger sessions.

One of the most beautiful moments in the history of MTV's Unplugged

I think I cried when I saw this way back in 1995. The Boss, and Melissa Etheridge sound oh-so good together. Enjoy.

oh, yeah, it does make me think of you.
You know who you are.

28 July 2007

Trying not to be negative but.

I ripped Aikido on this post once before, and it was defended by some friends of mine. I am an accomadating guy so I gave them some points for plucky defense of their arts, or the arts of their friends, or just the general defense that every art has some merit. But compare these clips and tell me what you think will get you through and aggressive encounter, and what will just get moving on to the clearing at the end of the path. My first exhibit will be from the wonderful make believe world of Aikido....

Also from Aikido...

Sport Judo, I know, but think about the road, or the sidewalk while you watch the thows

Here is MMA, (boxing, Thai Boxing, Brazilian Jiu-jtsu)
Pardon the music on all these clips

Muy Thai. Ah the caress of the Tender Elbow

Okay, vote and decide. What is real, and what is not.
Let me know.

Uh...Steven Seagal is an idiot.

I could waste lot of space writing about what a moron Steven Seagal is, but instead I will just post this clip.
Enjoy. Hillarity ensues.

25 July 2007

Hate Crimes Law, and the bums

Driving to lunch after a morning of interning at school, I happened to catch a bit of a show that used to be called Tavis Smiley, and now goes by the name News and Notes. They were discussing the strange phenomenon, allegedly increasing, of beating up, or otherwise violently assaulting homeless people. Farai Chideya was interviewing a researcher from a large university who was helping to lobby hard for the inclusion of assault on the homeless as part of hate crimes legislation. For those of you who don't know what hate crimes law entails, it is simply, and traditionally this. Lets say I assault someone. If my reason for whatever manner of brutal assault has nothing to do with the person's race, religion or sexual orientation then I will recieve a lesser sentence than if my crime has been motivated by one of these old bigotries. Several advocacy groups are now supporting an inclusion of the homeless in hate crimes legislation.

Hate Crimes Law is a scary kind of legal subterfuge. It makes no sense, it doesn't punish criminals equitably for the same crime, rather it tries to disburse justice by passing judgment on motives. To which I say, bullshit. Crimes, or actions of any kind, have some reason, motive, rationale or impetus. Quite frankly it doesn't matter what the motive is. What matters, is that a crime has been committed. There is no need to tack on a few years to anyone's sentence because the crime was caused by the perpetrator's hatred of the victim. Hate and anger figure into most violent crime. If guilt has been established, and we as a society agree -as I am quite sure most of us do- that murder is wrong, then let the law do its job.

The problem with taking additional punitive actions based on thought is rather obvious. Where does it stop? If we can say well, this man committed a murder because of his bigotted hatred against blacks, or the homeless, or white folk or because he was Catholic or Muslim, why stop there. Indeed, the next step to this hate crimes law, is that it leads to mind numbing hate speech law. And it invites the gleeful manipulation of such law to the most bizarre hypocrisy. This is fast becoming the case in the terribly PC Britain, and our northern neighbor Canada. Canada recently had a bit of a row over hate speech law. Sweden has such laws. The laws themselves are enforced in strange and uneven ways. Typically it is minority groups that are protected, though sometimes there are others. There is a strange conflation occuring in the minds of those who would defend us all from an unpleasant thought, or word. Namely they are confusing ethnicity and religious ideaology. THink of a term like anti-islamic racism. It confuses everything. It is as if an attack on a system of thought were the same as some racial slur. An army of the faithful await a similar multi-sylabic of protection from critique. The catch phrase of most of the faithful, that is meant to end all discussion, and to respectfully concede a valid point, is "Well, its a faith issue." Sub-text:I have no more arguments please stop. And show some respect for my lack of convincing counterpoints. It is faith, better than thought. Fundementalist Christians detest such laws not because the laws themselves, but because at the moment they are not part of the club. They aren't an oppressed minority in our own country. However they are slyly using this faith issue language, so beloved of numerous religious minorities. And sadly it is working. Issues of Faith are becoming ensconced in such laws.
Well piss on that.

A few years ago a private Dutch paper published a series of cartoons that characterized the Prophet Muhammed. A subtle, and completely insidious campaign was mounted by a people determined to be offended. They helped enrage the rest of the muslim world, in part by fabricating some extra offensive cartoons. People were killed, women raped, Embassies burned, as if the goverment had anything to do with the cartoons of a small privetly owned paper. THe newspapers, and magazines in London, Canada, or the US did not distinguish themselves by publishing the cartoons. In fact only one magazine did so in the US, and that was Free Inquiry. Borders pulled the issue off the shelves immediately. Later on, picketers and protesters would be seen flouting signs much more, heinous and hateful than anything perpetrated by dutch cartoonists. (My personal favorite was, "Behead those who call Islam a violent Religion." It was not a joke.) Here a religion attempted to limit free speech with the threat and promise of violence. Most papers and magazines said they would show respect to Islam by not republishing the cartoons. Religious leaders like the Pope didn't critisize the hooligans, thugs and murders acting in their zeal to limit the speech of others. They criticized the cartoonists.
In the free world, from London to Toronto, no one acted to limit the speech of those calling for death to cartoonists. No officer pulled down a sign inciting people to violence. The news world lived in fear of a mindless mob. And people want to protect the easiliy offended from any contary thougth and writing.

We should cringe whenever we here the phrase Hate Speech, especially when it is used in conjunction with the word law. We should feel the same way about hate crimes. A crime is a crime is a crime. Who cares about the motive. Either it was an immoral act, that caused injury of some kind or it wasn't. Let motive hang the man or woman, but not be penalized again. Because if it is a an act required legal action in conjunction with a crime, then isn't it a crime itself? No hate isn't a crime.
Never has been. Freedom of expression means I can hate anyone I want, and say anything I want about them.

THe answer to unpleasant speach, and thought isn't limitation. It is more speech, and thought. If someone says there was no Holocaust, we tend to feel some offense. But pause a moment. Is having some law silence them the answer? Doing that is almost like giving some one a huge wealth of instant support. No..listen to the person. You owe it to them, and yourself.
Then think, and research. An unwelcome idea maybe wrong or it maybe right, but no matter what, it can be an edifying experience.
Ask yourself some questions.
Is that right?
I think he or she is wrong but how do I know?
Limiting speech doesn't help anything, or anyone in the long run. Sure maybe it means we keep the offense and hurt quotient down a little. But mostly what we do is end dialogue. Moreover we can't event change minds with counter argument. What we do is drive an engine of lies, hypocrisy, and self-deception. That it is done under the banner of good intentions doesn't help matters. In fact it may very well make things worse.

05 July 2007

If you have young children in golden eagle country...you better keep them close.

The Golden eagle is, hands down, the baddest bird in the northern hemisphere. It doesn't scavenge like the Bald Eagle. In fact it would seem to think itself a buteo, like a red-tailed hawk, or ferriginous hawk. If you don't think they rule the skies, just watch this clip.

01 July 2007

God and Sports, not exactly peanut butter and chocolate.

People will often attribute their great acts, or the great acts of others to the divine intervention of their favorite god. How many times have you seen some athelete on the tube saying, all misty eyed, something very like, "Its all because God was on our side," or, "I just wanna thank God for giving us this win," and maybe something like, "with God on my side no one can beat me."
In my youthful naivete I suspected that prayers involving sporting events were typically concentrated on the professional leagues. I'm not sure why I thought this would be so. Perhaps, I suspected a god would really only involve himself in pro sports, more money, more prestige that kind of thing. Maybe he, jesus and the holy spirit would bet on play-off games, and maybe he (all three of he) might have a pool for college football and basketball. In such a high stakes environment, it seems likely that any deity might want to manipulate such outcomes. It turns out however, there is a lot belief that the gods oversee even little league, middle school games. High school too seems to require the intervention of deity to do what, I presume the players practice to do daily.
During my first year at Earlham College I worked for the school on the paint crew, endlessly torturing students with awful bone white. On that crew I worked with a true believer who was about to saunter off to Jerry Falwell's pseudo-university. He carried his good book, heavely high-lighted, and spoke and read of nothing else other than his Jesus and his God. You will see at once what a tedious conversation partner he made. But it was he who got me really thinking about how utterly silly all this praying-not just in sports but in anything-actually is. Before him I thought is was just a kind of mental relaxation technique, a way, perhaps, to come to grips with the essential fact that you cannot do much to affect certain outcomes except hope for the best.
In fact the only difference in hoping for the best and praying is the sheer number of times you hope for the best, and there is the egotisical conceit that your hopes for the best are heard by your pal on the inside. I was talking to the creator of all things for you, he may do something. He may not. I think hoping for the best and wishing people the best is much more genuine than actually praying. Praying takes the focus off the one you are praying for and allows this ego massaging bragging to occur when you tell people you were praying for them during their ordeal, for the purposes of this essay, a sporting event.
Anyway this guy and I were discussing his younger brother's baseball game. He left early he said, because his brother's team stood no chance. "I prayed and I prayed," he said. I guess God was having none of it. This provoked my tactless curiousity. So I asked him, "So..you think the creator of the universe intervenes in middle school baseball games."
"Yes." Without hesitation.
"Really? You think that creator of universe doesn't have more pressing concerns?"
"Have you ever heard of Evander Holyfield?" This young believer had walked into a trap I didn't even know I had laid. But there it was and in he walked.
"Yes I have heard of him."
"Do you know what is written on his ring robe?" He asked. And as a matter of fact I did.
"It says through God all things are possible." I smiled as I said it.
"And do you know of the huge success he has had against so many opponents? He says God is responsible for those wins."
And thus was my trap sprung. I had been following Holyfield for years. He had one of the greatest strength traing coaches ever in 8 time Mr. Olympia Lee Haney. Not to mention Holyfield had a great work ethic, and an even better chin. This got him out of more trouble than his skill ever did. Holyfield was always a counter-puncher with respectable hands, but not devastating. He beat people because he was smart, paid attention to his corner, and he never neglected his training. I mentioned all this to Jesus boy. I even asked why God might allow Holyfield to win against a certified god botherer like George Foreman. I don't remember what he said. And really it doesn't matter. Both sides in almost every sporting event pray. (So how does God decide which team will win? I would be willing to bet that each team has about the same number of believers. So it probably isn't something simple like the number of believers. I've heard people suggest that its the team that works harder. And I wonder...wouldn't they win anyway? Is it the sincerity of belief of the teams?)
Here is what I nailed him with.
"It is interesting that you bring up Holyfeild, who gets by on heart and conditioning. But you have me thinking of a different boxer, one who probably never trained as diligently, but had skill, and ring savy. Muhammad Ali always credited his wins to God. So, was his god pulling him through, or was it just physical conditioning, skill and practice?" I asked him something very like that. And he froze for just a second as if sensing that he had stepped into somthing that was going to make him look just a wee bit silly. But he just plowed on.
"It was his training." He replied.
"Even though he attributed his success to God, or Allah?"
"Yeah, that is a false god. Allah doesn't exist." He said, or something very like that.
"Okay." I replied. And that I decided was that. Conversation over. He had refused to make what I thought was a pretty simple leap. Or he was just incapable. In either event, I was amused by the level of belief necessary to actually say what he had said.