4:35 PM Apr 30, 2006

by Rob Ritchie

The Confederate Yankee comments on yesterday's anti-war marches New York, and issues a challenge:

You know what? I want this war over, too.

I want all the fighting to stop, for our troops to come home. I want to never again fear the sound of jet engines carried upon the wind under bright blue skies. I want to never again turn on the news to see that a suicide bomber in an Tel Aviv or Bali or London or Poughkeepsie make widows and widowers and orphans for his bloodthirsty god. I want to be able to do without these concerns.

Show me how.

Click and read.

1:00 PM Apr 30, 2006

by Rob Ritchie

Is it true that "dissent is the greatest form of patriotism?"

I think that a moment's reflection could come up with a few things that evince greater patriotism than "dissent." Like self sacrifice. Like proposing good social policy. Like actually loving your country. I'll admit that dissenting against poor public policy can be an indication of patriotism. I just don't think it's the "greatest" form.

But Jefferson said this quote, so it's got a great pedigree, right?


What does it mean when so many senior Democrats take refuge in an obvious bit of hooey? Thomas Jefferson would never have said anything half so witless. There is no virtue in dissent per se. When John F. Kennedy said, "We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty" -- and, believe it or not, that's a real quote, though it's hard to imagine any Massachusetts Democrat saying such a thing today -- I could have yelled out, "Hey, screw you, loser." It would have been "dissent," but it wouldn't have been patriotic, and it's certainly not a useful contribution to the debate, any more than that of the University of North Carolina students at Chapel Hill who recently scrawled on the doors of the ROTC armory "F--- OFF!" and "WE WON'T FIGHT YOUR WARS!"

Harper Lee

1:23 PM Apr 28, 2006by Rob Ritchie

Today is the 80th birthday of Harper Lee, the author of one of the finest works of American Literature, To Kill a Mockingbird.

I had no idea that she was still alive. When you are assigned a book in High School, I guess you just assume that the author has been pushing up daisies for fifty years.

The funny thing is that Mrs. Agnostic and I were just discussing this book yesterday evening, without any idea that today would be her birthday.

I would love to create a work of such enduring strength that it became such a powerful part of my culture that people could reference it without even knowing that they were....as she has done.

Happy Birthday, Ms. Lee, and thank you.

11:33 AM Apr 27, 2006

by Rob Ritchie

The Great One visited a local McDonalds and sized up the other patrons:

As we ate I noticed three new patrons, all in their mid-20s: a very attractive African-American woman, model slim without the hauteur; a good-looking trim Asian guy with wrap-around sunglasses, and a grinning handsome Caucausian with a soul patch and a knit cap. My God, it’s a royalty-free stock photo come to life! Really: they looked like the people you see on a website for some new useless internet service, grinning toothily at the camera. Or secret agents from a “Mission: Impossible” movie. They all wore leather jackets, too.

Swear to God: after they’d finished eating they walked, laughing, to the parking lot, hopped on three low-slung motorcycles, and roared off. If I’d seen all three in a McDonald’s commercial, I would have thought it nonsense, but here they were. Maybe this was a commercial. Maybe McDonald’s paid them to roam the country and administer Hip in small piquant slices.

Also, he has pictures from the grocery store. Thrilling....

12:01 PM Apr 26, 2006

by Rob Ritchie

The Expanding Sphere of the Community of Equals® continues.

According to the Project, “Today only members of the species Homo sapiens are considered part of the community of equals. The chimpanzee, the gorilla, and the orangutan are our species’s closest relatives. They possess sufficient mental faculties and emotional life to justify their inclusion in the community of equals.”

While I have nothing to back up my claim, I've been predicting this since college.

Where in the world...

11:10 AM Apr 25, 2006by Rob Ritchie

...oh, I've been around.

Working and playing and staying away from the blog.

This weekend, we went to Ft. Lauderdale to see the Museum of Art's King Tut exhibit, which was very interesting but somewhat underwhelming. I don't know exactly what I was expecting -- no, scotch that, I was expecting mummy cases standing in the corners and monumental staturary, stacked cases crammed with dusty papyrus, disarticulated finger bones rattling around in drawers, British archeologists in pith helmets wandering around absent mindedly, menaced by fez-topped fellows armed with khopesh.

It wasn't that. But, as I say, very interesting.

And, afterward, we wandered around A1A and visited multiple bars. A very enjoyable weekend.

Last week we joined Netflix, and you can imagine with what excitement we awaited our first movies. They arrived two days later, and really, it's kind of like Christmas except it's really not anything like Christmas, if you take my meaning.

What I like about Netflix is that you can choose movies leasurely, with a laxidasical attitude with regard to quality. If I were standing in Blockbuster, with two movies in hand, I would try to discern which of the two were better (or, as in most cases, which sucked less).

With Netflix, that aspect is removed. They all pretty much suck, and since you're getting them all you may as well throw it into the pile and not sweat it.

So, last night we popped in Bewitched, about which we had few expectations and which met them adequately. It is directed by Nora Ephron, who made her fame directing Meg Ryan in exactly these sorts of cutesy, naive roles. Unfortunately, Meg Ryan is no longer Meg Ryan so they got Nicole Kidman to play the Samantha role since her plastic surgury has turned out better, but apparently Nora Ephron told her to emulate Meg Ryan instead of Elizabeth Montgomery, which she does with the skill one would expect from an Oscar winning actress. However, I never really believed that she was a witch; I guess that part of the character wasn't stressed. Apparently, "Be Meg Ryan" was the direction, and Meg Ryan she was.

Will Ferrell is somewhat amusing, but since this wasn't Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy he was mostly just a guy who contrasted with Nicole Kidman's sweet goofiness.

This was obviously a movie cooked up in a producer's office, not in a writer's mind, because there are lots of little cameo parts for "hot" actors.

If you have Netflix, move this one down your queue.

11:17 AM Apr 17, 2006

by Rob Ritchie

Many of my readers travel overseas, and just in time, we have a helpful article on how to behave: The Pretty American

Its best to drive at a sedate 20 mph (or in Europe, 12.5 hectares per hogshead). Try to take as long as possible to order your meals, asking about each and every item on the menu, whether or not it contains any dog, and how it is prepared. Once you receive your meal, taking 5-6 hours minimum to savor the meal (then taking a short nap at your table) is considered about right in any country with electricity. Send all meat and poultry dishes back to the kitchen repeatedly with compliments to the chef and requesting “otra MSG por favor!” to show your “savoir faire” (Fr.; term meaning “classiness” and/or “toilet-trained”)

12:47 PM Apr 14, 2006

by Rob Ritchie

In a good post on the "controversy" concerning "The Judas Gospel", Captain Ed writes:

The problem with Gnosticism is that it denies the universality of the sacrifice. Christians believe that Jesus died for all our sins to set mankind free. If that is true, then Gnosticism directly contradicts it. Rather than having Jesus be the universal sacrifice, Gnosticism would have people believe that the salvation offered by Jesus was intended from the beginning for only a select few, only those in on the Double Plus Secret Plan, if you will. Under this system of belief, the only people who can achieve salvation are those who can successfully decode secret messages in the Gospels and recognize the secret nature of God. It casts Heaven as a convention for conspiracy nuts.

The Gnostic concept of "Secret Knowledge" that leads to salvation was intentionally disputed in the Apostle's Creed with the addition of the words "catholic church" with it's meaning of "universal" and "open to all." Gnostics believed that only those who were clever or lucky enough to join the elite crowd were saved; all the rest were excluded also-rans.

I reject the secret-knowledge path to salvation, both in my faith and in my politics. Which is why I'm the Pious Agnostic.


10:23 AM Apr 14, 2006by Rob Ritchie

The Vatican gets serious:

The Islamic Question

The second piece of macroscopic data is terrorism, especially if one has the patience to follow the thread that extends from July 7, 2005 to 1969, and the airplane from the Rome Fiumicino airport that Leila Khaled hijacked and blew up in Damascus.

1972 was the year of the Olympics in Munich and the massacre that happened there. But before that, on August 16 of that same year, an airplane headed for Tel Aviv was blown up by a record player rigged with explosives that a couple of English tourists had received from two Arabic men who had been romancing them. Thinking about it today brings chills: Al-Qaeda is a new and closely related phenomenon. Courting two women in order to carry out an attack means being deeply steeped in ideology. And it means that there is a connection between ideology and organization – you can’t just pick up an exploding record player at the local hardware store. Unless two Arabs happened to meet two tourists going to Tel Aviv, and then happened to get the idea of carrying out an attack, and again happened to have a friend at the ready to provide them with the surprise package. But already in 1970, six airplanes had been hijacked or blown up on the ground or during flight.

The conditions for carrying out the attack of August 16, 1972, were so complex that they required a plan constructed over years, assisted by excellent propaganda systems and economic and human resources of the highest caliber. People’s sense morality cannot be altered in the blink of an eye. The young women were probably attractive, and there may have been some tenderness in them. Placing this episode side by side with the massacre at the school in Beslan in 2004, with one hundred fifty children killed, with those three days of torment in the gymnasium and the torture of withholding water, with the girls who were first raped and then killed, we see a ferocity at work that is so opposed to the common sense of morality that it must be sustained by an absolute ideological commitment. And such an ideology, which has religious foundations, requires that the theologians themselves weave together the theoretical justifications for terror....

The sixth and final piece of evidence is the feelings of joy expressed by the Islamic population in the public squares, on websites, and even in the press after September 11, 2001, and also after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, which the Kuwait daily “Al’Siyassa” called “a soldier sent by God.” If one comes to the point of rejoicing at horrible things, this joy breaks off natural human solidarity and sharpens the meaning of the expression “infidel dogs.” A massacre of dogs doesn’t affect me; they are not human. This is racism, and one must begin with calling it by its name, and then arrive at the appropriate consequences.


Busy Backson

8:25 PM Apr 12, 2006by Rob Ritchie

I'm still around, just busy at work and at home. I bought a new 19" flat-screen monitor, which looks very nice and takes up so much less desk space than the old boat anchor. I also bought a new LaCie external hard drive to replace my failing Maxtor, but I've had some trouble getting them all to play nicely together. I think the order within the firewire-chain makes a difference, but whadda I know?

Anyway, in my absence, enjoy the many free links over on the right-hand side.

2:07 PM Apr 9, 2006

by Rob Ritchie

At The Volokh Conspiracy, an interesting discussion of Gnostic Heresy and "The Judas Gospel."

Also, praise of Pope Benedict XVI's "muscular" engagement with Islam.

Theologian Father Kollman publishes book on African mission history

3:23 PM Apr 8, 2006by Rob Ritchie

My kinsman has published the book he has been laboring over for many years. I was priveleged to read the preface a few months ago, and I look forward to reading the whole thing.

“Evangelization of Slaves and Catholic Origins in Eastern Africa” by Rev. Paul Kollman, C.S.C., assistant professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame, recently was published by Orbis Books.

An unusual historical study of the Catholic Church in East Africa, Father Kollman’s book examines 19th-century French missionary strategies and how they affected Catholicism throughout Africa.

The missionary priests of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost, or Spiritans, who came to the East African coast during the last half of the 19th century found themselves working in a society heavily influenced by the Islamic sultanate of Zanzibar and decided to concentrate their efforts on making Christian converts among the societies in the African interior. They set about ransoming the slaves brought from the interior regions to the coast, attempted to mold coherent Christian communities from these mostly young and culturally diverse people, and met with mixed success and predictably controversial results.

“I try to take seriously the historical specificity of the Spiritan missionaries who founded the Church in eastern Africa,” Father Kollman said. “I focus on their backgrounds in the seminary and in social service in a 19th-century France that had new forms of social disciplining emerging. I also studied as closely as possible the available records of the Africans’ responses to missionary practices. I discern what might be called resistance of various forms, as well as emerging Catholic identity of various forms, not all of which the missionaries appreciated. The shape of Christianity in Africa today looks very different from that anticipated by missionaries. Yet the missionaries were not inconsequential, and the differing ways that Africans are now Catholic can often be related to missionary practices.”

According to a review by Rev. Aylward Shorter, author of numerous books on the Christian evangelization of Africa, Father Kollman’s book demonstrates “that the origins of Catholicism in Eastern Africa were complex and that they were the outcome of an interaction between differing mindsets and mentalities. Missionary practices that are easy to judge harshly resulted in the Catholic communities which today embody the Church’s mission.”

Father Kollman is a fellow of the Kellogg Institute for International Studies, the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, the Nanovic Institute for European Studies, and is the moderator of the African Working Group at Notre Dame. He teaches and writes on the history of Christianity, with special interests in African Christianity and mission history. He has taught at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago and the Philosophy Centre in Jinja, Uganda. He has published articles and reviews in African Christian Studies, African Studies, and the Journal of Religion, and he serves as president of the Midwest Fellowship of Professors of Mission and book review editor for the Journal of Mission Studies.

11:28 PM Apr 7, 2006

by Rob Ritchie

Lileks was simply too kind.

Rented King King this afternoon and watched it after dinner.

Simply awful. Three-and-a-half hours of pure crep.

I can only assume that Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy was created under the protective and blessing shadow of the Professor himself.

It's sad to think the great director has been reduced to this.

Fat Peter makes good movies.

Thin Peter flings poo!

5:24 PM Apr 6, 2006

by Rob Ritchie

A bit of fiction...or, is it?

The Century War

“You came back in time to lecture me about Thucydides?” I said. “Athens? Syracuse? Sun-Tzu? No offense, Mr. Time Traveler, but who gives a damn?”

The Time Traveler rose so quickly that I flinched back in my chair, but he only refilled his Scotch. This time he refilled my glass as well. “You probably should give a damn” he said softly. “ In 2006, you’ll be ripping and tearing at yourselves so fiercely that your nation – the only one on Earth actually fighting against resurgent caliphate Islam in this long struggle over the very future of civilization – will become so preoccupied with criticizing yourselves and trying to gain short-term political advantage, that you’ll all forget that there’s actually a war for your survival going on. Twenty-five years from now, every man or woman in America who wishes to vote will be required to read Thucydides on this matter. And others as well. And there are tests. If you don’t know some history, you don’t vote . . . much less run for office. America’s vacation from knowing history ends very soon now . . . for you, I mean. And for those few others left alive in the world who are allowed to vote.”

Read it.

Pious gratitude to: lgf


10:12 AM Apr 6, 2006by Rob Ritchie

And now a brief INTERMISSION...

The President of Iran

9:02 PM Apr 4, 2006by Rob Ritchie

I’m sure you’ve seen Mahmoud Ahmadinnerjacket slapping himself silly in this well-worn internet nuttiness: he’s the guy with the microphone and the green thingamajig, not the Mad Mullah that loses his marbles at the beginning.

Pious gratitude to: Spiny Norman c/o Tim Blair


11:16 AM Apr 4, 2006by Rob Ritchie

I haven't seen Peter Jackson's King Kong yet, which is a geek oversight on my part, for three reasons:

  1. Peter Jackson
  2. King Kong
  3. Naomi Watts

But the Great One did, and he wasn't impressed and he isn't kind:

If ever you find yourself in a flimsy gown standing on top of the Empire State Building under the crotch of a giant ape, screaming at the airplanes to leave him alone, your life has taken a wrong turn somewhere. Possibly at the 93rd floor. Possibly at 42nd street. Possibly at the point where you got on the tramp steamer to sail to the Pacific because you met a “movie director” on the street 45 minutes before. It all depends. There were signs along the way. But that standing-on-top-under-the-ape routine is the clincher, hon.

We’re meant to feel bad when Kong dies – and gee, I hope I didn’t ruin anything – because Jackson slows the speed, cuts the sound, lays on the cut-rate Enya, which is supposed to translate to Heart-Piercing Emotional Impact, but all it does is go back in time and ruin the similar approach in Lord of the Rings; if ever I see those movies again, and I see the ol’ slo-mo w/ mournful vague Celt vocalist regretting something or other trick, I will think, well, he pulled this shite with Kong, too, and that was huffed-up twaddle; wonder if this might be, too.

Normally, such criticism of The Man Who Brought Us LOTR (MWBULOTR) would be sacrilege, but I suppose a god cannot blaspheme. RTWT

4:38 PM Apr 3, 2006

by Rob Ritchie

Next time, use dynamite.

'Cause, that'll show 'em.

Daylight Saving Time is teh suk

10:43 PM Apr 2, 2006by Rob Ritchie

I really don't like Daylight Saving Time, which started early this morning and immediately cast its pall over the whole day.

First of all, is it really necessary to set the clocks forward at Two in the freakin' morning? I mean really! I usually am asleep long before then, but no, the Man says I have to do it at 2AM, so I have to either stay up to an unnatural hour, or set my alarm, hope I get all the clocks set, and then try to get back to sleep. It's just stupid.

And there's always one clock you forget to set, and it sits there like a time bomb (ha! ha!), waiting to mess you up in a week, or two weeks, or a month, making you late or early or something (I can't decide).

I know that tomorrow I'll be going to work in the pitty-pitty dark instead of the nice morning light I've become accustomed to. It's Spring, but if feels like I'm being stuck back into Winter again.

The thing I hate the most, though, is the damage it does to my lawn. In Florida, the hottest part of the day is in the evening, and I think it's criminal to add an extra hour at the end of the day, when the sun's beating down, instead of in the morning, when it's cooler. I mean, we're trying to conserve water here, and this ain't helping.

12:25 PM Apr 1, 2006

by Rob Ritchie

Iowahawk presents:

Operation Steel Gazelle: A Smart, Multi-Slide Plan For Toughening American Security with Smartness

HARRY: Well Nancy, let's get the word out to everyone - Democrats have a plan. It is smart, and it is tough, and also, unlike the Bush system, it is planned. So remember, vote Democrat because national security is our number one priority, totally up there with living wage legislation, and opposing so-called "tort reform."

NANCY: Awesome!

HARRY: That's right Nancy. So the next time someone says the Democrats don't have a plan, what do we say?

NANCY: Smart!

HARRY: And if they're still not convinced?

NANCY: Tough!