You've found Father McKenzie. But are you really looking for Eleanor Rigby?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Mark of McKain

'In case their Plantation Bend neighbors had any questions about how Doug and Wendy McKain feel about Barack Obama, the bumper sticker on their pickup could be a clue. But when Chynethia Gragg spotted the sticker -  depicting someone urinating on the name "Obama" - Sugar Land police say, she stopped to express her disapproval, and that's when things got ugly...'

- Eric Hanson, "Sticky Obama issue with these McKains leads to arrest," Houston Chronicle (24 July 2008)

"Sugar Land police"? Did twenty of them pour out of the same crazy car, waving their batons? Did Mayor McCheese turn up wearing his official sash?

And what's this "someone"? Surely Mr Hanson reads The Onion:

'Throughout its 224-year history, America has had many channels of discourse, its citizens expressing themselves by means ranging from pamphlets to protests, newspaper editorials to televised debates. In recent years, however, a significant new avenue of expression has emerged: "Peeing Calvin" decals.
Originally appearing on trucks as a salvo in the age-old Ford-Chevy debate, the popular stickers - which feature a bootlegged image of "Calvin" from the Bill Watterson comic strip Calvin & Hobbes urinating on a rival brand - have expanded to depict Calvin expressing urinary disapproval of a dazzling array of offenders.

Today, at the dawn of a new millennium, the terse but expressive decals are a vital part of our national dialogue, used by millions of Americans to exchange viewpoints and ideas about the important issues of the day.

"I used to devote hours to reading newspapers and magazines in an effort to understand my world and the issues that shape it," said Tuscaloosa, AL, resident Elvin Crosley, who proudly sports decals of Calvin urinating on a Democratic Party donkey and Greenpeace logo in the rear window of his pick-up truck. "But that became a tremendous expenditure of time I simply couldn't afford. These decals make a concise, digestible point in approximately two seconds and reach a far wider audience than I could by writing letters to my local paper or congressman." [...]

The [law]suit was denounced by ACLU president Nadine Strossen, who called it "an unconscionable attempt to gag free speech in America." "Watterson and the Universal Press Syndicate are attempting to block citizens from exercising their constitutional right to freely express ideas and opinions," Strossen said. "Peeing Calvin stickers may not have existed in 1789, but they are precisely the sort of thing the Framers had in mind when authoring the First Amendment."

- "'Peeing Calvin' Decals Now Recognized As Vital Channel Of National Discourse," 36(12) The Onion (5 April 2000)

"Peeing Aquinas", "Peeing Maimonides", "Peeing Ibn-Rushd" and "Peeing Rick Osteen" stickers also available on request for members of the other great living world faiths.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

"Belief system debunked by T-shirt"

Churches around the nation have reported a sharp decline in attendance following the revelation of a dogma-shattering item of clothing. The T-shirt, which bears a humorously blasphemous slogan, is believed to have undermined the core tenets of 2000 years of Christianity. "Our faith has survived persecution, child abuse allegations and the Spanish Inquisition," said Archbishop George Pell. "But this garment has proven too strong for Jesus Christ." 

Even more troubling than the impending dissolution of the church, says Reverend John Buchanan, is the ignominy of its downfall at the hands of a t-shirt saying 'Christianity is stupid, give up.' "I wouldn't mind if decades of research and deep philosophical musing on the numerous inconsistencies of the Bible had eventually made a mockery of the system. But that t-shirt isn't even trying to be witty," he said. "It's enough to shake your faith in the existence of an benevolent God."

Theologians claim this conflict has been a long time coming. "Shirts with jokes like 'I found Jesus: he was hidden behind the couch the whole time' printed on them seemed to be nothing more than harmless ribbing, but such is the way Satan works - hiding sin behind a façade of innocence," says Professor Adam Frankland. "Or at least that's the way he would work, if he was real." 

The shirt's designer, Steve Holkins, has gone into hiding to work on his next range of humorous attire, after receiving death threats from American fundamentalist Christians. In addition, a group of extremist Muslims has warned Holkins to "stay away from Allah puns".  

Some church officials have refused to give up the fight, deciding the best way to combat the T-shirt is with some catchy slogans of their own. "Our 'God Doesn't Believe In Atheists' range is really going to put a rocket up those soulless heathens," said Gerald Bündchen, who also came up with the 'Want To Know My Sign? It's a Cross' advertising campaign. 

This is not the first time a garment has brought down a system - political scientists have found strong parallels between the fall of the Soviet Union and red shirt bearing a picture of Karl Marx with a lampshade on his head, entitled 'Communist Party'.

"A witty slogan is very powerful," said Professor Frankland. "Think of all the world governments toppled by protesters with clever placards and rhyming chants."

- "Belief system debunked by T-shirt," The Chaser (Saturday 8 March 2008)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Still preoccupied with/ 1984

1984... Red Sails in the Sunset reached #1 in the Australian record charts. The Terminator, the original movie, was booming at the box office. And the domestication of the dog continued unabated.

But now, in 2008...

(".... the open box contains the sword from the movie Conan The Barbarian....")

At last I get why, when I was a kid, grown-ups laughed at the idea of Ronald Reagan being elected US President. ("And I suppose Jack Benny is the Secretary of the Treasury?" - George McFly).

"Italy's metal brother"; or, Brown Sabbath

Putting the "priest" into Judas Priest.... Surely Australia's own Religious could match this Italian Dumbledore wannabe. Father Michael Motörhead? The Blue Öyster Cultus? Historically speaking, the Dominicans have a much stronger claim on the words "Iron Maiden" than does some hairy-chested son of a Michigan army sergeant in Fabio hair and tight leather pants. And Ignaz von Döllinger, Hans Küng and Bernard Häring could give most metallista bands a good run for their money in terms of umlauts. Next: the Anglican version - "Deep Purple".

MILAN - Dressed in his traditional brown robe, sandals and twirling the rope around his waist, 62-year old Friar Cesare Bonizzi is no ordinary heavy metal rocker.

But as guitarists around him grind out heavy notes, the long-white-bearded Capuchin, a former missionary in Ivory Coast, has no qualms bobbing his head and shouting lyrics about alcohol, sex, tobacco and life in general into his microphone.

Describing himself as a "preacher-singer," Bonizzi has been singing for over a decade, and last month wowed heavy metal fans at Italy's "Gods of Metal" festival, where he performed with his band Fratello Metallo (Metal Brother) alongside groups such as Iron Maiden.

"About 14-15 years ago, I went to a Metallica concert and fell in love with heavy metal after I saw all the energy there," Bonizzi said after a rehearsal in a Milan recording studio. "I find (heavy metal) the most energetic, the most alive music."

A member of the Catholic Capuchin order in Milan, Bonizzi began singing heavy metal after having first started with what he calls "light music with slight rock influence."

This month punk label Tre Accordi Records, whose Web site offers titles including "Life Stinks of Human Beings" by The Valentines, released his second heavy metal album "Misteri," or mysteries, inspired by a group of southern Italian women who sang about Jesus' mother Mary.

Bonizzi, whose car even has a poster of his album and "preacher-singer" scrawled on the side, is not the only musical monk enjoying fame.

In Austria, Cistercian monks released an album of Gregorian chants on the same record label as Amy Winehouse and Eminem.

The monks were signed up by Universal Music -- beating more than 200 entries from around the world -- after they sent in a YouTube video in response to its advertisement for a choir.

Bonizzi has heard of them and compared heavy metal with Gregorian chant, one of the oldest known forms of written music.

"Gregorian has the same roots as (heavy metal)," he said.

A heavy metal version of the song about Mary features on his album. Bonizzi also sings about how alcohol can warm the heart but damage the liver if drunk in excess, as well as how important sex is to man but has to be done in the right way.

"I saw these 200 grandmothers singing and I told them 'Ladies, you will end up in heavy metal,"' he said referring to the Calabrian women. "My first (rock) CD was light because I mainly sing for grandmothers ... in fact I named the group then

'Metalluminium'. This one is stronger, fuller."

Bonizzi, who names bands such as rockers Megadeth and Dream Theater as favorites, also sings about God and faith but says he has no intention of converting listeners to Christianity.

"I never did it to preach, I did it because music is beautiful ... If I want to convert people, I simply want to convert them to life, to welcome life, to enjoy life," he said.

"I am religious and I am a priest but I am not doing this to convert people to Christ, to faith or the Church, but for them to try to understand life, to be able to enjoy it. Nothing more."

One of 10 children, Bonizzi grew up near the northern Italian town of Cremona. He worked as a hairdresser, welder and in a factory before a brief military stint and then joined the Capuchin order at age 29.

The friar, who performs about 100-150 concerts a year, says heavy metal fans have warmly welcomed him and he distances the music genre from Satanism.

"About 90 percent are very good, they accept (me), the other 10 percent are more extreme," he said.

"They say 'We don't want people from the Church.' There are those who profess to be Satanists but there are only two or three groups that explicitly claim to be so. I do not really know whether they really are, they claim to be."

Bonizzi sings in Italian and Latin, but "Misteri," his 18th CD, is being translated into English. So far, he only performs in Italy, but he says he has received invitations to put on shows in Japan and Brazil: "I would like to do a world tour."

Unsurprisingly, his singing has attracted much attention. At the "Gods of Metal" festival, fans were screaming his name even before he began performing.

"We do not understand what has happened. It's not as if we had done any publicity, the CD wasn't even out yet. I've sung three times at 'Gods of Metal' already," he said. "I've been doing this for 10 years, and it's only really now that it has taken off."

The friar, who was even given a "heavy metal rosary" by a non-believer fan, performs with three other guitarists and a drummer, who are much younger than him.

"At first I was a bit skeptical about this project because I thought it was weird to have a mix of heavy metal and a Capuchin friar," said 38 year-old guitarist Cesare Zanotti.
"But after two minutes with him, you forget he is a friar -- his age -- you forget everything and he becomes a member of the group. He gave me more energy than bandmates who are my age or younger are able to. When you play with him, there are smiles and a lot of energy which is fundamental for heavy metal."

The Vatican has not voiced an opinion on Bonizzi's singing but he says his superiors have not said anything negative to him about it. He says his fellow Capuchin friars accept what he does, although he does not play for them: "I could sing this (heavy metal), but they would say it's too loud."

- Reuters, "He ain't heavy... Italy's metal brother: Capuchin monk rocks out with festival performances, CDs, possible tour", MSNBC (17 July 2008)

Friday, July 18, 2008

"... Kombeart to zee CHEENIUS of... DOKTOR KOLOSSUS! Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!"

NEW YORK - Determined to circumvent Justice Department action forestalling the release of his powerful new operating system, Microsoft CEO and evil genius Bill Gates dropped Windows 98, coded into liquid form, into New York City's water supply sometime this past weekend.
"Excellent," said Gates, watching his scheme unfold on a 30-foot video screen deep within Microsoft's Redmond, WA, compound. "Everything is going exactly according to plan."
Doctors say the risk to New Yorkers who consume Windows-tainted water is considerable. "As little as three ounces of water can carry the entire Windows 98 installer file into the drinker's cerebral cortex," said Dr. Terry Braithwaite of New York's Mt. Sinai Hospital. "Once this insidious operating system enters a person's brain, it may take years to fully rebuild his or her original neurological programming, and even then, old files can remain in their memories for years."
According to New York water commissioner Glenn Portnoy, the Susquehanna and Catskill reservoirs were contaminated with the software in question late Saturday night, rendering 100 percent of the city's taps Windows-compatible only. Those living in any of the city's five boroughs, Portnoy said, are now at risk of having the system installed in their bodies by drinking, cooking with, or even showering with New York City water.
"Residents of New York!" said Gates in a televised address early Monday morning. "Some of your neighbors, your friends, your own family members have not yet joined us in operating within our glorious system. Why not? Is something affecting their judgment? Are they perhaps... thirsty?"
"Water," Gates added. "The source of all life."
Gates then emitted a sinister, high-pitched laugh and faded out, returning televisions across New York to their regular programming with the push of a button.
Justice Department officials said they plan to come down hard on the software giant for its latest controversial move. "Not only is tampering with a major metropolitan area's water supply illegal," U.S. attorney Joel Klein said, "but mass, involuntary bio-installation of operating-system software is a gross violation of federal antitrust law."

Klein said Microsoft has also taken steps to prevent rival Netscape from placing its web browser in New York's reservoirs, an act he said may constitute a further illegal monopolistic trade practice. If found guilty of dispatching winged Microsoft henchmen to block Netscape's access to the reservoirs, Microsoft may face fines of up to $670 million.
Gates refused to respond to the allegations, but spoke directly to the people of New York via Microsoft's Windows 98 brainwave transmitter, saying, "Command priority reformat unit sub-Klein-delete//DELETE: A-Priority." Klein's whereabouts are currently unknown.
Despite Microsoft's tainting of their water supply, New Yorkers seem relatively unfazed.
"There is nothing wrong with having Windows 98 in my body," said a glassy-eyed Queens woman identifying herself as "7398473289348390-98.01." "Windows 98 is good. Where do I want to go today, O Gateslord?"
Added the woman: "Invalid sector error Type-41."
-  "Evil Genius Gates Drops Windows 98 Into NYC Water Supply," 33(21) The Onion (3 June 1998)

A disgruntled computer engineer has been sitting in a prison cell for four days after locking out everyone but himself from a city computer system.
Terry Childs is accused of tampering with San Francisco's new computer network to give himself exclusive access. He has refused to hand over the password and is being held on $5 million bail while officials try to crack his code.
The Department of Technology employee, 43, allegedly created a secret password to the city government's data network. The multimillion-dollar network stores records such as officials' e-mails, city payroll files, confidential law enforcement documents and jail bookings....
The network administrator, who lives in Pittsburg, has been working for the Department of Technology for five years and has a basic salary of just over $126,000. Police said that Mr Childs had recently been disciplined at work. Reports suggest that officials then discovered that Mr Childs had put together a tracing system to monitor what other administrators were saying and doing in relation to his disciplinary case.
Last weekend he allegedly locked out all administrators except himself. Before his arrest he gave pass codes to police, but they did not work. "They weren't able to do it," an official said. "This was kind of his insurance policy."
It was feared that although Mr Childs is in jail, he may have enabled someone else to access the system by telephone or other electronic device and order the destruction of hundreds of thousands of sensitive documents....
He said that Mr Childs had been a highly regarded member of staff but was now a "rogue employee that got a bit maniacal"....

- Mike Harvey, "'Maniacal' computer engineer Terry Childs takes city network hostage, " Times Online (17 July 2008)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Cinematic S[ci-]F[i]. From JJ Adams to JJ Abrams

Two mashes involving Nathan Fillion (or, as he is known to those who practice the Latin or Western Rite of Cathodoxy, Natham Phillium).


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

First "The Glass House", now the BB House; Or, killeen the aspirations of the Young People of Australia

Yes, yes, Mr Jonathon. There'll now be a huge hole in the 16-24s' understanding of the big issues in our world...

The axing of Big Brother will deny its young audience exposure to a range of social issues, according to a former housemate. Big Brother 2005 runner-up Tim Brunero says that despite much of the show being based on "titillation", it still provokes valuable discussion on serious topics.
"From Merlin's 'free the refugees' campaign, to racism, bullying, homosexuality, citizenship, sexism and harassment, it's all been covered," Brunero says. "Every time the show did that, it was challenging people to think about something different. People who watch Big Brother don't watch Kerry O'Brien on the ABC ... it's added a forum where people can explore these important ideas." [...]
"The ripples go further than just the show," Brunero says. "Breakfast radio is going to lose about a fifth of their talking points. Gossip columns, magazines and websites are going to lose a great chunk of their content, and the men's magazines are going to lose half of their pin-up girls." But the vast majority of NineMSN readers who voted in a poll yesterday said they were glad to see the back of Big Brother. More than 115,000 people said they were glad the show had been axed, while fewer than 20,000 people wanted it to continue.

- AAP, "Big Brother's demise 'will hurt young viewers'," NineMSN News (Tuesday 15 July 2008)

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

One workday per wife...

"Utah will be the first American state to embrace the four-day working week, in a bid to reduce the state's energy consumption and fuel costs."

Hmm. Presumably, with the Garden of Eden located in Missouri instead of Mesopotamia, the relevant deity needed two fewer work days...

Friday, July 04, 2008

Yglesias, Ecclesias, and Aliens

"I was watching Star Wars IV: A New Hope last night on television, and somehow it occurred to me for the first time that a new generation who watches the six movie cycle starting with The Phantom Menace is going to wind up with a very different perception of the story than the original audience got. This is true in terms of a few big plot points, like that whole thing about Darth Vader being Luke's father, but also in terms of some broader atmospheric points. The beginning [of] A New Hope is cloaked in a sense of mystery. For all we know old Ben Kenobi really is just a crazy old man and Han Solo's skepticism about "hokey religions" is justified. The audience rides along with Luke throughout the film, learning to trust in the power of the Force. New audiences won't have that experience, they'll already know much much more than Luke does about the Jedi, the Empire, the Skywalker clan, etc."

- Matthew Yglesias, "Star Wars In Order" (3 July 2008), .

(One reader references this:

"Gay groups say police are unnecessarily scrutinising them over activities planned for Sydney's World Youth Day, as civil libertarians rile at new police powers for this month's week-long event. Lapsed Catholic Luke Roberts is a homosexual activist and performer who goes by the stage name Pope Alice, a character best described as a celestial being of indeterminate gender. Along with Pope Benedict, Pope Alice will also be in Sydney during World Youth Day, hosting a "kiss-in" along Oxford Street in Darlinghurst. ..."

- "Police investigate WYD queer kiss-in", ABC News (Friday 4 July 2008),