Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Artist of the Week...Zero 7.

I. Their story: From Britain, these two blokes combine mellow grooves with various melodic voices that result in a cornucopia of listening pleasure. In all seriousness, they are really...really good. The thing, for me, that makes them unique and fun is that they utilize different vocal artists giving the feeling of a soundtrack on each album...but with the consistency one looks for in a talented artist....somewhat like the 90's group Everything But The Girl....but much better. Theirs is the kind of music that you could use as background for a nice evening with someone special...or a nice solitary drive.
II. My story: I was first introduced to these guys a couple of years ago by the grand testudineous(by the way, thanks.). Always in search of music that captures without being obsequious, I was incredibly pleased. I've gone through a process of discovery, as I do with most bands that initially intrigue... and the journey has been worth it so far. Few groups/artists deliver on a consistent basis...from album to album...but these guys do. I've included a couple videos of songs that give a general representation of the disparate sounds of the band...and two of my favorites. Ladies and gentlemen...Zero 7.


Throw It All Away:

Topics in the news...and on my mind

I. Financial markets and China. Yesterday, the world's financial markets were rocked by an unexpected downturn. There is much that could be said, including much speculation(ha), but I want to focus on the emerging banking market in China...and its global effects. Having lived, and banked, in China, I am acutely aware of the innate and pragmatic deficiencies found in the Chinese banking industry. In short, there is little to no regulation of loans... and as China slowly enters the global economic market, many of these faulty/speculated loans could have an extremely negative effect for all other markets. Meaning, existing investment in China's infrastructure could collapse...and no one really knows, if this were to happen, what the actual damage would be. In fact, that is one of the biggest one knows much, with regards to specifics, about the insular Chinese financial markets. For more on this important subject, check out this good little article. Hat tip: Instapundit.

II. Catch an Illegal. Apparently, the College Republicans are hosting catch the illegal races on campuses nationwide. Naturally, the Dems and others are apoplectic about these, by all accounts, very provocative stunts...and are calling for the RNC to force them to halt the they are perceived to be racist and insensitive. I have a couple of thoughts here:
a. Racist and Insensitive. This really burns me up. First, these 'races' are not they are not catch the Mexican or catch the Filipino races, or such. The focus is on illegal immigration...with the first word in the phrase as the literary magnifier. Second...and this really makes me angry...every time someone throws out the racism charge for ridiculous political reasons it depreciates the actual and real calls of racism. Make no mistake, there is still a palpable problem of race in this country. Everyday, there are people that have actual cause to point out that they are being judged and restricted because of the physical reflection of their birth and heritage. We, as Americans, carry the weight of past decisions, and need to address our historically unique problem of race courageously and honestly. The folks that use the 'race card' as a political and rhetorical tool do neither...and add to the problem of racial confusion and disunity in this country.
b. The RNC. What is the purpose of calling on the RNC to halt these things? As they absolutely have no authority over the College Republicans, what could it be? My guess is that it is a stunt by Dems to associate national Republicans with racism. I now refer you back to point a.

III. Give an Illegal a credit card. Bank of America has begun a program that gives credit cards to people in the United States without social security cards. Meaning, if I applied for this card(let's say it has a better interest rate than the ones I currently have), I would be ineligible...because I am a legal resident and have all of my documents. I also have a sneaking suspicion that if an illegal Polish or Somali immigrant applied, he or she would be declined.

IV. Bonnie and...the other Bonnie? Two sixteen year old girls...well, assumed to be around this age...robbed a Bank of America in ATL. last night. Where are the parents....and what the heck is going on this country?

V. HPV and me. That would be the Human STD that causes, among other things, genital warts and cervical cancer....and, no, I don't have it. According to this study, 1/4 of girls/women in the U.S. between the ages of 14-59 have HPV. Let me say that again...1 out of every 4. I have a number of thoughts...most not acceptable for public consumption...but:
a. god.
b. Maybe this is why those girls had to rob the bank....they needed discreet money for their HPV meds.

VI. Language as a tool. Just think...Orwell wrote 1948, or so. As prescient as ever.

VII. Al Gore and his energetic energy policy. Gore won an Oscar for his global warming film. He pleads with the world to reduce energy order to avoid cataclysmic disaster...and his utility bill is more than most people, on average, make in a month. I'm amazed...yet, not surprised. Really, I'm just at a loss for words.

VIII. Prince Harry and Iraq. There is a concerned debate in Britain right now as to whether Prince Harry should be sent to Iraq with his Battalion...and possibly see military engagement. Most say no, while he says there is no way he would let his group go without him. Here is his quote, "There's no way I'm going to put myself through Sandhurst and then sit on my arse back home while my boys are out fighting for their country," he said in an interview to mark his 21st birthday. "That may sound very patriotic, but it's true." I really admire someone willing to excuse privilege in favor of duty and honor. Historically, there is a precedent for this, as he isn't first-in-line for the crown, and is probably looking for personal legitimacy as a Prince. Yet, it says something about Britain that he has to excuse anything that might 'sound' patriotic. If a Prince can't be patriotic, who can?

IX. Turkish Elections. In short, the sick man of Europe is set to have elections, and it is the first time that Parliament and the Presidency will be decided in the same year. This is the ten year anniversary of the secular movement in Turkey, and some suspect that she is set to go the way of an Islamist regime. Not good news.

X. Cheney assassination attempt. Naturally, this is news anyway...but there has been much discussion on the web about the liberal reaction to it on websites. In general, many on the left expressed disappointment that the attempt failed. Then, when the bloggers on the right pointed this out, some on the left claimed that this kind of vitriol isn't representative of liberals and their agenda. Read more here.

XI. Most Ridiculous Headline of the Day:
GEFFEN EFFECT? Blacks Shift To Obama, Poll Finds...

It may be true that African-Americans are moving to Obama...but is it really an effect of that squabble between Geffen and the Clintons? In a My guess is that a majority of Black Americans don't even know who Geffen is...much less care about what he thinks. In fact, most Americans don't know who he is...and don't think anything about what he thinks. Ridiculous.

Friday, February 23, 2007

We begin, again....

Our esteemed co-blogger Testudineous recently proffered the idea that we resume our dialogue from that wonderful summer of that was steeped in philosophical conjecture, historical reflection, and educational necessity. The initial step was to revisit Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling, effectively rekindling that feeling of academic growth and thoughtful expansion. In fact, as I indicated in the very first post , this place...this little area of the one that is to build community through dialogue, and I can think of no better way to serve this purpose than Testud put it...begin again. You will find a list of authors/works that we will visit over the next year in the left column of the blog. Those included are there as an extension of the original list from 2000...with a couple of additions thrown in. This list isn't exhaustive, but is one that will give a broad and specific look at various areas of thought and word that have shaped current thinking and action. The next author/work that we will investigate is Hegel's Philosophy of is long and dense, but we'll get through it as best we can. I want to emphasize and make clear that this isn't a task of obligation. Those who are interested in participating can...the idea here is growth through reflection and dialogue...and the process should be one of joy and casual exploration. So....we begin, stop Hegel....with the deadline for a post set for March 15. Enjoy.

Sweet 16 of Love....Championship Round.

The votes have been cast, counted, and recorded. Here is the inaugural Championship match-up in the 2007 Sweet 16 of Love....and a brief explanation of the voting trends:

1. Sophia Loren v. Salma Hayek.

I. Loren won by a landslide....think Reagan in 1984...and there was never any doubt. It isn't easy to see Audrey Hepburn get drubbed...yet, I find solace in that she will be back as a definite contender in future tourneys.

II. Wow. I never imagined that Johansson would cause such fissures in the voting public...but, did she ever. Invariably, in posted comments and others, Johansson was the subject most discussed. Hayek...won by one vote...and, no was the last vote cast. There is no doubt that Johansson has established herself as a future contender for the crown.

III. Loren V. Hayek. This is it. These buxom beauties are exotic, dynamic, and sultry. Each have established careers... and have broken hearts across the globe. Either would be good conversation....or perfect when conversation isn't necessary. Voting begins now, and will end on Tuesday...with the announcement shortly after. Ladies and gentlemen...your 2007 Sweet 16 of Love Champion is....

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Artist of the Week....Mr. Elliott Smith


1. Elliott Smith has been one of my favorite artists from the moment I heard him. I'm a sucker for melancholic melodies...and he delivers without ceasing. To this, he adds a really really light voice..think modern Chet Baker...with a poet's heart. In sum, a true gift.
2. I was introduced to Smith, while studying in England. A girl I had met, and spent time with, played him one night, and I was hooked. That song was Coming Up Roses... and to this day it is my favorite of his songs....probably due to sentimental value. His big rise to fame came on the heels of his contributions to the Good Will Hunting soundtrack(which is a good album), but it is Either/Or and other singular works that really show his abilities. This said, any song or album is worth the money and time spent.
3. Sadly, Smith committed suicide in the age of 34. There was always a sense of pain, longing, and yearning in his music... but it is always shocking when that pain is revealed as an honest pain... the kind that leads a person to suicide. I am grateful for the music he gave, but miss the music that could've been... and will never be. The following is a video for Angeles..a song on Either/Or...I chose it for a number of reasons...not the least of which is that it is representative of most of his work. R.I.P.... E.S.

Due to multiple requests, here is the video for Coming Up Roses...enjoy.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

You'll Never Walk Alone

When you walk through a storm hold your head up high And don't be afraid of the dark. At the end of a storm is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark. Walk on through the wind, Walk on through the rain,
Tho' your dreams be tossed and blown.
Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart And you'll never walk alone,You'll never, ever walk alone. Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart
And you'll never walk alone, You'll never, ever walk alone.

A gorgeous sight and sound: The KOP singing, rather tearfully, You'll Never Walk Alone

One cannot miss the opportunity to share one of the greatest phenomena in sports. Just before, and during, the players' entry onto the pitch, the Liverpool faithful join voices to proclaim the fraternal hymn and club slogan "You'll Never Walk Alone."

The Lads proved again today that LFC can never be discounted. Yet many in the football media did just that!

Liverpool FC 2-1 FC Barcelona

Since the Reds added to their storied European Cup history today with a comeback win, It is only right to add this. Take some time, shed a tear, if you don't get the least bit goose-pimply...well, find the nearest defibrillator.

Are You Ready for Some Football?

For many of us, February is the absolute nadir of professional sports. The NFL season is over, and March Madness is, well...a month away. (The Daytona 500 may bridge this gap for some. NASCAR fans, please feel free to disregard this post.) There is, however, one last hope, but we must look across the pond...look to the UEFA Champions League Round of 16. Day One of the first leg of this tournament took place today (February 20). The Dutch side, PSV Eindhoven upset Arsenal, 1-0. Real Madrid beat Bayern München 3-2. Manchester United dispatched Lille, 1-0. And Celtic was able to hold on for a 0-0 draw at AC Milan. (I'm sure three of these scores do not appeal to the average American sports fan in the least.) For those unfamiliar with the Champions League, the Round of 16 is set up thus: Each team plays another in two legs, one match at home and one away. The winner has the greater aggregate score, and moves on to the quarterfinals. The loser goes home. Apart from today's Real Madrid-Bayern München match, the real heavyweights are all featured in tomorrow's matches (February 21). Roma hosts Lyon, and Valencia plays at Inter Milan. But the two matches everyone will be affixed to are:

Chelsea at FC Porto


Liverpool at Barcelona

Chelsea is analogous to the New York Yankees of the English Premier League, their Russian oil oligarch owner buying up all of the best talent, including the two best African players in the world, some of the best British talents, and the foremost German and Ukrainian footballers. Liverpool vs. Barcelona is an incredible matchup, and I have no idea how to predict the outcome of their first match. It should be exciting. So, if you have the opportunity to take a long, late lunch tomorrow, I recommend heading down to your favorite watering hole, grabbing a pint or two, and enjoying world-class football. The perfect antidote to the mid-winter sporting void.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Calvin and me.

I have, over the last year, been contemplating the "five points " of Calvinism, known by the acronym "TULIP". While I am sure the main contributors here are familiar with this terminology, some of our other readers may want some explanation.

TULIP stands for:

The purpose of this is to explore Calvinism, as I am not, at this point, a Calvinist. So, these are just my crude, brief explanations.

T - Total Depravity - In his natural state, apart from the work of God in his life, man is totally depraved and sinful in that anything he does, whether devious or philanthropic, is for his glory and not God's and is, therefore, sinful. Because of this, man, in his natural state, is completely unable to trust Christ as the entire bend of his soul is for his own glorification and, therefore, must have his own nature intervened upon by an extrinsic agent in order to create in him the conditions necessary for placing his faith in Christ.

U - Unconditional Election - The election of the saints (those who are to be saved) is based upon no merit or condition met by the individual.

L - Limited Atonement - Christ's work of atonement is only for the elect. Meaning that, though His desire is for all to be saved, the atoning work of His death and resurrection will only be effectual for those who are of the elect because it can only be effected in those who will actually convert.

I - Irresistible Grace - God's grace is irresistible. Not that the work of God's grace cannot be resisted, but the Holy Spirit has the power to overcome resistance and make grace irresistible. The work of Irresistible Grace is necessary for man's salvation as he is totally depraved and unable to prepare and secure it for himself.

P - Perseverance of the Saints - God's grace will be effected in the life of the believer, and will work to preserve his Salvation, though perhaps not all at once.

Saying that I've been contemplating Calvinism implies that I am not of the Calvinist persuasion, and I am not. My upbringing in the church springs from a more Arminian view of the process of Salvation, and I have always been taught to think in these terms, but over the past two years, as some of you well know, I've developed (or should I say Grace has developed in me) a drive to not only affirm what I believe about God but to also discover the basis (or lack thereof) for my personal theology. After all, one cannot truly love God if one does not truly know the God he desires to love. So in keeping with the process of spiritual growth, my attempt to address my often errant desires has led me to a need to address my thinking about them and how they affect my relationship with God...Hence, a need to address my beliefs about Salvation.

At this point, I realized that, like many Christians, I have always tossed views not in keeping with my inherited theological structure and consequently began to rethink my personal soteriology. Eventually, I found myself pouring over numerous written and spoken works that shed light and revelation on what it means to be a Christian that I never previously had and greatly needed. To my surprise, a stark majority of their authors/speakers are/were Calvinists. So this sparked this question in me:

If all these people have such an incredible understanding of what it means to be truly converted, can I just dismiss what they would say about the process of conversion itself?

The answer for me

So, I've been contemplating Calvinism and am at an impasse which begins and ends at "Total Depravity".

I find it easy to dismiss the other four points, but in my attempts to dismiss the Calvinist view of Salvation altogether, I have found "Total Depravity" (T.D.) not so dismissive. The idea that man, in and of himself, cannot begin or complete the process of conversion as a limitation of his fallen nature to me is more accurate a description of fallen man than I have found elsewhere. I have tossed and wrestled and mulled this idea for quite a while now and cannot divest myself of what is says about me. I would say that it is inarguable that the things of God are foreign to us in our natural state. The Gospel is as foolishness to all of us. I would also have to say that my acceptance of the Gospel cannot be the work of my own understanding as everything I inherently pursue places as its standard my gratification. I believe that original sin is, and we are born as enemies of God. Not to say that I believe that God views every one born as His enemy, but rather that we are born of a nature hostile to God and to truth.

So, I find myself accepting this understanding of man's condition, but the problem lies in its application because though, at the outset, I can dismiss the other four points, the acceptance of this point demands the acceptance of the rest. I am forced, in light of the conclusion/impasse that I have come to, to:

1. If man is totally depraved, then the work of his Salvation must be the result of an extrinsic agent at work against his nature...i.e. Irresistible Grace.

2. If God's grace is responsible for my initial act of faith, then the work of grace is a work done of God and not of man. If this is the case, given that some are saved and some are not, then the atoning work of Christ must, in the final analysis, only be effectual in a limited sense as only a limited number are subject to the grace which leads to faith...i.e. Limited Atonement

3. If Christ's work of atonement is effectually limited to only those whom grace prevails upon and saving grace is a work of God and not of man, then the idea of the "elect" is valid and cannot be based on any merit of man as it is a work of God...i.e. Unconditional election.

4. If my choosing Christ is not possible in and of myself, and I must have the work of God's grace to draw me unto Salvation, then the perseverance of my desire for God must be the work of Grace and therefore left to God to perfect.

So, my problem is not with T.D., yet it is T.D.. I cannot dismiss this principle as it seems a truer assessment of man's condition than anything else. However, if I accept it, then my dismissal of the other four points falls like dominoes.

I, of course, understand the implications in such as it relates to the function of free will in man which also is something of which I cannot let go. This is precisely my dilemma.

This is where I leave you all as this is where I am left.

Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated


Eminent Domain, or the dangers of liberal judicial activism.

There are many issues today that define, divide, and delineate the current political landscape. For years, issues like abortion and affirmative action have caused people to take sides, with newer issues like gay marriage and the war in Iraq strengthening this separation along political and philosophical lines. Yet, there is one issue that isn't as politically sexy, and therefore, doesn't get as much attention...from the media or the public....this is the issue of eminent domain through judicial activism. Now, it is my opinion that many of the aforementioned problems have been created by an overly active and political judiciary, but this will be left for another post. Here, I want to discuss one of the most recent tentacles to reach forth from the judicial activist beast... that of eminent domain. Here is a brief exposition of my thoughts on the matter:

1. History and definition. A concise definition of eminent domain(E.D.) is...Right of a government entity to seize private property for the purpose of constructing a public facility. Federal, state, and local governments can seize people's homes under eminent domain laws as long as the homeowner is compensated at fair market value. Some public projects that may necessitate such Condemnation include highways, hospitals, schools, parks, or government office buildings. In short, we've seen a rise recently in local and state governments claiming eminent domain to obtain private property(usually houses) so that a shopping mall, or some other 'economically advantaged' edifice, can be built. While the idea behind E.D. isn't a new one, the rapid and continual employment of the idea...and the current method of employment...have turned heads in the legal community for a couple of years now. For more information regarding previous cases that lead to the Supreme Court's treatment look here.

2. Kelo v. City of New London. The Kelo case is the definitive precedent setting case, as it is the most recent and comprehensive treatment of the issue by the Supreme Court. The basic facts of the case are fairly representative of the 'average' E.D. case....New London had fallen on hard times economically. In 1998, Pfizer showed interest in building a plant near town, and New London saw this as an opportunity for growth and economic revival. To encourage Pfizer, the city developed a plan to 'expropriate' private property from the Fort Trumbull neighborhood in order to build a resource facility to entertain and house Pfizer employees. In all, 15 houses out of 115, and their occupants, would be displaced...against their will. You see, they didn't want to sell, but were forced to under the guise of E.D. and public benefit. The occupants sued and lost. They appealed to the Supreme Court of Connecticut ....and lost. They, then, appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court....and lost.....forcing them to take what compensation that the government decided was 'appropriate'.

3. Philosophical objections. There are many for me...but, really, they all stem from the same overriding problem....that of a government confiscating private property and shielding itself from the owners of said property by using an unelected and politically active judiciary.

A. Confiscation of private property. The basic tenet for capitalism, democracy, and freedom is individual property rights. From Hobbes to Locke...Harrington to Hume....there is an intellectual lineage pointing to the relational, and causal, leap from property rights to liberty. There is no...and I mean no...more important element to freedom and liberty from tyranny of the state than that of property rights of the individual. The mere idea of a government arbitrarily confiscating the private property of its citizens..for the 'public good' is nothing short of a betrayal of the philosophies of democracy and freedom, and is communism in practice and effort. In fact, the textbook definition of communism is... A theoretical economic system characterized by the collective ownership of property and by the organization of labor for the common advantage of all members.
B. Protection coming from an unelected judiciary. Not only is it egregiously offensive to the philosophy of liberty to confiscate personal property, but to do so under the protective umbrella of a politically active...and unelected...judicial branch is simply repulsive. In this process, one is not just deprived of property due him, but also of any recourse for the action. This by definition is... tyranny.

4. Practical objections. Here are just a few:

A. Public 'use' or public 'purpose'. The Takings Clause found in the 5Th Amendment allows for the "taking of private property by the government for public use...with appropriate compensation...". Yet, in 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court redefined this statement to mean 'public purpose'. In effect, this removed a necessary component of the clause...that a demonstrable need be strictly definable terms...i.e. building a specific take private property. We can look to Kelo for an example of the effects of this kind of interpretation....which leads me to....

B. Taxes. The current interpretation of the Takings Clause by activist judges results in a decision like Kelo. Meaning, the city of New London had a tax flow problem, and found a way to change confiscating the personal property of its citizens. I'm not as well versed in these types of decisions as others, but to my knowledge, under the previous, or stricter, interpretation, taxes wouldn't have satisfied the legal definition of 'public use' the onus would be on the government to show exactly how the money was going to be put to use. Under the 'public purpose' interpretation, though, there is no need for the government to show any of this...which is perfect, as government agencies have no idea where most of our taxes actually go...and, if they do, are loathe to disclose this information. Simply, taxes are generally not for public use specifically....they are gathered for the continuance of whatever government policy or project needs funding at that time...and this changes often. Now, there may be some benefit for the public...but the fact is that with taxes constricted... government has to constrict....when taxes are expanded...government is able to grow. What we have here is an example of the government instituting a policy for its own growth...on the backs of its citizens.

C. The idea of compensation. My gripe is very simple....that the government is able to come in and take your property....and they are the ones that decide what is 'just compensation'. Allow me to give you a brief example. A close relative of mine recently had the city/county come to him and decide that a storm drain needed to be built on his property and claimed eminent domain. In short, they offered compensation, but the number they came back with was 20% of the appraisal that he received from three independent parties/appraisers(this is important as the number is based on how much the drain will reduce the overall value of his property). This relative fought the city/county in court and won. When speaking with him about this, he was reflecting on this ridiculous experience and said, " know, the bad thing is that if I didn't have the money and time to hire an attorney and fight them...I would've had to accept their offer....I bet people are getting cheated all over the place...". Unfortunately, he is right.

5. Final thoughts. The current use of eminent domain as a tool for the government to expand its tax base and/or investment potential is not just constitutionally wrong , but is contrary to the very idea of individual liberty. We, as citizens, and individuals, in a larger community, need to be more vocal about this issue and supportive of others who are going through this. The government knows that, individually, people are weak and unable to fight a lawsuit with the force and might of government behind it. Simply, if we as citizens ignore this, and those who promulgate this type of governance, we will suffer.
Yet, there is a larger issue here. None of this would be possible without the politically active gavel of the liberal Left. In the Kelo case, the government won with a 5-4 majority...and one doesn't have to strain to figure out which judges sided with the idea of government seizure of private property. Those who believe and govern as if government itself is the primary solution to problems, and is, therefore, serving a 'higher purpose', are the very ones that believe that this policy is morally right. The larger philosophical and political idea here is that of socialism... to the end that individual rights be curbed for 'a greater good'. This is unacceptable, and should be exposed for what it is at every turn....tyranny.

* please excuse the 'e.d.'abbreviation...there was no way around it.

The Holy Father says...It's about what's natural man!

In this period of spiritual rot and post-modern dispare it is time to get back to what is natural.


In a speech he gave Monday, that was released by the Vatican on Tuesday, Pope Benedict, said that "No law made by man can overturn that of the Creator without dramatically affecting society in its very foundation. To forget this would mean to weaken the family, to penalize children and to make the future of society precarious."
His words were a clear reference to the passage last week of a bill by Italy’s Council of Ministers that, if it becomes law, would grant equal rights to de facto couples, including heterosexual and same sex couples.
The Pope said when the natural law is not respected, society falls victim to ethical relativism that harms individuals, especially families. He was addressing participants on the opening day of a three-day international conference on “The Natural Moral Law, Problems and Perspectives,” organized by the Pontifical Lateran University.
"Awareness of natural law is inscribed in our very being," he said. "This law is the true guarantee offered to everyone to be able to live freely and in dignity. …(It) has rules that supersede all human laws (and) does not allow for derogations by anyone." In fact, the Pope pointed out, "every legal order - internal or international - draws its ultimate legitimacy from being rooted in natural law."
He said the "concrete applications of the natural law" include protecting human life from conception to its natural end, and protecting the institution of marriage between a man and a woman. Life, said Benedict, "is not man’s property but the free gift of God." Any attack on this vision, he said, is "juridical positivism," where private interests become rights. Without this vision, he said, the weak are at the mercy of the strong. Without this vision, legislation becomes a series of compromises, and science and technology leaves humans open to manipulation, with "devastating results for all."

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Sweet 16 of Love....down to 4.

Again, the votes have been cast, counted, and recorded. As the competition gets stiffer, the margins of victory get closer. Here are the Final Four match-ups...along with a brief explanation:

1. Sophia Loren v. Audrey Hepburn. Both won easily, but Loren definitely won with a bigger lead. Still, both have their followers and should be represented well.

2. Salma Hayek v. Scarlett Johansson. Hayek barely won out over an opinion...Raquel Welch. Johansson destroyed Carrera and should now be considered a front runner for the entire thing. The most surprising element from this last round of voting is found here...with a good majority of females voting for Johansson.

Votes should be in by decide the championship match.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

In my ears, eyes, mind and soul....

Here are some things/people that have my attention this week:

1. Movies:
a. Intolerable Cruelty. The Coen Brothers do a romantic can it fail to amuse? Simply, it doesn't. After watching O Brother, Where Art Thou?...the chance to see these guys team up with Clooney again was something not to be missed. In's quirky, it has chemistry(Clooney and Zeta Jones), it has a good script, and a fantastic supporting cast. This is the kind of movie that guys can turn to when the ladies require something romantic...and the guy can't stomach another The Wedding Planner.
b. The Deer Hunter. Holy crap....what a movie. I bought it about four years ago, but never managed to watch it. So, looking for something in my possession that I hadn't seen recently, I came across it the other day and threw it in. This is an amazingly dark movie from the outset...which, I figured would be the case... as any movie from 1978 treating the Viet Nam War would be...but I was still surprised. We don't actually get to Viet Nam until about 1 hr. into the movie, with this time given to a wedding reception....effectively laying the groundwork for the rest of the film. I'm not going to give any spoilers, but will say this about it:
- the cast...DeNiro, C. Walken, Fredo from The Godfather, M. Streep, J. Savage...nothing else needs to be said.
- I now know how Walken became a star so early in his career.
- While taxing..and long...this is a very good movie.

2. Book: C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity. This work is one that I found at a crucial point in my life, both academically and personally. As I am a person who professes the Christian faith, and who fails miserably at it, it is always good to be reminded that failure is part of the struggle and journey. For me, the part that always speaks loudly is the chapter about pride. As our irrepressible co-blogger, Dr. Zeius, has so graciously pointed out recently, I've an ego at times that requires restraint. This little work helps with this necessary action. Most would say that, theologically, one shouldn't look to this book for fundamental knowledge, but I couldn't care less. Simply, I get the sense that Lewis was a man who attempted to logically explain his belief in an absurd idea...and how he failed at its personal application. My kind of guy.....

3. Music:
a. Nancy Wilson But Beautiful...(not of Heart). This lovely lady had, and still has, one of the most innately beautiful voices I've ever heard. She doesn't get much attention...though, recently, as one of the few left over from the ballad era, she is being treated as a 'legend'...but deserves all the attention others receive. Her range is incredible, but the thing that moves me is her ability infuse a restrained emotion with that incredible vocal range. There is more to be said, but as she will most certainly be an AOTW, this can wait.
b. Bob Dylan Freewheelin Bob Dylan. Still listening to it, and quite frankly, I can't let go of it... until it lets go of me.

4. Finally...Anna Nicole Smith. Now, I am as tired and bored with this whole thing as the next guy....unless your that guy that has a subscription to various supermarket check-out mags(mm)...but I feel the need to say a couple of things:
a. This whole episode reminds one of the importance of true happiness. Meaning, as hackneyed as it may sound, the truth is that lasting happiness is found in those whom you love and who love you. Daily, we all invest ourselves in people, places , and things with the hope that we will find that elusive thing called peace...or, at least, contentment. Our investments will give returns...the question is, what will your return be?
b. While suffering through a mild bout with insomnia last night, I was watching one of those t.v. entertainment magazines. It was a sad display....
c. Specifically about ANS....there is a sense that she got what she live and die like Marilyn, it is difficult for me to feel sorry, or anything, about her I didn't really think or feel anything about her life. Yet, I am the point of reflection. What does this say about me as a person, our culture and media... in general, or the world? Who knows....

* i've a very close friend who has had a big year.....finished his graduate program, proposed to his girlfriend, and recently found his biological father....congrats deserve every bit of it.

** also, two people that mean the world to me recently announced that they are expecting. you'll make great parents, as you are great people. congrats jm/wm.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Artist of the Week....Mr. Frank Sinatra.

Most of you probably figured that it was just a matter of time for Ole Blue Eyes to be AOTW. Well, you were correct. Thoughts on the man:

1. I didn't discover Sinatra until university, but when I did, there was no going back. The first album I had was the Best of the Capitol Years. A very solid compilation with favorites like New York New York, Summer Wind, All or Nothing at All, The Way You Look Tonight, etc. This said, it was when I saw footage of the Rat Pack on stage that I realized how amazingly talented those guys were...and leading the way was Frank.

2. When thinking about Sinatra and his career, most focus on the persona, or public personality, that was created. In fact, everything we know about him says that Sinatra wanted it this way, as he was extremely private and protective about his personal life(especially after that whole divorce and Ava Gardner thing). Yet, something must be said about the sheer talent of the man. His career traversed five decades, and for four of them, he remained a standard for artistic creation. Among his other accomplishments, his greatest contribution, as far as I can see, was his making the standard a personal experience for the masses.

3. If one is looking for the Frank Sinatra album, look no further than Sinatra: Live at the Sands, 1966. It is a live show in Vegas with the Count Basie Orchestra and a 21 year old Quincy Jones as the conductor. Simply, Frank at his finest. The clip found below is the studio recording of my favorite Sinatra song One for my baby, One for the Road. On the Sands album this song is the highlight, and one gets the feeling that Sinatra was singing from a place that he rarely showed the public(his marriage to Mia Farrow had just ended). The studio recording is a bit sterile by comparison, but is still very good. Ladies and Gentlemen....The Chairman of the Board.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Sweet 16 of Love....down to 8.

The votes have been cast, counted, and recorded. There were a few surprises, but that is to be expected. Here are the results...a brief explanation...and the next match-ups:

1. Sophia Loren v. Halle Berry. Loren was an almost universal choice, while Berry won by a wide margin, as well. I figured Ryan would get more support.

2. Grace Kelly v. Audrey Hepburn. Both almost universal picks. Though, Jolie did have a couple of votes. Pfeiffer, I assume, was a victim of a tough draw.

3. Raquel Welch v. Salma Hayek. Welch and Hayek barely won. Responses seem to suggest that Hayek has the advantage here because of a general lack of knowledge/appreciation for the past.

4. Scarlett Johansson v. Tia Carrera. Biggest surprise, for me, of all. I figured BB would poll better, as she is widely regarded as being nearly perfect physically, but there are many Johansson fans...amongst this group anyway. Carrera also barely winning. Tyra was very close.

There you have it. Elite 8 votes should be in by Thursday.

* remember...not all votes will necessarily be recorded here.