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"Your 'reality', sir, is lies and balderdash and I'm delighted to say that I have no grasp of it whatsoever."
— Karl Friedrich Hieronymus, Freiherr von M√ľnchhausen

The Ramblings of a Desiccated Mind

Not since Slayer's Seasons in the Abyss has the term desiccated brought me such joy. My man Markus' blog is here, check it out if you like scary stuff, like liberal politics.

How the World is Changing

As recommended by our good friends, CAKE, I would like to pass on a link to an excellent piece from the BBC called In Pictures: How the World is Changing, showing how rising tides and glacial shift are reshaping our world.

Pope Benedict XVI

And so it goes. The white smoke has risen, and against 7/1 odds, the 78-year-old Joseph Ratzinger has been elected Pope Benedict XVI.

In choosing the name Benedict, this German theologian linked himself not only to a long line of former popes but also to St. Benedict, the founder of Christian monasticism, who was proclaimed by Pope Paul VI in 1964 to be the "patron and protector of Europe." The monasteries that St. Benedict founded - and for which he wrote the "Rule," the basic guide to monastic living - became the keepers of culture and piety in medieval Europe.
Church scholars suggested that Pope Benedict XVI may be positioning himself as the new savior of Europe, rescuing the Continent from what he called in his homily on Monday "the dictatorship of relativism." —The New York Times
It's this sort of hard-line conservativism that has many more liberal-minded Catholics worried about the direction of the Church. Ratzinger's reputation for unflagging tenacity and dogmatism precedes him.
Nicknamed "God's rottweiler" and the "Panzerkardinal" he takes the same unyielding stance on issues such as artificial contraception, abortion and homosexuality - which he has personally called "intrinsically evil". He called for pro-abortion politicians to be denied communion during the US election campaign. He has argued that Europe should be re-Christianised and that Turkey should not be admitted into the European Union.
The Independent
To be sure, he's a tough customer, but it's this quote that got me. Ratzinger said:
In the Church, priests also are sinners. But I am personally convinced that the constant presence in the press of the sins of Catholic priests, especially in the United States, is a planned campaign, as the percentage of these offenses among priests is not higher than in other categories, and perhaps it is even lower.
In the United States, there is constant news on this topic, but less than 1 percent of priests are guilty of acts of this type. The constant presence of these news items does not correspond to the objectivity of the information nor to the statistical objectivity of the facts.
—from "Cardinal Ratzinger Sees a Media Campaign Against Church," Zenit.org, December 3, 2002, as quoted by Newsday
To me, this is sheer deflection of the issue. And while at least according to one Catholic source, the number of priests who have been charged with abuse represent a proportion of the population significantly lower than the general population, it does not address the issue of how the Church simply shifted these priests around for years without addressing the problem.

It's a new era of conservatism in the Church. Boy am I glad I'm not Catholic.

I Pity the Fool Who Breaks the Fifth Commandment

It's... well... Mr. T telling you to treat Treat Your Mama Right.

The Fifth Commandment: Exodus 20:12.

Jell-O

John Avlon

One of Jon Stewart's guests on the Daily Show episode that I wrote about earlier today was John Avlon, who was promoting his book, Independent Nation: How the Vital Center Is Changing American Politics. In the interview, Avlon urged moderate thinkers to take action and offer alternatives to extremist policies.

Avlon writes that while radicals on both sides of the political spectrum may get the press, it is the moderate-thinking majority that decides elections.

Organized as a series of short and colorful political biographies, [Independent Nation] offers an insightful and engaging analysis of the successes and failures of key Centrist leaders throughout the twentieth century. In the process, it demonstrates that Centrism is not only a winning political strategy but an enlightened governing philosophy that best reflects the will of the people by putting patriotism ahead of partisanship and the national interest ahead of special interests.
IndependentNation.org
John Avlon himself is an excellent speaker, and I found his ideas thought-provoking, so I plan to read his book, and I'll be sure to post something on it when I do.

Daily Show Oblectatio Est!

In an earlier post, I wrote a bit about the Pope's failing health and speculated as to who the next Pope will be. Personally, I'm split between Francis Arinze and Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga (odds of my being right according to Paddy Power: about 2/1). I think that Ratzinger, though touted as a favorite, is not figurehead material.

Then last night, on The Daily Show, they ran a mock Vatican political ad, with Arinze smearing Rodriguez-Mardiaga in Latin. Really funny stuff, instantly giving me ideas as to how magi might insult one another in Ars Magica . But this is the real world, and it's already underway. It makes you wonder what's going on right now behind closed doors, who's trying to jockey for position, curry favor, backstab, lie, blackmail, manipulate or even kill to gain the unparalleled power and prestige that comes from holding the highest office in Christendom.

Saying that might upset people in one of two ways. The first group that statement might offend are those that are offended by someone besmirching the name of the Church, because it is insulting to imply that cardinals might do sinful things out of personal interest. Of course, if you're offended by someone insulting the Church then you're probably over the age of 60 and wouldn't be reading this blog, anyway, because you are frightened by the strange, glowing machines some call "computers".

Alternatively, you may be upset because clergy are supposed to be above such things and you're frustrated by the Church's corruption and hypocrisy. People often take a discussion like this as a jumping-off point to talk about how greedy Cardinals or molesting priests are hypocrites for telling people to be moral and then sinning themselves.

To all those I say: who are you to judge? No one is saying that immoral behavior is acceptable for anyone, and it is even less acceptable for clergy because they are supposed to set an example. But no clergyman is free of sin, because he is a human being. Calling someone a hypocrite for failing to be faithful to a higher calling is sheer ignorance. The vast majority of these men dedicate their lives to the selfless service to the Church. They have failed at something neither your nor I would even try. Walk a mile in their shoes, if you dare.

One thing is for certain, though: someone, somewhere in the Vatican is committing a sin to affect the outcome of the Papal Conclave. I guarantee it.

Why I Love eBay

By now, I should have convinced you that there is a lot of crap online that tries to pass itself off as content. Then again, since you're reading this blog, itself a poor substitute for content, then maybe you can't tell the difference. So I will try again.

One of my personal favorite sites in the world is eBay, not only because it's just a wasteland of stuff that you think you might want because it's only a buck (plus $50 shipping), but also because they are exploiting a business model that could not have existed before the advent of the World Wide Web. It's like a worldwide swap meet, open to everyone, and like any open community, there are a bunch of nuts thrown into the mix.

People will try to sell anything on eBay, including:

God bless the Internet! I say that if some guy can make money by having his wife shout your name during sex, then he deserves every penny he gets.

^XBox2 to be Unveiled May 12th

Microsoft just announced that they will be unveiling the successor to the XBox, code-named "Xenon", on MTV on May 12th, on a show titled "MTV Presents: The Next Generation XBox Revealed" and hosted by Elijah Wood. Originally, Microsoft was waiting until the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) to announce its release along with Sony's PS3, but apparently, they don't want their release lost amongst so many other announcements and so have opted to let the cat out of the bag a little early.

From what they're telling us, the XBox 2 will leverage a mini-subscription model, where you could pay a small amount of money for downloadable content (e.g., new cars for your racing game or new tattoos for your GTA character) from central servers. Personally, I think the model will lend itself to customer abuse. Think about it... you will still pay $75 to buy the game, but then shell out a buck and a half each for all of the extra characters or weapons or whatever? Very sneaky. I have no problem with the model itself if it translated into cheaper up-front costs for the games, but I'm not that naive.

Sony Patents Theoretical Matrix Technology

As reported by New Scientist, Sony has been granted a theoretical patent on technology that will use ultrasonic waves to transmit sensory data directly to a human brain. People are comparing it to The Matrix, but the science, apparently, is sound. Niels Birbaumer, a pioneering German neuroscientist in the field of Brain-Computer Interfaces, called the idea "plausible". Birbaumer invented a device in the early 1990's that could be controlled by the power of positive and negative "slow-waves" emitted by subjects' brains.

Sin City

Did you think the original Batman was good? Did you think X-Men 1 and/or 2 was good? That's only because you haven't seen Sin City yet. It's a sort of grisly hyperkinetic noir where Elijah Wood looked a little like a scary Charlie Brown with claws. Sound hard to believe? No way. Sin City is the first movie to faithfully capture the dark beauty of the modern graphic novel on film.

Graphic novels are something of a sub-genre of comic books that went beyond pulp heroes in tights. Graphic novels are lavishly illustrated, often painted, printed on heavy art stock paper, and tell stories that take on mature themes. Sin City is a rough story. It's definitely not one for the kiddies. But for those of you who can enjoy a visceral, beautiful tale of monstrous mercenaries and militant hookers in leather, then you're in for a treat.

Quentin Tarentino is credited as a special guest director, and you get the sense that he ensured there was lots of blood, a threaded storytelling style, and a breakneck pace. The man in charge, Robert Rodriguez, was looking for a challenge after From Dusk Til Dawn and Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over:

"Having finished the Spy Kids series," Rodriguez says, "I was looking for a good effects challenge." That's what led him to Miller's Sin City. The series takes readers on an eye-popping tour of an underworld packed with tough cops, femme fatales, and seedy lowlifes. "The stories were great," he says, "but what grabbed you was the look." Miller's black-and-white chiaroscuro style reflects an artist raised on pulp fiction and old crime movies. Every scene takes place at night or in some back alley.
Wired
The result is almost hard to describe, but if you are familiar with Frank Miller's work in print, you will probably be pleasantly surprised.

Sin City is, hands down, the best comic book made to date.

Base Show Rating (BSR): 9/10
Applicable Modifiers:
  • +1 if you like comic books
  • +1 if you like Jessica Alba (that's right -- it goes to 11)
  • -2 if you dislike violence
  • -1 if you dislike hot, scantily-clad hookers

Museum of Online Museums

As reported by the New York Times, "Online, Anything and Everything Can Be a Museum Piece". The Museum of Online Museums, proves just how true this is by providing links to such diverse collections as the Grocery List Collection, the Toaster Museum, the Contraceptive Pill Gallery, the Museum of Burnt Food, and the World's Largest Collection of World's Smallest Versions of World's Largest Things.

~DDO

For those who didn't hear, Dungeons & Dragons Online, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game based on AD&D 3.5, is set to be released in November of this year. It's set in Eberron, the new D&D world that's been marketed as the Next Big Thing by Wizards of the Coast. And sure, it figures that WOTC had to jump on the MMORPG bandwagon. After all: what good is a name like D&D if you don't market it?

Despite what this interview says, this looks a lot like a rehashing of the same territory covered by Everquest, Worlds of Warcraft, and the like, so I'm not sure what all the hype is about. But being that the game is being developed by Turbine, the same company responsible for Asheron's Call and Asheron's Call 2, it sounds like DDO will at least be well done. And the screen shots look cool, too.

$Pennington Offered to Pay for Coles Out-of-Pocket

In an article I missed when the Moss-Coles trade initially went through, the Daily News reported on March 11th that Chad had offered to take a $2 million pay cut in order to help the team reacquire Laveranues Coles. This move, called "bizarre" by one agent, shows the incredible depth of character and commitment that Pennington has to his team. It's hard not to have hope for the Jets with a leader like him at the helm.

$MTA Approves Jets Stadium

The MTA has approved the plan for the new West Side Stadium, otherwise known as the New York Sports and Convention Center. This is a major victory for Bloomberg, who has taken on the plan as his pet project. This is a major victory for the labor unions, who support the plan because it promises to create thousands of jobs. It is also a victory for the Jets organization because they managed to get the government to help them build a prestigious new facility.

But this is not the end of the story. What about the fans? As a Jets fan who has chafed at the idea of Gang Green continuing to play at Giants stadium in New Jersey, I applaud the idea of a new stadium for the team. But Manhattan's west side has accessibility difficulties. There will be no space for a parking lot, let alone tailgaters. What was wrong with building a new stadium in Queens, near Shea stadium, where the Jets played from 1964 to 1983?

Also, consider the costs. As explored in this article, many fans are concerned about the skyrocketing prices of season tickets. Anyone who doesn't translate the Jets' $1.6 billion investment into a very expensive football game is fooling themselves. It's all about the Personal Seat Licenses: a way for the team to charge (gouge) season ticket holders for the right to hold their seats. They have to intend to recoup that money somehow.

What about the city itself? Is this a win for them? Yes and no, I suppose. On the plus side, Manhattan gets a world-class convention center, which is arguably a good thing. Without a large venue like this stadium, New York could not hope to host the large tourist events such as the Olympic Games or the Superbowl. Events like this bring in a lot of money to the city. But is it worth the ungodly traffic that it will cause on Sundays?

I guess it's a good thing that the Jets will return home to New York. But the West Side Stadium is a product of Bloomberg's vision of New York as a luxury item. The fans are the ones who will lose out.


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The Red Bull Diary is the personal pulpit and intellectual dumping-ground for its author, an amateur game designer, professional programmer, political centrist and incurable skeptic. The Red Bull Diary is gaming, game design, politics, development, geek culture, and other such nonsense.