August 29, 2003

NYT: 20pc of U.S. Wine Sold in Boxes

Disturbing yet interesting report in The New York Times recently. It seems 20 percent of Americans' wine comes from a box.

The report's disturbing yet interesting for a number of reasons. The first reason is that writer Frank Prial passes off wine-in-a-box to three otherwise sophisticated people -- and they can't tell the difference. Yet he fails to fully discuss this topic. Maybe all the wine fans out there can't tell what it is they're drinking!

I am not a drinker myself, primarily for health reasons, so I can't say that I would be able to tell either. But boy! wouldn't it be funny to see a column about whether people actually know what they're pouring down their throats?

The second reason is that Mr Prial makes me wonder whether I should ever order the odd glass of wine in a restaurant. Consider that he writes the following: Wine boxes come in three sizes: three, five and 18 liters. Americans prefer the five-liter size, Europeans the three. The 18-liter box, the equivalent of two cases of bottled wine, is meant for by-the-glass and by-the-carafe sales in restaurants.

Mental note: Never, ever, ever order by-the-glass again. Besides, a bottle has four glasses' worth of wine in it, so why not just buy the bottle? That way everyone could enjoy the vino and be happy.

The third reason is that Mr Prial has to explain just who drinks boxed wine in the United States, perhaps because people who read the NYT's Dining & Wine section haven't any clue. Incredibly, he has left out a key segment of the boxed-wine drinking populace: namely, college students who are broke yet want to get drunk, and can do so on some packaged antifreeze-substitute.

Ah, college. That's when I drank boxed wine, at any rate. It did the job, too. But one quickly learned -- drink, don't taste!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 02:25 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


North Korea says it has The Bomb, plans to test it. Which means they may just have more than one.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 01:57 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Blogs Now Part of College Curriculum

Criminy. We have learned tonight that a professor at the taxpayer-funded Georgia Institute of Technology has directed his students to read and write about various blogs as part of an introductory English course.

Actually, we think this is rather cool, except for two small faults. First, through some inexplicable omission, the course has thus far failed to mention Benjamin Kepple's Daily Rant in its listing of famous blogs. Second, after an examination of the course blog, we notice it contains a bit of academic jargon (or, as an Associated Press writer once put it, 'educanto.'):

Read sections from each of the following three blogs. Then, pick one blog, and take a closer look. For your second blog entry, you will then discuss how that one blog makes its arguments. You may use the questions on 100-102 to provoke your thoughts, but for the most part, you'll want to focus on (1) locating a central argument; (2) analyzing the language and style of the argument; and (3) determining how the author establishes ethos, pathos, and logos.

Ethos? Pathos? Logos? Gad. I'm nauseos already.

Anyway, if any of the students taking this course happen to read this entry, we would advise you of a few things:

1. We are reactionary elitists here at The Rant. Your professors probably don't like everything for which we stand. Hence, you should read and write about our efforts as much as you possibly can. Quote extensively from our blog archives.

2. Because we are reactionary elitists, we use certain rhetorical devices from time to time, such as writing in the plural instead of the singular. Your professors will probably not like this. By the way, they're also going to eventually force you to use some awful grammatical constructs like "s/he" or "policeperson" or "editrix" in your writing. That's crap. He is the gender-neutral pronoun in proper English. Use it. They'll get over it.

3. If we ever used the phrase "ethos, pathos, and logos" in our daily life we would be out of a jobos. Write clear and concise. Hemingway shall smile upon you.

You know, Hemingway. ERNEST. HEMINGWAY. The Sun Also Rises and all that.

4. We have noticed your professor wrote at one point, "Several of you have asked me about what limitations I'll place on your blog writing."

You are students at a public university. You are obligated to act like students, and hence not ask such things. Also, quit kowtowing to your professors. Oh, sure, they may seem "far out" and "with it" because they go on and on about Engels and Fannon all day. This is all very calculated. Remember! When you strip away all the academic jargon and the high-minded policy talks and the idealism and the cant ...

They are exactly like your parents.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 01:45 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 28, 2003

A Cavalcade of Imbecility

WELL -- Mars gets dangerously close to the planet Earth, and now we can see the results!

FIRST UP ON today's Cavalcade of Imbecility are the folks at the Zippo Manufacturing Co. of Bradford, Pa. These individuals came up with the hot idea of creating a Web site devoted entirely to showcasing the tricks that can be performed with their lighters. They shut it down after public outcry, although the company's chief executive and its general counsel defended the site.

We live in an era where people have blamed young children's fire-starting on Beavis & Butthead. Furthermore, we live in an era where people let young children watch Beavis & Butthead. Hence, because so many people are so freaking stupid, but not stupid enough so that they can't figure out how to obtain legal representation, it amazes us that the Zippo people would take such a risk. After all, there's nothing like having some damnfool drunk hurt himself because he got blitzed on a case of Old Milwaukee -- and then decided to perform Trick No. 823-B ("That Scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark Where Indy and Marion Fight the Nazis in Nepal") -- when it comes to "unexpected charges on the expense side." Capital idea there.

NEXT UP IS a Michigan man whom we dislike because he allegedly has caused great embarrassment to our home state. The Associated Press reports that 31-year-old Michael VanStrate, of Owosso, allegedly bit off part of a man's finger, knocked out a 49-year-old woman and smeared cake over the face of a 9-year-old boy. All at a wedding reception.

Police said VanStrate got involved in the fracas after being involved in altercations with other people at the reception. This alleged assratchet faces two counts of assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder, one count of aggravated assault and one count of simple assault, the wire agency reported.

No word on whether there was an open bar. Again: we live in a litigious society. A very litigious society.

THE CANADIANS can no longer smile on passport photos. Of course we're not making this up. We're also not making up The Globe and Mail's helpful hints about how to have one's passport photo accepted: "As a general rule, hats are out."

As a general rule? You mean there are cases where hats are acceptable? What, pray tell, might those be?

OUR NEXT ITEM falls under the "Where Are the Customers' Yachts?" category. The New York Stock Exchange has decided to pay chief executive Richard Grasso $139 million in deferred compensation, according to the Financial Times.

For reaction to this development, we turn to William Donaldson, the former NYSE chair who now heads the Securities and Exchange Commission. His reaction is quoted in the FT story:

"I left too soon."

We'll say. Quite frankly, for $139 million, this fellow should be able to spin straw into gold. Of course, now that the tech bubble burst, that's downright impossible to do on Wall Street.

A SWISS MAN burned down three apartments after attempting to destroy a nest of wasps under his flat. The wasps attacked after he unloaded an entire can of bug spray into the nest. When he tried to defend himself with a cigarette lighter -- I don't want to know -- the fumes from the spray ignited.

Next time, call the Orkin man. Your insurer will thank you.

THEY'RE PENNY-WISE AND POUND-FOOLISH in Georgia. Consider that a full 8.6 percent of Atlanta residents surveyed said they'd consumed moonshine in the past five years. Consider that Boone's Strawberry Wine goes for about $2 a bottle down at the corner liquor store. Consider that a bill for an extended stay in hospital starts at about five grand a day, and gets worse when your body reacts to stuff that's brewed in a leaky car radiator.

It may not be brewed from grapes, but it won't kill you. Something to think about when you're deciding between the Champale or the stuff brewed out of your neighbor's old Chevy.

LAST BUT NOT LEAST on the Cavalcade is the Government of France, for its debate over the heat-wave scandal. For those of you who haven't heard, you should know that a heat wave caused 10,000 people to die in la belle France. How to make sure it never happens again? Take away a national holiday, says the Government!

The idea, which the government floated Wednesday, immediately split opinion and provoked one main question - which of France's 11 national holidays should go? Labor Day, perhaps, or a religious festival?

At least two ministers said Christmas should not be touched.

What's this "at least" bit? How about "only?"

Of course, this has caused much wailing and gnashing of teeth:

"There's no question of touching holidays," thundered Communist lawmaker Alain Bocquet. "There's no question of erasing May 8 and the memory of victory over Nazi barbarity and fascism!"

And the memory of collaboration! And the memory of Vichy! And the memory of Operation Torch!

Actually, to be fair, we should note that many French people fought valiantly against the Nazis, and that only a few French cared for their German overlords. That said, my friends, this gets even crazier:

Jean-Claude Mailly, a leader of the Workers' Force trade union, said a wealthy country like France should not have to make workers labor longer to finance health care. The union, he warned, would not take kindly to the abolition of the May 1 Labor Day holiday.

"It's enforced charity, totally unacceptable," he said in an interview.

What's so unacceptable, M Mailly? You do live in a socialist democracy, do you not? You do live in a nation which not only taxes income at stratospheric rates, but also one's total wealth, do you not? Explain, please, how enforced charity is unacceptable when it applies to you and perfectly fine when it applies to someone else. Or at least please stay consistent: that's all we ask.

Gawd. I hope some weird physical phenomenon beyond the knowledge of man is responsible for all this. If not, then God help us all.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:54 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 25, 2003

Architectural Notes

I was reading through The Wall Street Journal's distinctive-property guide yesterday and have thus become convinced of two things. First, that a fool and his money are soon parted; and second, that there are a great many fools designing and purchasing high-end homes these days.

I always enjoy reading through this section of the WSJ. Being me, I am inflicted with a peculiar genetic strain that prevents me from actually ever considering purchasing a similar home -- or most high-end products -- some day. Rather, I gain enjoyment from reading the advertisements themselves, and content myself from that. This may sound odd but I can assure you that it is much cheaper than actually buying things. Besides, most of these things are depreciable, which means that the people buying them are trading their hard-earned cash for some silly cachet. That may, I would suspect, sometimes be the case for high-end homes too -- the really high-end homes. There's a limited market for such things, and the markups on them seem a bit absurd.

I mean, really. It's almost embarrassing to think that people who have a real command of finance would throw down that kind of money for a residence. True, most of these folks pay cash, so it's not as if they'll face mortgage payments the size of yours and my annual incomes. But still -- I saw a beautiful beautiful estate listed with the not-so-beautiful price tag of about $9 million, and it wouldn't have surprised me if the owners had only paid $5 million. One could say the same for any of the truly high-end homes on the market these days -- their asking price is much higher than their intrinsic worth, if you ask me.

A few points from all this:

* WHY do people build hideously-outsized mansions on tiny lots? Now I can understand this phenomenon in California, I suppose, where land is hideously expensive and no one has a yard. But Gad! Still. What would cause someone to build a 7,000 square-foot home on a tiny lot? And a craptacular 7,000 square-foot home at that? I mean, is it too much to ask that there's a little style to the whole thing?

Back when I lived in Venice, Calif., I saw this phenomenon up close when I would go for a walk from my apartment down to the Venice Pier. The shore was packed with million-dollar homes and along that walk, all save one of them were architectural monstrosities. Even worse, because the homes were all jam-packed together, one would find some converted cottage next to an overbuilt condo next to some hideous pastel monstrosity. All of these things would have been fine ... but only if they had been next to similar homes. There's something to be said for a bit of continuity in a neighborhood.

* WHY do people insist on having more bathrooms than bedrooms in their homes these days? Doesn't that seem a bit excessive? For instance, one of the homes listed had seven bedrooms yet for some insane reason had twice as many baths. If one considers that some of these are actually half-baths, then it becomes even more ridiculous.

I mean, I don't know about the rest of you, but it seems to me that if one is going to have lots of folks over all the time, it would make sense for one to build a guest house with two beds and two baths, and leave it at that. Otherwise, let 'em share a bathroom. They'll get over it.

* DOES anyone actually use the servant's quarters for actual servants? After all, this is 2003, not 1903. Through my work, I've had the opportunity to have been in a few of these fancy high-end homes, and not even those people had servants -- at least not that I could tell.

Again, I suppose the California exclusion would apply. There, market conditions make it affordable for the wealthy to have servants. But even then, are they out-sourced these days? Forced to pay their own rent and make a hideous daily commute like the rest of us, only to slave away in some styleless manse while their masters welch on paying them Social Security? In a way, that would seem to make sense. Besides, you could use the servant's quarters for your hapless brother-in-law who can't hold a steady job.

One thing I have decided for sure is this: when it comes time for me to buy a nice home in 20 or 25 years, I'm holding out for a reasonable colonial.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 08:48 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

August 24, 2003


Say, everybody! Layne redecorated!

Also you should purchase his CD.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:38 PM | TrackBack

A Point of Order

In response to my brazen challenge of his position on the issue, Oliver Willis has expanded his comments on the controversy surrounding a Ten Commandments display in an Alabama courthouse.

It is a reasonable and thoughtful response, and one that I am glad Mr Willis has given. Mr Willis does note the following:

Ben Kepple takes me to task for my comments about the Ten Commandments controversy. The problem is, Ben appears to have recast my defense of the first amendment as anti-religion bigotry. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I still stand by my previous comments on the matter. I did not argue that Mr Willis is an anti-religious zealot -- at least that's not how I intended it -- but I did take issue with his implied charge that the monument's display was evidence of religious browbeating.

That said, I would invite readers of The Rant to read Mr Willis' entry in full. It is a more reasoned look at the Constitutional issue surrounding the monument's display. That's a topic I have not discussed, but one that I know is of interest to many.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:29 PM | TrackBack

August 22, 2003

Oh, Joy!

Good news on the blogging front today, everyone -- we not only found ourselves a good new blogger, we found ourselves close to cheering after reading one of his essays.

It seems that this blogger, who like many bloggers frustrates our style guidelines here at The Rant because he only goes by one name, is sick and tired of the controversy surrounding the idea of a "metrosexual." A metrosexual, for those of you unaware of this term, is a modern, urban-dwelling heterosexual man who takes care with his dress and other style-oriented details of his life. Our blogger, whom one learns we address as "Dan," argues that this phenomenon is crap:

Forgive my hissy fit, but please! Stop it! There is no plague of metrosexuals in the cities. Men have always had their vain contingent. (Let us remember the Spartans who made sure to carefully braid their hair before battle.) There is something aggressivly heterosexual about guys who wear mohawks or pierce their faces in a fit of what appears to be neurotic attention to style. It is in fact mere aggressive vanity and typically male egotism.

If there is a plague of anything, it's not men who are dandies, but a proliferation of slobs. Office Casual has bloated and spread over the country like an expanding jelly-donut stain. Everywhere you look, men are mis-matched jamokes with Baby Huey-sized pants, chunks of metal through their faces, ill-fitting T-shirts and piracy-inspired facial hair. I resent being tagged at looking "queer" just for wearing, say, a pressed button-down shirt instead of a Dos-Equis T-shirt.

Dan? Bravissimo.

We do have one quibble, however. Because we here at The Rant are reactionary elitists, we do not consider mohawk hairstyles or face piercing to be signs of stylishness. Rather, we consider persons with such physical accoutrements to be uncouth and barbaric. Still, we must say that we're glad to see that we're not alone in thinking things are getting a bit out of hand these days.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:03 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Fundamental Disconnect Dept.

Sometimes, in this nation of ours, there are certain happenings, events and thought processes which I fully admit that I Fundamentally Don't Understand. Among these things is the recent brouhaha over a marble display in an Alabama courthouse which informs the reader of the Ten Commandments set forth by the Lord our God.

Now, I will leave it up to the attorneys whether having such a display in a court of law is Constitutional or not. What I don't get is why the issue is such a big deal in the first place. Apparently there are some people who get so worked up about the issue that they engage in much wailing and gnashing of teeth, as evidenced by this excerpt from Oliver Willis' latest post:

In America we're free to practice our faith regardless of what it is as long as it does not harm another - but some people don't like that. They would prefer to tell you how to live the little dumb plan they've set out for you than have you make your own way, what is wrong with them?

Clearly I missed something here. I mean, we're talking about the Ten Commandments, the simplest yet clearest expression of the moral law as practiced by all human societies. We're not talking about putting a giant cross in the courthouse emblazoned with John 3:16; we're not talking about an overtly Christian display; we're not talking about a statue of St. John the Baptist. We're talking about basics of morality so easy to understand that even a child can grasp them -- even if kids won't fully grasp all the implications about Not Coveting Thy Neighbor's Wife. Maybe it's just me, but I can't understand how any rational person could find such a display threatening or discomforting or unpleasant.

It used to be that people who didn't believe in God had the decorum and, shall we say it, an inner sense of pride that kept them from causing trouble and discord when it came to religious matters. After all, if one was not religious, one didn't put much stock in these things and left it at that. Nowadays, it seems as if many non-religious people think it's fine and dandy to be whiny and petulant. And I'll admit I really don't understand why they think that way.

So I would ask Mr Willis to expound further on this topic. Specificially, to expound on what he finds wrong with the following dictates, which I have in some cases paraphrased:

I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage:

1. You shall have no other gods before Me.

2. You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath; or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down or serve them...

3. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain...

4. Observe the sabbath day, and keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God ...

5. Honor your father and mother.

6. You shall not kill.

7. Neither shall you commit adultery.

8. Neither shall you steal.

9. Neither shall you bear false witness against your neighbor.

10. Neither shall you covet your neighbor's wife, and you shall not desire your neighbor's house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbor's.

-- Deut 5:6-16, excerpted.

I mean, really. That's what we're talking about here. Notice how it does not say, "You shall not attend worship at any place other than churches which hold to the tenets of Christianity as held by the Southern Baptist Convention." Notice how it does not say, "If you don't tithe your income to Me, like I've told you so many times, I will send forth an angry plague of locusts and wasps and insurance-salesmen to your door, for I am the LORD."

Instead, notice that when it comes right down to it, the Ten Commandments are Pretty Simple Rules for Living Life. If one wants to read more or less into them, that's his own business.

But I must say that I find it interesting that a display of the Ten Commandments causes such a visceral reaction among those who don't consider themselves all that religious. After all, if one is an atheist or otherwise non-religious, why would one care if a court justice decided to put up a monument praising the Ten Commandments? Are such people so unsure of themselves that they can't bear to be reminded that when all is said and done, there just might be something to those ten dictates?

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:31 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

August 21, 2003

Egyptians to sue over Exodus

This is truly the stupidest thing I have heard about in a long time. According to United Press International, an Egyptian professor is preparing a lawsuit based on events in the Book of Exodus:

CAIRO, Aug. 21 (UPI) -- A dean at Egypt's University of Al-Zaqaziq is preparing a lawsuit against "all the Jews of the world," accusing them of stealing gold during the exodus.

The university's dean of law, Nabil Hilmi, told the Egyptian weekly newspaper Al-Ahram Al-Arabi the Jews during the exodus "stole from the Pharaonic Egyptians gold, jewelry, cooking utensils, silver ornaments, clothing and more ..."

Asked why cooking utensils might have been taken, Hilmi said "... this had been the Jews' twisted way throughout history; they seek to cause a minor problem connected with the needs of everyday life so as to occupy people with these matters and prevent them from pursuing them to get back the stolen gold ..."

Hilmi said the "debt" could be rescheduled over 1,000 years, with the addition of the cumulative interest during that period.

Four millenia later, it would appear Pharoah's heart is still hardened.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:52 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Through No Fault of Its Own, Singapore Firm Dashes My Hopes

Hey, everyone! Sorry for the long absence. The cover story I am using is that I had a truly awful sinus infection over the past couple of days which required me to stay home from work. But in reality, I was severely depressed. For I realized this week that I will never have my own family-named multinational conglomerate.

It's been done.

Much to my great surprise and amazement, I learned this week that an East Asian conglomerate with interests in shipping, marine transport, oil drilling, property and other areas carries a variant of my family name. Indeed, the good people at the Keppel Corporation Ltd have been doing business since 1968, when the company was incorporated as Kepple Shipyard (Pte) Ltd.

Now when I say multinational, I mean multinational. They have holdings in 26 countries. They have shipyard interests in Azerbijian, oil interests in Texas, heavy industries in the United Arab Emirates, and land holdings around East Asia. They even have their own office tower, which is very nice. It's near Keppel Harbour in Singapore.

Of course, I must say I'm very proud the large and profitable Keppel Corp Ltd bears my family name*, even though no one of my relation has anything to do with it. But I'm just disappointed. You see, with one Keppel Corp. in existence, there really can't be any others. No, really. I mean, even if I ever got Kepple Corp. off the ground and it dealt entirely with something like importing fruit, there'd still be a nasty trademark lawsuit. That's because no one can ever spell Kepple/Keppel/Koeppel/Keple/Kapple correctly. An administrative law judge would see this three minutes into the trial, and I'd have to change the company name to Lucky No. 1 Provident Fund Scheme LLC or something like that.

Still, I am not without hope. The Keppel Corp Ltd is a publicly traded firm, and given today's closing stock price I may only need US$1.3 billion to get control. I'm confident that in 800 or 900 years, my descendents will have amassed enough of a fortune in order to do that. In the meantime, I may just send away for a prospectus -- and definitely start thinking up some names of my own.

* Kepple, Keppel, etc. are all variants of the original German surname Koeppel.

UPDATE: They also have a great slogan I wanted to use! "Keppel Means Business." Gad!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:19 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 20, 2003

ELDER: "Into one of the Outer Circles of Hell."

IF YOU DON'T read Kirk Elder in The Scotsman every single time the man writes a column, then you definitely ought to begin doing so. In Mr Elder's latest essay, he examines that unpleasant sport we call cycling. I present two out-takes as prima facie evidence that you ought to read him as much as you can:

I AM not, by nature, a sportsman. I was raised to believe that every moment discharged in athletic activity was a moment which could have been better spent in gloomy contemplation. Not for me the nauseous rushing of adrenalin, the happy slapping of victorious team-mates, or the homo-erotic lapping of the communal bath ...

My own enjoyment of cycling has never stretched to treating it as a sport. My bicycle, a 1960s Raleigh Sport, was named as a provocation to the Trade Descriptions Act, as its frame is fashioned from 24-carat lead, and its wheels from the finest mahogany. The tyres are made of solid India rubber, and the Sturmey-Archer gears have three settings: Agony, Inner Turmoil and Dropkick Me, Jesus, Through The Goalposts of Life.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 07:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 17, 2003

A Great Moment of Worldly Bliss

Something wonderful happened on the I-93 freeway here in Manchester today. It happened about 5:30 p.m. or so, and I was driving home after a trip to the new grocery on South Willow Street.

Now, for some reason, everything seemed so very calm this evening. Perhaps it was because the aspirin had kicked in and driven away the miserable headache I've been suffering through for days. Perhaps it was the sunny weather that finally showed up after a miserable two weeks in August, or perhaps it was that feeling of sheer contentment one has when things are going great in one's life. It probably was a combination of all those things. The long and short of it was that I felt great.

Of course, it was natural that at this Zen moment, I would come across a hideously slow motorist hogging the pass lane.

This motorist, whose fuel-efficient sedan puttered along at the traffic-jam causing speed of approximately 50 miles per hour, obviously had no business being on the road. Rather, this motorist ought to have decided to spend this Sunday afternoon at a togetherness rally or whatever it is owners of smarmy, fuel-efficient vehicles do during their down time. Instead, this motorist ended up destroying my sense of tranquility.

Because I am a proud resident of New Hampshire, I know that it is my obligation as a citizen to drive with courtesy and respect. I know I ought not give into the base instincts which I developed in California and metro Washington, and proceed to act as if my mission in life has suddenly become to run the offending vehicle off the road.

Fortunately, developments took place which stayed my baser instincts from kicking in.

For lo! what did I see in the rear-view mirror but a baby-blue, 1960s-model Ford Mustang?

Now, I am not a fellow to get overly excited about automobiles, as good friends and relatives can attest. Still -- what a beautiful car this was. You could hear and feel the engine's strength from 100 feet away. You could just imagine riding in it and listening to its old AM radio. And as I did my duty and yielded to this motoring icon, I got a good look at the fellow driving it. Young fellow, clean-cut, probably early thirties, wearing a white T-shirt.

In that moment, I felt as if I was taken back to 1963. That was a year I never knew, but one that certainly seemed full of life and prosperity and hope for the future. A year that seemed a lot better than its counterpart forty years hence.

As I yielded, the slowpoke that had been in front of me also gave way. I saw my chance and took it, shifting back into the pass lane and slamming on my Ford's accelerator. As the needle hit seventy, I felt my Zen-like calm return. And as I shot forward towards home, I thought to myself -- there's just nothing like a good drive, is there?

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 08:32 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 16, 2003

President Amin? Welcome to Hell

Former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin has finally shuffled off this mortal coil, the Reuters news agency writes from Kampala. He will not be missed.

The report informs us that Amin had suffered for weeks before finally walking into Hell's embrace; an end which we find only somewhat just. Far better for him to have paid for his crimes against humanity in this life as well as the next.

Those crimes, we might add, include killing about 100,000 Ugandans, forcing 40,000 Indians and other Asians into exile, and other barbaric acts including cannibalism.

However, while we are glad that Amin is no longer on this Earth, we are quite troubled at one particular point expressed in the Reuters article:

(Amin) himself was driven from Uganda in 1979 by forces from neighboring Tanzania and Ugandan exiles. Saudi Arabia gave him sanctuary in the name of Islamic charity. Amin had lived quietly in exile in Jeddah with four wives on a government stipend.

If the Saudis were willing to give this butcher sanctuary for more than two decades, who else are they willing to harbor from justice?

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:58 PM | TrackBack

Pittsburgh Triumphant

So Oliver Willis is gleeful that during the Washington Redskins' season opener, Britney Spears will be part of a pre-game kickoff show in the nation's capital.

We are bemused at Mr Willis' enthusiasm, although in a way we understand it. After all, given that the Redskins racked up a stellar 7-9 record last year and went 8-8 the year before that, we can certainly understand that the last thing Mr Willis wants to concentrate on is how the Redskins do on the field. Of course, real football teams do not need Britney Spears or a fancy concert on the Mall to conjure up interest in their franchise. Real football teams can draw on their history, and their drive, and their performance on the gridiron.

Hence, we stand confident knowing the Pittsburgh Steelers will continue to outperform their competitors in both the AFC North and much of the National Football League. Unlike the Redskins, for whom post-season play is but a distant memory, the Steelers will make it to the playoffs this year. We would also go further and say that the Steelers will almost certainly crush their rivals and proceed to the Super Bowl, and bring home "one for the thumb."

Now, many may ask why we are so confident about things turning out this way. That's simple! Kordell Stewart is now playing for the Chicago Bears.

Regular readers of The Rant know that we have never cared for Mr Stewart. That feeling started one Saturday long ago, when the then-Colorado quarterback threw a Hail Mary touchdown pass against our beloved Michigan Wolverines. But as we watched Mr Stewart's performance for Pittsburgh grow steadily more erratic and undependable, these feelings soon crystallized into a palpable sense of anger and frustration. Finally, when Mr Stewart's ineptness pretty much handed a playoff match to the hated New England Patriots in 2001, we were infuriated. Since that day, we prayed that he would soon be gone from Iron City, and we're pleased to see that has finally happened.

STEEL CURTAIN: The five quarterbacks for the Pittsburgh Steelers, none of whom are Kordell Stewart, should lead the franchise to victory in 2003.

Ah, yes. What a great thing it is to think about a Steelers squad without Kordell. No longer will we Steelers fans suffer through an endless cycle of interceptions, blown passes, and erratic play. No longer will we Steelers fans grow frustrated with watching Kordell blow opportunities, foul up plays, and generally make a mess of things. A new day has dawned for this greatest of sports franchises, and we look forward to watching it march on to victory.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 07:16 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

August 15, 2003

"It Is A Mess, to Put It Mildly"

Here's the latest information on the blackout situation. Glad to see the folks in Times Square had a party last night -- that must have been something else! Everything shrouded in jet-black darkness ... and a jazz quartet playing all the while ...

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 05:34 PM | TrackBack


Rob Lowe? Possible Schwarzenegger advisor? Geez. Can this California recall get any more surreal than it has already?

Yeah, probably. That's why we here at The Rant are eagerly anticipating a Schwarzenegger - Huffington - Coleman - Russell - Bustamante - Flynt debate. Can you imagine what great television that would be? Gad. About the only person we're missing is Ironhead Hayward.

SCHWARZENEGGER: (holding up document): "But Iiiiiironhead. Vat's this thingy?"
HAYWARD: "That's my proposal for plugging the $38 billion hole in California's budget, chump!"

A pity Mr Hayward doesn't live in California -- at least we don't think he does.

We are also quite disappointed that Moxie is not running for Governor. One hundred fifty candidates are running for that post, and not one of them is a blogger. Something ain't right with this picture.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 05:22 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Physician, Cure Thyself

You should know that at 1 p.m. today, I had a routine dental appointment.

Now, the dreaded visit to the dentist's office actually went great. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the practice to which I went -- it was my first time -- was above-par in all regards. The hygenist was pleasant and the dentist was businesslike, both attributes which I like; and both were extremely competent in providing care.

At the end of the visit, though, I was rather amazed to find that I might have to pay the entire $220 bill for services upfront. As I have a reputable insurance provider and I know my own benefits package, my initial reaction was not dissimilar to my reaction were I to drink a glass of spoilt milk. True, we were able to come to an agreeable solution (I paid $15 then, and would be billed for any overage) and I certainly understood where they were coming from. But the whole experience was rather off-putting.

The end result is that I am not in a generous mood towards the medical profession at present.

This mood was not helped, I might add, by the wailing and gnashing-of-teeth which I read here. I was meaning to blog about it some time back, but got caught up in other things; but when I read it again, I about choked on my own bile.

You should know that one Jean Schoonover, a physician in Maryland, is not at all happy with what she sees as the devaluing of her profession. Dr Schoonover, who is married to another physician, complains in The Washington Post that she and her husband can't make it financially. But this is not the least of her complaints, as we shall see:

Something is wrong with our nation's outlook on health care these days. I have come to name this phenomenon the "Devaluation of the Doctor." As I hear grumbling about Congress's making more Medicare cuts and my patients' complaints about $10 co-payments while they dig $300 cell phones out of their Gucci bags, I am getting just the slightest bit bitter.

Somewhere along the way, as we sat back and let insurance companies turn caring for the sick into an industry, we lost sight of the importance of medical care and those individuals who sacrifice their entire twenties to learn how to save lives and keep us healthy. HMOs have bred a population more interested in paying for a cellular phone plan than a physical. It saddens me to meet a new patient who is "transferring his care" to me (after sticking loyally to the same doctor for 40 years) just because "Doc So-and-So stopped taking Mamsi."

I'm suppose I'm feeling just the slightest bit bitter myself. I don't personally see how the insurance companies are to blame for all of this, and I can certainly understand why average citizens would rather have someone else pay for their health care. What I can't understand is why Dr Schoonover thinks that because she's a doctor, and she's spent rather a lot of time in training, that she's entitled to an upper-class lifestyle right off the bat.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 05:02 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Science Warns of Celebrity Worship Peril

Well, we're glad to see that a long-held belief of ours here at The Rant has been borne out via recognized scientific research. You see, the AFP wire service has reported that a full one-third of humanity suffers from "Celebrity Worship Syndrome."

In the report, we learn that CWS is "a fascination in the lives of the rich and famous that for some becomes a potentially dangerous addiction." The full study will be reported in an upcoming edition of New Scientist, but let's look at the AFP's synopsis:

They were asked to rate statements such as "I am obsessed by details of my favourite celebrity's life", "I consider my favourite celebrity to be my soul mate" and "If he/she asked me to do something illegal as a favour, I would probably do it."

The responses cast doubt on the conventional view that celebrity worship is categorised into pathological and non-pathological cases -- in other words, harmless fun and obsession. Instead, the replies pointed to a "sliding scale" in which the celebrity devotee becomes progressively more fascinated with his or her idol.

In addition, celebrity fans are significantly more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression and social dysfunction than non-worshippers.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 04:08 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 14, 2003

Outage Updates

The Command Post is on this like a moth to a flame.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 06:54 PM | TrackBack

Not That Anyone Can Read This, But ...

It seems an absolute miracle that the electricity is still on here in southern New Hampshire, but here at Casa Ben we're without cable television. Fortunately, we still have electricity, unlike most of the east.

The outage was first reported on the AP wires as of 4:23 p.m. Television images showed -- well, when I had access to TV, over at work -- thousands upon thousands of people streaming out of New York City. Power outages have been reported in New York City, much of upstate New York, northwestern Pennsylvania, northern Ohio including Toledo and Cleveland, the metropolitan Detroit area, and parts of Connecticut and New Jersey. Also affected are Toronto, Ottawa and some Vermont towns are also without power.

Amazing how calm and orderly everything is in the cities. Still, I don't think we've seen this kind of disruption to the nation's business since Sept. 11. What a huge mess! However, this is NOT repeat NOT a terror attack.

Air traffic in and out of Cleveland and the three major New York-area airports has been temporarily halted. However, incoming flights are being allowed to land.

Weirdly, power is out in the southeast suburbs of Cleveland, but brother Jesse in Akron reports that he still has power at his apartment. However, the University of Akron is without power.

Here's hoping everyone in the affected areas is all right and stays all right until the power is restored. That may not be until late this evening, according to New York authorities.

UPDATE: Twenty million people are affected due to the blackout, Drudge reports. The Washington Post has a not-too useful map.

Also, Drudge has helpfully provided the sunset times in New York and Detroit. Gee, thanks for reminding us.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 06:26 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 11, 2003

More Fun With Wealth and Class, Part II

Here's proof that not only are you probably better off than you think you are, you're probably better off than the guy next door who bought that new fancy sport-utility vehicle.

Figures are approximates, calculated from the U.S. Census Bureau ("Asset Ownership of Households: 2000; Table 4, Percent Distribution of Household Net Worth"); the Merrill Lynch/Cap Gemini Ernst & Young World Wealth Report, 2002; and the Forbes 400 list. Figures are cumulative.



(NET WORTH ABOVE $550M: 400)**


NET WORTH ABOVE $30M: 18,000 (TOP 0.0172%)
NET WORTH ABOVE $20M: 32,000 (0.0305%)
NET WORTH ABOVE $10M: 85,000 (0.0812%)
NET WORTH ABOVE $5M: 227,000 (0.22%)


NET WORTH ABOVE $1M: 2,219,000 (TOP 2.12%)
NET WORTH ABOVE $500K: 8,467,000 (8.1%)
NET WORTH ABOVE $250K: 19,036,000 (18.2%)
NET WORTH ABOVE $100K: 39,546,000 (37.8%)


NET WORTH ABOVE $50K: 54,310,000 (TOP 51.9%)
NET WORTH ABOVE $25K: 65,193,000 (62.3%)
NET WORTH ABOVE $10K: 73,983,000 (70.7%)

* Numbers above $1 million include both the U.S. and Canada, and denote only individuals.
** Only U.S. individuals.

The figures cited also show us that 15 percent of American households have a negative net worth or a net worth of zero, 9.2 percent have a positive net worth but one that is under $5,000, and 5.3 percent have a net worth between $5,000 and $10,000.

Hence, we can submit that the true poor are those 15 percent with no net worth; the lower-middle-class those with under $10,000 in net worth; the middle class ranging from those with a net worth of between $10,000 and $250,000; the upper-middle-class from $250,000 to $1 million. You can all argue just what it takes to be rich -- but I would call the 8.1 percent of Americans with a net worth of over $500,000 to be among the "mass affluent."

One more thing, though. If you've got more than $30 million salted away, please e-mail me for a prospectus on how you can invest in Benjamin Kepple's Daily Rant Inc.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:57 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

More Fun with Wealth and Class

I was reading a trade publication this evening when I came across what seemed to me a most foolish statement.

You should know that in the most recent issue of The Guild Reporter, a newspaper reporter detailed his work salary and the work salaries of competitor publications as part of a discussion on overtime regulations. To my astonishment, this gentleman called the salaries at his newspaper ($28k - mid $40s) and the relatively lower salaries at nearby publications "working class" wages. Indeed, one can capture the fellow's economic situation as follows:

"The starting salary there is about $28,000 a year, and at the top experience level, it goes up to the mid-$40,000s. There are three other daily newspapers in our region, and the salaries at each are considerably lower.

Clearly, these are working class jobs. In fact, I asked one of my colleagues, a divorced father of two, if he had any vacation plans. He said, 'I can barely afford to pay my bills. I can't take the kids anywhere on vacation.'

I myself drive an 11-year-old car, and my wife drives a 9-year-old car."

Now, I don't know about the rest of you, but I certainly don't consider a $40,000 per year job "working class." Never mind for a moment that the guy is a journalist, as opposed to a brick-layer or retail clerk or washroom attendant. If one assumes that he earns $40,000 per annum, and he has two dependents, then he likely keeps 85 to 90 percent of that salary in take-home pay. Furthermore, not only does he report no economic calamities suggesting poverty, he informs us that his family has two functioning (if older) automobiles.

But don't take my word for it -- take the word of the statisticians at the U.S. Census Bureau. According to that agency's figures, a $40,000 yearly income per family is very middle class. Indeed, it falls right between the 40 and 60 percent marks in terms of income: the lowest quintile, or lowest 20 percent, tops out at a mere $17,960 per year. The highest quintile, on the other hand, tops out at about $83,500 per year, and the top 5 percent at about $150,000 per annum.

Here's what I find interesting about all this -- aside from the fact that Americans are too focused on income, when they should be focused on wealth creation.

What does it say about us as a society when reasonable, intelligent people can consider their relatively high levels of compensation to be meagre?

Is it a sign that we put far too much emphasis on material goods? Is it a sign that we in general are far too envious of those better-compensated than we are? Or is it a sign that we're far more class-conscious than we'd like to admit?

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:15 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Kitchen Aid

Say! Now here's a handy product for any person: the Table of Condiments That Periodically Go Bad. This table, which lists the time a condiment can exist before it putrefies in one's kitchen, will come in especially handy for young people. For we generally haven't any idea how long we can keep the nuoc cham or the spicy mustard cooling in the fridge.

Of course, it says a lot about modern life that we young people don't generally know these things: we have to learn them, and often learn them the hard way. After all, the groceries make it easy to get already-prepared meals at a very reasonable price, and the current trend towards healthy fast food only exacerbates our general ineptness when it comes to cookery.

Further, I can assure you that when I was in college I knew men, reasonable and worldly men, who had only alcohol and condiments in their refrigerators; and I daresay that without the civilizing influence of the fairer sex, they would remain that way still.

Yet while the condiment table will come in handy for those men and for folks like me, I was disappointed to see that a pressing question for many men remained unanswered. Such as how long beer can remain in the fridge without it going bad. I hardly ever drink, so I haven't any idea. And I would rather not find out the hard way that months-old Beck's isn't as fresh or enjoyable as stuff purchased from the store three nights before.

(Link via Sasha)

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 07:09 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 08, 2003

The Worst Movie in Years

Oh No!
It’s Time for Another Installment of …

Today’s Feature: “Gigli”

DEAR GOD IN HEAVEN. It is rare that a cinematic production achieves such stunning heights of badness that it leaves me speechless, but Gigli left me so spiritually and intellectually drained that I hardly know what to say. It has been a good twelve hours since I left the horrible confines of my least-favorite movie theatre here in Manchester, and I’m still feeling shell-shocked.

For Gigli was not merely bad; it was so mind-boggling in its sheer stupidity that I will hate it until the end of time. Furthermore, I will not only hate it, but I will hate anything associated with it.

I hated Ben Affleck’s performance in Gigli. I hated Jennifer Lopez’s performance in it. I hated the soundtrack. I hated the work of Martin Brest, the director and screenwriter responsible for this violence against the cinematic arts. I hated the studio which gave Brest $54 million to make this putrescent film. I hated the unknown party within that studio who greenlighted this miserable production because he or she thought it would be great to give Bennifer a vehicle as they cavorted into autumn. Speaking of autumn, let me assure you that even though they have nothing to do with Gigli, I even plan to hate this studio’s upcoming releases for the fall season. That’s how much I hated this movie.

But even though I’ve spit all that out, I don’t feel that I’ve succeeded in expressing my message; these overpowering feelings of disgust and resentment I have towards that unknown person ultimately responsible for this film achieving theatrical release.

Therefore, to do so, I turn to Eli Wallach in the role of Tuco:

“You’ll pay for this! I hope you end up in a graveyard, with the cholera and the rabies and the plague! Cut me loose! Cut me loose, you filthy bastard! I hope your mother ends up in a two-dollar whorehouse! … You slime! You son of a ---!”

“Judas! You sold my hide! But you won’t enjoy that money, not a penny, if there’s justice in this world ... !”

And that’s just the part of Tuco’s soliloquy that I can actually print.

Now, of course, I write in jest. I can assure you that I do not really wish the person behind Gigli to end up in a graveyard, and that I am entirely joking. Everyone whom I had bounced that line off found it incredibly funny, that's all. But I do want to say this:

That scene involving Tuco, in the greatest Western movie ever made ("The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly"), is a truly wonderful comedic moment. In that 90 seconds, when Tuco condemned Blondie with an endless string of insults, there was more passion and wit and life than Gigli would have had if it was ten hours long. Of course, Gigli was only two hours and four minutes long—but what an excruciating two hours and four minutes!

Before I go any further, though, I feel as if I should offer some caveats to you, the faithful Rant reader. The first is that my review contains more spoilers than an open-air fish market in August. That’s fine, though, since none of you are going to go see Gigli anyway.

But I must say that if you are homosexual, you will find Gigli quite offensive because elements within the movie are insulting to homosexuals. If you are Italian, you will find Gigli quite offensive because the movie serves up awful stereotypes of Italians. If you are a member or associate of one of the Five Families or any other crime syndicate, you will find Gigli quite offensive because the movie makes mobsters look like morons. If you are an employee of a law enforcement agency, you will find Gigli quite offensive because the movie makes law enforcement look incompetent. Finally, if you know anyone with a learning disability or other mental handicap, this movie will so offend you that you’ll leave the theatre in a state of apoplectic rage, praying to the Lord our God for some sort of divine justice to smite the cruel forces behind Gigli. Then again, if you plunked down $8 for a movie ticket and shelled out $10 for associated concession-stand snack foods, you might feel such apoplectic rage anyway. I certainly did—and that was even when I knew what I was getting into!

But what really got me about Gigli was just how incredibly stupid it was. I mean, it was so incredibly stupid.

Here’s the pitiful excuse for a plot. Larry Gigli (Affleck) is a yutz, a yutz who has somehow managed to find work with a crime syndicate even though he failed the compentency exam for loansharks. Louis (Lenny Venito), his superior within this syndicate, is constantly and rightfully apoplectic over the fact that Larry is a yutz.

Now, despite the fact that Louis seems to have some modicum of expertise in how to run a criminal enterprise, he still enlists Larry in a wacky scheme to kidnap the brother of a federal prosecutor. This is a particularly stupid idea, and one that Louis’ superiors later recognize as stupid. Yet Louis decides that out of all the criminal figures he can rely upon, he’ll give the job to the guy who can’t even collect the monies he is sent to retrieve from Louis’ customers.

Then, Louis wakes up and realizes that he gave this incredibly important job to a moron. Hence, Louis decides to hire another moron to keep an eye on the first moron. Wacky hijinks ensue.

THIS IS HOW WE THINK TUCO (left) and The Man with No Name would have reacted if Angel Eyes Sentenza had forced them to watch "Gigli" instead of torturing them.

Of course, this is where Cosmic Levels of Stupidity rear their ugly head. For one thing, Larry is somehow able to walk unnoticed into a school for the developmentally disabled and leave the premises with his charge (Justin Bartha) in tow. Then, instead of heading out to Lake Arrowhead or some other remote locale, Larry takes the poor kid back to his apartment.

Yep, there’s nothing that says secrecy like going back to one’s place of residence with a kidnapping victim. Nothing says secrecy like arguing with the door open at your apartment, and nothing says secrecy like openly going around to major attractions in Los Angeles. And nothing says secrecy like using your real name in front of the fellow you’ve kidnapped, a move so stupid that Jennifer Lopez's character doesn’t even make that mistake.

Oh, yes. Jennifer Lopez. Where does one start? Well, we can start off with her character, Ricki. Ricki is a cold-blooded and merciless assassin, yet we are supposed to believe that this same cold-blooded and merciless assassin is a devotee of New Age dogma and other superstitious nonsense. We are supposed to believe that this same cold-blooded and merciless assassin will stand up for the poor defenseless kid with developmental disabilities when Larry starts acting like the jackass he is. We are supposed to believe that Ricki is a competent and learned professional in the arena of crime, yet she and Larry decide it’s OK to sleep in the same bed whilst the poor defenseless kid is given plenty of chance to call for help or otherwise escape his captors. Also, Ricki is homosexual.

Now, I know it is a movie and all, but even in the movies, an avowed lesbian’s sexual orientation should not switch back and forth like the gate on a fence. That’s not only insulting, it’s unrealistic. No one, whether an avowed heterosexual or homosexual, would treat his or her sexuality as a choice less meaningful than what he or she had for breakfast that morning. Especially if the man in question was Larry-freaking-Gigli.

Oh, yeah. Gigli is not pronounced “giggly.” It’s pronounced “gee-lee.” The movie thinks this is a funny running joke. Well, I tried it at the box office, and this is how it went:

ME: “Yeah, I’ll have one for “Giggly,” please.”
TICKET-TAKER (groaning): “Gee-lee.”

See? Not funny then. Not funny in the movie either.

I also should mention that there is practically no violence in this movie, in case any of you saw some published reviews and said, “Well, at least there’s violence to redeem it a little.” Oh, no. The first and only act of overt violence within the film takes place around Minute 107, and even that was dull.

Not that it was really a surprise, since it was truly amazing how dull Lopez and Affleck were in terms of their on-screen chemistry. Gad. Truly this movie contained the absolute worst love scene ever captured on film. It was the most pathetic, most miserable, most feeble excuse for a love scene I have ever seen in my life. Even the soundtrack was flat and limp. And yes, the widely-reported “turkey” line was as hideous as everyone has said it is.

But really, by that point in the movie, one’s anger and frustration had turned to feelings of sadistic glee. One wanted to see the movie get worse, and worse, and worse. One wanted to see awful things happen to the two main characters, and one wanted the clutches of law enforcement to swoop down upon them and deal with them in a most harsh and unforgiving manner.

Still, though, even those feelings of mine gave way to sadness at the very last scene, when a pleasant young actress in a truly minor role was given a chance to have a few speaking lines. As regular readers know, we here at The Rant generally have no sympathy for anyone in the entertainment industry, but I felt so bad for this lady. Here she is, hoping for her big break on screen, and she’s stuck in freaking Gigli. Oh, how I wanted to shout, “No! Don’t do it! Don’t do it! Run like hell!”

But sadly, it was too late. And while it may be too late for me, I can advise readers of The Rant of one thing: if you or someone you love is encouraged to go see Gigli, don’t do it. Don’t do it.

Run like hell.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:40 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

August 07, 2003

"Sweet ... MERCY."

So last Thursday, Allison Barnes all gave us quite a start when she announced, with absolutely no fanfare, that she would be taking some time off. We didn't know why at the time, but we learned why in her latest post.

It's one of those things that would be funny if it was in a movie; but unfortunately, life is most certainly not a movie. Basically, the situation she describes pretty much sucks. So go read it.

Also, readers of The Rant are sincerely encouraged to go buy Allison stuff on her Amazon wish list.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 07:36 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 05, 2003

Hideous New Show Signifies Cultural Rot

OK, so I watched the first half-hour of "The O.C"'s inaugural episode tonight, and I am thoroughly appalled. Given the advertisements that have appeared during the commercial breaks, however, I am sure that the people over at Fox are having a fete for the fellow who greenlighted this monstrous program. That appalls me even more.

Quite frankly, this show was so bad I couldn't watch. For one thing, it's so incredibly implausible that I just couldn't suspend my disbelief long enough to stay with it. Basically, the primary driver behind the whole silly affair is this:

1. Decent Kid from Bad Home Gets into Trouble with the Law.
2. Kindly Public Defense Attorney Lets Boy into His Life.
3. Kindly Public Defense Attorney Lives in Newport Beach Mansion the Size of the Staples Center.

And really, things go downhill from there. Oh, sure, the guy could be doing pro bono work, except for the fact that defense attorneys would certainly not do pro bono work for some punk-ass white kid who looks like he has trouble shaving in the mornings. No. That is not how such things work. And certainly not for some kid who has merely stolen a car, the crime of which the poor lad is accused of committing.

But that is merely one of the great improbable occurrences in Chi-Chi Fou-Fou land. There are plenty of others, of course, and I won't go into them here, although I will say I find the idea of Orange County being cool to be a bit silly. As a former resident of Los Angeles' Venice district, I can assure you that Orange County is not cool. Furthermore, I can assure you that most denizens of Los Angeles still hold to what one could call the "Swingers" mantra. Allow me to paraphrase:

GUY: "What in hell are you doing with a gun?"
OTHER GUY: "Hey, man! Step off! I grew up here!"
GUY: "You grew up in Anaheim."

That's right. Anaheim. Like an Anaheim chile -- mild, milquetoast, no fire and certainly not the real thing. This is how one could describe "The O.C." Yes, there are many scenes involving drinking and partying and obscene displays of wealth. If there are any kids out there reading this, please let me assure you that these things are not cool. Drinking and partying make your face break out and your eyes go bloodshot and your personality turn to mush. Foolish spending is not compatible with sound retirement planning, which you ought to start doing now.

Anyway, "The O.C." is a show that deserves to get The Kibosh. A pity, though, that the good people over at Fox did not take the ideas therein and repackaged them. Far better had the producers decided to do something really cool with the script, and have the kids' $70,000 sport-utility vehicle break down on Century Blvd. At night.

Now I would have paid money to have seen that.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:14 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 03, 2003

The Question of Free Will

Regular readers of The Rant know that we often devote posts on Sundays to the subject of theology, an issue which we find uplifting and fitting for the Sabbath. Regular readers also know that we tend to write such posts with a quite positive tone, as we feel the Christian message is inherently positive and inherently good.

Unfortunately, we have come across some work that we find so spiritually deficient that we cannot let it pass without comment. Specifically, we are referring to an old post from one Dr. David Heddle, a self-proclaimed Calvinist who has written extensively on the concept of predestination. Consider the following excerpts from one of those posts:

Unconditional Election, or (Calvinistic) Predestination says:

Before the foundation of time, God chose certain (future) men (and women) to be saved. Not for anything that he foresaw that these particular individuals (the “elect”) would do that was meritorious, but solely for His own pleasure in fulfillment of His perfect will. He decided to show mercy on some. The rest receive justice, i.e., the eternal damnation that all sinners deserve.

I am saved. I am one of the elect. It is something to be grateful for (what an understatement!) but it is not something to boast about. I did nothing to deserve it; I am as deserving of hell as anyone else. Amazing grace, amazing mystery, amazing amazing amazing.

Of course, this passage is boasting, and prideful, and we would say even acedic. While we certainly agree with Dr Heddle that God's grace is an amazing thing, we are rather appalled at his snarky tone as to the rest of his pronouncement. Primarily, this is because Dr Heddle is running about joyously proclaiming his salvation whilst at the same time condemning a large swath of humanity to the everlasting fire.

We would submit that Christians ought not believe and spout such things in the first place; but if they must persist in that error, then they should keep such thoughts private. It alienates many to the overwhelmingly positive message inherent in Christianity, namely that anyone can achieve salvation if they believe in Christ (or God, if of another faith; see Items 839-848 in the Catechism); and it also violates the teachings of both Church tradition and the Bible itself:

God predestines no one to go to Hell; for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end."

-- The Catechism of the Catholic Church (see Item 1037; see also Part Three, Section One, Article 3, "Man's Freedom").

"Man is rational and therefore like God; he is created with free will and is master over his own acts."

-- Sirach 15:14

That's to say nothing of the message imparted in John 3:16, which is the single most important verse in the Good Book.

That said, we especially find such talk appalling because spiritual authorities recognize that God's grace is freely given to all, if they but accept it. We also find it quite troubling that Dr Heddle would persist in such foolishness, in terms of his immortal soul. We do not detect a shred of humility (the greatest virtue) in his work, for instance, which leads us to submit that Dr Heddle may not be as strong in his faith as he might suppose himself to be. We would further suggest that this lack of humility could very well lead to further acedia if he is not careful, and we wish he would take a very long hard look at the tone of his own work.

We borrow heavily from Lewis in this next statement, but the fallacy of predestination is this: while God exists in the spiritual world (and can choose to enter the temporal if He so chooses), human beings exist in time. Hence, while God very well knows who will get into Heaven and who shall not, He gives us plenty of opportunity to accept His grace while we still have the chance. This makes predestination not merely irrelevant, but deficient and wrong as a theological concept. In short, it is a divisive and erroneous doctrine.

Of course, Dr Heddle also cites Holy Scripture in support of his view, which we find disingenous. He writes:

If there is no scriptural support for this, then I should be stoned. Fortunately that is not the case. You may say that I misinterpret some scripture, but if you are honest then I think the worst that can be said is that “I don’t agree but I can see how someone might believe that.”

Well, Dr Heddle does misinterpret Scripture. We will say that we can see in theory how someone might believe in his position, but then we also can say we see that there are a lot of damn fools walking on God's Green Earth.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:43 PM | Comments (18) | TrackBack