Monday, April 30, 2007

Cheap Holidays in Other People's Misery

From the latest New York Times Upfront magazine, this piece by Patrick O'Gilfoil Healy.

Clad in black clothes and moonlight, our guide Poncho adjusts his ski mask and faces us to speak. The desert has claimed many lives, he says, but tonight we will make it across the border.

The night is crisp and clear in the central Mexican highlands. Our group of 13 is about to set out on one of Mexico's more bizarre tourist attractions: a make-believe trip illegally crossing the Rio Grande from Mexico into the United States.

The four-hour caminata nocturna, or nighttime hike, traverses desert, hills, shrubs, and riverbeds in the Parque EcoAlberto, an eco-park about three hours northwest of Mexico City (and 700 miles from the U.S. border). Tourists on the mock border crossing, led by "fellow immigrants," have to run and hide from fake Border Patrol agents.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

And He Could Hire a Room for Supper!

In an interview in the October 2006 issue of Atlanta magazine, pastor Creflo Dollar of World Changers Church International, expresses his amazement that people still think that Jesus was poor:

It’s not only Christians, it’s people who aren’t Christians; they are still uncomfortable with being wealthy or walking in a certain amount of wealth. I think, for the Christian, there is this idea that poverty is closer to God. We have the idea, “Well, Jesus was poor, and all Christian people need to be poor like Jesus.” I am so shocked by the number of people who think that. But Jesus absolutely wasn’t a poor man. You go through the Scriptures and you see that, at the age of 2, there were kings that came to him and they delivered unto him gold, frankincense and myrrh. Then you look at the fact that Jesus had a treasurer [Judas Iscariot]. Even though the treasurer was crooked and stole from Jesus, there had to be some money to steal. Jesus had a treasurer to keep up with something. You also look at the fact that when Jesus was crucified, they cast lots to see who could take his clothes. Well, if they were a bunch of rags I don’t think anybody would be casting lots for them. And then you see his disciples following him and he turned around and asked them, “What do you guys want?” and they asked him the question, “Where dwelleth Thou?” and he said, “Come and see.” So he had a house.

Shit Really Does Happen

Here's a summary and the final paragraph of an obituary of Michail J. Makarenko, which appears in the April 2 issue of Maclean's magazine:

Michail J. Makarenko survived World War II, a KGB prison, and almost 11 years in the Soviet gulag. Born Moishe Hershkovich into an Orthodox Jewish family in Galaz, Romania, on May 4, 1931, Makarenko ran away to the Soviet Union at the age of eight. At the start of World War II, he joined the Soviet Army, later being hospitalized four times for combat-related illnesses between 1941 and 1944. He moved to Leningrad after the war, where he took a number of menial jobs, but his efforts to toe the Party line chafed, and by the time he went to work in a concrete factory in the early 1960s, he was well on the way to becoming a dissident. He organized a strike there and was promptly fired. In 1965, he headed an underground art gallery, but when he tried to exhibit the work of Marc Chagall, he was banished from the city by the Central Committee. A year later, in Moscow, he was arrested, charged with anti-Soviet agitation, and sent to a KGB prison, Lefortovo. On and off, he spent nearly 11 years in the hellish work camps that made up what is known as the gulag. Following his release, he eventually immigrated to the United States, where he became an author and human rights activist.

On March 15, Michail was travelling with (his assistant and translator) Gregory (Burnside) from Hillsboro, Va., where they lived, to New York. At 12:45 a.m., they stopped at the James Fenimore Cooper rest stop along the New Jersey Turnpike. In the parking lot, he met a man named Brian K. White, a.k.a. DJ Coldblooded, who was peddling religious CDs. Michail refused to buy one. He died at age 75 after being bludgeoned with a rock the size of a brick.

Dead Ball Situation

Sorry. Couldn't Resist.

Suffer the Little Children

I missed this story by Paul Kix when it first appeared in D magazine, but it's still worth a read.

God speaks to Doyle Davidson. It is a still, small voice that he not only hears but feels in his stomach. He feels it, hears it, often. He heard it about 20 years ago when God told Doyle he was a prophet and an apostle and a conduit through which God Himself would speak. That's why, today, when Doyle—a short, fit man of 74 with full but graying hair and small eyes set behind an aquiline nose—stops mid-sermon to blurt out a misogynistic non sequitur about the corruptive influence of women, he follows it up with, "Lord, are you trying to get me assassinated today?" The congregation at Water of Life church in Plano, where Doyle is pastor, laughs. Because the faithful know these aren't Doyle's words. These are God's. And over the years, God has said all sorts of things.

God told Doyle in 1981 that a Jezebel spirit ruled Plano, a spirit of witchcraft that originates in a woman and operates through her to rule men. God told Doyle—he prefers first name only—to inform a married woman named Lisa Staton that she was no longer married to her husband, J.R.—but to Doyle. (Never mind that Doyle himself was married at the time. God's law is above that of man.) The Statons have since gone into hiding. Yet Doyle has continued to write Lisa e-mails—sexually suggestive e-mails, threatening e-mails, loving e-mails—and post them on his web site. This is, after all, what God told Doyle to do.

God told Doyle—tells him still—that ministries other than his teach heresy. This gets Doyle in trouble with the local religious community and nationally with the television executives who broadcast his sermons. Doyle has been on television since 1984. Today he's seen on five stations in Dallas; Tulsa, Oklahoma; South Bend, Indiana; Joplin, Missouri; and Springfield, Missouri. Stations have dropped Doyle for statements he made about other televangelists, about how, say, Kenneth Copeland isn't following the true faith. Doyle even once said a victim at Columbine, a girl shot dead for her Christian beliefs, would have lived if she had had enough faith. And he has often called members of his own congregation "stupid," "a bitch," and, worse, "nonbelievers." But Doyle is unrepentant about all this.

. . .

But members who've left the church call Water of Life a cult and say its doctrines amount to brainwashing. Some fear consequences for having left the fold. One former member has organized a support group at a Garland church for ex-Water of Lifers struggling to escape its grip.

To hear this tests even Doyle's faith. Testing it more, though, is Dena Schlosser, a church member who attended services sometimes seven nights a week. In 2004, psychotic, off her medication, and thinking she was doing God's will, Schlosser used the biggest knife in her kitchen to cut off the arms of her 10-month-old baby. The murder and the trial that followed made international news. The media scrutinized the health system that failed Dena, investigating the doctors who diagnosed Dena
with postpartum psychosis; investigating Child Protective Services, which had a case file on her. Even Dena's husband, John Schlosser, came under fire for the role he played in the murder, by working to keep his ill wife out of the hospital and at home with their children.

But one man has largely escaped that scrutiny: Doyle Davidson. After all, John was just following Doyle's teachings. Doyle is the one who has declared that "medicine is witchcraft" and that physical and mental illness should be treated with prayer.

The rest is here.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Kevin Tihista Loses The Dress On Chica-go-go

All TV programmes should be this good.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Queen Likes It Up the Arse

Norm spots the news that Liz Windsor is an Arsenal fan. That wasn't what interested me about the piece, or what prompted the title above, however. This was:

Manager Arsene Wenger and the football stars were invited to Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen after she was forced to pull out of opening their new stadium because of a bad back.

A Buckingham Palace spokesman said: "We don't discuss Her Majesty's personal preferences."

Ah, you can't beat a bit of good old British smut.

The Empire Bites Back

An article by Joel Stein in the April 9 issue of Time magazine examines the appearance of foreign-spun American fast food in the United States.

Not long after we invented fast food, we ran out of Americans to serve it to, so we opened McDonald's on the Champs Elysées, in Tokyo's Ginza district and inuatemala City's Zona Viva. Then those countries opened competitors--local fast-food restaurants making burgers, chicken wings and fries. And now those mimeographed restaurants are opening franchises in the U.S.

Jollibee, with more than 1,400 stores in the Philippines and 11 branches in California, makes McDonald's look like a funeral parlor. Its mascot is a jolly bee, and the restaurants are blindingly happy, all giant, shiny yellow blocks, as if they were designed by an architect from Legoland. Even if you gave Walt Disney all the ecstasy in the world, he would not have come up with this. America, according to Jollibee, is clearly a place of childlike optimism. Jollibee's two most popular items are called the Yumburger and the Chickenjoy. The Yumburger has a weird, plasticky dollop of French dressing in the middle. The crisped-up French fries are dry inside and taste as if they weren't just double fried but dunked in oil four or five times. The fried chicken is halfway decent, but the inflated, happy fakeness of Jollibee makes you feel that the only American its Filipino owners have ever seen is Pamela Anderson.
And not a lot of joy involved for the chicken, I imagine.

Monday, April 23, 2007

My Lovely Horse

Last week's Newsweek carried an unusual film review by David Ansen of Robinson Devor's documentary, Zoo.

If you were to watch Robinson Devor's Zoo with no sound, it might take you a long time to realize that the subject of this eerily beautiful movie is bestiality.
. . .

The inspiration for this meditation on the wilder shores of human desire was the true story of a divorced Boeing executive and father-his Internet name was Mr. Hands-who died of massive internal bleeding after having sex with a stallion. This happened in 2005 in the town of Enumclaw, Wash., not far from Seattle, where Devor, an acclaimed independent filmmaker (The Woman Chaser, Police Beat), lived. One of the reasons the group of zoophiles congregated in Washington was that there were no laws against bestiality there. (That's changed as a result of this incident.) Unable to bring anything other than minor charges against any of the men, the state, needing to dole out some punishment, decreed that the stallion that killed Mr. Hands be gelded. Devor shows this procedure, performed on a sedated animal, and lets the irony speak for itself.

White Pow(d)er!

Presumably the only detergent used at the Swastika Laundry. The Cedar Lounge has an interesting post on an old Dublin institution.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Mekons Where Were You 2006

For Reidksi and J.J., who can answer "We were there!"

Evidently Dublin Town

WorldbyStorm over at the Cedar Lounge provides us with the wonderful news that John Cooper Clarke is coming to Dublin in May.

with Neil Innes!

Friday, April 20, 2007

And the Train Ran On Time

On the way into work this morning, I was chatting to a good friend of mine who happens to work in the Taoiseach's office. He mentioned that Bertie would be spending the day accompanied by a reporter from Time magazine who had come over from London for a piece they'd be doing on him. He mentioned the journalist's name and asked me if I'd ever heard of her or had any dealings with her given that Time magazine is one that I encounter regularly in my working life. The journalist's name meant nothing to me this morning, and only now that the working day is done did I think to Google her and find out something about her.

This is what I found.

Bugger. I'd have taken the day off work and trailed the pair of them myself.

Only Concert in Germany!

Q: What kind of idiot would fly out to Frankfurt
just for Saturday night to see this?

A: Me. Dave and his mates fly out earlier in
the week.

Viagra for Dogs

Not quite, but according to Matthew Philips's Newsweek article, The Pets We Love—and Drug (better, at least, in that order, I suppose) Pfizer anticipates that 17 million dog owners in the United States will be willing to try their new diet drug, Slentrol, on their pets. According to Philips, of the 74 million dogs in America, about one-third are overweight, and 5 percent are obese. But that's not all.

In 2006, 77 percent of dogs were given medication, compared with 52 percent in 2004. According to APPMA, spending on pets' surgical procedures and dental
care—including floss and teeth whiteners—has also risen. Pet products now make up more than half an animal-health market once dominated by products for livestock.

. . .

Not surprisingly, some of the world's largest drugmakers are pouring resources into their animal health divisions in hopes of capitalizing on this emerging market. The FDA has approved more than two dozen new drugs for pets since 2002 alone. Along with Slentrol, Pfizer has a drug to treat motion sickness in dogs that's due out in August. Eli Lilly just launched a new companion-animal division and plans to develop six drugs in the next four years, in part by reconstituting drugs developed for humans, targeting not physical but psychological ailments. Lilly's new flagship pet medication, Reconcile, approved by the FDA in January to treat separation anxiety in dogs, is the same compound as its antidepressant Prozac.

It can only be a matter of time before a dog is diagnosed with ADHD. What's the betting it's one of those little yappy fuckers?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Brown Bunny

Further to the post below about the apearance of the word "scrotum" in a children's book, Paul Rudnick of the New Yorker presents a number of other cases of innappropriate subject matter in the same, um, vein.

“Cornelius Thimbletuck and the Wizard of Trewe”

Every night, Cornelius would pray that his parents would rescue him from the Smudgebury Orphanatorium, and every morning he’d awaken on his hard, wooden cot. And so before eating his meagre ration of watery gruel he would masturbate until his palm bled.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Pure Evil

First sarcastic use already spotted.

Jimmny Nails It

Here's one empire incapable of decline. I can't imagine how it could get any worse than the first episode.

Let's look on the bright side: The only way is up. Or cancellation.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

How Will We Live with the Shame?

My grandmother's Aunt Elizabeth married Robert Kilroy-Silk's grandfather. That makes us . . . erm . . . related!!!!

Monday, April 16, 2007

What Would J.J. Do?

Do these things happen only at Easter?

Can't Be Bad

A true story for you. Went to Manchester on Saturday night. Saw Ted Chippington. True Greatness. Oh Yes.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Will Someone Get the Sack?

Libraries Online reports the kerfuffle generated by Newbery Award–winning children's book The Higher Power of Lucky, by Susan Patron, which features the word "scrotum" on its first page.

In the novel’s page-one anecdote, 10-year-old title character Lucky overhears a meeting of a 12-step addiction-recovery program at which a man recounts how his dog got bitten by a rattlesnake. (Publishers Weekly) told how LM_NET subscriber and teacher/librarian Dana Nilsson of Sunnyside Elementary School in Durango, Colorado, had reported to fellow list members that 24 out of 25 respondents to her query agreed with her that the use of the word was age-inappropriate and that their schools would not buy the book.

The article's title, Scrotum Flap Raises Ruckus over Librarians’ Sensibilities, is only bettered by the statement put out by Kathleen T. Horning and Cyndi Phillip, the respective presidents the American Association for School Librarians and the Association for Library Service to Children. Their joint statement of February 22 affirmed the librarian profession's commitment to “inclusion rather than exclusion” and praised Patron's book as “a gently humorous character study, as well as a blueprint for a self-examined life.”

Nice word choice.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The King is Dead

King Kurt, that is.

We've always been big fans here at C&S. His sense of life's absurdity, his awareness of the human capacity to do both great good and great evil, and, most of all, his fantastic sense of humour, will all be hugely missed.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

You'll Love My Book as Much as I Did

Channel Four showed a series of documentaries on mental illness earlier in the year, one of which discussed Narcissistic Personality Disorder (another was on erotomania, but like a fool I forgot to tape it). Featured in the documentary was one Sam Vaknin, who was supposedly a "Level 9" narcissist, exhibiting all nine features of NPD, but, fortunately for himself and others, was also a "self-aware" narcissist and had consequently exiled himself to the Czech Republic where (supposedly) he could do no harm.

Quite how self-aware Mr. Vaknin is remains to be determeined. Check out the comments and identities of the reviewers of his book, Malignant Self-Love, at Amazon and judge for yourself.

His Lips Are Sealed

Terry Hall is dead.

I Want a New Drug

Singer Huey Lewis enjoys an enduring bond with the mentally retarded. That is the message (and terminology employed) in this article by Katy St. Clair in the San Francisco Weekly. She doesn't go to great lengths to figure out what it is in Lewis's style that attracts this particular demographic, other than to conclude at the end,

That's when it hit me. My clients all have one thing in common: They want people to "see" them. Huey Lewis sees them. Huey Lewis has gone out of his way to spend time with them. Huey would have given Bobbi a chair if she needed one at a show, or he would have put her on his shoulders so she could see. I just knew it.

I was intrigued by the article because I used to date a woman whose younger sister had Down Syndrome and just adored that old commie Shakin' Stevens. She was not alone, it transpired (although this was back in 80s. Perhaps their tastes have moved on to, I dunno, Robbie Williams). Shaky had (and may still have for all I know) a huge following in the Down Syndrome community but has not, as far as I'm aware, gone out of his way to court that particular fanbase. Anyone have any clues to explain this unusual attraction?

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Good Likeness, Mr. President

You've just missed the exhibition "Mr. President," at the University Art Museum at SUNY Albany (through April 1). The show presented 60 portraits of presidents by 30 artists, including Yasser Aggour's George and Abe, above. I resisted the temptation to give you Geoffrey Chadsey's painting of himself and his father at a nude pool party with Donald Rumsfeld and George Washington, among others, but you can go and have a look for yourself if you're so inclined by clicking on the link above.

Worth a Look

Jerry Bullivant's Football Is Fixed blog. I particularly like his Bum Ref Index and I'm sure his Celtic sympathies will meet with the approval of several of our readers.

The King of Thailand Blows Donkeys

The BBC reports:

The Thai government has banned access to the YouTube video-uploading website after it broadcast material critical of the country's king.

Communications Minister Sitthichai Pookaiyaudom said the site was banned after a 44-second film showing graffiti over the king's face was aired.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 79, is revered and it is forbidden to insult him.

. . .

The ban follows the jailing for 10 years of a Swiss man after he pleaded guilty to charges of insulting the Thai king.

Oliver Jufer, 57, was arrested last December after drunkenly spray-painting posters of King Bhumibol Adulyadej in the northern city of Chiang Mai.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Sunderland Fans Miss Out on Top Flight

But Big Niall sorts it out for everyone to go home in a taxi.

It began with a crowd of fans singing Niall Quinn's Disco Pants, led to the cancellation of an easyJet flight and ended with the aforenamed chairman of Sunderland football club shelling out £8,000 on taxis so they could all go home.

. . .

It is not Quinn's first act of generosity. In 2002 he donated the proceeds of his testimonial match between Sunderland and the Republic of Ireland to charity. Quinn, who played for both teams during the match, received an MBE. Instead of an appearance fee for the game, all the players received a letter from a sick child.