Tuesday, April 29, 2008

In all the horror of the Austrian father who imprisoned his own children, born of his own daughter, I find myself thinking of the power of the songs that stay in your head even if you don't want them to. I have to assume that this is all part of my not wanting to think about what went on in that house for all those years. It was reported that Herr Fritzl, the father/grandfather, was an "electrical engineer with interests in property management and retail underwear". So, like that awful song that sticks in your head, I will always think of Fritzl as the man who imprisoned his children and had a side interest in retail underwear. I noticed, also, that the children hidden in the basement were reported never to have been to school "or a disco". In what world does the notion of freqenting discos (are there any discos anywhere anymore?) automatically follow the shock of learning that a child has never been to school? Surely the next thought is about the child's health, or the child's ability to speak or interact with others. No, The Times of London is most interested in how a child will cope with a world he/she has never seen given that he/she has never been to a disco. How will the child cope? I mean, getting over the awful health problems, the psychological earthquakes, that's all fairly straight forward, but how does one cope with a lack of Gloria Gaynor? Who writes these articles? And how did every newspaper sink to the level of the Sun or the National Inquirer?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

How's it hanging?

The United States Supreme Court ruled the other day that a method of execution using injections of three chemicals is constitutional. There have been questions whether the first of these drugs renders the condemned sufficiently insensitive to pain and so avoids any possibility that the punishment is "cruel and unusual". The ruling does not surprise me in the least. Perhaps the truly significant moment in the report I heard was that during oral arguments in another death penalty case in which one of the anti death penalty lawyers talked about certain historical barbarities and the unfortunate frequency of judicial killings in the past, Antonin Scalia exclaimed, gleefully according to the reporter, "you mean the way it used to be?" We'll get back to Scalia in a moment, but first let's examine an interview that followed the Court decision. It was with an official from the state of Georgia which has, if I remember correctly, a hundred and seven inmates on death row. She said that the ruling meant that Georgia could now resume its execution schedule and begin dealing with "the backlog". After that beautifully expressed and deeply humane response she responded to the interviewer's next question about when exactly the "process" would begin. Well, she said, she was not certain. There are certain rules and protocols that have to be examined and a certain rigor employed in light of all the challenges to the death penalty, just so Georgia does not fall foul of that awkward little thing, The Constitution (my interpretation, of course, she said much more politic and evasive things). Now, here's my favorite moment: she told the interviewer that there would not be a sudden surge of executions - "you know, four a week or something" because "our culture just wouldn't tolerate that sort of thing". So, in case you are wondering about our "culture" (don't get me started on that one), it essentially can be boiled down to this, according to one state official in Georgia: when killing people, make sure you space them out. You see, that's the problem with the Chinese. They kill people almost daily and that's what makes them, basically, barbarians. If they killed people. oh, say, twice a month, well,that would constitute a proper "culture". Of course then they'd have a terrible backlog, but surely that's a small price to pay for becoming truly civilized

Now, Scalia. A member of Opus Dei. A devout, fulminating, proseletizing Catholic. An apoplectic reactionary, an Old School supporter of the most deeply conservative form of Catholicism, including the absolute submission of the Faithful to the teachings and rulings of the Pope. The Catholic Church, in all its teachings, in all its pronouncements, and at every opportunity, is absolutely and officially against the death penalty in any form and at any time.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

I passed a truck the other day that had emblazoned upon it: “Christian Karate”. In case anyone thinks this blog is dedicated solely to religious observation and incident, fear not. There will be other topics, but it does stand out, doesn’t it? “Christian Karate”. It is possible, since I drove past the truck while it was parked and, therefore, had only a glimpse, that this truck belonged to a company owned by somebody by the name of Christian Karate. A florist or a fruit and veg man. However, this is the United States of America , admittedly full of people with all sorts of names - I remember when I worked in a theatre box office and frequently came across a subscriber by the name of Marshall Dump – and I think this truck was in fact owned by a dojo (note the breadth of my knowledge, throwing that little snippet of karate jargon in there.) I began pondering the notion of Christian karate. Did a group of people who loved karate, attended the dojo diligently, listened to the sensei (it just gets better and better), learned the moves and the philosophy, decide one day that they just needed to earn their black belt with fellow Christians? Were these agnostics and Jews, these Buddhists and Muslims, ruining the whole martial arts experience simply by being there and just, well, heck, NOT BELIEVING? Sometimes a karate practitioner simply loses all concentration just knowing that the guy or gal next to him does not believe in transubstantiation and the salvation of the soul. So, they start a new Christian dojo and people flock. Enough people to enable them to buy a nice looking truck. What does a karate gym need a truck for? Maybe it was a fruit and veg man.

There is another possibility. A group of entrepreneurs gets together and decides that the martial arts is a profitable niche. However there are bucketloads of martial arts teachers and gyms out there. We are rancid with sensei. How do we get folks to come to our gym? We could appeal to older people. We could try to attract the Japanese American crowd. Maybe find someone famous to stick his or her name on the door, pay them a small sum for their image rights. WAIT! Why don’t we go for the Christians? There are loads of them and they’ll accept almost anything you tell them – except that Jews go to Heaven, but that doesn’t affect the business plan. So. Christian karate.
Or, maybe, they see karate as reflective of Christ’s teachings. Jesus as the ultimate sensei. To get to Heaven you have to strive to be a black belt. It’s very Gandhi, very Martin Luther King Jr. Only used in defense. You have to do as you’re told and it costs money every week. Blessed are the yellow belts for they shall see more of the punching bag. There’s a very successful graphic novelist who has made a very good living drawing a Samurai rabbit. Apparently its ears are tied in a topknot. How it holds a sword without an opposable thumb I cannot say. That’s always bothered me in cartoons. The thumb thing. Even as a kid. Oh, sure, they can talk, I have no problem with that. But the swordplay, no.

I’ve got a few ideas for a business. Jewdo. Jew-jitsu. A basketball gym called Islam Dunk. Kung Fucious. An acting school that teaches Methodist acting. A new car racing circuit, Nascarma. Possibilities are endless.