May 2006


Interesting characterization on reactions to the Da Vinci Code movie in the San Francisco Chronicle today. Listen to the lead in from the story (Some Christians shun, others co-opt ‘Da Vinci’, 14 May 2006) - emphasis mine:

Outrage over “The Da Vinci Code” has spurred some Christian leaders, including the Vatican, to call for a boycott. But its blockbuster success has also triggered some idiosyncratic responses from Christian leaders who say the book’s popularity and the marketing maelstrom around it simply can’t be ignored.

The article goes on to explain that rather than boycotting the movie, some pastors are encouraging people to see the movie in order to learn more about it and also using the publicity to promote a traditional view of Christianity. I found the choice of words “co-opt” and “idiosyncratic”. While I personally don’t have any interest in watching this film, I think that it’s strange to infer that it would be peculiar to suggest such a thing.

While I believe that the book and movie are wrong about the ideas they suggest, it certainly does not mean that one can not learn more about their faith by undestanding these ideas and why they were made.

And as I said yesterday, if you want to learn much more about the Gnostic claims should visit Mark D. Roberts’ writings The Da Vinci Opportunity, How the Popularity of The Da Vinci Code Book and Movie Can Be Helpful to Christians and Others.

The was also an interesting poll included with the artcile. The question:

Do you feel that watching a movie, even if its premise conflicts with your general beliefs, enriches your understanding of the world? And the choices:

  1. Yes, it never hurts to look at the world from another point of view, even if its artful propoganda. (31%)
  2. No, just as I may not watch, say, a violent movie, I may not want to see a misguided viewpoint. (18%)
  3. What, me worry? After all - it’s just a movie — lighten up. (51%)

Actually, I think that a Christian can give any of the answers to the poll and be right. Using this as a way to understand more about your faith can be a good exercise. Deciding that you don’t want to enrich and encourage those who write and promote a story like this is a fair statement to make. And of course, it’s only just a movie.

But I don’t think it’s really fair to simply “lighten up” and ignore this altogether. Popular culture does heavily influence people. It can be a good intellecual exercise to use this book and movie as a context to learn more about true Christianity. But my concern is with the mass audiences who will not go through that process of education and understanding. They may hear the words of the fictional historian Teabing in the movie and treat his words as facts, not imagination. It may just be a movie, but it does carry a message. A sad one.

In the Da Vinci Code world, the wonderful characters attempt solve a mystery and deny the deity of Jesus. And wouldn’t we all really be the losers in that case?

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Lately I’ve seen a commercial a few times that has me confused. A little girl dressed in an aardvark costume is upset, apparently because she had a small part in the school play. But when Mom & Dad show her the video, she realizes how important she is because her singing is load and clear on the close-up video.

That’s a nice story. (Cue the soft focus). Building your child’s self esteem through a camcorder accessory. Anyway, apparently the Sony HandyCam which now has an optional Bluetooth microphone so that you can capture audio far from the camera. (Of course, the parents still couldn’t have been too far away if the Bluetooth connection was working).

But when they showed the video, it looked like the kid had a huge silver box pinned to her aardvark costume. It’s great Mom & Dad managed to capture her audio (and the exclusion of all other) on their recording… but it’s still pretty obtrusive to have to carry that box around!


I see
that the rig costs $199. Wow… you must really want remote audio badly to pay that!

What a price for this self esteem…

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Watching Tom Hanks making the rounds of the chat shows means that the movie release of the Da Vinci Code is about to be here, and it will probably be certain to generate huge business.

I will not be watching this movie. Not because I don’t like a good story. And not because I am intolerate. But because this story makes a mockery out of a truth that’s too important to twist.

Writing a book needs a good plot, to be sure. If I were an author, it sure might seem tempting to concoct a story out of the characters in the Bible. And if you’re going to do that… you might as well start with Jesus! It’s going to get a good reaction.

I find it so silly to read about the plagiarism lawsuit which claimed that Brown’s book was a copyright infringement for retelling the same basic theory from another 1982 “non-fiction” book. But that lawsuit was laughable. This same “theory” is a heresy has been around for centuries. Just because it’s old and just because it has been retold in an entertaining way by a successful author does not make it any more true. And in this case, knowing the truth really does matter more than telling an entertaining story.

You must read: Mark D. Roberts: The Da Vinci Opportunity, How the Popularity of The Da Vinci Code Book and Movie Can Be Helpful to Christians and Others.

So go to the movie if you must. But this is not really a good story at all. But as Charlie’s Soapbox point’s out: Some of these stories are old. Some are new. But all misleading and having one thing in common; they all question the divinity of Jesus Christ.

Don’t be tempted to do so by the Da Vinci Code.

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China is legendary for not protecting intellectual property, copyrights, or anything close. Ripping of products is a huge loss to the companies that actually invest in developing the technologies and productizing them. But this has got to be a first. An entire ’shadow company’ existed pretending to be NEC.
From EE Times (Fake NEC company found, says report, 4 May 2006):

While the theft of intellectual property and the copying of products has been a problem in southeast Asia for some time, Japan’s NEC has received the back-handed compliment of having an entire NEC company counterfeited, according to a report in the International Herald Tribune.

The existence of the false NEC, which operated mainly in China but seemed to have been controlled by entities in Japan and Taiwan, came to light after two years of investigations, the report said.

The fake NEC had developed a portfolio of about 50 counterfeit products, including home entertainment systems, MP3 players, batteries, microphones and DVD players. In addition to copying NEC products the bogus company had developed products of its own that are not in the legitimate NEC’s range.

In some aspects the fake NEC behaved as a legitimate company, handing out manufacturing contracts and licensing Chinese companies to use its designs, but all the time under the NEC brand, to which it had no right, the report said.

“These entities are part of a sophisticated ring, coordinated by two key entities based in Taiwan and Japan, which has attempted to completely assume the NEC brand,” the report quoted Fujio Okada, senior vice president and general manager of NEC’s legal division saying in written answers to questions.

The report said NEC had declined to identify the offenders for legal reasons and that it was unable to estimate the value of goods sold by the illegal company.

I mean this is unbelieveable! It’s one thing to have the design for a product stolen… it’s quite another to build an entire company, operating in public under NEC’s name, and even introducing their own products!

And we have to ask — how did it take NEC two years to figure out something this big was going on? Didn’t their subsidiary in China see the things around them?

Impossible to believe.

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Can you really imagine the court’s time being taken up worrying about missing out on promotional merchandise at baseball games. Witness this. (Man Denied Mother’s Day Tote Bag Sues MLB Team, 11 May 2006):

A Los Angeles man who was denied a red nylon tote bag during a Mother’s Day promotion at an Angels baseball game has filed a sex and age discrimination lawsuit against the team.

The class action claim filed by Michael Cohn alleges that thousands of males and fans under age 18 are entitled to $4,000 in damages each because they were treated unequally at last May’s promotion.

Women over 18 received the gifts.

Angel officials said Cohn was the only person who complained about the giveaway and that the team is proud of its promotions.

This weekend’s Mother’s Day promotion will offer tote bags to the first 25,000 fans over age 18, regardless of their gender.

An Angels spokesman would not say whether the change was in response to Cohn’s complaint. But Cohn’s lawyer said the altered promotion still violates the civil rights of fans under age 18.

I hope that Michael Cohn enjoys his nylon bag. Cohn and his lawyer both need to get a life. And pay for wasting everyone’s time.

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It’s even hard to believe. (Siegfried & Roy Shooter Fesses Up, 12 May 2006). Ex-NFL kicker Cole Ford plead guilty to shooting at Siegfried & Roy’s home in Vegas.

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, a psychiatric examination conducted after Ford’s arrest indicated he believed Siegfried and Roy would trigger an apocalypse.

“While watching Siegfried and Roy, he had a sudden realization that what was wrong with the world was linked to the illusionists’ treatment, dominance and unhealthy intimacy he saw them having with their animals,” psychiatrist Norton Roitman wrote in the report. “He saw their illusions as their power to distort and change reality. He felt they threatened [the] world, and he began trying to figure out how he could stop them.”

Ford, armed with a shotgun, drove to the entertainers’ home, screamed, “We need to get…Siegfried and Roy out of this country,” and began unloading into the house, shattering several windows and leaving a large hole in one of the walls. No one was hurt in the incident.

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. Sometimes believing Siegfried and Roy will trigger the apocalypse maybe closer to the truth than we want to believe.

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Today it seems to be all the rage to be upset that the NSA correlates phone records looking for patterns. I’m not upset to find this out. I’m sure the NSA does much more than this. I just don’t understand why people are so shocked… and who thought that this information was ‘private’.

When there’s an Amber alert or a fugitive from justice, don’t we hear many times that some suspect was tracked down by examining their phone records to find out who they’ve been talking to and then questioning these people?

Heck, how many cop drama shows on TV show the same dang thing routinely?

There’s no warrant. There’s no worry. It’s great that they solved the crime.

But somehow we want to tie the monitoring of foreign calls to some wider wiretap scandal.

Taranto’s Best of the Web Today spoke to that well:

The (New York) Times’ conflation of “monitoring” and “collecting information on” calls is quite dishonest. What the government is doing here is essentially maintaining a database of people’s phone bills–information the phone companies store and use for their own marketing and billing purposes. In Smith v. Maryland (1979), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that law-enforcement agencies do not need a warrant to collect such information.

You can’t tell me that this just happened to spill out now by coincidence. I assume this was publicized to try to dig at Hayden’s nomination for CIA Director.

The spin is amazing. Anyone who doubts that all of these polls are constructed to actually advance an idea in people (rather than measure something) should look today. This morning, the local news show conducted an phone poll. The question:

Does it bother you that the Feds have been spying on domestic phone calls?

No kidding. Of course it would bother me. But “spying” sure sounds like listening… like wiretaps, like much more than correlating phone numbers and databases.

Don’t tell me that it’s a mistake. This is an overt attempt to lie.

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Former Georgia Secretary of Education Linda Schrenko is finally talking. She’s been involved for weeks in a corruption trial for awarding state contracts in exchange for kickbacks to fund her failed attempt to secure the Republican nomination for Georgia Governor in 2002. For the longest time she tried the Jeffrey Skilling/Enron defense (I didn’t know what was going on. I just signed the papers that were put in front in me. He came up with the plan. I don’t know I paid for my facelift.) Now she’s suddenly ‘remembering’ a bit more about things after finally seeing the light and pleading guilty. She’s now singing to try to take some of her other co-conspiritors down with her (Schrenko Tells Jury of Scheme, 11 May 2006). She still contends that she didn’t actually sign the contracts (they magically signed themselves somehow) but will now be performing her campaigning in prison for the next eight years.

I understand that politicians are all a special breed of liar in some ways. But Schrenko is the worst kind of example of people who betray the public trust. Once they start their rise in power, they forget to actually do their jobs. Empty words and corruption… when serving their power becomes so much more important to them than doing their jobs.

There is a great summary from Bill Shipp:

Linda Schrenko broke my heart. She coulda been a contenda, but she betrayed her fans. She threw ice water on Georgians’ hope for a fresh start in improving education.

Now she is on trial on charges that she stole $600,000 in federal education funds during her eight years as state school superintendent. The prosecution contends that she funneled most of the money into her 2002 campaign for governor. She allegedly financed a facelift with some of the purloined cash.

We are not here today to try her case. The court is taking care of that. Yet the proceedings remind us vividly of the Schrenko era in public office.

She wasted eight years as the state’s chief administrator of schools.

Her articulated dream for better schools was nothing more than political smoke.

In 1994 Schrenko came roaring out of Columbia County to become one of the first Republicans to win a state constitutional office. She also was the first woman to crash the barrier to females holding a high-ranking elective office in Georgia. Advocates of women’s rights rejoiced even if Schrenko was not exactly a model of liberal feminism.

Armed with an impressive resume and a cadre of enthusiastic supporters, Schrenko won election on a promise of a new day in Georgia education. She vowed to end good-old-boy rule. She pledged to improve student test scores and rescue Georgia schools from the bottom of the nation’s SAT heap. She declared war against Georgia’s appalling dropout rate. Schrenko’s promises in 1994 sounded eerily like Sonny Perdue’s New Georgia pledges in 2002.

Her political base may have been a bit too reactionary for some. That was OK. She was a breath of fresh air. She stood for change, and she seemed to have boundless energy.

When she was first elected, I looked into my crystal ball and saw Linda becoming Georgia’s first woman governor. She seemed to have the right stuff. State government was finally moving in the right direction. Schrenko stood in the vanguard of an era of responsive public service.

Then Linda moved into her new office. The celebrations ended. Reality set in.

Almost overnight, the staid Department of Education, which rides herd on 1.3 million students and 100,000 teachers, turned into a circus. Schrenko was the ringmaster.

• She immediately started fights over tiny administrative matters with Gov. Zell Miller’s appointed state Board of Education. To mollify her, Miller fired most of the board. He appointed peace-loving Johnny Isakson as chairman to restore calm.

• Before Isakson could take the gavel, Schrenko told the board that she wanted to close the state’s venerable School for the Deaf. The board recoiled. A few days later, she told a Rome civic club that the state board, not she, favored closing the school. She said that she rescued it.

• On a whim, she bestowed a prestigious award for excellence (and a $25,000 check) on a teacher who had only six weeks of classroom experience.

• She was so frequently absent from her office that she had difficulty remembering the names of her constantly changing executive staff. DOE morale hit bottom. Veteran employees left in droves. The department’s traditional program for assisting local schools all but disappeared. Test scores did not improve. The dropout rate continued to soar.

Schrenko’s zany political career ended in 2002 with her failed attempt to win the Republican nomination for governor. A train wreck was just around the curve. A federal grand jury was in session.

To be sure, personal misfortune overtook Schrenko. Hapless Georgia citizens also suffered a loss. Even when it became evident that she was unable to perform her duties as superintendent, state officials lacked the will or the authority to take action. The state Board of Education is an impotent appointive panel charged with the impossible task of supervising an elected administrator. The system makes no sense. In fact, it encourages partisanship and incompetence.

Unless the system is changed, the emergence of another Schrenko is inevitable.

I agree. There are others, like Schrenko, out there. Whether they be Republicans or Democrats - they need to be found brought to light. Politics is a seductive business. I may be naive, but I still believe that you can be a good public servant without being a crook.

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News today that someone threw away the President’s plan for his trip to Florida in a wastebasket where it was retrieved by a worker. (White House Responds To 9 News Exclusive, 10 March 2006).

Bush Administration officials insist they have no idea how a minute-by-minute schedule for the President’s trip to Florida landed in a pile of trash, where almost anyone could grab it, hours before the President took off.

But the White House does admit the document should have been burned not tossed.

The document in question appears to be a White House staff schedule for the President’s trip to Florida Tuesday. And a sanitation worker was alarmed to find in the trash long hours before Mr. Bush left for his trip.

It’s the kind of thing you would expect would be shredded or burned, not thrown in the garbage.
Randy Hopkins could not believe what he was seeing.

There on the floor next to a big trash truck was a thick sheaf of papers with nearly every detail of the President’s voyage.

“I saw locations and names and places where the President was going to be. I knew it was important. And it shouldn’t have been in a trash hole like this,” he said.

The full document is definitely an interesting read (even with the redactions). Certainly someone made a big mistake! I wonder how often security is breached like this? If so, it won’t be long before everyone will be dumpster-diving looking to see what else gets trashed in unsecure ways.

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So much gnashing of teeth over the idea of Gen. Michael Hayden to replace Porter Goss as Director of the CIA. Everywhere you turn, it’s reported that Republicans and Democrats worry about a military man being made the head of a civilian agency. Since when does anyone really care about that? Let’s be serious… if people want to use his position in the NSA wiretapping bruhaha to vent their concerns over the privacy rights of terrorists in foreign lands… then fine. But pulling out military service as somehow making him unfit to lead the CIA seems downright silly. Somehow because he in the military he owes some alligence to the evil Donald Rumsfeld. Kind of like worrying about a Catholic taking a position because he might get directions from the Pope, I guess.

And then there’s Sen. Dick Durbin. Couldn’t find the quote online, but in the news this morning he was quoted as saying that they would have to see if Hayden was strong enough to stand up to the President.

Funny, I don’t remember people making a checklist to see if James Woolsey or John Deutch or George Tenet would stand up to Bill Clinton.

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