Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Gold Rush

Tomorrow, the U.S. Mint will issue its first ever 24-karat coin. It's called the American Buffalo and is based on James Earle Fraser's Buffalo nickel. Quite beautiful.

When In Rome

I'm a sucker for cool online features. Right now, is focusing on ancient Roman ruins under Rome.

Charity For Iraqi Children

Here's a pretty direct way of injecting fun into the lives of children in a war-torn country. For $10 a pop, you can send soccer balls to children in Iraq.


With the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds album turning 40, this handy blog is on the beat.

Friday, June 16, 2006


On Tuesday, the surviving members of The Beach Boys got together for the first time in 10 years. They met on the roof of Capitol Records to celebrate the 40th anniversary of their Pet Sounds album (and in recognition of a recent compilation CD going double platinum).

But for serious fans, maybe the most interesting news is that a cleaner recording of "Good Vibrations" has been discovered in the Capitol Records vaults. That cut is set to be re-released as a deluxe CD single. I should add that, though cleaner, it wasn't the lost stereo master that was found. "Good Vibrations" remains mono.

Oh, one more treat: An anniversary edition of Pet Sounds is being released as a double vinyl record. Nice.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


Trying to be green? Or just looking for another fun ride? Be the first on your block to own a solar-powered trike bike.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Soccer Humor

The other day, Slate excerpted from The Thinking Fan's Guide To The World Cup. At one point, an explanation is given for soccer's popularity with American youth:

The beauty of soccer for very young people is that, to
create a simulacrum of the game, it requires very little skill. There is no other sport that can bear such incompetence. With soccer, 22 kids can be running around, most of them aimlessly, or picking weeds by the sidelines, or crying for no apparent reason, and yet the game can have the general appearance of an actual soccer match. If there are three or four coordinated kids among the 22 flailing bodies, there will actually be dribbling, a few legal throw-ins, and a couple of times when the ball stretches the back of the net. It will be soccer, more or less.

Who hasn't witnessed this? Later in the excerpt, you'll find an excellent critique of the injury theatrics in soccer.

Friday, June 9, 2006

Cool Collections

When I was at The University of Texas, the Harry Ransom Center was a bit of a well-kept secret. I'm thinking the purchase of Woodward & Bernstein's Watergate notes has changed that.

From the
Gutenberg Bible to the costumes worn by Vivien Leigh in Gone With The Wind, there are worthy rewards for even the briefest visits.

Now, another cool addition to its collections:
The personal film-related materials of Robert De Niro:

The costume portion of the collection ... includes more than 3,000 individual costume items, props from many of De Niro’s films and a full body cast used in the 1994 production of “Frankenstein.”

That's the mug from De Niro's New York City Taxi Driver's License above and to the right. For those of us outside of Austin, the online exhibits will have to do for now.

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Range Creek

Utah rancher Waldo Wilcox and his family kept this archaeological site secret for 50 years.

He sold the land to a non-profit organization in 2001, and, in 2004, the story became public. From the
March Smithsonian magazine:

Part of the excitement rests on hopes that Range Creek may help explain what happened to the Fremont. Along the canyon floor, traces of large villages indicate a flourishing settlement, while pit houses and granaries built high in the cliffs suggest a defensive retreat. "We’ve seen places where people were living in knife-edge ridges, 900 to 1,000 feet above the valley floor, which means to get a jug of water you’d have to send someone on a big long hike and back up," says Jones. "These people were afraid of something. They were obviously trying to protect their food, and it wasn’t from mice."

Cool story. More here (with nice photos).

Funny Video

Here's William Shatner before he realized he had a comedy bit on his hands. If you stick with the video, he'll reward you with a super cool Captain Kirk 70's dance.

Sunday, June 4, 2006

Blogging The Bible

Over at Slate, David Plotz is "Blogging the Bible." A self-described "lax but well-educated" Jew, here's part of the preface to his latest blogging project:

My goal is pretty simple. I want to find out what happens
when an ignorant person actually reads the book on which his religion is based. I think I'm in the same position as many other lazy but faithful people (Christians, Jews, Moslems, Hindus). I love Judaism; I love (most of) the lessons it has taught me about how to live in the world; and yet I realized I am fundamentally ignorant about its foundation, its essential document. So, what will happen if I approach my Bible empty, unmediated by teachers or rabbis or parents? What will delight and horrify me? How will the Bible relate to the religion I practice, and the lessons I thought I learned in synagogue and Hebrew School?

An interesting project, and probably a common start to many spiritual journeys. I've been there myself. Today, roughly six years after that similar moment in my own life, I'm 5 years a convert to Christianity.

As of today, Mr. Plotz is eight entries deep into Blogging the Bible; but, to cut to the chase, I'd like to go back to
his second day of blogging:

Yesterday, I wrote that God's warning to Adam and Eve about eating the tree of knowledge—"for as soon as you eat of it, you shall die"—seemed like lax parenting by the Lord, since in fact Adam and Eve don't die when they eat it, but are merely punished.

Lots of readers wrote in to critique my reading, and offer another interpretation. They point out that until this point in Creation, death didn't exist in Eden. There was no reason to think that Adam and Eve would ever die. By eating from the tree, Adam and Eve bring death into the world. God does not promise to kill them if they eat the fruit, he just promises that they shall die. And in fact, they do die. My quibble with this interpretation: It ignores, "as soon as you eat of it." Adam and Eve don't die for hundreds of years.
Plotz's readers refer to a common interpretation of the Fruit Story: That Adam and Eve (that is, Humanity) became mortal at the very moment they tasted of the fruit. Like many passages in the Bible, there are several levels on which you can find lessons and meaning. And I happen to believe that we are to understand that they did become mortal at that moment.

But the Christian explanation goes further in at least one important regard. A constant theme in Jesus' teachings is that he is offering Life to his followers--Life, because they are Dead; or, to put it another way: they are living apart from God. When Adam and Eve chose to eat the fruit, they chose to separate themselves from God; and that, in Biblical terms, is Death. And, yes, to answer Plotz's "quibble," that "Death" was immediate.

By definition, sins are choices we make which further separate us from God. The eating of the fruit was literally (or symbolically, if you prefer an allegorical interpretation of Genesis) the first sin, the Fall, Mankind's first decision which separated it from its Creator.

In Jesus' teachings--in Christianity--we are told how to narrow that separation--how to draw closer to our Creator once again. And so, when one converts to Christianity, and invites God's Holy Spirit into his heart, he begins to enter true Life--the Life Adam & Eve chose to leave. As Jesus says in the Gospel of John 6:32-35:

"...Moses didn't give [bread] to [the Hebrew people in the Wilderness]. My Father did. And now he offers you true Bread from heaven. The true Bread is a Person--the one sent by God from heaven, and he gives life to the world." (my emphasis in bold)
With Jesus, Genesis comes full circle. By
accepting Him as our Messiah, we are given a means to mend our separation from God.

Saturday, June 3, 2006

Vintage Star Wars

There are Star Wars purists out there who have been clamoring for the original Star Wars trilogy to be released on DVD. By original, they mean the versions first seen in theaters--not the digitally touched up and "improved" versions George Lucas made available in recent years. Apparently, Lucas is giving them what they want... sort of.

Above, from The Empire Strikes Back, is just one of the many modifications to the Trilogy made by Lucas. For my part, I think I like having access to both.

Compare & Contrast

Here's a pretty thorough listing of the changes made to the Star Wars trilogy over the years. There were even differences between the 70mm and 35mm theatrical versions!

Friday, June 2, 2006

Animal Planet

And then there was the time this guy rented a car and thought someone had thrown a rubber snake across the dash:
[Dan] McBride got into his car ... and saw the snake draped across the console. McBride said he thought it was a rubber snake someone put there as a joke. McBride even gave the snake a pat and put the car into drive. Then, as McBride drove toward the exit, the snake lifted its head.
Police determined the snake was harmless and lured the thing out with a baton. Luckily for everyone involved, the snake was typical of its breed: a
Ball Python.