Friday, September 27, 2002

On Central Illinois...

Turns out that J. Bowen over at No Watermelons Allowed is a Central Illinois native. He and two other aspiring bloggers, Bill Dennis of Bill's Content and Mark Draughn of WindyPundit, have started the Central Illinois Blogging Webring. I will be adding a female perspective to their webring in the near future and look forward to some interesting dialogue from my geographical neighbors here.

Just for the record, where is Central Illinois? Contrary to the belief of many Windy City residents, anything below I-80 is NOT Southern Illinois. This is an issue that many Illinois residents care passionately about, for a variety of reasons which perhaps I will discuss at a later date. But back to the subject Central Illinois is the area in middle of the state, a few hours south of Chicago and a few hours north of St. Louis. I would say it includes but is not necessarily limited to the cities of Bloomington-Normal, Champaign, Decatur, Lincoln, Peoria, Pontiac, Rantoul, and Springfield. Towns that could also argue for inclusion are East-Central: Charleston, Danville, Mattoon, West-Central: Jacksonville, Galesburg. Aside from the Chicago, Quad Cities, and St. Louis metro areas, we hold a great deal of the state's population. We're home to many of the state's major universities, corporations, factories, and the state government. I personally think it's a wonderful place to live, but I am a bit biased. We've got a wide variety of political perspectives represented in this area, and hopefully the webring will reflect this fact and promote some good debate soon.

Hope to post something more interesting soon, but I am desparate for sleep at the moment. Welcome to my site and come back soon!
Letters on Sadaam...

A hypothetical letter from Saddam Hussein to Madame President Clintonista, circa 2007. (credit to Eugene Volokh at National Review Online). Best argument against appeasement I have seen in a long time.

Lileks writes a hypothetical future letter to Iraq, circa 2040. Futuristic yet still somewhat frightening.

Barbra Streisand spews sheer idiocy regarding Sadam to Gebhardt, circa 2002. Freakin' unbelievable that the Dems even give her the time of day.
So little time, so much to blog....

Hi there folks. Despite the fact that my time is a precious commodity, I am having trouble staying away from the blog as of late. Although the news these days is slow, I have a multitude of somewhat personal / faith-based topics I would like to post about at the moment. Unfortunately, they are being squeezed in between wedding planning, my graduate course, and a full-time job. But I am here, because I want to be...although I don't want to be starting serious post at 11:15 pm. Yes, I am in my twenties, but I am exhausted and my bachelorette bash (basically girls' weekend out) starts when we leave for Chicago early tomorrow. It's off for a weekend of art exhibits, shopping, fine dining, and quality time with my girls. While I may like the traditionally male "sports" of politics and college athletics, I enjoy competitive shopping as much as the next girl. I have several marriage-related posts floating around in my head at the moment. I will work on refining them and attempt to get them up soon. In the meantime, have a great weekend & come back soon!

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

Ready for a haircut...

I have no time to blog, but I feel compelled to leave my thoughts here on one issue tonight. Barbershop. If nothing else, Jesse Jackson's whooping and hollering has upped its box office the price of one admission. I hadn't heard very little about the plot of this movie until I read Rod Dreher's piece over at National Review today. In this piece, Rod Dreher basically asserts that Jackson wants MGM to censor this film because black people are saying things of which he does not approve, not to mention mocking the Reverend himself. At one point in the movie, one of the men in the barbershop says "You'd better not let the Rev. Jackson hear you talk like that!" To which Eddie the veteran barber replies "**** Jesse Jackson!"

Any film that tells the Reverend Jackson to kiss off is fine by me. After the horrible fuss he caused the Decatur school district a few years ago, he quickly rose to the top of my "least favorite people" list. Top that off with his Clinton-defending antics, his divisive politicing regarding the 2000 election, his blackmailing of major corporations like Toyota, his tendency to attempt to grab the media spotlight by "negotiating peace" in war-torn areas (i.e. sympathizing with the Palestinians). It's hard to find much to like about Reverend Jackson. Now he wants to censor the views of artists in his own community? Dreher likens this to Stalinist Russia, nothing that Jesse not only wants these comments removed from the film -- he wants us to pretend they never existed.

What comments could be so offensive to the "good reverend"? Try this on for size: Veteran barber Eddie at one point tells the other men in the shop that "Black people need to stop lying," and proceeds to outline three "truths" he believes blacks should acknowledge: 1) "O. J. did it;" 2) "Rodney King should have got his ass beat;" and 3) "Rosa Parks ain't do nothin' but sit her black ass down." Apparently these men also discuss Dr. Martin Luther King Junior's wandering eye.

What's wrong with these comments? Nothing really except the fact that they are too close to the truth for the Reverend's comfort. Instead of acknowledging this, he race-baits and dwells on the fact that something unflattering might be said about any African-Americans anywhere. Unfortunately, the color of one's skin doesn't absolve one from having faults. A lot of the "lessons" that seem to be emanating from this movie could be applied to folks of all races. For example, at one point in the film a young man says "We don't need reparations, we need discipline. Don't go out and buy a Range Rover when you livin' with your mama." A good lesson could be learned there by young people of all races and genders -- don't live beyond your means. It's something that many people my age need to hear and think about, even if it hits a bit close to home.

Black or white, this movie sounds like it's thought-provoking and funny. I'm ready to run out and see it the next chance I get. I really hope that the film powers that be withstand the censorship pressure from Jackson and his cronies. I could really use a humorous, uplifting, moral-promoting filmgoing experience right now. Even as a young, white twenty-something girl in a somewhat-small town, I think I could take that away from this film. Just replace "African Americans" with people in the following quote from Rod Dreher's column:

"Barbershop argues (alas, a bit too ham-fistedly) that young African Americans need to quit dreaming about the glamorous life, cease obsessing over racial consciousness, knock off the victimhood fantasies, ignore the pieties of Jesse Jackson, and get serious about building their futures. That a movie preaching such a message has been the No. 1 film at the box office for two weeks running is very good news."

Hear, hear.

Monday, September 23, 2002

Here she is...

Of course, you know that a blog named Illinigirl would have to mention this story! After another negative Illinois story was found the national news spotlight last Thursday, it was refreshing to have a positive piece of news. Even better -- it was about Central Illinois for once. Urbana native Erika Harold was crowned Miss America on Saturday evening, and she seems to be quite the impressive beauty queen. She won the pop-culture quiz segment, performed a beautiful aria from Carmen, and will start at Harvard Law School next fall. Sure that's impressive stuff on paper, but here's what impressed me. As Joel Mowbray explains on National Review Online today, it seems she is also a conservative. Interestingly enough, the issue platform that she won with Saturday night was not her original choice. While obviously violence prevention is a worthy cause, it appears that Miss Harold had to switch her platform due to "internal pageant politics". What was her original platform? Promoting abstinence to teenagers. What's incredibly shocking about that in my book? She won the Miss Illinois pageant while stumping for this cause. That in and of itself is quite admirable in this state.

The National Review article goes on to detail her work with Project Reality, a statewide abstinence education program that I had never heard of before. Turns out she also worked for Patrick O'Malley, who ran in the bitter three-way primary for the Republican gubernatorial normination last spring. Not surprisingly for those who know anything about O'Malley, she is ardently pro-life. I'm only two years older than Miss Harold, and our high schools were in the same conference division. I'm quite disappointed that our paths haven't crossed, because she seems like a fascinating person. Would I have ever known this without the National Review article? No. Even in Central Illinois, all the newspapers have been lavishly heaping praise on her all her politically-correct achievements. Her admission to Harvard Law, her "beautiful soprano voice", her insistance on checking "Multi-racial" on the census form. (Ala Tiger Woods, her mother is African-American and American Indian, her father of Greek, German and Russian heritage). Typical press coverage I suppose -- why dwell on the courageous moral stances she's taken and volunteer work that she has done, when you can simply rehash the same politically-neutral feel-good stories that we've have heard time and time again?
Random thoughts

I've had a rough weekend juggling things here, as the number of balls I have in the air at any given moment seems to be spiraling out of control. Fighting off a sinus infection, a trip to get bridesmaid dresses fitted, oodles of work for the graduate class I am in at the moment. As much as I like blogging, it's coming a bit lower on the "To-Do" list as of late. Bear with me here -- thanks for sticking around.

I've been watching the debate on conservative environmentalism with some interest. As I spoke of last week, I do not 100% buy into the concept of global warming. I don't think that makes me an environmental monster though. I recycle. I walk or ride my bike to conserve fuel when possible. Although I don't have a problem with urban sprawl from a free market, give-the-people-what they-ask-for standpoint, I am disgusted by it in practice. I get irritated when it takes me more than 15 minutes to drive across town. I do acknowledge some environmentalist viewpoints may be logically grounded. I think our energy resources are finite. Eventually, we will have to come up with an alternative to a simple oil-reliant internal combustion engine. We need to come up with creative food production methods. While recycling may not be terribly cost-effective, I do it because it leads to landfills filling up less quickly. I'm not going to pretend to be any kind of environmental expert here, but I definitely think these gentlemen's posts are worth reading: Orrin Judd, Kevin Holtsberry, Joshua Claybourn, Mark Byron, Paul Cellas, and Christopher Badeaux. Check them out if you are interested, and let me know if you reach any conclusions.

Larry Miller has a funny column out today, that somehow effectively users an analysis of stand-up comedy to make a good point about Iraq. Check it out if you're interested. And can anyone confirm that was him of Mind of the Married Man on HBO last night?

Speaking of HBO, let me just say that obviously the academy voters have no taste in drama. West Wing over the touching, heart-wrenching episodes that Six Feet Under put out last year? Puh-lease. HBO continues to put out the best television there is, with the possible exception of Everybody Loves Raymond (which I am off to watch as I eat dinner in a few minutes).

While still somewhat on the topic of HBO and The Weekly Standard, I want to link to an interesting article I found over there about the "misery" of Sex and the City's fifth season. This writer simply thinks that the plotlines have become tired, definitely lost their edge. I have a different take on the situation -- more along the lines of the Sex girls becoming tired of the empty lives they were leading. Alas, that commentary will have to wait for another day since I have dinners to eat and javascripts to write. Until then!

Saturday, September 21, 2002

Full disclosure on youthful indiscretions...

In the interest of full disclosure, I am doing another post on youthful indiscretions. This comes after reading Mark Byron's well thought-out response to my "Because Rod!' Got High" post. At one point, Mark pays me a compliment that I don't deserve:

"When Eileen and I have teenagers, she can speak on substance abuse from a sense of purity (having avoided drugs and alcohol as a youth) while I can speak from experience, saying that those things aren't good for you, that I was sinning against God when I did them and such activities should be avoided. It's better not to have done those things, and I give Illinigirl her due props for steering clear of those temptations."

In my earlier post, I spoke of some poor decision-making when I was younger. If you include alcohol in the definition of illegal drugs (as I generally do not), my earlier post was inaccurate. I was a weekend problem drinker for about a year of college. To make a long story short, it prompted me to make a fool of myself on a regular basis. Concerned friends watched out for me, and I am lucky that nothing worse than a hangover happened in some of these situations. I woke up many Sunday mornings feeling terrible, embarrassed by my actions the previous evening, and convinced that God was probably ashamed of me too. Yet I still had a hard time escaping from this cycle of self-destructive behavior where I used alcohol and temporary admiration/affection from young men to make myself "feel good".

How did I rationalize my behavior at the time? I was a college student, I was supposed to experiment, I needed to have a good time. I was far from alone in using such excuses to rationalize my behavior. Such excuses are the norm in the college environment these days. At some point, I realized I really didn't respect myself much anymore. It took months of soul-searching and encouragement from friends (including one now known as Illinifiance) to help me change my ways. I curtailed the abuse, got involved with school ministries again, and soon afterwards really started growing as a Christian.

While I do not personally believe social drinking is wrong, I do think that irresponsible drunkenness is sinful. I fully agree with Mark's assertion that "there aren't too many sins that I know of that are physically or emotionally good for the person in the long haul". He also posts three good guidelines towards acknowledging such missteps and discouraging younger folks from making the same mistakes. If Rod!'s admissions had been more in line with such guidelines, I doubt I would have gotten so teed off in the first place. I apologize if my first post came off as thinking myself above such useful indiscretions to anyone, because that was not its intent. I just wanted to elaborate here in the interest of protecting my "bloggeristic integrity".

Thursday, September 19, 2002

Quotes for the evening:

On Marriage: "Your love must be sincere. Detest what is evil, cling to what is good. Love one aother with the affection of brothers. Anticipate one another in showing respect. Do not grow slack but be fervent in spirit; he whom you serve is the Lord." -- Romans 12:9-10

Otherwise: "Luck is not chance, it's toil. Fortune's expensive smile is earned." -- Emily Dickinson

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

Because Rod! Got High...

Illinois has not been having a good couple weeks in the media. First we lead the nation in West Nile cases/deaths, and now this gem of a story. Ya gotta hand it to Rod Blagojevich for knowing how to grab the media spotlight. (Note: I am tired of typing his last name, so henceforth on Illinigirl, he will be known as Rod!) On Monday, in a "careful response that took 10 seconds to craft following a reporter's question", Rod! admitted,

''Did I try marijuana when I was young? The answer is yes. Did I use any other kind of illegal drug? The answer is no...I don't know if I did or not. I never liked the smell of it, but it was a smell ... all of our generation is very familiar with, and I'm sure I'm not the only one in this room who can recognize that smell...I probably didn't. You're using a Clinton line on me here. I just don't know. I did it twice. And I was so inept at it, I don't know whether I did or didn't."

Any regular Illinigirl reader will know that I don't like Rod Blagojevich for a host of other reasons. I guess I should respect him for his blatant honesty on the topic, but I detest this response. Couldn't he come up with anything better than "I probably didn't inhale" and complaining that the press is subjecting him to a Clinton line here. I mean -- you're running for governor of the fifth-largest state in the country. Couldn't you forsee the fact that the press might try to drag such skeletons out of the closet? Couldn't you craft a more intelligent, well-thought out response? Couldn't you try to explain that it was wrong?

That's what bothers me the most about this entire exchange -- Rod! made no mention of pot being wrong. No admission of the pot-smoking being a mistake, no regrets for having done it. Regardless of this admission, I think Rod! is still going to win this race in a few weeks. What kind of message does that send to all the young impressionable minds out there? That it's no big deal. Go ahead -- smoke pot or whatever you want, you can still be elected governor or even president as long as you claim you didn't inhale! Take no responsibility whatsoever! You'll be fine!

I'm really not trying to be judgmental here. He who once lived in a glass house should not throw stones. I really don't buy into the "experimentation is a normal thing" mentality anymore though. I made some bad decisions when I was younger, but I now fully realize and admit they were stupid choices. I will actively try to dissuade my (hypothetical future) children from making the same ones. I am proud though that I can honestly say I have never used an illegal drug. I went to a pretty liberal college and was handed bongs on several occasions. What were my two primary reasons for turning it down at the time? The idea that I would have to tell my kids about it some day and the thought it could become an issue if I ran for political office someday. Guess kids have one less reason to "just say no" these days.

* Side note: I do feel a bit of sympathy for the libertarian that "inhaled" the hash brownies. But why he felt the need to voluntarily enter the "Past Marijuana Use Confessional" tm sun times, I do not understand.

Updated: Mark Byron seemed to interpret this post a bit differently than I intended, so I'm publishing my response comments here for clarification:

"Not really meaning to blast people in that post Mark. I realize that most people have a youthful indiscretion (or two or three or a few dozen) in their pasts, myself included. I simply said that I'm happy mine didn't include marijuana use. Sorry if it came off as sanctimonious.

I primarily object to the fact that Blagojevich didn't express any regret or publicly say that it was wrong. I wasn't trying to say that past substance abuse should disqualify anyone from running for office. The angle the media is taking on this now is "Hey, it's no big deal." That is what I am really objecting to here."
Just a few weeks ago, my main liberal tree-hugger friend seemed quite aghast when I told her I didn't really believe that global warming was a serious problem. So I couldn't help but smile today when I heard about the new research on the ozone layer. So will I be able to wear lower SPF sunscreen by the time I'm 72? Not that it will really matter by then...

Monday, September 16, 2002

Nightly Musings

As I have gotten little sleep the last few days, just a few morsels of wisdom I've encountered lately. One is just a nice "inspirational message" from a daily newsletter at work. The other is an observation about marriage. As I'm getting ready for my upcoming wedding (under six weeks!), the aspect of wedding planning that I am enjoying most is planning the ceremony -- particularly the readings and toasts. For your reading pleasure, I'll be presenting a few favorites here. Feedback is welcome from the young and the wise, old married folks alike. Who knows, maybe I'll turn it into a contest!

Wedding-Related: "There is nothing nobler or more admirable than when two people who see eye to eye keep house as man and wife, confounding their enemies and delighting their friends." -- Homer, The Odyssey

Other: "All we can do is make the best of our friends, love and cherish what is good in them, and keep out of the way of what is bad; but no more think of rejecting them for it, than of throwing away a piece of music for a flat passage or two." --Thomas Jefferson
Thoughts on Iraq

Just before leaving tonight for a dinner party, I saw the alert on Fox News that Iraq has unconditionally decided to allow UN weapons inspectors. For some reason, this cheered me up a bit. It may have just been happiness by association, as I had finally gotten a particularly annoying javascript functional after working on it hour upon hour this weekend. Nonetheless after the doom and gloom of the last few weeks, I was happy to hear that full-fledged war may not be so imminent.

I mentioned this to some of the women at the party. First response? "They've hidden them. That's got to be why". I gave it a bit more thought and pondered just what America's response should be to this abrupt about-face. After some reflection and logical dissection of the situation, my conclusion is that they are trying to buy time. Perhaps we would overwhelm them with a military attack at this moment, so they have decided to comply. But for how long? Kind of interesting that Iraq's announcement comes on the same day as "Iraq will have a nuclear bomb by Christmas" ran in the Times Online. Another article on Drudge Report says that the White House has rejected this overture and called it a tactical ploy. I'm sure the refusal to accept Iraq's olive branch will be denounced by leftists out there. On a basic primordial level, I understand. As do many other human beings, I detest conflict and like peace. However once I rationally reflected on the situation, Iraq's actions ring false to me. I'm convinced that the White House knows something we do not, and I'm grateful that this administration will put the safety of its citizens first and foremost in such decision-making.

Saturday, September 14, 2002

Just came across an interesting post by Andrew Sullivan on whether Americans have really changed since 9/11. Listening to talk radio on Tuesday, I overheard a listener say the primary good that came out of 9/11 is that it reversed our nation's rapid slide towards total moral relevancy. The majority of our nation's citizens were buying into the idea that nothing is truly right or truly wrong, that any action can be right or wrong depending upon the circurmstances under which it occurs. Sullivan post expresses similar sentiments in more eloquent prose. Although he thinks our memories may fade, he feels that our country's psyche has been undeniably altered. Here's a taste of it to whet your appetite:

"That's why I think that, for all the return to superficial normality, Americans really have changed. The illusion of isolationism has been ripped apart. How can America opt out of the world when the world refuses to leave America alone? The illusion of appeasement has been destroyed. Do we really think that by coddling regimes like Iraq or Syria or Iran or Saudi Arabia, we will help defuse the evil that lurks in their societies? The illusion of American exceptionalism has been shattered. The whole dream of this continent - that it was a place where you could safely leave the old world and its resentments behind - was ended that day. The proliferation of flags that day and subsequently was not a function of jingoism. It was the display of a symbol whose meaning had just been changed for ever. The inviolability of America had been destroyed. And the display of Old Glory was a signal not of blind patriotism but a way to show the world and the enemy that we loved it still and passionately, and that we were prepared to fight to restore its honor. A whole generation will grow up with this as their most formative experience - a whole younger generation that knows that there actually is a right and a wrong, and that neutrality is no longer an option. That generational power has only just begun to transform the culture. In decades' time, we will look back and see what a difference it made."
James Lileks wrote a fabulous piece on the 9/11 anniversary. Check it out if you haven't already. He flashes back to that horrible night of the tragedy, and he attempts to tell himself what to expect in the next year. It really does a good job of summarizing what has happened and putting things into perspective.
What a week!

It's been an incredibly hectic week here in Illinigirl world. Lots of wedding stuff going on, actual career-related work, java scripts to write for my class. As a result, postings here this weekend may be short and sporadic.

In the grand tradition of busy bloggers, I will instead provide a rundown on some current debates that I find interesting out in the Blog-o-sphere. Quite a few of them this week ... hoping to add my two cents sometime in the near future.

Christianity in relation to the Simpsons: Bobby Allison-Gallimore and Marc V over at Spudlets
Value of Liberal Arts Degrees: Paul Musgrave is writing about a subject near and dear to my heart
The Ethics of the Atheists: Josh Claybourn is running an interesting series here: Parts One, Two, Three, Four, Five

Finally, a link to a column that I've been meaning to post for quite a while. Although I mainly read current events weblogs, I occasionally visit several web diaries. Found a post this week that merits pointing out to the blog masses who like personal posts on dating/relationships. Most of us have such romantic entanglements in our pasts, or at the very least we are friends with someone who has them. Allison over at talks about letting go of the sad, obsessive relationships so you can fully experience life and love in "I'm aware I should know better, but I don't when we're together".

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

One Year Ago and Today

It's been a strange day for me here in Central Illinois. When I woke up this morning, my first major thought was "It's here". It seems like the media, the national dialogue have been building up to this day for weeks. With every passing day and every warning I read, I got a little more nervous. With every news piece I read about a victims' family, I got a bit more sad. With every article I read recounting what happened on the 78th floor elevator lobby, I got a little more angry. I've struggled a bit this week with figuring out how I should feel about this anniversary and the impending conflict with Iraq. As a Christian and just as a person, I hate getting trapped within worries, anger, vengefulness, and uncertainty. Somehow I feel like my mind has been stuck in an endless loop on related topics all week.

It was a strange day at work today. Everyone seemed restless and a bit disinterested in what they were doing. The internet was slow, probably because the employees were hitting reload on or all day. (No TVs in the break areas). Although I thought I'd had enough coverage before work, I found myself listening to WLS-AM at my desk all day. I couldn't concentrate, but I was fortunate enough to have a co-worker willing to skip lunch and drive out to a lunchtime memorial service. (thanks julia!) Just listening to a few scriptures and singing a few hymns seemed to help me immensely. I had thoughts strikingly similar to those Mark Byron wrote of today as we sang America the Beautiful to close. A few lines in the second verse rang particularly true today, as I thought of all the American lives lost a year ago today... "O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife, who more than self the country loved and mercy more than life!" After the service, I was able to focus again. Finished out the day at work, went to my class, and ran some errands without choking up at the sight of the Walgreens signs that read "We will never forget".

I don't think we could forget if we tried. It truly has been the "Kennedy assassination" moment of my young life. I remember waking up with a migraine that morning, wincing at the bright sunshine outside. I took some medicine and headed back to bed, only to be awakened out my slumber by the phone. My fiancee was on the phone, telling me that the World Trade Center had been hit by a plane. My first thought was of some lone crazy man in a tiny stunt plane, flying into the tower as a stunt. Then I turned on the TV to see not one but two gaping holes in the twin towers. (Apparently word at the office traveled slowly). A few minutes later, pictures of the Pentagon ablaze hit the screen. I watched the first tower crumble, then the second. I switched back and forth between all the various stations looking for updates for a couple hours. I got more and more upset, my headache got worse, and I went back to sleep. I remember hoping it was all just a dream, a nightmare that our nation wouldn't have to deal with when I woke up.

So what am I going to do this evening? "Normal" stuff I assume. Stick a frozen pizza in the oven, watch an episode of Sex and the City, and address wedding invitations. Watch 60 Minutes II because I want to see what the president has to say. Join Mark Byron in saying prayers for justice and mercy, that we can do what we all know needs to be done with the least amount of suffering possible. After all the non-stop coverage today, I have decided that it's time to stop dwelling on the heroic actions of last 9/11/01. It's time to start focusing on what we can do to combat terror around the globe and prevent such atrocious attacks from ever happening on American soil again.

Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Teachers Take Note: Bill Bennett on what SHOULD be taught tomorrow about 9/11.
This week's Entertainment Weekly has the 7pm Wednesday showing of the Wedding Singer in its "best bets" because it is the most mindless, light-hearted alternative to all the 9-11 programming that will saturate the airwaves tomorrow. While I fully support comemmorating 9/11, I don't understand the need to do so all day long. Following in EW's footsteps, I offer these celluloid suggestions for those who desparately need mindless diversions to help them escape reality tomorrow. Other ideas?
1. Princess Diaries
2. The Breakfast Club
3. Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail
4. Mallrats
5. Notting Hill
The folks at National Review posted some interesting comments on Monday about Sadaam's mistress. Specifically, they noted that the math doesn't add up. As John Derbyshire pointed out in the The Corner, "This does not compute. The woman who claims to have been Saddam's mistress back in the 1970s is now 54 years old. She's telling us he's a big user of Viagra. Now, how long has Viagra been around? Four, Five years? So what does she know?" He might have a point there folks.

Poor Janet Reno is losing in Florida. Too bad -- I found the real live Janet Reno dance party skits pretty amusing.

If it was Peggy Noonan, I would understand. I was pretty surprised today when a Dave Barry column left me tearing up in front of my co-workers. It's one of the best 9-11 reads that I have seen -- well worth your time.

I have finally found an explanation I can swallow as to why America is so hated by the rest of the world. Douglas Davis's article breaks it down quite simply -- success breeds envy.

If you only watch one 9-11 tribute program tomorrow, my vote is that it should be President Bush on 60 Minutes II. USA Today is promising that we will see the president angry and resolute, outlining what he sees as America's responsibilities in the war on terror. That's music to my ears. While I fully believe we should mourn 9/11 victims, this program is one of the few that will discuss what we can do as a nation to prevent such attacks in the future. Turn it on.

I apologize for the quiet nights on the blog lately. Basically, I have bitten off a bit more than I chew in terms of personal responsibilities. With work, school, and wedding planning, that leaves very few nights for the blog. This may not be a bad thing though. I had been spending hours working on blog posts that I ultimately decided weren't "good enough" to post. It generally seems that my best posts come when I am fired up about something and shooting from the hip. For the next few weeks, I am going to try something different - a more improvisation based, "stream of consciousness" style of blogging. If my few loyal readers notice a terrible lack of quality posts, please let me know. Also, please excuse any obvious typos or noncohesive posts. Thanks!

Sunday, September 08, 2002

News on AlQaeda and Iraq

This CBS News article on increased AlQaeda chatter makes me nervous, this Telegraph article on London's September 11th celebration makes me mad, and this article on Sadaam Viagra habit makes me laugh, laugh, laugh, laugh all the way home.

Actually, make sure to check out the rest of the Drudge article on Sadaam. His supposed mistress Parisoula Lampsos has a very interesting quote at the bottom. "Hussein met Osama bin Laden on two occasions and gave money to the al Qaeda leader in 1996." Very interesting.
The fiancee and I actually missed the first half of the Bears-Vikings game due to a luncheon meeting at our church. While I tried the Disciples I course at our church last fall, my boy has never participated in an organized bible study before. When we heard our church was offering an Alpha course study this fall, we decided to check it out. It is a much less reading-intensive study than Disciples was, but it seems to cover a lot of the basic principles of the faith and ask interesting questions about the role of Christianity in today's world.

The course is run through a series of videotapes -- rather humorous tapes featuring the pastor who founded the course fifteen years ago, Nicky Gumbel. The course seems to focus on educating fairly young Christians (guilty!) and reaching out to non-believers. While an interesting concept, I immediately doubted that I could persuade non-believer friends to attend. Generally my atheist/agnostic friends have been defensive in their refusals to accept invitations to church and the like. Perhaps they really think that I am out to "change their beliefs", but I have trouble understanding such serious aversions to all thought and discussion regarding Christianity. It's almost as if they are afraid to expose themselves to such talk, for fear of finding that the arguments for Christianity really might be powerful and perhaps true. But that may just be how it looks from where I'm sitting...

I'd be interested in hearing how other college students and recent grads out in the blogosphere have dealt with similar situations. Have you been successful in inviting ardent atheists/agnostics to church or a bible study? How did you approach the situation? Where do you think we need to draw the line in "respecting others beliefs" in such circumstances?

Edited: Josh Claybourn has a somewhat related debate going over at his site regarding the foundation of morality for atheists/agnostics and the arguments made by humanists and atheists in response. I may have to delve deeper into this one at a later date.
obligatory sunday football notes

Way to go Bears! Although it wasn't quite as dramatic as the erase-a-20-or-more-point-deficit-in-the-fourth-quarter-comeback wins we saw last year, the final quarter of the Bears-Vikings game was pretty entertaining. Thanks to Urlacher, ATrain, and Terrell for digging deep to pull out a win. If Fighting Illini football doesn't clean up its act soon, the boys from ChiTown may be providing the only win action that Memorial Stadium sees this fall.

PS. Yes, I am shamelessly talking football for hits, as Illinifiance noted last week. Such conversations seem to be de rigueur in the blogosphere on Sunday evenings. Check out many of my links at right to see what I mean. Let me be the first to admit that I know little about the sport, but I enjoy watching Illinois teams. (No St. Louis teams for me -- I can't betray my Land of Lincoln roots!) Don't think I'll be joining a fantasy football league anytime soon, but I'll throw my two cents in from time to time as appropriate.

Friday, September 06, 2002

bits and pieces

Peggy Noonan has another fabulous column on 9/11 up over at WSJ's Opinion Journal. She speaks of the idea that a cross, a heart, and a flag are what arose from the ashes after the attacks. Before the attacks, we were a self-absorbed culture focused primarily on our own amusement. After the attacks, I agree that we have become a more thoughtful and patriotic culture, focusing more on the well-being of others, the meaning of our lives, and what our freedoms mean to us. Out of such a horrific loss, I do agree with her that some good has come.

USA Today has another commemorative piece on the "miracles emerged from debris" at Ground Zero. Touching read.

Bobby Allison-Gallimore posted a glowing review of Counting Crow's new CD Hard Candy. I found it a good opinion-based overview of an album that I have considered buying as of late. For those of you that haven't checked out blogcritics yet, it is definitely worth a visit. I would love to do some reviewing myself in the next few months, once my life settles down a bit. As it hopefully will be doing soon!
crouching tiger, hidden elephant?

I just wanted to second Kevin Holtsberry's thoughts about the Tiger piece in National Review. Jay Nordlinger does a great job elaborating why all conservatives should admire Tiger Woods. Despite tremendous pressure from the media and black political "leaders", he has stuck by his philosophical beliefs. It's not a black-white thing, it's a golf thing. I particularly liked this statement:

“My parents have taught me to always be proud of my ethnic background. Please rest assured that is, and always will be, the case. . . . Truthfully, I feel very fortunate, and EQUALLY PROUD, to be both African-American and Asian! The critical and fundamental point is that ethnic background and/or composition should NOT make a difference. It does NOT make a difference to me. The bottom line is that I am an American . . . and proud of it! That is who I am and what I am. Now, with your cooperation, I hope I can just be a golfer and a human being.”

This brings an interesting question to mind. Say Tiger Woods has fifteen years left as a professional golfer. I realize that may be a bit on the low side, but bear with me. Does anyone have any clue where he stands politically? Give him a few more decades of fighting off the media, and he would be in great shape for a second career as a Republican politician. He's tough, doesn't race bait, supposedly fiscally shrewd, seems to be very intelligent. Given his quotes in Nordlinger's article, I would have a hard time imagining him as a liberal. I realize he's doesn't seem very interested in politics but still. People once laughed at the thought that an actor could become president someday. Crazier things have happened.

Wednesday, September 04, 2002

Another hectic evening here in Central Illinois, so it's just a quick link rundown tonight.

Ben Domenech makes some excellent points about NARAL's new ad campaign. Now I will admit that abortion is a topic about which good people can disagree. While I myself fall behind the somewhat-to-extremely pro-life approach, the reasoning behind my stance is a post for another day. With regards to this ad though, suffice it to say that I totally agree with Ben here. I find the principle upon which this ad is based insulting. Basically NARAL is saying that some babies' lives are worth more than others. Such perfectly timed and provided-for children would be able to live a carefree existence because their parents chose to terminate the life of a baby that might have had disabilities or come along at a difficult time. Heaven forbid their parents should be inconvenienced or asked to take responsibility for their actions. As Ben aptly put it, NARAL advocates won't be able to bemoan the loss of their "rights" to most of their children...because many of their children exist in spirit only.

I ran into a high-school acquaintance at my college homecoming weekend last October. We have quite different political beliefs, and I laughed at him when he told me that he had met the next governor of Illinois that day. Some guy named Rod? The guy with the funny last name no one can pronounce? That little Daley lackey, part of the Chicago machine that hardly even realizes downstate Illinois exists? Sadly enough, it appears that Kevin was right. Unless something extreme happens, the governors' mansion down in Springfield will be Blagojevich Manor by 2003. All courtesy of George Ryan's corrupt, party-betraying antics in the office. Meanwhile, the Republican candidate Jim Ryan is asking the papers to call him "Jim" as he struggles to make voters realize that he is not the governor. Gotta love the name games that are being played in Illinois politics at the moment. I will save the Durbin (D) versus Durkin (R) senate race for another day.

Mike Krempasky makes some good points about the potential for Lisa Beamer to have a career in politics someday. I would really like to see this. She seems like an incredibly poised intelligent woman, a serious Christian and a great role model. Her actions give new meaning to the old cliche "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade". The Washington Post did a nice piece this week on her accomplishments since 9/11. My favorite quote in this article is from when she speaks about a remembrance service at Flight 93's Pennsylvania crash site where there was "little if any direct reference to the power of God to sustain us. . . . [I]t struck me how hopeless the world is when God is factored out of the equation." Very true.

Think that's it for tonight folks -- see you soon.

Tuesday, September 03, 2002

Ramblings on Remembering 9/11

I woke up this morning, and I felt a bit overwhelmed when I realized that it was the third of September. In just eight days, it will have been a year since the attacks. Somehow the weather this morning reminded me of that too. It's still warm here in Illinois, but otherwise today was one of those perfect "almost fall" days. The sky was clear, the sunshine was blinding, the air was warm but crisp. The dog days of summer are almost over, and the gorgeous autumn weather is almost here.

September 11, 2001 was one of those magnificent fall days in Illinois too. Unfortunately, I was inside hiding from the sunshine with a terrible migraine. I had stayed home from work, and I was roused out of a sound sleep at half-past eight by the telephone. My fiancée was on the line, telling me that a plane had just hit the World Trade Center. In my sleepy state, I mumbled that it was probably just an accident or some wacko in a single-engine plane trying to make a point. Then I turned on the television to see the flames eating at the Pentagon, the smoking holes in both towers, the unbelievable devastation that followed. For some reason, I remember thinking that it looked like such a gorgeous day out east. I thought it was such a shame these attacks would be forever linked to such beautiful fall weather. Peggy Noonan's column last Friday touched on a similar theme. She seems to think we have shaken this association and the tenderness of autumn is back. Fall is my favorite season too, so I really hope you're right on this one Peggy.

September 11th is on everyone's minds this week, and I imagine it will remain there for the next eight days. This brings us to THE question of the week -- What is the appropriate way to commemorate this holiday? The aforementioned Peggy Noonan work and John Derbyshire's column today have similar approaches. They both argue the best way to commemorate September 11th will be to keep living our wonderful ordinary lives. To go work, buy school supplies, "keep buggering on", and enjoy being alive. In some respects, this makes a lot of sense to me. I'm sure that many of the individuals who died on September 11th wouldn't consider themselves martyrs. They probably wouldn't want their friends and families to dwell on their absence.

Another part of me thinks that this is nonsense, and I have become desensitized to the tragedy. I can't really even fathom what the friends and relatives of 9-11 victims must be feeling this week. Anna Quindlen managed a few introspective remarks in her column over at MSNBC this week, in which she noted that for those of us not directly affected by the attacks,
"Time passed. The blade dulled. The edges softened. Except, of course, for those who lived through birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, without someone lost in the cloud of silvery dust, those families the living embodiment of what the whole nation had first felt and then learned not to feel."

Occasionally this week I have stumbled on something that makes me feel the anger and loss again. It happened last week when I saw the Dateline Thursday about the 63 Babies of 9-11. It happened yesterday when I read Tunku Varadarajan's piece on "Faith and Doubt At Ground Zero", detailing the struggles that many are encountering as they try to understand where God was on that September morning. It happened today when I read the USA Today piece "Delay Meant Death on 9-11", recounting the small choices that determined who survived that morning. When I come across this feeling, I don't think the peaceable remembrance ceremonies will be enough. Instead I agree with Rod Dreher's article last week on CBS's What We Saw. We should be watching it all unfold in real time on September 11th, so we can remember the horror, our anger, and why we need to keep fighting.

I struggle with this approach though, because it feels a bit too spiteful to be a Christian response. However, just grieving and remembering what we lost seems inadequate. Personally, I will be attending a remembrance service on 9-11, asking for God's guidance for myself and for America as we continue to grapple with such questions in the months to come. Somehow it doesn't seem like enough though. Does anyone out in the blogosphere have concrete opinions on how we should approach this anniversary?
Link love, link love

First of all, welcome to any new Illinigirl visitors. Today I must extend thanks to Bobby over at caffeinspiration for making me part of the Vital 15 this week. I'll do my best to live up to the designation. Also, many thanks to Mark Byron, Josh Claybourn, Kevin Holtsberry , and anyone else I may be forgetting for the permalinks and traffic that has been sent my way. Such encouragement is invaluable for a relatively young blogger with a crazy schedule.

Just for the record, even a die-hard fan like myself will admit Illinois's performance in St. Louis was embarrassing. Hopefully they will get their act together a bit before Southern Mississippi this weekend. It appears that John Boucher may be the way to go at starting quarterback, but I think this team has much bigger problems than that. Darn BCS! Last year may have been U of I's only chance at the Rose Bowl for a long, long time. When does college basketball start up anyway? That's more my bag.