Tuesday, February 20, 2007

'One Thing Led to Another and I Forgot to Kill Myself that Day'

In what might be the most moving opening monolog ever spoken by a late-night television chat-show host, Craig Ferguson discussed his 15 years of sobriety, some insights into alcoholism and his decision not to ridicule Britney Spears despite her shaved head crisis.
This is probably the best thing I have ever seen on CBS.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Don’t Mess With Old Ladies

An older lady gets pulled over for speeding.

Older Woman: Is there a problem, Officer?

Officer: Ma’am, you were speeding.

Older Woman: Oh, I see.

Officer: Can I see your license please?

Older Woman: I’d give it to you but I don’t have one.

Officer: Don’t have one?

Older Woman: Lost it, four years ago for drunk driving.

Officer: I see…Can I see your vehicle registration papers please.

Older Woman: I can’t do that.

Officer: Why not?

Older Woman: I stole this car.

Officer: Stole it?

Older Woman: Yes, and I killed and hacked up the owner.

Officer: You what?

Older Woman: His body parts are in plastic bags in the trunk if you want to see

The Officer looks at the woman and slowly backs away to his car and calls for back up. Within minutes 5 police cars circle the car. A senior officer slowly approaches the car, clasping his half drawn gun.

Officer 2: Ma’am, could you step out of your vehicle please! The woman steps out of her vehicle.

Older woman: Is there a problem sir?

Officer 2: One of my officers told me that you have stolen this car and murdered the owner.

Older Woman: Murdered the owner?

Officer 2: Yes, could you please open the trunk of your car, please.

The woman opens the trunk, revealing nothing but an empty trunk.

Officer 2: Is this your car, ma’am?

Older Woman: Yes, here are the registration papers. The officer is quite stunned.

Officer 2: One of my officers claims that you do not have a driving license.

The woman digs into her handbag and pulls out a clutch purse and hands it to the officer.

The officer examines the license. He looks quite puzzled.

Officer 2: Thank you ma’am, one of my officers told me you didn’t have a license, that you stole this car, and that you murdered and hacked up the owner.

Older Woman: Bet the liar told you I was speeding, too.
Savoir Faire

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Sat. Feb 17 is National No More $$$ for War Day

Local protests across the country:
  • Demand that Congress votes No! to more war fund.
  • $$$ for jobs, housing, healthcare, education; not war!
  • End the occupation — bring the troops home now!
  • No war against Iran
  • Impeach Bush and Cheney — put impeachment back on the table
  • Reparations for the people of Iraq
  • No “redeployment” — Bring the troops home now!
Feb. 17 will be a national day of coordinated protests across the country to demand that Congress votes no to any future funding of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, future war against Iran and to force Congress to put impeachment back on the table.

Demonstrations, rallies, teach-ins, sit-ins and other forms of creative resistance are being planned — many will be demonstrating at the local offices of members of Congress.

We recommend people call their local representatives in government and demand they give us more than lip service, remove the Bush regime and stop these criminal actions.

San Diego’s protest will be at the office of Susan Davis (Rep—D)

Location: Fairmount and University Avenue

Time: 3 to 5 p.m.

Contact: (619) 288-5798

E-mail: NASMNational@yahoo.com

Myspace: http://www.myspace.com/gnosticpagan

The Importance of Correct Punctuation


Dear Whoever,
I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we’re apart. I can be forever happy — will you let me be yours?

Dear Whoever:
I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me. For other men, I yearn. For you, I have no feelings whatsoever. When we’re apart, I can be forever happy. Will you let me be?
How I Met My Love — a story using non-standard negations

By Jack Winter — The New Yorker

It had been a rough day, so when I walked into the party I was very chalant, despite my efforts to appear gruntled and consolate.

I was furling my wieldy umbrella for the coat check when I saw her standing alone in a corner. She was a descript person, a woman in a state of total array. Her hair was kempt, her clothing shevelled, and she moved in a gainly way.

I wanted desperately to meet her, but I knew I’d have to make bones about it since I was travelling cognito. Beknownst to me, the hostess, whom I could see both hide and hair of, was very proper, so it would be skin off my nose if anything bad happened. And even though I had only swerving loyalty to her, my manners couldn’t be peccable. Only toward and heard-of behavior would do.

Fortunately, the embarrassment that my maculate appearance might cause was evitable. There were two ways about it, but the chances that someone as flappable as I would be ept enough to become persona grata or a sung hero were slim. I was, after all, something to sneeze at, someone you could easily hold a candle to, someone who usually aroused bridled passion.

So I decided not to risk it. But then, all at once, for some apparent reason, she looked in my direction and smiled in a way that I could make heads or tails of.

I was plussed. It was concerting to see that she was communicado, and it nerved me that she was interested in a pareil like me, sight seen. Normally, I had a domitable spirit, but, being corrigible, I felt capacitated — as if this were something I was great shakes at — and forgot that I had succeeded in situations like this only a told number of times. So, after a terminable delay, I acted with mitigated gall and made my way through the ruly crowd with strong givings.

Nevertheless, since this was all new hat to me and I had no time to prepare a promptu speech, I was petuous. Wanting to make only called-for remarks, I started talking about the hors d’oeuvres, trying to abuse her of the notion that I was sipid, and perhaps even bunk a few myths about myself.

She responded well, and I was mayed that she considered me a savory character who was up to some good. She told me who she was. “What a perfect nomer,” I said, advertently. The conversation become more and more choate, and we spoke at length to much avail. But I was defatigable, so I had to leave at a godly hour. I asked if she wanted to come with me. To my delight, she was committal. We left the party together and have been together ever since. I have given her my love, and she has requited it.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Businessman in Trouble

A Jewish businessman was in a great deal of trouble. His business was failing, he had put everything he had into the business, he owed everybody. It was so bad he was even contemplating suicide.

As a last resort he went to a Rabbi and poured out his story of tears and woe. When he had finished, the Rabbi said, "Here's what I want you to do: Put a beach chair and your Torah in your car and drive down to the beach. Take the beach chair and the Torah to the water's edge, sit down in the beach chair, and put the Torah in your lap. Open the Torah; the wind will rifle the pages, but finally the open Torah will come to rest on a page. Look down at the page and read the first thing you see. That will be your answer. That will tell you what to do."

A year later the businessman went back to the Rabbi and brought his wife and children with him. The man was in a new custom-tailored suit, his wife in a mink coat, the children shining. The businessman pulled an envelope stuffed with money out of his pocket, gave it to the Rabbi as a donation in thanks for his advice. The Rabbi recognized the benefactor, and was curious. "You did as I suggested?" he asked.

"Absolutely," replied the businessman.

"You went to the beach?"


"You sat in a beach chair with the Torah in your lap?"


"You let the pages rifle until they stopped?"

"Absolutely. I did everything just as you said."

"And what were the first words you saw?"

"Chapter 11."
What if Jesus never happened?

By Nathan Bupp

“What if the most influential man in human history never existed?” Without any assumptions or conclusions in view, that is the daunting task of the new Jesus Project, announced on January 28th at the University of California at Davis before an audience of Biblical and Koranic experts.

The Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion (CSER), a project of the Center for Inquiry/Transnational, announced the new project at conclusion of its January 25-28 “Scripture and Skepticism” conference at the University of California at Davis. Articles featuring the new endeavor have already appeared in the Ottawa Citizen (January 10) and the Buffalo News (January 29).

The Jesus Project will be devoted to examining the case for the historical existence of Jesus, based on a rigorous application of the historical critical method to the gospels and related literature.

Unlike the “Jesus Seminar,” founded in 1985 by the late University of Montana Professor Robert Funk, the new Project regards the claim that Jesus of Nazareth was an historical figure as a “testable hypothesis.” R. Joseph Hoffmann, chair of the Committee since 2003 and former lecturer at Oxford University, said that the project has been called for by a number of scholars who felt that the first Jesus Seminar may have been—for political reasons—too reluctant to follow where the evidence led. “When you have pared the sayings of Jesus down to fewer than 20, one begins to wonder about the survivors,” Hoffmann said.

According to Hoffmann, the goal is not to “disprove” Jesus or to sensationalize the question of his existence, but to acknowledge the question and examine it impartially—without theological or apologetic constraints. “The Jesus Project is an attempt to evaluate every scrap of evidence for the historical Jesus, but it is also an attempt to evaluate the quality of the evidence itself—something that earlier projects did not do explicitly. This new project will be more inclusive and rigorous in its approach. It will include scholars from a variety of areas outside biblical and religious studies, including archaeologists, social historians, classicists and people in historical linguistics,” said Hoffmann.

The Jesus Project will be limited to 50 members; scholars plan to meet twice a year, with geographical venues changing each year. The meetings and discussions will also be open to the public. The work of the seminar will consist of the writing of unanimous opinions, and where that is not possible, majority and minority opinions, written as articles, which will be gathered and published once a year under the CSER imprint with Prometheus Books. The work of the Project is limited to five years; at which point a final report will be issued by the committee members.

The work of the Project is being financed through sponsors and donors. Patrons of the committee receive certain benefits; members in the associate category receive free admission to the open sessions of the Jesus Project. Information on becoming a patron, sponsor, or associate of the Jesus Project is available by writing to the project administrator, Gwyneth MacRae, at gmacrae@centerforinquiry.net.

CSER was founded in 1983 and is a research committee in the Religion and Science division of the Center for Inquiry in Amherst, New York. CSER encourages the use of the historical and applied sciences in the study of religion and provides educational programs for the public as part of its religious-literacy initiatives.

Nathan Bupp is director of communications for the Council for Secular Humanism and an associate editor of FREE INQUIRY magazine

Secular Islam Summit: Leading Dissidents will Launch Movement for Reason, Pluralism and Freedom of Conscience

March 4-5, St. Petersburg, Florida

From Pope Benedict XVI to the Princeton historian Bernard Lewis, people are asking, What went wrong? How did Middle Eastern cultures transform from the openness and intellectual ferment of the medieval period to the closed theocrat societies of today? Where are the secular voices of the Muslim world? Until now, they have been largely stifled and silenced. Now, bold critics of orthodoxy are calling for sweeping reforms from inside Muslim societies. With the intent of catalyzing a global movement for reason, humanist values, and freedom of conscience, delegates from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Bangladesh will assemble in St. Petersburg, Florida, March 4-5, 2007, for an unprecedented Secular Islam Summit.

According the chair of the meeting, the rationalist critic of Islam and acclaimed author Ibn Warraq, “What we need now is an Age of Enlightenment in the Islamic world, of the Islamic mind-set or worldview. Without critical examination of Islam, it will remain unassailed in its dogmatic, fanatical, medieval fortress; ossified, totalitarian and intolerant. It will continue to stifle thought, human rights, individuality; originality and truth.”

Said one summit delegate, Irshad Manji, author of The Trouble with Islam Today, “This summit is proof positive that reform-minded Muslims are creating a movement. We no longer exist in isolation. Those who hate our message of free thought in Islam will keep trying to pick us off individually, but collectively we’re not going anywhere except forward.”

The historic Summit, to be held at the Hilton St. Petersburg, will set in motion the generation of new practical strategies from the world’s leading thinkers and activists in an ongoing cross-cultural forum. At issue will be secularist interpretations of Islam, the importance of expanding Koranic criticism, the state of freedom of expression in Muslim societies, educational reform and the urgent need for a paradigm shift in Islamic philosophy. Speakers include Mona Abousenna, Mithal al-Alusi, Magdi Allam, Shaker al-Nabulsi, Nonie Darwish, Afshin Ellian, Fatemolla, Tawfik Hamid, Shahriar Kabir, Nibras Kazimi, Irshad Manji, Salameh Nematt, Walid Phares, Amir Taheri, Mourad Wahba, Ibn Warraq, Manda Zand-Ervin and others.

To promote emerging solutions, the delegates will craft a statement of values and principles expressing the call for a new Enlightenment in Islamic culture. The statement will be released in English, Arabic, Farsi and Bengali to the world media at a press conference at 2 p.m. Monday, March 5, 2007 at the Summit, after which participants will take questions.

“The Secular Islam Summit hopes to encourage a new global movement for reason, science, and secular values within Islamic societies,” said Summit organizer Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi, an Iranian-American activist.

For more information, call Austin Dacey at (212) 265-2877, ext. 11; (917) 664-3855; or e-mail info@secularism.org.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

IADSA Fights to Keep Key Additives in Food Supplements

The International Alliance of Dietary/Food Supplement Associations (IADSA) has pledged to continue fighting to retain key additives used in food supplements in the Codex ‘General Standard for Food Additives’ list this year.

Last year IADSA managed to prevent the deletion of four additives (Iron oxides, Castor oil, Chlorophylls/copper complexes and Erythrosine) at meetings of both the Codex Additives Committee and the Codex Commission, and successfully raised the levels of an additional three – BHA, BHT and Carnauba wax.

As the consultation enters its next phase the association has acknowledged that the battle is far from over as proposals to lower permitted levels of some additives widely used in food supplements remain on the table. A US-led working group – of which IADSA is a member – has deliberated the issue and circulated a recommendation for comment from all Codex members. The recommendation and comments will then be submitted to the Codex Additives Committee in April for consideration.

“The establishment of a list of additives to be used freely in trade in food products has long been a goal for Codex,” said IADSA’s Manager of Regulatory Affairs, David Pineda Ereño. “We believe that deleting key additives from the General Standard for Food Additives list and adopting very low levels could create both considerable confusion in many countries and completely unnecessary barriers to trade.”

The Codex General Standard for Food Additives (GSFA) sets down conditions for permitted food additives to be used in all foods. It is regularly updated to include additional food additive provisions adopted by the Codex Alimentarius Commission.

IADSA has played an active role in Codex over the last year providing input on a number of issues including the scientific basis of health claims, the application of risk analysis to the work of the Codex Committee on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Uses, provisions for dietary fibre, the Codex implementation of the WHO global strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health, definition of advertising, proposed draft standard for ginseng products, the addition and revision of nutrient reference values for labelling purposes, and amendments the Codex General Principles for the Addition of essential Nutrients to Foods.

IADSA is the voice of the worldwide dietary supplement manufacturing industry and an accredited international non-governmental organisation (INGO) with a seat at the table of the main international regulatory bodies.

IADSA has more than doubled in size since its creation in 1998, and now represents 57 national trade associations and over 9,500 member companies.

Contact: David Pineda Ereño, IADSA Manager, Regulatory Affairs, 50 Rue de l’Association, 1000 Brussels, Belgium. T: +32 (0)2 209 1155, F: +32 (0)2 223 3064 E: davidpineda@iadsa.be.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Study surprise: Fatty food may make you slim

COMMENTARY Ramsey Campbell Ramsey Campbell

[Published Orlando Sentinel Feb. 5, 2007]

Dairy products have seemingly come full circle in the past 50 years.

When I was a kid, dairy products — particularly whole milk and butter — were considered necessary for healthy growth.

Whole milk, cheese and butter were regular kitchen staples when I was growing up in Indiana during the 1950s.

My mother had grown up on a South Dakota farm and thought milk fat was the ultimate health food.

She insisted we all have our fill of dairy products each day.

I wasn’t so sure.

Periodically, we visited my uncle who had a small farm just outside Aberdeen in South Dakota.

One of my chores, as visiting relative, was to help out with the milking every morning. If the dead flies in the milk bucket didn’t kill my appetite, the stench of that raw milk product boiling on the kitchen stove did.

But he made his own butter, which I have to admit was tasty.

Thick slabs of rich, creamy butter on bread was a real treat at his place.

Back then, fatty dairy products were considered a good thing. Every piece of bread was slathered with real cream butter, every meal included a tall glass of whole milk, every baked potato filled with sour cream.

Milk fat ruled.

But as I got older, butter and whole milk were shunned for their high fat content.

Low fat were the new catchwords of the nation’s nutrition gurus.

Milk with limited fat content and low-fat margarine began filling grocery shelves in the 1970s. Frozen yogurt replaced ice cream.

Even sour cream was produced in a low-fat version.

Somehow butter now — even though it is 80 per cent fat — doesn’t have the same rich, cream flavor I remember, either.

Many movie theaters have switched to butter-flavored goop to put on popcorn in place of real butter.

My wife, who is Russian-born and used to butter that is almost solid milk fat, isn’t impressed by our puny 80 percent-fat spreads.

She says our butter — along with most of our other low-fat dairy products — has no taste.

Remembering how the creamy-rich, high-fat Russian butter tasted during our visits there, I’d have to agree with her.

And considering obesity is virtually unheard of in Russia, it made me wonder just how fattening whole milk products really are.

Now a new study has come along suggesting adults who favor full-fat dairy products may actually lose weight over time compared to those who consume low-fat milk products.

The research was conducted by Swedish researchers. They studied 19,000 middle-age women over nine years, and published their findings in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition recently.

Women who said they had whole milk or cheese at least once a day through the study period were less likely to gain weight compared to those who opted for lower-fat dairy products.

One theory about why whole dairy products may be linked to less weight gain is that calcium or dairy fats somehow aid in body-fat regulation.

It is not necessarily conclusive research, but it is interesting. And it offers hope to those of us who hanker for high-fat dairy foods

Now if I could only find real, high-fat butter in the grocery store, I’d gladly do some research of my own.

Ramsey Campbell can be reached at rcampbell@orlandosentinel.com or 352-742-5923.

Copyright © 2007, Orlando Sentinel

Friday, February 02, 2007

East / West by Paul Bowles

Cannabis sativa and its derivatives are strictly prohibited in Turkey, and the natural correlative of this prescription is that alcohol, far from being frowned upon as it is in other Moslem lands, is freely drunk; being a government monopoly it can be bought at any cigarette counter.

This fact is no mere detail; it is of primary social importance, since the psychologlical effects of the two substances are diametrically opposed to each other. Alcohol blurs the personality by loosening inhibitions. The drinker feels, temporarily at least, a sense of participation.

Cannabis abolishes no inhibitions; on the contrary, it reinforces them, pushes the individual further back into the recesses of his own isolated personality, pledging him to contemplation and inaction.

It is to be expected that there should be a close relationship between the culture of a given society and the means used by its members to achieve release and euphoria. For Judaism and Christianity the means has always been alcohol; for Islam it has been hashish. The first is dynamic in its effects, the other static.

If a nation wishes, however mistakenly, to Westernize itself, first let it give up hashish. The rest will follow, more or less as a matter of course. Conversely, in a Western country, if a whole segment of the population desires, for reasons of protest, to isolate itself in a radical fashion from the society around it, the quickest and surest way is for it to replace alcohol with cannabis.