Monday, October 31, 2005

The Gras is Always Greener, Unless it’s Foie

Who’s more powerful, a saint or a knight?  Now, I’m not talking about just any old saint or knight, I mean the guys presently at the top of the heap, the current crème de la crème, as it were.  In today’s world, the most powerful saint has got to be The Pope.  He talks directly to God, after all.  And if you took a straw poll around the office, I’d bet the winner of the knights contest would be Sir Paul McCartney.  If nothing else, he at least thinks he’s a god.

What would happen if it weren’t a contest at all, if instead these two powerhouses decided to pool their collective strength together for a noble cause of some sort?  They would certainly be a formidable “God Squad”.  

The fact of the matter is, they have already teamed up.  Not only that, they have brought in a little earthly muscle, just in case.  Yes, even Arnold Schwarzenegger is on board for this the mightiest of modern crusades.  In a day and age where the world has seen genocide, famine, natural disasters and unjust wars, those closest to God (and Arnie, too) have brought it upon themselves to stand up for that most noble of beasts – the goose.  That’s right, forget about human suffering, our crusaders are out to put an end to the agony of the goose.  They are campaigning for a world wide boycott of foie gras.

For those of you unfamiliar with foie gras, it is a traditional French pate made from the liver of a goose.  The more fat in and around the liver, the more absolutely dreamy the pate becomes.  Needless to say, the temptation arises to “help the goose out” when it comes time to put on a few extra inches.  It is the sometimes crude methodology involved in this process that has caught the attention of the God Squad.

Let’s start with the saint.  Not long ago, Pope Benedict XVI, then known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was asked about his thoughts on the treatment of animals.  He responded with compassion and called animals our "companions in creation."  He also went on to say:
"we cannot just do whatever we want with them. ... Certainly, a sort of industrial use of creatures, so that geese are fed in such a way as to produce as large a liver as possible…this degrading of living creatures to a commodity seems to me in fact to contradict the relationship of mutuality that comes across in the Bible."

Uh Benny, where on Earth did you read that?  It's common knowledge that God created man in his own image.  The goose was created in the image of a very distant (and somewhat estranged) cousin whose name escapes even the enlightened writings of the Gospels.  Animals were put on earth to serve man, or at least to be served to man, preferably with a lovely Sauterne.

Or so I thought, until Sir Paul came on the scene.  A recent BBC headline caught my eye: “Sir Paul McCartney urges California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to ban the French delicacy foie gras”.  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, but it’s true.  Read it for yourself at:

How can I argue with Sir Paul?  I suppose, there’s no other recourse than to have a change of heart. Let’s make up for all those years of goose torture, primarily by the evil French, and raise the standard of living for all geese.  Their lives shall be spent roaming the lushest of fields, and sleeping in air controlled comfort on nothing but the finest goose-down silk pillows... Or maybe not.

So why all the fuss?  It wasn’t that long ago that no one outside of France other than members of the foreign legion knew what foie gras was.  In fact, most North Americans can’t pronounce it, let alone know what it is.  It has only been in very recent memory that foie gras has become a mainstay on the menu of any restaurant that also marks up its wine by 300%.  

And that in itself is essentially the problem.  Demand for the super creamy, irresistible stuff has flown the coup, so to speak.  Once a delicacy reserved for French aristocracy, foie gras is now sought after world wide.  The demand has far surpassed the supply that can be produced by a few farms in the Dordogne.  Thus, industrial foie gras production facilities have appeared, many of them in Eastern European countries.  The conditions in these facilities are truly horrific, beginning to rival their North American counterpart, the modern chicken farm.

In the end, that’s what irks me the most about this passionate cry for goose rights.  At the urging of Sir Paul, Arnie is currently calling for a ban on foie gras in California.  I wonder if either of these do-gooders has visited a chicken facility lately?  They don’t even have to go that far.  There’s lots of information right at their (and our) fingertips.  One example is, which has a whole section dedicated to chicken farms.  Some of the depictions of beakless, steroid stuffed chickens penned in three to a cage seem more appropriate in a horror flick.  Yet, I don’t see the Paul and Arnie show calling for a ban on Kentucky Fried Chicken!  And last I checked, there are a hell of a lot more chicken farms around the world than goose facilities.

Maybe “Team Terminator” should use their connections to divinity to tackle the bigger issues in their own back yards.  Ah, but then again, that’s not good for business or politics.  Best to point across the pond and yell “Fowl!”  Oh, and can I get two dozen wings with that?

Friday, October 21, 2005

Gunplay American Style

The headlines were as big as Texas south of the border today - Congress Passes New Legal Shield for Gun Industry. President Bush said that he looked forward to signing the bill, which would "further our efforts to stem frivolous lawsuits." "As of Oct. 20, the Second Amendment is probably in the best shape in this country that it's been in decades," exclaimed Wayne Lapierre, of the National Rifle Association.

Now, some may claim that certain ramblings on these pages have leaned a little to the left, which I have to admit is probably accurate. So it would only be natural to expect this entry to be a rather long winded rant expressing disgust at yet another right wing atrocity.

Well, the last thing I want around here at Dave’s Digglings is predictability, so mothers cover your children’s ears ‘cause I’m saddling up and rootin’ for Texas! Despite the fact that I’m not a big fan of the NRA (“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people?” Give me a break! In the words of Eddie Izzard, “I think the gun helps…”), I can’t really argue with this one. In fact, the basic premise of the argument applies to a number of hot topics in today’s media, including cigarettes and obesity. But, let’s stick to our guns for the moment.

The intent of the bill is to prevent people from trying to sue gun manufacturers for manufacturing guns. That’s it – plain and simple. There are a number of cases currently in the courts in the US where victims of horrible crimes are trying to prevent the same from happening to others. I applaud their efforts, but their method is flawed. They are taking action against gun manufacturers because guns are used to murder people.

Murder must be a most horrible experience for the victim’s loved ones. I say must be because I can only imagine. It would be wonderful if there was a way to prevent guns from getting into the hands of murderers in the first place. The murderer-to-be would be a lot less effective if he was restricted to jumping out in front of his victims and yelling “bang!” (thanks again Eddie). Yet, that doesn’t give anyone the right to take it out on the manufacturer of the weapon.

Hair spray and aerosol deodorant can be used to launch potentially lethal projectiles from home made devices. No matter how much we all feel that hairspray should be just as illegal as fifty year old people wearing spandex, you can’t sue Clairol because Jim-bob knocked out your dog with a potato gun. (OK, that’s not really an applicable argument because the hairspray is not being used as intended, but I just couldn’t resist the gag.)

The real issue is this - it is not illegal for a gun manufacturer to make a gun. Yes, guns can kill and hand guns can be concealed, but in the US making the gun is not against the law. If there was a law in place that said a gun manufacturer would be held liable for how their product was used, I suspect they’d quickly get out of the business and start making some much less deadly products, like cigarettes or fatty foods, for example. But as it stands today, you can’t sue someone if you don’t have the grounds to do so, or at least you shouldn’t be able to, and that’s what this new bill states.

However, to those trying to find a way to reduce the number of crime related fatalities in the US, I say don’t give up just yet. All you need is to come up with a different approach, one that involves changing the psyche of the entire nation. Somehow, you’ll have to find a way to rip the assault weapons and mini death pistols from the dead cold hands of the NRA, and convince the law makers that such items have no place in today’s society. And that will be no easy task in a nation where it is considered perfectly normal to teach pre-schoolers how to “play” with guns.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

I Am A Steelheader

And you thought marathoners were a strange breed. Ha! Think again! For there is in fact a group of even odder, potentially more driven, and equally insane individuals in our midst. They can be found lurking about in the most inclement of fall and winter months, usually standing waist deep in cold, large rivers, all in an attempt to attract a steelhead to take a well presented fly. These outcasts of society are called Steelheaders. I should know, for I am one of them.

A steelhead is a sea going rainbow trout. Like a salmon, it begins life in a river, but spends its maturing years in the ocean. Both species return to the river after one to four years at sea in order to spawn. However, a salmon only spawns once. You could say it sacrifices its life for sex, which in the end, isn’t all that exciting or amorous for a salmon. The female “fakes it” in order to trick a male into satisfying himself over her eggs, and that’s about it. Once that’s over, both the male and female die. Hmmmm, I’ve always said we could learn a thing or two from the animal kingdom. Paying attention boys?

Anyhow, steelhead do essentially the same thing, only once finished with “the act”, they head back to the sea to get bigger. Some time later they return to the river to do it all over again, and one would assume, do it better. Practice, practice, practice - the life cycle of a steelhead is pure agony.

Catching one of these big dudes with a fly while they’re in the river is quite a feat. First off, they aren’t really thinking about eating. They have other things on their mind. Just getting their attention is a small miracle. Secondly, there aren’t that many of them, so your chances are reduced by the numbers themselves. And finally, there a lot of more efficient ways of catching them, like using nets, or bait or hardware.

So, what is it that makes a few individuals put up with the bad weather, the expense and the remote locations to try something where they are almost destined to fail? I’d say the following picture says it all:

Thursday, October 13, 2005

You Are A Marathoner!

Have you ever run a marathon? Neither have I. Maybe the better phrased question is “Who in their right mind would run a marathon?” It has always seemed masochistic to me - months of grueling training (always at very early hours in the AM) followed by an equally grueling final event (often starting at an even earlier hour). Still, many of the people I know insist on taking part in these crazy things. It just doesn’t make sense.

This past weekend I took it upon myself to figure it all out. No, I haven’t lost my marbles and actually entered one. Instead, I followed my sister to Kelowna, BC, where she was running her first marathon. I had spent months trying to talk her out of it, but she was always finished her training by the time I was getting out of bed, so the effectiveness of my pleas was somewhat diminished.

For the uninitiated, which is what I was until this past Sunday, a marathon is a 26 mile (40.2 km) run. That’s it. You start the race by running across a line with a few thousand other “hopefuls”, each and every one “hoping” to finish some four hours later by running back across the same line. Only it’s not really so simple. Those four hours or so involve a number of stages that you have to witness to really understand. You have to partake in a marathon to truly feel what the marathoner endures. So, in order to truly feel and understand, I followed my sister around the entire circuit - on my mountain bike. And, based on my first hand knowledge, I present to you the six stages of a marathon:
Stage 1 – Hope Springs Eternal
A broad smile is splashed across every face. Bodies are limber. Confidence abounds. It’s truly a remarkable scene. And it should be, for the race hasn’t started yet.
Stage 2 – Less Spring, But There’s Still Hope (km 1 to 10)
For the first ten kilometers, the air of confidence remains. Everyone has trained for this race and thinks they know what to expect. Those who have run marathons in the past are even better prepared. I was a little less organized, so I stopped off at the first Starbucks I saw and ordered a quad latte. Hey, the race started at 8 AM. I hadn’t had time to get primed before the starting gun was fired. For me, the first ten kilometers was for figuring out how to ride my bike without spilling scalding hot coffee all over myself.
Stage 3 – Reality Sets In (km 10 to 20)
This is when the marathon runner begins to realize what they’ve got themselves into. For the newbies, it’s when they begin to feel those nagging little injuries and wonder what they’ll feel like in another 20 kilometers. For all but the most experienced marathoners, it’s when they begin to feel those nagging little injuries and wonder what they’ll feel like in another 20 kilometers. The real pros already know what it’s going to feel like. That’s why they’re the ones with better drugs than Advil.
Stage 4 – Is It True That 25 km Is Only 15.5 Miles? (km 20 to 30)
Hell yes it’s true. And to make matters worse, in the Kelowna marathon they put a hill right in the middle of this stage. That’s cruel. I was exhausted, and some of the marathoners seemed to be struggling a bit, too.
Stage 5 – Mental Fatigue (km 30 to 40)
It is well documented that the beginning of this stage is the most crucial time for a marathoner. The body has already quit miles before, but the mind has been keeping it going. In the early 30’s, the mind starts to fade, as well. Marathoners struggle with delusions of self doubt, like “Why in the world am I doing this?” and “I’m never ever making a bet with Bob when I’m drunk again!” It’s only those who are able to regain focus, and realize that they are on the home stretch, that are able to go on to stage 6. Which is a good thing, because most of them are so exhausted that it makes for some great embarrassing photos, guaranteed to get a laugh from the audience at the next roast!
Stage 6 – You Are A Marathoner! (km 40.2)
OK, all kidding aside, this is why people run marathons. Those four words sum it up. It is quite an exclusive club. It signifies a level of commitment and fitness that only a few ever achieve. And, as each runner crosses the finish line, they hear their names announced over the loud speaker, and they know that each and every one of them, all ages and sizes, is a marathoner.

I’ll most certainly drink to that, as I did at the end of this race, having packed along a nice bottle of champagne to help my sister celebrate. This one’s for you, Beth. You are a marathoner! Now quit drinking all the bubbly…

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Kick 'Em While They're Down

To the 27% of Americans who believe that the recent onslaught of natural disasters in the world is God acting out against sinful rebellious mankind, I say GIVE YOUR HEAD A SHAKE!  Or, maybe more appropriately, get your heads out of your self righteous asses and pay attention!

If God really wanted us to take notice, do you think He would focus His anger on some of the poorest people in the world?  How can you possibly think that one day God got really fed-up with His creation and decided to teach a lesson to those in charge by kicking the shit out of those who hardly have any shit left in them?

No, if God truly wanted to get His point across, his anger would probably touch down elsewhere.  Problem is, that’s not happening.  Instead, Condoleezza is able to take time away from her morning television cameos to stiff-arm Kyrgyzstan into continued support of the US Air force, while the death toll continues to rise in Pakistan, hampered by bad weather.  Last I checked, the SUVs are all back tackling the rugged streets of Houston and Tom Delay continues to be the “go-to guy” for White House republicans, while contractors argue over how much they get to charge for re-building New Orleans.

Something’s just not quite right here.  This God fellow is supposed to be pretty smart, right?  I mean, after all, he did create the entire universe in a week (six days actually, took a breather on the seventh).  Not only that, but he knows and sees everything.  Period.  Right?

So, if God is truly such a powerful and awe-inspiring Entity, who are we to even fathom a guess as to what He’s doing?  Maybe we should let God continue to do his thing, whatever that may be, and we can concentrate on something that we actually have some control over?  Like, oh I don’t know, Global Warming maybe?

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

C'mon! Join the Club

I’m sorry, I’m sorry…
I know I promised to lighten things up around here at Dave’s Digglings, and I fully intend to do so, but an article in today’s NY Times just sent me for a loop.
The article, titled “In Midcareer, a Turn to Faith to Fill a Void”, describes how Harriet E. Miers's decision to become an evangelical Christian coincided with a move toward the Republican Party. You can read the article here:
For those of you currently living in a cave, Ms. Miers was recently appointed by “W” to the United States Supreme Court.

Now, I have nothing against a person of almost any religious background attaining such a position, as long as they are qualified. But the following excerpt from the article caught my attention:
To persuade the right to embrace Ms. Miers's selection despite her lack of a clear record on social issues, representatives of the White House put Justice Hecht (on the Texas Supreme Court, and romantically linked to Ms. Miers) on at least one conference call with influential social conservative organizers on Monday to talk about her faith and character.
(OK, I admit, I added the italics…)

Huh? That is wrong in so many ways. Ms. Miers, who began her political career as a democrat, became a republican at the same time as she was born again. Apparently, God favors those who are against abortion and gays while supporting corporate interests more than He supports those who are concerned about the poor and needy. When exactly did Christianity become synonymous with right wing?

Ms. Miers’s political career is well documented by her lack of taking a stand, and dare I say a rather Kerrryesque wishy-washiness. (Funny, I thought that was political suicide.) She has never taken a political stand for or against abortion, although her personal conviction most definitely sides with “Wade”.

Perhaps even more frightening is the following:
In an interview Tuesday on the televangelist Pat Robertson's "700 Club," Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the Christian conservative American Center for Law and Justice, said "So this is a big opportunity for those of us who have a conviction, that share an evangelical faith in Christianity, to see someone with our positions put on the court."

We’ve basically witnessed someone without the track record required for the job (she has the necessary job credentials, she just hasn’t displayed that she’s an independent decision maker on issues very key to the nation), being given the position because she belongs to “the Club”. The same “God” that told another prominent club member to invade Iraq is now going to direct the newest member of the Supreme Court! And, since she’s cleverly not divulged her political stance with respect to social issues, we can only guess that she will side with the “influential social conservative organizers” that needed “convincing” before they embraced her new appointment.

A friend of mine put it best:

There's something about this story that's quite creepy and frightening. Ha! And they talk about Tom Cruise being weird for pushing his belief in Thetans !!! Same stuff, different pile, methinks.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Great Non-Evolution Debate

An excerpt from my response to a September 25 article in The Washington Post entitled "In Evolution Debate, Creationists Are Breaking New Ground: Museum Dedicated to Biblical Interpretation Of the World Is Being Built Near Cincinnati." :

That organization (building the "museum") represents the old guard faction in the creationism movement - those who haven't given up on the age of the earth debate.  Put quite simply, their science isn't.

The "intelligent design" folks are trying to be a bit more scientific in their premise, although their goal is essentially the same as with those in the old guard, which is to get evolution out of schools and general thought by replacing it with God (or some all powerful creation-wielding entity to be named at a later date).
Back to my old premise - what if this money and energy was spent to feed and educate the poor?  And, of course, by educate I mean life skills, not dogma.  A 14 year old individual who doesn’t know how to feed him or herself or their child doesn’t need to learn about the age of the earth…at least not yet.