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politics & governmentterror & war

The dawn of Syrian conflict

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On Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed that President Bashar Assad of Syria had used chemical weapons against hundreds of innocent civilians. It looks like we are once again faced with an all too familiar decision to make – continue to let atrocities occur and the situation escalate, or take meaningful action that deescalates the situation but subjects the United States into another overseas military snafu. [Read more →]

books & writingtravel & foreign lands

Vasily Grossman: from Stalingrad to toilet trouble

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In 1998 I stumbled upon a Russian novel called “Life and Fate.” I was surprised because I had never heard of it or its author Vasily Grossman, yet by its size, Tolstoy-echoing title and subject matter (the book was about Stalingrad) it was obviously supposed to be important.

I bought it and was soon drawn into Grossman’s world; I remember standing on crowded trams, unable to put down this imposing brick of a book. “Life and Fate” was excellent, a profound meditation on war, Stalin, and much else – and yet it was also totally obscure. This was bizarre. Was I wrong? Was it actually rubbish? [Read more →]
bad sports, good sports

Bad sports, good sports: Urban Meyer is annoying and insincere

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Fandom is a funny thing. People are willing to paint their faces, their bodies, adorn their homes with flags, signs, and a huge variety of other items with logos, and spend an awful lot of time discussing the teams that they follow. Some are exclusively interested in professional sports, while some have a stronger allegiance to the college variety. You’ll find the nuts in both places, of course, and I don’t know if either could claim a more rabid fanbase. The teams and the schools do plenty to stoke the fires of their followers, whether they be the stoic, occasional watchers or the foaming-at-the-mouth types. They do go too far sometimes, though, especially when the people doing the exhorting are new to their teams or schools. The target of my annoyance this week is Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer.

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art & entertainmentBob Sullivan's top ten everything

Top ten spokespersons

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10. Anthony Weiner for Jockey Underwear

9. Gary Busey for H&R Block

8. Justin Bieber for Alberto VO5

7. Rick Perry for the ‘For Dummies’ Book Series

6. Rush Limbaugh for OxyContin Tablets

5. Vin Diesel for Hair Cuttery

4. Charlie Sheen for Self magazine

3. Monica Lewinski for BJ’s

2. John Wayne Bobbitt for Snap-on Tools

1. Arnold Schwarzenegger for Minute Maid

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

art & entertainmentvirtual children by Scott Warnock

Let’s not do this: Stupid movie quotes

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What do the Lone Ranger and a cartoon snail have in common? Well, the answer, other than they might be able to share some foundational Joseph Campbellesque hero archetype role, should be this:  “Not much.” But in contemporary cinema, they have a more specific kinship. Both of them, in recent movies (The Lone Ranger and Turbo), when faced with a/the challenge, say the exact same thing: “Let’s do this.” That’s where we are in the world of modern cinema, boring cookie-cutter characters saying stupid, clichéd phrases. Thus, we now have this equation: The Lone Ranger = A cartoon snail. [Read more →]

travel & foreign landstrusted media & news

Why do Russians hate Texas so much?

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Feodor Dostoevsky- there’s a town named after him in Texas- allegedly.

Recently I read that the population of people speaking Russian at home in the United States has quadrupled over the last thee decades. According to the US Census office, Russians – or rather Russian speakers – are now almost 1 million strong. That’s a lot of post-Soviet immigrants. And yet it seems there is at least one area in America that Russian speakers would rather avoid: my adopted state of Texas. [Read more →]

bad sports, good sports

Bad sports, good sports: NCAA declares former marine ineligible

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I really hate the NCAA. I know I am not exactly putting myself out on an island with that statement, as hating the NCAA in 2013 has become kind of like hating the DMV…pretty much everyone feels that way. It’s an organization built to protect a concept of amateurism that is outdated by a solid twenty to thirty years. Beyond that, it is now run by a grandstanding ignoramus named Mark Emmert, an empty suit who never met a microphone he didn’t like. Beyond the whole Penn State fiasco, Emmert and the NCAA have continued to look bad on a weekly basis this year, from failing to punish schools that actually do break NCAA rules, to sanctioning individual players who do awful things like washing their cars using university water. This week, a former marine who is now a freshman at Middle Tennessee State University was declared ineligible to play this season due to yet another awful ruling.

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Bob Sullivan's top ten everythingtravel & foreign lands

Top ten signs you’re having a bad summer

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10. You’ve lost so much blood from mosquito bites, they’ve stopped biting you

9. Your neighborhood swimming pool has banned you, because of your weak bladder

8. The B&B you’re staying at evidently stands for ‘bed’ and ‘bugs’

7. Due to hard-of-hearing travel agent, instead of Cancun you wound up in Kabul

6. You caught crabs at the beach – but not the edible kind

5. You have no idea who Carlos is, but you woke up with his name tattooed on your upper arm

4. Your hair hasn’t grown back since that Fourth of July incident

3. Because of too much sun, your face is redder than the Disney executive who greenlighted The Lone Ranger

2. The lemonade stand you frequent was just raided by the Board of Health

1. First name ‘Paula’, last name ‘Deen’

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

religion & philosophy

Evolution has been in The Bible all along

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Ever since Darwin published his infamous On the Origin of the Species in 1859, science and theology have been at war over the theory of evolution. The irony is that evolution and all its aspects—natural selection, survival of the fittest, genetic mutations—all appear in the Bible as clear as day. In fact, even a “missing link” explanation that science has still not uncovered appears in there as well. Is it found in some lost book, obscure passage, cryptic verse, or esoteric translation? No, it appears in an entire story that everyone knows—the story of Noah’s Ark. And once I point out the metaphoric meaning of the story, you’ll wonder how on earth you never noticed it before. How? The church didn’t want you to notice. Because the truth takes power away from them and puts it where it rightfully belongs—to you. [Read more →]

travel & foreign landstrusted media & news

When kings go incognito

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One of my favorite story motifs is of the king who travels incognito to learn what is really happening in his land. This idea shows up not only in folktales and fictions, but also in reality: Caliph Harun al-Rashid did it in 8th-century Iraq, while Turkmenbashi, the deceased leader of Turkmenistan, did it in his days as Soviet boss of that desert land. King Abdullah of Jordan also disguised himself and walked among his people shortly after he came to the throne.

But it’s not only Eastern potentates who like to walk among mortals on occasion. This week we can add to the list of incognito leaders a man I had never heard of until [Read more →]
diatribespolitics & government

Facts, values and our politics

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A conundrum is emerging that confounds my understanding, limited as it may be, of politics and economics.   [Read more →]

politics & governmentterror & war

Of Russian resets and NSA leaks

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In 2001 President Bush met Vladimir Putin at a summit in Slovenia. They met to discuss post-Soviet debt, among other things, but Bush saw their initial meeting as a chance to form a strong relationship with a key player in global politics. According to Decision Points, Putin was rough around the edges, but softened up when W. inquired about a cross that Putin had had blessed in Jerusalem. It was the sentimental story of Putin’s cross and this shared moment that had led Bush to suggest that he had looked into Putin’s soul. But if he really had, he would not have been so impressed. [Read more →]

bad sports, good sports

Bad sports, good sports: Why is it so bad when people speak their minds?

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Listening to interviews with athletes and team officials is often brutal. For the most part, no one will actually say anything anymore, as organizations are so afraid of either lawsuits or giving the other team “bulletin board material.” This has also carried over to commentators and sports talk show hosts, who try to offer what they might call criticism, but who usually soften it so much as to make it unclear what they are actually saying. Occasionally, though, someone manages to speak his or her mind, and you would think the world had come to an end to watch the reaction. This happened a couple of times this week, when two former professional athletes, baseball’s Jack Clark and football’s Bernie Kosar, forgot to hit the bland button before they spoke. [Read more →]

Bob Sullivan's top ten everythingends & odd

Top ten lifeguard pickup lines

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10. “Need a little help with your breaststroke?”

9. “You’re also supposed to wait half an hour after making love.”

8. “Okay if I practice my mouth-to-mouth?”

7. “Want to play with my ‘pool toy’?”

6. “Help! I’m drowning!…In your eyes!”

5. “This isn’t a nude beach, but in your case I’ll make an exception.”

4. “I’m caught in an undertow of love.”

3. “Your body is harder than my plastic CPR dummy.”

2. “The sign says ‘Lifeguard on Duty,” but I wish it said ‘Lifeguard on Cutie’.”

1. “Look out there on the water, it’s just like us: buoy meets gull.”


Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

virtual children by Scott Warnock

Games for the long car ride

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Having been a lifeguard, I learned many strategies to ward off boredom during those rainy shore weekdays when all the swimmers were at the boardwalk or playing Monopoly at the beach house. Ah, but no experience in life need be wasted: Those anti-ennui lifeguard strategies are transferable to that iconic American family experience: The long automobile trip. [Read more →]

language & grammarThe Emperor decrees

The Emperor’s decree against affected speech: “sure”

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I have been declared Emperor of the World. Let us not waste time explaining why or how; let’s all simply accept the fact that we are better off, as a result; hence, my next decree:

Emperor’s Decree No. 222-sde/23x: With the proliferation of video and audio media, the Emperor is noticing an ever-growing increase in affected speech patterns and in the parroting of words and phrases. He has already pointed out the use of the word “ameezing” (really, “amazing”) as an adjective for everything from tasty french fries to good sex to religious epiphanies. He won’t even get into the idea of “vocal fry” — that intensely annoying tendency of (mostly) young women to insert creaky vibrations into their voices for…effect. (For what effect, other than making people want to throw punches, we don’t know. Maybe they think it makes them sound like Leonard Nimoy or something.) The reason he will not get into “vocal fry” yet is that the linguistic jury is still out. Some researchers claim it is not a new phenomenon, though the Emperor’s Imperial Department of Linguistic Domination believes it is more widespread than ever. Nevertheless, it will no doubt be outlawed, soon. Anyhoo, let’s take one thing at a time: the word “sure.” Open. Your. Mouth. It is “shooor.” It’s not “sherrr.” Say it right.

The Punishment: Violators of this decree will be placed into a closet with a weed-whacker and they will be forced to listen to its incessant, grating whine for three days, straight, in order for them learn how overwhelmingly annoying they are to everyone within earshot.

Now, go forth and obey.

The Emperor will grace the world with a new decree each Tuesday morning.

bad sports, good sports

Bad sports, good sports: Riley Cooper, racism, and the dynamic of instantaneous reaction

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The big news in the sports world this week involved a racist comment made by Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper during a Kenny Chesney concert last month. The comments were caught on someone’s phone, and came to light this week when a local sports-gossip site, Crossing Broad, got a hold of the video and made it public. There are a lot of layers to this story, and they all qualify as Bad Sports. [Read more →]

Bob Sullivan's top ten everythingenvironment & nature

Top ten answers to the question “How hot is it?”

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10. “It’s so hot, Michael Bloomberg was spotted drinking a Big Gulp.”

9. “It’s so hot, the Statue of Liberty has pit stains.”

8. “It’s so hot, Richard Simmons just came out with Heat-Stroking to the Oldies.”

7. “It’s so hot, nuns are wearing Daisy Dukes.”

6. “It’s so hot, the fish are sweating.”

5. “It’s so hot, George Zimmerman says he kinda wishes he’d been thrown in the ‘cooler’.”

4. “It’s so hot, Martha Stewart has started dating both Ben and Jerry.”

3. “It’s so hot, Chris Christie is making his own gravy.”

2. “It’s so hot, today I fried an egg…at room temperature.”

1. “It’s so hot, Paula Deen attended an NAACP meeting just for the chilly reception.”

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

living poetry

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte (Seurat)

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Look long enough and Seurat’s pointillism
Seems letters and punctuation, not dots,
Becomes a narrative, a verbal prism,
Written in a language that can’t be taught.
The hook of cane, umbrella, monkey’s tail,
A stone with a white and orange bonnet,
The pinch of waists and a billowing sail,
All forestall the waning of the day.
Only a running girl, a blown trumpet,
A leaping pup, having anything to say.
The rest is stillness, and while the shadows
Avoid the giantess, elsewhere they grow.
Emotion is atoms frozen and bound,
Letters to paper, and can’t make a sound.

Note: This is one of more than 125 poems after paintings or images, which can be viewed at the blog, Zealotry of Guerin.

books & writingtrusted media & news

Why Guantanamo Bay inmates are totally hot for ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’

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When not reading about boy wizards and bondage, some berserk jihadis like to relax by thinking about how they can improve on the work of James Dyson. Pic: Wikipedia.

Yesterday I learned an interesting fact: When it comes to books, the bearded inmates of Guantanamo Bay are totally hot for “Fifty Shades of Grey,” the first novel of a popular trilogy about the erotic adventures of a young female graduate named Anastasia Steele and an international businessman named Christian Grey. No, really – a US congressman said it, so it must be true.

Indeed, Representative Jim Moran of Virginia told The Huffington Post: “Rather than the Quran, the book that is requested most by the [detainees] is ‘Fifty Shades of Grey.’ They’ve read the entire series.” [Read more →]