Monday, February 18, 2008

Montel Needs a Job, yet Jerry & Maury Stay On

Not a lot of fuss was made over the recent cancellation of the Montel Williams Show. It was almost as if it were some dirty little secret that he was unceremoniously kicked to the curb after an astonishing 17 years on the air. The few outlets that made mention of it skewed it to make it sound like Williams had a tantrum-like meltdown and flew into a rage while being interviewed on the Fox and Friends news show. I call BS on that.

Williams was indeed interviewed on Fox & Friends, and was asked to comment on Heath Ledger’s death. Instead of being a vacuous Hollywood mouthpiece, Montel used the interview to say he was repulsed by all the coverage of Ledger and to point out that TV networks had continued to extensively cover Ledger's death while ignoring the deaths of 28 US soldiers killed in Iraq since the beginning of the year. Montel expressed sympathy for Ledger's family and remorse for his passing but also encouraged the three interviewers to recognize the absence of coverage for the US soldiers killed in Iraq. The interviewers sought to point out that their audience wanted celebrity news and it was more interesting than soldier deaths. How utterly asanine. Those three asshats had no idea how many deaths there had been and took a wild guess at 20. They then tried to backpedal out of their hole and say that it was "the nature of the TV beast" and that they had to talk about Ledger for the sake of ratings, because everyone already knew there was a war on.

Three minutes into this segment on Fox, one host cut off Montel in order to go to a commercial. Montel did not return after the break, and four days later Montel was cancelled after Fox affiliates dropped the show. I guess that the squeaky wheel got the grease.

Most people only know Montel as a TV host and actor, but before he went into broadcasting, and afterwards as well as a reservist, Montel was in the military himself. Williams enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1974 and while training at Twentynine Palms he was selected for training at the Naval Preparatory School (kind of like junior college for the military); a year later, he was accepted into the Naval Academy. In 1980, he graduated with a degree in engineering and a minor in international security affairs. Upon graduation, Williams was commissioned as an Ensign in the United States Navy. He retired after 22 years of military service as a Lieutenant Commander, having spent much of his time working in Naval Intelligence.

Here’s a link to the video of Montel on Fox & Friends:

I always liked Montel and his show. It was less hokey than most talk shows, unless that looney “psychic” Sylvia Browne was on. (You know, if she was such a great psychic, she’d have seen the show was going to be canceled and warned Williams.) Montel also veered away from a lot of the tabloidy sensationalism of some shows, or just the plain outright ludicrous idiocy of the Jerry Springer Show.

As an aside, I watch Springer maybe twice a month if I’m home from work early enough and there’s crap-else on the telly. It’s that hideous trainwreck that you look at and feel guilty for doing so, yet you just can’t avert your eyes from it. Not that it was ever even remotely close to highbrow entertainment, or even decent talk-tv, but the show has degenerated to become a mocking parody of even itself. I’m not quite sure when the show jumped the shark, but jump it most definitely has, as the last time I looked the plots of the stories concerning the “guests” (and I use that term loosely) were so trite and predictable that each show has now become the same over & over again, like a white-trash Groundhog Day.

You start with a redneck love triangle, often involving siblings, which ends up in an orchestrated fist fight where no punches actually land (yet both end up shirtless and still wearing their cheap ties and remote mic sets), showing off pasty white beer bellies and prison tattoos. All the while, this bizarre “half-man” named Kenny wanders the stage walking on his hands, a ventriloquist dummy laughs inanely while stage manager Todd Schulz exhorts the crowd to chant like a cult, and this drunken character named Reverend Schnorr (think Bobcat Goldthwait on Valium) performs some sort of pseudo marriage ceremony for whatever two halfwits are left standing.

Invariably the show ends with the audience taking verbal potshots at the guests and several audience members lift their shirts to earn “Jerry Beads”. Springer then gives a 30-second mock sermon about the show’s subject, tells us all to take care of each other, and I’m left feeling about 10 IQ points dumber than I was an hour previously.

Equally as mind-numbing is Maury Povich’s show. I’m pretty sure that MoPo has only ten actual show subjects and just rotates through them, as he has done for the past 17 years or so. Oddly enough, Montel, Springer, and Maury all began airing in 1991…

Maury’s Ten Show Themes:

1. Who Be My Baby Daddy?
Maury tests dozens of guys to find the one who knocked up the woman on stage claiming that she’s “one billion percent” sure that so-and-so is the baby's father. The more certain the mother is, the more likely that she’s wrong, and she runs off crying and flopping on the floor backstage while the releived non-father dances onstage and hi-fives he crowd. At least 25% of the shows are on this theme.

2. I Have a Secret to Confess
And of course this secret may ruin our marriage/friendship/family, etc.

3. Out of Control Oversexed Teen Girls
Idiot enabler mothers who won’t just put a boot up their bratty/slutty daughter’s ass come to MoPo for help. The girls get screamed at by drill instructors and spend a night in boot camp, and are miraculously cured by show’s end.

4. Abusive Controlling Husbands/Boyfriends
Crying wives and girlfriends turn to MoPo because their men treat them like they live in Saudi Arabia, and Maury brings out another screaming yet sympathetic drill instructor who takes the men to a funeral home and cures them by show’s end.

5. Are You a Boy or a Girl?
Drag queens, trannies, and mannish women in evening gowns dance around the stage, while idiots in the audience scream out their sexual identity opinions, swearing up and down that “That’s a dude” and “She’s a woman”. And they are almost always wrong.

6. I Was a Dork, Now I’m Hot
Pretty self-explanatory. People who were fat/dorky/shy/etc. in high school bring someone onto the show from their past, usually a former tormentor, to flaunt their new physiques, generally surgically-enhanced, and make that tormentor feel like a complee and utter tool.

7. Secret Crushes Revealed
Oh, Maury, I like someone and am too shy to tell them, so I’ll bring them here on TV and tell them, since I’m not too shy to do that.

8. I Survived Tragedy
A logging truck flipped over on me and I lived. A pit bull chewed my arm off after my husband threw acid in my face. I fell into a wood chipper…

9. Lost Family Members/Friends/Lovers Reunited After 20 Years
Why bother using Google to look up someone from your past when Maury can do it for you?

10. The ubiquitous Flashback/Update Shows
Where memorable guests from the last 3 months of shows come back to update us on all the latest trials and trevails of their stories, leaving everyone warm & fuzzy.

It could be worse I guess. I could be watching John Edward conduct a séance in the round.... I see a man, or a woman…..and a J…John? Jack? Jerry? Joan? Jean? Or a P….Pat, or Paul or Paula……and I keep seeing this image of a rubber duck and a bottle of tequila……

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A huge scare in Buffalo

Above: Richard Zednik shortly before Sunday's accident.

There are a lot of inherent dangers in playing sports, especially contact sports. Depending upon the sport the injuries can range from muscle strains, pulls, and sprains to torn ligaments and tendons. I’ve seen myriad broken bones in football tackles, skiing accidents, and I’ve even seen a broken arm and a broken leg in baseball. You can get struck by lightning playing something sedate as golf, which I kinda consider more of a game and less of a sport, and of course folks have died in crashes in auto racing (again, not so much a sport as a skill). I saw a guy die from his injuries once in a boxing match, too.

Ice hockey is the sport I follow the most; in fact it’s the only sport I follow closely at all enough to carry on a reasonably intelligent conversation. Hockey is most assuredly a contact sport and the potential for injury is pretty major at times. Instead of on nice soft grass, you play on cold hard ice, balanced on top of razor blades about 1/8 of an inch wide. Yes, you play armor-clad in shoulder/elbow/shin pads, gloves, and a helmet, but injuries still happen from such things as errant sticks, flying pucks, getting slammed into the boards, player on player collisions, and occasional fisticuffs.

I’ve personally seen several puck-related injuries, from deep bruises to broken foot bones. Remember, that thing is a little over half a pound of frozen vulcanized rubber hurtling about at nearly 100 miles an hour. Additionally, I’ve seen broken noses and bloody lips from high-sticking, at least one broken leg from hitting the boards wrong, and more than a few teeth lost (what we old-school fans call “spitting out Chiclets”), all right here in Charleston at the Coliseum during Stingrays games. Just a couple weeks ago Ilya Kovalchuk of the Atlanta Thrashers missed a couple games after a knee on knee collision with Jarkko Ruutu of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Think of how that would hurt, knocking knees while skating at full-tilt.

But on Sunday, Richard Zednik of the Florida Panthers suffered an even more horrifying injury when his carotid artery was sliced open by the skate blade of his team mate Olli Jokinen in a freak accident during a game against the Buffalo Sabres. Zednik was circling the net behind the play and skating into the corner when Jokinen was upended by Sabres forward Clarke MacArthur. Jokinen fell headfirst to the ice, and his right leg and skate flew up and struck Zednik directly on the side of the neck. Doctors said the skate blade just missed cutting the jugular vein. Zednik lost five units of blood (almost a third of the body’s total volume) and required over an hour of emergency surgery to close the wound, but is currently listed in good condition as of 5:00 PM Tuesday.

It was eerily familiar to me, though, to hear about a player’s throat being slashed during a game in Buffalo. On March 22, 1989, Steve Tuttle of the St.Louis Blues collided with Buffalo’s Uwe Krupp in front of the goal net, and Tuttle’s skate caught Sabres goalie Clint Malarchuk on the neck, severing his right external jugular vein. With a huge pool of blood collecting on the ice, Malarchuk somehow left the ice under his own power with the assistance of his team's athletic trainer, Jim Pizzutelli. Many spectators were physically sickened by the sight, with nine fainting and two suffering heart attacks, while three teammates vomited on the ice. Malarchuk's life was saved by Pizzutelli, a former army medic who had served in Vietnam. He reached into Malarchuk's neck and pinched off the bleeding, not letting go until doctors arrived to begin suturing the wound. Amazingly, after receiving more than 300 stitches to close the wound, Malarchuk returned to practice four days later, having spent only one night in the hospital. And about a week after that, he was back between the pipes against the Quebec Nordiques, having missed only six games.

Now a goalie coach with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Malarchuk immediately contacted the Panther organization to offer his support, and to pass on his phone number in case Zednik wants someone to talk to, someone who understands like no one else.

"There's nothing anybody can say to make this go away," Malarchuk said, "But I'd tell him he should get back as quick as he can -- I've extended my phone number in case I can help."

But according to doctors, there’s no comparing the injuries, similar though they may seem. They say Zednik's injury was much more life- threatening.

"Clint actually cut his external jugular vein, which is quite different from your common carotid artery," Dr. Leslie J. Bisson said. "Your common carotid artery, when that's lacerated, it can very quickly become a fatal injury." Bisson is the Sabres team doctor.

The four doctors who treated Zednik used words Monday such as "profusely," "devastating," "hanging by a thread" and "lucky" in a press conference to describe the sliced carotid artery injury suffered by Zednik on Sunday. They described a scene that likely would have been fatal if not for a sequence of fortunate events.

The blow could have been deadly if:
*Zednik hadn't skated immediately to the bench, a 100-foot journey that left a wide trail of blood. That allowed trainers and doctors to reach him quicker.

*Bisson hadn't been positioned next to the bench. He was able to hop out of the stands and meet Zednik near his bench. Bisson immediately put pressure on the gushing artery, slowing the bleeding.

*The artery had been completely severed. It wasn't, allowing Dr. Sonya Noor and Dr. Richard Curl to quickly find the injury and reattach it cleanly. If the artery had torn fully, it would have retracted and moved, causing further complications.

Well-wishers can leave Richard a get-well message at I purposely left out any links to the footage of either Zednik’s or Malarchuk’s injuries, out of respect to both players and their families. Trust me, they’re out there and easy to find if you really want to see.

Thursday, February 7, 2008 know, rhymes with "Pariah"

The new sexy English schoolgirl's uniform if things don't change soon

Once again, the so-called religion of peace is rearing one of its Hydra heads. Sharia Law, the uber-conservative strict set of rules that governs Islam, is once again in the news after a 37-year old American businesswoman, a married mother of three, was arrested in the Saudi Arabian city of Riyadh and held for a day, interrogated, strip-searched, and made to sign false confessions.

Her alleged crime? Sitting with a male business colleague in a Starbucks.

Yeah, you read that right. I am NOT kidding.

The woman, who declined to give her full name for fear of retribution (and rightly so) from these zealot fruitbags, is married to a prominent businessman, has lived in Saudi Arabia for 8 years and is a managing partner for a finance company. When the power to their office went out, she and her work colleagues all went to a nearby Starbucks to use the wireless internet connection. She sat in a curtained booth with her business partner in the café's “family” area, the only seats where men and women are allowed to mix, since in Saudi Arabia, public contact between unrelated men and women is strictly prohibited.

“Some men came up to us with very long beards and white dresses. They asked ‘Why are you here together?'. I explained about the power being out in our office. They got very angry and told me what I was doing was a great sin,” recalled the woman.

The men were from the Mutaween, Saudi Arabia's Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, a police force of several thousand men charged with enforcing dress codes, sex segregation, slave-like subjugation of women as second-class chattel, and the observance of prayers. They took her cell phone, pushed her into a cab and drove her to Malaz prison in Riyadh. She was interrogated, strip-searched and forced to sign and fingerprint a series of confessions pleading guilty to her “crime”.

“They took me into a filthy bathroom, full of water and dirt. They made me take off my clothes and squat and they threw my clothes in this slush and made me put them back on,” she said. Eventually she was taken before a judge. “He said 'You are sinful and you are going to burn in hell'. I told him I was sorry. I was very submissive. I had given up. I felt hopeless,” she said.

Her husband had to call in favors from his political contacts to find where she was and secure her release. Very few women in Muslim countries have that luxury. She was later visited by a representative from the American Embassy, who promised to file a report. That report, if ever written at all, will be laughed at by the Saudi government and then promptly ignored, and we’ll go back to the status quo of kissing the royal Saudi ass to keep oil flowing.

Under Sharia Law, pretty much everything is outlawed except praying and subservience. (Yeah, I made a blanket statement about another religion. So what? I’m already an infidel.)

This set of codes allows for cutting off the hands of someone suspected of thievery, for unmarried fornicators to be whipped with canes and adulterers to be stoned to death. It cites that homosexuals must be executed, and drinkers and gamblers should be whipped. Islam allows husbands to hit their wives even if the husbands merely fear she’s just being uppity. And here’s a good one: Islam orders death for Muslims and possible death for non-Muslim critics of Mohammed and the Koran and even Sharia itself. So, that means if you criticize Islam, doom on you and we’ll come after you.

Looks like I just invited a Jihad down on myself. I say BRING IT ON.

It’s often claimed that Islamic societies have fewer incidents of fornication and adultery because of these strict laws, and customs like women wearing veils over their faces, abaya headscarves, or even full bodybag burkhas, or keeping separate from men in social settings. But these results of fewer incidents of sexual “crimes” have negative effects in other areas, such as the oppression of women. Generally, Sharia restricts women's social mobility and rights the more closely Sharia Law is followed. For example, in conservative Saudi Arabia women cannot vote, cannot drive, cannot be treated in a hospital or travel without the written permission of a male guardian. They cannot study the same things men do, and are barred from certain professions. In Iran women's testimony counts half that of men and far more women than men are stoned to death for adultery.

Here’s some more examples of peace and tolerance:

In February 1998 the Taliban, who once ruled in Afghanistan, ordered a stone wall to be pushed over on three men convicted of sodomy. Their lives were to be spared if they survived for 30 minutes and were still alive when the stones were removed.

In its 1991 Constitution, Iran adopted the punishment of execution for sodomy. This might be why President Ahmedinijad claimed on his visit here last summer that there are no homosexuals in Iran. No shit, buddy…you killed them all.

In April 2005, a Kuwaiti cleric said homosexuals should be thrown off a mountain or stoned to death.

On April 7, 2005, it was reported that Saudi Arabia sentenced more than 100 men to prison or flogging for “gay conduct.” These homosexuals were lucky. Most of Islam would have executed them.

In December 2004, an Amnesty International report stated that:
“An Iranian woman charged with adultery faces death by stoning in the next five days after her death sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court last month. Her unnamed co-defendant is at risk of imminent execution by hanging. She is to be buried up to her chest and stoned to death.”

In December, 2007, a 57-year old man killed his 16-year old daughter in an “honor killing” in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. The teen had recently clashed with her family after ceasing to wear Islamic headgear and adopting a more Western style of dress.

Last year a 19-year old Saudi woman was abducted and gang-raped by seven men, and a court in Saudi Arabia sentenced her to 90 lashes because she was in a car with an unrelated man before she was abducted. She met a high school friend in his car to retrieve a picture of herself from him. Two men, armed with knives, got into their car and drove to a secluded spot where five others waited. The young woman had the courage to appeal the sentence and publicize her story in the media. And so the court increased her punishment to 200 lashes and six months in jail. Her lawyer, a prominent human rights defender, was suspended and faced a disciplinary hearing. However, under a barrage of world criticism, the Saudi King pardoned the girl.

In 2002, 15 Saudi schoolgirls died when officers of the morality police would not let them out of their burning school building - and barred firefighters from saving them - because the girls weren’t wearing the headscarf and black cloak that all women must wear in public.

In 2001, Iranian officials sentenced three men to flogging for illicit sex and for drinking alcohol.

In 2005, in Nigeria a Sharia court ordered that a drinker should be caned eighty strokes.

In 2005, in the Indonesian province of Aceh, fifteen men were caned in front of a mosque for gambling. This was done publicly so all could see and fear. Eleven others were scheduled to undergo the same penalty for gambling.

In 1989, Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa (legal decree) to assassinate Salman Rushdie, the novelist who wrote “The Satanic Verses”, which includes questions about the angel Gabriel's role in inspiring the Koran.

In 2005, The Muslim Council of Victoria, Australia, brought a lawsuit against two pastors for holding a conference and posting articles critiquing Islam. Three Muslims attended the conference and felt offended, and brought the suit. Appallingly, they won.

In January 2008, a Belarus court sentenced a newspaper editor to three years in prison for reprinting a caricature of the Prophet Mohammed that sparked worldwide riots when it was initially published in a Danish newspaper last year. According to the Associated Press, “less than 1 percent” of the population of Belarus is Muslim. Nevertheless, it appears that Sharia law has been instituted in the former Soviet republic.

Sharia law is also trying to keep criticism of Islam from being printed in American books and media outlets. Saudi billionaire Khalid bin Mahfouz has filed lawsuits through British courts over articles, books, and publications that were critical of Islam or showed Islamic funding of global terrorism.

The Supreme Court has defined (in New York Times v. Sullivan, 1964) libel or slander by a journalist as stating or writing falsehoods or misrepresentations that damage someone’s reputation, and in cases of public figures doing so with malice. Under Sharia, by contrast, libel constitutes any oral or written remark offensive to a complainant, regardless of its accuracy or intent. Slander “means to mention anything concerning a person that he would dislike, whether about his body, religion, everyday life, self, disposition, property, son, father, wife, servant, turban, garment, gait, movements, smiling, dissoluteness, frowning, cheerfulness, or anything else connected with him,” according to “Reliance of the Traveller: The Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law Umdat”.

That means Sharia regards even the truth as slander if its subject dislikes the facts. Now applied through foreign courts, Sharia law interpretations of libel are undermining the viability of the American press. Though Mahfouz never proved merits in any libel case, he has threatened or sued more than 35 journalists and publishers (including many in the U.S.) through Britain’s High Court, and exacted fines, apologies and retractions from all but one. Way to go, Britain.

Unfortunately, in many western countries with large Muslim populations there have been calls to allow and adopt Sharia law, at least for the Muslims, but since they also want to forcibly convert everyone to be Believers that means they want it to apply to everyone. The call has been especially loud in Britain, and it galls me that the Brits have been pretty spineless in not nipping that crap in the bud. Even the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, said today that it was inevitable that Sharia law would come to England for Muslims to handle their own family affairs and that it “seems unavoidable” that elements of Islamic law be accepted into the British legal system. The head of the Church of England believes that officially sanctioning Sharia will improve community relations and aid integration. What a load of crap, your Holiness. You’ve just given them ammunition to make England less English and more Islamic.

Sharia law should be opposed for imposing of theocracy over democracy, its abuse of human rights, its institutionalized discrimination, its denial of human dignity and individual freedom of thought, its punishment of alternative lifestyle choices, and for the severity of its punishments. There is a naïve notion going around that if you display tolerance everyone will live peacefully side by side, singing “Kumbaya” and roasting marshmallows. This nation was indeed founded upon religious freedom, but when “tolerance” starts to impede upon the values that our nation was based upon and puts our other basic freedoms at risk, I gotta say “Whoa, hold up”. Separation of church & state means we also need to keep religion from ruling every aspect of our society.

I don’t doubt that most Muslims are peaceful folks and that we can all get along just fine. It’s the radical fundamentalists that I have a problem with, and archaic repressive laws from their religion, (or frankly anyone’s religion) trying to impose their will upon free-thinking peoples everywhere. Keep Sharia law out of American society, or American society will cease to exist.

Special thanks to James Arlandson of The American Thinker and Alyssa Lappen of Pajamas Media for providing much of my information.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Little Hate-house on the Prairie

Fred Phelps and family. These people SUCK.

Now that most of the hubris and smoke has cleared surrounding the death of Heath Ledger, I may as well say something. Thus far I had assiduously avoided doing any commentary on it, because I don’t want my blog to become another lame tabloid. I stopped commenting on the ongoing Great Britney Meltdown of ’08 when it became painfully clear that the chick had jumped the shark and was really sick instead of just being a dumbass. She’s got a serious mental illness, and poking her through the bars with a stick just feels wrong now, like the neighborhood brat throwing rocks at the short bus. Of course, I could always start in on her sister but here’s just no challenge anymore in ridiculing a train wreck the magnitude of The Spears Family.

Heath Ledger’s death came as a shock, completely unexpected, a tragic waste of potential and a young talent silenced too soon. I saw many of his films and as a whole enjoyed his body of work. If you’d asked me a couple weeks ago to pick an under-30 Hollywood star who would die in 2008, I’d have penned a list with all the usual suspects, and Ledger would not have been on it. Britney? Of course. Lindsay Lohan is ripe for a psychotic episode pretty soon. An Olsen twin could have choked on a grain of rice. Prior to pulling her head out of her bony little ass this past year, I might have said Nicole Ritchie. Former American Idol contestant Jessica Sierra seems well on her way to candidacy. However, I still say it’s Britain’s Favourite Mess, pop chanteuse Amy Winehouse, who’ll end up on a coroner’s slab if she doesn’t successfully complete the rehab she entered last week. But Heath freakin’ Ledger? Never saw that one coming, not one bit.

But I digress.

Anyways, I really was going to let this subject drift away into the ether except for one little sideshow to the main media circus that reared its ugly head and really chapped my ass. Thankfully, Ledger’s family opted to keep the funeral arrangements quiet and private, opting to fly him back to Perth, Australia for burial, because those ignorant asshats of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas publicly stated that they were going to picket and protest the funeral. Why? Because Ledger played a gay character in the film “Brokeback Mountain”.

I’ll let you digest that little crouton for a minute…since it just smacks of coherent, educated forethought, doesn’t it?

This “church”, made up almost entirely by family members of its founder, disbarred Mississippi lawyer Fred W. Phelps Sr., has made a name for itself (and a rather shitty one at that) for doing such wonderfully Christian acts as protesting military funerals across the country with placards bearing shock-value messages like "Thank God for dead soldiers." These cretins believe soldiers are being killed in Iraq and Afghanistan as punishment for what they say is the nation's tolerance of homosexuality. A press release circulated by the WBC stated, “Heath Ledger is now in Hell, and has begun serving his eternal sentence there.”, and a verbal statement said,” “God hates fags. The wrath of God has been revealed before the eyes of this nation with the death of Heath Ledger. … This nation worships the dead almost as much as they worship their filthy sex acts. America is doomed.”

The organization runs various web sites, including,, and others that condemn lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, Muslims, Roman Catholics and Jews, as well as populations it believes are supporting the aforementioned groups, including Swedes, Canadians, Irish, British, and Americans. Great Christian values, no?

I first heard about these vile creatures on, of all things, the Howard Stern radio show, back when it was still on regular broadcast radio. He brought them on to ridicule them and showcase their arrogance, ignorance, and intolerance, and ironically their mouthpiece had no idea she was being mocked as she earnestly babbled on about God hating fags and even had the audacity to put her own brainwashed elementary-aged child on the air to spout the same venom & vitriol. If not for the zeal in which the child proclaimed that “God hates fags”, it would have been almost comically nonsensical. Instead it was coldly scary.

I have a lot of friends in the gay community. I’m proud to have them as my friends. A couple of them are Gulf War veterans who served to defend this nation so that the WBC would have the freedom to even exist, which is painful in its irony.

Just today, a Maryland judge upheld an award of millions of dollars to the family of Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder, a 20-year old Marine killed in a vehicle accident in Iraq. In a 52-page decision, U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett upheld a jury's verdict in favor of Snyder’s family for enduring emotional distress and having their privacy invaded by WBC members waving anti-gay signs at the Marine's funeral in March 2006.

The FAQ section of their website states that, in their view, soldiers did not join the military out of a sense of patriotism, but because they are "lazy, incompetent idiots" unable to find work elsewhere. The WBC has characterized the AIDS Memorial Quilt as "100,000 living fags slobberin' around 45,000 dead fags" and declared Elizabeth Taylor, a fundraiser for AIDS research, to be a "world-famous filthy Jew whore." Other regular anti-homosexual slogans of Westboro include "Homosexuality = Death," "Fags Die, God Laughs”, "AIDS: Kills Fags Dead" and "Ellen DeGeneres is a Lesbian Slut."

Look, I’m all about free speech. I exercise it daily. I understand that it’s protected under the the Constitution, the same Constitution that I swore an oath to protect and defend back in 1987 when I enlisted. However, this goes well past free speech to hate speech and their protests border on hate crimes.

Last I knew, not that I profess to be a biblical scholar by any means, God did not hate gays. After all, why would God hate something He made? Why in His infinite wisdom would he willingly and knowingly create a human being just to hate? I thought your Christian God was all about love, tolerance, and forgivenes? If God should hate anything , He should hate charlatans posing as a church, spreading dissent and hate and vitriol against folks who aren’t heterosexual, an actor who played a fictional role, and brave soldiers who died in the service of a free country that allows these creatures the right to pervert the values of religion into ugly bigotry.

Evil is as evil does.
Lance Corporal Matthew A. Snyder, USMC
7-18-85 to 3-3-06
Semper Fi, Matt

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Gretzky Comes to Chucktown

Wayne Gretzky conducts a team practice Friday at the North Charleston Coliseum.

How often in the course of your lifetime do you get an opportunity to be in close proximity to one of your lifelong heroes? Probably once in a lifetime, if ever. Sometimes we manage to get close to, or even meet, famous people or people of greatness, but those people may or may not be heroes of yours just because of their fame or deeds. A couple years ago I met South Carolina governor Mark Sanford at a golf tournament; a nice guy but not my hero. In 1996 I was about 75 to 100 feet away from President Bill Clinton when he stopped off & gave a speech in Bangor, Maine. A man of greatness, but not my hero. I said hi to author Stephen King as we passed each other in a grocery store parking loot, but he’s not my hero. I talked to Cal Ripken for a few minutes in the airport in Bangor during the baseball strike in 1994, but while he was one of the nicest and most genuine guys I’ve ever met and he’s in the Baseball Hall of Fame, but baseball’s not really my sport. Hockey is my sport. Ergo, it would be safe to say that the hero I had a brush with on Friday was connected to hockey, no?

-----------DING! DING! DING! ---------------you win a prize!!!!!---------------------

Friday afternoon I had the distinct pleasure of seeing Wayne Gretzky, the Great One, arguably the greatest player ever to strap on skates. Gretzky is now the coach of the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes, and by a stroke of great fortune Wayne and his “Desert Dogs” were in town on a breather during a road trip. They just needed a day or two away from hockey to relax as a team, play some golf and tennis on Thursday, and in the afternoon on Friday they did a light practice at the North Charleston Coliseum, open only to some press and season ticket holders of the South Carolina Stingrays. That meant that me and Crys would definitely be in attendance.

There were perhaps 200 people in the stands, since not every season ticket holder could get away from work in the middle of a Friday afternoon, but I recognized most every face who was able to be there. Us ‘Rays fans are a pretty tight group. It was absolutely fascinating to watch famous NHL players like team captain Shane Doan, defenseman Ed Jovanovski, and goalie Ilya Bryzgalov working through puck drills and sprints. As fast, accurate, and fluid as many of the Stingrays are, these guys from the highest level of pro hockey looked even more so.

Their goalie coach, Grant Fuhr, is an NHL legend himself, winner of five Stanley Cups, an inductee to the Hall of Fame, and a former team mate of Gretzky during four of those Cups. Fuhr was there in the thick of the practice as the skaters did shooting drills against his charges, starting goalie Bryzgalov and his backup Mikael Telqvist. And of course, in the middle of it all, directing the action with a quiet intensity and occasionally doling out advice, wisdom, and the occasional grin, was The Great One himself. The hair’s a bit longer, the face a bit older, and the #99 jersey he wore was only visible on fans in the stands, replaced by a burgundy Coyotes windsuit, but the same ready smile and aura of mystique surrounding was the same I remember from his playing days.

In his 20 years of pro hockey, Gretzky held or shared 61 NHL records, won nine Hart Trophies for the NHL’s Most Valuable Player, ten Art Ross Trophies for scoring champion, two Con Smythe Trophies for playoffs Most Valuable Player, and four Stanley Cups, scoring 893 goals and 1,963 assists. Wayne Gretzky is the consummate ambassador to the world for the sport of hockey.

At the end of the session, the players handed several sticks and pucks over the glass to eager kids, which I thought was very cool. After the practice was over and the crowd cleared out, a few of us opted to try our luck for an autograph by standing outside by the team bus. Sure enough, after about 30 minutes, people started to trickle out, like Coyote’s commentator and former Chicago Blackhawks goalie Darren Pang, and Grant Fuhr, who was kind enough to sign my Edmonton Oilers t-shirt when Crys got close enough for an autograph. Eventually, Gretzky came out surrounded by five security guys, who tried to keep everyone at bay and tried to rush Wayne to the bus like we were in downtown Baghdad. It was a little off-putting, actually, but Gretzky was very gracious in signing as many things as he could and even stopping for a couple quick pictures. I tried to hand him my shirt to sign but kept getting scooted back by his handlers, but somehow Crys managed to weasel her way close enough to hand both my shirt and a picture of Gretzky up to our friend Jackie, who got both of them signed for us. I now have an Oilers shirt signed by two Hall of Famers who won four Stanley Cups with that team. Needless to say, the shirt is officially retired and will probably be framed soon.

After the media/coaches bus left, the players themselves came out and got on their bus, with players graciously signing autographs and posing for pictures. And then all too soon, it was over, and once the bus was gone, we all parted ways for a couple hours to get ready for that night’s Stingrays game, which was a 5-0 victory over the Gwinnet Gladiators. Over all, Friday was indeed a great day for Lowcountry hockey fans.

Grant Fuhr signing my t-shirt