Monthly Archives: July 2007

What I Did Last Week

I spent most of last week doing stuff for my paying job, and I thought it might be interesting to blog about that. I was planning a series of posts on the wonders of the X12 Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) guideline for the Benefit Enrollment and Maintenance (834) transaction required by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) act of 1996. The main standard document is 228 pages, but I figure I could boil it down into a series of five posts of about 2000 words each.

At the last minute, however, I realized you all might be more interested in seeing a few photos from last Sunday’s model shoot instead.

For Whose Benefit?

I haven’t posted much in the last week because I’ve been real busy at my day job, but now that I just finished off a big chunk, I wanted to talk about one very interesting thing that happened last week. I’m referring, of course, to the re-arrest of Lindsay Lohan.

Everybody bemoans the large amount of attention the news cycle gives to celebrities and their problems, but our common knowledge of these cases often helps us discuss issues that apply broadly to everyone.

For example, there’s this opinion piece by Michael Ventre:

Lohan has an enormous amount of talent, but…she hasn’t distinguished herself as an actress. Sure, she was good in “Mean Girls” and “A Prairie Home Companion,” even “Herbie Fully Loaded.”

Yet Hollywood is all about perception. And what do people remember most, her roles in those films and others? Or the car accidents and partying?

That’s why she belongs in jail. For her own good.

Jail might not be the perfect solution, but it’s a terrific last resort. Spending an extended period of time in a facility where your freedom is taken away can be eye-opening.

Somebody has to come along and impose some discipline in her life before she completely self-destructs. Maybe it’s time for a warden, some guards and a bunch of other inmates to take over parenting chores.

Uh, maybe some jails have kindly guards whose heartfelt wish it is to see their prisoners get there lives back on track, but I don’t think they’re all that common. And does Michael Ventre realize that those other inmates are there for a reason? The people Lohan would meet in jail are probably not exemplars of personal discipline.

Ventre ends up writing that kind of mindless blather because he starts with the false premise that Lindsay Lohan should be in jail “for her own good.” It sounds wise and clever, but it’s bullshit. Lindsay Lohan shouldn’t be in jail for her own good, she should be in jail for our own good: Get her off the streets before she kills or maims someone.

The idea that we punish people for their own good is a sort of feel-good escape clause for people who lack the moral seriousness to admit that the justice system is there to contain and punish people because we want to change their behavior for the benefit of society.

Saving Grace

Saving Grace is a new series on TNT starring Holly Hunter, the latest film actor to make the jump to the small screen. She plays Grace (natch) Hanadarko, an Oklahoma City police detective battling her own personal demons.

You might say she’s slightly flawed. She’s an alcoholic, exhibitionistic, sexual addict with anger issues. She blames herself for her sister’s death in the Oklahoma City bombing. She’s having an affair with a married man.

One night she hits a pedestrian while driving drunk and kills him. She calls out to God for help and is promptly visited by a tobacco-chewing, wise-cracking angel.

I can just hear the pitch meeting for this show: “It’s Rescue Me meets Touched by an Angel.” While there are familiar elements from these shows, Saving Grace is like nothing I’ve seen before. It plays like a complete original.

For a show that deals with faith and God, it’s pretty racy. There’s as much sex, semi-nudity, and cursing as any episode of Rescue Me. I’m wary of TV shows telling me what God is or what God wants, but so far, Saving Grace has managed to cleverly avoid giving us, or Grace, the “Answers”.

Holly Hunter is fantastic as Grace. She is joined by Laura San Giacomo as her best friend and the rural equivalent of a CSI. Leon Rippy plays Earl, the angel that’s come to save Grace.

Saving Grace airs Mondays at 10pm/9pm Central on TNT.

Get The Party Started

I love cover songs. When one artist is covering a song with a well-known version by another artist, I can’t help but think of the earlier version while listening to the new one. The contrast between the old and new versions in my head creates musical tension unlike any original performance.

Case in point: Here is 70-year-old Shirley Bassey’s awesome cover of Pink’s “Get The Party Started”. By the time she gets to the chorus, she’s got all the rockin’ energy of Pink’s version, with a much bigger voice.

Play the Video

If her voice sounds familiar, but you can’t quite place it, it’s probably because she was the vocalist for the title themes to Goldfinger, Diamonds Are Forever, and Moonraker.

(Hat tip: Alexandra Billings.)

in Music

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Well, Amazon Order Tracking says that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is on the way. The shipping origin is right here in Illinois, so when Amazon shipped it yesterday, it only took three hours to reach Chicago, but Amazon put in a request to hold the package until tomorrow.

I actually thought about driving over to the UPS depot that serves my area to try to pick it up at the customer service desk.

Yeah, I’ve caught Harry Potter fever.

in Book

Whose Freedom of Religion?

Members of the religious right sometimes complain that Christians like themselves are losing their religious freedom. In my experience, those complaining loudest are all too often deploring the loss of “rights” such as the right to have government-paid teachers force children to recite prayers, or the right to force everyone else in the country to use the same definition of marriage that they do.

Here’s what the real thing looks like, and not from one of those crazy Muslim countries, but from the United Kingdom:

A teenager has lost her High Court challenge to be allowed to wear a Christian “purity ring” to school.

Lydia Playfoot, 16, claimed the ban imposed by the Millais School in Horsham, West Sussex, was an “unlawful interference” with her right to express her faith.

But lawyers for the school successfully argued that the purity ring was not an essential part of the Christian religion and contravened the school’s uniform policy.

Who cares if the purity ring is “not an essential part of the Christian religion”? All that matters is that the purity ring is an essential part of Lydia Playfoot’s religion. We don’t have freedom of religion for the benefit of religion. We have freedom of religion for the benefit of religious people.

(Hat tip: Kip)

The End of the Harry Potter Series

[Be sure to read the comments: I wrote the first few of these here, but a lot of people have contributed some truly funny endings.]

The end of the Harry Potter series, as written by

Mario Puzo (The Godfather) :

Replacing the fallen Dumbledore as head of Hogwarts, Professor Minerva McGonagall proves to have balls of steel. In a well-coordinated series of carefully-timed attacks, the Order of the Phoenix kills every single Death Eater in a single night, settling all accounts.

John Grisham (The Firm, The Rainmaker, The Pelican Brief) :

Over the course of the book, Harry becomes disillusioned with the wizarding life as he realizes that it’s just endless conflict in the service of his corrupt and power-hungry masters. He and Ginny change their names and assume new identities so they can leave the wizarding world and live happily ever after.

George Lucas (American Graffiti, Star Wars, Star Wars, Star Wars, Star Wars, Star Wars, Star Wars) :

The battle between Harry and Voldemort comes to a close with an exciting magical glowing sword fight in the never-before-seen high-tech part of Hogwarts during which Voldemort reveals that he’s Harry’s real father. Then the Death Star blows up.

Joe Haldeman (The Forever War, Forever Free, Worlds Enough and Time) :

During the final confrontation, Neville Longbottom reveals unsuspected powers when he kills all the Death Eaters all over the world, including Lord Voldemort, by making them blow up into steaming bloody chunks. Neville explains that he is God The Creator Of The World in disguise, and then he blows up all the muggles in the world. God-Neville then proceeds to blow up all the all the wizards and witches in the world except Harry. Then he blows up Harry.

Dean Koontz (Bestselling Thriller Author) :

While Voldemort is preparing his final assault on Hogwarts, Arthur Weasley uses his knowledge of muggle artifacts come up with a plan to defeat Voldemort. He and Ron work desperately to connect the flue network to a fireplace in the house of a major Columbian drug lord. Harry and Hermione go through, stun everyone in the house, and steal all their Uzi submachineguns. When the Death Eaters arrive at Hogwarts, members of the Order of the Phoenix gun them down.

Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly) :

As the conflict with Voldemort comes to a head, Ron Weasley is suddenly and shockingly killed. Hermione responds with steely determination, joined by Luna Lovegood, who turns out to be a rare witch who has super-powerful martial arts skills. While Harry tries ineffectively to help—often with comic results—Luna kills the Death Eaters with Unblockable Scorpion Kicks and Hermione defeats Voldemort in a head-on battle of magic.

Tom Clancy (The Hunt For Red October, The Sum of All Fears, Rainbow 6) :

All seems lost for Harry until the Voldemort problem is brought to the attention of American President Jack Ryan, who sends the Enterprise Carrier Group to defeat the Death Eaters in a series of air strikes. Distrustful of the Ministry of Magic, Harry Potter defects to the United States where he helps Ryan get elected to his fourth term as President.

David Chase (The Sopranos) :

Discouraged by Lord Voldemort’s tiresome battle against Harry Potter, Lucius Malfoy makes peace with Harry Potter in a bid to take over the Death Eaters for himself. Meanwhile, Alicia Spinnet spots Lord Voldemort in Diagon Alley and catches him by surprise, killing him easily. Through a strange series of random events, all Voldemort’s horcruxes are also destroyed. Thinking the danger is over, Harry, Ginny, Ron, and Hermione make plans to meet at the Three Broomsticks for butterbeers. Just as the last of them arrives