Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Purpose of Tradition

Tradition is a touchstone; a place of comfort.

When families scatter, traditions plug them back into the familial identity despite distances.

In good times, they are warm comfort. In difficult times they are a place of mooring. In times of grief they can be all that keeps us above water.

It's been tempting to lay our Christmas traditions aside; who, after all, wants to celebrate when not just one loved one passes, but two? With Mom's passing three weeks ago, a numbness settled in, and Christmas would be muted in its glory. Now, with my brother's death just yesterday, numbness becomes a hollowness. A whittling away of who we are. Charli pointed out we have lost 5 loved ones in 1 and half years. Our dog, Lynette's grandfather, my brother-in-law, my mom, my brother... not to mention the loss our dearest friends are suffering...

What, then, for Christmas? It's tempting to feel guilty if we celebrate. But we should, nonetheless, celebrate. Celebrate family, for how long we were given with them and not for their loss. For continuity, because if we don't celebrate with traditions, our loss is felt more keenly. For memory, because things from the past will bump up against the present... perhaps they will be bittersweet, but perhaps not. Perhaps they will be the sweeter.

And finally, for gathering, even when we're apart. My sisters will be doing much the same thing we are. Eating lavishly, making popcorn balls, doing things in a certain order, all the usual season things. And so will we. Sharing an experience even though separated by thousands of miles.

Yes, there will be moments of sorrow. Perhaps the waffles or cinnamon rolls won't taste as sweet, but through our traditions we will stand up to the threat of mortality and profess that through the passing of traditions, there is no mortality.

My family practices will go on even longer than my family name. Is that not immortality?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ad Content

Let me qualify that I do not choose the ads to the left of this message. It is relevant marketing sifted by the content of my blogs. Presumably the word "grief" and "pass away" brought up the crop of vulture ads currently displaying.

Forgive the term, but I'm more than a little frustrated by the "grief industry." Many of the companies built around laying a loved one to rest are legitimate needs, some are not, and unfortunately it seems the rule that because they pretty much hold everyone hostage, they can charge outrageous prices (to be fair, there is a funeral home in Mt. Vernon called - appropriately if not cleverly - Affordable Funeral Services, who live up to their name. They didn't gouge my Dad like so many others are).

Mom and Dad bought plots at Floral Hills Cemetery, right next to Mom's parents. The purchase did not include funeral services. Another company handles the remains and preparing them for interment - in this case an urn with some expensive plastic sealing capsule ($200).

Nonetheless, Floral Hills wants to charge my Dad just under $600 to dig a 2x2x4 hole. With all the other nickel and diming, it comes to around six thousand dollars to lay Mom to rest. It makes me see red. There is no way to justify the amount they charge. It bothers me as much as the scam where crooks take an expensive order of "something" to a grieving widow or widower and guilt the survivor into paying for goods the deceased never bought. God help anyone dumb enough to pull that on my family.

That fellow who sings "Prop me up beside the jukebox when I die" has got the right idea.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

My receiver is glitching...

I may have blogged about this already, because I know I've thought about this before and with mortality more in-my-face right now, I'm thinking about it again.

I believe the brain is more like a receiver/processor than a generator/processor. That marvelous hunk of fibril gray-matter doesn't generate thought like a mental turbine, it receives it from "outside."

Compare it to a cerebral intranet. Your brain is like a browser; thought doesn't originate in the headpan, it is "broadcast" from the rest of you, where ever that "rest of you" is. I believe that who we are is much more than just flesh and thought. We are spirit in the non-Newtonian place beyond "here" that is being projected fractionally into our 3-D meat sack. We have a spirit, which is beyond, a mind, which is the fractional part in our head, and a brain that processes it all.

If our brain is damaged, through scrambled genes, accident or disease, "we" are not damaged; that is, the spirit is unharmed, it just isn't transmitting as easily - or at all - in the brain. While here, we are sort of unconscious about our spirit (though I think the Bible tells us all this) but it exists. Dunno if it's "active" where ever it truly resides until we're through with 3-D life, maybe it is (Biblically, the spirit is dead or corrupted until Christ chooses to regenerate it, but the text doesn't say the spirit resides fully in us and implies strongly that it does not).

My mom's memorial is today and I can't be there. But when I say I (and my mom) are there in spirit, I firmly believe that is literal.

Friday, December 07, 2007

The Jews Have it Right

We have no rules for grief. Jews have rituals they have to observe. I think (but not sure) Catholics might have some too.

Us lowly Protestants sit figuratively scratching our heads after a loved one passes on. Grief is not an overwhelming flood (at least not when you've had months of expectation). It laps up the sand in small waves and sometimes large ones, but for much of the time you don't feel anything. You ask yourself "is it alright to go to the store?" "read a book?" "get some work done?" Is it appropriate to pack your grief in a to-go bag and move through your life?

I will miss my Mom tremendously; there is no one else I have loved every minute of my life as I have her (I love my children every moment of their lives, but they came along late in mine, as did their mother). "Bitter-sweet" takes it's meaning from delighting in knowing she's in paradise and yet missing her here on this Earth.

Maybe I'll think of some rules. Sandy T. gave me a good one about writing notes on balloons and releasing them to the sky. Maybe we'll do that with the kids on Sunday.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

I got the job, by the way

It will take awhile to get accustomed to reporting to work every day and having to stick around when I don't have anything to do, but it's going to be a fun job, I think. Big potential. :)

Friday, November 30, 2007

Inflatable Blaspheme

Maybe you've seen it. A blow up, giant sized nativity scene with cartoonish Mary, Joseph and Christ Child with all the saccharine flavor of a Saturday morning TV show. It even plays Christmas songs that have nothing to do with Jesus. Ironically, it went up the day of Wayne's sermon on false teachers.

There ought to be a law...

I've considered getting a pellet gun and taking the monstrosity out. But tasteless as it is, it is a nativity scene, so I'm pretty sure that would be wrong.

I expressed my disgust to my youngest daughter, who shrugged and said, "Wal-Mart can only do so much."


Tuesday, November 27, 2007


I don't consider myself unemployed. I'm self-employed, working from home (though lately it's part-time rather than full-time). And I love it. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and it's become necessary to return to corporate America.

I had my third interview at a company only 3 miles from my home, and if I have to go back to work, this is the job I want. There are some truly zany people working in concert to help others. It's a growing company (not small, but not yet large) where innovation is valued. I find out tomorrow if I have the job.

Freelancing will still be necessary, and the cool thing is that some of it can be found through this company, and I can still service the steady gigs I have now.

God is Good and He is one good thing that will never come to an end.

Meanwhile, Mom is declining further, yet still she hangs on. God's goodness is often a tapestry with light and dark threads intermingled.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Give Thanks, With a Grateful Heart

It's been awhile since I've posted (relatively speaking). One of the ways I deal with difficult emotional situations is by withdrawing. I appear distracted and distant. Seems also that I don't feel like posting anything.

Mom is probably a few days from joining our Lord. My dad thought she was gone when he woke up this morning. She hadn't changed position and he couldn't see her breathing. It took him awhile to work up the courage to check, and when he did he discovered she was still breathing, but just barely. He held her hand for awhile, and, I'm sure, contemplated life without her.

My mother is simply the best there is. I have never doubted her love, never sensed a lack of support or faith in me. When she worked outside the home, it was as a nurse, making other's lives better. When she was home, she had almost limitless patience with her kids, and when she didn't, when we had taken her past her limit, we just had to smile and say sorry and the tempest blew past.

She has a quick sense of humor, inserting wry comments into our lives, and laughing at our feeblest jokes.

My heart skips a beat every time the phone rings, knowing that one of those times will be my father or sister in tears.

And yet I know a few things.

I know when she closes her eyes for the final times, she will be opening them to a guardian who has watched over her at the behest of God since she was conceived. That guardian will spirit her away to awaiting family and friends who have already met our Savior face to face. She will be in full health and whole body better than the one she had in her youth. She will delight in her new realm. And as she beams at her mother and father, and holds for the first time the daughter she never knew on Earth, the crowd of familiar people will part and the most familiar person -- the being she came to know at the age of 15, and in whom she has grown for 63 years -- will make His Presence known. And even as He welcomes her into her eternal home, He will also be comforting us who grieve her passing... even those of us who don't yet know Him.

And so this Thanksgiving I will give thanks for that which I dread, for it will be the best of beginning for the woman I hold so dear.

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends. May you be truly grateful for those whom God has put in your life, as I am thankful for you.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


After an exhausting, jet-lagging flight I have returned to Orlando... to a powerless home.

Seems a neutral line had been corroded in the front yard, creating a horrible overload. It's been fixed through the help of a friend and the power company.

Damage? The microwave is fried, the dishwasher may be damaged, the garage door opener is busted. Charli's surge protector saved her computer, but fried itself with smoke and stink. Our clock radio is broken. All the other computers are fine... except mine.

In my office, the surge was so bad that all sockets burned and the surge protector actually melted. BUT the surge protector guarding my computer and other electronics seemed fine. Everything worked except the PC itself. Fortunately it's still under warranty and the CompUSA geeks think it's just the power supply and the hard drive should be fine. Unfortunately it will take a week to fix. Hopefully the power company will reimburse me for the other damages.

Joy to the world...

Thursday, November 08, 2007

CMA Awards

Staying at my parents, I have access to TV and I admit to looking forward to being able to watch the CMA Awards.

I was dissappointed.

I am impressed by the multiple ironies surrounding Carrie Underwood. Presumably when she was on American Idol, it was stressed how important live presentation is. She nailed each of her performances last night, but many of the veterans did not even come close (nor did many of the new ones). Another irony is that she won the Best whatever in competition with several of the performers she mimicked on American Idol and now she was beating those some artists.

Rascal Flatts is one of my favorite groups, but they didn't acquit themselves well in either performance last night. In fact I thought of the whole group the only outstanding performers were the brand new ones. Carrie Underwood, Sugarland (though I didn't like their song), Brooks and Dunn, and old-timer Kenny Chesney were the only ones I thought could carry a tune. Well, to be fair, Josh Turner did his usual job, though I don't think a bass voice lends well to solo singing.

Taylor Swift, Brad Paisley and the other new guy gave valient efforts but weren't anywhere near Carrie Underwood's level.

Part of it was bad sound quality, but I was dissappointed overall.

Eagles: These guys rock. Even subdued and respectful, they were the highlight (the lowlight was Leanne Rhimes who just looked plain scary. Thumbs down to the makeup designers. Still, she's a good role model in behavior, if not fashion sense).

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Is it Possible?

I had lunch today with a man who is not just a friend but through many points of my life a lifeline; a blessing from God.

He made a comment that would be wonderful if true. He said, "I believe that America has one more revival coming before Jesus comes back."

What do you think? While revival is completely up to the Lord and not man, do you think revival in today's world is part of His plan?

Monday, November 05, 2007

I know I'm a writer, but...

Back in the 80's TV Writers went on strike. As a result we have execrable reality shows.

So, do they learn? No. They're going on strike again.

Understand, I do believe writers are underpaid since they are the beginning of the creative process, but shooting yourself in the foot isn't going to improve anything... for any of us.

I guess for me the bigger question is how much money can I make scabbing?

It's beautiful, but...

The Northwest is gorgeous. Clouds snag on mountaintops visible from almost every viewpoint, evergreen trees make every glance a festival. The sky, when it's not gray, is the most vivid blue you've ever seen.

But until someone invents toilet-seat warmers, I'd rather live in the South.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Go Fred! ????

Hmmm, my Dad asked about my opinion of Fred Thompson and while I said a particular brainy friend of mine is very pro-Go-Fred, I'd have to do a little research to answer his question.

I'm pleasantly surprised. I'm impressed. He's not an actor-turned-politician like Reagan, he's a politician-moonlighting-as-an-actor (though he has quite the filmography).

Dirt-wise, he's divorced and has cancer. That seems to be about it. To his good, he seems to be his own man, standing up to the Republican Party when he thinks they're wrong. He is a lawyer, a former senator, and seems very up on today's innovative tech. He's got a strong sense of humor and an acid bite when he wants one.

I had been thinking Rudy would be the best bet to beat Hillary if she wins the nomination, but I was also thinking if Gore swept in and took the nomination that we'd be in trouble. I don't think so anymore.

Here's what I think is an interesting dilemma. I'm not sure Thompson can win the nomination (Republicans all look alike and Rudy seems to be the only orange in the orchard), but if he does, I bet he could beat any Democrat running against him.

Malissa's right: Go Fred!

Far More Important Than a 401k

I know it's mostly teenagers who read my blog (and teenagers at heart, Malissa!) I'm compelled to point out something more important to retirement than even a 401k.

Common civility and grace. Simple manners with our spouse built up before retirement will serve tremendously in infirmity and age. "Please" "Thank You" Requests instead of Demands (this in particular; when every call is a demand whether it's urgent or not, when a real emergency arises required spouse may not respond quickly, thinking it's same-old-same-old). Consideration goes a long way. I am here with my parents and they are both considerate to me, but not with each other. The resulting tension is thick, and resentment is palpable.

I find myself so convicted by how I treat my wife. What kind of account am I building up for our elderly years (which are approaching rapidly for me, but fortunately not her. Still, her arms represent a problem... who's going to push my wheelchair?)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Off to See Seattle...The Wonderful City of Rain

I could use your prayers for what will be a very difficult trip. And please hold up my Orlando family, as well. Two weeks doesn't sound like much except when it refers to time away from those you love most.

And just because I can't ever post anything without something shallow...

*** Worse Movie Line Ever **** From X-Men I (or maybe II, who remembers?), spoken by Storm: "What happens when a toad is struck by lightening? Same as everything else." As pithy, clever lines go, that one falls as flat, stomped even further into thickness oblivion by H.B's inability to act.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Holy Ironicism, Batman!

(Josiah's gonna love this)

So, I bought an MP3 Player, right? I've got a long flight to Seattle on Tuesday and wanted to have something to do and listen to. So I've been loading some 80's music and some Country music...

And Eric sends a link for free Sovereign Grace MP3's so I've downloaded a bunch of those. Two of them are Josh Harris' "The Christian and Media"...

I figure my MP3 player is going to melt when I put those on there with the music choices already on there...

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Bionic Woman - a half hearted review

Long day working so what do I do to unwind? Post, of course.

Caught Bionic Woman: The Pilot on my laptop last week. Tsk-tsk.

Okay, I liked the eye effect. Nice introduction of the nano-probes (but whenever someone heals quickly, you can expect a bloody show).

Actress looks like Dawn D. to me, so since I can't imagine Dawn doing those things, it just doesn't work for me...

The pace was way too fast. Might have worked better on the TV, but I would prefer an origin pilot with some mystery setting up a boffo season, but they tried to do too much by introducing the first bionic woman and having a fight scene. Say what you want about the Six Million Dollar Man and original Bionic Woman, but they got into the interior of the characters before maxing out the exterior.

Speaking of the originals, the slow motion running and ba-nah-nah-nah sound effects may be cheesy, but I loved them anyway. This version doesn't have anything like it. She doesn't run much, leaps a lot, no cheese. I miss my cheese.

Not much heart either. An attitudinal sister who needs a bionic slap or two, a dead doctor and an Asian bounty hunter of bionic babes (okay, I liked the new Oscar Goldman, whatever his new name is). The labtech blonde kept throwing me, since she looked too much like the bionic baddy. Sigh. Give me cheese.

Won't bother with more episodes (partly because the network player was so bad).

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Celebrate Good Times, Come On!

Okay, Mrs. Young will get that reference...

Celebration was great. It's amazing how many friends we have and get to enjoy. There are a few people I only see at Celebration (though the Walley's weren't there, they were in Missouri where they are MOVING can you believe it? That's Paul and Jen, not Derek and Dina, by the way). Then there are those we get to room with and socialize with.

Oh, the sessions were good to... :)

No ticks, few banana spiders, one bug bite, four blisters on my feet and maybe five hours of sleep all together. All in all, a painless weekend.

I've got a big project this week, so posts will be few and far between. Then next week I'm off to Seattle, so same thing. I'll have access but probably not much time.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Nobel Prize has become like the Olympics

Ballroom dancing is now an Olympic sport and Al Gore won a Nobel Prize. Anyone else find this beyond silly? "Hey look everyone, it's getting warmer and my ice cubes are melting faster than they used to! What? I won a prize? Cool! No, no, I mean, that's Hot!"

The government is now enticing farmers to reduce the size of their cow herds because the heffers tend to cut more cheese than a french chef. More silliness.

People, cows and cars account for less than 10% of gaseous emissions (some of us more than others). Volcanos, vents and other natural phenomena accounts for the other 90%. Does Al want to cork the real problem? No, of course not.

He complains that America is responsible for 90% of our 10% (that's 9%, Joe) and that we should be horrified by that. Again, utterly silly. We're the largest technologically advanced country on the planet, so of course we produce more than the others. I don't see Jim Redneck saying "Hey Bubba, let's go out and run the truck to melt a few more icebergs." Face facts; it's farther for some Americans to go to the store than it is to cross Japan width-wise.

Global warming is a natural occurance that cycles in and cycles out. Are we headed for another ice age? Fine, we'll buy stock in winter sport companies. We'll sell gortex and raise more chicken for their down feathers.

Hey, I'm whining about Al Gore... think I should nominate myself for a Nobel Prize?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Hey, There's a Title Setting!

As I frantically try to keep abreast with my four or five blogs (okay, I'm exaggerating, I have a personal blog, a business blog and a writing blog) I discovered a "Show Title" setting, so no more home made titles in bold.

Had to take a stab at writing lyrics yesterday. Not my thing. I'm like a painter who can't paint with the color green. Poetry is bad enough, but poetry to be sung? Fergetaboutit.

Hey, Joe, Charli said I was supposed to check your blog about a homework thing. Is this one of your blogs I don't know about, because there wasn't anything on the two I do know about...

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Too Funny and a Little Bit Scary

I found my 1,000,000 dollar bill that Chris had given me (a Christian tract in the margin on the back, and Grover Cleveland on the front) and flashed it around at a couple people for a laugh on Sunday.

Get this, some guy in Pittsburg is now in jail because he tried to pass it as real currency. He asked some clerk to make change (like any store has that much cash on them). He resisted arrest and refused to give his name, so I'm assuming he wasn't just kidding around.


Monday, October 08, 2007

That's It, I'm Now Officially OLD!

And that's seven days short of my 44th birthday.

I picked up a book at the library, T-Rex Canyon, that I recalled seeing before. In fact, I thought, as read the summary, I must have checked it out and returned it before reading it because the summary didn't ring any bells. So I check it out.

I have read it before. Holding it in my hands I clearly recall turning the pages in my office at SunTrust during lunch breaks. I just don't remember it. At. All.

Once I read it, I vaguely remember it but couldn't tell you what was going to happen if a gun was at my head (no need to test that, Joe).

No, this is not whining or grumbling, it's simple fact (okay, maybe a little whining). There was a time I could memorize a Shakespeare monologue in two readings, complete scripts in three or four readings. I've memorize 6 books of the Bible (James, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, and all three of John's letters (which count as one since they're all short)). I admit I couldn't recite them anymore, but the point is I once had a phenomenal memory.

Now Mike claims he told me they were going on a cruise but I had no idea where they were. Erik describes a conversation we'd had and I don't recall it. And now I'm forgetting story lines (which involves a T-Rex with feathers and I couldn't even remember that freakish detail).

Chances are I'll forget I wrote this...

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Big League Haircuts VS Sport Clips

I got my haircut today, using the coupon for a freebie at Sport Clips. Now it's the MatchUp of the Century!!!!

Haircuts: About even. Decent haircuts at both places. TIE

TV: Big League is set up with each haircutting station being a little oasis unto itself. A TV faces you, and you're given a choice of channels. Sport Clips is arena style seating along the wall. There are as many TVs as chairs, but they don't face you in the chair, they face out so you're looking at an angle. No one asked me if I wanted a different channel than what they were all playing. BIG LEAGUE WINS

Shampoo, Scalp Massage and Back Massage: Big League has one price and it's all included. Sport Clips has three different levels. To get everything costs $5 bucks more. Big League's inclusive price is cheaper than Sport Clips' MVP. BIG LEAGUE WINS AGAIN.

Professionalism: Really about the same, but Sport Clips trash talked Big League, which I don't consider professional. I've never asked Big League about Sport Clips, though so I can't rule on this one.

WINNER: Big League Haircuts. They are three times farther than Sport Clips, but I'll make the trip anyway.

Sorry Sport Clips.

God Has A Sense of Irony

Erik was horrified that I wrote about "disliking my dog" on my blog (which I didn't, it's that I don't really like him all that much, which he says is the same thing, but I think there's a shade of distinction) so it's only fair I share this experience...

Working from home I tend to forget what day of the week it is. So I didn't realize it was Thursday night when I went to bed. This was a problem because I had a 6:30 meeting in which I was the main presenter on Friday morning (another shade of distinction; I remembered the meeting, I just didn't realize it was the night before the meeting). So, no alarm was set.

6:00 a.m. rolls around, I'm dead to the world, and this dog whom we have had for six months, a dog who makes very little sound to begin with, howls for the first time ever. It's really a rather cute, throaty howl, and it was sufficient to wake me up. And realize that is was Friday morning (because, as the title implies, God has a sense of irony). I showered and dressed in five minutes, and made it to the meeting just a few minutes late (and there were twice as many people there as I have ever seen before, with a few prospective clients). Saved by the dog I don't like.

Isn't it ironic?

(For the past few weeks I have been making a concerted effort to like this passive/aggressive dog... because that's the problem with him; he wants love, but doesn't really give any and it bothers me... which, from God's view, is also ironic...)

Monday, October 01, 2007

There is Nothing New Under the Sun, but Come On....!

Big League Hair Cuts is my favorite hair cuttery. Free drinks, tv at each station, a good shampoo and scalp massage, a hair cut and a back rub. Great concept.

There is nothing wrong with doing a variation of someone's business idea, but keeping everything the same except the name is just wrong. Whether it's Cold Stone Creamery and Marble Slab Ice Cream, or now Big League Hair Cuts and Sports Clips, come on people show a LITTLE originality. BLHC is a baseball theme, and Sports Clips simply widens the theme to all sports. Otherwise, the same. TV, Shampoo, Hair Cut and Back Rub.

Now, if it had been a music theme, or maybe beach theme, fine, BUT IT'S THE SAME SPORTS THING. (of course, that won't prevent me from using the free haircut coupon...)

It's probably Pepsi and Coke's fault. Worked for them...

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Saved by a Pair of Slippers

Had a burned out bulb and was fishing around trying to adjust the fan while changing it and my wedding band must have touched an exposed wire. ZAP POW ZIP! Felt like a horse kicked my hand. Fortunately, I was wearing rubber soled slippers or it could have been a new hairstyle at best and a dirtnap at worst. Phew!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Only in America...

Okay, get this... Major League Baseball Player Milton Bradley (no, really, that's his name) throws his bat at the umpire for calling the third strike (really, in his direction, he didn't hit the ump). Ump holds a grudge and later "bates" Bradley into throwing his temper. Seems Big Bad Bradley has a well documented temper and the umpire uses profanity in a confrontation with Bradley. Bradley goes after the umpire, his manager holds him back and ends up dumping Bradley on the ground, tearing up his knee.

Do we have the broad strokes? Umpire says something mean and baseball guy goes nuts and hurts him's wittle knee.

And the umpire gets suspended for the rest of the season.

My mouth is open with astonishment. The ump said a discouraging word to someone who threw a BAT at him, and because the player has a temper tantrum and thereby hurts himself, the ump gets suspended.

There is no responsibility or accountability any more. None.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

From the Eyes of Babes

I admit that little things amaze me. Aly said, "why is orange juice yellow?" She's right, of course, it is yellow, but because the name is "orange" juice I've never thought of it as yellow. In fact, when I looked at it, I had to convince myself that it WAS yellow and not a shade of orange. Amazing how compelling a misconception is; this small one didn't take much to overcome, but you can imagine how difficult big ones would be to overcome.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Speaking of Generation Gaps

Technically, blogging is one of those newfangled things that us old folks might not embrace in our dotter-hood. Maybe my natural opinionation overcomes the generation gap in this case. That, and I really do enjoy 'chatting' with the younger set (that would be Sherlock and Dami and the occassional Schwabbies... and we'll throw Malissa in with that younger set because she's so young at (anxious) heart.)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Day and the Hour

Something came up as a tangent in home group last night (Malissa knew this was coming)...

I'll reserve the Biblical view until later...

Can we, as human beings, add OR SUBTRACT a single day from our lives? From a worldy perspective, of course the answer would be "yes" but from a Christian worldview, can God be frustrated? Will poor eating habits, extreme sports, or purposeful intent shorten our lives from that which God had ordained for us?

What say you?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Tasered College Student

I watched the video; an obnoxious adult (not a kid) disrupts a lecture by John Kerry during QandA, taking over the mic and proving his idiocy, then resists removal by campus security. Screaming, kicking and yelling, under a pile of officers, some of them women, and gets tasered. He turns into a screaming puddle and the whole thing escalates.

Was he abused?

I don't think so, though I admit it's borderline.

1) It was on video, but we don't know if he was grabbing officers inappropriately, so we really don't know what they were responding to.

2) Idiocy has concequences and now the student knows that.

3) Tasing hurts like crazy, but it isn't permanent and it beats clubbing the guy in the head.

4) He also deserves it because he's probably not going to learn his lesson and he'll file a lawsuit. I hope the judge tasers him.

Was it necessary to tase him? It's hard to second guess officers in that kind of situation. They couldn't wrestle him out the door, they didn't want to club him... maybe the officer thought it would take the fight out of him. If so, it didn't, so maybe it was a poor choice. What should they have done? They're choices were: Tase him, Club him, let him go and if he didn't leave, you're left with the first two choices again. Tasing is the best of those options.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Jesus was tempted for 40 days in the desert and wilderness where he was tempted (or "temptated" as someone I know and love would say) by the devil.


What did that look like? Was it...

1) a physical confrontation where the devil bodily appeared and spoke out loud to Jesus?
2) a vision or set of visions that took place on a spiritual plane?
3) like we experience temptation in which the devil (or demon) is not heard or seen consciously but effects us subconsciously (but because Jesus could discern spirits, he would know what was really taking place, while we don't know if it's our own flesh or words whispered by demons - indeed, since Jesus had no sin nature, we can't look to this and say that we of the sin nature type are EVER tempted by demons; out flesh is plenty loud enough on it's own.)

Which do you think it was? Yes, I understand that how doesn't really matter, but since it DID actually happen, one of the options above is true.

I know I can count on Green Lantern answering this post, but please everyone else who reads this, post your comments.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

I-Pod You Not

Maybe two of my readers are old enough to remember when the Walkman first came out. What joy, what heaven! Little tiny (by 80's standards) boxes you could play cassette tapes on and listen through wired headsets with cheap speakers. They were instantly banned at school, and since I practically lived there, I never used my walkman. Just as well, the box was small, but wear do you carry additional tapes?

Now we have iPods. I'm impressed by the bright little shuffles, smaller than a beltbuckle, holds hundreds of songs or dozens of sermons, even if searching is difficult. I do not like the ear buds, but I don't like headphones of any kind. Same problem as before, though. Where do I listen to it? I have a radio in my car and a stereo in my office and home. So when would I listen to it?

The answer is the problem. You would listen to it when you're away from those other players. Like when you're walking, shopping, going to church, or anywhere out in the world. You know, when you could be interacting with other people instead of listening to your own little world.

Raise your hand if you've ever talked to a child and discovered they couldn't hear you because they were Pod-ing? Don't iPods insulated us from others? Aren't they, in fact, a form of pride, telling all those around you "hey, you have nothing to contribute to my life!"? Aren't they a form of self-sufficiency?

Now, of course, there are ways to use them appropriately in the proper time and place. I'm just wondering how many times and places there actually are.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Are Blogs Prideful?

We had a great sermon on Pride this Sunday. I was like a greasy spot on the chair after being struck by lightening repeatedly. I'm extremely proud. Not because I think so highly of myself (I really don't), but because I think a lot about myself.

I enjoy attention. I like making people laugh or think or both. The stories I write are meant to engage my reader's thoughts and to explore important themes, which I think are a good thing.

But what about blogs? I don't keep a journal because I think things that are written should be read, hence this blog. But isn't it prideful to think that my opinions are of interest to others? In a story, the author is supposed to be invisible, but this post alone has more "I's" than a potato!

Now, my understanding of pride is that it is like Ayers Rock in Australia. Huge, monolithic and barren. Our efforts to whittle away pride is about as effective as an ant's filing away at Ayers; he can feel awfully proud of himself for the two inch mound of dust that he's chipped away, but Ayers is still undiminished, and probably bigger from added dirt.

It's like the sermon from the week before on judgmentalism, in which we should strive to be like the humble tax collector beating his breast instead of being like the haughty pharisee. Human nature wants to START at the tax collector and work our way to maybe the midpoint between the two, but the Bible says, no, you remain the tax collector while on this Earth. You don't get "better" you just are honest about what a wretch you are. With pride we are to live ever aware in the shadow of Ayers. We can't do much about it, but we can turn away from it every now and then, thumbing our nose at the mountain and squeaking out a little humility.

But probably not while blogging...

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Okay, no traction on the post before (which was and is a serious question -- thanks, Scott, for your input).

I'm reading a novel, Pearl Harbor, by Newt Gingrich and some other guy. Good read, very detailed. In explaining who The Newt is to my wife, I said he was a presidential hopeful, but because he had an affair while trying to impeach Clinton on his affair, that he wouldn't have a decent shot at winning. Hypocrisy being a bad thing, after all.

She pointed out that it's a shame that we worship celebrities for doing the very things we vilify in politicians. It's amazing the incredible dissonance our culture indulgence in without shaking apart.

Guiliani, on the other hand, has not only had an affair, but has a soap opera personal life, but it's not slowing him down in the polls. Has he somehow managed to bridge the celebrity/politician gap, getting it both ways? Of course, if he runs against Hillary neither can go after the other's personal life without inviting a mutual attack... kind of an electoral MAD. By having so much mud on both sides, would this end up a clean fight?

May we not find out...

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Theoretical Question

If you have cancer that has a chance at being successfully treated, but a small chance, is it wrong to not have that treatment? Is it sinful to let the cancer run it's terminal course?

This hypothetical person is 60ish, no wife, maybe but probably does not have any kids, and if he does they're adults.

Sin or not sin?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Ah, the Oblivion of Youth

I'm sitting at the breakfast table with Aly flipping through the pages of National Geographic and come to spread on Pakistan. I flip the page and there's a gun battle with terrified people ducking under a rain of bullets. In the background, past the cordite and horror is a white horse running at top speed.

Before I can react and turn the page so Aly won't see it, she points at the stallion and says brightly, "oooo, what a pretty horse!"

It's not in what you see, it's in what you're looking for...

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Magnificent Obsession

I've been confusing two books in my mind and in a couple conversations. "The Magnificent Obsession" is not the story of Peter Marshall, the senate chaplain. His biography is "A Man Called Peter" which is a tremendous read.

"Magnificent Obsession" is about a Doctor who was transformed by the Bible. NOT by the God of the Bible, but by the Sermon on the Mount. He read the beatitudes and realized that they summed up "religion." He eschewed church, the singing of songs, and prayer, but believed the beatitudes were the key to life. This belief remade him; he became truly a great man (just not an eternally great man).

I understand his belief, though. I recently had one of the most moving times of devotion in my life. I'm reading only the red letter text; the words of Jesus, himself. God opened the doors of understanding as I read the Sermon on the Mount, and more specifically, the beatitudes. Jesus presents the formula of prayer later in the SotM, and the formula of living a Christian life in the beatitudes.

I do firmly believe that salvation is through acceptance of Christ crucified in my place, so unlike the doctor in the book, worship, thanksgiving and prayer are an outgrowth of faith and must be observed for the power of God to be released in your life, but take a fresh look at the "blessed are..." and see them for the keys to life they are. The rest of the SotM maps back to the beatitudes. It's an amazing devotional. Check it out.

The Concept of Hell

I bought a Christian book on Amazon the other day. A new feature on Amazon is to list discussion groups relevant to the book topic you've selected. One of the discussion threads was "Does Hell Really Exist?"

The discussion was one of vitriol on both sides, sadly. A poor writer broached the subject and atheists and self-proclaimed witches lambasted the guy for believing in Hell. He got defensive and left the Beatitudes in the dust to (badly) trample all over these guys, leaving a bad taste in everyone's mouth. Still more unsettling was the "logic" evinced in the con-arguments.

"The very concept of Hell is abhorrent!" Well, yes, I should hope so; it's a nasty place.

The logic to follow was that since it was such an abhorrent concept it couldn't be true. "Not that I believe in your God," they said, "but if He's so loving, there couldn't be a Hell."

Okay, so a misunderstanding of who God is contributed to the problem, but the real horror of the logic is that since the idea is so bad, it couldn't be true.

Seems kind of backwards. Rather than concern themselves what is true FIRST, they start with the idea of it and reason in reverse, and thereby get the conclusion wrong. See, they're saying 1) Horrible concept. 2) Therefore it's not real. 3) Therefore laugh at anyone who believes it.

Instead is should be: 1) Determine if it's true 2) Oh no! It's true! What do I do? 3) Repent and be saved.

The capper was a fellow who simply said, "I'm a Christian and I know there's no Hell." What kind of Christian are you when you believe most of what Jesus said was a lie? (This begs the question of those who say the Bible was written by men, not God, so it got some things wrong. Besides being logically a poor conclusion, the further illogic of following 'parts' of the man-made doctrine is ridiculous. As Lincoln said, "if it is not true, then tear it up! If then, we can't bring ourselves to destroy it, we must live by it then." He was referring to the Constitution, but it applies to the Bible as well.)

Jesus spoke mightily of grace, forgiveness and the Kingdom of God, but he spoke equally mightily of Hell. While I firmly believe that the courts of God must be that which urges us forward, it doesn't hurt to have the very real goad of Hell to lend some urgency.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Spaced Out Astronaut

We get all sorts of bizarre behavior from Hollywood celebrities, most of it keyed to the excesses of their lifestyle.

I remember when news broke about Kim Nowak, the space shuttle astronaut who flew into Orlando and wore diapers on her drive to the Space Coast so she wouldn't have to make any stops (3 diapers, to be precises, she must have drunk a lot on the plane). Then she accosted her rival for the affections of another astronaut with pepper spray and abduction. I remember being as stunned at this whacked out behavior as everyone else.

But we shouldn't be.

Think about it; Navy officers have to be go-get-'em folks, and they're trained in combat. Astronauts wear diapers on their missions (urine in zero g would just be nasty). So as weird as Lady Kim's actions are to us, they are excessive extensions of her lifestyle. Criminal extensions, but in character nonetheless. We can look at them as way out of the norm, but for her they aren't that far outside the norm.

I've been struck how nonchalant she's been about the crime versus wearing the ankle bracelet. We think "let the punishment fit the crime" but to her she planned and executed a mission that didn't quite work. To her it is excessive punishment.

I mean, if Malissa was running around Orlando in diapers shooting people with pepper spray and roughing them up that would be way strange and we'd visit her in the nut house, but for a Navy Officer/Astronaut, maybe that's not soooo strange, but just a little strange.

Would a jury of her peers be other astronauts and navy personnel? If not, can she get a fair trial?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

If a man falls asleep and makes a terrible racket with no one to hear it, does he still snore?

I had a splitting headache last night that Tylenol was not touching, so I took one of my sleeping pills for the first time since Lynette got home.

Apparently I snore loud enough to beat the walls down when I'm under the influence. Enough so that Lynette relocated to the couch (I've always been a snorer but this was beyond normal and she couldn't wake me up to shut me up). I found this to be tremendously funny, but Lynette didn't. Go figure...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Global Warming

A lot of conservatives deny it exists. I don't. Global warming is occurring. It's probably a part of a regular cycle, so I don't think it's cause for concern, since it will cycle back again at some point. I do think that humanity has a fractional role in global warming, but I don't know that it's the doom that so many people think it is.

Man has been effecting the planet in fantastic ways since we were created. Sometimes willingly (like the disastrous "ecological planning" of Yosemite, which almost destroyed it) but most often unwittingly, which often has positive effects.

Consider the earthworm, for example. Worms are not indigenous to the Americas. The native Americans didn't have any worms before 1750, and it was one reason the Indians didn't invent the wheel. The Americas were heavily forested, and without worms, the detritus on the forest ground was over two feet thick. Wet, dead leaves, logs and branches were piled high everywhere that wasn't cleared out for a village. Wheels were impractical.

The the Jamestown colony came and with it eventually came ships to pick up tobacco. Now, you can't bring an empty ship over and then fill it with cargo, you need ballast. So in France and Spain they filled the ships with dirt, and since they didn't bother to sift the dirt, they also shipped over earthworms. Once in America, they offloaded the dirt and reloaded with devil weed.

Within a year, the forests of New England and eventually all of America had naked floors. Earthworms processed the two to three feet drifts of detritus back into dirt, creating more usable land and the introduction of the wheel. Both Americas were transformed into a completely different environment within ten years.

All because of accidental worm distribution. And the impact of thoughtless humanity.

Further, there were less than a dozen indigenous animals in the Americas. Most of the critters Felicity so loves weren't here before Europeans came over.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Okay, read the post below, because this is follow-up.

I tend to live in my head (oooo, big surprise), and as a result I'm only observant when I want to be, which is almost never in the car.

On the way to church, over a road we've taken hundreds of times, Charli asked, "is that a junkyard?" Yes, it was. I'd never seen it before. I started to look at the buildings we were passing (I wasn't driving) and discovered several companies I'd never known about before.

Then, driving down my own street thinking about the previous post, I started looking at the oak trees that give my neighborhood it's name. These I have admired before, but this time the sight was on the edge of transcendent. Nature, any nature, can do that.

In fact, there is an ancient folktale about a boy who decided to destroy Hell, so he journeyed to that rather nasty place (a feat unto itself) and planted a small seed. A shoot emerged with just one leaf and one small flower.

All of Hell came to a stop. Demons came from the farthest reaches to see the little plant and to weep.

Just think what an oak tree could do...

Sunday, August 19, 2007

I've been looking at the photos Lynette took in Washington. It's easy to forget how beautiful it is there, especially when the pictures are taken on clear, sunny days. I'm surprised that they don't make me want to go back (understand, I do want to visit, but for my family not the geography).

It does make me long for beauty, though. For the most part, I'm an indoor, climate-controled kind of person. I don't even go barefoot in house. Nonetheless, the awe-inspiring sight of nature unfettered is about the only way to truly lose oneself to the embrace of God.

Florida has it's sights. The beaches, the Everglades, many and huge lakes, but it's all from the same flat vantage point. I loved the different flora when I moved here, and still do (call me silly, but looking down at Bahama waters from the deck of a cruiseship is the best of both worlds), but the sight of and from mountains is hard to top. There is a brooding, contemplative nature to forested hills and snowtopped peaks that Southerners can't enjoy.

So why the South is the Bible Belt and the North is the most atheistic part of the country, if not the world, I'll never understand. Microsoft, Boeing, Warehouser are all surrounded by forests; the technical world cozy with the natural world (which is, I think, the supernatural world). Yet the wealthy of the Northwest encourages a man-centered lifeview. Incredible.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

They're baaaack!

They're exhausted, my back's killing me, the dogs are ecstatic any they're still on Mountain Time.

I'm not taking the sleeping pill anymore but it's a long, ragged fall back to normal sleep. I didn't sleep much last night, so I should be tired enough to sleep tonight, provided the muscle spasm recedes.

Ben and Charli look taller, Lynette and Aly look shorter. It's kind of funny...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

God has a sense of humor...

I was trying to spiff the place up for Lynette and the kid's return tomorrow, and spent several hours pressure washing. What began as a sore back turned into muscle spasms, which make it very difficult to move. So I'm applying a heating pad, then cleaning until it hurts again, then more heat, followed by more cleaning... the things we do for love.

You know how there are people you just click with? Instant friends. Then there are those you don't click with. Not dislike, just no click. That's my problem with my dog (who I can talk about on here because he can't read -- I'm pretty sure Rainy could, so it's a good thing we clicked). R.J. is a nice dog. I don't dislike him, I just don't really like him all that much. I've never had that with a small dog before. I don't generally like big dogs (with the exception of Fritz, who is the coolest big dog on the planet). Grizzly and I have finally clicked, but poor R.J. needs his kids back for a little attention. I almost feel guilty about it, until I remember that I feed and water the mutt, so he's not suffering.

Just a few rambling thoughts, thinned by painkillers...

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Lynette and the kids are camping in Chewak over the weekend. Chewak is just outside Winthrop, which is on the eastern side of the mountains. Yesterday they drove up through the mountains (they counted 122 waterfalls last summer, wonder if they'll count again). They pitch a tent beside a river at the base of a small mountain that's perfect for hiking. My sisters and their families, plus seven dogs are with them to scatter the ashes of my brother-in-law.

It's too dry for campfires this summer, so no s'mores or roasted hotdogs. Luckily there are four trailers with fully equipped kitchens.

When I spoke to them last night, they were in Winthrop getting ice cream. So much for 'roughing it.'

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

One more week!

This is the kidlings riding my sister's horses. Amazingly, they still want to come home...

Monday, August 06, 2007

Annual Triple Birthday Celebration!

Brian, John and Matt all got a year older (today, actually; we just celebrated yesterday). Watched a movie filmed during an earthquake or by a cameraman with delirious tremens that wasn't worth ten bucks, but then we went to Chili's and enjoyed buddy talk for a couple hours that were worth a lifetime.

It's good to have friends with history. Brian and I can crack each other up with a few words that no one else understands. They all forgive me when I get on a soapbox and we can offer each other words of wisdom and silliness all at the same time. It's their birthdays, but I'm the one who feels like I've been given a gift.

Y'all rock!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Wrap Your Mind Around Nothing

Consider this: Atoms are 99% space. There is the nucleus, and orbiting around that are the electrons. Nothing mingles into that orbit of electrons (at least not without a nasty explosion) and the orbit is relatively large, so the atom is almost entirely space.

You and I -- and every material thing -- are composed of atoms, Q.E.D. you and I are 99% space. You really are an airhead!

When Scripture talks of this being a world of shadow, it is quite literal as well as figurative.

Now for a logic breaking question: If you are only 1% here, where's the other 99% of you?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Adventures is Ambien

Ambien is a prescription sleeping pill. Being a complete insomniac without Lynette, they are the only way for me to get any sleep (the only night I attempted it without, I was wide awake all night).

It's a fascinating drug. I take it a half hour before I want to be asleep and either read or watch a DVD episode. It's amazing, the next day I remember reading or watching, but I've forgotten everything else. If I finished a book, I had no idea how it ended.

Even more fun is the relative clarity of being on it before laying down. I feel awake and alert, then I stand and WHOA NELLY! The bottle says it causes dizziness, but really it turns you into a giant Weeble that wobbles but doesn't quite fall down. The upper body moves faster than the lower body, then you overcompensate and lean perilously back.

I haven't fallen down, yet, but last night I broke a mirror. Our full length mirror is now a half length mirror. No one was hurt, although the dogs wouldn't come out of their walk-in closet bedroom the rest of the night.

Cleaning the mess up while on Ambien was an experience. I didn't want to cut myself, but the floor seemed to be moving at a different speed than the walls. I had to clean it up though because their were shards all over the place and the dogs have eight bare feet among them. No cuts, and the only shards I missed were those that somehow made it onto the bed.

Lie down and you got out instantly, then you wake up the next day at 7:45. It doesn't matter what time I go to bed--11, 1, 3-- I'm awake at 7:45. The first couple weeks I wasn't groggy in the morning. I am now a little. And I think there's a little fuzz throughout the day.

This time without my wife and kids, while no fun at all, would be torture without that little pill. I hope I don't still need it when they get home (in TWO WEEKS!).

Monday, July 30, 2007

"24" seems to be all the rage for so many of my friends. I finally borrowed the DVDs from a friend and watched the first several episodes.

I'm not sure what the big deal is. For all the action and frenetic pace, it's boring. (I'm also amused by "everything happens in real time" which must mean that every location in the city must be a thirty second drive away.)

I might watch a few more to see if I can get into it, but not so far.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Biblically, we each have a guardian angel. While I have no interest to promote angel worship, what do you think they do, and how do you think they do it? Any guesses on what they look like?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The kidlings in Seattle (and a friend). :)

Saturday, July 14, 2007

It's my daughter's birthday today. Charlene is 11 years old. They are going to the Woodland Park Zoo to celebrate. Wish I could be there. Ah well, they'll be back in little over a month.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Hollywoodland Review

Caught this on DVD the other night. I would say it's an art film with pretensions to commercialism.

Okay, to reveal my own bias, I like George Reeves as the almost original Superman (there was a guy before him, very forgettable) and as a Hollywood actor. He was a classic Hollywood leading man who couldn't rub sticks together and quite get a spark. He had the goal of being one of the heavyweights, but it just didn't happen (or it purposefully didn't happened with some background help from his sugar momma, Toni Mannix).

To the positive side of George's character, he was a sincerely charming man with a great love of kids. He felt a responsibility to the kids who idolized him, even though Superman was not his ideal job. Despite it being "just television" he was a talented actor who shone as Superman.

The downside of his character is that he drank and partied heavily (a prerequisite to Hollywood success at the time) and he was a "kept man" accepting favors, money and a house from the woman he was having an affair with (she was married, not him).

I think the movie played too much to his downside and not nearly enough to his upbeat side (it wasn't a biography, so they didn't have to, but it would have been nice).

Ben Affleck received rave reviews for his portrayal as Reeves, but I don't see it. He was Affleck with a rubber nose. Charming, but nowhere near the real thing. The parallel construction between Reeves and the P.I. investigating his death was interesting, but again, the Reeves story is so compelling that the P.I.'s story pales in comparison (which is saying something because Brody is very good).

Was Reeves murdered or did he commit suicide? Personally, I think he was murdered, and that's the feeling the movie leaves you with. Reeves had three suspicious car accidents in the weeks before his death, any of which should have killed him. One with another car, the second with a cut brake line and a third as a pedestrian where he barely got out of the way. The movie mentions on of them, but that's all.

Here's the thing: Studios and Hollywood execs at the time of Reeves death habitually paid off police to keep things quiet, so what really happened is anyone's guess. There were enough power players around Reeves, enough dicey situations and mangled relationships that murder is very real possibility. Unfortunately, there was enough personal issues that it could have been suicide. He'd had some bad years and a career that didn't go the way he wanted, but it was picking up far more than the movie indicated. He was drunk and on painkillers (from the car accident) and that can mess up one's mind. There were a number of suspicious things at the scene, tons of bad guys and girls with motive and opportunity, but there were people in the house, so how would a killer get out? Of course, they didn't call the police for 45 minutes after it happened...

As with so many things, years and poor crime scene technique has muddied the water (and oddly, the facts of Marilyn Monroe's death and Reeves' death are often mixed up... you'll hear that Reeves was found face down - though not in the movie - which is odd for suicides by gun, but it was Marilyn who was found that way; and people mess up the kind of drugs each had taken... I suppose us conspiracy nuts follow the same cases...)

So, for the record, I think Marilyn Monroe and Vince Foster were murdered (both by presidents, oddly enough) and I want to think Reeves was also murdered, but might not have been.

As for Hollywoodland (originally titled "Truth, Justice and the American Way" but a lawsuit prevented that; why they changed it to Hollywoodland - which was taken from the famous Hollywood sign... originally Hollywoodland sign for a real estate promotion, but the "land" fell down) I wouldn't waste your time. I found it disappointing.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Transformers Review

Okay, the things you do for friends. I went entirely because Brian C. was so excited about this movie (and spending time with Mike, Brian, and any other friends is worth the time).

Very glad I did. Let's say the movie "transformed" my outlook. Having no experience with the original Transformers, I didn't know if I could get into it. But is was funny, action packed, well paced, well acted (maybe a little over the top from John Torturro), and overall impressive.

A couple of the funniest bits are not for kids, though. At least not for our kids. I suppose more worldly kids know all about this stuff, buy mine don't and won't need to for awhile, so Transformers isn't a kid's movie - a shame, since the toys target kids, but Michael Bay, like Brian C., were into the Transformers as a child and wanted to update it to make it fun for the 30 somethings who originally adored the toys, comics, and cartoon. Make it "just for kids" and you'd loose the largest paying audience, or at least disappoint them.

For Action/Adventure I give it an A-

Monday, July 02, 2007

Institutionalized racism can be very subtle.

I received a map of the rezoned high schools in my area which showed the old zone and the new zone for each high school AND a breakdown of race in each school. It looked like this: (numbers fictitious)

W: 54%
B: 41 %
H: 5%

W=White, B=Black, H=Hispanic. Why the racial breakdown was necessary, I don't know, but is not, in itself, racist - it's just information (though poor information; how are students of mixed heritage represented? Is the son of a white mom and black dad white or black? I'm thinking he would be considered black, but why? Because any other color is considered a dilution of white? Maybe it is racist - especially since Adam and Eve were most likely black.)

It's the ORDER that's racist. The mapmaker could say it's in order of majority to minority, except that Edgewater High School has a majority of black students, then white, and finally Hispanic. Was the order changed? No. The mapmaker could say that would be confusing; you don't change the order for a single listing.

No, you use a different classification for your order. Alphabetical, not majority, which would make it consistent for each list.

B: 41%
H: 3%
W: 54%

One has to wonder why the list was there to begin with. Does knowing the racial mix serve a purpose? Too many of one "kind" and you'll yank your kid from that school?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Fantastic Four - Rise of the Silver Surfer

With the understanding that this is a low expectation movie... I liked it.

I don't think it's PG, and I won't let my kids see it because of suggestive comments, unnecessary scenes, and some inappropriate questions, but get past that and it's a fun movie.

You'll also have to get past Jessica Alba as the Invisible Woman who is just painful to look at. Is there anything on her body that hasn't been surgically enhanced? It doesn't help that she's not a natural blond and doesn't have the coloring to be a blond - nor acting talent... but she's good when she disappears.

It was fun and several times they really looked like the Fantastic Four from the comics. The Thing is smaller, but they did a much better job with this version than the first version. He doesn't look like he's made of waffles this time.

The Torch was fun and the show stealer again.

Reed was played by an actor who either couldn't take it seriously or just has low talent (though he did okay in Amazing Grace).

Silver Surfer was great. Doom was Doom. Galactus was inspired, though nothing like the comics version (thank goodness... though there was a nod to the comics version in the shadow cast over Saturn).

The effects were much better. Story, better. Everything, better.

How that for a fairly positive review?

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Who do you say that James Bond is?

This won't be of much interest to my younger readers (and probably not for my older readers...)

007 has a sticky wicket; every few years you need a new actor, and no matter who you pick, some will love him and some will hate him. And that's fair. Who you think James Bond is determines if they made the right choice for you.

For example, is your James a heroic, licensed to kill, gadget guy with a thing for the ladies? Or is he the cool nerved spy, good at everything... and everyone?

My take is a suave, GQ fellow. The type who looks like he belongs in a photo shoot, but is really the genius lady killer, and um, bad-guy killer, too. He must have the Austin Martin, the Walther PK, and martini -- shaken, not stirred, and neato toys made by Q, flirting with Moneypenny, and verbal fencing with M. Above all else, he is flash and flair, devil-may-care.

The latest movie is impressive. It has amazing chase scenes (always good), the Austin Martin (with only a few gadgets), and the beginnings of the guy we know. This actor is very talented (better by far than almost all the others)... but despite direct hits and near hits on almost everything, he's not a GQ fashion plate. He has craigy good looks, I guess, but blond hair? He's a great 00x, but he's not Bond. I cab believe this fellow would get into and come out on the winning end of a bar room or back alley fight. James is supposed to be able to clean anyone's clock without spilling a drop of martini. He isn't supposed to look like he'd be in a back alley, let alone fight in one (though he'd win if he did, of course). This is completely my own take on the character, though, so it's just me shooting myself in the foot.

Sean Connery - Quintessential Bond.
Roger Moore - Not even close
Timothy Dalton - I always liked him, but they were poor movies.
Pierce Brosnan - Probably the most spot on in my definition, but only a TV actor and it showed.
New Guy (Craig someone? Someone Craig?) - Great actor, true to the book but not the stereotype. Quintessential Bond Movie, missing Bond but with another 00 who thought he was Bond. Raised the bar on the movies, though, because it was really good if you don't mind the violence and naughty bits (which were pretty tame for a Bond movie) and non-Bond Bond.

Y'know, I just can't be happy. Not with iconic movies. Don't listen to me, I'm impossible.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Pirates of the Caribbean - The Story Without End

I don't know where to start. It was looooooonnnnnggggggg. Some of it was boooorrrrrinnnngggggg. Some was witty and clever. There was a little fun.

Dunno, it moved you through the story without too much trouble. I could watch Davy Jones all day long-a -- He's the most fascinating visual and vocal character I've ever seen, even if I don't care about him.

And that is the problem with Pirates, I think. Jack, Barbosa, Jones, and Elizabeth are interesting characters. Turner is a bore, and the pirates are a bit fun... but despite all the amazing effects, convoluted story, dashing swordplay, and stage dirt... who cares? I mean, it wasn't a secret to anyone that the unspeakably dull Turner was going to get killed and helm the Flying Dutchman, and he was - did I mention? - unspeakably boring, so he gets a sword run through him. Ho hum. Ho hum, a pirates sleep for me... who cares? (Personally, I think it would have been far more interesting if Miss Swan got the deep six and helmed the Flying Dutchess, but that's just me).

They were fun to watch when it wasn't being gross, but engaging? No. The first Pirates I went right out and purchased on DVD as soon as possible. The second one I wanted the theater to give me my money back (no DVD, no wasting of two hours to borrow it and watch it again). This one, I don't need my money back, but I won't buy the DVD, and if there's a fourth, I'll see it in the cheap theater if it all.

My rules of pirate movies:
1. They must have fun! Otherwise, they're filthy, immoral, thieving murders. If they don't enjoy their own evil, why should I?
2. There must be pathos, dilemma, and an emotional crisis at stake (else no one and nothing to care about).
3. SOMEONE SHOULD OWN A TOOTHBRUSH! All these strong, healthy teeth with shoe black all over them was a bit much. Rotten teeth, okay, but just dirty teeth? Yuck.
4. Clashing swords is fine and dandy, but make it a contest of skill, not just hack and slash.

That's it. Thanks, and have a Ho Ho Day.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Republican Debates

A whole buncha fellas with three rising to the top.

1. Romney - Good looking guy, good presentation, Mormon... might win, might not.
2. Gulliani - Not good looking, good presentation, smart, unique, pro-choice... he might be the guy. I almost hope so.
3. Huckaby (sp)- I like this guy. A lot. He stood out from the pack, I agree with him on most levels, but he's a former Governor of Arkansas, and that will ultimately shoot him down.

Of the three, I think Gulliani would be the strongest, oddest president. I'd like to see what he can do.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Spider-Man 3

Sorry, Josiah, I have to disagree with you. I enjoyed Spider-man 3 a great deal.

I do agree that Tobey M. makes a lousy Peter and Kirsten D. makes a lousy M.J., and considering it's their movie, it's saying something for Raimy that I still liked it. The ideal cast for these two would be a young Julia Roberts (circa Pretty Woman) as M.J. and maybe Ashton Kutcher as Peter (he could pull off the nerd and the funny super-hero well, I think).

My original concern was that fitting the black costume/Venom, Sandman, and Goblin Jr. all into the same movie would be an impossible task, but Raimy pulled it off extremely well.

Black Costume: I'd have preferred the black costume with the white spider from the comics, but the creepy crawly aspect worked well.

Venom: Don't like the character in the comics, but thought he was pulled off really well in this. Scary, creepy, twisted... yup, works fine.

Sandman: One of my favorite comic bad-guys, and I liked him in this. The stab at motivation worked up until he agreed to take out Spidey when Venom asked - which didn't make sense - but he stayed true to the comic version for the most part. I like Church, and I loved the sandman effects.

Goblin Jr.: I've forgotten the actor's name, but his acting in this was vastly superior to the last two movies. He makes a better Goblin than his dad.

I didn't feel any pacing problems, though if you don't care for the Peter/M.J. relationship, I can understand thinking it was uneven. While I don't like the actors, Raimy hit on enough real life aspects to make it work (he said/she said, poor communications, baggage dragged into the relationship, a geek thinking he's cool... been there done that). The riff on Pulp Fiction was funny, the conclusion worked for me. I just wish the actors had the chemistry to pull off what Raimy was attempting.

Fight scenes were great, if a tad repetitive. The Spidey scenes work so much better on film than in the comics. The comic relief was used more deftly than in the past two films.

As I recall, McGuire signed on for three films, which are now completed. Will he sign on for more? We haven't seen the Lizard, Electro, Mysterio, Rhino, Shocker or the Vulture yet, so there's still more to explore. Gwen and Captain Stacey are still alive, though it's Green Goblin and Octopus who kill them in the comics and with both of them gone, do these characters have a new lease on life? Betty Brant (the secretary) has a brother who becomes the Molten Man, and we saw John Jamison who becomes the Man-Wolf. You could do a creature feature with Spidey against Lizard, Man-Wolf and Vulture...

Raimy has used the M.J./Peter relationship as the spine of each of his movies, so he could conceivably explore the newlywed foibles if the two of them get around to marrying. If Dunst and McGuire don't sign on, we could find better actors to play them and really put some new life into the series...

Ah, well, geekiness aside, $9.50 is just way too much to pay for a movie, so maybe it's better if the franchise ends now...

Back to Firehouse Dog for a moment. As noted before, when we saw it at the cheap theaters, the book mic was dropping down into view constantly. At least a third of the indoor scenes had the unwelcome microphone.

Now we've spoken to several people who have seen it at the regular theaters and they didn't see the boom mics. Lynette believes there are two different versions of the film; I can't imagine why they would have two versions. Yet people don't see them?

The first Sister Act had the same problem, though not to the same degree.

Come to think of it, the movie was off kilter originally. The heads were being cut off until the projectionist lowered the film into the screen. Does anyone know if the actual projected film bleeds over the screen? When the heads were cut off, the lower portion of the screen was still filled. Did the projectionist lower it too much?

See, thinking out loud on a blog can lead to discovery...

Saturday, May 26, 2007

On Right and Wrong

(I may have discussed this before, but that's the problem with semi-prolific blogging and a 43 year old memory. Things happen - again and again...)

When Adam and Eve ate of the tree of the fruit of knowledge, they gained the ability to discern right and wrong.

Interesting. What is that? Is that truly a gift we all have or is it perhaps misunderstood? This says that animals don't know right from wrong. On the surface of things, that seems true. But what about pets?

When Grizzly makes lemonaide on my nice wood floor, he "knows" he's done wrong. He certainly avoids me for awhile. Isn't that knowledge of right and wrong?

No, it is not. It is knowledge of consequences to a specific action. If we let him, he'd make the whole house his little-dog's-room (which, come to think of it, he does...) Going inside and outside is no different to him, except inside he gets scolded and outside he gets blissfully ignored.

Knowing right from wrong is different than that. No, cynics, it isn't still fear of what God will do to us, it's more than that.

At least is should be. I'm not convinced for most of us, it is, though.

The Fall tells us two things: There is an Absolute Right, and we are capable of discerning what that is.

It's just that most people don't do it. Instead, too many of us deny an Absolute Right (either literally, as in Atheism; or functionally, as in ignoring it or not getting to it). We do what is "right" when people are looking and whatever we think we can get away with when they aren't.

I can imagine some piety going on now: "I don't do that." Yet you have to ask yourself, do you abstain from wrong because it is wrong or simply because it doesn't interest you? Example: illicit drugs have no interest to me. Getting high, stoned, or messed up is not a good time. As a result, I don't get to "is it right or wrong" because it's just not for me. If it WERE something I enjoyed, would consequences have the higher place in my life before getting to right or wrong? I don't want to get arrested, so I don't do drugs?

So it could be an order problem. What comes first in our consideration? Interest, then Consequences, THEN Right and Wrong? Or is it first Right or Wrong (and therefore nothing that follows matters).

Lack of interest of a thing might be a ditch around that thing. Fear of Consequences could be considered a fence around that thing (as could laws, rules, commands). Evil people might seek to build bridges over the ditch to entice the uninterested in crossing over, and if interest is already there, then we don't need anyone else to entice us to scale our fences...

... but look around that kind of world. Ditches and fences everywhere. That is certainly the Old Testament method, with the Israelites even building fences around their fences.

The New Testament method, though, says to fill in the ditches and tear down the fences. Instead of navigating through life bumping and avoiding; navigate through the knowledge of right and wrong (bolstered by the Grace of God). It makes for a clean landscape and a better journey.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Jerry Falwell Dies at 73

I think the power of the media first truly hit home with me when I saw Falwell on a talk show with a gay woman. I expected fireworks, rudeness, and intolerance. I expected that from Falwell, since the only thing I knew of him was from news reports and people talking about the news reports.

Instead, he was warm, humorous, humble and did nothing but show this woman (who was rude, nasty and arrogant) the love of Jesus. I was impressed, it changed my view of Falwell and humbled me about believing the media.

The next day, the news reports were blathering about how Falwell had been rude, nasty and arrogant to this humble gay woman. That's when I realized the power of the corrupt news media.

Rest in peace, Mr. Falwell.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Firehouse Dog

This was a fun movie, marred only by the boom mike dropping into almost every scene. I hope they didn't pay that sound crew. Otherwise, it was a fun movie.

We saw it at the dollar theater, which means one guy in front of us coughing out a lung, little kids chatting animatedly throughout the movie, and babies being rocked in squeaky movie chairs.

Good family flick, worth seeing. Polling the five children we took with us, one saw the mikes and knew what they were, one saw them and didn't know what they were and none of the boys even noticed them. They could have developed movie star Rexxx a little bit more at the beginning, but otherwise it was pretty good (you have to get through the concept that dogs were movie stars in an otherwise realistic world, but then, the boy and his father never heard of the dog movies, so maybe it was an underground cult thing).

C- sound boom
B+ effects
A- Family film

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

I had an interesting conversation with a professional golfer the other day, a woman whose name I forget, in which she literally sniffed at the concept of a freelance writer. She felt competing in golf was a much more difficult task than being a successful writer. Naturally, I disagree.

In golf, the path of success is straightforward. If you're really good, you enter a tournament, and if you win you move forward until you're playing Tiger Woods for best in the world. In golf, the best are the most successful.

In writing, and in art, the best are often unpublished. Stephen King is arguably the best writer in America, not just in sales but also in skill. I'm willing to bet, however, that there are dozens who could be equally great (no, not myself, I have no illusions that I'm anything more than an adequate writer who can't spell), but the process of publication is a mystery to them and so their work never sees the light of a bookstore. Especially today, when new writers often need to bring their gigantic market with them, or they won't get published (publishers say really great writing will always find a publishing house, but even they don't say it with conviction). Have a market and you can get drivel published.

So writing and any of the arts is harder than golf because a golfer needs to know how to golf and a writer needs to know publishing, business, marketing, and last-and-very-much least, writing.

Is this sour grapes on my part? ... yeah, maybe. But it's true.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Well, the family is rolling out of our driveway in a brand new Toyota Sienna. Not a purchase, a rental since I wrecked our old van.

Driving to 10-31 from church, a little silver coup decided to over-steer a lane change into a left-hand turn. Unfortunately, that put him perpendicular to me and we struck him pretty hard. One of the odd things about this kind of accident is that you see the faces of the driver and passenger (both oblivious to my van or the impending collision) as they react to the impact, arms flailing, heads screaming and glass from their blown out windows showering onto our windshield. Scary all around. From my perspective, the car just appeared about twenty feet in front of me, drifting across my path. A thousand thoughts passed through my head between realization and impact - it's amazing how fast the mind works.

My right headlight struck his coup between the front and back driver-side door. They rolled off the front of the van and spun into a deep ditch as I pulled over to the far side of the road. Charli and Aly were both with me (Lynette and Ben had stayed home). No injuries other than seatbelt bruising, as far as we can tell, praise God.

No such luck for the other vehicle. The driver and passenger were taken away in an ambulance. The emergency response was phenomenal, by the way. Ocoee police, fire trucks and aid car all there within ten minutes, all wonderful, calm, helpful and polite. Several witnesses to the accident stopped and helped us, and Mike Y. came immediately to watch over the girls and coach me in the right things to do (I was rattled, and fairly scattered).

The other fellow got out of the hospital the next day. He was fully insured and at fault, so the van is being repaired. Right quarter-panel, bumper, hood, and passenger door were banged up. I'll find out about structural damage today, probably. I'm amazed at how little damage was done to the van from such an impact (the air bags didn't deploy, thank the Lord). Unfortunately,I will be surprised if the other car isn't totaled.

God's grace and provision through this whole accident is abundant. Join me in praising Him!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Can't believe I haven't spoken about this yet; where has my opinionated mind been?

The Orlando Science Center is running an exhibit of bodies. Real, dead, human bodies. Some stripped of skin, others sectioned off to see the inside, and other gross things. Or so I'm told by people who have gone. I won't. Though you have to look at the billboards of pealed people.


I am not particularly squeamish. It isn't the ghoulishness of the exhibit, it's the raw disrespect of it all. Presumably these are the bodies of people who donated their flesh to science. An exhibit of posed, drawn and quartered people doesn't fit that donation concept.

Nor are all the bodies of adults. Some are children of varying ages. What got to me was driving by one of those billboards with the country song "I Think About You" which is about a man who now views women differently because he has an eight-year-old little girl. I wouldn't want my kids, young or as adults, up there, so I don't want these people who once walked around, dreamed of DisneyWorld, and enjoyed the sunshine to be objects of display.

I especially don't want billboards of them.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

What's your take on adult education?

The government spends a lot of our dollars on education; while I think that should be the responsibility of the parents, I do think the government has a role in adult ed.

Consider that the vast majority of people in prison are uneducated, many don't even have a high school education. So when they are released, the best jobs they can expect to get are entry level, non-skilled jobs: Wal-Mart, Fast Food, etc. Recidivism is no surprise under such conditions (that means they commit crimes again, landing them back in prison).

I'm uncertain about what kind of re-entry to society programs exist for felons, but it seems education should be a big part of that. Not everyone would be interested, but those that are could be seen as trying to make a go of reformation.

Should the government be involved with educating those people who failed to take advantage of public school to begin with?

Monday, April 23, 2007

I had a great conversation with a friend at church, discussing sovereignty and total depravity (the latter greatly aids in understanding the former).

Total Depravity states the core truth that we're stinkers at heart. To begin with, we do nothing to deserve birth, and all our actions are designed around a self-centered viewpoint thereafter. Gallileo was wrong: the world does not revolve around the sun, it revolves around me, or so we each believe. We want what we want when we want it.

"Wait" you say. "We're not all sociopaths!"

And yet, maybe we are. An infant screams and tantrums to get what he/she wants. As the infant grows older, either through individual observation or parental input, the infant learns to avoid a less desirable outcome by couching demands as requests; balancing "get it" behavior with "avoid trouble" behavior.

Imagine that self-centered, me-at-all-costs core of our being as a dirtpile. We construct structures over that core. Social mores, religious trappings, civil laws, all to enable us to function in our chosen societies better (to get what we want as saftely and easily as we can).

This was no problem through much of history. The trappings were rarely challenged outright, and change tended to come slowly.

Today, however, science, religion (cults), and philosophies change dramatically and often; sometimes as quickly as a publishing season delivers fresh books. The structure is ripped apart and rebuilt, sometimes well, sometime not. Sometimes safely, sometimes not.

There have been no utopian societies in our world outside fiction stories. This alone should tell us the truth about ourselves. We have had and still have despotic societies. Nazi Germany fed a lie that our wicked core enabled to spread (had people been good at heart, the lie couldn't take hold, but it did and still does), slavery was another evil that a broken structure enabled, and the list goes on.

Worse still, sometimes society's structures have gaps. Not everyone fits, and those people fall down through the cracks and sink into their own wicked cores. I'd hazzard a guess that the Virginia Tech and Columbine monstrosities were examples of this. While I have no way to confirm this, I'm willing to bet in each case, the perpetrators couldn't accept the structure that was supplanting their own that had "worked" til then, and fell into their wicked core. "I can't have what I want, so I'll take it away from everyone else, too."

As the structures blur and change ever more rapidly, more people will fall through the gaps and take it out on those around them. We all have that inside of us. We're all capable of heinous, selfish things because we were made that way.

Judaism and Christianity are the only religions to recognize this tainted core. Both faith systems (and only these faith systems) recognize that the first step is to recognize that wicked core (that's what repentence is "Lord, I am desperately wicked and lost without You. All the seeds to my own destruction are inside me, not outside me.") The Jews then gave sin offerings to the Lord until the Lord put an end to that, offering His Son as the only sacrifice. That's what makes Christianity different, by the way. Every other religion or philosophy says the power to improve is in you; Christianity (and Judiasm before it) says the problem is within, but the Answer is outside ourselves, in God Himself. All we need do is believe God did what He said He did.

Isn't there a Christian structure? Yes, there is. That structure is called Sovereignty. God is in control. Why doesn't He prevent all these horrible events from happening? For one thing, those events point to the truth of our corrupt souls. Those evil people are the best picture of who we truly are beneath our selected structures. As for the victims, this isn't meant to be cold, but we don't deserve our births so anything we get beyond birth is pure blessing. It's horrible what happened to those kids and their families, and my prayers are with them. The proper (though difficult) response is "thank you, God, for the time You gave me with them." (It would take me years, if not life, to get to that response myself if that every happened to ones I loved, but it is the proper response. Grief is another thing entirely, one God will hold us through, if we let Him).

Also important is the understanding that salvation happens before the Christian "structure" in our life. From the moment we confess our wickedness, and our belief that Jesus's death and resurrection covers us, we are forgive. We don't have to "do" anything else for salvation, but true belief will result in the Christian structure being created (and fixed and modified as we grow, of course). If we think we need works to save us, we haven't believed what He says: "my Grace is sufficient for you."

The Christian "structure" has fairly open architecture. Truth does not shake it, and lies will not take hold for long. As science presents its findings, we can accept the truth (and disallow the speculation). As for antithetical structures in other people, God has told us to love them as we would ourselves. Anger, hatred, and violence are never appropriate; they indicate our core is creeping up, and our structure needs to change to end it (in other words, repent and believe God).

Bit more of a sermon than the simple musings it was meant to be. I hope your structures can allow that...