Posts Tagged ‘Culture’

All credit for the title goes to Billy Joel, for his wry-grin lyric in Only The Good Die Young:

And they say there’s a Heaven,
For those who will wait.
Some say it’s better,
But I say it ain’t!
I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints.
‘Cause sinners are much more fun
Only the good die young

mark twain on heaven and hell

The song is brimming with colorful phrases about suppression of nature for the sake of christolic dogma (and, certainly, Church control of it’s adherents’ souls) . . .

Well they showed you a statue, told you to pray
Built you a temple and locked you away . . .

That stained glass curtain you’re hiding behind
Never lets in the sun . . .

You got a nice white dress and a party on your confirmation
You’ve got a brand new soul
And a cross of gold . . .

But this isn’t about a classic rock song. The song, however, is an irrepressible nod to religious metaphor, if not a tad more direct than the following example. It is a perfect lead-in to a recent epiphany I had.

In his book The Historical Jesus, John Dominic Crossan, in one chapter, gives us the definition for the word “Kingdom” as supported by various attestations—— that is, by its appearance in different locations within biblical scripture, both canonical and non-canonical.

In the following passage, he discusses, from the Gospel of Thomas (a non-canonical text; gee, I wonder why) when the disciples ask Yeshua about entering the kingdom as children; Yeshua asks them, essentially, not to look forward but rather to look back.

When you make the two one, and when you make the inside like the outside, and the outside like the inside, and the above like the below . . . and when you make the male and the female one and the same, so that the male not be male nor the female female . . . then you will enter the kingdom.

He is—-in this Gospel excluded by the Church—asking the disciples to think about looking back to the past, past Eden, before Adam and Eve sinned (according to Genesis, which I won’t belabor here). He asks them to consider an even more primordial moment before the male and female—-animas and animus—-were split into two beings.

Note the use of the more historically accurate name of Yeshua instead of Jesus; if we are mindful of such a seemingly small change it helps to provide a more distinct delineation between the carefully groomed ‘Jesus’ and the actual historical figure he was, Yeshua.

By asking his closest followers to take a mental leap backwards he is challenging them to consider a more ephemeral cosmological approach as opposed to the utterly human desire to know of the future, of revelation . . . as the Greeks termed it, apokálypsis.

Taking the cue from the primordial example, if you allow yourself to do what countless cultures have done throughout human history you may be able to conceive of a ‘first entity” if you will, a spirit or essence which is considered not yet neither male nor female as we consider the genders of biological life—-the two as one.

Yeshua posed the further challenge to the disciples, to look at a “child” as something that wasn’t male or female but rather as an androgynous Adam (a ‘first entity’)—-an image of its creator, being neither male nor female.

Baptismal regeneration involved the destruction of duality of that between the inner soul and the outer body. between the heavenly, androgynous image of God and its earthly bifurcated counterpart.

These things help to clarify why the child is the perfect Christian metaphor for those entering the kingdom.

The child is considered asexual or pre-sexual or nonsexual in any operational manner and is therefore an appropriate image for the ideal Christian, the Christian who is, in other words, an ascetic celibate. A Kingdom of children is a kingdom of the celibate.

So, what was my epiphany, you ask?

This is why the saints cry.


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The following text is from the body of a letter I sent to my son while in basic training for the Navy. I had been listening to my iPod and an old song titled American Heartbeat played. Something told me to sit down and write about what that meant to me, and it seemed relevant to what he is working for in his naval training. 

transparent div line 

We are not ancient Persia, nor Greece, nor Rome. We are many things: strong and weak, hustling and slack, demonstrative and passive. We are the siphon of human history. 

We have an empire, of sorts, but are not imperialistic. We are decidedly imperfect yet most often choose to pursue what is right rather than not. Say what you will about our character but our collective loyalty is ardent, durable and mighty.

Every civilization in recorded history has struggled with profound scars, has deliberated how best to cope with their weeping wounds in the context of their own times—Madame Blue, she is no exception. Grievous are her transgressions, yet she prefers not to turn her back on them. Her exertions are toward nobility, toward the minimizing of ignobility. 

When we call for help we answer it ourselves. We prefer action over whimpering. Earth rests beneath our feet yet we don’t just think about going to the stars . . .we innovate and then go there. We also sleep beneath the sparkle of heaven making it the province of our dreams.

We are fasces—as many individual reeds we are vulnerable, feeble, hesitant; bound together we are robust, tenacious, enduring.

Our pulse is fast and loud but if we are still for a moment, and truly listen across the chasms and erosion of volubility, we would find one voice, one nation, one majestic heartbeat.


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War of the WorldsOne of the ladies in my blog group wrote what thought was an intriguing post. Kate Dolan is an author and history buff, so I always enjoy visiting her blog. She’s wonderfully intelligent and often her posts are thought provoking. Her post “War of the Worlds it Was Not” is a prime example.

Her premise was based upon a national emergency alert test I had not heard about. “This was the first nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System involving about twelve different federal agencies” she wrote—that sounds about right, doesn’t it? A pristine example of bloated government. Twelve agencies. Twelve! It drips with stunning inefficiency.

This isn’t a lead in to a rant. As my fingers dance upon the keyboard I can sense the bile rising; I have digressed . . .

Ms. Dolan continues:

Instead I considered starting online rumors of an impending major disaster so that when the emergency alert kicked on, we’d have a full scale mass panic on our hands like that caused by the infamous “War of the Worlds” broadcast.

She then takes a moment to explain the War of the Worlds broadcast, for those too young to comprehend the enormity of that historic evening in radio history.

Then she goes on to ask for suggestions. What do her readers think might arouse sufficient panic as to equal—or surpass—WOTW?

American society and culture, not to speak of global culture, is dramatically different since that radio show. That premise in itself might make for an interesting blog post, but for now let’s stick to Ms. Dolan’s fun (yet still very intirguing) posit.

Among the comments were suggestions of a depletion of gasoline stores, a viscious virus (ala Contagion or Outbreak), even the woeful deprivation of meat or doughnuts; my mind reels, my body fights to curl into a fetal ball at the thought of no doughnuts.

She wants to consider events which would strike true fear into a nation, not just a fragmented demographic . . . something to make everyone s*** their collective pants.

I, too, would be interested in what others think. And do, please, take a few moments to read Kate’s post!

Here is my reply:

Two things send chills down my spine, events which I believe will happen someday:
• Lack of access to water, or a crippling amount of contamination to it
• Global energy outage

The latter is frighteningly easy to come by—a solar storm of sufficient size, releasing massive amounts of radiation across the electromagnetic spectrum, would (and has in the past) cause a total blackout. Think of everything in your life that is dependent upon electricity in some form and you can see how quickly humanity will devolve.

The hitch here is people would need to pay heed to such warnings of a storm before it hit. We would have only a matter of hours to ‘prepare’. Anyone not paying attention gets to immerse themselves in additional panic from sheer lack of knowledge. Once the storm hits there will be no way to communicate short of riders on horseback and low tech pen and paper.

The former, while perhaps not quite as likely as a global blackout, is entirely feasible. Look at how common droughts are this decade alone. Part of some larger meteorological cycle? In some small way, maybe. But carry the scenario to its absurd extreme . . . get the picture?

Oxygen is fairly plentiful, so we should all be able to breathe; water, however, can be in short supply. Mankind has fought bloody wars over ideas, over metals, over religion — wouldn’t take long for large scale killing over access to water.

Sleep well ;^)

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At the start, a huge thank you to those who commented and showed your decisive support for our flag. I especially want to thank Mrs. Mandell for her lengthy but very helpful comment. Her comments nourish my hopes that more than sunshine patriots are alive and watching out there.

I stopped by the post office today, and quite honestly, expected to see the flag still flying in its dismal shape. What I didn’t expect to see what this:

Tattered flag at bottom of pole at Mesa post office

Day 2 — perhaps even more disgraceful than the first day

They still have not so much as removed the damaged flag from the pole. Now, if I am missing some element of flag display etiquette then please let me know, but I can’t imagine it calls for leaving the flag near the base of the flag pole.

Call me crazy.

As suggested, I have put in a call to the Mesa chapter of the American Legion and left a message. I have also tried to contact the Red Mountain Patriots.

Per Mrs. Mandell’s initial suggestion, I took the liberty of not dropping by personally, but I did call the main post office for the city of Mesa and spoke to a woman named Alice who knew precisely what I was calling about when I mentioned the Superstition Springs post office.

“Is this about the flag?”

“I’m not the only one, huh?”

“Not at all. I’ve had a few people call already. They are supposed to be on their way to change the flag. I told them it cannot be dragging on the ground.”

“As of when I went by a couple hours ago, it wasn’t touching the ground yet, but somebody lowered the flag and left it there.”

“Well, last I talked to them they said they were on their way.”

She was professional, not rude at all, but clearly took the matter seriously.

We shall see . . .

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The following is, to be fair, in antecedence of anticipated action by a local Post Office station; the post at the center of my attention, my chafed patriotism, is the Superstition Springs Post Office in East Mesa, Arizona. I’d list the address, but I’m not sure that’s completely necessary yet.

July is smack dab in the middle of the Sonoran desert’s monsoon season (did you know the word “monsoon” is Arabic for rain?). Last night we had a pretty solid monsoon storm, replete with strong winds and lots of rain. The winds that gust through during these storms can be surprisingly strong for an area as seemingly desolate as the desert. They have downed power lines and very large trees, even blown tiles and shingles off rooftops — point is, like storm winds most anywhere, they can do damage.

After work I had to drop off a copy of my book for someone who offered to review it for me. As I approached the post office I noticed something wasn’t right with the flag. I parked and climbed out of my vehicle and immediately looked up at it.

US Flag in front of Mesa Post Office Considering what a complete Gordian Knot our country is in (if you don’t know what a Gordian Knot is then substitute the phrase “cluster f—“) the appearance of this flag seemed stoicly metaphorical, a ringing visual indicment of just how badly misshapen our beloved country has become. Yet it is a simple matter to remedy in this situation. If we can’t collectively stand together and eviscerate our “leaders” for being the partisan jackasses they have proven to be, then we can, we should, we must — at a minimum — take pride in the one symbol which most represents us, perhaps most unifies us as brothers and sisters: the American flag.

Torn US Flag in front of Mesa Post Office

This poor specimen most likely took her thrashing last night during the storm. I am apalled that nobody at least took the flag down . . . that’s a mere matter of sheer respect. I showed up just before 1pm and she was still waving in the air, torn, punished by forces stronger than any of us. Just look at her.

If you don’t find yourself moved in some regard then perhaps you should take your Communist Party credentials and go someplace like China or Cuba where you will be welcomed openly.I understand the Middle East hates us too . . . perhaps you would fit in with them. I’ll give you heartless Pinkos one last chance to be a shocked as I was.

There was but one teller inside, and his English wasn’t exactly outstanding, so I didn’t attempt taking the issue up with him. He looked beaten down by his job, he didn’t need Mr. America poking a finger in his chest.

Instead, I called my parents first. I absolutely wanted to write a post about it, but before I went off half-cocked I thought it better to see what the best approach would be for contacting someone about this egregious disregard for American symbolism; they have both worked for the Postal Service for quite a long time — for once, I had an inside track on something!

Turns out my dad used to take care of matters like this when he traveled around the state and did maintenance inspections at various locations — this very thing is one of his deepest pet peeves. He told me he used to make the station managers keep three flags on hand at all times, so should one become soiled (or, helloooooo . . . damaged!) it could be swiftly replaced as befits our flag.

They advised me to call the station manager first, then if that didn’t achieve the desired result go straight to the Phoenix Postmaster.

I tried. I really did.

Seven different attempts to the offending post in Mesa resulted in sot so much as one person answering the phone. I queried Mr. Internet — the Great Oz of our time — to try and locate the contact number for a one Robert J Hurley, the Phoenix Postmaster sworn in in 2010, but unsurprisingly his number seems to be unavailable. How are the public supposed to be served if they can’t reach his office?

So I called ASK USPS and talked with a very nice lady who shared my affrontism about the flag’s condition, but all she could give me was the Teller Window number at the main office in Phoenix; a dead end.

Tried a few more searches, switched up my search terms, but still couldn’t find any contact info for Hurley. Back to ASK USPS and another sympathetic woman. This time I got the number for Consumer Affairs.

Another voice in accord with my own who promised to forward my discontent to the proper powers. “Give them a week to get it corrected” she said.

For me, her statement was unbelievable — for my parents, not so much. I texted them after I got off the phone and told them I thought it was a steaming load — not in those words, of course. I called the help line one last time and gave my contact info to yet another voice in agreement who assured me someone would be taking up my issue soon and would contact me.

So there you have it. I’ll post an update soon. This much I am sure of: one week won’t cut it for this American.

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SearchlightTake a moment to consider the gravity of the word event — it has a sort of uplifting weightiness to it, doesn’t it? In the best terms it implies anticipatory elation, the onset of something long awaited. The word is still relevant today, of course, but within the context of retrospect it feels diminished and aged, like Bob Hope movies on weekday afternoons, or crumbled bleu cheese in your fancy salad; it looks moldy but it’s actually not.

For those of you above the tender age of, say, thirty, you might remember some of this stuff; if you’re mid-forties and above you will remember . . .

Remember Evel Knievel and his hyped up jumps? Lots of spectacle and showmanship — each one an event full of drama, and often a bent and broken Knievel.We still had our favortie TV shows and other distractions, but these jumps were almost guilty pleasures back then.

How about Star Wars when it first appeared in theaters . . . or Jaws? Those were the movies to see, often multiple times. Star Wars had so captivated the imagination of moviegoers that lines stretched around buildings for months while it played. The impact of Jaws played out on beaches everywhere — people were literally afraid to go in the water . . . not just a few people, but lots of people.

As a kid, the circus coming to town was a big deal. People used actual cameras with color film, then took them to any number of stores to have them processed, which took days. Just getting the pictures back was a mini-event in itself, allowing you to relive the moments captured forever on celluloid.

Concerts were, and to a degree still are, events. But the acts aren’t as hugely anticipated from what I can tell. Back in the day you had weeks of build up before it happened. Now there’s a couple radio spots and probably a website, certainly a Facebook page dedicated to it.

Remember going to a record store and browsing through rows and rows of albums? Remember what a big deal album art could be? That’s long gone since the advent of CDs. Now a movie comes out more as a precursor to its release in retail outlets than as a true event, Deathly Hallows 2 notwithstanding.

Our entire entertainment culture has shifted from one that used to be a shared, almost communal experience, to a fragmented encounter of individualism. We have smartphones and tablet PCs now that bring those same movies into the palms of our hands. We don’t have to go and breathe the same air as 200 other people in a cineplex. And how about that . . . remember real movie theaters, with huge screens and could seat hundreds of people at a time? We’d see cheesy disaster movies like Towering Inferno or Airport ’77 on those screens, or comedies like Smokey and the Bandit and Cannonball Run. Hell, now we can, if we choose, have almost as big a screen as those in the cineplexes installed in our homes with a nice surround-sound unit and HD projector and we can have buttered popcorn and snacks in the comfort and convenience of our living rooms.

“Events” are dramatized for us because we have become somewhat desensitized to their prior effects. Look at how wildly popular competition shows are — American Idol, Dancing With The Stars, So You Think You Can Dance?, etc. They work in an element of audience, even viewing audience participation, which heightens the drama for the next night. That next evening’s program then becomes the event. We need to be goaded into coming back . . . sorta. We could always go online immediately afterward to find out who won, right?

Sometimes I feel like our youth today are somehow cheated by not being able to experience events as they were when we were kids. But the reality is that their events are different than ours. Their world is faster and exponentially more complex that ours was. They are the Digital Generation and most of them can’t possibly conceive of how draconian things were “back in the day.”

I have a small iPod and a Kindle, but I still prefer to read books in the traditional book format. I ‘get’ the convenience of an e-reader but feel I’m missing an important component of the reading experience when reading off a screen. I am part of the Digital Transition. I grew up with Atari and Coleco Vison, Commodore 64 and Pong. I bought vinyl records but embraced CDs when they arrived. I owned a 4-head, hi-fi VCR when they were just coming out. I understand the functional revolution I participated in, but I never saw what lay over the horizon. The gap between then and now is staggering.

Perhaps it’s best if I remember events not so much as long lost, but as endeared to me as only each one could be for me. Maybe, ultimately, each event is what I made it — an attachment of fondness I have for those moments as opposed to a societal gestalt of passing culture.

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Falling asleep in classNo, this isn’t about American Idol . . . sorry. If you’re already disinterested then I believe I can safely say you clearly fall into the collective dustbin of American freedom and liberty, the contents of which will soon be emptied into the wastebasket of history because nobody cares about it anymore.

My answer to the title of this post? I truly couldn’t care less.

Written below is my response to a post Joy Erickson had on her blog a couple days ago: Are History’s Lessons Being Neglected. (I tried posting this as a comment, Joy, but it wouldn’t show up!)

Her direct question to her readers was “Do you think history should take a back seat to math, and the science’s?” I didn’t address that question head on, choosing instead to reply to the comments instead. (oh, and I commented on Laura’s comment, too, but it didn’t show up either :^( )

Here was my comment:

If we don’t know our history, how can we possibly understand ourselves? Where will any country wind up if they have zero sense of their own posterity? History doesn’t repeat itself — individuals repeat the same mistakes made throughout history due to ignorance or sheer hubris; in our case we are in deep trouble mostly because of ignorance, a willful ignorance.

You can’t market history unless it’s in a souvenir shop stamped on coffee mugs, keychains, t-shirts, and other trinkets. A “culture” enamored with glitz and celebrity can hardly hope to stabilize its underpinnings of liberty unless prior lessons of history can be made commercially viable in the guise of American Idol, Dancing With The Stars, or Survivor.

I don’t disagree that learning history in school is boring; as it was for all of you so it was for me. Just as Em and Nikki have attested, I, too, now love history, but not because of what I learned in school. I read books, watched documentaries, visited Wasington D.C. and saw with my own aging eyes what God Himself blessed our founders with . . . the inviolable knowledge of Nature’s Law, of the blessings of Liberty.

I do what I can to teach my son these things because I know the school won’t do it properly. I don’t expect him to read all the books I have, but he has assumed — in his own reserved way — the same spirit of patriotism I keep warmed in my own heart. That slowly glowing ember will burn hotter somewhere down the road, and I hope he will pass it on.

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Question mark with US flag behind itAmerica has plenty of problems: state to state, north to south, sea to shining sea. I’m not divulging any state secrets, here. No need for a list of issues—plenty of other blogs and news outlets are only too happy to thrust them upon you.

I allude to something perhaps more sinister: a collectively accepted lapse in national attentioin and memory regarding our nation’s fundamental beginnings. Yet we all take great pride, a profoundly uncultivated zeal, in celebrating July 4th as our “Independence Day.”

Reveling in a glorious fireworks display is arguably an American rite-of-passage. We take for granted that at some point our children will be taught what the fireworks mean in their classrooms and history books. I wouldn’t wager so much as a dollar on that.

26% — that’s one in four — Americans don’t know what country we declared our independence from. I’m not a drinker, but these recent poll results give me reason to contemplate the necessity.

When asked when—what year—only 31 percent of adults younger than 30 said 1776, while 59 percent between 30 and 44 got the question right. Americans 45 to 59 were most likely to know the year: 75 percent got it correct. 65 percent of men got the answer right while only 52 percent of women did.

Here’s the stunner: 9% of college graduates were uncertain as to what country America declared her independece from; 2% of those graduates mentioned countries other than Great Britain.

Pathetic? Pathetic isn’t strong enough a word. It is entirely unsurprising, though. Had these two basic facts of our history been added to broadcasts of American Idol I’d bet those numbers would be much improved. Do I really need to spell it out? I think the indictment can be extracted without much effort.

Only 28% of Americans say they have read the Constitution, and 14 percent say they’ve read most of it. I will grant you that it’s not exactly a page turner and the language used is hard for us to assimilate today, but the resources available for learning about this incredibly important document are copious.

The results above come from a study conducted by the Center for the Constitution. They also revealed that respondents 18 to 24 years old claimed they understand the Constitution much less than older people; they also said the Constitution doesn’t affect them on a day-to-day basis. Wow. Really?

Need more proof that Americans are far more about hot dogs, burgers, and fireworks than knowing why we have this holiday?

42% of Americans attribute a Marxist slogan to James Madison. I’d be surprised if 10 oercent of them actually knew who James Madison was (here’s a gimme: he is considered to be the father of our Constitution, wrote over a third of the Federalist Papers, and also served two terms as President in the early 1800’s). Madison was no communist.

The Bill of Rights Institute recently commissioned a new poll and their results do little to provide confidence in the fideltiy of American knowledge of their own country or principles. The communist slogan, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” is thought by the aforementioned 42% to be part of our founding documents; 1 in 5 Americans think these very words are in the Bill of Rights!

Just for fun try strapping this on: 55 percent of Americans don’t recognize that education is not a First Amendment right. Staggering.


The founders believed education to be critical to the new nation’s success, but they didn’t write it into the Constitution. But they knew that an uneducated populace was surely a death blow to such a fragile political experiment as ours. John Adams wrote “Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people.” Wouldn’t he be dismally disappointed today.

That beer habit is looking better and better.

Every cake should have icing, and here’s mine: I have heard that every so often, say every 5-10 years, somebody takes the first paragraph from the Declaration of Independence, verbatim, and sends it around in the guise of a petition. Not surprisingly many of those presented with the opportunity to sign it regard the ersatz petition as subversive to America. I have searched and haven’t found hard proof of this, but given the above surveys it wouldn’t surprise me one bit to learn it was true.

In complete fairness I submit the obvious, that these polls and surveys are not conducted or given to all citizens—these are but representative samples of the populace. Given that, what does it say about the overal civic underpinnings of our citizenry? Frankly, not much.

For many July 4th is just another day off work, yet another paid holiday for civil servants, municipal workers, and bank employees. The capitalist machine gears up to sell barbeques, hot dogs, hamburgers, beer, soda, ice chests, and paper plates and napkins with patriotic motifs. I have yet to see any retail outlet selling framed copies of the Declaration of Independence, not so much as a t-shirt with a slogan like “1776 — We made Britain our bitch!” Lots of bald eagle and Liberty Bell knick-knacks and sparklers, though.

Where is the deep, resonant echo of our revolutionary past? Where is the reverence and idealogical spirit that instigated an event unrivaled in history? We stood up to what was then the world’s greatest, best trained military force and wore them down . . . with unquestionable help from, as George Washington said “the hand of Providence.”

What does it say about how debilitating political correctness has become that we allow someone to bring suit in court to remove “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance; to remove “so help me God” from a sworn oath in court; to have blithely turned over all our leverage as knowlegable citizens to special interests and politicians who are far more interested in their own welfare than that of the country?

It’s one thing to stand up straight, chest out, and proudly declare “I am American.” But do you know what that means? Do you know the answers to the basic questions below:

Two of the original founding fathers died on the same day—July 4, 1826—within hours of one another, 50 years to the day which we publically proclaimed independence? (I’ve used both their names within this post)

What are the first ten amendments to the Consititution called? (it has been mention in this post too)

True or False: The Declaration of Independence begins “We the People . . .”

True or False: George Washington used the phrase “Four score and seven years ago” in his first inaugural address as President.

True or False: The Constititution of the United States begins “When in the course of human events . . .”

Some quick facts . . .
• The Second Continental Congress adopted a formal declaration of independence from the crown on July 2nd, 1776. Debate and alterations to the document ensued through the 3rd and the morning of the 4th. We officially became the United States of America on the 2nd of July.

• Thomas Jefferson was not the sole author of the DOI. He did do the bulk of the work, but John Adams and Benjamin Franklin had a lot to say about it. Franklin was responsible for the phrase “self-evident” in the opening paragraph.

• You might think Jefferson was the first signer of the declaration. It was actually John Hancock. The document was signed by most of the members on August 2. The last signature was applied five years later in 1781.

Every country has its sunshine patriots, as well as its zealots. The further we allow our history to fade into obscurity the weaker we become as a nation. Clad in the armor of facts and knowledge we can reclaim the power that has been siphoned from us for so long. We have long gained strength from the diaspora of other countries, helping them to use our truly exceptional freedoms to piece their dreams and families back together, to achieve in America what their country of birth actively denied them. We can regain global respect and admiration as we had in the early 19th century—but to do so we need to understand the precious value of the soil beneath our feet, not trample on it with utter disregard. We need each other more than we realize. Time may indeed make more converts than reason, but do we have that luxury anymore?

May God Himself visit tender mercy upon this land, and help us understand and appreciate the perfection in our imperfect union as the founding fathers did. May he imbue our youth with the tempest of patriotic love for country, and the elders with the accountability to teach them. May he provide us with the strength to keep our enemies at bay and our true brethren at heart.

And may God Bless the United States of America.

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Mr. Spock - fascinatingRemember this guy?

Unless you grew up under a rock (or raised by wolves who didn’t have TV) you at least have heard of Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock on the original Star Trek television series.

Better still, if you watched the show you surely remember his stolid, logical manner when reacting to some set of empirical data, or especially when observing variations in human behavior—his eyebrow would raise and he’d say “Fascinating!” Here was a character, indeed a very intelligent actor and man, absorbed in the profound abstraction of some matter beyond his logical ability to feasibly assimilate; he was astounded by actions and emotions on a plane of comprehension he had never experienced before.

We’ve all been there, right?

You may think of it as an “AHA!” moment, or visualize it the way so many cartoons do, as a lightbulb blinking on above your head. Walking into a glass door that’s so clean you can’t see it; getting distracted while walking on a sidewalk and french kissing a lightpost — BAM! Something unexpected collides violently with your reality.

That, my friends, is what you might refer to as an epiphany.

I ask that you retain this notion in mind as you reach the end of this post, and if possible, superimpose the imagery of Spock saying “Fascinating!” upon that thought.

Now, I take you back to the beginning of this year, 2011. It was only a few days into the new year and I was sitting in the customer “lounge” at the dealership waiting for some routine maintenance to be done on my truck. On the television—a proper “lounge” should have one; if not, then you’re in a bathroom stall—was some meaningless fluff the local station burns air time with in the form of a host sharing recipes, or lamely trying to talk up an upcoming local event that hardly anyone will attend (like a basketweaving bee or Major League Soccer match . . . yes, it really exists! I know, huh? Who cares?).

I was about to nod off—mostly because I had the good fortune not to have eaten Mexican food for lunch—when I heard the slow building of an angelic chorus building in my ears. The irksomely chipper host tossed the show to break and the screen faded to black. The next image I saw gave me the feeling reminiscent of the first time I ever saw Playboy . . . the angelic chorus reached crescendo and my brain said “Whoooaa”.

Body Works was coming to the Arizona Science Center in late January.

Baseball player at Body Works exhibit

A ball player . . . of course!

If you haven’t seen Body Works, or don’t know what it is, well, you should! It is waaaaaay cool! Actual human bodies on display in various poses and manner of exposure thanks to a process called plastination. I had wanted to go to this show before but didn’t make it. This time, however, I knew someone who would geek out about it every bit as much as I would . . . my dear friend Denise.

Denise is one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever known. Enclose something in a box, and dangle it from the end of a stick in front of her and she will rend most anything that gets in her way in her quest to discover the contents of that box, such is the capacity of her inquisitiveness. So I knew, without question, she would want to see this. Back in the day I’d have to wait until I got home to call. Not anymore. I whipped out my Blackberry and scrolled to her number . . . do people dial anymore?

*click* “Hello?”

“Hey, guess what?” I ask, foregoing the socially accepted norm of exchanging greetings.


“Body Works is coming to the Science Center,” I blurt, “you wanna go?”

“Body what?” I felt exasperation running full throttle toward me. I had expected a hearty “let’s go!” right out of the chute.

“You know, the show that has all the bodies flayed open so you can see inside.” She pauses, just for a moment—I’m pretty sure it was only to mess with me.

She makes me explain a little further; I’m almost certain it was for her amusement more than anything. It took a few minutes but I finally got to hear her say “Oh yeah, we gotta see that.”

We had settled on going about a week after the show opened, both of us intrigued and excited beyond description. But as often happens, life got in the way. I caught a nasty upper respiratory infection the week we were supposed to go. While I recuperated the following week she managed to get an equally nasty cold herself. After that, a couple other minor things arose, but we finally made plans for the third week in February, on a Thursday. We arranged to meet there around 10am.

This was going to be as good as Fred Flinstone getting an automatic transmission, or Charlie Sheen getting locked in overnight at an adult ‘entertainment’ store. Both of us were riding a thick wave of Heinz a-n-t-i-c-i-p-a-t-i-o-n.

So, the day before we’re to go—a Wednesday—I was at work and recieved an e-mail from her. It began as follows:

I reluctantly arose from the comfort of my warm bed and squinted at the alarm clock. ‘Oh my god! It’s 8:30 a.m.! SH**!’. I race to the kitchen, cursing, to pour my coffee, then sprint back down the hallway toward my bedroom.

Her roommate, Dan, couldn’t help but take notice of her frenzied activity and placidly sauntered down the hall to see what had her in such a state. She was swearing like a trucker as she whipped about, muttering to herself the entire time. As she’s getting a towel and reaching to turn on the shower Dan walked up next to her and stood there without saying a word.

He just stands there and waits for me to finish talking to myself. When I’ve finished my one-sided conversation, I abruptly turn and face him and scream “WELL?! CAN’T YOU SEE I’M IN A HURRY? WHAT DO YOU WAAAAANNNNNNNNNNNT?!!

Hell hath no wrath like that of a woman scorned . . . or one who’s convinced she has precious little time to get ready and is running late. But Dan stands rock steady, unimpressed by the seemingly collapsing universe in Denise’s world.

“I just wanted to tell you that today is Wednesday” he says, then turns and strolls out the bedroom door, back to the living room and Robin Meade on CNN.

Already surging with adrenaline, she follows him.

“No, It’s not, you idiot. Today is friggin’ THURSDAY! Duhhhh.” I scream at him. “Don’t f*****g talk to me, I have to get ready!”

“Ok….” he replies calmly. “But today IS Wednesday”.

Something about the way he stated that caused me to pause and think if I could possibly be mistaken—maybe today IS Wednesday?

After careful consideration, and with my ironclad logical rebuttal in place, I said to Dan, “It’s f*****g Thursday. Last night Bill O’Riley had Dennis Miller on, and Dennis Miller is only there on WEDNESDAYS! So, shut up and leave me alone!”

As I’m getting ready to storm back down the hallway Dan says “Right, but Dennis Miller was on a day early because he was sick last week…so it’s still Wednesday.”

“Oh. So I guess I dont have to get ready to go to the Science Center”

“Nope” he says.

“I see. Ok, whatever.”

As I read this I was in the middle of a expansive room filled with servers, A/C units blowing cool air throughout. I’m pretty sure I laughed loud enough for anyone else to hear me above the din. So I immediately called her.

“He was so cool about it” she tells me. “He stood there, with this stupid look on his face. That’s what really got me. He wasn’t even smug. So matter-of-fact about it.” I begin laughing again, obviously at her.

“Shut up,” she tells me. I can hear her laughing, too.

“As he walks off I’m standing there fitting all these pieces together in my head, and all of a sudden it makes sense. I feel like such an idiot” she confesses.

“I think I stood there for probably two minutes then said aloud “So this is what stupid feels like . . . FASCINATING!”

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Youth using technology

Consider, for one moment, the text you are currently reading. Really.

Sit back for a second and try not to read the words as much as look at them. Are you looking at them upon a flat-screen monitor, or perhaps from the technological marvel of a smartphone? Maybe from a laptop, perched at the kitchen counter, sitting in your favorite chair, or propped up in bed?

Now, take a moment to consider your surroundings. I’d bet there are, at minimum, two other gadgets within view—maybe a television, a Kindle or Nook, an iPod, a digital camera, another cell phone.

While these things seem substantially obvious, even absurdly so, they all point to a common denominator which we don’t quickly identify with: our innate need to be connected. Even the coffee machine on the counter speaks not just to our need to wake up, but as a centerpiece for many a social life.

That’s on an individual level, within our own personal sphere of influence or proximity. Expand your imagination perhaps one more degree to the local or community level where you may have neighborhood or town newsletters to stay abreast of what those around you are doing. One more degree to the national stage and we have radio, television, cable, all these outlets that bombard us with information day in and day out.

Now, step back again and think about what technology has completely wrapped itself around all of these?

Did you think of the internet?

From GPS to our cell phones, to streaming radion stations and network feeds, and instant news captured by video phones. We literally walk about, every day, immersed in digitalia.

Back in January 2011, as I listened to news about the uprising in Tunisia, I was struck by how pathetic the attempts made by the government were to cut off access to media and the internet; too often government—our own republic included—fails to account for sheer human will. Such governments, many tyrannical dictatorships, rely on keeping their populace uneducated—essentially a political form of sanctioned stupidity. If the people don’t know any better then they are certainly more apt to believe whatever a regime sees fit to feed it as truth. Large swathes of the Middle East make this profusely clear.

But many of their youth travel abroad to get an education they can’t possibly dream of getting at home. They attend universities in Europe and here in America. They quickly become enamored with our freedoms and prosperity. They are given a chance to see the world as it truly is without the shroud of a theocracy dictating what they should think and feel. Youth, well versed in the binary arts, become a force of mind and power.

Utilizing Facebook and a smartphone they organize rallies and protests. They grasp the veil of ignorance and try to extirpate its white-knuckled grip upon their countrymen. They find a way, even when internet access is locked down, to get word out.

And look at the effect it has had . . .

Tunisia has fallen and an interim government set up in hopes of establishing a more free and transparent kind of system. Egypt has ousted its long-time dictators. As I write this the people of Libya are desperately trying to break the grasp of one of history’s most astute buffoons in Muammar Gaddafi. Bahrain, Yemen, and Syria are currently dealing with roiling discontent of their own. These things are not just news items. These happenings are nothing short of a digital crusade in a land that long has suppressed the Natural Rights of humanity while hoisting the banner of strict adherence to ascetic principles of God; natural rights are considered to be divinely inherent, gifts which each human are born with, therefore the two cannot be treated as mutually exclusive.

Youth are driving this almost cataclysmic change, and doing so by the powers vested in them via technology and education.

I wondered how American youth perceive this power, or if they give the slightest thought to it whatsoever. I put an ad on Craigslist and eBay asking if any were interested in sharing their thoughts in a guest post. I received a number of inquiries, but to date I have received only three guest posts. You will be reading these three over the next week. I wanted to widen the scope of the matter to include not just global events but also the interactive aspect of technology and how it affects relationships, both familial and external.

If you know of someone who would like to participate then let me know! The responses I have received are all from Arizona; would be interesting to get a larger demo-geographic slice of opinion.

Please be sure to come back and see what the next generation has to say about the technology that powers their everyday lives—Abbey Wells, Alicia Triassi-DeMayo, and my son Chayce may just surprise you with how connected they are to both the virtual and real worlds.

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