Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sharing A Love of the Savior

Recent discussion about reverence brought something very important to mind. When we talk about teaching our children reverence, we seem to resign ourselves to simply teaching a respect for the church building. We tend to focus on the outward evidences of quiet, respectful actions rather than the motivation that leads to what others can see. I think this is true because we struggle to truly teach respect for or love of the Savior. We settle for something far inferior.

So the question comes down to this. How do you teach this respect for or love of the Savior? Love of the Savior is probably one of the most important aspects of anyone's testimony. Our children aren't an exception. If we can convey to them a foundation of this critical detail, then we've helped our children gain a solid testimony on which they can build a strong spiritual life.

My life would have been far easier had I been the benefactor of such. I'm not suggesting my parents failed or that they even did anything wrong. However, there was definitely a period in my life when I rejected just about everything they had to offer. Interestingly, it was the gospel that anchored me in a way that my wanderings always tended to lead me back home.

What is the secret? What can we as parents do to help our children not only understand the gospel but build a personal love of the Savior? Family Home Evening and regularly reading the scriptures as a family. That's the answer. That is where it starts; that is where it ends.

Introducing basic gospel principles to children starting at a very young age and continuing through their adolescence will provide ample opportunity to expose them to the Savior's love. This is not rocket science but it is something that needs to be done from an early age and made a consistent part of their lives through out their entire childhood, adolescence and early adulthood. We need to seek opportunities to help our children recognize the spirit. Incorporating their lives into the Family Home Evening lessons makes the lessons relevant. Focusing family scripture readings on those subjects that might have greater meaning at particular times can also be instrumental in helping convey the feelings we need our children to feel.

One more thing. Parents do not share their testimony enough. Our youth need to see our testimonies in action, this is so very important. We tend to also forget that it is through hearing the testimonies we have the opportunity for the spirit to convey the truthfulness of that testimony to our hearts. Our actions are important, so very important but if the young people do not hear the words, they miss out on that most important opportunity to feel the confirming message that is only possible through the spirit. Our children must see our testimonies in action, hear our testimonies in word and feel our testimonies in spirit. Through feeling our testimonies in spirit, they can gain their own testimony of the redeeming love of our savior.

I could see my father's testimony, as he was a very active man in the gospel. I heard him speak about the gospel a lot but the times he bore his testimony were few. I think he missed many opportunities to share his testimony in spirit with my siblings and me.

Friday, December 26, 2008

I truly enjoyed the Winter Concert the high school choir put on last Thursday night. Many times parents will run to these things out of obligation since their children are performing. To be totally forthcoming, since I paid for admission, it would have been nice to have enjoyed the whole show and not suffer through the bad just to get to the good.

Anyway, one of the pieces performed by the Chamber Choir was this, the Twelve Days After Christmas. I thought it was terribly funny. Funny enough to lead me to share it here. The one spoken part about keeping a drummer was my daughter's.

12 Days After Christmas (Frederick Silver)
(Not sung to the same tune as the other song!)

The first day after Christmas, my true love and I had a fight.
And so I chopped the pear tree down and burned it just for spite.
Then, with a single cartridge, I shot that blasted partridge,
That my true love, my true love gave to me.

The second day after Christmas, I pulled on the old rubber gloves
And very gently wrung the necks of both the turtle doves,
My true love, my true love, my true love gave to me.

The third day after Christmas, my mother caught the croup;
I had to use the three French hens to make some chicken soup.
The four calling birds were a big mistake,
For their language was obscene.
The five gold rings were completely fake
And they turned my fingers green.

The sixth day after Christmas, the six laying geese wouldn't lay:
I gave the whole darn gaggle to the ASPCA.

On the seventh day what a mess I found:
All seven of the swimming swans had drowned,
My true love, my true love, my true love gave to me.

The eighth day after Christmas, before they could suspect,
I bundled up the . . .
Eight maids a-milking,
Nine pipers piping,
Ten ladies dancing,
'Leven lords a-leaping,
Twelve drummers drumming
(spoken) Well, actually I kept one of the drummers.

And sent them back collect.
I wrote my true love, "We are through, love"
And I said in so many words,
"Furthermore your Christmas gifts were for the birds!"
(echo of "four calling birds, three french hens, two turtle doves
and a partridge in a pear tree.")

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Are They Human?

What's up with putting silly hats on the dog? Sweaters and other clothing? Look, most of these guys are born with nature-given coats. Anthropomorphism reigns rampant around me.

So, is this something people do just because they think it is cute or is it something far more sinister? Look, I've seen it when pet owners treat their dogs and cats like they are children. Some treat the animals better than they would children. This is a curious thing for me!

Do the dogs enjoy the attention? Do they really feel special when they're wearing that new sweater? I fear the opposite is true. I think that most animals would prefer to be left to their natural clothing.

What of these things we do that are just plain silly?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Frosty the Public Menace

So, there's this family living in Anchorage, Alaska who has been building a giant snowman every winter for the past couple years. They made their first Snowman that exceeded 16 feet in 2005. It drew a lot of attention both locally and internationally. Japanese and Russian news organizations went to Alaska to film the not-so-abominable, yet rather large snow sculpture. It seems that each year the Powers family remade the snowman only bigger. Well, they've some pretty ornery neighbors who've had enough of the traffic. According to msnbc Anchorage city officials announced Frosty was a public nuisance and a safety hazard. The once big boy is nothing more than a pile of snow rubble.

Progress achieves a new height!

Indoctrination Vehicles - Hollywood has not Changed One Bit

The modern iteration of the 1951 movie The Day the Earth Stood Still was by most reports completely unnecessary. No, really. The first movie was done very well. The original movie was so good that I don’t know why anybody really thought it necessary to make a new version. However, much of modern U.S. culture has turned into a cheesy imitation of the past. So why should the movie biz be any different?

So, the movies are tremendously similar. You'd expect that considering the later release most certainly is a remake of the first. Although the producers of the recent release made changes, the original story remains mostly undisturbed. In the 1951 version, an alien space ship lands in D.C., whereas the latest version has the landing site in New York City's Central Park. In both movies, some trigger-happy soldier shoots the alien which sets off some pretty chaotic footage before the alien is able to restore order giving pause for open dialogue. There is a little confusion over to whom this big blue marble on which we live belongs, some alien induced destruction provides ample opportunity for the special effects crews to wow the audience. Then a pretty protagonist brings the Alien to a more reasonable state of mind and helps stop the destruction of mankind. Ultimately, the humans are made to promise they'll refrain from destroying the earth with their nuclear weaponry. Oh, wait, that is the 1951 version. You see, the cold war was just beginning to escalate back then. Today, however, the cold war and nuclear weapons aren't considered nearly the threat they once were. Hollywood had to change the promise we had to make. 2008's version was about global warming and environmental changes. In 2008, Earth is saved while mankind has to promise the aliens that we’ll stop wrecking the environment.

This trend in movies isn't new. Hollywood has been using the movies to cajole the American public into political correctness since the dawn of the medium. So, when they alter the Day the Earth Stood Still I should not be too terribly concerned, right? I'm just wondering what it is we're supposed to do to immediately gain such security. Just what does it mean to stop wrecking the environment? Will the aliens be satisfied now that Carol Browner is going to make energy and environmental policy at the Obama White House? Or do the aliens want something more than that? Is there something more than that? Really, even science fiction has its limits and Carol Browner may well be the one to take it to the edge of physics.

After it's all wrapped up - the action scenes with flying nano-bugs and colliding helicopters and loud explosions and bright flames - The Day the Earth Stood Still doesn't explain how 6.5 billion people can continue to exist on this planet without industrial energy supplies, industrial agriculture to supply food, using minerals, water supply, public health or much anything else on such a grand scale. Will that be in the next remake? If we're to find real answers we cannot wait another 57 years for a remake to show us the way.

Advent This!

The draw to the advent calendar is something of a mystery to me. The count down to Christmas is marked each day with a piece of candy or other some such treat. The day of Christmas or possibly on the eve thereof, the treat is much grander. Some advent calendars are more focused on Christ while others tend toward the more commercial. Either way the result is nearly the same - a count-down of days, varying in length.

Advent calendars have even made it into popular Christmas carols. We all know the first few days of the twelve Days of Christmas. I tend to get a little mixed up when the drummers are drummin' and the maids are a milkin' and the pipers are a pipin'. I get tongue-tied too when trying to recite everything on that last day of Christmas. Boy, whoever this gal's lover was, he set a pretty high bar for gift giving.

I've made my own advent calendar, using a string of pockets inside which I placed a scripture and a thought related to Christmas. Of this sort of advent calendar I actually made two versions. One version was more LDS-centric while the other was less so. These I gave out as a pre-Christmas present of sorts one year.

The best Advent Calendars are those homemade creations for our loved ones. I think that is what has ruined all other Advent Calendars for me. My Grandmother made an Advent Calendar for my Parents when I was very young. A simple depiction of a Christmas tree on a flour sack dish towel sewn together on a dowel for hanging. The tree would be decorated with a single ornament each day from December 1 through December 24. On Christmas Day, a note from Santa written in my Grandmother's precise hand presented a Holiday wish. Reading this became as much a part of my Christmas as anything else.

I cannot say how many times the ornaments have been replaced through the years and I tend to lose interest in the daily decorations but the Christmas Day note is still something I enjoy. The glimpse into my childhood and the memories of my grandmother continue to be a very important part of my Christmas morning.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Christmas Carol

I'm almost embarrassed to admit that my most favorite of Christmas stories has absolutely nothing to do with the true meaning of Christmas - well, there is absolutely no mention of the birth of our Savior within its pages.

Alas, it is still one of my favorites. I look forward to seeing the silver screen adaptation each year, though I do not care for some of the more modern derivatives. In changing, or updating this classic tale, it loses some of its meaning.

It is time to read through the story again. Only 88 pages in the original publication, it is a short story that is long on insight into what lives we should lead and what could happen when we focus our attentions on the wrong goals.

Spend, Spend, Spend - there is no tomorrow.

I have to wonder what motivates people to just throw caution to the wind and act without any real consideration of what the consequences might be. Seriously, how can we think to put our futures in jeopardy simply to extend little comfort for today? Our current president and the president-elect have recently announced some very expensive endeavors:

President Bush tossed 17.4 billion dollars into the air to flutter down like a light snow fall onto the decrepit tongue sagging out of the hungry mouths of the Automobile industry. And like the snow flake, this money carries with it absolutely now nutritional value. Nothing will sate the appetites of these behemoths.

President-elect Obama wants to conjure up $850 billion to throw at various programs designed to “stimulate” the economy.

The Peterson Foundation recently announced, “According to recent calculations by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, the sum of America's debts and other financial commitments is about to exceed the collective net worth of its citizens. That means that for the first time in our history, we'll owe more money than all of us have combined."

We are simply out of our collective mind.

A Few Days Before the First Christmas

The Christian world is making great preparations for one of the more Holy of Christian holidays - Christmas. Considering its import, very little is actually known of the events leading up to and the very day of Christmas. In fact, it seems a significant portion of Christiandom is confused even on the specific day on which the celebration should be held.

I recall the months leading up to the birth of my children. How we made preparations for those things we could and worried about those things over which we had not control. I remember once going to the Hospital for false labor. My choice of apparel was not appreciated by those nurses who happened to read George Carlin's "Sometime a little brain damage can help" comment on the back. We weren't there for very long before the medical staff had determined the nature of her contractions. Those stopped and we returned home. That was as close as the child came to ever making the effort unaided. Weeks later, we were still pregnant and had to schedule inducement. Our second baby, she was born because of an earthquake and Dearest's undeniable fear of moving ground. We spent the day at the hospital and she was born during the Oprah show. The sound track: Fleetwood Mac Greatest Hits. Baby number three: The doctors, worried about the possibility of a very large baby, induced labor a little early.

So, I sit here pondering on the eve of the celebration, wondering just what was Mary and Joseph doing two days before the Babe was laid to rest in a manger; "because there was no room for them in the inn." Consigned to travel to Bethlehem while nine-months pregnant, this could not have been a day full of leisure and comfort for Mary. Two days before His birth, Mary and Joseph were probably traveling. We conjure visions of the pregnant Mary riding on a donkey led by Joseph, going from inn to inn looking for a place to stay. Most women would be nesting, getting ready for the baby to come. Mary didn't have such pleasures.

The weeks leading up to our first daughter's birth, I was driving a 1957 VW pickup truck. I'm sure there were times when Dearest thought it would be better to be riding on the back of a donkey.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Great Expectations, Exhortations, Music to the Ears

"Long ago, the renowned author Charles Dickens wrote of opportunities that await. In his classic volume entitled Great Expectations, Dickens described a boy by the name of Philip Pirrip, more commonly known as Pip. Pip was born in unusual circumstances. He was an orphan. He wished with all his heart that he were a scholar and a gentleman. Yet all of his ambitions and all of his hopes seemed doomed to failure. Do you young men sometimes feel that way? Do those of us who are older entertain these same thoughts?

"Then one day a London lawyer by the name of Jaggers approached little Pip and told him that an unknown benefactor had bequeathed to him a fortune. The lawyer put his arm around the shoulder of Pip and said to him, 'My boy, you have great expectations.'

"Tonight, as I look at you young men and realize who you are and what you may become, I declare, 'You have great expectations'--not as the result of an unknown benefactor, but as the result of a known benefactor, even our Heavenly Father, and great things are expected of you."

Thomas S. Monson, "The Call for Courage," Ensign, May 2004, 54

Although I probably should not be, I am impressed with President Monson's practice of citing literature in his talks. I have always looked to General Conference with great anticipation for the opportunity to hear the prophet speak. However, President Monson's use of literary works within his talks tends to peek my interest. It certainly makes it easier for me to listen.

Easier . . .

Should it be easy to listen to the prophet? In a way, the great expectations we all have before us lead to a trail that is not easy to traverse unless we embrace the gospel and the Savior. Decisions we make might lead us to places we'll find to be hard.

The Savior pleaded for us to "come unto [Him], all . . . that labour and are heavy laden. and [He] will give [us] rest."

Is this the easy way? I know that when we consider the true consequences of such choices, it is difficult to suggest any other way is easier. Many times, however, we are faced with decisions and are blinded by our desire for instant gratification, a need to fit in, or our pride telling us we know better. If this were not true, the whole world would be choosing to embrace the Savior and His way.

Should listening to the Prophet be easy? I guess this has been something I've thought about for a while now. Does the ease with which I find listening to his message interfere with my ability to actually hear what he is telling me? Are we really in a position to have the easy given to us?

A discussion in which I involved myself a couple months ago touched on this very subject. In reference to General Conference, it was suggested the world was not in a place to hear the feel good but needed to be told what they were doing wrong. Does the uplifting message always feel good? Could a message from the prophet contend for necessary change yet still be easy to hear?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Achieve Inner Peace

Many of us are stressed. We live a life completely full of stress. Although many of the stresses we feel are beyond our control we can introduce some calm to our lives simply by following the advice Doctor Phil recently shared on his show. He said, “the way to achieve inner peace is to finish all the things you have started and have never finished.”

So, I looked around my house this morning before heading out to finish my Christmas preparations just to see what things I might have started and hadn’t finished. Wouldn’t you know it, there were a few things I could take care of right away. I finished a bottle of Merlot, a bottle of Zinfandel, a bottle of Bailey’s Irish Cream, a bottle of Kalua, a package of Oreos, the remainder of my old Prozac prescription, the rest of the cheesecake, some Doritos and a Hershey’s Chocolate Bar.

You have no idea how great I am feeling right now! Please share Doctor Phil's advice with others who might need help finding that inner peace.

The contents of this entry were blatantly plagiarized, based on an email my sister-in-law sent to my wife. I was just so tickled by the contents of that email that I had to share it here.

Friday, December 19, 2008

It's Killing Me!

Just before getting to work this morning, I'm sitting at a red light and without any real reason begin inching my way into the intersection like I'm going to sneak through before it's my turn to go. I'm not kidding. The light was red but there was very little traffic going in either of the other directions. So, I start moving forward as if the light or the few cars moving through the intersection are of no consequence. It's my road and my life, everyone else is just a nuisance - at least that seems to be what I was thinking. I came to my senses before it was too late. I either need to cut back on my commute or find some streets that do not require me to share with any other drivers. I bet those around me were wondering what I thought I was doing. Sadly, I have to admit I wasn't thinking at all. This week has been one very long commute after another. Every single day had something going on that made it unusually bad.

This week has been the absolute worst week ever for commuting in Los Angeles. I do not pretend to have sound evidence of this but from my perspective it could not have been much worse. It started out with rain and Angelenos' inability to adapt to weather. Seriously, if someone were to spit out their window the extreme moisture would cause traffic to back up at least a mile. The news services were riddled with reports of accidents, overturned trucks and street closures. Monday was not a good day to be on the roads. Tuesday wasn't a lot better. More overturned trucks, some jutting out over the middle divider into oncoming traffic. Such madness stops traffic in both directions, which is better than those times when a flat tire on the shoulder slows traffic going in the opposite direction worse than the traffic sharing lanes with the obstruction. By Wednesday, we were wet again. The sink holes were fixed but the traffic wasn't. My commute home exceeded three hours for no real explicable reason. Thursday was dry and cold but the traffic conditions did not improve much. I had to leave work early because I wanted to be sure I was not late for the choir concert at the High School. After a quick survey of the freeways, I realize that surface streets were my only option. I considered this a wise move and thought my commute would not exceed 2 hours 20 minutes. I was sorely mistaken. Overturned trucks again! Seriously, what is the deal with drivers this week. We cannot seem to stay out from under each other. Well, this time the overturned vehicles were enough to cause problems to spread throughout the freeway complexes. All roads east of Los Angeles were slowed to a crawl. My thoughts of avoiding the traffic by sticking to the surface streets were foiled by like-minded individuals trying the same tactic. 3 3/4 hours later, I arrive at the high school only moments before the concert is to begin.

This was my driving week in review, which brings us to this morning. . . Argh! I've got to figure a way to reduce my commute. Maybe mass transit is my only answer. At least then, I would have some sense of my commute's duration. There would never be a long commute day. Alas, there would never be a short one either.

Few people living outside the Los Angeles area have any real idea how good their commute really is. Most people live in a world blissfully unaware of how bad traffic can truly get. Tonight I'll be sitting in some of the worst traffic all year. It is the last Friday before Christmas, which means about two million of the 12 million residents in Los Angeles are getting out of town. They will get in the way of the rest of us who are just trying to get home. They will think they have good reason for interfering in the standard flows of traffic.They will blame the slow progression on the rest of us who are making this drive just like every other Friday night. Well, not just like since the added traffic will slow us to a complete stop. We'll count our blessings if the way is clear of accidents, stalled vehicles or other delays.

Seasons Greetings From Illinois

Some emails are just too good not to forward on to everyone you know. Well, since I am not the kind of guy to forward emails and I really thought this was quite funny, I'll share this one here. One of my employees from my job in Elgin, Illinois sent these lyrics which fit with the tune from "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen". So, imagine these words set to that tune (unless you really want to sing it out loud).

Get packin', Rod Blagojevich
The state's in disarray
The Tribune wants you unemployed
At least by Christmas Day.
The TV pundits want your head
Could there be pay to play?
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy
Save Illinois !
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy.

Good riddance Rod Blagojevich
Your Elvis look's inane,
The Senate's mad, so's Lisa's dad.
You drive us all insane.
Our transit's broke, the state's a joke,
The Tollway's one big pain.
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy
Save Illinois !
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy.

Good luck old Rod Blagojevich
The feds have quite a place.
Fitzgerald's poked his nose around
And if he has a case,
George Ryan's moving stuff around
Creating extra space.
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy
Save Illinois !
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Individual Discovery

I heard a story this week that had me wondering if I ever snuffed out the young inquisitive light of exploration. The storyteller explained that when she was a child, she found out for herself the effects of centrifugal force. She had placed a basket full of Easter eggs on a rope she had strung in a fashion like the gondola ride at Disneyland. Having grown tired of the gondola, she began swinging the rope and the gondola. She made it go higher and higher until eventually the basket continued over the top of the rope. Not a single egg dropped out of the basket. She had thought the eggs would fall out so she tried again. This time she would swing in the opposite direction. With the same result, the basket flipped over the top of the rope and not a single egg found its way to the floor. She was amazed at this discovery. So impressed was she that she called her father to the room and displayed her over the top find. He was not nearly as excited as she was, expressing irritation at the interruption. The storyteller was crestfallen.

Most everything we encounter in our lives has been discovered by someone else first. No matter how incredible, there is a great chance our lives will not uncover anything brand new. This, however, does not relieve us of our responsibility to continually seek out new knowledge and new discoveries. Our lives are so much more fulfilling when there is more to them than just the daily grind. What better way to add meaning to life than to continue developing as adults.

Knowing individual discoveries are likely to be less than astounding new revelations means we have significant responsibility to make every discovery our children make seem as meaningful as possible. New discoveries fuel the desire they will have to continue to learn. We should be seeking opportunities to make even the smallest milestone special.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The strangest things. . .

Strange stories tend to make me giggle. I look forward to seeing things that are different in the news. Those stories that make you laugh or think. I get tired of the same old stuff. It is amazing how much energy and time we spend focused on some events but totally gloss over others.

While reading through the news today, I found a story about a lady who some have claimed to have been the first reported case of sleep emailing - or zzz-mailing. I read the story with interest only because I've done this. Not email but I've sat at the computer composing what I thought would be an email or a blog post and, waking up, I find my comments are not nearly what I thought I was writing about. I should have saved my comments though because they were funny. The sleep emailing story can be found here.

Another recent news item of interest is about this family in Pennsylvania who've had a little problem getting their son's birthday cake decorated. I guess the cake decorators refused to put the child's whole name on the cake. The boy's name: Adolf Hitler Campbell. The child is only three years old so I am pretty sure he doesn't realize the commotion is about him. The parents have named their other two children with similar names (JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell, 2 years old; Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell, 1 year old). I won't even begin to consider what I could say about the parents. Adolf is a common enough name in some places in this world - not in America, too much baggage. Happy Birthday Adolf Hitler can be read here.

Even Santa's political ties in New York city couldn't protect him from the parking ticket. Although the politician and the children present weren't happy about the turn of events, a policeman ticketed the SUV that was following Santa's horse-drawn sleigh, carrying gifts and protecting the sleigh from traffic. I think too many people believe certain laws do not apply to them. I think too little enforcement encourages this kind of behavior. The police haven't commented but the politician has given lip service of support for Santa. Nothing in the story here suggests what the ultimate outcome might be.

I'm a pet owner so I found this story reporting a staggering 67% of pet owners claim their pets can talk. The USA Today story continues to report 62% of pet owners assert the pets understand when they speak to them. Look, I love my pets as much as the next guy. I enjoy rough-housing with the dogs, wrestling and knocking them around. When they start to growl or whine or get vocal in most any other way, I'm not going to pretend I know what they might be saying. As for my dogs understanding me? Well, they certainly undestand the tone in my voice. I would not consider claiming they understand what the message is. A shocking story, for sure.

A few months after we first married, I prepared baked chicken for dinner. This wasn't just any baked chicken. This meal will go down in infamy since I over used garlic salt in the seasoning of the bird. Yep, this was a garlic encrusted meal. Dearest and I still joke about that night's epicure dinner. I was reminded of this sad point of my history when I read about the small town in Iowa who is using donated garlic salt as icemelt for their roads. It seems Tone Brothers Inc. donated the salt to the city instead of sending it off to the landfill.

Back to my favorite subject, Politics. It seems that Barack Obama's cabnet picks are pretty good basketball payers. The president-elect himself has reportedly claimed he was possibly putting together "the best basketball-playing Cabinet in American history." USA Today reported today that many of Barack Obama's new advisors could add a little something about basketball to their resume.

The president-elect's national security adviser, General James Jones played forward for Georgetown University in the early 60s. Susan Rice, the nominee to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, was a star point guard at the National Cathedral School in Washington. Eric Holder, nominated for attorney general, played B-Ball for Stuyvsant High School in New York City. Timothy Geithner, who is supposed to take over for Henry Paulson as Treasury secretary is reported as saying he "hates to miss a pickup basketball game." This is just the beginning.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Farewell Kiss!

"This is a farewell kiss, you dog!" exclaimed Muntadar al-Zaidi as he threw his first shoe at President Bush. This was quickly followed by another shoe that he dedicated to the widows and orphans of the Iraq war.

Throwing shoes is an age old custom. Traces of this custom are readily available in just about every town you might visit in the United States. Inexplicably, evidence is strewn about small towns and large cities alike. Dispersed about tree branches and hanging from telephone and power-lines, the errant shoes and the symbol expressed by them hang for all to see.

It has to be true that in the course of the past eight years, just about everyone, their brother and their dogs (not cats, they don't want anything to do with shoes or politics) have wanted to show displeasure with the Bush administration for one thing or another by tossing the closest thing at hand in the President's general direction. I'm not advocating physically harming the man but expressions of such frustration cannot always be suppressed.

I might be alone in the United States but I stand with others across this world who call for the release of Mr. al-Zaidi. He hadn't any intention of harming President Bush but wanted to express his displeasure. I cannot condemn this man's actions - shoes hanging from power-lines and tree branches, on the other hand; that's just plain rash.

Monday, December 15, 2008

What a novel idea.

So, I'm reading various headlines when I come across this one that says:

Italy to prop up iconic Parmesan industry by buying and giving cheese to the poor

I'm thinking that sounds pretty interesting so I go on to read the article. If you would like you can read it here.

I know the US Automotive industry is claiming that because of dropping car sales in the United States, they've been having a really hard time lately. They're off to Washington twice in as many months, hat in hand, seeking some financial help (Bail out) from the taxpayer. I've not thought all too kindly on the industry leaders. They've had 30 years to figure this out and now that the time has come to pay the piper, they're regretting the dance they've chosen to dance.

I'd would prefer the government stay out of this all-together but. . . if the government is going to be "giving" away money. Why don't they learn a lesson from Italy. Odd thought that. Big ol' United States learning from Italy. How many cars could we buy for 19 billion dollars? How many poor in the United States might find their way out of their dire situations if they just had some reliable transportation?

I don't know. There is a big difference between the 66 million dollars the Italian government has dedicated to their welfare project and the 19 billion (and counting) the Automobile industry is seeking. At least, there would be something to show for our money this way.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

And so it begins . . .

No one would ever plan to live their final moments in such a place. White washed walls, white tiled floors, and starched bed sheets belie the nefarious reality. The stark light and faint hum bleeding from florescent lights cannot overpower the miasma of death that pervades the stale air. The forgotten residents relying wholly on the state, pretending to live, are in a holding pattern that can stretch out for days, weeks or even years. Contrary to their deepest hope, some grasp with all they have for the torturous yet familiar life rather than embracing the inevitable but unknown pale of death.
So, there it begins. It has become something more than a thought in my head where it has rattled around for well over eight years. Maybe, just maybe, it will become something far more. We'll have to wait and see.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Political Machines in Our Past

I’m not a native Illinoisan; I don’t play one on TV. I did live in the state for just shy of 10 years. That time was spent about two hours south of Cook County. Well, most of it was anyway. I lived in Cook County during the week for about nine months, though. This, however, does not make me an expert. It doesn’t give me license to spout out like I know something about politics in the windy city, which is why I’ve remained rather silent on the subject over the past week.

I heard about the good governor’s problems early enough to be able to deliver the news to a few who hadn’t heard yet. One of the responses was nothing more than some very strongly negative feelings about Rodney R. Blagojevich. The voting public mostly accepted that he was as crooked as a barrel of snakes – about as slimy too. There’s just something about the politics of Chicago that makes me nauseous. For nearly 10 years, I found myself looking at the statewide elections and those on the ballot and seeing nothing but bad and worse as my choices. Am I surprised at the news this week? No.

Now, recently, we elected a fellow from the Chicago political machine to the highest office in the land. President-elect Barack Obama knew these men with whom he had to rub elbows as he ran for public office. I’m not going to get into the “you know a man by the company he keeps” arguments. For the record, I believe Mr. Obama is a pretty honest man. I hope I am not proven wrong. Anyway, I’m pretty certain our president-elect knew very well the caliber of men with whom he was rubbing elbows. I’m sure there are some skeletons in his closet. That’s one of the hazards of playing the game on the Chicago turf.

So, Mr. President-elect has this off-the-wall guy who’s been elected to be the state governor, a nobody who came from nowhere. He was elected to a couple of good political jobs and now he’s somebody. He’s somebody with some very interesting political problems but you just cannot pick and choose your associates in the windy city. You see, like everywhere else, that’s the job of the voters. So, Mr. Obama is pretty much forced to play with the likes of Blagojevich because that is how you get things done. They aren’t blood brothers or anything.

So, here’s something that Barack Obama probably knew all too well. His past associates in Chicago were possibly going to pop up in some kind of scandal in some way at some time. It was only a matter of time before something was going to happen. This Governor guy, he was one of these guys. The worst part of this, however, was that Mr. Governor would have the power to pick his successor. This loose cannon, rolling around and smashing things up was going to be a problem. Mr. Obama certainly recognized that such a scandal would be distracting and embarrassing. Do you think he is the kind of guy to just sit back and wait for something to happen? Or, did he see an opportunity to clean up a little bit.

A month or so post-election and the “Yes We Can” frenzy is over. We’ve got a little over a month before the inauguration so the “We’re Changing the World” fever has not had a chance to kick into gear. Mr. Obama has been assembling his “Team of Rivals” for his cabinet. He has placed most of his main opponents from the primaries safely in positions within his administration, giving them secure positions in history for the next few years. Barack has done a pretty good job managing the media, though that isn’t too difficult since the economy is keeping everyone distracted and Christmas is only a couple weeks away.

Slow news cycle, distractions and . . . Bam! One morning at 6:45, the FBI knocks on the door of Rodney’s home. “I’m special agent . . . from the FBI and I’m here to place you under arrest.”

After a quick surge of news interest that won’t last long and damage control in the right places at the right time, Governor Blagojevich will be out of the picture and Mr. Obama will be free of any ties he might have had with the slime ball. The Governor is toast. The replacement senator will be selected in some other way, lending some credibility that would otherwise not exist. It’s a twofer!

I am enjoying this political stage play. I am left wondering, though, what will the next act bring!

Layoffs and Volitile Markets

It's telling when the news story is about who isn't going to be doing any layoffs...

Doom and gloom, that is all you hear any more on broadcast news about the economy. Talk radio hosts are fumbling over themselves to focus on the negative. People are taking it in as doctrine, embracing the news as if it were foreordained. Universities doing research on the economy all pretty much agree that the foreseeable future holds nothing but the doom and gloom. Layoffs and market instability will continue through next year. That's the news. Even CNBC's Kudlow has done little more than strain to find a small hope on which to pin our future in this inauspiciously tortured financial landscape. Few organizations aren't in the bread line, lining up for some kind of relief, bailout or governmental aid. Few people can see what will happen in the next week through the dense fog of pink slips. Looking beyond next week seems far more impossible.

The Senate has gone outside the box and rejected the bail out for the Automotive industry. Some are suggesting the skies will fall, now. I think, though, that there are better solutions. The government is not the only possible way for these organizations to pull through. It is possible that Chapter 11 bankruptcy would bring the necessary relief these organizations need to restructure for today's market. Maybe we need to work out a way for this to happen. It won't happen if the government pays their piper for the dance they've been dancing over the past 30 years!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Dassen Saseru (Derailed)

There are many times when circumstances prevent desired action. The world waits for no man, life goes on. Whether we participate in progress or we sit on the side of the street holding our heads in our hands, rocking as if to comfort ourselves, as the parade passes us by, it is the same. At least, time sees no reason to pause. When our emotions demand we take a break although the incessant pace of life prevents any such possibility, we continue going through the motions - doing only that which must be done but accomplishing very little else. The hope, at least, is that no one recognizes anything is different. The hope is we can carry on the charade skillful enough as to prevent betrayal of the truth. It is hopeless of course. Hiding the struggle is certainly no more possible than convincing all who see a freight train in the number 2 lane of the Golden State Freeway that nothing is out of place. The proverbial thousand pound gorilla is only invisible to the one struggling to keep anchored to a reality that hardly exists.

Each morning is met as the previous thirty. Climbing out of bed to realize the reality is not the dream and the dream is not the reality. Waking to a reality that could only be accepted as the nightmare you wish would end but is only beginning anew – the new day embraces yesterday, seizing the old burdens.

Cracks form beneath the steel wheels, concrete and asphalt rend under undue pressures. The freight train continues forward as if it belongs except for the ruinous slipstream. A wake of destruction rather than a celebration of triumph, the freight train can do nothing but go forward, neither turning left nor right without the solid, stout rails to guide the way. Working, struggling to find the rails again before too much is lost.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Oh, the Drama!

Terry Goodkind has written a rather impressive series called by the name of the weapon bestowed on the main protagonist at the beginning of the first book, The Sword of Truth. Although I haven’t completed the series, what I have read has been a joy. Mr. Goodkind provides a fantastical account with significant detail, a plot that twists its way beautifully through each book and subplots that provide enough closure at the end of each installment to relieve the reader of the frustration that so frequently accompanies serial novels.

Upon hearing about the creation of a television series based on these books, I was very excited. I neglected any leery feelings I might have had in favor of the hope this series would be at least half as good as the books. Certain disappointment resulted from the first episode and has repeated with almost every installment since. Although the producers stated they wanted to be able to diverge from the storyline as indicated in the books, I was not prepared for a complete neglect for or semblance to the story as originally written. Right from the start, blaring and wanton inconsistencies eliminated any hope that the dramatization would hardly resemble the books beyond the sword the main character might carry.

Television has been a source of much consternation over the years. Although much is available to suggest redeeming qualities may exist, the difficulty to find the needle of hope in the haystack of garbage is nothing short of unthinkable. What is supposed to be a public service has turned into a money grabbing debauchery. Even with this understanding, it is very disappointing when the opportunity to hit a home run is bypassed for obscure reasons. Drama, situation comedy and documentary alike could be so much more impressive. The network and local news programs are not any different. The news tends to focus on the sensational leaving little room for true substance. How rare it is to hear a news story on anything from the scientific or medical fields! Certainly, we can turn to the specialized broadcasts but the lack of science or medicine news is indicative of broader problems. Like almost all other programming found on television, news is a vehicle to sell advertising. The free market does not always provide for a better quality service. When 90% of the viewership is clambering for a certain kind of television, programmers are going to respond. Sadly, the majority has far more time they like to devote to viewing the same garbage that already overwhelms the airways.

The normal problems with the conflict between that which is normally accepted by the majority and quality programming has nothing to do with what has happened with the Legend of the Seeker television show. I just do not understand the purpose behind these changes. I simply do not understand. I don’t know if the market for this program extends much beyond those who have already read the books. It would probably not surprise many to find the Legend of the Seeker’s divergence from the story as written by Mr. Goodkind could repulse a good segment of otherwise loyal viewers.

I wholeheartedly recommend the books for their entertainment value. Although the tomes aren't necessarily written for those who like to finish a book in an evening's read, they are artfully written and very enjoyable. I cannot suggest the same for the television show. I'll probably continue to watch these shows but try my best to separate them completely from the books.