Sunday, November 28, 2010

Catching Up After Thanksgiving

I left the big city for a few days to enjoy my mother's home cooking and celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends. And I have found that when I leave town, I rarely check in with the world to keep up with what's going on.

I think they call that "vacation".

After all, it's Thanksgiving. Most everything is closed. What could possibly happen that would be newsworthy, right?

Well, as they say, let me "catch you up".

The Saints squeaked past the newly-invigorated Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day. Unfortunately, the LSU Tigers couldn't do the same against Arkansas on Saturday.

But the game that really broke my heart was the one I didn't get to watch: the 107th playing of Michigan vs. Ohio State. I'm not a fan of either team, but each year I try to catch that historic match-up, made famous by the 1983 hit movie "The Big Chill". And I usually try to watch the movie some time before the game, just to get me in the mood.

...not that watching the "Saintsations" didn't!

Sarah Palin Does It Again
On Wednesday, during a radio interview with Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin (former Governor of Alaska / former Republican candidate for VP / spokesmodel for the Tea Party / potential Presidential candidate in 2012) commented on the recent attack by North Korea on South Korea. Here's quote #1:

"This is stemming from, I think, a greater problem when we're all sitting around asking, 'Oh no, what are we going to do,' and we're not having a lot of faith that the White House is going to come out with a strong enough policy to sanction what it is that North Korea is going to do."

Huh? Does she know that "sanction" means "to approve"? Is she calling for America's approval of the unprovoked artillery pounding of civilian dwellings in South Korea by the North Korean army?
You decide. Here's quote #2:
"Obviously, we gotta stand with our North Korean allies."
So maybe she does know what "sanction" means. She just doesn't know who our allies are!
Doesn't she remember President Bush's "Axis of Evil"??? 
And this from the woman who would be President?!?
Later, she tried to write it off as the liberal media on another one of their smear campaigns against her. "Anybody could make that mistake," she noted. "During the campaign, Obama said there are 57 states in the U.S."
But try explaining your "little slip" at the next VFW gathering you speak at, to a room filled with Korean War vets -- like my father -- who fought to stop the spread of Communism into South Korea, who drew the line at the 38th parallel.  
If nothing else, walk the Mall in Washington D.C. and familiarize yourself with the monuments there.
Speaking of Palins, despite a concerted effort by some to make a political statement by voting multiple times for Sarah's daughter, Bristol ended in 3rd place in the finals of "Dancing with the Stars".
[Editor's note: Sorry, no picture here. I just couldn't stomach it.]
Now can we get on to more important stuff???
Dr. Laura is On The Air
For those who have been hiding under a rock of recent, Dr. Laura Schlessinger has been on the radio and television since 1975. Although her PhD is in physiology -- her thesis was about the effect of insulin on laboratory rats -- that didn't stop the state of California from giving her a license to dispense marriage and familiy advice, along with a few conservative political commentaries, which she offers freely.
Despite an on-air rant back in August of this year, in which she repeated the "N-word" eleven times to a black woman who called in seeking advice, Dr. Laura continues to answer the phone lines. Although officially canned from her show, she doesn't leave the airwaves until the end of December.
And, by the way, if I said "that" from the pulpit just once, I would be immediately yanked and forever banished!
But this is America, and there seems to be a place for every inconsiderate, mean-spirited, foul-mouthed personality.
We call it "satellite radio". 
Yes, Dr. Laura goes off to the unregulated world of Sirius/XM Radio to join the likes of shock-jock Howard Stern, where she will be able to say and do whatever the voices in her twisted little brain want her to say and do. And, like Stern before her, she will make more money saying it.
Isn't America a great country? Where you are free to say and do pretty much anything you want?
Willie Nelson
Unless you're Willie Nelson. On Friday, the border patrol at Sierra Blanca, Texas, pulled over Willie's tour bus. As they opened the door to inspect the interior of the bus, one officer reportedly "smelled marijuana".
On Willie Nelson's tour bus? You've got to be kidding!
A thorough search turned up 6 ounces of the illegal herb and Nelson and three others were arrested.
Aw, c'mon, dudes! Six ounces? Really?
Besides, stopping Willie Nelson's tour bus to look for pot is like stopping the Good Humor Ice Cream truck looking for...
...ahem cream.
Willie remained composed throughout, and admitted the stash was his. He refused to comment on the matter, other than the following prepared statement:

And that's the news!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Pet Peeve

Okay, so the other day the question came up: what is a Peeve, and why would someone keep it as a pet?

So I did an internet search, and came up with this:

But that still doesn't answer the question why someone would keep it as a pet!

More research to follow.

Anyway, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I go to the gym -- a "24-Hour Fitness" on Ridgeway, just a couple blocks north of Ridgeway High School.

The Ridgeway High campus originally include Ridgeway Middle School until a couple years ago. And I always thought it was interesting -- if not downright absurd -- that there was a posted "School Zone" for the Middle School that ended between the two drives of the High School.

Apparently, in Memphis we love our Middle Schoolers more than our High Schoolers!

But as a I was saying, a couple years ago, the school board moved the Middle School to another location and converted that building to a "Freshman Academy", an isolated setting to help transition students from Middle School to High School.

Not surprisingly, they left the school zone signs as they were.

Anyway, back to the gym. I usually get there about 6:30 a.m. and leave around 7:30 a.m.

Yeah... no!

As I am returning home, students are arriving for school.

Now, Ridgeway is a major north-south thoroughfare. There are three lanes each direction, plus a center turn lane. The posted speed limit is 40 m.p.h., meaning traffic usually flows at 50 m.p.h.

At 7:30 in the morning, there are cars and teenagers everywhere. Students walk from every direction, crossing streets apparently unaware of designated crosswalks. A circular drive allows parents to drop their kids off at the front door of the school, but since that path is usually congested, many just stop in the center turn-lane and make their kids hop out into traffic. Buses line the curb in front of the school, obscuring view for those trying to exit the parking lot.

It reminds me of the old video game, "Frogger"!

I often think the school zone sign should be changed to this:

Moving on, about two blocks south on Ridgeway sits Ridgeway Baptist Church, a large church complex with a large, carefully designed parking lot. On the church's campus is Westminster Academy, another one of Memphis' private Christian schools that enables rich white parents to protect their children from having to mingle with the African-American children that make up 98% of the Memphis City Schools after integration was instituted.

Yet, despite being a private Christian school with an easily-accessible parking lot where caravans of minivans drop off their precious cargo at the front door -- no one walks to Westminster! -- they have a designated school zone!

...with flashing lights!!!

For the block-and-a-half that the church occupies, the speed limit is mandated to 15 m.p.h. as the children arrive and when they leave!


I have thought about writing to complain to the city, but I was afraid my complaint would be seen as being petty... petty as it sounds when I write it here!


*     *     *     *    *

Wine News Alert!

The 2010 Beaujolais Nouveaus were released on Thursday. You can read my excitement about this annual event in a post from last year found here.

Unfortunately, I bought three bottles of 2009 and it all tasted... how do the French say it?... "Horrible!" Most reviews I read after tasting the swill spoke of "hints of bananas".


Use your own judgement in buying.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Hard About!

According to David Gibson, religion reporter for “Politics Daily”, the American Humanist Association has gone on the offensive this Christmas season with an advertising campaign attacking Christianity.

Picking from the abundance of scripture we are not so proud of, the AHA is making a case against Christianity at this most holy season of the year.

"The people of Samaria must bear their guilt, because they have rebelled against their God. They will fall by the sword; their little ones will be dashed to the ground, their pregnant women ripped open."

The Biblical quote is followed with a quote from a pop icon like Albert Einstein, who once said, "I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own -- a God, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty."

Granted, it’s a small campaign. It only has a $200,000 budget, which won’t take it far. But, according to the AHA, the goal is to show “that secular humanist values are consistent with mainstream America and that fundamentalist religion has no right to claim the moral high ground.”


Note to the AHA: Jesus didn’t die to secure “the moral high ground”. He died to restore humankind to a right relationship with God… something neither humanism nor atheism nor reason – no matter how good – can provide.

Small though it is, the AHA campaign concerns me because is not alone this holiday season. The United Coalition of Reason is advertising, “Don’t believe in God? Join the Club.”

The American Atheists have posted ads depicting the Nativity, with the words: “You Know It’s A Myth. This Season Celebrate Reason.”

The Freedom from Religion Foundation is spending $55,000 on a campaign showing average Americans saying things like, “I like baking, biking & sleeping in on Sundays.”

Hmmm. Now that you mention it, so do I.

After centuries of Christianity waging war against non-believers, the prevailing winds seem favorable for non-believers to strike back. But, after hundreds of years of complacency as the conquering religion in the land, is Christianity today prepared to engage the battle again?

I have received a lot of emails over the years from the Religious Right decrying the removal of prayer from public schools and Judeo-Christian displays from public places. They hate the accommodation of “Happy Holidays” over “Merry Christmas” in the market place. They fear the removal of “In God We Trust” from U.S. currency and “One Nation Under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance.

My response to all of these concerns has been consistent: It is not the place of the federal government or the public schools or the shopping malls to promote and maintain the Christian faith. That is specifically the responsibility of the Church and individual Christians.

Yet these are but small skirmishes. The battle is still to be engaged.

We don’t have to be crass or shrill about it, but we should at least teach our own children to pray, by word and example; and they will pray – at school or wherever – and no one can prevent them. We should teach our own children that the “12 Days of Christmas” don’t start the day after Thanksgiving! We should teach generosity and hospitality by example, welcoming the stranger in our midst and reaching out with compassion to the least among us.

But, for the most part, we don’t. It seems we’re not willing to make the effort – or take a risk – for Jesus.

And so we send out emails to our like-minded friends from the comfort and safety of our homes.

But that’s not how Christianity became the predominant faith of the western world. In Acts 20, a narrative about the beginning decades of Christianity, the apostle Paul addresses the elders of the Church at Ephesus, sharing with them his next course of action:

“And now, as a captive of the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and persecutions are waiting for me.”

Who among us would go with Paul?

It is time for the Church to rally! This is not a “Call to Arms” (because I’m a peace-lovin’ pirate!) but a “Call to Action”! We can no longer count on others to do our work. If Christianity is to survive the current onslaught from the secular world, it is up to those of us who call themselves “Christians” and “Believers” to engage the battle.

Again, it is not about “the moral high ground”. It is about our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

"The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee..."

Yesterday morning, while getting ready for my day, I was playing my IPod for background music. The Gordon Lightfoot song, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" came on.

Yes, I know. I have quirky musical tastes. Does that surprise anyone?

As I listened to the song, I thought to myself, "Self, how in the world did that song become a popular hit?"

Granted, it was recorded in 1976, when good music was hard to come by. But seriously -- a spooky ballad about the wreck of an iron freighter on one of the Michigan lakes?

In "Dave Barry's Book of Bad Songs", the columnist writes, "Talk about your party tunes! Just put this song on the stereo and crank up the volume; then sit back and watch as your guests suddenly realize it's time to leave!"

Nonetheless, the tune immediately shot to #1 on the pop charts in Canada, then #2 on the Billboard charts in America. And suddenly, children all over North America could name the five bodies of water that make up Michigan's Great Lakes!

Huron... Ontario... Michigan... Erie... Superior! (Hint: the first letter of each lake spells "HOMES"!)

A couple years ago I found the words and chords to the song. I picked up my guitar and started to play -- fairly simple since there are only three chords. But I got half way through the song and grew bored.

Concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms
When they left fully loaded for Cleveland
And later that night when the ships bell rang
Could it be the North Wind they'd been feeling.


Anyway, yesterday morning, as I listened to the song, I decided that I would, in a free moment, do a little research on the song.

So it came as quite a surprise when, last night as I was finally able to sit down and check the newspapers, I came across an article in USA Today on the Edmund Fitzgerald. As it turns out, tomorrow is the 35th anniversary of the ship's sinking.

The Captain wired in he had water coming in
And the good ship and crew was in peril
And later that night when his lights went out of sight
Came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Literally thousands of ships like the Edmund Fitzgerald rest on the floor of the Great Lakes. This one, however, caught the imagination of Gordon Lightfoot and he wrote about it. And to this day, the ship's sinking has been a mystery that has received almost as much attention as the sinking of the Titanic.

They might have split up or they might have capsized
They may have broke deep and took water
And all that remains is the faces and the names
Of the wives and the sons and the daughters.

I don't know what any of this means. Some of my friends would say my hearing the song yesterday was merely a coincidence. Others of my friends -- okay, just one! -- would argue that the voices of the 29 sailors who died on the Edmund Fitzgerald are crying out to me.

Whatever the reason, this is my tribute the men who died on that ship 35 years ago.

In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed
In the Maritime Sailors' Cathedral
The church bell chimed, 'til it rang 29 times
For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

On Tuesday's Elections

"Release the Kraken!"


Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween 2010 Re-Cap

Another Halloween has past, so I guess it's time to get serious again as we look toward Thanksgiving and Christmas. But before we move on, here's a re-cap of last night's fun:


This was the first one of the afternoon. It's supposed to be Elmo.

I know. As my elementary school teachers often told me, "Not your best work!"

So I did another one.

I don't know who it is supposed to be. Sometimes the pumpkins just speak to me.

I think it was Michelangelo who said that his job as a sculptor was simply to release the beauty captured within the block of granite.

Or something like that.

Then we ordered a pizza, sat down to watch an "Addams Family" marathon, and waited for the children to come.

I'm thinking next year's Halloween costume might be Gomez Addams!

To go with the pizza, I opened a special bottle of wine I picked up in Atlanta just for this occasion. It's called "PoiZin" -- "a wine to die for!"

Overlooking the screw-cap, I think it was a pretty tasty Zinfandel. I should have bought more. It's not available in Tennessee... due to TN's oppressive wine laws.

But it is available on-line. But again, TN law forbids wine being shipped into the state.

Bottled by Armida Winery in Healdsburg, CA, they also sell a Pinot Grigio they call "Antidote" and an $80 version of PoiZin that comes with a wax seal and in a small wooden coffin.

Christmas present, anyone???

So, from about 7-9 p.m., we treated more than 125 children. Most got a foot-long Laffy Taffy, and small children were given gummy fruit snacks. Teenagers and those who didn't bother to put on a costume got Dum-Dums.

Dum-Dums also went to those who didn't bother to show up: "This bag's for my sister at home."

Yeah, right.

We were pleased to recognize some of the trick-or-treaters as children who came to this summer's Vacation Bible School and our Fall Carnival. And they recognized us too!


And a good time was had by all.

I love Halloween!