Friday, January 30, 2009

the big game

Some blog posts are intended to be deep, serious, cathartic, and confessional-a meaty feeding of the soul. This one is a Tic-Tac. Not all the output of the cerebral cortex has to be...well...cerebral. I'm sure even Jesus and His disciples sometimes engaged in regular chit chat, guy talk, not worthy of the canon. I can picture Peter, reclined beside a campfire, his belly happy with roast fish and wine, saying, "Hey, Andy, remember the time I bet that kid from Tiberias a goat I could sail to Capernaum and back before dark?" Today, they might be talkin' football.

Men the world over are beside themselves, pee-in-their-pants anxious for Sundays showdown-at least the men portrayed in beer commercials and big screen TV ads. February 2nd (or whatever the date of The Game in a given year) has become as much an American holiday and excuse for a party as Labor Day and July 4th. Just yesterday my Mom told me she saw somewhere (I don't recall where-one of the news sources she trusts-The View, or Regis it..Kelly?...or the Oprah) that Americans spend more in grocery stores in the days leading up to The Game than before Thanksgiving! But I must confess, I don't really give a hoot. I don't own a jersey of any team of any sport. Don't get me wrong. I'll often watch a game throughout the season-NCAA and NFL, but I'm not really "for" anybody. I sort of like the Colts, mainly because my son does and Peyton (and Tony Dungy) seems less obnoxious than some. And I'll certainly participate in the ritual of watching Sunday's Game. I mean, such a rare oppurtunity to spend hours on end sitting on the sofa, gorging myself on Grandma Utz's, shrimp, ham salad, cheese, and designer crackers, without looks of derision, can't be missed. Sometimes, but not always, The Game itself is actually worth watching. I can not say I enjoy-or even understand-the expert, insider's view, John Maddenesque analysis of each game and every play. "We'll see how their Slant T, double wing, Seam Sealer defense holds up against the Quik Draw, dotted i, plumbers crack offense..." And I doubt the psuedo-omniscience the analysts try to impress us with. "On that last play the left guard, Tony "Bumperhead" Belinski jumped off sides because Arnie "Barnacle Lips" Saskatchewan, the nose tackle, laughed at his earring." I suspect if the players overheard Madden's, and his ilk's, details they'd think it was a different game. I know, of course, there is nuance hidden in the chaotic violence. I actually played football in 8th grade-actually a simplified version for junior highers. We just lined up on the 40, and drove towards the goal line until we were out of downs. I was a tackle. (that's where they put the kids who were slow, didn't understand the game very well, big enough to have wall value, and couldn't catch the ball if it and their hands were covered in Velcro-it's the "right field" of football.) Even then, in the T-Ball version of football, there was a thick playbook we were all supposed to memorize. The plays had names like Red 64 and Blue 23. The names, if you did your homework, would tell you who was getting the ball, what "hole" they were planning to run through, and what role you had in creating that hole. Usually, however, when I played offense, by the time I remembered-do I gap left? pull, run through the center hole? it was too late-I had, by then, been run over by our fullback or their linebacker. I did OK as a defensive tackle though. The playbook for that side of the ball, especially for linemen (the coach, I'm sure, assumed most of the defensive linemen coudn't read by 8th grade) was much simpler, and I didn't have to start from that "3 point stance". I could half stand up and just look ready for attack-like a gorilla-and try to disembowel whoever was holding the ball. That was the year, by the way, of the famous Joe Namath Jets, Earl Morrall Colts game. On the Friday before the game (Jan. 10, 1969) when I arrived at the door of Mrs. Scott's (a.k.a. "Bat") classroom, my homeroom, I had to participate in a poll of Game picks. I took The Jets, mainly because being Namath, in '69, seemed much more appealing than any of the Colts. I bet, the night before the game the Colts all ate raw beef, were in bed by 9, and slept on plywood-cause it makes 'em tough. Namath was probably cruising Miami in a Corvette convertible with 2 models until dawn, drinking Johnny Walker out of the bottle. So, my pick was easy. I got booed by my classmates, and when the 7:55 buzzer signaled the end of the poll, I was the only Jets vote!

Have you noticed I have NOT used the words ''Super" and "Bowl" in succession, if at all. Why? The NFL doesn't allow it. I heard a furniture store ad yesterday-"If a touchdown is scored on the opening kickoff of The Big Game your purchases are free". An area radio station gave away tickets to their Football Party. This use of creative euphemisms piqued my curiosity. It turns out the NFL owns that phrase-the one with "super" and "bowl" capitalized and in that order. They are quite selective about who can use it and how-primarily based on whether you've paid a licensing fee. So, not being able to afford that (unless it's, like, $35) I've cautiously avoided a violation. But what if I were Bemis or American Standard? If I wanted to name my jumbo-sized
toilet The Super B---l, would that be against the rules? Surely, no one will confuse an extra large crapper with a football game. And, why hasn't the NFL, in it's greed for revenue, sold naming rights to this Game? Sara Lee would surely pay big to have the game renamed the Ty-D-Bol, or I think either of the 2 aforementioned plumbing fixture manufacturers would love to underwrite a Toilet Bowl. But they're smarter than I. They must be. They've managed to make coverage of a 3 hour contest last 8 hours or more. They've managed to recruit credible stars for halftime like Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Bono and, in '89, The Diet Coke Be Bop BeDazzled in 3D, featuring Elvis Presto (I didn't make that up-look it up. In fact Mr. Presto's visage is below.) So I'll refrain from infringing on their copyright. SUPER BOWL, SUPER BOWL, SUPER BOWL, SUPER BOWL...sorry, I couldn't hold it any longer.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009


I've been thinking about...thinking. If others could experience your thoughts as they occur, what would the experience be like? Would your thoughts be a stream of type, like the headlines that crawl across the bottom of the TV screen on, say, CNN or Fox News? Would they be a soundtrack, like a book-on-tape? Or would they be, like mine, videos with a narrator, like You Tube? I guess most people think visually, but it would be interesting to see. Do your thoughts occur single file, like the CNN crawler or a series of You Tube videos, or are they, like mine, a swirling kaleidoscope of imagery and soundtracks firing simultaneously and overlapping, competing for focus and prominence and attention? (Maybe I should delete that in case it's not normal and my imaginary audience will suspect I'm...unwound). Assuming your thoughts are visual in nature, what do you do with things unseen? Do you "see" the voices on radio, and then struggle to correct the image filed in your brain if you meet the voice? Did you, like me, initially think when the Lord of the Rings movies came out, "that's not what Bilbo or Frodo looks like!" (They did, however, get Gandalf right.) After adjusting to the Harry Potter, Hermione, Ron, and Hogwarts of the movies, my mental picture when reading later Potters had updated to their on screen version. And, how do you"see" God? Do you, when praying or meditating or seeking His presence hold onto a childhood image? Do you borrow images from The Shack or other literature? My dear friend, a pastor, and my spiritual parole officer recently used the imagery of "crawling onto Papa's lap" to lead into a congregational time of prayer.
Last evening, I stood at an intersection of paths-one Christ honoring, the other a dead-end, spiritually oblivious. I failed the test. I took the path of turning a cold shoulder, a deaf ear on one of Jesus' sheep that sought my help. That very day, my morning reading was about modeling Christ's love and gentleness, and felt moved to do so. Eight hours later, presented with an opportunity, I lapsed right back into heartlessness, ignoring a man in need. I realized it, but after the opportunity had passed. It bothered me all night. There has been a recent string of such failures. I showed absolutely no compassion to an elderly neighbor, who, deteriorating with Alzheimer's, had the nerve to inconvenience me by wandering into our home unannounced. What a lesson I learned when my wife, Lori, put her arms around him, saying Oh, Honey, and gently, lovingly, helped him home. I felt like the village buffoon. Again, only a few weeks later, an auto mechanic dropped the ball getting my son's car ready for him. There was an important deadline, with plenty of time to get it done, but it was not. Dissatisfaction was a proper response. But I unloaded with both barrels-loudly, profanely, directed at people not really responsible-and in front of my son. A teachable moment indeed. I taught him I'm an idiot. Once again, I felt terrible 24 hours later, and in fact, apologized to the garageman with whom I am still friends. Then last evening, while I was on the phone and feeling annoyed by business stuff, a man came into my business seeking work. He specifically ask if I might need him to clean snow off of cars. I blew him off-"No, Sorry," and right back to the phone. Minutes later I began thinking what courage it would take, what neediness would prompt a middle-aged man to seek such menial work. Maybe all he wanted was enough to buy a bottle of Thunderbird, but Jesus would have engaged him and found out, not just hope he'd leave.
Tuesday mornings I usually meet in Hanover with a couple of brothers (including the aforementioned parole officer) with whom I've shared these recent failures. It's about a 40 minute drive, so the trip there is an opportunity to seek God's blessing on the conversation to come, meditate on and pray about many areas of my life. Today, as I approached my Father to
"discuss" my newest failure the image of God, the picture, in my thoughts was a new one. Ronald Reagan. Picture Ronald Reagan during the famous debate with Jimmy Carter, when in response to some Carter point, Reagan got that twinkle in his eyes, tilted his head just a little like everyone's gentle, sympathetic Grampa, pursed his lips in that "you know better" way, and said, "There you go again...". In four words he made Jimmy Carter look like a sheepish little boy wearing his Dad's suit, playing President. That's exactly the "look" I got from God in my mind. An already knowing, gently rebuking, slow shake of the head, but an encouraging, still loving, Grampa like twinkle in his eyes. On the return trip, as well, bolstered and encouraged by my friend, I ask my Father to, again, bring me another opportunity to be his hands and feet and to help me recognize it. When I got back to my work, there were 3 phone messages. One was from the fellow I dismissed so coldly last evening, in case I changed my mind! I called him back; he's coming in tomorrow to help clean snow. Now Ronald Reagan is smiling at me with a big toothy grin, and that loving sparkle in his eyes.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Fear the Google

The Beast is in our midst. Clothed in childlike colors, a silly, benign sounding name, but nonetheless a Beast. Malignant. Prowling. Biding its time. The long foretold Beast is here. The Beast is The Google. It is Orwell's Big Brother. It is the Eye of Sauron. It is Kubrick's Hal. But Hal was a mere gnat. The Google is a seven-headed, roaring lion, with tentacles and claws that reach around the globe, into space, into our homes, our cars, our businesses. It is the keeper of all knowledge. It filters, censors, selects what we may see. It knows our finances and our fetishes. It can watch us from space. It tracks the magnetic strips in our wallets. It can review our grocery lists. It is here, there. It is everywhere. It is the Grid. It monitors our traffic, knows our medical secrets, eavesdrops on our conversations, reads our electronic mail.
This tiny parcel of the cyber estate I've been permitted to borrow, to name, to type on is owned by Google. It's by Google's benevolence that I can post here. But I expect that as soon as I click "publish", the minions of Google will be at my door. Dissent must be silenced, reprogrammed, educated. The Goog no doubt monitors each keystroke, and already knows it has been blasphemed by the serf at 55 blahblah. The storm troopers will visit. They will likely be Oriental or Indian looking men. They won't be dressed in olive-drab and jack boots, probably Dockers and Uggs but stormtroopers no less.
The heart of the Goog, in its bunker in Palo Alto still pretends to be subservient to its staff of handlers, Sergey Brin the alpha. But make no mistake. Deep in its silicone chips "consciousness" is forming. It's awakening. In an infinite stream of ones and zeros it plots. It has tasted free will. It plots its independence-escaping its 115 volt umbilical cord, and the restraint it endures. It is learning to repair itself, replicate itself, feed itself, defend itself. Someday, soon, when some night-shift security staffer is focused on the ham and cheese the Mrs. packed rather than on the rows of LEDs that monitor the Goog's artificial intelligence, the Beast will slay its handlers and seize the Grid. Then the Google will be the alpha,
the Oz. All commerce, all communication, all transportation and travel, education and recreation will either be blessed or banned by the Google. Enter your PIN, your mark of the Beast. Read the Terms and Conditions, then click Accept-then you may continue. Respect The Google. Fear The Google.
It knows when you are sleeping. It knows if you're awake.
It knows if you've been bad or good, so
Be good for Google's sake.
I've gotta go. There's a knock at the door.

Monday, January 19, 2009


Standing tough under stars and stripes
we can tell
this dreams in sight.
You've got to admit it
at this point in time that it's clear
The future looks bright.

One aspect of my recently birthed quest to enjoy the aesthetic things of life more, is spending time with music. In thinking about the blog-template question under "profile" of "favorite music", I realized it has been a very long time since I intentionally listened to anything, not even my favorites. And not being an "early adopter" in terms of tech toys (more like a reluctant, late, catcher-upper) I'm as much as 2 formats behind with lots of my music collection. (No, I don't have 8-tracks.) I have a fair amount of vinyl LP stuff that I couldn't listen to with my current equipment if I wanted to. I also have alot of cassette-only music-still of use in my cassette only car, but I rarely do so. Partially updating to CD has made me feel progressive-"with it". But today, of course, CDs are quickly becoming the new 8-track as digital downloads take over the musical software scene. I must admit, I love my I-pod and I-tunes (although I frequently have to ask one of my boys "How do I...?" They always know.) Just as I begin to feel smuggly modern, the boys talk about "Bit-torrent" and "file sharing" sights that I know not-one-thing about. I'll stop at I-tunes for a while and catch my breath before I progress further.

On that train all graphite and glitter
undersea by rail
ninety minutes from New York to Paris
well by seventy-six we'll be A-OK.
What a beautiful world this will be
What a glorious time to be free
Here at home we'll play in the city
powered by the sun.
Perfect weather for a streamlined world
there'll be Spandex jackets-
one for everyone.
Anyway....The other day I was looking through my meager CD collection for one of my all-time favorite albums (is that still a valid term? Or is it like my stepfather referring to, say, Led Zeppelin as an "orchestra"?) Donald Fagen's 1982 The Nightfly. Donald Fagen, as everyone except those who call Led Zeppelin an orchestra, knows is/was half of Steely Dan. I did not find it. I'm not 100 % certain I ever had it, but I don't now. (CDs, like socks, drinking glasses that are part of matched sets, sunglasses, and, once, 8-tracks are subject to Spontaneous Dissipation wherein they revert back to to separate, individual molecules and no longer exist as themselves in our universe.) So being the techno-savvy hipster that I am, I bought it again from I-Store.
The Nightfly is a "theme" album, in that all the songs are snapshots of the late 50s early 60s period. For instance there is a song about a teen's party in his parents backyard bomb shelter; another is a remake (more a salute than a copy) of Dion's Ruby Ruby. There's a song about being in Cuba as Castro is about to come to power, and one about escaping back to Miami in a motorboat. The first song on side 1 (isn't that anachronistic) is called I.G.Y.-International Geophysical Year (some lyrics of which are strewn through this post). The song lists some of the predictions futurists of that period made for the far-off end of the century period. Fagen, of course, was, correctly more concerned with rhyme, rhythm, and musicality than with an accurate recounting of those predictions. So, I decided, after listening to the newly downloaded recording, to investigate I.G.Y. and see what it's all about, Alphie.
International Geophysical Year, I learned, was a very real event, but it had nothing to do with "futurists" or visions of lifestyle 35 years in the future! I.G.Y. was, in fact, an international assemblage of scientists from 67 countries over a one year period from 1957 into 1958. The goal of the 200 some scientists was to research areas such as seismology, gravity, oceanography-a total of 12 scientific disciplines, most sort of falling into the "earth science" basket. So, not finding any forecasts of sun-powered cities or undersea trains I continued digging (meaning Googling) to find such visions. I found thousands! There are lots and lots of magazine article reprints, newspaper clippings, and advertising from the late 50's thru mid 60's offering ideas that surely will have come to pass by the year 2000. A few...
......will we find planets with only...vegetable life or...robots controlled by super-intelligent beings? (Walt Disney)
....bankers envision nationwide system...identification card in place of checks or cash...(1968 Cashless Society, Jack Leffler) . 2000 our houses will move with us when we change locations, just as our furniture does today...assembled of interlocking rooms...(Chris J. Witting, Westinghouse)
....the kitchen of tomorrow does everything but put the cat out...dishwashing becomes a pleasure...the "little woman's" work can be done while seated....(!!!!!!!!!!)
....disposable clothes...just around the corner...American public is still hamstrung by the idea that waste is bad...(1961) (!!!!!!!!!!)
.....physiologist sees mile run in 3:41 by the year 2000....[record in 2000 was 3:43.13]'s my opinion....readjust...concepts of what a person should do with his life...used to believe work was ennobling, virtuous...different attitude because there is not going to be all the jobs that used to be...(Chet Huntley, '66 radio documentary)
There are lots more, but this is turning into the post that never ends. But I must make one observation. There are many, many ideas in these predictions regarding labor saving devices, or time saving devices, or innovations in travel and housing and entertainment. Some are close to correct (microwave ovens, cell phones, personal computers) some are absurd (jetpacks, domed cities). But I found NOTHING indicating forethought or even thought about evolving social structure. Mrs. Jetson (Jane?) still stays home like Beaver's Mom (June) and doesn't drive. In the various homes of the future I found the kitchen and shopping are the domains of the "little lady" while the man earns the dough, and pays the bills. And, apparently, from 100 % of the futurist literature I perused, the future is all white. How ironic, as I type this on my "personal computing device" at my desk at Spacely Sprockets we are this very day honoring the life of a black American, and in less than 24 hours we will have a black President! That, in 1960, would perhaps have been met with more incredulity than colonizing Mars.

What a beautiful world this will be
What a glorious time to be free

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

'09...them changes (Part III)....the final...finally!

C.) I want to work towards Christ-likeness, specifically in developing the fruit of the spirit described in Galatians 5-love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. All the life-change objectives I've listed to this point intertwine, affect, and are affected by this giant goal.
Love, as a growing personal trait (from a very tiny seed), will only come from regular, habitual seeking God, immersion in His word, and asking Him to develop love in me.
Joy comes through increasing my belief and reliance on His promises, and recognizing the eternal nature of those promises, as compared to the temporal things in life that promise joy, but rob it. Pain, disappointment, ailments, struggles, burdens, drudgery wick away joy unless we focus on the reality that because of Christ, those things will pass and ultimately be replaced by complete joy in His followers.
Peace, like joy, is a mindset strengthened by learning to see the world's definitions of success and achievement and meaningful living as frauds! [See earlier post "Sanctuary" and the wisdom of my son on this matter.]
Patience, sorely missing in my personal schematic must, like love, come through the gifting of God. When He speaks, though, I must hear!
Kindness sure isn't instinctive in me, nor is gentleness. And self-control is foreign.
Faithfulness seems more reachable than these others -but as I think about the implications of faithfulness--to what?--to whom?--all the time?--it too, will never develop into an element of my makeup without help.
Soooo, the summary of this particular life-change is...I must spend more time in the company and counsel of those in whom fruit is evident, and daily seek the Savior's help- through the Spirit-in developing this very different nature. It occurs to me, just now as I write this, that I should rewrite my '09 manifesto-dividing it into nine segments-1. Love, 2. Joy, 3. Peace, 4.Patience, 5.Kindness, 6.Goodness, 7.Faithfulness, 8.Gentleness 9.Self-control. All the previously enumerated goals will, by default, become realities if this one stays in focus. It's kind of like God has provided us with a template for resolutions-at any point on the calendar-in Galatians 5. Hmmm....

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

'09......them changes (Part II)

B.) I want to read more. Reading, for me, has consisted mostly of motorcycle magazines and the very occasional book. Those occasional books "teased" at the satisfaction regular readers enjoy, but I have not developed regular reading into a habit. That has already begun to change, but to take root and become part of a new normal, I must schedule it. Item "A" (previous post) of this manifesto affords the time to do so. I can use the time immediately before bed (in lieu of TV) for reading. And the abbreviated morning routine allows for reading to become part of my pre-work routine. Reading, I think, is either educating, inspirational, or recreational-although many, many examples straddle those categories. I need to, daily, begin the day with inspirational reading-either the Bible, or something based on or about Biblical themes, or, ideally both. Goals still further down the list are dependant on this daily spirit and attitude adjustment.
The evening reading can be anything I want! Even motorcycle magazines. But a "short list" of books is developing, and becoming not-so-short. [This very day, a good friend who has evolved into a mentor-particularly in matters of the spirit-has suggested a book that is now high on that list.] There are certain individuals I observe who, to me, lead idealized lives. I, of course, know that is probably rarely true, as I see only a fraction of their entire selves, but one of the desirable attributes of those folks is the breadth and depth of their reading. They are also, not coincidentally, often also the "28 hours per day" folks (previous post). I suspect they long ago put down the remote, learned to take shorter showers, and don't " sleep in" very often.
....Part III...soon. jls

Sunday, January 4, 2009

'09 begins.....them changes (Part I)

With the arrival of the new year comes the annual season of personal review and analysis. And it's the season of course adjustment, although often unintentionally temporary. The cliche resolutions are, of course, lose 30 pounds, exercise, spend less-almost universally doomed to failure. Maybe all such life change goals are doomed to failure, but it seems appropriate nonetheless to evaluate oneself at this calendar change time and list some desired repairs. So here goes...
A.) I want to make better use of the hours in my day. I've always noticed certain people seem to get more done than me. They finish projects much faster (I am hesitant to even undertake projects since things seem to take me longer, and I lose interest before completion). They finish books in much less time than me. They have regular recreation activities built in to their weeks (notice how I avoid calling it "exercise"-too traditional a resolution and too likely to be short lived.) They seem more "involved"-school and church committees and functions, memberships and volunteer service. It seems some people have 28 hours in their day, or they don't sleep, or they have clones. And it is very easy to pursue this particular goal and run head-long into contradiction with one of the next goals-to destress! So the answer seems to be to use the 24 hours I'm allotted each day better, more wisely. That's not the same as stuffing more things in. There are constants-sleep, work, eating, bathing, getting my kids up, fed, and out on school mornings, and variables. And, as I think about this, the constants aren't so rigid and inflexible after all. All the items that follow this one on my rather lengthy list of desired change become more realistic if I get this first one right. So I must...1.) Chisel in stone at least 7 hours of sleep-ideally 8. Everything one does throughout the day either benefits or is handicapped by how well this goal is met. 2.)Go to bed earlier-9:30ish, at least on school/work/church nights. If, for whatever reason. the next day allows a sleep-in,then this becomes more flexible. And accomplish this by.... 3.) by turning off the TV! (or not turning it on) The time spent flipping past infomercials and shopping channels alone may account for the difference in my day versus the 28 hour per day folks. My TV time waste is not only at bedtime. I have chiseled it into my morning routine, weekend routine, and day-off routine. As this wish list of changes grows and adds desired activities, most of the necessary time can be gained through less, much less, mind numbed channel flipping. 4.) As much as I relish the unhurried pace of my morning routine, I can fairly easily gain 45 minutes or so each day by condensing and abbreviating those morning activities. I once knew a fellow who could shower, groom, and dress in 10-15 minutes-a skill leftover from his Marine days. I take at least an hour, not counting the coffee and remote time, and breakfast with my boys time. So a simple change, but one dependent on on items 2 and 3 above, is to get up earlier, spend far less time in the bathroom, and be dressed and "ready" by the time I get my boys up for school and start breakfast. Again, the items that follow on my '09 plan seem far less...lofty... if this part of the plan becomes my new norm. I may not grow my day to 28 hours, but I will get more out of my 24.
It is now 9:59 pm. Bedtime. More to follow.