Mar 052015

This is a great Youtube by the Ad Council. You know them from the late night public service announcement on TV.

The video tells a great story about not judging a book by its cover. Take 3 minutes to get a smile for today.

Christianists Plan to Destroy Christmas

 Culture, Featured, Holidays, Religion, Right Wingnuts  Comments Off on Christianists Plan to Destroy Christmas
Dec 252010

Each day brings even more astonishment at how low some people can go to make a buck or get their 15 minutes of fame. Certain Christianists seem hell-bent on creating a contrived “war on Christmas” where none exists all for the sake of either raising money, or making a name for themselves. And in the end, I fear it may destroy a wonderful and important time of the year.

First, I’m just frankly sick and tired of hearing the Christianists act as though they are the ever-aggrieved. Stop with the whining already. You’re in a country whose population identifies as 76% Christian. You are NOT an oppressed minority, but boy do you love to act like it. And even if you were, and you hate it so much, why do you feel it’s  OK to actually oppress real minorities?

And stop with the, “this is a Christian nation,” already. Quote after quote from the founding fathers make it clear they were working aggressively to keep religion and government separate for the good of both. Good heavens, you can’t, in reality, keep making the claim this country was founded by Christians. Certainly, within the group of founders and those who fought that first war for freedom there were Christians, but there were Deists, Atheists, Buddhists and Muslims.

And for crying out loud, stop commercializing Christmas, insisting on throwing it in the face of everyone else, and acting like everyone in this country is out to destroy your holiday. Christmas is a holiday, but be realistic about it. No credible scholar has any reason to believe that December 25 is the real day on which Jesus was born. From times long before the advent of Christianity there have been mid-winter festivals and holidays to give people hope for a better time. Early Christians realized they needed to be part of that, and created their own celebration about hope, and I’m glad they did. And now, instead of being about light coming into the world, the Christianists commercialize Christmas even more by insisting that retail outlets be sure to observe the holiday.

Christianists now launch an annual campaign insisting on businesses and everyone else in America participation in their holiday. In the end, the true meaning of the holiday is lost on everyone, and it no longer holds that special place on the calendar. It becomes just another excuse to create fear and hate, to keep the checks coming in. How cynical these people have become, and I fear, if they continue to be supported in these hateful exercises, Christmas will be lost to us all.
So please stop insisting that commercial businesses insert themselves into my holiday celebration. I’d prefer that businesses NOT insist on being a big part of my Christmas, and I believe these Christianists, who force their beliefs on others, do the holiday a disservice by insisting on its further commercialization. Christmas is NOT about the signs hung in Walmart, it’s about the hope a new birth.

I enjoy the stories of Christmas. They’re about hoping for no rational reason and then witnessing hope fulfilled. The mean miser of the town hates Christmas, has a few nightmares, and then wakes up to take care of those he once scorned. An embittered heart grows three sizes and that old Grinch finds the strength to put back all the presents, decorations and holiday dinners he had taken. Workaholics remember to come home. Friends show up for the lonely. The destitute get help. I enjoy that people try to have a merrier attitude, and act more friendly.

I love the music of Christmas. How can you not enjoy many of the songs I’ve posted here over the past few days. Those familiar songs and Carols bring that warm feeling of family and shared experience.

I love the attitudes most people have during the holidays. We are so often neglectful of others during the rest of the year, but somehow, this time of year brings out our better angels. We can be mean and spiteful in our rhetoric, and work to create division instead of working to come together, but once a year we celebrate hope. We celebrate peace. We celebrate doing right by each other, and then rather amazingly go out and attempt to do it.

So that’s the kind of Christmas I want. A holiday about hope, love, peace and light coming into the world, and I don’t care if you wish me Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, or a gay Festivus. My feelings of hope and excitement are not diminished, and I don’t see you as a lesser person so long as your wishes are good tidings.


Adventureland – A Movie Review

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Sep 102009

adventureland_smallposter2Welcome to Adventureland, where the worst job imaginable is about to inadvertently turn into the summer that changes everything. Adventureland, a self-professedly “funtastic” Pennsylvania amusement park, appears to be the bane of recent college graduate’s James Brennan’s existence. He previously had big plans to spend the summer on a life-altering trek through Europe that would initiate him into real adult life. But when his family suffers an economic downturn in the middle of the Reagan 80s, James’ only summer trip is straight to a minimum wage job manning a game booth so existentially bankrupt, no one is even allowed to win the giant stuffed panda. Yet, Adventureland isn’t quite what it seems on the surface. For behind the cloying cotton candy aroma, the grating disco songs and the near pathological customers, there’s a whole other world of misfit friends, hidden dreams and most incredibly, after-work encounters with the alluringly sharp-tongued arcade girl, Em Lewin. And when James discovers the hard-won courage to go to battle for Em, the result is a savagely funny yet sweetly heart-felt and unexpected encounter with “real adult life.”

Genres: Comedy and Drama; Running Time: 1 hr. 46 min.; Release Date: April 3rd, 2009 (wide); MPAA Rating: R for language, drug use and sexual references.

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Martin Starr, Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig

Directed by: Greg Mottola

We rented this movie and watched it this past weekend. I think the problem I had was  expecting the “as advertised” comedy. This film is not a comedy. I think it has two jokes, and I don’t mean it has only two “funny” jokes, I mean it has only two jokes. The studio is pushing this film as the next “Superbad”, just because the director of that film directed this film. The truth is, this is far different from “Superbad”, besides a few gross out gags. Where that film prided itself on its crudeness and vulgarity, this film prides itself on heart and pure emotion.

“Adventureland” has the feel of teen movies both from the 80’s and 90’s (more the 80’s though). You have a sensitive character who is still trying to figure out who he is, and by a sequence of events, falls in love and more importantly, finds his true self. What makes the movie even more appealing is that it not only doesn’t treat its characters as generic stereotypes, but as humans, which makes them more appealing to the audience.

Our main character here is James (played by Jessie Eisenberg) who has just graduated college and is looking forward to his trip to Europe with his fellow pal. Things unfortunately go south with his finances, which forces him to get a job at the local amusement park. There he meets some interesting people: the two owners (Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig), nerdy Joel (the likable Martin Starr) and the beautiful “Em” (Kristen Stewert).

James and Em quickly fall for each other, but there is one small problem, she is in a very dysfunctional relationship with Connell (Ryan Reynolds), who plays the married park maintenance guy. Reynolds, who usually adds the goofy humor to every film he is in, holds back to really give the character a deepness that I was surprised he pulled off.

What makes this film work though is that director Greg Mottola doesn’t overdo any aspect of the movie. The comedy, drama, and situations are all well balanced, which makes the film feel real. As I stated before, Reynolds is grounded, as is the rest of the cast with their performances. Stewert gives Em vulnerability, but makes her lovable at the same time. These two give perfect performances because neither of them have all the answers and it is about the deep connection they share, not just about the sex.

So, overall the movie was good, but it takes time to get into it, because you are expecting one thing, but find something completely different.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars6 Stars7 Stars8 Stars9 Stars10 Stars (2 votes, average: 5.50 out of 10)
Jun 092009

Let your love be stronger than your hate or anger. Learn the wisdom of compromise, for it is better to bend a little than to break. –H.G. Wells

H.G. Wells gained fame with his first major fiction work: The Time Machine in 1895. Soon after publication of this book, Wells followed with The Island of Dr. Moreau (1895), The Invisible Man (1897), and perhaps his most famous popular work: The War of the Worlds (1898).

Over the years Wells became concerned with the fate of human society in a world where technology and scientific study were advancing at a rapid pace. For a period he was a member of The Fabian Society, a group of social philosophers in London. Wells’s later works became less science fiction and more social critique.

In this wells is clearly leaning on the Judeo-Christian ethic of loving one’s neighbor, and sometimes that love requires compromise. Society itself depends on compromise. I go driving up one of the main roads here in Tampa, and I’m in a hurry to get to airport. A traffic light changes to red for me. My desire and goal is to travel to the airport as quickly as possible, and no physical barrier comes down to stop me from driving through that intersection against the light, but we compromise. I agree to go ahead and stop. I make the compromise, so that you will make the same compromise when the light is green for me. It’s really how we survive daily.

I don’t think he means to bend in our core beliefs or to surrender our principles. I think Wells is talking about those things that allow us to get on in our daily lives, and avoid making the lives of other people miserable.

VA Tech Shootings-My Perspective

 Crime, Culture, Politics, Religion, Right Wingnuts, Society  Comments Off on VA Tech Shootings-My Perspective
Apr 232007

Let me start by extending my heartfelt sympathy to the students and staff at VA Tech, and the parents and friends of all those killed and injured in that horrible string of events. It is something that will certainly give us pause, and hopefully cause us to once again reflect on the fragility of life.

I’ve waited to write about this until some of the dust settled, and I saw how it all played out on the national stage in the media. Unfortunately, I’m not surprised at what has gone on. Once again, all the talk is about all the things that can be done to prevent it from happening again. I’ve seen ideas from the reasonable to the absolutely absurd, but we tend to be coming down more on the side of the absurd and ridiculous. Newt Gingrich, after blaming it all on liberals and the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill (go figure), has decided this would never have happened if all the students on college campuses were armed. (Remember, this is a guy considering a run for the Whitehouse.)

The pundits have gotten on the 24 hour news channels to spout off about how they could have easily seen this coming … about how Cho’s writings and behavior made it clear it was going to happen. On NPR’s Sunday Edition, English Professor and Commentator Diane Roberts has a compelling piece reminding us that some of the greatest authors, including the Bard himself, used some pretty horrific story lines. She cautions against having teachers police the imagination of students. Please listen to the short essay here» It’s a voice of sanity midst the chaos.

Everyone is up in arms about how he purchased bullets on eBay.  So what, bullets have little value without the guns from which to shoot them. A few people are clamoring for tighter gun control, the NRA and other gun lobbies are wisely laying low for now, but they’ll charge to the front lines when legislation is proposed, and little will change. We can only hope. Certainly, given that Cho had been adjudicated “unstable” should have prevented him from purchasing guns … on the other hand, I’ve seen lots of people that could legally purchase guns that shouldn’t be permitted to own them.

This is a tragedy to be sure, but does it really merit the incessant analysis by pundits on 24 hour news channels? I’ve seen studies showing that even after this event, students remain significantly safer on a secondary or post secondary campus than in the communities in which they live. This is much like everyone’s fear of plane crashes. They are certainly headline grabbing when they happen, but even on the day of a plane crash, usually more people are killed in auto-accidents. They just don’t get the press. 

The night after the shootings, I was flipping channels. Larry King was reduced to interviewing some VA Tech student who thought she might have heard gun shots that day. I suspect most of the hand-wringing is the result of the fear mongering brought on by the need of the news networks to fill up their 24 hours, and this makes for good ratings. So, throw on the pundits and the ex-FBI profilers, of which there have been many, along with a horde of “mental health professionals” (now there’s an oxymoron…I’ve only met one of those that wasn’t in great need of some mental health services themselves), and they all contend they could have predicted this would happen, and if we read and analyze everything everyone writes, observe how people dress, all this can magically be prevented…we’ll lock ’em up before the crime is committed, ala “Minority Report.”

But alas, I find myself not the least surprised by all this. The Republicans still play to their base on social conservative issues, but they know it’s becoming less and less politically feasible to side with the krazy kristian kooks as they become all the more crazy, so fear becomes the political currency of choice. More and more people could care less if gay people get married…they are in some places, and lo and behold, the sun still rises. But we can all feel fear, and we can be made even more fearful with the right words and constant haranguing about all that’s wrong today, and all the dangers that await us just outside our door.

Look, life isn’t always pretty. We are never going to be totally secure, despite thinking the government can protect us. Shit, the government can’t even efficiently purchase toilet seats, and you want to trust your life to them? What a bunch of wimpish idiots we’ve become. There are tons of reasonable things we can do to make the world more safe: seat belts; x-raying bags and metal detectors at airports, background checks for gun purchases; prison for people rightfully convicted of evil acts; traffic lights; building inspections; airplane maintenance. None of it will prevent a plane from crashing some day, someone getting killed in an auto accident, or someone getting murdered somewhere. I, for one, more fear my government intruding increasingly into my life than I do the risks of daily life. Locking down college campuses, policing the thoughts and writings of people, attempting to SPOT terrorists using pseudo science is feel good bullshit that does not increase security and safety, and only inhibits the living of life.

Sure, we can make ourselves secure. We could build bunkers and hunker down without venturing out of the house or driving. We can filter our air and drink only bottled water, and never interact with the world around us….is that life you want to live?

I am sorry this kid went crazy. It’s not a hard thing to do in today’s society. Maybe he just never made the adjustment to our society, or maybe there was just a chemical imbalance that no one took proper notice of. But we don’t rush out and change our entire post-secondary educational system and the rest of society because of one nut…and we certainly don’t arm college students Newt. The answer is simple, love deeply those around you and let them know it, help the people around you, give a shoulder to those that hurt, and get on with living life…with all it’s hurts, risks, excitement, boredom, love, hate, tears and joy.

I'll be Home For Christmas

 Culture, Family, Friends, Holidays, Kings Mountain, Places  Comments Off on I'll be Home For Christmas
Dec 252006

I drove up to Kings Mountain Saturday. Lay was up and packed, but then decided to stay home. I think now he’s wishing he’d come along, but I know he would have been bored for a lot of it. The drive up took 12 hours, as I got stuck in a backup south of Atlanta. The weather was overcast, but it never rained. It has rained all today.

Yesterday being Sunday, I went to my old home church. I got to see a lot of folks I haven’t seen in a long time. It seems like a number of people I hung out with back in high school have started attending my old church. The choir did their cantata Sunday morning, and it sounded pretty good.

One of the traditions that has developed is attending a Christmas Eve service of Lessons and Carols, followed by Communion and a candlelight service. Both services at the church were very full, with people in the balcony during the first service. It’s a time and place to feel comfortable. While there are many people there I don’t know, there are certainly lots of people I grew up with, and even older folks that helped me grow up.

This is the time when, if all else has failed, I get in the Christmas spirit. I know that the holiday means lots of different things to different people, but for me it is about family, and this opportunity for a visit back to my roots. With the Christmas season comes a time to reflect on the message brought by the child…the Christ. It is a message of Peace and love. My frustration with these past years is the corruption of that message to one of hatred, and is used to polarize rather than bring people together.

My wish for you and me for this holiday season and this coming year…To give beyond reason. To care beyond hope. To love without limit. To reach, stretch, and dream in spite of your fears. These are the hallmarks of divinity – traits of the immortal – your badges of honor, and your ticket onward.

A Heart Full of Grace

 Culture, Deep Thoughts  Comments Off on A Heart Full of Grace
Jun 032006

Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. –Martin Luther King Jr.

I think King’s idea is that is does not matter your station in life, there is always someone you can help, maybe even someone who needs your help. If everyone operated from a heart full grace and with a soul generated by love, as King challenges us, I think we would have to agree the world would be a much better place.

I think we become cynical, and begin to believe we can’t make a difference. I know first hand, you can, with just small efforts, favors, and some caring, make a significant difference in someone else’s life. I think if we, each one, took the time, to help one other person, we would see a dramatic change in the world. Maybe it’s a pipe-dream, but it couldn’t hurt to try…will you join me?

The Immortal Flow of Energy

 Culture, Deep Thoughts  Comments Off on The Immortal Flow of Energy
May 092006

Love is the immortal flow of energy that nourishes, extends and preserves. Its eternal goal is life. –Smiley Blanton

Smiley Blanton was among the earliest in America to work in the field of speech pathology. He combined his medical and psychoanalytic training to create counseling and family therapies children and adults who stutter and who have voice and articulation problems.

Blanton reminds of the importance of love as a life giving energy. One of the things that keeps us alive and living. That finding love is the great goal of live.

Peace Takes Courage

 Politics, Religion, Society, War  Comments Off on Peace Takes Courage
Apr 302006

For the past several weeks, I’ve been leading a Sunday School class at my church discussing the Social Principles of the Methodist Church. Today we discussed the last two sections of the Social Principles, “The Political Community” and “The World Community.”

In section I of the Political Community section, Military Service, the Methodist Social Principles state, “We deplore war and urge the peaceful settlement of all disputes among nations. From the beginning, the Christian conscience has struggled with the harsh realities of violence and war, for these evils clearly frustrate God’s loving purposes for humankind.”

In the section on “The World Community” paragraph B says in part, “We affirm the right and duty of people of all nations to determine their own destiny. We urge the major political powers to use their nonviolent power to maximize the political, social , and economic self-determination of other nations rather than to further their own special interests.”

We go on, in paragraph C of the section to say, “We therefore reject war as an instrument of national foreign policy, to be employed only as a last resort in the prevention of such evils as genocide, brutal suppression of human rights, and unprovoked international aggression. We insist that the first moral duty of all nations is to resolve by peaceful means every dispute that arises between or among them, that human values must outweigh military claims as governments determine their priorities; that the militarization of society must be challenged and stopped….”

But it really all comes down to the 22nd Chapter of the Book of Matthew. Jesus was challenged by the Pharisee?s to define the Greatest Commandment. In verse 34 he responded, ?Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.? 38?This is the first and greatest commandment.? Jesus didn?t stop there. Without missing a beat he went on to say in verse 39, ?And the second is like it: ?Love your neighbor as yourself.??

In verse 40, just to be sure the dense Pharisees of that time (and maybe for some people of today) got the message, Jesus goes on to say, ?All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.?

A 15 year old girl is receiving death threats for an anti-war video she made. It is available at Peace Takes Courage. I caution you in advance…the images are disturbing, but you should watch it.

Apr 292006
This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series Deep Thoughts

Life in abundance comes only through great love. –Elbert Hubbard

I guess this is related to the 10th post in this series, but may be interpreted with some difference. It is when we have loved greatly that our life is abundant. What does that mean. To me it implies passion. Not just passion for another person, that special someone, although that may be part of it. But it also means a great love for life and all the people that are part of our life…a passion for life if you will.

Elbert Hubbard is also the person credited with first saying, “Don’t take life too seriously, you’ll never get out of it alive.” A born salesman, Hubbard’s first full-time job was selling soap door-to-door. Later he joined the J.D. Larkin Company of Buffalo, one of the most successful mail order houses in the country. It was Hubbard who introduced premium merchandise as an added inducement to buy his company’s products. He also instituted the club plan which made every customer a potential salesman.

The Cure For All The Ills And Wrongs

 Culture, Deep Thoughts, Religion  Comments Off on The Cure For All The Ills And Wrongs
Apr 292006

The cure for all the ills and wrongs, the cares, the sorrows, and the crimes of humanity, all lie in the one word ‘love’. It is the divine vitality that everywhere produces and restores life. –Lydia Maria Child

It really just can’t get any more obvious than this. Ms. Child is reminding that if we approach life and the people in our world from a place of love, then all the bad things in life really would go away.

For those of us of the Christian persuasion, Jesus was absolutely clear about this. In the 22nd Chapter of the Book of Matthew. Jesus was challenged by the Pharisee?s to define the Greatest Commandment. In verse 34 he responded, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38This is the first and greatest commandment.? Jesus didn?t stop there. Without missing a beat he went on to say in verse 39, And the second is like it: ?Love your neighbor as yourself.

In verse 40, just to be sure the dense Pharisees of that time (and maybe for some people of today) got the message, Jesus goes on to say, All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

While we like to get all wrapped around the spokes over theology and biblical interpretation, I think that we could do away with all that, and all the rest of the Bible, and if we all just devoted our lives to trying to live out those two commandments, we’d stay busy.