Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Forget The Resolutions! Let's Tell Some Good Science Jokes

     The Preacher wrote, among other things, that there is a time to laugh.

     I am reminded of the old joke, "How do you make an old Englishman laugh? . . . Tell him a joke when he is young."  (I know, I know.  But think about it . . . )

     This selection comes from Great Britain.  That would explain why they are "favourites," I suppose.  Happy New Year.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Maybe It's Time

. . . we had a second political party in the U.S.

. . . we stopped acting like the U.S. Government was the Church.

. . . we stopped acting like the Church was the U.S. Government.

. . . we acted like we really believed in personal liberty.

. . . we acted like we really believed in personal responsibility.

     Now I actually believe each of the above propositions to be a good one -- but on the other hand, Maybe It's Also Time . . .

. . . we stopped using the "assumed inclusive" we  pronoun so much (as well as the over-used, "assumed other" they ), and instead,

. . . I used more specific pronouns, such as I, you, he.

. . . I learned to keep more of my opinions to myself: write and talk less, think and do more.

. . . to praise the Virtues, and the Gifts, less; and to practice them more.

. . . to pray for, and expect, a Blessed New Year.

     Call them my Ten Suggestions for the coming year.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Season's Greetings

     Whoever and wherever they are, the ones who enforce the rules are the real Rulers;  and the ones who dictate the narrative are the real Dictators.

     Who is running our lives?  And why, and how?


Saturday, December 14, 2013

When A Soldier Makes It Home

     The Keepers Of The Narrative don't like it when folks get "off message" -- but they haven't completely shut them up yet, at least on the subject of war.

     Wendell Berry has a great short-story, "Making It Home," about a Kentucky farmer who survives the Second World War in Europe and manages to muster out of the army, catch a bus, and then walk the last few miles back to his family farm, alone, thinking about what he has seen.  It is Berry's propensity for telling stories like this, I think, that keeps him at arm's length from the political-media establishment in this country -- and the church establishment as well.  Of course, I could be wrong about that: no doubt there are other, better reasons.

     Anyway, I was listening to Arlo Guthrie today on You Tube, and this song that I am about to link to made me think of Wendell Berry, and war, and where we all are in all of this -- right in the middle, whether we admit it or not.

     Arlo Guthrie video:  When A Soldier Makes It Home.

     Lyrics here.

     Have a listen, while the "corporate"-government censorship of YouTube is only moderately stifling.  The video is about seven minutes long.

*       *       *

     Wendell Berry was recently interviewed by Bill Moyers.  Here are two men of letters, the same age,  who chose somewhat different roads.

     While we are talking about Bill Moyers, he just recently posted something about the threat to our democracy from a takeover by the "mercenary class."  An interesting read.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Why I Am Not Going To Buy A Kindle

Guest post by Justin Adams

To whom it may concern:

This is in response to your recently advertised 30-day trial for Kindles.

I am a teacher and have used Kindles in class in conjunction with book studies.  They have not been at all conducive to the classroom.  Students cannot take them home (since purchased at such high cost), so I cannot assign reading at home and must therefore rely on class time for students to read.  It has tripled the normal time it would take for my class to read a book.

Inconvenience aside (ironic considering the device's touted convenience), I also do not support Kindle, or any other reading/book app, regardless of platform, because the popularity of such technology could very well lead to the elimination of physical books in the near future, which a company's demand for limitless growth must necessitate.

Physical books possess the innate capacity to survive decades without a reliable power source.  If the electricity goes out, physical books retain all usefulness.  Kindles (and the like), on the other hand, would quickly consign themselves to no more than expensive plastic paperweights in such an event.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Chase Madar: The Over-Policing Of America

     Once upon a time, most Americans could recognize secular power-groups with a desire to dominate and control.  They were often called, perhaps inaccurately, commies and nazis.

     Today, more and more, I see churchians who see the police-state as their patriotic protector, in the same place and at the same time where I see encroachments and looming shadows of oncoming tyranny.

     Whatever the outcome of this situation may be, Chase Madar (from the website, Tom Dispatch) has weighed in with his own views about the criminalization of everyday life in America. I think that he is not overstating the problem.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Bill Moyers Interviews Wendell Berry

     My good friend Kirk Brooks called to tell me that he was listening to a Wendell Berry interview on the radio, and I might want to listen to it, too.  I did; and turned the radio on right away, not knowing how far into the interview he was, and what I might have already missed.

     It turned out that the radio program was the sound portion of a very recent and very rare video interview that was done by Bill Moyers.  Rare, because Mr. Berry does television interviews only rarely;  and recent, because the video has apparently just been released to the internet.  One quick on-line search, and I found it.  And so, as it turned out, I got to both hear and watch the entire presentation.

     I think that people who are familiar with Wendell Berry's life and writings will enjoy watching this interview; and for those who have not yet made his acquaintance, this might be a good time.  The presentation runs for a little less than an hour.

     Here is the link to the Bill Moyers interview with Wendell Berry.

*       *       *

Your comments are most welcome.

Monday, December 2, 2013

What's Wrong With The World

     About a century ago, some organ of the British press raised the question, "What's Wrong With The World?", and invited comment.  All things considered (such as, who were doing the asking, and of whom they were asking it), I think it was both an appropriate and a necessary question.  After all, the Brits had conquered and controlled -- forgive me, I meant to say developed and civilized -- a pretty good chunk of the world and exercised H. M. 's authority over all living things that dwelt upon the face of the same; so, if there was a perceived wrong, they were good candidates to deal with the question.

     G. K. Chesterton famously answered the question in two words:  "What's wrong with the world?  I am."  And then he proceeded to write a fine book which addressed the question, which I heartily recommend to any and all.

    I might have suggested to him (had I been living at the time) that an equally good alternative would have been to box up a few hundred cheap hand mirrors and mail them in to the newspaper, for distribution around the City of London as they saw fit, beginning at the sanctuary, so that they could have reflected upon the question, and the answer, at their leisure.  But that suggestion might not have accorded with Chesterton's sense of charity, so I withdraw the suggestion.  He said that he was the problem, and so I will defer to him on that.

     Nevertheless, for whatever may have been true in his time and place, he is long gone.  And God is still in His heaven, and all is still not quite right with the world, so I am casting about for other answers than putting all the responsibility upon Chesterton's broad (but absent) shoulders.

     Before I go too far afield here, I want to say that I think that there is much that is right with the world, very much in fact, and all that is right with the world should be acknowledged, understood, loved, admired, encouraged, preserved, cultivated, left alone, and so forth.  The world has lots of good and beautiful places, and good, generous, loving and true-hearted people, and a still abundant joy of life and living things.  This must be said, and said repeatedly.

     Still, the more I actually like the world and the good folks in it, the more I notice that very, very much is wrong. 

      Take world cultures, for example.  The more I like England, the less I like the City-of-London establishment.  The more I find to like about the Russians, the less I like the Bolsheviks who imposed mass violence upon them in the name of some "historical imperative."  The more I personally interact with good people from China, the less respect I have for the policies of the Party that governs them.

     As for America?  The more I like what the Constitution says (even if it is flawed, as it may be), the less I like what Washington, D.C. says either for it or against it.  The more I think about the real virtues of "free enterprise" (and I think they are many), the less I find to like about those "entrepreneurs" who are all about starting some big deal, but with the intent to quickly "cash out" and live on the proceeds. Nor am I impressed by the much-touted "daring venture capitalists" who courageously finance them with other people's money.  (And given the Fed and the World Bank, it is all other people's money, and Monopoly money at that.)

     I could go on, but you get the idea.

     Now I know I might be fairly charged with being merely "another idealist who has been mugged by reality,"  -- you know, like the guy who says, "I like the human race, it's just people I can't stand" -- but I don't think that this is true in my case.  And I doubt that it is true in your case, either.

     I think that what is disturbing me about the world is the prevalence of "Spider Consciousness," if I may call it that.

     Not that I have anything against natural spiders and how they think, either the beautiful garden spiders who weave their predatory webs across trails, or the dangerous fiddle-backs, or even the black widows who are said to devour their husbands on their wedding day.  No doubt they all have their necessary place in the natural order.

     But I have something against people who imitate spiders, spinning webs of deceit, and paralyzing and devouring their prey.  Anyone who manages to get caught in their web is seen as a lower life form, a perfectly legitimate victim, to have the life sucked out.  And when it is to their personal advantage, they will readily devour their own.

     Spider Consciousness thinks something like this:

     1.  There is no such thing as cooperation, except as an expedient to further my Spider-Self-Interest.  And healthy competition is a dangerous enemy.  In fact, healthy anything is a threat, except as it serves as a meal for me.

      2.  I'll buy up a company, strip it of assets, and bankrupt it.  I'll pay my employees less than a full wage for the value of their work; then take the "legitimate profits" and sock them away in the Cayman Islands.

     3.  In fact, not only will I not pay a full wage, I won't even pay a minimum wage.  I'll smuggle poor "illegals" into the country, pay them a pittance, and keep them hostage to the fact that I might stop "protecting" them.  Then, I'll even fight the "amnesty laws," since my hold over them requires that they be considered "illegal."

     4.  Since I can see that mutual greed might be even more profitable than my own solitary version, I will bargain with my fellow Spiders on matters of mutual interest.  In certain circumstances, several webs carefully arranged may be more productive of . . . food . . . than if they were in isolation.  So let us invent, and play, and sell, The Corporate Spider Game.

     5.  We will create and staff government agencies charged to perform some real or imagined "social good," like building urban housing.  Offer good bureaucratic jobs to our people.  Have them contract with our companies to do the work, and then we won't do it.  We'll just take the money.  If there is an investigation (unlikely), we will obstruct it.  If there are "whistleblowers" (unlikely) we will intimidate them with threats from "higher up" -- and they know that we can and will deliver on our threats.  If they are too stupid, or principled, to understand this, then we will frame and prosecute them.

     6.  We will make a web out of the law, and then use it to entrap people.  Forbid drug dealing and then run "sting" operations.  We will forbid "illegal plants" (like marijuana); and then run aerial surveillance and ground searches on private property, so we can confiscate the property of people -- even if we have to plant the "evidence" ourselves.

     7.  We will use special ops to corner the drug production market at the production end, as in Colombia or Afghanistan; use Air America and "national security" protection to ship the drugs into the "Homeland"; once there, we will (using the government, which we have made permanently schizoid) selectively carry out our well-funded "drug war" in order to eliminate our rivals and protect our monopoly.

     8.  We will buy up friends and contacts in law enforcement, and run our child prostitution and slavery rings with impunity.

     9.  We will create internet sites for sexual solicitations.  We will lure people onto these sites.  If they take our bait, we will turn them over to our secret police and prosecutors and judges to be dealt with.
We will make sure that looking at pornography (the kind that is certified and distributed by the movie industry) is greatly advertised and encouraged and widespread; while possession of homemade or downloaded porn is an extremely serious prosecutable offense; a felony, in fact.  We may produce and sell it to the masses; but if they are caught possessing it, it is a grave crime.

     10.  We will subvert the rest of the world with loan-sharking, illicit favors, and economic hit men.  We will shamelessly take from their poor -- their land, their natural resources, their way of life.     If their governments resist us, we will engineer coups d'etat.  We will sell their governments arms to put down "internal subversion" and "domestic terrorism" that we will incite.  We will endlessly play two or three sides against each other.  The rich elites who are trying to run impoverished countries will be encouraged to run up enormous debts to us; they will default; and we will demand repayment from their poor.

     11.  We will infiltrate enemy countries and governments with FBI and CIA men, forcing our contemptuous (and contemptible) notions on their people, their liberties, and their governments.  We will train their police to use our methods, and sell them on our standards of crime and punishment.
     12.  In fact, we will develop our own complete agenda:

     If our enemies hunger, we will sell them genetically damaged food and patented seeds;

     if they thirst, we will regulate, fluoridate, and poison their drink with nuclear wastes;

     if they are naked, we will arrest them for public nudity;

     if they are sick, we will regulate and ration their healthcare;

     if they are in prison, we will overcrowd them, rape them, deny them decent medical care, confine them in harsh conditions, suicide them, and "privatize" them to some prison-industrial corporation that will provide the cheapest possible "service" to the prisoners, while maximally charging the state.

     And if the Lord tries to come back, on our watch, to call us to account for what we do, we will kill Him -- watch.

     With all due respect to G. K. Chesterton, I don't think that he was ever "what's wrong with the world."