Thursday, June 30, 2011

Climate Change: Time to Fish or Cut Bait

Believe we're killing the planet by driving and eating and breathing? Time to commit to your convictions and stop doing all three.

Nine minutes. I never watch a video that long. I started this thinking I'd get a taste. Two minutes in I couldn't stop watching. Four minutes in I was addicted. Seven minutes in I was just wildly captive. Nine minutes done I wanted to watch it all over again and take notes.

And, just fyi, I don't want anyone to stop breathing or eating. Some people I wish would stop driving but that's a different topic.

What I hope is that we take a second look at a theory that, with each passing day, continues to look more and more porous. And is, in fact, total bunk.

What's so great about being "good" anyway?

God never said He'd speak to me through a beer ad. But then, He never said he wouldn't either. God doesn't limit Himself because - and this is self-explanatory - He's God.

So there it was. An 18-wheeler with two guys in the cab being dogged by a stretched trailer reminding everyone that beer exists. Brought to you by your buzzed friends at "Miller Lite". They were stopped at a busy intersection on a cross street with their message and their grins in full view.

Men in the beer business must be the happiest men on the planet.

It said, "Tastes Great. Less Filling." Not exactly a "thou shalt not" moment and the driver certainly didn't bring to mind Charleton Heston. But it struck me, even though beer tastes like liquid shredded wheat and I'd prefer a divine message in an ad about Syrah.

The night before I'd been reading John MacArthur's book, Hard to Believe. Just started it. And guess what the first chapter is entitled. You got it: Tastes Great. Less Filling.

It's basically - and this is where I surmise the pants off of it - about liking Jesus only when He's likable, i.e. when He's all love and blessings and promises and fuzzy slippers and such. But the Jesus who asks us to take up our cross, to love Him more than our parents or children, to follow Him even into death...well...He's not as much fun.

That's what I'd been thinking about during my drive to a client yesterday morning. In fact, that's exactly what I was thinking about when the grinning guys stopped at the intersection in front of me.

"Tastes Great. Less filling"? What the smack? God, you trying to tell me something?

I wrestled and warred and tangled with this thought all day. Was that just a truck carrying beer to the next fraternity party or was that aimed directly at me? Am I God's fair-weather friend? Do I only call God "good" when I get "good" things? Could that have simply been a coincidence? Do beer ads usually affect me?

No, not usually.

I want things. Lots of things. Things for myself. Things for others. Things that aren't shallow. Things that are. Things that would greatly enhance my life and happiness. Things that would greatly enhance my greed. Things that I would share. Things I would not.

And here is what I realized. I could get them all. Every last one. I could write a notebook full of my wants and requests and make God a deal: Do these things for me and I'll call you "good" and "trustworthy" and "loving". But tomorrow, sadly, I could fill another notebook. And the deal would still not be fulfilled because I can never be fulfilled.


I'll always want. I'll always need. These aren't little things. They deal with health and family and life and necessities. They mean life for me, life for others. These aren't small requests or easy to brush off and let go. They mean EVERYTHING to me. Absolutely everything.


What they can't mean is how I define God. They simply can't. Jesus is bigger than that. He's bigger than me and my wants and my wishes and my needs and even my life and the lives of others. He's more than that. He can't be placed inside a lamp waiting for me to rub it.

I don't always feel this way. Sometimes my requests are so dire, they are so precious, I wonder how I would react if Jesus told me "no". Sadly, I truly wonder. And though it makes me disappointed in myself, it doesn't in the least take me by surprise.

I'm nothing, you see. Not anything of anything. I'm not glorious in my own right, or giving or great or even good. I'm evil and corrupt and, trust me, you wouldn't like me. Not as me. Not when that's all I am.

If I showed up at your door, you'd use a stun gun. That's me, curly-hair cruelty and all. I'm not the least likable or honorable or strong. I'm flawed, and not even in the charming "oh, she's adorably flawed" flawed.

I'm quite unimpressive.

A friend asked me once, "Why do I make such stupid decisions? You don't make those kinds of decisions. I want to be more like you."

Uh, no you don't. You don't want to be anything like me. Not the real me. I'd run from her, too, if I could. But she follows me everywhere so instead of running from her, I'm learning to overcome her. You should see our arm wrestling matches. No matter who wins, I'm always left with a sore shoulder.

God IS good. Not because He did anything good for me today. Not because He's got something good up His sleeve for me tomorrow. He's good because that's who He is. That's all He is. That's all He does.

If I see it differently, then I'm wrong. My view is skewed or finite or hasty. And what I really need is to humbly examine what I define as "good" and then invite God to a beer summit.

Then I'd ask him to change the beer into wine.

(One of my favorite musicals. Met the cast. Seen it multiple times. Just glittery with goodness. Best part comes at the last three minutes. I give you, 'The Rock & The Rabbi')

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Time to rearrange the furniture. Bear with me. Things might look a bit kooky for the next few hours. Take your dramamine and hold on.


Done. I think.

What say you?
The new look: Love it? Hate it? Have better things to do than form an opinion one way or another? Feel pressured to now create an opinion you previously didn't have? Wish I'd stop reading your mail? Now freaked out thinking I'm literally outside at your mailbox reading your mail?

You should go check. I might be out there.

Want to know your future? Crunch the numbers.

Think a national average of nearly 10% unemployment being the new norm won't affect you if you still have a job?

Think again.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Stop talking. You know you want to.

Nothing. I had nothing. The cursor kept blinking, as cursors always do, and still I had nothing to say. Not a word.

For a writer, that's a problem. For a writer, that's THE problem. Words feed you. Words give you purpose and destiny and a reason to take the next breath and open your eyes to the next sunrise and put down that glass before you open the next bottle. Words put meat on your bones and burn fat off them.

Words sustain and enliven you.

Until there are none.

That's the way it went for weeks. No words. I'd sit down to write and find myself wishing I'd just shut up. All the many words out there, spoken and written and gestured indiscreetly with a finger or two. The world was simply too congested with words for me to add another.

So I didn't. I shut up.

And glorious silence wrapped around my shoulders and snuggled in.

When you're not talking or typing or blogging or fidgeting with words like an origami-molded foul, time slows to the rhythm of your brain.

In short, you think.

You think a lot. I do this anyway, to no real substantive benefit. Nonetheless, I do. But when it's accompanied by silence, when words are simply no longer alive, the thinking turns a corner and you find an undiscovered path of spotted park benches and shade trees and the occasional poison ivy vine.

You think until the thought flatlines. And what I discovered is my great and boundless desire to simply shut up.

Not always. Obviously not today. But frequently. Often. And I found a great desire for others to follow suit.

In our un-Rockwellian neighborhoods of social media and mass communication, we literally construct our walls and ceilings with words. Then we wallpaper those walls with words. We clothe ourselves with words. We lace our shoes with them. When we sit down to dinner, we take out our steak knife and cut them open until bloody juices flow out.

We inhale and exhale words. We make them oxygen and carbon dioxide. Then we roll them into a cigarette and smoke a pack of them. We use them and use them and use them until no one is listening. Not even ourselves.

So I wonder, just a little wondering not a big one, if we don't all harbor a secret desire to shut up. Every now and then. To not find our world within the conversations of Facebook updates and Twitter feeds, to turn off the talking heads and the Oprah reruns, to simply sit on that park bench next to that poison ivy vine and feel the silence caress our face.

To find the time to think and mull and ponder, like we haven't done in ages. To find ourselves using fewer words with greater gusto.

Instead of twelve, we use six.
Instead of six, we use three.
Instead of three.

And that one, that singular rocket-propelled word, is enough to charm people back into listening.

I'm going to stop talking now.

Steven Crowder: Want some cheese with that whine

Being grateful? How archaic. It shouldn't be expected. I mean, I can't afford cable. C-A-B-L-E. The Constitution clearly states owning cable is a right guaranteed to every citizen by the government.

I want my MTV!

Actually, what I really want is some new towels. And lower property taxes. One would make the other possible.

Until then, I'll sadly do without towels manufactured after 1980 and thankfully do without MTV that wasn't good even in 1980. For everything else I'm able to do despite my high property taxes, like powering my house and filling my refrigerator, I'm grateful.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A genius or a gypsy?

How about both.

Here's another of my brother's illustration creations. Yes, that's him. Sort of. At least I recognize his right eye. The rest is bursting from his imagination - a dewy place with cushy corners and clown music.

Today's Awkward Moment...

...brought to you by Where we flush all your fears away.

With every road blocked, every turn straightened, every orange cone mocking my every attempt, I quit my attempts at driving to my destination and hiked instead. In sandals. Up hill. At noon. In a construction zone.
There I met with a rude, obstructing port-a-potty - a gaudy sunburst color and an equally gaudy smell - that chose that moment to swing it's door open in a lascivious invite.

I didn't enter. Neither did I make eye contact. I simply turned away and hiked my way uphill with a noticeably increased speed.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Mr. Kelly has the floor

Audio is poor. Verbs are rich. And all of it without a teleprompter. Click and clap.

Ladies and gentlemen, Congressman Mike Kelly (R-PA).

Common sense on the House floor. Wonder if it gave the politicians hives.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Knowledge is Power. And other trite truisms I'm going to repeat.

He liked to watch them burn. The crinkle and recoil and inflamed edge of paper when fire grasped it around the mouth.
He seared the ideas.
Scorched the information.
He lit the books and smiled into the ravenous flames with their fingers reflecting in his black pupils. Then Fire Chief Beatty returned to his station in Ray Bradbury’s classic, Fahrenheit 451, for a robust laugh and a round of cards with the other fire-lickin' boys.

I'm guessing here but he probably won every hand. Somehow.

In the classic, though starkly believable, world of Bradbury's control-heavy culture, information wasn’t power. Except, of course, to those who silenced it.

“You can’t build a house without nails and wood. If you don’t want a house built, hide the nails and wood. If you don’t want a man unhappy politically, don’t give him two sides to a question to worry him; give him one. Better yet, give him none. Let him forget there is such a thing as war. If the government is inefficient, top-heavy, and tax-mad, better it be all those than that people worry over it.”
That's Beatty at his finest.

Chief Beatty believed in the bliss of it. The utter joy of knowledge nothingness. Too much information made people think. And thinking brought about empowered individuals who warred and struggled and took life on the chin.

Those kind of people decide for themselves. They contemplate. Deduce. Mull over and meditate on. Dare I say it, they might even study both sides of an issue. And then form an opinion, discover a truth, find a solution, create a cure, fill a gap, and open a previously closed door. They might create running water and racing wheels, garage doors and paper plates, shoe inserts and air-conditioning, railroads and raisin cereal and rain guards for your Mazda.

They might turn out to be revolutionaries. Without bloodshed. And healers. Without egos.

They might, eek!, turn out to be capitalists.

What do you get from 24,000 emails?

A decent Jon Stewart segment.

Worth it?


Friday, June 10, 2011

Down the Yellow Taxed Road

Today, I got in my vehicle (the government taxed) wearing a t-shirt and jeans (the government taxed) and drove down the street (burning fuel the government taxed) to the post office (paid for by my tax dollars) to mail letters (the government charges me to mail) to pay for my income taxes (the government cost of earning money) while thinking about what to fix for dinner (with food the government taxed) in my air-conditioned (the government monthly taxes) home (the government yearly taxes).

The government doesn't have a revenue problem.

Working Americans do.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Punch Drunk Creative Love

Illustrations by
Brendon C. Thompson

The a/eye - for no explainable reason - reminds me of the Mel Brook's Get Smart, starring Don Adams. It was the 60s. Everyone had bigger eyebrows then.

And the Monkey, that just seems fitting since I saw it this morning while eating a banana for breakfast and thinking about the opening to Buck Rogers.

At age three, Brendon could draw anything. Not that I was there to notice. When I arrived on scene a year later, he had already wowed our parents with his artistic talent and all I could do was gurgle saliva bubbles.
But that's what older siblings do. They steal your thunder so you spend a lifetime trying to catch up.
Thankfully, I've always loved a good chase. And, besides, his artistic talent was just as much fun for me. Ask me one day to tell you about the backyard maze he created with the lawnmower in the field behind our house.

This is a shameless and brazen plug for his illustration work. If you need a logo designer, illustrator, or all around creative genius, he's a one-stop-shop of madcap brilliance.

He can also mow you a labyrinth in your overgrown yard.

(Post a message if you want his contact info and I'll send it on.)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Boxed in? Box your way out.

He "strode defiantly" past the protesters.

Did Dominique Strauss-Kahn walk? No, he strode. Did he curve his neck downward with contriteness until his forehead greeted the pavement ahead? Not unless he's double jointed. Or remorseful. I doubt both.

No, he strode defiantly.

What Strauss-Kahn did was walk with defiance and whatever physical attributes that entails - a level head, a sweatless brow, eyes that connect and linger with others. That's what we can guess by the reporter's description of his shame stride into court this week. It's not a poor choice of words. Most likely, not even inaccurate.

Only safe.

That's how I would describe most news writing - safe. Or dull. (Po'tae'ta, Po'tata)

In 1996, when I entered the reporting business, the time spent avoiding the words you COULDN'T use took more time than using the words you COULD. Anything frivolous or lacy, anything with a curve or a color, a word that bent a little on the ends and flared in the middle, a description not summed up in two words, was simply not done.

I know this because I tried it. And was clearly instructed never to do it again.

When you wrote news, you wrote according to a format. Even according to a rhythm. We were punching out the equivalent of the monotone broadcast anchor, the timber of their voice raising and lowering on cue.

We couldn't speak with boredom. So we wrote it.

That was my second experience of having my writing and creativity boxed in. English class was my first.

Dry reporting is probably assumed to be classic. Old school. Born of generations of newspaper men. This is the way men did it back in the day. (Hitch up belt. Spit something out side of mouth.)

That's a bit of a misnomer. In my pre-Internet days as a reporter, I toiled and fidgeted in the badly lit back room of my local library, while going through reams of microfiche from 1901 and on. Take it from me, reporting in the beginning came in technicolor narration.

No wonder newspapers use to make a profit.

Reading the news then was an experience of the senses, even the ones you want to forget. You heard the heated words, dabbed at the perspiration, smelled the gun powder, and eyed the library trash can after discovering a decomposing corpse.

Old school journalism was storytelling at it's most intricate and alive. You breathed the surroundings in, even if - had you really been there - you would have been holding your nose.

Too often our stories don't reek or rile, don't whirl and spin, don't cling like fog to our pores or metal to our mouths. They don't engage our senses. We can peruse them so quickly they barely engage our minds.

Now, international politicians accused of sexual assault are reported to have "strode defiantly",
- not with an obstinate push to their feet as if warring against a crushing gale of negative opinion
- not with the stoic expression of a bloodthirsty matador snapping his cape in provocation
- not with the silent roar of a salivating carnal creature refusing capture
- not void of perspiration over the brow, on the lip, or under the arm
- not as determined as death.

Whatever description fits. Whatever takes the reader along. Whatever has us rushing to find library trash cans. Whatever.

Just more.

Just not safe.

I'm not saying boxes are always bad. They're great to store old trophies and move things. In writing, a short duration can even teach a writer how to follow rules, how to focus, how to streamline, how to summarize, and how to beat against a table with your left hand while typing with your right.

All boxes, however, need exit doors with ergonomic knobs. If you are trapped inside one, break down the door. Throw in a description that draws the reader in, teases them in the ribs, tickles their ears, and throws them off their scanning stride. Don't be afraid to create a scene that tilts their head or bites their tongue.

Reading was never meant to be safe.