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Another Farewell to Mickey Spillane

Here's the first. Click here.

Mickey Spillane’s Black Alley…a book review:

If private eye Mike Hammer takes some lead in the gut and needs a doctor to patch him up, will he get a loving sincere TV doctor? Or will it be the fallen skid row bum type… some has-been doctor clawing his way back to respectability? (Hint: Mike likes to swill beer with his doctor.) Is Black Alley to be a tale of redemption?

Or is it a love story? For at long last, Mike proposes to his knock-out secretary Velda….violating doctors orders….he is not supposed to get excited, but how can you not with a woman like Velda?  She’s long hoped, but never thought, the day would come. But there will be no shacking up before the knot is tied….Mike is an old fashioned type of guy. And it’s going to be one heck of a courtship.

See, the mob has lost all their money, and they’re not too happy about it. Turns out they think Mike knows where the dough is. The Feds think so too, and they want the money for taxes. So Mike has to dodge them both and beat them all to the stash. Oh, did I mention that he’s recuperating from a near fatal wound, and the dead beat doctor has to show up now and then to patch his guts with duct tape? Will Mike be up to the challenge?

As Mike himself would say, don’t be a jerk! You know very well he’ll be. This is Mike Hammer! It’s the mob that better watch out!

This is a crime story, and it may sound over the top, but writer Spillane pulls it off with flair. He’s doing what he does best…writing cops and robbers. He’s was doing it while I was still….well…he’s been doing it a long time, and it shows. His first novel sold in 1947, and he has mastered his craft. No cardboard, techno-thriller characters in Black Alley. Love and redemption subplots operate in the background. Here are characters with depth that you can care about. If they’re not entirely believable, they are nonetheless riveting, well-sketched. The bad guys are bad, the good guys are good, and they are all well worth the read.

The preceding is the book review I wrote a while back to be released someday, and now that Mickey Spillane has died, (July 17, 2006) it seems a good a time as ever.

Mickey was one of our people, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. He may have been in and out once or twice….I’m not really sure….but he died faithful.

A worthy pastime, if you are going to read any of his novels, is to find in them references to the faith. You have to bypass the first super violent Hammer novels, written from 1947 on, because he didn’t become a JW until 1952. And I’ve only read three, one of which doesn’t count: (pre-1952) I, the Jury, Black Alley, and Something’s Down There. I, the Jury was his first. Black Alley and Something’s Down There were his last.

Mako, in Something’s Down There, speaks of the nutty evolutionists. That’s a clue. Evolutionists aren’t nutty….they’re revered. Thus, the book’s author is either a JW or a fundamentalist Christian. If he is a fundamentalist Christian, the characters will spend lots of time in church. No one does in this book, so the author must be a JW.

But the real giveaway is Mike Hammer eying the Mafioso’s house in Black Alley. It is heavily fortified, he observes, like ancient Babylon! Mike Hammer, tough private eye, familiar with ancient Babylon?? Not likely, but Jehovah’s Witnesses know all about Babylon. They’ve studied it time and again….it’s impregnability, it’s system of canals, it’s massive walls and gates….and it’s one vulnerability. It’s imprisonment of exiled Jews. And their unexpected, even miraculous, release.

Jehovah’s Witnesses take great interest in Babylon because its fall foreshadows events in the modern day.

Old Testament        She has fallen! Babylon has fallen, and all the graven images of her gods he has broken to the earth!  Isa 21:9

New Testament:      After these things I saw another angel descending from heaven, with great authority; and the earth was lighted up from his glory.  And he cried out with a strong voice, saying: “She has fallen! Babylon the Great has fallen...  Rev 18:1

Every Jehovah’s Witness knows about this.

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Charles Darwin - a Letter to Asa Gray

Two spiritual threads can be traced in the life of Charles Darwin, originator of the natural selection evolution theory. Had those threads turned out differently, one wonders what effect it might have had on science interpretation.

The first has been dealt with in a previous post. Here is the second:

In a letter to American colleague Asa Gray, Darwin stated: ….I own that I cannot see, as plainly as others do, & as I should wish to do, evidence of design & beneficence on all sides of us. There seems to me too much misery in the world.

Plainly, this statement concerns, not science, but God. His question was spiritual, or at least philosophical: why is there so much misery? How does that square with a God who is supposed to be all-loving and all-powerful?

Bear in mind that, in younger days, Darwin trained to become a clergyman. This is not to say he was especially devout. Rather, he was undecided as a youth; he didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life. Most of us go through such a phase. Some of us never emerge. At any rate, the clergy represented a respectable calling for people who didn’t find a place anywhere else, yet didn’t want to do manual work, which represented a lower social class.

But why didn’t he know why God permitted suffering? It’s not as if an answer doesn’t exist. If he was familiar with the answer, yet rejected it, that would be one thing. But it’s clear that he had no clue.

The fault is not his. It is that of the Church, which was charged to make certain truths, or teachings, known, but which failed to discharge that commission, choosing paths more self-serving. You might say that Darwin was spiritually starved.

Had he known the Bible’s answer regarding misery and suffering, it may be that he, and other active minds of his day, might have put a different spin on discoveries of rocks, fossils, and finches.

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Tom Irregardless and Me                 No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

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Disabled Kids and Three Aborted Planets

For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open.   Mark 4:22  NIV

A long-dark secret of school textbook publishers has, at last, come into the glaring light. When you see a kid in a wheelchair in your school textbook, interacting with other kids, he is actually able-bodied and doesn’t need a wheelchair at all!

Why photograph  a kid in a wheelchair when he can walk around like everyone else? Because disabled people are one of the social groups contributing towards our rich diversity. So if you show a bunch of kids at school or anywhere else, one of them had better be in a wheelchair. Trouble is, they can’t find enough disabled kids to model, so Houghton Mifflin sticks able-bodied kids in the “house” wheelchair, kept on hand for just such emergencies. (WSJ 8/18/06) Only a quarter of the disabled kids in photos really are disabled. Publishers therefore have to be careful that a kid in a wheelchair is not seen, a few chapters later, playing football.

Sometimes the light from one news story can illuminate another. Such is the case here. We are now in position to understand the sudden rush to classify new planets,with our present nine planets expanding to twelve, if the International Astronomical Union’s executive committee has its way. It plainly is an effort to project our wonderful diversity into the very heavens.

We already have, commendably, a planet for women, Venus, to offset Mars, the one for belligerent guys. There is also a planet for dog lovers, Pluto; a planet for automobile aficionados, Saturn; and a planet for practical jokers: Uranus. (is there life on Uranus?) But, except for women, these groups reflect the diversity of another age. We must now demonstrate sensitivity towards more up-to-date minorities. Thus the three new planets will, no doubt, consist of a gay planet, an Hispanic planet, and a disabled planet.

The government, of course, will spend an obscene sum of money in naming the new planets. The Whitepebble Religious Institute is angling to land a soon-to-be-awarded naming contract, and it’s track record is good in this regard, since it has mastered the fine art of the low bid. In it’s proposal, the Carriertom organization tentatively suggested Provincetown, Poncho, and FranklinDRoosevelt as new planetary names, just to show that they are on the ball. The real contract money will be made from exhaustive testing to ensure that, God forbid, whatever new names are decided upon do not offend anybody.

Better still, the contract may be open-ended. There’s lots of rocks and stuff out there that may qualify as planets under the new definition. Tom Whitepebble  eagerly awaits the day when every minority, no matter how tiny, has its very own planet, at $200,000 a pop for the Research Institute.

..........................................

Update: The IAU has voted. They did the completely unexpected! In a contemptuous show of insensitivity, the organization not only declined to recognize the new planets, but they delisted Pluto. Now there are eight planets, not nine, much less twelve.

This is a politically correct age. Do not think dog lovers will take this lying down. We can expect protests, which will probably begin when they refuse, in retaliation, to clean up after their pooches from now on. One can only hope that when members of the IAU saunter through the park and step in you-know-what, they will reflect upon the great injustice they inflicted on the noble dog lover.

As for the Whitepebble Religious Institute, looks like it's back to parking cars on its front lawn for nearby stadium events.

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Is Hell Exothermic or Endothermic?

In the aftermath of the Judge First - Ask Questions Later religious conference recently concluded in Martha’s Vineyard, Tom Whitepebble was so miffed that his organization did not win first prize that he neglected to report just who was the punk who did win. Subsequent fact-finding uncovered an amazing coincidence.

It was Tom Weedsandwheat, long-lost brother of eminent Whitepebble staffer, Tom Wheatandweeds!

This discovery helped take the edge off Whitepebble’s discontent, since it was kinda like keeping the prize in the family. As reported, Weedsandwheat’s paper decisively settled the issue of whether hell was endothermic or exothermic.

The paper, in part is reproduced here:

First, we postulate that if souls exist, then they must have some mass. If they do, then a mole of souls can also have a mass. So, at what rate are souls moving into hell and at what rate are souls leaving? I think that we can safely assume that once a soul gets to hell, it will not leave. Therefore, no souls are leaving.

As for souls entering hell, lets look at the different religions that exist in the world today. Some of these religions state that if you are not a member of their religion, you will go to hell. Since there are more than one of these religions and people do not belong to more than one religion, we can project that all people and all souls go to hell.

With birth and death rates as they are, we can expect the number of souls in hell to increase exponentially.

Now, we look at the rate of change in volume in hell. Boyle's Law states that in order for the temperature and pressure in hell to stay the same, the ratio of the mass of souls and volume needs to stay constant.

So, if hell is expanding at a slower rate than the rate at which souls enter hell, then the temperature and pressure in hell will increase until all hell breaks loose.

Of course, if hell is expanding at a rate faster than the increase of souls in hell, than the temperature and pressure will drop until hell freezes over.

It is important to note that, thus far, no new ground has been broken. Many researchers have taken the question to this point. But thereafter they were stymied. There seemed no way to choose between the two equally plausible alternatives.

Weedsandwheat’s breakthrough, which so wowed the judges, came from realizing that the answer could not be found by theology alone.  In a blinding flash of insight, he realized that an entirely separate field had to be examined, specifically, his own lovelife!

He reflected upon the fact that, ever since he began employment at his thinktank, he has been pestering a pretty, young co-worker to go on a date with him, only to have that co-worker reply that “it will be a cold day in hell before I go out with you.” Since, after several years, she has still not gone out with him, it became clear to Weedsandwheat that a cold day in hell was not in the cards, thereby ruling out one alternative to this great puzzle.

By process of elimination, it stands to reason that hell can only get hotter and hotter, hence, hell is exothermic!

It must be reported, though it detracts from the joy of the festive conference, that some of the sorehead and loser delegates were heard grumbling over Weedsandwheat winning the award. Hadn’t they heard this research somewhere before? Wasn’t this, in fact, blatant plagiarism?

Weedsandwheat held his ground. Plagiarism was an ugly word, he pointed out, carrying connotations of theft. He preferred to think of his work as recycling, which carries admirable connotations of saving the planet.

 

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Tom Irregardless and Me                No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

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At the Judge First - Ask Questions Later conference

Since the Whitepebble Research Institute derives a full 40% of its income from religious commissions, it behooves them to keep abreast of all recent developments in the field. Venues in which one may encounter rising talents, new ideas, and the latest research papers are therefore most desirable. One such avenue is the Judge First - Ask Questions Later religious conference, held annually in diverse locations. It is, for sure, a must-attend event.

True, Tom Sheepandgoats, the Whitepebble representative has not attended for years, ever since they awarded top prize to that schlocky rhyme about walking with Jesus, in which two footsteps are seen in the sand, that of the life-traveler and Jesus. But in some places there is just one set of footprints, and so the life-traveler accuses Jesus of leaving him….always during tough periods of his life…..but Jesus answers that, no, I did not abandon you…..during those times I carried you.

Not a dry eye or nose could be seen among the blubbering judges, but Whitepebble vowed in disgust not to return, since it seemed to him that the judges were turning the power of the gospel into so much sentimental slop.

This year, however, cash prizes were offered for original papers….always a sufficient motivation for Whitepebble to reexamine his principles. Moreover, with, not one, but two worthy entries….the Gospel of Howard, and Acts of the Pioneers……chances of snagging some of that dough seemed good.

This year’s conference was held at Martha’s Vineyard,IMG_0322
 at the
  Campground tabernacle,
between sessions of other events. IMG_0309
Delegates arrived in style from
far and wide. Unfortunately, the attached photograph turned out to be not conference delegates, as was initially reported, but merely local residents, who were nonetheless thrilled to host such a prestigious event in their hometown or ought to have been. IMG_0327Martha, at left, herself met us all at the gate to lay down the law:Aunt bea no carousing, no womanizing, no dancing, no card playing, no coveting, no bearing false witness. No using informal pronouns….thees and thous will do nicely.

It was a truly thrilling event. Competition for top prize in pure theology was intense. In the end, the winner ventured outside the traditional realm of theology, into chemistry, to prove a point that theology alone has never been able to answer definitively. By ingenious reasoning, it was proved that hell is not endothermic, as had long been supposed, but exothermic……that is, it absorbs heat over time, rather than shedding it. Whitepebble Institute's two entries both received honorable mention, so Whitepebble wasn’t too sore. Moreover, he was so impressed with the new research on hell that he abandoned his characteristic frugality and was heard to vow…..we have to get that kid on our staff…I don’t care what it costs, as long as it’s not too much!

 

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Tom Irregardless and Me           No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

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A Bad End for Badfinger

A favorite second-tier music group of mine is Badfinger, who cut some records in the 60’s and 70’s. First time I heard their music, I mistook them for the Beatles. In fact, Paul McCartney wrote their first hit song, and the group appeared on the Apple music label.

I heard them on the radio again and became curious. Where are they today? I googled them.

Wow, don’t ever do that! What a sordid tale! Fights with promoters, fights with critics, fights with each other. For a time, two estranged members both headed bands named Badfinger. Beaten down by legal and artistic hassles, one member hanged himself. A dozen years later, another member did exactly the same thing. You’d never guess these things from the music, which is catchy.

Musicians don’t lead easy lives, and were it not too morbid, I would make my fortune marketing the Dead Musician Trivia Game. How did they die? I’ve yet to worry out all the rules, but I imagine the more dead musicians you could account for, the more points you would score.

Once, in a while, musicians die honorable deaths…..George Harrison of cancer, for example…..and two or three of them have actually died from natural causes! All others, though, fall into one of the following categories: Plane crashes, drug overdose, suicide, with a handful of  sub-genres such as car crashes and murder.

If it didn’t seem so morbid, I’d list them all. But it does seem morbid. So you have to do it yourself. Get out your old records albums and go through the groups. Use google if you have to. What a productive way to spend a rainy afternoon! Your Goth friends will be ecstatic.

The solution, likely not too far away, is for Congress to require warning labels on all musical instruments, just as they do on cigarettes. Warning: regular playing of this instrument may lead to plane crash, drug overdose, or suicide. They love stuff like that up on Capital Hill. It gives the impression they are doing something.

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Television in Belize

Josh and Jazz are back from Belize, and they confirm all fears about Western influence.

Cable TV has hit the outlying villages. It’s pricey, but irresistible. People pony up the dough, and spend all their evenings, with family and friends, huddled around the flat screen. Homes are tiny in Belize, often just one room shacks. When nightfall comes, every window emits that flickering blue light that says: no one’s getting any sleep till prime-time’s over.

It’s like unleashing syphilis on the American Indians. The country folk have no natural immunity, and within two years, values that have been around for generations evaporate, replaced with TV values. Boy-girl standards of conduct realign to that of American TV. Kids sprout bandanas and hang out all night. Old folks, who used to be smart, are now seen as dumb…..just like they are on American TV……you don’t waste your time listening to them. You certainly don’t follow their ancient counsel. And if you want all the goodies they show on TV, then you need cash and you need it fast. Hard work in the fields, like the dopey old folks do, won’t cut it, but selling drugs on the street will, just like they do on CSI!

Here in the USA, we’ve all become accustomed , if not immune, to slutty blood and guts TV. It didn’t happen overnight. It took 60 years of gradualism. My wife and I rented some Dick Van Dyke sitcoms a few night ago ….the show was a favorite of the 1960’s. Dick wore a sweater and tie in his own house. Their bedroom featured double beds! If a  man and woman had to sit on the bed, rules-of-the-day were that one foot must always be on the floor. Yes, yes, I know. Today that would be a challenge for dreaming up new  kinky positions, but it wasn’t so then.

Imagine if you’d sprung CSI or Gilmore Girls on the I Love Lucy crowd. Wouldn’t the producers have been tarred and feathered? People wouldn’t have stood for it. It took two generations to gradually break down resistance…two generations of pushing the envelope, one tiny step at a time, to get to where we are now.

The third world, in contrast, is offered no such period of acclimation. Western TV is poured undiluted on an unprepared people, and the results aren’t pretty.

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Getting in the Last Word

How many arguments would choke off were it not for people who must get the last word?

David the King was the target of hurtful talk over a long time. But he held his tongue and endured.

But those seeking my soul …….deceptions they keep muttering all day long. As for me, like someone deaf, I would not listen; And like someone speechless, I would not open my mouth. And I came to be like a man that was not hearing, And in my mouth there were no counterarguments. Ps 38:12-14

There is something refreshing in this course. You don’t have to answer every mean remark people say.

They told Joseph Rutherford, 2nd WBTS president, that a coworker had said rotten things about him.

Well, Karl talks a lot, and he says things he doesn’t mean.

He wasn't enraged. He wasn't outraged. He didn’t even know if it was true, (it wasn’t) and didn’t care. He just let it slide past him.

Going back one president, Charles Russell (1rst WBTS pres) observed: If you stop to kick every dog that barks at you, you’ll never get very far.

We do want to get very far, usually. Best if we get some thick skin to absorb insults without loosing our cookies.

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Tom Irregardless and Me             No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

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Danes insult the Prophet

A pure delight was to watch Danish reaction when one of their newspapers slandered the Prophet and the Islamic world went ballistic. Not delight at the mayhem, of course, in which some people even died. Not even delight, because, for a rare change, the target of fury was someone other than the United States. But mostly delight at watching the Dane’s genuine astonishment. How could anybody dislike us? they agonized. We’re so nice!

It must be a misunderstanding! Yes, that’s it. Patiently, as if speaking to a slightly dull child, they explained: You see, in our country there is freedom of expression. Here we allow different points of view, even if we don’t agree with them! Surely, once the Arabs understand this, their anger will dissolve and they’ll marvel at our tolerance and broadmindedness.

Trouble is, they understand it very well, and want no part of it. Western culture and values to them means moral rot. It means family breakup, out-of-wedlock births, open prostitution, (sex workers, the West calls them) drug use through the roof. Who needs it?

And that may not be a misunderstanding at all. Hotheads get the upper hand, as they always do, and the reaction is more violent than anyone would have imagined.

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The Flag: Salute/Respect

Driving home one night, I saw a flag flying upside down. I did a double-take. Maybe the wind had caught it some odd way and wrapped it around the pole. But no, here was another one! And I’ve seen a few since. Turns out it represents some protest, if not about Iraq, then about Patriot Act restrictions of rights we’ve grown accustomed to.

Still, it’s jolting to see, even when we’ve grown used to flags serving as jackets, bandanas, patches, underwear, and even fuel at the occasional flag-burning.

Jehovah’s Witnesses would never do any of the above to the flag. At all times, we treat it with respect. And yet we do something which, to many people, is worse. We decline to salute it.

This is a hot button issue for many. If, in your mind’s eye, you can see troops hoisting the flag at Iwo Jima, then you may not take kindly to people who won't salute. Maybe they should find another country in which to live, you might fume.

It might help to realize that JWs refrain from saluting any flag in any land, not just that of a particular country. Thus, whatever their reasoning may be, it is obviously not one of disrespect, much less subversion, toward any nation. The obedience of Jehovah’s Witnesses to civil authorities is well known.

Their stand can best be summarized by reading the ten commandments. Found in Exodus chapter 20, here is the second commandment: 

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them; for I, the LORD thy God, am a jealous God...  (Exodus 20:4,5 bold type mine, 21st Century King James Version

Thus the flag salute is seen as an act of worship, an act of idolatry, and if there’s one thing that God makes clear he doesn’t like, it’s idolatry.

One might suppose that flag salutes go back to antiquity. In fact, it’s a relatively modern trend. The present hand-on-heart salute dates back only to 1942. It replaced what was known as the Bellamy salute (named for Francis Bellamy, who wrote the Pledge of Allegiance) instituted in 1892. The Hitler salute of the 1930’s so closely resembled the Bellamy salute that the latter was modified to its present form. Thus, while flags are old, flag saluting is not.

The 1990 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses tells of a Canadian Witness child who they tested with regard to flag decorum. She and another child were summoned separately to the principal’s office, where they found a Canadian flag draped across his desk.  The non-Witness child was told to spit on the flag, and she did so, notwithstanding that she saluted it every day. Spitting must be okay….her teacher had told her to do it.  The Witness child was brought in and told to do the same. She would not do it. They tried to coax her. Since she didn’t salute, there’s no reason not to spit, they suggested. She held her ground. No, spitting would be desecrating the national symbol, she explained. Jehovah’s Witnesses respect the flag, though they do not worship it. Results were announced in class, hopefully not with the other child’s name. Apparently, it was part of some civics lesson.

So what is in a gesture, anyway? If a child who salutes the flag can just as readily spit on it, how meaningful is the salute?

The well known

English historian Arnold Toynbee warned of the development in our time of the “grim shape of a pagan worship of sovereign national states,” describing this also as “a sour ferment of the new wine of democracy in the old bottles of tribalism.” Those who claim that their own nation is superior to all others, even to the point of worshiping the State, have been manipulated by rulers and regimented in order to carry out their policies, whether good or bad…..[This results in occasional trials for Jehovah’s Witnesses]….who love the land of their birth but decline to worship the State and its symbols.
Watchtower  1989 1/1 p 22, par 17, brackets mine

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