My categories have gotten so cumbersome that I can't find my own stuff. So I've plowed a little time into the blog. I've added a few more specific categories & weeded out some of the overlapping or vague ones.
All in the quest for orderliness.
My categories have gotten so cumbersome that I can't find my own stuff. So I've plowed a little time into the blog. I've added a few more specific categories & weeded out some of the overlapping or vague ones.
All in the quest for orderliness.
When NFL planners billed the eccentric artist formerly known as Prince and more recently known by an unpronounceable and indecipherable symbol and presently known once again as Prince for the Superbowl halftime show, they thought they were in for clear sailing. Ever since Janet Jackson bared her breast, they've been looking for entertainment more family friendly, yet not so family friendly that viewers switch the channel to check out other offerings. Since Paul McCartney never gave Ed Sullivan any trouble, and the Rolling Stones only gave him a little, they were booked for two successive years, to general satisfaction. But with Prince.....well, how could they miss? He is electrifying, young but not so young as to turn off the old boy beer and chips base, and best of all.....no worries about anything inappropriate since he became one of Jehovah's Witnesses a few years back!
Well.....um....uh.....ahem....it didn't exactly turn out that way. I mean, the performance was riveting and all....easily besting the shows of those old guys mentioned above, but there was a controversy. Did he not, for one brief segment, use his electric guitar as a giant phallic symbol?! That's the charge that was made, with regard to a backlit scene in which his profile was projected onto a screen!
As expert in all things JW, people flooded me with requests for an opinion, or at least you never know when they may start. Did he or didn't he, Tom Sheepandgoats, hmm? So I diligently reviewed the tape, just like referees review close calls on the field.
Actually, I didn't review the tapes. I didn't have to. I haven't seen a Superbowl in years, but I did see this one. And I didn't see it just because our guy was playing. I didn't know he was playing until halftime. No, some friends had invited us over for the game. And.....trust me on this....they didn't know Prince was playing either. In fact, I'm a little surprised they knew the Superbowl was playing.
So I saw the performance live. And, uh.....hmm....well....it's like....that is....um, it did kinda look that way. But maybe I'm just a prurient pig with a gutter way of seeing things.
Because not everyone agreed. Even rock music potheads who would love it that way conceded it might have been accidental. There's a reason those 24 elders in Revelation chapter 5 are playing harps and not electric guitars! The way you strap on and hold an electric guitar always subjects you to the risk of seeming risqué, if viewed from a certain angle, especially via projected shadow.
"If people want to be hypersensitive, they can be hypersensitive," says Rolling Stone's Gavin Edwards. "Those trombones are phallic, too. What are you going to do?"
I didn't know that about trombones. I promptly threw mine in the trash.
Many blog comments mirrored that of Scott Cohen, a self-described religious guy (Jewish) who tours with a band, and who ranks Prince concerts among his top favorites, and who has a music degree from Syracuse, and who is fed up with the phallic accusation with all its prudish and holier-than-thou implications. "Prince dedicates every show to Jesus Christ and anyone who knows about his current beliefs knows that he will no longer swear or perform songs like "Darling Nikki"...etc.....I thought the Superbowl performance was terrific...and didn't notice any phallic nothing..." So there!
Among the tunes Prince morphed into his show was Bob Dylan's All Along the Watchtower in which he ignored the early verses to instead chime in with "all along the watchtower, Princes kept the view." Was he making a sly plug for his spiritual views in front of 90 million people, someone wanted to know?
The most vehement criticism came from that subset of religious folk who can't stand Jehovah's Witnesses! I mean, a lot of folks don't really care for them.....after all, we wake them when they're sleeping in late. I'm not talking about these people. I'm talking about the smaller bunch who positively loathe Jehovah's Witnesses, some of them ex-Witnesses themselves who went sour, guys like Barfendogs. Their comments took the form of "gotchas" and they gloatingly anticipated seeing Prince disfellowshipped [!] and if he wasn't.... well, that would just prove (to them) JW hypocrisy. But you can't pay these soreheads any attention. These are the same people who lambaste Witnesses for being mind control cultists who forbid personal expression.
Say what you want about Prince, with or without the phallic tempest. He certainly did express himself, didn't he?
Do not be overrighteous, neither be overwise— why destroy yourself? Ecclesiastes 7:16 NIV
In general, churches portray the earth as a launching pad from which to leap into an eternity of heaven or hell. We don't. God did not put us on earth because he wanted us somewhere else. He wanted us here and he wanted humans to expand the boundaries of Eden to embrace the whole planet. He did not create humans to die at all, but to live indefinitely, which they would have done had they not rebelled against him.
The Genesis account tells, not of one tree, (the tree of the knowledge of good and bad) but of two. The one we don't hear much about is called the tree of life. They are both introduced to us in Gen 2:9:
Thus Jehovah God made to grow out of the ground every tree desirable to one’s sight and good for food and also the tree of life in the middle of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and bad.
Though real, neither tree conveys magical properties. Their qualities are symbolic. The tree of the knowledge of good and bad represents God's right to rule over his creation, that is, his right to determine what is "good and bad," as opposed to humans usurping that function. The second tree, the tree of life, represents God's guarantee of life. That guarantee was withdrawn after the first humans ate off the former tree, disobeying his direction and rejecting his rulership.
The original command given to Adam:
From every tree of the garden you may eat to satisfaction. But as for the tree of the knowledge of good and bad you must not eat from it, for in the day you eat from it you will positively die. Gen 2:16
They did eat from it, as noted, and so we come to the second tree:
And Jehovah God went on to say: “Here the man has become like one of us in knowing good and bad, and now in order that he may not put his hand out and actually take [fruit] also from the tree of life and eat and live to time indefinite,—” With that Jehovah God put him out of the garden of E´den to cultivate the ground from which he had been taken. And so he drove the man out....Gen 3:22-24
The point is that humans were designed to live on earth forever, to time indefinite. Death after 80 or 90 years was not God's idea.
This fits in very well with what we observe about ourselves. For example, we use (what is the correct percentage?) one tenth of one percent of our brain's capacity. How did that come to be? Evolution can hardly be responsible. In the absurdly unlikely event that super-brain storage could mutate into existence, natural selection dictates that it is passed on to progeny only if it offers a substantial edge in the fight for survival. But the bigger brain hard drive offers no such edge....we have already defined that it is unused. It's a bit like having a house the size of Europe when we only use 3000 square feet. Wouldn't you scratch your head and wonder what the realtor had in mind?
But if we recognize that we were created to live forever....well....then it all makes perfect sense. We would eventually find a use for all that brainpower.
That indefinite life was dependent on those first humans remaining in harmony with the Creator's purpose and design. Once that first couple pulled away....well....it's somewhat like a fan pulling itself out of it's wall socket. Those blades, spinning like mad, begin to slow and eventually stop. And it's hardly the fault of the wall socket, especially if you, the fan operator, were told to keep it plugged in.
But now, how will God yet achieve his original purpose towards earth and humankind? He will, of course. He has a plan set in motion, a plan hatched immediately upon that original rebellion.
It is cryptically referred to in Gen 3:15 [And I shall put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed. He will bruise you in the head and you will bruise him in the heel.] and is frequently discussed in the literature of Jehovah's Witnesses. The "plan" makes for lengthy discussion. Some of it is here:
Some kids were driving on frozen Irondequoit Bay, spinning round and round the way we all love to do in wintertime Rochester, [BTW, nearby Redfield NY has 11 feet of snow, all in the last 2 weeks!] when they discovered the bay was not so frozen as they had thought. Near shore, the ice gave way and down went the car! Of course, this was top news for the Democrat and Chronicle, whose lead story showed the car's top poking up from the bay along with this gem: "It's likely to cost thousands of dollars to retrieve, said one towing expert."
It was true. Neighbors and cops and ice fishermen and bay officials converged on the scene and debated what the final price tag would be. Would it be $1? Or $10? Or maybe that figure was too low. Maybe it would be a million dollars! Nobody had any idea, but then they called a "towing expert" who opined it was likely to cost "thousands of dollars." Blown away by his confidence, they gave him the job and....sure enough....when he hauled the thing out, he charged thousands of dollars!
They tried to be gentle at first, but in the end they salvaged little more than scrap metal, just like that engine repair you did where you started with the screwdriver and box wrench, then escalated to the vicegrips and crowbar, then escalated again to the jackhammer and cutting torch, then gave up and bought a new car. The drama took three days to unfold, and each day the dunked car was front page news, trumping Bush, Iraq, Hillary, Spitzer, everything.
No wonder nobody knows anything! They're dumbing our papers down and we can't do a thing about it. The D&C is practically a comic book now, and if you have any doubt, go to the library and check out some issues from decades back. They are scholarly tomes by comparison. Ditto for the newsmagazines. Ditto for all kinds of popular press as they follow reading skills to unheard of depths, desperately trying to keep readers who hate to read. Even my beloved Watchtower is right there riding the trend, just like Slim Pickens astraddle the falling bomb. What choice do they have if they want to reach people? Since trends like this are usually too gradual to notice, the fact that we can notice it is depressing.
In 1990, documentary producer Ken Burns presented The Civil War on PBS. For nine evenings PBS stood toe to toe with the big networks. People didn't watch the usual tripe, they watched The Civil War. The series won 40+ film and television awards. Burns panned through thousands of archived photos, narrated scores of personal stories, diary entries and letters from great men and plowboys alike. And you cannot sit through the program without being struck by how literate they all were back then. Not just the educated people. No, but also the bumpkins, the plowboys, the commoners. Not only did they narrate facts clearly but, more remarkably, they expressed emotion gracefully and without embarrassment.
But that was then. Now is now. Several years ago Watchtower released the brochure What Does God Require of You? The writing is extremely simple, perhaps (just guessing here) 3rd grade level, so that you run the risk of offending people when offering it, in case they are scholars reading at the 4th or 5th grade level. But you must have a tool for everyone and the brochure's plus is that it offers a complete overview of God's purpose, along with what we must do to fit in with it. It's no good to write everything like the New York Times and thus miss 80% of the population. Anyway, simple people respond more readily to the Kingdom message than do educated ones. It's not the education that messes people up. It's the pompous and full-of-themselves baggage they tend to pick up along the way. God despises pride.
For Jehovah is high, and yet the humble one he sees;
But the lofty one he knows only from a distance Psalm 138:6
For you behold his calling of you, brothers, that not many wise in a fleshly way were called, not many powerful, not many of noble birth; but God chose the foolish things of the world, that he might put the wise men to shame; and God chose the weak things of the world, that he might put the strong things to shame; and God chose the ignoble things of the world and the things looked down upon, the things that are not, that he might bring to nothing the things that are....
1 Cor 3:26-28
So if I offer that brochure and I'm not sure about reading level, I avert trouble by saying up front that it's written very, very, very, very simply. Think of it as an outline. We could make it big as a phone book if we wanted, but we've deliberately written only enough words to glue the scriptures together, to bridge from one to the next. That way the Bible stays front and center, not our own pontificating.
Like in Network, Eliot Spitzer is mad as hell and he's not going to take it anymore! The odd thing is that he's not taken it very long. It was just 6 weeks ago that Spitzer was sworn in as governor, wearing his new Hickey-Freeman suit. But it's clear he means to make his mark. Cross him at your peril
The big blowup comes after Spitzer fired the former state comptroller, caught with his hand in the till. He then assembled previous state comptrollers to recommend new candidates. The state assembly said they'd go along, but then they reneged and gave the job to one of their own.
Spitzer was spitting nails. The Assembly's move showed a ‘‘stunning lack of integrity that is deeply troubling ... You have just witnessed the insider game of self-dealing that unfortunately confirms every New Yorker’s worst fear and image of all that goes on in the Legislature of this state,” he fumed. There was some party coming up....some get-to-know-you wing ding with Assembly members. Spitzer cancelled it!
It's an odd place to pick a fight. Yes, he lost the skirmish, but it's a petty skirmish. The Assembly's constitutionally empowered to do just what they did....choose their own guy. Moreover, the guy they chose gets high marks all around, and seemingly fits in well with Spitzer's reform program, except Spitzer didn't think of him himself.
No matter! Spitzer is here to kick some butts. And New Yorkers agree that butts need kicking, even if their not really sure....who actually follows state politics?....exactly which butts need it most. This is the Assembly that has presided over an ever more hopeless basket case mess-of-a-State, and the perception, right or wrong, is that these guys care for little else than protecting their own turf. So New York's indebtedness is second only to one other state, it's taxes are second to none, Medicaid expenditures are twice the national average, businesses can't leave fast enough, and the school graduates behind them. Only once in 16 years has the annual state budget passed on time...it's been up to six months late....these guys stake out territory and refuse to budge. Schools and municipalities can't do their own budgets, not knowing what aid they'll get from the state. Witty New Yorkers say things like (trust me, I know) "Last one out of New York, turn out the lights." The former governor tried to address some of these problems and these guys handed him his head. He learned to shut up and smile.
Rochester's quirky Bob Lonsberry suggests that Spitzer should have been more conciliatory. These guys (the Assembly) aren't going away, he points out, and unlike Eliot's former Wall Street foes, you can't throw them in jail or run them out of business. But it may be that Spitzer thinks nothing will change if he simply plays the game nice. No, Mr. Spitzer was elected in a landslide. He has lots of good will. The assemblymen have none. Many would agree with Ed Rooney .... "I’m all for a tyranical dictator. The beauty of hitting rock bottom is that you have no where to go but up."
Meanwhile, journalists are stocking up on popcorn. It's gonna be an interesting few years.
They buried a great fighter today,” reported the Jersey Journal. “….a warm friendly man….we shall not see his like again in our time.”
Well, not exactly today. It was July 7, 1958. But he was family. So we keep track.
Boxing experts called it the most inhuman fight ever staged. Early last century, in 1909 Paris, Joe Jeanette [Jennette] slugged it out with Sam McVey for 49 rounds. Jennette pounded Sam into the canvas 11 times. McVey returned the favor 27 times. Nonetheless, Jeanette triumphed, for when the 50th round began, McVey refused to budge, crying “this man ain’t human!”
They were four of them: Joe Jeanette, Sam McVey, Sam Langford, and Jack Johnson. They were heavyweights. They were black. They were evenly matched. They mostly fought each other. White boxers rarely fought blacks, and so the World Heavyweight Title was a white title. But one of the four, Jack Johnson, tailed and taunted world champ Tommy Burns around the globe. Finally, in Australia, 1908, Burns agreed to a match. Jack thrashed him soundly and so became the first ever black titleholder. Thereafter, Johnson himself refused all challenges from black fighters.
Was Jack Johnson the greatest of the four? Or was it his tenacity, hounding the white establishment until he got his shot at the title? One can make a case for any of the four. “Many experts believe Joe [Jeanette] would have eclipsed all fighters…. if he had not injured his right arm early in his career,” said boxing writer Jack Powers. Jeanette himself gave the nod to Sam Langford. And it was Sam McVey that went the 49 rounds with Jeanette in Paris. Of course, Jack Johnson captured the title.
“If you want to know which was the toughest of the lot, I’ll tell you,” Joe said in a later interview. “It was Langford. Jack Johnson? No, sir. Not Johnson. Look, I fought them both, not once but many times. Sam would have been champion any time Johnson had given him a fight. There is no question about it. I wouldn’t wonder if Sam could have beaten any man that ever fought….Johnson was a good fighter. No mistake about that. Very clever, and he could hit, too. But Sam would have taken him. I know. But Johnson wouldn’t have any of us after he won the title. Smart man. He was plenty scared of Sam. I don’t blame him. I was too. Boy, how that boy could hit. Nobody could hit like that.”
In 1906, Joe Jeanette married Adelaide Atzinger, a white woman from a modest farm family in upstate New York. She was my great aunt, so I know the history.
They wed in secret, for her family never would have agreed to it. Back then, one did not marry outside one’s race. It was not done. Afterwards, our entire family was ostracized in the community, as if they were all complicit. Adie’s sister Mary was so harassed at school that she quit in the eighth grade and found work in a silk mill. She made $2.50 a week.
Soon such sentiments died down among the local folk. People liked Joe. He carved himself a respected place in the community. But it was not that way with strangers. Years later, his light skinned daughter Agnes would bring home dates to meet her folks. Some would take one look at Joe and disappear. She and her brother Joey later married, but neither couple had children. They wanted to spare kids the same prejudice they had faced.
As for the rest of the family, we read about Joe the fighter, but we remember Joe the man. Uncle Joe retired from boxing in 1918 and went into business. He’d made serious money from fighting, and his wife, by all accounts, could squeeze a nickel till the buffalo yelped. He built a three story brick building, which still stands, on Summit Ave in Union City, New Jersey. It sported a gym on the second floor, a garage/showroom on the first, and three apartments. For a short time, Joe housed all my relatives: Gram and Gramp on the top floor, my great uncle and aunt on the second, he and Adie on the first. Union City later named a street for him….Jeanette St. It runs behind the building.
Later in his career, Joe turned to renting limousines. He always liked fine cars, and the first car Gram ever saw, which scared the wits out of her, came at her piloted by Joe.
By the time my father was born in 1921, Gram and Gramp had bought a nearby farm. As Pop grew up, visiting Joe and Adie was a big deal. Times were hard then financially, and you never knew when Joe would spring loose with a quarter! Pop would wander up to the gym…Joe didn't mind…and slap around the punching bag.
Ron Howard’s 2005 film Cinderella Man includes scenes from Jeanette’s gym. Much was cut from the final movie, but appears in the deleted scenes segment of the DVD, with Ron providing voiceover commentary. Actor Ron Canada played Joe.
Joe was a warm, animated man…a favorite with all the young cousins. “Look at the birdie!” he would cry, looking up. They’d follow his gaze, but it was a trap! As if still in the ring, Joe would move in quick with a tickle, much to their delight. When Gram came down with the Spanish flu in 1918, Joe would visit every day to read her the newspaper. He died at home in 1958, in his 52nd year of marriage. “They buried a great fighter today,” said the Jersey Journal, quoted at the outset. “Jennette was a warm friendly man to his intimates….we shall not see his like again in our time.”
In the innocent naiveté of children, my cousins…their lives overlapped Jeanette’s by about ten years…didn’t realize Joe was a black man. Nor did they think he was a white man. He was just Uncle Joe. But one day they saw black people in the newspaper, the caption said they were black people, and they looked like Uncle Joe. Yes, their mother confirmed, Joe was a black man. But it made no difference to them…why would they care?
Older relatives, though, witnessed Jeannette’s lifelong fight against racism. He fought it with graceful dignity, aided by his amiability, his boxing and business sense, and no doubt the fact that he could pound the stuffing out of anyone had he taken it into his head to do so. Gram, a stolid farm woman, was sensitive to racial injustice throughout her life. And Pop imagines the day when nobody cares about their roots, and when people intermarry so commonly that it can’t be told who’s who. Then, he figures, racism will end.
It’s family history. Because of it, I was raised in a home where racist remarks were never heard. I was slow to imagine that any white family might be different.
Here is an update to the story.….……
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There's no sense in donning sackcloth of false modesty. Fact is that the Whitepebble Religious Institute is revolutionizing the world of religious study preparation, just like Apple revolutionizing the field of anything they touch with cool gadgets.
The Institute launched two exciting new services recently, and held a news conference to maximize momentum. To the oohs and aahs of thrilled reporters, spokesman Tom Wheatandweeds demonstrated a new two-tier underlining service. The news media was spellbound. Why had no one thought of such a convenience before?
Far and away the best method to prepare and to let others know you have prepared your religious instruction is to underline the material. The lazy students read but do not underline, which accomplishes the first goal but not the second. The really lazy students do neither. These are the students who gripe how boring this or that meeting is, when they themselves are the hangup. The same principle of preparation applies to any learning setting - college, for example.
Nevertheless, it is not for the Institute to lecture or moralize, but only to capitalize on trends. So for a flat yearly fee, a subscriber will receive all study materials already underlined.
Of course, this is not new. Other such services exist. But the brilliance of the Whitepebble method lies in the realization that, whereas people are always looking over your shoulder to see if youâve prepared or not, theyâre not looking too closely! Therefore, underlined study material is satisfactory; there is no need for the lines to be in the correct places! Thus, the subscriber choosing this service recognizes significant cost savings, since any donkey at the Institute can prepare these âclose-enoughâ lessons, and do so while he or she is working on other projects! (multi-tasking)
Theyâre always innovating, those Whitepebble people!
The meetings of Jehovahâs Witnesses are all educational in nature. They thus differ significantly from most church services, which may feature
(depending on the specific church) new-age pep talks, politics, hooting and stomping, raising money, concerts, and tearjerker (or hellfire) preaching. The Watchtower study, for example, consists of a one-hour Q&A session. Material prepared in advance and available to all (in the Watchtower magazine) revolves around such themes as practical application of Bible principles, family life, the ministry, prophetic patterns, maintaining faith, Christian morality, theocratic history, and the like. The conductor, ideally, does not make speeches of his own, but serves only to moderate comments and keeps the lesson on track. You glean insights from the study material and from each otherâs comments. It is spiritual education which you can prepare for, and it helps one to keep heart and mind straight in an ever sickening world.
Everybody is running for President next year, because of easy publicity on the internet.
The current President is decidedly unpopular, and I just read a pertinent article:
Only 32% of Americans approve of his job performance. Forty three per cent say that his war was a mistake. Critics deride him as too stubborn and inflexible. Others dismiss him as a intellectual lightweight. But the president sticks to his guns. "I wonder how far Moses would have gone if he'd taken a poll in Egypt?" he writes. "It isn't polls or public opinion of the moment that counts. It's right and wrong.
The article is by Kenneth T Walsh. It appears in the 2/5/07 USNWR. And the president he writes of is not you-know-who.
It's Harry S Truman, now thought to one of the great American presidents, though trashed in his day!
George W Bush hopes the same opinion reversal will someday blow his way, but not everyone buys it. Says Robert Dallek: "Everybody who gets into serious trouble in the presidency invokes the Truman history and the Truman experience. But there's only one Harry Truman."
Be that as it may, I bring up the subject to talk about Truman, not Bush. He was the most ordinary of men when circumstances made him president. And today he enjoys history's highest assessment.
Now, what other recent president has received universal praise?
It's Gerald T. Ford, who died last month at age 93. Gerald T. Ford, who "healed" the nation by pardoning Nixon, though it ended his political future. But it was a wise thing to do...what's the point of reducing a former president to car wash attendant?....and historians now praise Ford for his action ....throwing himself on a grenade is how Peggy Noonan puts it. I've read nothing but "he was precisely what the country needed at the time." High praise, indeed.
Do these two former praiseworthy presidents have anything in common? They do indeed. Neither one ever wanted the job!
Ford, of course, was never elected president or even vice-president.....he became VP when Spiro Agnew went down in flames, enmeshed in some sort of corruption scandal...I forget the details, and president when Nixon resigned. Nixon was always making comments....they weren't chums.... about what a lunkhead he was. Mean remarks, though not so mean as those of Lyndon B Johnson, the crude sonuvagun, who opined that Ford couldn't fart and chew gum at the same time, which observation the press sanitized to he couldn't walk and chew gum at the same time. (You'll notice that historians have not been especially kind to Johnson)
Neither was Truman ever elected president. And almost not vice-president. He never campaigned for the office, but was put there by party brokers who didn't like him much but saw him as electable, in contrast to several other luminaries who they liked better but knew they were too polarizing to bet on. Like Nixon's view of Ford, Roosevelt couldn't stand Truman.
So two men who never aspired to the office are now judged to be among the greats. In contrast to the turkeys who run, who get elected, and we're still licking our wounds! The lesson ought to be obvious. For the upcoming election, whenever someone declares his or her candidacy, scratch that person off the list of those you will consider. Instead, look for someone who does not want the job and will not accept it, preferably someone hiding in the coat closet amidst the luggage.