Hurry, Gwen, They're Killing People!

You don't have to be in the JW camp, with its cautious stance toward 'entertainment overload,' to conclude that 7.5 media entertainment hours a day is a lot.  I mean, what with sleeping and work/school, is there really time for anything else? Yet the Kaiser Family Foundation just released a ten-year study that indicates today's young people do exactly that, be it TV or YouTube or Hulu or Facebook or Twitter or Tooter or God knows what else. And since they multi-task, they manage to wring 10 hours' content out of that 7.5. Kids [from another source, not Kaiser] are developing rickets, of all things. Rickets!....that disappeared 200 years ago. And yes, Kaiser found all the correlations you would expect: lower grades (from an already dismal level in the U.S.) and increased trouble with the law.

Kaiser said the largest block of time percentage-wise was still TV (counting streaming video), so I'll limit my remarks to that. Besides, that's what I know best. It's my generation. With regard to newer technologies, I know enough internet to blog, of course, but I'm hardly cutting edge. And if you ask me WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) I will reply that Jesus would use a phone with a wire attached to the wall - he would never use a cell phone, let alone one with 'apps'! So TV is what I'll write of.

One of the toughest things about working in the group home was that the TV was always on. It was sort of like a shrine in the center of the house, and it wasn't easy to avoid. The volume was always turned up. And...what was it?....it wasn't so much the soft porn, though there was plenty of that. And it wasn't so much the graphic violence, though there was plenty of that, too. It was the breathtaking stupidity of most of it.....a common thread you never got away from.

"Hurry Gwen, they're killing people!" I'd holler when CSI or some like show was coming on. "Oh boy, now we're talking!" she'd respond. "Blood and guts! That's what I want to see!" I'd once said something 'judgmental' about such programs, only to find that she loved them, so I gave it up. You can't change grown people. Besides, she was a good worker, likable, and I got along with her well. Why, as Eccles 7:16 queries, be 'righteous overmuch?' We'd joke about it -we had our lines down pat - what else could one do? "Why'd God make bad people?" I'd ask. "To kill em!" she'd reply. On nights too busy for her to fit in the shows, I'd offer to call the TV station. "Can you cut out the plots tonight?" I'd propose. "We're a little tight on time right now. Just line the folks up, good and bad alike, and kill em! We'll fill in story ourselves."

One day Gwen came to work with an axe and killed three co-workers and.....Oh, all right!...I made that part up, but you never know when she may start! I must have seen hundreds of TV murders that season, and that's without trying. I mean, I didn't glue myself to the set, as some did, but you'd still stumble across several per night.

Actually, those Law and Order type shows are not the ones I have in mind for "breathtaking stupidity." The writing here was generally crisp, even clever, though obsessed with sex and violence. But they were ever apt to become propaganda pieces for contemporary issues. One character would parrot boiler-plate liberal lines for a given topic; another would spit back the conservative line - man, I hate being preached to by TV cops! In my experience, law enforcement people don't do that. Largely apolitical, they go about their work with a gallows humor, ever convinced that, in true SNAFU fashion...Situation Normal - All F**ked Up (**'s mine)...their best efforts will be undone owing to some screw-up at higher levels.

No, the real drivel and tripe was to be found in reality and gossip shows. These I couldn't abide at all (nor could Gwen), though I might be sucked into a 'cops and robbers' program sometimes. TV execs went orgasmic when they discovered, not only will people debase themselves for free, but others will tune in to watch them do it! And celebrities....listen, they're okay if they're singing or acting or whatever they're supposed to be doing, I guess, but get them talking -like in an interview.....well, four times out of five, you just don't want to do that. I mean, as often as not, they don't know anything, yet these are the role models put before kids 7.5 hours a day.

Make no mistake, this 7.5 hours is not the fault of the kids - you don't blame them for it - but of the adults and of a society that cannibalizes its young, exploiting them for money, pitching them product after fad after gadget, hooking them in any way a profit can be made. More specifically, it's my generation at fault - all of those in it really, except me, oh....and others of Jehovah's Witnesses.  Um...and a lot of others too. In fact, most persons are exempt as individuals. But collectively there is much blame. Fueled by self-interest and a colossal misunderstanding of what makes people tick, the world embraced values that almost guaranteed decay - the only question was 'when.' Regarding the Kaiser study, the FCC is said to be studying the findings. Do you think they'll do anything? Not anything of substance, anyway. Maybe they'll invent some ratings, offer some recommendations, coupled with stern warnings that parents ought to do a better job in monitoring what their kids view. Well....who would argue with that?...that's how I ended up at that Weezer concert....wasn't I the only grownup there?...but a healthy society constructs itself so as to not make a parents' job impossible; in the final analysis, you sort of need parents if you think the species ought to survive. And no parent wants to play 'bad cop' 7.5 hours a day, even if, by some miracle, they have the time to do it.

I remember when Paul McCartney was said to have died in a car crash, and the other Beatles covered it up with a look-alike, and campus radio spoke of nothing else for days on end. My roommate urged me (unsuccessfully) to install a reverse gear on my turntable so as to play all Beatle records backwards, looking for hidden clues such as were to be found in Strawberry Fields (I buried Paul) or Revolution #9 (turn me on, dead man). The mainstream media was oblivious to the story, notwithstanding that the Beatles were the most popular rock group to date. They didn't ignore substantive news to break in breathlessly with update after update, as they would today, as they recently did with....say...the Tiger Woods sex escapades. I recall only one grumbling opinion piece, after several days had elapsed, to the effect that the Beatles...those precocious kids... may have fooled us all with their practical joke, but it was a sick laugh they must be having. That's how it was with 'young people' stories. I was upset about it. I wanted more airtime for our g-g-g-generation. Some sensational group would be the rage among the young - I'd want to see them on TV, and all I'd get was a lousy five minutes at the end of the Ed Sullivan show!

No, I didn't like it. But now I see it was a protection, from adults who still felt a collective sense of responsibility toward the younger generation. Or maybe they were just fuddy-duddys out of touch with changing times, but nonetheless, it was a protection. Let kids have their own generation, let them cultivate their own interests, but not to the exclusion of all else. Construct your society so that doesn't happen. Link them with ideas of the past, ideas that have roots, ideas that have endured over time.

Sigh....has not the now-older generation largely given up on their roots...roots that didn't work out too well, anyway, so as to live vicariously through their young? That's why the prurient interest in youngster's 'sexuality.' That's why pedophilia episodes get top ratings. That why the VH1 "news special" The New Virginity, (younger staff watching it eagerly at the group home, convinced they're watching real 'news') whipping up interest in how long this or that young celeb will hold out.

That's why I don't chafe much at the Watchtower's cautions on today's entertainment, even though, just between you and me, they lay it on pretty thick. But they don't lay it on 7.5 hours a day, do they? Take it as a sign of concern. These are decadent times. There is a place for forthright counsel, and one does well to take it to heart.

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Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Dr. Who, Dr. Jastrow, and Living Forever

When they asked Robert Jastrow the physicist about living forever - would it be a blessing or a curse? - he said… it all depends:

“It would be a blessing to those who have curious minds and an endless appetite for learning. The thought that they have forever to absorb knowledge would be very comforting for them. But for others who feel they have learned all there is to learn and whose minds are closed, it would be a dreadful curse. They’d have no way to fill their time.”

So if your purpose in life is to watch a lot of TV, living forever would probably be a drag. But our appetite for learning can be endless, unless we have closed down shop ourselves. Of course, Dr Jastrow is an egghead - a thinker - and so he focused on learning. But other things are probably boundless, too, like our capacity to create, and to love.

Lately, though, pop culture has been selling death as if it were a benefit. It’s probably those atheists. There’s more and more of them, and buying into their thinking means settling for a final death sentence perhaps not too many years away. Pay attention, and you’ll see the ‘death is beautiful’ notion a lot. For example, it surfaced in a recent Dr Who episode - The Lazarus Experiment. Now, Dr Who is probably the only show that I deliberately work into my routine. A British import, it is science fiction with a quirky protagonist, clever writing, neat  travel in a space ship that looks like a phone booth - it's bigger on the inside than on the outside [!], and endless visits from aliens, most of whom are up to no good. And it just so happens the show fits perfectly into some weekly down time in my schedule. Indeed, I might never have discovered it otherwise. But having done so, I try not to miss it. ‘Yeah, you just watch it on account of that cute blonde,’ accuses a workmate. But it’s not true; the cute blonde has been written out of the script (she got stranded on a parallel universe) yet the show continues to hold it’s appeal.

The episode name itself is a giveaway, since Lazarus is the biblical character whom Jesus resurrected (in a context that makes it clear the dead are not high-fiving in heaven not char-broiling in hell, but are in a state of non-existence...didn't I write about that here?). But this TV Lazarus has invented a machine that makes him young again….he steps in a geezer, and steps out a young man, to the amazement of all the high-brow folk invited to his gala bash. But Dr. Who (was he invited?) smells something amiss. He follows the newly minted youngster, and sure enough, the machine has malfunctioned and dooms Lazurus to transforming back and forth from human to monster  - they’re pretty good at doing monsters on that show. See, in setting back his DNA, the machine has selected ancient mutations long-ago rejected by evolution. (Hmmm…yes…indeed, plausible, nod all the atheists watching the show….whereas if you mentioned anything about God, they’d throw up.)

The time lord doctor also lectures Lazarus on what a curse everlasting life really is, and what a dumb, greedy thing it was for him to want it. For when life drags on forever and ever and ever, you will get so tired of it. You will have been everywhere, done everything. Living will have become an endless, pointless trek to nowhere. You will long for it to end, but….fool that you were for choosing everlasting life….it will not end, but go on and on and on. Oh, the monotony! See, without death, it is impossible to savor life…. and so forth.

Please…. spare me (and Dr. Jastrow). This is atheist tripe. It all depends upon whether you see life as futile or not. If you do, then sure...you would want it to end. But as Jastrow stated, life’s only futile if you’ve made it so. Of course, I’ll readily concede that baked into this system of things are various ingredients to encourage that dismal view - for example, old age and frailty.

Next time you visit Rochester, you may decide to visit the George Eastman house. Why don’t you do that? Mr. Eastman, who brought photography to the masses and who founded Kodak, turned philanthropist once he’d made his fortune and built half the city. His mansion on East Ave showcases his life, his inventions, his contributions to society, and serves as the nucleus for all things photographic right up to the present. But snoop thoroughly and you will discover that he shot himself in the head at age 78. In the throes of old age, his health failing, one by one he saw his chums going senile, bedridden or wheelchair bound. He left behind a note: “To my friends - My work is done. Why wait?”

Q: Why did George Eastman take his life?

 a) His work was done. Why wait?

b) He longed for the blessed release of death to finally end a futile life that had dragged on and on for much too long.

c) His health was failing and he (a lifelong bachelor) dreaded the indignities of old age -with its dependence upon others.

Do you honestly think that, with health and youth, he would not have found more work in which to engross himself? Or would he have longed for life to end? What....are you kidding me?

In this, Mr. Eastman is much like Leonardo DaVinci, the fellow who painted the Mona Lisa - likely the most famous portrait of all time. Leonardo made his mark not only as an artist. He also contributed hugely in areas as diverse as geometry, anatomy, astronomy, architecture, and flight. Some of his sketches have been used as blueprints for devices in use today. He was a renaissance man; in fact, perhaps he originates the term. Yet toward the end of life, he reportedly sought God's forgiveness for "not using all the resources of his spirit and art."

Eastman and DaVinci - two fellows that typify Dr. Jastrow’s statement. And they would be joined by most everyone else, were we not sucked into a morass of drudgery, duty, debt, injustice and hardship. Sure...you might well long for death if you can only envision more of that. Ditto for the frailness that comes with old age. I recently attended a funeral of someone who was happy, content, and productive throughout life. Nonetheless, death was not unwelcome, relatives assured me, since he’d grown “so tired of being sick.”

That’s why the Bible’ promise of everlasting life on a paradise earth is so appealing. It’s Robert Jastrow’s dream come true - unlimited time to grow minus the very real liabilities that eventually cause most of us to tire of life. Perfect health is promised, and an economic system will be in place so that people do not feel they are “toiling for nothing.” Will it incorporate some features of the ancient Jubilee system? Note how Isaiah 65:21-23 describes life under God’s kingdom rule, per the prayer “thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven":

And they will certainly build houses and have occupancy; and they will certainly plant vineyards and eat [their] fruitage. They will not build and someone else have occupancy; they will not plant and someone else do the eating. For like the days of a tree will the days of my people be; and the work of their own hands my chosen ones will use to the full. They will not toil for nothing, nor will they bring to birth for disturbance; because they are the offspring made up of the blessed ones of Jehovah, and their descendants with them.    Isa 65:21-23

There’s a lot of things I’d like to do. I’ve done a few of them. But for the most part, I’ve just scratched the surface. And I’ve spent a fair amount of time shoveling aside the dung this system throws at you. No, everlasting life, should I find myself there, will not be a bad thing. Not at all.

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Tom Irregardless and Me        No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Gradualism and the DTV Changeover

When Jesus comes, it will not be as big an event on TV as the DTV.gov analog to digital changeover. All year they’ve been pummeling me with that stuff! Did even the election get as much hype? It’s been so heavy that Mrs. Sheepandgoats finally broke down and sent away for one of those converter coupons (the government is bailing out the TV viewer, kicking in $40 toward each converter box) Me, I would have waited till the screen went dark, then called the station to complain. Nah, we don’t have cable. I’m old enough to remember when TV was free, so it got locked in my head that TV ought to be free, and I’ve successfully resisted all attempts to make me pay for it. Even the converter box frosts me a little, but since the government is paying the lion’s share, I guess I’ll go along.

Not only are these television folk persistent, but they are brazen as well. They say the switch will happen at a certain day and hour in February. How do they know? It’s risky. Sure, they rely on their calendars and calculations and such, but that can mess you up. What if it doesn’t happen when they say it will? Talk about egg on your face! Why chance it? We all know it’s coming. Better to say it is imminent, coming very soon, just around the corner, and leave it at that.

So much have we heard this message of doom to those trusting in analog….for a solid year now….and its not as if its a hard concept to grasp, all they want is for you to spend some money for a converter box….that one begins to wonder why. Could it be that the television industry fears that analog Americans might actually let the screen go dark, turning to other pursuits? I admit, at first this sounds absurd, since all-evening TV is the American dream. But maybe that’s changing. After all, the mainstay in-the-bag viewers signed up long ago for cable or satellite and therefore won’t be affected by the switchover. It’s the people still getting by with rabbit ears (on their televisions, that is) who just might bolt. Unlike decades ago, there’s lots of alternatives now, mostly the internet (which I use as my unlimited library card). You wouldn’t even have to toss your television in the trash, necessarily. It’s still good for DVD movies from Netflix, Blockbuster, or (I like this) the library.

Fear in the industry seems possible to me. Perhaps there really is fear a of boycott. Many are ambivalent about television today. This blog post, in which I put in my two cents….actually four or five….in the comment section, and continued for a time until I got overpowered by pests, whiners, apostates, and soreheads,  ridicules an Awake! suggestion to avoid immoral or violent TV fare. What is on today that is not immoral or violent, the blogmaster asks incredulously. Exactly. Almost nothing. Of course, we all ignore the Awake! and watch that crap anyway, but we don’t feel good about it afterwards. It’s all somewhat debasing, and even as we lap it up by the hourload, something within us says it’s not so good for our mental, emotional, and spiritual health. So chuck it! Let the screen go dark and turn to something more wholesome.

Television will have done it to itself. For if there is nothing but violence and immorality, that was not always the case. Hereis a post highlighting words of the 81 year old Dick Van Dyke. Yeah, it may have been somewhat prudish to insist upon “one foot upon the floor” in the bedroom scenes of his show, he says, but contrast that with what pours out of the pipe today, to be beamed abroad to culturally conservative countries that see American television as the country’s prime export and so wonder at what a sick country the U.S. must be.

We had a couple from the congregation over for dinner recently. Nice folks, we enjoyed their company and no, we didn’t play any Bible games. But they got antsy as the evening wore on, and as 9PM approached, they all but jumped up and down like kids having to go to the bathroom. They were worried about missing The Unit! (or was it 24?) After they left, I turned on the set to see what the fuss was about. Not thirty seconds into the show, one fellow was holding a knife to another’s eye so as to get him to talk. I turned the set off, but within a week saw the same knife-to-eye trick on some other preview; apparently it’s the rage today. And wasn’t there, just last week, an NPR report on how third-rate terror countries look to Unit-type shows to augment their training?

Now, telling this experience makes me look pious and righteous, and our pals not so good. But don’t you think I have hangups of my own? Do you think? TV watching just doesn’t happen to be one of them. Moreover, I fully realize these shows are addicting. Chances are I too would get hooked were I to see enough of them.

It was Andy Laguna the circuit overseer….was it during the 1980’s?….speaking about gradualism. We’d never go directly from Gunsmoke to today’s sadism….we just wouldn’t tolerate it…. but nobody tries to take us there directly. Instead, it is one tiny step at a time, a journey of many decades which you have to have been around for long enough (trust me, I have) to appreciate.  As a kid, the Twilight Zone used to scare the everlovin daylights out of me. Now I work with a young mother who plunks her two-year old in front of Chucky movies. (I think I’ve persuaded her it’s not such a hot idea.) The change in what we tolerate came not directly, but through gradualism. Mack Campbell got everyone applauding for that talk….unusual because this was a mid-week talk, and they’re not typically applauded.

So maybe…finally….TV has got itself so perverse that…….Uh ohhhh! As I write this over the course of several days, I just heard it announced (1/7/09) that the government has run out of funds for converter coupons! There will be blood in the streets if they don’t print some more. (coupons or money or both) This could be the event that triggers Armageddon!

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Jim and Pam and Ray Goth

 

Deep within the comment section of a certain prior post, whilst I’m being pummeled from the right by religionist whining, and from the left with atheist blather, comes a plea from Ray Goth, an occasional correspondent. I’m to help him salvage his love life!

Hey Tom,

This really has nothing to do with this post, so...yeah...but, I figure you're older and wiser [he got the first one right] than me; and we've had some fairly in-depth conversations, so, why not?

I'm in a pretty messed up situation with this girl. Morally, ethically, whatever...yeah...it's just bad. But, it's so right, and I know that we're really right for one another, in a way that I've never felt in any of my previous relationships. Like, all those cheesy 80's and early 90's romantic comedies...for the rest of my life, if nothing works out with this girl, I'll think to myself "There goes my wife..."

But it's a really messed up situation...What do you do? I mean, I guess I'm asking from the point of view of not having you say "Wait and pray about it," because, I feel like that's where I'm at anyway. Just...how do you go about your life when you know something is so right, that you want to be with someone for the rest of your life and are so completely happy and comfortable with them and being so unsure that it's ever going to work out for entirely external factors?

Thanks,

Ray Goth

I get this kind of request all the time and, frankly, it’s a great distraction from my important work here at the Whitepebble Religious Institute. Moreover, helping out with someone’s relationship difficulties is foreign territory for me since my life with Mrs. Sheepandgoats has never been anything but 24/7 marital bliss. Time was when I would fob a query like this off on an assistant, perhaps Tom Pearlsandswine. But Pearlsandswine recently read an article critical of Charles Russell, and he has defected, saying “how can this be the truth?!” I met him at the Institute door and tried to reason with him but he told me: “Go to hell!”

So now he believes that, too. Very well, Ray. I’ll do what I can in person to help.

You have to pay attention to the chemistry between Jim and Pam of The Office, particularly during seasons one and two. In the first season, Jim pines away every episode for an unavailable Pam. In the second season, it’s exactly the opposite. The writers of that show are not just funny; they are astute, and have a good grasp of how men and women respond to each other.

Season 1: Jim loves Pam. He cutsies up to her all season, horsing around, playing tricks on the co-workers, and so forth. He probably wouldn’t even be at this silly job were it not that he wants to see her. Pam likes him a lot. Does she love him? It sure seems so, but she’s engaged to Roy. Now, Roy is an inconsiderate lout - we all know it. He probably does love her, but he takes her absolutely for granted - one possession among many, and runner-up to drinking buddies, car and sports. How many years has he stretched out this engagement? She deserves better - why did she ever agree to marry this clod? Most likely, (strictly my guess) her dad is just like him. A woman (and vice versa) will often be drawn to someone like her father because that’s the pattern she’s seen all her life - it’s the only type of man she can relate to, warts and all.

Having strung us along all season, Jim tells Pam he loves her madly in the final episode. Well, it’s about time, you weak-kneed idiot! Now, surely, all will be well. But no! Pam is disquieted and confused. She’s not admitted to herself any feelings for Jim. What’s the point, since she’s not available? She’s got to marry Roy.

Season 2: “It’s over,” Jim says to himself. He put his cards on the table. She said no. There’s nothing more to be done, so he leaves town, taking that job in Connecticut. Guys do things like that, especially guys that make inordinate fuss about facts and logic.

Fact: He said he loved her.

Fact: She said no.

Conclusion: Case closed. Leave town.

But - the moron - anyone with the slightest understanding of women knows the case is not closed. Pam simply needs time to adjust to the idea, that’s all. Throughout the second season, she pines away for Jim, who doesn’t have a clue - even though he’s been transferred back to the original office - because, in his mind, the matter is settled. He’s even got himself a new girlfriend - might as well move on in life, he reasons. Meanwhile Roy self-destructs, as we all knew he would.

The point, Ray, that you have to be persistent. And patient. Just because she doesn’t come around immediately doesn’t mean she never will. Men and women process thought and events differently. Not only must you be persistent, you must be willing and able to hear her out, to make her concerns yours. That does not mean you have to fix them! Men are always thinking they have to get in there and fix things, but understanding a situation and her feelings is better than fixing it. Women often want listening more than fixing. Of course, if she’s tied to the railroad tracks with the train approaching, you might want to fix that. But in general, listening is your best move. And whatever you do, don’t show yourself obsessed over sex! Women - for the life of me, I don’t know where they get this from - often think that men “are only after one thing.” If this is truly Miss Right, you must rise above the instinct. Sex does not make faulty relationships well.

Actually, Jehovah’s Witnesses, you likely know, are among that vanishing breed that reserves sex for marriage, and considers it off-limits elsewhere. We needn’t go into that here, only to say that sex relations creates an enormous emotional bond, which muddies the waters as to seeing the other person clearly, and is a source of major frustration if a person is not prepared to follow through with continued commitment. Even if one imagines they are doing it just for sport, that is no guarantee the other thinks that, or that one or both party might change at any time. As the ad used to say: “it’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.”

And, as the geezers from the old country will still say (to their daughters): “why buy the cow when you can have the milk for free?” But this is a vanishing lifestyle these days. Once it was the norm, even if it was not always strictly adhered to. But, in our day, Jehovah’s Witnesses and a handful of others are pretty much the only ones still attempting to live thus.

Now, a couple of caveats to the Jim and Pam scenario:

1.) When I tell you to be persistent, I am taking you at your word (and my general impression) that you are a good guy, an attitudinal cousin of Jim. If you were a lummox like Roy, “be persistent” is the worst advice I could give. Miss Right would justifiably hate me for it. But guys like Roy seldom ask for such advice. They are already convinced they are God’s gift to women, and they are unmercifully persistent, much to any sensible woman’s disgust.

2.) There is a bell curve for men and a bell curve for women. When I say that “women are this” or “men are that,” it is understood that there is great variety in individuals and that they might rest anywhere on their bell curve, even to the point of reversing roles in some areas where both persons sit toward the edges of their overlappinng curves. For the bell curves, while they may overlap some, are not the same. They are different, and it is the averages I have described. There really is a “men from Mars, women from Venus” phenomenon.

3.) Jim and Pam are storybook characters. Yes, the writers are astute, but it is still fiction. Are you really the kind of guy Jim is? Could I even depend upon you to take Miss Right to the Kingdom Hall regularly? (wait….strike that….that’s for another post)

Worrisomely, you admit to having messed up morally, ethically, and whatever. I mean, it’s good you admit to it, but worrisome you have done it. Of course, we are all human, and who hasn’t, to some extent, shot themselves in the foot before? What are we to make of your confession? Typical man! huffs Mrs. Sheepandgoats: he gives no details and just expects you to read his mind! (Note: I am not prying here. cl took a similar statement of mine as an invitation to dump a busload of anti-Russell, anti-NWT tripe on me!) You have messed up. So you have some fixing to do - not of her, but of yourself - and you must persuade her that the fixing is genuine. And it must really be genuine. Are you ready for a permanent relationship? Alas, I have no way of knowing from here.

Relationships take work. Ideally, you start off with someone close enough to your heart that real love can develop. But that will not negate the need for work, self-examination, and ongoing communication to keep the relationship growing and healthy. Unfortunately, we live in a quick gratification society in which, instead of working through problems, people are inclined to conclude that the relationship was “not meant to be” and run off looking for the perfect soul-mate, who they once thought was the person at hand, but no longer do. My guess is that atheists would be especially susceptable to this kind of reasoning, since for them the clock is always ticking, the end draws near, and this life is all there is.

Ray, I hope within this mass of words there is something you can run with. As for me, though ours is a culture obsessed with youth, I’m sort of glad to have reached the age in which personal dramas are all sorted out, in which one has come to know oneself - who he is and who he isn’t - and perhaps offer something to another generation (who won’t listen). Not to say that all things have gone swimmingly in my life; some have, whereas others have sort of fizzled, but the point is that it is done, and one can move on to another stage of life.

It may suffice simply to show Miss Right this post. That may solve all your woes. Or she might break the laptop over your head - it’s a tough prediction from here. Or she might dump you altogether and try to schmooze up to me! But it won’t do her any good. I am married to the gracious, lama-loving, blog-tolerating Mrs. Sheepandgoats. Besides, I am older than your Miss Right by half an ice age.

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Tom Irregardless and Me               No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

 

 

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A Key Old Person and Joe Jennette

Thanks to Ken Burns, old people are hot today. No longer are they geezers who drone on and on and on about the good old days and you'd kinda wish they'd just shut up already since they don't even know what an iPod is. No longer are they the crotchety codgers who grouse about how (per the New Yorker) for the price of a lousy postage stamp today, they used to be able to buy a whole damn Cadillac.

They once were all this and more but Ken Burns changed that with his WWII documentary The War, which recently aired on PBS. Spanning 15+ hours, he told the story of the epic war through interviews with the real live participants, not the bullet-headed generals or the egg-headed historians. Today those participants are pretty old and, for the most part, still ordinary Joes. But they held center stage for those 15 hours. The long buried memories they brought to life were absolutely riveting. Turns out the good old days weren't so good for several very bad years. Like….was it Eisenhower who told how after Normandy, you could walk hundreds of yards and step on nothing but rotting human flesh?

When Mr. Burns’ documentary recorded victory over Germany and then Japan, I knew the story was over. But I also knew there would be some epilogues, some “wrapping up” by the old people. And, dog tired though I was (did I not have to get up early next morning to report to the Institute?) I figured I owed it to these old folks to hear them out. You couldn’t help but connect with these people.

But old people remember lots of things, not just war. Today, the hottest of all old people may be our family’s own Violet, profiled in Violet in the Old Folks Home.Of all living persons, she has the most vivid family memories of the boxer Joe Jennette. This, it turns out, is a critical asset since a TV sports network is making a documentary tribute to Joe. And it’s about time. Long ago, Joe used to routinely fight Jack Johnson, the first black World Heavyweight Title holder, and there’s plenty of people who think he would have captured the title himself had Jack given him a shot. But Jack didn’t. Why should he have? Winning the title himself, he had nothing to gain and everything to lose by fighting black challengers. Wouldn’t he, at best, get bruised up to no purpose? But having broken into the white boxer’s domain, all he had to do was stay there. He could pound white boy after white boy to his heart’s content. He dominated his years in the ring.

All this, of course, was too bad for Joe. It consigned him to the footnotes of fighting. But now TV sports wants to do their tribute. They’re poking around for people to interview and came across the white family Joe married into (my family) through this blog!They even thought they might interview me, Tom Sheepandgoats, but it turns out I don’t really know anything. I’m merely the chronicler. Yes, I saw Joe a few times when I was little, he probably carried me around some on his shoulders, but I really don’t remember. No, better to put the TV people in touch with our family historian, a cousin. But they will really hit pay dirt if they can talk to Violet, Joe’s niece through marriage. It might be good for Violet, too. Old people love to think their memories are valued. Has she yet had her 15 minutes of fame?

Alas, her health has taken a turn for the worse since my post about her. The clock is ticking toward midnight. Pop’s visits are more frequent. Will her memories of Joe be sharp as ever? Will she imagine Joe is still around? (That might be good for an interviewer) Or will she tell them that it’s simply none of their business? That’s unlikely, but you never know, especially if they descend upon her all full of themselves because they're on TV. Violet was always a down-to-earth person

Joe and Adie would drive out in his fine car, a rare sensation, on his way to visit Adie's sister and family in the boondocks. We had one of those country families where everyone gathers around the huge kitchen table for hours on end, trading stories and gossip. By all accounts, Joe cut a fine figure. The neighbor kids were impressed. Who was the rich person with the chauffer? they wanted to know. “That’s no chauffer….that’s my uncle!” Pop replied.

Decades later my own sixth grade daughter searched for an African-American person to write about for Black History Month. She trotted out all the regulars: Martin Luther King, George Washington Carver, Frederick Douglas, and so forth. All perfectly fine candidates. Nothing wrong with any of them. But none were family. So I told her the story of her great great uncle Joe, passing the torch of his memory to another generation. Did she not earn an "A" with her report? Would I not gladly embarass her and put it online if I still had it?

From time to time people hit on that post about Joe. The TV writer, for one. But also a couple of young women who are descendants of Joe’s black family, through his brother. This is all welcome. We’ll now be able to link both sides of the family. I wasn’t able to trace his family when I wrote the post. They used to be in Connecticut, I heard. But googling the name, there were more Jennettes and Jeanettes (a misspelling that stuck...even the Jersey City street named in his honor is misspelled Jeanette!) in Connecticut than you could shake a stick at, so I gave up.

We never knew much about Joe’s family. Maybe Violet will remember it all, if they reach her in time. I used to think it was on account of racial tensions. But the old guy (another one!) I work with every morning says, no, all families used to be like that. You seldom kept close to both sides of a family. You’d identify with one or the other. Travel wasn’t so easy as it is now, telephone not so reliable or cheap (people had party lines back then...the neighbors would sometimes listen in), email not so existent, and so you tended to lose touch with one or the other side.

But now, at long last, we can glue it together! We'll do Joe proud.

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Mormons and Jehovah's Witneses on TV

Dear WXXI:

I am writing with regard to the Independent Lens documentary Knocking, which reviews the contributions to society of Jehovah's Witnesses. I had long supposed it would appear, in time, on WXXI.

Tuesday I watched and enjoyed the excellent film The Mormons, and my memory of Knocking was jarred. But it does not appear that WXXI has scheduled the film, at least not for it's national airing date of May 22. That's too bad.

Jehovah's Witnesses' District Conventions fill the Blue Cross Arena for three or four three-day weekends each summer. JWs are thus an active part of the Greater Rochester community and would like to hear their story told. Among the film's contents, I understand, is a review of 46 Supreme Court appearances by Jehovah's Witnesses over the years which have clarified rights of free speech and assembly with benefit to all. No other group has appeared more often before the Court. Knocking sports a long list of awards, highlighted at it's website www.knocking.org

I urge you to schedule the film, if not in time for its national airing, then at least during the rerun season.

Off topic a bit, you may care to know how we used WXXI while raising our kids. Like many parents, we were concerned with the corrosive effects of TV on children. We gave an allowance of  "TV tickets" to the kids. Using them as they saw fit, they could view a maximum of two hours per week of commercial TV. WXXI, however, was unlimited.

Very truly yours,

Mr & Mrs Tom Sheepandgoats

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I admit I've long had a soft spot for Mormons. Fundamentally, of course, we're poles apart, Jehovah's Witnesses rely on the Bible; Mormons have a sacred book absolutely unique to them. Jehovah's Witnesses are politically neutral; Mormons are deeply involved in politics....both a Presidential candidate (Mitt Romney) and Senate majority leader (Harry Reid) are Mormons. Jehovah's Witnesses stress living simply; Mormons (I think this is fair to say) stress career advancement. This may account for the fact that half of all Mormons live in the United States, the mecca of career advancement, whereas only one sixth of Jehovah's Witnesses do so.

Yet on a surface level there are many similarities, and they are good similarities. Mormons are upright and honest. They are the only group besides us in which religious affiliation alone is enough to convey trust. Sure, you can find the occasional clunkerin both groups, but they are clearly anomalies. And honest people can be found throughout the world's religions, without question, yet religious affiliation alone does not guarantee it.

Both groups trace modern day roots to the 19th century United States, Both faiths enjoy unity. Neither faith has paid clergy. Both have highly organized and completely volunteer disaster relief functions; both were in New Orleans after Katrina and repaired homes, generally those of their own people, in no time flat, whereas federal and private agencies whose charter purpose is disaster relief are still fumbling around almost two year later.

Both groups have a public ministry. Both will remove individuals who persistently and unrepentantly violate key tenets of the faith. Membership is about the same; Mormons count 12 million worldwide to our 6 million, yet we count as members only those with active public ministries. Our most heavily attended meeting, the Memorial of Christ's death, last year attracted 17 million.

Both groups present their beliefs as the truth. This, in an era where most faiths have learned to offer beliefs al a carte; take them or spit them out according to your own tastes. This saves hassles. People don't accuse you of dogmatism. Instead, they praise you for enlightenment. But, at the same time, doesn't this stand place your beliefs on the level of pop psychology?

Both Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses even had a child superstar of the 1970's! Mormons had Donny Osmond. We had Michael Jackson. Alas, our guy got weirder and weirder, not like Prince, and in time, left the faith. But maybe he'll come back some day. I'd like that. He never really had a childhood. I always thought the child molestation charges against him unlikely. I mean, when you're going to court, you lead off with your most credible witness. The government used a kid whose family had made false allegations in the past, shaking people down for money.

But in Rochester, at least for the present time, those Mormons got "their" documentary on TV, and we didn't get "ours!" PBS affiliates are all independent, I'm told. They pick and choose. Only 75% have scheduled Knocking.

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From the website www.knocking.org:

Anderson Cooper, CNN --
"Riveting and illuminating. KNOCKING takes us inside the world of Jehovah's Witnesses in a way that is utterly surprising and moving.

Lynn Schofield Clark, Director, Estlow International Center for Journalism and New Media, University of Denver --
"Throughout the film, viewers are challenged to think about the relationship of religion, government, discrimination, family life, and civil liberties in unconventional and surprisingly human ways. This film will be useful for classes on freedom of expression, civic engagement and religion. Students will be surprised that Jehovah's Witnesses have played such a key role in establishing and guarding many of the civil liberties we enjoy in the U.S. today."

Arthur Caplan, Chair, Department of Medical Ethics, University of Pennsylvania --
"KNOCKING contains a wonderful surprise: It shows how science and religion, with worldviews that rarely overlap, can reach a common goal - the use of less blood in medicine - even if for very different reasons."

KNOCKING was produced by Joel Engardio and Tom Shepard.

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Dick Van Dyke at 81

Sometimes an old friend who you haven’t thought of in years pops up. This morning the clock radio, which was only doing its wake-up job, was within milliseconds of being smashed into scrap metal, when the quick-thinking radio guy said….here’s Dick Van Dyke come to visit. Dick Van Dyke? Is he still around?

I swear when I was a kid I thought he was the funniest man alive. Rob and Laura Petrie put me in stitches every time. Dick won three Emmys in a five year run, and I was steamed when his TV wife, Mary Tyler Moore, busted up the show so that she could explore other roles. Was not her sole purpose in life to entertain me?

“What do you think of today's comedy? How has it changed in 40 years?” asked the quirky host Bob Lonsberry? Well, Dick recalled, he and his TV wife slept in separate beds....that seems prudish. But today he fears that we “offend the world” with our comedy, with its “moral anarchy.” (Sheepandgoats has made this point before, even using the show’s separate beds as supporting evidence!)      

As the media would have it, the world’s view of America is shaped by U. S. military policy, Iraq in particular. To be sure, Iraq earns the U.S. a substantial reputation, especially among government, wonk, and policy types. But average individuals, worldwide, aren’t much affected by Iraq. They do have satellite TV, however, and when they watch American programming, can we really expect them to conclude that Americans are anything other than ho’s, tramps, and sadistic perverts? And don’t you think the Middle East avengers point to such programming as “Exhibit A” when they’re pumping the hordes for America-hating? As Dick said, agree with Muslims or not, they are deeply religious people.

Yeah, but…yeah, but…..Americans aren’t like that…we‘re not all sickos, not most of us. Agreed…..but you’d never know it from television.

Thank you, Mr Van Dyke. It is as you say. TV is America’s most visible export and producers offend the world with its raunchy and violent content. Good to hear from you. And forgive me for wondering if you were still kicking! Turns out you are, very much so, cooking up stuff in computer animation, and giving of yourself through the Midnight Mission. How active will I be at 81?

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Rebecca Did Recover

News update: Rebecca did recover. She was seen on other shows. And the actress that portrayed her mama really was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

This, of course, is Rebecca from The Practice, the lawyer TV show of last decade. She got caught in a bomb blast, you’ll recall, and ended up in the hospital, where doctors insisted she needed a blood transfusion. Only she wasn’t about to have one, because she was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, who take seriously the Bible command to abstain from blood.  The Mama character materialized to give her moral support. But I had imagined that this was the last episode of the season, after which Rebecca landed another role in some other TV show, so that we were left in suspense as to whether or not she would recover. It turns out that she did.

Well, that’s indeed good news, Tom Sheepandgoats, but how do we know your update is accurate? Why didn’t you give us the straight scoop to begin with? Do you realize how close you are to being accused of being a false prophet?

Hard hitting, but fair questions.  Readers deserve an honest answer, not the kind of hogwash they usual….readers deserve an honest answer.

My source is Keith, who used to watch The Practice every week; it was one of his favorite shows. It was one of mine too, but I still rarely saw it. So I would give it a 92% probability that the Rebecca newsflash is accurate. The remaining 8% is to cover the possibility that my source got confused by summer reruns. It can happen to the best of us.

As for the Mama aspect of the story, the accuracy probability here is lower, perhaps 80%. My excellent source notwithstanding, this story smells a bit of JW folklore. Until I receive corroborating evidence, I put it in the same category as the John Denver story, (unfavorable to us),  the John Wayne story (favorable to us), and the Johnny Carson story (very favorable to us, and payback to John Denver).

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Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

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Prophesy and Reality TV

Pity the poor TV producer of just a few years back. Put yourself in his place.

Imagine that you want to produce a TV show. First, you have to hire some actors. They’re all prima donnas and most suffer from high self-esteem. They’ll cost you an arm and a leg. Not to mention aggravation. As soon as you turn your back, they go on talk shows to promote their nutty religious views, or they say mean things about psychiatrists, whom we all know are the indispensable good guys in white hats today.

Then you must build a city. Or clear traffic in a real city, so as to stage your show. People get mad when they’re late for work because they had to detour because you closed their city because you wanted to film your TV show. They send you hate mail. But some of them don’t get mad. They come and appear in your show as extras……the folks just passing by, street traffic. But you must pay them as well, otherwise they gawk at the camera and wave ‘hi’ to Mom.

Of course, you can’t even get this far unless you have a story to film. You must hire writers. They aren’t cheap either. You will pay substantially for them to write scripts about psychos, perverts, misfits, oddballs, exhibitionists and dysfunctional people, which is all anyone wants to watch today.

These seemingly insurmountable problems would no doubt have derailed the entire television industry, but for a staggering discovery.

The audience of “30-somethings weaned on The Real World and Cops….doesn’t judge reality programs any differently than scripted drama.” (Rosenbaum)

To the TV producer, this statement is as profound as is the pledge of allegiance to the patriot or the Lord’s prayer to the devout person. It is the television equivalent of this verse:

You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.   John 8:32

The elusive Rosenbaum, who is on the staff of the Carriertom Into-Wishen Research Institute, or will be as soon as we can track him down, single-handedly saved television!

Why write shows about psychos, perverts, misfits, oddballs, exhibitionists and dysfunctional people when you can just as easily, and for a fraction of the cost, go out and film real psychos, perverts, misfits, oddballs, exhibitionists and dysfunctional people! They don’t mind at all! They crave the attention. And the rest of us, who are mere wannabe psychos, perverts, misfits, oddballs, exhibitionists and dysfunctional people, love to watch their antics. We can’t get enough of it. Thus, the astounding success of reality TV!

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Released 30 years ago, the movie Network was billed as outrageous satire. But each year brings it closer to dead-on reality.

The film begins with the anchorman for a floundering 4th network announcing the cancellation of the evening news due to poor ratings. Since he’s getting on in years and has no real prospects, he tells his viewers that he will blow his brains out on his final broadcast, and encourages them to watch.

Friends rally, concerned about his mental health. But the ratings inch up.

He persuades his network to let him broadcast one last time, so he can apologize for his bizarre behavior under stress, so he won’t be remembered as a loony. Alas, he really has gone nuts, and on his supposed-to-be final night he launches into an endless rant on how all life is B.S!

Ratings shoot through the stratosphere!

Some ambitious executives run the network. They rebuild the network around their new “mad prophet of the airwaves!” They surround him with likeminded nutcakes, who spin off into their own programs. They merge the news division with the entertainment division. (Sound familiar?) And when our hero’s ratings start to slip, they….well….I really shouldn’t give that away. But read it here if you must know.

Of course, rated R (mostly for language, which is substantial, the kind of stuff you hear at work or school), how can the film be a Sheepandgoats recommendation? It cannot be. But it is prophetic.

In 2000 the United States Library of Congress deemed the film "culturally significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry. The movie depicted the concept of reality television a generation before it actually came into being.

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Can’t understand this sayin going round says
Put more on with lessons and less on for morons   -   
D Loftus

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The Practice Gets it Right on Blood Transfusion

When TV writes Jehovah’s Witnesses into the plot, look out! We get clobbered. It not malicious, usually. They just don’t have a clue as to what we’re about. Nor are the hatchet jobs confined  to us. Religious folk never fare well on TV. There’s just not that many TV writers with religious backgrounds out there and they can’t picture the other side. Not that they toss and turn at night worrying about it. It’s much easier to use caricatures and stereotypes.

So I was blown away when an episode of The Practice episode featured Jehovah’s Witnesses and they got it right, and even, amazingly, treated us with dignity.

Do you remember Rebecca the receptionist? Well, it turns out she is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, though nobody knew it until she got caught in a bomb blast. And who would plant a bomb in the Practice’s office? This creepy psycho fellow, wasn’t he a former client? who’s been up to no good the past few episodes.

Anyway, they rush Rebecca to the hospital, where doctors decide only a blood transfusion will save her! But, lo and behold, Mama, a hitherto unknown character, shows up and declares that daughter is a Jehovah’s Witness who’s very serious about her faith. She has affidavits from the congregation to back her up. Head lawyer Bobby will have none of it. Rebecca needs blood, doctors say, and Bobby’s going to see that she gets it!

And so the stage is set for a drama that, incredibly, gets it right….mostly. We don’t come across as right-to-die extremists, nor death-wish martyrs. We aren’t doctor wannabes, telling medical personnel how to do their job. Our blood stand is Bible-based. Someone in the writing staff did some research. (for a change) Not absolute accuracy, but that's allowable, since no case is ever "typical," there’s always individual variation. We all have quirks.

Now, it should be pointed out that in the real world such situations shouldn’t pop up too often. You don’t just spring Surprise! No blood! on your doctor. Ideally, JW’s speak to their doctors beforehand, in good times. Not all doctors are comfortable with the added challenge of bloodless medicine. It’s not right to broadside them. Not to mention the anesthesiologist, who often frets more than the surgeon.

However, as mentioned, this was an emergency, brought on by a unabomber. They never wait for you to ask your doctor if bloodless medicine is right for you (and them).

In court, Bobby doesn’t believe Rebecca’s a Witness. Jehovah’s Witnesses talk about their faith, he says. Rebecca never did. That’s a good point, Bobby. They do. But Mama has an answer. Rebecca, who is black, is so worn down by facing prejudice that she has learned to keep her mouth shut. Well…… maybe. It’s not impossible. Especially if you’re the poor girl from the humble background working for hot-shot TV lawyers! (though she always seemed to hold her own pretty well)

What about blood cards? Bobby wants to know. Jehovah’s Witnesses carry blood cards. Rebecca didn’t have one. Right again, Bobby. They do. They’re called Medical Directives. Baptized witnesses have them. It’s odd Rebecca did not.

In fact, I’d almost side with Bobby around now: that Rebecca is not really a Witness, and Mama’s just an imposter. But what about those affidavits?

Lots of courtroom drama follows; The Practice could keep you riveted with courtroom drama. Bobby works himself into a frenzy. Rebecca can be saved, he charges at the bench, but…but for this….Voodoo religion! Mama calls him on it, and she never loses her cool. Yes, Bobby, you tipped your hand. This is not about respect for Rebecca’s conscience. This is about your own religious prejudice, pure and simple.

The judge rules for Mama. I couldn’t believe it!

Afterwards, no hard feelings. Indeed, there is respect, for Mama proved herself dignified and sound of mind. As if admitted to the bar, she and all the lawyers close the show around Rebecca’s bed, praying for recovery.

The Rebecca actress must have received a better job offer that year, for they wrote her out of the plot. The transfusion episode was her last. Thus we don't know how she made out!

Three videos are available from Jehovah’s Witnesses with regard to bloodless medicine. Click here to view them: (the 3rd, 4th, and 5th listings)

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Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)