Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Few Thoughts on Freedom

There is something to the sense of obligation that does indeed feel binding, enslaving, down-weighing. Obligation is the downside of commitment. See also "duty." I admit that I do tire of it. Ask me what first comes to mind when I think of retirement and it's "no responsibility." Second is "sleeping in." Third is "doing what I feel like, what I choose." I'm looking forward to it some day.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Who went and made Lauer campaign ethics czar?

Matt Lauer is not the only self-professed journalist to try to impose on others what he thinks are his better ethics. What I want to know is, who asked him?
Lauer, a host of NBC's "Today," was the moderator earlier this week of a debate or forum (or whatever) between the (two major) California gubernatorial candidates. The site was a California "women's conference" (read "liberal women's conference," and reactions from the audience bear me out; it was a lot like watching "The View"). The campaign between Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman has become increasingly hard fought, even bitter. Brown has called Whitman a "whore" (in the political sense, but a whore all the same). I'm sure Whitman has gotten her licks in.
In his usual namby-pamby, Rodney King way, moderator Lauer besought the two candidates, "Could we get the two of you to promise not to run anymore negative [he did not define "negative," natch] campaign commercials?" Brown, the Democrat man, said something like, "Well, I'd sure be willing to try," and got big cheers from the audience. Whitman, the Republican woman (and probably the only Republican woman) at the women's conference, said she would be glad to, but not at the expense of the truth or the issues. Big grumbles, boos and hisses all around.
The responses were totally predictable. But the main question remains, "Who is Matt Lauer to issue such a 'challenge' in the first place?" Put another way, "Why does it seem to be the supposed guardians of free speech who often seem to want to limit it?" because Lauer is hardly the first to decry "negative campaigning."

Friday, October 22, 2010

Piling On: My Little NPR Rant . . .

Gee, I have to "register" to get on the NPR ombudsperson's site to comment? Well, I knew that because I've been commenting for years, but now I wonder if Geo. Soros' people might come after me. Anyway, I will be happy to explain why to your local affiliate when I do not renew my pledge. I'm a daily journalist and so I understand that I "give up" some (most?) of my free speech rights in deference to my customers. Juan was NOT ID'd with NPR. He was following the rules. His contract was no secret to NPR. I don't think he crossed the line, and, wonder of wonders, the man is (was?) a known liberal. Watch out, Mara Liassen (sp?); you're in MoveOn's crosshairs. And now, NPR, will you follow your own standards vis a vis Nina Totenberg? (AIDS humor, ha ha.) And perhaps your CEO should resign for slandering Williams AND the mentally ill. Heck, better yet, why not drop your govt. funding so you can be independently liberal? Fox has proved that fairness (along with conservative commentary) makes money hand over fist. Why not NPR? or PBS? or Air America? or MSNBC? Maybe the liberal drumbeat will prove commercially attractive. Nah.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

There are many ways, but only one best way

Deep thoughts:

We've all been instructed to follow the road signs as we travel along life's way. I took a right turn at this one -- it's in Sullivan County, Tenn., near the Bristol Motor Speedway -- and though it was not a through street, it was a very well kept, very pretty and pleasant street that I think I could be very happy on. But then I had to turn around at the cul-de-sac and head for work. (Well, actually I had to turn around and hurry to a place where I could punch out a quick blog post before I went to work.)

I'm all about metaphors, but I'm also all about the plain sense of things, and the message I received through the radio embedded in my tooth right then was plain -- as plain as the tinfoil hat on my head: "You only think you're domesticated, pal. You're still a barbarian, and you need to listen better to the one God gave you too civilize you."

And her name just happens to be . . .

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Yes, I helped win a Pulitzer Prize . . . No, really! I did!

The real medal is solid gold. Mine's bronze, but it's golden to me. "Underfoot, out of reach" was the name of the series about rich deposits of natural gas right underfoot in Southwest Va., and how millions of dollars in profits have been locked in a state-run escrow, out of reach of rightful recipients.

At least that's the publisher's opinion, so from now on I'm going to take a little more ownership of that prize. I did, after all, design a lot of those pages over the run of the series. Reread the already heavily edited stories. Tweaked the preconceived headlines. Proofed the pages. Asked a few cogent questions. Ran many a followup as new laws took shape in the Virginia General Assembly.

But now I have prize-winning proof! Just as Tin Man has a heart on a chain, and Scarecrow has a diploma, I now have my very own 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service Journalism medal.

The soon-to-depart publisher visited folks in the newsroom today one by one to say thanks and to give each a little bronze replica Pulitzer medal of a paperweight size, mounted on a little slab of polished marble. Classy memento, very classy guy. Makes me proud. And I will most certainly miss Carl Esposito as he and I both move on.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Why is John a Lutheran?

Why is John a Lutheran? Posted recently to Yes, I really can write a (nearly) Twitter-length confession.

Going Postal with a really big razor blade (or "USPS Seppuku")

If anyone comes into a post office with one of these, run. Very. Fast. Don't. Yell. Banzai.
The last of Col. Jack Hudson's Mariniana is making its final port of call for this present generation. My mother is downsizing probably for the last time, and in the latest shipment, besides the pretty, girly stuff like the Lismore and the Wedgwood and a cherry-mahogany hutch for Linda, came the "fake Renoir" and the manly things for me -- steel statuette of the Marine Corps Memorial with a bag of Iwo Jima sand tapped into the bottom, the silver and Waterford pen-and-ink set from my dad's fellow officers in Ireland at his hail and farewell in 1943, and "the letter-opener" -- which is what dad said it would be good for.

The Japanese thought it was better for things else, like beheading and gutting and such. Of people. On the battlefield. Or just on oneself if one were having a family-shame and bad-self-esteem day.

Actually, all I can is mythologize on this cute little slicer you see above. I know two things: It's war loot that my father liberated from some dead Japanese soldier on Iwo Jima or Okinawa or in China, the entire package is 18 1/2 inches to 2 feet long, and even though many people brag that this or that thing is "razor sharp," this little sword really is rrrrrrrrrrazor sharp. And it's teeny, tiny, pointy, stick-you-like-a-pig-bleed-you sharp, too. And the weight of the package is heavy, and 7/8s steel, 1/8 wood.

Wait, that's four things. Well, you're not going to argue with me, are you? I have the sword.

Next. I have a letter-opener; now I need pen and ink.
And remember that every Sept. 19 is International Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Dad's Mamaluke Sword . . .

My father's saber, which has seen better days. I need to clean it up.
I never got to see Dad wear his Mamaluke sword enough to learn the intricacies of attaching it and the scabbard to the Sam Browne belt. It was never on display, but kept as close to perfectly shiny as possible in the dark of a soft leather case in the murky rear of a closet, ready for use when rarely needed. I never saw him give commands with it, but I'm sure he had snap and assurance. In later years, but before I got it perhaps 20 years ago, its mission was strictly peacetime and convivial: cutting cakes at Marine Corps Birthday balls, and Dad, usually the senior officer at offbase events, by age and retirement if not by rank, use it to help cut the first slice, which is presented to the youngest officer present.

Today, the saber is on tarnished display. I am not proud of the way I've treated it, though I mean to respect to its former owner. It's just an impossible bear to keep such a bear of a polish job shiny, especially when it leans on the stone hearth of a gas-burning fireplace. Someplace better someday, perhaps, though not likely in this house-with-no-walls.

And yes, the handle is real ivory (still legal and available "back then").

Coming next: My new "letter opener."

Friday, August 27, 2010

Welcome the North American Lutheran Church!

I must confess that I do like this very much. Many faithful people have stuck their necks out for this. I applaud them and may become, if it's God's will, part of them. The North American Lutheran Church.

Monday, August 23, 2010

My Summary of 'The Shack'

Herewith a summary of "The Shack." I finally got around to it, and I surely enjoyed it a lot, lot more than I did "The Fountainhead," which I punished myself with this summer. (I'm now further punishing myself with "Atlas Shrugged," and a I also recently forced myself to read a very sad, confused memoir -- "At Home at the Heart of Appalachia" -- by a man who left urban intellectual life and returned to live in Appalachian West Virginia in his middle age. It's been a serious summer.)

So here's my snapshot of "The Shack." I hope there are no spoilers:

General evaluation? Mixed feelings. Hard for me to evaluate. Will have to give it another read.

What's it about? A man's healing encounter with the Holy and Most Blessed Trinity, One God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, after a life-shattering event.

Would I recommend it? Yes. It's nothing to be afraid of. It's not polytheistic. It's nor overly modalistic. It's not unitarian. It falls easily into the realm of Christian fantasy. It's not too stilted. It's not namby-pamby, treacly or too carefully Pollyannish.

Good for kids, teens, youths, young adults? I don't think so. It deals with graphic subjects (serial killing, kidnapping and sexual molestation), the emotional responses are at times visceral, it has tragic loss and it demands a reader with a certain number of years and a certain amount of experience of loss to best relate to it.

Good parts: Didn't have to force myself to read. It moved very quickly and it was not long. It treated a very complex subject with humor and with dignity and reverence. It was plainly fictional; whatever heresy was in there had to be in there for the sake of propelling the story; this was not systematic theology.

Bad parts: Conventional plot device to end the story without too much suspension of belief. Didn't like the story-within-a-story; wasn't sure why the author didn't have the courage or didn't exercise the imagination to go first person or at least try some other POV.

Surprise: How Papa became a "man" figure at a pivotal point because that's what the protagonist needed for the difficult journey he was about to take.

Credibility issues: Dishonest complicity with a deputy to make up a cover story on how he found his daughter. (Also, how they covered it up was not explained to the reader, or else I don't recall.)

Possible sequel: I'd like to know more about the reconciliation between the father and the murderer. Did it happen? Where was Trinitarian love in that?

Best theological moment: Author did a good job of illustrating the intimacy within the Trinity of the three persons.

Theological disappointments: Author did a good job of showing the distinction of persons but didn't do too well in illustrating their oneness and their "likeness"/"sameness"/"equality." Didn't handle theodicy very well; I didn't find Jesus' or Papa's explanation of the lessening of the little girl's fear very satisfying; however, theodicy isn't something I've had a big problem with so far in my own life, so maybe all those "Why does God let these things happen or else he must be an ogre" arguments just bore me; I'm fairly comfortable with the fact that I'm a sinner (of a redeemed sort), that the world and the creation are broken by the fall, and some things are just beyond our power to understand.

Personal disappointment: I would have liked getting to know Suraya (the "Holy Spirit") better.

Refreshing things: Not too preachy. De-emphasized decision theology and emphasized God's sovereignty and grace, but without going hyper-Reformed. It fell well within my Lutheran comfort zone.

These are my gut reactions. It ain't a classic. It's no "Pilgrim's Progress." But at least it's in American English and I'm not slogging through C.S. Lewis.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

What a clusterbomb . . . Can anything else go wrong?

Well, a lot, really. But the week has has its frustrations: Big debut ruined by hardware failure, then OS failure, then phone failure when I hit Bristol for the week, then two must-have tires, and a wheel rim that had to be bent back in shape (well, as good as we could get it because money was running out). Yes, life is worse in Somalia, and no, I haven't been losing sleep, but networking for free in McD's, while a handy accoutrement to modern life, doesn't cut it for blogging bandwidth. So here are some more Marines as a teaser. Semper Gumby (Semper Flexibilis), as they say in the Corps. Adapt, Improvise, Overcome. Stay tuned!
Photo by Mike Williamson of part of company-sized honor element and Marine Band for the Old Man. (I'll level it off when I get back on the Mac.)

Monday, July 19, 2010

O Muse, Sing to Me! Arrrrrrgh!

Repurposing a blog is one very huge pain in the you-know-what -- especially when it didn't have a whole lot of purpose to begin with!

Well, I have purpose now.

My father's funeral over a month ago had a huge impact on me. I learned lessons about love, about grief and sadness, about the love of Christ, about loyalty, beauty, liturgy, mortality, memory, eternity and the Communion of Saints.I also found relief. I'll be writing about those. Promise. Meantime, I'm posting a picture of the stern colonel as inspiration.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Now I can breathe again. Whew!

OK, I have a kid who would benefit enormously from "free" health insurance. But when He "ages out" of our plan, we'll be happy to help him find some way to get it -- without a government dole.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Happy Martin Luther King Day!

Happy Martin Luther King Day!

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I've linked this from the Rev. Paul McCain's Cyberbrethren blog because it best expresses my sentiments about MLK Day. If you think this is a dumb holiday, then maybe you need a different skin color and a few slaves in your family tree.