Monday, September 29, 2008

The Holy #$@%! Bible

Two weeks ago, I began a Bible-reading schedule that will take me through the Old Testament history books and every word of the New Testament in a year. (Feel free to join me. Check it out at http://www.usefulbreath.com/.) Now, I'm no stranger to reading the Bible, but I'm finding it very...um...interesting...to revisit the stories in Genesis about Adam & Eve, Cain & Abel, Abbot & Costello...

Don't get me wrong, I sincerely believe every word of the Bible is true...but why God chose to make permanent the stories of some of these guys is beyond me.

Take Lot.

Please.

Lot was Abraham's nephew. They wandered around Palestine together until their families, flocks, and fortunes got too big for one area of land to support them. So, Abraham, being the kind, generous, naive guy he was, gave Lot first dibs on where he wanted to live: Let's part company. If you go to the left, I'll go to the right; if you go to the right, I'll go to the left. (Genesis 13:9)

And what does Lot do? He looks around, sees that the plain of Jordan is green and healthy, and says, "Yeah...I'll be takin' me some o' DAT!"

That's character flaw number one.

Number two: Lot is living in Sodom and is visited by two men--who are really angels--and who Lot apparently recognizes as being more than normal men. When he welcomes them into his house all the men of the city surround the house and say...you're never going to believe this, and you'll think I'm being needlessly crude, so let me just quote: Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them. (Genesis 19:5)

To Lot's credit, he refuses to honor the request for the gang rape of his visitors, but guess what he suggests to the mob instead? Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like to them. (Genesis 19:8) Meanwhile, Lottina and Lotette are standing behind the door thinking, "Thanks a lot, Dad! Why not tie raw meat to our faces and throw us to a pack of wolves while you're at it?"

Even though Lot's great plan didn't pan out, damage seems to have been done anyway. Sometime later, after Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed and the whole thing about the establishment of Mrs. Lot's Supernatural Salt Emporium (Genesis 19:26), Lot and his daughters were living by themselves in a cave. The daughters gave up on the idea of ever finding men to marry them and take them away from their cozy little cavern, so they decided to get their father drunk and have sex with him so they could raise families of their own. The plan worked, and the sons born as a result started two nations that were thorns in Israel's side for hundreds of years.

You couldn't make this stuff up. You also couldn't make a movie about it without it being R-rated. Which is not the biggest reason I think it's true, but it points in that direction.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The hills are alive...

Since May, 2008, when I first wrote about the phenomenon of earworms...those wicked, heartless, snippets of music that go swimming through your brain univited...I've been keeping track of what song with which my brain is occupied upon a morning's return to consciousness. Translation: I've kept a list of the earworms I've woken up to over the last four months. If you can make any sense out of it, you're a better man than I am, Jim Lange.

5/16 - Father & Son (Cat Stevens)
5/19 - Driving Along (Nilsson)
5/20 - Up in the Morning (Lost Dogs)
5/21 - Candida (Tony Orlando & Dawn)
5/23 - We've Only Just Begun (Carpenters)
5/27 - Mandy (Barry Manilow)
5/30 - We're All in This Together (Disney's High School Musical)
6/2 - Never My Love (specifically, the 5th Dimension version, not the original, and highly superior, Association recording)
6/3 - You Can Have Anything (Giant Step Theatre's Aladdin's Lamp)
6/6 - Stiff and Bitter Wind (Eric Peltoniemi)
6/8 - Fill My Cup Lord (worship song)
6/10 - John Brown's Body Lies A-moulderin' in the Grave
6/11 - Up On the Roof (James Taylor's rendition)
6/13 - Fool's Wisdom (Malcolm & Alwyn)
6/14 - Anything Goes
6/15 - Since I Opened Up the Door (Love Song, one of the 1st "Jesus music" bands of the early 70's)
6/18 - I Feel Pretty (West Side Story)
6/19 - Na-Na-Na-Na, Hey-Hey, Goodbye
6/24 - A Whole New World (Disney's Aladdin)
6/26 - Oh Very Young (Cat Stevens)
7/24 - Fool's Wisdom (Malcolm & Alwyn)
7/27 - Get Me to the Church on Time (My Fair Lady)
8/1 - I Can Feel Your Presence (Casting Crowns...or Mercy Me...can anyone tell them apart?)
8/4 - Savior, He Can Move a Mountain (worship song)
8/5 - I Can't Tell You Why (Eagles)
8/8 - New Kid in Town (Eagles)
8/10 - Shiloh (Neil Diamond)
8/11 -
Savior, He Can Move a Mountain (worship song...Two Mondays in a row...hmmmm)
8/12 - God Bless the Broken Road
8/15 - Gotta Get a Message to You (Bee Gees)
8/21 - He is Lord (worship song)
8/26 - Prairie Sun (Sons of the Pioneers)
9/3 - The Beauty of the Lord (worship song)
9/5 - Wonderful, Merciful Savior (worship song)
9/12 - How Can I Keep from Singing? (Chris Tomlin)
9/16 - Come, Thou Fount (worship song)
9/17 - Your Name (worship song)
9/19 - Fly Me to the Moon (Frank Sinatra)
9/20 - I Just Wanna Stop (Gino Vanelli)

The hills are alive...and it's quite annoying...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Broadband Services

The headline from The Wall Street Journal reads: FOR U.S. CONSUMERS, BROADBAND SERVICE IS SLOW AND EXPENSIVE

Apparently, there are certain churches out there in the vast crazy-quilt we like to call Today's Progressive American Religious Scene that are using all-girl music groups to lead their worship services. Some traditional congregations are still doing the whole "organ" thing. Others have gone to a piano. Still others utilize a kind of rock-pop combo of drums, bass, guitar -- maybe a keyboard or a saxophone, with someone on the side playing harmonica or flute or cowbell.

Well, now the big thing, it seems … the novelty attraction … is to have your worship services led by bands whose members are all female. It's called a broad-band service. You know, the Catholic Church used to have what they called a folk mass, or a youth homily? Well this is called a Broad-band Service.


I've got no problem with this, but it seems that some of the church-going public has been complaining. According to this Wall Street Journal piece, these girl-led services aren't very energetic. In fact, they lean a bit toward the lethargic end of the scale. They just aren't peppy enough for a lot of folks' tastes. Here, read it again: FOR U.S. CONSUMERS, BROADBAND SERVICE IS SLOW AND EXPENSIVE.

Slow -- and expensive. Apparently, they expect you to put more in the offering at these things, too. Or maybe there's now a cover charge for attending the female-led celebrations, I don't know. That seems a bit over-the-top, if you ask me.

You want a broad band to lead your worship? You want only females up front during your song service? Fine. Fine-fine-fine. But pay for it through the regular offerings! Church services have become too much of a spectator sport the way it is. Don't start charging admission! It's not a concert; it's a congregation, for cryin' out loud!

Monday, September 8, 2008

I confess...

I just exited the porcelain throne room. Not that the room is porcelain, but the throne in it is. It's an ideal place for reading and reflection. Reading, because the lighting is fairly decent. Reflection, because there's a big mirror in there.

My current reading material while resting in the room of that name is the September issue of Reader's Digest. This in itself is a notable event: I am reading a magazine in the same month of its release! (I'll wait while you catch your breath.)

"Dum-dee-dum-dee-dah..."

Okay, now that your heart rate is back in a safe range, let me tell you what jumped off the page at me, grabbed me by the ear, shook me around, and threw me onto this soapbox. While being interviewed by Reader's Digest, Barack Obama made the following statement: "I passed a bill last year that sets up a searchable website where you can find every dollar of federal spending."

Question: Did the Democratic nominee for the Presidency of these United States of America (long may they wave) just confess to being a counterfeiter?

That must be it. That must be what he meant by using the phrase "I passed a bill." Either that, or he had inadvertently swallowed a duck's mouth and subsequently deposited it in the namesake of the porcelain throne room. It had to be one of those things, because as an individual Senator, Mr. O could no more pass a piece of legislation to the extent of saying "I passed a bill," than I could say "I cooked dinner last night" because I stopped at McDonald's on the way home.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Snakes (and more) on planes...

Did you see the report in the Wall Street Journal about the problems airlines are having with varmints?

It's a piece written by Daniel Michaels with this headline: "The Cute, the Hairy and the Scaly: Pests that Ground 747s."

Apparently, in spite of all the combined efforts of Homeland Security, the FBI, the CIA, the ACLU, UAW, AFL-CIO, Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Sacco, and Vanzetti…despite ALL their efforts, there is a squadron of mice, rats, spiders, snakes, gerbils, and ferrets that is effectively bringing modern air travel to a screeching halt.

Paul Hayes, director of flight safety at a British aviation consulting firm, says, "If rats gnaw on a cable, who knows what they're going to do?" You see…that's the concern. You've got this 100-ton, $200 million aircraft, and if a mouse gets loose in there, most-assuredly havoc will be wreaked. "In July 2002, a pit bull terrier escaped from its cage in the cargo hold of an American Airlines flight from San Diego to New York, chewed up parts of the plane and gnawed on electrical cables as thick as a garden hose. The Boeing 757 was out of service for NINE DAYS of repairs." (Of course the really sad news there is that the dog apparently didn't make it THROUGH the electric cable he was chewing on. THAT would have brought a stop to his rampage, right there. ZZZZzzzzttt!)

"On February 22nd, a spider fell from an overhead luggage bin as passengers exited an Air France flight to Manchester, England, delaying the Airbus' return to Paris by five hours. [And here's my favorite line] The spider wasn't found, but witnesses said it was big and hairy."

The first option, whenever a varmint gets loose in a plane, is to try to trap the critter. But if all attempts at a live capture fail, then they bring out the big guns and go for…suffocation. Airbus publishes an 8-page document on how to do this. First, it takes three hours to plug all the vents. There are diagrams on how to build covers for an air valve and a sliding cockpit window. Then, they take tanks of liquid carbon dioxide, vaporize it, and pump it into the plane…and we're talking more than 2 tons of the gas. It takes over 5 hours to get enough CO2 in the joint to kill anything. It costs up to $11,500 for the whole procedure, and then, AND THEN, if they can't FIND the CARCASS, it stinks up the whole plane as it slowly rots away, maybe causing localized corrosion, not to mention the attraction of flies and the resulting maggots. (Have you had dinner yet?)

You don't believe me, do you? You think I'm making this stuff up. Here, let me quote the article: "Every year, planes around the globe are held up by mice, rats, snakes, spiders and other unwanted stowaways." Wait a minute…what did that say? "Every year, planes around the globe are HELD UP by mice, rats, snakes, spiders and other unwanted stowaways." Held up? Now, this story has just taken a turn toward the sinister. Up till now, I thought we were talking about normal, understandable animal behavior. You know, the happy-go-lucky, merry mix-ups that occur when humans and animals share the same space. But this…this holding up of planes? This is something entirely different.

Somewhere, somehow, these supposedly LOWER life-forms are getting organized. Organized as in "organized crime" organized! Planes around the globe are being held up by mice and rats and whatnot.

[Squeaky voice:] "Alright, all you passengers. Listen to me. Do what I say, and nobody gets hurt. I've got razor-sharp teeth here and disease-infested claws, and I know how to use them! Now very slowly, and very carefully—no fast moves now—I want everybody to give me their cheese. C'mon, c'mon, c'mon…this isn't up for discussion. Don't make me angry; you wouldn't like me when I'm angry. I want the cheese and I want it now! Just put it in the bag here."

Oh, friends, run for the hills. We are outnumbered, and the critters are on the offensive. Life as we know it on Planet Earth will never be the same again! Planet of the Apes, here we come!