The Van Wert Fair, and the Missing Ice Cream

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Last night, Pam and I went to the Van Wert County Fair, about an hour’s drive from us in Van Wert, Ohio. We’ve gone there every year of our married life (25) plus several years of our dating life. Definitely a Dennie tradition.

We go mostly to eat, and choose from the same menu. We started at the Pork Barn (formerly Rager’s, which I still call it), where I had a sausage sandwich and an extraordinary ham & cheese sandwich. Next came a funnel cake. Sometimes we do Belgian waffles, but not this year. No Fiske Fries or lemon shake-up, either. On the way out, I bought my usual bag of roasted pecans while Pam bought a big bag of cotton candy.

Then, the very last thing: a cone of cherry ice cream. Alas, the cherry ice cream machine was BROKE. And thus ended a streak of nearly 30 years. It was very discombobulating, not having cherry ice cream to cap the evening. I mean, that cherry ice cream truck was there, in the exact same spot, when my mom attending the fair as a child.

Psalms admonishes, “Remove not the ancient landmarks.” In Van Wert, an ancient landmark was missing last night, and I don’t think God was please. Pam and I certainly weren’t.

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An Innocent Family, and a Deal with Gaddafi

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Here’s a powerful piece by a Libyan woman who has a very personal stake in the Congressional report on the CIA’s torture and rendition programs–evil programs which put my beloved country in the “state-sponsored torture” category. In 2004, when she was 12, Khadija al-Saadi and her three siblings and parents, who had previously escaped from Libya, were kidnapped and “rendered” to Libya.

It was apparently part of a political deal with Gaddafi, something he wanted in return for helping the US and Britain fight terrorism. To the government officials who struck the deal, Khadija’s family were merely expendable pawns, anonymous Arabs to be traded. But Khadija writes, “For my family, it was personal: it was about my father being handed over to a dictator he had dared to oppose, to be beaten and nearly killed.”

Large portions of the report are blacked out. Khadija wants to see the names, dates, places, everything–a full accounting. She writes, “I wonder who will decide whether my name gets a black line drawn through it, and whether he or she will stop to think what that means…I want to know which places were used for the rendition programme; I want to know how my family were kidnapped and moved around like cargo; I want to know who gave the orders at each level. If there are individuals who are uncomfortable about that, it is nothing compared to the feelings I experienced aged 12, speeding through Libya on the way to a secret prison.”

She’s got a compelling point. I’ve read many tales of rendition from the Bush years. All of them result in torture. That was the idea. A very sad chapter in our history.

 

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Faceballs

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faceballs

I enjoy the silly games and activities Jimmy Fallon inflicts on some guests. Like the recent game of “Faceballs” with Julia Robert. I guess he’s taken some criticism for these stunts, but I find it very fun. A writer in Esquire agreed, saying the following about Faceballs:

“By the end of the segment, we’d been given a far more genuine illustration of what Julia Roberts is like than could have ever been achieved through one of the traditional sit-down interviews that have defined the host-guest relationship on late-night television for the past 50 years. We saw Roberts’s personality in action, reacting to an unfamiliar and unpredictable set of circumstances, rather than going through the motions of another pre-plotted interview. We even had a better idea of what it might be like to have a beer with Julia Roberts, the human. It was the late-night equivalent of ‘show, don’t tell.’”

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Movie: The Expendables 3

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This afternoon Pam and I saw “The Expendables 3″ movie. It was a subtly nuanced, thought-provoking film which touched my soul in deep places, prompting self-examination on my purpose amidst the beauty/chaos dichotomy of the universe, and no small amount of reflection on the existential essence of the human condition. Or else it was just mindless, unrepentant mayhem.

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Flo, Time to Go

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I’ve been a big fan of Flo the Progressive girl. But lately, things have been blah. The commercials no longer make me smile. Geico continually launches new ad campaigns, keeping the brand fresh. I’m afraid that Flo the Progressive Girl has run her course. Time to retire, Flo.

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Beyond the Smartphone Screen

It appears that God created us as social beings. Studies show that if you have a close group of friends, and you regularly get together to eat and talk, you’ll live longer. Face-to-face contact helps the immune system and increases the chance of surviving heart attacks, strokes, cancer, and other life-threatening ailments. Loners, on the other hand, live 15 years less than people with well-integrated social lives.

Interesting. We’ve becoming a society of people who perhaps interact a lot, but not in person. So get out. Join clubs. Make friends. Talk to real people.

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Income Inequality + Sexism?

I read an alarming statistic: of America’s 67 billionaires, only 10 are women. Clearly, sexism reigns among the One Percent. I believe this calls for affirmative action. Women billionaires should receive a substantial rebate on their taxes, until such time as the numbers even out. For those who are already not paying anything in taxes, like other billionaires, they should get a tax-free subsidy to, I don’t know, buy another Lear Jet or Mediterranean island. We must fight to end this disparity.

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Letting the Government Serve the Poor

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Keith Drury, a Wesley Church leader and professor (now retired), once wrote about how evangelicals have accepted a division of labor with the government: the church does some welfare ministry on the side, but lets the government carry most of the load. We talk a lot about giving to the poor, but, “We need million-dollar buildings and a dozen staff persons to succeed in today’s competitive market.”

Besides, the cost of caring for the poor is prohibitive. “In most towns in the USA, to pay for just the poor’s welfare we’d have to take every single dollar coming into every single church in the town–Protestant and Catholic alike–and use it for poverty programs. There would be no money left to pay the pastor or staff, or to cover the heat bill–let alone pay for a building. We like the notion of the church handling welfare, but when we crunch the numbers we see it just can’t be done. We can ‘help out,’ but we simply can’t match the government’s power and money.”

Drury says we COULD do it if every Christian tithed (an idealistic dream) and if we used all of that new income to care for the poor.

But, he says, “That raises a disturbing question. If all Christians started tithing this Sunday…would the church REALLY spend it on the poor?”

Would we?

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The Lone Star Tick

lonestar-tickTicks are turning hundreds of Americans into vegetarians. The Lone Star tick contains alpha-gal, a sugar not found in the human body. It IS found in red meat and some dairy products, but people have no trouble eating it. However, when the Lone Star tick bites you, an immune response sends antibodies into your bloodstream. The next time your body encounters alpha-gal, it triggers a severe allergic reaction which may well land you in the hospital.

The tick is spreading across the US, helped by the warming climate. One Long Island specialist alone has seen nearly 200 cases over the last 3 years. A hospital in Virginia sees 2-3 new cases every week.

How would you like to discover that, for probably the rest of your life, you can’t have a steak or a hamburger? I can’t imagine life without an occasional ribeye.

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Situation Normal

The lead from an article in the online satire magazine The Onion: “According to late-breaking reports emerging from Damascus, Gaza, Baghdad and elsewhere across the region, the deadly, generations-long conflict in the Middle East was not resolved today….Additionally, 100 percent of accounts confirm that the situation is presently violent and unsettled.”

That, by the way, was from August 2013. A year ago. A truly timeless article.

It reminds me of when Chevy Chase said during each SNL newscast, “Francisco Franco is still dead.”

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