Monthly Archives: May 2013

No Longer a Dream Pacifist

In my dreams, I’m never able to seriously hurt anybody. I don’t know why that is. I might be in a raging gun battle with Disney-themed demonic muskrats, but my bullets do no harm. I’ve certainly never killed anyone in a dream. This is sometimes a cause of aggravation, though I’ve never asked God to change this, sort of assuming that God wants it this way.

But last night, I most definitely killed a zombie.

He was a “fast” zombie (not the lumbering type), running full speed at me with a hatchet, and screaming. Yes, a zombie with a hatchet. Bet you haven’t seen that (yet) on “The Walking Dead.”

Dream Steve grabbed him and sliced off his head on a mailbox post (in the alternate universe of my dreams, mailbox posts apparently have razor-sharp edges). Even in my dream, I realized something new had just happened. I stood there looking at the severed head and thought, “Did I actually just do that?”

It seemed like a breakthrough of sorts. Or maybe it was a case of dreamstate backsliding away from pacifism. I’m not sure. We’ll have to see if it happens again.

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Out of Control

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At our garage sale today, this boy wanted to buy some of my old Matchbox cars. When his mom said no, he threw a grand mal temper tantrum–yelling and crying abusively. “I WANT MY CARS!!!” he screamed at her, along with other stuff, for at least ten minutes. Meanwhile, she gently tried to explain herself to him in a calm and quiet voice…which was totally futile. The kid needed…well, that’s not very PC today.

“I WANT MY CARS!!!”

The kid went berzerk. It went on, and on, and on. The whole neighborhood could hear the kid screaming stuff at his mom, and she just let him go. Apparently, the mom graduated from the Young Kids Respond to Reason School of Parenting.

So they’re standing beside their van, grandparents in front, probably terribly embarrassed by this huge temper tantrum, waiting for the kid to calm down and for everyone to climb in the van so they could drive away. Everyone around looking at each other with expressions that said, “Can you believe this? Why does she allow it?”

Finally, probably the only person there who didn’t have kids–ME–took action. I walked out to the van. “Hey,” I said, getting the boy’s attention. He stopped berating his mom and looked straight at me. “I’m NOT going to sell you my cars,” I told him in a firm voice.

A blank, bewildered expression spread across his face. And the temper tantrum immediately stopped. Just like that. Magic.

Was it a male voice? Or just a voice speaking to him with authority? (Mom and Pam said that if they, as women, had told the boy the same thing, it would have had no affect.)

And what was the back story with this mom and child? How did they get to that level of dysfunction? Was he one of these modern kids who, if his mom had touched him at all, would have cried, “That’s child abuse!” Was there a dad in the picture at all? Custody issues? Did the kid have some kind of medical or psychological condition? I have no idea. Hate to be too judgmental and simplistic about how to deal with a situation I know nothing about.

The whole thing was astounding and perplexing. And it reminded my parents that, because they had three boys with mild temperaments, they had it pretty easy.

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The Many Shades of Gay Marriage

gay-marriage2

“Are you for or against gay marriage?”

People want to make this a simple issue with black-and-white divisions. Yes or no. Up or down. Like or dislike.

But for me, weighing issues both as a Christian and as a citizen of nation which exalts personal freedom and pluralistic beliefs, there are a whole lot of in-between nuances, caveats, and scenarios to consider. Here are some views you’ll find people taking on the issue.

  • Opposed to any type of homosexual activity in American society, period.
  • Accepting of persons of homosexual orientation, but not of homosexual sexual activity.
  • Opposed to homosexual activity by a Christian, but not willing to impose this on nonChristians and society at large.
  • Okay with homosexual activity between consenting adults, including gay marriage.
  • Okay with gay partnerships, but not okay with any official stamp of approval, whether it be civil unions or marriage.
  • Okay with allowing civil unions for Christians, but not with gay marriage for Christians.
  • Okay with gay marriage, as long as a minister doesn’t perform the wedding.
  • Okay with gay marriage, including ceremonies conducted by a minister, as long as the wedding doesn’t occur in a church.
  • Okay with gay marriage among nonChristians, but not with gay marriage among Christians.
  • Personally opposed to gay marriage, but as a citizen of a pluralistic country, feel it should be allowed.
  • You can’t possibly be gay and a Christian at the same time.

Those are a few nuances that come to mind, and there’s some overlap. I’m sure I’m missing other possible nuanced views.

So don’t ask me if I’m for or against gay marriage. It’s more complicated than yes or no.

 

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Less Than Six Degrees of Separation

SixDegreesOfSeparation

You’re familiar with the “Six Degrees of Separation” concept–that any two people are no more than six acquaintance links apart. A knows B, who works with C, who is related to D, who lives in the same town as E, who attends church with F. The idea actually traces back to a short story by a Hungarian author in 1929.

In the 1960s, a study asked 296 volunteers to send a message to a specific person living in Sharon, Mass., routing it through personal acquaintances. The average number of “hops” was 5.2, which pretty much confirmed the whole “six degrees” thing (with no Kevin Bacon involved).

Facebook developed some algorithms to test the theory with Facebook users. They found that the average distance between users, worldwide, was 5.3 hops in 2008. With the growth in number of Facebook users, it had dropped to 4.7 hops by 2011. That’s on a global scale. When limiting persons to a single country, the average was just 4 hops.

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Hard at Work

jordi-steve

It’s nice being able to work from home, where there are absolutely no distractions.

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Big Hairy Poisonous Fast

sri-lanka-tarantula

Newly discovered in Sri Lanka: a giant tarantula with a leg span of eight inches. It lives in trees, it’s fast, and it’s very poisonous.

So you’re walking through the forest and stumble into a spider web. Out of the corner of your eye you see, scampering toward you through the trees, an ugly spider as big as your face. You know, something EXACTLY like one of those things in the Alien movie.

Enjoy your day. And don’t go anywhere near Sri Lanka.

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American Ingenuity?

IMG_0509

During music practice last night, I was using a shaker and I saw something you don’t see very much: a sticker saying “Made in the USA.” So, as our bass player Paul Neher observed, we know how to make a tin tube filled with sand.

It was probably made of imported tin, and I wouldn’t doubt that the sticker itself was made in China. Cynical me.

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My High School Legacy, from the End of the Bench

That's me, kneeling in front on the right, next to Coach Gentry.

That’s me, kneeling in front on the right, next to Coach Gentry.

I played–actually played–on my high school basketball team in ninth and tenth grades. That was in Arizona. Then we moved to California, where I attended Tulare Union, a school twice as large. I made the junior varsity team, but that’s as far as it went. Belonging to the team and seeing action are two different things.

In our daily practices, I worked and sweated and grunted just as hard as my first-string teammates. On game days, I suited up in a uniform identical to everyone else’s, except for the number and the lack of sweat-stains. I participated in the pre-game warm-up drills–free throws, fast breaks, lay-ups, etc. Just before tip-off, I added my hand to the huddle and joined in a zealous “Let’s go!”

But after that, it was, “We’ll take it from here, Steve.” If you don’t have it, you don’t have it. I didn’t have it, and didn’t know where to find it.

So I would plop into my seat at the end of the bench, cheer my teammates to victory, dream of a never-meant-to-be-game-winning-honor-and-glory-forevermore-last-second-jumpshot, and wonder what in the world I would do if the coach actually put me in the game.

“What? You want me to go out there, onto the court? But I might accidentally touch the ball and make us lose the game. Are you sure, Coach?”

Coach Gentry was an easy-going guy in his first year as a basketball coach. To defend myself, I could claim he was too inexperienced to recognize talent when he saw it. The truth is, even a rookie coach can recognize a lack of talent. And so I collected splinters, watched, rooted, hollered, and brought home a clean uniform for Mom to wash.

Cut to Creative Writing class. There, I starred for Mrs. Harbour. I sunk half-court swishers, slugged home-runs, threw touchdown bombs, drilled aces. I think she liked me.

That semester, Mrs. Harbour assigned a writing “decathlon,” you might call it, in which we had to compose various types of writing. A rhymed poem. Free verse. Haiku (the most ridiculous thing this side of Form 10-40, don’t you agree?). An essay. A short story. An interview. A news feature. And a parody.

Ah, the parody. Only a week or so remained of the basketball season, and I didn’t plan to try out for the team my senior year. Nothing to lose. So here’s what I wrote for Mrs. Harbour.

Mr. Gentry is my basketball coach; I shall not play.
He maketh me to lie down at night with aching muscles;
He wind-sprinteth me beside cool-drinking fountains.
He restoreth my thirst.
He keepeth me off the playing floor, for his team’s sake.
Yea, though we lead by 50 points, I will fear not messing up, for I still won’t play.
In practice, thy whistle and thy slave-driving, they tireth me.
Thou anointest my body with sweat;
My pores runneth over.
Surely exhaustion, anonymity, and depression shall follow me all the days of the basketball season.
And I shall dwell at the end of the bench forever.

It was just for Creative Writing class. Mr. Gentry would never see it…would he?

A couple days later, Coach Gentry stopped me between classes.

“Mrs. Harbour showed me your poem,” he said, as all color drained from my face and I envisioned running about 5000 laps. “It was funny.”

“Uh, thanks,” I said, quickly scooting away to my locker.

Had I known Coach Gentry would read that parody, would I have written it? I doubt it.

But it gets worse. Mrs. Harbour immortalized that parody at Tulare Union High School. For years afterward, she distributed mimeographed copies to her English classes as an example of a good parody. A real live literary masterpiece by someone who attended TU. A treasure from her star pupil, who at this very moment was no doubt writing The Great American Haiku. (“Can anything good come out of…yes! And I taught him everything!”)

For all I know, that frivolous parody still makes the rounds at Tulare Union. It is my only mark on that school, my legacy. If Mr. Gentry remembers me, it’s not because of my forgettable jump shot. It’s because of that one silly little poem.

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There You Go Again with the Nazi Stuff

obama_nazi

It’s a given that pretty much anything the Obama administration does, and every word spoken, will get picked apart by FoxNews. Sometimes the reasoning is laughable. For instance, the mayor of Charlotte, who will soon become Obama’s Secretary of Transportation, issued city proclamations recognizing May 2 as both the National Day of Prayer and, for non-religious folks, as the Day of Reason.

Finding correlations to Nazis is a well-cultivated specialty of FoxNews, and Penny Nance of Concerned Women for America was more than happy to oblige. “You know the Age of Enlightenment and Reason gave way to moral relativism. And moral relativism is what led us all the way down the dark path to the Holocaust.”

There you go–breaking news from Fox & Friends that the Obama Administration is, indeed, the Fourth Reich. When you think about it, setting aside one day as the Day of Reason is every bit as outrageous as the Holocaust. We should all be outraged.

Amanda Marcotte of Slate.com noted that without reading and writing, there would have been no Mein Kampf. And if Obama goes to an art gallery, he is honoring Hitler’s hobby of painting. I would add that we should outlaw science, since science produced the poison gas that Nazis used to kill Jews. And anyone who, like Hitler, has a mustache or is heterosexual or dates a blonde should also be suspected of being a Hitler lover. You can’t be too careful.

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Of Dictators and Zombies

businessweek-howtoIn the current “How To” issue of BusinessWeek, Bill Richardson addresses, “How to Talk to a Dictator.” He said it must be person-to-person (not by email or phone), and you must understand the dictator’s situation at the moment–his current moods, who he feels threatened by, what he desires, etc. Don’t get emotional. Use some levity. Good, practical stuff based on much experience. And I’m thinking, “Or, we can just send Dennis Rodman.”

In another article, “Walking Dead” producer Greg Nicotero tells people how to walk like a zombie. There is technique involved. He says people tend to want to drag a leg or walk with their arms extended, like Frankenstein. He says to think more like walking out of a bar at 2 am. Relax your shoulders (zombies lack muscle tone). Let your eyes wander, not focusing on anything (which shows intelligence). Keep your chin down, eyes forward.

I’m trying to think of a context in which that might prove valuable. Nothing comes to mind.

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