The Day the Laughter Died

For many decades to come, every comedian will remember exactly where he was, and what he was doing, when he heard about the loss of BOTH Anthony Wiener and Elliott Spitzer.

Share Button
Leave a comment

Hold the Apostrophe on Those Name’s



Okay, children, in today’s lesson we’ll talk about plural names. In general: no apostrophes. Ever.

I am a Dennie. Pam and I are the Dennies. We are not the Dennie’s.

If your last name is Jones (already ending in an “s”), you are the Joneses, not the Jones’ or Jones’s. An “es” may also be required to pluralize names ending in z, x, ch, and sh (the Alvarezes, Marxes, and Nashes, for example).

If a name ends in “y,” such as Kennedy, don’t you dare pluralize it as “Kennedies.” As a proper noun, just add an “s” and make it Kennedys. Again: NOT Kennedy’s. More than one blackberry may be blackberries, but if you own more than one Blackberry phone, they are Blackberrys (and not Blackberry’s).

I know it takes a great deal of restraint to NOT pluralize with an apostrophe, but it’s the right thing to do.

Class dismissed.

Share Button
Leave a comment

Tears in Rain


One of my alltime favorite movie scenes comes at the end of “Blade Runner,” when replicant Roy Batty, played by Rutger Hauer, makes this speech just before dying:

“I’ve… seen things you people wouldn’t believe… [laughs] Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those… moments… will be lost in time, like [coughs] tears… in… rain. Time… to die.”

The night before filming, Hauer rewrote the scripted speech and added the “tears in rain” part. Here’s what it was before he took a knife to it:

“I’ve known adventures, seen places you people will never see, I’ve been Offworld and back… frontiers! I’ve stood on the back deck of a blinker bound for the Plutition Camps with sweat in my eyes watching the stars fight on the shoulder of Orion…I’ve felt wind in my hair, riding test boats off the black galaxies and seen an attack fleet burn like a match and disappear. I’ve seen it, felt it…!”

Hauer described this as “opera talk” and “hi-tech speech.” While I actually kind of like the original speech, it’s unquestionable that Hauer’s more concise version–coupled with his amazing interpretation of it–is far better.

Share Button
Leave a comment

Sox. Anyone Have Trouble with that Spelling?

socks4sox2As an editor, can I truly respect a sport that doesn’t know how to spell “socks”? I give you Red Sox and White Sox. Yet, where is the outrage among the language Nazis?

At the time the Red Sox and the White Sox baseball teams were named, many Americans, including the editor of the Chicago Tribune, were pushing for simplified spelling of American English. It was apparently common at the time to see socks spelled s-o-x.

Share Button
Leave a comment

Business-Casual Communion

DSC_0124 DSC_0136 DSC_0132

Folks with a “high church” bent do communion better than we United Brethren, who take a “business casual” approach to communion. This was apparent last Sunday, when Anchor and five other Protestant churches in our 46808 zip code held a joint service in a local park (as we’ve been doing for several years).

The Presbyterian and United Methodist pastors led communion. I appreciated the solemnity they gave to the experience, the traditional motions, the way the loaves were broken in front of everybody. For me, it gives the experience more gravitas. Yes, they wore bluejeans and sneakers, but they still pulled off making it a holy moment.

But maybe partly, it’s just a matter of experiencing something different. If some of those Presbyterians and United Methodists participated in communion at a United Brethren church, perhaps they would find our business-casual approach to be refreshing. Perhaps.

And I must remember that the original Last Supper was just a meal. Jesus didn’t turn on worship music, lower his voice to a more authoritative level, and break into a special service. They were eating, and he said they should think of him whenever they ate. That’s a bit simplistic perhaps, but we United Brethren tend to be simplistic.

Share Button
Leave a comment

Ignorance Entrenched

stubborn-muleAn utterly fascinating and insightful article in the Pacific Standard about how people respond to political arguments. Clear ramifications for Facebook and probably theology.

People tend to interpret information in ways that confirm their existing beliefs, and when confronted with arguments to the contrary, they may dig in even deeper. Why? It’s all about self-image. If they accept information showing that one of their cherished views is wrong–information showing that global warming is man-caused, that abortion is wrong, that Obama’s birth certificate is valid, that affirmative action is detrimental, that torture is immoral, that gun crime is decreasing–then how many other things are they wrong about?

To preserve their sense of self-worth, people evaluate information to avoid having to admit that a view is wrong. Only very secure people can accept a view contrary to what they have previously espoused, without damaging their self-worth.

One study found that when people are presented with information which contradicts their ideology, those who most strongly identify with the ideology actually intensify their incorrect beliefs. For example, when shown that the Bush tax cuts didn’t increase government revenue, conservatives who held that view became more entrenched in believing that the tax cuts DID increase revenue. That’s one example.

I’m thinking about how this plays out on Facebook. When I present what I think is a killer argument about a certain political view, it just makes people who hold that view cling more stubbornly to that view. Unless they have a strong enough self-image to objectively evaluate the new information. Such people are refreshing to be around, yet sadly rare.

I’m guessing the same thing happens with people regarding theological views and other church-related views. You lay out clearly why the King James Version is outdated and inaccurate, and I’ll cling even more strongly to the KJV as the only valid version.

Then I must ask myself: So, Steve, how’s your sense of self-worth? Are you willing to change your views based on the weight of evidence or argument?

Share Button
Leave a comment

Our Annual Pilgrimage

My annual cherry ice cream cone.

My annual cherry ice cream cone.

For the record: Pam and I went to the Van Wert County Fair on Sunday, September 1, 2013.

As best we can figure, it’s the 27th or 28th straight year for us. We’ve been married 24 years. While dating, we discovered that we’d both grown up (at least during my first 9 years when I lived in Indiana) attending the Van Wert fair. So it made a logical date for us.

Yesterday, we left right after church. It was a hazy, humid day that threatened rain. The place seemed like a relative ghost town when we arrived. We always start at the same place: Rager’s (not run by the Optimist club). A sausage sandwich and a ham and cheese sandwich for me (because I was hungry), and only the latter for Pam. Followed quickly by a funnel cake.

I texted my cousin Mike to let him know we were at the fair. He said he and his two kids had a beef show in 10 minutes. So we headed over to the show barn and watched Austin and Whitney show their steers. This was a first for me. There was a lot of bellowing from not-totally-happy steers.

Then we walked through the commercial building (nobody at the Merkle Electric booth), and then got another funnel cake. Time to leave. I headed for the roasted pecans and walnuts (one medium bag of each) while Pam went to the cotton candy trailer, where she was delighted to find that they not offered a Monster cotton candy bag. Which she bought, of course.

And then our last stop: the cherry ice cream truck. A $2 cone for each of us.

Everything is always in the same place, year after a year. In a world that’s constantly in flux, it’s nice to come to a place anchored in time.

Share Button
Leave a comment

Deferred Punishment

“Hello, President Assad? Yes, this is Barack Obama calling. We’re really upset about you using chemical weapons to kill hundreds of women an children. Really tacky leadership, in my book, and you crossed my Red Line and all. As you probably heard, I want to attack you, but not right away. I want Congress to agree to this, and they’re on vacation right now and won’t be back for another week. But when they return, they’ll start debating the idea. You can watch it on C-Span. They’ll probably speculate about what an attack will look like–specific targets, weapons we’ll use, how long it’ll last, stuff like that. Then, if the House and Senate pass bills authorizing me to attack you, it’ll come to me for signing. By the way, I’ll be glad to send you one of the pens I use. Anyway, an attack is coming. If you could act surprised when it happens, that would be great. These things always look better when it’s a surprise.”

Share Button
1 Comment

The “I Have a Dream” Speech: 50 Years

Today, August 28, marks the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, which occurred during the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and freedom. It’s truly an amazing speech. Here is the complete text, along with the video above. 

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity.

But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now.

This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God’s children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor’s lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

Share Button
Leave a comment

If Jesus Turned Water Into Wine….


This is a sign at the church my brother, Rick, attends in South Bend, Ind. They are apparently a very progressive church.

They were actually abbreviating “potatoes.” Somebody noticed the “issue” here, and they changed it to “taters.” But not before a photo could be taken.

Share Button
Leave a comment

Receive Posts by Email

If you subscribe to my Feedburner feed, you'll automatically receive new posts by email. Very convenient.



Monthly Archives