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Monday, November 12, 2012

There's a sign post up ahead...

No, it's not the Twilight Zone; it's the new book web entitled Novel Crossing.

The crossroads of fiction and faith...

If you're like me, it's sometimes hard to find good reading material that doesn't compromise your faith. The most exciting new read according to a workplace or community reading group may end up leaving you fifty shades of gray when it comes to being salt and light.

I'd like to recommend Novel Crossing as one of the places you can feel comfortable looking for good reads. I still have some exploring to do there myself but there are some handy search tools, including an alphabetized list of authors.

Take a moment to stop by Novel Crossing and see what you think.

Thanks!

X


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

You're Obsolete, Charlie Brown

I'm not a cry-baby.

I'll admit that I have teared up at our son's graduation ceremonies (high school and college, not kindergarten), but I can get through most of life's events without excessive waterworks. Chances are though, I'm not inviting you to our house for the annual viewing of the Charlie Brown holiday specials. Those darn shows sneak up on you, that's all I'm saying.

The Gospel according to St. Linus

I've seen several email and Internet memes that highlight the dirt, danger and general lack of parental supervision that children of the sixties and seventies endured growing up. I won't bore you with the, "When I was a kid," proclamations except to say that during a normal school day, I walked two miles to school (and back)...that's elementary school by the way; and during vacations, it was out the door and gone until lunch time, and again until dark. I'm sure my mother thought she knew where we were but in reality she had no idea.

We all did stuff like this that our parents never knew about...

I know...it's a different, darker world we live in now; which makes the statements concerning Charlie Brown in this article and the original blog (which the Today show article references) all the more baffling. I agree that bullying has no place in our children's lives. Yet bullying exists in grown up life too, and I don't think retiring the Charlie Brown television specials will stop that. Name calling is bad - we didn't allow words like stupid and that sucks when our kids were growing up; of course that doesn't stop them from using them now - and I'm pretty sure it wasn't the degenerative influence of Lucy van Pelt that lodged these scurrilous terms in our children's psyche.

I suppose the final indignity to our generation is that Dadcamp, the author of the original Retire Charlie Brown blog I reference above, closes with a suggestion to replace Charlie Brown holiday fare with Hotel Transylvania.

Say what?

Even the monsters look like they want to see Charlie Brown...



To be fair, I included the trailer above so that we could all have our fun alternately defending or excoriating Dadcamp's suggestion.

Honestly? I'd watch Hotel Transylvania. I'd probably watch it with young kids - if I still had some. But to hold it up as a shining beacon of superior children's fare while figuratively pulling the ball out from in front of Charlie Brown one last time?

Evidence for the prosecution (and this is just from the trailer):
  • Dracula singing a sweet lullaby to his baby daughter then giving us the monster face when he gets to the part about anyone messing with her...
  • An animated suit of armor getting kicked in the groin, um, area (I have to admit I laughed when he said, "Why did that hurt?")
  • And of course, the general idea that there are monsters in the world, albeit just as neurotic as we are, that can't stand people
Even Monsters, Inc. had a more benign take on monsters' existence in our world. Is anyone concerned that Hotel Transylvania is going to raise up a whole new generation of vampire-loving tweens? That's a topic for another blog...

I'm trying not to let the golden haze of pleasant memory overshadow my objectivity here but one other small issue I'll point out: Imagine this conversation between Dadcamp and  his 5-year-old son...

Son: Let's watch You don't mess with the Zohan.
Dadcamp: Um, we can't.
Son: Sure we can, here it is on NetFlix.
Dadcamp: No son; I mean we can't because it's not an okay movie.
Son: But Daaaaaaaaaad...what's wrong with it? I mean, like, Adam Sandler is in it and he was funny in Hotel Transylvania; you even said so.
Dadcamp: I know son. But that Zohan movie is different and Mr. Sandler isn't as good in that.
Son (pouting): Okaaaaay. Hey - wait a sec! Let's watch The Longest Yard - that's a FOOTBALL movie!

You get the idea...

And don't think for a minute that your five year old child won't be able to learn the names of other Adam Sandler movies. 

For whatever pain and suffering the Charlie Brown holiday films may cause socially concerned parents in the new millennium, I don't think you'll ever have to worry about Linus spouting one of the seven words you used to not be allowed to say on television in some other show that your kids will want to see because the think Linus is funny in It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.

What do you think?

X

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Does being 'American' really matter?

Most of my blog entries here are faithful to the title - and the spirit - of my blog: Stream of Consciousness.  What does that mean? It means that normally, I will see something, or hear something that causes me to stop and think; it means whatever that something is it impacts me enough so that I feel compelled to write about it - whatever it is.

But life being what it is, there are times when I just can't cast aside whatever I'm doing at the moment to compose a blog entry worthy of putting out there. These instances result in a number of draft blog posts saved for later. Most of these drafts will never see the light of day for one reason or another. I suspect mostly because they would be dated. However, I think the draft I pulled tonight is still topical - perhaps more so than it was when I first made notes on the twenty-ninth of August, 2012.

That morning, NPR's Morning Edition aired a story highlighting why President Obama can't speak freely about race; the story was based on Ta-Nehisi Coates' article "Fear of a Black President" in the (at the time) latest issue of The Atlantic magazine. The article talks about, among other things, the President's response to the Trayvon Martin tragedy and about how Mr. Obama has studiously avoided the subject of race in America - which is odd when you think about it, considering the fact that as the first black president of the United States, Mr. Obama had the most bully pulpit imaginable from which to launch that discussion.

Obama on a hoodie, not in one...

But my idea for a blog after hearing this story back in August, and later reading Mr. Coates' article in the Atlantic, did not involve Trayvon Martin or the state of American race relations. No, the first thing I thought of, as Mr. Coates described how his views and feelings regarding race relations in America have evolved over time, was how I don't even view myself as an American anymore. America is just somewhere I live. The more I learn about God and what, as a believer, my role should be in His Kingdom, the less I am concerned about my role as a citizen of the United States.

It's not that I necessarily want to live anywhere else...although I have done so for large chunks of my life...it's just that all of the issues we seem to wrestle with in the public square don't really attain any sort of stature compared to what Scripture represents - and presents - regarding the way we should be living our lives.

I don't think this happens any more...

What is being American? What does that mean? Is it different than what it meant when I was growing up?

The answer to the first and second question is, "I don't know."

The answer to the third, somewhat counter-intuitively, is, "Yes."

The image above was a daily occurrence when I was attending elementary school in Tampa, FL in the late sixties. Every morning we placed hands over hearts and said the Pledge of Allegiance. The message from that and every other conversation concerning America I can remember from those long-ago days? Being American means something. It's not that we were better than anyone else, just that we had it better than anyone else. America was a great place to live - none better - and we should be proud that we lived here.


I haven't read the book pictured above but the image and especially the title fits my next thought to a T. How has my outlook on being American changed over the years? From childhood, through junior high school in England, being in the armed forces, living in the Middle East? I've been back in the States for almost thirteen years now. Funnily enough, while I lived overseas, I heard more than one person say, "America is a great place to be from," with the emphasis meaning that being an American overseas had its advantages but it was better to from America than in America.

Did America really start going downhill after the Kennedy's and Martin Luther King were assassinated? Vietnam grew into a terrible conflict; students were gunned down at Kent State University; racial struggles tore sections of the country apart. At the same time, we were landing men on the moon, leading the world in technology and so many other areas. Yes, we had problems but America was bigger than that; the very idea of citizenship was enough to quash arguments about the value and prestige of living in this country.

In the Bible, Jesus is constantly fending off the Pharisees who are seeking to back Him into a corner and generate evidence with which to condemn Him. In Luke chapter twenty, they figure they can get Jesus to bad mouth Rome and thus provide an excuse to hand Him over to the occupying authorities. But when asked whether Jewish citizens should pay taxes to Rome, Jesus replies, "Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." [Luke 20:25 (ESV)]

Even more pointed, is Paul's reminder to Christians, "...But our citizenship is in heaven..." [Philippians 3:20 (ESV)]

As Christians, we have a lot to be looking after that has nothing whatsoever to do with America. As we get into discussions and arguments about the social changes in America, arguments about how God's way should be honored, how the Christian way should be the way this country is run, what are we actually saying?

What stands in the way of us serving God when we focus on our American citizenship? Politics, Fox News, American Idol, the Voice, X-Factor, sports, the Internet?

The day after I made my initial notes for this blog, I watched a few of the speeches at the Republican National Convention. Those speeches brought into focus what I'm talking about - America is no longer the United States or, if we are, it is in name only. This country is fragmenting into thousands of special-interest groups. We've moved away from a united ideal, away from a united direction and toward the premise that (instead of) all individuals being equal, everyone is special. I don't say that to denigrate anyone; the problem with reaching a point where we are rewarding people just for breathing is the slippery slope that leads to the disintegration of the American idea. Every one of us has the opportunity to do great things; but we have shifted that idea to a place where our children are lauded for completing kindergarten. We're creating celebrations for children 'graduating' from elementary school. I'm not saying that we shouldn't encourage our children and praise them in special moments, but moving from 5th grade to 6th grade is just that - a special moment. It's not an achievement that need be so celebrated as to shape the thinking of a ten-year-old to the point where they believe merely doing what they are supposed to do is worthy of extraordinary reward.

moving up to big boy and girl school...

How then do we create the desire to achieve in our young people when they have been conditioned to expect plenary praise for merely being adequate? Yes, every human being is special - in the Declaration of Independence some very wise men wrote, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Individuals are not special because they simply are; they are special because they were endowed by their creator to be so. America, I fear, has turned into a Me First society. The life, liberty and pursuit of happiness that are our inalienable rights were not to be obtained at the expense of everyone else. The American Ideal is that we can all achieve those cherished things by working together. Yes, we can be individuals but no one is above another.

What happens if enough people start worrying less about personal hegemony and more about being American and beginning to live life as servants of others? In closing, I need to think long and hard about what I have done to help a fellow American achieve life, liberty and happiness lately.

What about you?

X

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

My name is Inigo Montoya...

...prepare to die.



How many milestones pass us by in life? How many anniversaries slip by unnoticed?

Twenty-five years ago, the film The Princess Bride (TPB) was released. Honestly, I couldn't tell you if I watched it in a theater or whether I didn't see the film until after it came out on - gasp - video tape.

I wouldn't have even noticed the anniversary of TPB's release passing me by if I had not read this interview of Mandy Patinkin on NPR.

When you think about it, there are so many wonderful moments and performances in the movie, it's hard to decide which one is my favorite. Certainly, Patinkin's portrayal of Montoya, the Spanish swordsman seeking to avenge himself upon the six-fingered man for the death of his father, is one of the film's highlights. In homage to Rob Reiner's direction and an excellent screenplay by William Goldman (also the author of the original novel), and the many fine actors who brought the story to life, here are my top three moments in TPB:



In the beginning, we are introduced to young Fred Savage, soon to be famous for his role in television's The Wonder Years. Savage's character, known only as the grandson, is sick and staying home in bed. The idea that his grandfather - played superbly by the late Peter Falk - will while away his sick day by reading him a story isn't received with much enthusiasm, as you can see. But without the setup, where would the rest of the story be?



Another favorite scene involves the battle of wits between Westley and Vizzini. It's inconceivable that a mere pirate could outwit the Sicilian criminal genius...or is it?

TPB would never have turned out the way it did if Westley had died from his wounds. Can Miracle Max and Valerie the Witch er, wife, save the day?



To be honest, these may not even be my three favorite scenes. Andre the Giant had some great moments, as did Robin Wright, Chris Sarandon and many others. The best suggestion I have for you is to pop some popcorn, get a cold drink, sit down on the couch and watch TPB again.

As you wish.

X

Friday, October 5, 2012

Just because you can...

...doesn't mean you should.

Will having babies be like shopping for cars or puppies?

Yesterday, I began hearing about how scientists in Japan have successfully created mice eggs from stem cells and healthy baby mice were born from these created eggs. NPR has run several reports on the story. Part of the report revealed that scientists had previously been successful in creating sperm from stem cells as well.

It's too early to go all Clone Wars on the scientific community but I really hope that folks spend the next ten to twenty years (or longer) thinking about the consequences of unleashing a technology like this on the free world. Edward de Bono, widely recognized as the father of modern lateral/creative thinking put great weight on something called CAF: Consider All Factors. Let's have a quick CAF exercise around the concept of being able to make unlimited, healthy babies.

  1. Parents who previously could not have babies now can have one (or more) that carry the parent's genetic footprint
  2. Same-gender couples can also have children that are genetically theirs
  3. With artificially created sperm and eggs available, virtually anyone could create a baby
  4. With advanced processes, babies created from lab-grown eggs and sperm could potentially be designed to be predisposed with any number of desirable traits i.e. blond hair, blue eyes, etc. or perhaps even higher math skills and the like
  5. The ability to create babies at will might exacerbate the world's food shortage
  6. Ethics could become more fluid and movements might spring up that would favor eradication of flawed, naturally conceived children
  7. It's conceivable that, much the same as with puppies and kittens, the world could see an explosion of unwanted babies - those that don't meet society's new standards
In the list above, I've ranged the factors from positive to potentially very negative. There are many, many other factors that need to be considered. What I did not put on the list is that by having the ability to create sperm and eggs, to - in effect - have the ability to design and create babies at will, humanity would take a giant leap into an area that has heretofore been the sole preserve of creation.
So God created man in his own image (Genesis 1:27)

Naturally, a number of scientists would not even take this into consideration since they do not believe in creation at all. These scientists would, perhaps, view this technology as a natural evolution of modern biological science. That's not to say these scientists would act in non-ethical ways; it's just that as people who do not believe in God, they would discount the need to include God in the discussion.

I believe it is critically important to pause and think about all sides of this before releasing the power of human creation into the world. Disturbingly, I have already heard this discovery being likened to the discovery of fire and the wheel.


Fire and round, easily movable objects existed in the world prior to man harnessing their capabilities. This is the context in which this discovery is being grouped. I suppose in the sense that babies are derived from the interaction of a man and a woman and fire is derived from the interaction of fuel, oxygen and a catalyst (spark), it is possible to make that argument. There are a number of tremendously beneficial outcomes of using fire to improve society. As winter approaches, the availability of heat will allow many of us to survive without freezing to death. But there will also be instances where homes will burn to the ground - and people will die - because that same fire was not harnessed and used safely.

Wheels allow us to move heavy objects more easily, drive our cars to work and cut our grass without using a scythe. This coming holiday season many families will lose loved ones because of those who choose to operate wheeled machines under the influence of alcohol and/or other drugs.

I'm not convinced that the creation of a new human life is in the same realm as choosing central heating over a wood-burning stove. Call me old fashioned but I believe there are some things that are just fine the way they are. Whether you believe children are a divine creation or simply another step in a long, evolutionary road, do we really want to open the lid of this particular Pandora's Box?

Just because we can do something, doesn't mean that we should.

What do you think?

X

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Who comes out at night?

I'm not much of a night person. I used to be; but that was back in the day. My younger self liked the night times. Darkness and mind-altering substances made us all look better, or so it seemed. Cities looked exciting at night when you couldn't see the trash, and the homeless, and the dirt and grime that are revealed in the stark light of day. Everything just seemed cooler at night, lit by an array of electric feedback, from sizzling street lights to the amber dials of the dash. Night was a cloak that slipped easily over my shoulders; that protected me from the stresses and strains that the sun revealed. The darkness hid endless possibilities until, with a gasp of excitement, it chose to unveil one.

We lived in a music video world.

...among the neon lights...

But now, music videos are mostly gone or are caricatures of the night time lifestyle that is still on offer - if you're cool enough to take it. Sleep is overrated; Red Bull and 5-Hour Energy are the hot, black coffee of this age. How much life can you live? Things don't go better with Coke, they go better with darkness...

Ideally, with age comes wisdom. The night is always with us, velvet twin to the warm, bright light of days. I still like the night - but for totally different reasons. The transition time; lying on my back in the yard gazing up into the heavens. Watching the sky turn from smokey blue to inky black; watching as the heavenly lights wink on and the breadth of space is slowly revealed. Eventually, in the absence of artificial light, one can even see the star dust; particles of matter or asteroids or something that resembles clouds in and among the vaguely recognizable constellations.

the world still turns at night...

Yesterday, I stayed up later than normal. In part so I could gaze upward at the heavenly light show spread across the night sky of northern Alabama. After taking care of all those things that never occurred to a young night crawler - you know, locking doors, turning off lights, putting the last load of clothes in the dryer, making sure the dishes were washed - I lay down and lit the ultimate night light: the television.

Conan didn't hold my attention; he's funny and all but it's night after night of pretty much the same things. That left the two current titans of late night TV: Jay and Dave. A quick check of the on-screen guide made the choice very easy; Leno featured Kirstie Alley and Mike the Situation Sorentino vs. Letterman's show hosting British Prime Minister, David Cameron. Not much of a choice if you ask me.

Regular readers may remember this post, in which I briefly mentioned Mr. Sorentino.

I went with Dave.

I'm older now but I remember Johnny Carson. Staying up late to watch the Tonight Show was a treat. Do you notice how now it's the Tonight Show with [insert name of host here]? Johnny never felt the need to include his name in the title of the show - at least that I recall - everyone on the planet knew that the show was hosted by Johnny Carson. Maybe that's the problem with the new guys.

Don't get me wrong, Leno is alright, Conan can be funny when he's not trying to be a complete idiot and David Letterman is a little too self-righteous for me. This week, Dave has had Barack Obama and David Cameron on. If nothing else, he's trying to hold the intellectual high ground while Leno wrestles with the rehab stories of folks like Alley and Sorentino. But even Letterman can be funny sometimes and when he asked Mr. Cameron about the Magna Carta I recalled my early days of junior high school in the UK. Adroitly, the Prime Minister answered, "1215," when Letterman quizzed him on when the document was written. Mr. Cameron knew quite a bit of stuff off the top of his head (as a decent head of state should) but was equally apologetic when he couldn't recall what Magna Carta meant in Latin. Dave opined that it was Big Map; research during a commercial break revealed that it actually means Great Charter.

The Great Charter after restoration

Some actor came on after Mr. Cameron and I grew bored. Flipping over to Leno, I mercifully found the end of the Situation was at hand and actually enjoyed Richie Sambora's new solo effort. By this time I was almost out for the count but hung on long enough to watch the opening monologue of Jimmy Fallon who, in my mind, is miles better than any of those other guys - except for Carson, of course.

One of these nights maybe he'll get The Roots to play something by The Specials, and I can be reminded once more of those long-ago nights when the darkness was our friend and we fancied ourselves gangsters.



What do you think?

X

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Happy Birthday to me!

Periodically, I look at my blog stats to see what sort of traffic I'm getting. I admit that, as a writer, it does give me a bit of a thrill to know that someone, somewhere, is reading this stream of consciousness.

In an interesting confluence, today is my birthday; it is also the day that I topped 20,000 all-time page views!


I don't know if 2012 is just my year or if suddenly people are finding my random scribblings vaguely interesting, or if it's the whole one hundred monkeys and one hundred typewriters in a room syndrome; but I am very thankful to everyone who stops by and reads - or even glances at - my blog.

In honor of the whole twenty-thousand thing, I thought I would take a look at my top five all-time posts.

5. I'm not Charlton Heston (July 4, 2012) 187 views: Independence Day blog? Nope. Apparently on the 4th of July I was thinking about my personal relationship with God. I think it's important to understand how people come to know God. It's not that I chose to be a Christian; religion (I use the word here even though I don't equate my belief in God with the following of any set of particular tenets) is not something that you can put on and take off like a new pair of shoes. Belief in God is not something you can just try, and see if it works for you. That's what I think anyway. If you're interested in how I came to know Jesus, check it out!

4.  Literary Review: The Scroll (February 10, 2012) 219 views: This was my first blog review for WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing, who offer free books (at least to read) in exchange for written and publicized reviews of the books I read. Seems like a fair deal. I've only done a couple so far, mainly because I don't have a ton of time to spend reading and reviewing. The Scroll is a cool book if you like historical adventures. Check out my review and check out the book if you're in to that sort of thing.

3. Landon is on the Board (January 28, 2010) 236 views: This is probably the shortest blog post I've ever written. It consisted of roughly a paragraph of text and an embedded YouTube video of Landon Donovan's first goal for Everton (of the English Premier League). I'm not a sports blogger per se, but most of my friends know that I'm a bit of a football (soccer) nut. I enjoy seeing American players succeed overseas in the tougher world leagues and the Prem is perhaps the toughest. Landon has had a 2nd loan stint at Everton but still calls the LA Galaxy his permanent home. We'll see what the future holds as he comes to the end of his contract there...

2. Space...the final frontier (that we'll never get to?) (December 6, 2011) 303 views: Despite my belief in God, I still keep on eye on science and things scientific. Religion and science are not necessarily exclusive. This particular entry was spurred by the discovery of an earth-like planet orbiting a sun not unlike our own. The problem is, Keppler 22b is a LONG way away. While it's fascinating that we've been able to discover such a world and it's interesting to ponder the what ifs of a manned mission, with the technology we currently have it would take someone seven MILLION years to get there. How many times can you say, "Are we there yet?"

1. I dislike equivalent temperatures (January 7, 2010) 506 views: Far and away my number one blog post by views is the one I wrote complaining about things like heat index, you know, that annoying phrase the weather person utters that goes something like, "Bob, it's going to be ninety-eight degrees out there today but it will feel like one hundred and three."

Honestly, I don't know why people view my blog. I know there are probably a small number of people who actually read my blog but I suspect the vast majority of my page views come from my clever use of labels. Labels are those little terms you include that - I assume - search engine optimize (SEO) your blog post so people can find it. I admit, I am guilty of writing my posts to the extent that I can take advantage of certain SEO words that I think might attract the casual surfer to my blog. Shameless, I know, but as I noted above, what's the point of writing a blog if no one reads it?

So, it's my birthday! Make sure you share this blog post and all the others with everyone you know!

Bilbo Baggins advising all Hobbits to read The Stream of Consciousness blog

With gratitude and humility, I appreciate every one of you who have ever read my blog - either on purpose or by accident.

Thank you!

X

Friday, September 21, 2012

The hooking (up) of Jesus

What is it with folks always trying to hook up Jesus? This week brought us yet another discussion on the matrimonial status of the man widely believed to also have been the Son of God and Savior of the world. [See statistics compiled by the Pew Forum]

Itty bitty ancient Post-it note?

This is not the first time that purported evidence has been put forth to marry off The Christ. Most famously - outside of academia anyway - is Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code. I recall when Brown's book first appeared on the scene (2003) and have enjoyed watching the resultant film several times. I also have a book that dismantles the fictional foundation of The Da Vinci Code. Can people really hold up a work of fiction as proof that Jesus was married?

What is bloviatingly referred to as The Gospel of Jesus' Wife is an ancient fragment of papyrus containing text that has been translated to read:


"'... not [to] me. My mother gave to me li[fe] ...'"
"The disciples said to Jesus, '..."
"deny. Mary is worthy of it" (Or: "deny. Mary is n[ot] worthy of it")
"...' Jesus said to them, 'My wife...'"
"... she will be able to be my disciple ..."
"Let wicked people swell up ..."
"As for me, I dwell with her in order to ..."
"an image"
"my moth[er]"
"three"
"forth which ..."

Not much to go on there. And certainly nowhere near enough to say, "See, Jesus was married!"

Christianity is based on some pretty fundamental principles. One of those is why Jesus was here. What was Jesus' mission statement? Luke 19:10 quotes Jesus:

"For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost."

By all accounts, that includes Mary Magdalene. Which, in fact, could be another possible meaning of the papyrus' translated phrase, "deny. Mary is worthy of it" (Or: "deny. Mary is n[ot] worthy of it"), speaking of whether Mary - or by extension any of us - was worthy of salvation.

Jesus was also pretty clear in some statements he made about family - both through is actions and his words.

Earlier in the Gospel of Luke, a twelve-year-old Jesus ditched his parents, not to experience all the fun the big city (Jerusalem) had to offer, but to dialog with scholars at the Temple. Not finding Jesus in their caravan, Mary and Joseph returned to Jerusalem and confronted young Jesus about this seemingly disrespectful act, "And he said to them, "Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?""

Definitely not your ordinary boy...

In another example that seems to minimize the importance of earthly relationships, Jesus is talking to a crowd of people and someone interrupts to say that His mother and brothers are outside [Mark 3:32-35] and wish to see him. Jesus' reply?


And he answered them, "Who are my mother and my brothers?" And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothersFor whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother."

At the root of the issue, why is it important that Jesus be married, or not? Back in the day, it was pretty much unheard of for a young Jewish man to not be married. But that doesn't mean it was completely unheard of; the Essenes and others were well known to be celibate.

Following this link will take you to an interesting article that delves into some of the previous extra-biblical assertions of Jesus' wedlock.

The fact is, we don't know for sure that Jesus was - or wasn't - married. Biblical scholarship supports Jesus' bachelorhood. He was here for much more important things than marriage and, I believe, to continually chip away at the subject lessens the importance of what we should be studying regarding His time on earth.

Still, have at it folks. If spirited, scholarly discussion regarding our Savior's marital status floats your boat, no one is going to stop you. And on the other side of the fence are all those who think Jesus and the whole Savior thing are an unnecessary myth and will eventually be proved wrong.

For their sake, I hope that Christ includes them in the ultimate wedding party.

X

Friday, September 7, 2012

The gloves are off

In the bubbly wake of our two parties' national conventions, what are the things that stand out (to me)?

First and foremost, it appears that nothing is sacred in politics anymore (if it ever was...)


Opinions are more important than truth.

I did not first think about this concept in the context of politics today. I was listening to NPR's Morning Edition as they discussed the backlash against their reporting on a Stanford study that indicated no clear benefits of eating organic vs. normal food.

Liberal backlash against NPR? That clearly indicates the apocalypse is upon us.

Even those third party agitators are getting into the act, inferring that the Romney/Ryan ticket is closer to Stalin than President Obama.


Of course, comparisons of this National Review cover to old Soviet propaganda posters didn't help any...

So how do Republicans and other (sic) right-wing extremists respond?


With the epitome of low-hanging fruit, of course.

There are articles floating around that do a creditable job of comparing the early days of Hitler's career to President Obama's - I mean they do a really good job. So good, that if you didn't know better you might believe that Hitler and Obama were brothers from other mothers. I'm not going to link to any of that here...if you want it Google will help you find it.

What do I think about all this? Frankly, I'm not excited about either one of these guys. I believe politics has overcome our collective good sense and as a country we worry more about which party will be elected instead of trying to get some folks in office - any office - who might do our country some good.

I think much of the blame for this comes as a result of America's ever-increasing - yet misguided notion - of liberty. Liberty isn't defined by the ability of each individual citizen to do whatever they want and for those who can't to be carried by the government. Liberty is an idea; it's not about us as individuals, it's about us as a collective group of like-minded people.

Well, in case you hadn't noticed, America is not a collective group of like-minded people anymore. So really, whoever gets the most votes in November won't really matter - not in the long run.

That's what I think - what about you?

X

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Rock 'em, Sock 'em!

Holy cow (or, sacred, large animal that used to be a wriggly, single-celled, lower organism)!

Driving to work this morning, I heard a snippet about a YouTube video featuring Bill Nye - you know, the Science Guy. I had to search this video out and watch it because the short news burst I heard this morning included the quote, "I say to the grownups, if you want to deny evolution and live in your world, in your world that's completely inconsistent with everything we observe in the universe, that's fine, but don't make your kids do it because we need them. We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future. We need people that can—we need engineers that can build stuff, solve problems."



What?!?

I've never met Mr. Nye but I've seen him many times on television and he was always polite, charming, intelligent and had a way of explaining all things scientific that was engaging and made science, well, fun.

I have a few knee-jerk comments about the quote above:

  1. It's not as if, I believe the earth is flat and I am teaching my children that if they walk far enough, they'll fall off into space. Creationism requires a level of faith; faith that something outside of our current understanding either created our world and everything in it or at least set that process into motion. Frankly, I think that belief in a creator is not any more fantastic than the belief that, at just the right moment, at just the right location in an infinite universe, a random sequence of events took place that has - over billions of years - resulted in the complex organism sitting in this chair, typing this message. In my mind, it might even take more faith to believe that our world and every living being on it is the product of some great cosmic coincidence.
  2. As one of those grown-ups that Mr. Nye refers to, I'd like to split a hair, if I may. I believe in evolution. I'm also a Christian and believe that the God of the Bible created our world and us. How did that happen? When did that happen? I'm not exactly sure, but enough of the historicity of the Bible has been corroborated for me to take a few things on faith. How do those two things square with each other? The evolution that Mr. Nye is referring to - in my mind - is different than the evolution I believe in. Ever notice how it seems that kids are all bigger than their parents? Ever notice that runners are faster today than they were fifty years ago? Ever notice how people can be sensitive to different climates and environments, but over time adapt to a comfortable level? I believe that there is some form of evolution that naturally occurs as humans and animals adapt to a changing world. If these changes occur rapidly (think asteroid impact or some other natural disaster), we don't have time to change or adapt - or flee. That's a totally different idea than saying my ancestors were nothing but a swath of slimy protoplasm.
  3. And, frankly, to tell me that I shouldn't teach my children to believe in something that I believe in with all my heart? Well, that's just wrong. And to infer that I am illiterate or incapable of building things or, you know, that I can't solve a problem? That's flat out insulting. 
I don't think we'll ever have a knock-out...

As I note in the caption above, I don't think we'll ever have a day when one side or the other will hold up what would be the Rosetta Stone of creation and shout, "Take that, home boy! We win!"

At some time in the future, life will simply cease to exist due to one or more external factors. Or maybe a huge asteroid will slam into the earth and that will be that. Or maybe, everyone on earth will be standing around, staring at a massive, worldwide lightning event in the sky and hear a sound like some huge brass horn as an undetermined number of folks either disappear or drift off-planet, leaving the earth behind.

Secretly, a lot of evolutionists probably hope for the first or second choice in order to affirm their science - even though it will be too late by then. Likewise, Christians hope to be the ones that finally get to say, "See! We weren't crazy after all!"

Faith would prevent me from gloating (I hope), but I suspect many would be tempted to look down as they drifted upward toward Jesus and say, "Ha! We told you so."

I prefer to believe that I would be one of the ones who cried as my Spirit left this world, looking down sadly on Bill Nye and others in whom we had failed to stir a faith in things yet unseen.

Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." [John 20:29 (ESV)]

X

Monday, August 27, 2012

You play ball like a girl!

Subject matter over here at the Stream is quite, er, subjective. When it comes to blogging, I'm sort of like that talking dog, Dug, in the movie UP (Pixar)...



We all have moments in life where things are going along and then we figuratively say, "Squirrel!"

Lately, I've had the distinct pleasure of blogging about classical music and science. But lest I get too high brow for my own good, I'm going to descend from these Olympus-like subject-matter heights and talk about movies!

National Public Radio's weekend version of All Things Considered is running a series entitled, 'Movies I've Seen a Million Times'. This past weekend, Regina King - an actress I could not have picked out of a police lineup - talked about one such film in her family, "The Sandlot".

I'm with Regina; I could watch The Sandlot just about every weekend. What's really interesting to me is the breadth a film like The Sandlot has with a generation of kids that wasn't even born when the movie was made (1993). I was playing some whiffle-ball in the front yard the other day with some of the neighborhood kids and we were talking about baseball and dogs and such and I mentioned that whenever they were playing ball, they needed to make sure their ball didn't go over our fence. One of the boys asked me why and I replied that our new German Shepherd, Abby, was like The Beast.

I didn't even have to explain what I meant - they all knew exactly what I was talking about.

Well, naturally, reading about Ms. King's choice of a movie she could watch a million times started me thinking about films that I would put in that category, besides The Sandlot. And since I have a blog...

1. Star Wars: I'm old enough to be one of those people who doesn't call the original Star Wars film Episode IV. All that prequel stuff really made things confusing. Nowadays, if you're talking to someone and say, "Hey, did you catch the first Star Wars on TV this weekend?" they'll either say, "Do you mean Episode I or Episode IV," or "Why watch it on TV - don't you have the box-set?"

You gotta have faith...

Yes, I have a box set with all six Star Wars films; call me crazy, but I will still watch the movies on this list, commercials and all, if they come on TV. And I'll likely watch them more often that way than if I'm sitting around and think to myself, "Hey, let's pull out Episode II and make some popcorn."

2. Indiana Jones: I will change the channel in a heartbeat just to watch the opening scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark. There's something about watching the Paramount logo turn into some nameless mountain in South America, followed by the haunting John Williams score, as this mysterious character in a beat-up leather jacket and fedora makes his way through the jungle with his crew of ne'er do-wells. If I have time, I will watch the entire movie, but I will at least watch it up to the part where Belloq starts monologuing to the Hovitos and Indy takes off; right there - when Belloq mimics slicing his throat with that back-and-forth shish-shish noise, and with his maniacal laugh echoing through the deadly Peruvian wilderness - man, that's movie making.

Film fail...even I know that little bag of sand won't weigh as much as a golden head

I've heard critics pan Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but I don't know, it's got all the elements of the early films and the story isn't so bad. I'm not a big fan of Shia LaBeouf but he's pretty good in Skull. Along with Star Wars, I'll watch any of the Indy films a million times.

3. That Thing You Do: It took everything I have not to put Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, National Treasure (which I watched again last night - on TV), The MummyZorro, or any of another dozen movies I've watched a million times - and will likely watch a million more - on this list. Admittedly, Star Wars and Indiana Jones were low hanging fruit, but I sincerely love those movies - so they belong at the top. As I thought about other movies I have watched over and over, this one kind of popped into my head. That Thing You Do is a sometimes campy but altogether believable tale about a band from PA (that's Pee-A) who, despite all the odds, make it to the big time. They score a hit record (the title track), head to the coast (is there more than one?) getting bit parts in a cheesy 60's beach movie, only to have the band disintegrate because the principle song-writer gets a case of artiste!



I don't know what it is about this movie. Is it the music, the characters - I could make a list just including movies featuring Liv Tyler - the believable 'where are they now' credits at the end? I can't put my finger on any one thing. It's just one of those goofy, enjoyable movies that are easy to watch over and over - just like The Sandlot.

What movies are on your, "Watch it a million times" list?

X

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Science!

As my small but faithful readership knows, I try to be a man of faith. However, that does not mean that I am anti-science. I'm fascinated by our ability to fly a rocket an incredibly long way (anywhere from fifty-four million kilometers to over four hundred million kilometers), detach a landing module and deposit a technical dreamboat onto the surface of a distant, red planet. In fact, if you go here, you can read all about NASA's current program managing several rovers on the surface of Mars, including the latest, Curiosity. According to NASA:

Human space exploration helps to address fundamental questions about our place in the Universe and the history of our solar system. Through addressing the challenges related to human space exploration we expand technology, create new industries, and help to foster a peaceful connection with other nations. Curiosity and exploration are vital to the human spirit and accepting the challenge of going deeper into space will invite the citizens of the world today and the generations of tomorrow to join NASA on this exciting journey.


This looks like a spot I visited in Saudi Arabia!

I'm not here to debate the wisdom of spending billions of dollars on space exploration. There are some tremendously useful technologies that have come out of the space program - things like cordless tools, for example. What is on my mind are those things that we do in the name of science that, well, have some questionable value to mankind as a whole.

In fact, I was listening to NPR yesterday morning and heard about an ongoing experiment to determine if animals flock together (herd, school, etc.) to be safer. The very first line of the on-line report says "By tricking live fish into attacking computer-generated "prey" scientists have learned that animals like birds and fish may indeed have evolved to swarm together to protect themselves from the threat of predators."

In a burst of sarcasm I will likely regret I thought, "Really? Marlin Perkins taught us that in the Sixties without the aid of computer generated prey."

Our generations' Steve Irwin

I grew up watching Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, with Marlin Perkins traveling around the world teaching us about animal behaviors and all manner of weird things - including the fact that when you were watching a herd of wildebeests on the plains of Africa, the one straggling in the back was likely to get eaten by that cheetah hiding in the brush.

At the risk of mixing metaphors in this blog, that's not rocket science.

Near the end of the NPR segment, Christos Ioannou (University of Bristol, UK) says, "I think it's the first evidence that this coordinated behavior we see in bird flocks and fish schools, where individuals are really highly coordinated in the direction they're heading, has an anti-predatory effect, to our knowledge that's the first time it's been done in a really clear, experimental way."

Again, can't we see this type of behavior playing out in the wild nearly at will? Perhaps the caveat is in an experimental way. I'm not sure how much this experiment cost or who paid for it but this is just one example of science trying to prove something that seems, well, intuitive.

I'm sure that there are other reasons that creatures flock or school together but after growing up watching Wild Kingdom and other shows that presented cool information about animals, this is just an area where I didn't think we needed to expend a lot of resources. Of course, Wild Kingdom isn't on the television anymore and sadly, Steve Irwin has passed, so maybe there is a need for folks like Ioannou and his fellow researchers to come up with video games for predatory fish. If nothing else, perhaps they are this generations' Marlin Perkins?

Or maybe, they'll end up like these guys:



What do you think?

X

Friday, August 17, 2012

Second Sight: Claude Debussy

If I were a music critic, this blog would be full of commentary regarding the depth and texture of Michael Castellaw's piano playing. I would wax poetic about his note manipulation and gift for melody. I might even critique him for choppy transitions between movements during one or two compositions - whatever that means.

Couldn't find a Debussy cartoon...

The fact is, I love eighties music and smooth jazz. But I'm not an aficionado, if you know what I mean. The only instrument I can play is the stereo. However, my spirit is moved by particularly well-played music, as I'm sure all spirits are from time to time.

My first exposure to what I'll refer to as symphony was during sixth grade. I had never heard classical music before and as I sat in that darkened theater and listened to the orchestra play, I was astonished...affected. To someone with musical talent like Mr. Castellaw, a similar experience would probably be the genesis of a musical career. In my case it planted seeds that led me to appreciate what is admittedly a very shallow pool of classical music including Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev and, yes, Debussy.

If I asked most people I know if they liked Claude Debussy, they would probably say, "Who?" But if we were watching the end of Ocean's 11 (the 2001 remake) and I asked them if they liked the song that plays when the gang are gathered in front of the Bellagio, I suspect most would say, "Yeah, that's cool."



Which brings us to Second Sight: Claude Debussy. Castellaw brings a touch to this piano work that stirs the same, spirit-affecting feelings experienced in a dark auditorium so many years ago.

Honestly, I don't know the significance of Deux Arabesques, Suite Bergamasque, Images: Book II, or Preludes: Book II; I do know that Clair de Lune, the haunting tune playing in the background of the video clip above, and part of the Suite Bergamasque, is played here with a finesse that belies the lack of orchestral support.

You can write me off as a know-nothing hack; a non-musical person blindly (deafly?) promoting a friend who happens to play piano. Or you can listen to Michael Castellaw's Second Sight: Claude Debussy and judge for yourself.

If you love piano, you'll do yourself a disservice if you pass this by.

X

Thursday, August 9, 2012

XXX

Does anyone teach Roman numerals in school anymore?

Obviously, the title of this blog has the potential of being wildly misconstrued. To clarify for those who have been hiding in an undersea air pocket living on kelp, we are in the middle of the thirtieth Olympiad. An X in Roman numerals denotes our number ten (10). Thus triple X denotes ten plus ten plus ten (10 + 10 + 10), or thirty (30).

Fair warning: This is not going to be a warm and fuzzy blog about the Olympics.

I'll try not to be hateful because that's not really my style, but my lovely wife will tell you that when I get perturbed about something, my lips tend to thin out and I get an expression on my face that is apparently hateful-like. I'm working on that.


Let's start with the XXX Olympiad. Thirty isn't a very large number, considering the Olympics started in Greece somewhere in the neighborhood of 776 BC. By definition, an Olympiad is a four year period (beginning in January) during which the Summer Olympics are set to occur. I'm no math wizard but four times thirty (4 x 30) equals one hundred and twenty (120). If it's the year 2012 now, and we subtract 120, we get 1892. But according to Wiki-know-it-all-Pedia, the first Olympiad of the modern era started in 1896.

If you love math and/or obsolete number systems and want to know all there is to know about how we (someone) decided to number the Olympic games, please go here. Because I'm done with that (poor grammar intended).

NBC has the sole broadcast rights for Olympic television coverage. You can go here and find NBC's mother lode Olympics website. On the surface, a veritable cornucopia of Olympic media. In reality, a frustrating web site I've only used to get results for the events I was mildly interested in. In fact, unless you live in the UK or the USA's Eastern timezone, it can be a real challenge to stumble upon television coverage for the event you want to watch. Of course, that assumes that you really are an Olympic fan, because in this Age of the Internet, chances are you already know the outcome of the event and you're just watching the tape-delay broadcast to revel in the (replayed) moment. It's only natural that NBC wants the prime time audience; after all most people aren't home to watch live coverage during the day. Personally, I even find it hard to watch tape delays of events I'm really interested in - especially if I already know the final results. And I just won't go around the office all day with my fingers in my ears bleating, "La la la la la la." to block out any spoilers that might be lurking in the break room.

Olympic swimmers are alien lifeforms

Speaking of busted coverage (that's right, the NFL and major college football seasons are almost here!!), Mediacom's onscreen programming guide shows blurbs about when specific events will be on; only, when I tune in at the appointed time, it's usually nothing remotely resembling what was advertised to be broadcast in that time slot. I still haven't been able to catch any of the women's soccer - not just the USA team's games - when the guides say they are being played. It's not rocket science: if you want people to watch, tell them when the events are on television. And then show them at that time on the correct channel!!!

Despite my inability to watch any of the Olympic events I truly wanted to see, I have been inundated with a stream of Olympic media. Here are a few observations from that onslaught:

  • LoLo Jones is a fine hurdler although there are some sour grapes out there (you know who you are) that think LoLo is the next coming of Anna Kournikova. Frankly, that's not even fair unless you consider the fact that Anna K won some major doubles championships, and was ranked number one in the world in doubles in 1999. She was also reached a career high singles ranking of 8 in 2000. Oh, and they're both very attractive. Stinks to be LoLo. Not.
  • Michael Phelps is the greatest Olympic athlete...ever. See? Potheads can be productive
  • Men's soccer...oh yeah, we didn't qualify. Gabon, a small country in West Africa with a total population of about 1.5 million did. Thanks a lot, Little League.
  • I recognized three things in the opening ceremonies: Kenneth Branagh, Daniel Craig and the Queen. There were peasants, an industrial revolution, some pretty fly special effects with fireworks made to look like molten iron. But the crazy plot line reminded me of a Stanley Kubrick story - good thing Matt and Meredith were there to narrate or I would've been completely lost!
  • Women in the Olympics were everywhere! A Saudi woman in judo, a lot of hyphenated beach volleyball players and, frankly, except for Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt, women are all I've seen - gymnastics, swimming, diving, volleyball, more gymnastics, more swimming, more volleyball, beach volleyball, water polo, track, field...not that that's a bad thing but I heard someone complaining about women in the Olympics on the radio the other day. I don't see the reasoning.
  • And speaking of Usain Bolt, he's turning the marquee track events into WWE. Stop it!

Top Olympic moments so far, in no particular order:

  • Oscar Pistorius (RSA). Double amputee in the 400 meters; do his prosthetic legs help him or give him an unfair advantage?  I don't know, but unless they have nuclear power cells it's still his own muscle and coordination that allow him to run. Awesome job!
  • Gabby.
  • US Women vs. Canada (Soccer): Wow. I had the live text of this game on at work; it was exciting and I didn't even get to see it. Like War of the Worlds on the radio must've been.
  • US Women vs. Japan (Soccer): USA. Gold Medal. Hope Solo was a rock between the posts and Carli Lloyd was a female Messi. Epic! (Oh, and I couldn't even FIND the live text feed for this one until the second half and that was on some obscure web site. Thanks again NBC.

I have scored this many goals!

Alright, all things considered, the Olympics aren't that bad. I definitely appreciate the years of work that many of the athletes put in and the hardships they endure through training and qualification (excluding the likes of LeBron and co.).

And I'll continue to follow the action as haphazardly as NBC allows me to.

After all, I have to do something until the World Cup qualifying starts!

What are your thoughts on this, the XXX Olympiad?

X (just one)

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Judge not or speak not?

If I had to pick the most quoted Bible verse or phrase, it would have to be, 'Judge not...'

Most of the time, in my humble opinion, the verse is quoted out of context. Folks in our world today don't want to hear that something they are doing, or saying, or wearing, or watching, or thinking, or believing is wrong.

Can't we just all get along?

The ethos of that sentiment is summed up in the famous (and often quoted) song lyrics, 'If loving you is wrong, I don't wanna be right.'

We don't want other people telling us what to do. You're not the boss of me!

Okay...I get it.

However, just consider this for a moment:

There are over six billion people on this planet; leaving out terrible things like murder, rape and the like, it's mathematically reasonable to assume that with so many people, someone somewhere is going to say or do something that you don't like. The first time it happens, you ignore it; the second time, you shrug it off; the third time, your eyebrows dip together and your lips purse but you bite your tongue. Finally, after some number of times when one or more people do or say something that just continues to get under your skin, you burst.

"Excuse me sir, the sign clearly says ten items or less. What part of ten or less don't you understand?"

I'm sorry, but isn't that a tad judgmental? I mean, it may be that the person overwhelming the express lane with eighteen items has an invalid parent at home and only has a finite time to shop and return home?

Are you really in that big of a hurry (or borderline OCD) that you can't let one person go with a few extra items?


What are the most popular shows on television? People judging other people. What does that mean? Is it OK for some people to judge me because they have some nebulous level of gravitas that grants them the right to pass judgement?

I don't watch reality shows much but occasionally I'll catch a segment. I heard someone on one of them, I can't remember which, answer the judge, 'That's your opinion,' after the judge had pronounced them horrible.

I can imagine the judge thinking at that moment, 'Yes, and I get paid a lot of money to give it to you.'

The fact is, in my opinion - and likely millions of others - this person could not sing a lick. Yet throughout their lives, people around them had not judged them; had not told them that they couldn't sing.

If you attend church long enough, especially in the south, someone is going to ask you about joining the choir. The Bible does tell us that we are to make a joyful noise to the LORD, but there are those of us - me included - who need to do that as quietly as possible and certainly not on stage in front of others.

So, we can assume, this particular contestant had been told throughout her life that the joyful noise she was making was good. And then at some point, at least one person told her it was so good, she needed to get on this reality show. And somehow she made it past the auditions and into the first round, after which the well paid judges said, 'No, not really.'

So who is guilty here?

Is the contestant guilty because she believed that she could sing? Honestly, there are times when I sing along with the radio or CD player in the car and think, 'Hey, I sounded pretty good there.'

But there are MILES between hitting a note here or there, briefly, accidentally, catching that harmony in the car like a lightning bug in a jar, and singing a Capella on stage in front of three scowling judges just waiting to pick you apart.

Personally, I blame the family and friends. These are the people who would have sat around listening to the budding contestant singing and said, "Hey, that's good."

These same folks would have heard this young lady say, 'I'm thinking of going on such and such show.' and said, "Seriously, I think you should."

Anyone remember this guy?

Maybe the friends were thinking, 'Hey, she could be the next William Hung!'

More likely, they were infected with don't judge disease.

Self esteem has become the coin of the realm these days and if you take someone's self esteem, it's off to the stocks with you!

Punished for his attire no doubt...

Heaven forbid we be the one to let the cat out of the bag:

No, you sing like a cat locked in a burlap sack.


Yes; don't wear pants like that...ever.


If you want to look like Billy Ray Cyrus when he was twenty, go for it!

Are we judging? No, not really, we're just speaking - offering our opinions. And along with everything else there is a time and a place for that.

The Bible says we are to speak the truth in love. Which is likely one of the most difficult things the Bible asks us to do, right up there next to love your neighbor as yourself.

So seriously, the next time I mention that you shouldn't do something, wear something, go somewhere, be with someone, watch something, listen to a particular song or whatever, I'm not judging you...

I am just speaking the truth in love.

'The Truth shall set you free.'

What do you think?

X

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Great Filling Station Hold-up

Back in 1973 - is that really almost forty years ago? - Jimmy Buffett released The Great Filling Station Holdup on his A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean album.



Back then, I thought the song was just a cool song about modern-day highwaymen that were a little down on their luck and, after all, they were just taking what they needed to get by - and they were promising to pay it back. That's not so bad is it?

Yesterday, I listened to a segment on NPR's Morning Edition that focused on Ford's new 3-cylinder EcoBoost engine (available in 2013). I'm guessing this is Ford's entry into the Prius Wars.

A quick visit to the U.S. Department of Energy's www.fueleconomy.gov website reveals more information than I ever dreamed of concerning Hybrids, Plug-in Hybrids, Flex-fuel Vehicles, Fuel Cell Vehicles, Alternative Fuels and much more. It would seem that, as a nation, we are fixated on good gas mileage. Any ideas why that might be?

Courtesy of www.gasbuddy.com

As recently as December 2008, average U.S. gas prices were down to $1.61 per gallon. I suspect that Hummer owners were breathing a big sigh of relief since only six months earlier they had been paying over $4 per gallon. But Jimmy Buffett sings that his filling station bandits pulled in and told the man, "Fifty cents worth, please."

Fifty cents? These days that wouldn't even wet the pipe that runs into the tank.

But back in 1973, fifty cents would get you a little over a gallon at the average price of thirty-nine cents per gallon. Now, there are all sorts of economists running around that pooh-pooh that number, and frankly, it's hard to find gas prices for that era without someone caveat-ing all over the place and wantonly adjusting for inflation. So in the interest of financial integrity, thirty-nine cents per gallon supposedly translates to about $1.91 or so in twenty-first century dollars.

I'm laying my marker down and stating for the record: If we can roll back prices to $1.91 per gallon, I'm good with it.

In 1977, I was driving my Mom's '77 Mercury Cougar XR7.

This is identical to my Mom's old Cougar!

I can't tell you many details about the car but I'm pretty sure it had a V8 and just about every option known to man at the time. The outside looked exactly like the one in the image above and the inside, with its white leather interior and dark green carpet was so luxurious that I think I smiled just sitting in it. Sorry Xzibit, I didn't need anyone to pimp my (mom's) ride!

My point is this: it was 1977, mom had bought a sweet land yacht that I got to drive, and I didn't worry a lick about gas prices. The hood on that Cougar went on for days and with a chrome grill topped with a cougar-head hood ornament, well, in the words of ZZ Top, "I was bad - I was nationwide!"

Cars back then were HUGE. And we liked them that way. Gas was an unending resource that would always be there, allowing succeeding generations of cruisers to fill up and explore the highways and byways of our country.

Um, not.

I think with the right tools, I could dismantle a Prius and put it in the trunk of my Mom's Cougar. To be fair, I have driven a Prius and I admit, it was cool. Where Toyota gets us is that big display right in the middle of the dash that shows you current miles per gallon (MPG).

It's a video game, really...

The one I drove was a rental and it was several years ago, so the display wasn't quite as fly as the one pictured above. I found myself driving in ways that would make the Current MPG reading go as high as I could possibly make it go. Coming back from a pick-up soccer game one night, I reached 100 MPG...that was awesome!

I challenge even the most jaded consumer of fossil fuels to not try to beat that score!

I know what you're thinking...I know this blog is called the Stream of Consciousness but geez! is there going to be a point soon?

Stay with me for just a minute. 

During the NPR segment on Ford's new 3-cylinder EcoBoost engine, several facts were highlighted:
  • A mechanic they interviewed was a die-hard Geo Metro fan. Why? Because the discontinued GM model gets around 45-50 MPG with it's - wait for it - 3-cylinder engine.
  • Ford's new engine will deliver 45 MPG or better and is more powerful than their current 4-cylinder offering in the Ford Fiesta
  • Even though GM currently offers a 3-cylinder car in Europe (and offered one here twelve years ago!!), it will not do so in the USA. Instead, the geniuses at GM plan to compete in the American market with a diesel Chevy Cruze
So Ford, who did not take a government bailout, is moving ahead with actually selling technology that allows normally aspirated engines to get 45 MPG or better. GM, who took $51 BILLION in government bailout dollars, says, 'Let them eat cake,' and goes with diesel.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, for all that we hate it when Government gets in our business, they missed a perfect opportunity to drive adoption of better automotive technology by applying some serious terms and conditions with the bailouts.

In The Great Filling Station Holdup, Buffett's bandits report:

We got fifteen dollars and a can of STP; a big old jar of cashew nuts and a Japanese TV.

In the great automotive bailout of 2009, it appears we got diesel.

Well I wish I was somewhere other than here...

X

Note: The Great Filling Station Holdup ©1973; music and lyrics by Jimmy Buffett