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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?


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 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

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...


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

Monday, July 16, 2012

NT, OT or no T?

Have you ever noticed how people in the public square are often offended when someone walks up and wants to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with them, or even just talk about Jesus. And how they are even more offended if someone walks up to them and explains how if they do not repent (turn away from) their sins they will go to Hell?

OT: All those who reject Jesus are in for a hot time...

I've had people quote the Bible back to me, "Judge not lest ye be judged," [Matthew 7:1] or "Your prayers should be in private," [Matthew 6:5-6] as rebuttals for me sharing my faith with them or trying to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Both of the verses above are from what we call The Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus was teaching a large group of people. The Pharisees were likely the target for both of these particular verses. Jesus frequently held up some of their practices as examples of what not to do when worshiping God. However it's a stretch to use this one passage in Matthew 6 to tell Christians, "You can never pray in public." I believe that Jesus was cautioning people instead to not pray 'over the top' - as the Pharisees were well known for going on and on with their prayers, loudly and with lots of flowery church language in an effort to demonstrate their righteousness. He (Jesus) had similar issues with the professional mourners while en route to Lazarus' tomb.

If you read the Bible and think about the events and the context in which Jesus was teaching, He was concerned that our righteousness was being measured by what was on the outside - not what was on the inside; which to me is different than Jesus just preaching a bunch of instructions that people two thousand years later could use as a list of do's and don'ts.

NT: Jesus is the way

Of course, if you've ever had discussions with friends or strangers about their eternal destiny, you've likely come across the sentiment that the Old Testament (OT) is too harsh and that the New Testament (NT) is all about God's Love - not about you having a frank discussion that might result in changed hearts and lives. Maybe we all need to wear little name tags that have OT, NT or No T on them so that everyone knows where everyone else stands...

I'm no Bible scholar. I don't think of myself as some kind of a Holy Roller. I don't stand on street corners shouting at cars as they drive by and I don't handle snakes [Mark 16:18] or other things that mainstream folks might categorize as extreme. That's between God and me. But make no mistake, the Bible is very clear that believers need to share the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with everyone.

Some of you may be rolling your eyes and sighing, or even getting offended anew that Christians must be
No T: Everyone's a winner!

I guess that means that it's okay for me to roll up on you and tell you about the furniture sale at that place that's been going out of business for the last three years - but not tell you about something that could bring you true joy? It's acceptable to spam you with invites to Tupperware parties and fantasy football leagues or corner you at work to donate to little Suzy's fund raiser for 5th grade graduation - but it's against the rules to forward an invite to a Christian music concert or church block party?

There's not some secret building where we all wear hooded robes and chant unintelligible words and sign our names in blood, swearing that we will do our best to aggravate anyone on the planet with our belief systems.

I'll agree that there are some OT folks out there who believe that the time for quiet chit-chat is past. To them it's obvious that the world is headed to Hell in a hand basket and IT'S TIME TO WAKE UP PEOPLE!! In modern terms, they are rocking it Old School - or more accurately Old Testament.

I've been reading Ezekiel lately and I have to tell you, I would not have wanted to be that guy. Ezekiel was an OT prophet starting around 593 BC and was selected by God to bring the bad news to Jerusalem, Judea, Egypt and just about everyone else in the neighborhood. But spare a thought for poor Ezekiel; here's what God told him in Ezekiel 33:7-9 “So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul."

In other words, if Ezekiel didn't give the people God's 411 - it was going to be on his head, or more accurately his soul.

This is about where the God is a big meany folks will be chiming in. Go ahead...I'll wait.

In my eleven or so years as a Christian, it seems like we're broken down into three categories:

  1. OT: Old Testament, fire and brimstone, turn before you burn communicators
  2. NT: New Testament, free gift of salvation, Jesus is the Way, He loves you communicators
  3. No T: No Testament, it doesn't matter how, or even if, you seek God - everyone gets to Heaven communicators
At the end of the day, there really isn't a big difference between OT and NT. Just like we have difference parenting strategies for our kids, God has always had different parenting strategies for His. We can moan and groan about how God does things - just like we moaned and groaned when we were spanked, grounded, had toys taken away, made to do chores, etc. by our parents. 

You can be OT or you can be NT as you feel God's leading; but No T walks a dangerous line which basically says, "I know more about God's plans that God does. If God is love I just know He wouldn't punish good people like that."

Even The Artist Once Again Known as Prince admits forever is a mighty long time.

But hey, I'm not here to judge you for being OT, NT, No T or none of the above. But as Christians, just don't hate us for doing what our Father has asked us to do. My personal prayer is that when I do talk to others about Jesus, share my personal testimony, or try and pass along what God has spoken to me through His Word, I'll be sensitive to others while I'm doing it. By the same token, I'm not going to say the OT folks are wrong in the way they represent - after all, if God has told them to do it at peril of their souls, I'm not going to get in the way of their obedience.

What do you think?


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Remember America?

Some time in the not-too-distant future, I can envision a discussion between friends, colleagues or just people somewhere on Earth making conversation...

"Remember America?"

"Do you mean North or South America?"

"No - America - the US - United States"

"Oh yeah; I took a test on that in History class the other day..."

Far-fetched, you say?

I'm not so sure.

Remember the Mesopotamians, Babylonians, Persians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Normans, English, Soviets...?

Think of all the big empires in history and where they are now. Sure, Rome is still around, as are the Greeks and the British but they carry a fraction of the global influence of their ancestors.

Walt Disney had it right...

If nothing else, considering the precarious financial position of the US economy, I don't think it's that much of a stretch to see a future in which the USA is not the dominant global force it has been for the last century or so.

Socially, the US population is evolving. The American Dream used to be a collective goal, but I fear that nowadays it has become more an individual goal. And once we go down the path toward individualism, the empire will slowly decay, and eventually disappear.

What's in it for me?

In this NPR segment, several folks were interviewed concerning their ideas about what constitutes the American Dream. It turns out, their dreams really don't have much to do with America at all. From this article and others, I would propose that this generation, coined as First Globals by the pollster John Zogby, are making the leap from the bottom of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs straight to the top.

It's all about ME!

At first listen - I heard the NPR segment on the radio this morning - it all sounds wonderful. We've got these young people who are breaking the bonds of nationalism and making decisions about life goals based on what other people need vs. what makes them happy. But digging deeper, I've come to the conclusion that the First Globals are every bit as self-centered as previous generations, they're just more well-traveled.

Let's look at a couple of quick excerpts:

'Capizzi also says her American dream is better than that of her parents, because she and people like her aren't afraid to literally go anywhere to accomplish their goals."I think that my generation will be more fulfilled than my parents' generation," she says.'

'"People will always rent you apartments wherever you go, [and] not every woman wants to have a child and be a mother, and be in the house all the time," Larr says.

She could even do without the marriage.

"I've been in a really long-term relationship, and we're really happy the way we are. We can be committed to each other without necessarily having someone approve it," she says.'

Zogby's quote regarding where we are headed with the First Globals is a little chilling: 

'"[There are] going to be so many families out there where Papa's in Singapore and Mama's in Mauritius, and Baby is somewhere back and forth," he says.'

Really? Someone better call Family Services.

Sam Sanders, the author of the article/segment closes with his own chilling prognostication:

"The question is, what will that baby's dream be? And will it even be called American?"

Don't get me wrong; I have lived overseas, between Britain and the Middle East roughly thirteen years of my life. I've traveled in Thailand, India, Haiti, Africa, Europe...I've lived the life that these people are talking about. In fact, I think every American should travel abroad for some period of time - not as tourists - but to actually live in other cultures. 

I guess the difference between me and the First Globals is that my foreign experiences taught me to appreciate the things that make America great. It sounds like the new generation would rather have us assimilated into the world collective.

What would you do if there were no more America?


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

I'm not Charlton Heston...

...and contrary to the opinions of people you might refer to as old folks, Charlton Heston isn't God.

                            I think the Hebrews were in trouble...

I've been a Christian for the better part of eleven years. For those of you reading this who aren't Christians let me briefly share how that happened.

I remember going to church as a kid. That involved scratchy suits with constricting collars, clip-on ties, buzz-cuts and a lot of, "Sit still and be quiet!"

Our grandmother, who lived with us, took the kids to church; Mom didn't go - Sunday was her sleep-in day. I vaguely remember Sunday School; and big church, as I alluded to above, was a large, boring place where children were seen and not heard.

There are a lot of different outlooks on faith, God, religion and spirituality. Maybe the Presbyterian church I attended during my elementary school years didn't do a great job of introducing me to God and Jesus. Maybe I just didn't pay attention. But by the time I left Tampa and went to live in England with my father and start junior high school it's safe to say I had no religious convictions. And that lasted until 2001.

Oh sure, I had what passed for meaningful conversations with others about God - usually in bars. I'm not saying that God won't show up in bars; after all, Jesus was known to hang out with some pretty rough folks back in the day. In my experience, if you're looking for God/Jesus, then all I'm saying is that out of all the places on earth where you might find Him, a bar could be pretty far down the list.

Still, Jesus did tell Zachaeus that He had come to seek and save that which is lost, so you never know.

I guess the point of all this is that we all grow up as products of our environment. I loved my grandmother (except for that time I made her chase me around the bed when I had misbehaved) but just her taking me to church didn't help me find God anymore than watching The Ten Commandments on television did.

             Yul Bryner was always cool...

Besides, watching The 10 Commandments, I always thought Yul Bryner was the coolest - maybe that's because I'd seen him first in The Magnificent Seven.

Note the phrase on the top of the movie poster: The Greatest Event in Motion Picture History

I don't know from movies, but Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt is one of the greatest events in mankind's history. Yet the Israelites, with all the evidence of God's existence playing out in front of them, still chose the way of the world. And kept choosing that way for hundreds and hundreds of years.

Back in Florida for high school, I went to visit my father after he'd moved to Ft. Lauderdale. We went to a theater and watched Godspell.

Sitting in that darkened theater was the first time I can remember crying for a reason that didn't involve me getting a spanking. It was an amazing evening. Yet I still didn't get the connection. Looking back, was I crying because it was a tremendous performance by the cast? There's no doubt that live theater performances can be more emotionally evocative than films. Or was I crying because the message of the Gospel of Matthew is the basis for Godspell?

Life went on.

Over the years I had conversations with all sorts of people that mostly ended with the philosophy of, "As long as I don't hurt anyone and I'm a generally good person, I should be fine getting into heaven...assuming that there is a God."

It's funny (not funny Ha-Ha, but funny peculiar) how we ascribe our human nature onto God's psyche.

                        Billions and billions of stars...

Think about it; let's accept for the moment that a Supreme Being created the universe and everything in it. Is it really conceivable that this Being would think and act like us? The Bible refers several times to the fact that God created us in His image. But that doesn't mean that us and God are the same - He wants us to be, but there is something in the way.

That's where Jesus comes in.

My father-in-law passed away in 2001. For some reason, that was a much more emotional experience than I expected. After the funeral, I began thinking about life and, I suppose, death. My wife's family is large and very close. Perhaps my thoughts and emotions were an offshoot of her deep grief over losing her father. Whatever the reasons, I began talking to God. Driving to work in the morning or driving home at night - I worked long hours so it was frequently dark by the time I was making my way home.

This went on for months. I suppose it's cathartic to have someone upon which to cast your thoughts, your rants, your innermost fears. Some might say I was just working through things myself, or maybe projecting. Others might say I was crazy. But as the weeks and months went on, I felt a growing sense of surety that, yes, there was a God and yes, He is aware of who each of us is.

                                Arthur...stop groveling!

Everything we do can be distilled down to a moment in time. The moment you were born, the moment you decided to disobey your parents, the moment you decided to skip that class, the moment you decided to hand your keys to a friend instead of driving home after the party, the moment you propose marriage or accept a proposal...our lives are stitched together with a million such moments.

One night in 2001, I had a moment, a moment where I clearly heard God asking me to accept Him, to accept that Jesus was His Son and that He had died on the cross for me. I wasn't a bad person but no matter how good I was - or am - it wasn't good enough to get me over the dark chasm yawing between me and God. Only Jesus could do that.

I think I had heard God asking for my heart before that night. And like most humans, I was busy making excuses. Even that night - the most important night of my life - I still was holding God at arm's length. He was asking me to pull over, right there in Bagdad, FL of all places, and accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior. And I was busy being Moses, Jonah, and a host of others I was going to learn about who all said, "Why me, Lord? I'm nothing special. What do I have, what can I do, that you can't?"

I had already made up my mind but that human nature of disobedience kept me in my car seat until I parked in my driveway; then, and only then, did I get out and get down on my knees in my front yard and answer God.

Yes, Lord.

I'm not Charlton Heston. But thank God I don't have to be. I'm just me; and for some reason, God loved me enough to send His son to die for me.

Thank goodness.


Monday, July 2, 2012

Freedom isn't

June 2012 was a very sparse month over here at The Stream. It wasn't on purpose, I promise...all that stuff I do to keep a paycheck coming in and to keep my family intact sometimes overrides my desire to write. As always, I promise to (think about) do better.

The Fourth of July is almost here again, reminding us of all the freedoms that we enjoy as Americans. We sang the first verse of the National Anthem in church yesterday morning. After all these years, I still have to fight the urge to salute when the first notes begin. But I do stand to attention, put my hand over my heart and sing the words from memory. Our church has a video screen - I imagine most do these days - where the words to songs are projected. While singing, I glanced around the immediate area, noticing some folks singing while looking at the screen. I also noticed a young man with both hands deep in his pants pockets; he looked like he might have been singing although I couldn't tell for sure.

Before I go any further let me be clear about one thing: I AM NOT JUDGING

For Pete's sake, this is a blog. I have to observe and comment on things. And after all, this is a blog about freedom.

What did I observe from my church's anthem experience? It seems a little weird that there are folks in our country who don't know the proper etiquette and protocol concerning our National Anthem. For review:

 - Face the flag
 - Salute (for civilians, that's usually the right hand over the heart)
 - Sing if you want to (and you should know the words better than Christina Aguilera without looking at a screen)

Look; I'm not always happy with the way things are going in the USA. But the day when things get so bad that I don't sing the national Anthem is the day that I'll be leaving.

Don't worry; I'll complain when it gets cold, too.

Did I mention it is insanely hot, even by Northern Alabama standards? The thermometer above is about right on the money for the past few days. But yesterday I had to man up and bathe the dog. Now, you might say, that doesn't sound so bad. And you'd be right.

It's not the bathing that is bad - it's the hour you have to spend outside drying, grooming and playing with the little bundle of joy that makes you appreciate how nice Heaven will be compared to, well, you know, that other place.

And on earth, that other place is anywhere our armed forces are running around in full camo gear and body armor with a sixty-pound pack. We've lived in the Middle East; we know how hot it is over there. 

That puts my whole whining about spending an hour in the sun in shorts and a t-shirt with no one shooting at me sob story right into perspective.

God bless the men and women who keep us free.

In an effort to keep cool Wednesday, I suspect a lot of folks - after eating way too much Bar-b-Que - will be headed to the local Cinerama to catch a movie in the cool, dark confines of a theater near them.

Here's what my marquee will look like this summer...

So what great films are playing right now?

Hmmm, let me see...

1. Top of the hill, grossing over $54 million this weekend is a movie that I'm still stunned was ever produced. I can see the pitch meetings now:

"Guys, it'll be awesome! You see, there's this kid who gets a Teddy Bear - everyone loves their Teddy, right? - and get this: he talks and walks and e'thing! And then the kid and his Teddy grow up and the kid still has his Teddy living with him...just imagine the jokes! I mean, that darn bear is swearing, drinking beer, driving the car, lying when he gets in a wreck, hanging with hot chicks when the kid isn't home...seriously, it's a can't-miss proposition! Oh - and get this - Mark Wahlberg is the kid...I'm telling you, we can't go wrong here..."

2. Following the not so lovable Ted with its own g-string full of bills is Magic Mike, a sensitive, dramatic and funny look (the reviewer's words, not mine) at the world of male strippers.

There's just too much here; and lest folks think I'm being er, sexist, I wouldn't go see this movie if it was about female strippers either.

What other masterpieces can we expect this summer?

As you would expect, there's the usual mix of kid's fair, huge remakes (ahem, excuse me, re-imagining), action epics, blah, blah, blah...

It's not a summer blockbuster but just to show you I'm a big ol' hypocrite, I'll be in line in November to watch Skyfall, the newest James Bond offering. But this summer? Maybe The Dark Knight Rises (although I may wait for the DVD); Total Recall or Dredd? I doubt it. From what I've seen in the previews, TR isn't anywhere as good as Ah-nold's original and I'm just not sure I can appreciate a remake of Judge Dredd without Stallone, Assante, von Sydow or even the surprisingly effective comic relief of Rob Schneider.


What does all this have to do with freedom? There's nothing wrong with spending $50 bucks and taking the family to a terrible movie. After all it's a free country. We all have different tastes, religious beliefs, political opinions and ideas about right and wrong. We all need a little escapism from time to time and I'm not going to sit here and tell you that you're going to that other place just because you liked Ted. That would be judging.

All I'm saying is, "Remember the folks that can't make the movies this weekend because in the (fictional but eerily true) words of Colonel Nathan R. Jessup, 'Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men (and women) with guns. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punch line. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post.'"

This Fourth of July, I know one thing I'll be doing: saying, "Thank you."

What do you think?