Archive for the ‘Modern Life’ Category

Why Our Kids Need Great Literature

July 19, 2010

Surprise!  I am alive, but I’ve been playing hookey from regular blogging here since Pascha.  That’s not to say I haven’t been busy, but I’m a little obsessive about my interests.  Orthodox blogging has taken a backseat to my birding, birdwatching, blogging about birds, feeding birds and planning field trips to see more birds.  

My other great passion is reading and I’ve had the pleasure of immersing myself in books for the last 6 months or so.   I tend towards classics, natural history, hard sci-fi and anything food or food culture, but I’ve also recently gotten hooked on Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series.   In the past few weeks I’ve finished To Kill a Mockingbird, The Remains of the Day, Julia Child’s My Life in France, Cooking for Kings: The Life of Antonin Carême, the First Celebrity Chef, Robinson Crusoe, and I’m slowly slogging my way through Don Quixote (though why it takes 900 pages to convey idiocy and self-delusion is beyond me; I have a feeling the deep metaphysical meaning of the story is going to be completely lost on me.)

Surprisingly, of all these books,  the one that has been the most overtly Christian, I’d even say Orthodox in its message of human sinfulness, spiritual awakening, and redemption through a monastic or hermit-like isolation, is Robinson Crusoe.  It’s an early 18th century Protestant Christian morality story through and through, but why should we look at these kinds of literary works as peculiar to their time with no modern message.  If any age needed some lessons in morality mixed with a good dose of Christianity, it’s our present 21st century.   Is a work with this strong a Christian message still taught in high schools?   Daily Bible study, fasting, prayer, scripture quotations, all things alien and forbidden in public schools.  I’m sure it’d be a much more PC curricula if Crusoe explored his frustrated sexual longings in this book, rather than his thankfulness to God for isolating him from those temptations.  (If you need a more substantial literary reason for including this book on a list of required reading for kids, consider that it is first truly English novel, setting the stage for all subsequent English literature.)

Could there be any kind of literature more appropriate for teenagers to read than the account of someone lost and alone, and trying to understand their place in the world?  After suffering a nearly fatal illness that finally shakes his conscience free, Crusoe has a sincere conversion of heart, and begins a life of repentance and spritual revelation.

…reading the Scripture, I came to these Words, He is exalted a Prince and a Saviour, to give Repentance and to give Remission”.   I threw down the Book, and with my Heart as well as my Hands lifted up to Heaven, in a kind of Extasy (sic) of Joy, I cry’d out aloud, ‘Jesus, thou Son of David, Jesus, thou exalted Prince and Saviour, give me Repentance’!

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Roland Emmerich Dodges A Big Fat-Wa(n)

November 4, 2009

Kaaba

I really thought I was going to avoid writing about the whole stupid Mayan calendar/2012 nonsense, at least not until the director of the upcoming end-of-the-world film ‘2012’ opened his mouth to talk about his medical problems with fear-induced testicular diminishment syndrome. 

And may I say – give me a freakin’ break! 

This has to be the stupidest condescension to the uber-delicate feelings and ‘oh-so-easily provoked sensibilities’ of Muslim clerics I’ve ever seen.  It’s OK to obliterate to smithereens the religious landmarks of Christians or Buddhists, but God forbid  the Kaaba bites it.   

And why was it ok for director Roland Emmerich to trash iconic Christian symbols, such as St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro?   Says Emmerich

Because I’m against organized religion.

(Insert head scratch here, because I thought Islam was a pretty organized religion already.)   Mr. Emmerich continues on…

You can actually … let … Christian symbols fall apart, but if you would do this with [an] Arab symbol, you would have … a fatwa, and that sounds a little bit like what the state of this world is.  So it’s just something which I kind of didn’t [think] was [an] important element, anyway, in the film, so I kind of left it out.”

Oh, I get it.  He’s only against organized religions that won’t put a religiously-mandated hit out on him.  

I say let’s have a little equal opportunity world destruction here.  Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Pagans and atheists.  That’s what the confraternity of man is all about – we all die together.   Unless you’re John Cusack and can outdrive seismic faults and collapsing buildings in the most amazing road-jamming limo that Detroit, sadly, could never have produced – and that’s why this movie is science-fiction!

Mission Aborted for the Rocket Man

September 16, 2009

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I had a really hard time deciding which pseudo-celeb news story deserved remorseless skewering – Jessica Simpson’s Fifi dog served up as a coyote snack or Kate Gosselin’s hairstyle contribution to world peace and the cure for cancer.   Instead I had to go with Elton John’s skewering by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church over his intention to adopt a child with his “partner”, David Furnish.

The message conveyed by Fr. Georgy Gulyaev of the Donetsk Diocese couldn’t be any more clear – homosexuality is a sin and the homosexual family is a distortion of the Church’s teaching on the sanctity and biblical nature of the family. 

“The Church is strictly against same-sex marriages and the damage they cause. It’s written in Holy Scriptures that homosexual marriage and relations is a sin.

“It is a sin, it is against nature, and it represents the dead end of human development.

“People pretend to have good intentions, create semi-marriages and so-called families, and moreover they dare to adopt children. Unlike people who are blessed by God to create natural families, these are people who succumb to their passions.

“This is definitely a sin, there is no other word for it, and the church will never agree that people who have created same-sex “marriage” could also dare to adopt children.

“This applies to all, including Elton John. He is a sinner.”

The photos accompanying the news story are sure to be great sympathy generators for Elton John, and I don’t doubt he has a genuine desire to parent this child.   The parental urge is hard-wired into our human psyche by the same God who created the natural inclination for male-female relations and the nurturing of children within the male-female home.  This poor baby deserves that loving, caring, traditional family, i.e. a married man and woman.  

Sadly, there ain’t nothing anyone can say to Elton John that’s going to change his mind, and he’s sure to be backed by the righteous indignation of the Rainbow Mafia, which will not stop until traditional family values have been insinuated, legislated and bullied out of society. 

God bless the strength of the Orthodox Church to stand up for the faith and historic teachings of the Church.

You hear the one about the zombie who staggered into a bar?

August 18, 2009

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I’m relieved to know that university scientists are spending hard-to-come-by research dollars on projects that actually have practical applications

Yes, folks.  Your concerns about the very real threat of badly dressed, brain-eating undead have been heard by science and are answered in a new, ground-breaking study by Canadian scientists at the University of Ottawa and Carleton University. 

And how do we stop a zombie plague?  Do we triage ill zombie patients, provide them with palliative care?  Do we search for a vaccine to reverse the zombie infection.   Nope.  The scientists’ research found only one sure fire course of action:   “…hit them [the undead] hard and hit them often…It’s imperative that zombies are dealt with quickly or else… we are all in a great deal of trouble.”  And that can only mean zombie decapitation.   Says highly degreed professional, Dr. Neil Ferguson, after performing considerable background research, including marathon screenings of  Night of the Living Dead, 28 Days Later, Vengeance of the Zombies, and Chopper Chicks in Zombie Town:  “My understanding of zombie biology is that if you manage to decapitate a zombie, then it’s dead forever.”

All I can say is, I’m so glad this study wasn’t done at Texas A & M University.  You’d never hear the end of  the bad Aggie jokes this would spawn.   “How can you tell the difference between a zombie and an Aggie’s date at the A & M UT football game?……Braaaainsssss, braaaaainssss.”  

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Common Ground?

May 19, 2009

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It appears that President Obama has survived and come out on top of the abortion/anti-abortion mosh-pit of public sentiment.   The news media  have all but placed a blessing on Obama’s call for moderation and common ground.   The President laid down his smoke screen of pro-abortion civility and reasonableness, which will certainly make any pro-life rebuttal look like uncharitable hate-speech.   

As far as the commencement address goes, I’ll certainly admit the man can make a good speech. 

If there is one law that we can be most certain of, it is the law that binds people of all faiths and no faith together. … It is, of course, the Golden Rule — the call to treat one another as we wish to be treated.  The call to love.  The call to serve.  To do what we can to make a difference in the lives of those with whom we share the same brief moment on this Earth.

Politicians sure have a way of using Bible buzz-words that sounds so compassionate to the average American.   The words that come out of President Obama’s  mouth  have a ring of sincerity; they always convey a real person and personality behind them (or rather his speech writer is very good at expressing the Obama image).   You listen to these words and you find yourself sinking into a warm, fuzzy comforting place, involuntarily nodding your head at the reasonableness of it all.   On some issues I’m all there with him.  But suddenly, an image of a student’s mortarboard   taped with the outline of baby feet breaks the mind-meld you’ve allowed yourself to be entrapped by.  You slap your face and remind yourself that pretty, conciliatory words cover a lot of blood; that resistance is not futile.  (Trek references on my mind?  Yeah, I saw the movie this past weekend!)

Lest you think the President’s Notre Dame speech was all sweetness and light, he did allow one vague moment of condescension – the tiniest acknowledgement that, gasp, there are  Americans who will be unmoved in their commitment to pro-life principles. 

I do not suggest that the debate surrounding abortion can or should go away.   Because no matter how much we may want to fudge it — indeed, while we know that the views of most Americans on the subject are complex and even contradictory — the fact is that at some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable.

Point on – they are irreconcilable.   But excuse me Mr. President – millions of us  do not have conflicting, contradictory opinions on abortion.   Our opinions are firm and unwavering.   So, I doubt we’ll be searching for common ground beyond recommitting ourselves to act with civility and compassion, while exercising our right to law-abiding resistance.    Let us be very clear that abortion is not an issue that will allow for the premise of equally valid, but contradictory positions.  No and hell no!

Swine Flu Report #2

April 29, 2009

It’s a bad day to be a pig in Egypt.   This is just the kind of overreactionary effort that isn’t going to help anything.    I wasn’t aware that a predominantly muslim country had a large swine production capacity, but 300,000 of the critters are ironically marked for extermination because of who and what they are.    A lot of Coptic pig farmers just got put out of business.

Meanwhile, muslim lawmakers in Kuwait and Bahrain are pressing the case that if only they’d been following a pig-free policy all along, swine flu would be restricted to the infidel, pig-eating countries.

“The outbreak of this flu, which has killed dozens, will make our case stronger to outlaw pork from the kingdom,” lawmaker Sheikh Adel Al-Moawada, who heads the Bahrain parliamentary foreign affairs and security committee, was quoted by local media as saying.

And who gave this guy a passing grade in his infectious disease studies at medical school? 

“We are unlikely to have an outbreak since we don’t have pig farms here. We don’t have pig products and [the region where the strain emerged] is miles away from Kuwait,” said Dr. Khalid Al-Hasawi, deputy director-general of Kuwait’s Infectious Disease Hospital.

My kids know more about the infectious spread of Swine Flu, Mexico Flu, North American Flu, Non-Kosher/Non-Koranic Flu, or whatever the heck PC name you give this thing.   Pigs are not direct infectious vectors now.  You cannot get sick from eating pork.  For that matter, you could kiss a pig and not get infected.     (By the way, have you ever seen so much hoopla over the naming of a disease  ?   This ranks right up there with the re-naming of French fries to “Freedom” fries by some uber-patriotic idiots in the Congressional cafeteria back in the early days of the Iraq War.)

It’s Wednesday here, which for us Orthodox Christians is a fasting day, pork and pork products included.  But first thing I’m gonna do tomorrow morning is have a bacon and egg breakfast taco, then a delicious ‘Hog Dog’ from a stand down the block (a grilled, bacon-wrapped hot dog with grilled onions and peppers), finally completing my porcine palate at dinnertime with the last of the Pascha ham in a big pot of slow-cooked lima beans.  (Tomorrow my ankles are gonna be as big as ham hocks!)

UPDATE:   It didn’t take the Coptic Christians of Egypt long to react to this ridiculousness.   The Copts have been taking it for a long time by the muslim majority in Egypt.   Churches burned, murders, arrests, forced conversion, but it takes hurting someone’s livelihood to finally cause the pot to boil over.   I hope the Coptic community doesn’t suffer personal and governmental reprisals, but people can only be pushed around for so long.

Tea Parties, Secession and the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Texas

April 16, 2009

041509 tea party 01Texas has always had this escape clause mentality – the idea that we managed just fine on our own at one time and we aren’t afraid to do it again.   We’re independent cusses just looking for something to get riled up about.   So, it’s no wonder Gov. Rick Perry has gone shooting his mouth off about secession.   That could be an interesting conundrum for Orthodox unity in the United States of America.   The Autocephalous Orthodox Church of  Texas sounds catchy, doesn’t it.    San Antonio – the New Constantinople.

Did anyone attend a Tea Party yesterday?  Here in San Antonio   there were close to 10,000 tea bag warriors in front of the Alamo (I know because I was trying to go home).  Motor City Madman, now adopted Texan, Ted Nugent provided the entertainment, along with host Glenn Beck.  Ted’s wild-eyed version of Cat Scratch Fever, along with his rabid conservatism, might explain part of the big turnout locally.  (To say that San Antonio likes its heavy metal and classic rock bands is to say ‘the sun is a little warm’.)

I can certainly understand the anger that precipitated these rallies.  I’ve been just as disgusted about the issue of government bailouts.   When I have to take the bus to work and eat leftovers for lunch, I wonder what I did to cause my lifestyle to drop so dramatically.   So, was it better to let the banking and auto industries collapse and new forms of business rise from the ashes?  Was it better for our country in the long term to re-invent itself out of a failed economy?  I don’t understand things enough to know.  Theoretically, I’d like to see this country revert to a  traditional, family and community-centered, heavily agrarian model, ala Wendell Berry.   Would the social turmoil and suffering be worth it?  That’s a hard choice.   I’m not willing to get all Grapes of Wrath and face homelessness and hunger with my kids, are you?  There are plenty of people in this country right now who are living that and it’s not romantic, it’s misery.   It’s always easier to consider your reaction to these situations hypothetically.

But let me ask one other question about the enormous turnout at yesterday’s Tea Parties.   Has anyone figured out yet how the masses could be whipped up into a tax and big government frenzy against an administration that has only been in office for 4 months?  Where were the protests 1, 4, 6 years ago?   It was 8 years of mismanagement under the other guy that saw the national debt hit one quadrillion gazillion dollars; that created  new, big spending, red tape bureaucracies, and fostered the erosion of civil liberties under the same red, white and blue flag all those folks were waving yesterday.  Who got all pissed off and dressed up in ‘Bush is a Fascist’ t-shirts and protested the 2008 budget? 

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Technology Is Taking Over

March 25, 2009

The spirit of Botanicalls is not creating a robotic plant. The spirit of Botanicalls is really re-engaging people with nature and getting them to pay attention.

I think I’ve passed over into official old fart status when I see a new gadget or technology and don’t think ‘hey cool’.   What happened to just sticking your finger in the dirt and seeing if the frikkin thing is dry?  $100 dollars saved and I can then go outside in the fresh air and connect with nature for real.   Next thing you know, they’ll be selling Wii nature hikes and Wii birdwatching.

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Reason #3 Why I’m Orthodox

March 3, 2009
Ackkkk!

Ackkkk! Blech! Gag!

 

I’m sure the Conservative and Orthodox branches of Judaism are glad to be  shut of  these two.    And for that matter, lapsed Catholic Lindsay Lohan’s ancestors must be rolling over in their graves.   To all my traditional and conservative Catholic friends I say ‘keep pruning the branches’.   A smaller, healthier tree will always bear more fruit than a sprawling, misshapen one that is filled with dead wood and galls.  

Every time the popular media prints an article or airs a news clip on celebrity matches and marriages (I did not say “traditional” celebrity marriages, ’cause those are just too few and far between) it is another subtle nail in the coffin of Judeo-Christian values and family life.   I fear that, worn down by an endless stream of positive media coverage, even the most traditional believer may one day say, “we just don’t have the support to fight against the loss of traditional marriage” or even worse, “what’s the big deal, everyone’s doing it”.   Sigh. 

If you’re tempted to get pissy with me about  judgmentalism and loving acceptance, I would point out that God didn’t require his followers to be pious doormats.  He endowed men and women with a sense of righteousness and free will.   You can use that free will to depart from the faith or you can use it to return chastened, corrected and with an open heart that desires to follow God’s eternal Truth, not the truths of contemporary life.    Are you married, churchgoing and/or traditional?   Don’t just wave the flag of righteousness.  You get to use your free will to speak up for family values and pray in love for the enlightenment and repentance of those who exercised that same free will to their own spiritual downfall. 

Big Bad Bus Wars

February 12, 2009

Who’d a thought combatting atheism could be so much fun!  Now that the sides of British bendy busses have become the new belief battleground with both sides – the unbelievers and the believers – fielding these wimpy slogans, the UK Guardian newspaper has launched a website so that anyone can come up with their own slogan.  My not so worthy creation:  

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We’ve had our own belief-less billboard on a local freeway since Christmastime, funded by those joy-filled people at the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

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When I explained to my 9 year old that it was a sign put up by people who want you to “believe” there is no God, he said “Well, that’s just stupid.”   If it’s so obvious to a 9 year old, it makes me wonder why so much effort (and money) is always put into these campaigns?  

Why the hell do people who don’t believe in anything but themselves care so much about what or rather who, the rest of us believe in?  Their complaints about tax breaks, discrimination and their poor understanding of the Constitution aside, I think it’s a little telling that the original bus campaign ads in Britain are worded “There’s probably no God…”  If they believed so strongly in this, why say ‘probably’?     Are they hedging their bets or do they think it puts a stronger seed of doubt into people’s minds with that choice of words?   I’m going with the angle that instead it gives us Christians a chance to change the atheist and agnostic’s mind.   They’re a hard sell I know, but every one a child of God whether they want to believe that or not, and so worth the effort.