Saturday, December 27, 2008


I have repeatedly stated that I do not argue with the following - Holocaust deniers (which should be obvious); those who deny natural evolution by means of natural selection (as modified in the 1950's and, later, the 1980's); and those who deny the reality of Global Warming. Like arguing over the color of grass or the date of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, it serves no purpose to argue with people who simply deny facts.

In an effort at magnanimity (the literal meaning of which is "large souledness", that is, the state of being generous in one's being and person), I thought I'd share a report on actual scientific evidence - from the United States Geological Survey still under the thumb of the Bush Administration - that Global Warming is still not a good thing.
The United States faces the possibility of much more rapid climate change by the end of the century than previous studies have suggested, according to a new report led by the U.S. Geological Survey.

The survey -- which was commissioned by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program and issued this month -- expands on the 2007 findings of the United Nations Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change. Looking at factors such as rapid sea ice loss in the Arctic and prolonged drought in the Southwest, the new assessment suggests that earlier projections may have underestimated the climatic shifts that could take place by 2100.

One of the most fun aspects of this article is the explicit explanation of the difference between science and the Global Warming deniers - the use of (Duh!) the scientific method. That is to say, the article explains that the new estimates are based both on new evidence, and new ways of understanding certain dynamics that were unknown or underappreciated before.
Konrad Steffen, who directs the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado at Boulder and was lead author on the report's chapter on ice sheets, said the models the IPCC used did not factor in some of the dynamics that scientists now understand about ice sheet melting. Among other things, Steffen and his collaborators have identified a process of "lubrication," in which warmer ocean water gets in underneath coastal ice sheets and accelerates melting.(emphasis added)

I realize this article, just like every other bit of real science, will run up against the brick wall of the minds of Global Warming Deniers, but that's OK. See, they don't run things anymore, and for a while can be both safely ignored, and laughed at for the goobers they really are.

Don't argue with them. Just point and laugh.

Saturday Rock Show

I think I knew my tastes in music were slightly different from my friends when I was in high school because one of the very first albums (and they were albums, too) I bought was There and Back, by Jeff Beck. How many not-quite fifteen year old kids will sit and listen, over and over, to an entire album of blues-rock-fusion instrumentals by an underappreciated British guitarist? I didn't know this at the time, but this was the tail end of Beck's collaboration with Jan Hammer. Hammer would become famous in the US for his work on Miami Vice, but had already achieved respect and fame for his work with John McLaughlin's groundbreaking fusion group The Mahavishnu Orchestra.

The first cut on the LP is a blistering solo-trading exercise, called "Star Cycle", and it actually got air play on my local AOR station when it was released (this was before the days that all such decisions were made by corporate executives who thought all people who listened to radio were brain-dead). This clip not only has Beck and Hammer, but drummer Simon Phillips, who performed on the album, and has also toured with Pete Townsend.

Friday, December 26, 2008

St. Stephen

Today is the feast day for the first Christian martyr, according to the book of Acts. Steven was a deacon, a servant of others in the name of Christ, whose death sentence probably stemmed, if it happened at all, from a refusal to acknowledge the Imperial cult. In Acts, a witness and supporter of his murder is a young tent maker named Saul.

I've often wondered about the fact that the first feast day after Christmas is in honor of the death of St. Stephen (two days from now, it is the feast of the slaughter of the innocents). We have this long, intense season of Advent, during which we prepare ourselves, as John the Baptizer insisted, for the coming of the Messiah. Then, immediately following the celebration of the birth of Jesus, the coming of the light in the midst of our darkness, we are called upon to remember the unjust execution of a man whose sole crime was serving his Lord. It is as far removed from the over-sentimentalized "Christmasy" stuff we are inundated with, especially here in America, as can be. Yet, just as it is important to sit with the shepherds in the stable and gaze in wonder at this Savior born to us, it is also important to remember that this baby grew up, ministered to his people, died on a cross, rose, and those who understood and believed his message and in his person were willing to die for that belief.

We tend to think of "peace" as the absence of turmoil or strife. Yet, it seems to me the peace of God is a kind of self-assurance in the midst of strife and turmoil. Even more, sometimes the peace that faith brings creates, or at any rate enhances our perception, of the turmoil and strife which surrounds us. Either way, We are called to remember, just one day after we remember the birth of Jesus, what one result of that birth was - the willing death at the hands of an unjust government of one who believed in the words and person of the man that baby would become.

Jesus was born in to a world of strife. While his Kingdom is surely the peaceable Kingdom for which we Christians work and pray, we must never forget that the strife of this world refuses to surrender, and will fight to hold sway. The death of St. Stephen was just the first of a seemingly endless supply of persons who have been and continue to be willing to not just live for Jesus, but to die for him as well. While we can decry the injustice and evil of the system that brought about his death, we should also remember the strength and courage of St. Stephen as he faced his accusers, and his executioners.

While Christmas is over, at least for another year, the on-going life of the church is watered by the blood of those who, like St. Stephen so long ago, have refused to give up their faith in Jesus for the promise of life here and now, believing their life, in the crucified and risen Christ, is not limited to the mundane, banal, and evil machinations of this world.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Other Story

The original plan was to write a tract. Outraged at the social callousness of a Christian nation tossing away whole populations as surplus garbage, the author sat and thought, and the more he sat and thought, the less likely it was a tract would come.

Why not a story instead?

Why not a ghost story?

Written quickly, on a single manuscript that probably gave the printer nightmares, the short novel arrived in time for Christmas, 1843, and became not just a national treasure, but such a part of our cultural currency, we forget it was and is nothing more or less than the product of human imagination.

Yet, for all that, it still has the power to move people to tears, and rage, and joy - because for all their particularity and limits due to historical circumstances, the characters are all recognizable human beings. Even the Spirits.

If you have a couple hours, sit and read A Christmas Carol. Hear the words of the Second Spirit as he lectures Scrooge on the callousness of his dismissal of "surplus populations", millions of whom are more worthy to live than this groping, clutching, grasping, covetous old sinner.

Yet, he, too, is worthy of love, and yet another chance at life. Which is the real meaning of Christmas, after all. All of us, and each of us, get as many second, third, fourth, etc., chances as we need - because God never gives up on us, but in God's time will make clear to us how dear we are.

Even if it hurts.

So, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Everyone.

The Story

In the original Elizabethan:
1: And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
2: (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
3: And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
4: And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
5: To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
6: And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
7: And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
8: And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9: And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10: And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11: For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12: And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13: And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
15: And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
16: And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
17: And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
18: And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
19: But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


One Christmas Eve, perhaps when I was in fifth grade, perhaps sixth, I was sequestered by direct order of my parents to the TV room as the 'rents went about wrapping presents, my mother baked, and the older siblings did this, that, and the other. I think I was a bit peeved at the time, but I have to admit that, in retrospect, it was one of the better Christmas Eve's I ever spent. We received WPIX-11 out of New York City on our local cable, and at the time it was completely independent. On that particular Festivus Eve, it ran a whole day's worth of Our Gang comedies, Laurel and Hardy shorts (including a couple silent ones), and thanks to that, I will forever associate these great old short films with Christmas. The following is part of a 1933 short, "The Kid from Borneo".

Here are Stan and Ollie, in "Flying Deuces".

What would old comedy shorts be without The Three Stooges? Here, in two parts, are "I Want My Mummy"

Monday, December 22, 2008

Some Questions

For some reason, on the comments' thread here, Feodor demonstrates a truly remarkable hard-on for me. I can only ask, in all seriousness and with all due respect, "What's your fucking problem, dude?"

While the whole thing is kind of odd, and at the remove of several hours a little less annoying, I still wonder where it all came from. I did find it funny that every guess about me, my life, who I am as a person, my personal and intellectual history - every little bit Feodor thought he could glean from reading what I've written - is pretty much wrong. Were I the kind of person to take offense at his petty moral scoldings, I would be particularly offended by the whole "a couple black friends" jibe. That kind of came out of nowhere. The complaint about word use - he actually takes me to task for saying the Holocaust Museum is "chock-a-block" with items - is almost silly. As for his armchair moralist quip, all moralists are armchair moralists, which is why I am not one, nor do I play one on my blog. I find it odd that he insists I read a book, I hint that I might have read a book, then makes fun of me for mentioning I might have done exactly what he demands I do in the first place. Not that reading, or the number of books anyone has read matters one whit for me. As Alan says, "Who cares?" It's kind of like his wondering where I went to seminary, I tell him, even giving him the mailing address for the place, and he waves a dismissive hand.

It's like Marshall Art with better spelling.

So, I have invited him here, I have asked my question, I have staked out my complaint, and I want an answer. What gives, man?

Music Monday - Nostalgia Edition

Where we lived when I was a kid, we had a Grant's Department Store. Does anyone remember Grant's? Anyway, they had a deal with Columbia Records. They released exclusive Christmas compilation records every year, starting sometime in the late 1960's, and running up until the company went belly-up. Those great old records had songs from the usual suspects - Tony Bennet, Bing Crosby - but also some not so usual folks. Who remembers Leslie Uggams? Dianne Carroll (she does a great version of "Some Children See Him")? You haven't heard anything until you've heard Johnny Cash sing "I heard the Bells on Christmas Day".

Volumes 3 and 4 were always my favorites. The first track on Volume 4 was the following by Las Vegas and Tonight Show perennial guests (at least when Carson hosted) Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormet. It's called "That Holiday Feeling". God knows why I love it so - it's so cheesy you want to rush out and by stock in Nabisco - but it is a lot of fun.

I think it's the second or third cut on Volume 4 was by Gary Puckett, he of Union Gap fame, "Young Girl", "Don't Give In To Him" (my sister has a couple 45s of his; I had no idea what the latter song was about until I was in HS, I'm embarrassed to admit). He comports himself quite well, considering his limited abilities, on "O Holy Night".

Volume 3 Introduced me to "The Messiah" beyond the Hallelujah Chorus. After I learned the oratorio was actually written for Easter, I wondered why people insisted on listening to it only at Christmas. Hardly one to struggle against the considered opinion of everyone else, I only listen to it at Christmas, too. However, there is one section that could be considered "Christmasy", "For Unto Us A Child Is Born". On the old Grant's records, it's on side two of Volume 3, and comes from a recording of the Philadelphia Orchestra and Choir, conducted by Eugene Ormandy. Couldn't find that, but had absolutely no trouble finding all sorts of "For Unto Us".

My favorite recording from these is a rendition of "Angels We Have Heard On High" by the Percy Faith Orchestra. It's so beautiful, but, alas, no video of it exists on YouTube. Also, I fear, there is no way I can get a copy of it from my parents' old 33 rpm vinyl disc on to CD to listen to at my house.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Tired, But Still Trying

Four days before Christmas, and I should be feeling all warm and friendly toward everyone. Seriously. The rhetoric should be ramping down a bit, we should be remembering that, at this time of year, we are all in it together, celebrating the birth of Jesus, and what that means for each of us, and all of us.

Instead, I'm getting this:
"Unlike you, I trust God's intellect over humankind's." - Me

"That's only because you have none."-J-Off

One can ONLY conclude that you think more of man than you do of God.

It's your own words, J-Off, that reveals your attitude towards God.

Besides, your low opinion of God fits right in with your political philosophy.

Maybe you just don't REALIZE how revealing your offerings on this site are.

Quite reavealing.

What's "revealing" about this statement is that this person uses words that, really, have no meaning for me. I cannot begin to fathom the meaning, or relevance, of much of this comment, other than it is an attempt to insult both me, and my faith. It doesn't, but it does piss me off that someone would continue to be as low as this. Meaningless and low.

Of course, I've also had to put up with this:
I'm curious Geoffrey; and not because I want a club to beat you with. What kind of church does your wife pastor? Is she still pastoring? I'm very curious about the kind of christian faith that can, with a clear conscience, support abortion?

Seriously. I want to understand where you're coming from.

Once again, someone crosses the line, invoking my wife, her ministry, her integrity as a side-swipe at me. You can question my faith all you want; coming from these idiots it's almost a compliment. Doing so to my wife who is not a blogger, or a participant in any of these discussions really pisses me off.

Also, as my father pointed out to me in my youth, the phrase, "I want to understand where you're coming from", is a kind of jargon that is really bad. It shows a lack of imagination, a real lack of thought. My only response to Eric is, if he wants to know what kind of Christian I am, check out my blog, and my own repeated response - like most Christians, I'm a pretty bad one, but I keep trying.

People like this test not so much my faith, but my commitment to Christian love. I would dearly love to tell all of them to take a flying leap, but I can't. They, too, are fellow children of God. They are loved and cherished, saved and held up by the Holy Spirit. They each and all have gifts - reasoning and loving and even typing are not among them, however - and are part of that great family of God.

Whether I like it or not.

As we move toward Christmas, I think it is important to remember that the birth of Jesus comes to all of us, and each of us. As different as we might be, as much as we might loathe one another at times - Jesus is there for all of us.

So, I am tired. But I am also grateful. I am grateful that God's love and grace are far larger than my own. I am grateful that I am trying to learn to love even in the midst of anger and frustration. I am grateful for the presence of some so different from me they challenge, not so much my beliefs, but my commitment to true inclusion in love.

Virtual Tin Cup

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