Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Rude, Crude, and Socially Unacceptable

This is how I approach The Oscars: I watch the opening monologue if I semi-like the host  (Billy Crystal, Steve Martin, or even Seth McFarland) and then  go to bed figuring that since I wasn’t nominated it really doesn’t matter who wins. If the host is someone I don’t like (for example: whoever hosted was last year) I skip to the chase (no pun intended) and go to bed.

Oscar host Seth McFarland is the brains, such as it is, behind the cartoon  “Family Guy”. This is a cartoon about a very fat Rhode Islander with a smoking hot wife, two ugly teenagers, a dog that drinks martinis and a baby who has a British accent.  It  is vulgar, crude, and sometimes very funny. Oddly enough, this year’s Oscars was vulgar, crude, and sometimes very funny.

One bit McFarland did was a song about famous actresses’ nude scenes. The reaction shots from the actresses mentioned in the song was priceless, included one who looked totally miffed that he included her in a song about nudity despite the fact she has been nude in the movies and Playboy magazine. Just a little bit of advice: if you don’t want someone to sing that they have seen you naked in the movies, don’t get naked in the movies.

It turns out McFarland was not the most controversial part of The Oscars and I’m not talking about The First Lady of The United States, Michelle Obama. (It was ironic that Mrs. Obama announced the winner of The Best Motion Picture was “Argo” which was about the United States saving  their embassy personnel under siege by Islamic fanatics unlike another certain United States embassy last year.) No, the most controversy from The Oscars was from a tweet sent out by the satirical internet newspaper, The Onion.

Like the rest of the wise guys the world, I started with Mad Magazine. Then I began reading  National Lampoon. National Lampoon goes south and here comes Spy. Spy goes down the tubes and then I found The Onion.   The Onion has done some incredibly funny work. My favorite article had the headline South Postpones Rising Again For Yet Another Year.

The Onion sent out a tweet saying that Quvenzhane Wallis, a nine year old that was nominated for her role in  Beasts of The Southern Wild was a word that is usually reserved for Republican Governors of Alaska. Of all of the swear words, this one ranks up that with the worst and you had to wonder: 1) why would someone even write this about a nine year old child and 2) why would anybody think this is funny?

The Onion has since deleted the tweet, which shouldn't have been written in the first place. Of course, we’ve had instant analysis. “The Onion has built its audience on razor-sharp satire that is both relentlessly progressive and unwilling to pull punches... I believe they made a shocking, ugly comment to point out that the way the media talks about women is often quite shocking and ugly” says Laura Hudson of Wired. She is right in that  The Onion satirizes everyone and everyone is a target. But, I’m not sure a lot of deep thought went into that tweet. If there had been any deep thought, maybe someone would have said, “Wait a second, Quvenzhane Wallis is not a Vice Presidential candidate for the Republican Party, she’s a nine year old girl! Is there anyone else that we can be relentlessly progressive about?"

The problem with humor/satire/comedy today is that there are no adults in the room. I can’t tell you how many Showtime Comedy stand ups I’ve turned off  because every other word is a swear word. After 500 or so cuss words in 10 minutes, it tends to get on your nerves. I agree with  James Lileks who said, "I am so tired of these people's love of naughty, naughty words and their delight in using them in all situations about all people in all places at all times.”

The only good thing is that we may have finally hit rock bottom. I doubt it

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Age of Accountability

One of the good things about Facebook and Twitter is that you can be exposed to articles and blogs that you probably had no idea existed. This was the case when my "Facebook Friend", Melanie Cryar (Fact about Melanie: she is the mother of  pretty half of the Indi-Atl-Americana band The Vespers) posted this blog post titled "Top 10 Reasons Our Kids Leave Church".  You can read it here: http://marc5solas.wordpress.com/2013/02/08/top-10-reasons-our-kids-leave-church/

In case you didn't know, in the past 20 years, The Evangelical Church has really loosned up  to the point where many of its big time pastors do not wear ties or tuck in their shirts when they preach. My mother spent a good part of my youth impressing upon me the necessity of wearing a tie and tucked in shirt when you are at church. It turns out God doesn't care as much about clothing as he did in 1967.

Many churches do not have organs in the traditional sense (organs are called "keyboards" now). They have guitars, keyboards, and drums. The "worship leader" does not even wave his arms when he is singing a "worship song". You don't look at a hymnal-you look at a screen. The words of some of the songs are familiar but the tunes are different.  Church members sit in "chairs" instead of "pews".  For some reason the lights are rarely turned on and you stand up a lot. I have  (Mom, do not hold this against me) actually drank a cup of coffee during worship service.  Things have changed.

There is a lot to recommend in this blog post. In fact, Evangelicals are a fairly reflective bunch. We're always wondering if we are doing the right thing in the right way.

The writer ("Marc") says, "We’ve taken a historic, 2,000 year old faith, dressed it in plaid and skinny jeans and tried to sell it as “cool” to our kids. It’s not cool. It’s not modern. What we’re packaging is a cheap knockoff of the world we’re called to evangelize".  People are always trying to re-engineer Christianity make it relevant to the "modern man". On the Liberal side of Christianity, this is really big. The Modern Man cannot believe in this part of the Bible or that part of Scripture or fifty other things.  Some Evangelicals have gotten in on the act  like Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, and others. However, generally Evangelicals have tried to tell the old, old story with in a new way and most of the time it is LOUD. Sometimes it works very well, like at Passion City Church in Atlanta. Sometimes it doesn't.

The post is very well written and is worth every Evangelical's time to read. The idea that the Evangelical Church is some sort of market driven entity needs to be hashed out out in the seminaries. Lord knows we need to do a better job in educating Evangelical youth in the faith.

However, I do have one slight problem and I've might have I've misread him, but I took him to believe that when "kids" leave the Church, it is the Church's fault. I'm not quite sure I buy that. Many times it has nothing to do with the Church at all. When some people get a taste of "sex, drugs, and rock and roll", they end up liking it. In my corner of the Evangelical World, we have this phrase called "The Age of Accountability". It just means that a person becomes accountable for their own actions when they can make a rational decision. Sometimes kids make a conscience decision to leave the faith.

I have a dear friend of mine who is very concerned over her adult son who has announced that he is an agnostic. My friend is a very devout and provided this young man with a Christian home. However, when her son was young (stop me if you have heard this before) his father  ran off with another woman.  While it is not a 'scientific' fact, it is remarkable how many agnostics and atheists have rotten Dads.  
Maybe he'll come back to the faith. He's still young and maybe it's just a phase he is going through. I know he has a Mom praying for him everyday. 

Monday, February 11, 2013


All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all,
Even cats. (recently found addition to the children’s hymn)

 It was not my idea.

It began when our five year old son asked for a baby brother or sister, it didn't matter which one. We explained that wasn’t going to happen (the reason why this wasn't going to happen is a long story). Then he asked for a dog.

I remember channeling my inner-Elvis and singing, “If there’s one thing, we don’t need, is another little hungry mouth to feed..” right before my wife slapped me.  It was true, in those days we were real busy. I remember a lot of over time at the insurance company. My wife was “on call” at her company too.  The idea of a pet just didn’t seem like a good idea.

Around this time, we decided to move into the house we live in now.We informed our son that we would get a dog to go with the new house.  Then after closing on the house, the former owner dropped a bombshell: our (new) next door neighbor was the stereotypical bitter mean old lady. She complained about their dog and called the police on them numerous times.

This put us in a dilemma: disappoint the child or have daily problems with the next door neighbor. Both had its points. You shouldn’t let other people, particularly those that don’t pay your mortgage, intimidate you. However, a child must learn that life has its disappointments and you can’t get everything you want.  This was what I favored. It is amazing I get Father’s Day presents.

My wife came up with another idea: how about a cat?

I was less than thrilled. My brother had a cat (named “The Kitten”) for six months in 1967 that my Mom accidentally ran over with her '62 Plymouth Valiant which was rated as the worst animal related death in the ‘60’s by American Heritage magazine.

                                 The 1962 Plymouth Cat Killer

On top of that, cats are, well, cats.

I’m pretty convinced that dogs have a spiritual side. Dogs exhibit most of the traits of a good Baptist: loyal, kind, happy to see you, being able to roll over, etc. Dogs act like they understand that they are a part of a fallen creation. On the other hand, cats are definitely post-modern. I could never see a cat as a member of any Christian denomination, except maybe The Episcopal Church.

                                    A canine confessional

Having a dog is like having another child in the house. Having a cat is like having a boarder in the house that doesn’t like you and still expects you to feed him.

Well, we got this cat from a “no kill” cat shelter. We had to sign a paper stating we would not have the claws removed. Big mistake furniture-wise.  She was a gray and white American Short Hair (cat talk for mutt) named “Dali” (after the painter Salvatore Dali).  We changed her name to Gracie.

That was 15 years ago. The little kitten grew up to be a little cat that weighs about 10 pounds. She bonded with the one person who didn’t want her: me. Cats are devilish that way. She’ll jump on my chest while I’m in bed and lick my nose. If I’m sitting around and watching TV, she’ll jump in my lap. Sometimes, she put her paws on my shoulder, like she is hugging me and purr. Then she’ll look me in the eyes as if she is saying, “I really  love you”. Then other times, she’ll bark at me to feed her. She can be really fickle. She has become a part of the family, the part that has fur and four legs.

I  took her to the Vet today.  We were afraid that it was getting to be “that time”.  She is drinking a lot of water and urinating frequently, which is the first sign of kidney failure in cats. Well, she has kidney failure, but the Vet said that "it wasn't that bad" and it could probably be managed with medicine and diet, but it wasn't time for "the time".

Afterwards, when we got home, I sat down in my chair. Gracie jumped up, put her paws on my shoulder and began purring. Then she looked me in the eyes as if to say, "You love me too".

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Another Obligatory Super Bowl Blog

This may sound un-American, but I really didn’t get into The Super Bowl this year.  The main reason is that my hometown team, The Atlanta Falcons, lost in the NFC title game to The San Francisco 49er’s. When that happened, my interest just went south like the bad sport that I am. Ok, so sue me.

The quarterback for The 49ers is Colin Kaepernick. He is the Quarterback Du Jour because he runs real fast and has a rocket arm, just like last year’s Quarterback Du Jour, Cam Newton.  Kaepernick has what seems to be an inordinate amount of tattoos on his body.  I know tattoos are big with younger folks, but I subscribe to the Jimmy Buffett theory on tattoos: “Tattoos are a permanent reminder of a temporary feeling.” It doesn’t make him a “bad” person and he seems like a nice kid,  but I don’t want to read his body.

On the other end of the spectrum is Ray Lewis. Ray Lewis was a great football player. Ray Lewis is, however, a problematic human being. Ray Lewis is a terrible theologian. I know God loves us all and is interested in our well being. Ray just makes it sound like that RAY is at the top of God’s list to bless. Sorry about you folks with cancer, but God needs to focus his attention on RAY.

Oh yeah, did you hear that the Coach of The 49ers and the Coach of The Ravens are brothers?  Yeah, same Mom and Dad and everything. Just when you thought you were tired of the Mannings, here comes the Harbaughs!

      The little girl is the new Head Coach of The Cleveland Browns

The game started out with Alicia Keys doing a four hour rendition of The National Anthem. This generation of singers, and I blame Mariah Carey, can take a phrase like “O say can you see..” and turn it into “OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO saaaaaaaaay can youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu
seeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.” Alicia Keys is a very talented beautiful woman, but gee, let’s try to finish The National Anthem before the game ends. 

 I was thinking about Alicia Keys and couldn't keep from crying.

Over the years, The Super Bowl has become the Commercial Premiere Bowl and we all spend the next day talking about the commercials as much as we do the game. This year, I thought the commercials were flat. You had Dodge replaying a Paul Harvey speech about a farmer and how we are all farmers if we drive a Dodge truck. I think that’s how Don Draper would have presented it. Go Daddy.com had the grossest commercial which feature a Super model playing tonsil hockey with a guy charitably described as a “nerd”.  This guy makes the nerds on “The Big Bang Theory” look like Calvin Klein models.  The commercial featured sounds that you do not associate with the NFL, much less a display of affection. Sometimes I wish Go Daddy would just go away.

                             The luckiest man on the face of the earth

The Super Bowl Halftime Show was Beyonce Knowles who is Jay-Z’s wife. I’m not sure who Jay-Z actually is, but he is very important. He’s been mentioned in a Mylie Cyrus song.  The last time we heard from Beyonce was when she lip-synched The National Anthem at President Obama’s inaugural.  Her show was an upgrade from last year’s show which was Madonna, who if she tried to move like Beyonce, would have broken several bones.  Beyonce reunited with her original singing group “Destiny’s Child”, although I must admit I didn’t know they had broken up. I am proud that I had actually heard of one her songs: “All The Single Ladies”. Yep, I am that hip. 

                                  "Destiny's Who? Oh Please...."

The most exciting part of the game was when the lights went out.  This is when I made the strategic decision to go to bed.  I think Baltimore won. As Ray Lewis would say, “When God is for you, you can sire a lot of kids and not marry their moms” or “When you’re with God, people will forget about a little thing that might have happened in Atlanta 13 years ago.”