Monthly Archives: November 2010

100th Post Extravaganza! Or, How I Fell in Love With Lady Gaga

 

Here we are at 100 posts.  I thought, on this occasion,  I would look back on a few of the best and worst posts of the past 99.

The Worst

Failed Attempts at Writing Fiction: (August 8th) I just copied and pasted the opening paragraphs to a bunch of my old stories.  This was pretty lazy and I would imagine boring to read.

Short People Got No Reason to Live: ( August 25) This consisted of a long rant about being short.  This received absolutely no response from anyone.  After reading it over, I can see why.  It ended with the line,  “Height is relative. Tell that to the short, lonely, sad, poor man dying of a heart attack.”

Conspiracy Theorist Theorizes That Conspiracy Theories Are Part of Larger Conspiracy: (September 27) I think the title says it all.  It was a made up interview from the future in which Highlights for Kids questions a conspiracy author.  Solid gold premise, but poor execution.

Gods of Truth:  (November 26)  This was very recent.  Since I started using WordPress, I have been able to check the popularity of each post.  On average, a post receives 20 views after a couple of days.  This one has had the fewest since I’ve been keeping track.  It has 2.   I’m not sure why.

 

The Best

California Gurlz: A Floozy in Candyland: (October 5) By a significant margin, this is the most viewed of all my recent (past two months) posts.  It has 52 views; while the second place one has 37.  I really do get a kick out of analyzing popular music.  I had a lot of fun writing it, and that translates into a fun read.

The Joy of Friendship Series: (Mid October) I enjoyed reflecting on what it means to be a friend and where the joy in friendship comes from.  I know a few people were bored by this, but it came straight from the heart.

Elementary Hell: The Worst Year of My Life:  (September 1)  People seemed to get a kick out of this account of my miserable days as a First Grader.

God and the Shawshank Redemption: (November 24)  This was posted only last week, but it is already one of the top 3 in terms of popularity.  I looked into the biblical elements woven into the movie, The Shawshank Redemption.

My Thoughts on Glenn Beck (And Jon Stewart Too): (September 24) Once in a while I attempt to tackle more serious topics.  This was one of the most difficult things I’ve written in blog form since it focused on the controversial figure, Glenn Beck.  But I am pleased with the end result.

A New Kind of Christianity Series: (May)  After reading Brian McLaren’s book, I responded over the course of five posts.  It was an in-depth (for a blog anyway) analysis of a new movement within Christianity.

 

My All Time Favorite Post


What Lady Gaga is Truly Saying: (August 10)  This was easily the most entertaining and rewarding blog writing experience thus far.  This might disappoint some.  But I’d be lying if I claimed any other before it.  I view this post as the unofficial beginning of my blog.  What I mean is, this was the first post to truly capture the spirit of what I’m trying to do.  It deals directly with popular culture while offering insights into the true human condition.  It is at once entertaining and informative.  And it led to a crush with Lady Gaga that continues to this day.

 

After 100 posts, I am curious if you have any particular favorite, or least favorite.  If you read my blog regularly, I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

 

 

 

Cell Phones Are Too Convenient Not To Kill Us

This is the cost of pride

Talk to anyone thousands of miles away in an instant.  And not only that, carry around the tiny device in your pocket.  At a whim, call your cousin in Alaska.  Such convenience.  Don’t want to talk, just send a text message.  We’re the envy of John and Abigail Adams (random yet appropriate reference).

Everything costs something.  If you want to be healthy, you have to exercise and eat right.  If you want to play an instrument, you have to practice for years.  The natural order of things is progress through adversity.  So, when mankind creates a machine that can function as a portable telephone and computer, I get a little uneasy.  This black magic has to come at a price.  And not just the cost of your plan.

Do cell phones cause brain cancer?  Who am I to say?  Do they wipe out entire bee colonies?  I’m no bee expert.  What I can say is that they aren’t harmless.  Let me explain.

George Lucas filmed the first Star Wars not knowing if it would be a success.  Not only that, he faced a number of setbacks during the production and struggled to complete it on time.  Nevertheless, the end product was cinematic gold.  George created art through adversity.  Now fast forward to the late 20th century.  George is riding high off the success of the  Star Wars films he created, and his ego is almost as big as his second chin.  He has all of the power in the world to make whatever film he wants.  At the seat of power and security he creates what we know as The Phantom Menace.  You see, a price must be paid.   For the first film, the price was paid in the hard labor of production.  For the latter film, the price was paid by the fans, who were robbed of their satisfaction.  Someone has to pay the price.

You might point out that texting is extremely dangerous while driving.  Yes, it certainly is, and that’s why it is now illegal in Massachusetts.  But that’s only a small piece of the whole picture. This is much bigger.

For eons, if we wanted to speak to each other we had to use only our voices.  If someone was far away, we had to yell, which required more effort.  Now I can talk to someone on the other side of the world as if they were sitting right next to me.  So little effort for so astounding an accomplishment.

Did you really think there wouldn’t be consequences for such convenience?

Gods of Truth

Said Pontius Pilate in the presence of Jesus Christ, “What is truth?”

If truth exists, we can’t alter it.  If we don’t believe in something that is true, it remains just as true as it would be if we believed in it wholeheartedly.  Many people don’t believe what I just wrote.

There are nearly seven billion people in the world today.  Each has a unique perspective and personality.  Each views and understands their world differently.  Does this mean that there are billions of truths?

Ten people examine a purple ball.  Each will see the ball in a slightly different way.  Each may also experience a unique emotional response.  Does this change the ball?  Many would argue that it does.

Truth is a dangerous thing to boldly proclaim.  In fact, the only thing more dangerous is the denial of it.  Lies have killed many.  Truth has killed the rest.  Lies protect the mortal from the truth of death.  Truth protects the mortal from the cost of lies.  And the thing is, no matter how elaborately dressed we are in comforting lies, the truth is always there to strip us bare.

What truth can we all agree on?  How about, 2+2=4?  Or, the sun rises in the morning?  Well, what if someone disagreed with these and they had a really good explanation?  Dave, you see, the sun doesn’t actually rise in the morning since it is the Earth that is rotating.  It appears to us that it rises, and to us it is true that it does this in the morning, but the greater truth is that it remains relatively stationary while the Earth spins around and around.  And, about this 2+2 business, these numbers exist as part of a man-made system.  The numbers only have meaning because people gave them meaning.  Really, they are just like words.  The difference between scribbles and letters is meaning.  And meaning comes from us.  Not some grand truth.

Things that appear as simple truth can be broken down until the truth is skewed and complicated.  There was an ancient philosopher named Zeno.  Zeno is famous for developing a number of paradoxes.  There is one in which Achilles and a tortoise have a foot race, and Zeno shows that Achilles cannot win if the tortoise has a head start.  Every time Achilles reaches the point that the turtle was at, the turtle has moved ahead.  It’s weird.  But the one I want to look at involves an arrow.  Imagine that there is an arrow being shot at a target.  Now, consider that the arrow must first travel halfway between the starting point and the target in order to move.  And before it reaches that point it must first reach the halfway point between the start and the halfway point.  (Read that again)  This is reduced many times to show that the arrow is in fact motionless.  Of course, Zeno knew and we know that this isn’t the case, but his paradox reveals how absurd conclusions can be reached when truth is inserted into a system of understanding.

Many of us are ready to accept certain things as truth.  We accept that our bodies require food in order to survive.  We accept that red blood cells carry oxygen.  We accept that the sun can blind us if we stare into it.  But what about the things you can’t see or touch?  What about beliefs?  What about things like faith, hope, and love?  Does some ultimate truth contain these things as well?

I have heard it said more than once, “I’m not going to hell because I don’t believe it exists.”  I’m not going to preach fire and brimstone (at least not now).  Instead, I want you to really look at that statement.  What’s implied is that belief supersedes truth.  Belief takes the place of truth.  By not believing in something, it no longer exists.  If I knew this as a kid I would have told my parents, “I’m not going to school because I don’t believe in it.”   And this also works the other way.  Someone might say, “I’m going to Heaven because I believe in it.”  Just as you’ve given yourself the power to destroy truth through belief, you also give yourself the power to create it.  The power to create and destroy worlds is at the disposal of those who believe in relative truth, or a truth determined by the beliefs of the individual.

The thing about truth is that it tends to lead to God.  If I were working to remove God from my thoughts and conscience, I would probably start with my philosophy on truth.  To accept that there is no ultimate truth in the universe, which seems to be the current trend, does wonders for a guilty conscience.  It removes the threat of eternal consequence for opposing the truth.  It seems tolerant and non-judgmental.  It appears to free the heart and mind to choose its own path.  This reminds me of something…

” Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,  but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman.  “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.  Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.  But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”

He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” (Genesis 3:1-10)

I was naked; so I hid.

What are the gods of truth wearing?

God and the Shawshank Redemption

 

The Shawshank Redemption is a film directed by Frank Darabont.  It stars Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins.  It was released in 1994, and it was based on the Stephen King short story, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.    It is currently the highest user rated movie on IMDB.com ,with a 9.2 out of 10 and over 500,000 votes.  There is no question, this is one of the best movies to come out in the past two decades.  But what is it about this film that makes it so… good?  Certainly, it is perfectly directed and wonderfully acted, but how is it able to capture the attention and adoration of such a vast audience?  After watching it over a dozen times (probably well over 20 times) I have found that the film borrows heavily from the Bible, and more specifically, the accounts of the life of Jesus found in the gospels.  If any of you are rolling your eyes, I ask you to consider the following evidence and observations. As I go along I will assume that you have seen the film.  If you haven’t, you should do so immediately.

  • Like the gospel accounts, Shawshank is told, not by the main character, but by one who knew him personally.  In the Bible, Jesus asks his followers, “What do you say about me?”  Likewise, Andy asks Red, “What do you say?”  In both cases the subject is personal, and the narrator’s relationship to the protagonist is a critical element of the story.
  • Andy Dufresne is sentenced for a crime he didn’t commit.  Like Jesus, Andy enters a condemned world an innocent man.
  • The crime that Andy is accused of is the murder of his adulterous wife and her lover.  In the Bible, the Church is often refered to as the Bride of Christ.  When the bride chooses to “go to bed” with the world, she commits adultery in the eyes of God.  Also, Andy’s wife is murdered immediately following her affair, which fits with the Biblical teaching about sin and death.  Genesis 2:17 promises death for sinning.  Romans 6:23 states that the wages of sin is death.  James 1:15 says,” after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”  It is said over and over in a number of ways, but the point is the same.  Red even states, “They send you here for life, and that’s exactly what they take.”  The condemned are robbed of life.
  • When Red speaks of his first impression of Andy he says, “I must admit I didn’t think much of Andy first time I laid eyes on him; looked like a stiff breeze would blow him over.”  In the book of Isaiah, the prophet speaks of Jesus when he writes, “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2).  Jesus was a poor carpenter, and not a stunning specimen.
  • The Warden believes heavily in discipline, the Bible, and judgment.  He attends church groups and encourages his inmates to read the Bible.  When he meets Andy, he tells him, “Salvation lies within.”  But the Warden is an evil character.  He is a hypocrite and a liar and a murderer.  The Warden is like those religious people who put on a holy face, but are dead on the inside.  He does not love God, and uses religion for his own ends.  In his office hangs the verse, “His judgment cometh and that right soon.”  The Warden is subject to this judgment at the end of the film when he takes his own life.  So even though he does not live by what the Bible says, he is still subject to what it says.
  • Red says, “Andy was as good as his word.”   Jesus is the Word of God. And only God is good.  Jesus lived as he taught.
  • When Andy tells Red about his elaborate means of cleansing the Warden’s dirty money, Red replies, “Did I say you were good?  You’re a Rembrandt!”  First, Andy cleanses the dirty money as Jesus cleanses the world of sin.  Second, Rembrandt created many biblical paintings, and a number were of Jesus.  Jesus is a Rembrandt in this way.
  • There is a theme throughout the film of “coming out clean”.  In a grand sense, Andy and Red come out of jail cleansed men.  Also, Andy crawls through 500 yards of feces and “came out clean on the other side.”  And, once again, Andy cleans the Warden’s dirty money, which he uses in his new life.
  • “Everyone’s innocent in here”, is a phrase repeated throughout the film.  If the world knew and accepted its sin and condemnation, it would turn to God in repentance.  Jesus says, “The Lord has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts–so that their eyes cannot see, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and have me heal them.” (John 12:40)  Only after Red has grown close to Andy does he admit to being “the only guilty man in Shawshank.”  Similarly, when Peter recognizes who Jesus is, he cries, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”(Luke 5:8).
  • The Warden has Andy do “the hardest time there is.”  This suffering is like that of Jesus who endured the cross and the weight of humanity’s sin.
  • Andy uses posters of women to cover up his escape route.  Remember, it was a woman (his wife) who caused him to end up in prison.  Through a woman, Andy faced condemnation.  And through a woman, Andy received salvation.  In the Bible, Eve is the first to sin.  Through the woman, sin and death enter the world.  Then, Mary gives birth to the son of God.  Through the woman, salvation comes into the world.  Also, you can see the tunnel that Andy crawls through as a birth canal of sorts.  Jesus says that people must be “born again” of the spirit in order to have life.
  • Andy creates a character on paper, which he later adopts as himself when he escapes.  This act of creation through the word reflects the creation of God’s word at the beginning of time.  “In the beginning was the Word.  And the Word was with God. And the Word was God…Through Him all things were made” (John 1:1-3).   The word becomes reality.
  • Through the word, Andy also condemns the Warden.  He kept all of his books, and he handed over all of the evidence when he escaped.  Note that this word only has power once Andy has escaped.  Likewise, the power of God’s word is found in the resurrection of Christ.  Without the resurrection, there is no hope of life for the believers, and there is no reason to trust God’s word.  Christ is alive, and that’s why His word matters.
  • If Andy had not escaped and started a new life, Red would have no hope once he was released.  If prison is the world, then we can view the world outside of prison as the afterlife.  His friend is alive and well, and that gives Red a reason to live.  Jesus is alive and well, and that gives his friends a reason to live, now and into eternity.
  • Consider that Redemption begins with RED.  The character that receives redemption is Red.  Red is redeemed by his friend, Andy.  Red is also the color of blood.  And it is by Christ’s sacrifice and spilled blood that mankind is redeemed.
  • Andy tells Red in a letter, “No good thing ever dies.”  This is the promise found throughout the Bible.  Only God is good.  And God is eternal.
  • When Red has his third and final parole hearing, he has accepted the guilt of his crime.  He says not a day goes by that he doesn’t regret it.  But, he also says that he doesn’t give a damn what happens to him.  He has accepted the truth of his own guilt, and he has stopped trying to save himself.  He gives up his life, and in this way, he receives it.  He is released.  Jesus says,” Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” (Luke 17:33)
  • Andy escapes to the pacific ocean, which is a place that has no memory.  The Bible states, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”  (Isaiah 43:25).

 

The final thing I want to leave you with is my thoughts regarding the end of the film.  These are the final words spoken by Red.

I find I’m so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it’s the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.

Red walks toward Andy as he works on his boat, and the two look at each other and smile.  Then they share an embrace as dear friends.  This is the hope of those who live and die for Jesus Christ.  When it’s all said and done, and this world melts away, we will stand face to face with the one who taught us how to live, and who gave us life.  The relationship between Red and Andy is far closer to the relationship between Jesus and his followers than what many people perceive.  To many, God is distant and cold.  He is words on a page, or a created character.  He is a dead figure in a dead religion.  But this is not the case.  Read the rest of this entry

Thanksgiving Doesn’t Need a Friend

 

Every year it’s the same old song and dance.  The stores put out the Christmas stuff in late October, and people complain about how early it is.  Then the radio stations play Christmas music right after Halloween, and people complain about how early it is.  And every year I hear over and over again that it’s not even Thanksgiving yet!  What about Thanksgiving?  And all of these people come out of the woodwork to proclaim that they prefer Thanksgiving to Christmas.  And I’m supposed to congratulate them on their fine taste in holidays.

No.

Here’s the thing; if Thanksgiving were anything spectacular it wouldn’t be threatened by Christmas.  But it’s really not very special.  Hear me out.

What is Thanksgiving?  It’s a day to eat a lot of good food with people you care about (hopefully).  Do we honestly remember the pilgrims and the Indians?  No, we do not.  We aren’t honoring them with our feasting.  We just set a day aside to eat until we burst.  For some people, this happens all of the time.  They eat a lot of food on a regular basis.  So in that way, Thanksgiving is nothing special.

But what about giving thanks?  Sure, the day may inspire some to be more thankful than usual.  And yes, many charitable people and organizations use the day as a means to provide for the needy.  But honestly, is that what you love about Thanksgiving?  If it were, I have a feeling that you would be doing those things more than once a year.

People love to eat good food.  That’s the selling point of Thanksgiving.

Now consider Christmas.  It has a season, first of all.  There is a Christmas season.  There is a feel and a spirit to this season.  It is captured in holiday music, decorations, and yes, movies.  Christmas has hundreds and hundreds of songs and movies.  Thanksgiving has Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and the Macy’s parade.  There is no spirit of Thanksgiving beyond the day.  And if you want to argue that there is a spirit of Thanksgiving, I would respond that the spirit of Christmas includes thanksgiving.

Christmas also has two awesome figures at the center.  For the secular, Santa is the symbol of the holiday.  He is giving and jolly.  Children love him since he rewards them with presents.  People dress up as him, and his picture pops up everywhere.  For the Christians, Jesus is the figure at the center (hopefully).  Christmas celebrates the moment in history when God humbled Himself and became a human baby for the sake of mankind’s salvation.  This is the source of the joy and thanksgiving at Christmas.  The living God came to live as one of us.  Thanksgiving has a turkey.

Thanksgiving is about the big and delicious meal.  But don’t we tend to eat the same type of big and delicious meal at Christmas anyway?  You get the food on top of the gifts and the joy.

This leads me to believe that the battle between Christmas and Thanksgiving is more about what Thanksgiving isn’t than it is about what Thanksgiving is.  Surely, people must not like the wonderful aspects of the Christmas season if they are placing it below a simple feast day.

So don’t have pity on Thanksgiving.  Don’t humor it with your shallow praises.  It is about the food.  Appreciate it for what it is.  Don’t befriend it, hoping to make Christmas jealous.  Christmas is way too good to care.

 

 

 

Pokemon and Power Rangers: A Geek Rant for the Ages

I’m a simple man.

Old School Original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers

Old School Original Pokemon

I have seen a few television shows in my day.  As a young man, I developed a special connection to two shows that became pop culture phenomenons.  Those shows were, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, and Pokemon.  Whether or not you’ve watched them, you certainly know of them.  Their toys have lined the shelves of every major shopping outlet for over a decade.  You have seen their playing cards as you’ve reached for Burt’s Beeswax, or the latest trashy copy of Cosmo.  Truly, there is no escaping these characters.

Today, I would like to take you on a journey filled with passion, controversy, and corporate greed.  This may repel the women from me even further, but it’s a chance I’m willing to take for the truth.

 

The Premise

Pokemon-   In a world much like our own, there exist special creatures known as Pokemon.  These creatures have unique abilities in a number of different categories, including: water, earth, fire, electricity, and psychic.  Certain individuals set out to become Pokemon trainers.  This means that they intend to catch these creatures and train them in order to improve their fighting abilities.  Pokemon trainers battle each other out in the open, and also in structured tournaments.  In the original video game, and show based on the video game, the main character named Ash sets out to become a Pokemon Master.  He will achieve this by accomplishing three specific goals: Catch and train teams of Pokemon, defeat the leaders of various Pokemon gyms who specialize in a particular type of Pokemon, and defeat the Elite Four masters to become a true Pokemon Master!

In this world of Pokemon, there are 151 recorded species.  These are listed in what is called a Pokedex.  It is critical to understand that one of the driving forces in the video game and show is to “catch ’em all”.   The show made it a point to test your Pokemon knowledge before and after each commercial by giving you an outline that you had to identify.  With 151 Pokemon, this was difficult but reasonable.  So, to summarize, you catch and train as many of the 151 varieties that you can in order to  defeat the Elite Four and become a Pokemon Master.  Very good.

 

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers-  In a world much like our own, astronauts accidentally open an ancient seal on the Moon, which unleashes the evil witch, Rita.  Rita is hell-bent on conquering Earth, but another ancient and powerful being rises to meet the challenge.  His name is Zordon.  Unfortunately, he is only a giant head, so he needs the help of others.  He chooses five “teenagers with attitude” to fight Rita and her evil minions.  Their names are, Jason, Billy, Trini, Zach, and Kimberly.  Zordon equips each of them with the ability to “morph” into super human fighters known as Power Rangers.  Along with this new power, they are also given “Zords”, which are dinosaur-like massive robots.  They have the ability to combine into a man-like super robot called the Megazord.

So, the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers exist to fight Rita.  Pretty simple.  Pretty satisfying premise for a 7 year old.

 

The Great Cheapening: Or, Selling One’s Soul to Make a Buck

I remember seeing an advertisement for Power Rangers Zeo.  I thought, “What the hell is a Zeo?”  You see, Power Rangers Zeo was the series that followed Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.  With it came new characters and costumes and a new villain.  Emperor Zed replaced Rita as the head villain.  I tried to watch it, but how could I when everything was different?  The things I used to care about were gone.

Then came Turbo.

Then came Power Rangers in Space.

Then Power Rangers Lost Galaxy, Lightspeed Rescue, Time Force, Wild Force, Ninja Storm, Dino Thunder, S.P.D., Mystic Force, Operation Overdrive, Jungle Fury, RPM, and now, Samurai.

 

 

 

Pokemon operated under the premise that there were 151 Pokemon.

Here they are.

 

 

 

Yeah!

Then something changed.  Suddenly, Ash was in a new region called Johto, and suddenly there were 100 new Pokemon!!!! What?  Where were these Pokemon during the thousands of years before Ash started training?  But, it doesn’t end there.  Ash then goes to another region and, what do you know, 135 new species are discovered.  Now there is something like 490 different species.  Hey, I thought there were 151!  Somebody lied to me.

Here’s a more updated poster.

 

Ahhhh! 

Pokemon and Power Rangers are guilty of the same crime.  They both forsook their original stories and characters in order to stay popular. Now, I understand that they exist to make a profit.  I know this.  But other artistic creations have existed with the same end goal, and retained their integrity.  It is possible to remain true to the characters and premise that make a franchise great, but only when profit is not king.  The fact that Pokemon and Power Rangers sold out tells me that their creators care more for worldly gain than long-term artistic value.  For this reason, I identify these profit hounds as enemies to our society.  If art is not contributing to the good of society in some way (even a very small way), and it is only existing to rob our children of their time and our adults of their money, it should be destroyed. 

Pokemon and Power Rangers should no longer exist. 

My Cadbury Egg Campaign

(I realize that it is only the middle of November.  Easter candy does not come out for another three months.  That is all.  I’m not going to attempt to justify my fixation on Cadbury EggsI just needed to point out how out of place this post is.)

 

It all began in March of 2007.  I remember eating a Cadbury Egg in my dorm room and thinking, that seemed less substantial. At first I didn’t dwell on it.  After all, it had been an entire year since my last Cadbury Egg, and I probably just forgot what eating one was like.  Then I ate another one.  Once again it didn’t seem right to me.  So I checked the Cadbury website.

They haven’t gotten smaller, you’ve gotten bigger!

That is what it said on the site.  Well isn’t that odd.  Clearly, something was amiss.

A few more weeks passed, and I began to tell my friends that I believed the eggs had shrunk.  In general, they didn’t buy into my conspiracy.  Then a stroke of luck!  B.J. Novak, the actor who plays Ryan on The Office, appeared on the Conan O’Brien show.  He informed the crowd that he had made it a habit to store Cadbury Eggs in his freezer so that he could eat them throughout the year.  Lifting them up for comparison, no one could now deny the truth.  The Cadbury Egg had been downsized.

2006 egg on left/ 2007 egg on right

 

 

The truth exposed, I then experienced some frustration.  How could Cadbury do this?  I would never eat a true creme egg ever again.  Defeated, I let the issue go.

 

Now it’s 2008.  The Cadbury Egg returns and I wonder if they smartened up and returned them to their original size.  Of course, they did not.  But instead of giving up, I beefed up my investigation.  After some searching, I discovered something incredible.  Cadbury Eggs  had only been downsized (dropped from 39 to 34 grams)  in the United States.  In England and Canada they were still being made 39 grams.   Here’s the reason…

Cadbury products are distributed in the US by Hershey.  They decided to shrink the egg and sell it at the same price in order to curb production and delivery costs.  Apparently, they were hoping that people wouldn’t notice.  But after the big reveal, the website stated that the eggs had been downsized.

Around Februrary-March of 2008, I was made aware of some people traveling in Canada and throughout Europe.  My friend, John, had a Canadian friend who thought he could deliver big on a box of 39 gram eggs.  The other person could not deliver.  So, this Canadian friend returned with a large box (at least 35)  of eggs.

This was a sweet victory.  I finished the last of these this past summer.  But the story isn’t over yet…

 

Kraft Foods has purchased Cadbury.  I do not know what this means.  Chances are, nothing will change.  Nevertheless, it makes me uneasy.  Cadbury was based in the UK.  Could its soul now be lost?  I hope not.  There’s more…

This past year, Canada shrunk its Cadbury Egg to 34 grams, to match our own.  That means that the UK is the only place left to make them in their former glory.  One final stronghold.  And one more thing…

I have discovered that Cadbury Eggs in the UK have always been 40 grams.  That means that they are even larger than the ones we used to get.

Anyone going to England this Easter?

An Inflammatory Issue: Abortion

Words have the power to kill.  You are responsible for what you say, and also how you say it.  I say this now, to make clear something that I hope you already recognize; I choose my words thoughtfully.  So when I choose to write on an issue such as this, I hope you will trust me to present it without malice or self-righteousness.  With that being said, let’s proceed.

Abortion is an inflammatory issue.  For those strictly opposed, it is government sanctioned murder.  For those who support it as a policy, it meets a tragic need for women in tragic circumstances, and to support it is to have compassion for their plight and to defend their freedom as individuals with reproductive rights.  People on both sides will show their fangs when challenged.  They will speak so passionately that they spit on your face.  Their conviction for the cause is undeniable.  To challenge them takes a good deal of courage or a good deal of ignorance.  Maybe this is why I don’t hear it discussed very often.  And when it is discussed, it explodes into a momentary firestorm leaving the room charred and the people gasping for air.  Maybe we should think about why that is.

My challenge today is not for the legal system.  It is not aimed at politicians.  It is not even aimed at a group of people.  My challenge is for you.  I challenge you to consider the reasons for your position.  And I challenge your moral foundations.

(Most of my information comes from the Guttmacher Institute website, which one could safely label as pro-choice.  I have also compared these statistics with other seemingly reliable internet sources.  I’m not trying to fool anyone with faulty statistics.  If anything, these numbers are conservative since most come from 2005 or before.)

“The number of legal abortions performed between 1973 and 2005 is over 45,000,000”

“In 2005,  1, 210,000 abortions were performed.”

“Women in their twenties account for more than half of all abortions; women aged 20–24 obtain 33% of all abortions, and women aged 25-29 obtain 24%”

“Thirty-seven percent of women obtaining abortions identify as Protestant and 28% as Catholic.”

“About 61% of abortions are obtained by women who have one or more children.”

“The reasons women give for having an abortion underscore their understanding of the responsibilities of parenthood and family life. Three-fourths of women cite concern for or responsibility to other individuals; three-fourths say they cannot afford a child; three-fourths say that having a baby would interfere with work, school or the ability to care for dependents; and half say they do not want to be a single parent or are having problems with their husband or partner.”

Let me now state the obvious.  I’m a twenty-four year old man who will never give birth.  I don’t face the same challenges as pregnant women in undesirable situations.  But, and oh boy is there a lot riding on this, I am a citizen of this country, and the human race.  This means that it matters to me and to the rest of society where I stand on this issue.  In case you disagree, or don’t see where I’m coming from, let me elaborate in my defense.  The decisions each of us make affect those close to us.  Our choices influence others.  When you expand this to encompass an entire society, you have to see that each individual plays a role in shaping how that society functions.   So, because my life influences the people I care about, and because all of our lives influence society as a whole, it really does matter what we base our morality on.  Each individual shares in this.  It matters where I stand on the issue of abortion.  It matters where you stand.  Our moral decisions directly affect us as individuals, and they also impact the larger body.  Remember, people were the reason abortion was once illegal in this country.  And people are the reason it is now legal.  It matters what the people think.  Your moral foundation matters. (But what if you believe in the ultimate freedom of the individual and stand firmly against any kind of imposed morality?   My answer is, you are ultimately responsible for yourself, but you are fooling yourself if you think that you can exist alongside other people without being influenced by them.  My point is that your moral foundation matters because it shapes you, and since society is made up of moral individuals, each individual must recognize their own shaping influence within the larger body.)    This is the connection between the issue of abortion and you and me.

When I take a stand on this issue, it really does matter.  When I look at the statistics that show nearly fifty million abortions in three decades, I can’t help but get emotional.  Before I consider the reasons, I consider the massive loss of life.  Wherever you stand on the start of life issue, you must at least accept that the thing that is aborted, if left untouched, would have been born a human.  It would have had a chance at life.  It’s interesting that so many who are passionately pro- choice are also passionately against the death penalty.  And so many who are passionately pro-life are also passionately for the death penalty.  They must be standing on different moral foundations.

A chance at life.  How far does society go to give people a chance at life?  How precious is this life that we share?  Look at how nuts everyone went over this health care issue.  People want to live, and they want to live long and well.  So when I read that a significant percentage of abortions occur due to inconvenient circumstances, I have to ask if you believe it to be justified?  If you are taking the potential life of another human being, you absolutely need to have a good reason.  If two climbers were hanging by one rope, and it suddenly became clear that it could not support both of them, it would be an impossibly difficult, yet entirely justified decision to sacrifice one so that the other could live.  What percentage of abortions come as a result of the mother’s health needs?  What percentage do you think is high enough to justify the country’s current policy which provides for abortions in less noble situations?

I have heard it said more than once that if abortions were made illegal, women would still have them, and in those circumstances it would be much less safe.  Undoubtedly, both points are true.  And this presents a problem for the one who is against the policy.  Do you remain true to your pro-life position even in the face of this harsh reality?  Honestly, yes.  Let me explain.  If you believe that abortion is killing in the first place, you have difficulties supporting it under any circumstances.  Supporting a policy that makes it more culturally acceptable and more readily available is condoning the spilling of innocent blood.  When the cost is weighed, it is more desirable to preserve the lives of the unborn by opposing the policy, than sacrifice them for the benefits of its preservation.

Abortion results in deep trauma for many women.  It follows them the rest of their lives.  The choice, no matter how apparently justified, was theirs.  They live with that choice.  I don’t understand this reality of pain.  How could I?  So please, don’t turn aside from what I’m saying because I don’t understand.  I admit it, I don’t understand.  But I do understand the value of life.  And I do understand my own heart.  And I understand my moral foundation.  I do not support this right to abort because I view the choice as morally untenable.  That demands an explanation.

The decision in Roe V Wade found that the Constitution allowed for the right to privacy in the case of women choosing to have an abortion.   The court decided that a fetus was not a person under the Constitution.   This made it legal nationwide for women to have abortions.  The court decided that unborn children did not have the same right to life as protected in the fourteenth amendment.  This means, women have the right to choose because unborn children do not have the rights of those who are born.  If fetuses were recognized as living people, women would not have this right because it would infringe upon the other’s right to life.  So, you can see why I oppose this decision, and why I believe the basis of this free choice is false.  The unborn child has a right to life.  Perhaps you could boil it all down to this.  The unborn human has a right to life.

What I will leave you with is this thought.  If you are a supporter of this nation’s abortion policy, I hope you believe in your position wholeheartedly.  The population of Boston is about 650,000.  Even if you multiply it 60 times, it still falls short of the number of legal abortions performed in the last three decades.  That is a very high number.  It would take a strong foundation of reason and morality to support such a number.

The Door Holder’s Inner Conflict

There is much to consider when holding a door open for someone.  Do I wait a few seconds until they get here?  Do I walk faster as to avoid the awkward waiting period?  Do I treat a woman any differently than a man?  So many questions, and so many doors to walk through.  But don’t worry, I have some solid advice.

1) Err on the side of consideration.

If you have to choose between the awkward waiting period and closing the door in someone’s face, go with the awkwardness. In most cases the person will appreciate the gesture.  Even if they don’t seem to care, you can still feel good about making a small sacrifice in the name of helping a fellow human.

2) In general, treat men and women equally.  But go the extra distance if you’re a man holding the door for a woman.

Usually, you can treat the door holding as an equal opportunity event.  Admittedly, I feel a little funny waiting for a guy more than three seconds.  For this reason, I say wait longer for a lady.  How long?  Probably between three and six seconds in most cases.  If you’re really trying to score some points, you may hold out a full ten.  But that’s pretty desperate if you ask me.

3) Hold the door differently for different people.

Someone in a wheelchair?  Hold the door from the back as to leave the path clear.  This also applies to the elderly and younger children;  anyone who might have trouble supporting the weight of a swinging door.

A man?  Hold the door open until they have a hand on it.  You can either stand in front of the door and walk through when they get there, or you can hold the door after you have walked through.  Either way, there is no need to stand behind the door.

A woman?  You can treat her the same as a man, but it is also acceptable to stand behind the door, clearing a path.  This does indicate a higher level of consideration, and also a level of special treatment.  It is possible for a woman to be offended by this act of consideration.  I know one of my friends was torn out by a girl for treating her in such a fashion.  How awful!  But, as the first rule states, err on the side of consideration.  Even if she might be a raging feminist.

4) Rejoice over the smallest forms of appreciation.

As Mike Antonellis puts it, I don’t need a “thank you” or a “thanks”; I would be happy with a “ksss”.  That’s the right kind of attitude.  Many people aren’t going to respond to your door holding with a full blown “Thanks for holding the door for me!”.  Some will give you the nod.  Some with give you a second of eye contact.  Some will act as if you don’t exist.  That’s fine.  Remember, you’re holding a door.  You’re not saving them from a burning building.

5) Treat others the way you’d like to be treated.

The Golden Rule also applies here.  You like it when someone holds the door for you (probably).  Don’t you want to give them the same treatment?  We live in a society.  Good manners and consideration for the needs of others is a critical part of everyday life.

Now get out there!  Do some good.

A Common Heart: Part Six + Conclusion

Six


Sam led Ben to the cherry tree. They stood beneath its leafless branches while a frigid breeze stole warmth from their skin. There was silence for many minutes. Ben stared at the tree, but his focus was elsewhere.

“What is it you wish to reveal to me, Mr. Franklin?” Sam finally asked. This was followed by another awful silence. “Are you well, sir?”

“Do you believe in God?” Ben asked. Sam was caught off guard.

“I believe in God.”

“Do you believe in his son?” Ben asked, coldly.

“Yes, I do.” Sam replied.

“And who can blame you? I do not. I envy simple people like you. And it is the simplicity of it all that prevents me from accepting any of it.”

“But, why should something so important be difficult to understand?” Sam asked. Ben removed his left hand from his pocket.

“When they ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, God made every effort to keep them from the Tree of Life. He feared what they would become. Why would God fear a man?”

“It was not fear, but compassion. It was love. If they had obtained eternal life in such a fallen and corrupt state…”

The void denied him any more words. It denied him any more breath. It denied him any more warmth. Ben’s hand smothered Sam’s mouth, which almost instantly caused it to become devoid of any moisture. This effect spread throughout Sam’s body. Ben closed his eyes to avoid the terror, and instead focused on the incredible life energy that flowed into his being. Clearly, this young man had much to live for.

When the flow of energy ceased, Ben opened his eyes to see the gray corpse of Sam Joy fall to the ground. He held up his newly strengthened hands. The dark mark on his left hand was gone. The void had its fill.

Ben rolled up his sleeves and felt his revitalized skin and muscles. He then ran his fingers through his hair, which had become thicker. After that, he jumped into the air, which he had not been able to do for many years. Finally, he felt his pulse. His heart beat slow and strong. He felt no guilt. He was far beyond guilt.

From a distance, Ben heard George Washington’s cry. He had hoped to make an escape, but neglected to notice that George could see everything from the window in his office.

“What did you do? This is an abomination!” George raged. He did not need to check for Sam’s vital signs. He knew death.

“I did what all men want to do.” Ben said with conviction. “It’s deep in the race to desire life.”

“You killed a boy! He was going to be married tomorrow. This is a monstrosity. No form of vengeance would satisfy the cry for justice here. You deserve more than death.” George pulled out a dagger.

“I would not do that General. He was surely a decent man, but only decent. You and I make up the Minority of the Gifted. We must take more because we give more.”

“His wife…how could this be allowed to happen? Damn you! This man was greater than you.” George took a step closer. Ben smiled.

“Perhaps, you are not as great as they say, Mr. President!”

Ben sprinted at George, who did not have the reaction speed to make a timely thrust. Ben simultaneously gained possession of the dagger and knocked the wind out of George with his elbow. Unable to breathe, George could not regain his composure before Ben grabbed both of his arms to drag him near the cherry tree.

The dagger pierced George’s hand, and the full width of the tree. George cried out in agony.

“I did not expect it to go all the way through. I cannot imagine the pain, but I want to say some things before I kill you.” Ben began to pace. “First of all, know that I did not want anyone to die today. Death is merely a consequence of a simple desire to live. Oh, do not try to remove that. You could not possibly tear it from there. You may be wondering how I was able to accomplish any of this. An old friend came to me and offered some secret knowledge regarding the nature of life and death. Only a fool would turn from the path of life and knowledge. You see, I am getting quite old, or was, I should say. What accomplishments can a dead man achieve? What influence does a dead man have?”

A soul melting shriek stabbed Ben’s ears. Turning to the source of the sound, he caught the image of a woman running toward Sam’s body. Although he had never laid eyes on her, Ben knew that this woman was named Rose. He felt his heart through his chest.

“Sam…Sam…Sam.” Rose collapsed over his body. She did not consider the two other men.

Ben began a slow march in her direction. His pulse intensified with every step.

George pulled at the dagger with his free hand, but to no avail. He considered the horror of witnessing the murder of his friend’s love, and it overrode the tremendous physical pain he felt. At all costs, he had to stop him. Pulling again, with all of his strength, he slid his wounded hand down the blade until it stopped at the base. With the effort of both hands, he tore the dagger from the tree.

Ben was now standing over the woman and her fallen love. His entire body pulsated with every heartbeat. He knew this woman had to die.

George held the dagger in a striking position.

Rose looked up into Ben’s eyes. At that moment, he fell to his knees, dead from within.

George dropped the dagger. The woman gazed into his eyes, and neither of them said a word as the sun set on the horizon.

 

Seven

 

George climbed into bed, long after Martha. He spent most evenings sitting alone in quiet reflection. Martha often tried to speak with him regarding the events of that day, but he always turned her away. She understood that time can sometimes be the only cure for matters of the heart, but she also understood that it can help the process by opening up to someone else.

“George, I want you to know that I love you. We do not say it often, but I wanted to tell you.” George turned to his wife.

“I love you too, Martha. I wish…I want to tell you what happened.”

“It is time, I think.” Martha said. George sat up.

“I have already told you about Ben’s dark arts, so there is no need to discuss that awful matter further. What I have not told you is what caused Ben’s death. When I held that poor woman in my arms, she told me that Ben died the instant their eyes met. I have not been able to make sense of this.” George said. Martha sat up with him.

“You told me once that Ben somehow stole the boy’s life force. Imagine that, George. Ben had that boy’s life inside of him. That boy’s heart lived in Ben’s heart, if Ben even had a heart left at that time. He must have been crying out to her from in there. Seeing her eyes must have been too much. I am no authority, but I want to believe that God let that boy go free because the pain was too much to bear.”

“I loved him as a son, Martha.” Rare tears streamed down his face.

“And you have witnessed the power of love. You have seen love conquer death. It must be a comfort to know that the spirit is real, and does in fact live on. There is much we do not understand George, but there is much that we know.”

“Someone once told me that my heart shines with a greater light than my own. Martha, what do you think he meant?”

“Who told you that?” Martha asked.

“An old friend, I believe.”