Our Evil Santa

Ornaments are one of the many bits of wonderful that make this Christmas season special.  Many of us share in the tradition of hanging these little gems on our trees every year.  Perhaps, like me, you made a few ornaments as a child, and even though they may not be the most attractive pieces of art, they’re full of heart and memory.  Every year they have to go up, or it simply wouldn’t be your Christmas tree.  I want to share with you another kind of Christmas decoration that must hang on my tree.  It wasn’t made by any hands I know, and it wasn’t a gift from someone special.  Store bought and unattractive,  Evil Santa is a Christmas tradition in the Lavallee household.

He hangs in the back of the tree, watching...waiting...
He hangs in the back of the tree, watching…waiting…

 

He comes from New York City in the year 1973.  My parents bought him while on their honeymoon.  Though we can’t know for sure, witness accounts seem to point to an origin of Macy’s Department Store.  I believe he was actually purchased from a mysterious street merchant, but that’s conjecture.  Wherever the true origin, my parents took him home and hung him on their first Christmas tree.  It’s this meaningful origin that solidified Evil Santa’s position on the Lavallee tree, and it’s what granted him his decades long tenure.  That being said, we all hate him.

Evil Santa goes up every year, but he goes in the same spot: at the back of the tree.  He needs to be there, but no one wants to look at him.  He creeps us out.  Beyond the troubling gaze and an undeniable devil-may-care approach to grooming, Evil Santa is completely naked under that red suit.  His makers decided to include an anatomically correct butt and exclude appropriate undergarments.  It’s bizarre and highly suspect.

Despite all of these undesirable qualities, I have to admit that I do have a tiny bit of affection for the dirty old man.  It has become family tradition to hang him on the back of the tree as we remark how much we dislike him.  But really, I don’t think we hate Evil Santa.  He’s ours after all.  Just another one of the many bits of wonderful that make this Christmas season special.

The Meaning of Compost

I have always enjoyed a good compost pile.

I will venture to guess that most people in the world don’t get as excited about decomposing plant matter as I do.  Recent interest in “going green” and buying local has likely turned more onto the pleasures of backyard farming life, or at least the idea of it, but how many can say, “I love compost!”?  The idea of worms and small organisms feasting on rotting vegetables makes me happy.  Throwing away used coffee grounds and egg shells, and then turning the soil over them causes a thrill.  And how wonderful it is to grab a handful of black gold, the rich end product of all good compost, in the spring.  I’ve always loved it, but why?

I’ll start with the most obvious reason for my compost obsession: it’s practical.  Every year we throw away tons of food waste.  Some of it doesn’t belong in the compost, like meat, fat, salt, and anything heavily processed.  Many other items can go in the pile without a second thought: fruits, vegetables, egg shells, coffee grounds, and pretty much anything that rots.  Think of how much waste you can reduce by starting a compost pile.  And the best part is that it is being put to good use!  That once useless garbage can now turn into fertile soil for your future plants and flowers.  Isn’t that cool!? And I don’t even drive a Prius.

The role of my father in shaping my interest in gardening and composting cannot be overestimated.

If you can see past the shorts and snow boots you’ll see a substantial compost pile in the background.  Growing right next to it is a pumpkin plant.  This is a serious garden.  My father, in his younger days, went all out.  I remember huge piles of corn at the end of the season, and 30+ tomato plants.  I grew up with this kind of garden, and from that very young age I wanted to be there.  Compost is part of who I am.

Now, and finally, I want to take you down a more philosophical path.  What is compost but a collection of dead things?  These dead things have seemingly lost all use.  They are to be thrown out, cast aside and forgotten.  But compost reveals something deeper about life and death, that death isn’t the end.  In the same way that a seed must be buried in the ground  before it can sprout, organic matter must be broken down to unleash its life-giving energy.  Compost gives second life, and speaks to a great truth about this world.  It’s not just dirt.

I love compost, and I will continue to love it for the reasons I’ve spelled out, and also for reasons yet known to me.     So I encourage you to start a pile of your own, and play a role in this great symphony of life.

How To Fight The Common Cold

I used to accept sickness without struggle.  When my throat got that scratch and my nose started to run, I curled up into a ball and prepared to endure as a victim.  Viruses can’t be fought with medicine, I thought.  Head colds just have to pass through in their own time.  That’s how I lived for over twenty-four years.  That might be how you live.  Well, I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be this way.  You can fight.  You can win.

For most of my life, I averaged two colds a year and they remained for weeks at a time.  When I got sick, I drank a little more orange juice and got some more sleep. But no matter what I did, the cold lingered for too long and left me with a nagging cough.  My old roommate in college even gave  it a nickname, Mr. Cough.  I felt helpless and frustrated. “Do I have a weak immune system?” I wondered.  Is there anything I can do?

Have you ever heard the saying, necessity is the mother of invention?  Oftentimes we need an external motivator to spur us into action.  About two years ago I began to date a wonderful woman named Nicole.  Nicole lived about six hours away from me, which meant that our meetings were usually separated by weeks, if not months.  In that situation, you really don’t want to cancel a meeting, or have your time spoiled by feeling like death.  So, when a time came that I was to drive to New York while I was coming down with a head cold, I finally decided to do everything I could to fight it.

Here is what I did.

  • Took a regular Vitamin D supplement –  I had started taking vitamin D earlier in the winter.  There were two main reasons for this.  The first was that I kept reading about the benefits of vitamin D (including immunity) and the second was that vitamin D is made when we stand in the sun, so I figured it must be important.
  • Started on Zinc right away – I bought both a spray, Zicam, and a lozenge, Cold Eeze, right at the onset of symptoms.  Zinc is shown to reduce the severity and duration of a cold when taken at the beginning.  I went back and forth between these products for the three days I felt ill.
  • Chewed on Airborne – Airborne is loaded with vitamin C and other vitamins, herbs, and minerals that are supposed to boost immunity.  You take up to 4 at a time, and I did this at least twice a day.
  • Shot my sinuses with saline solution – This is another method that has been shown to reduce the length and severity of the common cold.  You mix a saline solution with water and shoot it up your nostrils.  It flushes out the gunk and brings down some of the irritation to open up your nasal cavities.
  • Drank plenty of fluids – This is obvious, and you hear it all of the time, but you have to drink a lot.  I drank orange juice, water, Odwalla juice, and ginger ale.
  • Used Thera-flu to help me sleep – I understood that as my cold progresses, it becomes more uncomfortable to sleep.  So, I made an effort to get as much sleep as possible early in the illness.  I bought Thera-flu in packet form that I mixed with hot water.
  • Prayer – I prayed for myself, and others prayed for me as well to get over my illness quickly.  After many years of suffering through the winters with coughs and colds, I was fed up.  I asked God for help.

This is my regiment.  I got better after only three days.  That had never happened to me before.  Most of my previous head colds lasted for one to three weeks.  I share it with you so that you can have hope.  There are things you can do to fight the common cold.  There’s a way to win.

 

UPDATE:  I got another head cold on 11/7/12 and applied this regiment.  On 11/10/12  I am over it.  It works.

Madden Points

What if there was a theory that explained the way people are?  What if this theory just happened to borrow heavily from a popular video game franchise?  Well, if such a theory existed it would probably be called, The Madden Customization Theory, and it would probably blow your mind.  I’m not sure if John Madden’s video games were the first to introduce the concept of character customization, but they were certainly one of the earliest and most popular.  It is possible that some of you don’t know what I am talking about.  You’ve never played a video game, or you’ve never had the experience of customizing a virtual character.  Do not fret, explanations are coming.

We don’t have any control over when we’re born, who we’re born from, or even if we’re born at all.  It’s really a sobering truth if you give it the thought time it merits.  There is an infinity that came before you, and one way or another there is an infinity after you.  If that’s not humbling enough, some really smart people believe that you don’t even have free will in this brief life.  Either your circumstances, or genes, or God determine your every choice from cradle to grave.  Wow, that’s a lofty concept, and I’m willing to bet humanity was never meant to fully understand it.  Regardless, it is important to recognize these philosophical and religious concepts of time, will and eternity if we are going to have a foundation for this incredible theory.

In the above image you see numbers and categories. The numbers, or points, range from 0 to 100, with 100 representing the maximum skill in that particular category.  Aaron Rodgers is a real football player, so his statistics have been set by the programmers of the game.  The custom character screen is similar, except that you can choose how to disperse the points.  So if I wanted a player to be fast, I could put most of the points in the category of speed.  The catch is that you’re only given so many points to spread around.  You have to decide what kind of player you want him to be.  Sacrifices must be made.  Priorities must be set.

What if we had the ability to somehow determine the kind of people we would be, before we were even born?  It would only be fair that each of us would have the same number of “points” to disperse as we deemed appropriate.  So, if I wanted to be book smart I could put points towards that, and might have to sacrifice some athletic ability.  Or, if a woman wanted to be more attractive she could overload her points in the beauty column and sacrifice common sense.  It is a rare person who excels in most categories.  For many of us, there are clear strengths and weaknesses, which often appear to be random.  The Madden Customization Theory offers an explanation to account for the big guy without a brain and the scrawny guy with an I.Q. of 150.  We all had the same number of points, but we all have different priorities.

The Madden Customization Theory probably wouldn’t stand up to rigorous scrutiny from serious thinkers, but I’m willing to bet it struck a chord with you.  It’s appealing to imagine that somewhere in a time long ago we had the power to choose who we would become.  Maybe the best aspect of this theory isn’t what it assumes about the past, but what it says about the future.  We are largely the result of our priorities.  It matters who we want to become.  That’s how real characters are created.

Double Stuf Your Face

We were in the cookie aisle searching for a worthy party treat.  When we came to the Oreos, Nicole suggested we go for the Double Stuf.  My reaction, which is pretty standard for this kind of situation, was to reason through an argument why original Oreos are superior to their full-figured cousins.   After my tireless rant, we purchased the Double Stuf and brought them, and the argument, to the party.  The guests were more or less split down the middle on which they prefer.  This tells me that we have a legitimate disagreement on a trivial matter to contend with.  Therefore, let us begin.

It would be very difficult to overstate the importance of ratios in this argument.  After all, isn’t this all about ratios?  How much filling should there be in relation to cookie?  That is at the heart of the problem.  And if we can accept the supreme importance of ratios, we must conclude that it was the factor behind Oreo’s success.  In the beginning, the makers decided upon an ideal level of filling.  It was that amount that catapulted Oreo to where it is today.  It was just that much filling and just that much cookie: no more, no less.  Perhaps Oreo would have achieved the same level of success had they gone with double the filling, but that is mere speculation.

Oreos are delicious when they are dunked in milk.  In fact, Oreo boasts that it is “Milk’s favorite cookie.”  When an Oreo is dunked wholly in milk, it responds well.  have you ever dipped the Double Stuf?  It is awkward and you almost want to gag on the filling.  Too much filling in the presence of milk leaves an odd film on the roof of your mouth and does little to enhance the taste.  When dipped, it is the cookie part that thrives in the taste department.  A little filling compliments the experience, making a delightful trio, but double the filling proves too much for the milk and cookie alliance.  Sure, you can separate the filling from the cookie before dunking, but you could also pour gravy on it.  Let’s not get bogged down with the exceptions to the rule.

If you love filling, go for the Double Stuf.  I’m not against people preferring filling to cookie.  All I’m doing is crafting a coherent argument for anyone who wants a foundation in reason for their cookie preference.

The Long, Slow, Painful Death of The Simpsons

Twentieth Century Fox

I can say without any exaggeration that The Simpsons has influenced me more than any other television show in existence. As a child I would watch in the presence of my older brother, noting what he found humorous, so I knew when to laugh.  He would often explain why something was funny, since my 8-year-old self missed most of the high-level humor.  For instance, when Homer becomes a big brother to a poor child named Pepi, Pepi says, “Papa Homer, you are so learn-ed.”  Homer corrects him, “It’s learned, son.  Learned.”  If you don’t know how the word is really pronounced, the joke is lost.  I believe this kind of humor, this “high-level” humor, is what made The Simpsons a great (perhaps greatest) comedy.  It’s not what makes it great because, let’s face it, the show hasn’t been good for about 13 seasons.  Right around season 10, it started the long and steady decline toward mediocrity.  Now, when I do give it another chance, it is like visiting an old friend who is dying of a painful terminal illness.  It’s sad, it’s tragic, and it’s at the point where you just want their suffering to end.  The Simpsons needs to die.

It’s hard to begin.  How does one describe the comic genius that made The Simpsons special?  Well, here are 2 clips that I’ll use as examples.  This first one comes from ” Deep Space Homer” in season 5.  We’ve just seen a shot of Homer’s space shuttle and an escaped ant moved past the camera.  Here is Kent Brockman’s reaction.

As a member of the media, Kent Brockman is prone to sensationalism.  We see it in an earlier episode in which Kent claims, ” I’ve been to Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, and I can say without hyperbole that this is a million times worse than all of them put together.”  He is referring to a rebellion at Bart’s summer camp.  The writers are poking fun at how ridiculous the news media can be in an attempt to make a story more interesting.  But what really makes this funny is that Kent clearly believes his own sensational claims.  He jumps from one radical conclusion to the next and even accepts that the invasion is a foregone conclusion, which is why he is already trying to convince the ant overlords that he can be useful.  This is very silly, but we in the audience can see the work of intelligent people behind the scenes.

In this next clip, we find Mr. Burns attempting to win Homer’s trust.  Homer has become the head of the union at the power plant and Mr. Burns is threatening to remove their dental plan.  This clip comes from season 4, and the title is, “Last Exit to Springfield”.

There is this Infinite Monkey Theorem that assumes if a monkey were to hit the keys on a typewriter into infinity, it would eventually write Shakespeare.  A variation is that an infinite number of chimps (or some really high number) banging on typewriters would eventually produce some great piece of literature.  I actually wrote about this in A Universe of Infinite Chimps.  Anyway, in the clip we can see that the monkeys are smoking and focusing intently on their work, just like a bunch of human writers.  They are also chained to their typewriters.  I’m sure the writers who wrote this scene were thinking of themselves.  When Mr. Burns reads what the monkey wrote, it turns out to be the first line of Charles Dickens’, A Tale of Two Cities.  But the monkey wrote “blurst” instead of “worst”, so Mr. Burns completely overlooks the incredible feat and judges the animal like he would some great author.  It plays on our expectations, and Mr. Burns’ sincerity and serious tone throughout the exchange makes for the perfect contrast to the ludicrous event.

The main point I want to make with these clips is that the early episodes were cleverly written by intelligent people who were aiming high at their audience.  Sure, there is plenty of slapstick to be found, but slapstick is only funny if it’s carried out by a person or entity with dignity and intelligence.  The Simpsons often referenced classic literature and film in these great episodes.  Even now, I find myself discovering things that I first learned from The Simpsons.  Perhaps I’ll recall a scene after watching  a classic Alfred Hitchcock film, or Citizen Kane.  In 6th grade I got a congratulatory letter sent home for knowing what the scientific name for the Northern Lights was: aurora borealis.  I learned that from Principal Skinner.

As I’ve previously mentioned, it was around season 10 that the show started to suffer creatively.  If you search around the internet you’ll see a consensus on this moment in the show’s history as the beginning of the end.  Some blame the shift toward a younger audience.  Some blame new producers, or the exodus of Conan O’Brien from the staff (though he left after season 5).   Others simply believe that the show had run out of clever ideas, like any long-running program.  I’m sure there were a number of reasons for the decline, but the fact remains that The Simpsons has shuffled on into an endless sunset.

Here’s a preview of the first episode of season 23.

So here we have Homer in a ridiculous situation with a celebrity guest star.  This is the norm.  Critic Jim Schembri of The Sydney Morning Herald summed it up pretty well when he wrote,  “Now the show has in essence fermented into a limp parody of itself. Memorable story arcs have been sacrificed for the sake of celebrity walk-ons and punchline-hungry dialogue.”  He is absolutely correct.  Once rich characters have been emptied of intelligence, emotion and dignity for the sake of selling out to the lowest common denominator of humor and entertainment.  It’s pathetic, and a lesson in the cost of pride and greed.

This show is a cash cow, and has been for many years.  The voice actors make millions and the producers make even more.  They have nothing to prove and nowhere to go.  I imagine Matt Groening, the creator, has become much like George Lucas.  Both men made something that the people loved, and they gained incredible wealth and fame.  But at some point they lost touch with the original vision, and traded it all for just a little more.  Look at this quote from Groening in 2006.

I honestly don’t see any end in sight. I think it’s possible that the show will become too financially cumbersome… but right now, the show is creatively, I think, as good or better than it’s ever been. The animation is incredibly detailed and imaginative, and the stories do things that we haven’t done before. So creatively there’s no reason to quit.

You know that once a storyteller starts focusing on the “incredibly detailed” animation, he has lost his soul (i.e. James Cameron with Avatar and George Lucas with everything since Star Wars Special Edition).

It saddens me that The Simpsons now has more mediocre and bad episodes than good and great ones.  It also saddens me that I wish for its swift death, so that the memory of what was right isn’t overshadowed by what is so very wrong.  All we can do is re-watch those episodes from the golden age, and hope that future generations will understand that The Simpsons was at one time the greatest show on television.  And not because it was the most popular, or the longest- running, but because it was clever and profoundly hilarious.

If I Had Edited Clint Eastwood’s Speech at the RNC

I know this is old news by now.  The Democrats started their own convention this evening.  But I can’t help but dwell on the speech that Clint Eastwood gave at the Republican National Convention.  In it were moments of goodness and straight talking, but those moments were smothered by more moments of awkwardness.  I’m a conservative guy, and I’m a big fan of Clint, so I want to pretend for a moment  that I had the ability to edit his speech before he went out on stage.   Perhaps we can get to the heart of things by shaving off the distracting bits.

Let’s start by watching the actual speech.

It’s a little painful to watch.  Clint seems to stumble a bit and make some disrespectful jokes about the president.  At times he seems a little lost.  But once again you have to admit that there were parts worth keeping.

Now, here is the version of the speech that I would have approved.

EASTWOOD:  Thank you very much.   Thank you.  Thank you
very much.  Save a little for Mitt.
(APPLAUSE)
I know what you are thinking.  You are thinking, what’s a
movie tradesman doing out here?  You know they are all left
wingers out there, left of Lenin.  At least that is what people
think.  That is not really the case.  There are a lot of
conservative people, a lot of moderate people, Republicans,
Democrats, in Hollywood.  It is just that the conservative
people by the nature of the word itself play closer to the vest.
They do not go around hot dogging it.
(APPLAUSE)
   So — but they are there, believe me, they are there.  I
just think, in fact, some of them around town, I saw John Voigt,
a lot of people around.
   (APPLAUSE)
   John’s here, an academy award winner.  A terrific guy.
These people are all like-minded, like all of us.
So I — so I’ve got Mr. Obama sitting here.  And he’s — I
was going to ask him a couple of questions.  But — you know
about — I remember three and a half years ago, when Mr. Obama
won the election. And though I was not a big supporter, I was
watching that night when he was having that thing and they were
talking about hope and change and they were talking about, yes
we can, and it was dark outdoors, and it was nice, and people
were lighting candles.
They were saying, I just thought, this was great.
Everybody is trying, Oprah was crying.

I was even crying.  And then finally — and I
haven’t
cried that hard since I found out that there is [are] 23 million
unemployed
people in this country.
(APPLAUSE)
Now that is something to cry for because that is a
disgrace, a
national disgrace, and we haven’t done enough, obviously — this
administration hasn’t done enough to cure that.  Whenever
interest
they have is not strong enough, and I think possibly now it may
be
time for somebody else to come along and solve the problem.
(APPLAUSE)
So, Mr. President, how do you handle promises that you have
made
when you were running for election, and how do you handle them?
I mean, what do you say to people?  Do you just — you know
— I
know — people were wondering — you don’t — handle that OK.
Well, I
know even people in your own party were very disappointed when
you
didn’t close Gitmo.  And I thought, well closing Gitmo — why
close
that, we spent so much money on it.  But, I thought maybe as an
excuse
— what do you mean shut up?
   (LAUGHTER)
   OK, I thought maybe it was just because somebody had the
stupid
idea of trying terrorists in downtown New York City.
   (APPLAUSE)
   I’ve got to to hand it to you.  I have to give credit where
credit is due.  You did finally overrule that finally.  And
that’s —
now we are moving onward.  I know you were against the war in
Iraq,
and that’s okay.  But you thought the war in Afghanistan was OK.
You
know, I mean — you thought that was something worth doing.  We
didn’t
check with the Russians to see how did it — they did there for
10
years.
   (APPLAUSE)
   But we did it, and it is something to be thought about, and
I
think that, when we get to maybe — I think you’ve  mentioned
something about having a target date for bringing everybody
home.  You
gave that target date, and I think Mr. Romney asked the only
sensible
question, you know, he says, “Why are you giving the date out
now?
Why don’t you just bring them home tomorrow morning?”
   (APPLAUSE)
   And I thought — I thought, yeah — I am not going to shut
up, it
is my turn.
   (LAUGHTER)
   So anyway, we’re going to have — we’re going to have to
have a
little chat about that.  And then, I just wondered, all these
promises
— I wondered about when the — what do you want me to tell
Romney?  I
can’t tell him to do that.  I can’t tell him to do that to
himself.
   (APPLAUSE)
   You’re crazy, you’re absolutely crazy.  You’re getting as
bad as
Biden.
   (APPLAUSE)
   Of course we all now Biden is the intellect of the
Democratic
party.
   (LAUGHTER)
   Kind of a grin with a body behind it.
   (LAUGHTER)
  But I just think that there is so much to be done, and I
think
that Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan are two guys that can come along.
See, I
never thought it was a good idea for attorneys to be president,
anyway.
(APPLAUSE)
I think attorneys are so busy — you know they’re
always taught to argue everything, always weigh everything,
weigh both sides.
EASTWOOD:  They are always devil’s advocating this and
bifurcating this and bifurcating that.  You know all that stuff.
But, I think it is maybe time — what do you think — for maybe
a businessman.  How about that?
(APPLAUSE)
A stellar businessman.  Quote, unquote, “a stellar
businessman.”
And I think it’s that time.  And I think if you just step
aside and Mr. Romney can kind of take over.  You can maybe still
use a plane.
   (APPLAUSE)
   Though maybe a smaller one.  Not that big gas guzzler you
are going around to colleges and talking about student loans and
stuff like that.
   (APPLAUSE)
   You are an — an ecological man.  Why would you want to
drive that around?
   OK, well anyway.  All right, I’m sorry.  I can’t do that to
myself either.
   (APPLAUSE)
   I would just like to say something, ladies and gentlemen.
Something that I think is very important.  It is that, you, we
— we own this country.
(APPLAUSE)
   We — we own it.  It is not you owning it, and not
politicians owning it.  Politicians are employees of ours.
(APPLAUSE)
   And  — so — they are just going to come around and beg
for votes every few years.  It is the same old deal.  But I just
think it is important that you realize , that you’re the best in
the world. Whether you are a Democrat or Republican or whether
you’re libertarian or whatever, you are the best.  And we should
not ever forget that. And when somebody does not do the job, we
got to let them go.
(APPLAUSE)

   Okay, just remember that.  And I’m speaking out for
everybody out there.  It doesn’t hurt, we don’t have to be
   (AUDIENCE MEMBER):  (inaudible)
   (LAUGHTER)
   I do not say that word anymore.  Well, maybe one last time.
   (LAUGHTER)
   We don’t have to be — what I’m saying, we do not have to
be metal (ph) masochists and vote for somebody that we don’t
really even want in office just because they seem to be nice
guys or maybe not so nice guys, if you look at some of the
recent ads going out there, I don’t know.
   (APPLAUSE)
   But OK.  You want to make my day?
   (APPLAUSE)
   All right.  I started, you finish it.  Go ahead.
   AUDIENCE:  Make my day!
EASTWOOD:  Thank you.  Thank you very much.

See, there was a good speech in there.

If the Nation Were a Person

Imagine that the United States of America was a person.  It shouldn’t be too much of a stretch.  Culture is sort of like personality and habit.  Politics is like an individual’s worldview or perspective on things.  Both a nation and a person can become demoralized by internal and external forces.  And, just as a person has a soul, a nation seems to have a deeper core that defines and guides it.  It means something to be an American; it means something to be America.

So you have this image in your head of America, the person.  I would be curious to know what you see.  What is America wearing, if anything, and what posture does he or she have?   Let me tell you what I see.

I see a man who can’t stop looking side to side.  He goes from left to right, and each time he turns his head it puts more strain on his neck as he turns it a little more.  At the same time his eyes are looking down at the ground.  For a brief moment, every now and then, he peeks up at the heavens, but it is only for a moment.  His clothes are very stylish, and very expensive, but in his breast pocket is a notice saying that all of his possessions will soon be repossessed if he doesn’t pay his creditors.  His heart is experiencing palpitations due to the stress of a serious identity crisis.  He was raised a Christian, but has started to doubt its significance now that he is more mature and well off.  His daughter wants to have an abortion and he’s equally torn by his love for her freedom to choose and his love for her unborn child.  His son is gay, and he doesn’t know whether to kick him out of the house or celebrate with a parade.  He carries a small document in his hand that begs him not to forget where he comes from and who he is, but his hand is so clenched around it that he hasn’t read it in years.  This man has seen better days.  But not all hope is lost.

Inside the man is an indomitable spirit.  Despite his identity crisis and crippling debt and all forms of adversity, he carries within him a tested spirit.  A spirit that has passed through many fires.  A spirit that burns brightest when the world seems darkest.  This man has suffered many hardships and come out stronger in the end, and for that reason, for the spirit within that transcends the baggage and the vitriol and the pettiness, he has real hope for a better life ahead.  But as long as he carries the pride of his own self-importance, and refuses to acknowledge the Creator that made him in word and deed, he will continue to be a divided man with a sore neck.

Thoughts of a Man Named Dave

 

I needed a change.

For those who have been following this blog from the start, you might remember that in the beginning (around March 2010) it had the heading of, Thoughts of a Post-Grad English Major.  This lasted for about a year, until a friend explained to me why WordPress was better than blogger.  It was also at a time when I felt that “English major” wasn’t the best label for myself a year after graduating.  For those reasons I switched to WordPress and changed the heading to, Thoughts of a Post-Grad Twentysomething.  This served me well for a time as I was indeed a twenty-something and I was very much adrift in the waters of post-graduate life.  But now, at this stage in my life, I understand that it is appropriate to change things again.

The new heading reads, Thoughts of a Man Named Dave.  Now, it isn’t as descriptive as the other two, but I think that’s just fine.  It also doesn’t serve the purpose of telling people what this blog is really about in any creative way, but that’s also fine.  I’m not trying to aim for a niche in the blogosphere (not now anyway) by writing about cooking or gardening (though I love gardening and will write about it).  Most of the people who read this already know me, and those who don’t will hopefully come because something I write catches their eye.  I have not been willing to focus on one topic, since I want to write about multiple topics.  The new tagline for my blog does a good job of encapsulating my interests and some semblance of focus.

“Getting at the big picture of Life in America through faith, politics and other things you don’t talk about at the dinner table.”

I have written about gay marriage and abortion multiple times.  I have also written about Bill Cosby and why Baby Boomers love Paul Blart: Mall Cop.  Sometimes it is light and fluffy and other times it is heavy and serious.  It can be the kind of thing you wouldn’t discuss over dinner, but I suppose that depends on who’s eating.  I seem to have a keen interest in American culture in general, so it’s a safe bet that I’ll be writing about things that relate to it.   I also have strong feelings and a clear position on many political matters.  But the overriding thing, the deeper current that steers this ship, is my belief that Jesus Christ is who the Bible says he is.  Anyone who recognizes that God is real and knowable will also understand that it affects everything about them.  Think about it.

So here I am, and here is the latest incarnation of my blog.

More to follow.

P.S. For those who follow my blog or know me, you should understand why I chose this image of a man punching a gorilla.  The Tiger/Gorilla Question 

Saying Something Positive About McDonald’s

When do you ever hear something positive about McDonald’s?

My betrothed will not take kindly to what I’m about to say.  She’s about the most outspoken person I’ve ever met in opposition to fast food.  That being said, I hope she and the rest of you can see through to the point I will attempt to make in the following post:  McDonald’s should be admired for its excellence.

Fat people sued them because they were looking for a delicious scapegoat for their reckless gluttony.  Morgan Spurlock demonized them in his documentary, Super Size Me, in which he ate nothing but McDonald’s food for a month.  He suffered physically for this feat, but I wonder why he didn’t just pour salt down his throat and marvel at how dehydrated he got.  Ronald McDonald, the clown who serves as the face of their kid-focused charitable endeavors, is often targeted by comedians for being creepy.  McDonald’s has also been forced into posting all of their nutrition facts.  This seems unfair since you can easily consume a couple thousand calories at most chain restaurants.   Lately, there has been a push in some communities against the Happy Meal, since it “lures” kids into eating unhealthy food.  You know, because kids are the ones who drive themselves to McDonald’s and pay for everything.  It really seems like McDonald’s is being singled out.  But why?

They are the #1 fast food chain in the world.  They serve nearly 70 million people a day in about 120 countries.  They employ 400,000 people and earned over 20 billion in revenue in 2010.  McDonald’s has become a symbol of globalization, spreading their brand throughout the civilized world.  In short, they are the best at what they do.

McDonald’s has achieved a level of excellence which should be praised.  Yes, for their ability to succeed in a global marketplace, and to evolve with the times, McDonald’s should be commended.

I am not saying everyone should eat McDonald’s all of the time.  That makes you fat and unhealthy much like eating out most other places would.   What I’m saying is that they are the global leader in their area of the marketplace for a reason.  They are easy to target for their contribution to American obesity, but when it comes down to it these same people who point a greasy finger at them are the reason McDonald’s is the powerhouse that it is.  If we didn’t like it, McDonald’s wouldn’t exist.

So let’s just admit to ourselves that McDonald’s is the best at what they do.  And let’s also accept responsibility for what we put into our bodies without acting like helpless victims at the mercy of such a delicious juggernaut.