Friday, February 29, 2008

Friday Flick: Lady Behave

When it comes to the old films, I tend to gravitate toward the romantic comedies. I'm not sure why; maybe it's just that I have a soft spot for budding love. Or maybe it's the short attention span that makes me reluctant to dive too hard into something heavy. Either way, I'm a romantic at heart, and this sort of fluff suits me.

The moral of this movie could be "Don't drink and marry." We begin by witnessing a superannuated teenager (actually somewhere in her early 20s) waltzing home following a night of drunken revelry, and she manages to slur out that she's married a man she just met. To make things worse, she already has a husband she hasn't gotten around to divorcing yet. With the responsible self-sacrifice of an older sibling, her sister undertakes to keep her out of prison by impersonating the fritterheaded baggage and taking up residence as the stranger's wife. To her surprise (but not ours, natch), the new husband turns out to be a fairly nice chap. He's been kind of distant from his two kids (yes, kids!) since his wife died, but there's nothing wrong with him that a good bucket of cold water to the brain stem wouldn't cure. Alas, he also is well-to-do, so his kids naturally figure their new mama is a gold-digger, and set out to get rid of her.

The cast in this one is pretty good, considering that none of them were particularly big names. Sally Eilers is pretty good as the competent-but-overwhelmed "wife," and Neil Hamilton (remember him as Commissioner Gordon?) is the oblivious lug that falls in love with the woman he thinks he married but didn't. The kids are show-stealers to the max: George Ernest as the sort of surly little pissant every parent dreads crossing, and Marcia Mae Jones (who just passed away last fall) as the less histile but equally protective little girl. Jones is so sweet here you'll want to hug her and never let go. Oh, and Joseph Schildkraut is gloriously sleazy as the soon-to-be-ex-husband of the younger sister. (You may remember him as the despicable shop salesman in The Shop Around the Corner or much later as Anne Frank's father.) His accent lends itself perfectly to the creepy role, but I can't understand why they gave him such an un-foreign-sounding name as "Michael Andrews." That's a minor blip, though, in an otherwise believably horrid character.

Lady Behave may be fluffy, but it's not hokey. With relatively few changes, you could recycle the plot into a remake today. My teenagers have little patience with any film older than themselves, and even they liked it. The situations may be dependent on the time period, but the humor isn't.

Remember, kids, if you're going out drinking, leave the marriage license at home!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

And a more fun cartoon

This one comes from my Excellent and Virtuous Daughter:

Serves him right for taking the Hanover side in the '45. I'm proud to say my own Boyds backed Bonnie Prince Charlie all the way to Culloden. (Come to think of it, those could be Boyd tartans they're wearing. If you don't look too closely.)

Shut up, traitor!

From Old World Swine comes this Cartoon o' the Week.

Women's word is sacred, up to a point. But when they start spouting that anti-choice stuff, well, they're just sister-hating tools of the patriarchy and must be dealt with accordingly.

Planned Parenthood: Working for a whiter America

Yeah, okay, it was a set-up. And the death merchant dedicated employee on the other end of the phone probably figured she'd just play along to get the donation sealed up. But even unwittingly, she showed PP's true colors. Or rather, color. White, preferably wealthy, and able to donate.

In the same vein, Pastor Paul sends this cheery example of abortion-as-eugenics. Amazingly, the doctors in this case seem more interested in covering their collective hiney than in the ethical implications. The only question for them is whether they should have known that the baby wasn't (necessarily) going to be an "undesirable." Had the baby been flawed, they would have not only been perfectly justified in murdering it, but the parents would have been selfish troglodytes for wanting to save him. That he turned out healthy is merely an embarrassment to them.

Dr. Mengele doesn't die; he's just reincarnated.

Update Sorry. I forgot to embed the original video. My memory must be slipping. Wonder if that makes me unfit to live, by PP's lights.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Gospel of Barack Obama

... according to Mark Shea.
1:1 As it is written in the AP Manual, "Behold, I send my press corps before thy face, who shall prepare thy way." And so it came to pass that pundits went forth into all that country, preaching a vote of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And lo, these pundits spake by the Spirit of the Age, going into all their towns and cities and declaring:

Check thou it out here.

Count me in

I haven't seen this yet, because I'm in the middle of a crowded newsroom, but I will when I get home.

I think a day to honor Mister Rogers, even an unofficial one, is a fantastic idea. He was a Lamed-Vavnik if there ever was one. Won't you please, won't you please, won't you wear a sweater?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I'm getting a bad feeling about this

Now, I agree that Uncle Warren is a nasty piece of work, and I wouldn't be sorry to see him locked away somewhere far away from the rest of us. But this isn't how it should be done.

Polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs has been handed over to Arizona authorities to face charges related to performing more child-bride marriages.

Jeffs was being transported to the Mohave County Jail in Kingman, Ariz...

Jeffs, 52, was serving two 5-to-life sentences in prison following his conviction last year on two counts of rape as an accomplice, a first-degree felony. He performed a marriage between a 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin.

In Arizona, Jeffs is facing criminal charges including sexual misconduct with a minor, conspiracy to commit sexual misconduct with a minor and incest as an accomplice. Jeffs' criminal defense attorney in Arizona has sought to get the case there transferred to another jurisdiction, fearful that the pre-trial publicity would harm Jeffs' right to a fair trial.

In addition to the Arizona charges, Utah's Attorney General has been conducting investigations into Jeffs and the Fundamentalist LDS Church. A federal grand jury in Salt Lake City has also indicted him on charges of unlawful flight to avoid prosection, stemming from Jeffs' time on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list.

The first time Jeffs was brought to trial, I mentioned I had misgivings. This current trial doesn't do much to ease them.

We don't have a lot of details about the charges in this trial, but if there were minors (below the age of consent, that is) involved and incest, then maybe there's some reason to prosecute. But in the last case, he was on trial simply for his religious leadership. His crime was counseling (and yes, pressuring) members of his congregation to follow the tenets of their religion. He didn't urge them to commit any crime; merely to do something that they were later sorry for.

By that logic, how long will it be before other clergymen are held to the same standard? The health-and-wealth preachers who encourage giving more than you can afford? Are they to be held responsible for bankruptcies? Yeah, nobody's going to cry about them, are they?

How about the Fundamentalist preacher who counsels a homosexual to either change or remain celibate? Do we hold him liable for the guy's emotional problems? Some gay people have killed themselves in that situation. Is the preacher his murderer?

How about the Catholic priest who stands behind the church's ban on abortion? If a woman in his parish dies in childbirth, do we put the priest on trial?

Stretching it farther, how about a Mormon bishop who urges observation of the Word of Wisdom? If a Mormon trucker falls asleep at the wheel, is the bishop to blame for the resulting collision?

Okay, so we're getting progressively more strained interpretations of the precedent. But can you absolutely guarantee where the cycle will stop? Me neither.

In all the cases above the clergymen were merely reiterating the tenets of the faith they profess, to members of the same faith. Tenets, remember, that were in place before the individual situations arose. In the same way, Jeffs counseled two members of his flock to follow the established customs of better than a century in their religion. He didn't invent those customs. He didn't hold a gun to anybody's head and force them to marry. All he did was to tell them they were in danger of hell if they disobeyed God. He advocated to them those standards of right and wrong which their religion maintained. Which is the duty of any clergyman.

No matter how much I may loathe him or his religion, he was performing his priestly duties. When that in and of itself becomes grounds for prosecution, then nobody's religious freedom is secure.

Monday, February 25, 2008

No longer visiting this planet

Larry Norman has gone home.

Larry is often called the "father of Christian Rock," having written songs like I Wish We'd All Been Ready and Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music, but there was more to it than that. By the time I came of age, Christian rock was well established, and there was even a thriving punk/wave scene going. (Self-important teenagers that we were, we fancied ourselves an "underground.")

But so much of that music, particularly the mainstream CCM) was loaded with easy answers and simplistic reductions. All of life's problems could be solved by just getting on your knees and reciting a "sinner's prayer." In their zeal to sell salvation, the musicians had reduced the complexity of the human condition into a sitcom-sized problem, and the saving grace of Christ into a spiritual band-aid.

Larry didn't try to pretend it was that simple. His songs were filled with confusion, fear and – peeking through from the background – hope. The world was a screwed-up place, man is a screwed-up creature. Jesus may be the answer, but He's the sort of answer that begets a hundred more questions. His decidedly weird takes on the prodigal son and apocalyptic visions leave the listener simultaneously saying "What the hell?" and "Aha!"

Larry also wasn't afraid of tackling social issues, without toeing the political line as Christians are expected to do in public today. Can you imagine any of today's CCM artists writing a song like The Great American Novel or I am the Six-o'Clock News (listen to it here)? Not if they wanted a shot at next year's Dove awards, they wouldn't. And Larry paid the price for that. Lots of Christian bookstores wouldn't carry him even today.

At the same time, he wasn't hesitant to serve up the sacred cows of popular culture, medium rare with potatoes. His song Reader's Digest, delivered in a fast-paced near-rap (in 1973!), is just loaded with satirical gems.
The Rolling Stones are millionaires, the flower children pallbearers
TheBeatles said All you need is love, and then they broke up.
Jimi took an overdose, Janis followed so close
The whole music scene and all the bands are pretty comatose.
This time last year, people didn't wanna hear.
They looked at Jesus from afar
This year he's a superstar.
spoken: Dear John, who's more popular now? I've been listening to some of Paul's new records. Sometimes I think he really is dead.

If you think Larry Norman had a profound impact on me, I won't argue with you. I never met him, nor even saw him perform, but in his songs he spoke for me more times than not. And in the banter on one of his live recordings, he gave the most succinct explanation of saving grace I've ever heard: "You go to heaven because you asked to. You go to hell because you didn't want to go to heaven." I'll never forget that.

Now he's healthy. His questions have all been answered. He doesn't hurt anymore, in body or spirit. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Saturday Matinee: Take Me Back to Oklahoma

Here's a film that takes no attention span to follow, suitable for the squirrelly, fidgety little boy in all of us. The plot is thin as a supermodel, a typical "save the poor beautiful widder woman's property from the evil cattle baron." Doesn't matter. With this cast and music, who needs a plot anyway?

Tex Ritter is the guy in the white hat here. His son is a lot more recognizable to anyone younger than 60, but you can sure see the resemblance in his face. Sidekick Slim Andrews is a kick indeed, carrying off some fun singing and otherwise reminding me of John Huston's old coot in Treasure of the Sierra Madre. His "Village Blacksmith" song is so enjoyable you don't even notice the haphazard lip-synching.

But the real show-stealer here are Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys. I'm not sure why Tommy Duncan isn't singing in this one, but Leon McAuliffe was the vocalist for the band before Duncan, and he does just fine. This isn't their best time period for my money; I prefer the stuff from the 30s myself. But it's still fresh, and the contrivedness of the musical scenes just makes them more corny. And corny was Bob Wills' stock in trade.

So saddle up and become seven years old again:


Monday, February 11, 2008

God comes through in the crunch again

I spoke to the mortgage people today, and they're just fine with taking my tax refund when it comes in. Meanwhile, between my next paycheck, the donations we've received, and a chunk I found out I can take out of my 401(k), it looks like we'll even be able to avoid bankruptcy.

This is phenomenal. Three days ago we were sure we were going to lose everything and be unable to find a place to live. Now we'll be out of debt altogether by the end of the month, and without stiffing anybody. If the night job comes through (or I hear back on a couple of better-paid ones I've applied for), we'll be able to get ahead and once again sit under our vine and our fig tree. And none shall make us afraid.

I can't believe the responses we've gotten to the last couple of posts. The prayers, the donations... You people are incredible. I'm just plumb floored. I hope someday I can meet each of you in person and thank you for your help during this time. One of the best parts of being solvent will be having the opportunity to pay this forward when someone else gets in a jam.

God is generous. And His people are, too. Thank you all.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Oh, and...

... a couple of people have offered financial help as well, and one person e-mailed me and suggested I put up a PayPal button. I'm not very good at accepting help, let alone asking for it. I never want to be the sort of person who would take advantage of friends, especially ones we haven't even met in person. But I know if the roles were reversed, I probably would be graveled at stubborn pride interfering with my chance to help. I really need to relax my stiff neck and just be thankful.

So if anyone wants to, Christina has a tip jar button at her blog. Any help would be really appreciated. If you can't or just would rather not, that's fine too. We're not expecting anything. Just pray for us, and that should be plenty. For all my cynicism lately, God listens to prayers.

Explanation on the house thing

I didn't really have either the time or the composure to explain the circumstances that led to yesterday's post, but so many people have offered prayers, encouragement and even donations that I think I ought to fill in some background.

What started all this was that, about a year and a half ago, our income got chopped just about in half. (I'd best leave the specifics out, but the circumstances were completely beyond our control.) This left us trying to maintain a large family on just about two thirds of the federal poverty level. While we were trying to recover the money we had lost, we were stuck putting some of our living expenses on credit cards. This continued until a little after our crisis last summer, when I got a raise at work that should have covered at least enough of the difference to get by until we recovered the lost income.

Trouble was, even though we canceled our credit cards at that time, we were already so far in the hole that even a pay raise couldn't get us completely caught up. (I have to say here that we're not the sort of people who live high on credit. We didn't buy luxuries or take vacations on the plastic; we bought groceries and paid bills.) The fees and interest kept mounting, and the collectors kept calling, countless times a day.

Yesterday, we got a call from the mortgage company, a final warning that they were about to take action. (They had sent a foreclosure notice, but it disappeared as so much of our mail does, in the household chaos.) Unfortunately, we had just placated the last of the credit card bloodsuckers by promising them our tax refund. Ironically, if we hadn't done that, we would have been far enough in debt to qualify for one of those hardship programs the lenders are starting to offer. As it was, they discussed our income and our debts, and told us we had run out of options.

So what we'll probably do at this juncture is cancel the scheduled payments to the creditors and use the tax money for the house. I have to call on Monday and see if they'll let us do that; it's not due for another ten days and they'll have to hold off that long. Once we have the house safe, we'll grit our teeth and file Chapter Seven.

It'll mean stiffing the credit card companies, but you know what? To hell with them. We've already paid them far more than we actually got from them, and we're still not out from under. Other than that, we don't have a lot to lose. We drive old beater cars, our furniture is all Early Goodwill, and even our computers are either second-hand or homemade. Our credit is already in the sewer; this can't do any harm.

Meanwhile, it looks like a night job I applied for should come through any day. Right now they're just trying to schedule a pee test, and then they're desperate enough that I should be able to start right away. Between that and the bankruptcy, that should be enough to keep us above water.

The only "if" is the house. If the mortgage company will let us hold off, or if they'll accept a smaller payment on payday, we can keep it. If not, we have to come up with two or three thousand immediately, which we just plain can't do.(Another note: we didn't buy subprime like so many of those people who are getting foreclosures lately. We bought at a phenomenally good fixed interest rate, and bought as much house as we could afford, figuring that our income was only going to go up. Who'd'a thunk?) If we lose the house, I don't know what we'll do. There simply aren't any rentals with enough space for a family of eight (nine in the summer), and if there were, the rent would be far above our current house payment.

So we could really use prayers for the situation with the mortgage. That's what everything stands or falls on.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Ash Wednesday: what better writers than me have to say

I've been pretty slammed today, so I haven't actually got much to write for Ash Wednesday myself. But there are a couple of blogfriends who have done a lot better than I could.

First, Nina, whom I'm finally going to add to the sidebar, reminds me of some of the reasons I became Catholic.
Today is Ash Wednesday, and I am off to confession this morning so I can start the season reconciled. I was thinking I would compose a note to the priest and roll it up like a cigar and shove it between the grating. Just to see if it would go over. Here's my note:

"Dear Monsignor, I did everything bad I could do except kill people. Calculate the maximum number of occurrances possible in a year. Impose maximum penalty. Gracias."
You go in wanting to tell all your stories and explain all your challenges because secretly or not so secretly, you want the priest to say, "There, there. You have had a hard time. Here's a cookie for you. Run along."

But that is not what it is about. The explanation doesn't matter. What you need to say and what he needs to hear is the flat, ordinary, ugly total of your failures. Not the why, but the what. And that, although it's very itchy and uncomfortable, is the also its great benefit. It divorces you from your string of excuses and forces you to see results. Even successes, if you have any, are often attributable not to virtue but some other cause.

Itchy and uncomfortable indeed. The confessional is sort of like a bath, but it's a too-hot bath with irritant cleansing chemicals. Nobody I know thinks the confessional is pleasant. It's good when it's finished, but it's embarrassing while it's going on. (Especially in this one-parish town, where I'm pretty sure the priest can recognize my voice even if he's trying not to.)

Pastor Mike at Adventure Faith hasn't been posting much lately, having had quite a lot going on, but what he put up the other day made me do a double-take.
Last month's issue of Psychology Today had an article about pastors who are becoming atheistic. In other words, there are more pastors out there who don't really believe in God anymore. Very interesting read which you can find here.
Yes, my own faith and theology waivers at times, even when I am teaching. But erasing God from the equation seems impossible to me. I can't imagine it. My issues of reconciling belief are just that... my issues. They have nothing to do with God.

That's it in a nutshell. My issues are my issues. God in His mercy may help me get past them, or He may leave me sitting in them, as He pleases. Either way, I've got a maximum of about fifty years before they get resolved for good. But meanwhile, they're not really God's problem.

With one exception. When it comes to sin, he's already made it His problem, at Calvary. That particular issue has already been decided. Everything else is just details.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Blobs of Tissue pretend to be people

But they're still not actual humans, with actual rights, or anything like that.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Appropriate for a child of the 80s

What military aircraft are you?

B-52 Stratofortress

You're a B-52. You are old and wise, and you absolutely love destruction. You believe in the principle of "peace through deterrence" and aren`t afraid to throw your weight around.

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz
Brought to you by quizzes and personality tests.

A dip of the wings to Cassandra.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Tell it to the Marines

Apparently, what the Ber(ser)keley City Council wants to tell them is "Go away."
Members of the Berkeley City Council showed their opposition to a Marine Corps recruiting office in Downtown Berkeley last night.

Council members supported the two resolutions-one supporting anti-war protests and the other criticizing military recruitment practices-citing opposition to the war in Iraq, deceptive recruitment practices and the right to protest...

The other resolution more directly criticizes the presence of the center in Berkeley. The city manager was directed to send a letter to the U.S. Marine Corps saying they are "uninvited and unwelcome intruders" in the city.

In addition, the city attorney has been directed to investigate whether the city's anti-discrimination laws can be enforced at the center, based on the military's consideration of sexual orientation in hiring...

The City Council's decision echoes mounting opposition to military recruitment in the Berkeley.

Local activists have proposed an initiative for the November 2008 elections that would require military recruiting centers to acquire a special use permit.

"The Marines ought to have better sense than to come here," [Councilmember Betty] Olds said.

Well, if the city really feels that way, let them run out the Marines. Whereupon, if we had a government with even the hint of a testicle, every nickel of federal money would be immediately cut off from any individual, business or government entity operating or residing within the city limits. Fair is fair, after all.

A/T to the wonderful Cassandra, who apparently snuck back into theblogosphere when I wasn't looking. Back in the sidebar she goes.

Update: Here's a story that shows Berkeley's contempt even more clearly.
Having failed in recent years to impeach President Bush and stop the war in Afghanistan, members of the City Council approved a resolution that encourages people to nonviolently “impede, passively or actively,” the work of the recruiters.

To that end, the council awarded the group, Code Pink, exclusive use of the parking spot for four hours one afternoon each week, for the next six months, to stage its protests. “If you’re going to join the Marines, you’re going to join the Marines,” said Zanna Joi, an activist with Code Pink, which favors cotton-candy-colored garb and in-your-face tactics. “But you don’t have to join the Marines from our town.”

In taking on the Marines, the council also directed the city attorney to investigate legal means of ousting the recruiting station, calling the Marines “uninvited and unwelcome intruders” in this bastion of liberal politics, 1960s free speech and high-minded nonbinding resolutions.

Is there any legal way the city of Berkeley can be relieved of military protection, since they clearly don't want it?