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Ode to a Parasite

By Jay Beuoy

 

            Of the many so-called justifications for abortion, none is more disturbing than the “parasite defense.”  The logic goes like this.  A fetus is a life, yes even a human life, but it is an unwelcome one.  The unborn child drains life away from the mother, and so she is justified in killing the little creature.  For her, the baby is an unwanted parasite.  To all those parasites I dedicate the following poem.

 

The news is grim

A growth is found

The implications are profound

 

A parasite

Its life enmeshed

Sits in her uterus in-fleshed

 

A bug, a force

A vicious virus

Clinging to her womb desirous

 

Living, sucking

Draining, eating

Stealing space–Its blob heart beating

 

A choice is hers

Some say a right

To flush this demon out of sight

 

Seeking freedom

In eugenics

She finds the best of all the clinics

 

And in the sterile

White-washed room

She seeks to make her womb a tomb

 

But while there waiting

On the gurney

To make her final tandem journey

 

The stowaway

With prescience keen

Kicks her rudely in the spleen

 

Then stunned

Pensively she lingers

Stroking her stomach with her fingers

 

As if a chord

Were plucked within her

Resonating life-born timbre

 

“Baby…my baby”

Move her lips

Involuntarily she slips

 

Weeping, fleeing

Into the night

Saves she the life of her parasite

 

 

Universal Mid-Life Crisis

By Jay Beuoy

Happy birthday universe!  Astrophysicists are now saying that the universe is about ten billion years old, give or take ten billion, and that its life expectancy is about another ten billion or so, give or take ten billion.  This is only if current theories hold, which they never do.  But, suppose for a moment it were true.  That would mean that the good old universe is ripe for a mid-life crisis.

 

What does a universe do when it hits that magical ten billion mark and sees a downhill slide toward twenty billion?  What does it do when it begins to imagine that cataclysmic implosion into the size of a proton, (again if current theories hold true, which they never do)?

 

A universe could start wondering about its existence and the meaning of life.  It might start asking itself, “Where have all the billions of years gone, and didn’t the last five hundred million just zip past?” The created order might start forgetting where it left its dark matter or misplace a class m planet or something.  That’s when the trouble starts.

 

Feeling its youthful vigor slipping through its gravitational pull the universe might panic.  It would remember its carefree days when it wasn’t responsible for another life.  Now it has billions of sentient beings on just one little planet.  That’s a lot to be answerable for.  It would begin to see itself tied down with all those responsibilities, all those dependents.  Such responsibility might make it start wondering if there isn’t something more.

 

Before long a universe might start straying a bit.  Where does a universe wander?  How can a universe get in trouble?  It could take out a personal ad, “Single Universe seeks non-committal relationship with single parallel universe, object romance.  If you like lazy inexorable expansion into the void call 555-555-5555 and ask for Cosmo.”

 

In those halcyon days of its youth it was quite religious.  “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”  There was a time when all the starry hosts praised the creator, but as the billions of years have slipped away, perhaps the universe has grown gradually forgetful of its maker.

 

In a vain bid to recapture its potency the universe might do something wild and irresponsible like wear gaudy Milky Way galaxies around its expanses or up the speed of light just for kicks.  There is no way to predict the erratic or even sinful behavior an imbalanced universe might be capable of.

 

Then, after another billion years, five billion tops, the universe would no doubt return to its senses.  Once it becomes accustomed to the idea of its own mortality, there would be that moment of reckoning, adjustment and acceptance.   It would consider all its foolishness and want to get its stars and planets realigned as it sees just a few short billion years left to make things right.

 

Perhaps then the universe would ponder its Maker and repent in stardust and black holes.  Perhaps then it would choose to live out the rest of its days in willing subjection to the one who spoke it into existence for His glory.  In the end, such a universe would be redeemable.

It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad Tattooed World

By Jay Beuoy

Has the world gone mad?  You bet it has, but the evidence of that madness is not to be found in the headlines.  Neither terrorist threats nor posturing for war is sufficient grounds to mount an insanity plea.  Exhibit A appears splashed in India ink across the shins, shoulders, bosoms and buttocks of the American female.  If ever the word ubiquitous was warranted, (and it rarely is) it would surely best modify the word “tattoo.”

Heretofore, the imprudent acquisition of tattoos was relegated to men, most of whom spent one day too many at sea with nothing to do but doodle.  Under such stupefying conditions and the influence of various spirits it was natural that they would sooner or later start marking on themselves.  It’s like leaving a group of three-year olds alone with a box of permanent markers.

However, even within the sea faring culture, tattoos are not necessarily considered a sign of superior intelligence.  One sailor for instance had his neck tattooed with a zipper and the words underneath, “cut along dotted line.”  As the story goes, the Navy had the tattoo surgically removed only to find that the same genius went out and had himself identically re-tattooed, probably followed by the word “again”.

Men can be forgiven for such lapses in judgment.  Granted that sounds a bit sexist, but face it.  With a few rare exceptions “men” and “fashion-sense” are rarely used in the same sentence.   Women out pace men in clothing purchases like a galloping horse outdistances the fleet footed spud.  Were it not for women most malls in America would close their doors and all pants would come with loops.

Naturally a man would put a tattoo on his arm and leave it there to shrivel and discolor with age.  And he’ll even think it looks pretty snazzy right below the shirtsleeve of that same Fruit Of The Loom tee shirt he wore back during the Big One.  But what possesses a member of the finer sex to emboss her epidermis?  Why would she who wouldn’t be caught dead in last year’s khaki jeans, suddenly want to stencil monochromatic paisley on her thigh?

Some women redecorate their homes every three or four year because they get tired of looking at the same wallpaper designs.  What are their daughters and granddaughters going to do after forty years of staring at the same inane rose tattooed on their leg by a guy named Bud?  Please!

It doesn’t take a Rhodes scholar to see where this is going to end.  Sooner or later “chic” will be spelled “L-A-S-E-R– R-E-M-O-V-A-L”, only not everyone will be able to ante up the forbidding price tag.  Some will get the job done by a less-than AMA certified practitioner working out of his van down by the river.  Others, no doubt, will head back to “Bud” to get a new rose-shaped, flesh-colored tattoo.

Apologists for the tattoo industry will have their responses to this, though they won’t cite statistics showing the higher than average intelligence of the average tattooee.  Maybe their defense will be a slogan like, “Men dig chicks that sport pics.”    Or perhaps they’ll go with the health angle.  “Tattoos—less infections than piercing—fewer cancers than tanning.”

The expression goes, “Time heals all wounds,” and this may be the final cure for the tattoo craze.  Thirty years hence, teenagers won’t be hanging out at tattoo parlors and you’ll never hear the expression, “Can you give me a tattoo just like my grandma had?”  The ubiquitous will become the odd exception and sanity may once again rear its tattoo-free head if only for a brief moment before it ducks the next trend—the aboriginal lip disk.

Jesus On Thin Ice

By Jay Beuoy

 

Any one who has perused the New Testament would readily agree that Jesus was usually skating on thin ice.  Now, a professor of oceanography has attempted to prove it.  Professor Doron Nof of Florida State University thinks he has solved the mystery of how Jesus walked on water.   As it turns out, Jesus was doing nothing more miraculous than the average fisherman on Lake Mille Lacs in January.  He was just walking on ice.

 

Utilizing records of Mediterranean surface temperatures and statistical models Nof theorizes that during the period between 1,500 and 2,600 years ago the sea of Galilee could have produced surface ice thick enough in places to support the weight of a man.

 

According to the professor, if Jesus had been walking near the western shore it might have been impossible for a distant observer to see a piece of floating ice surrounded by water.

 

I am impressed by the ability of some very intelligent people to plug a few numbers into a formula and come up with startling explanations for the miracles of the Bible.  For years, simple believers have taken such accounts at their face value, but then a brilliant man emerges who can put things in their proper perspective.

 

Wanting to be fair to all the data, I went back to the Bible to do some plugging in of my own. The story really does become more interesting combined with the new data.  Consider Mathew 14, the most familiar account of Jesus walking on water.

 

According to the story Jesus had had a very long day of healing the sick.  Perhaps his chief medicine was a secret stash of ice.   Suppose that many of the sick had headaches, twisted ankles, sunburns or fevers.    Ice would have been invaluable and no miracle would have been required.

 

After he had healed the sick, he then proceeded to feed a crowd of five thousand with just five loaves of bread and two fish.  Some consider this a big fish story, but the ice scenario makes everything clear.  Jesus probably had a hole in the ice behind him with five thousand tip-ups ready for action.

 

Jesus then dismissed the crowd, sent the disciples off in the boat, and went up on the mountain to pray.  In the wee hours of the morning Jesus looked out and saw the disciples being beaten by wind and waves.   Sure this seems incredible given the fact that the lake was frozen over, but the disciples may have been sailing a primitive version of an icebreaker.

 

Then Jesus came out to them “walking on the sea.”   Matthew skips the detail about the ice, because I suppose we wouldn’t be very impressed if he said Jesus came out walking on the ice.  No real story there!   “They were terrified and said, ‘It is a ghost!”  I guess they said this because back in those days only ghosts could walk on ice.

 

Peter said, “Lord if it is you,” (not some spooky ice-treading ghost) “command me to come to you on the water.”  It seems Peter couldn’t grasp the difference between liquid water and its nearly indistinguishable counterpart, ice—a natural mistake.

 

The real miracle is what follows.  Peter started out on the water/ice and was doing pretty well until the wind and waves distracted him and he started to sink.  The whole phrase “started to sink” seems miraculous in my world whether we’re talking water or ice, but, nonetheless, Peter “began sinking.”  Perhaps he suffered from Mediterranean foot fever and was burning a slow hole beneath him. He cried out to Jesus, “Save me!”  Jesus obliged, and pulled him up from the icy water that was swallowing him.

 

What do we learn from this new recreation of events?  We learn that some people are unbelievably gullible and will accept the most ridiculous nonsense.   Whether I mean believers in scripture or scientists like Professor Nof ought to be as simple as spotting the difference between water and ice.

 

A Change Of Definition

By Jay Beuoy

 

 

Should gay people be allowed to marry?  That is the question of the hour. I’ll admit that I was against it at first. It seemed strange that in a day when men and women increasingly want to be promiscuous, that the homosexual community wants to be faithfully monogamous!  Go figure.  But the more I think about it, the more possibilities I see.  The principle may have merit.

 

You see, I would like to be president.  You might say that there is nothing keeping me from it.  The only thing holding me back is the lack of the following: an Ivy League education, a physically imposing stature, influence, looks, money, a catsup heiress for a wife, a winning personality and a membership to the Skull And Bones Society.  If I had all or even a few of those, I might just stand more than a one in three hundred million chance.

 

But what if we changed the definition of president?  Work with me here.   Compared to the institution of marriage, which has been around since the beginning of human history, the presidency has only been around for a couple hundred years.  Why not tweak it a bit? If marriage needs to evolve beyond the current Webster’s definition, i.e., “the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife,” why couldn’t the term “president” evolve too?

 

We could have multiple presidents.   Anyone wanting to be a president could sign the legal documents, pay a registration fee, go before a judge (probably in San Francisco) and thereafter be referred to as “Mr. President.”  Picture all the smiling faces of would-be presidents as they line up to put their hand on the Bible and take the oath of office.   Who would deny this happiness to any one?

 

Think about it. Is it really fair to all the rest of us that only one guy gets to have “Hail to the Chief” played when he enters the room?  I would like to enjoy the taxpayer-funded salary, the expense account, the secret service protection, the invitations to formal state luncheons and a chance to try out that bowling alley that Nixon installed.

 

You might say that this would devalue the “presidency”, but I don’t see why that would have to be the case.   How does it make George Bush any less a president if several million others are as well? He could have his “traditional presidency” and we could enjoy our new “alternative” presidencies.

 

I’ll concede that according to its current definition, you can only have one president.  All I’m asking for is a complete redefinition of the word.  Is that too much to ask?  I don’t think so.  As rules are made to be broken, so words are made to be refashioned.

 

A “president” could be defined as, “Any citizen of the United States who loves his country and is busy doing the people’s business.”   Any non-felon who applies for the job and is approved could then be granted the right to wear expensive suits, represent our country in treaty negotiations, give an occasional State of the Union speech, and declare nuclear war.

 

Perhaps this might seem a bit destabilizing to our nation, but how are we ever going to know if we don’t give it a try?  If social experimentation is good, why not have some political experimentation?  What have we got to lose–moral and social cohesion? Highly overrated!

 

All people should have equal access to the same institutions, even if we have to bend, break or otherwise deconstruct those institutions so as to include all people.  It’s only fair and in today’s America, fair seems to be our only enduring value.

 

A Tasteless Subject

 

Find a school hallway somewhere in America.  Locate a group of adolescent boys who are laughing.  Zero in on their conversation, and you will probably find crude jokes at the center.   If it’s dead or disgusting, it will produce the desired paroxysms.

Permutations of these jokes abound.  There are the Sonny Bono jokes, told in tandem with the Michael Kennedy jokes (both killed in skiing accidents), the now fading Challenger Astronaut jokes (also quite dead), the ever-popular dead cat jokes, and the perennial dead baby jokes.  If you’ve never heard of any of these you have lived a very sheltered, and may I say, a less damaged life than the rest of us.

Notice that many of these examples play on otherwise tragic current events.  This leads me to speculate on what our incorrigible juveniles will do with some of the recent headlines.

Just the other day for instance the FDA approved the abortion pill, RU486.  As one politician put it, for the first time the FDA has approved a drug intended to kill a human being.   Another correctly labeled it a human pesticide.

The pill, taken within 47 days of a woman’s last menses causes a woman’s body to abort the unborn child.  Though the news media has characterized it as a “day after pill” and spoken of it casting off a “fertilized egg” the actual embryo may be over thirty days old and could have a had a beating heart for over two weeks.

Then there was the vote on the so-called “Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, HR 4292.” The purpose of the bill is to protect children who though aborted, manage to come into the world still kicking.  More than symbolic, the law will save children who up till now would have been dumped, struggling for life, into the abortionist’s garbage.

Thankfully, the House of Representatives approved the measure by a large majority.  Yet, the debate was sobering.  Congresswoman Barbara Boxer of California could not bring herself to call a fully delivered infant a separate individual, protected by the Constitution.  Boxer would withhold a stamp of approval on the humanity of an infant until around the time the parents take the child home.

In his recent column on the issue George Will mentions a Princeton faculty member by the name of Peter Singer.  Singer advocates the position that parents should receive a kind of thirty-day, money-back-if-not-completely-satisfied guarantee.  During the “would-be human’s” first month after birth, if the parents so decided, they could have their “almost-a-child” summarily euthanized.   After all, you can get that much of a guarantee on a cheap, ninety-nine cent wristwatch from China.

Maybe that attempt at humor falls flat with you, dear reader.  Can you then imagine how funny the new tasteless jokes will be in the hallways of America’s middle schools?

 

“What does RU486 stand for?”

“Millions of dead babies.”

 

“What does an abortionist call fifty dead babies?”

“A good day’s work.”

 

“What are the possible adverse side effects of RU486?”

“In 92-95% of cases someone dies from the procedure.”

 

“What does an abortionist call a baby born alive on his operating table?”

“A miscarriage of injustice.”

 

“What did the abortionist do when he heard the aborted baby alive and crying?”

“He shut the lid on the trashcan and didn’t hear it any more.”

 

Hilarious, aren’t they?  No?  I suppose in a civil society our children would have better taste than to laugh at jokes about dead babies.  Then again, a civil society wouldn’t endorse the humorless slaughter of the innocent.  Who has the poorer taste—those who joke about murder or those who discreetly approve of it?

 

 

 On the Use of the Internet

On his way to the celestial city Christian met a one-eyed man with a wide, square, flat face.

“I know thee,” said Christian, “Thou art surely that man headed to the city of Destruction.  Pray, what is your name.”

 

“My name,” said the man, is Modem–Mr. Modem C. Internet, and I am not headed to Destruction.  I am not going anywhere.  Rather, everything is coming to me.”

 

“Nay,” said Christian, “I was warned of thee, by Mr. Obscurantist.  He said thou art wicked and headed for doom.  Indeed said he, ‘all who travel with ye are doomed.’”

 

“I travel with no one, nor would I take thee this way nor that.  I will only bring to thee what thou desireth.  Ye needs travel nowhere past the seat of thy trousers.”

 

“Ah,” said Christian, “then verily I see the makings of a snare.  For, that which I desireth descendeth not only from the good, but doth bubble up from the wickedness in me.  I quote with the Apostle Paul, Romans 7:18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.

 

“It is as thou saith,” said Modem, ” but I can quote holy writ as well, Titus 1:15 Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.”

 

“I commence to apprehend thy meaning,” said Christian. “Yet, is that which bringeth both good and evil morally neutral?  For if it takes with one hand what it gives with the other, is it not all guile and deceit?”

 

Modem answered, “Doth not the same sun both destroy crops in drought, but make them grow after the rain?  Doth that same Sun not bake the clay so well as it thaws the frozen winter soil?  Canst not all that God made be used for either good or bad?  So, too, I am but a large bandwidth that floweth in the direction which the heart’s rudder turneth.”

 

“I admit that thou makest an argument fine, but whether it be Mother Logic or Father Lie I cannot tell.”  Christian dropped to his knees in helplessness and prayed.  “Lord, if this Mr. Internet be evil, please take him from me.  As, thou hast taught us to pray, lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil…amen.

 

When Christian raised his eyes, Modem stood by with a blank look on his face.  “Well?” said he.  “I am still here.”

 

“Hast thou changed?”  Asked Christian.

 

“Nay, I am always the same–a broad path that leadeth to destruction, and a path that leads to a narrow way.   Hast thou changed?”

 

“Nay, I am the same.  I am still on my way to the Celestial City, and still capable of stumbling along the path.”

 

“Then what hast thou decided?” asked Modem,  “Wilst thou shun me or use me?”

 

“I will use thee, but with care.  I will pray that the Lord who strengtheneth me would help me to walk by His Spirit.  I will hold fast to him who holdeth me fast.  By his power I will seek the good in you, and avoid the evil.  Art thou pleased?”

 

Modem C. Internet shrugged his shoulders.  “I do not care.”

 

Lotto—The Other Tax

By Jay Beuoy

 

Somewhere in the hidden recesses of the state capital building…

 

“Gentlemen, thank you for coming to the statehouse today to meet with the State Commission of Alternate Methods To Heist Everyone’s Money or SCAM THEM, as we affectionately call it.”  (Laughter)

 

“You know our history.  We were started as a study commission appointed by the state government as the Feasibility of Alternate Taxation Taskforce, otherwise known as FATT.  Once we helped introduce legalized gambling into law we changed the name.  You can see why.”  (More laughter)

 

“We’re here today to announce the winner for our new ad campaign.  Whether it’s lotto’s or the state sponsored Casinos.  We need more revenue, and our current advertising doesn’t seem to be working.  Our goal is to double the state revenues from gambling over the next five years.  I see a hand in the back.  Yes?” (Pause)

 

“The question was, ‘why don’t we just add more casinos and additional forms of lottery?’  Well, that is an excellent point and indeed we are working on that.  You may remember last year’s smashing success with the new McDonald’s Corporation’s ‘Ronald’s Floating Funhouse.’ ” (Applause)

 

“Thank you.  Yes, that was a fine hour.  The real difficulty was not the casino itself. There were more than enough out-of-work English majors from liberal arts colleges willing to put on clown makeup. Staffing wasn’t a problem.  The real trick was passing that under age gambling law.  We finally got it passed when the teacher’s union agreed to back the amendment provided we hire union teachers as onboard education consultants.  By the way, that slogan, “Gambling–It Brings Families Together” was brilliant.   Thank you Bull Inc. for that stroke of genius.”  (More applause)

 

“On the lotto front, we feel we’ve reached a certain saturation point.  Convenience stores have begun to complain that there is no more room above or below the counter to pack in any more tickets.  So, the emphasis has to be on creating more interest in the existing games.”

 

“Today we’re going to announce the winning advertising agency to head our new campaign.  We appreciate all your efforts.  May I have the envelopes?” (An aide brings a set of envelopes to the podium)

 

“Thank you.  Honorable mention goes to the Double Talk Agency for their slogan, ‘Lotto–Be a player.  Be a patriot.’  We liked it but felt it might be better for a national lotto.  Hey, it could happen.”

 

“Our second runner up goes to the Hyper Hype Group for their entry.  ‘Play the Lottery.  You’ll Win.  Guaranteed!’  Again, we saw potential here, and hiring the Cajun Chef to do the spots was a nice touch.  In the end we just didn’t think you properly understand the lotto.  You see, we really can’t guarantee anyone will win, not even if they played for ten thousand years.”

 

“First runner up–goes to The Matrix Corporation with their slogan, ‘If you don’t win the lottery, your bum neighbor might.’  The commission was almost evenly split on that one.  In the end we felt it was too much like our old ad, ‘If you don’t win the lottery someone else might.’ Keep trying.  There’s always next time.”

 

“I can feel the tension in the room.  Let’s not delay.  Our winner is…drum roll please…Pull the Wool Group with their entry, ‘Don’t pay the rent  ’til you’ve played the lotto.’ It’s in-your-face, it’s honest and it makes the average lottery player feel understood.”

 

“Well I think we’ve done enough damage for one day.  Thanks for coming and to all of you losers–better luck next time.”

 

If a Tree Burned in the Forest would the Earth Mother Feel it?

By Jay Beuoy

I ran into my old friend, Lilith Greenpeace the other day.  She was in Onamia MN at the local greasy spoon smoking one of those European spiced cigarettes and drinking a cup of chamomile tea.   She brings her own teabags and they reluctantly sell her the hot water.

 

When I sat down she didn’t acknowledge my presence. “Hey Lilith, long time no see.” I said.  “What are you working on?”

 

She raised her eyes for a moment.  Her expression spoke of anger and betrayal, the look no man wants to see staring back at him from any woman, even when she isn’t his wife.  She bent down again and continued to scratch wildly with her pen on the page of a journal before her.

 

“This doesn’t appear to be a good time, I’ll catch you…”

 

“Wait!” She said.  “I’m almost done.”  She bit her lip and finished with a flourish. “Here!” She turned the book around and shoved it toward me.  “You can read it.  Don’t gloat!”

 

I should mention at this point that Lilith is an avowed Sylvanphile–she loves trees.  Up ’til now she worshipped at the temple of the goddess Gaia, aka Earth Mother.  We disagree on a few things, chiefly everything about the world in general.  I was touched that she trusted me to keep this confidential. So, please don’t tell anyone I’m sharing it with you.  Below, as best I can reconstruct it from memory, is her “Dear Mom letter.”

 

Mommy Dearest,

 

How could you do this to me?  Haven’t I shown you all the respect you deserve?  Haven’t I burned the sacred incense in your name?

 

I sat up in a tree for two years to prevent it from being cut by loggers and here’s the payback for my lengthy, sometimes cramped existence–you take it in a “natural” forest fire!  I loved that tree.  I used to call him my “big strong silent hunk.”  What?  Were you jealous?

 

But you couldn’t stop there could you!  No!  You had to burn down a few more million acres while you were at it.  And what about all those spotted owls we saved from the lumbermen?  Now there are more fried birds in those burned-out forests than at KFC–extra crispy at that.

 

When I think of the sacrifices I’ve made for you–I’ve ridden a bike, taken public transportation, which I remind you, is practically non-existent here in Onamia, all to save a little clean air, and what do you do!  You fill the sky with a choking cloud of smoke from Arkansas to California. What’s up with that, Mother?  You’re supposed to be a good example to us kids.  You may have noticed that I’m smoking again.  How does that make you feel?  Huh?

 

Do you want to know what hurts the most?  It isn’t your burning anger. I could handle that.  It’s that you’re making people like me, your true children, look like idiots.  We kept the timber industry from logging. Now it turns out that if we had allowed them to cut selectively, the fire could have been managed. I trust you catch the irony.

 

Are you registering this?  Can you feel my frustration?  Are you there?  I’m not sure you are at all.  I feel so disillusioned.  I feel like changing my name to Tiffany, buying an SUV, marrying a real estate developer, settling down in the suburbs and using non-recycled toilet paper.

 

Affectionately yours,

 

Lilith

 

Of course, she got over things quickly.  She shifted her activism to the rain forest–less of a fire hazard.  She and her mother are speaking again, but I hear it’s a very one-sided conversation.

 

 

Waiting For The Signal?

The battery of military surplus computers whirred in the basement of Dr. Orr Shock’s home.  Outside, an array of old satellite dishes pointed heavenward, patched together by jumbles of cables.

I sat in a chair a few feet from my neighbor whom I call simply “Shock.”  He’s a fun guy to hang out with.  His brain is full of pseudo-scientific theories.  Sorting truth from fiction is half the fun of our conversations.  We sat and watched the readouts, watching for a signal from outer space.

Shock is a non-conformist self-proclaimed member of the SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) Institute.  The Institute probably doesn’t admit his existence any more than I admit the existence of aliens, but that doesn’t discourage the Doc.  Day after day he pans the sky with his homemade radio telescopes looking to make his big discovery.

He does have a doctorate from an accredited university.  Only thing is–the degree is in agronomy.  Maybe he inhaled too many insecticides or fertilizers, but somewhere along the way he went from developing hybrid corn to investigating crop circles. He believes that crop circles are actually the work of an alien intelligence, which evolved from the plant kingdom.

“Too bad about Ray Walston dying,” I said.  “I suppose he was your favorite Martian.”

Shock frowned.  “Don’t be droll, Jay.  Ray Walston was a fraud.  He was in it for the money—never a true-believer.”

“A true believer?”  I asked.

“A true believer knows, believes–accepts without fear of contradiction that extraterrestrial intelligence exists.”  Doc turned and stared at the upward stream of data.

“Wow!” I said.

“What?  Did you see something?” He perked up.

“No, I just mean ‘wow’— it sounds like it takes a lot of faith to be a true believer.”

Shock frowned.  He doesn’t like it when someone expresses doubt.  “It’s simply a matter of logic–faith in logic if you will.”

“What about evidence?” I asked innocently.

He snapped back.  “The evidence will come. That’s what all this is about.  Sooner or later we’ll get something just like the WOW signal, only this time it will be verifiable and sustained.”

“The WOW signal?”  I said with obvious skepticism.

“I’ve told you this before.  Back in 1977 a student at Ohio State spotted a brief set of numbers very close to the hydrogen line. It only lasted 72 seconds and has never repeated.  Some of us believe it was an alien signal”

“So, after thirty plus years with SETI and other groups scouring the heavens from one end to the other, that’s it?”  Nothing more?   Sounds pretty shaky to me.”  I said.

“Get out of my basement and leave me in peace.  I need to concentrate.”

“I’m sorry.” I said.  “I didn’t mean to upset you.”  I got up to leave.

Shock spun around on his chair.  “Here’s the deal.  We evolved on this planet, right?”

“That’s what you say.”  I answered.

“Well we did, and we can be certain that there are trillions of planets in the universe with billions of earth-like ones among them.  Life must have evolved millions of times over and out of that life, there had to be sentient beings like us and beyond.”

“I see.” I said facetiously.  “So that accounts for the trillions of signals pouring in by the minute.  I’m sorry.  Look. You have to have some proof to get me to believe.”

“We’ll get proof if unbelievers like you get out of the way of people like me.”

“How can you be so sure that there is any proof to find?”  I asked.  “Perhaps we’re a unique creation?”

Doc slumped back in the chair a bit and gazed down at his keyboard.  “If that is the case, the universe is a very lonely place indeed, and we’re just some bizarre accident.  There has to be something more–something bigger than mankind.”

“You mean like God?”  I suggested.

“God is an unprovable hypothesis.”

“Or” I said.  “Maybe we’re just waiting for His signal.”

Breaking Up Aint Hard To Do

By Jay Beuoy

 

In their new book A Healing Divorce, Phil and Barbara Penningroth advocate the celebration of a “divorce ceremony”.  Say goodbye to stigma.  Say hello to divorce gifts with registries at your local Target and J.C. Penney.

 

Not to be eclipsed, Burnworthy’s Eclectic Ecumenical Minister’s Service Manual has come up with a suggested “divorce service.”  The insert  (1.95 plus shipping and handling)can be placed inside the three-ring binder of the 2000 addition, or downloaded free from BEEMSM.com

It reads:

 

Prelude:  Suggested Music: “Night On Bald Mountain” or “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.”

 

Processional: As the two enter together, the congregation will stand and the minister say:

 

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here in the sight of God to separate this husband from this wife.  Divorce is a solemn occasion not to be entered into lightly, but only after due deliberation, numerous peeves, unfulfilled expectations, and the slow realization that you just aren’t the same people you were when you got married.  Who will release these two from their former vows?”  (At this point the children should answer, “We do.”  If there are no children or they are unwilling then a drinking buddy or a divorcee girlfriend may be substituted.)

 

Special Music: (Optional) Recommendations: “You Won’t Matter Any More” by Linda Ronstadt, or “You’ve Got A Lot of Nerve” by Bob Dylan.

 

Message: (Optional) Speak of God in vague generalities or as the Ground of Our Being. Affirm and support the couple as if this were all very positive rather than a personal failure or lack of character.

 

Un-vows

 

To The Man Do you _________ recant your vows to _________ promising to dismiss her with no grudge or ill will in your heart?  Do you promise to speak of her warmly, keep all pictures of her in tact and still send a card on her birthday? Will you give her an affectionate sidearm hug when you see her? Will you free her to become the best person she can be without the shackles of love, commitment and fidelity that have heretofore bound her.

 

To The Wife:  repeat

 

Return of the Rings:

“A ring is a circle—endless– having no beginning and no end.  It could represent undying love.  On the other hand, after a ring may turn your skin black or cut into the flesh.  This usually happens when people grow.  ______________ and _____________ have outgrown their commitment to one another and so they return these rings, like them, a bit worn around the edges, but still golden and full of possibilities.

 

As they remove the rings have each repeat, “With this ring I take back my life and divorce you.”

 

Disunity Candle:  The man and woman will each light a separate candle and together they will blow out the middle candle that represents their former life together.

 

Pronouncement of Divorce: The minister shall say, “What we have put asunder, let no God join together. By the powers vested in me by the state of ______________ and the church of ____________ I now pronounce you no longer husband and wife.  Go your separate ways in peace.”

 

Benediction:  May the Lord bless you and keep you apart. May he cause his face to shine upon you separately but never again as one; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and grant you peace from one another, now and forever.  Amen

 

 

Postlude:  Something along the order of “Free As A Bird” by John Lennon, or “Happy Days Are Here Again”.

 

*Remember to make every effort to provide a satisfactory experience.  Consider that these may be return customers.

 

-The End-

 

 

A Cunning Plan?

By Jay Beuoy

My conspiracy-theory friend, Jedidiah Sputterforth, was by the other day.  He knew I’d snagged a couple bags of Celestialmoose coffee at the local Unclaimed Stuff Store.

 

“What do you think of the weather?” I asked, trying to keep the conversation away from “black helicopters” and “grassy knolls”.

 

“It’s a conspiracy,” he said.

 

“The weather?” I asked, not sure if he was launching into a tirade about global warming or just trying to pull my chain.

 

“The way I see it,” he said, ignoring my question, “you fascist, right-wing, fundamentalist, born-again Chistian-nistas are engaging in a genocidal take-over attempt to inherit the earth.

 

“We are?”

 

“You betcha!”  His eyes twinkled.  They always twinkled when he saw confusion. He was baiting me, and waiting to set the hook.

 

“Do you want some more coffee?” I asked, getting up and heading to retrieve the coffeepot.

 

“Don’t try and change the subject.  I read it your Fuhrer’s own words–Matthew 5, and I quote, blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth. Now what is that but some grandiose takeover plan, a coup de tat, a silent revolution?”

 

“Ah, so that’s where you’re going.”  I smiled one of those, I’m-tracking-you-now smiles.  “But that isn’t a plan to take over the world per se.  What Jesus meant was…”

 

“Don’t you go splitting hairs.  I am all over this one like a queen-size sheet on a twin-size bed!  Ask me how the plan is working.”

 

“Okay,” I said humoring him.  “How is it going?”

 

“Perfectly!  That’s how. What would a guy do if he wanted to take over the world but he had to get rid of an entire segment of the population?”

 

“Kill them?” I offered.

 

“Too obvious. Besides, it tends to put a disparaging mark on a kingdom of love.”  He intoned the word “love” like it was a four-syllable word.  “No, you get them to kill off themselves.”

 

“Mass-suicide?”  I asked.

 

“Don’t act coy.  We’re talking abortion up-front, euthanasia down the back slope and in between you’ve got your homosexuality.  Do you know the life expectancy of a homosexual or a lesbian?  About forty years!  And who is it that wants the abortions and the mercy killings and the right to non-procreative relationships?  It’s godless heathens like me.  You born-againers are having 5 or 6 crumb-crunchers per couple, indoctrinating them with your religion, and if you aren’t stopped you’re going to inherit the earth in about two generations.”

 

With that, Jedidiah slammed his fist on the kitchen table and nearly spilled the last of the java.

 

“So you’re saying that Christians are trying to take over the world by getting non-Christians to kill themselves off.  Do I have it straight?”

 

“Yup!”

 

“And to do that we’re discouraging them from breeding and encouraging things like abortions and euthanasia?”

 

“You got it Chief!”

 

“There’s just one problem I see with this particular conspiracy theory.” I said.  “Christians are promoting those life-destructive choices.  They’re trying to end them.”

 

“That’s just what you want us to believe,” he said.  The truth is, you’re using reverse psychology, making us do what you want us to do by pretending to forbid us from doing those very things!”

 

Somehow I managed to get Jedidiah back on to more neutral topics like alien abductions and fluoridation.   Admittedly his theory is ridiculous.  Christians don’t want to annihilate anyone. Yet, he did make me stop and think.  If ACT-UP, NOW, The Hemlock Society and others like them get what they want, the meek may be the only ones left to turn the lights out when they’re gone.

- The End -

The Last Sinner

By Jay Beuoy

When I was growing up, almost every adult I knew smoked, had false teeth and drank coffee. These were privileges that I felt I could count on as natural rites of passage.  The coffee and cigarette thing didn’t appeal to me much, but that trick of pulling your teeth out of your head and then shoving them back in seemed like a handy convenience.

In my childish brain, I took for granted that a change of pubescent proportion would inevitably transform me to that same “adult” image.  Thankfully, so far, only one has taken over, and that would be the java bean.  Dentures are rapidly becoming remnants of a bygone era and smoking is now a sign, not of adulthood, but of moral bankruptcy.

When did that happen?  When did smoking become the last “sin” of our culture?  You can cook meth, murder your grandmother and sleep with your Boy Scout troop, and people will say you have a character flaw. Light up a cigarette though, and they will regard you as far less redeemable than executed murderer Tookie Williams.

I have sympathy for smokers.  That may sound rather odd coming from a guy who is an ordained pastor in an evangelical church. After all, we were the first people to put the words “tobacco” and “sin” in the same sentence.   “We don’t dance; we don’t smoke; we don’t chew and we don’t go with girls who do,” was our motto before it became the official stance of the CDC.

Ironically, society and the church are like ships passing in the night.  As society has heaped greater and greater censure upon the smoker, the church has moved more and more toward tolerance.  I may not speak for the rest of my brethren, but I’ve come to the place where I see smoking more as a bad habit with some serious health implications than as sin.  I am of the opinion that “sin” is too serious a word to dilute by using it for behavior not specifically labeled as such in scripture.

Meanwhile, our culture has come to accept anything and everything as “valid.” To call a behavior “sin” is more abhorrent to the mind of the average citizen than any behavior, which was traditionally labeled as sin.  The last vestige of moral outrage we share is the level of disgust we feel toward the poor pariah with a cigarette butt pressed between his or her lips.  That guy or gal is the moral equivalent of the town Enron executive.

Call it sympathy for the devil, but I’m starting to feel sorry for the wretched character that bears that load of guilt.  It’s bad enough to live with the physical effects of smoking, or to publicly fund the healthy people with your tax dollar, but to also end up as the town whipping boy is overkill.    To know that you are the last identifiable “sinner” has to knock the wind out of you more than a couple decades of Marlboros.

This pile-on-the-smokers attitude proves that societies have to regard some things as evil.  We’ve simply reduced our definition of sin to something more manageable, something that allows the majority of us to feel smug and superior.   Let’s just hope that tomorrow someone doesn’t decide to come down hard on the people who think they are morally superior.

Rats, Latex and Antibiotics

By Jay Beuoy

A modern pestilence and an ancient one threaten the US.  Recently in Colorado a man died from the Black Death a.k.a. the bubonic plague.  With various bacteria proving themselves resistant to antibiotics, one wonders how safe we are.

At the same time a study released by the government indicates that condoms may not be effective for preventing STDs in women.  In each case the cure may be the same—avoid the rats that transmit the disease.

            Furry four-legged rats are the carriers of the plague, and their two-legged counterparts are the ones spreading the STDs.  Forget overused antibiotics that wear off. Forget condoms that may break or slip.   The best medical advice of the moment is “Avoid contact with carriers!”  The government could launch a campaign tomorrow,  “Beware, Trojans, or all rats bearing gifts and be doubly aware of rats bearing Trojans.”

            Though this would seem to be the most rational advice, certain lobby groups are against the dissemination of such information.  They fear the impact such a “just say no” campaign would have on their constituencies.

            For instance, the Rats for Acceptable Treatment Political Action Committee (RAT PAC), bristles at the suggestion of a campaign of rat avoidance.  “The very idea that we should be made the fall guys in this matter is preposterous!” said their spokesman, J. Cagney Shortshanks.

            “We’re victims too.  It’s a well-known fact that we catch the plague from fleas.  Where are the anti-flea zealots? And to suggest that we intentionally spread the disease to the human population is outlandish.  Any apparent connection is not causal but strictly coincidental.”

            “On the other issue, that of comparing us to those who capriciously spread STDs we strenuously object to the disparagement of our species.  The unfortunate attachment of the term “rat”, a name, which should be held in esteem by all, to certain members of your species, is a defamation we resent.  To suggest that we rats are dirty, contagion carrying sexual miscreants is slander and libel.  Be advised that we will fight this to the highest court in the land if need be to clear our good name.”

             A similar response was heard from the Regional Order of Latex Laboratories United Politically (ROLL UP).  When reached for comment their president, Ridley Ree, had this to say.

            “Condoms are getting a bad rap.  Absence of scientific proof means nothing.  Who says they don’t do some good against sexually transmitted diseases?  Common sense has to tell you they’re better than nothing.  Besides, where’s the scientific proof that they don’t?”

            “Animals are promiscuous, people are animals, and so people are going to be promiscuous.  As far as I’m concerned, telling people they can’t do what comes naturally went out with the Ten Commandments.  Latex is a godsend and just because there’s a chink in the armor doesn’t mean you go buck-naked into battle. 

ROLL UP is prepared to roll out a full-scale assault against any attempt to push abstinence in lieu of condoms.  To degrade latex is to degrade America’s freedom and we’re prepared to drape the Washington Monument in red, white and blue latex if that’s what it takes to make our point.”

            With all the rats influencing the politicians in DC, any “Just Say No” campaign has little chance of seeing the light of day.  Instead, we’ll be told that a micro-thin layer of latex or a good round of antibiotics is reliable protection against disease.  ‘Rats should be avoided,’ they’ll say, ‘but if you just can’t help yourself, (and we know you can’t) medical science has you covered.”

The End

Ice Man Thawed For TV

By Jay Beuoy—winsomewit.com

            This year, the surprise success in the TV ratings war was MTV’s offbeat, reality show, The Osbournes.   Ozzie Osbourne, the legendary Heavy Metal rocker who once bit off the heads of bats, now doles out fatherly advice to his two children and millions of avid viewers.

In a bid to unseat MTV’s modern equivalent of Father Knows Best, VH1 has launched their own reality show, The Ötzi Iceborn Show.  Through the miracle of cloning, scientists have made a living genetic duplicate of the legendary Copper-Age Ice Man known affectionately as Ötzi. “Ötzi II” is a Paleolithic marvel, and, as it turns out, quite the family man.

            Immediately after Ötzi was cloned scientists funded by VH1 lined up a blind date for the caveman with none other than legendary actress and part Neanderthal herself, Roseanne Barr.  The two warmed up to one another like two sticks rubbing together. After a quick courtship, they were married in a private ceremony in Reno.

            Now, VH1 goes live and in person as the two lovebirds and their adoptive children, Og and Thor, live out their ordinary lives in a posh Beverly Hills mansion. The following dialogue from their first show gives an indication of the surprisingly witty and insightful Ötzi giving advice to his daughter Og.

            Ötzi:  Og, why you look unhappy?

            Og: It’s Thor, Daddy, he’s tells everyone that like he is the musician in our family because he plays the drums, and like he never tells them that I can play the keyboard and that really ticks me off.

            Ötzi:  That normal Og.  You no let Thor get you.  You ignore him.  Come! Give daddy kiss.

            Og:  Daddy, I’m fourteen.   You don’t understand me!  No one understands me!

           

            Og leaves.  The scene resumes a little while later with Ötzi and Roseanne curled up on the couch in the living room.

            Ötzi:  Og not good.  Thor bonehead brother.

            Roseanne:  Oh, really.  So what did you tell her?

            Ötzi:  I tell her, “Ignore Him”

            Roseanne:  Well, I think that was really, really good.

            Ötzi:  Uh?

            Roseanne: I think you’re the smartest guy I know. 

            Ötzi:  Really?

            Roseanne:  Yeah, but stop picking that. The cameras are rolling.

            As with The Osbournes it is a sure bet that many will find fault with the concept of Ötzi  Iceborn.  Is a prehistoric figure grunting out monosyllabic instructions to his children the best role model TV can provide for today’s families?  Is it enough that Ötzi has a strict “Don’t play with fire” message?

            A spokesperson for VH1, Ms. C.A.Goldmine had this to say.  “He loves his wife.  He loves his kids, and he gives them good advice like:  ‘Don’t sneak up behind wild animals and grab their tails.’ And,  ‘Never sleep on mountain passes during blinding snow storms.’ We at VH1 do not intend to hold up Mr. Iceborn as a role model for dads nor his family as the ideal family.  However, given the state of American culture–the moral relativism, and the breakdown of the two-parent home, we feel that Ötzi is a step in the right direction.  After fifteen years of Homer Simpson, and eight years of Bill Clinton, you have to start with the basics.”

             

             

             

           

           

Theosectomy Called Safe

 

An experimental surgical procedure called a “theosectomy” was advocated at a press conference in Minneapolis this week.   Sponsored by Minnesotans Against Deity, the conference raised the hope that all mention of God could be removed from American society.

 

Dr. I.R. Savage, a member of MAD, says the theosectomy (from the Greek word for God, “theos”) is safe.

 

“It’s as harmless as an appendectomy.  Consider the appendix. Evolution being an inexact process left us with a vestigial organ of absolutely no value.  The removal of this excess tissue can only benefit the body.   In the same way, societal evolution has passed on to us a useless concept called “God” the removal of which will only serve to improve society.”

 

The procedure is simple.  We use a supercomputer to identify all mentions of God in national historic documents, inscriptions on public buildings, classroom text books, presidential pronouncements, records of congress, public school textbooks, student led graduation ceremonies, national pledges, currency, tombstones in public and military cemeteries, tree carvings in state and national forests, and all other relevant public records.  Once we identify every occurrence we simply expunge the word “God”.  Of course this would not apply to the use of profanity such as “God blank it.”  That would be protected free speech.

 

As to the difficulty of the task, Savage admitted that though safe, the surgery is quite lengthy.  “The sheer number of historic mentions of God in the public arena are so many and widespread that the surgery will be a long one.  No stone will be left unturned, and in the end, if we prosecute this campaign with vigilance, we will prevail.  Eventually we will have removed every shred of evidence that God-talk was ever welcomed in our culture.

 

When asked whose God was being expunged, Savage said that the theosectomy is an equal opportunity surgery.  Any and every God–Christian, Hindu, or even the God that Atheists don’t believe in will be eliminated from the public square.  “God,” he noted, “is already such a generic term that no one will feel neglected by the purge.”

 

Not all in attendance were convinced as to the safety or benefit from the procedure.  Victor E. Divine, a non-conformist sociologist, represented the dissenting voice.

 

“An acknowledgment of a higher power has served our society well for over two hundred years.  When we encourage citizens to a belief in a transcendent being, they are more likely to behave in an ethical manner.  They tend to be law-abiding contributors to society.  They are more likely to build stable family units and raise well-adjusted offspring.  To remove God from the public arena could literally dissolve the key glue that gives our nation its cohesion.”

 

In response, Savage had this to say.

 

“Of course if we remove God altogether with nothing to take its place, that might be true, but the theosectomy should never stand alone without a follow-up procedure.  We call this subsequent operation a “Belief System Implant”, or B.S. Implant, for short.”

 

Savage elaborated.

 

“Though God may be superfluous, we certainly need something to take its place. This realization led us to a study of history to find an appropriate symbol of transcendence without the baggage of deity.  We found just such a symbol widely used in Germany in the mid-part of the last century.  It has some negative connotations, but if we emphasize its cross-like quality, we feel it will eventually catch on.  Who knows? A godless nation like that might even last a thousand years”

 

 

 

Battling Chaos

By Jay Beuoy

 

In the second verse of the first chapter of Genesis, right after God made the heavens and the earth, we’re told, “the earth was formless and void.”  The only Hebrew, which I can now recall from seminary are the words translated “formless and void”–tohu va bohu.   Another reasonable translation might go something like “great big chaotic mess.”

The seven days of creation that followed were a kind of spring-cleaning project in which God created and organized.  God slew the monster called “Chaos”, and for a brief moment heaven and earth were one.  Everything had its place, and there was a place for everything.

You probably know the rest of the story.  Adam fell into sin (some say he was pushed). Death came into the world. Childbearing became downright unpleasant, and the ground started bringing forth weeds and thistles.  Just when things were looking neat and tidy… Bam!  All chaos started breaking loose.

From that point forward nothing was easy.  The first day after the fall, Adam headed off to till the ground from whence he came.  On the way to earning his bread by the sweat of his brow he said to Eve, “Honey, I can’t find my keys.  Have you seen them?”

To this Eve replied, “Did you look next to the stump?”

“Yes, and they’re not there,” said Adam

“Did you check under the leaves next to the stump?” She asked.

“Just a minute,” he said. Adam rummaged around the stump.  “They aren’t under the leaves.

“ Well, where did you have them last?”  Asked Eve.

“Next to the stump. Where do you think?  Did you take them or something?”

“What?  No I didn’t take them.  Don’t go blaming me again,” she said. “I heard what you said to God about ‘the woman that you gave me made me eat.’ You’re always blaming me for your screw-ups.”

“Would you just help me find my keys, I’m going to be late for work.”  Adam’s voice grew strident.

“Are you sure you had them with you when you came home?”  Eve asked.

Frustrated and beginning to throw things Adam said,  “Yes I’m sure I brought them home.  Why are you asking me these dumb questions?  Just help me look.  Besides, how do you expect me to find anything in all this tohu va bohu?  This place looks seven-days-short-of-a-creation-week if you get my drift.”

The argument and search went on for another fifteen minutes until the entire home was turned on its head.  Eventually the keys were found in the pocket of Adam’s previous day’s fig leaf, which was lying on the bathroom floor beneath the towel rack and covered by the morning paper next to the commode.

Adam blamed Eve for not keeping the house more organized, and Eve threatened to go home to her mother until she remembered that she didn’t have a mother.  This was the first almost-recorded marital spat caused by chaos, but certainly nowhere near the last.

Adam and Eve patched up their differences and went on to have children among whom were Cain and Abel, which only exacerbated the problem. Family life got even more chaotic, and though it isn’t mentioned in scripture, they added insult to injury by getting a cat and a dog.  According to ancient sources, they named the cat Tohu and the dog Bohu.

Our human race would have annihilated itself by now from the stress of the disorganization around us were it not for Eve’s second most creative act.  She invented the first garage sale, and we’ve been exchanging our great big chaotic messes ever since.

Reflections On A Neglected Prize By Jay Beuoy

Profound revelations often come to us in the midst of mundane moments.  Life is as it always is, and then we run across an anomaly.  The anomaly doesn’t have to be supernatural.  It doesn’t have to be earthshaking.  It only has to be utterly different and out of sync as if after a lifetime of watching the water run down the drain in a counterclockwise direction you were to notice it doing the reverse.  That would be an anomaly, and it would make you wonder what contrarian forces were at work and what the long-term implications would be.

For me, such a moment occurred recently while I was pouring a bowl of breakfast cereal.  I couldn’t find my Golden Grahams and so resorted to my ten-year-old’s box of Reese’s Puffs cereal.  Her box was less than half-full, and as I was shaking out the little spheres of dubious nourishment, a cellophane-wrapped toy fell into my bowl.   You can imagine my surprise over the neglected surprise inside.

Let me assure you.  This was no microscopic prize that my daughter could have missed.  It was a substantial, three-square inch, plastic toy, about three-quarters of an inch thick.  It had an on-off switch, wheels and an electronic chip that played music.  The toy could have graced a Happy Meal without causing any serious disappointments.  You can imagine my shock.

I sat down to eat my cereal and to think about what had just happened.  What kind of parallel universe had I slipped into?  When my wife joined me, I ran it past her. She was equally dumbstruck by the notion that a prize inside had lasted so long without notice or more likely without any interest.  We compared notes.

“When I was a kid, there is no way that this prize could have lasted that long,” I said.  “My sister and I would have drawn straws or wrestled for the chance to open the box from the bottom or to dump the contents out into a mixing bowl until the prize was retrieved.”

“My older brother would have gotten to it before my sister or I even knew we had a new box of cereal,” my wife responded.   The idea of an undiscovered cereal-box toy was for kids in the sixties, as inconceivable as a breakdown in the laws of thermodynamics.

If I hadn’t known it before, I knew it now.  The universe has changed.  A shift has occurred.  Inviolable laws have been altered.  There is simply no other way to explain it.  My children are occupying a different world than the one I knew as a child.

In my nostalgia I might be tempted to think that this is a very bad thing. We grew up wanting for things, so wanting them was natural.  Kids today don’t want for much and apparently that robs them of the joy of anticipation and the joy of finally receiving.  There is a loss in that.

On the other hand, as long as we want things, we live with the illusion that those things can satisfy us.   Many of us grew up with the prize of some toy held out just past our reach, and it made us strive for that prize.  How many of us have spent our lives chasing a dream, either to finally give up in failure and frustration, or to succeed only to find that the prize didn’t bring contentment?

Perhaps my daughter and others will choose to ignore the cheap prizes and instead seek contentment.  You can’t buy contentment.  It doesn’t come in a box of cereal, or fame, or money or achievements.  It’s more illusive.  Contentment is the ultimate anomaly of this world.  In fact, it is a prize held out to us from another world altogether.  That is the prize we ought not neglect.

 

Botax Is Un-American

By Jay Beuoy

Whenever I hear about any new tax I have a knee jerk response; I’m against it.  I admit this in the spirit of full disclosure.  Taxes, in my opinion are at best a necessary evil. They should be few and minimal.  Given our government’s ever growing appetite for revenue, my default is set on skeptical whenever the “t” word gets mentioned.

So, it’s no surprise how I felt about the newly proposed botox tax or botax.  I was skeptical.  The report I heard didn’t mention party affiliation, but a quick Google search proved what I assumed.  The state representative from Minneapolis that proposed the law is from the party whose default is set on “never met a tax I didn’t like.”

Her botax really gets under my skin.  In fact, it leaves me expressionless.  Not only is it one more way for the government to get a pound of flesh from us, but it is a barefaced act of class warfare.  This bill banks on the cynical calculation that you can rob the Peters to pay the Pauls as long as there are more Pauls than Peters.  I hate that approach.  I’m an average guy. I will never make it past the middle of the middle class, but I can’t stomach this Robin Hood junk.  I don’t want to stick a finger in the eye of the haves so that the have-nots feel better about themselves.

I’m not even being strictly principled when I say this.  On a very pragmatic level, such taxes rarely hit their intended targets.  The truly rich are not the ones hurt by so-called luxury taxes.  Remember back in the eighties when congress went after yacht owners?  They slapped a big tax on new big boats and the rich simply waited a couple years to upgrade.  Meanwhile the small business yacht builders and their blue-collar employees went financially aground.

That is what we call the law of unintended consequences.  I hope that Representative Kahn is prepared for similar unexpected outcomes.  How will she live with herself when working class women are forced to go to back-alley botox parties or tailgate collagen injectionists.  That could happen when the botox tax puts professional work just out of the reach of the working poor.

Furthermore, the whole concept reeks of spite and envy.  I don’t admire such traits. I had a suspicion about the sort of person who would put forward the botax.  I guessed that she probably wasn’t exactly a cover girl.  I checked her web site, and call it coincidence, my guess proved accurate.

That might seem mean-spirited, so let me include myself in that appraisal.  Neither Phyllis Kahn nor I should begrudge fellow, appearance-challenged people from having a little work done.  She and I can spend our money otherwise, but that is our choice.  Let’s not punish the homely Joe or Jolene who wants a tuck, lift, peel, nip or implant.   In fact, I’d like to think that if I scrimped and saved enough for one of those new face transplants, that I wouldn’t get skinned by the tax man at the same time.   Should I have to go through the streets shouting “don’t persecute me” just so Ms. Kahn and her cronies can get their pay increase this year?

There, I said it.  If you connect the dots on Democratic initiatives at the State House this year, it is hard to not take the cheap shot. They voted themselves a sizable pay increase and now they are going to pay for it with the liposuctioned fat of the working man.  If the Kahns, who are upwardly mobile people want to save their money and pay a voluntary fat tax, let them.  But don’t deny poor working Suzy her unwrinkled brow or clear, spider-vein-free legs.  Don’t take away her dream. It’s would be un-American.

Atlas Swooned

 

When the U.S. Episcopal Church appointed its first homosexual bishop, Reverend Gene Robinson, I felt a tremor underneath my feet as if tectonic plates had shifted.  Atlas had swooned.

When I found him he was lying underneath the weight of the world moaning incoherently.  Amid the babbling I thought I could make out the words, “…can’t hold it any longer,” and “Why do I bother?”   To see him lying there like a derelict Cretan on a three-day bender instead of his usual Titanic self left me momentarily speechless.

“Atlas?”  I stood at a safe distance as I spoke.  “What happened?”  I thought of giving him a cuff to the cheek but then thought better of it.  Even in his diminished state he was deserving of respect.

Aroused from his stupor he raised himself on his massive arms as the earth rolled into the small of his back.  He opened an eye and looked at me quizzically and then lowered himself back to a chin-on-hand position.  “What do you want?”  He asked with his face scrunched flat on the back of his fist.

“Well, I was hoping you could tell me what is going on around here.”  I said.  “What’s with the upheaval?”

“I’m tired.” He said.  “I’m afraid I’m suffering from morality fatigue.”

“Morality fatigue?”  I asked.

“You heard me,” he said, and he rubbed his haunches with one hand.  “I’ve been carrying this old world too long trying to support a modicum of decency, but this “gay” thing has me exhausted.”

“I thought you mostly just held the globe in place.” I said.  “Since when did you start holding up decency?”

“It’s a metaphor, alright?  Work with me here.”

“Fine,” I said, “but I’m a little dense.  Can you elaborate?”

“There are two kinds of morality,” he explained.  “There’s divine law, i.e., the scriptures, which those who believe in God hold to.  Then there is common decency, a natural law, held to by those who don’t believe in God.  I’ve been holding up the latter.”

“I don’t suppose many people know that.”  I said.

“It’s a thankless job like most things I do.” He answered.

“So, why are you fatigued by this gay thing?”  I asked.

“Gross tonnage takes its toll.  It isn’t that common decency ever lost a single argument.  The actual facts are plain for anyone to see.  Homosexuality is a destructive life-style.  It’s against nature on the simplest level of elementary physics, e.g., you can’t put a square peg into a round hole, but logic isn’t what it used to be.

“A thousand people saying you’re mean, homophobic, outdated, moralistic, intolerant and ignorant doesn’t make you wrong, but the cumulative effect is exhausting.  Pretty soon your knees buckle as those around you give up and pile on.  Now that the church has succumbed, I don’t see any point trying to hold up my end of the bargain.  If they can’t stand their ground on the foundation of divine revelation how am I going to prevail through mere reason?”

“So what are you going to do?”  I asked.

“Well,” he answered with a little groan.  “I guess, once I catch my breath, I’ll get back on my feet and hold up what little of decency remains.  There isn’t much left, so it won’t be too heavy.  I suppose before long there will be nothing to uphold at all.”

 

 

 

The Supreme Court vs. Elevator Occupants

At a government building somewhere in Washington D.C. an elevator travels its hoistway downward from the twelfth floor. Inside are a Supreme Court Justice, a lawyer for the ACLU and a court stenographer. The car stops at the ninth to let on a Cuban-born janitor.  A Scientist from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory steps in on the eighth.

Between the eighth and seventh something goes wrong.  The car stutters and jolts to a stop.  The doors stay closed.  Lights flicker.  A moan, a gasp, a “help me Jesus” later, and the occupants of the distressed lift find themselves in darkness.

“Someone get the phone. Find out what happened.”  Shouts the Lawyer.

“The Judge responds.”  Let’s keep calm, and not raise our voices.  I’ll handle this.”

He picks up the phone expecting to hear a dial tone. Instead a voice immediately answers.

“Hello, are you on the elevator?

“Yes,” says the Judge, “there are five of us, we’re stuck between the…”

“We know all that,” says the voice.  “We stuck you there.  This is the last phone call you can expect.  If you’re down in an hour the easy way, it means your government met our demands.  If you come down the hard way they didn’t.  Either way, it will all be over in an hour.  Good bye.”  The phone goes dead.

The justice explains the situation to the others.  There’s some panic, and then an argument over solutions.  Finally, the scientist convinces them to make an attempt to escape through the hatch above them.

Forty-five minutes later, they give up.

“I think they welded it shut,” says the janitor.”

“How do you know?” shrieks the stenographer.  “Is this some Cuban terrorist response to the whole Elian Conzales thing?”

“Leave him alone,” says the Lawyer.  “If he were part of this, would he be locked in here to die with us?  Look you guys.  We’ve burned up forty-five minutes. That gives us less than fifteen minutes.  We’re sealed in here tighter than a drum.  Nobody brought their cell phone.  What do we do?”

“If it would be all right with you, I’d like to offer a prayer,” says the janitor.

“I’m Jewish,” says the stenographer, “but go ahead.  It can’t hurt.”

“I personally don’t know if there is a God or not,” the scientist adds, “but this is a good time to do a little experiment.”

“What do you think Judge?” asks the lawyer.  “You know this is a federal building.”

“Perhaps, a silent prayer would be allowable,” says the Judge after ten minutes of consulting with himself.

“A silent prayer?  But what about those of us, myself included, who are atheists.  To me all prayer is repulsive. Even designating time for prayer implies a favored status for the religious.  I demand my civil rights as an American.  Just because I am trapped here with him…” At this the lawyer points to the lowly janitor. “I shouldn’t be made to feel uncomfortable.”

“Are you crazy,” responds the Scientist.  “Let the man pray.  If there is no life after death, you’re not going to be uncomfortable very long.”

“It’s the principle of the thing,” says the lawyer.  “I’d rather die than be deprived of my civil rights.”

The stenographer objects.  “Your rights!  What about ours?  I want to have prayer and we’ve got thirty seconds according to my watch.”

“Well,” says the judge, “the majority opinion in this case doesn’t mean anything.  Our laws have to protect minorities like my lawyer friend here from discrimination and harassment.”

“Great! A whole elevator of people can perish so he can have his rights!” snaps the scientist!”

“Or a whole nation, as I see it,” responds the Judge.

Puff!  The passengers hear a small blast above.  The car plummets.

Dutifully silent, they fall.

A moment before impact the lawyer yells, “Jesus!”

As it turns out, though prayer is not allowed on public property, swearing is.

 

Evangeliphobia

By Jay Beuoy

To listen to the hysterical rhetoric after the 2004 presidential election, you would think that aliens had invaded.  I’m not talking about friendly “ET” types either.  This is more analogous to “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” or the “Borg” ala “Star Trek”.  (“Prepare to be assimilated.  Resistance is futile!”)

This fear attaches itself to the high turnout among evangelical Christians for the reelection of President Bush.  Understandably, those who voted for the other guy feel outnumbered (by about 3.5 million) and endangered.  This in turn has led to a form of post-election stress disorder dubbed evangeliphobia. 

As a compassionate Evangelical, I’d like to discuss some potential therapy for those suffering.   Let’s call it, EDT–Evangelical Desensitization Therapy. 

Start with some simple deep breathing techniques.  Breathe in through your nose; push the diaphragm toward the spinal chord and breathe out slowly through pursed lips.  Feeling better?

Now, close your eyes and picture a quiet stream.  You can hear water rolling over nearby rocks.  Imagine an Evangelical sitting across the stream from you.  Don’t panic. The stream is too wide for him to jump across.   You’re safe. Slow your breathing down again and concentrate on the image.  Notice he has nothing in his hand.  His Bible is safe at home.  He is unarmed.  He cannot hurt you.  Look, he’s smiling.  He looks friendly.  

Desensitization progresses gradually toward limited encounters with the feared object until the fear is overcome.  Work through the visualization until you can successfully imagine the Evangelical encounter without any spikes in blood pressure or heart rate.

Gradually work toward physical proximity.  Try riding by an evangelical church in a car. A Baptist or Evangelical Free Church will do. Choose a designated driver, as the potential for sudden seizures or fight/flight reactions can lead to traffic mishaps. 

As you ride by the church slow your breathing and note that there are no public stonings of pagans in the parking lot.  Everything looks serene.  There are no crosses burning in the front lawn.  It’s just a building with a pointy thing in the middle and perhaps an unlit cross atop that.  You have nothing to fear.

Go to a mall and walk through it, and imagine that some of the folks around you are Evangelicals.  With eighty million of them in the U.S., there is a good likelihood that there are in fact actual Evangelicals in the crowd.  This is true even in blue states.  If you start to hyperventilate simply imagine that all the Evangelicals have left for a showing of “The Passion.”

By now you probably understand the concept.   Let your imagination go.  You could pick up a magazine like Billy Graham’s Decision to see pictures of real Evangelicals.  You could buy a life-size Ned Flanders doll and have mock conversations with him.

Eventually, take the final step and invite an Evangelical to lunch.  If you don’t know any Evangelicals one can be assigned to you by calling your local evangelical congregation.  The church will be happy to assist you.

When you finally are able to sit across a table from a real, live, flesh-and-blood Evangelical, you will find they are a lot like you.  They are American citizens who care about their country and choose to vote for the candidate they think will best strengthen their nation. 

Chances are, they won’t be packing a weapon or grab you by the lapels.  When you turn your back they will not forcibly baptize you with their glass of drinking water.  In some cases, they might even pick up the check.   In all likelihood, you will survive your encounter and feel a renewed sense of vigor, like one who has run across a bed of burning coals.  Remember, what doesn’t kill you, can only make you stronger.

 

Apologies To Alexander By Jay Beuoy

 

I was struck with a wave of guilt upon reading the recent comments by director Oliver Stone.  Mr. Stone blamed the box office losses of his epic, Alexander, on “moral fundamentalism” in the U.S.  I feel compelled to offer my mea culpa.

 

As a “moral fundamentalist”, a dreaded evangelical, I feel responsible. It is true. I am one from the unwashed masses who contributed to the dismal failure of this tragically ignored tragedy.  Confession is good for the soul, (if one believes in the soul), so I confess my prejudice. It just didn’t seem like my kind of movie.  My small mind wasn’t ready for what Stone called a “masculine/feminine action hero,” a switch-hitting swashbuckler.

 

Poor Mr. Stone!  You have suffered great torment for your art.  It must be far more excruciating for you to lose sixty million dollars making an unintended “disaster film”, than it would have been for me to waste seven dollars.  I supported Mel Gibson by watching The Passion three times in the theatre.  I could have watched Alexander at least once, no matter how personally painful, if only for humanitarian reasons.

 

You said at the premier in London that this epic of yours is too complex for “conventional minds.”  I think you’re right.  My gut told me that my conventional mind would have demanded conventional rules such as a well-defined plot, internal coherence, character development, pathos and historical accuracy.

 

Drat my conventional conventionalities!  Woe is me!  I am deficient and hopelessly simple.  As much as I am embarrassed to admit it, I still go to the movies for little more than the off chance of being entertained.  I wish I were better, but I am not.

 

Please don’t take this as a criticism.  I wouldn’t want to heap upon your ego any more abuse than you’ve already taken.  Why, though, I wonder, did you take the risk of spending eighty million dollars on a film that plebeians like me couldn’t possibly appreciate?

 

I understand that we are mindless and lacking of all reason, but a man of superior intelligence like you might have seen this one coming.  I trust you really are in Europe for the premier and not there merely to escape a leg-breaker from the studios named Vinny.  If you were “taken out” by disgruntled investors, I would not be able to forgive myself.

 

I can only hope that you have willingly offered your professional career on the altar of your idealistic and ironically tragic sense of greatness.  Perhaps you came to the end of “Hollyworld.” Weeping at the thought of no more minds to conquer, you simply died a metaphorical death for your craft.  Was that it?

 

Fear not! Your elite cadre of brothers and sisters in the biz will bear your lifeless effigy homeward, lifted high upon their shoulders as they sing great songs of valor, and heroic self-sacrifice.  You took a risk and lost, but in doing so you struck a blow for hyper-effete artisans everywhere.  Hold your head high.  Though your film may achieve the ignominious distinction of under performing Howard The Duck or Gigli, your suicidal quest was noble and quixotic.  Hail, the defeated hero!

 

Forgive us, Oliver.  We did not know what we were doing.  Were we as sophisticated as you, we might have given your magnum opus a chance.  Sadly we appear to be cultural barbarians, and it would appear that the barbarians have routed the Macedonian.  Our “moral fundamentalism” remains unenlightened by your brilliance.   Then again, maybe we will rent the DVD.

 

Cheese Dodgeball

The children line up in orderly phalanxes across the gym from one another.  Pete, the Powerhouse Garecki has the unpasteurized cheese ball in hand as he eyes his targets with a sniper’s precision.

A whistle blows and the blue cheese-squad bears down on the green.  Pete hurls the opening salvo and nails Mary Stiglett’s calf; she drops in pain on the hardwood.  Before she can limp off to the side, Ben Pierson grabs the Emmentaler, laterals to his Captain, Butch Stoutkiss.  Butch fakes a throw to the far corner then turns to deliver a side-arm, cross-court blast. The Swiss slams into Little Kenny Haskins whose miss-timed jump proves several inches short.

 The mêlée swells.  Injuries mount.  Pieces of cheese ball litter the field.  The wounded egos and bodies slump behind the respective baselines.  Butch and Pete are the last left standing.  Then Pete seizes the fetid sphere, double pumps and hurls it into the face of Stoutkiss.  A whistle blows.  Face-shot foul! The bawling Butch is declared the default winner as the P.E. teacher leads him away to the nurse’s office.

            Which is worse for our children–unpasteurized cheese or the vicious contest of dodgeball?  That’s a hard call.  According to some recent news reports both are endangering their fragile health and souls.

            On the cheese plate, the FDA is considering the banning of any sales of cheese made from unpasteurized milk, whether domestic or foreign.  This move comes despite the lack of any evidence that such products have ever caused or represent any potential health threat.  (The FDA currently allows such cheeses to be sold if they have been aged at least sixty days.)

            Over in the dodgeball court, fears mount.  According to activists, dodgeball endangers students.  School gyms become survival of the fittest hunting grounds where athletic kids prey on their weaker counterparts, weeding them from the evolutionary gene pool.  What should be done?

            Get rid of our best cheese? Imagine a world with no Gruyere or Emmentaler.  Inconceivable!  Eliminate such cheeses and the dominoes begin to topple.  Fondue becomes a thing of the past.  Swiss banks go under.  A black market of smuggled cheese bubbles up and pretty soon the president appoints a Cheese Czar.

            Eliminate dodgeball?  I would incline to that option as I reflect back on my own pain, reconstructive facial surgeries and psychiatric counseling bills.  Still, if we take the dodgeball away, kids might resort to more violent means of aggressing against the helpless.

            I’m surprised we haven’t heard a solution in line with the scenario above.  Combine the cheese and the dodgeball and let the kids pelt one another with the pungent projectiles.  Instead of eliminating all risk from their lives give them a healthy dose of danger like running the bulls or eating blowfish sushi.  By that logic what doesn’t kill them would only make them stronger and what does kill them would make the species stronger.

            If we were judging these two issues from a biblical perspective our answers might be more complex.  We might want to talk about the balance between compassion for the weak versus an overweening desire to eliminate all risk.  We might want to talk about the effect these matters have on character development and the need for both courage and kindness.

            We might want to talk in that way, but we can’t. We’ve removed God from the market place of ideas, muzzled free speech and acquiesced to Darwin.  Western culture is currently marooned on the Galapagos Islands.  In that brave new world shouldn’t we just bring on the cheese ball, blow the whistle and let the elimination tournament begin?       

             

             

 

Archeology Unearths Uncommon Common Sense

By Jay Beuoy

 

Montecore, the Royal White tiger had no sooner sent Roy Horn to the hospital, than the news broke. An eccentric public housing dweller in New York City, a Mr. Antoine Yates, had been attacked by his pet tiger, Ming.  In the same week, two grizzly bear advocates were mauled to death in Alaska with the attack caught on audiotape.

It is understandable, under the circumstances, that the media completely ignored the discovery of an ancient document in Turkey.   An archeologist by the name of Yada Yada Ben Stiller unearthed a crude clay tablet, written in primitive Hebrew, penned in an early cuneiform script.  These ancient words appear all the more profound in light of recent events.    The newly translated work appears to be a transcript of a speech made by Noah, and written during his famed Ark expedition.

Noah: Thank you for coming.  I know you all had better places to be today.

Passengers: (laughter).

Noah: Is it wet or what?  It is so wet out there…

Passengers: How wet is it?

Noah: It is so wet we’ve got fish lined up two-by-two trying to get inside.  That’s wet I’m telling you.  I wonder what the Sons of Cain are doing right now—probably the backstroke.  But seriously, I do have some important matters to call to your attention.

FYI.  Big cats such as tigers, lions and leopards should be given a wide berth.  Ham, would you please show your brothers and the rest of us your stump? Thank you. Let’s file this one away under “Don’t think I’ll try that one again.”

The Lord was good enough to get the animals onto the ark. Let’s use the common sense he gave us to keep them from killing us.  Wild animals are still wild.  That’s why we call them, “wild.”  Ham, if it is any comfort, I don’t think the Tiger intentionally bit off your hand.  He was probably just being a bit frisky.  You know how they can be.

 

Thanks again, Japheth, for the neatly carved suggestion box.  It seems to be getting a lot of use.  I brought a couple of the suggestions to read.  Here’s one.  “Can we kill the tiger that ate my hand?” Signed, “Anonymous.”  Okay, Anonymous, the answer would have to be “no” on that one.   That whole repopulate-the-earth thing would be jeopardized by such a course of action.  Thanks for the suggestion though.  Remember the only stupid question is the one not asked.

 

Then there’s the following note: “Can I keep the grizzly bear as a pet when we’re back on land?” Signed, “Anonymous.”   Again, Anonymous, that won’t work.  Bears do not make good pets under normal circumstances.   As a general rule of thumb, do not attempt to make pets of large animals capable of eating you.  Take a hint from the tiger incident, Anonymous.        Point made?  Okay.

 

I want to also thank Shem for the new “Days-Without-An-Accident” board.  I want to congratulate all of you. We’re up to day “three”. Special thanks go to Ham for his cooperation.

 

Tonight’s film will be an old favorite, Gone With… (The record breaks off here.)

Some scholars have questioned the style of the Hebrew, but no one has questioned the earthy wisdom contained in the document.  “Wild animals are wild.  That’s why we call them wild.”  It seems ironic that the common sense wisdom of the past, e.g., “don’t make pets of animals that are capable of eating you,” is so altogether uncommon in the present “information age”.

 

Waiting For The Signal?

The battery of military surplus computers whirred in the basement of Dr. Orr Shock’s home.  Outside, an array of old satellite dishes pointed heavenward, patched together by jumbles of cables.

            I sat in a chair a few feet from my neighbor whom I call simply “Shock.”  He’s a fun guy to hang out with.  His brain is full of pseudo-scientific theories.  Sorting truth from fiction is half the fun of our conversations.  We sat and watched the readouts, watching for a signal from outer space.

            Shock is a non-conformist self-proclaimed member of the SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) Institute.  The Institute probably doesn’t admit his existence any more than I admit the existence of aliens, but that doesn’t discourage the Doc.  Day after day he pans the sky with his homemade radio telescopes looking to make his big discovery.

            He does have a doctorate from an accredited university.  Only thing is–the degree is in agronomy.  Maybe he inhaled too many insecticides or fertilizers, but somewhere along the way he went from developing hybrid corn to investigating crop circles. He believes that crop circles are actually the work of an alien intelligence, which evolved from the plant kingdom.

            “Too bad about Ray Walston dying,” I said.  “I suppose he was your favorite Martian.”

            Shock frowned.  “Don’t be droll, Jay.  Ray Walston was a fraud.  He was in it for the money—never a true-believer.”

            “A true believer?”  I asked.

            “A true believer knows, believes–accepts without fear of contradiction that extraterrestrial intelligence exists.”  Doc turned and stared at the upward stream of data.

            “Wow!” I said.

            “What?  Did you see something?” He perked up.

            “No, I just mean ‘wow’— it sounds like it takes a lot of faith to be a true believer.”

            Shock frowned.  He doesn’t like it when someone expresses doubt.  “It’s simply a matter of logic–faith in logic if you will.”

            “What about evidence?” I asked innocently.

            He snapped back.  “The evidence will come. That’s what all this is about.  Sooner or later we’ll get something just like the WOW signal, only this time it will be verifiable and sustained.”

            “The WOW signal?”  I said with obvious skepticism.

            “I’ve told you this before.  Back in 1977 a student at Ohio State spotted a brief set of numbers very close to the hydrogen line. It only lasted 72 seconds and has never repeated.  Some of us believe it was an alien signal”

            “So, after thirty plus years with SETI and other groups scouring the heavens from one end to the other, that’s it?”  Nothing more?   Sounds pretty shaky to me.”  I said.

            “Get out of my basement and leave me in peace.  I need to concentrate.”

            “I’m sorry.” I said.  “I didn’t mean to upset you.”  I got up to leave.

            Shock spun around on his chair.  “Here’s the deal.  We evolved on this planet, right?”

“That’s what you say.”  I answered.

“Well we did, and we can be certain that there are trillions of planets in the universe with billions of earth-like ones among them.  Life must have evolved millions of times over and out of that life, there had to be sentient beings like us and beyond.”

            “I see.” I said facetiously.  “So that accounts for the trillions of signals pouring in by the minute.  I’m sorry.  Look. You have to have some proof to get me to believe.”

            “We’ll get proof if unbelievers like you get out of the way of people like me.”

            “How can you be so sure that there is any proof to find?”  I asked.  “Perhaps we’re a unique creation?”

            Doc slumped back in the chair a bit and gazed down at his keyboard.  “If that is the case, the universe is a very lonely place indeed, and we’re just some bizarre accident.  There has to be something more–something bigger than mankind.”

            “You mean like God?”  I suggested.

            “God is an unprovable hypothesis.”

            “Or” I said.  “Maybe we’re just waiting for His signal.”

Cheerio’s Bible

Recently, General Mills, the maker of Cheerios and other popular cereals, issued an apology.    In a special promotion, the company had included the Bible on a free CD-ROM in over 12 million boxes of cereal.  In their Mea Culpa, Mills stated, “Inclusion of this material does not conform to our policy, and we apologize for this lapse.”

 

A “lapse”?  An apology?  Is this all the better General Mills can do?  If a recall is too expensive, then the company should issue nothing less than a peel and stick warning label. Stores with inventories of the ill-conceived merchandise could paste such warnings on the offending boxes.

 

The following suggested wording could reduce the company’s liability.

 

Warnings related to actual disc: 

1. Disc should not be incorporated into an infant’s mobile. Reflection from the sun could cause eye damage.

 

2. Not a toy!  Not for children under three!  Choking-danger!

 

3. Not a large, flat, shiny cheerio!  Not for consumption!

 

4. Product is not a flotation device.

 

Warnings related to content of disc:

 

5. Reading of Bible by teens may:

¨       discourage youth from illegal drug use, alcohol abuse, sexual promiscuity and other vices by which they might otherwise bond with their baby-boomer parents.

¨       encourage them to join after-school Bible clubs making them a target for mentally deranged anti-Christian gunmen.

¨       influence them to quote Jesus in term papers thus insuring a failing grade from some English teachers.

¨       encourage them to go into helping professions known for low wages, such as ministry, social work, and international relief work.

 

 

6. Adults are cautioned that Bibles can:

¨       cause immediate dismissal if found in one’s possession at place of employment.

¨       lead to cessation of quick/easy divorces thus depriving children of four parents, two houses, two school systems, eight grandparents and a personal psychotherapist.

¨       influence business people, lawyers and politicians to behave ethically thereby decreasing potential profits, fees and campaign victories.

 

7.  If at any future date the Bible falls under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, General Mills accepts no legal liability for the seizure of personal effects in conjunction with raids on otherwise law-abiding citizens.

 

8.  In-depth reading of scripture has been linked to a certain dread over the destiny of one’s eternal soul.  Though the relief for such anguish is also contained within the Bible, General Mills accepts no responsibility for any suffering real, imagined, temporary or eternal.

 

Pandora’s cereal box has been opened. Thanks to General Mills, the dangerous utterances of Moses, David, Jesus and Paul are loose in our midst.  Parents guard your children! There is no filtering software to combat it.  Forewarned is forearmed!

Interview With Death

The terrorist attack on the World Trade Center Towers changed our corporate consciousness.  Prayer and patriotism are back from Limbus Politicum Correctum. But, one overlooked comeback story is our reacquaintance with an old phantom, the specter a.k.a. Death.

 

This writer caught up with death for an exclusive interview.

 

J.B.  Death, I’d like to thank you for making time for me today.  I know you’re very busy.

 

D. You should see my “to do” list.  But, I’m not complaining.  I feel fortunate to be working.

 

J.B. Some might consider you an overachiever?

 

D. Your words, not mine, but thank you.  I don’t think of myself as somebody special, particularly gifted or smart–just a guy doing a job.  If I have any claim to fame, it’s consistency.

 

J.B.  You were hard to track down.  I was surprised you didn’t have an answering machine.

 

D.    I apologize for the inconvenience, but aside from a few crank calls from that Kevorkian guy I’m usually the one doing the tracking down, not vice versa. Besides, if you hadn’t called me, I would have eventually gotten in touch with you–if you get my drift.

 

J.B. Yes, well, let’s hope not for some time (nervous laugh).

 

D.    See, that’s the attitude I usually get.  Most people would just as soon pretend I didn’t even exist.  I’m a guy with pretty thick skin.  Hatred, abuse, fear I can take, but this “ignore-him-and-maybe-he’ll-go-away” stuff cuts deep.

 

J.B.  And yet, that has changed since September 11th; hasn’t it?

 

D.   Hey, I’ve got a whole new lease on life.  Not since the fourteenth century when I sometimes operated under such pseudonyms as the Black Death, have I commanded this kind of attention.  The respect and the recognition are gratifying.

 

J.B.   Well-deserved, I’m sure.  But, how did you slip so far off the radar screen?  You hadn’t gone away.

 

D.  Perish the thought!  The truth is, I really manage what amounts to a zero sum game.  People live and then they die.  It’s like the book says, “Sin came into the world and along with it,” to paraphrase, “yours truly.”  I didn’t go anywhere.

 

J.B.  Yet, with the eradication of childhood diseases and medical breakthroughs, you seemed to have slowed your pace.

 

D.   I may have postponed some of my work, but I have never lost a soul with one or two extreme exceptions.  I keep my appointments like I always have. I can guarantee you that I will get around to everyone sooner or later.

 

J.B. Of course you will. I didn’t mean to suggest otherwise. I’m just trying to understand how you were ever ignored in the first place.

 

D.  I’ve been marginalized by society. It’s a classic “out-of-sight-out-of-mind” scenario.  People had pushed me to the fringe as best they could–hospitals, nursing homes, third world countries.  The WTC changed all that.  Suddenly I’m back on the front page and getting my due.

 

J.B.  You’re not saying that the terrorist attack was a good thing?

 

D.  Don’t ask me! I’m not involved in value judgments.  Going back to the book again, it says, “First I come and then comes the judgment” not the other way around.  All I know is, today people are more aware of both life and me, and on a personal level I’m touched.

 

J.B.  I don’t think anyone will take you for granted again.  Do you have a closing remark for our readers?

 

D.  Nothing profound comes to mind.  I’ll just say, “See you all later.”

 

Jonah’s Diary—United States Trip—2001-2002

September 11th 2001

Today God spoke to me and told me to travel to the United States and preach a message of repentance.  He said I should go and tell them that if they did not turn from their sins something worse would befall them.

 

Any other day of the week I’d think God should know what he’s doing, but this idea is harebrain to the extreme.  After such a devastating attack, the last thing the Americans are going to want to hear is that they are a sinful nation needing a change of heart.  Decided to email a couple thoughts on the matter to Jerry Falwell and catch a slow boat to China instead.

 

September 12th 2001

 

Jerry apparently got my message but added a few ideas of his own. As I suspected, the whole repentance thing is playing about as well as “Old Calcutta” in Salt Lake City.  Heavy Seas today.

 

September 13th 2001

 

Note to self.  Never admit you’re running from God to a bunch of superstitious sailors looking for simple answers to complex problems.  Hindsight being 20/20 I think I could have justified a small white lie.

 

As to the matter of beings swallowed by a fish, I am trying to figure some plausible alternate story.  Maybe I could say I strapped some bamboo together with videotape and braved the open sea in the company of a volleyball.  No.  I better just tell them the truth.

 

September 16th New York, New York

 

Spat up on land about 7:00 AM.  I have a mean crick in my neck but otherwise feel quite chipper.  I know I will not see the elderly Italian man ever again or his little wooden son.  I have a 3:00 PM meeting with Giuliani.  Hope to find some good food, i.e., anything not resembling the contents of a fish stomach.

 

 

September 17th

 

Giuliani was unyielding to the whole repentance idea.  I warned him that if the city did not repent that fire and brimstone would rain down upon the city within forty days. He had me arrested as a possible terrorist.

 

The food in New York jails is highly overrated.  Note to self.  Never again mention repentance to a bunch of New York criminals while confined with them in a common cell.

 

September 18th

 

After telling of my exploits in the belly of the great fish to a very nice gentleman in a white coat, I was released.  I overheard him saying something about no openings at the “facility” whatever that means.  In any event I’m out and I’ve taken my message to the street.

 

So far I have had very little success.  I had imagined that my bleached skin from the fish’s stomach acid and the odd green color of my hair might make an impression.  Now that I’ve seen the street people of the city, I have revised my estimates.

 

September 19th

 

President Bush has called for a national day of prayer.  There hasn’t been much talk of repentance, but the news is reporting a huge increase in church attendance.  It seems a bit shy of the mark, but I’m thinking of declaring victory and catching the next fish back home.

 

February 18th 2002

 

Dear Diary. Sorry I haven’t written lately.  Still in New York. I read today that church attendance is back to pre-September 11th levels.  Seems the foxhole wasn’t quite deep enough.

 

I’m presently sitting on the tallest mound at the municipal landfill overlooking the city waiting to see what happens. God only knows if America has repented.  If she has, then God will surely spare her. If not, then I will be here to say “I told you so,” unless of course there is no one left to tell.

 

The Redacted Abraham Lincoln

 

 

           

 

Historians accept as fact that Abraham Lincoln wrote his own political speeches.   For instance, that Lincoln composed the Gettysburg Address while on the train to that battlefield is unchallenged.

 

            Yet, in a release sure to send shock waves through the historical community, the Smithsonian has just released a heretofore-unknown copy of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address.  In this manuscript, a long forgotten policy advisor, Mr. Seymour Fallout, attempts to edit Lincoln’s words.  Scribbled at the bottom are his editorial remarks.

 

 

 

            Dear Mr. President.  As you see, I have made numerous suggestions, which though stinging, hold the promise of being a gentle balm to sooth over the soreness you might otherwise inflict upon yourself.  Though you are affectionately referred to as “Honest Abe” it is my duty, as your only political advisor, to urge you to refrain from such frank, unguarded opinions.

 

     Note that I have struck every mention of “God” contained in the speech.  You use the word six times in a speech, which in its present form will take less than ten minutes to deliver.  You also use such terms as “the Almighty”, “His providence,  “Him”, “divine attributes” and “Lord.”  This is overkill. 

 

 In our polling we find that the “God talk” is only minimally effective at increasing your numbers.   Though the percentage of atheists and agnostics is currently small we feel that this trend toward godlessness is on the rise. You should not go out of your way to alienate any voting block especially in light of the upcoming congressional races of 1866.

 

Therefore, I recommend that you play down all religious differences and instead emphasize the “universal brotherhood of man” or the “triumph of the human spirit.”  If you must mention deity it should be only once or twice. Use the name within a figure of speech such as “Lordy, Lordy, our nation is nine,two-score and forty”, or some similar witticism for which you are rightfully famous.

 

Furthermore, your theology is sure to offend even those who share your willingness to invoke the name “God.”  I have stricken the last two paragraphs, which constitute roughly two thirds of the speech.  In that section you imply that both parties to this war have guilt before God and that indeed God might be using the war in some sense to punish men for their sins.

 

Imagine what our political adversaries will do with your words, “…He gives to both North and South this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offense came…?”   The idea that God uses war to judge nations went out with the Old Testament Prophets and Jesus.  Even so, to suggest that God would judge the North as well as the South is sure to offend half of our constituency.

 

Instead of morbid, puritanical introspection the populace needs inspiration. Tell them that they are right and that they will win. Tell them that they are sinless and that their enemies are devils.

 

Please, Mr. President, rethink the speech and get back with me soon for a little brainstorming.  I have a great line where you say, “Now let’s go kick some cornpone hauling butt”, that is, if you’re comfortable using the word “cornpone”.  Until then I remain–

 

                       

 

Your most ardent supporter,

 

 

 

Seymour Fallout

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

           

 

 

         

           

           

           

Jonah’s Diary—United States Trip—2001-2002

 September 11th 2001

Today God spoke to me and told me to travel to the United States and preach a message of repentance.  He said I should go and tell them that if they did not turn from their sins something worse would befall them.

Any other day of the week I’d think God should know what he’s doing, but this idea is harebrain to the extreme.  After such a devastating attack, the last thing the Americans are going to want to hear is that they are a sinful nation needing a change of heart.  Decided to email a couple thoughts on the matter to Jerry Falwell and catch a slow boat to China instead.

September 12th 2001

Jerry apparently got my message but added a few ideas of his own. As I suspected, the whole repentance thing is playing about as well as “Old Calcutta” in Salt Lake City.  Heavy Seas today.

September 13th 2001

Note to self.  Never admit you’re running from God to a bunch of superstitious sailors looking for simple answers to complex problems.  Hindsight being 20/20 I think I could have justified a small white lie.

As to the matter of beings swallowed by a fish, I am trying to figure some plausible alternate story.  Maybe I could say I strapped some bamboo together with videotape and braved the open sea in the company of a volleyball.  No.  I better just tell them the truth.

September 16th New York, New York

Spat up on land about 7:00 AM.  I have a mean crick in my neck but otherwise feel quite chipper.  I know I will not see the elderly Italian man ever again or his little wooden son.  I have a 3:00 PM meeting with Giuliani.  Hope to find some good food, i.e., anything not resembling the contents of a fish stomach.

September 17th

Giuliani was unyielding to the whole repentance idea.  I warned him that if the city did not repent that fire and brimstone would rain down upon the city within forty days. He had me arrested as a possible terrorist. 

The food in New York jails is highly overrated.  Note to self.  Never again mention repentance to a bunch of New York criminals while confined with them in a common cell.

September 18th

After telling of my exploits in the belly of the great fish to a very nice gentleman in a white coat, I was released.  I overheard him saying something about no openings at the “facility” whatever that means.  In any event I’m out and I’ve taken my message to the street.

So far I have had very little success.  I had imagined that my bleached skin from the fish’s stomach acid and the odd green color of my hair might make an impression.  Now that I’ve seen the street people of the city, I have revised my estimates.

September 19th

President Bush has called for a national day of prayer.  There hasn’t been much talk of repentance, but the news is reporting a huge increase in church attendance.  It seems a bit shy of the mark, but I’m thinking of declaring victory and catching the next fish back home.

February 18th 2002

Dear Diary. Sorry I haven’t written lately.  Still in New York. I read today that church attendance is back to pre-September 11th levels.  Seems the foxhole wasn’t quite deep enough. 

I’m presently sitting on the tallest mound at the municipal landfill overlooking the city waiting to see what happens. God only knows if America has repented.  If she has, then God will surely spare her. If not, then I will be here to say “I told you so,” unless of course there is no one left to tell. 

Averting A Food Jihad

By Jay Beuoy

Samaritan’s Purse, a relief organization run by Billy Graham’s son, Franklin, recently came under fire for its plan to share food and medicine with the desperate citizens of Iraq.  In a USA Today article Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesperson for the Council on American-Islamic Relations was quoted as saying, “They are coming into a situation where vulnerable people don’t have food, shelter or clothing.  They are using their position of power to try to persuade people to leave their faith.”

I went to the Samaritan’s Purse website to see what Franklin Graham might have to say about these grievous charges and to my dismay, he did not apologize.  He’s a busy guy, what with him running around and forcing food and medicine on all the poor, vulnerable people of the world.  So, to make up for the oversight, I have taken it upon myself to write one for him.

“To my dear Muslim friends everywhere, I want to sincerely apologize for my lack of sensitivity.  I should have known that my efforts, however well intended, would be easily misconstrued.

 

Yes, I did want to go to Iraq and help feed the hungry, give medicine to the sick and help provide clean drinking water to the thirsty.  I see now how wrong-headed that was.

 

 In their psychologically vulnerable state of mind some Iraqis might have listened to aid workers talking about their faith in Christ and been converted.  This would have been unfair for a multitude of reasons.

 

First and foremost it would have been unfair to those converts, because under Islamic law they would have been guilty of a capital crime and therefore executed.  Needless to say, it defeats our purpose to keep people alive with food and medicine only to force you into a position of killing them.

 

Upon further reflection, I also realize that it is unfair to give the Christian message to people who for centuries have been prevented from hearing that message.  A gospel of love would be overwhelmingly attractive and constitute an unfair advantage for us sly food providers. I apologize.

 

In our country we have democracy, free speech, the freedom to worship as we choose and the right of women to go burqaless without having acid thrown in their faces.  These “Western European” prejudices prevented me from fully appreciating the delicacies of your situation.  Now, I understand that your stability depends on keeping people protected from ideas.  Please forgive my unwitting act of charity.

 

What would you think about this idea? Instead of bringing food under the emblem of the cross of Christ, how would it be if we put a red crescent on each box of food and medicine?  That way we could fool the people of Iraq into thinking that all this help was coming to them via the generosity of their oil rich Muslim brethren.  They would never get the connection to Christianity and their sensibilities would be left unscathed.  In fact they could continue to think that we are “The Great Satan,” without troubling their consciences.

 

Please forgive our callous insensitivities,

 

Samaritan’s Purse (FG)

Whether Samaritan’s Purse will endorse my attempt at diplomacy remains to be seen.  I can only hope that a timely apology will calm the hysteria—a hysteria caused by a tactless attempt to feed, heal and care for the people of Iraq. 

 

On his way to the celestial city Christian met a one-eyed man with a wide, square, flat face.

“I know thee,” said Christian, “Thou art surely that man headed to the city of Destruction.  Pray, what is your name.”

“My name,” said the man, is Modem–Mr. Modem C. Internet, and I am not headed to Destruction.  I am not going anywhere.  Rather, everything is coming to me.”

“Nay,” said Christian, “I was warned of thee, by Mr. Obscurantist.  He said thou art wicked and headed for doom.  Indeed said he, ‘all who travel with ye are doomed.’”

“I travel with no one, nor would I take thee this way nor that.  I will only bring to thee what thou desireth.  Ye needs travel nowhere past the seat of thy trousers.”

“Ah,” said Christian, “then verily I see the makings of a snare.  For, that which I desireth descendeth not only from the good, but doth bubble up from the wickedness in me.  I quote with the Apostle Paul, Romans 7:18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.

 

“It is as thou saith,” said Modem, ” but I can quote holy writ as well, Titus 1:15 Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.”

 

“I commence to apprehend thy meaning,” said Christian. “Yet, is that which bringeth both good and evil morally neutral?  For if it takes with one hand what it gives with the other, is it not all guile and deceit?”

 

Modem answered, “Doth not the same sun both destroy crops in drought, but make them grow after the rain?  Doth that same Sun not bake the clay so well as it thaws the frozen winter soil?  Canst not all that God made be used for either good or bad?  So, too, I am but a large bandwidth that floweth in the direction which the heart’s rudder turneth.”

 

“I admit that thou makest an argument fine, but whether it be Mother Logic or Father Lie I cannot tell.”  Christian dropped to his knees in helplessness and prayed.  “Lord, if this Mr. Internet be evil, please take him from me.  As, thou hast taught us to pray, lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil…amen.

 

When Christian raised his eyes, Modem stood by with a blank look on his face.  “Well?” said he.  “I am still here.”

 

“Hast thou changed?”  Asked Christian.

 

“Nay, I am always the same–a broad path that leadeth to destruction, and a path that leads to a narrow way.   Hast thou changed?”

 

“Nay, I am the same.  I am still on my way to the Celestial City, and still capable of stumbling along the path.”

 

“Then what hast thou decided?” asked Modem,  “Wilst thou shun me or use me?”

 

“I will use thee, but with care.  I will pray that the Lord who strengtheneth me would help me to walk by His Spirit.  I will hold fast to him who holdeth me fast.  By his power I will seek the good in you, and avoid the evil.  Art thou pleased?”

 

Modem C. Internet shrugged his shoulders.  “I do not care.”

Swimming with the Sharks

By Jay Beuoy

 

Shark attack!  Those two words are as evocative to me as “engine fire” to a Concorde pilot or “hull breach” to a nuclear submariner.   The odds against these calamities happening to any randomly selected swimmer, aviator or sailor may be astronomical, but the thought is no less frightening.

 

Ever since 1975 when the movie Jaws bit down on my overactive imagination and permanently added to my list of phobias, I have had a less than charitable view of the supposedly misunderstood multi-toothed menace.  My prejudice, I confess, runs deep.

 

Just when I begin to feel some sense of balance in my judgment concerning one of God’s more magnificent examples of streamlined efficiency something comes along to rend the equilibrium.  About the time I’ve watched one of those, “Sharks, Unloved Heroes of the Deep” specials on the Discovery Channel, and I finally feel ready to share eco-space with them, something in the news jars me out of new-found tolerance.

 

Witness the recent surge in shark attacks recorded in Florida.  On August 30th of this year, a St. Pete Beach man was mauled to death by a 400-pound bull shark while swimming in the gulf waters just ten feet off his dock.  Earlier, on the Atlantic side some one had the video camera running when a great white attacked a surfer.  Someone needs to talk to those sharks and tell they’ve created some very bad press.

 

Struggling to remain balanced in my assessment of the situation, I listen to some of the reassuring words from various shark experts.

 

“Folks shouldn’t be terrified,” says George Burgess, with the International Shark Attack File of the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville, Florida.

 

Okay George, I’ll test that theory with my inner voice of caution.  Here goes.  “Don’t be afraid.  There is nothing innately traumatizing about a four hundred pound fish with razor sharp teeth coming up from underneath you and ripping off huge chunks of flesh from your body.”  Funny, I don’t feel any better.

 

But that wasn’t all the expert said, and in fairness to George I’ve heard this from other shark experts.  “Sharks typically avoid humans but in rare (like 22 times in one state in an eight month period) instances they can mistake them for their usual prey, such as sea turtles and porpoises.”

 

To this line of logic I respond, “Gee, I feel better!”  After all, being sawed apart alive isn’t nearly so painful or scary if you know that it’s a case of mistaken identity.  Let’s get real!  The hardest thing to prove beyond reasonable doubt in a court of law is intent.  Who knows what a shark intends?  Who cares? At the moment he wraps his serrated jaws around me, I won’t be worrying about his motivation.

 

The newspaper article I read stated that the water was murky on the 30th and implied that the shark might have just erred due to poor visibility.  Great!  Maybe we can get the charges dropped from murder to reckless endangerment.  I’m still searching for the reason we’re not supposed to feel terrified.

 

Finally, there is the old argument about who is in greater danger, sharks or humans.  I admit that we kill more of them than they do of us.  We sell fin meat as a delicacy in Asia and make hemorrhoid medication from their livers.  Though that may sound a bit lop-sided, I don’t hear any sharks complaining about it.  Personally, I rather prefer the notion that our species is statistically ahead.

 

To each his own.  Let him who will, swim with the sharks.   Prejudice still in tact, I’m boycotting the beaches of Florida.  Survival of the prudent is my motto by which I intend to live.

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