Beaten Down by All the Hype

The events of the last week have left my head spinning.  It’s almost like God has decided to cast his own version of I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here.  First you had a washed up ‘B’ movie actor in David Carradine, then you had a washed up variety show sidekick in Ed McMahon, then the washed up model/actress who had not worked in twenty years unless it was on Lifetime in Farrah Fawcett, then we had the freak show that was the washed up life of Michael Jackson (see MC Hammer), and finally we have the guy who was made famous by being in commercials, Billy Mays.  Paulie Shore had better hide.

The confusing thing in all of this for me has been the extreme revisionism that has come with all of these deaths.  Suddenly, people who were fringe at best a few months ago are being hailed for their greatness.  What’s up with that?  Can’t we appropriately honor the accomplishments of these people without all of the hyperbole?

I am always brought back to the year Princess Diana died when these things come up.  Do you remember who died the same week that Diana did?  Most people do not because the press was too caught up in the hype of Diana to properly give Mother Teresa and her lifetime of service to humanity her due.  I guess the explosion of media since then has given us the ability to overhype any number of things at the same time.

It’s the hyper-revisionism that bothers me the most.  Suddenly, Michael Jackson has been elevated to a level just below that of Martin Luther King Jr.  How did this happen?  Here we have a guy that had obvious mental and emotional issues that drove him to try to appear more, for lack of a better term, ‘white’.  He married a white woman, and I don’t ever remember him taking a strong stand on racial issues unless you count his song “Black or White.”  I seem to remember allegations of molestation, but somehow a 22 million dollar broom swept them all away (and, of course he was found ‘not guilty’).  Now, there seems to be confirmation that he was gay, and did like young men.  Has that become a popular stance in the black community?  And, all of the children of his ‘baby mammas’ have turned out not to be his.  Is this the example that so many young men are following today?

Suddenly, however, everyone is rushing to praise his greatness, not just as a singer and dancer, which he was, but all other aspects of his life, and many more that have seemed to materialize after his death.  Here’s a newsflash, you can be a great singer and a great dancer, and still be a freak in the rest of your life.  It’s OK to admit it in Jackson’s case, because it’s the truth.

Unfortunately, it looks like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are going to have to have a monkey knife fight to decide who will preside over the funeral.  The self-promotion of these two guys in this case is almost as nauseating as the self-promoting of Joe Jackson (anybody need a blue-ray?).

The truth is, Michael Jackson was a great performer in the 1980s, and sadly like many people, had a hard time dealing with his fame in the years since then.  The same group of leeches that followed him during his lifetime have turned into a flock of carrion birds whose ranks have been swelled by the likes of Jackson and Sharpton.

Sadly, the exploitation of Jackson and his children is just beginning.  They say he will not be buried at Neverland.  I’ll bet the opposite.  There is money to be made if they can put the body there, so it will probably happen.  Next, you will have the Michael Jackson memorial tour in which lots of washed up singers trying to jump-start their careers will get together and sing their versions of his songs.  And, of course the tribute anthology will be released on which every artist from Whitney Houston to Jamie Foxx will sing Michael Jackson songs.  Then, in a few years when the money has stopped rolling in, and the nostalgic fervor has worn off a little, his family will sell the movie rights to his life, and back up the Brinks truck once again.

A Doll House for my Daughter

As a dad who can’t get enough of being one, I am always trying to find a way to prove that I am a better father than the next guy.  Not really, but I do feel the need to be thought of as a good father.

The fact is, I’m a little cheap.  I don’t like to spend a lot of money on something I could do myself.  My father was a general contractor, and I inherited all of his toys.  There’s nothing like needing to hang a picture on the wall, and knowing that all I have to do is step into the garage, turn on the 6 ft. tall Campbell-Hausfeld compressor and choose which nail-gun I want to use.  Oh, yeah.  So whenever I see an overpriced toy that I think my kid needs, I think, “I could make that.”

The last time it was a set of bins for her toy that were twice as large as the ones at Ikea, and cost me half as much (if you don’t count the trip to the doctor when I shot a nail through my thumb).

So, with my daughter’s third birthday arriving in a bout two months, I have decided to build…a doll house.  My niece has a cool one that is three stories tall, one room deep, and has the whole back half open for easy access.

I looked around and these things go for around $300.  Of course, I thought, I can build one of those.  I have been thinking about it for a few months now, and collecting materials along the way.  Last month, I did a rough sketch and bought a couple of pieces of MDF and a piano hinge.

I did some more drawing, and realized that I needed another piece of MDF.  So, I finally decided that last weekend, I would have to start it if I were to have any chance of finishing it before her birthday.

I decided that I would not hide it from her for several reasons.  The first was the fact that hiding it would be difficult.  The second was the fact that I thought she would appreciate it more if she saw the effort that it took to make it.  And of course, if it made her love for me grow greater, that would be even better.

So I asked my mother to come and watch her Saturday, and got to work.  It was not that difficult, but it was hot, and as with anything like this, the time seems to fly by when are actually doing it.  By Saturday evening, I had the whole frame put together, and the piano hinge on the roof.  The wood for the interior walls had been cut, and I had decided that a lot of the work from this point on could be done in the house where there is air conditioning.

Since Saturday, I have done a little work every day.  The interior walls are in now, and I have cut the wood for a couch, love seat and chair for the living room, and a couple of beds.

As with most things that I do like this, I have gotten carried away.  I tend to build things that are a little more elaborate or just plain big.  This would fall into the ‘big’ category.  It is 57 inches tall, 49 inches wide, and 18 inches deep on a 24 inch deep base.  There are 10 rooms including a living room, study/library, dining room, kitchen, pantry, full bath, master bedroom, nursery, child’s room, and kid’s playroom.

I plan to make as much of the furniture as I can.  My focus will be on functionality rather than reality.  For instance, I want to make a chair and table for the dining room that will last if my daughter wants to play with it for years, not an ultra-realistic piece of miniature art that will break the first time she plays with it.  And, I want it to be big enough for Barbie when she gets one.

Special thanks to my wife.  She has done most of the measuring and marking, and without her assistance, it would not be done at all.

I have enjoyed it a lot more than I ever thought I would, and I will continue to document this process in case any other parents out there decide that they want to attempt it.  Stay tuned for pictures, and further documentation.

Cost so far:

3 pieces MDF: $22.00 each

48 inch Piano Hinge: $15.00

Screws: $0 (already had these)

Nails: $0 (already had these)

Tools: $0 (already had these)

Scrap Wood: $0 (already had some of this. Also took two small pieces from a trash pile at a home being built in the neighborhood)

Total: $81.00

National Work Zone Awareness Week

As much as I despise him, I’ve decided to go a little Andy Rooney with my post today.

As I was driving into work today, I looked up to see a message flashing on one of the permanent traffic information boards that are spaced about every five miles apart on my drive through Fort Worth on my way to work. 

Sometime these signs contain useful or even important information.  They will let me know a few days ahead when there will be scheduled road repair or if a NASCAR race will be affecting traffic that week.  Often there are Amber Alert messages regarding missing children or elderly.  When I see these messages, I make a mental note of their content in case I actually see the car that is wanted or matches the description.  This seems like a great use of technology to me.  Sometimes there is an accident ahead that is significant enough to warrant a warning on the signs.  Those days I take an alternate route.

However, there are also the days when someone is put in charge of the sign who feels like things need to be tricked-up a little.  I have grown used to the “Buckle Up” admonition, and the polite desire that I “Have a Nice Day,” but every now and then some joker feels the need to say something different.  These messages sometimes encourage me to pay attention to road workers even if there is no road work to pay attention to.  In other cases, I have been encouraged to vote.

The only real affect that I have noticed from innocuous messages such as these, is that they affect the flow of traffic as people feel like they have to slow down to read them.  It seems to me that when signs are used in this manner that they defeat the purpose of having the sign in the first place.  I have even seen accidents shortly before getting to the signs that were probably caused by people breaking to read the signs while other people trying to read the signs hit them in the rear.

This morning as I drove to work, I was greeted with a message informing me that it is Work Zone Awareness Week.  I looked this up in the internet, and not only is it Work Zone Awareness Week, it is National Work Zone Awareness Week.  This struck me as a little odd.  Of course, there were no work zones on my twenty mile trip to work for me to be aware of, but that was not all.  I suddenly thought, “Pretty soon we are going to have a week for everything.”  But, there are only 52 weeks in a year.  So, is ‘Work Zone Awareness’ in the top 52 things that I need to be worried about.  I find that hard to believe.

So, I assume there must be some serious overlap here.  Every week must have multiple causes that are competing to make sure that I am aware of them.  In the cacophony of causes something is lost.  I am just not able to care that much about all of this stuff, and  regardless of that, I always try to be safe when I am driving down the road anyway. 

So what is the real purposed of National Work Zone Awareness Week?  I can only assume it is three fold.  1) To give the folks that sit at a desk in a boring job at the highway department something to do.  2) To provide revenues to advertising agencies that have won lucrative government contracts to promote these types of things. 3) To assure that my drive home from work takes a little longer as people slow down to read the ‘very important’ message that has been provided for our edification.

Bitter?

This is one of the bitterest things that I have ever read.  It would be very funny except for the kids involved.  I don’t know why everyone needs to live their lives like a Springer episode.  This guy is a father and a professional, and I don’t care how much of an ungrateful b—- his wife is, he should know better.

The Bachelor Exploits a Child

I watch a lot of Reality TV.  I have watched every season of Survivor, The Mole, The Amazing Race, and several seasons of American Idol and The Apprentice.  I have also watched several reality failures like the recent pirate debacle.

 

However, I have never enjoyed any of the programs based on relationships especially dating relationships.  I think that a marriage is simply too important to suggest that people should act as if they could ever enter into it though a television program where money is used as bait.  I also am uncomfortable with them men and women on these programs who use sex or their sexualityto help them get ahead (I know I am a little inconsistent here with regard to Survivor).  It is seedy and unseemly.

 

So, when I saw the touching commercial for the new bachelor program where the male contestant is a single father, I wanted to puke.  It was clear from the advertisements the his young son was going to be a big player in the plot of the show.  It is one thing for these people to screw around with each other’s emotions, but it is something else entirely when you involve a child and exploit him.

 

I find it hard to believe that no one at ABC objected to this, but I am sure that they thought all they had to do was to make a ‘touching’ commercial, and people would be all over it.  It is one thing for these despicable programs to present their warped ideas dating and marriage, but it is something else entirely when a child is brought in, a child who probably is looking for a mother figure.  So, they will put him on the program where these women will attempt to form emotional attachments with him in order to curry favor with his father in hopes that the father will choose them, and they will win the money.  The young boy will also get to see them throwing themselves at his father in a sexual way,… nice.

 

Shame on his father for using his own son to further a career in entertainment.  Shame on the women who use him for the same thing, and to win some money.  Shame on the producers for thinking up this tripe.  Shame on ABC for allowing this abomination to happen, and promoting it as if it is a good thing, and shame on everyone who helps this program in the ratings by watching it.

Some Proposed Rules Regarding Christmas Etiquette

It has been obvious for the past few years that Christmas has gotten out of hand.  Now it is apparent, too much of a good thing is indeed too much.  As a result, I have proposed a few rules to help people navigate the Christmas season with some sense of decorum.

I do not need to start seeing Christmas items and sections in stores before Halloween.  I swear, I saw some stores with Christmas sections in August this year, and I’m not kidding.  We already have way too many stores doing ‘Christmas in July’ sales.  Pretty soon it will indeed be Christmas all year around.

Rule: Christmas sales and sections should be limited to the day after Halloween (preferably the day after Thanksgiving) through the weekend after New Years Day (for After-Christmas sales).

Christmas decorations are also way out of hand.  There is no need to cover every inch of your lawn and house with Christmas decorations and lights.  Trying to limit yourself to one giant ugly blow-up Christmas item would be preferable.  Also, I see lights going up sometimes before Halloween and staying up as late as March or April.

Rule:  If you think to yourself, I wonder if it would be too much if we…?  It is too much.  Stop it!

Rule: Do not put up any Christmas decorations until the day after Thanksgiving, and take them down by the week after New Year’s Day

Finally, Christmas music played on the radio and in stores is way out of hand.  Some retail outlets and radio stations go to an “All Christmas” format the day after Halloween.  There is no need for this.  One awful result of this is that these stations find any (and I mean ANY) Christmas music, and put it in their playlist.  Unfortunately, every recording artist feels the need to make at least one Christmas album, no matter how bad it might be.  These stations tend to force these horrible songs on their audience because they do not want to play the same music all of the time.

Rule:  Christmas music should not be played before the day after Thanksgiving (and it would be better to wait two more weeks), and should be stopped the day after Christmas.

Rule:  Only play the Christmas standards or legitimate attempts to perform nice Christmas music (so my head will stop exploding).

 

 

 

 

The Santa Claus Conundrum (Or, Christian Attitudes Toward Santa Claus

Many Christians understandably get confused when they are forced to deal with Santa Claus.  If we include getting presents from Santa Claus in our observance Christmas of the Christmas holiday, are we in essence lying to our children?  How can we observe a holiday based on the birth of Christ, and incorporate a lie in the observance?  Does paying so much attention to Santa Claus take away from Christ?

Well, I don’t really think it is all that complicated.  I know several Christians who simply ‘do not do’ Santa Claus.  I think this is a shame.  I encourage my child to have a good imagination, and I think watching her pretend is a great thing, and a source of entertainment for me as well as her.  Santa Claus teaches children about giving and that being good is often rewarded (and being bad is punished).  These are excellent life lessons for a small child.

The problem seems to revolve mostly around lying to our children.  I personally do not have any problems helping my child keep up the Santa Claus façade.  As long as she wants to believe in him, I will encourage her to do so.  However, I know the day will come when she will ask me straight-up if he is real, and I will tell her the truth.  I will also remind her how much she has enjoyed pretending that there is a Santa Claus, and how she should not ruin the same feeling for other kids who still believe he is real.

I feel sorry for the parents that do not let their children believe in Santa Claus, and likewise, I feel sorry for their children who miss out on part of their childhood.  They are robbing their kids of the chance to take part in a great Western tradition, and much of the wonder that comes with being a child at Christmas.  Often, these children grow up and become embittered by the fact that they did not get to participate in the fun that their friends had.  These are not good feelings for a teenager who is facing other temptations such as sex and drugs from their friends.  I do not want my child left with the feeling that, “Maybe, my parents just don’t want me to have fun.”

On the other hand, I once knew a girl (a twenty something) who said that because her parents lied to her about Santa Claus, she could not trust them.  I have to say that this was one of the most offensive examples of an ingrate that I have ever seen.  So, the fact that her parents got her all of those gifts, and tried so hard to give her a fun childhood meant nothing to her.  In the end, I think she was just looking for a reason to blame her parents for all of her problems, which she did.

The question about whether Santa Claus detracts from Christ at Christmas is a touchier subject.  It is true that Santa Claus is a big part of the secularization of Christmas, but that just means that Christian parents have to do their job, and make sure that their children do know ‘the reason for the season.’

About twenty years ago, Amy Grant’s music was becoming so popular that it was crossing over from the Christian music stations to the pop music stations.  At the time, Christian stations found themselves in a conundrum.  Her music could be interpreted to be either about God, or maybe a friend or boyfriend depending on how you applied the lyrics.  As a result, many Christian music stations found the need to determine if they were still going to play her music or not.  In the end, most played the music because they correctly argued that having young people listen to the music might actually draw them to Christianity.  The same argument works for Santa Claus.  If you prefer, think of Santa Claus as a gateway drug that draws the world to ask, “Why are we celebrating this holiday, anyway?”  As Bart Simpson once said, “Christmas is the time of year when people of all religions come together to worship Christ.”

It is also helpful to remember that the Santa Claus legend is based on Saint Nicholas of Myra who was by all accounts a Christian that anyone would do well to emulate in his life.

Like Father…

Jesus Barragan has added a whole new demension to “Take Your Child to Work Day,” but I dod not think this is going to get him any Father of the Year nominations.  Funny,

What is Family Television?

My wife has always been a big ‘family television’ viewer.  She has seen every episode of The Waltons, Little House on the Prairie, Touched by an Angel, and Highway to Heaven.  She still watches the Hallmark Channel on a daily basis, and if she is already watching one of the shows when I enter the room, I’ll sit and listen as if I am interested, but the whole time I am counting the minutes until it is over.

I, on the other hand, am no goodie-two-shoes when it comes to television, but I may be a nerd.  Most of the programming that I watch is on one of the channels owned by Discovery.  I watch a lot of sports, some reality based TV (Survivor, The Amazing Race, and American Idol), and a lot of the movies that are on the premium channels.  I watch very little scripted television mainly because the writing is usually not very good.  I watched the Sopranos religiously, but the dialogue on a show like CSI, for example, just hurts my head.

7th Heaven:

Several years ago my wife and I started watching 7th Heaven.  For the first few seasons, it was very enjoyable.  However, I remember a specific episode when one of the local elected officials was discovered having an affair.  Surprisingly, there was the reverend with as much angst as his character had ever shown preaching to the audience that it was ‘none of their business’ what the man was doing at home.  It seemed a little coincidental that President Clinton had just gone through the Monica Lewinski scandal.  At the time, I was offended that the writers of a show that purported itself to be a ‘family’ show about a minister and his wife trying to raise good kids, would slap their audience in the face in this manner.  I found myself watching it less and less, and pretty soon it was off my radar.  It was a good thing also, because the show devolved into an opportunity for the liberal writers to get their message out to a conservative audience, and later it devolved into one of the worst written soap operas on television.

The ABC Family Channel:

If you look way up in the numbers on most cable television plans, you will find the ABC Family Channel.  Don’t be fooled.  This is no more of a ‘family’ oriented channel than TLC is a ‘learning’ channel.  I just looked up tonight’s programming and found two episodes of That 70s Show followed by that wholesome movie Mean Girls (please read the last line with appropriate sarcasm).  There is nothing ‘family’ about any of this.  I don’t even give them credit for attempting to socially engineer their audience.  They are simply hoping that parents are letting their children watch this ‘family’ programming in order to get their ratings up.  I personally cannot think of a time when I will feel that slightly disguised sexual innuendos and drug humor are going to be appropriate for my daughter to watch before she is an adult.

This week, I was watching a movie that I can’t even remember the name of, and went to the ‘guide’ on my DVR.  I know I was on HBO, because I noticed one of the programs being offered for my viewing pleasure on the HBO Family Channel.  It was called All Aboard! Rosie’s Family Cruise.  Smelling a rat, I looked at the information on the show.  It said, “Feature-length chronicle of a precedent-setting 2004 cruise, in which Rosie O’Donnell and her family joined hundreds of other gay, lesbian, bisexual and straight families on a weeklong trip from NYC to the Bahamas and back.”  Holy Crap!  This is what HBO is passing off as ‘family’ programming?

Of course, this is not family programming.  It is a blatant attempt by HBO and the disgusting Rosie O’Donnell at social engineering.  Period.  This would not even be considered programming outside of the gay and lesbian context.  There are no other programs on HBO family chronicling the trips of say the Smith family to the Grand Canyon.  I was appalled.  I don’t mind the gays having their own programming such as Bravo or here! TV (heck, I even watch Top Chef), but this is a clear offensive (and I mean that in the military sense).

They would do well to remember that America does not support this type of thing.  It has already expressed its opinion in several state bans on gay marriage, and with the number of states involved, a national constitutional referendum is a real possibility.  People will simply not put up with this sort of thing, and they will vote with their feet.

 

Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

I was reading a story today about an 89 year old lady who was arrested this week for keeping a football that had gone into her yard.  Of course, there was the requisite shaking of the head that was prompted by the words in front of me, but as I thought about it, I wondered “What was her motivation for keeping the ball?  What did she get out of it?”

I know some would like to turn this into a property rights issue.  Does she, as owner of the property, have the right to keep the ball when it comes into her yard uninvited?  Do the kids have the right to demand that she allow them onto her property to retrieve it, or do they have the right to compel her to retrieve it for them or give it back to them?  And, I’m sure the police did not go right to her house and arrest her upon receiving a complaint from a bunch of kids.  If any protocols were followed, they would have given her multiple opportunities to return the ball before she was actually arrested.  I’m sure she just refused to listen to reason or cooperate, and they were left with no choice.  Yeah, it’s pretty sad.

But the question of “Why?” still remains.  I think that I actually stumbled upon the answer on the way to work this morning.  It happened while I and everyone else on this particular road were being slowed down by unusually heavy traffic.  When the state authorities redesigned that part of the highway a few years ago, they did so with a view to the future.  There is actually room for four lanes (on each side of the road) to fit easily through this stretch of road, but unfortunately a couple of miles on either side of this stretch, there are areas that are still two lanes wide, and expansion would require massive engineering projects to ever get to the desired four lanes.  As a result, the area of the road that could hold four lanes, still has only two to keep from having a bottle-neck at the other end.  As I sat in traffic this morning, I saw two vehicles pull out into the huge shoulder area and simply drive about a mile down ahead of the other cars.  It was complete sorry-ness, and I found myself wondering “Why?” once again.  Why would they do this?  It shows a complete lack of regard for the law, and the other people who are being forced to wait their turn, and in the end, when they get to the point where they have to join the rest of the pack, they end up slowing traffic even further to let their sorry selves back in.

These people and the old lady from the first story reflect the attitude that they only care about themselves.  They have no regard for others around them or people that they might come into contact with.  Their greatest personal achievements involve elevating themselves above those around them (at least in their own minds). 

The answer is a reflection of the fact that there has been a removal of social mores, and it shows the death of the personal moral compass that has been encouraged by the cultural relativists in our land has begun to bear fruit.  People have been encouraged by schools, society, television, and psychologists to do what feels good to them regardless of how it affects other people.  There is no corporate desire to make our society a better, nicer place, and as result, it is not.

I finally got around to watching HBO’s John Adams this week.  It was great.  I noticed that there was indeed a corporate sense of honor and duty that led men to fight and to give their lives without pay, and without even being ordered or asked to.  During those times, a person could strongly disagree with another person.  He could even say that his ideas were ridiculous in print.  But, I also noticed that when they spoke face to face, they always spoke cordially to one another, and referred to the other person as ‘Sir’ even if they were skewering each other at the time.  They might question the man’s sanity or ability to reason, but they never questioned the motives of the other person because, if they did this, they might end up dead.  See Alexander Hamilton for a good example of what happened when people acted without decorum during this time.

People had expectations of other people during this time, and society reacted negatively when a person failed to live up to those expectations.  A good example of these attitudes could also be found in the Adams series.  In it he, John Adams, refused to help his son-in-law, and disowned his own son because they failed to live up to societal expectations.  Later generations still felt the pull of duty and a sense of corporate responsibility.  You only have to go back to WWII to find a time when Americans offered up their sons and themselves to fight in a war.  This was not a war where there might be a chance of getting killed by an insurgent (please do not think I am taking anything away from the bravery and sacrifices made by servicemen today).  It was a war where, if you were in the military, there was a strong likelihood of you suffering death or serious injury.  If you were able-bodied and you did not serve during WWII, you and your family were stigmatized by this decision.

During the 1940s and 1950s people were still expected to perform up to societal standards, and families that did not were also rightly stigmatized.  This corporate societal expectation motivated people to act in a way that was mutually beneficial to all.  It is not so today.  The adoption of the welfare state in cooperation with the elevation of the individual and the advocating of the ideas espoused by relativists have deprived Americans of the corporate disdain that would beneficially keep us all in line (sometimes literally).

Persons without a religion to assist them in attaining a moral compass today, often have no way of attaining any sense that they have a duty to the rest of the people around them to at least treat these people as they would like to be treated.

On this subject, I have no answers, only complaints.  Popular religions continue to cut off their collective noses to spite their faces (see the Baptists boycotting Disney for a good example, but they are not alone).  They seem to drive more people away with the self-serving rants than they bring in.  I believe many young parents would use a church as a good way to instill good morals and mores in their children if the churches would actually stay on message and not veer off to attack Miley Cyrus, for instance, whenever they get bored.  As far as society getting a handle on itself and reestablishing its own set of social mores to help encourage decorum, this would be impossible at this point.  Not only is that horse out of the barn, but that barn has long since burned down.

In the end, we are left with individual choices to do the right thing or not.  Those of us who choose to act with decorum and respect for others while teaching it to or children will be the ones that keep society from completely falling apart.

You still have a choice.  You can be the mean old lady at the end of the block that keeps the ball, and no one will mourn you when you die, or you can be the old lady who gets the ball for the kids along with a cookie.  Which one of these makes more of a mark?