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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Christians - Spreading subversive messages to the world since 35 AD


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christians - Peddling Subversive Beliefs Since 35 AD


Friday, November 28, 2014

Dystopia or Utopia: How's That Working Out for You?

© 2014 - The Giver

Have you noticed who the villains in the latest dystopian books and films for young people have been - Hunger Games, Divergent, The Giver, Maze Runner, Elysium, et al?
Each of these films casts a large intrusive, control-everything, would-be utopian government as the bad guys. As the Meryl Streep character said in "The Giver", When we give people a choice, they always choose wrong!" Free will always gives those who would rule problems. So the solution virtually every government comes to eventually is to remove all choice from people whether by laws, repression, drugs or brainwashing. Humans can't seem to come up with any better cure than brute force for the problem of free will - at least not those humans who tend to make up governments.

I've only found one solution that cures the problem of free will and it does so by giving us a choice. Joshua articulated that choice to the children of Israel, "Choose you this day, whom you will serve......"

Making that choice leaves you changed. Making the right choice leaves you changed to a better person; one fit to live forever, free and able to truly choose without prejudice, habit, ignorance or confusion to get in the way.

It's an incredible thing, but I think our passage through the crucible of Earth where self service (also known as sin) is allowed to work itself out to its inevitable conclusion, is the only way such a change may be wrought in creatures with true free will. Lucifer thought the Earth needed a prince. Turns out, all it really needed was love. Nothing more complicated than that.

Merry Christmas to you all.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Robin Hood was a Republican

My left-leaning friends never tire of conjuring the ghost of Robin Hood when they talk about using the government to take from the greedy rich to give to the starving poor. This in spite of the fact that the greatest health problem among American poor people is obesity. The analogy comparing tax and spend liberals to Robin Hood, fails on several levels.

Let's take the case point by point:

  1. Robin Hood stole largely from wealthy politicians - clerics, barons, earls and kings - the worst sort blue-blooded riff raff.
  2. Robin did not exactly steal from the working rich to give to the poor either. He took back money extracted from citizens by the King's tax collectors and gave it back to the poor from which it had been taken - rather like taking it from the IRS and giving a big tax rebate to the country's over-taxed citizens.
  3. Robin did not get a cushy job out of the deal with a retirement plan, a weekly paycheck and health insurance. He had no power from the crown to harass ordinary citizens with unnecessary paperwork, license restrictions and the threat of jail. He was chased into the forest, constantly hounded by the sheriff's men and generally under-appreciated by the leftist celebrities among the privileged classes. 
  4. Robin gave the money he took back to the sick, the lame and downtrodden and to the hard-working farmers and tradesmen who had earned that money in the first place, not in order to get the support of the professionally indigent in exchange for their support for maintaining the self-appointed and self-serving nobility in public office.
  5. Robin Hood believed in the right to keep and bear arms. Robin and his men were armed citizens. He knew how to shoot accurately an it is highly unlikely he'd have turned in his bow and arrow just because the King said so.
  6. Robin Hood believed the king drew his rights and privileges from ordinary citizens, not the citizens from the generosity of an entitled nobility (i.e. the government).
  7. Robin Hood was a strong believer in liberty. So much so that he was willing to fight for it against an oppressive government.
  8. Robin Hood believed in a strong national defense, joining King Richard on his crusades against Muslim invaders (check your history - the Muslims got as far as Austria before the European nations banded together to drive them back to the Middle-East).
  9. Robin Hood believed in the right of the ordinary citizen to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness. He believed small business people, farmers and tradesmen had a right to ply their trade unmolested. He was a free market capitalist.
  10. Robin Hood believed in freedom of religion and that the church should be independent of the state, not a tool of oppression for the state. He robbed wealthy and corrupt priests and bishops, but kept his own chaplain for his band of merry men. 
  11. Sir Robin of Loxley believed in free speech. He spoke out fearlessly against the depredations of the Lords and nobles who oppressed the poor working man.
  12. Robin Hood believed in the freedom of assembly. He was always conducting impromptu meetings and doing community organization work, much to the dismay of the landed gentry and the nobles and priests.
  13. Robin Hood believed in a free press. He often posted competing notices next the ones the king and the sheriff nailed to trees all over the countryside.
  14. Robin Hood didn't tell people how they should eat, drink or enjoy life. He had no appreciable desire to tell anyone how they should conduct their personal business. He liked girls even though he wore tights and believed in the importance of keeping traditional families together even when times got tough. He didn't whine when the going got tough. He solved the problem the best way he could with the resources he had at hand.
  15. Finally, Robin Hood believed that a corrupt powerful government should be held accountable for its sins. He engaged in civil disobedience against unjust laws and periodically recalled a particularly corrupt and despotic politician to a special tribunal that will take place, not in this world, but in the next one.
 Ergo, Robin Hood is, if not precisely a Republican, then a at least a self-identified Tea Party conservative of the first rank.

© 2014 by Tom King

Monday, October 20, 2014

Over the Garden Wall - My Debut Role as a Troll

Keene Public School's 1964 Production of "Over the Garden Wall"

It was 1964 and I was about to make my first appearance as an actor in a musical. The 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grades were staging Keene Public School's musical production of "Over the Garden Wall", a play based loosely on Mother Goose stories and rhymes.

This picture takes me back. I can't identify everybody, but I do know a few of them.

The farmer types on the far left are Barney McClure (my cousin) and Elaine Ferguson as "Jack and Jill". Famous future Dentist, John Barroso is sitting on a ladder behind them starring as "The Sun". The first butterfly on the left is Amma Sue Johnson. Behind her to the right are the Washington brothers, Manuel and Phillip. Continuing right are Patsy Marshall and Wanda Davis (the first girl I ever had a date - it was a disaster, don't ask). The bluebird was, I think, David Carver. And last but not least in this rogues gallery is the white-beared dude dressed all in black - Tom King my own self, as Mother Goose's hit troll. My character abruptly enters stage right and threatens to abduct Jack and Jill and take them to a dark cave. I think they needed to end the play and couldn't figure out how since it didn't have much in the way of a plot. So the writer apparently decide, "I know. Let's send in a troll!"

And to make matters even more weird, I was a singing troll. I sang my threats to the children - ominously, as I had been told by Mrs. Webb, the fifth and sixth grade teacher and director of the play.

You'd never get a character like that troll in a children's play these days. Too creepy! I was like this really short pervert troll enforcer for Mother Goose. What's weirder, if you can believe it is that I can still sing the stupid song to this day.

I missed most of the play myself because I was hiding backstage in utter terror and praying to God for strength to go out there and sing in front of all those people (I was in 3rd grade and terribly shy). 
But I did it:

Naughty, naughty children
Go home and go do bed,
Or I will quickly take you
To caverns dark and dread.
Mother Goose is looking
For you every where.
So beware..............BEEEEEEEWAAAAAAAAAAARE!

See, I told you I still remembered the stupid song. I ought to. I sat in an oak tree for two days memorizing that song because I was so scared I'd forget the lines. I could do it better now, because I have a deeper voice. Sounded more like a Munchkin than a dangerous troll back in 3rd grade.

Later when I became a teacher, I remembered that moment of stage fright when doing school productions with my own students and tried to remember how traumatizing that first acting job was.

Two years later I played Pinocchio in our 6th grade play - star of the show I was being Mrs. Webb's favorite actor. It gave me a big head. Seriously, I have a head the size of a watermelon.
One of the miscellaneous children in the Pinocchio play was my childhood neighbor, Steve Wilhite, who had one big line - something about "Look there's a star!" He was supposed to point toward the back of the room as he said it. Steve argued with Mrs. Webb that we should hang a star back there because everyone would turn around and look for one.

She apparently didn't have a lot of faith in Steve's acting ability and told him dismissively, "No one's going to turn around and look for a star."

Steve's judgment was later vindicated during the actual production when he delivered his big line, pointed and EVERY SINGLE PERSON IN THE AUDIENCE TURNED AROUND TO LOOK FOR THE STAR (including Mrs. Webb and Mr. Pauly, the principle, who later was overheard to say, "They should have put a star back there on the wall or something.")! I don't know about Steve, but I'd have felt pretty good about my acting skills right at that moment.
Later I went on to play Merlin in a community theater production of Camelot and nearly got blown up by a special effect. I said an unfortunate word, which the microphone I was wearing picked up and delivered clearly to the audience. That word was NOT in the original Lehrner and Lowe script. The Cleburne Times Review entertainment writer who was there that night was overheard to say, "Was that in the script?"

It is the moment my wife likes to remind me of whenever I get the acting bug and start talking about doing community theater again.

Ah, well. At my age, one must be content with past glories.

© 2014 by Tom King

Saturday, October 11, 2014

There Should be a Change in How We Decide What's a Planet and What Is Not

Pluto and it's moon, Charon
The astronomical bigwigs are at it again - trying to decide whether or not Pluto's a planet. I think the wrong people are debating this. Regular folk should decide. This is too important to leave to mere astronomers and academics.

So, let me offer a definition of a planet from the viewpoint of a consumer of astronomy. To be a useful definition, let's make it more like the way the APA describes mental illnesses. It gives some options and the requirement is that the disorder (or planet in this case) meet 3 of 4 or 4 of 7 of the criteria to be that mental disorder or astronomical object. This leaves room for variation within a type. So here's my offering for a definition of a planet.

1. Is a celestial body moving in an elliptical orbit around a star.
2. Is spherical in shape and has a shape that is stable under its own gravity.
3. Is large enough to dominate its orbit having cleared neighboring space of debris.
4. Has at least a diameter of 2,000 km.
5. Has a satellite that orbits around it.

6. Has an atmosphere.

To be a planet, it must meet four out of six of the above criteria.

Pluto would be a planet (1,2,4,5,6)
Eris might be a planet (1,2,4?,5,6?)
Makemake would be a dwarf planet (1,2,)
Quaoar would be a dwarf planet (1,2,5)
Orcus would be a dwarf planet (1,2)
Sedna would be a dwarf planet (1,2,)
Ceres would be a planetoid or asteroid (1)

I might even make a further distinction.

1 criteria = asteroid (mostly because it's not spherical)
2 criteria = planetoid
3 criteria = dwarf planet
In which case Orcus, Makemake and Sedna would be only planetoids.

Just my own humble opinion. It just seems that the requirement that a planet meet every criteria in a list is too rigid. It doesn't allow room for something odd to be a planet even though everybody thinks it ought to be one because it looks like one. That's how things get named out in the real world.

Scientists should remember that before they go around willy-nilly making a kid's model solar system obsolete.

Yeah, it makes me mad. I'm getting too old to relearn the solar system.

© 2014 by Tom King

Friday, October 03, 2014

Why They Call Them the "Golden Years"

Being in fashion? Not a problem.

There are distinct advantages to being a sexagenarian and it's not what just flashed through your dirty mind.  I have compiled a list of some advantages to being of an elderly persuasion.

  • You have more interesting conversations about surgeries with your friends in a week than the average doctor does with his colleagues in a month and you've finally learned what a prostate is and what it means when it's gone. 
  •  No one wants to kidnap you. In a hostage situation, you'll probably be the first one released. People let you ahead of them in restaurant lines, stores give you 10% off just for being you and you can sing along with the elevator music without shame. 
  • Your kids hold family meetings down at the I-Hop about what to do about you (and you don't have to go to them). 
  • You've discovered how to use the Internet to find out what's really wrong with you so you can argue with your doctor more effectively. Besides that, all that health insurance you bought is finally beginning to pay off. 
  • Everyone's happy now when you take a nap in the middle of the afternoon and they try not to wake you up.
  • Your kids bring you presents now when they haven't come to visit in a long time because they feel guilty. You've learned to use that guilt to get better presents.
  • You can predict the weather with your joints and you're more accurate than the National Weather Service so you don't have to watch television weather reports anymore, which gives you more time to watch Matlock reruns on Netflix.
  • Sex is as rare and as much appreciated as it was when you were 13. You can even get along without it. What you can't get along without are your glasses. 
  • You are no longer expected to run – anywhere! And people don't think you're a hypochondriac anymore.
  • People don't call you lazy anymore - in fact, they keep telling you that you should slow down a bit. If someone calls after 9:00 pm, they ask if they woke you up and apologize for calling so late.
  • You and your fellow retirees control 75% of all liquid cash assets in the United States and you still remember your children and relatives who weren't nice to you.
  • You don't have to remember anything you don't want to. Nobody expects you to remember anything anyway.

© 2014 by Tom King

Monday, September 15, 2014

Why I Took Up the Banjo

Okay, I admit it. I enjoy being a bit of an odd duck. I had to. It all comes from my difficult childhood as a nerdy, skinny little kid in the local public school where they sent all the thugs and toughs deemed unworthy to attend the local church schools and the heathen children whose parents didn't go to church. The rest of us who were simply too poor went there because we had to. It was a lesson in survival skills for the meek. By embracing the identity that was forced on you by your tormentors, I learned how to deflect them. If they call you a geek, be a proud geek. This confuses most bullies and spoils their fun......except when they beat you up in frustration because their words no longer make you cry.

While we meek types may, indeed, inherit the Earth someday, it sometimes feels like we may have to pay for it in blood. I was offered the chance to play in the school band at one point, but I turned down the opportunity. In order to play a band instrument other than drums (where the thugs were well-represented), you had to stick something in your mouth and when you do that, you can't really sing along.
skinny little kid in the local public school where they sent all the thugs and toughs deemed unworthy to attend the local

I took up instrumental music in 1971 when I bought a damaged Mexican guitar for $6 and fixed the bridge. It worked beautifully and made even my pitiful efforts sound good when I could actually get the thing in tune. It took me two years to develop a good enough ear to actually hear what in tune sounded like. Till then, I tuned my guitar visually by depressing the top string on the fifth fret, plucking it and adjusting the next string down till it vibrated when I picked the string above it. I learned this technique in physics class - I was that big a nerd.

They called me two-chord Tom and used to pay me to play elsewhere. When my guitar playing finally became tolerable enough that I was allowed to play with the guys at campfire at my summer camp job, I was offered an old used cheap banjo. No longer the obnoxious amateur guitarist I had once been, I jumped at the chance to revisit my halcyon days as an out-of-tune ballad singer via the banjo.

After 40 years of banging away at it, I can play well enough that folk don't run screaming from the room, although my wife (Miss Perfect Pitch) tends to keep putting it way in the back of the closet if she finds it left unattended for more than a few minutes.

Ah, well, I can always go to the woods or sit out on the porch, a spot to which generations of itinerant banjo players have been traditionally banished. That's okay. I like the porch and the woods.

More scope for the imagination.   — © 2014 by Tom King