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Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christians - Spewing Hate for 2000 Years


Monday, December 22, 2014

St. Paul - Subversive Mastermind Threatens Civilization!


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 and 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, what with being Mrs. Webb's favorite actor and all. 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 principal, 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

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Ghost Writing For the Not Quite Dead

It's so much fun to pound a keyboard 16 hours a day  till your fingers are nubs and your brain can no longer find a reasonable way to spell hyperbole. You should try it sometime. What keeps us going is the pittance that trickles over the transom and the hope that someday we're going to strike it big. We're the 49'ers of the 21st century.
Sometimes, you'd do better to sell yourself to an Arabian Sheikh as his personal toilet attendant. That'll do too. I've written better than 30 books in the past 18 months. All of them, I am told, are selling well on

Not a one has my name on it.

But I chose this life and I'm damned well going to keep soldiering on in it till I win or they bury me - one or the other. I AM WRITER HEAR ME TYPE!

I'm sixty years old. My brain says I'm 22. My bones say I'm 112. We humans were not meant to live like this. I am thoroughly convinced that we were designed to live in lakefront bungalows, to sit on the porch every evening with a nice warm dog stretched across our feet and to play banjo till the sun goes down.

It's funny how you get to a point where you're ready to wrap it all up and get on with the living forever part. I've decided that when we get back to the new Earth, I'm going to build a big old schooner and take her out on whatever's left of the ocean. I'm gonna sail from island to island sampling the cuisine and jamming with whatever passes for a local pick-up band.

I will of course, take along the Missus and the dog - maybe even a grandkid or two - even in heaven I can't imagine my kids wanting to hang out with me for any length of time. I told my Sweet Baboo about my plans. She told me that it would have to be in heaven before she'd go out on the ocean in a boat with me at the helm. Mrs. King is not respectful of my sailing prowess.

I wonder. Will our spouses be as sharp-tongued in heaven as they are here? Maybe I was imagining the kind of spouses you get in the other heaven; the one where you have to blow yourself up first and then you get 70 of them.

Man, that sounds more like the other place to me. I have enough trouble with just the one.

© 2014 by Tom King

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Elder Leiske and the Testimony of Roma Barnes

I vividly remember the warm Sabbath Afternoon in Keene, Texas, when Roma Barnes gave her testimony. 

At the time Southwestern Union College (the college later changed it's name because the girls wouldn't buy T-shirts with the school initials on them) was captained by Elder Leroy Leiske, a lovely man. He didn't have a Ph.D. and was scorned by some of the more stuffed of shirt among the church's leading lights at the time. Despite his lack of academic credentials, the man nearly doubled attendance at the school, boosted the numbers of marriages among students, beautified the campus and put the school on solid financial ground. He remembered the names of every one of his students and there were better than 600 of them. We all felt special. He's the only college president I ever saw get a standing ovation from students for walking out on stage in a chapel service. The kids loved the man.

One of the things Leiske attended to particularly well was the spiritual health of the students. He believed in the power of unstructured religion and held semi-regular testimony meetings at the church and in the college auditorium. He always seemed to know when we needed a recharge and would hold one just in time?

It had been a beautiful service and as we were nearing the end of it. Roma Barnes made her way up to the front to wait her turn to testify. Roma was basically our little town's resident odd duck and one never quite knew what she was going to say. Elder Leiske, who had fielded Roma's contributions to the service before, tried roll things up before she could get up front.

Unfortunately for the spiritual atmosphere that day, Roma refused to be denied. It became obvious that she had a burning desire to speak and looked so pathetic that anyone who didn't know Roma would have thought Elder Leiske was being mean not to let her speak. Finally, he motioned her forward and Roma took the mike. Native Keeneites took a deep breath.

I remember Leiske whispering to her about time and keeping it short. Finally, he shrugged helplessly and stepped aside. Roma wasn't entirely of this world at the time and she took the microphone with this very solemn look on her face. She wore a beige dress that hung like a sack on her down to her knees. She must have been in her late 40s or 50s by this time and she didn't believe in beauticians nor beauty products. This is not to criticize her appearance but to set the stage for her testimony. Simply put, Roma was a strange old bird. Roma's stern gaze swept over the congregation.

"I have had a terrible problem for many many years," she began. "I've struggled with it and prayed about it and finally the Lord has revealed to me what was causing my terrible problem." She paused dramatically. You could have heard a pin drop.

"Spices!" she announced shaking her head sadly. "They made me too sexy!"
Leiske went pale. A vast collective snort went up from the congregation and several crass individuals actually laughed out loud. I remember Ted Ramirez, our student body president and his buddy, Tee Chincheretta, sitting over to one side, doubled over in pain, their whole bodies shaking. Roma turned and left the podium, her warning to the saints well and truly delivered.

Elder Leiske's closing prayer was heroic!

© 2014 by Tom King

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams Was A Hero

Robin in The Fisher King

The death of brilliant comedian, Robin Williams has shocked and saddened the nation this week. Everyone's asking how could a man, so rich, so talented and so well-loved end his own life like that. He seemingly had everything to live for.

The Internet's predictable leap to judgment by the usual set of self-proclaimed experts has got us all sorts of clever answers.

  • He wasn't a Christian so he's gone straight to hell - don't be sorry for him.
  • He just didn't read the right books.
  • See, we told you wealth doesn't bring happiness.
  • He was a liberal douchebag
  • He chose to kill himself because he was a coward.
There are lots more, but this stuff sickens me and I don't want to repeat any more of it.

Suicide may indeed be a person's choice. I think of Saul who did not wish to die at the hands of the Philistines and others who took suicide as a way out of what they saw as an insoluble problem.

But the idea that suicide is always a clear personal choice is not true at all. There is evidence a-plenty that Robin Williams suffered from bipolar disorder or something closely akin to it. Bipolar is a cruel disease in which an underlying severe neurological condition causes maladaptive psychological responses. What that means is that at times your perception of the world becomes utterly distorted and things make perfect sense to you that make no sense at all to anyone else.

I have two family members who have made multiple suicide attempts over the past few years. They failed, not for lack of trying but  because family members were watching, praying and intervening when they lost contact with reality. In one case, I am certain angels intervened. Neither wanted to die, not really. It's just their perception was so distorted that it seemed the least selfish thing they could do. Later, when they weren't in the middle of a psychotic break, they could see that what they believed with all their hearts at the time was not true.

Many artists suffer from mental disorders. Many of them incorporate their illness into their art. Earnest Hemingway, Vincent Van Gogh, Mel Gibson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, John Nash, Brooke Shields, Carrie Fischer, Emma Thompson, Herschel Walker, Michael Phelps, Howard Hughes, Paula Deen, Elton John, Craig Ferguson, Margot Kidder, Sinead O'Conner and Kurt Cobain are just a few of the famous people who battled with neurologically-based mental disorders and often lost their lives to it.

Much of Robin Williams comedy was the result of his successful sublimation of his wild swings from mania to depression and back to mania. He worked it all into his comedy routines. It's little wonder he did so well playing lunatics as in The Fisher King and One Hour Photo. He'd been there, done that and bought the T-shirt franchise.  His portrayal of men on the brink of madness were heart-breakingly real for a reason. He'd been there. He was probably there at the time he played them.

I lost a good friend ten years ago to the ravages of bipolar.
He was a brilliant preacher and Godly man and incredibly creative. Toward the end of his life his brain betrayed him. He began having blackouts, panic attacks and psychotic breaks and at the last and he became so isolated that no one was there when the madness overwhelmed him and he put a shotgun in his mouth and blew out his brains.

The truth is that Robin Williams death may have been inevitable - a consequence of his bipolar.
What may be the real miracle is that he managed to hold off his own death for so long in the face of the unrelenting effort by his own brain to kill itself and stop the pain.

The number one outcome/side-effect of bipolar disorder is suicide. Those who love a person with bipolar need only miss the signs just once to lose their loved one. I know. I care for someone with bipolar. Most days are good, but once in a while it all goes to hell in a hand-basket and if I wasn't here, I could lose the person most dear to me in all the world.

Robin may have lost the fight in the end, but given the severity of the disease that eventually claimed him, his long and courageous fight against it deserves to be lauded for what it was - heroic. Like the defenders of the Alamo, Robin Williams held out as long as he could. You don't berate a soldier who died at his post.

So, Robin, go with God my friend. He sees the sparrow fall and notes its resting place. I suspect one day Robin will stand before the throne of Grace, look up into the face of God and say, "There you are." And God will say, "I have found you my child, come home with me."

© 2014 by Tom King

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Food Nazis, Shopping Snobs and Fashionistas, Oh My!

Okay, they got me going again. This morning there were a bunch of posts about stupid Walmart shoppers, how badly they dress and how the proletariat is being exploited by the evil folks in Bentonville. Close on the heels of the Walmart prudery came a shot at McDonald's for offering Tofu Nuggets and that set off the whole pink slime nonsense even though the so called "nasty" pink slime in McDonald's burgers, hasn't been part of McDonald's cuisine for years. I wonder at the wheezings of disgust at McDonald's one-time use of a textured vegetable protein based additive. Have these guys never seen the inside of a slaughterhouse? Now that's nasty! Mashing up soybeans is a whole lot less nauseating I promise you.

I don't go to McDonald's very often. It is a rare deal when I do. My arteries aren't as young as they once were. I do, however, drop by sometimes after an exhausting shopping trip to Walmart because, God bless 'em, they have a location inside my Walmart. McDonald's is handy to have close by when I need it - when I'm hungry and only have a dollar left for instance. Walmart is also handy to have available when I can't afford the mom and pop grocer's exhorbitant prices or need more than just groceries. Walmart is one trip for everything and saves gas and store-hopping and I can get my meds for $4.

I suppose the reason I get peeved about the anti-McDonald's, anti-Walmart nonsense I see in places like Facebook is that it looks to me like bullying. Believe me, I know what bullying look like. I see it as little more than a lot of upper middle-class, liberal, snobby, rich people wannabes who badly need to look down on somebody, anybody in order to feel superior to the rest of us mere mortals. The truth is that most of them could care less what us members of the proletariat eat. They just want to be able to think they are better than somebody and their lives are so pathetic they are reduced to the same kind of bony finger pointing that made them give up religion. Some little old lady at church probably told them their skirt was too short or their hair too long when they were kids. Ironically, they grew up to be just like them - sneering, finger-pointing critical food-Nazis, shopping snobs and fashionistas. They post pictures on Facebook of Walmart shoppers in ugly outfits and giggle at them. They blow up any urban legend that suits their "I'm superior to you" meme so long as it's critical of the lifestyle of the lower middle class and poor. Anything to deride the tastes and habits of regular folks just trying to get by on a budget that can't absorb the cost of a Gucci handbag.

I grew up on beans and rice and baking powder biscuits. A baloney sandwich and a handful of chips was haute cuisine in our house. It really hacks me off when people describe perfectly edible food as "nasty". You want nasty, go to an upscale french restaurant. Eat some raw oysters, uncooked fish or snails and then tell me the McDonald's dollar hamburger is "nasty". One man's sushi is another man's fish bait. The whole thing is nothing more than the same kind of nose-in-the-air bullying I had to put us with in elementary and high school from the jocks and the cheerleaders and the rich kids and I hate it every much now as I did then. You want to see some "nasty" food, I can show you stuff you wouldn't believe, next to which McDonald's gets 3 Michelin stars!

Get over yourselves people. There is plenty to talk about on Facebook given the hell into which this world is rapidly descending. Instead, you guys use your energy finding ways to set yourself above the folk you see as little more than simple, ignorant hicks. Marx called the "the proletariat" and it wasn't any nicer when he said it than what you're doing now. Bullying wasn't attractive in high school, dudes and dudettes, no matter what you told yourselves. And it isn't attractive now! 

Remember the Golden Rule - treat others the way you want to be treated. You can't afford to anger the proletariat, because when the zombie apocalypse comes (and it will come), McDonald's dollar menu may look pretty good to you and the zombies behind the counter may just refuse to serve you.

To paraphrase the queen of snobs, Marie Antoinette, they may just say, "Let 'em eat snails!"

I'm just sayin'

© by Tom King

Friday, July 11, 2014

Not Enough Pottery Shards - Why the Archaeologists Say the Bible Is Fiction

Eli Shukron walks through remains of the Citadel of David
An Associated Press story reports that Israeli Biblical archaeologist, Eli Shukron has found, what he believes is David's Citadel at Jerusalem - the one David captured in his conquest of Jerusalem. It fits the Biblical description perfectly, but other archaeologists say it can't be David's Citadel. The claim rekindles the debate again about using the Bible as a field guide for finding archaeological sites. First off the Biblical account is fiction, as all "true" archaeologists know, and besides there aren't a bunch of pottery shards dating back to David's time lying about the place.

Archaeologists do love their pottery shards and in the absence of centuries of ceramic debris, they inevitably conclude that, whatever it is, isn't as old as unreliable witnesses (like the Bible) say it is. I mean do these guys really base their belief in the infallibility of pottery shards on the idea that everybody in olden days just left the pieces of their broken pots lying around on the floor or in the yard? Were there no ancient trash men to take junk to the town dump?  

Apparently some professors
do leave an archaeological record.
One wonders what these guys' homes and offices must look like. Do they leave beer cans and broken wine glasses around on the floor for the enlightenment of future archaeologists? Do they pitch their old socks and juice boxes out the window to create a nice orderly progression of crap on the lawn so that later generations of archaeologists can accurately the site where the famous Dr. Illinois Smith once took his historically significant naps?

Eli Shukron, who found the place (and the water shaft David and his men crawled through) points out that the Israelis weren't in the habit of leaving broken pottery fragments lying around for centuries in places they lived for the convenience of Ph.D.'s doing archaeological dating. Even the historically inconsequential Hebrews had brooms and wives who disapprove of untidiness.

The site fits the Biblical account to a "T". This is troublesome for so many archaeologists who have refused to believe David was any big historical deal, although they did have to admit he existed when someone found an old inscription near some really old potter shards that mentioned King David by name.  They still resist the idea that he actually was anything more than a minor warlord.  After all, it would threaten the premise that the Bible was not at all historically accurate, but a fictional account written many centuries after the supposed events.

And besides, if the guy who found it is Jewish, it must be a fraudulent discovery meant to extend Israeli control over the poor mistreated Palestinians of East Jerusalem.~ That's what all the cool guys, liberals and propeller-headed Ron Paul conspiracy theorists say anyway, because we all know how trustworthy they are and what liars Jews are.~
The First Doctor of Thinkology

I'm utterly fed up with the smug self-proclaimed intellectuals and their super-cool self-worship. It's a shame we can't just get the whole war for human hearts right out into the open.  Actually, I expect the war is already heating up. Certainly the anti-Christian, anti-Jew, anti-conservative faction is growing ever more brazen and irrationally angry at anyone who disagrees with the progressive socialist agenda for making us all the same by making us all equally miserable (while making themselves our rulers by virtue of their great brains).

Really, I think we should get some university to issue all of these progressive geniuses a Th.D. (Doctor of Thinkology).~ Maybe brand them with some sort of mark so we, the ignorant masses, could identify them for the towering intellects they think they are.~

Come Lord Jesus. I'm ready to go home.

© 2014 by Tom King

* You will notice a sprinkling of an odd bit of punctuation throughout this article that looks like this:  .~    It is called a snark mark and is used to indicate sarcasm. I use this mark so that I clearly indicate when I'm not serious, lest I get another round of "Congratulations on finally seeing the light" emails from my propeller-head readers. I hate having to burst their bubbles after they have worked so hard cutting and pasting and sending me all those Youtube links about the Illuminati, the Bilderberg Conference and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.


Friday, June 20, 2014

I Discover My Indian Name

As a person who is a bit more than one quarter Cherokee if you add up all my ancestors, I consider myself part Native American. My Indian ancestry comes from two sides of my family and I am married to a Scots-Irish-Ouachita woman (which is a whole other blog by itself). As a result, I've always kind of felt like I should have an Indian name. Trouble was, I could never figured out what it should be. Traditionally, in many of the tribes your name is given to you by the tribe.

I was thinking about this today and I suddenly realized that I had already been given my Indian name and by people I still remember fondly as my "tribe".

It was back in the 80s, when I was working at Odyssey Harbor. I ran the equestrian program and was in the saddle all day long, leading strings of troubled kids with mental and physical disabilities out onto the trails on horseback every day. We were like hunting parties or something - me and my string of mounted Wahoos!

One day one of the kids told me that the boys had a nickname for me. I asked what it was. His answer made me laugh.

Buffalo Butt".

 I suppose, riding along behind me for all those hours, the name had sort of jumped out at them. We Kings are, admittedly, a bit haunchy. We're built with long torsos and short thick legs and well established gluteals. We're like Weebles. We may wobble, but with our low centers of gravity, we don't fall down. I kind of grinned. My middle son, who was also amply haunched, they called Little Buffalo. 

For a long time I used to stamp my letters with a rubber stamp of a buffalo. I think I may resume the practice. I kind of like the name they gave me. Oddly enough, it was an expression of respect and affection I think. I loved those boys and I think they understood that.

© 2014 by Tom King

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Bony Fingers and the Suppression of Happiness

Iranian "Happy" dancers arrested and forced to apologize publicly.
Six Iranian young people were arrested and forced to humiliate themselves on Iranian TV for the seditious act of creating a video of Pharrel Williams' breakout hit "Happy" and posting it on Youtube. The video "Happy in Tehran" went viral on Youtube almost immediately and within hours the culprits were identified and arrested. Of course, world opinion went promptly against the Tehran cops - particularly the police chief - and Twitter broke out in a rash of calls for the kids' release.

A lot of folks on the left expressed dismay that any government agency could be so anti-happiness and decided that Republicans must be responsible somehow.~

It is to laugh.

Except, of course, in Tehran.

Look. None of this surprises me. There are always going to be people out there, who can't stand to see others happy. I think it's because they are so busy clawing their way to the top they don't have time to be happy themselves. Lets face it, in order to achieve a state where you have so much money and power that you are financially, socially and politically secure takes a lot of work. Happiness suppressors work so hard to climb their way up into the privileged classes, because they think this will provide them with great security and that this high level of security will, somehow, make them happy.

When it does not, it makes them grouchy old curmudgeons (look it up). So when these would-be rich and powerful people see, to their horror, people with little money, no power and no social standing cavorting about being "Happy", it offends their sense of rightness. This is not how they thought the world should be. Their world works on a simple formula:

  • Rich and powerful = Happy
  • Poor and powerless = Sad

Any other formula deprives these guys of their joy at having achieved superiority to other mere mortals. So, of course the would believe that people cavorting around being happy without having had to suffer, compromise, lie, cheat and steal their way to their own elevated status must be doing something evil. This evil is by definition, a threat to their own exalted status,therefore it must be stopped.

It's hard for people who depend on external things to make them happy to tolerate happiness in people who lack money, power and influence. It throws their whole worldview out of kilter.

We used to get that a lot with the bony-fingered old people in church who though our kid songs were just way too bouncy to be religious. Tehran doesn't have a monopoly on people with the strong desire to rain on someone else's parade, particularly if their own parade going badly. There's always one in every crowd who appoints him or herself the official party pooper.

Such people should be arrested and thrown into a bouncy castle with a box of Oreos. Perhaps it would do them some good.

Just one man's opinion.

Tom King © 2014

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Will Our Children Be Able to Pass the Turing Test?

Back in 1950, computing pioneer Alan Turing said that a computer could be understood to be thinking if it was able to dupe 30 per cent of human interrogators in five-minute text conversations. In his 1950 paper, 'Computing Machinery and Intelligence' he posed the idea that imitating a real human being successfully was the real test of sentience - at least sentience at the level of human beings.

For the first time, a Russian computer program has successfully convinced 33% of the members of a panel of judges at the Royal Society in London that it was, in fact, a 13 year-old Ukrainian boy named  Eugene Goostman. The event is hailed as a groundbreaking milestone in the development of artificial intelligence.

I think not!

All it really proves is that the programmers were able to program a computer specifically to past the Turing test. The program did, in fact, bamboozle at least a third of a panel of self-important old fuddy duddies and convince them that there was a human kid on the other end who wasn't smart enough to be a real computer. The programmers admit they shorted the program's knowledge base in order to simulate the gaps in knowledge that a typical 13 year-old might have. So the success of the test was more about how the programmers anticipated the panelists than it was about the sentience of their computer program. Actually, it's not surprising that they chose a 13 year old boy for their persona. Everybody knows 13 year-old boys run primarily on their hormones rather than their intelligence. The abject servitude of pubescent males to 13 year-old females looks a great deal like the abject servitude of a machine to its human masters.

The successful attempt to design a computer to imitate a person is, to me, frighteningly like a mirror image to the way our own public school system's diligent efforts to teach (to program really) our kids to pass minimum skills tests like Texas' controversial STAAR* exams which every student must pass in order to graduate from high school. Like the Russian code-makers, we may be reverse engineering our kids, not toward sentience, but away from it. Instead of teaching our kids to think, we're increasingly teaching them to remember the "right" answers to test questions selected for them by a self-appointed group of people who consider themselves qualified to know what kids ought to think.

If our school system keeps this up long enough, we may find that our children soon won't be able to pass a Turing Test themselves. At least they won't be able to pass the test for a generation or so - not until they, themselves, programmed to be intellectual machines in their youth, start administering the Turing Test themselves. At that point, sounding like a machine will sound "human" to the judges, who themselves were programmed to think that way as kids.

I met a Chinese exchange student, recently, who fled China to finish high school in America because she feared what this type of teaching was doing to her. She told me she left China as a high school freshman, when she realized all they were doing was teaching students to parrot back rote answers. The system, she said, discourages independent thought at any level.

One frightening thing occurs to me as our education system continues to re-invent itself in service to computers and databases. If we train up our children to think and act like computers now, then, when they are old, will our world be run by people who think like machines?  If that happens, are we headed toward the Orwellian world portrayed in the famous 1984 Apple Macintosh Superbowl commercial - the world of service to the machines that the Mac was supposed to save us from?

Don't get me wrong. I love computers. They are lovely tools - like a library in your pocket. I just don't want to be one.

Just one man's opinion.

© 2014 by Tom King

*The original TAAS test, the predecessor of the TAKS test and the current STAAR test, by the way, was the brain child of Texas computer data tycoon, H. Ross Perot, a man who made his fortune stuffing things into computer managed databases. Which could explain a lot of things.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

It's Easy to Tell When You Meet Dog People

It's easy to tell dog people from regular people. Two dog people can meet along the road, walk together for a half hour and have a pleasant conversation and part not knowing each others' names - although they will know the names of each others' dogs, their ages, breed, general health and what tricks they can do. There are also a few odd things that they do:

  • They talk baby talk to their dogs
  • They tell you what their dogs are saying
  • They will walk their dog 3 miles a day when, given the choice, they'd prefer to take a nap.
  • They sleep curled up at an odd angle and take muscle relaxants for their back pain so the dogs have room at the foot of the bed. 
  • They will spend 20 minutes washing and fixing their face and primping their clothes in the morning and then let the dog jump up on them and lick their faces on the way out the door because they feel so guilty leaving him behind.
  • They will eat carnival hot dogs and taco truck burritos but will only buy the high protein, corn free, hypo-allergenic dog chow the vet sells for $48 a bag for their "babies".
  • They post 20-30 pictures and videos of their pups on the Internet in a single week.
We dog people believe we understand dog language and that they understand baby talk. We are unable to resist sad puppy eyes and if we're elderly, we spend more on the dog than we used to spend on our kids.

Just something I've observed. I have to go sit in my chair now, though. Miss Daisy wants a cuddle. She weighs 80 pounds and thinks she's a chihuahua. Oh, well, who can resist those sad puppy eyes?

© 2014 by Tom King

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Betting Your Life

I just removed a militant atheist from my Google circles. It's a relief. Like saying goodbye to a particularly determined Jehovah's Witness. I have no ill will toward atheists, but the constant "I hate religion and I'm smarter than you" rain of hatred gets old quickly.  I think we can all coexist on the whole God/no God issue if we simply respect each other. 

Ultimately, you're betting your life one way or the other. I personally believe in God, but not some of the add-ons that the political church has installed (ever-burning hell, immortal souls, guilt, etc.). Jesus came to relieve guilt, to teach us to forgive, be better people and to prepare us to live forever.  I think it's worth the bet. Certainly my life is better because of my walk with Christ. And I promise I won't burn anyone at the stake, blow up the local farmer's market or call you names because you don't believe the same things I do.

It's a huge universe and we don't know much about it yet and God may actually be the multi-dimensional intelligence that we Christians believe He is. If so, He would not be required to reveal Himself in some kind of fire and thunder display for the amusement of atheists. There might actually be a reason for Him not to do so. If God exists, it's likely He has to be very careful tampering with things here today in order not to have bad things happen farther down the timeline.  I trust a pan-dimensional intelligence has more information than me. As a matter of fact I've seen some pretty amazing things that support my belief that He does exists and knows more than I do.

If I'm wrong, what does it matter to the likes of Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins? Really. Are these guys the summit of human intelligence? Are they clairvoyant that they can look into the universe and see that there is not anything that is beyond their understanding. Religion of the sort that has not been corrupted, looks at the universe and says, "Whoa, that's a lot bigger than I can get my brain around." And we stand in awe of that, knowing we're not such big bugs in the vasty universe after all.

For some reason we are designed to wonder after the infinite - to search for something or some being who exists beyond food-gathering and sex. We look for meaning.

God, while we cannot begin to explain Him, does help us to make sense of it all and human beings so badly want to make sense of it all. Perhaps that's in our design for a reason. I find in that evidence of God. I do not demand that anyone believe or do anything as a result of my belief. Believe. Don't believe.

God, I believe, gave us free will - took a chance that all the trouble that would cause would be worth it in the long run.
It would take a God who lives outside the stream of time to appreciate what sacrifices might need to be made to safely turn loose a creature with free will in the universe. Otherwise you'd get Klingons, the Borg and all manner of evil guys running around from planet to planet murdering and enslaving others just like in the sci-fi novels.

What kind of crappy universe would that be?

Just one man's opinion.

© 2014 by Tom King

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Back Seat Solutions and the End of America

©  by Tom King

The Apartheid Solution to the Back Seat Unrest Dilemma
Remember when you were a kid and you went on one of those long rides with your parents. You were stuck for hours in the back seat with your brother or sister (or both in my case). Remember what happened when you ran out of things to do back there? Inevitably, one of you began to do the favorite thing that bored kids in the back seat of a 1963 Rambler do. One child always starts poking the others because it is vastly entertaining to hear them squawk. Next comes your sister going, "Mama, he's touching me!"And as the unrest in the back seat escalates, one of several things happen.

In one response scenario, the wise mother and seasoned-traveler-with-children pulls out her magic bag, tells the back seat bully to cut it out if he knows what's good for him and gives each child his or her choice of new somethings-to-do from the bag. With something new to keep their attention, soon everybody is busy and quiet again. The wise Mom smiles and settles back to enjoy the ride, knowing she's got more stuff in her bag and can keep the youngsters entertained for the whole trip. Notice that she gave each child a choice from the bag rather than arbitrarily assigned them a toy of her choice. Remember this. It will be on the quiz.

In the alternative response scenario, the ill-prepared mother turns around and tells the children, "Stop it!" The ensuing quietness lasts maybe 30 seconds if she looks sufficiently stern. Then, because sitting still is not a natural state for a human child, someone starts poking someone again. Invariably, the persecuted child demands, "Mama make him stop!"

The first response to the alternative response scenario is an escalation of the mother shouting tactic. "Do you want me to stop this car?" She asks. This is a stupid question because if she did stop the car, at least that would be something new. When this response fails to elicit a terrified spate of obedience, she issues alternative response scenario first response, part 2, "Don't make me turn this car around!" When this doesn't work, because this tells the children they have the ability to make mom do something and what child can resist that power, we quickly move on to...

The final response scenario: Mom actually stops the car (hey, it works). She gets out, drags the kids out alongside the road and commences to whip them till they squeal, or, more likely, she gets Dad to do it because his arm is stronger. Then everyone gets back in the car and drives on with much snuffling coming from the back seat. The snuffling continues until someone gets bored again, stops snuffling and begins poking someone else and then the cycle repeats.

"Now, of course," you say, secure in the knowledge that Doctor Spock has taught us better parenting skills than that, "Nobody these days would do anything that barbaric."  Yeah? Well I bet I'd win a lot of money on that wager.

What an angry mama looks like!
Now lets look at the progress of civilization juxtaposed against the back seat scenario. The country grows, reaches the limits of its borders and settles down to become more and more crowded. As the frontiers disappear and there are ever fewer new horizons to explore and conquer, the natives settle down and get restless as natives are wont to do when they're all piled cheek by jowl in the back seats that are modern cities.

Someone starts poking someone else. Maybe someone's not being "fair". Someone's picking on or exploiting someone else.  Inevitably, these restless souls appeal to the one entity they perceive as everybody's "Mama" - the bureaucrat-soaked, unimaginative, busy-driving-the-country-into-the-ground-for-its-own-purposes, government.

The government generally reacts in one of two ways just as the Mom driving the car does. Like Mom, the government is busy driving the car or telling the people who are driving the car how to drive it. She does not want to be bothered by the noisy children in the back seat (who are not driving the car).

Rarely, a wise government reacts by finding something for people to do. Whether you liked FDR or not, his Civilian Conservation Corps and Rural Electrification Project at least gave restless unhappy people something to do. President Kennedy, at the beginning of the restless 60s gave us the collective goal of going to the moon which took at least some of the edge off the back seat tantrums that would characterize the next decade. JFK also implemented another keep-them-busy project that at least served to keep people working and to thin out the number of restless young men - the Vietnam conflict. FDR had WWII, Woodrow Wilson had WWI, there was the Spanish-American War, the Mexican War and the War of 1812 to valve off a little steam. The Civil War was an example of what can happen when you delay dealing with problems in the back seat too long. The Great Westward Expansion of the 1800s and the Industrial Revolution kept people busy and relatively quiet back there in the back seat despite the fact that the back seat was often a pretty uncomfortable place to be while it was going on.

Typically, governments react by telling the people to stop being brats (going straight for the alternative response scenario). When ordering folk to stop misbehaving fails as it surely will, they move right along to making empty threats and from there straight on to paddling the miscreants in the grader ditch alongside the car (or in a nice gulag or concentration camp).

Often, the children in the backseat will help insure their own forthcoming flagellation by demanding that the government "do something".  By demanding that the government fix the problem and to do it NOW, the children give tacit assent to the government's assumption of even greater power over them (in the name of doing something about the problem, of course). Government, which firmly believes that you should never let a good crisis go to waste without using it to increase the power of those who hold the reins, passes laws ostensibly to protect the kids in the backseat from themselves. In the process, wherever possible, the folks in power will use the opportunity of creating laws to "protect" us ll, to also make sure that the folks, who are in charge at the moment, remain in charge. After all, who loves you more than your Mama. Certainly not those nasty Republicans. 

When it get's to the "Don't make me turn this car around" stage, you know you're in trouble. In turning the car around, the government takes you out of the public eye and takes you where nobody can see what's being done to you to shut you up and make you behave. Isolation is the prelude to particularly nasty things happening to the kids in the back seat. Examples of these nasty things that happen to naughty children include China's great cultural revolution that resulted in hundreds of millions of deaths, purges of "enemies of the state" under Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot and Adolph Hitler and ethnic cleansing under Slobodan Milosovic, Hitler and Mengistu Haile Mariam.

Every dictator in history came to power believing their job was to bring order to their beloved nation and that order was best achieved by making people compliant. Most of them believed or at least said they believed that they were making things fair for everyone. The started out to make people stop poking each other and ended up in that grader ditch flailing away with the nearest switch they could find because they would not. If the United States winds up a police state in the name of hope and change, remember.....

YOU asked for this!

Disturbing image from a law firm's advertisement

If your government ever comes to believe it's purpose is to make sure the people in the back seat comply with all its orders, we are well and truly in trouble. There is a bit of advice that the old sailing ship captains used to give to their helmsmen (these guys who actually steered the ship).  It applies to how we ought to empower our governments to steer the ship of state. The captain's advice?

"Steer small."

It's not big changes we need, but small course corrections.
We don't need to bring out the lash and start lashing any sailor who complains. We need to choose a course and keep to it. A straight well-plotted course is far more inspiring than one that wanders aimlessly whichever the way the wind blows. Useful work for the sailors to do (or for that matter, the kids in the back seat) keeps both the quarterdeck and the back seat a happy place. You get there by having a government that meddles as little as possible, sets a clear course and allows the children plenty of stuff to keep them busy and content.

Not a terribly progressive idea, I admit.

Just one man's opinion.

Tom King