Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Someone Saved My Life Tonight

During my Elton John years back in the seventies the song Someone Saved my Life Tonight was one of my favorite Elton John songs. I am not sure why. I don't remember being rescued from anything in particularly, but perhaps I wanted to be rescued from something that is now buried deep in my subconscious... or... maybe I just liked the beat and the rhythm...Who knows?...On a more serious note...As I look back on my life I can think about numerous occasions where I felt like someone saved my life in the sense that they contributed to my life in a meaningful way and I would like to acknowledge some of the people and briefly describe some of the "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" moments.

1. Summers at my aunt's house: When I was young my mom would ship me off to spend a month or so with my aunt who had two sons my age. The summers spent with my aunt and her family were some of my fondest memories of my childhood. I remember my aunt hauling my cousins and I all over the place. She took us to the beach, the Egyptian Museum in San Jose, and to Happy Hollow children's park where my cousin's and I would ride the Happy Hollow train around the park. I also remember trips to the Planetarium and our trips to Candlestick Park where I once, "almost" caught a Henry Aaron home run in extra innings while sitting in left field freezing my buns off. The ball actually ricocheted off one of the seats in the row in front of me and bounced over my head where a gang of kids fought over the ball. Spending summers with my aunt and her family exposed me to a lot of things I would have never been exposed. My own family didn't have much money to spend on entertainment and Bakersfield is not exactly a travel destination hot spot.

2. My best friends mom and family:
When my father died during seventh grade our family went through some really, really, tough times and my best friend's family kind of took me under their wing and helped me in a lot of different ways. My friend's dad helped me join the boy scouts and took me to all the meetings and camp-outs and they also paid for me to go to Boy Scout camp during the summer. But, one of the things I remember most was my friend's dad attempt to tell me about the birds and the bees. I guess he figured since I didn't have a father someone needed to teach me about one of the most exhilarating but tempting experiences in life. The whole event which probably didn't last more than fifteen minutes was hilarious. As I sat quietly in his late 1950 pick-up truck I can remember him admonishing me to never let a girl touch my family jewels because if I ever did there was no turning back. At the time I wasn't exactly sure what he meant but apparently it had a profound effect on me because I never did let a woman touch the family jewels until I was married. My friends mom also helped me tremendously during my high school years. She worked at the same high school I attended and she helped me get a job working at the student store during the school year and during the summer I worked full time as a janitor's assistant. I can't tell you how much this helped me and my family. After my father died our family lived on government assistance and we didn't own a car but by my senior year I had saved enough money to buy a car and I don't remember feeling particularly deprived during high school because I always had some money. My jobs during high school also helped to develop a work ethic at a young age and it kept me from getting into the kind of trouble a lot of friends seemed to get into on a regular basis.

3. Bible College Mentor:
While attending Bible College back in the early eighties I was assigned a mentor professor. We would meet once a week and talk about anything and everything. During this time I felt comfortable and safe to open up and share some things about my life that I had felt deeply ashamed about and had kept secret for years. While his advise wasn't particularly helpful at times his patience, acceptance, and willingness to not be judgmental was critical in helping lay the groundwork for me to accept myself in the following years. And, it taught me the value of intimacy and allowing oneself to be vulnerable to another human being.

4. Numerous teachers and authors:
During the first ten years after my conversion to Christianity I became entrenched in the pietistic/ fundamentalist subculture. I was very legalistic, dogmatic, and as one of my non Christian friends put it, I was so heavenly minded that I was no earthly good. But thank God, that all turned around in the late eighties and nineties as I became exposed to a series of Christian and non Christian profs and authors who taught me that all of life is spiritual... and... inspired me to learn about culture, the arts, philosophy, theology, psychology, mythology, and a host of other ologies...and...because I had been exposed to so little as a child I was like a sponge at a time in life when I think most people my age were just interested in finishing college and getting a job.

To this day I still enjoy listening to Elton John's song Someone Saved my Life Tonight and when I hear the song I think of all the people who helped contribute to the rich life I feel I have lived...

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Friday, January 26, 2007


I've been working on this blog idea for about four days my head...and...hopefully this time around I can get it past my head onto my here goes...During the course of our lives we fluctuate between feeling stuck in a rut and feeling invigorated by the sights of sounds of nature, a movie, music, a stimulating conversation, or the whispers of a lover enticing our carnal nature. These invigoration's are what some refer to as "awakenings" of the soul. This past week I have experienced such awakenings in a way I have not felt in a long, long time and for the past four days I have pondered what is going on and why. For the past seven or eight years I have repressed many of my thoughts/ideas about religion, politics, and culture on the home front and my neck of the woods, and have limited my comments and ponderings to cyberspace. No one told me I had to go this route but it became increasingly difficult and frustrating to carry on conversations of such nature with people who weren't interested, didn't know what the hell I was talking about, or let's just say they didn't share my passion or point of view on such took my ponderings, questions, and passionate concerns to the world of cyberspace where bloggers and discussion groups abound with many people who share similar interests, passions, and reference points.

Over the past couple of weeks I have engaged in a number of conversations with four different people that have been extremely satisfying in ways I have not felt for a long, long, time. Sunday I talked to the pastor about her upcoming series on Brian Mclaren's new book and later I went out to lunch with some people at my son's church and we talked about film and it's potential relevancy in the field of education...and...the previous week I met a lady at church and we briefly talked about her own self imposed exile from the conservative religious sub-culture and I found out we used to attend to same church and I hope to hear more about her faith journey in the weeks to come.

Thomas Moore says that good conversation is sex to the soul. I had never thought it that way but I think Moore is onto to something because when I have an interesting conversation where I am engaged with another person I feel an exhilaration as I feel the blood rushing through my body from my head to my heart. I don't want to extend this analogy too far, but I think you get my point. I have also learned something about myself, my soul, as well. My soul needs and greatly values intimacy that involves face to face, engaging conversations with people where I feel safe to share what I think and feel about those things I am passionate about.

Sometimes we can go so long without food for our soul that we forget what good food tastes like. Now that I have gotten a little taste of some more substantial food for my soul I hope to indulge myself while the refriderator door is open and hopefully the next time around the door won't stayed closed as long....

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Free Flowing Thoughts for the Day

Every once in a while I go through a period in my life where I have a lot on my mind and the thoughts are free flowing in and out of my brain and consciousness at almost light speed. This is one of those times. Over the past couple of days I have been working on a potential blog entry entitled "The Many Faces of Death" but it takes so much energy for me to put into words what I want to say sometimes. So, for now I am putting my thoughts on death aside and will just pass along some of my ponderings on a number of other things I have been thinking about this week....

President Bush's Speech
: I was glad to see Bush in a more somber mood this time around and was glad to hear him, at least mention, some things that he and his party generally ignore like looking for alternative energy sources and Global Warming...but I can't help feeling that much of what he had to say and propose, especially regarding Iraq is too late...I hope I am wrong...but...sometimes so much damage is done you can't go back and fix that which has been obliterated.

Reading: I don't just read through books to gather information anymore. I read slowly, underline as I go, journal a bit, and try to allow the words to interact and engage my soul. I know this probably sounds a bit esoteric but it seems to be working. I can at times almost feel the energy flow through me as I am pondering this or that. If this all sounds too New Agy for you, please disregard and move on....

Relationships: Difficult, exhilarating at times, painful, beautiful, generally worth the time and effort, mysterious, unpredictable, sacred, blissful, and a unique aspect of the human condition that touches the deepest essence of our souls....

Music: Pearl Jam in concert rocks....especially Daughter and Given to Fly....and long live U-2's Vertigo DVD...God, I love the opening number, City of Blinding Lights...

Movies: I love movies. I love the storytelling aspect and the wonderful sights and sounds...and... I don't think enough people appreciate the craftsmanship and passion that goes into this incredible art the next life I hope God makes me a film director...I could dig it...

Jung: I love reading the writers who have been influenced by the Swiss giant who brought us archetypes, ponderings of the soul, and the emphasis on imagination, which are the things lacking in our high tech, overly analytical, supposedly efficient, mean and lean, society run by bureaucrats and power brokers who have, imho, lost touch with themselves and what really matters in this world....

Church: As I stated in an earlier blog entry I had all but given up on organized, institutional religion. It had become too painful, boring, and to be blunt, largely irrelevant to me and I had stopped feeling guilty about my attitude towards church and the fact that I had stopped going a long time ago...For the past three weeks I have been attending a local Congregational Church and am more excited about going to church than I have been since I can't remember when???....I find the pastor inspiring, intelligent, humorous, and a good story teller. Next week she is going to start a new sermon series on Brian Mclaren's book, The Secret Message of Jesus. This series will last for four months and the congregation will be discussing the book each week after the sermon....and...the pastor is offering a free book for anyone who promises to read the book and participate in the discussions. I am really, really, excited about this opportunity. This is right up my alley and I am looking forward to entering into the discussion and getting to know some people along the way and we'll see where this all leads in the months to come.....

Monday, January 22, 2007

Pan's Labyrinth Revisted

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Yesterday while the vast majority of Americans were watching America's favorite past time, football, I went to see the film Pan's Labyrinth. Pan' Labyrinth is an intriguing story which operates on multiple levels which include history, religion, ethics, and psychology. Over the years I have seen my fair share of fantasy flicks but Pan's Labyrinth is as unique as they come, for a variety of different of reasons. On one level, the film doesn't really seem like a fantasy film because the historical aspect of the film is so intertwined with the fantasy, to the point, where one feels like one is watching two separate films. On another level, this is not you're typical enchanting fantasy film, ala, Chronicles of Narnia, Legend, Harry Potter, etc. Pan's Labyrinth is truly unique in that it mixes historical drama, with fantasy and horror and I really can't think of any comparisons. It's kind of like a hybrid between Schindler's List and A Never Ending Story...which....will probably create a bit of cognitive dissonance for the average American movie goer who is used to Hollywood formulas and predictability. The film also earns it's R rating and should not be seen by anyone sensitive to violence and out and out brutality....Overall, I really liked this film, not because I found it particularly entertaining or charming, because it is neither but I did appreciate the complexity,religious symbolism, and the strong moral undertones, which I think are relevant to our times and our lives....

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Week-End Spectator Extravaganzas

Normally I try not to sit around and watch too much television particularly on the week-ends...and...during football season I seldom watch a game live so I generally tivo the games and watch them commercial free and in fast forward mode when it is convenient for me to do so. Over the years I have discovered that the body loves motion and too much butt time is detrimental to both my psyche and both my back and knees which is why I generally hike/bike at least four days a week...but...this week-end is now shaping up to some serious butt time with three movies and two football games in the hopper. The week-end serious butt time/spectator extraganza kicks off tonight with the movie Duma. I don't know too much about Duma but it did recieve a 93 per cent approval rating over at Rottentomatoes which is good enough for me to drop four bucks to hobnob with the more serious movie going elite crowd who congregate at the restored historical Fox theatre twice a month....Spectator Extravaganza event number two...Pan's Labyrinth...Originally I was going to travel to L.A. to see this film but the film is coming to Bakersfield this week-end so I won't have to spend twenty bucks in gas and travel four to five hours round trip to see this film. I have been eagerly anticipating this film for two weeks now. This film recently won the National Society of Film critics best film award and it recieved a twenty two minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film festival last year. Over the past two weeks I have read a significant number of reviews and I have yet to encounter a single negative review of this film which is very unusual since there is always someone out there with an axe to grind or a desire to just go against a tidal wave to get attention. Negative attention is generally better than no attention in the minds of some.If you missed his comments in an earlier blog entry, here is what Preacher Russ had to say about this film..."SEE THIS FILM...It'll blow you away. I saw it this afternoon and, although I was a little leary about the subtitles, it didn't take away anything from the overall effect...It was just a really COOOOOOOOOL film...dynamite effects...great storytelling...solid acting...excellent's got it all."...Extravaganza Event number three...Championship football...I am really looking forward to both games this Sunday and like most I am rooting for Indy and the Saints. Go Reggie Bush...Show em some razzle/dazzle moves you learned at USC. I am not going to make any predictions about either one of these games because I honestly believe they are all evenly matched and I don't want any more egg on my face after my bold, "wrong" prediction last week. Even, I, have a reputation to maintain....Extravanza Event number Four....I want to take my two sons on Monday to see the movie The Children of Men. I really wanted to take them to see Pan's Labyrinth but they shot down the idea of sitting through a foreign film with subtitles. I have tried to coax them past this obstacle for a number of days now but they are insistent they don't want to see the film so I'll wait until it comes out on DVD and they can watch it in English. Besides, I have heard really great things about The Children of Men and I have learned to not push my sons to far to accept something I want them to see, read or hear....Well, that's it for the upcoming week-end. Lot's of sitting on my butt but I suspect I'll find some time to get out and get a bit of exercise before I go back and forth between the movie theatre and my reclining chair which is where I go to watch football...

Monday, January 15, 2007

Finding a Church Update

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A couple of months ago I mentioned I was going to visit a few churches. I have been kind of looking for a church, half heartedly I admit, but I have visited a local Congregational Church about four times during the last nine weeks. Most of the time I just sat in the back, listened to the sermon, and generally left at soon as the service was over. Yesterday, for the first time since my self imposed exile of almost six years I feel like I have made a connection with a local church. The connection occured after the service when I was approached by a woman who took the initiative to talk to me before I bolted for the parking lot. We talked for almost an hour and would have probably talked much longer but I had to pick up my two sons. It turns we that we used to attend the same Evangelical Church years ago and her spiritual journey and departure from the Conservative religious subculture sounded very similar to my own. I also learned alot about the church from her during the hour and discovered that the pastor and the congregation is very open to people, like myself, who are either ambiguous, nuanced, or unwilling to take stands on many of the dogmatic aspects of traditional Christianity. I can't tell you how refreshing it was to talk to someone, face to face, outside of cyberspace who was willing to accept and not judge the journey and place I am in life regarding my understanding of my faith. I don't know where this will lead in the weeks or months to come but for the first time, since I can't remember, I am actually looking forward to going to church next week. The church is also very active in the community on numerous fronts and is looking for ways to actively engage the community on the war in Iraq. I realize no church is perfect because people have flaws and limitations but it is very encouraging to know that there are some churches and people out there that share my passion and perspective on the relationship between culture and religion...Honestly, I had all but given up on finding a local church where I felt I could worship and be a part of but yesterday my hope was renewed and for that I am grateful....and....thanks to the lady, for taking the time to care and share with a wandering soul who has been in the desert for a long, long, time....

Friday, January 12, 2007

Why the Chargers will beat the Patriots

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I can understand why alot of folks, including many football pundits, are picking the Patriots to upset the Chargers. Belichik and Brady verses Rivers and Marty ball. Looks like a big mismatch no matter how you slice it.While I understand why it makes alot of sense to pick the Patriots to upend the Chargers this week-end here are some reasons why I think the Chargers are going to beat the Patriots.

1. The Chargers have three of the best players in the league at their position including the most valuable player in the league. While Tomlinson gets the majority of the press Antonio Gates and Shawn Merrimann are two great players in their own right. Merriman is a beast who is going to raise havoc with the Patriots and Gates has the potential to help slow down the pass rush I expect from the Patriots and keep the chains moving.

2. Although Philip Rivers is in his first year he really doesn't need to do much except give the ball to Tomlinson and hit a few short passes to Gates and Tomlinson. And, once the Patriot defense is softened up a bit they should get some big plays down field....and....don't turn the ball over!

3. Marty is not the same coach who has failed time and time again. He "has" loosened up quite a bit and I think he will come out with a more aggressive offensive game plan than the past. Call it a hunch...

4. The San Diego players are highly motivated...They have been sitting around all week listening to the pundits and the media give New England a lot of love... and...if you want to know how far motivation can take a team just take a look at what happened with the Boise State Broncos and Florida Gators over the past couple of weeks...

5. Home field advantage...Charger fans are underated...They are not like their laid back Southern California cousins from L.A. They are much more like the crazy passionate fans in Oakland

6. The Charger team is underrated. Because Tomlinson gets so much attention a lot of people aren't aware of how many good players the Chargers have on both defense and offense. They have a lot of big tough working class guys who are going to go toe to toe with the big bad New England players.

7. New England is not as good as the past and while Tom Brady is a great player I don't think he will be able to overcome the Chargers advantage at all of the other skill positions. New England may come up with a game plan to slow down Tomlinson which may work in the early part of the game but keep an eye on what happens in the third and fourth quarters when those big guys in the trenches start to run out of gas....and....Merriman is a terror with a non stop motor which won't stop until after the Super Bowl...and... If and when San Diego gets a lead watch out for the beast who is going to make life uncomfortable for Brady and the rest of the offense....Final score....San Diego 24 New England 13....

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Snow in Bakersfield?

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Tomorrow morning there is a chance of snow as an arctic cold front moves into the area and drops the temperature into the 20 degree range early in the morning. I have lived in Bakersfield for 45 years and it has only snowed twice. Once in high school it snowed two inches but had completed melted by noon and the other time was about six years ago when it snowed somewhere between five to six inches. The chance for snow is only about 30 per cent but it would be super even if we only get a few snow flurries. Because we never get snow in my neck of the woods everyone goes nuts when it does snow. When it snowed six years ago everyone in the neighborhood was outside running around like a bunch of wackos by six a.m. and we had one grand snow block party for most of the day. It was magical. I am not getting my hopes up because the snow gods are rare in my neck of the woods but, just maybe, we'll luck out and get enough snow to throw a few snowballs or at least get enough to blanket the lawn and work a bit of magic for the folks here in the Bake where the sun shines and torches us to a crisp for most of the year. The weather has been rather strange for the past twelve months around here so maybe we'll get a break long enough for Jack Frost and Frosty the Snowman to make quick visit.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Pan's Labyrinth

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I love the Lord of the Rings big surprise...Since the last chapter of the Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, my movie going experience has waxed and waned. Oh, there have been some good movies since the LOTR's, like Big Fish,Batman Begins, The Harry Potter movies,Princess Mononoke,the Revenge of the Sith, and most recently Little Miss movie has captured my imagination, heart,and soul like the Lord of the Rings. Over the years I have written a few movie reviews and plugged this film or that but I generally don't recommend films I haven't seen. The last film I plugged prior to actually having seen the film was the Lord of the Rings but I did so only after doing my homework by reading numerous early reviews and following closely the process of the production from my various website and media sources. I mention all of this to say that I again want to go out on a limb and recommend a film I haven't seen.The film is called Pan's Labyrinth. Pan's Labyrinth is a fantasy film which is set during the rise of fascism in Spain during WWII. The film is directed by Mexican director Guillermo Del Toro which also directed Hell Boy, Mimic, The Devils Backbone, and Cronos. This film came to my attention a couple of weeks ago after reading a review by a movie critic on one of the websites I frequently visit. Over the past two weeks I have been following this film very closely reading anything I could find on the film and the consensus is that this is an astounding film.Here are what some of the critics are saying about this film....Richard Roeper says...Best fantasy film since LOTR...Christianity Today... It would probably have delighted Tolkien and Lewis, who believed that fairy tales help us apprehend the reality of grace as it glimmers through a screen, darkly...and...Roger Ebert...Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth is that rarest of cinematic rarities, a fully and flawlessly realized fantasy film

And, here are some more rants and raves from other critics across the country...

The horrors of both the realistic and surrealistic worlds are woven into the beautifully aligned narrative structure of del Toro's story. This is fabulous filmmaking in every sense of the word.

Pan's Labyrinth artfully fuses a war film with a family melodrama and a fairy tale. The result is visually stunning and emotionally shattering. Though graphically violent in parts, it still manages to be enchanting.

Rarely in film history has such elaborate fantasy been put in the service of such a profound and serious treatment of reality. But Pan's Labyrinth is an extraordinary film made by an exceptional visionary.

This magnificent and moving horror-fantasy for adults has already been raking in nearly unanimous acclaim... I'm not only on the bandwagon, I'm proudly riding shotgun for one of the richest films of 200

Best picture of 2006: This vividly aesthetic, poignantly haunting, densely rich fable for adults represents the maturation of del Toro as a director of the first rank, raising the bar of the fantasy genre; the most visionary film in Cannes Fest this year.

By juxtaposing inhuman military brutality with the idealism and imagery of a fairy tale, del Toro integrates the two, creating a credible tension between both.

And, finally Harry Knowles of Aint it Cool News had this to say about the film he picked as his favorite film of 2006..."it engaged me as a waking dream and nightmare. One that I never wanted to wake from. When the end credits came, I wept, wept because I was so proud of Guillermo, wept because I didn’t want it to end and wept because I knew it’d be months before I’d see it again. The film is set in the agony of reality and the dream of fantasy – and the care taken in the telling of both is that of the finest craftsman. It is an immaculate conception. Brilliant from beginning to end. Guillermo has made his first MASTERPIECE"

Pan's Labyrinth is not for everyone. It is not a pop culture, sentimental, good verses evil fantasy film. The film is apparently dark, violent, disturbing which warrants a R rating. Many have compared the film to the dark tradition of the fairy tales found in the Brother Grimm stories. Also,the film is not in English which will no doubt scare away more than a few movie goers...but... for fantasy nuts like myself or anyone that loves the art of great filmaking this film sounds like a must see. Unfortunately, because the film is foreign it may not come to Bakersfield but if it doesn't I am planning to travel to L.A. to see the film while also checking out the new Icon exhibit at the Getty Museum and when I do I'll write up a review of my impressions of what sounds like a great film...If you want to know more about the plot and basic storyline I would suggest visiting rottentomatoes where you can find more reviews and a more detailed description of the film which is being hailed as a masterpiece by many of the critics of the movie industry.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Breaking my vow to God

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When I was about eight or nine years old I spent the night with my best friend and a couple of other kids and we stayed up until the wee hours of the night playing poker. I lost all of my money that night except for a quarter and I remember making a vow to God that if I could win my money back I would quit and never gamble or bet again. I did win all my money back and I kept my vow to never gamble for 41 years.... until.... two weeks cyberspace blogging comrade Dave initiated a friendly wager on the Rose Bowl game. The winner would buy the other a C.D. of their choice. Since my team, USC won Dave had to pay up by sending me a copy of Grand Funk Railroad's greatest hits. I'm not really a Grand Funk Railroad fan but the song I'm You're Captain is one of my favorite songs from my early childhood along with Nights in White Satin, Stairway to Heaven, and Riders in the Storm. I used to love listening to these songs on the FM dial late at night growing up as a kid. Just something haunting and transcendent sounding about these songs....back to the breaking of my vow....There are several ways of looking at the breaking of my vow...I kept the vow for 41 years. How many people can say that about keeping any kind of promise or vow?...Vows are meant to be broken...Friendly wagers between friends is really not gambling...or...I really didn't break my vow since wagering on USC against Michigan in a Rose Bowl game is really not gambling since gambling involves chance...and...we all know what happens to Michigan every time they venture out to Pasadena to play USC in the Rose Bowl... ....seriously....I appreciate Dave's promptness in sending the C.D., thanks Dave. It arrived yesterday and after I ripped off the plastic I sat down and listened to I'm Your Captain and was flooded with many fond memories as Grand Funk ended their classic hit with the famous line, I'm getting closer to my home, over and over which fits well with where I am at in life these days....and....if it is any consolation, Dave...I really didn't think USC would win the game....and...I wasn't particularly looking forward to trying to find some of the C.D. choices you had God USC beat Michigan and thank God nothing has apparently changed with the Michigan football program....

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Friday, January 05, 2007

Over the years I have heard it asserted on numerous occasions that modern men and women reject Christianity and it's truth claims because of science,logic,and allegiance to human reason. While I am willing to concede some truth to this particular assertion I would like to suggest/propose that it is human experience in the end that makes it difficult for many folks to align and commit themselves to the various Christian institutions and it's numerous subcultures. Let me try to explain. Orthodox, mainstream Christianity in it's various forms asserts in it's creeds, doctrinal statements, dogmas, and it's teachings from the pulpit numerous things on a regular basis that has no relevancy or connection to reality or the experiences of the vast majority of modern day people. Stories of animals talking, virgin births, walking on water, people being swallowed by whales and living to tell the tale, and people coming back from the dead are what I am referring to. I am not suggesting that these stories do not have tremendous value, because I believe they do, but when these accounts are taken literally and dogmatically, as they are by the religious powers that be and a vast majority of it's followers than it creates a stumbling block for most folks who did not grow up in the subculture where they would have been indoctrinated from birth. Many Christian's assert that it is pride that prevent people from accepting these proposed self evident truths but, imo, these stories taken literally are a stumbling block because we have no personal experiences in which to compare them with. Some Christians might suggest that miracles still happen today and while I don't want to rule out the possibility that God can and does do miracles there appears from my vantage point a qualitative difference between the miracles and miraculous stories found in the Bible and what people report to experience in the modern world...and...that is one of the reasons why people who did not grow up in a Christian subculture have a difficult time committing themselves to a religious institution that I suspect seems out of date and out of step with reality and the experience of many folks in the modern world...

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Gift of Silence

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When was the last time you heard the sound of birds chirping, the rush of the wind, or the sound of a creaking door in your house? We live in a society that generally no longer pays homage to Saturn the patron god of silence. Silence is rare in the modern world and it is generally not something we consider a gift but rather, more often than not, we feel threatened by the sound of silence. Why is that? Do we fear what we may hear from the deep reaches of our soul/intuition if we took the time to listen to the still quiet voice that seeks so desparately to be heard from time to time?....Don't get me wrong, I love noise as much as the next person. I love the sound of a loud concert, the roar of a crowd during a sporting event, and the scream of a fanatic fan when his or her football team scores a touchdown...but...I also can't help wondering and pondering to myself if we don't lose something critically valuable to the human experience by filling our lives with constant noise. I have become increasingly aware of the potential value of silence over the past few days because for the first time, since I don't know when, my house is not filled with the constant noise of television or the sound of people. At first it felt kind of weird and out of place but I feel like I am now adjusting and seeing for the first time the potential value in living with a daily dose of silence. Silence is not easy to obtain in the modern world for a variety of different reasons. Most people live in family arrangments with others while we are all subjected to the daily sounds of cars, planes, lawnmowers, television, radio, and the general hustle and bustle of daily life. But,I think it would benefit us all if from time to time, as our situation allows it, we find ways to pay homage to Saturn by turning off the T.V., and finding some place to just sit and listen to what our inner soul/spirit wants to say to us because I suspect our inner soul has some words of encouragement, healing, and other gifts to share with those who are willing to take the time to listen....

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

New Years Resolutions

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It's that time again to make some New Years resolutions. Actually, I stopped making New Years resolutions years ago because I generally either lost the motivation after a couple of weeks or I most often made resolutions that I realistically couldn't keep. Either way, it was an exercise of futility. Although I don't do New Years resolutions here is my list of things I would like to see happen in the weeks and months to come.

1. Take more intiative to develop new friendships. I have a number of great friends in my neck of the woods but most of my friends I have known for ten years or longer and I haven't really made any new friends for years. It's great to have loyal friends who you have known for years but I think it is time to go out on a limb and make an attempt to make some new connections...Making new friends at my age and stage of life will be challenging because most folks are married and have extensive family related responsibilities but I do need to take more of an initiative to develop friendships with others.

2. Explore and expand my social network. I've been in a rut for some time now regarding my involvement or rather lack of involvement in some kind of social network. For years my social network was the local church but since my self imposed exile a couple of years ago I have yet to fill the vacuum created by my departure. I do intend to continue visiting a couple of local churches in the weeks and months to come but I also want to expand my search beyond religious institutions. I intend to attend some meditation workshops in the near future and tomorrow night I am hoping to attend some kind of "therapeutic/meditative" drum session at the local Metropolitan Community Church. I feel kind of awkward trying new things but I do feel I need to make the effort.

3. Get involved in some kind of local community service project. Right now I am looking at some local environmental related activities of peace projects. Bakersfield is an ultra conservative city but there are some small enclaves of folks who also care about the environment and are concerned about our foreign policy. It may take some effort to find these folks but I do hope to get involved in something this year.

4. Take advantage of my current situation. I am in a unique situation in my life right now...being single...with lots of time on my hands and I hope to not waste this opportunity by wasting my time on meaningless activities. I am not exactly sure what this all means, at this time in my life, but I see this as a year to take more risks and explore the numerous possibilities before me.

5. Explore past relationships...Although I am currently single I would like to be in a "meaningful/healthy" relationship again, some day...but...first I think I need to explore my past because my past relationships have been rather dysfunctional. I don't intend to beat myself up over my past but I think it would be helpful to explore and give some thoughtful consideration to why my marriage and other recent relationships came to an end.

6. And finally, I want to travel to some "new" places this upcoming year. I have gotten into a rut regarding where I spend my vacation time over the past six or seven years and this summer I hope to travel to some places I have yet to Fe, New Mexico...Colorado...and maybe go back to Sedona Arizona....

Monday, January 01, 2007

USC Crushes Michigan

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In all honesty I am surprised as anyone regarding USC's dominance of Michigan in the Rose Bowl. Although I predicted USC would beat Michigan, by the slimest of margins, I thought it would take a near perfect game by the men of Troy to pull off the upset...but, USC didn't just beat Michigan, they crushed them, particularly in the second half, which, proves what many have been saying for some time now, USC is the best college program in the nation and Pete Carroll is the best college football coach in the country. One just has to love Carroll's enthusiasm, his agressive style on both sides of the ball, and his ability to adjust during halftime. During Carroll's tenure at USC they have now outscored their opponents in the second half by a whopping 700 points which is an amazing statistic!....I could gloat about USC's dominance over Michigan but it is enough to just say that USC has better athletes and a better head coach...What surprised me the most....Although I predicted USC's defense and team speed would surprise Michigan I didn't suspect they we be so dominant, particularly shutting down Michigan's running game...but Michigan, imo, contributed to the problem by lacking creativity on offense in the first half which played into the hands of the USC defense. My biggest surprise, though, was on how well John Booty and the passing game performed. No one, particularly me, would have thought that USC's offense could dominate by being so one dimensional, which I guess just goes to prove that if you do something well enough, balance is just not that important....bottom line....Speed kills and USC just has too much team speed and too many great athletes who, when motivated, can and will most often dominate their opponents.... Carroll's Trojan's are now 5-1 in bowl games and in the last five years USC has either dominated or lost by only the slimest of margins most of their big games which qualifies them as a juggernaut on the college football landscape...and...the only hope for the future foes of USC is that Carroll gets bored and heads to the NFL. Rumors have recently surfaced that Arizona wants Carroll, "real bad" and is willing to shell out 30 million to lure him to the desert but I hope and pray that Carroll will again resist the various temptations from Mount Olympus and resume his post in the Kingdom of Troy where his fans and players revere him as a legend and a demigod in the world of college, I leave this blog entry with this request...Please don't leave us Pete for the black hole called the NFL... and... please promise us you will never leave the Shire. The shire is your is where you belong...and as long as you continue to reside here with us we will support and give our loyalty to you and the juggernaut you have established here on the west coast...and...finally...We salute you and the men of Troy which have given us so many great moments over the past six years...

Rose Bowl Prediction

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I've been up to my eyeballs getting my house in order since Christmas and thus have neglected my duty to say anything about the big game between Michigan and USC. I don't have much time to say much now either because I am getting the house ready for some friends who are coming over to watch the game in about four will have to limit my comments to some general impressions...I honestly don't know much about Michigan and have only seen them play once which was against Ohio State. I wasn't all that impressed with their defense which gave up alot of points and I don't think the game was as close as the final score. On paper Michigan should win the game. Statistically they have the numbers...great run defense...very good offense...and only one loss to a great Ohio State team...they also have motivation...and...more experience...USC...USC's offense has been up and down but their defense has been consistently good all season and I think their speed and big time hitters at linebacker and safety will surprise Michigan. You can move the ball against their defense but their stable of big time boppers will have Michigan's skill players looking over their shoulder's after they knock you silly a few times...Offesively, Booty has been good but not great...It is their running game which I believe will be the key to this game. None of their backs have great numbers but as a unit they have amassed alot of yards and Chauncy Washington is one of the best backs in the country no one has heard about. Before academic problems and injuries he was rated ahead of Bush and White on the depth chart. They both have one common opponent in Notre Dame and both teams manhandled the Irish which leads me to believe it will be a close game and will probably come down to a turnover or big play on special teams...Pomoxian Dave has predicted that the "mean and lean wolverines" will crush the men of Troy later today but I just have to yawn when I hear such nonsense. Been there, heard that before, from the folks in the Midwest who apparently have too much time on their hands during the cold winter months with nothing better to do than watch football and run around with sweatshirts bearing the logo of their favorite Midwest team. Out on the westcoast we have better things to do, in the land of fun and sun, than sit around and hope our favorite football team does well. And, if, USC loses today it will not be the end of the world because we still have the mountains, beaches, deserts, and beautiful forests to romp around in but God help the poor folks out in the Midwest who don't have much to look forward to if their team loses....Final prediction.....USC 21 Michigan 20....A real sqeaker...