Tree No Mo’

Today was Memorial Day.  Both my mom and our friends are visiting from out of town. We planned to sit around today, play games, and not much else.  This afternoon my friend’s oldest son said he was bored, so he asked if he could mow my yard.  Absolutely! While he was mowing, his dad was walking around and noticed that the tree in our front yard had some dead branches.  After cutting off a few branches, he looked closer and told me that my tree was dying.  Evidently it is infected by the “emerald ash borer.”

The tree is to the left in this picture.

The tree is to the left in this picture.

Since we are selling our house, we had two options: do nothing and hope nobody notices until after the house sold, or cut the tree down.

We thought the second option was more ethical. Our African-American neighbor (white guy from South Africa) saw us using a tree hand saw to cut down this tree (about 8 inches in diameter) and loaned us his chainsaw. It went much faster after that.  In no time at all we had the trunk and large branches cut up and stacked, and the smaller branches gathered in our side yard for disposal (no idea how to get rid of them, but I’ll find that out tomorrow I guess).

My best friend expertly wielding the chainsaw.

My best friend expertly wielding the chainsaw.

So now we have no tree.  I looked into methods for stump removal, and since we have no truck, no chain, and no dynamite (the HOA might frown on that last one anyway), I put some bricks around the stump (which is at ground level) and filled the space with dirt.  Tomorrow I will get some flowers and it will look great.  Hopefully nobody looking at our house asks, “Hey, what happened to the tree?”

Before flowers.

Before flowers.

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Clickbait

Do you remember those commercials where the salesman would scream at you from the television to get your attention? This tactic was mostly used by car salesmen, some of whom still use this method.  Terry Crew also utilizes it for effect.

Why do they scream at you?  Why are commercials louder than the actual television program you’re watching (side note, this is actually illegal now).  Because it get’s your attention.  We have short attention spans, and advertisers know this.  They raise the volume to get your attention so you’ll focus on their pitch.

With the advent of the internet, a large portion of what was previously aural (audio) communication is now text-based (visual).  So advertisers have had to adjust.

Enter “clickbait”.  Clickbait is defined as “a pejorative term describing web content that is aimed at generating online advertising revenue, especially at the expense of quality or accuracy, relying on sensationalist headlines to attract click-throughs and to encourage forwarding of the material over online social networks.” (Wikipedia).   Basically, they show you an ad that screams for your attention by inciting your curiousity.  They hope people will have thoughts like these:
“This video made your jaw drop? I wonder why.”
“The action of this person brought you to tears?  Well then it must be worth my time.”

And so you click.  And discover that the video that made someone’s jaw drop was just like every other video on the internet, most of them pointless and banal.  Funny? Maybe.  Interesting?  Possibly.  Jaw-droppingly shocking? Hardly.

I encountered some click bait today on Facebook that prompted this article.  Here is a screenshot of the videos:

No, I did not click.

No, I did not click.

I loathe clickbait.  Unfortunately the news stations are starting to use it as well.  And that’s unfortunate.  But why are they using it? Because it works.  Because people keep clicking.  Why do telemarketers still exist? Because people buy stuff from them.  If nobody ever bought things from telemarketers, they would quit.  If nobody ever clicked on clickbait, they would stop sensationalizing the mundane.

It’s up to you.

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Today

Today is the day I’ve been looking forward to for four years. Ever since I signed up to get my bachelors degree in nursing so that I could continue on and get my Masters degree in nursing, I have been hoping for the day that I finish nurse practitioner school.

Today is the day my classmates are graduating from the University of Indianapolis with their masters of science in nursing degrees. I would like to congratulate each and everyone of them for this accomplishment, and I don’t want to rain on their day since it is a great achievement for them. But that does not change how I feel right now.

Today was supposed to be the day that I was done with formal education for the rest of my life.

But instead, today is just another day. Get up. Rake the yard. Watch a little TV. Take a shower. Go to work. Come home and go to bed.

Sometimes it’s hard to trust in God’s plan. Sometimes it’s hard to remind myself that He knows everything, and that He knows what is best for me.

It’s days like today that I have questions without answers. Why did I fail last semester by only one test question? Why has our house not sold yet? Why am I behind on my bills yet again?

God knows. But I don’t. All I can do is keep putting one foot in front of the other. Keep going to work. Keep waiting for the day this September when I can start school again, hopefully for the last time.

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Adam Sandler is not Awful

Adam Sandler is funny. Adam Sandler is not funny. Both of these things are true. Today I read this article which informs me that Adam Sandler is “awful.”

I have not enjoyed everything Adam Sandler has produced. But he has his moments. I remember enjoying his “Opera Guy” on SNL when I was a teenager. I have laughed at some of his movies. Some of his movies I have not seen (or shut off after watching part of them) because they were too filthy, too over the top. For every good movie he makes, he seems to crank out another two or three horrible ones.

But his trilogy of romantic comedies he made with Drew Barrymore I have really enjoyed: The Wedding Singer, 50 First Dates, and Blended.

And I would like to take issue with this Washington Post article written by Michael Miller. Evidently some Native American actors walked off the set of Sandler’s latest movie because of offensive stereotypes. In reading the article, this sounds like one of the filthy, terrible movies, and so I will not be seeing it. But in his defense, it also sounds like they are making fun of the stereotypes, not perpetuating them. But I’m not there, so I don’t know. All I know is that people seem to get offended too easily today.

For instance, Mr. Miller’s critique of Blended (which he calls “bad and bigoted”), which I and the rest of my family found hilarious. Full disclosure: we are not racists. His article quotes another critic, Richard Brody, who speaks of the problems with Blended:

  1. The Friedmans get out of their limo and are greeted by the hotel’s staff, all black…” Well excuse me, Mr. Brody, but they are in AFRICA. Specifically, the movie was filmed in South Africa, where 79% of the population is black. I get the feeling that if most (or even half) of the staff were white (or at least non-black), Mr. Brody would have complained about how that is not ethnically representative: “Where are all the black people?”
  2. “...starting with a singing group, called Thathoo (pronounced “Tattoo”). The group leader’s eye-rolling and glad-handing, his lubriciously insinuating and exaggeratedly jiving, all seem to be taken straight from a minstrel show.” I’m wondering if Mr. Brody even watched the same movie I did. Thatoo was one of the best parts of the movie because they were ridiculously hilarious. Terry Crews nailed that role. The “eye-rolling” is a signature of Terry Crews specifically.
  3. There’s also an obsequious greeter whose exaggerated ingratiations would shame the hospitality business.” Of course he’s obsequious: he’s a concierge, not just a greeter. I could name any number of films with white concierges who behave in the same manner. And at the end of the movie the concierge reveals that his affectation was an act (he knew all along they were not who they said they were).
  4. And there’s an elderly slacker, sleeping on the job and avoiding responsibility, whose lazy ways are a monstrous and venerable cliché.” So if an old person is seen sleeping on the job, and they happen to be black, that’s a cliché and a racial stereotype? Come on, man.  It seems almost like this guy is assuming racism where none exists, much like the man who cried racism about the term “black hole” in a city council meeting.

What it comes down to is that Blended made 126.8 million and cost 40 million to make. That means they made $86.8 million on the movie. I’d call that a success. I guess Mr. Brody would call it evidence that racism abounds.

Mr. Miller refers to “The genius of Punch Drunk Love.” Well, I for one hated that movie. I thought it was stupid, and was not entertained, which is the point of watching a movie. The movie cost $25 million to make, and only brought in $24.5 million. So you can give it all the critical acclaim you want, but if the Hoi Polloi (common people) hate it, then it’s a bad movie. And that movie, which is heralded by Mr. Miller as Sandler’s best movie, cost half a million dollars more than it brought in. So it doesn’t matter that it has a good rating on Rotten Tomatoes. People didn’t go see it. Why? Because it stunk. I’m getting tired of being told by a bunch of critics what I SHOULD like.

So while Sandler has made bombs like “Jack and Jill” and “Little Nicky”, he has also made hilarious movies like “Blended.” I would call that far from awful.

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AD Episode 2

I’m not going to bore you with how bad this series is getting. I’m just going to give you the high points. Here are the things wrong with this episode, from a biblical standpoint:

  • John never entered the tomb, by his own admission (John 20:5)
  • Jesus appears to Thomas eight days later, not eight minutes (or the same day) as the episode indicates.
  • Pilate has the tomb soldiers beaten up slightly. The Bible records they received no punishment, although if they had been punished, it would have been death. Pilate then kills the soldiers later in the episode, which is not biblical.
  • The entire scene where the disciples are chased by Roman soldiers is contrived. No hint of this is in the Bible.
  • Molotov cocktails? Really? It’s like they’re just making stuff up now.
  • One of the disciples stated in the boat that they should throw back the few fish they had caught, but the Bible says they had caught nothing (John 21:3).
  • They messed up the “feed my sheep” lines by having Jesus’ third response be “Follow me” instead of the biblical “Feed my sheep”

At least with the end of this episode we’ve moved out of the gospels and into the book of Acts, so it should be fairly easy to track their twisty progress.

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AD: The Bible Continues. Roma Downey Continues to Rewrite Scripture.

One of the things I dislike about modern film is when the directors and writers attempt to apply modern moral stands and issues to situations in the past. Placing actors of different races into parts that render the whole historically inaccurate. Such as hiring a Chinese actor to play Abraham Lincoln, or hiring a black man to portray a county sheriff in 1920’s Mississippi. It’s not wrong, but it definitely distracts from the story.

But no greater example can be found than the dramatization and twisting of Scripture as done by Roma Downey and her husband Mark Burnett. First they started with “The Bible” (which I have reviewed) in which they cast a black actor to portray Samson when Samson was clearly Israeli. And then they made “The Son of God”, which I declined to watch because it was simply an extension of the miniseries, which I already knew was twisted.

But now they have created another miniseries, so I felt compelled to watch in order to see if their inaccuracies continued. Short version: Yes, they do.

First we see Caiaphas talking with Annas and Joseph of Arimathea. But who is this woman who argues with the Jewish rulers? it is the high priest’s wife. Would a Jewish woman treat other men in that fashion? Especially powerful men? I think not. And yet the creators of this series have decided that feminist ideology is more important than an accurate portrayal of first century life.

What was the crucifixion like? God states in the Bible that The sky was dark from noon to 3pm, at which time Jesus cried “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” Then Christ died, there was an earthquake, several people rose from the dead, the veil of the temple ripped from top to bottom, and the sun came back.

In contrast to this, Roma Downey shows no darkness. There was an earthquake, but other than that, the crucifixion appeared just as any other crucifixion, except there was a storm immediately after Jesus died. Oh, and the veil ripping appeared to simply be part of the earthquake. No discussion of what the crucifixion means for mankind.

Caiaphas directs the Roman soldiers to destroy the cross. Doubtful that a Roman soldier would take orders from a Jewish religious leader.

The group of 11 disciples turns into two women plus four men. I wonder where the other 7 disciples are. Oh. They’re running around Jerusalem trying to murder Roman soldiers and taking other Jewish people hostage. Not biblical.

There’s another scene with the four disciples. Yes, the black guy is supposed to be John. So yes, another case of historical inaccuracy by casting a non-Jewish looking man in a major part. The Apostle John was a Jew, not a black man. I read that African American Christians were upset because all the characters in “The Bible” seemed to be white Europeans, and there were no black actors cast in big roles. They say that the disciples were not white europeans. I would wholeheartedly agree and state that neither were they black africans. They were Jewish, and they should look Jewish. Not white. Not black. Also, it seemed slightly pandering that the black actors playing Mary Magdelene and John never doubted the resurrection, but kept admonishing their lighter skinned cast-mates to believe. And if you’re going to be so multiethnic that you throw in impossible combinations (like a black Apostle John), then why does Jesus still look English? Why couldn’t you have made him look more Jewish?

He probably looked more like this guy.

He probably looked more like this guy.

The resurrection scene ends the episode with an angel coming from heaven to roll the stone away. The soldiers did not become “as dead men.” they just stood there watching. Also, I found it interesting that Roma Downey chose to portray the angel as traveling on a comet or some such, when angels can appear instantly (see: the Bible). And there was no mention of Caiaphas paying off the soldiers and telling them to lie (a laughable story, as Roman soldiers would be killed if caught sleeping on duty).

The biggest problem with this production, as I stated at the beginning, is the changing of the message from one of salvation from sins through trusting in the death of Christ to the telling of a nice story about how God wants us all to simply love each other (and Him), and how Roma Downey thinks the Bible should be viewed through the lens of 21st century moral standards. I saw an interview with Babou Ceesay, who plays John, as proof of that. He doesn’t speak of the message of Christ as repentance and faith, but of simply “love.” He then goes on to describe the gospel thusly: “…they tried to convince other people that there is another way, the way laid out by Jesus. it’s a series about a struggle. I think you could compare it to people fighting for, you know, the freedom of slaves, the rights of women, but on a much bigger scale.”

The gospel isn’t about advancing women’s rights or fighting for the freedom of slaves. It’s about making freedom from sin and its consequences available to all men and women who need only trust in Christ and His death and resurrection to be applied to their account. In leaving out the actual good news, Roma Downey preaches a false gospel. Hers is the gospel heard in countless episodes of “Touched by an Angel”, namely that God loves everybody, and just wants people to accept His love and be nice to each other.

As the Apostle Paul states in Galatians 1:8, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!”

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Twilight Zone

Twilight ZoneI’ve been enjoying watching The Twilight Zone on Netflix.  I just made it through the first season, and something struck me as odd.

Now, I’m a happy ending kind of guy.  But what struck me as odd was that, at the beginning of the season, almost all the episodes had what I would call a “bad ending”.  I don’t mean that it was written poorly or that it was not entertaining. I mean that the main character ended up worse off than when he started (usually dead).  I actually made a chart showing which endings were “good endings” and which ones were “bad endings.”  And in the first 26 episodes, there are only three “good endings.” That’s a ratio of one good ending for every 7.6 bad endings.  Or if you’re a percentages person, in the first 26 episodes there were only good endings 11.5% of the time.

However, after episode 26 I noticed a shift.  The episodes started to have a larger percentage of good endings.  If we look at the final ten episodes of the season (episodes 27-36), there are only two “bad endings.”  That is a radical shift in outcomes which means that the percentage of good endings went from 11.5% all the way up to 80%.  And one of those two bad endings is that a man ended up married to the woman with whom he was infatuated. So that one was questionable, but I listed it as “bad” because he didn’t seem pleased about it.

I wonder if they got feedback and decided to change.  I’ll have to see how many ‘good endings’ there are in the following seasons.

Spoilers:  If you haven’t seen these episodes or plan to do so at some point, then this is your fair warning that what follows is a summary of the outcome for the main character in each episode.  In other words, don’t read it.

Last warning.  The list is under this paragraph.

Here’s the chart showing each episode and the ending for the main character:

1. Test pilot: goes crazy.
2. Salesman: Dies. He does get to save a girl’s life, but she was only in danger because of his unwillingness to die.  In the end, he died.
3. Western Drunk: GOOD ENDING (gives up drinking and doesn’t have to defend “fastest gun” title due to injury).
4. Actress: dead/disappeared (This COULD be seen as a good ending, but basically she has disappeared into her own delusion, which is never good).
5. Man visits his childhood town: GOOD ENDING (He got a better appreciation for life)
6. Hypochondriac: Dies after being tricked by Satan.
7. Asteroid convict: abandons the love of his life in exchange for freedom.
8. Reader: alone with no glasses to read all the books he wants to read
9. Dreamer: dies
10. Sub commander: dead and being psychologically tortured.
11. Astronauts: removed from existence.
12. Needy barfly: dead (struck by car)
13. Face changer: dies (got mistaken for someone else)
14. Family flees certain nuclear war: GOOD ENDING (although this one was questionable because they were headed to another planet with nuclear capability and the real danger of nuclear war).
15. Astronauts: dead/disgraced.  They thought they were marooned, so one killed the other two to increase his odds of living on the asteroid, only to discover the asteroid was the Nevada desert.
16. Woman driver: dead (before the episode even started..she was dead the whole time)
17. Gambler: dead
18. WWI pilot: dead (sacrificed himself when he found his courage)
19. Army Lt: dead
20. Astronauts: dead
21. Bus station: crazy and hauled off by the cops, her life taken over by her doppelganger.
22. Neighborhood: death for several
23. Actor: same ending as episode 4 (actor disappears into his own delusion).
24. 2ooo year old man: dies.
25. Astronaut to mars: in captivity in a “zoo”.
26. 1880’s murderer: dead, and two other guys dead too.
27. Boxer: GOOD ENDING (even though he lost the match, he still has what’s important).
28. Criminal: dead and suffering in a hell where he is given everything he wants.
29. Mother killed: GOOD ENDING (main character visited by herself as a child, the age she was when her mother was killed, to prepare her to meet the man who killed her mother, which man she then manages to kill).
30. Willoughby: dead/GOOD ENDING (this seemed like a really good ending, but it was revealed at the end that he was actually dead, so I’m listing it as both).
31. Love potion: unhappy (not dead at least, but living with “overly attached girlfriend” for the rest of his life).
32. Trumpeter: GOOD ENDING (got his trumpet back, got a chance with a cute girl, got to meet the angel Gabriel).
33. Bevis: GOOD ENDING (he discovered that not only does he have a guardian angel who can make his life better in small ways, but that he is happy with who he is).
34. Mannequin: GOOD ENDING (girl realizes where she belongs, everything is as it should be).
35. Baseball: GOOD ENDING (robot pitcher finds purpose in life, baseball manager builds a team that wins several championships).
36. Playwright: GOOD ENDING (he gets rid of his created “perfect” wife and creates a “less than perfect” wife to replace her).

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