Friday, August 31, 2012

What does heaven look like?

This weeks topic comes from Delirious - our unabashed LDS blogger now in China.  Thanks "D".

This is a difficult topic for me as I simply do not believe in the theology of Christian religion - and in fact most if not all organized religions.  My complaint is simply that religions become dominated by people and so they are organized around the prejudices of those people.  Case in point - Protestants split off from Catholics with whom there were some disagreements. Yes that's the Cliff's Notes version but I think you get my drift. If Christianity is real and true then there's one flavor - not many.  One set of rules - not many. And when I hear born-again Christians claiming the 10 Commandments I have to wonder what Mel Brooks and the tribe think - Moses was a Jew.  So was Jesus.

Now if western religion is real I suppose it's one of 3 flavors - Judaism - the real base - Catholic - the first so-called Christians - or Mormon. Simple logic really - the originals are correct, God corrected an error of sorts and established Christianity or he issued a further course correction and gave old Joe Smith some golden tablets and decided he'd better stay in closer contact with his chosen folks to keep them on the right path.

That would make heaven look like the western view to a degree but since I do not believe that I'll just go with this - heaven is what you see all around you every day.  It's what you make it.  If you so choose you make it your own personal hell. You make choices every day that shape your existence. If you choose to believe some old gentleman in flowing robes with long hair and a beard is guiding you that is your choice.  You may call it faith.  Your choice. Just not mine.   I  certainly do not object to anyone having faith - I simply object to them dictating my life by their faith's rules - I happen to think the universal guidelines offered by our founding fathers were sufficient and though they enjoy a basis in Jewish thought they do not dictate we lead a Jewish life.  Nor a Christian one.  Just a decent one. And to my way of thinking, a decent life is a life in heaven. Speed bumps and all. Truth be told, none of us will really know what is true until we've circled the drain and the tub is empty. 

That's a Cliff's Notes version of what I think heaven looks like. Take a look at what the other LBC members have to say -  Anu, Delirious, gaelikaa, Grannymar, Maxi, Maria SF, ocdwriter, Padmum, PaulRamana The Old Fossil and Will.  

Friday, August 24, 2012

If it's Friday it must be LBC day

Fridays are the day the LBC tests the theory that if you lock a bunch of people in a room and give them a single topic upon which to expound they'll offer as many flavors of commentary as there are people in the room.  This weeks topic is "The oddest place you've slept in/on"

I've pondered this question quite some time now and come to the conclusion that when it comes to sleeping I am flat out boring.  Damn - that kinda sucks!

Best tale I can recall is back in 1976 whilst driving cross country to set up the family tent for Lynn, dog Sherman, cat Mr Peabody and myself in Connecticut I spent a night - along with said animals - Lynn was still in California   at home - at a fleabag no-tell motel in rural Pennsylvania. The back of the room backed up to woods populated with numerous thin trunked trees of a type I never ascertained. There were no curtains over the windows.  All I can say for sure is the animals were freaked out all night and I barely slept at all.  Every horror flick ever made used these woods as a model for the "don't go in there - you're about to die" scene. If it was an episode of Star Trek I surely would have been wearing the red uniform.

When the wind blew, there were branches scraping windows and the roof. I swear on several occasions there were sets of eyes glowing as they stared at Peabody, Sherman and me - I only hoped the tiny splashing sounds were not drool as said critters tried to decide if we were a late dinner or would be breakfast.  I suspect after seeing my circumferentially challenged self they were out looking for a large freezer so they could plan several meals.

Naturally the guy that ran the place looked like the banjo playing kid in Deliverance's older sibling and the only sound out of the radio was Hillbilly Howdown - this of course being long before I moved to Texas and aquired a faux appreciation of country music.  You know the stuff I mean - play it backwards and you get your job back, your girl back and if you're really lucky you get your dog back.  TV was nothing but snow.  Cable was in its infancy and I suspect only available in areas with substantially larger populations.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity there was sun.  Light.  Yay. 

 I packed up the animals, tossed them into the Plymouth Fury and beat feet the hell outta there. We spent the next few nights with my buddy Stuart in his apartment in New Jersey - Stuart being an engineer with Bell Labs in Holmdel who would go on to be a major player in a somewhat minor invention called the cellular phone.  Needless to say he had a lot of fun at my expense.

That's my tale of how to not get a good night's sleep. Check out what the other LBC members had to say on this week's topic.  Anu, Delirious, gaelikaa, Grannymar, Maxi, Maria SF, ocdwriter, Padmum, PaulRAmana The Old Fossil and Will.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Another one falls...

Trutrh be told, I really hate this getting older stuff.  I realize it is inevitable - don't confuse fat with stupid.  It's just that it gets depressing watching my cultural icons pass on.  We lost another one over the weekend - Scott McKenzie. 

Scott had a monster hit in the sixties 

This song has always been one of my favorites and to this day I get homesick when I hear it.  Even though I've been in Texas lmost 20 years it will NEVER be home. Home will always be the SF Bay Area.It's where most of my family lives and where I found lifelong friendships with a few people that have been very important to me.  Scott McKenzie had a fantastic voice and he was so much more than that one song - but if you are going to be known for one song, San Francisco is not a bad one at all.  Remember this  one?

Earlier this year we also lost Jon Lord of Deep Purple.

Best version ever of this classic song.

Please excuse me for being maudlin - it's just that music mean a lot to me and each of these losses hurts - luckily the music still lives.

Friday, August 17, 2012

LBC topic of the week - Fire

This week's topic is really quite interesting.

You just know crazy old Arthur would appear here. Of course he is singing about the burning fire that is the great cleanser.  Even better than Ajax.  How many times have you read that forest fires, prairie fires and such are Mother Nature's way of clearing out the trash.  Personally I prefer garbage cans but it's not my call.   It's a necessity but you'll pardon me for not seeing the necessity of scaring the hell outta my friends in Avery twice when fire almost got their home. 

Then there's the fire of the heart.  We all know that one.  Hopefully.  Everyone needs passion, be it for someone or something. 


Fire is/was a turning point for civilization.  Before fire it was a sushi world.  Fire brought heat on demand.  No thermostat - those came a few years later - but we could warm our homes - and a warm cave was a good thing.  Fire became an obsession of sorts. Still is to some - we call them arsonists.  Clearly fire's place in civilization deserves more space than allotted here. Maybe another time.

Now we have the verb fire - as in to fire.  That's an important part of our culture as every couple of years we get to fire politicians - assuming we muster the energy to go to the polling place. We blame them (pols) for nearly everything so we certainly should fire them if they do not serve our best interests. Or shut up about it.  And who among us has not been fired from a job in their lifetime. That hurts almost as much as a burn from flame in many instances.

So - fire is ever present.  It has many uses, values and forms.  It can be a good thing or not.  The optimist sees a city devastated by fire as a golden opportunity to rebuild an even better place.  Chicago comes to mind.  I'm not sure Londoners (the English ones at least) or citizens of Dresden see it that way but rebuild they did.  Out of necessity. We broke it - we fixed it (man in general).  Fire helped us get where we are today - our civilization probably would not exist in its present form without fire.  The threat of raining fire on our enemies has balanced the power internationally for decades.  Balanced the fear may be a better term -  but it's the threat of fire that matters. The deep, cleansing, purging fire that would basically end us all. Now there's a thought.

Personally, I don't expect that to happen any time soon.  At least I hope not. I'll just hope for the best. Musically, Fire is great.  Always has been. And music keeps me sane.  Allegedly sane anyway.

Check out what the other LBC folks had to say - , Anu, Delirious, gaelikaa, Grannymar, Maxi, Maria SF, ocdwriter, Padmum, PaulRAmana The Old Fossil and Will.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

A family tale of intrigue, deception and betrayal.

A friend passed away last month.  He happened to be in the Army and had done a fabulous job turning his life around. He was very proud of the fact he was going to be able to leave his four kids a not insubstantial piece of money when his time came. He had loads of insurance and had accumulated a tidy 7-figure sum in his bank account. Then he got cancer. He fought the good fight, supported by his kids and his fiance - who left her job to care for him.

Near the end he withdrew a chunk of cash and bought a nice Chevy Tahoe to use and take one last fishing trip in style with the intent of leaving the new Tahoe to his fiance for her efforts on his behalf.  He gave his brothers and relatives in town $1500 each to help cover their expenses while literally on his death watch. His two youngest kids and their mother travelled to town so the kids could say goodbye. The ex was not party to the cash gifts and in fact learned of them later.  It did not matter - her current significant other and father covered the trip that was unfortunately extended a couple of days. 

He passed away in mid June, surrounded by his family and fiance.  He was awarded a full military funeral service.  His kids in attendance were each awarded an American flag as a symbol of his service to the country.  The 21-gun salute startled and impressed the 3 kids in attendance.

Later in the the day after his funeral a contingent from his army post appeared at his apartment seeking the addresses of his grandchildren to secure their benefits. While the fiance was gathering the info, my friends twin sister jumped in and gave a list to the base personnel and escorted them out of the apartment. She then took my friends laptop, ID and any other personal information she could grab and left. 

Later that night at the party celebrating my friend's life, his oldest brother (there are 4) told several people that the sister had emptied out my friends bank account and deposited the money into her own.  The amount was in excess of $150,000.00 - earmarked for the four children per my friend's wishes.

One of my friend's younger brothers (also in the Army) was made beneficiary of my friend's LAZER account with the instruction that money be passed on to his kids.

At the party the sister announced there was no will and she was controlling his estate.  The brothers immediately began to grouse that she was intent on keeping the cash and proceeds from the insurance policy to which she was beneficiary and would not be passing anything along to the kids.  The mother and youngest grandkids had expended their funds and asked for a loan from each brother to fill the tank and head home - $50-$60 or so.  All declined, claiming to be strapped for cash and appartently not wanting to tap into that free cash my friend had gifted them with.  Luckily the ex-wife of one of the brothers (LAZER brother). overheard the conversation and berated each of the brothers for not helping out. She took the mother to her bank, withdrew some cash and filled the tank and so the ex and the youngest grand kids could head home, exhausted by the stressful week.

Fast forward to a month later.  After demanding birth certificates - which were provided - the brother returned them stating the LAZER funds would be arriving in 5 weeks or so and the sister now claimed she was going to give each child a cash award on their HS graduation day.  All sounded legitimate. But, my friend's 19-year old son - who previously had been very close to his younger sisters - suddenly refused to speak to them as did his mother.  Another younger brother (living in Fort Worth) has suddenly become uncommunicative.  Sadly, active Army brother and FT Worth brother are/were two of the affected children's favorite uncles. And it now seemed all of the earlierr protestations and complaints regarding their sister hade simply been a ploy to keep the sister appraised of any actions of the mother's of the 3 youngest kids.

A conversation with an Army Captain friend of the family generated some interesting results for the mother of the two youngest grand kids.  Things did not sound right to the Captain and he suggested she contact the base, speak to the Insurance people and the JAG office.  If possible check with the bank.

It seems the brother in charge of the LAZER account had never spoken to anyone about it on the base or in the Insurance department and that the birth certificates were not necessary anyway. Furthermore, the woman in charge of the insurance and LAZER was a friend of my friend and his fiance - new for a fact there was a will as she had seen it but that it simply was not filed with the Army. It also seems the addresses for the kids given to the Army are not valid.  Conversation with the bank ended with this simple statement - call the police.    

The siblings have decided to steal $500,000 in benefits from my friends 4 kids.  Stay tuned for the next chapter as JAG (that'd be military legal eagles - remember the tV show?) is involved - the LAZER brother is on active duty and all are liable for federal prosecution for a variety of things.  It's not nice to steal from Uncle Sam folks - especially when what you stole was earmarked for the children of a vet.  Things are gonna be jumping in Louisiana, Texas and Georgia.   

Friday, August 10, 2012

LBC topic Editing

This weeks LBC topic comes to us from the Emerald Isle courtesy of Grannymar. The topic is Editing.

Editing is simply a process by which something is corrected, modified or otherwise "enhanced" prior to publication/broadcast or other form of release.  I know editing.  Trust me.  In my newly edited job title - Omnichannel Data Specialist - I am edited daily.  In spite of the nebulous, somewhat bizarre sounding title, what I really do is write product descriptions for my employer's website. My name gives that employer away - too bad my newly edited title does not similarly convey what I do.  It used to - before the change I was a copywriter/content specialist. Now that makes sense.  My point???  Editing is not always a good thing - though those who perform the arduous task of editing often think they are the saviours of the written/photographic/film/musical worlds in which they reside.

Now don't get me wrong.  Everyone can stand some editing from time to time.  Punctuation mistakes, hyphenation, compound modifiers identified, etc. We can't all be perfect and in fact I see my work as a form of job creation.  I create the need for an editor whenever I sit before a keyboard.  To prove my point I won't correct typos in the next paragraph.

How many books have you read that do not include some form of Editor praise by the author?  If nbotfor Yickity YAck DooDah, this book would be nothing but a useless  pack of dribble, etc.  etc. etc..  So the editor has made sense of something for you dear reader.  Aren't you the lucky oe.

See?  I am the absolute worst typist on the 3rd rock from the sun (a great TV comedy show BTW).

Now one can edit their life by making a change.  We've certainly all been there and done that - to turn a cliched phrase. And for the trivia minded, young Mr Deutschendorf attended high school about 10 blocks from where I sit typing this.

Editing can be an important step in the creative process, often much to the chagrin of the original creator.  But how often has the written word not translated well to the screen?  Ever hear a joke fall flat?  Silence is not golden in those instances - I'm sure the jester would agree.

It would seem that life itself is in need of some editing for most - if not all - of us.  Who among us is so straight and true that their life has been all they wanted and expected.  I freely admit mine is not.  In this instance we are our own editors though we may indeed and often should take a tip or two from others - why we even have a couple of classic philosopher types here in the LBC in TOF and Ramana. Oh - and there's the subtle philosphy of a  Granymar, the not so subtle but ever positive Maxi and the very true to herself Delirious - now hopefully safely landed in China. To them and anyone else who cares to listen I simply say editing is change.  Change is ever present. Deal with it. And thank you for your suggestions, dear philosopher friends - classic and otherwise. There's no point in trying to escape the grim editor.

That's it for this week.  Please check out what the other LBC members have to say about editing.  Anu, Delirious, gaelikaa, Grannymar, Maxi, Maria SF, ocdwriter, Padmum, PaulRamana The Old Fossil and Will.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Olympics

This week’s LBC topic is the Olympics. Since it was my suggestion I guess I’d better kluge together some thoughts.

I completely understand that some folks have no use for athletic competition and especially the Olympics. I’ve always enjoyed the Olympics – I very much prefer the Winter Games to the summer that we are experiencing now. It’s no secret I was a jock in high school and college so I suppose I gravitated naturally to the Olympics.  I remember having a TV rolled into the classroom in 6th grade to watch some of the games.  I do believe we saw Billy Mills win his race that year.

 It’s a pity the games have become so politicized but that was inevitable - beginning with the Berlin Olympics and Jesse Owens. Russia could not compete so they started a state-sponsored program for their athletes, making sport their entire life.  China has done the same. That essentially made their athletes professionals and opened the floodgates to things like our Dream Team in basketball and the current hockey tournament that includes NHL, KHL and other professionals. Since the olympics are about the best competition, that doesn't bother me.

I get a kick out of sports I generally have no interest in every 4 years – stuff like gymnastics (my wife was a highly accomplished gymnast in her time but those were indeed different times),  rowing, curling and the like. What’re my fave Olympic moments you might ask?  Well – even if you don’t ask I’ll tell you – here are my top 3

Jesse Owens in Berlin

Miracle on Ice

Watching Olga Korbut turn the gymnastics world upside down

I also get a kick out of the national pride on display at the podium by many of the winners.

Sure there are issues.  The Olympics are after all run by  people.  People always have agendas. Get over it and enjoy the competitions - for crying out loud.  How often do you get to see the best athletes compete against each other.  And each Olympic Games has its great underdog story - can you say Miracle on Ice? Plus, it is impossible to escape the Games as they are ever present.  Just as politics are pervasive in our lives, every four years we are beseiged by the spectacle of athletic competition.  Why not sit back and enjoy the break from the frustration of daily life and root for your home team or individual. I get excited when I hear this on TV...

That's my take on the Olympics.  Check out what the other LBC writers have to say.   Anu, Delirious, gaelikaa, Grannymar, Maxi, Maria SF, ocdwriter, Padmum, PaulRamana The Old Fossil and Will.