The Lord wanted me to have nice things – a reprise

The following post was written about seven years ago, but still stands the test of time. With the prosperity tele-evangelists who have multiple homes, cars and airplanes, taking gullible people’s hard earned money to promote their own lifestyle is beyond poor stewardship – it is shameful. I have worked with many fine ministers who are wonderful public servants, but greed is something we all must guard against, even the most pious amongst us.

These words were uttered by Reverend Jim Bakker, who founded the Praise The Lord (PTL) Club, shortly before he went to prison for defrauding donors and accounting irregularities. He was being interviewed on a local TV station at his home when the focus came on his solid gold faucets. “The Lord wanted me to have nice things,” he said on camera. For several years before that moment, one of the local DJs used to do a skit called the “Pass The Loot” Club, as many locals caught on to his act before the national TV audience did.

This week, Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta has come under fire for building a $2.2 million, 6,400 square foot home. His house was built primarily with funds donated to help those in need. After the notoriety, the church will likely be selling the residence. This is on the heels of the even larger spend in Germany by Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst on his residence mansion, whose repairs totaled over $40 million in US dollars.

Pope Francis has been a staunch advocate for the impoverished and has not been too fond of over-indulging priests and bishops. By taking the name of St. Francis who focused his life on helping the poor and by choosing to live in more austere settings than the Pope’s usual residence, Pope Francis has sent a clear message that is still being heard. My guess is many church leaders are laying very low. Hopefully, the message will resonate with all members of the Catholic clergy and other religious sects.

But, as Bakker has shown, the indulgences are not limited to those leaders in the Catholic faith. The minister of a prominent and growing church in my metro-area has come under fire for his opulent house, which exceeds the price of the Atlanta Archbishop’s. Two years ago, two married ministers in my area went to jail on tax evasion. The congregation is still in disbelief after they were arrested for not reporting their very fine way of life. And, not to be outdone, even Reverend Franklin Graham came under fire for receiving two million dollar (approximately) salaries for two different organizations he leads. He has remedied this to my knowledge, once it became public, but it did not seem to bother him before the press.

However, the one who takes the cake is Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh of Oregon. He was eventually arrested in Charlotte for immigration fraud, but had a knack for courting wealthy donors who would give up millions of dollars to his organization. When arrested, he had a fleet of many Rolls-Royces and several private jets. You can read more about the Bhagwan with attached link: http://www.ohs.org/the-oregon-history-project/biographies/Bhagwan-Shree-Rajneesh.cfm

As someone of faith, I do not begrudge ministers and religious leaders for receiving a reasonable income. They work long hours and are constantly on call. Yet, I do feel it is hypocritical to take advantage and live extravagantly at the expense of others. Like the above, some have been too keen on living well. It likely starts as self-justification for doing good. This happens in politics, business and other organization leadership, as well. That is why “stewardship” is a key word to me. The people who oversee these leaders and the leaders themselves have to be good stewards with peoples’ money. Otherwise, you breach their trust and sometimes, break the law.

Casablanca quotes still resonate in real life

The following post was written abut five years ago, but the real life references still resonate with the quotes. Please share with me your thoughts and overlooked quotes.

One of my favorite movies is “Casablanca” and, from its ranking on the list of greatest movies, I am not alone in my admiration. A love triangle is set in the context of the outset of World War II after Germany took possession of France. But, it is also filled with an interesting plot and characters played by marvelous actors who say some wonderfully written lines primarily written by Julius and Philip Epstein.

In another list of the 100 greatest movie quotes, lines from “Casablanca” appears six times. These and other lines from the movie still resonate today as a reflection of our times. Here are a few from memory, so I will likely misquote them.

We will always have Paris – Rick (Humphrey Bogart) says this a couple of times to Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) as a reminder of their relationship where they met. To me, this reminds us of our own special places that mean so much, whether it is a love interest or a special time in our lives.

Louie, I think this is the beginning of beautiful friendship – A key subplot is the relationship between Rick and Captain Louie Renault (Claude Rains), which is friendly, but with some distance. When they come together at the end to go fight the Germans, it lifts your spirits to see the two walk off together with a mission and true bond of kinship.

I am shocked, shocked there is gambling going on here – Captain Renault is asked to close Rick’s (a bar) at the behest of Nazi Major Heinrich Strasser (Conradt Veight) and used gambling as the reason, even though it is routine. The line is followed by the pit boss handing him his winnings. This reminds me of politicians, who know or allow a problem to occur, and then act shocked when the problem does occur.

Human life is cheap – This evil line is uttered by Major Strasser and gives me chills. People traveled to Casablanca to get transport to America, but must wait to bribe or pay heavily for papers to get out. This reminds me of the refugees who are being exploited by opportunist to sell them unsafe passage to Europe. Whether they get there is irrelevant.

Round up the usual suspects – This is a key line in the movie that is used often. Captain Renault uses it several times to convey that he is doing something about a crime, but actually is doing nothing. It is also how the writers figured out the ending, which they were struggling with. I find this line is also indicative of politicians who are good at pretending to do something, when they are actually doing nothing. Over 50 repeal votes of Obamacare is too easy an example.

Here’s looking at you kid – Rick, who is older than Ilsa, uses this line to show great affection, usually touching her chin lightly to look into her eyes. It plays an important part in Rick’s journey back. It reminds me of lines we use with each other that mean more than the words themselves. In the movie “Ghost” the line “Ditto” had huge meaning in the plot, e.g.

Play it for me Sam. Play “As Time Goes By” – I probably misquoted this misquoted line from Ilsa, which usually is seen as “play it again Sam.” Sam (Dooley Wilson), who has a velvet voice sings this melancholic song which lilts often through the movie. Like Paris, it reminds the two lovers of better times, as Sam who has always accompanied Rick when he sets up a bar, would play it for the two of them. We each have milestone songs that take us back in time. This may be music’s greatest gift.

Play it. Play La Marseillaise – To me, this is the most powerful moment in the movie. You see first hand the leadership and bravery of Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) as he asks the band to play the French national anthem to drown out the Nazi bar singers. In an interview, the Jewish writers said it gave them chill bumps as they wrote it. Leaders like this are few and far between and are much needed, as their quiet fortitude speaks louder than any bombastic chest beater.

Welcome back to the fight – This line is uttered by Victor to Rick as they say goodbye. It is a major moment of recognition of the noble efforts of Rick that are not unnoticed by one who does them all of the time. Today, we need more folks who are willing to speak their mind against tyranny, bigotry, disenfranchisement and hatred.

I realize I left off several key lines for space reasons. I also recognize I left off the contributions of Peter Lorre* and Sidney Greenstreet who added so much color to the movie. Let me know what you think and please share your favorites. As time goes by…

*Note: A very underrated singer/ songwriter is Al Stewart, whose opening stanza to “Year of the Cat” is a reference to Lorre who appeared in a couple of Bogart movies. This is what I remember most about Lorre in Casablanca.

“On a morning from a Bogart movie
In a country where they turn back time
You go strolling through the crowd like Peter Lorre
Contemplating a crime”

Note to politicians (and so-called news people) – STOP THE NAME CALLING AND LABELING

The United States and the world have a lot of problems that need elected officials to address. The problems are multi-faceted in causes, so they require holistic thinking, educated and civil discussion and multi-faceted solutions. Our problems are hard enough to solve when we focus on the facts and issues, but nigh impossible when we listen to name calling and labeling as a substitute for discourse.

So, politicians, here is a simple piece of advice. If you cannot understand the first paragraph, then what you need to do is please resign. We don’t need people who decide not to add value and name call opponents. That is not civil discourse, that is childish playground talk. If you cannot add value with your commentary, please keep your thoughts to yourself. At least this citizen will not be listening to you, nor should others. That includes all politicians, not just the ones who disagree with your positions. It also includes those who are berating Tim Scott calling him “Uncle Tom” because he has the temerity to be a Black Republican.

The same goes with opinion hosts who are disguised as news people, but are really entertainers. Note, that is not my word, as Fox News decided to defend one its hosts who is being sued for defamation by saying his show should not be taken seriously as a news show, as it is an entertainment show. To repeat, Fox News said one of its night time hosts is an entertainer, so his opinions should be taken less seriously.

My advice to people who watch the news or read it online, please consider the source. Do they print errata notices when they get it wrong? Is it an opinion host or a newscaster saying or writing the news? Or is it one of those paid advertisements spread between the news, hoping you do not see the word AD on it? Is it a Facebook or Instagram friend who likes to share evocative videos just to get a rise out of folks?

For democracies to work, we must have a free and read press. Sadly, there are some who wish to taint all news as bad or fake, so they can basically do whatever they want. That is what we must guard against, especially after January 6. Civil discourse is a must. If our so-called leaders and talk show hosts cannot be such, then it falls on us to show them the way. Our leaders should be among our better angels, not our worse demons.

The Harmony Project – Sing, Serve, Share – an encore

The following brief post was written five years ago, but deserves an encore performance given its theme. It is a quick read, so please indulge a few minutes of your time.

What do you get when you have a choir which does not require auditions? You get a tremendous amount of harmony, but not just the musical kind. From a recent CBS Sunday Morning report, David Brown has formed a choral group whose primary purpose is to bring different kinds of people together to sing, serve and share.

Based in Columbus, Ohio, its members must serve the community in various community projects, as well as practicing and performing. During the interview, Jane Pauley talked with what sounds like the set-up to a joke – a CEO, a warden and a Rabbi. These diverse people epitomize what the group is all about – getting to know people who are different from you, then realizing how similar we are.

Brown has even taken this concept into the warden’s prison where female inmates have their own chorus. Recently, the incarcerated chorus joined the larger one for a performance, which brought down the house.

Brown’s history has been one of being diverse. It started in high school when he moved into a new school district and was the lone white student at an African-American school. In college, he came out as a gay man. So, getting along as the non-main stream person has formed his bent toward diversity.

The Harmony Project is such a positive effort to bring out the best in us. While these examples happen on a daily basis, we need to celebrate them and our humanity by sharing our common threads. This is what America is all about. It is not finger pointing and hate speak. Let’s bring America together by celebrating our diversity, as well as these common threads that bind us.

The Wednesday Wanderer

In all fairness to Dion who sang “The Wanderer” back in 1961, this wanderer is not the womanizing man defined therein, but someone whose thoughts are wandering about. It is not unusual for some great tunes to be about not desirable folks (think “Every breath you take” by The Police).

So, let me play gadfly and wander around with a few thoughts.

I have seen graphic data which reveals vaccines are making a huge difference in cutting the rate of COVID-19 infections. The news by President Biden should be well received, but we also need to help places like India whose population is four times that of the US and too many live too close together, increasing exposure.

Speaking of vaccines, I get my second one on Saturday and my wife and son will be finishing theirs later in May. The only side effects have been with my wife, who was extra tired and a little nauseous. These are small prices to pay to be safe. It is only your life and that of your family. As my Air Force veteran brother-in-law noted, it is not like you are being asked to storm a beach at Normandy.

I did notice there is one night time opinion host, whose veracity is consistently in question, advising his viewers to go up to children who are wearing masks and tell them they will call the police on their parents. Really? This is malfeasance in my view, as someone will get hurt, either the revved up person or the target of the revved up person. It is similar to the former president being responsible for inciting an insurrection that ended up with seven people dead and over 400 charged with a crime all because his fragile ego could not handle losing.

I remain dismayed how politicians can avoid working together so as not to be seen working together as that will not sit well with the base. Really? You will avoid solving problems, which people want you to do, because it will look bad to your tribe? Let me be frank – get off your duff and go make it happen. Be a leader. I do not care who gets more credit, please do something and stop the posturing.

In this vein, I have said for four years, the previous president had a golden opportunity to push through a needed infrastructure bill. He campaigned on it and Democrats were ready to discuss it.. Plus he had a majority in both chambers. He could have set sails on his presidency with a bipartisan bill out of the gate and it could have changed the course of his presidency. Yet, he chose to try to take something away from people as his first mission all because it was nicknamed for his predecessor – Obamacare. After months of god-awful legislation and process, that effort was defeated. And, that failure better defined his presidency.

That is all for now. Let me know your thoughs. They call me the wanderer, the wanderer..

Email to Tucker Carlson

The following was posted on the websites for Tucker Carlson and Fox News after I read yet one more untruthful thing .

Mr. Carlson, as a former Republican and now independent voter, I must beseech you to arc your comments to the truth rather than the rhetoric you have been using. I do not care if people are more conservative or progressive than I am on various issues, but I do care when people working for a news organization and politicians do not even try to be factual to drum up votes or ratings.

My former party is condemning Republicans who speak the truth and rationalizing those who do not. We need the party to find its bearings and get their rudderless ship back on a better path. Conspiracies, lies and fear mongering are not conducive to good governance. The Democrats are not perfect, but they are at least trying to govern, whether you agree with them or not.

Bull Durham – a baseball movie which is more about life (a revisit)

Our friend Cindy recently posted a baseball season opening post to celebrate her husband and kids’ fondness for baseball. During the course of comment conversation, I learned of their love of the movie “Bull Durham,” which is a favorite of mine, as well. Here is an old post from a few years ago.

I was commenting last weekend on An Exacting Life’s blog about being superstitious  and was reminded of the movie “Bull Durham” starring Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins.* While the movie, written and directed by Ron Shelton, is around the subject of minor league baseball, it is more about life and life’s wisdom that is imparted by the two wise seasoned characters – Costner’s Crash Davis and Sarandon’s Annie Savoy – to a budding baseball star who does not think deep thoughts, Robbins’ Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh. You need not be a baseball fan to enjoy this movie.

The movie has some of the best quotes this side of “Casablanca,” which I will share from memory, meaning I will likely be paraphrasing more than quoting. The one I shared about being superstitious is in the climactic scene (I must use this word cautiously as the movie has some scintillating scenes between Costner and Sarandon during the denouement), when Savoy enters Davis’ apartment without knocking to accuse him of telling LaLoosh to stay out of her bed, an idea she started, to channel LaLoosh’s energy into his pitching several weeks earlier. The team began a long winning streak thereafter.

Davis responded by saying he did not tell him that and said “You don’t mess with a streak as they don’t come along often.” He added “If you are winning because you think it is due to your not getting laid, then you are. And, you should know that.” Savoy realizes he is right and professes her desire for Davis, which had been smoldering all season. The irony of all ironies is while Savoy ends up with Davis, in real life, Sarandon falls in love with Robbins after meeting during the filming of the movie which led to a long marriage.

Some of my other favorite lines of the movie, include:

– Davis (who is the catcher) telling LaLoosh (the pitcher) on the mound to “Don’t try to strike out everyone. Strikeouts are fascist. Throw more ground balls, they are more democratic.”

– Savoy notes about LaLoosh “The world is made for people who aren’t cursed with self-awareness.”

– Davis, after being challenged to a bar fight by LaLoosh, who did not know Davis was his new catcher, diffused the situation by tossing a baseball to the wild pitcher, saying hit me with this. The pitcher noted he would kill him if he hit him, to which Davis retorted, “From what I hear, you couldn’t hit water if you fell out of boat.”

– Davis telling LaLoosh after one of his pitches was hit for a long home run, “Man, that ball went so far it needed a stewardess.” This was after Davis told the batter what pitch was coming after LaLoosh kept shaking of the signal.

– Davis picking up LaLoosh’s shower flip-flops which had fungus growing on it. “If you get to the Show (the major leagues), people will think you are colorful (with the fungus). Until then, people will think you are a slob.”

– Savoy telling LaLoosh who needed to think less on the pitcher’s mound, “To breathe through your eyelids like the lava lizards.”

– Savoy telling LaLoosh to slow down when he rips off all his shirt the first time they are alone foregoing the romantic theater. She adds, “Put your shirt back on. I want to watch.”

The most memorable scene, though, occurs when he Davis responds to Savoy’s question when she tells the two ballplayers she will choose one of them to be in a monogamous relationship with during the season. Davis asked why does she get to make the choice and why not one of them? When he later add he does not believe in choice like that in “matters of the heart,” she asks him what do you believe in. Davis’ character lays on a diatribe that tells her more than she ever wanted to know about what he believed in such as “I believe Christmas presents should be opened Christmas morning” and “I believe in slow wet kisses that last for three days.” After which she is obviously smitten with him saying, “Oh, my.”

I recognize these quotes don’t do the movie justice, as there are so many well crafted scenes and lines offered by a terrific cast. The dugout banter between the manager and pitching coach is priceless. The wedding gift discussion on the mound in the middle of the game is terrific.  If you like the movie, tell me your favorite scenes. If you do not, I would love to hear your comments as to why. And, if you have not seen it, please do check it out.

From seven words to everything is game

This post is rated PG-13, but some may view it as R given the subject matter. Please be forewarned.

Back in 1972, comedian George Carlin had a funny routine which he called the “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television” monologue. Being a young teen, that was quite a risque routine, but it set a standard that no longer exists. In 2021, with cable and online programming, pretty much everything is game. And, this is just the commercials.

This can become embarrassing when you are watching television sitting with someone who was my age in 1972. They might see and hear advertisements on any of the following:

  • Erectile dysfunction for older men (Daddy what is that?)
  • Adult diapers for both men and women, even sexy ones (which I cannot figure out if that is a turn on or off)
  • Toilet paper ads on who has the more absorbent product (definitely TMI)
  • Down there care, which I have unfortunately witnessed can be for multiple needs (when we saw a woman implying down there care for her more private part as she growled like a tigress, my wife and I could not stop laughing)
  • A special razor for women for, yes, down there care (that was risque enough, then the actress started demonstrating how to use it in the shower – whoa this is TV folks!)
  • All manners of birth control (those are actually tame by comparison)
  • Pills for various sexually transmitted diseases (Daddy what is HIV or Herpes?)
  • And, recently we have seen a treatment for a male private part that is not straight, which I did not know had a technical term for it (Again, Daddy what is that?).

So, we have gone from words we cannot say to words that are implied in advertising and do appear in TV shows. Of course, part of it is due to our choice of shows, which may attract certain commercials. We like the” Law and Order; Special Victims Unit” show which brings a more adult level of commercial. Yet, seeing a special razor being demonstrated does seem a bridge too far. As for the crooked man commercial, it does go beyond the “there was a crooked man….” nursery rhyme.

Mr. Tanner – a Harry Chapin vignette (a repeat performance)

The following post was written about five years ago. I was thinking about this song the other day. Please do give it a listen.

One of my favorite performers who passed away much too early is Harry Chapin. Some may remember his biggest hits like “Cat’s in the Cradle” or “Taxi.”  Each of these songs is exemplary of his work as his songs told short stories. I have written before about my favorite one called “A Better Place to Be” where he tells two stories, one being recounted by a midnight watchman to a rotund waitress with the second one when she responds to his sadness.

But, a close second is called “Mr. Tanner” about a man who would sing while he worked. The lyrics follow, but listen to the song at the link below:

Mister Tanner was a cleaner from a town in the Midwest.
And of all the cleaning shops around he’d made his the best.
But he also was a baritone who sang while hanging clothes.
He practiced scales while pressing tails and sang at local shows.
His friends and neighbors praised the voice that poured out from his throat.
They said that he should use his gift instead of cleaning coats.

Chorus: But music was his life, it was not his livelihood,
and it made him feel so happy and it made him feel so good.
And he sang from his heart and he sang from his soul.
He did not know how well he sang; It just made him whole.

His friends kept working on him to try music out full time.
A big debut and rave reviews, a great career to climb.
Finally they got to him, he would take the fling.
A concert agent in New York agreed to have him sing.
And there were plane tickets, phone calls, money spent to rent the hall.
It took most of his savings but he gladly used them all.Chorus

The evening came, he took the stage, his face set in a smile.
And in the half filled hall the critics sat watching on the aisle.
But the concert was a blur to him, spatters of applause.
He did not know how well he sang, he only heard the flaws.
But the critics were concise, it only took four lines.
But no one could accuse them of being over kind.

(spoken) Mr. Martin Tanner, Baritone, of Dayton, Ohio made his
Town Hall debut last night. He came well prepared, but unfortunately
his presentation was not up to contemporary professional standards.
His voice lacks the range of tonal color necessary to make it
consistently interesting.
(sung) Full time consideration of another endeavor might be in order.

He came home to Dayton and was questioned by his friends.
Then he smiled and just said nothing and he never sang again,
excepting very late at night when the shop was dark and closed.
He sang softly to himself as he sorted through the clothes.

Music was his life, it was not his livelihood,
and it made him feel so happy and it made him feel so good.
And he sang from his heart and he sang from his soul.
(And) he did not know how well he sang; It just made him whole. 

His songs are reflective and poignant. Often, they leave you with melancholy. “Mr. Tanner” is no different. Yet, he also balanced these with some fun songs like the one where a truck load of bananas crashed in the middle of a small town. When he performed, he told you about the songs and then sang his stories.

Please do listen to this song and catch a few others while you are at it. He made you feel at home as he regaled you.

A Real Life Star Trek Hero – Nichelle Nichols

After the first season of the original “Star Trek” television series, African-American actress Nichelle Nichols was speaking with a prominent public figure about her role as Lt. Uhura. The public figure noted “Star Trek” was the only show he watched regularly with his children. Nichols told the man she was leaving the show, but he encouraged her to reconsider, which she did. He said you are a role model showing Blacks and Whites that there is a place for women of color in key roles in the future .His name was Martin Luther King.

She took that inspiration seriously and did far more than I ever knew until a recent documentary enlightened me. The Scyfy network has written an important piece called “NICHELLE NICHOLS’ NASA ‘WOMAN IN MOTION’ DOC BOLDLY BLASTING OFF FOR ‘BLACK HISTORY MONTH.'” Here are a few paragraphs, with a link to the full article below.

“A new documentary is boldly tacking one of actress Nichelle Nichols‘ greatest achievements. In addition to playing the iconic Lt. Nyota Uhura on the original Star Trek TV show, Nichols used her pop culture influence as a fictional space-farer to help pioneer a NASA recruitment program in the 1970s and ’80s that hired the first astronauts who were women and persons of color.

Directed by Todd Thompson (The Highwaymen), the documentary features exclusive interviews with Neil deGrasse Tyson, George Takei, Pharrell Williams, Martin Luther King III, Al Sharpton, Vivica A. Fox, Walter Koenig, Rod Roddenberry, Michael Dorn, Guy Bluford, Charles Bolden, Ivor Dawson, Frederik Gregory, Benjamin Crump, and, of course, Nichols herself.

The movie’s title refers to the company Nichols founded (Women in Motion, Inc.) that brought over 8,000 African American, Asian, and Latino women to NASA. Thanks to the actress’ work, the agency became one of the most diverse institutions of the U.S. federal government.

‘We are thrilled that Woman in Motion will be getting its U.S. premiere and launching the Fathom Events Celebrates Black History Month series next month! This is a great American story with incredible global impact,” Thompson said in a statement. “Nichelle Nichols helped create the brighter future we are living in today by proclaiming that space exploration is for everyone. It’s a simple but very strong statement that opens doors and allows all humankind to boldly go!’   

‘We are proud to bring pioneer and role model Nichelle Nichols’ inspiring story in cinemas across the nation,” added Fathom CEO Ray Nutt. “It is an honor to have Woman in Motion as the debut film in the inaugural Fathom Events Celebrates Black History Month series.”‘

To see Nichols speak of her efforts later in life is a treat. She is a very dignified person and understands the importance of these earlier efforts. A key comment was during a speech she made in the 1970s to a large group of NASA people. She looked out in the audience at all of the white men and observed “Where are my people?” The NASA leader heard her and asked for her help. She said she would do so, but did not want to be a figure head. She wanted to help make a difference. And, she did. She did her part to help NASA “boldly go where no man (or woman) has gone before.”

Nichelle Nichols/NASA ‘Woman in Motion’ documentary boldly blasting off (syfy.com)