Follow by Email

Friday, January 29, 2016

Some of Us Like to Call Ourselves a Christian Nation

I’ve read several messages and postings about how Christians should put their religion first and politics second. That Christians don’t count anymore and are in danger in the United States. This also is then translated into an attack on Democrats, especially President Obama, with claims he really is a Muslim who is attacking our Christian nation.

 The Christian upbringing and religious instruction I had growing up, as well as my civics and legal education are contrary to this message.

First, for anyone who says they are a Christian I cannot see how they reconcile this hateful message with the teachings of Christ. I understand Christ to have embraced and urged his followers to love everyone, help those in need, and love one’s neighbor as one’s self. In the Sermon on the Mount He said blessed were those who fed the hungry, clothed the naked and were peacemakers. He offered no religious test for showing love to others.

Second the facts do not support the things said in these messages. Our Constitution does not establish a Christian nation. Christians are the majority in this country but our government does not support any religion over another. Here is a link to a brief explanation of the facts.

On the contrary our fundamental document, the U.S. Constitution, assures freedom of religion and also expressly forbids any religious test for office. Based on the Constitution and U. S Supreme Court decisions, no religion is taught in our public schools. Everyone is entitled to learn and practice the religion, or no religion, as they choose.

It’s worth noting that the mistaken belief the U.S was established as a Christian nation comes from the era of our grandfathers rather than our founding fathers. Not surprisingly, this idea was generated by rich capitalists who opposed Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal to help average people in serious need.

But the big companies and extremely wealthy did not want what they saw as “give-aways” and tried to defeat FDR’s help to suffering Americans through the use of religious slogans. They also enlisted preachers to try to convince people that Christ supported greed, something that clearly is contrary to Christ’s teachings as stated in the Bible.

AMERICA may be a nation of believers, but when it comes to this country's identity as a “Christian nation,” our beliefs are all over the map.

Some claim Muslims now are favored and Christians threatened by President Obama’s policies. That is just not supported by the facts. Nor are there any reliable facts showing our President is anything other than the Christian he professes to be. Christians are not persecuted in this country. Rather, some elements, most notably Republican extremists, again to favor the rich, claim to be Christians and use this smoke screen of a “Christian nation under threat” to serve their own interests. However, they neither practice nor preach the teachings of Christ. They are concerned primarily with their own success and getting richer as they use religion and fear to hide their own self-interest.

I read and see a lot of news articles that try to stir up fear and hatred for those perceived as different. President Obama, much like President George W. Bush did after September 11, has tried to bring people together and help us all see it’s not a particular religion that causes terror.

We’ve had a lot of media hype of Islamic terrorists. And ISIS is a threat in some parts of the world. There are differences of opinions about how to best deal with this radical group. But that does not mean everyone who is a Muslim is a terrorist or that ISIS is a big threat to our country.

Here in this country a lot more people are killed in gang violence, or by home-grown extremists who claim any number of religious faiths, Christian as well as others.

Donald Trump is just one of the many who are either very rich or catering to the very rich. He claims to be acting as a Christian but is anything but. Here is a link to an article that details just how un-Christian Donald Trump is.

In today’s politics a lot of so-called religious conservatives again try to exploit our religious beliefs to their own political and financial ends. Religion can be a factor for good. But we should strongly object to its use to spread fear and hatred of people who are of other beliefs.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Review of “The Dude” on Maui

Last night “The Dude”, a/k/a Jeff Bridges performed at the Kaanapali Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa as part of the Maui Celebrity Series.

There’s a big temptation to just say: The Dude abided with the audience. And then quote some Big Lebowski lines, say he performed a few songs and hang loose. After all, he performed on Maui where hang loose is the island motto—and it was The Dude. But I’m going to resist that impulse and tell you about Bridges’ performance. Because it is worth recounting.

Bridges did not wear a bathrobe or an Hawaiian aloha shirt. Instead, he started out wearing a woman’s straw hat that he said he’d bought in the Sheraton’s gift shop, with loose pants and shirt and boat shoes. Sporting a full, white and neatly-trimmed beard, and collar-length gray hair he was relaxed but not quite Dude-like.  He sang, played guitar and keyboard, answered questions from the audience, and even danced in the aisles to get loosened up. His performance was great.

Bridges, who has a nice voice and good musical skills, was well supported on guitar and vocals by Chris Pelonis, a member of Bridges' musical group, The Abiders. One too-smart audience member yelled out maybe the group should be called “The Old Timers”. Bridges took that  comment in good spirit as he did other audience participation. He said maybe he should change their name. Very Dude-like.

Bridges sang a number of songs (including “Going Where I Shouldn’t Go”, “Hold On To You”, rocked out “I Use To Be Somebody”,  and crooned “No Place For the Weary Kind”) from “Crazy Heart”, the movie. He performed songs by T Bone Burnett, John Goodwin, who Bridges confided he has known since they both were in fourth grade. The set list also included a Tom Waits song (“Never Let Go of Your Hand”), a Creedence Clearwater Revival song (“Looking Out My Back Door”) and ended the encore with a Bob Dylan song (“The Man in Me”). The audience seemed to appreciate the Dude’s musical taste.

Bridges pleased the audience with several stories, and also good-naturedly answered questions from the audience. He said he probably was smoking Lucky Strikes in “The Last Picture Show” with Cybil Shepherd. He also said he’s smoked loco weed but  was not smoking pot in “The Big Lebowski.” The audience took that with a grain of—you know. But he also said he’s now given up those substances. 

The audience was treated to a couple of Bridges’ ocean-related stories. One, just from this trip to Maui where he went whale watching and was “whale-mugged”, that is, when whales surround a boat. The whales are protected and the boat has to stay put and wait for the whales to move off. Another story dated to a dive with his famous father, Lloyd Bridges. Jeff said he’d dived off the side of the boat, a bit of show off in his water-entry. His father, well known for the TV series. “Sea Hunt”, was experiencing some queasiness from an inner ear issue next entered the water but signaled Jeff to go to the surface. Jeff refused only to discover his dad, the man famous for diving, had been signaling  to surface because  he was “puking” in the water.

Maybe the Dude should be in politics. In addition to good music and a little humor, Bridges brought a level of intelligence, civility and compassion to the evening. Bridges talked about the charity he’s supported for decades: Ending Childhood Hunger. He also said he supports causes that deal with climate change. Bridges said that like a lot of people he’s been intimidated by the enormity of climate change. He said he now realizes that maybe one person can make a difference. He told a story about "Bucky" Buckminster Fuller , who compared an individual to the trimtab, a tiny rudder that turns the bigger rudder on a big ship. Bridges said he was inspired by Bucky’s epitaph “Call me trimtab”.

Jeff Bridges is a lot more than just the actor who played “The Dude” in “The Big Lebowski”. In the hearts of a lot of people he will always be The Dude first. But he's also a great musican, a humanitarian and an Oscar-winning actor who has made numerous roles memorable or even haunting. Think the most evil character he has played, Barney Cousins, a very scary (still-gives me the creeps) killer in “The Vanishing”.  

Jeff Bridges, on the other hand, apparently has not an evil bone in his body. Instead he seems to be following the advice he says his mother, and his wife now give him when he heads off for an acting job, “Have fun and don’t take it so seriously.” Yes, very Dude-like.

Rockford as Maverick

Another example of shorthand "couple-speak" for actors we've gotten to know in a particular role:  James Garner, a veteran of TV and movies and many, many roles will forever be Jim Rockford to us. 

Lately, we have been watching old black-and-white TV episodes on DVD of Maverick. In our lingo, "Rockford" is playing Maverick. 

The old Mavericks are in black and white and set in the old west. But, essentially, James Garner plays the same role—a little younger and riding a horse rather than driving a Firebird. He’s still scamming and charming his way through plots with the same style that made him a fixture in our hearts from his Rockford days. 

How many ohter actors can you think of who will forever be a charachter they played sometime. Whenever you see them in something else you flash back to the first memorable character where they stole your heart? More on that next time.

Friday, January 22, 2016

2 Hour Mega-Crossover or Sleeping Through Your Favorite Programs-II

As I noted recently, staying awake long enough to be able to go to bed at a reasonable time is a plight for those of us who are creeping up in age. Or if you like—geezers. But as long as you have a viewing companion who will take notes while you are sleeping and you are willing to do the same for him or her, there’s no harm, no foul. And only occasionally do I play fast and loose with the plot details. Assuming I remember them.

We recently watched a two-hour, mega-crossover TV event: NCIS and NCIS-New Orleans. We’d recorded it so we wouldn’t drift off during the commercials. Everything was fine until the beginning of the second hour. The young NCIS agent Ellie was transporting (from Washington DC to New Orleans—hence the “crossover” between the shows) the body of some Russian—a diplomat or spy or someone--who had been poisoned. That’s when I drifted.

 So when I woke up, the bad guys and some redheaded woman were shooting it out with some other guys, I thought one was the rich guy's bodyguard. But I couldn’t tell who was doing what to whom. My spouse came to the rescue.

I asked, quite logically to me—“Why is Longmire’s daughter in a battle with the billionaire’s bodyguard?”

 My husband understood my question. It helps if your TV companion has similar viewing habits. So you can use a shorthand for the characters. He knew I was referring not really to Longmire's daughter but to the pretty, young, redheaded actress, Cassidy Freeman, who in the mega-NCIS crossovers was playing a Russian spy.  But she is best known to us as the daughter (also a pretty young redhead but a lawyer in that program) of Sheriff Longmire in the series of the same name.

We  recently had binge-watched the series Longmire, well, more like watched an episode or two at a time, before one or both of us dozed off. Took us a few months to get through the first three seasons. The mysteries in each episode are enticingly plotted and the acting and scenery are outstanding.

As a result of that well-known phenomena that an actor is often remembered for the most prominent role you first saw them in, in our parlance, this young actress is forever to us known as Longmire’s daughter.

We were happy to hear that the Longmire series has been picked up by Netflix for a fourth season. So we have a lot more TV programs to snooze to.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Geezer TV

Do you find yourself dozing off when you are watching your favorite evening programs? It sure seems that way to us. Must be our age; it can’t be how hard we’ve worked. We're both retired.

Lately it seems either I, my spouse, or both of us cannot make it through a couple of TV episodes or a movie after dinner without drifting off. But if one of us manages to stay awake the one who has fought off drowsing can catch the other up on important plot points.

So last night my husband drifted during the movie “The Hundred-Foot Journey”. A good movie. About a family from India fleeing persecution to make a new start after the mother is killed in a fire started by some rival political group. 

The family makes a living in the restaurant business. The second oldest son not only has learned cooking skills from his mother but he has a love of good food and the heart of an amazing chef. So it’s no surprise the family seeks a place to start another restaurant.

The family eventually settles in a small town in France and decides to open an Indian restaurant a mere 100 feet across the street from a Michelin-starred French restaurant. No one gives the Indian restaurant a hope of success. 

Meanwhile, the young chef finds a spark of romance with a young woman who is a sous chef at the French restaurant. Troubles ensue, fire again strikes the restaurant…and at about this point my husband fell asleep. I could tell because his snores sort of woke me up.

Luckily, we have the movie recorded so he could watch what he missed if he wanted to. But I was able to fill him in on the exciting parts he missed, as I described it to him--a dream sequence:
Indian elephants brought in to increase their business flow, a kangaroo stampede, and finally a Bollywood dance number.

Well, you get the picture… I was sort of snoozing too so I dreamed up a few things. He didn’t fall for it either. And I didn’t want to spoil the wonderful movie--so he’s watching the rest of it now.

Trust me, our falling asleep is no reflection on the quality of the movie. It’s worth watching from the beginning to end. And watch for the dream sequence and Bollywood dance number. If it didn’t really have those parts it should have.