(Slightly) Annotated Predictions for 2017

1)The US government will release some year-end statistics regarding things within their purview with the intention of reflecting their positive handling of those said items. My take: “Statistics are for losers..” (Attributed to many sports personages.)

2)There will be some major announcement regarding contact with aliens, i.e.the space people, not the illegal ones. It could come in the form of a confirmation of intelligible radio signals from outer space or the Trump administration seeking to “trump” Hillary and produce bodies from Area 51. My take: “We meet aliens every day who have something to give us. They come in the form of people with different opinions.” (William Shatner)

3) A  relatively unknown figure will emerge to lead a rebellion in the Democratic Party against the old fogies currently in charge. This middle-aged person will be a centrist opposed to the left-wing bomb throwers who made all the noise during the last election, but had their influence muted by the Machine. My take: “I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.” (Will Rogers)

4) The 2017 word of the year will be “kitchen debate”.  This is actually a term we will revive from the 50s. It was then that Soviet premier  Nikita Krushchev  and American vice president Richard Nixon engaged in public arguments in a model American home in Moscow. They became known as the “kitchen debates”. Current Russian president alluded to these debates at the end of 2016 when he said that he refused to engage Barack Obama in “kitchen diplomacy”.  I assumed Putin was referring to the fact these interactions between Krushchev and Nixon were mainly viewed as a publicity stunt. Donald Trump will continue this kind of diplomacy with bombastic tweets regarding foreign leaders and governments. My take: “If you can’t take the heat, get our of the kitchen.” (Harry S. Truman)

5) Starbucks seems to be taking over the world. However, their bubble will begin to burst due to subtle changes in customer service and so-called “rewards” that have made them more like a pricey McDonalds. My take: You’re slipping Howard.” When we began Starbucks, what I wanted to try to do was to create a set of values, guiding principles, and culture.” (Howard Schultz)

6) Coverage for health care will remain as confusing as ever, if not more so, since the Republicans are going to be fiddling with Obamacare. My take: Find a financial navigator who will guide you through the morass.“America’s health care system is neither healthy, caring, nor a system.” (Walter Cronkite)

7) After an election period in which many Americans hold young people in disdain, calling them “snowflakes” and decrying their need for safe spaces, some Millennial will become an icon to their fellows and all of the nation because of their courage. This unlikely hero or heroine will completely change youth culture and be universally admired. My take: “The duty of youth is to challenge corruption.” (Kurt Cobain)

8) With the rise of terrorism incidents and uncontrolled crime in cities like Chicago, Americans will mimic the Germans and begin to form vigilante groups to do the job our federal, state and local governments won’t do. My take: “The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance.” (John Phillip Curran, 19th century Irish politician and orator)

9) Though Millennials (ages 18-34) now are the largest living generation, surpassing Baby Boomers (ages 51-69) by about half a million according to Pew Research, the latter will not go quietly. Expect loud reactions from older people over the outrages constantly circulated in the media these days. These folks are twice as likely to be conservative than their youthful counterparts. That’s no surprise given the old adage “if you are young and not a liberal you have no heart, but if you are old and not a conservative you have no head.” Though conservatives are generally less likely to protest and just go about their business, the Trump victory in the recent presidential election revealed that Baby Boomers are not going to sit on their hands and watch the culture go down the toilet. My take:” Do not go gentle into that good night,.old age should burn and rave at close of day;
rage, rage against the dying of the light.” -Dylan Thomas.

10) I predict I will be wrong on at least half of these predictions. Therefore, instead of living in the past or future I intend to follow best selling author Brendon Burchard’s approach and slow time down, focusing on today and the moment, taking deepr breaths and seeking to be a better person.  My take: “A great man is a torch in the darkness, a beacon in superstition’s night, an inspiration and a prophecy.” (Robert Green Ingersoll, 19th century leader of the “Free Thought” movement, which  stressed science and reason over religion, tradition and authority.)

Happy New Year!

 

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Outs and Ins for 2017

Out                                                                                                            In

Taylor Swift                                                                                           Tori Kelly

Pop culture                                                                                             History

Negativity                                                                                               Positive Illusions*

Lawlessness                                                                                           Arrests

Fake News                                                                                              Reporting

Snowflakes                                                                                             College Republicans

Religion                                                                                                    Spiritual Revival

Megyn Kelly                                                                                             Dana Perino

Germany                                                                                                    Finland

California                                                                                                   Indiana

Social Security                                                                                          Basic Income

Gravitational Waves                                                                                Niburu

Social Media                                                                                               Cafe Gatherings

NFL                                                                                                                NBA

Earthquakes                                                                                               Volcanoes

* See Wall Street Journal Review Section, December 31, 2016 for a definition

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2016 News that May Be Important Only to Me

2016 News that May be Only Important to Me…

 

  • Yep, the Cubs won the World Series and I was happy for them. But even with an owner making megabucks from his MASN TV rights who still won’t spend, the Orioles made the playoffs again.

 

  • I still don’t know who Harambe is.

 

  • Though working through third parties, Finnish company Nokia is still remaining in the mobile phone business.

 

  • My adopted state of Indiana was a key player in the presidential election. Donald Trump selected Indiana governor Mike Pence to be his running mate. The Carrier company and its relocation of jobs overseas was a big campaign issue. The Guardian chose the subject of a famous sociological study, Muncie, as the focus of a profile of the average American voter.

 

  • An American expat, rookie Alexander Rossi, won the Indianapolis 500. It was also my first live viewing of the race. Scratch one off the Bucket List.

 

  • Barack Obama was the first American president to make an official visit to Cuba in 88 years. Thus, our relations with that country are developing, making it likely their products will end up on our shores, like Cuban cigars. Not that I can smoke them. I had a strong Latin cigar in Ybor City, Tampa’s Latin quarter, this summer and threw up.

 

  • Confirming my longstanding belief that the US will eventually end up as kind of a loose group of autonomous areas in the mode of the Soviet Union after the demise of the Communist leadership there, both Texas and California made strong noise about exiting. The talk has been inspired by the UK leaving the European Union (i.e. Brexit).

 

  • An Italian study revealed this week that 90,000 Christians have been martyred around the globe this year. I doubt if any of them were in the US.

 

  • Despite the news media glorifying celebrity deaths this year, numerous figures are still alive and kicking in their 90s. These personages include Billy Graham, Dick Van Dyke, Olivia DeHavilland, Kirk Douglas, Carl Reiner, Doris Day, Jerry Lewis, Monty Hall (Let’s Make Deal), and Henry Kissinger.

 

  • The corruption of the news media was finally exposed during the presidential election, resulting in a year end discussion of a phenomenon now called “Fake News”. Where this discussion will lead is anyone’s guess, but there is fear it could result in censorship, depending on whose ox is being gored.

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Film Review: Manchester by the Sea Asks if Redemption is Possible

Looking at his wife in the film “Manchester by the Sea”, Lee Chandler points to his chest and says,”There is nothing there.”

If this film provides an image of anything else, it is what happens to a man when  as author Gertrude Stein said  “there is no there there”. Lee is an empty vessel.

The vibrancy in Lee leaves him early in the tale after he makes a huge mistake. Thereafter, he is a shell.

Lee’s persona is fine as long as he can keep to himself. Indeed, he seems to prefer it.

When we are introduced to him, he is a custodian at an apartment complex in the Boston area. Lee is a good janitor, but he is not exactly a person who wins friends and influences people. When he encounters a crabby woman who has a water leak in her apartment, he curses at her, and gets himself into trouble with his boss.

The only reason Lee’s boss relents from disciplining him is that he convinces the man how good he is at taking care of the four buildings in the complex. The janitor is a jerk, but at least he is good at his job.

“Manchester by the Sea” uses a series of flashbacks to fill in the reasons as to why Lee has become the man he is and the effects of his massive mistake on him and others. I am no psychiatrist,  but it seems that like a lot of men Lee takes refuge in his work to escape from himself and the anguish bubbling inside of him.

Casey Affleck is masterful as Lee’s, reflecting his internal angst in his facial expressions. In general, he is a curmudgeon before his time and almost completely uncommunicative. Lee only talks when he has to.

However, an event occurs which forces him out of his isolated existence. Lee’s brother Joe (played by the wonderful Kyle Chandler) dies, which is not totally unexpected since in one of the flashbacks we are told that he only has a life expectancy of a few years.

For Lee, though, what IS unexpected is that Joe has made him the guardian of his 16-year old son Patrick. Out of the blue he has to be responsible for someone besides himself and a bunch of flats. In addition, he has to return to the town where he is a pariah because of his terrible blunder.

The best aspect of “Manchester by the Sea” is the acting of Affleck as suggested above. He offers a portrayal of Lee that shows the changeable parts of the character’s personality.

The flashbacks show that Lee was not always a sullen jackass. Before his massive error, he could laugh, party with his  friends and play with the younger Patrick with gusto.  Affleck manages the difficult task of depicting the influence of his character’s personal disaster on his personality with great talent.

The tragic story is a good one, but its telling is hindered by what seems to be a hurried attempt to tell it. The audience is led quickly from flashback, to scenic views of the town Manchester-by- the-Sea  to point of view shots of Lee driving through town. At times I felt like I was viewing my grandfather’s Super 8 home movies.

Furthermore, I had difficulty identifying the roles of the characters. The film does not have too many characters, but I still had trouble discerning who was who during its initial section, partly because of the hurried pace. In this respect, “Manchester by the Sea” goes to the extreme in attempting to correctly show us the story instead of telling us. Key details are unclear.

As a believer I also was unhappy with the tired old mechanism of portraying Christians as people who belong in an institution.  Despite my personal distaste for his task, Matthew Broderick as Jeffrey, the new man of Joe’s unbalanced wife, pulls off  the part of the creepy Christian quite well. Patrick’s meeting with him leads to a brief but humorous discussion of who is a Christian with Lee on the drive home.

Despite these drawbacks, Affleck’s performance carries the film and makes it worth seeing. If he is not nominated for an Oscar for best actor, then there is no justice.

As for the story itself, it is not uplifting, but it does deal with an important issue. The difficult question “Manchester by the Sea” poses is if a man who has done something awful can experience redemption. What the film and Affleck reveal is that it takes not only a village for that to occur, but also the man himself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jesus and Dr. Who

In one of the earlier seasons of the popular sci-fi series “Dr. Who”, the time lord and his charges end up on a space station orbiting the Earth 200,000 years in the future. This is not any ordinary vehicle. It houses the central source of news for the entire planet.

In order to access the vast knowledge of what amounts to the Internet in that time, higher level reporters buy a chip which is implanted in their heads.  When information is desired, the chip pops out of their forehead and a huge ray of light transmits all knowledge.

What they don’t know is that the information they receive is controlled by a malicious alien on the floor 500 of the space station.  The whole episode, even though broadcast over a decade ago, seemed to be aimed at taking a shot at fake news before we even had the term.

As I ponder the birth of Jesus celebrated today, I realize that this event was the greatest news in history. Of course, like in the Dr. Who episode and the falsehoods posing as news today, the narrative about Jesus has been determined over two millennia by who is writing it.

As a follower of Jesus, I tend to rely on what I read in the Bible about him. What it says about Him is that He was God who limited himself by taking human form.  In a supernatural miracle, the Holy Spirit created human life in the womb of his mother Mary.

The entire episode in theological terms is called the Incarnation. As I thought about it today, I was fascinated.

It is really hard to define in my own limited brain. The reporters in the Dr. Who show I watched  were a faulty analogy.  What it DID imagine is the inputting of huge amounts of knowledge into the brain of a human. But I risk heresy if I use that scenario as an accurate portrayal of what the birth of Jesus meant for us. The Incarnation was so much more.

Whatever the nature of the Incarnation, it was a seminal event in the journey of mankind. It changed everything; it altered history. Sometimes that term is altered into “His Story.”

In church today and on a Catholic website  I was exposed to the following description of how important the Incarnation was in the human story.  My priest read this Christmas Proclamation from the Roman Catholic liturgy.

The twenty-fifth day of December.

In the five thousand one hundred and ninety-ninth year of the creation of the world from the time when God in the beginning created the heavens and the earth;

the two thousand nine hundred and fifty-seventh year after the flood;

the two thousand and fifteenth year from the birth of Abraham;

the one thousand five hundred and tenth year from Moses and the going forth of the people of Israel from Egypt;

the one thousand and thirty-second year from David’s being anointed king;

in the sixty-fifth week according to the prophecy of Daniel;

in the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad;

the seven hundred and fifty-second year from the foundation of the city of Rome;

the forty second year of the reign of Octavian Augustus;

the whole world being at peace,

in the sixth age of the world,

Jesus Christ the eternal God and Son of the eternal Father,

desiring to sanctify the world by his most merciful coming,

being conceived by the Holy Spirit, and nine months having passed since his conception,

was born in Bethlehem of Judea of the Virgin Mary, being made flesh.

–From Roman Martyrology

One may quibble about the dating, but even so this piece does reflect how Jesus appeared in history, as we were minding our own business.

Once He did, we didn’t have an excuse for business as usual anymore.  

 

 

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The Real World Impact Of Judaism & Christianity – History Video!

Dick Morris discusses how three major events of the last century mobilized American because they were an attack on our values.

Of particular note is the question of how war is defined.  It seems our enemies have already seen us at war and act accordingly, while we continue to try and placate and negotiate with them.

Source: The Real World Impact Of Judaism & Christianity – History Video!

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Responding With Love in a PC Culture

I have to admit that this aging dude has a hard time understanding today’s youth. And I have taught college since the early 90s. An upsetting experience I had with a Millennial last night has just added to my perplexity.

I love classic movies, so when I saw that The Jazz Singer (1927)  was on Turner Classic Movies, I made a plan to watch it in a student center on my local college campus. The National Film Registry selected this film as one of its culturally, aesthetically or historically significant movies. It is the first full length feature film with sound.

There is a well-known scene in this flick when star Al Jolson puts on black face and then sings. I didn’t even think about that clip as being part of this movie when I turned it on. But with about 30 minutes left,Jolson is shown putting on the blackface in his dressing room before a Broadway play. When he appeared on the screen, I heard a female voice say,”Oh my God. Turn it off!” At first I ignored it, but I finally decided to move to another seat with another TV out of her and her friend’s view. This young lady and her friend were African American students.

But apparently this wasn’t good enough for her. She followed me and told me to turn the film  off in my new location. “It’s disrespectful,” she said.

I said,”Ok” and wanted to add “say please” but decided it was not in my best interest and turned it off. I went to get my stuff near them and said,”I get it (why she was upset), but I see it as history.” She wasn’t pleased from her facial expression and I added,”But I turned it off.” She replied (to her credit),”Thank you for turning it off. Have a good night.” She looked away from me and obviously didn’t want to engage me on the subject anymore (Not to her credit.)I sat down for a few minutes, but I felt shamed and left.

Part of the reason I felt shamed was that I am a person who has tried quite hard to understand the African American view on things for a long time, but somehow I missed that perhaps Jolson’s blackface would be upsetting to someone in a classic movie. I actually took the time after I got home to write and call Turner Classic Movies and ask them if they had discussed broadcasting “The Jazz Singer” with African-American consultants.

I wrestled before bedtime with my feelings after my encounter with this girl. I went back and forth. On the one hand I thought she was right to be offended, although I wasn’t sure quite why since the movie was almost 90 years old.  On the other hand, I wanted to know where I should draw the line on such things. For example, should I not watch a World War 2 movie which shows a swastika for fear that a Jewish young person might get offended.

I checked in with some people to find out how they felt about my experience. (They were white.) A couple folks understood her feelings, but thought she overreacted. Others thought that the young lady was “punishing me” for not bowing down to cultural norms of political correctness.  She could not let my viewing of this movie pass in this public setting, but felt compelled to say something, although privately her and her friends might have watched the film and laughed at is outdated characterizations.

After a night’s sleep I have come to my own conclusions. This woman chose to publicly humiliate me.  My problem with this young lady was not in her value system. My problem was in the way she chose to handle her discomfort. The better way would have been to approach me privately, explain to me that what I was viewing offended her, and ask me politely to turn it off. Instead she loudly issued commands to me. This girl’s approach to me was form of fascism.

To her, I had committed a crime and I needed to be publicly punished, perhaps especially because I was an older white male.  Neel Burton M.D. (2014) explains:

“To humiliate someone is to assert power over him by denying and destroying his status claims. To this day, humiliation remains a common form of punishment, abuse, and oppression; conversely, the dread of humiliation is a strong deterrent against crime.”

Once she had inflicted her “punishment” on me so that she was satisfied I was “corrected”, she felt no need to continue a communication with me.

Burton helped me to understand my reaction to the woman’s strategy. I felt violated and was not sure how to proceed in trying to maintain my right to view what I damned well please.

“When we are humiliated, we can almost feel our heart shriveling,” writes Burton. He notes that  we become focused on our humiliation, experience as plethora of negative emotions and internalize our humiliation to such a degree that we lose sleep, have nightmares, become depressed and even consider suicide.

Not only that, but humiliation also erodes our ability to defend ourselves according to Burton. Negative reactions to the humiliation such as anger and violence are useless in any case, he says, because they “do nothing to repair the damage which has been done.”

Burton adds that the only solution is to learn to live with the humiliation, which takes self esteem and strength, or give up our lives completely.

In practical terms for me, the latter means not necessarily giving up my whole lifestyle, but it could mean giving up watching certain films in public. I suppose this is doable, if for no other reason as it it will show kindness to others like this offended black woman.

I am informed by my Christian faith on this approach. The Apostle Paul talked of welcoming others, but not in an argumentative manner. He advised that we should not put a stumbling block in the way of others because of our insistence on upholding our own freedoms.

So I believe I took the correct approach in my actions last night. If giving up my right to a film somehow adds glory to God, then I am all for it. I will just have to trust him to deal with people like this young lady in the way they treat me and others when they are resentful.

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