Saturday, 1 February 2014

I decided not to write a Super Bowl Rant

Most of my friends have no great fondness for the Super Bowl so I decided not to rant about it.

Instead I drove down to Trader Joe's to purchase good cheese, fine coffee and other comestibles.

En route I wondered whether I should break down and look at preview of one of the super-bowl ads. "Comcast" keeps encouraging me to open what they title "Bud Unveils Adorable Super Bowl Ad"  Nah.  I'll save my adoration for God and for wonderful people.

My journey took me very near to Harry's Sports Bar and Grill.

I resisted the temptation to stop by and look at the 63 (yes 63) large screen T.V.'s they have set up for "the Game".

On my way home I stopped by a 7-11 store to get a couple of small bags of their very good "kettle cooked chips" (crisps).

I tried hard not to think about all the food which is deemed to be essential for Super Bowl Parties:  Chips and Dips, "Wings" ( a poultry industry rip-off if ever there was one), Mac n Cheese etc.;  and of all the food which will be wasted and thrown away.

Late in the morning I decided to make some soup for my lunches for the next few days. To "my not quite horror" my big cooking pot sprang a leak (at the joint where the pot meets the base).  I hurried off to "Target" to purchase a replacement and cheerfully enough paid the 8% sales tax.

Oh my goodness.  I remembered that the National Football League is exempt from taxation. It is treated like a charity and not as business.

Back at home I had another stab at making soup.  There were potatoes to wash and dice into half inch  cubes. .  I thought "well twenty four half inches makes a foot, and three feet make a yard". I learned that when I was a wee lad. Dicing is a bit mindless so my mind wandered and became very British.

"What manner of damn fool game", I thought,  "has to stop every 62 seconds so that yards can be measured.  'Tis all very slow and boring, and more like a dress maker's convention than a game.

By mid afternoon my soup was made.  It was my very first attempt at making leek and potato soup, and damn -  it was very good!  (Thanks in part no doubt to the butter, heavy cream and butter-milk which are part of the recipe).

Doubtless you have been happy to read about my mundane activities this day, and glad that I did not rant about American Football and the Super-Bowl.

As I wind myself down for bed I recall that back in New England I would listen to my "one and only sports programme" on our local NPR radio station.  Hosted by Bill Littlefield it was a good hour of reports about all manner of sport/s.

The radio show was called "It's Only A Game". That was its genius, to recognize that "It's Only A Game".

Is it "only a game"?  I think not.

I think about:

1. The entirely awful College Football system which sucks in young men with the (mostly vain) promise that they will achieve professional status (and wealth) -  but wilfully neglects their education.

2The out of whack salaries paid to top football players (Peyton Manning - $18 million for one season), and to team coaches etc.

3, The utter commercialisation of the Super Bowl - instanced by one up-coming commercial which will cost $4.5 m for a 30 second broadcast - 

and by the relentless "pushing" of the Super Bowl on radio and T.V., in newspapers, and on the net as if it were important.  It's not.

(Can you even imagine a T.V. cooking show which demonstrated how to make "Mac and Cheese Cupcakes"  for the "not to be missed" ultimate Super Bowl party.  I do not need to imagine it - I watched a few minutes of the show.

4. The "gosh and awe" response to the news that opera singer RenĂ©e  Fleming will sing the National Anthem, by men who would not recognize a bit of good opera were their wives to sing it over breakfast.

5. My  understanding that the entire world of sport ( American baseball, hockey, basketball, soccer, ice hockey); National and International Association Football (Soccer);  Tennis;  Golf; The Olympics etc.  is  vast commercial enterprise, and should be enjoyed for what it is - a business. Let's not pretend that it has to with some kind of old fashioned amateur sportsmanship.

Please I beg you (and I mean this sincerely) enjoy the Super-Bowl of that is your thing.

But please also remember that on a world scale it's not that important, and that "It's only a game".

And miss my promised rant!








Friday, 31 January 2014

Nonsense from the Christian left, and from the Political right.

(No Super Bowl rant today -  I’ll store that up for tomorrow).

So, I get all manner of “alarm stories” via e-mail or on Facebook. I wish to heck that the senders would use their brains.

First there has been an impassioned plea from a very respectable Bishop in the Episcopal Church about human trafficking and the Super Bowl.


I know and like this Bishop (he and I were at Taize together in 1999 when we were both priests in Western Massachusetts).

I know that human trafficking is horrendous and evil.  I know that it corrupts souls and destroys lives.

That being said, the issue of trafficking and the Super Bowl has been over played and greatly exaggerated   Bishop Beckwith seems to accept these exaggerations without question.  As the following piece points out, campaigns such as the one in the Diocese of Newark may in the end be counterproductive.


 

Second a couple of my Facebook friends have posted a story headed “Evangelical scientists refute gravity with a new “Intelligent Falling” theory.

(The article says that Evangelical Scientists do not believe in gravity, instead they believe that God is pushing things down”.)

It took me no more than ten seconds to note that the story came from “The Onion” – a very popular on-line magazine of satire.

I think that both of my friends (M.L. and M.E.) knew this.  But a couple of the  responses to the satire (from folks who are all too serious and  have lost their funny-bones) made me sad/mad.
One said this:

‘"Evangelical scientists” is an oxymoron’.
My response is ‘What prejudiced thinking lies behind the statement: ‘"Evangelical scientists” is an oxymoron’
Another wrote this:
“Honestly, I fear for the future of our country when so-called intelligent people are incapable of differentiating between science and religion."

To which I had to respond by saying

 "I fear for the future of this country when so called intelligent people have lost their funny bones. Dammit the article was satire!"

Third One of my e-mail friends sent me an alarmist e-mail which asserted that “Target” (an American chain) is now French owned, controlled by Muslims, and is unwilling to make charitable grants to Christian or Military Veteran groups.

This is patent nonsense -  I happen to know that the Target group is owned by the venerable and respected Dayton-Hudson Corporation of Minnesota.

But I had to go to Snopes.Com so that I could refute the nonsense.  See:


 

Fourth This same friend e-mailed me with a story asserting that the ACLU  (American Civil Liberties Union) had filed a suit to forbid the Marines to pray together whilst on duty.  The e-mail stated "These are federal employees," says Lucius Traveler, a spokesman for the ACLU, "on federal property and on federal time.. For them to pray is clearly an establishment of religion, and we must nip this in the bud immediately."

Trouble is that the ACLU has never heard of Lucius Traveler, nor has it launched any such suit.  See: 


1.   I know that in “the olden days” all manner of nonsense was spread about  in gossipy neighbourhoods, with no imprimatur which guaranteed a degree of  truth.

2.   I also know that in those “olden days” (if we were lucky) some of the more respectable newspapers, magazines and radio stations would exercise due diligence before publishing bullshit (though this was a crap-shoot depending on where we lived and who controlled our media).

3.   I have come to realize that in the digital age we must all check sources, and re-check sources before we “publish” any story by e-mail, on Facebook, and in our Blogs.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Super Bowl (blah, blah, blah.) (1)


A letter to the Times of London.
Dear Sir,

It has come to my attention that a game with the confusing name of “American Football” is gaining some popularity in our beloved and God-favoured England. It is a sign of our modern decadence.

This game may well be American. It is most certainly not football: that skillful and glorious sport which was birthed by decent Englishmen on our noble English shores.

In my day we engaged in the manly activities of Association Football, Rugby Football, Fox hunting, Hare coursing and Butler baiting.  Those superb English pastimes led to the creation of the typical English value of fairness.  They made us  great.

The introduction of this so called “American Football” will lead to a decline in our morals, and a devaluation of all that is good and valuable in the English heritage of morality, deference to our "betters"  and respect for middle class values.

True Englishmen will resist this with all their might. When their country calls them they will rise to its defence.

With the deepest loyalty to this blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England

I am, yours faithfully,

The Reverend Major Hector Huffington-Virginia Waters,

Territorial Army, Frinton by the Sea.
Vicar, St.Jude’s Church, Little Jingo, Surrey

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

State of the Union (blah) Super Bowl (blah)

In all the years in which I have lived in these United States (1976 - now) I have watched only one "State of the Union Address" in its entirety.

That was enough.  I quickly came to the conclusion that the State of the Union address - by the President du jour to the House and the Senate -  is  a bit of theatre, (badly scripted and dreadfully acted).

I also come to understand that in the great scheme of things the SOTUS ( as we now title it) is incredibly boring, and of no real consequence.

Indeed it has very little to do with the State of the Union (which one could think would be a thoughtful and truthful  description of the previous year).

Instead it has become a prospective "agenda setting" bit of bloviation  by the sitting President whether he be of the republican party or the democratic party.

It's all style with no substance.

But at least it provides less than gainful employment for the dreary "experts" (of the right and of the left), who pretend to give some intelligent and thoughtful analysis days before the speech is delivered, during the speech itself, and (ad nauseam) after the speech has been delivered.

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It would be great if we returned to a wiser age which lasted  from Thomas Jefferson  - (President 1801-1809)  until William Taft - (President 1909 - 1913)  when the successive Presidents  gave written reports to Congress. (The first two Presidents, Washington and Adams, gave oral reports,  It was Jefferson who [with his usual perspicacity] presented verbal (written) reports, fearing as he did the emergence of an imperial presidency).

The Constitution states that the President should inform Congress of the State of the Union from time to time (not annually).

How cool it would be if future Presidents (of whatever stripe)  would disdain the task of being a Ringmaster (Ringmistress?)  at this annual bit of circus, and instead provide written reports to Congress from time to time when it was important so to do.

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Sorry to disappoint you.  The "Super Bowl" bit will have to wait until tomorrow ( and it will not be pretty!)

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Florida 28th January 2014

Up in the Panhandle I guess

Thanks to Neil Page for the tip off on this photo'

Monday, 27 January 2014

Networking "A way of wonder or a way of life?"

My good neighbour Bert fell ill this morning.  His wife Polly of over 60 years has some major memory problems, and could not remember how to call emergency services.

Jeannie, their next door neighbour did so, and waited until the ambulance and EMT's arrived. 'Twas at that time I returned from walking with Penne and was able to do my bit.

Jeannie followed the ambulance so that Polly could be with Bert.  I made sure that the house was secured, and that there was food set out for Daisy, their cat.

Then I called Bert and Polly's son in Indiana.  When he was here last fall I made a point of getting his phone number for such a time as this. Today I was glad that I had his number and could call him.

David was grateful for my call.  He and his sister need to know when things are not well with Mum and Dad.

Neighbour Jeannie kept watch with Bert and Polly at the hospital  -  it was a long day for her, but Polly needed company. I was able to give Jeannie's mobile 'phone number to David - and he called it so that he could talk with his Dad.  Jeannie  tells me  that the call made Bert weep.

By the end of the day the medics had decided that Bert's temporary illness. was because his blood pressure had dropped precipitously.

Bert was discharged from the hospital and Jeannie (bless her faithful heart) brought them home (she had been in the hospital for about eight hours).

Once they were at home I checked in with Bert and Polly, mostly to see if they needed me to cook them some dinner.  Bert, quite chipper by now, assured my that he had a freezer full of frozen dinners, and he was quite able to zap one or two of them in the microwave.

In the meantime their daughter Janice is flying down from Indianapolis and should arrive later this evening.

Bert and Polly realize that they should probably move back *home to be close to their children.

Polly in her slight haze said "we are thinking of retiring". 

Bert said "we like it here but at ninety you have to accept that some things are inevitable". 

I countered "Bert, you know what is the right thing to do, and you will do it".

Networking?  Indeed so!  Jeannie and I doing our best to respond to our neighbours in need.

Networking?  Indeed so!   Let's be grateful for mobile 'phones which we used extensively today.

I am glad that I had David's 'phone # "for such a time as this".

A neighbour said "you and Jeannie are wonderful".  That is total B.S.  We were doing what neighbours are supposed to do in a time of crisis. It was a way of life,  not a way of wonder.

I was so happy to be able to network with Jeannie today,  for if neighbours cannot rise to these small occasions they should not be called neighbours

* Bert and Polly own a home in Indianapolis which they share with their son David and his wife,

Kitchen Katastrophe, or the Perils of Povey.


It all began when I bought some pork loin (bone in) at my local supermarket. It weighed nearly 4lbs, and was offered at a reduced price of just about $4. That couldn’t be resisted.

Then as I wandered through the produce section my eyes alighted on an array of cauliflowers. Since I hadn’t eaten cauliflower in a couple of decades (I think that it’s a bit bland), I decided to try this venerable vegetable once again. (Cauliflower with cheese sprang to mind).

I set out to cook the pork and make some cauliflower with cheese for yersterday’s lunch. I put the pork with cut up sweet potato and mushrooms in one of those oven roasting bags, placed it in a blue pyrex baking dish, and set it on its merry way in a 350f pre-heated oven.

After about 75 minutes I decided to cook the cauliflower and make the cheese sauce.  This being done, some 15 minutes later I opened the oven and saw that that pork etc looked good, and could be taken out of the oven to cool whilst the cauliflower and cheese got cooked.

With the pork out of the oven and the cauliflower in the oven I set about washing some pots and pans and other cooking implements.

Then it hit.  “Ker-pow” and the baking dish shattered into hundreds of pieces which scattered themselves in many directions (including some bits which landed 21’ away in the dining room).

“Ker-pow”  -  why?  Well of course I had placed the baking dish on the stove top, not noticing that one of the heating coils was still “on”.  I engaged in some un-godly and self reproaching language.

Then I began to sweep up the myriads of small bits of blue glass (having at least had the wisdom to put some slippers on my feet before doing so).  The oven top was a mess, but I decided to take care of that later.

Amazingly  I was able to rescue the meat and veggies, saved as they were by the oven roasting bag.

So I ate my lunch before launching into a deep clean of the oven top. ‘Twas then I noticed that my left foot had been cut before I put on the slippers.  So there was a fair bit of dried blood on some parts of my tiled floors.

I have spent a wee bit of my ordained ministry worrying about older folks who might forget to turn off oven burners.  Now I am one of them.

Six thoughts this morning:

1.    Pay attention.

2.   It could have been worse.  My back was to the oven since I was washing pots and pans when the dish shattered. Had I been facing the other way I could have gotten some shards of glass in my face.

3.   I will be finding bits of blue glass for months to come. Somehow broken glass has a habit of hiding itself away, and emerging some time later.

4.   Pay attention.

5.   Even cauliflower with cheese is a bit bland.
6. I must remove most of  the "stuff" on my very limited counter space to make room for "fresh from the oven" food.