March 6, 2019

DON'T DO THAT!


In an era when most comedians told long, elaborate jokes that crawled to the punchline, Henny Youngman was different. He was known as the king of one-liners. (Take my wife…please!) Some were just funny for funny’s sake, but others carried a more profound meaning (even if unintended). For example:

A man went to his doctor and said, “Hey Doc, it hurts when I do this (insert awkward gesture here)!” Doc says, “don’t do that!” (Insert rimshot and hysterical cheers here.)

Indeed.


Surely some diseases are genetic (diabetes), while others are environmental (tainted water). For this reason, we might not get diagnosed until it’s too late to do anything about it. It’s not your fault. And yet, other ailments are caused by our own voluntary choices.

January 26, 2019

MANUFACTURED OUTRAGE FATIGUE

In this week’s issue of TIME magazine, there’s a thought-provoking article When Bad Men Make Great Art. It recounts the many Hollywood sex scandals of recent years, particularly that of Bryan Singer, director of Bohemian Rhapsody. The article got me thinking.

Between the two of us, my sister and I probably own the complete works of Michael Jackson. Whether on vinyl, or cassette tape, or CD, or MP3 or video, I believe that we could reassemble his entire career: Every note, every lyric, every dance step. We were the ultimate fans.

In time, of course, he died a horrible death. Under a cloud of suspicion for the vilest of crimes against children. OUTRAGE! But wait: What did we ever know about his personal character, such that this should come as such a surprise? Years earlier, he slipped behind a curtain as a recluse, leading a decadent lifestyle of ultimate self-indulgence.

February 21, 2018

FORGET ABOUT FIXING THE WORLD. YOU CAN'T!



In the headline of today’s Los Angeles Times: ARE HOMELESS HERE TO STAY? Of course, that’s a big duh. The answer is an unequivocal yes! Jesus told us so: “You will always have the poor among you.” Indeed, in big cities like my own Los Angeles, it’s hard to miss.

But that’s not the only intractable problem in our modern American society.

In the summer of 2014, Michael Brown robbed a convenience store and assaulted the store’s owner. In a subsequent struggle with a police officer, he was shot dead. His city of Ferguson, MO erupted in violence for several days.

A few months later, Attorney General Eric Holder delivered a speech at an event in Atlanta. In it, he lamented the demise of young Mr. Brown. “In the coming days, I will announce updated Justice Department guidance regarding profiling by federal law enforcement…to help end racial profiling, once and for all.”

May 25, 2017

LET'S HEAR THE TRUTH (NO MATTER WHO TELLS IT!)

I need to rant today.
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One of my clients has written a fascinating memoir about her experiences as a missionary in the war-torn Middle East. Great story, great writing, interesting perspectives.
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As I shop this story around to publishers, the responses are mixed. Some comment that the author’s platform (name recognition) is weak. Others worry that the subject matter isn’t timely (even as the wars continue!). Almost everyone agrees that the writing is strong and the author’s style is engaging.
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Yet, there’s one response that I didn’t expect: Today, an editor expressed concern that the story is told in the voice of a white conservative American Christian. VERY politically incorrect these days. Yup, white American Christians already control most of the world, and they’re looking to take over the rest. (Witness the many American military engagements around the globe, as evidence.)

May 2, 2017

MY SISTER'S KEEPER?


A few weeks ago, Washington Post reporter Ashley Parker revealed a bit of personal info about Vice President Mike Pence: He will not meet or dine alone with a woman who isn’t his wife. The Pences are known to be devout Christians, and with this restriction the Vice President is following the Billy Graham rule. (Graham announced decades ago, that he follows this policy.)

Is this a good or bad thing? I don’t know. But is Pence truly deserving of the scorn that has been heaped upon him in recent weeks?

On the one hand, Scripture cautions us, “among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality” (Eph 5:3). Private meetings between men and women can certainly provide that “hint.” Just ask Jimmy Swaggart, Bill Cosby, Bill Clinton, and Roger Ailes. With a third person in the room, their careers could have turned out very differently.

March 27, 2017

PLEASE, SPARE ME THE SERMONS.



I am increasingly disappointed in the shallowness of news reporting these days. So much of it seems driven by a political agenda, not a quest for truth. And for me it only serves as an upward call to be more careful and honest in my own writing.

Recently, two young women were denied entry to a United Airlines flight because of their inappropriate attire: leggings. Such hatred! Such sexism! Misogyny! Stop the presses! Who are these corporate titans, to tell women what to wear? The problem is, the story isn't as simple as it might seem at first glance.
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February 1, 2017

I'M NOT A TERRORIST! TRUST ME.

Many years ago, in one of my many careers, I worked for a background check service. Employers are very selective about who they trust to work for them, so they hired our company to check them out.

For every project, the subject provided:

Full given name at birth
Place of birth
All aliases
Social Security number
Driver’s license number
Fingerprints
Employment history
Education history
Their consent to very this information

January 11, 2017

INTOLERANCE GOOD, OR INTOLERANCE BAD? PICK A SIDE.


Yesterday, I watched a portion of Jeff Sessions' Senate confirmation hearing. I agree that it’s only right and proper that he (or any cabinet nominee) should face close scrutiny before we endow him with such awesome authority. His career experience, personal character, and general demeanor are all fair game, at a time like this. But in the view of this observer, the tests of orthodoxy seem to be getting weirder and weirder with each passing year.

Under questioning from Sen. Richard Blumenthal, it seems that Mr. Sessions keeps company with some shady characters. Apparently, he received a few awards from people with dangerous beliefs: One guy is a racist, one hates women, and the other is a general schmuck. "Will you return the awards and sever all ties?" 

REALLY? Is this what our country has come to?

December 27, 2016

FIFTY YEARS OF KWANZAA


The holiday of Kwanzaa is now upon us. This seven-day feast (Dec. 26-Jan. 1) was devised in 1966 by Professor Ronald Everett of California State University at Long Beach, to instill a sense of cultural pride among African-American families. According to the website (www.officialkwanzaawebsite.org), the holiday celebrates the “ancient and living cultural tradition which reflects the best of African thought and practice.”

In recent years, Kwanzaa has gained traction as an occasion for gatherings of family and friends. It’s rooted in the seven principles of Unity, Self-determination, Collective Work and Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity and Faith. Hallmark sells Kwanzaa-themed greeting cards that emphasize these principles, conveying a message of dignity and empowerment. At least, that’s the popular account that most people hear.
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October 18, 2016

COULD IT BE THAT WHITEY COP ISN'T THE PROBLEM?


Toya Graham is my hero.

Oh, the name doesn’t ring a bell? She’s the young mother who got caught on network TV, roughing up her teenage son because she found out that he was rioting on the streets of Baltimore. She reminds me of my own mother.

That’s right: In my old neighborhood, we knew our neighbors and they knew us. If someone hurt one of her children, Mom would run to our defense like a mother grizzly caring for her cub. But if I was the offender, she’d be the first to apologize on my behalf and then slap me back to my senses. Which is as it should be. How could she complain about the bully down the street, if her own children were no better?

Mom knew that it wasn’t in her power to fix all of the ills of our society. But one thing she could do, was to keep my sister and me from making it worse. And it worked: We’ve been (mostly) on the straight and narrow ever since.