The Thirty Minute Blogger

Exploring Books and the Writer's Life, Faith and Works, Culture and Pop Culture, Space Science and Science Fiction, Technology and Nostalgia, Parenting and Childhood, Health: Physical and Emotional ... All Under the Iron Hands of the Clock and That 30 Minute Deadline

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Regal Cinema Recliners

After my first recent experience with the Movie Tavern, the trip back to the Regal Cinema seemed kind of mundane. Don't get me wrong. I love my local Regal Cinema. Nice theater and a good movie experience. They do not disappoint.

But, they must be feeling the heat from their new competition. This is the display I saw in the lobby. Those black recliners look mighty familiar, just without the swinging food trays for dinner. I'll be interested to see which theaters they put those in. When I went in to see Batman vs. Superman (go see it IF you know the Frank Miller Dark Knight series ... you'll have a ball), I checked out the rows. For the recliners to go in, the walkways in front of the seats will have to be widened or nobody is going to be moving once the film starts as long as the recliners are up. Of course I could be wrong. I didn't actually measure. It will be interesting to see what they do.

Stay tuned. 

Not Black and White World: The Five Minute Response

We try to keep things simple. We try for a black and white, yes or no, us vs. them world to keep the complications down. It leads unfortunately to horrid gross generalizations, stereotyping, and anger. It is the wrong approach.

Our world is complicated. Life is painted in shades of gray and built on complex cultural norms and very complex personal backstories. I watched a police chief in a major city both enraged and near tears when asked if his officers out on a crime scene, the murder of a young child, had been responsible for the killing. I watched a friend share a story of rape, white on black, who made the appalling gross generalization afterwards in anger that all white men (apparently me included) have always gone international traveling for the soul purpose of raping exotic women. SIGH!

We could go on and on. There are all sorts of focused, tailored news agencies that will stoke the fury of liberals and conservatives with equal glee, providing black and white lies in a technicolor reality. We have to be better than this. Yes, there are fanatics in every group on the face of the earth. That doesn't mean the entire population they come from are fanatics.

In a recent article, one great truth came forward. How you feel about others, whether or not you believe they will succeed, will directly correspond with how you treat them. If you think they have a chance, you will try to help. If you don't, you'll work hard to make your belief in their failure into their reality. How horrid. Let's force ourselves to believe most of humanity is upright, virtuous, and wishes others well, and treat others that way. If we don't, if we continue this black and white, yes or no, us vs them mentality, we will create that bleak world. Then we all DO fail.

And that's the five minute response.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Experience with Non-gendered Toilets, 1980s

Why such ignorance? WHY?!?
On a college trip to London, with a three week trip through Europe at its end, we students from Indiana encountered a non-gender specific (or uni-sex) public restroom in Belgium. Upon entering, we immediately noticed the difference. Every urinal had bat-wing doors and partition walls for privacy. Every toilet was walled with locking doors. There was no fuss about the situation. There were no sexual assaults there. Everyone was calm, collected, and mature. No one was discriminated against. No one was ogled. No one received any unwanted attention of any sort.

North Carolina's conservative legislators may want to do a little international travel, visit a few public restrooms and see how adults get the job done. Then they could stop screaming about the dangers to their women from transgendered people in the bathroom. Get a grip and grow up folks. The rest of the country is watching, and most of us are just plain embarrassed by you.

Take a little advice from the public speaking world, legislators. If a speaker obsesses about a subject, like people being attacked in public restrooms, it is considered likely that the speaking obsessing has a personal problem with this issue him- or herself. So, conservative legislators, who are you afraid is really going to be stalking the bathrooms? Is it you????

See this post for an indictment of the North Carolina bill and the bigotry behind it: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2016/03/north-carolinas-power-grab-rushed-law.html

North Carolina's Power Grab Rushed Law HB2

The white power elite of North Carolina has shown just how uneasy they are with the rise of peoples unlike themselves. The HB2 bill they rushed through the legislature disallows transgendered people from using public toilet facilities most appropriate for them, along with other sexual minorities. The based their argument on an old 1890s white supremacist argument that black men would ravish white women if white men did not rise up against them. Nauseating in any age. The second part of the law denied statewide the new $15 an hour minimum wage, an unadulterated power grab by the central government over the local municipalities. This is a great way to keep other minorities down. This kind of nasty, primitive, racist thinking must not be part of the modern world, not even in modern politics.

For more on this issues see the article by Red Letter Christians: http://www.redletterchristians.org/racism-lurking-behind-ncs-anti-lgbt-law/?platform=hootsuite

Kroger came up with a sensible, rational, adult alternative to the North Carolina legislature's approach. In their stores there are sex neutral restrooms available for all their patrons: Dads with young daughters, mothers with young sons, families bringing senile elders with them who also cannot use restrooms unattended, and the LGBTQ community. Now wouldn't that be simpler North Carolina, than claiming your racist, power grabbing bill was for the safety of women (white women no doubt) against sexual predators?

Taking this further, many white people feeling that their way of life is threatened today, are rallying behind a strong man who is willing to use violent means to get his way. Donald J. Trump has brought many frustrated white people who have been left behind in a continuous recession that has never abated (other races in similar circumstances might be able to sympathize if they weren't so actively hated by this overwrought group), many without any wage increases in up to 15 years. Ironically, these people where ignored by the party they hoped would represent them. Since they were not a moneyed class their issues were of no interest however. Now that they have been organized into a series of angry mobs at rallies for Mr. Trump, they are getting noticed for the first time ... and they like it. It is bringing out the worst in people, just like the bill in North Carolina.

For more on white supremacy (this time how to resist it), see this post: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2016/03/resisting-rise-of-hate-groups.html

For information on stereotyping run amok, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2014/08/stereotyping-and-dehumanizing-run-wild.html


Monday, March 28, 2016

Signs It's Time to Leave a Job

Jobs can be precarious things these days for many, hard to obtain and easy to lose. People are often reluctant to leave the certainty of the known for the unknown. However, there are times when one must plan a way to exit a job when that workplace becomes hell.

Here are a few indicators it is time to move on:

  1. The boss rules by terror. Abuse is the name of this game. There is a hair trigger on the man or woman at the top and they don't care who they hurt when they are upset. Dressing downs are done in public, use abusive language, and are intended as a threat to all who hear them, "This could be you next." 
  2. The boss takes all the credit and accepts none of the blame: this character accepts all the accolades, even when the work was accomplished by a team under his/her leadership. This individual is Teflon-coated when things go wrong and ready to throw anyone and everyone working for him/her under the bus to avoid taking responsibility. 
  3. The law of the jungle rules in the workplace: only the strong survive, often by preying on the weak, setting folks they can't ally with up for failure.
  4. Cry rooms are known to exist where workers go when the abuse reaches such a high level even the strongest people are reduced to tears. 
  5. When workers are afraid to speak up for fear of responses from above (see #1, 2, & 3) and reprisals.
  6. When the culture of the place leads workers to believe they are lucky to have this job and nobody would take them anywhere else, so shut up and get back to work.
  7. A workplace where raises and promotions have not been forthcoming for years and where bosses/owners no longer even make excuses for why they are and will not happen in the foreseeable future. 
  8. Where people stay on, working until they no longer can, because there has been no way to save for any sort of decent retirement. 
  9. A workplace where owners flaunt their wealth while doing little to raise up those who work for them. There are a whole bunch of mega-stores and at least one restaurant chain that fall into this camp. 
  10. A workplace that snarls at anyone missing work due to sickness or accident. This culture believes that if you are breathing, you need to be at your desk, no excuses, no exceptions. 
If any or all of these conditions prevail at your workplace, it is time to start planning how and when you will move on. That plan may take some time and some extra training to unfold, perhaps a career change, but it needs to be done. No one should tolerate an abusive workplace. No one should be made to feel they are not capable of doing better. Don't fall into these traps. Work takes up much of our lives. Don't suffer abuse during so many of your waking hours. We all only live once and our lives are precious. 

Good luck.

Mirror Mirror: Political Hostility: The Five Minute Response

Facebook has a lot of uses. I discovered one that I hadn't bargained for.

I am going to admit that I despised the George W. Bush administration. The way the man "won" the elections, the way he felt about just about anything, the paranoid atmosphere he created across the country, where every critique had to be followed with the line, "but of course I support our military" in order not to be considered a traitor. I hated it all. I couldn't listen to the man's speeches. He made me seethe.

Now I have spent nearly 8 years watching some Republican friends seethe over the Barack Obama administration. Their anger has become so annoying to me that in a couple cases I've blocked their feeds so I don't have to see their visceral anger, the same anger I had for the previous administration.

I've seen this from both sides now. It's making me stop and think a bit in this highly charged political season. It truly is time to stop throwing up barriers against each other and see what we have in common, see where we can work together for peace, justice, and equality instead of partisan hatred fueled by propaganda and the us vs. them mentality. I know I didn't feel good during the Bush administration, feeling largely voiceless and powerless, stewing in a powerless rage. I know my Republican friends haven't felt good for 8 years either, some of them. I can't believe many of them feel good now about what has come of impotent rage and propaganda however.

How might we learn to turn this thing around together? Can we? Or will we let the grand experiment that is the United States of America continue to splinter into ever smaller snarling interest groups and hate-based organizations until the nation shatters completely, perhaps violently?

And that's the five minute response ... sixteen years in the making.

See also: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2016/03/vote-no-to-more-boots-on-ground.html

Animals Attacking Drones: We've Finally Done It!




We humans have reached our pinnacle of annoyance. Every animal, bird, and reptile HATES our drones. Those noisy, nosy hovering nuisances spying on every creature under the sun have put the natural world in revolt. They have turned against these high tech paparazzi run by remote control peeping toms and are fighting back. Chimps are plotting against those aggravating frequent fliers, arming themselves with handy sticks to swat the nuisances out of the sky. Birds bomb them. Animals and reptiles leap at them in abject hatred. Rams ... um ... ram them, yeah, ram them down. And when the controller comes to recover the dropped drone, one ram, upon seeing who was behind the robot that had interrupted his lunch, took after the controller too. From the look of him, you can just about hear him snarling RUDE over and over again as he tries to batter the controller.



We may want to put aside this technology before the natural world rises up in revolt against us and our intrusive aerial miscreants. It might be the only thing that saves us. Congratulations to the human race. We've finally done it. We've developed a technology that enrages every other inhabitant of this globe of ours. Better get ready to run ...

Greed Screws Up Everything

In Orange, Connecticut, the Easter egg hunt outside the Pez Museum descends into chaos as adults decide they want the 9,000 hidden eggs. To hell with the kids they had brought out to enjoy the day and collect eggs. Greed corrupted the event as ravenous adults stole or destroyed kids baskets, trampled children dangerously, and headed out into the field themselves to steal what had been generously offered to their kids. Some adults later complained that the event wasn't well supervised enough and they'd never bring their kids back. Now, that's blaming the wrong party. Who would expect adults to misbehave so badly? Who would ever believe you'd need police to cover your events to make sure parents wouldn't basically riot over free eggs? The crowd was "kind of like locusts" the shell-shocked head of the museum said. A fun, free event was ruined by the misbehavior of a few "bad eggs" who lead the way.

It wasn't the only such event in New England. Over in Proctor, Vermont, an overbooked egg hunt at Wilson Castle required police presence to bring angry adults under control.

Greed is the intense and selfish desire something, especially wealth, power, food ... or, apparently, free Easter eggs. On a holy day focused on what Jesus sacrificed for all of humanity out of love, such a response is really appalling. It is a symptom of a sick society where so much of what is available is gobbled up by the greedy elite, leaving others insecure and at times desperate. It boils over in such appalling events as this.

Years ago a marble company used to leave a bucket of marbles out on their front office steps so people could take a single sample of their product. They had to quit when greedy individuals (collectors or unscrupulous entrepreneurs perhaps?) would come by and empty the bucket, taking the whole supply for themselves.

I watched a father at a children's big wheel race so greedy for his son to win that he gave his child's big wheel a very hard shove off the starting line to propel his son out into an early lead. Greed had displaced common sense and decency in that moment. His kid did not win.

Greed is poisoning us. It is twisting our behavior. It is leading to us basically losing our minds and our souls. It will be the end of us if we do not get this under control at every level. We have a lot of hard work to do. We have to pressure our politicians to change the game, to stop rigging it in favor of their influential and greedy cronies at the top ... before the system comes tumbling down under its own corrupted, greed-riddled weight.

The book of Proverbs is the combined wisdom of the elders and experience from life collected to make navigating this complicated world a little easier. Proverbs 15:27 reads "Those who are greedy for unjust gain make trouble for their households..." Let's not make trouble for our personal, local, state, national, and international households by being poisoned by greed. We all have to live here together on one small planet. We have nowhere else to go. Let's start cooperating and bring greed to heel, before it kills us all. 

Vote No to More "Boots on the Ground"

With the advent of the volunteer military force, our most hawkish politicians have been all too eager to send other people's young men and women into harm's way for causes that we have not won, nor for which we often have clearly defined goals. The talented men and women of the armed forces have been put into situations for which they were not well trained (occupation of unstable countries under dangerous political systems our society does not even understand). I find myself ever more suspicious of these warrior pols, especially those who have never been to battle themselves. I am extremely unhappy with a system where a small percentage of the country's people are off fighting wars while the rest of us go about our everyday lives like nothing is happening. We greatly devalue the service of these treasures of our country. We come to see the battles as just another day's news, quickly ignored or forgotten. Without skin in the game (and I'm not advocating a reinstatement of the draft as I too have talented young adult children I would not willingly surrender to the tender ministrations of hawkish politicians), we tend not to rise up against the next ill-conceived call to arms.

We grumble over the tab racked up from ill-advised wars. We get angry when companies profit so mightily from those war efforts. But, then we go back to what we were doing. This leads to a system where the children of people who have little option but to send their kids into the military are abused by saber rattlers who start a fight without any idea how to complete it. This leads to a system where veterans of unpopular engagements come back home injured and are largely ignored as somebody else's problem. All too many such wounded warriors end up on the streets homeless, which is a disgrace to their service and our nation. We have to be better than all this.

So, in an election year, any election year, don't vote for that eager candidate who is so interested in sending someone else's kids (other than their own or their friends) into harm's way. Vote against the candidate who is way too free and easy with calling for more "boots on the ground." We need a better way to deal with the dangerous people of this world. It will be a multi-pronged approach. It won't be simple. But it will lead to fewer flag-draped coffins coming home and fewer wounded warriors living alone on our city streets. That's worth fighting for.

For a couple of articles on this topic, see: http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2015/05/military-draft/394133/ and http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2015/06/the_allvolunteer_military_too_much_from_too_few.html

For another political opinion post, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2016/03/mirror-mirrorpolitical-hostility-five.html

How NOT to Work With Your Editor

You're a writer. You've reached the point where your manuscript is ready for the ministrations of an editor. Congratulations! Well done. This is an exciting moment. Linger on it for about one minute. After that, get over yourself (writes one who has been there ... and been the editor too, so I'm not trying to be harsh here, just realistic), roll up your sleeves and prepare for some more hard work.


  1. The first thing you don't do is break your word with your editor. You have joined in a contract with that editor's publishing house or you have entered into a contract with your freelance editor personally. You have agreed to work with this individual. You will NOT make up excuses for failing to fulfill your end of the bargain on time. Time is money for your editor. You will respond to all needed corrections and questions in the agreed upon time limit. Publishing schedules are tight. Delay the process and you may lose your book deal at worst, or your published book will come out in some later season, screwing up the promotional opportunities that were lined up for your title. You will lose any good will you have developed with your editor. Do NOT do this. Make no excuses. Get the work done on time. Life is complicated for everybody. 
  2. Do NOT consider your written words to be God's gift to readers. You are human. You will err. Your editor is there to catch as many of your mistakes as humanly possible so you will not embarrass yourself or your publisher when your book comes out and some reader points out a glaring mistake. Do not argue against the changes your editor recommends. If the turn of phrase you thought so profound and beautiful is mystifying and confusing to your editor, it's time to lose that turn of phrase for something mere mortals will understand. 
  3. Do NOT bring another editor you used early in your writing process back into the loop once you've handed your manuscript over to your publisher's editor. It is highly likely your first editor and current editor are using different style manuals featuring many small differences. Returning the edited manuscript back to your original editor will only make that person defensive over the edits "missed" and that person will attempt to justify their work by adding all sorts of contradictory edits that just make a real mess and leave you, the author in the middle, mistrustful of BOTH editors. Your relationship with your editors will suffer severely.
  4. Never ever turn your edited manuscript over to your buddies to defend your original work over the editors. They are your buddies for a reason. They will agree with you. They are not editors. In the complex world of manuscript editing, they don't know jack. Leave them out of the loop. If you have questions about what your editor has done, ask, politely, without defensive language. You're a writer. You know how to do this. Be a pro and treat your editor like one too.
  5. When the editing work is done, as a professional editor friend of mine says, "Pencils down." Do NOT succumb to the urge to edit again at the layout stage. It's over. It's done. Move on.
  6. Your editor, if he or she is worth their salt, knows the copyright laws, plagiarism rules, and precisely what is and isn't libel. If your editor tells you something must go or be changed for any of these three reasons, believe them!!! They are trying to save you from litigation. It's embarrassing when you find yourself in this position, but make the changes, learn from the experience, and know better for next time ... and you want there to be a next time, don't you? 
  7. Finally, remember, the professional editor deserves your respect and you deserve the editors. Never treat your editor the way you'd treat serving staff at a fast food restaurant (in fact never treat serving staff that way either). Give respect. You'll receive respect in return.
Avoid these disastrous mistakes and you will have a good working relationship with your editor. Remember, if your editor works for a publisher, that editor can recommend the publisher sign another contract for another book with you later, or can advise against that. You want the editor in YOUR corner.

With all this, you might be tempted to be your own editor instead. Here's a post full of good reasons why that's a really bad idea: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2016/02/dont-be-your-own-editor.html

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Experience the Movie Tavern

We went to the Movie Tavern today for the first time. I highly recommend the experience.

You need to plan ahead for a visit. Tickets need to be reserved in advance, so it's not a spur of the moment decision. It is however a great date night location. The look of the place is casual elegance. Soft, ornate lighting fills the theater space. Within the theaters you find yourself seated into cushy black reclining chairs (there is a button on the left arm rest. Push the front of the button (facing the movie screen) and the recliner leans back, raising the foot rest on an electric drive. In front of you is a tray that moves in front of your lap for your meal. There is a call button on that tray that will bring one of the staff throughout the show to take any additional order you choose to place.



On entering the theater, each member of your party is given a menu to review. You'll find appetizers, meals, and desserts at your fingertips. There's drinks, both alcoholic and non, for your consideration as well. Being mid-afternoon I limited myself to the brownie with vanilla ice cream, fudge sauce, and whipped cream. Virtuous, ain't I?

The movie screen is large and curved, giving you a great view, even from the top back row where we were sitting.

The Movie Tavern is a popular place, so order your tickets early. It is more expensive than your average trip to the movies, but worth it. The food available is much better than what you'd find at the snack bar at the average theater.

The prices are not terribly steep for the food. In fact, context is everything. We overheard a woman from New York City who was raving at how cheap the menu prices were in our neck of the woods.

Give yourself a treat and head over to see a show at the Movie Tavern. Enjoy the show in style. And hey, on date night, you don't have to go to two separate establishment. Eat, drink, and watch movies all at once. Perfect! 

Love of Jesus and Jesus' Love

Many people are puzzled why Christians follow this radical rabbi from 2,000 years ago today. There are many reasons. Jesus stood up for all the disenfranchised people of his world: the sick (physically and mentally), the oppressed, the poor, women, children, the defenseless folks overlooked or actively scorned by society. Jesus stood up against the religious leaders of his day when they used the law to oppress their own people and make their lives easier. Jesus was no stranger to conflict and spoke up against societal wrongs, even and especially when it was unpopular to do so. Jesus taught to live by the spirit of the law (a gracious spirit of love coming from the God of love) rather than its letter. Jesus forgave those from the cross who had conspired against him and crucified him. He loved humanity and worked to bring about a new and different way of living together in the world. This is just the tip of a very large iceberg.

Experts tell us that the best way to convey what Jesus means is through personal experiences with Jesus. I'll provide you with an experience lived out and recorded by the 14th century religious woman, Julian, an anchoress who devoted her life to Jesus, lived in a church, and recorded an extraordinary set of visions she had when she was near death. She had prayed that she might suffer as Jesus had suffered to know him better. The prayer was answered and it nearly cost her life, but she had a series of visions about Jesus that transformed her life and has inspired Christians down through the ages. Let me pause here and say that in the "modern age" where scientific explanation reigns supreme, the mysticism presented here is hard for many to grapple with. Give it a chance. It might change your life.

Near death, priests placed a crucifix in Julian's direct line of sight and asked her to focus on that so that she might have a peaceful transition from life to afterlife. While she observed Jesus on the cross before her, an extraordinary vision came to her of Jesus dying on that cross. She states:

And I watched with all my might for the moment when Christ would expire, and I expected to see his body quite dead; but I did not see him so, and just at the moment when by appearances it seemed to me that life could last no longer, and that the revelation of his end must be near, suddenly as I looked at the same cross, he changed to an appearance of joy. The change in his blessed appearance changed min, and I was glad and joyful as I could possibly be. ... Then our good Lord put a question to me: Are you well satisfied that I suffered for you? I said: Yes, good Lord, all my thanks to you; yes, good Lord, blessed may you be. Then Jesus our good Lord said: If you are satisfied, I am satisfied. It is a joy, a bliss, an endless delight to me that ever I suffered my Passion for you; and if I could suffer more, I should suffer more. 
We worship and follow a leader who would, if necessary, sacrifice himself for each and every person throughout history, past, present, and future, to open the path for them to God and the joy that comes from a life lived close to the will of God, a life of joyous service to others, loving God and neighbors (check out the story of the Good Samaritan to find out how broad the definition of neighbor truly is). However, one trip to the cross was more than sufficient to show the love of God for humanity, even when we are at our very worst.

I wish you all a happy Easter and a blessed year to come.

For more on Julian, see her book: Julian of Norwich: Showings. My copy was published by The Classics of Western Spirituality: A Library of Great Spiritual Masters by Paulist Press, copyright 1978.

For another powerful experience, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2016/03/powerful-easter-story-good-news-from.html

Resisting the Rise of Hate Groups

It is important not to remain silent in the face of the rise of hate groups around the globe. As the old saying goes, silence gives consent. In the US, hate groups are rising as certain frightened whites face the reality that soon they will no longer be in the majority in the US. President Barack Obama, the first African American president, has exacerbated the fear of these people, through no fault of his own. One of the biggest solutions that counters this tidal wave is education against this toxic thinking.

See the following link from the PBS Newshour for more: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/as-racial-hate-groups-rise-strategies-to-shut-them-down/

If you have been infected with hatred and want to get out, see: http://www.lifeafterhate.org/

See also, http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2016/03/new-term-for-misinformation-play-with-it.html and learn a term for the misinformation hate groups provide to provoke others ...

Another useful post is one on avoiding fanaticism: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2016/03/fanaticism-avoid-it.html

For a post on the dehumanization that comes from stereotyping, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2014/08/stereotyping-and-dehumanizing-run-wild.html

Open Invitation From My Favorite Church: Good News From Christianity


If you happen to be near Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, and find yourself at loose ends this Easter Sunday, you are personally invited to attend the 11:00 a.m. Sunday worship service at Lansdowne Baptist Church.

See: http://lansdownebaptistchurch.blogspot.com/2016/03/join-us-for-easter-sunday.html

Free Tax Preparation for People on Fixed Incomes


Volunteer Income Tax Assistance can be found across the US for people living on fixed incomes, actually anyone making less than $54,000 a year, who need free assistance in preparing their annual tax returns. I was asked about this by two seniors in my congregation. It is amazing what you find out helping others in ministry.

Here's a link to the information straight from the horse's mouth, the IRS: https://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Free-Tax-Return-Preparation-for-You-by-Volunteers

You can search for local VITA sources near you online. One senior center in my area offers this service on Mondays.

New Term for Misinformation: Play With It!

Dig a little deeper and discover
the truth. Don't be duped by
agnotology!
Stanford University science historian Robert Proctor has created a new word for us to play with. It is agnotology. Agnotology is defined as the deliberate dissemination of misinformation. It is often used to sell something. Proctor listed examples from the old bogus tobacco industry efforts to cast doubt on scientific studies stating smoking causes cancer. It is also frequently used by politicians, climate change deniers, and the radicalized fringes of religious and non-religious belief groups.

Proctor states that we live in a world of radical ignorance, but believes that truth can cut through all the noise. I like to think that is the case and am willing to commit to a long term experiment in truth telling to see if that is so. Who would like to conduct this experiment along with me. After all, in an election year, we are up to our eyeballs in agnotology. If we wish to study this phenomenon in order to better counter it, does that make us agnotologists???

Thanks to the magazine Christian Century, March 16, 2016, which made this information available. 

Powerful Easter Story: Good News from Christianity

The following powerful experience comes from author James Martin and is found in his book Jesus: A Pilgrimage, which I highly recommend.

“The most powerful spiritual experience of my entire pilgrimage came inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. On my second visit I decide to wait in the long snaking line to enter the Tomb of Christ, housed in the Aedicule, the church within the church. Almost impossibly ornate, the entrance to the tomb is flanked by tall candles, with a small wooden door set into a fa├žade of rose marble. The people in line were orderly, but fidgety. The man in front of me kept checking his smartphone. Probably ignoring some code of pilgrim’s etiquette, I peeked over his shoulder to see what could be so important and half-expected him to be typing, “Can’t talk. In church where Jesus died. Call you in 5.” Instead he was playing a video game. … The appointed time came. You must crouch to enter. Bending slightly, I walked in with a man and woman. Before me was a pinkish gray stone, about waist high. On ledges around the stone, which also served as an altar, dozens of tapers burned brightly. … I knelt on the floor and bent my forehead to the cool stone, touching it with my hands as well. The moment I did this, I had an instant, powerful, vivid image of Jesus lying on the stone and then sitting up. I could see him, feel him, rising up. The image filled my mind. Emotions overwhelmed me, and I started to cry. Stumbling out of the tomb, I stopped by the columns outside and knelt down. Why had I not understood that this was not simply the church of the Holy Sepulchre, the church of his tomb? It was also the Church of the Resurrection.  … He rose from here, I thought. I thought of how he did it for everyone—past, present, and future. I thought of all the pilgrims who had come to this spot—past, present, and future. And how it changed everything.”

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Terrifying Near Miss

In "Hill Street Blues" Sergeant Esterhaus would always end roll call with his trademark "Let's be careful out there." When you drive a long way to work and home every day, you see a lot of reasons to take heed of this admonition. Recently, while heading into work, at a T intersection, a car rushed out of the side street onto the main drag in front of a large fuel tanker truck, only to discover that the traffic had come to a dead stop in front of him. Now, this nearly luckless driver was sitting in the space the truck needed to safely come to a stop.

Fortunately, the truck driver was paying attention and was able to swerve off onto the right shoulder, his cab coming to a stop adjacent to the car that had pulled out in front of him. Had the truck driver been distracted, at least one person would have died that morning.

From J.S. Brooks Presents to all of you, "Let's be careful out there." Stay safe on the roads everyone. Follow the rule of thumb of mountain driving ... whatever lane the truck is in is not the lane for you (if you can avoid it). Give these big, heavy rigs the room they need and the respect they deserve.

Keep in Touch with US Congress People and Senators

In these divisive times it is more important than ever to keep in touch with the Congress people and Senators who represent you (or are supposed to represent you and me). It is all too easy for them to live in an isolated bubble, surrounded by handlers, colleagues, party officials, and special interest representatives. They need to hear from us directly and in numbers, especially when the "common wisdom" seems to be that obstructionism is best and compromise is failure. Please feel free to, politely, let them know that such is not the case ... or support them if you feel it is the case. The important thing is to let them hear from us regularly.

To get in touch, check out this site: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials
Also of use are: http://www.senate.gov/reference/common/faq/How_to_contact_senators.htm and http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/
Here you'll be able to navigate yourself to the proper individual's page. There is much talk these days about getting Senators to do their jobs. In this fractious democracy, we must do our jobs as well. Good luck.

Of course, if you really want to startle them ... write an old fashioned, hand written letter!

For related posts, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2016/01/refusing-to-remain-silent-in-face-of.htmlhttp://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2015/12/skewering-title-and-pomp.html and http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2015/12/10-steps-to-stress-reduction.html

Two Days Without a Modem

You wouldn't think two days was a long time. But when the modem at home dies and you are without Internet access, you find you can miss out on a lot. With a potential snowfall tomorrow, I needed one fast to keep up with work and keep in touch with the people I work with. It is amazing how connected we have become, and how dependent on those connections we are now. I see the smart appliances coming on the market that will connect our whole homes for us. I can only imagine how dumb and "unhomey" those places will feel when the online connections stop.

I first felt the sting of the digital age when working in a business that had grown increasingly dependent on computers and digital images. Where once we had worked with slides and prints, text on the page. After we'd gone digital, it was really brought home during a power failure. Prior to digital photography, there had always been slides or prints to sort, as long as there was daylight. Not after it was all in memory. Then you really felt the sting when the power went out. There was suddenly, quite literally nothing to do in your department.

So, I'm glad to be back up, with a faster connection, and in touch with so much of the world once again. Amazing how much less interesting all our most clever devices become when all of the sudden they can't reach out to the world beyond your very own walls. Enjoy your connected day. 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Working Together--Dietrich Bonhoeffer

In a polarized election season, where tempers are short (including mine) and nerves frayed, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who ran an illegal Christian seminary under Nazi rule, has something useful to say about living together peacefully. He states:
The weak must not judge the strong, the strong must not despise the weak. The weak must guard against pride, the strong against indifference. None must seek his own rights. If the strong person falls, the weak one must guard his heart against malicious joy at his downfall. If the weak one falls, the strong one must help him rise again in all kindness. The one needs as much patience as the other.
Good advice. 

Which Good Old Days, Donald?

Donald Trump promises to "Make America Great Again." So, I must ask, just when was this period of American greatness that somehow has been lost, Mr. Trump? Given your most ardent supporters are angry white folks of lower income and poor education (the same sort of folks around the world who are swinging to authoritarian strongmen around the world), I'm guessing it was some age of white male dominance. Let's take a look back shall we?

Was this great age the time before women had the right to vote, Donald?
Was it the time when a group of whites could don sheets and lynch black people with impunity?
Was it the time when there were no child labor laws and children were maimed or killed in factories and coal mines?
Was it the age before unions, Mr. Trump, when rich people like you could run roughshod over workers with no concern whatsoever ... hmmm, probably not that as that age seems to have largely returned.
Was it the time when the nation was split in two and spilling blood in horrifying abundance during the American Civil War?
Was it the hundreds of years of slavery, when African men, women, and children were treated like property and brutalized, all because white indentured servants escaped too easily?
Was it the age when we as immigrants drove native peoples from their lands by force?
Which age was it where you and your furious followers feel comfortable?

America has greatness running through it that remains, Mr. Trump. When Americans stand together and work for the betterment of their nation and the world, America is great. When we try to make reparations for the terrible things we've done in the past, we are great. When we change for the better, for inclusion, for equality for all people as is so boldly written into our Constitution, then we are great. When we reach out to suffering peoples worldwide, offering aid and refuge, we are great. When we welcome people of all religions and no religion with open arms, we are great. When we create amazing devices together that help us explore our universe peacefully, both in outer space and inner space, we are great. When we pool our resources to rescue the victims of disasters natural and human-made, we are great. When we strive for peace, justice, and mercy, we are great. When we treat all our neighbors as we would ourselves, with mutual respect and love, we are great. When we seek to end hunger, end division, end injustice and inequality, when we stand for the rights of minorities and decry injustice and violence in all its forms WE . ARE . GREAT!

I have heard nothing great in anything you have proposed so far, Mr. Trump. In fact, your violent rhetoric, your disparaging of decency, calling civility "political correctness," your abject refusal to listen to the views of others, your ability to bring out the worst in people, your desire to have Mexico pay for the hideous abomination of a wall to our southern border ... all of this is a vision of an America that is far from great. In fact, it it a horror, a nightmare from the past that should be dead and buried forever. But, in this age of walking dead theme movies and TV shows, it is no surprise that the shambling horror of fascism should come groaning up out of the grave to try and eat the brains out of civilized nations around the world. Stop being fascism's front man in the U.S., Mr. Trump.

I have no desire to return to any of the good old days you envision. Not in this lifetime.

Also see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2016/03/fanaticism-avoid-it.html

To read about the global rise of dangerous authoritarian regimes and their causes, see: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/03/11/its-not-just-trump-authoritarian-populism-is-rising-across-the-west-heres-why/

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Remedy to Judging Others: SILENCE!

Dietrich Bonhoeffer ran an illegal seminary for men in Nazi occupied territory. He taught his future pastors a great lesson in not judging others, which was running rampant during that awful period in European history. He advised:
When this discipline of the tongue is practiced right from the beginning, each individual will make a matchless discovery. He will be able to cease from constantly scrutinizing the other person, judging him, condemning him, putting him in his particular place where he can gain ascendancy over him and thus doing violence to him as a person. Now he can allow the brother to exist as a completely free person, as God made him to be.
This will work today equally well for everyone, not just seminarians under threat of persecution and death, both men and women alike. I'd say more, something possibly sarcastic or judgmental, but I'm going to practice silence instead.

For more sound advice, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2016/03/fanaticism-avoid-it.html

Fanaticism: Avoid It


In his book You Don't Have to Be Wrong for Me to be Right, Brad Hirschfield has a some very thoughtful remarks about fanaticism in our divided world today. This is well worth all of our consideration. He writes: 
Belief is more complicated than either the believers or the disbelievers among us are usually willing to admit. Too often I hear people referring to God as a delusion and religion as some kind of neurological disorder. All of their qualms and suspicions are justified [speaking to the history of religious violence in a previous paragraph]. But if all they see is the ugly face of faith and the danger in spiritual connection, they have become as absolute in their disbelief as any religious fanatic. They have become fanatics of secularism who are as problematic as the fanatics of faith, because ultimately it is fanaticism that kills, not the faith.
Don't be a fanatic.  

More good advice from another author: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2016/03/warning-against-revenge.html

Warning Against Revenge


Jeremy Taylor, British cleric and author of the 1600s, had a powerful warning against seeking revenge. In the dangerous world we are living in, with heightened tensions around the globe and people dividing for reasons both desperate and ridiculous, this warning is well worth taking to heart. He wrote:
Revenge is like a rolling stone, which, when a man [or woman has] forced up a hill, will return upon him [or her] with a greater violence, and break those bones whose sinews gave it motion.
Beware.

For more from Jeremy Taylor, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2016/03/put-ego-away.html

Another complementary read: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2016/03/fanaticism-avoid-it.html

Leap Day Surprises: A Little Balm in Turbulent Days

Leap day crocuses ... more surprising!
I was surprised on February 29, 2016, to discover these brave blooms in the early morning chill of the extra day of the month. Here is a little gift from nature to sooth the jangled nerves we have created all on our own. Enjoy:

Leap day snowdrops ... not entirely surprising.


Silence In the Face of Evil: Modern Politics

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” 
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

In case you question D. Bonhoeffer's resolve, he was a German Lutheran pastor, theologian, anti-Nazi dissident, and set up an illegal seminary under the Nazi noses. He knew what he was talking about.

For perspective, yes, I've voted for Republicans in the past, so this isn't solely a partisan attack. However, I would never vote for the current crop running for president. They are bad news for American society. I'm sure you've seen these reasons before, but I believe in what Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, so remaining silent in the face of such societal evil is impossible.

Dealing with Donald Trump: for starters, no one deserves to inhabit the highest and most powerful office in the land who cannot stop, and in fact encourages, violence at his rallies. He has infected both the crowd and the security teams present with a heightened hatred that leads to escalating violence, both physical and psychological, that has no place in politics today (or anywhere else in a so-called civilized society). This infection is now sweeping society in a rising tide, Check out this recent news report if you are skeptical: http://6abc.com/1230847/  Society enabled this perversion to occur and dulled the response of other children and adults to the point they did not attempt to stop this abomination from taking place.

No one deserves to be president who cannot quickly and unequivocally stand up against the KKK, denouncing their rampant hatred with dispatch and finality. My great grandfather, a pastor in the mountains of West Virginia in the 1920s, when approached by the Klan outside his church who insisted he join their ranks, immediately and in front of witnesses told them to go to hell. It's that simple, Mr. Trump. To declare you don't KNOW about white supremacy speaks to a level of ignorance so profound and dangerous, you are in no way suited to hold any office. That depth of ignorance (feigned or real) might work in your business dealings, but has no place in the leadership of ALL Americans.

No one should hold presidential power who declares he will commit war crimes against families of terrorists or who will use torture far worse than waterboarding to get his own way. That is evil, pure and simple.

No one who devolves debate into a grade school name calling contest and discusses the size of his genitals on air has the common sense to be president.

I could go on, but that's enough, for now.

Oh yes, one more thing, no candidate spineless enough to say they WILL support such a dangerous, evil candidate has enough courage to hold the highest office in our land.

So ends this session of speaking out. I imagine there will be others ... SOON!

For a less visceral approach and explanation of Mr. Trump and his followers, see: http://www.vox.com/2016/3/1/11127424/trump-authoritarianism

For another powerful perspective, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2016/03/violence-applauded-in-todays-politics.html

An earlier challenge in the face of the politics and propaganda of hate: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2016/01/refusing-to-remain-silent-in-face-of.html

Forgiveness & Love Challenge from Luke 15:11-32

Take a look at the oh-so-well-known story of the prodigal son from the point of view of the father. Here, take a minute to read the story again, but from the father's point of view: 

11Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. 13A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. 14When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’ 20So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.25“Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ 28Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ 31Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”

Now, here's a few things to know. The impetuous, rebellious younger son asks for his inheritance, saying to his father, "I wish you were dead. Give me what would come to me if you were." Off he goes to blow it all in a foreign land, hit rock bottom during a famine, jealous of the pods pigs eat (which in Jewish tradition is likely what makes pigs unclean animals) as he works as migrant labor, underpaid to the point of starvation, and then shamefully decides to return home to live as his father's servant to at least not starve to death.

The older son does his father grievous injury as well, refusing to come inside and join the party. He speaks to his father in such a way as to at least be beaten for his transgressions. 

In both cases, the loving father seeks out his lost children (and both truly are lost, the one to rebellion, the other to sour judgmentalism that pushes joy out of his life). As soon as his wandering son comes into view the father throws his own dignity out the window and runs out to embrace the haggard, humiliated, embarrassed, wretch and cuts off his mumbled apology. He calls for the best robe (which would be his own), a ring, and sandals (which return a member to the family, no servant wore them). He calls for a feast, for music, for dancing. 

No doubt the town sneered at the merciful father. This was no way for a patriarch to behave. No patriarch raised his robe and ran. He should have sent word to have his lost child brought to him, heard his petition, and rendered a verdict. That was what society demanded. He couldn't care less. Going further, he then had the fatted calf served up, which would feed 200 people, and in the days before great preservation techniques, would have to be eaten quickly by all. The sneering neighbors got to come and celebrate.

In the revelry, the father then seeks out the older sibling (and sibling rivalry is so clearly displayed in this short scene). He encourages this stubborn son, despite what he has to say, to come into the light, the music, the feast, and share in the joy of the lost son returned to the life of the family.

Here are the challenges: if the father, who represents God, is so willing to forgive all transgressions so willingly: 1) can you forgive yourself when you have been forgiven; 2) can you throw aside the desire to judge others and instead lift them up, knowing that God is eager to do so; and 3) in an age of mistrust and division, will you offer love and forgiveness across divides as God does? Are you willing to come to the party when in all likelihood there will be people there you never thought could get in? It's worth strong consideration. 

If you are curious who this parable was delivered to, see Luke 15:1-3. Ask yourself who represents the younger rebellious son and who represents the older legalistic child. 

Violence Applauded in Today's Politics NOT Okay

Christina Embree tells the truth in the powerful post. We cannot sanction the violence and violent language erupting around the political campaigns today. They are perverting the minds of children. They are perverting the minds of many adults as well. Christina has given all pastors, and everyone concerned with justice and ending violence, a wonderful way to deal with the angry rhetoric and actions threatening to drop the United States into a state of fascistic turmoil. I strongly recommend this blog post to everyone and ask all to consider carefully.

http://refocusministry.org/2016/03/04/it-is-not-okay/

In our neck of the woods, her words were sadly validated. In a local high school, three seniors declared it "No Gay Thursday" and during a "hazing" they raped a freshman male with a broomstick. This is exactly what all the heated, angry, fearful language and actions are leading to.

We must all rise up to bring this to a halt. Thanks again Christina Embree for your fantastic insights.

Speaking out: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2016/03/2016-politics-silence-in-face-of-evil.html

U.S. Challenge in Dangerous Times

With all the violent rhetoric in the air today, here is a challenge from W.E.B. DuBois from an earlier age that is equally valid in this dangerous moment: 
Either the United States will destroy ignorance or ignorance will destroy the United States. 

So, what will it be?  Right now, it looks like ignorance has the upper hand. 

For more posts along this line, see: http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2016/03/violence-applauded-in-todays-politics.html and http://jsbrookspresents.blogspot.com/2016/03/2016-politics-silence-in-face-of-evil.html

Put the Ego Away

I was doing some research and stumbled across the work of the seventeenth century British cleric and author, Jeremy Taylor. His dry wit is wonderful. He didn't think much of rich people looking down on others as you will see from this quote:
He that is proud of riches is a fool. For if he is exalted above his neighbors because he has more gold, how much inferior is he to a gold mine.
True enough. Thanks, Jeremy! 

Now THAT'S Humble!


At a stoplight on the homeward commute, I saw a service van featuring this exceedingly humble message. Not what you'd expect. Then again, nowhere to go but up.