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Everyone Gets a Little of it Correctly

15 Mar

 

Everyone Gets a Little of it Correctly

By L. Stewart Marsden

We’ve witnessed the passing of two world icons over the past weeks: Billy Graham and Stephen Hawking. Polar opposites, one might think. Each convinced of beliefs they deemed pivotal to understanding the universe.

Social media reaction has been varied for both, yet there is an undercurrent of respect for these men, different as they are. And, just perhaps, their similarities outweigh their differences.

Who got it right? Who got it wrong? What happens to those who got it right, and to those who got it wrong?

I wouldn’t touch that with a ten-foot pole. Many already have and hold on stubbornly to their opinion come hell-or-high-water.

For some, the death of Graham signals the end times. Prophecies and words of wisdom are no doubt abounding among some groups. Still others, bent on profiteering from this particular death, are stepping up production of miracle healing water, or prayer cloths, or whatever tangible item is the justifiable reason for someone who can ill-afford it to write a large donation check.

Hawking pooh-poohed religion, preferring the stability of science to the flimsiness of faith. He predicted the extinction of humankind within 100 years, and was convinced humankind had and continues to shoot itself in the toe in so many ways. Air pollution. Nuclear proliferation. Unchecked population growth that is rapidly dismissing the earth’s resources and ability to sustained.

One hundred years. A little over four generations based on the current mean. That would suggest all of this interest in genealogy is a fruitless endeavor.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Sign Watchers have been lining up and checking off the events that will usher in Armageddon and The Rapture. Apparently some feel Graham’s death is one of those events/signs.

Only a handful of mankind seems to care about either when you get right down to it. We’re still bogged down in the mire of right v wrong and other presupposed absolutes.

A friend posted a speculative question: is Stephen Hawking in heaven? That’s based on my friend’s assumption there is a heaven, or afterlife. No one has speculated that about Billy Graham. That would be heresy.

The various TV programs that deal with UFOs and ETs and all of the other out-of-this-world contentions, include the possibility that we will return to our planet of origination, and that we are other-worldly. Like the religionists, there seems to be great effort to separate us from the other animals of the earth, and dismantle what they call the “theory” of evolution. You know, hopping a fast freight from a planet a billion light years away, or being molded from clay during the literal six days of creation are far-better answers to imagining we hail from the genetic materials provided by fish or apes. Someone at some time decided to KISS. Imagine the embarrassment of knit-picking through the hair of your brother or sister, and then eating the mite!

I like the simile of the blind men who attempt to describe an elephant by feeling the animal with their hands.

“The elephant is like a strong tree trunk, thick and massive,” says one. “The elephant is like a snake,” says another. “The elephant is like a thin leather blanket,” supposes a third. “It is like a thick, solid wall,” asserts another. “A rope. The elephant is like a rope.” “The elephant is like a spear,” the last suggests.

Each has a little of what an elephant is correctly. Each is vastly wrong.

In the finality, it won’t matter, I think. Which is kind of the Calvinist position, right? You either are or you are not chosen, which doesn’t change despite your life. (I don’t suppose to understand that slant, and probably have only a little bit of Calvinism correctly).

So, where is Billy Graham now? Where is Stephen Hawking? For that matter, where is Gandhi, or Joan of Arc or William Wallace or Genghis Khan or Columbus or Thomas Becket or Hitler or Marilyn Monroe? Or how about your parents, grandparents and beyond? Where are they?

One of my favorite movie scenes dealing with this is from the movie “Rudy.” Father Cavanaugh has sat down next to the main character, Rudy, after the young man goes to church in frustration at not getting into Notre Dame.

Father Cavanaugh: [in church] Taking your appeal to a higher authority?
Rudy: I’m desperate. If I don’t get in next semester, it’s over. Notre Dame doesn’t accept senior transfers.
Father Cavanaugh: Well, you’ve done a hell of a job kid, chasing down your dream.
Rudy: Who cares what kind of job I did if it doesn’t produce results? It doesn’t mean anything.
Father Cavanaugh: I think you’ll find that it will.
Rudy: Maybe I haven’t prayed enough.
Father Cavanaugh: I don’t think that’s the problem. Praying is something we do in our time, the answers come in God’s time.
Rudy: If I’ve done everything I possibly can, can you help me?
Father Cavanaugh: Son, in thirty-five years of religious study, I’ve come up with only two hard, incontrovertible facts; there is a God, and, I’m not Him.

Whatever you think, whatever you believe, you, too, have a little bit of it correctly. But not all of it.

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My stance on the 2nd Amendment

24 Feb

 

My stance on the 2nd Amendment:

 

Everyone has the right to bear arms.

 

Ignorance & Knowledge

24 Feb

Ignorance & Knowledge

L. Stewart Marsden

If you ever visit St. Augustine, Florida, make sure you get a drink from the Fountain of Youth Ponce de Leon thought would restore you to a younger age. At least it is reported that he thought so, but, like most things today, it could be Fake News.

It’s interesting to me that when the question “Would you like to be a child again?” is posed, most answer it conditionally: “If I can retain all I now know.”

That would certainly take care of a lot of the early learning necessary skills, like being potty trained, and how to tie your shoes –– not to mention how to tie a necktie. It would certainly give you perspective on what you need to know to survive, and why calculus, diagraming a sentence, and who was the drummer Ringo replaced when he joined The Beatles are not part of critical knowledge for most of us mere mortals.

Of course, most of the above skills eventually go in reverse as you get older, like the potty training. I’m not there yet, but I guess I’ll know at the time. It depends.

The problem with becoming younger is that we wouldn’t also go back in time, where youth is fondly remembered as being innocent and sweet. We revere our childhood days, otherwise there wouldn’t be all of the asinine Facebook posts asking, “Do you know what this is?” and “Like this post if you’ve ever used one.” I don’t use that anymore because there’s a new and better product that does the same thing faster and more efficiently. Since I don’t use it, why do you care if I remember what it was?

We rue the loss of understanding, as when Texas Instruments replaced the slide rule with a digital way of solving a math problem. Who the heck cares if I can figure out the cosine of 92º when I can press a button –– no, simply say, “Siri, what’s the cosine of 92º?” to get the very same answer with a fraction of the process?

I know. The answer is somehow invalidated if you don’t understand the process. BS.

Chaos Theory proponent Ian Malcom (Jurassic Park) screwed up innovation –– or the refining of innovation –– when he vehemently attested, “If I may… Um, I’ll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you’re using here, it didn’t require any discipline to attain it. You read what others had done and you took the next step. You didn’t earn the knowledge for yourselves, so you don’t take any responsibility for it. You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could, and before you even knew what you had, you patented it, and packaged it, and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox …”

Funny how we don’t learn how to use an abacus in order to truly understand ones, tens, hundreds, et.al. It did precede the slide rule, after all.

Here’s the thing about somehow returning to a younger me: I’ve forgotten all the bad things that happened to me for the most part, and was unaware of other really bad things.

For example, people post things like “life was simpler back then. You could play in your neighborhood and ride bikes and frolic in the creeks and dirt. Schools were safer then. There wasn’t a threat of violence like today …”

Again, BS.

Now, if you were white, middle class or higher, and lived in an exclusive neighborhood – yes. If you weren’t?

The only people I observe pining for the “Good Old Days” are the ones who were part of a very exclusive minority of people (back then it was more than 1%, I think).

IF you were part of that small percentage of kids growing up, you weren’t aware of the struggles going on just beneath the living room carpet where they had been swept. Every once-in-a-while you glimpsed curious indicators that made little or no impact upon your daily existence: Whites Only. No Coloreds Served. Etc.

Perhaps you thought every family had a Virgie Mae or a Juanita or a Lora May who cooked the best fried chicken, cleaned the house and did the wash and ironing while your dad worked and your mother went to her novelty clubs (bridge and gardening). Who doted on you in many cases more than your own parents. Someone you fired with regularity whenever you didn’t get your way.

I don’t normally wish I were younger, because to be younger would probably be without benefit of what I now know. And if I were younger with this age-accrued wisdom, I would be miserable. Knowing what was really going on would be far more painful than not knowing. Kind of like playing cowboys and Indians but being aware of The Trail Of Tears.

Ah, there’s the rub! The dilemma! The … hypocrisy? I have the wisdom now, gleaned from the fields of years of living and experience. What the hell am I doing with it?

Perhaps God knew when Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil how it would alter life as they had once known it.

Perhaps, like so many I observe, it is better to be ignorant. After all, the Wise Ones say “Ignorance is Bliss.”

That, and being young.

Disconnect – the first stage of Entropy

20 Feb

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Disconnect – the first stage of Entropy

L. Stewart Marsden

Imagine a huge wagon wheel suspended from the ceiling, though not from a single supporting line, but from several lines, evenly spaced around its circumference. The lines are fastened to a single hub at ceiling level. Everything about the construct is symmetrical.

Imagine one by one the support lines begin to haphazardly disconnect over long periods of time. Weakened, the lines slowly unravel. Initially, the suspended wheel shakes slightly at the disconnection with the first line, but maintains its rotation, though a bit more wobbly. As more of the lines disconnect, the wheel becomes unwieldy, and its crash to the floor imminent.

That’s what I imagine is happening to our country and government. The supporting hub represents the ideal. The Constitution. The Declaration of Independence. The moral high road. Integrity. The pursuit of justice for all. Care and concern for the weak and downtrodden. The anti-bully. The believer of lost causes. The fan of the underdog. The optimist.

Every line of support to the wheel is tied to something to be reached for; such things as equality, non discrimination, freedom of religion, a government that serves its people at the local, state and federal levels, equal opportunity, freedom of expression, laws designed to protect and more. The lines have been more or less sturdy over the country’s nearly 250 years of existence. Some have grown stronger, some have been added, some are threadbare. Some are snapping and disconnecting.

Examples of disconnects that are disconcerting to me:

The Republican on the Democrat:
Democrats are out to destroy this nation and bring an end to God as the center of our democracy. They are out to spend this country into oblivion, and want to give away our great heritage to the lazy and the undeserving.

The Democrat on The Republican:
Republicans are only concerned about maintaining the status quos of money, power, and influence. Largely white, they are racists, and far-right judgmental Bible thumpers. They want more and more guns, and want to legislate women’s reproductive rights. They hate anyone who does not think, believe, or look like them.

Anti-NRA
The NRA is Satan personified, and interested only in promulgating an agenda of more and more guns and less and less gun control, which has resulted in schoolyards becoming the killing fields of America. Pro NRAers are largely Republican. They really don’t care about the blood spilt already due to the ease of buying a gun, or buying a semi-automatic weapon. Who needs a semi-automatic to kill a deer?

Pro-NRA
The NRA provides services that include safety instruction and education, the purchase and protection of wetlands, among others. Anyone who doesn’t like the NRA is an idiot, and doesn’t understand the whys and whats of the organization. Anti-NRAers want to take our guns away and destroy the 2nd Amendment rights we currently enjoy and revere. Once that happens, it’s only a matter of time before freedom of speech and freedom of religion are gone.

I could go on. These are, of course, extreme views represented. But when there is a disconnect and that line of support no longer exists, the extremists do seem to have the loudest voices and carry the most weight.

Largely, the disconnects I see (on social media, on news broadcasts, on talk shows, from DC and elsewhere) occur because “we” are no longer able to disagree, debate, compromise, and show unity despite our differences. It isn’t Russia’s fault the divides exist. We are dismantling ourselves, disconnected line by line. We want the fixes to occur in our state capitals, or in Washington. We are willing to abdicate our individual response abilities (not a typo) to people who largely seem to be interested only in self-preservation in office. And when you consider how well they fare in terms of their personal wealth, can you blame them?

Entropy is a physics’ law that, simply put, states things tend towards disorder. In terms of history and the rise and fall of nations and empires, it seems to be true. What goes up, must come down. Greece, Rome, the Ottoman Empire, Germany …

George Santayana (and a host of others as well) warned, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Are we in jeopardy of repeating the failures and falls of others? Have we already begun the descent? Is there anything you or I can do to repair the lines of disconnect, and right our wobbling nation?

I have my opinions. Part of those opinions is that we are all blameworthy and culpable for our current status. No one is innocent –– at least, no adult. As part of the problem, I have to look within myself and judge what I can/should do. Pointing a finger elsewhere only exacerbates the situation. How have I contributed to the mess? How can I stop doing that? What are the reasonable and logical alternatives at hand?

What do you think?

 

 

 

 

What do you fear?

6 Dec

 

 

What do you fear?

Death?
Life?
Failure?
Success?
Relationships?
Loneliness?
Conservatives?
Liberals?
Christians?
All other religions?
Poverty?
Wealth?
The dark?
The light?
Criticism?
Flattery?
Education?
Ignorance?
Truth?
Lies?
Pain?
Pleasure?

Whatever you fear …
Face it.

Dammit.

Mixed Messages

14 Nov

Mixed Messages

L. Stewart Marsden

Every night during the evening news more comes out regarding sexual abuses men in power are alleged to have committed – either recently, or in years past – as a result of their power, position and influence. In an earlier blog I pointed a finger not only at the culture men are accustomed to as well as the lack of training boys receive at the hands of their parents in learning not to objectify girls and women, but the seeming lack of restraint on the part of the entertainment media, Hollywood and music stars, advertising and the fashion world in promulgating sensual and salacious themes and imagery.

As I sit and watch the accusations, confessions and denials, I wonder “when will this stop?” Like so many floodgates that have burst open (mass shootings, hateful political rhetoric and more), I’m uncertain who will draw the necessary lines in the sand for each and declare “No more!”

Then I receive a text from my youngest, who is looking for a dress for the prom. She asks, “What are your thoughts on this dress?”

What are my thoughts? WHAT ARE MY THOUGHTS? She’s 14 years old, are my thoughts. There are Harvey Weinsteins and Roy Moores out there! There are hot-testosterone-blooded teenage boys out there!

And I think, WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU THINKING?

But she’s not, of course. Thinking. She’s responding to the arbitrary guidance of her age group, who are also NOT thinking.

So I reply, “Looks like a cocktail dress for an adult woman.” Never mind what I was really thinking.

She explains, “What does that mean[?] I’m shopping for a dress for my winter formal.”

Winter? Not enough cloth to keep you alive! I think. But I say, “You’re too young for that dress.”

She replies in a huff, “Based on you and Mom, I’m gonna end up wearing a skirt that goes to my heels, and a hijab.”

And I think, Yeah, I could go with that. But I send her this pic, with the comment, I like this one …

Fourteen. The song Sunrise, Sunset goes through my head.

You chuckle. I’m obviously a prudish stick-in-the-mud, you think of me.

What? Wait!

The problems we face with the current outrage over sexual harassment is multi-faceted. And my youngest daughter, if I tell her how guys are visually-stimulated, and how they grow up without any sense of sexual responsibility, and how in their tiny brains (about the size of gonads) only process from a biological urge to propagate –– she will laugh me off. “Oh, Dad!”

Yesterday the November 16 issue of Rolling Stone arrived – a subscription my youngest son (22 yrs) has. Hugh Hefner, Bob Guccione, and Larry Flint might get a little red-faced at the cover – upset some other magazine encroached upon their empires.

Cosmopolitan, along with GQ and a host of other magazines ply their pictorial pornography in the checkout aisles of Walmart and Rite Aid for all eyes to see.

And none have it over the “Adult-only” content available on the internet.

But what gets me are the entities expressing outrage and creating distance between themselves and the growing number of those accused of sexual aggression.

Really?

Mixed messages.

Had guests over the other night. We watched a re-run of The Dick Van Dyke Show. Amazingly, the show was entertaining! And not one untoward reference to extramarital sex or sexual conquest (vis a vie Friends, 2 1/2 Men, Sex and the City, etc.). Remember when Eddie Murphy’s humor on SNL was void of profanity?

I’m not a prude. Far from it. I won’t approve my daughter’s purchase of that particular prom dress, and suggested some more modest alternatives. I’ll let you know how that works out.

And I’m NOT saying that if she, too, were to become a statistic of sexual abuse, the onus would be on her. But I want her to realize what words like provocative and sexually alluring mean. Each has its appropriate place in a committed relationship.

As we untangle the various scenarios of abuse, I hope we are also able to close various gaps of mixed messages. It’s not only male and female involved in this issue, it’s whole industries. The question is whether or not those industries will admit culpability and do the right thing. I’m not going to hold my breath until that happens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Treatise on Gun Control

9 Nov

 

My Treatise on Gun Control

L. Stewart Marsden

I once had the idea that Detroit should outfit all automobiles with paintball guns on the hoods of their products. Automatic rack-and-pinion pivoting devices that could zero in on some a**hole who doesn’t know what they’re doing behind the wheel of a car. The idea is that the bad drivers will have cars covered with paint splats. Red, blue, yellow – a veritable rainbow of responses to those folks who drive down the highway at 80 mph texting, or putting on makeup, or (and I’ve seen this) reading a damn book!

Nuts! Cuckoos!

The idea is you see a multi-splatted car and you avoid the hell out of them. At some point the sheer weight of the paint slows the car.

Now look – all you law-abiding and devoted-to-safety gun owners – you must agree that there are fools and wack-os out there that should NEVER get behind the wheel of a car! We’ve come a loooong way legislating safety features, laws, and requiring drivers’ training to cut down the spillage of blood, bones and brain matter on our highways. Haven’t heard too many complain about seat belts, infant car seats, air bags (well, when they work), road-gripping tires.

Here’s the other thing about driving: NO ONE DRIVES A HIGH-OCTANE FORMULA ONE RACING CAR ON THE STREETS! Unless it’s a race, of course. But even then, there are RESTRICTIONS!

The sad thing is, apparently vans and trucks and cars have now become a weapon of choice for the America-haters.

Guess what? Automobiles are NOT protected under the Bill of Rights! They are a privilege as, I believe, should be gun ownership. With privileges come responsibilities.

So, segue onto the subject of Gun Control.

The very word “control” seems to cause a great many pro-gun people to shift mental gears to mean “we’re gonna take your guns away from you.” Gun registration as well as being licensed to own and use a gun is also suspect. Too many “Seven Days in May” conspiracy stories, I guess. By God, everything is a conspiracy.

Take a breath. Inhale. Exhale.

Just like the process of training someone to use a car for work, for recreation, to get from Point A to Point B safely and with the least amount of danger to others, gun controls are a good thing.

“Guns don’t kill people …”

Exactly! Nor do cars, but idiotic, psychotic, unprepared and uncontrollable drivers.

“Stricter controls will not keep guns out of the hands of criminals …”

True. And cars will also be stolen, or used as getaway means and end in death and destruction. But you still have to turn your lights on in the State of North Carolina when it rains. The vast majority of automobile drivers are responsible people. Where have I heard that before?

We have central databases where every vehicle operation violation is recorded. We have tags on each car that indicates the vehicle passes a mechanical inspection on an annual basis. We have license renewal requirements, so that each driver must reapply for an operator’s license. We require auto insurance. We have stricter licensing requirements for bus drivers, and truck drivers. Even moped operators must now get a license to drive on public throughways.

Who’s complaining? Virtually NO ONE!

Is it a hassle to go annually to the DMV for a new license plate sticker? Damn right it is! Is it costly time-wise and wallet-wise to have my car inspected annually, and maybe have to replace that headlights or taillights or windshield wipers?

Why do I tolerate this overbearing scrutiny and control? Because I’d rather drive to the beach than walk. Or take the bus. Or the train.

We have an agency in place that can be utilized more effectively in filtering out at least some of the wack-os and, as 45 says, folks with mental health problems, from buying and possessing a gun. The ATF. Will it be overwhelmed? Only if it does its job. Heck, think of the number of people who will need to be employed to handle the load? What a boon! And, a self-financing procedure. Like the DMV.

So, first, enable the ATF to process licensing, with local offices (just like the DMV). Compared to the cost of someone being killed by a gun (jail, court, attorney fees, lost income of the victim, hospital costs). Take the licensing process out of the hands of the Sheriff’s departments so that the load can be handled, and so that consistency of process is guaranteed.

Second, enact laws that require regular licensing (like driver’s licensing). I get my license, I get a DWI or speeding ticket, and I lose my license, or it is restricted. I get a gun license, and within the year I am convicted of a felony, or go through drug rehab, I lose my license. A point system like that in the driver’s license. Further, that anyone diagnosed with a mental disorder that could affect the patient’s ability to legally use a firearm be reported to the ATF. By the way, licensing would require mandatory training (NRA?) as well as passing a written AND, initially, firing range test.

Third, require that a gun owner purchase and maintain liability insurance for each firearm purchased. Just like owning a car where accidents happen. The insurance companies will love this, and the cost of owning a firearm just for insurance will curb the number of guns a person can afford to own.

Fourth, require that firearms are also inspected on a regular basis by qualified people to ensure accidents don’t occur because of mechanical malfunction. Require recall letters from manufactures for such problems, as well as a guarantee of repair or replacement.

Fifth, as with a car, require that a private owner transact the sale of a firearm to another person through their local ATF office. Failure to do so would be a felony crime.

Sixth, require that the loss, theft, or decommissioning of a firearm (dismantling) be reported to the ATF. If to the police, that the police alert the ATF electronically.

Seventh, restrict the sale of types of firearms and add-ons (bump fire stocks, hair triggers, silencers, magazine capacity, etc.).

Eighth, require the registration of ammunition and its sale – as do the pharmacists with prescriptions. Lot, box, shells. Shell casings could be barcoded.

And I could go on. The point is that while a few advocate no guns at all, most of us realize that won’t happen – regardless of the 2nd Amendment. And certainly no law or restriction is going to be absolutely effective. There will always be those outlying circumstances and people who defy logic and sanity.

But – IF the laws are enforced with due diligence, perhaps some of the tragedies like Sandy Hook Elementary School, and the Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, and other non-terrorist initiated massacres, will be avoided.

Deer hunters, skeet shooters, biathlon athletes – even those who want/need a deadly way to protect their home and family members – will be able, within the law, to do those things.

Expensive? You bet. So is a car.

Cost of an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle: between $500 and $2,500;
Cost of 500 rounds of ammo: about $150;
Cost of a bump-fire stock: $1,500;

Cost of a human life: priceless.*

*According to the EPA ( https://www.epa.gov/environmental-economics/mortality-risk-valuation ), the value of a human life was $7.4 million in 2006.

 

 

 

 

 

The Gun Show

8 Nov

The Gun Show

By L. Stewart Marsden

Dealer: I need your ID.

Patron: They don’t need it when I vote … why the hell do you need it?

Dealer: It’s the law, Sir.

Patron: Effing law-makers! They need to put those leeches out to pasture.

Dealer: Yeah, the most of them are in it for the money.

Patron: MY money … and yours.

Patron hands the Dealer his driver’s license, who plugs the information into his computer.

Patron: Checking to see if I’m crazy?

Dealer: That, and if you have any felony arrests.

Patron: Ought to make running for office a felony.

Dealer: Get no argument here.

Dealer hands the license back to the Patron.

Patron: Clean?

Dealer: Have to wait ten days for the license to clear.

Patron: Uh. Ten days. Well, you got any of your private stock for sale?

Dealer: You in a hurry?

Patron: I want to get to a range and get used to my gun before the season begins.

Dealer: Well, since you asked – I got this sweet semi I can sell you.

Patron: And I can take it today, right? I mean I don’t have to have a license to buy it and take it home with me.

Dealer: Yep. Kind of like the way it used to be a long time ago. Only thing is if I suspect the buy is unhinged or something. You unhinged?

The Patron laughs in response, and the Dealer laughs.

Dealer: You a hunter?

Patron: Used to when I was a boy. Me and my dad. Squirrel. Rabbits, sometimes. Ever eat squirrel?

Dealer: Can’t say I have. What’s it taste like?

Patron: Chicken. Everything tastes like chicken, right? ‘Cept for chicken …

Dealer laughs …

Dealer: You gonna use this for hunting, then?

Patron: Yeah … hunting. And target shooting, you know.

Dealer: This baby’ll bring down a bull moose at 200 yards. It’s lightweight and won’t throw you to the ground with the recoil.

Patron picks up the gun, hefts it, and points it up, sighting down the barrel. He checks the action several times, then puts it back on the counter.

Patron: Nice! I’ll take it. You recommend a scope with that?

Dealer: I do if you want a clean kill. Otherwise you might miss, or worse – wound your target and have to go traipsing into the brush to finish the kill.

Patron: Well, better add a scope, then. I don’t do traipsing at my age.

Dealer: Okay … I recommend this scope. Assembles onto this model quick and locks in tight. Myself I never use a scope. Kind of takes the challenge out of it.

Patron: Quick and tight. Sounds good to me. Ammo?

Dealer: What do you want? Ain’t cheap.

Patron: What is these days? Any limit on how much I can buy?

Dealer: Only your wallet. Ammo for this gun come in boxes of fifty.

Patron: Ten should do for now.

Dealer: That won’t last very long. Especially on the range.

Patron: It’s 500 shells. It’s enough.

Dealer: How you want to pay?

Patron: Cash okay?

Dealer: Need you to sign for it.

Patron: No problem.

Dealer: Anything else today? Camouflage outfit? Ear protection?

Patron: Naw. I’m good. Wait … can you outfit this with a silencer? For the sound. My hearing is bad enough as it is.

Dealer: What about ear protectors? Cheaper.

Patron: I heard they amplify background noise – least that’s what a friend of mine told me.

Dealer: Yeah. You can actually go online and get instructions how to make one. I sell you one it gets reported to the ATF, and they may want to talk to you about why. Anyways, I don’t carry them.

Patron: I’m an engineer. Or was. I have a huge workshop full of every tool imaginable. Can’t imagine making one will be too difficult for me.

Dealer: Probably not. Anything else?

Patron: You got bump stocks?

Dealer: Nope. But there’s a booth close to the bathrooms that does. They have one that’ll fit what you bought. Not going to use that hunting, right?

Patron: Just curious. Grew up on James Cagney gangster films. Always wondered what rapid-fire would feel like.

Patron pulls out his wallet and counts out the cash, and hands it to the Dealer.

Dealer: Thank you! Now if you’ll sign right here, I’ll get your change.

Patron: Lot of folk pay in cash?

Dealer: Does a bear shit in the woods?

They laugh.

Dealer: Okay, partner … you’re all set. Unless there’s anything else?

Patron: No, no! I’m good. Between you and the guv’mint, I’ll be in the poor house!

They laugh again.

The Patron walks off and disappears into the mulling crowds of the gun show, as the Dealer turns to the next customer.

Dealer: Help you, Sir?

Gun control laws are riddled with loopholes, “protecting” an American citizen’s 2nd Amendment right to own a gun. This is one of them. It’s referred to as The Gun Show Loophole.

 

 

If God is for you …

2 Nov

If God is for you …

L. Stewart Marsden

By now, unless you live under a rock, you know the Houston Astros won the World Series last night over the LA Dodgers.

No doubt, in some interview, some Houston ball player is going to thank God for the events leading up to the franchise’s first World Series win. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t fault anyone for thanking God for strength to endure something.

I also suspect there are those who are convinced that God engineered the victory. All of the sponsors are thanking Him, as is ESPN, for the full seven-game event. One of the most exciting events in baseball drew unprecedented viewers. Thank God!

This, after God apparently judged Houston earlier in the fall with Hurricane Harvey. Now I can say that with some certainty because all of the insurance companies that had to and are digging through their coffers call the weather event an Act of God. Therefore we know God did that. I haven’t checked in with Westboro Baptist Church to see what exactly God was judging through the storm’s devastation. No doubt some pretty bad things.

Apparently God then had second thoughts, and decided He’d been pretty tough on the Texas Gulf area. Like when he was surprised at Abraham’s commitment to sacrifice his son in obedience. “Wow!” He said. “Didn’t really think he’d go through with it!”*

At the same time, God had been busy judging California through massive fires. Either that, or He has a lot of stock in the NAPA Valley wine companies, and figured the price of a bottle of Pinot is going to go through the roof.

Everyone from the New York area knows that the once Brooklyn Dodgers skipped west years ago, and needed to be punished. And since the Yankees were upended by the Astros in league championship play, this was poetic justice. I think the Eleventh Commandment* is “THOU SHALT NOT LEAVE BROOKLYN!”

Whatever His reason, God favored the Astros, and shook things up before giving them the final “Well done” nod.

Do I really believe this? Take the notion forward a bit and the following holy conclusions would have to be reached:

The New England Patriots are NOT satanic;
Peyton Manning really IS funny;
If you don’t own an iPhone (whatever the latest edition), you really are less of a person;
Colin Cowherd is the last word in sports commentary;
45 is God’s man.

*While not scriptural in terms of the exact words, I figure if the Televangelist Pastards (borrowing this term from a friend) can make up stuff like this and get away with it, then sell tap water as Miracle Water, then I can take a little poetic license.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time –– It’s All Relative

19 Oct

Time –– It’s All Relative

By L. Stewart Marsden

 

I wrote a poem years ago entitled “All the Clocks Are Broken.” In its simplistic rhyme and meter, it playfully touches on time and how fickle it is. For example, in anticipation of a great event, like a birthday or Christmas, the clock slows down to a crawl, making your toenails itch.

Or, the opposite, during an exam, the hands fly about the circular clock face.

Anything requiring the passage of time can teeter or totter, almost arbitrarily. Turning old enough to be able to do something:

  1. Join a club, team, or participate in age-related extracurricular
  2. Drive a car
  3. Graduate high school
  4. Buy alcohol or cigarettes (although the latter isn’t as popular as it was in my day)
  5. Get a body piercing
  6. Get a tat
  7. Vote
  8. Go to college
  9. Graduate
  10. Go to post grad school
  11. Graduate
  12. Go for a PhD
  13. Graduate
  14. Get a job
  15. Get an apartment
  16. Lose the body piercing
  17. Get a J.O.B.
  18. Get another tat … and more piercings
  19. Get married
  20. Buy a house
  21. Have children
  22. Feed, house and clothe the kids
  23. Take them to clubs, teams, and other extracurricular
  24. Get them a car
  25. Go to their high school graduation
  26. Sign the permission form for their first body piercing
  27. Move them into their freshman dorm room
  28. Smile weakly in reaction to their first tat
  29. Offer them their first glass of wine
  30. Attend their college graduation
  31. Co-sign for their first apartment
  32. Attend their post college degree graduation
  33. Co-sign their student loan for their PhD
  34. Celebrate their first job
  35. Take them and their fiancé out to dinner for the first time
  36. Go over the budget for the wedding
  37. Cry at the wedding
  38. Go on a cruise
  39. Downsize to a condominium
  40. Take pictures of the first grandchild
  41. Announce your divorce
  42. Move to an apartment
  43. Retire
  44. Move to a senior living facility
  45. Meet with the lawyer and finalize the will

Numbers one through 14 pass slower than molasses going up hill on a 20 degree day with a 45 mile-per-hour headwind.

Fifteen through 45 happen quicker than the snap of a finger. The Flying Fickle Finger of Fate finger*.

After a bit of time had spilled down the drain, I noticed something. The years aren’t like some straight roadway that disappears in the desert at some unseen infinite point. The years are more like a Slinky, recurring coils where the four seasons have claimed a spot on the circumference of each coil. Depending on what is going on, the Slinky of time stretches and compresses. For the first million or so years of the planet, for example, the slinky is stretched nearly to its limit. As life developed and evolved, and as humankind (oxymoron) grew in number and impact, the coils compressed.

Today, the Time Slinky is tightly compressed, almost to the point of the annual coils melding into one another.

That’s comforting to some extent. It means even though Time is zipping along at breakneck speeds for me, we will make it through this particular phase of time, and perhaps the coils will then relax, and begin to stretch out again, the tension loosen.

I hope so.

*The Flying Fickle Finger of Fate Award was a commentary staple on a popular television comedy show that ran in the late 60s through the early 70s – Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. More like a pfft on the Time Slinky. I always thought the finger on the award should not have been the index finger, but one over.