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May 27, 2006

The Banal Patriot

americanflagchair.gifI saw this chair stacked up like cordwood in the entranceway of my local Pamida and was once again moved to disgust with the depths to which so-called patriotism has sunk. The American Flag, which we are supposed to respect, is also apparently a perfectly acceptable thing to sit upon. The flag is debased by merchandise like this.

Now, I'm not some sort of flag waving zealot. I don't even own one. I believe that patriotism is more than what one wears or, apparently, sits upon. I believe patriotism is marked by engaged and informed citizenship, participating in the systems of governance and, yes, opposing the government when there is good cause. Protest and revolution are not only patriotic, they are our national birthright.

Amerikitsch like this suggests that patriotism is nothing more than an accessory or a fashion choice. Patriotism becomes a "These Colors Don't Run" bumper sticker on the back of an SUV. Please!

In the United States Code for Flag Use there are some pieces of flag etiquette that merchants seem to have conveniently forgotten:

The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery.

The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.

The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever.

No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform.

This is only in part, but the point is that the flag as a national emblem is something to be respected, not merchandised, exploited, and made banal. I remember (barely) the uproar over Abby Hoffman wearing an American Flag shirt to trial. Now he would be hailed as some sort of ├╝berpatriot. And that's part of the problem, I think. The banality of patriotism has robbed the power of protest. When patriotism is something that you buy and sell, something you wear, sit on, or get your burger in, it robs the power of the symbol. It no longer means anything other than brand identification. And when all it means is brand identification, all one has to do to be a patriot is to purchase the right things.

May 25, 2006

Do You Know Where Your Towel Is?


Thanks to BadCat! for alerting me to this.

May 24, 2006

Happy Birthday, Bob

Hey Bob, happy birthday. Ya get a street named after ya. Sweet!

By the way, do you know who that is standing in the background? I didn't! But I found out.

May 23, 2006

I'm no Lloyd Bentsen

Senator, Treasury Secretary, and former Vice Presidential Candidate Lloyd Bentsen died today, but mainly I knew him for the biggest political debate knock out punch ever given on prime time television. I was a college student and living in Oregon at the time. It was the first time I was old enough to vote in a presidential election so I was following it fairly closely.

vpheader.jpgOn the evening of October 5, 1988 a bunch of fellow students and I gathered in a professor's living room and we watched the debate live. Bentsen's debate opponent was the very easy to ridicule Dan Quayle - but looking back on it, Quayle's political obituary was written that night when Bentsen retorted to Quayle's predictable comparison of his youthfulness with that of John F. Kennedy -

"Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy."

Oh, did we hoot and holler at that one. Now, 18 years later, I really wonder what was accomplished. Quayle went on to be our Vice President. Bentsen served out his term as Senator and went on to be Secretary of the Treasury. On one hand I think that it was a bold way to unmask demagoguery. On the other hand, apart from being a feel good moment for us on the left, it didn't really change anything. Dukakis and Bentsen went on to lose and lose big. And, in the final analysis, would I like to be remembered primarily as a person who destroyed another person in public? And yet, again, didn't Quayle deserve the schooling he got?

At any rate, may he rest in peace. And what do I know? I'm no Lloyd Bentsen.

[You can read the entire text of that debate here and the famous exchange here.]

Here's a strange little music video that uses the famous soundbite:

May 21, 2006

How to Mow Smugly

GS_18in_815_18.jpgYesterday I bought, assembled, and used our new mower. Yep, it's a pushie. It seemed quaint and antiquarian but practical. And it fit some basic needs of mine:

1) Affordable: At $125 it wasn't dirt cheap, but not bad considering I was looking forward to a summer of paying the neighbor kid $15 a mow. Additionally, no gas, and that is no small consideration these days.

2) Low Maintainance: I'm lazy.

3) Green: I can now mow the grass with the fervor of an environmental zealot, knowing that not only am I saving myself from the scurlious stares of lawn conscious neighbors, but every time I use it I am a poster boy for conscientious environmentalism. I am neither consuming fossil fuels nor am I contributing to global warming. And isn't half the fun of being green that self-important feeling of being greener-than-thou?

4) Availability: The neighbor kid was never that reliable.

5) Exercise: Blogging is not an aerobic workout. I need all the exercise I can get.

6) Safety: I wanted something my 11 year old and 8 year old could use while retaining the typical number of digits on their hands and feet.

As a bonus the product I purchased was made in America by a company in my erstwhile home state of Indiana. That made me feel good too and a little nostalgic. Yes, sentimentality is always a selling point.

The kids and I put the mower together in our kitchen with only a 3/8" wrench, not the "two adjustable wrenches and screwdriver" that were called for on the packaging. That took all of maybe 10 minutes. (By the way, if you get one, follow the directions. There is a great tip about putting dishwashing soap in the foam handle to make it easier to put on the handlebar.)

Then we trundled it out into the lawn and started at it. That bore less than hoped for results. Now, the grass was long from 10 days straight of rain which made things difficult. The kids had problems getting the mower to cut at all. I could do it, but I had to sometimes run it back and forth, getting some momentum. The resulting lawn looked like a bad haircut, with tufts scattered here and there. I'm going to take a running leap at it again, mowing crossways to my last mowing, and see if I can even it out.

Still, I comfort myself that if the neighbors scowl at me for my raggedly lawn, I can always say, "Yes, my lawn looks horrible, but I am not contributing the the coming environmental apocalypse. Can you say the same?"

May 19, 2006

Ironic1 on Rocketboom


Using Grapheine's wonderful Bombay TV movie editor I created my own dramatic recreation of the Epic Meeting of Amanda and Drew with which they saw fit to open today's episode of Rocketboom.

Thanks Drew and Amanda! Love your show. I'm guessing that is pretty much exactly like it happened, right?

May 18, 2006

George Lucas does a 180

hatejjb.jpgWell, next week will be the 29th anniversary of the release of the very first Star Wars movie, and George Lucas announced that he will, for the first time, release the Original Series on DVD as we saw a long time ago in a cinema far, far away. (Well, okay, about 750 miles away for me, but that's far enough.) Of course, he famously swore that he wouldn't do this.

So, here's the question:

Has George Lucas -

a) seen the light and realized that we liked the old version warts and all and it made Han Solo that much cooler that he shot Greedo first, or

b) realized that he can make a lot of money and that suckers like me will scoop this up faster than you can say, "Chewie! Hit the hyperdrive!"?

May 17, 2006

My Friend God

I found this today while I was looking for something else. I love it when that happens.

Those who know I'm a pastor might think I'd be offended by this film. You'd be wrong.

Those of you who really know me might think I doubled over in laughter watching this. You'd be right.

This film mocks everything I hate about the triumphalist/fundamentalist branch of Christianity and it brings up some great questions about how the church talks about God. Enjoy!

May 16, 2006

Nope, Not Militarizing the Border...

George Bush said last night that he is sending 6000 National Guard troops to the Mexican border but that he is not "militarizing the border."

Oh yes, and Black is White, Freedom is Slavery, War is Peace, and Ignorance is Strength.

As the years go along I am coming to believe that the best practical preparation for the real world, or the world as it has come to be, I got in public school was from reading George Orwell's 1984 in Sophomore English. At the time I thought it was a ridiculous novel and that no one would be dumb enough to fall for the bald faced lies of the state. Welcome to 1984, folks.

The Ministry of Reshelving seem to agree with my general assessment and are going to local bookstores moving Orwell's book to Current Events.

May 8, 2006

Lives in the Balance

livesinthebalance.jpgJackson Browne released this song in the 80's when we were knee deep in Central American blood. Eerily, the song is more relevant today than ever.

I submitted this video to videobomb and you can see it there too.


procrastination.jpgThanks to Rocketboom for bringing me this great little web gem. I love the deadpan deadpan delivery and the lowtech nature of this short film. It, and others, can be found on Tales of Mere Existence. Thematically, it's a perfect start to this blog that has been on the drawing boards for about... oh... 3 years. Thanks to Fuzzy for helping me get this blog off the ground.

By the way, half the people I've shown this short to have said, "That's my life." Including me.

[Edit - October 27, 2006: The orginal film has been taken down, so I have added the YouTube version to this post.]