Thursday, May 26, 2011

Bookmark Deleted

There's a particular blog by a particular left-wing blogger that I've been reading regularly for some time now. His posts are often interesting, and though I seldom agree with him, I've found him to be usually thoughtful and usually thought-provoking.

Then in recent months, his posts started becoming more and more extreme, written in more and more of a fevered tone. I wondered if he was going through trying times in his personal life, or what. Posts got even more extreme, now often with an air of intense ideological rigidity. Some of his commenters jumped ship, others jumped on the bandwagon with glee.

Now it has reached the point where this blogger and several of his commenters are openly defending Stalin, openly defending Stalinism, and as a cherry on top of the whipped cream they're arguing that naw, ol' Uncle Joe didn't really kill very many people after all.

Well, that's where I get off. I've deleted the blog from my bookmarks, and I won't be going back. Blogospheric idiots defending Stalin, to my mind that's right in the same league with skinhead Aryan-pride types who defend Hitler, who defend Nazism, and who argue that naw, the number of Jews murdered under Hitler was exaggerated by orders of magnitude.

Sites like that, whether Hitler apologists or Stalin apologists... I come away feeling dirty, defiled, like I need to scrub the filth off me with an industrial strength cleanser.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Unsolicited Phone Calls

The national Do Not Call list was one of the few unconditionally and unalloyedly good ideas ever to be passed into law. A good idea, with really no downside. I remember how telemarketers used to pester the hell out of me, and what a blessed difference it made once I was able to put my phone number on that list.

Oh, I still get a call from a rogue telemarketer once in a blue moon: you know, the type that don't care if they're breaking the law, catch me if you can. But it's nothing compared to what it used to be.

If I were able to make one adjustment in the Do Not Call law, it would be to allow people to opt out of unsolicited calls even from those few remaining categories that were granted a loophole: politicians, pollsters, and charities. Yeah, I know, it'll never happen. And I've long since developed ten-words-or-less responses to excuse myself from whatever they're trying to rope me into. But really, having done away with 90% of the calls I used to receive, why would I want to be pestered, awoken from a nap, interrupted in the middle of supper or during a TV show, to answer poll questions, give to a charity, or listen to some damn political message?

If family, friends, neighbors, clients, business associates want to phone me, fine. Otherwise, you are free to send me a letter, or an email, or catch me in person-- some mode of communication that doesn't bid fair to interrupt me right while I'm sitting on the toilet, or while my supper is getting cooler by the minute.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Soul of a Community

Before I moved here twelve years ago, I moved often and lived in a bewildering variety of communities scattered across several states and from coast to coast. Mostly small towns, a few cities. I spent my young adult years as a nomad, and when I moved here in my early forties to this remote corner of deep rural America, I was ready to settle down.

Moving here, and staying, turned out to be one of the best things I've ever done.

Because moving around to all those places, I learned something a person who's lived in the same community all his life might never realize. Communities, like individuals, have widely varying personalities. Each community has its own distinctive tone and temperament. Unless you've experienced it for yourself, you might not believe how much one middle-class small town in flyover country can differ from another.

I was reminded of this the other day when a friend remarked to me that the small town where he grew up was "stifling, narrow, rigid, vindictive, the sort of place where you expect they burn people alive out in the cornfields at night." I know what he means; among the many places I've lived I can think of one (about 25 years ago) that would pretty well answer to that description. And it didn't differ noticeably in any economic, class, ethnic, geographic, or historical regard from many another (quite pleasant) community where I've lived. No, that town just had a bad personality. That was just the way that place was.

I'm glad the community where I now live-- spread across remote rural hinterlands, far off the beaten path-- has a very different personality from that. This place has a good temperament, a very fine soul. I've lived in a number of good places, but none as fine as this area I've called home now for the past twelve years.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Presbyterian Church (USA) Opens the Way for Gay Ordination

Googling around this morning, I stumbled across what I might not otherwise have known for some time to come: the Presbyterian Church (USA) has approved the ordination of gays and lesbians as ministers, following in the steps of several other mainline Protestant denominations.

Or to be more precise (since the mainstream media are not known for fastidiousness in their accuracy) as of yesterday a majority of the 173 presbyteries in the US have voted to approve an amendment to the Presbyterian Book of Order. Previously candidates for ordination were required to practice fidelity in marriage or chastity in singleness, which of course allowed for the ordination of a gay or lesbian who was single and chaste. Under the new change, it will be left up to each presbytery to decide for itself whom it will vote to ordain to the ministry. Straight or gay, chaste or sexually active or partnered or whatever.

As a lifelong active Presbyterian, I observe with some bemusement that, in the little rural Presbyterian congregation seven miles down the road where I regularly worship, this action will no doubt pass unremarked and unnoticed. Most of the people would be mildly upset if they knew. Most of the people have a life to live.

On the wider denominational scene, a quick check of comments and discussions on the Internet reveals that, just as I would've predicted, many of the progressives are pridefully and triumphalistically crowing, and calling anyone on the other side a "hater"; while many of the traditionalists are engaging in angry, rigid barking and snarling.

This is a big change from the past few decades, in which the traditionalists have held the edge. For these past few decades, many of the traditionalists were pridefully and triumphalistically crowing, and calling anyone on the other side a "sinner"; while many of the progressives were engaging in angry, rigid barking and snarling.

In other words, the wrangle within the denomination has passed on to a new stage, the continuation of internecine strife by other means. The prideful triumphalistic crowing continues. (And of course it's okay to hurl epithets at your enemies when you're on the "correct side" of the issue.) The angry, rigid barking and snarling continues. All that has changed is which side is doing which.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

And meanwhile, we Presbyterians out here in flyover country-- nonrigid unangry traditionalists, most of us, but middling well able to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, regardless of where we may stand and regardless of who they may be-- we will continue along as we have been, no doubt unsatisfactory to the extremists of either faction, for we neither pridefully crow nor angrily bark. No, we're resigned, many of us, to a half-inarticulate notion that the Church is and always has been a corpus mixtum. We believe that the Bible is indeed the Word of God, and that there really is something to this "love God and love your neighbor" business no matter who you're dealing with, and that there's a lot to be said for righteousness but it's not up to us to immanentize the eschaton: wheat and tares, y'know, that kind of thing?

I mean, be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect, only stop trying to out-pharisee the Pharisees, on behalf of either the conservative faction or the liberal faction in the Church.

For 2000 years the Church did one thing. From now on, the Church in its Presbyterian instantiation will be doing the opposite thing. Only the prideful crowing and the angry barking will remain the same. And may God have mercy on our souls.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Stemming the Facebook Tide

I just happened across a solution to a problem that's been irking me for some time. Namely, three of my several dozen Facebook friends are responsible for a good 95% of the posts that confront me every time I check Facebook. And these three individuals are all addicted to posting a veritable crapflood of rigid angry ranting fanatical political items.

I don't want to unfriend them, and I don't want to miss the occasional genuine message they may post. But neither do I want to have to scroll down through endless turgid insane extremist bilge to find the few personal items that are of interest to me.

Yes, I've already long since blocked Farmville and Mafia Wars and whatnot. But Facebook won't let you filter by content for politicized insanity.

However, I've found a beautiful solution: a Firefox add-on called F.B.Purity. Among other things, this nifty add-on lets you block Facebook posts which contain selected words or phrases. I added to my list the terms Republican, Democrat, Bush, Obama, conservative, liberal, progressive, GOP, Nation Magazine, and a few other terms more narrowly focused against my friends' particular manias. And voila! Almost all of the crap is gone. I log in to Facebook, and what appears on the page reads like something posted by human beings, and not by mechanical talking-point dispensers. Problem solved.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Unscented Candles

The other day I was in town, and I stopped off at the discount store to look for some votive candles. I'm running low. I like sometimes to burn candles at home, in a couple of little colored glass containers. But do you suppose I could find plain ordinary unscented candles?

There were many shelves filled with candles, including votive candles. But virtually all of them were scented candles. Henry Ford once said of his automobiles that you could have them in any color you wanted, as long as it was black. Well, I began to get the impression that these days you can have your candles in any scent you want, as long as it's not unscented. The only unscented candles I sighted were tea lights. Apart from that, dozens of varieties, apple cinnamon, fresh linen, you name it -- fruity scents seemed to predominate.

I mean, I do occasionally let controlled odors loose in my home, but that'll be by burning incense, thank you, and the sort of incense made in some funky little shop in a back alley in India or Nepal. Not by burning some apple cinnamon candle!

Finally, after I'd almost given up, I sighted amongst all the shelves a little box of unscented votive candles down in one corner. And snatched them up. If supply correlates with demand, I'd say I must be the only person in the county who prefers unscented candles.