Sunday, August 26, 2007

God's Borg

This is a long rant and I apologize up front for the lack of brevity. I had a lot to say about a lot of things, so go get some iced tea and set a spell.

To understand this rant, you must understand the Borg reference from Star Trek.

The Borg are a race of cyborgs in the Star Trek: The Next Generation TV series. They are characterized by relentless pursuit of targets for assimilation; their collective consciousness that enables rapid adaptability to almost any defense; and the ability to continue functioning properly despite seemingly devastating blows.

The Borg function as automata; the minds of all Borg drones are connected via implants and networks to a hive mind, the Borg Collective. The Borg claim to seek to "improve the quality of life for all species" by integrating organic and synthetic body components in their quest for perfection. To this end, they travel the galaxy, increasing their numbers and advancing by "assimilating" other species and their technologies, and subjugating captured individuals by changing them to the Borg standard.

They have become a powerful symbol in popular culture for any juggernaut against whom "resistance is futile."

Wikipedia, 8/26/2007

When an individual Borg is asked, "Who are you?," the Borg replies in an expressionless monotone, "We are Borg. Assimilation is imminent. Resistance is futile." When asked any other question, the reply is exactly the same: expressionless, unthinking, "We are Borg. Assimilation is imminent. Resistance is futile."

I have encountered a few of God's Borg in my short life. When asked a question, they answer with that same expressionless, unthinking, flat monotone. It is scary to behold, these otherwise bright and intelligent people parroting a Borg-like reply.

The first encounter was in 1984 with a coworker. He was a computer programmer, college grad, my age, bright guy, recently married, and a member of a little start-up storefront evangelical church. We were shooting the bull over the water cooler when he mentioned that he and his wife were thinking about starting a family after his wife graduated in the spring. As the company's health plan administrator, I knew he wasn't on the plan and had no other family health insurance.

I suggested he enroll in the health plan now so it would cover the maternity costs the next year. He froze up, got that thousand-yard, glaze-eyed Borg stare and replied in a monotone,

"God will provide."

"What??? What do you mean?"

"God will provide if we have a baby."

"But God has already provided. He gave you the intelligence to land a good job, an employer who offers a low cost insurance program, and the common sense to know a good deal when you see it."

"God will provide."

That's all he could say, over and over, like a needle skipping on a record. A perfectly acceptable answer could have been, "Well, I would like to get health insurance, but with Gretchen's tuition expenses, we just can't afford it right now. I can only have faith that God will provide."

I would have bought that, thought nothing more about it, and changed the conversation to what he might name a new baby. But this encounter bothered me so much it has stuck in my brain for the last 23 years. I don't know what collective consciousness they were preaching at that little storefront church to elicit such a Borg-like response, but I gave this guy a wide berth from then on.

The second instance was with a good friend of mine, a guy raised in the Church of Christ. He is what I would call a "Thinking Christian," someone who doesn't blindly believe what he is told, whether it is a religious or secular concept. He solicits opinions and information from various sources, and after much thought, arrives at his own conclusions. He surprises me from time to time with some pretty liberal viewpoints, some which I'm sure defy the church's teachings.

I realized one day I knew nothing about the Church of Christ and started researching the organization of the church, the creed, and traditions. I discovered the Churches of Christ have no formal organization. Each congregation is unique. So how does one CofC have any sort of uniformity of belief or tradition with the next CofC? The next time I saw my friend, I asked him this question:

"How do you know that the church with the CofC sign in Florida will have the same worship service as the one in Arkansas? Is there some kind of organizational conference like the Baptists?"

(sudden Borg-like stare; monotone reply)
"Any man with a Bible should be able to sit down and read the Bible and determine for himself how to have a worship service."

"Yeah, but everybody's interpretation of what they read won't be the same. How do you get all the CofCers in the nation singin' off the same songpage?"

(Borg-like stare; monotone reply)
"Any man with a Bible should be able to sit down and read the Bible and determine for himself how to have a worship service."

"If there isn't some type of overall agreement, there could be a CofC congregation in North Arkansas who are snake handlers."

(Borg-like stare; monotone reply)
"Any man with a Bible should be able to sit down and read the Bible...."

His record was stuck. The Borg-like response was disturbing. Apparently he had heard this repeated time and time again and it was firmly implanted in his brain. Perfectly acceptable responses would have been:

"I don't know, I've never thought about it before. Lemme find out and I'll get back to you."

"Nope, there's no formal organization. Each congregation is on their own and they're all slightly different. If you've seen one Church of Christ, you've seen *one* Church of Christ." (h/t MTEG)

"Yep, we have some odd snake-handlin' brethren up north."

The encounter left me shaken, wondering when the Borg had assimilated my friend. I can only hope he will be able to disconnect his Borg implant by the next time we meet.

The third instance was at a local congregational church. I was wanting to learn American Sign Language and they were the only church with an interpreter for the deaf at all their services. I attended three services before I realized I was in the presence of Borg.

During those first three visits I really didn't pay much attention to the content of the sermons. I heard the words but my main focus was on how the interpreter was signing those words. During my fourth visit, the preacher was about 10 minutes into his 30-minute sermon when he popped me out of my ASL educational reverie. Waaaait a minute, *WHAT* did he just say??? Did I hear that correctly????

I don't remember now his exact words, or who he was talking about, but the hateful speech spewing from his mouth horrified me. It should not have been spoken by a preacher in a church, any church, any denomination, anywhere in the nation. Hatemongering is not now, nor has it ever been, a Christian principle. My mouth dropped open in disbelief, then my blood pressure shot up about 70 points. Surely these otherwise intelligent people, a lot of whom I knew personally, were not buying this, were they? They aren't going to let him continue this are they?

I did a quick crowd scan. That's when I realized they were Borg. They had already been assimilated. The congregation's bright smiling faces were beaming en masse with admiration and approval. Their little Borg bobbleheads nodded up and down in complete agreement. I expected to see a few jump up and shout "Amen!"

I couldn't breathe for the rest of the sermon. My brain was searing with a white hot heat. I couldn't get out of there fast enough and nearly tossed my cookies on the drive home. I never dared go back. Unfortunately, these Borg are among us - our community leaders, with a prime directive of assimilation.

The threat to our nation is not across the pond boys and girls. It is here among us: God's Borg, disguised as ordinary citizens. Fear for your life.

Have faith in God, but not so much in your human religious leaders, especially those who tell you what to think or how to feel. Find those answers for yourself in your own way and in your own time. Do not be a lemming; resist assimilation; and don't drink the Kool-Aid.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

God's Wingnuts

I watched CNN's special report "God's Warriors - Christians" late Thursday night. Not believing what I had just seen and heard, I watched it again in an encore presentation. It upset me so much I couldn't get to sleep. Are there really *that* many religious right-wingnuts out there in America??? It gave me the heebie-jeebies.

When I see hoards of people whipped into a religious fervor, lead by some media-slick guy on a stage, my brain screams, "Cult, Cult, Cult! Brainwashing! Lemmings! Danger Will Robinson!" I want to get away from those folks as quickly as possible. It is especially disturbing to see when the hoards are young children and teenagers.

Faith in God is a good thing. Christianity, Judaism, or Islam is too according to one's personal belief in prophets or lack thereof. However, this...this is not faith, not Christianity, not religion. It is something else entirely; something dark, sinister, evil, fetid.

Somewhere, somehow, Christianity in America has gone horribly wrong.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Letting Go of Guilt and Perfection

I was supposed to mail out some information to seven people on July 24th. I had called them all on Monday the 23rd, so the mailout should have been at the post office on the 24th; 25th at the latest.

I could have stuck it in an envelope without explanation but I thought that was too unprofessional. A handwritten post-it didn't seem right either. The perfect thing to do would be to enclose a cover letter. Each one would have to be carefully crafted to reflect an appropriate amount of professionalism, but with a little dab of warm-n-fuzziness. I'm not a warm-n-fuzzy person. I like writing blunt, no-nonsense business letters which wouldn't work in this case.

I didn't want to write the letters, so I put it off. "This weekend," I said to myself, "I'll mail them out on Saturday. That's a little late, but not too bad."

I missed Saturday's mail, so I told myself I would do it Monday when Hubby was back at work. I didn't want to do it Monday either. It was getting embarrassingly late at this point. I needed to get them mailed, but I couldn't seem to make myself do it. The letters had to be perfect, each one, and I couldn't find the perfect words.

That week dragged by. My Guilt-o-Meter was creeping towards critical. I felt guilty, but I still couldn't get started. I sat at my desk and played endless games of Solitaire instead.

Click, click, click. Congratulations! You Won! Would you like to start a new game? Yes. Click, click, click.

I couldn't do anything else until I got those letters out. I *must* get those letters out. They have top priority over everything. They must be finished before I can do anything fun.

New Game? Yes. Click, click, click.

Another week dragged by. The Guilt-o-Meter was pegged out.

Must mail letters, must mail letters....

New Game? Yes. Click, click, click.

My life and ambition level was screeching to a halt. The guilt factor had morphed me into a catatonic blob. Because the letters weren't getting done, nothing was getting done...not cooking, cleaning, laundry, shopping, blogging...nothing. By Friday, August 10th, the letters were three weeks overdue.

Then I had an epiphany of sorts. I realized the letters had not gone out like they should, were not going out any time soon, and may never go out. They might go out without a cover letter after all. I'm not perfect, I don't have to be perfect, and the mailout will obviously not be perfect.

I decided not to worry about them anymore. I would get to them when I damn well pleased. I let go of the guilt that was causing me to put my life on hold. I built silly craft projects, cleaned the house, and cleaned out the closets. I did all the laundry and wrote some blog posts. My creative right brain, held hostage by the guilt, opened up and breathed fresh air for the first time in three weeks. I felt like a different person.

I realized too that I've lived out this guilt pattern all my life. My mother expected me to be perfect, and I was pretty successful living up to that expectation. I adopted it as my own. I try to be perfect, even though I know in my brain that perfection is really unattainable as well as unnecessary. But still, that doesn't stop me from trying. I just have to remember to not feel guilty when I don't make it.

New Life Motto: No Perfection, No Guilt

Monday, August 13, 2007

Diarrheagram Variety Store

The next in the series....

Start with this photo of Main St., Smackover, Ark., c. 1922:

Add 105° heat and a mild case of creative insanity, and ya get this, a model of the first building on the left:

Yep, waaaaaay too much time on my hands.

Actually I bought a box fan to beat the heat. The empty cardboard box started calling, "Cut me, glue me, paint me!"

The heat must be getting to me when inanimate objects start talking.

Must go get water.

Sissy says I must show the scale of these diarrheagram structures. OK, fair enough.

That is a U.S. quarter on the front porch. The building is roughly 5" x 5" and 5" tall at the peak of the roof.

The raised-panel front doors are tongue depressors, as is the store sign. The roof is corrugated cardboard with one flat side ripped away. The porch posts are 1/8" balsa wood. The porch deck and building corner timbers are 1/4" "skinny craft sticks" (says the label on the bag.) The little crate on the porch is 1/8" square balsa wood, quartered to 1/16" square. Micro-tweezers were required to glue that bad boy together.

The oil derrick is 11.5" tall to the top of the structure; 13.5" tall including the oil spurties. The base is 4" square.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Porn Rant

Crap that gives me a rash:

An Open Letter from Morality in Media President Bob Peters To Marriott International CEO Bill Marriott: Get Rid of the Porn

In his letter dated July 18, 2007, Robert Peters chastises J.W. Marriott, Jr. for allowing pay-per-view porn in Marriott hotels. Peters states:

"Before we checked out, however, I decided to make sure this was a "porn free" hotel by turning on the TV and clicking to Menu Options. Sadly, what I found was not only a link to "Hollywood Movies" but also to "Adults Only." There was a "Must Be 18 To Enter" warning, but proof of age was not required to proceed and view film titles (emphasis mine) (with pictorial/written promotional material) like these:

"Reign of Tera 2" ("hardcore action")
"Lesbian Secretary" ("hardcore")
"Hardcore POV" ("This is hardcore point of view")"

Thank you Mr. Peters for publishing the "porn" to which I previously did not have access unless I had checked into a Marriott hotel. The very thing against which you rant you have published for the whole world to see...the film titles only. Marriott placed this "porn" behind a "Must Be 18 To Enter" warning, but you sir, did not. Anyone can stumble across it on your "family" website. Thanks.

If someone wants to see steamy stuff on Marriott TV, they must pay, and they have to go looking for it apparently. The Adults Only category was not in the main list of viewing options, it was buried down in the Menu Options. How often does anyone select Menu Options anyway???

Yes, Mr. Peters, stay somewhere else on trips away from home, please. I enjoy the hospitality of Marriott hotels and now there will be a greater availibility of rooms for me. It's a win-win situation. You will be sheltered from the inticement of demon porn and I will have the opportunity to luxuriate in a king-sized bed away from the ice machine, garbage bins, and noisy AC units. Excellent!

Michael J. McManus, writing in his column "Ethics & Religion", gave his support to Peters. "You Too, Can Fight Pornography" Aug. 04, 2007.

McManus writes:

"An FBI study of 37 murderers confessing multiple killings found 29 used hardcore and soft-core porn to fuel their anticipatory fantasy."
What McManus fails to realize is that violent people can use ANYTHING to fuel their anticipatory fantasies. A photo of Craftsman handtools in a Sears catalog can tip a psycho over the edge to stab someone in the neck with a screwdriver. Violent people are just violent. That's all there is to that. Porn watching does not a killer make.

When questioning serial killers interviewers don't usually ask the killer if they ate white bread or brushed their teeth. Their only questions support the quest against porn. If different questions were asked, statistics would support the contention that brushing one's teeth or eating Wonder bread can fuel a serial-killing fantasy.

Peters states in his letter to Marriott:

"You should also be aware that distribution of such materials, among other things, contributes to the breakup of marriages, to prostitution, to sexual assaults against both children and adults, to the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and to the erosion of decency."
Society's ills are not caused by porn. Mankind was doing horrid stuff to each other long before Debbie did Dallas. Folks, find something else to blame.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Diarrheagram Oil Derrick

Here is what you do when you have too much time on your hands.

This is (obviously) an oil derrick. I made it for some project at Hubby's school.

I looked up photos of old wooden oil derricks to develop a pattern, then kinda fudged around with the measurements to find a happy proportion. I was afraid I was in over my head and had made it too detailed, but without all that detail it would have looked cheesy. It ended up having 164 parts and taking the better part of two days to build. I'm really proud of it because it came out just like I had envisioned it. That's rare.

Hubby and I were dancing around with glee because his oil derrick will be the best piece in the "diarrheagram", his scornful word for diorama. He hates dioramas, especially the ones made in pizza boxes, but I digress.

As we stood admiring the finished product, I said, "I have far too much time on my hands."

Hubby replied, "We need to get a life."

We have a life, it's just waaaay different from everybody else's.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Kellogg's All-Bran Commercial

The new Kellogg's All-Bran commercial is one of the funniest commercials I've seen in a long time. It seemed fairly benign the first dozen or so times I saw it. Then one day I saw the big I-beam drop from the little slit and the light bulb began to flicker. I caught the load of bricks at the end and couldn't believe this was a a squeaky-clean Kellogg's commercial.

Then the next time it came on I saw the 55-gallon drums rolling from the guy's rear end. OMG! This is tooo good. I love it!

A standing ovation to the guy who came up with this concept. It's a pretty novel way of portraying the concept "Eat All-Bran, Poop A Lot" without actually saying the word "poop" on TV.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Why, oh Why?

"Why, oh Why?" wailed the woman on TV. "Who will stop the violence?"

She was a "survivor" of a murder. Her son had been gunned down at 2:00 a.m. on a street corner during a drug deal. The photo of her son showed him wearing his cap backwards, pants sagging so that his underwear was showing, gold chains, prison styled tattoos, and flashing a gang sign.

I wasn't feeling much love for the lady. What I wanted to scream at the lady (actually I screamed it at the television) was, "Your son wouldn't have been gunned down at 2:00 a.m. if he had been at home in bed where other civilized people are at that hour!" If he had been asleep in his bed in the front bedroom, exhausted from a long day of honorable employment, and a stray bullet through the front wall took his young life, you would have my full sympathy.

Sheesh. If you deal drugs on the street corner, you run the risk of death. Your son knew that. Drug dealing is a high-risk occupation. Your son chose his path in life. He rolled the dice and lost. You are not a victim of violence. You are a victim of your son. He held you hostage with his actions and you suffered the consequences of those actions. Do not wail on television for someone else to fix the situation. The only person that could have fixed it was your son. Lay the blame and hurt where it belongs...on your son.

Her final words, the same mantra all gang member's families chant at their deaths, were, "He was such a good boy."

Made me want to slap her silly.