Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween is here again. Next to Christmas it’s my favorite time of year. The origin of the celebration dates to a Celtic Festival. The word is supposed to mean summers end. Some call it “All Saints Day” and others call it “The Day of the Dead.” Although it is purely a secular holiday many Christians think it is evil and celebrates paganism and the occult. Isn’t that just like some people to get down on something they don’t know much about. It’s just a day for kids to have fun. They trick or treat and get a fill of candy. They wear neat costumes, carve jack-o-lanterns, tell ghost stories, start bonfires, bob for apples and watch horror movies.

I like the ghost stories. Some folks don’t even believe in ghost. Even the Bible talks a lot about ghost. The disciples thought Jesus was a ghost when they saw him walking on water. Mark Twain wrote about ghost. Now, if the disciples and Mark Twain believed in ghost, that’s good enough for me. Who am I to argue with authorities like that.

I have had a couple of encounters with ghost. One time I was in a remote country cemetery and heard a mother calling her child. I then heard a screen door close as if the child came home. It was very real and my wife heard the same thing. I thought it may have come from a nearby house but there was no house for miles. Another time I recognized the pleasant odor of a person in our family who had been dead for several years. My wife had an experience of the presence of my parents in the car long after they were deceased.

So, I’m convinced that ghost do exist and are manifest in many forms. They don’t have to be some see through figure that appears at night. As a matter of fact, ghost may be around us all the time and come to us through words in a book, pictures and various forms that are bombarding us like invisible radiofrequency waves. Memories are like ghost conjured from the past. Ghost constantly surround me on the porch.

Anyway, Halloween is a fun time for young and old. I have plenty of candy in stock on the porch for the trick-or-treat crowd. I do hope they come because candy is the last thing I need.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Huckleberry Finn has always been one of my favorite books, but the last part of the book seems like it doesn’t really fit with the first part of the story. Tom Sawyer enters the story and he has this elaborate and complicated plan to free Jim. The whole thing is unnecessary because Jim is already free. That’s the way the new Obamacare program is turning out to be. It’s full of devious and complicated ways to charge me more for the same service. The whole thing is ending up costing me more money than if the healthcare system was government operated. It would probably be better to just have Medicare for all rather than forcing the private insurance companies to provide care for everyone.

My Medicare supplement insurance is raising the rates and all the private payers are jacking up premiums to be able to cover the sick and others who they are now mandated to cover. The doctors and other providers are continuing to demand high salaries, so the premiums can only go up to cover all this. Not only are the private insurance premiums going up, but the healthcare legislation is filled with subtle tax increases. You will have to pay a 3.5% tax on the sale of your home to help pay for the healthcare program. The medical expense account that allows a person to reduce their taxable income by $5,000 and use this money for medical expenses has been reduced to $2,500. The threshold for medical deductions has been increased to $10,000. For me, the amount of withholding for Medicare from Social Security has been increased and the cost of living increase for Social Security has not been increased this year. This list of subtle and devious tax increases goes on and on and the whole thing sounds like it was designed by Tom Sawyer.

It would be better to go to a complete government program like a big VA. Instead of doctors most of the care could be provided by physician’s assistants since they are cheaper and are taking over the practice anyway. It has become almost impossible to see a doctor and the primary contact with a provider is currently with a nurse or physician’s assistant. The death rate may increase, especially among the elderly, but as Scrooge says, this will serve to reduce the surplus population.

As I sit on the porch I’m rereading the last part of Huckleberry Finn so I can get a better understanding of the devious and complicated ways being used to finance the Obamacare program. I believe all of our congressman should read Huckleberry Finn so that can become even more skilled at devious ways to rob us and make life more miserable.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Crystal Cathedral and “Hour of Prayer,” made famous by Rev. Robert Schuller, are in the process of crumbling and declared bankruptcy this week. The attendance has declined and they have a multimillion-dollar debt. Programs have been cancelled and staff laid off and salaries reduced. The recession is largely responsible for the problem but there are other factors. The aging Schuller turned the operation over to his son and this didn’t work. His daughter is now apparently in charge of management. Others claim that Schuller has not embraced all the modern technology and the new wave of worship, including rock bands.

It’s ironic that the new generation of worshipers has deserted him. Schuller was initially considered a radical in his approach to worship. He was an innovator in presenting a new worship style when he started back in the Eisenhower years. He started by preaching in drive-in movies where folks could listen to him through speakers inside the car. He progressed to build a megachurch made of glass, which became a tourist attraction in California. He also possessed charisma with his big smile, aviator glasses and flowing robes. The new generation doesn’t like robes or organ music. The modern church service now rings with amplified guitars, drums and rock and roll. No hymnals are allowed. Dress for the modern service is casual and ties are forbidden. The new ministers preach that we must diversify and offer all these methods in order to attract the young folks. Schuller is accused of failing to adopt these new methods of worship.

The same things are happening in the church I attend. The pastor and church staff is certainly moving to the new age with rock bands and praise music. Casual is the word and the minister doesn’t even wear a tie most of the time. The recent youth director looks like he is dressed for yard work. Our church was lucky enough for an arsonist to burn down the sanctuary so that the congregation can now move to a newer part of town where the most recent community expansion is occurring. Some of us who appreciate quiet, reverence, hymnals, organs, choir robes and order in the service are being driven away. Some of us old folks even like to hear a good sermon, but that’s now an unimportant part of the service and it is usually about tithing. I think tithing is the new way to salvation. As I have said before, the porch is one of the most reverent places I know and where I am removed from all these distractions.

So, it’s goodbye to Robert Schuller, Billy Graham and that era of evangelism. Perhaps another star will appear on the stage in a cloud of smoke and bright flashing lights as is customary for rock stars.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I have always loved the study of history, especially the history of medicine. I also enjoy the history of the U.S. and approached this subject through learning about the Presidents. The health and causes of death of the Presidents fascinates me. I might have enjoyed teaching history in high school, but could never have done this because you also have to be a coach to have this job. If I had been a coach, my record would have been worse than the current football coach for Temple and that is as bad as it gets.

It’s interesting that all of the US Presidents have had fierce political opponents. You get the impression that they don’t even represent the same country. This dates all the way back to Washington. From the earliest time there were those who supported a strong central federal government and their opponents who were for states rights and for little government intervention in our lives. This was a major cause of the Civil War. This was also an issue that made Adams and Jefferson bitter political enemies, yet in the end they were the best of friends through their correspondence.

Political bickering continues to this day and it’s like the Democrat and Republicans Parties aren’t even from the same country. They don’t agree on anything. All this is very distasteful to me. I hate the time for elections when candidates flood the airways with negative ads. All the ads are a character assassination of the opponent and they hardly ever say what the candidate stands for. It’s enough to make you want to throw up.

I am a political independent and agree with many of the issues from both sides but disagree with most. There is just nobody who represents my point of view. I don’t care for the Tea Party or any of the offbeat groups. So, I have just about decided not to vote at all this year. I want much of the bunch in Washington to be purged, but they will only be replaced by those who are equally bad.

I guess the reason I have come to admire Eisenhower so much is that he was apolitical even though he was a Republican. He was really neither Republican or Democrat. A few other Presidents have had the courage to stand on their own but this has usually been on isolated issues.

As I sit on the porch with the TV tuned to the Rangers and Yankees, I will just mute the political ads to avoid getting sick. If I do decide to vote, I will just take my list of write in candidates. The problem is that I can’t even think of anybody to write in.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Halloween is one of my favorite times of the year. It all started back when my spouse and I were courting. A Halloween party was one of our first dates. After our kids came long we enjoyed trick or treat and dressing them in costumes. We have had several spectacular spook houses. We always decorate for the occasion, carve pumpkins and savor the day on October 31.

To get in the mood for Halloween, I like to tell spooky stories, see horror movies and read scary tales. I always dust off Edgar Allan Poe and read some of his stuff and read the grandkids stories like the “Legend of Sleep Hollow.” It’s amazing how our fright threshold has changed through the years. What used to be frightening is now almost boring. This week I downloaded the original Frankenstein movie to show to a couple of the grandkids and get them in the Halloween mood. They almost fell asleep during the movie and when I asked them to rank it on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the scariest, they ranked it a two. What will it take to frighten kids 20 years from now? They will have to watch an actual ax murder.

This weekend we watched over some of the grandkids including an exchange student from Germany. I had worked for a couple of days putting together a great slide show on the State of Texas that illustrated a lot of neat stuff about the state. I set the whole thing to some terrific music including Willie Nelson singing “Beautiful, Beautiful Texas.” They didn’t have time to watch my production, but opted to go to a party where it turns out they saw “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” I guess it was appropriate since it is near Halloween, but the German student may now have the impression that we are a bunch of murderers who worship the macabre. I was surprised to hear from the student that they don’t celebrate Halloween in Germany. That’s where I thought Frankenstein, Dracula and the Wolfman all started.

Anyway, everything seems to be getting in shape for Halloween. Shadows elongate in late afternoon, twilight lingers, the evenings are crisp and chilly and the moon and stars seem brighter in the night sky. A wandering cloud that temporarily obscures the moon conjures up the image of a ghost. All these are signs of Halloween and I’m ready on the porch. They are even putting up Christmas decorations in some of the stores, since this season starts at the stroke of midnight on October 31st. We now completely bypass Thanksgiving. That’s probably okay because there is not a lot to be thankful for these days.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

They had a big celebration in North Korea this week to announce that Jim Jong Il’s youngest son, Kim Jong Un, is the successor to his father as leader of this isolated country that is part of the axis of evil. Un’s two older brothers were passed over for the job. The oldest brother, Kim Jong Nam. is a playboy who fell into disfavor when he was trying to sneak out of the country on a fake passport to go to Japan and see Disneyland. Nam is also a gambler who spends much time in casinos in China and doesn’t care about the job. The middle brother is apparently too girlish for the job. So, we are left with Kim Jong Un who is said to be a lot like his father.

Kim Jong Un is rumored to be a basketball fan. He is supposed to speak English which should help him as he watches the games. The main thing is that he looks like his father. He has the same winning smile as his father. He also has the same round chubby face and the ridiculous haircut. What I want to know is, who is their barber?

Un has also demonstrated a great ability to stand on the balcony and watch the troops goose step and look stern. He claps his hands like his father and has all the gestures that make him fit for the job. I’m sure he will carry on with harassing South Korea, building the atomic bomb and giving the US a hard time.

We hear a lot of bad things about our leaders. Everyone was bashing George Bush and now it's Barack Obama. At least we have the opportunity to bash our leaders. When I look at Kim Jong Il and UN of North Korea, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, and Osama bin Laden of the Al-Quaeda terrorist group, I’m proud to be an American. Bush was laughed at by the media when he called that bunch the axis of evil. He was right. They sure aren’t a group of angels and there is no way to deal with them except from a position of strength.

Kim Jong Nam is the smartest one of the group. He wants to go to Disneyland and have a good time. I think the whole bunch would benefit from a trip to Disneyland. They might even benefit from the joy of sitting on the porch with me some afternoon. Perhaps I could convince them that our common enemy is the deer.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

We recently took a driving trip through Middle America and toured the Lincoln Museum in Springfield, Illinois and the Eisenhower Library in Abilene Kansas. We spent an enjoyable day visiting the boyhood home of, my hero, Mark Twain. We also spent several days in Wisconsin and visited Taliesin, the home of Frank Lloyd Wright. I was amazed at how rural Southwest Wisconsin appears. The country is filled with dairy farms and acres and acres of corn. We visited apple orchards and cheese factories and consumed too much food.

We always take far too many clothes. We were prepared for an expedition to the North Pole but instead had unseasonably warm weather. I guess global warming is a fact. Since we were staying in a facility that had a kitchen we had enough food supplies for the entire winter. A challenging feat was to pack and unpack the car each day along the way. There wasn’t enough space left in the car for even an additional roadmap.

We really didn’t need a roadmap for the trip because we were completely dependent on the GPS. This device lead us on some pretty exciting routes. As we maneuvered through Des Moines, Iowa we were directed through an incredibly circuitous route to our motel. It was like Tom Sawyer’s elaborate scheme to free Jim in the last part of Huckleberry Finn. A much more direct and simpler route was possible but the GPS took us through much of Des Moines. Still, the GPS saved us over and over on the rural roads of Southwest Wisconsin and around the large cities.

Our trip was an adventure in exploring history and the countryside. We also explored our motel rooms for bedbugs. The media has been filled with stories about bedbugs taking over New York and how these resistant little pests can be spread from place to place through our clothing. We inspected everything but found none of the creatures. At least, I hope we didn’t find any. On one occasion my spouse thought she had spotted on under the sheets but it turned out to be a tiny piece of thread. The media can sure make you paranoid.

Well. I’m back on the porch filled with a greater appreciation for a couple of our Presidents, Mark Twain, Frank Lloyd Wright and the state of Wisconsin. Sure hope I didn’t bring any bed bugs to Texas.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Every generation seems to have a new vocabulary or a new set of frequently used words. Some of the words now used with text messaging are like a foreign language. One of the most commonly used words today is awesome. I have recently read a number of the letters between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson as well as much of Abraham Lincoln’s correspondence. None of these writings use the word awesome. Even Shakespeare, who used every word in the English language, didn’t use awesome. I never used the word until recent years, but now almost every sentence uttered by a teenager contains this word as well as “you know.”

I have recently gained an appreciation for the word awesome. We have just visited Hannibal, Missouri, which is the home of Mark Twain. We also visited the Lincoln Museum, Library, home and tomb in Springfield, Illinois The only word to describe the Lincoln Museum is awesome. To feel the presence of Mark Twain in Hannibal and experience the memory of Lincoln at his home and tomb is truly awesome/. We visited Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin that is the home of the great architect Frank Lloyd Wright. To witness his genius through his architecture is awesome.

So, the teenagers are right. Awesome is a great word. Now I’m going to try and learn some of the language of text messaging. I may be surprised to learn a new power word in this mumbo-jumbo.

I have often thought of the best word to describe the porch. I have finally found it with awesome. Awesome even describes the depth of my dislike for the deer in my backyard.