Thursday, March 17, 2016

“The devil in the details”

    One of the most controversial things a movie producer can do is make a movie about a Biblical character. There is no way on earth you’re going to get the story right. That’s because Biblical stories, for the most part, suffer from a dearth of details.

    In the Old Testament, the prophets wrote down “what” happened, but seldom shed light on “how” it happened. When I was a kid in Sunday school, most of my questions were answered with “If God wanted you to know, He would’ve told you.”

    I’ve seen the first episode of “Prophets and Kings”, and, though not a lot happened in the first hour, there was a bunch of made up stuff. And, there will be a lot more fabrications in the subsequent episodes, but I’ll still watch.

    One Bible Story that Hollywood hasn’t done much with is the story of Adam… before Eve showed up and the focus became nakedness. There is an account of Adam in Genesis that just begs for explanation. Let me read it. Genesis 2:19. “Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.”

    If you’re a moviemaker, how do you portray something like that? With no more than we’re told, you’d pretty much have to turn it into a comedy. Personally, I would choose not to make up dialog for God. Even though I see Him as having the best sense of humor there is, while others may read it as blaspheme and decide to carpet bomb my mangy rear.

    No, I’d have God send an angel over to Adam to checkout his progress on animal-naming. The angel walks up to Adam and asks him how it’s going. Adam tells him that he’s named a few of the animals but keeps forgetting what he named ‘em. He asks if he should be writing stuff down.

The angel asks Adam how he would choose to write the names down. “I don’t mean to insult your intelligence,” the angel says, “But what are you going to write with and what are you going to write it on? More to the point, you don’t know even know what language you’re speaking. And you wanna write stuff down? Criminee, Man! Get your head in the game!”

The angel suggests Adam just make up ways to remember the names. “For example, take that four-legged creature over there that’s always chewing. It’s got that four-handled bag attached to its underside and occasionally makes an unusual noise. Come up with a name that might convey one or two of these features. -- Cow? Where did that come from? You’re just pulling stuff out of the air. No wonder you can’t remember names.”

The angel suggests Adam call the animal a “Moo” since that was the sound it was making. Adam agrees to a compromise, and calls the animal a “Moo Cow.” The angel then points to a huge creature with four legs, with huge ears, a large nose and two huge, white horns coming out on each side of it’s nose. The angel says, “Okay, what are you going to call this giant creature with the big ears, long nose and the big white horns?”

Adam tells the angel that he’s already named the creature and settled on the name “Elephant.” The angel slaps his forehead, nearly dislodging his halo. “For the life of me, I don’t know where you come up with this stuff. I mean, look how big it is. You could call it Big ‘un. Or Jumbo, Flat Ears, Trumpet Nose… But Elephant? – Give me a second to reread my instructions.”

The angel pulls a tablet out and reads, “’And whatever Adam called each living creature that was its name.’ – All right. Elephant it is. In a few centuries there will be a little something called The Tower of Babel and at that time all these names will probably be changed.”

Adam says, “I’m only catching onto a fraction of what comes out of your face opening. To tell the truth, I don’t know why I have to name these critters. I’m the only one here, and I don’t give two hoots what their names are.

The angel says, “Wait a minute. You mean to tell me that God hasn’t told you about other humans showing up?  Whoa.” The angel goes on to tell Adam that God was making these creatures out of dirt, so that Adam might find a “help mate” for himself. But, that wasn’t going to happen, so God was going to make Adam a partner by removing one Adam’s ribs.

Adam goes berserk. He says, “Wait a minute! God made me out of dirt and he made all of these creatures out of dirt, but he’s going to make me a friend by taking a rib? What’s a rib? And, do I have any spares? What other surprises do you have for me?” 

The angel calms Adam down and assures him that he’s going to like his friend. “And, God’s going to let you name your friend. Any ideas? --  Phyllis? – That’s not going to fly. Let’s skip that part and get back to the animal names…”

See what I mean? The only way to write a script that doesn’t stray from the text would be to use a God given gift called “imagination.” Something tells me that God does not fear man’s imagination. . – Of course, I would’ve drawn the line at the rock people that showed up in the movie “Noah.” -- I’m just saying.


“Too old to scold”

Just 'cause I liked it

    THE PORCH – The pollen is back and there’s not a thing we can do about it, so just dust off a place to sit and join the group. Don’t look at me, I was hoping we’d be on the roof, too, but Kay threatened to tell the doctor.

    This is the last time I’m bringing up the biceps injury, okay? About three weeks ago the doc went inside my arm, found my torn tendon and then refastened it somewhere around my elbow. Hours later, I left the hospital with some ace bandages wrapped around a brace and a bunch of paperwork.

    Somewhere in the paperwork was a sheet or four that explained the do’s and don’ts of injured arm usage. Instruction reading is not my strong point. I assumed the “arm rules” were made up just to cover actions that are beyond a reasonable doubt. I’m fairly sure that each box of paperclips has a warning label that reads “Do not swallow, or pull the wire apart and stick the sharp part in your eye.”

    During my post-op visit to the doctor, I walked in not wearing my brace or sling. You’d think I was shirtless with tassels. That guy let me have it. – “Didn’t I tell you to keep your arm stationary, to wear the brace, keep gauze on the wounds? If you trip or grab something in a reflex motion this thing could tear again.” He obviously got no pleasure in the thought of putting me or himself through that again. He wasn’t yelling, but I’m pretty sure he would’ve sent me to the principal’s office had they had one.

Then to make a point, he told me some of the intricacies of the operation. He had to reach into one of the two incisions with his hand, and venture up my muscle to locate the torn tendon… all without nicking an artery or nerve or my spleen; and then tug the torn tendon back to the elbow where it belonged, I was this close to throwing up during the telling. I felt a bond with the man after that. How could I not?

    During most of the scolding I kept nudging my head toward Kay. Kay is the one responsible for things that come with instructions. She should’ve looked after me better. I coulda been a contender… instead of what I am, a 66 year old man getting scolded by his doctor. (See: On the Waterfront starring Marlon Brando.)

    So, as you can see, my arm is neatly packaged and all is right with the world. There is something to be said about having to favor my right arm. There’s nothing really big I can do. My injury was caused while helping a guy with a couch. That’s never happening again. I can’t move people anymore. Forever. I thought I made that point clear when I sold my pickup. And, I can’t mow the lawn, reach for my handkerchief, give directions, shake hands, open a jar, or play the drums on the tabletop while reading the paper. I can’t even fold the paper right. – “Kay, I’m ready for page 3.” 

Worst of all, I had to learn to operate the remote with my left hand. I can hold it with my right hand, but I can’t point it. I could be opening the neighbor’s garage door for all I know. Oh, and all my coffee cups have the handles on the wrong side. – Okay, that was just stupid.

Fortunately, I’ll likely be well enough to handle all the important stuff that’s coming up this month. Daylight Savings Time starts next Sunday. I always hate springing forward… even more so before I got retired. I always had to get up an hour earlier to go to school. The first morning of Daylight ST made first period class pretty much uneventful. – “Does anyone remember what I was talking about? Anybody?”

I don’t worry about that anymore, but I do have to change all the clocks in the house. We haven’t invested in any of the clocks that have grasped the concept of springing forward and falling back. I have to reset everything. It’s in our household bylaws. – “Mark resets the clocks, gets the cars inspected and oil changed.” -- There are no tradeoffs on these jobs. It’s just one of those battles I choose not to fight.

This year Spring hits the first Sunday after Daylight Savings Time. It’s weird because it falls on the 20th. It usually falls on the 21st. I believe once it fell on September 3rd, but that was in North Korea. (Ba dum dum) I’m thinking Leap Year caused Spring to go a day earlier this year. Seasons don’t understand what’s going on, they just do what they do.

The last Sunday in March is Easter. If I’m not careful I’ll end up involved in the giant Easter Egg grab. Plastic eggs are tossed all over a field, and kids step on ‘em or trip over ‘em on their way to the eggs that are further ahead. And, these are the people who are going to be in charge of the government one of these days.

By April, my bowling coach will probably-- What? Oh, yes, we’re out of time. You guys go ahead, I’m going to wait here for Kay to come out and check on me. She’s become rather vigilant since the doctor got after me. Apparently, we’re never too old to scold. Hey, the man almost made me cry. – Next time.


Friday, March 4, 2016


On Being a prisoner to the most popular diet today

Heeeeere's breakfast!

Good morning readers.  This is Kay instead of Mark.  He can’t type this week.  He can’t even hold a pencil, poor thing.  As he mentioned in last week’s article, he tore the tendon in his right biceps helping unload a couch.  The surgery was successful in repairing three tears, but his arm is out of commission.  Right now he’s in the recliner dictating his article to me.  Thanks for your prayers.

    Mark wants to talk about the diet we’re on, and I’ve already missed some of his intro.  I’d better start listening as of now.  Here goes:

Seventy-two percent of all Americans are either searching for the perfect diet, are currently on the perfect diet or they’re ditching the perfect diet, according to Avery’s  averages – a name I just pulled out of the air.  (Kay:  He hates research.)

After years of research, Kay and I have found the perfect diet.  We considered the Atkins Diet, the Caveman Diet, and the French Woman Diet.  I was against the Atkins because I did it for two days once and I couldn’t hack it.  I had to talk Kay out of the French Woman’s Diet because she thought we would actually move to France.  And although I didn’t research the Caveman (Paleo) Diet, I assumed we would be eating stuff like raw pterodactyl tongue and triceratops kidneys.   (Kay:  There’s actually no such thing as a perfect diet just like there’s no such thing a the perfect handbag).

What we finally settled on is the Envelope Diet.  We can eat anything that can be turned into powder and stuck in a small envelope.  And get this, we even get to add water. 

This is one of the most popular high protein diets, because you can lose a lot of weight fast (operative word being “can”).  One thing that sold me on it is the science behind it.  Do you have any idea what your pancreas does?  Neither do I, but it’s pretty important…your spleen not so much.   The Envelope Diet cleans out your pancreas and liver of all the stored sugars so your body will start eating your fat.

The diet is monitored weekly by a smart diet person.  Before you get started you have to take off your shoes and socks and stand on a special scale that not only measures your weight, but your percentage of body fat, water, bone mass and preference to TV viewing.  (Kay: Right now he’s into Beowolf)

The three major incentives on this diet are: not disappointing the weigh-in lady by gaining weight; the encouragement from friends who have been on the diet; and the fact that the cost is equivalent to a monthly car payment. We’ve sunk so much money into this diet, there’s no way I can quit now.  I liken it to a land war in Asia.  (Kay – How much is your health worth!)

Each week we both get to select a box of seven breakfast envelopes, a box of lunch envelopes and a box of snack envelopes.  My favorite breakfast is the single pancake that is apparently made out of dust and pancake aroma.  We bought a small three dollar bottle of syrup that has no calories, fat, carbs or nutrition, but has a hint of syrup flavor with the thickness of water.

There are several kinds of flavored powdered drink mixes and some of them are good.  Some are quite good.  For lunch, we’ve chosen soup envelopes.  I recommend you lay off the tomato-basil.  The others are not too bad, just really thin.  Along with the envelope lunch, you have to eat two cups of select vegetables. You can’t select a baked potato or carrots or corn.  Not sure about rutabagas.  (Kay: The oven-roasted okra is terrific!)

For supper, you’re on your own.  The only thing that’s standing between you and a feast are the restrictions, one of which is nothing can be fried, cooked in butter, dipped in butter or even smell like butter.  The good thing is you can have eight ounces of lean meat.  This rules out ribs, fried chicken, and pork chops.  But you can have a saltless steak or a piece of chicken without skin or unmercurical fish.  Add two more cups of those select vegetables and there’s your meal.  (Kay:  We’re having a burger in a bowl tonight – so good even without the bun.)

We also get an evening snack.  And get this, it’s NOT optional.  If you don’t eat your snack, the pancreatic train stops.  At least that’s the way I look at it.  Tonight I’m having vanilla pudding.  Kay is having roasted BBQ flavored soy nuts. They’re not bad – seriously.  (Kay:  The soy nuts help me finish drinking the 64 ounces of water required every day)

We’ve been on the diet for three weeks.  My biggest cravings have been fried chicken, BBQ pork ribs, and pumpkin pie with cheesecake on the bottom.  Oh yeah, and movie pop corn.  (Kay:  Where’s my chocolate?)

Now, about the weight loss:  At the two week mark, we both lost about ten pounds.  I was so hoping for a pound a day.  I’m sure it’s the age factor again.  We can always fall back on the…

(Kay:  I’m sure Mark has an idea for a cute ending. He’ll probably try to tie everything back to the Caveman Diet.  Sounds like something he would do - but let me say that for a diet to be successful it sure helps to drag your spouse along with you. --  He’s sound asleep – we’re out of here!)


certain man

"What would you change?”
Kay and me in the early days 

    I don’t know if it can be traced to the medication I was on following the surgery to my massive biceps, or if it’s the result of the weird protein diet I’m on, but something has been doing a number on my brain.

    My condition became apparent after supper Tuesday evening. I had just finished my one-cup of rutabaga fries. Kay and I can’t eat anything made out of potato, but we can eat rutabagas and other bad stuff. Anyway, I was staring at the one fry that had fallen from my plate onto the TV tray.

    I wasn’t pondering the notion of eating it. There was no way I was going to stick one more of those vile things in my mouth. I was just studying it. After a few seconds I uttered these very words: “Kay, what if the person who invented the french fry had first grabbed a rutabaga instead of a potato?”

    Kay’s answer? “I never thought of that.” -- Never, indeed. Nobody with a normal mind has ever thought about that. I even had a vision of me talking to the voice in the speaker box. “Of course, I don’t want fries with that! French fries are rutabagas!”

Yes, my mind was on Level 7 of the Deep Chart. My mind carried me to the moon. What if while exiting the Landing Module, Armstrong had tripped on the last rung? What might the first word spoken from the surface of the moon be? What if President Lincoln had gotten a migraine shortly before the play?

The rest of my evening was spent toying with cases of “What if?” At one point it hit me. -- What if there had been no “certain man.” – Beg your pardon? Oh, there is a person known only as “a certain man” whose one action set in motion a series of historic events that has placed mankind in the position it’s in today. – Wow! What a powerful sentence. I can’t wait to read what’s next.

To find the man, you have to go Genesis 37: 15. I’ll save you the trip. “Now a certain man found (Joseph) wandering in a field.” It seems a young Joseph was sent by his father, Jacob, to find his brothers who were following a bunch of sheep. Joseph was apparently way off course. The “certain man” who found him said, “They have departed from here. For I heard them say ‘Let us go to Dotham.’”

Long story short, Joseph finds his brothers in Dotham; his brothers sell him to a caravan headed for Egypt; Over a period of about 15 years, Joseph goes from slave, to prisoner to the second most powerful man in Egypt, who saves possibly a million or more people in the Middle East during a seven year famine.

Joseph’s brothers and their families end up coming to Egypt, where their descendants live for 400 years until Moses comes to lead ‘em out. Their eventual home became the land west of the Jordan River, land that is now occupied by Israel and Palestinian controlled Gaza and the West Bank. A land that is considered the birthplace of three religions -- Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

If you take the second most powerful man in Egypt out of this equation, the sequence of events would’ve been tremendously altered. As a Christian, I believe God oversaw the entire sequence, and that He could’ve achieved his purpose one of many ways. The thing is, He chose “a certain man” to keep things in motion.

The thought of the “certain man” story got me to thinking about the “certain” people and events in my life. I’ve mentioned it more than once how the Hayter family moved from Oklahoma to Texas two years before I was born. We left Oklahoma because Daddy lost a coin toss, and with that his half ownership in a company, “Three Ninety Well Servicing.”

    I’ve also told you the story about how something I wrote on an index card resulted in me deciding to get a degree in Forestry; and how years later a young preacher named Earl gave me the idea to become a teacher; and how another friend named Barbara, helped me get my first teaching job, which resulted in Kay and me moving to Conroe from Huntsville. And, in Conroe, I found another friend, Virginia Pliler, who encouraged me to write an article for the Courier. 

    These are just some of the “certain ones” who nudged and pulled me through life. By the way, practically every one of these events would not have happened had it not been for a “certain lady” from the Texas Employment Commission who spent a good deal of time informing me and recommending to me several job possibilities. Sitting beside her desk in that crowded and loud room, that lady was much more helpful to me than my college placement center. I expected her to just hand me a form to fill out for a part time job, but that woman acted as if my life was important to her. Heaven knows her life was important to me.

It’s apparent to me that where we are and who we are is determined by the sum total of all the people we’ve come across in life. We’ve each been recipients of negative influence and positive, and we’ve each exerted both negative and positive influence on others. Even in doing nothing, our influence is felt. All of these happenings have made each of us different from one another. We each have become as “a certain man.”

    Several times in my life, I’ve been asked what I would change in my life if I could turn back time. (Cher even asked.) I always managed to think of several things. At the moment, I would be afraid to change things. I am certainly not who I intended to be. But, when I see the example of “a certain man” I truly think I’m who I’m meant to be.

All of this makes me feel so blessed for the people I’ve met and the things I’ve witnessed while arriving at this moment. --  If you ask me, it was a combination of the diet and the pain medication that led to all this. – Next time.