Friday, October 20, 2017

Baseball's New York City Genetics

A friend and I were discussing the baseball playoffs this morning.  I was lamenting the fact that I may have to root for the Yankees if they make the World Series.  The Dodgers have already claimed one dugout for the Series, and the Yankees lead Houston 3-2 in the AL Series. 

A Yankees-Dodgers WS has plenty of historical connection with their past days in New York City.  The Giants, Dodgers, and Yankees competed for fans, radio waves, and the back page of newspapers from the 1920s through the mid-1950s.  The Yankees were the dominant team, winning plenty of championships.  The Giants had their own small streaks, whereas the Dodgers struggled for winning records. The World Series was solely a New York City event in many an October The Dodgers and Yankees met seven times in the World Series as New Yorkers; the Yankees and the Giants played in six New York World Series.  The west-coast Dodgers beat the Yankees in 1981 in their only contest since. 

The Yankees still need one more win in Houston to advance to the other World Series dugout.  I do not relish the thought of actually rooting for the pinstripes, but my Giants genetic code will not allow me to cheer for the corporate Dodgers from down the California freeway. 

My friend says that he just won't invest much time in a Yankees-Dodger matchup. He shares my feelings about the Dodgers. If he cheered for the Yankees, he would have to revoke his Red Sox Nation membership card.  The NFL will beckon on those nights.  He compared it to the presidential election last year.  He hated Hillary, but couldn't vote for Trump.  So he just didn't vote. 

My brain double-clutched on that statement.  Half the country doesn't vote, and he joined the un-invested masses that left us with this mess. 

But that's a subject for another column. 

Go Astros.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Las Vegas

Gun violence at a music festival in Las Vegas. Over 50 dead, nearly 500 wounded.  A 64-year-old white man fires semi-automatic weapons from a room on the 32d floor of an adjacent casino hotel.  Over 22,000 country music fans, partially penned in by fencing, become a mass target.

The scene resembles much of the violence on television each night, and in movies at every cineplex across the country.  Stories that can seem easy to replicate, from the scenes to the props.

Society reflects what we see in the media, and the media reflects it right back to us.

This is not an all-encompassing explanation.  But if we begin any cause-and-effect list, it must be included.

Hopes and prayers abide.  For now.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Ecclesiastes and power

Ran across the following couplets while reading Ecclesiastes:

The quiet words of the wise are more to
       be heeded
than the shouting of a ruler among fools.
Wisdom is better than weapons of war,
but one bungler destroys much good.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Where Blessings Come From

A Christian writer recently posted an article in an online journal (To Save a Life) averring that we Christians should stop using the phrase "I have been blessed" in relationship to our vocation or job.  For example, 'my company has been blessed, our business was up 50 percent this year'.  His argument is that God does not view our accumulation of wealth as the primary goal of our lives.  Financial blessings are not the direct consequence of the Lord's grace.

This came to mind when I read the opening chapters in the Book of Job.  Satan and God are having a conversation about Job, who has led a very successful life.

Satan says, "Does Job fear God for nothing?  Have you not put a fence around him and his house and all that he has, on every side?  You have blessed the work of his hands and his possessions bave increased in the lands. But stretch out your hand now and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face."

The Lord then gives Satan permission.  "Very well, all that he has is in your power; only do not stretch out your hand against him!"

So Satan has Job's cattle and donkeys stolen, burns the sheep and servants, and kills all his children in a massive windstorm that collapses the house in which they are feasting.

Job's reaction:  he tore his robe, shaved his head, and fell on his knees in worship.  "Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?"  In a sense, his faith in God is so foundational, that all acts could be considered God's acts and are a blessing.

All of these thoughts come together solely because I read these two pieces within the same 48 hours, and it felt rather coincidental.  I have never read -- or heard of -- the Save a Live publication.  And to be honest, today was the first time I have ever read Job.  I am not a trained theologian.  So I am not sanguine or comfortable with any conclusion.

But the two readings raise plenty of issues around God's hand in daily living -- and the basic debate around free will vs. determinism.

Book of Job, Chapter 1

Friday, January 06, 2017

Picture Gallery

My Facebook newsfeed contains a great number of posts on Donald Trump.  A high percentage of my friends share the same opinion about our incoming President.  As a result, my Facebook feed is the inevitable echo chamber – a place where the same voices are heard, the same opinions are expressed, the same articles and posts are shared.

This is not the public square, where diverse opinions and feelings are shared should be shared.  As with so many social media sites where we each pick and choose our own crowd, each Facebook site tends to be the electronic version of a selective tribe, only talking to each other.

There has already been plenty written about this phenomenon and the social/political impact of Facebook and similar digital sharing sites.  “Echo chamber” even made the annual Lake Superior State University list of banished words for 2017.

I recently noted another consequence of all this sharing:  my Facebook newsfeed is a continuous stream of Donald Trump pictures.

Every shared article leads off with Trump’s picture, so it is immediately used as the lead picture of a post.  Each flick of my finger on my phone or tablet results in a moving montage of the man’s face.  Flick fast enough, and I have a movie short. Rather disconcerting.

I’m sure the data mavens at Facebook have the numbers that demonstrate the most prevalent pictures of people that appear in any 24-hour period.

Imagine the resulting movie shorts if all my friends were focused on Darth Vader for a day? or Brad Pitt? or Queen Elizabeth? or Vladimir Putin? or Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” painting?  or a cat?

Whoops.  Stale meme.  Way too many cats on Facebook already.