Nehemiah's Wall


I have a morning routine. After a brief and largely ceremonial grooming ritual, I stagger in to my home office, sit down, and wake up the computer. Gently. Then two steps follow:

1. Check DrudgeReport to see if a nuclear device has been detonated in a major U.S. city overnight. If answer is, “No,” proceed to step 2.

2. Check Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans to see if my name has been added to the list overnight. If answer is, “No,” commence working.

This morning Drudge linked to a story about an archaeological find in Jerusalem.

Pottery shards found around an ancient wall that was discovered a while back suggests it is the construction project described in the book of Nehemiah. Of course, highly educated nincompoops have been suggesting for decades the the account in Nehemiah was fiction. But that has been the pattern with every biblical archaeological find in the last 100 years. First the “higher criticism” geniuses point to the utter lack of archaeological evidence to support a name or place in the Bible. In Phase II, some archaeological evidence appears to validate the Bible’s account but the experts are “dubious.” (That is the phase Nehemiah’s wall just entered.) Finally, incontrovertible proof emerges confirming the Bible’s accuracy and the experts change the subject.

Sitting Keeps You Fat

This explains oh, so very much.

In most cases, exercise alone, according to a team of scientists at the University of Missouri, isn’t enough to take off those added pounds. The problem, they say, is that all the stuff we’ve heard the last few years about weight control left one key factor out of the equation. When we sit, the researchers found, the enzymes that are responsible for burning fat just shut down.

Our Winter Wonderland

Well, we actually had a couple of days and nights last week that were cold enough to rationalize a fire in the fireplace. But now highs have jumped back up into the 60s with more and some 70s forecast right through the first week of December. If I can ever dig out of work hole I’ve been in for the last few months, there is some December golf in my future.

That’s one of the great things about living in North Texas. December and January almost always give you some golf days. Which makes up for the days in July and August where you only play if you can get a 6am tee time because a mid-day tee time demands the skills of Survivor Man and the foolhardiness of a Dancing with the Stars contestant.

Back in my Minnesota years, golf ended in mid-to-late September and usually didn’t return until early May. But in that five-month window, there were some beautiful courses to play and some beautiful weather in which to play them, IF you could get a tee time. Demand was high. Courses that looked like this…


Post-Thanksgiving Blather

Having Thanksgiving behind us means we’ve all jumped on the steep, Crisco-slathered slide to Christmas and the New Year. Better hold on to your tuque, eh.

The Blather clan made a quick 36-hour run to Oklahoma City for feasting and football. The venue was Mrs Blather’s mom’s and stepdad’s. The gratitude was running particularly high this year because last Christmas Pa-pa, as the girls call him, was in Baptist Hospital’s ICU and having a very, very hard time of it.

We spent the days right around Christmas taking turns hanging out in the ICU waiting room. Much less grim-itude for this holiday. He still has some battles to fight and win but it was good to see him smile and joke.

On the way out of town as we headed homeward Friday, I made the requisite stop at a Starbucks for a caffeine infusion. A few of my passengers wanted something as well, so I took orders and headed inside.

Note: What I tend to order at Starbuck’s always comes in at under $2. What each of my passengers tends to order, on the other hand, invariably obliterates all but a few tiny fragments of a $5 bill. Which is why I usually try to go there alone, but sometimes that’s just not possible.

With some embarrassment, I placed my complex, multi-faceted, frothy-frappy, soy-enchanted order with the guy behind the register and, before he could total it up, the “barista” working the espresso machine shouted out “18.27!” The register guy punched a few more buttons, hit “Total” and, lo and behold, the damage was $18.27. He laughed, shook his head, and said, “Amazing. He calls it every time.”

I feigned mild puzzlement and said, “So. . .your barista’s an idiot savant?”

He thought that was hilarious. Then he felt compelled to point out that in addition to his mad math skillz, the guy had recently won the Oklahoma state barista competition. Upon my return to the car, I let my passengers know their drinks had been made by the very best in Oklahoma. . . who also happened to be a high-functioning Rainman.

The consensus was that they tasted a little better than usual. The placebo effect in action, I suspect. But who am I to douse our first twinkles of holiday magic with the hose of reality?

I may be a grumbly Scrooge about coffee drinks. But I’m no Grinch.

Some Thoughts on Gratitude


Comedienne/actress Brett Butler was once asked why she had never had children. Her reply was: “I never want to be the object of that much ingratitude.”

Sure, kids can certainly operate in a high level of entitlement. (I know, I was one of those kids.) But you want ingratitude? Imagine what it is like for God.

God has a planet full of kids like me who go ridiculously long stretches of time without acknowledging all He has done.

The fact is, we all splash around daily in a heaven-sent shower of blessings, graces and mercies–with every single drop undeserved. Most of us have become so accustomed to the rain we’re oblivious to it. Instead, we’re frequently like the toddler who flies into a rage when a parent forcibly pulls him out of traffic or cries when the open bottle of Drano is taken away.

Perhaps that is why “thanksgiving” is such a prominent and potent word in Scripture. In the 100th Psalm we see that it is the key to the gates of God’s throne room. And in the New Testament we are repeatedly exhorted to mix thanksgiving with our prayers.

Could it be that gratitude is so spiritually powerful precisely because it is so exceedingly rare?

There’s a little exercise I have learned to do whenever I catch myself slipping into that bratty sense of entitlement and ingratitude. Would you like to learn it?

Take two fingers of your right hand and press the tips into the side of your neck. Find your your pulse. Once you’ve found it take note of one heartbeat and as you do, realize that it was a gift from God. Then note the next beat and note the same thing. And again. And again.

Now take a deep breath, feeling the life-giving air fill your lungs. Note that that breath was a gift of God. And the next. And the next.

It’s good to be alive.

Of course, I have so much more for which I’m profoundly grateful here on this Thanksgiving Day. A body that is whole and sound. A family that is, too. Useful, meaningful work to do. Friends, dear. Needs, abundantly met. And so much more.

Blessed? Oh, yes. Why look. . .it’s raining.

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Andreessen on the Writer's Strike

Netscape co-founder and internet pioneer Marc Andreessen has blogged some thoughts about the current writer’s strike. An excerpt:

So imagine you’re a major media mogul, a captain of the film and television business, a shaper of global culture, one of the anointed few who can green-light major entertainment projects.

You’re faced with a massive, once-in-a-lifetime shift in mainstream consumer behavior from traditional mass media, including film and television, to new activities that you do not control: the Internet, social networking, user-generated content, mobile services, video games. It’s been snowballing since the mid 90’s, for like 12 years — 12 years of denial and obfuscation — but it’s really rolling fast now.

. . .Is this really the right time to pick a fight with the writers over royalties from DVD and Internet sales, leading to an industry-wide shutdown and massive economic pain for all sides in the world of traditional scripted film and television content?


Read the whole thing if the subject interests you.

One more Bonanza thought. . .

Like celebrity deaths and Stooges, my blog posts on obscure topics seem to be running in threes. So, here’s the final installment of my Bonanza triptych. And as it happens, it’s about the number 3! (weird) 

Several years ago (as in 20-25) I recall reading a book in which the author put forth an interesting theory about television dramas. I can’t remember the book’s title or author, but I have never forgotten his assertion that most successful character-driven stories contain a symbolic family “trinity.” By that, he meant that if you looked, you’d find a “Father” figure, a “Mother” figure, and one or more “Child” figures—even if the cast was all-male, all-female, or all-adult.

In this view, A “Father” character is stern, authoritative, calm and reasoning. A “Mother” character is nurturing, healing and emotive. And a “Child” character is wild, willful and passionate.

Numerous obvious examples were cited. Most programs built around an actual traditional “family” (Leave it Beaver, Father Knows Best, Make Room for Daddy, The Brady Bunch) naturally fit this model.

But the two examples that really stood out in my mind were Star Trek and Bonanza. That’s right. Star Trek. And Bonanza.

With Star Trek, he posited that Spock was the “Father” (logical, detached, knowledgeable); Dr. McCoy “Bones” was the “Mother” (healer, emotional); and Captain Kirk filled the “Child” role. I have to tell you, I never watched a rerun of Star Trek the same way again.

I’m sure you’ve already run out ahead of me on Bonanza. The author argued that Ben Cartwright “Pa” was obviously in the “Father” role.  And the “Mother?” That was Hoss. And you have to admit, he could be a tender, sensitive fellow for a big guy. The wild and willful “Child” was obviously “Little Joe.”

Oh yes, I remember one more example. I think he mentioned “Three’s Company” with the brunette (whatever Joyce Dewitt’s character was called) filling the “Father” role, blond “Chrissy” as the “Mother” and playboy “Jack” as the “Child.”

Ever since, I have tended to find myself analyzing successful, long-running series to see if that triangle of role-relationships is discernible.

For example, right now I’m finally getting around to watching the first few seasons of LOST and, with such a large cast, there are actually several Father-Mother-Child triangles present simultaneously within the show. You can actually categorize the entire cast along these lines.

And as in the other shows mentioned, these roles defy gender. For example, Jack is a “Mother,” I think. Kate is a “Father.” Throw in Sawyer as a “Child” and you have one of the triangles.

Food for thought here on a Friday night. What do you think about all this, dear readers? 

"Bonanza Breakup" Illuminated


This Internet thing is amazing. It may really catch on someday.

A few days ago I made some goofy comments, as is my penchant, {say it with the French pronunciation}, about a certain 1960s-era cover of “16” magazine {16-mag-cover.jpg}.

One of the headlines was “Landon vs Parnell: Scoop on the Big Bonanza Breakup,” and I made some smarty-trousers conjecture about “creative differences.”

To my delight, that post quickly generated a comment from someone who clearly has an astonishing depth and breadth of knowledge regarding Pernell Roberts’ departure from Bonanza.

“Debby” wrote:

Thought you might want to know that Pernell Roberts departure from Bonanza had nothing to do with Michael Landon or any of the other actors on the show.

Mr. Roberts’ dissatisfaction with Bonanza had to do with the overall compromises in production quality that come with doing a weekly television series (lower budgets, lack of rehearsal time because of tight filming schedules per episode, etc.), his general boredom with playing the same character over a long period of time, the basic premise of the show (three grown men still living under their father’s roof and constantly checking with their Pa about almost every decision) that had quickly become absurd in his eyes, and the fact that the filming schedule for Bonanza greatly impeded his ability to accept other job offers particularly work in theater productions. Pernell Roberts asked to be released from his contract early and the Bonanza executive producer, David Dortort, and NBC refused his request so he completed his contractual obligations and then left the show.

All of these issues were raised publicly (and obviously discussed in alot greater detail) by Pernell Roberts in a number of magazine articles including a very lengthy article about Bonanza, which included interviews with all four stars of the show and the show’s executive producer, in the December 1, 1964 issue of Look magazine.

Pernell Roberts’ disdain for working on a weekly television series did not change over the years even though he did return to television in Trapper John M.D. years later. He was very blunt about it … he said he did the new series to make sure he had enough money saved for his retirement.

Wow! That’s some serious passion and knowledge about a 42-year-old event. And I geniunely do appreciate having an old headline illuminated. But it makes me wonder of “Debby” is Mr. Roberts’ agent.

All the best to him in any event.