Mom at 80

Traveled with Mrs. Blather and FOU#3 to southeastern Oklahoma last night to spend a few days with Mom at the old homestead. Mom will be 80 on Sunday.

As regular readers know, Dad passed away last October so Mom is in that cycle of sad firsts. First Christmas without Dad. First wedding anniversary. His birthday came and went last month. And now a major milestone birthday for her.

She’s doing well. Still very engaged in her church and community, in spite of some mobility challenges and an obnoxious hand tremor that has tried to rob her of one her favorite ministries–writing encouraging notes and cards.

A few months before Dad passed away–when the cruel ravages of Alzheimer’s had accelerated from a trot to gallop–I wrote a tribute titled, “May I Tell You About My Mother?” You’ll find it here.

For her birthday, we’re working through a fairly extensive “honey do” list of projects she needs done around the house; eating well; and were even treated with a rowdy thunderstorm and extended soaking rain that dropped the temps about 15 degrees in minutes–the first rain we’ve witnessed in a couple of months.

It was wonderful. We thanked God for the rain. But we’re grateful for much more than that this weekend.

Some Thoughts on Mass Murder, Tragic Pop Stars Deaths & Other Cheery Bits


Just finished watching a disturbing, powerful and brilliantly produced documentary on the National Geographic Channel called Hitler’s Hidden Holocaust.

It is heartbreaking profile of the little-known Nazi SS “Einsatzgruppen” (German for “action groups”) In the years before the Nazis hit upon the concept of the death camps, the various Einsatzgruppen moved methodically through German occupied Eastern Europe rounding up each village’s Jews–men, women and children–herding them to a freshly bulldozed ditch on the edge of town, forcing them to strip naked, and then lining them up by fives and tens to be shot.

Hundreds of thousands of unarmed Jewish civilians were murdered in Latvia, the Ukraine, and other Baltic States. If you’re not familiar with the Einsatzgruppen, I strongly recommend viewing the documentary and/or exploring the links on this page.

Watching it was particularly chilling with the mass killing spree in Norway as a backdrop.

One of the most remarkable characteristics of fallen mankind is the capacity to rationalize even the most monstrous acts as being necessary, and even righteous. As a matter fact, even less well known than the Nazi’s Einsatzgruppen is the reality that over the last sixty years numerous Arab-Islamic groups have used the Einsatzgruppen as inspiration and a model for their own approach to their own “Jewish problem.”

It is even more poorly understood that many of the late 20th Century’s Arab nationalists imbibed deeply of Nazi ideology and tactics. It is impossible to truly understand the personality-cult dictatorships of Egypt’s Gamal Nasser, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, or the Assads of Syria  without taking this “National Socialism” influence into account. (See here for example.)

Still, after getting a fresh reminder of of the horrors of Nazi expansion in the ’30s and ’40s, it’s important that we remind ourselves that Nazi Germany comes in third place behind the Soviets and the Communist Chinese among the 20th Century’s murderous ideologies. But for some reason Hollywood, the news industry, academics and documentary makers are less interested in telling those stories.


Which brings us to the the horrific story that came out of Norway this weekend. There is much about the mass murder event that doesn’t make sense. (Of course, when do the actions of a deranged/demonized individual ever make “sense.”) But one thing you can always count on after an event that essentially everyone considers to be reprehensible or heartbreaking–some will not be able to resist the temptation to exploit the event to score political points against their favorite ideological enemy.

We saw it after the shooting of Congressman Gabrielle Giffords and others in Arizona. The attempts to link the acts of a psychotic individual to Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, or the Tea Party represented a new low for discourse in our country.

In the case of the events in Norway. I have already noticed several left-leaning blogs and news sites making prominent mention that the shooter/bomber had recently set up a Facebook page in which he described himself as “Christian” and “conservative.”

Of course, for many in Post-Christian Europe, the descriptor “Christian” is more a cultural designation than an expression of faith. It simply means not Jewish, Muslim or Hindu. Here’s a pledge for you, if we learn in the coming weeks that the shooter attended church every Sunday and studied the Bible, I’ll eat my keyboard. And if he shouted, “Jesus is Lord” before pulling the trigger, I’ll  eat my laptop, too.



The other big news of the weekend was the death of Amy Winehouse. As many of the news reports have pointed out, she now joins the pantheon of flamed out, self-destroying rock stars that includes Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain–each of whom died one way or another from self-inflicted lifestyle wounds. And amazingly, like Winehouse, all of these talented individuals were 27 when the flame flickered out.

I’ll not succumb to the point-making temptation I condemned a couple of paragraphs ago. But when I heard the repeated recitals of Winehouse’s drug and alcohol habits, I couldn’t help but wonder how old she was the first time she ever got truly drunk. I suspect she was quite young. (Binge drinking is even more of a cultural epidemic in Great Britain than here in the States.)

I wondered because I recall seeing the results of a study a few years ago that revealed a remarkable correlation. The younger an individual is when he or she gets plastered for the first time, the more the likely that person is to be an alcoholic as an adult. This seems intuitive, but the study revealed that there are brain wiring and brain chemistry reasons for this.

The wiring of the human brain isn’t fully formed until about age 21 in females and as late as 24 in males. (Yes, this explains a lot.) There is something about extreme inebriation that redirects the development of the immature brain–creating what we commonly call the “addictive personality” and impairing the centers responsible for sound judgement and risk avoidance.

We know about the trajectory of Amy Winehouse’s life because she was famous. But it’s a trajectory shared by millions of other addiction-prone individuals. And every time I hear about some group of 17-year-olds getting “hammered,” I wonder if they realize that the choices they’ve made today have very likely determined how functional the brain is that they will be depending on for the rest of their lives.

Huxley vs. Orwell: Which Vision of the Future Proved Prescient


Back in junior high, I read George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World back to back. These weren’t assigned by a teacher. They were just part of my recreational reading I was doing back then–which involved devouring pretty much every science fiction book I could get my hands on. (Those covers shown above were on the versions I read. Seeing them again was like seeing a long-lost friend.)

By the time I entered high school, I had already read pretty much everything written by Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, and Arthur C. Clark and was moving on to the very “far out” and rather adult Robert Heinlein books like Stranger in the Strange Land, Time Enough for Love, and I Will Fear No Evil.

In the midst of all that, a friend recommended the two great dystopian novels of the 20th Cenetury–and I ate them up. Of course, that was the mid-to-early 1970s. The Cold War still very much defined the way everyone thought about pretty much everything.

Communism was on the march. The “dominoes” were falling in Southeast Asia. Soviet-backed insurgencies were undermining governments in Africa, South America, and Central America. And NATO stood guard lest Soviet tanks start rolling toward Western Europe.

Back then it seemed clear that Orwell’s vision of the future was the horse to bet on. But today that is not nearly so clear.

To be sure, people in North Korea have been living Orwell’s nightmare for six decades. And to somewhat lesser degrees people in Cuba, Syria, Burma, Belarus, Zimbabwe, China and Turkmenistan would recognize their lives on the pages of 1984.

But in the soft, free, decadent, declining West, it is Huxley’s vision that is becoming our reality. The other day I came across a “cartoon” by a talented illustrator named Stuart McMillen that beautifully depicts this truth. In the cartoon below, McMillen illustrates a passage from Neil Postman’s very important book, Amusing Ourselves to Death:


By the way, my good friend Casey Cook turned me on to Postman’s book several years ago and I am in his debt for doing so. I strongly recommend it.

Time Keeps on Slippin', Slippin', Slippin' . . .

Came across this remarkable pair of photographs today over at the BoingBoing blog. A father and son who had been present at the very first space shuttle launch back in April of 1981 made sure they were together for the final one last week.


There is something quite extraordinary about the juxtaposition of these two images. They obviously posed to recreate the original picture. But as I studied it, I felt a wave of melancholy wash over me.

It wasn’t just passing of the space shuttle era with America in serious decline as a world power.

There was something about looking at what the blur of the last 30 years had done to that father . . . something about the fact that 1981 doesn’t feel like all that long ago. Perhaps the fact that my own father recently passed away . . .

Whatever the factors, I found the pictures sad and sweet. Then I thanked God for fathers. And for the reminder of the biblical truth that this life is but vapor.

More on Doofus Dad/Hapless Husband


I’m still looking for an online iteration of that massively offensive AT&T spot in which the all-wise wife and kid attempt to explain the concept of wireless internet to Unfrozen Caveman Father. The child ultimately tells him there’s an “invisible cord” but he remains bewildered.

In the previous post, I suggested that one reason Doofus Dad/Hapless Husband is an ever-present feature of advertising these days is that Madison Avenue believes women want to be flattered with ads depicting them as consistently smarter, wiser, cleaner, and more sophisticated than the men in their lives. While this is certainly a factor, it isn’t the only one. In fact, I think there are three additional reasons:

1. Copywriters are basically lazy. I know because I are one.

2. Most advertising agency creatives are between the ages of 25 and 35. As a result, they grew up in the era of Tim Allen (Home Improvement), Ray Romano (Everybody Loves Raymond) and the countless imitators that those wildly successful shows spawned, including King of Queens, According to Jim, Still Standing, and so on.

It is no accident that all of these sitcoms are built around the Doofus Dad/Hapless Husband paired with the all-knowing, all-wise wife. This generation of advertising creatives has been trained since childhood to think that if you want to create a humorous family situation, this is the only formula available.

3. Finally, there is our current tyranny of political correctness. The rarest of all creatures is the advertising executive with the courage to write a commercial that touches the buttons of one of the perennially aggrieved identity politics groups.

You may have noticed that in all of the those home security alarm company commercials, the creeper trying to break into the house is a white dude. Always.

I understand. I’ve been in those creative meetings where we’re trying to decide who to cast for what part in the television spot. In the current environment, you fall all over yourself to avoid playing to any stereotypes.

Everyone’s worst nightmare is being called a racist or sexist.  So when it comes to cooking up humorous, slice-of-life family scenarios for commercials, the only “safe” play is making men the butt of the joke. There’s no downside. Or is there . . . ?

Google the term “AT&T invisible cord commercial” and most of the hits link to discussion threads filled with comments by men deeply offended by the spot. Some are so angry, they’re considering dropping AT&T.

The last thing the nation needs is yet another aggrieved group launching boycotts. But what the nation desperately does need is honorable men and a culture that esteems them.

Madison Avenue's Go-To Guy – The Clueless Husband/Father

Mrs. Blather and I have a running joke now. Whenever we’re watching television, at least once during every commercial break we’ll look at each other, smile, and say in unison, “And there he is.”

The “he” is the most ubiquitous character in television advertising–the Doofus Dad/Hapless Husband. And he is always accompanied by a wise, patient, all-knowing wife and/or bemused, eye-rolling children. Oh, here he is now . . .

And here he is again . . .

Indeed, once you become sensitized to his presence, you’ll see Doofus Dad/Hapless Husband everywhere! Of course, this is no accident.

Madison avenue knows that most of the consumer buying decisions in this country are made by women. And they appear convinced that the fastest way to the American woman’s heart (and therefore pocketbook) is to assure her she’s intellectually superior to her husband. An equally ubiquitous theme is the sage and savvy child patiently explaining things to Doofus Dad.

One of the most offensive examples of this I’ve ever seen is on display in a fairly new AT&T U-Verse ad. Here the All-Wise Wife and the Tech-Savvy Daughter try to explain the concept of wireless Internet to a husband/father who is apparently dumber than Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer.

{Looking for link to ad}

Okay, I take it back. That AT&T ad is only the third-most-offensive of this crowded genre. Here are two that cast away all subtlty and nuance and just go ahead and calls husbands and fathers “horse’s behinds” and jackasses.

More on this subject in an upcoming post. I have some rant left in me on this.


She Said "Yes"

Twenty-four years ago tonight, she said yes. And oh, what a difference that affirmative response has made in my life.

It is no exaggeration to say that I am a man saved by God’s grace and a woman–the latter being a major manifestation of the former.

She said yes . . . in spite of the fact that my meticulously planned and lavishly produced proposal of marriage was horribly mangled by a confluence of cruel circumstances and incompetence, all — beyond my control. Let me explain.

In the Summer of 1987 I was working for a Washington, D.C.-based public policy organization, doing grassroots field work in Oklahoma. As a side-venture, I had helped to launch a contemporary Christian music radio station in Oklahoma City. I was one half of a daily morning show team.

That was the same year I got to know the most amazing and fun and beautiful woman I had ever known, and had come to hope she would become my wife. By late June, to my amazement, I had grown fairly confident that if I asked, she would say yes. So I bought a ring and started crafting my question-popping scheme.

I decided to use my connections at the radio station to do something novel. I wrote out my proposal–”bringing all my wordsmithing powers to bear on the task of expressing my love, devotion, and earnest desire to spend the rest of my life making her happy. I’m telling you, there was some serious “woo-age” going on there. It was something.

I went into the radio station’s production room and recorded the proposal, using the Love Theme from the movie, LadyHawk as a music bed. I dubbed the proposal to one of the tape cartridges (a “cart” in radio lingo) used for playing commercials. I then went to the radio station’s log book to schedule my proposal to air at precisely 10:31 pm, July 3, 1987. It would be the first spot to play in the bottom-of-the-hour commercial break.

Then all I would have to do is make sure we were in the car with the radio on in a romantic spot at the appointed time. Very simple. What could go wrong?

Almost as an afterthought, I dubbed a copy of the proposal to a blank cassette and slid it in my pocket as I left the station.

On the night of July 3, I took my intended to one of the nicer restaurants in town. It was in the top of a circular, 20-story tower and slowly rotated. We watched the sun set during the appetizers and saw various fireworks displays off in the distance during dessert. It was a great evening.

Then, around 10:15, I drove to a secluded spot by a lake where the moon was sparkling on the water. We chatted and listened to the music my station was playing. As the last song before the commercial break began to finish up, I grew quiet and turned the radio up a bit. The big moment had come.

Have I mentioned that small Christian radio stations are staffed on the weekends by part-time DJ wannabe’s who don’t have a lot of experience? Or skills? No? Well, we called them “weekenders.”

In the first one to three seconds after my proposal began playing, several very bad, very wrong, very unhelpful things happened all at once. It is difficult to describe. And painful. But I’ll try.

First of all, weekenders aren’t supposed to talk coming out of music and going into a commercial break. But they can’t help themselves. There’s a microphone hanging right there in front of them. So as the song ended, Mr. Weekender opened up the microphone and did some cheesy DJ banter. A comment about the song. Time. Temperature. “Hey! More music ahead. . .Stay with me! Comin’ at ya in stereo!” And all that.

Then he pressed the button that launched the airing of the most important question I had ever asked or ever would ask.

And then he took a telephone call.

On the speakerphone.

Without turning the microphone off.

Which produced hellish, screeching feedback along with the sound of him yelling to be heard.

Back in the car at Lake Overholser, my date was . . . confused. She had heard my voice on the radio and that I had said her name. But immediately my voice was subsumed by the death screams of a robot-banshee being stabbed in the heart with a white-hot curling iron, puncutated by the bellowing of very large man. “Hello! SCREEEEEEEEEEEEE! “The Light 105! Hello!” SQRAAAAAAANCK!

Somewhere, faintly, beneath the cacaphony and chaos she could still sort of hear my voice and some music. Just not what I was saying. Not that it was anything important.

Never, in all my years listening to radio before or since, have I ever heard anything quite like that perfect storm of noise that spewed forth from my speakers that night. It was truly and singularly remarkable.

I stared at the radio, blinking, for a few seconds. “That did NOT just happen,” I muttered, lowering my forehead to the steering wheel. My date still had that very puzzled look on her face. Then I remembered the cassette backup. I had thrown it in the console. With the ring.

I grabbed it and threw it into the car’s cassette player. “Here. . .this is what you’re supposed to be hearing right now.” And once again the she heard my voice, and her name, and the opening strains of the Love Theme from LadyHawk.

A ring was produced. Tears were shed.

A hug. A kiss.

A “yes.”

Thank God for that yes.