Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Was The Force Ever Asleep?


Photo courtesy of Amazon's Affiliate Program.
On May 25th, 1977, fans of science fiction caught their first glimpse of the Star Wars Universe.  The newest chapter of this saga has been entitled "The Force Awakens," yet I have to wonder if it's ever really been asleep.

The tale of laser wielding knights, bounty hunters, royalty, monsters, and villains has, so far, spawned six more movies, weekly cartoons, novels, comic books, toys, games, t-shirts, posters, buttons, and other bobbles.  The franchise's fictional Jedi Order even inspired the formation of The Temple Of The Jedi Order: Church Of Jediism in Texas.

 While most fans haven't adopted the saga as a replacement for their personal God concept, the franchise has made an indelible mark on pop culture and, arguably, society in general.  Besides being entrenched within "nerd culture," the franchise has wormed its way into unexpected parts of civilization.
  • On March 8th, 1983 President Reagan referred to the USSR as "The Evil Empire."
  • The same president named his ill-conceived missile defense system "Star Wars."
  • On 4 May 1995 during a defense debate, UK MP Harry Cohen referred to a the date as "Star Wars Day: May the forth be with you."
  • Star Wars also made its mark in the 2001 census, when over 390,000 UK respondents entered their religion as Jedi
  •  On March 1, 2013, President Barack Obama spoke, saying that some people expected him to do a "Jedi mind meld*" on the Republicans who refused to make a deal.
  • To wish someone good luck, many of us say, "May The Force Be With You."
There are other examples, of course, but my point is that the past 38 years have been influenced, to some degree, by this fictional realm.

Two months from now, fans will be treated to the next cinematic chapter.  Stores have been selling the action figures since August, and Fandango is already selling tickets for the December 18th opening.

The current mania reminds me of the 1999 craze.  There had been no big screen offering of Star Wars during most of the 80s & 90s, so when Episode I was announced we were clambering to see Vader's origin story.  In that pre-Fandango world, light saber duels were being conducted and cutters were being mocked by fans in ticket lines which stretched around entire city blocks.

Even though that particular chapter proved to be the least "stellar" of the collective, the sense of mania is repeating itself.  Some say, the excitement is at such a high level because to original performers are returning.  Yet, I wonder if it's not simpler than that.  As psuedo-ideological as it sounds, I think Star Wars simply resonates with people in a way other stories don't.

In any case, I have my tickets.

Epilogue Added 11/17/2015:

I’ll be taking a break from blogging. During the next 6 weeks I’m going to; design & send this year’s Christmas card, design next year’s calendar, rewrite a few chapters of my book, and look into raising money for a copyright lawyer so I can self publish “Murder According To Hoyle.”

* = President Obama actually confused the "Jedi Mind Trick" with the "Vulcan Mind Meld."

Monday, October 5, 2015

Crisp Burnt Umber Days

Crisp Burnt Umber Days
A Poem by, James Kiester
My porch in Fall
Subject: My Porch in Fall | Date: 10/05/15 | Photographers: James Kiester & Dani Cogswell |
 This picture was taken by the author of this blog. |
Pumpkins and gourds adorn porches,
Which caress lawns of dry brown grass,
Blanketed in leaves of crimson, saffron, ochre, and burnt umber.

Crisp air stings pink cheeks,
As it kisses ripe apples and pears,
Making their way to cider presses and Cheddar topped pies.
Young men prepare to tote pig skins,
Across fields of freshly mowed and painted grass,
And peddlers bombard nostrils with salty scents of popcorn and roasting nuts.

Pleasant wives stir rich pots of soup,
While peering through frost laced kitchen windows,
At husbands cleaning freshly killed game hanging from trees in backyards.
 Night falls as crackling fires lick, snap,
And warm the chilled toes of lazily tired people,
Before nestling into warm and cozy beds for pleasantly comfy slumber.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Watch Your Phrasology

Not long ago, on my food blog, I wrote about the misuse of food terms, and explained why things such as "eggless mayo" and "beefless burgers" are logical impossibilities.  Not long after I wrote about the misuse of food terms, I was reminded of our rampant misuse of ideological terms.

I was at a dinner party when the conversation became about an individual who doesn't approve of same sex marriage.  One guest said, "Well, she's a Christian," and everybody nodded in understanding.  They were using "Christian" as a synonym for "intolerant."

Surely, there's precedent for such an equivalence.  Jews were tortured by the church during the inquisition, the Confederacy sited scripture to justify slavery, and Governor Wallace tried to use the Bible to justify Jim Crow laws.

All that being true, there are plenty of Christians who are not intolerant of minorities.  I'M ONE OF THEM!  My Bible study is full of them.  Christ himself was tolerant of others; John 4 verses 7 thru 10 says, "When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, 'Will you give me a drink?' (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)  The Samaritan woman said to him, 'You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink? (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)  10 Jesus answered her, 'If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.'"  He accepted and respected everyody.

Now before I get too uppity, I have to confess to using the word "Republican" to mean "bigot."  That's not fair either.  Yes, there is the extreme fringe of the Republican party who wants to outlaw same sex marriage, undo the Voter Right Act, and build a wall across the southern border of Texas.

Yet, there are many republicans who; believe in smaller government, believe in zero tolerance for crime and drug abuse, believe in a strong national security, and believe in putting people to work instead of giving them government handouts; who don't believe in making America into a heterosexual white men's club.

Of course, these days if you really want to slur someone you simply have to call them a "Muslim."  People will argue over whether Obama is a Muslim.  Rather than proving he's not a Muslim, which is easy to prove by the way, educated people should be pointing out that being a Muslim isn't a bad thing.

The five pillars of Islam are the declaration of faith, prayer, fasting, charity, and pilgrimage.  Our enemies, Al-Qaeda and ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) have as much to do with the legitimate Islamic Faith as members of the KKK have to do with Christianity.

Finally, we come to my favorite.  There are individuals who will earnestly rail against "those Communist Nazis."  Communists are an extreme liberal faction who believe people should be 100% equal, even if it means outlawing religion to create an artificially level playing field.  Nazis are an extreme conservative faction who believe in the absolute superiority of a single race, based on a twisted view of religion.

 photo poliscie.jpg
Graphic drawn by James Kiester for this blog.
While both philosophies are fundamentally flawed, they're products of diametrically opposed schools of thought.  One can't be both.

In the U.S.A. we're allowed to say anything we want, but wouldn't it be nice if we used the correct terms when we do?

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Why The Kim Davis Case Isn't About Religion

Kim Davis, the Clerk of Kentucky's Rowan County, was jailed last week for defying a court’s order to comply with the law by refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. As she spent the holiday weekend behind bars, her supporters claimed Davis' incarceration was an example of religious persecution.


The First Amendment says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

That means the government can't dictate what church we go to (if we indeed go to a church), who/what we call God, how we pray, or what religious symbols we display on our property and person. The Amendment was never intended to give citizens carte blanche to pick and choose which laws we'll follow based on our religious beliefs.

No matter what religion Americans belong to, we can't:
  • smoke peyote,
  • marry more than one person at a time,
  • sacrifice children and/or virgins,
  • or avoid doing our job.
Think of it this way.  Mormons are opposed to drinking alcohol.  However, if a Mormon got a job waiting tables, they would still have to serve the drinks ordered by the patrons.  On a personal level, they wouldn't have condone drinking, or drink themselves.  They'd simply have to perform the duties they're payed to perform.

It's the same with Kim Davis.  No court in the land could order Davis to approve of gay marriage, or attend a gay wedding.  Yet, they can compel her to perform the duties she's legally payed to perform.

Kim Davis was released from jail today. The release order, issued by Judge Bunning, directs Davis not to, “interfere in any way, directly or indirectly, with the efforts of her deputy clerks to issue marriage licenses to all legally eligible couples.”  Whether, or not, she stays out of jail is COMPLETELY up to her.