Mike Shannon Quote of the Night

Mike ShannonI was only able to listen to about 30 minutes of last night’s game between the Cards & the Astros as I was attending “Trade Night” at Fox Sport Cards in Marion until around 9:00. But before I could even get to the highway, Lance Berkman hit a little broken bat pop-up down the first base line that landed (arguably) barely foul in the 6th inning off of the Cardinal starter Braden Looper. Shannon described just what a close call it was by saying, “If you stuck your money clip between the foul line & the baseball, you’d be on welfare.”

Identifying with Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa, internationally renowned humanitarian & advocate for the world’s poor & helpless, 1979 Nobel Peace Prize recipient for her work with the sick & hungry of Calcutta, is currently receiving a vast amount of media attention… for being human. In the upcoming book “Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light” a series of reprinted letters detail her personal struggles with faith & doubt. And its reception is exactly what she feared & why she asked for them to be destroyed & never released. She said that if released, “people will think more of me — less of Jesus.

Teresa of Calcutta

Now when you Google her name, instead of inspiring bio’s or lists of profound quotes, you see articles with titles like, “Mother Teresa – Heaven or Hell?”, “Was Mother Teresa an Agnostic?”, and “Mother Teresa’s spiritual darkness”. This hurts me.

I know this is a truly bizarre parallel, but back in 1996 I was really into the band Smashing Pumpkins. I remember reading an interview with front-man Billy Corgan in Spin Magazine in which he made this statement, This friend of mine asked me, “Do you really mean it when you sing ‘God is empty just like me’?” [from the song “Zero”] Now that’s a pretty over-the-top line. And 363 days out of the year, the answer is no. But those two days that I feel it, I feel it pretty intensely. Now, no one ever accused Corgan of being a humanitarian or theologian, but that line hit me pretty hard. As a Christian myself, it just made sense & gave me a feeling that maybe – just maybe – I wasn’t alone in my struggles & feelings of loneliness & emptiness.

Guess what? No matter how saintly, self-sacrificing & giving Mother Teresa was, she was ultimately a very mortal human being. If these new revelations about her personal life do anything at all, they help me to identify with her more – certainly not think less of her. I too know all about darkness… loneliness… doubt… and I’m no saint.

Thank you Teresa of Calcutta for inspiring me to be a better world-citizen, a more honest Christian, and a better reflection of Jesus in this all too dark & hurting world.

What’s on the iPod?

Meet the SmithereensI hate tribute bands. I really do. But the Smithereens have done something totally different here. They have taken the American debut album of one of the most legendary bands of all time & covered the whole darn thing – song by song – as a tribute. Oh yeah, and it rocks! This album is a testament to two things; 1) just how timeless many Lennon-McCartney songs really are, and 2) what a great all-around band the Smithereens are.

Very few bands can pull a feat like this off & the Smithereens do it with a class & style that’s all their own. We all know these songs, they’re classics – but it wouldn’t seem out of place if they were to throw in “Behind the Wall of Sleep” (my favorite Smithereens’ tune.) Oddly enough, you wouldn’t even blink. It’s obviously a huge tribute to the Beatles but at the same time, whether it was intended or not, they’ve managed to make it a work that can stand by itself too.

Meet The Smithereens! The Beatles Tribute Album by America’s Phenomenal Pop Combo.

A Hero Arises

The following is a true story… for the most part.

Monday morning I walked down the steps of our house & under the carport towards my truck to begin another arduous work week. Suddenly and without provocation a massive horsefly started buzzing my head. Back & forth it buzzed, closer & closer like Tom Cruise buzzing the control tower in Top Gun. I swatted randomly with my free hand as I fumbled for my keys with the other. At the very moment I tossed my cold-cut laden lunch box into the passenger seat the buzzing got louder & inexplicably stationary. I turned to look over my left shoulder & the evil horsefly had been ensnared in the web of a large ominous-looking garden spider who hovered over her prey tying it up in the silky strands of her webbing. I politely thanked my new friend for saving me from danger. I’m almost positive she winked an eye cluster at me as if to say, “You are welcome my master. Have a nice day at work.

Angelina - My Protector from the HorseflyI have since realized that my super-powers involve the ability to command armies & legions of spiders. I can communicate with them in ways that mere mortals cannot. They work for me & I protect them. We have an ethereal bond. Together we shall fight crime & injustice all across the tri-state region. Evil cannot escape the eight long legs of justice! Needless to say; the tech-loving SysAdmin named Scott is just my mild-mannered alter ego… for, I am ARACHNERD!!!

Season 3 of Who Wants to be a SuperHero… here I come!

Christian?

I’ve blogged like every day this week – there must be something wrong with me. And I don’t know why I’m on a kick of writing about religion or Christianity, but I feel the need to make one simple statement;

  • I am NOT a Christian because of anything anyone has ever told me.
  • I am NOT a Christian because of anything I have ever read from any book – not even the Bible.
  • I am NOT a Christian because of any sermon I have ever heard.
  • I am NOT a Christian because of any fear of an afterlife with eternal consequences.
  • I am NOT a Christian out of any sense that being one will make my life any better or easier.
  • I am NOT a Christian because I feel like I will be rewarded for my commitment or punished for lack thereof.
  • I am NOT a Christian because I believe that it’s the only valid religion.
  • I am NOT a Christian because I had such great role-models growing up.
  • I am NOT a Christian because of some traumatic event brought on by my bad, destructive choices as a youth or because I had such a terrible childhood.

I am a Christian only because what God has done for me. I have felt His presence – seen His hand at work in my life & in the lives of the people I love. So much so that I want to be His vessel – a conduit of His love, so to speak.

Sometimes I hate Christians; what they do, what they say, how they represent the rest of us. And a lot of the time I don’t want to be associated with them. (Come to think of it, Jesus had some issues with that too.) But it doesn’t squash my own relationship with Him. Mostly it challenges me to be a different kind of Christian – one that can represent it in a different way. I often fail. But I always come back to what I know to be true in my heart. God is Good. That’s enough for me.

Okay – that was neither one statement nor all that simple. Oh well.

What’s on the iPod?

Gillian Welch - RevivalI had a conversation with an old friend yesterday centered on the idea that if our teenage selves could see what kind of music we listened to now they would be shocked & appalled. One of my typical responses to the question of musical tastes included me saying that I was very eclectic – as long it’s not rap or country. But by saying that I hate country, I missed out on some really great music. Because If you dig deep enough past the crap that they play on country radio these days, you can find that country really does have a good side.

Gillian Welch denies the “country” label herself. She generally cites REM & the Pixies as influences even if you don’t necessarily hear that on the record. Revival is such a beautiful, mature, strong album that it’s hard to imagine that it was her debut! Listening to it incites images of Patsy Cline, Billie Holliday, Joni Mitchell, even Lucinda Williams. The marriage of country, blues, folk, bluegrass, gospel… it’s just hard to describe how wonderful this album is.

So, I say to my teenage self, you gotta listen to this. You’re going to love it! On the iPod, listed by artist right between the Georgia Satellites & Gnarles Barkley. Gillian Welch’s Revival. It rocks!

A Kick in the Asterisk

Barry Bonds broke the record. As the Onion reported, “Destruction of National Pastime Given Two-Minute Standing Ovation.” I am not a Barry Bonds fan; not at all. But I am a baseball fan which is why I suppose that I’m interested in this debate whether I want to be or not. To some extent I am conflicted, like many St. Louis Cardinal fans, because I was one of the idiots jumping up & down screaming in my bedroom when Mark McGwire broke Roger Maris’ record by poking his 62nd homerun of the season over the left field wall of Busch Stadium in 1998. I was one of the guys defending ol’ Marco Solo when questions arose about performance enhancing drugs. I was even appalled at the low Hall of Fame vote count that he received last year. So now that similar accusations & controversies are swarming around the big B, do I defend him too? My initial reaction is, “no – I don’t like Bonds – I did like McGwire.” But how valid is that?

The truth is he broke the record. So, maybe it was done a little differently than Hank Aaron did it. It’s a different time – a different era. I don’t know that that makes is right or not, but in the homerun crazy time of Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, et al, the use of many performance enhancing drugs was NOT against the rules. It could’ve also been enhanced by differences in the balls, bats, ballparks, or a myriad of other factors. One can even argue that the big homerun record chase is what saved America’s pastime from the black cloud it had been under since the big Strike of 1994. I have also wondered what it is exactly that steroids are supposed to accomplish. The bulkiness or musculature of a man has very little to do with whether or not he can drive a 95 mph fastball out of the park. A feat like that would also take a combination of timing, focus & natural ability. The few guys that I’ve been around that I knew were shooting ‘roids had none of those qualities. They were just strong & mean.

When Takeru Kobayashi broke onto the Competitive Eating circuit, literally doubling the previously held record by devouring 50 Hotdogs & Buns in a staggering 12 minutes, he did it by using an odd new method. Instead of just eating the hotdogs by chewing and all of that nonsense, he used what was quickly dubbed the Solomon Method by his fans. He removed each dog from its respective bun, broke it in half, shoved both halves in his mouth simultaneously, his throat basically becoming a little conveyor belt, & dipping the bun in a glass of water before shoving it in too. For Kobayashi this method worked. No one has been able to master it with any success since. It clearly gave him an arguably unfair advantage. But has his record been appended with the all-powerful asterisk? Does it make the record any less valid? Wouldn’t “Mastering the Kobayashi Solomon Method” make a great rock album title?

By the same token, Cy Young who holds many of MLB’s pitching records & even has an annual award named in his honor, is thought of to be one of the sport’s greatest pitchers of all time. But when he started his career; he pitched underhanded, fouls were not counted as strikes, the mound was closer to the batter, he didn’t wear a glove for his first 5 seasons, pitchers were allowed to physically manipulate the ball with scuffs, saliva, etc, they would use the same ball until it literally started to unravel, and he pitched in what is commonly referred to as the “dead ball era.” So, what happens if his records are broken? Who gets the asterisk? Things are different now. Rules have changed. What do we do?

I’ll tell you my opinion of what we should do. We conform to our pre-defined criteria for what constitutes the record. Once the record is broken, it’s too late to change the rules. And if it’s broken – it’s broken. Give the man his award, and move on. Don’t stop in the middle of the game for the player to make some stupid speech. Clap for the guy, let him tip his cap, and get back to the game. Throw the asterisk out the window.

As for respect, well that’s a whole ‘nuther can-o-worms now, isn’t it?

Camera Phone Pictures of Religious Icons

These (very poor quality) camera phone pictures were taken on a trip to purchase illegal fireworks & smuggle them across the river for the 4th of July. While browsing through the store – I just couldn’t resist wanting to share these rare & fantastic finds with my friends…

fiber optic last supper First of all, we have an all African-American Last Supper, the members apparently stuffed into one of those big corner booths at Denny’s and highlighted by the glorious glows of Fiber Optics! How much more beautifully tacky does it get?

Ged Is Air Creater Best I can tell, it says, “Ged is air Creater.” (Even better was the “Inspected By” sticker on the back, which I was unable to capture on film.)

What the? I don’t even have words to describe this one. A crucifixion with a blown-up 3D detail of His very feminine head. Did they even have eyebrow tweezers in biblical times? (I don’t think the little guy to the left is actually supposed to be in the picture… camera hog.)

Peter Dinklage as Jesus And finally, playing the role of Jesus Christ, it’s the Station Agent’s Peter Dinklage!