Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Amazing! Sensational! Pretty Good!

Friends, I've discovered a treasure.

In my daily surfing of the Internet [You Tube this time], I found a fascinating new entertainer. Following my usual course of in-depth study of an interesting subject, I went to the home page of Connie Talbot.

Now, I usually don't fully enjoy young singers, but Connie is an exception. She is a fine singer with natural and true tones, stage presence, and confidence in her ability. She's charmed me for sure.

Connie was a finalist in the 'Britain's Got Talent' entertainment show. And since then, she's cut a CD, gone on tour, and is preparing for her American tour. She's so good, in fact, that I'll be ignoring my own rule, and I'll buy and download her CD.

Please visit her website [Here's the link: Connie Talbot ], listen to her sample clips and watch her short videos. Her video of 'Three Little Birds' in Jamaica is fantastic. You'll be very, very pleased.

And oh, by the way, Connie Talbot is six years old.

Friday, July 11, 2008

To Sin or Not to Sin

The Catholic Church's recent publishing of a list of 'new sins' in modern society has created a bit of controversy---mostly from people who have little knowledge of the Catholic Church, what it means, and how it operates.

I'm not at all sure what's meant by a 'dynamic' Church as opposed to a 'static' Church. I rather think the definitions are proposed to allow wiggle room when someone doesn't want an action to be a sin. Certainly, some parts of the Church will change with the times. But, sins are sins no matter when you commit them or how you try to justify them. Waffling isn't going to change reality.

Perhaps the best way to understand what's a sin and what's not a sin, is to be sure you're well educated in morality and your Catholic faith. If you know how the Church was formed, how God wants us to be and act, how free will operates, what morality can be and usually is, the precepts of our faith, the concepts of religion and life from the philosophers, and the teachings of Christ and the Doctors of the Church, you'd have a better idea of how to live your life as a Catholic. Learning is a lifetime process. And you can't call yourself a real Catholic if you don't understand many of these.

But, all that isn't understood overnight. You can't learn what you need within a few years of part-time religious education no matter how smart you think you are. It takes many years because of the interweaving of knowledge and disciplines, so in the meantime the Church and your fellow Catholics can act more as kindly fathers than simple guides. So, normally, the younger you are, the less you're going to understand your faith and religion and the World in general. And you have to understand you can't cherry-pick your sins based on how you want to live or what society is currently accepting as normal. Don't kid yourself. That's not being a member of our Church.

If you're well grounded in the Catholic faith and religion, and brought up to know right or wrong in a responsible manner, you'll know what's a sin and what's not a sin. The Church will give you guidance. The Church is a necessary and wonderful institution, and it's promoting a new list of sins is a welcome and needed guidance. It is teaching us, but it's not perfect. The Pope is not promulgating these lists infallibly. When the Pope promulgates anything in faith and morals in the prescribed manner, I'll accept such pronouncements word for word and adjust my own understanding of my faith and religion. But, in the meantime, it's up to me to determine on a daily basis what is sinful and what is not in my life, based on my education and these [and other] Catholic published guidance. It's certainly a tricky trail to follow, but life is like that. Very little around us is 'easy pickins.'

There is nothing inherently wrong with capitalism and the accumulation of wealth, per se. There may be, however, sinful problems in how you use capitalism to amass that wealth. There may also be sinful problems in how you later use that wealth and the concomitant power---personal, social, political, professional. Part of the problem here is the constant lack of understanding of what capitalism is and how it works; how the psyche of mankind operates; and how it drives a person to work harder than the next person and enjoy the greater fruits of labor. And, if you don't understand Economics, you shouldn't be bashing its sub-concepts willy-nilly.

What's excess wealth? Can it be defined? Reasonable people will disagree. Personally, I think an ostentatious life is off the mark and can be considered excess. But still, wealthy people do provide the capital to keep our Country running. Poor people don't. I've got nothing against poor people---I'm one myself---but our economy and our lives need continuous capital, whether it be from the financial markets, local businesses, or Joe in the gated community. And as long as you're throwing percentages around, please remember that the upper 10% of our society [the wealthy] pay 90% of the taxes. In other words, without them, our economy and Country would collapse, and we'd all be out on our ears in the middle of the nowhere. That would bring everyone down to [and past] my current level---but is it right? Is it moral?

Furthermore, I don't accept junk science and it's creation of new human wrongs. You have to be careful about these ideologically-driven crusades. While they may sound good at first, they're usually based on flawed or non-existent science with self-serving purposes. [And their 'gurus' are rarely in the lower 90% of our income stream, either.] There are usually many of these 'movements' floating around us on a regular basis. I've always tried to be responsible in my life, and I'm not going to permit pseudo-science or self-serving ideology-driven programs to make me uncomfortable in knowing what's natural in our World and what's not.

None of us knows all the answers, but a thorough understanding of what we face in life, how we deal with it, and what we believe in---or need to believe in---as Catholics, is absolutely necessary to determine the when or how of sinful behavior. The Church guides us, but it behooves us to be able to better recognize sin when we meet it.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Random Thoughts

I don't know about you [isn't that original?], but I find the 'Travelocity' ad with the jackhammers
interfering with conversation to be very annoying. Isn't it bad enough the travelers have to open their windows to a balcony overlooking a grave yard? Or deal with that poor, downtrodden plaster gnome gumming up the works regularly?

There was a message on my tv set prior to a showing of 'Law and Order': 'The following program may contain scenes not suitable for some. Parental discretion is advised.' This occurred at 2:30 am. Methinks our children are staying up too late in the evening.

In an ad for a siding firm, you can hear the boast: 'We also power wash and fix minor repairs.' Whose repairs are they fixing? Can't they do the minor repairs right in the first place? Or are they boasting an ability to fix minor repair efforts of the homeowner-handyman?

Attention 'Jurassic Park'! A recent study has determined that 'Tyrannosaurus Rex [is] Basically a Big Chicken'. So, when you open your next park restaurant, be sure to include some breaded, 'Fried Rex' on the menus, to be served with Jungle Greens and hand-carved sesame seeds? I'm not sure what kind of stuffing should be used. Perhaps 'bread trees?'

Don't you find it curious that billions and billions of dollars are spent each year around the world simply to see and [maybe] identify hazy, white lines on a screen as itty bitty matter particles? You could fool me for a lot less.

I've heard at least two different tv commercials using a pre-recorded [from the published song] singing of 'I believe in miracles.' I've listened and listened, but I still can only hear 'I believe in mail call.' It took me many hearings to figure out the real words, and I needed hints. I suppose if I knew the song, I'd have had no problem. But that would have been the easy way out.

The older and wiser I get [with much time out for inate stupidity], the more I can pick out the holes in many scripts for tv and movie productions. For instance, why do the actors have to look dumb and stupid instead of actually telling a person about the death of a close companion or friend? Is that really the time to subject an innocent spouse/friend to your guessing games? Sometimes the preliminaries to the actual telling can drive you up a wall. For drama I suppose?

Why are so many scripts filled with stupid actions. [I know they're there to move the plot along. But if you want the big bucks, do it more intelligently.] I've seen many movies that would simply have no plot if the main character had simply acted like a normal human being in the beginning of the story. Sure, find a body and grab the knife, thus leaving your fingerprints. You're innocent, but you make elaborate efforts to lie and throw the a wrench into the works, thus making yourself the prime suspect. Lie about a near relative because you are 'shielding' him/her. Good drama perhaps, but you can never fool a tv detective very long.

I'm curious. How can Mary Alice in 'Ace of Cakes' be 'feeling a little emasculated now?' I think she's a very pretty and charming woman. She has nothing to ever feel 'emasculated' about.

Speaking of 'Ace of Cakes:' I used to make specialty cakes for my children on their birthdays---their choice of what they should look like. I'm not a professional, but I though they were pretty good for an average Dad. Picture included above. But, I was nowhere near the efforts of 'Charm City Cakes.' They do awesome work. I found it hard to believe that the 'Hogwarts' estate was edible. I guess their cakes are worth every dollar you pay for them---and then some. [I could only afford maybe one of their cupcakes, but it's great to watch them at work.]

I'm watching the 'Food Channel' now. Did you ever notice that today's chefs reinvent the wheel on a regular basis? And not always correctly. They give out tips that I learned fifty years ago. And often, I know a better way to do something than they do.

Is it any wonder there are so many overweight chefs? Their recipes are heavy on the butter, animal fats, sugar, and sodium. Their fine looking efforts would kill many of their viewers who are diabetic, overweight, or suffering from many other health problems. Taste good? You bet! They're great! But they're killing most of us.

Remember the movie 'Support Your Local Sheriff?' If you do, you'll remember the kitchen scene where Joan Hackett [Prudy Perkins] is trying to make dinner in a fancy dress with long sleeves and lace cuffs? The dress is inappropriate and leads the scene into a very funny result, including the usual flying flour and smoked skirt.

Check out some female tv chefs, especially Rachael Ray. With her long sleeves covering half her fist, she just doesn't seem to get it. Most of their viewers are housewives and men who can be easily imagined to be wearing shorts [ala Mario Batali], bathing suits, dressing gowns, overalls, uniforms etc. Despite the 40 years, Rachael is still very pretty and alluring---if she'd keep the energy level down a bit.

I've been bombarded with the advertisement about a cell phone you can get very cheaply, and you only have to buy about $20 of time every three months. Wow! It doesn't sound like much of an expense, does it? In truth, it works out to about 30 cents per minute. So, even wrong numbers and calls from the ex can sting the senses and the pocket.

There's a 'language instruction video' being hawked on tv. There have been others. Whatever merit they might have---I just don't know. I keep hearing the praises of the video, but none of the 'happy' users ever utters a word in the foreign language. I wonder if they can speak what they say after all?

What! No more? Of course there is, but not for today. This is simply another in a series of articles on 'Better Living' for the American media viewer and taxpayer.