May 22, 2011

Media, I Have Faith in You

My previous ramblings tried to put the recent failed doomsday predictions in humorous light. I had to. Too many things about them were just, well, laughable.

For example, my friend Barbie mentioned her minister saw an interviewer ask one of those rapture-prophets for all his money. You know, since the doomsayer obviously wouldn't need it. The man quickly changed the subject and was gone -- as in hauled arse gone. I don't care who you are, that there's funny.

Now, though, I want to be serious.

As a former journalist (newspaper reporter/editor/photog, depending on when and where), the coverage of this alleged "news event" bothers me. Number one is that it was waaay over-reported. The story deserved one, maybe twomentions in the "legitimate" news media; maybe not that many. I mean, the "prophet" that got the most press is a self-styled biblical expert who has made the same predictions again and again. I guess that means he's credible? Riiight.

What did the story receive? How 'bout two weeks worth of daily coverage? Wasn't that sorta like putting a pig on stilts, calling it a thoroughbred and running it in the Kentucky Derby?

For the most part, I've avoided discussing religion here in the Chronicles, largely because I see this blog as a fun thing. I'm not what some call a "Bible-pounder." I'm not one to hit others between the eyes with my spiritual beliefs, and I don't particularly want to deal with whatever controversy or criticism such discussion might spur. The whole coverage of that non-event, however, really irritated me. What chafed my behind most was how it treated Christians.

So, this is my blog, and I'm gonna talk about it. It's important.

If you haven't guessed, I'm a Christian. I also sin. A lot. No matter how hard I try not to. I'm also hypocrital, self-righteous, self-centered and selfish. I'm greedy, glutton-y, arrogant at times, lazy and sloth-like at other times. As Jimmy Carter once confessed, I have lusted in my heart -- more times than I can ever count. I'm not a Bible expert, nor do I pretend to be. I've not even read it through, although I did listen to it on CD once. Took me a whole year.

In short, I'm all theses thing, and less. As far as I know, all Christians are. We try to do right, but we constantly fail.  Jesus established His church for us. And thank God He did! Churches are filled with us sinners.

Why do I bring this up? Because in reading, listening to and watching the circus that this "event's" coverage became, it seemed to me that it quickly evolved from amusing, to ridicule, to indictment. As the designated day approached, it seemed too many reporters assumed a subtle attitude that told their audience, "Those damn crazy Christians are at it again, the right-wing nuts." In other words, the coverage seemed to shift intent and direction.

Before my media friends get their bowels in an uproar, no, I cannot cite specifics. I don't remember any. But I do remember on several occasions sensing subtle reporter hostility. If you closely watch those who communicate for a living, or focus on their words, you soon realize that just a small gesture, slight expression change, or the choice of one word over another can have a massive effect. It can slant a story. We see it all the time on TV, because visual clues are easier to detect than written. A slight smile here, a raised eyebrow there....

I'm not saying that all newspeople intentionally slant their information. Time demands, unconscious peer influence, workplace attitude all enter into it. But I have known, and know still, several reporters guilty of it. And of these, there were more than a couple who were recognized and honored for their "professionalism."

I submit such behavior is prejudicial. You don't see TV reporters smirk when reporting aberrant Mideast (read Moslem terrorist) behavior. Over time, such clues build an impression with the public that all Christians are Republicans, judgemental pharisees and spend their time looking under rocks for others' sins. Come to think of it, that's sorta like political and investigative reporters, except for the Republican part.... (Oops. I'm being judgemental. What did I tell you about Christians falling short? I'm an example.)

The rapture myth that's been sold to the public is non-Biblical, and the majority of mainstream Christians don't even give it a thought. You wouldn't know that from most of what you saw or read in the past week or two. That fallacy wasn't even addressed until late in the game.

What happened? I think a certain number of the media are, perhaps not just anti-Christian, but anti-religion. And although they may truly pride themselves on their objectivity, they never are truly bias-free. That perhaps is more apparent when they deal with Christian and religious topics, because anti-religious sentiment seems on the rise in our nation.

I don't want the news media promoting my version of Christianity, or even religion. I don't want to force my faith on anyone. My role is just to live a Christian life and let that speak for me. I'd like my media friends, however, to be honest with themselves and to recognize their prejudices, as we all should. We all have biases. We're human. I want the nation's newspeople to stop painting those of faith all with the same brush.

I want members of the media, at all levels, really to think about their responsibility to, not only to their audiences, but those about whom they write. I want them to consider the consequences of what they say and how they say it. Most do. But not all.

I want media "stars" to reconnect with the average person. They're above it all. Some of them have no reason to feel justified and infallible, and I want them to take greater responsibility. Almost every reporter I've ever met sees him/herself as a servant of the public. I want them to start acting like one. They can do it!

Then, maybe we all can just dance....

May 20, 2011

Read This While You Still Can!

Several things about the End of the World, which some say will be here soon (read, "tomorrow")....

For starters, none of the self-proclaimed "experts" and "prophets" seem to agree on just when the Great Creator is gonna pull the plug. I cannot begin to tell you how many nutcases have predicted the End of Times, Judgement Day, Doomsday, etc.
 The latest "prediction," if you wanna call it that, is either tomorrow, May 21, 2011, or Dec. 12, 2012. Both dates are based on the Mayan calendar, which I understand ended every 50 years.

Hmh.... There's something odd about basing a doomsday scenario on the calendar of a long-gone civilization. Especially one that saw the end of the world occurring every half century, yet apparently still flourished hundreds of years. Perhaps that's not the most reliable basis for an accurate prediction. Ya think?

If Doomsday -- let's be clear, it's not the Rapture. The Rapture is the Christian Judgment Day. If Doomsday occurs Dec. 12, 2012, we have a whole year and two-thirds to get the biggest things emptied from our buckets. For my part, I'm gonna do my Christmas shopping early and celebrate the holiday Dec. 11. Plus, I might throw a Boll Weevil party to commemorate the day in 1919 when they raised a monument to the bug in Enterprise, AL. Either way, it'll be the first time in my life when I won't have a pile of holiday bills coming due in January.

For the purposes of this blog, though, let's say tomorrow is D-Day (Cue eerie music: wooOOH-weee-OOoooo....). Let me offer you some things you might be able to accomplish -- IF you hurry!

1. The first, obviously, is not paying your bills. As an addendum, you might wanna run up your VISA card as high as you can. In fact, run up every credit card you have!

2. Don't just empty all your bank accounts, cash in every CD, bond or anything else you can. And put the cash on your kitchen table at home.

3. Write enough rubber checks that you'll enter Eternity known as Mr. or Ms. Goodyear -- or at least, the Latex King/Queen.

4. Now's the perfect time to tell your boss what you REALLY think of him/her.

5. You know that neighbor's barking dog that keeps you awake all night every night? You won't get another opportunity to rent the biggest P.A. system you can find and blast "They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha Ha" into his bedroom all night long tonight.

6. Eat two hotdogs with everything just before you hit the gym this afternoon, then when Mr. or Ms. Lookdon'tyawishyouwereme shakes his/her glutes in your face, it won't take much to upchuck all over his/her biker shorts and designer cross-trainers.

7. Invite every relative, friend or casual acquaintance who has ever tried to involve you in Tupperware, Amway, Mary Kay or any other multilevel or pyramid marketing to Home-made Brownie Party. Make the icing out of Ex-Lax. Urge them to eat up; then send them home -- quickly.

8. Tell that person in your office with the chronically bad breath or B.O. to brush and take a shower.

9. If you happen to be at a bathing suit-appropriate venue and see that individual with the 50-gallon-capacity beer gut in a bikini or Speedo, now's the time to tell him/her exactly how much you admire their choice in beach/pool wear.

10. Rent a limo -- better yet, charter a plane -- and treat your main squeeze to the most expensive restaurant you can find. And tip like you own Fort Knox.

11. If you live in a large metropolitan area, take a Bugatti Veyron ($1.7 million list price) for a test spin. Don't return.

If, however, you're on the conservative side and are absolutely convinced we'll all pay for our excesses and extravagances in the afterlife, just hie yourself to the nearest church and meditate in your "final" hours.

I believe we can't know when the End will be. Therefore, please leave your door open and your liquor cabinet unlocked. And don't forget the cash.

...And maybe I'll be dancing there when you return!

May 8, 2011

Thanks, Mom!

Mom, it's almost 6 p.m. on the downhill side of Mother's Day, and I just wanted to sneak in a few lines before I go work out.

We didn't get up early enough this morning to eat anything, so Wife didn't get breakfast in bed again this year. You'll be happy to know, however, we did make early service, and we stayed for bible study. And the church roof didn't even fall in! Afterward, the In-laws, Daughter and Son-in-law -- they've been married a year now -- and Wife and I all went out for lunch.

As I get older, I find that Sunday morning services become more important. And although I no longer have to run the rat-race, the renewal those couple of hours provide me one day a week really does help me make it through the other five.

Growing up, I know we didn't attend church, um, "religiously" as a family -- and too many of the times we did, it was a real hair-puller for you. I'm sure getting us three kids out of bed and out the door to make it on time, especially when we got to be teenagers, wasn't exactly how you preferred to begin your Sundays. But you never gave up, and I for one am glad you didn't. I had absolutely no thought of the trials we were putting you through those Sunday mornings, which I can see now were terribly stressful for you when they should have been the opposite.

And I look back and marvel at how patient you and Dad were to get us to church at all. I knew Dad's days off were Sunday and Monday, but it never registered with me that you actually only had one day a week together, and you were sacrificing a good part of it to help the three of us build our faiths.

I know you must have burnt a lot of prayers seeking the restraint not to strangle us before we got out the door. So I just want to say how much I appreciate your persistence in grounding us in that faith.

I wish I could have hugged you and Dad at Daughter's and Son-in-Law's wedding last year, and but circumstances didn't allow it. But I know you both saw how beautiful and loving a bride she made. And she is married to a fine young man. I know you like him.

Mom, you remember that Son and His Fiancee now are engaged, don't you? To a wonderful girl. Intelligent, loving and beautiful. He made a good choice -- or maybe she did, that's for them to decide, I guess. They haven't set a date yet, but I'm sure when they finally do tie the knot, that’ll be just as joyous and beautiful an occasion.

I couldn't let Mother's Day go by without letting you know just how much My Sisters and I truly appreciate the sacrifices you made for us. I'm ashamed we weren't better behaved and as cooperative and helpful as we should have been. And I want you to know that all those times when I was growing up that I was sure you were trying to make my life hell, I now know you were doing what you did out of unconditional love.

You’ve been gone more than eight years no, and Dad more than 20. I really miss you both, and at times if I could, I'd still pick your brains for advice. Many things have gone on that you've been unable to take part in, but I know that you've been a part of. I just wanted to express my appreciation and love to you this Mother's Day and let you know as best I can how thankful I am that you are my mother.

I won't wish you a Happy Mother's Day, because I know each and every of your days are infinitely happier than any I could wish for you. Keep watching us. If nothing else, we should be able to give you a good chuckle every so often.

I love you, Mom. One day, I hope to tell you in person again.

Until then, maybe I'll just dance....

May 7, 2011

An Open Letter to Apple: Dance with the Guy What Brung You

Dear Mr. Apple, Ms. Macintosh, Mr. Jobs, et al:

I LOVE Apple products! I've been a staunch user and advocate 22 years. The first one I ever encountered was at work, a Macintosh IIci with a 16MHz Motorola 68030 CPU with 24 MB memory and 40MB hard drive. My first home computer was a Mac Quadra 610.

Today, I drive an iMac 2.8 GHz Core 2 Duo with 2 GB memory and a 300 GB hard drive. Admittedly, by current standards that's not a particularly hot machine, although it's more-than-fine for my needs. It is, however, waaay beyond what used to be.

At work, we slowly climbed the Mac product ladder as more effective models became available. After several years, though, office politicians replaced our department's Macs with Windows-based machines. Smart move, huh?  I was sickened.

From the start, Apple's machines had been easy to use. Now, that's called "intuitive." To me, it was simply fun. But with PCs, what had been uncomplicated, single-keystroke tasks suddenly became more difficult to accomplish -- IF they could be done at all. It was asinine for us to lose our most effective tools just so some Mac-hater "boss" could build his little fiefdom.

But I digress....

From the beginning, Apple focused on the consumer. It took a highly complex machine that only a mathmetician could understand and made it so Joe the Plumber or Joe the Car Salesman or Joe the Teacher, or even Joe the Business Exec, could use it. And that leads us to here ==> X.

Too often in life, success breeds failure -- that is, when we reach our goals, we tend to become satisfied, lazy, arrogant, smug, maybe even feel entitled. And that's what's happening to Apple. You're forgetting "to dance with the guy what brung ya."  More and more often, I see your company Microsoftizing itself. You're turning inward and working for each other instead of your user base.

 (I despise that word, "user." Ughh! Images of some unshowered pimple-faced geek sitting at his computer in his underwear drooling over online porn. But I guess it's the best term we have currently....)

Back to my point: Your highly useful calender/appointments application iCal was released in '02. Immediately, we, your loyal customers, found its font sizes too small. And we had no way to adjust them. That was nine years ago, Folks, and you've done nothing to fix it!

The same goes for your excellent Mail, Address Book, iPhoto and iTunes applications. And the text in the Apple Store. We have no simple way adequately to adjust the size of the fonts in any of these areas. In fact, most of your native OS applications' inherent fonts cannot be adjusted. The "solutions" we're given -- preference options, universal access and changing screen resolution -- are impractical and troublesome, as well. We can't increase the size of the type in the OS menu bar, either. (We could in your earlier machines. PCs can.) We can change the font size in the Help function. Why can't we also do it in these other instances?

Now, these problems are not a major catastrophes. But let's put them in context:

We Baby Boomers are consuming your products at a greater rate than ever. We're quickly becoming computer literate, and we're also probably the ones who employ apps like iCal, and perhaps even, Address Book, more often. Because we're older, more settled, entrenched in our lives and have more to keep track of.

Through the years, your products have been superior, so we haven't minded that you generally have charged a premium for them. We figure you get what you pay for. But loyalty only goes so far.

Your employees in Cupertino undoubtedly are young and dynamic. They probably all can read itty-bitty type. An increasing number of us, your customers, cannot, however. We've learned from the younger generations, though; we communicate with one another, and we have long memories. We don't appreciate being blown off because we're older.

We, your loyal customers, are really disappointed that you have chosen to ignore things that seem trivial to you, but are quite important to us. We believe that customer service is a footing for long-term business success.

So, it just seems like the smart thing to do is to shift your focus a bit. I may be wrong, but it's probably more important that you cater some to your customers rather than wows your peers. If your clientele leaves, can your employees buy enough product to keep Apple afloat? We, your loyal customers, have simple wants. You're neglecting them. Don't you think it's smarter to "dance with the guy what brung you?"

Then, we'll be happy, and maybe we all can just dance....

Scurvy McBeady,