From the Best of Job, January 2006. Part one is here. This edition is unattributed, to protect the guilty.
“While I have never run a cash register before, I will take over for you now because I am sure this is the only way I will leave here still clinging to youth, and the only way to ensure your employer, Wal*Mart, will actually profit on my purchases. Go have a smoke.”
“Perhaps it is best that we settle this political discussion/traffic dispute with a game of ping-pong.”
“You want directions to Killington? Sure. First you go to the Gap, then you go to the Picklebarrel nightclub. From there, go to the Picklebarrel parking lot. Once there, punch the guy from New Jersey in the mouth for looking at your girlfriend “wrong.” Be careful, that’s a confusing intersection. Take a left on the Breathalyzer, then duck your head to get into the back of the police car. Finally, curl up in the fetal position inside your cell while your frat buddies call home to get your folks to bail you out. Oh wait, my bad. I did that all backwards.”
“Perhaps the vice grip I have on this bag of Sun Chips is an indication I am famished and do not want to share them with you.”
“The increased dosage of makeup on your face doesn’t disguise the fact you are rapidly aging, but rather exposes to a greater extent your insecurity, and the massive desperation you now feel for never reproducing or otherwise validating your existence on Earth. But you do smell nice.”
“Ma’am? Your service here today did not call for a tip. In fact, you ran a deficit; that is why I am keeping your pen.”
“When I said you could use my cell phone, I didn’t think you’d be using it in an extended network to trade recipes with the girlfriend you plan to break up with at the end of the week, once you get your car back from the mechanic.”
|In this corner, backing up the fish, is Tom!||And in this corner, standing against all things piscine, is Steve!|
A miracle is, by definition, a very special thing. Whether the word is ascribed to the birth of a baby, the parting of the Red Sea, or a game winning 3-point shot at the buzzer that brings to an end to the deplorable savagery known as basketball, when something is genuinely described as miraculous you know to expect something wonderful.
Fish, my friends, are miraculous.
Their health benefits are many, but a cheap way of defending their honor. Rich in the good fats which keep us healthy, and poor in those that rob us of vigor, fish have innumerable benefits to either the modern lifestyle or the scrambling of the third world.
Flavorwise, I’ll admit fish is a complex mistress. An unsophisticated palate cannot always appreciate the individual tastes and scents that give fish its allure. I don’t feel indignation toward those who are unable to enjoy it; rather a sense of pity tinged with an obligation to try to show them another way. But those who despite my ministrations choose to overlook a slice of grilled salmon or broiled trout in favor of a mound of blasÃ© mashed potatoes soaked with butter and clotted with salt find themselves at the business end of my disfavor.
However, the mark of a good meat is not merely its flavor. Texture plays a key role in the determination of an excellent piece of edible flesh. There, fish more than surpasses its land-based brethren. From the melt-in-your mouth flakiness of fried tilapia, to the delightfully soft but firm salmon sashimi, fish is a delight for more senses than merely taste and smell.
Relatively few foods can stake their claim as being mentioned in the Bible. Even fewer can claim to have been part of a genuine miracle. Fish, on the other hand, can claim both titles. When Jesus needed to feed the multitudes, He didn’t fry up a slew of goat. When the people, exhausted from having walked miles to hear the words of G-d directly from his lips, cried out for sustenance, He did not barbeque some beef or pork, or toss a salad brimming with the fruits of the ground.
No. He took the glorious fish from the hand of a boy, blessed it, and broke it. And it fed them all.
I’m a man of sometimes strong opinions, but I’m not altogether unreasonable. I recognize there are times and places when eating fish might be necessary. Times like day 19 after an oceanic shipwreck. Places like an underground bunker beneath the rubble of World War III.
But for everyone outside the plots of Waterworld and Mad Max, there is no reason to willingly eat these torpedo-shaped nausea makers. Fish oil may prevent heart disease and depression, but why torture yourself at the table when you can get the same benefit from a pill?
I know some people live where fish are the only real source of nutritious food. I feel awful for them, and I don’t wish to upset the precarious brainwashing they’ve had to put themselves through simply to survive. To those poor souls, I can send only my sympathy and a brochure for real estate in the American Southwest.
The rest of you are without excuse.
“You know what’s really good on fish?,” comedian Jim Gaffigan asks. “Anything that kills the taste of fish!” And it’s true! What’s the classic fish-eater’s claim? “Oh, it tastes just like chicken!” Even if this were true (it’s NOT), it wouldn’t help. Food, especially meat, should be appealing by itself! It shouldn’t have to rely on culinary subterfuge or taste deception, designed to hijack goodwill from a wholly unrelated meat to sneak its scaly flesh past our wise and knowing tongues. Food should stand on its own two feet!
But then, fish don’t have feet, do they? There you go.
You know what fish are good for? Metaphors. You can “flounder” or “flop around” like a “fish out of water.” You can “get a nibble” or “get off the hook,” then choose to “fish or cut bait.” You bemoan the “fish that got away” till you remember there are “plenty of fish in the sea.” You might be a “fisher of men” or you may “shoot fish in a barrel,” “teach a man to fish,” or go on a “fishing expedition” — but remember houseguests, “like fish, stink after three days.” Linguistically, fish do it all! Their contribution to our literary lexicon is unquestioned.
So let’s keep fish on our pages and off our plates.
Ã‚Â©1984-2007 Chick Publications, Inc. Reprinted without permission as fair use (parody).
“[Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden] loves his voice so much, you’d expect him to be following it around in a grey Buick, in defiance of a restraining order, as it walks home from school.” — J. Goldberg
This and every Monday, the Bweinh!tributors, having convened in secret for hours of reasoned debate and consideration, will issue a brief and binding ruling on an issue of great societal import.
This week’s question — What one specific thing would you eliminate from the world?
The Council was unable to reach a majority ruling on this issue.
Steve offers this opinion, joined by MC-B and Tom:
The false and dangerous religion of Islam.
Chloe offers this opinion, joined by MC-B and Connie:
Connie offers this opinion, joined by Tom:
Spam email, including the porn ones.
David offers this opinion:
Josh offers this opinion:
Mike offers this opinion:
The Dallas Cowboys.
Djere offers this opinion:
Skunks or mosquitoes.
Next week: who is the worst villain in history?
Today’s Ask Bweinh! poll is brought to you by Rochester, NY, the Flower City — the front line in the never-ending linguistic war between ‘soda’ and ‘pop.’ And Bweinh.com? Proud to be a soldier on the side of soda.
You know our favorite chores — now you learn our most-hated!
|1.||Cleaning the Bathroom||15|
|3-4 (tie)||Washing Pets; Making Beds||10|
|8-10 (tie)||Cleaning the Litter Box; Taking Out Trash; Shearing Sheep||4|
|Other||Mowing Lawn; Mopping; Raking Leaves; Shoveling Snow; Defragging the Hard Drive; Weeding||1-3|
Someone broke a hole in the nudist colony’s fence.
The police are looking into it.
Originally published on May 4, 2007.
If I have learned anything in my sojourn among the Christians of southern Alabama, it is that these folks are proud of their ignorance. They live for any chance to show they know absolutely nothing about the Bible but what comes from sudden inspiration or TBN. I’ve endured the apologetics that accompany this ignorance in many sermons during my time here, and I’ve begun to believe Peter, the ‘ignorant fisherman,’ is their patron saint.
“I don’t need to go to seminary,” they proclaim, “God called me to preach!” (“Seminary” is usually unintentionally mispronounced as ‘seminar’ or intentionally mispronounced as ‘cemetery.’) Another favorite — “I don’t need no master’s degree, I got (pointing heavenward) the Master’s degree!” They make many declarations like these, invariably invoking Peter as the final proof that God places a premium on ignorance. “If God can take an ignorant fisherman like Peter and use him, I reckon (yes, they still use that word here) he can use me.”
Don’t misunderstand me. I understand God takes people the way they are, calls them into his kingdom, and, as we used to say at Faith Fellowship, the calling is the enablement. My contention, though, is that God never lets anyone stay ignorant — and I doubt Peter would fall under anyone’s definition of ignorance anyway.
Peter may have been a fisherman but he was raised as a Jewish boy, trained in the scriptures from a young age. He lived in a region of Judea governed by Rome and Hellenized by the Greeks under Alexander the Great, so he would have spoken Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek at least. He was able to read and write those three languages and also had a passing knowledge of Latin, the legal language of the Roman Empire.
In his first sermon in the book of Acts, Peter quoted Joel and the Psalms. In his second sermon, he references Deuteronomy, Genesis and Psalms, and at the prayer meeting after his release from prison, he quotes from Exodus and Psalms again. In his first epistle he quotes Deuteronomy, Leviticus, Genesis, Daniel, Exodus and Isaiah — in the first chapter. By the end of his second epistle he has shown a grasp of all five books of the Pentateuch, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Isaiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Hosea, Jeremiah and Micah. Along the way he demonstrates a working knowledge of baptism, repentance, faith, judgment and many more doctrines than I can enumerate.
If he was ignorant when God called him, which I find doubtful, he sure didn’t stay that way. When I find people who have been saved for 5, 10, 20, or 30 years who still have not read the Bible through and in some way applied themselves to understand it, I find it inexcusable.
Originally published on April 27, 2007.
|In this corner, arguing against a standard HPV vaccine, is Job!||And in this corner, arguing for a standard HPV vaccine, is Tom!|
I am very much not a father. I am very much not a female. But I do think it is somewhat possible that I might someday father a female and I can guarantee you no government is going to mandatorily vaccinate my adolescent daughter for any sort of sexually transmitted disease, such as the Human Papillomavirus.
The implication is disgusting. While the vaccine appears to be very effective, thorough and well-tested (albeit costly), and while I’m definitely not saying all Gardasil doses should be destroyed and the recipe burned, the notion that the government should go to
Currently only one state, Texas, has taken the steps to make such vaccinations mandatory. While the issues raised about Merck’s campaign donations to Gov. Rick Perry are tough to build an argument around, his use of an executive order in favor of legislation requiring all girls entering sixth grade to be vaccinated does show a feeling that public dialogue may not go his way. And when the Texan legislature overruled his order, it further showed that apprehension about such invasion is most certainly there.
I think a far better tack to take would be allowing some competition to ferment, to make HPV vaccines cheaper and more readily acceptable, perhaps even easier and less expensive than pap smears.
What is more, understanding the disease, the manner in which it’s spread and the way it affects the physiology and psychology of women is of far greater benefit to our society than allowing the government to come in and sweep the problem under the rug.
Issues as personal as sexuality and children should always be handled delicately and with broad dialogue — never with executive orders that imply an urgency that suspects parents don’t already worry enough. Offer the vaccines, sure. Mandate them?
Over my dead body.
This shouldn’t be a debate over the actual use of the HPV vaccine. Its spread might be linked to the grinning, busted-up specter of promiscuity enjoying belle-of-the-ball status throughout most of the western “romantic” world, but few would say nothing should be done to stop the single largest cause of cervical cancer. Instead, my focus is bringing the vaccine into the standard arsenal of vaccinations.
Should a child get a vaccine their parents don’t want? There’s a difference between “standard” and “mandatory” vaccination. Your child won’t be denied access to preschool because she wasn’t immunized against HPV. Then there’s Job’s position — it should be available on request, but not suggested as a matter of course. When was the last time your co-worker was out for a few weeks with a nasty case of measles, mumps, or polio? Never — because of the vaccines that have rendered most individuals immune to them. They don’t merely keep individuals from getting sick, but prevent disease from spreading throughout a population. Since HPV is often asymptomatic in men, this makes it more important for women to be immunized, as a matter of course if the parents do not object.
There are moral implications to women getting these vaccinations before puberty. But when you travel to the third world, you don’t start vaccinations when you’re hip-deep in mosquitos. You get the shots well before you need them, to develop a sufficient immune response. Vaccines are useless for someone already infected, so it’s best to give the shots when they have the best chance to be effective. Will it make the country more promiscuous? How could it get any worse? And how many kids know what MMR or DTaP (two current vaccines) stand for? All the kid has to know is she’s getting a shot to keep her from getting sick, and if she’s good, she’ll get a lollipop.
HPV has been strongly linked to cervical cancer; even in women who approach sex the right way, its widespread nature makes it a threat — from rape, a husband’s past, or infidelity. We owe it to ourselves and our children’s children to try to stop it.
Originally published on April 6, 2007.
A common question, even amongst those of the faith, is why Good Friday is called good. I think it’s a fair question, not because I don’t think the day is aptly named, but because I’ve started to wonder why we treat the day the way we do. I’m actually starting to think today is the most underrated of all holidays.
From a secular standpoint, today has never “caught on.” Unlike Christmas and Easter, it has no consumerist traditions to mix with its true meaning. There are no catchy greetings or songs or mascots. It’s just a day off that results in a long weekend, putting it on par with President’s Day (only without the automotive sales) or Labor Day (only without the cookout). The only thing that sets the day apart is a three-hour church service — not the greatest hook for selling candy and greeting cards.
Within the church, Good Friday has always been treated as a very somber day. This seems reasonable, since it commemorates someone’s death. Particularly since the release of the film The Passion, there is a real sense of empathy for what Christ suffered. Certainly this day is an excellent opportunity to reflect on our own need for repentance from the things we have done that put Christ in that position.
But I also think there needs to be more celebration on Good Friday. I don’t think today should just be an appendage to the impending celebration of Easter. Obviously the resurrection was cause for celebration, but so was his death. Just because they didn’t realize it 2000 years ago doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate it now. Because we know dying was his purpose, death would be conquered, and that this would set the very foundation of our faith, his death can’t only be viewed as a tragedy.
It would have been tragic if he hadn’t died.
As Paul noted, if Christ had not been raised, our faith is futile. But it was at the moment of his death that the sacrifice was made for our sins. The temple curtain was torn in two, the barrier separating us from God was removed forever, and the price had been paid for our forgiveness.
He died to give me life. I don’t take it lightly, but I do rejoice.
“Don’t be ashamed if you can’t play the piano. Be proud of it.” — E.W. Howe
“Roll out the TNT, anchors aweigh!
Sail on to victory, and sink their bones to Davy Jones, hooray!”
Week six in Navy boot camp is not the hardest, but it is the busiest and most predatory. By busiest, I mean your days are relentlessly filled, and by predatory, I mean you stand the greatest chance of flunking out of the Navy. By this point, anyone who hasn’t learned to swim (still an appalling number) gets set back in training, anyone who fails an inspection gets the same, and anyone who can’t endure the gas chamber absolutely, positively gets sent home.
The gas chamber was roundly described by our drill instructors as a “rite of passage” . . . something all recruits must accomplish, thus something that binds all military personnel together. It’s tear gas, heated up on a skillet, then blown throughout the room by fans. All recruits must step up to the line, remove their gas mask and scream their name, rank, and division number — while collecting all bodily fluids in their left, cupped hand.
I won’t try to man my way through this explanation — it was horrible. The instructor threw the tablets on the skillet (this was our brains on whatever drug we were on when we decided to join the Navy) and off came the gas mask. I really can’t stress to you enough how quickly and violently the attack set in. It made me cry in pure streams, my throat twisting like a rag, my body rattling. My instinct – a healthy one – was to run, but you can’t or you’ll just have to do it again. The girl next to me projectile vomited and I felt my head start to spin with truly remarkable velocity. Uno, dos, tres, CATORCE!
“SEAMAN RECRUIT TATE, DIVISION 237!”
“You’re good to go, Tate, RUN!”
And outside for ten minutes for blowing, snorting, spitting and blinking. I overuse the word, but it was truly remarkable. The purpose of the exercise was to teach us confidence in the gas mask and sympathy for those we might have to gas. Both were accomplished very well.
Living through the gas chamber was a very satisfying accomplishment in that it signified one of the final requirements of my training, a further step toward leaving — something I long for very much. But as our drill instructors told us, it was a bonding experience and it helped highlight just how dear my fellow recruits have become to me. We’ve all absorbed and mixed each other’s problems and trials to the point that they don’t carry individual characteristics anymore. We are truly a team. I was wary of this transformation at first; it seemed so contrary to the independence hard-wired into me.
But as I’ve gone through this experience I’ve realized this relationship I have now with my fellow sailors is the one I wish I had with my fellow believers. One where we feel this world is toxic, where our crying and coughing in response were evident enough to set us apart in a most conspicuous manner. And one that would make me feel, sincerely, as though any suffering endured by a fellow believer was just as much my own.
Originally published on May 24, 2007.
This post fulfills a promise I made on May 12, 2004.
I talked to a few million people a few years ago. It was on the radio, the Rush Limbaugh Show, actually, and I had called to argue with the host about the meaning of Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone. He thought the author was interested in some ludicrous governmental solution to the problem of decreased activity in civil society, such as bowling leagues, voluntary associations, and churches.
I told him I thought it was much more of a (small-r) republican book, calling for a return to the America de Tocqueville wrote about, the one where people banded together in churches and associations and did good for each other, meeting their needs for social interaction at the same time they benefited the community.
I was right, and he said so.
But regardless of what Putnam meant, the problem remains. Voluntary social and charitable associations like the Lions Club, the Masons, and the American Legion continue to get grayer and grayer. Many old-line denominational churches have seen dramatic dropoffs in attendance, possibly because much of their ‘ministry’ consisted only in providing a place for ancients to meet, greet, and eat.
As Rush and I agreed, the Internet and cell phones (not to mention the iPod) are making it easier and easier to live a totally compartmentalized life, where interaction with others can be carefully limited and even planned, taking place on one’s own terms rather than as part of the collision and chaos of real life.
There are some exceptions in the culture at large. Certain churches, which combine a real and worshipful devotion for God with a desire to live in authentic community and engage the outside world, have grown and grown in attendance as secular groups have faltered.
And people still go to bars.
Toby Keith had a hit in 2003 with I Love This Bar, a song about a place with ‘winners,’ ‘losers,’ ‘bikers,’ ‘suckers,’ ‘broken-hearted fools’ and ‘yuppies’ — all identified in only the first two verses!
The chorus reads like a sociological case study, although written on a 3rd-grade level:
I love this bar. It’s my kind of place.
Just walkin’ through the front door puts a big smile on my face.
It ain’t too far. Come as you are.
Hmm, hmm, hmm, I love this bar.
Keith’s bar is precisely HALF of what America wants and needs from its civil organizations. A place where everyone is safe and accepted, where lines of class and race are ignored, where anyone can legitimately feel at home. But the feeling of community in even the most congenial neighborhood tavern exists because of the desire for profit. And although the bonds forged over a Heineken may be no less strong than those forged on a Habitat for Humanity site, it’s important to remember the other half of our civil society, the selfless half.
Humans are social creatures, but proper civil society should and must harness that sociability to benefit more than just ourselves. The occasional spaghetti dinner to benefit a cancer patient is something. But in comparison to a sadly shriveling organization like the Shriners, who have devoted themselves to the care of sick children, it seems not nearly enough.
Tocqueville his own self wrote, “Two things in America are astonishing: the changeableness of most human behavior and the strange stability of certain principles. Men are constantly on the move, but the spirit of humanity seems almost unmoved.”
Perhaps the problem with America is not that we no longer engage in the typical and stable principles of civil and social behavior, but that we seem unable to do so anymore without alcohol — depressant, social lubricant and lowerer of inhibitions. Even a bar as wonderful as the one in Toby Keith’s imagination can never replicate real, authentic community.
|3-7 (tie)||McSweeney’s, onBeing, Homestar Runner, Hamster Dance, Facebook||5|
|8-12 (tie)||National Review Online, Literature Map, WorldNetDaily, CNNSI, Sacred Space||4|
|Other||Redskins, RetroJunk, Slate, Google News, Titus 1:9, Organ Mountains, Breitbart, Yahoo! Fantasy Sports, In a Godward Direction, Banksy’s art, Washington Times, Albino Black Sheep, Phillies Blog||1-3|
Originally printed on May 11, 2007.
At 11:21 this morning, I turned in the last final of my sophomore year of college. It feels pretty good to finally be done and have summer looming before me with its promises of outdoor fun, a multitude of refreshing beverages and gainful employment. However, as I look back, successfully completing this year of college seems a bit hollow. Of the 76 or so years the average American male lives, twenty of mine will be eaten up preparing for the future (3 or so of daycare/preschool, K-12, 4 years of undergrad) — that’s over a quarter of the average without including graduate work!
Completing this year has reminded me that every college guy like me is gambling a rather large portion of his life on the idea that the other 75% of his life on Earth will be worth more to him with a college degree than the 25% he’s traded pursuing one, never mind the loans to repay. That’s a significant wager, and it would be rather frightening if it didn’t pay off.
Of course, I still have my ace in the hole. It will go well for me, even if I become destitute, live in a cardboard box, pick up a touch of the consumption, run up a huge hospital bill and die. I know where I’ll end up in the end, and once I’m there, the results of the earthly wager won’t matter so much. Not everyone has that security, though.
The liberal arts program at an average university teaches students they are better off relying on their own ability to provide for their own security, severely limited as it may be, than to rely on a nebulous concept like God for their needs. After all, if you can’t see Him, how can you trust Him? Students who accept this lie leave the university unarmed to fight with hope against the injustice the world runs on, which eventually leaves many disillusioned, bitter and depressed. Not to be too sentimental, but if in the next few weeks you could think about the students graduating this time of year and pray for them a little, they may appreciate it someday. I know I will; I might have to work with some of these people!
Also, if you could pray that I don’t live in a box, that’d be super too. Thanks.