Monthly Archives: March 2015

It’s Our Environment Too!

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I’m not sure why the tree is growing out of the chemistry flask. Is this an early pro gmo button? It seemed like when I was in elementary school that the ecology movement was a new thing. I know that when one is in elementary school everything seems like a new thing, chasing girls, learning bad words, scary big kids. But I think I’m right on this one. Seems like the first earth day was in the early 1970s. Our playground had three different pieces of equipment made out of recycled tires. And they were fun. Two were really high climbing things, probably pretty dangerous. And I remember a film they showed us–Me-cology, and the catchy little tune–That’s ecology and me, that’s mecology. The film told us not to trash up,the earth.

Oh, and it was a big deal when they put a log on our playground. It was a big log, laid down in the far corner of the playground. They told us that we would be able to study all sorts of wildlife that might make this log their home. We were told to leave it alone and let nature take it’s course. Well, it became the recess hangout for many of the boys. We weren’t supposed to be on it, but since it was so far from the school, none of our old teachers wanted to walk all the way out to it to shoo us off. In the first year it had been stripped of its bark. It became the meeting place for fights–“After school, at the log!” As far as a home for wildlife, a few insects made their way to the log. Those found were, to be fair, studied briefly, then played with, and finally, of course, squished. If that’s not an ecological lesson, I don’t know what is.

Good Friday – God’s Joke

This one I wrote for today actually.  Happy Palm Sunday.  Ha ha.

 

When I was a kid, this Sunday meant cutting some green construction paper into Palm fronds, lining up, and waving them at each other as we took turns walking past our classmates, pretending to be Jesus. “Hail King Jesus'” I can still hear us saying. (I may or may not have construction paper and scissors waiting upstairs for my middle school kids.)

Palm Sunday, I think, is one of the pieces of evidence that god has a sense of humor, or at least a sense of irony. His son enters Jerusalem, hailed as king, a dangerous thing for someone to do in the Roman Empire where no one was king but Ceasar.  Dangerous as well for those waving branches and laying down cloaks. This is it, the people must have thought. The messiah is here, he will restore god’s chosen people to our proper place in the world, and I can’t wait to see the looks on the faces of those centurions when god’s hammer comes down! Hosanna, hosanna!

Five days later, Jesus is dead. Ok, so it’s not laugh out loud funny.

But this is one of my favorite things about our faith. Who else but a god worthy of worship gives us a king whose great act of authority is not to bring the hammer down, crush his enemies, and replace one Caesar with another, ours instead of theirs. Anyone can do that. People do it all the time; have done for centuries. Instead, god’s ultimate reveal is to show himself as a dead prophet, a man who not only preached love and forgiveness for friends and enemies, for saints and sinners, mostly sinners, he lived it. He died standing up to the strong on behalf of the weak. He died praying forgiveness for his killers and speaking kingdom invitations for sinners. That’s the god we’re called to follow. A god that says follow me and then dies. A god that it doesn’t make any sense to follow. What chance does love have in the face of hate? What kind of life can I have if I give it up for others?

And even knowing what happens next Sunday doesn’t change who god is on Good Friday. It just gives us hope that maybe it’s not crazy to follow Jesus, to love unconditionally, to forgive generously, to die to ourselves, and to participate with god in the redemption and reconciliation of the world.

Amen.

The Human Fly #1

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Writer, Bill Mantlo. Artist, Lee Elias.

Issue #1, so purchased as an investment back in the day. Recently I came across some issues of The Human Fly selling at a comic shop for $6.00 each. If I could get that for this one I’d make 2000% on my investment. I should have bought 100 copies.

This is an interesting comic. First of all, while the Human Fly is the main character, it’s really about his team. And as you may recall from a previous review featuring The Challengers of the Unknown, I love this kind of team–just regular folks with a collection of specific skills that make them awesome. There is, obviously, the Human Fly, the team leader. Nearly killed in a auto accident that took the life of his wife and child, he is patched up by doctors who expect him to be bedridden for the rest of his life. But at night he sneaks out of bed and exercises against doctor’s orders, building his body into a lean, mean, stunting machine.

After making remarkable recovery, Fly visits the future members of his team, offering them the encouragement they need to overcome a major obstacle in each of their lives, get back on track, and join the Human Fly team. Both of these stories are told in flashback at a time when the team member is struggling to complete a task. Just remembering their inspirational meeting with Fly strengthens the resolve to do what needs to be done. A fun narrative tool.

The story opens with Fly preparing to do a stunt to raise money for charity. It’s then they get word that the jet full of reporters there to cover the stunt has been kidnapped by The Mercenary and his band of terrorists demanding 5-million dollars. The Fly’s team springs into action, and attempts to lower the Fly in his magnetic suit onto the hijacked plane to rescue its occupants.

The first team member we meet is Ted Locke, a Vietnam vet. Remember when every ragtag team had at least one Vietnam vet on it, if not a whole van full. Locke is trying to secure the metal rod/ladder that the Fly is climbing down from their chopper to the jet. Locke can’t seem to control the device, the Fly nearly falls. It’s then that we learn how Locke came to be on the Fly’s team. Locke thinks back to the explosives accident that cost him his hands. Sitting in the army hospital, having given up all hope to live a productive life, Locke is visited by a bandaged man who inspires him to join him. This memory gives Locke the strength he needs to use his robot hands to secure the device and keep the Fly safe.

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A similar story unfolds in the cockpit of the Fly’s plane as the pilot, Blaze Kendall thinks back to when when she crash landed a plane, and then couldn’t emotionally function as a pilot. It was the Fly that paid her an inspiring visit, and his faith in her that enabled her to rise up out of her funk and become the amazing pilot she had always been. The memory helps her to fly a steady course in harsh weather, keeping the fly safe during their rescue attempt.

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The fly manages to blow off the door of the plane and save the hostages, at least those that didn’t get sucked out of the cabin due to sudden depressurization. (That didn’t happen, but it could have.  The Fly should be more careful.)

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It’s while the Fly is beating up the hostages that one of the reporters does something stupid. That reporter’s name? Peter Parker. When you are on a plane with a limited number of people, and after the day is already almost saved, is not the time to turn into Spider-Man. But he gets dumber. As the Fly and the boss terrorist go out the door in a struggle, Spidey goes after them. This is good for the Fly who, when the bad guy goes off in a jet pack, finds himself being rescued by Spider-Man with a web parachute (that falls as fast as a man without one). But then Spidey’s all, well I better go get on that plane before they notice Peter Parker’s missing and put 1 and 1 together. First, no doiy! Second, I’d love to see how you do that Spider-Man, get back on a jet that is probably making an emergency landing right now, without being noticed.

And they’re all happy except the snotty reporter, Harmony Whyte, who obviously being set up as the foil.  She will find out what the Human Fly is all about.  Who risks his life just for charity?  She’s determined to find out.

I liked it. I liked the clever introduction of the team. I liked the lack of superpowers, something that I’m realizing that I could mostly do without.  I liked the Human Fly kicking some terrorist butt.

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The story was fun, even with Spiderman horning in. But what was best is that this comic is based on a real guy. It says so right on the cover. I didn’t notice it. But for some reason I read the editorial in this issue, something I hardly ever do. And there Bill Mantlo explained that the Human Fly is based on a real person who after the aforementioned car crash, built himself up to become the world’s greatest daredevil.

I did some research. And I don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble. But it may be more accurate to say this comic is based on a guy whose story is based on some things that may or may not be matters of fact. But the real Human Fly did ride the outside of a big jet through the rain and visit the hospital later with rain related injuries. And he did attempt to break Evel Knievel’s bus jumping record of 12 buses by jumping 26 on a rocket-powered motorcycle. There’s an interesting article about it in the British Esquire magazine. And an interview with him on Canadian television. Where is he now? No one knows.


Plainview #18

In episode 18 you’ll hear about the following: getting ready for the first day of school; The Downfall fallout, aka Mare’s breakdown; the joys of Netflix, the new cleaning lady–we still don’t have people over on Friday; Pat Robertson’s call for assassination; and the Fed making buying drugs a “pain in the ass.”

Ella Fitzgerald sings the Gershwin Song Book Vol. 2

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A quick review because frankly, I didn’t care for this one much. I pulled it out of my dad’s collection on a recent trip home because of course Ella’s good, and also this record is on the Verve label. In my mind Verve carried some cache as a publisher of hip jazz. My research shows Verve and Ella made some great records. This just isn’t one of them. This record is, in a word, boring. It’s hard to believe anyone ever enjoyed this album. I picture some guy in 1959 (my father?) picked this up because it was Ella and The Gershwins, and he put it on his hi-fi to impress his date, and the music put them to sleep on the couch. At the end of side one, she wakes up and quietly tunes off the record player and let’s herself out. She does find herself humming “Someone to Watch Over Me” on her way home, something I did yesterday after listening to this record. So I guess that’s something.

Letters Home

After leaving for college, I lived just one month one summer back home.  But that doesn’t mean I didn’t keep in touch. I recently found a stash of letters written to my folks over a period of about five years.

After high school graduation, or maybe before, I don’t remember, I signed up to attend Kansas State University. I’m not even sure you can say I was accepted, but maybe I was. Anyway, that summer I worked at the Abilene Co-op. Then I attended K-state. During that year I wrote no letters to my family, none that survived anyway, none to my knowledge.

The next summer my dad and I drove to Arizona. There I worked for a past youth group leader who was no longer in the youth group game, but was painting, mostly new construction. I painted with D., and lived with D. and his wife and young son that summer. That’s where the first letter comes from, Sierra Vista, Arizona, a booming military town at the time, about halfway between Tucson and Mexico.

I thought about just scanning these hand written letters, but decided to type them. This lets me make some edits, and will make them easier to read. I’m attempting to put these in chronological order, but mistakes may be made as some are dated and some are not.  I may not be able to resist making comments in the letters. [If I do, I’ll put them in brackets like this.]

June 11 – Wed

Dearest Family,

How are things on the ranch? They’re OK here. I got burnt today. N’s sister and brother-in-law are here–have been since Sat evening–and today we went hiking in the mountains.  We reached the peak, elevation – 9200 ft. above sea level.  Monday we went to Mexico.  I didn’t get anything for anybody, not even me.  I didn’t see anything that I needed or even wanted.  Sunday night we all went to Tuscon for an outdoor concert–classical stuff mostly.  D, and therefore me too, is taking some time off while they’re here, but we worked a little this week.  I got 40-some hours in last week.  How much would it cost to send me my running shoes? If not very much then send them.  And I would like to ask Mike to, in return for all the years of borrowing my Bill Cosby records, compile all of his (Bill’s) stuff about his kids, and having kids, and maybe when he was a kid–but mostly parent stuff, for me–N really, and send it to me on a tape. Just about anything that I’ve done and haven’t told you about is work, or playing with M, or reading , or watching videos on the neighbor’s machine.  Amadeus & Zelig (Woody Allen) thumbs up; The Meaning of Life (Monty Python) thumbs down. [Really past self? Weird, yes.  But there are parts of that movie that I love.] I was going to meet some kids someday at church, but didn’t because I left early to watch the game.  Next week.

Got here with dad Sunday night.  It rained every day till about Friday.  Now it’s hot and dry.  I’m shot form the mountain.  We hiked about 3 1/2 hours up and about 1 1/2 hours down.  Saw some deer and some lizards.  N turned her ankle pretty bad on the way down, but she’s walking on it now.

We’re going to start work at 5:30 tomorrow so I’m going to crash soon after supper.  Oh yeah. Mike–BOSTON! BOSTON! BOSTON! I’ll get my first check Friday.  Anyway, Mike, What did R. Samson say, on purpose, to the camera, about him being thrown out of the game? What kind of call was it Ralph? A bull what call? Gotta go eat.  I’m back.

I’ve been sleeping in the Arizona room–sort of a screened in porch–while the in-laws are here. It’s been really nice. So nice in fact, I think I’ll go to bed right now.  If I forget to tell you anything I’ll tell you next time I write.  Write me.  I miss you.

Love,

Matt

 

Quit Your Kidding (or hiding)

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When I first read this button, I read it “Quit Your Hiding.”  So the story below, the one originally published about a year ago is about hiding.  Then someone posted saying, “Doesn’t that say Kidding.” Yeah, reading and spelling never were my strong suits.

This is another of those buttons from the 40s. This one seems like a kind of creepy, stalkery. The one time I remember hiding, when I really didn’t want to be found, was on a Fourth of July. For reasons of lack of rain, or jumping on the safety bandwagon, or some kind of general unamericanism, our little town had put a ban on the use of fireworks. Well, that got me and my three main buds pretty fired up, partly on principal, partly because at least one of us had invested in a paper bag full of fire crackers and bottle rockets. When night fell we put our foolproof plan into action. These fireworks would get shot off, oh they would get shot off.

We drove out to the fairgrounds, and two of us at one end of the street, and two of us at the other, we took turns launching bottle rockets at each other. When those were gone we started in on the firecrackers. At one point head lights appeared and we fled, every man for himself. Mike ran into a sale barn. He didn’t see the chain that had been pulled across the entrance. It caught him about hip-high and flipped him over onto his face. Good times, good times.

Once the danger was gone and we’d regrouped, we found we still had a few fire crackers left. We drove to the Skid’s house which was just across the street from the high school. High on patriotism and adrenalin from the recent chase, we stood in front of the school, lighting one Black Cat after another and gaily tossing them into the air to explode over our heads. That’s when the spotlight hit us. First we froze. Then we bolted the opposite direction of the patrol car that was headed our way. We turned the corner, sprinted a few steps down the one way street, and dove into the bushes. It was just Mike Skid and me. I don’t know what happen to the other two. We knelt in the bushes, head down, an appropriate pose for the situation, trying to make ourselves as small as possible. As the cop car easssssssed by, the spotlight swinging back and forth over our position, I whispered to Mike without moving my mouth, “We’re dead.” He responded in his own motionless whisper, “Shut up.” When the car had passed we didn’t hesitate. We burst from the bushes and sprinted back to Mike’s house in record time. The other two were already there. We collapsed onto the couch, happy for our freedom. It had been a successful Independence Day. God bless America.

Living for Others

This one is so short and ends a bit abruptly, so I’m not sure if it’s complete.  But it seems close.
Last week we had our church involvement fair.   If you weren’t able to attend, let Hannah know how you’d like to help and we’ll get you connected. It’s important that you contribute, that you take part, that you touch some lives.  That’s what I’m going to talk about today.

I’ve been going through old files from 17 years of teaching at Adrian.  I have a few years left, god willing, but I’m needing to make some space.  I found a file folder full of art and mementos of the last 17 years.  I’ve been blessed folks. And some of you have been involved in that.  Here’s some of what I found.

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What this collection doesn’t include is all the notes that would have read, you didn’t listen to me when I needed you to, you made a joke when I was trying to be serious, you tended to yourself instead of me.  People don’t make coloring pages for those thing.  But they do remember them.
I’m fortunate.  My job involves living for others. When I do it right that’s what happens.  But it’s really a what were all supposed to do.

I’ve probably told the story about the woman that spoke to me at the grocery store checkout one day.  I didn’t recognize her. She asked me if I’d been there before.  I said yes.  She said she thought so, and that I had said “hi” to her once when she was having a bad day, and that it had really helped her.  So much so that she remembered it enough to tell me thanks weeks later.

Every Sunday is really a celebration of resurrection Sunday.  But our weekly communion also reminds us of what came before the resurrection. Christ died.  Christ died as he lived, doing for other people. Paul wrote that if we want to really live, we need to die to ourselves, and we need to live for others.

Amen.