Tuesday, 25 August 2020
Written by Pitt Dickey
Things are a bit tough all over. Paragons of virtue are dropping like flies. The U.S. Post Office is being dismantled right before our very eyes to help Dear Leader’s re-election prospects. Remember the picture of Jerry Falwell Jr. on the yacht with one arm around the bare midriff of a Lady Friend and the other hand holding a drink? Neither Jerry nor Lady Friend can keep their pants zipped up for the photo. When having your picture made with a woman to whom you are not married, it is wise to have your pants zipped. Times change. It is bigly sad.
Jerry’s picture reminded me of “The Second Coming,” a poem William Butler Yeats wrote: “Things fall apart: the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world; … The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity.” If we cannot rely on our religious leaders to put passionate intensity behind them and keep their pants zipped, we are in a heap of trouble.
What with the ever-expanding death toll from The Rona, troubles in the streets, the stock market booming oblivious to the millions of Americans out of work who are worried about rent and being able to find their next meal, it all does not make sense. What’s it all about, Alfie? I tried to come up with a unified field theory of what it all means. Unfortunately, as Curly of the “Three Stooges” once said, “I tried to think, but nothing happened.”
But if once you can’t think, try, try again. I decided to cipher it all out, as Barney Fife would say. Eureka! Edgar Allen Poe might have provided a clue in his poem “The Raven.”
I stayed up late one night reading a TV Guide from the week of Oct. 17, 1965, hoping to find insight into today’s troubles. Just like in “The Raven,” the TV Guide spoke to me: “Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary/ Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore/ While I nodded nearly napping, suddenly there came a rapping, rapping at my chamber door.” The rapping came from the TV Guide. There is no lore more forgotten than a 1965 TV Guide.
There were many celestially transcendent TV shows in October 1965. Was there a common thread that might make sense of what was missing in 2020? TV gave America “Get Smart,” starring Don Adams as Maxwell Smart and the beautiful Barbara Feldon as Agent 99. I always had a crush on Agent 99, alas it was never reciprocated. Herman and Lilly Munster and Grandpa Al Lewis in “The Munsters” graced the black-and-white screens of America.
“The Man from Uncle” with Illya Kuryakin and Napoleon Solo — before he became a shill for a law firm in the 21st century — fought the evil international bad dudes of THRUSH. The most famous three-hour tour in history was in “Gilligan’s Island,” spawning endless hours of adolescent discussion of who was hotter: Ginger or Mary Ann. After Jed Clampett was out shooting for some food and up from the ground came a bubbling crude, oil that is, black gold, Texas Tea, the Clampetts moved to California to become the “Beverly Hillbillies.”
Who can forget the episode when Miss Jane Hathaway bought Elly Mae her first bra? Being a country gal, Elly didn’t know what it was. She declared her delight at having what she thought was a double-barreled slingshot for hunting. Classic. That may have been the first time a bra appeared on network TV.
The Space Family Robinson toured unknown galaxies in “Lost in Space,” with Lassie’s Mother June Lockheart as the original Mrs. Robinson, along with the semi-evil Dr. Zachary Smith, who was not someone you would want to supervise your children. The Robot frequently gave such excellent advice as “It does not compute” and “Danger Will Robinson!” particularly after Dr. Smith had been drinking. Oliver and Lisa Douglas said good-bye to city life and moved to Green Acres, where they encountered such bucolic characters as Mr. Haney and Arnold the Pig.
“Bewitched” graced the tube, starring Samantha, the beautiful witch, who was married to her befuddled husband, Darrin Stephens. As a prototype male chauvinist pig, Darrin did not want Samantha to use her witch powers to make life easier by magically twitching her nose to complete household chores. He wanted her scrubbing the floors the old-fashioned way like a good suburban housewife. Darrin’s mother-in-law, Endora, was a real witch. Like a typical 1960s mother-in-law joke, Endora thought Darrin was not good enough for her daughter and delighted in turning him into various animals. Fun fact: There were two Darrins — the first was actor Dick York, and the second Darrin was Dick Sargent. No one on the show noticed when York turned into Sargent. Maybe Endora did it. We shall never know.
So what does the 1965 TV Guide teach us about today? The common thread seemed to be spies, situational comedies on an uncharted desert isle, good-hearted monsters, suddenly wealthy country folks moving into the city, city folks moving into the country, dad’s who refuse to ask directions and get lost in space, and what happens when your wife turns out to be a real witch. My advice is to turn off the cable news and watch ME TV, where these shows live on forever and ever and ever. It was a kinder, gentler time. Now go find the remote.
Tuesday, 18 August 2020
Written by Dan DeBruler
With only a few years' exception, we have always had a family dog. On two separate occasions we were stationed abroad, and that's the only time in 40 years I can recall not having a four-legged family member.
It wasn't until recently, though, that we had a pet that used a crate in the house. When it was first suggested to us, I declined; the notion of leaving a family member in a cage while we were away seemed cruel to me. To my surprise, he warmed up
to it immediately.
Champ is a good-sized dog. He's an American Bulldog — and a bunch of something else — tipping the scales at almost 80 pounds, and we nearly go nose-to-nose when he stands on his hind legs. But something I've observed about him and the crate speaks to the need we all have for a place of refuge.
While I've attended more services since March of this year than I did in all of 2019, it's been five months since I've been to church. I miss it. I miss the camaraderie, the fellowship, the hugs and handshakes. Initially, the doors at my church and many other churches were closed as people moved to online church services in response to COVID-19.
During that time, though, I started working with local church leaders to facilitate drive-in services over the radio. But as my home church began meeting again, I found myself having to miss in-person gatherings for the new Sunday morning work obligation I'd created. I enjoy 'visiting' other churches online, whether it's my sister-in-law's church in Wichita, Kansas, or the congregation my friend pastors just outside Stedman, but I miss gathering with my church family even more.
There's something about the closeness of gathering in a church setting that makes me feel safe. Not meeting for Sunday morning worship service hasn't hindered my ability or desire to worship God at all, but there's something about the collective experience with others that adds an altogether different dynamic.
Observing my dog and his crate, in light of my longing to gather, I begin to understand the passage in Psalm 91 a little more clearly: “This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; He is my God, and I trust him.”
This hulk of a dog, whose size and appearance made neighbors choose social distancing before it was a thing at all, will run to that crate when he's afraid. He'll retreat to the seeming safety of that simple shelter when he senses anger, and he will voluntarily curl up and sleep within its four open walls whether we're home or away. It's his refuge.
He has the run of the house and yard, but chooses to return to something simple that promises a closeness and protection nothing else can.