Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Which is More Heinous?

Caveat: If you are a person of humane sensibility, you might do best to ignore this post. If, for any reason, you feel the need to stay informed about new depths in the devolution of modern global culture, you may want to read on. Of course, the very question of how much one "needs" to know probably depends on one's personal definition and tolerance...

Excerpted in its entirety from www.cnn.com earlier today...

"Tokyo, Japan (CNN) -- The game begins with a teenage girl on a subway platform. She notices you are looking at her and asks, 'Can I help you with something?'

"That is when you, the player, can choose your method of assault.

"With the click of your mouse, you can grope her and lift her skirt. Then you can follow her aboard the train, assaulting her sister and her mother.

"As you continue to play, 'friends' join in and in a series of graphic, interactive scenes, you can corner the women, rape them again and again.

"The game allows you to even impregnate a girl and urge her to have an abortion. The reason behind your assault, explains the game, is that the teenage girl has accused you of molesting her on the train. The motive is revenge.

"When does a video game go too far?

"It is little wonder that the game, titled RapeLay, sparked international outrage from women's groups. Taina Bien-Aime helped yank the game off store shelves worldwide.

"'This was a game that had absolutely no place on the market,'" said Taina Bien-Aime of women's rights organization Equality Now which has campaigned for the game to be taken off the shelves.

"But the controversy that led to stopping sales of the game instead took it viral.

"That was how Lucy Kibble and Jim Gardner in Britain heard about it.

"'I think the idea that you can do it by wholesale banning is just never going to work anyway because we downloaded it for free off the Internet,'" Gardner said.

"In the case of RapeLay, he was right. It is still readily available on dozens of Web sites, sometimes for free.

"'What happened to RapeLay is an example', said Bien-Aime, of why Japan needs to police game makers.

"'It's obviously very difficult to curtail activity on the Internet. But the governments do have a role in trying to regulate this sort of extreme pornography of children, both in their countries, and through the Internet ,'" she said, adding that they were calling for the Japanese government "'to ban all games that promote and simulate sexual violence, sexual torture, stalking and rape against women and girls. And there are plenty of games like that.' "

"Those games are known as 'hentai games.' Almost all feature girlish-looking characters. Some of the games are violent -- depicting rape, torture and bondage in detail.

"Step into a game shop in Akihabara, Japan's electronics district, and hentai games are readily available. In minutes, we found a game similar to RapeLay. The object here is also revenge: Find and rape the woman who fired the player from his imaginary job. Along the way, the player can rape a number of other girls and women.

"Hentai games are not new to Japan. This country has long produced products the rest of the world would call pornographic. But before the arrival of the Internet, such items stayed in Japan. Now, once a game goes on sale in Tokyo, it is digitized and shared everywhere.

"Japan does have censorship laws for sexual content. In games and videos, genitalia are obscured, even if it is animated. But Japan's laws do not restrict the themes and ideas of the games.

"A national law that would make possession of real and virtual images of child porn illegal is under discussion, but no serious legislation has moved forward in Japan's parliament.

"CNN contacted the Gender Equality Promotion Division in the Gender Equality Bureau of Japan's Cabinet Office, which is charged with handling the hentai gaming issue.

"Despite repeated calls over a period of weeks, no representative from the government office would comment to CNN on camera. The office refused to make a statement on paper. A spokeswoman would only say over the telephone that the Japanese government was aware that the games were a problem and it was checking to see if self-policing by the gaming industry was enough.

"A member of the Institute of Contents Culture, who did not want to give CNN his name, said restricting game themes limits freedom of expression.

"'In my opinion, RapeLay's storyline went too far. However, if a game creator wants to express something and create content out of it, a government or public entity shouldn't have the power to restrain it.'"

"Lucy Kibble and Jim Gardner, the gamers in Britain, said trying to control games on the Internet was futile and that content control was up to parents.

"'The idea of banning it, or telling people what they can and can't do just because on the off chance some kid might get involved with it is just ridiculous,' said Gardner."

So, here's my question: Which is more heinous?...the fact that human beings, all brought into the world by means of female childbirth, would design, produce, market, and profit by such vileness? Or the fact that there are those who not only defend the existence and marketing of such products, but who even denigrate any impulse to thwart the spread of same? Have we reached the point that absolutely NOTHING trumps 'freedom of expression?'

And if so, in my view, nothing blots out the guilt inherent to such a notion. Haul out all the 'old saws' you want; the fact remains that we are not animals, we are not descended from primates, and that, as eternal beings, we are ultimately accountable in ways that no other form of life is. Try using the 'freedom of expression' argument at THAT Interview-the one that will take place for each of us at the threshold of eternity...good luck with that.

The Plumb Line: "And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God game them over to a depraved mind...and, although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them." [Romans 1: 28,32,selected]

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Fantastic, Plastic Time

“Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.”
Henry Van Dyke quotes (American short-story Writer, Poet and Essayist, 1852-1933)

These famous words might lead one to think that man lives at the mercy of time...the constantly flowing medium through which we live our mortal lives...but, who says?!?!?

An impertinent question, perhaps, but there seems to be more and more anecdotal evidence that our notions of time can be and are, at times, intentionally manipulated. No one can actually break out of mortal time, of course, until one's eternal spirit departs the "jar of clay." But how we measure time, well, that can be a different matter.

A minor headline on foxnews.com today explains how Russian President Medvedev has decided to do away with two of Russia's time zones:

MOSCOW – Russia's president thought the country had too much time on its hands, so on Sunday he eliminated two of its 11 time zones.

The changes mean that Chukotka — Russia's eastern extreme, just across the Bering Strait from Alaska — is now nine hours ahead of Russia's westernmost area, the Kaliningrad exclave sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland. Formerly, there was 10 hours' difference.

As well as eliminating the time zone that previously covered the Chukotka and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky regions in the Pacific Far East, President Dmitry Medvedev ordered that Samara and Udmurtia, two regions in central Russia, should be on the same time as Moscow.

The changes went into effect before dawn Sunday when most of Russia switched to daylight savings time. People in the eliminated time zones didn't move their clocks an hour ahead.

As Craig Ferguson would say, as he shakes his fist at the all-seeing camera, "Take that!, you clock-setting faceless bureaucrats!!" (or something of that ilk).

Just think, how the "all-powerful" parameters we use for telling time dictate when we do everything, everyday. And they turn out to be 'paper tigers', afterall...who knew?! Just decide not to reset your clock!

I think I recall, quite a few years ago, that Russia had somehow not "sprung ahead" on daylight savings time for more than a year...no explanation as to whether it was intentional or not...it just happened and the daily schedules of the shivering masses were dictated by Them.

Even here, in the storied Forest City, my husband told me of a local church who decided that it was a bit of a hardship on churchgoers to lose that hour of sleep when daylight savings time is instituted each Spring; so this year, en masse, they just decided that they wouldn't adjust their clocks ahead one hour until AFTER that morning's services. Imagine the audacity! The pluck! The gratitude of the flock that was given another week to adjust their inner clocks to the seasonal change!

If only other annoying realities of life proved to be so malleable...it clearly takes Major League determination and courageous vision...I think I'll put Miss Cee on this right away....

Friday, March 26, 2010

Being My Example

One of the scary and powerful things about being a parent is knowing that, whether you like it or not, you are always modeling for your children. They watch you. They do what you do, not necessarily what you say. To some extent, they learn to think about things the way you do...as they mature, they may decide to discard those mental patterns, but I think they absorb them automatically as children.

At the moment, I am sitting at this well-fingered keyboard and glancing through the windows of the French doors that divide the living room (where I am) from the family room (which could also be referred to as the Perpetual Venue of Magazine Excavation).

Both John (a.k.a. The Illustrious Film Critic, J. Daniel Holliday) and Miss Cee are ensconced in their respective "club chairs." [Not to self: what club do they belong to?] Incredibly, they have taken it upon themselves to turn off the television (OK, they used the remote control, but it still counts!) and plant their little noses in books. I knew they had to have a little of me in them!!

But, what are they reading? Whatever it is, it appears to be engrossing. Upon further inspection, I see that both are reading out of zip-up book covers...one featuring Larry the Cucumber (from Veggie Tales, for the uninitiated), and one covered in tapestry cloth woven with angels.

They are reading their Bibles. On their own. With no prodding or bribing...without even seeing me do it for most of this past week.

They each have a printed Bible reading schedule with dates and tiny boxes that they dutifully check off...who knew?

How do these things happen? There are some minor details that involve their humbled parents...buying these volumes for them, being seen now and then with our own noses in our own copies...but the Big Answer is that they are aware, and are--I trust--becoming more aware that the Book is about Someone. Someone Big. And Powerful; Who cares more for them than they can imagine...and He is drawing them, encouraging them, being found by them...

It is humbling and exhilarating to have two of my children be my example.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Eeeesh, well, the Percolator Editor here must beg your indulgence...it can tend to be a roller coaster ride here at The Perk...harrowing headlines, funereal ruminations, sneak peeks through the Circle H keyhole, as it were...and now for Something Completely Different...

This brief installment is intended only for the female of the species, as no other "persuasion" can have the same, shall we say, appreciation for the subject matter...

What happened today, other than the afore-mentioned Census Skirmish, you ask...


Today was the occasion of yet another medical procedure on the increasingly crowded check-up agenda for Women of a Certain Age...

As I tried to locate the elusive tie string on my haute couture 'gown', I glanced around at the other ladies also detained in the Breast Health Center waiting area... some appeared utterly absorbed in the soap opera droning on from the wall-mounted TV...a couple were shouting into their cell phones, apparently laboring under the delusion that any of the rest of us cared to hear their side of the conversations...

And there was I...flipping through past memories of this no-longer-novel clinical experience...sighs of trepidation...creeping thoughts of anxiety...and then the recollection of thousands of women guffawing in raucous laughter...

It was 1996 at one of the first Women of Faith tour events...a veritable sea of estrogen...and Patsy Clairmont, a tiny sprite of a woman with a biting wit...

[paraphrase] "And let's talk about the appointment that we all wait for all year long...with great anticipation...the mammogram!...To be fair, there are no doubt a few of you younger ladies out there tonight who have not yet been initiated, so I'll just cut to the chase for you...this is where you go into a freezing cold room where you step up to a contraption that turns your Cup into a Saucer...or, if you're no longer exactly a Cup, never fear; it will turn your Saucer into a Napkin...now you know..."

Although I am no stranger to any number of womanly medical procedures, this is one from which I must avert my eyes, and therefore, I cannot say for certain (or, even with interest!) whether I am still a Saucer or have somehow progressed to Napkin or Kleenex status.

But, the technician called me back for the results (if you book your appointment on certain days, the radiologist reads the films immediately and you have your results before going home). "Everything's fine, you don't have to come back for a year," she chirped brightly. And that was a blessing I was glad to leave with.

# # #

Overheard in Census Land...

Whether you look on it as a good or bad thing, it only happens once a decade...the long-awaited black and white envelope from the Federal Government that reminds you that you're Required By Law to process the enclosed paperwork...and, it's too infrequent, too small, and too lightweight to be from Our Least Favorite Correspondent, the IRS...

Here at the Circle H Ranch, One of us tends to have a Sense of Occasion, as in 'this doesn't come along every day, let's take a gander...' But, this serendipitous perspective is routinely trumped by the Other one of us who considers anything with even a faint whiff of Officialdom to be his own sacrosanct property.

Thus, I solemnly relate the following factual account...

He [brandishing the envelope with something approaching zest]: We need to fill this out!

She: Oh! The Census Survey! Yes, I had set that aside to look at that...it only comes once every ten years, ya know!

He: Yes, and it needs to be filled out...

She: Right...I was going to fill it out...I look at it as kind of a novelty...they don't come every day, ya know!

He: I'm going to fill it out right now...

She: NO! I was going to do it! [unceremoniously snatching it away] Oooo! Look, there are all kind of new categories this time!

He: Like what? I hope there are still only two options for gender...there's no "T" for transgender or anything is there?

She: No, but you can be not only just a Pacific Islander, but specifically a Tongan, or a Fijian...

He: Fifian?

She: No, that's a French poodle name...I'm talking about ethnic groups...I think I better do this myself...

He: Oh, no you don't...[futilely reaching for the survey]

She: Hah! No! I have you in my power!

He: Oh! Well! You do! Game Over...

She: ParDON?

He: You have me...in your power...

She: *prematurely assumes a smug look of satisfaction, and reaches for her novel*

Short moments later...

He: Well, that was not nearly as involved as I thought it would be...

She: What are you talking about?

He: The Census Survey...we've got to get this stuff taken care of, ya know...

She: Hey! I was going to do that!!

He: Well, just so you know, I'M 'Person 1'....which means you are only 'Person 2'...

John: Is that like Thing 1 and Thing 2 in The Cat in the Hat, Dad?

He: Well, YES! Yes, it is!

She: It is NOTHING of the sort!

John: Can I be Person 5? Please?

# # #

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Right Destination

I just returned from a funeral for a man who was two weeks younger than I am. Now he doesn’t have an age, because he has stepped out of time and into eternity.

Like most funerals, this one was shrouded in tears and grief at the loss of a loved one. Unlike many I have attended, though, this one was heartrendingly authentic. That quality also makes it one of the most meaningful and helpful remembrance services of my experience.

I say this because during the hour of its duration, every part of it pointed to truth and, especially, ultimate Truth.

None of us lives as well as we should live. All of us cause pain to others, especially to those we love. It is probably safe to say that most of our lives are amalgamations of joy and sorrow, fear and peace; but what we most long for is purpose and security.

Some people earn praise and respect for their successes…and we all have some of those. Others, less auspiciously, may serve as a cautionary tale. But all of us are examples, whether we like it or not. People watch our lives. Those close enough to us see who we are, “warts and all.” And sometimes, like the proverbial cracked pot that holds a candle, our flaws can serve as sources of illumination.

The full view of another’s life is probably the most helpful to those who have eyes to see…as time goes on, I have started to realize that
(1) many of us are encouraged, not so much by others’ good fortune as, by the honest testimony of their shortfalls and disappointments, because those are common to all of us, and emotionally healthy people understand this; it’s hard to relate to paragons; and
(2) there’s an overarching frame of reference that all people share in common, whether they acknowledge it or not: We’re all created, we all comprise mortal and immortal natures, and all of our earthly lives are temporary. An eternal transition awaits all of us, and there are only two destinations-despite how adamantly many refuse to accept this.

The incredibly good news is that the choice of our destination depends not on how well we succeed or perform, but on one simple act of will that is possible for all of us to make: what we do with Jesus Christ.

There was a time when I would have prefaced that statement by saying, “As a Christian, I believe that…” But I am older now and have less time for loopholes. So, I say it straight out: it’s not just that I believe that statement, it’s that this is reality. I’ve been known to make people mad by this narrow insistence of mine. No matter. How it is-is how it is.

I came away from the funeral this morning still sad for the family left behind, but reminded that all those in Christ WILL see this departed one again. Why? Because he understood Who Jesus is, and how desperately he needed Him. He surrendered and was accepted. None of his struggles or shortcomings disqualified him.

In fact I say, with confidence, that he wouldn’t come back if he could.

He has arrived at the right destination and it is unspeakably better than all he could as or imagine.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Connect the [Egregious] Dots...

More often than not, I suspect, the devil laughs at us. It must be a thin, whining kind of laugh, since he already knows he's a defeated foe but, in the interim between Now and Then, how vile and viral his efforts wax...

The following are two online headlines that I stumbled across within 10 minutes of each other, from different news sources...

Parents' anger after class of seven-year-olds is shown 'graphic sex cartoon' at schoolBy Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 10:27 PM on 04th March 2010

"A mother has taken her seven-year-old daughter out of school after she was made to watch a cartoon showing a couple chasing each other around a bed and having sex."

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1255483/Parents-anger-class-seven-year-olds-shown-graphic-sex-cartoon-school.html#ixzz0hFhY8GJM


'Extra Small' Condoms for 12-Year-Old Boys Go on Sale

Thursday, March 04, 2010

"A leading condom manufacturer in Switzerland has created extra-small condoms for boys as young as 12 years old, the U.K.’s Daily Telegraph reported.

I realize that the gist of these 'stories' is, unfortunately, not news, although it may retain the power to shock. And my purpose is not to bring further discouragement to an already oppressive social culture.

But, really, what does it say when such flagrant and devastating attacks on childhood come so thick and fast?

That children are not valued? That government continues to usurp the province of parents? That businesses who can profit from the exploitation of the next
generation(s) have no scruples about doing so? That the next generation(s) have less and less probability of understanding or experiencing normal, nurturing human relationships? That the "Traditional Family," which--like it or not--is essential to stable societies is under attack like never before?

Of course--all this and more.

But I think there may well be a scarier component...the one that has to do with "hearts and minds": call it The Outrage Threshold...or, as Dr. Dobson has described it, the "doctrine of limited tears." It's the notion that there is a point beyond which the human emotions of alarm, anger, revulsion, shock, and despair no longer register--because the onslaught has been too great, for too long, and the desensitization seems irreversible.

This is the point at which, I would argue, we become less human; certainly less humane.

I'm not branching off into the logical-extension Big Issues here, the sanctity of human life at all ages, in all conditions, etc. It's enough to point out that the situation grows breathtakingly more dire, that we dare not lose our capacity to care and, most of all, that Jesus alone has the power to overcome and transform. And He does so one life at a time. If that doesn't prove the value of a single human life, I don't know what does.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

"Miss You..."


The sun is finally shining, and the thermometer has inched its way up to a whopping 35 degrees [Farenheit; in sixth grade math we "allegedly" are learning to convert Farehnheit to Celsius, but I am not that dedicated; I haven't converted to the metric system either; so there!].

A minor observation I have made is that in cases of prolonged Indoor-itis, many incidents that would ordinarily sail through the grid of everyday life seem to get 'hung up'--and magnified.

For example, last night for the third time, Miss Cee broke down into chin-trembling [yes, truly heartstring-vibrating] tears; first the smooth cheeks flushed and got patchy; then the inordinately large blue eyes were swimming with tears, and then they began to fall, hot and fast. The Usual Suspect [also known as John] was innocently flopped in a chair, intent on his current DS Mario Brothers game.

What is going on?

"It's just that I miss Daddy so much!!"

Well, he only left 10 minutes ago, and he told you goodbye, and he's going to a meeting and should be back in an hour and a half.

"I kn-kn-know...but, I c-c-can't help it. I just w-w-want him to be h-h-here..."

Unhelpful Comment from Sibling Who Is Not Gifted With Compassion: "Cecily, just get over it! Dad's coming home, and you know it. You're just doing this for attention!"

But, to a shrewd maternal eye, this emotion looked all too real.

"Well, B-B-Bennnny's not even here..."

Snarky Speaker Referenced Above: "Gee! Maybe that's because Ben is at work and hasn't cloned himself yet!"

After explaining that we don't need any Maxine-character wannabes on the premises and dispatching the heckler to further frontiers, I tried again to get to the bottom of this ennui...

"I just can't help it-I try to tell myself that Daddy will be home soon-but I know he's not here now-and then I try to put a picture of him in my mind to look at-but then it is not really him-and then I just get so s-s-s-ad..."

Well, after hugs and soft words and being awarded the coveted place on the sofa next to moi, Miss Cee was somewhat mollifed...enough, in fact, to allow her mind to wander into Pantry Provinces...

"M-Mom, do you think we might have any Girl Scout Th-Thin Mints left?"

That answer to THAT query, of course, is really a factor of familial self control, but fortunately, we discovered an entire unopened foil sleeve.

I recount all this not to put the proverbial eye to the keyhole, since most families experience some variations on this theme. But it occurred to me that I was probably witnessing one of those 'emotional baton hand-offs' --- I think human life encompasses an ongoing series of these:

We can't imagine what the first child will be like when s/he is still in utero. Then we get to the point of leaving the tiny bundle with a trusted babysitter in order to refamiliarize ourselves with our mate and use an actual fork. Baby is oblivious to our absence for a certain period of time, but we miss the little sprout so much, we hurry home ahead of time. Gotta grab that baton back! Fast forward a few years, and we're trying to unpeel sticky little hands from around our thighs as we inch toward the door.

We hand the baton off as we actually turn our back and leave them in a classroom on the first day of kindergarten...and on and on it goes through the various seasons and chapters of life. Ready or not, each generation grasps and passes on the baton until a new generation comes around.

At a high school graduation party last year, a sage grandmother cradled a newborn grandson and looked up at me with knowing eyes: "Did you know you go through the Empty Nest twice?", she asked. I looked back at her older grandson whose diploma and tassel were on display by the sheetcake...and I knew what she meant.

Your own kids move on and out, as they are meant to do, and then many times a similar pattern-one generation removed-repeats with the grandchildren...who also give and take the baton...

So, there was Miss Cee, tearfully reaching for the baton that her dad could not hand over until he returned home within the next hour. These moments, poignant as they are, probably are healthful...they are little trial runs of separation, and--I've noticed-- things that are healthful quite often are not pleasant.

Maybe the worst of it is so many of these transitions steal away unnoticed until we're brought up short at a major milestone. Or maybe a tender parental heart couldn't weather too many episodes of such awareness...

But I noticed this one, and just thought I'd share it with you...