Friday, August 28, 2009

Take A Lesson From Vanessa

Two local teenage boys face misdemeanor charges for "sexting." Tucson Police tell us a girlfriend willingly sent them a naked picture, which they proceeded to share, hence the charge of "intimidation and harassment through the use of a telephone."

Young ladies, I'll say this again: You never ever get nude in front of a camera, period, at any time in your life, for anybody, for any reason. It doesn't matter how much you love or trust the intended recipient of your bared body. Maybe you think a little flesh is fun and games, but TPD asks you to think a few moves ahead:
"For one, [the photo is] stuck in cyberspace and it will never be eliminated," says Sgt. Diana Lopez of Tucson Police. "For two, for those who receive it and forward it to others, you're humiliating the person who sent the photo."
Sgt. Lopez didn't mention the other gotchas like blackmail, lost job opportunities, ridicule, et cetera, et cetera, all because of a few dirty pictures.

Ask Vanessa Williams how a skin pic can come back to bite you. In 1982, she agreed to pose nude for photographer Tom Chiapel, thinking it was just for artistic purposes. She went on to win Miss America only to give up the crown in 1984 when Penthouse got hold of the photos. Williams thought they'd been destroyed. This was long before most of us knew about the Internet, and cell phones were still years away from most people's hands.

Ask yourself this question, Dearest Ladies: "Am I worth more than a nudie mag?" If you're answering "yes" to this and still hitting the send button, some seriously scrambled sentiments need straightening out.

One other curiosity: if we're going to charge teenagers with a crime for passing naked pictures around, perhaps the girls should share some of the legal culpability, if the stigma and embarrassment of this practice isn't enough to dissuade them. I'm afraid it isn't, granted the prevalence of it among our young people.

Dearest Ladies, you're not pin-up girls. You're not centerfolds. Don't act like them.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

How Could It Happen?

Sexual abuse is a magnitude 7 earthquake that destroys lives. Dial that up to a 10 when it happens inside a church. The Arizona Republic reports on the case of a former pastor who made a plea deal in a sex abuse case and is getting up to 4 years in prison. His victims and their families say it's not enough. The details of the case against this former pastor are complicated, and prosecutors say many of the accusations against him lack enough evidence for a conviction.

But moreover, the women who say they were victimized can't understand how it could've happened in the first place:
"I don't know what to believe. I grew up knowing that there was a God and seeing that there really was one, and then this whole thing happened and I don't see how God can let things like that happen to His kids," [a woman who says she was attacked] said. "Why, if you're God, why didn't you put an end to it? Because if you're God, you have the power to do that."
GOD does indeed have that power. But you have also have to remember 1 John 5:19: "We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one." Don't miss the second half of that verse. It concisely explains why bad things happen to good people, even with a loving GOD watching over us -- even in church. When sin entered the world, the spiritual battle began, and you can't forget about the collateral damage. GOD is fighting for us, but that damage still happens.

It helps to focus on the flip side: this former pastor is going to prison. Justice is being done, and GOD's justice will ultimately be done in the end. Another woman who says she was victimized offers this perspective:
"I'm a Christian and I hate that man. And I know I'm not supposed to hate that man and I do because I see what he's done to my family," she said. "How could somebody do that in the name of God? That's exactly what turns people against God. It's not God; it's people. It's people."

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Reel To Reel: Inglourious Basterds

Kill Bill? No, Kill Adoph!

Going Rate: A must for film geeks and Tarantino buffs. Everybody else: stick to Saving Private Ryan
Starring: Brad Pitt
Rated: R
Red Flags: Intense Graphic War Violence and Brutality! One brief (under 10 seconds) scene of Sexuality

Director Quentin Tarantino doesn't make films as much as remix them. Thus Inglourious Basterds is a cross-pollination of spaghetti westerns, war pictures and 70's action melodramas with a taste of blaxploitation here and there. It's bogus history but rollicking entertainment, a revenge film that satifies our hatred of maniacal bigots the same way Rambo: First Blood Part II won the Vietnam war for us on celluloid.

Lt. Aldo Raine (Pitt) leads a gang of Jewish-American Nazi hunters known as "The Basterds" who take no prisoners. "We will be cruel to the Germans and through our cruelty they will know who we are," he says in his southern-drawled command cadence. "They will find the evidence of our cruelty in the disemboweled, dismembered, disfigured bodies their brothers we leave behind us and the Germans will not be able to help themselves from imagining the cruelty their brothers endured at our hands, at our boot heels, and the edge of our knives." He demands 100 scalps from each recruit, taking inspiration from the Indian wars. Raine's gang goes about Europe, dirtier than the Dirty Dozen ever were, although the worst of their violence is confined to only one sequence, where a Nazi sergeant is clubbed to death with a baseball bat.

His counterpart is Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), a suave and intelligent but merciless Jew hunter whose flattery usually means you're gonna die. In the film's opening scenes, he talks up a French farmer as a prelude to murdering a Jewish family. Only one of them escapes, Shoshanna Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent), who re-emerges later as a cinema owner. She draws the affections of war-hero sniper Fredrick Zoller (Daniel Brühl), whose exploits are the inspiration for a propaganda film to be debuted on her screen with most of the German High Command in attendance, including Hitler himself. Dreyfus formulates a revenge plan that will make The Towering Inferno look like A Night To Remember. Lt. Raine hears about the premiere through a rendezvous gone wrong involving a French film star. He formulates his own tit-for-tat maneuver, although we're never really sure if he knows about the one already in development.

The film's gritty violence earns the hard-R rating, but there's far much more dialogue than shooting, accounting for most of the film's two-hour plus run time. Tarantino clearly loves his character's lines -- mostly in German or French with subtitles. Although they're loaded with wit, a couple of scenes could stand a few more cuts. I'm also not sure about his device of occasionally leaving a common French word untranslated in the subtitle, where oui shows up as "Oui." Maybe it's to keep us on the ball.

Many of the picture's characters are drawn to near parody. I've mentioned Raine's good-'ol-boy drawl, but a pair of British officers come across so effeminate they could've walked straight out of a Monty Python sketch. And Hitler is just nuts: "Nein, nein, nein, nein, nein!" Oh yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. You love it. You know you do.

The movie strongly hints at what Sergio Leone might have done with a war picture, with its swells of Ennio Morricone-inspired music. Otherwise, it's Tarantino being Tarantino, the movie geek who shares his love of film by turning his favorite genres into dark comedy.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Tough Break, Kid

One year to the day after shattering my right arm, I have finally looked at the initial x-ray. This is the one my friends passed around the morning after the accident, the one my father took the the office, the one my surgeon saw and told my mother I might not be able to turn a doorknob again. This is the one I told myself I would not look at until one year later.

Today, I finally did.

Ugggh. It's that bad. My initial comparison was the fault line of an earthquake.

If you've got the stomach for it, you can look at it here. Be warned, it's graphic!

And here's a look from last November, three months after the break, when my doctor in Tucson declared I was "healed" -- technically speaking.

Here's how my arm is doing one year later: I can wiggle all my fingers without any pain. My thumb took about four months to regain full motion, once the muscles and nerves learned to work around the two plates that are holding my bones together. I still have brief occasional nuisance pain in my arm above the elbow, but not enough to be concerned about. Changes in the weather and humidity tend to aggravate it.

I never had to use the prescription for Percoset I got upon discharge from Flagstaff Medical Center. Once the operation was complete, the most pain I had was from the pinch of nurses cleaning out and changing my IV over the next two days.

I've done some heavy lifting with this arm, likely against the wishes of my friends or doctors. I still have a couple of noticeable scars from where the surgeons sliced me open to insert the rods, which don't set off metal detectors. My arm can still get cranky and sore when shouldering a musket for a long time, but I'm dealing with it. Giving up reenacting is not an option. I will not, will not, drop out of going into battle.

The orthopedic surgeon who wired me back together told me he had never seen anything like this. I don't know how much he's seen, but I know he practices sports medicine, so I can imagine a bit. A friend told me this particular doctor is one of the best in Northern Arizona. If he didn't have that reputation before, he deserves it now more than ever.

But the ultimate praise belongs to GOD. We know that GOD brings good out of tragedy. Romans 8:28 (NIV) says: "And we know that in all things GOD works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose." When bones break, they heal together stronger at the point where they broke. So it is with my faith. All this did was make me stronger, in body and soul.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Return Of The Highlander

Memories of the We Make History 2009 Highland Ball From the Journal of Christopher the Highland Nobleman

Photos by M. Cynecki

"We need eight brave volunteers to step to the centre," the Bonnie Prince commands.

At once, at least ten lads and lasses step to the center of the room.

"The two favourite dances of the Scots were the jig and the reel," our host explains. The reel shall come in good time, but for now, we shall commence with the jig. And how does one dance a proper jig? The method, the Bonnie Prince explains, is as individual as the person.

Three of the other lads fix their falcon eyes on me, revealing a tinge of anxiety.

"I know," I say. "I know. I know."

"Sir Christopher," our brave leader calls out. "We will not have any immodest high kicks. We are not the French!"

I have waited for this moment for nearly a year. I pined for it from the moment I sat in the back of an ambulance, weeping over a broken arm and a broken heart. It is time to make the last stitch in the mending process, complete the weave, finish the task. I had requested a second chance with every good reason to be denied, and here was the Prince bestowing upon me this gift.

The music begins, and I raise one hand into the air as I attempt another Highland Fling -- with study ghillies this time, and sounder sense of footing.

I labour no acrobatics, no showing off in some sort of dance-off with my Jacobite brethren.

The gathered around me watch and clap, and perhaps a few hold their breaths. I wonder if Clan Tucson, in their brown tartans evoking the desert sand, will flank and surround me as they begin their war dance.

I change from foot to foot, raised arm to raised arm. The ghillies are lighter than my infamous buckled shoes, but I can feel something holding them down, some weight that keeps this a low-impact jig. I could be top heavy, wearing a red weskit and a lace jabot in addition to my Royal Stewart tartan and plaids. Those diced red-and-white hose could be the chains upon my feet. Or perhaps it is something else acting as a counterweight as I swing one foot back and forth behind the other and step with uncharacteristic grace for a Highland warrior.

Lads and lads cut in, and I am tapped out to the sidelines, but not for long. I weave my way back into the centre and tap another Highland warrior to continue my fling. Other Highlanders join us and fill the floor, raising their hands high in Flings of their own. If they are following my lead, I am grateful. I wouldn't expect anybody to follow me down, but I remain on my feet, without even a hint of a slip.

"HUZZAH!" we cry upon the conclusion. "HUZZAH!"

"You survived it!"

"Redemption," I say, between breaths.

I arrived to meet my beloved Scottish brethren the same way I left.


"HUZZAH!" they cheered back, welcoming me with smiles. I tarry not in my bows, many bows, as the clans gather on the lawn outside the hall. The Highland Ladies emerge from the bottom of the hill, and they keep arriving. The beauty and colour of their gowns leaves me with nothing to do except smile. I greet a large gathering of lasses, and a lady graciously introduces me to her daughters and their friends. I bow all around to them, one at a time, as she names them. Their smiles are warm and heart-piercing. They surround in a half-circle. Twenty years roll off my age in sixty seconds.

Among the lasses, however, is a lady dear to me, in a bright red tartan gown. She has prayed for me through my tribulations, and now I have invited her to join me here. She is my cheerleader as well as dancing companion, and she is mesmerized by the architecture and the beauty of the building before us as the sun sets and a cool Highland breeze takes over from a cloudless sky.

We pose for pictures, many pictures. Like Brigadoon emerging from the mist, we find ourselves in this spot only once a year.

The grand march to begin the dance is a march indeed.

"What are we fighting for?"

"FREEDOM!" I shout.

As we weave around the hall in a circle led by the Bonnie Prince and Flora MacDonald, I feel the inspiration to add a few stomps in the spirit of the Jacobites march through the Highlands, through Edinburgh and then south to London. And to my delight, I hear more stomps, building from a soft thumping to a pronounced and precise boom, enough to put fear into a British regiment. This is our drill. Now come the maneuvers.

"All gentlemen to the centre!" the Bonnie Prince calls out.

"All ladies!"

"All wearing plaid!"

"All those from Tucson!"

"All those from Phoenix!" (Where is Clan Phoenix?)

"All those from Flagstaff!"

"All those below 6 feet tall!"

"All those above 5-6!"

"All those below 200 pounds!"

No clan is left out here.

"HUZZAH! HUZZAH! HUZZAH!" echoes through the gathering.

The Scots are known for their economy, although some would substitute another word. So it is quite fitting that our Royal Leader chooses those lively dances with the simplest moves. My lady companion and I head a set for the first dance, "Sterling Castle," and find it quite unencumbering. A do-si-do, a left-hand turn, a see-saw, a right-hand turn. We arch our hands over the lines, as we run past the lads and lasses before sashaying down to the foot of the set. When we dance "Race To Edinburgh," the lads and lasses chase each other about along the lines before sashaying and swinging and starting all over again.


"Who here is wearing a white cockade?" asks the Bonnie Prince.

I am.

"Aye, do ye know the story of the white cockade?"

I do.

"In the final rebellion," I begin in my brogue.

"Rebellion?" His Rightful Majesty exclaims.

"Fight for freedom," I rephrase. "When th' Bonnie Prince returned to Scotland and got offa th' boat, he picked a white rose from the ground and put it inna 'is hat. So all th' supporters of th' Bonnie Prince wore a white cockade in their hats!"

They wore Royal Stewart tartans as well, hand-made in a process we honour with a dance called "Weaving The Tartan." Start with three couples in a circle, maneuver them into a star, let each lad pull a different lass from the spindle of hands and promenade them around the hall into another circle of three couples like the thread working through the cloth. Three couple stars grow to four.

"Congratulations! You just weaved a four-layer tartan!"

Five layers follow, and then six and seven. That thread is having a tough time working its way through the cloth. I would love to see the Highlander brave enough to wear seven layers in the notorious Arizona dry heat. Maybe Clan Tucson is up to the challenge.


Now we come to the Reel, "Flora MacDonald's Reel," that dance where the lads march around the lasses and the lasses do the same before the top couple reels the set. A young lass gifted with fine footwork joins me, having sought me out before I could even begin to find a lady to ask. Per the rules of decorum, the ladies may tousle the hair of the gents as they parade behind the lines. Our set adds a modern touch, letting the ladies and gents high-five each other as they pass.


When the clans gather, we are all one family, one growing and changing and moving forward in life. Children grow up and leave the Highlands for their next mission. So three young lads stand before us now to mark a bittersweet milestone: heading off to college.

"We expect the best from you," our host observes, "not because you know it's the right thing to do, but because it's who you are."

News of engagements -- two of them among the clans -- reaches us next. Two young couples from among the Highland family are making the commitment. One of the lasses who will be taking the vows urges perseverance among those who have not yet found their true love.

Instead of dwelling on finding the right person, concentrate on "being the right person," our host adds.

A piper from the lowlands of Litchfield Park honours them with a short tune before the honoured lead off a waltz. They are accomplished dancers, gliding on their feet in beautiful choreography, just as they have learned. They twirl and step exactly in unison to the melodies of Bonnie Prince Charlie's Angels: fiddles, mandolins, dulcimers and piano with a concertina and bass to round things out.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, my lady and I are determined to make the most of it. When the opportunity comes, we begin our waltz by circling round each other, right hands joined, left hands in the air as we radiate our joy to all within reach like a lighthouse upon the banks of the coast. We choreograph on the fly, my lady following my lead through small hand motions indiscernible to the rest of the crowd as we set to each other and turn round in place before stepping back together and joining hands. This is like no other dance we know, inspired by the past but not shackled to a rigid reprise. All we desire is something unique and beautiful beyond a two-step.

We are blessed to have among us a fine Scottish balladeer, a young gentleman who has rehearsed for this moment a traditional tune of the Highlands. His baritone envelops the entire hall, drawing us into his tale which ends in a cliffhanger.

"I forget the next line," he admits to us, sheepishly yet honestly. But we Highlanders are a supportive and encouraging bunch.

"HUZZAH! HUZZAH!" we shout and applaud. The Bonnie Prince offers some words of encouragement.

Fortunately, his ballad does not end. As I find my redemption, so too does he find his with a second chance to entertain us all. He begins a second ballad, a jaunty and lively tune which draws out our clapping. He forgets not a word, propelled by our rhythmic approval.

"HUZZAH! HUZZAH!" we cheer for him.

Though we enjoy the singing, we long for the dancing. Couples sashay down the room for the beloved Pineapple Dance. Our musicians play a spirited tune, then an encore.

"We need six brave volunteers," our host announces.

Another jig. I get to partake of another? I briskly walk to the centre of the hall and assume my Highland Fling stance. The music begins and I am capering once again, from foot to foot, right hand to left hand raised, then both hands in the air like the great Highland Stag. No one tries to tap me out. All my energy flows into my hands and feet. The tips of my ghillies latch onto the hardwood.

Clan Tucson assumes their war dance again. One member dances a Fling with folded arms.

"That's not from Scotland!" I observe. "That's a Ukrainian Fling!"

Undaunted, they circle up and I join them, turning the fling and jig into a round. A few lasses rush towards us. "May we join your circle?" they politely ask before we politely crowd them in.

On the outside, the other lasses are forming similar ideas, forming their own circle around our circle and prancing about before we separate again into our respective jigs to each other -- or flings.

The Angels play on and on. Wind escapes my lungs, but I caper forth. Those Jacobites marched through Edinburgh, to Derby and then back to the Highlands to Culloden. A Fling before battle should whip us into shape for victory. Exhaustion, however, weighs on my feet and drains my breath.

Do I fight or surrender? Neither. I fall back to the line and regroup, replenishing my life force before advancing back to the centre of the hall. When the music ceases, I am depleted in air once again, but filled with joy and Thanksgiving to GOD for the opportunity -- and a second one at that.

Hugh Mercer knew well of second opportunities. After fleeing Scotland after the disastrous Battle of Culloden, he came to America where he found fellow Scots in Virginia and friendship with General George Washington, who made him a commander. Though he lost his life after the battle of Princeton, New Jersey, he ended up on the winning side of another fight for freedom. To honour the second half of his life, we will dance the Virginia Reel. But to honour his Scottish heritage, the lads will determine their lasses with a Highland Charge.

The Bonnie Prince orders the ladies to remove one shoe in the centre of the floor while calling the lads to the front. "Line up by height!"

"Dress the line!" I call out in the absence of a sergeant.

"Count off by twos!" our commander orders.

"One!" "Two!" "One!" "Two!" "One!" "Two!" "One!" "Two!" "One!" "Two!" "One!" "One!"

Always a lass to my side that doesn't quite know the drill. His Rightful Highness straightens them out and we complete the task.

"When I say, 'Right Face,' the ones will stay in place and the twos will step forward! Right face!"

With nary any training, they execute the command nearly perfectly to the applause of the hall.

"Present arms! Raise Claymores! CHARGE!"

I let my compatriots fall all over themselves diving for their Cinderella slippers. I walk around them nonchalantly in a flanking maneuver and gently pluck a shoe from the pile without any hint of injury. Some lads never learn. But we Highlanders know our reels, and this one is no challenge. The Bonnie Prince barely has to lead us through the steps.

We have time for a final waltz before the evening comes to an end, always too soon.

"Did you ever wish life had a pause button?" our host asks.

One lass also suggests another button. "Just erase last year from your mind," she says.

I cannot -- not all of it. I cannot blot out the love or the prayers of my friends. I refuse to. My gratitude to them feels inadequate, shallow in comparison to all they have done for me, all of their encouragement. I won't forget that.

Enjoy more photos from this wonderful evening here.

Thank you again to everyone who prayed for me and my arm over this past year!

NEXT: Barnstorming!

Monday, August 10, 2009

About That Tent Of Yours...

Republicans, we gotta talk. Not to all of you, but to certain select bunches of you. Uh, then again, everybody needs to stay in the room.

Here's the deal: one of your goals -- at least I think it's one -- is the so-called Big Tent. By that, I gather you mean inclusion of a broad swath of America. You need voters. You need population. But I'm just wondering about some of these people in there right now. I think you're familiar with them. One is called the Birthers, and for lack of a better term, I'll call the other group the Shouters.

Wait, don't start getting up now. You need to hear this. As a party, you have a legitimate shot at taking back a lump of seats in 2010. President Obama's running up the deficit, and his health care plan is riddled with spending. You have a strong plank to run on: curbing government's runaway expenditures. So pray tell, why are you letting your party be defined by the two aforementioned bunches?

Yes, they're defining you, whether you want them to or not. Every time CNN runs a Birther conspiracy story or people see a report on protesters shouting down a congressman at some town-hall meeting, they're defining you. Kinda makes it hard to stay on message, not to mention the lousy PR. If you don't get this under control, you can just kiss those seats goodbye.

We know you don't like Nancy Pelosi. You don't have to. You don't have to like what she says about health care. But when she says "drowning out opposing views in simply un-American," she's talking about the First Amendment. You still believe in that, don't you? I mean, not just for free-market Conservatives? Last time I looked, there wasn't any asterisk next to that clause. Lemme ask you something: if the parties in this debate were reversed, wouldn't Pelosi's words be in your mouths? Aw come on, admit it. We all know the game.

I guess common civility is too much to ask anymore, since the bar for political rhetoric has been falling for years. Historically, it has never been very high when it comes to our political passions. But some of you folks are playing limbo here, seeing how low you can go to win. If I remember correctly, there comes a point in limbo where the bar is so low that nobody can win. Not you, not your opponents, not the government, not the people, not democracy. Nobody.

Huh? This isn't limbo? You're right, it isn't. This isn't a game. This is a nation of law and order, rights coupled with responsibilities. And if we don't remember the responsibilities, I'll let you guess what happens to the rights. Our government tried at least once before to stifle free speech. Any of you in here remember the Sedition Act? Certainly you've heard of the Fairness Doctrine. I know you don't want either of 'em.

So let me tell you what needs to happen here--

What? Something about a bus? Oh. Well, I'll be honest, that would help. Maybe that tent is a little too big, but I thought you wanted that big tent. Maybe medium is more your size.

Anyway, I think you know what you need to do. I'm not going to tell you. After all, I am an independent. I'd say, "Take me to your leader," but I'm not really sure who it is. Any of you in here know?

Over there. I heard that about "the media." Pass that card up here so I can see it. Good grief. How many times have you played this? Look at all these bends and dog-ears. I wouldn't use this for Old Maid, let alone poker. Time to get a new deck, my friend.

As for those Birthers -- just a thought. You thought it was nuts when people said it about John McCain, didn't ya?

'Nuff said. Be seeing you. I'll close the flaps behind me.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Evening's Star Attraction

I've got my ghillies laced up.

The Highland Ball is before me.

And I leave you with some of the all stars of Scottish dancing. Here's the Corryvrechan Scottish Dance Display Team at the Montoire Festival 2006... right after a bagpipe solo.

(Facebook users, you'll have to click "View Original Post" to see this on my blog. The feed technology isn't passing through embedded YouTube video.)

Friday, August 7, 2009

The One That Did Me In

This is it.

This is the dance that led to that horrifying slip at last year's Highland Ball, doing some serious damage to my right arm.

Truth be told, it wasn't a true Highland Fling I danced -- more like a fling mixed with a jig due to the weight of my buckled shoes and my relative unfamiliarity with the exact sequence of steps.

I vow to do it again this year, and stay on my feet this time. My host may not indulge my request, but I'll get one in.

Somehow. Somewhere. Some way.

And it may look something like this:

If you wish to learn it yourself, follow along...

(Facebook users, you'll have to click "View Original Post" to see this on my blog. The feed technology isn't passing through embedded YouTube video.)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Life Inside The Dot

I've just read (via the blog of George Sodoni, the man who shot and killed four women at a fitness club and injured several more before shooting and killing himself. I have a hard time sympathizing with anybody who goes on a killing spree, but a couple of entries stick in my brain.

Sodoni wrote about a Christian acquaintance:
I have been in barrooms and church groups. The worst people by far are the religious types. Especially a right-wing, stiff-faced fundie like Andy. A condescending, demeaning, passive-aggresive person. Frigid, rigid, linear and totally inflexible. Being a very serious person, he cannot hide his frown-lined face. He better not try to smile; lest his face might crack. I knew children of parents who grew up in strict religious homes. Religion has a certain stink to it of guilt, shame, fear, and that moral standard that always contradicts the natural tendencies and desires of a person.
Days before he carried out his so-called "exit plan," he wrote:
Maybe soon, I will see God and Jesus. At least that is what I was told. Eternal life does NOT depend on works. If it did, we will all be in hell. Christ paid for EVERY sin, so how can I or you be judged BY GOD for a sin when the penalty was ALREADY paid. People judge but that does not matter.
Even though these words come from a mentally disturbed person, they remind me of two factors that keep people from getting right with GOD or living right for Him: hypocrisy (real or supposed) and false teachings.

Hypocrisy is that elephant in the room for too many Christians who believe in GOD's principles of love, fellowship, joy, service, and obedience, yet fail to show it in their lives. Some are burdened by religious rules with no Biblical foundation, so concerned with living in the world but not of the world that they forget GOD gives us tremendous liberties, provided we live according to His principles. 1 Corinthians 9:22 (NIV): "I become all things to all people that by all means I might save some." Then we have those who treat Christianity like a social club, shutting people out through religious snobbery. Part of our mission as Christians is to confront and correct sin, but too many times we're alienating people when we should be drawing them to us because we care about their salvation... or at least we say we do.

Then we come to the bigger problem: false teachings, and Sodoni's blog illustrates a whopper: the belief in the "Once Saved, Always Saved" principle, which states that once you get right with GOD, nothing you can do will take your salvation away. I could write myself clear out of town debunking this principle which makes getting saved sound like getting a measles shot. But all I really need to do is remind you of 1 John 2:9-11 (NIV)...
“Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him.”
...and these scary verses from Hebrews 10:26-31 (NIV):
“If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," and again, "The Lord will judge his people." It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
Ouch. If that isn't enough for you, consider the logic: Why does so much of the New Testament talk about how we are to live as believers, if living right doesn't really matter after we've confessed Christ as our Savior and pledged our lives to Him?

Sodini, on the other hand, was pledging his life to a plan of death and vengeance, filled with hate and bitterness over not having a girlfriend or a sex life for more than two decades. He ignored the upward trend in his life to dwell on the negatives, as he graphicly depicts in his blog:
But I got a promotion and a raise, even in this ---- Obama ecomomy. No more grunt programming. Go figure! New boss is great. He tactfully says when you did something wrong or complements on good things. Never confused with him. But that is NOT what I want in life. I guess some of us were simply meant to walk a lonely path. I have slept alone for over 20 years. Last time I slept all night with a girlfriend it was 1982. Proof I am a total malfunction. Girls and women don't even give me a second look ANYWHERE. There is something BLATANTLY wrong with me that NO ------ person will tell me what it is. Every person just wants to be ---- nice and say nice things to me. Flattery. Oh yeah, I am sure you can get a date anytime. You look good, etc. ----. Awwww, wait. I can just start being self-righteous and say I live a good, clean life. I am holy, that's all Rick Knapp stuff. Hear that you ----: I Am Just Good!
A friend of mine whom I consider one of my chief spiritual advisers talks about "living inside the dot:" getting so caught up in our own personal universe that we fail to see the world from GOD's perspective. We fail to notice everything He does for us and why He is so worthy of our obedience and love. Living inside the dot means you don't see opportunities. You don't trust anybody. You barely trust yourself, as Sodini illustrated when he admitted he "chickened out" of an earlier attempt to carry out his deadly mission. You become resentful, bitter, and hardened. Sodini was so into his dot that he couldn't even live with other people's warmth.
Unfortunately I talked to my neighbor today, who is very positive and upbeat. I need to remain focused and absorbed COMPLETELY.
His last sentences invite us to study him, dissect him, perform a mental autopsy on him after he's gone:
Also, any of the "Practice Papers" left on my coffee table I used or the notes in my gym bag can be published freely. I will not be embarased, because, well, I will be dead. Some people like to study that stuff. Maybe all this will shed insight on why some people just cannot make things happen in their life, which can potentially benefit others.
He's right about that, but not for the reasons his warped, lonely mind imagined.

When the life story of Virginia Tech gunman Seung-Hui Cho revealed several missed opportunities for intervention, I said we owed it to ourselves to intervene against the destructive powers of loneliness. If only Sodoni had used all his exit-plan energy uplifting himself and those around him while trying to woo the right girl, he would have succeeded. GOD does that for people who come out of the dot.

UPDATE: AP writer Jocelyn Noveck points out that Sodnoni's blog likely went unnoticed because there's so many of them out there. True. That's why I hesitate to point fingers into the Internet community. But surely people knew him face-to-face. Did they notice anything wrong? Likely not. You can't blame them, either. A friend of mine once told me, "Don't be lonely!" This is that instance where "be" is an action verb, one that puts the burden back on ourselves for improving our lot in life with GOD's guidance.

Yes, Virginia, They Dance Them In Scotland Too

I've done a few Scottish reels at the Highland Ball.

But nothing like this, as demonstrated at the 2007 Lorient Festival Interceltique:

Here's another reel, from the Auftritt des Royal Scottish Country Dance Club:

And here's the same dance again, in High Definition, by the Plateau Scottish Country Dancers.

With all those figures, I have nothing but praise for anybody who even attempts Scottish country dancing.

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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Take It Easy

I pose a question to you as I prepare to journey to the Highland Ball once again.

What do you call a Scottish country slow jam? Try a Strathspey. I did in May, at the Tartan Day Ball. I had a little trouble mastering the step, just like the elusive skip change that continues to befuddle me.

Not these lads and lasses attending the New Haven, CT Highland Ball in 2008:

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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

No Wonder That Clan Is So Happy And Vivacious

"What's your favourite Scottish dance, laddie?"

Easy: The Gay Gordons. It's not a difficult dance to learn, and as one person described it, it resembles a controlled polka. We've done it at many a Highland Ball.

Take a lot at the HotScotch Ceilidh Band of Edinburgh play it for an enthusiastic gathering.

And if you want to learn it yourself, view on.

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Monday, August 3, 2009

Club Edinburgh

Continuing our look at Scottish Dance as I prepare for the Highland Ball, suppose we opened a disco in the Highlands.

The ladies of the Georgetown School of Highland Dance would fit right in.

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Sunday, August 2, 2009

I'll Take The High Road, And You Take The Icy Road

The Highland Ball is nearly here again.

For many, it's a ball. For me, it's that and a chance at redemption, an opportunity to dissipate a cloud that's lingered since last year, when I slipped during a Highland Fling and smashed up my right arm.

Not again. No. I'm wearing non-skid ghillies.

Alas, not everybody can do so. So to kick off my week-long long at Scottish dancing, I present Sinead & John Kerr at the 2009 Hyundai Card Super Match in South Korea, capturing the joy of Scotland on ice.

And, here's an encore of a video I posted back in 2007: Chulpan Khamatova and Roman Kostomarov getting slick.

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Personal Space

The evolutionary trend that brought us personal radios, then mobile phones, then computers now extends into orbit. For at least $8,000, Interorbital Systems now gives you the chance to launch a TubeSat -- your own personal satellite -- with communications strong enough to be picked up on the ground using a typical ham radio.

One suggested application is a private ham radio repeater in space. But their website offers many more possibilities:
▼ Earth-from-space video imaging
▼ Earth magnetic field measurement
▼ Satellite orientation detection (horizon sensor, gyros, accelerometers, etc.)
▼ Orbital environment measurements (temperature, pressure, radiation, etc.)
▼ On-orbit hardware and software component testing (microprocessors, etc.)
▼ Tracking migratory animals from orbit
▼ Testing satellite stabilization methods
▼ Biological experiments
▼ On-orbit advertising
▼ Private e-mail
Sorry, nothing on the list mentioning exes or in-laws. Besides, any devious deed you could do would be short term. Each TubeSat only lasts a few weeks before the orbit of its carrier vehicle decays to the point where it burns up in the atmosphere, hopefully leaving no (additional) space junk. You gotta admit though, it would be a creative way of jettisoning some things we'd all like to forget.

Well, the folks at your Lightning Round (yes they're still around -- if the Tucson Citizen can survive in some form, so can they) took an office poll and came up with these suggestions for terminal launch, things we'd like to remove from Earth, never to return:
  • Any proposal to build another baseball training facility in Tucson. That "build it and they will come" philosophy works only in the movies.

  • All those rumors about President Obama's birth certificate.

  • High heels longer than two inches. Ladies, I know for you they look beautiful. For me they look painful. Remember in Romancing the Stone when Michael Douglas' character chopped down a pair of stilettos? "Those were Italian!" "Now they're practical."

  • Microsoft Windows Vista

  • Airline fees for: baggage, extra baggage, overweight baggage, overweight passengers, fuel and so forth. Just admit you're hurting for cash, already.

  • Any stock derivative that needs a Ph.D. to understand

  • Subprime loans

  • Payday loans

  • That 25 bucks Leroy in the Marketing department claims I still owe him

  • Piercing of anything besides ear lobes

  • Fat. Need we elaborate?

  • The Bachelor. Calm down. We mean the show, not the person.

  • Methamphetamines. Wait a minute -- we want the satellite to fall, not go higher.