Archive for January, 2011

Censorship, Chinese Food, & Pants

Posted in Politics, Religion, and Society, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on January 21, 2011 by Justin S. Smith

“Censorship is telling a man he can’t have a steak just because a baby can’t chew it.” Mark Twain

I was done with discussion of censorship for a while and looking for other quotes for a different post when I came across this one by Twain. He is talking about censorship where adults are concerned, but it raises questions concerning those who cannot “chew.”

When a child is born, they start life on a liquid diet, they slowly start eating mush, then soft food and eventually regular food, first broken up into small pieces moving towards table independence. Even after they learn to feed themselves, there are utensils to learn and cutting. Parents may be cutting meat up for children for a long time. Hopefully a child can be taught to cut for themselves without cutting themselves, and this is another process. This is part of why the Asians are so much more efficient than westerners; all of their food is already cut to appropriate sizes; if you want a day off from cutting food for your children, get Chinese food, but don’t be fooled, this great equalizer of the table comes from Communist thought. At least we chopstick users can still have a sense of elitism.

Like food, thoughts must be “cut up” for easy digestion for the young ones. We don’t start our children reading Tolstoy. We start by reading to them what they can handle. However, with words and thought, we can give them much more than they can digest reading above their comprehension and let them pull out of it what they can. They won’t choke unless you choke them, which brings me to the necessary part of this method: patience. Some children will just listen to the rhythmic pattern of the words and be content with spoken song, as it were, but with age, they will get to the questioning.

“What does that word mean?”

“Why is he doing that?

These are the little brains starting to see that there is more than what they thought in the story. This is the child saying they want something they can chew on a little more. This is a great thing, if you are patient. This is also your last warning about parental censorship, if you have not been careful with what you are presenting, you could be answering some difficult questions. Be prepared. See, I am not opposed to parental censorship; most rational people recognize that there is such a thing as age appropriateness, like with food. You start with editing what you give them, mostly things unpalatable for adults (like children’s entertainment) moving to a semi-digested form of mush, then small pieces. Chinese food = family entertainment that is Pixar is carryout from the Great Wall. In the books Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland or Huckleberry Finn or the The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, there is some really great stuff that they won’t get like they may not appreciate the stir-fried shitake mushroom in all of its glory, they may ask “what is that?” and this is how they learn. 

That’s why we homeschool. If my child grows teeth before yours, I will give them something to chew; I won’t wait until the experts say they are old enough. If they get their teeth slower, they will eat mush longer. Every child develops differently. We can teach school like we “teach” eating, the public schools, on the other hand, take their cues from clothing manufacturers.

Let me explain.

I don’t know if anyone else has this issue, but kids clothing sizes seem like one of the worst thought out things I’ve seen. If I go buy myself pants, I find the waist and leg measurements for me and that’s pretty much it. There is some play in measurement between manufacturers, so I try them on, but pretty much I get the right numbers and they fit. Kid’s clothing is sized based on age. Someone decided that a 3 year-old is a certain shape and that’s the shape they make clothes for. Strangely, children, being little people, like big people don’t all fit into the same mold. So if a child is of average height but not weight, his pants fall off. You could always go down a size, but then you have high-water pants.

I have worked on solutions to this but duct tape leads to accidents and my wife says the staple gun is out of the question. So we look for belts. Do you know how hard it can be to find a good belt for a 6 year-old? I do, the options are few and usually ineffectual. Now, if kid’s pants were sized like men’s there would be no problem. (Note: I am not discussing women’s sizes as they are a complete mystery to me)

The point is one size does not fit all. It usually doesn’t even fit most, but that is how kid’s clothes and public education works, or doesn’t work. I’m not saying that all of you supporters of public schools are wrong. I hope your kids are getting an education outside of school from you though so that when important topics are censored, shied away from or mishandled, you are there to fill in the blanks and correct the flaws. In my opinion, the time needed for correcting would justify homeschooling, but not everyone is cut out for it.

I’m not an expert on early child development or education. I know this was a bit rambling and I’m making some weird connections. Look, I’m not telling you how to raise your kids, but if you are trusting the government to do it, check up on them daily, they have a bad record of mishandling things and making stupid reactionary decisions. To sum up: Pixar = Chinese Food, Osh Kosh B’gosh = Public Education, and nobody knows your children better or cares about their education and wellbeing more than you.

Like many things I have started, this was almost not published for its ramble and possible lack of clarity, if you find it is missing a couple of connections, sorry. It is what it is.-JSS

Obama is a Foreign-Born, Muslim, Communist, Liberal, Nazi Extremist (who kills puppies)

Posted in Politics, Religion, and Society with tags , , , , , on January 17, 2011 by Justin S. Smith

I have almost written this a number of times, but for some reason or other I always selected something else to write first. Once again this has been brought to the forefront of my mind and so it seemed like a demon that was ready to be exorcised. Let me start with what brought this back up.

On January 6th, the US House of Representatives read the Constitution during session for the first time ever. A positive step in my opinion marred by some questionable editing that I previously addressed and by one outburst from the gallery. When this section was read concerning qualifications of the President:

“No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President”

Teresa Birther yelled from the gallery “except Obama! Except Obama! Help us Jesus!” showing again the level of intelligence we have attained in political debate.

My problem with her outburst is threefold:

1. Legal– Congress, like a courtroom, has certain rules that must be adhered to. If the rules of order are broken, if a member of the audience decides they need to yell something out, there are consequences. In court, such disruptions may result in a contempt charge; in Congress, a charge of disruption of Congress can be, and in this case was, levied.

2. Religious– If your going to break the law and disrupt Congress, could you leave Jesus out of it? As a Christian, I believe that I am supposed to uphold the laws of man provided they do not forbid any good work required of me by God or require anything of me forbidden by God. Screaming an unfounded opinion propagated by false emails does not qualify as a good work required by God, so it is best if Jesus name not be invoked. Also, if we could leave him out of thank you speeches at the Grammys and Oscars, that would be great; I’m sure he would prefer to avoid “credit” for much of this.

3. The Implication– This is really the crux of what I want to discuss. The implication is that, as so many emails have told us, President Obama was not born in the United States and is therefore not qualified to be President. And the evidence is….? I can find a ton of opinion pieces on this, I can also find the copy of his birth certificate released by his campaign during the election. The only “evidence,” whether you accept it or not, indicates that he was born in Hawaii. I am discounting the “Welcome to Kenya” sign as a Photoshopped fake. Further, I realize that qualifications are checked by people with a lot more ability and resources than or I or you, so the weight I put on such emails or accusations when I see them is equal to what I might give the alert of the sky falling. He was cleared by the intelligence community at a time when the heads of the respective agencies (CIA, NSA, FBI) all answered to former President Bush. Do you think he would have given Obama a free pass and swept his African birth under the rug only to be uncovered by the email forwarding elite? To quote our new Speaker of the House “The state of Hawaii has said that President Obama was born there. That’s good enough for me.”

But this is all just one part of the larger problem. As my friend, Mr. Griffin, pointed out, President Obama has become the embodiment of all that which is evil to the point that if all of what has been said about him were true, none of it could be. He has been compared to Hitler, pointed at as the Antichrist, accused of Communism, Socialism, attempting to destroy our country, etc. The extremes of which he has been accused of rapidly become contradictory, leaving only to believe that those making the accusations are raving lunatics. Perhaps, if we want to say something solidly against President Obama, we should start by discussing his policy and what he has and hasn’t accomplished. Perhaps we could assume that he is in fact a natural born American (barring real evidence to the contrary) stop trying to prove that he is a Muslim since a close study would indicate he is a far worse Muslim than Christian (their rules are stricter) and just discuss why we do or don’t want him to be reelected in the next two years. All the rest is just noise, and isn’t that what all the noise is supposedly about?

The Only Thing I Have to Fear is Beardless Self.

Posted in Reflections with tags , , , , , on January 12, 2011 by Justin S. Smith

Beards are cool. I know a lot of my clean shaven readers may not understand; some female readers may not like the rough feel of a beard against their face, and so some of you might not get it. Regardless, beards are cool. A man can caress is chin hair while answering a question or scratch deep down at the beard roots for deep pondering.  I had a great one going too. A couple of months ignoring my trimmer, just shaving enough of my neck to avoid that collar irritation and it was looking sweet. I could fluff it out and look like a wilderness man or twist little pieces of it up for that homeless, street-prophet look or comb it all straight toward the chin and do the Leonidas thing. It was sweet. Was sweet.

Then I got the call, during dinner, on Monday night. Some well trained and highly educated engineer had broken something and I had to go to the field to fix it. Among the many wonderful things about the oilfield is the frequent byproduct of oil wells: H2S. Flammable, explosive, corrosive and heavier than air, H2S is some wonderful stuff deadly in many ways. Because of potential of H2S, most oil companies and oilfield services companies, such as the one for whom I work,  require a lack of chin hair for field employees so that a respirator can be worn if needed. So the beard had to go and I am not happy. 

I had to be at the shop to meet the crew at 6 AM after our coldest night thus far this winter and venturing out I was made aware of one of the other great things about beards: warmth. Cold, with nothing on my chin to help me with the pondering of my mission, I regardless solved the problem. I was less than pleased to find that at least four men on location were sporting beards.

Alas, I could have gotten away with it, but I had foolishly asked my boss instead of contacting the engineer on location. It will come back. It will grow first to a simple bit of stubble, the look that I didn’t feel like shaving over a long weekend. Eventually it will get to the length of a mid 19th century southern gentlemen. Not long after I will have the delicate look of Heidi’s grandfather. Perhaps I will not stop. Maybe I will let it go to ZZTop length, or maybe Something like John Calvin or John Knox (ah, sweet beards of the reformation, that’s a calendar for you.) But it will come again with fierceness and majesty. It will. 

I agree with Jesse Jackson

Posted in Politics, Religion, and Society with tags , , on January 10, 2011 by Justin S. Smith

Now that I got your attention, let me amend; Jesse Jackson Jr.(Representative from Illinois; not to be confused with his more famous father) and concerning the recent reading of the Constitution in the US House of Representatives. Mr. Jackson was upset about leaving out passages of the Constitution that have been changed by later amendments. For instance, the 18th amendment was not read at all, the 21st amendment repealing the 18th was. More notably, this section describing how population should be counted for the sake of representation in congress: “adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons,” was skipped.

3 reasons they should have just read the whole thing unedited:

1. Token peace offering to the minority. It was important to some people that it be read in its entirety. It would have added a few minutes to read it all and still made the point that they intend to legislate within Constitutional confines. Refusing to makes it look like they had another agenda or they simply are making the point that they don’t have to yield anything to the new minority (though 63 of the 135 readers were from the minority party.)

2. Avoids the appearance of possibly intentional inconsistencies. I haven’t read the full text and compared what they read to the original text, so I have not confirmed reports that they were inconsistent with their edits. I have heard that they read through the section limiting voting to males which would appear to be opposed to their statement of leaving out the amended for sections. It seems like it would have been simpler to just read it without edits and so avoid such inconsistencies.

3. Beauty of Change. Even the Preamble states “more perfect union” not perfect, but trying. One of the great things about the Constitution is the authors left an intentional path for change. Seeing the change through the reading shows our growth as a nation, and sometimes our missteps (18th.) There is nothing wrong with reviewing those things that we have moved away from, besides, it seems a bit silly to read the amendment to something that you skipped over. Like you missed part of the story.

I’m a Constitutionalist; I’m a fan of the document and I know it’s not perfect. I am happy that they took the step to read it in the House for the first time since it was ratified by the states. I hope it is more than an empty gesture organized by Republicans trying to win back some “conservative” street cred in light of the swelling Tea-Party movement. I also hope that the bi-partisan reading is a sign of future cooperation. I hope these things, but I don’t hold my breath.

More about the reading next post- JSS


Posted in Open Letters to Matthew Griffin with tags , , , , on January 6, 2011 by Justin S. Smith

Dearest Mr. Griffin (or should it be Deacon Griffin now,)

A Facebook friend of mine, for anonymity we’ll call her A. Griffin, recently shared a story concerning NewSouth Books plans to release a revised version of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” Humorously in the article, the reporter points out that they will be replacing “the ‘n’ word” and the term “Injun” Thereby showing his own prejudiced sensitivity. But that’s a side note. My friend (A. Griffin) called it “borderline sacrilege” but I think she is missing the big picture.

First, we should consider what this means for society. We have finally come to the point where commentary on the racial divide of our past is no longer necessary. The wound is completely scabbed over and we have only to do perform a little historical cosmetic surgery to erase the evidence that it was ever there. Frankly, I think we owe Clint Eastwood for dealing America’s racism its final hit with “Gran Torino.” Regardless of how we got here though, we’re free of it.

Second, we should consider the opportunity this presents to make some money. American literature is full of stories that, although pertinent when written, have loads of unneeded commentary on our past racial issues. Think of what we can do with “To Kill a Mockingbird.” It made its point well in its time, but we don’t need to be reminded of those problems anymore. Maybe we could turn Tom Robinson into a lower-class white man who is victim to economic classism. Perhaps he could be an illegal Mexican migrant and we could move the setting to Arizona. The point is, we can’t leave this great piece of literature reminding us of our past sins. We need to bring it up to the present.

After that maybe we can hit “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” or “Roots.” No, I’m pretty sure “Roots” is beyond salvation. Oh well, it served its purpose, in to the bond-fire with it then.

I’m ready to start when you are. Let me know.

With great anticipation.

J. S. Smith

“I Feel…”

Posted in Politics, Religion, and Society with tags , , , on January 4, 2011 by Justin S. Smith

There is a place for the words “I feel” in discussions; conflict resolution, personal expression, describing symptoms to your doctor. Where it does not belong is in conversations of theology or American governmental philosophy (politics). The reason I tie them together is they have the common bond of documents that define what they should be. If a pastor defends his statement with “I feel” instead of pointing to scripture, leave that church. Likewise, a politician that says “I feel” instead of relying on the scope of his job as defined by the Constitution is likely looking to seize more power than he is afforded and lead you to ruin in the process.

For now lets focus on politics. The National Health Care debate was rife with such commentary. “I feel that no person should die because they can’t afford health care” I agree, however this falls outside of the scope of what the federal government is supposed to be doing. Of course, that’s my argument against it. The right-wing, for the most part, was talking about how much it would cost, how bad the system is in Canada and how Obama was trying to kill old people with “death-tribunals” hidden in the legislation. The whole debate was charged with emotion, logic was nowhere to be found. Everyone was talking about what they thought should happen, or what they believed the danger that the other side was suggesting. If only we had a common foundation to start with for political debates. Political debate would go so much smoother if there was some sort of outline for what the government should be doing or some limiting factor narrowing the scope of their power so we could simply point to it and say “no, out of bounds.” Likely if we had such a document, constitution for lack of better term, we would require our political figures to take an empty oath to it without any proof of understanding it or evidence that they had ever read it.

As a side, this is why I now consider myself a Constitutionalist; Democrats, Republicans, and Libertarians all fall into this pie-in-the-sky idealist crap that leads to posturing and divisiveness, but seldom solutions. From what I can see, the Democrats and Republicans both want to work outside of the scope of power set by the Constitution (though notably in different ways) and only scream “Unconstitutional!” when it is the opposition doing something they don’t approve of. Libertarians, on the other hand, though I tend to agree with them more in the long run, still predominantly base their views on the shifty ground of their own views of natural rights. As for me, I like to have an authority greater than my own askew compass to point to, as such authority has been given by our founders and is supposed to be our guide and law in governmental affairs, it seems reasonable that it should be used as such.

Theology likewise has a foundation. If you subscribe to a religious practice, that tradition likely has a book or books that it uses as its foundation. I, a protestant Christian, would claim the foundation of the 66 books of the protestant canon. Therefore, for theological or moral discussion, I should point to this canon verses relying on I feel statements. I should be able to have some level of theological conversations with anyone who claims the same foundation and be able to challenge any of their statements by asking them to reference in scripture their support. To a lesser degree, I should be able to have these discussions with Jews if I limit my use to the 39 books we hold in common or a Catholic if they restrain from use of the Apocrypha and we will have a somewhat reasonable foundation to work with. An authority to appeal to that is higher than “I feel.”

I’m not saying that discussions from one’s gut are useless, they can surely be relationship building, but they don’t have a place in practice of government and we need to start rejecting them as the unacceptable arguments that they are. Our elected representatives, Senators, and President have all taken an oath to the Constitution, if they can’t uphold it because of ignorance or they are simply listening to their hearts, they need to be given their termination notices. That’s not what they promised. Likewise, when you see Joel Osteen batting his eyelids like a humming bird flapping its wings, giving his spiel about the Bible followed by a bunch of “I feel”s and weak motivational speeches, turn the channel. Same game, different arena.

Forgot the Fun

Posted in Uncategorized on January 3, 2011 by Justin S. Smith

I started this blog a little over a year ago with lofty ideas of brilliant expression of ideas, humor and storytelling at its greatest. I slowly dwindled in my writing and came to a grinding halt. Why?

Because I have nothing else to say? No; I am full of ideas for blog posts.

Because I don’t have the time? No; time management is a constant issue for me, but even with work and family I have an excess of superfluous nonsensical time-wasters that can be eliminated for the sake of writing.

The simple answer is it stopped being fun. I write for primarily the hedonistic purpose of my own enjoyment. I may have secondary motives, giving someone a good chuckle, prodding discussion of politics, religion, or any of those other nasty things polite people don’t discuss in mixed company. It is mainly about using mystical incantations to transfer the voices out of my head, through the keyboard and out onto the world wide web where they can infect others and leave me in peace.

That last bit was a joke; I don’t really hear voices. Quiet! gollum, gollum.

As it turns out, between my rough exterior and sarcastic demeanor, I actually care what people think about me. When comments went a way I didn’t like, or worse, there were no comments at all, interest in pressing on waned. That is to say, I desire validation. This leaves me in a bit of a sticky point though since, by definition, Thoughts from the Fringe should not be popular thoughts. That’s not a self-stroking, ego boost defining myself as the John Wayne rugged individualist/revolutionary. I am not. My thinking is a blending of the thoughts of others that I have consumed, digested, and intestinally bound together as a steaming pile I label as “brilliance.” Or, if you prefer a less repulsive view, my voice is simply the echo of the choir of voices that I have listened to condensed to a ranting aria of nonsense.  

So what do I do? Hang it up, keep my thoughts to myself and disappoint both of my readers? I’m not ready to hang it up yet. Ignore my critics and say whatever I want? Probably to a degree, but I also need to get better at responding to the criticism. I can’t blame the critics for wrongly disagreeing with me.

I’m starting the New Year with a renewed dedication to TFTF. I still will be ranting nonsense, and I still will be trying to get down some thoughts on some bigger issues. I really want to finish the Christian Nation series and I have some other ideas pecking on the inside of my skull like a chick trying to hatch.

I only ask one thing from my readers, occasionally make a comment, it doesn’t have to be big, and “LOL” on a funny piece just to remind me there is people out there. Argue with me, I’ll try to be nicer in responding and try to actually respond to what you’re saying. That’s not a promise to reply to every comment. I will also welcome post ideas if you think of something that might be fun to tackle (no promises on it actually happening) and reading suggestions as good reading is always helpful for writing.

So I’m back, hoping 2011 is a good year for Thoughts From The Fringe.

Happy New Year (it’s not too late to say it; we’re still in the first percent of the year.)