Saturday, March 30, 2013

Ishtar & Easter


For the past few days, friends have been sharing the following post provided by the facebook page for The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (Original).  It shows a wonderful picture of the Assyrian/Babylonian goddess Ishtar standing upright as a relief on a wall.  Don't know excactly what the wall is part of, but it appears to be outside in the sun.  She holds a religious symbol in each hand.

The individual who posted the item has written the following text over the photograph:
"This is Ishtar:  prounounced "Easter"."
"Easter was originally the celebration of Ishtar, the Assyrian and Babylonion goddess of fertility and sex.  Her symbols (like the egg and the bunny) were and still are fertility and sex symbols (or did you actually think that eggs and bunnies had anything to do with the resurrection?).  After Constantine decided to Christianize the Empire, Easter was changed to represent Jesus.  But at its roots, Easter (which is how you pronounce Ishtar) is all about worshipping fertility and sex."

 Notes on the passage:
  • Constantine (also known as Constantine I and Constantine the Great) was the first Christian Emperor of the Roman Empire. 
  • He is most famous for the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312 AD where he witnessed a sign from God and for the Edict of Milan in 313AD.
  • The Edict of Milan legalized Christianity but did not make Christianity the official state religion.
  • Theodosius delcared Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire during his reign - specifically in the year 380 AD.
I scrolled through the Richard Dawkins facebook page going back to January 1st, 2011, but could not find this particular posting.  However, since it has been shared via facebook, I have confidence that it is there somewhere.  But since I still cant find the original post, the author remains anonymous.  The only thing I know for certain is that he has permission to post on the Richard Dawkins Foundation page. 

Some of the premises of this posting are true, but others are false.  The conclusion is most definitely false.  Let's go through them one at a time.


  • Ishtar is indeed a goddess of sex, love, fertility, and war in the following cultures:  Eastern Semitic, Akkadian, Babylonian, and Assyrian.
  • In the Akkadian language, Ishtar is pronounced Istar.  I am not familar with Akkadian proununciations.  The "I" may be pronounced as a long e.  Even then, the "a" would likely be a dull "a" as in, "say, ah."  So the name would phonetically be ee-star - not ee-ster.
  • I was unable to find phonetic spellings in the other languages.  But that will prove irrelevant as you read on.
  • Her symbols are listed on wikipedia as a lion and an eight-pointed star.
  • Although there is no direct mention of eggs or bunnies in relation to Ishtar, it is not a stretch for these to be related to fertility goddesses.  Howerver, I find that enlarged (or multiple) breasts or large, pregnant bellies are more commonly associated with fertility/sex/love goddesses.


A simple timeline reveals a few incongruities:
  1. By 141 BC, Babylon was in complete devistation and obscurity.  Obscurity is pertinent here.  It is common for ancient civiizations to be completely forgotten.  A notable example is the Hittites.  For 2,000 years, any and all mention of the Hittites was found only in The Bible.  Many concluded that they were a fictitions civilization until 1906 AD, when confirmation of their existence was finally discovered at an independent excavation site.  It is therefor unlikely that the cult of Ishtar (or even the memory of it) would have survived for tho following 170 years when Christ was crucified.
  2. Approx. 30 AD:  Christ's curcifixion and resurrection.
  3. 295 to 305 AD:  Constantine lives in Syria.  Even though he lived in the neighborhood of the now completely disintigrated Babylonian/Assyrian empire, the cult of Ishtar would have been unknown for about 440 years.  How pwerful is obscurity?  What was going on in the year 1570 AD?
  4. 306 to 312 AD:  Constantine becomes Agustus Emporor over Britain, Gaul, and Spain.
  5. 312 to 324 AD:  Constantine is sole Emporor over all of the Roman Empire.
  6. 313 AD:  Constantine issues the Edict of Milan, legalizing Christianity (and all other religions as well).  This puts an end to oppression.  But the Edict of Milan does not make Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire.  This still misses the point.  Even if Christians in Rome converted a "fertility/sex goddess" into an Easter celebration, they would have choosen such a goddess from the Roman mythologies.  And then, according to the anonymous poster, Easter would be pronounced "Venus"
  7. 380 AD:  Theodosius I makes Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire.
  8. 900 AD (approx.):  the author, Bede, shows that the earliest use of the word Easter begins sometime during the 9th century AD.  This plays out in the etymology of the word "Easter" described below.

Roots of Easter (in name and act):

  • The roots of the Easter celabration are not from Assyria/Babylon - they're Jewish.  The original term for Easter is "Pasch" or "Pascha".  These words - Pasch & Pascha - are etymologically related to the Jewish "Passover" or "Pesach" in Hebrew.  To this day, many non-English speaking nations still refer to Easter as the "Pashca".
  • The Passover is not related to the Spring Equinox as many fertility festivals are.  Instead Passover is related to the 10 Curses on Egypt and the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt to Israel.
  • In addition, the Jewish calendar is a lunar calendar.  Fertility festivals (such as those for Ishtar) are usually held at the Spring Equinox making them based on a solar calendar.
  • Why is Easter tied to Passover?  Jesus' last meal was the Passover sedar with the Apostles.  It was that evening when He was arrested and - over the next three days - tried, crucified, and resurrected.
  • The origin of the word "Easter" is just a little unclear (and I do mean just a little).  Most evidence points to the Old English word "Eastre" or "Eostre".  Many believe that this is dreived from Eostre, the goddess of the dawn (not a fertility/sex goddess).  However, others believe that "Eostre" as a word or phrase meaning "the month of opening" (as in a tomb?).
  • Continuing the Eostre theme.  Bede says that cult of the goddess Eostre had disappeared long before the Christians began using the word Eastre; indicating that they were not referencing the dawn goddess.  See Ishtar's "obscurity" above.
More on this history of Eostre, the dawn goddess, can be found on wikipedia.  Read it.  READ IT !.

Easter Eggs:

Symbolism is a tricky thing.  Imagine any otherwise inocuous object and connect it to semi-emotinal words.  For example, a door can be a symbol of what?  Opportunity, obstacle, change, passage, option, transition, uncertainty, mangled thumbs - the list can go on and on.  But does this mean that the cult of Monty Hall (Let's Make a Deal) believes that doors represent transitions because the god Janus guards the doorway between the old and the new year?  Survey says: "buuuzzzz".

Thsi is an excellent example of the logical fallacy Post hoc ergo propter hoc (after the fact therefore because of the fact).

So we get this from the anonymous poster: eggs and bunnies are symbols of the fertility goddess Ishtar, Ishtar came before Easter, and Ishtar sounds llike "Easter", therefore the eggs and bunnies of Easter are symbols of sex and fertility.  (I'll explain my faint trace of contempt at the end).

So, how or why did the earlty Christians associate an egg with the resurrection?  Several objects are associated with Jesus:  bread, wine, fish, the cross, and the tomb. 

Take the tomb.  To symbolize it, you want something that is common, represents a space, represents a rock/bolder, and represents life.  You could spend years digging holes into rocks or you can use the ubiquitous egg.  The egg represents the empty tomb, the boulder that was rolled away, and represents life (not sex or fertility) that springs from the tomb.

There are several Ester Egg origin stories shown here.  Enjoy them.

The Easter Bunny:

Again with symbolism and the "Post hoc" fallacy.

In this case, you need to know that the Easter Bunny is not a rabbit.  It's a HARE.  Hares are larger and usually have a murkish brown hue that approximates the color of nests made by ground-dwelling birds.  Hares also live above ground in nests - not in burrows as rabbits are wont to do.

Next, early historians and philosophers (including Pliney, Plutarch, Philostratus, and Aelian) believed that hares were hermaphrodites and could reproduce asexually - not needing to have a mate.  This biological error carried over for hundreds of years and Christians adopted it as a symbol of the Virgin Birth (yes a form of fertility, but not the form represented by Ishtar - who by the wasy was also goddess of prostitutes).

Then add in a few German Folklore stories.  In these tales there is a little confusion between bird's nests found on the ground and the color of a hare - or even between a bird's nest and a hare's nest.  This is one possible explanation of how the Easter Bunny and Easter Eggs became connected.

Fianally, and almost completely different than the first three possibilities, some folklore tales see a rabbit in the moon - as opposed to a man's face.  And since Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the Spring Equinox ... you fill in the rest. 

More on the Easter Bunny here.

My Conclusion and extraneous comments:

I have researched and compared Ishtar with Easter and found the Anonymous Poster's text misleading and derisive towards Christians.  You may find fault with my conclusions, but you must first tell me how I'm wrong on the facts.

The author sounds like he is (or has talked to) an archeologist or anthropologist who studied ancient mid-Eastern civilizatoins.  In order to connect Ishtar to Easter by way of homonym, you have to know a little about the culture's language and its deities.

Ironically, it's his assumed credentials that make his statements abusive.  He has studied ancient civilizations, but then connects them with the shallowest knowledge of Christianity.  Re-read his post.  He knows a bit about Ishtar, but all he knows about Easter is Eggs and Bunnies.  Ergo: we continue to woship pagan gods - especially those contrary to Christian beliefs.

He has a disdain for his reader that springs from a superior than thou (because of my obviously advanced intellect) attitude.  The phrase, "or did you actually think that eggs and bunnies had anything to do with the resurrection?" sticks out like a sore thumb - in your eye.  "did you actually think" presumes that you did indeed think that.  It also presumes that he has gently mocked you for believing such a thing.  It drums up those who believe as he believes and automatically pits you (singular) against them (plural).  The phrase is insidiously designed to goad you into moving you closer to his opinion or risk being ostracized from the club.  Finally, it denotes that everyone knows about this - except for you.  Don't beleive me?  Try it this way:  "or did you actually think the world was flat?".

Bty the way, I never connected the egg with the resurrection before researching this topic.  But I do believe that I've shown EXACTLY how it fits in.

And the bunny?  He got that right, it's not about the resurrection - it's about the Virgin Birth.  Whether you believe in the Virgiin Birth or not, Mr. Anon's point was that the bunny is a pagan fertility symbol in a Christian celebration.  And I've shown it is not.

These kinds of statements and mockeries are why people believe a war exists against Christianity.  The author did not post any links to anything supporting his position.  Like a drive by shooting, he makes his comment (as erroneous as it is) and moves on into the darkness.

Even more mind-numbing:  An ameteur theologian such as myself shouldn't have been able to thrash a man of "reason and science" like this.  It only took a half-day for me to research these items and a half day to assemble them into a cohesive outline.  My typing is a bit slower.  Mr. Anon could and should have done the resarch and then should have had the intellectual capacity to compare the items in his own head.  That could have saved him an embarrasing post on facebook.

The Anonymous Poster is at least Friends with the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (Original).

The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (Original) has a mission statment at the top of its facebook page.  It reads:  "This foundation supports reason and science.  We organize to overcome the suffering and intolerance that springs from religious fundamentalism."

Reason?  Science?  Both were missing from this post.

Shame on you Anonymous Poster.
Shame on you R.D Foundation.

Russell Britt
In hoc signo winces

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The IRS & the IRC

IRS = Internal Revenue Service
IRC = Internal Revenue Code

Here are a few shocking revelations regarding the IRS and the IRC I learned while taking Income Tax class at the University of North Texas.

The "Scope" of the IRS is the world and everyone in it.

How can that possibly be?  Does the IRS collect taxes on a German's income?  No..  The code goes on to exclude people based on nationality, residency, and where the income was earned.  So, everyone is subject to he IRC, but Germans living in Germany and earning income in Germany are excluded.  If the scope was not defined as everyone in the world, then Germans living in America and earning income from an American company couldn't be taxed.  And the Government can't stand that.

The IRS' mission statement:

The mission statement of the IRS is the penultimate oxymoron.  Until the mid to late 1990's, said mission statement was, "To enforce voluntary compliance with the Internal Revenue Code."  Re-read that until your head stops spinning - then continue.

I am assured by friends in the IRS that, although the mission statement has been changed, the general attitude is still strong in that direction.

Now, for Government Speak.  The mission statement was changed and now reads something like this (paraphrasing): "To make taxpayers who can afford to pay their income taxes pay those taxes and to help those who cannot pay meet their obligations." 

Istn't that nice?  They'll help you anyway they can.  Why do I call it Gov't Speak?  Because, a) the end result is the same as the original mission statement and b) if you read it carefully, you understand that no matter whether you can afford it or not, you'll still pay.

Of course, the IRS doesn't like tracking down people who owe money; it's a burden on them.  So they first insist that you get a loan of some kind (second mortage, second car loan, pawn stuff, etc.)  And that's a good idea because they'll charge you interest and penalties that are higher than almost any other loan you can get.  BTW, interest and penalties owed to the IRS compound daily.

And if that doesn't work, they'll confiscate your income.  The IRS is not ashamed to leave you with just $125 per week of net income,  They won't suspend your current withholding.  But they will suspend any contributions being made to your retirement fund.

And if they really have to, the IRS will confiscate any retirement savings you have.  If they do, you'll be taxed on the forced withdrawal and (if you're not 55 1/2 yrs old or older) you'll also be forced to pay an additional 10% penalty for early withdrawals.

Advantage:  IRS

Are there two or more different and equally correct calculations for any income you have?  Then the IRC says you must use the larger income number.

Are there two or more different and equally correct calculatinos for any expenses you can declare?  Then the IRC says you must use the smaller expense number.

Did you make an error on a previous year's return?  Then you can amend a return going back five (5) years.

Is the IRS auditing your returns for errors?  They can go back SEVEN (7) years.

Did you have non-business losses for the year (e.g. lose money on the sale of your home)?  You can't deduct those losses, except to the extent that they are offset by gains. 

Do you lose money on your business three or more of the last five years?  Oh, it'll be reclassified as a "Hobby".  None of the expenses related to hobbies are deductible.  NONE.

The IRC &  Negligence:

Remember that "voluntary compliance" phrase back in the missino statement.  That becomes impartant here.  Being a "voluntary" system, the entire burden of correctly calculating your tax liability is on your sholders (like the 'other kind' of stoning).  It also explains why you have to prove your innocence in a court of law.

Since yo're the one who calculates your tax liability, the IRS frequently sues taxpayers in Civil (not Criminal) court.  Specifically, they sue you for Negligence.  Several things happen in Civil Court that don't happen in Criminal Court.  First, you - as the defendant - can be called to the testify on the stand (no 5th amendment here).  Second, you must demonstrate that you have done things correctly (usually to jurors who don't understand the tax code).  Third, in Civil Court, the plaintiff only needs a majority of jurors (7 of 12) to agree with them to win the case (not all 12 as in criminal court).

This is why almost nobody is accused of Fraus by the IRS.  Being a crime, accusing someone of Fraud puts the entire Criminal Burden on them.  But they will do it when the amount owed is very high, it's a high profile case (call Wesley Snipes on that one), and or the tax year in question goes back more than several years (no statute of limitations on Fraud).

The IRS & Negligence

Back to the burden of 'voluntary compliance'.  Since the onus is on you and because it's virtually impossible to fire a gov't employee, the IRS does't really need to dedicate themselve to excellence.  Consequently, when compared to CPAs and Professional Tax Preparation Services (e.g. H&R Block, Jackson-Hewitt), the IRS has the worst record when it comes to interpreting IRC regulations cinsistently score 51 to 55% out of 100.

A Select Few Never Pay Income Taxes:

And I'm not being sarcastic about the uber-wealthy and their Elite Tax Accountants.  Nope ... there's a whole sectin of the IRC where some people have done something special and they are excluded from paying income taxes by name.  I didn't check, but I'll bet $10,000 that you're not listed in that section.  Does that sound fair or ethical?  That doesn't matter ... it's legal.  The constitution gives the legislature that kind of power.

New Powers:

The IRS is now in charge of tracking your insurance -- as in "If you don't get insurance, you will be fined via your tax return.

Final Note:
Has this inpired you to take an income tax class?  Here's a helpful hint.  While your head is spinning and your eyes glaze over trying to interpret the never-ending charts and compound complex sentence structure, keep repeating this mantra:  "We must screw the taxpayer AND make it look fair."  You should do fine.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Bleeping Bleep Report (Ep 4)

The Bleeping Bleep Report for Hell's Kitchen, Episode 4

Chef Gordon Ramsay:  35
Barrett:  3
Susan:  1
Nedra:  5
Ray:  4
Zach:  3
Anthony:  0
Jessica:  5
Dan:  18
Jacqueline:  1
Amanda:  1
Cyndi:  3
Jon:  1
Mary:  0
Danielle:  6
Ja'nel:  0
Michael:  16
Jeremy:  2
Unknown:  19
Total:  123
That's roughly 2.67 per minute or one bleep every 22 seconds assuming a 46 minute air time.

Notable bleeping:  Dan & Michael's spat during dinner service.  Nedra only had five bleeps - she's toned it back some.

Dearly Departed:  Danielle was eliminated at the close of the episode.  Unfortunately, she never improved her understanding of the Hell's Kitchen System. 

This is Russell Britt -- Bleep off.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Bible: Episode 4

My opinions haven't changed much from the previous three episodes.

Episode four follows the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John) from the beginning of Jesus' teachings and his first confrontations with the Pharisees.

  1. Jesus spoke very slowly.  I almost felt like someone was reading the actor's lines to him on the set.  This is an error in direction.
  2. Again, much was left out.  And again, there were a few places where lines could have been used from the Bible and not detracted from the time limitations.  For example, when Jesus is arrested, Peter slices Malchus' ear off with a sword.  In one of the Gospels, Jesus calms Peter down and says, "Do you not know that I can summon and army of angels."  This draws attention to Jesus' devotino to God and to his mission on earth -- and only takes about 5 seconds.
  3. The storm sequence on the inland sea was changed.  Peter does fall into the water and Jesus does pull him out.  But the Gospels indicate that Peter walked on water with Jesus help.  The mini-series almost implied that the entire scene was a dream sequence for Peter.
  4. I'm beginning to wonder abou the overall production process on this mini-series.  I believe that Downey and Burnett (producers) aren't the type to conciously make a limited film.  I wonder what restrictions they worked under.
There was one positive aspect to the production.  The added scenes that demonstrated the Roman's attitudes toward conquered nations.  In particular, the Broken Cart scene with Pontius Pilate and the references to "putting down rebellions".  It explains the overall desire of the Israelites to have a War Champion like David or the Macabees come to their rescue.

Are you enjoying the Bible mini-series?  Do you have any questionns regarding the material?  Let me know.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Ten Things You Don't Know About Your Waiter

What’s your favorite place to eat?  Do you go there regularly?  Does the staff know you?  Do they know your name?  What do you know about them?

I have spent a cumulative 14 years in the food service.  From Six Flags Over Texas, to Steak & Ale, El Chico, O’Charley’s and a few independent restaurants, I’ve learned a few things I never wanted to know.  Here are 10 things you probably don’t know about your waiter (or waitress).
  1. He smokes (and not just marijuana):  Between 85 and 90% of all restaurant staff smoke cigarettes.  Consequently, anti-smoking lobbyers make him angry.  Even non-smoking waiters are upset by smoking bans because smoking guests drink more, eat more, party more, AND TIP MORE than non-smokers.  So, if you are an anti-smoking do-gooder, don’t tell your waiter.  And if you do tell him, leave a 35 to 50% tip so he doesn’t feel like you’ve cost him precious income.
  2. He has at least one tattoo.  And she does, also.  You don’t notice because most restaurants require Servers to hide their body art as well as remove any body piercings outside of the ears.
  3. Is it Flu Season?:  There’s a one in eight chance that he’s sick during the flu season.  Regardless of insurance, there are not sick days (and certainly not ‘paid’ sick days) in food service.  If he can’t get someone to cover his shift, he’ll be stuck at work unless a Manager can find some way to let him go for the night.  But, if your waiter needs the money (see #7 below), he won’t tell anyone about being sick at all.  At Steak & Ale, if you called in sick, the Manager would tell you to, “Find a replacement for your shift or suffer the possible consequences of not appearing for work.”  Yeah, morale was really low at Steak & Ale.
  4. He’s tired:  There are no breaks in restaurants.  Once the rush starts, you don’t stop moving.  That can be anywhere from three to six hours.
  5. He’s in pain.  Most servers have some chronic condition that slows them down.  I’ve seen waiters with cancer, swollen ankles/feet, tendonitis (that never heals), shoulder injuries, and other physical conditions that leave them limping home.
  6. He’s probably hungry.  The unusual nature of a server’s schedule (e.g. 10am to 2:30pm or 4:30pm to 9:30pm) disrupts his eating habits.  By the time a waiter clocks out, he probably hasn’t eaten for nine to twenty hours and has walked from three to five miles.
  7. He only makes $14k to $18k per year.  Now, I can hear you saying, “Russ, I have a relative who has a friend who makes over $100 a night at the bar & grill.”  There are indeed some waiters who make much more than you would expect.  But the silent majority of servers can’t clear $20k/year.
  8. He’s being screwed by the IRS:  The IRS automatically assumes that your waiter receives 8% of sales as gratuity.  If you don’t tip your waiter, he still pays taxes on the income you didn’t give him.  This goes for Income Taxes, FICA, Medicare, Medicaid, and now Healthcare.
  9. He’s being screwed by the IRS:  With a standard wage of $2.10/hr plus tips, it is highly unlikely that enough money can be withheld from his paycheck.  So he could owe a few thousand dollars cash on April 15th.  What’s that you say?  The Internal Revenue Code is only designed to punish the rich?  BWAH HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA.!!!
  10. He shares the same dream with all other waiters.  In this dream, a party is seated at one of his tables.  The waiter grabs a small tray in the kitchen and walks to the table.  As the waiter nears the table, he walks slower and slower until he can’t move at all.  The party will see the waiter and wave him over to them.  Then he wakes up in a cold sweat.
If you’ve waited tables, let me know what might be missing from this list.

And drive home safely.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Ode to Mrs. Taylor

Subtitle:  That Special Teacher

When did you first attend school?  Kindergarten or First Grade?

What was your first teacher like?  Was your first teacher male or female?  If your first teacher was female, did she have a high-pitched, squeeky voice?  Were they young or middle-adged?  Did they hand out hugs like they were candy?  Did they have a great smile?  Wasn't it wonderful to find someone who wasn't your Mom but still made you feel special?  Did that make you feel like all of humanity was beautiful?

Here it is, about 43 years later and I still remember my First Grade (and first) Teacher, Mrs. Taylor.  It was 1969-1970 in San Antonio, TX at the Colonies North Elementary School.  The tired (and perhaps bitter), old crone was near retirement age.  Even my mother remembers Mrs. Taylor as being old.

We ploded through the year with each lesson.  Here are a few highlights:
  1. Mrs. Taylor was upset because I was daydreaming alot.  So she talked to my Mom about it.  I spent the next 14 years supressing any creative thoughts.  By the way, I wasn't daydreaming
  2. She also thought that my daydreaming reflected marital problems at home.  My Mother was a little upset at that insinuation.  And again, I wasn't daydreaming.  And where did she get that kind of idea?
  3. She never lead any of the group activities with other classes (e.g. learning to sing Bingo or Row, Row, Row your boat).
  4. Mrs. Taylor returned from the Principal's Office one time to find us accusing each ofther of having cooties.  She made us stand silently with our noses to the wall for ten minutes.  No, I did not have cooties.
  5. She once commented on handling fear by relating that, "During the last thunderstorm, I saw a shadow moving back and forth outside the front window.  So I grabbed a gun and took my dog out the door to see who was there.  It was just a bush blowing in the wind."
  6. And Mrs. Taylor enforced discipline.  She spanked me once for doing something improper.  She never got around to telling me what I did wrong, but she paddled me for it.
It is a little unfair to mention all these things without trying to walk a mile in her shoes.  Mrs. Taylor was at least 65 years old.  Working backwords; she was born 1904, graduated high school in 1922, and graduated college in 1926.

She saw WWI, WWII, Korea, and suffered through the Stock Market Crash and the subsequent Great Depression.  Mrs. Taylor weathered all these hardships and they probably influenced her attitudes and behaviors.  If she was 60 years old, the timing of these events would be even worse.

She was a widow.  But no one thought to ask her for how long.  What was he like?  Did they have any children?  How did she adjust to life after his death?  

And was Mrs. Taylor raised in a classical Catholic School? Did her knuckles get whacked? Was she upset that she couldn't whack the knuckles of Public School Children?

These are questions that will never have answers.

Well, I guess half a mile is long enough.  Really, the evidence points to someone who automatically assumed the worst in people.  And they let her teach First Graders.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Dallas Weather Report

March 20th, 2013 in Dallas, TX.  Spring has come to a close and early Summer has arrived.  Temperatures are now reaching the mid 70's on a daily basis.

For several weeks, children have been chanting that age-old poem: "February showers bring March flowers."  And sure enough, the Red Bud trees are in full bloom.

However, many in the Metroplex are leary.  They are preparing for Indian Winter.  Yessir, a front will move through on Saturday, March 30th that will bring a high of 64 degrees and a low of 39 on Sunday. 

Don't put away your hoodie sweaters yet.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Bleeping Bleep Report (Ep 3)

The Bleeping Bleep Report for Hell's Kitchen (episode 3).  See previous post for rules.

Chef Gordon Ramsay:  28
Barrett:  2
Susan:  7
Nedra:  11
Ray:  4
Zach:  4
Anthony:  3
Dan: 3
Jacquiline:  0
Amanda:  0
Cyndi:  3
Jon:  8
Christian:  0
Mary:  0
Danielle:  2
Ja'nal:  0
Michael:  1
Gina:  1
Jeremy:  1
Unknown:  13
Total:  92
Average bleeps:  1 every 30 seconds of actual air time.

Gina quit just 2 minutes into the show.
Christian was tossed at the end of the episode.

Other noteworthing items:
A)  Nedra revealed that she has named her "hoo haaas".
B)  After 57 minutes at the dinner service, the Men's team had still not produced one appetizer.  The industry standard for appetizers is 5 minutes.
C)  After 90 Minutes at the dinner service, the Men's team had still not produced one entree.  The normal industry standard for appetizers is 15 mminutes at dinner.

Watching this show gives me PTSD episodes.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Bible (Episode 3)

Good evening,

As we have discussed before, a project of this size will require editiing out portions of the original stories.  In Episode 3 of The Bible, the following items were skipped.
  1. The entire life of Solomon
  2. The death of Solomon's father King David
  3. The ensuing civil war upon King David's death
  4. The division of Israel into two separate kingdoms (Israel & Judah)
  5. All but one of the kings in the books of 1st Kings and 2nd Kings
I'm not listing these omissions as a criticism.  Instead, I want to pique your interest so that you read the Bible on your own.

There were, however, a few changes that were puzzling in the mini-series.

First, Daniel - in exile - interprets Nebuchadnezzar's dream.  In the mini-series, Daniel only talked of a single statue.  In the Book of Daniel, There are three statues, each with a different attribute and each one prophesying a different empire.

Second, the baptism of Jesus.  Immediately after Jesus is raised from the water by John the Baptist, the director takes a long shot at the sky - but that's all.  In the book, the heaven's are split open, a dove appears, and the voice of God is heard, "This is my Son, in whom I am well pleased."

Third, the death of John the Baptist.  In the mini-series, Pontius Pilate flies into a rage and decapitates John.  In the Books, it is the wife of Pontius Pilate who conives to have John executed.  Thus, in the mini-series, Pilate appears to be much more evil than he really was.

In each of these trhee instances, it would have been possible to show the entire scene without sacrificing air time.  I find this slightly strange.

It would also seem that the mini-series is mainly dedicated to the life of Christ.  The Holy Bible is about 2/3'rds Old Testament and 1/3'rd New Testament. 

Please let me know your opinion.


Friday, March 15, 2013

"The Bible" is a Ratings Bonanza !!

According to the Daniel Wattenberg at the Washington Times, "The Bible" (a mini-series) is a broadcast ratings bonanza for the History Channel.

Many of you know from my earlier posts that I'm a little disappointed in this mini-series and I still stand by my earlier statements.

However, I am pleasantly surprised that the event is a big hit.  One of the statements I made earlier was that this show would help many people have a greater understanding of Biblical stories and help them understand the order of the historical biblical sagas.

It would appear that there are many people who are benefitting from this project and I hope they contiue to watch the ensuing episodes.

The series airs on the History Channel every Sunday at 8:00pm Eastern / 7:00pm Central.

Bonus:  If you're a big fan of Touched by an Angel, then you'll be glad to know that "The Bible" is produced by Roma Downey and her husband Mark Burnett.  She also appears on the show as Mother Mary.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Bleeping Bleep Report (Episodes 1 & 2)

The Bleep Report from Hell's Kitchen: Episodes 1 & 2

Everyone who's seen Hell's Kitchen knows what this report is about.  Here are the Bleeping rules:
  1. [Bleeps] in previews, reviews, and during commercials are not counted.
  2. Profane, obscene, and vulgar words that are not [bleeped out] are not counted.
  3. Extra-long [bleeps] count as one [bleep] because I cannot ascertain how many words were used.
  4. "Unknown" [bleep] means the [bleep] was from someone off-screen or from someone on-screne I could not identify immediately.
  5. I make the final determination on the [bleep] count because this topic is just for fun and should not be taken too seriously.

Chef Gordon Ramsay:  27
Barrett:  2
Susan:  0
Nedra:  5
Ray:  2
Zach:  11
Jessica:  0
Anthony:  0
Dan:  3
Jacquiline:  0
Amanda:  0
Cyndi:  2
Jon:  0
Christian:  2
Mary:  0
Sabastian:  4
Danielle:  5
Ja'nal:  0
Michael:  1
Gina:  4
Jeremy:  3
Unknown:  13
Total [bleeps]:  84
That breaks down to roughly one [bleep] every 90 seconds.  This is a little low due to the first episode where no one was stressed out.  Next weeks episode should have a higher [bleep] rate.

Special vulgar consideration to Nedra who stated at the end of Episode 2, "I don't want the Women's Team to lose.  But when they do, I'm gonna vote Gina out.  I'm gonna raise two hands and both [of] my Hoo Haas (referring to her breasts).  That'll be four votes."

At the end of Episode 2, Sebastian was booted off by Chef Ramsay.  Bless his heart.  He only had time to get bleeped four times.  His downfall can be summed-up when he referred to Chef Zach as "Zachy Wacky".  No, saying "Wacky Zachy" would not have made a difference.

In a surprising turn of events, eight of twenty (i.e. 40%) of the contestants did not say [bleep] or [bleep] at all.  That may be a record.  But I'm not going back through 10 seasons to find out.

Take some tome to leave a comment if you like.  Or just [bleep] off.

Too Much News

What happens when there is more news during the day than you can handle?

City:  Dallas, TX
Date:  March 13, 2013
Time:  Between 5:00pm and 5:15 pm C.D.T.
Place:  ESPN - Dallas (103.3 FM)
Program:  "Galloway and Company" (a.k.a. GAC) starring Randy Galloway and Matt Mosley.
Subject:  Baseball News ala the Texas Rangers

I am a big fan of Randy Galloway, Matt Mosley, and the rest of the GAC team.  And I'm not trying to mock anyone on the show.  What I am trying to do is show what happens when big news overshadows anything you are trying to do.

The following 'transcript' is paraphased.  I may even have the wrong pitcher listed.  It's still slightly funny.

Randy Galloway:  Anyway, the good news is that the Rangers have signed a strong submariner (i.e. left-handed pitcher) today from Argentina, Jorge Bergoglio.  Is that it (the name)?

Matt Mosley:  No, that doesn't sound right.

Randy:  (sigh) no it's a ... I thought it was Jorge.

Matt:  No ... um ... Jorge is the newly-elected Pope.  He's from Argentina.

Randy:  Yeah, that's it.  Who am I thinking of?  Lisalverto Bonilla.  They just brought Lisalverto onto the team.  He's a submariner (left-handed pitcher) I do believe.

Guys... I completely understand.

Sincerly, Russell

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Bible (a Mini-series) #2

Just finished viewing the second of five, two-hour episodes of The Bible on The History Channel.

It looks like this is going to be a long ride for me.  I knew that the writers would "skip a bit".  But I feel like the viewers are being cheated.  See last week's post for more details on that.

Here is what they skipped last week: (a partial list)
  1. The Code of Hamurabi
  2. The Tower of Babylon
  3. The Life of Isaac
  4. The Life of Jacob
  5. The Life of Joseph
  6. The meaning of the 10 Plagues of Egypt (in the Book of Exodus)
  7. The entire books of Leviticus, Numbers, & Deuteronomy (although these books can be condensed to a large degree.
Here's what they skipped this week.
  1. All of the Book of Joshua except for the Battle of Jericho.  This means that at least one act of disobedience was omitted as well as the occupation of the Land of Canaan and the negotiation of land distribution among the tribes of Isreal.
  2. All of the Book of Judges except for Sampson - and that was glossed over.  By omitting the vast amount of the Book of Judges, you miss out on several recurring themes in human and Isreali history.  By glossing over the story of Sampson, you missout on how ... um ... intelectually challenged the man was.  Besides, you coudn't squeeze in Gideon?
  3. The Book of Ruth -- although this book does not drive the story line, it can be culturally revealing if it is properly presented.
It seems like the Book of 1 Samuel is where the mini-series begins to get a little more serious.  However, the writers condensed Samuel and Eli into one character, omitted the story-line of Samuel and his close relationship with God, and avoided David's puzzling tenure as the leader of a gentile army that attacked Israel -- repeatedly.

In addition to that, they completely deleted Bathsheeba's famous bathing scene.  Really, you're going to have battle scenes and show people having their throats slashed, but you can't get a long-distance shot of a woman in a bathtub?  Finally, they omitted the decline and death of King David which resulted in a civil war between his sons..

They covered Solomon's birth and ended with building the Temple.  But mysteriously skipped everything that demonstrated Solomon's wisdom, wealth, and fame.

Update (3/11/13):  I reviewed the last 45 minutes of this episode and need to correct a few of my comments.  First, they did have a bathing scene with Bathsheeba.  But it was in a secluded garden instead of the top of her house.  This certainly added to the exotic nature of her beauty but also stunts her character development.  Second, the death of King David will likely be in next weeks episode.  And finally, since Solomon was just a child at the end of Episode 2, I assume his life will be better explained in Episode 3.

Signing off (but that should be Sighning off)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Bible (a mini-series)

I just finished watching the recording of The Bible.  The first episode left me a little ambivalent.

Here are some of the Pluses:
  1. The mini-series opens with a fair disclaimer:  "This program is an adaptation of Bible stories.  It endeavors to stay true to the spirit of the book.  Some scenes contain violence.  Viewer discretion is advised."
  2. The cinematography does an adequate job conveying the atmosphere of the ancient world.  Lott's home has a crude door for example.  And the terrain will remind you of the Middle East (I couldn't confirm the actual filming locations). 
  3. The writers have produced a script that is not deliberately misleading or negative.
  4. The entire production does it's best within the limited 10 hour time frame for the broadcast (7 hours after you remove commercials).  Please remember that there are 66 books in the Bible; 25 (or so) if you just include historical books.
  5. This mini-series might be considered a primer for someone who knows very little about biblical stories or the Bible.
  1. Considering item 4 above, it should be no surprise that the stories are glossed-over.  In fact, you'll find fashion magazine covers that aren't this shallow. Even worse, some of the better-known stoires had to be left out.  In episode one, The Code of Hamurabi, the Tower of Babble, The Story of Isaac, the Dispersion of the Tribes, The Story of Jacob (including the Story of Jacob & Esau), and the Story of Joseph are all omitted.
  2. The producers/directors/writers have omitted many troubling moments that underscore the emotional severity of a particular scene.  The best example here would be when the citizens of Sodom bang on Lott's door demanding to see the two strangers (Angels xent by God).  In the story, Lott offers his daughters to the crowd instead of the Angels. 
  3. The hermeneutics are extremely limited.  Hermeneutics is the art and the science of interpreting any text (not just Biblical texts).  With a better screenplay adaptation, some scenes would have deeper meaning.  In particular, Abraham would come across as a man of deep faith, instead of slightly insane.
  4. The Old Testament is about more than just the stories.  There is a tremendous theme throughout the entire Hebrew scriptures dealing with people's struggle understanding and obeying God.  This struggle has been completely omitted.
  5. Surprisingly, the "scenes of violence" are both over-done and watered-down.  The ones that are included in the series are not that violent in the Book.  And the ones in that are in the Book (but omitted from the series) are much worse.
Despite the difficulty, I'll be watching every episode.  Can't help it.  I want to be fair and abandoning the 5 week long broadcast after just one viewing isn't fair.

However, Jews and Christians will likely be bored with The Bible while folks with lesser exposure to scripture will come away believing that Religion and the Judeo-Christian beliefs are "quaint".

Please let me know what you think.


P.S.  I'll be covering the most shocking moments of the Bible during the next two weeks.