Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Bleeping Bleep Report (Ep 9)

The Bleeping Bleep Report
for Hell's Kitchen - Episode 9
first aired 04/30/2013

After some very tepid bleeping from last week, things seem to be back to normal for the crew at Hell's Kitchen.  Here are the numbers:

Chef Gordon Ramsay:  31
Barrett:  10
Susan:  0
Nedra:  15
Ray:  14
Zach:  4
Anthony:  2
Jacqueline:  8
Amanda:  13
Cyndi:  4
Jon:  8
Mary:  0
Ja'nel:  1
Michael:  2
Unknown:  6
Total:  108
An average of 2.57 per minute or one bleep every 23 seconds based on a 42 minute air time.

One other notable item:  At the end of the episode, Chef Ramsay didn't say "Piss off" or "Bleep off".  He said, "Leave me alone."  Very Garbo-esque.

The Red Team lost and put up Amanda and Jacqueline for elimination.  After a commercial break's deliberation, Chef Ramsay booted Jacqueline. 

Ta ta Jacqueline.  May you go on to be the chef we all know you can be. 

Every one else can bleep off.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Bleeping Bleep Report (Ep 8)

The Bleeping Bleep Report
for Hell's Kitchen - Episode 8
First Aired 04/23/2013
Shocking:  Chef Gordon Ramsay DID NOT have the most number of bleeps today.
Chef Gordon Ramsay:  12
Barrett:  10
Susan:  0
Nedra:  8
Ray:  2
Zach:  7
Anthony:  0
Dan:  17
Jacqueline:  1
Amanda:  3
Cyndi:  1
Jon:  10
Mary:  0
Ja'nel:  0
Michael:  12
Unknown:  3
Total:  86
That is approximately 2 per minute or 1 bleep every 29.3 seconds based on a 42 minute air time.
Special mentions:
  1. These numbers are down again.  It would seem the dinner services are getting better.
  2. Dan had three "silent bleeps" when the editors blurred out his universal fowl symbold for [bleep] off.
  3. Mary - Mary? - Mary!  Miss mary whispered "Oh, my gosh!" when barrett served up raw chicken.  I almost counted that as a bleep.
Released:  Dan and Barrett were selected for elimination.  Dan was punted.  Good bye Dan.  May you put this fiasco behind you and succeed in your future endeavors.
Everyone else can bleep off.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Who Saved the Beluga Whale

The Beluga Whale - Delphinapterus leucas - is an Arctic and sub-Arctic cetacean.  It is also known as the White Whale;  although the term Whale is not completely accurate as "whale" usually denotes a baleen dental structure.  The Beluga is really a member of the suborder Odenticeti, or toothed cetaceans (including dolphins and porpoises).

The beluga is listed as "nearly threatened" by the Endangered Species Act.  But that is slightly misleading as its population has been growing, albeit slowly, since the early 1930's.  The worldwide population is now estimated to be 150,000.  The main threats to the beluga population are 1) hunting (by humans), 2) predation (by killer whales and polar bears), 3) habitat contamination (especially in rivers), and 4) disease.

But this is background information only.  I am focusing on the "threat" that no longer exists.  The unlisted threat that (shamefully) nearly drove the beluga into extinction in the 1920's.  But at the same time, this threat also deserves credit for saving the beluga.
I am, of course, speaking of the Automobile industry.

It was the Gilded Age.  Although humbled by the sinking of the Titanic, it had found new life in flight and in the burgeoning automotive industry.  The internal combustion engine had been invented almost twenty five years earlier.  But, due to costs, almost nobody could afford a car until mass pruduction techniques lowered the car's price substantially.

But technology and the law would collide to create the unintended consequence of the beluga's near-demise.  Relevant to this was inter-vehicle communications.  Today, we mearly honk our horns.  But early motorists, when coming to an intersection, were required by law to disembark from their vehicle, look both ways, fire a gun (preferably a shotgun) in the air warning other motorists in the area, and look both ways down the intersection again before re-entering their vehicles and continuing through the crossroads.

Of course, when there were only a few thousand cars nationwide, this was not a material problem.  But, with Ford's Model T, the resulting mass of automobiles required new laws for the new-fangled machines.  It took hours for lines of cars to get through intersections and the constant gunfire was scaring the horses and wounding pedestrians.  A new law limiting the number of vehicles on the roads to three was proposed but later killed in committee when politicians realized how much tax revenue would be lost.

So, what to do about the literal, legal, and metaphorical roadblock?  Some new method was needed to allow drivers to communicate with each other without getting out of their cars, without scaring horses (still prevalent on the streets), and without injuring pedestrians.

Enter the beluga whale.  They produced a high-pitched tweeting sound that was audible for several city blocks.  They were plentiful.  But most of all, they were small enough to cram into an automobile's engine compartment.  After pushing and pulling the cetacean into place, it was a simple matter of attaching electrical wires to the pectoral and dorsal fins and then manage the electrical discharges via a simple switch in the passenger compartment.

And viola!  The automobile horn was born!

At this point, most readers will be completely incredulous at the very idea that Belugas could be used in this manner.  But collective memories are short.  So let us review a few historical facts.
  1. As seen above, a new inter-automotive communication system was needed.
  2. The Beluga Whale emits a strong, audible sound.
  3. The Beluga Whales (especially infants and pups) are relatively small.
  4. Early automobile engines were also relatively small.
  5. Man's superiority over nature was unquestioned.
  6. Electricity was widely accepted as a way to produce involuntary reactions (which contunues to this day).
Visit any substantially large vintage automobile show and closely evaluate any antique motor car from the 1910's and 1920's.  Notce that the engine cover (or hood - as it is known today) is much larger than the engine it covers.  It had bo be.  The extra room in the engine compartment was necessary to accomodate the beluga whale, which would have been a standard safety feature of any car during the Roaring Twenties.

For two or three years (depending upon the automotive historian you interview), all was well.  However, severe drawbacks became very apparent.
  1. The electrical jolt necessary to get the beluga to wail often shorted out the electrical system.
  2. Motorists had to stop every two miles to wet the white whale down.  By the way, this is the original reason for water being available with air at filling stations.
  3. The beluga consumes approximately 800 poinds of food per day.
  4. It poops about 600 pounds per day.
  5. The dwindling infrastructure of the Whaling Industry could not keep up with demand.
  6. The beluga (a tooth-baring cetacean) frequently bit the very people who were trying to care for it.  Side note:  "Biting the hand that feeds you." refers to the Beluga Whale, not to dogs.
  7. At unpredictable intervals, the Beluga would try to escape - producing cataclysmic results to the automobile's suspension at the very least and in other cases forcing the horseless carriage into buildings or oncoming traffic.  Although, Laurel and Hardy did have two scenes in separate films where such incidences produced hysterical results.
This situation was dire.  Purchases of Shotguns escalated.  Pedestrians purchased surplus World War One helmits.  Stock prices of buggy whip companies rose sharply.  City and State legislatures were once again considering the limit of 3 cars per city block.  All of these were in anticipation of the demise of the Beluga.

Enter DELCO (Dayton Engineering Laboritories Company) of Dayton, OH,  Already a prestigious firm for creating an electic motor for NCR's cash registers in 1906 and inventing the electric car starter in 1911, DELCO set out to conquer the daunting task of saving both the auto industry and the Beluga Whales.

AND SO THEY DID!!  In just 42 working days from concept to prototype, DELCO created the first ELECTRIC car horn.  There was a small delay, as they tried to copy the high-ptiched tweet of the whale.  But they settled on a sound reminiscent of the noble beasts name:  "Ba-looo-gah!"  Tears of joy filled the streets of every city from Boston to New York.  Rehabitated whales were released into the wild where they were preyed upon by the inuit tribes and killer whales.

Today, antique car horns are still made by companies such as Assured Automotive Products - who sells an antique "Ah-hoo-ga" horn to avoid copyright infringement lawsuites.  But everyone knows they are flattering the original.

And so, with the help of the very industry that would have destroyed them, the Beluga Whale was saved. 

Long live Detroit!
Long live the Beluga Whale!  (which is realy an odenticeti)

And now you know ... the rest of the story.  (um ... I'm still trying to get this cleared by my attorney)


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Barbeque Snobs

I have worked in several restaurants: Steack pleces, Mexican Food, Fast Food, Carnival Food, and Bar & Grill food. 

But never, ever in my life have I witnessed the nearly insance commitment to a certain food as displayed by BBQ Snobs.

I'm really serious here.

Let me be very clear.  A BBQ Snob IS NOT THE SAME AS a BBQ Enthusiast.  

Enthusiasts enjoy their food.  They seek out new experiences.  They are willing to try something different.  It may not be to their liking, but they'll still enjoy the day.  And they may even give you a few hints on what needs changing.  But an enthusiast will never - ever - under any circumstances - hate you personally just because the food you offer isn't precisely what they expect.

Watch the Food Network's TV show "Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives".  The host for this show is an Enthusiast (a "devotee" at the very worst).

BBQ Snobs, on the other hand, won't even give you the time of day.  In December of 2012, a Snob walked into my BBQ establishment and asked, "Where's your peht (sic)?" -- by "peht", he meant "pit", ss in "Where's your BBQ Pit?"  I tried to explain that local city ordinances forbade open flames in buildings where multiple businesses share the same walls.  But he left when I said, "Local city ordinances".  His lips pruned up and his nostrils flared.  Did I say something wrong?

He immediately left in a litteral huff.  Yes, the 'huffing' was audible as he departed the building and got into his automobile.

If you are a BBQ Enthusiast, please come in.  I'd love to meet you - even if you don't like our BBQ.  But if you are a Snot - ah ,,, I mean ... uh ... snob - go back to your favorite place and leave us alone.

Thank you,
Russell Britt

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Bleeping Bleep Report (Ep 7)

The Bleeping Bleep Report for ...
Hell's Kitchen:  Episode 7
First aired 04/16/2013

Old Business:  When last we left our merry band, four chefs were up for elimination: Mary, Nedra, Ray, and Dan.  Chef Ramsay did something he's never done before.  My guess was that he'd switch the contestants to the opposite teams.  And again, I was wrong. 

Instead, Chef Ramsay placed all four competing chefs on probation.  They either had to earn their respective Team Jackets back or they would be eliminated.

Good news!  They all earned their jackets back before the end of the episode. 

And now back to the Bleeping Bleep counts ,,,

Chef Gordon Ramsay:  14
Barrett:  3
Susan:  3
Nedra:  4
Ray:  2
Zach:  3
Anthony:  5
Jessica:  2
Dan:  10
Jacqueline:  0
Amanda:  0
Cyndi:  1
Jon:  0
Mary:  0
Danielle:  0
Ja'nel:  0
Michael:  5
Unknown:  3
Total:  55
Or ... 1.31 per minute or one bleep every 45 seconds based on a 42 minute air time.

This total is way down from any average.  The gang was either tired or on prozac tonight. 

Based on the dinner performance, both teams lost.  Each was tasked with selecting two chefs for eliminations.  They chose: Jessica, Susan, Ray, and Dan.

Ray had a bad night.  He couldn't keep up with a Chef's Table service.  Susan didn't communicate - at all.  And Jessica looked like she was asleep through the whole service.

Dan's selection for elimination was based on his prior performances.  Chef Ramsay chastised the Men's Team for choosing Dan because he did a really good job working his station this evening.  Dan was sent back to the Men's Team immediately.

This brings up a general point of curiosity for me regarding the contest.  Not everything done by the contestants gets aired and it's difficult to pick up the more subtle points of service on the television.  I wonder what the competing chefs see that we done't notice as audience members?

In the end, Jessica was eliminated from the competition.  Farewell Jessica.  May your future be bright.

As for everyone else, "Bleep off".

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Five Ways to Slow Down Your Waiter

Speed is the key to the restaurant business.  (OK, speed is the key to almost everything).  Many waiters will do what they can to show you the love and patience demonstrated by saints.  But the bottom line is ... turning those tables!  All other things being equal, getting 20% tips on eight tables will not bring as much money as earning 15% tips on 12 tables.  Thus, any delays in service can mean the difference between a good night and a great night; between paying the utilites and paying the rent.

So this could really be called "The List of Things that will Slow Your Waiter Down and thus piss him off."  Why?  Again ... speed.  Everything in the restaurant is subconsciously organized around making orders fast and expediting a quick exit for the guest.  Any extraneous issues require extra time - and probably lots of it.

So, here is a list of things that will slow your waiter down.
  1. You have a coupon: The waiter's world will come to a dead stop while he looks for a manager to redeem your coupon.  He has to search the entire restaurant, including the kitchen and the office, then pray the manager isn't busy doing something else.  Elapsed time:  5 to 10 minutes in real life.  A cumulative 20 to 40 minutes when you realize he's serving four tables.
  2. Lots of Separate Checks:  two friends with separate chacks?  No problem.   Four co-workers on separate checks?  Um ... OK.  A party of twelve with 9 separate checks?  You've got to be kidding.  The waiter will need to be extra careful when taking the order, extra careful entering the order in the Point of Sale system, and his world will come to a crashing halt when the checks are presented and paid out.  Elapsed time:  onother 10 to 12 minutes in real time with the same impact as the coupon listed above.  What happens when the waiter has to deal with coupons and separate checks?  Please consult your Time and Space Theoretician.
  3. You order desserts that have to be made:  no waiter minds reaching in the fridge for a dessert (e.g. cheesecake, carrot cake, etc.).  But if the dessert must be assembled ... he screams like Charlie Brown.  Examples include the Caramel Pecan Sundae at O'Charley's, the fudge brownie sundae at any restaurant, and any ice cream drink that has to be made by the bartender.  What's wrong with the Ice Cream Drink?  The Bartender doesn't like to make them, so they tend to come out after the Barkeep pours out several beers.
  4. Birthdays:  As I told a friend who quit O'Charley's, "Ally, you're going to miss this place.  You're going to miss the mayhem on Saturday nights and holidays.  You're going to miss the Managers ... all of them.  You're going to miss the grumpy cook behind the sautee station.  You're even going to miss me.  But you will never, ever in a million years miss dropping everything you're doing during the utterly insane dinner rush to sing Happy Birthday."  Yep, another 2 to 5 minutes multiplied by every waiter in the restaurant.
  5. Asking for samples:  Over the last 30 years, restaurant-goers have become more sophisticated and more demanding.  Asking for samples is an excellent example of that evolution.  And it makes sense.  Dining out has become much more expensive over the last 30 years.  The risk of getting something you don't like is a real possibility.  So what's the issue?  It's not the same thing as getting a tast of fancy ice cream at Baskin Robbins.  The waiter has to completely dedicate the time to getting the sample from the (most likely very busy) cook.  And by the way, you'll never ever get a sample of any entree item (e.g. steak, fish, chicken, etc.).  That and it will keep the guest at the table for another 5 to 10 minutes total.  This could prevent the waiter from turning the table one last time that evening.
And so you ask, "Russell, do you hate people?  Do you not understand the hospitality industry?"

"No, I don't hate people.  Yes, I understand the industry."

I will never, ever let you know that any of these things sets me back financially.  In fact, if the restaurant is slow, I have everything to gain by pampering you.  These five things really only upset the cart when the restaurant is full and busy ... when there is a 30 minute wait at the door.  Your waiter has to make money, too.  And serving more tables is the only sure way to achieve that goal.

This has been a public service announcement from Russell Britt.
"Thank you for patronizing me."

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Bleeping Bleep Report (Ep. 6)

The "Bleeping Bleep Report"

for Hell's Kitchen (Episode 6) on April 9th, 2013.

At the end of Episode 5, Ramsay told the two weakest links on the women's team to get back in line and then kept us guessing who would be eliminated from the competition.  My guess was that, since Gina had quit back in Episode 3 or 4, he was going to take this opportunity to let the group off with a pass for one week.

I was wrong.  Really wrong.

Chef Ramsay said, "There's one person here who is in way over their head."  And then he eliminated Jeremy.  Well, Gordon made a legitimate call.  Jeremy had served one of the sample dishes that had been sitting out at room temperature for over an hour.  It was only a matter of time before this young man would be tossed.  Good luck to you in the future Jeremy.

Last week, the bleep count was way, way down.  I surmised that doing a breakfast service on very little sleep had something to do with it.  And I think I was onto something because this week's bleep count is back to normal -- with five outstanding performances.  Here's the raw bleep count:

Chef Gordon Ramsay:  45
Jean Phillipe Susilovic (Maitre D'):  1  (what?  The Maitre D; got one in?  That's a first!)
James Avery (Sous Chef for the men's team):  2
Barrett:  2
Susan:  2
Nedra:  23
Ray:  26
Zach:  4
Anthony:  3
Jessica:  1
Dan:  14
Jacqueline:  4
Amanda:  3
Cyndi:  0
Jon:  0
Mary:  0
Danielle:  0
Ja'nel:  0
Michael:  1
Jeremy:  0
Unknown:  9
Total Bleeps:  131
That's approxiately 3.12 per minute or one bleep every 19 seconds based on a 42 minute air time.

The big surprises:
  1. Chef Ramsay really outdid himself.  His average bleep count this year has been around 27 to 30 per episode.
  2. Jean Phillipe:  He hardly ever gets to talk to anybody.  And when he does, it's usually just advice.  But when Barrett screwed up in the Dining Area, Jean just couldn't help himself.
  3. James Avery:  The Sous Chefs on Hell's Kitchen almost never get heard.  But James was more than a little disappointed with the men's team and let them know about it.
  4. Nedra:  She has been the lead epithet hurler of all the contestants this year.  But today, Nedra outdid herself.  She went on two tirades today.
  5. Ray:  He's the oldest contestant and usually assumes a laid-back demeanor.  But something about Dan got under Ray's skin and he let his whistle blow.
Special Mention goes to Dan.  In a tiff with Ray, Dan shot back that he was ready to tangle and said, "Bring it on like Donkey Kong."  REALLY ??!!  Like Donkey Kong?  I wonder how much of the viewing audience was old enough to understand that reference?

On a side note .... I'm predicting that Anthony and Ja'nel will be among the final four contestants.  They seem to do the best job staying in control (for now).

The episode ended with 4 chefs up for elimination: Mary, Nedra, Ray, and Dan.  Chef Ramsay pulled a cliff-hanger again,.  We don't officially know who, if anybody, will be eliminated at the beginning of next week's episode.  The editiing certainly did point toward tossing all four chefs mentioned.

However, it is a cliffhanger and so we can speculate.  Here's my guess ...The four chefs up for elimination can be viewed as two pairs of chefs who have trouble working as a team member of their respective kitchens.  Chef Ramsay will pull a fast one and switch the chefs in question to the other team.

But I could be wrong.  After all, I botched the last guess pretty badly.

See you next week.  Until then, bleep off.

Hermeneutics: The Art of Interpretation

You've done it.  You've all done it.  You've been doing it since sixth grade whether you knew it or not.  Don't bother denying it.   Hermeneutics is the "art of interpreting texts".  This usually involves ancient texts.  However, almost all literary analysis involves elements of this art.

The etymology of hermeneutics goes back to the Greek god Hermes; known mainly as the messenger of the gods.  In his role as messenger, Hermes frequently thwarted plans by the other Greek deities and humans by omitting critical information in messages or just plain lying.  Thus, he becomes an excellent icon for interpreting texts, since the reader must constantly be aware that some information is not known or must be derived from other sources.

Here are six things to consider when reading any ancient text:
  1. Language to Language translation issues: this is so obvious, most people never think about it.  But idioms never translate well and footnotes can greatly help.  Remember that when you're reading assembly instructions for your new Ikea furniture.
  2. Language Over Time issues:  languages change.  English in the 1920's was different than English today.  Yes, if you could travel back to 1920 Boston you would still survive.  But you would also have to learn new language skills.
  3. Language Over Geography issues:  This could be divided by Rural/Urban, East/West, North/South, etc.  It happens to this day.  In Minnesota, you order a soda.  In the Midwest, you get a pop.  In Texas, you get a Coke; as in ... Waiter: "Would you like a Coke?"  Customer:  "Yes."  Waiter: "What kind?".  Customer: "Dr. Pepper."
  4. Cultural issues:  many ancient cultural issues are lost on pragmatic Americans.  What are a culture's rules regarding:  marriage, sex, trading, animal husbandry, praying, idols, revenge. belching after dinner?  Misunderstanding these social cues could easily lead to family feuds or boiled lambs head for lunch ... it just depends.
  5. Legal Differences:  knowing the law can make or break your understanding of a particular situation.  In the Book of Genesis, Jacob is tricked into marrying Laban's oldest daughter, Leah (not Carrie Fisher).  When Jacob confronted him the next morning, Laban agreed to let Jacob marry the younger daughter, Rachel, if he first remained married to Leah for seven days.  Why is this seven-day period important?  According laws in the ancient mid-east, a husband could divorce his wife during the first seven days of their marriage for any reason.  After that, the husband must have a valid reason to claim a divorce.  So, in this case, Laban is leveraging the legal situation against Jacob's romantic interest in order to keep both daughters married.
  6. Technological issues:  understanding technological limitations and advances can help you understand the struggles of ancient peoples.  Again in Genesis, The Servant of Abraham is seeking a wife for Abraham's son, Isaac.  When the Servant arrives in the land of Haran, he meets Rebekah at the city's water well.  Rebekah offers water to the Servant's entire caravan consising of at least 5 men and 10 camels.  This is something most readers gloss over; especially in light of the drama and excitement immediately following Rebekah's watering of the caravan.  That's because almost no one stops to consider a) thirsty men can drink 1 gallon of water, b) thirsty camels can drink 50 gallons of water, and c) the truly ancient technology of water wells.
Water wells of the 1800's used pumps (either hand powered or windmill powered).  Before then, water wells used buckets lowered via rope - ala a Thomas Kincaid painting.  But ancient water wells are dug out of the sand in an upside down cone formation until water is found.  And then steps are laid down in a large spiral to the bottom of the water well.  The typical ancient water well descends approximately one-and-a-half to two stories when compared to modern buildings.
The water must be retrieved using a large, clay urn.  Rebekah was probably using a 4-gaillon urn.  So, five men times one gallon each plus ten camels times 50 gallons each divided by one, 4 gallon clay urn gives us (tap tap tap ... cha chug ... tap tap tap ... cha chug ... ) 126 TRIPS UP AND DOWN THE STAIRS .... or ... 250 FLIGHTS OF STAIRS (UP AND DOWN) !!!  
In the morning heat no less!!  And she offered to water the caravan without being asked.  Do they make anyone like that today?  (that's a rhetorical question)
Classes in hermeneutics are available from most seminaries.  They are as entertaining as they are enlightening.  And they will give you a lifetime of powerful reading skills.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Five Reasons to Study the Bible

Yesterday, I posted "Five Reasons to Read The Bible."  Reading The Bible will be a richly rewarding experience.  However, after you read it, I highly recommend studying The Bible.

What's the difference?  Reading will expose you to a great deal of information as well as answer major questions.  Reading as fast as good comprehension allows will give you the broadest picture of the entire collection of events.  But proper studying will increase your depth of understanding.

And so, here are five reasons to study The Bible:

  1. Character's motives and methods will be revealed:  In many Bible stories, the characters come across as rather stilted or two-dimensional.  But that's not the case.  The problem is that there wasn't a whole lot of writing paper in ancient times.  So, most stories are whittled down to "He said, She said" dialogue.  Motives must then be derived from your knowledge of general human nature and the culture of the day.  Studying on these things will bring a clearer picture to biblical passages.
  2. Even Symbolic words will have more meaning:  Isaac is drieved from the phrase, "He makes me laugh."  Moses is derived from the phrase, "I drew him out of the water."  But there is more to it than that.  Once you know what "Isaac" means, you will begin to see the word "laughter" throughout that section of Genesis.  Once you study a little more about Egipt, you discover that "Moses" is also Egyptian for "son of" and you begin to wonder if Pharoah's Daughter didn't have a double meaning to her new son's name.
  3. Small things will take on enormous significance:  Here are a few questions to highlight this point.  Why does Eve tell the serpent, "If we touch that tree (of the knowledge of good and evil), we'll die?  Is that what God told Adam?  Why does Cain hate Abel?  Why does God get upset when Israel makes treaties with other nations?
  4. You'll learn more about cultures:  If you learn a little about ancient cultures, some differences are magnified.  Ancient Egyptians were very racist, that's why they put the Hebrews in the land of Goshen.  And this was a good thing.  But why?  You'll need to pay close attention to the lives of Isaac and Jacob to get your best clues.
  5. You'll wind up with more questions:  Jewish rabbis are almost famous for telling their students, "It's good to have the right answers.  But it's better to have the right questions."  If you study The Bible, your answers will lead to more and better questions.
There are several study guides and materials available online and at Christian bookstores.  Many commentaries merely regurgitate the stories and events you've just read.  You need to search for ones that explain background material such as a) how the passages were translated, b) what the cultural/legal influences were, and c) what the commentary author thinks about the passage.  My suggestions are Exposition of Genesis, by H. C. Leupold and commentaries written by Orthodox Rabbi David Fohrman.  Both men offer excellent insight to passages.  You might disagree here and there, but you'll still wind up with better questions of your own.

Tomorrow, I'll discuss Hermeneutics.  And no, Hermeneutics is not the study of Herman Munster.  I don't care what psych's Shawn Spencer says.


Monday, April 8, 2013

Five Reasons to Read The Bible

Many people read from The Bible.  Many Bible Study Classes and teachers spend an entire hour discussing just one passage.  Serveral organizations publish weekly or quarterly bible Study manuals.  Howerver, reading from The Bible is not the same as reading the entire Bible.  And that's important, because reading the entire Bible provides a perspective that reading passages can never accomplish.

Here are five reasons to read the entire Bible from front to back:

  1. Get your questions answered:  OK.  Reading the Bible might not answer every question you have.  However, biblical issues you do have - no matter how deep in the subconscious - will be expressed in some way during your reading.  Is money the root of all evil?  You'll find that answer in the Bible.  Hint:  money is not the root of all evil.
  2. General Biblical Knowledge:  Are you confused when you look at The Bible's table of contents?  There seems to be no coherent organization to the list of books.  As you read The Bible - especially a good Study Version - The organization will begin to flow and you will be able to discuss different books in The Bible with greater confidence.
  3. Specific Biblical Knowledge:  The Bible is constantly part of public discourse.  Getting your facts straight will allow you to challenge idiots and keep from being fooled by con artists.  And you'll become a better Theologian.  C. I. Scolfield commented that, "Everyone is a theologian because everyone has an opinion about God."  Having specific knowledge will improve your theological skill.
  4. Come closer to understanding God:  Sure, no one ever knows completely what God is planning or thinking.  But you will begin to see storylines and recurring themes played out over generations - even hundreds of years.  Viewing history on this scale will change your views on some topics and help you understand your place in God's universe.
  5. Chellenge your faith:  This is where your friends might try to stop you.  Strange as it seems, atheists are afraid you'll convert and church-goers are afraid you'll run away.  Why?  Most people's view of The Bible is really very shallow.  If you are an atheist, you will be confronted with moments of unbelievable compassion that will only be explained by the existence of a loving, active God.  If you are a believer, you'll be confronted by serveral shocking incidences where it appears that God could not possibly exist.
Reading the entire Bible is not so daunting a task.  It can be done in one year.  Any Christian bookstore (or the internet) should have a reading schedule so that you can pace yourself.  My personal note is, once you get past Leviticus, Numbers, and Deutoronomy, it's all downhill from there.

Please let me know if you decide to read the entire Bible.  I'd be interested to hear your thoughts regarding issues as you meet them.


Friday, April 5, 2013

Misunderstood: The Code of Hammurabi

How often have we heard the words, "So, I guess it's an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." uttered with a disdainful sneer?  The Code of Hammurabi is recognized by many modern people as a template for revenge - the Code of Tit-for-Tat.  But you would be wrong - for the most part.

Here are a few things you might not know about the Code of Hammurabi:

  • The Code of Hammurabi is not the oldest (or only) ancient code of laws.  The oldest known code of laws is the Code of Urukagina.  Other contemporary legal statutes include the Code of the Assura, and the Code of Ur-Nammu.  A more complete list of ancient legal codes can be found here.
  • The Code has 282 laws covering topics such as: Religion, Military Service, Trade, Slavery, the duty of workers, and the Law.
  • It is a significant advancement in justice.  It provided for widows and orphans and protected the week from the wealthy and powerful.
  • Despite its reputation for bloody revenge, the eye for an eye theme was designed to prevent people from over-reacting.  No more would anyone be allowed to kill someone over an insult.
  • It separated the victim/accuser from the perpetrator/accused via a judicial system.  Thus, the continuous cycle of retribution is stopped; similar to the system we now employ.
  • The C of H carried over into the Old Testament:  see Exodus Ch. 21, Leviticus Ch. 24, and Deuteronomy Ch. 19,  The Israelites expanded the protection of widows, orphans, slaves, and the weak.  They also added 351 more laws.
  • It also has elements of hypothetical (what if?) legal scenarios.  These items consider legal issues that had not necessarily been encountered.

Yep, I learn something new almost every day.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Farewell Roger Ebert

The Balcony is Now Closed.

Rober Ebert (1942 - 2013) has passed on from cancer.  Every major news outlet has an obituary dedicated to his career that began in 1966 and ended yesterday.  Here's the one from Fox News.

It's difficult to describe to any younger generation how much someone like Roger Ebert and his partner Gene Siskel can mean to you.  This, of course, won't stop me from trying.

Roger begain as a part-time film critic with the Chicago Sun-Times in 1966 and became a full-time film critc the following year (after he graduated from college).  I entered first grade in 1969.  To the best of my knowledge, Roger was - and still is - the only man in history to obtain a PhD in Film Criticism.  His intelectual discipline showed through in his critiques.

He wrote several books.  My college roommate, Steve Vaught, had one of his earliest works, an encyclopedia of almost every film ever made; including Plan Nine from Outer Space.

He began Siskel & Ebert: At the Movies in 1986 with Gene Siskel, a film Critic from the Chicago Tribune.  When Gene died of brain cancer in 1999, he continued the show with fellow Chicago Sun-Times film critic Richard Roeper.  The show finally ended in 2010.

At the Movies was more than just film criticism.  Siskel & Ebert dedicated entire shows to certain themes.  I learned a great deal from these particular episodes.  They regarded Humphrey Bogart and Jack Nicholson to be the two greatest Actors in American history.  They detailed the technical differences between "Black & White" films and "Color" films and why colorizing a black & white film can never work.  And they spent an entire episode on silent films and how some directors made their silent films unforgetable.

I was unaware Roger had surgery in 2006.  Enough of his jaw was removed that he could no longer speak, eat, or drink after that.  But you can see in his pictures that Roger was still happy.  And had a full head of hair.  How did he do that?

When Roger Ebert's career bagan in 1966, newspaper ariticles were still written with typewriters - computers would not be readily available for 15 years.  But he progressed through television, the computer revolution, and into social media seemlessly.

There are a few good film critics working today.  But there will never be another Siskel and Ebert.  That's why the balcony is closed for good.  The doors are boarded-up and I don't believe the building can be renovated.

Please leave any fond memories in the comments section.

Adieu, Roger Ebert.

The Bleeping Bleep Report: Episode 5

The Bleeping Bleep Report for Hell's Kitchen: Epside 5.

Whoa, the numbers are way below average.  In this installment, the "Dinner Service" was breakfast at 6:30am for Emergency Room workers:  Doctors, Nurses, and Paramedics.  Was the reduction in bleeps because the competing chefs were tired or because breakfast foods are simpler than Chef Ramsay's ordinary dinner fare?  We may never know for sure.  But even Gordon Ramsay's bleep count was down.

Here are the numbers:

Chef Gordon Ramsay:  12
Amanda:  1
Nedra:  14
Cyndi:  3
Zach:  3
Jon:  3
Dan:  2
Barrett:  4
Jacqueline:  5
Mary:  0
Anthony:  0
Raymond:  4
Ja'nel:  0
Michael:  3
Jessica:  0
Jeremy:  1
Susan:  0
Unknown:  9
TOTAL:  64
That's about 1.33 bleeps per minute or one bleep every 43 seconds assuming an air time of 46 minutes.

Special note:  The women lost the Breakfast Service and were required to choose two people for elimination.  Nedra went on a bleeping rampage when her name was mentioned ... 9 bleeps in less than 20 seconds.  This is a little over two thirds of over total bleep count for the episode.

Who was let go?  Jacqueline and Mary were eventually chosen to go up for elimnation.  But Chef Ramsay created a cliff-hanger episode by not eliminating either until next episode.

My guess?  He's not letting anyone go this time because Gina voluntarily left at the beginning of Episode 3.  So the contest has been short one chef.  Giving everyone a break will bring us back to a 20 episode season.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Bible - Episode 5

Episode 5 of The Bible mini-series aired Sunday night on the History Channel.  Here are some notes on that episode and the series as a whole.

The set designers did a good job.  I never felt like I wasn't watching a series set in the ancient mid-East.  There are probably a few anachronisms in the series  -- it's almost impossible to avoid them in any period piece.  However, I was not destracted by any such items if they existed.

As I suspected in the first post, most of the Bible was held back for this last episode.  Consequently, this was the most emotionally dramatic episode; especially for those familiar with the Gospels.

Special applause for the actor Greg Hicks who played Pontius Pilate, the Roman Prefect who oversaw the trial of Jesus.  He looked like a man who had struggled to succeed in the Roman Empire and then he acted like it.  Greg was clearly the best actor for this role and the best actor in the entire series.  By comparison, every other actor was just saying their lines.

Did you notice Satan walking among the various crowds - especially during the trial and the crucifixion?  This is not in any biblical passage I remember.  But it is a metaphorical device used by Mel Gibson in The Passion of the Christ.  He should probably get credit for it.

There are several flaws with the mini-series.  These were mainly story-line omissions driven by time constraints.  Perhaps this should have been a two or three year limited-run series.  Then, the writers would have had 50 to 78 hours (instead of 10) to give the Judeo-Christian history the attention it really deserves.  Then again, maybe the success of this series can give that larger project an opportunity it didn't have before.

But the biggest, happiest surprise of all?  The writers and directors managet to literally get in the last word.  Those familiar with the Revalations of St. John the Divine know what I mean.


The last episode of The Bible re-airs tonight, Wednesday, April 3rd at 9:00pm Eastern, 8:00pm Central Time.