Tuesday, January 31

Reaching Youth...suggestions?

Just spent a great two hours breaking bread with my good friend Melva and discussing our mutual challenges as Youth Sunday school leaders. She is also involved in other aspects of youth ministry in her church in Bedford. I just teach on Sunday and volunteer for the JIFF program (I've written a few times about that program on this blog).

We each attended a leadership workshop for the Lynchburg district of the United Methodist church last Saturday. In order to get as much out of our time as possible - we each took different classes and decided to get together this week to debrief/brainstorm. So tonight over a mediocre piece of fish and some delightful cheddar biscuits we shared our experiences.

My first class on Saturday was promoted as "Book, Bath, Table and Time - we will be following the book by the same name by Dr. Fred Eddie of Duke University. While Dr. Eddie's book approaches the 4 practices - Scripture Reading, Baptism, Holy Communion and the Liturgical Year - primarily from a youth ministry perspective, these practices are at the heart of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ at any age."

I was intrigued to hear from the two workshop leaders (who are active in youth ministry) how to interest youth in spiritual discipleship. And I did enjoy hearing about their experiences, especially the way that they use the lectionary and liturgical calendar with their youth. Dictionary.com defines lectionary as a book or list of lections for reading in a divine service. In the United Methodist church there are suggested readings for each week of the church year (liturgical year) and many pastors do preach according to that schedule. I understand it is planned in a 3 year cycle. The workshop leaders plan their weekly youth Bible study around those scriptures which helps prepare the youth for what is coming up on Sunday. I think that is a pretty good idea!

They also are encouraging their young people to be active participants in worship - volunteering to read the scripture and being active members of worship planning. I am pleased that is working for them. And the youth that I work with have also been lay readers - but I fear that if I asked them to teach, deliver the children's sermon or prepare a meditation on a passage...they would be unwilling. Am I selling them short?

Melva's workshop on "Christian Education with Generation Z" has motivated her to start planning a quarterly worship service just for children led by the youth of her church. She is excited about the potential for both the children AND the youth. We believe it will motivate the youth to do real planning and study - and give them a chance to introduce some new worship practices. So often the youth go to district or conference events and enjoy vibrant praise and worship services - they come back to their home churches and the fire/passion snuffs out. We have to find a way to fan the flames!!

Sometimes the new music and liturgy (stuff that we read/recite during worship service) will make us old folks uncomfortable. It won't be what we are used to. We might not know all the words. GOOD. Shake us up! God didn't invite us to a life of comfort. He didn't call us to recite creeds without feeling the words. We need to be less comfortable. If what we are doing now as a church was setting the world on fire - church would be standing room only. We need to try something different.

My afternoon class pretty much encouraged that. The leader urged those of us in youth leadership to let the youth dictate the direction of the programs. That made me uncomfortable. I just don't trust that they'll pick the ball up and run with it. (see my comment three paragraphs ago) I'm not just selling the youth short - I'm selling God short too. I'm going to have to step out of his way and be uncomfortable.

Does that mean I'm supposed to just hand the youth a stack of Bibles and commentaries and say "teach yourself"? Nope. But in order to make the learning relevant to their lives - I have to find ways to really involve the students in the process. I haven't got it all figured out yet...but I'm open to new ideas.

A wise friend shared with me a few weeks ago. He was talking about how the adults in the church often say things in meetings like "the youth/children are the future of the church". He said that is wrong. They are the church. The adults/elders are not the PAST of the church! They are the church too!! We need to get our act together and worship/learn/reach out as the WHOLE body.

I have a dream. That some day worship will involve everyone in the church. The youth and adults and children. The women. The men. The rich and poor. The liberals and the conservatives. I have a dream that we could all join together in praise. That we could listen and learn (not plan our meals for the next week). That we could all give generously of our time, talents, and treasure.

 Dream with me church!!

Saturday, January 28

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

A movie review (I can't bear the thought of titling another post "Reflections of" anything. I need a headline writer for my posts. And I believe I should also refrain from the cop out "Random Thoughts" for awhile.

Went to see the movie with my sister Denise. She has expressed an interest in trying to see as many of the Oscar nominated films as possible. I'll try to join her - I think. My friends will raise an eyebrow (some of you raise your eyebrows artistically and well) because they know that I rarely make it to the movies. When I recently took one of those Facebook surveys...I had seen 15 of the "Top 100 Movies of All Time (according to IMDB voters)". And I figure about 3 of those don't count because I didn't watch the whole thing.

But I do believe that watching the Oscars would be more interesting if I have seen more than one nominated film. So far...I've seen one. But I have about a month to catch a few more.

Which brings me to this evening. I find it difficult to put in to words what I felt about the movie. I do think it is an incredible experience. It will be different for every person that sees it because it will touch them in different ways. A brief synopsis of the movie: a man is killed in the collapse of the World Trade Center. His wife and son each deal with the loss. The son, who sees the world in an unusual way...call it Asperger's or autism or social connection disorder or just a hypersensitive boy...finds a key in his father's possessions. He sets out to find the lock that fits the key. He believes finding that will help make sense of his father's death.

It is a story of loss. A story of searching...of guilt...of death...and life. And so for each person who watches the movie - the connections that will be made are very personal. For some people whose life experiences include deep loss - the movie may press on raw nerves. Which may be painful. And could be cathartic.

When the final scene of the movie was done and the credits began, the silence in the movie theater continued for several long moments. There was not the quick hustle and bustle of patrons gathering their things and rushing to exit. For about 30 seconds there was no noise at all. Deafening silence. We were collectively absorbing the film.

It is a powerful movie.

For those who lost friends and family on "the worst day" - it may not yet be bearable. I found myself reflecting on the desperate feeling of not being able to connect with friends in New York City that day...and I lost no one in the attack. It is hard to imagine what it will feel like to those who experienced that day first hand. Especially if a loved one was harmed or killed.

I do recommend seeing Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - but be prepared. It may be too close.

Friday, January 27

Reflections from Facebook

So...I was looking for a post topic and scrolling through Facebook statuses (statii?) and saw this phrase. Had to make it a blog post - just haven't figured out where it is going to go.

"Big dog tails and sodas on a coffee table don't mix"

I know the dog and the coffee table. The dog's tail is one of those sturdy whip-like devices. You know, the tails that resemble a ferret without the eyes and legs? And the dog that it is attached to is - well - kind of a spaz. As my friend Matt would say - he's an excitable boy.

 The coffee table is a creative use of a skid. It is a skid (city folks call them pallets). A skid with legs. And no - the gaps are not filled in. So I can just imagine spaz-dog and the soda get together. There is not only soda on the magazines that litter the skid-table...and the floor underneath...and probably the dog tail. But there is also stealth-soda hiding on the lower level that will sneak out in the days and weeks to come. Sometime in March she will take the sticky thing out in the yard and hose it down after the ants infest her copies of People and Reader's Digest.

The next status that caught my eye was: "Help! I can't believe this is vexing me so much, but I just can't figure it out and I'm determined NOT to resort to actually writing it all out to solve this, but I can't find a formula that discounts duplicates -- HERE IS THE PUZZLE -- If you have seven different soft drinks, how many combinations can you make? Assume that when combined, amounts are proportional (that is - if you combine two drinks, each is 50% of the whole. If you use all 7, each is 1/7) That is the part that's killing me - you can't use the normal permutation (7 to the 7th power) because, for example, with numbers 17 and 71 are different but coke/sprite and sprite/coke are duplicates and only one would count."

Apparently this problem was posed by her Marine Sgt. brother and she has been tasked to solve the problem. Perhaps for matters of national security. Or perhaps to figure out how many different drinks can be made at the officers club.

As of this writing she has received the answers 21, 28, 560, 5040 and N-2. Amusing. Just typing the question gave me a headache. But it reminded me of a college class I got thrown out of. Freshman math. The discussion was something about arranging books on a shelf. The teacher (it was community college, so I do not believe the woman was an actual professor...I think she was moonlighting from her normal job at Orange Julius) gave an answer to the problem and I told her that I had come up with a different answer. The exact numbers are not important. She asked how I had arrived at my figure. I said you could turn all the books upside down. She told me to get out. I did. I never returned.

I did, however, have the high score on Q-bert in the student lounge.

You need to have a sense of humor in life.

Even with math.

Monday, January 23

Covering Up (Doesn't Usually Work)

I have two tales to tell - one that I may have told before (I looked...but didn't see it) and the other was told to me this weekend. So...don't stop me if you've heard this before...

My cousin Elizabeth visited last weekend with her lovely daughter Autumn. With relatives that you don't see very often, the stories just never end! But one of the best stories of the weekend was from her college days working in a radio station. She was pulling one of those lame weekend shifts where the job was just switching out tapes every once in awhile. Of course, at the time...they were probably reel-to-reel, which at least took some skills!

Since she had a little down time and was going out with friends after her shift she was in the lobby of the station ironing her jeans. Now...why anyone would find it necessary to iron JEANS is beyond me...but she is pretty neat. (she is the only person I know who wears pantyhose to work every day that isn't a nurse) As she was kneeling on the carpet putting the finishing touches on her crisp bluejeans she heard the recorded voice say "this has been the rejoicing in Jesus hour, join us again next week" So she ran to make the switch to the next program.When she returned to the smoke-filled lobby, she discovered that she had knocked the iron over in her haste to get to the control room. In addition to the acrid smell - the lobby carpet was now sporting a brand new hole. About the size of an iron.

 She did what most of us would do in the situation...she put a plant over the hole.

The crew from Those Magnificent Movies. I'm in black :)
This reminded me of an event from my days at Kings Dominion. The facility that I worked in, the Mason Dixon Music Hall, was also where KD employees came for a monthly Movie Night. Just as I was walking out the door one evening my friend (and supervisor) Eve asked me if any of the fly boys were still around. They were the technicians responsible for flying the scenery for the show. Both of the guys had left and Eve was in a panic. She had forgotten that it was Movie Night and had not asked them to fly in the screen that the movie would be shown on.

So, being the adventurous twosome that we were, we decided we could handle it. So we went to the fly floor (not to get too technical...but it was a double-purchase fly system which meant that the ropes only travel half the height of the fly loft AND they have 100 pounds on the rack for every 50 pounds of scenery) and located the right set of ropes. I took the lock off and pulled on the front rope. It didn't move. I knew I was pulling on the correct rope so I pulled a little harder. It moved a little so I figured that I just needed to pull hard because I was having to get twice as much weight moving as I was used to.

So I stepped up on the rail and grabbed hold with both hands and jerked with my whole body weight. And it moved a little. So then Eve climbed on with me and within a few minutes both of us were bouncing up and down on this rope like mad women. If anyone had been watching...we would have looked ridiculous. After a few minutes with very little progress I put the lock back on and turned to gaze out at the movie screen we were trying to fly in...

Hmmm....by finally making a visual connection, I realized what the problem was. A nearby fly-line was tied back and we had been bouncing our movie screen repeatedly on an iron pipe that held the two side curtains (in theatre terminology they are "legs"). Said pipe now had an ugly bend in it.

Our solution was much like Elizabeth's...perhaps if we just moved a plant over the hole...

I moved the pipe and flew in the movie screen...then made a pact with Eve: IF anybody notices the bend then we will deny any knowledge.

Of course that didn't work any better than Elizabeth's plant in the middle of the lobby. It took the first flyman about 2 minutes to discover the damage. It then took him about 3 minutes to find out the likely culprits. But despite the fact that this was a hulking and sometimes menacing man (with a big knife tattooed on one shoulder) - he didn't lose his cool. He did wonder aloud how stupid I was to think that they wouldn't notice. And he did make me come in the next Saturday and help change out the damaged pipe (which was bent an impressive 20 or 30 degrees).

Later that day he handed me a football card (like a baseball card....). I don't recall who the player was but when I turned it over the to side where the stats and stuff were...I noticed that there was a quotation that CW had highlighted. I must paraphrase but it basically said that if you damage something that belongs to someone else you must seek out the owner and make it right. To do otherwise is reprehensible. How he happened to have that card with that quotation there on that particular day...it had to be destined. Because I have never forgotten the message.

A life lesson from CW...I didn't expect it...but I haven't forgotten it either.

Monday, January 16

Reflections on Wisdom from MLK

On his birthday I would like to reflect on some quotations from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Perhaps not his most famous statements, but I want to choose some thoughts that are not as well known as "I Have a Dream."

"Faith is taking the first step, even when you don't see the whole staircase."
That is a lot of faith sometimes. Reminds me of an Indiana Jones movie...you recall that scene? It was in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The intrepid Han Solo...no, wrong movie...Indiana Jones was on a quest for the Holy Grail. As one who spent many a teenage hour reading about King Arthur and his court - this was definitely my favorite of the series (though they could have really skipped the whole train car full of snakes thing!). As Indy is following his father's notes to complete his quest - he gets to a chasm that he must cross. But there is no visible means to do so. His father's notebook says to step out on faith. And so he steps forward into nothingness. This summer I couldn't force myself to step off a ramp to jump about 15 feet into the river. I don't know what it would take to step out into a seemingly endless canyon. But when Indy does - his foot touches solid ground. The bridge was there the whole time, it looked so much like the landscape below...you couldn't see it.

How many times do we find ourselves in that same situation in our lives? We don't want to leave the comfort of the ledge that we are on. Don't want to face the unknown of leaving the abusive husband or the dead-end job. Scared to go back to school or write the book? Afraid of failure...rejection...success? There is a great lesson to be learned in Dr. King's words (and Indy's step). Too often we wait for the push off the cliff instead of stepping forward in faith. I'm going to try to overcome that fear...and maybe jump off the ramp into the river. As soon as the river is a little warmer!

"Let no man pull you low enough to hate him." 
Oh man...that is hard. I was part of a group studying Philip Yancey's What's So Amazing About Grace a few years ago. In that book there is a story about Will Campbell - and his friend Jonathan Daniels. The two were involved in the civil rights struggle...and Jonathan was gunned down in Alabama by deputy sheriff Thomas Coleman. Will was forced to confront to concept of forgiveness head on when P.D. East asked him a tough question (I paraphrase because there is more to the story...) - did God love Jonathan Daniels or Thomas Coleman more?

His response? From Yancey's book:  Suddenly everything became clear. Everything. It was a revelation...I walked across the room and opened the blind, staring directly into the glare of the street light. And I began to whimper. But the crying was interspersed with laughter. It was a strange experience. I remember trying to sort out the sadness and the joy. Just what I was crying for and what I was laughing for. Then this too became clear. I was laughing at myself, at twenty years of a ministry which had become, without my realizing it, a ministry of liberal sophistication... I agreed that the notion that a man could go to a store where a group of unarmed human beings are drinking soda pop and eating moon pies, fire a shotgun blast at one of them, tearing his lungs and heart and bowels from his body, turn on another and send lead pellets ripping through his flesh and bones, and that God would set him free is almost more than I can stand. But unless that is precisely the case then there is no Gospel, there is no Good News. Unless that is the truth we have only bad news, we are back with law alone.

It would be easy to hate Thomas Coleman. It would be easy to judge him. But judgement isn't our job. We are supposed to pray for those who persecute us. Jesus himself said in the sermon on the mount - If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. (Luke 6:32) Or as the youth class likes to phrase it...love people who love you? you want a cookie for THAT?

Recently a Facebook friend went through an ugly breakup. I know that the two are better off apart. I also know that the person who I am a friend of is a Christian. But in the midst of all her status updates of hatred and negativity...maybe I should have at least suggested to her privately that she is to be in prayer for him. I have a feeling it would NOT be well received. But I feel like I may have chickened out. Maybe I need to go back to that section up there about stepping out on faith.

"We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools."
We have to walk a mile in each others' shoes. Build bridges. Listen more than we talk. Only then will the dream come true. I still have hope. I still believe in the dream that one day we WILL be judged by the content of our character and not by the color of our skin. Or anything else.

Hamster beaten.

Saturday, January 14

Joyful Noise

I went to the movies this afternoon with the Elvas. I was running a wee bit late (not surprising...but I'm trying to get better...) so I told them to go ahead and get us seats and I would be right along. But then I ended up being put in a different theater because the first theater apparently sold out! My theater's start time was 1 minute later but was nearly empty when I went in. So the Elvas left their crowded seats and joined me in what I consider to be the best possible seats in our new stadium seating theaters: front row of the upper section, far side. And we settled in to enjoy the show...my fondest part of the experience was already fulfilled - popcorn with white cheddar seasoning and nearly endless coke.

I had figured on enjoying the movie "Joyful Noise" - I'm fond of Dolly Parton and I really LOVE Queen Latifah. I had not anticipated how much I would love it. Understand, I'm a choir member...so some of the inside jokes of choirs/choir directors/church might be lost on general audiences. But I can't believe anyone could see this movie and not be uplifted. (and Dolly Parton winging rolls at Queen Latifah in one scene was a real treat)

I admit to being a fan of gospel music and gospel choirs - but this movie had something that I also enjoyed in the Sister Act movies...contemporary/pop music being sung as praise and worship. Remember in Sister Act when the nuns sang "My Guy" to Jesus? I love that juxtaposition of the secular and sacred. I think it is a unique way to reach out to those who think church is just dusty and stuffy.

In this movie Paul McCartney's "Maybe I'm Amazed" is sung as worship. And really...the words are so fitting: I'm amazed at the way you love me all the time...maybe I'm afraid of the way I love you...I'm amazed at the way I really need you. The fact that God loves me all the time is amazing.

And I always thought that Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror" song was perfectly suited for church: I see the kids in the street, with not enough to eat. Who am I, to be blind? Pretending not to see their needs. A summer's disregard, a broken bottle top and one man's soul - they follow each other on the wind ya know. 'Cause they got nowhere to go. That's what I want you to know. I'm starting with the man in the mirror. I'm asking him to change his ways. And no message could have been any clearer. If you wanna make the world a better place - take a look at yourself and make a change.

There are some imperfections in the film...they may have tried to cover too many bases in two hours. A little judicious editing to eliminate one or two of the side plots would have made for a tighter end product. But there are also some incredible surprises in there.

Some young unknown by the name of Jeremy Jordan whose IMDB filmography shows a grand total of 3 TV/film projects (one still in post-production) and a few stage credits blew me away. He embraced a character that was a too-good-to-be-true punk on the edge of reform...a character who could reach out to a kid with Asperger's syndrome in one scene and play the piano and guitar in another scene then sing gospel with gusto. Seriously? But Jeremy Jordan made it completely believable and made you love his character without reserve. What could have been a cartoon cutout was fleshed out into a real human (and the flesh wasn't bad to look at either...)

But I think the moment in the film that made my heart skip a beat was Queen Latifah sitting alone at a piano and simply singing the spiritual "Fix Me Jesus": Fix me Jesus, fix me...fix me for my long white robes...fix me for my sorry soul...fix me for my dying breath...fix me for my daily love. Fix me Lord, fix me Jesus, fix me.

It was a prayer in song. It didn't feel performed. It felt genuine.

It was a wonderful afternoon...I feel like I've already been to church! Now I just need to convince our choir director to let our choir dance like that choir did!!

(and somebody see if Jeremy Jordan is available for a couple of Sundays!)

Tuesday, January 10

Brilliant Gift Idea!

Well...I think Christmas is finally over. My family had their last event of the season on Sunday afternoon. Because some of our extended family is out of town for Christmas Day - we always have a later function to exchange gifts with the Elvas (Belva, Melva...you've met them...) and this year there was an extra special bonus! My brother-from-another-mother Bruce was in from Dallas!

Some people know him as Tyrone...but I will always know him as Bruce. Strangely, his biological mother (the only thing logical about her...) changed his name when he was young. Not right after he was born...but much later! Something about being ticked off at some man in her life. An odd and very selfish choice. So he has gone through life with multiple names. Tyrone Bruce is one of my favorite people. (I could also point out that I have an adult friend who some people know as Sheila and some people know as Diane...what is this? A faulty witness protection program??)

The gathering was great fun! Lots of excellent pizza...some sort of green salad (nope, I didn't eat that...) and several desserts.

One of the unique parts of the gift exchange is a tradition started 3 or 4 years ago - because buying gifts for ALL the Howell clan is a daunting task...someone came up with a good idea. I think it was me. Instead of buying stuff - we give each other books that we have read that we think that the receiver will enjoy. I am really looking forward to this year's selections.

I have never read the book that Belva found for me - Age of Innocence. But the setting is New York City and she swears that I will enjoy it.

Melva gave me a book that I heard about on NPR many moons ago (I often hear about a book/show/movie that I rapidly forget to track down...) and I am intrigued by the subject matter. Henrietta Lacks died in 1951 of cervical cancer. She was an African American woman. Cells that were harvested from her cervix had an unusual characteristic. Not only could they be kept alive, they also grew indefinitely. Those cells have been used in countless experiments and research since that time.

But the kicker is - the cells were taken without her knowledge or permission. And although her descendants could use some $ - and the institutions who commercialized the use of her cells made millions - none of that money ever went to her family. I am interested to read more about her story.

I shared a couple of books from my HUGE collection, including the biography of my friend Joe Campbell and one of his novels. And for fun, I gave Melva a big book of MAD Magazine excerpts. Because you gotta laugh! Check out your bookshelves and share something with a friend. That friend could even be me!

And I'll find something for you in exchange!

Friday, January 6

Gone too soon...

Until I saw Chuck's post...I hadn't remembered that today is the anniversary of the day that the Earth lost a great guy. Heaven's gain...our loss. So, a few minutes remembrance of Carlton Candler.

I believe the first time I met Carlton was after a play at Lynchburg College. And then I think that he worked at Hip Pocket with my sister Denise. Not 100% sure, I guess I was in the midst of high school crap. I really got to KNOW Carlton years later when he was rooming with Denise in Richmond. Carlton was one of those people who make an indelible mark on your heart. He laughed SO loud, it was just contagious. He had strong opinions about most everything - but accepted that your view could be different.

I think that Carlton was one of the first of my sister's friends who treated me as more than just a kid sister. He listened when I talked. He cared about me as a person, not just an extension of a sibling. And that meant more to me than he can ever know. I was goofy and awkward. My older sisters were popular and cool. When they were in the same room, I usually faded into the background - a shy bookworm. But Carlton was different, he asked me questions about ME. When I grow up I want to be just like him.

As the years passed we found we had a lot of things in common - we loved food, travel, people, cultures, family, tolerance...we both hated ignorance and injustice. He made me fall in love with New York City and encouraged me to move there. Sometimes he would call just to say hi while he was walking across Central Park. I found out after he was gone that he did that with a lot of people. But instead of feeling like just one of a crowd...that made me feel like part of club. People who Carlton Cared About. Because it never felt superficial - when you were with Carlton (in person, phone, email or just thought) - you were the most important thing in the world to him.

4 years ago. I was right where I am now...on the computer. I heard the phone ring and heard Mom talking to Denise. I could tell that it was bad news. I could tell that she was upset. I stopped doing whatever it was and went immediately to my email. I knew that whatever was going on, Denise was going to need the support of her friends. My assumption was that Denise's father-in-law had passed. I started an email and had opened my contact list to include our closest friends when Mom ended the phone call.

I had just clicked on Carlton's name when she sat down. Then she said the strangest thing. "Chris, Carlton died." I sat there with my fingers on the keyboard, not moving. I couldn't move, couldn't think. It was so unreal. It just didn't seem possible. Sometimes it still doesn't. I've never been able to bring myself to delete him from my email contact list. Probably never will. But now seeing it brings a small smile to my face.

I would like to think that Carlton would be proud of the person I'm becoming. I still hate ignorance and injustice - I've tried to become more patient though. When I have snarky comments...I try hard to "keep them in my head". I still love different foods and cultures and learning about new people and places. I want to embrace life like he did. And most of all - when I'm with another person, I want to remember to treat that person as the most important person in the world.

And even though I haven't moved there - I do still love New York City.

But I miss one of the best things that NYC ever had...Carlton Candler. Thanks for being one of the best parts of my life.

Monday, January 2

November is a LONG way off :(

The time is nearly upon us...now that the pleasant heart-warming holidays are past...the horrid time of the political race has descended!

Don't get me wrong - I absolutely embrace the process of the people choosing their leaders. I believe that all citizens have a right AND a responsibility to gather knowledge and vote. I just cringe at the prospect of the campaigning. Especially now that any group can put 30 second ads on TV without regard to pesky details like facts and ethics.

I spent some time discussing the campaign process with a good friend who is a long-time teacher of high school government classes. Which, I was pleased to hear, is still a required course to graduate. I asked him if he thought that there were high school students interested in government and/or politics. And he assured me that although there is still a good percentage of youth that only learn enough to pass the class - there are a growing number of students who have a real desire to see government perform the key functions that it must perform in society. (not everyone agrees on what those key functions are...)

And we discussed what we both agree is a major problem in the political process - television advertising. In my opinion, if ALL political television advertising was eliminated the benefits would be tremendous. First of all, it would eliminate a huge cost to political campaigns - thereby eliminating some of the need for fund raising (which distracts all of our current political leaders from DOING their jobs). The decision to pour millions of dollars into thirty second ads is only making network owners rich. And although advertising is required to be sold at deep discount (the same price as for a most-favored regular advertiser) - the dollars spent are significant.

Secondly, it would force the voting public to actually educate themselves on the positions of the candidates instead of relying upon sound bites and half-truths from opposing camps. Truthfully, it frightens me that there are people voting who haven't picked up a newspaper or watched a debate. I would favor some sort of poll test: if you can't name the current president, secretary of state, your governor and a city councilman...you don't get to vote. You're too stupid. That will be an unpopular idea. I believe I have just eliminated political office from my future.

And lastly - we the American public could enjoy Wheel of Fortune without the mud-slinging. "Vote for Joe Bob, he loves old people and will create jobs and put a chicken in every pot." immediately followed by "Don't vote for Joe Bob, he was caught "loving" a senior citizen, he's creating jobs by putting teen girls on street corners and the chickens he wants to put in every pot are tainted by salmonella because he wants to cut the budget of the USDA." "Joe Bob supports your 2nd amendment rights" "Joe Bob wants criminals to be able to carry concealed weapons into church day care facilities"

Stop the insanity. For the month of October I think I'll move to Canada.

Thank God for DVR...not only can I fast forward through what I don't want to see...I'm recording and watching more of the debates than I usually would. Education is key.