February 9, 2009

My Internal Life: A Short Play--Act II

Setting:  February 9, 2009.  A large board room, somewhere in Scott's subconscious.  Lots of dark wood...probably mahogany.

Our characters, along with a handful of identical, but differently clothed, other men sit around a large conference table.  The one wearing a robe stands slowly, clears his throat, and begins.

PastorScott:  Ahem, excuse me.  Everybody...eyes up here.  Don't make me start working on Sunday's sermon.  This is the first time I've led one of these meetings, so let's see...
LethargicScott:  Oh, come on...I should be leading this thing.  I've been at every last one of these.  Even the '95 transition.  Heck, I co-chaired that meeting.
PostmodernScott:  Yeah...they asked me, but I didn't feel like it.
LethargicScott:  Hey, where is CollegeScott, anyway?
PostmodernScott:  He spends all of his time on Facebook now.  He's...
PastorScott:  Excuse me, fellas...got a little meeting here.  Now, because it is Monday morning, I'm in charge.  HusbandScott will be along shortly to co-chair...but that doesn't mean we can't start.  Now...it's been a little over two years since we met.
LethargicScott:  Yeah...when you came on board.  Hostile takeover if you ask me.  Between you and "The Tool Man" over here...
HomeOwnerScott: ...uh...
LethargicScott:  ...you two are really cramping my style.  When HusbandScott came along back in '02, I could roll with that.  Had to pick up my socks and vacuum and stuff, but it wasn't too bad.  But this new stuff?  You guys are absolutely killing me.
PastorScott:  Which leads me to our reason for meeting.  There's a new guy coming...and he's not messing around.  And so...hate to say it...one of us has to die.

Excited, nervous banter....eyes shifting around the room.

PostmodernScott:  Now, wait.  We thought this was going to happen back in '02, but the only guy who got...ahem..."laid off" was SingleScott.  

LethargicScott sniffles and reaches for a handkerchief...sorry, his sleeve.

PastorScott:  This is even bigger than '02...bigger than '03...even bigger than '06. 

Stunned silence as the assembly makes mental lists.

LethargicScott:  We're all thinking it.  We all know the answer, here.  It's him.

LethargicScott points to a huddled mass in the corner.

HomeOwnerScott:  BloggerScott?  He died months ago...around stewardship season.  I checked the pulse.  Long gone.
LethargicScott:  No, not him.  Next to him.

Points to another eviscerated figure nearby who is wheezing and obviously struggling to find the will to live.

HomeOwnerScott:  I like that idea...he's dying anyway.  
PastorScott:  I don't know...a couple of my books say...
LethargicScott:  Oh, come on.  Think about it.  Do the suit slacks still fit?
Pastor Scott:  In the morning...if I suck in.
LethargicScott:  Check.  Any reunions coming up?
PastorScott:  Not that I know of...
Lethargic Scott:  Check.  Still convincing yourself that the scale is broken?
SkepticScott:  Check.
LethargicScott:  Well, there we go...the chump dies.  

All eyes turn to StayInShapeScott, cowering in the corner.  He points at LethargicScott, opens his mouth, gathers his strength and musters four words.

StayInShapeScott:  ...you stole my IPod...
LethargicScott:  That's it.  He dies.
PostmodernScott:  Works for me.
PastorScott:  All right, let's move to a vote.

Door swings open dramatically.

HusbandScott: Hold it, hold it.  Not so fast.  As the chair of the transition team, I thought we should hear from the incoming administration.  Friends, here he is...

A man carrying a diaper bag, a pack-n-play, and a folder titled "Saving for college" strides confidently into the room.

LethargicScott:  I knew this day would come.
FatherScott:  Hello all.  First order of business? Points to the corner.  He lives.  HusbandScott and I have agreed that it's best.
PostmodernScott:  Well, somebody's got to go.
HomeOwnerScott:  Not me.  Scott's father keeps giving me the paddles ever four months.  He just won't let me die.  Just try and kill me...I dare you.
FatherScott:  Now, now...let's talk.  I don't think any of us have to die.  We just need to make some cutbacks...all of us.
LethargicScott:  I heard this same garbage back when HusbandScott came a few years ago.  Every time a new guy comes, a little more of me dies.  I used to eat Burger King once a week!  Once a week, people!  Nobody's given more than me!!!!
FatherScott:  Oh, shut up.  Everybody knows you had the most to give.  You're still twice as powerful as nearly everybody in the room.
HomeOwnerScott:  You kick my tail on a daily basis...and you beat him within an inch of his life every Christmas.  

StayInShapeScott moans from the corner.

FatherScott:  He's right.  But that's not the point.  We all have to make sacrifices.  All of us.  Even them. 

FatherScott points a finger down to the end of the room where several older, mostly disinterested members sit.  A gasp comes from the room.

PostmodernScott:  Not them.  We all like them.  Check that, love them.  They never hurt anybody...just leave them alone.
FatherScott:  Nope.  We all have to chip in.  Hey!  Wake up!

MovieScott, watching Goldfinger on his laptop, turns to the group.

MovieScott:  Were you talking to me?  You know you're not doing anything to me.
FatherScott:  Remember, a couple of months ago, when you saw the trailer to "Space Chimps" and said you would (and I quote): "Swallow a quart of Mr. Clean before you went to that movie?"
MovieScott:  Yeah?  
FatherScott: Remember when you forced your dad to go to "Oliver and Company?"
MovieScott:  Oh crap.
FatherScott:  And you...
LethargicScott:  Leave him alone!!!  He's like a father to me!
PastorScott:  Yeah...I need him.  Badly.
FatherScott:  No exceptions.  WAKE UP!

A man dressed in pajama pants and holding a remote control slowly rises from the couch in the corner.

SundayAfternoonNapScott:  Wha?  Guys, I was sleeping.
FatherScott:  We're going to need you to be flexible for a while.
SundayAfternoonNapScott:  You can't touch me.  I have tenure.
FatherScott:  None of us are stupid enough to think that you're going anywhere...we all know your family a little too well to be that naive.  But, that said, we're all chipping in.
SundayAfternoonNapScott:  This really seems a bit harsh.
LethargicScott:  You're tellin' me. 

Whole room begins to buzz with hostility and defensiveness...fingers are pointed at FatherScott.

FatherScott:  Oh...I'm sorry...I nearly forgot.  Here.

FatherScott produces two pictures; one of his pregnant wife, the other the ultrasound of his son.  The room falls silent.

PastorScott (smiling):  O.K...let's get to work.  I think it's time somebody else organized the CROP Walk anyway...
HomeOwnerScott:  Got the painting done already.  
StayInShapeScott:  Haven't shot hoops in a while...anybody got a ball?
MovieScott:  As long as Barney isn't involved, I'll be OK.

FatherScott slowly and quietly leaves the room...leaving the pictures behind.  He slowly shuts the door behind him.

FatherScott:  See you in May.  Buckle up.


December 10, 2008

Avoiding Hell

It caught me off guard...and still leaves me a bit unsettled. It was the first Sunday of Advent and I was doing your run-of-the-mill Advent Children's Sermon. I was talking about bells; about how they can be used to signal a significant event (weddings, church services, etc.) or to tell us to get going (school bells, alarm clocks, etc.) I talked about bells being a part of Advent and Christmas and I asked the children why we might ring bells on November 30. The kids yelled out the wonderful expected answers (and few random ones); "Jesus is coming!" "We're having turkey!" "Come and join us!" But one answer caught my attention in particular, caught me off guard, and grieved me a bit. One boy, with a genuinely stressed look in his eyes, said:

"We need to warn people that Jesus is coming!"

I almost didn't finish the children's sermon. "We've failed," I thought, "here's a boy who has been coming to our church all of his life, and he's evidently scared of Jesus."

God apparently wants me to think about this...because I can't get it out of my head, and it keeps popping up. I've been having an e-mail "conversation" with someone for a little over a month now about whether or not we are living in the end times. He's scared, nervous, and edgy. "We've got to get to word out...about the terrible consequences of remaining asleep. We have to let them know that the times are wicked and evil is powerful so that they can choose the path of Christ." In reading articles and looking for Advent resources, I keep coming across lessons highlighting the "power of secular society" and the teetering Christian faith.

I've written about something like this before...but I guess I'm still working on it. I guess I feel for that little boy because I've been there. I feel for that little boy because I've felt completely inadequate, completely broken, and (as a result) completely terrified of impending judgment. I converted...and kept on converting, never feeling like I quite "had it." I always screwed up...always misstepped...was always (it seemed) a breath away. Not that this really is where my family or church were coming from at all...I have mental albums upon mental albums of bedrock moments of learning and faith from home and our church. But alongside them there were those moments I think all of us who have grown up in church have (sermons, speakers, a camp counsellor obsessed with Revelation) that I remember because, quite frankly, they scared the tar out of me. They made a lasting impact. And so, on my worst days, the earth takes on the shape of an obstacle course filled with peril, the Christian life a tightrope, and discipleship consisted of the things I did out of fear; obligations that allowed me to avoid hell. And on those worst days, whatever I did never felt like enough.

I think a lot of us do it, really...maybe all of us. We avoid hell in our own ways. We punch the clock, deal with our obligations, show up...simply to avoid hell. Some of us try and work our way away from it. We carefully spend our time analyzing, spelling out, and chastising the evils of this world...those who are even further behind than we are. We study the pitfalls, the weaknesses, and the evils and build our walls ever-higher to keep them out. We "defend" the faith." We passionately and vividly describe the power and intensity of the flames so that we might not be victims of their power.

And on our best days, we're something more than just avoiding hell and reading the list of "do's" and "dont's." We see why we do and don't. We see Jesus as a gift instead of just a warning. We proclaim boldly that the darkness will never consume the light. We throw open the doors so that we might share and become more Christ-like together. We see God's hand in this world, working to bring life and go out do everything we can to proclaim it, live it, and spread it...even in strangers. We study Christ and tear down our defenses to give him more of ourselves. We share our faith. We pray, worship, and serve naturally because they are signs of that hope and grace. We hear and follow the most frequent command in the Bible: "Do not fear." We humbly embrace Christ. We bear the light.

We stop thinking about hell...and do everything we can to let God make us a dim, but powerful, little mirror of heaven.

December 1, 2008

Ranking Bond Revisited

First off, I would like to make the comment that I think it's pretty cool that if you type "Ranking Bond Movies" into Google, my previous page pops up at number 2. The negative byproduct of said placement is that I get comments like the newest one on that page that simply reads "bad taste." Thanks for taking the time.

That said...that person has a point. The rankings are a bit dated (especially now that a new movie is on the scene.) I made my way through most of the movies (if not parts of them) again before "Quantum of Solace" and found myself liking others more than I remembered ("From Russia With Love") and not liking others as much ("Live and Let Die.") So, for the sake of posterity and a incredibly short blog, here's the new list:

22. Diamonds Are Forever
21. License to Kill
20. View to a Kill
19. The Man With the Golden Gun
18. Tomorrow Never Dies
17. Live and Let Die
16. You Only Live Twice
15. Thunderball
14. Die Another Day
13. Moonraker
12. Dr. No
11. Octopussy
10. The World is Not Enough
9. The Living Daylights
8. Quantum of Solace
7. For Your Eyes Only
6. On Her Majesty's Secret Service
5. The Spy Who Loved Me
4. GoldenEye
3. Casino Royale
2. From Russia With Love
1. Goldfinger

Now that's taken care of. More substantial posts to come soon.

November 20, 2008

Thanksgiving: Underrated Holiday

I am scrambling this week...working hard. I'm running all over the place trying to tie up loose ends, planning ahead for the 1st Sunday of Advent, working ahead on the December 8th Session meeting, and a dozen other things...in general, going pretty close to full throttle. I know that a handful of you may be surprised by this. You may find yourself asking, "Why? Why would you, a notorious procrastinator, suddenly become a motivated, plan-ahead go getter?" The answer, my friends, is simple:

I love Thanksgiving.

I don't want anything bothering me/distracting me/hovering over my head next week. I want to enjoy the festival that is Thanksgiving in all of its glory...no distractions of duties. I want to enjoy spending time with my family and friends. I want to enjoy watching football. I want to enjoy the food. It's all quite simple, really, Thanksgiving is rapidly becoming my favorite holiday.

Now, I know. Put away the comments for a second. I know you've started writing them. Comments like: "Uh, pastor...how about the celebration of the birth of OUR LORD AND SAVIOR!?!?!?!?" and "Hey, pastor pagan, how about you worship your cornucopia on somebody else's time, eh?" Hear me out. Let's first establish a theological baseline: I am in no way claiming that Thanksgiving can touch Christmas or Easter with a ten-foot cattle prod from a standpoint of theological/religious significance. Advent and Christmas are importation celebrations that represent key foundations of eschatology, incarnation, and the like. And Easter...is Easter, the reason for it all. But especially when it comes to theology, they win that bout by knockout every single time. But...that said...let's look at this honestly. When's the last time your hear somebody say, "You know what I love about Christmas? The Theology." Yeah.

What I'm talking about here is the practice...the observation of the holiday. Where the rubber meets the road. And while there are undeniably wonderful traditions associated with Christmas (think candlelight services, caroling, and children's' Christmas plays), there are wonderful benefits to Thanksgiving, too. And, on that sheer practice front, I think that I can argue for my greater appreciation of the 4th Thursday of November:

1) Better football. Everybody talks about bowl games being meaningful and yadda yadda yadda. Give me the rivalries of that weekend in November any day. Give me John Madden giving away a 8-legged turkey to Lions' offensive line. Give me Leon Lett kicking the ball around. Many of the pros are wrapping it up/playing the backups come December, and the December bowl games are...well, December bowl games. Great if you're really pumped about that Kansas State-East Carolina matchup that will end up at 7-2 because they haven't played real football for a month...but for the rest of us, bad news.

2) No party at work. Or, even better, the "Spouse's work party." As much as I love watching complete strangers get absolutely mowed...I'll pass, thank you. Let's all just calm down, scale back on the Nogg, and enjoy the spinach dip, salmon platter, and deli-sliced ham and cheese tray, OK?

3) No over-exposure.
Heard Cheryl Crow's new Thanksgiving album? Seen "Thanksgiving with the American Idol All-Stars on Ice?" Perused a copy of "The Thanksgiving Shoes?" Caught the hilarious Tim Allen in "The Pilgrim Clause 3?" Did radio stations in your area start switching over to 24/7 Thanksgiving songs two months ago? Do you receive stacks of Thanksgiving mailers from merchants four-feet deep in your Post Office box? The prosecution rests, your honor.

4) Better food. Let's get something right out of the way here...I did not say "better cookies." That's a battle Thanksgiving doesn't even want to start. But when it comes to the traditional spread, Christmas has no chance. Ham? Ham? Yeah, right. Sausage wanna-be. And, as much as I love eating cinder blocks with Mike-N-Ikes crammed into them...fruitcake? Come on people. Roll out the turkey with stuffing and gravy. Pile up the yams with marshmallows. And then top it all of with glorious pie of the pecan or pumpkin variety. Then sit back and enjoy the divine genius of God infusing these foods with sleep-inducing chemicals, providing for a five hour coma...and then wake up for the no-further-preparation glory of cold turkey sandwiches that await as you slowly return from the dead. How do you top this? And Christmas knows this. In fact, Thanksgiving is so rockin' that we now just do "Thanksgiving II: Turkey's Revenge" for Christmas.

No presents. Maybe the best one of all. I like giving gifts, I really do. But the combined pressure of finding something "perfect," playing the over/under on how much Mr. Don't-Know-You-All-That-Well is going to spend on you, and then braving the apocalyptic vision that is shopping anywhere on a weekend in late November or December...and there you have it. One of my enduring memories of Christmas shopping is being in line at a Toys R Us in Kansas City about 6 years ago at 5:00 waiting in lines 13 deep as child after child went completely nuclear around us...screaming for toys they wanted, screaming to go home, screaming screaming screaming screaming as their parents fought over who was in line first, yelled snide remarks to the cashiers, and made sideways threats over the last Barbie corvette. Good times. Ho ho ho.

6) Fewer Expectations. Tied for the best one of all, I think. The older I get, the more I realize that we place so much pressure on Christmas that it produces an unheard of amount of stress on the average person. Combine equal parts pressure to decorate, cook, buy presents, send cards, and travel with that strange "everything must go perfectly" vibe that floats around come December...and it really gets out of control. I've seen it completely destroy perfectly good trips, meals, and visits. If we visit our families in, oh I don't know, mid-June, you don't see people running around, pulling their hair out, and muttering, "The hamburgers are dry!!! But (gulp) the whole family is here and it's Flag Day honey. Flag Day! I've ruined Flag Day!!"

It's not Christmas, I know that. And I love the lights, the celebration, the excitement from the kids when they get their presents. But there's something about a relatively low-maintenence holiday that sneaks up on you a bit...that lets you sit back and just be with family. There's something about everybody with enough money for some turkey and mashed potatoes being able to celebrate it without feeling as if they're missing out or shorting their kids. There's something about going around the table and giving thanks instead of buying more stuff. There's something to be said for simplicity.

I love Christmas...but I can't tell you thankful I am and how ready I am for Thanksgiving.

October 28, 2008

My Vote: Perspective/Civility '08

I've had it. I'm sorry...but really, I've completely had it.

Maybe it is the sixth story I've heard/e-mail I've read from pastor friends in the past month of parishioners calling or writing them to tell them that the "Anti-Christ" or "A Great Evil" is running for President and that "God will hold them accountable" if they don't tell their congregations how to vote. Maybe it is the fact that I've seen people put up article after article on Facebook citing how Sarah Palin is a simple-minded clothes-horse or how Barak Obama will elect Karl Marx as his Secretary of the Treasurer...and have yet to see a single article about the positives of any candidate.
Maybe it was the woman at the funeral for a parishioner who used the eulogy time at her friend's funeral to tell everybody that the deceased was, "...very concerned and frightened about the election...so I think we all should vote for (candidate here)." Maybe it is the deep sighs, comments, hand-wringing, and even prayer requests I've heard over the past month or so as people mutter silently about the "troubling," even "terrifying" event of the "other guy" somehow winning...and the not-so-quiet implications I've heard in some church circles that God will "remove his hand of favor" if the election doesn't swing right (seems like our own greed is doing enough right now...but I digress). Maybe it's the stories people are telling me about friends not having coffee anymore, family dinners erupting into screaming matches, and threats of excommunication from pulpits if votes don't go a certain way.

I'm sick of it. I'm sick of it because once again, America has bought it. We bought it back in 2004--the "THIS ELECTION IS THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT EVENT IN THE HISTORY OF HUMANKIND" line--and we fought. We stirred the pots of fear, hate, and mistrust. We got the blood boiling. We made it a holy war. We turned a war hero into a liar. We turned the president into a complete idiot. I read an article after the election that studied the exit polls and suggested that, to be more accurate, the ballots should have been changed to read "Not Bush" and "Not Kerry." It exhausted me, made me feel ill when it was all over. Following the election, I didn't feel like I was "supporting" anybody...I was just deciding who was more loathsome and voting against them. It didn't feel like anybody won. I sure didn't. And I don't think I was alone in feeling that way. But four years later, it's happening again...and on November 4th, I've heard again, it's not about voting for somebody; it's about standing up against the Baby-Killing Marxist Terrorist or the Ancient, Lying Spawn of George Bush and the Devil.

Can we do this some other way? Can we talk about the fact that-one way or another-we're about to do something truly historic on November 4th? Can we talk about two candidates who found a way our of extreme circumstances to become giving, service-minded Americans? Can we talk about...radical idea here...how they're going to help rather than how the other guy's going to hurt? Can we stop the scapegoating? Can we stop the threats? Can we make decision that isn't based on fear and disgust? More than all of that...can we act like Christians? Can we remember that our hope doesn't lie in a major party or the stock market or a tax plan? Can we vote for somebody without making the other guy a minion of Satan? Can we stand up for something rather than standing against everything?
I keep coming back to that idea of providence; that simple and wonderful notion that God's already won the day...and promises to take a steady hand and guide us through anything the future might hold. I keep coming back to that powerful, simple fact of Romans 8 and changing it a bit. Nothing...not Sarah Palin in the White House, nor an Obama Tax Plan, nor Joe the Plumber, nor Jeremiah Wright, nor socialism, nor $150, 000 on clothes, nor failed policies, nor the economy, nor the Democrats or the Republicans...will keep us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I breathe. I pray for a nation-wide chill pill. I keep reminding myself that my vote, while important, is vastly overrated these days. And whatever happens...I give thanks because, above all else, the Son will come up on November 5th.

October 22, 2008

8 Suggestions For President

As a public service to undecided voters and an outlet for my ongoing frustration with the nature of politics, elections, and the like...I give you, for your consideration, the case for 8 individuals for the office of President of the United States.

8. Bob from Sesame Street
Forget the staggeringly tired metaphor of Wall Street and Main Street...give me Sesame Street. How is it humanly possible to get more American than that? Bob will trump any possible opponent on education and offer a compassionate, conciliatory tone to any negotiation. With a simple song about compromise, he'll bring Republicans and Democrats having a spat over taxes together faster than Oscar the Grouch and Slimey having a spat about where to put the record player in the garbage can. He has shown that he can deal with everyone from the chronically anxious (Telly) to the staggeringly annoying (Elmo) to the elderly (Mr. Hooper.) And hey...give him a question, any question, on education and he'll mop the floor with you.
Why he'll never be nominated by a major party--First off, (small catch here) he's a Canadian. Look it up. Second, everybody knows that somebody who talks about manners, respect, and the importance of communication would never "take the gloves off" to the like of the party. Plus, chances are you're looking at a giant talking bird for a running mate.
Sample line from attack ad--Minor key version of "One of these things is not like the other" plays in the background. Ad shows him talking to Snuffalupagus. "Bob's out of touch with reality...he talks to hallucinations. He trumpets the benefits of 'being nice'? Can we risk this type of leadership? In a time of national instability...can we really afford...to be nice?"

7. Lando Calrissian
As the Baron Administrator of Cloud City, he has executive experience. He weighed the needs of the many over the needs of the few by making a short-sighted deal with the empire. Seeing that he created a situation with his faulty decision making, he did what he needed to do to correct the situation. He's a decorated war hero, leading a suicide mission into the second Death Star with some eight-cheeked freak for a co-pilot. He wears a cape...case closed.
Why he'll never be nominated by a major party--The whole history of smuggling and gambling thing might be a detriment. Not to mention the whole "making a deal with Darth Vader" thing. Also shows a Clintonesque eye for the obviously attached Princess Leia at first...very troubling.
Sample line from attack ad--Pan out to show craps table. "He's gambled with his life. He's gambled with his decisions. He's gambled by palling around with Darth Vader." A baby is placed on the "No Pass" line. "Will he gamble with your childrens' future?"

6. The San Diego Chicken
Who can't get behind funny? The Chicken has been throwing pies at people since the mid-70s. Can you imagine the debate ratings? The anti-umpire and pro-"Louie Louie" planks of his platform would be untouchable. And foreign relations? Who's gonna hate the San Diego Chicken? Really, how can you denounce the San Diego Chicken?
Why he'll never be nominated by a major party--The whole "doesn't talk" think might be a hurdle. Although if there's one thing elections have taught me it's that the power of speech is grossly overrated. Would help rally the Southern California vote, but every other baseball market would hesitate. Likely running mate "The Phillie Phanatic" would be a tough sell.
Sample line from attack ad--"Is this economy really a laughing matter? What will it tell the terrorists if we elect..." dramatic close-up, change to black and white "...a chicken? And why is he strangely silent on the issues that matter to you?"

5. Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto
He completely dominates everyone who comes in to Kitchen Stadium. In fusing American and Japanese cuisine, he has shown creativity, skill, and ingenuity in routinely making desert out of kobe beef, cow liver, and live eels. Successful entrepreneur who has started a handful of restaurants in America and made the transition into American culture. Young and brash (you might say "a maverick") on the original series, has now adapted a warm, self-effacing persona.
Why he'll never be nominated by a major party--Born in Japan. Speaks stilted, awkward English. Animal lobbies would be squeamish about his record of slaughtering fish and lobsters live on television. Possibility of wars started over cutting boards and filleting techniques. Running mate Bobby Flay would push through thousands upon thousands of dollars in pablano pepper and quail egg subsidies.
Sample line from attack ad--
Picture of Morimoto in traditional Japanese dress. "Do we really want Japan calling the shots in the White House?" Rapid cut to a menu at his restaurant. "In this financial crisis, Joe the Plumber can't even afford an appetizer at his restaurant. He's rich. He's risky. He's not from around here."

4. Jefferson Davis "Boss" Hogg
Executive experience as the Commissioner of Hazzard County. Big on law enforcement; spends thousands upon thousands of dollars a year on elaborate speed traps and police cruisers. Also a tireless advocate of infrastructure improvements, as evidenced by the ever-present road construction within the county. Has also successfully turned rural Hazzard County into an entertainment mecca, featuring national road race finals, beauty pageants, and everyone from Waylon Jennings to Willie Nelson performing at his local eatery, "The Boar's Nest."
Why he'll never be nominated by a major party--Heavily (literally) pro-tobacco and moonshine. Continually surrounds himself with incompetent advisers. Easily distracted by chitlin' pizza. Has tried to drive Jesse the Farmer and his family off their land for decades. He (Sorrell Booke) is also dead...but I guess that didn't stop the Democrats in 2004 and the Republicans in 1996.
Sample line from attack ad--Picture of money flying out a window..."Dixie" plays softly in the background. "He's spent thousands and thousands of dollars and ten years chasing two hicks in a Dodge Charger without any luck...how is he going to get Osama Bin Laden?" Transition to Israel's national flag. "Nice try, Hogg...but America needs something a little more kosher."

3. Bob Barker
For 35 years, this man gave away cash and prizes to thousands upon thousands of Americans. Showed deeper social conscience as well, advocating for pet population control and other charities. Showed a calming touch with all sorts of lunatics and a compassionate side when the wheel showed more than a dollar total. Internationally popular and astoundingly durable.
Why he'll never be nominated by a major party--Bob likes him the ladies. On top of several well-publicized lawsuits with various "Barker's Beauties," Bob often insisted that contestants reach into his trousers to retrieve C-notes for getting the exact bids after coming on stage. Running mate Bob Eubanks also problematic for his enigmatic and controversial "Whoopie Education Program."
Sample line from attack ad--"Bob Barker's going to take your hard-earned money and give it away like some European Socialist." Cut to Bob signing off in black and white. "In these difficult times, can we take the risk that Bob Barker will have our economy spayed and neutered? The Price is Wrong, Bob."

2. Rip Taylor
The moustache alone could rule the world. While one might not initially think that an prop comic would be a natural choice for President, I must once again bring up the pure debate potential: "Helllo! Senator Obama!!! Can you hear me? Is this thing on!?!?! What's up with your tax plan!?!?! Holy mackerel!" (Produces rubber fish.) Ratings through the roof, I tell you. Potential running mate Slappy White would offer the opportunity for spectacular "Rip Slappy '08" campaign signs. Add to that the power of confetti...and I smell a winner.
Why he'll never be nominated by a major party--His real name is "Charles Elmer Taylor," not nearly as fun. Trademark bit of ripping off his toupee for comedic effect could anger senior voters, not to mention everyone else. Alternate running mate Don Rickles could start WWW3 by referring to some Head of State as a "Hockey Puck."
Sample line from attack ad--
Picture of Rip with a large question mark, "Who is the real Rip Taylor? Why does he feel the need to hide his real name? His real hairline? Tough times demand honest solutions. All Charles Elmer Taylor offers is confetti."

1. Jesus Christ
Savior of humankind, Prince of Peace, God incarnate sent down to redeem us all through the self-giving act of his life, death, and resurrection. Miracle worker.
Why he'll never be nominated by a major party--Living proof that the death penalty doesn't work as a deterrent. Undermines free-market capitalism and consumer confidence by repeatedly denouncing the need for money and spending. Adamantly pro-life in every sense of the word. Will never put country first. Waaaay too evangelical. Stubbornly refuses negative campaigning and chooses to turn the other cheek in debates. Against big government. Keeps giving away campaign contributions. Soft on crime, lacks the "spine" to go to war. Hangs around with undesirable people. Running mate and "attack dog" John the Baptist is a complete P.R. nightmare. Never panders to the base. Always works for his constituency. Never makes empty promises. Deliberately, compassionately, intentionally reaches across every aisle. Loves, challenges, and inspires without using fear, finger-pointing, or elitism. Way too risky.

And with that, I'm done.

September 15, 2008

Ranking: Potato Chips

Well, now...that's enough of the heavy stuff for a bit, eh? Let's take a break. Let's dodge the political spit wads, hate mail, and debates about lipstick...and let's get down and dirty and talk about something of truly monumental importance: junk food.
Like every youngster raised in the 80s/90s, I had a serious craving for snacks. I sucked down my fair share of Little Debbie snack cakes, Dr. Peppers, and Kit Kats...but a special place in my heart was always reserved for unnaturally-colored magnificence of the potato chip aisle. With the help of my family, I consumed my share of chips over the years, and by college considered myself something of a connoisseur. It was about that time, in a conversation with my two best friends, that I came to the realization that, in my universe, 5 chips stood above the rest. I named them "The Pentavaret" and spent the rest of my College/Grad School/Bachelor days advocating for these snacks...by buying and consuming as many of them as I could.
But then, thanks be to God, came marriage. And the woman I love soon realized that there was a pretty good chance that my blood was the consistency of Silly Putty. And so, these 5 wonderful brothers-in-arms who once comprised a personal food group have been reduced to yearly (if that) indulgences. I don't miss them as much as you might think. They are like those friends from way back that you know might have killed you...but you still find yourself drawn to them (and to the half-man-half-goat you used to be.) But I still miss them. So here...for nostalgia's sake...is the "Pentavaret" in all of its glory.

5. Bacon and Cheddar Tato Skins
The diabolical Keebler elves rolled out their latest weapon to fatten, and thus conquer America in 1987. It was their most effective weapon against me, and was timed perfectly for the height of my junk-food consuming abilities. Between it and the Fudge Stripe cookie...our house lined the pockets of many a rich elf. This chip-overlord was the "Tato Skin." The Tato Skin still comes in three flavors, but it is the powdered-cheesy goodness teamed with the nothing-less-than-devine power of bacon that blows away the Sour Cream and Chive and (don't even waste my time here) Plain versions of the chip. The novelty of the chip was the one-side-darker technology that the bag told you was the "skin." (Yes...and by "skin," they mean a monosodiuglutenate #4 instead of monosodiuglutinate #3.) The reason this chip is ranked so low on the totem pole is because it is now nearly impossible to find. A trip to http://www.tatoskins.com/ will direct you to the "Inventure Group," a company still trying to keep up the brand by marketing them alongside such geographically-confused industry juggernaunts as "Bob's Texas Style Sweet Maui Onion Potato Chips." I haven't seen them in years...and if I did, I imagine it would be like a re-creation of that scene in "The Natural" when Roy Hobbs finally talks to Glenn Close after all those years and she says: "I used to look for you in crowds. One day...I guess I just stopped looking." You are Roy Hobbs, Tato Skins. I miss you...and you might have been the best that ever was. Oh...yeah...one other thing...I didn't have your baby.

4. Chili Cheese Fritos
Fritos are good, Ranch Fritos are better, but this unique incarnation of Frito takes the cake. Packaged in a deceptively small, but densely packed bag...the only "problem" with Chili Cheese Fritos in how easy it is to talk yourself into taking down an entire bag. And that, friends, is like a SubPrime Mortgage or buying a St. Bernard puppy: File it under "It sure seemed like a good idea at the time." The closest thing I can compare it to would be swallowing two momma badgers whole after separating them from their young. Not pretty. On the plus side, they work extremely well in the most classic of Frito applications including application on top of chili, in the middle of burritos, and (my personal favorite) smashed and melted into a grilled cheese sandwhich. Yes...I'm still alive. Yes...I do realize that it's a miracle.

3. Cheddar and Sour Cream Ruffles
Technically called "Cheddar 'N Sour Cream Ruffles," but every time I use the big capital "N," the little English Teacher inside me dies a little. I'm usually not a big fan of "regular" potato chips, especially in their more traditional flavors. The over-sweet potato chip BBQ flavor makes me a bit queasy and the generic "Sour Cream and Onion" chips just take like onion salt to me. But these beauties who, again, conveniently came on the scene during my prepubescent years, brought me back to the basics. I can remember at one point saying something to the effect of: "I would eat an asbestos tile if it were covered in that stuff." Unfortunately, the good folks at Ruffles gave me that chance a few years back by producing the "Baked" version of this chip. 21st Century Semi-Healthy/Getting Older/Broccoli-Eating Scott tried them a few years back and nearly broke into tears because the age-old adage was proven right once again: put all the peanut butter you want on it, folks...it's still celery.

2. Cool Ranch Doritos
I don't remember exactly when it was in the 80's, but I do remember the sheer novelty of a new flavor of Doritos. We had only previously known the joy of regular old Doritos and their processed cheesy goodness...but suddenly, out of nowhere, the FritoLay company came up with a whole new mega-salt/chemical concoction to put on their chips known as "Cool Ranch." I would never eat regular (now "Nacho Cheese"--oh, so that's what that was...) Doritos ever again. Well...OK...so that's not true, but I definitely preferred "Cool Ranch." In true American style, Doritos has now expanded to include 8,543,209 flavors including--not joking--"Sweet Chili Heat" and an oh-so-square "Ranch" variety that gets sand kicked in its face at the beach...but the 2nd incarnation remains the king in my books. They even tried a marketing scheme of calling it "Cooler Ranch" (along with "Nacho Cheesier") a while back. Cooler...yeah, right. Short of throwing a few dashes of Eye of Fonzie in there, how is that possible? Come on. Oh...and in another interesting experiment, 21st Century Healthy/Boring/Trying to Living Longer Scott also tried the baked variety of these and...yeah. The baked "corn chips" sucked every last drop of saliva out of my mouth like some mutant sponge. Thanks, FritoLay, but I'd rather die of the fat.

Editorial note: For the entire previous paragraph, I kept wanting to put "Doritoes," but that...I think...is the word for the lower digits of someone named Dorothy. And I don't care what you put on those, I ain't eatin' them.

1. Crunchy Cheddar Cheese Cheetos
I can not emphasize the importance of the "Crunchy" part enough. Keep the puffs, you patsies...they're packing peanuts. Trust me, they are. And don't give me the twists, either...take a side on the Crunchy/Puffy debate, flip-floppers. And the baked? Oh...come on, people. Are we learning nothing here? Baking chips is like throwing holy water on a vampire, OK? And as for the "Flaming Hot" variety...come on...they're not Hotos, people...they're Cheetos. This, friends, is the Elvis of snacks...bow to the king. From the Chernobyl-yellow color to the surprising density of them...they reign supreme. I have recently discovered the pure joy of putting Cheetos into a sandwich. Cramming cheetos into a regular turkey sandwich on white is roughly the same as introducing a monkey to Session meeting. Not only is it unexpected, unorthodox, and borderline insane...but you end up wondering how you ever did without it. On top of that, they include my favorite chip side-effect,"Cheeto-hands," the wonderful cheesy residue left on your fingers that is impossible to wash off. For those who are not picky about hygiene, this allows for continued "snacking" for the rest of the day. And so, for these reasons and many more, the Cheeto rules the Pentavaret.

And now...with that...I'm hungry. I will now be going to the store where I will wander the aisle gently calling out for Tato Skins. Please, whatever you do, don't tell Julie.