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Archive for March, 2012

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‘Tis a long and sullied tale; one full of late nights, molded bread, freezers, flames, Big Red chewing gum, and Aqua Velva. (not to mention a most unfortunate Santa Clause) And, truth be told, it really has nothing to do with the Lorax.

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“Oh, good, Mr. Grinch, and Mr. Lorax, too.”. Such we’re the roomie’s words upon finding his space occupied by the stuffed companions of another’ childhood past. (but not yours truly, BTW). We did a lot of things with those dolls. Lorax handball, Lorax volleyball, adventures in the freezer with Mr. Lorax, etc., etc., and his rightful owner never knew. To this day, it’s quite possible that someone’s grandchild in Kansas is playing with an old stuffed Lorax whose nose is held on by a 26 year old wad of chewing gum.

So, what’s this all about, you might ask? Well, it is 40 year reunion weekend for the Chorale at my alma mater, the place I also happen to work each day. While I was never in Chorale, one of my apartment mates was, and I’ve spent the weekend in conversation with his son about zombies, WWII vintage aircraft, and tales of his dad’s antics past.

As I was drawing dad a map to find our house last evening, it needed all of the important relevant landmarks: here is Hardeman, here is ESUSA, here is Phase III room 222, and there is the Lorax. He and son laughed, and later that night, he said “son, Mr. Lorax guided my way tonight…he was the beacon of hope.”

That’s a great way to think of our friends. A part of my progeny attends old Alma Mater today. Next year, the other two apartment mates/partners in crime with “Big Dave” and myself will see a part of their progeny join the few, the proud, the Eagle Nation. I look forward to it greatly.

Now, if you will excuse me, young Mr. William has a thing or two to teach me about the ceiling altitude of the B-29 and why Japanese carriers had two decks. Just like old times…

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I was “away from home” ever so briefly a week or so back. The colleagues I was due to meet and work with my first full morning abroad had yet to arrive, and given the beauty of the spring morning, I went out for a brief walk.

As I often do when traveling, I was looking with great interest at all that surrounded me, and I was snapping pictures. “Toto was not in Kansas anymore”, so to speak, and I wanted to remember what was all around me. It was then that I noticed the odd looks, if not stares, from those who quickly passed by on the street all around me.

Touristen” was likely their thought. “I must look silly” was mine. Seeing the above captured “headless” reflection, I could not help recall that book from generations gone by “The Ugly American”.

As I looked up some summary info on the book, the following synopsis reminded me that lessons to learn, and awareness to maintain, is the same today as 30 or more years ago….and I’m glad I have the picture to prove it.

This is a book that is certain to deepen students’ understanding of the complexity of international affairs. Its terse, episodic style and its many portraits of individuals engaged in the process of diplomacy give readers an important sense of the dimensions of the problems which receive such cursory treatment on the nightly news. The Ugly American is mandatory reading for the citizens of a participatory democracy, in terms of understanding the mistake of the past and in order to prevent their repetition in the future.
“(chs.d211.org)

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It started off as a beautiful day. Then, it all changed“. Such were the words of a colleague late Tuesday afternoon as we remembered the accident on the front of our campus from earlier in the day. We did not know the victim, but grieved for a friend who was involved and for the victim’s family. One minute, all is well; the next, and you can’t go back. Unexpected, indeed.

A very young child began the week like many others. All seemed well and good. By Tuesday, only hours after the aforementioned accident, he too was gone, the victim of an unexpected and aggressive infection, and we grieved for the friends and family in their time of loss. One minute, all is well; the next, and you can’t go back. Unexpected, indeed.

A mere two days later, I said “see you later” to my son as he exited the vehicle at school.
I fully expected I would. Hours past, until the phone rang during lunch. Seeing the mother of a friend of my friend on caller ID suggested I should answer. “He is OK, but something has happened” were the first words I heard. “The ball ricocheted off him”, I was later told. “We were concerned”.

We were lucky. We were blessed. A matter of a few inches higher, and an arm injury becomes a head injury, severity of a level I would rather not imagine. Bones may be broken, or maybe not, but the pain and hurt are there. As I helped tie his shoes this morning, I couldn’t help but think: One minute, all is well; the next, and you can’t go back. Unexpected, indeed. And, may I add, we get to go on, at least for today.

But, for how long? Thankfully, unexpectedly, this does not go on forever.

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Matthew 24:35-37

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Taken Captive

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OK, I confess: This picture was in fact digitally altered. No, we did sit very close to the action. Yes, I am together with a newly famous ESPN celebrity sporting his fancy NY Yankees lid.

No, the alteration is the confession that the young lady behind us was, in fact, not wearing a bright orange jumpsuit at the game. Had she been, one might have assumed she was there in a captive capacity. In fact, maybe she was. Truth be told, maybe I was as well.

This is a great picture, save one pre-alteration fact. It was a great game. I planned to watch it on TV, along with most of the rest of America. Then, late afternoon Sunday, the phone rang.

There are some people you don’t say no to. “Sugar Daddies” fall into that category. So did Don Corleone, aka, The Godfather. In my work as a financial officer, I manage some large financial relationships. My employer has debt, and my employer’s creditors want our business. It is a bit like a marriage relationship, and If you don’t have a “date night” every now and then, the relationship begins to suffer, and thoughts of “he doesn’t love me anymore” begin to creep in. OK, Ok, enough with stretching that analogy.

And what of said young lady? How is she held captive, you might ask? Well, this is conjecture on my part, but just like sometimes I would like to say no to the Sugar Daddy, I would just bet there is many a night that she and some of her coworkers would rather not paint on their faces and their costumes, and would rather be home in something more comfortable and less revealing. I passed one of said coworkers in the back hallway before the game, and as she spoke, she seemed to be wearing one of those forced, grit your teeth smiles that says I’d rather not be doing this right now. Wearing that, and not much else.

You see, that young lady is about the age of my oldest daughter. Maybe she is living her dream, but for how long? Once a Thunder Girl, always a Thunder Girl? Not going to happen, thanks to Godfather Time, and Godfather Gravity. For her sake, I hope the future does not include men her fathers age ogling her.

Men, other than me, I should say. Not that it was easy. As I would sing to my young celebrity friend that night, “Look away, look away, look away, Dixie Land…”. Like rebels of old here near “Little Dixie”, we must allow ourselves to be be taken captive.

casting down imaginations, and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ...2 Corinthians 10:5(ASV)

Amen. And let’s go Thunder.

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Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Which comes first, the screenplay, or the story? After enduring tonight’s previews, I’m afraid it’s the former, a by-product of too much dumb investor cash seeking the next blockbuster.

Wasn’t Spider Man (One) a brand new movie in 2002? I remember where I was when I saw it, and who was keeping my kids. Those are the same kids who believe there is but one spider man, and his face is that of Toby McGuire. We are not talking modern day remakes of black and white classics from the early 1900’s here. This is computer animation trumping computer animation.

Another Ice Age movie? Madagascar 3? The first was too lame to sit thru on TV.

The worst offender however, by far, is thankfully no remake. Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, coming soon to a theater near you. Tim Burton should be ashamed for ever agreeing to that.

Story is when a character wants something, and overcomes conflict to get it. For the Bings, tonight, the conflict was getting thru all the previews to see The Hunger Games. The Story there is real, and we have the books to prove it, even if the screenplay earned a handsome fee from a producer…(now, maybe, I guess I will have the sit down and read them)…

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Scars are funny things. Do you see the one in this picture? I’ve been up and down this street a number of times in recent years, but it was not until I went last night into the center structure with the gray plaster facade and saw the courtyard behind it that things didn’t match up for me. I then stepped across the narrow street to try and gather a better perspective.

All of the neighboring buildings, save this one, are the same architecture: tiled tilt roofs, architectural detail on the windows, classic off white plaster, etc. And the building in the center? It screams 1960’s non-descript Eastern European, almost Soviet era styling. When you go inside, the structure is more modern and new, but is absent the classic styling details of 17th or 18th century Europe. The style is so different, the large oil on canvas portraits of the former Cardinals of Vienna stand stark and out of place on the cold white walls lining the long straight hallways.

So, what happened?

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Well, this is largely conjecture on my part, but I’ll work from what I know. This courtyard/compound houses the Archdiocese of Vienna, the home of the Catholic church establishment for the region. Behind the compound lies Stephansdom, the large Catholic cathedral for the city. Sometime around 1944, Allied bombs shattered the classic roofline of the Dom and set a subsequent fire to the structure. I can only assume that one of the bombs from that same raid took out this section of the neighboring compound.

While Stephansdom has been rebuilt and restored to a level indistinguishable from the original to most persons from the current era, the office building cannot make that claim. In an era of shortages, limited resources, and subsequent priorities, the lot occupied by the building likely sat vacant for many years, and then was rebuilt in the most pragmatic way possible during an era when “style points” didn’t matter. Hence, a scar remains on the landscape, and yet, most don’t even give it much thought or attention.

So, what’s the point? I would suggest people are the same way. Scar tissue, by it’s very nature, grows quickly and fills the void left by an earlier injury. And, with scar tissue, style points don’t matter. Much like our plain gray building, the strength and function of the scar is often stronger than what it replaced. Given time, those who see the scars may even forget they are there.

And yet, the scars remain. Had I been speaking with a native of an era gone by in Vienna last night, they likely would have had stories to tell. For those of us walking up and down the proverbial side streets of life with those we know, we should be mindful of the scars, and the experiences that they reflect. We should also respect the strength that comes with them.

Story is when a character wants something, and overcomes conflict to get it. I witnessed and pondered just such a story this time by, and I feel better attuned because of it.

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...always seen in public places.

I have this friend, and a pretty good one at that, who has been known to repeat this phrase a time or two.

Originally spoken in reference to wanted posters in Post Offices, news blotters, front pages, and the like, I think said friend might have been talking about the FB the last time he was quoted as saying the line. Could he have been referring to yours truly? Touché?

When they were handing out the gift of moderation in heaven, I think I may have been online and forgot to get my quota. It’s certainly a good thing that I don’t drink. Numbers of slides in PowerPoint presentations, numbers of gelatos/glasses of lime sherbet (auf USA) consumed in a week, numbers of sport coats in my closet…I could go on forever baby. Case in point?

So, what exactly is your point here, as in postings past, oh public place one, you might ask?

They say confession is good for the soul, so here goes: “Hi, my name is Bing, and I struggle with posting to Facebook…”. I’m also a grateful believer in Jesus Christ, but I dare not make sport of helpful program mediums. So, here’s my point.

I struggle with being too negative at times. As I have gotten older, it’s probably gotten a bit worse? Touché? A former boss and current friend (not the same “Fool’s faces guy…) often said we should “have more fun at work”. His point, I think? Don’t let the moments of life rob you of moments in life. Embrace joy. As Donald Miller said in a recent book, “embrace whimsey”.

I was reading from Miller’s blog earlier tonight/this morning, depending on where you currently sit relative to Greenwich Mean Time, and found his post about what to read in order to improve what you write very insightful, and it connected with me. Slightly edited for what personally for me would be a bad choice of words, I thought sharing a snippet of Miller’s thoughts verbatim made the most sense, after all, a picture paints a thousand words. (Microsoft Paint also covers up a few words, but I digress…keep scrolling till you see it)

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The bottom line, for me? It is just that. Writing these things down feels good. Sharing pictures and insights does, as well. Some people may think it to be crazy or over the top. So be it. Others tell me they like it. Irregardless, it is story telling, and the telling of stories is as old as time. Whether they are heard, or not, there is joy in the telling.

“Story is when a character wants something and has to overcome conflict to get it.” (Donald Miller, A Million Miles In A Thousand Years) I think that is also called life, and therein lies the story.

“Fools names and fools faces, always seen in public places”. And, might I add, they likely will continue to be.

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