Media With Horrible Track Record of Prediction Now 100% Confident That God Does Not Exist

In one of the biggest news stories of the week, the same mass media sources that predicted a landslide Democratic win in the 2016 election are assuring the public that God is, in fact, not real.

“We’re really sure about this one” said one reporter for the New York Times, whose car was decked out with “Hillary 2016” and “I’m With Her” bumper stickers. “There’s just no way Stephen Hawking, or we for that matter, could be wrong.”

“Now that we can rest in the knowledge that an Absolute Moral Being does not exist, we can finally focus our attention to fighting for subjective moral issues that we are absolutely, 100% certain are the right thing to fight for,” said another reporter from the Washington Post, who was at the time checking Twitter to make sure she was still on the right side of history.

“Also, we are very much looking forward to huge Democratic gains in November, along with Elizabeth Warren’s successful bid for President in 2020” she continued. “After all, ignorant, bitter, religion-clinging deplorables can only keep focused on complicated political issues for so long.”

Early reports are also coming in that if God’s existence is later proven to be true, Russia is the most likely culprit.




What I Wish Generation Z knew about 9/11

If my calculations are correct, the high school senior class this academic year will be the first ever to feature kids who were not born when 9/11 happened. Equally as stunning, I think it is reasonable to assume there will be college graduates this year who have no significant memories of that day. This generation, the one immediately after the Millennials and often referred to as Generation Z, will be the first to not truly remember the day America was attacked on our homeland in a way we hadn’t been before or since. 

Like just about anyone who was old enough to have memories, mine from that day are sharp. I was a graduating senior at Welch College. I worked every morning at the YMCA from 7 AM to 8 AM and that day I realized I was going to be late for my first class so I went and got a haircut instead. They had TVs in the barbershop. Like millions of others, I was very confused as to why one of the towers in New York was on fire. Like millions of others, I saw the second plane hit live as it happened.

So much has changed since then. Netflix, Twitter, and Facebook either weren’t invented or weren’t public yet. We were six years from smartphones being a thing. And even though Amazon had been born, it was a shadow of what it is today.

Some things changed significantly because of that day, like air travel. Homeland Security was created. And some things we experienced that day and the time afterwards in the realms of politics and culture are things we will likely never experience again.  

Here are just a few that I hope the generation coming up with no memories will take the time to learn and appreciate. Because we all need history; not just facts on a page, but stories from those who saw it firsthand.

 

First, I wish this generation knew what it was like for the country to be unified.

I wouldn’t want anyone to ever have to go through the trauma of that day, where 3,000 died and thousands more had their lives drastically altered for the worse. But something that rose from the ashes was a countrywide unity that I do not think we will ever see again. By the end of his second term, George W. Bush was an extremely unpopular president. But after 9/11 his approval rating–for the country as a whole, not just Republicans–peaked at 92%[1. https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/President Bush Approval Rating 92%]. Few things on a national scale have brought me patriotic chills like Bush walking out to the mound for Game 3 of the World Series at Yankee Stadium, seven weeks after the attacks, in a bulletproof vest, waving at the crowd, giving the thumbs up and then throwing a beautiful strike for the first pitch. Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” played on TV and radio and American flags flew everywhere. Policemen and firemen were the toast of the country, especially in NY. 

 

 

I’m sure there were a few people who didn’t join in and those who were Muslim or are very sensitive to Muslims probably remember those days quite differently. Even as an evangelical Christian I do not want to overlook this. But simple data proves that the country was united greatly in the face of tragedy.

The last 15 years or so have seen so much political division I feel confident no president will ever reach that height ever again, meaning that we will never be that united again. My fear is that not even a non-polarizing president, unlike our last and current one, could unify us. Even if we do experience something like 9-11. God forbid we ever do.

 

I wish this generation knew how surreal that day was.

The adjective “Surreal” and the phrase “It felt like a movie except it was real life” have been overused the last 17 years describing the event. Yet it’s hard to say it uniquely without losing accuracy. That is exactly what it felt like.

I bet I spent 8 or 9 hours in front of a TV that day. I’m sure others spent more. My Bible College had a chapel service dedicated to praying for what was going on but who knew what to think or say?

Even after all the details emerged It was hard to know how to react. Even those who don’t like country music probably remember Alan Jackson singing “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?—an emotive, contemplative and beautifully written song about that day. For my money, that was how most people I knew felt. It captured the mood of the country perfectly to me. You better believe I called my mother to tell her that I loved her. People were going to church and holding hands with strangers, people were giving blood and people were staying at home and clinging to their families. And more than anything, many were just stunned and shocked for many days after. 

 

I wish this generation knew how people looked to Heaven in those days.

Much of the evidence is anecdotal and less is statistical, but even without that I think most people I knew sensed a increase in the general feeling of “I need to pray and go to church” after 9/11. One pastor, Ed Young, says his church attendance went up by several thousand the Sunday after 9/11. Tim Keller says his nearly doubled. Beyond that, it seemed people were praying all over the country, out of sheer desperation and helplessness. To be frank, because the US is quite pluralistic, it reminded me of Jonah 1 when the men on that boat were faced with tragedy and they all cried out to their gods.

 

I wish this generation knew how fleeting it all was.

One of the more immediate sobering memories I have post-9/11 is that there was a backlash against something New York policemen or firemen did at some point. I thought, “Their time to be honored is apparently over.” Church attendance leveled off very quickly and in some cases reduced. Bush became less and less popular. And 17 years later, there is confusion for people like me as to when patriotism becomes nationalism[2. That word is loaded these days so understand I mean it as simply as I can: the feeling of superiority as an American to the point of demeaning other countries.]–a question that seemed odd back then.

But there’s a life lesson in all of this. Much of life, even the good, is quite fleeting. As a Bible-teaching Christian I can’t help but think of Ecclesiastes and its message of how dark life can be when you try to find meaning and purpose in what is fleeting. I am proud to be an American but I also fully believe that all people of all cultures are fundamentally flawed morally. And I do not find meaning in how unified our country is or is not, or how many people come to my church or how my president is perceived. I find it in Jesus Christ and him crucified. And in what he calls me to do. Which is make a difference to my home, church, neighborhood and country in practical and daily action.

More than anything I wish Generation Z knew that 9-11 was a huge reminder of how desperately the world needs the grace of Jesus Christ. Because that is my most signifiant memory.

 

 

 

 




Brees or Brady? A Gonzo Take On the Classic “Stats v. Rings” Debate

About a year ago, in an undisclosed location, the REO staff had a meeting. Present were Phill, Ben, Mike, Dave, Nathan, Mark and me. We ordered pizza and as the doorbell rang signifying its arrival, Phill rolled a die to see who would have to get it, counting off each of us seated at a round table as a number. I informed Phill that by casting the die he was then creating a world with six alternate timelines. One where each of us has to get the pizza when the die lands and seals our numerical fate.

In one of the timelines–let’s call it The Darkest Timeline–things go berserk thanks to some terrible luck, a Norwegian troll doll and an Indiana Jones diorama. People get hurt. Things catch on fire. Apocalyptic chaos ensues.   

Thankfully we don’t live in that timeline, unless you get on Twitter where apparently everybody is in a perpetual meltdown. But due to a Dreamatorium created and shared by Mike and me, Darkest Timeline Gowdy has a chance on occasion to interact with our timeline, as he did in January when he debated me about whether Severus Snape was more hero than villain. Today, I, Regular Gowdy (RG) again invite Darkest Timeline Gowdy (DTG) to Ramblingeveron.com to have a debate about which NFL quarterback is better: Tom Brady and his five rings plus exceptional stats or Drew Brees and his one ring plus assault on the NFL record book stats.

 

RG: Thank you for joining me again.

DTG: I think it’s been 9 months since I shredded your dignity in our last debate. I hope that’s enough time for you to have recovered. 

RG: I’m ignoring that. Before we begin, I assume you have read my article on why Tom Brady is the most overrated quarterback of all time.

DTG: Yes, I read it. I was particularly impressed with how the number of times Matt Cassel gyrated in the huddle in the 3rd quarter of November games in 2010 playing vs. AFC West teams totally nullifies Tom Brady’s 4 Super Bowl MVPs.

RG: I’m ignoring that as well. I mentioned it, though, because I want to make the rules for this debate clear: We are here to laud the quarterback we are defending, not trash the opponent’s quarterback.

DTG: You’re not going to insult Brady? I don’t believe it. 

RG: I’ve said all I can say on that topic.

DTG: Yes, and that’s 2500 words that made everyone who read it dumber. 

RG: Let’s just get on with the debate. Since I went first last time, I’ll give you the honors.

DTG: Fine. Tom Brady is more than just five Super Bowl rings. He’s far and away the greatest clutch football player of all time. 27 playoff wins, approaching twice as many as second place on that list. 71 Playoff TDs, over two dozen more than the #2 guy. Eight 4th quarter comebacks and 11 game-winning drives in his playoff career. The Biggest comeback by far in Super Bowl history and the second biggest ever by 4th quarter deficit. In every Super Bowl win he had lead a game-winning drive in the fourth. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. 

RG: Brees on the other hand is rewriting the record book. He will soon best Peyton Manning for career yards and career TDs. He’s passed for 5000 yards in a season five times, which no one else has done more than once. He’s the all time leader in completion % and has three of the top four seasons there. He’s led the league in passing yards a record six times, in completions six times, in touchdowns four times and in completion percentage four times.

DTG: But even by that criteria Brady is exceptional. He has 480 career TDs and 66,000 yards and may also pass Manning in both of those before he retires.  He has a 3:1 career TD to Int ratio and has led the league in Passing TDs four times and in yards three times, including last year at 40 years old. Besides, greatness is measured in playoff success. No one can compare to Brady. 

RG: Interesting you say that because there aren’t many passing stats that are commonly used to evaluate QBs that Brees doesn’t have higher per game averages in the playoffs than Brady. He averages more yards per game, more TDs per game, has a better completion % and better TD to Int ratio. And on and on. His problem is that he hasn’t gotten the opportunities as Brady has.

DTG: People often say that but you can’t fault a man for staying with the same franchise and leading them to the playoffs year in and year out. 

RG: I don’t deny that….

DTG: Narrator: “He did deny it. 2500 words worth.”

RG: …but Brees has missed the playoffs six times as a Saint and his defense ranked the following in points allowed per game those years: 31st, 32nd (last), 28th, 31st, 26th and 25th.

DTG: So what? Brady drug a 31st ranked defense to the Super Bowl in 2011. 

RG: That was based on yardage per game. By points, the better statistic for determining defensive success, they were 15th. In fact, Brady has never played with a defense below 17th, which happened twice (2002 and 2005) and those were the two least successful years of his career in terms of winning.

DTG: Sounds like a Brady insult and a recycled stat. That’s a warning. Next time I get to punch you.

RG: Fine.

DTG: But as far as Brees goes, even when he’s made the playoffs he’s only 7-6. 

RG: That’s because his teams have failed him in the 4th quarter over and over.

DTG: People always say that but quarterbacks make their own luck. Do you know what Brady’s stats are in his five Super Bowl wins in the 4th quarter?  56 for 76 (73.7%), 598 Yds, 4 TD, 1 Int, 108.3 rating. Also, if you look at his stats when he is behind in the 4th quarter in the Super Bowl, they are even better. His rating and QBR are astronomical. 

RG: But consider this: In four of his playoff losses with New Orleans, Brees’ offenses in the fourth quarter alone put up 17 (vs. Minnesota last year), 16 (vs. Seattle in 2010), 15 (vs. Seattle in 2013) and 18 points (vs. San Fransisco in 2012). Three different times he’s led his team on a go-ahead drive late, only to have the other team come back and score and win.

DTG: That happened to Brady vs. the Giants in 2007…

RG: In a game where New England only put up 14 points…

DTG: That’s another snide Brady insult. [Punches RG in the arm.] And it doesn’t matter. Brady has had terrible luck in the fourth quarter of Super Bowls and other playoff games. Helmet catch? Mario Manningham? Philadelphia scoring late last year? Brady passed for 500 yards and still lost. Brees isn’t anything special here. 

RG: But the thing is, Brees gets shafted before the Super Bowl. He didn’t even get to go to the 4th quarter of the Super Bowl but once in his career so far. And he was excellent. He’s lost playoff games despite scoring 32 and 36 points…

DTG: Brady lost the Super Bowl despite scoring 33!

RG: But that’s the Super Bowl! Brees’ teams aren’t good enough to even get there.

DTG: Brady lost to Indianapolis one year despite scoring 34. 

RG: But to be fair 14 of those points were from the defense.

DTG: Because Peyton Manning was a playoff turnover machine. 

RG: Don’t you have a go at Peyton Manning!

DTG: “Have a go?” Quit pretending you really talk like Harry Potter.  

RG: Getting back on topic….Brees could have made the playoffs more and had more success if he didn’t have to deal with things like bottom of the league defenses and his head coach getting suspended.

DTG: New England has dealt with controversy and Brady has still thrived. Wasn’t it great when Brady got to stand there and get the Lombardi trophy from the man who unfairly suspended him for four games to teach him a lesson?  That was so emasculating for Goodell. Just as it was for you and all the other mouseketeers in your little “I hate Brady because he’s better than my favorite quarterback” Club. 

RG: That’s like apples and mangoes, though. Brees thrived with the offense, but you can’t win with a 30th ranked defense.

DTG: We can only evaluate them on the hands they’ve been dealt. And straight up and down, my final analysis is this: Brady is the GOAT because of his playoff greatness, his Super Bowl success and especially his 4th quarter when behind Super Bowl resume. Brees is great, but behind where it matters.

RG: My final rejoinder is this: Brees is the most prolific quarterback of all-time and when he’s has had the playoff chances, he’s been as good or better than anyone, including Brady. Switch places, or just switch defenses, and he would have five rings.

DTG: Are we finished? 

RG: Yes, I’d say that was a draw.

DTG: I’d say I thrashed you again. 

RG: Whatever.

DTG: Exceptional comeback. 

RG: Wanna debate Die Hard in the future?

DTG: Yes, but that must wait for December, when it’s Christmas.   

RG: Get out.




Jurrell Casey Has the Right to Protest and Tennessee Titans’ Fans Have the Right to Make Fools of Themselves

During an interview in London, at an NFL sponsored event, Tennessee Titans’ defensive lineman, Jurrell Casey, made some controversial statements regarding the new NFL anthem protest policy. “I’m going to take a fine this year, why not? I’m going to protest during the flag. That’s what I’m going to say now.” He further commented that he will continue to protest just as he has for the last few seasons – by standing for the anthem and then raising his fist as the anthem ends. He chose this protest because he did not want to disrespect the flag, anthem, or military.

Evidently, that is not enough for a certain segment of the Tennessee Titans’ fan-base. Social media blew up last night in Titans’ land. Some fans want him cut from the team. Some fans are announcing that if he goes through with this they will no longer support the team.

Conservative talk radio in Nashville has been just as over-the-top in its response. Popular radio Host Phil Valentine tweeted out that if Casey, or “bozo” as he decided to label him, carries out this protest, then he is done with the team. On Nashville Morning News with Brian Wilson, caller after caller lambasted Casey for his disrespect to the flag, anthem, and everything we hold dear.

The problem with all of this should be obvious to anyone paying any attention at all. Granted, paying attention is difficult for some. Nearly every person that I heard call in the radio show this morning was angry that Casey was going to kneel for the anthem. He is not. He stands for the anthem. He stands because he “wanted to be respectful.” He stands and when the anthem ends, he raises one fist in the air. He will continue doing just that. Clearly, that part of his statement and his track record has escaped many Titans’ fans (and radio personalities).

Even worse, many of the callers took cheap shots at the way Casey spoke, with not-so-subtle shades of bigotry and even racism. Look, I am loathe to accuse anyone of being a racist. I think that accusation is hurled about way too often in our society. Sadly, what I heard today reinforced in my mind that it plays a role in this debate. Casey did not choose his words perfectly. It was clearly off-the-cuff and not a prepared statement, and when one speaks that way, there is a tendency to say things less clearly than intended. I won’t say he misspoke, but his message was not delivered as concisely and effectively as it could have been. I am willing to give him a pass on this due to everything he has done in his career and the man he has shown himself to be. Casey’s actions in the past, his off-the field actions, and his overall track-record of integrity should inform everyone of what his intentions truly are.

There were also the cries from fans about how Casey is making nearly $15 million a season to play a game and he should be grateful for that and just shut up, stand up, and play football. It’s amazing to me that those who are ostensibly the most pro-capitalism people in the world would begrudge athletes for making millions in what is one of the most capitalist ventures in the world. Mocking NFL players because they make a lot of money is about the most self-defeating argument available to the conservative capitalist. Playing a sport for a living does not mean you lose your rights to speak your mind.

I have gone on record on my feelings about the anthem protests. You can read those here. To sum up my views: while I agree that players have the right to protest, choosing to do so during the anthem is not productive. It paints them as villains and unpatriotic to too many people. Coupled with the fact that Colin Kaepernick, the player who started all this anthem protest discussion, made incredibly negative comments about the flag after his early protests and from that point on, many fans were going to view any anthem protests in the same light. This remains an incredibly complex and difficult topic. Unfortunately, the loudest voices seem to be doing their best to reduce it to the level where you are forced to pick one of two sides – and both sides are flawed and their arguments are problematic. Frankly, that is irrelevant to this Casey/Tennessee Titans situation. Casey is not disrespecting the flag or anthem. He stands and shows respect during the anthem. His protest is the best possible version of any of these protests because he is still able to express his opinion but he is doing it in a way that cannot be perceived as a slight to the country, the military, the flag, or the anthem. Well, it can be perceived that way, but only by people that are either ignorant or willfully deceptive. Neither of those options are good.

Titans’ fans, be smart. Look at Casey’s career. He has been a model citizen, on and off the field. He has been involved in the community. He has done nothing to deserve mockery or attacks. These types of responses make the fan-base look stupid. They drive a further wedge between players that feel that there are injustices in the country that need to be addressed and the fans that cheer on the team who feel the matter is overblown. As fans, we need to be better than this.




An Open Letter From Molech, God of the Canaanites

Hey guys. Molech here. You might have also heard me called Moloch. Either name is fine…I’m not really that picky about it. I’ll keep this as brief as possible because I know everyone is really busy these days with all the Facebooking, Twittering, and the general feeling of outrage at everything all the time.

When I got into this whole “god” business, it wasn’t really something I planned or thought out. The people at the time decided they needed a new god to serve, someone that was going to help with crops, fertility, and winning battles. You know – the basics. They picked me mainly because I was the only one around who was eight feet tall and had the head of a bull. I have to admit, I do present a pretty striking image. Intimidating is the word people used. In the beginning, they were bringing me goats, and sheep, and maybe the odd cow or two to sacrifice. They would “pass them through the fire”, I would burn them up, and that was that. Full disclosure here: I was and am a gigantic fraud. I never made it rain, helped with crops, or won any battles for anyone. Nope, I’m just an awesome looking bull man. I have no supernatural powers, but the priests decided the people needed something to worship, so I got the gig.

The problem with this whole set up is that after a time, when things didn’t get better for the people, sacrificing cows and sheep didn’t seem like it was enough. That’s when they started bringing out the kids. I have to admit it was a genius move. The people were truly desperate – there was a famine and people were starving – and it seemed like something a power-hungry deity would want. In their minds, sacrificing a few children would save thousands of others. The math made sense.

I don’t believe we need to defend our actions. The peopled did what they felt was necessary to satisfy their angry and demanding god. I will say this though, you people have taken our blueprint and expanded it in ways that we never even dreamed. Yes, children were sacrificed at my altar, but even in those days, the people had to pretend that it was for some greater cause. These days, all pretense has been dropped. Now you are sacrificing your babies for convenience, choice, lack of money, and basically any other reason you can invent. You are really doing it! You have finally gotten a large section of society to believe that killing your babies is not only a good choice but in many cases, the best choice. For crying out loud, you’ve framed it as a basic human right! Hat tip to the evil mastermind that came up with that con. You’ve even defined it as smart family planning and reproductive healthcare. What the Baal?!? I thought we had some pretty devious and masterful ideas back in the day, but that takes the cake.

I guess that is all I’ve got for today. Keep up the good work people. You are carrying on the proud tradition we started thousands of years ago. And you are doing it in ways that make our system look primitive and feeble. Bravo! One of these days I am going to make my comeback and when I do, I am putting all these ideas into practice. I have learned so much. Thank you for that.

Happy sacrificing!
Molech




Warriors Set To Sign Thor, Incredible Hulk to Maintain Their Gigantic Advantage Over Rest of NBA

Oakland, CA–Sources are reporting that the Golden State Warriors, in response to LeBron James signing with the Los Angeles Lakers, and just hours after signing highly coveted free agent DeMarcus Cousins, have also reached agreements with several Marvel Superheroes to guarantee they keep their enormous talent advantage over the rest of the NBA for the third year in a row.

So far Thor and The Incredible Hulk have signed 1-year, cap-friendly deals and the team has also reached out to Iron Man and Ant-Man, though the team would have to petition the NBA to be more flexible regarding uniforms to ensure the suits would be part of the deal.

“Things got tense there for a second,” comment Kevin Durant. “I came here to make sure I would have a cakewalk to the championship every year and if the Lakers add Kawhi then my plan would have been legit in danger. Having Hulk in the low post and the God of Thunder flying all over the court, literally, is going to keep us on cruise control all season long.”

“Yeah, it’s all cool,” Commented Warriors’ guard and two time NBA MVP Steph Curry, with his typical boyish charm. “Warriors Assemble! And all that.”

Thor, explaining his decision, added, “I do not know this game of baskets and balls, but upon my honor, I shall endeavor to vanquish all our enemies. I fought for millennia alongside the Warriors Three (Odin rest their souls) and shall now wage glorious battle with the Warriors of the Golden State.”

Hulk had no comment.

In a completely unprecedented move, sources also say Bugs Bunny and Wayne Knight have reached out to the Warriors, hoping their contributions in vanquishing the MonStars 22 years ago will make them attractive potential free agents as well.

Check back here for the latest on this quickly developing story.




Jurassic Park At 25 And The Marvel Of American Film-Making

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They Spared No Expense

I had just turned 15 when the original Jurassic Park was released on June 11, 1993. While my older brother and his best friend sat at the back of the theater trying to act like they weren’t impressed, my best friend and I were completely blown away by it. If you ask me the most awe-inspiring theater experiences I’ve had in my life, this movie would be on the short list, competing with other sci-fi blockbusters like Back to the Future, Armageddon and Signs.

This, in spite of the fact that the acting performances are, for the most part, blah, which is part of why this movie seems to be a small step behind others of its genre in my social circles. To be clear, Jeff Goldblum is delightful and outrageous (and as a person and actor, he has only gotten better with time), and I always enjoy watching Samuel L. Jackson and the man I’ll always known as Newman go to work on screen. But with no offense to Sam Neill and Laura Dern, the main roles hit me as pretty vanilla.

Hold On To Your Butts 

Yet that doesn’t really matter. The stars of the movie and its subsequent sequels are clearly the dinosaurs and they are real (looking) and spectacular. And so, the original JP has aged extremely well in 25 years because it was so far ahead of its time. Seeing Spielberg’s dinosaurs interact with humans was an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride.

Two of their scenes caused me to grip the armrest of my theater seat so hard I almost blacked out: the first time the T-Rex shows up and the Velociraptor scene in the kitchen. Movie-making rarely gets that good to me. Spielberg acknowledged a complaint (from his grandkids no less) that it took too long for the dinosaurs to appear in the first Jurassic Park, which he rectified in A Lost World. But in my opinion, the slow pace and calm for the first 30 minutes of the original only highlights the extreme terror of the T-Rex’s debut. The foreshadowing moment when Tim looks at the cup in the back of the vehicle and sees the drop of water every time the as yet unseen King of Dinosaurs takes a step rocks my soul every time I watch. I have goosebumps just thinking about it. Similarly, my heart can barely stand the face-off between the two kids and the Velociraptors after these extremely intelligent predators figure out how to open the kitchen door. It’s gloriously scary. I love it.

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There are other aspects that make this movie exceptional to me: bits of dialogue (when Dr. Malcolm encounters the triceratops dung) and no doubt the main score, which is good enough to be a concert on its own. But this movie raked in the biggest opening weekend at the time and nearly dethroned E.T. for the biggest domestic run ever for one colossal reason: we had never seen dinosaurs look that legit before. It was fantastic, unprecedented cinema.

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“Later There’s Running…and Screaming…” 

With a first installment like the one described above, Jurassic Park as a franchise entered a short list of movie series that get at least one view for every sequel from me, no matter how many there are or how awful they are.  And admittedly I know all of the flaws for The Lost World and Jurassic Park III especially but I still enjoy them and have watched them repeatedly.

In The Lost World there are yet again uninspired performances (even the eventually entertaining Vince Vaughn) except for Jeff Goldblum and maybe the Hillbilly Jack dinosaur expert guy who comes in with the bad guys. But the new angle of having human villains along with dinosaur villains is an interesting twist. And the scene with the T-Rex attack on the crashed trailer, while not as good as the similar scene in the first one, is still riveting. Above all, I love the moment with the freighter carrying the T-Rex into San Diego crashes into the dock because it woke up and killed everyone on board. That’s fun cinema right there.

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“You liked Dinosaurs back then.” “Back then they hadn’t tried to eat me yet.”

No doubt to me and many others, Jurassic Park III is the worst major film to ever have “Jurassic” in its name. As my nephew and mega Jurassic Park fan, Brett tells me, the dream sequence with Dr. Grant on the helicopter is “hilarious and terrible”. It’s like a 5-year old got to write one scene of the plot. But as stated, I still like this movie. William H. Macy is great and as long as there are rampaging dinosaurs, I think I will find some of it redeeming. I particularly love the new species and the scene on the rickety old bridge in the fog. It’s heart-stopping and just a step below the similar scenes in the first one. And I really enjoy the running gag of the satellite phone ringing and how it eventually announces the presence of the enormous Spinosaurus (who had devoured it along with the person holding it) standing out in the open.

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“Maybe you should include that in the brochure. Eventually one of these things will eat someone.”

Jurassic World should have been right up my alley and therefore I saw it opening weekend. The trailer promised a visually stunning thrill ride that would top its predecessors. And as I’ve written before, who doesn’t love Chris Pratt?

But it just didn’t deliver to me. It was visually stunning but it had more boring characters (Owen excepted), the weakest dinosaur terror scenes of the series and it was just a bit too over the top and chaotic at times.The original trilogy’s dinosaur attacks weren’t great because they were loud and untethered, but because they were they were thrilling, unpredictable and even at times humorous. Perhaps I have seen too many of these scenes by this point.

Even though it’s a better movie based on normal criteria, I think I’d rather watch the much panned third one than this one if given a choice. But I still want to watch this movie again. Why? Because it’s incredible cinematography.

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“These creature were here before us. And if we’re not careful, they’ll be here after us.”

And that brings us to Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, released widely in the United States today.  To be honest, the trailer for the most part looks like a tired mashup of plots from the previous four movies. And that worries me, since the last volume proves I may be getting a little bit of Jurassic Park fatigue. Yet some of it looks fresh and we do have the return of the inimitable Dr. Ian Malcom. And at the end of the day, it is Jurassic Park. So I will see it. The original broke new ground and set a standard for movie-making that technology had to catch. And while the others have disappointed in general, I doubt I will ever turn down these cinematically perfected dinosaurs chasing humans on the big screen. Maybe this one will live up to the T-Rex sized expectations these movies create.

 

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Why Social Media Died: A Blog Post I Apparently Sent to Myself from the Year 2040.

Guest Post by Jon Forrest

This is crazy. Apparently sometime in the future, we figure out how to send mediocre blog posts back to the past! I know! It shocked me too. It just showed up in my cloud. You should totally check yours. It looks to be from around the year 2040. Good news: the fonts are still pretty much the same. Bad news: my writing doesn’t improve one little bit. (allegedly)

I know most of you were hoping never to be reminded of the social media era again, but I think it’s important for us to remember our past mistakes or else we are doomed to repeat them.

For those of you young and fortunate enough not to remember the “Enlightened Dark Age” as we know it today let me give you a little refresher. Not long after the advent of smart phones, the age of social media began. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (now known as Ursource) ruled the lives of the masses.

It seems ridiculous now but these sites were platforms where people could say things like, “I’m totes dreading the dentist tomorrow.” Then the next day they could post a picture of themselves with their mouths full of gauze. Please don’t ask me why we did it. The old days were weird. Remember this is before Dan Cathy and I became best friends and I automated Chick-fil-A on that one day so it could open on Sundays after church. It was my pleasure. But yeah, we had it rough. They were indeed the bad ole days.

Here are 5 of the reasons it mercifully, finally, thankfully failed.

1. It was an absolutely false representation of our real selves.

I remember when and where I was when I realized social media was doomed. Back in 2018 we had a fast food place called Sonic. We drove cars back then and the unique thing about this restaurant was you could drive your car to small station and hit a button to order your food and have it brought to you by a carhop. They were known for their delicious ice. Yes. Back before we all had dihydrogen monoxide units strapped to our backs we had to drink liquids. We also ate frozen pellets of water for fun. And Sonic had the absolute best frozen pellets.

One hot June day in 2018 when I pulled in and ordered a diet cherry limeade (too much to explain) I saw a girl sitting at one of the tables taking a selfie. “Selfie” is slang for taking a picture of yourself. Selfies were a huge part of social media. This girl at the Sonic took a picture, looked at it with disgust, reposed and took another one. She did this 4 times! She looked so unhappy sitting there with her friend who was also on her phone, but in the selfie her smile beamed as she got the light just right for “exposure’s” sake.

It’s impossible not to compare this girl’s actions to Narcissus who appeared in Greek mythology. We get our idea of Narcism from him. He was so pretty, one day when he saw his reflection in a pool he was unable to leave the reflected image to continue life. Ultimately he died in that exact spot.

This 2018 Sonic version of Narcissus who couldn’t look away from her image was telling people “I’m having a blast here at the Sonic while you live your miserable thirsty life in shambles.” The crazy thing is we all bought it for 20 years! Social media survived this “emperor’s new clothes” lie for 20 years. I can’t explain it. I’m just so thankful some enlightened soul spoke up one day and said, “Hey, y’all know this chick we’re all jealous of is basically just eating a corn dog at the Sonic like the rest of us. Why are we wasting our time ‘liking’ it?”

 

2. We got tired of making photo ops instead of memories and cameras can’t do memories justice.

I do not have a picture of my wife when they opened the back doors of the church and I saw her standing there arm in arm with her dad, but it would not do that moment justice if I did. There was no videographer in the room when the nurse handed my daughter to me for the first time, but I promise if I had a video of that occasion I’d say, “They missed it. That’s not even close to what I felt that day.”

Sure we can see things in 5d QR Crystal Lens now, but even that is like looking through a filthy foggy window compared to the resolution of our minds. God blessed us with that. I’m so glad we realized it sooner than later. I’m just sorry we wasted two decades of memories.

 

3. Although we all enjoy the right to freedom of the press, not all of us should exercise that right.

How do I put this gently? Many of the people I knew in 2018 had ideas that were insane. I’m not talking about my close friends who read my blogs. Those guys… geniuses, but most of the other people who posted on social media were wackos. No, they had wacko ideas in a moment and they shared them.

Proverbs 17:28 is so right. “Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; when he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive.” (NKJV) Back in 2018 NO ONE shut his lips and we were all dumber for it.

 

4. FOML finally caught up with FOMO.

In 2004 Patrick J. McGinnis coined the term “FOMO.” Steady yourself. This isn’t going to make sense to you. FOMO is the fear of missing out. We were slaves to these platforms to the point of being unable to stand in line, ride in a car, or simply sit in a chair without looking at our device. Constant checking overtook us. “Finally awake. I better check Facebook.” “Break time. I better refresh my Instagram feed.” “Red light. Wonder what’s on Snap.” “I’m between contractions. Let me update Twitter.”

This is actually one of my posts from 2017. “Just got stung in the belly by a wasp. Not sure if it’s swollen or if I’ve put on a few lbs.” Someone neglected a sunset because he was afraid he’d miss out on that nugget of nonsense.

Fortunately at some point we replaced the “fear of missing out” with of the “fear of missing life.” We looked up from the recipe video our neighbor posted and took our neighbor a plate of cookies. We shut our laptops and topped our laps with the kids we had been yelling at for not holding the pose we needed to get for a post. We laid down our notebook and took note of the books including THE Book that had gathered dust.

We took back life.

 

5. We finally all blocked one another.

You know I’d love to be able to say we experienced this great renaissance of knowledge and that’s the sole reason social media collapsed, but truthfully we all finally got so sick of one another’s baloney we each ended up blocking everyone except 4 followers. And it turned out those 4 remaining “followers” were fake accounts we’d set up to like our posts.

 


Whoa! Look at the time.

There are a couple of other reasons social media ended but I have to get back to work. This country isn’t going to run its self. I probably wouldn’t have agreed to this 4th term if I’d known it would be this busy. Not to mention these people from Time apparently need a new picture every time you win “Person of the Year.” And I have a Kessel run today and only 8 parsecs to do it in.

If I can get this time bending copy machine to load the stupid paper and you’re reading this before 2021 when social media meets its demise, do yourself a favor, beat the crowd and start to ween yourself off of it today.


(Editor’s Note: A big thanks to Jon Forrest for allowing us to run this post today. You can read more of his stuff over at Steal My Youth Ministry Stuff. Trust us, you will love it.)

 




The Great Debate: Jordan vs. LeBron

James or Jordan? LeBron or Michael? LBJ or MJ? This topic has been debated to death on talk radio, on podcasts, and in print. Michal Jordan is considered by many to be the best basketball player of all time. LeBron is the one current player who some think could challenge MJ for G.O.A.T. status. I believe the debate itself is a bit short-sighted since it completely dismisses other all-time greats like Kareem, Bird, Magic, Russell, and Chamberlain. Each of the guys mentioned in the last sentence, as well as MJ and LeBron, could lay claim to best-ever status. They all have countless great moments and statistical accomplishments that would bolster their case. They also have minor flaws that we could point out if we wanted to get nitpicky.

The Time Is Right

This article is about LeBron and Jordan though, and I think now is the right time to compare them. They both completed 15 seasons in the NBA so LeBron is at the same place in his career as Jordan was at his third and final retirement. They have each had 15 chances to win a championship, be the MVP, be an all-star, lead the league in scoring, or do whatever else great players do during the course of their career.

Let’s Keep It Real

I will do my best to lay out the case for each guy and point out any factors that I think are important in this discussion. I have been watching basketball since 1982 so I have been a witness to both of their careers in their entirety. I can’t stand hot takes so you won’t find any here. If you are looking for an article that takes an EXTREME position or ignores all facts that go against a predetermined narrative you are in the wrong place. There are plenty of “experts” on Facebook and Twitter (not to mention Fox Sports, ESPN, or sports talk radio) that can provide that for you. I will also attempt to avoid any recency bias and getting swept up with what is happening now while forgetting about the past. That is never a good thing and too many are guilty of it. At the same time, I am not a “get off my lawn” type person. We tend to idealize the past and overlook its flaws. The sport of basketball did not magically peak in 1986 and then go downhill from there. So if you are looking for someone who will say that everything and everybody was better in the 1980s you need to keep looking.

With that out of the way, let the comparison begin.


Rings Matter, But They Don’t Tell the Whole Story

The more simple-minded among us would say that Jordan won six titles and LeBron won three, therefore Jordan is better. Case closed. It should be obvious that this is a very incomplete way to judge greatness in a team sport. Bill Russell won 11 titles. He is clearly the greatest if all we are doing is counting championships. Some may argue that Russell played in a different era so it is not fair to include him in this discussion. Robert Horry (a contemporary of both James and Jordan) won seven titles. I guess that makes him the greatest player of the modern (post-merger) era. No, no it doesn’t. Titles are important and are definitely part of the equation, but they should NEVER be the single overriding factor when determining individual greatness in a team sport. This is not golf or tennis so let’s stop pretending that it is.

Others argue that the fact that MJ was 6-0 in his finals appearances while James was 3-6 should settle the argument. This group is even dumber than the “championship counters” discussed in the previous paragraph. On what planet is making the championship round of your sport and losing somehow a lesser accomplishment than not making it at all? Continuing this flawed line of thinking it is better to be swept in the first round of the playoffs (in order to preserve a perfect finals record) than to lose in game 7 of the finals! This makes absolutely no sense and I reject it out of hand.


You Play To Win the Game!

Winning does matter though, and great individual players in a sport like basketball should contribute to their team’s success. To that end and because so many people are confused by this issue I have developed a simple scoring system to help inform our thinking on these types of debates. I call it the REO Winning Scale™. Jordan and LeBron are the ideal candidates to compare because they were both undeniably great and because both played 15 seasons (to this point). They also played their entire careers with a four-round playoff format which was introduced in the 1983-1984 season. Here is how the system works:

A player is awarded points for how far his team advances in the playoffs each season. Missing the playoffs altogether is worth zero points. In the NBA where 53.3% (this % was higher when Jordan played because there were fewer teams) of teams make the playoffs it is not a great accomplishment simply to make the postseason, so for a great player to miss out altogether is something of a failure. Losing in the first round is worth 1 point. Losing in the second round is worth 2 points. Losing in the conference finals is worth 3 points. Losing in the finals is worth 4 points. Finally, winning the title is worth 6 points. Titles do matter so a bonus point is awarded for that accomplishment.

Let’s see how each player did in his career. First up is Jordan:

 

Let’s look at James now:

By this measure, LeBron has a slight edge in terms of his impact on his team winning over the years. His REO Winning Scale point totals will only go up as his career continues since he appears to not be slowing down or conceding anything to age. We must also acknowledge that Jordan retired briefly during his absolute peak and retired again at the very end of his prime. Those lost seasons would have almost certainly produced more playoff success and possibly even more titles.


Comparing Eras

Another factor to consider is that each of these players played in at least two different eras of basketball. Jordan entered the league when scoring was high and the pace of play was fast. His rookie year the average NBA team scored 110.8 points per game. That season (1984-85) every single team in the league averaged over 100 points per game. By the time he retired the game had slowed down considerably and become more physical. Scoring was way down across the league. During his final season with the Bulls league-wide scoring was at 95.6 points per game and his final season with the Wizards saw scoring drop to 95.1 per game. LeBron came into a very slow paced and physical league, but the pace of play has increased dramatically in the last decade and scoring has as well. Watching a game from LeBron’s rookie year compared to a game now is almost like watching a different sport. LeBron’s rooking year saw team scoring at a near-record low of 93.4 points per game (the second lowest total in 60 years!). There were only two teams in the entire league that averaged over 100 points per game and four teams averaged less than 90. This season scoring reached a nearly 30 year high of 106.3 points per game.

We should also note that when Jordan played hard fouls were not discouraged the way they are now so players were physically more beat up. On the other hand, Jordan never had to deal with constant switching on defense or with zone defenses which were illegal at the time. LeBron has faced legal zones and much more sophisticated analytic based defenses for his entire career. I say all that to point out that one guy did not “have it easy” while the other had to “work for everything he got.” Those who say such things are either very biased or willfully ignorant.


Competition Is Fierce, Until It Isn’t

This analysis would be incomplete if we didn’t compare the level of competition. Jordan entered a very deep and stacked league. With a 16 team playoff field in a 23 team league it was easier to make the playoffs then, but harder to advance. For this reason, MJ went 1-9 in his first 10 playoff games and lost three series before he ever won one. As his career went on and his teammates got better he started winning more. The arrival of Jordan’s prime coincided with the decline of the Lakers, Celtics, and Pistons dynasties that dominated the early part of his career. As those teams and players got older the Bulls took advantage. The league also expanded very rapidly in the late 80s and early 90s going from 23 to 29 teams. The talent pool was spread out and the league was watered down. In addition, many young players were going off the rails as the absence of a salary cap for rookies killed the incentive to get better. The mid-90s through early 2000s when Jordan did much of his winning was not a good time for the NBA in terms of style or quality of play. Jordan’s Bulls were the primary beneficiaries of these events.

LeBron never was able to take advantage of excessive expansion as only one new team has been added in the last 20 plus years. He also played during the massive influx of excellent international players that was just getting started when MJ played. These international players increased the depth and level of competition around the league. Perhaps the biggest thing working against LeBron is that he had the misfortune of playing the latter part of his prime during the Warriors dynasty. He was able to beat them once in the finals, but one team with four of the top 20 players in the league is unheard of and considerably more difficult than anything Jordan ever faced in the finals. One benefit for LeBron is that he has been aided by playing in the weaker conference for his entire career so making repeated trips to the finals has been easier for him that it was for MJ.

Another way of to look at this is that Jordan faced tougher competition on his way to the finals, while LeBron has faced tougher competition in the finals. This would help explain why one guy has more finals appearances, but the other has more finals victories.


Numbers Never Lie, But Do They Settle Anything?

I haven’t spent a lot of time on individual stats because I don’t think we will find any answers there. Look at these regular season numbers and you will see what I mean:

MJ – 30.1 ppg 6.2 rpg 5.3 apg 2.3 spg 0.8 bpg .497 FG% .327 3PT% .835 FT%

 

LBJ – 27.2 ppg 7.4 rpg 7.2 apg 1.7 spg 0.7 bpg .504 FG% .344 3PT% .739 FT%

 

In most categories, both guys got better in the postseason, which is not always the case even for all-star players. Their improved playoff statistics are just another testament to their greatness. Here are those numbers:

MJ- 33.4 ppg 6.4 rpg 5.7 apg 2.1 spg 0.9 bpg .487 FG% .332 3PT% .828 FT%

 

LBJ – 28.9 ppg 8.9 rph 7.1 apg 1.8 spg 1.0 bpg .491 FG% .332 3PT% .743 FT%

 

Jordan was a better scorer. LeBron a better rebounder and passer. This is true both in the regular and postseason. As he ages, LeBron’s per game numbers will almost certainly go down (assuming he is human) while his name will climb higher on the all-time record book. After 15 seasons each though, the statistics for both the regular season and playoffs are incredibly close.


Haters Gonna Hate

As we wrap up this article I should be forthcoming and admit that I never really rooted for either guy. I was never a Jordan fan during his career. While I did root for him to finally win a title when they played the Lakers in 1991 (a lot of that was due to how much I hated the Lakers), I did not enjoy seeing him win throughout the 90s. I have never rooted for LeBron in any of his 9 trips to the finals. I don’t hate his teams nearly as much as I did Jordan’s Bulls, but I have always pulled for whoever his opponent was. I do recognize that both are all-time great players, so hopefully, my lack of fandom for either player will make me unbiased in this analysis.


Are We There Yet?

So where does this leave us? Each guy had a similar impact on their team winning as evidenced by their REO Winning Scalescores. Both guys dealt with and conquered whatever the league threw at them in terms of style of play, pace of play, defensive rules, and physicality. They were both beneficiaries of certain peculiarities that were happening in the NBA during their careers, but they also had some bad luck in running up against all-time great teams that prevented them from winning as much as they could have otherwise.

My take is that at his peak Jordan is still the slightly better player. His ability to seize the moment and his more consistent shooting touch gives him the edge. It also helps that he has no black marks on his resume like James has from the 2010 and 2011 playoffs. Even when Jordan lost in a playoff series he still played well.

LeBron doesn’t seem to be slowing down one bit though. He is now 33 years old and has been playing a full NBA schedule since he jumped straight from high school 15 years ago. Somehow he seems to be getting better as he ages. If he can continue to put up comparable numbers to what he has done so far in his career and make a couple more title runs this debate will need to be revisited.

 




Dear Central Florida, Your National Championship is Phony

Being from the Deep South, I have often heard it said that there are three sports seasons: College Football, Recruiting and Spring Football. The fact that many schools put 90,000 in the seats for their spring games, which are broadcast on ESPN, is proof that College Football is a year-round spectacle.

Despite this, I cannot think of many things that would cause me to write about College Football in May. But this is something that should have died in January and it hasn’t.

Central Florida beat Auburn and pretended they were National Champions, having a parade, rings, the whole nine yards. It was cute and similar to what other non-National Championship teams have done in the past (i.e., Auburn 2004). Usually, this sort of thing goes by the wayside in a few days. But to paraphrase a controversial slogan of the times, they persisted.

In part, I blame social media. Somehow Twitter gives the illusion that we have access to celebrities and Facebook gives us a platform to sound off on everything to an ambiguous audience of hundreds of people. And via these extremely popular sites, Central Florida has clearly taken advantage of how no one seems to be able to ignore anything they disagree with. Similar to the “I’m not dignifying that with a response” being a response that dignifies, every time someone argued against Central Florida’s real claim to a fake national championship, they gave more and more momentum to their argument.

Of course, that is what I’m doing. But only because Nick Saban of all people has now joined the fray. Nick Saban is the best college football coach, maybe ever. But he’s also a bit of a whiner. And as such he could not hold back last week on commenting on Central Florida’s National Championship claim, deriding it as only he should have. And I cannot deny that once he joined in, people like me can no longer ignore it. It’s time to weigh in.

Central Florida’s national championship is no more real than the Tooth Fairy. The arguments posited to try to disprove that simply cannot be sustained. Here are a few:

Central Florida beat Auburn, who beat Alabama and Georgia 

The A beats B beats C argument is lame. There now exists on the internet a website that will tell you (if it is possible) how to get from Team A to where they beat Team Z through a series of “they beat B who beat C, etc.” The craziest one I’ve seen? Welch College (my alma mater) beats Villanova in 2018 Men’s Basketball. That’s right, an NCCAA school with a few hundred students beats the NCAA team that dominated the Men’s tournament. Here is the proof:

Here’s the dirty little secret about Auburn 2018: They were a fantastic team, but they lost four times away from home, including to LSU (who lost to Troy at home, if you are a big fan of A beats B beats C). They beat Georgia at home but got romped at a neutral site. Central Florida needs to let this paltry argument go[1. Some UCF proponents, like SEC-hating Twitter clown Danny Kannel, try as well to point to an injury to Auburn’s prime running back as to why the results were different in the two Georgia-Auburn games last year. Blaming injuries is one step above blaming refs.].

 

Central Florida was the only undefeated team 

So was Utah in 2008. So was Boise in 2006. And they didn’t get National Championships either. Why? Because their schedules were not difficult enough. It’s great that UCF could knock off Auburn in the Peach Bowl, but when you play in the SEC and similar conferences, you get teams like Auburn several times a year.

I conceded it’s not fair that Central Florida’s players and coaches cannot control their schedule. But that’s part of sports. It’s not fair that Auburn in 2004 and Penn St. in 1994 got no championship despite running the table against a legit strength of schedule. It’s not fair that the players for Auburn in 1993 had nothing to do with the reason they were on probation and were the only undefeated team in the nation and got nothing.

Sports aren’t fair.

 

Alabama claims titles from years past that are questionable 

There is no doubt College Football has historically had the most convoluted method to naming a champion since the NCAA had never recognized one. If you look back through College Football annals, it is very hairy trying to figure out who gets credit for championships in what year because some schools claim them from non-AP poll and Coaches Poll sources (the two standard championships every year until the BCS). Additionally, teams used to be awarded championships before bowls were played. And is there anything more absurd to sports logic than having two (or more) national champions?

But now we do not have to deal with that. 2014 changed everything. We have a fairer system, and even more precisely, we have a playoff. Even if Alabama’s 1973 Championship is shady (and I’m not arguing for or against it), you cannot apply standards or laws or any similar criteria to modern circumstances. It devalues advancements we have made.

 

Now, to balance some of this out, here are two things I do acknowledge that are not anti-UCF:

  1. We need more teams in the playoff. Even if there were eight, I do not think Central Florida would have gotten in, but I have zero doubt the 8th best team in the nation most years can run through three other Top 8 teams in three weeks. I personally prefer 16. The NCAA tournament in basketball is not devalued at all despite the fact the bottom 32 teams or so have little to no chance to win it, so even if #16 has no chance to run the table, it still makes for more potentially great football.
  2. UCF is likely doing this in part to help with recruiting. I do not mind it in that sense. The problem is I have zero doubt reams of people are truly arguing that they deserve their rings, parade, etc. because they deserved a championship last year. Those people exist mostly because they are UCF fans or hate Alabama or the SEC or just love controversy, which our current political climate proves people are addicted to. The belief that UCF actually deserves a national championship is what I am arguing against.

 

Agree? Disagree? Let us know below!