Sunday, December 27, 2009

The proverbial wisdom of Dilbert

"Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue." -- Proverbs 17:28 (NIV)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Buy my e-book: The Easy Budget

It's time for resolutions, and one of of the best is wise money management. My new e-book, "The Easy Budget: How to Always Have the Money You Need" teaches you how to allot your income into various categories so that you always have funds when you need them.

There's a Food budget, a Clothing budget, Entertainment and more. You never spend too much on clothing and then don't have enough for food.

The 10 page e-book can be downloaded onto your computer or handheld reader, such as a Kindle or Nook. It costs only $3.50 -- and that's easy on your budget.

Support independent publishing: Buy this e-book on Lulu.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Resume for writer, copy editor, photographer Greg Richter

To find a position using my writing, editing and/or photography skills in a creative environment that will benefit the company and my own growth.

Greg Richter
grichter64 (at) yahoo (dot) com
734-6960 (area code is 256)

Work Experience
Copy editor
12/1995 - Present The Birmingham News, Birmingham, Alabama
  • Go-to guy on tight deadline stories. Edit, write captivating headline and get it to the page designer super-fast. Create enticing headlines in increasingly skinnier column widths that sell the story in the print edition, and write Search Engine Optimization (SEO) heads for the online edition that bring in Google hits from outside our normal coverage area.
  • Write feature stories and do a weekly compilation of what publications outside the state are saying about Alabama. Using eye-catching copy, this column has grown in popularity. Feature story on the worldwide popularity of the song “Sweet Home Alabama” is now supported by a blog, which brings in readers worldwide.
  • Outside Looking In: (Google “outside looking in” and “birmingham news” for recent examples.
Freelance writer, editor, photographer
  • “Jesus in Alabama – And Everywhere Else: Images of the Name”: A photo blog on images of the name Jesus painted on the sides of businesses, as graffiti on roads, etc. (Also under pseudonym Owen Tew).
  • Photography can be seen at
Copy editor, Page designer
10/1991 - 12/1995 The Decatur Daily, Decatur, Alabama

Reporter, Photographer
8/1988 - 10/1991 Daily Mountain Eagle, Jasper, Alabama

Reporter, Wire editor
5/1986 - 8/1988 The Cullman Times, Cullman, Alabama

University of Alabama at Birmingham/Journalism, Birmingham, Alabama
  • President's List
Southeastern Bible College/Biblical Studies, Birmingham, Alabama

Additional Info
  • Multiple statewide writing awards from The Associated Press and the Alabama Press Association, including for deadline news, feature writing and headline writing. Won best headline of the year at The Birmingham News three times and best headline of the month numerous times. Received management training from current employer. Placed on a team assigned to find ways to cut costs, and many of our ideas were implemented.
  • Board of directors for The Cullman County Historical Society. Started a blog for the group, which previously had no Internet presence, and have played a character in the Cemetery Tour for the past three years during Oktoberfest. Chairman of Bus Tour Committee. Member of Finance and Budget Committee and Cemetery Tour Committee.

I will be happy to furnish references upon request.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Website takes prayer requests, reminds you to pray, an Ozark, Alabama-based website, offers prayers for those who sign up. It also encouranges you pray for other members' requests.

The site is envisioned as a Facebook for prayer warriors, which sounds like a capital idea. But then there are the cheesy bracelets sold on the site. They're hooked to pagers and vibrate when someone you've agreed to pray for needs. it.
Emblazoned with "AGAPE," the Greek word for brotherly love, they come in Buzzing Black© , Royal Blue© and Perfect Purple© and are "designed to be worn by anyone, young or old, male or female, using a stylish, adjustable band."

Although the site charges $49.95 for a charm bracelet and $79.95 for the plastic vibrating pager bracelets, CEO Sam Pitts tells The Birmingham News, "You don't have to buy anything for the prayer. ... It's no different from publishers making money from printing Bibles. Nobody complains about that. How can a church operate if nobody gave?"

Well, OK. Just be forewarned that Pitts once owned National Credit Savers and National Credit Center, which The Birmingham News reports were cited as the subject of federal injunctions in the 1993 annual report of the Federal Trade Commission. Pitts paid $300,000 to settle allegations his companies deceptively marketed credit cards through direct mail and 900 telephone numbers, the newspaper quotes an FTC report.

Of course, all of us have things in our past we're ashamed of, but you should make your purchases with open eyes. You can close them as you pray if you wish.

We might want to pass along a note to the webmaster, too, about that pop-up video you watch when the site first loads. That first speaker's hand goes to an inappropriate place a few times vis-a-vis the photo of the praying young woman on the left. Perhaps they could scoot that guy down a bit.

And if you don't want your left hand to know what your right is doing, order one for each wrist.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Praying for Obama Bible verses

“Let his days be few; and let another take his office.” --Psalm 109:8

That's the Bible verse being used on bumper stickers and T-shirts as a jab at President Barack Obama. It's meant to be funny, but not everyone is laughing, partly because the next verse reads, “Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.”

People sporting it on cars, torsos and in e-mails say either they were unaware of the next verse or that they purposely didn't say 109:8-9 because they didn't mean for Obama to die, just leave office.

Still, it's not very Christian. Even if you disagree with everything Obama stands for, using Bible verses to either make fun of spew hatred toward him is, well, unbiblical.

Feel free to criticise his policies. If you believe they are extremely harmful, say so. If you want to be clever equate him with Stalin, Mao or even Hitler. If you think he's the Antichrist, you can say that, too. But to use a verse that was used in the New Testament to refer to Judas, who killed himself, is deplorable.

"Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God," the Apostle Paul notes in Romans 13:1. That doesn't mean we aren't to criticise our leaders when they are wrong -- especially since God has placed us in a free society in which we are given the right -- and duty -- to vote.

"In 1 Tim 2:1-2, it says to pray for those in authority. Paul the apostle was not talking about a believer in authority," a person purporting to be John Piper notes in the comments section of The Christian Science Monitor story.

The comments section also naturally draws people critical of Christians "exposing themselves for what they really are: mean-spirited, self-righteous hypocrites."

That's true of some. The non-mean-spirited Christians aren't jumping on the Psalm 109 bandwagon.

And, as Jesus noted, not everyone who says to him "Lord, Lord" will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Some of them are, as Kierkegaard noted, merely a "Christian of a sort."

So the thing to do, if you believe Obama is evil, is to pray for his salvation.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Will anti-gay stance be fall of Scientology?

Film director Paul Haggis ("Crash"), announced he is quitting the Church of Scientology because it opposes gay marriage.

A spokesman for the religion says that the church does not oppose California's Propostion 8, which would ban same-sex marriages, but that Haggis may have misunderstood a local congregation's announcement.

Comments on the Los Angeles Times site indicate that Haggis may be right, though.

Haggis is correct.
Hubbabard (sic) himself had this to say:
"In any event, any person from 2.0 down on the Tone Scale should not have, in any thinking society, any civil rights of any kind, because by abusing those rights he brings into being arduous and strenuous laws which are oppressive to those who need no such restraints."
L Ron Hubbard
Science of Survival
Yes, gay people are considered to be below 2.0 on the Scientology Tone Scale, so
are people with black, yellow or brown skin.


I believe Haggis' letter already states that he understands that the San Diego chapter didn't represent ALL of Scientology.

His issue was that the "church" had not done enough to discipline the SD chapter, or clearly state that the "church" was not in favor of discrimination. He requested that the "church" do this and waited a long time for the "church" to act.

I think he did a brave thing.


If celebs start to find conflicts in their trendy religion will they dump it?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Conservative Bible might be a liberal translation

Lots of conservative Christians have gotten upset in recent years over attempts to "liberal up" the Bible. Now they've got something else they should be upset about: a Conservative Bible.

The New International Version, which has usurped the King James Version in popularity for at least the past two decades, attempted to put more gender-inclusive language in the text a few years ago. It didn't go over well.

Already words such as "brothers" had been translated "brothers and sisters" and "men" were called "people" when it was clear that both sexes were being represented.

But now the group that brought you Conservapedia as an antidote to Wikipedia is undertaking to translate the Bible with all the liberalism taken out. (They're doing this on the Conservapedia site at

Much like with Wikipedia, men, women, boys and girls can log in, and, if they feel confident in their ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, Latin and Koine Greek, can offer conservative translations of the text.

While I'm biblically conservative myself, I was skeptical of a project to purposefully translate the Bible in a conservative context. I've read several opinion pieces lambasting the idea, usually from people more liberal than myself. Leonard Pitts throws in the ad hominem that Conservapedia intends to "remake Jesus of Nazareth in the image of Dick Cheney." That's unnecessary. There's enough to attack this effort on, even from a conservative point of view, without resorting to cheap shots.

First, why set out to translate the Bible from a conservative point of view? Theological conservatives are typically biblical literalists, so if you truly believe modern translations have been corrupted from a liberal mindset, then you should correct it from the viewpoint of accuracy, not conservatism. (Of course, whether you be conservative, liberal or whatever, you consider your own viewpoint to be The Truth. Problem is, if you are biblically conservative, you also believe yourself to be "sinful," a Greek archery term for "missing the mark." So you're probably wrong about something, hence your need to pray regularly and seek God's guidance.)

But no, the Conservative Bible Project intends to reduce "liberal wordiness" and nine other such principals, a good many of them anti-liberal/pro-conservative rather than anti-error/pro-truth.

They've caught flak from liberals for wanting to get rid of the passage from John about the woman caught in adultery. They have good arguments for deleting it: It isn't in the oldest available manuscripts, and liberals themselves agree on this point. But the conservative Bible project wants it for that reason and because "liberals commonly put their own spin on" it.

Dudes, liberals can put their own spin on anything. And so can conservatives--which is exactly what you are trying to do with this project. The best translators try to overcome bias by using teams that include various points of view, thus reducing the chance of getting a conservative or liberal Bible, but one that is as close to the original texts as possible. The Conservative Bible Project is using only conservatives for it's project, and in fact, is trying to speed the process by having a single person translate each section -- not a team.

I hate to break it to Andrew Schlafly and the rest of the crew at the Conservative Bible Project, but "conservative" means not changing, while "liberal" means advocating some type of change. So, essentially, their Conservative Bible is theological liberalism.

Photo courtesy:

Thursday, October 22, 2009

R. Crumb pens entire comic book of Genesis

Comic book legend R. Crumb has adapted the entire first book of the Pentateuch in his latest release.

For those unfamiliar with his work, he might be best known as the creator of the "Keep on Truckin'" poster from the 1970s that featured a dude with a greatly foreshortened leg and giant foot.

Crumb, who was raised in an atheist household but schooled by nuns, describes himself as a gnostic. He doesn't believe Genesis represents true stories, nor does he believe it to be the Word of God. Still, he has reportedly remained faithful to the story, and has included all 50 chapters.

The book sells for $24.99.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Ave Maria Grotto to dedicate statue of creator

The Ave Maria Grotto in Cullman, Alabama, will dedicate a statue of its creator, Brother Joseph Zoettl. The Benedictine monk created miniatures of famous sites such as St. Peter's in Rome, and the site has become a major tourist attraction at St. Bernard Abbey.

The life-size statue will be unveiled in the grotto on Sunday, October 18 at 2 p.m. The dedication ceremony also will show off the grotto's redesigned gift shop. Admission during today's ceremonies is free.

Read more on the dedication on

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Airlines to charge non-fliers

In an effort to increase revenue major airlines have instituted a no-fly policy in which travelers will be assessed a fee when they choose alternate modes of transportation, an airline industry official announced today.

"More vacationers are choosing to drive their cars," said Tim Terry, president of Sky Craft Reacting Enjoyably With You, "and that means less revenue for the airlines." Still, Terry noted, non-fliers receive benefits from commercial aircraft because the people who do fly cause less congested roadways.

"This has been used by local governments for years," Terry explained. "Non-users of sewer systems are sometimes taxed because they receive a benefit by their being a sewer system in place."

Travelers weren't so happy.

"Well, they've already exhausted all the other ways to stick it to travelers," said frequent flier Phil Durt outside Chicago's O'Hare Airport. "I guess this was the next logical step."

The fees began today, and Terry said that next non-business travelers will be charged when they hold web meetings.

Photo courtesy: / CC BY 2.0

Social cognitive neuroscience is our friend?

"The hard sciences are interpenetrating the social sciences. This isn’t dehumanizing. It shines attention on the things poets have traditionally cared about: the power of human attachments. It may even help policy wonks someday see people as they really are. "

That's how New York Times columnist David Brooks ends his recent column extolling the virtues of social cognitive neuroscience.

I guess it depends on your perspective.

A lot of people would take the news that most of our feelings, beliefs and actions are merely the result of neural firings as quite dehumanizing, indeed. Some scientists have said for generations that the existence of God cannot be proved because he can't be put under a microscope. Trouble was, at the time, neither could his creatures.

Now, it appears, we creatures can be reduced to mere electrical impulses. While I'll not argue against their science, I do find it less than humanizing to say that's all we are. It seems that once you can show something under a microscope, that's all it is. The search for a unified field theory doesn't include philosophy; that's just a hobgoblin we're on the verge of killing with hard science. Microscopes: Real. Ideas: Electricity.

Brooks marvels in his column that the scientists exploring this brave new field are young -- in their 20s and 30s. Whatever happened to the wisdom of age?

Photo courtesy: / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Whatever happened to forfeiting?

"The UAB volleyball match with Marshall has been rescheduled for Nov. 12 at 7 p.m. at Bartow Arena. The match was postponed from last week because several Marshall players (were) ill," reports The Birmingham News.

Because several players were ill? Didn't we used to forfeit a game if for any reason we couldn't play? Should the Florida Gators reschedule all their football games until they're certain their star quarterback Tim Tebow is fully recovered from his concussion? Maybe Republicans should demand a new presidential election because they didn't have an adequate candidate.

Jon and Kate should just declare a do-over. Wait, they already did.

Life ain't fair, we used to be told, so you just have to live with the results. But more and more someone will ensure life is fair and the playing field is leveled. I hate to tell the Marshall volleyball team, but Mommy, Daddy and the athletic director won't be able to secure their second chances throughout their lives, so enjoy it while it lasts.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

In case you didn't know why we celebrate July 4th

In-depth reporting uncovers the truth behind why we celebrate the 4th of July. Now, this is according the the Library of Congress, so if it isn't true, we apologize. My only question is why you'd need a Second Continual Congress if you already had one Continual Congress.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

My 25 years as a Christian

I became a Christian 25 years ago this month. I had not, at that point, given much thought to my fellow human being. Being 19 years old and self-absorbed, I was more concerned with my own welfare than that of anyone else.

My conversion quickly changed my view of humanity. I feared that most of those I loved, not to mention those I didn’t even know, were bound for eternal damnation, and so there was an urgency in my soul to do whatever necessary to convince them of their need for Christ’s salvation.

But in the past few years I’ve become a misanthrope. I don’t know why this is. Perhaps it’s because I’ve let my spiritual life slip. My early days of Christianity were spent in hours a day of prayer and Bible reading. Most days now pass with little thought to either.

What’s turned me so cold? I can’t blame anyone but myself, but outside influences have their effect. Right after my conversion I gave up all secular pursuits except for college – and before I’d had time to graduate I gave that up too.

A few years in I started listening to classic rock on the radio and watching TV Land, but still shunned any current entertainment. By the ‘90s I was watching "Seinfeld" and listening to Kurt Cobain. Still, I read my Bible and prayed daily. I even entered Bible college.

But Bible college may have begun my undoing. It wasn’t that they were teaching me to abandon my faith, but with working a full-time job and studying for class and seeking a wife (I was in my 30s), I had little time to dedicate to my former Scripture reading and prayer. I determined I’d take it back up between semesters. But I didn’t.

Now, years past Bible college, I still don’t. I’m still at church every Sunday, but my passion lacks. In some churches I see accommodation. I have no problem with trying to reach people through new methods, but one of those methods shouldn’t be leaving out any part of the message that offends. Other churches are either not accommodating enough or they cling to ideas that drive people away. I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s no home for me.

I don’t wish to wallow among the ungodly either. They’ve become more and more brazen in their spitting in the face of the holy.

I actually attend two churches currently: The one I grew up in, which is formal, but doesn’t compromise the gospel, and one which I’ve found that has a contemporary service, but still embraces tradition. I like both these churches, so please don’t get the idea from two paragraphs up that I don’t like them. I was speaking generally, and I’m sure there are many churches I’d feel comfortable in. I wrote those words several days before I penned this paragraph, and was in certain mood then that I’m not in today. Still, I’d like the words to stand unedited.

I’m trying to work God back into my life, but I’m doing so amid trying to work physical exercise back into my life and trying to become a better (newlywed) husband, better son, better pet owner, etc. And I’m trying to figure out ways to make extra money in a down economy – especially considering that I work in the newspaper business – a shrinking industry.

So pray for me if you are of the mind. Encourage me if you can. And I’ll do my best to do the same for you.

My quarter-century of walking with Christ has had its ups and downs, but overall it is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I entered this new life a few months before turning 20 assuming I had three choices: suicide, insanity or Christian conversion. Assuming I was teetering on the edge of the first two I reasoned I could try giving myself to God first. If that didn’t work out I could try insanity, and if that didn’t work, try death. After all, if death were a mistake I couldn’t undo it. Maybe I could come back from insanity, but maybe not. I could always give up Jesus if he didn’t cure my problems.

I’m happy to say that after all these years he still does. Even when I feel I’ve failed him.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Budgeting your household the easy way

Here's a picture of my budget I keep in my wallet. It's not as complicated as it looks, but it does keep me from overspending.

There are all sorts of methods that work for different people. Dave Ramsey and others recommend the envelope system, in which you put the money for each category into its own envelope. You can only spend money for food, for instance, from the envelope marked Food.

My system is somewhat like the envelope system, except that I keep all my money in my wallet. The multiple envelopes might work if you carry a purse, but I don't, so trying to stuff envelopes in my pants pocket isn't going to work.

Rather than using envelopes, I just write down on a piece of paper how much money I have in each category and when I spend $24.93 on a shirt I subtract $24.93 from Clothes. (If you don't have at least $24.93 in your Clothes budget, you can't buy the shirt.)

But first, you have to determine how much money you'll put into each category. Lots of books and websites will give you about the same percentages, but I've found the best source to be the online budget calculator at Crown Financial Ministries. This calculator takes your income into consideration and bases the percentages on how much you can afford to spend on the fun stuff after the necessities have been taken care of.

First, enter your annual gross income, then enter how much tax is taken out. Since this site is a Christian ministry, there is a line for you to enter how much you'll give as a church offering, but if you don't contribute to a church you can enter any charitable gifts you do give or enter zero.

Once you've entered those three fields, the calculator will tell you how much money should be in each budget both annually and monthly. My only complaint with this calculator is that it doesn't give you weekly or bi-weekly amounts, and that's how most people get paid. I get a weekly check, so I just divide the annual amount by 52. If you're paid every two weeks, divide it by 26.

Next, take a blank piece of paper and write across the top all the categories you'll be spending (not saving or paying bills with). They should be: Food Auto Entertainment Clothes Tithe Medical Miscellaneous

Now, put whatever amounts the budget tells you underneath. (Some of these might get adjusted in a minute.) I put the weekly amount in a box, then write the amount I have underneath. Every time I get a paycheck I add the amount in the box to the total, and every time I spend from that category I subtract it. To the penny.

I'm an extremely late adopter and pay with cash whenever possible. One good thing about this is that you can watch the money leave your wallet and that makes it easier to not spend. But even if you do everything by credit or debit card you still can keep the list and subtract as soon as you buy, not when the credit card bill comes. Using cash, I'm able to reconcile any mistakes I've made by counting my money, then adding up all the categories on my piece of paper the day before every paycheck. Using credit cards, your budget might get skewed if you do some bad math or forget to record a purchase. Over time, this can get you way out of whack.

The money that goes into Housing, Insurance, Savings, Investments and Debt, should go into your bank account. Savings should go into an account that earns interest, though you should keep about $1,000 in your checking account for emergencies. Investments should go into interest-bearing accounts, too, and should be untouchable, as it is intended for your retirement. (If you have a 401k deducted from your paycheck, whatever comes out of it that is your contribution and not the company's match should be considered a portion of this category. Say you've got $20 in your Investments budget, and pay $17 into the 401k, you still have $3 to put into the bank.)

Regular bills
Now that you've got your budget in order it's time to tally up your bills.

Get a second piece of paper and list everything you pay on a regular basis: your utilities, Internet, cable or satellite and mortgage or rent. These aren't just monthly bills; put down your car insurance or anything else that is paid quarterly, bi-annually or annually. (Anything that isn't paid monthly should be converted to its monthly equivalent on your list.)

Add them up and you have your monthly expenses. Next, multiply that by 12 to get the annual number and divide it by however many paychecks you get per year, 52 or 26. (If you are paid monthly you already have the right number, so don't do anything.) This number is how much you have to deposit into whatever account you pay your bills from. If any bills change significantly from month to month you can either recalibrate when they change, or get the average from the last 12 months.

Making corrections
I said earlier you'd have to make some fixes to that original piece of paper. Here's how you do:

Things like cable TV come out of your entertainment budget, but you've calculated them in your monthly bill list. Go through that list and find things that belong on the other budget and subtract them. For a $60 a month cable bill, multiply by 12, then divide it by your number of paychecks if it's 52 or 26 and subtract that much from Entertainment. Do that for everything on the list and for things deducted from your paycheck.

You've already handled the 401k contribution on your paycheck, but look at any part of your health insurance that you pay and deduct that from Medical and take any parking fees from Auto.

That should have you set. Just add bonuses or overtime to Miscellaneous.

Did I say this was the easy way? It may not seem easy, but it's far better than spending beyond your means.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Chuck Norris on Obama's top 'faith moments'

U.S. News and World Report reported it, but Chuck says most aren't "faith moments" at all.

Horoscopes that don't foretell

Here at The Daily Planet we have to edit standing features days in advance. Today, we got a week's worth of horoscopes.

Any seer worth her salt ought to be able to send us horoscope columns two, three years in advance. Now, that'd be worth reading.

At a previous paper where I was wire editor/page designer/headline writer/page proofer all the horoscopes began "Born today, ..." then said something about the person born on that day. We wrote a headline, "Born today, you are bright and industrious" or whatever.

I always hoped for the day the copy read: "Born today, you aren't gullible, or easily taken in by charlatans." My headline would have been: "Born today, you weren't born yesterday."

Alas, it never happened. I guess that's because those people are reading their horoscopes.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Identity withheld -- or is it?

Today's Remlap Reader's lead story is that of a woman found dead in her car in a Walmart parking lot. The story says her identity is being withheld pending notification of her family, yet she's described as in her 40s, and a police spokesman notes that her family reported her missing on Saturday. Further, her vehicle is both described and shown in a photograph. Hmmm. Reckon her family can figure out who she is?

When words don't mean what they mean

"If you patronize a store it's a good thing, but if you patronize a person it's bad," I said to my fellow copy editor.

He's long wanted to know how "manipulate" got a bad rap. Clearly, one can manipulate an engine to get it to run. If nobody manipulated anything nothing would ever get done.

"Every Friday when they give me a paycheck it manipulates me to keep coming back to work," I said.

"I've given up trying to understand the language," he said. "I just keep trying to fix it."

Monday, May 4, 2009

Where did the caboose go?

I don't know when I noticed that freight trains no longer had a caboose, but the end of the end-of-the-train has me cross.

This info is all from Wikipedia, so take it for what it's worth, but apparently railroads were required to put a caboose on every freight train, for safety reasons, until the 1980s. To save money, the railroads argued that they could put a device on the last car that would monitor conditions and warn other trains of it's presence.

Well, there you have it: A machine beats man. John Henry must be turning over in his grave. (I mean the John Henry of streel-driving legend, not the John Henry of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles fame. Although he might be miffed, too, considering the season-ending episode where we find out he's a machine on the side of humanity.)

It's impersonal is what it is. I live near a train track and have to cross it whenever I want to buy gas, pharmaceuticals or groceries. And clothes or books, too. And it never fails that no matter what time I walk out the door I hear a train whistle.

If I'm going to have to wait on a train it would be nice to at least see a human face at the end of it.

(Photo by Sean Lamb -- Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 License.)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Outside Looking In - News about Alabama

Today's "Outside Looking In" looks at what The New York Times and Wall Street Journal have to say about Alabama. There's change (and not), Jewish scholars at black colleges and why Sun Ra had an "Arkestra."

People leaving church just because they lose interest, Pew poll says

A Pew Forum study shows that people don't leave church because they get mad, say for pedophilia in the clergy, or for doctrine. They just lose interest and drift away.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Robber wallet will prevent theft

Among the many things my friends make fun of me for is the fact that I carry a "robber wallet."

This is a second wallet that has a small amount of cash in it that I can fork over to a robber should, heaven forbid, I ever am faced with the situation.

I started this practice when I began working night-shift in a city. (I'd lived and worked only in small towns before that.)

The practice is pretty simple: All you do is buy a new wallet, then put your old one in your other back pocket. Put a few small bills in it, then save the fake credit cards they send you in Visa or MasterCard offers and stick them in there to make it look more realistic. (You'll have to change these out every so often as they are generally cardboard and will start to wear out. And make sure they say "Your Name Here" and don't actually have your name or personal info on them.)

One of the things I'm mocked on is that, in my fear of the robber, I'll forget and give him my real wallet. That's possible, but those of you without robber wallets have a 100 percent chance of giving up everything in your billfold. I at least have a chance of not doing it.

The only bad part of carrying a robber wallet is that once you start you can't ever stop. If you say to yourself, "This is a safe place," and leave it at home that might be the very moment you get robbed, and you'll kick yourself for the rest of your life.

Not being a woman, I can't advise on this for the opposite sex. I suppose thieves want to grab the whole purse and not just a wallet. Maybe a purse-carrier can advise me on this.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Don't hate the homosexual

Jonathan Merritt has an excellent op-ed on how Christians have dropped the ball on dealing with gay people. Read it at USA Today.

Read Merritt's blog here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Farmland for rent in Cullman, Alabama

I have about 50 acres of land from my family's old farm in Cullman, Alabama that is going to waste. 20 acres were farmed in the past, but trees have grown up on some of it. About 10 acres is usable for planting, and there are about 30 acres for grazing. I'd happily work out a deal if you want to clear off the overgrowth.

E-mail owentew (at)

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Lee Majors at film festival

Exactly one month ago I noted that I had seen my first lecture by someone whom I'd once owned an action figure of. Little did I know that four weeks later I'd see my second.

The first was Leonard Nimoy, in Birmingham to promote his photography. Tonight it was Lee Majors at the Lindsey UNA Film Festival in Florence, Ala. Not until I noticed a woman in the audience with an old "Six Million Dollar Man" action figure did it strike me: I owned the same one as a child.

Alas, my old Spock and Steve Austin are long gone. No chance to get them autographed.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Rance Howard at Lindsey UNA Film Festival

I've directed Rance Howard.

Not like lots of well known Hollywood directors, among them his son, Ron, have, but I'll always say I've directed him nonetheless. I directed him to pose for this photo for posting on He was the nicest guy you'd ever meet. He would have said OK had I just been a fanboy without press credentials.

So, all you Rance Howard fanboys, don't be afraid to ask.

One blogging note: McDonald's claims to have free Wi-Fi access, but only allows you onto their access site, then you have to pony up to play. I jacked somebody's signal to post. Sorry, somebody. And one more reason for me to hate on McD's.

At the Lindsey UNA Film Festival

I'm crossing paths with Lynyrd Skynyrd and their Swampers this week; I drove right by Muscle Shoals Sound studios on my way to the film festival named and sponsored by George Lindsey, best known as Goober Pyle on "The Andy Griffith Show."

The festival is located in the Quad Cities in Northwest Alabama, and if you don't know your way around them the "not to scale" map they provide is a challenge.

Still, panel discussions and the films themselves are encouraging to any artist, including myself a writer/photographer/editor.

Read more about my experiences at the Lindsey UNA Film Festival on

Friday, February 6, 2009

Leonard Nimoy on photography -- and more -- at UAB

My wife and I just enjoyed a lecture by Leonard Nimoy on his photography at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where his series the Full Body Project currently is on display.
Nimoy explained that his love affair with photography began as a child when he began tinkering with the family camera. He not only shot images, but soon learned to develop the film in a darkened bathroom -- and was even able to use the same bellowed camera he shot photos with as an enlarger.

After starring in Star Trek and Mission: Impossible, Nimoy decided in the early 1970s to study photography and began shooting artistic images, often near movie sets where he was working. But while these images were good, they were something that anyone with similar talent who happened to be at the same place at the same time could have shot. He wanted to do something that had meaning to himself specifically.

He began shooting the nude female form because it is appealing, he said, and "I like women!" At first using available light, he later moved to studio lighting so he wouldn't be at the mercy of the weather.

Nimoy's next stage became The Shekhina Project. At age 8 he had attended a synagogue service in which his father had advised him, "Don't look." There was no explanation why, but the young Leonard complied -- as long as he could. When he opened his eyes he saw men at the front of the synagogue with prayer shawls covering their heads and with both hands extended with the thumbs separated and a V formed with the remaining fingers, two on each side together. He wasn't supposed to look because God's shekhina glory was supposed to be in the room, and looking upon it could kill him.

"I didn't die," Nimoy said.

When the episode of Star Trek was shot where Spock returned to his home planet Vulcan to marry, Nimoy decided there should be some form of greeting between people of the planet, much as many of European descent shake hands or as Asians bow. He convinced the director to use the symbol he'd seen in the synagogue many years before, though he didn't explain it to anyone at the time. But Nimoy had learned that it was supposed to resemble the Hebrew letter shin -- שׂ -- which begins the words shalom (peace), shaddai (a name for God) and shekhina (a feminine word for the manifestation of God's glory). The hand symbol quickly became a part of popular culture and the phrase "Live long and prosper" was added, a reference to the passage from Deuteronomy 5:33: "You shall walk in all the way which the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you will possess." (NASB)

When Nimoy began his Shekhina photography project he started shooting hands making the shin symbol. Later, he brought in his female form work, noting the feminine nature of shekhnia. (arm bindings containing Scriptures which normally are worn by men). His work included having female models wear phylacteries. The sensuality combined with religion disturbs some, but Nimoy advises people with such concerns to take the same advice his father gave him in temple: "Don't look."

At a showing of his work for a small group of people, Nimoy was approached by a woman who identified herself as a model, though not typically one he would shoot: She was obese. After checking with his wife and remembering the advice of a mentor, "Do what scares you," Nimoy shot several photos of the woman. This led to the Full Body Project, in which Nimoy has shot a group of full-figured women nude in takes on classic works with smaller models.

Currently, Nimoy is finishing a project in which he shot people as their secret selves. The exhibit, which will combine video and still photography, will debut at a Massachusetts gallery.

Though people seem to think it impolite to bring up Nimoy's Spock character, he seemed quite proud of it -- not many people can say they've become so ingrained in pop culture. He began the evening reading an article on Birmingham's own statue of Vulcan, the god of the forge, and ended with the Vulcan hand gesture and the greeting, "Live long and prosper."

Nimoy's early work was good, but, as he said, was more craft than art. His later stuff is better, but I'm one of the one's inclined to not look at the Shekhina project. The Full Body Project bothers me for lack of original idea. One of two takeoffs of other works is fine, but he goes on and on.

Still, his talk was inspiring. I had forgotten his one-person Vincent on an early incantation of A&E when I was about 16, was one of the first performances, if not the very first, that had moved me and made me want to be an artist.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Guy Hunt

Former Alabama Gov. Guy Hunt died today after a long bout with lung cancer. Hunt was a Primitive Baptist preacher, Amway salesman and county probate judge before being elected the first Republican governor in Alabama since Reconstruction in the late 1980s. Hunt's election brought a two-party system to state politics after he was swept into office amid Democratic infighting. He'd been a darkhorse candidate for several prior elections. I shot this picture during his re-election bid, which he won, only to be ousted on an ethics scandal. The wind began blowing the flag over the governor's face during former President Ronald Reagan's speech, making the perfect shot, as Hunt was figuratively wrapping himself in the flag by having Reagan campaign for him.

Here's a shot of me preparing to take the previous pix:

Monday, January 5, 2009

Traducianism vs. Creationism

Of the theories on the origin of the human soul, only two appear compatible with evangelical theology: creationism and traducianism. Creationism asserts that each soul is created by God ex nihilo, or out of nothing, while traducianism puts forth that the soul is passed down through the parents the same as is the body (Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Walter A. Elwell, pp. 1037, 1106). Each theory has its strengths and weaknesses as well as its adherents among noted theologians.

Creationism, followed by Aristotle, Jerome, Pelagius, John Calvin, modern Roman Catholicism and Reformed theologians, says that each individual soul is created immediately (by his direct hand, without using outside help) by God and is placed in the body at conception or soon afterward (Theologia, David H. Wietzke). The material body is passed down through generations by the parents, but the soul is created by God and placed in the body. The Genesis account of creation states that the body was taken from the earth, while the spirit came directly from God. "This distinction is kept up throughout the Bible, where body and soul are not only represented as different substances, but also as having different origins," says L. Berkhof in his Systematic Theology (p. 199).

Scriptures commonly used to back the creationist view include: "The dust (body) will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it." (Ecc. 12:7); "O God, God of the spirits of all flesh." (Num. 16:22); "Thus says God … who gives breath to the people on (the earth) and spirit to whose who walk in it." (Isa. 42:5); The Lord "forms the spirit of man within him." (Zech. 12:1).

This view boasts many strengths. Wayne Grudem points to Psalm 127:3 ("Sons are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.") as an indication that the entire person, both soul and body, are a creation of God and can therefore not be attributed to the parents alone. (Systematic Theology, pp. 484, 485.) Berkhof (p.199) points out that creationism prevents a division of the soul, which he says traducianism requires. Also, he says, it prevents the conclusion that Christ shared in the guilt of Adam’s sin. Had Christ’s soul been imparted from parent to child since Adam, Christ would have inherited original sin.

These arguments notwithstanding, creationism also has its weaknesses. Augustus H. Strong in Systematic Theology (p. 493) argues that the theory makes God the author of evil since he would be creating a sinless soul and forcing it to become corrupt by uniting it to a fallen body. Berkhof (p. 200) points out that it might be said creationism "ascribes to the beast nobler powers of propagation than to man" since animals reproduce after their kind, but man needs God to reproduce the spiritual portion of himself. Further, says Berkhof, it ignores the fact that God now works through secondary causes. But he notes that the objection isn’t very serious to those who don’t hold a deistic worldview. Finally, William G.T. Shedd in Dogmatic Theology (Vol. 2, p. 28) says, "The few texts that are quoted in favor of creationism are as easily applicable to traducianism." (e.g. Isa. 57:16, "The souls which I have made." There is no distinction between soul and body proved.)

The strongest objection appears to be that of God creating sinless souls that are forced to sin. Roman Catholics believe man is no longer created in the image of God, but receives this gift, so the objection for them becomes moot. (Wietzke, Cornelius Jaarsma, A Christian Theory of the Person). For Reformed theologians, this is a more difficult objection to answer. Certain passages, such as the Heb. 7:10 reference to Levi in the body of Abraham paying the tithe to Melchizedek, would probably be ascribed to metaphorical language. (Wietzke.)

Traducianism, followed by Tertullian, Martin Luther, the Eastern Church and some Reformed theologians such as Strong, asserts that since man reproduces after his kind, the soul is part of that which is procreated along with the body. While God is the Creator of the individual soul, this creation is mediate – it is done through secondary means (Elwell p.1106). God created for six days, then rested from his work of creating on the seventh day and has been at rest since. Scripture says that God breathed the breath of life into Adam, giving him a soul, but no mention is made of God giving a soul to Eve or any human descendant thereafter (Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, p. 254). And Heb. 7:10 credits Levi with paying a tithe to Melchizedek because, though unborn, he was in the body of his ancestor Abraham (Wietzke).

Scriptures cited by traducianists include "(God) rested on the seventh day from all His work which God had created and made" (Gen. 2:2); "(Levi) was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him." (Heb. 7:10); "For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man." (1 Cor. 11:8).

The traducianist position makes for a simpler understanding of how Adam’s descendants are culpable for original sin. Perhaps the creationists are correct that the corrupt nature is imputed because of Adam’s federal headship, and thereby a representative of humanity as a whole. But if this assumption is incorrect, it may be difficult to explain why this imputation is fair. It may be argued that imputation of sin is no less fair than imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the Christian since neither is deserved. But for those who cannot conceive of a God who declares rational beings corrupt before they have done good or bad, traducianism is the only logical choice since it says the soul is passed down from sinful parents. And an Arminian could argue further that there is indeed a difference between imputation of sin and imputation of righteousness since no human ever chose to be born, but some have chosen to be "born again," thus doing something to receive the reward of imputed righteousness.

Tertullian was said to have argued that "our first parent bore within him the undeveloped germ of all mankind." (Shedd, p. 7) This might be looked at the same as a single-cell zygote that divides into two cells, then into four, etc., until something more resembling a human being develops. The single cell was the complete human at that time, although some years later it became a fully mature person. Adam (the male and female together) was complete humanity at the moment of original sin. Through procreation, humanity has since come to encompass millions more persons, just as the zygote divided cells. I am of Adam just as I am of a single-cell zygote. And if my body is of Adam, why not my soul? As a result, Shedd says (p.14), Adam’s posterity "sinned the first sin being seminally existent and present."

Hodge (p.255) notes that one of the strongest arguments in favor of traducianism is the fact that "ethnical, national, family and even parental peculiarities of mind and temper" are transmitted to children. This would point to a derivation not only of body, says Hodge, but also of soul. This argument, however, also leads to one of the strongest objections to this theory.

Creationists say that if the traducianist view is valid, then the soul of one or both parents must give of part of itself. Says Berkhof (p.198), one of three theories must be used to avoid this problem: (a) the soul of the child had a previous existence; (b) the soul of the child is potentially present in the seed of the mother and/or father, which equates to materialism; or (c) the soul is created in some way by the parents, making them creators. Further, Christ, if fully human, would have inherited original sin through Mary since he would have obtained his soul through her. Perhaps God created a special human soul for Christ, but that would make him of a different human race than the rest of humanity, negating his ability to redeem the fallen (Wietzke).

But one or both of the parents giving part of their soul to create the new one isn't really necessary any more than one or both parents give part of their body to create a new one. Certainly, the father contributes semen and the mother contributes an egg, but these are in their bodies, not part of them.

As to the objection of soul division, one needs only look to the animal world. A starfish, for example, can be cut into five equal parts and each part will regenerate a completely new starfish (Lynda Harding, California State at Fresno, Asexual Reproduction) An animal that previously possessed one spirit or consciousness now possesses five. While a starfish is not a human able to know or reject God, it is certainly not a plant and so it has consciousness. It may be impossible to fathom that a single thinking entity, no matter how primitive, could become five distinct entities, yet this is the case with the starfish. Is the consciousness of this animal divided or are four new ones created? It is impossible to know, but by whichever means, it does happen.

As to Christ inheriting original sin through Mary: Following traducianism’s linkage of the body and soul, it is possible that no human inherits sin through his mother’s soul any more than he inherits mitochondrial DNA from his father. Mitochondria are life-giving organelles that power every organ of the body (Charles Pellegrino, Return to Sodom and Gomorrah, p.67) but they are passed down only through the mother. In the same fashion, only the father can pass down the Y chromosome. Is it possible that only the father can pass down the corrupted nature? If so, why wouldn’t the mother contribute, being fallen herself?

If the body and soul are indeed linked, one might consider the difference between the male and female gametes. A female is born with every egg she will ever possess*, but the male produces sperm throughout his lifetime. So sperm is perpetually produced inside a corrupted body, but the ovum might theoretically be traced back to Eve before she committed original sin. If the ovum is considered uncorrupted then a supernatural fertilization from the Holy Spirit would produce a sinless person who also shared in our same humanity.

Another objection to traducianism is that it asserts that God only acts mediately, or through secondary causes, since the original act of creation (Berkhof, p. 198). While this may be the position of some traducianists, it is not an ironclad rule. God could possibly create souls through secondary means yet still create other things immediately. One does not imply the other.

In the end, traducianists seem to have the more solid arguments, though there is no absolute biblical proof for either side. Realizing this, it is best to agree with Augustine that this subject, while intriguing, should not be overemphasized. Rather, all should agree that the soul’s "proper abode" and "homeland" is with God (Elwell p. 1037).

*Research in 2004 challenged this assertion, but later research affirmed it.

(See this article in Portuguese.)

Sunday, January 4, 2009

A new day, a new blog for Owen Tew

With the demise of Journalspace, I've moved what I could here to Blogspot.

The Owen Tew online adventure began in 1997 with "Et Tu?" by Owen Tew on But I guess the real beginning was a religion column I wrote for my hometown newspaper after spending time as a reporter and wire editor there.

At the next newspaper I worked for I wrote occasional columns, some of them with a religious bent, and I also edited the Religion section, writing most of the local religion stories.

I pitched a religion column at the third paper I worked for, but the editor nixed it, so I tried syndicating, without success.

Then the Internet came along. Averse to technology, I bought a computer with the sole purpose of writing my column on the Web. It was a used 486 with a 28.8K modem, but it got the job done, albeit slowly.

I bought my own domain name and started to work away. I had chosen the pen name Owen Tew. (As a teenager I had wanted a cool nom de plume like Sam Celemens had with Mark Twain and found it when I heard baseball announcer Vin Scully say "the count is 0 and 2.")

I wanted to spell it Owen Tu, but was harassed by friends into changing the spelling since I'm not Asian. I argued that I am 1/16th Cherokee but with my pale skin and formerly bright red hair don't look it, so I could just as easily be 1/16th Chinese. They didn't buy it.

To make sure people knew how to pronounce it (It isn't TYOO.) I came up with "Et Tu?" by Owen Tew.

I ended up writing Owen as a fictional character who was a newspaper reporter five years younger than I was. (That made me able to be slightly wiser than him.) He had a girlfriend named Holly Gooden and a best friend he'd held on to too long named Tim Terry. Phil Durt became his friend after Owen covered a protest Phil led. Oh, and the next-door-neighbor temptress was Kate Forney.

I also wrote commentary on the site, but eventually decided I'd need to blog once that became popular. I moved some of the better stuff over to the blog site.

I tried several blog sites, including Blogspot, but couldn't figure out how any of them worked. Journalspace, on the other hand, was easy, so that became the new home of Owen Tew. The other characters faded, though I'd mention them as fake inspirations or tempters from time to time. And Phil Durt and Tim Terry would leave comments on my postings.

I made lots of e-friends on Journalspace, and, most importanly, met my wife there. That's the saddest part of it being gone.

Now that the incompetent owner of Journalspace has let all his data be lost, I've grabbed the best stuff out of the Google cache that I can. (Obviously, Blogspot has gotten easier to use.) I can't find the traducianism vs. creationism article either there or on the Internet Archive of I do have it on a hard drive backup, though, and on actual paper, as it was written for a college class. That article was cited in at least one post-graduate paper and on other Web sites debating traducianism, so I'll work on getting it back on the Web soon.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Sarah Connor Chronicles -- My own worst enemy

October 20, 2008 | At: 9:02 PM
I don't know who Denise The' is, but I wish she'd write more episodes. This is the best one yet, and I had my notebook out all ready to skewer. Go figure.

Still, there was the obligatory shot of the RAM logo on the side of the truck that sponsors the show. What will future generations think when they watch these on whatever replaces whatever replaces Hi-Def DVD/Blu-Ray? "What's with all the shots of the truck's name? Is it some kind of symbolism?" Yeah, that's what you want viewers thinking -- that "dodge" is something the heroes are going to do.

Of course, it did pay off that John dodged that bullet -- literally -- else who would have saved the world from Skynet? Of course it came from his own gun he was cleaning (or was he?). Anyway, he's doing the same thing with his life. In the flashback he got all bent out of shape that Mommy forgot his birthday that they sent the robot out to get him a cake -- just then, a bad guy comes in to steal "some computer stuff" and it woulda been real handy to have a super-strong killer 'bot at about that time. Good going, selfish John. You're supposed to be The One -- like Neo or Superman or, say wasn't there some other man who was supposed to save all humanity?

Then there's the fact that if they'd left the psychiatrist alone he would've gotten killed and been unable to help Skynet "grow up." Why does Skynet need to create itself when it appears John's doing a pretty good job creating it himself?

And how 'bout that red-haired Irish bot? She's learning to be a better mother than human Sarah. That's gotta be a kick in the teeth.

Well, despite the good writing, this episode still had its moments.

First, there's the fact that nobody worried about the near-grown man tying the shoe of the unattended little girl. In the real world somebody would have screamed, "Pedophile!" -- especially with that "squirrel in the tree" line. Apparently Sarah, terrible mother that she is, still managed to have a little fun teaching John to tie his shoesies. Guess you can't save humanity if you're tripping over your Bruno Maglis.

Anyhoo, good luck for John that his head was turned away right up to the split second the red-haired Irish robot walked away.

Who was the mouse-faced 'bot with the frizzy hair they sent back this time? Did Skynet finally run-out of supermodel 'bots? Or was this the only actor the producers could find who was a contortionist? And I want to know why they don't just send back the super-duper models that can shape-shift, like Miss Red Hair? Shouldn't they always send back their top-of-the-liners? You're trying to KILL JOHN CONNER for crying out loud!

Meanwhile, Brian Austin Greene's old love interest has come from the future because she misses him and needs a break. So does he, so they wrinkle the sheets, and she wants him to come up with a new word for what they just did. Common decency prevents me from helping him.

All the while they were whatever-ing, he never noticed the pile of 8x10 glossies of spy shots of him and the Conner clan right beside the bed. After BAG goes to tinkle, she slides them under the bed. Whatever happened to the cigarette as an after-_____ing treat? 'Cause maybe ROBOTS CAN'T SMOKE!

Well, there'll be no new episodes for two weeks. And there was a skip last week, too. Maybe that's what they need for the good-writin'. Just skip every other week, dudes. The all-new Dodge Ram pickup will wait. It's got super-powers!

Sarah Connor Chronicles: Product placement and the Bedell you know

October 6, 2008 | At: 11:50 PM
John Connor & Co. fight the machines with The All-New Dodge Ram pickups. Writers say, "We went on strike for this?"

Turns out there are exactly three Martin Bedells in the neighborhood: One to get killed by a Terminator robot and make the news, thus alerting the good guys to the trouble; one to be a little boy to further the ongoing story of developing Sarah's parenting skills; and one to be the right one the Terminator is trying to kill and prevent a future victory by the humans.

When will the robots figure out they never succeed in killing people in the past? They should focus on the battles in (their) present. And why do they keep sending back those old-school Schwarzenegger models that are far easier to kill than the ones that morph? Garbage in, garbage out, I guess.

When J.C. and his disciples want to check to see how many Martin Bedells might be in trouble they pull out the phone book since that's what super-intelligent machines from the future would do. Lucky for the machines, the one they are looking for is listed even though he's he's a teenager in a military academy. Even if they do let him have a cell phone at the military academy, he ain't in the White Pages.

And neither is the 10-year-old kid Sarah rescues just as bullets fly through the front door. Somehow she gets inside his locked house without notice, but the robot that could walk right through the wall has to resort to ringing the doorbell. (At first I'm thinking he's Martin Jr. and his dad's in the book, but then the 'bot doesn't try to kill daddy, so I guess not.)

John and his uncle Brian Austin Green open the tailgait of the an All-New Dodge Ram pickup then get inside the cab where they take advantage of the built-in navigation system. (Win yours today!) John is enrolled as a student, where he'll help protect the only important Martin Bedell, and the commander of the joint takes one look at the dishevelled uncle and realizes he's perfect as a fill-in instructor for the next week as he awaits a new teacher. No need to shave once you punch the time clock either. What do you think this is, a military academy?

Take two steps closer to that razor?

Side Note: Why is John Connor always conveniently absent from the flash-forwards?

The military academy has a seamstress on duty 24/7, so John and Brian Austin Green both have their fake last name "Baum" sewed onto their uniforms by breakfast. The idiot who makes a crack to the war vet Brian Austin Green about how many cool kills he has has "Pyle" sewed onto his uniform. You think they'd have stopped taking anyone from this family after Gomer.

In another story, the FBI dick is probing the meltdown at the power plant that we were reminded of in the "Previously on The Sarah Chronicles" section of the program, as well as in a passing reference in the script. The local barkeep looks likes he's been partaking too much of the product himself, but it just so happens he remembers a hot chick talking to the power plant employee who took the blame for the meltdown the night before the accident. Oh, yeah, and he also just happens to remember somebody was having a birthday party that night. Oh, yeah, and there just happen to be pictures from the party all over the bulletin board positioned right here where we don't need to move the camera or re-set the lights.

Hmmm. Let's see .... nothing, nothing nothing. Wait, who's that in the very last photo, way back in the back and just barely in the frame? Normally, she wouldn't be in focus or adequately lighted by the point-and-shoot camera's flash, but there she is: Sarah Connor.

Back to the domesticity of the Connor hideout: Good robot Cameron is making a PBJ for the 10-year-old Martin Bedell they're hiding. Neither Smucker's nor Jiff brought you this episode with limited interuption, so all we see of either jar is the Nutritional Information panel.

The 10-year-old is more worried about not doing his book report than he is about being killed, so Sarah goes through the books in the house they're summering in. "The Wizard of Oz." Perfect, Sarah says. It's her son's favorite. Oh, that's why he and Brian Austin Green have "Baum" sewn onto their uniforms.

As Sarah reads the scary story to the boy, J.C. and the whole Hee-Haw gang are fighting the Terminator sent for the military academy Martin Bedell and shot-for-shot it lines up to Dorothy and her three pals as if it were a Pink Floyd album. But really, is this story of a girl "about your age" who's life is in peril the right reading material for a boy who's been shot at and is in hiding?

Meanwhile, John and Brian Austin Green melt the bad robot in the La Brea Tar Pits as Cameron somehow witnesses this. See, sister, that's what they've got in store for the likes of you. They don't care that when you grow up you want to be a real girl.

With the bad 'bot taken to the local recycling facility for carbon credits, Sarah releases the child back into the wild, directing him to the only pay phone left in Los Angeles.

The All-New Dodge Ram Challenge!
And ... scene.

Sarah Connor Chronicles: Indestructible Watermelons, emoting robots

September 30, 2008 | At: 2:11 AM
Being neo-Amish and a hater of technology, I'm naturally a "Terminator" fan. Kill the machines before they kill us. Stop Skynet now.

I like this season better than last, though I couldn't understand why all of Cameron's flesh wasn't burned off in the season premiere except that the script didn't allow time for her to regenerate the flesh before storming back into the house. And speaking of that, why was the entire opening scene in strobe effect except for shots of Cameron leaving the car and walking into the house? Clearly, she was supposed to be strobed, too, but her limp wouldn't have been detectable.

Skipping last week's episode, because I don't remember anything to criticize, let's move on to this week:

Cameron spaces out for a reason that isn't technologically explained and "remembers" being a human being in the future named Allison. She's been sent grocery shopping by future human resistance leader John Connor because what else do you do with a robot from the future who has already short-circuited once recently and tried to kill you? Why not see if she can use her reprogrammed human killing software to select food products that she doesn't eat all the while coming in close proximity to bar-code scanners.

Am I Judas? Note the red apple of temptation and the red "Judas Iscariot" hair on the fellow shopper.

But the infrared scanner doesn't get her; the actual bar-code does. It triggers a false memory that causes her to examine a Red Delicious apple, bringing up symbolism of the Forbidden Fruit perhaps. Perhaps, but again, no technological, nor emotional, explanation. And emote is what Cameron does next. She zones out and knocks over half a watermelon display, though not one watermelon splatters open. Must be Indestructible Mechanical Watermelons FROM THE FUTURE!

Nice clean cuts on the corners of the "busted" box. Who'da thunk a light tap from a shopping cart would do it in?

The cops are called, because that's what you do when a grocery store customer has an accident and doesn't respond to fellow customers. No "Cleanup in the Produce Department!" and "Ma'am, don't worry about that. Accidents happen, and we don't enforce ''You Break It You Bought It'. ... Oh, wait, you didn't break it. I forgot, those are our Indestructible Mechanical Watermelons FROM THE FUTURE!"

The cops, of course, determine that a young woman who says she can't remember who she is and has no ID should be put in the slammer with other hardened criminals, not referred to a psychiatrist. But they let her go when the store decides not to "press charges." Charges? She accidentally knocked over watermelons, didn't hurt them, and furthermore produced a fat wad of cash from her pocket which would have more than compensated the store if she had. Why is she being mugged and printed?

Oh, yeah: It's so she can meet the runaway street girl who befriends her in the holding cell and gets sprung simultaneously. She notes the wad of cash Cameron gets handed by the cop manning the property and decides she and Cameron the amnesiac are now Bestest Friends Forever -- but not like you're thinking. (OK, so they get a little too close on the top bunk later on, but that's just to fan fanboy fantasies. Besides, are these Terminator robots anatomically correct? And if so, why?)

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the 11-month-pregnant chick who lives next door to the Connor clan is bleeding, so Sarah has to rush her to hospital (or THE hospital, as we Yanks say). Baby Daddy is out of the picture, so Sarah has to stay with her even though she knows she should be about the business saving the future of the human race like she does all the other 364 days of whatever year this is. The hippy-dippy young mommy-to-be shares some wisdom about how much she cares about that gigantic son inside her abdomen, which will likely go on to star as the kid on "Two and Half Men: The Next Generation." SPOILER ALERT: Next week, Mommy delivers the bushel of joy as an Indestructible Watermelon FROM THE FUTURE. Let this be a lesson, ladies: Do not have carnal relations with a man who claims to be a cop and asks throughout coitus "Have you seen this boy?"

That's right, Baby Daddy shows up -- and he's a cop. "Oh, great," Sarah sarcastically acts with her face. "This is just what I need. Next, they'll be busting me for knocking over the hospital Jello. Oh, wait, I'm unaware of that scene."

She excuses herself and calls John so he can fill her in on the grocery store scene, but he refuses. Normally, he'd call his mom to explain he'd lost his robot, but then she'd be forced to choose between dropping everything to fix this major calamity or hanging out with the neighbor she barely knows, and besides, scheduling conflicts obviously made it impossible for Sarah to shoot any scenes with John or Cameron this week. And Brian Austin Green couldn't even be gotten out of his trailer, though Pretty Boy sure did get his name in the opening credits anyway, didn't he?

Anyhoo, Cameron remembers she's a robot from the future and tells as much to the shrink at the halfway house that she and her "just-friends" friend have checked into. (Cameron gave her wad of cash away to some bully that her robot amnesia prevented her from knowing she could kill with her pinkie.)  The script  has already had the counselor set up that everything is confidential -- unless she reveals she wants to harm someone. And want to harm someone she does: one JOHN CONNOR. Cue the cops, who really get upset when they realize they've let a watermelon molester back on the streets and this is the thanks they get.  

Cameron and friend use the old Escape From the Window ruse to foil the coppers and high-tail it for her buddy's parents' house. John has caught up to them, but can't do a darn thing but follow since Cameron doesn't remember who he is. Lucky for him, now that she knows she's supposed to kill him. The girls have no means of transportation other than their feet, but John follows them in his All New Dodge Ram (Win Yours Now!). Now aware again that she's a robot, Cameron nonetheless doesn't use her human-killing skills to notice they're being followed.

Once inside the folks' house, Cameron realizes the girl's been lying to her and this triggers a memory of the real girl Allison, whom she's been modeled after, lying to her when Cameron first sets out after the adult John Connor in the future. Cameron grabs Allison by the throat and sends her to her Maker. She repeats the "You lied to me" line to her present-day buddy and gives her the old Warm Winter Scarf treatment, too. Just then, John Connor bursts in and finds the girl on the floor.

"Did you kill her?" he asks.

The girl gurgles and starts to regain consciousness, setting up my favoritest line of the night from Cameron: "Apparently not."

With this, all is right with the world. Cameron once again recognizes John and is back as his Tonto, or his Yoko Ono, or whatever other sidekick has only O's for vowels.

There are several scenes with Agent Ellison back-and-forthing with the red-haired British robot who's trying to hire him away from the CIA to -- get this -- catch robots. For some reason she can morph into a urinal and wait around all day while guys she isn't going to kill take a whiz on her, then morph back to the red-haired woman the second a middle manager delivers the set-up to her pee-pee double entendre so she can off him. But find other robots like herself, she can't.

We also learn that Ellison's ex-wife has just remarried, but "kept her name." Uh, Ellison would be HIS name. I wonder how hubby No. 2 felt about that. Probably just like No. 2.

And one last thing: I want to find out where Ellison's ex finds the place that blows up her vacation print, and mounts and frames it in under two weeks so it's hanging in Ellision's line of sight as a conversation starter and perfect scene transition? Always takes me three.

(Read Television Without Pity's Weecap, which probably wasn't written at 2 a.m. -- and they took notes.)