Quotes and Doodles

An ink sketch and note done earlier this week after reading through 1 Peter chapter 1.

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Mike Tends His Vines

Beads of sweat collected at the ends of Mike’s shaggy hair as humid breath escaped in quick gasps from his red face. Although the day was young -after all, it was only 9 in the morning -the sun was beating down with a hot 89 degrees.

The vines on the fence behind Mike’s house had grown exponentially over the past month. After an abnormally long winter, the green parasites had celebrated the final arrival of spring with an explosion of conquest -entwining themselves all throughout the chain-link fence, on the tree, and even inside the shrubs that had resided docilely for the entire past year. Finally, the strangling encroachment had begun to bother even Mike, the sole occupant of the house, who normally took little notice or interest to the outside appearance of his property.

Chop.Clack.Snip.Chop. Slowly but surely, Mike’s clippers severed one tendril after another, leaving the once vivaciously rampant vines as a mass of severed stalks poking up from the dark rich soil. Behind him, the yard displayed a massive pile of leaves, thorns, and other signs of his conquest as a suburban agronomist.

Wiping sweaty palms on a stained and over-sized shirt, Mike looked on his handiwork with relish -he felt alive, the heat of the day and manual labor exciting his ‘manly’ instincts. This was a good day – “I could do this every day”, he thought to himself. Fantasies of maintaining the best lawn on his street quickly arose like epic stories before his imagination. With his newly found energy and inspiration, Mike began collecting the carnage caused by his work – vigorously raking and bagging the large quantities of green growth so recently cut in pieces.

After all the collecting was done, he began the laborious process of hauling every one of his black 30 gallon trash bags to the street. When the last bag of clippings sagged onto the curb, Mike sank down next to it. His already shaggy hair was now a solid wet mop, and his shirt and pants were three shades darker than whenever he had started. He was hot and uncomfortable -and even his earlier optimism and romanticism of ‘manliness’ could do little to counteract the headache that was coming on. Too much time had passed since he had walked the paths of his homeland: the air conditioned room and Doritos covered sofa called his name with the sweet siren song of careless ease. With a groan he stiffly arose off the curb and began trudging back around the house.

As he passed around his house on the way to the back door, the tiny stalks poking up from the ground along the fence caught his tired eye -they were the last roots of his adversary. Plucking these up would render him the final victor -the entangling and choking vines never to grow and thrive again in his lawn. For a long pause there was only the pounding of his head, the stickiness of his dirty and wet clothes, and the aches in his hands – “Ah, well,” he thought, “there is always tomorrow”, and he almost turned to walk into the dark cold door of his house. However, a nagging in his mind caused him to draw up short, he just felt wrong for not seeing what he had set out to do to completion -or as his favorite TV show character Ron Swanson had so eloquently quipped: “Never half-ass two things, whole-ass one thing”. In spite of the complaints of his sore body, Mike resolved to refresh himself with water and attack the rooted mess after a trip to the hardware store for more effective weapons.

The End.

In Flight Entertainment

My roommates and I recently watched the movie Airplane!—me for the first time. However, more significant than the film, about which I have mixed feelings, is the fact that it jogged my memory about a very humorous radio show.

Spending decent amounts of time on the road over the past several months, my brother and I have continued building up our repertoire of podcasts that vary wildly in content and style. Out of the plethora of different shows we have listened to, “Cabin Pressure,” is the sitcom of the bunch—great for light listening when you just need a good laugh. The cast of the show is made up of Benedict Cumberbatch, Stephanie Cole, Roger Allam, John Finnemore, and Ewen MacIntosh.  The show follows Carolyn as the owner of a private jet who rents it out to individuals and groups; however, she is regularly running short of funds which puts the business’s long term viability into constant question and creates some interesting scenarios. Staffing the plane itself are First officer Douglas, Captain Martin (Benedict), and Carolyn’s dimwitted son Arthur. The show follows the various escapades of this quartet, and each episode revolves around a specific flight that the aircrew makes -made up of unique passengers, events, and destinations—and drawing humor out of the situations and character interactions.

If you like sitcoms, or British TV in general, then this radio show should hit the spot on days in the car when a good laugh is in order. Enjoy!

Note: while you can no longer subscribe to the podcast directly, it is easy to find the various series on YouTube and other websites. For example, series one.

George & The Werewolf, Pt. 2

Previously on George & The Werewolf

Cold perspiration beaded on George’s brow as he squinted out into the inky night. The moon appeared briefly from behind a smoky cloud, casting a cold sterile light on the rock formations all around him, and then blinked out like a snuffed candle. He listened intently, but the cool whistle of wind between the rocks and his own racing heartbeat were the only sounds that greeted his straining ears. After squatting in silence for what seemed like an eternity at the edge of the crevice, he quietly crept back to the embers of his fire. Pulling a warm blanket around his shoulders, and wiping the sweat from his clammy hands, he set his back against the darkest wall, and resolved to keep watch until morning when it would be safe to move again. As he sat in the gloom, hour after hour creeping by, his mind turned to the horrible sound that had awakened him earlier—and it filled him with a cold dread.

George was not actually his given name. Being a stray from rural Germany, nobody actually knew what his parents had called him, or where they were. He had some memories of life before Mr. Acton, a wealthy merchant from Hessle, had taken him under his wing: brief glimpses of playful romps in the great green forests around his parents’ home, and times spent with nameless childhood friends. He also remembered the day that father had come home worried, and his parents’ hurried discussion was quickly followed by the family retreating from their secluded home to the town church some many miles away. Most of the small town had gathered that night, and he remembered not so much the faces—but the sounds: children whimpering, women pleading, and men both angry and fearful. But then there was THE sound, that terrible howl not quite human or animal, so unnatural it would make the blood of the stoutest human turn to ice. They had called it a ‘werwolf.’ Not many people believed in werewolves, George had found out. Mr. Acton had scoffed at George’s accounts of his childhood terror, and his classmates in school had written it off as attention seeking. Still, even as an adult, he could not escape the memories, and they haunted his steps—especially at night.

As the sky began to change from shades of navy blue to aqua, George stirred slightly beneath his blanket. He hurt all over, back and legs stiffly cramped from a long night without sleep. When he tried to set down his revolver, he realized that his hand had fixed itself around the grip, and only with slow painful motions could he gingerly pry each finger open. He stirred up the fire and put a small can of water on to boil. As he slowly cooked his meal, his mind turned back to the howl he had heard the previous night—it seemed so long ago, like a dream. “Maybe it was just a timber wolf? You let your childhood traumas color everything,” his exhausted mind thought. Staggering to his feet, he was resolved to finish out his contract this day for Mr. Acton, for according to the map he had received before crossing the Atlantic, his destination was very close.

The sun had risen slightly over the peaks of the mountains by the time George finished his breakfast and reloaded all of his gear in his backpack. Stepping out from the crevice, he felt the warmth of yellow light spill over him, and his spirits immediately lifted. Walking briskly, he continued up a narrow rock-fall that cascaded over the side of the cliff-face. Nearing the top, he found a small pool of clear water fed by a spring, and bending down he began to refill his canteen. As he rose and prepared to go—some tracks in the mud caught his eye: they were the tracks of a man, and next to them the tracks of what appeared to be a large wolf.

 

To be continued by Arrietty…

Resolute in a New Year

2017 was considered to be a terrible year by many. However, while most point to the election of our latest chief of state, or the end of Net Neutrality, or even the death of Hugh Hefner and other American entertainment icons to back up this statement, very few people look beyond surface level news to what is actually going on; then again, there might be a reason for that:

  1. Mexico: as of October 2017, there were 20,878 reported murders. This averages out to 69 reported murders per day. (ref)
  2. Venezuelan President urges population to eat rabbits to try and counter waves of starvation sweeping through his country. (ref)
  3. Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia consolidates power by jailing political opponents and confiscating their assets. (ref)
  4. European Union begins legal action against Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic for closing their borders to Muslim migrants from the Middle East. (ref)
  5. Hurricane Maria batters Puerto Rico, destroying massive amounts of infrastructure (ref)

Certainly, 2017 was a hard year for many -both on a global scale, but also through the various troubles and heartaches of everyday life; however, does this mean we look with hope that 2018 will be easier? Less destructive? Certainly that is something good to strive for, but it should not be the pinnacle of our hopes.  After all, Jesus said, “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet” (Matt 24.6). While the human reaction to the troubles of life is often fear and anxiety, Jesus states that these are not the correct responses. Addressing this very issue, Paul describes the mindset that all Christians should strive for in there lives: “[…]When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (2:1-2). Christ was the star that Paul sought to orbit. Did this mean that Paul did not suffer or watch others suffer? Certainly not, but it did shape his view of suffering -suffering in light of a future where all things are made new. It enabled him to love others genuinely and selflessly, even as Christ loves him, and meant that all circumstances, however painful, were not outside the control of his heavenly father and were not without purpose. Christ at the center will shape our ability to love those who hate us, comfort those who are suffering, have compassion on those who are wandering, and feed those who are hungry. May Paul’s words be in our hearts and prayers in this coming year: “I […] know nothing […] except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (2:2)

 

 

Timeless Political Satire

Just as a well made whisky does not deteriorate with age, so also good satire holds its bite over many years and decades, never losing its potency. One such modern satire that has aged well is the TV show Yes Minister. Although released originally in the 1980s, it has just as much relevance today as when it was first released.

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Jim Hacker

The show follows a newly elected official named Jim Hacker, and revolves around the various situations that he must maneuver through. He must constantly try to toe the party line, win over minorities to his cause, keep his constituents happy, and simultaneously maintain some sort of moral integrity. One of the major points of the show is the expansiveness and rigidity of government bureaucracy, and this is represented in Sir Humphrey Appleby, who is permanently stationed at his post within the government and is a career civil servant through and through. Appleby is the foil to Hacker, and the two see the world through very different lenses: Appleby sees the long term picture that gives the government the most stability—an interest he has since he is unelected and relies on the bureaucracy for his job; Hacker, conversely, flutters from one event to another trying to keep everyone happy with him so that he can be reelected, gain influence, etc. Through these two opposed characters, the show writers demonstrate, among other things, that nobody in government has the good of the citizenry in mind—there are only two sides: the politician and the bureaucrat, each seeking to simultaneously both win over the populace and keep them in the dark so that their own ends will be met. The show sees very little good in government, and as a result it can be very bleak and cynical at times—Hacker is often willing to back down on principles when he sees it will cost him politically, and Appleby is more than happy to manipulate to his own ends. Never is there a ray of hope or decent integrity put on display, and while this may make for difficult watching after a while, I do not think it is without merit.

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Humphrey Appleby

The show deals with a very real ideology that is present today, and (possibly unintentionally) shows the futility of it. In the United States, as in many countries around the globe, government is seen as the primary vehicle for good and change—the sword to be wielded to solve all the world’s problems. However, when government is made supreme, there is no value structure left, but only the arbitrary one put in place by a bureaucrat: people become numbers, and the purpose of all of life becomes power and meeting the “bottom line.” Yes Minister may be bleak, but it accurately portrays what men always become when they have no principle beliefs or morally absolute value structure to rest upon.

Re-watching Yes Minister never gets old, principally because it contains a kernel of truth: without a moral baseline, everyone only looks out for themselves. Satire is not always done well, but when it is, it is timeless, and Yes Minister will be watched for many years to come as a brutal commentary on government without God.

How the globalization of the market brings greater richness and innovation: an example

The Internet and flight have increasingly shrunk the boundaries of countries. While one hundred years ago travelling abroad would have been a major ordeal, today it is much easier. Similarly, the Internet has allowed virtually instantaneous global communication and commerce to become the daily norm. Whereas in the past, expertise was limited to countries or geographic regions—and only the people with ‘trade routes’ to those areas could benefit—, nowadays ideas flow pretty freely across countries around the globe, and I would argue we are better for it.

A quick example:

This is not meant to be an exhaustive, or even thorough, study, but merely some observations from about 10 years of following a specific industry. As anyone who has known me personally can attest, I have had a keen interest in the sporting cutlery market—especially pocket knives—for quite some time. As such, I have followed trends, sometimes closely, sometimes not, but it has interested me to see the way the market has changed over the past decade.

A couple key factors that I value when looking at an industry are richness and innovation.

Richness:

‘Richness’ can be a tricky term whenever talking about a specific market. There are two main factors that I would consider to contribute to this:

a. Diversity in Cultural Heritage—This part is pretty self-explanatory, and is relevant to the following point as well. Part of what makes knives such an interesting market to me is the variety of history. Culture plays a huge part in some designs—the Nepalese have the ‘kukri,’ the Philippines has the ‘Balisong,’ the Japanese the ‘tanto,’ and the Scots the ‘Sgian-dubh.’ Each knife bears a distinct heritage that is fascinating in and of itself.

b. Unique Design—The history and culture cannot be mentioned without it necessarily cascading into the point of design. Every knife is built differently: different blade shapes, lengths, grinds, materials, finishes, garnishings, etc., all of which stem from the creator’s cultural influences.

Whenever looking at the modern knife market, there is a definite richness brought by the diversity of cultural backgrounds represented. Whether looking at the aerospace grade precision of some Japanese and American manufacturers, the material innovation present in Europe and the U.S., and the design influences from all over the globe, the complexity and growth of the industry can be directly linked to the widespread diversity represented by the men and women who make it up and the cultures they represent.

1. Asheville Steel Phoenix, 2. Wander Tactical Hurricane, 3. Mcusta Tactility, 4. Svord Peasant knife
Production Innovation:

Each continent really brings its own influences and contributions to the table, but one that I would like to specifically mention given recent events is China. Not so many years ago, China was known as the center of the ‘budget’ knife world—the place where the cheap and low-end blades came from. However, this trend has been gradually changing. Bringing sophisticated machining skills and design chops, at a fraction of the price that American and European makers are capable of, many new Chinese companies have been pushing the envelope in what consumers can expect in terms of quality for the price. Without a global economy, it would be easy for innovation and cost cutting measures to be localized, but with the widespread availability of products, the best man can now offer his products to the world and challenge the status quo.

Conclusion:

Global markets enhance the offerings available to consumers, and this is always a good thing. While ten years ago I never would have thought that Chinese companies would be giving American/European/Japanese producers a run for there money, that is certainly happening in the present. Better products, at more affordable prices, with an even greater breadth and representation for different cultures, give consumers an ever better option for their needs.