Saturday, August 23, 2008

Sick of Obama and McCain? The Hawg's got the solution!

With the announcement of Joe Biden as Obama's running mate, it appears the Democrats are finding ways to lose another election.

Yes, watching the Democrats try to win a presidential election has been funny since Clinton left office. If they've got a good shot at winning, they'll find a way to blow it almost every time. When half the nation hated George Bush and it looked like the 2004 election was in the bag for the Dems, they dragged up someone who people hated even more than Bush -- John "Horse Face" Kerry.

This year, people still hate Bush. John McCain has reacted to that hatred by sounding a lot like the very president that is almost Carter-like in his ability to get people to make people angry whenever his name is mentioned. Rather than capitalize on an opportunity, the Democrats have been working overtime on dodging victory once again. Yes, Obama hasn't damaged himself enough by lacking the ability to hold an opinion for more than five second and surrounding himself with maniacs. Apparently, he needed to throw up a couple more barriers between himself and the White House.

That's where Joe Biden comes in. Voters are clamoring for change, so why not bring in one of the biggest political insiders on the planet to run with Obama? Yes, people just love the way business is done in Washington these days, so go ahead and chain that "candidate for change" to a man who is a longtime member of a Senate that has an approval rating that is actually worse than Bush's. In a year when people hate political insiders, let's dredge up an old fossil of a running mate who doesn't know what a real job is like because he's been in the Senate since 1973. Good going, Obama!

Of course, Biden has spent a lot of time talking about how Obama just couldn't cut it as the president. Changed your tune, Joey?

The whole mess is just laughable. Obama would have done better if he picked a monkey wearing a necktie to be his running mate. But, no, Obama chose Hothead Biden in an apparent attempt to simply hand the election to McCain. I'm a marginal Republican, so that's fine with me.

Things aren't much better in the McCain camp, of course. Johnny looks like he's sucking on a lemon most of the time these days and is coming across as an older, grumpier Bush rather than the maverick that the Bush campaign did its best to destroy in the 2000 primaries.

I'm sick of the junk candidates both parties have been foisting on the public since Saint Reagan left office, actually. I doubt I'm alone. If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing time and time again and expecting different results, then we're a nation full of lunatics. Here's the problem -- neither the Democrats nor the Republicans give a damn about you, me or the family next door.

We've been given the privilege, essentially, of picking which pimp gets to whore us out for the glory of his damned political party for the past 20 years. The result of all this has been that a few people have gotten very rich while the economy is a mess, gas prices are miserable and the damned Belgians went and bought Anheuser-Busch (that still bothers the hell out me). We've losing our manufacturing to the Red Chinese, we're stuck in a war that nobody wants (and the government seems hell bent of losing), taxes are ridiculous and you can't swing a dead cat without hitting some representative of the federal government (how's that for liberty, kids?)

Ah, but I've got the solution. You want some real change? Don't count on the Republicans or the Democrats because they're responsible for the mess we're in and we can only expect things to go further downhill with the goofs they want to put in office -- Obama and McCain are both more interested in representing their parties than the nation. That's a miserable condition as it's pretty clear that what's good for the Democrats or Republicans doesn't have a whole lot to do with what's best for the nation.

So, we ought to start working of sending the Republicans and the Democrats on the scrapheap along with the Federalists and the Whigs. That's right. Get rid of both of them. Look the Kaiser straight in the monocle and say, "Nein!" Start that process of getting rid of those rascals with a viable third party. And, no, we're not talking about the regulation-loving Green Party or the amazingly appealing yet ineffective Libertarians, either.

No, start something new that makes a clear break from the past -- call in the Democrats and Republicans Need Not Apply Party, the American Party or something equally snazzy. Gear up for a 2012 presidential run by selecting a candidate that isn't running loose in the government already (we want change, remember?), isn't a lawyer (we've got enough of those screwing up things already) and isn't tied to closely to the Democrats or Republicans. And we're looking primarily at moderates and marginal conservatives, too, simply because I'm the one fantasizing here and I've hated the screeching and hand-wringing from the hard left since I had to put up with those depressing sissies in college.

Also, pick a candidate that is (dare I say it?) a celebrity that people already love. Why? If you're going to establish a new party, you need to have it represented by someone familiar. So, grab a celebrity, but make it a bright one who can grasp the importance of not siding with Republicans or Democrats.

So, here are a few suggested candidates.

1. John Elway. That's right. He's Super Bowl MVP and a member of both the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame. So he's got that going for him, and he was the charismatic leader of God's favorite football team, the Denver Broncos.

So, he's a jock but a bright one by all accounts. He's owned and run several businesses, including car dealerships, restaurants and and the Colorado Crush, an Arena Football League team. Elway's visited with troops in Iraq and has contributed to a Republican candidate or two -- he's shown some interest in politics, but not enough to jump in and run for anything.

Ah, but there's been speculation that the great Elway does have political aspirations, and here's his shot. Yes, he could be the leader of a new political movement in that he's smart enough, popular enough and is a guy that people tend to love. Want to get people behind a new party? A Super Bowl MVP who can work a room would be a great candidate.

2. Alton Brown. That's right -- the star of Good Eats and the commentator for Iron Chef America, both on the Food Network. Brown was sharp enough to figure out that cooking shows weren't that much fun and had the ambition to go create something that would be a hoot. Thus, Good Eats was born and has grown into a heck of a great show, thanks to Alton's wit and ability to make the history of how certain dishes developed dandy fun.

All of that takes some brains, folks, and more than a bit of unconventional thinking. Here's a guy who's sharp enough to figure out whatever issue is thrown at him, detached enough from politics to not fall back on the party line and likable enough to rally voters behind him.

Besides, having an ace cook thrill foreign officials by whipping up some dandy meals for them is always a bonus. I'd vote for this guy in a heartbeat and, truth be told, the Elway-Brown ticket represents my dream team of sorts for a run at the presidency.

3. Patricia Heaton. That's right -- the co-star of Everybody Loves Raymond and the criminally overlooked Back to You. A couple of months ago I was reading some piece of crap in which the author had a theory that Hillary Clinton lost to Obama because men felt threatened because she's a successful woman and stay at home moms "who couldn't cut it in the workplace" were jealous of her.

The fact that Clinton is a raging bitch with the ethics of a garter snake, apparently, had nothing to do to with her losing to Obama.

At any rate, Heaton would make a great candidate who already has some experience in social advocacy and the political realm. Besides, her beliefs tend to be fairly uniform and logical, which is something that we're not used to in candidates from either party. For example, she's pro-life all the way, meaning she's against abortion, euthanasia and the death penalty (being pro-abortion and against the death penalty has always seemed marvelously inconsistent to me and vice versa).

Additionally, she's pretty sharp and has managed to stay married and raise five kids in spite of the weirdness that passes for normalcy in Hollywood. That ought to count for something.

4. Mr. T. Yeah, you go right ahead an laugh and make your "I pity the fool" joke now, but I'd feel better with Mr. T in office than either of these clods we've got running right now.

Why Mr. T? Why not? He's been a great social advocate who is as sincere as the day is long. He's a born again Christian who has the wacky notion that he has been called to "walk the walk," as it were. Remember Hurricane Katrina? Mr. T's donations of cash, clothing and whatever else was needed by victims of that 2005 disaster were sure appreciated and, hey, he was helping long before the federal government could figure out that a hurricane was and that, like, something ought to be done about it.

Folks, that shows a remarkable ability to identify a problem quickly and do what's necessary to solve it. He whipped the socks off the feds on that one and the ability to make quick decisions that actually help people in trouble is sorely needed in Washington.

Besides, Mr. T drove the van on The A-Team. Cool!

5. George Lopez. Here's a true rags-to-riches story. Lopez was abandoned by his mother and raised by his factory-working grandmother. While that's often a recipe for breeding criminal defendants, Lopez built a career on seeing the humor in his childhood, sharing it with people and entertaining the heck out of a nation. Good for him.

And, yes, he's actually involved in helping make the world a better place. He's known for giving back to his community and has even been recognized by Harvard for his charitable work. Lopez is all about identifying problems and doing what he can to solve them. Washington's solution to problems? Form a commission to study them (and pay them with tax dollars), review some recommendations through committee meetings (paid for with tax dollars), choose some programs (paid for with tax dollars) and implement those programs. If the programs don't work, just dump more money (tax dollars) in them and repeat until an angry, impoverished citizenry descends on Washington with hunting rifles.

And, Lopez got in a feud with Jay Leno. He gets bonus points there. Leno sucks.


You just go right ahead and laugh at my true candidates for change, but ask yourself one question -- could any of these people be worth than the goons running for president right now? Honestly? That's what I thought.

This is only half serious, of course, but think about this. Thomas Jefferson said one of the great things about the system of government he and the Founding Fathers put in place is that it thrives on peaceful revolution. Don't like the current government? Tear it down, scrap it and start again. We've reached that point where it's time to pull out the brooms and dustpans, folks.


I'm not the only one who's mad about the current state of affairs. Head on out to A Bumpy Path to hear a dismayed Theresa's take on the sad state of the upcoming election.

The Hawg goes international!

I was checking my Feedburner stats earlier and noticed a fascinating trend -- a lot of people from the Philippines are visiting my blog these days.

I doubled-checked my Google Analytics reports and confirmed that trend -- The Natural State Hawg blog plays best in my beautiful, God-blessed Arkansas, but I'm picking up some International traffic as well.

The tech guy at my office tells me there are plenty of logical explanations for that, but I prefer my own delusional reality. Yes, my friends in the Philippines (hereinafter referred to as my "phriends") are the first victims of the phenomenon that's sure to sweep the globe -- The Hawgmania!

That explanation makes me feel better. Logic be damned -- I like my version of the truth and I'll roll with that. Indeed, The Hawg is bad and he's worldwide.

What's more, I've noticed that my traffic from Singapore has been on the rise lately, too, so it's only a matter of time before that part of the world falls victim to The Hawgmania. They, like my phriends, will soon rush to their computers as soon as they get out of bed, take a look at my blog and hope to find some life-affirming, life-changing messages in there. I'll do my best, folks. Honestly!

What are some of the symptoms of the imagined affliction known as The Hawgmania? People will start rooting for the Arkansas Razorbacks and the Benton Panthers. A group of The Hawgmaniacs will be easy to identify as they'll be the ones walking their rat terriers, calling the Hogs and drinking something -- anything -- other than products made by those traitors at Anheuser-Busch.

Indeed, I well imagine that my phriends are actually benefiting from The Hawgmania. When people gather around their computers to pick up a few pearls of wisdom from The Hawg, well it just brings them closer together. Now what in the world is wrong with that?

So, I encourage this full-on embrace of The Hawgmania and encourage it wholeheartedly. I just hope my phriends enjoy themselves, benefit from my wisdom and share my joy.

Of course, please no rioting -- my phriends may be enthusiastic, but the world's enough of a mess as it is, yeah?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

High fructose corn syrup is garbage

Remember back when soda was made with pure cane sugar instead of that cheap, syrupy corn sweetener junk?

At least once company -- Jones Soda -- does, and you can get something close to a Coca-Cola of old thanks to the company's excellent Pure Cane Cola. That's a good thing, too, as stuff flavored with real sugar just tastes better.

I've been mad about that corn syrup junk since Coca-Cola unveiled Coca-Cola Classic in the 1980s as part of a marketing scheme that I believe was both terribly evil and absolutely brilliant.

Let me explain. Back in the 1980s, Coca-Cola announced that it was phasing out that tired old Coke formula that people around the world were nuts for in favor of New Coke.

Such a plan was foolhardy, particularly here in the good old South where Coca-Cola was (and remains) so dominant that any soft drink was called a Coke. Going to the store to get a Nehi Peach, a Sprite or even a blasted Pepsi. You're getting a Coke, ace. Not a soda or a pop or anything like that -- a Coke, man.

I well remember growing up in central Arkansas when Coca-Cola announced the beloved old Coke was being taken off the market. People horded the original item and were mad as hell that their favorite drink was being replaced by something else. Truth be told, New Coke could have been the greatest stuff in the world and it would have still failed -- people were simply too attached to the original to embrace its successor.

We're lucky we avoided rioting in the streets back then. Why? Because you don't pull crap like that on Southerners -- especially if you happen to be a company headquartered in Atlanta. Honestly, the very idea of messing with the original formula was stupid.

By the way, did you folks know that none other than the great Ty Cobb invested heavily in Coca-Cola (he died a wealthy, yet hated, man)? Ty must have been rolling in his grave when New Coke arrived on the scene.

Anyway, the predictable backlash against that awful New Coke was so substantial that Coca-Cola announced it was bringing back the original formula as Coca-Cola Classic. The difference, of course, was that cane syrup sweetener was replaced with the cheaper corn syrup.

The conspiracy nuts will tell you that Coca-Cola planned to do that all along -- release a product that was so bad that Coke fans would be thrilled to get their "classic" cola back, even if it was flavored with corn syrup. The plan worked, of course, as the sales of Coca-Cola go through the roof annually, the company saves money with the cheaper sweetener and most people are just happy that the original formula was put back on the market.

See? That plan -- if true -- is both evil and brilliant. Coca-Cola officials have denied that was their intention for the past couple of decades, but it's amazing how well that tactic worked. It's all just a little too convenient, huh? Coca-Cola, with that little stunt, became just like the rest of those major soft drink manufacturers -- everyone uses corn syrup these days and that's a shame.

I've missed the real Coca-Cola for years as the new stuff is just sweeter and just doesn't sting the back of my throat like the original did. You can still find the original formula in bottles of Coke bottled in places like Mexico and I've picked up a few of those great things at Mexican grocery stores and restaurants.

The Jones Pure Cane Cola isn't exactly like the original Coca-Cola, but it's close enough to be pretty good. No, I wasn't paid a dime to crow about this product -- I've just become a fan and I hope Jones does well enough to convince Coca-Cola and other major soft drink manufacturers that going back to using cane sugar is a great idea. Give 'em hell, Jones!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Hawg eats crow

Yes, folks. I'm a humble The Hawg today. I'm eating crow and admitting that I was completely wrong.

Why was I wrong? What did I do? Well, some of you folks may recall that I sent the ultimate redneck joke to none other than the great Jeff Foxworthy.

I didn't hear from Foxworthy for awhile, so I assumed that he had rejected my masterful joke. I declared him my nemesis and the summary of the whole sordid affair can be found right here.

For the record, the ultimate redneck joke, in it's original form, is as follows:

If you lost your virginity to a Waffle House Waitress
You just might be a redneck

I sent the joke by mail -- both "e" and "snail" -- and figured that Foxworthy had cruelly tossed it in the trash.

Today, however, I actually got a letter from Foxworthy and an autographed photo. I scanned both of those items in and have posted them here. Go ahead and click on the above photo and the letter off to the right to expand them and have a look. Nifty, huh?

The irony of all this -- and perhaps the saddest thing -- is that I defaced Foxworthy's picture in a juvenile manner in the post I linked to a bit ago. I downloaded that photo from the Website maintained by Foxworthy's agency, Parallel Entertainment. It's a publicity photo and Foxworthy autographed the same one and sent it to me.

Yes, the very copy that the great Foxworthy autographed and sent to me is virtually identical to the one that I butchered with a red Sharpie and some mean-spirited hijinx through The Gimp (the finest open source graphics manipulation program on the planet, by the way).

Oh, the shame and guilt I feel! To think that I -- The Hawg -- mocked a celebrity that actually took time to acknowledge my brilliance just fills me with remorse.

So I'm a big enough man to admit that I was wrong about Foxworthy and I'll make it up to the great man somehow. Yes, I'm officially a fan and will purchase all the Foxworthy-related stuff that strikes my fancy. I'll pull out that complete first season DVD of The Jeff Foxworthy Show that I picked up at the local Wal-Mart (that's Wal-Marts around here, by the way) and watch it over and over again. Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader? and the Blue Collar Comedy Tour -- you'd better believe I'll be watching those, too.

Now, nothing would thrill me more than to see the great Foxworthy -- my new favorite celebrity -- use my joke during his act. Yes, that would seal his status as the greatest entertainer of a generation!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Natural State Hawg is now one month old!

That's right, folks. The Natural State Hawg is officially one-month-old today.

Well, actually, it was one-month-old on Aug. 17 but I really didn't notice that I'd passed that milestone until earlier today. However, I should point out that I almost forgot my wife's birthday today, so it's pretty well established that my memory is horrible.

Ah, and what a month it's been. So far, I've written about the heartache that comes with being a Pittsburgh Pirates fan, established the All Arkie Army, griped about those misguided souls who picked the Razorbacks dead last in the SEC West, praised the formerly dull state of Oklahoma, waxed poetic about both Elvis' greatest film and rat terriers, shared the best cat names to be found anywhere, declared Jeff Foxworthy my nemesis, won an award, mentioned the ultimate microbrew and ridiculed carpetbagging demonstrators.

And it will only get better.

Some people might argue that it couldn't get any worse, of course.

At any rate, I do hope that all those people happy about the anniversary of the beloved The Natural State Hawg blog don't get so carried away by the celebratory spirit that they do something stupid. No, I don't want to hear about rioting, couch burning, drunken looting or anything of the kind. Have fun, kids, but behave yourselves, yeah?

Of course, I've learned a thing or two during the past month and I'll go ahead and bore everyone with that stuff right now.

1. Anyone who thinks running a blog is the way to fame or fortune either knows something the rest of us don't or is living in a fool's paradise. I'm still not convinced ads work terribly well. Who goes around clicking on ads, anyway? I do from time to time, but that's only if I see something that's terribly interesting (rarely) or read a blog I particularly like (fairly often). This is all fun for me and, to that end, ad clicks are nice but Diggs and comments are much better.

2. The phrase "living in a fool's paradise" is wonderful. I picked that phrase up when I was a kid from reading something by James Thurber. I've read a lot over the years and tend to steal from time to time. Hopefully, that leads to some vaguely interesting content -- the thing that I'm convinced creates traffic.

3. Entrecard is great. Thanks to Entrecard, I've gone from almost no traffic to enough traffic to make all of this worthwhile. I've met some great bloggers, to boot, and I'm sickly jealous of the talents of a lot of them. Oh well.

4. Showing appreciation is good. To that end, I put a policy in place just the other day as a way of thanking the people who are blessed with good taste and spend their hard-earned Entrecard credits buying ads on my blog. All of you Entrecarders who choose to buy an ad on my widget will get a review from me at the Entrecard site. Yes, and what could be more valuable than the coveted The Hawg Seal of Approval? A lot, but it's the thought that counts.

5. BlogCatalog is great, too
. I've met a lot of great bloggers over there and have realized some traffic.

That's about it. I promise I won't whoop it up every month, but will probably jump up and down if I keep at this for an entire year. As always, thanks for visiting.

Westboro Baptists, stay out of my state!

Those loony members of the Westboro Baptist Church made their way down to my beloved Arkansas yesterday (Aug. 18) to protest the funeral of Bill Gwatney.

Gwatney was the chairman of the Arkansas Democratic Party and he was gunned down last week by some nut who wandered into his office. The nut, by the way, was caught up with a couple of counties south around Sheridan and was shot and killed by police.

Now, the Westboro Baptist bunch -- a group that has been denounced by the Southern Baptist Convention and, honestly, any Christian organization worth its salt -- is full of Kansas white trash who literally hate everything. That's the bunch that runs the Internet site with the provocative title, God Hates Fags, and seems to oppose everything from homosexuality to the United States. The only group that the church doesn't seem to hate is its own members, and one can't help but wonder when the church will turn on some of them, as well.

Those Westboro rascals have also made a name for themselves by protesting funerals of U.S. soldiers who have fallen in Iraq as demonstrated in the photo I've posted (nice touch having the kid wave a sign -- that photo was taken in Tulsa).

So Westboro hate monger Fred "Latent Homosexual" Phelps called his filthy flock together and ordered them to head down to Little Rock and protest the Gwatney funeral. According to Fox 16, a few of them showed up and were largely ignored by the 1,000 or so people who came to pay their respects to Gwatney. Here's the badly-written post that Phelps or one of his minions posted on the Internet calling for a protest:

Pulaski Heights Methodist Church - Dead Democrat Lee Street and N Van Buren God Sent the Shooter - to see a video vignette on this subject go to - Whatta you call a dead Democratic Party Chairperson? A good start! (or) Never enough! All kidding aside, can you think of anyone more deserving of death and hell than a supporter of Bill and Hill Clinton? OMG, people! We came to Hot Springs back in the day to picket Virginia Clinton's funeral - you think we're gonna miss this? Not a chance. This guy, Bill Gwatney by name, literally sold his soul to satan: Mt 16:26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Mr 8:36 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Lu 9:25 For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away? AMEN!

Kind of speaks for itself, doesn't it? That rambling mess is one, big batch of concentrated crazy and one must wonder what kind of nuts feed off this slop.

That Westboro bunch is intriguing in that it's one of those groups that just brings people together -- we Republicans and those Democrats can certainly agree that none of us can stand that group, right?

Now, I have little patience for protesters, anyway, and I'm thrilled I haven't had to deal with many of them since war broke out in Iraq when I lived in northwest Arkansas. Those neo hippies were merely an annoyance -- a bunch of kids from the University of Arkansas who had nothing better to do than wave their snarky signs and get in my way when I was trying to drive to work. They were mostly harmless and generally tolerated.

This Westboro bunch, however, goes beyond annoying. They're downright despicable. Groups like that one almost always fall back on the First Amendment and declare that gives them license to say whatever they want. I'd caution, them, however. The First Amendment -- the entire Bill of Rights -- protects citizens from the government. When it comes to protecting citizens from each other, that's a different ball of wax, isn't it? Citizens are generally protected from each other through the various laws throughout the criminal code in any given state, but how sympathetic to Westboro malcontents will the judicial system be if irate citizens pounce on them and start knocking heads?

The folks at Westboro might thing twice before loading up the truck and heading down to Arkansas in the future. My fellow Arkies don't take kindly to this kind of nonsense and tend to whack people with sticks when they push their luck once too often.

Do us all a favor and stay out of my state, Westboro punks. You're not welcome here.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Hawg gets tagged again

Patricia over at Communications Exchange went and decided to tag me with a meme.

The chore here to reveal six unspectacular quirks about myself and challenge other bloggers to do the same. Patricia apparently guessed that I -- The Hawg -- just love to talk about myself and would, therefore, respond favorably to getting tagged with one of these things. She was right.

The rules here are simple:

1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Mention the rules.
3. Tell six unspectacular quirks of yours.
4. Tag six bloggers by linking.
5. Leave a comment for each blogger.
6. Click every ad on The Hawg's blog at least twice (OK -- I made that one up).

You want unspectacular quirks? I've got them in spades, kids, and here are a few:

1. I still root for the Pittsburgh Pirates in spite of several years of heartache. Yes, it's true. I've remained a loyal Pirates fan although the team hasn't had a winning season since 1992. They stink. I continue to root for them. Once I start rooting for a team, I stick with it no matter what. I'm not sure if that's a quirk or a severe character flaw.

2. I'm picky as can be about food. I know what I like and what I don't like and I absolutely detest the foods that I crossed off my list years ago. Take mayonnaise, for example. You'd think a Southern boy would love the stuff but I hate it and swear it's straight from the devil. There's a reason there's a brand of mayonnaise called Hellmann's, you know?

3. I used to be a lawyer and hated every minute of it. A lot of people have asked me why I gave up the dandy practice of law to go back into journalism and then move on to public relations. Trying to explain that is rather akin to telling a man who has been blind since birth what the color blue looks like.

4. I hate to travel. Car trips are boring and airplanes are just awful. Well, airplanes aren't that awful but layovers in airports are and it annoyed me to the core that my last flight out of Reagan International in Washington, D.C., was absolutely humiliating. My laptop bag was searched, I had to remove my shoes and I felt lucky I was allowed to keep most of my clothes on through the whole thing. Screw that. I'd rather stay home and watch television. It's cheaper, anyway. The only travel that sounds appealing to me at all would involve a few stops at major league ballparks to watch my beloved Pirates lose in person.

5. I love anything having to do with World War II. If I see a show on the History Channel that's in black and white and features Americans shooting at Nazis or Imperial Japanese, you'd better believe I'm going to watch it. The same goes for Hogan's Heroes and Baa Baa Black Sheep.

6. It's "y'all," not "ya'll." Learn this and learn it now -- "y'all" is a contraction for "you all," whereas "ya'll" doesn't mean a thing. Furthermore, the distinctly Southern "y'all" is preferable to the harsh, grating and Northern "you guys" as it is gender neutral. Leave it to Southerners to come up with a collective pronoun that both rolls off the tongue and applies equally to men and women. Hah! Take that, North!

Well, that's it. Now it's time to move on to the fun part of the exercise -- picking six blogs to tag with this thing. So, here goes:

1. Margie and Edna's Basement -- this blog intrigues me. Perhaps the ladies behind it will break character and tell us a bit about themselves. If I ask nicely enough. Come on, ladies. Please?

2. Lyndonology -- This blog is more than a bit intriguing. I'd love to learn more about this cat.

3. CrAzY Working Mom -- it's always good to hear from another Arkansas parent, yeah?

4. The Bullshit Stalker -- here's a blog put together by someone who sounds about ready to explode from outrage at any given moment. Learning of a few quirks would be nothing but enlightening.

5. Call Center Gal -- Another great blog written by someone I think would be a good sport about being tagged out of the blue.

6. Elvis Lover -- Can't resist. Anyone who loves The King even more than I do must have something fascinating to say.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Maybe that's why my church doesn't play Larry Norman

My family and I go to a Methodist church that has one of those contemporary services -- you know, the ones where folks pull out the electric guitars and drums and get away from the traditional hymns.

We like it quite a bit, but I've always wondered why the church never bothered to play any Larry Norman songs. He is, after all, considered to be the grandfather of contemporary Christian music, so why not?

It occurred to me today that Norman's stuff still might not be appropriate in a church service for the simple reason he never preached to the converted. No, Norman exercised more of the gentle evangelism advocated by Saint Peter and practiced extensively by Christ himself. Norman reached out to folks who he believed needed some hope and faith -- junkies, whores and people who were generally a mess. If you're already a believer, why should you sit in church and listen to music that was made to convert the nonbelievers?

Besides, songs like "Why Don't You Look into Jesus?" were a bit hard to take by mainstream Christians back in the early 1970s due to graphic warnings about the dangers of hard drug use and sexual promiscuity. Those messages are still a bit rough, particularly if children are present (I'm a firm believer in letting kids enjoy their childhoods -- they can find out how rotten society is when they get older). Still, those very direct, graphic messages got the attention of people that Norman wanted to reach.

Norman died of heart failure in February, but his legacy is impressive. In addition to practically founding what became contemporary Christian music, Norman was friendly with the likes of Paul McCartney and even screwball artists like Black Francis (a.k.a. Frank Black) of the Pixies respected the man (want proof? Go right here to see a couple of videos, one of which features Frank Black playing live with Norman). The Pixies were one of my favorite bands, so the fact that Black Francis loved Norman says a lot about the man both in terms of sincerity and appeal.

Still, Norman's embrace of rock n' roll and social advocacy never did set well with the more conservative Christians and his constant harping on the Gospel made him roundly hated by the more strident atheists out there. The extreme elements of both of those groups never have had a sense of humor or the ability to shut up and let things lie, so Norman remained an outsider throughout his career.

Of course, the man's most solid support should have come from the Christian community, but he was too controversial for that. That's a shame, too, as even those of us among the converted could use Norman's very direct teachings, life affirming messages and sense of humor (the song "Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?" is a hoot).

For those wanting to experience the greatness that is Larry Norman, check out the three albums that make up the famed Trilogy -- Only Visiting this Planet (1972), So long Ago the Garden (1973) and In Another Land (1975). You'll find some blues-based, light rock, Norman's impressive vocal range, plenty of enthusiasm, a great sense of humor and constant calls for justice. That's all great stuff.

Maybe churches still don't warm up to the sometimes graphic music banged out by a man who looked like a dirty hippy and hung around trying to convert undesirables. Still, Norman produced the kind of music that maybe Christians ought to embrace -- honest confessions of faith and an unwavering belief that Christ's message can bring hope to anyone are infinitely valuable. It might be inappropriate to play Norman's stuff in church to the converted, but he can certainly inspire us Christians the rest of the time.