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Several weeks ago I watched a brilliant movie, Imitation of Life, starring Lana Turner.

I can remember my grandfather, a police officer, saying that he would sit in the police department watching audiences leave the movie theatre, and there was never a dry eye.

I can understand why… very moving.

In 1947, Lora Meredith (Lana Turner), a struggling white widow with plans to become a famous Broadway actress, l18_lana2oses track of her young daughter Suzie (portrayed as a child by Terry Burnham), and requests the help of a stranger named Steve Archer (John Gavin) to help her find the girl. Suzie is found and looked after by Annie Johnson (Juanita Moore), a black widow with a daughter, Sarah Jane (portrayed as a child by Karin Dicker), who is about Suzie’s age and, unlike her mother, is very light-skinned to the point of appearing Caucasian. In return for her kindness, Lora takes Annie in temporarily. Despite the fact that Lora cannot afford a nanny, Annie persuades Lora to let her stay and take care of Suzie, so that Lora can pursue an acting career.

With struggles along the way, Meredith becomes a successful star of stage comedies, with Alan Loomis (Robert Alda) as her agent and David Edwards (Dan O’Herlihy) as her chief playwright. Although Lora had begun a romantic relationship with Steve Archer, the stranger she met at the beach, their courtship falls apart because of Lora’s ambition to be a star. Lora’s tight focus on her career also prevents her from spending time with her daughter, who sees more of Annie than she does her own mother. Annie and Sarah Jane have their own struggles, as the light-skinned Sarah Jane is in a constant state of turmoil over her identity and steadfastly wants to pass for white. Sarah Jane’s anger at being black translates into animosity towards her long-suffering mother.

The film progresses to 1958, finding Lora as a highly regarded Broadway star living in a luxurious home in upstate New York. After rejecting David’s latest script (and his marriage proposal), Lora takes a role in a dramatic play. At the show’s after-party, she meets Steven, whom she hasn’t seen in a decade. The two slowly begin rekindling their relationship, and Steve is reintroduced to Annie and the now-teenaged Suzie (Sandra Dee) and Sarah Jane (Susan Kohner). When Lora is signed to star in an Italian motion picture, she leaves Steve to watch after Suzie, and the teenager develops an unrequited crush on her mother’s boyfriend.

imitation_turnerAdolescence has not stopped Sarah Jane from attempting to pass for white: she begins dating a white boy (Troy Donohue), who severely beats her after learning she is black. Some time later, Sarah Jane passes in order to get a job performing at a seedy nightclub, and lies to Annie and tells her she is working at the library. When Annie learns the truth and appears to claim her daughter, Sarah Jane is fired, and Sarah Jane’s subsequent dismissal of her mother’s care begins taking a physical toll on Annie. Lora returns from her trip to Italy to find that Sarah Jane has run away from home, and has Steve hire a detective to find her. The detective locates Sarah Jane in California, living as a white woman under an assumed name and working as a chorus girl. Annie, becoming weaker and more depressed by the day, flies out to California to see her daughter one last time and say goodbye.

Annie is bedridden upon her return to New York, and Lora and Suzie both look after her. The issue of Suzie’s crush on Steve becomes a serious issue when Suzie learns that Steve and Lora are to be married, and Lora learns from Annie of Suzie’s crush on her fiancé. After a confrontation with her mother, Suzie decides to go away to school in Denver, Colorado to forget about Steve. Not long after Suzie leaves, however, the now gravely ill Annie passes away, presumably “of a broken heart”.

As per her last wishes, Annie is given a lavish funeral in a large church, complete with a gospel choir (and a solo by gospel star Mahalia Jackson) and a parade-like procession with a horse-drawn hearse. Just before the procession begins, however, a remorseful Sarah Jane tears through the crowd of mourners and throws herself upon her mother’s casket, begging forgiveness. Lora takes Sarah Jane to their limousine to join her, Suzie, and Steve as the procession slowly travels through the city.

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Juanita Moore, and her on-screen daughter, Susan Kohner, 2008.

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1. Find meaning and inspiration in your work.

2. Work hard.

3. Discover the relationship between effort and reward.

4. Seek out complex work to avoid boredom and repetition.

5. Be autonomous and control your own destiny as much as possible.

Another busy week behind us…

Beginning last Monday I was not feeling well, and my temperature hovered around 100-101 degrees. My sister-in-law, Stacia, had been taken ill with strep last weekend, and then my brother, Destin, got it this week. Their boys, Parker and Fred, have been up and down with this winter’s crud.

Some of my activities:

  1. finishing touches on ACTION Adoption’s display board for adoption fair
  2. taught lessons
  3. helped Jose with homework (he particularly asks me to help him study for history because, “Dad gives me a ton more information and makes it fun.”)
  4. helped Beavercreek show choir on Tuesday
  5. got cable installed Thursday (ugh… I hate addictions)

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Friday morning, I woke to discover the television still on The History Channel. So, at 6:00am, I watched MARRIED WITH CHILDREN, followed by a great History Channel documentary on The Declaration of Independence. I ran a few errands and got my hair cut, returning to my desk by 10:00am where I worked on the Wright Brothers’ musical for five hours while watching THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES, BEWITCHED, and THE WEST WING.

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Ahhh….  

Friday night, after I taught lessons, we drove to ACTION where Jose gave a remarkable presentation about his birth family’s experiences, foster care life, and being adopted. I am so proud of my son, and especially, his public speaking skills. Although it was somewhat informal, he was stellar! One family had been in a private meeting and entered about five minutes late; Jose paused while they got situated, smiling at the family the entire time. Then, he briefly introduced himself, and explained his topic. Brilliant, and so very considerate.

Upon our return, Jose hit his XBox, and I hit The History Channel for “The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln” and “Stealing Lincoln’s Body.” By 3:00am, I was asleep.

At 6:30am Saturday I was wide awake watching CNN… yes!

8:30am I was at the adoption fair setting up the display.

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At 10:30am I left the adoption fair and hurried to Fairmont’s Trent Arena where I worked the admission’s table for the WGI percussion competition. I got to work with Steve & Lorie Lamb, again, and a new couple that I also a new couple whose daughter will be a freshman next year. That certainly made my scheduled time of 11:00am- 7:00pm o fast.

While the contest was starting, bad weather had begun moving in from the north. Many parents from Toledo and Michigan had rough drives down to Kettering. When I left at 7:00pm, the driveway was iced, as were my car’s windows.

Jose and I went to supper at a Chinese buffet. I was still feeling uncomfortable, still. I returned to my bedroom with NOW, VOYAGER (1942) with Bette Davis. My grandmother always loved Bette Davis, and I remembered her telling me this was one of her favorite movies. It was very good, and of course, it was scored by one of my two favorite film composers, Max Steiner, who scored GONE WITH THE WIND (my other favorite is John Williams).

This morning I woke with CNN, and waited for a telephone call to see if I would be needed for the finals round of the percussion competition. While fixing an egg white omelet, Jose came downstairs, feeling miserable. I took his temperature and he had a 102 fever. He retreated to the basement with a half gallon of orange juice, after taking some meds. I had him call his manager at One Lincoln Park, and instructed him to drink the OJ and tons of water.

My head is congested, but the Mucinex is keeping it flowing… yuk!

I am propped up in bed, listening to Robert Schuller, ready to work on the Wright Brothers’ musical. Flyer is snuggled next to me (she pulls down the sham and pillows on the passenger side, and props her head up to watch television), and Logan is on my lap, curled up under the hospital table on which my laptop is situated… this hospital table was one of my best purchases – allowing me to work from my bed late at night or early in the morning – or on lazy Sunday mornings.

 I have three students this afternoon beginning at 4:00pm. And I hope to spend the evening resting with… well, cable.

 

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Socks, the cat who won international fame during his years in the Clinton White House, was euthanized Friday after months of treatment for cancer.

Socks was adopted by Chelsea Clinton when her father was governor of Arkansas. S

ocks, who was born in 1989, was put to sleep about 10 a.m. at Three Notch Veterinary Clinic in Hollywood, Maryland, said veterinary assistant Rae Dera. Veterinarians say he was probably either 19 or 20 years old. The cat had been losing weight since November and had been treated at the clinic, Dera said. He had been suffering from a cancer in his mouth and jaw.

Since the Clintons left the White House in 2001, Socks had lived with Betty Currie, former President Bill Clinton’s secretary. The Clintons were known to have visited Socks, and Currie, when in Washington.

He had been a stray and was adopted by Chelsea Clinton, the Clintons’ daughter, when Bill Clinton was governor of Arkansas.

“Socks brought much happiness to Chelsea and us over the years, and enjoyment to kids and cat lovers everywhere,” Bill and Hillary Clinton said in a joint statement released by the William J. Clinton Foundation.

“We’re grateful for those memories, and we especially want to thank our good friend, Betty Currie, for taking such loving care of Socks for so many years.”

The black-and-white feline was a fixture at the White House during the Clintons’ eight-year run. He was often photographed on the president’s shoulder and was given free rein of the presidential residence — showing up in photos in the Oval Office and White House press briefing room.

He had his own online fan club, appeared at animal charity events and was one of the subjects of now-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s book, “Dear Socks, Dear Buddy: Kids’ Letters to the First Pets.”

Last night I told my son that I was officially a part of the Twentieth Century.

“But, Dad, this is the Twenty-first Century.”

Yes. That is true. But, I finally did a very Twentieth Century thing – I finally got cable television.

With the digital transition, I figured this was the time to investigate. I could have gone with just the converter boxes, but decided to give cable a shot. So, I set up Dish with AT&T. I paid them $99 for set-up and they sent the worker out. When he saw the line of trees bordering the easement between my yard and the high school’s property, he quickly assessed there was no way we could do satellite. The worker made a call into the company, and assured me there would be a supervisor coming shortly to validate this worker’s assessment. Three days later, there was still no visit from a supervisor.

On top of this, $40 was reapplied to my banking account. $59 was not returned from AT&T. This only tops the list of numerous grievances I have with this company.

So, I contacted Time-Warner. My God! Sales people can be vultures!

This cable – dish – anything fairly technical stuff – is very foreign to me. In fact, when I was investigating it a month ago, I sent a note to four different friends (and my brother) because I knew they would address my questions in layman’s terms, and in a manner I could comprehend. The vultures at Time-Warner, though not outwardly pushy, just could not seem to hone in on my needs, and could not assist me thinking through the process. It was always, “With what you described, you should probably go with this….” – always something that I knew was not what I wanted as I had the information pulled up in front of me on the computer screen.

My neighbor lady’s niece is in the customer service department at Time-Warner, and we set it up so she could contact me. Trying to get to Joyce through Time-Warner was more difficult than walking into the White House from off the street with no appointment. Finally, it was accomplished, and Joyce was wonderful.

So, last night, my home entered the Twentieth Century.

I never felt the need for cable, especially since I work so much from home. I did not want to become addicted to television. Now that WEST WING is no longer a weekly ritual, I stick mostly to TWO AND A HALF MEN, FAMILY GUY, and documentaries on PBS. That is pretty much my television line-up, aside from my Netflix documentaries and biographies. When I visit Mother in Indiana, I will stay up most of the night watching The History Channel – always returning to Ohio exhausted.

The cable guy had an easy installment since the house was already set up for cable, and the lines ran to every room but the kitchen.
 
After he left, I realized there was no menu indicating the new channels/stations. I heard Jose in the basement playing XBox, so I knew that he would not know the channels. I searched on line, and could find nothing. About 20 minutes into my search, Jose comes upstairs and says, “I bet you are loving channel 52.”  I asked what was on 52… “The History Channel.”  He then proceeded to identify me about 15-20 channels from memory! I asked how he knew them considering he was on XBox, and he said he just ran through the channels and memorized them.
 
Now, if he could only memorize his German, items from English and biology….
I decided I needed to get some work accomplished and I turned back to my monitor… within a few minutes I was channel surfing. Ugh… too many sports channels and why in the heck are there shopping channels?
I decided to delete some of unnecessary channels. It was rather easy to navigate. The televisions in my study and bedroom (from where I often work, as well) are identical, so they were simply. The living room’s television had the cable entering into the television; however, I placed it into the DVD/video machine so that the entire stereo system would also be connected. Wonderful!
I returned to my study, pleased with myself.
At age 44, I had adjusted the cable channels on three televisions, reattached the living room cable into the DVD/video machine… all without the assistance of my teenage son!

There are some days when I just don’t see myself being old enough to be a father. And other days, I feel as though I am the age of a great-grandparent. Being a father is certainly an experience – and more often than not, a delightful one. My life as a parent is not without the typical stress shared by most parents, but on the whole, I have been blessed.

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My youngest son, Jose, is seventeen, and is adorable as they come. We never sit down to a meal where he does not say, “Thank you.” I can probably count on one hand the times he has not said, “thank you” for seeing a movie, getting ice cream, going to an event, etc.. Jose is a very grateful child.

The best part is that Jose has a terrific sense of humor. He may not look like me, but he is, most definitely, my son! He never knows when he will open the front storm door and a bag of water will drop… or a piece of napkin shoved into his straw when we are out to eat (he often takes his straw with him when he leaves the table at a buffet).

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Not only is he great about being the recipient of jokes, or pranks, he also knows how to dole them out as well.

One day we were getting into the car, and I made some remark to him, and he responded with, “eine was für stumme Scheiße” (German: “What a dumb shit!”)

“Jose, you just called me a ‘dumb shit.’ I know enough German you stumme Scheiße!”

One night we were at Wal-Mart just after I had finished painting the kitchen during winter break. I was explaining how I wanted to do something on the cabinet doors – decals, or something decorative. I said that even something with wooden letters would work. Jose left my side and grabbed several wooden letters, laying them out in front of me: G A Y.

At Meijers I was trying to explain to an associate I was searching for Stitch Witchery – a glue tape that cements fabric. As I told the associate my intended use of making a valance for my kitchen, and some shelf drapes, I said, “It is the best thing since sliced bread.” Jose walked by me, and under his breath said, “My dad’s such a fag!”

Too often, when in public, we are forced to not look at one another when someone else says, or does something that tickles us. Jose and I are generally on the same page!

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I had the same relationship with my own mother, and my grandmother. In church, Mother would frown upon Grandma and I sitting next to one another because we often could not behave ourselves.

In a few years, the house will be quiet as Jose moves on to college. By the time he graduates, I will have only had him eleven years, and though I anticipate a wonderful relationship throughout his adult years, I know I will miss the daily humor we share.

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Hmmm… interesting.

I just finished watching the movie, THE FIVE PEOPLE WE MEET IN HEAVEN. I have always believed we each have a place in one another’s lives – affecting one another in ways beyond our awareness, even beyond our grasp.

“The world is full of stories, but the stories are all one.”

Incredible.

I thought I would be more moved as the credits rolled up, but I just feel satisfied. There are days when I feel as Eddie did in the movie – “a non-contributor to life, and those around me.” Some days, I feel as though the purpose to my existence has somehow been a joke. However, I know, deep down, that I have contributed much to life, and those who have been in my life, or crossed paths, even for a moment.

The concept seems to mirror, in some ways, the movie IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. I always hope that I have touched lives, just as lives have touched mine.

I agree with the author of the book, I just don’t believe life is without a purpose, and that we merely become “worm food.” I like the concept that death is not the end of all things, but the beginning of all things. There must be so much more to what we endure in this life, and I don’t technically buy into the “mansion on the hilltop with streets paved in gold.”

The main germ of this movie is that we are all somebody… no one is a nobody. The main character, Eddie, feels insignificant, but he learns he has touched many lives throughout his earthly journey.

“No man is a failure who has friends.” IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE

I BELIEVE from ALTAR BOYZ

One beam of light, is enough to see where you’re going
One wrong turn, is enough to loose your way
One choice, is all you have to make
One ounce of faith could save the day
I believe, that I came to know you for a reason
I believe, that the things that you say will come true
I believe that with you in my life I’ll make it
I believe in you .stlyrics

One Mistake, doesn’t have to mean that it’s over
One bad day, only means there’s work to do
One night, is sometimes all it takes

To realize one thing is true
I believe, that I came to know you for a reason
I believe, that the things that you say will come true
I believe that with you in my life I’ll make it
I believe in you

Take a picture of me now, take a look at who I am
Yesterday I wasn’t half as strong
Take a picture of us all, what we’ve been and what we are
Look at that, and tell me I’m wrong

I BELIEVE!

That I came to know you for a reason
I believe, that the things that you say will come true
I believe that with you in my life I’ll make it
I believe in you
I believe in You

The long week is over, and the weekend is upon us.

Most of the week was spent in writing on the Wright Brothers’ musical, teaching, helping Jose with homework, prepping students for college auditions, cleaning the kitchen, doing laundry, building a display unit for ACTION Adoption, and assisting Sharon Busch with the Beavercreek High School show choir.

It was a good week, and one that was very productive and energized.

Thursday, the 200th birthday of President Abraham Lincoln, I received many “birthday wishes” on behalf of the president. One student’s family even called to see if there would be birthday cake… of course!

Thursday night Jose and I watched SCHINDLER’S LIST since he is studying WWII in history. Beautifully written, directed, acted and filmed… but man, so depressing. But, it made me appreciate so many things I have in my life, and raised my awareness of the atrocities endured by millions just 65 years ago.

At 1:00am Jose went to the basement with his XBox360, and I crawled into bed, tired from the week. I began watching the DVD, THE FIVE PEOPLE YOU MEET IN HEAVEN, and fell asleep. Right now, I am watching the rest of it this morning, sitting up in bed at my laptop with Flyer snuggled beside me.

It is an interesting, and deep movie. The description of the book reads:

The Five People You Meet in Heaven is a novel by Mitch Albom. It recounts the life and death of a simple yet dignified old man, Eddie. After dying in a freak accident, Eddie finds himself in heaven where he encounters five people who have significantly affected his life, whether he realized it at the time or not. Each imparts a divine piece of wisdom unto him, instilling a deeper comprehension regarding the most intimate facets of life. In the beginning he dedicates the book to his uncleEdward Beitchman. He says that he wants people like his uncle who felt unimportant here on earth to realize, finally, how much they mattered and how they were loved.

Albom’s first novel, The Five People You Meet in Heaven was published in 2003 by Hyperion, and remained on the New York Times Best Seller list for 95 weeks. It was the bestselling first time novel ever written.

For lunch, Jose and I will head to our favorite Chinese buffet downtown, and run some errands. I will write until it is time to head to ACTION Adoption.

The weekend? Well, I will finish the display frame for ACTION, write, grab some movies with Jose, and maybe doing something fun. I am sure Jose will want to spend as much time with his XBox. Since he has displayed so much effort, and hard work towards his grades, he deserves a relaxing weekend.

 

This afternoon, I sent a note to my brother, sarcastically reminding him that it has been a while since I have seen photos of my youngest nephew and godson, Fred. There were tons of photos with Parker, his eldest, and typical of the second child, there are fewer photos. But, my brother obliged me, and sent several photographs of my beautiful nephews.

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President Obama speaks in front of the box where Lincoln was assassinated.

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama stood beneath the flag-draped box where Abraham Lincoln was shot inside Ford’s Theatre, honoring the “hallowed space” on the eve of the 16th president’s 200th birthday.

Hollywood stars and Washington power brokers celebrated the theater’s reopening Wednesday night, hearing Obama praise one of his favorite presidents for Lincoln’s conviction that a divided nation could be made whole.

“For despite all that divided us _ North and South, black and white _ he had an unyielding belief that we were, at heart, one nation, and one people,” Obama said. “And because of Abraham Lincoln, and all who’ve carried on his work in the generations since, that is what we remain today.”

Surrounded by actors and artists, Obama said Lincoln’s passion for education and the arts will thrive at the famous theater after its recent $25 million renovation. The theater is reopening after 18 months of installing more comfortable seats, a modern lobby and new dressing rooms.

Those in the audience stood and turned to applaud Obama and first lady Michelle Obama as they made their way down the aisle to the tune of “Hail to the Chief.”

Violinist Joshua Bell opened the show with a traditional spiritual on a violin that hadn’t been played since the night Lincoln was shot in 1865. Later, a video was played of former presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush reading the Gettysburg Address. The film will be added to the theater’s museum.

Before the event, guests ranging from Cabinet members and congressional leaders to movie producers strode down a red carpet in sharply cut tuxedos and colorful gowns. Talk included prime-time television plotlines and the economic stimulus package being hammered out in Congress.

Yes! This is an exciting day for me. As a child in elementary school I can remember calculating how many years before it would be Lincoln’s birthday, and how old I would be. Well, the day has arrived… 2009, and I am 44 years old.

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Ohioans’ views of the man changed greatly from his 1st Capitol visit to last Wednesday,  February 11, 2009 3:31 AM
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
On his first visit to the Ohio Statehouse, Abraham Lincoln was definitely not a big hit.
The little-known Republican presidential candidate from Illinois, then cleanshaven and without his trademark stovepipe hat, spoke for two hours to a crowd of about 50 people. The spot where Lincoln stood on Sept. 16, 1859, has been memorialized with a bronze plaque affixed to a stone column in the Statehouse Atrium, the building that encloses what once was the east entrance to the Statehouse.
His topics that day: slavery and preservation of the union.
On Thursday, 200 years after his birth, Lincoln’s eventful life and his three visits to the Statehouse — one of them posthumous — will be observed at a 10 a.m. Statehouse ceremony at which Gov. Ted Strickland and other officials will rededicate the Lincoln and Vicksburg Monument in the Rotunda.
The monument, by Cincinnati sculptor Thomas Dow Jones, began in 1860 as a bust of the then newly elected president. After Lincoln’s assassination, Jones incorporated the bust into a monument to soldiers on both sides who died in the Battle of Vicksburg. It was dedicated in 1870.
The event will include the unveiling of a Lincoln photo exhibit, a Statehouse Museum Shop sale and birthday cake for the 16th president. In addition, Lincoln historian Gary Kersey will offer 45-minute presentations at noon and 3 p.m. in the Atrium.
The celebration will be shared by fourth-graders from Saint Mary Elementary School, 700 S. 3rd St., in German Village, who will dress in period costumes and recite the Gettysburg Address. The students will travel to and from the Statehouse in a horse-drawn carriage.
Historical records show that on his first appearance in Ohio in 1859, Lincoln’s position on slavery had not evolved as it would later when he issued the Emancipation Proclamation. He said slavery was unconstitutional, but argued that he was misquoted in an Ohio newspaper about the comments against slavery he made during his debates with Sen. Stephen Douglas of Illinois.
“I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races — that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, or intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position, the negro should be denied everything.”
As president, Lincoln returned to the Statehouse on Feb. 14, 1861, to address a joint session of the Ohio General Assembly and meet with Gov. William Dennison. Lincoln’s reception was larger and more enthusiastic this time, with crowds around the Statehouse “packed together like pickles in a jar,” according to one newspaper account.
Lincoln’s body lay in state in the Statehouse Rotunda on April 29, 1865. The 50,000 people who paid their final respects to the slain leader set a single-event record.
Read the full text of Lincoln’s 1859 speech at the Statehouse at www.mrlincolnandfreedom.org/inside.asp?ID=81&subjectID=2.

A science professor begins his school year with a lecture to the students, “Let me explain the problem science has with religion.” The atheist professor of philosophy pauses before his class and then asks one of his new students to stand.

  

“You’re a Christian, aren’t you, son?”

 

“Yes sir,” the student says.

  

“So you believe in God?”

 

“Absolutely.”

  

“Is God good?”

 

“Sure! God’s good.”

  

“Is God all-powerful? Can God do anything?”

 

“Yes.”

  

“Are you good or evil?”

 

“The Bible says I’m evil.”

   

The professor grins knowingly. “Aha! The Bible!” He considers for a moment. “Here’s one for you. Let’s say there’s a sick person over here and you can cure him. You can do it. Would you help him? Would you try?”

  

“Yes sir, I would.”

  

“So you’re good…!”

 

“I wouldn’t say that.”  

  

“But why not say that? You’d help a sick and maimed person if you could. Most of us would if  we could. But God doesn’t.”

  

The student does not answer, so the professor continues. “He doesn’t, does he? My brother was a Christian who died of cancer, even though he prayed to Jesus to heal him. How is this Jesus good? Hmmm? Can you answer that one?”

  

The student remains silent.

 

“No, you can’t, can you?” the professor says. He takes a sip of water from a glass on his desk to

 give the student time to relax.

  

“Let’s start again, young fella. Is God good?”

 “Er…yes,” the student says.

  

“Is Satan good?”

 

The student doesn’t hesitate on this one. “No.”

  

“Then where does Satan come from?”

 

The student falters. “From God”

  

“That’s right. God made Satan, didn’t he? Tell me, son. Is there evil in this world?”

 

“Yes, sir.”

  

“Evil’s everywhere, isn’t it? And God did make everything, correct?”

  

“Yes.”

  

“So who created evil?”

  

The professor continued, “If God created everything, then God created evil, since evil exists, and according to the principle that our works define who we are, then God is evil.”

  

Again, the student has no answer. “Is there sickness? Immorality? Hatred? Ugliness? All these terrible things, do they exist in this world?”

  

The student squirms on his feet. “Yes.”

 

 “So who created them?”

  

The student does not answer again, so the professor repeats his question. “Who created them?” There is still no answer. Suddenly the lecturer breaks away to pace in front of the classroom. The class is mesmerized. “Tell me,” he continues onto another student. “Do you believe in Jesus Christ, son?’

  

The student’s voice betrays him and cracks. “Yes, professor, I do.”

The old man stops pacing. “Science says you have five senses you use to identify and observe the world around you. Have you ever seen Jesus?”

  

“No sir. I’ve never seen Him.”

  

“Then tell us if you’ve ever heard your Jesus?”

 

“No, sir, I have not.”

  

“Have you ever felt your Jesus, tasted your Jesus or smelt your Jesus? Have you ever had any sensory perception of Jesus Christ, or God for that matter?”

  

“No, sir, I’m afraid I haven’t.”

 

“Yet you still believe in him?”

 

“Yes.”

  

“According to the rules of empirical, testable, demonstrable protocol, science says your God doesn’t exist. What do you say to that, son?”

  

“Nothing,” the student replies. “I only have my faith.”

 

“Yes, faith,” the professor repeats. And that is the problem science has with God. There is no evidence, only faith.”

  

At the back of the room another student stands quietly for a moment before asking a question of His own. “Professor, is there such thing as heat?”

  

“Yes,” the professor replies. “There’s heat.”

 

“And is there such a thing as cold?”

 

“Yes, son, there’s cold too.”

 

“No sir, there isn’t.”

 

The professor turns to face the student, obviously interested. The room suddenly becomes very quiet. The student begins to explain. “You can have lots of heat, even more heat, super-heat, mega-heat, unlimited heat, white heat, a little heat or no heat, but we don’t have anything called ‘cold’. We can hit up to 458 degrees below zero, which is no heat, but we can’t go any further after that.  There is no such thing as cold; otherwise we would be able to go colder than the lowest -458 degrees. Everybody or object is susceptible to study when it has or transmits energy, and heat is what makes a body or matter have or transmit energy. Absolute zero (-458 F) is the total absence of heat. You see, sir, cold is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat. We cannot measure cold. Heat we can measure in thermal units because heat is energy. Cold is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of it.”

  

 Silence across the room. A pen drops somewhere in the classroom, sounding like a hammer.

  

“What about darkness, professor. Is there such a thing as darkness?”

  

“Yes,” the professor replies without hesitation. “What is night if it isn’t darkness?”

  

“You’re wrong again, sir. Darkness is not something; it is the absence of something. You can have low light, normal light, bright light, flashing light, but if you have no light constantly you have nothing and it’s called darkness, isn’t it? That’s the meaning we use to define the word.”

   

“In reality, darkness isn’t. If it were, you would be able to make darkness darker, wouldn’t you?”

  

The professor begins to smile at the student in front of him. This will be a good semester. ‘So what point are you making, young man?”

 

“Yes, Professor. My point is, your philosophical premise is flawed to start with, and so your conclusion must also be flawed.”

  

The professor’s face cannot hide his surprise this time. “Flawed? Can you explain how?”

  

“You are working on the premise of duality,” the student explains. You argue that there is life and then there’s death; a good God and a bad God. You are viewing the concept of God as something finite, something we can measure. Sir, science can’t even explain a thought. It uses electricity and magnetism, but has never seen, much less fully understood either one. To view death as the opposite of life is to be ignorant of the fact that death cannot exist as a substantive thing. Death is not the opposite of life, just the absence of it.”

  

“Now tell me, professor. Do you teach your students that they evolved from a monkey?”

  

“If you are referring to the natural evolutionary process, young man, yes, of course I do.”

  

“Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir?”

  

The professor begins to shake his head, still smiling, as he realizes where the argument is going. A very good semester, indeed.

  

“Since no one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and cannot even prove that this process is an on-going endeavor, are you not teaching your opinion, sir? Are you now not a scientist, but a preacher?”

  

The class is in uproar. The student remains silent until the commotion has subsided.

  

“To continue the point you were making earlier to the other student, let me give you an example of what I mean.”

  

The student looks around the  room. “Is there anyone in the class who has ever seen the professor’s brain?” The class breaks out into laughter.

  

“Is there anyone here who has ever heard the professor’s brain, felt the professor’s brain, touched or smelt the professor’s brain? No one appears to have done so. So, according to the established rules of empirical, stable, demonstrable protocol, science says that you have no brain, with all due respect, sir.”

  

“So if science says you have no brain, how can we trust your lectures, sir?”

  

Now the room is silent. The professor just stares at the student, his face unreadable.

  

Finally, after what seems an eternity, the old man answers. “I guess you’ll have to take them on faith.”

  

“Now, you accept that there is faith, and, in fact, faith exists with life,” the student continues.

 

“Now, sir, is there such a thing as evil?”

  

Now uncertain, the professor responds, “Of course, there is. We see it every day. It is in the daily example of man’s inhumanity to man. It is in the multitude of crime and violence everywhere in the world. These manifestations are nothing else but evil.”

  

To this the student replied, “Evil does not exist sir, or at least it does not exist unto itself. Evil is simply the absence of God. It is just like darkness and cold, a word that man has created to describe the absence of God. God did not create evil. Evil is the result of what happens when man does not have God’s love present in his heart. It’s like the cold that comes when there is no heat or the darkness that comes when there is no light.”

  

The professor sat down.

 

 

Jose’s youth group had an interesting discussion on how “doubt” is often crucial to faith.

The youth were asked that upon waking this morning, count your blessings, and to walk through the next few days in a state of gratitude. My friend, Jeff Carter, sometimes will list on his blog items for which he feels blessed.

I am going to start a practice on our kitchen dry-erase board – and each evening, Jose and I will list one or two items for which we feel blessed. 

This morning, to start this process, I am providing my own list:

  1. My son
  2. Music… Theatre….
  3. My family
  4. Music… Theatre….
  5. My friends
  6. Music… Theatre….
  7. My students and their families
  8. Music… Theatre….
  9. Abraham Lincoln (remember, his 200th birthday is this Thursday!)
  10. Music… Theatre….
  11. Wilbur, Orville & Katharine Wright
  12. Music… Theatre….
  13. Education
  14. Music… Theatre….
  15. My co-writers, Gail Whipple & Leslie Merry
  16. Music… Theatre….
  17. Flyer & Logan
  18. Music… Theatre….
  19. Teachers – former, current and future
  20. Music… Theatre….
  21. Our home & neighbors
  22. Music… Theatre….
  23. Having Diabetes – learning how to understand, believe in, appreciate, and love my health
  24. Music… Theatre….
  25. Having my spirituality
  26. Music… Theatre….
  27. Knowing that I am loved
  28. Music… Theatre….
  29. My wonderful career which affords me the opportunity to work with so many wonderful people
  30. Music… Theatre….

The long, long weekend is over…

If parents work shifts at the Winter Guard International (WGI) or percussion contests, money will be applied towards your child’s marching band account. So, I volunteered for Saturday. Kathy Symes, the parent coordinator, and one of my favorite band moms (I haven’t forgotten you, Jill Chabut!) asked me earlier in the week if I could work all day Saturday, and all day Sunday.

Sure!

Saturday morning  I left the Haasienda at 8:30am to walk to Trent Arena on the other side of the high school, while chatting with Mother briefly on the telephone.

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Trent Arena on the Kettering Fairmont High School campus.

Saturday, from 9:00am until 7:00pm I worked the admissions table. The couple who assisted me on the first shift, Steve and Lorie, were an absolute blast. They both grew up in Fairborn. Steve was in the military, and they lived in multiple locations before moving to Kettering.  Their daughter is a trombone player, and a sophomore. Steve and Lorie could not be more adorable!

The afternoon shift flew by – though, my partners at the admission table were not as exciting. However, I got to see several friends from Ball State, and by the day’s end my stomach muscles were sore from holding them in every time I ran into someone from college!

I joked around with the guests coming in for the day – putting on their paper bracelets – alot more fun than handling money which I hate (instant math!). I got tons of laughs from the people as I explained the paper wrist wraps were compliments of James Free Jewelers, and that everyone from a one hundred mile radius was flocking in to buy one. The winter guard students assured us that you could wear the bracelets in the shower for three months before they rotted off.

Now, if you have never been to a WGI event, you are missing some fun experiences. They are so different than show choir contests. Winter guard and percussion ensembles seem, to me, to be completely made up of a different type of teenager. Many guards have teen boys in them, and the open or world class guards have a number of guys in them. There were a ton of male choreographers in attendance, both as staff, and in the audience. And perhaps 90% of the men in attendance for these events are gay, or heterosexually challenged.

Now – having set up the flavor of the event…

This one lady entered the lobby, and she was dressed To The Nines! Sharp. She unbuttoned her coat, revealing an ample bosom. However, the ample bosom was quite exposed as the neckline descended in a long “V” ending just above her navel. As she paid her money I could not stop staring at how freely they seemed to dangle, apparently unaccompanied by a sturdy undergarment. After paying for her entry fee, she moved to my end of the table, offering her wrist for me to wrap the paper bracelet. Upon closer inspection it was terribly obvious that she was not wearing a bra, as “Twirly and Whirly” were about to Samba right on out of her sheer, black blouse (which, come on… not appropriate for this type of event!).

The mother sitting next to me waited politely until the woman had left the table, and then grabbed my arm with the most astonished look on her face. Thank heavens I was not the only one to have witnessed “the twins.”

“Why would she wear such a top to a high school function?” my admission table partner asked.

“Well, if you ask me,” I replied, “if she is here to pick up a man, this is the WRONG place to find one in this crowd!”

Botticelli or da Vinci could have taken their easels and made a day out of it with some angel or Madonna painting!

Jose worked from 2:00pm-7:00pm, and by the time I arrived home Saturday night I was dead to the world – but could not rest. I remember TWO AND A HALF MEN coming on at 11:30pm, but I don’t recall anything after that until I woke up at 4:30am. I coaxed my self back to sleep until 6:30am.

Sunday, I walked back to the high school at 8:15am (while chatting again with Mother) and was in an entirely different position. Instead of sitting and enjoying people, I was inside Trent Arena at the very top, coordinating all the judges’ score sheets and the hand-held digital recorders. I had two students to work the balcony and floor, but I still managed to climb up and down the bleacher steps a good 60 times. There were a few times I just did not know if the heart was going to keep up with me… but with some encouragement, and some medication, we made those steps look carefree.

trent-arean-int

The shows were interesting, and incredibly delightful. I managed to squeeze in one restroom break between 9:30am-3:30pm. I know, from years of experience, to pack items on which I can work when board, and snacks. I was a good little boyscout. And I ripped through some chunks of the Wright Brothers’ musical.

Towards the end, an elderly couple entered – he looked every  bit the grandfather, and she was dazzling. The WGI staff was making quite a stir about them, reminding me of Len Thomas and Brian Breed tripping over themselves to get to Virginia Waring – the wife of Fred Waring – when we were having a cocktail party at Penn State in 1984 prior to the television taping of Fred Waring’s America. Eventually, the couple moved near me, taking seats set up on the indoor track around the arena balcony.

The lady turned, looked at me… smiled. I returned the smile. She looked familiar but I was so tired that I could not place where I knew her.

During a break between guards, she smiled again, and then I recognized her!

Marlene Miller.

Fred J. Miller, and his beautiful wife, Marlene, have one of the number one band clinic organizations, and band uniform/equipment companies in the nation, and headquartered right here in South Dayton. They are co-presidents of their family run business, and their three children are the vice-presidents. The Fred J. Miller drum-major clinics are fantastic, and they also provide many of the same clinics as Smith-Wallbridge Clinics with which I was associated in high school and college.

millers

Fred & Marlene Miller, and their three children.

As Mr. & Mrs. Miller and I chatted, I discovered they were good friends with one of Elwood’s most prominent choreographers, Tudy Smith. Tudy was one of the nation’s foremost baton twirlers, and her daughter, Selita, was Purdue’s Golden Girl. For many years, the Elwood Variety Shows sparkled under the brilliant designs of Mrs. Smith, and her musical companions, Clifford Brugger and Rex Jenkins, band legends in Indiana. Tudy was also the choreographer for the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City for many years. A sweet, beautiful and wonderfully classy lady!

tudy_smith

Tudy Smith

Fred J. Miller, and Tudy had also served as presidents of the United States Twirling Association (USTA) throughout the years. Mrs. Miller told me that Tudy had just been inducted to the Twirling Hall of Fame.

I had the best chat with the Millers, who delighted in sharing that they were celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, and that they had met, and fell in love at Smith-Wallbridge Drum-major Camp in Syracuse, Indiana. We discussed all the familiar names of Dr. Charles Henzie, Merl Smith, Margaret Smith, Gary Smith… great teachers in my drum-major days!

By 3:00pm the contest was completed, and the awards were given.

I stayed to help with tear down, and clean up, and then dragged my very tired, aching body home.

However, by 6:30pm I was sweeping the house in preparation for the teaching week, folding laundry, cleaning the kitchen, and prepping my weekly calendar. I received a note from Valerie Lockhart – Mike’s father passed away this morning. Just after reading her email at 7:30pm, Jose called from work so I could pick him up and drive him to SIGNS youth group.

While he was at SIGNS, I ran to Dollar General to get paper items, and then to Meijers to get groceries. By 8:30pm I was back at the YMCA (where SIGNS is held), and home by 9:00pm. We unloaded groceries, and I baked a cake for my neighbor lady’s birthday, some brownies for the Lockharts, and prepped some food for this week since it will be a BUSY week.

Monday thru Thursdays are my busiest days as I have 12-14 students each day, and only 8 on Fridays. My Friday students have been squeezed into the other four days this week since we have school off this Friday for the long Presidents’ Day weekend. Tuesday night I will cut out slightly earlier than normal to work with Beavercreek High School’s show choir.

And on top of all this… a theatre director has indicated interest in the Wright Brothers’ musical to see if it might be something a local, and reputable theatre company could produce. So… while it is so nice to have this nibble, there is certainly no assurance of a production. But, I am hopeful, and working like the Devil to tie up some loose ends.

Hopefully, Friday Jose and I will be able to fully celebrate his birthday which was January 14th. With show choir contests, youth group events, WGI contest, and other items, we have not been able to celebrate his 17th birthday.

This week our weather is expected to be in the 40’s and 50’s… beautiful! I am hoping to squeeze in some walking time… just where is yet to be determined. I do some of my best writing while walking!

It is now 11:18pm and I am signing off and heading to bed… I WANT MY BED!!!

Much love to all!

PS. Just as I was ready to sign off, Jose came in to show me he had been upstairs working on homework. He realized that he had forgotten a biology assignment of 69 questions. He said, “I was so exhausted and was wanting to go to bed, but I knew the right thing was to get the assignment done.”

YES!

So, for nearly 45 minutes, we talked about academics, life, adoption, and how far he has come these past five years. My son is finally kicking in to the academics, and realizing his great potential!

And though I am still terribly tired, I have an energy surging through me that is nothing more than the knowledge of the blessings I feel at this moment…

I cannot believe Friday is upon us, yet, I am so thrilled it is here.
 
Last Friday I had breakfast/lunch with Bill Hetzer, and taught the remainder of the afternoon. After teaching, I went in to watch TWO AND A HALF MEN, and the next thing I know Jose was waking me for a telephone call.
 
Saturday and Sunday were relaxing days with DVD’s, some errands, a movie (GRAND TORINO – which I strongly recommend!), dinner at Roosters, and more DVD’s.
 
This week has been swamped with slipping students in to every available slot – auditions for high school musicals, and college music/musical theatre programs. I have taught early, and very late.
 
There were several students, not in audition mode, who graciously traded with seniors, or gave up fifteen minutes of their own lesson time so another auditioning student could spend 15 minutes with me. It was so neat to see the studio working together. I have several saxophone students who received scholarships from Bowling Green State University, as well as two voice students at the same school. One of my top dogs received a full ride academic scholarship at Miami University, as well as a fantastic music scholarship.
 
Jose was accepted into the digital design program – a three hour class – for next year. It is a pretty competitive class, and I have had a number of students go through that program. It is really a great opportunity.
 
Friday evening I will meet with some good friends from Beavercreek at Mama DiSalvos. It has become a favorite haunt for the four of us. .
 
Saturday and Sunday I will be living at the high school’s Trent Arena for the percussion ensemble contest. I will be working the admissions table, and the hours I work will go towards Jose’s marching band fees. I will be there Saturday from 9:00am-9:00pm, and Sunday from 7:00am-6:00pm. The lady in charge of assembling the work crew is a parent of one of my students, and she is so much fun… she asked if I would work the entire weekend. If Jose also comes over to work, we might have close to $200 of his band fees paid off. I believe I am scheduled to work another weekend, as well. It will be a LONG weekend, but the end result of band fees being paid off is wonderful.
 
The coming week holds more college auditions. So, more late nights, and more days running to one or two schools to grab extra time with students during their choir or band classes.
 
Thursday, February 12th, is President Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday celebration. I would give anything to be in Springfield, Illinois, or even in Hodgenville, Kentucky where he was born. I will hopefully have time to make cupcakes for students on that day. Some already have it figured out that Mr. Haas will probably have good stuff that day and have asked to reschedule!
 
Jose is preparing for a speaking engagement. Several months ago, I brought him in for a few minutes to speak to one of my adoption training classes at ACTION, and he brought the house down. The parents loved him. He was asked to speak to the on-going training in the larger room. I know it pays between $75 and $150 to the guest speakers we bring in, and ACTION will pay him for this. He will have approximately 2 hours to speak and answer questions. Jose does a remarkable job when speaking on adoption issues – birth family, foster family, and the transition into adoptive life. I think they will probably tape it, and I may take my video recorder to take him. One of the neatest things was last summer, after he had spent a month with Destin & Stacia, and their sons, in Fowler, Indiana… one of the parents in my training class asked him, “What can we do to make sure we are good parents?” Jose, without missing a beat, said, “Well, if you could be like my Aunt Stacia, you would be perfect.” And he proceeded to describe some of her parenting techniques. I am excited that he has this opportunity to keep sharing his story.
 
Right now, I am going to watch a movie with Jose. I had an hour break this evening, so we grabbed our bowls of spaghetti and watched some movies on German concentration camps. Jose is studying WWII, and we have been doing extra movies and Internet research – he really digs this era. Tonight, we are watching SCHINDLER’S LIST – a movie I have not seen.

I was watching a PBS Special on George Carlin. The guy was incredible!

I had never heard his TEN COMMANDMENTS, and this was brilliant… and so true!

GEORGE CARLIN ON THE 10 COMMANDMENTS
from “Complaints and Grievances” (HBO special)

Here is my problem with the ten commandments- why exactly are there 10?

You simply do not need ten. The list of ten commandments was artificially and deliberately inflated to get it up to ten. Here’s what happened:

About 5,000 years ago a bunch of religious and political hustlers got together to try to figure out how to control people and keep them in line. They knew people were basically stupid and would believe anything they were told, so they announced that God had given them some commandments, up on a mountain, when no one was around.

Well let me ask you this- when they were making this shit up, why did they pick 10? Why not 9 or 11? I’ll tell you why- because 10 sound official. Ten sounds important! Ten is the basis for the decimal system, it’s a decade, it’s a psychologically satisfying number (the top ten, the ten most wanted, the ten best dressed). So having ten commandments was really a marketing decision! It is clearly a bullshit list. It’s a political document artificially inflated to sell better. I will now show you how you can reduce the number of commandments and come up with a list that’s a little more workable and logical. I am going to use the Roman Catholic version because those were the ones I was taught as a little boy.

Let’s start with the first three:

I AM THE LORD THY GOD THOU SHALT NOT HAVE STRANGE GODS BEFORE ME

THOU SHALT NOT TAKE THE NAME OF THE LORD THY GOD IN VAIN

THOU SHALT KEEP HOLY THE SABBATH

Right off the bat the first three are pure bullshit. Sabbath day? Lord’s name? strange gods? Spooky language! Designed to scare and control primitive people. In no way does superstitious nonsense like this apply to the lives of intelligent civilized humans in the 21st century. So now we’re down to 7. Next:

HONOR THY FATHER AND MOTHER

Obedience, respect for authority. Just another name for controlling people. The truth is that obedience and respect shouldn’t be automatic. They should be earned and based on the parent’s performance. Some parents deserve respect, but most of them don’t, period. You’re down to six.

Now in the interest of logic, something religion is very uncomfortable with, we’re going to jump around the list a little bit.

THOU SHALT NOT STEAL

THOU SHALT NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS

Stealing and lying. Well actually, these two both prohibit the same kind of behavior- dishonesty. So you don’t really need two you combine them and call the commandment “thou shalt not be dishonest”. And suddenly you’re down to 5.

And as long as we’re combining I have two others that belong together:

THOU SHALT NOT COMMIT ADULTRY

THOU SHALT NOT COVET THY NEIGHBOR’S WIFE

Once again, these two prohibit the same type of behavior. In this case it is marital infidelity. The difference is- coveting takes place in the mind. But I don’t think you should outlaw fantasizing about someone else’s wife because what is a guy gonna think about when he’s waxing his carrot? But, marital infidelity is a good idea so we’re gonna keep this one and call it “thou shalt not be unfaithful”. And suddenly we’re down to four.

But when you think about it, honesty and infidelity are really part of the same overall value so, in truth, you could combine the two honesty commandments with the two fidelity commandments and give them simpler language, positive language instead of negative language and call the whole thing “thou shalt always be honest and faithful” and we’re down to 3.

THOU SHALT NOT COVET THY NEIGHBOR”S GOODS

This one is just plain fuckin’ stupid. Coveting your neighbor’s goods is what keeps the economy going! Your neighbor gets a vibrator that plays “o come o ye faithful”, and you want one too! Coveting creates jobs, so leave it alone. You throw out coveting and you’re down to 2 now- the big honesty and fidelity commandment and the one we haven’t talked about yet:

THOU SHALT NOT KILL

Murder. But when you think about it, religion has never really had a big problem with murder. More people have been killed in the name of god than for any other reason. All you have to do is look at Northern Ireland, Cashmire, the Inquisition, the Crusades, and the World Trade Center to see how seriously the religious folks take thou shalt not kill. The more devout they are, the more they see murder as being negotiable. It depends on who’s doin the killin’ and who’s gettin’ killed. So, with all of this in mind, I give you my revised list of the two commandments:

Thou shalt always be honest and faithful to the provider of thy nookie.

Thou shalt try real hard not to kill anyone, unless of course they pray to a different invisible man than you.

Two is all you need; Moses could have carried them down the hill in his fuckin’ pocket. I wouldn’t mind those folks in Alabama posting them on the courthouse wall, as long as they provided one additional commandment:

Thou shalt keep thy religion to thyself.

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