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Archive for January, 2013

10 Pro-Gun Myths, Shot Down | Mother Jones

Posted by Scott Holstad on January 31, 2013

10 Pro-Gun Myths, Shot Down | Mother Jones.

I think this is an excellent (short) article that everyone should read.

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The Myth of Human Progress | Alternet

Posted by Scott Holstad on January 26, 2013

The Myth of Human Progress | Alternet.

An interesting and very sobering article on climate control….

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12 Rational Responses to Irrational Arguments About Guns | Alternet

Posted by Scott Holstad on January 25, 2013

12 Rational Responses to Irrational Arguments About Guns | Alternet.

This is truly excellent if you’re in favor of certain forms of gun control….

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Notable (and Hilarious) Examples of the Christian Right’s Failed Prophecies | Alternet

Posted by Scott Holstad on January 23, 2013

Notable (and Hilarious) Examples of the Christian Right’s Failed Prophecies | Alternet.

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A Review of Jesus Was a Liberal

Posted by Scott Holstad on January 21, 2013

Jesus Was a Liberal: Reclaiming Christianity for AllJesus Was a Liberal: Reclaiming Christianity for All by Scotty McLennan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is interesting. Scotty McLennan doesn’t actually argue very vehemently that the historical Jesus was truly a liberal, but that a liberal political and spiritual ideology can be compatible with Christianity. So, that being said, the title’s a bit misleading. McLennan makes a great case for liberal Christianity in this book, but I think he kind of fails to convince me that Jesus himself was liberal. At least, he doesn’t spend much time on that argument, instead choosing to press the case for liberal Christianity. Once you can get past that, and I found it a bit disappointing, it’s a rather good book and a stimulating read.

First of all, I come from a strong evangelical background that I’ve recently rejected, having found happiness in a mainline church where I live. It comes closest to preaching what I’ve come to believe, and I’m very anti-evangelical, truth be told. I think evangelicals are largely judgmental, intolerant, mean spirited, Republican, haters who are doing a world of evil in this country. I know that might surprise some people, but that’s honestly how I feel after being indoctrinated for the past 45 years. I’m repelled by evangelicalism.

So McLennan immediately identifies the principles of liberal Christianity to start the book. These include

“The Bible is meant to be read largely metaphorically and allegorically, rather than literally. Science and religion are compatible; we are committed to the use of logic, reason, and the scientific method. Doubt is the handmaiden of faith. Love is the primary Christian value, and it is directly related to the promotion of liberty and justice in society at large. All people are inherently equal and worthy of dignity and respect. Free religious expression should be governmentally protected, but no particular tradition should be established as the state religion. There are many roads to the top of the spiritual mountain, and Christianity is only one of them. Interfaith understanding and tolerance are critical. We see Jesus primarily as a spiritual and ethical teacher and less as being identical with God. Living a fulfilled and ethical life here and now is more important than speculating on what happens to us after we die. Nonviolence is strongly preferred in relationships between human beings, groups, and nations. Women and men must play an equal role in religious leadership. And in terms of current American hot-button issues, we tend to be pro-choice on abortion and in favor of marriages for same-sex couples.”

Wow! That’s a lot to swallow at once. And I don’t necessarily agree with all of these principles. For instance, the statement, “There are many roads to the top of the spiritual mountain, and Christianity is only one of them,” goes against my ingrained teaching, although I like it in theory. So too the part about Jesus being an ethical teacher and not identical with God. In my tradition growing up, Jesus was part of the triune God, one and the same. It’s hard for me to shake that. This said, these principles are largely what I’ve come to believe over the past several years and I’m elated to see them in print and elated to know I’m not the only one who sees things this way.

McLennan dives right into the concept of Jesus as God on page nine.

“Although Jesus during his lifetime on earth would never have recognized certain titles later applied to him – ‘coequal with God,’ ‘of one substance with God,’ ‘ the second person of the Trinity’ – the early church began developing these ideas about him soon after death. There’s no doubt that his followers after his death moved from considering him a spirit person or mystic to increasingly speaking of him as having qualities of God and then as being divine himself…. Yet, personally, I don’t believe that Jesus was or is identical with God, nor do I think that’s what he believed either, based on the biblical evidence.”

He certainly puts it out there. Since I was taught from day one that Jesus is God, it’s hard for me to accept this from a minister and dean of religious life at Stanford University, but there you have it. Accept it or reject it, it’s out in the open.

He moves on to abortion.

“’There has always been strong support for the view that [human] life does not begin until live birth. This was the belief of the Stoics, It appears to be the predominant … attitude of the Jewish faith. It may be taken to represent … a large segment of the Protestant community.’… I’m personally part of that large Protestant community that believes that human life and personhood begin at birth [and not conception]…. I’m also personally compelled by the notion that it’s the breath of life that makes us full human beings.”

I know for a fact this is what Jews believe, as I was married to one for a number of years. I was taught early on that life begins at birth, so therefore abortion is allowed by the religious community. That may seem shocking to most evangelicals, but there are scriptural references Jews use to support this (which I don’t have at hand at the moment). My primary complaint about this section is McLennan doesn’t really tie this topic into Jesus’s personal beliefs on the subject, or his proposed beliefs. And isn’t that what this book is supposed to be about?

McLennan moves on to another hot-button issue – women’s roles in the church. Most evangelicals are opposed to having women in leadership positions within the church. This was my own experience growing up. McLennan believes differently:

“A careful reading of Paul’s letters makes it clear that women were among the most eminent leaders in the early Christian church. They were missionaries, teachers, worship leaders, preachers, and prophets.”

McLennan notes Paul as citing Prisca or Priscilla as co-worker, Apphia as sister, Phoebe as deacon, and Junia as apostle. Further, in Romans, Paul commends Mary, Tryphaena, Tryphosa, and Persis for having “worked hard” in the Lord. I was never taught this growing up. I wonder why. Why is the Bible such a patriarchal document and why are women feared by Christian men so very much? These comments from Paul seem to recommend women for church leadership positions. McLennan does address Paul’s famous admonition of women in Corinthians about women being silent in church and ties it into first century social propriety. It makes sense.

The author then goes on to address whether the Bible in the “inspired” word of God, something I was brought up to believe without giving it much thought at all. It was an accepted “truth.” McLennan cites NT Wright as writing that some people (evangelicals) assuming the Bible was inspired as “an act of pure ‘supernatural’ intervention, bypassing the minds of the [biblical] writers altogether. This would suggest that God either dictated the Bible word by word or was ‘zapping’ the writers with some kind of long-range linguistic thunderbolt.” He then discusses literal versus metaphorical readings of the Bible and makes a case for metaphorical, citing Wright’s not thinking the resurrection is “the Bible is speaking of a resuscitated corpse.” He shows cases of instances in the Bible that can’t be taken literally (Egypt is a broken reed of a staff, etc.) and ends the section by writing that “To speak of the ‘authority of the Bible’ is to refer to ‘the authority of a love story in which we are invited to take part’.”

Several pages later, he furthers his argument by stating the the Bible is a human product – “not ‘God’s revealed truth’ but a response of these two ancient communities [Israel and early Christians] to God that describes what they think is required of them ethically by God, how God has entered and influenced their lives, what kinds of prayers, praises, and practices are the most appropriate way to honor and worship God, and their hopes and dreams as a people of God.”

At this stage of the book, I’m intrigued by his arguments and persuaded by some of them, but am left wondering where Jesus enters into all of this. He’s not even trying to prove Jesus was a liberal, merely that Christianity can be. Oh well.

Later in the book, McLennan takes on people who accept what they’re taught in the church by blind faith. He quotes Daniel Dennett as being

“deeply bothered … by people who unapologetically take things on blind faith, without subjecting them to logical, scientific, and historical confirmation. He observes that ‘blind faith secures its own perpetuation by the simple unconscious expedient of discouraging ration inquiry,’ thereby rendering the ideal of truth-seeking and truth-telling its victim.”

Moreover, “Religion is the most prolific source of the ‘moral certainties’ and ‘absolutes’ that zealots depend on. Throughout the world, ‘people are dying and killing’ in the name of blind faith and unapologetic irrationality.”

On the issue of separation of church and state, McLennan finally gets around to Jesus: “Jesus in effect says ‘yes’ – separate church and state.” He uses the passage on rendering unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s. He then goes into describing life in the former Iron Curtain as an example of no separation of church and state, with the communists having an official religion that was heavily guarded in what it could teach.

Many liberal Christians have problems with the concept of the Trinity – three gods in one. McLennan begins the section by asking, “What’s the meaning of the Trinity?” He goes on to provide analogies of how it can be viewed realistically. One such is

“to think of the transcendent God of the universe (out there as the creator of all we knew in nature), the God who walks by our side in human form – both rejoicing and suffering along with us (having known suffering in the extreme of crucifixion) – and the God who is deep within our own souls but also working as the force that ties us together in community with each other. This is one God, but one who can feel quite different in an operational sense….”

Those of you who are familiar with tradition Protestant Christianity – fundamentalism, evangelicalism – know of the topic of being “born again.” One can’t escape it in our Christian culture. Indeed, our presidential candidates must profess to being “born again” if they’re going to get Red State votes. It’s so prevalent, that conservative Christians feel that those who have not been born again aren’t Christians and are destined for Hell. Yet many liberal Christians don’t believe in this concept. McLennan writes that “baptism is not fully effected until one believes, until one actually lays hold by faith of what God has mercifully granted us through the gift of his son, Jesus Christ,” as being the primary belief system for conservatives, and yet it’s been my experience in a mainline church community that the holy sacrament of baptism is the sign one is “saved,” and that one needn’t go, and doesn’t go, through a “being saved” one time experience in order to go to Heaven. Indeed, McLennan writes that one must be “born of water and Spirit.” Further,

“In the gospel of John, John uses another image for being born again: ‘The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’ Jesus’s offer of a new birth here is connected with wind. It doesn’t sound like something one can grab hold of by conscious intent. The proper attitude would seem to be more like gratitude for an undeserved gift, and a radical openness to the variety of ways it chooses to envelop and massage us.”

Later,

“So there’s being ‘born again’ in this Cheever story, with all the elements of deep, inward, radical change – baptismal water, wind blowing – worked by the Spirit in the inner recesses of the human personality – and of undeserved gifts of life and love, if only we can appreciate them. There’s no self-generated moral reformation. There’s no conscious repenting of one’s sin and turning to Christ. Just sudden regeneration, out of the blue, utterly transformative. It’s in that sense I hope for all of us the experience of being born again.”
McLennan acknowledges that “Easter is the great holiday of Christianity” due to the Resurrection. Then he goes on to ask, “But was the resurrection a flesh-and-blood photographable event? Most liberal Christians like me can’t possibly subscribe to this literalist claim. As I … read the gospel accounts, this was not a matter of a dead person coming back to his prior life of walking around, eating, drinking, and sleeping like the rest of us. Instead, what’s meant by resurrection is that Jesus was transformed into an entirely different level of being, beyond the usual categories of life and death…. [Witnesses seeing him] These are all visions or epiphanies or revelations of Jesus, not meetings with a resuscitated corpse.”

Wow. Heresy and treason to the people and traditions with which I was brought up. Still, it makes one wonder, does it not?

As you come to the close of the book, he addresses political liberalism and writes, “Liberals, often in the face of fierce conservative opposition, have been the ones to guarantee equal rights, and they have made laws that help keep our food and automobiles safe and college education affordable…. Liberal Christianity can point to the Old Testament prophets and to Jesus as the original political liberals.” Yet, somehow, I think, McLennan fails to make the case of Jesus as a liberal in this book. It’s rather ironic. He could have done so much more with this topic, written such a better book, although it’s good in its present form. He ends the book by writing, “Jesus came that we might have life, and have it abundantly. Jesus was a liberal.” I only wish McLennan had shown that Jesus was a liberal. Otherwise, a decent book….
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No Insurance? Why?

Posted by Scott Holstad on January 16, 2013

Recently, I went to my appointment with my pain management specialist only to find out he’d left to go form his own practice. They gave me his new contact information. Why they couldn’t have contacted me and saved me the trip in is beyond me, but with health practitioners, not much makes sense these days.

So a couple of days ago, I called the doctor’s new number to schedule an appointment. It’s a post-surgery appointment, for Pete’s sake! It’s kind of important. As I was scheduling my appointment, the woman on the phone told me he wasn’t accepting insurance, so I would have to pay with cash or a money order. I was stunned! Appalled. Mortified. I’ve been out of work for awhile now and can’t afford to pay for health care visits out of pocket. More importantly, I have insurance — good insurance — and isn’t that what it’s there for? Why in the hell isn’t he taking insurance? Well, I’ve heard the reasons lately, mostly from health care practitioners, and it sounds like sour grapes to me. Doctors don’t make the money they used to with insurance. They don’t make enough money. They don’t want to take insurance anymore and would rather have people pay out of pocket so they can pocket all the dough. Greedy bastards! I guess two yachts and three mansions aren’t good enough anymore. I’m sorry, but don’t they understand that if they don’t take insurance, they’ll see a big drop off in patients? People can’t afford to spend $400 for a visit to the damn doctor! I know that’s a drop in the bucket to doctors. To me, that’s a lot of money and I don’t have it. I’m busy making insurance payments with it. Don’t they see this? Do they not care? Are they seriously this greedy and selfish? I’ve heard the sob stories. One of my former doctors said after he pays out his overhead and staff expenses, etc., he makes about as much as a teacher, but I find that very hard to believe. My fiance worked in the healthcare industry and I know plenty of other people who do as well, and I know how many patients these doctors are scheduling and how much they’re charging and I’m pretty convinced they’re not hurting. And besides, why do they have to be so damn greedy? I thought you got into medicine to help your fellow man. Or is that a thing of the past?

This isn’t isolated. A year and a half ago, I was dissatisfied with one of my specialists and started calling around to find a replacement. Not one was taking insurance. So I’m still stuck with this joker of a doctor. A similar situation occurred again about a year ago. I think this is a sign of times to come. Doctors just aren’t going to take insurance cause they want ALL the cash from the visit their patients make to them. And God forbid someone on Medicare or Medicaid seek medical help. All I ever see are signs on doctors’ walls stating they no longer take Medicare patients. WTF? Greedy bastards! I’ve heard people try to get me to pity them by stating that they went to college for eight years and had a residency to make it through and have big college loans. Well, boo hoo. I went to college for 13 years, have three — and nearly four — degrees and will be paying my student loans until I’m nearly 70 years old. And I don’t make anything close to what a doctor makes. No sympathy, sorry.

I’m not sure how to end this blog post. Has anyone reading this had similar experiences? Any advice? Any further thoughts? Any solutions? I’m really worried about the future of healthcare — mine especially — and if our expensive insurance is no longer going to be honored by our doctors, where does that leave us? Screwed, right? Right.

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A Review of Speaking My Mind

Posted by Scott Holstad on January 15, 2013

Speaking My Mind: The Radical Evangelical Prophet Tackles the Tough Issues Christians Are Afraid to FaceSpeaking My Mind: The Radical Evangelical Prophet Tackles the Tough Issues Christians Are Afraid to Face by Tony Campolo

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I was pretty disappointed with this book and that’s a pity. I’ve seen Campolo’s name bandied about in liberal Christian books and by liberal Christian authors for some time now, but this is his first book I’ve read. I felt really lucky when I stumbled across it in a used bookstore this week. And the table of contents seemed very promising: “Do Evangelicals Have an Image Problem? Is Evangelicalism Sexist? Are Evangelicals Handling the Gay Issue All Wrong?” and so on. Very promising. So I bought the book and sat down to read. And was thoroughly disappointed. I don’t know who labeled Tony Campolo a liberal Christian, but he’s most definitely a conservative evangelical who happens to be somewhat liberal politically and socially. But he’s a conservative Christian. And since that’s what I’ve just escaped after being trapped as a lifelong dissatisfied evangelical for the past 45 years, that’s the last thing I wanted to read.

For instance, in tackling the gay issue, Campolo acknowledges that Christians need to reach out to gays in the church and the community — provided they live completely celibate lives!!! He’s not sure if gays are born that way or become that way (they’re born that way, dingbat!), but we need to love them — provided they don’t act out on their preferences and keep their behavior pure. WTF? That’s not realistic! He even notes that “although Jesus was silent about homosexuality, He did specifically condemn the remarriage of divorced people unless adultery was the cause of the divorce.” He starts out by appearing to be open, by talking about the “dilemma,” and then holds up his shining example of a man who died apparently a homosexual virgin, because he thought it was such an abominable sin, so he never gave in. Huh. Homosexuality is mentioned less than 10 times in the Bible, yet being kind to the poor is mentioned hundreds of times and adultery is mentioned numerous times again. So again I say to you, WTF?

Tony starts out with sexism and never really clearly answers that little question, conveniently enough. He admits that there’s a yin yang type of thing going on with the sexes and that’s about it. Nice. He can write a few decent things at times though. In his later chapter on whether there’s a second chance for people who die without Christ, he discusses universalist theology briefly. He ends that section by writing

“One universalist theologian carried me through his progression of thought with the following argument: ‘If there is a God, then there is a God, whether people believe it or not. If God is their Creator, that also is true, whether they believe it or not. If the Bible is an infallible message from God, that fact, too, is not dependent on their believing it. So, if Jesus died for their sins and is their Savior, isn’t that fact also true, whether they believe it or not?'”

An interesting thought. Campolo does an interesting job on the science chapter, with some good ideas about God/Jesus being in the HERE at all times. He made it seem real. He also introduced me to a new concept that Seventh-Day Adventists, apparently, believe — “soul sleep.” When we die, we lie in the ground until the Second Coming, basically asleep until God raises everyone from the dead at the same time. I’ve never quite gotten a handle on what happens to a person’s soul upon death in the Christian tradition. This was an interesting explanation.

Campolo delves into my old Calvinist roots in his discussion on predestination, a topic I truly hate. Here he gets a little iffy though. On page 121, he writes

“I do not understand how reasonable people can believe that God is in total control of everything right now when there is so much evil and injustice in the world. I grant that this may be a failure on my part, but if I believed that God controlled everything that goes on in the universe these days, I would not know how to explain why innocent children in Africa get AIDS, or why godly people die of cancer, or why there was ever an Auschwitz or a Hiroshima….”

His answer leaves one wondering, though:

“To those who ask, ‘How could a loving God allow horrendous diseases to afflict good people, permit insane wars to kill the innocent, and let a man like Hitler create such widespread suffering?’ I answer, “God is doing the best He can….'”

Seriously? That’s the best you’ve got, you “liberal” Christian??? What a wussy way out of things.

Campolo also contradicts himself in this book. He goes on in the chapter about the poor about how Jesus spoke about the poor and how important it is to help them. Then he has a section called, “The Disastrous Welfare System,” where he sounds like a bitter right wing Republican in writing that the system “generated cheating and deceptions so that eventually hundreds of thousands of people were on the welfare rolls, collecting unjustified handouts, even though they were quite capable of getting jobs and properly supporting themselves and their families.” Excuse me? Did I just hear that out of a so-called “liberal” Christian??? The welfare system has been abused by some, yes, but it’s the only safety net millions of people have, and don’t you think, while we’re talking about it, that lots of “good” things like sub-prime mortgages and hedge funds have been abused too??? Hypocrite!

While I’m at it, even though this book was published in 2004, it seems woefully dated. For example, in talking about whether America is in moral decline, he writes “all kinds of wonderful things are happening in our world, in spite of all that is evil and demonic. Across America, churches are being born and reaching out to huge numbers of previously unchurched people. A revitalized commitment to the poor and the oppressed is emerging among American Christians.” Really? Tell that to the Republican Party, aka, the Religious Right, aka the Christians, all doing their best to eliminate every possible safety net poor people in this country have, all the while working to make their rich masters richer. What did Jesus say about the rich entering Heaven like a camel through the eye of a needle? Seems most Republicans/Christians haven’t read their Bibles lately. Hypocrites! Also, stats show that church membership is declining, most especially within the 18 – 29 year old set. Evangelicals are turning people off to God, Tony. Time to face up.

Campolo does show he’s not 100% conservative in his discussion on dispensationalism. He states his opposition of it and nearly goes so far as to label it a danger to this country and the world. That’s bold. He does a good job with this section. Oddly, however, he says that the charismatic movement is the greatest opposition to dispensationalism and is Christianity’s best chance in the twenty first century. Huh? Speaking in tongues? Really? He ends his book by writing, “As progressive evangelicalism increasingly emerges out of fundamentalism over the next fifty years, the rest of the world will encounter Christians who are more than ready to struggle with the tough issues that await us, and to do so with open minds and open hearts.” Really Tony? Telling your gay friends to be celibate if they want to go to Heaven? That kind of open heart? Sorry, I’m not buying it. He tries to come across as open minded, but when the chips are down, it seems to me that Campolo goes crawling down the nearest conservative evangelical fox hole and hides out — and it sickens me.

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A Review of Scar Tissue

Posted by Scott Holstad on January 13, 2013

Scar TissueScar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Boy. After reading Scar Tissue, I think Anthony Kiedis is a royal scumbag. And that’s disappointing. I wanted to like him. I’ve loved the Red Hot Chili Peppers since the mid-80s and have seen them in concert, but nothing prepared me for this drugged out orgy of sickness. Kiedis is shallow, vain, selfish, a royal asshole, a liar, a junkie and an all around scum bucket. This book really made me sick. And the thing that gets me is Kiedis doesn’t hold his beloved father accountable for the sickness that would become his son. His dad was a drug dealing wannabe actor he blew pot in his son’s face to get him high at age four and gave him his first joint at age 11. There are pictures in the book of Kiedis smoking this joint as a pre-adolescent. In fact, with his parents divorced and his mom living in Michigan and his father in West Hollywood, Kiedis had no short supply of parties, girls, drugs, etc. He even lost his virginity around the same age to one of his father’s teenaged girlfriends. It’s truly sick.

Now, it was interesting to read about how Anthony met Flea and Hillel in high school and how they started the band. It was fun to read about their antics, such as performing wearing only socks over their privates. But as Kiedis sinks into significant coke and heroin use, and as Hillel starts doing the same, it’s truly tragic to note that Anthony’s best friend died of a heroin overdose and it barely merits mention in the book, and if memory serves me, Anthony didn’t even go to Hillel’s funeral. And this book is all about buddies and relationships! So, a giant WTF is up with that one. When John came along to replace Hillel, there was some more interesting tales, but the book just starts to get redundant with Kiedis writing some songs, recording some with the band, then going on weeks-long drug binges while having meaningless sexual escapades with various models. Some became his girlfriends, but while stating how much he loved them, he clearly didn’t in his treatment of them. Just giving a girl a car isn’t proof of love, idiot!

After the first couple of rehabs, I hoped that Anthony would come back strong, but he kept relapsing and it got to be so ridiculously predictable that I literally lost count of how many times Kiedis relapsed and went on coke and heroin binges and how many rehabs he ended up at. It got old. The book wore on me after awhile. The girlfriends were all interchangeable. He never learned from his relationship mistakes. It’s funny, actually. He tries to be introspective at times, I think, but he’s not capable of true introspection. It’s like he’s emotionally and mentally stunted. I used to look up to him, but he was a jackass!

After John left the band and Dave Navarro came over from Jane’s Addiction to play guitar, things just kept piling up. Anthony was a mess, but he always went to rehab and recovered for … a few weeks, months, days. It’s pathetic. Dave lasts one album and John returns and the Chili Peppers are riding high again, and kudos to them for putting out good music through such a fucked up, dysfunctional era, but man, Kiedis is just lucky to be alive.

There were two things that were kind of telling for me. One, on page 461, he writes, “I don’t believe that drug addiction is inherently bad.” This, after hundreds of pages of him detailing how he messed up his life and the lives of others with his drug use. Second, this book was written a relatively short time after he finally got clean “for good.” Yeah, right. This book was published in 2004. I’m a gambling man, so I’m willing to bet that he’s relapsed four dozen times since he wrote this book and is still a junkie. It was always about getting high. He never learned. I can’t believe the publisher published the book from such a sicko. Scar Tissue might be a fitting name for the book because that’s what he left everyone he came into contact with. I’m giving this book three stars instead of two because I enjoyed reading about the music and the band. Otherwise, I’m sorry I wasted time on such a useless human being.

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Wedding Announcement Etiquette

Posted by Scott Holstad on January 13, 2013

My fiance and I are getting married in April. Since it’s not our first marriage for either of us, we’re going to have a simple ceremony with just a few family members and friends in attendance. The bride is not wearing a white wedding gown; I’m not wearing a tux. We just sent our few invitations out this weekend. I have a question though, and it’s about wedding announcements. Since we’re inviting literally about 20 people and since we have many friends and family members we’re not inviting for various reasons (distance being one of them), how should we handle sending out wedding announcements? I’ve done some research and it seems most people send them out after the wedding. However, I want to send them out before the wedding! I want family and friends spread around the country who may not know of the impending wedding to find out in advance, not weeks or months later. I kind of think that’s rude. Sending it before would indicate that while we can’t invite too many people, these other people are in our thoughts. Isn’t that a good thing? Wouldn’t people want to know? Maybe they could send us a card to congratulate us. And how much information should one put on an announcement? Just the fact that we’re getting married on this date or more, and if more, what? I’ve seen several examples and have been dissatisfied with most.

I’ve also had fun setting up our wedding registry on Amazon. You can find it here. It’s been a bit of a challenge, because we already have stuff that most couples would register for when getting married for the first time. I mean, we have two sets of dishes, we have tons of coffee mugs, plenty of glasses, a few towels, etc. etc. However, with Gretchen’s help, I’ve been able to get 24 items on the list so far. And considering that we’re inviting about 20 people, that should be more than enough. I do want to get a few more cheaper items on the list though. About half of the items are pretty cheap, one fourth medium priced, and one fourth somewhat expensive. A few more cheap things would be good. Shoot, I wonder if we’ll even get anything? Maybe people don’t give gifts for second weddings?

We’re really looking forward to the honeymoon too. We almost never take vacations, so this will be special. We’re going to go to Gulf Shores, AL. It’s a nice beach in the Gulf of Mexico just down the road from Florida. Very pretty beach. Gretchen loves beaches, so hopefully the weather will cooperate. Since it’ll be April, the weather should be good. We’re going to be staying in a friend’s condo, so that’s very helpful for the wallet.

Well, I guess I’ve written more than just about wedding announcements. Still, if anyone has advice, I’m open to hearing it. I’d like to get announcements out sometime in the next two weeks. I just need to know what to say on them…. Cheers!

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A Review of The Presidents Club

Posted by Scott Holstad on January 11, 2013

The President's Club: Inside the World's Most Exclusive FraternityThe President’s Club: Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity by Nancy Gibbs

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book wasn’t a page turner, but it did prove to be an interesting read. It’s about the relationships, bonds, and occasional bouts of bitterness between former presidents, current presidents, and future presidents, dating from Truman and Hoover up through Obama. I learned a lot of details about daily goings on and difficult decisions that have to be made, and it was interesting to read about the interrelationships between, say, Kennedy and Ike. I already knew quite a bit about Johnson and Nixon, so there wasn’t much new there for me, but it did reinforce some opinions I already held about these two men. It was interesting to read about how many of these men were reluctant to give up power and wanted to continue to “serve” long after their retirement. Even though the book is largely even handed, it does treat Jimmy Carter pretty harshly, making him out to be a near-traitor with his North Korea intervention and negotiations. At best, he was a loose cannon. I was also surprised to see what a great relationship Bush 1 had with Clinton, a man who kicked his ass in the election and whom Bush 2 never forgave for it. Additionally, it proved interesting to see what went on behind the scenes for so many of these presidents and the “club” of ex-presidents and how they called on each other for aid during tough times. The rationale for this was nobody but another president could know how difficult it is to be one, so you throw party affiliation aside as an ex and stand firm for your country behind the current president. Going back to what I wrote earlier about Nixon, I guess I did learn a lot about his early career that I hadn’t known. Oh, I also learned how much Nixon, Ford, and Carter hated Reagan. Hah! The political maneuverings are priceless and well worth the read. Like I said, you probably won’t stay up all night reading this book, but it’s a good book and I’m glad I read it.

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