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Friday, October 31, 2014

Night of the Living Politicians

Watching the classic horror movie Night of the Living Dead in this season of increasingly antagonistic political ads, I am drawn to the thought that many of the politicians vying for our votes are very much like Ben and Mr. Cooper.

They both have a plan to keep the people in house safe from the shambling monstrosities outside, plans that are not necessarily mutually exclusive.  But they're so busy fighting each other that, instead of keeping anyone safe, they actually ensure that the house is overrun by the flesh eating living dead.

Officials from both major parties are at fault.  By creating an atmosphere of suspicion, fear, and distrust, by refusing to see anything outside of their narrow field of vision, by allowing ego and one-ups-manship to be the guiding rule they are ensuring our destruction.

Death Face

Happy Halloween - if you're into that sort of thing.  We are around here.  Dune helped me out this afternoon, allowed me to stage a few photographs with him.

Death Face by Jeff Carter on

Death Face by Jeff Carter on

Death Face by Jeff Carter on

Biblical Limericks: We Don’t Read the Apocrypha, Anyway

The book of Ecclesiasticus
doesn’t apply to Protestant us,
so when it says that sin
can be, by almsgivin’,
redressed, we ignore it without fuss.

Ecclesiasticus 3: 30

A Real Nightmare - a Freesound Project

One of the sounds that I have shared at the Freesound Project has been used in a short film. A very short film.  I mean, really short.  It's  a 14 second film.

Halloween Playlist

Here's some roots / folk / country / blues/ whatever music for your Halloween.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

I'm Pretty Sure He's Channeling C. H. Spurgeon

This is my good friend John.  He has a brother named John. (True story.)  But I shouldn't poke fun... he knows too many stories about me.  He and I have taught beginner band, served food at disaster sites, played tubas, traveled up and down Minnesota and North Dakota together.

He's alright.

Fog - October 24, 2014

October 25, 2014 by Jeff Carter on

Biblical Limericks: The Prophet Delivers

Habakkuk saw a bright angel who
said, “Go to Babylon’s what you’ll do.”
Snatching him by the hair,
carried him through the air
so he could take to Daniel a stew.

Daniel 14: 33 - 39

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Autumn Ivy, Abandoned House

I found the autumn colored ivy against the bright paint of this abandoned house particularly attractive.  So I stopped in the middle of my errands to take several pictures.

Autumn Ivy by Jeff Carter on

Autumn Ivy by Jeff Carter on

Isis, ISIS and ISS - a Letter from Doctor Tarrec

Every once in a while I get a letter from my good friend Doctor Tarrec.  He’s a strange old man. I worry about him.  But what can I do?

My Dear Student,

Jeffrey, I trust that this letter will find you.  At least I hope that it will. I cannot leave my home.  Not while the Air Force is continuing their surveillance of my residence.  They watch me from high orbital satellites and with remotely controlled drones that they have tried to disguise as owls.   But I’m on to them.  I know what they are doing.

But during my long months of enforced seclusion I have lost track of world events, somewhat. I am no longer sure how things are proceeding, and I am concerned for what may be about to happen, if it’s not already too late. I have discovered a number of mystical allusions in the writings of the contemporary Jewish prophet – Robert Zimmerman – that, if true, could mean very dark days are ahead of us.

I need for you to do some research for me.  Specifically, I need everything you can gather for me concerning shifting Egyptian weather patterns.  Temperatures.  Rainfall.  Wind patterns.  Barometric Pressure.  Relative humidity.  I need water levels for the Nile at all points from the cataracts to the delta.  And if you can get all this data going back to the year 2000, it would be most helpful to me as I verify what I have discovered.

I am convinced that the radical Islamic group ISIS (if that label can be applied to such a group) has surreptitiously taken over the International Space Station – ISS.  The connection is too obvious to be avoided.  The explosion of NASA’s Antares rocket yesterday is evidence that they do not want any outsiders interfering in their plans.  They sabotaged the rocket in order to maintain their secret control of the ISS.

ISIS is already using the ISS as an orbiting weapons platform – but their weapons are highly unconventional.  They are using weather generative weaponry, manipulating air currents and shifting temperatures downward around the globe – beginning in Egypt.  And all of this conforms to what I have discovered in the writings of the prophet Zimmerman.  He describes a coming time of extreme cold - cold in the north, in a place of darkness and light.  It will be time of howling wind and outrageous snow.  And the pyramids will be covered in ice.

Jeffery, my dear boy, come to the aid your old professor. Do what you can to get this vital information to me as soon as possible.  There may yet be time to save us all.

Doctor P. L. Tarrec

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Biblical Limericks: Tertius Gets his Say

I, Tertius, wrote this epistle
and now I’m trying not to bristle,
‘cause I’ve done all the work,
and Paul, that big ole jerk,
won’t let me say much in this missal.

Romans 16: 22 – 24

Biblical Limericks: Genesis Dilemma

After procreating with my wife,  
there are still some commands for this life:
I have to figure out
what it means to rule trout,
owls, and cows.  I can’t handle this strife!

Genesis 1: 28

Monday, October 27, 2014

Two from the Field Museum

Over the weekend our family took a short jaunt into Chicago for a day and a half. We went to the Oriental Institute Museum, the Smart Museum of Art, and the Field Museum.

Here are two photos that I took at the Field Museum - 1) Inuit / Eskimo masks and 2)some of  the Loa from the temporary Vodou display.  I should do some reading about Vodou.

First Unitarian Church (Chicago)

I haven't been feeling well the past two days so I've not been writing much.  I worked on some homework for my composition class, but I'm pretty sure what I've written is only barely cogent.  Oh well.  Here's a photograph from our trip to Chicago last weekend.  (I felt fine then...)

First Unitarian Church Chicago by Jeff Carter on

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Powerpoint Slides for Everyone - 2014 - Week 45

Here is your free weekly background image.  These are yours to use where and how you will.  I only ask that you share them freely and that you tell others that you found them here.

This week's image is of a sparkly curtain that I saw in one of the exhibits at the Field Museum in Chicago this weekend.  The exhibit wasn't specifically about the sparkly red curtain, of course, I just thought it looked nice.

 photo Week45_zps30e8b44d.jpg

Friday, October 24, 2014

Nighttime in Chinatown

My wife and I had a very nice dinner tonight in Chicago's Chinatown.  We walked around for a while, I took pictures.

Night in China Town (Pui Tak Center) by Jeff Carter on

Ready to Become an Archaeologist

After attending a lecture by Dr. Robert Cargill (University of Iowa) last night about Archaeology, the Dead Sea Scrolls and 3D computer reconstruction models, and spending the afternoon today at the Oriental Institute Museum at the University of Chicago, I am quite ready to become an archaeologist.  Sign me up.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Partial Solar Eclipse

There was a partial solar eclipse this afternoon.  I went out with my camera and attempted to get some decent photos of it.  It's tricky to photograph the sun, as tricky as trying to look directly at the sun.  I used a couple of filters to limit the amount of light coming into the lens and set the shutter speed really high.

As Light Fades - Haiku

as light fades
from overclouded skies
orange red leaves glow

I Went to See the Holy Man

“Acquire a peaceful spirit and thousands around you will be saved.” -Saint Seraphim of Sarov

I went to see the holy man
in his isolation;
I went to hear him at his prayers,
seeking consolation,
but the forest was full of bears.

I went to see the holy man
in deep contemplation;
I wanted that peaceful spirit
that saves a generation,
and the silence that comes with it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The View from the Alleyway

I had a few moments before my class began tonight, so I took my camera into some of the alleyways of downtown Newton, Iowa.

Newton Alley by Jeff Carter on

Newton Alley by Jeff Carter on

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Working: I'm Raising the Next Pete Seeger

I'm raising the next Pete Seeger, or Woody Guthrie.  My son wrote a poem for his history class which was published in the school newsletter (in a grossly bastardized version, he was quick to point out).  I need to get this kid a banjo.


I awake to a dark room,
crammed with bodies.
I make my way to the door,
and leave for work.

Working for hours
Working for life
Working for a tyrant

Every day I break my back
with the others.
We give everything we have,
sweat, tears, and blood.

Working for hours
Working for life
Working for a tyrant

I carry on day to day.
I do not know
what keeps me going like this.
Maybe it's hope...

Hope for justice
Hope for fairness
Hope for life

Biblical Limericks: Abraham Got Lucky

God said to Abraham, “kill your son,
your beloved, you know the one;
take out your bloody knife
and sacrifice his life.”
So Abe obeyed without a question.

But good God, and good grief, and God damn!
What the hell’s wrong with you, Abraham?
To follow as if blind
a request so unkind?
You’re lucky God provided a ram.

Genesis 22

An October Sunday Afternoon

October Afternoon by Jeff Carter on

Monday, October 20, 2014

Biblical Limericks: Bizarre Behavior for Bees

I don’t get it; it’s a mystery
that shouldn’t be read as history,
for to build a beehive
in what once was alive
would be bizarre behavior for bees.

Judges 14:8 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Powerpoint Slides for Everyone - 2014 - Week 44

Here is this week's free background image.  Use it for your own - where and how you will.  I only ask that you share it freely and that you tell others that you found it here.

I took this particular photograph in front of the local community college the other night in the few minutes before I had to go to class.

 photo Week44_zps91eea7dd.jpg

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Saylorville Dam

The wife and I went over to Saylorville Lake (near Des Moines) this afternoon.  The kids didn't want to go with us. They wanted to spend the day lounging around in their pajamas, being lazy.

Photograph Saylorville Dam by Jeff Carter on 500px

Friday, October 17, 2014

Shadow Tail

According to that great source of information that is the Oxford English dictionary, the word "squirrel" comes to us by a long and torturous journey through Anglo-Norman, Old French, Latin and back to ancient Greek, and means "Shadow Tail"

Squirrel by Jeff Carter on

The Tensions in "Surface Tension"

 This is an essay I wrote for my LIT 166 (Science Fiction) class.  We were to take one of the short stories assigned in our reading and research what was going on in the world at the time of its publication - what scientific advancements were being made, what cultural events were occurring - and to "reflect" on these in light of the story.  I chose to write about James Blish's short story "Surface Tension.

The science and technology represented in the sci-fi short story “Surface Tension” by James Blish, first published in the August 1952 edition of Galaxy Science Fiction, was well ahead of the scientific realities of the world outside of the pages of that science fiction digest.  And though Blish may have outreached the science of his time (and ours still today) his extrapolations of the various tensions between science and faith are fantastic. 

Blish wrote of great interstellar crafts carrying men and women to far distant parts of the universe carrying human colonists as well along with all that they would need to “seed” the new planet with life. 

In 1952 however, the exploration of space had only just begun.  Building upon the technologies developed by German scientists during World War II for the V-2 rockets, The United States (as well as the Soviet Union) developed and launched a number of sub-orbital “sounding rockets” – research rockets like the Aerobee and the Viking rockets, designed to reach a height of 50 – 1,500 kilometers above the earth’s surface and carrying recording instruments, scientific tests, a various kinds of animals – including chimps, mice and dogs (Gray 1).

When Blish published his story of interstellar travel, mankind hadn’t yet travelled into space. Indeed, no Earth based life form would reach orbit until 1957 – with the Soviet launch of the canine cosmonaut, Laika into orbit around the planet. 

If the space travel of his story far exceed the abilities of his time, the panspermic / evolutionary / genetic manipulation program of his interstellar colonists must have seemed like an impossible dream.  And still seems so 62 years later. 

But “Surface Tension” isn’t really about the science and technology necessary for interstellar travel or the transfer and modification of “human germ cells…toward creatures who can live in any reasonable environment” (Blish 8). Perhaps this is why Blish gives no details about the technology or process, but only describes the results.  “Surface Tension” is not about the science, but the effects of science, and the tensions created between scientific exploration and religious faith. 

The microscopic humanoid creatures created by the panotrope adaptions of human genetic material to the indigenous life found on the watery planet Hydrot are given a record of scientific information, micro-engraved on corrosion proof metal leaves.  In the course of their development these creatures credit the records with religious significance and there is division among them as to whether these documents are myths to be discarded or science to be trusted.

Religious faith (Christianity and Judaism in particular) in America during the 1950s tended toward the fundamentalist.  This trend had been developing since the 1920s and the publication of “The Doctrinal Statement of the World Conference on Christian Fundamentals” (Moody 382). The fundamentalism so prevalent then held a firm belief that the sacred scriptures were authoritative, and infallible and inerrant. The tension between this kind of belief and scientific exploration is described somewhat in Blish’s story.

There was also a strong backlash from Fundamentalists against the theory of Evolution.  The idea that biological life-forms could engineered and modified according to some sort of evolutionary pattern would have been provocative and very controversial in that time.

One tension that is not addressed in Blish’s short story is that of the problems of colonialism.  The human characters met in the first pages of “Surface Tension” are presented as noble explorers, valiantly adapting human life to strange conditions of faraway planets in a program establish human colonies throughout the galaxy. 

During the 1950s the last vestiges of the European colonial empires began to crumble – often violently and painfully.  From Algiers in North Africa to Vietnam is South East Asia, colonized people began to call and agitate for their independence from European nations.  The transition from colony to free nation often resulted in open warfare, but even where it didn’t there was much political corruption and violence and turmoil.

Blish may have been a visionary in some regards, dreaming of interstellar travel and genetic panatropes capable of transferring some quintessential essence of human life to other alien life forms, but if Blish could have been as forward thinking in the political spheres as he was in the scientific, “Surface Tension” would have been a very different story.  Perhaps the human colonists of the far distant planets would have been presented as being less cavalier about imposing human adaptions to the newly discovered life forms.

Blish, James “Surface Tension,” Galaxy Science Fiction, Vol. 4. No. 5. New York. 1952.
Gray, Tara. "Animals in Space." Animals in Space. NASA, 2 Aug. 2004. Web. 17 Oct. 2014.
Moody Bible Institute, “The Doctrinal Statement of the World Conference on Christian
Fundamentals.” The Christian Workers Magazine Vol. 20 Chicago, IL, 1920.

Inerrancy – You Can’t Get There From Here

There’s an old joke – you’ve probably heard it – about the lost motorist who stops to ask a local hayseed for directions.  “How do I get to Carlinville?” he asks.  The hayseed thinks for a moment and then says, “well you go on down the road here till you get t' the first intersection then you turn right… no…. that won’t work.  You go on down till you come t' a bridge then you … no that won’t do neither…”  The hayseed thinks for a moment longer and then says, “Mister, if I were goin’ t’ Carlinville, I wouldn’t start here.  You can’t get there from here.”

Last night I had a brief discussion online with a few fellow members of my denomination about the question of biblical inerrancy.  Inerrancy is not a part of our doctrinal statements, but there were some in the discussion who insisted upon it as the only proper way to interpret and understand the Bible.

Setting aside all the other arguments against inerrancy, our denomination sits pretty firmly on the Wesleyan-Arminian side of the free-will/predestined debate.  And like the old joke, if I were headin’ for Inerrancy, I wouldn’t start from free-will.  You can’t get there from here.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

An Old Soul

Her name is Psyche (Greek for "soul") and she's getting pretty old.

The Song Will Insist and I Will Be Sung

What Trisagion is sung
by sans serif angels,
those fiery snakes with wings and eyes
leaving burning comet tails in the sky as they fall,
and could I sing along even if I knew the forgotten melody?

I’m trying to decipher the words
of that Jewish carpenter
who renounced his father’s name
and left his father’s home
to sing the blues out on Highway 61.

And I’m trying to follow
another wandering minstrel,
the one without den or nest,
as he sings the song of songs
for brokenhearted outcasts
with no voice of their own.

What song will we sing
for the one that’s been battered
and bruised and left bleeding,
for her that’s been burned
with the unholy coals of friendly fire?

Whom shall I send? And who will sing for us?
Outside, in the distance, the wind begins to howl,
and the song seems swallowed up.

Sing woe, and oh it’s me
among a people of hostile tongues.
I would lay down this weary tune;
I am tired and undone,
but the song will insist and I will be sung.

Biblical Limericks: The Baptized Dead

I may not understand what Paul said,
much of it goes right over my head,
but I would like to see
when I watch my TV
a show ‘bout zombies – The Baptized Dead.

1 Corinthians 15: 29

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Mums at Night in the Rain

Mums at Night in the Rain by Jeff Carter on

Mums at Night in the Rain by Jeff Carter on

When I Am King of the World

When I am King of the World, with all the rights and powers of that office, Christmas will be an “every other year holiday.”  I hate Christmas, would ban it outright, but, benevolent ruler that I am, will make allowance for the foibles of my subjects and allow them to celebrate it on alternating years.

I hate seeing Christmas trees and decorations in stores as early as August.  I hate seeing Christmas lights and wreaths before Halloween, or hearing Christmas songs before Thanksgiving.  Let’s have one holiday at a time, please.  And, if I am completely honest, I don’t really like hearing or singing Christmas songs before December 25th, that’s the season of Advent (but that’s a pretty fine liturgical calendar distinction that most people don’t even consider…)

Though I have slightly less antipathy towards Santa Clause and his elves and reindeer, I’d rather get back to authentic, historic Saint Nicolaus.  I don’t care for Frosty the Snowman or the Grinch Who Stole Christmas or the Heat Miser, or Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer, or any of the other characters from all of those Christmas specials. They are irrelevant to me.

I cringe every time I hear about the economic stimulus of Christmas. This civil holiday of shopping and consumerism is less and less about the Christian celebration of the incarnation of Jesus, and more and more about economic stimulus and commercialism. Profits over prophets.

And I hate, hate, hate (with an unquenchable hatred) hearing people get all riled up about whether we should say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” when we’re still confusing the celebration of Christ’s birth with the celebration of that modern deity, the Economy.   So when I become King of the World, with all the rights and powers of that office, even though I know it will make many people upset,  Christmas will become an every other year holiday.

* I was going to wait and post this after Thanksgiving (one holiday at a time, and what not...) but my thrift store began putting out Christmas merchandise yesterday.  Sigh...

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Biblical Limericks: Stop Fishing for Compliments

“Moses, my patience is about spent,
I am the Lord; I said what I meant,
so when I did aver
that you have found favor,
it’s true! Stop fishing for compliments!”

Exodus 33: 12 - 13

Hard Rain: Turning Apocalyptic Anxiety into a Musical Joke

The title of Bob Dylan’s 1963 album, Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan belies the serious and anxious songs that the album contains. The cover shows a 21 year old Dylan walking down the snowy streets of New York with Suze Rotolo.  They are smiling, spontaneous… freewheelin’. But still, the specter of war hangs over the album.  The fear of death and nuclear oblivion is heard in the songs “Masters of War,” “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” and “Talking World War III Blues.” Other songs on the record are less explicit about it but still deal with this fear of war and oblivion: “Let Me Die in my Footsteps” and, of course, the protest song that came to symbolize the 60s “Blowin’ in the Wind.”

The song “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” especially embodies this fear, expressing it in a gloomy, apocalyptic question and answer ballad.  Dylan wrote the song around the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis and described it as a “desperate kind of song.”  According to the liner notes, the lines of the song are the first lines of songs that he feared he never have time to write, so he collapsed them all into this one.

But perhaps that oblivion felt less immanent by 1975 when Dylan embarked upon his Rolling Thunder Revue tour.  He hit the road with big names and excellent musicians for a musical extravaganza travelling around the world. The tour was well received by fans and by critics.  Much of it was recorded – both professionally, and bootlegged by fans.  A live album of recordings from this tour was finally released in 2002.

Dylan, who often reinterpreted himself and his music through the years – changing styles and altering lyrics, played a lot of the fan favorites during these shows, but changed them up.  He reinterpreted them. But I am less than impressed by his reinterpretation of “Hard Rain.”

He turned the brooding, anxious apocalypticism of the original song into an up-tempo, rollicking rock song. Dylan wrote the song when he was a “freewheelin’” young man without a “blue-eyed” son of his own.  I, who have my own darling blue eyed young ones, still fear for them and what they will see in this world.  While I’m not convinced that a doom-and-gloom attitude is appropriate (not all the time, anyway), I can’t see turning the song into a flippant, ironic joke as the way to go.  There’s too much at stake.

Oh, who did you meet, my blue-eyed son?
Who did you meet, my darling young one?
I met a young child beside a dead pony
I met a white man who walked a black dog
I met a young woman whose body was burning
I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow
I met one man who was wounded in love
I met another man who was wounded with hatred
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.

A Playlist for Today

Here's a playlist for you to enjoy today - roots / folk / blues / hillbilly / bluegrass / whatnot.  I'm driving my wife nuts with it.  She loves me - but only tolerates my music, sometimes.

(There are not many songs better than Pete Seger's "My Oklahoma Home Blowed Away.")

Icon 2

Yesterday I posted a photograph of a woodcut print that I made.

Confession time.  I flipped the image.  I forgot in my carving to reverse the picture so that it would come out the "right way" in the print.  No real worries, though. I like it. I like the idea of a left handed Jesus.

Here I've played around the image a little bit, added some text torn from a couple of old books.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Anomalies A – Z: Nachash

The first serpent, animated sibilant,
subtle seducer with fire and with flame,
lies in the garden and deceives sorcerers.

The Nachash waits in the desert
to bite and to strike
at exposed heels and dirty feet.

This is the serpent
and thus does it shine. 


I spent a couple of hours the other day carving the image into a woodblock (and gave myself a nasty little blister in the process). Then I printed the image (several copies of it) onto these great pieces of old, heavy, water-stained pieces of paper that I found in the back of a storage closet.

Biblical Limericks: Another Messiah?

Though I risk being called pariah,
or crank, or heretic, or liar
I would like to point out,
look yourself if you doubt,
Cyrus is another Messiah.

Isaiah 45: 1

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Powerpoint Slides for Everyone - 2014 - Week 43

Here is again.  This week's free background image.  You are free to download it and use it how and where you will. I only ask that you share it freely and that you tell others that you found it here.

 photo Week43_zpsfce5c4be.jpg

Pistachios and Bark - Two in Black and White

The pistachios are at the local grocery story.  The tree is found at one of the nearby cemeteries.

Pistachios by Jeff Carter on

Tree Bark Texture by Jeff Carter on

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Social Science Fiction – Counting the Cost of Unintended Consequences

“It is easy to predict the automobile in 1880; it is very difficult to predict a traffic problem.” – Isaac Asimov

It’s a failure of imagination, a sort of tunnel vision.  We’re not even aware of the blinders that are labeled “the law of unintended consequences.” We can see the bright light ahead of us, but not the train behind it.

Sometimes the unintended consequences are positive.  Sinking ships in shallow waters during wartime creates artificial reefs and habitats for marine life.  Aspirin was developed as a pain reliever – but is now prescribed to prevent heart attacks.  Call it serendipity.  Call it good fortune.  But we didn’t see it coming.

Sometimes the unintended consequences are problematic.  Use of an herbicide to kill weeds in the front lawn kills the evergreens and poisons the topsoil of the entire neighborhood (Djuricic, 28 -29).  A bounty paid on cobras - to decrease the cobra population in British Colonial rule in India – leads to entrepreneur types breeding cobras in order to collect more money, and actually increasing the number of cobras.  Training and arming the mujahedeen in Afghanistan to fight the Soviets creates the Al Qaeda terrorist organization.  We might have, if we would have looked closer, but we didn’t see it coming.

What he is unable to imagine, what he is unable to predict is that the chronoscope can be trained to the very recent past – to  see what happened 1/100th of a second ago, resulting in a sort of worldwide voyeurism, the complete elimination of personal privacy. 

Science Fiction author Isaac Asimov’s short story The Dead Past deals with this inability to foresee the larger consequences of prediction.  In the story a historian, Arnold Potterley, wishes to use the “chronoscope” (a device that enables one to view the events of the past anywhere in the world) in order to further his research into ancient Carthage.  But the device is controlled by the bureaucratic government and its use very limited.  Frustrated by what he perceives as an unconscionable restriction on his intellectual freedom, Potterley and his associates clandestinely build their own chronoscope.  Potterley believes that the device will enable him to pursue his research with greater freedom, will be a benefit to the world.  And so he releases his design to the world, circumventing the bureaucratic restrictions of an authoritarian government.

Science-Fiction can help us to see the bright lights in our future, the marvels of technology, the wonders of invention.  The best of science fiction will help us to ask questions about those bright lights.  Social science-fiction will help us to examine the possible dangers, to count the costs before those costs become too great. 

Asimov, Isaac, “The Dead Past.” Astounding Science Fiction (April 1956)
Djuricic, Aleisha. "Herbicide Use and Its Unintended Consequences." Countryside & Small Stock Journal 96.2 (2012): 28. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 11 Oct. 2014.

Biblical Limericks: Because of the Angels

Paul said weird stuff, but strangest of all:
‘Women must always cover their skull,
because of the angels.
Because of the angels?!
What the hell does that even mean, Paul?

1 Corinthians 11: 5 - 10

With thanks to James McGrath and Fred Clark for the prompt.


Windswept by Jeff Carter on

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Moon - October 10, 2014

There's a cloudy haze around the waning gibbous moon tonight.

Moon October 10, 2014 by Jeff Carter on

Halloween Is Irredeemable - But Christmas Is Okay...

Pat Robertson (and numerous others of his ilk) like to say that Halloween is an evil, demonic holiday to be avoided by Christians. Just look at it's pagan roots, they say.  It's irredeemably corrupt because of druid beginnings and etc...

Yet these same folks (most of them) are quite content to blissfully ignore the pagan roots of many of our beloved Christmas traditions.

Nostalgia (with Saint Jude)

Recently I found a stack of old photos in the pages of a book I bought at a thrift store.  I decided that I needed to take photos of old photographs - and so, a series of "Nostalgia" type pictures.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Anomalies A – Z: Mot

You need not worship me; I am not a god.  Not yet.

I am Mot.  I am death, King of the Underworld, prince of the nether-lands, lord beneath the mountain, ruler of the wastelands beyond and below.  And I am hungry, so very hungry.  The bones of ten thousand men are scattered at my door and before the day is out I will have consumed ten thousand more.  My mouth is wide, my teeth are strong.  A lip to the earth and a lip to the heavens, I tongue the stars and lick the sky.

Ba’al has gone down into my stomach.  Asherah too.  I have eaten my way through the pantheon of the Canaanites and the mythology of the Greeks.  Marduk is in my gullet.  Mithras, Isis, Ahura-Mazda… I have eaten them all.  I have crushed them between my teeth and swallowed them up.

But I am still hungry.

I will climb in through your window, enter unseen into your palaces.  I will devour your children as they play.  I will consume your young people in the public square, and the elderly as they sleep in their beds.

I am Mot and I am hungry.  Though you need not worship me, I will accept your sacrifices.  But I will not be satiated.  I will eat and eat, and eat, until there is no more.  Then I will be god of all.

Nostalgia (Heaven and Home)

Here's another in my series of "Nostalgia" type photos.  I found them in between the pages of a book I bought at a thrift store.  And it includes a key from my box of a thousand keys.

Is it terrible that I can't tell if these are three... handsome... women or men in drag?

Nostalgia (Heaven and Home) by Jeff Carter on

The Boogens

It’s October again.  Wow how the year disappears.  But October means monster / horror movies. Actually, I watch scary movies all throughout the year, but in October I like to try to write a little bit about them.  I have in the past tried to watch and then write about one every day of the month, but I don’t think I’ll be able to do that much this year.  Still, I’ll get up as many as I can.

Last night I watched the 1981 horror (cough, cough) film The Boogens.  I chose to watch this one for two reasons. 1) One of the gentlemen who comes to hang out at the Salvation Army during the afternoon to talk with us recommended it, and 2) Stephen King apparently described it as a “wildly energetic monster movie” and said, “I recommend The Boogens …cheerfully and heartily.”

I say that he “apparently” described it thus because I can’t track down the source – apparently he said in the now defunct Twilight Zone Magazine.  Part of the quotation can be found in the promotional posters for the film – so I think it’s a mostly trustworthy quote.

But, good golly! was he wrong (if he actually said it.)

The Boogens, directed by James L. Conway, tries to meld the tropes of an 80s slasher flick (isolated location, sex obsessed young adults, POV shots) with the menace of a creature feature.  It’s set in and around an abandoned silver mine in Colorado and features a subterranean creature with fierce teeth and claws.  It’s as if he tried to combine My Bloody Valentine (slasher film set in a mine) with Tremors (subterranean monsters). 

There’s not a lot of story here – an abandoned mine is re-opened about 100 years after a cave in trapped a number of miners.  There’s a creepy old guy sneaking around warning people about the danger of the mine.  And soon there are creepy crawlies coming up out of the dark to kill people.

 It almost could have been an episode of Scooby Doo. Except episodes of Scooby Doo are only half an hour long.  The Boogens takes twice that to actually get going.  The last 15 minutes almost (almost…) make a decent movie.

Also.. I can't tell ... the way it's written in the title, it looks as if it should be pronounced B-ooooh-gens, but the ONE TIME that it's said in the movie it's pronounced B-oh-gens.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

We Need To Talk about an Injustice

Recently in my English Composition class we watched the following TED talk by Bryan Stevenson.  Afterwards we had 40 minutes to write a response. 

Brian Stevenson says that we need to talk about an injustice, but we, as a nation, are reluctant to have this much needed conversation.  We refuse to deal with an injustice that has poisoned our collective spirt.  And, he says, we will not be well; we will not be whole until we commit to truth and reconciliation and speak to each other about how race and poverty affect our criminal justice system.

It is an injustice that such a disproportionate number of poor, African Americans are incarcerated.  The fact that among the countries of the world, the United States of America has the highest percentage of its population incarcerated and that we are the only country to hand down life sentences to convicted offenders as young as thirteen years old is an indication that something is very wrong.  When one third of black, American men are or have been in the prison system, we desperately need to have a conversation about an injustice. 

Like Stevenson I believe that we will not be judged by our technology, or by our accumulation of wealth and power.  I believe that we be judged on the basis of how we treated the poor and disenfranchised among us.

I am led to this conviction by the words of Jesus in the gospel of Matthew chapter 25.
  He told his followers a story about that final judgment at end of the world when the Son of Man has all peoples of the world gathered before him and he separates them into the “sheep and the goats,” dividing them  - the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.  The standard for this judgment is not their financial security; it is not their business acumen, or their collective wealth and power.  The standard used for this judgment is this:  Did you feed me when I was hungry?  Did you give me something to drink when I was thirsty?  Did you invite me into your home when I was a stranger?  Did you clothe me when I was naked?  Did you care for me when I was sick? Did you visit me when I was in prison? 

Both groups – the sheep and the goats – are surprised by this standard.  When did we see you hungry, thirsty, a sick, naked, stranger in prison? Jesus replies, ‘Whatever you did (or did not do) for the very least among you, you did (or did not do) for me.’

 It is an injustice that we are so reluctant to discuss how our undiscussed attitudes towards race and poverty are allowed to affect our criminal justice system. And it is upon this issue that we will be judged.  

Nostalgia (Dad's Office)

Another of my "nostalgia" themed photographs of old photographs and other assorted junk.

A Non-Responsive Response from the President

Several weeks ago, during the height of the violence in the most recent outbreak of violence between Israel and Palestine, I wrote to President Barack Obama. I wrote to encourage him to not allow Israel to have access to the massive stockpile of weapons and armaments that the United States keeps in Israel. 

I received the following response today.  It thanks me for writing, without actually addressing the specifics of my letter. 

Dear Jeff:

Thank you for writing.  There are no easy solutions to the challenges facing the Israelis and the
Palestinians, but I want you to know that when you send me an email, I am listening.

We cannot give up on the search for an end to this conflict.  Too much is at stake, and it is the right thing to do.  Our Nation’s commitment to a just and sustainable resolution is unwavering, and we will continue to offer constructive approaches and encourage the Israelis and the Palestinians to work together to resolve this conflict.  To move forward, both parties must face hard choices and make difficult decisions.  Only they can accomplish the compromises necessary for two independent states to live sidebyside in peace and security.

Again, I appreciate your thoughts.  Please know my Administration will keep looking for steps both the Israelis and the Palestinians can take to build the trust and the confidence upon which lasting peace will depend.


Barack Obama

The World Is Growing Cold

See the wheel is turning,
and now the wind is burning;
there’s fulgurite forming
in the thunder at my door -
the world is growing cold.

I’m bleeding from my eye,
and I’m tired in my soul;
leaders won’t lead and friends
are declared enemies -
the world is growing cold.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


The other day I found an interesting pile of old photographs - they fell out of the pages of a book I bought at a thrift store.  I decided that I would take some pictures of them.  Photographs of old photographs?  Is that a thing?  I've done it a couple of times before. The keys came from my box of a thousand keys.  The instructions are for my old instamatic.

Nostalgia by Jeff Carter on

Two Keys

I have this box full of old keys - hundreds of them, various sizes, styles.  They were in the back of the bottom drawer of my desk in one of my appointments.  We were there for a year and a half before I found it, and in the three years that we were there I never had occasion to use any of them.

Two Keys by Jeff Carter on

Monday, October 6, 2014

Biblical Limericks: It’s Your Fault

The LORD was angry, just about flipped!
“Moses, why’d you lead them from Egypt?
I’ll kill them before long!”
Moses said, “God, you’re wrong;
it’s you that brought them out of Egypt.”

Exodus 32: 7, 11

Biblical Limericks: It’s not about Satan II

No, no.  In this you’re quite mistaken.
Your interpretation I’ll straighten,
so hear what I tell ya’
the book of Isaiah
chapter fourteen’s not about Satan.

Isaiah 14: 4 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Satanic Rites of Teenage Dracula

A Single Candle
Hail Satin,
Lord and master of the most occulted realms
high king of the underworld
and priest of death

Appear to us now in shriek and smoke
as I light this black candle.
                (It’s dark blue, all I could find…)
Appear to us as a cat, a goat
as stifling air, or in another form as thou wilt choose,
but appear unto to us.

                A Circle of Ash
The coven is gathered;
your faithful are all here assembled
                (Except Glen - He has chemistry homework.)
within the circle of ashes
of burned bibles.

 A Sprinkle of Salt, A Splash of Blood
Many times have we stood within this courtyard and begged
to see our dread Father and thou hast refused
sending us back to wander in darkness.
Tonight we bring an offering of salt and blood.
Salt for purity that we besmirch
and blood for life that we defile.

Now we do conjure and adjure thee
with hand and mouth sacredly
to do as we request:
Force my father (my earthly father, that is…)
to get off my case. He does not understand.
And cause Julianne Larson to fall in love with me
and to forget all about Brad from the football team.

If thou wilt do this for me
I will be an obedient son of the night,
drinking blood and …

Just a minute, Mom!  Geez.
Can’t you see we're busy here!

We Could Do without “God’s Love” - Updating the Salvation Army Song Book

The Salvation Army Song Book – our denominational hymnal – is due for a revision.  We’ve been hearing rumors that an updated song book is being developed, but it’s been a long time coming.  The latest that I’ve heard is that it will be released at our big international gathering next summer.  It may be too late for me to offer my suggestions about which songs merit inclusion in the update, and which songs could be discarded.  But oh well. 

Song #47 “God’s Love” is one which, if it were cut from the new song book, I would not shed a tear.  No, not one.

It’s sung to the traditional tune My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean.  The Salvation Army has a long history of repurposing music, taking old traditional songs and putting new words to them.   Such is the case with this song.  I’m not particularly fond of this melody. I could probably accept it, if the words weren’t so trite. I don’t know who wrote it (it’s listed as anonymous) , but he/she used just about every pedestrian cliché she/he’d ever heard.

It may be true – but I hate (HATE) singing it.

1) God's love is as high as the heavens,
God's love is as deep as the sea,
God's love is for all kinds of sinners,
God's love is sufficient for me.

God's love, God's love,
God's love is sufficient for me, for me;
God's love, God's love,
God's love is sufficient for me.
2) God's love is as wide as creation,
God's love is as boundless and free,
God's love brought his Son down from Heaven,
God's love is sufficient for me.

3) God's love brought his Son down from Heaven,
God's love let him die on the tree;
God's love, it can never be measured,
God's love is sufficient for me.

Powerpoint Slides for Everyone - 2014 - Week 42

Here it is again, the free weekly image created just for you.  Alright. not just for you.  I use them too.  But I post them here to give them to you. Use them how and where you will.  Use them for powerpoint, or don't.  What do I care.  I  only ask that you share them freely and that you tell others that you found them here.

For those who may be curious: the picture is a combination of two that I took yesterday while I was at the grocery store with Garden Jim.  It's yogurt covered raisins on the left and little pumpkins on the right.

 photo Week42_zpsd0288762.jpg

Saturday, October 4, 2014

At the Grocery Store with Garden Jim

My friend Garden Jim called me up this afternoon to ask if I could take him to the grocery store.  His paycheck came a day late (but not, thankfully, a dollar short) and his normal ride couldn’t take him today.  I said that I could and, because I take it just about everywhere, I grabbed my camera.

We talked as we walked through the aisles of the store – or rather, Jim talked and I nodded along.  That’s pretty much how conversations with Jim tend to go.  I don’t mind. He’s good guy.

I went to the grocery store and came back with photographs (and a gallon of milk.)

Produce - Tomatoes and Shallots by Jeff Carter on

Produce - Onions by Jeff Carter on

I Believe in You - A Song to Confirm Myself

I know that Bob Dylan’s “Christian” albums from the late 70s and early 80s are not usually regarded as his best work.  There are some good songs scattered in there but, it’s hit or miss.  His songwriting seemed to falter somewhat in his religious fervor. In trying to be as forthright as he could about his conversion he lost some of the poetic sensitivity he’d displayed in earlier albums.  Further, the songs tended to be rather confrontational about his faith, almost as he was purposefully trying to offend and to drive away his those of his fans who couldn’t wrap their minds around his new faith. 

But even so, I have a fondness for the song “I Believe in You.”  It’s a modern day sort of Psalm, a prayer in song.  He’s not sneering at his detractors, but singing to God “I believe in you.” In spite of difficulties, in spite of insults, in spite of my enemies, I believe in you.

But the more I listen to it – and the more I sing it as my own song – I find that I am not singing this song so much to affirm my faith to God (who already knows) but rather to confirm my faith to myself.  I do believe and I will go on.

They ask me how I feel
and if my love is real
and how I know I’ll make it through.
And they, they look at me and frown,
they’d like to drive me from this town,
they don’t want me around
‘cause I believe in you.

They show me to the door,
they say don’t come back no more
‘cause I don’t be like they’d like me to,
and I walk out on my own
a thousand miles from home
but I don’t feel alone
‘cause I believe in you.

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Creature Speaks

From a heaved earth cemetery
comes my form and frame,
fearful, yes, but no symmetry
only mismatched parts
gathered here and pilfered there.

My mind is degenerate and unwanted
except as spectacle and display
my brain in a jar held up
for decent folks and their rich sons
to view with revulsion and disgust.

But when those invisible rays
which are light and life
are Tesla-coiled into me
I am alive!

With thunder and lightning
I am alive!

Biblical Limericks: The First Command with a Threat

Honor father and mother to get
a blessing – it’s the first in the set
to offer this to you -
but worship no statue
is the first commandment with a threat.

Exodus 20: 4, 12, Ephesians 6: 2 - 3

I'll Take 'Before and After' for 200, Alex

What is, "Sympathy for the Devil's Food Cake"?

Is It Science Fiction? Harry Turtledove and the Ways that the South Won the Civil War

Among his many and varied works, American author, Harry Turtledove has written two very different novels wherein the Confederate States won the American Civil war:  The Guns of the South and How Few Remain.  One of these novels is very clearly a work of science fiction; it has the obvious science fiction trope – the time travel device sending people back in time to change the course of the war by bringing modern weapons to General Robert E. Lee.  The other novel posits the Confederate victory by more natural means – the confederate discovery of union battle plans allows General Lee to decisively defeat the northern army.  This causes a divergence in the time line away from history as we know it, even without a time machine. They take very different and dissimilar approaches to changing the events of the past, yet both are works of science fiction (or speculative fiction, if you prefer.)

The Guns of the South is the obvious work of science fiction.  In this novel a group of militants from South Africa travel back to 1864 to deliver AK-47s and other assorted scientific items to Robert E. Lee.  Science fiction author often use time travel as a way to alter the world, to explore the world of “what if.”   A small change in the past can lead to a radically different today. In this novel a group attempts to create a new world by altering the past. By changing the outcome of the American Civil War they intend to create a world where white men can rule and govern and blacks are still held as slaves.  

Introducing this extraordinary change into events of history allows Turtledove to explore the changing ideas and values of the Confederacy.  Would a victorious Confederate States of American have continued to keep Africans in slavery? 

The defeated northern states of How Few Remain harbor resentment and anger toward the Confederate States and not many years after the Civil War, launch a second war (of Northern Aggression) desperately trying to reform the union of states – and to exact a measure of revenge upon the southern rebels. How Few Remain launched an entire series of novels following this alternate timeline through what would be contemporaneous with World War I and World War II in the history that we know and inhabit.

How Few Remain (and the following books of the series) is less clearly a work of science fiction.  It has no time travel and no technology not existent in the world as we know it.  Yet it also explores the world of “what if” by creating an alternate world, or an alternate history.  What if Abraham Lincoln had not been shot in Ford’s theater but had gone down in ignominy as the president who lost the war with the Confederates.  What if he had gone on to espouse a decidedly Marxist sounding idea of labor / capital relations?  What would race relations look like in the Northern states of such an alternate history?  How would international relations have changed? 

Orson Scott Card, another popular science fiction author, has written what may be the most expansive and fluid definition of science (or speculative) fiction.  “Speculative fiction includes all stories that take place in a setting contrary to known reality.”  This definition is broad enough to include Turtledoves, How Few Remain even with its complete lack of all the standard sci-fi tropes.  This definition of the genre includes all “stories set in the historical past that contradict know facts of history (Card, 17).

It may not seem very much like science fiction – no rocket-ships, no aliens, gadgets, no time travel.  But it very much is a work of science (or speculative) fiction.  The story is set in a world that does not.  Even so, it is a wonderful “what if” story, and that “what if” is what lies behind great science fiction.

The event that makes the change in the history is somewhat less important than the consequences.  What makes these stories interesting is the way that new histories and new worlds are formed by the choices made by the characters within them.  “What Alternative World stories tend to claim, therefore, is that individual human actions couth; that it is not the vast momentum of world history that shapes our very lives, but some individual action (Clute, 63).”

We make choices, and those choices have consequences, which lead to more choices and the world changes with everyone. 

The alternate world / alternate history branch of the science fiction can use the standard stereotypical science fiction approaches to creating a new world with a new history, or it can transform the events of the past without recourse to science and technology.  Both approaches – as radically different as they are, are both well within the large and expansive (and fluid, even) boundaries of science (speculative) fiction. 

Card, Orson Scott, How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, Writer’s Digest Books, Cincinnati OH, 1990.
Clute, John, Science Fiction: The Illustrated Encyclopedia, Dorling Kindersly Publishing, Inc., New York, NY, 1995.
Turtledove, Harry, The Guns of the South, Ballentine Books, New York, NY, 1992.
Turtledove, Harry, How Few Remain Ballentine Books, New York NY, 1997.

The Town that Dreaded Sundown – The Horror Film that Wasn’t

The 1976 horror film The Town that Dreaded Sundown is an interesting film but never quite becomes what it intends to be – scary.  It spends too much time doing other things.  It’s distracted and rambling, loses the point at several places.  That’s what happens in real life, yes, but in storytelling it’s unforgivable.

The movie is based (loosely) on a series of brutal attacks in and around Texarkana in the months just
after the end of World War II.  Over the course of several months eight people were assaulted – five of the victims died, but three managed to survive the attacks – by a masked individual.  And though the police and sheriff departments, along with the Texas Rangers, scoured the county, interviewed hundreds of people, tracked down clues and leads, the “phantom,” as he was dubbed in the papers, was never apprehended, never even identified.

The attacks just stopped.  Perhaps the “phantom” moved on to another city, perhaps he died, perhaps he was arrested and incarcerated for different crime. No one knows why he stopped.  No one knows why he started, either.  There are a lot of unknowns. And if the movie had dealt with the horror of the unknown, it could have been a decent little film. 

Indeed, there are portions of the movie that do this and almost succeed.  Director Charles B. Pierce used a no-frills, no flashy special effects style of filmmaking -forced upon him by a small budget- to craft a film that’s almost documentary in form, complete with Dragnet style voice over narration.  He also hired several people from Texarkana to fill out the cast and the extras. Pierce captured something of a neo-realism that could have been effective in creating a fearful, anxious small town.

But the film continually veers off course into dull police procedural work, or into bumbling Barney Fife routines, destroying the rhythm and flow of what was intended to be a horror film.  It never comes together.  It does not frighten.

I did not immediately recognize her, Mary Ann from Gilligan’s Island (Dawn Wells) was in this film.

Later this month (October 16) a “meta-remake” is set to be released.  

Red Mysteries (One and Two)

Red Mystery One by Jeff Carter on

Red Mystery Two by Jeff Carter on

Thursday, October 2, 2014

A Response to Lt. Kean's Accusations

Lt. Matt Kean, moved by the conviction that if he did not speak out to condemn what he sees as a “blight” on The Salvation Army then the  stones might be compelled to cry out, has published in the Journal of Aggressive Christianity, a rather scathing attack on so-called liberals.  

While the stones might be called upon to give voice to praise if we are silent (Luke 19:40), I’m not sure that they are at all concerned about our rebuking each other for theological differences.  In fact, it is the Pharisees in that particular story who called upon Jesus to rebuke his followers for a theological disagreement.  But, be that as it may, I thought I might offer a response to Lt. Kean’s aggressive missive concerning the “blight of liberal theology.”

The subject that Lt. Kean intends to address is “a theological one” i.e. “the very liberal theology which has been permitted to slither into the ranks of the army.”  And yet, in his lengthy document Kean never addresses exactly what it is he means by this.  After having read the article several times, I’m still not exactly sure what this “liberal theology” is that he thinks is the blight affecting the Salvation Army.  He’s flailing away at a straw man that he’s not even taken the time to properly construct.

And as one who self identifies as a liberal (or progressive, if you prefer that term) I am still trying to figure out if he’s upset with me, and if so, why he thinks that I and other liberal / progressive soldiers and officers are bringing about the ruination of The Salvation Army.  He wants us condemned as heretical and corrupt, calls us treasonous.  These are strong accusations.  These are heavy words – too heavy to be throwing around so casually. 

What I understand from this writing is that Lt. Kean believes liberals 1) are not concerned with the Salvation of souls, 2) are opposed to dealing with sin and its consequences and 3) are not militant enough. But these allegations are not supported by any sort of evidence.  He simply assumes them to be true and attacks. 

If this were a court of law, the defendant (liberal Salvationists) would be assumed innocent until proven guilty.  The onus would be upon the prosecutor (Lt. Kean) to prove the offense.  He’s called us lots of names and said horrible things about liberals, but he’s not demonstrated that we are unconcerned with the salvation of sinners or averse to calling sin sin. 

If Lt. Kean is concerned that The Salvation Army has lost its fervor for salvation, let him address that issue, without besmirching so many of his faithful comrades. 

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