Thursday, June 23, 2011

Vacation Bible Brainwashing

First, I want to ask anyone who has the talent to contact me about putting eight or so songs I have onto sheet music. I would like to have them sung at church and other like events.
Second, I talk today on a short topic that many parents will find angering.  I speak out against the brainwashing corruption that is Vacation Bible School. Through the use persistent repetition of the same phrases over and over again, I feel that the children of good-willed parents are being brainwashed to believe in Christianity. Ever since I was in third grade, I tried to botch this program, and was expelled every year for my conspiracy.
Even then I did not sway form my goal; every year since the fifth grade graduation of the institution, I infiltrated the ranks of the compulsors, to attempt to master their ways to better know how to take it down.
I realized the mask of the program was simple: to give parents one week without children. Forget the thing about God and such; that was the bonus of the daycare. The parents just thought it was innocent and pure; I knew different.
Honestly, I am not alone in this conspiracy. This year, as lead speaker for VBS, I related hackneyed expressions from the bible to hackneyed expressions in the culinary industry. Sick clichés mixed with the most banal bible verses to create a monstrosity of a soup. Of course, the only type of chef capable of such evils is Italian.
So, one more day I will subject myself to the position of “brainwasher”. The clichés and terrible songs will continue, a mix of terrible dance style mixed with sign language coming together, making anyone who partakes in the activity feel brought to shame. The arts and crafts, mixed with a lead who’s just too happy to be sane, may kill me.
If I post something in the next week, you’ll know I made it. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Pastors and Reassignment

Today, Wesley Chapel and Christ United Methodist Churches lost their pastors. They didn’t die, or quit the religion, no. They were called to other churches. In the United Methodist tradition, pastors are seen as invited members of the church, and they sometimes get transferred. This is by a process known as the Methodist Trail of Tears. The congregation and the pastor stand at the altar, and, when they are ready, they release the floodgates in their eyes and the resulting tsunami launches said pastor to his next congregation. The congregations need only about a year to build up enough tears, but Christ UMC’s pastor had three. Rest assured Reverend Keith Lawder had no shortage of gifts to float on when the dams broke.
Reverend Bocian, as of sixty-five minutes ago ex-pastor of WCUMC, chose to go out happily, though I wasn’t there for his last service; I was too busy wearing an apron at my own church. I feel awful for saying so little, but I only went to WC’s services for about two months, and I hadn’t built an attachment.
Keith Lawder, though, impressed me every service with the depth and humor of his sermons. He has a story for every day of the year, and more besides, and he used them masterfully to paint wonderful examples of the written word in our minds. I could spend many feverish letter-types to talk about all he’s done, but I would rather not, and leave the mind to conjure an image of the man. Just a hint: he can play the William Tell Overture with his teeth.
At the end of the service today, we did the customary tradition of preparing the charges to blow the dam. We all got around Rev. Lawder, and, after the pleasantries, the unpleasantries, and the send-offs, the dams started breaking. I myself was mentally scrolling through my playlist of memories, and two or three would repeat, so I focused on those.
Reverend Keith in the confirmation class, talking about how he loved teaching this. I could tell he wanted to be asleep, though he would tell you he wouldn’t.
Reverend Keith stating how we would always be in his heart. He told us this the month before he told us that he was told he was to be reassigned to another church a month ago, but couldn’t tell anyone. At the time, I wryly thought, “yeah, but how many churches have you told that to, and forgot?”
Reverend Keith, falling in the frigid dunk tank at our fall festival. He wore his wetsuit inside out.
As the film of this last memory tapered off, and the credits began to roll, the skies clearly let loose on the congregation. Then I detonated the charges, and buried my face in the man’s chest. After clearing drenching his nice coat in my tears, I stumbled out of the church, into my car, and kept weeping. Though my mouth would not contort into a smile, I was weeping for him.
The great thing about being a Methodist is, after a while, if you live in the same area, you can come to a different church and inevitably meet friends who had followed one pastor to his new church, then decided to stay there. Furthermore, pastors have the most friends out of anybody I know. The weeping for the loss of a pastor is never seen as weakness, or looked down upon. In fact, if your levees don’t break in the hurricane, I personally feel you haven’t paid enough attention. Because, if you weep uncontrollably, you recognize the great man of God you have just lost, the priceless wisdom suddenly gone. Back when Reverend Chuck Savage (who in my eyes will never be equaled by another man) left our church, Reverend Keith knew that the congregation knew that nobody would ever be as great as he.
Honestly, even through these three years, I think Rev. Keith could’ve caught fire in mid-service, and yelled his message through the flames, and he still would not have equaled the passion exuded by Rev. Savage. Rev. Savage, though, could’ve caught fire in mid-service, and yelled his message through the flames, and he would not have equaled the passion exuded by Rev. Keith. Furthermore, if one were to compare pastors, one would miss the point of the Methodist reassignment. The point is that the congregation listens to the message, not the pastor. When congregations listen to the pastor, there is the legitimate and proven fear that said pastor may influence said congregation’s beliefs. I doubt though, that such events are the case for the majority of pastors.
Though I think too much on a heartfelt topic. May the road rise to meet you, and may the wind be at your back, Reverends. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Model Rocketry

    Today I turn my eye on my favorite hobby, and one that I feel has a bad reputation. Decades of stereotypical destruction has diminished this valuable and wonderful hobby to one reserved for the estranged of society. It is a hobby of long waits and exciting minutes, a hobby of patient preparation and sound-fast ballistics. I speak of the hobby of Model Rocketry. In today’s world, this hobby has been pushed to the sidelines, the stereotype of a rocket being used more than the observation of the actual product to base judgments upon the hobby. Sadly, the truth cannot be more opposite. Though Model Rocketry is seen as a dangerous, lethal hobby based on the stereotype of the rocket, it is actually an intriguing, unique hobby that teaches values of community, consequence, and ballistics.
    Bombs bursting in air. Air raid sirens. People running from something so fast they can’t see it. Entire sections of forest in Vietnam disappearing in a haze of fire and pressure. These are still prevalent views in society when somebody says “rocket”. Let me paint a different picture.
    “The summer is already half burned away, a trail of bliss in its wake. The monthly launch is this Saturday, bring your friends. It’s over in Hoschton, only an hour out of town. It’ll be hot, and it’d be a good idea to bring waterproof boots. On the day of the launch, a row of cars parks toward a runoff creek, which drains into a river bordering the field. The smell of soil hits my nose as I leave the truck, and begin hammering stakes into the ground on the right, 15 feet away from control panel, two feet apart, in groups of four . I put four more stakes on the left side, then walk out another thirty feet, where I put eight more in the same manner. four larger setups are placed farthest away. Then, people attach the pads and  launch rods, blast deflectors, and wires. As this occurs, people catch up on how they were doing, laughing and making mistakes while laughing, then quickly fixing said mistakes. After everyone helps set up the myriad of wires, the event can begin. people sign the cards, and put them on the signboard. After a wish for luck, they slide their prize down the rod, hook it up to the igniters, and go back to the line. when all is ready, the first sweat beads would have been dancing down their faces, heralding the start of a hot summer day. As the first dozen rockets arc for the sky, the day continues to build. rocket after rocket goes to its altitude, a symphony of smoke and heat,  on an already beautifully hot day.”
    Okay, did anyone believe that? To be honest, it sounds romanticized, and, since I am advertising rocketry in this post, I might as well tell you it is. One day, we had to carry everything a quarter mile because the park rangers wouldn’t let us drive on the field. Did I mention the heat index was in the 90’s on this day? But I digress.
    Let me give you an example of the disjointed view of rocketry:
“My father went into my middle school principal’s office and asked if he could post up flyers for the rocket club. He explained the safety measures, the $2 million in liability coverage, etc. The principal was ecstatic, and said he’d pass it by the board. One day later, the principal called him into his office and said ‘The board said that what you’re proposing is way too dangerous, and could harm the children. If you were to propose a more family-oriented activity, I’d run it by them again’. At this time, an eighth grader walks by, her leg in a cast. My father asked her what she did to herself, and she replied, ‘Oh, it’s just a break from soccer practice. It’ll heal in a couple weeks’.”
    If you don’t see the irony in that statement, you can take your computer and give it to a river.
    The thing that keeps this hobby from progressing is its stereotype. When I say “rocket”, most people see the V2, or the Apollo program, or a smoke trail leading into a mushroom cloud. Any and all of these are correct assumptions, though I’d beg to append “lethal”, “large”, and “explosive” to the front of these examples. In my basement, my family has over twenty-five rockets, but of a much smaller scale, and of much less deadly intent. The rockets in the hobby of Model Rocketry are flown with much smaller motors, are made from wood, plastic, and varying strengths of fiberglass (NEVER metal), and are required to come down less than twenty-two feet per second. In order to accomplish this, we employ ejection of a parachute or streamer (a sliver of cloth or plastic). The motors are prepared professionally in a way that inhibits any malfunction, and there is a minimum radius from the rocket that must never be breached while the pad is live (such radius is formed by calculating how far a piece of shrapnel can fly from a rocket, then adding a large percent. It’s specific to each motor). Each rocket is screened by an experienced person in the hobby, and if said person does not see the rocket as fit for launch, he can point the applicant to someone to help him.
   If the rocket passes all of above said statements, it gets set onto the pad, the igniter is set up, and That Moment happens:
    Now, whereas rocketry is easily the most thrilling hobby I can think of, it also teaches consequence of improper preparation. this is the same rocket, but the launch happened much differently:
    Rest in peace. As far as I know, the men who built that have rebuilt it completely since this video’s post. I will NOT miss its next flight. I do not believe I have seen it fly. At least, not successfully. I digress again...
   The rocket above was, if the motor was built commercially, worth at least a thousand dollars. My father had a stake in that rocket, and when it CATO’d (CATastrophic Overload (of the motor)), he lost upwards of a hundred dollars. In any size rocket, as in any hobby, you run the risk of it getting damaged. Rockets, though, just break more often. A broken fin when it lands, or, if ejection does not occur, the rocket breaks into a thousand pieces on impact with earth. My father always tells audiences that rocketry helps kids get unstuck from their computers and “Nintendoes”(thanks, dad); he also tells audiences that it teaches responsibility and consequences. “If you build it wrong, it won’t be allowed to fly. Sometimes, we let it fly and it still doesn’t fly right. Rocketry teaches people [consequences of their actions].”
   Time to end this. Model Rocketry has been obscure and ridiculed for too long. I can’t exactly say the stereotype is undeserved because, most likely, someone’s been killed by explosive missiles today, or at least this week. The distinction is made between the lethal and model varieties of rockets. The model rockets are, well, models of the actual thing. You don’t see model boats casting nets, or model submarines sinking model warships. It’s just a hobby, much like any Varsity sport. Also, Model Rocketry’s track record is much cleaner than any Varsity sport’s. Ever since its inception, nobody has died, or been severely injured by a model rocket malfunction, including said rocket coming in from altitude (or, Lawndarting), the motor exploding (a CATO), or anything else. (three people got severely injured, and none of them were following procedure: one man fell out of a tree, and two others got electrocuted recovering their rockets.) The hobby is growing fast in North Georgia, and I hope to see it grow much, much larger. In Southern Area Rocketry (SoAR, NAR # 571), the membership was less than thirty ten years ago. now it’s over 150. How much larger can it grow? I promise you, most schools in Georgia have never heard of Model Rocketry before. It’s one of those exceptions. I’d like to see that flip. More on this topic later. 

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