Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Heroes #5

Another one of my heroes is a man who is quite popular locally; who set records for the Atlanta Falcons in the late 70’s and early 80’s that still stand to this day. The reason I consider him a hero, though, is not his play on the field, however. That man is Steve Bartkowski.

He was the number one draft pick in 1975. Tall, lanky, with an accurate aim and a rifle for an arm, he quickly began to get the Falcons lackluster offense on track. Aided by playmakers on defense, the running back tandem of Lynn Cain and William Andrews, and speedy wide receivers with excellent hands, Bart led the Falcons to a 12-4 record in 1980.

Known as “Peachtree Bart” for his carousing nightlife in downtown Atlanta, Bartkowski began attending a bible study group led by Dan DeHaan, the team chaplain, along with Greg Brezina and a number of other players. It was there that his life changed when he accepted Jesus as his personal savior and became a Christian. He was discipled there for a year, and decided to make his profession of faith public.

This took the form of a four page spread starting on the front page of the sports section in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. The reason this had such appeal for me was that I had, as a young teenager, also just become a Christian. I followed his career in high school as my faith grew. DeHaan died as a young man, unexpectedly, and this left many Falcons soul searching, seeking answers and guidance.

Bartkowski published a biography, which I still have to this day, titled, “Steve Bartkowski, Intercepted by Christ.” By this time I had gone to college, first at Maryville then Liberty University. As luck would have it, shortly after retiring, Bartkowski started on the lecture circuit speaking at churches with his testimony, and one of his stops was Liberty University. I was a senior that year, in 1985, where I got to hear him speak one Sunday morning. I was thrilled. Bart was not so thrilled, however, when he was unexpectedly asked to speak again for the Sunday evening service, something he was unprepared for. The poor guy was flustered, so with a sheepish smile gave his testimony over again at the evening service.

There was no way in the 10,000 seat Thomas Road Baptist Church that I would be able to make my way through Liberty Security to the pulpit to tell Bartkowski that I was one of his biggest fans. Besides which, they often whisked Falwell and his entourage away during the ending prayer so that they would not be delayed with folks from the congregation wanting to chat.

So, time has passed. I am now in my mid-forties. Bartkowski largely keeps out of the public eye, and I suppose that is fitting, for the intense scrutiny of the media is hardly something one desires. The reason I consider him to be one of my heroes is for the stand he took publicly for Christ that inspired me. If I could, some day, I would like to have lunch with this gentleman, to say thanks, and to let him know how much this means to me. And Bart, if you ever read this, thank you. You are one of my heroes.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Surfin' USA


The title above refers to the websites I often visit. On this occasion I found an excellent thread that discusses the topic of UFO's.

The Chicago O'Hare Airport UFO sighting made little news when it was first reported. However, there are many witnesses, some of whom were threatened with their jobs if they spoke out about what they saw.

This thread contains an intelligent, skeptical conversation among persons who are experts in discerning hoaxed reports (as they see many of them.)

Here's the link, with pictures:
http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread236709/pg1

Here are some other links I visit on a daily basis, along with my own opinion on thier veracity:

1. www.abovetopsecret.com A discussion board. Good stuff can be found here on many topics of interest. 90% baloney/10% truth. One must judge carefully what to accept. Viewpoints from both treehuggers and neocons alike.

2. www.coasttocoastam.com Radio site for the program for the same name. 99% baloney, but interesting nonetheless. They will print virtually anything by anybody. Hollow Earth ( lol ) theories (please!), I Am a Real Life Vampire, The Virgin Mary on a piece of Toast, etc. The interesting thing is when you can find something that is actually credible.

3. www.abcnews.com For news from the left. Bush is always bad/wrong/cast in a bad light in all things (although they attempt to make their news "objective," their slant is almost as bad as that of Rush Limbaugh.) The war in Iraq is horrendous, but heaven forbid they should mention the current booming economy and low unemployment. Hint: what is important here is what celebrities think. Baloney factor: 60% (ya put your left foot in, ya put your left foot out, put your left foot in and ya shake it all about)

4. www.townhall.com News from the right. Strap on your boots and do the goose step as you ride along with these columnists. Where the right is always right, they piddle about the smallest things on the left. Reminds me sometimes of gossip columnists. Good for a truly pragmatic view on things one usually does not get in the evening news. Their strong suit is political discussion. Baloney factor: 60%

5. www.atlantafalcons.com Official message boards for the Atlanta Falcons. Are you a Vick hugger or a Vick hater? Sign up here and start a post called "Michael Vick stinks/is great because...." and then sit back and enjoy the fun. Caution: Pictures of scantily clad babes found in board members' signatures to posts. Thier strong suit is opinion. Also a good source of rumors for trades, the draft, etc. Baloney factor: 50%

6. http://boortz.com For those truly interested in intellectual windbags, this is the site for you. Mr. Libertarian hits home runs when it comes to taxes, the IRS, government waste, and politicians' double standards and hypocracy. Mr. Boortz, however, is a LAWYER, first and foremost. Thus he desires the continuation of the genocide of over 1 million Americans each and every year. Beware, the LAW is Boortz' only moral standard. Baloney factor: 50%

7. www.zoombuzz.com/redeemers A City of Heroes supergroup guild of freinds that team together to fight evil, in the never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way! (If you don't know where the second half of that sentence comes from, ask your parents.) Lots of interesting pics, stories and info here, from the MMORPG of the same name. (mass multiplayer online role playing game, in case you are wondering)

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Vacation

Ah, I have been gone on vacation (“gone” being a relative term, simply holed up in the house would be more appropriate) and once again turn my thoughts to sundry items of interest.

Brittany Spears has been in the news, and I thought of writing an article called “Whoops- I Did It Again” referring to her odd behavior of shaving her head and attacking a car ala James Brown, who shot out the headlights of his wife’s car with a shotgun in 1989. She also has been… a bit… risqué with the paparazzi. Perhaps I shall devote a column to celebrity mental health issues, comparing Brittany to Michael Jackson. Frankly, though, I consider such Hollywood tripe to be beneath my dignity and even though amusing shall leave such matters to those fitting to report it, for now.

Speaking of mental health issues, I was up at 3 am this morning unable to sleep. I made my way to the den (not of iniquity) and proceeded to polish off the biography of J.R.R. Tolkien which I have been reading. Just before 4am, I heard an unusual noise outside the house. It sounded like voices talking over a walkie-talkie; it had a metallic sound to it. I was not imagining it… I heard it several times. I turned off the lights (not wanting to make a silhouette) and listened intently at the window, peering out into the blackness. I heard it again, it sounded like it may have been coming from behind the neighbors house, on the side which I have no windows. Oddly, the dogs did not go nuts, which they usually do at any noise or disturbance whatsoever. I thought of calling the police, then considered what would happen if they should decide to institutionalize me for reporting robotic space aliens with lasers and walkie-talkies outside my house. Not a good career move, Glenn. So the matter goes unresolved, for now.

I had a crust over my left eye this morning and an accompanying itch, and that means that I may have a touch of pink eye, which I truly distain. I received some remarkable advice from Dr. Wallace, a doctor in Marietta whom I saw after going for several weeks with pink eye in 1994. By that time I looked like Quasimodo’s cousin and had gone through 6 different types of prescription eye drops. He told me not to rub it, but to keep it clean by showering 2-3x per day. Sure enough, it cleared up in 3 days. Hope I am ok for work tomorrow.

One last thing: I have psychic dogs. I splurged a little bit over the vacation and ordered Chinese food. Every time I do so, Snoopy and Mikey bark at the door until the delivery man arrives, when they finally stop. 30 minutes. Bark, bark, bark. Run, run, run. Back and forth, running around in circles, panting and barking and looking at the door and then myself. “SHADDAP! There’s NOBODY there!”
Bark!
“See? No one is there.”
Bark!
“Hush!”
I go back to the computer. Bark, bark bark! Finally Mr. Song shows up and the dogs are vindicated and justified. Sniff, sniff, sniff. Pant, pant, pant. Once again, my efforts are in vain and they have proven they know better than me. Such is my lot in life.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Terrorism vs. Terrorism pt. I

I am taking a break from my Heroes columns to write about a question in one of the message forums I visit. The question was, what if we were to fight terrorism WITH terrorism. This IS war after all. Shall we be like the British, who, in the Revolutionary War, had their Redcoat Infantry lined up in rows to shoot in unison at Washington’s militia? Such “war etiquette” is unknown in modern times. Why not fight an unconventional war unconventionally?

I thought of Kennedy’s speech during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and what President Bush could do that would emulate this idea of fighting terrorism with terrorism. That prompted me to write this fictional, but rather chilling speech:

[NOTE: To any person reading this post, this work is entirely a work of fiction. It is merely speculation on my part on the idea of using terrorism to fight terrorism.]

George W. Bush [Press conference that pre-empts prime time]

My fellow Americans:
The Islamic terrorists we are at war with have been operating with impunity in Iraq and other areas of the world, killing thousands of innocents, targeted innocents, in wanton acts of destruction. They intend to hold us all hostage to fear; hostage to their will… in the name of their religion. The same way they have held other hostages and beheaded them because they were Jewish, in the example of Daniel Pearl, or blew their heads off if they refused to convert to Islam, in other circumstances.

Our armed forces have tried valiantly to make a difference. Because our country is divided, they have not been successful. It's time to turn the tables on the terrorists and use their own tactics against them.

Those here in Washington who have opposed my foreign policies state that this situation is similar to Viet Nam, in that if we withdraw, lay down our arms, and come home, that will solve the problem. What was the cause of 9/11 then- our support for the Shah in the 1960’s? Our aid for Afghanistan in their war with the Soviet Union? Look at Spain and see what they received for electing a government that withdrew their troops from Iraq. More terrorism.

Some damn me for my actions in trying to protect the citizens of this country. Please. You are too kind. I intend to make Black Jack Pershing look like a choirboy, if that is what is necessary for victory. To that end, the United States shall henceforth hold as its foreign policy as authorized to me by the power of the constitution:

Should any Islamic force attack American citizens, American military personnel, or any American property, on US soil or abroad, the United States will retaliate by detonating a thermonuclear bomb on Mecca with the explosive force equal to the 4 jumbo jet planes and all properties they destroyed on 9/11. Your actions will speak your response. If it is acceptable for you to kill our innocent civilians, then we shall adopt your modus operandi as our own. If you intend to hold us hostage, we in turn, will hold Mecca hostage, until such time as you come to your senses. Let it be known, the saying DON'T TREAD ON ME still stands in the 21st century.

[End press conference]

The moral dilemma here is not just the use of nuclear weapons itself, but to use it against a shrine that is the focal point of a religious pilgrimage for maybe ¼ of the world’s entire population. The nuclear fallout would make the hajj unattainable for many innocent Moslems. We survived the Cold War without using the nuclear option, but to use it against pilgrims wearing robes hardly seems prudent, the opposite of any form of humanitarianism in the broadest definition, total explosive tonnage not withstanding.

Additionally, these terrorists are extremely decentralized. They take orders from no one. It would only take one band of lunatics to call the presidents bluff and start World War III (and I believe that is exactly what some of them desire.) Here is a lesson that Bush II should have learned from his father: war is something that should be avoided, if at all possible.

Terrorism vs. Terrorism pt. II

What can be done then? Here are my proposals:

1. Counter intelligence on a large scale is one thought. Infiltrate the terrorist groups and compromise them. During the 80’s and 90’s though, these resources were not renewed and allowed to dwindle to scant numbers. We don’t have the numbers now to do this sort of thing.

2. Dogs, dogs and more dogs. On every street corner, and in every unit. Trained to find explosives. They cannot use what they don’t have. Perhaps they could use trained pigs, as suicide bombers would be less willing to be covered in raw, steaming pork in their final second of earthly existence.

3. Mass manufacture the phalanx defense system from the Aegis naval cruiser class and place one every 100 feet along the Iran/Iraq border. Irradiate the processor chips until these self automated machines get minds of their own. Then stand back and watch the fun.

4. Rosie O’Donnell on drive-in-movie-size TV’s, in the center of each town, blaring loudly 24/7. This will make them run for their lives.

5. Send in the annoyingly smarmy Jack Bauer. His contract does not end for 2 more years, so there is no way he could die. Have him root out all terrorists single handed, crying over each one as a waste of human life.

6. Give the terrorists nuclear reactors like Bill Clinton did in the 90’s with North Korea! THAT will make them like us! Oh, never mind, that did not work.

7. Arrest every Mexican that crosses the border illegally and enlist them in the United States Army. Send them to Iraq. In one year we will have a 12 million man occupation force. (One that does not speak English, but oh well, you can’t have everything.)

8. Reincarnate Saddam Hussein as a zombie ghoul with help from friendly Voodoo practitioners from Haiti. He can gather the country together by lurching about, firing a shotgun into the air. If he accidentally blows his head off, no problem- he won’t even know it’s gone.

9. Have Jeb Bush covert to Islam. He will travel to Iraq and lead the masses by shouting “Death to America!” We can then decide the fate of the entire world with a cage WWF professional wrestling match. Hulk Hogan can be George Bush’s manager, and Abdullah the Butcher can be manager for Jeb.

10. Tell President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran that the prince of Saudi Arabia, Sultan bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud, says his moustache looks like that of Prince, the musical artist. Ahmadinejad will take offense, and mad war will break out in the Middle East. While they are busy, we send in Tim the Tool Man Taylor to fix the uranium enriching centrifuges in Iran’s bunkers. Naturally, he will unwittingly destroy them.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Heroes #4

Another one of my heroes is a man I have been acquainted with for approximately 8 years. In that time I have had some disagreements with him but have also been unceasingly supported, loved and prayed for by him. That man is Father Kurt Wheeler.

Father Kurt is a man of many talents. He is an accomplished musician with guitar and plays lead rhythm guitar in the church praise team. He is an avid reader and is extremely knowledgeable in a wide variety of subjects, specializing in biblical counseling, leading many Christian counseling conferences in our local area over a number of years.

Father Kurt is an all or nothing kind of guy, in my opinion, and in this regard he is much like another man I very much admire, Keith Green. When he decides to do something, it seems to me, its 100% all the way. He has been to motorcycle racing school, pushing the limits of his bike beyond what I would consider a safe speed (that’s 35 mph, and no, I do not have blue hair.) He has at times, pushed his body to its limits as well, whether it’s with a regimented jogging schedule or free weight work out routine. I am more like the Pillsbury Dough Boy in comparison, eschewing physical work like Dobie Gillis friend, Maynard G. Krebs.

The reason I admire Father Kurt the most though, is his unswerving dedication to God and his dedication to us, at Christ the Redeemer. He seeks God on a daily basis in humility and prayer. He encourages us to follow Christ and challenges us to submit to God as a body of believers and as individuals, to be all we can be for Him. By the Holy Spirit, he shares spiritual insights with us in a discernable way, through proverbs, stories and personal accounts. He is quite transparent with us when it comes to his own shortcomings and difficulties that he goes through, and this is something that is exceedingly rare in a pastor. In doing so he illustrates for us pointedly that we are all in the same boat; that we all struggle to do what is right and pleasing to God but so often have to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off and renew our journey from there.

To put it more succinctly, he loves us. In doing so, in spite of my lack of response, he shows God’s love for us. Thanks Father Kurt. You are my hero.

G.Houtchens
Armchair coach
Amateur historian

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Heroes #3

One of my all time favorite heroes is a young man I met in college. In my own memory he had a somewhat unkempt appearance at times; his shirt on one side never did seem to want to stay tucked into his pants. He wore these big black rimmed glasses that always seemed askew. However, behind this seemingly mild mannered exterior was a wonderful, beautiful man of God. His name is George Everson. [inset- George today]

I met George through the pencil and paper role-playing group I was involved with in college. He had a peculiar habit that seemed to me to be quaint. Whenever things got to be intense in the game, he would oscillate his pencil in between his forefinger and his thumb, holding the sharpened side. The direr the situation became in the game, the faster the pencil would go! The rest of us picked up on this, and we began at one point to tease the poor guy, with the objective being to make the pencil flip out of his hands and across the room. “Hey George, do you think there is a fire breathing dragon in that cave, getting ready to flame us all into crispy crumbles of blackened toast?” The pencil would immediately go much faster, like a crazed metronome run amok. “Yeah, yeah, ok, knock it off, guys,” he would say, and we would all share a laugh, but I think he understood that this form of banter was motivated from a heart of friendship.

The thing that I most remember about George is his steadfast devotion to God in prayer and in his daily life. He was in pain at times due to scoliosis. He also had some sort of heart condition from my recollection (this was when he was in his early to mid 20’s). He never complained about it. Not once. He was, and is, an extremely compassionate individual and an excellent listener. If I ever had a problem or an issue I was facing, it was important to him. His compassion is a reflection of the love of God in his heart, of that I am certain. I have not met an individual to this day who reminds me of God’s love as does George Everson.

He lived at the time I knew him in this small, unfinished basement. Wires, pipes, concrete walls, no ceiling, and concrete floors adorned this place. He had a small couch to sleep on, with a single, frayed blanket. He considered it home. That’s humility, something that in my opinion is severely lacking in this country. If I ever brought a friend to meet him, he was a gracious host, offering whatever he had (which wasn’t much) to share.

It is exceedingly rare to find any single such attribute as I have mentioned above in one person, let alone all of them lumped together. George, if you ever read this, that’s why you are one of my heroes.

G.Houtchens
Armchair coach
Amateur historian

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Heroes #2

One of my all time heroes is a man I look up to and love greatly, my dad, James R. Houtchens. [above-Dad, then and now]

Dad is the kind of person who is a genuinely good man. A gentleman, knowledgeable; one with a rather impish sense of humor with those who are close to him. He has an old fashioned sense of morals that did not change in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Right is right and wrong is wrong. Being “bad” is not good; it’s just plain bad! He was 9 years old during WWII, and just missed the Korean War, but served in the army for a few years before beginning work at JC Penny’s as a retailer.

I was never a very good athlete, but dad was always there, cheering me on. He was there when I scored my only hockey goal as a 5th grader in Rhode Island, where I grew up as a boy. He volunteered to be a coach on my pee wee baseball team. I did not enjoy it that much because I was pretty hopeless as a baseball player. He would say things like, ”That’s the old college try!” and encourage me even when I screwed up royally. He watched my football games in high school and came to some band concerts. He came up to Maryville College for a couple games to watch me, even though I did not start. He came up to see me with Amy, my sister, even though it meant listening to her complain the entire trip up and back. Now that’s dedication!

I used to love to watch him make plastic model airplanes. We would sit in the basement in this small long room. Fluorescent lights buzzed in the air, and all sorts of contraptions were littered about the counters in his workshop. Dremel tools, air compressors, rock tumblers, you name it. He would sit and work and talk with me. That’s good father-son stuff. He even helped me make a model of Godzilla, one that glowed in the dark. Rarrr!

Dad is one of the hardest working people I have ever known, and I admire him a lot for this. He has an incredible work ethic, something that never quite rubbed off on me. I still remember weekends as a teenager on Peachtree Dunwoody Road, near Northside Hospital. For his “off time” from work, he would hit the yard with a vengeance. Raking the entire day, mortaring sidewalks, digging up the ground for an entire swimming pool… by himself, for crying out loud… with a shovel! Then in between chores he would mow the 1 acre lawn, the one with a 10 degree hill all along the side of the house. Did I mention that we had a push mower the first few years we lived there? Sometimes if he was lucky he could lure his slothful teenage son out there (me) to work at the seemingly futile task of keeping nature at bay. It was his own freaking proverbial Moby Dick. “Come on, Glenn, let’s get these leaves taken care of.” I would roll my eyes and help if he insisted. Why am I out here? I would ask myself. Amy gets to sit inside in the air conditioning and do her nails. I am not in the military. I don’t have any personal quarrel with these leaves.

All these times in retrospect are like pure gold to me. Dad has always stuck by my side through thick and thin. He has always loved me completely, accepted me unhesitatingly. Thank you, Dad. I love you very much. You are my hero.

Heroes #1

The following will be a list of people whom I have met over the course of my life that I consider to be my heroes. This will be a multi-part series, and I hope to condense and put into words the significance in my life of each one, even though in doing so I risk diminishing their importance to me by limiting my expression to words.

My number one hero of all time is Jesus of Nazareth. What a wonderful man, and what a wonderful Lord! He lived in a country under military occupation, yet seldom spoke of the political oppression that he and his people endured. Instead, he sought to illuminate their hearts with true spiritual insight. When confronting the moneychangers at the temple, he was asked about taxes. He answered, Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s. In doing so, Jesus does two things: he demonstrates that human political power is temporary and is a shadow of unseen spiritual events in a nation (that’s my own personal opinion). Secondly, he asks us the question, who is your God and if so, what belongs to Him?

He had the strength to stand up to the Pharisees, the religious leaders of that day. He called them a nest of vipers, because they argued about and adhered to the customs of men, and urged others to do likewise. Do not fear what goes into your mouth (referring to Jewish laws for unclean food); rather, fear what comes out, for it proceeds from your hearts. [loosely quoted]

He had the compassion to forgive those most needing forgiveness, such as the woman caught in the act of adultery, and one of the thieves who was crucified next to him. He healed those who were sick, blind, and deaf, not only for their faith, but also for the faith of others on their behalf (when the crippled man was lowered by litter through the thatch roof into the place he was staying). He saw into the heart of the old woman who gave all she had at the temple, and contrasted that with those who made a show of giving.

He had spiritual authority over the enemies of mankind. He cast demons out of those who were possessed and commanded demons with authority. He was able to fast for 40 days in the wilderness seeking God’s will. He was tempted by the devil himself, yet did not give up, using scripture as his defense. Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. You shall not put the Lord thy God to the test. Worship the Lord God only, and Him only shall you serve.

Finally Jesus showed God’s love for us by being obedient to God’s will in dying on the cross for the sins of all mankind. Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. He endured this for my sake, and yours. Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us! God’s love… how beautiful it is, and yet how little we understand it. I fear I shall be put to shame when I see him in glory, face to face, yet even in this his sacrifice is greater than my sin. My lack of devotion, my stubborn disobedience, my selfish isolationism shall then be burned away. It is to this love, I cling. Thank you for all you have done for us, Jesus. I love you!

This is so very limited, but perhaps it gives you an idea why Jesus is my number 1 hero of all time.

G.Houtchens
Armchair coach
Amateur historian