Two things are missing from the Comics pages of the Philadelphia Inquirer these days. One is Gary Larson’s The Far Side, which is in a permanent state of retirement. The other is Scott Adams’ comic strip, Dilbert. In case you haven’t seen it, Dilbert is about life in corporate America. It is about the way the marketplace has a dehumanizing influence on our culture.
Every year around Valentine’s Day I like to evaluate love and romance from a Christian perspective. This year I want to discuss a book called The Rules, written by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider [New York: Warner, 1995]. The book has sold several hundred thousand copies and has produced a bevy of devoted followers. Women play by The Rules in the hopes of capturing the prize shown on the book’s cover: a diamond engagement ring. Are these rules really what they say they are, “Time-tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right?”
I have yet to prepare my tax return for 1996. Lisa and I have been planning to set aside an evening for our “Tax Summit,” but we haven’t gotten around to it yet. Maybe that is because we are not looking forward to it very much. For many years I considered paying taxes to be one of the high privileges of American citizenship.Then I became a taxpayer. Now paying my taxes seems like more pain than privilege.
February was a bad month for the Philadelphia Public School System. Feelings were already running high when tables were released ranking schools in categories such as attendance, class size, math and reading. Everyone agrees that schools need to be held accountable, but not everyone agreed that the ranking system was fair, or even helpful.
Now two Philadelphia high schools are facing a major shake-up. In the eyes of the school board, Olney and Audenreid high schools are not making the grade. Seventy-five percent of their faculty are scheduled to be transferred to other schools. They are not losing their jobs, but they are angry about being moved around like so many pawns on the educational chess board. Some of their students are not happy to see them go, either. Students at Olney High went on strike for three days to protest the decision.
I am opening this window on the world by popular demand. In the last two weeks I have been inundated with requests (many of them accompanied by articles) to do a Window on the World on cloning. As you must know by now, scientists at the Roslin Institute in Scotland have unveiled a 7-month old sheep which is an exact genetic replica of her mother.
My grandmother is getting old. I think Grandma Eva is 88, but it is hard to keep track. She lives far away in a home in Pella, Iowa, the City of Refuge.
Last month I was awakened by the Spirit to pray for her in the middle of the night. I later learned why she needed my prayers. She had fallen out of bed and injured herself. Too weak to climb back into bed, she lay in the dark for an hour before crawling to the door to call for help.
One of the important literary events of the last few months was the publication of The Norton Anthology of African American Literature (W. W. Norton, New York, 1997). The massive anthology is edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the W. E. B. Du Bois Professor of Humanities at Harvard University. It brings together in one volume the contribution of two centuries of African American letters.
At the end of March, 1997, 39 members of a California cult committed suicide. When law enforcement officials entered their mansion in Rancho Santa Fe, they found the bodies of the cult members neatly laid out on their beds. Each was dressed in black from head to toe; most were carefully draped with purple shrouds. The victims had packed their bags carefully and had taken pains to provide proper identification. Many had sent exuberant farewell videotapes to friends and family. It was all very orderly, almost serene. It was also very frightening.
Back in the early 1940’s -- a few years before Jackie Robinson became the first African American to play in the major leagues -- the Brooklyn Dodgers were managed by Leo “the Lip” Durocher. They called Leo “the Lip” because he was a big mouth. More than once Durocher started a bench-clearing brawl. One of his biographers concludes he was even “too loud and aggressive for the Yankees,” so they shipped him to the National League [John Devaney, The Greatest Cardinals of Them All, New York: Putnam, 1968, p. 86]. When he started managing in Brooklyn he would shout to his pitchers, “Stick it in his ear, stick it in his ear” [Bob Broeg, Stan Musial, New York: Doubleday, 1964, p. 58].
Remember the Presidents’ Summit for America’s Future? A week and a half ago the eyes of the nation were fixed on Philadelphia. Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George Bush, Bill Clinton and Colin Powell gathered in the City of Brotherly Love to help volunteers save America’s youth.