Lake Ontario Overflows its Banks. Massive Flooding. Yikes

There must be a scripture somewhere insulting the sea. If there is not, there should be. Rochester, my home town, is not on the sea and has no beef with it, but it sure does with the lake.

Lake Ontario is a mini-sea in its own right. Along with the four other Great Lakes, it constitutes one fifth of the earth’s fresh water supply. People have built homes on the shores of the lake, figuring that where the lake is, the lake is. Why would you not? But this year, the lake level is two feet higher than normal. Imagine! The entire lake! Let some math nerd figure out the volume increase – it shouldn’t be hard. Actually, the idea appeals to me, except I’m lazy. Give it to some kid for homework or let him bring it to class for extra credit.

When a boat sails by, those people on the shore sweat. They do so even more some when a wind kicks up. Even in calm times, the water is lapping up against their foundations. Their beach as disappeared and their decks are submerged. The beach about which I wrote “Horses in Water’ no longer exists.

http://www.tomsheepandgoats.com/2006/09/horses_in_water.html

The government is passing out sandbags and sand to fill them with. Volunteers appear to help the beach dwellers out. My experience is that sandbags are okay for a day or two or modest rise, but not for much else. The lake level is supposed to be high – it is still rising – all season. Image

Why don’t they drain the lake? someone asks. Just open up the St. Lawrence river more and let that stuff drain out to the sea. Unfortunately, people live along the river, too. An entire city is there, Montreal Canada, and they are seriously flooded as it is. To drain 1 inch of water from Lake Ontario will result in a rise of 10 inches for Montreal and other river dwellers. “Go for it, anyway!” say the besieged lakeshore dwellers, but Canada says ‘no.’

They’re funny that way.

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The Great Forgetter

Rochester does its bit for the Book of Revelation. A windstorm with sustained gusts of up to 81 mph takes down trees everywhere. Does anybody have any extra shingles?

'Why is it so cold in here?' asks the 94 year old Great Forgetter.

RG&E says 90% of all customers will have power restored by end of Sunday.

'Why aren't we at the house?' asks the 94 year old Great Forgetter. Image

Where are my keys, anyhow?" asks the 94 year old Great Forgetter. "They're in my coat pocket, Pop," I answer. "Oh," he says.

"Where are my keys, again?" he asks for the 200th time.

For crying out loud, there must be some old keys around here."Here they are, Pop."

"These sure don't look my keys," he says. "Are you sure you're not pulling the wool over my eyes?"

"C'mon, Pop! Why would I do that?"

I successfully replaced a refrigerator because my wife said the old one was gross and made him think the new one was his! I bought him a junked car, had it towed and pushed into his garage so I could drive the one that was his and made him think the wrecker was his car! You don't think I ought to be able to sneak a few keys by him?

I am privileged. I was able to care for him until the day he died in his own home—except for that few days of lost power after the windstorm. I drove around that afternoon snapping a few pictures. What a mess.

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At considerable length, New York Governor Cuomo expounded upon the topic of how an unheated house gets cold in the winter, following the Rochester windstorm of 2017, during which 140,000 homes lost power. Don't learn the hard way, he urged. Go to where it's warm.

I was touched at his mother hen love and concern for the New York State family, for he does speak that way. But Dr. William Woo of the SPCA (science-philosopher-cheerleader-atheist) Institute harshly condemned the statement:

"Such sniveling mush is interfering with the very foundation of evolutionary science," he charged. "If they are too stupid to know a house unheated gets cold in the winter, the sooner you remove their genes from the gene pool the better. It is only through such harsh action, repeated countless times through the millenia, that natural selection can take place and intelligence such as I have in spades can develop." Image

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March 1st is the Day You Call the Cops to Remove that Obnoxious Winter Drunk from Your House

March 1st is a fine day. It is a day of days. It is a wonderful day. It marks the psychological end of winter.

It is the day you finally decide to call the cops to remove that obnoxious drunk from your house. You know he’s not going to go quietly. You know he’s going to break a lamp or two on the way out. But you also know that he will soon be GONE.

Watching the news on TV the way I do, I often see that New York is buried in snow. I am in New York and my Facebook friends worry about me. They needn't.  It depends upon where in New York you are, for much snowfall is determined by your location relative to one of the Great Lakes across which winds blow. In Rochester, due south of Lake Ontario, we have had remarkably little snow, and what snow there has been melts quickly. But if I were in the Tug Hill Plateau, east – southeast of Lake Ontario, or the Amhearst area, due east of Lake Erie, I would have offed myself many times over by now.

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No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash                 Tom Irregardless and Me

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Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Can You Believe that Someone tried to Apply Isa 57:1 to David Bowie?

The righteous one has perished,

But no one takes it to heart.

Loyal men are taken away,

With no one discerning that the

righteous one has been taken away

Because of the calamity.

 

Look, David Bowie was a great guy and all. And a memorable singer. Who can forget – uh – um – ah – well, he’s not my generation, otherwise I would remember. Besides, when I went to Pandora, I kept saying ‘oh, he’s the one who did that.’ But you have to stretch it to call him one of the righteous ones.

When he came to Rochester in the 70’s, he got busted for drugs. Cops would never do it today, but at the time the kids were getting out of control, adults didn’t know what to do about it, but figured they had to do something. I remember this on TV. Weird as ever, he replied ‘yes, sir’ to the judge – respectfully, just not a ‘your Honor.’ But then, he was British. Why should he know American decorum? Image

A local businesswoman was there when he was busted in his hotel room. Bowie had taken a shine to her and had invited her to his hotel room after the concert. I think there were several there, not just her. In 2016, she declared she would “tell her story” of what really happened that night. TV teased us for days about what she would spill. But it turned out that the only thing she had to spill is that she was there, which everyone knew already.

“You’re under arrest,” the cops said. “Okay,” David replied.

It actually wasn’t David Bowie he applied Isaiah 57:1 to. It was someone else. I forget who. It may have been Paul Newman, which is arguably more true, since he did leave behind some fine salad dressing and proceeds from buying it go to charity.

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Redeeming America's Armpit

In the early 1990's Buffalo NY earned the title of America's Armpit. Well.....it didn't really earn the title, it just got stuck with it. There must always be something to arouse national ridicule, and for just a few brief years, comedians peppered their routines with Buffalo jokes. For example, the Air up There, a 1994 movie ripoff of the far more clever Cool Runnings, has the main character firing back to some taunter: “Don't tell me about ….(I think the word was 'armpits,' but it might have been 'dung heaps' or something).....I'm from Buffalo.” It must have been the last straw. Civic minded Buffalonians hosted a garden show that year. Green thumb people gussied up their homes with every sort of plant, and invited others to visit. It took 16 years for Mrs Sheepandgoats and I to respond.

But we did respond this year, for the two-day show in late July. Till then, we'd known nothing about it. All we'd known, thanks to Hollywood, was that Buffalo was an armpit and a dung heap. And that, more or less, squared with our own take of the city. Like Pittsburgh, Buffalo was once a center of heavy industry, steel-making and so forth. Unlike Pittsburgh, it never managed to reinvent itself when those industries evaporated. Hard to believe, but at the turn of last century (1900) Buffalo was the third most populous city in the U.S. Those days are long gone.

But each year gardeners have worked to reverse their armpit image, which was never more than pop-silliness anyway. The garden show has become an annual event, each one larger than its predecessor. One day recently, despairing of anything new in our own city, I chanced upon coverage for the Buffalo show in our local paper. We drove over to check it out. It's only an hour's drive west of Rochester, and we lodged overnight so as to take in both days.

Whoa! This is a big deal! 350 gardens this year. It's the largest show of its kind in America! These folks have been busy and we knew nothing of it. Now, Mrs Sheepandgoats loves this kind of thing, and so do I. Gardens are beautiful, people are friendly, and....one might as well say it....there's a certain nosiness about seeing how others are set up. It's a cheap date, or at least it would have been except for the hotel.....wasn't that overpriced? Plus, Mrs Sheepandgoats grumbled about it a little, since it seemed  dated.....aren't we too good to suffer such indignities?  But we found it through Priceline.com, a service that allows you (supposedly) the best price, but not choice of hotel. You have to trust them to choose for you once you specify how many “stars” you want.

Moreover, no sooner had we checked in and gotten comfortable when in waltzed a trio of women! They'd messed up at the main desk and assigned the same room twice! Fortunately, I was still impeccably dressed, as always, but Mrs Sheepandgoats had begun to change. Not to worry, I headed off the intruders at the door.....they were all embarrassed and headed down to the control desk. After a short time, so did I. The proprietress, a friendly matronly woman, apologized profusely, and then, probing sheepishly as to whether or not I was upset (I wasn't....mistakes happen), ventured that: “they were pretty, though.” Were they? I never notice such things, of course. Besides, Mrs Sheepandgoats is also pretty. Still, I complained to my wife afterward that this sort of thing happens to me all the time, and it's a great nuisance. Pretty women somehow find out where I'm staying and throw themselves at me so that I have to bolt the door to get any peace. It's almost as much of a pain as when I'm strolling down the street with my wife, and traffic comes to a screeching halt, folks snapping their necks around to admire her, disregarding entirely the Bible's counsel, cars smashing into one another, and so forth.....let's face it, the woman's a looker.

But how did this start out an article for Better Homes and Gardens, and practically end in Playboy territory? C'mon Sheepandgoats, back on topic!

You'd almost think there would be a lot of married couples in attendance at the show, and there were, but they were not the majority. Largely, it was packs of women with their girlfriends. Men were....what....maybe 30%? Just an impression, maybe there were more, but the wife and I both commented on it. Guys think their manhood threatened should they confess an interest in gardens, apparently; probably they were off bowling.

The 350 garden sites, front, side, and back yards, were clustered, for the most part, in neighborhoods, so that, if you weren't in one of the neighborhoods....if you were an island somewhere all by yourself....you might not get a lot of traffic. But the neighborhoods themselves were well traveled and some, such as the Summer neighborhood, were mobbed. Summer Street ends in a little hook just west of Delaware St. It's homes were built in the mid-1800's as cottages. Lovingly restored cottages, some painted bright bold colors. A few of them seem not even to have street access, but you had to walk in a house or two deep to reach them.

Nearby was 16th Street, a street with a story some residents posted for all to see. The area is quite modest, you might almost say poor, but several years ago residents banded together to form a neighborhood association. Gardening was the common strategy. Not only did they flower their own properties, but they gifted gardens to neighbors not in position to afford or maintain their own. (One home had a sign in front: 'this garden gifted by the so-as-so neighborhood association'....which I thought was a bit tactless, really. I mean, how must that sign make the people inside feel? But perhaps I'm too sensitive. Anyhow, today 94% of the short street is owner-occupied. Go the next street over,  where there are no gardens, and it's as though you've entered another world.

We started our tour at the Seminary headquarters near the Frank Lloyd Wright house. It wasn't the only headquarters....you could start wherever you wanted. Pick up a map, make a voluntary donation to the cause if you like, and off you go. Take the shuttlebus, drive, or walk. Lots of bistros and shops along Elmwood Avenue, for refreshments and change of pace. It's fairly monied around the FLW house, but to me,  the most interesting gardens were in neighborhoods quite modest, some even being reclaimed from urban decay, with  dinosaur-sized homes being nurtured back from near-extinction. Are gardens the means to revive a city? Instilling civic pride and such? Come to Buffalo and you might almost make a case for it.

It was unseasonably warm that Saturday....disgustingly hot, actually, with obscene humidity, the kind every upstate New Yorker knows only too well. We nonetheless trekked on valiantly till the show's 4 PM end.  Quite a few of the residents offered refreshments of sorts.....cold lemonade, perhaps, though in the poorer areas you were more likely to find those who charged for the service. Ah, well....no matter. And....walking up and down Elmwood Avenue, roughly the show's backbone, there were the aforementioned bistros and coffee shops one might duck into to cool off. The weatherman had called for rain all day, but it held off till the end.....when we were just feet from our car, and then in came down in a manner that would impress Noah. It was almost as if angels had held back the rains all day for our benefit. But they didn't, I'm quite sure. Don't they have other things to do?

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The New Cool Mormons

The Mormons launched a new PR campaign on local TV.  Two 15 second spots run back to back.  There's a series of them. Each features a young, cool, vivacious person doing young, cool, vivacious things, with voiceover:
 
 I'm a bicyclist, I'm a curator, I'm a husband......and I'm a Mormon!
 
I'm a scateboarder, I'm a student, I'm a musician.......and I'm a Mormon!
 
Toss in some feel-good banal statement, such as “I believe in living every minute of each day as though it was my last,” and the ad is complete:
 
I'm a surfer, I'm a wife, I'm a nurse, I believe that we're all here in life to make a difference.......and I'm a Mormon!
 
Get it? We're cool, just like you. What.....did you hear somewhere that we're weird? Who told you that? No! We're not weird at all! We're just like you, only more so! Please.....love us!
 
Now, can I tell you what I think of this campaign? If I do, it will be a departure for me, because I've said kind things about Mormons on these posts. Besides, I don't want to offend Nate the Mormon, an amiable fellow with whom I sometimes exchange comments, who is these days given to writing movie reviews on off-the-radar films.  I mean, don't get me wrong.....it's not as though I think Mormons and JWs are brethern religions or anything.......we're poles apart spiritually.... but there are several similarities between us and they are good similarities. Both faiths have a public ministry....yes, yes, just a two year stint for the youngsters, but it's intense, and more than anyone else has. Both have a reputation for honesty. Both keep their ranks clean. Both look after their own, and promptly come to the aid of members in times of disaster. Both recognize the value of organization. Neither has members who insist on exercising their own rights to the exclusion of all else. Both even had a child superstar of the 70's: Donny Osmond for them, Michael Jackson for us (who, alas, strayed). No question about it: there's things about Mormons I like.

But I can't stand this new campaign of theirs. It wore out it's welcome the first time I saw it. Is it just a stupid  public relations move from the Mormons, or does it represent what they are? Dunno. But it's so pandering. It is so....oh, please love us.....we're cool, like you! Not the slightest hint of anything spiritual. Instead, absolute emphasis on how Mormons love to have fun, and how they love to do neat things. It's like the Catholics crowing 'we're the place for BINGO! Or “we've chucked those boring masses for guitars!” At least when they embraced those things, they didn't glorify it through PR spots, as though they wished to redefine themselves thereby. I mean, why carry on as if ashamed of what you are? Aren't Mormons supposed to be a faith?
 
Look, I'm not opposed to fun. Or having interesting work. All of those things the various Mormons do....we have people who do them, too. But I can't imagine a campaign in which we identify ourselves by those activities.

Now, it just so happens that the general managers of two Rochester radio stations are Jehovah's Witnesses. Sometimes you'll hear them on the air. That's cool, isn't it? I know both of these guys They're nice people. But there's no way I can imagine a TV spot featuring them in the control room, laughing and chatting into the mike, flipping this switch or that, grilling some recalcitrant newsmaker....so busy, so active, so alive, with the voiceover: I'm Tom Whitepebble. I'm a radio guy. I'm a husband. I'm a golfer. And.......I'm a Jehovah's Witness!
 
For crying out loud, you could make one of those dopey ads about ME! Surround me with the developmentally disabled. See me helping them with this or that project. See the happiness I bring them, their excited, smiling faces. And now listen to the promo:  I'm Tom Sheepandgoats. I'm a community worker for the disabled. I'm a writer. I'm a father. And.......I'm a Jehovah's Witness!

“I'm not weird at all! I'm cool! I don't eat Bible sandwiches! You could be cool, too, and happy, just like me, if you'd just become a Jehovah's Witness!”

I mean, doesn't it just make you want to puke?

Two years ago the Watchtower ran the life story ("Never Forget the Door to Door Ministry") of a Witness who was raised a Mennonite. I know the fellow. I've been to his home. As a Mennonite, he was chased from Russia to Germany. There he studied with Jehovah's Witnesses, was baptized, and again emigrated to Paraguay. He began preaching in a Mennonite colony in Paraguay, where they promptly spread out warnings about the newly arrived "false prophet." With his growing family, he moved here to upstate New York. The article touches upon various spiritual highlights and experiences of his life.
 
What it does not mention at all is that this fellow is now a millionaire. I mean, he must be, unless he gave it all away, which is possible....he's a very generous man. He became one of the area's premiere homebuilders. Tracts of homes bearing his company name are found everywhere. But there's absolutely no mention, in the Watchtower, of his material success. Instead, an exclusive focus on the spiritual. Possibly the next guy featured in the magazine didn't have two nickels to rub together. It's a matter of no importance. Each is defined in terms of spiritual things, not material. The day I hear “I'm Bob the Builder. I'm a homebuilder. I'm a traveler. I'm a millionaire. And......I'm a Jehovah's Witness!” I'm outta here.
 
That the Watchtower does not even mention this fellow's material success makes me very proud indeed to be one of Jehovah's Witnesses. Finally, a group that sees right through the shallowness of goals society teaches us to slobber over. Finally, a group not awed by social prominance, material success, or “coolness.” When our people are cool, it's incidental. It's not something sought after, and....one might as well say it, we have many who are decidedly uncool. Finally, a group who gets the sense of 1 John 2:15-17:
 
Do not be loving either the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him; because everything in the world—the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life—does not originate with the Father, but originates with the world. Furthermore, the world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.
 
Of course, 1 John is from the Bible, and Mormons make little use of the Bible. Other than trying to make a few verses point to an Upcoming Modern Revelation, their own Book of Mormon, I don't think they use it at all. But apparently, if this new media campaign is anything to go by, the Book of Mormon repeals 1 John 2:15-17 in favor of avidly pursuing all goals the world deems valuable, being fully part of the world, if you will. It's just not our way.
 
Look, we have fun, Jehovah's Witnesses do. And we have interesting work, too, some of us anyway. A handful of us are even cool. But if you're main focus on life is to have fun and career fulfillment, don't come to us. That's not what we're all about. We're Bible people. We live it. We teach it. We don't carry on as if ashamed of it.

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Update here

Still more here

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Tom Irregardless and Me   No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

These Are My People

Time was when those district conventions geared up very slowly.

Sit down.....listen up....take notes....get enough sleep....keep track of your kids....if you were already planning to behave you could just as well skip that first talk, and if you weren't - well, one talk was not going to change things much. Then there might follow an talk-by-talk preview of the program, stretching out 20 minutes or so. Then a few old timers would surface on stage, interviewed for historical flavor. Maybe some pioneers next, and then some others whom life had kicked in the teeth, but who had withstood trial, and credited faith for their win.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed hearing from all these folks. The point is, though, that the program kept trotting out appetizer after appetizer, and the main course took a long time to appear.

No more. This year, the first talk hits the ground running. Why Must We "Keep on the Watch," to cite Jesus' counsel. You wouldn't think people would be so spiritually lethargic in a time of cataclysmic events, the type we routinely see on the news. But they are. Events that once would have set folks back on their heels for weeks, they now just shrug off as one of those things and carry on. Just like Jesus' words indicate at Matt 24:38-39:

For as they were in those days before the flood, eating and drinking, men marrying and women being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark; and they took no note until the flood came and swept them all away, so the presence of the Son of man will be.

Thus, Keep on the watch, therefore, because you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. From this counsel the 2009 convention draws its theme: Keep on the Watch.   (vs 42)

 

Okay, so those laid-back folks might go to Barnes & Noble and pick up a timely paperback. And some others might throw in the towel completely to worship the Dawkins-Harris-Hitchings trinity. But serious searching they don't do. And the message comes right to their house, for crying out loud. But talk about the end of this system, and people take it as a big joke, just like Peter wrote:

For you know this first, that in the last days there will come ridiculers with their ridicule, proceeding according to their own desires and saying: “Where is this promised presence of his? Why, from the day our forefathers fell asleep [in death], all things are continuing exactly as from creation’s beginning.”   2 Pet 3:3-4  

sigh

I liked the Sunday morning program, as well - starting with a nine part symposium discussing foretold events from the great tribulation to the end of the 1000 year reign, presented compact and fast-moving. You'd swear, as a building employee did at a prior Raleigh convention (according to visiting Tom Oxgoad) that the convention speakers were well-paid professional speakers, but no; they're all local brothers - unpaid volunteers, as is true with everything else Jehovah's Witnesses do.

That moron in the devil suit was back also, as well as the usual gang of protesters, about a half dozen or so outside the building, though you'd think they were far more, judging by the noise they made. "Why don't you just pop them one?" one of the cops asked an attendant, so said the concluding speaker. Well....we've got a reputation to uphold. But I can sympathize with the cops, who have to double, if not triple their numbers on account of these guys. All morning long they have to listen to these characters screaming about hellfire, the "devil" pretending to wave his disciples into the auditorium. Sheesh! Say what you will about Jehovah's Witnesses....perhaps you're not crazy about their visits....but they will never show up at your door dressed in a devil suit.

Really, of all the doctrines from the fundamentalists, "hellfire" is the easiest to pull apart. With a single exception, all instances of "hell" in English Bibles stem from one of three original language words (sheol, hades, gehenna) Find the meaning of those three words and you've found the meaning of hell. None of them refer to a place of eternal torment. A well known early Witness, Charles Russell was known in his lifetime as the man who "turned the hose on hell and put out the fire."

Then there was Brother Wease. Now, Brother Wease is not a brother in the same sense as Brother Sheepandgoats, Brother Wheatandweeds, or Brother Pearlsandswine. It's a handle. Brother Wease is a local shock jock, modeled after Howard Stern. Unlike Howard, he's not syndicated, so he identifies with the local Rochester community, supports a lot of local causes, and indeed, is quite popular. First day of the convention he called the news department. Can they send someone he can interview on air? They did. Turns out that Wease had been visited by our people a few weeks ago, and he was impressed. His warning that he was the antichrist with no use for religion had not sent them scampering, as he had anticipated. Instead, they stayed, he warmed to them, and found some things he liked. He said nice things about that visit on air, right here. Even some of his on-air chums, who are essentially there to 'bust your chops,' came around - sort of. "These are my people," Wease enthused; he liked the part about Witnesses not going to war. Friday's interview isn't online yet. Go here, and scroll down. It will probably show up eventually

It's convention time. The same program is held worldwide in scores of locations, usually multiples times at each to serve folk from different areas. In the northern hemisphere it runs during 3-day windows in June-September. Then it goes into the southern hemisphere to pick up their summer.

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Tom Irregardless and Me             No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

 

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Pinks, Purples, Greens, Blues and Cold

I knew summer was close upon us when the Lilac Festival kicked off last weekend. That’s the only way I knew. The weather sure gave no clue. I've seen R-rated weather before, but this was obscene. Joan Osborn performed Sunday and, just like when Lot’s wife became a pillar of salt, she became a pillar of ice. I mean, she must have. When guitar strings began superconducting, she swore to herself she would never ever ever come to Rochester again before July. I wasn’t there, so I don’t really know, but if she has any sense, that’s what she did.

And Ricky Lee Jones, the day before, must have been blown back to New York City or wherever she came from. It was gale force winds that day. My son was biking back from Ithaca that day and tells me he had to lean against the wind nearly the whole time. That’s fine until the wind abruptly stops and you must think quick to rebalance. He really should have pulled over. How come I didn't teach him better?

But by Monday, the weather was looking up. Upper 50’s, that is, which isn’t all that great, and with a breeze, no less, but also with full sun. I made plans to get to that festival and, as family head, I ordered Mrs. Sheepandgoats to come with me, but she said ‘forget it.’ Naturally, she cherishes every opportunity to be with me, but it was only 55 stingy degrees, and she has not much use for outdoor festivals until it’s ...say, at least, mid-sixties. Of course, she could wear a parka and tuque. Everybody could, and that would solve the weather problem, but nobody wants to do that. The Lilac Festival is the first "coming out" event of the season - the first real occasion for people watching - and you don’t want to show looking like a weather-grizzled prospector from the backwoods.

See, lilacs are an early blooming plant, right up there with tulips and azaleas - and before rhododendrons, so the festival either must come in early May or shed the name Lilac Festival. Several decades of tradition argues against shedding the name. Just be grateful it's not the Crocus Festival. And Highland Park, it must be said, was truly splendid that day. Brilliant blossoming pinks, deep lilac purples, hues of green, even some yellows springing up everywhere, all splashed against bright blue sky. It's no wonder those ancients went bonkers come every spring. It's glorious to behold. You bring your camera that day, and snap pictures of all you see. Photos are digital, after all, and cheap. If they don’t turn out, you just delete them. Therefore, if you can stand the weather, you come down around suppertime, grab a plate of food from the venders, and munch it down listening to free concerts amidst the beautiful backdrop. Then, you head back home and go about your business. Without ever intending to, I've fallen into a habit of yearly Festival posts. Starting now, therefore, I'm opening a Lilac Festival category.

Monday was cowboy day; all musicians wore cowboy hats. Now, cowboy music would not ordinarily be my first choice, but you have to take what you can get. After all, I’m one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, not some nutcake religious fanatic, and I'm not about to freeze so as to take in the better-known artists of the prior two days. Plenty of Rochestarians are willing to do so, however. We are very serious about our Lilac Festival, and I am told those two frigid days were well-attended. But for me, no. Cowboys it will have to be. A fellow by the name of Jarrod Niemann played at 5:30, putting out a solid show with spontaneity and humor. He didn’t actually wear a cowboy hat (he wore the same hat that he does here) and he doesn't do the twangy country stuff. Strictly a one man show with acoustic (though plugged-in) guitar and no back-up musicians of any sort. It can’t be that easy to hold the stage that way, and chilly weather inhibited audience feedback at first, but he had a strong voice, likeable presence, clever song-writing, and the easy-going confidence to interrupt himself mid-song with obser……are those drug dogs?…..vations appropriate for the…….are those lilacs? Did I tell you I’m allergic to lilacs?…..event. Some honky-tonk and good-time songs, with one or two off-color references which, of course, went right over my head. Not a bad show. If he comes to your town, you might want to see him.

Afterwards, I might have slipped away home, for the sun was thinking about setting, but Jarrod said to stay put for the next cowboy, Jamey Johnson. Of course, I’m used to doing as I’m told, so I hung around, a little reluctantly at first, but in time I was drawn into that second performance, as well. This next fellow had backup. And lots of twang....isn't it steel guitars that do that? Exactly what is a steel guitar, anyway? He planted himself stolidly center stage, immovable (unlike the writhing guitarist to his right) singing anthems with an attitude, as if to say "if you don't like it, leave!" I didn't notice that anyone did. I, too, stayed to the end.

The final two days of the festival returned to the meteorlogical misery of the first two days, so as to achieve symmetry, no doubt. During the next week, the temperature climbed into the mid-80's. ...Sigh....

 

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Tom Irregardless and Me               No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Dr. Who, Dr. Jastrow, and Living Forever

When they asked Robert Jastrow the physicist about living forever - would it be a blessing or a curse? - he said… it all depends:

“It would be a blessing to those who have curious minds and an endless appetite for learning. The thought that they have forever to absorb knowledge would be very comforting for them. But for others who feel they have learned all there is to learn and whose minds are closed, it would be a dreadful curse. They’d have no way to fill their time.”

So if your purpose in life is to watch a lot of TV, living forever would probably be a drag. But our appetite for learning can be endless, unless we have closed down shop ourselves. Of course, Dr Jastrow is an egghead - a thinker - and so he focused on learning. But other things are probably boundless, too, like our capacity to create, and to love.

Lately, though, pop culture has been selling death as if it were a benefit. It’s probably those atheists. There’s more and more of them, and buying into their thinking means settling for a final death sentence perhaps not too many years away. Pay attention, and you’ll see the ‘death is beautiful’ notion a lot. For example, it surfaced in a recent Dr Who episode - The Lazarus Experiment. Now, Dr Who is probably the only show that I deliberately work into my routine. A British import, it is science fiction with a quirky protagonist, clever writing, neat  travel in a space ship that looks like a phone booth - it's bigger on the inside than on the outside [!], and endless visits from aliens, most of whom are up to no good. And it just so happens the show fits perfectly into some weekly down time in my schedule. Indeed, I might never have discovered it otherwise. But having done so, I try not to miss it. ‘Yeah, you just watch it on account of that cute blonde,’ accuses a workmate. But it’s not true; the cute blonde has been written out of the script (she got stranded on a parallel universe) yet the show continues to hold it’s appeal.

The episode name itself is a giveaway, since Lazarus is the biblical character whom Jesus resurrected (in a context that makes it clear the dead are not high-fiving in heaven not char-broiling in hell, but are in a state of non-existence...didn't I write about that here?). But this TV Lazarus has invented a machine that makes him young again….he steps in a geezer, and steps out a young man, to the amazement of all the high-brow folk invited to his gala bash. But Dr. Who (was he invited?) smells something amiss. He follows the newly minted youngster, and sure enough, the machine has malfunctioned and dooms Lazurus to transforming back and forth from human to monster  - they’re pretty good at doing monsters on that show. See, in setting back his DNA, the machine has selected ancient mutations long-ago rejected by evolution. (Hmmm…yes…indeed, plausible, nod all the atheists watching the show….whereas if you mentioned anything about God, they’d throw up.)

The time lord doctor also lectures Lazarus on what a curse everlasting life really is, and what a dumb, greedy thing it was for him to want it. For when life drags on forever and ever and ever, you will get so tired of it. You will have been everywhere, done everything. Living will have become an endless, pointless trek to nowhere. You will long for it to end, but….fool that you were for choosing everlasting life….it will not end, but go on and on and on. Oh, the monotony! See, without death, it is impossible to savor life…. and so forth.

Please…. spare me (and Dr. Jastrow). This is atheist tripe. It all depends upon whether you see life as futile or not. If you do, then sure...you would want it to end. But as Jastrow stated, life’s only futile if you’ve made it so. Of course, I’ll readily concede that baked into this system of things are various ingredients to encourage that dismal view - for example, old age and frailty.

Next time you visit Rochester, you may decide to visit the George Eastman house. Why don’t you do that? Mr. Eastman, who brought photography to the masses and who founded Kodak, turned philanthropist once he’d made his fortune and built half the city. His mansion on East Ave showcases his life, his inventions, his contributions to society, and serves as the nucleus for all things photographic right up to the present. But snoop thoroughly and you will discover that he shot himself in the head at age 78. In the throes of old age, his health failing, one by one he saw his chums going senile, bedridden or wheelchair bound. He left behind a note: “To my friends - My work is done. Why wait?”

Q: Why did George Eastman take his life?

 a) His work was done. Why wait?

b) He longed for the blessed release of death to finally end a futile life that had dragged on and on for much too long.

c) His health was failing and he (a lifelong bachelor) dreaded the indignities of old age -with its dependence upon others.

Do you honestly think that, with health and youth, he would not have found more work in which to engross himself? Or would he have longed for life to end? What....are you kidding me?

In this, Mr. Eastman is much like Leonardo DaVinci, the fellow who painted the Mona Lisa - likely the most famous portrait of all time. Leonardo made his mark not only as an artist. He also contributed hugely in areas as diverse as geometry, anatomy, astronomy, architecture, and flight. Some of his sketches have been used as blueprints for devices in use today. He was a renaissance man; in fact, perhaps he originates the term. Yet toward the end of life, he reportedly sought God's forgiveness for "not using all the resources of his spirit and art."

Eastman and DaVinci - two fellows that typify Dr. Jastrow’s statement. And they would be joined by most everyone else, were we not sucked into a morass of drudgery, duty, debt, injustice and hardship. Sure...you might well long for death if you can only envision more of that. Ditto for the frailness that comes with old age. I recently attended a funeral of someone who was happy, content, and productive throughout life. Nonetheless, death was not unwelcome, relatives assured me, since he’d grown “so tired of being sick.”

That’s why the Bible’ promise of everlasting life on a paradise earth is so appealing. It’s Robert Jastrow’s dream come true - unlimited time to grow minus the very real liabilities that eventually cause most of us to tire of life. Perfect health is promised, and an economic system will be in place so that people do not feel they are “toiling for nothing.” Will it incorporate some features of the ancient Jubilee system? Note how Isaiah 65:21-23 describes life under God’s kingdom rule, per the prayer “thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven":

And they will certainly build houses and have occupancy; and they will certainly plant vineyards and eat [their] fruitage. They will not build and someone else have occupancy; they will not plant and someone else do the eating. For like the days of a tree will the days of my people be; and the work of their own hands my chosen ones will use to the full. They will not toil for nothing, nor will they bring to birth for disturbance; because they are the offspring made up of the blessed ones of Jehovah, and their descendants with them.    Isa 65:21-23

There’s a lot of things I’d like to do. I’ve done a few of them. But for the most part, I’ve just scratched the surface. And I’ve spent a fair amount of time shoveling aside the dung this system throws at you. No, everlasting life, should I find myself there, will not be a bad thing. Not at all.

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Tom Irregardless and Me        No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Nelson Barbour and the Rochester Connection

It’s obvious to any reasonably astute spiritual person that Rochester, my hometown, is nowhere mentioned in scripture. It’s equally plain that such neglect is grossly unjust. Not only unjust, but arbitrary. After all, if I lived just 90 miles east, in Syracuse, I would at least have minor (yet satisfying) scriptural mention. I think it was Tom Wheatandweeds concluding a District Convention held in that city a few years back, at the Onondaga County War Memorial Auditorium, who pointed out that all in attendance had fulfilled a scriptural pattern. He referred to Acts 28:12, the clown, which reads:  “And putting into port at Syracuse we remained three days… " And what if you lived in Rome, NY, 30 miles to the northeast. Well, then you’d have scriptural mention all the time. But Rochester….not even once.

Perhaps, though, things are different when we consider the modern-day history of Jehovah’s people - you know, the one that got underway in the late 1800’s, the one where Charles Taze Russell was a prominent figure. What finds we when we do a search of that period?

Whoa!! Right off the bat we hit a home run! In the very early days of Jehovah’s modern-day Witnesses, Russell came across a fellow searcher of scripture in Rochester by the name of Nelson H Barbour. The latter published a journal called The Herald of the Morning which advanced some doctrinal points that Russell, too, had discerned. The two teamed up and combined their Bible study groups, Barbour’s being the larger of the two. They became coeditors of the Herald. Russell infused cash into it, as it was in danger of going belly-up. They published a book together (in 1877): Three Worlds, and the Harvest of this World.

Ah….but the marriage didn’t last. Barbour began veering away with some ideas Russell didn’t care for, most notably denying the ransom value of Christ’s death, saying that [Russell’s words] “Christ’s death was no more a settlement of the penalty of man’s sins than would the sticking of a pin through the body of a fly and causing it suffering and death be considered by an earthly parent as a just settlement for misdemeanor in his child.” The two squabbled back and forth in the Herald magazine for awhile - each penning separate articles - and then Russell broke off partnership and started a journal of his own: Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence, known today as the Watchtower. The Watchtower grew to its present circulation of 37 million. The Herald of the Morning disappeared.

Who was this fellow Barbour? I don’t know if I’d be especially curious, were it not for his Rochester connection. But I spent some time in the library archives [unnecessary, it turned out, since most of the information is also at Wikapedia] and uncovered some basics about him. He was a serious student of the Bible. Born in 1824  and raised among Presbyterians [as I was], he was a little too inquisitive for them and broke off at age 19 to do independent study and preaching. He published some tracts and books before he met Russell, and he founded The Church of the Strangers afterward. A pork chop preacher! Joe Hart might have called him, but such wouldn’t be fair. Unlike storefront preachers today, who, Joe suspected, preached just so as to supply themselves with pork chops, Barbour gives every appearance of being legit. Another Barbour, Clarence A Barbour, was a local Presbyterian preacher at the time, and he gets more contemporary press than does Nelson. Was Nelson the black sheep of the family?  And an Elizabeth Barbour - apparently Nelson’s wife - is listed in the records of the Central Presbyterian Church (3/31/1873) as “suspended, erased & excommunicated” [!] Did she stray from Presbyterianism and join Nelson in his heresy? She died in 1901. Nelson died in 1905.

There were a lot of guys like Nelson in those days. In fact, Russell was like him. As the end of the Gentile times approached, there were many in the decades leading up to 1914 who began searching the Scriptures - roving about, as Daniel phrases it. They focused on the fulfillment of prophesies - many of them found in the book of Daniel. You could say they were “keeping on the watch“ as to the Lord’s return. Might they be the “you” of verse 12?

10 Concerning this very salvation a diligent inquiry and a careful search were made by the prophets who prophesied about the undeserved kindness meant for you. 11 They kept on investigating what particular season or what sort of [season] the spirit in them was indicating concerning Christ when it was bearing witness beforehand about the sufferings for Christ and about the glories to follow these. 12 It was revealed to them that, not to themselves, but to you, they were ministering the things that have now been announced to you through those who have declared the good news to you with holy spirit sent forth from heaven. Into these very things angels are desiring to peer.       1 Pet 1:10-12

At any rate, Daniel relates what was told him about prophesies he recorded:

And as for you, O Daniel, make secret the words and seal up the book, until the time of [the] end. Many will rove about, and the [true] knowledge will become abundant.    Dan 12:1

You couldn’t count on the Presbyterians or any mainline church to do any such “roving.” They’d long since grown fat and happy with well-paid clergymen who were content to confer God’s blessing on whatever human government they lived under. No, it would be breakaway students - folks like Barbour - and Russell.

In the early twentieth century, Charles Taze Russell enjoyed particular success. The Bible study group he formed has grown into Jehovah’s Witnesses of today. Is it because he was smarter than the rest of them? Or more dedicated? Started with more money? Was more humble?  Was more blessed?  He would, I think, have emphasized the latter factor. At any rate, the movement he chaired became exceedingly active. Russell himself saw his weekly sermons published in 4000 newspapers. A publication called The Continent said of him: “His writings are said to have greater newspaper circulation every week than those of any other living man; a greater, doubtless, than the combined circulation of the writings of all the priests and preachers in North America; greater even than the work of Arthur Brisbane, Norman Hapgood, George Horace Lorimer, Dr. Frank Crane, Frederick Haskins, and a dozen other of the best known editors and syndicate writers put together.”

In what would have made Sam Harris proud, were he willing to give credit to a “deist,” -  which he is not - Russell and associates “called a spade a spade”with regard to the God-dishonoring teachings of the churches. So much so that when the eight principle officers of them was railroaded off to jail in 1918 (convicted under wartime charges of sedition - a conviction reversed nine months later, the original trial having been shown to contain 125 errors) the churches all high-fived each other.   Ray H Abrams writes in his book Preachers Present Arms, (published in 1933)  “An analysis of the whole case leads to the conclusion that the churches and the clergy were originally behind the movement to stamp out the Russellites. . . .
“When the news of the twenty-year sentences reached the editors of the religious press, practically every one of these publications, great and small, rejoiced over the event. I have been unable to discover any words of sympathy in any of the orthodox religious journals. ‘There can be no question,’ concluded Upton Sinclair, that ‘the persecution . . . sprang in part from the fact that they had won the hatred of “orthodox” religious bodies.’ What the combined efforts of the churches had failed to do the government now seemed to have succeeded in accomplishing for them—the crushing of these ‘prophets of Baal’ forever.”

Upon release from prison -their convictions overturned - the eight officers of the Watchtower were not a bit abashed. They resumed with full vigor their preaching campaign, and, in fact, intensified it. We see the result as the Christian congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses today. Of course, we view the movement as not brand new, but a restoration of first century Christianity, following a foretold period of “sleep:”

Another illustration he set before them, saying: “The kingdom of the heavens has become like a man that sowed fine seed in his field. While men were sleeping, his enemy came and oversowed weeds in among the wheat, and left. When the blade sprouted and produced fruit, then the weeds appeared also. So the slaves of the householder came up and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow fine seed in your field? How, then, does it come to have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy, a man, did this.’ They said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go out and collect them?’ He said, ‘No; that by no chance, while collecting the weeds, you uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest; and in the harvest season I will tell the reapers, First collect the weeds and bind them in bundles to burn them up, then go to gathering the wheat into my storehouse.’”  Matt 13:24-30

But all that’s mere background for the post at hand. We’re dealing here with the backwater eddy that was Nelson H. Barbour. Rochester Central Library archives list his Church of the Strangers at the address 86 Williams Street* in Rochester.

No way!!! That’s not 100 yards from the old Irondequoit Kingdom Hall! (which is now a dentist’s office) I used to live in that Hall, in a downstairs apartment, when I pioneered back in the 70’s. Let me tell you, this is weird. It almost makes me feel like a bad Elisha, having caught the cloak of a bad Elijah. Of course, he missed by 100 yards, but that is what a bad Elijah would do. And I hate to think of the implications for this blog!

Sheesh! I’m almost sorry I asked.

*It is possible that the Williams St of today, at the very edge of Rochester City limits, is not the same Williams St. of 100 years ago. But I’ll leave matters as they are. How often does a guy get to end a sentence with three exclamation marks?

 


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The Rochester Union and Advertiser for October 5, 1895, page 12 offers the following article on Nelson Barbour:

The 57th installment of the Union’s Series of Saturday articles on Rochester pastors is devoted to the Rev Nelson H Barbour, pastor the Church of the Strangers, located on Williams St.


"Nelson H. Barbour was born at Toupsville, three miles from Auburn, N. Y., in 1824. At an early age the family moved to Cohocton, Stueben County, N. Y. From the age of 15 to 18, he attended school at Temple Hill Academy, Genseco, New York; at which place he united with the Methodist Episcopal Church, and began a preparation for the ministry under elder Ferris. Having been brought up among Presbyterians, however, and having an investigating turn of mind, instead of quietly learning Methodist theology he troubled his teacher with questions of election, universal salvation, and many other subjects, until it was politely hinted that he was more likely to succeed in life as a farmer than as a clergyman. But his convictions were strong that he must preach the gospel even if he could not work in any theological harness. And at 19, he began his life work as an independent preacher. Since which, all that is worth reporting in his life is inseparable from his theological growth. He could not believe in an all wise and loving Father, permitting the fall; then leaving man's eternal destiny to a hap-hazard scramble between a luke-warm Church and a zealous devil. On the contrary he believed the fall was permitted for a wise purpose; and that God has a definite plan for man, in which nothing is left to chance or ignorance.
"Mr. Barbour believes that what he denominated the present babel of confusion in the churches is the result of false teaching and the literal interpretation of the parables.
"The Church of the Strangers was organized in 1879. Mr. Barbour has preached in England, in several Australian colonies, in Canada, and many states of the Union. For the past twenty-two years he has published the Herald of the Morning in this city; claiming that in his 'call' to preach, he confered [sic] not with flesh and blood. Nor was he called to convert the world; but independent of creed, to search for the truth 'as it is in Jesus,' the 'second man Adam,' believing that the restored faith is a precurser [sic] of the millenium [sic] and 'Times of restitution of all things.'"

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Tom Irregardless and Me          No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)