Friday, April 4, 2014

Another Review of Noah

Well before an atheist director and Russell Crowe teamed up to create an epic film and spark intense controversy among Christians, America's greatest humorist since Mark Twain addressed the subject of Noah.

Bill Cosby's Noah routine was one of his most famous before tales of family life in Bill Cosby, Himself elevated him to middle aged family man stardom.  Cosby in both cases showed why he was and is the master of comedy.  He could tell gut busting stories based on traditional values without undermining them.

Cosby was and is no conservative. He definitely is a liberal in many ways. In fact, he shows many signs of being influenced by William du Bois' idea of "The Talented Tenth."  Du Bois believed that one in ten black men had the potential to lead in life's largest stages.  Cosby played varsity football at Temple University, earned a doctorate, and worked his way into becoming one of television's most influential stars.  Holding fast to the doctrine of education and work, Cosby get treated like the Left's cranky uncle.  He cannot be ignored, but they rarely like what he has to say.

His take on Noah is worth a revisit in light of a revival of interest in the Great Flood event. 

According to Genesis 6:8, Noah "found grace in the eyes of the Lord."

But as the Old Testament explains with many similar individuals, this is never an easy path. Cosby puts Noah in a modern context.  First, he thinks God is playing a practical joke on him.  Then comes the social consequences of "walking" with the Lord.  God asks men such as Noah, Jonah, Moses, and others to break out of their comfortable lives.  They must do things that are not only uncomfortable, but will definitely aggravate family, friends, and authorities.

Cosby's Noah, in the third sequence, unloads his frustration.  Elephants give birth on him, he has to go get another hippopotamus because he accidentally got two males, the entire neighborhood is laughing at him, and he threatens to quit.  Until, of course, it starts raining.  Then he changes his tune "You and me, Lord.  Always been you and me, right?"  

Despite Noah's anger and social ostracism, however, he did still complete the task God set in front of him.

In this routine, Cosby tells the typical story of Old Testament prophecy.  People have a hard time dealing with God's expectations and usually prefer that He finds someone else.  One could probably guess that God chooses individuals less like Charlton Heston in Ten Commandments and more like John Denver in Oh God. 

Walking closely with God is not an easy task at any level and the demands expose all human frailties.  Like anything else in life, it is not stumbling and struggling that define us as much as working through and completing the tasks set for us in life to the best of our abilities and efforts. Despite how drop dead funny Cosby's Noah routine is, this is still the underlying message.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Younger Generation Bashing Never Goes Out of Style. It should.

In the High Middle Ages, a professor at the University of Paris wrote a diatribe against college students "these days."  He moaned that students in his day took their studies more seriously, worked harder, dilly-dallied less.  But as he got older, he noticed that his students worked more lackadaisically, focused more on chasing liquor and women, and generally could not have cared less about serious study.

Sound familiar?  This is the tune that the old always sing about the young.  Entire cottage industries pop up to help the older relate to the younger, as seen in this CBS News piece.

And it gets political, too.  Conservative pundits jumped on "Pajama Boy," as the visual image of Obamacare and the Obama young voter.  A young man, living at home, spending all morning in his onesie pajamas, sipping expensive coffee that his parents bought.  He dreams not of great things, but of how to obtain government services and to keep living off of his parents.

How can such a generation continue to build a great America?

In the spring of 1942, history gets its first glimpse of John Hager Randolph Jr.  He is matriculating at Virginia Military Institute, idling away while many in his generation have already gone to war.  Randolph writes his parents, as many college students have through the years, begging for more money.  He worries about which girl, or girls to date.  What stresses him the most is his parents' potential reaction to his grades, nearly all bad.

The letters home from Randolph, collected in the Library of Virginia, show a rapidly maturing young man.  He joined the Army Air Corps, trained hard, and earned deployment to the Marianas Islands in April 1945.

Randolph's letters home unpack his anxiety.  He worries about flying on dangerous air raids, relating "there's only one thing I don't like about combat - it ain't safe!"  But as he gains experience and confidence, anxiety decreases and bravado edges into his letters.  In mid May, he proclaims "this is a real Air Mail letter telling the hottest news there is."  His parents probably gasped and worried as they read letters written by their son as he returned from highly dangerous raids involving accurate "flak," or anti-aircraft fire.

The Great Depression and the most destructive war ever fought shaped his generation, much like a stagnant economy, Iraq, and Afghanistan shaped the millenials.  War and want shaped leaders and hard workers undaunted by the challenges facing the US in the 1950s and 60s.  This generation shaped the Reagan prosperity and won the Cold War.

Randolph did not do so badly.  After service in World War II and Korea, he became president of a Virginia based savings and loan, later president of the United States Savings and Loan League.

And all this from a man whose thoughts only dwelt on girls, bad grades, and getting money from Mom and Dad.

The prospects for the upcoming Millennials are high.  With competition at its keenest, each one must be sharper to succeed.  Many already soured on them, but millennials may be the greatest American generation yet.

Monday, March 31, 2014

How to Fail At Public Relations the Washington Redskins Way

The Washington Redskins, as the saying goes, can't win for losing.

At least under Dan Snyder, anyway.  Redskins fans date their franchise to the days before and after Dan. "Before" the team won Super Bowls and the ownership reigned over professional football as respected winners do.  The Dan years brought misery occasionally tinged with high, but unrealistic hopes.  Almost worse than losing came the embarrassments.  Snyder cutting down trees on park land, Snyder hiring a college coach who was clearly in over his head, Snyder filing a defamation suit over satire.  But none of those moves seem as oafish as what transpired last week.

Of all the franchises and colleges who, decades ago, used some sort of American Indian reference as a nickname, only the Washington Redskins has still not made their peace.  Many colleges changed their name to something generic. Others, such as Florida State, paid to keep the name without protest.  The Kansas City Chiefs' name strikes many as respectful instead of offensive.  Same with the Cleveland Indians, who changed their name from the Spiders to honor an Indian star pitcher, Chief Bender.

The Redskins alone remain defiant and unrepentant. Despite the historical context, it is much tougher to sell the name Redskins.  On the other hand, the Redskins fan base seems generally uninterested in considering alternatives.

Until now, Snyder and the Redskins kept that public stance.  At the same time, they gobbled up the rights to a number of alternatives, such as "Washington Warriors."  Last week, however, he launched an interesting endeavor called the "Original Americans' Foundation."  Deadspin gleefully dubbed it O.A.F. and likely plans to have no end of fun with it.

Not since Richard Nixon "CREEP"ed back into office in 1972, has a Washington DC based effort been so badly named.

Even worse, Snyder picked a CEO once investigated by the federal government. What was he accused of doing?  It involved a "defective" and "unusable" contract between his group and, wait for it, the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Snyder wrote a four page letter describing the origin and intent of the foundation. Four months of study and research based on visits to 26 Indian reservations went into this organization.  But four minutes of thought should tell a person that naming the organization "OAF" and picking an individual with baggage to lead it smacks of half efforts.

The second most popular professional sport in Washington is piling on Dan Snyder.  He does not represent evil in the world.  Many of his past and present players refer to him respectfully as "Mr. Snyder."  But his new foundation reflects the same lack of thought and foresight that has often characterized his public relations as well as his operation of the football team itself.