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Saturday
Dec082012

The Death of Marley

           “Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it. and Scrooge’s name was good upon ’Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a doornail.

          Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a doornail.”

--Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Picture:
"Marley's Ghost"
Wood Engraving, 1843
John Leech

Thursday
Nov292012

A Historical Perspective on the Birth of Jesus, the Christ

          Every year around this time we celebrate a historical event. And what a fascinating event it is! Astronomical alignments, angel visitations, trekking eastern sages, a bloodthirsty jealous king and special revelation delivered directly to some shepherds (and, coincidentally, a flock of sheep that probably paid little attention to the good news and continued eating, as many men and women do to this day). 

            The Christmas narrative is a fascinating story with cosmic repercussions, but it is not the only significant event of its time. In fact, the birth of Jesus at the beginning of the first century AD (CE for the Latin-phobic among you) was insignificant and unknown to a vast majority of the world’s residents. Around the same time Mary and Joesph were making their slow way from Nazareth to Bethlehem the ancient Irish were constructing large stone forts at the mouth of Galway Bay; The Cherokee tribe was settling the lush southern Appalachians; The Friesians (my ancestors) were settling the future Netherlands; Roman legions and hoards of Germanic tribesmen were fighting in the misty woods of the north; The Chinese were conducting a census (they found fifty-nine million people); the poet Ovid was penning his classic, the Metamorphosis; the Mayans (those calendar makers of doom) were founding the city of La Milpa in modern-day Belize; The Roman Emperor Augustus was adopting his nephew, Gaius, and the first steam engine was being invented in Alexandria, Egypt.[1]

             To those alive at the time, wars, settlements, inventions, building projects and geo-political maneuvers would have outshined the birth of a Jewish boy in a backwater Roman dominion, but the memories of those conquests and accomplishments have died while the worship of Jesus has grown. His name is spoken, sung and shouted in every corner of the globe, while the name of Augustus, Emperor of Rome, is mentioned once or twice a year in dusty history classrooms or in books of fun facts about the month of August. And in fifty, one hundred, even one thousand years (if the LORD tarries) the same will hold true. The worship of Jesus will outlive the memory of elections, celebrities, wars and sports. The Christmas story will be relevant to humanity as long as humanity exists, because, unlike other historical events, it directly affects every aspect of our lives today. It is a living event with a living main character.

            And to those who say that Christmas is a crock because it was only a replacement of a Roman Pagan holiday called Saturnalia, the answer is simple. Yes! It replaced Saturnalia. It conquered Saturnalia. It crushed Saturnalia. Saturnalia had no power to hold Christmas back. Saturnalia bowed to Christmas’ strength and glory as a holiday based in history and true divinity rather than empty pagan frivolity. Christmas’ replacement of pagan holidays only proves its preeminence and the majesty of its God.

           So this Advent, sing your Christmas songs with gusto and eat your minced meat with glowing pride, for our savior’s birth, life, death and resurrection are, collectively, the pinnacle of human history, and all the powers of the earth cannot scale that peak. 

R. Eric Tippin
In a deep, dark, scary basement
November 29, 2012

Painting:
"The Chariot Race"
Alexander Von Wagner
1882, Oil on Canvas 


[1] http://timelines.ws/01AD_299AD.HTML, http://ehistory.osu.edu/world/TimeLineDisplay.cfm?Era_id=4,
http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/interactive/timelines/british/index_embed.shtml
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/731/731-h/731-h.htm

Sunday
Nov252012

From the Annals: "The Phantom Itch"

We, at The Ink Society, do not stand for "Chronologic Snobbery" even in the recent past. Therefore, it seems only fitting to recognize that what was written before might even be more seasonable and felicitous today. With this principle before us, we offer the following from the annals of The Ink Society: 


 Well, the wind was blowin' a gale from the north and did not seem interested in entertaining visitors, so we took refuge with the kids and extended family in a theatre putting ourselves at the mercy of another form of wind (which turned out to be more mild but much less fresh). The lights had gone down and the movie was starting when a clinking beneath my chair was heard. Upon checking my pockets, I discovered I was no longer in possession of my pocket knife. Assuming it was the sound I had heard, I proceeded to wait an hour and half for the lights to come up. Mysteriously even with the added light, no knife appeared, and now here I am having lost my knife. (more)

Tuesday
Nov132012

May I Be One Man

After living the better part of my life under one name, I thought it only appropriate that the following action be taken to comply with this "one name notion." Not only do I like being known by only one name, but I would also like to be one man to boot.

Why, just today I met someone new and last night I spent the evening with a group of old friends. However, though I introduced myself to each in their various times, they made the acquaintance of quite the variety of fellows. In fact, if you cornered one of these people demanding who this fellow is that introduced himself by my name, sixteen different characters would be described. These characters or "comrades in title" march under the auspice of one name. The name that belongs to me! Now I do not want to unjustly pull the name badges of these, I'm sure very nice, fellows but the individual is fast becoming a bureau. So today I am laying off most of these cohorts to comply with the individual mandate. In fact, if you happen to come upon me and introduce yourself , you will now only have the option to meet me. The personalization with take a hit, but hopefully I can make up for it with sincerity.

I look forward to meeting you!

Phillip Tippin
Having just sat down
Roeland Park, KS

Painting:
Triple Self Portrait
Norman Rockwell
Feb. 13, 1960
Friday
Nov092012

The Case for a Clean TV Show

                     Have these words ever issued forth from your mouth, “Boy oh boy, this would be a great TV show if it didn’t have all this moral rot in it?” Do you find yourself sighing deeply with a sad indefinable longing when you see “The Andy Griffith Show” reruns? Have you ever thought to yourself, “Why don’t they make shows like this anymore?” All the evidence indicates your thoughts and deep sighs are being systematically ignored. Take “Breaking Bad,” a heart warming drama about a high school science teacher who takes up making and selling meth. (It would be much more fun if he were a math teacher selling meth, but poetry seems to have died with morality.) No matter the show’s ethical conclusions, there can be no argument that “Breaking Bad” depicts certain images and language to which many people do not want their brains subjected. If this show were a TV enigma, an isolated event, there would be no problem. But “Breaking Bad” is not alone. In fact, it is nigh impossible to find a sitcom or drama currently being made that would be unquestionably acceptable to a Christian with a sensitive conscience. We only need imagine Saint Francis’s shock at seeing “Modern Family,” or “The Walking Dead,” never mind his shock at seeing a television. The only place for a morally sensitive individual to find a current scripted show without objectionable content is on Sesame Street or with Dora the Explorer on her bilingual escapades. Traditional morality has, for the most part, been relegated to children’s entertainment—not the first viewing choice of an average adult. 

            Why this influx of questionable material on television? Why have television producers rejected so completely traditionally moral shows like “Andy Griffith” and “Leave it to Beaver?” There are two major objections that seem to crop up when “the old shows” are discussed:

            1. “They are simply not realistic! People don’t want to be shown a perfect life that they can never hope to live themselves. We make realistic shows now. We’re not hiding anything anymore.”

            2. “Those shows promote bad things like female subservience and even worse, male chauvinism. Also, they don’t deal with the issue of racial diversity.”

            Actually, both of these statements are mostly true. No one has a mother as perfect as Joan Cleaver (except me, of course); chauvinism is wrong no matter the sex, and racial diversity should be addressed in a sensitive way. But none of those are compelling or even rational reasons to avoid making clean shows.

             Maybe “The Andy Griffith Show” is unrealistically happy-go-lucky and trouble free, but “Breaking Bad” is equally unrealistic in the opposite way. Ask your local high school science teacher. Furthermore it may be extremely rare to find individuals as chaste, and fair-mouthed as The Cleaver family of “Leave it to Beaver,” but it would be equally hard to find a group of adults as oversexed, and foulmouthed as the characters of “Mad Men.” It is understood by unspoken consent that television shows are unrealistic. In the real world Doctor House would have had his license revoked and his face punched in long ago. We all understand without expressing it that scripted shows are not accurate depictions of real life. That is why the vast majority of viewers make dinner on their stoves instead of cooking Meth on them after watching “Breaking Bad,” and why they choose not to cheat on their wives—at least outwardly—after watching Mad Men. The question must be asked, if most scripted shows are basically unrealistic, why are most of them unrealistically nontraditional in their morals? Would it not be logical and profitable to make a few shows that are unrealistically good as they did in days past, while keeping the quality modern technology allows?

            And for those who say, “Drugs and sex and violence and cheating and casual sex are part of reality and must be depicted. We don’t avoid topics anymore like those old shows do.” The response is simple. You are avoiding many things—the merry, virtuous, sexually uncharged, happy, functional, drug free, peaceful sides of life. Those moments are equally real, and incalculably more precious, but modern television seems to have rejected those moments for what is called “true” reality. We have all heard of the baby who was thrown out with the bathwater, but it is something new to throw out the baby because he is too clean and keep the bathwater because it is so dirty.

          The second objection on chauvinism and racial insensitivity of the old shows is even weaker than the first. Of course those things are wrong, but no worse than much of what is piped daily into living rooms across the fruited plain. Why not reject the old vices as well as the new, not in all shows, but one or two?

            Now, if a TV producer were to make a show as clever, funny and well-written as “The Office” or “Parks and Recreation” and as clean as “I Love Lucy,” or an action drama as intriguing as “NCIS” and as clean as “MacGyver,” they may have a problem finding enough space in which to fit their ratings. Why? To borrow from tax terminology, they would broaden their base. Grandma, grandpa, mom, dad and all the kids would feel comfortable gathering around the television together, guilt free. It is just silly logic to think that potentially objectionable, controversial material is the primary driver of high ratings. If that were true, ABC’s “The Playboy Club” would still be on the air, and thriving. Solid writing and producing drive solid ratings. Coincidently, this has been tried in the feature film industry with great success.

           These clean shows need not be preachy, corny nor cheesy, just not vile and vulgar. Yes, this is a call to represent traditional Judeo-Christian values in a television show, but only because of the shocking underrepresentation they have received of late. This is not a call to end morally deviant television shows (God will do that in his own timing), but only to add some traditionally clean options. There is an eager target market, just itching to bring ratings and revenue to the producer who will dare give traditional morality a voice. At least I hope there is.

 

R. Eric Tippin
In "The Study" on 8th Street
October, 2012