an itchy tongue

The other night, I was at Legends with Dad, Mrs. Rachel, and many of her relatives to celebrate her birthday. They had a card on the table advertising some new fish entrees, and I ended up ordering red snapper served on a salad. The restaurant was out of red snapper, so I was offered mahi mahi or cod as a substitute, and I got the mahi mahi. The fish was blackened, and I had a balsamic vinaigrette dressing on the salad.

It was delicious – but I was alarmed when I discovered that my tongue was itchy and bumpy. I didn’t say anything, not wanting to disturb the family gathering, but I had panicky visions of passing out in front of the group.

The symptoms disappeared quickly once I stopped eating the entree, and I was fine by the time we had birthday cake for dessert.

I’m assuming this was some sort of allergy. The mahi mahi seemed like the most likely culprit, but most of what I can find online about fish allergies indicates that you break out in a skin rash, not with an itchy mouth. The only thing I found that seems to describe the symptoms I felt that night was this page about oral allergy syndrome. It says that if you already have allergies – the kind of allergies that give you a stuffy nose – you can sometimes get a tie-in reaction in your mouth when eating certain types of food.

I haven’t been officially diagnosed with respiratory allergies, but in the past couple of years I have sometimes suspected that I have them.  However, the list of trigger foods in that oral allergy syndrome page doesn’t seem to correspond with anything on the salad that I don’t already eat all the time elsewhere.

Now, I’m wondering if there was something either in the vinaigrette or the blackening seasoning for the fish that might have caused the reaction.

all jerusalem was troubled

First UMC Shelbyville

January 3, 2015

Matthew 2:1-12 (CEB)

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the territory of Judea during the rule of King Herod, magi came from the east to Jerusalem. They asked, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We’ve seen his star in the east, and we’ve come to honor him.”

When King Herod heard this, he was troubled, and everyone in Jerusalem was troubled with him. He gathered all the chief priests and the legal experts and asked them where the Christ was to be born. They said, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for this is what the prophet wrote:

You, Bethlehem, land of Judah,

by no means are you least among the rulers of Judah,

because from you will come one who governs,

who will shepherd my people Israel.”

Then Herod secretly called for the magi and found out from them the time when the star had first appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search carefully for the child. When you’ve found him, report to me so that I too may go and honor him.” When they heard the king, they went; and look, the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stood over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy.  They entered the house and saw the child with Mary his mother. Falling to their knees, they honored him. Then they opened their treasure chests and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Because they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they went back to their own country by another route.

We think of this passage from Matthew as a story about three visitors from the East. The word for them in Latin was “magi,” plural of “magus.” Sometimes that’s translated as “wise men,” and sometimes – as in the Common English Bible, from which I read today – it’s not translated at all. The idea that they were kings is not mentioned in the Gospels. Matthew, in fact, is the only one of the Gospel writers who tells this story, and he uses the term “magi.” It was later Christian writers who called them kings, perhaps inspired by Old Testament prophecies of kings bowing before the Messiah. In fact, two of our other Lectionary passages today make reference to this. From Psalm 72:10-11 (CEB):

Let the kings of Tarshish and the islands bring tribute;

let the kings of Sheba and Seba present gifts.

Let all the kings bow down before him;

let all the nations serve him.

And from Isaiah 60:2-3 (CEB):

Though darkness covers the earth

and gloom the nations,

the Lord will shine upon you;

God’s glory will appear over you.

Nations will come to your light

and kings to your dawning radiance.

There have been various theories about exactly who the magi were. The commentator William Barclay quotes the historian Herodotus; Herodotus identified the magi as Medes. The Medes were part of the Persian empire. They tried to overthrow their Persian conquerors and failed, and the leaders of the Medes lost their ambition for military victory, according to this story, and just became priests and religious leaders. They not only served their own people but they became advisors to their conquerors, the Persians.

As you’ve heard many times, we don’t actually know how many of them there were. “We Three Kings” makes a nice song, but all we know is that there were three different gifts. Those gifts could have been given by two magi or by 10. But we like the idea of three people, each one holding a different gift, and so that’s what we put on the Christmas cards.

The magi, whomever they were, saw a star which they interpreted as a sign, an indicator of the birth of a new king and they traveled to Judea to try to find out about it. Billy Hix will have more to say about that star during his program next Sunday night; it’s a great program and I strongly encourage you to attend.

The star only leads them in a general direction, towards Judea, and so when they arrive in that country they went to its capital, Jerusalem, to check in with its current king.

That king was Herod – or, more specifically, Herod the Great. There was a story just a week or two ago at the Christianity Today website, by a seminary professor named Alexander Stewart, in which he makes reference to three different books that have been published about Herod the Great in the past two or three years.

Most of us just know about Herod from this Bible story. The king about whom Matthew writes in this story is Herod the Great. There’s another king named Herod, Herod Antipas, who is referred to elsewhere in the Gospels, during the adult ministries of Jesus and John the Baptist. Herod Antipas was one of the sons of Herod the Great.

Herod was not the king because he was descended from David. In fact, he wasn’t descended from the Jews at all. Herod was born about 73 B.C.E. His ancestry was Idumaean. The Idumaeans were known in the Old Testament as the Edomites. They had been conquered by the Jews in the second century B.C.E. and forced to convert to Judaism. So Herod was brought up as a Jew but was not truly of Jewish ancestry.

Herod the Great was King of the Jews because he’d been appointed to that post by the Romans. Julius Caesar had first appointed Herod’s father as procurator of Judea, and Herod was able to curry favor with a succession of Roman emperors and stay in power for 40 years.

By many earthly measures, Herod’s reign was a successful one. There’s a reason that he’s called “Herod the Great,” in comparison to his sons.

Herod expanded the temple in Jerusalem, and the Western Wall – a retaining wall which is one of the only remnants of that temple – is a must-see stop for tourists to Jerusalem. That western wall is part of what Herod built. He also built fortresses and seaports. His reign was a peaceful one. When there was famine, or hard times, he reduced taxes or even donated some of his own treasures to buy food for the people, something that few kings of that day or time would have done.

There was a famous saying about the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, that said, yes, he was a dictator, but at least he made the trains run on time. It turns out that statement is a bit of a hoax – yes, the Italian train system got a lot better during Mussolini’s lifetime, but most of that had to do with improvements made by the administration from before Mussolini came to power.

Herod was an efficient ruler; if there had been trains in Herod’s time, Herod would certainly have made them run on time. But he was also jealous, and ruthless with those whom he perceived as a threat. Herod ruled with an iron fist.

Given Herod’s paranoia, it’s not surprising that he was upset when the magi showed up with reports that a new king had been born. But what surprises me is the rest of verse 3: “When King Herod heard this, he was troubled, and everyone in Jerusalem was troubled with him.”

Everyone in Jerusalem was troubled with him?

Why?

What reason did the people of Jerusalem have to be troubled?

Herod was not well-loved by his people, and he knew it. When Herod was near death, he gave his officials a list of prominent citizens of Jerusalem, with the order that they were to be arrested, and whenever Herod died, those citizens were to be executed as well – so the people would not be inclined to rejoice at Herod’s passing. (Fortunately for the citizens of Jerusalem, this plan does not seem to have been carried out.)

Is that the reason the people of Jerusalem are troubled – because they’re afraid of how Herod will react to this threat? Are they afraid of being caught in the crossfire? Shouldn’t the promise of a new king be a sign of hope? Shouldn’t it give them reason to hope for redemption from the cruelty of Herod – and maybe even redemption from the Roman government which was the source of Herod’s power?

If anyone in Jerusalem was hopeful as a result of the magi’s visit, Matthew doesn’t tell us about them. He just says the people of Jerusalem were troubled, just as Herod was troubled.

We are often threatened and troubled by changes, even good ones. The prospect of a new king – a new regime – a new era – is a prospect full of questions. And we don’t like questions; we like certainty. Questions make us nervous. We want to be in control of our own fates, and changes remind us that we’re not.

The arrival of a new king would be a dramatic change, a change that could have profound effects, good or bad, for everyone in Jerusalem. Would he be a wise king or a foolish one? Herod derived his power from the Roman government, but perhaps a new king might try to challenge the Romans, to lead the people in revolt. Maybe such a revolt would be successful – but it might not be. And it could be bloody either way.

Or maybe Herod would try to end this new king’s reign before it began – perhaps that’s what the people were really concerned about. And if so, they had a right to be concerned. We know about the tragic action that Herod took in Bethlehem, killing all of the young boys under the age of two – an evil response from a ruthless and frightened man. Fortunately, Joseph had been warned to take his family to safety before Herod carried out this evil plan.

No one in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus’ birth could have possibly imagined what kind of king Jesus would turn out to be. Even the people who lived through his earthly ministry had trouble understanding what was going on and recognizing it as it happened. But the people of Jerusalem, hearing reports of a new king, could imagine enough possible outcomes to make them nervous. They were too busy imagining the worst to hope for the best.

The most troubling thing about our relationship with God isn’t going to church, or trying to do good, or confessing our sins. The most troubling thing about our relationship to God is that we have to give up control. The most troubling thing about true Christian faith is that it requires us to trust God, and often it requires us to reject the things that give us security. Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell everything he owned. He told Peter, Andrew, James and John to drop their nets and walk away from their livelihood as fishermen. He told a Pharisee named Saul to abandon his self-righteousness and the laws of Moses which had governed his life in order that Saul could become Paul, an evangelist to the Gentiles.

The Christmas season is a time of tradition and comfort, as we celebrate the arrival of a baby in a manger, someone who – it seems – cannot threaten us at all. But we cannot forget that this this baby is a king, a king who is destined to rule over us.

It’s interesting that while the people of Jerusalem were troubled by the arrival of their new king, the magi – who, according to most interpretations, were Gentiles and from another country – were celebrating. They, somehow, had a clearer view of the truth of what was happening. It reminds me a little of the story of the Roman centurion who asked Jesus to heal his daughter – a case where an outsider had a clearer understanding of who Jesus was, and how his kingdom worked, than Jesus’ own disciples had at the time.

The holiday which takes place on the Christian calendar this Wednesday, and which we’re celebrating a bit early this Sunday, is called “Epiphany.” That word has two common uses – one is as the name of this holiday, and the other is defined as “a moment in which you suddenly see or understand something in a new or very clear way.”

The magi, despite the fact that they were pagans, if you will, from another country, another religion, another way of life, had an epiphany. They saw a star, and they knew somehow, through some revelation of God, that the star was the indication of a new age to come. And the magi knew enough to come in reverent adoration, bearing gifts, to honor this king. Despite what we see on Christmas cards, this visit did not take place on Christmas night. It was some time later, after Joseph and Mary had moved into a house. In the 11th verse of the passage I read earlier:

“They entered the house and saw the child with Mary his mother. Falling to their knees, they honored him. Then they opened their treasure chests and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”

Herod saw Jesus as a threat. The people of Jerusalem saw Jesus as a question mark. Both were afraid of this infant king. But the magi saw this king as a new hope, a cause for devotion and celebration.

It’s easy for us to be excited during the advent season about the celebration of the baby Jesus. But what will happen when we realize that this little baby is our king? Will we welcome him to the throne, or will we be troubled? Will we be like Herod, and refuse to yield the throne to this new ruler?

What does it mean to make Jesus the king of our life? It means giving up control. We don’t like giving up control. We want to be the king. We want security. We want to rule with an iron fist.

Or sometimes we are like the people of Jerusalem – we sit around and worry, more concerned about our own safety and convenience than we are about God’s plan.

When we reserve the throne for Jesus, when we make Jesus the king of our lives, sometimes we have to step out in faith. Sometimes we have to do things that frighten us. Sometimes we have to love people who are difficult to love. Sometimes we have to change our priorities. Following the star – following the king whom the star represents — may mean traveling far from home and comfort, and it may mean changing your travel plans if God tells you to.

But it also leads to a sense of joy and wonder that Herod and the people of Jerusalem were, it seems, incapable of experiencing.

What would happen this year if each of us decided to follow God’s epiphanies rather than our own fears?

The limits of fan fiction

Science fiction is not the only genre which attracts unauthorized fan fiction – I have a family member who once wrote a great short story using the modern-day characters of the BBC series “Sherlock” — but it certainly attracts its share.

When I was a teenager, there were science fiction fans who published “fanzines,” little mimeographed newsletters. The rise of computers, the Internet, and other technologies has completely transformed the way in which genre fans can express themselves creatively. Now, fans – with relatively small budgets, at least by Hollywood standards – can produce their own short films, complete with special effects.

There have been several fan-produced “Star Trek” series, some of which have quite nice special effects and which have even managed to secure stars from the real “Star Trek” in guest roles.

The increasing sophistication of these products leaves Hollywood studios in a tricky legal position. On the one hand, they want to encourage the enthusiasm of the fan base – those are the people, after all, who the studio will need in order to make its next big movie or TV series a success. But – and this is a gross oversimplification from someone who is Not A Lawyer — there are principles in copyright law that require you to protect your rights consistently or else you might lose the right to protect them at all. That sometimes forces you to go after a relatively-minor infraction, not because the minor infraction is any threat to you, but because you want to preserve your legal rights in case of a major infraction somewhere down the road.

The owners of the “Star Trek” franchise – formerly Paramount Studios, now CBS – have apparently had an unspoken rule of thumb that they would not go after fan films as long as they were non-commercial. I don’t think they actually approved of such productions, but they made no attempt to stop them.

But now, they’re going after something called “Axanar,” a fan production which has raised more than a million dollars on crowd-funding sites. Here’s a promotional video for the project. The promo is done as a faux documentary, although I assume the finished project would be straightforward storytelling. You can see the high level of production value:

This is light years beyond some mimeographed fan fiction story being mailed out to a few dozen friends. This is, in some ways, actual competition for the authorized “Star Trek” movies and TV shows. Sure, the writing probably won’t be as polished and the acting may not be as great. But the gaps between the fan product and the commercial product are closing.

Apparently, Lucasfilm has published and distributed specific rules and guidelines for “Star Wars” fan projects, something CBS (and Paramount before it) has never done.

It’s a tricky situation. A year from now, CBS will be trying to get “Star Trek” fans to sign up for its online streaming service so that they can watch a new Star Trek TV series.  As the owners of the Star Trek copyright, they have the legal right to stop or regulate competitors from using their content. But they will have to step carefully and find a way to preserve their rights without alienating the very fans whose money they will need a year from now.

true confessions: I was not completely candid with my former dentist

I placed an order with Jet last weekend – the first in a while. One of the items I ordered, as I was trying to get to the $35 minimum for free shipping, was a Carroll Shelby’s Chili Kit.

It was the Carroll Shelby and Wick Fowler chili kits – once competitors, now made by the same company – which introduced me to the pleasures of authentic, slow-cooked Texas-style chili. Ironically, neither includes the proper directions for that anymore; the products themselves haven’t changed, but they now only have directions for a quick-cooking chili made with regular ground meat. The kind of chili I’m talking about requires either coarse “chili grind” meat or meat cut up into little chunks.

One of the three packages in my order arrived today – it was the main one, the one actually being fulfilled by Jet itself, and it included the chili kit. On my way home, I stopped by United Grocery Outlet, and while I didn’t expect them to have chili grind meat I figured I’d see if they either had stew beef – which can easily be cut down into smaller chunks – or something that I could throw into the food processor and chop into something vaguely resembling chili grind meat.

What I found, on expiration-day sale, was blade steak. I’d seen these before; they’re weird little steaks with a little squiggle of connective tissue running down the middle. I knew I might wind up with some gristly pieces, but they were the cheapest thing there, and I didn’t want to spend a lot of money. So I bought both packages, which gave me the two pounds of beef I needed.

I had the blade steak in my cart when I happened to run into Buddy Koonce. Buddy was my dentist through childhood and for the first part of my adult years. He’d probably still be my dentist if not for a weird insurance thing back when the newspaper first offered us dental insurance. I am, of course, also delighted with my current dentist, Jay Davis, with whom I go to church at First United Methodist Church. Both are fine men, both professionally and personally, and I would be perfectly happy to entrust my teeth to either of them at any time.

I made some lame joke about “they’ll let anybody shop here,” and then Buddy asked me about the meat in my grocery cart. I mumbled something about how I was going to go home and make “something” with the blade steaks.

I didn’t want to admit I was making chili – because Buddy Koonce and his son-in-law Dicky Thorpe are both competitive chili cooks, who travel around the country to International Chili Society events. I one day want to get the resources together to enter the ICS cookoff in Shelbyville; I’ve been a judge there several times. I would also someday like to take the official ICS chili-judging course.

Anyway, I didn’t want to admit that I was making chili with the blade steaks because I thought Buddy might think that was weird. What does that say about me as a human being?

Anyway, the chili is now cooking. There are a couple of squiggle pieces that didn’t chop up completely in the food processor, but otherwise it looks fine. I’m not entertaining, so if I run into any gristle I can just spit it discreetly into a napkin. (Just kidding – it would be a paper towel.) I noticed when looking it up online just now that blade steak is basically the same thing as what you now see sold as flatiron steak –it’s just that flatiron steak is cut in a different direction to avoid the connective tissue. So it’s actually a better piece of meat than I was giving it credit for being.

my new study bible

I used to have a Wesley Study Bible, in the New Revised Standard Version, and I liked it – it was probably the favorite of the various study Bibles I’d owned up to that point. The Wesley Study Bible has interesting little features scattered throughout pointing out how particular Bible passages relate to Wesleyan theology.

Unfortunately, I lost the Bible. I think I must have misplaced it during a layspeaking assignment somewhere a year or two ago, but I’m not sure. I’m ashamed to say I didn’t realize it was gone right away – part of that was because I’d been listening to the Daily Audio Bible for my daily Bible reading, and I had a smaller, non-study Bible I would often take to church. The DAB is a great program – it costs nothing, and you can listen on your desktop, your phone or tablet, or even on smart TV devices like Roku (look for a podcast app for your smart TV). If you hop on board Jan. 1 it will take you through the Bible in a year’s time. I may take a break from it in 2016, however, if only because I don’t think I’ve been doing it justice and I think maybe forcing myself to read the Bible each day will be a better discipline for me. There are some great Bible reading plans available for download.

By the time I went looking for the study Bible – probably to start writing a sermon for another lay speaking assignment – I couldn’t figure out what had happened to it. It wasn’t in the lost and found at my home church, and so my best guess is that I left it at one of the other churches where I spoke.

I have other study Bibles, and continued to use them, but I missed that Wesley Study Bible. Meanwhile, I had become a fan of a different Bible translation – the Common English Bible.

I’ll digress a second. I suspect most of you understand the difference between translations and paraphrases, but just in case: a translation (like the New Revised Standard Version or the New International Version) is a Bible version prepared by a team of translators, working from the best and most reliable old manuscripts available, who strive for a high standard of accuracy in the difficult task of translating writings from thousands of years ago into the English of today. A paraphrase (like The Message) is often the work of one person and is designed to be readable, often updating figures of speech, metaphors or expressions by replacing them with close English equivalents.

WP_20151226_19_50_46_Pro (2)Either has its uses – a paraphrase can be great for personal reading and can be dramatic when read aloud in a worship service. But if you’re trying to settle a complex or nuanced theological point, a translation is likely to be more accurate and reliable.

I like the CEB because it is a true translation – prepared by a team of scholars – and yet it has the readability of many of the paraphrase versions. The CEB is also endorsed by the United Methodist Church and is now used in some of the church literature.

I knew that an edition of the Wesley Study Bible was now available using the CEB translation. My father often just gets me clothes for Christmas, and they’re wonderful – I’m lousy at buying clothes for myself. But this year he specifically – and repeatedly – asked me for a wish list. One of the two items I mentioned was a CEB Wesley Study Bible, and sure enough it was under the tree yesterday – with my name inscribed on the cover.

I want to take good care of it, so I braved the after-Christmas crowd at Walmart this morning to buy a Bible cover. I’ve put contact information in a little window inside the Bible cover in case I try to leave this Bible somewhere, and I’ll write my name inside the Bible too (since the Bible cover hides hides my name on the front of the actual Bible).

Happily, I’ll have this Bible to use from the pulpit in another week when I preach Jan. 3 at First UMC in Shelbyville. Often, I just copy and paste the Bible passage into the manuscript of my sermon and read it from the printout. I’ve been told at lay speaking classes not to do that, though – it helps to give reverence to the Bible reading if the congregation actually sees you holding and reading from the Bible.

philleo

In the 30 years I’ve been at the Times-Gazette (I mark I passed, without fanfare, last July) I have had seven editors: Chris Shofner, Mark McGee, Kay Rose, Rene Capley, John Philleo, Kent Flanagan and currently Sadie Fowler. I am heartbroken to have lost three of them in 2015 – Chris, Kent, and now Philleo (which is all we ever called him at the T-G), who passed away this weekend.

John was a good man, a caring man, who encouraged us and challenged us to do better. He loved to put out a good newspaper, as much as anyone I’ve ever known. He had his own private struggles, and was honest about them starting with the very first staff meeting we had with him, but he had a big heart.

I remember a conversation while he was driving me the mile from the newspaper to my apartment – I’d had car trouble, or something – just a day or two after he’d been hired. I had served as interim editor for six months prior to his hiring, didn’t get the job, and he wanted to make sure I didn’t feel any resentment towards him. It was a short conversation but it said volumes about who he was and why he was such a joy to work with.

spoiler-free, I promise

This will be a spoiler-free reaction to “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens,” although I may create a separate blog post to talk about the movie for those of us who’ve actually seen it.

I saw the movie this afternoon at the Capri Theater in Shelbyville. I loved it. Loved it, loved it, loved it. It was everything the original “Star Wars” movies were that the prequels weren’t.

I loved the new characters – and the movie spends a lot of time setting up the new characters. Daisy Ridley and John Boyega are both terrific. But of course, I also loved what we saw of the original characters.

The movie has some fun parallels to the original 1977 movie, which was released as just “Star Wars” and is now known as “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.” Some critics (even some with generally positive reviews) have dismissed this as pandering or fan service, saying the new movie hews too close to the original. But I don’t think so. I thought it was all presented in fresh and unexpected new ways. I thought there was just enough homage but that things were well set up to go in new directions as we move forward. Unlike the prequels, in which the fates of Obi-Wan and Anakin were already known to us and loomed over everything, this movie opens up infinite storytelling possibilities.

Because of the way this one ended, I’m glad the next movie is due in the summer of 2017 – only a year and a half, and not the three years we had to wait between segments of the original trilogy. (Summer 2017 will also be the 40th anniversary of “A New Hope.”)

It’s a great movie. See it sooner rather than later, before someone really does spoil it for you.

santa denied

This was not my day to show Christmas cheer.

This was to have been my last time to see the kids at Learning Way prior to the holiday break, and I wore my Santa hat for the occasion. But when I got to Regan’s class and saw a substitute teacher, I was saddened to hear that Regan had a death in the family. Rather than burden the sub with trying to figure out what to do with me, I just turned around and headed back to the newspaper.

Then, earlier today, a former co-worker from my brief sojourn in Lewisburg earlier this year – she’s now a college student out west – was on Facebook looking for a last-minute co-consipirator to help her deliver a holiday/birthday surprise to her father, who works in Shelbyville. I was looking forward to it, and put my shoes on ready to head out the door, but then she looked at the logistics and decided her plan wouldn’t work. and so my services weren’t needed.

So, bah humbug.

in the spirit of the season

The past three Christmases, I’ve recorded holiday recitations and sent out links to them by e-mail as “audio Christmas cards.” I meant to do another one this year but so far inspiration has not yet hit. There’s still time. But I thought that in the meantime, I’d post the still-active links from those first three readings. Merry Christmas.

viewers like you

Anyone who thinks about it reasonably understands the value of public television, and right now, local public television stations have to rely on some form of local fund-raising to make their budgets. You’ll get no argument from me on either of those points.

But the current system of on-air pledge drives seems more and more broken each year. Here are a couple of the things that really annoy me about it:

Bait and switch: The type of programming that turns up during pledge drives is so different in style and approach from regular programming that Pledge Drive Public TV seems like an entirely different station from Regular Public TV. And I don’t mean that they save their best shows for pledge drive season – that would be understandable. I mean that the target audience for their regular schedule sometimes seems like an entirely different demographic than the target audience for pledge week.

Frankly, it’s a little disturbing sometimes that so many of the pledge drive shows are geared towards seniors – it’s almost like PBS has decided to target a demographic with low sales resistance. Sometimes, I halfway expect them to segue into selling reverse mortgages and medic-alert pendants.

No longer local: I remember when the pledge breaks used to originate with the local station. They would feature staff members from the local station, and occasionally other local radio or TV personalities. I think it sent a great message to occasionally see a news or weather personality from one of the commercial TV stations appearing on the public TV station asking for funds.

Now, all or most of the pledge breaks are packaged with the programs, and they are national and generic. The announcers, whom you’ve never seen before, ask you to support “this public television station” or “your public television station” but they never say its name, channel or call letters, because they’re airing on hundreds of stations across the country. I understand that it’s easier and cheaper to do it that way, but I think it gives up part of the connection the stations should be trying to build with their viewers. How can I think of it as “my public television station” if they won’t talk to me directly?

That’s enough ranting for now. Public TV is a good thing, and we should all support it. Apparently, not enough of us can or do, and so they have to ask for money. I just wish they’d find some different way of doing it.