Humor

Obama Presents Global Economic Recovery Plan to a Resistant G-20 While Holding Adorable Puppy

In the face of international resistance to the U.S. role in resolving the global economic crisis, President Barack Obama raised his arts of persuasive communication to new heights, delivering his latest comments to the G-20 while cradling the puppy he plans to give to his daughters Sasha and Malia.

It's the Simple Things

With the nation facing fiscal uncertainty (actually, complete and absolute certainty—just like the in­evi­table wedgie I got every day in junior-high gym class), maybe it’s time to take a break from our anxieties and appreciate the simple pleasures in our lives, the ones not yet taken away by rogue bands of unemployed bankers.

What really matter are the daily celebrations of life, those little moments of com­passion and joy that separate us humans from the animals (except for dolphins, whales, mountain gorillas, Canada geese, and various other species who have highly developed social orders that have not, at this point, been compromised by a failed banking system).

Personally, I like to watch a little television of an evening, a cost-free activity that, though joyful and deeply satisfying to a superficial person such as myself, has not been without controversy in the home. My spouse and I have a long-standing difference of opinion about the TV’s location. I like it in the living room. She prefers it sitting on a shelf at a thrift store. So we compromised: I can watch, but without the sound. This way she is not distracted from the reading she so enjoys, including her latest book, an autobiography of a woman who lived for three decades in Stalinist Russia. (I skimmed through a few pages, and maybe it’s just me, but I didn’t think it was that funny.)

Not that I don’t enjoy reading myself. I, for one, can’t wait for John Grisham’s next novel, The Noun. But in these days of fiscal uncertainty … which reminds me of an incident at my junior high cafeteria ... [Editor’s note: We GET it, already! Move on.] I prefer television—specifically, really bad television. Even with the sound off, nothing purifies the soul and elevates one’s battered sense of superiority like watching the worst the small screen has to offer. I refer, of course, to the Home Shopping Network.

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Sojourners Magazine April 2009
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An Innocent in the Land of Facebook

It started innocently enough. An acquaintance e-mailed me and, using a new verb with which I was unfamiliar, asked if she could “friend” me. Considering she was already a friend, her request was not readily understood. Is the verb “friend” more intimate than the noun version? Will this involve touching? Should I consult a priest or parole officer before replying?

Being the trusting individual that I am, I clicked on the link in her e-mail, followed the on-screen instructions to fill out a few lines of personal information—name, gender, criminal record—and clicked again. My life hasn’t been the same since. It was as if I had walked through the back of a wardrobe and emerged in a snow-covered woods illuminated by a single lamppost, against which leaned a huge and menacing ape-like monster with only one eye. (Sorry. Sometimes I get that Narnia book mixed up with Lord of the Rings.)

Apparently, I had signed up for something called “Facebook,” a virtual universe where people stay in touch with each other on a daily basis with—and this must be some kind of Facebook rule—the most banal humdrum that simply must be shared. “I’m having coffee and reading the paper,” a friend writes on her page, an idle comment that God Almighty—who knows all and sees all—would probably fail to note, but which nonetheless triggers an automatic e-mail telling all her friends that she has just “updated” her page. This is now archived into a permanent space on the World Wide Web, despite the fact it would be of interest only to a parent (“What, you can read the paper but you can’t call your mother?”) or criminal investigators looking for behavioral clues as to why, after finishing the newspaper, she walked out of her house carrying a meat cleaver.

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Sojourners Magazine March 2009
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Good Medicine

I enjoyed Ed Spivey Jr.’s dry sense of humor in his video about the economy (“It’s All His Fault,” December 2008 Web Extras). Ed, please keep the humor coming—we need more of it these days.

Dave Gradwell, Catonsville, Maryland

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Sojourners Magazine February 2009
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Space, the Final Cost Overrun

The International Space Station is a cramped scientific laboratory orbiting in an environment where temperatures on a good day top out at minus 273 degrees Celsius. (Celsius is the unit of measure named after President Bill Clinton’s daughter. It was a birthday present.) Despite the harsh conditions and a history of shoddy construction and repair, the space station last month officially became more comfortable than my own house.

They put in a second bathroom.

As of last November, there’s no more waiting in the space station when nature calls. Nor, for that matter, when Houston calls and astronauts are looking for a different place to hide during the daily inquiries from ground control. (Houston: “Umm, we noticed you concluded your last transmission with the phrase ‘I am the walrus, goo goo g’joob g’goo goo g’joob.’ We know you’ve been up there for more than eight months, but listen, we need to talk. Over.”)

After 10 years and almost $100 billion, the International Space Station has produced less useable scientific data than the International House of Pancakes. (Scientific American just reported that customers who order IHOP’s new “Big-Bucket-of-Pancakes Breakfast” are actually visible from space when they waddle back to their cars.) Regardless, with a second bathroom, a new gym, and an updated kitchen, the space station now has more comforts than the average American starter house.

In my own home, I have to wait for what seems like a full rotation of the earth just to get in and shave. But not the crew of the space station. With two bathrooms there’s no need for an impatient astronaut—having just consumed a large Tang—to hop up and down and shout “You wanna hurry UP in there?!” or, alternately, “I hear a newspaper rustling behind that door. You better not be reading the sports section IN THERE!”

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Sojourners Magazine February 2009
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