Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

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A Treat

The present was neatly wrapped

Ribbon red flowing down the side

Elegantly given and kept

A gift of love, grace, and of pride

The act that was so clearly apt.

Photo by DiEtte Henderson on Unsplash

Treat

Tiny Toons: One Beer (1991)

One_Beer_Banned_Cartoon

In this Tiny Toon Adventures short, Buster Bunny, Plucky Duck, and Hamton J. Pig go where most Saturday morning cartoons don’t go. “One Beer” was only aired once in the United States. However, I came across this short while viewing a collection of episodes for HollywoodJesus.com. 

Buster opens the fridge to offer a drink to his friends Plucky and Hamton. He names off what its in the fridge, and notices that there is one beer. He offers that, ,too, acting all cool about it.

Hamton: “What are you thinking, Buster?”

Buster: “Drink it.”

Hamton & Plucky: “Drink it?!?”

Hamton: “But, Buster, this isn’t like you.”

Buster: “I know. But in this episode we’re showing the evils of alcohol.”

The three friends go to the park (why the park, I don’t know) with the single bottle of beer. After ensuring they look innocent when a police officer walks by, Buster opens the bottle. He dares the others to drink it. Hamton says that the darer should go first. And so Buster takes a sip, and then the other two take a sip, and immediately they are wasted. And we have after school cartoon characters drunk.

"I'm Larry, and this is my brother Darryl and my other brother Darryl."

“I’m Larry, and this is my brother Darryl and my other brother Darryl.”

They show up at the Looniversity dressed like Larry, Darryl, and Darryl.  It is referring to the 1982-1990 series Newhart, staring Bob Newhart, a pop culture reference that was mostly missed by the children who were watching. The girls don’t want anything to do with these three drunk amigos. (Keep in mind, they are still sipping from the one bottle.) They look rough and their breath smells bad. The girls walk right past them.

Next, the three friends head up to a donut shop, where Plucky finds a police car with the keys still in it. And in their drunken state of mind, they decide to take the car for a spin. They crash their way through town, before driving up a mountain. As they do so, they pass a sign that says, “Now leaving reality.”

And that, they do. Plucky turns the cruise control on and they drive right off the mountain falling into a graveyard. From there, the three rise up into the heavens complete with white gown and wings. But, instead of heaven, we find our colorful, young friends back in the studio. As they leave, Buster says, “I hope the kids get the message.” Plucky adds, “Yeah, drinkings uncool.”

When I first saw this in the midst of other classic Tiny Toon episodes, I was surprised that this even existed. It is, by the far, the darkest Tiny Toon short in the collection. The short was banned after it only aired once. But if you are YouTube savy (by that I mean, you search Tiny Toon One Beer, and it comes up), you could probably watch some of it.

It is, basically, a cartoon version of an after school special. But, as Buster said at the beginning, this was about the evils of alcohol. It may seem kind of morbid to send cartoon characters over a steep mountain to their death. But the “evils of alcohol” are many and diverse. For example, in 2010 about 190,000 emergency room visits of those under 21 with conditions related to alcohol abuse. The three leading deaths of 15 to 24-year olds are automobile crashes, homicide, and suicide. Alcohol tends to be a factor in all three. (Sources: CDC, SADD)

A couple of years ago I was speaking at a youth retreat, and I was talking about how we, like the great Biblical figures who have gone before, stand every day in a place where we discern God’s call in our lives. Every decision that we might in our lives as an affect on us, those around us, and those we have never met. We stand, every day, in these forks in the roads where we have to decide one thing or another. I had, in a very Fred Craddock kind of way, three little vignettes as illustrations. One of them was about a young man who chose not only to drink one beer (and maybe more), but to also drive his girlfriend home. It did not end well.

Afterwards, one of the adult counselors approached me. He was in a wheelchair, unable to use is legs at all. He became to share his story. The vignette of the young man drinking and then driving, that was him he said. That was his story.  He took his dad’s car without his dad knowing, took a girl to the drive-in movies, and had a few drinks. On the way home, he got into a car accident, totaling his dad’s car and leaving himself paralyzed form the waist down.

But let me be clear. I’m not taking an alcohol is evil stance. I am, however, taking the stance that every day in every moment we have decisions to make. And we need to make them through the lens of our faith, through the lens of our relationship with Jesus Christ. If we make the decision to have one beer, than we should not make the decision to drive, for less our fates are that of Buster, Plucky, and Hamton.  And I take the stance that one beer is a lot different than 12 or 20 or 50 beers. There are numerous studies that show that alcohol has lasting effects.

At a different retreat, I started the event off speaking on grace and how God’s grace in the midst of our lives even before we know we need God’s grace (truly good news!).  And that no matter how many stupid things we do, God’s grace is still greater. Another adult counselor came up to me to show me his pin. His 5 year sober pin. This man was in an AA group, and had been since he realized what kind of affect his drinking was happening on his family, especially his daughter. As this short shows, one beer can have lasting effects.

And I think this is what the writers and directors of Tiny Toon Adventures was aiming for with “One Beer.” A cartoon way to say, hey, it’s uncool. But also, I think, to say hey, we need to be having these conversations. It is not enough to say it’s uncool and don’t do it. It is greater and more valuable to have the conversations about the dangers and the realities of alcohol.

Kon Ducki (1992)


plucky duck oneThis Tiny Toon Adventures short pairs Plucky Duck and Hamton J. Pig together as Plucky stars as Captain Pluck who vows to prove to the Explorer’s Club that when his ancestors migrated to Salinas, they did not fly, but sailed. He and his side-kick Koom-Bye-Ya, which is portrayed as Hamton J. Pig. And for comic relief, there is Sweetie Bird. Just as the original Looney Tunes shorts were often parodies of movies, Kon Ducki is a parody of the 1950 film Kon Tiki.

Captain Pluck and his small crew carry with them everything that his ancestors would have taken when migrating in 1977, complete with hamburger helper and cheese wiz. When things on the voyage get a little too shaking, in a classic Daffy Duck move, Plucky no longer wants to be the leader. He instead allows Hamton to be the leader. This way, if something goes wrong, it is Hamton’s fault, not Plucky’s. Instead, Hamton makes good decisions and realizes that he is good at being a leader. Plucky grabs his hat back from Hamton, the symbol of leadership, and resumes commands.

Plucky’s style of leadership tends to be consumed with opening a bottle of mango juice while the others do all the work. Hamton is more of a servant, doing what no one else is willing to do. When Hamton is given the chance to lead, he does so without cracking under the pressure, makes solid decisions, and in this short, even gains a profit.

duck dodgersWhat is great about this short is that Tiny Toon writers Sherri Stoner, Peter Hastings, and Stephen Hibbert capture the essence of Chuck Jones‘ Daffy Duck and Porky Pig. Jones wrote in his book Chuck Amuck, “Daffy Duck is simply trying to get ahead; Porky in his adult life is simply a bemused spectator of the human scene.”  This was true in the endless shorts that the two characters were paired in, especially Jones’ Robin Hood Daffy, and Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2 Century. Plucky and Hamton do the same here in this short. Plucky trying to prove himself as an explorer, and Hamton grateful for the life experience.

Chuck Jones has said that “Within all of us dwells a Daffy Duck.” And a Plucky Duck, and a Hamton J. Pig.  Which are you? Are you Plucky striving to get ahead and make a name for yourself? Or are you Hamton making the best of each moment and willingly serving others?

 

My 2012 in Pictures

Wesley Covenant Prayer

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.
Amen.

as used in the Book of Offices of the British Methodist Church, 1936

Old Glory (1939)

20121229-002243.jpgThis animated short was released in Los Angeles on July 1, 1939, just a few days before the celebration of the 4th of July. The animation is realist, which was director Chuck Jones’ style at this time of his career. It was often described as a Disney-like style, which is why the Studio asked him to work on this project. And with good reason. The studio did not want this short to be looney, but to be a message to the American people.

As Old Glory opens, a wide-eyed, child-like Porky Pig is learning the Pledge of Alliance. “I don’t see why I have to learn that,” he muses. Porky falls asleep there in the school yard, with his text book wide open. Uncle Sam, the iconic symbol of patriotism, appears to Porky in a dream. Uncle Sam moves Porky through early American history, from Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty”, to Paul Revere’s call to arms. As the short moves into the signing of the Constitution, there is an emphasis on freedom of religion, freedom of press, and freedom of speech. Uncle Sam’s history lesson covers the American Revolutionary War to the expansion of the American old west. The short highlights two great Americans, George Washington who “laid the foundation of a great democracy ” and Abraham Lincoln who gave a “new birth of freedom.”

When Porky wakes up from his dream, he is convinced that learning the Pledge is important because it represents the great history of the country. He has been converted by Uncle Sam to the civil religion. But we’re not talking the Sarah Palin-moose-hunting-while-putting-on-lipstick-while-reciting-the-pledge kind of civil religion.

In 1939 lives were disrupted and families faced separation. Hitler was rising in power and influence in Germany. On September 1st of that year, Hitler’s troops conquered Poland in the Blitzkrieg, or “lightning war.” This would be the spark for the second World War, that would send many young men overseas. In the meantime, the United States was still suffering under the effects of the Great Depression. In 1939, close to 10 million people were unemployed.

Following this short, there would be dozens and dozens of shorts made by Warner Bros. and Disney to raise awareness and support for the government during war time. Why? To encourage unity among the country. The country needed to work together to rise out of the grips of the Great Depression and the country would need to do the same as it faced some of her greatest enemies.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)

In the third installment of the Terminator films, we find a John Connor (Nick Stahl) who is no longer 13, and “lives off the grid.”  John is a young adult living on the streets, no phone, no home, nothing. He is working in manual labor, recalling the past through a voice over narration. “They tried to kill me,” he says, “before I was born, and again when I was 13.”

“I feel the weight of the future,” John narrates at the beginning of the film. “So I keep running.” He is running from the vocation that has chosen him and from the terminators that may be coming to kill him. We see him next as he is breaking into a veterinarian’s office in the hopes of finding drugs. Evidence of how far he is willing to go to relieve some of the weight he is experiencing.

In the meantime, a T-X has been sent from the future. The T-X is even more deadly and destructive than the T1000 in T2. The T-X has arrived to kill not John Connor, but other resistance leaders of the future. SkyNet has taken a different approach. John Connor is no longer a priority, it is the other young adults who are his followers who will be leaders of the movement.

hollywoodjesus.com

One of these leaders is Kate Brewster played expectantly well by Claire Danes. Kate is getting married and has a somewhat estranged relationship her father. She is a vet, who answers an emergency call in the middle of the night. When she arrives at the clinic she finds a high John, whom she locks into a dog kennel. While attempting to calm a distressed cat owner, Kate comes face-to-face with the T-X.

The T-101 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) arrives in his usual nude way. After gleaning clothes from a stripper at a ladies’ night bar, he sets out to find and rescue Kate from the T-X.  He also has to rescue John.

T-101: John Connor, it is time.

John: Are you here to kill me?

T-101: No. You must live.

John assumes his future-self sent the terminator as he did in the last film. But it was actually Kate who sent him. While running away from the T-X, John and Kate learn a lot about their future together from the T-101. Most surprisingly they learn that SkyNet still rises to power.

As Kate runs for her life, her General father is battling an unknown virus spreading quickly through the computers. They have a “secret weapon” they  have developed that could take care of this virus. Kate’s father, General Robert Brewster, is high up in the federal government who has the ability to tell the Pentagon no, they will not release SkyNet to deal with a major computer virus. His job is actually a cover up for a top-secret security work, which will become important when our three  heroes discover that a nuclear holocaust is upon them. Eventually, though, his hands are tied. SkyNet is release, however, instead of destroying the virus, it takes over all the machines.

While this is not the best of the Terminator films, it is still worth watching a few times. The CGI used in this film makes the first two look antique. And the film continues in developing John Connor as a Christ-figure.

“They tried to kill me before I was born.”

As John tries to explain the situation to Kate, he tells her, “Imagine that you were going to do something important with your life.” This line sums up John’s story perfectly.  His life is at stake because he is going to do something important with his life. It is his life will save humanity, in the fullness of time. In the first Terminator film, the objective was to kill Sarah Connor in order to ensure that John Connor, savior of the world, does not come to be.  In Matthew’s gospel, Mary and Joseph are informed by the wise men that King  Herod is planning to kill all the Jewish baby boys. King Herod wants to ensure that no future leader rises against his rule. Mary and Joseph along with the infant Jesus escape the genocide by fleeing into Egypt. At one point T-101 tells John that he will die, which is why Kate is the one who sent T-101 to the past. It alludes to the fact that John gives his own life to save that of others.

“It is your destiny.”

hollywoodjesus.com

John Connor has a purpose in life. A vocation that the whole world depends on, whether they know it or not. He has a hard time, however, accepting the fact that he will be kept in the equivalent of a “safe house.”  As the apocalypse of the computer-age gets underway, Robert Brewster tells Kate of a secret underground weapons control facility. She and John head there. These scenes were actually filmed on location at a decommissioned federal control center in West Virginia.

This underground center could symbolize the tomb of Jesus Christ. It will be after this tomb experience that a new life will be found. Not necessarily an easier one, which speaks volumes to the human condition. While new life is apart of the journey of humanity, it does not always mean life will be easier. Life is still hard. Life is still challenging. Life is still a battle between good and evil.

The greater lesson that John learns is that the person he is now, is not the person he will become. That is the good news about new life. We are becoming into someone new, transforming the old. He is becoming the one who will bear salvation for the world.

“You’re terminated.”

hollywoodjesus.com

The T-X is evil, no doubt about it. She is an agent of SkyNet, which is the big bad in the film. It is not a mistake that the enemy takes on the shape and appearance of a human. She looks like one of us. “And no wonder!” Paul writes to the Corinthians, “Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” (2 Corinthians 11:14, Common English Bible). The T-X can take on the appearance of others. At one point she becomes Kate in an attempt to trick Kate’s father. This enemy is deadly and determined to put an end to any possibility of salvation. She does not want there to be salvation. Her mission is to eliminate the possibility of hope.

This hope, however, is not lost. It is while John and Kate are in the underground control center, with computers that are thirty years old, that voices from across the country are heard. They found a radio range that SkyNet did not affect and they call out for anyone else who might be out there. And through these radio waves, the people hear the voice of John Connor, from the walls of a borrowed tomb, offering them hope in the midst of destruction and judgment.

The Greatest Gift of All

Linus recites Luke 2:

Linus recites from Luke 2

Sometimes, we can feel like Charlie Brown. We get caught up in the hustle and bustle of Christmas and wonder, “Is there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” Linus, much like the angels on that first Christmas, remind us what Christmas is all about.

“Peace and goodwill toward men.”

Peace and goodwill is hard to come by these days, as it was that first Christmas.  Charles Campbell reminds us, “The political powers, in both Jesus’ day and our own, play on fear to get their way – whether it be the fear of the emperor, the fear of terrorists, the fear of the ‘other’ (the immigrant), or the fear of death.”

Government mandated oppression.

Discrimination against those were different than them.

The poor were kept poor.

People suffered from hunger.

Violence was evident on the streets daily.

But, that was in “those days.”

“And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7, NRSV).

The arrival of Jesus brought with it a “new day.” There is no longer need for fear, only joy. There is no longer need for corruption, only freedom. There is no longer need for hunger, only feasting. There is no longer need for occupation, only liberation. There is no longer need for war, only peace.

And yet, we struggle to see this “new day.”

Political parties inspire fear of the other party.

Hatred and bullying of someone, anyone, who is different from us is rampant.

The great divide between the have’s and the have-not’s gets wider and wider.

People suffer from hunger.

Violence is evident on our streets and in our schools.

And there is something deep inside of us that wants to cry out like Charlie Brown, “Is there anyone who knows what Christmas is about?” Sure, we get all these warm fuzzies at this time of year that make us feel so good. It’s great giving and receiving gifts. It’s great going to parties. It’s great having family and friends around.

But, at least for me, there is something hard to swallow about Christmas. That is with all the joy, there is grieving and hopelessness. And I don’t mean to be a damper on things. From Central America and back, I have seen suffering at the hands of poverty, addictions, and violence. And while we try to not think about these things at Christmas, we have to remember this is why the baby boy was born. This poverty, these addictions, and this violence is the reason God became man. This suffering is the reason that Jesus was born.

Jesus is not just the reason for the season. Jesus is the greatest gift of all. In that lowly manger sits hands of grace that bring healing and hope into our hopelessness.

John’s gospel talks about Jesus’ birth as a great Light that penetrates  the darkness of the world. Matthew quotes Jesus telling the disciples that “You are the Light of the World.” This is just one of the many commissioning sayings of Jesus. God sent Jesus as the Light, we are the light-bearers. It is now our responsibility to carry that Light into the dark crevices of the world. Because we claim Jesus Christ, we now become a gift to the word.

Taking the Light to the oppressed.

Taking the Light to the poor and the hungry.

Taking the Light to the bullied and the bullies.

Taking the Light into the violent streets.

It is us who must act. It is us who must bring peace and goodwill to all. It is our gift to give.

Christmas Prayer

Eternal God, by the birth of Jesus Christ you gave yourself to the world. Grant that, being born in our hearts, he may save us from all our sins, and restore within us the image and likeness of our Creator, to whom be everlasting praise and glory, world without end. Amen.

From the United Methodist Hymnal, number 231.

Led by the Spirit

Read Luke 1:39-45.

Here we have two women. One young, the other old. Both pregnant. Both marginalized by society. Mary because she is unwed and pregnant. Elizabeth has been disgraced by her community because she is old and barren. Both of their lives are changing. One bears the messenger, and the other bears the Message.

During this visit, Elizabeth is the first to declare Jesus “Lord.” Luke does not tell us what Mary does, if anything, between the angel’s visit and Mary’s visit with Elizabeth. What prompted this visit? What was the motivating force behind her actions?

The short answer is the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that calls to us to act, to move, or to change. It is the force that gives us our power to do good. It is the motivator that causes us to seek out wisdom guides or mentors along our journey. Elizabeth is such a person for Mary. A mentor, a wisdom guide, a prayer partner.

Who has the Holy Spirit led you to as a faith mentor? Who is your wisdom guide? Who is your prayer partner?

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