Hairless Bipeds. A Day in the Life.

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For people curious about the human drama any edition of the New York Times on any given day provides all the kindling needed to stoke a small fire. A lot of the most provocative stuff is off the beaten track and away from the front page.

Craig Ferguson, host of The Late, Late Show (Photo) has written a literary novel whose characters include “two old friends from Scotland, one of them a television evangelist whose program is derailed by a sex scandal; a femme fatale who has killed off six husbands; and a pair of half brothers sired by Frank Sinatra and Peter Lawford in their Rat Pack days.”

The NYT reviewer observes, “The book, which tops off at 329 pages, is filled with many surprises. Chief among them is probably this: unlike other television stars who have moonlighted as authors, including Jay Leno (the children’s book “If Roast Beef Could Fly” in 2004) and Drew Carey (“Dirty Jokes and Beer: Stories of the Unrefined,” in 1997) Mr. Ferguson has written a work of literary fiction, one that periodically tips its cap to Mikhail Bulgakov, Kurt Vonnegut, Joseph Campbell, Jung, Mark Twain and Herman Melville, among many others. In other words, it’s a book that may not necessarily sit well with many of the two million viewers who, on a typical night, stay up after David Letterman’s ‘Late Show’ to hear Mr. Ferguson refer to them endearingly as “cheeky wee monkeys” or ‘naughty little donkeys.'”

I know some will be put off by these descriptions, but I get the sense that Ferguson is involved in some good old-fashioned honesty, prodding and provoking his way through personal observations of the human condition. Sometimes the truth we need to see and hear is the worst truth. Ferguson reads deeply and widely, a rare commodity in a television personality. Provocative.

There is the little sidebar article about how Jesus actually walked on the water. An oceanographer claims that there was a period of time when the Sea of Galilee froze over and perhaps Jesus “walked on ice.” Amusing.

Chevrolet thought it would get “hip” and opened its website for a “submit-your-own-ad approach for their SUV’s–they got witty submissions that basically trashed the Chevy Tahoe for bad gas mileage and environmental wastefulness. Examples? ” At first glance, the video looks like a typical 30-second car commercial: a shiny sport utility vehicle careers down a country road lined with sunflower fields, jaunty music playing in the background. Then white lettering appears on the screen: “$70 to fill up the tank, which will last less than 400 miles. Chevy Tahoe.” Or try this one: “A sweeping view shows the Chevy Tahoe driving through a desert. Then: “Our planet’s oil is almost gone,” it said. “You don’t need G.P.S. to see where this road leads.” Or another commercial asks: “Like this snowy wilderness? Better get your fill of it now. Then say hello to global warming.” Human¢â‚¬¦nature.

A tragic story of a gruesome murder of a man whose brother was the victim of a similarly violent murder at the hands of his own wife led to this comment by the father of the two dead sons, “I haven’t read the book of Job yet, but I’m about to.” Biblical illiteracy literacy?

Kevin Phillips’s new American Theocracy” is another in a series of books by former conservatives turned critics of the Republican Party. The TIME magazine blurb in the ad for the book reads, “Don’t expect [Philips] top be invited to the next Republican Convention¢â‚¬¦an indispensable presentation of the case against things as they are.” Gotta love the hyperbole.

The Enron trial of Kenneth L. Lay and Jeffrey K. Skilling is downright Shakespearean with one scene described as follows: “Mr. Lay often slouches in his chair, looking with an impassive poker face at the witness, frequently scanning the jurors’ faces. During some tough moments, as when Ben F. Glisan Jr., the former treasurer, was testifying, Mr. Lay turned his chair and put his back to the witness stand.” Methinks Thou dost protest too much.

Frequent travelers will enjoy the accounts of mishaps of first business trips including this one: “John Hartman remembers his first business trip to Columbus after being hired at the Health Department for the State of Ohio. The night he arrived, he had visited a few of the city’s country and western bars. ‘When I got up the next morning and looked for my blue government-issue business suit, I was shocked to realize that the clothing bag was still hanging on the back of my bedroom door 150 miles away,’ he said Mr. Harman pressed on, attending his first meeting in worn jeans, cowboy boots, and, ‘God help me, a sweaty Western shirt,’ he said. ‘I left the cowboy hat in the room.’ He made a lasting impression on his new supervisor fortunately, a more positive one than he expected and continued working for the department for the next 30 years until his retirement.” I love stupid human tricks.

A Paul Simon song includes the line “I can gather all the news I need from the weather report.” Give me either a New York Times or a Bible and I’ll get all the reminders I need of the agony and ecstasy of being human. And God loves mankind, He really does love us. C.S. Lewis via an amazed Screwtape: “We (demons) must never forget what is the most repellent and inexplicable trait in our enemy (God); He really loves the hairless bipeds.”

Oh, and by the way–one of your fellow readers reports this little factoid: Tomorrow, Wednesday, at two minutes and three seconds after 1:00 in the morning: The time and date will be 01:02:03 04/05/06.

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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