Thursday, October 6, 2016

Daddy Had a Bad Dream

I woke up this morning at just about ten past seven in the most wretched state. My body was shaking, wracked in sobs of absolute despair, and tears streamed from my eyes. I awoke gripped in a soul crushing sorrow the likes of which I have never before even imagined. I suppose that this must be what true heartbreak feels like because I could feel that very organ itself defined within my chest beating as though squeezed within a cruel fist.

In my dream, I remember standing inside a building speaking to a woman. The building was some sort of last century high school or perhaps a town hall with its block construction and its marble floors and large wrought iron railings encircling the stairs. The steps had been worn down through a century of scuffed feet and the windows reached far up toward the high ceilings.

The woman was a counselor of sorts. But not a guidance counselor for a high school junior trying to decide on what college to attend. I guess she was a "grief counselor" in a way. Though not one for those who had experienced a tragedy. She was a counselor for the dead. She was counseling me. She was explaining to me the rules of how to die, what to do now that I had died.

It was time, she said. It was time to leave the building and make my death known. It was time to leave the ones I loved behind.

I didn't want to go. I wasn't ready to go. I was terribly, terribly sad. And more than anything in the world, I was worried about how sad I was going to make someone else.

I remember walking down the large granite steps from the building and into a yard. There were people in the yard standing about, talking quietly, mostly off to the sides in the periphery. I didn't heed any of them. I walked past them toward the person I had to face. The woman followed me several steps behind quietly reminding me of what I had to do. Up ahead I saw him. He was playing in a sandbox all by himself.

He was just a little boy. A toddler I guess. Not quite old enough to talk in sentences, but he could point and make you understand what he wanted and what he needed. He was beautiful. He was innocent and carefree. He was everything to me. And I had the smothering sense that I was about to make him very, very sad.

"You can hold him," she said, "but you must take him to a corner of the yard that has no memories for you and him. You must take him to a place in the yard you have never been before to say goodbye."


"Because what is happening cannot be linked to his memories of the past with you. He has to let you go and that has to be something that he knows is quite different from anything he has experienced with you before. He has to know that this is the end and that he cannot keep you."

I guess I nodded.

I approached the little boy and he smiled as he saw me coming. He ran up to me and I picked him up and held him tight. He was perfect, just a perfect bundle of little boy within my arms. He pressed his face against mine in joy and perfect love. I started to carry him slowly away from the sandbox, to some foreign corner of the yard. But he resisted. He leaned away from me and pointed earnestly toward the sandbox where his yellow plastic shovel and Tonka truck lay.. I dutifully carried him away to the edge of the yard near some sapling maple trees. He looked distressed. This was not our normal play space.

He took my hand and pulled me back to another point in the yard, to a place where he and I used to play together, to the big tree and the rope swing. He tugged me along and smiled more as we got closer.

"No," I said. "Let's go over here," and I led him to another place in the yard that was strange to him.

He began to cry. I picked him up and held him tight, as tight as I could hold another human being. For all the tears he cried, they couldn't keep pace with my own. He didn't understand. He was sad and scared and a little bit mad. He wanted me to go back with him to our accustomed placed, to do the things that he loved to do with me.

What I was doing to him was unbearable. He couldn't understand. He couldn't know it wasn't my choice. This was not what I wanted, but all he could see was that this is what I was doing. I could feel my heart ripping inside of me.

I just held him and cried. A few feet away the woman spoke again in quiet tones. She spoke like a perfect professional, factually, with empathy I suppose, but with no emotion. She continued on with her explanation of what was happening and why it had to happen. This parting was necessary, she said. It had to be. He needed to feel the break from what he had known with me and to recognize that nothing would be the same. She droned on.

Her words were repugnant to me. In them, I felt this reality -- this goodbye -- crumble away . I was no longer merely uttering an unspeakable goodbye to someone from whom I could never bring myself to leave; it had become far worse than that. I was now feeling the malignancy of sorrow dredged from the utter darkness of my very soul. Within my heart, I had isolated the very essence of grief from death itself.. I was feeling pure sadness distilled as it were from pain as though it was water wrung from a cloth. It hurt. God, it hurts. It still hurts now an hour later.

Slowly the awareness that I was no longer in the yard seeped in. I was still in the depths of dolor, the tears were still rushing from my eyes, but the place was changing around me. I could a hair dryer somewhere in the distance. After a few moments, there were distant voices. They came closer and in them I could hear concern. My wife's hand brushed over my face. I woke up, but not even that stopped the tears. I suddenly realized that I could feel my heart, not its beating, but my heart itself as if something was crushing it. And then the kids. My oldest climbed into the bed and wrapped himself around me. The twins came and asked Mommy if Daddy was okay.

I'm not sure I am.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Condicio Sine Qua Non

My faith in God and in His Word is immutable and perdurable. However, for the next several paragraphs, I'm going to set it down over here on the desk for a moment while I bang out this post. I want to talk to you about life, the universe, and everything.

You know my stance on how we came to be, ontology, and the formation of the universe itself; there's no need for me to rehash that here. But what if I didn't believe what I believe? What if I wasn't as sure as I am about the origin of, well, everything?

I'd like to invite you for a moment to let your guard down for a moment because I swear to you that I'm not trying to convince you of anything. I'm not going to try persuade you to think the way I do or to believe what I believe. Can you do it? Can you step away from your own biases for a few moments?

For a couple years now, I've quietly been migrating from my previous interests in the humanities into physics, mathematics, biology and related areas. I've been voraciously reading, watching, and listening to articles, websites, videos, programs, and lectures on these subjects.
When a noted authority stands up and says, "space-time is thus and so..." I listen. When a revered scientist says, "the data reveal this, that and the other" I pay attention. And when a professor of whatnot writes down a formula to calculate e, m, c, v, p, or something to do with a quark, I rewind or reread it again until I understand it.

But there's one place where they lose me and, frankly, I can't help but suspect that if you're honest that they lose you as well.

It's when they start talking about how life came to be on this planet.
I'm putting my religious beliefs aside for a moment in saying this and I'm asking you respect that. Their whole bearing in these conversations changes when they make the leap from what is (or what might be) into how life happened. There's a palpable smell of trying to wring philosophical certainty from scientific probability. And it stinks.

They don't come across to me as honest at all. Sometimes it feels like they are under contractual obligation to make statements that affirm abiogenesis. Other times, they make illogical stretches that conclude that the processes of evolution absolutely account for all life on this planet. The one that absolutely blows my mind is when they make certain statements that contradict the very foundation of their assertions in order to prove them. Here are a couple examples that I hear again and again:

"In order for..."
"So that..."

As in, "in order for life to arise on this planet, these things occurred..."
What the frell? The same people who lose their minds when someone utters the words "intelligent design" have the gall to use the phrase, "in order to"? There IS NO "in order to" in atheistic evolution. The words, "in order to/for" and "so that" presume by definition an objective, a goal, a chosen outcome. You can't tell me life arose by chance and evolves by random mutations and use the words "in order to". Those words are off limits to evolution.
Here's a perfect example of this insanity from an article on "evolutionary-metaphysics[dot]net:

"Worms also inherited sensitivity to touch, temperature, and light from their single celled ancestors. A cluster of light sensitive cells has the potential to form a picture, and so there was strong evolutionary pressure for such clusters to evolve into early forms of eyes."

WHAT? Are you freaking kidding me?

How the heck do RANDOM MUTATIONS somehow develop a sense of PURPOSE? How does evolution experience a "pressure" to perform in a certain way and to achieve a certain GOAL? This jerk just described INTELLIGENT DESIGN, not Darwinian evolution.

I'm sorry, I really am, but if you subscribe to this garbage, you're being sold intellectual swampland and you're buying into it willingly.

You can (and do) completely disagree with me on my conclusions of life and it's origin, but for Pete's sake, people wake up. How can you possibly swallow this crap?

Hypothetically, if I suddenly sprang into existence full blown without any environmental indoctrination, sure, there's every possibility that I would not settle on the Book of Genesis as the final word on the rise of life in the universe. But I have to think that neither would I agree with this rubbish that I see so consistently in evolution's literature today.

I challenge you to take an honest look at how articles on the evolution of a species are written today and those tackling the astronomical steps that led to the formation of life; take a good hard honest look and you'll find that there is an enormous and glaring contradiction between what they set down as their presuppositions (i.e., that life evolves through a series of random genetic mutations that, if favorable to the organism, enhance its viability and allow it to adapt better to its environment) and their sudden veering off the tracks into a series of "this happened SO THAT this other thing could happen IN ORDER TO allow this other improvement to happen."

If somehow I tomorrow decided God did not in fact create life, the universe, and everything, I can tell you this without question -- I would never buy into the mythology that is being peddled today. The very best I could say is that I don't know. I wish, I really wish, that scientists today could be so honest.

And I challenge you to take a look at what's going on in your corner of this debate.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

On the Origin of Cheese

I've been sitting here on this mental construct poking a stick at the dual concepts of “supralapsarianism,” and “infralapsarianism”. These came up today in a Facebook thread and, not being very familiar with them, I figured I'd jump into the conversation and opine from an unassailable position of near total ignorance.

I also did some reading on the link I was provided below that compared and contrasted the two positions. I can see the claims of logic in both ways of thinking.

While I'm never the one to say, "What difference does it make? Just serve God, etc, blah, blah..." I do sort of feel that there is a bit of tail chasing here in that I suspect that an omniscient God would have sort of hatched His plan all at once rather than having to reason it out like we humans would do. What makes the search more complicated is that humans deal with time in individual slices of "the now," while God's understanding and His will isn't limited to specific points in time. God didn't one day "decide" to create the earth and the plan for humanity. All these things were settled back in the eternality of God's existence.

Hence, in my mind, that right there relegates this conversation to being a mental game played by humans within the confines of their sequential thinking and the bonds of time. In other words, it may not be terribly important in itself, but it should be fun to play it out. The true value in the question then, it seems to me, is in what it may reveal to us about what God's intentions were/are, and what we can discover about His nature.

I've been doing some rather fascinating investigation on the topic of theoretical physics as it relates to time and space. (As a person with a liberal arts background, this is not my customary playground.) What I've learned is that the current thinking among theoretical physicists is that not only are time and space all relative to speed, direction, and gravity, but that all time already exists. That means, not only is time travel theoretically possible (possible in the sense that the math doesn't disallow it), but that the future already exists. Christians are fond of saying that God exists at all points in time and that we need never worry about the future because God is already there in the future with us, watching over us, carrying for us, etc. That sort of thinking makes for a nice warm and fuzzy feeling, but the truly notable and fascinating thing about it is that future time is already in existence and that we and He are already there.

The analogy that I found purposed by theoretical physicists is that of a film. Just like a movie exists on a reel of film from start to finish, so too the entire "story" of time is theorized to be complete already. We mere mortals live from moment to moment as one who is watching the frames of the film click by, but if we were able to step out of time and space, we'd be able to view time in its entirety from the beginning to the end.

Like God does.

So the question between supralapsarianism and infralapsarianism has a certain element of absurdity to it (beyond merely the sesquipedalianism of the two words themselves). Can an actor who only exists within a few frames of the film question the Editor who put the film together in the cutting room? The realities of these two persons are so far removed from one another that it defies reason. How could a two dimensional being in the grip time comprehend the actions and motives of an Director/Producer/Editor Whose existence is completely outside of time/space?

I sort of imagine that God must have a smirk on His face listening to men ask these sorts of questions. It's got to be a bit like listening to mice squeak to each other about their existential theories of how a block of cheese came to be in the cupboard. The logistics of it is quite beyond their kenning.

If I had to choose one of these logical sequences, I'd likely throw my lot in with the supralapsarianists. But I do so with the full knowledge that this choice is likely much less a reflection of how God works than it is of how my own logic and reasoning processes.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

An Evolutionary Idea

I learned something today that has more firmly entrenched me in the literal 6 day creation camp than ever before.

For the past several years I have listened to a number of men who hold to the old earth theory. Given certain scientific arguments, I could at least understand why they could be convinced that the earth is millions, perhaps billions of years old. Not agree, but understand. 

Many of these men would fall into the Theistic Evolution camp; that is, they would argue that God used the processes of evolution to create the world. That was always a stretch for me, but what struck me today is how impossible that position is to hold while still holding to the God as described for us in the Bible.

Evolution is the process by which life adapts to its environment and slowly improves by means of mutations. Ever so slowly through eons of time, species evolve by means of genetic changes that either prove beneficial or harmful to the species' survival. Either the species adapts, or it fails to adapt to its environment and it dies out. Thus, through countless generations, a species may evolve to become better suited for survival. We call this survival of the fittest. Those that do not adapt, die.

The secular world teaches this as fact and derides those who oppose it. Many thoughtful Christians have decided that this view, that this •science• is not in opposition to the Bible.

Except, no. And here's why.

The Bible is clear that death was not originally a part of creation. There was no death when God finished creating. Death didn't come at all until •after• Adam & Eve sinned.

So... if Adam preceded the concept of death... how could he have evolved? Adam can't be both the •cause• of evolution •and• the result of it. Moreover, how could ANYTHING evolve in a world where there was no death? There is no "survival of the fittest" in a world where this is no death.

The Lord is a holy God. His Word shows us that man enjoyed fellowship with God in the Garden of Eden and that the world was in a state of perfection. When man fell into sin, that fellowship was broken; the world was cursed; by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin and so death has passed upon all men. It was God's holiness -- His intolerance of sin -- that separated sinful man and the world from Him.

Evolution claims to find its evidence in the fossil record. But what do we find in the fossil record? Death. Dead flora and fauna. But not merely death for we also find evidence of sick creatures in the fossil record. And creatures that clearly bore the teeth marks of other creatures. None of that was possible before the fall of man and the curse of sin being put upon the world.

For the atheist, this is no big deal and the point of this post is lost on them. But for the Believer, the one who claims to know the Lord, he must come now confront not only the contradiction between the Genesis account in the Bible and evolutionary theory, but he must also admit that he holds to a view of God that is fundamentally contradictory to that which is revealed in scripture.

A holy God would not create from the outset create a fallen world riddled by death and disease and violence. It was man's sin that created that state for ourselves and for our world. 

It's one thing to say that Genesis chapter one is an allegory; it's another thing entirely to deny the attributes of God. 


Thus, Christian, we much choose one or the other. We do not have the option of forcing God into the box of "science".

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A View of Noah

OK, as stated, I saw the movie "Noah" Tuesday night and I wanted to spend a few minutes offering some comprehensive thoughts on the movie.

If you've heard anything about the movie at all, no doubt you've heard that it is "controversial." Supposedly there have been many Christians who have spoke out against the film.

(To be truthful, I haven't seen much of that at all. What I have seen is a lot of non-Christians who have been claiming that Christians have spoken out against the film, but that's not one of the points I'd like to offer here.)

This post will contain plenty of spoilers, so avert your eyes now if you don't want to know about them.
  1. The Story of Creation: The film provides an expedited view of the Biblical account of creation by means of a rapid series of images as a narrator recounts the tale of Genesis 1 and 2. Some people will view this and find no fault in it. Those people would be called "Theistic Evolutionists". To me, and others like me, the tale being told and the imagery that runs across the screen have very little to do with one another for one is the Biblical account of six day creation being told aloud and the other is an abridged junior high school science film on the process of evolution. Given the increasing failure of the church to adhere to the Biblical account of six days of creation, I suspect this little criticism will be lost within a sea of other larger problems.
  2. The Name of God: The word "God" is never spoken in this movie. Instead, Noah and everyone else calls Him "The Creator." I keep hearing that there is a body of people who have a major problem with that. I don't think I do. I've not studied this rather fine point to speak with full confidence on this matter, but prior to God's revelation to Moses that His name was YHWH, it seems that God kept His name rather obscured from man. I believe the term(s) "Lord" and "Elohim" was used prior to this declaration. At any rate, without getting into a theological discussion that will take me all night to study up on and voice my thoughts, let me just suggest two things. One, people who find the use of "The Creator" a problem likely do so because the ambiguity of the term might open the door for others to simply insert the name of their own deity into the story. For some this Creator may be Allah and to others it may be the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Perhaps this is so. However, I think the intellectually honest person will recognize that this is supposed to be the tale of the Judeo-Christian God and His judgment upon wicked men. (Although that too, as you will see, is debatable.) Second, when I try to envision myself living in the antediluvian world removed by fewer than ten generations from the very first man to ever live, the notion of calling the Supreme Being "The Creator" seems very apropos since creation is still a very new place.
  3. The Watchers: The sudden introduction of a race of beings known as the Watchers is where the wheels come off of this thing. It is this clarion call that echoes over the hi-tech speaker system of the IMAX theatre that makes it abundantly clear that the film that you are about to see bears about as much resemblance to the Biblical account of Noah as Blade Runner does to the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? from which it was adapted. We could camp here all night, but I want to get this blog posted so I'll be terse.
    The Watchers are explained as fallen angels who were cursed by God and thrown out of heaven because of their desire to help mankind. That's right. This movie attempts to portray at least some number of the angels that God banished from heaven as being thrown out because of their desire to help humanity after the fall in the Garden of Eden. If this is the case, let's call them what they are. These demons come to Noah's aid and help him to build the ark. Demons. They did the heavy lifting in building the ark. Demons did. Only in this story, these demons are kind-hearted, misunderstood spirits that God rejects because of their compassion on man. They also protected Noah and his family when those outside the ark recognize their impending doom and try to break into the ark as the rain falls. In this climactic battle to give Noah time to escape, as each Watcher is slain, its spirit is forgiven and it is allowed to return to heaven.
    It was right about here that I realized that I wasn't watching a Bible movie, I was watching a science fiction.
    Incidentally, there is some potential Biblical support for demons interacting with mankind in the antediluvian world (this is not a universally held position). However, far from being a race of spirit creatures who attempt to aid mankind, these "Sons of God" were something more akin to incubuses who were having sex with women and attempting to corrupt the genetics of the human race. Among those who hold to this theory for the identity of these "Sons of God" who were having sex with the "daughters of men", are those who believe that these specific demons were actually removed from the eternal game altogether and imprisoned in hell -- well in advance of Satan and the rest of the fallen angels.
    Big difference between the two stories. I rather think that the director included these characters in the story because, in his heart, he always wished that Tolkien's Ents had been made of stone.

  4. The Antediluvian World: Now here is where I think the movie scored points. Two things have always interested my Biblical imagination: What will the world be like during the Millennium Kingdom and what was it like during the Antediluvian Period? This movie paints an intriguing picture of what the latter may have been like. Strange and unexplained technologies are seen. Odd looking, crudely designed machines that serve purposes that have been lost to the ages are seen in the cities of the wicked men. A corruption of the very landscape itself is clearly apparent. Where things take a less admirable tact is when various characters employ what we might well interpret as "magic". I could have done without that, but I suppose even this could be justified as a movie' attempt to make this ancient and forgotten world seem strange and foreign to us.
  5. Methuselah: Yes, Methuselah was Noah's grandfather and yes, Methuselah did outlive his son Lamech (Noah's father). Yes, Methuselah died in the same year that the flood waters came. However, there is nothing to substantiate the film's depiction of Methuselah as dying in the flood with the rest of the unrighteous. This is a major departure from the opinion that Methuselah's teachings might have been at least partially responsible for keeping Noah and his family in God's favor and also from the traditions that history brings to us.
  6. The Wives of Noah's Sons: The film included the characters Shem, Ham, and Japheth, Noah's sons. However, what the film removed and indeed relied upon to create conflict was the wives of Noah's sons. The Bible clearly states that the Ark saved "eight persons". That would have been Noah, his wife, his three sons, and his sons' wives. Eight. However, fully half of the movie's tension and conflicts are based upon the depiction that Shem's wife to be is infertile and that Ham and Japheth have no wives. I suspect I don't need to explain why this might be a problem for the family once they disembark from the vessel. Ham in particular is incensed at his father's lack of concern for his plight. When Ham almost manages to obtain a woman for himself in the last moments prior to the flood, Noah fails to help him.
  7. Noah's Misguided Mission: Things go from bad to worse when Shem's wife is revealed to have been miraculously cured from her infertility by Methuselah and is found to be pregnant with twins. What seems as though it should be the solution to the family's director-manufactured-problem actually becomes a nightmare as Noah declares that he believes that the Creator's purpose behind this entire event is the TOTAL destruction of mankind. In other words, Noah believes that God wants them all to die. The birth of more children is abominable to him and he declares that they must be killed. For the final chapters of the film, let's just say that Mr. Noah isn't a very nice man at all. Instead of being the man chosen by God to save mankind, he is convinced that he must be the mankind's final executioner. Fortunately for Noah's sons (and for all the rest of us waiting around to be born), as Noah is about to bring down the knife upon the two newborn sisters, he has an Alec Guinness Bridge Over the River Kwai moment and realizes he has been working for the wrong side. The children are spared and apparently live to become mothers themselves.
There are a hundred other small details that might be worth discussing, but I'm simply running out of electrons to address them with, so let me conclude with this bottom line: Criticizing a movie makes about as much sense as listening to someone share a dream they had with you and then telling them that they dreamed it wrong.

Directors are going to do what directors are going to do. We've all suffered these effects any time we've had a favorite book translated into a movie. To some degree or another, the story changes, very often dramatically. Can we honestly expect this film adaptation of the written account of Noah to be any different?

Well... yes. I think we can. And I can give the most practical reason as to why. Money.

Why was this movie made?


To. Make. Money.

The director and Paramount studies agreed to make the movie because the movie would in turn make them money. Logic would dictate that they made the movie which they thought would make the most amount of money.

But it is this premise that I'd like to challenge. This story is at its essence a Bible story. As such, it makes sense that those who are interested in the Bible would also be a large segment of those who would be interested in the movie.

So why piss them off?

Doesn't Hollywood stand to make more money by befriending any population of people and giving them what they want? Why not partner with religious folks and show that we can trust you to represent our interests and beliefs with integrity? We have money. We spend it just like anyone else. Why not encourage us to spend it on your product? Why push us away?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Why Wasn't I Warned?

It was late in the afternoon and kind of a gloomy day. I headed into the parking garage and started walking up to the roof level where I had left my car. Somewhere on the second or maybe the third floor I encountered one of my professors. She was carrying the a pile of books and papers to take home for the weekend but she was able to quickly find my essay. 

"Here. I thought it was well written, but honestly it was far too short. I was very disappointed."

I was feeling rather self-conscious and a little contrite so I didn't say much other than to mumble a thank you and politely wish her a good weekend. She got into her car and as I headed up to the next level I could hear her car start behind me.

There were no other cars in the lot when I reached the top level and headed across to my car parked over in the far corner of the lot. I don't know why I parked so far away, it's not like I'm driving an expensive car or anything, yet here I am on the top level in the far corner.

I reached into my pocket and pulled out the keys unlocked the door while balancing my own stack of books. It was at that precise moment that the wind decided to pick up and snatch my essay and throw it over the parking garage wall and down several stories to the ground below. I stood there forlorn watching it fall and come to land on the grass.

I didn't even bother complaining. Somehow it seemed par for the course based on how this day was going. I threw the rest of my stuff into the car and headed for the stairwell not knowing just how much worse this day was about to get.

I descended two flights of concrete steps when I heard a heard a low moan and suddenly found myself confronted by a shuffling figure in torn clothes, torn skin, and snapping teeth. My hair stood up on end as I realized I had almost walked right into a zombie. I shoved it away and turned around and started racing back up the steps. As I looked up, I realized to my horror that a whole pack of walking dead were coming down the stairs toward me, cutting me off from my only escape. I turned back around to face the one below me only to find that he was now suddenly joined by a number of friends, all reaching out with filthy, bloody hands, each with drooling mouths filled with snapping teeth anxiously looking to take a bite out of me.

I was screwed and I knew it. I started punching and shoving desperately trying to get free, to find an opening to dash through. But it was hopeless. My last memory was of a dead twenty-something guy with no nose opening his mouth to take a bite out of my face while I fought off four other mouths.

As I started to make my way through the fog of sleep back toward consciousness, I was really, really upset with myself. Two thoughts burned in my mind. First, "How could I be so stupid as to be caught without a weapon?!" No crowbar, no shovel, nothing to protect myself from the hoards of undead. But then the second question hit me. Why wasn't I given any warning that this was a dream about zombies?! I thought I was simply having a dream about school! This was totally unfair! Had I known this was a nightmare I could have been better prepared!

I awoke this morning breathing hard and pissed off.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Shot Wheels

I'm on the verge of a temper tantrum right now about toys.

Not the kind of temper tantrum that a 4-year old might have because he wants to play with one. No, this is much worse. This is the kind of temper tantrum that full grown adult man has when he's thrown down good money for the children that he loves on a toy that fails to work.

I've spent a whole lot of hours (more than you can guess) putting furniture, games, and play sets together for the boys. I've had to interpret idiotic Ikea-like instructions written in Chinglish by people who have never actually seen the toy themselves.

Sometimes, if things click together well, I'll occasionally comment on the excellent engineering that went into the design of a given toy. Other times I want to catch the guy that designed it and ring his neck. But nothing infuriates me like a toy that once put together properly doesn't even come close to working as advertised.

Case in point with the Mattel Hot Wheels Carcade that I spent almost two hours working on last Christmas. It's basically a pinball game that uses Hot Wheels cars instead of a ball. You load up a car and fire it up the ramp to hit the targets. Except for one small problem: The motor doesn't even come close to having the power to shoot a Hot Wheels car up the incline, let alone to give it enough force to strike any of the targets with any effect. Brand new quality batteries (a LOT of them) were installed in this piece of crap and it barely farts out the cars that came with it, let alone any of the myriad other Hot Wheels cars it claims to work with.

I put a book under it to give it some help. And then another. And then another, until I virtually had what was supposed to be an incline level with the floor. What I had successfully constructed was a $99 piece of garbage. The only thing that worked was the constant, loud sounds that emanated from this thing. No, there is no on/off button. Once you touch it, it continues to play music and shriek at you for 5 minutes -- unless you touch it, which resets the clock back to zero.

Tonight, I finished putting together a Spider-Man motorcycle play set. I was impressed by the quality of most of this thing until it came to the final linchpin that held it all together.  That’s where I noticed the problem. This thing was way too complicated to have any hope of working. Spider-Man is ejected out of the hand-cranked launch pad into a little stall that is lifted up and then circles around a central hub; reaching the top, the cycle flies out around a bend; triggers a little mechanism that captures the Green Goblin; and then Spider-Man must himself grab a safety hook with one hand and is swung to safety while his cycle crashes into a pit below.

It almost worked the first three times. The whole thing proceeded to deteriorate with each subsequent attempt until I was ready smash the whole thing and throw it out the window. The kids, who had not-so-patiently waited and endured my mutterings for 45 minutes of trying to assemble this stupid thing were disappointed with the results and then thoroughly astonished as I suddenly turned green, grew to a size of 8 feet tall, split all my clothes off, smashed through the wall, and then demolished the local toy store.

Before I ever buy another toy, I’m going to design my own. Using NASA specs. Then I’m going to stress test it under military conditions. I’m going to expose it to flame throwers, the impact of freight trains, and days on end of time/use simulations. The parts are going to fit together so damn well that as you open the box it’s going to seem as if they jumped out the packaging and locked themselves together without you having to so much as unfold the instructions.

And you know what? It’s going to be fun. Not just fun, but like mind-blowing, phantasmagorically, holy-Santa’s-Workshop-Batman-where-did-you-get-that-toy fun. And it’s going to last. In fact, it’s going to outlast all the kids who use it, the neighborhood kids who try to break it, and all the cockroaches who survive World War III. The EPfreakinA is going to bring a law suit against me because the toys I create are not only not going to be biodegradable, they’re going to be downright indestructible. The Department of Defense is going to try to hire me to design their next generation armaments.

And I’m going to tell them all to kiss my paternal butt. This is for my kids and they alone are worth the absolute best. Mattel and all the rest of them can go rot in a landfill somewhere.