On Giving & the Church
September 3, 2005

For the record, I'm endorsing World Vision which is a *cringe* para-church organization, but nevertheless, I know them well and respect what they do. I trust their integrity. I want to know where my money is going. I will also be giving through my local congregation. I encourage all to be wise stewards of finances by being educated in your giving.

To the question of "Where is the Church?," I want to take it a step further. A few people have ratted off lists of all the churches who are giving or have recently thrown up a donation button. I think that's great and I agree, the media probably isn't going around trying write stories about all the aid the church is giving. But I am more interested in where the church is physically, emotionally, and spiritually in relation to what's taking place down South.

Pastor Wendell Smith, a prominent pastor I respect greatly in the Pacific Northwest has outlined what he believes we should be doing. I endorse this. He also discusses what some churches throughout the country are doing beyond just giving monetarily. He mentions Faith Church, a large church pastored by a friend of his, and currently submerged under 14 feet of water. Local members of the body there can barely help themselves right now, let alone minister (def: to serve). Brethren in the faith, especially those in outlying areas need to step up.

I'm telling you, giving money is just one solution to a very big problem. I like hearing about people actually doing things with their money. One reader writes:

"My husband and I will be paying a month's rent for a few Katrina victims who are being furnished apartments in our state."
I like hearing about this. I'm curious to know what other ways people are sacrificing for the needs of others.

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When Rappers Speak Extemporaneously
September 2, 2005

Dear God help us all.

It's not enough that he's won the "Best Gospel Song" award multiple times for "Jesus Walks," a song with cussing in it. It's not enough that his theology is bad and he had the nerve to die and resurrect himself on stage at the Grammy Awards. Now the cry-baby of hip hop is making emotional and outlandish statements and publicly bashing the president during airtime specifically set-aside for raising money for hurricane victims.


Time Magazine's recently crowned "Smartest Man in Pop Music" displayed ultimate bad form. On last night's NBC broadcast of the Hurricane Katrina telethon and benefit concert, West had the following to say on the matter:

"I hate the way they portray us in the media. You see a black family and they say we are looting, you see a white family and they say they are looking for food. And, you know, its been five days because most of the people ARE black. And even for me to complain, I would be a hypocrite because I would turn away from the TV because it's too hard to watch. I've even been shopping before even giving a donation, so now I'm calling my business manager right to see what is the biggest amount I can give. And just to imagine, if I was down there and those are my people down there. If there is anybody out there that wants to do anything that we can help about the way America is set up the help the poor, the black people, the less well off as slow as possible. Red cross is doing as much as they can. We already realize a lot of the people that could help are at war right now, fighting another way. And now they've given them permission to go down and shoot us."

"George Bush doesn't care about black people. Please call..."

Then the plug was pulled. Whelp, there goes any credibility left to the valid charges of racism in this whole blasted disaster. Any validity in Kanye's comments was completely squashed when he decided to make a blanket statement and publicly bash the president. You DO NOT DO that. You express disappointment; you point out faults; but you do not disrespect authority on national television. What an embarrassment.

In many circles, Kanye will be heralded as a hero for saying what everyone else is supposedly thinking. For me this will be counted as one of those moments when you just hang your head in shame and mourn for the conversation that could have been were it not for unorderly accusations. I absolutely believe we are looking at disgraceful attitudes towards victims fueled by many things, among them race. The lop-sided media portrayal is blatant. Unfortunately, these attitudes are not new. They are simply magnified by a grave situation (more on that later). Nevertheless, Kanye doesn't speak for me (quick, somebody make a t-shirt). I am not of the belief that President Bush doesn't care about black people. I don't care if much of what West said was true, he was out of order and his credibility will suffer.

The part that really kills me is that I know Kanye's intentions were genuine, but unfortunately, very ignorant. That's what made it such a train wreck of emotion and pretension. I'll talk more on Kanye and his new album next week. I'm certain sales will go up for these comments. I guess he really is the smartest man in pop music. As far as I'm concerned, he's feelin' himself a little too much right now.

Associated parties have been rapidly releasing disclaimers to cover West's mess. The Red Cross reminds us they are a nonpartisan effort. NBC asks that West's remarks not overshadow the fundraising efforts. The AP reminds us that West has been prone to outbursts as of late.

(Update 9/3): Journalist and blogger, Chris Nolan suggests, "It's not a color thing. It's a privilege thing." Now that's an entirely different post.

Video of Kanye's remarks can be found here. You'll notice that Mike Meyers (West's co-presenter) looks like he wants to crawl inside a hole and die. You'll also notice that West may want to look into Dale Carnegie or Toastmasters. Painful.

Other bloggers report:
Michelle Malkin, Slowplay, and about 100,000 more people. Kanye West currently ranks as the #2 search on Technorati with "Katrina" being #1.

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Sensationalism, Defined
September 2, 2005

It has become quite clear that the general understanding of I mean by "Sensationalist Media" is mis-interpreted. However, being that certain individuals have postured themselves to always be in direct disagreement with every word I will every write, this comes as no surprise.

So for the record, let me be direct: accusing the media of sensationalizing this disaster isn't suggesting that it's not as dramatic as its being portrayed. In all your getting, get an understanding. Or at least get a clue.

My working definition of the word "sensationalism" is best explained by Google's compilation of online definitions:

1. the use of verbal or graphic media to create striking or shocking impressions intended to excite interest or attention.

2. the theory or doctrine that all ideas derive solely from sensory experience.

subject matter that is calculated to excite and please vulgar tastes
the journalistic use of subject matter that appeals to vulgar tastes; "the tabloids relied on sensationalism to maintain their circulation"

My disgust is on several levels. It is in regard to the desensitization that comes at the cost of networks trying to get the highest ratings. It is inhumane. I'm sorry, but this is not an opportunity for you to get an Emmy in reporting. This is human life.

My disgust is also in regard to the number of Americans willing to subject themselves to repetitive images of human despair as a psychological means of feeling better about themselves. It truly is the highway bottle-nose effect and it speaks volumes to how far we have fallen from our Maker.

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Perspectives Perspectives Everywhere
September 2, 2005

It's amazing to see how much more diverse and insightful the blogosphere is in comparison to the echo chamber of mainstream media.

Amid the morbid reports, heroism is rising up among those who are properly taking matters in their own hands. A prime of example of when there's a place for illegality, 20-year-old Jabbar Gibson (although I heard he was really 17) comandeered a school bus to rescue citzens and drive them to the Astrodome.

Oklahoma City University is offering free tuition to any hurricane affected college students.

The Anchoress takes a big picture perspective of where have come thus far.

Blogger Eddie Butler asks "Where is the church?" Good bloody question. My best guess? Running emotionally-charged whop-fest telethons with no tangible fruit and raising money to keep themselves on the air.

The harvest is ripe, but people never seem to be prepared. Churches in South Texas are forming a list of resources. I'm certain there are many more that don't have websites because like in all things, the church is behind.

Blogger Michelle Malkin linked to an article on a vivid personal account of a tourist caught in the chaos. I read it and stumbled on some interesting information. It reads:

John McNeil, a 20-year-old university graduate, rang his parents in Brisbane yesterday from a payphone in the foyer of the New Orleans Hilton, where about 60 foreign tourists, including 10 Australians, were sheltering under armed guard after they were rescued from the Superdome by US military personnel.
Did I just read that correctly? Foreign tourists are being sheltered at the Hilton?

I quit.

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Money Solves Everything Nothing
September 2, 2005

For the life of me, I cannot comprehend why the American solution to everything is money.

Currency is both fake and temporal. In a matter of days, our entire system of currency could be wiped out before our very eyes. Money is only as valuable as we decide. A community of people could easily come together and decide on a different form of currency. Airlines do it every day. They are called frequent flyer miles. I am bothered if not perplexed by the extreme amount of attention being placed on the need to give finances towards the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. I trust this will be an unpopular opinion.

Long-time readers of this site know that I am not a huge fan of large fundraising organizations with high overhead and little financial accountability. Today is no different. I have never been one to give out of manipulation, compulsion, or guilt. That is not the true spirit of giving. I give because I feel led, feel a responsibility, or see a need. And boy is there a need! At this time, I am not entirely convinced money is what New Orleans needs. Not right now. Right now they need relief. They need resources, but they don't need money. Resources and money are not interchangeable realities. I know this may not seem time-appropriate, but it needs to be said. Where an abundance of un-allocated money is present, evil usually follows. And in case there is any doubt about the inherent nature of unredeemed humanity, let's just examine the events that have transpired over the last 48 hours in our dear Creole city down South.

I am having trouble reconciling exactly how these nonprofit organizations plan on distributing said funds. When tens of thousands of people have been homeless and without food for going on four days now, scraping together a financial plan just doesn't seem paramount. True leadership needs to rise up and start calling shots. That isn't to say I won't give. I will. But I am of the belief that money does not solve all problems.

Christians attempt use Ecclesiastes 10:19 as a foundation for the "money solves everything" philosophy. The scripture reads:

A feast is made for laughter, and wine makes life merry, but money is the answer for everything.
However, few people correctly examine the context of that scripture--namely the fact that nearly the entire book is written and narrated in sarcasm. Sarcasm is often used in the Bible to convey attitudes and expose hearts.

In true American conscience-appeasing fashion, we are all able to throw a few hundred dollars each at the hurricane victims on a hope that in some way we've done our part. During the aftermath of 9/11 it manifested as ridiculous amounts of blood-drives resulting in pints of unusable blood. After which time, we can then sit back and watch the soap-operatic like media coverage, feeling glad we helped and just a little bit relieved it wasn't our brother working at the World Trade Center, or our house under water.

I submit that within America, we have all the resources we need to accommodate this disaster, but there is no desire among American citizens to sacrifice. It is my very best estimation that Americans are giving finances out of their abundance, and not from a place of sacrifice. (It is important to note that abundance and sacrifice are relative words) We live in the land of abundance. There are plenty of people with unoccupied buildings and massive amounts of space to house displaced victims. There are stadiums, there are gyms, there are football fields. There are factories, businesses, and restaurants that have food that can be given away. There are excessive amounts of unused clothing collecting moth holes in warehouses. There are businesses that can offer their services free of charge if they were willing to sacrifice. But somehow, giving money is the easy way out.

Does the government have a responsibility to put in a plan of action to accommodate its tax-paying citizens? Absolutely. But in the absence of true leadership, there should be some burden of responsibility felt by those who are in a position to do more than just throw dollars. It is a sad commentary on what suckers of government teats we are when all we can scrap together is some eloquent whining about what the government is not doing to help. And I agree they are not effevtively helping the situation. AT ALL. But there is an element of personal responsibility and accountability that is being glossed over for the sake of making excuses.

I admire and appreciate all that Wal-Mart is doing especially in light of their own victimhood to looters, but it is very easy for Wal-Mart to pledge 15 million dollars. That is no skin off their gigantic backs. That is a check that can be written by one Walton family member alone. Do not hear me wrong, we need corporate donations. But I am thoroughly convinced that giving money is the easy way out.

I received an instant message from my sister a few moments ago. She is a student at the Honor Academy in Garden Valley, Texas which is just outside Dallas and six hours from New Orleans. She mentioned that their 500 acre campus is considering opening itself up to Hurricane refugees. That is what I'm talking about. It didn't take 400 donations to the Salvation Army for them to decide they could do that. It just took an attitude of sacrifice for the sake of others in need. Supermarkets and grocery stores can come alongside them and donate food and personal hygiene items for housed victims. We do not have time to be doling out dollars right now. Save that for later.

It's not just about money. It's about shifting resources folks.

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Sensationalist Media
September 2, 2005

I'm going to be blunt here. If you believe everything the television and the news sources tell you from the exact angle at which they are telling it, you are incredibly dense. I mean that. The amount of bias present in post-hurricane coverage is just sickening.
One of the tendencies of media is to get entirely too caught up in voyeuristic commentary and theorizing. I watched last night as Ted Koppel argued with the Director of FEMA over whether or not they mis-represented the number of people the Astrodome could accommodate and if they should have sent in more buses. I am certain the debate is worthwhile and I am certain there are plenty valid places at which to point fingers, but right now, people are dying. For the love of God (and I mean it), forget trying to get a good story topic and focus on the task at hand.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article "Desperation, death make compelling television" says it beautifully:

Snipers firing at rescue helicopters. Looters -- or people who are just plain hungry -- pushing bags of food through fetid floodwaters. Dead bodies in blankets lying unclaimed in the hot sun. An elderly couple trapped in a truck surrounded by alligators.

These and other heartbreaking, horrific images from New Orleans and the Mississippi coast have unfolded relentlessly on television screens in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina this week, pushing cable television ratings into the stratosphere and gripping millions of viewers -- but also repelling some, who find the gruesome visuals almost unbearable to watch.
Blanket coverage of disasters, man-made or natural, is a fact of life in our news media-saturated times, and not just because the events are important. They attract huge numbers of viewers -- particularly for cable television -- who might not ordinarily be watching.

In the most recent numbers available, Fox's prime-time audience climbed to 4.2 million on Tuesday night, 112 percent above its Tuesday average, according to Nielsen Media Research. CNN had 3.7 million viewers, an increase of 336 percent. MSNBC had 1.5 million viewers, 379 percent above its average.

Fox News' Dana Klinghofer said more than 50 staffers had been deployed to the Gulf Coast region; Jack Womack, CNN's senior vice president for domestic news, noted that 125 extra personnel were there, although "we've just rotated a large new group of people in." CNN superstar Christiane Amanpour is en route to the area, according to a network news release, as is veteran war correspondent Nic Robertson.

Among those driving up the ratings was Janet Bartlett, 67, of Shaler, who has been carefully monitoring Fox News anchor Shepherd Smith's reports from the freeways of New Orleans.

"I turn it [the television] on the first thing in the morning when I wake up until I go to work, and then I turn it on again when I come home," said Bartlett.

Indeed, many television viewers are experiencing what media psychologist Stuart Fischoff describes as classic addiction symptoms.

"Visual imagery involves a much more primitive part of our brain, a monitoring system to sense danger," Fischoff said. "The trouble with this story is that it's not in a resolution stage yet, things are just getting worse. Usually, when we're anxious, we seek information to reduce anxiety, but in this case, we're just increasing it."

Disaster coverage "feeds a demographic of grief junkies, who are tapping away at the remote control like a rat tapping for crack pellets," added Matthew Felling, media director at the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Media and Public Affairs. "Not only does misery love company, it also makes for compelling television."

And that my friends, is just disgusting.

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Chaos All Around
September 2, 2005

"But for the grace of God, there go I."

For nearly three days, I have stared at my computer screen. Lots to say with no real way to say it. The reality has set in that no matter how beautifully you frame a situation with your words, the circumstances are so incredibly ugly and grave that you must drudge through the English language in search of adjectives that appropriately capture the grief you feel for loss, destitution and the state of Southern America.

Tragedy doesn't care how smart you are, how much money you have in the bank, or even what color you are. From the affluent to the poor, the flooding doesn't have an affirmative action plan.

To begin with, let me say I am utterly disgusted and dismayed at the current state of humanity in the wake of hurricane Katrina. The devastation and lives lost is tragic and to the human eye unfair and unnecessary. But beyond even the loss, I am disappointed with the living. Everyone. Our president. Civil government. Our citizens. Survivors. Law enforcement. Our media. Columnists. Bloggers. The whole lot. It is embarrassing on so many different levels it's difficult to even pick a starting point. But don't think I won't try. Here's one: sin.

Shooting, looting, survivors dying in wait of care, corpses outside the Superdome, rapes, relatives murdering one another over ice, people starving, people fainting from head exhaustion, babies sick, elderly people left to die in their wheel chairs. Surely this is not how God intended humanity to live.

Chaos is putting it lightly. I firmly believe that what we are seeing right now is only a glimpse into the complete and utter insanity that would be present in a lawless society.

What we are looking at isn't just a national tragedy or a natural disaster. We are looking at fallen man and the downward spiral of human nature. There is a harsh truth at work here. When put under extreme pressure, our internal belief system kicks in full force. Not what we say we believe, but what we have internally accepted as right or wrong. We are observing what happens when you mix fallen humanity with desperation. Interesting how all psycho-babble about how humans are inherently good goes out the window during times like this.

I once wrote that the most important commodity in situations of distress isn't money, but bullets. For those who thought my suggestion was off-base, I submit to you the events currently taking place in New Orleans. In situations of distress the rules of engagement change. As currency, the American dollar is only as valuable as we deem it. In fact, currency in a society can become whatever holds the most value at any given time. All this talk of restoring order is futile when dealing with people who lost everything and have nothing to fear.

In the last 48 hours we have observed blatant displays of exploitation, racism, lawlessness, poverty, thievery, anarchy, inhumanity, manipulation and sensationalism. I find myself wondering at what point we will stop showing pictures of dead bodies on national television. Is there no restraint? Not only is there chaos in the city, there's chaos in the newsroom. To capture images for journalistic purposes is one thing, to exploit people at their lowest point is quite another. At the very least, the dead deserve not to be repeats on the news clip reel.

I am frustrated and grieved. Even the coverage of the hurricane is chaotic. There are people looting out of necessity for basic hygiene and food items and then there are people running away with televisions and DVD players. There are people stealing firearms, smashing ATMs and stealing money, and then there are people grabbing pampers, Advil, and apologetically clothing their entire families off the rack.

I believe guilty parties should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, but there are two ends of this spectrum folks. There are people of all colors doing the looting for basic needs, police officers included. Why are we not hearing about this on the news? Depending on where you read, some people are "just getting groceries" and others are "thieves." But guess what? The law enforcers are stealing too. Yet amid these two extremes, neither of which can be judged at face value, we have columnists demanding that looters be shot. We also have bloggers backing this up. I'll buy-in when the first police officer gets shot for stealing. I'm usually the first to suggest capital punishment, but at this point, it is difficult to decipher who is properly using their authority here.

And forgive me for saying it again, but this is not how we were designed to live.

It is a sad state of humanity. Politicians are politicizing and spending more energy saving face in front of the cameras than actually addressing the needs of the people. Someone please tell me why is Jesse Jackson is being interviewed on national television? What in tarnation could he possibly have to add here? I'm with Bill Frist on this one. This country can barely remember a true refugee challenge. It's time to step up. As Frist stated on Larry King last night, "don't politicize it." Get busy.

I challenge us all to pray that order be restored to New Orleans as soon as possible.

(Photo courtesy of Reuters)

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Fun in the Culture War
August 30, 2005

The danger with people who sit by passively and act as though the events and attitudes of this age have no direct correlation with the quality of life of the next generation is that they are sadly mistaken. In fact, single-generational thinking (as often typified by those who have chosen to enter into relationships in which they cannot procreate) is to blame for much in our society. These "sadly mistaken" individuals can often be heard making commentary like, "What's the big deal?" and "I don't really care what people do in the privacy of their bedroom," and "In the end does it really even matter?"

I submit to the "sadly mistaken" that yes it does matter.

The dangerous thing about the war on the culture is that it doesn't run around announcing itself. There are no pop-ups next to your television that emerge at the slightest hint of convolution. No one calls you up and says, "Hey, by the way, your child's history book is going to plant seeds of confusion that will require at least 5 years of deprogramming."


Like TLC, the culture war creeps. You know, it keeps itself on the down low. Next thing you know, television is semi-pornographic and 12-year-old girls are having sex. Let's take a stroll down today's culture war lane:

Humans on Display at London Zoo
The AP reports:

Caged and barely clothed, eight men and women monkeyed around for the crowds Friday in an exhibit labeled "Humans" at the London Zoo.
"Seeing people in a different environment, among other animals ... teaches members of the public that the human is just another primate," Wills said.

The exhibit puts the three male and five female "homo sapiens" amid their primate relatives. While their neighbors might enjoy bananas and a good scratch, these eight have divided interests, from a chemist hoping to raise awareness about apes to a self-described actor/model and fitness enthusiast.

The human is "just another primate" eh? Throw out morality, self-control, and conscience. Man is just another primate and therefore subject to all primal urges, right? Add this one to the mounting evidence that the religion of evolutionism (because yes, it is a religion) wants your sensibility.

It's Alright for Kids to Cuss at Teachers
At least that's what a UK school has decided. In an effort to curb foul language, authorities at an upper school in Wellingborough, England have decided to enforce the 5 strikes rule. According to the UK's "Daily Mail," the new policy is as follows:

"Within each lesson the teacher will initially tolerate (although not condone) the use of the f-word (or derivatives) five times and these will be tallied on the board so all students can see the running score...Over this number the class will be spoken to by the teacher at the end of the lesson."

The "Transgeneration"
In case you were looking for reasons not to watch television this season, the Sundance Channel has announced a new show which will follow college students as they seek to "change more than just their major." On this show, the boys are not boys, nor are the girls girls. In fact, each sex wishes it were the opposite. This concept just disturbs me beyond measure. While I am certain this program will be presented in true "feel good tv" format, I wonder how truly far from our original purpose has humanity fallen? Glorified confusion is dangerous no matter how it is served.

PC Pre-School Teachers Wanted
A friend forwarded me this local Craig's List job advertisement for a pre-school teacher which included the phrase, "Applicants must also be familiar with Anti-Bias philosophies." Somehow I don't think this sentence is referring to racial profiling. "Anti-Bias philosophies?" Please.

And the battle ensues....

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August 26, 2005

This site has been sporadically updated, I know. I am one busy girl. As an aside, do you know that it is near impossible for me to read, write, or say the word "sporadically" without conjuring lines from the movie, "Clueless?" If you've seen it, you understand. I'm not going to say much more on that since there is a small part of me that remains somewhat embarrassed by the fact that I've actually watched that movie. Ah the power of the film industry. I digress.

A reader emailed me last week, requesting more "What Ambra is up to/A day in the life" type posts. Not sure I'm willing to go there, but I will tell you this: I take a plethora of vitamins every day (as we all should) and they are easier on the stomach when taken with food. A few minutes ago, I didn't have any food near me save a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts. So I grabbed a doughnut and ate it with my vitamins. Tell me that is not funny.

I think I am going to spend a great deal of next week, publicly responding to email Dear Abbey style. From abortion to spanking to Kanye West, my inbox this week has seen some interesting stuff. Why not share it with the world? (Anonymously of course) If you have a request, shoot it my way. I'd be glad to offer my perspective. That is, unless I don't have one.

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Technology for a Better World Part II
August 24, 2005

Though Google's not the first to do it, this is going to rock the globe, man. You have no idea how cool it makes me feel to know that even though it officially launched today, I've been using this program for a few weeks already.

More Buzz:
- PC World
- Sillicon
- BBC News

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Why I'm Not a Republican Parts I, II, III, IV
Reflections on the Ill-Read Society
The ROI of a Kid
The Double-Minded Haters
Hip-Hop in Education: Do You Wanna Revolution?
Oh parent Where Art Thou?
Requisite Monthly Rant: the State of the Nation
College Curriculum Gone Wild
Walmart Chronicles
An Open Letter to American Idol
Gonorrhea and the City

I Have a Talk Show