Archive for July, 2009
Today, Aidan tested out for his Yellow stripe on his belt In Tae Kwon Do. It was really awesome because the place he gets his lessons from really makes an effort to care for the children under their care; his test was an affirming experience and really appropriate for a five year old to do without being condesending; he was given respect and credit for his work and wasn’t talked down to.
One of my favorite moments as a parent, though, came today too. As part of his test, he was asked to break a board; he was a little nervous about doing it. But, they gave him a last minute ‘how-to’ along with the other kids and then they brought the board out and he split it in two. When he came over I think his pride in his accomplishment was about to spill out onto the ground. It was rewarding to be there to give him a hug and have the privelege of saying ‘I’m proud of you!’ Yay Aidan!
It’s 9:11 p.m.
Right now 3000 people are being ‘helped’ by someone named Ashley pay their imaginary bill. 2900 people are being told they have extra charges that have been made by Sprint’s System (aka ‘Skynet’) that are incintives to keep them as loyal Sprint customers just one more billing cycle. Right now, 4500 people are being called by Skynet telling them that they are being sent to collections for charges that 300 customer service reps told them were non-existent. The 300 CSRs are unable to do anything like mail customers notices telling them that they don’t have a bill but skynet believes that they do anyway.
20 people are walking into Sprint stores to pay their bill and Skynet believes that they should be kept as customers so they are being charged twice for the privelege of paying their bill in store. That’s what’s happening on the now network and you too can be part of it when you join the loyal Sprint customer hordes.
Ok, here’s the story. We were told a while ago that switching to the iPhone and ATT was going to cost us if we didn’t get through our contract. If we canceled 30 days before our contract was over we wouldn’t get charged 250 for Sprint’s pain and suffering seeing us go (after 9 years). So, I called at T-30 and was told by a customer service representative that we would be no longer charged anything; our relationship with Sprint was, effectively, over. Apparently Skynet was a little sad with him because Skynet decided to send us one more bill for 65.04.
Ok. Cool we got the bill and after an initial phonecall to Sprint we explained our shock and surprise at getting it and doing budgeting, would pay it at the end of July (we got the bill in late June). The CSR was fine with that and, as long as Skynet agreed, would be more than willing to write a note in our file saying ‘oh, these fine people (oh great Skynet) will be more than happy to pay the bill and leave at the end of the month’. The problem, though, is that Sprint’s system (again, aka Skynet) doesn’t really like customers to leave so we angered the system and it decided to threaten to send us to collections. We called our friendly CSR back who assured us that the bill would not, in fact, be sent to collections and that it would be due at the end of the month (July). We made the silly mistake of trusting the human over Skynet. Skynet doesn’t understand, it only wants to devour customers and eat money to sustain itself. Skynet issued us a letter saying that we had, in fact, angered it and it was going to reffer us to collections because our bill was grossly past due.
We called back and talked to a CSR who waived our late fee for the bill and told us that it was due at the end of July. Skynet would have none of this. It called us and in it’s best robotic voice threatned us with a collections notice. Enter today. I had a great hour long conversation at lunch with someone named Veronica who told me, again, that it was due at the end of July. Veronica, though, regretfully told me that Skynet had seen her surfing youtube too much and she was unable to email me a written notice that the bill was due at the end of July, nor was she able to send me an email saying that as well (although another CSR had happily sent an email earlier in the month. I believe that this may have been before Skynet thought we were leaving.
So, in our crafting a plan to escape the great ‘System’ of Sprint, we decided to pay our bill today in the store (figuring Skynet would issue us a receipt and we’d be able to prove that our bill was paid and we were not going to be charged again a late fee). Melissa went into the store and ‘The System’ charged us a $5 fee for the privelege of paying the bill in store, but it tried to sneak it in twice, probably hoping for a ‘tip’ or hoping to grab one last dollar from us before we left Skynet’s evil clutches. It took 10 minutes, a few in store clerks and a sacrificed chicken (we think) to Skynet to be told that Skynet might be able to send us the 5 dollars back sometime later.
Oh, you silly sentient System. If only you understood the concept of CSR notes or stamps, or email you might be able to care for your customers before they leave your ‘Now’ network.
So, just picked up ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ by Derek Webb and I’m wrestling with my opinion of his song ‘What Matters More’. It’s a scathing rebuke of Fred Phelps, Westbro Baptist Church and the ‘godhatesfags.com’ crowd (I’m not linking…you can look it up).
Here’s the thing: Derek comes from a long line of singer-songwriter types who are not ‘got’ by the CCM crowd at large. They are, by definition, thinkers, worshipers, askers of big questions. As a result, there is a certain amount of leeway given to them in exploring lyrical territory.
With this song, Derek does two things, I think, weakly. He underestimates the power of words. In the song he drops the S bomb: “Cause we can talk and debate until we’re blue in the face/About the language and tradition that he’s comin’ to save/Meanwhile we sit just like we don’t give a shit/About 50,000 people who are dyin’ today” and in the same song ironically uses the line: “Cause if you really believe what you say you believe/You wouldn’t be so damn reckless with the words you speak”
Yes, words mean things and so do the way you say them; even in this crazy post-modern world we still rely on the message and the medium. But I can see the thoughline here ‘You know, they’ll be more concerned that I dropped a cuss word than they will the people dying of AIDS in the US’. But, yet, that message of the song was directed straight at the members of the church; a church whose ears will be deaf to the message, even if they hear it, by the use of four letters.
We rely on messages and the medium translates message and communicates as much as the message. Tonight, we watched ‘Willy Wonka’ with Gene Wilder and Aidan was frightened out of his socks and is now lying in his bed with the lights on in the hallway because he didn’t want to turn into a blueberry or be a ‘bad egg’. I could go on at length about the Law given as message in the movie and the horror brought on Aidan’s 5 year old imagination. But, oddly enough, it was grace and love that brought comfort to his spirit as we gave him a dose of that before he went off into his dark room.
‘What Matters More’ is roughly the equivilant. It’s berating Westbro’s love of ‘Law’ so much that grace is lost in the rebuke. A well crafted rebuke, which is what the song is, loses its teeth because of Webb’s choice of words. So, what’s left? Is it a spiritual ‘pile on’? The unfortunate consequences of such a song might end up being the raft of people who spiritually polish their own turds pining away at the idiocy of Westbro’s attendees.
Stockholm Syndrome’s message brings with it a healthy dose of freedom. Is it good art? Maybe. It’s definately an meritable artistic leap for Webb on my second listen through the CD. Is it effective commentary on the state of the church? Yes, it’s eloquent at other points in the album. Is it an effective message? I’m not so sure. Webb would do well to mine the depths of hope and grace that he has to give and might find that a longer message of hope, grace, and love might allow the fear the Law brings to dissipate and allow people to see the God who loves them is in the dark rooms of their life.