Thursday, October 16, 2014

CHEEPER BY THE HUNDRED

I love audio cassette tapes. Though they've fallen out of favour with North American consumers, this venerable medium still has its plusses.

One of my pet peeves with digital media is that most CD players won't resume playing at the point when I stopped the track. Cassettes and their players have no such problem. They resume at the same place when you've stopped them.

CDs and DVDs are fragile. One little scratch at the beginning and the whole disk is ruined. My mom discovered that fact when she scratched her name into the metal coating of her disks. Cassettes, on the other hand,  can take moderate abuse. Even if the tape snags in the machine, it can be carefully extracted and wound by hand back into the shell. The sound at that point is garbled but the whole recording isn't ruined.

Many third world people still use cassette players and recorders. I'm in contact with a retired minister who puts out a cassette magazine for blind subscribers. As many seniors find digital media, especially accessing it on computers, to be confusing to them, cassettes are still ideal for providing their entertainment.

My minister friend also sends cassettes overseas to missionaries in Nigeria and Philippines. Since he doesn't know how to use a computer, I tape good Christian programming from web sites and send the cassettes to him. He then sends them to blind subscribers of his Vision Tape Ministry and to missionaries. Some episodes of UNSHACKLED!, which I send him, are translated into local languages by missionaries. I've heard that the people they work with are delighted to read the stories in their mother tongues.

Thanks to National Audio Company, I have an ample supply of brand new cassettes. They even have some on sale from time to time. I was able to buy two-hundred C-62 leaderless cassettes for only twenty cents each. Now I have plenty of tapes to record good teaching programs on from my computer.

I've also been able to buy used tapes from local folks and reuse them for spreading good Bible teaching. Two women even gave me some commercially-produced music cassettes of varying lengths to recycle. This is helpful when a sermon isn't long enough to put on a C-62 tape.

In my heart, there's a soft spot for the tape traders of the nineties. Independent musicians found that the cassette was a good medium to reach audiences with their music. People often traded those tapes or made compilations of underground bands' tracks. I treasure those home-made albums. The photocopied graphics give them a unique quality not found in slick commercial tape productions.

I wrote about my own music in How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity. Check it out at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Powel's Books.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

THE VERY CROSS OF CHRIST

I'm amazed how much we depend on coffee. People, including myself, become crabby and tired without a morning caffeine fix. Christians are no different.

I can remember a few times when somebody forgot to start the coffee pot at church and the Sunday school members grew mutinous. Some people even began pacing until the coffee was ready.


I find this doting on coffee to be rather amusing. Our morning cup of Joe is as necessary to us as water was to the Israelites. I also think it's wonder full how people perk up, pun intended, once the caffeine kicks in.

Back when I attended a house church, based in the home owned by two women, I learned of a humorous situation which happened each weekday morning. They owned a coffee pot that made a sighing noise as it brewed the coffee. Each woman assumed the other was sighing until they were in the same kitchen and the machine gave out its human-like expression of resignation. I couldn't help but laugh when I heard the machine for myself.

I often was chided for my sense of humor by humorless Christians. Many of those incidents are recorded in How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity. Read more about this wondrous testimony of God's providence at Amazon (where you can order coffee) as well as Barnes & Noble.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

BUT I ALWAYS THOUGHT THAT I'D SEE HER AGAIN

My sister Diane was a huge part of my childhood. In fact, she was the only one who really liked me back then. Neighbourhood kids threw stones and called me names so I didn't have any boys as pals.

I remember how we were free to walk all over our neighbourhood and even to stores in Fort Saskatchewan. We had no worries about perverts snatching children off the street. Neither did Mom need to constantly supervise us. We explored the creek, the golf course, and we even played by the water tower.

Diane also liked to teas me but in a friendly way. One of our play-fight arguments was our birthdays. For a few weeks, she was the same numerical age as I was. It was a running joke with us because I used to deny she was exactly the same age but she'd refute that. It was all in fun and nobody's feelings were hurt.

Diane also used to brag that she shared her birthday with John Lennon. Nobody famous that I knew of back then had the same birthday as me. Even so, I took vicarious pride in my sister and her birthday.

That idyllic state of affairs came to a sudden end when I was sent 500 miles from my home and family to Jericho Hill School. I was only allowed to visit home at Christmas and summer holidays. I was also allowed to visit my home for Easter three times. Diane was still fond of me, and I of her, but she found new kids to play with.

I still find it odd that Diane has been dead for more than ten years. I assumed we'd live far into our retirement years. God apparently had other plans when my beloved sister died of a rare liver disease. Paraphrasing the line in James Taylor's "Fire and Rain" song, I always thought that I'd see her one more time again.

Diane also was mentioned in all three of my memoirs. The first two are featured on the Bruce Atchison's books page. How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Virtual Bookworm Publishers until the end of October 2014.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

I REALLY PUT MY KNEE IN IT THAT TIME

I'm sure you've heard people say, "You really put your foot in it that time." That expression means that somebody committed a serious faux pas. I went one better and put my knee in it.

Back in September of 1973, I rented a tiny basement room in a large house. One afternoon after school, I somehow locked myself out when I went to the bathroom which I shared with my next door neighbour. Instead of going upstairs and asking the landlord to let me in, I decided to remove the window and crawl inside.

After much grunting and straining, I pried the window out of it's frame.  All the while,, my heart pounded. "God, please don't let anybody think I'm doing a break in," I prayed as I struggled through the narrow opening. After I was inside, I closed the inside window.

Then I made sure I had my key in my pocket as I climbed the basement staires. Once outside, I knelt and pushed the storm window back into the frame.

Before I knew it, my knee pushed forward and shattered the pane of glass. I now had two problems. What would I say to the landlord and how would I keep my room from getting cold.

An idea suddenly struck me. I could tape the shards of glass back together and hope the landlord wouldn't notice. I fetched a roll of masking tape from my room and set to work repairing the window as best as I could. Then I went indoors and taped the other side of the pane pieces. The tape held but the window was weak and wobbly.

The landlord didn't take long to notice my unorthodox handiwork. I apologized profusely and explained what happened. Fortunately for me, he forgave my clumsiness. Two days later, he replaced the pane.

I now make a point of having my keys with me when I go out. If the weather is warm enough, I don't shut the inside door. Never do I ever want to suffer the embarrassment of locking myself out like I did forty-one years ago.

I described my tiny room in greater detail in How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity. This memoir of God's astonishing providence is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Virtual Bookworm Publishers.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Look Mom, I'm on YouTube!

When I was a child, I thought it would be cool to be on TV.  In fact, I dreamt of having my own television channel.  Though some people felt angry when I bought a black and white camera more than two decades ago, being that I'm legally blind, I made good use of it to create videos for my electronic music compositions.  I also bought a PXL-2000 Fisher-Price camcorder and enjoyed using it.

Thanks to YouTube, anybody can have their videos viewed around the world.  I regret that I didn't sign up for it years ago.  Friends kept sending me YouTube links but I didn't realize that I could also participate.

When Writers Guild of Alberta members, such as Simon Rose, used YouTube to promote their books, I gave serious thought to making my own promotional book ads.  It took me more than a year to actually sign up for the service.  I had a notion that it would be difficult to do.  The relief that it wasn't hard at all felt like coming to school for a test and finding out the teacher canceled it.  I was already signed up with Google so joining YouTube was easy.

I have many videos on YouTube at the moment but that number may change as I search my drives and disks for more of them to upload.  Though longer ones take a lot of time to put on the site, I can always use my old DOS computer and write while the file is being uploaded.  You can see my music videos as well as "footage" of my bunnies, at the VE6XTC page.

While you're at it, why not check out my Bruce Atchison's books page? My latest book, called How I Was Razed, is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Virtual Bookworm Publishers.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

THE BOWLING BALL CONVOY TRICK

One of Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind's proudest boasts was its two-lane bowling alley. The chief access ability feature of the facility was  a set of chrome hand railings to guide blind children as they bowled their balls. What the proud administrators failed to tell the public was that the alley lacked pin-setting machines. Two hapless students inevitably spent their entire recreational periods setting up pins and sending back balls.

Even so, the more inventive of us victims found ways to amuse ourselves. Here's an example of our mischief and how we had the last laugh on our dormitory supervisor, Mr. Moiarty.

I didn't mind going bowling and I understood that somebody needed to set up pins as well as send the balls back. Even so, I hated those tournaments which the intermediate and senior dorms held. Worse yet, Mr. Moiarty badgered me until I agreed to set up pins for the teams.

The first Saturday afternoon of the tournament was warm and sunny. Nevertheless, the weather clashed with my bleak mood as I shuffled into the bowling alley. While I was setting pins up, and before I signaled that I had moved out of the way, he decided to lob a ball down the alley.

"Get out of the way," he shouted, suddenly realizing what he had done.

"What!?" I called. The ball hit my right shin with a resounding crack. I doubled over, howling in agony. Mr. Moiarty raced down the lane to the pin-setting booth, picked me up in his arms, and carried me to the infirmary. All the way there, he apologized for not looking first. Fortunately, my shin was only bruised but it ached for a couple of weeks. However, that accident didn't excuse me from setting up pins for long. As a result, my loathing of organized sports grew rapidly that autumn.

Though working in the pin-setting booth was tedious, Geoffrey and I, who usually were sent back there, did find ways to amuse ourselves. The funniest of these was to hoard balls until the bowlers ran out of them. Then, the two of us placed almost all of the balls on the rails. Like a convoy of trucks, they rolled toward the rack. All but one traveled up the slope to where the bowlers waited. When that ball rolled slowly back toward the pin-setting booth, Geoffrey or I sent the final ball down the rails. It collided with the other ball, knocking it onto the alley and toward the door.

The game caught on with the other boys, much to Mr. Moiarty's annoyance. I happened to be at the other end of the alley one evening when he chased a rogue ball into the lobby. The ludicrous sight of our supervisor frantically grasping at and missing the ball had me doubled over in uncontrollable laughter. We considered ourselves fortunate that no punishments were meted out for showing such disrespect. However, we giggled behind Mr. Moiarty's back whenever someone mentioned our bowling ball convoy game.

You can read more of our pranks in Deliverance from Jericho: Six Years in a Blind School, available at the Bruce Atchison's books page.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

A SANCTIFIED SENSE OF HUMOR

It's truly sad that many non-Christians think that the followers of Christ are humorless grouches. Such people never met folks such as myself. Not only do I enjoy puns, word plays, and the like but I love jokes which don't hurt anybody.

It was the highly esteemed, and pressed, Goon Show that helped me think up many good puns and clever jokes. Being a born-again Christian, I adapted my new-found skill to my Bible reading and prayer. For example, why did Jonah have a strange childhood? He was brought up by a great fish. Nobody was demeaned in that joke, yet it's funny.

Some stories in the Bible also are extremely hilarious to me. One of my favourites is when the apostle Peter was locked in jail for the night. An angel woke him up and opened the gates for him. Meanwhile, believers were praying late into the night for his release. When Peter knocked at the door, a woman named Rhoda didn't let him in but ran back to tell the good news to the prayer warriors. They didn't believe her at first. Peter kept knocking until somebody let him in. Hear those Christians were praying for Peter's freedom, and yet they didn't believe it when it happened. To me, that's side-splittingly funny.

I also use puns and quips in my daily prayers. When I misspeak, I blame the toothpaste. That's because after brushing with it, my tongue feels armed and hammered. God understands not only what I mean but that I got the idea from Bible teacher Steve Brown. In his case, he blamed the microphone for his verbal fumbles.

My mind tends to wander while I'm praying and shaving. When I forget what I was saying, I tell god that my train of thought left without me so I'll wait for the next one. I then ask him for a leash for my mind. After all, it's the leash he can do. Many Christians have a struggle with keeping their minds on prayer but I'm sure few use that excuse to justify it.

Additionally, I ask that the problems of my friends could be turned into a deck of cards. That way, they can deal with them. I know that there is nothing wrong with playing cards. They can be used or misused like any other object. By the way, my dad taught us to count by teaching us Blackjack. It didn't result in us gambling our lives away.

I sure am happy that whenever I don't know what I'm talking about, God does. He created us with emotions for his own good reasons. Imagine how dull this world would be without joy, elation, contentment and glee. If we didn't have sorrow, sadness, and even depression, we wouldn't be able to relate to others in their time of hardship. Even anger can be used for good when it spurs a person into action to correct injustices. Laughter is also a good emotional release. Even the writer of Proverbs understood that.

All of those emotions and more are mentioned in my latest book, How I Was Razed. Read more about God's wondrous providence at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Virtual Bookworm Publishers.