Saturday, December 31, 2005
If you get bored (in other words, if the bowl games suck), please feel free to browse through. Maybe even leave a comment (c'mon, Jennie and WJ can't do it all themselves!).
Don't say anything nasty. I know where your broadcast lives!
Thursday, December 29, 2005
Speaking of udders, my grandparents have a little ranch in northeastern Oklahoma. Three of the cows jumped the fence. Actually, I guess that may be a bit misleading. At least one of them's a bit bullish. So, I - along with three of my brothers - spent a good part of Christmas afternoon helping to guide them back inside. Not too hard. Keep my distance, stay behind them (way far behind. Even my rural-ignorance knows better than to stand behind a cow.) and ocassionally give them a one-man Mexican Stand-off. Good thing they're about as afraid of me as I am of them, because I'm smarter than them and can recognize their fear. Plus, they weigh - what - six times what I do. After we steered them in (get it? Steer? Yep, you're as much a lame as me) feeding time begins and Chuckie and I get to do our Brokeback Mountain jokes while Caleb is avoiding fresh dung while helping gramps move the cattle to feeding. (Some of them, unfortunately, were paralyzed by the stupid little dog who wanted to eat the rest of the feed. At this point, I wanted the cows to realize their weight.) I was quite shocked, however, during the feeding, at the sight of one tying to mount another. She was avoiding his lewd and inappropriate conduct. The stud wasn't getting the hint, however. Anyway, enough anthromorphologizing. This isn't March of the Penguins. I wasn't aware my grandparents had bulls. I guess it only makes sense. Nobody's really making money on this ranch, so you don't want to spend more money buying baby cows. Yet spotting cows' sex organs wasn't really how I planned to spend my Sunday afternoon.
Went back to my grandparent's house to watch the Bears stomp the Packers. Don't tell the rest of Chicago, but I like Favre. I feel sorry for him. I don't think it's his fault that the Packs suck. He'd threw multiple interceptions per game at the peak of his powers. Only now, there's no running game to keep him from throwing so many erroneous passes, and no receivers capable of understanding that he's gonna throw it up, they just need to be there. And, in this instance, he was pitted against the best defense in the league. But, hey, the Bears are in second place in the NFC (not last place as Sports Illustrated predicted four or five short months ago) with a first-round bye (which means we only have to win two games to make it to the big game). And I'm liking our chances with Grossman (aka Mr. Glass) opening up the offensive end of the field. I'm still saying the Super Bowl is within our grasp. Now, imagine winning SB's XX AND XL. Crazy! And no Fridge in sight. In any case, a great Christmas gift.
And speaking of great Christmas gifts, I've been wanting to do something about the weather recently. Especially since last year's tsunami and watching Hotel Rwanda, I've been restless and wanting to help those who truly are less fortunate. Add that to this sense of lethargic anti-consumerism that I've been talking about but hardly practicing and I decided that I was going to donate all gifts this year to World Vision. And, as may be imagined, that didn't go over so well with some members of my family. You know, I don't care so much. No, wait, I do. But this is what I came to the conclusion of, I'm gonna try that for the next year. Seriously. For all birthday gifts, I'm giving out gift donations to Red Cross, World Vision, One whatever other non-for-profit the recipient wants (within range of my conscience, of course). And I want the same thing for my birthday. I want people, instead of giving me gift certificates or other things I don't really need, to make out donations to people who need more than I - or just about anybody I know - need, people who are in real need, not this imaginary need most Westerners have for excess, but a tangible, physical, bodily need.
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
6) Donald Miller - Blue Like Jazz. I know a lot of Christian leaders are putting this book at the top of their lists. And it's good. But I like his third book better. And honestly, I'd rather have put Dallas Willard's Spirit of the Disciplines in this list. But I realized that it doesn't qualify, as I only read through a quarter of it. Darn my ADD.
5) Fyodor Doesteovsky - The Idiot. This is the only fiction that I've really felt like reading this year and the only fiction I'll be taking with me on my retreat next week. I don't know if I would've made it anywhere near as far with The Brothers Karamozov, written around the same period. Much like the characters in the novel, however, I've instantly fallen in love with the titular prince.
4) Philip Yancey - The Bible Jesus Read. I've had this hankering for all things historically grounded and Jesus. And Yancey has had a big part of fulfilling and feeding that itch (along with N.T. Wright). In this book, he looks at the suffering and the God that Jesus would have been well-acquianted with from the Holy (and often ignored in contemporary churches) Scriptures of the Old Testament, the only Bible that Jesus would've read. Of utmost enjoyment to me was the chapter on the Psalms, the frustrating and glorious dregs of humanity speaking to God (as most of the books that Yancey chose in this selection are) through suffering, despair, faith, doubt, victories, losses, worship and other such human experiences.
3) Eugene Peterson - A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. Peterson, the translator/paraphraser of The Message version of the Bible, has a way at tugging at the simple Christian trying to live the simple Christian life and yet being pulled in all directions. He, having been a minister for so many years to a relatively small church, knows the simple truth of the Gospels, that God has freed us through Christ to live for him and in him and through him, all of our lives and in every bit of our lives. As the title suggests, it's completely against the grain of the sexy, Your Best Life Now, Instant Discipleship, Jesus' Guide to Being a Successful CEO type of modern crap prevailing around, allowing for Kanye West to get Gospel music recognition without living or even acknowleging a truly Christian worldview of Christ as King. Anyway, enough of the tirade. The book isn't angry. I am. Sorry.
2) Philip Yancey - The Jesus I Never Knew. I accidentally left this in the church van a few months back. I hope whoever has it is enjoying it as much as I was. I have to buy a new copy. Yancey's a great writer, a bit of a journalist with a keen eye for the right phrasing. And I love his attention and gaze at the iconoclastic God in the flesh. And the voices he brings in to also comment on Jesus.
1) Donald Miller - Searching for God Knows What. Okay, despite being one of the few books I managed to finish reading (and relatively quickly at that), it's also - for my head-into-Jesus fascination this year, certainly - a great book. Not as scholarly or comprehensive as Yancey's (not that Yancey is scholarly... umm... I'm just digging myself into a big hole here aren't I?), but certainly more personal, more reactionary, more visceral.
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
6) Tie: Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit and Broken Flowers.
The W&G film is chock-full of puns. So many, and some pretty decently, that I had to laugh, several times. Also, it's a watchable film, meaning that there's a lot moving with each frame. I still don't know how they moved the bunnies in space. Or why they decided to leave fingerprints all over the clay figures. BF is a completely different movie, all atmosphere, some disgusting shock, some anticipated disgust (there's a daughter trying to titillate the protagonist by the name of Lolita. The protaganist, a burned-out lady's man trying to come to amends with his philandeering past is named Don Jonston, and there are several references throughout to his namesake - don't think too hard on that one.) But two things are going for this piece, 1) Bill Murray; 2) Jim Jarmusch. What is interesting in this moving picture is the space and silence that these two collaborate on so well.
5) Serenity - Upon getting around to watching the Firefly series on DVD (and loving it), I saw this film as a good continuation (hopefully, not a coda) to what Joss Whedon had already, though too briefly, begun on Fox. Not a great filmic movie (Whedon's first, abouttimeIsay), but un, exciting and with some themes to chew upon (the requisite Whedon's teamwork and sacrifice being tentamount, but, I'm a sucker for those punches). As far as the movie/series: Think of Han Solo before he came into contact with Old Ben and the rebels and when he shot first, only slightly closer to Earth and you have a good idea.
4) Batman Begins - OK, so I ended up liking it. Very well done. I rarely watch a movie more than once, but if it holds up under multiple viewings, it gets top honors. Everything else there is to say about it, I already did.
3) The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - Maybe I'll like it more, maybe I won't, I don't know. Tilda Swinton was (and apparently is, in real life) pure evil. The girl who played Lucy a heart-stringer and a pure delight, and Liam Neeson had a decent Aslan voice (much more regal than the nasally and pseudo-Shakespearean actor trying to keep up with the legacy of the Lion in the Focus on the Family audiobooks. Sorry, Adam). But really, credit goes to C.S. Lewis. Anyway, who listens to me?
2) Kung-Fu Hustle - It made me laugh. Hard. Often. A live-action martial-arts Looney Tunes with physical comedy coming from all directions. A much better review is here.
1) Hotel Rwanda - I dare you to watch it and not cry. If a mark of a real work of art is by how it moves you - how it truly, deeply affects you and the way you view the world and draws you to actual movement - then this would be the piece de resistance of the year. No propaganda, just a a necessary and powerful story told well. Give to Compassion Int'l, the Red Cross, Data, World Vision. Press your congressperson, president, prime minister, mayor, water reclamation district manager, to action on behalf of justice, to release the financial burbens of Third World (or, more accurately, 2/3's World) Nations. Get others to join on the humanitarian bandwagon. But mostly, promote peace and love and - like Daniel - beseech God on all of our behalf.
Friday, December 23, 2005
6. Switchfoot - Nothing Is Sound. A rock record, nice. I've followed them since the smart little surfers recorded that little demo and then went on to be produced by Charlie Peacock and then appeared on the radio. The difference between them and Jars of Clay (a band which I respect, btw)? I still buy all of Switchfoot's stuff (largely because I don't have to go to a Christian bookstore to get it), and I legitimately devoured Foreman and Co. before they ever got any press. However, both groups show a highly mature world-view and social consciousness completely out of step with the Contemporary Christian Music I grew up with (sans the Taylors Steve and Terry).
5. L.A. Symphony - Disappear Here - I've reported or discussed them a couple times. 'Nuff said. It's fun. It's a little romp. I do want to add this caveat, though: One of my youth girls was dancing to an old LAS song during a Christmas party last week. I was happy. There's hope for the youth yet. Speaking of LAS and Christmas, hear this ditty. "Call me Santa the Jerk."
4. DeepSpace 5 - Unique, Just Like Everyone Else - In lieu of a new Mars Ill record, more proof that the best thing going on in the aforementioned CCM scene is in the hip-hop movement - both the more underground and artistic side represented by the likes of DS5 and Mars Ill and the more upfront Gospel Rappers represented by the Cross Movement crew. Personally, I think both sides are necessary and great at what they're doing, and being where - seemingly - they need to be. Also UJLEE still has my lyric for the year, "I wanna touch the fans like Ron Artest." By the way, some of my misgivings about the leanings on rock in this record have been allayed. I'm liking it more.
3. Over the Rhine - Drunkard's Prayer - I almost forgot that this record came out this year. I also forgot to burn it to my laptop. Shame on me (actually, there are four on this list yet to be burned as of yet, which tells you how random I've been about this business). I talked about them earlier this year, also, but not for long if I recollect. Very raw, very stripped, sometimes sad but yet, always sweet and inviting and warm even though the subject matter (a marriage on the rocks) isn't. It helps that I know the outcome, that the sacrifices that Linford and Karen made to save their marriage work worked. But then again, my favorite album (Dig, Adam Again) did not end so happily. I shudder. I guess this is a topic for a longer post (yeah, like I'll ever get around to that!) PS, listening to the cd in the car ride home. My brother (a total hip hop head) was humming along, much like my grandma did to my second selection.
2. Sufjan Stevens - Illinois - I'm not using the pun title. One of the cleverest albums I've ever heard, only with far more substance than a They Might Be Giants LP. "John Wayne Gacy, Jr." is one of the most disturbing songs I've ever heard, so much so that I have to hit skip every time I hear it. That's a compliment. That's how much it burns into the psyche like a madman. One of my friends/co-teachers thinks it's a gip, though, that the song "Chicago" only marginally deals with Chicago. It's okay, I say. The album only marginally deals with Illinois. As cliche as it may seem, the topic here is the human condition. Illinois is just the template with which to do it, however beautifully he does it. Brian Wilson may have used Southern California (as well as his bedroom) and a beautiful and avante-garde pop orchestra to explore the turbulance of youth, Stevens is using the history and typography of Illinois as well as a beautiful and avante-garde pop orchestra (arranged solely by him) to explore the turbulance of contemporary times. Edit: NPR has called it the best record for the last few years, and Jeffrey Overstreet is all over it.
1. Arcade Fire - Funeral - I'm not so much a music head that I could accurately make the comparison, but I think Brian Wilson's mantle is being passed down. This is chamber rock at its sweetest, with plenty of grounded emotion, changes within songs, pulls and pushes, and a beautiful and short-lived Ronnettes impersonation. And, oh yeah, it rocks. Anyway, everybody has talked about this release (including Bowie, U2, etc., etc.). I just thought you should know that you need to get this album. And the five above it.
Thursday, December 22, 2005
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
There's nothing to do in the southern/midwestern dustbowl, honestly, at least not in my parents' corner of the state (near the Ozarks and MO). So, we tend to spend a lot of our time at the multiplex the next state over (seriously) or at the Wal-Mart (though that's increasingly depressing and losing its interest for me). So, I haven't seen several movies that may just be of interest.
And what are those movies, you may ask?
King Kong. Apparently, not the great feast we should expect from Peter Jackson. More like three hour popcorn. OK, but I want free refills.
The Chronic-What-cles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Honestly, saw this. Also doesn't live up to expectations for me. But my expectations were exceptionally high. Good movie, great family movie, great, great source.
Spring-Time for Hitler, I mean, The Producers. No, of course I never saw it in its show revues and only caught glimpses of it from the original movie. But, why the heck not? Oh yeah, money.
Munich. Doubt it'll be out. Probably not good family fodder (I'm the only film nerd - a few steps below film geek, not as cool in the same circles - in my immediate family), but it'd top these other movies, much as Good Night and Good Luck topped my wanting to see Pride and Prejudicial Romantic Foppery.
Rent. Why? 'Cause, Everybody's got AIDS. (Ten points to the first correct credit for that quote/song).
Fun with Dick and Jane. Yes, I loved his memory movie, and the one where a tv producer was playing his God, but Carrey's been out of my favor for a bit. This looks like both a good return to form and a forward-looking bit for him (though Enron's been out of the news for a couple years. In fact, it may be good for that reason. Bring people to talk about the greediness of the culture of a slash-and-burn corporation economy.
Monday, December 19, 2005
Lucy (as psychologist): I know how you feel about all this Christmas business. I never get what I really want. I always get a lot of stupid toys or clothes or something like that.
CB: What is it you want?
Lucy: Real estate!
Lucy (to Linus, emploring him why he should get rid of his security blanket): I'll give you five good reasons why you should take off that stupid blanket: (counts off her fingers as she makes a fist with them) One, Two, Three, Four, Five.
Linus (having averted that tragedy): Not only is Christmas getting too commercial, it's also getting too dangerous!
Other kids to CB as he goes out to get a Christmas tree: Don't mess it up, Charlie Brown, like you always do!
Linus' answer to Charlie Brown's question, "Isn't there anyone hear who could tell me what Christmas is all about?"
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them; and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
The Vince Guaraldi soundtrack.
This great scene
The child actors (literally) stumbling over their own lines.
The not-so-subtle arch-to-the left that the poor tree makes after Charlie Brown puts an ornament on the top, which he imitates as he lumbers off, also to the left.
The support that Charlie and his tree literally and figuratively get from his friends.
Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown, you old block-head!
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
The following is from chapter 3, Providence: God guards you from every evil. It's inspiration is Psalm 121. As quoted in full from the Message paraphrase:
1 I look up to the mountains; does my strength come from mountains? 2 No, my strength comes from God, who made heaven, and earth, and mountains. 3 He won't let you stumble, your Guardian God won't fall asleep. 4 Not on your life! Israel's Guardian will never doze or sleep. 5 God's your Guardian, right at your side to protect you - 6 Shielding you from sunstroke, sheltering you from moonstroke. 7 God guards you from every evil, he guards your very life. 8 He guards you when you leave and when you return, he guards you now, he guards you always.
The moment we say no to the world and yes to God, all our problems are solved,
all our questions answered, all our troubles over...
So, already, by the first sentence, he has grabbed my attention. I know that these statements are not true. I know that, fundamentally, they are a lie. But it's a beautiful lie. And I know it's a beautiful lie because I hear it so often, especially by and to novices and seekers. And, truth is, I want to believe it. I want to say that it's gotta be the truth, that I've been living a lie and that the moment I wake up to faith is the moment that life will cease to be a bother. After further probing, Peterson counters,
Is that what you believe? If it is, I have some incredibly good news for you.
You are wrong...
The promise of the psalm - and both Hebrews and
Christians have always read it this way - is not that we shall never stub our
toes but that no injury, no illness, no accident, no distress will have evil
power over us, hat is, will be able to seperate us from God's purposes in us...
No literature is more realistic and honest in facing the harsh facts of
life than the Bible. At no time is there the faintest suggestion that the life of faith exempts us from difficulties.
Do yout think the way to tell the story of the Christian journey is to describe its trials and tribulations? It is not. It is to name and to describe God who preserves, accompanies and rules us.
All the water in the oceans cannot sink a ship unless it gets inside. Nor can all the trouble in the world harm us unless it gets within us. That is the promise of the psalm: "God guards you from every evil." Not the demon in the loose stone ["He won't let you stumble"], not the fierce attack of the sun god ["Shielding you from sunstroke"], not the malign influence of the moon goddess ["Sheltering you from moonstroke," thought to be the cause of lunacy] - not any of these can separate you from God's call and purpose...
Psalms 121 says that the same faith that works in the big things works in the little things. The God of Genesis 1 who brought light out of darkness is also the God of this day who guards you from every evil.
Monday, December 12, 2005
Yes, visit #2000* is only two clicks away, even as I type this. To celebrate, I'm gonna put my cream and sugar in my decaf Americano. Now, why they call it Americano when so few Americanos drink it is beyond me.
And, as a bonus, for no apparent reason at all, I have included a bad facsimile of a great mural we have outside my school (where I teach Language Arts) in homage of one of the greatest shortstops to ever play the game, and a true humanitarian - Roberto Clemente.
Peace y'all. And thank you.
Sunday, December 11, 2005
I got this chain through email (Thanks Jen), but these things are transferable (duh!). I've been sick this week and the last couple days have been spent on the catch-up-on-social-life weekend, so not much blogging. And what I've done is fairly easy. So, all that to say, sorry. We'll try again soon. (Though Christmas time is going to be nada. Won't even be by a computer for most of it.)
Anyway, enough of the boring stuff. Now what you've all been waiting to hear:
Three Names You Go By
2. Mr. D
3. J. D. (yeah, pretty boring. Life of a novice teacher.)
Three Parts of Your Heritage
1. Puerto Rican
Three Things That Scare You
1. Anything on Fear Factor
2. My mom's health
Three of Your Everyday Essentials
$1. Quiet Time
Three Things You Are Wearing Right Now
1. Boots (it's snowy, folks)
2. Blue Jeans (not too tight, not too loose)
3. Double t-shirts (one from Urban Youth Workers conference earlier this year, the other from DeepSpace 5)
Three Things You Want Out Of Love
1. To be loved / appreciated
2. To have someone to take care of / serve / love
3. To have someone to share with (laughs, work, service, struggles, peace, nights, God the Father, God the Son, God the Spirit)
Three Physical Things About the Opposite Sex That Appeal to You
3. Fitness / Athleticism
Three of Your Favorite Hobbies
Three Things You Want to do Really Badly Right Now
1. Be with my lady
2. Get some more training in teaching
3. Get off this sickness that's wasting so much of my time (free and otherwise) this year
Three Places You Want to go On Vacation
2. Eastern Asia (part. China, Japan and South Korea)
3. Miami, Ok (where, for some strange reason, most of my family's relocated)
Three Things You Want to Do Before You Die
1. Please God
2. Bring people to know Him
3. Restore families (Directly Jennie's answers, yes. But also, honestly, mine.)
Three Ways that you are stereotypically a Chick/Guy
1. I don't mind getting dirty.
2. I can't stand whining or anything sterotypically femalesque on a guy (cf. 'Mangina Monologues')
3. Use of force
Three people you would like to see take this quiz
1. Christine (jerk!)
2. Micah (happy now?)
3. USS Clueless (will you start blogging again, Miss Busy?)
Friday, December 09, 2005
It was December 24th on Hollis Ave in the dark
When I seen a man chilling with his dog in the park
I approached very slowly with my heart full of fear
Looked at his dog, oh my God, an ill reindeer
But then I was illin because the man had a beard
And a bag full of goodies, 12 o'clock had neared
So I turned my head a second and the man had gone
But he left his driver's wallet smack dead on the lawn
I picket the wallet up then I took a pause
Took out the license and it cold said "Santa Claus"
A million dollars in it, cold hundreds of G's
Enough to buy a boat and matching car with ease
But I'd never steal from Santa, cause that ain't right
So I'm going home to mail it back to him that night
But when I got home I bugged, cause under the tree
Was a letter from Santa and all the dough was for me
It's Christmas time in Hollis Queens
Mom's cooking chicken and collard greens
Rice and stuffing, macaroni and cheese
And Santa put gifts under Christmas trees
Decorate the house with lights at night
Snow's on the ground, snow white so bright
In the fireplace is the yule log
Beneath the mistle toe as we drink egg nog
The rhymes you hear are the rhymes of Darryl's
But each and every year we bust Christmas carrols
Rhymes so loud and proud you hear it
It's Christmas time and we got the spirit
Jack Frost chillin, the orchas out?
And that's what Christmas is all about
The time is now, the place is here
And the whole wide world is filled with cheer
My name's D.M.C. with the mic in my hand
And I'm chilling and coolin just like a snowman
So open your eyes, lend us an ear
We want to say
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Special thanks to lyrics.com for these lyrics.
Saturday, December 03, 2005
Slightly less than an hour after dragging my knuckles through the house (I slept on the couch last night, in a failed attempt to catch some Letterman before the Sandman's visit), I catch snow. As in, on my shoes with the sludging texture of early and late season precipitation in Chicago.
The sight catches my breath like asphysxiation. Everything that is not concrete is white, at least as far as the view from the top is concerned. I feel nostalgic for family visits to the suburbs, for shopping downtown, for highly expandable - and short-living - radio-controlled cars on a track that leads to nowhere but where it began, for twenty-five different rocking versions of "It's Christmas Time," for trips to the suburbs to see family that we only get to be around once a year, for the highly anticipated gifts so perfectly wrapped by our parents that we are given the illusion - however temporarily - that we have not received another pack of underwear, for that extremely rare occasion when we would receive cool draws (e.g., Underoos), for the feeling that somebody cares deeply for me and that I don't need to worry about not a thing - for I'm covered much as the snow covers the ground.
Although I don't doubt that the love is there as much now as it was then (and immeasurable and in various degrees by many people), self-dependence is hard work and will kill a man as surely and grossly as a immense cold.
A Protestant youth group in Germany is releasing a calendar with photographic illustrations from various biblical stories. Says the pastor of the church, Bernd Grasser, "It’s just wonderful when teenagers commit themselves with their hair and their skin to the Bible."
The skin that the pastor is referring to is exposed sin, as in nekkid exposed sin, to illustrate such 'erotic scenes' as a "bare-breasted Delilah cutting Samson’s hair and a nude Eve offering an apple."
Now, that the Bible is filled with nasty violence and eroticism is true and widely known to anyone who has read the Old Testament after Sunday School. No one's doubting that. And I don't think that anyone can argue that we should "represent the Bible in a way... to interest young people," as one of the models tells Reuters. But titilating and interesting are not the same.
And, seriously, shame on the pastor (I know, I'm sounding like Focus on the Family now), for not showing his congregants how to read the Bible with any modicum of truth. The previously quoted model also has this to say, "It doesn’t say anywhere in the Bible that you are forbidden to show yourself nude." Umm... and Jesus doesn't talk about the evils of giving in to lust and the severe punishments of tempters ("It would be better for a millstone to be tied around his neck and him be dropped into the sea then for the man to tempt one of these little ones to stumble.")
And no, I didn't get this from LarkNews.com. It's here on msnbc news.
Ok, piece of news pt. 2:
I know what this grandma wants for Christmas. But she needs to get off her lazy arse to get it.
Thursday, December 01, 2005
I felt a bit of jealousy toward him.