Friday, February 29, 2008

Weekend Links We Like to Link to, 3

Google voice mail and phone numbers for the homeless. Actually, it sounds like a really good idea. Hopefully, more municipalities will team up to offer this nationwide.
h/t to Relevant

How do you read (i.e., understand) the Bible? Do you see it as if it were set in stone (or tablets, as it were) or as fluid and interpreted by committee? Intriguing quiz from Scot McKnight and Leadership Journal.

The authors of this NY Times op-ed piece argue that there are other ways of counting the gap between the haves (in this case specifically, the top one-fifth) and the have-nots (the bottom one-fifth) of the American economy. Count what they spend. The difference is quite surprising. What do you think?
via KruseKronicle via Scot McKnight.

click for larger image.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Fabio won't believe his eyes

Sometimes, I want to be an inventor. I'd like to invent two distinct, yet similar brands of substitute butter. I will put them up on the shelves of every grocer next to other leading brands of imitation spread.

One will be called, "So!?" and the other "Who Cares!?"

Across the aisle will be a tub of cheese-product named, "You Sure As Heck Won't Believe This Is Cheese!"

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Quote for the week

Novelist extraordinaire Raymond Chandler on the art of movies at Atlantic Monthly. Sixty years later, as prophetic as the day it came out.

The point is not whether there are bad motion pictures or even whether the average motion picture is bad, but whether the motion picture is an artistic medium of sufficient dignity and accomplishment to be treated with respect by the people who control its destinies. Those who deride the motion picture usually are satisfied that they have thrown the book at it by declaring it to be a form of mass entertainment. As if that meant anything. Greek drama, which is still considered quite respectable by most intellectuals, was mass entertainment to the Athenian freeman. So, within its economic and topographical limits, was the Elizabethan drama. The great cathedrals of Europe, although not exactly built to while away an afternoon, certainly had an aesthetic and spiritual effect on the ordinary man. Today, if not always, the fugues and chorales of Bach, the symphonies of Mozart, Borodin, and Brahms, the violin concertos of Vivaldi, the piano sonatas of Scarlatti, and a great deal of what was once rather recondite music are mass entertainment by virtue of radio. Not all fools love it, but not all fools love anything more literate than a comic strip. It might reasonably be said that all art at some time and in some manner becomes mass entertainment, and that if it does not it dies and is forgotten.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Weekly Links We Like to Link to- 2

Josh Brown has a great post on false modesty and the pride of being green. But to be honest, I think he's doing great things on a small scale.

Larry Norman - one of the original purveyors of Jesus Rock, which subsequently got watered down to make CCM - has passed. I know that one of his few albums stated that he was only visiting this planet, but still...
[Edit: Andy Whitman has a great tribute to the conflicted father of Christian Rock.]

h/t to Marko

Is Pastor Eugene Cho pissing against the wall after all? Judge for yourself. (Hilarious.)

There may be a lot more precedent for this presidential election cycle than I had previously thought. (Hint: 1960, 1968, 1976, 1980, and A. Jackson)

Nader's running. Again. (Sigh. This time, I don't think he's needed. Maybe I should hear him out first. But I think we've got a wonderful chance with at least one of the three running. In case you don't know where my loyalties lie... here.)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

There will be upset stomachs and furrowed brows!

I drink your malt - or yogurt. Preferably a frozen yogurt. They're yummy and have less fat.

Didn't get to watch the Oscars. My guess is that they're finishing up.

Instead, while doing laundry, I saw several scenes from what can only be described by using language of a sixth grader. Please do not take offense to this.

It was like watching a weight-lifting, twisting and turning version of Cirque de Soliel. On Steroids.
Only a thousand times more gay.

But I'm happy to hear that the song from Once won for best original song.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Weekend Links We Like to Link to, 2

Slim pickens this week.

Oscar snubs of terrible magnitude throughout time.
Or, how I learned to stop caring and not watch the Oscars.

Speaking of movies, watch the entirety of No End in Sight here. For free.

Teens cursing? OMFG!
h/t to Ypulse

I don't think I could say this any better than Peter T. Chattaway did here:
Indian Sex Symbol to Play Jesus's Celibate Yogi.

If you don't know or haven't been in a while, this is the Jasdye family blog. Seriously, the cutest baby in the world. I don't know how to say that without sounding like just another cocky parent. But what can I say? I'm sincere.
We wish you a happy, belated and late Valentines Day.

not bad for a fat dude who's been in two real fights in his life.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

News of the Weird 11 - Jiminy!

According to a January Los Angeles Times dispatch, residents of Beijing remain fascinated by competitions involving crickets. Cricket fights, in which a pair of the insects square off in a terrariumlike ring and use their mandibles and forelimbs to throw each other aroung, attract enough gambling interest that top fighters may sell for as much as $10,000.

Something tells me that Mike Vick got into the wrong sport.

First rule of Cricket Fight Club: There is no Cricket Fight Club.

"When you wish upon a bout..."

"Got the Eye of the Gryllidae / It's a rhythm of life..."

I could go all night, people!

But wait, there's more:

Contests for singing crickets - the lougest entrants, measured close up, can hit 106 decibels, or nearly the volume of a lawn mower heard from a few feet away - aren't as lucrative but are taken seriously enough that doping has become an issue [editor's note: This despite this typical warning, "Don't let your cricket take drugs. Anybody caught cheating will be disqualified."]: some handlers have been known to administer drugs causing their crickets' wings to vibrate more slowly, resulting in a deeper-pitched song.

So that's why Barry Manilow has been hitting those notes.

Under oath, in front of members of the House Committee on Steroids Abuse among Lawn Bugs, Jiminy - with assistance from his lawyers - testifies that he did not receive injections for any sort of illegal steroid or hormone.

And lastly...

Barry Bug.

Kevin Eubanks, everybody!

"News of the Weird" compiled by Chuck Shepherd, The Chicago Reader, February 14, 2008; p. 101.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Where is the Balm in Gilead?

Can I just come clean here? My mother has bipolar disorder. It's a huge, complicated and twisted affair. And just to be honest, none of her kids really understands what she goes through. None of us. But what's worse is that since she moved from Chicago to the Bible Belt, she's had a hard time trying to find a church that would accept her for all of her eccentricities and quirks and tough times, and times when she would scream profanities and her pill-popping and the imaginary people and demons and her flights of fancy and her struggles with forgiveness and all that her bipolar disorder entails.

And it's scary. But the one thing that you need in such circumstances is some stability. And as much as we Christians like to talk about God being our Rock (and he is), his love and stability and presence is demonstrated and felt through the actions of his people. Oftentimes, this is a wonderful thing. Sometimes, some big times, it falls way short.

In the online version of Relevant Magazine, there is an article by a Karen Bowlby on her experiences as a church-goer with bipolar disorder. Excerpts from the article are in Trebuchet font. Reader responses for the article are disbursed throughout and in blue font. Hold your applause (or breath) till the end, please.

Bipolar in a World of Healers

“Do you want to be healed?”

The question cut through the pregnant silence that followed my plea for guidance, and a lump formed in the pit of my stomach–a reaction to the metaphorical kick I’d just received. The young couple positioned themselves around me–I’d been in churches long enough to know what was coming.

OJ wrote:

"Pregnant silence?" Please. This is a very dramatic piece of writing. But then I see you majored in Theater.

Since my first encounter with this small band of Christians, I had waited expectantly for the stones I felt were always just around the corner...

[A]s ugly as stigma can be, there is nothing uglier than stigma in the Church. It is the opposite of grace in that it judges, condemns and carries out the sentence in the blink of an eye. We live in a rapidly changing culture that embraces differences in sexuality, race, class and religion. Yet, as fast as our society rids itself of its stigmas, the Church stagnates, holding on to them tighter than ever, tiptoeing around issues like mental and emotional illnesses and disorders, medication, and addictions to drugs, alcohol sex and pornography.

As a result, the Church is currently filled with Christians ... who suffer and struggle in silence to avoid being stigmatized–leading lives that are rarely joyful–using dysfunctional survival techniques to deal with feelings of loneliness, guilt and shame. Is it any wonder then, that both substance abuse and self-mutilation are on the rise in not only our society, but our churches, too?...

Justin wrote:

But on the other hand, lets not demonize the church.

I was diagnosed with rapid-cycling Bipolar Disorder at the age of 22–in the midst of self-medicating via alcohol abuse and prescription drugs. I fought my diagnosis for three years through alcoholic binges, a blackout-related car accident, a suicide attempt and severe depression. In fits of euphoria, I would declare God had healed me, the ups and downs were just a part of my creative personality and I didn’t really need my medications. In the doldrums of depression, I would fight suicidal thoughts, feel indefinitely disconnected from God, end friendships and retreat into whatever un-reality I created in my mind. I prayed unceasingly for God to take the symptoms away...

Kendall wrote:

I think all comes down to the personal relationship with God. If you have total trust in His plan, you would be off medication because of His healing. Healing isn't just lip-service; if you don't doubt His ability, you will ultimately be healed. I have experienced this not just on my own, but with others too.

If that young couple had only taken the time to know me first, before praying physical healing over me God might have shown them it was not my body that was broken and in need of healing, but my trust in an unconditionally loving God as illustrated through His people. Instead, I went off my meds in response to unsolicited pressure, and spent three months feeling as though I lacked the faith to make my symptoms disappear, before finally beginning to seek and accept what God had intended for me to find all along: Peace.

Now, back on my meds, and two years sober, I have discovered that in my own story, giving up control of my health and trusting God is trusting that He has provided and blessed me with the doctors and medicine necessary to live a stable, joy-filled life...

Eric wrote:

So you believe He is a healer, but you are content with pills and symptoms and telling others how they may cope?? Yes Jesus is far more concerned with the healing of the soul, but every affliction is spiritual in nature (Eph. 6:12).

Eric wrote:

We might as well hand out Bibles at a Triple A meeting and inform them that they are going to have to cope with their sickness.

I thank God for this woman's story. Unfortunately, the fools (and well-meaning but blinded individuals) that responded above are fairly representative of the misguided, misanthropic and maladjusted xenophobia of many within the Church. Of course, they are part of the Church and it's the crazy cousins and uncles locked up in the attics that we have to live and deal with that make the Church feel like a tangible, broken, messed-up family. I would also like to point out a few other commentators. They are beautiful and broken people as well. And they also represent the Church.

kaylee wrote:

wow, great article, thanks for talking this. Been there too, I'm hypoglycemic, was "healed" of it
once. a few years later, on the edge of a fullscale breakdown, mentally and physically, I had to
admit that I was still hypoglycemic. But I've learned to love GOd through the quesitons, and stay away from those who don't accept all parts of me.

Melody wrote:

I just spent an entire day at conference about how each Christians shows God in a unique way and how He didn't create us to all reflect Him exactly the same...and yet, I walked away knowing I'll never tell anyone at that church about my depression/self-injury, I'm too afraid of how they'll react, if they'll ban me from leadership or patronize me...

Dave wrote:

I was diagnosed with Bipolar about 10 years ago, and went through some of the same things. I've been prayed over plenty of times and I know God could heal me if He wanted to, but God can't be put in a box. I've felt ashamed of myself for not "having enough faith". Yet, perhaps what needed more attention is the unrest in my soul by other factors.

Susanna wrote:

I've just recently wondered if I have a mild case of the same disorder....struggling with depression and thoughts of suicide for 8 years now, but always feeling "unchristian" because of it. hearing many christians say, "how can a christian be depressed?" and having been one all my life, I've struggled with that shame as well. good to not be alone!

God help us all.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Medication and Sugar-Highs

There were two interesting and somewhat interrelated articles in the Chicago Reader last week. In The Straight Dope column, Cecil Adams replied to a letter on sugar highs and their effect. In the cover story, a Freudian literature professor writes a book about over-diagnosing what used to be known simply as shyness. Both, I think, are worth a gander.

First, on sugar:

Q: I'm always hearing parents talk about the sugar rush their kids get after eating sweets: "Uh-oh, watch out! Little Ignatz just had two M&Ms!" I thought I had read somewhere that this effect is either greatly exaggerated or nonexistent. What's the story?

your classic controlled double-blind affairs: two groups of kids, one fed a bunch of sugar, the other given a placebo (i.e., artificial sweetener), everyone kept sufficiently in the dark as to who'd gotten what, etc. The results? No discernible relationship between sugar ingested and how the kids acted. It didn't matter how old they were, how much sugar they got, what their diets were like otherwise — nothing....

... For a crucial piece of the puzzle we turn to the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology and a 1994 study by Daniel Hoover and Richard Milich, in which they looked at 31 boys ages five to seven and their mothers, all of whom had described their offspring as being "behaviorally affected by sugar."

The mom-son teams were split into the customary two groups: the moms in one were told their sons would be given extra-sugary Kool-Aid, while the others were told their kids were in the control group and would get a drink sweetened with aspartame. In reality, though, the same artificially sweetened stuff was administered to both sets of kids while the women got a sheaf of surveys to fill out. Mothers and children were then videotaped playing together, after which the moms were asked how they thought things went.

What did Hoover and Milich find? You guessed it: the moms who thought they were in the sugar group said their sons acted more hyper. In addition, they tended to hover over their children more during play, offer more criticism of their behavior, etc. The mother-son pairs in the other group were judged by observers to be getting along better. What's more, those moms who, going into the experiment, most strongly believed their kids were sugar-sensitive also scored highest on a test designed to gauge cognitive rigidity....

[Ya ever heard of this thing called Self-Fulfilling Prophecy? It happens a lot. And now for the disclaimer and closing:]

I should stress we're not talking here about attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, which is its own freestanding issue; studies have suggested there's some correlation between ADHD and diet, so maybe every so often you'll get a kid whose condition really is exacerbated by sugar. And there are plenty of other good reasons to limit children's consumption of sugar-laden food. But when a parent freaks out because a swig of soda has allegedly made his kid uncontrollable, it's quite possible he's not just seeing the behavior he expects to see, he's helping create it.

Now, on to Praxil:

[Christopher] Lane, a Victorian literature scholar and professor at Northwestern, had... published a book on misanthropes in the Victorian era, which he says “had a relatively high tolerance for eccentrics, reclusives, hermits, and scolds.” He wanted to carry his study into the 21st century. But when he began asking psychiatrists about the fate of contemporary misanthropes, the response he got was that they’d likely be medicated...

It looked to Lane like the much more common trait of shyness, which Victorians had actually valued as a sign of modesty and a contemplative mind, had been transformed into something called social anxiety disorder. People who dreaded giving speeches, or blushed when they were the center of attention, or who, like Lane himself, needed a certain amount of their own company, were popping pills that promised to turn them into breezy extroverts. How had this happened?

[Hint, check the distinctions between the DSM II and III, which was first released in 1980.]

The correlation that I understood is that these types of emotional/psychological/physiological 'maladies' are actually in the head - that in these instances (as opposed to say, clinical depression), Western (or at least American) society tells us that we need to come up with a solution for every conceivable problem - and so we make them up. The problem that is diagnosed isn't a real problem. But something else, something deeper and not really related may be the real problem, the real threat.

So, keep your eyes closed, swallow these pills, stay away from sweets, lock the doors in your car when you're going through a bad neighborhood. Medicate yourself, you'll be all right.

Weekly Links I Like to Link to

If you wonder what squirrels will do for food, wonder no longer.

h/t to Jesus Creed (caption contest incl.)

  • Peanut Butter & Jelly is not only good for the soul, but for the environment as well. (But a black bean chili may be just as well. For the environment, that is. I guess that's like, if you're allergic to peanuts or something. Because I can't ever see being tired of pb&j.)
  • Hillary's people respond to Barack's sea-shifting video. And it reminds us of the fight song from Appalachia State. (Yet another tip o' the hat to Ypulse.)

You didn't believe me? You had to watch it? That's what you get.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen. Both Hilary Rodham Clinton and Appalachia State University are HOT, HOT, HOT!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Quote for the week

We are about ending poverty, not simply managing it. We give people fish. We teach them to fish. We tear down the walls that have been built up around the fish pond. And we figure out who polluted it.

This is what I think community should be about. Not all communities. And not all capacities. And I think, in a sense, it's what I think teaching should be about, if I were to holistically live it out. Which I think I'd rather do than the paperwork. (But then again, easier said than done.)

From The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical, Shane Claiborne
(pdf file excerpt here)

Saturday, February 16, 2008


Jimmie knew that he needed to go fishing, to feel the cold, shaven wood and old rugged paint on the top ridge of the boat, to run his fingers through the mud and find his own god-damned worms, to shield his eyes from the barely-recognizable sun with a silly hat, to hold the weight of the anchor as if he were going down with it. Jimmie knew it was a bit cold for this. He knew that the fish may not bite. That, in fact, the waters would still be fairly choppy and still iced-over in parts of the lake where the fish were most likely going to reside.

This event - the connection of boat and lake, line and bait - has been grinding in the back of his mind for a moment too long. Maybe him and Stanley. Maybe a couple other guys. Just shooting the breeze, bullshitting all day and early into the night. Till the end of Saturdays and the only thing left to do is to mosey on back home and make a big stink about gutting the fish. Which he never does. Leaves it there to rot, Avrey says. Jimmie forks back up with a shot of orneriness, Hell, no. It's better aged. But they both know the truth, the fish is going to be in the garbage by Sunday morning. Jimmie won't be up yet, the fish is going to rot - with or without its head - in the fridge near the Arm & Hammer baking soda. But that box won't be enough to protect the kitchen from the stench of unforgiving bass.

He and Avrey went on a midnight run last night. And it was well later than midnight when they stopped at the convenience store for some Raisenettes and a Baby Ruth. Jimmie missed the taste of Baby Ruths, but being up late was a perfect excuse for a bite. Somehow he could wiggle in an excuse to buy a super-sized one. One last one. As they were making their way to the register, he distinctly heard the bell at the door and turned his neck just in time to see her. A girl with black hair. Blacker than the night. She wasn't familiar in the way he thought she might have been, but somehow he felt he did cross her path before. Or, wanted to.

Although it's warming up with the sun beating on him now, Jimmie's hands are bitterly cold. Since he's finished baiting the hooks, he puts the mitts on his cracked hands. Looking like a gol-danged fool. He should just take it like a man. Be rugged like the boat.

But nobody else is that stupid. No other man would dare risk unnecessary frost-bite to his hands. Jimmie's sure that Jesus Christ himself wouldn't have put on gloves on in the boat rides he always took in the Bible. Jimmie looks across the lake to notice that he's still the only one out on a Thursday morning.

Back at the gas station, he had turned away, back to the mundane, approachable and fantastic. Jimmie was going for the Baby Ruth. He thought of quickly turning a look to the jet-black haired girl. But no sooner had started that idea and function than a loud boom came shattering through that same area. He looked outside. Everyone looked outside. The whole neighborhood looked outside and saw a fire hydrant encased in a maroon Hyundai. Water pushing out everywhere. Glass. Shards of car. Metallic glimpses. And he's sure blood and flesh.

Jimmie looked at Avrey. He always turned to Avrey in these moments. And every moment. Because she was his home. Avrey knew Jimmie was gonna call in sick.

Jimmie, go sink in that line. Jimmie, go find yourself again.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Weekend Links I Like to Link to

That's right, baby-girl. Not only do you get to EAT the cake, you can be the cake! Because that's what you are. You ARE the cake, baby-girl. Don't let nobody tell you otherwise.

h/t to Ypulse

  • This guy thinks that: 1) The King James Version of the Bible is the only authentic version of the Bible; 2) pissing against the wall is manly; 3) the editors of such blasphemous modern day translations of the Bible as the New International Version not only don't piss against the wall, they do so sitting down! Shame on the emasculated editors of a translation of the Bible that no one really uses anymore!

    h/t to Terrance Crawford.

  • Samurai Jesus? It's about time! On the rise of Manga depictions of the Bible:

The medium shapes the message. Manga often focuses on action and epic. Much of the Bible, as a result, ends up on the cutting room floor, and what remains is darker...
In "The Manga Bible," whose heroes look and sound like skateboarders in Bedouin gear, Noah gets tripped up counting the animals in the Ark: "That's 11,344 animals? Arggh! I've lost count again. I'm going to have to start from scratch!"

Abraham rides a horse out of an explosion to save Lot. Og, king of Bashan, looms like an early Darth Vader. The Sermon on the Mount did not make the book, though, because there was not enough action to it...

The book is meant to be a first taste of the Bible, which many feel too intimidated to read, Akinsiku said. Every few pages, a small tab refers to the biblical verses the action covers.

"For the unchurched, the book is to show that this thing, the Bible, is still relevant," he said, "because it talks about what human beings do when they encounter God."...

The goal of [niche-marketed] Bibles is not just to win people to Christ, but to particular ways of thinking, said Jason BeDuhn, associate professor of religious studies at Northern Arizona University. Akinsiku said the biblical message he wanted to underscore was justice, especially for the poor.

Again, h/t to Ypulse

  • Interesting series at PoMoMusings on the Kingdom of God with guest authors like Brian McLaren, Phyllis Tickle, Ryan Dobson (yes, son of the Doctor James) and Tony Jones giving a fresh, new and - dare I say - for the most part emerging/post-modern spin on a topic that, quite honestly, I did not hear enough of growing up in the church (in fact, I think until the last couple years, mostly I only heard about heaven and/or hell). No one is going to agree with everything here, but these are good thoughts/questions to have. I look forward to reading through them in the coming weeks.

  • Again, via Ypulse: the Choking Game

At least 82 youths have died from the so-called "choking game," according to the first government count of fatalities from the tragic fad.

In the game, children use dog leashes, bungee cords wrapped around their necks or other means to temporarily cut blood flow to their head. The goal is a dreamlike, floating-in-space feeling when blood rushes back into the brain.

As many as 20 percent of teens and preteens play the game, sometimes in groups, according to some estimates based on a few local studies...

CDC officials urged parents to be aware the fad exists, and to watch for possible warning signs like bloodshot eyes, marks on the neck, frequent and severe headaches, disorientation after spending time alone, and ropes, scarves or belts tied to bedroom furniture or doorknobs or found knotted on the floor.

Yeah, I'm still getting over the whole cutting phenom.

  • OK, one last one from Ypulse:

Hip-hop duo ATMOSPHERE are... publishing their own children's book.Atmosphere rapper Slug has written the 40-page tome, which will be illustrated by sketches and accompanied by lyrics to the band's songs. The U.S. group will release the book with their new LP When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That S**t Gold later this year. (article, of which I quoted almost the entire thing)

Yessir! And don't forget, little men, to piss against the wall!

  • It's like, sometimes you feel the weight of the world. And it's so heavy and it's bringing you down. Oh no. But you, gotta get up, you gotta get up:

Yeah, like that. Thanks, Pigeon John.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Shooting at Northern

I know everybody else is going to talk about it. I've only just now heard about it.

I know that there's going to be - once again - a lot of blame going around. The warning signs. The loneliness. The registered or unregistered weapons. The barely-veiled threats (assuming there were some). The fact that it's Valentines Day and he was probably romantically shunned. The university security not being at first-guard to ward these types of attacks off.

And the fact that I work in an academic setting (albeit a much smaller one, with security and cops and metal detectors all over the place) doesn't help, because I'm not a student or parent of a student at one of these schools now. I can't imagine what on-campus college students across the nation are feeling. I can only begin to grasp what their parents are feeling.

Some people need a lot of love. Pray for the victims. All of them. But also, pray for the preyers, for those outcasts. Not that they're the real victims. But the hurting needs to cease and they need to be loved and counseled and nurtured. America needs to love the least and greatest amongst us, not just the innocent. Not just the cute and cuddly. But the would-be monsters. The would-be Trench-coat Mafiosos.

This was something King and Jesus understood. People hate out of fear and alienation. Perfect love casts out all fear. Love joins people. Love the mess (and pain, frustration, self-loathing, hate) out of each other. That's bold Valentine's Day love.

News of the Weird 10 - Holy Food and Ornaments!

From News of the Weird:

[P]laces an image of Jesus is said to have turned up: knothole in wooden fence (Lodi, CA, August); kitchen cabinet door (Manchester, CT, August); smudge of driveway sealant on garage door (Forest, VA, August); bath room towel (Houston, October); pancake (Port Saint Lucie, FL, November); chest X-ray (Homestead, FL, December); potato (Marion County, FL, January); another potato (Houston, January); slab of granite (Tampa, January).


So, 1) what's up with Houston? 2) What's up with Florida? Has Jesus and/or his divine image moved on up to the Sunshine State? Is there some political statement going on here? Or is it just that Jesus, like all other 2000 year-olds, has decided to settle into Sunnydale Retirement Village?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Misc. Wednesday

  • Hillary plays my favorite game from my childhood. That's why we love her:

Lady in the Yellow Jacket '08 Clap Clap Point Point

  • So, it seems that bloggers do have some influence in the Evangelical Christian Academic World after all. Just crappy, negative and plain ignorant influence. To be fair, my brother went to this school (Cedarville, in southern Ohio near Dayton) and it is on the right side of the Evangelical shrift, but the fact that they were scared off of featuring a speaker (an avowed Christian speaker, who works in the Christian realm) by some bloggers who aren't even in the school because this speaker, Shane Claiborne, is in some way - although not officially - partial to the Emergent movement. To people who are not aware, for a smidgen of the right-wing Ev world, Emergents are the devil. That's because it is a movement that's hard to try to figure out. So people who don't know anything about history or church history (well, outside of the Reformers and their followers, perhaps) see it as an affront to the Church and orthodoxy, not understanding that their understanding of 'orthodoxy' (or, right teaching) is very much informed by the Age of Reasoning and is every bit as dangerous as - if not more so than - any of the theology or even pseudo-theology peddled by the Emergents (which, again, is a very wide tent and is extremely diverse in their practices and doctrinal leanings. It is not an organized or centralized classification or denomination. The only real constant is that Emergents want to do church differently in order to reach - and because they are a part of - a different generation).

But the truth is, a visit to Claiborne's website has me more convinced that he is much more old-school and orthodox (and creative. And compassionate) than those that fear him and try to shut him up.

The bad news is that the school was scared off by scare tactics of people who aren't even directly involved in the school, who would not go to the meetings in the first place, who would not even talk with Mr. Claiborne themselves, but rather - from a place of unnecessary fear and through a place of constipating fear - put pressure on a school to so-called maintain its integrity.

Bull. If they have integrity, they shouldn't worry about hearing someone out (especially an activist who was going to speak on dealing with the poor out of a genuine place) just because they disagree with him.

Heck, maybe they were offended by truth such as this:

If you ask most people what Christians believe, they can tell you, “Christians believe that Jesus is God’s Son and that Jesus rose from the dead.” But if you ask the average person how Christians live, they are struck silent. We have not shown the world another way of doing life. Christians pretty much live like everybody else; they just sprinkle a little Jesus in along the way. And doctrine is not very attractive, even if it’s true.

  • Even though we really don't watch tv in this house (and there should be enough movies to keep us busy for awhile - although, I haven't found much besides Once that Jen and I both liked), I'm more than glad that the strike is over. It was draining watching Conan spin his little coins several times in a row, trying to beat his record. Not the same as his Walker, Texas Ranger lever. Speaking of Walker, though, this was probably the best part of the strike, the "ongoing feud" between Conan O'Brien, Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart.

  • Interesting article at Ypulse about how affluent suburban kids are more messed up than inner-city kids.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Spielbergs for Darfur

This is good news. Well, maybe. But I wonder if he means what he says.

Steven Spielberg has decided not to participate in the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing as an artistic adviser, citing the lack of progress in ending the genocide in Darfur...

"I have made repeated efforts to encourage the Chinese government to use its unique influence to bring safety and stability to the Darfur region of Sudan," Spielberg wrote. "Although some progress has been made ...the situation continues to worsen and the violence continues to accelerate."

"With this in mind, I find that my conscience will not allow me to continue with business as usual," he added. "At this point, my time and energy must be spent not on Olympic ceremonies, but on doing all I can to help bring an end to the unspeakable crimes against humanity that will continue to be committed in Darfur."

I know it's not humongous. It's not like Spielberg is hurting financially or anything. But what drew my interest is in him saying that he is going to focus his time and energy toward helping to stop the ongoing genocide in Darfur.

Sure, Darfur is not the only region that's hurting right now. But it is a place where people are suffering immeasurably. The violence is kicking up another notch again and neighbor Chad is now so overwhelmed that they are turning away potential refugees.

Way to stick it to the man, Stevie.

h/t to Jeffrey Overstreet


It was two a.m. by the time Alvin decided to give in to the clock. His body wasn't tired. And neither was his mind. In fact, he had just had one of the most wonderful nights of his life. He wanted to continue it, somehow, with someone. Even if it weren't her. But he knew the constraints of his body and he remembered the sheer physical audacity of trying to break himself out of his comfortable position (well, as close to comfort as you can get on a futon) before dawn breaks.

Dawn. Her face flashes in the back of his mind.

Alvin almost feels like a nightowl. Like the best work that he could possibly do, he does while everyone else is asleep. He stays a bit off-beat to play his rhythm, to dance out there with many, with none, whichever he pleases at the time. Alvin waves Alexander off. Alexander looks like he needs to go home, and he knows it. He would have stayed all night with Alvin if Alvin had asked him too. But he would not have enjoyed himself. Leaning against pool tables and wait staff and barkeeps to hold his own in the foggy nights does not suit Alexander, but he's usually too socially unconscious to notice or care that he freaks people out with his misshapen eyes and far-gone hair. He'll go home and sleep and forget about tonight, which really had no consequence for him at all. No pretty girl talked to him except to be polite.

Alexander put his head down, turned on the ignition, sighed a deep breath. He would be home in four minutes usually. Less because there was no traffic. But he had a good four Millers in three hours. He can't draw attention to himself again. He almost landed in jail for a long time if Frank and Sarah hadn't held him back the last time. They lied to the cop. Told her he was their grown and mentally retarded ward and that he was off his meds. Some times he feels as if he really does need meds. And supervision. But he doesn't like to think that about himself. So he stops.

Alvin floats to the top like cream. He's on top of the fuckin' world, and he wants to tell the world. So he lets it out. Some window tells him to shut-up. He doesn't mind, he got it out. And he's not sure what was the best thing about this night either. Or why he feels the way he does. It wasn't just one thing. It wasn't every little thing. This night didn't have the finest ingredients. It wasn't a caviar and lobster night. It was more like fine-dining wherein all the ingredients and courses add up to a splendid palate, bite after bite, each one complimenting and improving on the last. The raven-haired girl was like the Cabernet, though.

Alexander turns the ignition, slowly. He checks every mirror. Cranks the wheel. Double checks the mirrors. With a step slower, he imprints the pedal. Hesitates. Is that a cop car or a taxi? Taxi. Stop worrying.

Cabernet-woman. Can't get his mind off her. Since his last girlfriend, Alvin's sworn them off. As dates and relationships, they're just too much. Too much draining, too much time, too much involvement, too much risk. Too much heartache and pain. And the raven-haired girl, with her fiendish yet friendly smile, with her mysterious entrance and ghastly vanish, with her stare-down to take down a general. A very happy general, it must be added. Yet somehow lonely.

Alvin doesn't remember rabbits. Sad rabbits, much less. They look in his direction no less than one second, but it is the most human and intelligent look. It is a look that says, you are part of the shame too. You have caused this.

Alexander shakes his head. Slaps his face around. He passes by the gas station and dwells for a second. No. We're not going on a road trip. Three minutes away from the house. Five minutes from my bed. Just have to make sure the alarm is set. And loud.

Rolls down the window. Spits.

Alvin sees Cabernet. She's just ahead of him. He'll stop her. Ask for her name. And her number. And maybe offer her a ride home. Or somewhere. He smiles faintly at the idea of somewhere.

Alexander wakes from the din. Didn't he just make it home? Didn't he just get in? Did he even have time to fall asleep? And now the goddam doorbell was ringing. Constantly. Awright, awright. I've only got two legs, and I gotta put my pants through 'em first.

Shit! He's been avoiding the boys in blue all night and they find him at home?

Somehow, though, it's not registering. They're speaking in slow, low tones. As if they're apologizing. But why would they apologize for having to pull him in? Wait. That doesn't make sense. They were never looking for Alexander, that's the sleep talking.

They're not apologizing. They're giving condolences.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Update, mid-February

  • I'm going to try something new for the next couple weeks or so. I'm going to try to write some fiction. Possibly short stories, but honestly, I'm not sure at this moment. I really just wanna see where it takes me. I will post a short piece two to three times next week - just a first draft and kind of see how they taste. I am asking you, my two faithful readers, to leave honest, critical feedback. I'll give the stories some tweaking, re-write the pieces or jettison them all together (or some combination thereof) within the next two to three weeks (I may just have the working pieces stashed away on another blog in the meantime). I did something like this once, with poetry. That turned out pretty well (links up later). But I'm not much of a fiction writer - if at all - and most of my recent stuff has been non-fiction, memoirs and essays and etc. that I'm trying to figure out how to tell better. I kind of think that writing fiction may be a good way for me to be honest about myself and allow myself to tell a good story. But I could totally suck at it too.

  • Just finished some baking (not good, since Jen gave up sugar for Lent. Good for her, but we didn't decide until the last minute what we were gonna give up for the 40 days. My wife's is much more adventurous and advantageous than my sacrifice. Yeah, red meat. Like I didn't already discover how to make turkey burgers taste almost like the real thing). It's for a bake sale (my first ever) at our church tomorrow. The cause? Send my wife and I (and about 16 others) to Colombia this summer. This is our first out of several planned fund-raisers. Hope it does well (of course).

  • My wife and I both lost our jobs on Friday. Not a good day. We both knew that our present jobs were closing in on us and that we weren't good fits at this moment in our lives for them. But the timing of it really sucked. It could've been worse, though. We didn't have any money in January. Please pray for us, that we'll find the jobs where God wants us to be, that we'll be able to pay off our debts and afford health care and all of that.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Baby on Board

I picked up Joss from my wife's work today. It was a late day for both of them, so I made it as soon as I could. But I'd yet to vote and didn't expect that I would have needed to pick up the baby. But that's cool. I love being with her and I love watching these otherwise cool and detached passengers react to seeing this big, gruff, stay-puft marshmallow of a man play tender with a pink-encased six month old in a sling.

But this one ten year old gets on board with his father about half-way through the subway ride. The child is pesky, talkative and generally grating on my nerves. I take care of baby - who's a bit tired and sad-looking. She's not making any noise, but it's the hour that we put her down for bed and she is a bit hungry. And to top it off, there are a lot of people on the train. Just previously, she was reaching out to touch the fabric on some men's jackets. After getting a kind of stern look from an older gentleman, I had to remind her that that type of action is inappropriate.

The kid is complaining about some dinner arrangements. He only likes oatmeal, he tells and reminds his father and anyone else with ears to listen, over and over again. And the train - which is moving at a remarkable rate for rush hour, I think - is moving too slow for his taste. Which he also informs us about, to our passenger pleasure. But his father is patient and, probably much like I'll be, conciliatory toward the child. He's reassuring him, but only half paying attention. As any good parent would be at this stage.

I'm stroking her cheeks and chin every once in a while. Lifting her up and down. She's not smiling even when I blow on her. Neither is she so impressed when I - as we ascend from the subterranean pits to the sky like a freight train to Valhalla - show her the great, wet outdoors.

She looks around at the train* and the passengers. Setting her sights on a few faces or shapes, but never committing. That may be a major relational problem at a later stage in life. But, for now, she's just tired and hungry, but not tired and hungry enough to make a show of it. In fact, it's more of an anti-show.

The son and the father are making their way to the doors on the right side of the train, the ones to exit when the train is elevated. As the train pulls into the station, I notice that the son is walking out while the father, in a last fleeting moment, grasps some perspective on the train and notices what - or who - is in my sling.

Like really notices her.

"Oh my goodness. What a be-yootee-full baby. Mijo, she is so pretty! Those are the most beautiful blue eyes I have ever seen. O, son, you have to come look. Look at the beautiful little girl with the beautiful blue eyes..."

At this point, I begin to worry that the man may be disconnected from his own son, who doesn't give a flip, when the doors shut on him as he reluctantly makes his way to the exit.

"You have a very bee-yutiful girl!" he informs me as he steps onto the platform. There is always a mix of a sense of pride and a sense of embarrassment when people throw superlatives at her, or about my wife. I've personally never been very good at handling compliments. I had learned that pride is a sin and accepting compliments (even if they're not directly addressed to me) is an endorsement of my own pride (which, for whatever reason, is pretty big) and has therefore always been a tricky thing.

So I sheepishly say, "Thank you" and blush out my cheeks. The doors close, the car erupts in laughter.

Everyone shares a laugh in this except for Joss. Who just wants to go home.

* The train, it should be noted, is her friend. She sleeps by the train. Literally, she probably hears that same train we are riding in pass by her windows five times a day. It soothes her, it excites her, it sometimes forgets to call. The train is her bff. But I think that relationship is mostly with the exterior of the train. The inside is a different beast altogether.

Sound familiar?

"What if a politician were to see his job as that of an organizer," he wondered, "as part teacher and part advocate, one who does not sell voters short but who educates them about the real choices before them? As an elected public official, for instance, I could bring church and community leaders together easier than I could as a community organizer or lawyer. We would come together to form concrete economic development strategies, take advantage of existing laws and structures, and create bridges and bonds within all sectors of the community. We must form grass-root structures that would hold me and other elected officials more accountable for their actions."

That was Obama when he was running for his first elected office.

And some ten years later (ten years of being inundated by constant criticism, cynicism and narcissism), he still holds to that dream. Only now, he's going global, baby.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

News of the Weird 9 - That's Gotta Hurt Dept.

All this family and political talk has made me itchy. Let's get it on:

Earlier this month in Grand Rapids, Michigan, an alleged shoplifter was hospitalized with non-life-threatening puncture wounds to his abdomen. Department store security guards confronted the 26-year-old man, who tried to run away; in the ensuing struggle he fell on the $300 worth of hunting knives that were tucked into his waistband.*

Poor guy must not have had a mother to tell him that he shouldn't run with sharp objects.

Report here.

*Chuck Shepherd, "News of the Weird", Chicago Reader, January 31, 2008.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Like a thriller from a stodgy old tech nerd

Been doing some live blogging here.

I've always thought that the political game was dangerous, yet fascinating.

Since our tv isn't hooked up, we're catching the political news through the internet. I seriously want Obama to carry the day. And my wife is even more so pro-Bama. So watching the live coverage at and is about as thrilling as they come for us. And hearing silly tid-bits like both the Obama and Clinton camps saying that they were gaining momentum on the other with the undecided votes. If only they had put off Super Tuesday for one. more. day. Or you could see where the college kids and African Americans vs. old folks and old-school Democrats tend to reside.

Hearing Barack reminds me of why he needs to be the next in the White House, "Tired of politicians deciding how they should run, instead of why they should run."

I'm surprised, though, at Clinton's taking of Brooklyn, Harlem and, honestly, California - the Dream State. Florida going with Hillary, although - with its aging and prune-drinking populace - not a surprise. But that's not a real win, in the fact that there are no Dem delegates coming from the Sunshine State this year because they decided to jump the gun (heck, all of the states decided to jump the gun. Maybe all these states are deciding that this is just too much fun to leave up to just a few rushed days in the middle of the summer). Another surprise was how much of an advantage she had in Bill's state of Arkansas (by a whopping 42 percentage points) verses how little she had in New York (17), while the state where she was raised and Obama was transplanted voted so overwhelmingly for him (31).

Some of Hillary's biggest donors, by the way, are Rupert Murdock and his cronies from News Corp. and Fox News. I guess they think it would be great for their conservative news (had to restrain the impulse to put asterisk that word) channel to run against Hillary Rodham for the presidential bid. Either that, or she's totally in their pocket. Either way, that's not good news.

Obama's winning currently with 0.7% in Missouri.

For the most part, though, this caucus looks too close to call - although McCain is killing across the board. Missouri is a close one, Obama being up by just one percentage point. Apparently that delegate vote may be split in two. Missouri. Compromise. Why does that sound so familiar?

Huckabee's made it pretty good on only 9 million dollars. Able to hold his own. Romney, on the other hand, had ten times as much funding coming in and they're more or less even at this point. Huckabee is shrewd, that much we can say for him. I'm sure he'd find economical ways for us to torture suspected terrorists.

We get to watch the results pull in per county in the US and come up with pretty decent odds. And then watch those odds come crashing to the floor, or just barely meet expectations. It's fun. And deadly serious. Like The Hunt for Red October.

The People I'm Voting for Today

Senator Barack Obama for United States President:

Because he has the audacity to Hope.

Tommy Brewer for Illinois State's Attorney:

Because he wants to and has the know-how to actually bring real justice to the attorney's office. By that, I mean he doesn't want to prosecute someone to the fullest extent of the law when evidence goes against the verdict and wants to put an end to corrupt policies. And I believe he can do it.

Incumbent Iris Martinez for Illinois State Senator:

Because the political machine wants her out - so she must be doing something right.

God help us all.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Snapshot - Slapshot

Remember that beet-red face that I was saying that Joss developed yesterday in response to her daddy-dearest leaving her presence?

Yeah, she did the same when she learned that she couldn't eat the camera this morning.

I am equal to a cheap digital camera in my daughter's eyes.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Daddy's Little Girl 2

I got to play with Joss this whole weekend. I usually don't get to see her during the week except a few hours collectively. And usually she's just getting up or going to sleep. Or I'm fixing her diaper (yeah, because it's broke) or something in the middle of the night and I'm not at my best and I can't really be social with her since we're trying to make her actually sleep through the night.

So, we woke up early yesterday. Or rather, she woke me up early yesterday. And we hung out while mom finally got some sleep. And then we hung out this morning (and missed church) a few short (too few short) hours after she inexplicably woke up and wouldn't go back to sleep.

This afternoon, as her sleep time was nearing, I realized that I would need to leave to run an errand before the world shut down for Sunday afternoon. As I put on my coat, she recognized that version of me. It's the daddy who's leaving and won't be back for the whole day. It's the daddy that, honestly, I know that I need to be but I don't want to be.

She started crying. Severely. Her face turned beet-red. She turned around to see me again and again as I tried to reassure her that I wasn't gone yet and that mommy was there for her. She settled down and reestablished herself with mom. I washed up (man, it really, really tears me up to leave her. Literally.) and left.

I came back in about twenty minutes with a hope bursting in my heart. I would only have another twenty minutes or so with her, but they would gain some significance for me. She's becoming daddy's little girl, all the more precious because of what little awake time we spend together (her mother is far and away her favorite person. But I still like the recognition and appreciation of these fleeting moments from the moment I enter the door and her little head dramatically turns my direction and she flashes that gorgeous little smile of hers).

But, yeah, she couldn't care less. We hung out. She was on my arm and just chilling with me. She went to bed. All nonchalant like a little girl who was more than ready to go to bed.

And as she was passing into that great threshold into the deep caverns of sleep, she gazed at me and burst out her smile for one last appearance.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Ten Reasons Why I Probably Won't Catch the Super Bowl

  1. The only significant Super Bowl was 21 years ago. It starred the greatest one-time Super Bowl champions ever. It was the biggest lop-sided victory in the history of the game until recently and it was wonderful. It featured guys named Sweetness, the Fridge, Iron Mike, McMahon the Man, Willie Gault, Ditka, and the rest of the Shuffling Crew.
  2. The Patriots already had their Super Bowl legacy rapped up long before this current dynasty. I refer you back to a certain Super Bowl: XX. If those numbers don't jog your memory, then do the numbers 46-10 ring a bell?
  3. The Giants? The New York Giants? The Giants?? C'mon, are you kidding me? The New York Giants?
  4. I really don't want to watch an angry Friar Tuck coach from the sidelines.
  5. If the commercials are the best entertainment for the night, we're all in deep Fritos.
  6. Most events to watch the game (even and especially in the local churches) are centered around the guys. Which is not only demeaning and sexist, it also honestly does not suit our needs. Not that my wife likes football. But I'm trying to teach my daughter good habits.
  7. Tom Brady had became a father and is with a supermodel. My baby is a supermodel.
  8. I don't work on Saturdays so I will have to be able to squeeze in time to work tomorrow, clean up the house, prepare for Monday's Bible Study, and play with Joss, who I barely get to see awake during the weekdays.
  9. This is like watching Titanic. Bor-ring! We know who's gonna win. We know NY's ship is gonna hit the berg and sink. Why do we have to watch a delayed romantic movie in the midst of the adventure. Cue the musicians on the deck. Gentlemen, it was a pleasure playing with you...
  10. The Giants? The New York Giants?? O Cheese Whiz no. The Giants? Are you serious? The Giants?

Friday, February 01, 2008


  • I may never have liked the idea of CleanFlix. I may have thought that the originators of this idea (where the naughty bits in movies are edited out by a machine) should have picked another way to fight what they felt was indecency in film. And I would have definitely suggested that Christians should either watch movies that they believe in or not (or just show some discretion in how much they inundate themselves with and when it's ok and when it's not), but I never would have figured what a creepy flippin' perv one of the [Edit] alleged co-founders is. (Apparently, there's some confusion about what role this man has had or does have with Clean Flix, especially since it opened up a new service once the government called it illegal censoring.) There's a special ring for him... [h/t to Peter Chattaway]
  • My wife wants ice cream again. She's nuts! It just snowed a foot within the last week. Half a foot within less than a day. I should just mutilate some snow, plop it on a cone and tell her it's a new flavor.
  • But I won't. 'Cuz I love her.
  • Voting is by Tuesday. I have to make a decision soon. And I'm stuck between the fighting pugilist and the optimistic dreamer. It's almost like choosing between LBJ and JFK. We know who got things done, but we also know who's vision it was that fueled Johnson and his energies. Also, what I fear is that this country is too conservative to elect a black man or a woman (especially one as demanding - to put it nicely - as Clinton) at this point. Which means that I think the all-consuming, post-9/11 vote-of-fear will go to whoever gets the Republican nomination. So, I'm wondering if I should cast my vote for McCain now. Although I do like Huckabee (probably because I don't know too much about him). You know what? I'm just glad Giuliani's out of the running. I think I can breathe easier now.
  • We won't let these knuckle-heads babysit. But if they want to stick their tongues in a socket on their own, who am I to judge?
  • The Bulls are super-sucking. I haven't blogged about them all year because they're badder than bad.
  • In Brazil, and just in time for Carnival, police entered into Rio's shantytowns of Jacarezinho and Mangueira with automatic weapons and armored vehicles and killed seven alleged gang members. It's nice to know that the tourism industry turns the fascism crank in South America too.
  • While we're talking about the poor, some really are eating dirt. And please don't tell me that what we do here with our money doesn't affect how other people live - or die. I don't wanna live a guilty life, but I don't want to pretend anymore.
  • This town is either stupid or crazy. And no, I wouldn't want to live in a small dairyville that would try to arrest the president or vice-president of the United States of America, in the United States of America, until he can be "extradite[d] to other authorities that may reasonably contend to prosecute them." I'd rather not die in a hail of bullets.
  • Apparently, Britney Spears is mentally ill. We had our suspicions - to say the least - a long time ago. But we kept watching her fall from grace with binoculars, endangering her children and everyone else near her - including herself - for well over a year. And the trailers I've seen for Remember the Spartans movie (besides overall sucking and not doing anything new) are, well, mean-spirited in that they highlite her erratic behavior.
  • That's enough preaching for today.