Thursday, December 31, 2009

And some loose ends to end the decade

Weirdest death:
Sorry, Thriller fans. Michael Jackson is beaten out of this by Anna Nicole Simpson, or whatever her crazy name was.

Great video turned into overkillmurder:
Beyonce's "Single Ladies".
Yeah, I think the tenth guy who tried to dance like her all of a sudden made it ten too many. And that was before Kanye's little indescreption.

Best new program:
"Community". Full of snark and pop-culture references. Yet, more jpm than even "30 Rock from the Sun".

Best long-running tv program:
"The Office." I love that the documentary workers are only just now wrapping up filming after some six years, cuz this crew has been hilarious, unnerving, cringe-worthy and consistently the best large ensemble since "The Simpsons" when it was good (or is it "AD"?)

Worst tv trend:
Reality tv. Voyeurism and expanded victimhood at its worst. Watching highly edited and still boring upper middle class douchebags go on about their "love problems" or poor people piss away their lives by running naked in front of a camera crew is not my idea of entertainment.

Worst president:
Dick "The Ass" Cheney.

Most "Who Gives a F*&$" Moments:
The tabloids at the line. Seriously, am I supposed to care what Brad, Tiger, Tony Stark or anybody else does with their wiggimagidgets? Seriously, they're not real people - well, the parts of them that we know. What gives us a right to think that because they perform that they should have no private life? What kind of a sick contract is that? No wonder MJ was so screwed up.

Best marriage:
Mine. Get your own.

Cutest child:
Who did you think I would say? I'm not gonna lie.
Best single:
"Crazy", of course.
Now, dance, monkey. Dance!!!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Cine o' the Aughts

Like the other lists so far, this is a working list, subject to change when I finish my final. Also like the other lists, I will not rate the movies here. Unlike the other lists, I will have more than one film by a producer or director - largely because I've come to the realization that only listing one work by an artist if they deserve two or three is a foolish bit of self-mockery disguised as discipline. No, if someone had two truly great works of art, they should be acknowledged for it.

On this list, also, I want to focus on works that had a significant impact on me.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings, The Two Towers, and Return of the King. To be honest, this trilogy doesn't stack up well against the sands of time. But they were a fun phenomenon in their day, and should be enjoyable for years to come, Avatar notwithstanding.

Napolean Dynamite. Oh, Lord. I laughed my fool head off on this one. I wish I could say that this movie was thematically challenging, or it brought in something novel and fresh and bold to the screen, but I'd be lying. It had the greatest nerd performance of all time, though. And some of the best-delivered lines in a comedy movie I have ever witnessed. "Come get your dinner, Tina!"

Control Room. Opened my eyes to bias in the media. But more importantly, it allowed me to see the devastation wrought in the Arabic-speaking world due to our acts of violence but through their eyes - at least a bit more.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Best romantic movie ever? I think so. The lo-fi-ish effects are to die for.

Hotel Rwanda. Yeah, the hero is really a jerk. But I can't think of a more impacting mainstream movie that actually moves me and a large host of others to actually care about people on the other side of the world.

Punch-Drunk Love. Unrequited love at its finest. Ok, maybe this is the best romantic movie of all time. Adam Sandler is somehow amazingly frightening, real, and a bit funny in his one powder blue suit.

Spellbound. Documentaries can be funny. And thrilling.

Taxi to the Dark Side. Phenomenal indictment. Piercing. How do we condone, allow and interpret orders for torture?

Class and Chalk. Two very different movies about teaching. Very different from each other (one a look at the continuing influx of poor non-French in a once-prestigious French school and the other a comedy about first-year teachers) and certainly different from the Hero Teacher crap I've been forced to watch and subconsciously emulate over the last five decades. And both long, long overdue.

Food, Inc. A movie to act on, this one follows our tummy backwards and asks the big questions without getting all paranoid on ya.

Spider-Man 1 & 2. Batman: Year One and The Dark Knight. X-Men 2. Hooray for comic book movies... done right, that is. Boo for creepy Superman returns.

Wall*E, Finding Nemo, Incredibles, Ratatouille, What to say? Dang it, Pixar is the shnizzle. With the exception of Cars, that is...


Memento. This movie messed with my head almost as much as it messed with Guy Pierce's head. Nolan's probably the darkest mainstream director out there since noir, and the evil at the heart of the hero's deeds


Whale Rider
Last King of Scotland
In America
There Will Be Blood
Ghost Dog (Way of the Samurai)
Slumdog Millionaire

Monday, December 28, 2009

Thoughts on the Incarnation, pt. 2

My friend Carson C. played a wonderful little game with his Facebook status yesterday.

C: "Making sure 35M people have health insurance is clearly evil, as is banning the insurance companies from refusing to treat people with pre-existing conditions. They should be able to let people like me die if it's not financially advantageous. We must preserve our right to make money at the expense of lives. Anything else is an injustice!"

J: "oh, it's hideous. you know what else, "Christians" should gather together and pray against it!* after all, God HATES the sick and uninsured."

C: "Jason, Now don't be too extreme. I don't know that He hates them. I tend to think He just doesn't care."

J: "Carson, He *must* hate them. or they just did something bad to end up in the state they are in. and, judging by his followers in the US trying to take away every little bit that they have to get by (such as food stamps), i would say that the evidence simply lies against them.

God forsaken poor..."

The sad part is that I actually think it's true, that if I were to view God solely through the actions and statements of his most vocal followers (mostly, sadly, Evangelical Christians), then I'd have to come to the stark realization that this God is an a**hole, that 'He' is only concerned for the oligarchy, and that he probably has two horns and is fashioned completely out of Egyptian gold (cf. Exodus).

Fortunately, that's not the picture that the four writers of the Gospel canon give us. At. All. The gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John (and particularly Luke) all record a God who was born to a shamed teenager, in a stranger's house (yes, house. Not a barn nor a cave) in the farthest reaches of a cruel empire to a people that have not self-ruled for hundreds of years. His birth was announced to the lowest of working class people. In fact, these were the elements that he chose to come into the world in. Surrounded by the weak, by the poor, by women, by the downtrodden. This is the life he chose.

Yet this living revelation isn't just an indictment against my opponents on the far right, the demagogues and Dick Armies that make money by selling lies to people that will listen. The incarnation of their god is eerily similar to Al Franken's Supply-Side Jesus.

Yet, closer to home, I have many Christian friends who are compassionate and have made a great impact in my life, and yet feel that the government should have nothing to do with something as tangible as healthcare, nor that healthcare is a right for all. A few have argued that it should be the Church that takes care of the poor and uninsured through health clinics, et al. In theory, I love this idea.

But then I look at how few church-run health clinics I know of compared to how many churches have multi-million dollar budgets for their property. As if their business was buildings, not following the Incarnate God to the destitute and lonely, downtrodden and broken. Churches act as ongoing institutions in America, not non-violent insurrectionists - teaching people to care for all as all are made in the image of God as they did in the first couple centuries of their existence, before Constantine subdued it by bringing it into the power vortex.

Hit still closer to home by a great friend of mine, a redeemed ex-con and homeless advocate that my daughter calls Tio Flaco. He notices that at his church, which boasts of a ministry that helps the homeless, when the clients from that ministry come in on Sunday morning, they are virtually invisible...

"How can they do this to them? If Jesus were there they would ignore him too. Afterall, Jesus was homeless."

And he's right.

Which brings me to the closest point. The tyranny of my cold, dark heart.

Christmas day. I mutter rather loudly to one of the local vagabonds that if he is the person responsible for throwing the garbage all over my alley I will personally hurt him.

Why? Why the hell was I such an asshole myself? The guy's completely harmless, probably looking for something to comfort him (whether it be food, alcohol, maybe cans - though I doubt he's ever collected) in our trash cans. And most importantly, he's not the one I'm angry with.

But since I see him as less-than-human because of his condition/living arrangement, I can use him as an imaginary wall to fist, as an object of my overwhelming fury of which he is no part.

I belittle people too much. I turn them into chess pieces, objects of whim and fancy. And yet, the One who has any obligation whatsoever to do that... doesn't. Refuses to play by those manipulative power games. Refuses to believe that the least-of-these is somehow less.

Jesus, how I love him. Jesus, let me walk in your light and be as you are. Let me and my brothers and sisters in you live as Jesus Incarnate to all of those around us.

By the power of your Holy Spirit.

* Oh, I wish I could say I was just satirizing, but alas, no. US Congresspeople Michelle Bachmann and Sam Brownback got together with prominent members of leading Evangelical groups Focus on the Family (among them the Dobsons and FOF's president Daly), the Call to Action (which I thought was primarily about prayer in a pietous way and for healing, but apparently...), and the Family Research Council (which is hosting it, thanks to Tony Perkins) to pray not just against government funding of abortion, but also the inevitable "rationing" of health care that happens in Wingnut-thought - and not, say, for the 35 million Americans lucky enough to be given the privilege of being denied the greatest health care in the world...

Friday, December 25, 2009

Thoughts on the Incarnation, pt. 1

My friend Edith M wrote a beautiful (and brief, for which I'm jealous) blog post on a freshly relevant view of God's incarnation as we Christians understand it. This idea that God-becomes-us, or God-with-us ("Immanuel") has many, many implications for a human race that feels, in largesse, that it is abandoned by some distant, bearded deity. And yet so few of them are imagined in masses throughout the country, unfortunately. Maybe because we have not learned to lose, as my friend has. But I'd venture it would best work out the opposite direction - that when we can imagine that God has already walked as we walk, that he has already been through the muck, the mire, the deep shit that we wade through (real and imagined), when he knows hunger pangs, when he has seen skin falling off dead nerves, when he's struggled looking for work along with other working class and servants, when he's being suffocated by zombie-like masses and power-hungry sociopaths, when he's felt urgent anger, and deep loss, when he fears for his immediate future - this is when we can better face tomorrow. This is when we can be connected to something bigger than ourselves.

I'd like to say that I'll write down further thoughts by the end of Christmas day (they are in my head, but I'm not the fastest typist nor the best at organizing thoughts... alas), but I don't want to lie.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Chicago Tuesdays - Co-op Review, Shadow Budget and Pursed Lips

  • First off, I finally made it to my friendly neighborhood Co-op, the Dill Pickle (blog here). My take: It's a local haven for people who crave a nearby Whole Foods, yet want more community involvement, ownership, and less of the SUV set.

It has many elements that we are currently looking for: It's almost completely organic and/or local (or some variant thereof. To register as 'organic' can be costly and time-consuming. But, say that your cows are grass-fed, free-range, free of antibiotics and steroids, etc, etc. That's the important stuff to me); it's definitely community-based, with community ownership (community members are asked to buy shares into the market) and volunteers staffing the store; they carry products from the weekly farmer's market and from local bakers; and it's got yummies (organic chocolate chips and some sublime apple granola in the big dispensers along with various seeds, grains and trail mix). It also has many of the same products I find when I go to Trader Joes - but at a significantly higher price.

Which brings me to the sad reality: This stuff is expensive. It's already nearly impossible for working class and even lower-middle class cats to eat healthily, especially if they're not
convinced that it amounts to too much just yet. Food, Inc. has made it clear to me that the cost of food is truly hidden, that we are paying in visits to the doctor, in bad health, in sluggishness, and in taxes for this cheap, highly-processed, twice-frozen, corn-fed, diseased, steroid-injected, yadda, yadda, yadda food. So, who gets hurt worse than the poor, who can't afford anything but such food? My hope is that as more people buy organic and pressure the government to subsidize less corn and more small, organic farms (rather than the big businesses that they are. I'm looking at you, Monsanto...), then the prices will drop and healthier options will be available for all.

So, as a result, I think I'm going to lift the budget for food by fifty bucks and buy most of our food as organic, local or at least as fresh produce (which is a spin from nine months ago where I budgeted in 2/5's for same. Now it's more like 5/6's).

Video on the grand opening (including a Pickle Parade. Crazy Hippies) viewable here:

  • If you live in Chicago and have yet to read Ben Jarovsky and Mick Dumke's take on TIF's, please do yourself a favor and read, oh read Shedding Light on the TIF Budget.
This chart, for example, helps to illustrate the point that the areas should receive the most TIF funds - as the original intent of the Tax Increment Funding is to help blighted areas redevelop businesses - receive the least amount.

However, as the article notes, the mayor has too much power to lose if people would understand how this all works out for his - and the Chicago Machine's - benefit.

In the case of the market, the City Council, at Daley's urging, voted in 2006 to spend a total of $12 million in taxpayer money on construction of a new shopping area in the Ogilvie Transportation Center; $8 million of that sum went to the French Market. The project happens to be headed by a well-to-do, politically connected developer who's contributed thousands of dollars to the mayor's campaign coffers. And the city plans to spend another $23 million in the River West TIF district through 2011.

The more TIF districts are created, the more money goes into the TIF accounts and the more powerful the mayor becomes.

Back in the 1980s, in the early days of Chicago's TIF program, Mayor Harold Washington said he would limit TIF districts to paying for specific projects in blighted communities that truly needed them. But the program has expanded over the years, and the administration and City Council have held almost no discussion of its evolving goals; now virtually any project in any community can qualify for subsidies. According to a TIF primer city officials distributed to aldermen this fall, TIF money can be used for program administration costs, property acquisition, rehabs of existing public or private buildings, construction of "public works or improvements," job training, business relocation and financing subsidies, planning studies, marketing, building demolition, and the services of architects, engineers, lawyers, and financial planners...

As we like to say here at LeftCheekopia, and further, etcetera, etal...

  • Another point of interest for me, at least, is the Reader's story on the seemingly secretive CPS press agency. Yeah, if the last eight or so years have taught us anything, being opaque and secretive is the way to destroy your credibility and government.

Constitutionally Guaranteed Gun Rack for Your Bedside

A loaded rifle at the side of your bed, for when you groggily get up in the middle of the night for some water or 'cause your baby is screaming her head off and you just want to shoot something without even thinking of it.

Also, a great phallic reference. But let's not go there...

Vid can be viewed here.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

News of the Weird - BATMAN'S DEAD!!!

Holy Crap, Batman is DEAD!!!!

Or, rather, Bruce Wayne is dead, but Batman lives on in the form of his first protege, Dick Grayson, aka, Nightwing, aka the original Robin. The young, brash, brilliant but hopelessly infantile incarnation of Robin is now played by Bruce Wayne's son and Ra's al Ghul's grandson...

Yes. Weird.

But hang on to your cowls, men and women (mostly men. actually, mostly guys). The lead-up to this is quite the ride, or at least different from what fans from the 70's & 80's (as I am) are used to.

So, there was a Crisis (the second, apparently middle one) wherein, from what I gather (yeah, I'm not feeling too world's greatest detective myself right now...) the greatest heroes (the trinity of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman) all disappear - at least from fighting. Somewhere in the ensuing year (in the weekly series turned four-book series 52), Bruce Wayne kills Batman.

But that doesn't last long...

Batman was supposed to die (and many thought he did) psychologically and physically in the series "Batman RIP", written by Grant Morrison. Herein, he's tortured by a man posing to be his father who had apparently faked his own death (and, in the process, killed Ms. Wayne). Kidnapped by "Thomas Wayne's" gang of villains, Batman once again goes missing and is presumed dead. But, Batman being Batman, he didn't.

Is your interest piqued yet? To be honest, mine is...

However, Batman's triumph is short-lived. He is then batnapped (Batnap? Get it? Bat - like Cat... oh, forget it) by super evil, supervillain Darkseid who is in the process of destroying the entire multiverse (as a tie-in from the first Crisis, Crisis on Infinite Earths, which I read as a kid in the 80's and blew my friggin' mind on... dude.). Bats himself gets out of the trap that Darksie has planted for him only to end up in this confrontation:

The gun that the Big Bat points at the New God is armed with the bullet that can kill New Gods, as it is also the one that Darkseid used on Orion, who, if you don't know (and why don't you?) is (was) Darkseid's son and the bane of his existence. Which brings us back to Jack Kirby, father of the modern comic book era along with Stan Lee, his once partner. Kirby went to DC and created the New Gods, blending ancient myths into what was only considered the new-mythology of the comics universe. He also seems to be the homage of this Final Crisis., a classic myth in its own rite - akin to the weirdness in any of those Homeric or Herkales epics.

Anyway, back to the main event: While the bullet grazing Darkseid starts his end (and in the process, the universe's, of course), Darkseid uses his lazer beam eyes (ok, they're not lazer beams. They're like tracking beams of infinite deaths) to smoke Batman. Superman shows up at the scene from the future (where he fights an evil version of Superboy) too late to save his bestest friend.

The end.

Or is it?

Read but beware for spoilers:
Grant Morrison interviews, pts 1 & 2

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Chicago Tuesdays

As much as I rag on the Evangelical movement, there is much that I love about it. Namely, its feet-on-the-ground approach to working with outcasts in society. The churches that I have been a part of all work regularly with the homeless and poor in their surrounding areas. Unfortunately, the communities have not always been receptive of that work.

So, it's a good day when many in the neighborhood are pouncing on an opportunity to share with their local church in the good work they do. Our current church in Logan Square, the Urban Vineyard, is gathering a toy store for families in the neighborhood. According to Pastor Ray Maldonado,

We have identified 50 families that we have been helping with food and clothes throughout the year. Almost all are from Goethe and Chase Schools. We ask our church members and anyone else that would love to help to bring new toys and/or items that they believe would be helpful for families. One church is giving us 120 coats. While we give away the toys or items that are designated to only be given, the toys and other items are sold at 15cents on the dollar. This does two things, it encourages the families who love the idea of "buying their children Christmas gifts" at a fantastically reduced rate and secondly, the money is used to buy more food for these same and other families in need.

If you, while reading this, are hit on the head with an idea or feel inspired to give in a similar
fashion, I won't stop you. Also, if you live in the area and would like to give or help out with this specific ministry (or even similar ministries), you can check out here or email here.

In other local nooze:

Cops really seem to have their priorities straight, right? Bros before justice. Wonder where the gangs get that mentality from....

Looking for original but cheap art? Anywhere from 0-200 buckaroos at the Seeking Art Bargain Basement on Saturdays at the Co-Prosperity Sphere. (via CRblog)

And, once again Ben Joravsky, the Chicago Reader's resident expert on the mangling of Chicago's taxes and local bodies that is known as the TIF is trying to spread knowledge - this time to the not-so-knowledgeable people who are supposed to be running the show. That would include the mayor, the Department of Community Development (who give us all the propaganda piece entitled, "The ABC's of TIF"*) and the city's Chief Financial officer.

*Which, by the way, was passed out to audience members at two different meetings I was involved in within the last year and both by people who have something to gain from the partial information inferred in this document.

Monday, December 07, 2009

The Global Warming Denier's Anthem

Actually, most deniers I know tend to say a lot of gibberish, so even though I suppose they're making sense to themselves, really all this video needs is a few angry mentions of Al Gore.

If you can't view it (ie, you're reading via Facebook notes), click here.

Evangelicals, Markers and the World

We evangelicals are a people obsessed with badges and identifiers. It's a way to tell, in a quick overview, if the new couple in the church are really saved, if we can hang with Sally and Joe even though they go to a different church. It's a way of checking out, of making sure that they are us, but also of making sure that 'us' are exclusive and, thus, special. In some ways, it's a leftover from the high tide of Fundamentalism's knee-jerk reaction to Liberalism (yes, I'm using Capital Letters like some Nutwing...).

Essentially, it's supposed to be a way of making sure that Christians are not of the "world" - that we are not "worldly." We are set apart, we are special, we are God's own for God's use.

This phenomenon can be dated back to the Reformation and the ensuing Counter-Reformation. And then back to the Church Fathers, even predating Emperor Constantine's meddling in the affairs of the church. In fact, it can be seen most prominently in the actions of the Pharisees and in their laws.

Of course, identifying each other through markers and labels is not just limited to the religious community. People groups have always found protection of one sort or another in labeling. Often the labeling is completely unnecessary (it never takes away from one group to have another group have the same rights and privileges as the first) and the categories and degrees of separation dangerous (think of the hierarchies inherent in your typical middle school or of the sub-human designation given to slaves, lower caste members, non-natives or, more specifically, black-skinned people in the US and South Africa) and therein lies the problem with such reductive measures.

In the loose affiliation that my childhood's independent Bible church belonged to, there is a list of sixteen doctrinal points that they pride themselves on and consider key to their identity, each with several sub-points. Many of the points and sub-points are, at best, of secondary or tertiary importance, un-historical (eg, Dispensationalism), or down-right divisive (cessation of the gifts of the Spirit, separationism). As if those did not cause enough division, they outright call out four "movements" as being "Contrary to Faith" - apparently meaning apostate or heretical. Among those movements are Neo-Evangelicalism (as in, Billy Graham, Christianity Today, Philip Yancey, Chuck Colson, most other Evangelicals...) and, oddly enough, NeoOrthodoxy (is that even a movement anymore?).

This type of 'holiness' (in the case of separatists like the aforementioned affiliation, they do not associate with those who associate with those they consider apostate) is not just limited to fundamentalists either. In typical evangelical fashion, we do it in our everyday mundane.

What type of church do you belong to?
Who do you read?
What kind of music do you listen to?
Are you Calvinist or Armenian?
Pentecostal or Cessationist?
Where you with the Promise Keepers?
Do you attend a megachurch?
Do you listen to such-and-such's podcasts?
How should clergy/lay leaders dress for church?
How old is the world?*

There are other questions, of course - some unasked like: Do you drink alcohol? How much/how often? Are you politically conservative or liberal? Did you really vote for ol' crazy face?

Further complicating the issue, some of these markers are synonymous with sin issues, or at the very least of being separate with "the world." A common scene when we encounter new friends is the 'beer in the fridge' syndrome. In this scenario, we try to get our toes wet in regards to finding out if they are ok with drinking. Which sounds absolutely bizarre and bewildering to anyone outside of the Evangelical fold, I know. But because of our Fundamentalist tendencies and some rather arbitrary picking and choosing, conservative evangelicals had largely shunned any sort of alcoholic drinking as if it would automatically lead to debauchery, orgies, and wife-beatings. This is considered a marker, how a pastor or sister in the Lord would know if one needed deliverance from the world. Furthermore, one shouldn't go to a bar at any time, nor play pool (up until the 1990's it was a rule at the college I worked at through college), nor smoke or play face cards (also because it was associated with gambling). These are related markers, of course, because proximity to a bottle is not enough to establish holiness but is apparently enough to drag yer alcoholics-lovin' self to hell.

Some of these identifiers can be readily and easily addressed - they're just plain legalism. Dancing, associations, alcohol consumption, music - these may affect some people in regards to their own spiritual walk, but that cannot be extended to all. Others are varied attempts at Christian acculturation. Business attire is standard wear in typical older churches on Sunday morning; one common argument being that it's less distracting than informal wear, another that we should dress up for God - as if all the time it takes preparing or buying 'non-distracting' clothes doesn't distract from trying to get in a proper mood, or as if God pays more attention to white collar people than for blue collar.

The ancient church also faced the same problems. The first gentile Christians were told that they had to accept a Jewish signifier (odd as it were, since circumcision isn't instantly identified - I would guess at least...). But the primary and first missionary to the gentiles got pretty upset at these troubled purists. In the fifth chapter of the book of Galatians, St. Paul writes:

When we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised... You were running the race so well. Who has held you back from following the truth? It certainly isn’t God, for he is the one who called you to freedom. This false teaching is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough!** I am trusting the Lord to keep you from believing false teachings... I just wish that those troublemakers who want to mutilate you by circumcision would mutilate themselves.

The Saint Paul may have a history of mixing phrases (which would confuse gentiles not as familiar with his world and theology much later in time), but never of mincing words.

The over-arching problem - I strongly suggest - is that we are choosing the wrong markers:
They will know you are Christians by your love.

From the same passage as quoted above:

So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law... What is important is faith expressing itself in love...For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

And this, in turn, should change everything.


*A large percentage of American Evangelicals believe that it is questioning of God's creation and revealed truth that the world would be much older than 6,000 years. This is actually a modernist reading of the Bible that believes that if the bible records it, it must be literally true. But more on this phenomenon later.

** I can't be the only person somewhat amused by the massive irony that separationists quote from this verse when it's they who are yeasting up the bread, when it's they who've got the knife on the foreskin?

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Weekend Links We Like to Link to: ZOMBIES?

Keeping America safe from the threat of secret Islamocommie-in-Chiefs, Pastor and Jesus-lover J. Grant Swanky-Panky almost clipped out a few Muslims for their devil worship in the butcher shop. Jesus General doesn't think that's it's enough to want to kill them, and called out a holy-hit on Swank. Eradicate the infidels and the cowards and let God sort 'em out.

We're looking at doing Meatless Mondays (click here for yumms). But something tells me (my nominal Catholic father's insistence that we evangelicals follow some of his practices?) that it should be on Fridays. And since we don't do fish, it'd be the same anyway...

I'm a fan of PT Anderson. Especially when he (whether or not he's aware of it) tackles issues of faith. This could be good. Really good.

And lastly, Christian Side Hugs finally get their own gangstarap (of sorts)

Click here if yous can't see this.
Oh, and prepare yourself for the lyrical onslaught of bringing back Republicans after some weird shout-out to Obama. These guys can hold their own with the Teaparty rapper Hi-Caliber on a Freedom-Lovin' 'Merica Tour.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Rush to Judgment

I can see why this guy is big stuff on the religious right's calendar. Why they listen to his unsubstantiated bigoted rants against The Gays, the Intilekts, Women, and that Magic Negro.

This guy loves heterosexual marriage so much that he's doing it again and again. That's three more times than the man we all want to fail, right, Rushie? You're four times as dedicated to straight marriage than that ManChild in Chief, as you like to call him.
In addition - and this is what makes him such a Great AMERICAN - Rush is also a lover of freedom, which is why he doesn't stay with those marriages. Can't keep him cooped up; ya can't keep a good man down.

So I ask, what's wrong with the rest of us? We should be on HIS level!

Why do we hate hetero marriage and freedom so much?

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

5 Lessons Learned from Continuously Reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar

1) Caterpillars are very hungry.

2) Fruit, no matter how much is eaten, does not fill you.

3) Leaves make for a good elixir if overeating is what ails you.

4) When you get too heavy, you should build a house of shame around yourself for three weeks.

5) Excessive junk food leads to you being a beautiful butterfly.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

And freedom for all - except for THOSE dispicable man-lovers.

Shorter Manhattan Declaration:

We, ecumenical Christians of Evangelical, Catholic and Orthodox traditions, gather today to remember how Christians have historically and are actively serving and rescuing the downtrodden and oppressed. We declare that every single human life is made in the image and has a print of the glory of God and are worthy of dignity and a voice - with the exception of those that want to gay-marry. And also, the public option will kill grandma and the cripples. And further also, the government is taking Christianity away from us and will make us all perform mass gay abortion marriages.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

News of the Weird = The Conservative Bible Project

According to Conservapedia's Conservative Bible Project Page:
Liberal bias has become the single biggest distortion in modern Bible translations...
As of 2009, there is no fully conservative translation of the Bible which satisfies the following ten guidelines:
  1. Framework against Liberal Bias: providing a strong framework that enables a thought-for-thought translation without corruption by liberal bias
  2. Not Emasculated: avoiding unisex, "gender inclusive" language, and other feminist distortions; preserve many references to the unborn child (the NIV deletes these)
  3. Not Dumbed Down: not dumbing down the reading level, or diluting the intellectual force and logic of Christianity; the NIV is written at only the 7th grade level
  4. Utilize Powerful Conservative Terms: using powerful new conservative terms to capture better the original intent; Defective translations use the word "comrade" three times as often as "volunteer"; similarly, updating words that have a change in meaning, such as "word", "peace", and "miracle".
  5. Combat Harmful Addiction: combating addiction by using modern terms for it, such as "gamble" rather than "cast lots"; using modern political terms, such as "register" rather than "enroll" for the census
  6. Accept the Logic of Hell: applying logic with its full force and effect, as in not denying or downplaying the very real existence of Hell or the Devil.
  7. Express Free Market Parables; explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning
  8. Exclude Later-Inserted Inauthentic Passages: excluding the interpolated passages that liberals commonly put their own spin on, such as the adulteress story
  9. Credit Open-Mindedness of Disciples: crediting open-mindedness, often found in youngsters like the eyewitnesses Mark and John, the authors of two of the Gospels
  10. Prefer Conciseness over Liberal Wordiness: preferring conciseness to the liberal style of high word-to-substance ratio; avoid compound negatives and unnecessary ambiguities; prefer concise, consistent use of the word "Lord" rather than "Jehovah" or "Yahweh" or "Lord God."
Thus, a project has begun among members of Conservapedia to translate the Bible in accordance with these principles. The translated Bible can be found here...

First Example - Liberal-Promoted FalsehoodThe earliest, most authentic manuscripts of the Gospel According to Luke lack this verse fragment set forth at the start of Luke 23:34:

Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."

Is this a corruption of the original, perhaps promoted by liberals without regard to its authenticity? This does not appear in any other Gospel, and the simple fact is that some of the persecutors of Jesus did know what they were doing. This quotation is a favorite of liberals, although it does not appear in the earliest and best manuscripts of the Gospel of Luke. It should not appear in a conservative Bible, because in point of fact Jesus might never had said it at all...

The committee in charge of updating the bestselling version, the NIV, is dominated by professors and higher-educated participants who can be expected to be liberal and feministin outlook. As a result, the revision and replacement of the NIV will be influenced more by political correctness and other liberal distortions than by genuine examination of the oldest manuscripts. As a result of these political influences, it becomes desirable to develop a conservative translation that can serve, at a minimum, as a bulwark against the liberal manipulation of meaning in future versions.

You can't make this stuff up. As Slactivist argues, this is like a parody of parody. You can't even lampoon it, because what else is left to say?

The good news is that, really, they can't change the Bible from what it is fundamentally. The Beatitudes are largely still in place and stand in opposition to power-worship that many of these seem to consider 'conservative principles'. So maybe, just maybe someone's eyes will open to the unmistakable beauty that is God's word and will see it as their duty to heal rather than hurt, to actively love rather than worry about appearing weak. Maybe the heavens will open and they will experience a revelation, an apocalypse.

Hopefully, prayerfully.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Chicago Days 1 - Prayer Vigil in the 14th District

I've been trying to start a Chicago Tuesdays for the last two weeks, but that just never got off the ground. Hopefully, this can be a regular or semi-regular feature next week. But for now, I thought I'd share this prayer vigil announcement for anyone who lives in the Shakespeare District or around here in Chicago. We (including my church, Urban Vineyard) are participating this Thursday evening, and if you live nearby, I ask you to consider showing up as well:


"Prayer Vigil for Peace to Stop the Violence in Our Community"

Churches and Houses of Worship that partner with the 14th District Police Department invite neighbors from the 14th District and beyond to attend a Vigil and Special Worship Service to Seek God for the Peace of our Community.

Our theme verse is Jeremiah 29:7 "Seek the peace of the city; Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper."

We will also be offering prayers for the families who have been hurt by violence this year.

Neighborhood young people will be leading us in songs, skits, and prayers.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

6:30p.m. Meet at the corner of Division St. & Spaulding Ave. for walking procession

7:00p.m. Worship Service at Church of God 3301 W. Lemoyne (773) 235-2958

WHO: 26th Ward Alderman Maldonado, 14th District Chicago Police Commander J. Escalante, Ten CommunityChurches and 100 community residents

Participating churches: Abrego del Altisimo, Armitage Baptist Church, Church of God, Humboldt Park Ministerial Association, Iglesia Mision de Valle, La Capilla de Barrio, Episcopal Church de Nuestra Senora de las Americas, Salvation and Deliverance, Vineyard Christian Fellowship, Iglesia de Agape.

For more information contact: Officer Iraida Torres, 14th District CAPS Officer 312-744 -1261,

Rosita De La Rosa
Logan Square Neighborhood Association (LSNA)
Prevention Specialist Director / Intergenerational Organizer
2840 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Chicago, IL. 60618-7401
(773) 384-4370 x10

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sees, I tolds you we should nevah mixes the species up

Shorter Wesley Prudin, hopefully former editor of the Washington Times:

Obama bows, the nation cringes

It's not Obama's fault that he's a surrender monkey, he's got messed up blood because his mama had jungle fever and anyway Hawaii isn't in the real USof'HEY WE BOW TO NOONE!!1!

What is up with these crazy rightwingnutjob cats? Can't they even function a complete thought in their hateful heads without showing their complete ignorance and xenophobia?
They complain that Obama is arrogant, but then they complain that he's subservient to others? Which is it?
They complain because Obama bows, but forget Bush II's bowing to the pope and kissing his holy hand. Or kissing the Saudi King's oily lips.
And then they continue with the insanely racist meme of calling him an un-American. Or a child.
Or, in this guy's case, imagining him getting the bend-over treatment in jail - because that's apparently what happens to his fellow Black Americans ("unfortunately").

Thursday, November 12, 2009

News of the Weird: Charmin' WC Edition

From today's Chicago Reader (p. 78):

Proctor & Gamble announced in October that it will once again open public restrooms in New York City's Times Square for the holiday season as a promotion for Charmin toilet tissue. Earlier this month, as part of it's "Enjoy the Go" campaign, the firm conducted auditions for five "Charmin Ambassadors" who'll be paid $10,000 each to blog about their experience at restrooms from November 23 through December 3. "Charmin only asks that candidates should enjoy going to the bathroom so much - whether it be to catch up on reading or just enjoy some 'me time' - they never want to leave," said the press release.
Boy, I love me some 'me time.' Especially if I get rewarded handsomely for it.

But still, I think my bathroom is public enough...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I can see 2012 from my house!

Shorter Joel Cotkin, over at Forbes:

"Obama hasn't healed the nation yet, so he's a sitting-duck president unless he yields to my five simple steps of Palin-tology. Also, Drill, Baby, Drill!"

H/T to Carson "Daily" Clark via Facebook
'Shorter' theme is stolen from SadlyNo, who borrowed it from someone else who modified it from this other cat and so forth...

Monday, November 09, 2009

Questioning Evangelicals: Corporate Sin

"Corporations and nations don't kill people. Individual bad persons kill people. Individually. Sometimes with guns."

That line of logic is prevalent in my own Evangelical movement. Evangelicals do not recognize corporate sin, this concept that a group of people can be responsible for the sins of the entire group, even if they did not individually sin. Which is odd, to say the least.

First, Christians believe that all of humanity is cursed with the consequences of sin because of the follies of a couple representative members (Adam & Eve). Second, Christians believe that when sin entered the world, it ruined not just them and their offspring, but the whole world. Which includes not just nature, not just hurricanes and tsunamais and earthquakes and other "Acts of God." Every social interaction, every attempt at brotherhood (see Cain and Abel) and community (see Babel) is tainted beyond simple matters of 'me' and 'you'.

But let's look at an example, shall we?

"You shall not murder."
"If someone strikes you on the one cheek, offer him your other cheek."

How are these rather straight-forward Biblical imperatives reconciled in the minds of Evangelical Christians in the light of our constant drumming of war triumphalism? How does a Christian live a moral life and participate as a soldier - if the primary function (not necessarily purpose) of a soldier is to kill?*

A friend tried to help with this disconnect once, using common logic from the EV fray:

"Suppose you're called to the military by your country. You operate in obedience to your country. You fight because you have to. You shoot because you have to. That other person on the other side may, just like you, have a family - kids and a wife. But it's your duty to shoot, to defend your country. You can rest assured that you are not personally responsible for that person's death. The responsibility for the death is on the government's head."

At this juncture, it seems important to note that there are a few meteoritic holes in this argument (like, How come many of the same people who say we have to obey our government in times of war will openly disavow obeying the government in something so paltry as paying taxes? Or, Is it more important to be obedient to my government or to my conscience?), but let's take this example at face value, shall we? What we are told to do here is remove individual guilt and place it on a corporate entity.**

Which is one of the few periods when Evangelicals recognize any sort of corporate sin in any form. Evangelicals are so centered on individual sins (lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life as committed by each person) that the idea that companies, corporations, local governments, nations (or at least non-Axis-of-Evil ones), industries, markets and their directors and/or members can be held guilty for their actions is foreign to them. The meltdown at Enron, for example, can be blamed on a few reckless people - not a reckless corporate atmosphere of rapid growth and immense competition that precluded false financial reports meant to buff up their image yet accomplishing a wide-scale gang-raping of jobs and safety.

However, if one were to point out the evils rampant in, say, the police force, she will be told that it is the work of a few bad apples.
Likewise, the housing collapse was the work of individual predatory lenders (or, for the less compassionate, individual poor people who should have known better).
The related banking collapse.
The sex slave trade.

These are all the works of isolated individuals, not systemic problems. They just need some Jesus and those problems will be taken care of. Right?

And then there's more massive problems, not so easily deflected to individuals:
Global poverty.
Slavery in general (which is bigger than ever).

Often looking into the abyss of these problems, many fellow Evangelicals would rather not face the 'Why' of these dilemmas (or if they do they turn to overly-simplistic or even racist answers). Instead, they work on trying to serve the people caught in the problems (or, in the "Axis of Evil" example, advocate for war. Again...). Which is beneficial to a point, but severely limited. It only allows us to rescue a few hand-picked individuals and only for a short period of time. Further, the good vibes associated with the rescuing allow us a reprieve from the guilt associated with our comfortable life and all the riches; they allow us to continue to feed into the machines that entrap people. Rather than tearing down the prisons and allowing the prisoners to go free, we're content with sending in a check every once in a while. Rather than confronting our luxurious and wasteful nation. Rather than challenging banking and insurance policies and practices that are clearly unethical. Rather than calling the gods of war and their connections to account for the blood they shed. Rather than picking up our cross daily for the sins of our generation.

We'll just continue to blame individual sin and find a scapegoat here and there. As long as we don't have to be personally responsible for others' sins...

* I do not indict soldiers in this argument. I am merely bringing in a moral argument.
**Except, for many on the Evangelical Right, the sins of the government in declaring war on "our enemies" (currently, Brown People and Muslims) are absolved.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Top Shelvers of the Allright Aughts - So Far

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Second in a series of pre-emptive favorites (really, most influential). The official lists should be up in Jan/Feb, but this is my way of thinking about the lists beforehand and just having fun with it.

I try to limit these lists to one work per artist/author (though for movies, two of my definite favorites are from the same director. Since movies are more collaborative, I may have to break my own rule on that one. Not sure yet.) and to works released in this decade. Which, in the case of books, gives me a bit more leeway than the typical year list, as I rarely read a work in the year it was written...

In no particular order:

Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection and the Mission of the Church
- N. T. Wright
Overview of the crusader's singular work against Gnosticism and escapism which has pervaded the Protestant churches (especially American Evangelical churches), especially in regards to heaven, the Resurrection and all that.

Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian - Sherman Alexie
Hilarious and poignant young adult novel about a high school freshman who decides to attend an all white school that's literally and figuratively miles and miles removed from his reservation.

What's So Amazing About Grace
- Philip Yancey
(I can't tell when this book was first published based on the Amazon reads, so it may be disqualified...)
What sets apart Christianity from any other philosophy or religion in the world? I'll give you a clue - it's in the title of this great set of meditations from my favority Evangelical writer.

Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Klay
- Michael Chabon
Ooh, comic books! A novel! Amazing and epic!

When You Are Engulfed in Flames
- David Sedaris
-or- Me Talk Pretty One Day
Ok, so this is a cheat, but I've got a couple months to make up my mind. Contrary to popular belief, I truly believe that Flames is Sedaris' strongest work yet. The Smoking Diaries at the end alone are worth the price of admission. However, Me Talk is one of the most influential books I've ever had the privilege to crib.

Jesus Wants to Save Christians
- Rob Bell and Dan Golden
I can't decide if this book or Velvet Elvis is more important to me. I actually think Elvis in that it helped me work through some transitional things and definitely provided a juncture for me. But if Elvis is the bridge, Save is a road map to the destination: Liberty for all, in the name of Jesus.

Searching for God Knows What - Donald Miller
As of print, I don't have his latest book, but I still think that Searching is miles ahead of his breakthrough Blue Like Jazz.

Real Sex: The Naked Truth about Chastity
- Lauren Winner
In a world where Christians rarely talk maturely about sex (if at all), this book really helped me to look at sex as an issue of love and openness springing from the bedroom, through the home and then outwards.

Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation
- Jeff Chang
A social history of oppressed people framed by their music. There's nothing new there, but the first half of this massive book is so intriguing and yet comprehensive that much else fails by comparison - including its own second half.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Music for a Saturday

Who loves you baby?
Who gives you good credit,
Who says you'll regret it?

What does this say about my taste in music that this is my 666th post? Then again, Steve Taylor has always been known to play with the occult and garner the hate-vision of far-right conservatives.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Best. Beck. Impersonation. Ever!

Weekend Links We Like to Link to: Health Care Edition

Don't know how everything is gonna pan out. At this point, nobody really does, right?

Does the US really have the best health care in the world?

How dare the Mrs. POTUS indoctrinate our kids to eat healthy food at a fair! We oughta knock that asparagus outta her hands and replace it with the cotton candy and merry-go-rounds that everybody everywhere associates with fairs - like the ones at job fairs and college fairs! And exercise?! SHAME!!

Pricing. "The block representing the prices paid by American health-insurance plans looming over the others [England, Germany, Canada, Spain, etc.] like a New York skyscraper that got lost in downtown Des Moines." That's it! And why didn't they say so sooner?

The clustersuck that is our system in treating, say, diabetics. Partially because insurance companies - who do not retain their base for any extensive period of time (vs. a comprehensive national plan like Single Payer, et. al.) - are more concerned about holding onto their monies until they need to.
[In] the byzantine world of American health care... the real profit is made not by controlling chronic diseases like diabetes but by treating their many complications.

Insurers, for example, will often refuse to pay $150 for a diabetic to see a podiatrist, who can help prevent foot ailments associated with the disease. Nearly all of them, though, cover amputations, which typically cost more than $30,000.

Patients have trouble securing a reimbursement for a $75 visit to the nutritionist who counsels them on controlling their diabetes. Insurers do not balk, however, at paying $315 for a single session of dialysis, which treats one of the disease's serious complications...

"If a hospital charges, and can get reimbursed by insurance, $50,000 for a bariatric surgery that takes just 40 minutes," she said, "or it can get reimbursed $20 for the same amount of time spent with a nutritionist, where do you think priorities will be?"

In case you missed the story of the fat baby denied health care coverage because he was over the 95 percentile. A little close to home for me, as our daughter has always been in the 99.99999 percentile.

Just. So. Weird. "These are critical days if you don't want health care." At least Sean Hannity Freudiantly spoke the truth. Which I'm sure confused the mess out of him...

Oh. And, just in case you thought some of the vicious reaction against "Obamacare" was due to the whole Black "Kenyan" outsider problem, the conservative freak shows once again reveal that they're also equally misogynist.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

News of the Weird - Firin' Synapses and Mad Doctor Love

After a longer than long hiatus, it is good to return to the old News of the Weird files again. Let's get started:

Over a decade of experiments on patients awaiting brain surgery for severe epilepsy, researchers at UCLA have found that the brain's 100 billion neurons include some so specialized that they respond only to a single stimulus, the Wall Street Journal reported... Researchers have identified single neurons that fire only in response to Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, Halle Berry, Mother Teresa, the Beatles, Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey, Luke Skywalker, and Jennifer Aniston (but not when pictured with Brad Pitt). Last year researchers found a neuron in one patient that would spring to life only when presented with a clip of the The Simpsons. Such neurons, they say, fire whether the concept is presented through pictures or words. And while monitoring a new patient, Dr. Quian Quiroga found a neuron that responded only to him.

And you can see why here. Mee-ow!

From the WSJ article:
The research team reported that a single human neuron could recognize a personality through pictures, text or the sound of a name -- no matter how that person was presented...
Each neuron appeared to join together pieces of sensory information into a single mental impression. The researchers believe these cells are evidence that it only takes a simple circuit of neurons to encode an idea, perception or memory.

Okay, so it's not weird, but I do find it utterly fascinating. I know The Simpsons have been a great stimulus personally. Jennifer Anniston... not so much. (No comment on Halle Berry, though.)

From "News of the Weird", uncredited editor/writer. October 29th, 2009 edition of the Chicago Reader, p. 81.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


Back from yet another sabbatical. I've actually got quite a few things coming out of the pike for the next few days, including a continuation of "The Best... of the Aughts (So Far)" series and a new series on my problems with Evangelicalism as it stands these days.

Which I'm both excited about and scared about, as I generally am with anything new (like the weather, every-flippin'-day-in-Chicago!)

I do feel that it's important for me to state my criticisms of the entire movement of Evangelicalism (particularly, I should note, of the American strain). If you love something, you're going to ask questions of it, but I understand that many in my EV family do not share my concerns and would thus question my belonging (some not just within the frame of the Evangelical movement, but as a legitimate Christian. Sigh...). So before I begin the semi-weekly series (come early next week), I want to be able to have a point of reference for those who will question my membership.

This, in short, are the points where I agree with Evangelicalism:

  • I agree with the ancient Creeds (such as the Nicene and Apostle's).
  • I agree that the Bible is the revealed word of God, is fully true, and is the final authority on the created order and reveals God to us (in other words, if I had a vision wherein "God" were to tell me to shoot an abortion doctor in the face because "God detests abortion", I would know that is a false spirit because it contradicts one of the prominent messages of the Bible, that we should Love our enemies and pray for those that persecute us.)
  • I agree that the Son of God (100% God and yet 100% man) came to earth in the person of a Galilean named Jesus barJoseph, loved and taught and healed (literally and figuratively), died at a fairly young age in an embarrassing manner on a heap of trash, took away the sins of the world, was buried and literally rose back from the dead (and not at all in a zombie way). I also concur that he is the firstborn from among the dead, meaning that those who follow him will also follow him through the chasm of death.
  • I agree that Jesus left his Spirit to comfort and lead us. And that the Spirit in us (the Third Person of the Trinity) testifies of the saving, healing work of Jesus (which is still continuing).
  • I believe in a literal heaven and even a literal hell.
  • I believe that there are spiritual forces (ie., angels and demons) above and beyond our grasp in the material world.
  • I agree that Jesus is the good shepherd and is the sole way to God the Father (there is a massive paradox in this exclusivity, I am aware and would like to expand on this in a future post as well).
  • I believe that Jesus' followers should distinguish themselves from those who follow the Way of the World (and more on that in another post also. But here's a four-letter tease: Love).
  • I agree that it is the responsibility/privilege of each individual follower of Jesus to testify of the Way of Jesus.
  • I agree that Christians need to be involved in the world around them.