Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Good Grief

On Christ the solid Rock-O I stand!
The Italian Stallion as the Man of Sorrows? Really?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


  • Last week, the online arm of Book & Culture magazine released a critical eye toward Sufjan Stevens. I, maybe tired a bit, thought it a bit lame, saying that his musical vocabulary is too stilted and short. I rarely give voice to this, thinking it a bit shameful to suggest such things, but methinks I smell some haters in the midst. Although, in my book, they get big-ups for mentioning old favorites of mine, Freedom of Soul. I subtract some more points for the obvious mix-up of styles, comparing them to a CCM version of Run-DMC. De La Soul would be a bit more obvious, don't you think?
  • This week, B&C published an essay contrasting Lester Bangs to the pretenders to his throne - yes, a familiar theme - and then comparing him to the great Catholic intellect, John Paul II. I liked this article much better.
  • I think Bangs would make some good essay reading. More on my essay readings later.
  • Say what you have to about Kramerica, but that Neo-Nazi Pee Wee Hermania he dropped on that little audience in a comedy club in LA (and, via the wonders of modern Razrs, through the US) is good fodder for teaching my students the destructiveness of language unchecked (which is too often what it is within earshot). Now, if I could only learn how to teach instant karma... Or higher critical thinking.

Amazing Grace; Amazing Face

Youth Specialties pulled the article after the first week. It was too controversial, they said, and people (most likely Evangelical youth pastors) found it confounding and probably a bit heretical. Youth Specialties also insisted that they found the same article, by Tony Campolo progeny Bart, to be important and that they believed the article had many good points and would be a bit of a flamethrower for good conversation.

Campolo's article found him decrying a God of judgment, a God that would allow little girls to get raped in a heartless world and then walk away from him and his silence. Campolo was attacking (as he often is found in attacking mode - which is nice to hear every once in a while in a sometimes tepid environment of grassroots white American Evangelicalism - as opposed to, say, Pat Robertson's or James Dobson's attack-mode mass media frenzy) a God who would be silent in such excruciating circumstances, and a people and a theology that would defend such a God. God, in his estimation, cannot be simultaneously all-loving and all-powerful.

Reverend Carlton Pearson (the popular mentor of Bishop T. D. Jakes and "Black son" of Oral Roberts) was sitting in his dining room, watching the news on his large tv with his well-fed daughter on his lap, pondering much the same thing while they showed images of ravished and starving children in Africa. He was also angry at this God. This time, God directly spoke back, the This American Life episode featuring Pearson revealed. God spoke to Pearson and opened his eyes to the fact that Hell is man-made, that humanity was creating the hell of experience in such places as the geographical Rwanda and the just-as-real depths of universal and pervasive loneliness.

They have both come to a similar result, a similar end to a similar plight. The God of judgment is a fake God, a God they will not and cannot believe in any longer. And with that Eternal God of condemnation goes the God of eternal damnation. Hell, to both Carlton Pearson and Bart Campolo, does not exist, except in the hearts, minds and experiences of people while on earth. We have done injustice to God, they both insist, by scaring people to heaven. God must be real, but not the God who would condemn people to hell. Jesus came, they point out, to save the whole world. Add to this universalism Campolo's Open Theology, the idea that God exists fully on our plane of time and can not see (or chooses not to see) the future anymore than you or I.

I could see why Evangelical's feathers were rankled. I felt sorrow reading and listening to both men's reports (although I would fall short of condemning either men to hell). My wife dismissed both as pure rubbish. She's dismissed lesser claims as heresy, as blaspheming against the Holy Spirit.

However, my wife and I read and listen a lot to Bishop N. T. Wright, the New Testament scholar. Much like the aforementioned, he de-emphasizes Heaven and Hell to speak about life in the present. Unlike the other two, however, he doesn’t seem to sidestep this image of God. Though neither does he fit the mold of the fire-and-brimstone Jonathan Edwards-type of theologian or church minister. Although Wright doesn't directly answer whether or not he believes in an eternal, all-consuming Hell (he seems to view it as a mystery, an important mystery surely, but not one for the present time), he does not negate it, nor the prospect of an all-powerful and all-loving God co-existing with a suffering world (mp3). Wright, much like his self-described disciple Rob Bell (the popular preacher and founder of Mars Hill Bible Church), believes that the Church of God - through the power of the resurrection of Jesus and the infused power of the living and active Holy Spirit - needs to deliver people from their personal and collective hells-on-earth. To speak and live the resurrection life.

To all this we must add the voice of one more prophet of our age, the great Pigeon John. In an update of "It's the End of the World (And I Feel Fine)" song popularized by REM (among many others), "As We Know It" finds John confronting a "black man on a white horse" who comes down to earth and "look(s) like Avril and Bill Cosby mixed together." Among terrifying pleas and cries, John faces down Jesus in a seemingly irreverential and accusatory, hurtful voice asks:

What up, Jesus, what up my nickel, my man, can I ask you a couple a questions about the whole danged plan? Why the Holocaust, why the slavery, why the Crusades in the name of bravery? Why you let little girls get molested?... If the fall of Adam and Eve is all it took to leave the whole human race lost and shook, that don't make sense, it don't feel right! But I can see your whole face in the moonlight. Dang you look crazy, you make a n**** wanna cry. Looks like you hold the whole ocean in your eye. Are you crying too?...

I'm freaking mad at you... Why ain't you talking? Why don't you answer me?...

Every step you take is a freaking tragedy!...

In his last verse, after the world is taken up and Pigeon John finds himself flying over the clouds, PJ continues to question, only in a softer, sing-songy style,

What up, Jesus? What up my nickel my man? Can I ask you a couple questions about the whole danged plan? Without an answer, you stretch out your hand with the look in your eyes that you understand all the pain, all the loss, all the confusion, all the ups and the downs are now amusing. And I spent all my life rushing and hustling when I could've just been your friend. We're drinking coffee in the sun, the old and young... and it's ok now.

God is often silent when we don't want him to be (witness Job) and much more in-tune with our frustrations and failures than we are (remember, if nothing else, the incarnation?). It seems that often when we do confront the harder questions, we have to re-configure all of truth, instead of letting truth re-configure us. Pigeon John says in one three-and-a-half minute rap-pop song what I wish preachers (of any stripe) would say.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Night Time Is the Right Time

She hasn't been getting much sleep recently. That's largely due to the fact tat she' pregnant, of course, and the physical and emotional anxieties that allay themselves to the early stages of pregnancy. (Pause. Why, thank you, thank you. Yes, I am very much happy.) But, of course, when the wife doesn't sleep well, neither does the husband.

I often wonder what it will be like in the future. If long-married husbands and wives are so used to the rhythms of each other sleeping that they are more in-tune and therefore able to sleep through the irregularities or sleep less because of them. I doubt I could sleep less.

So, during the week, neither of us slept much. The nights are longer here in Chicago, of course, than the days. And yet there doesn't seem to be much time in either. The constant tick-tick of the alarm clocks is perplexing to the sleep-deprived. Those of us who are familiar with this world live in constant fear that the world will, indeed, pass us by. We also wonder how the rest of the world lives on and enjoys their rest while we - alas - suffer the curse of the undead.

Thanksgiving Day was difficult for us. The whole tryptophan thing was beyond difficult for us, already struggling in the area of lack of sleep. If we knew - mentally - we had to sleep, our bodies took some convincing. The turkey juice not only convinced our entire bodies, it kept us paralyzed in a state of perpetual lack-of-stretchiness. This is a great thing if we were at home and could practice our own good manners however we so danged pleased.

If only 'if' were 'because'.

There's a few things I do know. When the Bears lose, I don't sleep well. When I'm suffered by my students, bosses or peers, I don't sleep well. When I worry about not sleeping well, I don't sleep well. When my wife's need to cuddle me exceeds my breathing capacity, I don't sleep well. When I worry that I've offended my wife and she may want to sleep somewhere else, I don't sleep well. On the occasional nights where she has slept elsewhere, or in the same bed, but separated by the width of a cold shoulder, I don’t sleep well.

But as someone who jealously guards his sleep (and dreads going back to school for that very reason), I wonder how I’ll feel when the newest member of our family invades that sacred ground. I have some friends who have two little girls that they are raising under the philosophy that the children should follow the parents’ schedule rather than the popularized other way around. My wife and I, of course, like this philosophy and – although I’ve not confirmed this with her – both agree that the alternative is a hollow philosophy, a type of sophism run amok among mothers, fathers and Dr. Spock alike.

With the exception of the weekends, night time is the only time to actually see the love of my life, much less speak to her. Often, in embracing and trying to forget our harshly-lighted days, we fall asleep on one of our couches. After a short reading from the Bible, we clock out at about nine o’clock. At six we slowly rise and head-on to our morning routines, neither wanting to free ourselves from the inertia of the warm bed into the cold, uninviting world of the bathroom and, ever more reluctantly, into the cold world of the Near North and Downtown areas of the Town of Chi. It’s in this world that I run successively slower and slower to meet my co-worker who has, out of the generosity of her heart and a faint promise of five dollars a week (both growing fainter by the moment) .

I also wonder how much of our talk, and how early in his or her developmental stages, affects the baby jasdye. We know that worry, bad health, positive energy, nutrition, etc., affect the pre-born. But to what degree does interacting with the child before birth impact the child? Or are the mental benefits largely given to the parents? Is it largely just me who would benefit from talking into an imaginary tube in my wife’s belly button to the same imagined baby bounding for joy?

Which reminds me of the biblical scene (shortly before the Magnificat) where the baby inside Elizabeth (John the Baptist) leapt for joy upon hearing Mary’s voice. I wonder how many sleepless nights Mary, heretofore known as The Virgin, must have had upon waiting for the arrival of that miraculous child. She had to worry about her reputation. Her fiancé, Joseph, in fact, worried about his and her reputation. He only kept the woman and baby under strict orders from a shiny man. Mary was known to “ponder… in her heart.” I wonder how often she tossed and turned – or lay silent and still – in bed, concerned about the activities of her saintly, prophetic, but rebellious son. I wonder if she slept the night after they laid him in the tomb; or the night before she rose early to give him his proper burial. I wonder how much sleep she got after realizing that her son was the “firstborn from among the dead,” as one of her son’s later followers would put it.

Something tells me she got quite a bit.

Life is over

I know it's only the Bears' second loss of the season, and it's against a proven champion, one from the other conference. But still...

This just doesn't bode well for our Super Bowl dreams.

Rex, we love; we hate you. We love you.

Sunday Random Ten

I’ve had trouble uploading my precious CD collection to my iPod. I don’t know if anyone else is having this problem, but sometimes the computer will shut down shortly after I’ve started to upload a CD. Anybody know what to do with that?

Anyway, the latest - culled from a mix that we'll just call "The Party Mix". 'Cuz I'm lame.

Death Cab for Cutie – “Soul Meets Body” - I actually have the whole album. It’s full of poppy-jangly tunes, thought none quite as poppy-jangly as this. It’s one of those records I alluded to earlier.

Gorillaz – “Feel Good Inc.” What can I say? It’s catchy. I wish you were as catchy. Samuel L. Jackson said he believes it’s got the greatest laugh he ever heard in the beginning of a song. Better than Nichols’s in Prince’s Batman Soundtrack?

David Crowder – “B Part: I Saw the Light” – A hyper-kinetic bluegrass reading of the classic followed by a bit of death-spying melancholy. Crowder’s a stand-out in the over-crowded world of Christian Worship.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo – “Long Walk to Freedom (Halala South Africa)” – “Good boy, Good boy / Carry-on… Well-done, Well-done, you did a good job / Properly performed… Do you understand that?” What to do with this song? The title song of this fantastic “duets” album from this beloved South African gospel troupe says it all.

David Bowie – “Let’s Dance” - Not my favorite of the genius’s songbook. But cool for impromptu chants while waiting for the bus.

The Kinks – “All Day and All Night” – Rock & Roll will go on forever! One of the songs my wife and I dance to.

The Kinks – “You Really Got Me (Live)” – One of the other songs my wife and I dance to.

Sufjan Stevens - “Out of Egypt, Into the Great Laugh of Mankind, And I Shake the Dirt from My Sandals as I Run” – A bit pseudo-symphonic, breaking down into a near-cacophony.

Sufjan Stevens – “Decatur, Or, Round of Applause for Your Stepmother!” – Catchy song. Funny rhymes.

Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Under the Bridge” – Who hasn’t sung this with the guys and / or girls?

Monday, November 20, 2006

Now, if I were known as a *shaving* man...

I never cared for the practice of shaving. It's hard on my legs... I mean face, Face, of course!

But seriously, I dread it. And with all these new-fangled three/four/five blade razors, as soon as I buy a pair and the original blades go dull, the brand is out of style and neither it nor its pieces is sold any longer (much like with that new-fangled VHS everybody's hitchin' such a storm about).

My wife has been harping on me to get an electric razor. So, finally, last night, I went ahead and took the plunge and spent $30 (a new ink cartridge, by the way. Or, more appropriately, twenty new Gillettes) on a Norelco. Phillips makes good stereo equipment, I figure, so this follows logically in with the new man's sensitive machismo - I can look good and feel like I'm driving a sports car while gently massaging my face and front neck.

And now, after my first day shaving with the Phillips Norelco electric razor, I can safely say that it is neither comfortable nor close.

Not by a long-shot, baby!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Wednesday Musings

  • I like the month of November, generally, because it's fairly short. I don't care for the onslaught of the cold Chicago Winters, but it's not all bad and hell-frost (unlike January and February). And then there's Thanksgiving. It's the most wonderful of the trifecta of American Protestant Holidays. Christmas is, as we all know, too commercialized. Easter is pagan bunny worship. But Thanksgiving is a Fat-Feast. A no-guilt one-day all-encompassing glut-ride. It's eat with your family and sit on your rumpus until you literally pop. I've busted many a belt on this momentus day. Hooray for Indians and Pilgrims!

  • According to a Chicago Tribune article published yesterday, the amount of arrests at Chicago Public Schools has decreased about 17%. One part of the reason for this rather dramatic decrease, apparently, is because some schools have been tightening the reins on students getting arrested for non-violent disrespect toward teachers. I didn't know students could get arrested for that! That's horrible... But it does get me to thinking of a scenario that's been playing in my head since I heard that:
  • Tough girl inmate #1 (wearing tattoos that brag about her loving capabilities, smoking a cigarette out the side of her mouth): So, fresh meat, what you in here for?
  • Tough girl inmate #2 (with a bandana tied over left side of head and a crowbar in hand): Yeah, kiddo. What's your deal?
  • New inmate (Scowling, fierce look): I got upset with a teacher and gave her a click of the tongue.
  • (All other inmates slowly back away. Inmate #2 drops crowbar.)

  • A slight teacher-student confrontation at my school has to do with a student saying (on a MySpace page) that she finds this teacher "a bit annoying". I'm only reporting this because I'm wondering if any student could muster up the energy to say such things about me on a blog. I mean, saying such things to my face and under their breath is just plain easy - it's such a cop-out. Writing it on a computer and publishing it, that would take some work - of which I don't inspire much.
  • I wonder if, tomorrow, that student is going to exit the building in handcuffs.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Sunday iPod Top 15

Jackson- Dave Barnes
No Midnight - Birdmonster
Imaginary Girl - The Bees (US)
Thunder on the Mountain - Bob Dylan
A Lot Like Me - Dave Barnes
Someday, Sarah - Dave Barnes
Worst Comes to Worst - Dilated Peoples
Angel with an Attitude - the Ditty Bops
True - Duvall
All in Your Hands - Duvall
What It Is - Gnarls Barkley
Go-Go Gadget Gospel - Gnarls Barkley
Crazy - Gnarls Barkley
I Still Miss Someone - Johnny Cash
Lola (Live) - The Kinks

Live updates, Bears v. Giants

I know that usually this only goes to sports-themed blogs. And people with, like, readers and a follwing, etc.

But I need to practice my typing.

What the hecka??

So, first, NYG's got a heck of a run. Finally they're stopped just short of the goal. And they miss the field goal. Hurray for our special teams.

Then, on Grossman's second (after an incomplete), we get an interception. Next play is a touchdown.

And then an interception from one of ours.

Now, Benson's out there, running his little heart off, 'cuz apparently this is a running game.

Davis drops the ball, but it was ruled incomplete. I think it should've been down-by-touch.
Grossman's got all the time in the world. Davis has lost two in a roll. But they should've been turnovers.

Robbie Gould in for Gold. "Perfect season continues."

7-3, Giants.

I'm sick of the Syrius Satellite commercials.

7:53 - Edit

They're talking about Tiki Barber as leaving at the top of his game. Like Jim Brown or Sandy Koulfax.

Giants are settling for another punt. Devin Hester was on the border at the 23, no movement..

Rex is getting his chops busted.

Mushin at 43, showing that great tangent. We miss Berrian, that's for sure. But MM is good.

Jason McKie, that's a name I haven't heard in a while. Not that I've been able to watch most of these games.

Cedric "goes nowhere."

3rd and 8, "Benson lost five." We're at the fifty and a flag is called. False start on the Bears.


Shotgun is bad. Rex overthrows Mushin.


It looks like New York's angry with an equally angry Urlacher. I'd pay to see that fight.

Urlacher is in the middle of two big plays, back-to-back. Yikes!

:31 left in the first quarter. Defense is back. Offense, well, let's keep our hopes up!


Spoken too soon!

Thomas Jones fumbles!

Up to this point, he hasn't lost the ball for the longest touching-streak in the league.

Giants called, 1st & 20, 41 yards into Bears territory.

7-3, Giants, end of first quarter.


His butt is sweaty. Does that man know his butt is sweaty? Because I would be embarrassed to be on tv...

These guys are multimillionaires, honey. They don't care at this point.

33-yd. It's good. Crap!


Davis held on this time!

At our 30. Wher's our running game? Crap, Benson!

Loses the ball, but he may be - no, he is ruled down-by-contact.

At the 30 again, Rexy overthrows again.

Brad Maynard's kicking. I've got nothing against Gould, mind you, but Brad's the kick-off man.


Barber fumbles about a third of what he used to.

Hopefully, we'll make fewer mistakes the older we get too, eh, Rex?

Peanut Tillman's trying, but Burress is having his way.

Barber's playing better than our corps of RB's at this moment. Manning's playing better than our quarterback. Tillman got Plexico this time, as our d was clamping down on Manning. Third down and 5. Dropped pass. PUNT PUNT PUNT!

Another injury for the Giants.

If we win because of injuries, I'll be upset. Nice punt by the Giants. Lots of hang-time. No movement possible for Hestert.



Hasn't thrown a pass to Desmond Clark yet. Why not?

I know it's a bit slippery out there, but McKie dropped again.

At the Bears' 30, pass to Plexico Burress, now the 20.

Crap! Again!

If he can hold on, why can't we?

Getting a little physical out there.

I'm reminded of Harry Carey at the height of his influence in Chicago, when the Cubs had no hope. For lack of anything exciting on the field (and because he was really old and lost his brain cells to Bud) Carey would make fun of the players' names.

Plexico loses the ball about four yards from the goal line, Peanut Tillman returns it, gets hit and loses the ball himself. And now everybody's confused.


What happened to the rest of my blog?


Anyway, we got a touchdown before the half.

And now we're making some momentum after the half.

Well, then Mushin loses it. Giants are getting good at stripping even our best holders. We were sooooooooo close.


The Chargers had an explosive game today. I didn't get to stay to watch who won that one. Guess I could easily find out, but I don't really care.

False start on Eli's side of the ball, which is at the end zone, btw.

They are risking a safety.


We might have it.

Guess not.

3rd & 11.

This could be good for us. No flag, Burress got clothes-lined! Nice.

We receive at our forty, but number 23 keeps running back, looking for an open place. Look: There is none!

Jones for one.

Jones for five. But a flag. On the defense. Jones didn't realize that he was given the ball at first, so he almost lost it, but that flag gave us a first down at the 22.

Another flag, illegal contact, defense. Giants fans are upset again. MMuhammed got the better end of that.

Jones making ways again. To the 12.

Jones for the touchdown. McKie blocked. Snap. Another flag, this time holding on offense. Shoot.

Try again.

14 yeards. Jones to the 10 yard line. No flag called this time. I was wondering if this was the UN for a second there.

Rex throws to Mushin for touchdown. "First lead of the game." "Way too much room here."

With Gould's extra point, 17-13 Bears.


Finally, we get a turnover.

2nd & 8, on the 20. Bradley, who scored a touchdown for us before the half, brings it to the twelve.

3rd & 2, Jones to the 2. Doing Niiiiiiiiiiiiiice!

Grossman to the long-lost Desmond Clark!

woo-hoo! Another touchdown.

Robbie Goulllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllddd!!! Still perfect.


Gotta stop doubting us.


My Name Is Earl looks good this week. I guess it always does, but I especially like claymation. So, it looks like I know what I'll be doing Wednesday night.

Hanging curtains.

They talk about Shockney. Emphasis on Shock. Dude's deep.

Tiki takes it a good 50 yards. To the 4.


Touchdown Giants. Crap.

24-19. We're still on top. Miss. No. Good. 24-20. We're still on top.


2:44 left in the third. We gotta start throwing again.

We did. Thank you, Moosh! Great catch. Just into first, but these NY fans are getting rabid.

Davis gets us another first down, at our 41.

Wonder if they'll bring Benson back out. I kinda hope only to rest T Jones.

2nd & 5. Jones for one. Not quite Tiki, but we'll keep him.


Start of the 4th quarter.

3rd down at nine, thanks to one of our own committing the cardinal no-no false start.

Oops. Worse sin, sack for loss.

Lovie's eyes are red.


So are mine.

Ok, I'm gonna get some reading done here. I'll update on major news, if I feel like it.


Ok, who told us to make stupid challenges?

2nd & 24 on Eli on our 43. Tiki makes some gains. Dang him! He was on my fantasy last year.

52-yd attempt for field goal. Comes way short, into Hester's hands. Hesitates. Hester is going for the touchdown. Makes it!

Flag at the fifty yard. Unnecessary roughness on the Giants. Touchdown stands. Man, can Hester run!


Nathan Vasher last year broke the record for longest play in NFL history in a returned missed field goal for the Bears. Hester joined him today.


Harris intercepts Manning.

Everything's turning Bear-y!

Fifteen yard penalty for un-sportmanlike conduct. Come on, guys!

It helps that things have dried down now. Bradley made an awesome catch at the seven.

Fans are boo-ing. Big time.

Muhammed is walking out for a spell. T. Jones makes it to the one. Carried 24 times. Dude's a workhorse.


Another touchdown for Jones.

38-20. Da Bears!

With 8:20 left.


It's Al Michael's birthday!

With 5:05 left, I think it's safe to say that we won this one. I only say this because the Giants are defeated and injured, their remaining fans are booing and we're grinding it out with Jones.

Player of the Game:
Thomas Jones, of course. Mushin is right behind him. And then there's Hester, who nailed in the coffin.

A female Bears fan in the stand is holding out a tattered Giants Killer sign. The Bears fans are staying, I'm noticing.

It looks like we're on the way to make another score with the two minute warning. I wouldn't hold my breath, but I think it's time to go to bed.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Read or Die!

Some co-workers were commenting on my lamentable state of not having a tv.* One added, "That's how he can get so much reading done." I didn't want to burst her bubble, but that's just not the case. Being a new teacher and a newly-wed takes up all of my time. Seriously. I'm forcing myself to get any writing done here, because it's the only real writing I do. Outside of that, I only read in short sprints. Which I guess is okay, since I have ADD anyway.

But these are the books I'm currently reading or looking forward to soon reading:

What's So Amazing About Grace?, Philip Yancey. Just started it yesterday. Billy Graham has called Yancey his favorite Evangelical writer. After having read The Jesus I Never Knew and The Bible Jesus Read, I'd probably concur. The book tackles grace through stories, recollections and observations and largely deals with the fact that we Christians so often talk about it, but rarely practice it. Already on my viewing list from Yancey's recommendation is Babette's Feast.

Monster, Walter Dean Myers. I read it back in college. Now, my students get the privilege of reading this portrait of a young Black man who is on trial for murder and journals his story in the form of a screenplay for a documentary. He calls it Monster because that is the name the prosecutor gives him and although no one really believes he murdered anyone, his association with the petty thugs who commited the crime leaves him feeling tainted. One of the best Young Adult Lit pieces from one of the best Young Adult writers.

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, David Sedaris. Not as funny as Naked. But funny as all get out. On his father calling the father of one of the popular kids to try to make them pay for some dental work necessitated by the popular kid's throwing of a rock at young David,

There were two Thad Popes in the Raleigh phone book, a Junior and a Senior. The one in my class was what came after a Junior. He was a Third. My father called both the Junior and the Senior, beginning each conversation with the line "Lou Sedaris here. Listen, pal, we've got a problem with your son."

He said our last name as if it meant something, as if we were known and respected. This made it all the more painful when he was asked to repeat it. Then to spell it.

The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2006, Ed. Dave Eggars, Intro by Matt Groening. I have the whole series, dating back to 2002. The first year was the best, imho. But it seems that the series is back on track in comedic and poignant aspects in this largely Iraq-focused book. This edition also includes some collections, including "Best American Fake News Headlines" (all culled from the Onion, including the gems "Activist Judge Cancels Christmas", "Blacks, Whites Put Differences Aside, Work to Make Better Burger", "Philandering String Theorist Can Explain Everything", and "Rest of U2 Perfectly Fine with African's Starving") and "Best American Excerpt from a Military Blog" (from Check out this excerpt from June 17, 2005 "I can't stop thinking about what a major said to me the other day. 'The whole country of Iraq, every man, woman, and child... Kill every one of them and it still won't be worth one American's life.'") and "Best American Things to Know about Chuck Norris" (culled from Chuck Norris does not sleep. He waits; Chuck Norris created the hole in the ozone layer "to get a better view of the sun"; Chuck Norris doesn't read books. He stares them down until he gets the information he wants).

The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros. I haven't read it yet, but I plan on reading it to my students. It takes place in a barrio here in Chicago and is a classic in young adult literature.

Eat This Book, Eugene Peterson. I'm slowly making my way through this revelation on revelatory Biblical reading and living.

Job, The Writers of Job. We just finished it last night. This time reading it orally, I was struck by how similar Job and his friends' arguments are. They always go back to God, they always talk about how majestic and powerful and all-wise God is. But it isn't until God truly shows his majesty, power and wisdom that they dare not speak on God's behalf. Every time I'm confronted with Job's story of suffering I'm awe-struck with the fact that I should be silent.

*We just got a tv this Sunday. Not sure how long it'll last. Hopefully long enough to watch some exciting Bears wins.

Overflowing with Caananites

I pick her up at the train station and we walk a mile in slightly blighted urbana to Division Street. Once we hit turn that corner, we hurry so I feel less of a tinge of guilt about missing work (wherein I had to report in a few hours anyway). We go to Milk & Honey, a somewhat trendy (and posh) cafe where I treat my day-date to some homemade granola.

She still insists it's the best granola she's ever tasted.

I'm so nervous, I don't know what to say. She doesn't speak much, either. And I constantly scare her by looking at my watch. Just so self-conscious.

But what made me realize that our time together (our first time in proximity in years) would last for a long period of time was when we were walking in the surrounding neighborhood, to take in that brisk autumn day and it's colors.

As I'm noting the architecture and history of my neighborhood, she grabs my arm and pulls it. She is utterly delighted by a tree. I forget the specific tree, but I remember how she expressed her delight. She called me by my full name. My. Full. Name.

No one knows my full name but my inner family, maybe some friends who tease me about my name (for privacy issues, I'll only note now that it has some roots in horror movies and the like). But we haven't seen each other in years. We've only recently been emailing each other.

But I knew, I just knew, she felt for me. Big time. And that's good. Because I certainly felt for her. Big time.

This morning, as a sort of anniversary, we went back to Milk & Honey. I love my wife.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


Who do you like in this weekend's Indy 500 race?
It depends. Who's in it?
Let's say that one Chicago Bears team is in the race.
What are they driving?
The whole team is in a bus.
Hmm... Is Ditka driving the bus?
Then I like the Bears

Now, if the Bears could just get into a time machine and reverse the fortunes of one particularly bad Sunday afternoon...

It's been known to happen.

*From recollection. Don't sue me, please.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Teaching environment and stuff

So, one of the Vice Principals sees my first period class today. I ask her specifically to catch that class (which is actually half a class) because it is the most well-behaved of all of them.

She notes some problems later, dealing with classroom management issues, largely. The problem is, that was my best-acting class all week long. The problem is also, our floor (especially our side of the floor) is dealing with some damned-tough students, period. And there is no fix-all for all the problems that we're seeing. I don't think that many people - including the administrators - are aware of that.

I'm going to speak to probably fifteen to twenty parents tomorrow, and I will not be happy. And neither will the parents.

I'm tired already. Again.

I just took two days off two weeks ago and another day off a couple weeks before that.

Luckily, this is a short month.

I will say one thing, though. I'm much better off now than I was a year ago, in terms of classroom management and organization.

I was a HOT mess last year.

(BTW, a great help for me over the last nine months has been reading and trying to implement Robert MacKenzie's Setting Limits in the Classroom.)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

  • Since we're focusing on diaries and journals for the Reading classes I'm teaching, I'm going to read a selection from Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl tomorrow. I'm pretty excited, I've never read it before. But also, since tomorrow is the first time my class will be observed by a Vice Principal and my classes have been acting super-crazy all week, I'm very nervous. I hope I don't get too nervous and find myself hiding in a little corner.
  • My wife says that running out of food dring a party is considered a cardinal sin. So we stocked up. We invited a lot of people to our house on Saturday. Apparently, we're not that popular. If you want some beef and/or beans, all you have to do is promise to be our friends and come on over.
  • We're going to hear a fat lady sing tonight. Which means I have to shave.
  • I'm a complete and utter mess. Yuck! And I have to meet my students' teachers later this week? Double-yuck.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Feeling for the Fallen

A couple of months ago, my wife got upset with me for taking my sweet-arse time on being on the computer when I promised her I wouldn't. But I had caught sight of an email regarding a collegue (a fellow Chicago-based youth minister) and therefore, possibly, a friend who succumbed to temptation and - as we Bible-philes put it - fell. I find out that this brother left his wife and child in need and stranded. This need was, apparently, more than just moral and spiritual. The senders of the email (a support group for local youth ministers that myself and this brother were both involved in, to some degree or another) were also seeking for financial support for the family as well as prayers.

I didn't know who this brother was. I knew I felt for him. I knew (and know) I felt for our fellow youth ministers (especially as I feel a tinge of guilt being out of the game for a much-needed, though regrettable, half year honeymoon). And I was very conscious of the fact that I've also fallen and let down my church and family, including extended family, and that falling is not beyond any of our reaches.

About a week ago, sending out email invites to our mixer party, I got a reply from one of the invitees. Or rather, his wife.

This is _______'s wife.

As you know, _______ is in jail. I'm sure he would've come if he wasn't though.

I found out who fell. And I hurt. And I felt for his wife and baby.

I don't need to further editorialize. You know where this is going.

But if you must, possible solutions - and apparently a large discussion - posted at Scott McKnight's Jesus Creed.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Sunday Random Ten

But before we dig into the iPod files:

Stupid hype! Why'd we have to lose to a 1-6 team?!? Sorry, 2-6 team?!?

And now, back to our scheduled program:

The Human Thing - The Tanyas: This is one of those Paste Magazine songs. She's got a sloppy-drunk chanteuss sound, like Victoria Williams trying to sing Nora Jones. I like.

Concerto for Violin and Orchestra No. 4 in D Major, KV 218 - Alberto Lizzio & Mozart Festival Orkestra: I paid like $10 for something approximating three hours of Mozart music through iTunes. Symphony Hall, eat your heart out!

Act V, Scene I (Romeo & Juliet) - William Shakespeare: A rare find indeed. The bard himself acted out this piece according to my player and we have it on recorded devices. Must've been a 45. "If I may trust the flattering truth of sleep..."

I Have and Always Will - Dave Barnes: Underproduced mom-safe-rock. You know what, though, I'm liking it. Barnes is an unsigned singer-songwriter in Nash' who likes those lovely ballads and soft-rockers in the vein of "You Are Beautiful" and John Mayer, etc. Call me a softy (esp. if the performer attests to a love of 70's-era Stevie Wonder and tries to mold his record after Songs in the Key of Life) but I'm liking this album.

Go-Go Gadget Gospel - Gnarls Barkley: What can I say about these songs that I haven't already? Definitely one of my favorite records in the last few years (along with Sufjan Stevens), even though they have been overplayed (fortunately, I don't listen to the radio or watch tv, so I get to control what I listen to a bit more) and over-hyped. Fortunately, though, I don't think they'll get pistol-whupped by any Dolphins any time soon. If the agents of MAD have learned anything, it's not to mess with the Inspector.

What I Say and What I Mean - The Like: Another Paste Magazine sampler. This one's also female-centric. But it rocks a bit harder, like a lo-fi Veruca Salt back in the day.

In the Light - Charlie Peacock (and friends): A few years ago, Peacock was involved in a bit of a self-tribute. No, that sounds self-indulgent. It was like a Best of, except with new arrangements and different performers working with him on his old songs. In any case, it's called Full Circle and I like listening to it, especially if my wife isn't around. She doesn't understand Peacock's brilliance. I can't think of who the co-singer is on this song, but she has a warm timbre about her, like Christine Dente of the husband-and-wife duo Out of the Grey.

Monkeys at the Zoo - Charlie Peacock (and friends): Hmmm... Peacocks, monkeys and zoos.... Mike Roe, from the 77's (one of the well-underappreciated underground CCM bands that never got attention from anyone because they weren't "Cheese-us Jesus-y" enough. Also, Peacock, Vector [from whence Jimmy Abegg came] and the 77's came from the same mini-label and church in the early eighties) sings lead here. This is miles away from the dredge that occupies the top of the Contemporary Christian Music spotlight: "Spirit, come flush the lies out / Will it be different now, or the same / will I have learned anything." Roe, btw, also plays with the active underground CCM Lost Dogs with members of the Choir and Daniel Amos.

The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly) - Missy Elliot: Her first hit. "It's my window. I can't stand the rain." Missy and Timbaland. Gaw, what a combo!

Mack the Knife - Bobby Darin: At yesterday's party, I found out that Lady Ella sang this song live in a recording, forgot the words and scatted the rest of the song. For me, I always think of the Mac Tonight ad campaign in the early eighties.