Monday, June 23, 2008

Blogging Slow-Down

I'm trying something new here. I'm trying my hand at freelance writing - and hoping to sometime (sooner than later would be nice) land some paying gigs. So, for the time-being, I'm going to lay low here. Which is just as well because I was running out of links I like to link to (although last week, Stuff Christians Like hit an apex. Pure gold. Check it out. I won't tell you what posts, necessarily, but I'm sure you'll agree with the reader who believes that heaven will look like a reunited DCTalk, ultimate frisbee-playing Jesus, a moonbounce surface, and talking unicorns).

In my spare time this week I'll be working on my manuscript for a book of essays I started a year ago. I would like to have three of the essays polished and ready to send out by the end of next week. But I need some good eyes, some people to read my stuff and be brutally honest with me. To be critical in the best sense of the word: What works, how does it work, what doesn't, what's broken, what demons need to be exorcized or lobotomized. That type of stuff.

If you want a copy, leave a comment or email me directly at (yes! I don't have to care who sees this and my name together! That's liberating!) and I'll send you a copy, hopefully before the weekend.

Much love,

Friday, June 20, 2008

TVLand is sometimes wonderful

Long-time readers of this blog are no doubt aware that I am a big fan of the Bishop of Durham, N. T. "Tom" Wright. You are also probably aware of my love for Stephen Colbert.

But what happens when you mix those two with a bitingly satirical take on insipid blind patriotism and insipid right-wing tv and radio hosts, and a clarification from a cleaned-up, sober and fruit-loving Cookie Monster?

How about, The Best. Show. EVER!

Here's a taste:

By the way, novelist Junot Diaz was the guest yesterday.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Eleven Months Old!

Let us start off with a little story:

Jocelyn has been rather fussy these last few days, largely because her molars are finally starting to come in. So, despite her best fights, screams and - today - clamp-downs on my fingers, I rub her gums down with Baby Orajel as often as I remember before naps and bedtime. I got all four sides of her mouth (her four-sies serve as the dividing line) with no small struggle, of course (did I mention that she nearly bit through my finger?).

Now, I must mention that Jocelyn isn't much of a kisser. She just doesn't show affection in that manner. When we move in to kiss her on the cheeks, she juts her whole neck and head as far away as possible. So, a delightful little change that she's shown recently is initializing the face rub and kiss. It's really cute. When she was younger, I used to have her "bite" (pre-raptor teeth) my nose. This is even more precious on the rare occasions that it happens. So of course I went in for the full kiss. It was sweet.

A moment later, I'm calming her down with some juice as she's on my lap. And I notice something on my lip. I pick out my tongue for a taste. It tastes like Dentist Office. While trying not to freak out the baby, I try to wipe the smear, but it's too late. My lips have gone numb.

She tricked me.

Now, on to developments:

She's been experimenting with standing and walking for the last month and a half now. And although she's not quite able to do either independently just yet, she has made some tremendous strides. For instance, she's able to stand on her own for about ten or so seconds at a time, sometimes more, sometimes less. I think it has a lot to do with fear. We've noticed that when Joss isn't so self-aware, she'll continually stand on her own (she's yet to learn to stand-up without support, but we're confident she'll get there) while freeing up her hands to grasp something else.

And then she'll realize that she's standing and that that's a bit risky.

I'm constantly amazed at how she figures to move from one object that is supporting her to another. It's as if Joss does risk assessments and physics problems in her head in a way that would make Big Blue green with envy and give a heart attack to steroid-addled mathematicians.

And she climbs. She sometimes climbs down, too. We were at the Field Museum here and going up and down the steps was an adventure for her. It was like Rocky.

Her little laugh-thing now is the shaking of the head. Shake heads with her, it's the cutest and funniest thing in the world. Nod your head every once in a while to keep things interesting. But, if you want to see the most joyous smile in the US, shake your head with our li'l Joss.

And, she adores, loves, worships at the paws of dogs. Dogs! Of all sizes - though she seems to prefer dogs that are just her size and dogs with a funny walk. Sometimes she'll cry if we pass a dog without giving her proper time to acquaint herself with it. Sometimes she'll cry if we don't spend forever with that dog.

Alas, animal lovers, we ain't getting one. We'll just freeload off our neighbors.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Weekly Links We Like to Link to - Hystorical Christianity Edition

If President George W. Bush were to convert to Catholicism (and he may, if sources are to believed, after he leaves the Oval Office), would that mean that a lot of us who consider ourselves post-Evangelical may return to the mainstream Evangelical fold? Would a lot of progressive Catholics see this as their last straw and leave their churches?
One can only imagine...

Something about this is troubling my soul...

Speaking of Christian imaginings, an archaeologist believes that he may have found the oldest church in the world underneath the rubble from an already-ancient Christian church, dated from about 35 to 70 AD, in Jordan. The church is believed to have housed-of-worship the original 70 disciples.
To be quite honest, I don't buy it. With the notable exceptions of Paul, his followers and their converts, the earliest Christians - especially the 70 - didn't really leave Jerusalem until about AD 70, if I have my memory intact (though I guess across the river may have been one spot where they may have congregated). Furthermore, the "evidences" proffered up by Mr. Hussein seem sketchy at best.
I mean, it could just as likely be this guy's temple.
h/t to Relevant and again to MarkO

And finally... Sex and the City? Not on our watch! Did Christianity Today's movie website endorse pornography in their review of the movie?
Now, before you answer that, consider this: They gave it 3 WHOLE STARS! That's a half more star than the current Jesus movie, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Something or Other Involving a Lot of Battle Scenes and Stuff Not in the Book or Series but, What the Heck, We Really Liked the Lord of the Rings Movies So We Tried to Emulate Them.
The original review by Camerin Courtney is here.
The scathing smack-down by Focus on the Family Singles Guy Ted Slater is here. (Yes, you read that right. He told them - all up in their face and as the t-i-t-l-e of his piece, that they "relish in sexual perversion" and that they need to "repent". Wooooord!)
The cooking of the smack-down by Jeffrey Overstreet is here. (Doesn't Mr. Overstreet understand that to argue with someone who is so obviously right and on God's side is to take the side of the devil? Is Overstreet a baby-eating, cat-sacrificing warlock? I think so.)
The clarification of said smack-down is here.
And the reiteration of the original cooking of the smack-down (which, by its nature of not changing the argument is itself a put-down) is here.
So, the obvious answer is "Yes."
Btw, this is how ALL movies should be reviewed, by strict normative standards of decency and by counting sex scenes and cussing words, not some wishy-washy subjective uses. God doesn't want us to waste our precious minds on thinking about what we're watching, but rather on thinking about how to best judge the poor saps who can't see clearly that what they are doing is poisonous to God. Thank you Plugged In for watching dirty, filthy, unsettling, troubling, complicated and earthy movies so we don't have to.
I'm just glad we were warned by these gate-keepers about that horror-skin-flick The Passion of the Christ before I went to see that. Did you hear about all the buckets of blood in that movie? Not to mention the torn-apart eyes, skin, the rotted carcass... I just don't think Jesus would approve of me watching that type of filth.

(Did I lay it on too thick?)

And finally, youth ministry for the post-Evangelical churches. InternetMonk has got some ideas, some of which I've heard before, but it's good to get so many under one roof.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

This Dad in Media?

This is a late addition to the Dads-in-Media Blogathon, hosted at RC's Strange Culture site.

I have a Gerber baby. Blond hair. Big, blue engaging eyes. Wide smile. Button nose. Balloon cheeks. Dimple on her right cheek.

But don't take my word for it.
Much more are available at our family blog.

And that's quite a nice thing. Because I am not such a looker. So I live vicariously through her.

Sometimes we go out and people gawk and whisper and aww and laugh and giggle at, with, or to my sweet Jocelyn. And I am the proud papa.

And then every once in a while, I have to question my pride. Or what my pride is based on.

For instance, the other day we went to a festival here in the city. And, once again, a random person looks at Joss and says something to the effect of, "O my. She's so beautiful. God bless her."

I know I sound insulted and frankly patronizing. I shouldn't be. In fact, I'm quite grateful and taken aback every time she is complimented. But this comment automatically - partially because I am cynical - made me revert to its negative. And I said to my wife, with maybe too much audible disgust, "So, if she wasn't beautiful, then what? God d**n her? What if she were ugly?"

I then reassured Joss, tucked away by then in her stroller, that I would love her just the same. That she is my daughter, completely novel to the wily ways of the world, and I am hers to love her and protect her - no matter what.

But that doesn't mean that I'm not guilty of not thinking about capitalizing (exploiting?) her natural beauty and other talents. She is - like her mother and father in the days of their youth (and had we not been corrupted by adult evils, still to this day) - easy-going. That is, unless she is teething. Or sleep-deprived.

Sometimes, she doesn't get her way. She gets hungry. Did I mention that she's cranky when she doesn't get enough sleep, and sometimes that goes hand-in-hand with her teething? We're still trying to recover sleep lost in early January.

But, generally speaking, she is a low-key, low-maintenance baby. And telegenetic. So much so that she should be in advertising.

So we, her humble parents, think.

But every time that we've tried to pursue that course of action (or thought we were pursuing that course of action) we ran into that dreaded A word. Agent. Or, just as bad, Manager.

That brings to mind other words, parts of a culture and lifestyle that admittedly need to remain distant from our lives. Other people like, stage parents. Directors. Stylists. The Ramseys. Other matters like exploitation. Makeup. Baby Beauty Pageants. Stage parents. Other stage parents. All of the other kids in Little Miss Sunshine. Us becoming stage parents.

Sure, we could use the money (considering the possibility that we may actually turn a profit from exploiting our baby, that enough people may want to use her image and pay handsomely for it to make it all worthwhile for the time and energy we would put into it). But it would all go to her for her own future use. And, to be honest, we could use the money now. She eats. We can't watch her and work at the same time. Y'know, stuff like that. College? Both of us paid out of pocket (or are still paying...). Why should she get off easy?

But all that aside, I don't think that I'm ready to be a Gerber Daddy.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Weekend Links I Like to Link to - Two Things You Should Never Mention at a Dinner Table Edition

via MarkO:
Teaching Boys and Girls Separately
Yeah. Separate but not equal? Actually, cheap shot aside, it sounds like a good idea, though I think it needs some modification. For instance, the gender roles need to go. And same sex classes may be good for periods of time, but generally speaking, for social reasons, boys and girls need to mix.
'Cause that how the real world works.

The evangelical Christian pollsters at Barna released a study finding that "November Election is Obama's to Lose". What I found interesting (well, one of the things I found interesting) is that I would probably still fit into their category of born-again evangelical but I would be in the small minority (less than 10%) that is going to not vote Republican this year.
What I have noticed is that even though the evangelical movement is making tremendous strides in consciously moving and being active in social justice causes (thanks in no small part to Bono. Could you have imagined that ten years ago?), many who would otherwise lean towards Obama are hesitant because they see abortion as a make-or-break issue. The mantra still being pushed is that if a politician will not protect the lives of the most-underrepresented and vulnerable, then how can he or she claim to represent our rights or to be socially just?

And, to tie the two together:
I thought that both the racism and the sexism evident in the recent (and hopefully completed) Democratic primaries were just off the charts. Although I will not argue about who had it worse, I think it ludicrous and insulting the charge by supporters of Clinton's campaign that Obama was demeaning and sexist towards their candidate. So far, my impression of that charge are that he ran and won when it was clearly her turn to win it all. But Obama did not do the Clinton '08 campaign in; the Clinton '08 campaign did the Clinton '08 campaign in.
Having said all that, the mainstream media (and especially the all-talk cable news outlets - Fox chief among them) should be very much ashamed of themselves. The truth is, they had to find subtler ways of attacking Barrack for his race (the scary preacher, anyone?) while they could largely go unpunished for making these lewd and disturbing comments about Hillary's sex. Notice:

It's no secret that I am not a fan of the way that Hillary ran this campaign (although, to her credit, IMHO she would make a better president than any Republican contender and her tactics were not as slanderous or injurious as, say, the Willie Horton ads of the '80s) and am certainly not a fan of the bitterness that the supporters of either Democratic presidential hopeful have towards the other (did somebody say Geraldine Ford?), but, please, wrong is wrong. And this is definitely wrong.

h/t to Eugene Cho for this one.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Weekly Links We Like to Link to - Narcissist Edition

I remember the first words that came out of my mouth when I first saw our red-fluid-covered daughter. "Oh, baby, look at her. She's beautiful!"

I'm convinced that Joss gets more cute each and every month. When she's 5, there will be no stopping her. When she's 7, we will attend her coronation as the first ever Princess of the USA. Obama will bow down before her awesome radiance. Of course, she'll give all glory to the giver of good things, the maker and redeemer and originator of all beauty, God.

You want proof? You say, you need evidence from Day 1 on?

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Exhibit A: familydyegest.

Just a few images from recent history:

In August, we are going to Colombia. It's a country. It's in South America. It's about 75 degrees there all year long. We'll be working with the displaced.

Want more information? This is our Journey Journal. (It's in Wordpress, which is a different language altogether. We're still working on it.)

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Education Links We Like to Link to

I wanted to have an Education Week about a month ago, but that quickly fizzled into an education post that I never got around to amending or serializing. So, in an effort to broaden all of our horizons, I offer the second Education Links Post, which will more-or-less periodically appear as a special edition Links We Like to Link to." Please, for your reading and enlightening pleasure:

Small Kids, Big Words
Timmy [a pre-K student] insists he didn’t hear [the thunderstorm last night]. No one believes him, but he stands his verbal ground. “I didn’t want to hear it and so that is why I didn’t listen,” he says.

Molly, who’s four, adds, “I guess he was ignoring it.”

It is, of course, always cute when small kids use big words. But a growing body of research and classroom practice show that building a sophisticated vocabulary at an early age is also key to raising reading success—and narrowing the achievement gap. At schools like Lee Academy, teachers are overcoming the age-old habit of speaking to young children in simplified language and instead deliberately weaving higher-level word choices into preschool and primary grade classrooms.

Moral Dimensions of Educational Decisions:
The essential place of values-rich curricula in the public schools
There is a widely held notion that public schools (which, of course, most students attend) should not teach values. In effect, schools do. Moreover, there are next to no significant decisions a school administrator or classroom teacher can make that do not have a normative dimension...

Schools are under considerable pressure from the community to focus on academics, which in effect means serving the utilitarian, economic futures of pupils. Parents, school boards and news media that push for higher academic achievements are not seeking to turn the students into scholars but to equip them to compete in the marketplace (and in the competitive college admissions arena) by teaching them math, writing skills (memos, not poetry), foreign languages and so on.

In contrast, schools are, and ought to be, concerned with human and social development, ensuring graduates are able to work out differences with others verbally and nonabusively; to walk in the other person’s shoes; to resist temptations to act in unethical ways; and to care about higher purposes than self. Many curriculum decisions reflect the balance those who run schools and education systems strike between these two competing set of values, the academic and the social....

[W]e do not always keep in mind that all selections of books and other materials to be used in teaching students reflect a choice of values. Take, for instance, the Civil War. It can be taught as a grand struggle for liberty and equality; as a political strategy for keeping the union together; as a tragic failure to resolve differences without mass killing and enormous suffering; or something else. Whatever we choose reflects our values and helps transmit them to the students.

Education decision makers are understandably reluctant to view these issues as involving normative choices because framing the decisions in this way forces the question: Whose values are going to be taught? Instead, decisions often are deliberated and made on other grounds, such as “this textbook is highly recommended by …” Furthermore, modifications to curricula are made in terms of “we need to give more room to …” rather than openly reviewing the normative implications that all books, narratives, songs, plays and course outlines have.

What do teachers want?:
Teachers Speak on the Profession, Unions, and Reform (pdf):
Today’s teachers have different expectations than teachers in the past, and they expect different things from their professional lives. Yet, they recognize the problems that undermine their profession, including job lock, weak evaluation and reward structures, and too much bureaucracy. With reformers pushing hard for change and teachers unions holding tight to tradition, teachers are caught in the middle, unsure of how their profession should change but very aware that it needs to.

Teachers see problems with their unions as well. For example, many say that the union sometimes fights to protect teachers who really should be out of the classroom. But teachers still see the union as essential, and they value the union’s traditional role in safeguarding their jobs. New teachers are more likely today than they were in 2003 to call unions “absolutely essential.” And many teachers would like to see their unions explore some new activities, especially some of the ideas associated with the “new unionism” agenda, and take the greater role in reform, but not if that comes at the expense of the union’s core mission.

The fluid environment presents both challenges and opportunities for education leaders and policymakers. Teachers unions may claim a deep loyalty from their members but the relationship seems to be based mostly on the practical benefits that the union provides.

Racist Attitudes Challenged at Alabama School
A south Alabama town that was the inspiration for the setting in Harper Lee's book "To Kill a Mockingbird" is finding itself as the backdrop for a real-life legal case involving allegations of racism at school....

The parents [who filed the suit] say black students who got into fights with white students were given off-campus suspensions for longer periods of time while white students were given shorter in-school suspensions. They also said black students were disciplined for minor dress code violations like untucked shirts and for violations that weren't even in the code, such as loose or missing buttons.

The lawsuit also describes an incident in which a student was being teased by white classmates who called her a "black monkey." The student told the white teacher, who responded by saying "sit back down because you do look like a black monkey," the suit claims...

"There are policies and practices that serve to criminalize youth and push them out of classes - primarily children of color," [ACLU Attorney Catherine] Kim said.
(Jasdye's note: What's sad is that this is the only case like this that I've heard about. If you add on the fact that black students are labeled for Special Education at a rate of 2:1 that of Latino and White students [Click here for related story on the disparity in Florida] - and 4:1 students of Asian heritage - than this could be just about Anywheresville, USA. Sadly, even in Chicago.)

All links provided by the Public Education Network Newsblast (via email).

News of the Weird - Returns

File this under the category, "These One's Are for You, Mr. American President"

Chad Hudgens filed a lawsuit in January against his former employer, a sales firm in Provo, Utah, charging that as part of a motivational "team-building exercise" his coworkers waterboarded him. According to a Washington Post article, Hudgen's supervisor told sales staff, "You saw how hard Chad fought for air right there. I want you to go back inside and fight that hard to make sales."

From the Post:
Hudgens's lawsuit... suggests the testosterone-poisoned setting of the David Mamet play "Glengarry Glen Ross." Hudgens alleged that if the 10-person sales team went a day without a sale, members had to work the next day standing up; [the supervisor] took away their chairs. The team leader also threatened to draw a mustache in permanent marker on the face of sales people for "negativity," Hudgens said. [Their boss] kept on his desk a piece of wood, "the 2-by-4 of motivation," he said.
Who was his boss? This guy?

Brigadier General Zuhair Abada Mraweh, traffic commander for Baghdad's Rusafah district - where car bombs and kidnappings remain pressing concerns, according to the New York Times - announced in April that his officers would soon begin issuing tickets to drivers who failed to use their seat belts. The fine for noncompliance is 15,000 dinars, or roughly $12.50.
From the International Herald Tribune:
"It is part of the healing process of this country and of Baghdad to enforce the law, law by law," said [B.G. Mraweh].

"The citizens are learning the laws step by step," said Mraweh, sitting in his office in the Karada neighborhood. "We have applied all the laws concerning traffic, so it's time for the seat belt law to be practiced."...

Mraweh said that the seat belt legislation — which applies only to drivers, not passengers — was in effect during the government of Saddam Hussein. After the Americans invaded in 2003, a high import tax on automobiles was lifted, flooding Iraq with enthusiastic new drivers. He said that there were no dependable statistics on traffic accidents, but that enforcing the law would reduce them by 70 percent. [My guess is that the key phrase here is traffic accidents.]

Mraweh is passionate about traffic control. He is particularly irked by the driving behavior by the employees of security companies like Blackwater, who sometimes throw water bottles at people walking down the street or shoot their guns in the air to clear the road, he said.

But primarily, Mraweh sees his job as a way to piece together his shattered country.

"If everyone says there are killings, there are massacres, then I will stay powerless at home and this will disable the country," he said. "But if the grocer goes to work, the merchant goes to work, I go to work, even you go to work, there will be no more killing, and the criminal will be afraid and he will go back to his den like a mouse"

Original stories cribbed and wrote verbatim from News of the Weird, posted in the Chicago Reader in the June 5th, 2008 edition, p. 109 (I believe. It's late. It's hot. It's bedtime.)

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

So.... No Exit? Ever?!?

Seriously. Is she not giving up tonight in an effort to prove her worth to the Obama camp or is she trying to still fit in there?

I mean, the fact that she asked the question that she's been asking the undecided superdelegates: “Who will be the strongest candidate? [Nearly 18 million of you cast your votes,] carrying the popular vote with more votes than any primary candidate in history," she is quoted in the NYTimes.

Umm... yeah, that faulty math again.

And pleaaaaaaaaaase! One more person talk about how unfairly Senator Clinton has been treated by the media as if Senator Obama hasn't been, and I will scream (again).