Monday, April 30, 2012

Welcome to the Chain Gang

Last week I was running along Salmon Creek, which flows through a large green space near our house. As I ran through I noticed a group of men handing large potted plants from a flatbed truck down to a bridge over the river, where they were planting them. It was a large gang of men, and as I got closer I slowed down so I wouldn't get in the way as they turned with their heavy loads and passed them on to the next man.

As I stood there, I noticed that just beyond the man stood several police officers. One of the officers nodded to me.

Officer: You can go on through.

Me: I just didn't want to get in the way.

Officer: Ha ha. Be careful or we'll grab you and put you to work.

I had run about fifty yards past them before I realized just how creepy that sentence was... it reminded me of old grifter novels I'd read where some guy is wandering around, minding his own business and he gets snagged for "vagrancy" and put to work on the chain gangs.

I made sure to mind my business and not say anything when I ran back through there a half hour later.

At the airport

Well, one advantage of getting to the airport before Starbucks opens is that there's no line for anything, including security and, well, including Starbucks I guess.

Passengers are cuddled happily in their travel Snuggies, or lying across the rows of chairs with their jackets over them. One guy near me is sleeping with his cell phone in his hand. The main lights haven't come on yet near my gate, and even the travel shops are telling customers it will be a few more minutes until they're open.

My TSA routine was quick, easy and painless. The TSA officer made a big, goofy deal about checking my face against my ID, then handed it back and told me to continue to have a great day.

Ah. The overhead announcements just began. It's starting to feel like the bustling travel hub. Aha. The lights just came on as well.

Okay. Let's see if we can find some breakfast. Have a great day, everybody.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Spider-Man's blog

You guys. Peter Parker has a blog, which, frankly, wouldn't be all that interesting if we didn't already know that he's the spectacular Spider-Man.

But check out this hidden page on the blog.

This is, of course, viral marketing for the upcoming Spider-Man movie. I trust you just caught the virus.

Friday, April 27, 2012

WHEEL! OF! FIIIIISH!

Tonight, we had red snapper for dinner, which means the following clip from the movie UHF was running in my head all night. I'm pretty sure Wheel of Fish is the best game show ever invented. VERY TASTY FISH!



  QUESTION: Would you take the fish or what Hiro-san was bringing in the box?

Mall Santa Musical

I don't know why, but the last couple of days my kids have been singing Christmas songs. I asked my eldest what was going on and she said, "Christmas is coming, Dad." Well, duh. That's true about 364 days a year, I guess.

So, in honor of the imminent arrival of everyone's* favorite time of year, here's a video of Mall Santa, the Musical. Why doesn't this ever happen at my mall?




*That's right, everyone.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Raining Cats and Dogs

"Actually, it's just raining dogs. Hallelujah."
This week we had a couple of days of beautiful, sun-drenched hammock weather, followed by a return to the rain. It's like the weather is trying out rough drafts of summer. We even turned the air conditioner one day. Now it's back to raining cats and dogs.

I wondered today where that saying came from, "Raining cats and dogs." The most compelling and well-researched answer said that the saying comes from 17th or 18th century England, where storms occasionally would wash dead animals down the streets along with other debris. That's both interesting and disgusting. Thank you, Historians!

You can see the article I found here, where there is a particularly funny debunking of the theory that animals would fall through thatched roofs when it was raining hard. "Dogs don't live on thatched roofs!" Ha ha ha.

Meanwhile, it's raining candy wrappers and empty water bottles around here.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wonderful Wednesday: How small is an atom?

You probably already know all this because the readers of the blog are far above average, but I thought you'd enjoy this video about how small an atom is.

 

 I ran across this over at Boing Boing.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Worldwide Day of Prayer-- Costa Rica

I don't know who decides this or how it works, but I guess today is the Worldwide Day of Prayer. At least if you're an Evangelical Christian!

Anyway, some of my dear friends in Costa Rica put together a little video sharing prayer requests for their ministry, and I thought you would enjoy seeing them. And if you're the praying type, please pray for my friends and their ministry:


Saturday, April 21, 2012

LINKS! The sausage of the internet. April 21

Here are some interesting articles I ran across this week:

The last known interview with C.S. Lewis. Here is a (very short) excerpt:


Wirt: A light touch has been characteristic of your writings, even when you are dealing with heavy theological themes. Would you say there is a key to the cultivation of such an attitude? 
Lewis: “I believe this is a matter of temperament. However, I was helped in achieving this attitude by my studies of the literary men of the Middle Ages, and by the writings of G.K. Chesterton. Chesterton, for example, was not afraid to combine serious Christian themes with buffoonery. In the same way the miracle plays of the Middle Ages would deal with a sacred subject such as the nativity of Christ, yet would combine it with a farce.” 
Wirt: Should Christian writers, then, in your opinion, attempt to be funny? 
Lewis: “No. I think that forced jocularities on spiritual subjects are an abomination, and the attempts of some religious writers to be humorous are simply appalling. Some people write heavily, some write lightly. I prefer the light approach because I believe there is a great deal of false reverence about. There is too much solemnity and intensity in dealing with sacred matters; too much speaking in holy tones.” 
Wirt: But is not solemnity proper and conducive to a sacred atmosphere? 
Lewis: “Yes and no. There is a difference between a private devotional life and a corporate one. Solemnity is proper in church, but things that are proper in church are not necessarily proper outside, and vice versa. For example, I can say a prayer while washing my teeth, but that does not mean I should wash my teeth in church.”

A surprisingly clear explanation of Amazon's ebook strategy and why publishers are worried about it. 

Science says that Spoilers don't spoil anything, and that, in fact, most people enjoy a story more with a couple of good spoilers thrown in. Which reminds me... for all you non-comic book lovers, I have an important message to share with you about Gwen Stacy, Spider-Man's girlfriend in the upcoming relaunch of his movie career....

Excellent. Since we're on the topic of movies... ever wondered if it's still popular to novelize movies? Well, here's your answer!

Friday, April 20, 2012

My interview on the Drew Marshall Show

Hey friends--

Last Saturday a few of you may have caught my interview on the Drew Marshall show, but for those of you who missed it, here's a link to the interview. I'm about the fourth person down on the list.

For clarity's sake: I wasn't allowed to go to Keith Green concerts because he was dead by the time I was in high school. I'm sure my parents would have allowed it otherwise, since I was allowed to go to SECULAR concerts like the evil, evil music of the Monkees, Weird Al, Huey Lewis and Bruce Hornsby. And probably some others. I remember seeing the Aquabats at some point, but that might have been in college.

Book Review: The Mirage by Matt Ruff

I recently read Matt Ruff's novel, The Mirage.

Here's the plot synopsis for the book:

11/9/2001: Christian fundamentalists hijack four jetliners. They fly two into the Tigris & Euphrates World Trade Towers in Baghdad, and a third into the Arab Defense Ministry in Riyadh. The fourth plane, believed to be bound for Mecca, is brought down by its passengers. 
The United Arab States declares a War on Terror. Arabian and Persian troops invade the Eastern Seaboard and establish a Green Zone in Washington, D.C. . . . 
Summer, 2009: Arab Homeland Security agent Mustafa al Baghdadi interrogates a captured suicide bomber. The prisoner claims that the world they are living in is a mirage—in the real world, America is a superpower, and the Arab states are just a collection of "backward third-world countries." A search of the bomber's apartment turns up a copy of The New York Times, dated September 12, 2001, that appears to support his claim. Other captured terrorists have been telling the same story. The president wants answers, but Mustafa soon discovers he's not the only interested party. 
The gangster Saddam Hussein is conducting his own investigation. And the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee—a war hero named Osama bin Laden—will stop at nothing to hide the truth. As Mustafa and his colleagues venture deeper into the unsettling world of terrorism, politics, and espionage, they are confronted with questions without any rational answers, and the terrifying possibility that their world is not what it seems.
Those of you who frequent the blog know that I'm an evangelical Christian... people who don't know the terms well might even call me a fundamentalist. I'm conservative theologically, certainly, and you might expect that a novel about fundamentalist Christians acting as terrorists in a united middle east would cause problems for me.

But you'd be wrong. By turning the entire world upside down and turning the Middle East into a world power and the U.S. into a continent of contentious nation states, Matt Ruff has created a novel of unexpected power that both entertains the reader and illuminates the current world. More than once I experienced a feeling of vertigo (as, indeed, the characters in the book do as well) which caused me to put myself in the place of the Christian terrorists and say, "I can see where that would seem reasonable from their point of view." 

The book is meticulously researched, reasonable in its world-building, and a fascinating study of what drives us to do what we do in society, in war, in government and even sheds light on the reasons that terrorism seems not only reasonable but righteous to those who choose that path. The book doesn't settle for easy answers. The "American terrorists" and their governments are not the bad guys in the story. In fact, one theme of the book is that evil people remain evil despite the situation, and many of the men you'd expect to be evil given their actions in this world are evil in "the mirage" as well... it just comes out in a different way because they are already in power, not trying to attain it.

Much of the driving force of the novel is about trying to get to the bottom of this "mirage" conspiracy theory... is it true or an urban legend? If it's not true, who is producing these "artifacts" from another world where the U.S. is a world power? And why are the big players in the United Arab States , like bin Laden and Hussein, trying to prevent Arab Homeland Security officer Mustafa al Bagadi and his team from discovering the truth?

This novel could have been all flash and concept driven, but Ruff did the extra work of writing characters we care about, each of whom is going through his or her own personal crisis in the midst of this situation. I don't want to give too much away, but by the end of the book I cared more about what would happen to Mustafa and his team than I did about the nature and origin of the mirage. Regarding the mirage... I couldn't imagine a solution to this question that would be satisfying, but Ruff pulled it off. I was pleased by the underpinning realities of the mirage and how he worked it all out.

The only thing about this book that bothered me at all (and this was slight) was that the sly references to how the world had changed sometimes had more to do with having a laugh than advancing the story or world building (for instance, there is an Arab version of 24, with its own Jack Bauer). Also, I couldn't figure out why none of the "real world" U.S. presidents or vice-presidents were called by their name, when everyone else in the book including Donald Rumsfield are called by name. It was distracting. Oh, given my audience here I should probably mention that there is some violence in the book, and some strong language. 

So, all that to say: I enjoyed this book immensely. It was surprising, insightful, entertaining, and, yes, moving. I found myself thinking about it when I wasn't reading it, and telling people around me that they should read it as well. This now includes you: go read this book.

LINKS:


Buy The Mirage on Amazon.


Read a free PDF excerpt from the book.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

THE LAST STARFIGHTER

I was disturbed to learn today that one of my friends has never seen or heard of THE LAST STARFIGHTER, and he's been making fun of his wife about it because she likes it.

 To which I can only say, THE LAST STARFIGHTER is an amazing movie and it's time to watch it RIGHT NOW!

 

Baboons can read! Lock up the libraries!


A recent scientific study determined that Baboons can distinguish the difference between nonsense words and real words when written on a computer screen.

We all know what that means. "And so it begins."















SOON THEY WILL BE WEARING OUR CLOTHES! And I, for one, do not want to wear a loin cloth made of animal skin.

So, baboons, before you get too serious about taking over the world, you should probably think about this:

HUMANS CAN READ and also WE HAVE GUNS.

Think about that, monkeys!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What is the coolest thing ever?


Remember when the internet was first sort of becoming popular and e-mail was, like, PINE? Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Holy cow, I wonder if my Pine email is still active? I don't even remember what it was.

Also... I seem to remember that having a girlfriend was way better than the internet. I suspect this is still true, O High Schoolers Everywhere.

Alright, Old Timers... share some memories of what the world was like before "the coolest thing ever" came into existence.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Anyone want to loan me a pre-1972 vehicle for a few days so I can be on television?

Extras Only is looking for a number of people with vehicles that are 1972 or older to be in an upcoming episode of LEVERAGE.

The shoot dates are April 27-May 1 (no weekends)and the pay is $70.40/day (OT after 8hrs) plus a bump for your vehicle. 


If you are available and interested in being considered, email the following to sally@extrasonly.com ASAP:

NAME
CONTACT INFO
RECENT PHOTO OF YOU
PHOTO, MAKE, MODEL, COLOR & YEAR OF YOUR VEHICLE

This is an open call so please feel free to pass it on.

Ridiculous Reviewers on Amazon: One Star reviews for J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

My kids have read all seven of the Harry Potter novels multiple times. That, by itself, is not to say that my children are the guardians of excellent literature. Their appreciation of Steinbeck, for instance, is not at the level I think Steinbeck deserves.

However, I will say that I think it's clear that a book like Rowling's, that creates its own worldwide market, deserves more than one star. It's written well enough, fun to read, and kids love it. Lots of adults love it, too, of course.

I trust I don't need to introduce the plot and ideas behind Harry Potter. But I do need to introduce: RIDICULOUS ONE STAR REVIEWS FOR Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone !

First off, a one star review from Knotenufthyme of Garden City, New Jersey, who says, "Perhaps HP is too profound for me."


I do not consider myself to be one of the intelligencia, nor do I consider myself to be as well-read as I'd like to be, however.......Then again, I never understood the Pokemon phenomenon either. Big budget marketing is all I can think of to create such hype. I do, however, find the covers of the books to be very attractive. All marketing related toys and paraphenalia are very attractively packaged as well and seem to be of good quality. Perhaps this is what draws the kids? Can this possibly be the reason why adults enjoy the books as well?
This is an excellent point. Perhaps the books are popular because of the attractively packaged toys. No, wait. The toys were as a result of the movies. Which came about because of the popularity of the books, which means... which means that the popularity of Harry Potter must have something to do with Pokemon?

Noooooooooooooooo!
 As reviewer Spazzer said in his one star review, "I appreciate her creativity, but there are authors that can write much better than this.*ANIME ROCKS!*"


Now. Here's a review that attacks the underlying philosophies of Harry Potter's world:



Unlike the more mature fantasies of C.S. Lewis's classic Narina books or King and Straub's Talisman which depict schools as deadening embodiments of progressive aridity Rowling show's them as portals to enchantment rather then as an evil to escape from, something which underscores her "hero's" essential preppy sensibility & vapidity.
Boooo! School is the worst! Any book which shows school as fun must be destroyed. BURN THEM BURN THEM! Kill the preppies!

Ahem.

You know, the book might get more stars if it highlighted the other interesting characters in the book instead of Harry. For instance:


I don't know what to rate this book. It's not the best, and the best character, i believe, is actually HEDWIG!!!! I really do love hedwig, and i'm glad that JK Rowling made her up because the book would be NOTHING.  i resent this book except for the parts with hedwig because a mail-carrying owl is so much more magical than the beginning of the book, even though the beginning IS magical. (I was even hedwig for halloween)!
 I despise this book, and i only recommend it if you enjoy leafing through the book and finding lovely parts about hedwig. I still think HEDWIG is the best character, and all the humans are just...mostly fake. The movies have done a good job transforming this book into something that everyone is crazy about.
 (Hedwig fanatic, signing off!!!)
I guess that would be okay. The story of a bunch of owls fighting injustice or something.

And now, everyone's favorite reviewer, A Customer!

Another point that bothers me is that the point of view never, ever shifts. It is all about Harry...Harry walked down the hall...Harry saw the troll...Harry this, and Harry that. What about that Draco kid? Why doesn't the author ever put anything in his perspective? Why can't the readers opt to know how he is feeling? Why does everything need to be about Harry? And if the author is going to center the whole entire series on one person, at least they would add what he is actually thinking to the literature! It's called italics. Please....
I mean, really! It's like this whole book is about Harry. Yawn. She might as well have called it "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" instead of, uh, something without Harry's name in the title.  A little warning that Harry Potter would be the main character might have been nice.

Thomas from Europe says:

The style of H.Potter is , let's say simple.
 The dialogues are at best ridiculous.
The plot ... well there is no plot to speak of. 
The characters are a mix of Donald Duck, Big Bad Wolf and Peter Pan.
Remember that one scene where Harry Potter is like, hey, let's try and stop Voldemort but then Donald Duck discovers there are chipmunks living in the Gryffindor dorm rooms and he gets really mad and starts quacking and the Big Bad Wolf tries to blow in past the magical defenses but Peter Pan comes and flies Harry away to Neverland so he won't have to go back to his Aunt and Uncle's house? I totally do.

Two more and we're done. First, Gaby says,


Book came with weird smell and didn't include the cover on my hard-covered book. Will be sending back for a refund/exchange.
And lastly, winning the prize for "a review that cleverly also reviews my own intelligence," A Customer says:
"This book is as thick as my head."


 I know this post was probably hard for a lot of the Potter fans out there, so let me close with this, to help restore your faith in humanity:



 Check out the magic of an unending string of sequels to Ridiculous One Star Reviews from Amazon here. IF YOU DARE!




Monday, April 16, 2012

Google's Project Glass

Google recently unveiled "Project Glass" which I thought might be a late April Fool joke. But apparently it's not. Basically, Glass is a smart phone with a heads up display built into a pair of glasses, which would function something like this:

 

 At least, in a commercial that's how it would function. A lot of people have been making fun of this ad, pointing out how there are likely to be advertisements and the dangers of falling off buildings because you're distracted by playing your ukelele.

I don't know. I think it looks like the coolest thing to come around in a long time, like something from my science-fiction induced daydreams in my youth, and I, for one, would like a pair. I would also like a jetpack and some repulsor beams and a patriotic friend who had been accidentally put into a natural state of suspended animation and another friend who was a Norse god of thunder.

All that to say... I promise to use the Glass technology only for the good of all humanity and to defend us from evil.

P.S. I would also like some bulletproof armor or something.

Why I'm up in the middle of the night

Because I'm doing my taxes. And for whatever reason, this is the time I prefer, once a year, sitting at "the homework table" while Krista and the kids are sleeping. Maybe because it seems like homework, what with all the math and remembering things and vague panic.

But now it's done. If I were in college I would ghost along down the hallways and see who else was up, and no doubt I'd end up sitting in someone's dorm room listening to music or watching Twin Peaks or talking about nothing while my dorm mate sat up on the counter with the window open so they could smoke. Then in the morning I'd get up at 10:30 and roll out of bed, have breakfast at 11 and get to class by 11:30.

Wow. I suddenly miss college.

In other news: taxes done for another year. Yay!


Saturday, April 14, 2012

Read this year's Hugo-nominated short stories online


The Hugo awards are an annual science fiction and fantasy award given in a large variety of categories (best novel, short story, dramatic presentation, et cetera). This year, all of the stories which are on the official Hugo ballot are available online for your reading pleasure. So, if you like science fiction and fantasy, here are a few of the better stories of the year.
The Homecoming by Mike Resnick 
Movement by Nancy Fulda 
The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu 
I got the heads up and the story links from John Scalzi's blog. If you enjoy science fiction at all you will enjoy both his blog and his books. 

EDIT: Here are some more, some for the Nebula awards also, from Asimov's online. Thanks to Austin Ross for the link!

arrow"The Man Who Bridged the Mist" - Kij Johnson (Asimov’s Oct/Nov 2011) Nebula / Hugo
arrow"Kiss Me Twice" - Mary Robinette Kowal (Asimov’s June 2011) Nebula / Hugo

BEST NOVELETTE
arrow"The Copenhagan Interpretation" - Paul Cornell (Asimov’s July 2011) Hugo

BEST SHORT STORY
arrow"Shipbirth" - Aliette de Bodard (Asimov’s Feb 2011) Nebula


Friday, April 13, 2012

Books I got at Q

If you've been hanging around here or on Twitter, you know I spent the first part of the week at the Q Conference in Washington, D.C. I loved it, actually, and the challenging thoughts and insights of the diverse speakers (some of whom I disagreed with) made for stimulating conversation.

As part of the conference package, we were gifted with some books, and I thought you'd be interested to see what they were:

The Books of the Bible New Testament. The idea behind this Bible was to remove all the commentary, footnotes and chapter breaks and read the scriptures without all the distraction, keeping the emphasis on the text rather than all the centuries of commentary that have grown up around it. I love this. I spent a good amount of time on the plane ride home reading from the book of Luke, which read a LOT more like a fun book that didn't require that I stop after a chapter of dutiful reading.

Almost Amish: One Woman's Quest for a Slower, Simpler, More Sustainable Life by Nancy Sleeth. Nancy spoke at Q, and in this book she looks at the Amish lifestyle to see if there's anything we might want to take advantage of in our own lives. I haven't read the book yet, but I enjoyed the presentation and I'm sure I'll check it out. Also... it's published by my friends at Tyndale, in case you care about such things.

Next we have a re-packaging of Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper's Wisdom & Wonder: Common Grace in Science & Art. Kuyper talks about the Christian duty to engage in public life, not just the Church, because of God's sovereign control over every aspect of life. As he said, "If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life, and it cannot be restricted to the walls of the church or within the Christian orbit." This one looks interesting and I'll definitely give it a read.

A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars by Jonathan Merritt hasn't been officially released yet, but that didn't stop it from being in our goody bag. Merritt suggests we can find a way to engage in culture and politics without jumping in on the culture wars or snagging power for ourselves. Should be an interesting read.

Global Warming and the Risen LORD: Christian Discipleship and Climate Change by Jim Ball. I assume the name says it all. I guess I'll flip through this one and see if I want to read it carefully.

Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate by Matthew Soerens and Jenny Hwang. Jenny did a great presentation at Q about immigration (legal and otherwise) and I spent a good amount of time with her and a few others yesterday morning, running around D.C. and meeting with various officials who are heavily involved in this issue. I'll write more about that soon (probably next week). But in the meantime, I wanted to read Jenny's book, so I bought it.

How about you? What books are on your shelf or the towering to-be-read pile by your bed? Anything I should be reading?





Thursday, April 12, 2012

Zombies (and a vampire) united for Night of the Living Dead Christian

The Wesley Foundation at Stephen F. Austin State University did a fun thing for Night of the Living Dead Christian this year! They were planning to do a study of the book on campus, so to advertise for the study, they dressed up as zombies (and a vampire) and went out on campus, inviting people to sign up for the study in exchange for a chance to win a copy of the book in a raffle.

It sounds like they had a great time, and a good turnout for reading the book together! Here are some pictures sent in by Amanda Mauldin, one of the Wesley Foundation staff:

Undead handing out fliers for a book study. Don't see that every day.
As you can see, people felt excited to sign up when encouraged by zombies.

Red shirts are very enticing for vampires.
I spoke at the Wesley Foundation retreat this spring. We had a great time.
See if you can find me in the picture. 
The thing about being a zombie is that whatever you're wearing, that's your only outfit forever.
It's best if you can go casual and formal simultaneously like this gentleman here.
So happy to be a zombie. 
On further examination, this zombie has two right hands. Amazing!
I really enjoyed spending time with the Wesley Foundation, their ministers as well as their students. We had a great time at their retreat, and (bonus) since it's primarily Methodists, we never had to talk about Calvinism or whether women are allowed to do ministry. Nice!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Skeleton notes from Q Day 2


Whew! Here are my notes from day 2 of Q:

Q Day 2 (It Rhymes)

We started this morning with a few songs from Sandra McCracken. She has a pure voice, a sweet spirit and I really enjoyed hearing from her. Glad Q brought her in.

Prayer from Gabe Lyons.

And now…

Miroslav Volf: Demonstrating a Public Faith
Author and founding director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture

Ha ha. Awesome accent. He started by saying "Vhat a wenue." I know, lame thing to notice with someone as intelligent and respected as Volf, but welcome to my brain this morning.

Faith is not going away; faiths in the world particularly Islam, Christianity ad Buddhism are growing. The world is becoming more and more religious place. People of faith have found thmelseves interested in faith that shapes the community and public life of a nation, partly influenced by the spread of the democratic ideal.

People of different religious backgrounds all want to shape the same space according to their different ideas of the world. We are "living under the same roof." We no longer sequester people into particular nations. Tall fences are gone. Fences are gone, period, and we live, many of us, under the same roof which introduces challenges for how we must live our public lives.

Authoritarianism which wants to dominate the public space. On the opposite side, secular exclusivism (the thought that the best account of how to live peacefully is to secularize).

Neither religious totalitarianism/authoritarianism nor secular exclusivism will work. To work within a single polity will generate conflict.

We must give up on the idea of "Christian America" or "Muslim Egypt" or "secular Europe" we need a pluralistic approach giving equal voice to all religious backgrounds.

We need a Christian foundation. Is there such a thing as a Christian foundation for a pluralistic society? Of course Volf thinks yes.

Where does pluralism as a political project have its origin. Thomas Helmus (?), Baptist on the run to Amsterdam. Believed all religious people (including atheists) should have exactly the same freedoms, BECAUSE OF his Christian beliefs. He wasn't concerned only for his own religious freedom, but for all people. So there is historical precedent (also mentioned the Mayflower, etc)

John Locke: Christian reasons for toleration. "There should be freedom in the way in which people come to faith for it concerns the deepest concerns of our lives" and concerns our heart/soul and must be allowed to be free in coming to God/faith. Love should qualify the way in which faith is lived in the world. Love grants to others what they want granted for themselves.

What is often brought against pluralism is the fact of distinct groups and beliefs and how can they live together? "We are Christian on account of our differences from others." Our identity is wrapped up in our difference from others.

Christianity is not only about differences, but about things that are in common with others. The jacket I am wearing is not specifically Christian or not Christian.

Jesus says, "I am the truth" but it's the same Jesus who says he is the one who enlightens everyone.  Specific Christian beliefs are reflected in the beliefs of other world systems. All truth is God's truth. (But we don't have to give up the specificities of our faith)

"We fear each other but have lost the fear of God." We build mosques not to worship God but to mark our territory. Like a cross in Croatia put up to cow the Bosnian Muslims and remind them Croatia has the high ground.

Christ died so that all people can find God and embrace him.




Interview with Barbara Bradley Haggerty hosted by Michael Cromartie: Future of Media and Faith
Haggerty is a religion correspondent with NPR


MC: How do you decide which topics to cover?

News dictates this to a good degree. Catholicism keeps her busy. J Other times, on small news days she can drill down on things like the atheist movement or the rap "Why I love Jesus but hate religion"… how do young people absorb theology and is there danger in "YouTube theologians"? Or the "controversy" over Adam and Eve… is it scientifically impossible to come down to two ancestors?

Her book is "Fingerprints of God"

MC: How do you handle controversial issues?

skeleton notes from first day of Q


Hey everyone -- for those who are interested, here are the unfiltered notes from Q yesterday. A lot of this is just quick notes to myself so it may not all make sense to you. But if you want to see some of what the Q content looks like, this should give you an idea:

Andy Crouch: Power

A "good news to good news" story in scripture (including the first two chapters of the Bible and the last two)

How does this relate to power?

Power as "the imperative"
Geeky Jean Luc Picard reference

"let there be" as jussive rather than imperative

deepest power is not force but creation, deepest corruption of power is not violence but misapplied creativity, which is idolatry

Every idol promises two things: You shall not surely die (you are not contingent or bound by other forces); You will be like God

Misusing our creative power to "play God" is Injustice (when we as idolaters pretend to be God)

"Poverty is the result of someone playing God in the lives of someone else." Some guy in India

NOTE: Steve Jobs looks like an owl.

NOTE: It's funny when people say things  like  "Q for you."

Wonderful Wednesday: Japanese Binocular Soccer

My friend Cheryl Boyd sent this to me. I have no idea what is going on, or why the referee is dressed like a giant bat (because footballers are a cowardly and superstitious lot?). Enjoy!


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Ridiculous Reviewers on Amazon: One Star reviews for William Golding's Lord of the Flies


Over 140 people have given Lord of the Flies  a one star review. 140.



I love this book. I somehow missed reading it until after college, when I ran across it in the library of the high school where I taught. I remember being badly creeped out by the description of the beast on the beach, and amazed at the vividness of the scenes as well as the action. C.S. Lewis described the imagery as "hallucinogenic." That's about right.


It is, essentially, the story of a group of boys shipwrecked on an island, and how their human nature takes over and things go as things will... they take their first steps toward forming a society, and all that entails. Which, of course, leads to violence and power struggles.


It's an amazing book. But that doesn't stop it from getting OVER 140 ONE STAR REVIEWS!


Blow the conch shell, my friends! It's time! For Ridiculous One Star Reviews on Amazon for William Golding's LORD OF THE FLIES!


Before we tread too far, we should make sure what we're getting into. A reviewer named limmortal has a warning for us in a review titled, "Lord of the Flies" Sinks. AAAAAH we're sinking, we're sinking!
This is the only book I've ever read that I actively dislike. I'd be tempted to say that it's an accursed book
Beware, my friends! For the book which we are discussing today is... possibly accursed!


One of the common objections to the book is that Golding misunderstands human nature. Or children. Or teenagers. "Stranded kids wouldn't turn violent or harass one of the other children." Especially not a poor sweet fat kid. Here's a typical example:
 _Lord of the Flies_ is, we are told, a novel about human beings and their nature. It's a shame we see so few human beings in the book. Golding seems to see savagery as the natural and instinctive state of humanity, a position that's logically untenable (if this was the "natural" way, exactly how did we acquire civilization at all, let alone keep it long enough to develop the printing press necessary to spread such [negativity]?)
Now, read this excerpt from a reviewer who is named A KID'S REVIEW. 

My favorite chapter in this book would definitely be the first chapter when the kids are introduced on the island. There was this one kid that everyone had called piggy. To me that is the funniest thing in the world. I don't know why but the humiliation of another kid is extremely hilarious. It may seem cruel but to me it's funny.

Hmmm. I can't imagine A KID'S REVIEW thinking it would be funny to put together a mock hunt for Piggy in the jungle, then getting overly serious about it. 




Now we turn to our favorite one star reviewer A CUSTOMER who had this to say:
This book was very disturbing, sick and wrong. Other than the fact that it was very boring and lost my attention, it also very much revolved around murder, cruelty, and other acts of meanness in the second half in the book.
This would be a good movie trailer. MURDER! CRUELTY! BOREDOM! Those words fit together so well.


The next reviewer has a different point of view. He titles his review, "Yow! Lots of people wrote stuff, huh?":

This book stunk. I believe that reality can have deeper meanings, but don't get to deep or you'll drown. The only time you can go that deep and not drown, is with drugs. I never thought Lord of the Flies would attract so many druggies.
Oh dear. I didn't think you would need to hear this, but you should not review books when intoxicated or under the influence of controlled substances. Please, people, review books responsibly. 


Finally, our last reviewer, who believes that this book is worth only one out of five stars and simply titled his review, "I didn't really like it." Here's a piece of advice for the author, Mr. Golding:
Mr. Golding is a very talented writer, but I don't think this was the best he could do.
Yeah! Try harder, Mr. Golding, you lazy author! All I can say is, I hope this reviewer doesn't end up stranded on a desert island with the author and a sharpened stick, as I'm guessing he'll discover just how hard Mr. Golding can try to do something. 


Ah. I think I hear a jet-powered future-boat arriving outside, as if a deus ex machina is the only way to make this savagery come to an end. 


Here are more Ridiculous One Star Reviews at battle for dominance.


QUESTION: What is your experience with the Lord of the Flies? Did you love it or hate it or something in between?



Q Conference -- Washington DC

Hey everyone!

I'm at the Q conference today, tomorrow and Thursday. You can watch a live stream of some of the show today from 9-10:30 AM EST and 7-8:45 PM EST. It looks like you have to "register" for the live stream, so go check it out now.

Perhaps, if there is internet, I will participate in the dubious practice of live blogging*. Brrrrr. Cross your fingers and hope for no internet, my minions.

In any case, I'll be back soon, and in a couple of hours we have a new RIDICULOUS AMAZON REVIEW coming up!


*Live blogging is when one types out a blog post as it happens, periodically posting and then updating the post LIVE. It allows for constant access to off-the-cuff insights from the blogger. This is what an extravert refers to as "Thinking"... the constant running of the mouth without consideration.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Downton Arby's

Krista and I watched the first season of Downton Abbey together, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. Krista watched and enjoyed the second season as well. It's the story of the Crawley family, the heirs of the Grantham estate (Downton Abbey) and the adventures of all who live there (the Crawleys as well as their servants). Much of the first season had to do with trying to find a male heir in the Crawley family to keep Downton from passing on to the next nearest relative.

That was all prologue to enjoying this show, Downton Arby's. The story of an upscale family trying desperately to hold onto their Arby's franchise. BEHOLD:


Saturday, April 07, 2012

LINKS! The sausage of the internet

HEY! Someone found a frozen baby mammoth in the ice in Siberia. It's probably about 10,000 years old, and the flesh is still "soft and pliant" and there's still blondish red hair on its legs. They said that it was most likely butchered by humans and then buried with the intention of coming back later to get the rest. All I can say is... wow. I threw out some fish in my fridge that was only like a week old. Sorry, scientists of the future. You can listen to part of the report from The World by pressing the orange play button below, and you can go here to see some pictures:
 


Easter tomorrow! We're headed to church in the morning to say Christos Anesti to everyone, and then back home to eat some turkey. That's right, we're going to roast a turkey. Because we're thankful for Resurrection Day. It's something we take for granted. But not the Christians of Nepal. Here's a cool article about their Easter plans.


Batman, dark vigilante of Gotham City, was recently pulled over by the cops on his way to visit sick kids in the hospital. No, really.


Andrew Rozalowsky wrote a great article about why he uses the NIV translation of the Bible instead of the ESV, in response to a recent lengthy booklet about why this other guy, Kevin DeYoung, switched his whole congregation from NIV to ESV. Which sort of begs the question of why your congregation all have to use the same translation as you, but whatever. I really enjoyed it. Or, as the ESV would say, Great enjoyment came to me forthwith.


Don Miller had a an enlightening post about how to tell if you're a controlling person. At the end of the post he was all, now you have to post a link to this on your blog and I was like nuh-uh and he was like yes you do and I was all "You're not the boss of me" and he was like, "Shut up and do what I say" and I was like, fine, whatever.

This is what book reviews of non-fiction should look like. Amazing. Via Marc Cortez.

Our old friend Nurse Shasta wrote in to make sure you know the medical truth: you don't have to die just because you fall out of a plane without a parachute.

The movie Aliens adapted to a stage play ON ICE. So rad. Via @stevecomfort.


Friday, April 06, 2012

Advice for the lovelorn

Someone came to my blog today because they searched for the sentence, "How To Tell A Boy That You Love Him."

As a former boy, I think I can speak to this plainly. By "former boy" I mean that I have now grown into a man, no alteration in gender is implied.

Here's the thing about boys.

First you flirt with them. Then you drop hints. Then you keep arranging to run into them at various places. Then you stalk them for a while. Then you have long, rambling phone talks for hours. Then you meet his family. Then you talk about weddings, and what you want to do when you grow up, and what you're looking for in a boyfriend (describing him in as much detail as you dare).

Then one of his friends says, "That girl is totally into you."

And he is shocked. And not sure it's true. And thought you were just really close pals. And he's confused.

Here's how you tell a boy you love him. You go buy a sledgehammer that has the words "I love you" in reverse on the end of the sledge. You take the sledgehammer and swing it with all your might so that it hits him between the eyes and he ends up back at home looking at himself in the mirror and reading the words on his face in the mirror. Then you follow up with a phone call or note or visit where you say, "In case you didn't follow that, you moron, I have strong feelings for you. I love you."

He should get it in a couple of days.

Imaginary Jesus... THE STAGE PLAY!

This November will be the world premiere of the stage adaptation of Imaginary Jesus!

The adaptation was written by the award winning playwright, Deanna Jent, whose play "Falling" is also opening off-Broadway this fall.

The play will be premiering at the Mustard Seed Theatre in St. Louis. I'll keep you updated on details, but right now it looks like Krista and I will be flying out for the premiere. I can't miss the opportunity to see an actor playing the part of me while I am sitting in the audience.

I've read the first 75% of the script and I couldn't be more pleased. It's clever, true to the source material and adds a few new, enjoyable bits as well. I laughed out loud while I was reading it, and I can't wait to see it live! If you live in the St. Louis area, I hope you'll be there, too!

If you're not in the St. Louis area... well, Deanna will make the play available to theatre companies in other cities, so who knows? You might get a chance to see it, too.

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