Friday, April 29, 2011

We met Donald Glover from Community today in Portland!

Shasta and I were downtown today to meet with some co-workers from New Zealand, when Shasta pointed out that Donald Glover happened to be standing in the sitting area of the coffee shop/hotel that we were meeting in.

As you can see in this picture, one of our friendly Portlanders snuck into the back of the picture to give Donald some rabbit ears. Nice. Thanks for that, Portland.

Anyway, we asked if we could get a picture because Tifah and Reid from the Autumn Film kept sending us all these pictures, bragging about how they met Danny Pudi a while back. Anyway, they gave Danny a copy of their CD, so I gave Donald a copy of Imaginary Jesus. I am guessing he is using it as a coaster in his hotel room at this very minute.

I told Donald that we had watched the season finale of Community last night, but it turns out that wasn't the finale. He told us that (SPOILER) the finale this year is a gigantic, epic paintball episode. I'm looking forward to that... the first episode of Community we ever saw was the paintball episode. And YES, The Autumn Film introduced us to the show. I know they'll want credit for that. ARE YOU SATISFIED NOW, TIFAH?

Anyway, I know you all want to know all the juicy details. But basically they are these: Donald was cool. He was in town for his comedy/music show. He's doing a couple shows in California and then headed to Las Vegas. He's probably lurking the streets of Portland right now.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wonderful Wednesday: All Your Base Are Belong To Us

One of the best uses of the internet, better than work e-mail or online banking or watching television shows whenever you like is gathering your friends around your tiny flickering blue screen and showing them something truly wonderful, memorable and ridiculous.

The first video I vividly remember being shown was by a young student named John Lidstrom, who wanted me to know that All Your Base Are Belong To Us. And now, in honor of internet memes everywhere, I present to you this jewel of internet loveliness. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Guest post from author, Mike Duran: "Lord, Save Us From Our Stuffiness"

The Resurrection: A novelI recently read the debut novel of a cyber-friend of mine. The novel, which is called The Resurrection, is about how spiritual forces clash in a small town, kicked off by the resurrection of a dead child. I wrote Mike a note after reading the book, and told him that it reminded me quite a bit of the novels of Charles Williams, who also wrote spiritual/horror thrillers from a Christian perspective. Mike also writes an excellent blog, and is on Twitter and Facebook.

Anyway, I asked Mike if he might like to do a guest post here at BHR, and here's what he sent me. I think you'll enjoy it. Drop Mike a note and let him know what you think.

Lord, Save Us from Our Stuffiness
By Mike Duran

There is considerable debate about whether or not Jesus laughed. In fact, a Gallup poll once found that half of all Americans thought that Jesus was not fun loving. One need only to look at His followers to understand how this conclusion could be reached.

Through the ages, the saints have frowned on laughter. By the 4th century, church leader John Chrysostom had declared that Jesus never laughed. This is why many medieval paintings portray Jesus as serene and always sober. Christendom’s sense of humor didn’t improve much over the next millennium. In the 1400s, the Council of Constance decreed that any minister or monk who spoke “jocular words such as to provoke laughter” would be damned to hell. See, this laughter stuff is serious business!

Apparently, laughter has always carried a harsh sentence in the Church. The famed British preacher Charles Spurgeon was often criticized for his use of humor. On one occasion, he answered one of his critics by saying, “Ma’am, if you knew how much I held back, you’d commend me.” Nevertheless, the Church is still full of gloom-inducing Pharisees. H. L. Mencken once defined a Puritan as a person with the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy. Is it any wonder many pastors are custodians of propriety, their stiffness akin to spiritual rigor mortis, and their houses of worship like museums of torture, with solemnity being the rack upon which their parishioners are painstakingly splayed?

Don’t tell this to the first-century believers. One of the greatest days in Church history was the day they were accused of being drunk. The Holy Spirit descended and a party ensued (Acts 2); thousands of new Christians “broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people” (2:46-47). Amidst the tongue-speaking, foot-stomping, rip-roaring revival, the only possible explanation was, “They have had too much wine” (vs. 13). What other reason could there be for such gaiety, especially when the religious leaders of the day were such unrelenting sourpusses?
And maybe that’s our problem – Nobody accuses Christians of being drunk anymore.

The Humor of ChristIn his 1964 classic The Humor of Christ, Elton Trueblood suggests that we cannot begin to understand Christ’s life and teaching, without acknowledging the joy, wit and whimsy He brought to this world. In a way, humor may be the most neglected key to ciphering Jesus’ message.

Our journey to Christ-likeness means being saved from lots of things: bad habits, bad attitudes, and their eternal consequences. One of the things we need saved from is our stuffiness. I mean, how can we ever hope to woo people to Heaven, if our Leader can barely even crack a smile?

Ridiculous Reviewers On Amazon: One Star Review for I, Claudius by Robert Graves

I, Claudius From the Autobiography of Tiberius Claudius Born 10 B.C. Murdered and Deified A.D. 54 (Vintage International)I first read I, Claudius in May of 2008 and I enjoyed it a great deal. Here's what I said about it then: "It's a great novel. It's the story of Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus (called Claudius), a crippled, stuttering member of Rome's royal family who survives several increasingly evil emperors to ascend to the throne himself. Part history, part family epic, part philosophical exploration of History and historians, it's well written, profound and fun to read. I love the way that Graves paints the reality of a culture that deifies its ruler."

The Modern Library put this book in the top 100 best novels of all time, and while I have some strong disagreements with the list, I have to say that I, Claudius is nevertheless a fine novel.

But even the best novels are open to critique. Let's see what our cranky fellow citizens of Amazonia have to say. This week's Ridiculous Reviewer provides us with a very serious flaw in the novel. Enjoy.

1.0 out of 5 stars I, Claudius, April 5, 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: I, Claudius From the Autobiography of Tiberius Claudius Born 10 B.C. Murdered and Deified A.D. 54 (Vintage International) (Paperback)
This book is so self-conscious and self-aware, one has to wonder whether the author is not more taken with himself than interested in writing a novel for others to enjoy. Way too cutesy for me.I did not like this book at all.
I would have much preferred the author just write a nice, deep, rich biography or even a third-person historical novel, perhaps with footnotes or indexed research notes. The first-person mechanism is highly overused, to the point of abuse. There appears to have been a great deal of research that went into this book, but because of the tone and style, the reader cannot determine or make an assessment as to whether the material is fact or fiction, or merely self-serving attempts to appear clever. The heavy-handed overused literary device severely detracts from the good qualities of the book, which are: good story, interesting historical period, insight into times and lifestyles of long ago, and occasional easy flow of language.
This is one book I would not recommend. 

So. This book has a good story, is interesting and insightful, and flows well. It's main problem is that it is (gasp) written in first person. As is, for instance, the reviewer's review. As is, for instance, other cutesy novels like Lolita, The Catcher in the Rye and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Runner up (who I just couldn't bear to publicly shame because he said in his review that he's a high schooler) was a young man who said, "I cannot say that this book is good because lying is a sin and I don't want to go to Hell." Where, no doubt, he would be forced to read classic literature.

Thank you, one star reviewers, for your entertaining insights into great novels.

Monday, April 25, 2011

In Which My Children Stop Fighting With Each Other for a Philosophical Conversation

While my kids were dyeing Easter eggs, they got in a heated argument about the purple die, mostly related to whose turn it was to dip an egg into the colored vat. I was in the next room, and I finally called them over.

Me: Kids, what are we celebrating at Easter time?

The kids looked down at their feet and didn't respond.

Me: Are we celebrating some sort of festival about sisters fighting with each other?

Kids: No.

Me: No. You know what we're celebrating, we're celebrating that --

A: Dad!

Me: Yeah?

A: What does dyeing eggs have to do with Jesus dying for our sins and then rising from the dead?

Me: Ummmm. Nothing. Now stop fighting and go dye your eggs.

Kids: Okay.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front by Wendell Berry

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready-made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.

And you will have a window in your head. 
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer. 

When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you 
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something 
that won't compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor. 
Love someone who does not deserve it. 

Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed. 

Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias. 
Say that your main crop is the forest 
that you did not plant, 
that you will not live to harvest. 

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns. 
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees 
every thousand years. 

Listen to carrion -- put your ear 
close, and hear the faint chattering 
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful 
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men. 

Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child? 
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 

Go with your love to the fields. 
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts. 

As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn't go. 

Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction. 
Practice resurrection.

Easter Communion by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Pure fasted faces draw unto this feast:
God comes all sweetness to your Lenten lips.
You striped in secret with breath-taking whips,
Those crooked rough-scored chequers may be pieced
To crosses meant for Jesu's; you whom the East
With draught of thin and pursuant cold so nips
Breathe Easter now; you serged fellowships,
You vigil-keepers with low flames decreased,

God shall o'er-brim the measures you have spent
With oil of gladness, for sackcloth and frieze
And the ever-fretting shirt of punishment
Give myrrhy-threaded golden folds of ease.
Your scarce-sheathed bones are weary of being bent:
Lo, God shall strengthen all the feeble knees.

Easter Wings by George Herbert

Easter wings.

Lord, who createdst man in wealth and store,
   Though foolishly he lost the same,
      Decaying more and more,
        Till he became
           Most poore:
           With  thee
        Oh let me rise
   As larks, harmoniously,
  And sing this day  thy victories:
Then shall the fall further the flight in me.

My  tender  age  in  sorrow   did   beginne:
   And still with sicknesses and shame
      Thou  didst  so  punish  sinne,
         That  I  became
           Most thinne.
           With  thee
        Let me combine
      And feel this day thy victorie:
   For,  if  I  imp  my  wing  on  thine
Affliction shall  advance the  flight in  me.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Man of Sorrows

Man of Sorrows by Jim Janknegt

New! Books! On! My! Shelf!

As you know, books arriving in my mailbox makes my mailbox happy. Here are a few of my recent arrivals:

Whole Bible Story, The: Everything That Happens in the Bible in Plain English
The Whole Bible Story by Dr. William H. Marty. This book was sent to me by the publisher (Bethany House... thanks!) and is a chronologically arranged retelling of all the narrative sections of the Bible. Basically, imagine someone sitting down and telling you, well, the whole Bible story.

Mama's Got a Fake I.D.: How to Reveal the Real You Behind all That Mom
Mama's Got a Fake I.D. by Caryn Dahlstrand Rivadeneira. This book was sent to me by the author, whose new book is coming out from my publisher (Tyndale House). As it turns out, Caryn and my wife Krista and I have a mutual and much beloved friend named Barb, which is cool. Caryn is a great writer whose books have a fun sense of humor and a lot of common sense answers to sticky questions. I haven't read this one completely yet, although the parts I've read are great. I have, however, read Caryn's next book, Grumble Hallelujah and it was excellent.

Russian Dreambook of Color and Flight
The Russian Dreambook of Color and Flight by Gina Oschner. I met Gina this year at the Portland Faith and Writer's conference and I really, really enjoyed our brief interactions. So of course I ran out and bought her book. I've just started it, but it's wonderful. Instead of trying to describe it, here's what Publisher Weekly had to say about it:

At the center of Flannery O'Conner Award–winning Ochsner's debut novel (after collection People I Wanted to Be) is a decaying five-story building in a Khrushchev-era slum whose residents navigate the absurdities of post-Soviet life by immersing themselves in dreams. There's Olga, a translator and sometimes censor at the Red Star; her idiot son, Yuri, who represses his memories of Chechnya with a perpetually worn Cosmonaut helmet; the bathroom-attendant Azade, who knows the dreams of others by the scent of their leavings; and Tanya, a hat-check girl at the All-Russia All-Cosmopolitan Museum of Art, who records her dreams of clouds and air travel in a notebook. When news arrives that the museum may be eligible for a grant, Tanya and Yuri are charged with forging works of art, like Peter the Great's fetus collection and a saintly halo. Meanwhile, Olga fears her son will be forced to fight again in Chechnya. Though Ochsner struggles in places to expand and sustain the energy of her short stories, the novel benefits from its relative plotlessness by granting a rare glimpse of buoyant inner worlds that flourish through the frost.

The Fifth Witness
The Fifth Witness by Michael Connelly. Any long time readers of the blog will know that I'm a big Connelly fan, and I can't stop myself from buying his books. I can't wait for paperback. He's one of two authors whose books I advance order in hardback and then torture myself by trying to decide when to read them after they arrive. This is another of Connelly's "Lincoln Lawyer" novels. In The Fifth Witness, the main character, Mickey Haller is back to his old tricks, getting called in as a defense lawyer on a case involving the murder of a crooked (?) mortgage banker.

Homemade Haunting: A Novel
Homemade Haunting by Rob Stennett. Homemade Haunting is the story of a washed up writer who wants to write a horror novel and discovers that he is a "method writer." He can't write about something he hasn't experienced. So he sets up shop in a "haunted" house and tries to do everything he can to come in contact with scary supernatural forces. I suspect he is going to succeed. The author and I have exchanged a few emails here and there, and Rob has graciously agreed to do an interview here at BHR once I read the book and send him some questions. If you'd like to send some questions, read the book and send them along.

Citizen Vince (P.S.)
Citizen Vince by Jess Walter. I'm always looking for some new, quality crime or hard boiled detective fiction. Someone suggested this book, and I blindly obeyed. It appears that this book is a love letter to Spokane (?!), a thriller about a guy getting chased by the cops, a mob boss and a hit man, and an exploration of the all-American tradition of trying to figure out who one should vote for in the Presidential election.

So... that's what's piled up in a tower on my bedside table. How about you? What are you reading? What's on the list for the near future?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Birthday Cards, when made by an 8 year old

This week was Z's tenth birthday as well as our good friend Shasta's birthday. So we had a lot of parties going on this week.

On the way to school, my 8 year old told me she wanted to make a card for Shasta using her new stencil kit.

Me: I think Shasta would like that.

A: Dad, what do you think Shasta would like better? Rocket ships, Greek gods, or Hawaii?

Me (laughing): She likes Hawaii quite a bit.

A (thoughtfully): Okay. I will put some palm trees and the beach.

Me: Great.

A: And a rocket ship.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wonderful Primeday: Wednesday Treat from a Galaxy Far, Far Away

You may have missed all the hoopla the last couple weeks about a young lady named Rebecca Black whose parents paid for voice lessons, someone to write a song, auto-tune and a video so their baby could be a pop star and the resulting internet explosion as 109 MILLION people watched the video to watch how not-great it is. I feel sorry for the kid and think the idiots who are making fun of her need to be unplugged from the internet and taught some manners. AND... I wish I could get 109 million hits on any video I would ever upload. This kid could get a social media job right now I bet. Anyway, here's her video (I provide it for context for the Wonderful Wednesday offering to follow):

Now. THIS video is excellent. It's called "Primeday" and it's a satire of Ms. Black's video, which just happens to be sung by Princess Leia. You will enjoy it.

I am posting both of these within hearing of my baby M. She is dancing joyfully. Ah, to be a child again.

Excuse me while I go dance.

p.s. It's stuck in your head, isn't it?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Ridiculous Reviewers On Amazon: One Star Review for Tolkien's Fellowship of the Ring

The Fellowship of the Ring: Being the First Part of The Lord of the RingsLet's be honest. There are plenty of legitimate reasons not to be a fan of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I completely understand that there are people who will find The Fellowship of the Ring boring. I don't see any need to pick on them. I get it that some people will find the songs and poems and familial histories intrusive. Likewise, I have no gripes with them. I even extend grace to those who say, for instance, that there is "no characterization." I don't expect them to understand that Tolkien was creating his own epic, and that epics aren't meant to be character pieces, but rather stories about what it means to be a hero. And yes, Tolkien did something no one at the time was doing, and he is the Father of Modern Fantasy and yes, absolutely, it is a powerful and wonderful trilogy that I love. I love how he subtly subverts the epic genre not by changing anything in a massive way, but by making the hero a little nobody from the middle of nowhere who has no great power or skill or history in fact no greatness at all other than a desire to do what is right. I love the unflinching boldness to call evil what it is and to focus on the good, and I love the imagination and the deeply textured world that makes you believe it might, just might really exist. I love the books. But I can see where certain readers wouldn't care for it.

Having said that, here are two reviewers on Amazon who gave it one star out of five who I think deserve to be mocked and then need to watch the extended DVD version of the movies while a real Tolkien fan explains to them every single little detail of what is happening:

Here's the first. I've enbiggened my favorite bit:

1.0 out of 5 stars Really, truely, one of the most boring books ever., April 16, 2002
Bill (Albuquerque, New Mexico United States) - See all my reviews
Although many people believe that "The Fellowship of the Ring" is a classic novel of its time, it is not. Granted it opened up many doors for the half hearted fantasy writing of today, it still used plane, boring and ohhhhh so long descriptions. What I don't understand is how JRR Tolkien could take a great idea about four young chaps (who happen to be midgets which kills alot of the drama for me) on a harrowing adventure to destory the ring that the evil one wants so he can take over middle-Earth. The whole book went through a phase of Duex Machinea where Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin where either saved by friendly hobbits, not so friendly hobbits, friendly Elves, not so friendly Elves, or friendly Men or not so friendly Men. Startaling trasitions from numbly simiple to madingly difficult dialog made the book jump from one pace to another. Tolkien didn't use mounting suspense through the book, but manic-depressive, spasmatic jumps. Putting a song in the middle of one of the few exciting scenes breaks the pace, and leaves the reader starting all over again, feeling bland. Altogether, the book was my least favorite "classic."
Apparently that guy doesn't care what happens to "midgets."

And lastly, a review that causes you to wonder what book, precisely, the reviewer was reading:

1.0 out of 5 stars this book is awesome, October 9, 2002
This is the absolute worst book ever written. I still can't believe they killed off Frodo, the supposed star of the trilogy, within 175 pages. That's just ridiculous. Also, what's the deal with the zombies??? I re-read that section 3 times and I still didn't get it. Did they eat Gandalf or not? I still don't know. If you're looking for a confusing book filled with wordy descriptions of fish and the walking dead, you're in luck. Otherwise, you'd better find a new book. A great boook.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Strange Man by Greg Mitchell

The Strange Man (The Coming Evil)Once a month my valiant friends in the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy tour group read a book and write interesting reviews, interviews, and various blog posts about that book and whatever it might light off in the powder kegs of their minds. This month they are reading The Strange Man by author Greg Mitchell.

The Strange Man is the story of a young man named Matt Mikalatos  Dras Weldon who loves horror movies and comic books and isn't too focused on his Christian faith... until a demonic stranger arrives and begins to threaten his friends.

To learn more, check out my esteemed colleagues now through Wednesday:

Noah Arsenault
Red Bissell
Kathy Brasby
Grace Bridges
Beckie Burnham
Amber French
Tori Greene
Katie Hart
Timothy Hicks
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Inae Kyo
Emily LaVigne
Shannon McDermott
Matt Mikalatos
Gavin Patchett
Andrea Schultz
Kathleen Smith
Donna Swanson
Jessica Thomas
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Dona Watson
Phyllis Wheeler

At UC Irvine last week

Last Thursday night I spoke to a group of students at UC Irvine about our conceptions, opinions, ideas, preferences and misconceptions about Jesus, as well as what Jesus has to say about himself.

The Campus Crusade for Christ staff and students who put on the event did a great job, asking a lot of their friends to come as well as spending much of the week hosting a "graffiti wall" where people could write out their answers to the question "Who is Jesus?"

The event itself went well, and I enjoyed meeting a lot of students and having some great conversations. At least one person said they made a decision to be a follower of Jesus, which was cool. Here are some pictures from the graffiti wall:

Throughout the week, students were encouraged to put their thoughts about Jesus up on the "graffiti wall" on campus.

The team had made great posters and handed out copies of IJ to interested students.