Saturday, April 23, 2005

Weekly Diary

Katie's Big Week - A nice week for our daughter Katie. She received an academic award at school, and was cast as a Gossiper in the musical, Once on this Island, she'll be part of in June. It has been really fun to watch her find that she likes musical theater, and watch her step up into her roles. She loves acting and singing, but not in a self-centered kind of way. I'm very happy for her.

The New Pope - ...has turned out to be Catholic after all. I mention this because some folks seem surprised that the Cardinals would select someone who is dedicated to upholding core Catholic doctrine, even though this group of Cardinals is much less intellectually and theologically diverse than then group which selected the previous Pope. I can understand the frustration of many American Catholics, and I share many of their concerns, but then again, that's not why I'm a Catholic. And don't be fooled when Ratzinger/Benedict talks about "unity" - he uses the phrase the same way President Bush uses "bi-partisan" - we can be together as long as you agree with and submit to me. (I wonder if this will ever begin to bother American Evangelicals).

Science? Interesting article from Scientist/Blogger Chad Orzel in his blog Uncertain Principles. Seems he got stuck waiting in a doctor's office (and not in Canada or France, but right here in the US - I thought this only happened where they have socialized medicine) and started leafing through the pages of Children's Ministry magazine. (I have used this magazine in the past and found it occasionally helpful). For Orzel, the magazine was a trip to a strange land, but it was the issues article on using science experiments for ministry purposes that got his attention. But wasn't the article's attempt to fuse faith and science which got him - he's broadly sympathetic to that idea - it was that the experiments didn't have any science in them! I think this is very bad, and even though Orzel and I have very different faith commitments, I share his perspective.

Chivas Tonight!
- I'm not having birria, but I'd like to. No, tonight the LA Galaxy will be taking on their new inter-city rivals, CD Chivas USA. (Is it "inter" or "intra"? I can never keep those things straight.) This will be very intense. I'm taking my brother to his first soccer match - I figure if he doesn't like this, he won't ever like soccer.

Worst Book Ever - Fred Clark over at Slacktivist is doing all of us a favor by offering his reading of Left Behind, an amazingly best-selling book which some (in fact, a rather appallingly low number in proportion to the book's sales) recognize as being amazingly bad. Fred points out just how bad it can be in this week's installment, in which he comments on the books "we're not conspiracy theorists but here's our conspiracy" point of view and the rather startling tendency the author's have of naming their male characters like porn starts. Go take a look.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Fifth Grade... when my children surpass me. I love to travel, but haven't done much of it. In fifth grad, my son Chris was able to take a trip to Philadelphia and the surrounding area - a trip I would love to make and still haven't had a chance to. I was never even on an airplane until I was twenty-nine.

Katie's fifth grade year began with her surpassing me by being elected Student Council President at her school. I made two failed attempts at a similar office, losing in eighth grade, and winning (I think) as a senior in high school, only to be forced to forfeit the election after stupidly failing a comp class the previous semester.

This week she surpassed me again by getting interviewed by the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, in her capacity of school president, for feature the paper is doing on her school. As any good political leader, her quotes were rather bland and on message. I've always wanted to be quoted in the paper, but the closest I've come was about a dozen years ago, when a reporter called me to ask about what our church would be doing for Halloween. (At that time, churches were getting really wound up over whether we should mark "the Devil's Holiday") We talked for close to an hour, and I gave her context for the discussion, helped her understand some of the quotes she had received, basically helped her rewrite the entire article. None of my quotes appeared in the final article, unless you count many sentences and several paragraphs which were essential or actual (but unattributed) quotes from our conversation.

Good for them.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Wow! Gangsta, Clueless, or Venal?

We seem to have reached a point in our political discourse in which words mean absolutely nothing.

Witness this quote from embattled (at least I pray he is embattled) Rep. Tom Delay:
"It is unfortunate in our electoral system, exacerbated by our adversarial media culture, that political discourse has to get so overheated that it's not just arguments, but motives are questioned."
Amazingly, and ironically, Delay made this comment to the National Rifle Association, which has never been known to, uh, undersell their viewpoints.

Where to start? I cannot think of anyone who is more responsible for the venomous atmosphere in Washington than Tom Delay, and it makes me absolutely sick to see Evangelicals rising to his defense. But since many folks likely to be reading this don't share my perspective on Delay and Evangelicalism's Republican captivity, you'll probably be saying - "That's just your opinion". Uh no, it's not. Due to the miracle of the internets, a list of only some of Delay's most poisonous statements is only a mouse click away. (thanks to Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings).

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Weekly Diary

A great start to the week. Last Saturday night, Chris and I took in the LA Galaxy's 3-1 victory over Real Salt Lake along with our friends from the LA Riot Squad. We love soccer, but also love being with the guys. (Watch this short video to get an idea of just how fun it can be. That's my arm patting one of the video's combatants on the back). You can also see a picture of us at half time here.

We were deeply saddened, however, to learn that the Galaxy (or the corporation which owns the Galaxy and the stadium, AEG) have decided to ban the bacon wrapped hot dog vendors from the facility. These dogs, served with grilled onions, peppers, mustard, ketchup, and Mexican-style mayo (con todo), have become part of the sporting landscape in SoCal. You can see the carts outside Staples center, the Rose Bowl, and the Coliseum. A guy at church had one after the Billy Graham Crusade at the Rose Bowl. We always have them after the matches, and so after last week's victory, we walked out of the stadium ready to follow our noses and the cries of "'oddogh, oddogh, oddogh" to the carts, but they were gone. In memory, I offer this pictorial tribute:

I did my taxes yesterday afternoon, and did them early. I got to the Glendora Post Office by 4:25 pm! Last year, for the first time, I got to be one of those people you see on TV who drive to the big Post Office to get them in by midnight. I drove to Altadena around 10:00 pm. It was kind of fun. This year, we will get $3 back. We owed $115 to the state and will get a $118 refund from the Feds. I'm sure that extra $3 dollars will expand the economy - or at least the well being of the Snyder family.

And that's about it. Wendy was on vacation along with the kids this week, and so I tried to stay happy and stay away from the internet. It was a good week.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Review: The Commitments!

So last night, I'm channel surfing between innings of the Dodger game, and I see a vaguely familiar looking guy crossing a dreary urban street. I think, "Is that the X-Files guy, you know, the guy who just made that movie?" (this is how my mind works sometimes), and then I think "No, that's not him, you're always mixing him up with the Twin Peaks guy, the guy that was in that famously bad Vegas/stripper/dancer movie. It's the Twin Peaks guy". Then I think, "Nah, it's not him - he's too skinny". Then I hear someone shout in a lyrical Dublin brouge, "Hey, Jimmy Rabbitte!" and I know where I am - this is The Commitments!!

I love this movie, and hadn't seen it in five or six years. It is the story of the rise and fall of a Dublin soul bad. The movie is smart and witty about music and dreams and hope. But what I love the most is the almost musical dialog of the characters. Much of this is due to the Irish accents which place an edge or embellishment on every phrase, but the words and sentences themselves are, as the characters would say, "...f***ing brilliant". (You do need to have a certain tolerance for the f-word to enjoy this film. It doesn't go into Scarface territory, but hey, if it's good enough for Dick Cheney...)

I don't know if Dubliners really talk like this outside of Roddy Doyle novels. But I hope so.

Update: More on the Bankruptcy Bill

The House will take up the Bankruptcy bill today, which has already passed the Senate. In connection with this, Christianity Today published a short update, typical of the magazine's POV, titled "Debt Buster: Christians Divided Over Federal Bankruptcy Bill".

Speaking against the bill is rising evangelical financial superstar Dave Ramsey (no relation) who calls the bill: " of the worst pieces of legislation to come out of Washington in years. The legislation is based on the lie that most people who file bankruptcy are deadbeats or con artists."

Willing to repeat the lie is Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, a publicly identified Christian, who claims (perhaps while crossing his fingers): "...the bill seeks to hold accountable those who have spent recklessly while preserving the principle of a fresh start for those who are in debt by no fault of their own."

Simply within the frame of the article, the "Christian division" is accounted for by the dueling quotes from Grassley and Ramsey, along with an apparently added on quote from a group of 75 Christian bankruptcy attorneys (which I've posted on before) who have previously opposed the bill as "unbiblical". But the unspoken subtext of the short note is the remarkable fact that any self-identified Evangelical such as Ramsey is willing to break lockstep with what the Republicans want. And a more obvious subtext is that "Christian" means "Evangelical" because most liberal Christian groups and Catholics have been vocally opposed to the measure, and they get no mention.

There is a further irony here in the use of Grassley as a spokesperson for the divide among Christians, in that the Senator has said that biblical principles cannot be applied here. In response to an open from the Christian attorneys cited above, Grassley said: "I can't listen to Christian lawyers because I would be imposing the Bible on a diverse population..."

As they say here in the blog world - "Heh".

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Weekly Diary

Soccer. Last Saturday was opening day for MLS, and my team the LA Galaxy went down to an ignominious 3-0 defeat at the hands (or I should say, feet and heads) of the Columbus Crew. While the match was played in difficult weather conditions, it was primarily a reminder of just how ugly the beautiful game can become when a team cannot play with any cohesion. I hoping for much more as Chris and I join our friends with the LA Riot Squad as the Galaxy host Real Salt Lake in their home opener.

Unbelievable. This week, Senator John Cornyn of Texas rose in almost empty Senate chamber to discuss "judicial activism" and while he was at it, suggested that frustration over this activism was responsible for the recent killings of judges. I know that Cornyn is a conservative Republican representing a state from the former Confederacy, which seems to entitle one to a great deal of rhetorical latitude, but this is entirely over the line. His argument is exactly the same thing as saying, "Yes I deplore that the young woman was gang raped, but when these girls wear those short skirts, tensions are going to build up." This is absolutely shameful, but even more shameful has been then way that at least up to today, Cornyn has gotten away with it.

Sub-Sixty. My son Chris ran in his fourth track meet Thursday, and ran 59.6 for 400 meters, which is not bad for an 8th grader running his fourth race. We had been kind of hoping that he could run that fast by the end of the year, and so now he has had to expand his goals. His time lowered his previous best by four seconds. The best moment for me was not when he crossed the finish line first, but the look of joyous surprise on his face when they told him his time.

Good Thinking. Over at Obsidian Wings, Sebastian Holsclaw has a very thoughtful post about who best serves to reform a practice or an institution - its opponents or those who support it. He uses another post about gay marriage as a jumping off point to discuss union reform, and even gets in a little G.K. Chesterton. While I don't support his conclusion (I am unwilling to trust that the Administration has anything but narrowly partisan interests in "reforming" unions), I think it is a very worthy discussion, or more importantly, an excellent example of a good discussion.

JP II - Morti. So, the Pope died this week. I have been amazed at the way that the media and Protestants have all suddenly become Catholics. While the immediate aftermath of one's death should lead all of us to act with restraint, the press has been entirely uncritical in their analysis of John Paul II's life and legacy. I've also noticed the way in which Protestants have adopted internal titles for the Pope. I understand why Catholics would use exalted titles for the Pope, but I'm a little surprised the Vice-President of my university called him "His Holiness" while ordering flags flown at half mast, and the President (of my country) has called him the "Holy Father". Americans and Protestants used to have a thing about titles like this. I guess we don't anymore.

More on Wotija. The response to the Pope's death from the evangelical community has been one could say, selective. James Dobson and other Evangelical leaders), predictably, praised the pope for supporting his positions, while ignoring the many ways in which the Pope's explicit teaching and policies ran counter to those of the United States and to the preoccupations of American Evangelicals. (The Pope thought abortion and gay sex were bad, but he also thought unbridled capitalism, invading countries on false pretexts, and torturing people were bad, too) But while we may be giving the Pope's legacy a free ride, read this thoughtful call for the Popes to become heirs of Christ rather than successors to Caesar.

Update. My previously reported pretzel injury no longer hurts and looks as if it will heal without a scar. You may now relax.

Friday, April 08, 2005

This Week's Reading

This week, I read....


Well, not quite nothing. I did read half of a book review by Adam Gopnik (whom I really like) in the New Yorker on some French chef who killed himself, but that was all. I didn't' not want to finish the review, but I didn't want to either. I also have a new and untouched Atlantic Monthly staring back at me.

I plead: a writing project in process, student papers to read, family drama, and three Champions' League soccer matches on TV this week, of which the Milan derby is still waiting to be watched.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

When Pretzels Attack!

This is the kind of thing, that when I read it on other people's blogs makes me a little crazy. But since this is about me, it's, uh, different.

Yesterday, I was eating a pretzel (a small pretzel-shaped pretzel for those interested) and bit off half of it. I held the other half in my lips and teeth, awaiting swallowing (something I can do very well, unlike some other people we know) and the second bite.

This meant a kind of hook shape from the pretzel half was resting on the outside of my upper lip, and when I bit down again, the edge of the pretzel cut my upper lip!!

So tonight, I have a small, visible wound on my upper lip.

That is all.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Weekly Diary

The week got off to a rough start with the US national soccer team being defeated by Mexico 2-1 on Easter Sunday. The US has never defeated Mexico in Mexico, and looks like we'll have to wait another four years for the chance. The sad part is that it seemed the US didn't even try to take the chance. Bruce Arena sent the Americans out in a defensive 4-5-1 formation and with a passive style, ignoring the pressing direct style with which the US has had so much success and which led to the historic 2-0 defeat of Mexico in the '02 World Cup. I think Arena was saving his team for Wednesday's match against Guatemala, which the US won soundly 2-0.

The Terri Schiavo died this week. As I mentioned before, I think the issue of withholding hydration and nutrition is difficult, but in its most basic sense, a feeding tube is just as "artificial" as, say, a ventilator. But the difficulty of the question was rarely reflected in the public discussion, much of which turned on the denial of the basic facts about this poor woman's brain - that is, that it was largely gone. I found it deeply frustrating to find pro-life people turning to the medical equivalents of Holocaust deniers, but found mild relief in this slapdown of one egregiously bad TV talking head.

On a "lighter" note, but really not, it seems that VR battles are drifting over into the "real" world, as in this case where one Chinese gamer killed another for stealing a "virtual sword".
(Via Crooked Timber).

My daughter Katie is very excited this week. Her new love is musical theater and she be performing this summer in Once on This Island and Alice in Wonderland. She just received the CD and score for Island, so now the singing will begin. I'm excited, not because I have any particular love for musical theater, but because I have a profound love for my daughter, and seeing her happy always makes me happy.

Cyberspace has been hopping over an op/ed in the New York Times by John Danforth, a former Republican Senator from Missouri and Ambassador to the UN, , decrying the takeover of the Republican party by Christian conservatives. (This from a man who is an ordained minister!). Key Quote:
"But in recent times, we Republicans have allowed this shared agenda to become secondary to the agenda of Christian conservatives. As a senator, I worried every day about the size of the federal deficit. I did not spend a single minute worrying about the effect of gays on the institution of marriage. Today it seems to be the other way around."
He thinks the Republicans have sold their souls to the Christians. I'm more worried about the reverse, given further evidence this week that many Christian leaders have sold their souls to the Republicans. The Bible is clear that we are to lay down our lives for Jesus and His Church. But are we required to lay down for Tom DeLay?