Sunday, October 08, 2006

Linkage XXXI

Boratology - Robert Saunders, a professor of a bunch of things at Farmingdale State in New York, breaks down the beef between Borat and his "home" country of Kazakhstan.

It's Dick Cheney's World, Were Just Living in It - A guy in Colorado sees the Vice President in an outdoor mall, walks nearby and tells him he thinks our policy in Iraq is bad. A few minutes later, he walks back through the area and gets arrested by the Secret Service in front of his kid. (Via Michael Froomkin)

What, Diddy's Only Number Twelve? - Jared Weiss counts down "The Fifteen Most Obnoxious People in Music. Part one (11-15) is here.

Don't Do It - Tyler Cowan at Marginal Revolution reads the research on extended warranties and says they're a bad deal. Except for maybe PC's (but not Macs, right?). Full story here.

"They're like Green Day for retards" - And now, Jared Weiss brings the noise with Part II (6-10) of his Fifteen Most Obnoxious People in Music.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Gilmore Girls Update

So, after last week, I'd resolved to give up on Gilmore Girls.

Katie asked why. "Because Lorelai is an awful person and I don't want to be around her anymore." (I believe in speaking clearly with my kids).

Then about forty minutes into the show, while toiling away at my desk a couple of rooms away, I heard Rory chewing Lorelai out for being self-indulgent and a big chicken. I walked in during the commercial, and asked, "Did I just hear Rory telling Lorelai the kinds of things I was shouting at the TV all last year?" "Yes", Katie replied, and then she asked, "Now will you stay?" So I did.

In the final few minutes I find out more about Lane's honeymoon than I wanted to know and also find out that she's pregnant. Lane as a mother and her mother as a grandmother and Zach as a Dad and the guys in the band as uncles could be a really great development, but since the series works more or less in real time, the baby won't come until at least the end of this season, so I'll have to temper my hopes.

Meanwhile, the episode ends with Luke and Lorelai having a chance meeting at the grocery store. Lorelai accuses Luke of having avoided the store, and Luke responds kindly and even graciously. Lorelai clearly wants out of there because, you know, having to talk to the man she nearly married and with whom she has a long history is a difficult thing and rule one of Living in Lorelai Land is never, never, never having to really face difficult things, at least head on, and at the very least, by herself. Lorelai always runs from trouble the first time and only comes back to it when trouble persists and even then only when she has assembled some sort of emotional posse shield her from the worst bits. The writers of the show may find this charming, but I find Lorelai's behavior and patterns morally suspect. It made sense for Lorelai to use the people of Stars Hollow when she first arrived as a teen with a baby, but at some point she needed to stop and grow up. Instead, like all true narcissists, she sees the people in her life as merely extensions of herself.

And so Luke awkwardly tries to suggest that it's OK that they broke up, somewhat to get through the moment but also, I think, trying to graciously make sense of the way that Lorelai showed him the door. All this gives Lorelai the pouts, and she responds by gesturing with her ice cream and telling Luke, "Well, my hand is cold" and then turning to leave.

I think we were supposed to feel for Lorelai at this moment, because it was pretty hard and our darling girl - and that's what she still is, a girl, not a woman - just. feels. so. deeply. But not me. I sat through all of last season because I thought the writers were playing a deeper game and were finally showing the dysfunctional side of Gilmore-ism. I thought we were seeing that for moment last night when they followed up the grocery store scene with a long shot of Lorelai, alone, staring into space. I was thinking, "That's right, Lorelai. Keep using people the way you do and you're going to end up just like this - alone, staring into space". But then Rory came home, forgot or ignored what she had said earlier, and cuddled and consoled her Mom, and all was well once again in Lorelai land.

But not with me.

With Project Runway's season coming to an end soon, we're going to have to find another gather-all-four-of-us family show, and I'm not sure what that will be.

Update: For those of you using RSS readers, sorry for the triplicate posts - Blogger was publishing when it was telling me that it wasn't .

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Linkage XXX

“It’s nice that he's focusinging on God’s love, but I think it’s going to be difficult to convert the hipsters” - Jay Bakker, the son of disgraced televanglists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, with a heart full of hope and his arms covered with tattoos, is starting a church in a bar in the hipster infected Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. (Via The New Yorker)

Cat v. Mac - Just what it says: a video of a kitten pouncing a Power Book.

Wait 'til Jay and Silent Bob Show Up - big troubles in the Sadr City section of Baghdad when leaflets and posters featuring the Buddy Christ from Kevin Smith's film Dogma show up around town. (Via BoingBoing).

How to Make Your Own Fabric Softener Sheets - It's not that hard, here's how. (Via Joe Carter)

"Put it by the Doritos" Via BoingBoing, NORML (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) is going to start placing ads, called "shelf talkers" on grocery store shelves. Surely they'll do this in the snack food aisle. This link shows an ad near the eye drops. Whoaa.

Monday, October 02, 2006

I'm Glad Stephen Baldwin Knows Jesus and Doesn't Snort Cocaine Any More But I Wish He'd Shut Up (for now)

Via the wonderful site, The Hater, which is a bonanza of pop culture snark, comes an interview in Radar with Stephen Baldwin, the baby of the Baldwin acting clan.

The interview is tied to the release of his new book, The Unusual Suspect: My Calling to the New Hardcore Movement of Faith. The interviewer isn't very nice to Baldwin, that is if you think it's not nice to treat a person who is not particularly bright as if they are not particularly bright.

It seems that Baldwin came to faith in Christ a few years ago after many years of "enjoying" the kinds excesses that success in Hollywood affords a person. And I'm glad he did. That said, I wish he weren't "writing" books, at least not yet.

It appears that Baldwin is just one more in a sadly long line of celebrities who come to Christ (a good thing) and then are exploited by the people around them and pushed out front in roles for which they often are suited and certainly aren't ready, which I think is a really bad thing.

I'm not really angry with Baldwin. In the interview, he comes across as genuine in his faith, but also genuinely shallow. And I don't blame his ghostwriter, Mark Tabb, who at least from his bio seems like a good guy who is making a living as a writer.

I am angry at the people around him, the Christian "leaders" who somehow either directly encouraged Baldwin to start his "ministry" or who didn't have the courage or the integrity to tell him "no way" or at least "not yet" if Baldwin suggested this himself.

While Baldwin is certainly able to speak with authority about his own experiences, he clearly isn't ready to propose a new approach to Christian faith and comment on various social issues, as he appears to do in the book. Maybe some day, Baldwin will have the maturity and insight to address these things, but sadly celebrity seems to short circuit the maturation process. Silly, shallow things said by celebrities are still silly and shallow, and it distresses me to no end when Christians are either unwilling or unable to see this.

So in calling out Baldwin, I'm really calling out his pastor or whomever else is mentoring him in his faith. Encouraging someone to speak or comment on issues that they have neither the maturity nor the smarts to address is a pastoral crime, and it needs to stop.

Oh, and another word to whomever is mentoring him. If the guy your working with can't speak clearly or insightfully about basic biblical matters but has very clear opinions on George Bush and Bill Clinton, (as Baldwin does in the interview) you need to really rethink your approach. Seriously. Please.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

"If nominated, I will..."

Last night, I was surfing through the stats on this blog, which of course is something I rarely do. I post for the exercise and the love of truth with little thought to who is reading or why, except, you know, for the part where I can't understand why nobody at linked to my post below about the American military interrogator who became a conscientious objector, and yes Jim, your response to that post was thoughtful and I'm working on a response which I'll post as soon as you respond to my response about why Hugh Hewitt is such a bad guy despite the fact that he was nice to you.

Anyway, as I said, I was making a rare trip through the stats and saw that last night at 10:02pm, somebody using a internet connection in Seattle came to this blog via Google using the search term "bob ramsey presidential candidate".

I have to say I'm flattered, and that I haven't really given it much thought. I mean, I have thought a great deal about how we would be much better off without our current President, but I haven't really thought about being President. I mean, I do daydream from time to time, and the other day I spent about five minutes thinking about what I would be saying if I were in Phil Angelides place running for Governor against Arnold Schwarzenegger rather than the awful campaign he's been running, but not about President.

But, if you guys really want me to, I'll at least think about it.

And a footnote: The Blogger spell check feature recognizes "Schwarzeneggar" but not "Angelides". Hmm.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

As Bad as It Gets

Three worst/stupidest things I've ever done:
  • Jumping from the high school grandstand onto a pole vault landing pad
  • Not visiting a woman just before she died of cancer because I was too freeked out by my own recent cancer experience and by her husbands anger at everything.
  • Not buying that Volvo in 1980 or buying that Saab in 2002.

Three worst/stupidest things our Congress has ever done:

As Dan Froomkin says:

Today's Senate vote on President Bush's detainee legislation, after House approval yesterday, marks a defining moment for this nation.

How far from our historic and Constitutional values are we willing to stray? How mercilessly are we willing to treat those we suspect to be our enemies? How much raw, unchecked power are we willing to hand over to the executive?

The legislation before the Senate today would ban torture, but let Bush define it; would allow the president to imprison indefinitely anyone he decides falls under a wide-ranging new definition of unlawful combatant; would suspend the Great Writ of habeas corpus; would immunize retroactively those who may have engaged in torture. And that's just for starters.

It's a red-letter day for the country. It's also a telling day for our political system.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

"I absolutely agreed with him" - a Christian and a Jihadist

There are several semi-funny but mostly sad passages in the Bible where God's people's opponents seem to know more about their story than Israel or the Christians themselves.

One of the best is in 1 Samuel when Israel brings the Ark of the Covenant into battle. This is a twofer of stupidity, with Israel treating the ark like an idol while thinking that putting the ark under threat will compel the Lord to fight harder for them.

The scheme goes horribly wrong when the presence of the ark in Israel's camp reminds the Philistines of several important points of Israel's story. They say "Woe to us! Who can deliver us from the power of these mighty gods? These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with every sort of plague in the wilderness". (1 Sam 4:8)

This is what Israel should be saying. God's people should have been saying to themselves something like, "Our God is the Lord, the one who saved us from the Egyptians with a strong hand and a mighty arm - surely he can deliver us from the Philistines".

But they don't. Instead, it's the Philistines who seem to understand Israel's faith better than God's people themselves. They also understand their own situation, and it leads them fight even harder and they defeat the Israelites and capture the ark.

I was reminded of this as I was reading this amazing article about Joshua Casteel, an military linguist and a Christian who was assigned as an interrogator in Iraq.

The article describes Casteel's encounter with an ardent jihadist. Rather than the brutal interrogations we've heard so much about, this one was a genuine dialog. Casteel says:
He tried to convert me to Islam from start to finish, and coming from an Evangelical Christian background, I felt in familiar territory, as if I were speaking simply to my Muslim counterpart. Then, we began to discuss war and violence. I asked him why he came to kill, he asked me why did I. At that point I knew I could go no further, unless I wanted to get into a debate about which one of us had the “more just” cause.

He then told me that I was not following the actual teaching of Christ, who said to “turn the other cheek” and to “not resist an evil person.” Coming from a jihadist who flat out told me he would kill me if he had the chance, I did not take the personal challenge all that seriously, but I came to a clear recognition of the fact that I absolutely agreed with him. I was in complete and total agreement with him, and I told him so. I did believe that my participation in systems of violence debilitates my Christian witness. I wanted to tell him that there was a different answer to injustice than the cycle of vengeance and violence condoned by Islam and by most systems of secular law: “killing in the name of justice or civil order.” I wanted to tell the jihadist that Jesus Christ (in Islam, the prophet “Isa”) had taught another way, and that I was living that way as a flesh-and-blood example for him — but I could not. For a moment, my job and duties completely faded to the periphery and all I cared about was confessing to this enemy my own sins in the hopes that he would recognize his. But, I could only take him so far. I could not actually lead him down a different path by my own example.

What I realized that day is that I whole heartedly believed, even when challenged by an enemy lacking legitimacy, that my participation in systems of violence completely debilitates the living example I believe is my bounded duty as a Christian to offer. And I believe this lack of coherence made my Christian witness totally impotent to a man who believed he was fighting a “just cause.”

When the self-avowed enemies of God's people can speak with greater clarity about the nature of Christian faith than we can, something has clearly gone wrong. When Christian leaders spout phrases like "securing our borders" and "reforming the judiciary" as if they come from Scripture while ignoring phrases like "turn the other cheek" and "not resist an evil person" which, you know, do come from Scripture, something has clearly gone wrong.

Israel eventually got the ark back. Where can we go to get our souls back?

(Via Zalm at From the Salmon)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Gilmore Girls Season Debut: Random Thoughts

With the wonders of the MacBook and wireless internet (no tubes!), I offer the following thoughts on the new season of Gilmore Girls:
  • Thank God they didn't start with Lorelai in bed with Christopher
  • Rory's hair style doesn't work.
  • The overthetop rants and runons with Taylor and Babette are, well over the top. It will take the new writers and producers a while to get the tone right.
  • Paris is hard core. In a good way. I'd be really happy if they somehow flipped the focus of the show away from the Gilmores and over to Lane and Paris.
  • Lorelai is a narcissist. I've had it with her. I had just about had it with her at the end of last year, but I realize she is always, always, always going to be impulsive. But her delusional explanation of what happened to Sookie made me sick. Seriously. Run Luke. Run fast, run far. Run.
  • The first Lorelai/Rory fast talk fest is forced. It feels like a bad parody. If the writers are trying to show that the Gilmores are off their stride, it's OK.
  • The gab fest between the girls continues in a racquet ball court, and then they come home and continue jabber about the best thing to put on Lorelai's black eye. I sure hope this is leading somewhere, but I'm beginning to fear that it won't.
  • The Cingular commercial where the mom and daughter "argue" over the phone the girl has been given comes on. This is a great commercial, and it makes the dialog on Gilmore Girls seem really flat.
  • Finally, Lorelai explains the breakup to Rory. Slightly more coherent and truthful than what she told Sookie. I have a slight glimmer of hope.
  • Logan, whom I used to think was scuzzy and now I find rather appealing in contrast to the Gilmores, has been gone to London for like, twelve hours, and has called Rory from the airport, and Rory is already wondering about whether they're "really together". Lorelai ought to say, "Rory, get over yourself." Instead she says, "Go to London".
  • Rory figures out Logan's gift of a rocket and misunderstands his point. She calls him and shows she's lame by forgetting about the time difference. But then I show that I'm lame by misunderstanding Logan's point, but I did this because I was assuming that Logan had moved into the real world and away from Gilmore world, but it turns out he hasn't.
  • Luke didn't run. He comes to Lorelai's house to plead that she'll marry him. She tells him she slept with Christopher. Luke drives away.
Fin. That's it. No accounting for the bad dialog. It wasn't on purpose, it was the best they could do, and it wasn't very good.

They've jumped the shark. I'm out.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Sentence of the Day

I had no love for the film Garden State. I had no idea at the end how Zach Braff's character knew whether it was love or just the absence of the meds he was feeling. But what do I know - it's been awhile since I was in my 20's and I've never taken mood altering drugs.

But one of Braff's fellow twentysomethings is even more annoyed than I. Writing in Slate, Josh Levin explains "Why I Hate Zach Braff", but you can sum it up in just one sentence:

If Zach Braff is the voice of my generation, can't someone please crush his larynx?


And if that's not enough, go read about the three part "Zach Braff Challenge" (here, here, and here) on the wonderfully snarky site The Hater.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Usual Suspects

Two developments on torture.

First, the three Republican Senators who were opposing the President caved. For analysis of just how badly, go read this and this. The upshot is that the CIA gets to keep doing what they've been doing, torture will be defined by what the President says, and no one can mount a legal challenge against it. And the three "men of principle" who initially stood up to the President - they caved to their party's leader and political expediencely like they have before.

In another development, the National Council of Churches re-released an ad in Roll Call, a newspaper targeted at the members of congress, asserting that "Torture is a Moral Issue". (The ad was first placed in the New York Times in June). Only in the through the looking glass state of this present world would Christians and Americans need to be reminded of something like this, but such is the nature of our times.

When I first saw the link to the NCC ad, I yawned. In the contemporary American religious scene, statements from the churches on the left side of the theological spectrum, the main constituents of the NCC, have no effect, or even the opposite effect on evangelical and conservative Christians. The folks I go to church with don't care what Jim Wallis, a professor from Princeton or a Catholic Archbishop have to say. More to the point, the President doesn't either. But they will listen to people like Ted Haggard, the President of the National Association of Evangelicals, and Rick Warren, a big deal pastor and mega-selling author, and both of them signed their names to the ad too.

Here's where it gets interesting. Both Warren and Haggard have had regular access to the President, with Haggard having a weekly phone call with the President or his close advisors every Monday. One wonders what they have said to the President after the ad was released in June. When Tony Campolo and Bill Hybels counseled Bill Clinton, they gave him the business. Have Haggard and Warren done the same?

I clicked through a lot of Google pages to see if either Haggard or Warren have said anything specific about torture beyond the ad, but I couldn't find anything. I can only pray (and I actually have prayed about this since June) that people like Haggard and Warren will use their access to speak the truth to our President, but sadly on the evidence so far, they either haven't, or it hasn't worked.

Report from the Streets re: Diddy

Put a fork in Diddy, 'cause he is ovah.

The signs were there. The commercials for ProActive. The silly daily video blog on his myspace. The transparent attempts for gansta street cred by involving himself in shootouts at clubs.

I'll come correct and say I've never really forgiven him for gettin' paid for his shamelessly commercial expropriation of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir". But today, I offer this dispassionate critique of the latest offering from Diddy's ouvre, "Come to Me":


Somewhere today, Chuck D must have a really bad headache.

It starts with a couple of weak rhymes in Diddy's poor imitation of the slurred East Coast rap style, and then lots of Diddy's shoe-shine boy influenced dance breaks. Then the video moves on to lots and lots of gyrations from an out of work stripper who lip syncs a weak version of the already weak genre of soul r & b. (Update: my days from being a teenager daughter informs me that the "stripper" is the actually the lead singer of the Pussycat Dolls. Same thing, I tell her). The lyrics are about nothing. But Diddy's acne appears under control, so I guess he'll pick up an extra check from ProActive.

I'm a white 44 year old who drives a mini-van and lives in the last overwhelmingly white suburb of L.A. County, and this has been your report from the streets.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

I've Finally Settled the Question...

...of whether the Lord still strikes people dead these days, like he did to Ananias and Sapphira when they lied about what they gave to the Lord, and he did to poor Uzzah during David's egomaniacal entry into Jerusalem. I'm now pretty sure he doesn't

The reason I know he doesn't is the absence of a great smoking hole where the Rev. Lou Sheldon and the board of the Traditional Values Coalition used to be when they issued this statement in support of torture.

The statement doesn't explicitly say they endorse torture. Rather, it echoes the President's call for "clarification" of the Geneva Conventions, which the Supreme Court recently reminded the President he has to obey. The reason the President wants this clarification is that we have been torturing people and he'd like to continue to do so. And he's more than a bit concerned that if his party loses power in the next election or perhaps regains its soul, there will be criminal prosecutions for those that tortured and those that ordered torture.

Look, I'm no longer surprised when allegedly Christian leaders parrot whatever the President and the Republicans want them to say. Proximity to power is extremely seductive, and Christian leaders have been co-opted by the state ever since the Roman government decided in the 4th century to use Christianity rather than exterminate it.

No, here's why I think, really think - no joking, that Lou Sheldon should be glad he's alive. The reason lies in the justification for why torture should be allowed:
"Our rules for interrogation need to catch-up with this awful new form of war that is being fought against all of us and the free world. The post -World War II standards do not apply to this new war.

"We must redefine how our lawful society treats those who have nothing but contempt for the law and rely on terrorizing the innocent to accomplish their objectives. The lines must be redrawn and then we must pursue these criminals as quickly and as aggressively as the law permits."
Let's parse this a bit for the obvious points of ignorance and dishonesty. First, there is nothing new about this "new form of war". People have been brutal too each other and have targeted civilians (or not differentiated combatants from civilians) throughout most of human history. Second, if the level of threat is a key decider, Americans were under much greater threat during the Cold War and WWII than we are now. Third, with a bit of snark, we should note that the TVC should expect a call from Karl Rove because the Administration has been careful never to call these folks "criminals". Remember Rev. Sheldon, it is the appeasing unchristian Democrat Party who want to treat terrorists like criminals!

That aside, here's whats wrong: The Traditional Values Coalition, in the name of Christ, and the President have essentially argued that if your enemy is evil, you may, in fact must do evil to prevent him from doing evil, except that when you do it isn't evil because you are the good guys.

Just look at what they're saying! Christ is not our standard. Scripture is not our standard. Understanding that even the vilest person is still has dignity because he was created in the image of God is not our standard. Understanding human evil against the backdrop of our common sinfulness rather than a Manichaean division of the world into good and evil is not our standard. The TVC and the President are saying that the badness of our enemies, not Christ, is our standard.

I don't know how to say it any more clearly: this is blasphemy.

Edited on 9/22 at 10:07 am pdt for greater clarity and increased snark

Sound Familiar?

As part of my daily internet timewasting, I read this account of a country in turmoil over its main political leader:

As the situation worsened, he chose not to respond by restoring rights and freedoms. Strengthened by his personal convictions and by the idea that as a democratic leader he would enjoy public support for anything he did, he took the opposite approach, muscling the press more and consolidating power. His notion of democracy only strengthened his resolve. “His idea of democracy is he does what he wants, every four years you decide whether he's right, and then if you vote for him, shut up again for four more years,” one expert told me.

....For their part, the people have begun to wake up from his spell. This summer, the his popularity ratings fell below 50 percent, and confidence in his government has remained low ever since. The media, like its counterparts in other democracies where initial rally-around-the-flag sentiment has waned, has become more aggressive. Journalists have probed procurement scandals in the government. Even in the legislature, where his party controls the majority of the seats, members have become so disgusted with his style, as well as the continued violence in..., that some of his own party members have begun to speak out against him.

No, this is not the United States. The report is about Thailand, where a military coup occurreded yesterday.

Elsewhere, people in Hungary are rioting because it has been proven that the Prime Minister lied... about the economy. In the United States, we recently received further proof that the President and his administration were not honest in the run up to the invasion of Iraq.

Just to be clear, I'm not advocating a military coup nor rioting, but this does make one wonder what it will take to make the President's most ardent followers to turn from him.

Monday, September 18, 2006

What's Wrong with Landon Donovan?

With the beginning of the semester, and even more astonishing behavior and speech from our President (Robert has a great take on W almost fighting - or fixin' to fight, as he would say - with Matt Lauer) I was once again knocked off of my blogging stride.

But this morning, I read this article about Landon Donovan, star of the U.S. National team and the L.A. Galaxy, who is widely recognized as the best soccer player in our country. Yet, for all of his gifts, Landon has not been all that effective this year for the Galaxy and he had a disastrous World Cup.

I understand that anyone, even the best, can have a good game, and some can even have a bad season. But Landon seems really unperturbed by his and his teams failures. He's not the annoying in the typical way of an American athlete - "I got my 20 and I got my check, so who cares" - it seems to run deeper.

Landon's malaise has been a frequent topic on soccer blogs, websites and discussion boards, so today, upon reading the article, and many, many others, I have decided to add to the literature by making these observations about Landon:

1. He doesn't want his life to be all about soccer
2. He doesn't want to be The Man
3. He really does need to have certain people around him and certain circumstances to feel OK

In response, I'd say:

1. It's probably good for Landon that his life isn't only about soccer, but what he is doing is entirely different than someone who is pro athlete or musician who quietly volunteers doing something that tangibly helps people. Hanging out in Manhattan Beach with you M.A.W. (Model-Actress-Whatever) girlfriend and listening to Air Supply or REO Speedwagon on your iPod do not count. Look, without soccer. Landon would be a sixth year student in business administration at CSU San Bernardino working part time at a Cingular Wireless store. I have no doubts that Landon has worked hard on his game, but I think the highly gifted have a responsibility to serve their gifts rather being served by them. Landon does not seem to understand this.

2. Landon was great at the 2002 World Cup because it wasn't his team. This summer, it was his team, and he seemed paralyzed by the role. I really don't think he wants to be the guy who makes a team go. When he returned to Germany to play in 2005, his team expected him to be that - they're not going to have a big money foreigner, and especially an American, being a role player. At Beyer Leverkeusen, his German club, it was be The Man or get out, and so now he's back. He needs to be a role player to be successful, but right now the Galaxy need him to be the star, and this is why, in large part, the G's may miss the MLS playoffs for the first time in the league's history.

3. To make this point, I must play amateur psychologist for a minute. Landon's parents got divorced when he was at a particularly vulnerable age. I know that some kids sail through their parents' divorce, but that is usually because they have a higher than normal level of psychological resilience. Landon, on the other hand, seems to have come up short just at the time he needed it the most. Ever since this time, he has really needed his situation to be right to feel OK. A more resilient person facing a challenge would take the bull by the horns and make his situation right, or realize that sometime you just gotta deal regardless of how you feel, but Landon does not seem to have it in him to be like that. I think the divorce combined with an unresilient temperament has given us the guy we see today, and it's not going to change. I don't think this is a matter of courage, as many have suggested. We're all broken people, all of us have weaknesses, and his is (or may be) a lack of resilience. This is no worse than having a phobia like fear of heights, but the difference here, and it's an important one, is that Landon has not yet figured out that he ought not to talk about his lack of resilience as if it's a good thing.

So for the sake of the Galaxy and the National Team, I hope Landon can find some way past this

Monday, September 04, 2006

I Like This: The Poor Man

From The Editors at The Poor Man Institute for Freedom, Democracy and a Pony come the two best sentences I've read at least this month, maybe this season, and perhaps this year. They are found in the description of film #91 in his list of the Best Worst Movies in History:
Have you ever been watching a Chuck Norris movie and been like “man, good movie, but Chuck’s characterizations are too multi-layered and complex?" I have been there, my friend, and I am here to show you the way: Steven Seagal.
Pure class. Simple greatness. I feel proud to share this planet with The Editors.

Friday, September 01, 2006

As I Walk This Earth... (Episode III)

...I see the height and depth and breadth of humanity. I saw...

...a young woman and her Mom looking into the window of a real estate office. It took me a minute to be sure she was her mom and not a slightly older friend because the late forties Mom was dressed as if she were a somewhat stylish twenty-six year old. Closer observation resolved my confusion. The young woman was uninterested in listings for Glendora. "I don't want to live in Glendora- in Glen-bore -a." she said. Did she want to live in Silver Lake? Santa Monica? Pasadena? Or further afield, San Francisco, TriBeCa or even South Beach? Sadly, no. She continued, "I want to live in Orange County." a track meet last summer:
Chris (my son): "I saw Don Cheedle in the stands."
Me: "Yeah, his daughter is a midget."

Explanation: USA Track and Field uses the term "midget" for the 11-12 year old age division. (Chris was competing as an "Intermediate Boy"). It amazes me that they still use that term.

...a woman driving while holding a cell phone in one hand and a Starbucks and one of those eye lash curlers in the other. And yes she was in an SUV. This has got to be some kind of record.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Review: Snakes on a Plane


I really liked the idea of Snakes on a Plane, especially after reading this famous blog post. I loved the idea of Sam Jackson in the movie. I loved the way the title is able to encapsulate everything about the film. The actual experience of the film left me flat. I'm told that many people find dating to be like this.

Maybe it's because I'm old. Maybe it's because I haven't seen enough horror films that I'm desensitized enough to have found some of the scenes funny. Maybe it's because I saw it in a largely empty theater in the company of three fifteen year old boys. Maybe it just wasn't a very good movie - it seemed to me that the movie battled (and lost) the whole three hours (what, it was only 100 minutes long?) to find a consistent tone.

LARS friend Jamesey felt differently, but then he's young enough to have been asked to show ID at the theater. (As further proof, the comments on his post contain Trogdor references). But
I loved this take from the literary site The Valve, "A Pre-Reading of 'Snakes on a Plane'". It begins (just begins!):
Though I myself haven’t seen the film, it is almost impossible not to think that Lacan had watched Snakes on a Plane, because his conception of alterity is so closely aligned with the film's revolutionary mise en scene. Indeed, my reading below is deeply invested in resisting the tired old “grand narrative” of “actually watching the film,” which essentializes “experience,” and delegitimates the kinds of liberatory theoretical praxis I have memorably justified elsewhere.
Go read the whole thing here.

A Word to Firefox Users

It seems that in some versions of the Firefox browser, when one goes to a Blogger based blog, like mine, the latest post is not displayed. One has to click on the refresh/reload button for the latest posts to appear.

Is this one more way one is punished for not using MS products?

Katrina: One Year Later

Three thoughts as we look back.

I did a bit of ranting last year about the people who found Katrina to be an act of divine judgment. I also linked to a series of beautifully written but heartbreaking dispatches from New Orleans writer Blake Bailey who had been displaced by the hurricane. This week, Bailey updates us on his travails with the government and mortgage holders. And it's not pretty.

On a funnier and even sadder note, take a look at this account of the recent appearance of the Yes Men in New Orleans. The Yes Men are a group of political hoaxers, and one of their members showed up at a recent conference in New Orleans claiming to be a H.U.D. official, and promised all kinds of federal and private sector help to New Orleans. It's a very dark and sad joke that posing as a government official who is promising to help is a joke.

And one final thought. I just ordered a bunch of stuff from - new boots for Katie, a Celtic training shirt for Chris and a Celtic match shirt for me. (Still deciding on a Palermo shirt to wear as I coach Katie's team - pink is a bold statement). Here's the thing. I can log on to the UPS website and know exactly where my package is at any given moment. A year ago, scores of people died in the attics and upper floors of their homes because the authorities didn't send enough people to look for them. I am going to make a bold statement and say that the life of a poor elderly black woman is more important a pair of shoes and a couple of shirts. What kind of country are we living in when we can't or won't keep this straight?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Why People Think Christians are Stupid - Part 2,385,278

On the anniversary of hurricane Katrina, the New York Times did a feature on Rep. Mike Pence - an Indiana Republican who leads the Republican Study Group - a subgroup to the right of the majority of Republicans in the House. I'm interested in him because he defines himself as "...a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order".

Last year at this time, Pence gained notoriety for Operation Offset - a proposal to cut $500 million over ten years on federal spending for the poor. It seems that Pence saw the momentum Katrina was generating for a role for the government in taking care of its poor and troubled citizens and wanted to make sure that the net amount of spending wouldn't go up. I'm not sure which aspect of the Gospel is honored by saying, in essence, "OK, if you're gonna spend money getting people out of their attics and rebuilding there homes, you better make sure there's some AIDS patient who is gonna have to pay more for her drugs, or you better cancel the program that gets that isolated old man his meals." But hey, Rep. Pence is sitting in Congress and I'm sitting at my kitchen table, so what do I know.

But that's not what has roused me from my blogging slumber. Further evidence of syncretism between Christianity and the values of white, conservative Americans is not news. This is: lower down in the Times article, Pence gives his support for the massive tax cuts of recent years, which were overwhelmingly targeted at the wealthy:

Mr. Pence argued that tax cuts help the poor by revving the economy. That may eventually prove true, but despite large tax cuts the poverty rate has risen in each of the last four years.

“That’s anecdotal,” Mr. Pence said in an interview last fall. Then he offered an anecdote — a story President Reagan told about a pipe fitter pleased to see the rich prosper, “because I’ve never been hired by a poor man.”

Wow. I mean, wow!

"Anecdotal". I don't that word means what you think it means, Rep. Pence.

And Christians wonder why people think we're stupid.

(HT: Henry at Crooked Timber) And for what's actually happening with poverty, go here.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Worse than Journey

Yesterday, British police and intelligence officials arrested a number of Islamists who had planned to detonate bombs on airliners traveling between Britain and the U.S. The law enforcement officials had been tracking these guys for months, and the wannabe terrorists were never close to actually carrying out their plans. They were being followed every step of the way.

These guys clearly wanted to do what they were caught trying to do. They were all native Britons, yet were part of the alienated class of children of Pakistani immigrants who have become the chief recruits for Islamist in the U.K. And as a by the way, the fact that second generation immigrants in Europe feel more alienated than the first generation - the exact opposite is the case in the U.S. - should give us pause as the Republicans try to make American immigration policy more like Europe's.

That said, something more should give us pause here. It is not news that there are bad people in the world. It is not news that some will use violence and terrorist tactics, but as long as this was only going on among our urban underclass or was being carried out by government officials of former Confederate states, we looked the other way, or even supported it.

No what is unprecedented is the way our current Republican leadership has been willing to wring political advantage from these threats. I'd like to find a way to be light or witty about this but I just cannot. This can not be put down to "something all politicians do". No administration has ever politicized threats like this one.

It was so important that the President was willing to take a break from brush clearing to... smear Democrats. And what is worse is that the Administration officials knew these arrests were coming, and they had spent Wednesday calling the Democrats all kinds of names, ostensibly in response to the Connecticut Senate primary. But it turns out it really wasn't. They knew it was coming and took full political advantage. Read, please:

(The President's) remarks came a day after the White House orchestrated an exceptionally aggressive campaign to tar opposition Democrats as weak on terrorism, knowing what Democrats didn't: News of the plot could soon break.

Vice President Dick Cheney and White House spokesman Tony Snow had argued that Democrats wanted to raise what Snow called "a white flag in the war on terror," citing as evidence the defeat of a three-term Democratic senator who backed the Iraq war in his effort to win renomination.

But Bush aides on Thursday fought the notion that they had exploited their knowledge of the coming British raid to hit Democrats, saying the trigger had been the defeat of Democratic Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut by an anti-war political novice.

"The comments were purely and simply a reaction" to Democratic voters who "removed a pro-defense Senator and sent the message that the party would not tolerate candidates with such views," said Snow.

The public relations offensive "was not done in anticipation. It was not said with the knowledge that this was coming," the spokesman said.

Snow said Bush first learned in detail about the plot on Friday, and received two detailed briefings on it on Saturday and Sunday, as well as had two conversations about it with British Prime Minister.

But a senior White House official said that the British government had not launched its raid until well after Cheney held a highly unusual conference call with reporters to attack the Democrats as weak against terrorism.

An aide to Lieberman, who would have been one of the first Democrats to hear of the plot because he is the top Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said the lawmaker first heard of it late Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Cheney had suggested that Democrats believe "that somehow we can retreat behind our oceans and not be actively engaged in this conflict and be safe here at home, which clearly we know we won't, we can't, be," he said.

While some Democrats have opposed some steps in the war on terrorism, and more and more are calling for a withdrawal from Iraq, no major figures in the party have called for a wholesale retreat in the broader conflict.

But Bush's Republicans hoped the raid would yield political gains.

"I'd rather be talking about this than all of the other things that Congress hasn't done well," one Republican congressional aide told AFP on condition of anonymity because of possible reprisals.

"Weeks before September 11th, this is going to play big," said another White House official, who also spoke on condition of not being named, adding that some Democratic candidates won't "look as appealing" under the circumstances.

It's all there. Cynical calculation. Massively mendacious mischaracterization of your political opponents - or lyin', as they say in Texas. The willingness to subordinated everything, everything, to short term political advantage.

There is no way to spin this. This is bad. It is unprincipled. It is bad for our country. And worst of all, it is a stupidly inept way to address the real threat of Islamist terrorism.

These guys are worse than Journey.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

I'm On Vacation

Right now, I'm sitting in a bagel shop in Tahoe City, CA. I came here because I woke up too early and didn't want to disturb my wife and kids. There are shouting children at the next table. REO Speedwagon is on the sound system, preceded by Styx. The guy at the next table finally gave up trying to engage me on the following premise: the arrests in Britain today are further evidence of President Bush's leadership on the Global War on Terror. He even used the word "resolute". And now as I type, following some kind of malign logic, Journey's "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'" just came on the system.

I'm not sure what circle of Hell this is, but it's one of 'em.

On the other hand, watching the full moon rise over Lake Tahoe last night wasn't bad.

Friday, July 28, 2006

On Happiness

“One is happy as a result of one’s own efforts, once one knows of the necessary ingredients of happiness—simple tastes, a certain degree of courage, self-denial to a point, love of work, and, above all, a clear conscience. Happiness is no vague dream, of that I now feel certain.”
-- George Sand

At one level, this seems right to me. I've been on the other side of each of these things, and I know this leads to unhappiness. But is the opposite real happiness? More later.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

My Father/Son Trip to Santa Barbara

My son Chris and I spent most of yesterday traveling back and forth to Santa Barbara. I was getting a little stir crazy with the heat, and I was longing to have some tacos and other goodies at La Super Rica. Plus, the L.A. Galaxy, whom Chris and I maniacally support, were playing a "friendly" match against the Mexican club Cruz Azul at U.C. Santa Barbara. So we made a day of it. Here is my account of our day in, suitably, eleven parts:

I. Bad Start I had trouble going to sleep the night before, and didn't conk out until 2:00 am. I awake unexpectedly at 6:00 am because my wife forgot to shut off her alarm when she got up with the cat at 4:45 am. I also have a bad headache due to the eating chocolate pudding the day before.

II. It Gets Better The headache dissipates and I have a couple of good hours of study. I find an amazing insight into Isaiah 43:10. This part of Isaiah just gets better and better.

III. Better Still Lunch is at The Stand on Ventura Blvd in Encino. The Big Blue Dog is a consistent winner. However, while we eat we watch the TV as the Dodgers' day disappears faster than our hot dogs.

IV. And Even Better Chris burned a cd for the trip from an iPod playlist. I like everything on it - this may have been his intention, he's a nice boy.

V. But Then, A Turn for the Worse We arrive in Santa Barbara with a few hours to kill. We decide, hoping against to hope, to go see The Lady in the Water. I've liked Shyamalan's movies in the past. I even liked The Village, and couldn't understand why people didn't realize it was about 9/11. And of course the acting was bad. The people in the story were all playing parts, badly. That was the point of the movie! Anyway, I knew this one could be bad, but I'm telling you, this is the first time I've been in a theater where the audience literally snorted as the movie ended. I mean, I saw a blaxploitation film at a revival house when I was in college, and about 30 minutes into the film, a large African-American man with an afro stood up, shouted "What the fuck is this shit?" and threw his popcorn at the screen. That was pretty impressive. But the unified disdain shown by the audience to The Lady in the Water was something I'd never seen before. Later over dinner, Chris and I were trying to clarify a number of plot points. Several times he asked, "Why did so and so do thus and such?" and the only answer I could give was "Because the plot needed it to happen."

VI. And Even Worse We drive over a few blocks to have dinner at La Super Rica and they are closed! I mean, this was the real underlying purpose for the trip. Then Chris nicely reminds me, "But Dad, you know they're closed on Wednesday. Remember when we planning to come here last July? You made sure we didn't go on Wednesday because you knew they were closed." I'm sure he's right, and the worst part is that I have no memory of having known this. I mean, I remember going last summer and I even remember what I had, but I don't remember the knowing about the Wednesday part. This is very troubling.

VII. The Nadir: wherein I experience for a moment what it is like not to be white by being in a place where being white is not an advantage We pop into a soccer shop down the street to get tickets for the match and to maybe buy a t-shirt for me because I was unaccountably wearing Cruz Azul colors. (I'm in a blue and white striped Ashworth golf shirt) As we walk in, the two clerks seem to rather pointedly ignore us. The shop is nicely appointed, but with only European and Mexican league shirts - no American or MLS gear, with the exception of a large rack of Chivas USA stuff. When we step up to the counter, we're waiting behind a guy buying tickets and trying to decide if he should buy a Barcelona kit for his young son. But while we were waiting, another Mexican guy walks into shop and is immediately greeted by the second clerk who comes from across the store and sells him tickets for the match while we stand there. After he sells the guy the tickets, this second clerk walks quickly away from the counter and returns to the far of the shop while studiously avoiding looking at us. Finally, the man with the Barca shirt is done, and the clerk at the counter asks me what we want. I tell him we want tickets for the match and he rather begrudgingly sells them to us. Out on the sidewalk I tell Chris, "Well, we just experienced for a moment the kind of thing blacks and Latinos get all the time."

VIII. A Turn for the Better We arrive at UCSB and parking is only $2. (It's $15 at the Galaxy's stadium. That's why I usually park on the street) We take a stroll across the beautiful campus and arrive at the very nice stadium and watch the teams warm up.

IX. A Quick Reversal The game begins and Cruz Azul are all over the Galaxy. The G's should should have had a penalty, entirely against the run of play, in about the sixth minute, but other than that, the first half was all cementeros. The Galaxy back line looked especially overmatched. Right back Chris Albright was sleep walking through the match while newcomer Kyle Veris looked like a boy among men. Our goalkeeper Steve Cronin made a number of amazing saves, he was clearly the Galaxy's man of the match.

X. My Hopes are Raised, Only to Be Dashed The G's start much more brightly in the second half and equalize after a few minutes on a beautiful finish from Kyle Martino after a nice build up. Sadly Cruz Azul score twice more in quick succession. Then the G's pull one back on a nice header from Chris Albright on a corner which the refs, after some discussion and an apparent decision to ignore the laws of the game, decide to disallow. Grr. The G's give up one last goal on a corner to reach the final score.

XI. And then this morning... I awake with a stye in my eye.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Review: Pirates of the Caribbean 2

It's not the worst movie I have ever seen. Pirates of the Caribbean 1 was far worse.

This one was just kind of.... dreary. For a popcorn movie, it was pretty slow moving. While the action scenes were predictably overdone, they lacked even the dubious virtue of the first film's "turned up to eleven" excess. Maybe the ponderous tone was due to the film makers trying to "go deeper" into the story - I suspect the limp plot line about Keira Knightly exploring her inner pirate was meant to be that. But while the writers/producers/directors/sausage grinders who were responsible for this may have thought they were making Godfather Part 2 or even The Empire Strikes Back, they were really just making Wayne's World 2. And I don't even want to start in on why those black people were standing waist deep in the water holding candles in the final scene as the guys poled their boats into the Pirates ride at Disneyland to go talk to Lisa Bonet's younger sister. (That is where they were, right?)

To test my perspective, I did interview one viewer, Katie R., age 12 from Glendora, California, who said: "I was bored. I was falling asleep". (And this was after she had slept 12 hours the night before!)

For another take: watch this review from Ask a Ninja. Here's a taste...
The structure of the movie, the best that I can tell is, they loaded about four or five different screenplays into a shotgun, and then just, and then just pulled the trigger, and then sent somebody around, like a P.A. around to just pick up random words and piece them together and then hand that to the actors. And then even that script was lost about half way through shooting and then the director just made it up every day.
Now that's good writing.

Linkage XXIX

Seven Deadly - Bears? The Seven Deadly Sins demonstrated with Gummy Bears (Via BoingBoing)

Great Line: "The menu, scrolled hurriedly across a white eraser board, reads like Hannibal Lecter's grocery list — cheek, lip, tongue, eye. I opt for the lengua (tongue), and dig into the tiny pocket." From "Chasing the Perfect Taco Up the California Coast" - The New York Times.

"Back in the U.S.S.R, you don't know how lucky you are boys..." According to this report, residents in the FEMA trailer parks set up after last year's hurricane cannot talk with a journalist without a FEMA official present. If they do, they can be evicted from their trailers. No indication in the article if the FEMA officials are called "commisars". (Via The Carpetbagger Report)

What's Going on in Lebanon? I don't know, but maybe Augustus Richard Norton, and he's interviewed by Ken Silverstein of Harper's.

And Here's What the President Thinks... about what's going on in Lebanon. If this article in the Washington Post in any way represents what the President is thinking, the world has become a much scarier place in the last week. Wow, I mean, just, WOW!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

On the Stem Cell Veto: Right Said, Fred

In my return to serious blogging, I spent this morning trying to think and write about the ethical issues connected to stem cell research, prompted by the President's veto yesterday of legislation mandating Federal funding for this kind of research.

I am troubled by research on stem cells taken from human embryos. I cannot see any reasonable place to draw the line at where life begins other than conception. I know this perspective has problems, but not nearly as many as when one draws the line further along in the process.

I agree with the President when he said:
This bill would support the taking of innocent human life in the hope of finding medical benefits for others. It crosses a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect, so I vetoed it. ...

Embryonic stem cells come from human embryos that are destroyed for their cells. Each of these human embryos is a unique human life with inherent dignity and matchless value. ...
The problem is that I'm not sure the President believes what he said.

It's true that the embryos used for stem cell research are destroyed when that research happens. But the elephant in the room, which the President didn't address, is that these embryos, which are largely the left-overs from in vitro fertilization procedures, will be destroyed anyway. Doctors routinely fertilize a number of eggs for each couple trying to conceive, and the embryos not used are routinely discarded after the couple concludes their conception efforts. As one who does believe that life begins at conception, I can't see how this is OK.

So for me, I don't see how we can talk about stem cell research without talking about the problem of "excess" embryos created by in vitro fertilization. Christian blogger Joe Carter, who provided an audio essay today supporting the President's veto on NPR, agrees with me, I think, but sees the President's action as preventing further progress down an already bad road. I agree with Joe, but sadly, there is nothing in the President's statement that says what Joe and I were wishing he'd said.

You see, the President's statement from yesterday seems to recognize this linkage and then proceeds as if it's not there. I guess I can give him points for not being as blatantly untruthful as Karl Rove has been this week, but then I would also be naive, since this Administration routinely coordinates its messages with the harshest or most mendacious coming from surrogates so the President can seem more reasonable.

But I can't even give him points for reasonableness, because he justifies his obviously incremental decision by appealing to absolute principles. And this is where I start to lose it.

I know the President likes to speak in broad principles and absolutes, but if those words are to have any meaning they must actually serve as principles and absolutes and not as merely rhetorical window dressing. So if we apply the principle the President claims - innocent life should not be destroyed to benefit others - as a genuine principle, then one also has to ask:
What about those embryos that are being destroyed after in vitro fertilization? And if this really is a principle and not merely a poll tested phrase, then one should ask: What about the loss of innocent life in Lebanon this week? You seem fine with the Israelis killing innocent Lebanese. Maybe there's a kind of ethical calculation you've made - I understand that world leaders are sometime forced to make those kinds of choices. But yesterday you claimed absolute principle when you vetoed the stem cell bill. And what about the manifestly innocent people you've imprisoned and had tortured and even killed in Guantanamo and other prisons? Where's the absolute principle in that?
At this point, my head exploded. Thankfully it was put back together by a very well-targeted post by Fred Clark at Slacktivist. Fred calmly and clearly punctures the nonsense of the President's statement, and makes some rather troubling conclusions about our leader. You really should go read the whole thing. Go ahead, I'll wait.

Here's the thing. We need to have a serious conversation about the issues underlying stem cell research. Sadly, the President's manifestly unserious statement (and I'm being charitable in calling it that - again, go read Fred Clark) has made it harder now to have that conversation. I and others can think very hard and well about the issue, but if the people charged with the decision by our Constitution and laws are unwilling to do even that simple work, then I don't know where we are.

On Peacemaking

Yesterday at Chris Frazier's blog, Quaker 2.0, I tried to say something in answer to the question of where Friends are and should be in response to our world's latest spasm of violence.

Today, I'm less impressed with what I said, but I am very impressed with what Johan Maurer said on the topic. Go take a look.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

What Was I Thinking?

I really did intend to resume regular blogging in late May (and in February!), but it was clearly a bad time to try.

I was in the midst of teaching a six week grad course in Friends Theology. I was coaching my son for post-season, USATF track meets and the World Cup was starting. Plus I was preaching each week on something that it turned out that I wished I hadn't started

I think I'm still tired from the World Cup, but the other commitments are finished, except for the preaching part, and I've been talking about something I really like (Isaiah 40-54) so that's not a big deal.

So, back to blogging.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

A Couple of Things...

...have come to my attention which are worthy of more comment than a linkage yet I don't have time to develop fully while they're fresh.

First, and oversight. In my list of links below, I unaccountably failed to include Bandini's masterful The Great Taco Hunt. The author returned last night from a self-imposed forty day "taco exile" in order, he says, " train and get in tip top shape for the summer taco season." This site will make you sad if you don't live in SoCal and anxious to jump in your car and head to Maywood or Highland Park if you do. Me? My already embarrassingly large clothes have gotten too snug and so I'm stuck with salads and chicken and fish for a few weeks.

Second, Ezra Klein on his own blog, in response to something else, has a very insightful set of comments of one of my favorite books, Nick Hornby's High Fidelity, and on the nature of adulthood. And to jump right in, I think he's right about Rob and Laura, but I think the key difference is not the higher highs and lower lows of Rob's uncommittedness (which he basically says is all bollocks at the end of the book) but rather that Laura has found something she can be passionately committed to while Rob is stuck with commitments (his store, his sensibilities) which are not worthy of passion nor commitment. Go read it to see what I mean. Hopefully more later.

Update (11:53 am): Why oh why can't I see elipses and "their" for "they're" before I post? Why?

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Linkage XXVIII

"Tigers are tough and tigers are fierce..." Calvin and Hobbes, all right here. (via Brad DeLong). The bummer of this is that it has to violate copyright law, right?

"Duuude, you're not gonna get cancer." "Whaaat?" Ezra Klein cites an extensive new study which indicates that marijuana smoking not only does not cause lung cancer but that it may actually prevent it. Who knew? Although now that the members of the cannabis community know, they'll probably forget that they knew. You know?

Anima-morphism? Some time back, I took note of some of the silly "lessons" people were taking from the March of the Penguins. Susan Kitchens saw the dvd over the weekend and applied the documentary's style of observation and commentary to herself and her "male". Good stuff.

"Over-rated - clap, clap, clapclapclap" In this week's New Yorker, Malcolm Gladwell reviews Wages of Wins, a statistical analysis of relative worth of basketball players. The books says that Kevin Garnett is The Man - the problem is his teammates get worse and worse. Gladwell follows up on the review and the comments it has generated here and here on his blog. And btw, Carmelo Anthony is only the second most overrated player in the game, which comes as something of a surprise to me.

More Commentary on the WBE Fred Clark of Slacktivist continues his discursive close reading of Left Behind - the worst book ever. This week, he reflects further on conversion stories, and references his earlier post in which he likens testimony stories with porn. No, really. Just go read it.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

While I Was Out...

A couple of old friends stopped by and I discovered some new places on the internet.

Hillary and Dave, it was great to hear from you. Hillary, I've been reading your blog in short bits - that white text on black background hurts my eyes. Dave, you've got the right me. I would be very happy for both of you to send me an email. I don't post my address here, but if you think about how people often use their first initial along with their last name and often have their email service through the university where they work (mine being in Azusa near the Pacific ocean), I think you'll be able to figure out what mine is.

And here's an even dozen sites I've added to my list:

Balloon Juice - a group blog (well, two guys) one a liberal and one a conservative, but the conservative, John Cole, has been driven into what they call on the internets "stark raving shrillness" by the mendacity of the current Administration. A similar blog is Belgravia Dispatch, but I only read the one regularly because I'm trying to cut down on sweets. - Why do you remember that name? He was Ben Johnson's sprint coach, and Johnson was the guy who was caught using steroids at the 1988 Olympics. His site is the home of a great discussion forum on sprint and speed training - something I've become re-engaged with to help my son with his training.

Church of the Masses is written by screen writer and fellow APU adjunct Barbara Nicolosi. She writes about cinema and culture and has been a little wound up about The Da Vinci Code - she was the one who proposed an "other-cott" of the film.

David Byrne Journal - Yes, that David Byrne. It's as you would expect.

Fitted Sweats is the place for random thoughts from writer Jeff Johnson. Warning to those given to the vapors or the easily offended - not everything here is nice, and he sometimes uses bad words. But his rifs on 70's music and his open letter to Richie Sambora are clearly worth the price of admission.

The Happiness Project is a journal of Gretchen Rubin's attempt this year to be, well, happier. is the personal blog of New Yorker writer and author Malcolm Gladwell. Most of the posts are followups to his magazine pieces in which he takes on reader comments and in at least two instances, changes his mind about what he's written. Good stuff.

Kung Fu Monkey is a another screen writer blog. I think I came here for a link to one of his blasts at the "gubmint" but I stayed, well for the blasts, but also for the main purpose of the blog, which is essentially a series of short clinics on story telling. There is also a bunch of comic book geek stuff but you can click right past that.

Michael Berube's "Web" "Log"
- Berube (sorry can't do accent marks) is a teacher at Penn State and one of the wittiest writers on the 'nets. You get snark, hockey, cultural criticism, and beautiful/heartrending reflections on raising a disabled son. David Horowitz has labeled Berube one of the most dangerous professors in America, and that's like five gold stars for me.

Out of Ur is a group blog hosted by Leadership Magazine. The blog combines a number of voices reflecting on new leadership and church models in our rapidly evolving era. There's some good stuff, and little bit of clueless stuff, and a little too much whining for my taste ("Why are those Moderns so mean to us when we tell them their worldviews and the very focus of their lives are worthless and wrong") but good stuff nonetheless.

This Blog Sits at... (the intersection of Anthropology and Economics) is the work of ethnographer Grant McCracken who mostly puts his amazing observation and analytical skills to work for The Man to help him sell things. But read this. McCracken knows why we do things and why we don't do things and what one can do to encourage others to do or don't do things.

Unclaimed Territory by Glenn Greenwald is the fastest rising voice of the blog world. He has done incredible work in breaking down and making plain the erosion of civil liberties and the shredding of the constitution currently underway in our country. Or if you are the kind of person who has yet to find that the President has done anything wrong other than not be conservative enough and who even if the President murdered a child on the front lawn of the White House in the plain view of TV cameras and an audience of hundreds would respond by reminding us that thousands died on September 11th and that the terrorists have done worse and that you're tired of people trying to take partisan political advantage over serious issues like child murder, than Greenwald is just another Bush hater.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

It Really Is Better...

...when Christians don't act stupidly.

In fact, when we don't, it can be enough to bring genuinely surprising results. For today's example, go read Joel Stein's column in today's L.A. Times. I rarely can finish one of Stein's columns. If they held a contest for silliest columnist in the world, and by "silly" I don't mean the kind that obsesses about the threat on the Mexican border or about the treasonous behavior of the Dixie Chicks - I mean every day, garden variety, empty-headed silliness. Stein's sensibilities seem to be willfully trivial, so much so that I wonder if he really exists or if he is just an amalgam of what people in fly-over states think we're like here in SoCal. Ah, but my point.

Stein writes about a day he spent with Ken Baugh, a pastor from Orange County with whom he watched and talked about The Da Vinci Code. Stein is a classic consumer, so almost every sentence contains a reference to a commercial product or a product of entertainment culture, yet Baugh's conversation was able to entice Stein out of his world which is usually bounded by movie grosses, Starbucks, personal grooming and what people are driving into something more, well, real.

After the movie, Stein writes that he and Baugh broke down the film's (obvious) deficiencies, but then says, "Our conversation was far more interesting than the movie." What is Baugh's secret? He listens. He doesn't shout. He's open to real questions. He makes his points with evidence rather than brute force. He's nice to be with.

Baugh offers to continue their conversation, and Stein says, "...and I really wanted to because it was nice to be reminded that people who believe in Jesus aren't simpletons impressed by magic tricks."

You see. It's not that hard.

I really liked how Stein found the conversation more interesting than the film. The Gospel is an amazing story. Perhaps if we were a little better at telling it with our words and our actions, silly stuff like The Da Vinci Code and Stein's usual obsessions wouldn't seem so appealing.
Please Note: Careful readers will have realized that there is interesting subtext to the article, which connects to the fact that the film makers have actually recruited Christian leaders to generate discussion about the film. I hope to discuss this later. Perhaps Sean Combs, back in his Puff Daddy days was right. It's all about the Benjamins. But for today, I was so happy to find a Christian leader not acting like an idiot in public that I wanted to focus on the conversation.

Update: For a further example of what I'm not writing about, go read Glenn Greenwald, who helpfully explains the new rules of political discourse in which it is shameful and incivil to boo and criticize John McCain but it is perfectly OK to boo and threaten a Democratic Congressman who speaks against the war.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Back At It?

Well, I hope.

As I'd said below, the mendacious clown show in Washington had reduced me to pure ranting anger. Beyond, you know, my actual work, the evidence of which rarely showed up here, all I could produce was rant after rant about our lying/torturing/spying leaders. And there's plenty of that on the internets, so you don't need anymore from me. (But before I go on to make my point, you should go read this in which the Attorney General this weekend threatened to imprison any journalist who writes about anything based on a leak, and no, he wasn't talking about Robert Novak).

So today, I rise from my slumber to embrace the greatest use of the blog side of the internet beyond ranting and vanity: snark.

Yesterday, the Dodgers completed a three game sweep of the Angels. As they say online:


I've been a Dodger fan for a long time. I know that part of the deal is going up and down with your team, although I've found the current regime even more dispiriting than the previous. But the thing that has really gotten to me is watching the Angel band wagon fill up over the past few years.

Ever since their World Series victory, I've seen more and more Angel caps around my community (and USC gear) too. More and more people saying transparently false things like "Oh I've always been an Angel fan". Or worst of all, hearing my own Father claim recently "I've always really supported both teams" when I know that is, um, not the case. And now that I'm part of a church in Orange County, I have to deal not only with the indignity of being with people who think wearing an untucked raw silk short sleeve shirt is dressing up, but I also have to worship with a whole bunch of Angel fans.
So to all of you I say - "Three wins in three days - BOOYAH!"

Monday, February 27, 2006

The Meme of Four

Edited on 5/30 to correct a misspelling which I discovered when I followed a reference to my blog which came about because the person doing the search misspelled what they were looking for. I find this embarrasing.

Last month, just before I fell into blogging silence, Susan Kitchens of 2020 Hindsight (and a former neighbor) "tagged" me with the "Four Things" meme that had been bouncing around the internets for most of the past year. Now that I'm waking again, here are mine:

Four Jobs I've Had:
- Fireworks delivery truck driver
- Baskin Robbins ice cream scooper (2 days!)
- Track Starter (I was packin' a real .38)
- Van's shoe seller (during the first Off the Wall craze)

Four Movies I Can Watch Over and Over
- Local Hero
- Monty Python and the Holy Grail
- Chariots of Fire
- Pulp Fiction

Four Books I Have Read Over and Over
(This is from Susan. Does not include books you've read to your children when they were small).
- Gaudy Night - Dorothy Sayers (Me, too, Susan)
- Wonder Boys - Michael Chabon
- High Fidelity - Nick Hornby
- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis

Four Places I've Lived
(Pretty lame list)
- Denair, CA
- San Dimas, CA (where Bill and Ted are from)
- Pasadena, CA
- Azusa, CA

Four Places I've Vacationed
(again, pretty tame, pretty lame)
- Yosemite
- So. Utah, Denver, Santa Fe, Phoenix - all in four days
- Kern River (caught a fish when I was five)
- San Franciso

Four TV Shows I Love
- The Daily Show
- The West Wing
- Law & Order
- Gilmore Girls (But only the secondary characters. I'm sick of Lorelai and Rory)

Four Favorite Dishes

- Penne Arrabiata (cooked by me)
- Special Pizza at Casa Bianca
- Oki Burrito at Manuel's El Tepeyac
- La Lasagna de Tutte Lasagne (cooked by me)

Four Websites I Visit Daily

- L.A. Riot Squad's discussion board
- Talking Points Memo
- Slate
- Soccernet

Four Places I'd Rather Be Right Now

- Traveling, almost anywhere (that's more than four, but whatever...)

(My addition) Four Things That Make Me Warmly Happy
- People being nice to my kids
- Watching our pet guinea pig walk around and hearing her "sing"
- Watching the sun come up (on some days)
- Meeting wild rabbits

Four People I'm Tagging with This
- Robert - Through a Glass Darkly
- Jeff - Evil Twin of William Jennings Bryan
- Gregg - Gregg's Gambles
- Johann - Can you believe?

Friday, February 24, 2006

Multiple Discoveries

Here's a few things I've encountered/discovered during my blogging silence:

Urban Red Bull We went on a mini-vacation this past weekend. We were supposed to go to San Francisco but the rain and cold scared us off. (Good thing - there was snow on Mt. Tam Friday). So instead, we visited SoCal like tourists and got a cheap room via in Long Beach. On Sunday morning, we had breakfast at Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles, and the menu featured a new energy drink: Pit Bull. We ordered one and shared it. I can't vouch for the jolt (I'd already had about six cups of coffee), but it tasted pretty good, lacking that chemical taste of Red Bull or Monster. You can get it at Von's and Albertson's here in SoCal, and show people that your down.

Guinea Pigs! On Saturday, we went to the Getty Museum. We were a little disappointed that more of the garden was not in bloom. I was also a little bummed that their Classical and Ancient Near Eastern collections are now at the new/old site in Malibu. But that aside, the views from the site on a stormy day were absolutely stunning, and the art was amazing as always. We did have one wonderful discovery. Our daughter Katie has a pet guinea pig, and I was commenting to her that it is a shame that guinea pigs have not featured more prominently in the Western artistic tradition. About five minutes later, she excitedly came up to me and said, "Dad! We've found the guinea pigs!" She led me to a large seventeenth century painting by Rubens and Brueghel, "The Return from War: Mars Disarmed by Venus", and sure enough, there were two guinea pigs sharing a lettuce leaf in the foreground of the painting. Go take a look for yourself.

Random Sightings Also at the Getty, Katie thought we saw K-Fed, Britney Spears (estranged?) husband. I guess if she cut off the credit cards he can't afford to run with strippers in Vegas any more, or perhaps all the haterzz of his hip-hop joints have prompted him to look beyond Brazilian thong wearer's for inspiration for his work... On Sunday afternoon, we walked around the uber-mall of LA - the Beverly Center. We saw the usual suspects: packs of wealthy Beverly Hills Persian girls, cruising gay men, suburban gawkers (whenever we walked by a reflective surface) and a number of purse dogs. But then completely unexpectedly, we saw a hyperstylish couple conveying their purse dog around in a baby stroller!... On Sunday night, we had dinner at The Stand (which I reviewed here). Great dogs, and we sat next to a father/son duo of character actors - you know, the kind you vaguely recognize but can't pin down. I had a knish for the first time, and I'll just say that a knish ain't no empanada.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Yikes! It's Been Over a Month...

First, apologies to the loyal readers of this site. I should have said something.

Two factors have conspired to create this blogging break. First, as I've said before, I'm sick of ranting. Actually, I still like ranting, and over the past month I've begun each morning by briefing my family on the latest atrocity from our government. Today it was the report in this week's New Yorker of how the Administration lied to their own politically appointed lawyers in approving torture. Of course, I won't get to read that article in the actual magazine until some time next week since the New Yorker rarely gets to my house any more before the following Monday. Rant, rant, rant.

But I didn't and don't want this blog to be about ranting, and that was all I could come up with. I don't have time to do something substantive on the issues that have me ranting, and every time I've tried, I find that Glenn Greenwald has already said it better than I.

Second, I have been busy with "real" pursuits and writing. You see, blog ranting and trivia are easy because they're done in the moment. The more important kinds of writing that I would like to do here take more time and reflection, and those projects keep losing out to my other work.

So, this adds up to a month without blogging. I'm hoping to find another rhythm for blogging, and have written a few quality pieces, but I'm gonna save them up until I'm at the place where I could do it with some regularity. I may arrive at that place as early as next week, so please check back from time to time, but I'm not there yet.