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!"