"We didn't win the national championship, but we did play pick-up ball with Barack Obama--and that's something!" said UNC junior Tyler Hansbrough, who decided to return for his senior season after a pep talk by the presidential hopeful. "Now we're holding our heads high again."
"I will reform NCAA basketball in the state of North Carolina!" said Obama, who was greeted by wild applause after he guaranteed that UNC would win the national championship if he was elected.
The second-loudest ovation came during the pick-up game when Obama drove toward the basket, evaded a half-hearted block attempt by Hansbrough--and almost scored.
Photo property of Scout.com.
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
"We didn't win the national championship, but we did play pick-up ball with Barack Obama--and that's something!" said UNC junior Tyler Hansbrough, who decided to return for his senior season after a pep talk by the presidential hopeful. "Now we're holding our heads high again."
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Monday, April 28, 2008
This just in: The new director of The Hobbit film, Guillermo del Toro is not a big fan of heroic fantasy in general and J.R.R. Tolkien's books in particular. FilmChat quotes a piece by Andrew O'Hehir:
First of all, hasn't anybody noticed that del Toro has repeatedly said he doesn't like Tolkien, and that he never finished reading "The Lord of the Rings"? Here's what he told me in Cannes in 2006, when I asked him about the influence of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis on his own work: "I was never into heroic fantasy. At all. I don't like little guys and dragons, hairy feet, hobbits -- I've never been into that at all. I don't like sword and sorcery, I hate all that stuff."
Let's see, he doesn't like "little guys and dragons" or hairy-footed hobbits, and "The Hobbit" would be a movie about what, exactly? Seriously, I think del Toro was speaking from the heart, and I think he's right. His aesthetic is darker, more Gothic and more grotesque than the Tolkien-via-Jackson universe; it derives more from the medieval mire of middle-European fairy tale than from the high-toned, pre-modern northern European epics Tolkien was channeling. . .
Hmmm. You think this could be a problem? Can we take the man outside now and plaster him with rotten pipe tobacco? Good thing Peter Jackson is involved--I have the impression that he appreciates Tolkien's genius.
Photo lifted from FilmChat.
Lindsay and her mom were loading Aidan into his car seat when he paused as if he wanted to start a conversation and said, with emphasis, "OH. MY. GOSH!"
Quick reaction from "Mimi":
"No, don't say that. Where did you hear that? Who says that?"
Aidan: "Papa say, 'Oh. My. Gosh!'"
Mimi: "Well, he shouldn't."
Grandpa was in some hot water, but with that little mystery solved, Lindsay ran back inside to retrieve something she'd forgotten, this being a predictable trait of attractive women--they forget things. But the show was just getting started. Aidan leaned back in his car seat, crossed one leg over the other, and preceded to inform his grandma about the profane state of the world.
"Papa say 'Oh my gosh!'"
"Mimi say, 'Dadgummit!'"
"Mommy say, 'Darn it!'"
"Daddy say, 'Crap!'"
Daddy say "Wow." As Lindsay later commented, "Shaming, but oh-so hilarious." There was only one thing to do in response to Aidan's devastating opening round of infant espionage. We paid him off with a gummy worm, and decided to immediately go public with to remove any opportunity for further extortion.
Honesty is the best policy.
And of this moment, for as long as we breath, we will never, ever cuss again for the rest of our lives. Ever. Not even with made-up cuss words that sound shocking even though they don't mean anything. Nope, our cussing days are over. Done, finis, like Missouri's Final Four appearances.
Unless we stub our toe really, really hard...
Sunday, April 27, 2008
We've discovered the secret of talisman of family unity, which had lain hidden for centuries until a friend gave Lindsay a cryptic, scribbled message on an index card and she realized its true worth. Are you braced for a shocking disclosure which could alter the course of your whole family life? You are? OK then.
Buy the fresh avocados, tomatoes, and limes, and mix them together with the help of spicy spices and a blunt object, using a recipe that has been personally written down for you by a person of Mexican descent. As the process unfolds, open a large bag of salty tortilla chips--and then watch as your family crowds into the kitchen, jocular, interested, and ready to help make sandwiches and chat about their inner secrets in a bubbly, enthusiastic way. In other words, make that guacamole and watch as life happens around the bowl.
Go do it now. You can thank me later, and if this tip restores your sense of communal family living, we can discuss various forms of recompense.
Full disclosure: The guacamole pictured above isn't ours, although it shares the same smooth green suaveness and air of confidence. But to show you our guacamole, which is mostly gone anyway, would have required the whole digital photo upload rigmarole. I would have had to ask Aidan to juggle the guacamole or have Lindsay do some kind of exotic guacamole dance to justify that kind of effort.
Saturday, April 26, 2008
Aidan was wandering around the kitchen nonchalantly, every so often jumping up to try and grab a box of "bee cereal" (Honeynut Cheerios) off the counter at the apex of his two inch vertical. Eventually he asked me,
"Are you hungry?"
Since Aidan phrases his requests obliquely in the second-person, I said,
"Are you hungry?"
Aidan got the hint, and returned,
"I am hungry!"
Me: "Would you like some bread?"
Aidan: "No, bread too spicy."
Me: "That's a good one. How about an apple or banana?"
Aidan: "Apple or banana...or dinosaur."
So I pulled a small, frozen pterodactly out of the freezer and nuked it for him. They're good with tarter sauce and fresh lemon. And apparently 'dactyl is less spicy than bread, who knew it?
I just wrote one of the fluffiest of fluffy papers. Sat down and cracked it out like a whiz-bang, squinty-eyed, detached professional essay writer. Give me my $15.
It doesn't make me feel good to do this, but it does feel good to have it done. At times like this, I blame the paper and the assignment that spawned it. If you give a professional chef a bag of marshmallows to work with, this is what you get.
Imagine that I wanted to say,
I read the darn book,
but I typed,
With sincere pleasure I meditatively devoured the latest missive from the brilliant author like a starving jeweler in a gold mine, looking for nuggets of wisdom with which to supplement my pyrite-infested display case.
Bloated marshmallows of sentences are littering my word processor.
You wouldn't believe the coordination it took to swing Aidan and Asher while simultaneously taking their picture. Afterwards I just slumped in the grass and watched my shadow running laps around me trying to catch up.
Friday, April 25, 2008
And he is Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, Pan's Labyrinth), a proven genius with a tendency toward darker films. Peter Jackson, of course, is producing. WETA workshop in tow.
J.R.R. Tolkien's Hobbit is the most light-hearted of his Middle Earth fiction. I'm wondering if that more boisterous, children's book-feel will be maintained with Guillermo del Toro at the helm. If I had to guess, I'd predict toward a more epic, less frivolous Hobbit.
Over the centuries, about a bajillion historians and Christians have coveted the experience enjoyed by guys like Peter, James, John, and the other disciples of Christ--but talking shop with Jesus back in Palestine would have been a mixed blessing. You probably don't believe me, so to prevent you from bailing too quickly, try this argument on for size: My wife agrees with me.
How 'bout them apples? Shall we continue now?
Lindsay actually provoked this post. While reading the gospel of Mark, she suggested that spending time with the real, flesh-and-blood Son of God would have had some disadvantages. That made me pause for a second, but my wife is far too long-suffering to be a heretic, so I played along. And here's where it got me.
Consider: When you're around Jesus, watching him heal and listening in on his parable workshops, imagine the magnetism. God in human form must have had a dizzying, mysterious quality, must have been a riveting hidden picture book of a man. You would stare and stare and never get to the bottom of him.
The disciples didn't have a complete handle on it until he was gone, but Jesus' perfection must have had a hypnotic fascination for those who observed him. No wonder his disciples followed him around like little kids or friendly dogs. There was something about him that didn't fit the contours of a normal human, as if his edges were blurry like a woven skater shirt or like the circumference of the sun, too bright to make out.
The disciples stared, trying to understand why their eyes kept tricking him, why the outline of Christ's life didn't resolve itself into a recognizable pattern. Surely he was a prophet, or if not a prophet, a rabbi, or if not a rabbi, a political Messiah. But no, the legendary Jewish archetypes didn't fit...
This must have been maddening, as there was only one of Jesus and multitudes of bewildered, staring people, trying to pin him down with their glances, trying to guess what his game was, trying to find his depth--and there was only so much elbow room to go around. Most of them gave up on Jesus because he was too hard to sort. Too complex, too demanding. If "normal people" couldn't figure his gig, he could be up to no good.
We grow to know Jesus, year after year, as he changes us from the inside out. And I suspect that this is a more steady, less infuriating process than what the people had in Palestine.
In purely physical and historical terms, you know how the story ended. People who make no sense to their shallow constituency typically get the axe. But fortunately for us, the mystery surrounding Jesus' personality has changed somewhat. Not so much in its essential, perplexing allure, but in our proximity to it. And the fact of Christ's physical murder and subsequent resurrection was what changed our role from spectators to participants.
When Jesus returned to Heaven, to the dimension that surrounds and holds ours up, he sent his Spirit, invisible but strong, to empower us. Jesus the man doesn't walk the earth these days but we have the Spirit of Jesus. This Spirit lives inside each of his people, making Christ gradually explicable as he teaches via transformed lives. He reveals himself to us as he mends and heals us, and this is what the church calls sanctification. We grow to know Jesus, year after year, as he changes us from the inside out. And I suspect that this is a more steady, less infuriating process than what the people had in Palestine.
The question is how we'll approach this offer of inner-circle discipleship. The person of Jesus is still this magnetic riddle, this mystery of embodied divinity. Once brushed up against, his is a personality that calls for response. There are at least three ways we can respond to Jesus, I think.
We can come to him like the political power-mongers of his day, fascinated and enraged, like moths to light. We can come like the bored crowds, hungry for food and a spectacle, like brats to a carnival. Or we can come like those who were badly off and knew it, afraid but hopeful, like infants about to walk.
Only the last group will enjoy the acquaintance, because, as the disciples discovered, to know Jesus and enjoy the benefits is life-consuming. Anything less is merely crumbs and ashes. But to know him, encounter him as he really is? In the biblical language, that's Thanksgiving and Christmas and the Fountain of Youth. That's really living. That's what we were all made for.
Memphis should have known that when they were up 9 with 2:12 left in the NCAA Championship game, the lead was only 23% safe. Slate Magazine's Bill James, who just happens to be a long-time Jayhawk fan, explains how to tell when an NCAA game is truly over.
I wonder if he was kicked back with his ankles crossed sipping a cold one when the Jayhawks came roaring back.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
The UNews of of the University of Missouri-Kansas City recently reviewed four local coffee shops, a couple of which I haven't been to before. Fortunately, it sounds like I'm not missing much. As you'd expect if you live in Kansas City, the Roasterie Cafe won the highest marks. Against competition like that, the other contestants didn't stand a chance.
However, that relates somewhat to the selected field, which was pretty weak. I'm wondering why the UNews writer didn't visit The Filling Station (they need a good website) or The Broadway Cafe, both of which are with a mile or so of the campus, and both of which can give the Roasterie Cafe a run for its money.
Do I need to point out that all the top cafes around Kansas City are local, as opposed to being national chains? Didn't think so.
Disney's released a new trailer for the upcoming Prince Caspian movie. From the looks of this footage, the new film will be darker, more violent, and more "serious"--as befits the Prince Caspian book, a war-like saga and coming-of-age story.
There have been some quiet days around here recently because I've been creating a new site for my freelance copywriting business, Words w/ Verve.
The site is now up and running, and I'm happy enough with the way it looks to make it public. Improvements include the online portfolio and extended "About" page.
Feel free to send traffic and referrals my way, I've got student loans to pay off!
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
A friend sent us these pictures, which I can't help posting, despite the pain they could conceivably inflict upon some unfortunate fellow bloggers. That NCAA Championship Trophy is good for at least one more fling. These date from the day of the Jayhawk Victory Parade about a week ago...just rock chalk them up to childish exuberance.
Downtown Lawrence, Kansas
Downtown Columbia, Missouri
Currently in beta is BookLamp--a "Pandora for books."
If you 1) like reading, and, 2) are familiar with Pandora, this can only be good news.
Main gist: BookLamp will recommend new titles to you based on algorithms that crunch your current favorites to compile their shared qualities. Or something. Don't ask me to elaborate on the technical details.
The site is currently in development, but you can head over to sign up (free) and get an early look at the thing of beauty that BookLamp could eventually be.
HT: Six O'Clock Vintage
From that bastion of political incorrectness, Stuff White People Like:
White people will often say they are “spiritual” but not religious. Which usually means that they will believe any religion that doesn’t involve Jesus.
Popular choices include Buddhism, Hinduism, Kabbalah and, to a lesser extent, Scientology. A few even dip into Islam, but it’s much more rare since you have to give stuff up and actually go to Mosque.
Mostly they are into religion that fits really well into their homes or wardrobe and doesn’t require them to do very much.
Pretty good read, I'd say. Although for this post you could probably remove "white" from the title.
Monday, April 21, 2008
It just so happens that although I've read all of Mark Driscoll's published work, this is the first book I've actually reviewed. So in writing this, I have a sense of backstory that I'll try to convey briefly.
People tend to assess Driscoll in one of a handful of ways: Mark Driscoll the shock jock Reformed dude, Mark Driscoll the rock star church planter, Mark Driscoll the tough pastor-theologian with a big heart.
While I can understand the various other responses, I've come to see Driscoll as primarily occupying that last category. Yeah, he's bombastic at times. Yeah, he's doing all he can to usher out the suit-and-tie era of pastoring, bringing grungy back. But for me, Driscoll needs to be understood in the context of his love for Seattle, his passion for the Bible, and his remarkable ability to explain the relationship between biblical theology and contemporary culture.
If you read that last sentence and thought, "I didn't know they were related," then you may be about to grasp the value of Driscoll's role.
Along these lines, Vintage Jesus is an excellent book and it actually makes sense that it's earned eclectic accolades from the likes of university professors, record company owners, and mixed martial arts fighters. Vintage Jesus is a very accessible introduction to the theological category of Christology, a biblical understanding of who Jesus is.
Driscoll presents the goods by asking blunt leading questions and following up with responses that are framed by cultural references and are right on the mark in terms of orthodox Christian belief. He is aided by co-author Gerry Breshears (blog), a professor at Western Seminary who supplies supplementary Q&A after each chapter. Breshears is an accomplished theologian, and also does a respectable job "keeping up" with Driscoll as he builds tough, clear arguments and drops references to Jack Bauer, Star Wars, and chili con carne, occasionally ripping on guys like Dan Brown in the process.
By way of qualification, let me add that Vintage Jesus is not an apologetic work, is not presented as such, and thus doesn't address basic postmodern questions like Why trust the Bible? Does God even exist? Why is "your" truth exclusive? (For concerns like this, see Tim Keller's The Reason for God.) Also, Driscoll's love for written stand-up comedy sometimes fails to blend seamlessly with his theological writing. Occasionally I had the sense that theologian-Driscoll was playing tag team with Chris Rock-Driscoll, and the book's style isn't completely uniform as a result. However, these are minor gripes.
Clearly, Driscoll is setting out to popularize theology, and he's uniquely qualified for the task. People who would never crack a tome by renowned scholars like Ajith Fernando (The Supremacy of Christ) and John Stott (The Cross of Christ) may give Vintage Jesus a shot--a book rife with red neck jokes, sarcastic one-liners, and impassioned descriptions of Jesus' glory, goodness, and ability to change lives.
*** If you can handle Mark Driscoll's love for sarcasm and his rough and tumble style, I recommend Vintage Jesus highly. If you're looking for a better handle on what Jesus was all about and why it matters, you may want to grab this title. I award it three stars--don't miss it.
I love paper and have a nostalgic longing for the days when professors would sacrifice some section of a tree, probably a small branch, to print out syllabi for all the students and give them out in class. Or better yet, when full-color copies of class notes were produced.
Now we're expected to have accessed the syllabus online and printed off our own copies (killing trees anyway), which involves so much extracurricular effort that half the class doesn't know what's going on for the first several weeks of the semester.
There was supposed to be these happy vibes of green good feeling that washed over us when we started making efforts to go paperless, and I'm just not feeling them.
On the day I finally have a home office, I will put paper on the walls. A calendar, marked up with multicolored inks. Sports pages from March 2008. Procedural diagrams I frequently refer to, like how to plant and cultivate churches and coffee beans.
And I'll revel in the sheer, historical paperfluity of it.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
"Pity and Fear" (downloadable) - the rhythm section is like nothing I've heard from Death Cab before. I like it.
"I Will Possess Your Heart" (play only) - at eight minutes, this one's a marathon, and it doesn't quite stack up to the previous 7:55 masterpiece, "Atlanticism."
Pre-release thoughts on the new album/sound?
Friday, April 18, 2008
In an interview with CT, Douglas Gresham discuses his role in the filming of Prince Caspian and drops some clues about the shape of the film. The storyline's structure will apparently be quite different from the book, a fact that Gresham is completely reconciled to, even if some fans are not:
CT: When NarniaFans interviewed you, they asked about the fate of Miraz's son in the film. You replied, "There's global warming, worldwide recession, dental cavities and facial blemishes and all sorts of things more meritorious of anxiety than the fate of Miraz's son." They asked you why another change was supposedly made from the book, and you replied, "Why not?" Your answers sounded a bit flippant to people who really love these books …
Gresham: They are a little bit flippant. People do take these things sometimes too seriously. This is, after all, when all is said and done, only a movie. But I know that when the fans see the scenes, they will understand immediately why we've done what we done, and they will also love it. So I'm not going to go into lengthy descriptions of why we made the decisions we made. I'm going to let the fans make up their own minds.
Lindsay expressed surprise (that's a euphemism for shocked, somewhat-hysterical screaming) this morning when she was lying on the living room floor with her eyes closed and Aidan did a flying belly flop (she thinks) right on top of her. I was not an eyewitness, you understand, only looking over with mild interest when I heard the commotion.
Time for an incident report.
Me: Uh, what just happened?
Lindsay: I was lying here with my eyes closed and Aidan did a belly flop right on top of me.
Me: Seriously? I mean, seriously: you were lying on the carpet with your eyes closed? What did you expect to happen?
Lindsay: I was tired!
Me, to Aidan: It's OK, kiddo, keep your head up. You were the victim here.
Sometimes I just have to pause and contemplate the environment of semi-controlled madness in which we live. Wow.
I just wish I could have captured this episode with some flash photography.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Paste has a piece up from Ben Gibbard, Death Cab for Cutie's front man. I've been a fan of this band for awhile, and Gibbard's introspective essay gives some insight into his lyrics, which frequently wrestle with life's epic themes. Here's a taste:
It’s as though people think, “I’m such an individual that I like things that nobody’s even heard of before. I went out of my way to find music and books and movies that are so obscure that I am an individual, and I am interesting because I like interesting things.” But that’s not true. Liking interesting things doesn’t make you interesting...
I find it very hard to accept the wonderful things in my life. My life really is great: I do exactly what I want to do for a living, I have a wonderful person to share my life with, I have a great family, I have great friends. But somehow there’s a void. I’m the last person who should be complaining or wondering why I’m perpetually unhappy...
An ex-girlfriend once got upset when I told her that music is the most important thing in my life. It’s more important than anyone else could ever be. I don’t want to be overly dramatic and say it’s the only thing that gets me up and keeps me going. But people in your life come and go. As you go through your life, you make friendships, you break friendships, you have relationships. Music is the one thing I’ve always been able to rely on. So why wouldn’t it be the most important thing in my life?
In the immortal words of Bob Dylan, you gotta serve somebody. Gibbard's article reads a lot like Ecclesiastes (and whets my appetite for the new Death Cab for Cutie album, Narrow Stairs). Go read the whole thing.
HT: Patrol Mag.
For me, the prospect of reading Inside Prince Caspian was a little risky. I enjoy Narnia books so much that I'm reluctant to do anything that could detract from the unexamined way I like to read them. Fortunately, Devin Brown shares a similar concern.
What are the hidden meanings of strange-sounding names like Queen Prunaprismia and Lord Glozelle?
Why does Lewis open and close Prince Caspian with references to Edmund's electric torch?
Why does Peter insist on spelling "abhomination" with an "h" in his official challenge to Miraz?
How does Prince Caspian reflect the coming of age of Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy?
How come Aslan never appears on the battle field in this book?
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Thanks for Jeremy Chrysler of PhogBlog for compiling these. I don't want to steal his thunder, so I'll just post the first video as a teaser. Go check out all Top Ten You Tube Videos of the 2008 Jayhawk National Championship run.
Balancing his head on a ball while balancing his tummy on a chair while balancing his self on one foot
Monday, April 14, 2008
Interested in meeting some local bloggers and talking about how you became the _____ (insert appropriate adjective) blogger you are?
Coming up May 10 is BarCampKC, "a conference about presenting on the projects you're passionate about, involving your friends and colleagues, getting inspired by others, and meeting some talented and creative folks you'd likely not run into otherwise."
Why do I mention this?
Coordinator Pete Thomas invited me to participate in a "haphazard" panel of non-techie bloggers. As he says, "You guys would show up Saturday to hang out and at some point start a q&a thing that was as formal or as informal as you like -- standing around with coffees in your hand just chilling and discussing..." I could go for that.
We'd toss around questions like:
- Who: Who are you? How much of the real you is in your blogging vs. how much do you leave out or suppress? Who visits your blog? Who do you tell about your blog vs. who you don't?
- What: What do you find yourself blogging most about? What annoys you most about running your blog?
- Where: Where do you blog from in terms of physical space (living room, office, coffee shop, anywhere I feel like it, etc.)
- When: When do you write your posts? When (and why) did you start blogging?
- Why? Why blog? Why does your blog exist?
- How? How did you get started blogging? How do you maintain the energy and motivation to keep blogging? How do you blog, technically (e.g., on a laptop, on a mobile device, on my home pc, on my work pc, on a mac vs. a pc, etc.)
For this panel to work out, I need 3-5 more KC-area bloggers to participate. If this sounds like something you'd be interested in doing, shoot me a note. Visualize a meet & greet with a little structure thrown in. :)
Vintage Jesus goes well, we may try this with additional titles.
The discussion site for Mark Driscoll's Vintage Jesus is now fully functional, and the conversation is starting to pick up. Comments are open, so head over there to add your take. If you'd like to participate as a contributor, with author privileges, shoot me a note--we might be able to sneak you in.
Current talking heads are:
Sunday, April 13, 2008
The Roasterie's Brandon Briscoe writes an insightful piece on how our minds help us navigate the elusive, subjective world of coffee taste. Excerpt:
Activities like drinking your morning cup of coffee or sitting around a well-cooked meal with the family are similar in the fact that they are personal to you. Your personal experience has a lot to do with what you taste. Drawing on personal experience and memories and tying it to your current experience is the most exciting aspect of food and beverage tasting. While there is nothing wrong with calling your coffee “strong” it doesn’t give the people you are experiencing the moment with a meaningful frame of reference and it certainly doesn’t challenge your palate to explore.
So if you're tempted to describe your favorite blend as "a Saturday morning variety that compliments pancakes with real maple syrup," go for it. Just don't try to redeem awful beans with a nice environment. That will only work once or twice...
Does this play look familiar?
When it comes to NCAA championships, I'm greedy, so I've been tracking various 2008-2009 Top 25 (Speculation) Lists to see who KU might have to beat en route to the trophy next season. Another UNC smackdown is not out of the question, and it looks like that KU-UCLA finale some of us were hoping for could happen in March 2009. Depends on who you ask. (However, a huge KU-Texas Monday Night match-up during the regular season seems assured.)
The lists of top ten teams for next season vary quite a bit, and they're bound to change dramatically once players declare for the draft, but several schools come up repeatedly. Texas contends for #1, Kansas gets plenty of love at the #4-6 spots, and the usual suspects from the ACC are present. Additional Big 12 teams--Baylor, Kansas State, Texas A&M--appear on a few brave lists. Here's a random sample.
FOX's Jeff Goodman:
- North Carolina
- Michigan State
- Notre Dame
- North Carolina
- Notre Dame
- West Virginia
- North Carolina
- West Virginia
- NORTH CAROLINA
- WEST VIRGINIA
- North Carolina
- Kansas State
- North Carolina
- Michigan State
- West Virginia
- Texas A&M
Sometimes the poop express arrives when you least expect it. Like ten minutes after the day is officially over, when your kid is dressed in pajamas and wrapped in blankets and tucked in, supposedly down for the count. And then notice is served: "Daddy! Daaaady! DAAAADDYY! Poop diaper!"
Cut to the diaper pad, where this conversation takes place.
Me: Too bad you didn't use the potty.
Aidan: Yeah, get dot.
Me: Now you'll have to wait until morning.
Aidan: In morning get grapes...and chocolate...and candy.
Me: Wow, you think?!
Aidan, laughing: NOOO!
I'm just glad he has a sense of humor about all of this.
Friday, April 11, 2008
I never had the pleasure of selling magazine subscriptions, but I did sell popcorn door to door as a Boy Scout, and was so good at it that I won a wooden birdhouse. Make of that what you will.
I just wanted to mention that email subscriptions for my other blog, arieljvan.com, are now available here. And of course, the normal RSS feed is up and running.
And that ends my cheap plug.
I'll tell you what I think of Tim Keller's new book right out of the gate, because there's no reason to prolong the suspense--and there may not be any suspense to prolong. The Reason for God spent considerable time on the New York Times bestseller list, and justifiably so. Keller has written a first-rate apologetic work with this volume, his first book in a decade.
If you're at all familiar with the topic of Christian apologetics (in this sense, a reasoned defense of the faith, not a series of mea culpas), the format and content of The Reason for God may seem familiar. Keller tackles major objections to belief in Jesus (hell, suffering, exclusivity, science, biblical integrity, Christian injustice) before adopting a positive tack to present reasons for faith in the second half of his book. Chapters are salted liberally with quotes from Christian thinkers, atheistic thinkers, and representative sound bytes from "everyday" outsiders to Christianity.
Tim Keller excels at a kind of sympathetic rationality which, in essence, shows respect for an opposing argument before demolishing it. (Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins are a couple of the bigger names Keller takes aim at.) Keller reveals that he understands the position of the skeptic quite well, and has an affinity for honest questioning. He wisely meets people at the point of their doubt, and implies that doubt and transparency are all you need to begin an exploration of faith.
Keller's approach to the topic of doubt is likely a hallmark of this book. He suggests that "all doubts, however skeptical and cynical they may seem, are really a set of alternate beliefs. You cannot doubt Belief A except from a position of faith in Belief B." Keller develops this concept further by arguing that religion is implicit to all people. Whether you call it a "worldview," a "narrative identity," or whatever, everyone has an unprovable set of faith assumptions about the nature of reality. In my opinion, this insight, and the way in which Keller articulates it, is the strength of The Reason for God.
In terms of content, Keller reveals a debt to C.S. Lewis, but draws widely from the "greats" in the Christian pantheon of authors (G.K. Chesterton, J.R.R. Tolkien, Augustine) while utilizing contemporary thinkers too (Peter Kreeft, Alvin Plantinga). Keller is not an amazing writer in terms of "voice" but he is articulate, persuasive, and has a deft touch. If you wonder what it feels like to be strangled by a kind-looking man wearing kid gloves, ask an argument that Keller has disagreed with.
Ultimately, The Reason for God is an excellent do-it-all apologetics book for the 21st century. Read C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity, chase it with Keller's book, and you'll be ahead of the game--so long as you remember that the goal is to sit down and discuss what you read over coffee.
*** I award this book three stars--don't miss it.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Kicking your opponent when he's down is an awful thing to do. And I would like everyone to know that, in theory, I am very much opposed to the idea...
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.
HT: Brad Briscoe.
As a follow-up to yesterday's free MP3 album from Matador Records, here's some more free music for you. John B. informed me that Shearwater has a couple freebies available at Last.fm, and that jogged my memory so that I remembered I'd picked up an MP3 from Great Lake Swimmers there as well.
Coincidentally, the latest albums from the two groups both feature large, full-color birds on the album art, which makes it fun to post them side by side. Shearwater's Cockatoo (am I right there?) compliments Great Lake Swimmers' Golden Eagle (pretty sure on that one) quite nicely.
Just scroll about halfway down the pages and you'll see the download links next to the song titles (under the inline music player).
If you spend anytime at all on the Last.fm site, you'll notice that for a free music service, they make a lot of free tracks available. And that's "free" in the legally free sense. I'm a fan.
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
There's been a lot of talk, especially among hopeful MU fans, that Bill Self might reach for the big bucks and go become head coach at his alma mater, Oklahoma State. I think Joe Posnanski has a pretty good read on the Self coaching situation:
This is a question of paying one of the best college coaches in the business as if he’s, well, one of the best college coaches in the business. Kansas is not a small-market program. Kansas claims to be elite, there with Kentucky, Carolina, Duke, Indiana, now Florida — well, those schools are paying their coaches a lot more money than Kansas plays Self. And ask yourself this if you’re a Kansas fan: Would you trade Self for any coach? Self wants what everyone wants. He wants more money, sure. More than that, he wants security. And perhaps more than that, he wants to feel as if Kansas values him more than any school in America would.
For my money, Self will stay at KU. Lew Perkins will make sure it happens.
This is for those of you who love indie music or are willing to try. The good folks at Matador Records have made a compilation (MP3) album of some current Matador artists, and it's available for download.
Highlights include music from Stephen Malkus & the Jicks, Shearwater, Cat Power, and the justly celebrated New Pornographers ("Music is the new pornography" - Jimmy Swaggert). You don't come across free music downloads this good every day.
If BitterSweetLife featured the little complimentary blurbs that some blogs have in the sidebar, this one would be close to perfect:
Just wanted to give a BIG THANKS, used the majority of you picks and took 1st in one pool and 2nd in the other. Kansas as National Champs put me over the top in both.
I will have a beer in your honor tonight!!!!
WOW. I can hardly describe how this made me feel, other than to say that the warm glow began in my toes and raced through my limbs and torso, quickly reaching my head, which swelled slightly.
Aidan is already beginning to run our household. From his crib. He was going down for the night when he told me he needed his water bottle. A fair enough request, on the surface...
But since at any given time there are about a hundred random objects scattered around our loft as if a Mount Vesuvius full of balls and plastic chew toys has just exploded, finding a specific, individual object when desired is not as easy as you might think. So I decided to put Aidan on the spot and let him deal with the immense pressure of finding a single water bottle in a haystack, since he singlehandedly created that haystack.
Me: "Where's your water?"
Aidan: "On table."
And sure enough, when I trotted off to the dining room table rolling my eyes like a jaded valet, there it was. I dutifully retrieved the bottle and handed to Aidan, who was reclining on a pile of pillows and stuffed animals. He smiled appreciatively, acknowledging a job promptly accomplished, and took a swig: "I need this."
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
And now for some shocking news. ESPN reports. Is there a method in this madness?
LOST junkies have recently picked up on the latest disguised clue in the hit television series. If you watch this video carefully, you'll see it too. Just track the number of times the LOST characters say "What?" and divide Hurley's infamous number, 4815162342, by the total number of "Whats?" you tabulate. (Count the more emphatic "WHATS?" twice.)
The resulting number is earth-shattering, revealing previously unknown insights into LOST's mysterious plot lines. Go on, count 'em, you'll see. It will give you something to do while you wait for the next Season 4 episode to air.
Lindsay baked some KU celebration cookies, and Aidan and Asher joined us to watch live coverage of the Jayhawk Championship celebration in Lawrence, so with a sense of closure and lingering satisfaction, I can turn to other news...
Like James Bond movie stuff.
We liked the heightened realism and more sympathetic portrayal of Bond in 2006's Casino Royale, so we're interested to see where Quantum of Solace, the next installment of the "new Bond" films will head. If you recall, Royale ended with Bond's girl betraying him and then dying--so we can safely conjecture that the Daniel Craig we see in Quantum will be emotionally cooler and understandably bitter...
My question: How will the jaded Bond begin to fit that classic JB profile (cold-hearted killer and philanderer) without losing our sympathy along the way? And, related but different: Other than sounding very mod, what is the phrase "Quantum of Solace" meant to convey?
The Bond buzz summarized by Peter Chattaway doesn't answer these questions, but it does drop a few other hints about the new film.
Observation: Judging from the movie poster, looks like Bond starts toting automatic weapons in this one.
If you're like me, as opposed to being a Memphis, UNC, UCLA, Texas, MU, or K-State fan, you might want to bask in the afterglow of KU's amazing comeback win last night. Here are some good Jayhawk Championship stories.
One Shining Moment from Dime Magazine (contains astute game analysis)
In the End, KU Makes it Worth the Wait by Mike DeCourcy
What Others Are Saying (Juicy Jayhawk championship quotes) from the Lawrence Journal-World
There's No Team Like Kansas - local love from the KC Star's Jason Whitlock
Toughness Came from "Tight Huddle" from the Topeka Capital Journal
Bill Self Moves from the Bench to the Driver's Seat from Sports Illustrated
I'm currently ignoring the chatter about Bill Self going to his alma mater, Oklahoma State, because it seems almost obscene to worry about it right now. A couple of other names I've heard mentioned are Billy Gillespie and Larry Brown. Either of those guys would be top-tier hires for OSU, which is a national top 40 hoops school.
I held myself back from posting last night, because anything I wrote would have resembled gibberish in all caps, OHYEEAAH!DEFENSIVELOCKDOWN! OHNO,IDIOTDECISIONMAKING!OH!YES!NO!YES!
UNBELIEVABLE! MARIOCHALMERSSHOTINCRUNCHTIME! OVERTIMEDOMINATION!WOW! JAYHAWKSAREBESTINTHEWORLD!!
Question: Was that one of the best NCAA championship games of all time? Answer: Absolutely.
I felt very confident that the Jayhawks would win for the entire first half, as they owned Memphis defensively, shutting down Derrick Rose (Forget Billy Packer's ridiculous suggestion that Rose was "making himself easy to guard") and limiting Chris Douglas-Roberts' touches.
Then towards the end of the first half and for most of the second, KU's offense started looking as awkward as a pimply kid with braces, and we were very, very nervous. The 'Hawks failed to get shots off, dropped passes, dribbled balls off their legs, doing the old schizophrenic act that's shown up a few times this season.
But after the Jayhawks repeatedly tried to give the game away with poor decision-making, bad ball handling, and stale offensive sets, Rose and CDR missed those game-ending free throws, and Mario Chalmers decided, What the heck, this is is still a game, so let's play it that way.
I think KU can now officially adopt the Phoenix as their new mascot, since clutch shots resurrected KU's championship hopes from the ashes. Unbelievable. As you can imagine, Lindsay and I were on our feet for the final ten minutes of the game, hovering between the carpet and the ceiling as we levitated every few seconds, clapping and waving our arms at very high speeds.
After Mario Chalmers' dagger of a three-pointer, the game was effectively finished. In overtime, the deflated duo of Rose and Douglas-Roberts never found their stride, and the Jayhawks remembered they were the team that had dominated UNC and took over. Oh yeah, and they hit their free throws.
All I need to go now is go out and buy my T-shirt. Where does the world's best college basketball team live!
In Lawrence!! ROCK CHALK, BABY! NCAA euphoria has arrived!
Photo is property of the KC Star.
Monday, April 07, 2008
Photo # 1: Octopus Attack! Asher is momentarily caught off guard. Momentarily.
People who meet Asher in person assume he is a two-foot tall politician 24/7, always schmoozing and glad handing, charming people with that toothless grin. Those of us who know Asher intimately realize there is more to him than the glowing public persona. Asher has a tough side, a mean streak, if you will. True, he loves socializing and genuinely enjoys being around people. But you'd better think twice about getting in his way. In this photo series, captured recently by hidden camera, Asher reveals a dangerous wild side.
Photo # 2. The Struggle. Asher's like, You have eight arms and ink, but I'll take you to the mat with my gums if I have to! GWAAAH!
Photo # 3. Victory! As quickly as it began, the fight is over. With devastating efficiency and predatorial instinct, Asher disables his attacker. Equilibrium is restored and for the moment, all is calm.
Sunday, April 06, 2008
Sherry, one of the blogosphere's foremost book and history buffs, tagged me with at "eight things" meme. Here are the rules, which I intend to flagrantly disregard: Each player lists 8 facts/habits about themselves. The rules of the game are posted at the beginning before those facts/habits are listed. At the end of the post, the player then tags 8 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know that they have been tagged and asking them to read your blog.
OK, 8 things. I'll do everything I can to make these moderately interesting, even if I have to shamelessly fabricate them. In fact, I guarantee that one of these 8 things is an outright lie...
1. When I played pickup basketball in Chiapas, Mexico, about a decade ago, I was considered a player of above average height with professional potential.Done! If you feel a nagging impulse toward self-disclosure, I hereby nominate you to assure that this meme has posterity and lives to a ripe old age, surrounded by its grandchildren, great-grandchildren, great, great-grandchildren, etc.
2. When I was sixteen, I was indentured to a Marine-style Basic Training for eight weeks and learned how to, among other things, take a 30-second shower.
3. I am picking the Jayhawks to beat Memphis tonight. KU 83 / Memphis 75
4. Before the summer is over, I intend to submit a book proposal to half a dozen publishers.
5. When Lindsay and I initially "met," her first impression was a very good one--but it was based only on the back of my head, since I was sitting in a meeting, several rows in front of her. Needless to say, I've been trying to live up to the impossibly high standard set by the back of my head ever since.
6. I'm a big fan of old movies, especially those film noir flicks starring dudes like Humphrey Bogart and Robert Mitchum.
7. My first car was a 1982 midnight blue Ford Mustang that guzzled gas and
made metallic shimmy-shanging sounds when I started it, but it came with Jayhawk license plate holders (which is probably why I bought it).
8. If push comes to shove, my favorite Kansas City bar-b-q joint is Jack Stack. Bar-b-q is high on my personal food chain, and in all my experiences, in-state and out, Jack Stack burnt ends are unbeatable.
There's a certain type of building--usually old and echo-filled, with lots of stone and soaring ceilings--that creates a quiet you can feel as well as hear, an atmosphere that you'd almost swear is holier than normal meeting spaces built with steel and drywall. This type of building used to satisfy the part of me that enjoys solemnity and reflection and ritual. Now this type of building makes me very, very nervous. And maybe for different reasons than you think.
It's because inside these buildings, silences linger. Every period may as well be an ellipsis. A question mark at the end of a sentence lengthens into a round of soul searching. A dramatic pause lasts for about an hour. And it's exactly at that moment-hour that Aidan says, "COLOR MORE BALLS, DADDY?" At which Asher laughs, an open-mouthed guttural chuckle that really, really carries, and I think, Oh boy, here we go again.
Saturday, April 05, 2008
Goodbye, Roy Williams, and no hard feelings! I know when to be magnanimous. ;)
Lindsay and I started downing Tums-Alka-Seltzer-Advil cocktails to combat our heartburn, nausea, and general sickness when the Jayhawks forgot how to score for 20 minutes after going up 26--but then Sherron Collins' out-toughed UNC and KU started throwing the ball back inside again.
ROCK CHALK! Bring on Memphis!
Just a heads-up: a book discussion group is in the works, most likely to be hosted on a separate site with enhanced discussability options. Mark Driscoll's Vintage Jesus provoked the most interest, so it'll be our first title.
Vintage Jesus is a no-holds-barred introduction to the person of Jesus Christ. Who is he, what did he do, where is he now, why should I care? With cultural savvy and a flair for the dramatic, Driscoll makes these questions very accessible.
If you'd like to jump in at the contributing member/committed reader/cool admin level, you need to do a couple things. 1) Shoot me a note, and 2) grab a copy of the book. On a less involved level, comments on the new site will be open for anyone who wants to throw $0.02 in.
Friday, April 04, 2008
I've been holding out a little, but now it's Final Four time. Here are some links to get you started.
Nice Breakdown of the Final Four teams by ESPN's Andy KatzAnd now, the more Jayhawk focused stuff...
FOX's Jeff Goodman asks, What Can Cost Each Team the Title?
Goodman, again, (I like the guy) identifies 10 Matchups to Watch in the Final Four - including a bunch of KU-UNC confrontations.
Does KU Want to Run with North Carolina? (Heck yes)Hold on to your seats--with four #1 seeds in the Final Four, history is about to be made.
The Kansas 'Oop - with diagrams
The nation's only Objective, Unbiased Analyst Picks KU to Win it All
The KU-UNC showdown is the late game tomorrow, which means you have enough time to play this awesome Rock Chalk Rap at least a couple dozen times before tip-off. Aidan digs it. Big head nod to BicMedia.
Highlights: "A quick whipping for them hippies up at Portland State "..."Your Cinderella story's boring me"..."C'mon everybody, storm the court, 'cause we've got a score to settle with that ol' boy Roy"..."Shake it like it's Final Four"
Thursday, April 03, 2008
Not in a messy, smash-mouth way, but splitting up nevertheless. Something I've thought a lot about recently is the way the content here tends to fall into one of two contrasting categories. Here's how I would describe them, roughly.
arts & culture news--movies, music, tv
random family anecdotes
Christian spirituality thoughts
emerging church news
personal, spiritual reflection
When I started this blog almost four years ago, I decided to try and write for a strange, hybrid Christian/outsider audience by making no assumptions about where people were coming from. My theological convictions were either implicit, "smuggled in" (C.S. Lewis) or presented in an explanatory way--and it worked, to the extent that I had readers who were very much on a spiritual journey, one that hadn't reached Jesus yet. As I got immersed in seminary, I started writing more frequently about explicitly Christian topics and reviewing a bunch of Christian books, which was a different approach, but also good.
As of this week, I'm launching a blog where I will think out loud about knowing Jesus, living out my theology, and making risky plans, so it will have a personal, sometimes confessional flavor.
However, to the extent that I try to do both things at once, this blog takes on a split personality and becomes more "eclectic" than I really want it to be. I've concluded that I want to write in both "genres," and be able to both: 1) talk overtly about church planting and Bible verses--you know, insider Christian stuff, or, 2) post a dozen NCAA hoops pieces in a row without baffling some people who were looking for spiritual content (if you know what I mean).
As of this week, I'm launching a blog where I will think out loud about knowing Jesus, living out my theology, and making risky plans, so it will have a personal, sometimes confessional flavor. (That "Category 2" above.) This is where I'll write about stuff like emerging church and Christian books and tell you outright what's going on with our church planting plans. Go take a look. (Hint: If you refresh the page, you'll get different pictures in the header.) There's not a ton of content yet, but you can check out permanent links like "Our Story," "My Theology," etc. If you feel so inclined, you can also subscribe to the RSS feed over there. :) I won't be switching anyone over automatically, because...
For the time being, BitterSweetLife will become a dedicated arts and culture blog ("Category 1") where my Christianity will be implicit, not at the forefront. Eventually, I intent to relaunch BitterSweetLife as well, but one thing at a time.
This leaves you with some options. If you like the spiritual content you've found here, you can head over to the new blog and subscribe. If you like the cultural content here, you can stick around. If you like both, make sure you're subscribed to both blogs. Fair enough?
Thanks for bearing with me as I sort this out.
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
Freebies are usually freebies for a reason. Not this time. This month (April), Christian Audio is giving away free MP3 downloads of G.K. Chesterton's classic mystery/theodicy/philosophy novel, The Man Who Was Thursday. I love this book, and chances are you've never read anything quite like it. Go download it and put it on your iPod now (coupon code APR2008).
Delete a few pop albums if need to free up room.
HT: Between Two Worlds.
CT has an interview up with Steve Taylor, director of the upcoming Blue Like Jazz movie. Apparently the screen play is finished, with input from Donald Miller, and production starts in May. ETA is the first half of 2009.
Among other things, we learn that Taylor's last directing project was The Second Chance, starring Michael W. Smith. (Hmm?) But Taylor wants Tim Keller to make a cameo in the film. (Hmm.) So maybe those two items balance each other out.
My recommendation: Definitely, definitely, definitely read the book first on this one.
This just in. Not only are Tobey Maguire's Spiderman days over, but a Spiderman-Superman crossover movie is in the works, with Spidey and the Man of Steel duking it out in the buildings and airspace of NY/Metropolis. I'm not sure how I feel about this. On second thought, I feel dubious. Spiderman was always my favorite comic book hero and I like what Maguire brought to that role. New Spiderman: Jake Gyllenhaal.
Let's see, what else should you know about this move? You should know it was posted on April 1.
In my experience, books on "leadership" are a dime a dozen, but I was pleasantly surprised by this book by two pastor/scholars, which may be ironic given the volume's title.
Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership was valuable to me in an immediate way because it dealt with issues that were already surfacing in my life but which I lacked an interpretive grid to evaluate. Gary McIntosh and Samuel Rima provide a framework for assessing the pressures and influences that make us who we are. At the risk of sounding like a Star Wars knock-off, they call this sum total of our formation the "dark side" because it typically operates in the background, shaping our motives and behavior covertly.
The authors pick up on a variety of life indicators that we can identify en route to sketching a portrait of our personal strengths and weaknesses. Their research is cogent and their presentation is convincing. Like every other book on leadership, Overcoming the Dark Side has its share of definitions, charts, and principles, but the emphasis on self discovery (ideally leading to honest self disclosure) give the work an added dimension of helpfulness.
On this note, Overcoming's chapters and appendix packs a punch more reminescent of an operating table than the typical book afterthoughts (get it?). McIntosh and Rima take phrases like Narcissistic, Compulsive, Passive-Aggressive, Codependent, and Paranoid, and make them up close and personal to the point where they stop being stock one-liners and begin acting as useful diagnostic tools. Is this a lot of fun? Not really, but it's kind of like tracing a radiating, migratory pain down to a specific, operable sector of your body: not pleasant, but it's cool to have that tumor out.
I recommend Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership for anyone in a leadership position. Why? Because our personal histories continues to form us, even when we're unaware of it, and grace works more quickly on our sharp edges when we can work and pray with accurate knowledge of our liabilities and gifts. Such knowledge not only fosters humility, it makes us safer for the people we serve, more likely to play to our God-given strengths, less likely to burn out or self-destruct.
** I award this book two stars--well worth your time.