Monday, January 24, 2005

**Strong Language Warning**

Currently Watching
Baseball - A Film by Ken Burns
see related

Well, I almost wasn't going to add any babies today, but Jessica Varner came to the rescue with a couple of irresistibles of Jaden, the offspring of SpoonyLuv himself (am I out of the doghouse now?).

To add to the Ken Burns drooling... there's killer interview with him over at talking about his latest film, about boxer Jack Johnson. Here are some highlights:


AICN: I was talking about that with a friend of mine, and we were discussing how this film, the Jack Johnson story, might be the perfect story for you in the sense that with your other films, the more you know about the subject going in, the more criticisms you might have due to content issues. Why did you not focus on Tris Speaker enough, why so much Louis Armstrong, whatever, whereas with Jack Johnson it’s essentially a tabula rasa. Nobody knew the story, so nobody can nit-pick.

Ken Burns: That’s exactly right. Let me tell you this great story. I was in Racine, Wisconsin, and I was making a film on Frank Lloyd Wright and I was going through this wonderful Wright building on this tour, and one of the rooms had been remade into a gym. And there was one lone guy on a stationary bike pedaling furiously. And I just walked by on this tour, and the guy looks up and says, “My brother hates you.” And I look at him for a second, and I think to myself, “There’s no brother.” And I go, “Baseball, huh?” And he goes, “Yeah, how’d you know?” And I thought about where we were, and I said “Harmon Killebrew.” And he goes, “Yeah!”

Another one: I was walking with my then-fiance in New York a year ago, and it was a spring day on a fairly dark block in the Village, and you never necessarily notice people that pass by if you’re in a conversation, y’know? Anyway someone passed by, the only person that passed by on the entire block, and we got about 100 yards away, and I had to retroactively remember that we’d even passed somebody, because suddenly out of the darkness behind us I hear “What about motherfucking Mingus??!!!??” And my wife stiffened, and I had to go, “It’s OK, he’s not coming back.”

But that was great to me, it’s so great to me. Because one, he hadn’t seen the episode where we said Mingus was the greatest composer after Thelonius Monk and Duke Ellington in jazz. And it was a great scene, unbelievable. But that you can make an 18-hour film on baseball or jazz, and people are telling you what you left out! Eighteen hours! What it is, it’s the insecurity of knowledge.


Genius, man. Pure genius.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

A Theme?

I was checking back on the past few posts, since nobody has found anything worth commenting on, to see what I had done wrong. I found a disturbing trend. Babies. Seems I've developed some sort of penchant for baby pics, and I didn't even realize it. So, in an effort to not disappoint - here's another one. I love this picture for two reasons. One - the kid's wearing a Batman outfit. That's for those of you reading this site in braille, and can't see the picture. Second - that's Kevin Smith's kid, Harley Quinn Smith. Yeah, that's right. The kid's name is Harley Quinn. After the Joker's girlfriend/stalker. Genius, I tell ya - the man's a genius. Maybe one day I'll be lucky enough to be married to a woman who'll let me name our offspring after a comic book villain. In the spirit of brevity (yeah, right - have you been to this site before?), and Craig Nash, (as Shane would say, in true Nashian style), here are a few bullet points regarding some things I'm looking forward to, starting with the least:

- Special Editions of all four previous Batman movies. (here's a website first--->) is reporting that the SE's are almost complete and will be released with commentaries by both directors (Tim "anybody that knows me knows I don't read comic books" Burton for the first 2, Joel "the franchise killer" Schumacher for the last 2). This should be good. Schumacher has a lot of explaining to do, and I for one can't wait to hear it. Warner Bros. gave him a budget to go ahead and re-cut the movie for the SE, but I don't think he can take enough footage out of that stinka. They are also reporting that the first one (read: the good one) is going to include a feature-length making-of documentary. One of the marketing options they are exploring is to issue all four films in a box-set that includes two tickets to the new BATMAN BEGINS flick, premiering on June 17th, 2005. HA. Just in time for my birthday, 2 days later.

- BATMAN BEGINS. Directed by Christopher Nolan, director of Memento. Christian Bale as Batman. Gary Oldman as Sgt. Jim Gordon. Ken Watanabe as Ra's Al Ghul. Cillian Murphy as the Scarecrow. Also starring Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Katie Holmes. Influenced by Frank Miller's Year One and Jeph Loeb's The Long Halloween, and supposedly the most faithful movie representation of the character ever. Dark. Pissed. Young. Solo. Realistic. Well, it freakin' well better be. Because another ridiculous mis-representation will kill the franchise for sure - and that might be more than my fragile psyche can stand. I'm gonna go all Arkham Asylum on somebody. Things are looking good, though. It seems D.C. and Warner Bros. are taking a page from the Marvel Comics school of moviemaking that (GASP!) says you should make the movies to reflect the actual comics they come from. Fanboys unite! Check it out at: and the official site .

- The Chronicles of Narnia: THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE. Gonna be a good one, I think. Same effects people who did The Lord Of The Rings trilogy - WETA. Check out the WETA featurette at . Also, check out the semi-official site at .

- Baseball - by Ken Burns. Not a lot of people know this... but my first real love in life was baseball. When I was barely able to walk, the men in my family started teaching me to hit, and to throw, and I instantly caught the fever. I was three years old when my sister was born, and after two weeks, I asked if we could send her back, because all she ever did was sleep, and she couldn't even play baseball. All I ever wanted to be when I was a kid was a pro ball player. Unfortunately, I was never very good. That didn't keep me from playing on city-league teams during elementary, Jr. High, and High School, though. Sometimes, nobody even came to my games. Sometimes I would walk, or ride my bike to games, and back home again. But I didn't care, because I always loved baseball. When I was in High School, I had a TV in my room, and would sneak it on when my folks thought I was long asleep. One night, I was flipping past PBS and got sucked in my a show they were playing about baseball. It was a documentary by this guy Ken Burns, who, unbeknownst to me, is the greatest documentarian ever. A distinction he has earned from me - just now. Never before would I have even thought of lingering on PBS, but that night I watched most of the entire 2 hours. The next night, I tuned in earlier, and caught the whole thing. Then again the next night and the next, until all nine episodes (innings - pretty clever, huh?) had played. Thus began my love of documentaries, and continued my love of Baseball. For years, I asked for the entire documentary on video, but never got it. Turns out it cost $150 bucks for the entire 9 volume set. Now they have it on DVD, and I finally found a set at Blockbuster Online. For the past month, they have been sending it to me, disc by disc, and I have devoured each one. I just finished Inning 8 this morning. Inning 9 should arrive in a day or so. Then comes the Extra Innings disc - an update that is new to the set. The whole "film" starts back in the 19th century with the legends concerning the invention of the game, and it's roots in American culture, and goes all the way through the 70's, and into the 80's. I can't describe how funny - i literally laugh out loud several times each disc; how moving - when I am not laughing out loud, I'm unable to hold back tears; and how inspiring this film is. Even if you're not into documentaries like I am; Even if you're not into baseball, like I am; you should check out this movie. Unless you're a freakin' pinko commie baby-killer. Seriously - this movie has immediately vaulted into my #1 favorite of all time. Jumped right over The Princess Bride, skipped past The Godfather, and pimp-slapped A Few Good Men to situate itself as the king of the hill in my movie queue. Watch it or die. Also check out his documentaries on Jazz, The Civil War, and The Old West.

By the way - can anybody guess which player that's a picture of?


Tuesday, January 11, 2005

2 things that bothered me, and 2 things that didn't bother me so much

1 thing that bothered me:

On Sunday, I had a Youth Council meeting. For those of you without a background in Youth Ministry - this is when youth ministers enlist a panel of actual teenagers to do part of their job for them, because teenagers will always know teenagers better than even a 20-year-old will. We do this by using them as a kind of focus group, and giving the illusion of power in the decision-making process, when really we just want to get them on our side, or blame bad decisions on them when the other students don't really go for it.

The idea behind this is to get the best of the best from the youth group for the Council - putting them, for better or worse, in the position of "Example for the other students". Anyway, the meetings at 5:30, Evening Worship is at 6:30. The meeting covered, among other things, the expectations for those who wish to have a position of service on the council, including church attendance. I don't think that's too much to ask of someone who's pursuing a position of responsibility that involves decision-making. I think you see where this is going. Of the 12 students that came to the meeting, FOUR OF THEM actually attended the church service. What the heck? I don't know what to do anymore. These same kids who are clamoring for a leadership position, complaining that we didn't have some kind of Youth Council, are skipping church after the first meeting! After church got out (at 7:15 - only 45 minutes later!) I called them all at home to tell them that they were losers. Get this - some of them weren't even at home. No excuses about homework, or their parents not letting them stay out - they weren't even at home! So I told the parents that their kids were losers. I hate being a youth minister.

The other thing that bothered me:

An open letter to the Louisiana State Trooper in the cruiser with License Plate # 464:

Dear Smokey, Po-po, the Heat, the Fuzz, Pigs, Bacon, Cops, Louisiana's Finest,

I'm not sure where you were headed on Sunday night at about 8 p.m., but I hope you made it safely. God knows that all of us jerks driving the speed limit in those two east-bound lanes of Coursey Boulevard didn't mean to get in your way. And I appreciated you using your turn signal when you filled up that one-car-length space in front of my car, and behind my girlfriend's, at 45 miles per hour. I was wondering (while you rode her bumper for a mile and a half, and then proceeded to pass her on the right, and speed up to nearly 60 mph in a 45 mph zone) why you didn't just turn on your lights and sirens to move everyone out of the way, if you were headed toward some official police emergency. I'm sure that in all the hustle and bustle, you probably just forgot, didn't you? Strange how you don't forget the lights and sirens, though, when you can't stand sitting at a red light with the rest of the citizenry. Just out of curiosity - who polices the police? Who makes sure they don't drive too fast when there's not an emergency? Who makes sure they don't commit the godless offense of speeding up at yellow lights? Who's in charge of counting one - one thousand, two - one thousand for the car in front of them? Just curious. Sunday night you came very close to hearing my horn, and my flashing bright lights until you yourself pulled over. I had a fantasy of walking up to your window and asking for your license and registration please, while I made show of walking around your car and giving it a very smug and official looking once-over. I wanted to ask you if you knew why I had pulled you over today - and without waiting for an answer, take your documents back to my car, and listen to the iPod for a few minutes, while you wondered, and were late for whatever appointment you had. I probably would have fulfilled my fantasy - except for the fact that now I have to hide from you, because I can't afford to fix some ridiculous little emissions thingamabob that is specific, not just to Louisiana, but to this particular part of south Louisiana, and therefore couldn't get my inspection sticker.

Oh- I don't mean to complain. After all, sir,... YOU are the one who needs the pay raise. Isn't that what you've been complaining about for the past 2 years? Isn't that what our new mayor promised you? Forget the fact that in Louisiana, people like me already pay an astronomical state income tax to support you - it's going to take a few more dollars an hour of our money to subsidize your failure to serve or protect anybody. Well, officer, take it from a guy who's been more than 3 years in the same position without a pay raise - It's probably best that the voters at large get to decide how much you make, because I wouldn't pay you a penny for the example you set on the road the other night.


LA JJM 028

Take a few moments... come down off of that... Okay. Ready.

1 thing that didn't bother me so much:

So in a cruel twist of fate, and a triumph of acheivement in spite of parenting, my own sister, Casey Thomas, is now serving as Children's Minister on the staff of the church where I serve. She and I haven't attended the same church since I was a senior in high school, and she was a freshman. Well, apparently, somewhere along the line, she picked up the art of sign language. Who knew! As I stood next to her in church recently, she proceeded to sign the words to every single song we sung. At first it annoyed me, because I was thinking that maybe she likes the attention. She is textbook drama queen, anyway. But the more I thought about it, and chastised myself for being concerned about somebody else's worship, I began to recognize it for something more beautiful.

I suppose that there is one sacrifice; one friend; one supreme act of selfless service; one mediator between God and men; one way; one truth; one life; one Alpha; one Omega; one Logos; one Creator, Sustainer, and Author of our faith; one lover of my soul; one image of the invisible God whose virtues cannot be extolled with the lips and voices of a multitude of individuals. No - it takes more than we can express, or ever will express. If all of our feeble offerings were a grain of sand, then His glory would be a universe of beaches. In this context - I suppose that if I encountered such a force in the universe, I would want to be armed with all the languages my lips and hands could muster to express a portion of what my heart yearns to say. What a beautiful way she interfaces with her Creator.

I'm not annoyed so much by it anymore.

The other thing that doesn't bother me so much:

Tommy Stewart sits on the very front row on the right side of the floor seats every Sunday morning. Actually, he doesn't sit on the row, because he's in a wheelchair. I'm not sure how old he is, 60's I'd guess, but he's the sweetest man you ever met. You can't walk by him, even if you're in the habit of trying not to make eye contact with handicapped folks. He has a smile that is magnetic, and a slurred "Good morning, brother!" that I have grown to look forward to. I don't know how long it's been since he walked.

This past Sunday, we sang the hymn Love Lifted Me. In my mind, it always conjures memories of the old Kenny Rogers version of that song that I used to hear riding with my parents. Kenny's version didn't have the spiritual significance of this one, and I have ruined many a worship service with it's very mention. Needless to say, I was distracted as I mouthed the words robotically. I looked over and saw Mr. Stewart singing, and pointing to himself right in the chest everytime we sang the word "me". Love lifted me (point), Love lifted me (point), when nothing else could help, Love lifted me (point). He didn't just point every now and then. He pointed every time. Right at himself. Right in the chest. At first it seemed cheesy. But then again - I'm kind of a lame Christian, so it took me a second to get to this point:

Funny how, when I'm in the car, I am very aware of the lyrical content and significance of the songs on the iPod, or the radio. Funny how, when I'm in church, I could be saying anything, and not know it. Sad, really. Maybe I'm the only one - but as I'm singing Love Lifted Me, I'm guilty of singing a different song altogether. I'm singing a song that goes: Love lifted some guy a hundred years ago that was so moved that he wrote a song about it, Love lifted some guy - you get the idea. Not Tommy Stewart, though. If I may be so bold - Here's a guy who knows a little something about being lifted. Because of his handicap, he gets lifted out of his chair and into the car; lifted onto the couch or chair at home; lifted on to the toilet; lifted into bed at night; and lifted back out of it the next morning. Somebody physically has to pick him up and lift him. And it can't be just anybody who would fool with 200 pounds of hairy old man. It's somebody who cares for and loves him, when he has absolutely nothing to contribute. Love, very literally, lifts him, over and over, all day, every day. He is singing a song about Tommy Stewart; written by the heart of Tommy Stewart; and told (once again) by the lips and hands of Tommy Stewart. He's singing a song that I may never know.

All my heart to Him I give, ever to him I'll cling, In His blessed presence live, ever His praises sing; Love so mighty and so true merits my soul's best songs; Faithful, loving service, too, to Him belongs. Love lifted me (point), Love lifted me (point), when nothing else could help, Love lifted me (point). Love lifted me (point), Love lifted me (point), when nothing else could help, Love lifted me (point).


Friday, January 7, 2005

Jump first - Fear later

Currently Reading
Dangerous Wonder (with Study Guide)
By Mike Yaconelli, Michael Yaconelli
see related

Yaconelli (rest in peace) has got me thinking. As you may have noticed, I am revisiting his book Dangerous Wonder: The Adventure of Childlike Faith. Today, as I sat having my lunch in the new Subway down the street - I came across an interesting passage in Chapter Three about rules. He tells of the adventure he and his two friends had building a "rocket ship" in his back yard as a kid. He says:

"I miss that summer very much. In all the years of my childhood, I was never as alive as I was during those weeks. Every day was vivid, electric, adventurous, invigorating, and exhilarating. Every nerve was standing on tiptoe, every sense was activated, every emotion was alive! My whole being was on call, on alert.

"In the summer of 1952, in the unlikely sanctuary of refrigerator and washing machine boxes, I was given my first taste of abandon, my first experience of giving myself over unrestrainedly to an idea larger than myself. God was gifting me, preparing me for that moment when I would bump into Jesus, and he would beckon me to come, abandon all else, and follow Him." (pp. 56)

Apparently the job of adults, parents, teachers, and ministers is to choke that life, that wildness, that sense of adventure out of children, and replace it with a tameness, a domestication, of sorts. They call it a sense of responsibility, a set of rules that all nice people live by, and for good measure - a fear of not living up to that standard. This is supposedly done for the greater good of the child, and society. After all - if a child doesn't know that there are rules that surround the living of life, he or she is likely to become un-rule-ly! Yac says:

"For many of us - the fear that protected us from dying when we were young, prohibits us from living now."

This reminds me of a story from my own childhood. My best friend down the street was named Marc. Of course, it didn't matter what he was named, because everybody, even his mother, called him Pee Wee. During the summer months, and after school times, Pee Wee and I were practically inseperable. In fact, we spent so much time together that we would inevitably start to hate each other, often to the point of fisticuffs. Or at least, that's what our folks would always say. Well, for the longest time, our most favoritest thing in the world was He-Man (you were wondering when he'd enter into the story, weren't you?). Every time I had 5 bucks it went toward an action figure. One year, I recieved Snake Mountain and Castle Greyskull for the same Christmas!! It was unheard of. Soon my He-Man collection would be rivaled only by that of... well - of Pee Wee's He-Man collection. No jealousy existed, however, because bigger collections just meant bigger, better, bloodier battle sequences on somebody's bed, bedroom floor, overturned garbage can, and chest of drawers. It took forever just to transport all of my He-Man tackle over to his house, but you should have seen the floors when we put our stuff together! Would choose sides - somebody always had to be Skeletor and the bad guys. Then we would begin setting up our world. This guy was going to hang by a grappling hook over here from the drawer-handle. This guy was going to be sitting on the throne in Castle Greyskull. This guy was going to be riding Battle-Cat. This chick can fly, but mostly she just leans up against this baseball over here. No water or slime on these guys over here because I just got 'em. We spent all day negotiating positions, plotlines, and parameters for the fun. By the time we had agreed, and made all the preparations for the battle, my mom would call. Game over. Come home. Time for dinner. The streetlights are coming on. It never failed that we took so long setting up, and quibbling over the rules, that we never actually got to the adventure before it was time to leave. Some days, a squabble over some nonsense would result in me leaving early, or not coming over at all.

I see a little bit of this in myself even today. Some people will spend all their days bickering over what the proper rules and parameters are for life - and never get around to actually living. Some people will spend all their time trying to decide how things should be that they will never allow themselves to be fully present in the way things are. Some people will actually concern themselves with whether or not people should wear hats in the building, instead of what's going on in the building itself. Some people will actually concern themselves with the number of beats per minute, instead of the beauty or the pain of the emotion being expressed by the song. Some people will argue about who can and cannot receive grace, instead of remembering that they themselves didn't even qualify in the first place.

And pretty soon, it's time to go home.

What adventure have I had? Have I allowed myself to be so domesticated, and bound up by rules and conventions that I have forgotten to just live, to be (with a nod to Rob Bell) fully present? Have I allowed the adults of this world to choke the childish spirit of abandon out of me? Do I have the discernment to know when to break the rules, and the courage to do so?

The ultimate rule-breaker, invites me to abandon all for the one who will never abandon me; To live deliberately, and follow Christ recklessly, wherever that leads; And to know the difference between substituting religious rules with my rules, and substituting religious rules with HIM.

Jump first. Fear later.

Monday, January 3, 2005

Another time 'round this ball 'o fun

Currently Playing
By Velvet Revolver
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Look, do I have to say "Happy New Year!", or even mention that we have crossed the threshhold of 2005, if I include a cute picture of a little nekkid baby wearing a silly hat? There. Done. Snarf.

How was your holiday? Mine was great. Among other things, I got a Nintendo chair, a new bookcase for my room, a cd/dvd/video rack for my office, the new U2 cd, and one of those lovelies right there on the left. That's right, a brand new 20 GB Apple iPod. So far I've loaded 792 songs (about half of my cd collection) and taken up exactly 2.92 GB of space. I can't imagine how I'll ever fill this thing up. It sure beats having to carry around all my cd's, though. I also got one of those super-cool things that broadcasts the iPod on my car's radio. It's like having my very own radio station that only plays songs that I like. Except I can skip them if I'm not in the mood. It is the ultimate in crass American instant gratification self-indulgent consumer materialism. I should be ashamed to say - I LOVE IT. But I'm not.

The coolest gift I gave was a Bonsai Tree, to my Dad. It fits him perfectly, and I had a blast finding it and picking it out. I bought it from a little Asian man with no fingers, from his van on the side of the road. I think he lives in the van. Anyway - I hope the tree doesn't die - because in my mind, that would be a bad omen. I also got Emily the Velvet Revolver cd, which I proceeded to immediately steal and rip onto my iPod. I must admit to getting a little misty-eyed when she said she wanted it. That's my girl....

My New Year's Resolution is to eat breakfast. Seriously. I haven't eaten breakfast at breakfast time since I was in High School. Eating breakfast, to me, implies getting up early enough to do so, which implies going to bed early enough to do so. I actually did eat breakfast this morning - an Instant Breakfast. I had donuts in Sunday School on Sunday Morning. I'm counting both.

So what's the coolest thing you gave for Christmas? What's the coolest thing you got? And what's your New Year's Resolution? Come on, folks, this is what comments, and that new chatterbox, are for. Spill yer guts. Share your feelings with the group. Don't edit yourself.

Shalom out.