Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Robot Apocalypse...

It's coming - nay - it is already upon us.
Exhibit A - THIS article on the mind-controlled Nintendo Wii, coming in 2010.
Doesn't anyone else see this for what it is? Sure, it's designed for you to control video games with your outgoing thoughts... but it's really just opening a door for the machines to gain control of our thoughts by sending signals IN! Resistance is futile! You will be assimilated!

Monday, December 29, 2008

File under miscellaneous...


- I got a B (81.5%) in my Church History II class. Better than I thought, although my final exam grade was nothing pretty. Still waiting to see what I got in my Hermeneutics class.

- I'm not reading Jesus Wants To Save Christians anymore, so I removed it from the left-hand column. I finished it a while back, and I don't really want to do a full-blown review of it here. Suffice it to say, Rob Bell is an amazing thinker/theologian, and a pretty good writer. The book was absolutely brilliant. Anybody who knows me knew I was going to say that. It doesn't make it any less true. If you still haven't gotten hip to the Rob Bell thing, I don't know what else I can do for you. Please accept my condolences at your willingness to continue living an unfulfilled and unexplained life.

- That last sentence was un-called-for. I apologize. But seriously - what's your deal?

- Abby and I celebrated our 2-year anniversary on December 23rd. We went to The Melting Pot, which is a cool little fondue place, where everything you eat is pretty much cooked in a pot right there on your table. You dip stuff in cheese, broth, and chocolate. It was REALLY tasty. Really cool atmosphere, too. I really have a thing for places where they don't cook your food in a kitchen. Places like the Melting Pot, and the Japanese hibachi grills. Especially the Japanese hibachi grill. To be honest, the Melting Pot was a little expensive for me. And the food was good, but it wasn't that good. It's kind of a racket, actually - but overall a good experience that I'm glad we had, and probably won't have again.

2 years is the cotton anniversary. So we actually went to the Mall of Louisiana and to Old Navy on the day after Christmas, gave each other an allowance, and got whatever we wanted. I got 2 pairs of jeans, a nice navy blue shirt and a cool snap-brim cap. Don't knock the hat. The hat's cool. Cooler than I expected, actually. And no - I'm not wearing it backward like Samuel L. Jackson, and TobyMac (please, please click on that TobyMac link).

- Abby and I saw The Curious Case of Benjamin Button at a pre-screening before it came out. Now that it's out, you really should avoid watching everything else until you see it. It's very, very good. Of course, I'm pretty sure Brad Pitt's my favorite actor (sorry Tom), and I'm quite sure that Cate Blanchett is Abby's, so don't confuse the bias in my tone. See it anyway. Despite my undying love for Brad and Cate - my favorite character in the movie was New Orleans. Man, she looked good!

- We also saw Valkyrie with my parents on Christmas Day. It was also very good. Not very, very good. But very good. As I sat down in the theater, it occurred to me that it was a movie about a plot to assassinate Hitler - a clearly UNsuccessful plot to assassinate Hitler. So how good could it be, right? It's still worth a look to see the ins and outs. Get this one from Netflix or your local redbox when it comes out - but don't watch it with a bunch of talky people. Wait until you can really pay attention.

- Our friends Jenny and Dylan are getting married on January 3rd. They have graciously asked me to perform their wedding, which I am very excited about. Normally when I perform a wedding, I just take the text of the last one I did, change the names, and recycle it. Don't look at me like that - that's what most ministers do. And the fact that you haven't realized that yet, tells me just how much attention people pay to that kind of thing, and makes my point. Actually, my real point here is that I'm not doing that this time. Because these are people I really care about, I am working on something new and unique for their ceremony, which is kind of fun to think about.

- My favorite CD of the past year was the self-titled Vampire Weekend CD. To me, VW is to music as Wes Anderson films are to movies. VW just reminds me of The Royal Tenenbaums, The Darjeeling Limited and Hotel Chevalier. I don't usually listen to or enjoy a lot of new music - so way to go VW for getting my attention this year!

- For Christmas I got quite a fair amount of money, gift cards for several eating establishments, an iTunes gift card, an LSU zipper fleece (very cool), some LSU moccasins (kind of weird, actually), a framed pastel drawing of Batman with the Bat-Signal in the background (also kind of weird, I guess, but very cool), a 2009 calendar of vintage LSU football posters and game-day program covers, and a bunch of edibles. Forgive me if I forgot anything, but if you'll pardon my saying so - that's EXACTLY one of the reasons we asked not be be given presents this Christmas. My sister did do something very cool, though. She donated money in our names to be used toward a water filter for an impoverished community in South America. Now THAT's what I'm talking about.

- Every time I leave my parents house headed back to my own, my mother tries to load me down with a bunch of my old childhood crap - most of which is garbage that nobody wants, and I can't believe she still has. This time I left with nostalgia GOLD - my old set of twin-size Return of the Jedi sheets, and my Return of the Jedi sleeping bag. Now, if I could just find a twin bed to put them on....

Friday, December 19, 2008

Fourthmeal - my little emo girl



Yes, Fourthmeal is a couple of guys from my youth group.
Yes, they are actually quite talented.
Yes, it appears they are the heirs-apparent to Nosferatu-tu.
No, you can't really understand all the words to this song.
It's probably better that way.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Art imitates life imitates art

From IMDB.com:
According to an article in The New York Times (29 October 2008), shortly after then-Illinois state senator Barack Obama spoke at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, "The West Wing" (1999) writer Eli Attie had several long telephone conversations with David Axelrod, a political consultant who was then working on Obama's U.S. Senate campaign. From those conversations, Attie modeled the character of Matthew Santos after Obama's political and personal life. Like Santos, Obama eventually won his race for the presidency. Likewise, according to an article in The Guardian (6 November 2008), the character of Josh Lyman was modeled after Rep. Rahm Emanuel; on the show, Lyman became President Santos' Chief of Staff, while Obama's first staffing announcement after his 2008 election was to name Emanuel as his Chief of Staff.
Next: John Goodman wins Congressional seat in Louisiana - elected Speaker of the House...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Verily I say unto thee - Nip it in the bud!

In the preparation/Background material for the small group curriculum we use here at the church, I came across an interesting comparison this afternoon. As I was preparing to give a short background talk tomorrow night, I read this:
On “The Andy Griffith Show,” Don Knotts played a small town deputy who constantly sought to prove his authority as “the law in these parts.” Because his job held very little authority in Mayberry, he relished every opportunity he got to investigate a crime or put someone behind bars. Trouble awaited anyone who tried to step between Deputy Barney Fife and his authority.
Although the Jewish religious leaders during the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry were not comical, they too felt the sting of a powerless position and relished every opportunity they had to prove their authority. The Roman government had come in and taken many freedoms away from the Jewish people, as well as most of the authority from the religious leaders.
The Romans considered religious matters petty and a waste of time. Only in this area did they step back and allow the Jewish people to govern themselves. Therefore, the Pharisees found themselves in a position similar to that of a small town deputy. Matters which the Roman government found inconsequential were monumental to them. They worked hard to maintain their authority among the Jewish people and held onto the little power they had with clenched fists.
That's right. First Century Jewish Religious Leaders = Deputy Barney Fife.
Interesting, no? I'm willing to bet you know people like this in your church, or office. People who have appointed themselves arbiters over meaningless things, because they have nothing really meaning-full in their lives. Please don't use my comments section to name names.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Dear Diary,

Today at Fall Retreat - 17 people threw up.
In my youth group, we call that a WIN.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

I want a hippopotamus for Christmas...

Abby and I finished all of our Christmas shopping the other night. We did it in about 10 minutes.
This year we bought all of our gifts from Heifer International. We purchased some chickens, some ducks, a goat, and some rabbits on behalf of our families. Everybody wins! No hippopotami, though. Sorry.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Unfunniest thing ever...

Comedy Driving School
I didn't think it was possible, but Comedy Driving School Defensive Driving successfully walks the fine line between being intriguing enough that you would choose it over another alternative, and still being so much of a beating that you want to do whatever it takes to never, ever, ever have to sit through it again.

It also manages the loosest definition of the word "comedy" I have ever encountered.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

It happens...

I'm sure this picture will probably get me added to some terrorist watch list, but let me say, for the record - I AM NOT A TERRORIST. I know - that's what all the terrorists say, right? You got me there. Well, maybe I am one (a t-word), in the sense that the above image, and the link that you're about to follow may inspire terror. By that rationale, I might also be called a Laughterist, or a Confusionist - because it is likely to move to you either or both of those.

Here's the story.
Apparently, in nativity scenes in certain parts of Europe, it is customary to include a figurine of someone defecating - usually in the back somewhere, "far away from the manger", for the children to find. The figures are called "caganers", literally "defecators". This link is to a Telegraph story which details a shop that sells caganers in the likeness of world leaders and sports celebrities.

ENJOY!

Man, I really wish I was teaching this weekend, instead of last weekend. You can bet this would have made my powerpoint slide show. Maybe as an illustration of how people are always adding crap to Christmas that doesn't belong there, and we need to get back to what it's really about. Yeah - that's good stuff. Feel free to use it if you're speaking anywhere in the near future, lol.

Monday, December 1, 2008

NYWC - The rest of it...

So yeah - I got so bogged down in actually attending the NYWC that I didn't have time to continue blogging about it. And since we left on Tuesday, I have rarely had internet access (we don't have it at the house) until now. Which is good - because a week's worth of perspective has allowed me to weed out all but the high points which included these:

- Robert Terrell asked what how I'd grade Shane Claiborne, Andrew Marin, and Tony Campolo on the "Bell Curve". I'd give Shane Claiborne a 50%, Andrew Marin a 60%, and Campolo a solid 75%.

- Mike Pilavachi was also a General Session speaker. He's funny and British, and talked about how Jesus did youth ministry. He retold the narrative of The Feeding of the Five Thousand, to emphasize how Jesus made room for his disciples to make mistakes as a way of teaching them. Freedom to fail breeds greater success, he said. For example - on one occasion, Jesus sent out the disciples for a little field work and they came back all bruised up. They remarked about how they tried to cast out some demons, but they just weren't able to. Jesus gently reminded them that "This kind only comes out by prayer and fasting...". And you can bet that the next time he sent them into the field, they remembered that part about the prayer and fasting. Pretty good stuff. All in all an interesting talk, but I suspect that Pilavachi wouldn't be so funny if he didn't have a British accent.
On the Bell Curve, Pilavachi gets a 65%.

- NYWC always has a massive convention hall, with booths set up for everything from coffee fundraisers (about 15), to youth camps (about 30), to t-shirt design and printing companies (about 100). And everybody's giving something away. Usually a some big prize like an iPod, or a Wii, or an AmEx gift card, or free tuition to their camp, that you have to sign up and give your information for. They also usually have a smaller little trinket that they're giving away, like an ugly T-shirt, a frisbee, a CD or DVD, free coffee samples, or more importantly - candy. I always enjoy walking through the hall to check out the different booths, but in general they are mostly useless to me. This year, however, the very last booth in the hall was the best I've ever seen. It was the Zondervan Publishing booth. Zondervan is actually the parent company of Youth Specialties, and the publisher of Jesus Wants To Save Christians, The Bible in 90 Days, NOOMA videos, and the new NIV Thinline pocket-sized Bible I got for 50% off. At their booth was one of the all-time coolest things I've ever seen.

Next fall, they are publishing a hand-written NIV version of the Bible. In order to accomplish this, they are doing a campaign called "Bible Across America" (which actually sounds far more lame than the actual campaign). They are taking an RV to 90 U.S. cities and allowing people to contribute a verse in their own handwriting, and publishing the results. At the Zondervan booth where we stopped, there were three light-boxes with big folio-sized pages on them. Each box had 2 pages on it. When you walk up, they hand you a card with the next verse on it, in order, and when it's your turn, you walk up and write your verse right where the last person left off. You write it twice, once on each page, just in case. This method will produce two folio-sized copies, each of which amount to a version of the entire Bible. One copy will be auctioned off for charity, the other will be housed in the Smithsonian. Abby and I contributed consecutive verses - 1 Kings 6:30 for me, and 31 for her. To tell the truth, even though it was only a single verse, it was a little bit of a nerve-wracking experience for me. I mean, this is something you want to get
exactly right, isn't it? Never again will I talk trash about scribal or copyist errors in translation. The guy at the lightbox next to me was translating from Samuel or Chronicles or something, and he had a verse with "LORD" in it. They made sure to tell him to write it in all caps. What they DIDN'T tell him was that after he did that, he's supposed to burn the pen, go down to the river, bathe himself, and change his clothes before he could do anything else. Regardless, a very cool experience, and I can't wait for the finished product. Of course 31,173 people are guaranteed to buy it, and I'm looking forward to checking out mine and Abz' contributions.

- The other most exciting booth for us was the Compassion International booth.
Abby and I adopted a boy named Mutinda Muteti Derick from Kenya. He has the same birthday as me, 24 years later. He lives with his father, stepmother and 3 other children. He likes soccer and playing with cars. He gathers firewood and cares for animals at home. He is an average student. He lives in an area of the world that is at high risk for HIV/AIDS.

- Near the end of the weekend, we attended 2 breakout sessions in a row by the same presenter, Crystal Kirgiss. I had never heard of her before, but we were instantly impressed and a little bit infatuated with her. She's brilliant. The 2 seminars she presented were,
From Youth Room to Dorm Room, about preparing students for college, and Hooking Up, Breaking Up, Making up, The Perils of Teen Sex and Dating. The former was really useful in helping me sort out the kinds of things I need to include in the curriculum for High School kids, so that they'll be prepared when they leave our ministry, and not come back later to tell me how I let them down, or lied to them, lol. In the latter, she articulated a "no exclusive dating" philosophy that really resonated with us. I know - I'm as surprised as you are. She referred to the process of modern "dating" as "Premarital Marriage". HA! I love that. And she referred to breaking up as "Premarital Divorce". Basically - marriage practice and divorce practice. Ouch. Being guilty on both counts, it's no wonder that her solutions seemed ultimately profound to me. My church is going to kill me or fire me, but I think I'm going to personally advocate just such a philosophy from here on out, and try to instill it in my own children *twinkle*.
On the Bell Curve - Crystal gets a whopping 95%!
She and Francis Chan are the BIG take-aways from this year's convention.

- One of the General Sessions we didn't make it to featured Francis Collins, National Director of the Human Genome Project. We bought the DVD, and I'm excited to hear what he had to say to a room full of preacher-boys.

- I have photos of the artwork from the other General Sessions, which I thought were pretty cool, and will post them when I get my camera back from the wife.

- Last Monday, after the last General Session was over, we walked down a few blocks from the Convention Center to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. We had lunch at a little cafe there that served the best meatloaf, grilled veggies and sweet tea I think I've ever had. We took the tour, which was supremely cool, and walked through the actual Hall... of fame. Then we bought souvenir T-shirts in the gift shop. Abby got this one in black:

And I got a cool grunge-looking shirt in black that says "Johnny Cash" on it. We were really tempted to get the Willie Nelson for President shirts that were on clearance.

- We got up on Tuesday morning and drove 16 hours straight back to Houston, picked up both dogs, plus one more, and felt normal but exhausted.

Friday, November 21, 2008

NYWC Nashville - Day 1

Day one started with General Session 1 at 1:00.
First up - Mercy Me.
Meh.
I don't really care about them all that much.
The highlight of their show was when Bart Millard said, "I know we're kind of known as the make you cry, funeral song guys, with I Can Only Imagine and Homesick. But what we'd really like to do is write a really upbeat song for a birth, or a graduation or something!"

Next up - Francis Chan.
I had never heard Francis Chan before.
Tell you what I'm gonna do. I'm going to initiate something here. A new little scale I'm going to call "The Bell Curve". Last time I came to Nashville for NYWC was the first time I ever heard Rob Bell speak. It was a life-altering experience. Literally. So, using Rob's NYWC rookie appearance as the standard (the 100%, if you will), I will grade General Session speakers accordingly.
That being said, Francis Chan gets an 88%. He was phenomenal. Worth the price of admission. He was so good, you wondered why they didn't save him for later in the week, when everybody has worn themselves out and decide they've seen enough General Session speakers, and that they'd be better served by playing Rock Band in the Exhibit Hall.
I am buying the DVD of Francis Chan, and showing it to everybody I can get to sit still for 30 minutes.

After that (if you can believe it) - Crowder.
What can you say about the David Crowder Band (DCB)? They're brilliant. Turntables, keytar, banjo, and that awesome Guitar Hero controller they rigged to play actual music. Not only are they a great band, but they put on the best stage show I think I've ever seen live. U2 is the best stage show on earth, but I've never seen them live - only live on video or at the movies.
I can't seem to get enough of the DCB. The Bell Curve isn't really intended for bands, but if it was, the DCB would get a 95%.
I shot a video of them on my camera singing Hank Williams Sr.'s I Saw The Light...


It was such a long day, I don't remember what Seminar I went to next, or if I even did. Plus who cares what seminar you went to when General Session 2 was next and it had not 1;
not 2;
but 3 speakers,
PLUS ANOTHER ROUND OF THE DCB!

DCB was brilliant AGAIN, and the speakers for Gen. Sess. 2 were:
Shane Claiborne, who talked about the need to live simply and have new eyes to see the poor, marginalized, and oppressed in our world.
Dude is a freak, looks like a cross between Shaggy, Rob Bell, and Predator, and cackles like somebody dropped a house on his sister.

Andrew Marin, a straight white dude who is living incarnationally in the Chicago neighborhood of Boys Town. He did a wonderful (if not a little self-serving) job convincing us of the need to reach out in love to the gay and lesbian community, and gave some compelling examples of redemptive work in the gay community that did not include trying to make gay people straight.
He also taught us that the word "homosexual" is offensive to gay and lesbian folks because basically it's too accurate a description of what they do, and that we should drop the word from our vocabularies.

and finally....
Tony Campolo - everybodys favorite crazy grandpa who happens to be a preacher/professor. Tony Campolo - who was tragically separated at birth from Lewis Black, who is clearly his twin.
It's funny that on Campolo's website, he's identified as "the positive prophet of red-letter Christianity", when his message to us was to go back and re-read Revelation 18 and 19, in light of the fact that America is Babylon the great. In fact, all dominant societies are Babylon, and are doomed to fall. He challenged us to decide to be, and to shape our students to be the type of people who are prepared to live not in Babylon, which is falling as we speak, but in the Kingdom of Heaven. Not the most positive message, but certainly very poignant, and thought provoking. Usually I shy away from those messages that compare America (or anything, really) to something in Revelation. But just YOU try it, and see what you think when you remember what's going on with our economy, and the economies of the world.

The official convention artist paints throughout the course of each General Session.
During today's Sessions, he painted the following paintings that are freaking brilliant:


That's enough for Day 1.
More on Francis Chan later... I'm still processing his talk, but I am certain I will have thoughts to discuss.
Next up, Day 3 - the laziest day so far.

NYWC Nashville - Prologue

Last time I went to National YouthWorker Convention - in Austin 2 years ago - I said I was going to be blogging from the convention. I lied. I posted once about seeing the David Crowder Band for the first time, and that was it. So here comes attempt #2 at blogging from the NYWC.

Abby and I are here in Nashville at the Millenium Maxwell House Hotel. It's currently 32 degrees outside (at about 11:00 a.m.), and last night it snowed while we were waiting for the shuttle back to the hotel. Yeah- it's freakin' cold. Jedidiah is going to make a fortune this week on beanie hats. I should open a little chap-stick (or lip-chap, if you prefer) stand and make a fortune.

At registration we got our complimentary Youth Specialties bags, which are very cool this year.

This Freeset Bag tells a story of one woman's journey to freedom. She used to stand with 6,000 other prostitutes in a small but well-known area of North Calcutta. She didn't choose her profession; it chose her. Poverty does that. It robs people of their dignity and children of their innocence.

She still lives in the same area, but instead of selling her body, she makes Freeset Bags. Now she has choices - the choice to work decent hours for decent pay, to reestablish her dignity in her community, and to learn to read and write. Now her daughter won't have to stand in the street selling her body like she did. Freedom has been passed on to the next generation.

It feels like it's made out of hemp or something, and they come in two colors, army green and khaki.

Some other shwag we picked up along our journey through the YS store...

There was a 40% off Bible sale going on yesterday only, and we picked up these sweet pocket sized NIV Thinlines, along with some other stuff.

Today we make our first real pass through the big scary Exhibit Hall, where I will register to win about a gazillion iPods, Wii's, free t-shirts and vacations. Also- I'll be handed a bunch of useless crap like that foam finger up there, which will likely end up in the garbage, and is probably not easily bio-degradable. C'est la vie.

The theme for this year is
Seriously Ridiculous.
The opening General Session is at 1:00 p.m. today. Francis Chan is speaking, David Crowder Band is leading worship and Mercy Me is performing. I'm really looking forward to this week.
More updates to follow.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Some kid actually asked "Hey, what's your favorite letter?"

So, yeah. Halloween 2008. Second Halloween since I married the costumier, which pretty much means my outfit can beat up your outfit. So this year, the Dread Pirate Thomas (check out chron.com, the Houston Chronicle website in the next couple of days), last year "Red Stick" Houston, the fastest gun EAST of the Missisippi.
Next year - who knows! But I'm betting it'll be something that calls for a beard, and a hat....

Fidel Castro perhaps? El Presidente!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Bar Stool Economics

Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100.
If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes,
it
would go something like this:

The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
The fifth would pay $1.
The sixth would pay $3.
The seventh would pay $7.
The eighth would pay $12.
The ninth would pay $18.
The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.

So, that's what they decided to do.
The ten men drank in the bar every day

and seemed quite happy with the arrangement,
until one day, the owner threw
them a curve.
'Since you are all such good customers,' he said,
'I'm
going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20.'
Drinks for the ten now cost just $80.

The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes
so the
first four men were unaffected.
They would still drink for free.
But what
about the other six men - the paying customers?
How could they divide the
$20 windfall so that everyone would get his 'fair share?'
They realized
that $20 divided by six is $3.33.
But if they subtracted
that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would
each end up being paid to drink his beer.
So, the bar owner suggested that it
would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount,
and he
proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

And so:

The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings).
The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33% savings).
The seventh now paid $5 instead of $7 (28% savings).
The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings).
The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings).
The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).

Each of the six was better off than before and the first four continued to
drink for free.
But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare

their savings.

'I only got a dollar out of the $20', declared the sixth man.
He pointed to the tenth man,' but he got $10!'

'Yeah, that's right', exclaimed the fifth man. 'I only saved a
dollar, too. It's unfair that he got ten times more than me!'

'That's true!!' shouted the seventh man. 'Why should he get $10
back when I got only two? The wealthy get all the breaks!'

'Wait a minute,' yelled the first four men in unison. 'We
didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!'

The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.
The next night the tenth
man didn't show up for drinks,
so the nine sat down and had beers without
him.
But when it came time to pay the bill they discovered something

important.
They didn't have enough money between all of them for even half

of the bill!

And that, boys and girls, journalists and college professors, is how our tax
system works.
The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from

a tax reduction.
Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they

just may not show up anymore.
In fact, they might start drinking overseas

where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.

Friday, October 24, 2008

October

October and the trees are stripped bare
Of all they wear.
What do I care?

October and kingdoms rise
And kingdoms fall
But you go on
And on.

-U2

Monday, October 13, 2008

Elementary!

I've spent most of today writing essay questions in preparation for my Church History mid-term exam tomorrow. My professor is Miles Mullin, unfortunate older brother of Shane Mullin, for those of you who know that guy. Professor Mullin gave us 4 potential essay questions, of which 3 will appear on the test, of which we must answer exactly 2. So - I don't have to prepare all four of them. But if I prepare 3 of them, and one of those does not appear on the exam, I'm golden. If I only prepare two of them, that's a gamble, because there's a chance that one out of two may not appear on the test. One is right out. So there's that. I've been doing that all day. Which lead to my search for distractions much of the afternoon. Which resulted in my stumbling across this news:

New pictures have surfaced of Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law portraying Sherlock Holmes and Dr. James Watson respectively, in a new film by Guy Ritchie. I've known about the film for some time, but hadn't seen pictures until today. Here's a taste:

You can click these to see more pictures.

Anyway - the people who know me best know that I have always loved the character Sherlock Holmes and have devoured every single story Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ever wrote about him. My fascination with Sherlock Holmes started at a very young age - elementary school, probably - when I was given a rather thick anthology of the Strand stories by an aunt of mine. In fact, my love for the character is what led, ultimately to my obsession with Batman - also known as "the Worlds Greatest Detective".

Anyway - I only bring it up to express a little disappointment in the way Downey looks as Holmes. Based on my reading of the stories, and the illustrations by Sidney Paget which accompanied Doyle's serials in The Strand, I always imagined Sherlock Holmes one of two ways. Either well-dressed in the style of the late 19th century, sometimes in a large overcoat and hat (not necessarily his signature deerstalker cap) - or in a dressing gown and robe, indulging in some questionable substances in the privacy of his own rooms at 221B Baker Street. Robert Downey Jr. looks like a cross between Charlie Chaplin and Oliver Twist. Maybe he's in one of Holmes' famous disguises (another trait Batman picks up), or maybe RDJ is just trying to get into character by wearing some period clothing. If you look at the other pictures, it's clear that his sneakers are NOT period. Neither is his coffee.

Either way - I think Robert Downey Jr. is a pretty amazing actor. And I like the look they've got going with Jude Law's Dr. Watson. I'm really excited about a Sherlock Holmes movie with these two, and I hope it will remain faithful to the source material. Apparently Amy Adams is playing Irene Adler in the film, too. I wonder if they have an awesome Moriarty. I recommend Michael Emerson who plays Benjamin Linus on LOST. Ben Linus uses the name Moriarty on one of his fake passports in the show. Also he's kind of amazing - in a scary, diabolical kind of way.

I am also aware of another Sherlock Holmes film in production at Columbia Pictures starring Sascha Baron Cohen as Holmes and Will Ferrell as Watson. It's supposedly written by Ethan Coen, and produced by Judd Apatow. I am confident that it will be a travesty and an unmitigated failure.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Fey or Palin?

You make the call!
Check out this quiz from the Chicago Tribune.
From a series of pictures, you have to pick which ones are Sarah Palin, and which ones are Tina Fey.
I got 90%! There's one that's pretty tricky.

(HT to ysmarko)

Forget the Mayan Calendar...

...the world's going to end on Sunday, November 23rd 2008.

Because that's the day Chinese Democracy by Guns 'N Roses is finally scheduled to drop.
A Sunday, not a Tuesday like usual, the release is going to be a Best Buy exclusive.

As for the promise by the Dr. Pepper company to give everyone in America a free can of the stuff if the album released at any time during 2008, Dr. Pepper VP of Marketing, Tony Jacobs said, "if the rumors are true, we're putting the Dr. Pepper on ice."
Check out the Billboard.com article here.

Abz and I will actually be at National Youthworker Convention in Nashville that day. I'm going to petition Marko to give the disc away as a prize (To me. For the idea), and have a listening party with free Dr. Pepper!

We should trade jobs...

From an interview on CNN.com,
Colbert, who lives in New Jersey with his wife and kids, also touched upon one of his hobbies: teaching Sunday school. He's done it in the past and hopes to again next year.

"The great thing about teaching Sunday school is that these kids ask questions that even in college we thought were so deep," he said. Examples: What's beyond time? What came before God?

Then again, he said, sometimes they're just asking to go to the bathroom.
"And I say no."

Things I Would Eliminate by J.T.

Why are there fingernail clippers AND toenail clippers. And why are the fingernail clippers so much smaller? And don't tell me it's because fingers are smaller than toes - my thumbnail is definitely bigger than all but two of my toes (and that's counting both feet). Also - we use the biggest one (toenail clippers) to cut the smallest nail (the piggy who went "wee-wee"). And don't tell me you're supposed to switch back and forth between the big ones and the little ones on the same foot. That's the height of inefficiency. Is there some weird Talmudic precedent for not mixing toe jam and.... finger... jam? Is it not kosher? Just today I cut my thumbnail with toenail clippers, and I don't care who knows.

So I propose the elimination of one or the other - most likely the fingernail ones, the little ones.
All in favor say "aye".

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Consume This:

There is a church not too far from us that recently added a $25 million addition to their building. Our local newspaper ran a front-page story not too long ago about a study revealing that one in five people in our city lives in poverty. This is a book about those two numbers.

It's a book about faith and fear,

wealth and war,

poverty, power, safety, terror,

Bibles, bombs, and homeland insecurity,

It's about empty empires and the truth that everybody's a priest, it's about oppression, occupation, and what happens when Christians support, animate and participate in the very things Jesus came to set people free from.

It's about what it means to be a part of the church of Jesus in a world where some people fly planes into buildings while others pick up groceries in Hummers.
Jesus Wants to Save Christians by Rob Bell and Don Golden.

Yom Kippur

Blow the trumpet in Zion,
declare a holy fast,
call a sacred assembly...
Joel 2:15

From the Yiddish play, The Dybbuk;
God's world is great and holy. The holiest land in the world is the land of Israel. In the land of Israel, the holiest city is Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, the holiest place is the temple, and in the Temple, the holiest spot was the Holy of Holies...

There are seventy peoples in the world. The holiest among these is the people of Israel. The holiest of the people of Israel is the tribe of Levi. In the tribe of Levi, the holiest are the priests. Among the priests, the holiest was the High Priest...

There are 354 days in the [lunar] year. Among these, the holidays are holy. Higher than these is the holiness of the Sabbath. Among Sabbaths, the holiest is the Day of Atonement, the Sabbath of Sabbaths...

There are seventy languages in the world. The holiest is Hebrew. Holier than all else in this language is the holy Torah, and in the Torah, the holiest part is the Ten Commandments. In the Ten Commandments, the holiest of all words is the name of God...

And once during the year, at a certain hour, these four supreme sanctities of the world were joined with one another. That was on the Day of Atonement, when the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies, and there utter the name of God. And because this hour was beyond measure holy and awesome, it was the time of the utmost peril, not only for the High Priest but for the whole of Israel. For if in this hour there had, God forbid, entered the mind of the High Priest a false or sinful thought, the entire world would have been destroyed.
(From Jewish Literacy by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin)

You'd think that it would just be common courtesy for them to inform - I don't know - the rest of civilization when they did this every year, just in case the world was destroyed one time.
Kind of reminds me of a few months ago when they finally fired up that Supercollider without really telling everyone it might result in a black hole that would basically destroy the fabric of our universe. Just a heads-up might have been nice.

Anyway, Baruch Ha-Shem!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

All growned up...

About 11 weeks ago, after considering some other options, Abby and I decided to stay in the house we had been renting for about 18 months. As a gift to ourselves, we decided to do something we probably could not have done if we had moved to any of the places we had been considering:
We adopted.

We had been talking about it for a while. In fact, Abz had been on me to adopt another puppy (we already have Pixy, a 4-year-old Lab/Pit) for quite a while - probably since we moved into the house. She felt like Pixy probably could stand to be a little better socialized. Besides, only-children get spoiled. So we did some research, looked at some rescue organizations, and what they had available, and went to a PetsMart up in Tomball where
S.A.F.E. House Rescue (Saving Animals From Euthanasia) was having a pet adoption fair.

There were a bunch of puppies there, including a brother and 2 sisters from the same litter. All three were from a litter that originally consisted of 6, but had lost 3 to Parvo. Because they were still getting shots to prevent Parvo, they told everyone that, even if adopted, none of those 3 puppies would go home with anybody until the shots were complete. At least a week or two. The boy and one of the girls was stark white, and the other sister was grey and white, like a wolf. We considered adopting the girl, Keelah, who was very popular that day, but in the end, we decided to go with the boy, who was far more laid back - like us. After talking to us, getting our application, seeing that we already had a good dog with a good home, and that Abz had a ton of experience with dogs, they decided to make an exception for us. So on July 12, 2008, we adopted an 11-week-old Lab/Husky puppy named Brewster. We brought him home, changed his name to Cash and instantly fell in love. Here he is that day:


(check him out at the S.A.F.E. House Rescue site!)

Here's a picture of him with Pixy, right after they met for the first time:
Part of the adoption fee with S.A.F.E. House included puppy training classes with The Pet Tutor, which we were very excited about. It took us a couple of weeks, but we finally got Cash enrolled, and wouldn't you know it - his sister Keelah was in the same class, which was kind of cool.

Well, here we are 6 weeks of Tuesday night classes (and 1 Hurricane Ike week off) later, and he is all growned up. Cash graduated from puppy school Tuesday night, and is about 22 weeks old now. Here's a picture of him recently:

How 'bout those ears? Like radar, man. More Husky than Lab every day. And he's gotten a little bit golden on the top of the head, and shoulders. I was never really a dog person, and definitely not a cat person. But I married a single dog-mom and became a convert. Now, I don't know what I'd do without those two. And Abby, too, I guess. Those three.

Happy Graduation, Cash-o-la!

Monday, September 22, 2008

No More Mr. Nice Guy...

Sheer Brilliance!!


Rev. Robert Terrell of Stevens Point Tapestry Church used this video in Tapestry's 2nd ever worship service this past week.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Periodic Table of Awesoments

(click to enlargify!)

Found this on a site I discovered (read: clicked through to from ysmarko). Check out this image in its natural habitat over at Dapperstache.com. Billy - you'll love how Bacon is #1, the foundational building block of awesome. I personally love the fact that Batman is #3.

The Lamentable Tale of Cosmonaut Nikolai Peckmann

In 1976, Cosmonaut Nikolai Peckmann was sent alone to an orbiting space station for what would be called Mission Six- to study the radiation levels and strange circumstances that killed all four crewmen of the last research mission.
By the third day, Peckmann's broken transmissions were coming back to ground control filled with increasing paranoia and delusion. He claimed that the spirits of the dead cosmonauts were coming to claim him, and that he had to keep moving to evade them. He shouted that if he could capture and consume these spirits himself while he still had strength, he could move to the next level of consciousness...Truly the rantings of an insane man.
Indeed, video recovered later would show Peckmann running around the confined but maze-like station, downing emergency sedatives like a madman....pausing in a corner momentarily, only to throw back vitamin pills and give chase to his invisible demons.
He had exhausted the entire cargo of vitamins, pills, and fresh fruit well ahead of schedule. There was no way another crew could be assembled to rescue him before he starved. After one rather violently garbled transmission, the static cleared and the last live image on record is that of Peckmann's empty, wilted spacesuit on the cabin floor.
It was determined that another mission to recover any remains or gather any more research would be a waste of the people's money, and the station was allowed to drift out of orbit and into space- a failure never to be mentioned again. It was ordered and assumed that all video and paper evidence had been destroyed.

..then, at the dawn of the eighties, a fledgling arcade game company called NAMCO would stumble across the transcripts of these events, and the rest -as they say- is history.

Okay, none of that is true. But you can buy the t-shirt and read the story here.

Monday, July 21, 2008

J.T.'s offical thoughts RE: The Dark Knight

Since when did they cast THIS GUY to play Batman??
Seriously - what the freaking heck is up with that stupid voice Christian Bale is using when he's wearing that outfit? That stupid black S.W.A.T. team outfit with the ridiculous helmet. You know the one. I refuse to acknowledge it as the Batman costume. Anyway - I noticed the stupid voice in Batman Begins, but with as few lines as the Batman character actually had in that film, I was largely able to look past it. This time? Ugh. You gotta be kidding me. It sounds ridiculous.

I just have this vision in my head of Batman standing on the roof of the GCPD with Commissioner Gordon and some cops from the MCU, and as soon as Batman speaks - their eyes grow very large, they all pause for a second, and then collapse into a pile of laughing law-enforcers.

I mean, all that was missing was for him to refer to himself in the third person, or as "me".
As in:
"Me know where Joker keeping Harvey and Rachel! Ommm-num-num-num..."
"Batman looove justice! Mmm-num-num-num!"

To be perfectly honest - I've never loved Christian Bale for the role in the first place.
Sure, he's better than West, Keaton, Kilmer, and Clooney - but being better than other guys that sucked still doesn't make you good.

So my official line about The Dark Knight is that I loved every single frame of it, except Batman.
He was the worst part about this Batman movie.
Thank God that every single other character is absolutely phenomenally rendered.
Every one.
Heath Ledger's supposed posthumous Oscar? Sure. Why not. I bet he'll get nominated, but I don't think he'll win. Summer movies don't win Academy Awards, no matter how good the performance.

I still think I need to see it one more time on a regular size screen to really form my opinion about whether or not it is a crime drama on the level of The Departed, or Heat. Just a note - IMAX might actually be TOO big.

So there you go.
Have you seen it?
What did you think?

Monday, May 26, 2008

And you can quote me on this...

I don't think it has ever occurred to me to rinse the remaining Cool-Whip out of the bowl.
Ever.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Twitter






Oh yeah, this just in - I'm twittering.
If you have any idea what twitter is, I'd love for you to follow.
My profile page is www.twitter.com/theboy1der.

Goin back to Cali

My pastor was invited to a by-invitation-only conference at Saddleback Church, here in Lake Forest, California (outside of L.A.). He could invite one person, and whaddya know, he invited me. So here I am in the sanctuary of Saddlback church listening to a Panel discussion on Worship. Panel discussions have been the highlight of this conference so far. Yesterday there were 3 of them covering Evangelism, Fellowship and Preaching. The Preaching one featured a couple of guys, including Tim Keller, Erwin McManus, and Kerry Shook, which made for a very interesting discussion. I had never heard of Tim Keller before, but he was really great during the discussion. Other than him, I just wanted the other guys to shut up and let Erwin McManus speak. He was amazing. My feedback form from yesterday read, simply, "More Erwin please."

Anyway - not much else I'm really looking forward to at this conference, except the panel on Discipleship at 3pm that has a bunch of guys and Mark Driscoll from Mars Hill in Seattle. The
other Mars Hill. Beyond that, I'm looking forward to dinner tonight at Pei Wei, and maybe getting back to the hotel in time for the American Idol finale (go Chikezie!).

The temperature here in the Saddleback valley is between 66 and 69 degrees. It's sunny, breezy, and the mountains look amazing. It's absolutely beautiful here. How could you not love it here*coughAbbyLeeThomascough* ?? No wonder people in L.A. are so thin and beautiful and happy. There's never any reason to go indoors and do things that make you fat and ugly and sad. Kind of like I'm doing now...

We're leaving the conference early tomorrow - before lunch - to catch our 2:30pm flight back to H-town. I'll have my camera out again as we go through the airport - on celebrity watch. No luck on the way in. Maybe on the way out I'll snap a shot of the back of Kevin Eubanks' head. If not, you'll just have to settle for Rick Warren, yo.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Camping Mocks The Homeless

Abby and I are going camping at Brazos Bend with our Young Adult small group tonight. I haven't been camping in a couple of years, but I'm pretty sure I have never been on a weekend when it was 90+ degrees outside. This is going to be the moistest, most soaking wet weekend ever.

Nevertheless, we are packing up our new tent, our citronella tiki torches, our hot dogs and buns, our pancake griddle, our bocce balls, our cards and dominoes, our sleeping bags and air mattresses, and our hiking shoes - and heading for the hills. Please pray against the spirit of mosquitos.

If we're not back on Sunday... send out a search party.

Frustratingly simple

This is a great little mind-bender of a game. Each board has the same objective - find the star. How you do that changes each time with no directions, you just have to figure it out.

Over the course of the last 2 days - I was able to get them all. Give it a try! You'll hate yourself until you figure it out - then you'll think you are the smartest person you know. Which, in my case, is actually true.

(HT to ysmarko for the link)

Ordered!


(Click to go there!)

Thursday, May 8, 2008

A Long Way Down

A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby: Pretty interesting read, but not as interesting as How To Be Good. Less.... what's the word.... altruistic? - to be sure, and with a fair amount more profanity, which I'm not sure I'm quite used to in my books just yet. Which is weird because I hardly even notice it in movies or real life anymore.

It's the story of four very different individuals who encounter each other in the midst of a suicide attempt. Several of them have good reasons... several of them don't. What happens in the aftermath of their meeting, and subsequent non-death, is told from each of their perspectives and voices, which is what makes the story most interesting. No chapters in this book, just alternating voices, which was kind of cool. Overall, I'd give this book a C. It's entertaining, but not the kind of thing I didn't want to put down, or couldn't wait to pick back up. It actually suffered because of my recent Bible-readings, if you can believe it. If you like Nick Hornby, or have nothing else to read, then pick it up. If there's something else you can get excited about, walk on by this one.

For Billy...

... who will one day grow tired of me thinking about him whenever I see something Zombie-related.
(ripped cleanly from indexed.blogspot.com, which is a really funny site you should totally check out.)

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Did he just?!.... Nahhh.....

Okay, listen up, and listen close because I'm only going to say this once.
Iron Man is the greatest superhero movie ever made.
So far.
Discuss.

Day Whatever - Exodus and Leviticus

Yeah - whatever. I know I'm way behind in reading, and even further behind in posting. Sue me.

I'll say this about Exodus: It is even more epic in scope than Genesis - for about 20 chapters. After the giving of the Ten Commandments, it's all downhill. Regulations, dimensions of the tabernacle, blueprints for the Ark of the Covenant, and on and on and on. Where were they getting all those skins of sea-cows (that is; dugongs) to cover everything with?
Since the story of the Exodus is probably one of the most well-known in all of history, I won't belabor the point with copious notes on what the plagues mean, or the story about Moses and Zipporah's wacky incident with their son's foreskin (see a pattern emerging here?). What I will say is this:
I LOVE
PRINCE OF EGYPT. Love it. You should watch it again.

Sooo - Leviticus.
Not much to say about Leviticus except this: God is thorough. Every legal eventuality is covered here. No Israelite could ever ask, "Yeah, but what if..." Nope. It's in there. Also - the rule about rules is that they probably wouldn't have to be made if somebody hadn't been guilty of whatever it is they are ruling against in the first place. In other words - chances are SOMEBODY in the camp was lying with man as one lies with a woman. SOMEBODY in the camp was offering their children to Molech (the god who causes children to pass through the fire). SOMEBODY was having sexual relations with an animal. And I'm sure everybody knew who it was, too. Well congratulations, buddy! You've got a verse in Leviticus with your name on it. You're practically famous... except it's for bestiality.

Anyway - the coolest thing ever about Leviticus is the Year of Jubilee. Every 50th year, all debts are forgiven, all slaves are freed, and all land that was bought or sold reverts back to its original owner. And do you know why? Because land belongs to the LORD, and you are just aliens and tenants in it, that's why, sucka.
There's also a thing called the sabbath YEAR. For six years you are to work the ground of your field, but in the seventh year you gotta leave it alone. No plowing, planting, or harvesting. God promises to give you enough in year six for three years - just in case. Even
the earth gets a sabbath! Preach!

Any reading of Jewish laws is bound to scandalize the aspiring feminist or abolitionist. But when studied in the historical context, these laws are often huge jumps in women's rights from the existing culture. For example - Israelites are instructed that anytime they rape a woman, or seduce a virgin, they must pay the "bride-price" for her, and bring her into their house. Of course, this isn't much of a curve, but it's an upward curve nonetheless in the treatment of women in ancient cultures. It's a curve that continues well into the New Testament, and, I would say, today. A similar curve exists, I think regarding slavery - although it is much slower than that regarding women. Others have pointed out that it seems like no such moral curve exists in scripture when it comes to sexuality.

Lastly- what the bleep is a "wave offering"? That's gotta be one of the most hilarious things I've ever read. Never heard of it before now. Thanks a lot preachers and seminary professors!

Friday, April 25, 2008

A World Without Rules...

Whew! I haven't been following all of the viral marketing for the Dark Knight movie, and believe me there has been a TON of it, but this is the latest reveal from whysoserious.com.
It's not as impressive to me as some of the others have been. In fact, this one just screams out to me - "That head-piece looks nothing like the comics!" Other than that, it's pretty cool. I'm pretty excited about all the movies coming up this year. Besides this there's Iron Man, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Incredible Hulk, Prince Caspian, Star Trek, Speed Racer, 007 - Quantum of Solace, Wanted, Hancock, Get Smart, and The X-Files 2: I Want To Believe!!! It's going to be a busy one. Abz and I are going to kick it off by going to see Baby Mama this weekend. I shore am a sucker for some Tina Fey.

Days 3 and 4 - Genesis 28:20-40:11 and 40:12-50:26

What an epic two days! The story of Jacob and Joseph is the stuff movies are made from! It's a brilliant bronze-age tale. It's got everything - trickeration, sexytime, war, famine, infighting, work, love, separation and reconciliation - but it won't let us forget how primitive these people and times were. I'm trying to cut down on the notes, but keep in mind this is two days worth.
Now - new and improved with links to the described passages at Biblegateway.com!

Chapter 29
- My old Hebrew professor told us that "Leah" means "cow". Awesome!

Chapters 30 & 31
- I love how they gave their children names that meant something about the circumstances surrounding their birth. I wish more people did this today - but I'm afraid if they did the most common name of 2008 would end up being Whoops!, or VanHalenTourMilwaukee. Incidentally, the most commonly given boys' name for 2006 (the last year on record) was Jacob. So how 'bout that.

- See, now this is why polygamy is a problem.

Chapter 32
- See, now the story of Jacob wrestling with the angel is absolutely one of the coolest things ever. It says so much about the journey of Jacob's life, and who he has become. When we first meet Jacob, the "heel-snatcher", the "trickster", he lives up to his name. The first time we see him posed with the question "Who are you?" (by his father, Isaac, when he steals his brother's blessing), he pretends to be someone else. Not comfortable in his own skin, or playing his own role - not content with the station allotted to him in life - he denies being Jacob at all.

Since then he has fled for his life from Esau, encountered God at Bethel, worked for years on Laban's farm, married the wrong woman, then the right one, had a multitude of sons, and brokered a deal with Laban to make himself rich. He has undergone quite a maturing process. Now, when asked, "Who are you?" or "What is your name?" he is finally ready to respond, "Jacob". And no sooner has he done so, but God changes his name to Israel.

Chapter 34
- Not a ton of notes on this Chapter, but I did find it sadly hilarious what Jacob's sons did to the man who raped their sister, and then asked to pleasepleaseplease marry her.
"I tell you what. Why don't you and all of your men have this primitive genital mutilation ritual performed on yourselves - and then we'll talk."
2 days later, they're all limping and sore...
"Okay guys... we did what you asked! (ouch) Now can I marry your si-SLICECUTKILLDIE!
Awesome.

Chapter 38
- Ahh, the famous prooftext on masturbation.
For the record - Onan was struck dead for not producing and heir with his dead brother's wife like he was supposed to, not for "spilling his semen on the ground".

Chapters 40 &41
- Ahhh, Joseph - the fresh-faced little spoiled brat of Jacob's brood. Told all 10 of his older brothers about a dream he had where they would all bow down to him. It's what got him sold off to Egypt in the first place. Now, here he using his dream-interpreting skills to get out of jail, and find favor with Pharoah. Vindicated!

Chapters 42-44
- Joseph must have been absolutely relishing this opportunity to mess with his brothers, after what he had done to him. Didn't he have the right to be angry? I think his point of view on the whole incident was really interesting. What they intended for ill, God intended for good, therefore they didn't send him to Egypt - God did. What an interesting insight for all of us when our circumstances seem to take a turn for the worse.

Chapter 45
- I would really like to have been a scarab beetle on the palace wall for Joseph's big reveal.

- Don't do it boys! 400 years of oppression! Bricks without straw! Bricks without straaaawwwwww.....

That's it for Genesis.
Exodus tomorrow.