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.


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.