Thursday, June 29, 2006

Superman Disappoints

Superman ReturnsJust Watched:
Superman Returns
Rating: 2½ Stars

What is art if it isn't more than mere entertainment? This is the question I struggle with after watching this most recent installment that chronicles the superheroic feats of The Man of Steel.

From the perspective of mere amusement, Superman Returns is a fine film. There is nothing to complain about with the acting. Brandon Routh is Superman, and he is Clark Kent. The music is outstanding; there is just something about that Superman theme that really throttles your passions to an almost fever pitch. It's right up there with the themes from movies like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Back to the Future. They really couldn't go wrong there. The filmography is fantastic, especially in the scenes where Superman saves an airplane from plummeting to certain destruction. And the drama is fairly well orchestrated, though the ending could have been more fulfilling.

But what is this art of film if it is only entertainment? Does it need to be more than mere entertainment? Should it have a message?

At least one person thinks not. A User Review on IMDB from "crobarj1" ends this way:

Ultimately, I loved this film. It's a great story well told. It doesn't need to be anything else.

"It doesn't need to be anything else." What are stories if they don't tell us something about ourselves? What are stories if they don't grapple with real-life issues and address, in some fashion, the human condition? What are stories if all they do is capture & hold our attention for several hours: nothing more, nothing less?

My favorite films are my favorites because they do indeed speak a message to the world, and/or they hold kernels of truth. The Shawshank Redemption speaks about hope & persistence in the face of evil, hatred, and cynicism. Field of Dreams portrays the fractured relationship between a father & a son, and their glorious reunion, all the while admiring a grand old game. It speaks about opening your mind to see possibilities that somehow seem unreachable. Swingers speaks to the struggle & ultimate fulfillment of romantic relationships, all the while portraying a brotherhood that picks one another up when they're down. And if you've watched Dead Poet's Society and didn't catch that theme ... well ... God bless you. Carpe Diem. Seize the Day.

Good movies have themes that dominate & leave you with an important message. The installments of Spiderman grapple with Peter Parker's grandfather's words: "With Great Power comes Great Responsibility." Batman Begins spoke about a prodigal son returning to fulfill his purpose. Cinderella Man embodies a period & a culture where people had to scratch, claw, and, in Jim Braddock's case, literally fight their way out of the hole. These are the movies that have bite. They mean something. They stand for something.

What does Superman Returns stand for? Box office revenue? I'm sorry, but I'm left wanting.

Perhaps the only storyline that comes close to being the theme is the idea that Lois struggles with of whether or not the world needs a Savior. She wins a Pulitzer for writing an article about why the world does not, but by the end of the movie she is brought around to the other side of the argument. And we find her, toward the end, staring at a computer screen that is blank white except for the heading, "Why the World Needs Superman." But it feels more like side-story than a theme. It isn't woven throughout. And then there's the kind-of-creepy voiceover of fatherly wisdom from Superman's own father through different parts of the film, which is repeated in part by Superman toward the end of the film. But what is that all about? A theme is a theme, not a three points and a poem. And ultimately, this is where Superman Returns misses it. It's a harsh view, to be sure, but out of Superman I suppose I expected much more.

Superman is Americana. So perhaps it is fitting that a movie about him would have more fluff and less depth. Is that too cynical a view of America? I'm not sure. But you know, life does imitate art. Or is it the other way around? Or does this movie even qualify to be called art? Perhaps "almost-art" is more fitting. Nevertheless, this piece of almost-art left me hoping for a message that never came. And because of that, I contend that this movie did only half of what it could have accomplished.

Two and a Half stars, out of Five.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Good Life

  • I love Pedro Martinez. He won 2 Cy Young's & helped bring a World Series to Boston. And in his prime, it was amazing to see a pitcher so small with such amazing velocity & life on his fastball. And that is part of the luster: he's so small, but he's like one of those tiny dogs who will stand up to any other big dog on the block. On the former Curse of the Bambino, Pedro said, "Wake up the, Bambino. I'll drill him in the ass!." And that was his attitude toward every opponent. Tonight he returned to Fenway, and Boston's past & future were on display. "Petey" got lit up, lasting only 3 innings. But young fireballer Josh Beckett controlled this game. The thing I love about him is that the bigger the moment is, the more he rises to the occassion. To him, this wasn't gonna be Pedro's night. This was gonna be the night the baton was passed. Just like Yankees have to "earn their stripes," I'd say that Beckett "earned his Socks" tonight.

  • Church was freaking awesome tonight. Some of the guys in class are really starting to take the sexual purity thing seriously. I can tell by their reactions that some of the others haven't caught the purity fever yet, and hopefully they are seeing the excitement & hope as expressed by the guys who have caught on. And the more excited they get, the more excited C.I. & I get. After class, some of the fellowship was just really uplifting. I'm gonna start walking down the wing with the Kid's Classes more often, because all those kids still love me from VBS. I love getting their hugs & giving them back. Then I talked to F.M., my "Christian pot-smoking" buddy. We both love to read theology & reflect on some of the deeper elements of faith. And a lot of those kinds of conversations we imagine sound like the conversations people have when smoking doobies, even though neither of us have ever tried an illegal substance. Next Wednesday, we're gonna meet together and talk about some of the things we've been reading. I'm stoked about that.

  • Had a little natural high this afternoon. I got together with another brother in Christ today & we spent just over 4 hours putting together a Bible Class & hob-nobbing about life. There's nothing like Christian friends, I'm telling you. I'm excited because I ran into another brother before Bible Class, and between this brother & the one I spent time with this afternoon we're gonna start a little brotherhood fellowship group. Call it accountability. Call it prayer partners. I call it my band of brothers.
Red Sox have won 11 in a row. My spirituality is on a little high. I've got my band of brothers. Life is good.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

15 Shekels of Silver and a Homer and a Half of Barley

I've quickly taken to this practice of blogging. It's fun to write my thoughts on any given subject under the sun. And it's also therapeutic for me. I'm one of those kinds of people who will hold in & hold in thoughts and feelings (good and bad) until I'm full and then it explodes. This has helped me get them out on a regular basis.

In Bible Class Sunday, I briefly told the story of Hosea. Only one man, a preacher himself, actually knew the story himself. I had to smile and preface the story by saying, "You're going think I'm making this up, but every word I'm about to tell you is true."

I first heard of this story from my friend Matthew. My first impression when I met Matthew was that he was a Minor Prophets junky -- he loved to point out in Bible class how whatever we were talking about related to Hosea, or Micha, or some other book that we Christians pay lend no attention to. So I heard of it, but didn't pay it much mind.

I then heard more about it from Birmingham, AL preacher named Wayne Kilpatrick. My interest was stirred. I then heard about a novel that was an embellishment & modernization of the story. It was called Redeeming Love, and it was written by Francine Rivers. I'll warn you now: you will never pick up a more addictive book. You won't hardly be able to set it down except for when your drooping eyelids force it upon you. My studies suffered for a couple weeks because I was reading this instead of my assignments. Careful! :)

My appreciation for this story has grown over the last several years. Different folks find different parts of the story fascinating, and each person has a favorite part of the story. Some folks love the faith of Hosea to take on Gomer as his wife in the first place -- knowing full well her background and her lifestyle, but trusting that God had something big in mind. Others are drawn to the lovely poetry in Hosea 11, where God struggles with what he should do with his beloved Israel.

My favorite part? It happens in chapter three. Gomer has had three children, none of them by Hosea. And she's gone back to prostitution; God's sick little experiment appears to have run it's course. But then there is the scene described in chapter 3. Gomer is on the auction block, and Hosea shows up. Who knows what's running through his mind. As the first bids come in, I can only wonder about the passions that were stirred within him: for his wife & against the other men who would sleep with his wife. And then the incredible happens. Hosea enters the bidding. And he enters the highest bid, winning his wife for 15 shekels of silver and a homer and a half of barley.

I sometimes wonder how a secular therapist might label a modern-day scenario like this. Unworkable. Dysfunctional. Unhealthy. And yet this is what God calls love. When anyone else would give up, God reaches that much further to pluck His beloved from hopelessness. The totality of His grace is always "A Little More" than the sum of our sin.

Saturday, June 24, 2006



I just watched David Ortiz hit another game-winning hit -- a 2-run homer to dead center in the bottom of the 10th. It didn't matter that Tom Gordon had just thrown two filthy, biting sliders that made Ortiz look like a Little Leaguer trying to check his swing. With two strikes, the centerfield cam zoomed in on Big Papi, and I swear he had that look in his eye. When I saw that look, I got giddy. Then Gordon hung a breaking ball just enough, Papi stayed back, put the bat on it, and drove it out of the park. And then Fenway went into a frenzy.

The man is simply unbelievable. In the history of baseball, is there anyone else you would choose to have at the plate with the game on the line other than this guy? I can't think of anyone. It's like being the Bulls fan in the '90s when you know that if you can get the ball to Jordan he can sink the game winner. Or being a Pats fan and knowing that if you can get the ball into field goal territory, Adam Vinatieri can drill that field goal.

How do I love this big lug? Let me count the ways.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Random Baseball Thoughts

The Hills Have EyesJust Watched:
The Hills Have Eyess
2 Stars

If you've seen the commercials, you know that this movie looks FREAKY. Not just scary ... freaky. After watching, I was disappointed. Over half the deaths happen in a matter of minutes, are not drawn out, and are disturbingly brutal. You may say, "It's a horror movie, what do you expect?" But in the midst of this scene, a woman is raped, an infant is tortured, and a pregnant woman is shot in the stomach. I found it distasteful. The movie then becomes predictable, and the people I watched it with got bored & we entertained ourselves by making our own "Mystery Science Theater 3000"-like commentary.

All in all, if you want to waste $4 and 2 hours, go out & rent The Hills Have Eyes.

Here's some of my random thoughts on baseball:

  • Red Sox Red Hot. After being swept by the Minnesota Twins, the Red Sox have won 7 in a row. Manny's got his swing going, the front office is having Yankee-like luck in filling the holes in the pitching rotation, and the defense is the best in the bigs (99.1% pct.). And I love their pitching youth movement with Jon Papelbon (future starter), Manny Delcarmen (bullpen), Jon Lester (starter), and Craig Hansen (future closer). And when you consider that there is also a 26 year-old World Series MVP (Josh Beckett) in the mix, and the Sox look to have some of the best young arms in the majors. Theo Epstein over-rated? I don't think so.

  • Braves Not. Atlanta won tonight, gracefully snapping a 10 game losing streak. They have lost 18 of their last 21. It's sad to see this run come to an end like this. Three names are being tossed around as trade bait: John Smoltz, Andruw Jones, & Chipper Jones. The most attractive of these names is probably Smoltz, given his postseason record & that he's got the cheapest contract among these guys. Unless they get A-level pitching prospect or a proven young starter (e.g. Ervin Santana) in return, this would be a huge mistake. Smoltz has an $8 million option for 2007, which is a great deal for a pitcher of Smoltz's caliber. Andruw or Chipper would make more sense. Andruw makes 17% of Atlanta's payroll. However, there is no forseeable replacement. That's why I'd like to see the Braves move Chipper. He's aging, has a hard time staying healthy, makes just less than Andruw, and has a young backup who could produce almost as well as he does in Wilson Betemit. I'm guessing that none of the three gets moved, however, and that the Braves work to overhaul their bullpen & come back strong in '07.

  • Marlins vs. Yankees payroll. An interesting matchup this weekend in the Bronx. New York puts their $210 million payroll (largest in the bigs) up against Florida's $17 million payroll (smallest in the bigs). Yanks won the opener, 6-5.

  • All-Star Voting. Something needs to be done about our All-Star Voting system. Of the 8 starters on the AL team, 6 of the current voting leaders are Red Sox or Yankees. And it's close to 7 of 8, with Johnny Damon almost in the top 3 OF vote-getters. Jason Varitek is floundering as Joe Mauer leads the league in hitting, but it looks like 'Tek will start the big game. Chone Figgins has 26 steals & Ty Wigginton has 13 homeruns, but it looks like Robinson Cano and Mark Loretta will battle it out for starter. Come on, people -- variety is the spice of life.

  • Ozzie-fest. Other than his frequent use of profanity, I love Ozzie Guillen. I love that he is totally anti-PC. And if anyone deserved being called a "fag," it is Jay Mariotti. Lots of folks are hating on Ozzie lately, but I wish they wouldn't. We criticize atheletes & sports personalities when they reveal too little of themselves & their feelings (e.g. A-Rod), and then we criticize them when they reveal too much (e.g. Ozzie, Curt Schilling, et. al.). I love the guys who speak their mind -- a breath of anti-PC air!

  • Gammons pimping the Mobile ESPN phone. A friend of mine recently recommended that ESPN Baseball personality Peter Gammons should be Baseball's Commissioner. Often, I'd agree. But lately, my least favorite commerical on television involves Gammons. I hate how ESPN has been hawking their ESPN Mobile cell phone & service at nearly every commercial break. And now, they have Gammons pimping the product. Apparently, even he has a price.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

On the Exploitation of Sports

I just did some blog surfing, and I stumbled across the blog of distinguished Christian scholar, Ben Witherington III. Added him to my "Other Links" section on the left column of this blog. His recent entry about which he wrote about Rick Warren being a Model of Faith is well worth a read. I too have my critiques of Warren -- most especially the way he uses (or rather, MIS-uses) Scripture. But he's a phenomenal example of Christ in the world today & I'm happy to see an intellectual elite recognize him as such.

It also appears that Big Ben is a big movie afficionado. I'm glad to find a theologian who looks at movies as a way to take the pulse of contemporary culture & as a conveyer of ideas and truth.


Today's sports entertainment business has grown into a monster. It's beyond a machine. If it were only that, it would merely be a mechanized tool that facilitates our enjoyment of sports or helps us more productively or efficiently follow sports. No, the sports entertainment business is beyond a machine. It is a resource-consuming monster, out to devour every shred of it's customer's time & money it can possibly get it's grubby fingers on. It is a competitive world where different networks vie for fans' attention through any & every medium possible.

Used to be that sports was something people engaged in for recreation. Somewhere along the line, as the competition of these recreational games increased, people began to recognize the greatness of some athletes over others. Lines began to be drawn between professionals and amateurs, and all of a sudden people became willing to pay money to watch someone else play these recreational activities. And thus born was the sports fan. And from that point, it did not take long for smart capitalists to turn sports into an industry & learn how to exploit people's money.

It's a fascinating evolution from recreation to monster. And nowadays, there seems to be no limit to the exploitation of athletics. From newspapers to radio to books to magazines to television to internet to cellphones, the sports entertainment industry will use any medium they can possibly manipulate to make a buck.

Part of me loves it. Part of me loved turning on the radio Sunday evening & Monday to listen to the radio hosts talk about the collapses of Colin Mongomerie & Phil Mickelson at Winged Foot. I've listened to some of them so much that I've come to almost regard them as friends. I have an inkling of what they will think & say, and so I'm that much more interested. I enjoy reading what my favorite writers will write. I enjoy watching Kornheiser & Wilbon yelling at each other when they will discuss this topic.

However, I've come to notice how the monster rears it's head in less tasteful & enjoying ways. Some radio hosts took strange angles to keep listeners tuned in & people calling the station. One guy said everyone loves Mickelson only because he's fat. Others were insistent that what happened to Mickelson was not a choke, of course prompting phone call after phone call to try to set the host straight. Still others were comparing Mickelson's choke with the great golf chokes of all time (Palmer at the '66 U.S. Open, Norman at the '96 Masters, Van de Velde at the '99 British) and were taking the "inarguable position" that Phil's choke was the greatest of all of time. This is the tactic that I observe is used most often. It does 2 things: (1) makes people want to call in and argue, & (2) makes people think that this is such a ground-breaking subject that they must listen to the host's every word as he and his callers dissect every angle of this "greatest" or "worst" sports moment "of all time." It seemed like the hosts were less trying to capture the the main issues of the sports world and were more trying to take the most absurd angle so that they might inflate their show's ratings. Bill Simmons touched on this phenomenon in an article he wrote following Boston's victory in Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS (a.k.a. the Schilling Bloody Sock game):

"Over the next few days, everyone will make a big deal about Schilling's Game Six, only some for the right reasons. We live in a sports world where every good moment gets beaten into the ground. It isn't enough for something to happen anymore. You have to vote. You have to watch two guys screaming on a split-screen. You have to read 400 columns about it, then columns by people reviewing those columns. You have to hear sports radio hosts screaming, and once the subject becomes exhausted, one of them takes a crazy angle on the topic just to keep the phone lines ringing for another few hours. It keeps going and going, a vicious little snowball. When it runs out of steam, something else replaces it and the whole cyce starts all over again."

There's no way Mickelson's choke was worse than any of the three mentioned above. Palmer had a 7 stroke lead with 9 holes to play & a 4 stroke lead with 4 to play. When he went to a playoff, he was up 2 after nine and ended up losing by 9. Van de Velde needed just a double bogey to win. You thought Mickelson's 18th was bad? Try multiplying that by 18, and then you get what it was like to watch Greg Norman lose to Nick Faldo at Augusta in 1996. Phil choked, and it was bad, but it's not on the same scale as the above three chokes.

If a buck can be made off of it, it will be exploited. Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, and Ann Coulter have made names for themselves by putting down others in the realm of politics. Since police investigations & the justice system are somewhat interesting, our televisions are saturated with shows dedicated to the subjects. The same with reality TV. And as long as our obsessive-compulsive personalities feed these monsters in our culture, they will continue to grow, adapt, and find even more creative ways to rob us of our time & money.

I suppose the solution is like the story I used in Bible class last Wednesday: starve the monster.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Our Nation's Pastime

Lately, I've played and watched a lot of golf, and it's probably the sport I know the most about. And when the fall rolls around, I love to spend my Saturday's with friends watching the games -- especially when my beloved Crimson Tide is involved. But when it comes to my favorite sport? I'd have to say it's baseball.

For my money, there is nothing more exciting than a meaningful baseball game. Whether it's Sox/Yanks, a great matchup between two starting pitchers (like Santana vs. Schilling last week), or October playoff baseball -- a meaningful baseball game is the most exciting sporting event to me. Some people say it's playoff basketball -- the NBA Finals or March Madness. Other people say it's football, hands down. But for me, it's baseball.

Each one-on-one battle between pitcher & batter captivates me. And whenever runners reach base, the strategy of stealing, hitting & running, or bringing in relievers just heaps on more drama. And this drama builds and builds until the decisive 9th inning. And even if no decision is reached by then, you have the edge-of-your-seat, sudden death drama of extra innings baseball. I just love it.

And so when it comes down to it, I don't quite agree with all the rage over the use of performance-enhancing substances in professional athletics. It doesn't affect the pace or flow of the game. It doesn't affect the integrity of how the game's rules are enforced. What's the big deal? As Chris Rock said some time ago, if there was a pill you could take that would make you better at your job, wouldn't you take it?

What people get their panties in a wod about is the records. "Bonds got his homers with steroids & HGH; Babe Ruth did it with beer & hot dogs." And guess what -- Ruth never faced a pitcher who was African-American or Latino! Listen. Babe Ruth was & will always be the greatest baseball player of all time. He was the best left-handed pitcher of his day who became an unbelievable slugger. When he first set the single-season homerun record, he shattered by over 30 swats. When he broke the all-time homerun mark, it wasn't even 200. And to this day, he still has as many career shutouts as Pedro Martinez. He was a phenomenon, and there will never be like him ever again.

Performance-enhancing substances are now a part of the game. The "Steroid Era" of baseball will have no end, so long as the people who make the designer drugs are making more money than the people who are coming up with tests for these drugs. And it's not simply baseball -- look at the beheamoths who suit up on Sunday's in the fall. Baseball is simply held to a higher standard because, for all the overgrown Peter Pan's out there, it is the sport where the numbers still mean something. And when Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays falls yet another rung on the homerun totem pole, these overgrown child-fans take it as a personal insult. It's as if one of these steroid-users has squatted and taken a dump right in the middle of their living room. And that's what baseball fans are really upset about: that the records of their boyhood idols have been poo-poo'ed on.

The real tragedy of these drugs are the athletes themselves. There are so many true-life cautionary tales of what happens to the athletes who used these substances. Lyle Alzedo is the poster child for how steroids can ruin your life. Whenever I see blurbs on about another former NFL lineman or WWF wrestling star dead in their 40's or 50's, I shake my head. We should be pitying Bonds, not throwing syringes at him. We should feel sorry that this guy is literally laying his body on the altar of athletics and forsaking years of future health in the process.

Whenever I hear other fans bemoan how the game isn't "clean" anymore & whine about how someone's numbers are "unnatural," I want to scream. It's part of the game now, a game that continues to evolve through the years & yet remain remarkably the same. A game that absorbs changes like the relief pitcher and designated hitter, & yet it's a game that remains amazingly entertaining. Our nation's pastime is just fine. If you want to get upset -- be upset for the athletes who use the drugs and for the families they leave behind. Because that's the real tragedy that remains largely untold. It's the tragedy of how our culture's demand for athletic excellence has robbed so many of their quality of life.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Un-Grace and My Mother

I really don't want to blog about this subject. But I feel compelled by the subject's importance, so here goes ...

My mother is unreasonable. Literally. For the life of me, I don't understand why she lets her political ideology & conspiracy theories get in the way of her familial relationships. She believes that 9/11 was orchestrated by the Bush family to increase the price of their oil holdings. She believes that the devastating Asian tsunami was caused by a secret government weapon designed to knock out dangerous coastal nations (e.g. Korea). She believes that a major earthquake will hit California in a matter of days, and that the stock market is about to crash. She believes the latter so much, that she just exchanged $12,000 for it's weight in silver. That's right, she is sitting on $12,000 worth of silver. Except that it's not $12,000 worth anymore, since the price of silver is what actually dropped -- 20% in the last week.

Whenever you try to discuss these outrageous beliefs (which she incessantly pushes on her family members) from an opposing angle, she gets passionate, then angry, then irate, then she hangs up on you. It makes me want to scream. It makes me want to cry. Then it makes me not want to talk to her anymore -- in part because I'm tired of being jerked around emotionally, and in part because I hope that a "relational embargo" of sorts will tone her down.

And part of me is angry because she always rebuffs my attempts to talk to her about Christ. And another part of me is angry because she left Dad & us 7 years ago. Part of me just wants to be angry with her, I think.

And then I happened upon the chapter in What's So Amazing Grace? that discusses patterns of ungrace. Yancey writes this:

All too often I drift back in to a tit-for-tat struggle that slames the door on forgiveness. Why should I make the first move? I was the one who was wronged. So I make no move, and cracks in the relationship appear, then widen. In time a chasm yawns open that seems impossible to cross. I feel sad, but seldom do I accept the blame. Instead, I justify myself and point out the small gestures I made toward reconciliation. I keep a mental accounting of those attempts so as to defend myself if I am ever blamed for the rift. I flee from the risk of grace to the security of ungrace.

I am so troubled by this. Is my anger righteous indignation, or is it self-righteous indignation? Should I stand pat and try to make a point to my mother, or should I practice forgiveness "seventy times seven" times more?

I know this: I don't want to end up like one of the patterns of ungrace that Yancey outlines in this book. He talks about one particular family (true story), where one parent's bitterness was visited throughout the life of their children. Truly a tragic story where loved ones could never forgive each other. I don't want to be like that.

But how do I get through to my crazy mother? I wish I had more answers.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

What a Great Day

It was a great Father's Day.

Dad & I woke up, cleaned up, got dressed, and went for breakfast at The Cracker Barrel. And it was delicious.

We then drove down to Montgomery from Oak Mountain State Park to worship at the Landmark Church of Christ. When we arrived, I was disappointed to learn that Buddy Bell wouldn't be there to preach that morning. This guy is usually more reliable than Cal Ripken, Jr., and the one day I show up he's not there. Oh well. It was a fine worship service, and the visiting speaker (who works for Focus on the Family) delivered a fine lesson.

Dad & I then went for lunch at Longhorn's. He loves the "Southwestern Shrimp" appetizer that they have, so he enjoyed lunch.

We then returned to Oak Mountain in time to catch most of the final round of the U.S. Open. We watched it from the club house of the state park's golf course. They had a big screen TV, and Wi-Fi. Unbelievable how Phil & Monty both choked. I think Monty's was more painful to watch, seeing as how he made his double bogey from the fairway. A pure choke. Phil's was still a choke, but more out of dumb club & shot selection than shear muscle-lockup. Good for Geoff Ogelvie, though. On a course that requires steadiness, he was the epitome of that. Some say he backed into that victory; I say he won it the only way you can win that tournament.

We then left & went to my cousin Barry's house to enjoy some dessert and company. As soon as I walked in, Barry's kids -- Dylan, Danielle, and Dallas -- latched on to me & wanted to play. Especially Dallas -- what an awesome little boy. I played Nintendo with Dylan, drew pictures with Danielle, and wrestled with Dallas. Got an awesome recipe for this pizza dip thing, too.

Yep, it was a good day.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

No Mere Book on Grace

Mere Christianity is starting to bore me. It's a difficult book to sit down & read for chapters at a time for pleasure. Not giving up, though. Yet. Will keep trying to slog through a chapter at a time.


I love Johnny Miller. I miss Ken Venturi doing commentary for CBS -- he was the best. Now that he's gone, Johnny is the best. Hopefully he hangs around for a while.


So, since Mere Christianity has been so tough to work through, I picked up & started to read What's So Amazing About Grace? EXCELLENT book so far! Some very good writing in this book. There is some showiness, as well -- it's like literary narcissism, and it's distasteful to me. But there is also some very good, sermon-inspirational writing. Value- & worldview-changing writing. You can tell that he took time to think before putting pen to paper.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Do You Know Your Ten Commandments?

Mr. Manifest DestinyTonight, on The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert interviewed Representative Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia's 8th Congressional District (which is wonderfully gerrymandered, by the way). Mr. Westmoreland is a Republican and a devout Evangelical Christian, and he co-sponsored a bill to have the 10 Commandments publicly displayed in the House of Representatives. When asked why, he stated that the 10 Commandments are a wonderful guide for people who are writing laws & that Congress should publicly recognize them. Then Stephen Colbert nailed him:

"Mr. Congressman, can you please recite the 10 Commandments."

Uh, ummmmm, excuse me?

"Yes, Mr. Congressman, all 10."

Congressman Westmoreland, proud Christian man who stands up for his faith, named about three of the ten, and none of them in order.

BTW, what is the etymology of the name "Westmoreland?" Manifest Destiny?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Good & Bad Dogs

Bible Class was awesome tonight. The fella's just got back from camp, and they are really serious about spirituality & their purity. We talked about masterbation, and three specific ways Satan will get us to lust and masterbate. One is idle time: "idle hands are the Devil's workshop." A second is lack of intimacy. Hey, that girl on the computer screen is always ready to go, even when other relationships are lacking. A third is power -- looking at that skimpy-dressed or naked girl can give you a huge power rush.

To end, I told the story of the Indian Brave and his Chief. Such a truism. I think it stuck with the guys, too.

In Chains

Mere ChristianityCurrently Reading:
Mere Christianity
Written By:
Clive Staples Lewis

Pretty good so far. He has a pretty good pulse on human nature, which is what he opens with. Also, I'm pretty excited that this book has a World War II slant, as this book was originally a series of radio addresses that C.S. Lewis made during the war. I will comment when something makes me have to think out loud.

Won't be blogging this weekend. Going with my Dad up to Birmingham, AL for a weekend of RVing & golf. No WiFi where we're going, which is mostly a good thing for me I think.

Had a strange dream that has lingered with me quite a while today. I don't remember most of the dream, but I remember the part right up to where I woke up. I was sitting in a seat in an auditorium with a group of guys, and all of a sudden some prison guards come in to clap us in irons and lead us away to be processed in a prison. It was the kind of cuffs that it goes around your neck, and then a string of metal dangles down & connects to hand cuffs. Not sure whether or not there were ankle cuffs -- don't remember. But then I was following somebody out into a courtyard in chains, and there was a point where the four people I was following had to stop. They found a 4-seat table to sit at, and I had to stand there behind them. They looked up at me smiling, and then I looked up and around and there were other inmates in jumpsuits sitting at 4-person tables, and I was the only one standing. I remember thinking, "I don't know what I did to get in here, but I deserve what I got." And, "I'm not sure how long I'll be here, but it's at least going to be for 5 or 6 months."

Strange dream. And I'm one of those who believes that dreams have something to do with one's subconscious. So I'm thinking it means that I'm feeling guilty enough about something that I need to be punished, or that I'm feeling trapped or hemmed in by something in life. So these thoughts have been haunting me today.

From stabbing my grandfather & poisoning my grandmother (both of whom are already deceased) in a dream a couple months ago, to this, I have some FREAKY dreams, huh?

Having some mellow time this afternoon. Instead of watching talking heads debate sports topics, I've listened to a little Bebo & am currently listening to my Pandora station. Calming me down some.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


The Colbert ReportCurrently Watching:
The Colbert Report
Kole-bare Ruh-por
Comedy Central

Simply put, this is the finest show on television today. It's a lampoon job of all the primetime political shows on the 3 cable news networks. He comes off as a dumb conservative apologist -- making points with the most absurd arguments imaginable. And I laugh out loud every time I watch. It's the perfect show a person of my political persuasion: a frustrated Republican who's hesitant to be a Democrat. My favorite question that he regularly asks liberals:

"George W. Bush: Great President? Or THE GREATEST President?"

And Stephen never likes facts. Facts get in the way of what we feel to be true, which can always remain the same. In fact, he says this is his favorite quality about George W. Bush. WMD's in Iraq? That's a fact that changed: there were, and then when we went in, there weren't. But should we have invaded Iraq? Yes, we all know Bush feels like overthrowing Saddam was the right thing to do. His word for this is truthiness. It's great stuff.


Schilling & Santana have a whale of a pitching duel going on right now, as well. Scoreless through 5 innings. Bottom of the 5th just ended on a strike 'em out, throw 'em out double play. It's good to see Big Schill pitch so well, and good to see Varitek throw a runner out once in a while.

Speaking of which, it appears that this is the season where the deterioration of Tek's (actually, my favorite Varitek nickname is "Quadzilla") skills is starting to show. And there are 2 years left on his contract. So a year and a half ago, Varitek was the priority but Pedro was expendable & there is no way we could give him 4 years? Not looking too bright right now. However, I think the Sports Guy said it best about Pedro leaving Boston:

[After putting so much effort & money into courting Schilling the previous offseason you ...] tell your incumbent franchise pitcher, "Let's talk after next season when you're a free agent, maybe we can work something out." If you were Pedro, would you have taken the hometown discount to stay after that? Hell no. If anything, you probably would have signed somewhere else and been extra-motivated to stick it to them.

Which is pretty much what happened. Maybe Pedro needed somebody to kick him in the ass, much like when the Red Sox lowballed Clemens and he proceeded to embrace the rehabilitative power of steroi-- ... er, weight training, get himself into phenomenal shape, cut down from five helpings per meal to one and roll off consecutive Cy Young seasons in Canada. And maybe the inferior quality of the National League plays a bigger role than we realize; we've seen too many NL guys switch leagues and flounder, and too many AL guys switch leagues and thrive, and if you don't believe me, look at Josh Beckett's home run stats over the past few years compared to 2006.

I love that dig on Clemens. Plus, when you think that Pedro's frayed labrum could snap at any moment & his career would be over, how could you hand that guy 4 years? Still, it doesn't seem right to see him pitching those gems at Shea and not Fenway.

BTW, Santana appears unhittable tonight. 12 K's through 6 innings. Hopefully Big Papi or Manny will put one in the seats, because there's no way we're gonna string together more than 2 hits in one inning against this guy tonight.


Ok, I just heard about a third job opportunity in three days a few hours ago. This one is in Miami. And yes, I do believe God is working. I love it when He does that. It's like He's saying, "Yep, I'm still here, just where I've been all along -- watching out for you." Thanks for that, Father.


Posted on a couple buddy's blogs today. I sort of went back & forth for several days over whether I'd do it or not. It's not that I don't value old friends: I do. In fact, I feel like I used to do this to a fault, to the expense of not making new friends wherever I found myself. It's just that I value the private thinking out loud I can do in this forum, and I thought that letting others know that this blog exists might ruin that dynamic. But I've decided this space is still for me. This is my digest, and I'm not necessarily writing for others. But if others want to read, that's ok too, but I'm not writing for them. That's the one thing about blogs that has always struck me as a little disingenious & somewhat comical -- a diary that you put on-line & let other people read? But whatever, it's a good way to keep in touch, hash out issues, and other stuff. So if you wander in here, welcome.


And of course, just as I finish dissing on Varitek, he deposits one in the left field seats. 1-0, Sox. Seriously, I can't make this stuff up. Santana makes Ortiz look silly, strikes out Manny for the 2nd time, and then, with 2 outs, Varitek comes up and hits the first pitch he sees just over the fence in left-center.

Ataboy Quadzilla! Always knew you had it in you!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

'To Write is To Pray'

I was surfing an old buddy's blog yesterday, and I saw just below the title of his blog: To Write is to Pray. Funny, because I wrote a couple times this week about my lack of camaradarie with the "dinner crew" after church. Well tonight, Sean, Stacy, the 2 visiting Freed girls, Tim, Chap, Buck, & I went to Chile's, and had a blast. We all talked about movies, WWII, & some of Sean's Marine stories. Sean & I stayed longer, and we talked about our derelict mothers.

Had a great time. Thanks for answering that prayer I hadn't even realized I'd submitted, Lord.

Friday, June 02, 2006

In Memorium

While I'm here, I feel the need to write about something else: An ode to Jennifer.

I was introduced to Christian music in my first year of college. I ate it up. Newsboys. Third Day. dcTalk. I began to devour the favorites. But weirdo that I am, I always have to be a little different from the rest of the crowd. Everyone already loved those first 3 groups; I needed to find my own favorite -- the independent band or lesser known artist who I could call my own.

It wasn't long before I found her. Jennifer Knapp. Pretty new on the CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) scene. I first discovered her by listening to her 2nd studio album, Lay It Down. I was impressed by songs like "A Little More" & "When Nothing Satisfies." I would often put them on my "going to bed" list, because they spoke to me, eased my nerves, and gave me peace as I laid down to sleep.

I then went & bought Kansas, and loved her even more. When The Way I Am was released, I bought it, too. Admittedly, it wasn't as good as the other two, but I cherished & digested each song just because it was Jen. I bought City On a Hill CD's on which she had several tracks, and to this day am entranced by her song, "Hallowed."

And then she stopped touring. Years have passed and she hasn't produced another studio album. Rumors began to fly. Some were saying she had taken a female lover -- that she had left her faith & music career behind. Others assert that her seemingly permanent hiatus is merely due to the grind. Produce an album, then go make money on tour, which you use to produce another album, so you can make more money on tour. And so the cycle goes. And if you know her music, you know her lyrics are so rich that it's a wonder she popped out 3 quality albums so quickly.

I choose to believe that she protects her craft by not recording or touring anymore. That she would not dumb down her product to make money. I hope that's it.

Her music & lyrics touch my heart like NO other. I hope she is still using her gift in some way wherever she is today. Even if it's at a church somewhere, for a group of kids, or whatever. When God made her, I know He smiled. He gave the world a great gift in Jennifer Knapp. And because of that, I've almost wanted to cry when I've listened to her music lately.

Jen, I hope you're well. I miss you.