Thursday, July 31, 2008

the fam

Here are some pics of Jo, Adelle and Evie. Evie is now 3 months old. What bunch of cuties I've got!!

I get to not work at all next week. We leave tomorrow for Jo's parents' house in VA. Its not really a vacation per se, but it is a break from the routine. Viva la Vida!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

recommended reading

Anne Rice is one of my favorite authors. Her Vampire Chronicles books are some of the best books I've ever read. For most of her writing years she has been identified with the horror genre of literature because of these books. In the past few years she had a conversion experience and started following Jesus. In light of this, she decided to write a series a fictional novels about Jesus called Christ the Lord, quite a departure from the Vampire Chronicles.

In the first book, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, we find Jesus and his family in Egypt and follow them as they leave Egypt to return to Nazareth. Rice imagines how the events of Jesus' late childhood and early adolescence might have unfolded. The second book, which I just finished yesterday, is called Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana. It picks up way after the first on left off. It skips to the adulthood of the the carpenter Jesus of Nazareth and the story goes on from there. It takes us from the days just before Jesus started his public ministry up to the beginning of his ministry.

The thing I love about these books is the way Rice portrays the humanity of Jesus. These are fictional accounts based on her research and study, but are also products of her imagination. So they and may not be accurate at all, and that's okay because they're works of fiction. But what she's doing is helping us imagine what Jesus' life on earth might have been like while he was working, laughing, dancing, crying, hungry, thirsty, etc. She does a good job of portraying the tension of his human and divine aspects without taking anything away from either either of these aspects of his being. So here are two more books to put on your summer reading list.

And finally just for good measure here is an absolutely hysterical Snickers ad featuring Mr. T. Apparently, its been banned:

Rocket Science

I watched this on a friend's recommendation and am glad I did. It was really good. I'd give it 4 1/2 out of 5 stars. It centers around a high school kid in New Jersey named Hal who has a really bad stutter. He is recruited by a girl named Ginny for the debate team. One of the main things I love about this I love about this movie is that it is real, or rather realistic in many ways. Another thing I love about it is that it is funny, but in more subtle ways than most movies. I laughed out loud at several parts. You could call the humor 'quirky' or some other word like that. Most of the actors were unknown to me. The only one I recognized is a young guy named Nicholas D'Agosto, who plays Claire's boyfriend on Heroes. The feel of the movie reminded me of Garden State which is also set in Jersey. Anyways, I highly recommend this one.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


The true test of any musical group is its ability to perform live. Last night I saw an amazing band perform after having to sit through a really crappy band's performance . Jo and I had the great privilege of going to see Coldplay last night at the Wachovia Center. Their set was amazing. They are really fantastic musicians and the singer, Chris Martin, has an amazing voice. They are better live than they are recorded. I also like them because 2 of the guys had a very small role in Shaun of the Dead, possibly the best movie ever. And plus they were lots of fun. Chris Martin is funny and kept making jokes about different things. Coldplay is amazing (have I said 'amazing' yet?). I loved being in this huge arena with thousands of people who all knew the words to the songs and were really moved by the music.

The crappy performance came from the act that opened for them. When I found out that this band was opening for Coldplay , I found their myspace page and listened to them. I knew that I didn't like their music when I heard it there, but I had no clue how bad they would be live. They were entertaning, but not in a good way. Jo and I alternated between sheer disbelief/ wishing we had earplugs and fits of hysterical laughter at how bad they were. It wouldn't be too harsh for me to say that they sucked. They sucked really really badly. And I mean sucked with a capital 'S'. No, make that sucked with multiple letters and all capitals and lots of exclamation points like this: SUUUCCKKKEDD!!!!! The group is called Santogold. If you ever hear of them playing somewhere, run in the other direction, run like your life depends on it. Unless you want a good laugh.

Anyways, Jo blogged in detail about our concert going experience, so go here to see what all she wrote. In short, it was awesome.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

movies characters as caricatures

Last week I watched the film Chocolat for the first time. I'd never watched it before mainly because I'm prejudiced against chick flicks. Jo watched this movie a few years back and tried to get me to see it with her, but I declined. But last week I did. The movie itself was good. I love Johnny Depp and think he's one of the greatest actors ever. The thing that struck me the most about this movie is the way the characters were actually caricatures.

The priest in
Chocolat is a great example. He is a bumbling young guy who doesn't seem to know what he is doing. Plus he is controlled by someone else. He doesn't seem to add any real value to the community except just be a placeholder for the office of priest and guide the congregation through rituals.

This caricaturization is not unique to
Chocolat. Usually, any Christian portrayed on film or on TV is one of several extremes - they're either an over the top holy roller, an idiot, or a hypocrite - or possibly all three. Roman Catholic Christians seem to get the most frequent and worst portrayals. They are widely used to represent Christians and the Christian faith, partly stemming from the externals of Roman Catholicism - the robes worn by priest, the blacks suits and white collars, the habits of monks and nuns - you immediately identify them as a Roman Catholics. These visuals translate well into a medium which uses images to tell the story.

On one hand it bothers me that Christians are portrayed so stereotypically, but on the other hand, I realize that this kind of caricaturization happens across the board in movies. Characters are stereotyped and have qualities which lead to them being not a representation of real people, but to being caricatures of certain types of people. Muslims are terrorists, or at the very least untrustworthy. French people are arrogant and rude. Americans all carry guns and are violent. Etc, etc. Its easier to stereotype than to try to portray people in real ways.

In life this is true too. Its just much easier to say, 'all of group X is like this or that'. It takes more work to meet people in whatever group X is and befriend them. And how many times do we have our dearly held stereotypes broken down once we interact with someone from group X? I'd say almost always.


First of all, Les Québécois (French speaking people from Québec) use the word 'sacrement' as a curse word. But with their Candian French accent, its pronounced sack-ra-mon. They also use words and phrases such as "Tabernacle!" and "Sacre Bleu!" as curse words. But that's beside the point.

Recently I was reading some really interesting things in a book I have to read for VLI. This book is really good. Some of the books I read for VLI are as dry as crusty old bread or saltine crackers. They are the kind of books that insomniacs need to get into as they immediately induce sleep. But Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity by Mark Noll is not like that at all.

It deals with Christian history, but instead of it just being a straightforward history book, Noll picks out some of the most important events in Christian history, tells about the actual event, then shows its effects on Christianity as a whole (for better or worse). This book (and the class its a part of) is really teaching me a lot by revealing the history of our faith and showing how things got to be the way they are today.

The other day I was reading a really great passage on the theology of the sacraments as developed by the Roman Catholic Church in the Middle Ages. The sacraments are things like Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist. The RCC's belief is that "saving grace comes through to people through the sacraments in a social setting... Receiving God's grace depended upon actually receiving the vehicle of that grace [the sacraments], and not so much how one felt about that transaction." Noll sums this theology of the sacraments by saying, "salvation was communicated through and by the sacraments."

I can kind of understand the Roman Catholic Church a little bit better now by knowing more about church history. Hooray for VLI!!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

vagabonds and hobos

I found this really amazing photo series on American vagabonds, otherwise known as hobos. Wikipedia defines vagabond as "a (generally impoverished) itinerant person...A vagabond is characterized by almost continuous traveling, lacking a fixed home, temporary abode, or permanent residence. Vagabonds are not bums, as bums are not known for traveling but preferring to stay in one location."

I met a guy like this back in January, a Mexican guy who spoke with a think accent and called himself Steve. He had this beautiful big yellow dog with him, a Lab I think. I had to drop something off somewhere on my way home from work one night and saw this guy sitting with a dog in the shadows. I was afraid to go talk with him, but did it anyway even though it was a little scary. It turns out though that he was the nicest guy you could ever meet and his dog was the sweetest dog ever (once she realized that I was going to try to harass her master). He was sitting in the shadows waiting for it to get a bit darker so no one would give him a hard time. Then when it was good and dark, he was going to walk across the street to 7-11 to guy some Raman noodles which he and his dog would eat for supper. He actually didn't want anything at all from me, although I did give him some money. He told me a lot about his life story, how he got to the US, how he still has a family back in Mexico, and that he was walking south on his way to Virginia or North Carolina, somewhere where the weather was warmer and the people were kinder.

Anyways, I don't know how I should feel about people who choose this lifestyle. But no matter how I feel, these photos are amazing.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

recommended reading

I recently read The Twilight Watch, the 3rd book in a fantasy/ sci-fi series (Night Watch and Day Watch are the first two books) by Sergei Lukyanenko. Movies have been made of some of the stories from the first two books, but they are nowhere near as good as the books.

Each book is divided into three stories. The stories are set in a universe filled with magicians, vampires, werewolves, and other supernatural beings. There are basically two kinds of beings - magical and non-magical. Within the realm of the magical beings, there are two sides - the Light and the Dark. These sides have made an uneasy pact to not obliterate each other, but to keep the Balance. Enter the two Watches: Night Watch and Day Watch which 'watch' each other, or keep each other from upsetting the Balance.

These books are definite page turners, the kind of books that I am compelled to read it - they call out to me, 'read me, you know you want to...' They are so amazingly good and are three of the best books of any genre that I've ever read. So put these on your summer reading list if you're into fantasy & sci-fi.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Tom Wolfe and Ritalin

I came across an article written by Tom Wolfe (author of Bonfire of the Vanities and The Right Stuff). It was originally published in in 1996 by Forbes magazine. The article is called "Sorry, But Your Soul Just Died." This full article is really great, but I especially loved this section on ADD and the drug Ritalin. You can find the full article at

"I have children in school, and I am intrigued by the faith parents now invest--the craze began about 1990--in psychologists who diagnose their children as suffering from a defect known as attention deficit disorder, or ADD. Of course, I have no way of knowing whether this "disorder" is an actual, physical, neurological condition or not, but neither does anybody else in this early stage of neuroscience. The symptoms of this supposed malady are always the same. The child, or, rather, the boy--forty-nine out of fifty cases are boys--fidgets around in school, slides off his chair, doesn't pay attention, distracts his classmates during class, and performs poorly. In an earlier era he would have been pressured to pay attention, work harder, show some self-discipline. To parents caught up in the new intellectual climate of the 1990s, that approach seems cruel, because my little boy's problem is... he's wired wrong! The poor little tyke --the fix has been in since birth! Invariably the parents complain, "All he wants to do is sit in front of the television set and watch cartoons and play Sega Genesis." For how long? "How long? For hours at a time." Hours at a time; as even any young neuroscientist will tell you, that boy may have a problem, but it is not an attention deficit.

Nevertheless, all across America we have the spectacle of an entire generation of little boys, by the tens of thousands, being dosed up on ADD's magic bullet of choice, Ritalin, the CIBA-Geneva Corporation's brand name for the stimulant methylphenidate. I first encountered Ritalin in 1966 when I was in San Francisco doing research for a book on the psychedelic or hippie movement. A certain species of the genus hippie was known as the Speed Freak, and a certain strain of Speed Freak was known as the Ritalin Head. The Ritalin Heads loved Ritalin. You'd see them in the throes of absolute Ritalin raptures...Not a wiggle, not a peep... They would sit engrossed in anything at all...a manhole cover, their own palm wrinkles... indefinitely...through shoulda-been mealtime after mealtime...through raging insomnias...Pure methyl-phenidate nirvana...From 1990 to 1995, CIBA-Geneva's sales of Ritalin rose 600 percent; and not because of the appetites of subsets of the species Speed Freak in San Francisco, either. It was because an entire generation of American boys, from the best private schools of the Northeast to the worst sludge-trap public schools of Los Angeles and San Diego, was now strung out on methylphenidate, diligently doled out to them every day by their connection, the school nurse. America is a wonderful country! I mean it! No honest writer would challenge that statement! The human comedy never runs out of material! It never lets you down!"

Saturday, July 12, 2008

2 year old photos

A couple of weeks ago, I found this cool site called Jo decided to try this with Adelle so we gave her our old digital camera and turned her loose. Its so cool to see the world from her prespective. Here are a few that I like:

Friday, July 11, 2008

Adelle's zoo highlight

We took the girls to the zoo today. Adelle's highlight was when we were in the monkey house and one of the monkeys kissed another monkey's butt. I didn't see it happen so I don't know if the monkey really kissed the others butt, but it looked like it to her. And apparently this was one of the funniest things Adelle has seen in her short life. All the way home she kept saying, "that monkey kissed the other monkey's booty!!" And then she would crack up into hysterical laughter. Oh how I love 2 year old humor.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

the Great Big Good News

I've been thinking recently about how big the Good News is. Firstly though, let me say that I prefer the term Good News over the term Gospel, because the word Gospel has lost its meaning for me. We've got Gospel music, Gospel radio stations, Gospel rap, Gospel this, Gospel that. We use it in phrases like, "The Gospel According to the Simpsons" (a real book title). Seriously, the first thing that comes to mind when someone says 'Gospel' is a genre of music that my recently deceased grandmother adored, but that I really don't enjoy. All that to say that I prefer to say Good News.

Anyways, the Good News is big. I mean really big. When I say big I mean it in the sense of it being great. And by great I mean it in the way Webster (the dictionary, not the TV character played by Emmanuel Lewis) defines it: remarkable in magnitude, degree, or effectiveness

The Good News is way bigger than the whole, 'ask Jesus into your heart thing.' Jesus didn't ask people to ask Him into their hearts; He told them to follow Him. Its way bigger than the way we express it in American culture; ours is an American gospel. Its way bigger than any ministry, local church, or even mega church. Its bigger than any group of people, country, and bigger and greater than the world.

Here's how big/ great it is:
"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."" Revelation 21:1-5

The Good News is big. Its great. Its cosmic. And I treat it so lightly.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

movie pet peeves

I'm currently re-reading Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams. Its the second book in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series. A movie was made of "Hitchhiker" so you might be familiar with that. Not much to say about that, except that they might be the funniest books I've ever read.

But it leads me to one of my pet peeves about movies - books that are made into movies. As a general rule, the book is better than the movie. Even with some of the better adaptations (like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter) I always love books better than the movies that are made from them. Don't get me wrong because I love the HP and LOTR movies, but in general, I don't like the whole turning-books-into-movies thing. I've never seen a film adaptation film of a John Grisham book that was as awesome as the book. The movies weren't terrible, its just that John Grisham is such a brilliant author and its hard to translate that brilliance to the screen. Seriously, The Firm is one of my favorite all time books, but I could not sit through more than half an hour of it because it paled in comparison to the book. And there are some movies I refuse to watch because the books are so amazing and to watch the movie would spoil the book. Interview with a Vampire is one example. For me to not watch that is saying a lot, because I love vampire movies. And even though Stephen King is one of my favorite authors, films made from his books and stories generally don't compare to how good the books are.

This leads me to even another movie pet peeve: Sequels. I hate them. I'm not talking about Star Wars, LOTR, or Harry Potter, because they are serials. Each was intended at their conception to be a series (thus the term serial). But what I hate are those terrible Hollywood part 2's and 3's and 10's that never live up to the original movie's glory. And since many of the movies being made into sequels aren't that great to begin with, that just means that the sequel is going to be painful. So in general, sequels are never a good idea.

Here are a few categories of sequels that I thought of:
Horror/ Thriller movie sequels: Jaws, Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Saw, etc.
Comedy sequels: Weekend at Bernie's 2, Nutty Professor 2, Big Mama's House 2, Police Academy: Infinity
Action movie sequels: Speed 2, The Transporter 2. This category also includes the sub-category of The desperate aging Hollywood star sequels: Live Free or Die Harder-er with Bruce Willis, or Sylvester Stallone in Rocky/ Rambo 19: Cold Cocked

My last movie pet peeve deals with the worst kinds of movies made - movie adaptations of old TV shows. Seriously, the Brady Bunch movie (and don't forget the Very Brady Sequel)? The Brady Bunch was never that good anyway. And The Dukes of Hazard movie? Yawn... Although, I'd personally love for somebody to make a movie out of The A-Team. That's one that I would see.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Warner Sallman and Jesus art

This painting of Jesus has to be one of the most iconic American paintings ever. Anybody ever seen this one hanging in a church or at your grandmother's house? How many people think of this very image when they picture Jesus? I do, or at least I did in the past. Anyways, I was curious to find out who painted this. Turns out that this was painted by a believing artist named Warner Sallman. Wikipedia says this about the man and the painting:

"Warner Sallman (1892 - 1968) was a Christian painter from Chicago. He worked as a freelance illustrator. His portrait of Christ, The Head of Christ, of which more than 500 million copies have been sold, is better known than he is, however the New York Times in 1994 called him the "best-known artist of the century". He also created commercial advertising images." (read the rest here).

There are lots of other visual representations of Jesus, some of which are really awesome, and some of which are really cheesy. In the category of 'awesome', a guy named Matt Stone has a whole host of paintings of Jesus and other Christian themes on his blog. They are paintings from many different cultures around the world. Its so neat to see how the rest of the world envisions Jesus.To the right is one really cool one of the baby Jesus and Mary his mother (try to guess what country its from).

There are other things out there however that I just think are cheesy like the paintings at The art itself is good, but come on, Jesus as a boxer? Jesus as a greaser? You be the judge.

And lastly (in my opinion), the most ridiculous and cheesiest of all Jesus art is a line of statuettes called Jesus is my Coach. You can get all the regular sports like basketball, football, and baseball, but you can also get Jesus the Martial Art Instructor, Jesus the Ski Instructor and even Jesus the Ballet Instructor. If you haven't seen these yet, you've got to click through and check them out.