I Write More About Baseball

Okay, so on Wednesday I got online to refresh the scoreboard on FoxSports 5000 times to "watch" the Detroit game. Nate Robertson was on the mound for the Tigers, which immediately made me worry. If Detroit has a weak link in their rotation, it's Robertson. Check that...Robertson AND Ledezma.

Lo and behold, Robertson gave up a stupid amount of hits and runs and Toronto won 7-4.

According to one sports writer on Thursday, when Robertson was pulled, he was booed walking off the field. The writer felt compelled to call Detroit fans "quickly spoiled" by their success. That was his explanation for the booing. Tiger fans are spoiled.


Yankee fans are spoiled. They watch a winning team year in and year out and if the team starts to falter, no problem, we'll just buy a good player from someone else. They're in the postseason all the time, they just won their 9th Division title in a row. And when a player isn't helping them win some more, they boo. Not help put together a Central Division title for the first time since really freaking long, just not help them win AGAIN.

Tiger fans are anxious. This season is too good to be true. It's been 19 years since we've seen a Division title. Excuse us if we don't want to settle for the wild card consolation prize. When the Tigers are only a game ahead of the guys right behind them (now tied with those guys), we don't expect Robertson to pitch well because he always has (Ha!). We expect him to pitch well because we want to see something that hasn't happened in almost two decades.

A little kid is spoiled when he gets up on Christmas morning and starts wailing that he got one less present than last year, but still has 26 total. A little kid is anxious when he gets up on Christmas morning, sees one present, and is overjoyed because someone finally thought of him. No one's given him a present in such a long time. He'll take extra care of it. He might even go a little nuts about it because it's his first present ever.

That's why Tigers fans aren't spoiled. That's why they booed Robertson the other night.

It's so close, and if we can get it we'll take extra care of it. Or maybe we'll get smug for a while. But right now it isn't smugness. We need something to be smug about first.

As of this entry, Chicago is kicking the crap out of Minnesota at the bottom of the 7th. If Detroit beats Kansas City tonight (freaking KANSAS CITY), they win the Division.

Stop killing us, fellas. We're anxious.

Go Tigers.

(And for the heck of it, because it's Saturday, Go Blue, too)

Edit: I realized that today I'm basically rooting against the entire state of Minnesota. Nothing personal.

Getting Permission

I made a change to the worship service.

This might not be monumental news to most. It wouldn't have been monumental news to me...until I realized that it was the first time in probably a year and a half that any sort of change had been made.

I brought this up to my music people.

I said, "I don't much care for this or this, either."

They responded, "Oh, that was just something [Most Recent Pastor] did and the other thing is something [Pastor Before Him] did. If you want to change it, go for it."

Why did I need to hear that first? It was almost as if I'd needed permission. But I've always heard it's easier to ask forgiveness, anyway. And that's pretty much been the case.

Maybe it's because I'm still asking forgiveness for other worship changes. Or permission. Sometimes I'm not sure which it is.

At any rate, I'm feeling a little bit of liberation from my own "worship rut" (that I didn't even know I was in) and thought that that was a wonderful enough thing to blog about, especially since my last few posts have been so emo.

So here's to asking for permission that I pretty much already had.

Pop Culture Roundup

Again, just a little early.

Scary Movie 4: the usual cast of characters does the usual mix of slapstick, fart jokes, and winking at the camera. The best moments actually aren't parodies of movies, but of real life. First, Leslie Nielsen as the president is listening to a little girl read a story about a duck in an elementary school classroom when an aid walks in to tell him that aliens are attacking. Our fearless leader replies, "Okay, hold on, I want to hear what happens to the duck." Then we get a send-up of the famous Tom Cruise Protests Too Much On Oprah segment, which I found hilarious. Most of the other jokes tried too hard, but making fun of how the people talk in The Village was amusing.

I saw my first-ever episode of Justice this week, and it was really good. It's in the same vein of Law and Order and CSI and borrows elements from both, except they end up showing you what really happened after the verdict and it isn't quite what was determined during the trial. This past week was a woman dying on a rollercoaster after hitting her head on the beam. So the lawyers argue over whether it was employee negligence or faulty equipment or not maintaining the ride, and then whose fault is it? The employee's? The company as a whole? They blame the company and win, and then we see that it was negligence and a bad seat belt. Pretty cool.

It's been kind of a throwback week, music-wise. I popped in a Toad the Wet Sprocket CD that I listened to pretty frequently in high school, mostly because of this song and video.

What if there was a website that streamed every episode of The Simpsons, Family Guy, and Futurama? What if you could just go to this website and find your favorite episode, watch it over and over, and never get any work done? What's that? Such a site exists? Yeah, it does.

Coming Out of the Worst of It

During my prayer time this morning, my reading for reflection came from Mother Teresa:

If you are preoccupied with people who are talking about the poor, you scarcely have time to talk to the poor. Some people talk about hunger, but they don't come and say, "Mother, here is five rupees. Buy food for these people." But they can give a most beautiful lecture on hunger.

I think that speaks to where I was earlier this week. I have moments like that. These moments can last a week or more, actually. It's why I still don't want to read any more books. It's also why a World Communion Sunday sermon has been a little difficult to write. I'm relying on the stories I'm including to be the parts that stick; that make people think. They usually do.

I really like World Communion Sunday. Next to Pentecost, it's actually one of my favorite non-commercial holy days. It's just so hard to fathom its scope. How to talk about the global church and situations so remote from us and get people to really consider them? How to make the day more than a "most beautiful lecture?"

The Written Word vs. Real Life

I haven't been much for writing the past few days. I've been preoccupied with real life. That's what I get for being so joyful that fall is here because it means I'd be more busy.

The good news from this weekend, of course, is that the Tigers are in the playoffs. I can think of nothing to say that would be satisfying as far as trash-talking or savoring the moment goes. So I posted the picture instead.

Mrs. Jeff and I were driving around last night, and a Rascall Flats song came on the radio. It's that new one that's slow and twangy and sappy. I turned to her and said, "It's been my experience that every person I've heard claim to be a Rascall Flats fan is a chick." She replied, "Um...yeah. They're a country boy band." She's much more of a country music person than I am, so I felt very affirmed.

I've entered a very interesting place within myself. For one thing, it's a place that realizes the limitation of another book's scope. It's a place that isn't satisfied with any more "Tap into your church's creative energy" emerging church titles or "How does the divinity of Christ as portrayed by Matthew apply to oppressed Rwandans" United Church titles or "Barrel through with your plan to introduce powerpoint in worship" Purpose-Driven titles. I haven't picked up a book in almost a week. And it's not just a book thing. I've sat with people this week whose concerns make mine seem irrelevant and insignificant. I've also sat with people whose concerns seem irrelevant and insignificant compared to the other people's. This is a weird place from which to minister because some stuff just seems so tiny in comparison to what I've seen and heard this week. I've tried to come up with a tactful example, but I can't right now.

If the blog seems to go for days without new substantial material, that's why. What is there to say? Maybe that's a little overdramatic on my part, but I'm issuing that forewarning just in case.

Quotable Again

A comment on one of Bob's entries:

Isn't that what being a pastor is all about? Not the being busy, but the being overwhelmed by our own inadaquecies and God's ability make things happen despite our weaknesses. Of course, I think I would prefer to be overwhelmed by how smoothly my life is going and how great my abilities are, but reality inevitably sets in and God has to take over. Thank Goodness.

Pop Culture Roundup

Yeah, it's a day early.

I started Thomas Merton's Peace in the Post-Christian Era this week, which is his response to nuclear war. This was written in 1961, not 20 years removed from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Merton was actually barred by his higher-ups from publishing this for quite a while. I'm not very far into it (I think it's because I'm not that into it), so not much more to say about that. I just don't look to Merton as an authority on war. He shares some good thoughts, but I'm just not that interested in this topic right now I guess. Or at least I'm not in a place where I think that reading about it will be very edifying or fruitful for me.

Again, I've been watching the Tigers when I can. I don't get to cheer a favorite baseball team to the playoffs very often. It was exciting to live in St. Louis for a couple years, but I mean American League teams specifically. Fortunately for Detroit, they play some pretty lowly teams the rest of the season. Stay back, Twins! You and your possible batting title-holding catcher and your late-season splurge and your Mall of America...yeah, you stay back. STAY!

I've been listening to Gomez this week. Their sound is pretty quirky, experimental. They remind me a little of Morphine.

Around the web, visit stuffonmycat.com. It's exactly what it sounds like. People put stuff on their cat and take a picture.


From a recent workshop I attended:

"If your church spends most of its time on little maintenance details, it probably isn't doing much that's important."

Ask Me Something Else

I officiated at the wedding of two close friends from high school over the weekend. Friday night and Saturday had to be some of the most fun times I've had this year. I got to participate in one of the biggest and most wonderful days in this couple's life. At the same time, a few other high school friends got to see me "on the job" for the first time, which I was a little nervous about. The groom's sister commented later that it was weird to see me act so serious during the rehearsal.

This was also the first wedding at which I gave a homily. It's only my third wedding ever, but I wasn't sure what to talk about. I didn't want it to be too sappy or too forgettable or too run-of-the-mill or too...well...stupid, i.e., "make sure to put the toilet seat down HAR HAR." I finally decided to focus on what covenant is because it gets mentioned a few times in the liturgy but not really explained, and since we were using the well-worn text of 1 Corinthians 13, I tied it into explaining that the type of love being described is not a fleeting Matthew McConaughey-movie romantic love.

I got complimented for the whole thing at the reception, which felt good, but I had taken on quite a different demeanor by that point. It wasn't that I wasn't having a good time and it wasn't that I was mad at anybody and it wasn't that I was upset at how the ceremony went and it certainly wasn't that I was nervous about the Michigan-Notre Dame game (BOO YAH, by the way).

I just didn't want anyone to ask me about my church or my ministry.

There's something about our culture where people tend to define themselves and each other by their careers. So what do you ask The Pastor about at a wedding? Apparently you only ask him about where his church is and whether there's anything special coming up there. How long have you been there? How long have you been a pastor? Have you done many weddings before? What denomination are you? Oh, we have one of those near us...

I know that I'm recognized as The Pastor for the entire duration of these festivities, but really, today I'm The Pastor because I've been friends with these families for ten years. We all attended Small Town Varsity Blues High School together. We were in the band. We ran around on the weekends together. The groom and I just played golf the morning before and I totally sucked. Ask me about any of that. In a setting like this where polite socialization is the rule I'll never be asked my life story, which is fine. And I understand that for people who don't know me, being The Pastor is a handy point of reference. But I really had no interest in talking about those things. At all.

Honestly, this is becoming more of a regular tendency for me. Occasionally I'll accept an invitation to a congregant's house for some sort of social gathering. Pastoral boundaries dictates that one doesn't hash out church issues at those types of things anyway, but even some smaller references to some church program or another meets with relative silence from me. It's not that I shouldn't talk about it...I just don't want to. That's not why I'm there. Sure, I'm The Pastor, but I'm just here to hang out, break bread, play a game. I'm here to do anything but talk about church. It's not why you invited me and it's not why I accepted.

Here's where critics might say something about evangelism opportunities or whatever. If faith comes up at a social gathering, that's fine. That's different. We can talk about God if you want. I'm fine with talking about God. I'm not Bible Answer Man or anything like that, but I like to think that I know some things. Just don't ask me about work. Don't ask me about the youth program or what's happening in worship or the committee meeting or the parking lot. Don't ask me about sermon prep or Bible study or how I budget my weekly hours or whether I visited so-and-so. Don't ask me about denominational pronouncements. I'm more than a pastor, and being your pastor might have gotten me this invitation (or because I'm my wife's husband)...but it's not what I want to talk about. I watch movies and listen to music and read books and watch baseball.

This all came together in one glorious moment a few weeks ago. I was at one such social gathering and a young guy in his first year of college mentioned the movie Boondock Saints. I commented that I liked the movie, and he just got this look on his face. My pastor likes Boondock Saints? Even more glorious was when he found out I have two tattoos. It was weird for him to think that I'd left the church long enough to run these errands before returning to my cot in the fellowship hall to resume my daily 12-hour prayer vigil.

Maybe this is about public perception. Maybe it's not just that we tend to think of each other by career. Maybe we also tend to think that the pastor in particular only does church things and is too sheltered or too holy to have a life outside of ministry.

Well, there's one sure-fire way to find out.

You ask about something else.

GalPals Famous People Meme

1. Tell us about a time you met someone famous. Sadly, I really don't have any good stories. I nearly met Jerry "the King" Lawler in an airport once. This question always makes me feel like a loser. Why'd I decide to do this one? Do notable Bible scholars count? Probably not. Man, I suck...

2. Tell us about a celebrity you'd like to meet. My inner fanboy says either Dave Matthews or The Rock. It's not just for their prominent places in my own pop culture catalog. They really do seem like cool guys to have a drink with. My guilty pleasure would be Kelly Clarkson. I might edit that out.

3. Tell us about someone great who's *not* famous that you think everyone oughta have a chance to meet. I hang out with a 101-year-old lady every month who was a teacher for a long time and now STILL tutors someone every week. She doesn't move very fast, but she's still really sharp.

4. Do you have any autographs of famous people? I have a couple. My most prized is a Detroit Tiger baseball with the signatures of Bobby Higginson and Lance Parrish (hey...they count as famous people I've met!). I also have a CD from an artist local to Chicago-St. Louis named Robynn Ragland who has apparently dropped off the face of the earth. But anyway, I'll count her. She hugged me. Hey, there's another one I've met.

5. If you were to become famous, what would you want to become famous for? Writing. I'm not sure what yet.

Bonus: Whose 15 minutes of fame was up long, long ago? Paris Hilton. What did she do? Oh yeah, she was conceived by a hotel owner. Wow. We should put her on magazine covers.

Critique this statement

"Most Christian arguments are a priori. Most atheist arguments are a posteriori."

Pop Culture Roundup

For quite a while, I resisted picking up Adventures in Missing the Point, team-written by Tony Campolo and Brian McLaren. For one thing, I'd read enough from them individually that I didn't think that their combined thoughts would be very novel. Plus, every time I tell myself that I've had enough of books and blogs that list off all the ways the church is getting it wrong, I allow myself to get sucked back in. In this case, they start off with a good story about a guy walking into a Home Depot and being ignored by the workers. These workers originally had gotten into business to help people and now they're too self-involved and complacent. Then they ask if the church has become the same way. After reading this much in the bookstore, I thought, "Crap...now I want to read the rest." The two alternate chapters, and the other is given the opportunity to respond. For the most part, Campolo and McLaren are on the same page as self-critiquing (and thus somewhat exiled by their peers) evangelicals, and they agree with each other most of the time. It will be fun for people familiar with their styles to see the contrasts in approach: McLaren is his Generous self, and Campolo more in-your-face. If you'd like a somewhat condensed introduction to both authors, give this a read. A lot of the points that each makes can be found in their other books.

We watched Garden State this past weekend, which surprised me because it was so freaking good. Zack Braff plays the lead character, an actor trying to make it in Los Angeles called home after his mother dies. If I try to divulge the plot here beyond that I'm going to screw it up. It's a great character piece that explores what it means to really feel something for the first time. Seriously, I'm not going to do it justice if I try to write about it. Just watch it.

As far as TV goes, I've been very sports-oriented lately. ESPN has been carrying a decent portion of Detroit Tiger games. I've been enjoying that, because sometimes when I flip on ESPN it seems like the only two baseball teams that exist are the Yankees and Red Sox. Oh, and sometimes the White Sox since they're the world champions. Lately, though, it's been painful to watch the Tigers (because they've been losing ground in first place, I mean...not the past 19 years...well, that's been painful, too). I watched a little bit of their game against the Rangers on Wednesday when it was 8-3, and when it shot up to 10-3 I shut it off. And that was with Verlander starting! You're killing me, fellas.

I've been listening to Johnny Cash a lot recently. We visited some friends in Bowling Green this weekend, and they had Cash playing on the stereo a lot. So I came home and went right to the library the next day because libraries always have Johnny Cash. As simple as his musical arrangements were sometimes, he told some great stories. In particular, I've been digging "Folsom Prison Blues" and "A Boy Named Sue."

Around the web, here's a hilarious Daily Show clip on Islam vs. Christianity. And this one from Stephen Colbert on the 10 Commandments in public places, which is more sad than funny. Or funny because it's sad. Or something.

Alternative to Hartford?

I sat at my local UCC clergy gathering this morning, unassumingly munching on a couple donuts, still waking up. The morning had come earlier than desired, so I was sucking down coffee and listening to a couple anecdotes that illustrated my own Conference's woes. Truthfully, nothing inspired me to contribute to the discussion...I was there to listen, to inhale caffeine, to take advantage of free pastries.

And then the revelation came.

It was suggested by a fellow delegate to the 2007 General Synod, and it went something like this: what if, instead of flying to Hartford, Connecticut next summer to pat ourselves on the back and have a big party to mark 50 years of UCC existence, we all march down to New Orleans and stay at some UCC entity nearby and help people, now largely out of the national spotlight, rebuild their lives? That includes our friends at Back Bay Mission, a UCC-related mission devastated by Katrina much like the rest of the area.

It didn't take me long to latch onto this. My last experience at Synod in 2005 was one of self-congratulation. I recall one instance of someone standing at the microphone declaring, "We are the people we've been waiting for!" and feeling the pride radiate from the crowd.

If we're the people we've been waiting for, maybe we're the people New Orleans has been waiting for, too.

We have this huge population still piecing their lives back together. What if, instead of another self-congratulatory party, we go and help people who truly need it? We roll up our sleeves, step out of the comfortable air-conditioned convention hall, and do what we purport to do? I've shared before how weird it was to be at the last Synod talking about justice for the poor where we largely ignored the homeless guys on the streets begging us for food while we trekked to the hall to do "real justice."

So how about it? How about a grassroots movement in the United Church of Christ to mark 50 years of helping the poor and oppressed by physically going someplace to help the poor and oppressed? Thousands of dollars will be poured into this gathering in Hartford...how about a gathering where it is truly needed? What a witness that would be!

I think Jesus would be on board with this. Call me crazy, but something I read once gives me the impression that he'd like this. I dunno...somewhere around Luke 4...or what the heck, last week's lectionary from James 2.

Hey UCC...let's go to New Orleans. Let's do what we've felt God calling us to do for almost 50 years now. I know lots of UCCers have already been there, and that's good...because the rest of us will need to know where to go and good places to stay.

Maybe it'll be inconvenient because of what the arrangements in Hartford have entailed already, but when has Jesus' call ever been convenient?

Brothers and sisters in Christ and particularly in the United Church of Christ, what say ye?


A great podcast from Chris Seay on narrative vs. memorized doctrine, myths of the emerging church, church/culture interaction, and wisdom, via Bob.

iMonk wants parents to ruin the youth ski retreat for Jesus.

Sub Ratione Dei has been added to the blog list.

Meg recently gave a speech at her seminary about men and women students.

Dying Church is back with a cool new layout.


The World Trade Center attacks set the tone for my entire seminary experience. It happened a week into classes, which introduced to me a sense of community as we prayed and cried and consoled and ate frozen yogurt.

Sadness slowly gave way to anger and debate, as the question of how to respond and why America is hated so much took over. Along came a variety of questions about George Bush's motives for Iraq, defenses of Islam as a religion of peace soured by fanatics, how to love neighbor and enemy, and our identities as Christians and human beings in our new reality.

Five years later, I'm not at liberty to offer a long rambling explanation or reflection this morning. The media will be saturated with such things and one more, even typed with my own hands, will be like ash. At least to me. I'm simply not up for it. In addition, I'll be observing my annual boycott of television in order to avoid the pomp and bravado, the sentimentality and the conspiracy theories. I remember how I felt that morning and the weeks and months after. I don't need someone else to tell me how to feel.

Today I'll just say a prayer. I'll say a prayer of thanks for people I love. I'll say a prayer of peace for a broken world. I'll say a prayer for pundits to give it a rest, if only for a day. I'll say a prayer for God to help us make sense of a place where people are willing and able to take such horrible actions and reactions. And I'll say a prayer for those closer to me hurting for completely different reasons, but for some reason their suffering seems amplified to me today.

And that's really all I have to write.

God's peace be with you, however you mark the day.

Pop Culture Roundup

So I was wandering around the local Borders last weekend, just for something to do. I had no intention of picking up a particular book, but then on those occasions I can end up taking home a bagful anyway. I perused the "3 for 2" tables and just started browsing the "New Paperbacks" table when my eye caught a familiar name and face on the cover of one such paperback. And that's how I started reading Make Love The Bruce Campbell Way. For those unfamiliar with the particular cult following of Bruce Campbell, he starred in the Evil Dead trilogy, the very mention of which causes Mrs. Jeff to roll her eyes involuntarily. At first I thought it would be another memoir like If Chins Could Kill, but it's actually a story of his experience working on a movie called Let's Make Love! starring Richard Gere and Renee Zellweger (it's not real, so you'll feel stupid if you try looking it up...I did). This is Bruce's more creative way of talking about the differences between "A" movies and "B" movies: budget, structure, organization, and so on. He throws in some wacky characters and hijinks along the way.

We watched Red Eye this past weekend. In the tradition of Speed and Phone Booth, we spend the majority of the film trying to outsmart the bad guy while trapped on a form of public service. Once we get off said form of public service, there is yet more outsmarting to be done which culminates in said bad guy meeting his end while perhaps saving the hostage/target at the same time if such a plot point applies. While the story and execution is pretty predictable, Cilian Murphy is cold and persistent and creepy as the bad guy, while Rachel McAdams is...hot. We even get a little commentary thrown in concerning the treatment of public servants who are really doing their best but still get crapped on by customers with overdeveloped entitlement issues.

This part of the entry was written the day I learned that the Croc Hunter, Steve Irwin, died. This was a favorite TV show my junior year of college in the house I lived in. Whenever he was found on TV, the channel-surfing stopped. He made biology fun in a way that my crotchety junior high school science teacher didn't. At all. Had Steve Irwin been a part of my life in high school, I would have at least considered a career in some biological field. I'm not saying it's his fault I'm a pastor...he obviously loved what he did and I might have as well.

I've been listening to my Christopher Grundy CD a lot this week. Not only is he a singer-songwriter, but he's been a professor of preaching and worship at Eden Seminary for the past two years. I first heard him at a youth/young adult ministry conference in Atlanta called Come to the Feast, for which he wrote a song of same name. He could be classified as acoustic folk; good for setting a reflective mood.

Around the web, this is one of the best music videos I've ever seen.

Oh, come on...

I remember back when Christopher Reeve died, most people mourned his death and celebrated his life and the contributions that he'd made to various causes and research related to paralysis. I also remember a few critics on the fringe who took his death as an opportunity to criticize him posthumously for only caring about paralyzed people after he became one himself. Well, sometimes that's just how it works: until you've experienced something for yourself, you may not think about becoming an activist for or against it. That's common sense.

So while it came as a surprise that someone would take "The Croc Hunter" Steve Irwin's death as a similar opportunity for criticism, it shouldn't have. Enter Germaine Greer, who comes off sounding like the battiest of moonbats as she goes environmental on someone celebrated as being quite an environmentalist.

What seems to have happened on Batt Reef is that Irwin and a cameraman went off in a little dinghy to see what they could find. What they found were stingrays. You can just imagine Irwin yelling: "Just look at these beauties. Crikey! With those barbs a stingray can kill a horse." (Yes, Steve, but a stingray doesn't want to kill a horse. It eats crustaceans, for God's sake.)

Easy lesson in semantics: "can" is not the same as "want." If and when Irwin says such things, he is communicating to his audience (who most likely slept through their droning high school biology teachers but might be more interested in such a hands-on, passionate approach), he is trying to give them proper perspective. This stingray may not WANT to kill a horse, but it CAN. But maybe your English teacher was the droning type, too.

What Irwin never seemed to understand was that animals need space. The one lesson any conservationist must labour to drive home is that habitat loss is the principal cause of species loss. There was no habitat, no matter how fragile or finely balanced, that Irwin hesitated to barge into, trumpeting his wonder and amazement to the skies. There was not an animal he was not prepared to manhandle. Every creature he brandished at the camera was in distress. Every snake badgered by Irwin was at a huge disadvantage, with only a single possible reaction to its terrifying situation, which was to strike.

Habitat loss? He wasn't building condos or drilling for oil. On his show, when Irwin had the opportunity to show an animal to his audience, he'd grab it for a few minutes at most, gripping them in a way that protected him and the animal. "Manhandle" is dramatic. Recall the occasions when he's released them back into the wild and subsequently kept his own distance.

But my favorite quote of hers comes from a separate piece:

“I am sick and tired of programs that tell me that the world is full of wicked, nasty, powerful, deadly creatures. Why does Australia set itself up to be made into this hellhole?” she said.

Irwin spoke with both amazement and respect for animals: what they are capable of and how they really live. But Greer's larger point here apparently is that there's some sort of animal profiling injustice happening. I commend to her Matt Ridley's The Origins of Virtue, which details dolphin gang rape and bee power struggles among other things. No joke. Sadly, the animal kingdom is not the vegetarian democracy that Greer seems to want nature programs to depict instead.

Ironically, Irwin both lived and died sharing that--among so much more--with others.

Ice Age 2: Christian Meltdown

A couple people have asked me where to find my Wittenburg Door article online. Well, the new issue must have been uploaded today, so now it can be found at this link:

Ice Age 2: Christian Meltdown

Hopefully, less over-the-top, more subversive material to follow.

GalPals Driving Meme

I found these questions hilarious for some reason.

1. Driving: an enjoyable way to clear the mind? a means to an end? a chance to be quiet with one's thoughts? a necessary evil? the downfall of our planet and its fossil fuels? Discuss. Most days, I like driving. Every once in a while, an evening will present itself where I'll load up a travel mug of coffee, stick in a CD of more contemplative-yet-driven (sorry) tunes, and cruise a highway. I use driving to get accustomed to new music. A memory from fall that I now have is being introduced to The Decemberists while observing the multicolored trees on the way to Chicago.

2. Do you drive the speed limit? A little faster? Slower? Have you ever gotten a ticket? I generally stick to going five miles over. Cruise control is my friend. I still get a twitch in my leg whenever I pass a cop, though. I should get that looked at. I've received three tickets, two for speeding within a month of each other. The other was for the split second that I took to double check a street name and rear-ended someone. Their car was fine. Mine had to have the entire front end replaced. Curiously, that was the beginning of many problems with that particular car. I ended up having it towed out of Eden's parking lot a few years later after donating it to the Salvation Army.

3. Do you take public transportation? When? What's your opinion of the experience? I'm most experienced with city trains. I've ridden the train into Cleveland to Indians games multiple times, and distinctly remember the urine smell in the hallway where I pay the fare. My other city train experience of note was just after I arrived in Atlanta last summer with my travel companion, and for almost the entire ride a woman sitting close to us softly preached about repenting, accepting Jesus, and being saved from hell.

4. Complete this sentence: _____________ has the worst drivers I've ever experienced. Well, Chicago is pretty insane, the one time I had to endure that fun road system on my own. But I'm going to give it to St. Louis, where they don't know why vehicles are equipped with blinkers and snow completely baffles them.

5. According to the Census Bureau, reverendmother's fair city has the 6th longest average commute in the United States at 29 minutes each way. How does your personal commute rate? 200 feet across the parking lot? I'd guess somewhere in the high millions.

Bonus for the brutally honest: It has been said, and the MythBusters have confirmed, that cell phones can impede driving ability almost as much as drinking. Do you talk on a cell phone while driving? Very, very rarely. Usually I'm being called by someone else. I try to keep an earpiece handy, and will begrudge people an answer if I don't have it. I drive a stick. I need both hands.

Pop Culture Roundup

Faith of My Fathers by Chris Seay is a cool idea: three generations of pastors from one family sit around and talk about church and ministry: what's changed, what should change, lots of anecdotes. This was one of those discounted gems at Nearby Osteen Purveyor, so I was surprised and delighted to find this. The chapters closer to the beginning are better because they're about structure, style, boundaries, and self-care. When the guys get into politics and "sin," it's a mostly predictable and annoying rehash of "hate the sin, love the sinner" blah blah blah. Donald Miller of Blue Like Jazz makes a few appearances, and I find him to be the bright spot in those more political chapters, especially when he calls out Republicans for declaring themselves "pro-life" while ignoring all the death in Africa and closer to home. Seay's father doesn't come out looking too well in these discussions: Miller will give a long diatribe stating his case, and then all Seay's dad can say in response is, "Well...I'm against abortion so I'm Republican." Granted, he was probably caught off guard (and Seay writes that there was a lot of tension in the room during these parts), so there's no way to write him off as representative of all thinking on the issue.

Entourage - Ari is fired. We basically saw that coming in the previews. But the execution of it is really good. The guys start interviewing with other agencies, and they get the exact same pitch everywhere they go. Meanwhile, Ari first tries to get Vince's movie back and after that doesn't work prepares one of his own...which turns out to be the same as all the others. But there's a lot of depth and sincerity behind what Ari does, and when he does get fired, one sees how human he is. Bob Ryan, meanwhile, is the best side character they've featured on the show. His last scene this season sums it up wonderfully as he gives up on the town that he used to have such a close relationship with. Oh, and Jeremy Piven won an Emmy this week for playing Ari. Woohoo!

No movies watched this week, so I move to a second TV show: the 3rd season of Arrested Development came out on DVD this week and we're already almost finished with it. It helps that only 13 episodes were in this final season. There are other well-written comedies on TV (few and far between), but there was only one Arrested Development. In fact, we've reached the point in the season where they centered an entire episode around the possibility of them being cancelled, including making fun of what audiences gravitate toward (simple plots, obvious comedy) and speculation that they'd be picked up by another network ("Did you talk to the Home Builders' Organization?" "No, the HBO wasn't interested in us." "Then it's [S]howtime.") It just plain sucks that this show was cancelled.

I bought two new albums this week. I've been more (overly) obsessed with books to the neglect of some of my favorite bands, so when I found out that two of them recently had new albums out, I paid a visit to the store. I picked up High and Mighty from Gov't Mule, which is their usual brand of hard-nosed blues rock mixed with Haynes growling at someone for screwing up. Mule gets more than a little political here with lines like, "New Jim Crow, different shades of brown." I also picked up Earth to America from Widespread Panic, on which the band just sounds tired. Really. I've only listened to it once so far, but a lot of the songs have sort of a "contractual obligation" vibe to them...cookie cutter and not very inspired. Or maybe the album just needs to grow on me. The latest issue of Relix reveals that Panic's guitarist George McConnell up and left the band this summer, mostly due to all the comparisons to original founding member Michael Houser, who died in 2002. McConnell was more polished and bluesy, and people didn't like that. I don't blame him for leaving. So yeah, the album definitely isn't great.

Around the web, visit the website for The Wittenburg Door and watch for my first ever contribution in their September/October issue.