Monday, December 31, 2007

end 2007 with a laugh

Hope you all had a good 2007. If you didn't, at least it's over.

May the Lord bless you and keep you in 2008.

If you need a good laugh to end this year, or one to start the next year, go here.

You're always gonna get it

Sunday, December 30, 2007

where does "World" go to get pregnant?


the Beast's Christmas

Santa gave her a dress, a cute little leopard print with a fuschia flower. She was, like, so excited.

the Brownie sisters

One of the great pleasures of the holiday season is getting together with family, particularly those that don't live close and aren't seen very often. This past week, I was able to spend time with both sisters. The younger sister* lives in nearby West Chester, Ohio, only a two hour drive from my house in Indianapolis. She's only 15 minutes from downtown Cincinnati, so I've dubbed her Cincy Sister. The older sister isn't as close - over ten years ago, she left the sunny skies of Ohio for the grey life of Panama City, Florida. Quite obviously, she's PC Sister.

One night last week, we fed on pasta and sourdough bread at one of Dayton's most famous downtown establishments, Spaghetti Warehouse. We sat at a large table in the back of the restaurant, where we could be as noisy as we wanted.

Here the sisters are, in all their glory. Cincy's on the left, and PC on the right.

* I designate them with the "older" and "younger" titles to set them apart. They are both older than me, the "younger" one by twelve years.

Thanks, but...

I believe Christianity is strong enough not to need the support of Congress.

The great debate - Is America a Christian nation?

Joel Osteen, Stuart Smalley, and those "The Secret" people

They all say pretty much the same thing.

(HT: BHT & A&O)

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Merry Belated Christmas 2007

Hope yours was a good one. Mine was spent with family, half of whom I only see on rare occasions because of where we live (Indiana and Florida, two states that aren't exactly close to each other). We stayed with my parents, which meant no wireless capabilities. I didn't have a car to drive anywhere for some WiFi, and I didn't want to beg anyone to take me.

There were 28 people at my parent's house. 28! That has to be a record for the number of people able to fit into a 8X10 room. Well, my parents' house isn't exactly that small, but it sure felt like it. With wrapping paper and bows flying everywhere, it was utter chaos.

If you want to see some photos of my Christmas, go here to Salty Dog's place. I'm on the right side of this photo, between my mother in the turquoise sweater and my nephew with the hat.

Monday, December 24, 2007

10 Tidbits, Jolly Old Elf Edition

01. A Visit from St. Nicholas, more commonly known as Twas the Night Before Christmas, was first published anonymously in 1823. This poem and Thomas Nast's illustrations are largely responsible for how we envision Santa Claus today.

02. Yes, Virginia, there really was a St. Nicholas. Find out more about him here.

03. Santa Land purports to be the "first Christmas site on the Internet," founded in 1991.

04. Rudolph, who replaced Comet as Santa's favorite reindeer after a particularly nasty snowstorm, was created for a department store.

05. A good place to learn all about Santa's dwelling place is here.

06. There are many things in this world that are perfectly fine on their own but achieve legendary status when paired with something else. Among these things are chips & salsa, chocolate & peanut butter, and Santa & Coke.

07. Who's your favorite cinematic Santa Claus? He's been played by such actors as Edmund Gwenn, Tim Allen, Ed Asner, Tom Hanks, former wrestler Bill Goldberg, and most recently, Paul Giamatti.

08. Did Santa and the misses retire to Rancho Peñasquitos?

09. NORAD will track Santa tonight.

10. Although The Wife balks at the idea, I plan to take The Sweet One and The Cute One to this place, located in Santa Claus, Indiana.

Dayton on Wikipedia

I thought I knew a lot about my hometown city of Dayton, Ohio, but as I perused through Wikipedia, I discovered a number of things I didn't previously know.
  • Jonathan Dayton, for whom the city is named, never set foot in Dayton.
  • There is a city named Dayton in 23 states, but mine is the most well-known. I also have family in the Dayton of Tennessee, home of a famous trial.
  • I knew C.J. Cregg hailed from Dayton and even traveled to the city to meet with her father and speak at her old high school (West Dayton High, which BTW doesn't exist in RL), but I didn't realize the Incredible Hulk came from the Gem City as well.
  • Who knew there was such a musical genre as Christian metalcore? Dayton claims one band of this genre - The Devil Wears Prada.
  • Dayton has more patents per capita than any other American city.
  • This is something I already knew but have to mention because she played on the Dayton Lady Hoopstars team with my neice Jessica - Tamika Williams Raymond is from Dayton.

we got dates

Kim Frabricius, in a sermon about remembering one of Christianity's most significant dates in history, mentions memorable recent dates like 9/11/01 and 8/31/97 (the day Princess Diana died). I'm surpised he didn't bring up two dates that stand out for me as ones to remember: 3/30/81 (the Reagan assassination attempt) and 1/28/96 (the space shuttle Challenger disaster).

Friday, December 21, 2007

10 Tidbits, Special Christmas Edition

1. Twenty-five Christmas movies we love. (HT: The Anchoress)

2. The Barna Group conducted a poll which revealed 75% of Americans believe in the virgin birth of Jesus. The poll doesn't reveal how many of those same Americans actually live as if it is true.

3. Brent thinks everybody loves Santa Jesus.

4. Dr. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, says that there were no three kings that came to the inn in Bethlehem. Oops! Ben Witherington says there was no inn in Bethlehem.

5. Should the Advent move to November?

6. Have you been to one of these? The top ten holiday light shows.

7. Have you visited Frankenmuth, Michigan? It's the home of Bronner's, reportedly the world's largest Christmas store. They've got a spot on their site where you can put up on a map pictures of your decorated home. Of course, some people don't know how to decorate well.

8. Timmy Brister points to a non-Christmas song that is actually about the first time the God-Man came to eath - and the second.

9. You can read Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol online.

10. For The Wife:

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Mormon questions

FoxNews recently submitted 21 questions about the Mormon faith to officials of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Rob Bowman and James White examined the answers.

You can read the Book of Mormon online.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

the neighbors' Christmas lights, 13

Time's Person of the Year

It's Vladmir Putin. We were all the person of the year last year, so I guess he's technically a repeat. If you had ran Russia, you would have been picked again, too.

...and I thought the Democrats in Congress were [against] the Iraq War...

The Senate, by a 70-25 vote, approved $70 billion for use in Iraq and Afghanistan, "without restrictions that Democrats had insisted on for weeks."
Twenty-one Democrats and Connecticut independent Joe Lieberman — who stood with Republicans at a post-vote news conference — voted with every Republican but Gordon Smith of Oregon to approve the Iraq funding.

Democrats again failed to win votes to force removal of U.S. troops or set a nonbinding target to remove most troops by the end of next year.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

the neighbors' Christmas lights, 12

The inflatable Santas and snowpeople have been quite popular this year.


Have you been here yet? Lots of cool stuff.

From the site:
Design*Sponge is a daily website dedicated to home and product design run by Brooklyn-based writer, Grace Bonney. Launched in August of 2004, Design*Sponge features store and product reviews, sale and contest announcements, new designer profiles, trend forecasting and store/studio tours. In addition, Design*Sponge features a unique section dedicated to covering student design, national and international design shows. The site is updated constantly throughout the day (with an average of 6-10 posts a day), and attracts a core group of devoted readers. Design*Sponge currently has over 25,000 daily readers. Click here for PRESS on design*sponge.

Design*Sponge editor Grace Bonney has a unique angle on the industry, working as a freelancer with top publications like House and Garden, New York Home, Food and Wine, Better Homes and Gardens, CITY Magazine, Time Out New York Kids, Archinect, The New York Post, Everyday with Rachael Ray and others. In addition, she wrote a weekly design column for the Philadelphia Inquirer for two years and has worked as Style Editor of HGTV’s Ideas Magazine.


I've got a city. Visit often!

Andrew's picks

In case you were wondering - and I 've no idea how many of you actually were - Andrew Sullivan likes Obama and Paul.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Dan Fogelberg, 1951-2007

Dan Fogelberg lost his battle to prostate cancer. I can't truly say that I've been a fan of his music, but I liked "Along the Road" so much that I chose it when I was asked to sing for an honors ceremony at my grad school.

"Can I have your autograph?" "Get away from me!"

Go here to find out the best and worst of celebrities when it comes to signing autographs. Captain Jack Sparrow is the best with a pen, and Ricky Bobby is the worst.

I've always thought of obtaining autographs from celebrities as a weird practice. What do you do with the autograph when you obtain one? Do you frame it on the wall someplace? Do you put it in a book? My wife has a baseball autographed by the great Stan Musial. It's in the house somewhere...

Have you ever seen a celebrity on the street? I don't mean at a sports event or a concert hall or a movie premiere, where you're supposed to see them. I mean in some totally random place. I've only seen two that I can remember.

I sang in the choir, called the Concert Chorale, all four years in college. Every February we would go on tour for a few days. My sophomore year we sang in several churches around Washington, D.C. We had a few hours free time to travel about the city - by foot, of course - on a Saturday, so several of us spent the time wandering around the Mall. As I was walking around the Vietnam Vets Memorial, I spotted Peter Graves. I daringly approached him and asked, "Excuse me, sir, but are you who I think you are?" He whispered, "I suppose so," and walked on. One of his companions gave me an extremely dirty look, but I didn't care. I talked to Captain Oveur. Unfortunately, he didn't ask if I enjoyed gladiator movies.

On our first year wedding anniversary, The Wife and I spent a few days in Chicago. We enjoyed an extremely late dinner at the Four Seasons hotel. As we were leaving through the main doors, we saw a man bending over his luggage on the sidewalk. He looked up, and I instantly recognized him to be Judd Nelson. He must have read the recognition on my face, because he immediately looked down at his luggage again. He had nothing to fear, however, as The Wife and I walked past him without a word.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

"I think we'd be fools not to be aware of his contributions."

Author Phyllis Tickle discusses in this interview, among other things, Hugh Hefner's cultural impact.

the neighbors' Christmas lights, 11

This house, down the street from mine, had so many lights that I decided to take two shots. This is the right side of the house.

Here we have the left side of the house.

30 years of LucasFilm Christmas cards

I so wish I could receive one of these.

Sinatra's Second Act

Benjamin Schwarz examines Frank Sinatra's life post-1953:

Although that point can be debated, the 1950s—more precisely, the period from 1953 to the mid-1960s—was clearly the era of Sinatra’s supreme artistic achievement and deepest cultural sway. It amounted to the most spectacular second act in American cultural history. In the early 1940s, following his break with the Tommy Dorsey band, Sinatra had emerged, thanks largely to swooning bobby-soxers, as pop music’s biggest star and a hugely popular Hollywood actor. By the end of the decade, he was all but washed up, having lost his audience owing to shifting musical tastes and to disenchantment over his reported ties to the Mob, and over his divorce, which followed a widely publicized affair with Ava Gardner, whom he married in 1951. He soon lost his voice (he would never fully recover his consistently accurate intonation and precise pitch), his movie contract with MGM, his record contract with Columbia, and Gardner—their passionate, mutually orrosive entanglement plainly and permanently warped him. But in 1953, his harrowing, Oscar-winning performance as the feisty, doomed Maggio in From Here to Eternity made him a star again.

If your life had a Second Act, what would you imagine it to be? Have you already had one? I'm certainly imagining one for my life, but I'll only allow what that is to reveal itself with time.

the neighbors' Christmas lights, 10

This house is a few blocks away from mine.

Julia Carson, 1938-2007

Representative Julia Carson died today, losing her battle to lung cancer. She had served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1996 until her death.

Friday, December 14, 2007

the neighbors' Christmas lights, 9

This dwelling place is a few blocks from mine - one of those houses that are too long to walk to but too short to drive.

What I'd like for Christmas...

This book, please. I'd be more than happy.


Pastor Mark Daniels, in this post, mentions one of my favorite songs by Steve Taylor, "Harder to Believe Than Not To." This song really speaks to me, not only through the powerful words but through the incoporation of one of classical music's most brilliant pieces - Rachmaninoff's "Vocalise."

If you want to listen to the "Vocalise," this interpretation is especially gorgeous:

Hillary's mom wants you to vote for her daughter

Wow. Next time I interview for a job, I'm going to videotape my mom giving me an endorsement.

Some thoughts:

  • She's using her mother in a political ad, so it's fair game to critique her for this. I usually refrain from either making or listening to critiques about the family members of political officials, but not when they have become part of the campaign.
  • "She never was envious of anybody." Instead of coming across as a casual statement, these words sound as if they were spoken to address an accusation - specifically, that has always been jealous of Bill's political power. Does anyone really believe this, that Hillary never envied anyone? I don't. You don't run to be President of the United States without first thinking I want that.

(HT: Althouse)

Brent, the weekly town crier

Brent has a lot of links this week, including several top 2007 lists, which I always enjoy perusing.

Christmas Carols

Do you have any favorites? Many people sing them this time of year, including atheists. My favorite is probably "O Come, O Come Emmanuel."

Pixar's in-jokes

If you are a fan of Pixar's films like Toy Story and The Incredibles, you know that the characters from these films often make appearances in other films. How many have you spotted?

(HT: J. Overstreet)

this morning's breakfast

I stopped for a rare treat today: breakfast from Starbucks. A cranberry bliss bar and a grande soy no-whip peppermint mocha (the fave drink of my guitar-strumming nephew-in-law). Pure deliciousness.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Season 4

Not long now...

Golden Globes

The list. What do you think? I've only seen one of the films nominated - Ratatouille - but there are many nominated ones I want to see, including American Gangster, Sweeney Todd, and I'm Not There. Odd to see The Sopranos get only one nomination, for Edie Falco's Carmela - I thought surely there would be more since it was the last season, but you never know how these awards are going to go.

Ten tidbits 8

1. 25 skills every man should know. I already know how to do #'s 10, 12, 14, 15, and 17. (HT: The Presurfer)

2. Did Hillary express that she doesn't really have any "experience?"

3. Megachurches across the country. (HT: Smart Christian)

4. Tom Neven has a series on "Godless Hollywood": 1, 2, 3, and 4.

5. What is your RoeIQ? Test your knowledge of Roe v. Wade. (HT: Joe Carter)

6. "Honestly, Honey, I shouldn't be drunk. I only had one glass of beer."

7. Golden Compass vs. Narnia: the box office results. Dollar signs, not theological ideas, are what Hollywood cares about.

8. Kim Fabricius: Ten propositions on Richard Dawkins and the new atheists

9. A blog for fathers - Dads are Disciplers (DAD) (HT: Jonathan Moorhead)

10. "Electron Ban Structure in Germanium..." {Warning: language!} (HT: In the Agora)

top 10 bad books everyone reads

Anthony Esolen at Mere Comments has given his list for the 10 most undeservedly popular books.
  1. The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran
  2. The Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels
  3. Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
  4. The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood
  5. Breakfast of Champions, Kurt Vonnegut
  6. Sister Carrie, Theodore Drieser
  7. Candide, Voltaire
  8. Catch-22, James Heller
  9. Ulysses, James Joyce
  10. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
The only one I've read is Frankenstein. Although it is in my library, the last time I actually read it was for a college class on science and technology. Shelley presents some very high-minded concepts about the morality of scientific progress, especially for the era in which she lived. The questions she raises are very similar to the ones raised in the film Jurassic Park by Ian Malcolm about the ability to create dinosaurs. I think Esolen should give Frankenstein more credit; after all, where would Boris Karloff's career have gone if he hadn't played the electricity-powered monster?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Counselor Joel

Brent at Colossians 3:16 believes Joel Osteen should hang out his therapist shingle.

"I always wanted to be a June bride."

You may or may not have heard about the Episcopal bishop Gene Robinson. He was in the news in 2003 because he didn't become just any kind of bishop in the Episcopal Church USA, but the first openly homosexual bishop. A divorced father, Robinson has been with his partner Mark Andrew for two decades. He recently spoke to students at Nova Southeastern University in Florida.
"I always wanted to be a June bride," said Bishop Gene Robinson at a talk on Nov. 27 at Nova Southeastern University."It may take many years for religious institutions to add their blessing for same-sex marriages and no church, mosque or synagogue should be forced to do so. But that should not slow down progress for the full civil right to marry," Robinson said. "Because New Hampshire will have legal unions beginning in January, my partner of 20 years and I will enter into such a legal union next June."

Robinson had his chance to be a June groom when he married his wife, but now he wants to wear the other shoe, or gown, or whatever. Can we presume that the bishop knows that the word bride has always been in reference to a woman? Perhaps since he is such a proponent of change, he desires to change the meaning of that word, too.

the poster

Here. Plus some spoilery stuff.

Monday, December 10, 2007


How walkable is your neighborhood? My little town-within-a-town scored 40 out of 100. How about you??

Sunday, December 9, 2007

two Nativities

This Nativity scene is from the baptist church right around the corner.

This scene is from a house in the neighborhood.

The second scene has a much more intimate and sacred feeling than the first. However, I wish that the baby looked more like a newborn child and less like a boy who will soon start to walk.

forget it, Belloq - you can't stop me from getting this

I usually don't get too excited about toys, but I can't wait for this!

in just a few hours...

...we will all watch the Patriots finally lose.

What do you think?

Update at 5:38 PM: Pats lead, 14-13. The Steelers were down by 11, so it's getting better. I can't believe I'm actually rooting for Pittsburgh - this may be a first.

Update at the half: Pats lead, 17-13. You've got to give credit to Pittsburgh for staying close. I saw some people giving the Pats a 10.5 point spread. Of course, the last two teams the Pats played stayed close and would up losing.

Update at end of game: Ugh.

"I can't believe that they would allow children to be exposed to this kind of thing without warning!"

Is The Nexus trying to be The Onion with this kind of thing?
Parents at a 12:50 showing of "The Golden Compass" in Fort Worth's Eastchase district were both shocked and appalled to find that the movie was preceded by a trailer for the upcoming big-screen adaptation of the novel "Prince Caspian", which some parents fear may cause their children to read a series that promotes spiritual belief and "denigrates Atheism."

Saturday, December 8, 2007

the neighbors' Christmas lights, 8

Who says you can't play on the teeter-totter in the snow?

evangelizing suburbia

Joe Thorn shares some of what he's learned about evangelizing in suburbia.
  1. Door-to-door evangelism is seen as an unwanted invasion.
  2. Initiating conversation at Starbucks is welcome.
  3. The evangescript is perceived as invasive and fake.
  4. Showing how real-life concerns connect to the gospel is well-received.
  5. The churched are often as clueless about the gospel as the unchurched.

questions for an incandescent reindeer

You've seen this holiday classic, right? It's unavoidable at this time of year. A mother gives birth to a child with a luminary nasal cavity. The child is ridiculed by friends and becomes an outcast. The child finds companions and together they seek refuge amonst abandoned toys, but are rejected by the toys' leader as well. The child and his friends are hunted by a gigantic and fearsome beast, so the child decides to leave his friends and return home. Having learned that his family has left to seek him out, the child finds them in the lair of the beast. The story ends with the taming of the beast, a joyous homecoming, and a legendary journey through a storm to deliver presents all over the world.

As I watched it this year, I couldn't help but be struck by several things.

  • Although I realize that mystery is an indelible part of this story, I can't help but wonder exactly how Rudolph was able to exhibit bioluminescence. Bioluminescence occurs in sea creatures like fish and squid, not land animals like caribou. Some scientists suggest that animals with bioluminescence use it to attract mates, and it certainly helped Rudolph develop a relationship with the doe Clarice.
  • Even though Rudolph shows remarkable flying abilities, he is shunned solely because of his bioluminescence. Santa Claus himself, who doles out presents to the children of the world, shows an extreme lack of tolerance - and even disdain - for different kinds of reindeer.
  • Hermie, an elf who should be happy in his work as a toymaker, decided that he should be a dentist. How did he learn about dentistry? I seriously doubt he would have any contact with someone beyond the North Pole borders. No elf had ever talked of dentistry before. How did he gain such knowledge of orthodontia?
  • King Moonracer flies around all night looking for toys. How is he able to stay away during the day to "hold court" in his castle?
  • When it comes to the toys on the Island of Misfit Toys, I guess we have to consider that they were made by human toymakers and not Santa's elves. After all, we would have to seriously question the effectiveness of Quality Control if the elves were able to put out defective toys. Perhaps the toys were made in China, which would explain a lot...
  • Even though they both old land in the frozen north, Santa seemed unaware of Moonracer's domain. How could he not have known?
  • Yukon Cornelius tells Hermie that abominable snowman are particularly fond of swine. Are there many pig farms in the tundra?
  • What is it about an abominable snowman's molecular/chemical/bone structure that enables him to bounce?
If you have any thoughts on this, feel free to add them in the comments section.

the neighbors' Christmas lights, 7

that time of year again

You can generally be at rest and assured that when December arrives, the MSM will cover stories and articles related to Christmas and the birth of Christ. Time or Newsweek, and sometimes both, will feature Jesus, Mary, Joseph or some other person involved in the Nativity story on the magazine cover.

This time, Benedicta Cipolla is writing for WaPo about the wisemen. Oh, you thought there were three of them?
The scene ingrained in the public imagination -- a stately procession of three kings in turbans, crowns, elaborate capes and fancy slippers, with an entourage of servants and camels trailing behind -- is a common image in books and films, but it isn't from Scripture.

In fact, there's no evidence in the Gospels that the Magi were kings, or even that there were three, much less that they sidled up to a manger on dromedaries exactly 12 days after Jesus's birth.

"Legends pop up when people begin to look closely at historical events," said Christopher Bellitto, assistant professor of history at New Jersey's Kean University. "They want to fill in the blanks."

"Time" to look at Rob Bell

Rob Bell is featured in a small-ish article of Time magazine. I have to confess, I don't know much about him. I understand that he pastors a church, he produces some videos, he is involved with the emerging church movement, and some people don't care for his theology. I know he's written a couple of books, his latest with the very provocative title of Sex God. He was in Indianapolis last week for his tour.

UPDATE: Bell has his supporters as well. As with anything, don't just believe other people's words about Bell, positive or negative. Check it out for yourself.

the neighbors' Christmas lights, 6

This house features Santa's reindeer, including the beloved Rudolph.

Huckabee & Obama

So much for Romney's speech. Governor Huckabee is doing quite well.
Questions about religion—in particular skepticism about Romney's Mormonism—appeared to play a role in the latest results on the GOP side. The survey was completed on the day of the former Massachusetts governor's much-heralded speech in College Station, Texas, addressing his religion, though most respondents probably had not heard it. Still, only a small number of the 540 Republican voters surveyed in Iowa (10 percent) said they wanted to hear more from Romney about that issue, and close to half (46 percent) said at least some Iowa Republican voters will not consider supporting Romney because of his Mormon faith. More than a quarter (27 percent) said they don't consider Mormons to be Christians, and one in six (16 percent) said they are less likely to support Romney because he is a Mormon.

Huckabee's religious credibility, by the same token, appears to be a key factor behind his surge. Huckabee has opened up a huge lead among evangelicals, who are likely to make up about 40 percent of GOP caucus-goers on Jan. 3, the survey found. Among all Republican voters who identify themselves as evangelicals, 47 percent support Huckabee while only 14 percent back Romney. Among nonevangelicals, the two candidates are dead even at 24 percent apiece. Even so, a majority of Republican voters indicated that other issues, such as abortion, same-sex marriage, immigration, health care and Iraq, are more important than religion.

As for the Democrats, Obama is proving that Hillary is less than... 'inevitable.'
Unlike the GOP race, standings in the Democratic campaign have not changed dramatically since the September NEWSWEEK poll in Iowa. However, Barack Obama has gained some ground, moving to within a point of Hillary Clinton among all Democratic voters (29 percent vs. 30 percent), with John Edwards in third place at 21 percent. Among those most likely to attend the caucuses, Obama has moved substantially ahead of Clinton, 35 percent to 29 percent, while Edwards falls back a bit, to 18 percent. Obama also gets more support from those who say they will "probably" attend a Democratic caucus (40 percent vs. 27 percent for Clinton). While the Illinois senator's lead among Democratic caucus-goers in this poll is not large enough to be statistically significant, things seem to be trending his way, Hugick said. "It's evolving into a two-person race, with Edwards hanging on," he said.

Friday, December 7, 2007

"His Dark Materials" links

Rob Bowman has provided an excellent round-up of articles and posts about Phil Pullman's trilogy.

Use The Golden Compass as a teaching moment. (HT: BHT)

Is it Atheism for Kids?

An interview with Phillip Pullman.

Hugh Hewitt jumps the shark

This is probably the smuggest posting I've seen in a long time. Hewitt has lavished so much praise on Mitt Romney's speech that he might as well light up a cigarette and pour himself a brandy.
Mitt Romney threw a long ball today and scored. There can be no objective argument against that conclusion. Why? Because Romney is running for the GOP nomination, and his remarks, both in delivery and substance, were lavishly praised by Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Michael Medved, and James Dobson, not to mention Mark Steyn, Fred Barnes and Charles Krauthammer -and these were just the seven people I heard on a long drive south to San Diego and then in a hotel room before leaving to post this and give a speech. I am sure when I get a chance to review the blogs more widely late tonight, there will be many others, though in fact every single one could denounce Romney and it wouldn't matter given the line-up of assessments just listed, to which I add mine from earlier today.
What Hewitt is saying, in effect, is this: It doesn't matter what you puny little people think of Romney. The important people - Limbaugh, Hannity, et al - really, really like him. So get on our bus - and I include myself because I agree with those people and I'm just as important as they are - or shut up.

the neighbors' Christmas lights, 5

This house is just down the street from Chez Brownie.

"All that you know is about to change."

the neighbors' Christmas lights, 4

Apparently the Simpsons live here.

Hannukah Harry may bring you a ham

He just has to stop at New York's Balducci's first.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Cat conversations

Everyone already has this up on his or her blog, but I can't help but follow the crowd. It's just too funny, and I'm a dog person.

Heather Kuzmich

Who is Heather Kuzmich? She is a contestant in the latest season of the CWs America's Next Top Model. What makes her so special is not just her physical appearance, but her diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome. She was unfortunately eliminated last week from the competition, but the spotlight has brought a focus to her illness.

From the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke:
Asperger syndrome (AS) is a developmental disorder. It is an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), one of a distinct group of neurological conditions characterized by a greater or lesser degree of impairment in language and communication skills, as well as repetitive or restrictive patterns of thought and behavior. Other ASDs include: classic autism, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (usually referred to as PDD-NOS). Unlike children with autism, children with AS retain their early language skills.

The most distinguishing symptom of AS is a child’s obsessive interest in a single object or topic to the exclusion of any other. Children with AS want to know everything about their topic of interest and their conversations with others will be about little else. Their expertise, high level of vocabulary, and formal speech patterns make them seem like little professors. Other characteristics of AS include repetitive routines or rituals; peculiarities in speech and language; socially and emotionally inappropriate behavior and the inability to interact successfully with peers; problems with non-verbal communication; and clumsy and uncoordinated motor movements.

Children with AS are isolated because of their poor social skills and narrow interests. They may approach other people, but make normal conversation impossible by inappropriate or eccentric behavior, or by wanting only to talk about their singular interest. Children with AS usually have a history of developmental delays in motor skills such as pedaling a bike, catching a ball, or climbing outdoor play equipment. They are often awkward and poorly coordinated with a walk that can appear either stilted or bouncy.

snow day

Snow has come to Indiana at last.

I have two pine trees in my backyard. This one is right next to the house.

We're fortunate, I guess, that we don't live way up north where even more snow fell. I'm sure my family members in Florida are quite jealous of all the white stuff we have - the only white stuff they have is sand and the occasional whitecaps of the waves. Don't worry. They'll be able to enjoy it when they come north in a few weeks. If it's still here, that is.

"Prince Caspian" trailer

Forget Phil Pullman, his critically panned movie, and his Narnia-hating screed. I'm ready for this.

Kos' "worst"

I have to admit, I used to read Daily Kos regularly. Though not usually insightful, I found many of the posts to be informative. I stopped reading, though, when the diarists pushed Kos more and more out of the spotlight with stuff like this. Click on the link if you must - it's not fair the faint of heart.

"I'm a little lad who loves berries and creme."


It's easy-peasy.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Advent & Christmas

Michael Spencer has some good suggestions for distinguishing between Advent and the increasingly secularized "Christmas" season.

"The music could only mean one thing: Abercrombie & Fitch was lurking just around the corner."

Matt Synder of City Pages wrote about his experiences while spending a week at the pinnacle of commerce, the Mall of America.

Hillary wants you to know how smart Obama is

In what must surely be the most juvenile example of dirt-digging that I have seen in some time, Hillary Clinton's camp is pointing out Barack Obama's "flaws" by giving "evidence" of a life-long desire for the presidency. (As if she never had that...) Team Hillary must be in desperation mode if they think they need to do this - post a press release that details reported past statements by Obama regarding the presidency.

I think this has an unintential effect, however. By highlighting two specific examples, Hillary is actually showing the world how smart Obama appears to be. He reportedly wrote two essays entitled "I want to become President" while in school - in third grade and in kindergarten. I don't know about you, but I was learning to read in kindergarten - I did not yet have the ability to write an essay. I doubt Hillary did, either.

More on this from the Anchoress.

Since I'm a Democrat, I felt compelled to send this email to Team Hillary:
The press release about Senator Obama's reported life-long desire to be President Obama is probably the most juvenile thing that Team Hillary could do. By listing all the times he supposedly said he wanted to be president, you have actually shown him to be highly intelligent. How many people in Team Hillary can say they were able to write essays in kindergarten? This press release seems to be an act of desperation, more than anything else.

Monday, December 3, 2007

the neighbors' Christmas lights, 3

Even though I don't live close to this house, I am compelled to include it. Some of the readers of this blog know why.

I love Jeff Caylor!

I haven't listened to one track of his music, but Jeff Caylor is already my new favorite artist. Here's why:

A couple weeks back, I wrote a post about my (former) love of Christian music and my desire to step once again into its waters. I was inspired to write the post after visiting the Christianity Today website and reading about their picks for the best music of 2007. I included the top choices in my post.

Soon afterwards, I received an email from Jeff, whose album Okay is listed at #5. He said that he had seen my post and offered to send me his CD - FOR FREE! How could I refuse? I gave him my address and told him that I would certainly write down my thoughts about his music and post them on the blog.

And, today, it came!

Thanks, Jeff! - you're incredible! I haven't had a chance to listen to it yet, but I'll certainly let you know when I do.

Proof the NFL is still scared of Janet Jackson

Tom Petty will be performing the half-time show at the upcoming Super Bowl. I hope the Colts make it again, but I fear that the team from Massachusettes will be there.

Friday, November 30, 2007

the neighbor's Christmas lights 2

The next house is one that's a few blocks away from my home. I think the people who live here are big fans of Disney.

Nehemiah's wall

Archeologists believe they have found the wall mentioned by the prophet Nehemiah.
Artifacts including pottery shards and arrowheads found under the tower suggested that both the tower and the nearby wall are from the 5th century B.C., the time of Nehemiah, Mazar said this week. Scholars previously thought the wall dated to the Hasmonean period from about 142 B.C. to 37 B.C.

The findings suggest that the structure was actually part of the same city wall the Bible says Nehemiah rebuilt, Mazar said. The Book of Nehemiah gives a detailed description of construction of the walls, destroyed earlier by the Babylonians.
Here is more on this discovery.

they say evil never dies...

...but Evel has.

Step away from the cookie jar, jolly fat man

On this Christmas Eve, set out some carrot sticks and bottled water for Santa. He doesn't need any cookies.

the furor over a teddy bear

Think twice about naming anything after a "prophet."
Thousands of Islamic fanatics wielding clubs and knives are marching through the streets of Khartoum demanding the execution of teddy bear teacher Gillian Gibbons.

As the mother-of-two started a 15-day prison term, protestors left mosques across the Sudanese capital to denounce the "lenient verdict" and call for the death penalty.

depressed Indiana

There is a decent article by Shari Rudavsky of the Indianapolis Star on the state of the state's mental health, specifically the levels of depression. Rudavsky points to this study, which analyzes depression among the states.
"Ranking the States: An Analysis of Depression Across the States" was researched and written by Mental Health America and Thomson Healthcare. It looks at data from 2002-2006 and was conducted from July to November 2007. The report compares depression levels and suicide rates in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and uses the information to highlight solutions to improve states' mental health status.

Mental Health America has two goals for the report: (1) spur the development of a public health surveillance system to monitor the mental health of Americans and the specific impact of depression, and (2) to stimulate action by communities, public health professionals, federal and state policy makers, and others to address depression in their populations.

The top five least depressed states are South Dakota, Hawaii, New Jersey, Iowa, and Maryland. The five most depressed states are Utah, West Virginia, Kentucky, Rhode Island, and Nevada. Indiana rates at #39.

I better get to the library

The New York Times not only lists the 100 most notable books of the year, but also the top ten books. I've only read one of the 100 books - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Have the come out with Cliff's Notes versions of these books yet?

the neighbor's Christmas lights 1

I wanted to show off some of my neighbors' creativity when it comes to decorating their homes for Christmas. Some will be good, some bad, and some absolutely outstanding. You'll have to be the judge as to which homes fall into which categories. First up is a house on my block. Although it's the largest on the block, the house is fairly modest when it comes to decorations. Some icicle lights and a couple deer, and it's done.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I guess it depends upon what your definition of "from the beginning" is.

The Clinton who has been president, as opposed to the Clinton who wants to be president, has said he was against the Iraq War "from the beginning."

"I... I like good food, ok? And... good food is... hard for a rat to find!"

Indeed, good food is hard for a rat to find. So is an Academy Award. That may change, however, since Pixar Animation Studies and the Walt Disney Company are considering promoting its rat-filled film Ratatouille as the year's best picture, not just the year's best animated picture. In the long history of the Academy Awards, only one animated picture was nominated for the top prize - 1991's Beauty and the Beast.

Under the academy’s rules, films nominated for best animated feature are automatically considered eligible for best picture. Similarly, their actors — though delivering only voice performances — are eligible for general acting nominations, though none have ever received one, and their writers and directors are similarly eligible for general awards.

But studios like Disney and DreamWorks Animation, which made Shrek, have come to fear that a push for best-picture votes, however well deserved, will pull some fans among the academy’s 6,000 voting members toward that category, while others cast a vote for animation.

Members could vote for the film in both categories. But Oscar campaigners assume that many would choose just one — a dangerous situation, given the small voting pool and the razor-thin margins that can determine a winner. Such a split could leave even a film as widely admired as Ratatouille — A. O. Scott, co-chief film critic for The New York Times, called it “a nearly flawless piece of popular art, as well as one of the most persuasive portraits of an artist ever committed to film” — without a prize.
Meanwhile a strong competitor like, say, Persepolis, about growing up in Iran, might slip into the animated winner’s circle.

Ratatouille is certainly the most charming movie of the year. I don't know if it's worthy of the top Oscar, but it should definitely be considered for the writing category. Anton Ego is one of the best characters of the year, animated or otherwise. He delivers one of the best lines in cinema - "I don't like food, I love it. If I don't love it, I don't swallow."

Indy & Batman pics

Jeff Overstreet has posted pictures related to the two 2008 movies that I will see opening weekend: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and The Dark Knight.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Roger Ebert picks the year's best films

2006, that is. He explains:
Yes, I know it's a year late, but a funny thing happened to me on the way to compiling a list of the best films of 2006. I checked into the hospital in late June 2006 and didn't get out again until spring of 2007. For a long while, I just didn't feel like watching movies. Then something revolved within me, and I was engaged in life again.

I started writing reviews of the 2006 films, starting with The Queen, and screened the Oscar nominees to make my annual predictions. Then I began doubling back to pick up as many promising titles as I could. Am I missing some pf the year's worthy entries? No doubt. But even in a good year I'm unable to see everything. And I'm still not finished with my 2006 discoveries. I'm still looking at more 2007 movies, too, and that list will run as usual in late December.

Nothing I am likely to see, however, is likely to change my conviction that the year's best film was Pan's Labyrinth.

I absolutely hated the ending of Pan's Labyrinth, but that doesn't make Ebert's assessment any less correct. The film is truly an imaginative wonder. Of all the movie monsters I have seen, the Pale Man is the one I'd least want to meet in real life.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Ten Tidbits 7

  1. How many NFL games do you see like this? The Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Miami Dolphins by 3 points, but just saying that doesn't tell you the story. The score was 3-0. The Steelers didn't score those points until the 4th quarter with 17 seconds left to go.
  2. Phil Johnson believes there is no turning back from the apocalypse.
  3. Did you realize that you are shortening the timespan of the cosmos?
  4. Polls don't always say the same thing. A new poll by Zogby International shows Hillary trailing five Republican contenders in a general election matchup; the contenders are Giuliani, Romney, Thompson, McCain, and Huckabee. Gallup, however, gives the edge to the Democrats.
  5. I don't know how much a publishing company would pay for my memoirs, but the money probably wouldn't be $8 million.
  6. Abraham Piper appeals to the better angels of our Calvinism. (HT: JT)
  7. The top 10 IT disasters of all time (HT: Presurfer)
  8. Dan Kimball blogged about giving a sermon on Hell: "Not an easy thing to tackle or understand or figure out how to balance a belief in eternal hell but balancing it with the beauty of the gospel for this life and the life to come." And, yes, I have to add this: Kimball's hair is truly remarkable.
  9. Mark Daniels offers a one-stop post with links to his "How Christians Might Think About the 2008 Presidential Election" series. It's truly worthy of your time.
  10. Joe Carter's "33 Things" series is the inspiration for my "Ten Tidbits," so I am compelled to point you to this - "Thirty Three Things Special Edition," which lists the #1 item from his first 33 "33 Things."

Entertainer of the Year

British-born J.K. Rowling rose from the depths of poverty to become one of the wealthiest persons in the world. She reportedly has even more money than the English royal family, and I suppose that's saying something. How did she accomplish this? Simply put, she wrote stories that connected with people. Stories that fired the imagination, stories that cut to the heart of what is true (e.g, sometimes simply living takes a great deal of courage, family and friends are important to everyone, help can come from unexpected places), stories that caused people to stand in line for hours and dress up like it's Halloween.

Rowling has now done what few people have. She's been chosen as Entertainment Weekly's Entertainer of 2007.
J.K. Rowling is our Entertainer of the Year because she did something very, very hard, and she did it very, very well, thus pleasing hundreds of millions of children and adults very, very much. In an era of videogame consoles, online multiplayer ''environments,'' and tinier-is-better mobisodes, minisodes, and webisodes, she got people to tote around her big, fat old-fashioned printed-on-paper books as if they were the hottest new entertainment devices on the planet. Let's also credit her for one more thing.

What she spent the last 17 years creating turned out to be completely original. Several years ago, when Rowling's series started to get popular enough to attract attention from the kind of critics who don't usually grapple with popular fiction, she was practically smothered in faint praise that evolved into a low drone of condescension as time went on. Of course, the books are skillful, went the murmurs, but really, isn't this woman merely an adept pickpocket, someone who's synthesized a little bit of Tolkien and a dash of C.S. Lewis and some Lloyd Alexander and a wealth of British-boarding-school stories into a marketable but derivative new package?

No. As it turns out, the Harry Potter books are much richer than their progression from lightness to darkness, from childhood to adulthood, from the episodic simplicity of chapter-books to the heft and sweep of epic novels, and in their constant, book-by-book recalibration of what their readers were prepared to absorb, they've proven unlike anything else in a century of children's literature. Can there be any remaining doubt that Rowling meant every word when she said, some time back, that she planned every aspect of her story ''so carefully I sometimes feel as though my brain is going to explode''? The planning clearly paid off, not only in the blossoming of the books into a worldwide cross-cultural phenomenon but in the widespread declarations that greeted the July publication of volume 7, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, that Rowling had created something timeless, a tale that children would read 25 and 50 years from now.

Dr. Drug Pusher

I was reading this article in the New York Times about pharmaceutical companies hiring doctors to help sell medications. Daniel Carlat relayed his experiences visiting other doctors and talking about the anti-depressant med Effexor. He said he never lied about the data on Effexor, but he spun the info in the best possible light. He received many $750 checks for talks he gave.

The drug reps that visit hospitals and clinics don't always have a medical background. Doctors would be much more likely to prescribe a med if another doctor recommended it, so it's no surprise that med-selling physicians and psychiatrists are becoming more common. I see drug reps in our hospital lobby at least once a week; they usually bring coffee (Starbucks!) and bagels (Einsteins!) with them, beyond the usual assortment of pens, pads, and kleenex boxes.

These two paragraphs are near the article mid-section:
Naïve as I was, I found myself astonished at the level of detail that drug companies were able to acquire about doctors’ prescribing habits. I asked my reps about it; they told me that they received printouts tracking local doctors’ prescriptions every week. The process is called “prescription data-mining,” in which specialized pharmacy-information companies (like IMS Health and Verispan) buy prescription data from local pharmacies, repackage it, then sell it to pharmaceutical companies. This information is then passed on to the drug reps, who use it to tailor their drug-detailing strategies. This may include deciding which physicians to aim for, as my Wyeth reps did, but it can help sales in other ways. For example, Shahram Ahari, a former drug rep for Eli Lilly (the maker of Prozac) who is now a researcher at the University of California at San Francisco’s School of Pharmacy, said in an article in The Washington Post that as a drug rep he would use this data to find out which doctors were prescribing Prozac’s competitors, like Effexor. Then he would play up specific features of Prozac that contrasted favorably with the other drug, like the ease with which patients can get off Prozac, as compared with the hard time they can have withdrawing from Effexor.

The American Medical Association is also a key player in prescription data-mining. Pharmacies typically will not release doctors’ names to the data-mining companies, but they will release their Drug Enforcement Agency numbers. The A.M.A. licenses its file of U.S. physicians, allowing the data-mining companies to match up D.E.A. numbers to specific physicians. The A.M.A. makes millions in information-leasing money.

If the government is going to become much more involved in healthcare, which it certainly will if we have a Democratic president in 2009, the pharmaceutical companies will play a major role.

As Instapundit says, read the whole thing.

"Men's Health" 12/07

I'm perusing through the December 2007 issue of Men's Health, the one with John Krasinski of The Office on the cover. No, I don't subscribe - it's a copy I found at work. I found some interesting bits of information in it.

  • 63 men lost 100 pounds in 10 months by replacing one meal with a protein shake made of the following ingredients: 1 cup skim milk, 2 tbsp ground flaxseed, 1 tbsp reduced-fat peanut butter, 1/2 cup frozen blueberries, and 1 scoop 100% whey powder. (p. 54) Presumably the other two meals didn't consist of Big Macs and deep-dish pizza slices.
  • Those Italians seem to know something, because studies have shown garlic as a cancer fighter. (p. 50) Eat as many breadsticks at Olive Garden that you want!
  • Starbucks' walnut bran muffin has 110 more calories than its black forest ham, egg, and cheddar breakfast sandwich. (p. 80)
  • MH graded fast-food and sit-down restaurants using the following categories: total number of calories per entree, fruit and veggie side choices, and bread with 100% whole wheat. They also penalized for trans fats and multiple dessert options. The best? Chick-Fil-A and Bob Evans. The worst? Pizza Hut and Macaroni Grill. (p. 168)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

"My doctor discovered lung cancer."

Julia Carson, one of the nine Hoosiers in the U.S. House of Representatives, issued a written statement to the Indianapolis Star yesterday afternoon.
In the late summer of 2007, Congress granted me a leave of absence because of my leg infection. My wonderful doctor cured the leg, and I went into rehabilitation, planning to be back in Washington shortly.

Then the second shoe fell -- heavily. My doctor discovered lung cancer. It had gone into remission years before, but it was back with a terminal vengeance.

Therefore, I take this occasion to express my loving and literally eternal gratitude to my friends, including family, constituents and colleagues, who have given me so much love, support and trust. God bless our beloved country.
My prayers are certainly with Rep. Carson and her family at this time. She has certainly lived a rags-to-riches kind of life - read this by Matt Tully.

Update: Carson has said she will not run next year.

I love Costco

I'm not alone.

Sunday on the wagon

I always like to peruse the newspaper websites of the cities where I used to live. I feel like I'm still connected if I keep myself informed of their local stories. A silly thing, I know, but it's nice to know what's happening.

I haven't lived in Chicago in 10 years. To be fair, I actually lived in Oak Park, one of the numerous suburbs around the city. We lived a mile from the Chicago city line. Of course, whenever someone asked if I actually lived in Chicago itself, I usually respond, "Oh, no - I lived just east of the city."

I found this interesting article in the Chicago Tribune - 10 Things You Might Not Know About Famous Evangelists. The article mentions current evengalists who are in hot water over their finances, Creflo Dollar and Joyce Meyer. One of the 10 things is a story about Billy Sunday:
Billy Sunday was a ballplayer for the Chicago White Stockings who became a well-known preacher. One of his most famous sermons was called "Get on the Water Wagon." A water wagon was a vehicle used to dampen dirt roads to keep the dust down. When a person gave up alcohol, it was said that he had gotten "on the water wagon" -- a slang term that was later shortened to "on the wagon."
Added: Speaking of Chicago, it's nice to see that the Bears beat the Broncos.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Circle of Lights

Every year on the Friday following Thanksgiving, Indianapolis lights up the downtown circle (which gives the "Circle City" its nickname), creating what is purported to be the World's Tallest Christmas Tree. It's cheating a bit, since the lights aren't strung on an actual tree but the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument.

For the first time, the Brown family decided to join tens of thousands of strangers for the festive event. The chill was present but the wind was not, so we were pretty happy. We parked our van in a garage for only $1.50, a rare thing in any big city. After a quick bite to eat at Arby's, we joined the masses.

Before the lights:


The Christmas season has begun!

Friday, November 23, 2007

the Thanksgiving Meal

Since I had to work at the hospital for Thanksgiving, we stayed home instead of traveling to one of our parents' homes. Happily, my parents decided to join us for dinner, so we were still able to have family with us.

We started off with some shrimp cocktail and crackers & cheese for appetizers:

We ate the traditional meal: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, yams, and green bean casserole. We washed it down with pomegranate-cranberry infused ginger ale.

I forgot to take a picture of the pecan pie and the pumpkin pie. Sorry!

Oh, be careful, little hands, what you type...

Young people often behave in foolish and uncritical ways, but it's even more foolish and uncritical to blog about it.
Millions of young people could damage their future careers with the details about themselves they post on social networking websites, a watchdog warns.

The Information Commissioner's Office found more than half of those asked made most of their information public.

Some 71% of 2,000 14 to 21-year-olds said they would not want colleges or employers to do a web search on them before they had removed some material.

The commission said the young needed to be aware of their electronic footprint.

It seems the electronic footprint can be more dangerous than the carbon footprint. The more details you give, the more likely someone will take advantage of you.

Let's be careful out there.


Black Friday

Shopping, anyone?

Or, maybe not.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

what Brownie would like for Christmas

Nephew-in-law, you can have your sun-powered lamps and your ham-flavored soda, but I'd like this - the Kindle. It's currently sold out, but you can always put my name in to arrive for Christmas.

12 Days of an Indianapolis Christmas

If you live in or around Indianapolis, you should check out The site, which features articles and reviews of local atractions (restaurants, movies, theatre events, concerts), lists 12 holiday-themed events.

If you don't have much money but still want to get your cultural groove on, stop in at one of the 12 listed destinations for free.

"Schizophrenic admits knife death"

What is wrong with this headline?

Only someone with a mental illness would be labeled this way. He isn't considered a person - he's one of those scary crazy guys who did something horrifying to someone else, and so this is what he's called. I guess "Person with schizophrenia admits knife death" isn't as sexy.

If the man had diabetes, the headline would not read "Diabetic admits knife death."

If the man had luekemia, the headline would not read "Luekemic admits knife death."

But since the man has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, this is what we get.

Thanksgiving 2007

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone, especially to the family and friends who stop by this little blog. We truly have much for which to be thankful this year. It's a work day for me, since hospitals have yet to close in recognition of holidays. My parents are coming and will enjoy a Thanksigiving dinner this evening, so that will be very nice.

Last year I posted several links to Thanksgiving-related articles and sites, so I thought I'd do the same for this year.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

"Since Hillary was elected in '08, Christian persecution in America has gotten even worse than we predicted."

I don't want to see a Clinton II presidency, but I greatly doubt it will be like this. Alarmism to the extreme, indeed.

the buck stops there

Oh, my. Former press secretary Scott McClellan has written a book which contains, among other things, an apparent admission of misleading.
In an excerpt from his forthcoming book, McClellan recount the 2003 news conference in which he told reporters that aides Karl Rove and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby were "not involved" in the leak involving operative Valerie Plame.

"There was one problem. It was not true," McClellan writes, according to a brief excerpt released Monday. "I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest-ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice president, the president's chief of staff and the president himself."

Whenever I hear about a he-said/she-said situation (and all its variables), especially in regards to whether or not a specific event occurred, I want to ask: who stands to benefit more from giving false statements?

I imagine my Democratic friends will rush to vilify Wilson/Plame and demonize Bush & Co., and my Republican friends will attack McClellan.

Overstreet on "His Dark Materials"

This is quite probably the most thoughtful, well-written piece - by Jeffrey Overstreet and from a Christian worldview - about the "His Dark Materials" trilogy and the upcoming film The Golden Compass that I have encountered so far.

What does Overstreet suggest Christians should do?
  • Educate yourselves. And equip your kids with questions… lenses, so to speak… that will expose the problems in these stories.
  • Respond with grace and love. And truth.
  • Admit that, yes, Christians have committed grave sins in the name of Christ, and that those shameful misrepresentations of the gospel have made many people fearful of, and even repulsed by, the church. But Christians have been called to serve the oppressed, proclaim freedom for the captives, bring healing to the sick, to seek justice, to love mercy, to walk humbly, and to bring good news of “great joy.” And by God’s grace, many are living out that calling. They paint quite a different picture than what Pullman has painted.
  • Encourage the artists and storytellers in your church. If you see talent and imagination, provide resources and opportunities for those artists. We don’t want visionaries abandoning the church because they are tired of being misunderstood or having their talents exploited for the sake of evangelism.
  • Do not get hysterical, mount massive boycotts, or behave in ways that the Magisterium in Pullman’s books would behave. You’ll just make Pullman’s stories more persuasive, and you’ll confirm for the culture around us that Christians only really get excited when they’re condemning something.
  • Finally… pray for Philip Pullman, and pray about the influence of his work. Pullman is just a man who, somewhere along the way, got a very bad impression of the church.I also cannot help but note a detail from biographies published online: Pullman’s father died in a plane crash in the 1950s, when Pullman was only seven years old. I don’t know if that had anything to do with his view of God… but I do know that many of the men I know who have struggled with the idea of a loving, caring, benevolent god are those whose fathers abandoned them or died while they were young. Boys without fathers often grow up with deep resentment, and having no focus for that pain, they target God.I want to be careful here: I am not explaining Pullman to you, because I don’t know him. But that detail made me stop and think about how little I know about his experiences and motivations. Shouldn’t I be praying for him instead of condemning him? Shouldn’t I be looking for ways to show love and respect to the man, even as I look for ways to expose the flaws in his work? Pullman’s not likely to reconsider his notions about God if those who believe in God organize a full-scale assault against him and his work.