Sunday, December 28, 2008

"When we wait on God and wait with God, we learn what it means to totally depend on God and we see God do good things..."

Waiting can be so difficult. But, once again, Pastor Mark Daniels tells me exactly what I needed to hear (or in this case - read), at the precise moment.

“We are a multicultural society, and people expect this American life to continue the same way in heaven.”

Will everybody go to Heaven? What about those who don't believe it exists?

In June, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life published a controversial survey in which 70 percent of Americans said that they believed religions other than theirs could lead to eternal life. This threw evangelicals into a tizzy. After all, the Bible makes it clear that heaven is a velvet-roped V.I.P. area reserved for Christians. Jesus said so: “I am the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” But the survey suggested that Americans just weren’t buying that.

The evangelicals complained that people must not have understood the question. The respondents couldn’t actually believe what they were saying, could they?

So in August, Pew asked the question again. (They released the results last week.) Sixty-five percent of respondents said — again — that other religions could lead to eternal life. But this time, to clear up any confusion, Pew asked them to specify which religions. The respondents essentially said all of them.

And they didn’t stop there. Nearly half also thought that atheists could go to heaven — dragged there kicking and screaming, no doubt — and most thought that people with no religious faith also could go.

Universalism does have some appeal, but it's not an idea that's been propagated among the Great Religions themselves.

Saturday, December 27, 2008


flat abs

Why wait until 2009 to resolve to lose weight? I think I'll start right now, and people say that doing these will help.

Christmas 1975

Christmas 1975
Originally uploaded by Good Brownie
We had a great time visiting the Brown clan in Ohio. My parents' house wasn't as full this year, since both Caldwell couples and the Brysons were in different states. My parents don't have internet access, so I wasn't able to blog, but we're back in Illinois now, where blogability abounds.

This photo was taken at our house on Norman Avenue in Dayton, five months after I turned four years old.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

does substance abuse treatment really work?

Ah, yes, the penultimate question of mental health clinics and substance abuse treatment centers everywhere: does what we are doing actually work?
Every year, state and federal governments spend more than $15 billion, and insurers at least $5 billion more, on substance-abuse treatment services for some four million people. That amount may soon increase sharply: last year, Congress passed the mental health parity law, which for the first time includes addiction treatment under a federal law requiring that insurers cover mental and physical ailments at equal levels.

Many clinics across the county have waiting lists, and researchers estimate that some 20 million Americans who could benefit from treatment do not get it.

Yet very few rehabilitation programs have the evidence to show that they are effective. The resort-and-spa private clinics generally do not allow outside researchers to verify their published success rates. The publicly supported programs spend their scarce resources on patient care, not costly studies.

And the field has no standard guidelines. Each program has its own philosophy; so, for that matter, do individual counselors. No one knows which approach is best for which patient, because these programs rarely if ever track clients closely after they graduate. Even Alcoholics Anonymous, the best known of all the substance-abuse programs, does not publish data on its participants’ success rate.
Treatment must be tailor-made to fit the individual. People come in all shapes and sizes, and so do their problems. Isn't it reasonable to expect that there would be various treatment methods? Some may not like to admit it, but treatment often involves trial-and-error: if one form doesn't work, then the therapist has to switch gears and try something else. Evidence-based therapies seek to eliminate trial-and-error.
When practiced faithfully, evidence-based therapies give users their best chance to break a habit. Among the therapies are prescription drugs like naltrexone, for alcohol dependence, and buprenorphine, for addiction to narcotics, which studies find can help people kick their habits.

Another is called the motivational interview, a method intended to harden clients’ commitment upon entering treatment. In M.I., as it is known, the counselor, through skilled questioning, has the addict explain why he or she has a problem, and why it is important to quit, and set goals. Studies find that when clients mark their path in this way — instead of hearing the lecture from a counselor, as in many traditional programs — they stay in treatment longer.

"Motivational interviewing" appears to currently be the method with the most buzz. When I went through grad school 13 years ago, everyone was talking about brief therapy.

Prayers for the Jollyblogger

David Wayne has revealed that he has cancer. He is scheduled for surgery tomorrow, Christmas Eve.

Obama, undressed

Well, he's not exactly undressed. He's wearing a modest bathing suit. Which, apparently, have made people go ga-ga. HuffPo has some photos of past presidents who have shown some skin. I don't think any photos of either Bush has ever surfaced.

"I get shocked by people getting divorced all the time, thats why I choose to work on it. Therapy helps us."

Courteney Cox and David Arquette have admitted to seeing a marital counselor.
"It's so easy to grow apart; marriage takes work. I suppose you can work it out by talking to each other - I would just prefer to have a referee, it reminds us why we're together... I don't know what the future's going to hold, but divorce isn't really an option."
I heartily commend them. Considering they are both Hollywood actors, this is especially refreshing to hear.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

there are a few songs that actually give me "the chills" when I hear them

This is one. I'm not a Catholic, but I absolutely love hearing it, especially at this time of the year.

If you're not much of an opera fan, perhaps you'll like this version...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Come for the coaching...

...and stay for the wedding.
When Kara Patterson arrived Saturday morning to coach her gymnastic students at the Cincinnati Winter Sports Festival at the Duke Energy Convention Center, she had no idea she would trade in her Adidas warm-up pants and T-shirt for her white wedding gown - and a surprise wedding planned by her fiancee, Army Staff Sgt. Ray Hignite, and her father, Brett Patterson.

"Now the rabbi's walking right behind me..."

Back in the day, I had a serious love for the music of Tears for Fears. But I don't remember this version of one of their biggest hits...

it's a pitiful life

Wendell Jamieson has a different view of a holiday classic.

Friday, December 19, 2008

the good people of Minnesota still don't know if Coleman or Franken won the Senate seat

It seems likely that they won't know until 2009. Whoever is finally declared the winner will have to live under a cloud of suspicion that the seat should have gone to the other guy. If Franken wins, will he say, "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me... I think?"

The 2008 Minnesota race for the U.S. Senate is almost like a carpet sale. Instead of Install in your home now, and you won't pay a dime until 2009!, it's Vote for Senator now, and you won't know until 2009!

Cali AG Jerry Brown wants Prop 8 overturned

I guess it's important to consider the will of the People when it comes to the American presidency, but not to the covenant of marriage. Of course, many people don't view marriage as a covenant, but as a legal contract that can easily be broken.

"I will fight. I will fight. I will fight until I take my last breath."

It looks like Guv Blago isn't going to make himself scarce.
"And I'm not going to quit a job that people hired me to do because of false accusations and a political lynch mob."

Heh. Funny that a Chicago politician would utter the word mob.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

sins made public

If Nathaniel Hawthorne were alive today, I think he'd be quite interested in this story.
A divorced Jacksonville woman said her former church has threatened to "go public with her sins" and tell the congregation about her sexual relationship with her new boyfriend.

Rebecca Hancock said harassment from Grace Community Church in Mandarin over her sex life caused her to leave, but she said that didn't put an end to the problem. She said she received a letter from the church's elders telling her the church plans to make her personal life very public.

"I'm basically run out. I'm the church harlot," Hancock said.

To me, this is an example of the church being the church. And speaking of the church, listen to what Penn (of the magical duo Penn & Teller) says about those who attend church and don't evangelize.

UPDATE: More on the church. Which is more embarrassing for Hancock: her church making her sins "public" to the congregation, or the newspaper reporter making this story public to everyone in the world?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Monday, December 15, 2008

another Kennedy in the Senate?

It looks like America is getting closer to having another Kennedy with political power. Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, who seemed to be more like her "private" mother than her "public" father and brother, desires the New York Senate seat that will be left vacant when Hillary Clinton is confirmed as the next Secretary of State.

I have just a few thoughts on this...
  1. I don't believe it's wise to make these sorts of pronouncements, considering the troubles the Illinois governor is having. Caroline could be accused of Blagojaviching the Senate, and I don't think Governor Paterson wants that scandal.
  2. If she wants to "pursue" the Senate seat, why doesn't she do it the old-fashioned way?
  3. Caroline called Governor Paterson on December 3, and they had an "informational" conversation about the Senate. Why in the world would Caroline need such a conversation? Couldn't she just ask Uncle Teddy about the Senate? That phone call was an obvious ploy to gain Paterson's appointment.
  4. The article reads, "The governor was traveling to Utica today and could not immediately be reached for comment. " I guess the governor and his aides have never heard of those new-fangled devices called cell phones.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Friday, December 12, 2008

the Hubble Advent Calendar

Stunningly beautiful.

"Newsweek" and gay marriage

The most recent issue of Newsweek has a most provocative profile article - "The Religious Case for Gay Marriage," by Lisa Miller. Jon Meacham has an editorial note, supporting Miller's article. As you can probably guess, many evangelical Christians believe the article has misinterpreted the Bible.

Naturally, a lot of people over at HuffPo are talking about Miller's article.

Mollie Hemingway knew from first line of the article that it was "just that bad." She also wants to know about what happened to "the standard."

Al Mohler believes the article is an example of "turning the Bible on its head."

Robert Gagnon, a professor at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, argues that the Newsweek article "twists and ignores" the Bible's argument against homosexual behavior. He makes his case here.

Christianity Today has responded to the Newsweek article.

Frank Turk of TeamPyro has let his thoughts be known.

Tony Jones has changed his mind on same-sex unions, but he really doesn't explain how he came to do this. Rob Bowman believes Jones has fallacious thinking. Tony Jones does think Miller's article ignores the "many complexities and nuances" of the debate.

Jon Stewart and Mike Huckabee discuss gay marriage.

Brant Hansen writes about his encounter with someone he is "supposed" to "hate."

the dinner guest

"Where is my spaghetti?"

"I'm enjoying the lemonade, but I still don't have any spaghetti."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

two gentleman from Chicago

The biggest question after yesterday's events: will one man's corruption spell trouble for another? He's already being distracted.

Friday, December 5, 2008

studio logos

Neatorama brings us the stories behind six movie studios: DreamWorks SKG, MGM, 20th Century Fox, Paramount, Warner Brothers, and Columbia. Did you know that Leo, the lion featured on the MGM logo, has been around since 1957?

HIllary's open Senate seat

It seemed that every New York Democrat who eyed "Pat" Moynihan's open seat in 2000 stepped aside so that Hillary Clinton, who had never lived in the state, could take it. Now, the NY Democrats may step aside yet again - for Caroline Kennedy.
Ms. Kennedy called Gov. David A. Paterson on Wednesday to discuss the position, Mr. Paterson confirmed Friday. The governor will choose a replacement for Mrs. Clinton upon her expected confirmation as secretary of state next month.

“The conversation was informational,” Mr. Paterson said in an interview. “She did not express an interest in the Senate, but we talked about the Senate, so I got that she was just trying to get some information to determine whether or not she would like to have an interest in it. And that was it.”

He added, “I haven’t offered the job to anyone.”
Yes. I'm sure she's recently dialed up several governors, just to talk about the Senate. Informally.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

goodbye, white lemuroid ringtail possum

You are no more, because of those vile and terrible creatures called Humans. They killed you with their global warming.
Experts fear climate change is to blame for the disappearance of the highly vulnerable strain thanks to a temperature rise of up to 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

Researchers will mount a last-ditch expedition early next year deep into the untouched "cloud forests" of the Carbine Range near Mt. Lewis, three hours north of the city of Cairns, in search of the tiny tree-dweller, dubbed the "Dodo of the Daintree."

"It is not looking good," researcher Steve Williams said. "If they have died out it would be first example of something that has gone extinct purely because of global warming."
Which prompts me to wonder: why is this so terrible? If men and women are merely the products of Nature and evolutionary forces, as the atheist believes, would it not be fair to say that Nature is ultimately responsible for the disappearance of the white lemuroid ringtail possum?

After all, Nature allowed humanity to rise to the position that it is in. Ian Malcom said in Jurassic Park, "Dinosaurs had their shot, and Nature selected them for extinction." Humanity - homo sapiens - now have their own shot at ruling the earth, just as dinosaurs did so many years ago. If Nature did indeed select the homo sapien to be the current dominant species, would not anything that occurred - even the erradication of a type of possum - be a natural thing?

I'm not saying that there is no argument that the disappearance of the white lemuroid ringtail possum is an unnatural thing. I'm just saying that I don't see the argument as existing. In other words, I'm agnostic towards that argument. Perhaps someone can help.


... for your church.

good tidings of great joy

I really don't think this is how the angels appeared to the shepherds that night. I wasn't there, so I could be wrong, but I don't think so. Detergents and dish-washing liquids hadn't even been invented yet.

(TY, Althouse)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

the neighbor's Christmas lights 2008, part 1

Like I did last December, I wanted to feature some of the homes around the area where I live. Most of them are homes in and around Danville, Illinois.

Monday, December 1, 2008

"We are uniting behind a national security agenda that is tough and smart..."

Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader for the Democrats, made a strong proclamation that Osama bin Ladin will be "eliminated." I think it was an important and worthwhile thing to say, but it's not something Reid said recently. He didn't even say it during this election cycle. He actually said it over two-and-a-half years ago, in March 2006.

I guess he was waiting for a Democrat to run the White House again. Okay, Harry: time to give 'em hell.

Didn't you notice?

The recession began a year ago.

And you thought the economy was going swimmingly...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Dave Barry's Gifts

This list may give you some ideas for those hard-to-buy family members and friends. I'm thinking of getting #11 for my new house.


Today is the first day of Advent, the beginning of the year on the Christian calendar. May it be for you a season of thanksgiving and hope - thanksgiving for the First Advent, and hope for the Second.

More on Advent:

Christmas on TV

TV Guide has a listing of all the Christmas-themed shows that will air between November 25 and December 17.

(TY, Denny Burke)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

the mental cost of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars

An increasing number of soldiers are returning to military bases and their homes with psychological problems.
More than 3,000 of the 15,000 troops returning home, [Dr. Bret Logan, deputy commander for managed care at Fort Campbell], estimated, probably will experience headaches, sleep disorders, irritability, memory loss, relationship strains or other symptoms linked to stress disorder. Medical staff at Fort Campbell say they also worry that there will be a new surge of suicides — an escalating problem in recent years, largely related to the stresses of war. Jon Soltz, an Iraq war veteran and chairman of, said more soldiers will have stress-related problems, and the military must be vigilant in diagnosing and treating post-traumatic stress disorder to head off more serious issues.

horse and buddy

The five-year-old son of a friend from college is featured in this photo.

Friday, November 28, 2008

the cult of celebrity

Stop and think: what magazines do you pick up when you're shopping at the grocery store? Do you grab a People or an Us Weekly? Perhaps an OK or a Hello!? Do you subscribe to these types of magazines, sifting through them as soon as they arrive in the mail?

Maybe you're only a casual reader, looking for a diversion while pushing your shopping cart through the check-out counter. Perhaps you peruse them when you're resting from working out at the gym. Maybe you watch Entertainment Tonight or Extra! now and then. Or perhaps, there's something more going on...

The American historian and educator Daniel Boorstin once wrote, “Time makes heroes but dissolves celebrities.”

We have just experienced an historic presidential campaign of unprecedented proportions, our economy is in peril, our military struggles to fight two wars, and our health care system is facing impending collapse. With all of these pressing issues weighing on the hearts and minds of America’s families, what seems to be on the covers of every magazine and tabloid these days? Celebrity nonsense. Does anyone really care which teen-aged pop star will give birth next? Do we need to know every happening inside the birthday party of a power-couple’s toddler? Is the diet that worked for the soap opera star really going to work for anyone else?

As long as there have been people who pulled away from the proverbial pack, there have been people to follow them and idolize them. However, scientists have only recently defined the psychological phenomenon of “celebrity worship” as a type of parasocial relationship that can have unhealthy and addictive elements.

Read the rest.

Black Friday

Are you out there in the world, spending lots of money on clothing and electronics and toys and such? You're supposed to be, you know. Just be careful.

As Smokey the Bear might say: only YOU can prevent an economic depression.

UPDATE: Everyone is talking about the Wal*Mart stampede. I swear, that story makes me ashamed to be human. What is so important about a Tickle Me Elmo or a $3 DVD that people trample and stamp out a person's life for it? Black Friday, indeed.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Are you preparing the bird?

My mother-in-law is making our bird ready. It's a 21-pounder.

absolutely zero

That's my answer to Mark Daniels' question.

Is depression a sin?

Tim Chester tackles an important question, one that I've been asked before. I think he handles it pretty well.

(TY, Justin Buzzard)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

ADHD: good, bad, or neutral?

The smashing success of 14-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps has brought a new angle to the debate about the positives and negatives of mental illness.
Children with the disorder typically have trouble sitting still and paying attention. But they may also have boundless energy and a laserlike focus on favorite things — qualities that could be very helpful in, say, an Olympic athlete.

For that reason, some doctors are pushing for a new view that focuses on the potential strengths of the disorder. Dr. Edward M. Hallowell, a psychiatrist and author whose books include “Driven to Distraction: Recognizing and Coping With Attention Deficit Disorder From Childhood Through Adulthood” (Touchstone, 1995), says the current “deficit-based medical model” of the disorder results in low-self esteem.

“It’s not an unmitigated blessing, but neither is it an unmitigated curse, which is usually the way it’s presented,” said Dr. Hallowell, who has the disorder himself. “I have been treating this condition for 25 years and I know that if you manage it right, this apparent deficit can become an asset. I think of it as a trait and not a disability.”

Michael's mother Debbie - who had almost as much TV-screen time as her son - took part in a discussion on coping with the disorder. Debbie is also featured on this page on Facebook.

Monday, November 24, 2008

the most emailed article on the NYT website right now

This one, which can be dubbed "the sexperiment." I mentioned it here, before she did. I rarely blog about something before Ann Althouse, but I feel especially blog-happy when I do.

I didn't beat Ingrid, though - "At the sight of this 'pastor' lounging around on the bed on ABC News, I felt the gag reflex kick in." Yup: I did, too. Although, I have to say, Ingrid, the red color on your site - no, the scarlet color - makes me think of this.

I beat Michael Spencer, but I don't have a letter to send to Pastor Young like he does.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Barack Obama hasn't gone to church since the election

Instead, he's gone to a Chicago gym.

for your consideration

The ads are out for The Dark Knight. While he may not deserve the actual statue, Heath Ledger deserves the nomination. It's difficult to think of a more memorable character this year than The Joker.

Let's talk about sex, baby church, no less.
And on the seventh day, there was no rest for married couples. A week after the Rev. Ed Young challenged husbands and wives among his flock of 20,000 to strengthen their unions through Seven Days of Sex, his advice was — keep it going.

Mr. Young, an author, a television host and the pastor of the evangelical Fellowship Church, issued his call for a week of “congregational copulation” among married couples on Nov. 16, while pacing in front of a large bed. Sometimes he reclined on the paisley coverlet while flipping through a Bible, emphasizing his point that it is time for the church to put God back in the bed.

“Today we’re beginning this sexperiment, seven days of sex,” he said, with his characteristic mix of humor, showmanship and Scripture. “How to move from whining about the economy to whoopee!”

And you thought Christianity was full of prudes...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

it's proper to wear gloves with your suit coat or tweed jacket

I enjoy listening to the New York Times' Bill Cunningham talk about the pictures he's taken. This week, he has several snapshots of elegant men on the streets of New York.

Listen up, men: if you want to be noticed, wear some nice-looking gloves with your suit or jacket when you walk about town. Bill Cunningham approves.

"I thought I had the flu."

If you're going to eat meat for dinner tonight, make sure it's fully cooked. You don't want to require surgery some day to remove a worm from your brain.

the man in the mirror is a Muslim

Michael Jackson has converted to Islam.

O'Keefe on film

Georgia O'Keefe will become the latest addition to the long list of artists who have had a biopic. Joan Allen will play her.

Ed Begley Jr., Tyne Daly, Linda Emond and Henry Simmons have been cast opposite Joan Allen and Jeremy Irons in the Lifetime original biopic "Georgia O'Keeffe." "O'Keeffe," from Sony Pictures TV, will follow the 20-year love affair between the American artist (Allen) and photographer Alfred Stieglitz (Irons).

Jeremy Irons usually plays the villain in his films, but not always. I'm guessing his character isn't going to try to strangle or smother Allen's.

Have you seen an O'Keefe in person? I have.


Wow. Did Michigan know they had a game today?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

you could see this one coming...

Joe may not be a real plumber, but he's signed a book deal to make himself a real author.
Just days before the election, Mr Wurzelbacher insisted he would not seek to "cash in" on his fame with a lucrative book deal from a major publisher.

"Everyone came at me to write a book. They had dollar signs in their eyes," he told Fox News.

"You know I will get behind something solid, but I won't get behind fluff. I won't cash in, and when people do read the book they will figure out that I didn't cash in. At least I hope they figure that out."

The plumber-turned-election-fixture also told Fox that he was short on cash and unemployed.

I guess I can't fault the guy for wanting to make some cash. After all, that's a very American idea, isn't it?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

the most annoying commercial

What's the TV commercial you find extremely annoying? I pick this one, and I'm not alone.

A Cubbies Christmas Wreath

The Brownie Family attended the Festival of Trees in Danville yesterday. The Palmer Arena was filled with Christmas trees and wreaths, decorated by local schoolchildren and different organizations. I'm not a Cubs fan, but I thought this wreath was particularly well done:

"We were teenagers—we didn't want them knowing everything that we were doing."

William Gates and Arthur Agee, the two main characters of the best film of 1994, still keep in touch with each other. Gates pastors a church in Chicago's Cabrini-Green area, and Agree hasn't had steady work but does have a Hoop Dreams clothing line and the Arthur Agee Jr. Role Model Foundation.

Have you seen Hoop Dreams? You need to rent it - now! - if you haven't. When you consider the number of athletes who achieved their dreams by joining a professional team, there are untold numbers who did not.

Snoop Dogg schools Martha Stewart

the kids are online and alright

A new study finds the Internet isn't such a dangerous place after all:
Good news for worried parents: All those hours their teenagers spend socializing on the Internet are not a bad thing, according to a new study by the MacArthur Foundation.

“It may look as though kids are wasting a lot of time hanging out with new media, whether it’s on MySpace or sending instant messages,” said Mizuko Ito, lead researcher on the study, “Living and Learning With New Media.” “But their participation is giving them the technological skills and literacy they need to succeed in the contemporary world. They’re learning how to get along with others, how to manage a public identity, how to create a home page.”

The study, conducted from 2005 to last summer, describes new-media usage but does not measure its effects.

Wouldn't you be interested in a study measuring the effects?

only 2 more months...

death and resurrection in the political arena

I'm not so sure the president-elect can say he's looking for "hope" and "change" when he's picking up former DC dwellers. Perhaps he is just showing off his abilities by resurrecting the political career of someone once thought dead.
Democratic sources said Mr. Daschle has accepted the job. But aides to Mr. Obama said a formal announcement would not be made until after the national security and economic teams were unveiled. Mr. Obama’s transition team did announce Wednesday that Mr. Daschle will oversee the new president’s health policy working group.

Mr. Daschle was initially considered for White House chief of staff, but Mr. Obama chose instead to name Representative Rahm Emanuel of Chicago. If confirmed, Mr. Daschle could end up being the point man on any efforts to overhaul the country’s health care delivery and insurance system, a tall order, health policy experts say, because of the current economic situation.
UPDATE: Uh, oh. Perhaps Daschle won't have an easy time in the confirmation hearings.

What kind of Christian are you?

Janet Cosgrove isn't "one of those wacko 'love your neighbor as yourself ' types." She's one of those regular Christians.
My faith in the Lord is about the pure, simple values: raising children right, saying grace at the table, strictly forbidding those who are Methodists or Presbyterians from receiving communion because their beliefs are heresies, and curing homosexuals. That's all. Just the core beliefs. You won't see me going on some frothy-mouthed tirade about being a comfort to the downtrodden.

Hey, Panama City...

According to Google, you are experiencing a chilly 54-degree Fahrenheit temperature right now. I bet your citizens are breaking out the winter parkas they bought on a ski trap in Colorado, right?

And speaking of the weather in Colorado...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Camille Paglia on the election

Paglia explains what really happened a couple weeks ago.

She professes her admiration for Sarah Palin:
I like Sarah Palin, and I've heartily enjoyed her arrival on the national stage. As a career classroom teacher, I can see how smart she is -- and quite frankly, I think the people who don't see it are the stupid ones, wrapped in the fuzzy mummy-gauze of their own worn-out partisan dogma. So she doesn't speak the King's English -- big whoop! There is a powerful clarity of consciousness in her eyes. She uses language with the jumps, breaks and rippling momentum of a be-bop saxophonist. I stand on what I said (as a staunch pro-choice advocate) in my last two columns -- that Palin as a pro-life wife, mother and ambitious professional represents the next big shift in feminism. Pro-life women will save feminism by expanding it, particularly into the more traditional Third World.

As for the Democrats who sneered and howled that Palin was unprepared to be a vice-presidential nominee -- what navel-gazing hypocrisy! What protests were raised in the party or mainstream media when John Edwards, with vastly less political experience than Palin, got John Kerry's nod for veep four years ago? And Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, for whom I lobbied to be Obama's pick and who was on everyone's short list for months, has a record indistinguishable from Palin's. Whatever knowledge deficit Palin has about the federal bureaucracy or international affairs (outside the normal purview of governors) will hopefully be remedied during the next eight years of the Obama presidencies.

Looking for some good photos?

You'll find more than a few here.

Monday, November 17, 2008

a new look for a classy old hotel

My favorite hotel in Miami Beach (okay... it's the only hotel in Miami Beach where I've stayed...) has finally completed its refurbishing. Martha Stewart was there, taking an exorbitant amount of pictures of hair.

If you've been to the Miami area, have you stayed in or stopped by the Fontainebleau? The hotel grounds are about a mile north of the infamous South Beach area. If you've never been to the Fontainebleau, you've probably seen it on the big screen - it's been featured in several films, most notably Goldfinger (the James Bond film's opening sequence takes place there) and The Bodyguard (about halfway through the film, Whitney Houston's character gives a benefit concert there).

A few morsels for November 17, 2008

Dan Wallace on 1 Peter 3:7 - does it really give permission for a husband to physically abuse his wife?

100 Tips and Tools for Managing Your Personal Library

LaShawn Barber "briefly" examines what it means to be born again.

It is safe to say that no game in the history of the NFL has ever been like this one.

Los is asking for a caption for this incredibly serious photo.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

the new trailer

I hope this helps you through the chilly months ahead. Well, if you live up North, the months will be chilly. It will only be slightly cool down South.

Speaking of Obama's faith...

Joe Carter doesn't think his faith meets the classical definition of Christianity. Of course, Carter is only examining Obama's faith through the lens of an interview he gave in 2004. Let us presume that Obama has grown in his faith since then.

RELATED: Where will the Obamas attend church once they've settled into their posh new DC digs?

Thinking Biblically about Facebook

Justin Buzzard believes it's possible. He discusses both the dangers, and the opportunities, that Facebook can bring.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Book Review Bloggers for Thomas Nelson

If you enjoy reading books and telling others about them, then consider reviewing books for Thomas Nelson Publishing.

Join Thomas Nelson Book Review Bloggers today! Any blogger can receive FREE copies of select Thomas Nelson products. In exchange, you must agree to read the book and post a 200-word review on your blog and on any consumer retail website.

Just go here.

Here's the first book I received, which I received seven days after signing up. I hope to complete it and post the review within a week or so. A large number of bloggers have already reviewed this book, but I don't plan to read them until I've finished my own.

the beast doesn't like to be awakened from her nap

She gives the Look of Death to anyone who does it.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Hillary as Secretary of State?

There is chatter out there about Obama picking Hillary as his Secretary of State. It's a fairly shrewd and gutsy move, I think. Obama probably believes that he has to offer her something since he didn't pick her as his running mate, and Secretary of State is powerful position indeed. After all, she could be left in the Senate running counter moves against him if he doesn't do what she thinks he should do.

Consider: She was his last-standing rival for the Democratic nomination. She put 16 million cracks in the ultimate American "glass ceiling." She didn't drop out of the race until she decided to, even though the numbers had been against her for weeks and weeks. If she's in his Cabinet, being part of the executive branch instead of the legislative branch, he can keep better tabs on her. If she remains in the Senate, her power could grow to the level of a senator like Kennedy.

What would be the advantage for Hillary? She would be part of the executive branch instead of the legislative branch. She's still the junior senator from New York, and doesn't have high-ranking seniority on any committees. She would have regular contact with government leaders from other countries. She would have much more influence over Obama by being part of his Cabinet as opposed to just staying in the Senate.

ALSO: Will Obama offer McCain a little something?

100 spoiled films

In four minutes! Shouldn't that be a record or something?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

applying for a job in the Obama administration

The questionnaire is pretty extensive. Make sure your references are especially good, and you better hope their picadilloes don't come to light.

a former "American Idol" contestant commits suicide

See? It's bizarre stuff like this that make me glad I'm not a "celebrity." I can't imagine what Paula Abdul thinks about that. The woman, Paula Goodspeed, had been stalking her for seventeen years. Seventeen years!

Here's the video of her audition for American Idol:

I'm sure most of those who watched the show found her amusing, like so many of the others who auditioned but clearly lacked any vocal abilities. The audition was over two years ago, so it would be difficult to say that her rejection on the show directly affected her decision to suicide. She probably thought about it, though. Some of the suicidal people that I have talked to have kept track of what they view as failures in their lives. Perhaps Paula Goodspeed did that as well, but it's something that we'll never know.

abortion rates

Justin Taylor has the scoop on the abortion rates during the presidential administrations of William J. Clinton and George W. Bush.
There's a steady stream of folks who continue to perpetuate an urban legend about the abortion rates in the US. (Kept alive, no doubt, by the fact that Hillary Clinton, Howard Dean, John Kerry, and Barack Obama have all cited it.)The idea is that because of Bill Clinton's policies the abortion rate dropped under his administration, and because of George W. Bush's policies the abortion rate rose under his administration.If you break it down, there are actually four claims being made here:

Abortion rates dropped under Clinton.
Abortion rates dropped under Clinton because of Clinton.
Abortion rates rose under Bush.
Abortion rates rose under Bush because of Bush.

Only premise 1 is correct.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

"...those guys are jerks."

Sarah Palin calls out the unnamed McCain staffers who criticized her:
Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska fired back Friday at the unnamed McCain campaign aides who have been maligning her in recent days, saying that their criticism was “cruel and it’s mean-spirited, it’s immature, it’s unprofessional, and those guys are jerks.”Ms. Palin spoke out upon her return to the governor’s office here, defending herself from a barrage of criticism that has been aimed at her from unnamed McCain aides ever since the McCain-Palin ticket was defeated Tuesday.

The McCain campaign aides complained about the $150,000 that the Republican National Committee had spent on Ms. Palin’s clothes, the way a Canadian comedian was able to embarrass the campaign by calling her and pretending to be the president of France, and the political ambitions she seemed to harbor beyond 2008.

By the end of the week, their complaints had escalated considerably, with Fox News quoting unnamed McCain campaign officials as saying that Ms. Palin had not known that Africa was a continent, not a country, and claiming that she did not know which countries were covered by the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Two things about this:
  1. It's funny how someone has an opportunity to address her accusers in court, but doesn't have that same opportunity when "unnamed sources" in the press speak ill about her.
  2. Can we really say that Fox News is pro-Palin if it's the primary news organization that's stirring up all this? Doesn't Sean Hannity have the power to squelch it?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

What will healthcare look like under an Obama presidency?

Since I work in the healthcare field, I would have to say that this is the biggest question I have since America will soon have a Democratic president again. The most (in)famous attempt to overhaul the healthcare system was made by First Lady Hillary Clinton during Bill's first two years in office. That was arguably the biggest reason why the Democrats lost control of the House and Senate in 1994.

"HillaryCare" came to mind when I read this article about the growing number of hospital patients who are unable to pay for their medical services.
While the full effects of the downturn are likely to become more evident in coming months as more people lose their jobs and their insurance coverage, some hospitals say they are already experiencing a fall-off in patient admissions.

Some patients with insurance seem to be deferring treatments like knee replacements, hernia repairs and weight-loss surgeries — the kind of procedures that are among the most lucrative to hospitals. Just as consumers are hesitant to make any sort of big financial decision right now, some patients may feel too financially insecure to take time off work or spend what could be thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses for elective treatments.

The possibility of putting off an expensive surgery or other major procedure has now become a frequent topic of conversation with patients, said Dr. Ted Epperly, a family practice doctor in Boise, Idaho, who also serves as president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. For some patients, he said, it is a matter of choosing between such fundamental needs as food and gas and their medical care. “They wait,” he said. The loss of money-making procedures comes at a difficult time for hospitals because these treatments tend to subsidize the charity care and unpaid medical bills that are increasing as a result of the slow economy.
Four years from now, will we still read articles like this one? Will conversations about the uninsured still exist?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Barack Obama will be America's 44th president

When you look at it like this, Obama's election is particularly striking. Yesterday was a historic day, indeed.

ADDED: The photo-spread.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day 2008

I'm glad we've finally arrived to this day, mostly so we don't have to see any campaign commercials anymore. If you're interested in that type of thing, Ann Althouse and Andrew Sullivan are live-blogging the results.

My home state of Ohio has gone to Obama. The significance of this can not be minimized in any way, and Mark Daniels explains why.

Monday, November 3, 2008

If Obama wins tomorrow, Christmas will be here sooner than you think

Election Eve

The day is nearly here. It's the day that all Americans, but especially two Senators, have been waiting for. We've been hearing about it ever since the end of November 2006. And now, the next time the sun rises, it will shine on Election Day. America will either have her first biracial president, or her first female vice president.

If you haven't voted yet, there is much to consider. I want to point you to just a few links that I believe will help you in your thinking.

Friday, October 31, 2008

pumpkins at night

The girls had a great evening. Their grandparents' church hosted a trick-or-treating event, where kids were able to play games and win candy, on the grounds of a former miniature golf course. They fell asleep when we started driving around to different relatives' homes so they could show off their costumes. Sorry, Aunt Irene and Aunt Pat - we'll get to you first next year, we promise.

pumpkins by day

The jack o'lanterns for the Brownie household have been prepared, signaling our readiness for Halloween. The Sweet One enjoyed pulling out all the "guts" of the pumpkins, but The Cute One quickly became bored and moved on to other activities. The Sweet One designed the pumpkin above, and I cut it out for her.

The pumpkin on the right was inspired by one on this site, which in turn was inspired by this painting.

Reformation Day Symposium

Tim Challies has it covered.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

the top film boogeymen

Did your favorite make the list? When I was a child, I had recurring nightmares about #16. I mean, he's obviously a guy in a suit, but still. I have seen his films as an adult, and now I think he's more pitiful than scary. He's all alone in his world. There appears to be nothing else like him, or at least nothing that any "civilized" person has found. Just think about what kind of psychological damage he's experienced.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

"Everywhere I go... I still see optimism and hope and strength."

Did you watch Obama's 30-minute infomercial? I must confess, I didn't - a bit early for my tastes, especially since I live in the Central time zone now. I may try to watch it all some time, but I seriously doubt it. I've already voted, so it doesn't really matter.

If you missed it but want to see it, it's on Youtube.

inside the Labrot and Graham Distillery

What do they make? This.

Sarah Palin took on the old boys' club in Alaska

She did it with her family right behind her.

The big thing you have to remember about Palin is that she's a woman of her word.

Oh, yes. And, she's an expert on energy.

Also, if you're even slightly thinking about voting for Palin's opponents, and you consider yourself to be a Christian, be assured of this: a vote for Obama damns you to hell.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Momma said there'd be days like this...

Admit it. At one time in your life, you've done something comparable to this.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Mann's Chapel

Mann's Chapel, the oldest church in Vermilion County of Illinois, was built in 1857. It's famous enough to warrant a Wikipedia entry.

You may ask, what's so special about Mann's Chapel?

Let's take a closer look at the steeple, shall we?

And now, a peek inside the church:

the neighbors' Halloween decorations

Last December, I posted several pictures of different Christmas scenes that my neighbors had constructed on their property. Since so many more people are decorating their homes for Halloween, I thought I'd take several snapshots and put them up. Here's one of a very close neighbor to my in-laws:

Monday, October 20, 2008

(don't) bring your problem children to Nebraska

I met with countless children during my years as a crisis therapist for a hospital. More often than not, I thought that the kid I saw had a lot of internal struggles and problems, but would behave much better if the mother and father knew how to "parent" better. If the kid was in a better environment (i.e., if he had different parents), the problematic behaviors would be greatly diminished.

Apparently, that was thinking of the folks in the great state of Nebraska when they designed a "safe-haven" law. I mean, why else would parents leave their 16-year-old boy at a hospital designed as a "safe-haven" zone, if there weren't some behavior problems? All that will soon change, however, when Nebraska switches to only accepting children younger than 4 days old.

The new law won't take effect until January, so you can still threaten to drive your incorrigible teen to Nebraska if she doesn't shape up.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

diva with head of red

Why wait to catch up with someone at high school reunions when you can just "google" them and become a "friend"on Facebook?

You know, it's pretty surreal to surf the web, stop at Wikipedia, and uncover the scoop on someone you went to high school with. She's done some pretty interesting things these past 18 years.

General Colin Powell names his pick to be the next U.S. president

If you've paid attention to politics, Powell's endorsement really shouldn't come as a complete surprise. Yes, he's a Republican and a military man, just like John McCain. But, he's pro-choice and a self-described "fiscal conservative with a social conscience." He sees a vote for McCain as a backward step, and a vote for Obama as a leap into the future.

I've never had the opportunity to see in person - let alone meet - the former secretary of state, but my wife has. During his book tour of 1995, Powell made a stop at the most essential bookstore in Dayton, Ohio - Books & Co. I knew he was coming to town and would begin signing books at 5:00 PM, but I couldn't go to meet him because I was scheduled to work from 4:00 PM to midnight that evening. My wife was able to leave her work early enough to join the line, meet the general, and get a book signed.

playing games at school doesn't mean that education isn't occurring

Creativity is essential in teaching and treating children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), as this article about a school in Decatur, Georgia, makes clear.
What makes the Community School unusual is not its student body — plenty of schools around the country enroll teenagers with an autism spectrum disorder. But, like about only two dozen schools in the country, it employs a relatively new, creative and highly interactive teaching method known as D.I.R./Floortime, which is producing striking results among T.C.S.’s student body. (D.I.R. stands for developmental, individual differences, relationship-based approach.) The method is derived from the work of Stanley Greenspan, a child psychiatrist and professor of psychiatry, behavioral science and pediatrics at George Washington University, and his colleague Dr. Serena Wieder. D.I.R./Floortime can be effective with all kinds of children, whether they have developmental challenges or not. As applied by T.C.S., it is an approach that encourages students to develop their strengths and interests by working closely with one another and with their teachers. The goal for students is neurological progress through real-world engagement.

With the skyrocketing diagnoses of A.S.D.’s in recent years, parents and school systems are challenged as never before to find techniques to keep these teenagers engaged, productive and nondespairing. Boys with A.S.D. (they outnumber girls four to one) who were difficult to console, to teach, to restrain at age 4 or 8 can be nearly impossible for parents and teachers to manage and to steer at 14 and 18. While a 25-pound toddler’s tantrum is wearying, a 150-pound teenager’s tantrum is dangerous. Puberty and young adulthood take many of these young people unawares.

How best to serve this population remains a subject of debate, because autism is a “final common pathway” diagnosis, meaning children arrive here from different points of origin, are troubled by a wide variety of issues and respond to different strategies. “You meet one child with autism and, well, you’ve met one child with autism,” says Linda Brandenburg, the director of school autism services at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Maryland. Given the wide range of expression in autism and related disorders, there is no one-size-fits-all intervention. “We now know that there are several different models that seem to work — some more behavioral, some more developmental, some more eclectic,” Dr. Fred R. Volkmar, director of the Yale Child Study Center, told me. “What we really need to be doing, what the law says, is design programs around the kids rather than force kids into a program.”

Friday, October 17, 2008

Don't ask Joe Biden how many letters are in the word "jobs"

"it's unclear whether she is Bushian or Reaganite. She doesn't think aloud. She just . . . says things."

Peggy Noonan on Sarah Palin:
Here is a fact of life that is also a fact of politics: You have to hold open the possibility of magic. People can come from nowhere, with modest backgrounds and short résumés, and yet be individuals of real gifts, gifts that had previously been unseen, that had been gleaming quietly under a bushel, and are suddenly revealed. Mrs. Palin came, essentially, from nowhere. But there was a man who came from nowhere, the seeming tool of a political machine, a tidy, narrow, unsophisticated senator appointed to high office and then thrust into power by a careless Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose vanity told him he would live forever. And yet that limited little man was Harry S. Truman. Of the Marshall Plan, of containment. Little Harry was big. He had magic. You have to give people time to show what they have. Because maybe they have magic too.

But we have seen Mrs. Palin on the national stage for seven weeks now, and there is little sign that she has the tools, the equipment, the knowledge or the philosophical grounding one hopes for, and expects, in a holder of high office. She is a person of great ambition, but the question remains: What is the purpose of the ambition? She wants to rise, but what for? For seven weeks I've listened to her, trying to understand if she is Bushian or Reaganite—a spender, to speak briefly, whose political decisions seem untethered to a political philosophy, and whose foreign policy is shaped by a certain emotionalism, or a conservative whose principles are rooted in philosophy, and whose foreign policy leans more toward what might be called romantic realism, and that is speak truth, know America, be America, move diplomatically, respect public opinion, and move within an awareness and appreciation of reality.
Governor Palin only has a few weeks left to show us her magic. I would suggest she use a news conference to show she can talk to reporters of different stripes, not just those who work for Fox News. What do you think, Peggy?

No news conferences? Interviews now only with friendly journalists? You can't be president or vice president and govern in that style, as a sequestered figure. This has been Mr. Bush's style the past few years, and see where it got us. You must address America in its entirety, not as a sliver or a series of slivers but as a full and whole entity, a great nation trying to hold together. When you don't, when you play only to your little piece, you contribute to its fracturing.

In the end the Palin candidacy is a symptom and expression of a new vulgarization in American politics. It's no good, not for conservatism and not for the country. And yes, it is a mark against John McCain, against his judgment and idealism.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

"I went in there one day, and in the drawing room I found Emily reclining in the arms of a man."

Emily Dickinson had a secret lover!
It's now widely assumed that that man was Judge Otis Lord, a widower of her father's generation who proposed marriage to Dickinson late in his life and hers (she died in 1886 at the age of 56) only to be affectionately rebuffed. "Don't you know," she wrote coyly but decisively, "that you are happiest while I withhold and not confer?" Yet the notion of Emily Dickinson making out in her living room is so foreign to our conception of her that her autumnal tryst with Judge Lord has never become part of the popular lore about her.
Will you read her poetry in the same way again? Is it better to think of her as an old spinster longing for the beauty of romantic companionship but never finding it? Is it disappointing to think that she wasn't so different from all us romantic fools?

I bet that if Emily Dickinson had been a fan of '80's pop songs, this one would have been near the top of her favorites list:

Two sure signs that October is here

Every store and produce stand keeps lots of these in stock:

Royal Donut, where smiley-face iced cookies can usually be found, starts making these:

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

for those who think I wholeheartedly support Barack Obama...

... I can assure you that I don't. Mainly because of this. I just don't see how someone can claim to value a human life, and casually consent to letting people kill an unborn child.
What kind of America do we want our beloved nation to be? Barack Obama's America is one in which being human just isn't enough to warrant care and protection. It is an America where the unborn may legitimately be killed without legal restriction, even by the grisly practice of partial-birth abortion. It is an America where a baby who survives abortion is not even entitled to comfort care as she dies on a stainless steel table or in a soiled linen bin. It is a nation in which some members of the human family are regarded as inferior and others superior in fundamental dignity and rights. In Obama's America, public policy would make a mockery of the great constitutional principle of the equal protection of the law. In perhaps the most telling comment made by any candidate in either party in this election year, Senator Obama, when asked by Rick Warren when a baby gets human rights, replied: ''that question is above my pay grade.'' It was a profoundly disingenuous answer: For even at a state senator's pay grade, Obama presumed to answer that question with blind certainty. His unspoken answer then, as now, is chilling: human beings have no rights until infancy - and if they are unwanted survivors of attempted abortions, not even then.
Anybody know of a great candidate for president whose name isn't John McCain or Barack Obama? I'm open to suggestions.

MORE: JT, take it away.

I don't watch "The Office"

I know - that's practically the same thing as saying "I don't breathe oxygen" to some of you out there. It's one of those shows, like Heroes, that I'd probably enjoy if I watched it, but for some reason or 'nother, it's not on my viewing list.

Maybe I'll watch it if someone tells me that it includes lots of scenes like this:

My inner geek finds it absolutely hilarious.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

the irrationality of Bill Maher

Looks like the main star of Religulous isn't all that "rational" himself.
On Oct. 3, Mr. Maher debuts "Religulous," his documentary that attacks religious belief. He talks to Hasidic scholars, Jews for Jesus, Muslims, polygamists, Satanists, creationists, and even Rael -- prophet of the Raelians -- before telling viewers: "The plain fact is religion must die for man to live."

But it turns out that the late-night comic is no icon of rationality himself. In fact, he is a fervent advocate of pseudoscience. The night before his performance on Conan O'Brien, Mr. Maher told David Letterman -- a quintuple bypass survivor -- to stop taking the pills that his doctor had prescribed for him. He proudly stated that he didn't accept Western medicine. On his HBO show in 2005, Mr. Maher said: "I don't believe in vaccination. . . . Another theory that I think is flawed, that we go by the Louis Pasteur [germ] theory." He has told CNN's Larry King that he won't take aspirin because he believes it is lethal and that he doesn't even believe the Salk vaccine eradicated polio.

Anti-religionists such as Mr. Maher bring to mind the assertion of G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown character that all atheists, secularists, humanists and rationalists are susceptible to superstition: "It's the first effect of not believing in God that you lose your common sense, and can't see things as they are."

Cedarville is growing

Despite past controversies (or perhaps because of them?), Cedarville University continues to expand. Ten new majors and five new minors will be added to the curriculum next fall.

Communication Arts
  • Journalism
  • Intercultural communication
  • Comprehensive communication
  • Media communication
  • Organizational communication
  • Political communication

Exercise and Sports Science

  • Allied health
  • Sport management (minor)

Language and Literature

  • Asian studies (minor)
  • French (minor)

Music, Art and Worship

  • Worship

Science and Mathematics

  • Chemistry Education
  • Environmental science
  • Actuarial science (minor)

For a history of Cedarville University, go here.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Palin abused her power

While the Alaska governor was busy questioning Senator Obama's "associations," she was being questioned about her own activities. The report is out:
Gov. Sarah Palin abused the powers of her office by pressuring subordinates to try to get her former brother-in-law, a state trooper, fired, an investigation by the Alaska Legislature has concluded. The inquiry found, however, that she was within her right to dismiss her public safety commissioner, Walt Monegan, who was the trooper’s boss.
And this is someone whom the evangelical community is supposed to embrace wholeheartedly? If you're going to ask people to look closely at the actions of others, you better have your own house in order. Twigs and logs in the eye, and all that.

Yes We Carve

What will your pumpkins look like at the end of the month? Perhaps this place can give you some good ideas. Or you could check out here.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Quote for the Day

"It's the supreme art of the devil that he can make the law out of the gospel. If I can hold on to the distinction between law and gospel, I can say to him any and every time that he should kiss my backside... Once I debate about what I have done and left undone, I am finished. But if I reply on the basis of the gospel, 'The forgiveness of sins covers it all,' I have won."

Martin Luther

Thursday, October 9, 2008

To: the "lurker" pastor who has known me for the past 17 years

Yeah. You know who you are. You should visit here, because it's for you and all the guys like you, including our mutual friends in Naptown. After you've been there, come back here and let your very first comment on this blog be to tell me what you think.

AND: Read this, too.

True Woman

My mother-in-law is attending the True Woman Conference in Chicago this weekend. Tim Challies will be live-blogging. With speakers such as John Piper, Janet Parshall, and Joni Eareckson Tada, the conference should be an intriguing event. You can't sign up now to attend since all tickets have been sold, but the conference will be streamed live on the web.

Monday, October 6, 2008

does height make a difference when it comes to the presidency?

This chart shows that America tends to vote for the man who is taller and/or heavier. The more there is of a man, the more America likes him for the presidency. I guess it's better for us to have a president who has enough weight to make a difference when he throws it around.

You do realize who the taller man is in this election cycle, don't you?

Friday, October 3, 2008

No, we didn't ask for your opinion about the debate, Roger...

...but I'm always glad to read it.

Film reviews for "Religulous"

Bill Maher's film Religulous is being touted as a comical-serious examination of the beliefs and practices of religion, with particular attention paid to Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. According to the film's site, Maher is "known for his astute analytical skills, irreverent wit and commitment to never pulling a punch." You can go here for the film trailer.

Maher's subject in Religulous, and it's a useful one, is religion as it is actually practiced in the suburbs, the country and the streets. He's an agnostic, not an atheist. His goal is to proclaim doubt about the mysteries that surround our mortality (such as what happens at death), and thus promote rationalism. He leaves certainty to true believers. He doesn't ponder what faith can do except summon a vision of the afterlife or provide an alternative to nothingness for the jailed or destitute.

Early on in the movie, Maher makes a trip to Raleigh, North Carolina. Good choice. It's actually one of my favorite places to visit. But the Raleigh that Maher visits in the movie looks nothing like the Raleigh I know. His entire visit seemed to consist of a trip to a tiny chapel at a truck stop where a few truckers meet for church. They obviously didn't know who Maher was, or what his shtick was, and they quickly become offended when he peppered them with questions about the credibility of the gospel they passionately believe in. Watching that scene, I had only one thought in my head: If you want to pick on someone your own elitist intellectual size, Duke University Divinity School is right down the road!

And that incident more or less sums up the problem with this movie. There is plenty to satirize about religion. There is plenty to debate about religion. But Maher spends time offending those believers of all faiths who are easily offended or fearful and never engages with believers who aren't afraid of clever banter, witty one-liners, and cheap shots. Not only is there not much sport in that, but, come to find out, there's really not much entertainment value in it, either.

Religulous will not inspire any person of faith to give up their beliefs, of course -- and whether you see that as a demonstration of unyielding devotion or unthinking dogma will, again, depend on your point of view -- but Maher and Charles, to their credit, seem to be focusing their film more at challenging non-believers than believers. Maher's big finish for Religulous is tonally very similar to the way he closes out his HBO show Real Time -- a stern, serious discussion that follows the jokes like serving broccoli after dessert -- where Maher's line of argument is that non-believers need to step up, speak out and be heard to try and change the course of public opinion, that religious 'moderates' need to see their behavior as dangerous, enabling complicity that helps empower radical elements which cannot go unnoticed or unchallenged in an age where, as Maher puts it, "We learned to precipitate mass death before we got over the neurological disorder of wishing for it." And Maher also -- in his own words, in his own way -- conveys the conflict felt by every non-believer who would like to believe in a just, kind and loving god but can't. Religulous is full of contradictions -- it's a funny film about some depressing things, it's a lighthearted tour through terrorism, injustice and intolerance. But those contradiction and challenges are, ultimately, what make the film linger uneasily in your mind, reaching past comedy and confrontation to challenge the audience with a fierce and forceful prayer that there might be no god.

You don't need to believe in God to take issue with Bill Maher's Religulous, a quasi-documentary that mocks religion as ridiculous, crazy, even dangerous. It's a nasty, condescending, small-minded film, self-amused and ultimately self-defeating. Its only accomplishment is to make atheists look bad - and in this political climate they didn't need Maher's help with that.

In the end, Maher reveals his serious intent, to put forth the idea that not just fundamentalism but religion in all forms is a danger to the survival of civilization. Agree or not, that's a serious idea, but the obnoxious interviews and the zany treatment undercut it. Certainly, if his intent was to persuade anyone of his view, well, fat chance of that. (If anything, Maher is obnoxious enough to make people want to get religion.) In the moment, the message of "Religulous" is that everybody who believes in God is stupid, cowardly or intellectually dishonest. That's a sentiment better expressed in a single wisecrack, not a feature-length documentary.