Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Brownie Bites for July 30, 2008

Did you hear about the evangelist who killed his wife, dumped her in the freezer, and later preached a sermon at a church service? Anthony Hopkins was leading a revival service at a church in Jackson, Alabama, but was stopped by police after his eldest daughter talked to them. Somehow, I doubt that he was preaching on the sixth commandment.


The Hill has published their fifth annual list of the 50 Most Beautiful People on Capitol Hill. Because outward beauty is what's most truly important in Washington.


At some point in our lives, my wife, one of my sisters, and I worked at Grandview Hospital in Dayton, OH. I realize that many hospitals want to be "cutting-edge" in some respect, but I didn't know that Grandview is taking it to a whole new level. The hospital is utilizing something called "'Wiihabilitation,' the latest trend in rehabilitation therapy that uses the interactive mobility of the Nintendo Wii video game system to help patients improve strength, flexibility, balance and endurance."

We've come so far from the days of that old tennis game on the Atari 2600.


The Cute One is obsessed with this dude. I'm wondering if I should chalk it up as a harmless crush, or be worried.


I'm a straight man who enjoys watching Project Runway, so I have to announce this: the show's breakout star, Tim Gunn, wasn't paid a dime for his work on the first season. He only received $2500 an episode for the second season (which remains my favorite). This is surprising, given how necessary he is to the show's ability to work. He probably didn't agree to a paycheck because (1) he's a genuinely nice guy and (2) he had no idea the show would prove to be such a hit.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Let all the Hoosiers of Indianapolis mourn

Crawford's Bakery will soon close the doors of their downtown location. At least they will give us the recipe for their chicken salad, but we have to wait until Labor Day and then we can go here.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Lord Vader, you honor us with your presence

The Sith Lord formerly known as Anakin Skywalker attempts to join the Church of Iceland. Guess he got tired of hanging out with the Emperor...

breaking a pornography addiction

David Powlison offers some very helpful advice.

What does progress in your struggle with pornography look like? In all
typical human struggles (like anger, anxiety, escapism), winning doesn’t mean
achieving perfection. It means having a new goal and a new direction. Your
direction in life determines your final destination. Where are you headed? Are
you going in the right direction? Going in the right direction in your struggle
with pornography means learning to fight your temptation to sin, to handle your
guilt when you fail, and to understand and avoid the circumstances in which you
are tempted.

Making progress in these three areas does not mean you will
suddenly get teleported from the mire in which you now live to the mountaintop
of freedom from all temptation. Change in these areas means taking many small,
incremental steps in the right direction. For example:

  • A decrease in the frequency of a sin is progress. It’s not good that you are still indulging in pornography, but if you are doing it less, you are going in the right direction.
  • A change in the actual nature of the sin is progress. If you are no longer having an affair or premarital sex, and now you are battling pornographic fantasy, it’s good that your struggle has changed from your actions to your imagination.
  • A change in the battleground is progress. When your battle has moved from purchasing materials or going onto explicit internet sites to battling the old fantasy tapes that are still in your mind, that’s movement in the right direction.
  • An increase in honesty and accountability is progress. You are moving forward when you are willing to be truly candid and accountable to a trusted friend, spouse, or pastor and say, “Here’s where I’m struggling.” An appropriate openness to others is a very significant step towards change.
  • Not always responding to difficult circumstances by indulging in sin is progress. When your life gets hard, if instead of going straight to your fantasy life, you pray for help and ask others to pray for you, then God is at work.
  • Repenting more quickly is progress. Learning to go more quickly to the Lord of life, instead of wallowing for days, weeks, and months in the gloom of “I failed again,” is a sign that God is at work in your life.
  • Learning to love and consider the interest of real people is progress. Your immoral fantasies use other people in an imaginary world. Caring for others, even in small ways, means that Jesus is changing you.

the balcony is closed

Roger Ebert talks about the end of Ebert & Roeper at the Movies.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

"The Dark Knight"

(Be warned: spoilers will be revealed)

The following Bible verse, from Jeremiah 17, kept coming to mind as I watched The Dark Knight, last weekend's record-breaking #1 movie ---

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
Who can, indeed. Batman Begins examined the nature of the heart, especially in regards to justice and redemption. You will remember that Henri Ducard (revealed to actually be Ra's al Ghul) and his League of Shadows came to Gotham seeking to destroy it because, as Ra's Al Ghul's decoy told Bruce Wayne, "Gotham's time has come... it is beyond saving and must be allowed to die." Gotham has housed too many criminals over the years, a modern-day Sodom and Gomorrha. Ducard saw himself as God without the hassle of having to haggle with Abraham over how many good souls were left in the city. Everyone, good and bad, would pay.

The Joker of Dark Knight, exceptionally well played by the late Heath Ledger, sees justice as only a thin veneer layered over chaos. The Joker says that he is himself "an agent of chaos." People only need a little push to exit the light and enter darkness, and he's the perfect man to do the pushing. I think history will show Ledger's Joker to be one of the most memorable villains of the cinema. I would put him on par with Dr. Hannibal Lecter of The Silence of the Lambs, except that the Joker is even more villainous. Lecter may have been prone to cannibalism, but at least he had some standards by eating only rude, offensive people. The Joker wants the whole world to burn.

The Joker succeeds in pushing Harvey Dent, a "white knight" of a district attorney, into the darkness. Dent begins the movie as a man on mission to bring down Gotham's mob members. He's not a perfect knight, though. When he catches one of Joker's fiends in an assassination attempt, Dent comes awfully close to pulling the trigger. Batman arrives and chides Dent for behaving in such a manner. Dent seems to recover from this episode but then goes on to lose something of extreme value to him - something more than merely half his face - and he decides "the only justice in an unfair world is chance."

Speaking of Two-Face, whom we see in all his glory in the film's final act, I was struck by how different his story is from that of the character in 1995's Batman Forever. In that film, Tommy Lee Jones plays a good man who becomes an insane criminal after acid is thrown on his face. Actually, we only see his transformation in an extremely brief flashback - at the start of Forever, Dent is already a Two-Face who desires to kill Batman. The Two-Face of Dark Knight, following a horrific experience, essentially chooses to become a vigilante. Both characters share the same idea that the random toss is the only true form of justice, but they are different in a fundamental and important way.

I think it's fantastic that Gary Oldman is playing more noble characters these days. It's almost as if he has had enough of playing evil people like vampires (Bram Stoker's Dracula) and terrorists (Air Force One). He plays the bad guy effectively - I especially like him in this film - but I think his "good" characters like James Gordon and Sirius Black of the Harry Potter films are even more compelling.

I don't think a movie based on comic book (or graphic novel, if you prefer) characters has addressed so many important issues as The Dark Knight. This is nervy and penetrating stuff that keeps you thinking after you've left the darkness of the theater. White knights versus dark knights. Order versus chaos. Redemption versus destruction. Justice versus revenge. Truth versus lies.

The kind of issues that cut us straight to the heart. If only we could know it better.

For more on the film and the issues it raises, visit some of these links:

Friday, July 18, 2008

venti white chocolate mocha, please

Alas, there will be 600 fewer Starbucks in the universe. Do you live near one that will soon close? I have two that are about a mile from my house, and the one built just a few months ago was spared the axe. Naturally, the one spared is the one closer to the interstate and to other stores. The one axed is across the street from a grocery store, a drugstore, a Dairy Queen and a hospital.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Amba & abortion on Althouse

One of my favorite bloggers, Ann Althouse, is bringing to the forefront something from her meta. Amba, one of her frequent commentors, apparantly had an abortion sometime in the past and came to regret it. The most interesting thing she said about it is this:
The nonreligious conclusion I came to as the result of lasting (lifelong) regret of an abortion is that if an embryo or fetus is regarded as disposable, then you are, too. I guess it's a version of what Mother Theresa was saying. An individual either is unique and uniquely valuable or isn't. All are or none are. If your existence had happened at the wrong time (I won't use the demeaning word "inconvenient" because sometimes it's little more than that, but sometimes it's a lot worse), you could have been disposed of. Your existence is accidental and contingent.
For me, this is where the whole argument for abortion hinges upon - how you view humanity. Is humanity unique and special in this universe, made by an allmighty Creator? Or, is humanity merely the subject of evolutionary forces without any sense of an omnipotent being, and we're in a real sense "lucky" to be around and not be eaten by velociraptors?

People with prolife positions believe that an abortion is equal to a murder. People with pro-choice positions don't. It seems to me that it's just a matter of location, then. If you're four months in your mother's womb and the doctor performs a dilation and evacuation, that isn't murdering you. If you're bashed in the head five seconds after you've been born, you've been murdered. For the pro-choice person, location - in the mother's body or out of the mother's body - is the only thing that matters.

RELATED: Read Dan Phillips' essay about abortion here.

guns & suicide

Steve Chapman argues that an increase in gun purchases doesn't automatically lead to an increase in suicides.

I highly doubt Chapman considered every study on this issue - he apparently missed at least one. More on that particular study can be found here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Peyton to have knee surgery

Oh, no! He could miss the season opener at the new Lucas Oil Stadium!
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning had a medical procedure Monday to remove an infected bursa sac from his left knee. Colts president Bill Polian announced the procedure, described as routine, on Monday night. Polian said the team’s medical staff expects Manning to have “a full and complete return to action” in four to six weeks. Colts training camp begins July 25.

Hopefully Peyton will make a full recovery. The Colts team isn't as formidable without him.

What are bursa? Read here.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Holy Joker Week, Batman!

Unless you live under a rock (and chances are good that you don't if you're reading this blog), you've heard that The Dark Knight, director Christopher Nolan's sequel to his 2005 Batman Begins, opens this Friday, July 18. The late Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker is supposedly extraordinary. Are you going to see it? Is it silly of me to even ask the question?

Read the Associated Press review about how it "nearly lives up to the hype."

Read the Rolling Stone review about how the film is "a potent provocation decked out as a comic-book movie."

Read the Hollywood Reporter review about how it is "pure adrenaline."

Read about the possibility of Batman - or someone like him - actually existing.

Read the Time review about how Nolan "wants viewers to stick their hands down the rat hole of evil and see if they get bitten."

Read the Variety review about how the film has " a robust physicality and a commitment to taking violence seriously."

Read how the Entertainment Weekly review calls it a "ride for the gut and the brain."

You know you're not a fan of the 43rd president when....

... you see this book title, and instantly think that it's about his administration.

Of course, there's this book, too.

And this one, about his last year in the White House.

This game could go on and on...

Sunday, July 13, 2008

shirtless Mormon missionaries

I really only have one thing to say about this article.
The creator of a calendar that featured shirtless Mormon missionaries was excommunicated Sunday after a disciplinary meeting with local church leaders in Las Vegas.

Chad Hardy said he bears no ill will toward the council of elders from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"I felt like I spoke my truth," the 31-year-old entertainment entrepreneur said. "Bottom-line, they still felt the calendar is inappropriate and not the image that the church wants to have."
Exactly what kind of truth, beyond "I like making money and I think this is a way to do that," were you speaking? Please, don't give the tired I want people to know what they're really like line.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

the most over-used line in reality TV

It's exactly what you think it is. "I came here to win...."

Pick a new one, people.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

the most ridiculous line a TV character has ever said

Mine would have to be from a promo for a soap opera (natch):
"You kidnapped me for my bone marrow?!?"

What's one you've heard?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Clooney won't marry

George Clooney may be many things (ER doctor, WWII soldier, Batman...), but he's not the marrying kind. At least he's sensible about marriage, realizing that it won't work if he's not there to put the effort into it.

incentives for reducing health insurance premiums

Bill Corley, CEO of Community Health Network, has an editorial letter in yesterday's edition of the Indianapolis Star. Several years ago, CHN implemented mandatory health assessments for employees who chose to have health insurance. CHN offered incentives for those who scored high on the health assessments, including as much as a $50 reduction in biweekly premiums.

This has worked very well, and I've seen that many other companies, not just those in the health field, have taken this approach. I'm quite certain it will be implemented in some form if a national healthcare program becomes reality.

Monday, July 7, 2008

the fading yearbook

I have one for every year. Chances are good that if you went to college, you have four of them, too. They may, however, be a dying breed.

ONE fixture of college life is rapidly disappearing. Yearbooks, those beloved annual publications recording the events and people of the academic year, are suffering from plummeting print-runs, or are even being dropped altogether, in colleges across the country.

The phenomenon is due in part to the price of the hard-bound volumes, typically as high as $75. For cash-strapped students facing ever-rising tuition and living costs they are a luxury that many can’t afford. But the main cause is not the cost so much as the replacement of print with electronic media by and for the Facebook and MySpace generation. With social networks linking hundreds of friends and offering digital photographs and videos the traditional yearbook looks like a bit of a dinosaur.

After more than a hundred years of publication Purdue University, in Indiana, has published its last yearbook, as has nearby DePauw University. Even where colleges have tried to adapt to the new media by, for instance, including DVDs summing up the year along with the print version, yearbooks are attracting few students, readers or editors.

Yearbooks were figured in under the mysterious "room and board" heading, so we didn't really think about how much they cost. Sites like Facebook and MySpace are being partially blamed. Once again, new technology replacing the written page. But those social sites won't be around forever, and the books will last a long, long time.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Supreme Nadal

Of the four championship tournaments of tennis, there is none as celebrated as Wimbledon at the All England Club. And until today, Roger Federer of Switzerland reigned, having won the last five years. Until today...

The world's number two, Rafael Nadal, beat the world's number one in a five-setter for the ages. 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-7 (8), 9-7. Perhaps the greatest men's final ever.

Nadal now has five championships under his belt: four wins at Roland Garros, and one at Wimbledon. Federer remains at twelve championships: five Wimbledon, four U.S. Open, and three Australian Open.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Where is Matt?

Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) from Matthew Harding on Vimeo.

he was only off by two days

So he got the date wrong. Give him a break. He's John Adams, for crying out loud.

He wrote the following in a letter to his wife Abigail, on July 3, 1776:
The second day of July, 1776, will be memorable epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations, as the great Anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp, shews, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of the continent to the other, from this time forward forever.

Happy birthday, America. And, happy birthday to me, too.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

yes, but are they grateful?

Didn't Barack Obama make a speech on Memorial Day about being happy to see a lot of veterans who had paid the ultimate sacrifice? Well, he said something like that. Anyway, I bring that all up because apparently some zombie veterans want to rock for him.

Fantastic! Just in time for the Fourth!

(HT: Entertainment Weekly)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

salad dressing + sewage = deliciousness?

I read this story, and I got to thinkin'. What type of salad dressing would actually improve the taste of sewage? I've ruled out Thousand Island and I don't think Ranch would do it, but I can't help thinking that a nice raspberry vinagrette would be just the thing.

Of course, I have no plans to test this theory. If you ever try it, please drop me a line and let me know what you thought.

Leona Helmsley lets her money go to the dogs

People as diverse as Ann Althouse and Al Mohler are talking about Leona Helmsley. She has apparently let her billions of dollars go to the dogs.
Her instructions, specified in a two-page “mission statement,” are that the entire trust, valued at $5 billion to $8 billion and amounting to virtually all her estate, be used for the care and welfare of dogs, according to two people who have seen the document and who described it on condition of anonymity.

It is by no means clear, however, that all the money will go to dogs. Another provision of the mission statement says Mrs. Helmsley’s trustees may use their discretion in distributing the money, and some lawyers say the statement may not mean much anyway, given that its directions were not incorporated into Mrs. Helmsley’s will or the trust documents.

Helmsley had originally planned for some of the money to "help indigent people," but she changed her mind and decided to give them nothing. Only dogs - no other animals, no plant life, and certainly no human beings - were worthy of her money.

For the theists who visit this blog: Does this story in any way upset or bother you? Why or why not? Are human beings worth more than animals, are animals worth more than human beings, or are animals and human beings of equal value? What makes human beings so special?

For the atheists/agnostics who visit this blog: Does this story in any way upset or bother you? If you think the money should be given to help people, how did you determine that they are more worthy of the money than dogs?

"Pagan Christianity"

Ben Witherington, blogger and professor at Asbury Seminary (where my nephew - who just became a father - attends), has critiqued Pagan Christianity by George Barna and Frank Viola. You can read parts one, two, three, and four.

UPDATE: More reviews by the following ---