Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Post Idol Depression

Why do I watch the show that Fox puts on after American Idol? Why? The show they ran tonight made Lie to Me look amazing by comparison.

One of the numerous bad actors in the show did look familiar. Turns out he was in The Mighty Ducks. That made me smile for a moment. But clicking around on imdb led to an ominous discovery . . .

This abominable show, which has ridiculous casting, horrible dialogue, and some of the worst acting I've seen (but clearly a large budget), has three executive producers.

The same three executive producers as the forthcoming Star Trek movie. Plus one doubled as director. That movie is going to stink.

But as Mrs. Chaka says, we'll still see it in the theater.

"let us walk through the door."

I've never read an Updike novel. But I have read this poem before, and it's spectacular (HT: JT).

John Updike, "Seven Stanzas at Easter"

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His Flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that—pierced—died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

Monday, January 26, 2009

"A very irksome manifestation of imperial government"

That's what Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn called the Blagojevich toll road signs, pledging to tear them down. I couldn't have said it better myself.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


"Our civilization has reached a stage at which together we are extremely powerful and in our individual capacities nearly helpless. We (that is, we as a body) can solve the most complicated mathematical problems, but our children no longer know the multiplication table. Since they can use a calculator to find out how much six times seven is, why bother? Also, WE can fly from New York to Stockholm in a few hours, but, when asked where Sweden is, thousands of people answer with a sigh that they did not take geography in high school: it must be somewhere up there on the map. There is no need to know anything: given the necessary software, clever machines will do all the work and leave us playing videogames and making virtual love. The worst anti-utopias did not predict such a separation between communal omniscience and personal ignorance, such a complete rift between collective wisdom and individual stultification."
~Anatoly Liberman

I didn't realize the great Anatoly shared my discontent with the direction our great society is headed.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Perfect Villains

I originally started watching House because it came on after American Idol. Based on tonight's episode, I don't think Lie to Me will catch on (at least in my household). Although the star, Tim Roth, almost makes it worthwhile. I can even nearly forget his performance in this role:

Sure, he looks like a pansy, but if the goal of playing a villain is to make the audience hate you, fear you, and desperately desire your death, then Archibald Cunningham is possibly the best villain ever. Of course he had help:

Nooooooooobody plays evil like Brian Cox. If I saw him on the street, I would run away before he could kill me with beams from his cold dead eyes.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Rankin' Bass

Thanks for the bass recommendations. I have a feeling that Pirate Jimmy will be disappointed with my rankings . . . I guess Metal just leaves me cold. Here they go, from best to worst:

Pink Floyd --- Money
Queen & David Bowie --- Under Pressure (Mrs. Chaka suggested this one to me in the real world)
Free --- Mr. Big
Tool --- 46 & 2
Smashing Pumpkins --- Zero
Sugarloaf --- Green Eyed Lady (the bass line is good, but the rest of the song . . . meh)
Led Zepplin --- The Ocean
Jimi Hendrix --- Fire
Jimi Hendrix --- Manic Depression
Deftones --- My Own Summer

As for N.I.B., it's in a category all its own. It wouldn't even be fair to put it in the rankings.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Sorehead Kickmehard

Joe Carter posted a quote from Kierkegaard today that kicked me in the pants:

“The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in the world? Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Oh, priceless scholarship, what would we do without you? Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes, it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament.”

Why do I say it kicked me in the pants? Because I'm writing a sermon on John 5:1-15 and trying to figure out how to soften the blow of Jesus' threat. I have to admit, reading commentaries has helped. They just sort of gloss over it, so why shouldn't I?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Funky Bass

It's funny how people sound differently than you expect. I read James Lileks for years--probably at least weekly for three years--before I heard his voice. I had pictured--no, that's a visual word--I had imagined--well, I could argue that's visual as well, but okay--a higher, more agitated voice for Lileks. Something like the debate-mode voice of my friend, the Rev. Joshua Hansen. (Who has no time for blogging, as you can see from the datedness of his last post. I understand. I should be writing a sermon right now.) But Lileks turned out to have this low, smooth, NPR-type voice. (You can listen to him on YouTube.)

After a few months of reading David Ker, I'd similarly expected a higher, agitated voice. (Maybe it's the whining about people not commenting.) (I kid, I kid.) But it turns out that he has a deep bass voice. (Video here.) Funky bass, even.

Which leads me to my point. I didn't realize until I heard "If You Want Me to Stay" how much I love a good bass line. I learned over Christmas that Pirate Jimmy has started learning to play the bass, so I recommend that he learns this song. Do the readers know of any other songs with great, interesting bass lines?

Saturday, January 10, 2009


I like that better. Been wanting to add a blogroll for a while now. So I started to do that and got carried away.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Midday Illinois Ranting

I'm in the mood to rant for reasons unknown (maybe it was my morning cup of coffee), and what better place to do it than here.

Stanley Fish thinks that St. Augustine would want Roland Burris to get his Senate seat. As much as it excites me to read about the Donatist controversy on the New York Times' website, I don't think the lesson fits. Fish claims that those who consider Burris's appointment tainted make "the lawfulness of an official action . . . depend[ent] on the purity of the person who performs it." That would be an accurate depiction, perhaps, if Blagojevich were tainted by adultery, or dogfighting, or cheating at Uno. But the taint in this case applies directly to the means by which Burris received the appointment to the Senate. It's more than Blagojevich's overall purity that is in question: it is his purity in the very act of appointing Burris to the seat.

(If we conduct a thought experiment and imagine Eliot Spitzer having continued as an embattled governor in New York, Fish's argument might apply to his appointment of a replacement for Hillary Clinton's seat. I wonder if Spitzer is watching Blagojevich now, thinking, "Dang, I could have held on a lot longer if I'd just stuck to my guns.")

Now, readers of this blog will suspect that I have a deep dislike for Blagojevich. These suspicions are true. I can only hope that the Illinois Senate removes him from office now that he's been impeached. But I disliked him from the moment I saw his name. Not because I have anything against the Slavs. Not at all. You see, I first saw his name on those open road tolling arches that span our interstates. I remember taking an instant dislike to any politician who puts his own name on public spaces. Is it any surprise that such a person would use public resources to benefit himself, to fund his political future?

My opinion of Jesse White has risen 300% by his refusal to sign Burris's credentials. But something leads me to believe that his own character resembles Blagojevich's more than he'd like us to think.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Does Justice Require Love?

A few posts back, I wrote about the relationship between moral supererogation and Jesus' ethical demands. I was fumbling in the dark, looking for wiser words on the subject. My request may have been answered through an article in Books & Culture by Miroslav Volf (can't find it online, unfortunately, so you'll have to seek it out in the real world). Volf reviews the books Justice and Justice and Love (forthcoming) by Nicholas Wolterstorff--

Okay, while adding links to this post, I found out that Wolterstorff was born in Bigelow, Minnesota (pop. 231). Bigelow is ten miles away from my home town, which means, of course, that we mocked it and its inhabitents mercilessly. Yet it spawned a crazy-smart philosopher. My mind has been blown.

Moving on, Volf praises these books highly but suggests his own refinements to a Christian understanding of these two imperatives.

Seriously, I cannot believe he's from Bigelow. Home of the Tuesday Taco night (at the local bar) and Yale philosophers.

I don't have the review in front of me now, but Volf's argument brings up some of the tensions I mentioned in my post. He argues that justice has a prior or broader claim on us than does love. We owe it to others to give them justice, but we don't owe it to them to forgive them for treating us unjustly. But by the end of the article, he has grounded justice in love (particularly the love that God shows to all people). I don't remember exactly how he got there--philosophers and theologians usually leave me in the dust. But I'm curious to revisit the argument.

Especially because of the Bigelow connection. Seriously. Search the Scriptures yourself: nobody comes from Bigelow.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Movie Quiz Cleanup

All right, I'm going to post the answers for the remaining unguessed movies on my quiz. Except for #8, which you all should know. So here's an easier quote from #8:

"Fredo, you're my older brother, and I love you. But don't ever take sides with anyone against the Family again. Ever."

The obscure remainders are:

5. Bringing Up Baby. The original screwball comedy. Stuffy Professor meets Daffy Dame. The inspiration for What's Up, Doc. When will the Coen brothers do a tribute movie to this genre?

13. It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World. In terms of star power, this was Ocean's Eleven, Twelve, and Thirteen all rolled into one. My introduction to the delightfully deceitful fast-talker, Phil Silvers.

14. Harvey. This is my favorite performance by Jimmy Stewart.

17. Robin Hood (the Disney animated version). My sisters and I used to recite scenes from this word-for-word while we did dishes.

"Seize the fat one!"

22. McLintock (starring John Wayne--didn't the "pilgrim" give it away?). Very non-PC this one, what with the drunk Indians and the wife beating and all. But this is what I think of when I think of John Wayne.

23. The Muppet Movie. Every time I see a Presbyterian church, I think of Fozzie's line: "They don't look like Presbyterians to me . . ."

24. Jonathan was close to the right answer on this one. Two Weeks Notice features Hugh Grant in his arrogant prat incarnation (see also, Bridget Jones' Diary, American Dreamz; to be distinguished from his blinky git incarnation, in movies such as Notting Hill, Sense and Sensibility, Mickey Blue Eyes, etc.). Arrogant prat Hugh Grant is possibly at his arrogantliest prattiness in the actual source of this quote, About a Boy.

Friday, January 02, 2009

First Post of 2009

Here's a nice answer by Peter Enns to the question: Why should we trust Christian interpretation of Jewish scriptures?

After our wall clock died, I didn't have the heart to buy a replacement. (Incidentally, my parents have had the same clock on the wall of their dining room for as long as I can remember. That's only about 25 years or so, given that I'm a fairly young guy, but still: that's impressive for an item purchased from Pamida. Would that Target products lasted so long.) But I grew tired of turning my head to the blank place on the wall and then peering at the microwave to see the time.

The solution presented itself in this form: a free, stylish clock screensaver. I actually saw this on someone's computer at work (in the Design department, naturally) and googled around till I found it.

In response to Beau's comment on the Fish post: I haven't seen anything in Stanley Fish's New York Times pieces to tie him to that father-of-all-relativism label. In fact, he seems eager to refute that image; see this essay, in which he objects to the way deconstructionism is generally used in American circles. Makes me wonder if I've been misled too.