Friday, December 04, 2009

Geez Magazine, The Jesus Issue

Geez Magazine, Issue 16, ("The Jesus Issue") is hot off the presses and includes an article by yours truly.  Of the 24 different flavors of Jesus in the issue, my Jesus was dubbed "Breath mint Jesus."

If you only have time to read one Geez article this month, read Context is Everything by Aiden Enns:

The transforming question is not, What do I believe about Jesus? It is, With whom do I gather to understand the life and impact of Jesus?
 Preach it, brother Enns.

My article was edited down for space and renamed to "Jesus comes with free ice cream bars." Since it isn't available on-line and also because blog space is infinite, the full article and original title are below:


How Would Jesus Run a Bed and Breakfast?

My wife and I decided to spend a little extra money to stay at an old Victorian Bed and Breakfast during an anniversary weekend last year. It was exactly what we were looking for, with an amiable middle-aged couple providing generous touches that make B&Bs such cozy places to be.

There were mints on the pillows, chocolate covered strawberries on the dresser and free Klondike bars in a mini-fridge. The room was bloated with puffy pillows stuffed in every nook. The sitting room had an antique piano and was filled games, old books and soft, sweet music.

My inner cynic had almost been lulled into complacency when I noticed a card gently placed on the high four poster bed:
Our Mission is to give the very same wonderful Hospitality to our Guests as our Lord and Saviour would surely give to us. To open our home for shelter and warmth and a quiet sanctuary to strangers who are soon to become our friends.
In order for us to insure your stay is enjoyable we ask you to observe the following guidelines:

Check in hours
Quiet time hours
Breakfast hours
No smoking or drinking
No pets
You are responsible for any damages caused by you or other members of your party.
Any unruly guests will be asked to leave and will forfeit guest fees.
We assume no responsibility for lost or stolen items. Please keep your rooms locked when away.
In this home, we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone at any time.
I have no doubt that this nice couple was expressing the love of Jesus as best as they knew how. I even agree with some particulars. For instance, if Jesus does not serve up some chocolate-covered strawberries in heaven, I might be tempted to keep my options open.

And yet, their train of thought goes off-track somewhere around “Breakfast hours,” jumps the tracks entirely at “lost or stolen items” and crashes into a ravine by the time it gets to “refuse service to anyone at any time.” I wondered which Jesus they were referring to, since I didn’t recognize the one in the Bible from their card.

Don’t get me wrong – their rules are very reasonable and necessary when it comes to running a business, especially one that is a labor of love rather than a serious profit-making enterprise. You can’t run an inn if unruly people keep everyone awake. And like every other B&B in the world, the proprietors had a separate area of the house where they actually lived, behind lock and key - a very reasonable arrangement.

But the problem is that Jesus is not reasonable. He expects our public and our private lives to not be separated by locked doors. He asks us to give up our shirt when someone takes our cloak. To offer the other cheek when one is slapped. To sell all our possessions, use the lilies of the field as our retirement plan and a bunch of other things that make no worldly sense.

No, Jesus is a terrible example for a business owner, because he would open up the business to the hard suffering of Christian ethics. No business would survive very long if it provided lavish comfort not just to those who could pay, but to anyone in need. It’s pretty clear that if Jesus were running a B&B, he’d let anyone in, even if they had pets. I suspect he would let in people that were known to be smokers or drinkers.

Christian business ethics aside, I think my fine, well-meaning proprietors seem to be under the assumption that Jesus wants us to be comfortable in this life. In fact, the purpose of Jesus is more like the old saying about the purpose of journalism. He came to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

And this is where I go awry as well, given how comfortable I usually am. It’s easy to point out someone else’s flaws from the comfort of my big puffy pillow, while spending money that Jesus would have given to the poor. Comfort can be like a drug, and I am but a drug user, criticizing my dealer for selling me comfort in a way that Jesus might have frowned upon.

So how would Jesus run a Bed and Breakfast? My answer is that he wouldn’t. I don’t think he is all that interested in the best way to provide a comfortable weekend to people of means like myself. Instead, he would be spending time at homeless shelters and soup kitchens, or living in a Catholic Worker House, giving aid and comfort to the poor. I can feel good about donating money to homeless shelters, but I have a nagging feeling that this doesn’t make me a follower of Jesus so much as a patron of followers of Jesus.

In my defense, I must note that Jesus enjoyed an occasional bottle of perfume poured over his head. He also seemed to go to a lot of wine-soaked wedding celebrations. So as much as I fail to directly follow his words much of time, I can only hope he’s OK with an occasional weekend pampering.

And despite my philosophical troubles with comfort, I didn’t let it distract me from a nice, enjoyable weekend away. My wife and I reconnected and reminisced over our lives together. I came to believe that a heaven without Klondike bars could be as theologically problematic as one without chocolate-covered strawberries. Everyone needs to recharge, and I should be allowed to partake without too much guilt. I suppose the important thing is to know what I am recharging myself for, and to not mistake my comfort for God’s will.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Humor beats Ideology

As a semi-pacifist, I know that violence is wrong, even more so when used to threaten schoolchildren. Jon Stewart just makes it so darn funny though (skip to 1:53 on the video):

This Thanksgiving, I remain thankful for Jon Stewart.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Charting the jokes

I've become addicted to GraphJam, where people make jokes via graphs and charts. 

For example:

song chart memes

They are funny because they are true:
song chart memes

song chart memes

My all-time favorite:

song chart memes

Friday, November 06, 2009

Government health care to the rescue

Amidst all the crazy at Michelle Bachman's GOP teabag party on the Capitol this week, Dana Milbank noted one bit of irony during the proceedings.  After displaying signs like this:

and, among other things, decrying government health care as more dangerous than terrorists and suggesting that Congress should be waterboarded, this happened:

More ominously, a man standing just beyond the TV cameras apparently suffered a heart attack 20 minutes after event began. Medical personnel from the Capitol physician's office -- an entity that could, quite accurately, be labeled government-run health care -- rushed over, attaching electrodes to his chest and giving him oxygen and an IV drip.

This turned into an unwanted visual for the speakers, as a D.C. ambulance and firetruck, lights flashing, pulled in just behind the lawmakers. A path was made through the media section, and the patient, attended to by about 10 government medical personnel, was being wheeled away on a stretcher just as House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) stepped to the microphone. "Join us in defeating Pelosi care!" he exhorted. A few members stole a glance at the stretcher. Boehner may have been distracted as well. He told the crowd he would read from the Constitution, then read the "we hold these truths" bit from the Declaration of Independence.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

A Good Ol' Fashioned Book Burning

At some point, you have to admire a person's commitment to intolerance.

Sure, it's easy to condemn Brian McLaren and Shane Claiborne. After all, they have expansive views on Christian responsibility and don't condemn other religions.  And burning a pile of rock, rap and heavy metal records is just a cliche at this point.

All that is sissy stuff for Marc Grizzard, pastor of Amazing Grace Baptist Church in Waynesville, NC.  Their book-burning this past Halloween was the good old-fashioned kind.

Included was pretty much all music that is not sung in church to the glory of God, since it is all considered Satanic by AGBC.  The usual suspects were of course included, but they also burned country, pop, soft & easy, western, soul, jazz, southern gospel (including The Anchormen, because they performed at Dollywood, whose owner was in a movie called the "The Best Little Whore House in Texas"), contemporary christian (too popular and secular for their tastes, including Amy Grant, who once gave an interview to a Catholic magazine), and some category called "oldies but goldies," left unexplained.

Of course, you can't have a book burning without the books. Unsurprisingly, books by McLaren and Claiborne make the list. More surprising are books by Franklin Graham (soft on rock music), Mother Teresa (Catholic),  James Dobson (because Dobson is friends with Glenn Beck, who curses, and you are supposed to shun people who curse, which saddens him, because Glenn Beck's heart is in the right place), Rick Warren (who knows -- I stopped reading) and hundreds of other name-brand Christians.

However, their Pièce de résistance, the cherry on their ice cream sundae of purity, is their burning of Bibles.  Like many, they believe the King James translation to be the real deal.  Unlike others, they believe any other English translation of the Bible is a perversion, and needs to be burned.  Their list of perversions is quite long -- basically any Bible that is not the King James. Lest you think their intolerance is crazy, however, note that they do accept different versions of the King James, and also Bibles written in other languages.

Not reported was whether any witches were discovered in their midst, or whether there are plans for some kind of crusade to retake the holy land from the heretics who currently occupy it.

So, Poe's law strikes again, given that it is impossible to parody Amazing Grace Baptist Church.  I was once again fooled, as I thought for certain this was a parody when I first heard about it.

I'm probably making too much of this, given that the church only has 14 members.  On the other hand, they keep getting emails from people who agree with them.

I guess the only thing to say to Amazing Grace Baptist Church is: Congratulations.  The attention they are getting far outdistances their numbers or their influence, for now. Their commitment to intolerance should inspire us all, hopefully to a commitment to something other than intolerance.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Romans 13 in American Discourse

Romans 13:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgement.

Although I heard this passage quoted almost continually during the Bush era, I've not heard it lately.  In fact, I have noticed a certain pattern regarding Romans 13 and public discourse over the last 30 years:

Conclusion: Sometimes, Romans 13 is relevant to American politics and sometimes it isn't. Once we find the right correlation, we can predict when it will be relevant again.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Philip Spooner

This made me all teary-eyed, right around 2:00 mark:

Monday, October 26, 2009

Al Franken on bankruptcy

Here's Al Franken, kicking some health care reform debate butt:

Friday, October 23, 2009

Home Page for Articles

Writing Life Update: 

1. Regular readers have probably noticed a drop-off in both blog posting and Smile Politely columns lately.  I'm working on a longer-term project, which I don't want to say anything about until I get further along.  I do plan to keep my toe in the blogging world, or perhaps a knee or a thigh, but it won't be my focus for the next few months. However, I did enter a Washington Post Pundit contest, and if I make the cut for the next round, all that will change. 

2. I had another article accepted at Geez Magazine, about how Jesus might run a Bed and Breakfast.  Not sure of the publication date, but I'll link to it when it comes out.

3. I had a very nice rejection letter from The New Yorker.  Looking back, I'm not even sure why I submitted anything, since I am the secretary of the Science Club and The New Yorker is the Prom Queen. But the Prom Queen, or more likely, the 23-year-old intern-assistant of the Prom Queen, actually sent back a note, saying the article had "evident merit and humor."  Hurray for good rejections!

4. The extra Geez article has made me feel especially writerly, and inspired me to create a Dan Schreiber The Writer Home Page.  It includes selected highlights of things I've written, including articles in print magazines, Smile Politely columns and other things of which I'm either proud or not ashamed.  I plan to also put a few blog highlights there, but slogging through two and half years of blog entries seems daunting right now.  In any case, it will be a good place to archive stuff I want to show other people.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


My Smile Politely column this week is on the Liberty Council's Adopt-a-Liberal program, where I admit my preference for being prayer at than being yelled over. Available here.

Friday, October 09, 2009

The Nobel?

I suppose if you believe that Obama’s image took on a permanent smudge after the Olympic Committee ignored him (and awarded the Olympics to Rio de Janeiro), you have to admit that winning the Nobel Peace Prize is a much bigger vote of confidence.

Does he deserve it? No, not yet. We are still in two wars, Israel continues to kill Palestinian civilians with American weapons, and he presides over a military budget that is almost as much as the rest of the world’s combined. And I don’t think continuing the ban on homosexuality in the military really counts as a way to reduce the presence of standing armies in the world (one of the original criteria for the Nobel Peace Prize). On the other hand, clearly stating the importance of international diplomacy and "cooperation between peoples" is worth rewarding at this point in history.

So, I agree with the criticism that this is more about what he wants to do than about anything he has actually done. At the same time, it’s ironic that conservatives are so mad that he got the award for having accomplished so little, when they are the ones that dug the hole he is standing in, and the ones standing in his way of accomplishing much.

Nonetheless, an American President winning the Nobel Peace Prize should be a cause for national pride. Let's hope people can turn away from "hating Obama more than they love America," as Jon Stewart so aptly put last week.

UPDATE: Obama just gave some remarks about the award, essentially saying that is it a call to action for him, rather than acknowledgement of any accomplisments. He shares the award "with everyone who strives for justice and dignity." Full text available here.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Those Soulless Referees

Raider's cornerback Chris Johnson was flagged on Sunday after he intercepted a pass, fell to his knees and thanked God.

Raider conspiracy theorists believe he was flagged because he was wearing a Raiders uniform. Some Christians believe this is just another example of Christian persecution. However, the trouble with the persecution angle is that you can't really tell that he is praying to Jesus. Instead, he could have been praising Zoroaster or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. And really, it looks more like he was asking people to praise Chris Johnson.

While the video is still available on-line, you can judge for yourself:

Referees may or may not have souls, but they were at least correct to call the penalty. There's a rule against celebrating in the end zone by dropping to your knees or using the ball as a prop. Call it a Raider-hating, Christian-persecuting rule, but they applied it correctly.

As it happens, I think they should outlaw prayer and/or thanks to God during a game. I think it is unsportsmanlike of God to determine the outcome of specific plays, and it's unsportsmanlike of players to request such a thing. The penalty should be greater than 15 yards too, since the effect of God overturning free will to favor one side is likely much greater than a 15 yard advantage.

However, the grief refs are getting for this reminds me of one of my favorite Saturday Night Live skits, where John Goodman is on The Referee Pitman Show (of which no video seems to be available):

Host: Okay. Next question for the Ref.
Audience Member: Hi. Great show, Ref. My boy and I were wondering what it's like for you to have no soul. And also, what do you use to fill up your body where the soul would be? Now, is that human excrement, or dog excrement?
Ref: [chuckles] I wish I had a dime for every time I was asked that one!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Things You Can Do With a Trumpet

Defying all expectations, the Ten-Year-Old chose the trumpet for his 5th grade band instrument. After an early life of hitting everything in sight with sticks, the $400 drum set we bought 2 years ago remains idle and dejected in the basement.

However, the trumpet has brought musical enthusiasm to the house. He seems to be a natural trumpet player, as he spends much of his time trying make it go Higher, Louder, Faster. But mostly Louder. Here are his experiments and results so far:

  • Play Standing Up Inside the House (good loud notes often accompanied by yells to be quiet)

  • Play Lying Down on the Ground (hard to get a lot of air out, sound is muffled)

  • Play Sitting Down (Better than Lying Down, not as good as Standing Up)

  • Hold Trumpet up to Sister's Ear and Suck In Breath (can't even get note off before getting yelled at by parents)

  • Play Outside (loud notes not accompanied by yells as much, plus can play in direction of neighbors whose kids’ had high school bands for six years)

  • Play While Marching Around (hard to keep lips on mouthpiece)

  • Play on Top of Play Structure (Loudest yet, sound bounces off houses)

Other experiments:

  • Can You Kill a Bug by Playing a Trumpet at It? (Not yet)

  • What if You Put the Bug in a Glass and Play Directly into the Glass? (Yes, that does the trick)

  • What if You Play Along with a CD? (Based on experiments conducted so far, can play louder than Miles Davis on "Kind of Blue")
I’ll report back on any other interesting things he does to or with a trumpet. I am already dreading band camp in three years.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Liberal vs. Conservative Rooms

Do liberals and conservatives have different personality types? One recent study (“The Secret Lives of Liberals and Conservatives”) says yes. Liberals tend to be more open-minded, creative, curious, and novelty seeking, whereas conservatives tend to be more conscientious, orderly, conventional, and better organized.

I guess this underscores why we need both liberals and conservatives. Someone needs to keep order and someone needs to look for better ways of doing things. Someone needs to point out when order becomes oppression and someone else needs to point out that not every way of doing something different is better. We just need to find some balance, preferably in ways other than shouting at each other and comparing each other to Hitler.

What I found most interesting about the study was how it used unobtrusive measures. An unobtrusive measure indirectly studies something without intruding on the person or thing being studied. For instance, instead of asking people in a museum what most interested them, or using cameras to count people, an unobtrusive measure would look at traffic patterns in carpet. The areas that are most worn would indicate which displays are the most popular. It's a very clever way to study something, and reduces the odds of bias by both the researcher and the researchee.

The ideology/personality study looked at the rooms and offices of liberals and conservatives, as one unobtrusive data point. What people leave out for others to see may tell us something about their personality, and may be correlated with a conservative/liberal ideology.

The results were interesting. Some items seem to confirm stereotypes (conservatives displays flags, liberals own folk music), others seem random (conservatives keep stamps, liberals keep tape), and others seem to go against type (Classic Rock for liberals?)

Below are the results, with conservatives items first and liberal items second:

Conservative, in decreasing order of likeliness:

.34 Sports-related décor (posters, paintings, photos)
.31 Event calendar
30 Postage stamps
.29 Presence of string/thread
.28 Iron and/or ironing board
.25 Laundry basket
.23 Any type of flag (including USA flags)
.23 Alcohol bottles/containers
.21 Flag of USA
.20 Well-lit (vs. dark)
.17 Fresh (vs. stale)
.16 Neat (vs. messy)
.15 Clean (vs. dirty)
.15 Modern (vs. old-fashioned)
.12 Colorful (vs. gloomy)
.06 Stylish (vs. unstylish)

Liberal, in increasing order of likeliness
-.01 Comfortable (vs. uncomfortable)
-.10 Organized (vs. disorganized) CDs
-.11 Cluttered (vs. uncluttered)
-.11 Distinctive (vs. ordinary)
-.15 Full (vs. empty)
-.19 Varied (vs. homogeneous) CDs
-.21 Books about travel
-.22 Classic rock CDs
-.22 Modern rock CDs
-.22 Reggae music CDs
-.22 Collections (e.g., stamps, action figurines, etc.)
-.22 Cultural memorabilia (e.g., trinkets brought back from vacation)
-.22 Tickets for/from travel
-.23 Many (vs. few) CDs
-.24 Books about ethnic topics
-.24 Folk music CDs
-.24 Tape dispenser
-.25 Movie tickets
-.25 Books about feminist topics
-.25 Books about music
-.25 Oldies music CDs
-.25 International maps (maps of countries other than the USA)
-.25 Many (vs. few) books

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fully Infromed

The Huffington Post has a running article on the funniest protest signs of 2009, available here. My favorites are below:

Infromed: The state of being both inflamed and misinformed. Thank you Fox News, for fully infroming your viewers.

As a huge Arrested Development fan, I couldn't agree more. You'd think that all the socialism we currently live under would allow the president to bring back cancelled comedies. Obama should do something about that Earl show too.

Deuteronomy: the gift that keeps giving.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Creepy Black Balloons

These creep black balloons make me want to bike a little more:

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Stuff White People Like

My Smile Politely column this week is about the website Stuff White People Like. I am satisfied to report that my inner whiteness is in complete harmony with my outer whiteness.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Kanye West Interrupts Obama

I love video remixes. And the Internet. And people with a lot of time on their hands.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Sinead's Hand

I saw this on Paul Roub's Facebook page (which now seem's to be the most convenient place to steal content for this blog):

Why does it seem like the people most rabidly pro-freedom are also the people most rabidly anti-freedom?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Armor of God Pajamas -- Rest in Peace

So, I was going to post a link to The Armor of God Pajamas website (which my old college friend Joanna posted on her Facebook page awhile back). It was going to be the perfect way to get off politics.

I was going to remark at how attempts to combine Christianity with Capitalism usually end this way -- in a bundle of clunkiness, humor, and suspect theology. I was also going to remark that it was too bad they didn't make Armor of God PJs in adult sizes, because I think Jill would have looked sexy as a crusader.

But, it appears that the website is no more. There are almost 5K web hits on "Armor of God" and "Pajamas," and almost all are filled with ridicule. It's not clear whether it was the $39.95 price tag or the ridicule that killed the Armor of God Pajamas, but sadly, you'll now need to sew your own Faith Shield if you want to go to bed with one.

Rest in peace, Armor of God Pajamas.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Awesome Speech

Obama gave an awesome speech last night. It's what he does best. Let's hope it now translates into some action.

I admit that I am surprised by the blowback that some Republicans are getting for being so openly disrespectful of the president (they held up signs and one even yelled out "you lie!" during the speech). It's par for the course at town halls and on news programs, but apparently there is still some decorum left within the House chamber.

On the other hand, I always enjoy watching the British Parliament, where politicians openly ridicule and catcall their opponents. There's something to be said for being challenged real-time and having to respond to objections, as long as the objections aren't wholesale lies or fabrications.

But, fair's fair. If heckling is against precedent, it should apply to everyone. If congress is expected to show respect to a president who lies to them to get into a war, it should show respect to a president trying hard to get health care to all Americans.

Update: Yikes, five minutes into this post, and it already needs a retraction. Apparently, in Parliament, you can get suspended for calling someone a liar. You can say someone is guilty of "terminological inexactitude" or "being economical with the truth" but you can't call them a liar. Ah, the British. They sure know how to use English. However, note that they are allowed to jeer all they want.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Crazy Comes Home

Crazy came home yesterday in the form of a permission slip. Apparently, grade schoolers can't have the president encourage them to set goals and be responsible for their own success without fear of socialist indoctrination. In the end, our son needed permission to be told to work hard.

On the one hand, the crazy is getting old and I'm tired of complaining about it. On the other hand, the crazy is killing health care reform and undermining the public good.

The irony of all this is how conservatives have managed to dress up socialism. At first socialism was taxing the top 1% to balance the budget. Then it was providing jobs in a recession via a stimulus bill. Then it was health care reform with a Medicare-like option for everyone. Now it is working hard and staying in school. Socialism has never looked so good.

Cartoon by Ed Hall
Ed Hall / Artizans Syndicate / Sep 9, 2009

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

God Bless Garrison Keillor

Garrison Keillor's latest column is out, which suggests that dogs may now be faring better than humans in our current health care climate:

...back in the day, dogs slept in the garage or on the porch so they could defend the home against socialism, and if they snored, it definitely was their problem and not ours. Ditto hypothyroidism. And there was a death panel around whose name was Dad.

Dad grew up on a farm and was not overly sentimental about animals. He did not purchase jewelry for them or talk to them in a high-pitched voice. He would have blanched at the thought that the average cost of a visit to the vet with your cat is now $172. The chance of Dad paying that much to care for Snowball was about the same as Snowball's chances in hell.

Full article here.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

God Bless The Onion

Afterbirthers Demand To See Obama's Placenta:

"All we are asking is that the president produce a sample of his fetal membranes and vessels—preferably along with a photo of the crowning and delivery—and this will all be over."

and of course:

Is Using A Minotaur To Gore Detainees A Form Of Torture?

Monday, August 31, 2009

Socialist cops and park rangers

From the News-Gazette opinion page on Sunday:

Name calling has no legitimate place in public debate. Dismissing people as socialists instead of analyzing the ideas they put forward is a cheap and easy way to avoid meaningful engagement in public discussion of the important issues that face Americans today. All too often, such labeling is the primary response entered in public forums by people who have little understanding of what they are talking about and less interest in learning.

Socialism is typically defined as a theory of social organization in which the means of production, distribution and exchange are owned and regulated by the community as a whole. This definition applies to many of the programs that Americans have long accepted as legitimate features of their lives, such as the public school system, the military, state and federal law enforcement agencies, the U.S. Postal Service, the Veterans Administration, Social Security, Medicare, a host of state and federal retirement systems and all of the state and national parks.

If we accept the definition of a socialist as a person who practices socialism, then anyone who has been a public school teacher, a member of the armed forces, a state or federal law enforcement officer, a postal worker or a recipient of benefits from the Veterans Administration, Social Security, Medicare, or a state or federal retirement system, or who has visited a state or national park is a socialist.


Also, today's Krugman column is especially good, remembering how reasonable even Richard Nixon was compared to today's political climate:

We tend to think of the way things are now, with a huge army of lobbyists permanently camped in the corridors of power, with corporations prepared to unleash misleading ads and organize fake grass-roots protests against any legislation that threatens their bottom line, as the way it always was. But our corporate-cash-dominated system is a relatively recent creation, dating mainly from the late 1970s.


I’m not saying that reformers should give up. They do, however, have to realize what they’re up against. There was a lot of talk last year about how Barack Obama would be a “transformational” president — but true transformation, it turns out, requires a lot more than electing one telegenic leader. Actually turning this country around is going to take years of siege warfare against deeply entrenched interests, defending a deeply dysfunctional political system.

Friday, August 28, 2009

I *knew* it

Elvis looks a little young, but perhaps in his illuminated state, he doesn't age anymore:

[Note: I have no idea where this came from - I found it from a link with no explanation on it].

Thursday, August 27, 2009

More socialism in health care

Why are we afraid of the word "socialism?" It is being used not as an argument in current debates, but as an accusation. It is being used insidiously too, in that policies intended to accomplish the common good are labeled "socialist" and therefore evil. End of discussion.

Call it what you want, but health care is a common good. If you want to call it socialist, fine. Then I guess we need more socialism in health care:

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Quote of the Day

"The savage man has a savage God; the cruel man a cruel God; the effeminate man has an effeminate God; while the good man lifts up holy hands to a God who rewards goodness."
-American Journal of Theology (1907)

Friday, August 21, 2009

More whining about health care

More whining about health care reform is available in my Smile Politely column this week: Compromised reform.

I'm trying to figure out why I'm suddenly feeling political again. I've been dormant these last 9 months, and content to mostly ignore the Birthers and the Teabaggers. But now they are scuttling health care, and Obama and the Dems seem content to let them. This is something important and vital to a lot of real people, so my ire is up.

But instead of reading my column, you really should read Roger Ebert's two excellent posts about health care reform: Death Panels: A most excellent term, and I'm safe on board. Pull up the life rope. That guy can write.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Weenie-ing Around

First, Obama says he is fully committed to a public health insurance option for health care reform. After the predictable, insane backlash from some Conservatives, who believe in things like Death Panels, he backpedals and says the public option isn’t an essential part of the plan. After the predictable back-backlash from liberals, who rightly say that any kind of reform without a public option can’t really be called health care reform, he has now re-backpedaled by saying he never said he didn’t support the public option.

What a frickin mess.

What is it with Democrats and backbones? There is a time to be bi-partisan, and there is a time to just say, look, we were elected by a huge majority, our platform included health care reform, we don’t care how big of a temper-tantrum the other side is throwing, we are going to go forward for the good of the country.

Nope. Democrats get mired in false compromises that are roundly rejected by everyone, especially those they are trying to appease. It’s a script I’m tired of, and one that I thought Obama was going to stray from.

I guess I’m relieved that he at least recognizes there is some value in having a base, and has re-retreated. Having a base is something Democrats during the Bush Administration never seemed to think was all that important.

So, yeah, it’s a mess, and who knows what happens from here. At least we have Rachel Maddow to sort it out:

Maddow: "A majority of personal bankruptcies in this country are caused by medical costs and a majority of those are people who actually have health insurance."

Health care reform without a public option is just more of the same.

Friday, August 14, 2009


Writing life update: Thanks to my friend Dave Wright (who hooked me up with the right person) I had a piece published this week in Wunderkammer Magazine, an on-line mag devoted society and culture.

The article is actually a toned down version of a blog post from June about picking up dancers in Kankakee. Now, it's mostly about being an extra in a movie. It's available here.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I've Had Enough of the Crazy

I guess I'm a mood lately.

Yesterday I went after Cal Thomas.

Today I'm going after the Birthers, the Teabaggers and the Astroturfers in my Smile Politely column: Untethered.

Also, I think one of our political parties has become the People's Front of Judea.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Bad Religion

A couple weeks ago, Cal Thomas wrote an angry column about the Episcopal Church. The Episcopals had just ended their ban on gay bishops and same-sex marriages and Cal was miffed that they were daring to be more inclusive that he thinks God should be.

So far, nothing surprising. However, he also took this as an opportunity to expound on the meaning of the church:

“Inclusivity has nothing to do with the foundational truths set forth in Scripture. The church, which belongs to no denomination, but its Founding Father and His Son, is about exclusivity for those who deny the faith.”

I think this is what separates religion as a positive vs. negative force in the world. It's the difference between religion as inclusion vs. religion as exclusion.

When you are encouraged to accept others because religion teaches you that there is that of God in everyone, then religion can be a constructive reflection of God’s will in the world.

When you come to believe that the main purpose of the church is to condemn and exclude others, you’ve lost your way. Calling people heretics may feel temporarily satisfying, but in the end, you can’t slaughter people via Crusade or Jihad without first condemning them as heretics, as outsiders to the one true faith, as other.

The irony is that exclusion isn’t very Christian. The foundational message of Jesus, according to Jesus, is to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself. And, for those unclear on the concept of “neighbor,” it includes everyone, even those heretical Samaritans and Episcopalians.

So I think Cal should read the Bible more. If he did, he might be surprised to find that Jesus saved his venom for the self-righteous, for those who claim to speak for God in the service of exclusion.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

I'm Kenyan Too!

Every family has its secrets:

Quote of the Day

"I'm told that extremely wealthy people can immediately tell the difference between a $200 dress and a $2000 dress. I'm just hoping they can't tell the difference between a $200 dress and a $50 dress."

-Jill, in trying to dress for a seriously lavish wedding earlier in the summer, where her cousin married a Connecticut gal with a trust fund.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

All choked up

It's been so busy lately, what with guests, baseball coaching, conventions and "providing structure for the kids," I forgot to post this last week: My Smile Politely column on being a complete sap.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

DreamSeeker Article

I got a nice present in the mail this week -- a hardcopy of DreamSeeker Magazine with my article in it, plus a small check.

The article is called A Brief History of Love and Suffering and it's available on the web here.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Race Row

My Smile Politely column is out today, which defends cultural houses at the University of Illinois. There's nothing like talking about race and culture to get people all fired up.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Go Pink Mennos

Folks supporting LGBT rights at this year’s Mennonite convention had a brilliant idea for protesting the Mennonite Church’s official policy of discrimination: Simply wear pink shirts around the convention center all week.

Particularly prominent were a large gathering of young adults who showed up at the big hymn sing and sat right in the middle of Nationwide arena, even singing hymns before it officially started. The message is that we may not be sanctioned, but we exist, and we aren’t going away. We even got some national press on the issue, via an AP story.

As in the wider culture, it seems to be a generational issue with Mennonites. In a church whose average age is 54 (which in itself is of great concern to the church, and rightly so), many if not most of those wearing pink shirts were people under 30. I hope this sends a strong message to church leaders. Without some kind of action on this, they stand to lose the next generation of youth and especially those most interested in social justice issues.

I’ve often wondered how today’s youth became so much more inclusive than their parents. I guess it’s because they have grown up with openly gay friends, relatives, and icons, and know at a personal level that there is nothing to fear from those with sexual orientations different from their own. On the other hand, it’s hard for those who grew up being taught otherwise to think differently, especially without any exposure to others who might challenge their assumptions. But, the reality is that Gay Rights are coming. It’s just a matter of when the demographics change enough to allow for it, and whether we are going to be leaders or followers. Actually, it’s already too late to be leaders. But it would be nice not to be last.

By the end of the week, the backlash had begun at the convention. A few youth were spotted in the lunchroom wearing green shirts with the message “Homosexuality is an abomination” plastered on the back. Sigh.

No one wants a split church. And yet, the status quo of treating homosexuals as less than fully human cannot stand. It is against the Mennonite values of advocacy for the downtrodden, the outsiders, and the underprivileged, which we have tried to embody for centuries.

And yet, there are people in my church whom I love dearly and are vital and necessary parts of our congregation, but are against homosexuality. We have to find a way to fully include our LGBT friends into our religious community, but without losing those who consider it a sin. There is no easy path forward.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Hymns and Praise

This quiz is brought to you by my upcoming retirement (after 9 years) of high school youth group leadership.

Can you identify which verses below are from hymns, and which ones are from typical contemporary praise songs?

Come, thou fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace.
Streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet, sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it, mount of God’s unchanging love.

Jesus, you are so totally cool.
You are, like, so awesome.
I am so in love with you.
You are, like, way better than my old boyfriend/girlfriend. (repeat 4 times)

Holy Spirit, come with power, breathe into our aching night.
We expect you this glad hour, waiting for your strength and light.
We are fearful, we are ailing, we are weak and selfish too.
Break upon your congregation; give us vigor, life anew.

God, you are so worthy of me praising you.
I’m really glad about you.
You are everything I need.
You are so worthy, you are like a medieval political leader to me (repeat 8 times)

Healer of our every ill, light of each tomorrow,
Give us peace beyond our fear, and hope beyond our sorrow.
You who know our fears and sadness, grace us with your peace and gladness.
Spirit of all comfort, fill our hearts.

I’m going to praise you God, and it will feel so good to me.
I’m praising you right now God and it feels so good to me.
I just praised you God, and it felt so good to me.
Because, God, you are all about me (repeat 64 times)

Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me save that thou art.
Thou my best thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.

1. Come Thou Fount (1758)
2. Minor Mennonite parody of praise song 1 (2009)
3. Holy Spirit, come with power (1970)
4. Minor Mennonite parody of praise song 2 (2009)
5. Healer of our every ill (1986)
6. Minor Mennonite parody of praise song 3 (2009)
7. Be thou my vision (1905)

OK, so it's not fair to compare real, classic hymns to parodies. But this is the internet, so I'm not sure why you would expect fairness, instead of selective data provided as slanted evidence to back up a partisan talking point.

The thing is, I know praise songs are not about theology, or logic, or grammar. They are about emotion. And I know that it’s good for people to reach the spirit of the divine in whatever way works for them, even if it's by pure emotion.

It’s just hard for me to see people in the spiritual buffet line bypass the poetic, weighty, and deeply nutritious meal of a good hymn and head straight for the cotton candy and Jolt Cola of the typical praise song. Plus, I fear that too much praise music is really saying My God is Better Than Your God, which I believe to be a harmful gateway idea that eventually leads to Crusade and Jihad, especially if you are hopped up on sugar and caffeine.

On the other hand, there are now some hymns that I can no longer sing without tearing up, like Come Thou Font and Be Thou My Vision. I have no idea why this happens, other than they touch some deep place inside me that I don’t understand. Maybe it takes a decade of singing them before they seep into you and grab hold.

Anyway, while I won’t be missing praise music during my youth leader retirement, I will miss hanging out with our church’s high school youth. Every class of youth has been filled with great kids, and they’ve challenged me in more ways than they know. More importantly, they’ve always been kind enough to laugh at a minimal threshold of my lame jokes. I’ll now have to rely on my own kids for that, and the outlook isn't so good on that front these days. I guess I'll have to console myself by crying during a good hymn.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Stink of My Presence

Being the excellent father that I am, I have lately been on the lookout for summertime activities for my kids. One such activity is second-run dollar movies at the Savoy Theater at 10:30 most mornings. This week’s show is Coraline, which I missed in the theaters and wanted to see.

So, I suggested to my 12-year-old daughter that we might go together. It turned out that Jill had already suggested this to her, and my daughter was already organizing an outing with her friends. She was immediately horrified that I might want to go with them.

Being the excellent father that I am, I backed off, and said of course I wouldn’t go with her, knowing what an embarrassment of a human being I am, and how I would never want to saddle her with my presence in any kind of social setting.

However, I did want to see this movie. So, I suggested that I might let them go into the theater to get themselves settled, after which I would buy my ticket and then sneak into the theater. I would sit in the way, way back, even to the very corner itself, so that no one, especially her friends, would know I was there.

Her eyes widened, and a look of horror came across her face. Staying at home suddenly seemed a lot more appealing than going to the movies with her friends. But she did have a suggestion: “Can’t you just rent it if you want to see it?” No, not available yet on DVD.

Being the excellent father that I am, I made one more suggestion. What if I called the theater and found out whether the movie is showing on more than one screen? I could go in after her, go to an entirely different room from her, and we could still both see the movie. But alas. The stink of my presence is so terrible that even this arrangement was simply not acceptable. It would put her entire social status at risk, and she has worked too hard for the last year to jeopardize that with my being within the same building at the same time as her and her friends

Based on empirical evidence gathered over the last year, I think I now have a handle on which places are acceptable to be together, and which places are not:

  1. Acceptable: In the car, driving her somewhere she wants to go
  2. Acceptable: In our house, as long as she is in her room, and I am somewhere else.
  3. Unacceptable: The entire rest of the world.

I would feel bad about this, except that I remember being her age. My parents became astonishingly dorky when I entered middle school, even though objective observers might have claimed they had not changed at all. And the list above pretty much sums up my middle school experience too. But luckily, my parents came out of their embarrassing stage after a few years. Being the excellent father that I am, I'm hoping that I’ll come out of this stage in a few years too.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Picking Up Dancers in Kankakee

Last Thursday, I picked up some dancers in Kankakee.

Wait, that sounds incriminating. How about this: Last Thursday, I had some semi-famous dancers in the back seat of my van.

Maybe I should back up. I guess this story starts where many tales of fame-seeking and lost innocence start: with a bribe.

We bribed our good friends Dave and Jenna Weglarz-Ward last year. Our daughters have been friends since kindergarten but they were due to go to different middle schools. Dave and Jenna were wavering though, and we used this as an opportunity to bribe them: send Madeline to Jasmine’s middle school and we would host them for dinner once a month. They accepted these terms, and it has worked out well for everyone involved. The girls like hanging out together. The Schreibers like having the Weglarz-Wards over. The Weglarz-Wards like free food.

A few months ago, we learned at one such dinner that Dave had somehow used his magical powers of hypnotism (or perhaps some other occult power) to become location manager for a movie that was going to be shot here in Champaign-Urbana. Plus, Jenna was going to be the extras casting director. It turns out that Dave and Jenna have a social life outside of coming to our house once a month for dinner, and that they are good friends with Dan Beahm and Erika Randall Beahm, who used live in town and are producing and directing the film. Also, Erika co-wrote the script with Jennifer Bechtel, who we know from local theater productions. As usual, it’s a small, small, Champaign-Urbana world.

We must have served especially good food one night, or more likely, served too much beer, because Dave and Jenna asked if we wanted to be extras in the movie. Also, if we wanted to help out in other ways, they would let us. This sounded like a great deal to me. I’ve always wanted to be on the set of movie.

I had assumed the movie would be one step up from teenagers running around town taking videos on their cell phones. After all, this is my friend Dave, who needs me to transfer his high school videos into mpeg format so he can see them on his computer. He’s not exactly on the cutting edge of the digital world. Also, his videos are exactly what you’d expect of high school friends being hilarious to each other.

So I was impressed when I found out some big-name dance stars were involved, as well as an experienced crew. The movie is called Leading Ladies, and is about an overbearing dance mom and her two daughters. They had signed on Melanie LaPatin (who dominated Latin and Ballroom dance circles for 20 years) and Benji Schwimmer (winner of So You Think You Can Dance). My entire exposure to the world of dance is the four episodes of Dancing with the Stars I watched during spring break this year with my daughters, so I had no idea who they were. But I do have access to the internet. And I am now duly impressed.

Plus, they recruited a real cinematographer in Peter Biagi, who worked on some Robert Altman films. Apparently, being a location manager (finding locations for all the scenes in the movie) is different from being a producer, director, actor or a cinematographer. And Dave is a great location manager, having secured various locations around town at little or no charge. It eventually dawned on me that this was a real movie, as they are planning on submitting it to Sundance next fall.

As the time got closer, we asked Dave and Jenna whether there was anything we could do to help. It turns out there was: we have a big house, and they wanted to have a “Welcome to Champaign-Urbana” party for the cast and crew. Would we be willing to host? Heck yes! We love filling our house with large numbers of people.

The cast and crew were all very gracious. And everyone was enthusiastic about the start of filming. At the party we learned that Melanie likes children and pets (or at least she like the Schreiber kids and our dog Jac, but really, who could blame her?). Benji likes old houses and regularly goes on humanitarian trips to Mexico. Peter Biagi is interesting to talk to but is a terrible basketball player. There were a bunch of Dans, Daves and Bretts involved in the production, but I had no idea who was who, which was good. I hoped not to fawn over or ignore anyone unduly.

We really hit it off with Dan (and later Erika) Beahm, the producer/director. The Weglarz-Wards have good tastes in friends, even if you discount their association with the Schreibers. At this point in my life, I should not be surprised by such things, but we learned that Dan Beahm’s mom lived on the same dorm floor as Jill’s Aunt Judy when they went to college. Also, his mom and dad see Jill’s aunt Bev and uncle Joel semi-regularly at church events in Indiana. It’s a small, tiny, miniscule Champaign-Urbana world, especially if you are married to Jill.

So, I’ve been trying to help out with the movie as best I can. One day, my task was to find a cello. Another day, provide a glue gun. I failed to produce enough liquor bottles in the quantity desired for one scene, but did manage to find enough futons for a different scene. Much earlier, we had provided the name of our neighbor with a 70s era kitchen as a location for the movie. Their house was on the market and they had already moved to Chicago, so it was perfect as an empty place with the right look. Also, I’ve been encouraging people to sign up as extras.

So, as I mentioned before, last Thursday I found myself driving up to Kankakee to pick up dancers, who were in the back of my van for an hour and a half. True be told, it was Dave’s van we were in, but having dancers in the back of Dave’s van is not nearly as fun to say.

The dancers were being brought in for a big dance scene at a local Jerry’s IGA (because when you make a dance movie in Champaign-Urbana, there's no better location than Jerry’s IGA). They were all on So You Think You Dance, but I had no idea who they were (see dance world knowledge, above). Dave chose me to pick them up partially because I wouldn’t embarrass myself and partly because I was the only one available. Had it been Bonnie Hunt or Marisa Tomei, I would certainly have embarrassed myself, but luckily for me, they were not asked to dance in this movie.

Why Kankakee? The dancers flew into O’Hare from LA and Dave’s dad drove them down to Kankakee, where I met them to take them the rest of the way. It is what I would imagine smuggling immigrants is like. Except that these immigrants were semi-famous dancers from LA with a lot of luggage who watched Real Housewives for most of the drive. They crammed themselves into the very back seat, probably so as to be as far away from the middle-aged chauffeur/dad/grunt/nerd guy as possible. But they were very polite about it. For posterity, the dancers were Katee Shean, Courtney Galiano, and Kherington Payne. I am sorry to report that the reality of picking up dancers in Kankakee is about as exciting as the reality of getting picked up in Kankakee by a middle-aged man.

The movie production is just over half-way done and wraps up the last week of June. Things seem to be going well. I wrote a piece for Smile Politely about being on the set, available here.

Also for posterity, I’ve been an extra in one scene, and plan to be in two more. My roles are as follows:

  1. Awkward Guy Standing Near Bar at a Gay Nightclub. Words cannot describe my lifelong lack of personal fabulousness that causes no one to ever mistake me for a gay man. With truly fabulous people dancing and milling about, I wisely hung out near the bar and talked to the guy who played drums in the fake band. My only hope is that I might pass for awkwardly bi-curious. Mostly, I am hoping not to make the cut for this scene.
  2. Single Dad of Two Teenage Daughters at a Pizza Parlor. This was supposed to be the father of a family of five at a pizza parlor, but Jill will be at a conference that week and Anthony will be at summer camp. I am hoping the girls will act bored and/or uncomfortable being in public with their dad, so it will be a realistic scene.
  3. Face in the Crowd at Ballroom Dance Competition. They are hoping to get over a hundred people there, and I promised to bring as many people as I could.
I didn’t get the one extra role that I truly desired: the off-screen one-night stand of Sheri, the overbearing dance mom. I’ve never had a one-night stand in real-life, so I thought it might provide some closure to be the fake one-night stand of Melanie LaPatin’s in a movie. Plus, the only thing this character has to do is snore off-screen, which I am confident I can nail as a part, especially since it will likely be dubbed in later. But, it turns out they don’t really need an extra for someone snoring off-screen.

Oh well. In the Leading Ladies universe, I’ve decided that Single Dad at Pizza Parlor went to a gay nightclub one night to become Awkward Guy Standing Near Bar, only to be picked up by Indomitable Dance Mom, resulting in his becoming One-Night Stand Guy Snoring. Maybe his backstory needs to involve dancers from Kankakee too. At any rate, this would provide all the backstory anyone would ever need for why Single Dad at Pizza Parlor is single, and why he might later show up by himself at a regional ballroom dance competition. That is plenty of closure for me.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Lazy Tuesday Video: The Astounding World of the Future

John O'Neill sent me this one. It turns out that robots will be our friends in the astounding world of the future:

Friday, June 05, 2009

Jesus Loves the 2nd Amendment

Nothing says "I Love Jesus" like a brandishing a sidearm in church.

A friend sent me a link to New Bethel Church of Kentucky, with the following announcement:

In Celebration of July 4 and our rights as Americans, New Bethel Church will be hosting an Open Carry Celebration for all who support 1st and 2nd Amendment rights. ..We are asking responsible handgun owners to attend this service openly wearing their sidearms.
At first, I thought this must be a parody, and a not very good one either, since it is so ridiculous. But no, it seems to be an example of Poe's Law, where you can't distinguish between some religious beliefs and outright parody. There's an AP story on it here.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Up Review

My glowing review of Up is now posted at Smile Politely.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A few questions for the Terminator Salvation robots

Warning, some spoilers are below.

  1. If you are a robot and your job is to kill the most important human target in the world, why would you spend all of your time throwing the human around a lab, rather than shooting the human with a gun, or simply crushing the human with your hands?
  2. If you capture the father of a past/future resistance leader, why would you hold him in a cell, instead of just killing him?
  3. Why go through the trouble of building a human interface in your super secret control room? Since you are a robot, why couldn’t you just download all the information to your half-robot/half-human henchman via a USB port, or even wireless technology, which will presumably still be available in the future?
  4. For that matter, why would you tell your half-human/half-robot deep informant henchman that he is an informant at all? This can only lead to confusion and bad things happening.
  5. If you are smart enough to send a robot into the past, why aren’t you smart enough to store plans for all the cool new technology you’ve developed, so it can be available earlier in history when you start fighting the humans? To be fair, humans are also not smart enough to do this either, so I suppose that makes it a fair fight.

All in all, I’m not sure why we should be so worried about robots taking over. They appear to be a bunch of morons.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Christians vs the gays

This week's Smile Politely column is up, and has an unnecessarily inflammatory title: "Why gays are morally superior to Christians."

It's actually just a recounting of Stanley Hauerwas' 1993 essay of the same name. Despite its age, it's still both funny and relevant.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Writing Life Update

I've had some good news lately about some articles I packed up and sent off to seek their fortune in the big, wide world:

1. Dreamseeker Magazine accepted "A Brief History of Love and Suffering," an essay about Christian love gone bad. It should be published sometime this summer.

2. I'm one of six finalists in Geez Magazine's "Daringly Awkward Sermon Contest" with "The Bliss of Ignorance," which describes how useful ignorance can be when visiting a foreign country. I may not be terribly daring, but I make up for it in awkwardness. It's due out this month.

3. I got an email from The Mennonite magazine yesterday, telling me that "My Ensemble Experience," published last year, got 3rd place in the Associated Church Press "Best of the Christian Press" awards in the humor category. It's always nice to place in a contest that I didn't even know I was enrolled in.

However, I would be failing in my Mennonite humility if I did not also mention that my 3rd place finish was a tie, and there were 11 total entries, meaning I'm only in the top 36% of the funniest Christian writers of 2008. To what extent that is like saying I'm in the top 36% of the most fashionable farmers, I dare not judge.

Maybe I should have a new tag line: "Dan Schreiber: Funnier than 64% of other Christian writers in 2008."

Nonetheless, I'm going to wear a tux around the house for the rest of the day and demand that all my beverages be served in champagne glasses.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

I like my neighbors

After weeks of doing other things for Smile Politely, my regular column returns this week: Walking and Waving in C-U, where I give some love to my city and neighbors.

But again, not in a weird way.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Who would Jesus Torture?

So, basically, I'm just stealing urbanmenno's content at this point. This will make 2 in 2 days. I will offer her 100% of the money I make from this blog.

In my defense, my friend John emailed me this morning with the same story, begging me to post it on my blog so he can rant about it in public. And he's Catholic, only the 2nd most blood-thirsty group of Christians studied.

The chart says it all:

So, almost half of Americans justify torture. That's depressing. On the bright side, though, if you take out all the religious folks, only 40% justify torture.

I never thought I'd say this, but I think we need more "What Would Jesus Do?" bracelets in the world. Unfortunately, it's the Christians that need them the most.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

100 Days

As if two wars and a depression-like economic crisis isn't enough to deal with, President Obama (..."President Obama" -- I still love hearing that), now gets to deal with a possible pandemic. What's next? Locusts? Space aliens? Robots from the future? All in a day's work, I guess.

I was going to weigh in on Obama's first 100 days, but then urbanmenno said pretty much what I was going to, but funnier:

I’d like to talk to you about your son’s progress, America.

There's been some good and some bad, mostly good, but it's too early to tell. All I know is that someone with good judgment and good values is in charge right now, and that's reassuring. That will be especially important when the zombies show up. People are notoriously irrational about zombies.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Ebertfest 11

It's that time of year again. Like Christmas, except better. I abandon my family and friends and spend five days at the lovely Virginia Theater with 1,000 film nerds like me to watch great movies.

Usually, I cover Ebertfest by writing blog entries at The Unofficial Ebertfest Blog with P. Gregory Springer. This year, PG and I are going legit, by covering it for Smile Politely. I'll be writing a few of the daily wrapups, plus splogging throughout, and also doing some movie reviews. I even have a press pass. I knew this Smile Politely thing would be useful someday.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Daily Show on the Torture Memo

The Daily Show on the torture memo stuff:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
We Don't Torture
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic CrisisPolitical Humor

I also like Dan Froomkin's response to Cheney claiming we are more safe when we torture people: Call his bluff.

However, in the end, it doesn't matter whether we are more safe, or feel more safe, when we torture people. It's wrong. If we want to be a country with any moral authority, we need to stop doing it. It's nice to have a president that fundamentally understands this.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Lazy Friday Video: Guitars, Guitars, Guitars

This kid is amazing:

I love how his head shakes as he gets into it:

This is fun too:

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

What's Up With the Tea Parties?

I'm trying to understand these conservative tea parties being promoted by Fox News.

As I understand it, conservatives are mad that the government is trying to stimulate the economy, and showing their outrage by sending teabags to Congress, because teabags, of course, symbolize taxation without representation, and also Obama is a socialist because he is raising taxes 3% on those in the top 5% of the tax bracket. Or something like that. Help me out here, Bob.

While I applaud people's interest in civic engagement, I wish they'd do something constructive. Like protest the lack of government oversight and collective greed that led to this mess. Instead, it seems they are protesting in favor of greed. I guess being pro-war, pro-torture, anti-science, and anti-civil-liberties got old.

My favorite part of this is how much Fox News is outright promoting these parties, showing once again the double standard in news expectations. Can you imagine the conservative outrage had CNN outright promoted war protests? Sean Hannity's head would have exploded. Which is saying something, given the size of his head.

Tim pointed out Krugman's take on it here, which is always right on the money. I liked Rachel Maddow's segment on teabagging too.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Bush That Lived

This is the bush that lives at the end of my driveway. It's the one that blocks my neighbor's view when he pulls out of his driveway, and I agreed to cut down, being the good neighbor that I am.

Three times I have hacked this bush down to its stumpy core.

I have twice poured root killer on its roots, after slicing them open.

I once even poured a toxic mixture of paint thinner and deck stain on it, which is probably illegal to do. A prime example of how frustration breeds criminality.

But it's spring again and the evil bush is back.

Actually, although you can't see it so well from this angle, a lot of it has died. Just not all of it. It is the Voldemort of bushes. I believe it has split its soul into seven pieces, even though I've killed it nine times.

So, good readers, how do you kill the final piece of a soulless, undead bush?

Just don't recommend setting fire to it. That pole sitting next to it supports all the electricity going to my neighborhood. I'm sure they would find me if I burned it down. Plus, I'm not even convinced that would kill the bush. I need an elderwand or basilisk fang or something.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Copyrights and Art

This week's Smile Politely piece is another Nina Paley interview. Actually, it's the same Nina Paley interview, but this is the second part of it:

Copyrighting away culture: An interview with Nina Paley

I wonder if artists should even be able to sell copyrights on their art. It makes total sense that artists who create something should benefit from their sale. But it doesn't make sense to me that corporations can buy those rights and hold them forever, preventing other people from using the art, or incorporating it into new art (I'm talking about copyable art here, not paintings and such).

At some point, especially after an artist has died, art should belong to the culture, to humanity, to everyone, and not to entities whose only interest is financial.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Are you a Richard Jenkins fan?

I saw The Visitor a few weeks ago, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Richard Jenkins got an Oscar nomination for the lead role, and I knew I had seen him before in lots of movies, but couldn't quite place which ones. He's one of those perennial bit-part actors who shows up a lot here and there.

So, of course, I IMDBed him. Turns out I'd seen him only a week or so earlier when I watched Burn After Reading. Also, I guess I am a huge Richard Jenkins fan, since I've seen 25 movies he's been in. And, I've never even watched Six Feet Under, which he is apparently most famous for. If you've watched any smattering of movies over the last 30 years, you are probably a fan too. See here for all the movies you've seen him in.

Here's my list:

Burn After Reading
The Visitor
The Kingdom
Rumor Has It...
Fun with Dick and Jane
I Heart Huckabees
Cheaper by the Dozen
Intolerable Cruelty
Changing Lanes
The Man Who Wasn't There
One Night at McCool's
Say It Isn't So
Snow Falling on Cedars
Outside Providence
There's Something About Mary
Absolute Power
Flirting with Disaster
The Indian in the Cupboard
It Could Happen to You
Stealing Home
Little Nikita
The Witches of Eastwick
Hannah and Her Sisters

As I look over this list, I notice that he has been in a lot of crappy movies. Unfortunately, that also means I've seen a lot of crappy movies.