Friday, April 24, 2009

How I Stopped Hating Church

So I am in a stretch where I am preaching 3 times in 6 weeks. That sort of production definitely taps out my ability to generate blog content. The manuscripts have started showing up on my preaching site http://stanfordtranscripts.blogspot.com/. I actually think last weeks (on the road to Emmaus) was my second best of the year[1]. I have also started recording them actually: http://stanfordmp3.blogspot.com/.  Until then, it is back to the file[2].

This may be my favorite piece I have written in the last three years. It is not particularly well written and it is kind of shortish. But it is my favorite because the insights have so totally revolutionized the way I do life and church.

How I Stopped Hating Church

Don Miller’s book Blue Like Jazz peaked near the middle with a sneakily profound chapter called “Confessional,” which reduced me to tears in the middle of a crowded coffee shop. He followed this with a chapter called “How I Stopped Hating Church.” I was practically giddy. Enjoying Christians is something I have struggled with for some time and Miller had proved himself an insightful guy and able story teller. Unfortunately, the chapter sucked. He stopped hating church by finding an Emerging church made up of a bunch of people like him.

So I’ll give Don a mulligan on that and try to take up the topic myself. My unfinished pilgrimage to the place of no longer hating church started about nine years ago. We moved from Madison to Buffalo. When in Madison we attended Blackhawk Evangelical Free Church, a fantastic, evangelical, Midwestern (read white) church in a college town. But I was beginning to feel the postmodern angst that has plagued evangelical X’ers across the movement. We were looking for something ‘real’ and decided we’d find it in a small, predominately African American church on the edge of the Buffalo’s east side. It was gritty. It was hard. It was beautiful. We were very conscious of our place as cultural learners and when something happened that we thought was strange we were more likely to think we just didn’t understand. We embraced the experience as stepping into the worship life of another culture and being willing to receive from that culture.

Then we moved to California. We were tired. Running a ghetto youth ministry had been hard on us and hard on our marriage. We ended up at a large, affluent, white, boomer church in a college suburb that was everything Refreshing Springs wasn’t. And it didn’t take long for me to get angsty. The worship and life of the church just didn’t seem transcendent. I was again, looking for something ‘real’.

But then it occurred to me, the black church was not more real or transcendent, but we embraced it as the particular worship of a cultural group that we could learn from. The suburban white church was similarly, the particular worship of a specific cultural group that (gasp) I might actually be able to learn from.

I decide to embrace our new worship service as the particular expression of faith in a unique cultural group, suburban, middle age, yuppies. I no longer expect them to bear the weight of ‘authentic’ ‘real[3]’ or ‘biblical[4]’ worship. I simply enter into suburban yuppie worship as if I was it was some strange foreign culture that I was trying to understand. I sing the Michael Boltonesque[5] prom songs to God in solidarity with these strange people. I clap woodenly on the beat as if it was as foreign to me as the syncopation of Refreshing Springs was the first time I went. Churches made of people can only be expected to reflect a glimmer of the glories of God and are each particular expressions of the work of the gospel in a unique culture. I have chosen to embrace the worship practices of this odd people I find so foreign for this season. That is how I stopped hating church.

____________
[1] It was definitely the funniest. Though, you would not get the jokes by listening to the MP3. They were mostly visual gags. A couple nights later, I was watching the Daily Show and realized that my propensity for sprinkling my talk with visual gags that I don’t explicitly acknowledge except for pausing for response (and maybe a deconstructing follow up joke) is directly influenced by Stewart.
[2] In his book Now I Can Die in Peace Bill Simmons republished his outstanding columns from the Red Sox first title run. To get those of us who read them in real time to buy the book, he added copious footnotes and backward looking reflections. I have kind of done the same thing here. The text is a historical artifact. The footnotes are contemporary reflection.
[3] When we were younger, we expected ‘real’ to be ‘uniquely transcendent.’ But I have come to believe that ‘spiritual reality’ can only be ‘culturally particular.’ We are just less likely to recognize this in the culture we grew up in, since, for most of our early life, we though this culture WAS transcendent...and have trouble subsequently embracing it as particular.
[4] I generally think ecclesiology is almost entirely arbitrary. Apart from some guidelines on leadership structures (e.g. leadership must be done in community) there is very little ‘how to’ instructions for church in the Scriptures. I actually think this intentional. The scriptures prescribe freedom. Worship is a fundamentally cultural response to the transcendent creator. So, Ed Stezer says, ‘God is reaching Korea with the mega-church and China with the house church.’ Anyone who tries to prescribe THE model for church probably needs to study Acts again…or grow up.
[5] Ref: Mark Driscoll, Confessions of a Reformissional Pastor

Thursday, April 16, 2009

‘Successful Disasters’ and the Vulnerability of the Moral Argument

At the End of Prof Wolfe’s MIT Psychology Class, he introduces Evolutionary Psychology, which hypothesizes that the key to understanding and managing contemporary behaviors is to uncover the evolutionary value of those behaviors, namely: how does this behavior help propagate my genetic material into future generations. Much of this material was pretty intuitive. Men like younger women because they have more years to produce babies. Women like older men because they are more likely to have means to provide for babies. Men are drawn to multiple sexual partners because making babies is a low cost endeavor for them compared to women. Etc…. But here is the thing with Evolutionary Psychology, it is descriptive…it can never be prescriptive.

In his final two lectures Prof Wolfe covers eating disorders and coercive sexual relationships from an evolutionary psychology perspective. He calls them ‘successful disasters.’ They are disasters because they intuitively[1] chafe our moral sensibilities. Yet he is forced to concede the adjective ‘successful’ because they are adaptive mechanisms that do the ‘evolutionary work’ of propagating genetic material into future generations. Prof Wolfe taught about how to treat these behaviors, but he couldn’t tell us why to treat these behaviors.

And that is the thing I find interesting. Like all secular systems that attempt to understand and shape the human moral apparatus, evolutionary psychology LACKS OUGHTNESS. It has no mechanism to go from, ‘this is the way things are’ to ‘this is the way things should be.’ It gives us categories with which we can label eating disorders and rape.[2] We can call them maladaptive or aberrant based on their relative infrequency. But since they are simply strategies to do what the rest of us are fundamentally trying to do…there is no moral force to label them ‘wrong’. In fact, it seems to me that if my primary existential agenda is to propagate my genetic material into future generations, rape and ethnic cleansing (the two worst atrocities I can imagine) are particularly successful ways to pull that off. It also makes no sense that I would have any interest in the plight of urban schools or AIDS in Africa, because sacrificing resources that could benefit my progeny in support of the members of another ethnicity does no real evolutionary work for me.

Recently, a young man I am mentoring facilitated the theistic side of a debate of the UCD philosophy club regarding the ‘moral argument’ for the existence of God. His argument (from Lane-Craig) went like this:

1. If objective moral oughtness exists, God exists
2. Objective moral oughtness exists
3. Therefore God exists

As we debriefed the discussion, something interesting emerged. His interlocutors had spent almost of their time and effort assailing his first premise, the necessary connection between the existence of an objective moral oughtness and a creator God. But here’s the thing; that is not where the argument is vulnerable. Objective oughtness simply requires a transcendent law giver. Otherwise, you are arbitrarily selecting between totally legitimate strategies of genetic propagation. I have heard a lot of creative attempts to get around that and am simply unmoved by all of them.[3]

(VERY Important Side Note: I am not arguing that you have to believe in God to be moral. In fact, I have argued passionately and repeatedly that, at least Christianity, tends to correlate with moral failure, rather than moral success. So by extension, I am arguing that morality tends to correlate with disbelief. What I AM arguing is that, while individual morality might be a pleasant coping mechanism or evolutionary strategy for the agnostic or atheist, it has no prescriptive power over any one else…and may, actually, be irrational.)


But there are no air tight arguments for or against the existence of God. As my favorite late agnostic/atheist Stephen J Gould used to say, (paraphrase) ‘if the determining existence of God was simply a matter of intelligence, than half my colleagues are morons.’[4] Therefore, the argument is vulnerable. Most people simply do not have the courage to face the vulnerability. That’s because, it is only really vulnerable under assertion #2 above.

There are reasons to believe objective moral oughtness exists (similar moral taboos and virtues across cultures, the testimony of conscience, etc…) but it is by no means assured, particularly with the unparalleled success of the evolutionary paradigm. All one has to do to shake free of the argument above is nut up and say, ‘Objective morals just do not exist. We, like all animals simply exist to propagate our genetic material into future generations. Having evolved a curiously large brain and opposable thumbs doesn’t somehow provide a transcendent moral code.’ Now Dawkins and I have our issues,[5] but we agree on this point.


When Terry Gross asked why we haven’t we evolved more morally…"The question is the other way around. If you look at the selfish gene view of life, the question is ‘why are we as moral as we are’. And we are surprisingly moral compared to what you might naively expect in a Darwinian- nature red in tooth and claw view…(Here he notes that there are good Darwinian explanations for why we are good t relatives or people who can reciprocate our helpful actions- groups we stand to benefit from being good to)...but we are faced with the problem of why were are as moral as we are towards non-relatives and perfect strangers, indeed members of other species whom we’re never going to meet again and who have no opportunity to reciprocate. And that I think is a kind of mistaken byproduct.”[6]

But why are we so hesitant to dismiss assertion # 2…because the intuitive, common sense argument is that objective moral values exist. As JP Moreland loves to say ‘It is simply wrong to torture babies for fun.’ So, while I solidly with Nietzsche in believing that if objective moral values do not exist, we should get on with living like they do not exist.[7] But I would make the empirical argument that they do exist…and if they do, so does God.

This post was prepared while listening to Flyleaf by Flyleaf

______________________
[1] Prof Wolfe actually uses this word ‘intuitively’ as if he is trying to make an argument from ‘common sense.’
[2] Note, by putting these two behaviors in the same sentence I do not want to suggest even the hint of moral equvilency. It appears (from the evidence covered in the class) that the former is a complex phenomena in which the individual is largely a victum, where the latter is just the most morally repugnant human behavior possible.
[3] Here, of course, I am referring to pragmatism, utilitarianism, genetic determinism, objectivism (Rynd’s virtue of selfishness), Idealism…et al. None of these approaches has the analytical power to go from, ‘wouldn’t it be nice if the world was like this’ to ‘it is a necessary consequence of the evolutionary paradigm that we each behave like this.’
[4]Gould does not assert which half, just that whatever the wrong answer is, a lot of smart people believe it, so there must be something other than reason and syllogism at work. The argument that the believeing half Gould’s colleagues are the morons, was recently taken up by Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion, by resurrecting the idea of the ‘super scientist’ (using the NAS as the criteria). But he conveniently overlooked common sociological principles like ‘peer effects’ and the fact that the NAS is a self-selecting, self-propagating, self-referential data set. I think it is typical of Dawkins to employ sociology against belief (like, the very appropriate critique of ‘confirmation bias’ which, he seems to forget, applies to his hypothesis as well) but seems to think that if someone is smart enough to eschew belief they are smart enough to avoid sociological entanglements…which is, again, self referential. I miss Gould. And not, simply because he was a more measured rhetorician…but because I am a punk-eek (punctuated equilibrium) adherent and a fan of scientists who can actually write.
[5] Mainly that he is a excellent (if emotionally manipulative) rhetorician a very good scientist a bad philosopher and an abysmal theologian.
[6] I got this from Nic’s blog, but it was on NPR.
[7] I often hear what I would call the ‘weak’ form of this argument that goes something like ‘society would fall apart if everyone rejected the existence of an intrinsic or transcendent moral code so one must exist.’ I say if this is actually the case let it. Let’s have the courage to face a new reality where altruism is just a power play on the behalf of the recipient to swindle resources to propagate their genetic material at the expense of others. But if humanness is actually qualitatively different than ‘nature red in tooth and claw’ then it is important to get straight how it is different and, more importantly, why it is different.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Guyana Travel Journal

So I am in Guyana for the week. As I did with Afghanistan and Kenya, I am going to try to keep a travel journal: http://stanfordinguyana.blogspot.com/.

This post is complete for now...but it looks like I will return to Guyana in June, so I will reactivate it then.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Fragments and Links 5

From time to time I post brief thoughts on a range of topics that do not warrant their own post. This is one of those times.

I was listening to an MP3 by NT Wright on the historicity of the gospels the other day. During the Q&A someone in the audience questioned the historicity of the ‘I am’ statements in John. Wright’s response:

“I feel about the Gospel of John the same way I feel about my wife. I love her very much, but I don’t understand her.”


Can someone please explain to me why I am watching ‘Mad Men?’ I have heard it called, important, ground breaking, brilliant and the best show on television. I gave up on it after the first three episodes. But after more adulation and awards I tried the next three. I still don’t get it. I don’t care a bit about any of the characters and simply cannot vest in a self loathing, philandering lead with a devoted, if heavily sedated, wife.


The other day an engineer asked me where I went to under grad. I told him I went to a small SUNY school[1]. “Really,” they responded “You studied Islam?” Never connected SUNY and Sunni.


From The Economist[2] “Mr. Bush’s tax cuts raised the proportion of American families that pay no federal income tax (or are net recipients of tax credits) from 33% to 38%; Mr Obama will raise it to 44%...It certainly makes sense to keep poor people off the income-tax rolls, but removing a sizable chunk of the middle class weakens the political bond between the tax payers and government, and will lead to pressure for more spending.”

Now, to be fair, I am a fiscal moderate leaning liberal. I back a wide range of taxes. I fully support Obama’s restoration of the top marginal tax bracket (which we fall in) to its reasonable pre-Bush numbers. The death tax would be my favorite tax[3] if it wasn’t for the gasoline tax (which I also think should be twice what it is). And I think that it is unconciable that the primary income stream of the country’s very rich (capital gains) is only taxed at 10%. But I had no idea that such a high percentage of Americans paid no taxes. I agree that it creates a dangerous disjunction between populism and spending.

Speaking of economic politics: If you tell me your policy is a panacea for all ills and applicable regardless of situation, I will not believe you. This happens on both sides of the aisle. In a recession conservatives want to restart the economy by ‘giving people more of their own money’ while liberals want to restart the economy by large packages of government spending. In good times (budget surpluses) conservatives want to ‘give people their money back’ while liberals want to assure that everyone enjoys the prosperity by applying the surplus to large packages of government spending. Really? Seriously? They say that when you only have a hammer a screw looks like a nail. And it seems each party has a single tool[4]. Surely there is a sound economic theory that finds the appropriate application of tax cuts and government spending. Let me know if you find it in Washington.

Still reading Augustine’s City of God. I’m 390 pages (or about 1/3rd into it). I’ll write a post on it if it ever ends up deserving one.[5] Until then, here is another quote. This one isn’t actually by Augustine at all but a citation of one of the neo-Platonists he is arguing against. But I am not sure I have ever read a better description of the human condition:

“And so we come to men, rejoicing in reason, endowed with great power of speech; with immortal souls, but with physical frames destined for death; with minds unstable and unquiet, and bodies clumsy and vulnerable; diverse in character, but alike in error, persistent in daring, pertinacious in hope, ineffectual in their striving, dogged by ill-luck[6]; individually mortal, yet perpetual as a whole species, one generation taking the place of another in continual exchange; their life a fleeting span, their wisdom slow in coming, but their death swift; their life full of complaining. Such are the inhabitants of earth.” COG IX:9

So my life is officially full. Therefore, in order to fit a 1100 page book of questionable utility and a extremely fun, over beers, discussion group in despite work, school, ministry and a new baby…I made a trade. I have traded Augustine for Jon Stewart. I used to watch the Daily Show twice a week on my lunch breaks…now I read Augustine. But in his absence, I think I finally figured out why I like Stewart so much despite his bitterness, caricatures and sarcasm.

Stewart is the quintessential example of the 1st amendment self correcting. His absolute best pieces are not his mockeries of politicians or community leaders…it is his deconstruction of his fellow pundits. Until recently, ‘news’ personalities had virtual immunity. They could say whatever they wanted, the more outlandish and bombastic the better, with relative impunity. But now they run the risk of showing up in a TDS ‘not only are the media outlets stupid but they are uniformly so’ montage or, worse yet, receive their own dedicated segment. The public interest fa├žade of most ‘news’ entertainment companies cannot abide the dry, withering, sardonic gaze of Stewart’s deconstruction. And so there is at least one person with a voice who is holding them to a standard of fact and manipulation.

Speaking of ‘news’ entertainment, I think it is pretty cool that bands as different as Pennywise and The Decembrists have great lines about the horrific cult of personality that has facilitated a culture of Voyeurism:

And the anchorperson on TV goes...
La de da de da de-dadedade-da
La de da de da de-dadedade-da

-The Decemberists - 16 Military Wives

We are the dregs of the western world
The steroid boys and video girls
We are the viral internet stars
And the anchor man can't stop lying

-Pennywise – The Western World

I think 30 Rock is a pretty watchable show. Not one of my favorites but not bad. But they won my award[7] for most memorable line of dialogue in 2008 in the final weeks of the year. Alex Baldwin’s Character was describing his feud with the postal service over their decision to print a Jerry Garcia stamp and finishes his tirade with this gem:

“If I wanted to lick a hippy I’d return Joan Baez's phone calls.”

Our friends the Gierhearts are expecting their second baby and are going through the unenviable process of selecting a name. They told us about a tool that will give you the top 5 sibling names if you type in the name of your first born. For fun, they typed in Charis, and Aletheia popped up as one of the popular sibling names.

I was hanging out with a group of college students the other day and related this story. They were as surprised as I was until I told them that it was probably other nerd parents like me. Without missing a beat, Rachel, the only girl in the conversation, said something like, ‘I think it’s nice that they are reproducing.’

Non Dairy Creamer is totally a gimmicky song. It will have a short life cycle. But the first time I heard it I laughed out loud for, like, 30 seconds at the final refrain:

And two gay guys got married
And brought the family to its knees
How did they blow us to smithereens
Just a couple of queens
How did they do it
I'll tell you now
They brought marriage to an end
And I've found myself some culprits
Its two young gay…REPUBLICANS
YOUNG GAY REPUBLICANS, YOUNG GAY REPUBLICANS’


But here’s the thing, I don’t really think it is a song about gay marriage. It is a song about things that aren’t really things (‘They call it KFC, cause it’s not really chicken’ ‘you can buy yourself some implants but you can’t buy a soul that never launched,’ ‘The guy in the pulpit is a bigot and a lie’). They ask in the refrain:

What's it gonna be?
Are you real to me?
Or are you non dairy... creamer?

It is as if they are asking the church (among others), ‘Do you really want to be a thing that is not really the thing? ‘

I have been following Joss’ new show Dollhouse on Hulu. Joss has earned my patience after Buffy and Firefly. From a purely mechanical point of view the show has a couple of interesting aspects. First of all, it runs 50 minutes instead of the normal 42. As part of the negotiations Joss nearly halved commercial time (which, I can only expect, makes the remaining spots premium). Second, he cast Fred (Amy Acker from the later seasons of Angel). Of all the characters Joss has allowed us to love and then summarily killed, I forgive him[8] for all but Fred. Third, they skipped the pilot and put the money into elaborate sets. This demonstrates a network commitment to the show and is a bit surprising after Firefly’s completely undeserved failure. But I think the reason the network got behind the show is that it has much more of a network TV feel. I’m not sure if that means Joss is maturing or if the failure of Firefly changed him. So far, apart from a couple recent cringe worthy back stories, Dollhouse is, at the least, good network fare. But I am concerned that the story arc has a limited horizon.

So I traded Dollhouse for Heroes. It took me a long time to admit it, but Heroes is dead. Too many of the characters have become morally ambiguous. This is a common plot device to generate more episodes (J.J. Abrams does it all the time with limited success) but it undermines what I enjoyed about the first season of Heroes…the Heroes. The series’ death rattle was the moment in episode 13 of season 3 when Peter Patreli gets in Mohinder’s cab and they reprise the scene from the pilot where Peter asks Mohinder ‘do you ever feel like you are meant for something extraordinary’ deep in the throes of irony. Mohnder says ‘I used to.’ Yeah, back when the show didn’t suck. It was the innocent passion for heroism of those two characters (and Hiro, of course) that made the show endearing and worth watching. But now Mohinder is dark, Peter is bitter and Hiro is powerless. Oh, and (SPOILER ALERT) the Veronica Mars character is dead (just like her far superior series).

I have been working my way through the lectures from MIT’s intro psychology (brain science) class.[9] I’ve learned some pretty interesting stuff…like Guy Pierce’s character from Memento is based on a real person, someone Professor Wolfe called “the most famous psychological subject of all time.” But recently the class has covered love and sexuality in the context of economic theory and it has been riveting. Here is the description from my favorite study that empirically validates some of the implicit assumptions that I made in a recent post where I strayed into the topic of the sexual revolution being an unequal gender benefit. A researcher described as ‘an attractive member of the opposite sex’ approached random individuals, expressed that he/she found the random individual attractive and asked one of the following three questions:

Would you like to go out on a date?
Would you come back to my apartment?
Would you like to have sex with me?[10]

Women answered the questions this way:

1. Date: Yes 50%
2. Apartment: Yes 7%
3. Sex: Yes 0%

Men, however:

1. Date: Yes 50%
2. Apartment: Yes 65%
3. Sex: Yes 75%

David Swanson, and acquaintance who would best be described as a friend of a friend, recently gave this blog its first shout out from his very good blog Signs of Life. I’ve been following his blog for a while and seem to comment on it with surprising frequency. But one exchange has really stuck out in my mind. David and his wife are about to adopt their first child and he simply asked for tips on keeping up with a passion for reading.

There is an annoying phenomena where people who have undergone a given life transition (marriage, getting a job, loss, and, especially, a first child, subsequent children, teenage children) condescendingly speak to those who are about to undergo it as if they have no idea what is coming. It is a social power play and I hate it.[11] I have enjoyed marriage and parenthood so much more than I expected to because people who wanted to justify their sad lives by blaming their bitterness and lack of motivation on their circumstances , warned us that we could not possibly understand (or survive with our basic commitments of life) the impending hardship. What I love about the comments on David’s blog is that they largely lacked this quality. There was very little ‘forget about reading, you are going to be a parent’ from people who have given up on reading and blamed their children. There was a lot of creative problem solving by those who celebrated BOTH David’s decision to become a parent and his love for the reflective life. THIS is how we should welcome new parents.

OK, I’ll say it…I love Hayley Williams voice. Some of Paramore’s themes can tend to be high schoolish (they are like 12…or maybe I’m older than I think) but Riot has demonstrated that they can write some of the catchiest songs in the pumo[12] pop genre. On straight aesthetic evaluation, ‘Crushcrushcrush,’ ‘Fences’ 'Misery Business’ and ‘Decode’ can hold their own with any lineup released last year.

So, a couple weeks after I wrote the above paragraph…I found out that Hayley and the guys are Christians. There seems to be a serious wave of bands that are skipping the ‘cross-over’ thing including Flyleaf, Breaking Benjamin, Page France (though none are even close to the notoriety of Paramore). They were never ‘Christian bands’ but they have always been and remain bands composed in part-or in whole – of Christians. It is an encouraging model. There does seem to be an inverse relationship between the quality of Paramore's themes and the quality of their music. Their aesthetically stand out songs (listed above) have pretty middling pop themes[13] but their more weighty lyrics (‘We Are Broken’ and ‘Miracle’) tend to be forgettable musically. But that is a minor critique. On the whole Paramore’s emergence is a really encouraging development. To hear a band on QWOD,[14] love them, and THEN find out they are Christians…that is the way I want it to work.

Paramore and Linkin Park are a little more popish than I usually listen to…but I have decided to borrow my guiding principals for music consumption from my friend Tyler the winemaker.[15] Tyler has two Masters Degrees: one in botany (Colorado State) and one in Viticulture (from UC Davis – the top wine school in the country). He had worked and studied wine in Germany and New Zealand and is currently a big shot head winemaker in Sonoma. So, when we first became friends and had them over for dinner, I would always make him bring the wine. I was terrified that my middling taste would be found wanting. But one day he said ‘no.’ He told me that he was a wine nerd, but not a wine snob, and that he drank as much two-buck-chuck as any one else. So that has become my guiding principal for musical consumption and discovery. I want to be a music nerd but not a music snob. I refuse to accept that just because music is popular it can not be good.[16]

Finally, here are some things I am working on or thinking about for future posts:
-Why Christian Music Sucks: And Why it Doesn’t Have To
-8ish Thoughts on 1 Clement (the earliest extra-biblical Christian writing)
-Implications of Theories of Early Warfare on Christian Anthropology
-The Spiritual Arc of Modest Mouse
-Excerpts and Commentary from Perelandra
-A Few Thoughts on Co-Parenting

This post was prepared while listening to Riot by Paramore
_________________
[1] In NY telling someone you went to SUNY Geneseo gets raised eyebrows of ‘impressedness,’ out hear they think you went to a ju-co. On the west coast, the only value my undergrad has is the education, because the degree is almost meaningless.
[2] I started getting the economist as the result of my frustration with the discourse in the last election. I simply need to be more educated to vote. I chose the Economist because they are European conservatives (so they are moderates by American perspectives), tend to take the level of discourse to a level seldom seen in stateside outlets and they reflect on the global implications of our policies. Oh, and for the basic subscription price you can download the whole magizine as a podcast read in intellgent sounding British voices.
[3] I have never understood why conservatives are opposed to the death tax. If the heart of conservative values is self reliance, personal innovation and individual responsibility, then why wouldn’t they support a generational reset…requiring each generation to forge its own way.
[4] If by ‘tool’ I mean ‘hammer, wrench, etc…’ not if you use the dictionary’s fourth definition : ‘a person who is controlled by others and is used to perform unpleasant or dishonest tasks for someone else.’
[5] I have heard a rumor that most of its value is in the second half so I still have hope that it is not a 1100 page waste of time…but I get to discuss it each week at a pub with 4 really smart, cool guys so 1100 pages turns out to be a small price to pay.
[6] I have never met anyone who thinks that, on the whole, they have above average luck
[7] I don’t really give an award like this…but wouldn’t stuff like this make the Emmeys and Oscars far more watchable?
[8] This is one of the things that makes the Jossverse more compelling than other SciFi constructs. In Buffy, Angel and Firefly, people you cared about actually died…and stayed dead. Anyone could die at any time (apart from the main character – though there were serious thoughts about ending Buffy after season 5 which would have ended the series with a panning shot of her tomb stone) which amped up the dramatic stakes. Joss purchased our dramatic tension at the price of some of our favorite characters, and that is why some of us are fans…but Fred? Really? That was too far.
[9] A couple years ago MIT pledged to put all of their course materials online. Most of these are just class notes, but a few actually have audio or visual content.
[10] Professor Wolfe expressions curious confusion about a couple aspects of this study including 1) how did it get past the ethical review board and 2) what happens after the documented exchange?
[11] I wrote a whole essay (which is far to bitter for this blog, as you might pick up from the tone of the fragment) about people who told me ‘your life is going to change’ when Amanda was pregnant. The gist is, "Really, wow, becuase I am such an unreflective, unobservant, dullard that it would never occur to me that becoming responsible for another person 24 hours a day would have the slightest impact on my daily routine.”
[12] I think I just made that genre up. I am referring to slightly off mainstream pop music with discernable punk and emo (pu(nk)(e)mo – get it, like screamo – I am very clever) influences, but cannot, in good conscience, be called either.
[13] To the point where one wonders if a ghost writer/slick producer got involved at some point.
[14] Sacramento’s alternative rock station, and pretty much the only radio I listen to any more.
[15] If you don’t think that Don Miller wishes he had a friend called Tyler the winemaker you simply have not read Blue Like Jazz.
[16] Populism can surpise you. If I decided that music can not be both popular and good, I’d miss out on one of the great works of my generation…’Nevermind,’ which got plenty of pop radio play in the mid 90’s.