Tuesday, May 31, 2005

A U.S. Faith Initiative for Africa

From Sunday's Los Angeles Times

I support the state department's decision to seek the help of black church leaders in confronting the AIDS crisis in Africa. (I have not, however, been able to obtain a full guest list for the event mentioned in the article.) My question: Does the state department's AIDS policy involve Christian proseltyzing? And: If so, will this policy hurt the church's current efforts to relieve the suffering in Africa?

Friday, May 27, 2005

The Adverbs' Adelaide, Illinois Now Available for Free Download

Thanks in large part to Zach Collier, my one solo album (which I did as The Adverbs) can be downloaded in its entirety for free! I will confess that several clichés are peppered throughout the lyrics.


According to USAToday, 53% of American voters would vote for Hillary in 2008. And this poll was taken before her former finance director, David Rosen, who was charged with making false statements to the Federal Election Commission, was acquited.

As for me, personally, I wouldn't say that I am a Hillary Clinton fan. I mean, if she were to announce her candidacy (and she'll first have to be re-elected to her senate seat before she can think about the presidency), I wouldn't sign up to volunteer. Still, I like Hillary. While she lacks her husband's charisma, she has a gift for explaining where she stands and why. (I am most impressed with her ability to deliver well-crafted arguments and opinions on cable news programs. Very few people can pull that off.) And, as much as Republicans hate her, I see her very much as a moderate who is willing to compromise and work with her political opponents.

Would I vote for Hillary in 2008? Probably. Is this an endorsement? By no means.

Bredesen's Budget Passes

The budget, of course, will require TennCare to drop over 300,000 people, including many who are uninsurable. In other news a three-judge panel of the Sixth-Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the state may kick recipients off TennCare without giving them an individual hearing.

Clichés Abound in Pop Music

In the past I have argued that popular music is to culture in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries what poetry was to culture in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Pop-song refrains become a part of our common cultural vocabulary. As much as I love popular music, I am growing tired of lyrics plagued with clichés. For example, a quick listen to the new Weezer album, Make Believe (which is better than average lyric-wise), revealed the following:

"You are taller than a mountain, deeper than the sea."

"One more dream vanished up in smoke."

"I tried my best; I gave my all; sometimes my best wasn't good enough for you."

"You make things all right when I'm feeling blue."

". . . the one thing that brings light to all my darkness."

"There is no other one who can take your place."

"I have always hurt the one that I love."

More on this topic to come . . .

Bush's Commencement Speech at Calvin College

A positive development in the ongoing saga of faith and politics. From Sojourners:

"Karl Rove, seeking a friendly venue for a commencement speech in Michigan, approached Calvin and offered President Bush as the speaker. The college, which had already invited Nicholas Wolterstorff of Yale to deliver the speech, hastily disinvited him and welcomed the president. But the White House apparently was not counting on the reaction of students and faculty. Rove expected the evangelical Christian college in the dependable "red" area of western Michigan to be a safe place. He was wrong.

"The day the president was to speak, an ad featuring a letter signed by one-third of Calvin's faculty and staff ran in The Grand Rapids Press. Noting that 'we seek open and honest dialogue about the Christian faith and how it is best expressed in the political sphere,' the letter said that 'we see conflicts between our understanding of what Christians are called to do and many of the policies of your administration.'

"The letter asserted that administration policies have 'launched an unjust and unjustified war in Iraq,' 'taken actions that favor the wealthy of our society and burden the poor,' 'harmed creation and have not promoted long-term stewardship of our natural environment,' and 'fostered intolerance and divisiveness and has often failed to listen to those with whom it disagrees.' It concluded: 'Our passion for these matters arises out of the Christian faith that we share with you. We ask you, Mr. President, to re-examine your policies in light of our God-given duty to pursue justice with mercy....' One faculty member told a reporter, 'We are not Lynchburg. We are not right wing; we're not left wing. We think our faith trumps political ideology.'

"On commencement day, according to news reports, about a quarter of the 900 graduates wore 'God is not a Republican or a Democrat' buttons pinned to their gowns."

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Does Anyone Still Buy the "Fair and Balanced" Slogan?

Check out this exchange between Fox News anchor David Asman and Trent Lott.

Something to Consider This Memorial Day

The link above will lead you to some graphic images (and the comments about the post contain some offensive language), but it is worth your time.

From Daily Kos:

"On Monday we will celebrate Memorial Day, the one day of the year when President Bush actually has to acknowledge our otherwise officially-invisible war dead.

We memorialize the names and faces of our dead to remind us that every one of them was an individual just like us, who valued his or her life no less than we do, and whose death is a tragedy for those left behind no less than ours would be for our loved ones. Recognizing our shared humanity brings home to us the size of the tragedy in every single life lost, and - ideally - teaches us that in a real "culture of life" the decision to go to war is never taken lightly.

"It is precisely because Memorial Day brings home to us the uniqueness and value of every life that one group of war dead will be conspicuous by their absence from all our commemorations: and that is the many thousands of Iraqis we have killed since March 2003. Because who really wants to be reminded that at least 20,000 and perhaps as many as 100,000 Iraqis - people just like us - are dead today because of a war we should never have started?

"Their names will never be engraved on the Mall, and their faces will never warrant a spread in the Washington Post, but I will commemorate here 100 or so of those Iraqis who, thanks to us, made the "ultimate sacrifice" whether they wished it or not."

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The Edge of the Solar System


Right Now, I Really Feel Like Dancing

. . . in the style of Andy Kaufman's impersonation of Elvis Presley. I'm not sure why.

Come On. Would Jesus Really Condone This?

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The American Family Association Is at It Again

AFA president Tim Wildmon made the following ridiculous remark on his radio show:

"Whereas our opponents, quite frankly, a lot of them, the ideological opponents, the liberals, they don't have the kind of family responsibilities that most people have, and certainly not church responsibilities. So they've got more time, even though their numbers may be less in the battle, then [sic] we do oftentimes."

As someone who has been branded a liberal on several occasions, I am hurt by Wildmon's comments. Though I would be lost without my wife, I have a number of family responsibilities (cooking, cleaning, yard work, changing diapers, changing cat boxes, repeatedly reading Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb, and so forth). I also have quite a few church responsibilities (teaching Sunday school and playing piano for example). And I am by no means an anomaly. I know several other "liberals" who have loving, healthy families and who are active in their churches.

About two years ago, the AFA ran an article about me on its website. It included the following:

"The __________ is refusing to allow one of its editors to be interviewed about controversial remarks he made recently in front of 9,000 Methodist young people.

"At a recent event called 'Youth 2003,' Josh Tinley told teenagers in attendance that biblical scholars do not believe Old Testament heroes Daniel, Job, Ruth, and Jonah were historical figures."

For one, I conducted four workshops, each for between 150 and 200 youth and youth ministers. I gave my presentation (which was on Harry Potter, by the way) to no more than 700 people. Neither the writer of the article nor Mark Tooley of the IRD (the one person interviewed for the piece) was in attendance. Secondly, I said that some Bible scholars do not believe that these Old Testament heroes were historical people. I did not suggest that books such as Ruth or Job were fabricated historical documents, but that they were illustrative narratives (not unlike Jesus' parables) used to convey a greater truth.

I hate to rehash my past struggles with the AFA, but that article is still listed sixth when you Google me.

An Evening With Jim Wallis

Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners and author of God's Politics graciously dropped by my church before his sold-out lecture at the Belcourt Theatre. To paraphrase from memory some of his closing remarks:

"How did the religion of Jesus come to be pro-rich, pro-war, and only pro-American? . . . When someone has stolen your faith, you need to take it back."

Read more about Wallis and Sojourners at Sojourners Online.

I am glad that Wallis's effort to organize religious progressives for political action (with a particular emphasis on alleviating poverty) is gaining momentum and garnering substantial media attention. I do worry, however, that this movement is too Wallis-centric. For the past few months, promoting Wallis's new book has been Sojourners' primary objective. And, thus far, the movement (as far as I can tell) has failed to raise up progressive religious leaders on the local level. Still, I appreciate all that Wallis has done for Christians who don't identify with the religious right and hope that his efforts continue to be fruitful.

Robot Mop Doesn't Redistribute Dirty Water

I still don't have the robot vacuum.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Assorted Fascinating Star Wars Stuff

An interesting 2000 interview with original Star Wars producer Gary Kurtz.

The Force.net message board thread loaded with information (or allegations) about George Lucas's one-time plans for a nine-episode saga.

I don't know how reliable the source is, but below is a scene that was apparently cut from Revenge of the Sith:


YODA: Failed to stop the Sith Lord, I have. Still much to learn, there is...

QUI-GON (V.O.): Patience. You will have time. I did not. When I became one with the Force I made a great discovery. With my training, you will be able to merge with the Force at will. Your physical self will fade away, but you will still retain your consciousness. You will become more powerful than any Sith.

YODA: Eternal consciousness.

QUI-GON (V.O.): The ability to defy oblivion can be achieved, but only for oneself. It was accomplished by a Shaman of the Whills. It is a state acquired through compassion, not greed.

YODA: ...to become one with the Force, and influence still have... A power greater than all, it is.

QUI-GON (V.O.): You will learn to let go of everything. No attachment, no thought of self. No physical self.

YODA: A great Jedi Master, you have become, Qui-Gon Jinn. Your apprentice I gratefully become.

(YODA thinks about this for a minute, then BAIL ORGANA enters the room and breaks his meditation.)

BAIL ORGANA: Excuse me, Master Yoda. Obi-Wan Kenobi has made contact.

An Interesting Article on the Father of "Freedom Fries"

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Endorsing for God

I find the proposed House of Worship Freedom of Speech Restoration Act frightening, but you can read the article and draw your own conclusions. Is endorsing a political candidate on behalf of God misusing God's name (taking the Lord's name in vain)? Something to think about.

Jetpack Video Shoot

Jetpack recently shot a video for "Mathematics" from The Art of Building a Moat. Joining the band on drums for the shoot was my longtime former bandmate, Brian Fuzzell. See the Nashville Scene's Spin column for more details.

Episode III Questions and Reflections

Contains spoilers (for those of you who haven't yet seen the movie)

  • Anakin's turn to the dark side happens too fast. I applaud Lucas for showing us Anakin's darker tendencies in Episode II, giving us a sense of the young Jedi's gradual shift from good to evil. Even in Revenge of the Sith, Anakin's vulnerability to anger and hate builds nicely throughout the first half of the movie. However, his ultimate decision to commit to Darth Sidious (the Emperor) is too abrupt. There is no lingering tension; while Anakin has grown frustrated with the Jedi, his switch from Jedi to Jedi-killer is instantaneous. The final scenes in Return of the Jedi suggest that Darth Vader still has good in him; where is that good when he decides, without hesitation, to slaughter the Jedi younglings just minutes after turning to the dark side?

  • We need to know more about Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits). As I recall, when Jimmy Smits signed on to play Bail Organa in Episodes II and III, there was much fanfare among Star Wars dorks. Not because Jimmy Smits would be in the movies, but because Bail Organa (whom everyone knew would become Leia's adoptive father) would have a seemingly prominent role. But he doesn't. Bail pops up sporadically throughout Clones and Sith; then, in the final minutes of Episode III, he becomes a main character. We know that he is not happy with the Senate's decision to grant more authority to Chancellor Palpatine. But why is Bail, who has been quite chummy with Palpatine, one of only two Senators (that we know about) to oppose making Palpatine the emperor? Knowing more about Bail Organa and his allies (if he has any) could tell us a great deal about the beginnings of the Rebellion and why his adoptive daughter, Leia, is a Princess. And, after hearing so much about Alderaan, the Organas' home planet, in the original Star Wars film, I would have liked to have spent more than 15 seconds at the end of Episode III on the world where Leia is raised.

  • What is the deal with Qui-Gon and the Jedi afterlife? Star Wars fans raised a collective eyebrown when, at the end of Episode I, Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn died, but his body did not disappear (like the bodies of Obi-Wan and Yoda in the original triology). Nor do we hear the voice of Qui-Gon from beyond the dead, guiding his young apprentice (as Obi-Wan does for Luke in the original triology). I was hoping this great mystery would be solved in Episode III, and it is, albeit very poorly. At the end of the film, Yoda tells Obi-Wan that he has spoken with Qui-Gon (Obi-Wan's now-deceased former master), who has learned the Jeid art of communicating with the living. First of all, Qui-Gon should use his ability to speak to his former apprentice directly. Secondly, what kind of afterlife to Jedis live where they can master additional powers that affect the living? Thirdly, we never really know why Qui-Gon was such a key character in Episode I, especially since he is never mentioned in the original triology. He is mentioned in passing in Episode II, when we learn that he had been Count Dooku's apprentice. But the fact that Qui-Gon's former master became a Sith Lord ends up being nothing more than Star Wars trivia. It is of no consequence to the larger narrative.

  • When I have time, I'll discuss my questions and concerns about Anakin's conception. More later.

    Friday, May 20, 2005

    Save the Republic

    Move On.org tomorrow will begin airing a commercial targeting Senator Frist's threat to change the filibuster rule that parodies Episode III. It's a decent ad, and it draws a natural parallel between my senator and the power-hungry Palpatine (who began his career as a senator). I worry, however, about politicizing Star Wars. As a society, we have already gone way too far with the left/right, liberal/conservative, blue state/red state distinctions. The fabricated "culture war" has already torn apart our governing bodies and churches. Do we really want this nonsense to spread to the Star Wars universe?

    Initial Thoughts on Episode III

    Saw Episode III last night and thoroughly enjoyed it. It is, without a doubt, the best of the prequels, though I am not prepared to say that Revenge of the Sith is as good or better than any of the original triology. While the writing and acting in Sith is certainly superior to those of Episodes I and II, it still does not compare to the scripts and performances of Episodes IV, V, and VI. On the other hand, Episode III may be the most powerful of any of the Star Wars films.

    I have three primary questions or complaints about Revenge of the Sith; I will elaborate on these as soon as I have the time.

    Thursday, May 19, 2005

    Quoth Mike Mullins: Start Your Letter-Writing Campaign

    Mike Mullins alerted me to this news item:

    CBS cancels Joan of Arcadia in favor of a new vehicle for Jennifer Love Hewitt, in which she talks to ghosts. Is CBS part of the problem, or has the network resigned itself to the reality that the public largely ignores quality arts and entertainment in favor of, well, shows in which Jennifer Love Hewitt communicates with the dead? (Sorry Jennifer, I enjoyed Party of Five, but this recent development is shameful.)

    Michael Smith on Stephen Jackson

    A good article from ESPN.com on Pacer Stephen Jackson.

    I'm almost glad that I will miss most (if not all) of tonight's game 6 between the Pacers and Pistons due to Star Wars. My being glued to the television, wearing my Jamaal Tinsley jersey certainly hasn't helped the Pacers. Tonight, I'll just let the game happen. If they lose, I'll just shrug and post something else about Reggie Miller whose career will have ended. If they win, I'll be pleasantly surprised and prepared to wear number 11 during this weekend's game 7.

    What Does It Mean to Support the Troops?

    Interesting reading from Sojourners in advance of Memorial Day.

    Wednesday, May 18, 2005

    Ebert Gives Sith 3.5 Stars

    Based on his review, though, I'd probably give it 2.5 stars.

    The Cost of War

    I found a link to this site at Carligula. Maybe it oversimplifies matters of national security spending (though the Iraq War has little to do with national security), and maybe it overlooks certain facts about how public funds are distributed. I don't know, I'm not an economist. Cost of War.com is interesting nonetheless.

    British Advertising

    "We try to teach our children that it's wrong to spit but this advert encourages them," said one parent who contacted the Advertising Standards Authority.

    More on the Newsweek Qur'an-Desecration Goof

    An interesting editorial from the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star-Tribune.

    That's No Way to Treat a Monkey

    An undercover PETA operative has produced video of several instances of monkey abuse at an animal-testing lab. As a vegetarian and animal-lover, I generally roll my eyes when I hear or see any news item about PETA, because most of what the organization does (i.e. arranging fruitless and silly publicity stunts to advocate for strict moral vegetarianism) makes people like me look ridiculous. I'm glad to see PETA actually doing something worthwhile, and I hope that the Department of Agriculture (who oversees the lab) acts on the evidence PETA has produced. Still, I have to ask, How could someone affiliated with PETA just stand by and tape monkeys being tortured for 11 months (see the article) before going to the authorities and the press?

    Tuesday, May 17, 2005

    Inmate Wants Execution Delayed So He Can Donate Liver to Sister

    An interesting story about an Indiana death-row inmate, Gregory Scott Johnson, who has asked to be granted clemency (or at least "temporary clemency") so that he can donate his liver to his 48-year-old sister who resides in an assisted-living facility. If Johnson is a compatible donor, I think the state has a moral obligation to at least keep him alive long enough to donate his liver. (Personally, I don't think the state should put people to death in the first place, but that's another matter.)

    UMC Makes Pact With ELCA, Episcopal Church

    Interesting, but mostly symbolic.

    A Matter of Specks and Planks?

    White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan on Newsweek's Gitmo-Qur'an-desecration-goof-up:

    "A retraction is a good first step," McClellan said after Newsweek issued its statement. "This allegation was unsubstantiated and it was contrary to everything that we value and all that our military works to uphold. We encourage Newsweek to now work diligently to help undo what damage can be undone."

    "People lost their lives. the image of the United States abroad has been damaged. It will take work to undo what can be undone," McClellan said.

    Newsweek screwed up, and their mistake has sparked riots in Afghanistan. Of course, these riots took place under the assumption that Newsweek had accurately reported the facts. And, in fairness to the magazine, the statement about U.S. guards desecrating the Qur'an to intimidate Guantanamo Bay detainees during interrogation was just part of a 10-sentence snippet.

    So, Newsweek ran a blurb based on faulty evidence that has led to the deaths of at least 15 people.

    The Bush Administration started a war based on faulty evidence that has led to the deaths of tens of thousands of people.

    Both are tragic, though the latter a bit more than the former. Again:

    "People lost their lives. the image of the United States abroad has been damaged. It will take work to undo what can be undone," McClellan said.

    Monday, May 16, 2005

    Josh Tinley.com Official Weezer Album Rankings

    Ratings are in radians (one complete revolution, , being the highest possible score, 0 being the lowest).

    1. Pinkerton (1996): 15π/8

    2. Weezer (Blue Album, 1994): 7π/4

    3. Make Believe (2005): 27π/16

    4. Maladroit (2002): 3π/2

    5. Weezer (Green Album, 2001): 15π/16

    Keep Firefoxing

    Sunday, May 15, 2005


    with my decision not to attend the Thursday 12:00 a.m. showing of Revenge of the Sith. Episode III will be the only of the Star Wars prequels I will not have seen at an opening-day-midnight showing. You have to do things differently when you have a family. And, frankly, midnight (not to mention 2:30, when the movie would end) is past my bedtime. I will be going instead Thursday at 6:30. (I have my tickets.) Unforunately, my one-year-old, Meyer, will not be able to see Episode III with Ashlee and me. I would really like to take him, but I worry that he will talk during the movie causing me to miss something. Sorry, Meyer.

    Saturday, May 14, 2005

    Verdict on the New Weezer Album

    Best Weezer album since Pinkerton (which means, "best Weezer album in over 8 years").

    Adams's Finest Moment?

    I've been re-reading the Hitchhiker's Guide novels, and recently came to my favorite part of all of the books. I thought I should share. From the first page of chapter 15 in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (I think I'm okay under Fair Use here):

    "One of the major problems encountered in time travel is not that of accidentally becoming your own father or mother. There is no problem involved in becoming your own father or mother that a broad-minded and well-adjusted family can't cope with. There is no problem about changing the course of history—the course of history does not change because it all fits together like a jigsaw. All the important changes have happened before the things they were supposed to change and it all sorts itself out in the end.

    "The major problem is quite simply one of grammar, and the main work to consult in this matter is Dr. Dan Streetmentioner's Time Traveler's Handbook of 1001 Tense Formations. It will tell you, for instance, how to describe something that was about to happen to you in the past before you avoided it by time-jumping forward two days in order to avoid it. The event will be described differently according to whether you are talking about it from the standpoint of your own natural time, from a time in the further future, or a time in the further past and is further complicated by the possibility of conducting conversations while you are actually traveling from one time to another with the intention of becoming your own mother or father."

    Friday, May 13, 2005

    Weezer's Make Believe

    I bought Weezer's new album, Make Believe, yesterday. I'm not prepared to offer a thorough critique of the record, but I will give you my initial thoughts. After only a few listens, I know with certainty that Make Believe is not as good as either of Weezer's first two albums, Weezer (Blue Album) or Pinkerton. I am also certain that the new record is not Weezer-for-Weezer's-sake like 2001's Weezer (Green Album). Right now, I would put it on the same level as 2002's Maladroit: Pretty strong overall and somewhat ambitious for a Weezer album, but lacking the strong hooks and memorable lyrics that made the band's first two efforts so good.

    New Species of Rodent Found

    I think that Rivers and Curtis (two of my cats) discovered a new species of rodent in my backyard. It's some sort of cross between a mouse and a mole. So far, I've only seen a baby, so I can only speculate as to what a full-grown member of the species looks like.

    In case you were worried, Rivers and Curtis did not kill the baby "molouse" that they found. Since my cats live indoors and are given backyard privileges only occasionally, their killer instinct has been replaced with a break-stuff instinct.

    Thursday, May 12, 2005

    Michael Smith: Stern Should Reinstate Artest for Game 3

    Wednesday, May 11, 2005

    Newsweek's Not-so-meaningful List of America's Top 100 High Schools

    This week's Newsweek cover story claims to rank America's top 100 public high schools. Curiously, its only criterion for rating these schools is:

    "Newsweek's Best High School List uses a ratio, the number of Advanced Placement (AP) and/or International Baccalaureate (IB) tests taken by all students at a school in 2004, divided by the number of graduating seniors." (My boldface.)

    Newsweek describes its tests-taken-over-grads statistic as "one of the best measures available to compare a wide range of students' readiness for higher-level work" but does not, to my satisfaction, explain why. The magazine also fails to explain why it did not take into consideration extracurricular offerings, after-school study programs, parent-teacher networks, use of technology, vocational offerings for non-college-bound students, and so forth. Newsweek's statistic is also driven only by the number of AP/IB exams taken and does not reflect how students actually performed on these tests. Moreover, because the ratio's denominator is the number of graduates, a school's score rises if students who are not performing at an AP/IB level drop out before graduation.

    I would suggest that Newsweek's study says less about the schools themselves and more about whether schools' incoming freshmen enter high school prepared to take advanced-level courses. Magnets and other specialty schools have an obvious advantage in Newsweek's ratings, because these schools have admissions standards and curriculae geared toward college-bound students. A student at one of Newsweek's top-rated schools (School A) could possibly get a better education at a school that scored much lower according to the magazine's sole indicator (School B). School B could have excellent offerings for high-performing, academically minded students, while also making an effort to address the needs of students interested in trades or vocational education or lower-performing students who are willing to work their way into college, but who may never take an AP or IB course. But, because School B is committed to educating a more diverse student body, it would not make Newsweek's list.

    A top high school, in my mind, will challenge and meet the needs of all students regardless of their backgrounds, gifts, or interests.

    70-Year-Old Woman Survives 9-Story Fall

    Quoth the paramedic: "Usually when you fall from nine stories, it's not a good outcome."

    Tuesday, May 10, 2005

    Serving the Country

    I am wary of linking to blogs with an overt ideological bent, but this post from Daily Kos is very provocative. I especially appreciate the quote from Army Vice Chief of Staff, General Richard Cody:

    "This recruiting problem is not just an Army problems, this is America's problem," he said. "And what we have to really do is talk about service to this nation — and a sense of duty to this nation."

    As I am somewhat of a pacifist, my understanding of service to one's country is not limited to military service. Still, we must ask whether Americans are failing to serve, in the military or otherwise. As far as nonmilitary service goes, I am aware of the manifold service opportunities available through churches, scouting organizations, and other non-profits, but I do think that Americans generally do not feel obligated to serve their country, whether in war or in peace. Sacrifice has become contrary to our individualistic, materialist ethic.

    I must confess my own guilt: Though I consciously try to get involved in charity and advocacy efforts, when I get busy, these activities are the first cut from my schedule. Even when I do volunteer "regularly," my service is limited to a couple hours a week, if that. While I am tempted to judge pundits who cheer on the war effort though they themselves have not served or will not serve, I myself cannot even fulfill my peaceful "service obligations."

    Still, someone needs to be held accountable for sorely underestimating the burden of the Iraq war on our armed forces. Several credible people raised questions leading up to the war regarding how many troops we would need. As a lay person who makes an effort to keep up with the news, I do not feel that such questions were adequately answered.

    I suppose this is my point: If one is openly and enthusiastically supportive of an effort or a movement—whether the war in Iraq, the war on poverty, third-world debt relief, support for AIDS victims in Africa, etc.—one should find ways to be actively involved with that effort or movement. If one does not feel strongly about anything, one needs to find ways to actively engage one's passions then get involved with one's effort or movement of preference.

    Hesitation Eyes

    I still have not purchased the new Foxymorons album, Hesitation Eyes, but I plan to, and I will proclaim its goodness nonetheless. I finally downloaded the two free songs from Foxymorons.com. I think that you should do the same right now.

    (I should disclose that I played one show with the Foxymorons, or a version of the Foxymorons, in Nashville. I was on bass and backing vocals, and I was graciously allowed to sing lead on "August Moon.")

    Jesus Christ Is Denied a Driver's License

    From CNN.com

    Monday, May 09, 2005

    Episode III Reviews

    From The Force.net. I found these to be the most helpful:

    From Film Freak

    From The Force.net's Joshua Griffin

    Saturday, May 07, 2005

    George Likes to Tinker

    I finally finished watching the Return of the Jedi DVD. I got the 4-disc original triology set for Christmas, but only today got through all three movies. The DVDs, like all of the later Star Wars VHS releases, feature not the original theatrical versions of the movies, but the 1997 special editions. I could write a book on my grievances with the New Hope and Jedi special editions (Empire was actually very tastefully done), but I noticed today that George Lucas has done some additional work on the movies since the latest VHS release of the special editions.

    During the final celebration scene, Luke (and Leia and Han) greet the Jedi apparitions of Yoda, Obi-Wan, and Anakin. In all previous versions, the "ghost of Anakin" is Sebastian Shaw, who plays the unmaked Darth Vader toward the end of Jedi. On the Jedi DVD, Anakin's spirit is portrayed by Hayden Christensen, Anakin from Episodes II and III. Curiously, Ewan McGregor does not play the part of Obi-Wan's ghost.

    Showing Sebastian Shaw made sense, because Anakin was not ultimately redeemed and turned away from the dark side until the end of Jedi. Hayden Christensen's Anakin was already inching toward the dark side early in Attack of the Clones. Maybe Revenge of the Sith will enlighten us on the still unclear rules for Jedi's who appear to the living after they have died. Or, maybe George just couldn't keep his hands off.

    Friday, May 06, 2005

    You Can Thank Us for the Grape Juice

    I came across this anecdote about the Methodist Roots of Welch's® Grape Juice in Will Willimon's Why I Am a United Methodist:

    When nineteenth-century Methodists became concerned about the evils of beverage alcohol, the use of wine at Holy Communion was questioned. A Methodist in New York named Welch provided the solution by pasteurizing and bottling his "Methodist Unfermented Communion Wine."

    So, if you were wondering why United Methodists don't use real wine for Communion, that's why.

    Time Travel Convention

    This is for real. According to CNN, MIT has blocked off an area so that time travelers can return to the past without having to worry about hitting trees, people, buildings, etc. (The exact latitude and longitude of the event is given on the website.)

    Thursday, May 05, 2005

    Catching Up With the Beth Stroud Case

    I really should have been paying more attention to the case of Beth Stroud, a United Methodist pastor in Philadelphia who is also a lesbian. Because Stroud "practices" her sexuality, she is at odds with the United Methodist Book of Discipline, which does not allow practicing homosexuals to serve as clergy. (If a gay man or a lesbian were to, for all intents and purposes, take a vow of celibacy, he or she would be eligible to be an ordained clergyperson.)

    Though Stroud's ordination was affirmed by her annual conference ("annual conferences" are United Methodism's regional governing bodies), the UM Judicial Council voted to defrock Rev. Stroud for the reasons stated above. Stroud has decided to appeal the decision. Unfortunately, I don't think she has a case.

    I would like to see Rev. Stroud restored with full clergy rights, though I fear what might happen to the church if the Judicial Council's decision were overturned. (It would have to be overturned by the Judicial Council itself, which is actually possible.) I am a life-long United Methodist and love the church, its history, and its teaching (aside from a handful of phrases in the Discipline, such as the one cited above); and I hope I never live to experience a schism. I should also confess that, as an employee of a church agency, my life could change drastically if the church were to split. Fortunately, after years of intense debate over issues surrounding homosexuality, only one attempt at schism has been made, and it was voted down overwhelmingly by the 2004 General Conference.

    Former Duke Divinity professor and current United Methodist bishop, Will Willimon, notes (not in regard to this story, but in one of his books),"You can count the verses which are (possibly) concerned with homosexuality on one hand; to tally the number of verses in the Bible on the dangers of wealth requires a computer."

    For more on this case, read this recent interview with Beth Stroud from Wesley Blog.

    Again, Are State Governments Really Necessary?

    I'll admit that I wouldn't want a daughter of mine to be a cheerleader, but the anti-booty-shaking bill just passed by the Texas House seems excessive. Everyone—me included—needs to shake it once in awhile.

    (I had originally titled this post, "Maybe We Should Give Texas Its Independence Back," but decided that that title was too harsh. I had the chance to spend some time in Dallas last year and found it very enjoyable. (Amarillo, on the other hand, I could do without.) Of course, if we didn't have Texas, we wouldn't have the "largest cross in the Western Hemisphere," which is located in Groom, Texas. Ashlee and I drove by it one year on vacation. You could crucify a lot of folks on that thing.)

    More Dinosaur News

    I don't know if this one should be included in sets of toy dinosaurs; it's a little creepy.

    You Gotta Have Fear in Your Heart

    Today would be a day to dig out Liz Phair's 1994 album Whip Smart and listen to track 8, "Cinco de Mayo." After you've observed the holiday by listening to that song a few times, go back and listen to the entire album. (I'll save my criticism of Liz's recent work for a less festive occasion.)

    Wednesday, May 04, 2005

    The Colbert Report

    I can't wait.

    Tuesday, May 03, 2005

    The Sunflower State Strikes Again (and a Recommendation)

    I will admit that I hold a grudge toward Kansas because the Sunflower State has, on several occasions, been responsible for 16 hours (8 hours one way and 8 hours the other way) of tedious boredom amid otherwise pleasant family vacations and Boy Scout trips. Maybe I'm still bitter, but I must say that Kansas's decision to put evolution on trial is just silly.

    The Genesis creation stories (chapters 1 and 2) are excellent examples of ancient near-eastern literature that elegantly communicate God's creative power to the ancient near-eastern peoples who originally recorded them. These stories even communicate some important truths to people today: God created earth and the entire universe and declared it good (so recycle and try to use less stuff); God created us in God's own image (so love one another); and God instructs us to take time for rest (a truth that is too often lost on us Americans). Still, I feel that most of the scientific "creation" theories I know of (granted, I'm not exactly a scientist), including the theory of evolution and the "big bang," point to a God who creates in a manner that is far more impressive than simply by calling everything into being. God sets the processes, the stories, in motion and works within those processes and stories.

    More importantly, students who want to do serious biology or paleontology will need to know the theory of evolution, even if they don't like it, even if they eventually prove it wrong. Evolution has been widely accepted by top scientists. Does this mean that it is absolutely true? No; I would imagine that even scientists who embrace evolution will continue to tweak, test, and challenge the theory. But the theory does have merit and must be taken seriously by students of science. While I have always been impressed by the work of "creation scientists," I am not convinced that starting with a presumed answer that one refuses to challenge is good science (or good theology). (I have not done enough reading on "intelligent design" theory to comment on it.)

    While I'm blogging about God and evolution, I should recommend Evolution from Creation to New Creation: Conflict, Conversation, and Convergence by Ted Peters (a theologian) and Martinez Hewlett (a microbiologist). It was published by Abingdon Press (my employer), so you can't really go wrong.

    New Dinosaur Species

    I overheard my parents this weekend talking about one of Meyer's dinosaur toys, asking whether the toy depicted an actual species of dinosaur. I'm not entirely sure but, judging by the description of a new dinosaur species discovered in South Dakota, I think the toy manufacturers may have been ahead of the game. Meyer's toy definitely depicts a "horse-sized plant eater." I'd have to dig up the toy to check its spikes, plates, and so forth.

    At any rate, the newly discovered fossils were donated to the Children's Museum in Indianapolis, a favorite childhood hangout for me and where I first learned about dinosaurs.

    Monday, May 02, 2005

    Way to Go, Whitts

    My sister, Whitney Tinley, was 18th among the 1,540 women and 207th among the 3,743 total runners who finished Saturday's Country Music Marathon in Nashville. (4,656 runners registered; presumably, some ran but did not finish.)

    Welcome to the Working Week

    Today's Upper Room devotional is perfect for a hazy Monday morning.

    Sunday, May 01, 2005

    More on the Hitchhiker's Guide Movie

    More than one critic has compared the Hitchhiker's Guide franchise to the Monty Python shows and movies. Now that I've had a day to digest, I think that the Hitchhiker's Guide movie is best described as the equivalent of an average Monty Python film. Of course, the average Python movie is still worth watching, as is the screen version of the Guide.

    I've decided that Douglas Adams most likely died after writing the scene with Humma Kavula (John Malkovich's character). The entire Humma Kavula plotline is not from the book, but the Humma worshipers are funny in a Douglas Adams sort-of-way. The movie after this point seems decidedly un-Adams-esque and tries way too hard to resolve all of the storylines. The Hitchhiker's Guide novels, by contrast, are not exactly plot-driven.

    Anyway, that's my take. See the movie, but, more importantly, read the book(s).

    See also "So Long and Thanks for All the Fish" (April 30)