Friday, May 29, 2009

Strive for a Faith That Is as Strong as the Faith You Have in Your Washing Machine

As I dried off after my shower yesterday morning, I noticed that the towel I was using was one that I also have used to clean the floors on several occasions. I've used this particular towel to absorb excess mop water; I've used it to clean up "accidents" on the bathroom floors; and I've even used it to mop the floor of the garage surrounding the litter boxes. Ashlee has used the same towel to catch paint. (We use the towel in question for these purposes because it is very large, very absorbent, and very ugly—colored in bleached shades of yellow and green.)

So the same towel that I used to dry my freshly washed body has been soaked in mop water and urine and has come in contact with all sorts of other unsavory substances. I can only hope that the 25 minutes the towel spends in my washing machine after each use is sufficient to remove all the nasty. Of course, this towel never is in the wash alone; it is accompanied by assorted other towels, napkins, wash cloths, and cleaning rags. Some of these have been used to clean toilets, cat vomit, and dirty baby bottoms. (It's very possible that a rag I use to clean a toilet one week is used the following week to clean the kitchen counter.) Not only must I trust that the washing machine removes filth, but also I must trust that it doesn't allow the filth from one towel or rag to settle on another.

Drying off with the towel in question was an act of profound faith. I have faith that one cycle in my washing machine is sufficient to remove dirt, waste, and fluids that I would hesitate to touch, let alone rub against my clean body. I also have faith, rightly or wrongly, that my laundry detergent is more powerful than the combined forces of dirt, urine, cat vomit, baby poop, and days-old bits of food.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

There's a Right Way and a Wrong Way to Tinker With Star Wars Movies

MTV showed all six Star Wars movies this weekend. I thought watching 18 hours of Star Wars would be a nice treat on a long weekend. (I have no idea why I look forward to watching movies I own on DVD on basic cable, where they'll be edited and interrupted by commercials, but I do.) But my holiday Star Wars viewing was as annoying as it was enjoyable. Watching the most current versions of all six films in canonical order reminded me of all the problems I have with the prequels and with the Special Editions and DVD versions of the original trilogy (most notably the pod race announcer(s) and Lucas's insertion of Hayden Christensen into the 2004 DVD edition of Return of the Jedi). Rather than make a list of my grievances, I'll defer to this Robot Chicken short.

Many of the problems I have with the Star Wars franchise since 1997 involve material (some of which was swept up off the cutting room floor) added to the original films and the lengths to which Lucas went to incorporate characters from the original trilogy (Chewbacca, Boba Fett, C-3PO, etc.) into the prequels. But after digging around on the Internet, I stumbled upon the following clip that would have made a nice addition to the Episode IV special edition but that was not included:

This dialog between Luke and Biggs does a nice job of setting up the story and letting the viewer know what is at stake. It emphasizes the risks involved in trying to overthrow a tyrant. (And it doesn't involve a CGI Jabba the Hutt.)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Stay Thirsty My Friends

I was hoping that Slate's Ad Report Card would review the Dos Equis "Most Interesting Man in the World" spots and tell me why I find them so mesmerizing. Why am I so fascinated by a fledgling advertising icon who, after rising to prominence as a jai alai player, took on a lifestyle involving night-time archeology in formal wear and motor-boating with beauty queens?

I was glad to see this morning that Slate's Seth Stevenson came through and that he did not disappoint. Stevenson remarks on the commercials' quirkiness as well as their Wes-Andersonian charm and discusses the novelty of an aging and aloof spokesman.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Mouse Will Play

Mommy was busy breaking up a fight between Meyer and Resha Kate.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Are You a "Slacktivist"?

You know I am.


"Slacktivism" is the ideal type of activism for a lazy generation: why bother with sit-ins and the risk of arrest, police brutality, or torture if one can be as loud campaigning in the virtual space? Given the media's fixation on all things digital -- from blogging to social networking to Twitter -- every click of your mouse is almost guaranteed to receive immediate media attention, as long as it's geared towards the noble causes. That media attention doesn't always translate into campaign effectiveness is only of secondary importance.

Meyer, Resha Kate, and Malachi Work on Some New Songs

Re: Abortion—Question #1. Morality and Legality

It's been years since I last broached the subject of abortion on this blog. I tend to avoid the subject because the debate over abortion gives me headaches. I hate that the debate often is cast as a struggle between two rigid ideologies; and I hate that people on both sides of the debate often refuse to acknowledge their opponents' legitimate concerns. Still, abortion is an issue that never seems to go away (as evidenced by the recent controversy surrounding Notre Dame offering an honorary degree to President Obama), and it's an issue that I often find myself thinking about.

Since I don't have strong opinions on this subject, I won't bother you with my thoughts. Instead, I'd like to ask some questions to get a better sense of what's at stake in this discussion. Here's my first question:

If one opposes abortion on moral grounds, must one also believe that abortion should be illegal?

The short answer is "no," because a significant number of people believe that abortion is "taking of a human life" but that it should nonetheless be legal. And I know people who take this position. So maybe I should ask: Is the wrong-but-legal stance ethically tenable? Why, or why not?

I ask in part because Catholic politicians who are denied communion because of their views on abortion usually are reprimanded not because of their stance on the morality of abortion but because of their stance on the legality of abortion. (For example, one of these targeted politicians, John Kerry, said during a 2004 presidential debate that he felt that abortion was immoral but that it should be legal on constitutional grounds.) I also ask because I take the wrong-but-legal stance on other moral issues. For example, I am ethically opposed to gambling but do not advocate criminalizing gambling. (I do, however, oppose state-sponsored gambling and understand that state funding also comes into play in the abortion debate.) Obviously, abortion is a more serious and more legally complex issue than gambling.

So that's my first question. If I get some good answers to this one, more will follow.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Observations From Meyer's Preschool Graduation

Meyer graduated from pre-kindergarten Friday. The members of the graduating class were professionally photographed in caps and gowns prior to commencement, but these adornments were not used in the actual ceremony. They were just a means of raising the question, "How can you not spend $20 on a picture of your five-year-old in a cap and gown holding a diploma?"

While the Presbyterian preschool that my kids had attended prior to this academic year rarely acknowledged its religious affiliation, at the United Methodist preschool from which Meyer graduated, Bible stories and verses were an integral part of the curriculum and the commencement ceremony. From what I can gather, the Bible is one of two pillars of early childhood education at _____ United Methodist Church preschool. The other is phonics.

As each child received his or her diploma, he or she could approach the microphone and announce his or her future plans. Meyer said that he was going to be a fireman. He was supposed to have said "rock star." ("Boy, I didn't raise you to be no fireman. Now get in there and practice your guitar.") The most common career aspirations were doctor and athlete—specifically basketball player, gymnast, and race car driver.

As the tallest boy in the class approached the microphone, I said to myself, "If he doesn't say 'basketball player,' I'll be disappointed." He didn't say "basketball player, but I wasn't disappointed. He said, "I'm going to be a robot when I grow up." You know that kid got ice cream on Friday afternoon.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


Friday, May 15, 2009

Resha Kate Is Three

Resha Kate is three now—happy birthday, Pieces!—which is weird to me. I was glad that, after all the princess-themed gifts she received at her birthday party on Wednesday night, she chose to wear a Star Wars T-shirt to celebrate with the immediate family.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Good News From the Chocolate World

Big changes are on the horizon at Mars. From The Guardian (via one of the kids in my Sunday school class):

Twelve years after [organic food company] Seeds of Change was sold to Mars – amid cries of betrayal from some customers – [Seeds of Change founder and global director of plant science and external research for Mars Howard Yana] Shapiro recently announced that the world's biggest chocolate company is committing itself to sustainable sourcing of the whole of its annual cocoa bean supply, worth more than $1bn (£662m). The policy starts with the Galaxy bar and by 2020 will encompass not just Gal­axy and Mars but also Snickers, Twix and M&Ms. The new strategy also covers environmental issues and labour, dwarfing Cadbury's pledge that all Dairy Milk chocolate will be Fairtrade later this year.

Celebrate with some M&Ms. Actually, wait until 2020, then celebrate with some M&Ms.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Mainliners Don't Torture, But We Don't Pray Either

I'm one of the rare people who takes pride in being a Mainline Protestant. I have plenty of gripes about the way that my denomination and other mainline churches do things; but when people who aren't United Methodist, Presbyterian Church (USA), Episcopal, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Evangelical Lutheran, United Church of Christ, or Cooperative Baptist talk smack about mainliners, I get defensive. For that reason, I enjoy the work of Diana Butler Bass. In her books The Practicing Congregation and Christianity for the Rest of Us, Butler Bass gives Mainline Protestants occasion to feel good about our shrinking and decreasingly relevant churches.

When I saw a link to a post at Beliefnet's Progressive Revival blog titled "Mainline Protestants: America's Moral Conscience," I assumed that Butler Bass had written it. I was right, and I was intrigued.

Why, you may ask, are Mainline Protestants America's moral conscience? Because we oppose torture. Kind of. Mainliners are more likely to oppose torture than Christians of any other classification. According to a recent Pew survey, 31 percent of us say that torture is never justified. (We lead the nation in that category.) 22 percent of us say that it is rarely justified. So barely over half of Mainline Protestants generally disapprove of torture. Sure, we beat the evangelicals and Catholics on this one, but 53 percent hardly qualifies us as the nation's "moral conscience."

(In case you're interested, I fall in the 31 percent who say that torture is never justified. I believe that all persons, no matter what crimes they may be guilty of, are God's beloved creations and that torture compromises the worth and dignity both of the person being tortured and the person doing the torturing. I'm also skeptical of torture as an effective means to get useful information. I suspect that someone who is being tortured will say anything his or her torturers want to hear, regardless of whether it is true.)

Allow me to introduce another survey. This one is about prayer. Just as 53 percent of Mainline Protestants oppose torture, 53 percent of Mainline Protestants pray daily. 53 percent was enough to win the torture survey, but it puts us in last place (among Christian groups) in the prayer category. Not only are mainliners less likely to pray daily than other sorts of Christians, we also are less likely to pray daily than Americans in general. 58 percent of the general population prays daily, but only 53 percent of Mainline Protestants do the same. This makes a certain amount of sense given the religious breakdown of the general population, but it looks bad. How can we be the nation's moral conscience if half of us don't have regular prayer habits?

So, if you're a Mainline Protestant, we need to take more seriously prayer and other spiritual habits. If you're not a Mainline Protestant, back off, we're working on it.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

I Love This Picture

Also, Resha Kate explains why we had burritos for dinner last night.

Jim Balsillie Will Not Rest Until There Is a Hockey Team in Hamilton

Nashvillians know Blackberry co-CEO Jim Balsillie as the guy who nearly bought the Predators in 2007 and who already was selling season tickets for the Hamilton Predators 2007-2008 season before the sale was final. This presumptuous move prompted a local group to step in and purchase the team from then owner Craig Leipold. The Preds seem to being doing well (especially considering the economy and the absurdity of major-league professional hockey in Nashville) under the new ownership group.

The Phoenix Coyotes are not doing well, having filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy yesterday. Within hours of the filing, Jim Balsillie had an offer on the table to buy the team and move them to Hamilton.

While I would like Jim Balsillie and other billionaire Canadians with relocation ambitions to stay away from the Nashville Predators, I support in principle moving teams from non-traditional American markets to Canada. It boggles my mind that Raleigh, North Carolina has an NHL team but Winnipeg (the home of the Phoenix Coyotes, then known as the Winnipeg Jets, until 1997) does not.

I understand that there are legitimate financial reasons why there are as many teams located south of the Mason-Dixon line in the U.S. as there are in all of Canada; I understand that any Canadian city that doesn't already have a team would be much smaller market than even Nashville and Raleigh; I understand that three of the last four Stanley Cup winners came from non-traditional American markets; and I understand that thousands of Nashvillians love the Predators, just as thousands of Georgians love the Thrashers and thousands of northern Californians love the Sharks. But Americans in the south and the far west don't have the same passion for hockey as our neighbors to the north, and it would be nice to see Canada get another team or two. I'm not sure that Hamilton, given its proximity to Toronto and Buffalo, would be the right place for an NHL team (though it wouldn't be much different than having teams in New York City, Long Island, and New Jersey). But it would be nice to find a way to put a team back in Winnipeg or Quebec City.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

See the Car?

This is pretty incredible. The BBC has the story.

Monday, May 04, 2009

He Loves His Baby Brother

Meyer loves having a baby brother and expresses his love by making cards and pictures for Malachi. You can see his latest effort at Meyer's blog. (Funny, Meyer never did this sort of thing for Resha Kate.)

Friday, May 01, 2009

"Swine Flu? Man, I'm Too Fast for That to Catch Me"

Here is some fantastic government propaganda from the last swine flu outbreak, in 1976—the year in which I was born. Only one person died of swine flu that year, but 25 may have died from the vaccine that is being advertised in the spots below.