Summer School's out for... summer?

That's right folks, no more whining about how many classes I am taking and all the reading and writing I have to do (well, just that my hand actually cramped during my second final yesterday and I had to go run it under cold water so that I could finish the essay... I am pretty sure I ended up with an A in all my classes).  

Now I can read whatever I want to read.  I can actually go to bed at night.  I can spend time with my wife and dog.  Here are some of my planned reads.  I want to finish Communities of Violence and Sanctorum Communio.  I am trying to get a little ahead for the fall so I am re-reading the Illiad and the Odyssey while reading Lysistrata, Bacchae, and the Trials of Socrates.  

Some of the other books that I have enjoyed this summer have been The ShackNot the Religious Type, and Jesus for President.  The plan for the next 3 1/2 weeks is to work a little, read some, sleep a lot, and visit the in-laws in Colorado.  I have been pining for this time since April and it is finally here.  Hallelujah.


The book is always better...

Yes, it is.  I have never seen a movie that has beaten the book (provided that I had read the book). But there are still movies, based on books / adapted from books / etc., that are really good.  

Take Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings Trilogy for example.  The books are incredible.  They arguably make up the greatest trilogy of all time when it comes to books (if you can think of a better trilogy... well, The Hobbit should count in this as well... let me know).  But the movies were fantastic.  Did they omit things?  Of course!  There is no way they could have fit everything in (I missed Tom Bombadil and the scourging of the Shire should never have been cut).  Did they add things or dwell on things more than Tolkien did?  Yep, and they were criticized for it.  But the movies still were amazing.

Now, the Harry Potter movies have not come close to an "LTR" standard so far.  Chris Columbus did great with what he had for the first two.  The movies were still a gamble and they were doing two at once.  He had 2 advantages over all the subsequent movies however.  1) The first two books were short so it is easier to fit things in (even though they still left out, what I thought was, vital information).  2) Two words: Richard Harris.  He IS Dumbledore.  Seriously, when I read the books, I actually pictured Richard Harris.  He played him perfectly (wise, foreboding, humorous, low-key, intimidating, eye that seem to see into your soul yet they always find something they like).  

The next few movies saw a change in feel.  The replacement Dumbledore was (to borrow from Lloyd Bentsen) no Richard Harris.  Now, Michael Gambon is a fine actor (Open Range, Life Aquatic, The Good Shepherd), but from the very first scene he seemed to veer so far from Richard Harris' portrayal that Dumbledore was not recognizable.  He seemed to freak out.  He was jumpy.  He was creepy to some extent.  He just seemed to overact a little.  But again, I am comparing him to Richard Harris.

The 3rd-5th movies have been... okay.  The problem is there has not been much consistency in the look and feel (I know, the books got darker so the movies did too, but the simple geography of Hogwarts was different in each movie... where exactly are the Whomping Willow and Hagrid's house?) and they have left out soooo many important facts that there is bound to be confusion in the movies drawn from the last two books (which, I guess is going to consist of 3 movies... 7 books / 8 movies... okay, but the 6th book should be the one with 2 movies... how much camping can they include from book 7... lol).  Yes, the books got much, much longer.  Yes, it is impossible to include everything (they tried to include a lot of extra stuff in the 5th through the floating Daily Prophet headlines... decent effort).  But, the movies will never be able to do what the books can do.

All that being said, I am excited for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (watch the trailer!).  This was such a good book.  For those who don't know (and I don't know how you couldn't at this point) the ending is unexpected (well, it was for those of us who aren't total nerds and sit around and analyzed every little thing in every book so as to predict what is going to happen... I just don't see the fun in that.  These are the same people who try to find where their parents hide the Christmas presents).  

Oh, two things: 1) the picture above is of Dumbledore meeting Tom Riddle (aka>Voldemort) for the first time when Tom was a child in an orphanage.  Dumbledore is giving him the news of his identity and that he will be attending Hogwarts.  There is a sense that this kid is severely disturbed even at that time, and 2) the trailer was available at 9pm tonight... I have two exams to study for and a paper to write, yet this post will be up before 10pm.  I had to watch the trailer 3 times and write this post or it would have been up sooner.  Enjoy!

Bend Over!!

I have yet to be subjected to a prostate exam, but I know I would not want this guy to perform it (or the guy to the left... creepy).  

But I do have my final exams for Summer B tomorrow.  Today is going to be spent with my nose in a bunch of books and outlining essays and terms for my tests.  

I have to write an in depth essay on the development of political parties in the U.S.  You know, starting with Federalists (those supporting the adoption of the Constitution) and Anti-Federalists (those against the adoption of the Constitution and supporting the revision of the Articles of Confederation) and moving into the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans (or Jeffersonians) and up to the death of the Federalist party.  Sounds like fun, I know.

I also have to be prepared to discuss the establishment of Israel as a state and it's effect on Palestinians and the area as a whole.  Also, the development of Iran and Saudi Arabia as states and their current governmental structures.

Further, I am finishing a paper on women's ordination.

Did I mention all of this is tomorrow?!

Now, I have not waited til the last minute.  I have been working on all of these things for a couple of weeks, but we are now in crunch time.  So what the heck am I doing on this blog??!!


Who is my neighbor?

EVERYONE!  It's funny, when Jesus is asked this question in Luke 10, He tells the story of the "Good Samaritan".  If you don't know the story, I highly recommend reading it.  The gist is that a man is robbed, beaten, and left for dead along the side of the road.  Two religious leaders pass by and refuse to help (they had more important things to do).  The one who helps the man is a Samaritan, a people thought to be dirty and misled spiritually.  He not only gets him to some one who can provide medical care, but he pays for the care and comes back later to check on the man.

This story was shocking to those Jesus spoke to for they had never thought of a Samaritan as living out ideals that should be aspired to.  But this is the ideal.  We are called to cast off any differences and divisions and truly seek the benefit of others.

Mister Rogers is a perfect example of this for modern day America.  He let go of differences and disagreements and told people that God loved them just as they were and that he did too.  He met people with love and injustice with strong opposition.  Literally, our country has been forever changed because of the influence of this meek Presbyterian (WOOT!) minister.  I loved his show as a child, but it's been as I've grown up (barely) that I've seen the amazing impact he had and how his example, if followed by more people, could change the world we live in today.

I know it sounds trivial, but today I pray that I can be more like Fred Rogers.  I never thought I would aspire to be like some one from Pittsburgh of all places.  Kind of like Samaria.


The times they aren't a changing

The recent explosion in Istanbul  just shows further that the human race continues to kill itself.  Sure, our overall population is growing (perhaps too fast but that is for another post), but we keep killing each other for selfish and ultimately meaningless reasons.  

Turkey has been the location of a number of crimes against humanity.  The Armenian genocide in 1915 is a major event (that the government of Turkey still denies by the way).  The denial of a Kurdish homeland (this also falls on Iraq and others in the area) is another issue.  "Turk is for the Turks!" was the cry of the CPU (Young Turks) and now this state based on racist principles wants entry into the European Union.  Should they get it?  I don't know.  It would help their economy (which I am for), but it would continue the oppression of the Kurds and give credence to denials of the holocaust against the Armenians.  

There is no easy answer to any of this.  Will fighting against these terrorist acts eventually cause them to end?  That question can be broadened to ask... can violence end violence?  I think Jesus gives us a harder, yet more successful way.  Loving our enemies.  Serving those who would seek to destroy us.  Putting our needs and desires second to those of others (especially those who hate us).  These are the ways that will, in the short run get you and me killed, but in the long run allow our children (or the generations after us for those who don't and won't have children) to have a better chance at lasting peace.  Martin Luther King Jr., Ghandi, Jesus... all of these men knew that they needed to change people's hearts, not their actions, if there was to be real change.  A gun will only change behavior for as long as the gun is loaded and pointed (which is why we will NEVER "win" in Iraq), but a changed heart has the potential for eternal change.

I hope Turkey realizes and admits its past mistakes, atrocities, oppressions, etc. and opens up opportunities for forgiveness and healing.  Then the country can come together.  Then, they will be ready to join the EU.  This attack (though they don't know who perpetrated it yet) is just a symptom of the underlying issue of pride.  Remember, God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.  National pride is still pride.



So, despite what my friend Sean might think, the best under-appreciated show of all time was not Ed but Arrested Development (watch it here).  My wife and I love it so much we bought all three seasons on DVD and watch episodes regularly, laughing uncontrollably as if we've never seen them before.  The show was absolutely perfect, won tons of emmys, and was watched by so few people that it was eventually cancelled (although Fox knew how good the show was so they allowed them to end the series).  The problem was, we never even discovered this amazing show until the middle of the last season.  I regret missing this show.  Not that my one TV set (that is nowhere on the Nielsen Ratings List) could have possibly saved it, but I still wish I could have done my part.

It reminds me of those who don't stand up for what they believe in (I am very often included in this group).  The thinking is that their one vote/action/presence/etc. will not have enough of an effect to really make a difference.  I have a professor who missed our midterm exam this past spring.  When announcing this to the class, he told us where he was going.  He emphatically stated that he would be in Washington D.C. getting arrested.  Needless to say we were a little shocked and curious.  He informed us that he goes every year to protest the unjust war in Iraq and that his group plans on participating in civil disobedience to get arrested so that they can have a voice when the media covers their arrest.  This past year, it was pouring down rain so only the really committed participated.

Did their actions end the war?  Not yet.  But does that mean we shouldn't do whatever is in our power to do what is right?  No.  We will be held accountable for the things we did AND those we didn't do.  Next year I plan to be in D.C. and getting arrested (my first time).  Will it accomplish anything?  Who knows.  Maybe it won't even be necessary.  Maybe President Obama will have withdrawn all of our troops and ended America's attempted colonization of Iraq by then.  If not, I hope he will see the commitment of some in this country to ending this war that doesn't even come close to meeting Augustine or Aquinas' just war requirements.  I don't want to have any regrets.

Oh by the way, since I started this blog, the U.S. has spent over 1 billion dollars on the war in Iraq.  


Fish are friends, not food

A friend of mine wrote a piece on "Animal Theology" that I thought was too good not to share.  It is a bit long but worth the read if you are some one interested in being challenged.  Have fun with it.



This has nothing to do with my last post where I referenced Stalin.  I have a paper to write, two finals to study for, a dinner engagement to get ready for, and a dog to take to the park, but I found this to be a worthy distraction.  Here's what you do (I totally stole this from this guy):

    The first random article title you get is the name of your band.

2. Go to Random Quotations: http://www.quotationspage.com/random.php3
    The last four words of the very last quote on the page is the title of your first album.

3. Go to flickr's "explore the last seven days" at http://www.flickr.com/explore/interesting/7days/
    The 3rd picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover

Viola!  You have your first album.  Now you just have to write some songs, record them, mix them, and find a distributor and you can be a rock star.

This is my band's, Braided Hopf algebra, first album Be a good idea.  Enjoy.

"Never again."

    Okay, here's the deal.  The U.S. has NEVER been very good at stopping genocide.  Everyone likes to bring up WWII and show how we beat Hitler and stopped the horrors of the holocaust.  True, our military was the key to victory in Europe.  The British and the Russians would have been overrun if we hadn't joined in.

    But, we forget whose side we took.  Stalin is probably the most murderous dictator of all time and clearly is of the 20th Century.  Before we ever really knew what was happening to the Jews in Germany and Eastern Europe (which is another one of the greatest horrors in human history... please don't misunderstand me on that), we knew massive amounts of people were being killed in Russia (Stalin was a rabid anti-Semite as well).  But we joined forces with him during WWII and we love to pat ourselves on the back for it.  Was Hitler evil... you bet!  Was Stalin just as evil if not more... you bet!  

    The point is that genocide has NEVER been our motivation to go to war.  Even the outcries over Spanish atrocities in Cuba in the 1890s did not cause America's entry into its first foreign intervention.  We saw the opportunity to kick one of the last colonial powers out of our side of the Atlantic and took it.  Read the speeches of William Jennings Bryan and you will see how humanitarian issues were presented in the beginning and it was quickly evident that the government had their own version of colonialism in mind (sounds familiar).

    If we were so committed to stopping genocide in Iraq, why did we not invade in 1987-88 when Saddam was gassing the Kurds?  Because it was not in our "National Interest."  That is the true reason America ever goes to war.  So, for McCain's spokesman to insinuate that Obama doesn't really care about possible genocide in Iraq is a bit of the pot calling the kettle black (why do I feel like people won't like the use of that phrase in this election?). 

    When will America give up its Messiah Complex?  We are not, and never will be, the answer to the world's problems.  Why, because we are selfish bastards just like everyone else.  I do hope that Obama was right in his speech at the Holocaust Museum when he said, "Never again."  The only thing I see a problem with is that America cannot be the only one committed to that for it to be true.  We also must really mean it and not only intervene when it is in line with our "National Interest."  Can anyone say Rwanda or Sudan?


The Germans looooovvvvveeeee.... Obama?

    That's right folks, Germans love Obama.  SNL needs to bring back Norm Macdonald for his comedy is en vogue once again (minus all the OJ jokes of course).

    They say that 70% of Germans favor Obama while only 10% support McCain.  So, we also know that Germans can't count.  I guess this is a story... well, since Germans have no say in the election of an American President was it really necessary for my (much loved) NPR to be infected with this type of "Inside Edition" story?  Well, since the American people don't really have the final say in the election of our President either (thank you Electoral College and the Supreme Court), maybe we do need to know how the Germans feel.  That way the Electorates in each state will know how to cast their vote.


Priestette and Pastorette?

    Did you know that it was the evil Gargamel who created Smurfette? His plan was to send this beautiful (and easily manipulated) creature into the midst of the hated smurfs and follow her to find their secret village.  It worked too.  She led evil straight into the smurf village under the guise of friendship and acceptance.

    Sounds a little too familiar.

    Isn't this exactly the claim of those who would oppose the ordination of women?  Don't they think that it would be introducing an evil element into a sacred office?  I am not saying they would think women are "evil" per se, but the fear is that the wrong gender can contaminate the holy role of the priest/pastor.

    As it turns out, Smurfette ends up saving the entire village from Gargamel.  And her unique perspective on the "evil one" adds a whole new level of protection for the smurfs.

    The Church desperately needs this new perspective right now.  For too long we have limited ourselves.  For too long we have only been half complete.  Now is the time to break away from this trammel.  I am so glad to be a member of a denomination (PCUSA) that celebrates fullness in our ordained ministers and elders and deacons.  I congratulate the Episcopal and Anglican churches for their recent (within the last 20 years all the way up to a few weeks ago) steps forward.  There are many other Christian churches that celebrate the fact that, "The same Spirit... calls women and men to all ministries of the Church" (Book of Confessions 10.4) like the UCC, UMC, etc.  I pray for my brothers and sisters of the SBC, RCC, EO (Russian, Greek, etc.) that they may one day experience the fullness of what their clergy could be.

    Let us not limit what God can do through those who are not male.  Better yet, let's not define people by what they aren't, but let's know them by what they offer.  

    I'd like to end with this poem by Frances Croake Frank:
Did the woman say,
When she held him for the first time in the dark
       of a stable,
After the pain and the bleeding and the crying,
"This is my body, this is my blood"?

Did the woman say,
When she held him for the last time in the dark rain
       on a hilltop,
After the pain and the bleeding and the dying,
"This is my body, this is my blood"?

Well, that she said it to him then,
For dry old men,
      brocaded robes belying barrenness,
Ordain that she not say it for him now.

Round and Round

So, I grew up in the '80s and the hair bands will always have somewhat of a hold on me. Today's title comes from the group Ratt and their "hit" song "Round and Round." While theirs is an attempt to focus on the positive ("love will find a way just give it time..."), I had to think negatively today...

As some one who experienced a level of abuse as a child, I know the dangers of perpetuating the cycle that is all too common. Those who are abused have a much higher risk of becoming abusers. So what happens to the person (or 1 entire group of people) who has been abused more than just about anyone else when they achieve a level of power? Just watch the video above.

While i will acknowledge the fact that the Jewish people have been horribly persecuted and oppressed (Egyptians, Persians, Babylonians, Romans, Crusaders, Germans, etc.), it does not excuse their racial and religious oppression of the Palestinian people. No wonder the U.S. is an ally, we seem to treat our prisoners of "war" with the same hospitality.