The best, most entertaining resources on the NSA leaks


When it comes to the political news this week, I’ve felt a large range of emotions. I’ve felt just a little bit of “I told you so” vindication, joy over the attention the media is giving to it, anger at the government, pride in some brave politicians, and frustration over the fact that no one else in my life seems to be paying attention to this or even care.

I’ve also felt a certain futility in grasping all off this and being able to distill it in a concise, communicable way. I’m going to do my best next week on this blog, but in the end, I don’t think I could do better than these three shows in doing so.

First, nothing helps ease the shock of learning that your government is storing your entire digital life than a little laughter. And to that end, there’s no place better for that than The Daily Show. Jon Stewart is gone for the summer, but he is being ably covered by John Oliver. This clip below is Oliver’s first night hosting:

Full episode: [Daily Show] [Hulu]

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Resurrection Gives Us Joy in Lent & Death


La-Pieta-IYes, as cliché as it is, I’m watching the new Bible mini-series on the History Channel. I’m actually enjoying it. A few things are odd (the ninja angel, for one), and they made some interesting choices on what to leave out (was the extended Sodom sequence really worth cutting out the entire Exodus story, Wilderness wandering, and golden calf rebellion?). But there is still a sense of ownership, that this is our story.

(Side note: for those of us that study the Bible and don’t necessarily think historicity is the highest purpose for which it was written, it’s encouraging to still feel that feeling of identity-formation when encountering our story–even when it’s seen as “just” a story.)

Anyway, a review of the show is not why I’m writing today. I just had a brief thought I wanted to share.

In Episode 1 of the mini-series, we see Pharaoh’s son die at the end of the plague sequence. Watching him carry the pale, lifeless body of his son, it reminded me of Michelangelo’s la Pieta (a version of which you can see above). It was actually quite moving, and I was surprised that I only realized now the sadness of this part of the story. Continue reading

A Note to All Philadelphians: you CAN beat the Parking Authority


There are few city institutions in this country more hated than the Philadelphia Parking Authority. Despite the name, they are the private organization on contract with the city to manage parking in the city. They make the laws, set the rates, set the penalties, enforce them, and have a financial incentive to making you fail at being a responsible parker in Philly. It’s understood that parking tickets will be a regular part of life in Philly. The PPA is the primary subject in A&E’s show Parking Wars, and their relentlessness and lack of empathy is so bad, that it’s had an effect on local tourism.

They call themselves the most efficient parking authority in the country, but had to be forced to follow-through on the requirement for them to give their profits to the public school system in Philly (they did this by claiming that they were suddenly “no longer profitable”, even as they kept more than a quarter of their profits in reserve bank accounts). Since then, they’ve been forced to reform a bit, but they continue to directly ignore recent court requirements that attempt increase their fairness, because, as is known, the appeals process is extremely problematic and confusing. So are the signs (just look at that one above)!
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Leonardo diCaprio & Kirk Cameron: BFFs (Laugh of the Day) [casual fri]


The other day, I wrote a pretty serious and in-depth post on the place of the darker things of this world in art, especially profanities. in the middle of the post, I put two rather intense videos as demonstrations of my point. They were both videos from films depicting serious husband/wife fighting. One was from Kirk Cameron’s “Christian” movie Fireproof, and the other was from the film Revolutionary Road, in which Leonardo diCaprio plays the husband. Adding to the irony, both of these movies came out in the same year.

It wasn’t until later that I was reminded by a friend that these two actually worked together early in their careers, on the TV Show Growing Pains. If you want some weird contrasts that can’t help but make you laugh pretty hard, feel free to re-watch the two clips below, as well as this clip of the two of these guys doing a scene from Growing Pains. In hindsight, it’s pretty hilarious.
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Christians & the Art of Profanities in Art


This post is not a defense of Christians cursing in their everyday lives (I wrote that post a few years ago, though I think at some point I may need to revisit some of what I said there).

This post, rather, is about the merits of Christians creating (or doing) art in which there are profanities (this also has implications on other “worldly” things in art like sex and violence, but they won’t be my main focus today). I’m writing this to prepare some people for the stories I plan on writing for this blog. I talked yesterday about how I’m participating in StoryADay September (Update: I’m done), and hope to post an original, completed fiction story every weekday in September. Concerning that, I wrote:

I will not be doing “Christian art” or “prophetic art” or “evangelistic art” as I write and post here. I will simply be trying to create Beauty in words and character and story in a way that is original, interesting, and stirring.  My stories tend to be rooted in reality as much as possible, and so they will probably include “real” things like sadness, violence, sexuality, cursing, or other things that challenge many Christians’ sensibilities. Know this ahead of time.

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Unethical Plants vs. Unethical Animals: what to eat? [OPEN MIC]


So, I have this friend…

He loves documentaries and whenever he find one that is particularly informative, he tells us about it.

If I remember correctly, he may have been the first person from whom I heard about Food, Inc. which challenged our sensibilities about where our food comes from, and the whole notion of factory farming. I was now aware. I started hating Monsanto seed company with everyone else, buying organic food items, and buying my meat at a local farm, even though it was an hour drive and the meat was crazy expensive (I eventually gave this last part up, although I still try to be somewhat conscious at the store)

Then, I heard about King Corn and saw talks like this one and became all the more sure I should stay away from non-organic food purchases and try to cook more. My emphasis became “real” food and ethically grown crops.
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Girls: my new obsession


The TV show. The TV show. Rest assured, I mean HBO’s new dramedy, produced by Judd Apatow, about four twentysomething girls living in New York City. It just wrapped up its first season, and it was amazing.

Why was it amazing? Well, a few reasons. The writing is wonderful–it’s funny, thought-provoking, real, and profound. The characters are distinct and well-acted.

The show casts outright indictments against many of the marks of current twentysomething culture, revealing our narcissism, obsession with irony, and incessant naval-gazing; our infatuation with “becoming” and “being” more than “doing”; it betrays how our
Facebook culture has reduced our self-identity to the level and substance of a “Profile”, and the way we present ourselves and relate to others appears more like a well-manicured “Wall” (or rather, “Timeline”) rather than real, human interaction and messiness.

Further, the show shows genuinely messy and hard friendships and relationships. Granted, other media does this, but Girls is the best I’ve seen at showing how these difficulties are not “hiccups” or “things to overcome and get past”, but instead are the very things that challenge, shape, grow, and mature the characters and ultimately help them overcome those above-mentioned shortcomings of contemporary culture. It’s only by our messiness colliding and us holding on (as opposed to discarding) one another that we will become who we are trying to be.

Yes, the show takes us into the most intimate moments of characters’ lives–moments that are at times beyond our normal sensibilities of sexuality, relational “health”, and humor–and so many people (especially Christians, the primary readership of this site) will want to think long and consider deeply before embarking on this show.

Girls is indeed unflinching in its voyeurism and dysfunction, but it’s precisely that rawness and nakedness that ultimately turns the accusing finger towards us, exposing the ultimate delusion of our generation: that we’ve made emperors of us all, but emperors, in the end, with no clothes–more naked, awkward, fearful, and in need of covering than anyone that shows up on that screen.

But it’s also a comedy, so in the end, it reminds us not to take ourselves, the show, or even reviews of the show too seriously.

It’s so good.

Please Oppose SOPA & PIPA in Congress. Here’s why & how.


UPDATE: I wrote a follow-up piece to this protest that might be worth your time if you care about this issue.

As many people know (especially in the circles that read this blog), today is the official “blackout day” for many sites in protest of two proposed bills before Congress: the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA). They are each supposed to be attempts to address the problems of piracy and copyright infringement on the web.

First, let’s be clear. Most of the people opposing these bills are not trying to protect piracy and illegal activities. These are problems, to be sure. Those opposing these bills are merely saying that there are much better and much more specific ways to do this. The bills, as currently written are so broad in their scope and definitions, that most any website, and most every individual who currently casually uses the internet will at some point be guilty of the felonies spoken to in this bill. I am not exaggerating. I am not talking in extremes to scare people. (It almost makes one think the bills were intentionally written that way. They are also weighed down with a lot of political corruption.)

This is serious. Why?

Supporters of the bill are painting those that oppose it as merely reacting to the general idea of the bills rather than the “substance” of them. This is false. You may have heard that that the sponsors of the bill recently struck the “DNS blocking” provisions from the bills. This is not even close to the scariest part of the legislation. It is the very substance of it that is the scariest. I would really beg each of you to read the following few articles to get educated on the specifics of these bills, what’s wrong with them, and what to do something about it.

What to do?

Sign Petitions

Write your Representatives in Congress

If you go to the Wikipedia (English) homepage, for just today, you’ll see it’s blacked out in protest of the bills. If you input your zip code, you can find your representatives in Congress and convenient links to email or call them. Below, you will find the email I wrote to my Representatives and Senators (my senators’ emails are currently down due to heavy traffic. I’m hoping that’s a good sign). Feel free to use it as a template if you like. If you get this when Wikipedia’s tool is not available, you can also find your representatives at the House website and the Senate website. Please act!
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how I’m handling Hurricane Irene


So with the looming threat of Irene on its way to Philly and all the east coast freaking out (I personally think it’s a bit overblown), how am I spending my rainy afternoon and evening? Recently I finished reading Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I was inspired to read this in the first place so that, upon completion, I could get together with a couple of my friends (the male of which introduced me, ironically enough, to my manliest movie ever, Top Gun–oh the volleyball scene!), and watch both the BBC miniseries and Hollywood iterations of Austen’s book.

Well, today is finally the day that I get to spend with Irene, Red Wine, Scotch, Beer, Nicole, Heath, and Colin Firth (oh be still, my beating heart!). Unfortunately, Keira will have to wait.

Weekly Must-Reads {05.17.11} | politics & writing edition


This week’s weekly must-reads are focused on the pressing political matters of the day: Obama, Osama, the budget “crisis”, etc. I’ve thrown in some fun articles on writing at the end. And for my more “theologically-inclined” friends: don’t worry, I’ll throw you some stuff next week. But in the meantime, check these things out and let me know your thoughts in the comment box below.

Running in the red: How the U.S., on the road to surplus, detoured to massive debt | The Washington Post

As we hit the federal debt-ceiling this week, I wanted to send this article everyone’s way. It is such an enlightening read on how our economic surplus became our deficit–and it’s a reasoned, insightful, factual, calm, and immensely helpful article. (SPOILER ALERT: it was BOTH Bush and Obama’s faults, but mostly Bush’s).

News Desk: Don’t Release the Photos | The New Yorker

This article convinced me that Obama’s decision to not release the photos of dead bin Laden was the right call.

Jon Stewart wants release of bin Laden photos | Salon.com

This video changed my mind back to its opinion that Obama should release the photos of dead bin Laden.

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Weekly Must-Reads {03.07.11}


This week’s weekly must-reads contain some links to articles I was reading a couple of weeks ago but didn’t end up doing one of these reading lists in order to share. They include articles on singleness, economics, foreign policy and art. I hope you find these intriguing, thought provoking, and discussion-causing. As usual, feel free to add your own links for myself and others to read in the comments section, as well as comment on these articles.

Tree of Failure – NYTimes.com

I know this is a few weeks old, but it’s amazing and I wasn’t able to post it when it came out. It’s a beautiful, substantive article on the necessity of weakness, sin, and failure in our search for civility and grace.  Anybody know the religious leanings of David Brooks?

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Mad Men: my new obsession…


More than any show in recent memory, Mad Men has captivated me in such a way that I cannot stop watching it.  I just started watching the show a couple of weeks ago and I’m on the last episode of Season 1.  Now, I’m usually wary of something that receives non-stop praise and adoration like Mad Men has.  I often wonder can a television show really be so good that it evokes responses like this? It’s hard for to imagine and hold in my mind the idea of something that can take hold of people so singularly and consistently that it leaves people in awe (I have a similar inability to imagine how a show like Dexter would fall in this category).

But I’m a believer now.
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HOW TO: redeem bad Christian culture


There will be very little commentary from me here.  I just want to show everyone a process of the Kingdom of God breaking through Christian culture to redeem it.  First, watch this. Please, watch the whole thing.  Whatever you do, do not stop this video before the 2-minute mark.  You might want to take notes.

Then, see how the “secular” culture (if there was ever such a thing) comments on this, care of Talk Soup:
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