Politics - Past and Present, Local and National

I was fourteen and living in the Midwest in 1992 when Bill Clinton upset the incumbent president and won the White House. I distinctly remember listening to election returns on my clock radio and crying myself to sleep.

* * *

I have always been interested in politics to an unusual, and often unhealthy, degree. After suffering for weeks from a stomachache when I was 8 or 9, our family doctor suggested that I might have sores on the lining of my digestive tract. In other words, I had ulcers. The doctor asked if I was experiencing any stress. The best explanation that my parents could offer - and it is now part of Pattison family lore - is that I worried far too much about politics.

I'm a registered Democrat now (though I more closely align with the Greens). But back then, I was an unabashed conservative. I watched Ronald Reagan's televised speeches with an expression of pure love. While most of my friends were fans of "Star Wars" the movie, I was studying Star Wars the missile system. I sent away for information on the Strategic Defense Initiative and asked to be put on the mailing list.

In fourth grade I wrote a report on the link between CFCs and the hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica. I predicted skyrocketing skin cancer rates and the disappearance of Louisiana unless something was immediately done about the ozone hole. The teacher gave me an "A" on my report but my parents expressed disappointment that I had so easily given in to popular opinion. I had assumed that global catastrophe was a nonpartisan issue, but, upon reexamination, I found, to my surprise, that the ozone hole was a threat cooked up by secular media and academic elites, many of whom did not believe in the literal interpretation of the Bible. The ozone hole was real, but it disappeared and reappeared in cycles that had everything to do with God's mysterious ways and nothing to do with my older brother's aerosol hairspray. I vowed to never again get played by liberals. Indeed, I made a point to challenge teachers and textbooks whenever necessary. Or whenever I felt like it – this was rural Kansas, after all, where we still opened every school day with a moment of silence, in clear and happy defiance of the ACLU.

Future research papers would more carefully reflect the Republicanism I inherited from my parents and adored in Ronald Reagan. Topics included: "Why Chinese communism will fall to American-style capitalism." "Why the I.R.A. is a communist terrorist group." "How the build up of nuclear weapons makes us safe from the communists."

* * *

I remembered all of this today when I found myself getting too agitated about the presidential race. I gear up for the primaries the way some folks gear up for March Madness, only I have to wait four years between tournaments. (I have yet to fill out an actual bracket forecasting the winner in each state primary or caucus, but I definitely make mental predictions - with a reasonable success rate.)

But I wonder if I focus too much on national politics. Certainly it matters a great deal who wins the presidency - the last seven years have shown us the great powers that can be consolidated in the hands of an imperial president. But do I, by expending so much energy worrying about who who sits in the Oval Office, diminish my own power? my own capacity to affect change?

And what about local politics? There are upcoming elections for Portland mayor, city council, school board, county commissioners, and Oregon legislature. These positions are arguably more important to my own day-to-day life (and the lives of my neighbors), but I don't know who's running in any of these races or what's at stake. This doesn't seem right. I remain an enthusiastic supporter of Barack Obama (I plan to write more about that on my blog in the next couple of days), but I resolve to pay more attention to local politics from now on. And only within reason.

Welcome back, LOST

I can't tell you how excited I am that my favorite TV show of all time, LOST, returns tonight with its first brand new episode since last May. Though the writer's strike is threatening to cut this, the fourth season of the show, into two halves, I am genuinely buzzing at the thought of re-immersing myself in the intricate world that Damon Lindelof, JJ Abrams, and Carlton Cuse have created for us.

There are so many reasons to love this show, starting with the stellar cast, the gorgeous Hawaiian set, and the top-notch writing. My top reason, though, is all of the thought, planning, creativity, and effort that the writers have put into the story from day one. As each layer of the plot has unfolded over the past 3 seasons, you become more and more aware of the meticulous way that the writers ensure the mythology they've created for the show remains in tact. With each new detail and revelation, we get a better appreciation of the characters and their stories. Despite the fact that they often trade you answers for new questions, you really do feel like you are getting closer to understanding the whole story. What I love most about this is that it's opened up my eyes to the fact that I see God like this as well.

Like each LOST episode building upon the one that aired the week before, each generation of humans builds upon the inventions and advances of the previous ones. Everything is advancing: our medicines, our technology, and even our understanding of the environment. First we discovered what electricity was, then we were able to harness it and study it, and now we are using it to unlock mysteries as big as the universe and as small as a tiny cell. The great thing is, there will always be more to know, because God is infinitely more complex and intelligent than we can be. God is the ultimate author, and like the writers of LOST, he is slowly unveiling the entire plot one episode (or day) at a time.

I am continually pulled in by the amazing story lines on LOST, always left thirsting for more when the credits roll. I keep watching because I know that there IS a complete story being told, and I want to see how it ends. When we embrace life from the same perspective, that God as its author has had a plan from the beginning, then it becomes so much easier to see life for the gift that it is. Each plot twist in our lives and each discovery made by scientists should make us say "wow". Like the praise we deservedly heap on the writers of LOST, we should heap that much more on God for his amazing creation and the story of redemption through Jesus that he has unfolded.

I don't know exactly where the show is going and I don't know when the twists and turns will come, but that's the fun of it. I trust that the writers not only know where they are going, but that they are taking me on an amazing journey through a great story with a satisfying ending. I guess I trust God in the same way. I have no idea where He's taking me, but I trust Him, that he knows where this will all end up, and that there will be a satisfying ending when the credits roll.

The 1-hour LOST Season 4 Premiere airs on ABC tonight.

God, who is not a part of a Guild, will not be going on strike any time soon...thankfully.


Worst Book Title in History

Jason Elam is an excellent NFL kicker. Honestly, he's one of the greats. I remember him most clearly from the days he played on my fantasy football team in 2004. Those were great times, Jason.

Jason Elam is a Christian, and by all accounts a great guy. He's also, as Paul Berry has informed me, an author.

And his book has an awful title.

Come to think of it, doesn't that cover design seem familiar? It's orange-y and has slanted letters...hmmm...

Oh, that's right!

I'm not ragging on the book. Monday Night Jihad might be a well-spun yarn for all I know, and it sounds like Elam did his research. Christian publishing could use more fiction writers (and less books on marriage...Sheesh! Talk about a flooded market). It's just, who comes up with this stuff?


Questions... (volume 3)

Questions... (volume 2)


I realize Winter is an awful time to talk about this, but I heard REM's "Nightswimming" the other night, and felt the need to discuss.

The thing with "Nightswimming" is everyone has their own nostalgia, and none of of that nostalgia has anything to do with the actual song. Sure, there may have been some overlying themes ('night' and 'swimming' come to mind), but few songs are so warmly intimate and simultaneously oblique.

I spoke with a friend the other day who grew up in Kansas, and he remembers listening to the song at their swimming hole, in the warm Summer air, and how they'd grill crawfish pulled from underneath tiny waterfalls. I told him the story of my friends, where we would swim, and he marveled at the drama of our nightswimming spot.

It's 10 years ago, but I remember listening to this to this song every time we went, driving out east, and every time we listened, I thought, "I wish our experience was perfect."

Now, looking back, I see it was almost there. In fact, everything about where we swam at 3 in the morning, 18 years old and naive, was incredible. But the water and the air were cold. And we got dirty. And it was so far away. And we ate at Denny's on the way back. It was never quite there.

My sister is a senior in high school, and I need to tell her to pay attention to what she's experiencing now. It's not that her graduating year will be the best of her life, but there's a significance I was too young to realize. Those are special times.


Questions... (volume 1)


Isn't it insane how just when you think the weather couldn't get any worse, it suddenly becomes the best weather imaginable? God is amazing that way.

You probably don't read blogs, but You know my thoughts: Thank You.


Letters to wackos. Volume 3.

Attn: Would be cult followers. Ever caught your messiah just sitting there on the couch doing absolutely nothing? Don’t lie now... So, you put down your knitting and stare at him for like 10 minutes thinking, 'what is going through his head?' -Nothing, that’s what. Oh wait nevermind, because now he’s laughing at a Full House rerun. So I guess that's something... -Anyway by the way,do you suddenly smell egg farts? Well do you?? Correct me if I’m wrong, but did you not warn the other mistresses explicitly not to feed him egg salad sandwiches?!

Now check out his hair. Just do it. Take a step back for just a moment and look at the man’s hair.

That's your messiah baby. Right there.

Gotta be the Shoes

You might remember a few months ago when we started selling Burnside Pants? Well, we're happy to announce that we're extending our reach even further down your legs.

Announcing the Pony Burnside. Now available through Amazon.com for $25.89 (with free Super Saver Shipping!). We don't get a single penny from the sale of these things, but when people ask you "What the heck kinda shoe are you wearing?" you can say, "The Pony Burnside, and speaking of amazing websites, you should visit the Burnside Writer's Collective Dotcom!"

(you might be intereted in knowing that Aaron Donley has a pair of these for every day of the week, including a black pair to wear with his suits on Sundays. Susan Isaacs also wears these to bed.)

There are other blogs out there, you know...

Dear reader,

It's flattering this is the only blog you visit. "Burnside Blog is more than enough!" you say.

But listen. Shut up for a second. There are others out there. Others like The Sneeze, which is almost as funny as this site. And there's John Pattison's new blog. Bookmark it.

So fly away, little friend. It's a big world out there.

Jordan Green


Viva Portland!

On first arrival, Las Vegas was a bit much. It's bright and crazy and posters featuring "classy" burlesque shows abound. Since we arrived on a Saturday, it seemed there were thousands of people wherever we walked.

By Sunday night, though, I figured out where I was spatially. I feel uncomfortable when lost, and casinos are laid out for that very purpose, but Sunday night I had the hang of it, and there weren't that many people around. I played two games of roulette with $5 and won both times by betting on black. I walked away and tried my hand at craps with a nice middle-aged dealer showing me how it's done. I played minimum bets until I lost, and I walked away with $60. At one point, I was rolling, probably threw the dice thirteen times, and I was making the folks at the table lots of money. One guy kept yelling, "Come on, Sweats!" because I had a sweatshirt on. He high-fived me. I liked craps because it had a community feel.

The Robert McKee seminar was decent...if an attendee is patient, he can sift a few gold nuggets from a river of arrogant silt.

Even though I saw one of the top four sexy pirate fights ever at Treasure Island and grinned like a kid at the Bellagio's water show, Las Vegas was enjoyable primarily because of the folks I was with. I spent time with people I love (Ben, Steve, Don and Jim) and met new friends (Sonny and Brandon). Thanks for the fun, gentlemen.

It's nice to be back, even though it's freezing. It was nice to get some sleep.


Letters to wackos. Volume 2.

Attention would be fugitive terrorists: So you’ve got the sand-crack. So what? You live in a cave in the desert without running water. It’s pretty much expect- Wait, what’s that? You don’t know what I’m talking about? Really? Oh, so you’ve got fresh supplies of wet wipes just stacked up in the cave then? Plenty of double ply t.p. in the janitor’s closet? Listen, the jig is up. You’ve got anus gravel.

"Phantom itches are the worst."

the Holy F-Bomb

I just posted about this over at Prayers for Blowouts, so I won't rehash the whole thing here. But an ESPN Reporter (Dana Jacobson) was very drunk at a Celebrity Roast last week and said "F--- Notre Dame, F--- Touchdown Jesus, F--- Jesus".

She has been suspended, has issued an apology to the Catholic League, and will surely have to live with her unfortunate choice of words for quite some time.

What I want to draw your attention to, however, is the poll that was up on WorldNetDaily tonight:

(click to see larger)

not only that, but check out the results as of a half hour ago:

(again, click to see larger)

according to 80% of the 7,000 respondents, Jacobson should either be fired or go to hell if she doesn't repent. or both!

Let this be a lesson to you, Burnside Nation. Avoid all alcohol at work functions.


Letters to wackos. Volume 1.

Attention would be assassins: Don’t put up cut out newspaper clippings on the wall of your apartment. Don’t circle the head of anybody with a magic marker. Don’t put any big “x”s across any photos. I know you want to. You’re probably staring at a blank wall with pictures in your hands even now aren’t you? But just stop and think, why do you do this? When the cops bust your place what do you think they’ll see first? What? Tell me. Walk back into your crummy apartment right now and tell me. Yeah, that’s what I thought. You really are such an idiot aren’t you? Why not do something with your life instead of making big collages on walls? I bet you don’t even have a get-away plan. Do you? Not a real one I bet. Do you?? You’re such and idiot. Nice choice of furniture by the way. How do you even buy chairs that bad? I’m actually curious now. I want to know. Because I’m picturing you casually perusing the aisles of a Goodwill and it’s killing me. Wait, now you’re driving home with that bare pin-striped mattress and tarnished metal bed frame stuffed into the back of your hatchback. Why don't you strain your neck a little more to see out the rearview mirror? – But wait a second now. Wait just a second… Because have you ever considered a chin implant?


The Ballplayer (continued from page 512)

“No way,” you say to J.D. “Don’t you know what that stuff does to your testicles?”

“What are testicles?” J.D. asks.

You ignore him and go to lift weights. During your work out, Coach Thompson walks up and says he has some good news, you received a scholarship offer to Auburn University.

“Is Auburn a good place to go to college?” you ask.

“It’s like USC and Harvard had a baby,” Coach Thompson replies.

You sign with Auburn and during your first week on campus you are approached by Sandy Chaser, a hot blonde you have seen loitering around the athletic complex.

“Hey Moe, would you like to come study in my dorm room?” Sandy asks.

To go and “study” with Sandy in her dorm room, turn to page 77. To focus on school and athletics, turn to page 712.


Where's Waldo?

Some time ago, a reader sent me a link to this image. Click on it to view full size.

He mentioned the image is powerful, but he was having difficult articulating why and asked if there was anyone at Burnside who could comment on it.

I'll be very honest here: I think the image is weird. It's not Osama Bin Laden and George Bush sitting side by side...I do think Jesus loves them both. The art isn't bad, but I wouldn't hang it on my wall. Something just doesn't sit right with me.

Is it my cynicism? Is it because Tony Blair looks like a 6th grader? Is it because Kim Jong Il is wearing a suit and not olive green?

I'll tell you what I do like...Kofi Annan having his feet washed by Jesus. I've never understood the vitriol directed at the United Nations. The UN may be woefully ineffective, but most of that stems from the fact there are 192 member nations, a few of whom are in direct opposition to each other. I mean, at least it's an attempt at peace, right? Kofi Annan's job had to be like herding cats, only there were a few lions and tigers thrown in to mix things up.

What do you think? Post your reactions in the comments.


Everything's coming up Jordan!

Man. Life feels good right now. It's not always like this. Here's a list of the awesome things in my life:

1. "The Wire" Season 4 on DVD. I've only got the first disc so far, but I'm already inside the world. Like a great book, once you enter that world, you don't want to be anywhere else.

2. MacBook Air. It's not like I have one or anything, but look at this thing.

3. Las Vegas. I'll be in Las Vegas from Saturday to Tuesday for a Robert McKee seminar. I've only ever driven through Sin City, and that was with three Mormons, which certainly hindered my chance at stopping at Bellagio's for a hand of blackjack.

4. 5 days off of work. Five days. It feels like a dream come true.

5. My future brother-in-law is out after a day in jail. It's a long story, and the charge is stupid.

6. $.25 beer. The wine steward at our store had a few bottles of really good beer with a variety of cosmetic issues (missing labels, torn labels, etc.). What this means is, I bought two expensive Belgian beers and $15 bottle of top notch beer for $1.

The only bad thing going on right now is Mindy is having surgery tomorrow. They're going to break her nose, poor thing. Fortunately, my nose isn't getting broken, so everything's still coming up Jordan!

A little nose candy makes any song cool...

I've you've listened to the radio in the last few months, I'm guessing you've heard Colbie Caillat's "Bubbly". It's a horribly infectious little diddy. What? You haven't heard it? Well prepare to hum it in your mind all day.

I can't stand this song. The melody is spectacular (any songwriter who can get between your ears like this has to get props), but the lyrics are so saccharine it makes me want to puke. Toes rhymes with "nose", "goes", "shows" and "know"...one stanza down...

If you're in a relationship where this song feels perfect, you either need to wait a few days or you're clinically insane.

But what if there were a way to hear this song as cutting satire on singer-songwriter craft? What if it was a brilliant treatise on addiction? What if "Bubbly" was actually about cocaine?

Well, that's a different story. All the sudden Colby Caillat is crazier than Amy Winehouse. Give it a listen again, and this time pretend she's singing about sweet, sweet lines of blow. At the very least, you'll be able get through without gagging.


The revolt has begun. (And I don't blame them.)

I have a job where I drive around town a lot and visit different locations. Occasionally I’ll see interesting things and take pictures of them with my phone.

Location: McDonalds bathroom. Object: Toilet seat cover dispenser. Title: “Bush hats.” (look closely)

However, today I visited two locations within a half mile radius and came upon a startling discovery.

Exhibit 1:

Attempting to shake it off, I reached to start the ignition in my car but, almost as if pulled by some outside force I first turned to glance at the side of a nearby building:

Pondering these things, I traveled to my next location, an empty office storefront merely two blocks away... Peering though the glass doors, I jumped at least a foot back in shock:

Now, am I saying an army of nude, medium-breasted mannequins have discovered the key to self autonomy and now, evenly distributed throughout populated urban areas, have launched a savage revolt, possibly in response to their grotesque misrepresentations in the film Mannequin and its subsequent sequels?

Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying.

More as it develops…


I Hate Statistics

If you're like me when you look at poverty statistics you find yourself either checking out or wanting to pull all your hair out. Save yourself the pain and check out www.poverty.com and and then do something fun (nerdy fun) about it at freerice.com (yeah, it's not a sustainable solution, but at least we're getting smarter, which will help poverty a lot more than a bunch of rice!).

Peace. Out.

Recapturing the Revolutionary Spirit

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would have turned 79 today. It's amazing to think that, if he had not been assassinated in Memphis forty years ago this April, Dr. King could still be with us today - calling us to our better selves and speaking truth to power as a living prophet. But he sacrificed everything.

In his "Beyond Vietnam" speech, given on April 4, 1967, exactly one year before he was killed, Dr. King urged Americans to "recapture the revolutionary spirit" and declare "eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism" - the Axis of Evil, if you will. It takes no great stretch of the imagination to listen to that great speech and hear echoes of 2008.

On this, his birthday, Dr. King's words and legacy ring out from beyond the grave. An excerpt:

Five years ago [John F. Kennedy] said, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." [applause] Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments. I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin [applause], we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life's roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. [applause]

A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, "This is not just." It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, "This is not just." The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.

A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, "This way of settling differences is not just." This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death. [sustained applause]

The whole speech.

Your New Desktop Background

From Esquire.


Great Olan Mills Photos

I'm unclear as to why Susan didn't post this herself...she would've had some awesome witticisms...but she sent me this link today. It's a collection of portraits with the blog author's comments on each. Simple, yet hilarious. Here's a taste:

That dude wore a tie for nothing.

It's a vagina, madam, not a clown car.


wintering: a few of my favorite things.

though i now live in portland, i've been spending the past few weeks in lovely austin, the city i still [and may always] call home. a brilliant texas cornflower sky has canopied warm 65-70 degree afternoons nearly everyday...it's wonderful to be out of the usual northwest rain and cold.  during my extended vacation, i've had time to catch up on books, music, movies and food, so it thought i'd share some of my already-favorites of 2008.

books: the comedians by graham greene
  & divisadero by michael ondaatje. 
[i might have an enormous crush on both of these authors.]
music: 'a&e'- goldfrapp 
& 'suicdl tndncz'- heartsrevolution. 
[makes me want to swoon or move.]
music video: 'declare independence' by björk and directed by michel gondry.

film: the diving bell and the butterfly. 
[gorgeous. moving. poetic. intelligent.]
food: taqueria arandas. 
[super cheap and delicious.] 
[rumored to be bill clinton's favorite austin restaraunt.]
if you find yourself in austin, i highly recommend paying each place a visit. 

that's all for now. enjoy.

A quick one before I go...

I'm heading to the Oregon Coast this weekend and won't have internet access. I'm hoping my BWC brethren keep you entertained over the weekend. I'm also hoping the sky is even remotely as blue as it is in this picture, but that's like hoping Venzuelan president Hugo Chavez isn't completely insane.

Before I go, though, I was just looking at the Burnside stat page, where I can view recent internet searches which pointed to our site.

One web surfer found us after putting in "bernsid riters colective".

God bless that little guy, wherever he is.

what's grosser than gross?

i've worked with all of the following people before. I'm betting many of you have too.

(though i refer to them as "guys", it could obviously be a woman as well.)

- The guy who brushes his teeth in the bathroom at work.
- The guy who is wearing part of his lunch on his face or his shirt every afternoon.
- The guy who clips his fingernails at his desk.
- The guy who habitually has the worst breath on the entire planet.
- The guy who loudly tells other people about his sexual exploits.
- The guy who audibly burps and then loudly says, "excuse me".
- The guy who has no shame in walking into the bathroom with a newspaper under his arm.
- The guy who picks at his teeth and gums with his fingernails while talking to you.
- The sick guy who loudly clears his throat by hocking up a loogie, only he swallows it.

So three questions:

1. Want to fess up about being one of these people?
2. Have i missed anyone?
3. Of all of these nasty habits, which one bothers you the most?

ps...remember those "what's grosser than gross" jokes? those were awesome.

Once a Wunderkind...

It's difficult now to separate Ryan Adams from his media image. Back to his Whiskeytown days, he's always been brash and prone to substance abuse. He was the sort of frontman rock and roll fans dream about, and his bad behavior (like so many before him) added to the allure because he was brilliant. Any moron can get on stage smashed and mumble through a Replacements cover...it's talent that makes you a bona fide rock star.

Now, Adams is a Starbucks staple. This isn't altogether a bad thing: Starbucks pushes better music than most radio stations. And even though there have been some great songs and decent albums in Adams' extensive last 6 years, I often forget he was once my favorite musician.

This article, dug up by my friend Steve, chronicles Ryan Adams at the Aladdin Theater in February of 2001, which was my first live experience with Ryan. I've only seen a couple shows better than this one, but none as life-altering. For a 20 year-old kid who frequently got his heart broken, Adams' solo debut, "Heartbreaker", felt like the greatest album of all time.


What does Justice look like for Israel-Palestine?

I got this email yesterday from Sojourners. It feels so important to me that I am including it (almost) in its entirety. I am trying to remember to pray, and I hope you will, too. If you're not quite sure what you think about this, please take some time to learn about one of the most pressing peace and justice issues of our day. Thanks for reading.

* * *

Dear Penny,

The extreme right says U.S. Christians oppose peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Tell Condi Rice they don't speak for you

As President Bush prepares to travel to the Middle East for the first time this week, he's been hearing a lot from Christians on the extreme right who oppose a just peace between Israel and the Palestinian people.

They'd like our political leaders to believe that their misguided fundamentalist theology and reckless militarism represent the views of all U.S. Christians - but we know that's not the case.

Don't underestimate how extreme these groups are - the leader of "Christians United for Israel" has gone as far as to suggest that Hurricane Katrina was a punishment from God for U.S. support of Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. He's also urged a pre-emptive military strike against Iran.

Fortunately, dozens of evangelical leaders, including our own Jim Wallis, have recently come together to present an alternative point of view. In a public statement, they wrote:

In the context of our ongoing support for the security of Israel, we believe that unless the situation between Israel and Palestine improves quickly, the consequences will be devastating. ... As evangelical Christians, we believe our faith compels us to speak a word together at this crucial moment.

The Bible clearly teaches that God longs for justice and peace for all people. We believe that the principles about justice taught so powerfully by the Hebrew prophets apply to all nations, including the United States, Israel, and the Palestinians.

Will you answer their call for "all Christians, and everyone of good will to join us to work and pray faithfully in the coming months for a just, lasting two-state solution in the Holy Land"?

Of course, Christians of every theological and political stripe care for the well-being and security of the Israeli people. But the extreme right goes too far by opposing diplomatic efforts to negotiate a peaceful settlement between the Israeli government and the Palestinian leadership. And there's reason to believe they have the ear of President Bush - who sent a personal greeting to be read at one of their recent gatherings.

Sign our petition to Secretary of State Rice, letting her know that Christians support a just peace between Israel and Palestine.

Thank you for all that you do.


Ryan, Michael, Elizabeth, and the rest of the team at Sojourners

O Come All Ye Faithful

You know what this kid is thinking about? The woman over his right shoulder.

If you're not on Facebook (and why not?) you probably missed Donald Miller taking public requests for an article he's working on titled "The Top 10 Christian Songs to Make Love To."

Here were a few of the selections. Feel free to post your own below.

"How Firm a Foundation"
"O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing"
"Flow River Flow"
"O Come All Ye Faithful"
"Come Thou Fount"
"Kiss Me Like a Woman" by Charlie Peacock
"Let The Bride Say Come"

From Steve Mason of Jars of Clay:
"Your Supper, Lord, Before Us, Spread"
"Blessed Be the Tie That Binds" (for the S&M Christians)

Don and I have discussed this before, so I had a few of my favorites ready, but it seems like some of the best slipped my mind. Here were my contributions:

"In the Silence of the Night"
"You Know Me Completely"
"Into Your Hands"
"God Has Touched Me"
"How Long?"
"Receive Him Today"
"Strong Tower"
"Come Fill My Heart"

And my favorite (and an excellent hymn at that)...
"Oh the Deep Deep Love of Jesus"

I have a feeling Aaron Donley's gonna be really good at this...


Nothing can stop THE ANIMAL!!!

Some friends and I are heading to the coastal town of Lincoln City this weekend for a sort of pre-bachelor party get-together. We plan to play Tiger Woods Golf on Nintendo Wii, possibly stop by Chinook Winds for some minor gambling (remember: keep a budget and set a time limit!). You would've thought I'd learned my lesson about casinos.

Anyway, there's always a flurry of email exchanges wherein my friends and I work out details. One of those details was transportation, and since January can get pretty sloppy and cold, I expressed concern over Steve's offer of his Toyota Prius. This was his response:

"Prius actually has this feature where GRIPPING CLAWS pop out of the tires in poor conditions, so I think we're good there."

A quick YouTube search yielded this gem:

Is "Galoob" even a toy company anymore? I remember wondering how they did those special effects of the cartoon claw coming out of the tire when I was younger. I remember really enjoying the image of The Animal climbing that raging creek.

Let's not even get into the fact Steve once pined for a 4x4 with retractable tiger paws and now drives a Prius. Such is growing up. Sigh.


Journey Through the Tenth Grade (continued from page 223)

You say, “How about we meet at the local coffee shop at seven, and study there?”

Julie Anne looks a little disappointed, but says she will see you there at seven. You breathe a sigh of relief, and then make your way to the cafeteria for lunch.


At lunch you sit by Jason and a few of your other guy friends. They begin to make comments about some of the attractive girls at the end of the table. This makes you uncomfortable, so you try and change the subject.

“Can you guys believe that Tom Cruise would jump up and down on Oprah’s couch?” you say. “How rude is that guy?”

“Yeah,” Jason says. “You really shouldn’t put your shoes on other people’s furniture.”

“That’s not her furniture,” says one of the guys.

“Well it is someone’s,” you say.

“It might be Tom Cruise’s furniture,” says another guy.

“Why would Tom Cruise own the furniture on Oprah’s set?” you ask.

“I don’t know,” says the guy. “Let’s talk about boobs again.”


The guys begin talking about the girls at the end of the table again, and Jason turns to you and asks, “Hey man, can I have the rest of your chocolate bar?”

If you decide to exercise generosity and share your chocolate bar with Jason, turn to page 45. If you decide to be a selfish glutton, turn to page 16.


Soon, we'll all be "Wire"less

The best television show in the history of the world begins its final season tonight.

I won't be watching because I still haven't seen Season 4. If I started season four, I'd be done within 3 days (or as fast as Netflix can ship the discs to me), and I'm delaying the pleasure. I've now watched the entirety of "The Sopranos" and "Carnivale", and the sadness that accompanies each HBO series finale is like the final pages of a great book. I'm saving my final seasons of "Deadwood" and "The Wire" like the cherry and pineapple gummy bears in a bag of Haribo.

"The Wire" has somehow survived its run against weak ratings, which is understandable. There must be hundreds of crime dramas out there, and I get the feeling most Americans can more easily connect with the high-tech gadgetry of of "CSI" (re: white people) than the hardscrabble, bureaucratic mess of Baltimore slums and political halls (re: what it's like to be poor and black).

Here's what I'd say to that: putting all those issues aside, "The Wire" is immensely entertaining. It's dark, to be sure, but it's also hilarious and hopeful. There are fantastic elements from great fiction ("Dante's Inferno" plays heavily into season 3) and colorful characters (the battle between professional killer Brother Mouzone and stickup man Omar plays like an old Western). There are pristinely-crafted stories of love, betrayal and redemption.

But if we put the issues back in, the show becomes genius, the best social commentary on the death of a city (towns like Gary, Indiana and Detroit, Michigan probably resonate deeply), but more poignant when reflected on America itself, because the slums of Baltimore are as uniquely American as the stilted beachfront homes in Orange County.

Truly prophetic art tells us the overarching message of the human condition within the confines of a chosen medium. There are heroes and villains in "The Wire", but their motivations and humanity are clear either way...we may not forgive the villains for their evil, but they didn't reach that point randomly. Charlie McCollum once referred to the show as "the great American novel" the US has been missing since World War II.

All this is to say, don't be afraid of "The Wire". It's worth your time. It's worth more than watching a movie, and it's worth more than reading most books. I'm serious.

Journey Through the Tenth Grade (continued from page 71)

“No,” you say, and swallow the rest of the candy bar in one bite.

“Thanks for nothing,” Jason says.


Two months later you are walking down the street when an escaped cannibal jumps out from behind a bush and hits you on the head with a four iron. Later, as he is eating you, you cannot help but wonder if things would have been different had you given Jason the rest of your candy bar.

The End


A Festivus for the Rest of Us

If you've been to Burnside's main site lately, you may have noticed a new banner ad for the Calvin College Festival of Faith and Writing.

First off, I've been a big fan of Calvin College since I was 19, when a friend of mine who was an RA on campus suggested I would fit well there. Calvin has been in the news for other awesome things, like this. And while I never actually attended Calvin, I wear the hooded sweatshirt I bought there so people think I did.

Two years ago, I attended the Festival of Faith and Writing along with Don, who was speaking there. It was a fantastic experience, featuring an array of seminars on everything a writer could want to know. Marilynne Robinson and Salman Rushdie were two of the dozens of notable speakers in 2006, and Michael Chabon and Yann Martel top this year's list.

It's also a great place to connect. I got to meet great writers like Sarah Raymond Cunningham, and chat with editors from various publishing houses...everyone from Eerdmans to Zondervan. I met Kim Culbertson from Relief Journal there, too.

If you can possibly make it out to Grand Rapids for the event, I strongly suggest it (our Midwestern readers have it easy). Like the Olympics, the Festival only comes around every two years. Fortunately, Calvin added the Festival of Faith and Music to the off year, bringing in Sufjan, Emmylou Harris and Neko Case last year.

Sadly, I won't be making it this time around...I have to get married that week. But, you know, I think that will be fun, too.


A Note from the BWCFFL Champion

Upon seeing Jordan’s impending doom in the BWCFFL (Burnside Writers Collective Fantasy Football League) last week, I felt compelled to ask what exactly it is I’d just won. This wasn’t out of pride, really. Basically I was broke and could have used the cash. I work for a Christian non-profit, which pretty much means I’m a Christian non-profit. So to quote Ricky Bobby, “I’m a winner. Winners get to do what they want.” And what else would I want but to wax rantilious on how you can win at fantasy football? So here’s you’re list of three ‘don’ts’ and a ‘do’ for Fantasy Football next season.

Don’t pick a good team name

Take my team name, Pool Bums. It is meaningless to anyone except me and displays an utter lack of creativity. This is tantamount to picking a big, fluffy cat for your online poker avatar. You’re setting your opponents up to think you’re a putz and have no shot at winning. Throw in some bad smack talk, even a few bad draft picks, and no one will see you coming.

Don’t statjack

My day job is making Bibles that people will actually read. Not notes people will read, or promise books, but Bibles people will really get into. We’ve started publishing Bibles without chapter and verse markings because of a practice we call versejacking—the violent removal of a so-called ‘verse’ from it’s context and it’s placement in a new context. A Bible without those extras really makes for a more fulfilling reading experience with a lesser propensity to versejack. (www.thebooksofthebible.info—end shameless plug.)

Same principle applies to stats. You can’t rip stats out of their context. If that worked, Larry Johnson would have made a great number three pick. Sure, he was the second best player in fantasy for the last two years. But he had one of the best o-lines in football blocking for him. Take away twenty seven years of Pro Bowl experience, a veteran QB and throw in a hold-out ending with a long term deal, and you’ve got a recipe for a sure fire bust. Just because everyone else thinks someone’s the best player on the board doesn’t mean they are. You may not look smart, but you’re no playing Jeopardy. Fantasy Football isn’t about looking smart, it’s about being smart.

Do make that trade

Sure, you take the sucker trade if you can get it. But if you can’t, be willing to pull the trigger on a tough deal. BSWCFFL saw just three trades the entire season. By far the most intriguing was Roethlisberger/Lewis for McGahee/Clark. It’s no coincidence that the owners who made that trade were in the championship game. It seems counter-intuitive to give up a stud like Roethlisberger, especially if all you’re trying to do is shore up your TE slot. But points on the field are better than points on the bench. If you can move a bench guy for a starter, it’s always worth it.

Don’t count on Purple Jesus during Advent

Every year our office is decorated for Christmas right after Thanksgiving, complete with pseudo-biblical nativity. So we’ve got golden fleece diapered baby Jesus laying in a manger well before advent begins. In response to this absurd act, we’ve been known to replace the porcelain skinned Savior from his crib with a note reading, “Don’t rush me! Be back December 25th.”

You see, Jesus just doesn’t come before Christmas, purple or otherwise. This kind of mistake can be quickly cured by giving up America’s overly secularized holiday season in favor of the traditional Christian calendar. Expecting any sort of Jesus to show up during Advent is like declaring mission accomplished while bombs are still falling.

In all seriousness, I just got lucky with Brian Westbrook. These guys all really knew what they were doing. Nearly every time I thought about picking someone up, someone else had already made the move. They were smart, funny and gracious—just the kind of boys you’d want to take home to mom.

You guys are great. Thanks for letting me be a part of it. I had a blast.

(Editor's note: "p" stands for Paul Berry. Congratulations, Paul.)

I'm a horrible person...

In the flurry of activity that led up to the Burnside Writers Collective Best of 2007 Music List...I inadvertently left out a list by one of our best music writers, Matt McKechnie.

By way of an apology, I am posting Matt's list with his commentary on the blog here. I will also be renaming my son Matthew McKechnie Ham and flagellating myself with a cactus plant.

Matty 'GravenCanada' McKech's Top 10 Picks of 2007

10. Smashing Pumpkins - Zeitgeist
Many critics called this album a moneygrab but by listening to tracks like 'Thats The Way (My Love Is)', it is evident that the heart of SP is in this production, even though James Iha and D'arcy didn't make the reunion. Highly touted and advertised through MySpace blogs, this album actually has some depth and as the term 'Zeitgeist' defined tells us, the Pumpkins are back and not so introspective; they are taking notice of the cultural climate of the United States.

9. Feist - The Reminder
Leslie Feist follows up her first major release by topping her sundae of success with a cherry of musical delights. Though I wish some of the tracks were less effects-heavy (i.e. sounding like Feist is singing under a tunnel through a cardboard tube), The Reminder shows us that Leslie is out to remind us about the meaning of love, sacrifice and truth.

8. The New Pornographers - Challengers
Though Vancouver natives TNP struggle to make true art in the face of critics wanting so eagerly to define them as a 'supergroup', this album's climaxes seem a little premature at times. Overall though, there are few on the market who can construct such humm-able melodies as The New Porns. This album also showcases the talent of Neko Case a little more effectively than Twin Cinema.

7. Kevin Drew - Spirit If...
I can't even count the number of times I have read reviews where critics (especially in Canada) complain about the Arts and Crafts label having 'carte blanche' on Canadian radio. My response is simply 'Show me another musical troupe that rivals the passion and creativity of Drew and his band of Toronto nomads'. Though Drew tends to drool on himself with his stream of consciousness drivel, the end result of his solo effort is satisfying and bright.

6. Foo Fighters - Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace
Davey G and the crew are back for another multiple guitar track laden effort...and it's really friggin good. Though SPIN Magazine panned this newest offering and actually referred to Grohl's career as 'fantastically average', I beg to differ and suggest that SPIN needs to hire some new writers. Dave bookends his passion on every corner of this album, breaking away from the ultra-personal 'In Your Honour' to more universal themes and never apologizing for rocking the way he does.

5. The Weakerthans - Reunion Tour
It's really hard to hate a band from Winnipeg. It's even harder to hate a hyper-talented band from Winnipeg who can release albums almost four years apart and still command such a massive listening audience. Reunion Tour is more of the same from Stephen Carroll and the lads - vocal and guitar-driven hooks framed around interesting character-based lyrics - but still somehow oddly different. That's the magic of The Weakerthans.

4. Eddie Vedder - Into The Wild Soundtrack
Though I'm not an Eddie fan, my wife asked me to download this album and its bare-bones creative spool is incredibly hard to resist. The simplicity of the songwriting makes you understand the characters of a film without actually seeing the end product (although I did see it). Songs like 'Rise Up' pull you into the instrumentally eclectic and ever contemplative feel of this hats-off creation from Vedder.

3. The Apostle Of Hustle - National Anthem Of Nowhere
I don't know if there is a band as original sounding as The Apostle, these days, in ALL of music. I'm actually not kidding. I just got a chance to see these guys live in the Nation's Capital (that's Ottawa...not Vancouver or Toronto, folks) and they blew the stage to bits with just three performers. Half Cuban and Half Canadian, Andrew Whiteman writes songs that harness latin rhythms and blend them into an indie soundscape. No matter who you are, Whiteman will have you singing his national anthem by the end of this disc.

2. Bright Eyes - Cassadaga
My friend Jon Adams can attest to the fact that even my placing Bright Eyes on a list of favourites is a testament to Conner Oberst's genius. Determined to hate them from the get-go, this LP won my soul over and displays the simple, clairvoyant sounds of a man trying to change his way. The arrangement is nothing short of epiphanal.

1. Stars - In Our Bedroom After The War
Of course I HAD to end on another album from Arts and Crafts (that's 4 out of 10 if you're counting. And NO - I do not work for Arts and Crafts. They are hypnotists. I want my brain back.) Torq Campbell and the lovely Amy Millan pull us through the fourth major offering from Stars. Based on fictional caricatures of a war-torn city, the listener is drawn into an ethereal world of riots, bomb threats and people just trying to define their existences. Stars have managed to take steps where other musicians don't dare and for that, I salute them. This album does not disappoint from beginning to end.

the music and literature of my aught-seven

I've just finished compiling the list of books that I read and CDs that i enjoyed the most over the past 12 months. If either of those lists interest you, you can check them out in their entirety over at my blog...

My 11 favorite CDs of 2007

Most of the books I read in 2007

And if you care to see what a librarian's reading list for 2007 looks like, check out my friend Karibeth's blog, where she listed all 152 books that she read this year, many with reviews. (she read 135 in 2006 and 116 in 2005.)


It's a New Year

So, welcome to 2008! It seems the same as 2007. It's still raining.

New Years is a big deal for us. Last year, at midnight, I proposed to Mindy, and all of our friends were there. This year, Mins put together an awesome dinner party for a small group, and we enjoyed each others' company until a few hours after midnight.

We also played Wii.My attempts at scaling back for Christmas were mostly successful, but there was a piece of art Mindy wanted, and we agreed to buy it after Christmas.

At Christmas, my cousin Evan brought his Wii. I'd been telling Mindy we should at least put a Wii on our wedding registry, but she was unconvinced. The first game we played was Wii Sports Tennis. We were 30 seconds into our first set when Mindy said, "I want one of these, and I want it now."

A few days later, I said, "I'm planning on buying you that art, but maybe you'd like a Wii instead?" I try and be unselfish in my gift-giving, and I like to think I appreciate art at least marginally more than your average American male, but comparing an awesome, innovative video game system to a mixed media piece that hangs on a wall is a little like comparing a live golden retriever to a stuffed moose head.

Mindy agreed happily.

But it's not easy to get a Wii. None of the big box stores have them online, and in-store stock is gone within minutes. We bidded for a few on eBay, but they were going for at least $50 over asking price.

Then we tried Craigslist, but every one we called about was already taken. We started updating the site every hour or so when we finally stumbled across a new Wii with a few accessories. A new seller popped up, and he simply wanted the store price.

I called immediately. The man answered and I told him we'd definitely buy his console. He told me the story about the Wii, how he'd purchased it for his nephew for Christmas, but how the nephew had gone into hysterics because he'd actually wanted an Xbox 360.

"Boy, that sounds like a barrel of monkeys," I deadpanned.

"Well, he has Down Syndrome," the man replied.

"Ah...that explains it then!" I backtracked.

We drove out to Beaverton to pick it up, handed the lovely gentleman some cash, and had our Wii. I had to work that afternoon, so Mindy played it alone until I got off in the evening, when I promptly dominated her at Wii Tennis. She's better than me at bowling, but I practiced today and finally got the hang of it. I feel my Wii character (referred to as a 'Mii') is close to unstoppable.

In conclusion: Nintendo Wii is awesome.

Journey Through the Tenth Grade (continued from page 17)

“I don’t know,” you say. “I don’t think mom would want people worshipping the devil in our house.”

“Please,” Jason begs. “We won’t make a mess.”

“Ok,” you concede, and Jason thanks you.


Minutes later Jason and his friends have taken all the furniture out of the living room except for the entertainment center, which they have turned into a makeshift alter. Soon they have a live goat tied to the alter, and Jason is standing over it with a large knife. He chants the words to an Enya song, and right before he slashes the goat, your mother walks in. “What are you doing?” she screams.

“Whore of Babylon!” Jason screams back. “She must replace the goat!”


Before you know it your mother has replaced the goat. When you protest, they tie you up next to her. But fortunately for you both, an episode of the "Gilmore Girls" comes on the television, and the devil worshipers stop to watch it. During a scene of absurdly fast dialogue the two of you escape. Thankful to be alive you and your mother embrace in the yard, and then she grounds you for two weeks.

The End


Journey Through the Tenth Grade (continued from page 45)

“Look guys,” you say. “Women are not objects for us to lust over. We should respect them, and treat them the way we would treat our sister or mother.”

“Sister or step-sister?” Pepe` asks.

“Sister,” you say.

“You are right,” says Robby. “We’ll get some cement from the shop class and fill up this peep hole immediately.”


Satisfied that Robby and gang will do the right thing, you walk out to the parking lot and wait for Jason at his car. He shows up a moment later and after he cranks the car asks, “Did Julie Anne ask to study algebra with you tonight?”

“Yes, we are meeting at the coffee shop at seven”

“She isn’t coming over to your house?”

“No, she has a bit of a reputation you know.”

“Yes,” Jason says. “That is why I figured she would be…never mind. Well, if Julie Anne isn’t coming over, do you mind if me and some other people come over around eight?”

“What other people?” you ask.

“Just some of the guys from the basketball team, their girlfriends, some of their girlfriend’s friends, a few people I know from Central High School, my cousin Ralph, and Pepe`.”

“I don’t know,” you say. “That sounds an awful lot like a party.”

“Come on man,” Jason says. “It is not a party, will just be hanging out.”

If you decide to let Jason and his friends party at your house, turn to page 14. If you decide to invite him to a Bible study at your house, turn to page 13.