Boom Goes the Vice Presidential Candidate!

Leave it to Deadspin. They asked for footage of Sarah Palin's Alaskan sportscasting, and their endless myriad of readers respond.

Dexter and Me

I should be watching the Democratic convention, but I’m watching season two of Dexter on DVD instead. This story about a serial killer who kills serial killers has me hypnotized. And that’s starting to bother me.

When I discovered this gem of a Showtime drama last year, the main character troubled me. As a psychologist, I’m pretty good at telling the difference between regular crazy and scary crazy. Dexter is scary crazy. He’s a high-functioning sociopath – the worst kind. The stupid and reckless ones get killed or arrested. The methodical, grinning, patient ones are far more dangerous. It’s the difference between Frankenstein and Dracula. Dexter is Dracula.


At the beginning of the first season, I wanted Dexter to get caught. His expedient coolness gave me chills. After a couple of episodes, however, I warmed up to him and began hoping that he would change. I wanted him to heal, grow, and destroy the monster within. Then, in season two, he fell in love and stopped cutting up murderers.

It was awful.

I wanted the old Dexter back. I didn’t realize how satisfying his version of macabre justice had been. I howled in protest as Dexter let murders go unpunished as he cavorted with his flaky new girlfriend. “C’mon Dexter!” I shouted at the television. “Get out of bed with that floozy and go kill someone!” An episode later, he did just that. Then his nemesis, Sergeant Doakes, almost caught Dexter. I routed for Dexter to get away so he could continue butchering bad guys. If he had to kill Doakes to do so, it would only bother me a little.


Good Lord, what‘s the matter with me?

Why am I cheering for a sociopath who chops criminals into little pieces without a fair trial? Why does a friggin’ psychologist like me want this guy to stay sick in order to satisfy my primal urges for vengeance? I’m not sure, but I think I understand now why my politics are more dovish than hawkish. I’m figuring out why I oppose the death penalty and prefer a justice system that presumes innocence until a judge and jury decide otherwise. It’s not because of my moral or political ideals; it’s because I can’t always trust my heart.

If I let my impulses and instincts loose, there wouldn’t be justice; there would be retribution and chaos. I haul around a hot, angry mess of primitive desires that want to be immediate gratification. Maybe that’s why it’s better if I let the words of Christ guide me instead of my gut. I need to look for Lincoln’s better angels instead of the visceral quick fix.

Not that I won’t keep getting a little catharsis through Dexter. But, along with the suspense, intrigue, and blood, the show offers some good lessons. Dexter feels lost and miserable most of the time. His compulsive justice never satisfies for very long. His story is about what happens when we choose the immediate release of tension instead of the patience and grace that brings peace over time. I could tell you a lot of stories about the trouble that choosing the former has caused me, but that will have to wait. I need to turn my television back on and find out if Dexter gets away.


The Appeaser

The handsomely-mustached man you see on the left was Neville Chamberlain. You're probably familiar with the other guy. Neville Chamberlain is mostly remembered for this line:
"This is the second time in our history that there has come back from Germany to Downing Street peace with honour. I believe it is peace in our time."
Then, almost a year later, the Nazis invaded Poland.

During the last 7 years, Chamberlain's appeasement has been frequently tapped as a method of shaming anyone who would disagree with the military policies of the Bush Administration. "Oh, you want to talk to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? That really worked out for Neville Chamberlain, didn't it?" It's also commonly used to smack down anyone who claims to be pacifist? "You know who was a pacifist? Neville Chamberlain. Good luck with that."

This is why, as Russia swept through Georgia right before the Olympics and George Bush attending the Olympic Games with Vladimir Putin, pictures like this and this and articles like this, seem so disturbingly familiar.

Oh, well. At least the US military is rested and ready for a return to the Cold War...oh, wait...okay...well, at least Georgia isn't a part of NATO, and they're probably like other former Soviet Republics in that they don't like us all that much, right? What? They have a street named after President Bush?! Then, at the very least, we can rely on this administration to work the foreign policy magic it always has. Sigh.

I got nothing.


Chad's Totally Unbiased Auburn Prediction

Late August 2004 - The Summer Olympics had just ended, a Russian-named hurricane was bearing down on the gulf coast, and Auburn opened the season with Louisiana-Monroe. Auburn won 31-0, and finished the season 13-0

Late August 2008 - The Summer Olympics have just ended, a Russian-named hurricane is bearing down on the Gulf Coast, and Auburn opens the season Saturday against Louisiana-Monroe.

Prediction? What else: Auburn, 31 - Louisiana-Monroe, 0

And since I'll be at the beach next Friday, let me predict the Auburn vs. Southern Mississississippippi Game.

Auburn, 35 - Southern Miss, 10 - Brett Favre, 7

War Damn Eagle!

A New Hope: Previewing Oregon's Football Season

Why do I have a feeling I've stolen Chad Gibbs' title? That Star Wars nerd...

Tomorrow, it's Duck season. This is my favorite time of the year, a time spent with friends with Otto's Sausage and pristinely-crafted fresh-hop harvest pale ales. Last year, the grill was flaming around 11 am, and I'd stand out on our balcony at Don's place overlooking Sellwood and breathing in the fading Oregon summer.

Ah, but now I'm in Phoenix, and I miss my friends and Otto's Sausage and Sellwood.

But maybe the change is good. Last time I was living outside Portland, in 2001, the Oregon Ducks finished their season with a Fiesta Bowl win and the #2 ranking in the nation.

Last year began the same way, with a restrained hope. I knew what the Ducks could be great, but isn't that what most sports fans believe when the season is laid out like a blank slab of butcher paper? Still, we had Dennis Dixon and Jonathan Stewart, and some kind of crazy new offense.

And it all unfolded like some Shakespearean tragedy. Our offense was unstoppable. After a minor hiccup at home against Cal where the Ducks were inches from staying in it, Oregon caught fire.

Wazzou, the hated Huskies, the 9th-ranked Trojans and the 6th-ranked Sun Devils went down, carved neatly by Chip Kelly's blistering offense. The national media was a-twitter, and Duck fans were euphoric. There was no way to stop this offense. It was unbelievable. Dennis Dixon went down with an injury, but everything seemed fine...he'd take the week to rest and be back by Saturday to tear the Wildcats apart. With Arizona, UCLA and Oregon State left on the schedule, we were ranked second in the nation.

Then, in Tucson, after a brilliant series where he trotted untouched into the endzone, Dennis Dixon's knee folded, and everything fell apart, and it didn't come back together until the Sun Bowl against South Florida.

This is my sports life. I'd seen this happen with the Cubs (Bartman) and the Blazers (2001 Western Conference Championship against the Lakers). Only this hurt worse.

But, like I keep telling myself, it's a new year. So what if Nate Costa, Dixon's heir apparent, is already out for the season with another ACL tear (poor guy...sheesh)? That's not a bad omen, right? It's not like we haven't suffered injuries to every starting quarterback since Joey Harrington...

The hope is still there, though. Our defense is much improved, our secondary is one of the best in the country, DE Nick Reed is a sack monster, and Jeremiah Johnson was nearly as good as the departed Jonathan Stewart.

Most of all, there's Chip Kelly, the offensive coordinator, and that guy's a genius.

Oh, and Nike money. Lots and lots of Nike money.

Despite that, Go Ducks.

The Race of the Century

It's my personal belief that Christians should keep a safe distance from politics. Ultimately, we just end up throwing our hat on a human endeavor, and the audacity of hoping in a presidential candidate will always finally fail. There are those who disagree, but I think, ideally, I sit in the Jacques Ellul camp on this one: the biggest changes we can make are individual. Whether it's welfare or abortion, the legislation of morality falls far short of actually changing individual hearts.

That said, the 2008 Presidential race is thrilling.

There's so much on the line for the United States: the shifting economic landscape (China, Brazil and India), an unpopular war (Iraq), an impending return to the Cold War (at least I hope it's cold), a floundering economy and an energy crisis. There's also the escalating drug war in Mexican border towns, where more people have been killed since 2001 than US servicemen in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.

And, all else aside, the two candidates are likable. Well...likable to the vast majority of this country who call themselves moderates.

Keeping in mind I'm not nearly as well-versed in politics as some of my esteemed colleagues here, I had a few thoughts recently:

- Watching Obama and McCain maneuver for votes, reflecting where they think the election can be won, has been fascinating. McCain has always been popular with moderate Republicans and Independents, but the stands he's taking seem more focused on shoring up the Republican base. With the exception of die-hard Conservatives, it appears to be working. James Dobson, for instance, said this in February. And while it's not an obvious turnaround, John Pattison's post yesterday seems to indicate Focus Action is at least considering throwing their hat behind the Republican Senator from Arizona.

- Both campaigns seem content to wait for the other to slip up, which seems a more dangerous game to play for Barack Obama. I never thought I'd say this, but I miss James Carville...at least he had cojones. Speaking of Carville, I strongly urge you to rent the documentary The War Room, a blisteringly entertaining view of Carville and George Stephanopolous's brilliant work in the 1992 Presidential campaign.

- It's hard to imagine a group looking more idiotic than Hillary Clinton's diehard supporters. What's that? You're going to vote for McCain? Out of SPITE? Hillary Clinton went to such lengths in the Democratic primaries to distance herself from her reputation as cold and manipulative, and these morons are screwing it all up. Some still hold out hope that Clinton will miraculously win the nomination. Some want Obama to lose because it will mean another shot for Clinton in 4 years.

Listen, Clinton supporters, you stupid jackasses...I'm already suspect of your judgment because you've somehow fallen under the spell of that irrepressible and dynamic charisma Hillary Clinton exudes. But there is too much on the line (all the things I listed above) to waste 4 years because of your personal grudges. If John McCain is the better candidate in your eyes, then vote for him to your heart's content. But please, for pete's sake, vote on your beliefs...not because Hillary Clinton seems more like you. Glassbooth.org will help. Or, if you still feel oh-so-angry at Barack Obama for winning the primary fair and square, then don't vote at all.

UPDATE: John McCain has picked his running mate, and it's brilliant. He's undermining the minority aspect of Obama's campaign by going after all those angry Hillary-ites. Plus, based on Sarah Palin's wikipedia page, there's very little not to like about her. She was in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, has a son with down syndrome, and was named Miss Congeniality at some point for somethingorother. Also, she's supposedly very independent of Big Oil. I'm going to call bullshit on that, since her husband works for BP, and she's a Republican in Alaska. Have you failed me, Wikipedia? Still, she's likable.

Fantastic timing, too...right after the DNC. If this race is being won on Vice President-Picking, I think we'd probably have to give the edge to McCain right now. The Obama campaign team better realize this election isn't being handed to them.



Regardless of your political affiliation, this is cool:

August 28, 1963

August 28, 2008

Donald Miller: Blogger

I'm probably the last guy here to know, but Don's got his own blog now. In his first post, he recaps an email exchange he's had going with Barack Obama! WOW!

Don made fun of me when I told him we were starting this blog. Just wanted to point that out. You're in my world now, Don...the world of blogging.

Vladimir Putin is clever like a fox.

I have another post on the rising US/Russia tensions coming on Saturday, but CNN is reporting Vladimir Putin has accused the U.S. of orchestrating the the Georgian war in order to affect the Presidential election.

Sweet, fancy Moses.

The saddest thing is, based on the the last 7 years, it doesn't even sound that far-fetched. It's sickening.

Think about it...there's the man above, a guy who's been slowly tearing down Russia's democracy for the past 7 years. And yet his accusation gives me pause. And Putin knows it'll give people pause, and that's why he said it.

It's times like this I'm glad I believe in something greater than Russia or the US or humanity.

All Dogs Go To Heaven

Some time ago, I read some sort of theological, very important book. And that book answered, along with many other questions, "Do animals go to heaven?"

That answer was 'no'.

And my mind was blown.

Not for any deep theological reason, you see. My mind was blown because WHO CARES? IT'S AN ANIMAL, for pete's sake. I mean, it's not as if we're talking about baptism! If the realm of Christianity holds onto Creationism because people might doubt God if He didn't create the world in 6 days, then why in the world would we alienate the highly suggestible animal-loving/ child demographic!?!? Think of the totality of death children have experienced if this were true!

I bring this up not for any noble reason. I want animals to go to heaven, sure.

I bring this up because I spent the last hour cleaning up a dog's menstrual fluids from our tile floor. And I want that dog to realize my sacrifice someday.

In a story too long to relay here, we have a rescue dog staying with us right now. "Lola", as we'll call her, is a a lab-pitbull mix. And since I have a pitbull of my own, I was worried that "Lola" would be ushered into the hellish realm of dog-fighting, being as it's Phoenix and not my beloved Portland, so we took her in. And while "Lola" is one of the most sweet and beautiful examples of the pit-bull breed, she's not fixed. This means she's mensruating right now.

So that means I have a dog leaking bloody fluids on our floor, a cat in heat, and a wife who deals with similar issues. All at the same time.

It's horrifying.

And on top of it all, some theologian tells me my heroic dog rescue doesn't mean an iota to my Lord and Savior. I hope when that guy dies, he goes to heaven, and is immediately welcomed by a hoard of golden retriever puppies, and they slobber adorably all over his face. And Jesus and God will share a hearty laugh, and welcome him home.


And I like long walks on the beach...

Hey, I'm Larry and new to the Burnside Blog. I'm a pastor in the Buckle of the Rust Belt, Erie, PA.

I thought about a lengthy introduction about my interests and background. Instead, I'll let you in on an article that I'm working on for the BWC. A few weeks ago my congregation hosted a workshop on autism. The room was filled with an eclectic collection of mental health professionals, teachers, parents, and self advocates. I stood in the back of the room and took in how all these different perspectives related to each other.

The most powerful feature of the day, perhaps, was how the self-advocates in the room shared how they experience autism. There was no text-book, no DSM diagnosis, just people explaining the autism experience to those who are dedicating their lives to serve those with different needs.

And I'm jacked that a church got to have a small hand in making this day happen.

The Best Beer I Had This Year

Finally getting around to this. My apologies.

If you'll recall my last beer-oriented post, you'll remember I wrote of an Imperial IPA so balanced and wonderful that it hearkened, quite pleasantly, to Pez. And it even had a pretty cool dispenser. We stay on that kick, with a beer even more balanced and wonderful than Rogue's Imperial IPA...

...Okay, hold the phone here. I can't write about this beer unless I have one. I'm heading out. I'll be back soon.

And I'm back. Oh, that's good.

Only available from March to August, The Maharaja fills out Avery's "Dictator Series" along with The Kaiser (an Oktoberfest Lager) and The Czar (a Russian Imperial Stout).

I'm not sure how they did it, but the folks at Avery stumbled onto perfection here. Each sip manages to be malt-sweet and sticky, hop-bitter and crisp and just uniformly fantastic.

And that's all. I'm enjoying this too much to break it down. If you're starting out on IPAs, I'd suggest Rogue's offering first...it's a little lighter on the palate. The Maharaja comes down on your tongue like a scimitar, like a Mumbain monsoon. Those may not sound like good things, but some training will get you prepared. Just like those guys who lay on beds of nails.

Look at the coloring! Any more amber, and you'd be pulling dinosaur DNA out of it!

Anyway, hope you've enjoyed our little jaunt into the land of hops and barley and malts, a realm where "Imperial" still means "The Best", dammit. The land...of beer.

(Note: This post was written yesterday around 5 pm. Not today at 8am.)


Focus on the Family: Pray for Rain

We’re starting a new feature here on the BWC Blog. Originally we were going to call this series “James Dobson Watch” and use it as a tool to keep tabs on and lovingly tease our brothers and sisters in the Religious Right. It didn’t take long for us to remember that there is plenty of ridiculousness at every point along the theological spectrum. We dropped the old title and settled on the more inclusive “Focus on the Family.”

But there was nothing wrong with our original instincts. By happy coincidence our first installment in this series is inspired by Focus Action, the political wing of Dr. Dobson’s organization.

When Donald Miller took the podium last night to give the benediction to the Democratic National Convention he made a comment about praying for good weather for Barack Obama’s acceptance speech, which will be given on Thursday night in front of 80,000 people at Denver’s Invesco Field. This seemed to be a reference to a video produced by Focus Action calling on Christians to pray for abundant, torrential, “swamp the intersections” rain – “rain of biblical proportions” – to extinguish the Democratic fires at Mile High Stadium on Thursday, August 28.

The video, which was produced by Stuart Shepard, the director of digital media at Focus Action, goes beyond snark and borders on full-blown creepy. Shepard originally said he was only partly joking: "Sure it's boyish humor perhaps to wish for something like that, but at the same time it's something people feel very strongly about. They're concerned about where [Obama] would take the nation."

Now, apparently, he was all the way joking. Focus Action pulled the video from its website after receiving complaints from about a dozen members of its organization. “If people took it seriously, we regret it,” said Tom Minnery, Focus Action vice president of public policy.
As for his praying for a deluge: "It's called hyperbole," Shepard said Monday. "It is meant to be humorous."

Minnery said the video was taken down because several Focus members complained that prayer shouldn't be used to bring harm on someone else.

"We are not about confusing people about prayer," Minnery said.
(Shepard has since produced a Mea Culpa video about what it’s like to beat out Sean Hannity as Keith Olbermann’s Worst Person in the World.)

We’ll never know the real reason Focus Action took down the video. I’m looking at the weather report and it’s supposed to be sunny and 82 degrees in Denver on Thursday. Then again, maybe we should take Focus Action at their word. Earlier this month, five tornadoes touched in Denver suburbs. Four years ago temperatures dipped down to 42 degrees. And on August 28, 1875 a swarm of hungry locusts - so thick they darkened the sun - descended on Denver and destroyed every garden in the city. Maybe supporters of Rutherford B. Hayes were praying for Egyptian-style plagues against the mountebank Samuel J. Tilden.

Update: John from Berkeley has produced a very funny parody, Pray for Diarrhea.

Got a tip for our little "Focus on the Family"? Send it johnepattison [at] yahoo [dot] com.

Burnside Blog Embiggens Us All

This lovely blog (if I do say so myself) is going through some minor changes.

1) We've got a little Google Ad just over to the right. We won't make any money off this. It will go directly back into Google's coffers because we'll be advertising our main site with the money we make here. Feel free to click on it to your heart's content. Cha-ching!

2) We're adding some contributors. Quite a few, actually. You'll see their names under the "Contributors" tab. We think this will increase our output leading up to the big changes we're planning over on the main site.

And if you're new to Burnside's little slice of the blogosphere, we welcome you whole-heartedly.

The Duck is gone. Long live the Duck.

Kevin Duckworth was Portland's center during the heady years when the Blazers owned the Western Conference. He was the hero to Bill Laimbeer's villain, a pudgy and oafish fan favorite with an incongruous soft touch around the rim.

Kevin Duckworth died yesterday at his home on the Oregon Coast. He was only 44 years-old. Legendary NBA blogger and fellow Blazer fanatic Henry Abbott has a lovely post over at TrueHoop in Duck's memory.

We'll miss you, Kevin.


This Week On The Mothership

Not to detract from the excitement from Don's benediction, but I wanted to take a second to acknowledge the excellent lineup of articles this week on the main site. I generally lose track of what day it is, so sometimes a Monday goes by and I forget to take a look over there. Maybe you're the same way. Regardless, here's a quick reminder.

In the "social justice" section, there's Diane Nienhuis' excellent rumination about living a more conscious life, "Going Green".

Jonathan Adams takes a look at the Olympic men's basketball gold medal game, and thinks about what it means for the NBA in "Truly a Dream".

Bryan Catherman is smarter than I am, and thinks about weightier subjects than pop records and reality programming. If you're interested in using that brain of yours (and you should be), "Limits of the Artist Almighty" considers how an almighty God restrains Himself.

In the reviews section, Michael Dallas Miller spotlights a great release on Daptone Records, and I took a look at the new Verve disc for you Anglophiles.

I'm constantly impressed by the quality of work on the site, and even the comments left by the readers. I feel fortunate to be a part of the whole thing, even in a minor role, and I hope you take the time to check out the new material this week, and possibly join in the conversation.

He nailed it!

You know what was weird just now? I was watching CSPAN, and my old roommate was on there, praying in bunch of a whole bunch of people. I was pretty proud of him.

(Thanks to commentor "Joe" for the link. You're such a helpful little rascal, Joe!)

Don's DNC Prayer

Here are Don's comments and the prayer, directly from Don's website.
I’m honored to deliver the closing prayer at the DNC. Evangelical voices have been scarce within this party, perhaps since the Carter administration. But as strides are being made on key issues of sanctity of life and social justice, as well as peaceful solutions to world conflicts, more and more evangelicals are taking a closer look at options the Democratic Party are beginning to deliver. There is a long way to go, but sending a message to Washington that no single party has the Christian community in their pocket, thus causing each party to carefully consider the issues most important to us, is, in my opinion, a positive evolution. I am glad that, for the most part, the dialogue has been constructive and positive. Will you join me in keeping the conversation thoughtful and not reactionary?

That said, I am honored to speak to, and especially pray with and for, the DNC. Here is the full text of the prayer:

Please join me for the next few moments in our Benediction.

"Father God,

This week, as the world looks on, help the leaders in this room create a civil dialogue about our future.

We need you, God, as individuals and also as a nation.

We need you to protect us from our enemies, but also from ourselves, because we are easily tempted toward apathy.

Give us a passion to advance opportunities for the least of these, for widows and orphans, for single moms and children whose fathers have left.

Give us the eyes to see them, and the ears to hear them, and hands willing to serve them.

Help us serve people, not just causes. And stand up to specific injustices rather than vague notions.

Give those in this room who have power, along with those who will meet next week, the courage to work together to finally provide health care to those who don’t have any, and a living wage so families can thrive rather than struggle.

Hep us figure out how to pay teachers what they deserve and give children an equal opportunity to get a college education.

Help us figure out the balance between economic opportunity and corporate gluttony.

We have tried to solve these problems ourselves but they are still there. We need your help.

Father, will you restore our moral standing in the world.

A lot of people don’t like us but that’s because they don’t know the heart of the average American.

Will you give us favor and forgiveness, along with our allies around the world.

Help us be an example of humility and strength once again.

Lastly, father, unify us.

Even in our diversity help us see how much we have in common.

And unify us not just in our ideas and in our sentiments—but in our actions, as we look around and figure out something we can do to help create an America even greater than the one we have come to cherish.

God we know that you are good.

Thank you for blessing us in so many ways as Americans.

I make these requests in the name of your son, Jesus, who gave his own life against the forces of injustice.

Let Him be our example.


Interesting to note, this isn't Don's first convention. He also crashed a Republican National Convention some years back.


5 Kilos of Coke

Why you should never post something on a blog when it's past midnight and you're super tired.

5 Kilos of Coke
a poem by Bryan Allain

I spent a whole hour with numbers and math
Trying to stick to the ethical path
I never did cheat, I swear I can't fudge it
All that I want is to come under budget

I'm sorry, I said, Got bad news for you honey
just like last month we spent too much money
We did? she said softly, her face was contorted
Maybe it was the 5 Kilos of Coke that you snorted!

I told you I quit, I said with a sniffle
besides my cocaine connections led to my career in Wiffle
You don't play Wiffle Ball, You lying sack of slime
Well, 'a career in engineering' didn't really rhyme

Since when are you a poet, I thought you wrote non-fiction?
Ever since I got rid of my David Sedaris addiction.
Wow, this poem sucks, and no one will read it
But I've written this much, I just can't delete it.

I could probably make a sex joke and some might think fondly
That all I am doing is copying Aaron Donley
I could claim I was drunk when I sat down to write this
Better yet, if you're drunk, you might actually like this.

No No No, forget all the lying
Just make it more random so it doesn't look like you're trying.
Throw in big words, and fake words, and spuckle
and maybe you'll get a vociferous chuckle.

And if you take care and make this verse the best
maybe they will forget all the rest
All you need is a word that rhymes with 'Joe Biden'
And this verse will surely woo them over.

Wow, that was the worst verse by far
I think Dr. Seuss just rolled over in his grave.
What does that mean, anyway, "rolling over in your grave"
I mean, if you roll over in your grave, it's still you in a box under a lot of dirt.

Technically, your face is now looking down instead of up
So I guess it's like you're turning away from the thing that is disgusting you.
But your situation hasn't improved at all.
And the offender is still doing his thing, having no idea you've made a gesture of disapproval.

So, I'm sorry, Seuss, if I've wronged you.
You too Thoreau or Yates or whoever good poets are.
I meant no offense.
I was just tired, and I felt like posting on the Burnside Blog.
And I thought a poem was my best option. Clearly it was not.


Donald Miller to pray at the Democratic National Convention

I just read on Christianity Today that Don is giving the invocation at the Dem National Convention next week. Apparently Cameron Strang, founder of Relevant Mag, pulled out because he's a pro-lifer (and McCain told Rick Warren what he wanted to hear on that issue). Strang recommended Don fill in, so Don's going to Denver.

Does that mean BWC will lose its entire pro-life fan base? Is Don now a friend of baby killers? Most importantly, will BWC lose its huge Big Oil contributions?

PS I am pro-life and am disturbed by Obama's voting record on that topic. He needs some serious education.


The Dan Gibson Pop Culture Minute, Volume III

After an extended hiatus, the Dan Gibson Pop Culture Minute returns. Thankfully, I don't think much happened while I was gone. Still, the "Minute" part of the title is a bit of a misnomer, but it sounded better than the "...Pop Culture Quarter Hour", I thought.

While the Christian music world wrestles with the truth or untruth of Hillsong's "Healer", the secular music audience (otherwise known as "nearly everyone") moves on with their lives unaware of the whole thing, instead recovering from last week's onset of Jonas fever. In the end, the JoBros sold slightly more than a half million copies of A Little Bit Longer, which wasn't nearly the gigantic first week some might have imagined, especially considering the significantly less preteen friendly Lil Wayne sold over a million copies his first week out. Still, it's possible the Jonases might have quite a bit of staying power at the top (Lil Wayne held the top spot for four weeks total), especially since their previous album re-entered the top ten albums this week, with 54 weeks on the chart. If nothing else however, another week at the top would keep the truly miserable rock act Staind from having its fourth album debut at number one, which I'm nearly certain was a sign mentioned by Nostradamus as a predecessor to the apocalypse. Take a moment to let that idea sink in. Staind, a band initially championed by Limp Bizkit front man Fred Durst, has had the top selling album in America on (at least) three separate occasions. If you've forgotten Staind, you should consider yourself lucky, but since I have to suffer with bald frontman Aaron Lewis in my nightmares, click on the video clip below and empathize with my pain.

Although one would imagine this sort of dumb rock would have disappeared sometime around 2002, no such luck. Acts like Seether, Puddle Of Mudd and Disturbed still dominate the rock radio airwaves, while bands that seem successful in the weird parallel indie universe (or "indieverse") that people who read Pitchfork on a regular basis (myself included) inhabit (Spoon, Arcade Fire, etc, let's say) recieve minor percentages of the airplay and sales of the Saving Abels of the world. If you want something to ponder, consider that this song, Puddle of Mudd's "Psycho" (the actual video is unavailable for embedding, which isn't really much of a loss)...

...has been played on rock radio nearly 110,000 times on American radio stations this year, while Spoon's "Don't You Evah" (probably the biggest "indie rock" hit) has managed around 18,000 plays. Your pop culture correspondent isn't hear to make judgement calls on which band is better (ok, it's Spoon by a mile), but sometimes I think we forget just how small bands we might consider sellouts for getting too popular actually are in the scheme of things. Also, there's something to be said for how dire the state of "rock" these days is. We've come a long way from the days of Guns 'n' Roses topping the charts, and I'm not meaning in a positive direction.

Despite our impending cultural doom brought by the hand of those with jacked up pickup trucks and a taste for misogynist rock music, occasionally there are bands that pull of a fairly rockin' aesthetic without sinking to the "dudes with tribal armband tattoos" aesthetic. Last year, it was Against Me!, an anarchist punk band that managed to make a record of intelligent working class rock with New Wave. This year, it's the Gaslight Anthem, with their Springsteenian The '59 Sound.

Comparing earnest rock acts to Bruce Springsteen is a bit of tired rock gambit, but it tends to make sense when a band is playing music that seems to be about everyday folk, and that seems to be the sound the Gaslight Anthem are going for. If you can't get past Craig Finn's voice on the new Hold Steady record, you might want to pick up The '59 Sound, since the storytelling shares a few of the same touchpoints: characters referred to by their first names, and layered references to a world you might not be entirely familar with at first listen, although when the Gaslight Anthem tells tales, there are vastly fewer obvious drug addicts among the cast. They manage, throughout, to be easy and enjoyable to listen to, without pandering or dipping too far into cliche, creating an album that soulful in its depth. The fact that the band is touring with the tedious Rise Against this fall might scare you off, but ignore the crappy company they keep if you're looking for a rock record to crank up in the car, rebelling against the Stainds of this world.

Next week, Lord willing, the Dan Gibson Pop Culture Minute preview of the fall's movies, or possibly an indepth profile of the Bonus Jonas, Frank. Either way, it'll be more entertaining (hopefully) than the work you're avoiding.

The Cost of Blasphemy (Priceless)

(Editor's note: So, this post surprised me. Contributors to this blog, at least for the next...well...9 days...have freedom to post whatever they like, whenever they like. This is done with a high level of trust.

This post, if it had been edited, would not have passed.

And yet, it's very, very funny. I saw it briefly, and saw words we don't post on this blog, and I pulled it immediately. But then I read it, and it does actually say something. You may not agree with what it says, but it's at least worth reading through entirely. So we're leaving it up. Have fun.)

There's been a mistake.

A couple days ago, I saw a 'Monetize' tab in my blogspot settings. When I sign my blog up with AdSense, I get a few cents every time someone looks at my blog (or something like that). It sounded like an easy way to make money, and since I am vehemently opposed to working hard for money, I went for it.

But now I have these awful little ads above my music player that read, "Free Study Bible," "Free Bible CD," and "How Jesus REALLY Saves." What the hell? I don't want this shit on my blog. If I ever write about the Bible it's usually quite blasphemous and heretical. Can't these automatic ad-placers figure that out? Is Google unable to compute satire?

And now I'm not sure if this particular post will make it better or worse. Apparently, this AdSense program recognizes the recurring words that I use in my posts, and thus attaches their ads based on my content. But, shit, if I'm ever making a post about the Bible or Christianity, it's usually pretty negative... I don't really want ads for wedding cakes and Bibles on here. Come on! I need to get these ads changed somehow. Maybe I need to do a quick blitz of anti-Christian sentences so AdSense will think that I hate religion... Let's experiment...

Christianity sucks.

Abortion is great.

Jesus was a homosexual.

Atheism is the best.

Download pornography.

The Bible is a lie.

Don't learn Hebrew.

I'm a philosophy major.

And a psychology minor.

Burn your Bible.

Embrace Satanism.

Evolution is correct and Creationism is incorrect.

Intelligent Design is also incorrect.

Disobey your parents as well as your Father in Heaven.

F***ing ***damn Ass S***.

Skip Church.

Nietzsche said, "God is dead."

Vote Democrat.

I love Christopher Hitchens.

You should masturbate regularly.

Yeah. That should clue them in. Come on AdSense, give me some better ads! This is Total Darkness vs. Blinding Light for crying out loud, don't you get the irony of that title? I don't want my readers to see the light, I want them to neutralize it.

Have you guys ever seen neutralized light? It is not a sight. And that's what we should be advertising on here.

Boom Goes the Inspiration!

Brian Collins, the star/victim of one of my favorite YouTube clips of all time, finally achieved a dream today...he was hired as a sportscaster in Waco, Texas. Let's give the guy a hand, but not before reminding you who he is:

I visited Waco once, and I'll say this: it wasn't that bad. I liked it more than Dallas.

Courtesy of Deadspin.com.


I Believe You are My Healer?

This story is just gaining traction today, and if you hadn't heard about it yet, you were probably going to soon.

Here's the nutshell version: Pastor Mike Guglielmucci was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He went home that day and wrote the song "Healer", which was featured on the new Hillsongs CD that released last week (titled This Is Our God). Integrity Music and Hillsongs felt it was an amazing story, because it was, and have featured the backstory to the song on the DVD and on the web. People from churches across the country were writing in with stories about healing they were receiving, perhaps as a result of proclaiming the truth of the song.

But news reports out of Australia today are reporting that it was all a lie. Michael lied to his fellow pastors, musicians, and even his own family. He does not have terminal cancer. And allegedly he is now seeking professional help.

As news of this spreads online, in your church, at the bar, or wherever news about lying church clergy gets spread...you may be asked about it. This song was a huge hit in Australia (#2 on one of their charts) and was growing in popularity here in the states. Ironically, just last night at worship team practice we all watched the video and started learning the song. So...where does this leave the church?

A few things to consider as you sort this out:

1) Everyone is assuming that because he lied about his cancer, that this song was written with a deceitful spirit. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't. Maybe he crafted this plan years ago. Maybe he wrote the song with good intentions, and only after he did it, did he decide a tragic story would increase it's appeal? We don't know...and honestly, it doesn't matter...which is my second point.

2) The spirit that the song was written in does not validate or invalidate it. Can someone tell me what percentage of the church’s songs over the past 100 years were written out of a humble heart? out of a heart longing to praise God? out a heart looking to write a hit? out of a heart looking for personal fame and glory? out of a heart looking to glorify God? Nope. No one can. Because we don’t know. So let's not pretend this even comes into the equation.

3) As Derek Webb says, "all truth is God’s truth". I don’t care if it comes out of the mouth of Kid Rock, The Rock, or Barack Obama. I don't care if it comes out of the mouth of John McCain, Edwin McCain, or Dean Cain. I don’t care if it’s done with a deceitful heart, a greedy heart, a loving heart, or a depressed heart. If it’s true, it’s true. Period. And if the words of the song were true before you found out Mike was lying, they are still true now.

4) We sing these songs (hopefully) because they proclaim truth about the God we serve. It just so happens that Hillsong and Integrity were duped into including the backstory to this song because it was so powerful, and as it turns out, it was a lie. If this was a song about Mike’s power, I’d throw it in the trash. But it’s a song about God’s power, and because of that I’ll probably sing it again. Maybe.

5) If Mike G. was lying about this to everyone, than clearly he is in need of some healing. Only it's a different healing than he made us believe. Funny thing about God is that he can take the worst situations and find ways to bring glory to himself in them. Wouldnt it be amazing if God used Mike to bring this song into our churches, and then used the popularity of the song to expose Mike for his lying and bring healing into his life? I don't know...it could happen.

6) I'm not endorsing the song or flaming it. It's a simple song, full of simple words and simple truths. I'll leave it up to you to determine its artistic and biblical merits (or lack thereof).

Anyway, just wanted to share some thoughts on this. Maybe you just see it as more bad press for Jesus. Maybe you're sick of "praise and worship" music. Maybe you've sung the song before and you feel duped? Maybe you don't care. The comments are yours if you want to share...


Your Identity as a Pie Chart

What defines who you are?

What things do you attach your identity to?

When I think of my identity, and how I define myself, I usually think of a pie chart because I'm a huge nerd (see that, it's part of my identity...14% nerd). That pie chart is made up of a whole bunch of things that I consider to be a part of who I am...adding up to the whole. There are lots of ways you can go with this as you consider your perception of yourself...

You can go spiritual: I am a child of God...I am a follower of Christ...I am a sinner saved by grace. *** You can go talents/abilities: I am a writer...I am a funny guy...I am a good softball player. *** You can go with titles: I am an electrical engineer...I am President of our Photography Club...I am an elder at church ***You can go with relationships roles: I am a good father...I am a great husband...I am a good sister. *** You can go with fame: I was asked to speak at a conference...I am friends with Derek Webb...I've got Rob Bell's cellphone # in my phone. *** You can go with achievements: I published a book...I finished a marathon...I am a scratch golfer.

It's not the most fun thing to take inventory of, and truth be told, I usually don't think about how I define myself until one of these things changes...and suddenly I'm left feeling better or worse about who I am.

"I was just voted in as a Deacon" - well there's another title to add, I am pretty awesome.

"My wife told me I'm a great husband" - I knew I was a good catch!

or maybe...

"I just lost my job" - wow, I suck.

"No one left comments on that article I just wrote" - I might not be as good a writer as I thought I was.

The reason I bring this up is because of the craptacular Friday I had. As i wrote about on my blog, I lost 2 leads in 2 different sports in the matter of 8 hours. Now, I would never tell you that I define myself by how good (or bad) of a golfer I am. Same goes for my softball skills...no way they define me. And yet, after losing both of these matches on Friday, why am I still feeling a small twisting in my gut 3 days later?

I like to win. I play to win. I don't think that's a bad thing. But sometimes that winning (or success in general) can become part of our identity. And that, I think, CAN become a bad thing. Because a) we're not going to win all the time (unless your name rhymes with Piekull Shelps, and b) in a way, it's an identity built on pride.

So my challenge to you is to think about the things that make up your identity. Take some time doing it and even go so far as to write it out...even though it may take a few minutes. Identify the things that you might be putting too much weight into (Like the promise of being a published author, the fact that you are usually the best-looking person in the room, or the pride you take in your job title) and see if there is an unhealthy balance there.

Think about your list and pray about it. The Holy Spirit will probably help you identify problem areas. The Holy Spirit is really good at that.

Maybe there are some changes you can make on your own right off the bat. Maybe you don't put any stock in how good of a father you are, and that needs to change right now. Maybe your identity as a Christian comes from the fact that you don't have any vices, when really it should be stemming from the fact that you were created by a loving God who redeemed you at the price of Jesus' life. I don't know.

Personally, I'm still wading through it all. How much of my identity should be based on who I am in Christ? (and what, exactly does that mean?) Most of it? All of it? Some of it? Like I said, I'm still figuring out.

But it's days like these that remind me that the confidence I was brimming with last week might have been confidence in the wrong things. The joy I thought I had might have been based way more on my circumstances than it was on God's love for me.

How about you? Do you think at all about the things you attach your identity to? Have you learned any lessons in this are recently that you'd be willing to share?


Geopolitical Chess

Immanuel Wallerstein has written an illuminating column arguing that since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 the United States has misunderstood the new rules of geopolitical chess:
[The U.S.] proclaimed itself, and was proclaimed by many others, the lone superpower. In terms of chess rules, this was interpreted to mean that the United States was free to move about the chessboard as it saw fit, and in particular to transfer former Soviet pawns to its sphere of influence. Under Clinton, and even more spectacularly under George W. Bush, the United States proceeded to play the game this way.
Playing by the wrong rules has caused the U.S. to be outmaneuvered, most recently in the fracas between Russia and Georgia.

A fascinating article. Reading it made me smarter.


The Best Beer I...PSYCH!!!

I'll post my top beer when I get a chance, but I've been nestled in an unbelievable lodge in British Columbia with an unbelievable group of friends, served by and unbelievable family.

And while I'm prone to hyperbole, the word 'unbelievable' is at it's truest state here.

Penny Carothers and Susan Isaacs are here with me, so they can attest to what I've seen this week (I certainly hope they do), but suffice to say it has been life-changing, and I relish the thought of returning to work.

See you soon!


The Dan Gibson Pop Culture Minute, Volume 2b

Life has thrown me a few curveballs lately, so I've been unable to provide the up to the minute Jonas Brothers coverage you started to grow accustomed to with the Dan Gibson Pop Culture Minute, sadly. However, I did want to give the faithful readers of the this blog a preview of an upcoming book I've been working on with former Chicago lead singer Peter Cetera. We're still looking for a publisher (return my calls, Random House!), but I think P. Cet (that's what I call him) and I might have a artistic and economic goldmine on our hands.

May I proudly present:
selections from The Wisdom Of Peter Cetera As Haiku.

Even lovers need
A holiday far away
Far from each other.

Couldn't stand to be
Kept away from your body
Just for a day, no.

After all that's been
Said and done, you are a part
Of me, can't let go.

Our love, meant to be
Kind of love, lasts forever
Need you here with me

Everywhere I go
Always on my mind, my heart
Even in my soul.

Meaning in my life
You are the inspiration
Feeling to my life

Hope you enjoyed this short preview of my newest project as much as P. Cet and I enjoyed working on it. I think we've really distilled the beautiful essence of Peter's work with Chicago into something as simply elegant as a falling snowflake.

Look for a new Dan Gibson Pop Culture Minute next Thursday (Lord willing). In the meantime, enjoy the running series "Beers Jordan Recommended When We Went To The Liquor Store But Dan Was Too Cheap To Buy" currently in progress.


The 2nd Best Beer I Had This Year

Last winter some friends and I spent a weekend on the Oregon Coast. I bought 18 different IPAs, and we conducted a blind taste taste.

For me, this was the winner.

More monolith than bottle, Rogue Ales' Imperial IPA is, in my hop-addled opinion, the best brew in Oregon.

Bottles come in a cobalt, thick clay jug with a stopper top perfect for home brewers. As you can see above, the beer pours pale copper, though I'd suggest a slower pour than the one demonstrated above...if you've got a head on this beer, you're not drinking it right. That goes for any beer as far as I'm concerned.

The methods behind crafting IPAs vary wildly. Some brewers go for all out bitterness, to the point where beers like Caldera Brewery's IPA and Big Sky IPA (both excellent) resemble grapefruit. While bittering and heavy hops appeal every so often, the finest Imperials achieve balance, and Rogue's version is near perfection.

So where excessive hops impart a grapefruit taste, Rogue resembles sweeter fruits like mango. In our blind taste test, my sole note, scribbled next to the highest score on the board, was "Pez". The candy. But I'm telling you, it's in the best way possible.

While the clay bottling is lovely and a valuable part of the experience, part of me wishes this beer came in simple glass bottles...it would at least drop the price tag a bit. And since Rogue Imperial IPA is the most expensive beer on the board at around $15, it's difficult to justify.

Rogue Ales was started in 1988, and is considered one of the pioneers of the microbrew movement. The brewery does best outside the typical lines, without going crazy for the sake of going crazy (like Delaware-based Dogfish Head). Dead Guy Ale is their flagship, but I suggest Chipotle Ale, Juniper Pale Ale and Morimoto Imperial Pilsner as interesting excursions. Their website is also helpful in pairing food with beer, a movement rising against the establishment of wine.

Piss-Beer Nation

Apparently inspired by Jordan Green's ongoing series, Salon has published two articles about domestic beer.

The first is a guide to the country's great piss-beers, a list from which PBR is conspicuously absent.

The second article asks which cheap beer will replace the now Belgian-owned Budweiser as the great American lager. PBR is making a play for the market, but the author likes the chances of Yuengling, a beer that has been brewed in Potter, PA since 1829.


The 3rd Best Beer I Had This Year

Deschutes Brewery is a respectable outfit based in Central Oregon. They produce a steady and readily available line of eminently drinkable beers, both seasonal and year round.

But when they go big, they go really big. I'm not even talking about the unique Bond Series line. I'm talking about the end-all-be-all.

By all rights, The Abyss could be number one on this list. It's won seven major brewing awards. It's a thick tar of hops, coffee, chocolate, oak and malt. It's a beautiful beer to pour, spilling clean black into the widest-mouthed wine glass you can find. It's richer than Warren Buffet, thicker than Kimbo Slice, and nearly as rare as a Honus Wagner tobacco card.

I've never seen a beer with more buzz. On it's 2007 release, some regions of the US didn't even receive shipments, and Oregon retailers hoarded like it was Y2K. Employees at my store tried buying cases, as single bottles were selling north of $30 on eBay, but our beer steward kept the shipments in a locked room, and only sold two bottles at a time to customers who requested the beer outright.

Fortunately, I worked there and the beer stewards respected me. I came away with six bottles overall, a few of which I've consumed with friends (I've never had a full bottle by myself), and a few of which are aging in my friend's cellar. The aging is important...as good as The Abyss is now, it's supposed to reach it's peak in five years.

The Abyss's strength lies in its novelty, richness and accessibility. It's very similar to the 5th beer on our list, Oak Aged Yeti, but where Yeti drops off toward the end, The Abyss keeps melting, dripping taste after taste onto your tongue. Where most beers of that caliber would turn off your run-of-the-mill beer swiller, The Abyss has a broad appeal. It's sort of like The Beatles of beer.

One day at the store, a nice older lady asked my friend and I if we were familiar with The Abyss. She told us how she didn't drink beer besides the occasional Budweiser, but she'd had this beer that was so delicious. She described it as an alcoholic mocha.

And even though there were still cases of the stuff downstairs, and we could've easily had a manager unlock the room, we told her we'd run out weeks before. A beer like this should not be wasted, we told ourselves with our prominent noses upturned.

Outside of eBay and collectors, you're unlikely to find The Abyss. Fortunately, the brewery crafts a new batch each year. Unfortunately, the 2007 edition is regarded as one of the best.


The 4th Best Beer I Had This Year

For beer snobs, this next one might be a surprise.

It hurts my heart to admit, but California is right up there with Oregon in crafting fine IPAs. Many of the Imperial IPAs you can find from Portland to San Diego could fit this slot, but this celebratory special release has a special ingredient that spurs it to the top. Could it be love?

Drinking beer should be a smorgasbord for all the senses, and even the design of the bottle comes into play. Anderson Valley features a bear with deer antlers (get it? A beer!), and a shiny label with a setting sun and silver-blue water you hope featured highly in the making of this beer. It's nice to look at while you're pouring it into a pint.

Hop 'Ottin, Anderson Valley's regular IPA offering, is just okay, but the 20th Anniversary version takes things up a solid nine or ten notches. Here, you'll get all the basics of a great Imperial IPA: a citrusy aroma, the heavy hop profile, and a taste which bounces over your tongue like a pretty ballerina.

20th Anniversary Imperial IPA is the best of a solid group which includes Bridgeport's Hop Czar, Hair of the Dog's Blue Dot, Moylans' Hopsickle, Stone's Ruination and Lagunitas Maximus (the cheapest and most reliable of the bunch). But it's one thing to get your wife some diamond earrings any time of the year...it's something special when it marks your 20th year together.

Sadly, 20th Anniversary IPA may not be available, not even through Liquid Solutions. Fortunately, I have a bottle aging in my friend's cellar...


Milestones (and the 5th Best Beer I Had This Year)

This is marks our 500th post on the Burnside Writer's Blog. It's an exciting milestone during an exciting time for the Collective. I feel especially thankful to post this in my friend's dining room back in Portland. Phoenix is alright and all, but walking around Woodstock and Sellwood today has been a sublime joy.

Some while ago, I promised to write about my beer-tasting experiences, and wrapped back into the hop-laden Northwest grants me inspiration, especially after Portland was named the 13th hardest drinking city in the US. (That's not a good thing, but at least we have good beer...nothing against PBR, but what's Milwaukee's excuse?)

Like most Oregonians, I have a special affinity for hops. My favorite style of beer is the India Pale Ale. IPAs were invented in the early 1700's, a method pioneered by British brewers as a way of providing beer to their colonies in the East Indies. The IPA Wikipedia entry provides a more extensive history, but basically the level of hops in pale ales was increased, preserving the beer for the long voyage from Britain, around Cape Hope and finally to British colonies in cities like Bombay.

British IPAs, however, suck. In fact, most British beer seems to suck. It seems a matter of innovation...they invented the medium, and haven't improved since. The IPA has been perfected in Oregon and California, where brewers are constantly upping the IBU ante.

But while IPAs make up the majority of my top five, the first spot belongs to a stout.

If you're still raving about the heft of Guinness, it's time to move on. Like the IPA, American brewers have been building on British Isle success, crafting brews thicker, stronger and slower. Despite an excellent design motif, Great Divide is not a particularly great brewery, but they got it right here.

The current stout movement involves a slow-aging process, where the beer is poured into oak, bourbon or wine barrels to age, imparting a subtlety and rich cacophony of flavors. Like other Imperial stouts, there are heavy chocolate and coffee notes here, tipped neatly with vanilla. The oak-aging is key, and should not be confused with Great Divide's more pedestrian Yeti Imperial Stout. The beer pours like a black-brown syrup.

Oak Aged Yeti only barely beat out a host of other great Imperial Stouts, in particular Stone Brewery's Imperial Russian Stout, which is a tad more composed, but lacks the oak. Further, Oak Aged Yeti is one of the more available beers on my list, and a decent compromise if you don't want to pay a $30 eBay price for the 3rd beer on our list (which I'll get to in a couple days).

PS. Most major cities (even Phoenix! Or at least Tempe) have a specialty shop where you can find great craft brews, and a quick search of sites like RateBeer.com can find those spots. If you live in an area where great beer is not readily available, Liquid Solutions, an outfit in Oregon City, offers a solution most of the time, including Oak Aged Yeti.


The Ballplayer (continued from page 512)

You pull down your pants and tell J.D. to do what he has to do, then regret your choice of words. Even so, J.D. got the point, and injects 50 cc’s of delicious steroids right into your gluteus maximus.

For the next few weeks you feel stronger, faster, and fitter than ever before. You dominate at everything you do, and you and J.D. begin to shoot up two and three times a day.

But one morning you awake to find you no longer have testicles, and start to wonder if, perhaps, you made the wrong choice.



Prophesy just might be my spiritual gift...

Now, I don't want to toot my own prophetic horn, but I do get these feelings sometimes. Here are three examples:

1. Three years ago, at the Gospel Music Awards in Nashville, I told Don Miller, "Whoever comes up with a Christian version of The Strokes is going to make a load of cash."

Enter The Jonas Brothers.

2. November 2005, while at the house of my Army friend, Matt Adamson, a US Senator is being interviewed by Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show". "That's our next president," I told Matt, pointing at the screen. That senator was Barak Obama.

3. My prediction for the Oregon Ducks football team, nearly a year ago on this very site:
Quick prediction: the University of Oregon football team will be as good as Dennis Dixon makes them. Maybe he's the next Vince Young this season!
Okay, so the second one hasn't happened yet. And the first is more just obvious speculation. Still, you know, not a bad track record. Mainly because I've removed all my awful predictions. ('Crystal Pepsi? That's going to turn the cola world upside down!')

Anyhow, that's all to say college football season is nearly upon us. I was forced to relive Oregon's nightmarish fall from glory last season by ESPN's Pac-10 blogger, Ted Miller. Oh, the unspeakable horror.

If Dixon at that moment had jumped up, dusted himself off and headed back to the huddle, the world would be a much different place today.

Oregon, fresh off victories over those vaunted Trojans as well as Arizona State, would have gone on to play for the national title.

And the nattily attired Ducks would have hung 50 points on Ohio State and won the program's first national title. (Said Buckeyes linebacker James Laurinaitis after the blitzkrieg: "I haven't witnessed a butt-kicking like that since Ric Flair and the Four Horsemen took out my dad.").

It was one safely positioned knee ligament from happening.


God isn't speaking to me regarding the Ducks this year, but I think they'll be good. Dennis Dixon and Jonathon Stewart are replaced by Nathan Costa and Jeremiah Johnson. Johnson was, at times, better than Stewart, and whispers from training camp claim Costa can do all the stuff Dennis could. We shall see.

Speaking of football, we're holding our third annual Burnside Fantasy Football League, housed back on Yahoo! where it belongs. Last year's experiment with FoxSports was a debacle. Coaches from last season have priority, but if you're interested in joining us, let me know in the comments (and include an email address).


Thinking Out Loud About "The Shack"

I've never read The Shack, the self-published novel by William Paul Young that has now sold 2.7 million copies and topped the NYT Bestseller List since June. I've avoided reading "The Shack" the way I avoided "Blue Like Jazz" for years, the way I'm still avoiding "The Passion of the Christ" - and for many of the same reasons.

First, I detest fads, especially Christian fads. Though this doesn't really apply to viral hits like "The Shack" and "Blue Like Jazz," marketing departments have become so adept at generating buzz that I distrust talk about "the next big thing."

Second, I am offended by petty controversies. The first stories I heard about "Blue Like Jazz" inevitably had something to do with drinking and smoking: about how wasn't it cool that Donald Miller talked so casually about drinking and smoking; or, wasn't it terrible that Donald Miller spoke so casually about drinking and smoking. When I finally did read "Jazz" in 2006 I realized, predictably, that all the focus on the scandalous smoking and drinking was conveniently obscuring the rather inconvenient message of the book: that Jesus is relevant to where I am, right now.

We shouldn't have the time or energy to get hung up on trivialities like whether or not it's heretical that William Young chose to portray God the Father in "The Shack" as an African-American woman. We are certainly missing larger points. What are they? Shouldn't we be discussing and debating things that are actually, you know, important?

Third, I don't know what to do with Christian books and movies that have "followers" rather than just readers and viewers. From my perspective, and in this sense only, devotees of "The Passion" are the worst. Wearing nails around their necks, they are almost breathless in their insistence that "The Passion" will change my life. If you don't mind, I'm not that interested in seeing - let alone having my life changed by - a movie which seems to have at its core a kind of fascist belief in the redemptive qualities of violence.

Eventually, though, I always relent. Always. I read "Blue Like Jazz." (And would I be on this blog if I didn't think the book was as good as so many people said?) I read as much of "Purpose Driven Life" as I could handle. I'll even see "The Passion." (And if I'm wrong about the fascist thing, I'll come back on this blog and admit it.)

I recently started to listening to this great new show called Think Out Loud, which airs every morning at 9 a.m. on Oregon NPR stations. It's kind of like NPR's Talk of the Nation or the BBC's World, Have Your Say, but with a special focus on Northwest issues. On Friday's episode of Think Out Loud, entitled Relationships and Religion, the host Emily Harris interviewed Young about "The Shack." (Young lives in Gresham, Oregon, a suburb of Portland.) I knew a little about the humble origins of the book (written for his kids, at the suggestion of his wife, and published by a pastor friend). But I was enormously impressed by Young's own humility in the interview. He talked with candor about the three-month affair with his wife's best friend that initiated the spiritual journey which eventually informed the book. He was genuinely surprised that the book has been able to impact the lives of so many people, always deferring credit to God. He was also kind to callers who basically suggested that his book was leading good people astray.

I decided to read "The Shack" after listening to that interview. Not because everyone's talking about the book. Not because I'm terribly interested in the questions of orthodoxy and heresy surrounding the book. I'm going to read "The Shack" because the author sounds like a guy who has something to say that I might need to hear.

Jordan Green thinks so. Here's how he ended his review of the book in a November 2007 issue of the BWC:
“The Shack” has the potential to change the Church dramatically, and not because Young has crafted a water-tight case of apologetics or vividly described the End Times. The impact of this book is based solely on the relationship between you and me…all of us…and the God we follow. In that intimacy, the larger questions and problems just melt away.

Some of you may be thinking that my reflexive distrust of Christian cultural phenomena like "The Shack," "Blue Like Jazz," and "The Passion" means that I'm always going to be late to the party, so to speak. You're right. But at this point I'm just thankful that I showed up at all.

Update: One of my favorite parts of the interview is when Harris played a clip of Mark Driscoll, the pastor of Mars Hill in Seattle, criticizing "The Shack" (he hadn't read it at the time) for making a graven of image of God by representing God the Father as an African-American woman. (Driscoll video on YouTube.) Young was gracious in his response, saying, in part: "There's an element of fiction that scares people because it actually creates space, like any art does. And that's the beauty of art, that it opens up space for people to bring their lives into it." Young goes on to contrast the power of art with "a specific theological pursuit or presentation," which tends to reduce space by saying "I want you to think exactly like me."