31.3.08

Burnside Loves Zlin! And Auckland! And Palmerston!

Google Analytics is sweet. The stat page we use for the main Burnside is very comprehensive, but we use Analytics for the blog, which breaks down which sites hits are coming from, how many per day (on a cool graph) and even which countries, states and cities our visitors hail from.

So I thought we'd give a quick shoutout to the internationals giving us love, and admonishment for the places giving us the cold shoulder. We'll get to North America later.

Our favorite countries (based on visitors per capita):

1. New Zealand. According to "Lord of the Rings", this is a gorgeous country. According to "Flight of the Concordes" and the horror/comedy "Black Sheep", New Zealanders are hilarious. According to Mindy, they pay doctors well. It's nice to know we've got some "bugalugs" down there. (That's a little Kiwi word I found online.)

2. Australia. New Zealand's neighbor comes in a close second. I've known a few Australians, and I've always referred to them as "like Californians, but infinitely cooler." That's a very good thing.

Honorable mention: Great Britain, Germany and Brazil. I'm more or less half-German, half-English, so it's nice to see my brethren paying notice. As for Brazil, we have mentioned futsal once or twice.

Our Favorite International Cities

Here are some towns we've had a surprising number of visitors from.

1. Zlin, Czech Republic. No idea why, but we're huge in Zlin. Okay, maybe not huge, but surprisingly popular for an Eastern European city. Here's a drawing of the Zlin Concert Hall, which may or may not actually exist.


2. Auckland, New Zealand. The largest city in our favorite country. Check out his beautiful skyline...but what's with the crazy huge tower? Is that a giant phallic symbol, Auckland, or are you just happy to see us?

3. Palmerston, Australia. A satellite city of Northern Territory capital Darwin, Palmerston was the fastest-growing city in Australia for a while. They've got a great water tower!

Honorable Mention: Dresden, Germany; London, England; Barcelona, Spain; Kampala, Uganda

Countries That Suck

1. China. 1.3 billion people, and only 1 has ever visited our site? Did the Chinese government ban us? If so...awesome.

2. Bosnia Hercegovina. I live there for 7 months, and not one person visits my site? Not even "Alija" (name changed)? What about all that information we shared?

3. Sweden. Bite me, Sweden.

Dishonorable Mention: Iraq, Iran, North Korea and the closest country to not have a visitor, the Bahamas.

---

I'll be listing our favorite North American cities and states soon. If you want your state to avoid some scathing ridicule, get your local friends to visit. If you're in North Dakota or Wyoming, it's time to get your act together.

Also, if you're from one of the places listed above, let us know on the comment boards!

Whoazzers.

It's one thing to get caught in a sex scandal, I suppose. It's embarrassing. Your family can be pulled apart. Your career is over.

But take heart, Sen. Larry Craig and Gov. Eliot Spitzer. It could always be worse. (Don't worry, it's safe for work.)

I mean...wow.

30.3.08

The Year I Learned Beer

What with the impending move and wedding, my days at the grocery store are nearly at an end. It hasn't been such a bad run, these months. Our store is on the smaller side, and I've been able to learn the names and lives of most of our regulars.

Mindy lives in the neighborhood by my store, and it's to the point where I know everyone driving around. We may see each other in the street, but the grocery store check-out gives me a chance to connect. I've watched divorces and marriages and kids growing up in the last 11 months, and it will be sad to leave this community.

As tiresome as the work can be, as obnoxious the fellow employees, I'm sure I'll look back on this job as a blessing. For one, I made friends and helped build some community. For two, I learned a lot about beer.

Before the store, I would've said I was fairly knowledgeable. I understood the difference between microbrews and PBR. Compared to someone in Mississippi, I was probably a beer genius. For an Oregonian, I was average.

Our store has a great beer selection (at least 300 different kinds, which is not nearly the best selection in the city). As time wore on, I experimented and learned. Beer drinking has its periods...most folks start light with ciders or lagers before moving on to pilsners. From there, it's a short hop to browns, pales and ambers. After that, you've got a taste for the bitter IPAs and the fermentation of Belgian ales, and finally the thick stouts and porters.

For most of this last year, I've been exploring the hoppy and mouth-watering world of the India Pale Ale. IPAs are especially popular here, so I've had plenty to choose from.

In upcoming posts, I'll be listing the best and worst IPAs, as well as other beer knowledge I've garnered this year. Please humor me...I'm moving to Phoenix, for pete's sake.

brilliant.

Just wanted to share this video of Dame Shirley Bassey covering revolutionary rock artist, Pink.  I think it's pretty much amazing. Enjoy.

28.3.08

Burnside Endorses: Chacos

I have to wear shoes at work. Besides that, without fail, I wear my Chacos. Even if it's snowy.

I'm a man of convenience...I don't want to go through all the hassle of buying socks, and putting on socks, and cleaning socks, and matching socks. So why not just avoid it all completely? Chacos are so comfortable, you can run in them.

That's right. Run in them.

I mean, they're not ideal, but if you strapped them on well you could sprint a few blocks without any trouble. I tend to keep mine loose so they're easier to slip on and off, and I don't do much sprinting, but I'm telling you you could.

But what makes Chacos better than, say, Tevas? Hold on, baby birds, because daddy's gonna give you a big fat nightcrawler: no velcro. Velcro is like freeze-dried ice cream. It might be novel because the astronauts used it, but that doesn't mean it's any good. Down here on Earth, we've got gravity, and that's apparently important when it comes to footwear and dessert.

Chacos have one continuous strap with a tightener thingy so they are infinitely adjustable. Infinitely. If you've got sturdy ankles and finger-thin toes, you're fine. If you've got feet like hobbits, you're good too. I don't recommend the ones with the toe loop, though.

Chacos are simply the ultimate sandal. I wore mine straight for two years before the Vibram soles started to wear down and the straps began to tear. So I went to REI and traded them in for a brand new pair. For free. Buy yours at REI, because they've got a great return policy.

This is just speculation, but I'm pretty sure if Chacos had been around then, Jesus would've worn them.

26.3.08

The Elitist Diction of the Emergent Church

The Emergent (or Emerging) Church.

"The emerging church (also known as the emerging church
or the emergent church movement) is a controversial
21st-century Christian movement whose participants
seek to engage postmodern people, especially the
unchurched and post-churched." -Wikipedia.org

Emergent. Church.

Sometimes I think we like the sound of those words together
just to make ourselves seem a little wiser and involved in
some sort of cutting edge movement that will make us
loser Christians feel hip and 'with it'.

There are many problems with churches everywhere. Let's
just accept that fact and move forward.

I think, though, that some of the main problems with
the ideal of the Emergent Church lie in its language.
We use words like Postmodernism.
De-construction.
Re-construction.
Post-churched.
Un-churched.
Relativism.
Epistemology.
Evangelism.
In a way, I think the Emerging Church movement lends
itself to a very philosophical and deep-thinking
audience. Some of the terminology is very thick and
only attracts a fairly educated following. Don't
get me wrong - education is great - but it can seem
like the Emerging Church speaks certain words to
certain people and those words can often be translated
into 'We only want smart people.'

Would I invite some of my friends who are tradespeople
to an Emergent Church? I don't think so. No offense
to Brian McLaren but our language speaks volumes about
who we are.

The problematic nature of this movement lies in
one major notion; The emergent or emerging church
relies upon postmodern thought in order to exist.
Now, I don't know if you've read the newspapers
(or maybe even a Douglas Coupland novel) but
Postmodernism is no cake walk. In fact, the idiot's
guide to postmodern thought would be only three words:
It doesn't exist. Seriously. I'm not kidding.
Postmodernism actually relies on the de-construction
and re-construction of...well...let's see...yeah,
pretty much everything.

So if I need to be involved in a church that is
about the de-construction and re-construction of
everything, that is gonna be one massive nightmare
of a church when it's time to vote on whether or
not the offering needs to go towards a leaky roof
in the sanctuary:
CONGREGATION: Yes but, we need a new roof. It's
leaking water on to everyone who enters the building.
POSTMODERN CHURCH LEADER: Yeah but this building...
this building is an establishment, man. It's just
gonna be torn down eventually, anyway.

This could go on forever - let me get to the point.

I firmly believe that in order for any sort of
teaching to be effective, the speaker/teacher
needs to relate some sort of personal experience
to make all of the head knowledge seem real to his
or her audience and community. So here is mine:

My wife and I haven't really had a thriving church
community for the 4 years we've lived in the Niagara
region. The one shining star of any semblance of a
good, Christ-like community we were involved with
was a homespun homechurch that met in 3 different
homes on 3 nights a month. The main people involved
were all interested in checking out this dude who
started a church around here (in the Greater
Toronto Area) named Bruxy Cavey. We all wanted to
check out this church but none of us lived in real
close proximity to one of the sites (all in local
movie theatres). That's where the benefit of the
internet came into play. We all started downloading
old sermons from his church website,
discussing them in our meetings and it grew from there.

At its apex, there were maybe only 8 or 9 people
involved but there was interaction between a variety
of personalities (some lifelong Christians and some
never setting foot in a narthex) and evident growth.
We ate together, we exchanged ideas, we gave each
other sweaters, we laughed, we cried but most of
all we dissected Bruxy's sermons, we read scriptures
and we prayed together.

Unfortunately, due to the homes being a good 40
to 50 minutes apart, the homechurch died out after
a year and a half. So what do I know about lasting
involvement? I didn't start Willow Creek, Saddleback
or Mars Hill - but I was involved in something real
and something that was centred around Jesus and his
teaching. I hope to duplicate that again someday
as my wife and I are most likely moving in a few
months and re-locating to a more permanent locale.

Sometimes, even in our most selfless and Godly
efforts, our language isolates us from others.
In our greatest desire to achieve good things for the
sake of God's kingdom and move forward, we need to
always remember our audience: Everyone...Everywhere.

30...29...28...

You know what's weird? A month from today, I'm getting married.

With everything else going on...the moving and house-hunting and working...the whole wedding day thing still seems unreal. It's been looming for some time now, but I still think of it as being a long way off.

Fortunately, Mindy doesn't see things that way, and is on top of all the planning. I think my job is just to deal with the music and show up sober. I'm okay with that.

I'm also excited to have a small chunk of Burnside editors and writers in the same room. I think I'm going to put you guys all at the same table, so you can use the reception as a brainstorming session and complain about how I never respond to your emails.

Speaking of the reception, that's a picture of Mindy overlooking the main room above. It's at the University Club in downtown Portland. The folks there have been awesome.

I'm sure the panic attacks are on their way. But for now I'm excited about the future, even if that means a whole lot of change. I'm not someone who likes a lot of change, but I know it always makes me better.

25.3.08

National Poetry Month


April is National Poetry Month and worthy of celebration.

Throughout the month of April, I am going to post a "poem of the day" on the Burnside Writers Collective blog.

I want to enlist your help. If you have a favorite poem, send them to me at johnepattison(at)gmail(dot)com.

If you'd like, you can also send along a few lines about why you chose the poem, where you first came across it, the special meaning it holds for you, etc. With your permission, I may include those comments in the post.

I look forward to your submissions. With your help, I can endure the next six days of prose.

24.3.08

They're getting younger and younger...

I remember seeing LeBron James for the first time after picking up a copy of SI from the tiny AAFES store on Camp Morgan. I'd heard of him, but I still thought, "That kid is a junior in high school?" I can't even imagine holding up under that kind of pressure.

Six years later LeBron James is arguably the best player in the NBA. I've always marveled at the pressure he's under. Most child stars crack, but LeBron James seems to be legitimately holding up.

So tell me what to do with this guy?

Cat Pics

Just wanted to plug the website, I Can Has Cheezburger. Silly pictures of cats. Not to dis the brilliance of burnside or bits of life or gray matter, but c'mon, these are way funny.

Burnside Endorses: Secret Aardvark Habanero Hot Sauce

I'd like to start a new segment here on the blog called Burnside Endorses. In it, one of your editors will list a product they particularly appreciate. Hopefully, our endorsements will promote small companies with responsible practices and a strong sense of community. But sometimes maybe we just like the way something works or tastes.

Our first endorsement was for Viso, a Portland based beverage company. Our next product is also local and is drinkable, but only a drop at a time.

If you're lucky and live here, you might've stumbled across Secret Aardvark Habanero Hot Sauce at your local breakfast diner. The sauce was invented at local Caribbean restaurant "Salvador Molly's" by Scotland Barr, who also fronts acclaimed alt-country band Scotland Barr & the Slow Drags. Scott's a nice guy who delivers his sauce personally, so we know him and his lovely wife well at the store where I work.

I'm not one of those guys obsessed with spicy foods or hot sauce. I appreciate a good kick, for sure, but heat for heat's sake doesn't work for me. With a white wine vinegar and tomato base, Secret Aardvark is a cacophony of flavor first, sweat-inducing second. Eight or nine drops on an entire dish will do the job, but a drop per forkful heightens any dining experience without overpowering your meal. Any more and you're pushing it. If you're a sadist, feel free to pour it on.

I like the sauce best with scrambles or omelettes in particular, but it makes a great addition to Mexican food and chili. When we move, I'm planning on taking a case with me, and Scot's wife informs me they've got family in Phoenix, so shipping it down won't be a problem. Like Menomena, I'm convinced Secret Aardvark will be another local phenom to revolutionize it's particular field. Besides the habanero sauce, they've also got a Drunken Garlic Black Bean sauce that is amazing with burgers, and rumors of a jerk sauce on the horizon.

If you're not in Portland, it might be difficult to come by, but feel free to contact the makers through their website. You'll be glad you did.

23.3.08

Daddy Put In Bye-Bye Box

The Onion produces some razors-edge satire, but I like them best when the topic isn't so topical.

Take, for instance, this one.
Although neither Grandma Sarah nor Uncle Brian has visited the house since, 3-year-old Rebecca said she knows that Daddy will be back soon, because she has a ballet recital next week, and Daddy promised he would be there to watch her.
My hope is there's a special place in heaven for The Onion writers, but that hope might be slightly liberal in salvation theology.

22.3.08

Journey Through the Tenth Grade (continued from page 97)

“No thanks guys,” you say. “Smoking is addictive, and can lead to serious health problems.”

“Seriously?” Pepe` asks.

“Yes,” you say. “Didn’t you listen during health class?”

“No,” Pepe` says.

Robby throws the cigarette in the toilet and vows to quit smoking. Then the three seniors put their arms around you and escort you to your next class.

---
You sit down at your desk and wait for second period to begin. Seconds before the bell rings, Julie Anne Sultry walks over and says hello. You say hello back, and she smiles at you until you feel a little uncomfortable.

“Jason tells me your mother is out of town,” she says.

“Yes,” you say. “She should be home late tonight.”

“Well I really need some help with my algebra,” Julie Anne says. “Can I come over around seven and have you tutor me a little?”

About that time the teacher walks in and Julie Anne walks back to her desk. You know she has a reputation of being a bit promiscuous, and that being alone with her might not be a great ideal. All during class you think about what to say, and before you know it, the bell rings again. Julie Anne catches up with you in the hallway and says, “Well, what about tonight?”

If you decide to let Julie Anne come over while your mother is not home, turn to page 61. If you decide to meet Julie Anne at the local coffee shop, where the two of you are more likely to study, turn to page 71.

20.3.08

And that's that.

Amid the shouts and tears of other med students, we opened our envelope. And it was Phoenix.

While slightly disappointed (I was hoping for a longshot Salt Lake City, and part of me wanted to stay home), I'm happy to move on with life and begin planning. All this wondering about where I'd live really distracted me from the whole wedding thing.

Mindy is used to bouncing around from town to town, but I'm a Portlander. It'll be sad to leave, but it'll be nice to live in a scorching wasteland for a few years. Maybe we'll set goals, like trying to eat out at every chain restaurant known to man. Maybe I can walk down to the local strip mall and read. We'll have to get little boots for our dog, Athena, because her feet might cook onto the pavement.

Public thanks to Dan Gibson and Bryan Catherman, from Phoenix and Salt Lake, respectively. They've been extremely kind in offering their assistance and support wherever we go. Now Dan actually has to live up to it. Also, thanks to the kind words and prayers from our readers. There's a lot worse going on in the world than moving to a new city, so we appreciate your thought.

Mindy is happy with the draw, and she'll be part of a great, up-and-coming pediatrics program at Phoenix Children's Hospital. They actively recruited her, which meant a lot because they recognize what a great doctor she's going to be.

I'm going to need the Collective to remind me of home.

Match Day

So, in an hour I'll know where I'm living for three years. I'm surprisingly calm.

Here are the odds as I see them, just for posterity's sake:

Phoenix, Arizona: 72%. Despite negative reviews and blazing heat, the program at Phoenix Children's Hospital was Mindy's first pick. Since it's been the biggest probability for a few weeks now, I'll feel comfortable moving there.

Portland, Oregon: 15%. While this is the best city in the world, I think both of us are ready to try our hand somewhere else for a few years before moving back. It'd be nice to start fresh, but it will be difficult. At this point, we'd even be a little disappointed if we were to stay.

Salt Lake City, Utah: 10%. My first pick, based on the city itself. If we are assigned to SLC, we'll feel called.

San Diego, California: 2%. San Diego has the best weather, but we'd be disappointed because it would mean we'd have to rent a house. It's spendy down there.

Orange County, California: 1%. There are two programs in Orange County, and I'd be disappointed if we got either of them for the same reasons as San Diego.

So, pray for us today. It's been a long four years of medical school, and I'm so proud Mindy is almost done.

19.3.08

Community Service You Can Use

When I was a freshman in high school, our Law teacher assigned 20 hours of community service.

I had no idea where to find places to volunteer, so my mom suggested the local hospital.

I was not excited, but I had to finish the assignment, so I became what is commonly referred to as a candy-striper. As a male, I didn't have to wear the traditional red and white stripes. White pants, a hospital white polo and white shoes were good enough. If I kept volunteering, my mom told me, I could even earn a $1,000 scholarship at the end.

The job wasn't difficult. I would sit near the hospital's main entrance and read until an errand was assigned, then I'd get up and do whatever the errand said. It might be taking medical records to a certain department, or wheeling a patient out to a waiting car. Lunch was covered, but it was an 7th Day Adventist hospital, so there wasn't any meat or pepper. I still don't know why. I did learn that Gardenburgers aren't all that bad as long as you're not expecting beef.

Plus, it was only once a week.

But after the class was finished, I kept volunteering. By the end of my senior year, I had over 600 hours of volunteer work.

I could tell you it was about how good it felt to serve, how the smiles on those wrinkly old faces as I carted them out the front doors made it all worth it. I could tell you it was about George, the kindly elderly man who took the calls and assigned us our tasks, and the lessons on life I learned from him. I could even tell you it was for that $1,000 scholarship, or the free Gardenburgers or how proud I was when they gave me a volunteer pin with a little placard that hung down and had "600" written on it.

But those would all be lies.

I did it for the girls.

For the most part, on a given night, it was me and five or six other candy-stripers. And 95% of them were girls. And these weren't your average girls. These were the kind of girls who felt the need to volunteer at a hospital four hours every week out of the goodness of their hearts. And, most of them were hot.

Case in point: Super Christian/Miss America 2002 Katie Harman, pictured below waving an American flag, which I assume she does even when the cameras aren't on.

Katie Harman seems a little, um, Type A and ultra-American, but she was was a dream come true for an adolescent Republican. Unfortunately, she politely brushed off every one of my attempts to hit on her. But there were others. Many, many others. And I was the only guy under 70 they could hang out with for four hours, once a week.

When the odds are that good, it doesn't require as much charm as you'd think. I think it's the last time I could've been considered a 'player', if 'player' meant flirting with a lot of girls and getting a few of them to like you at the same time.

All that's to say, if you have to do community service, choose wisely. While I never married any of those girls, I did gain important insight into the inner-workings of a hospital, which have come in handy now that I'm marrying a doctor. When Mindy is telling me about her day and I start day-dreaming about the Blazers winning the NBA Draft lottery for the second straight year, I can always pretend I was paying attention all along.

"Oh, yeah...well, that's what it's like in the ICU, honey. I know exactly what you're saying. But at least it's not as bad as the OR or ObGyn. Am I right? STAT."

Plus, how many people can say Miss America turned them down repeatedly? It's probably an elite group.

The Hidden Wound

In those precious few minutes a day when I'm not working or playing with my five month-old daughter, I have been scribbling down thoughts and notes and quotes for an essay I'm writing for an upcoming issue of the Writers Collective.

A couple years ago, I had this idea that American followers of Jesus should establish Good Friday as a National Day of Reconciliation, with each year focusing on a different alienated group. For example, the first year might focus on racial reconciliation. Subsequent years would address anti-Semitism, sexism, the genocide of the Native Americans, and so on.

My thoughts on reconciliation have changed somewhat since I first wrote (and seven people read) my manifesto for a National Day of Reconciliation. While I still believe that reconciliation is the primary "mission" of the Church, I got too far ahead of myself. I was too quick to call for a national movement when I wasn't practicing reconciliation in my own local community. I was naive to think that one million people observing a single day of reconciliation was somehow more powerful than six people committed to meeting regularly and over time to wrestle with these difficult issues together. And so I've exchanged my fifty-state strategy for a humbler and probably more effective strategy I've taken to calling "living room reconciliation" - the topic of my essay-in-progress.

Writing this essay has carried with it the great benefit of spending time with the words of Desmond Tutu, John W. De Gruchy, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Miroslav Volf. I've also been reading "The Hidden Wound," Wendell Berry's highly personal account of the legacy of slavery in our language, our families, our land, and even in our churches. Early in the book, Berry writes:

From other stories that have been handed down to me I know that my people, like many others in the slave states, went to church with their slaves, were baptized with them, and presumably expected to associate with them in heaven. Again, I have been years realizing what this means, and what it has cost.
Berry goes on: "[Consider] the moral predicament of the master who sat in church with his slaves, thus attesting his belief in the immortality of the souls of people whose bodies he owned and used." To keep himself from asking the troubling questions like "How can I presume to own the body of a man whose soul is as worthy of salvation of my own?", the master had to "perfect an empty space in his mind, a silence, between heavenly concerns and earthly concerns, between body and spirit."

The preachers at these churches were put in a similarly troubling position.

If a man wanted to remain a preacher he would have to honor that division in the minds of the congregation between earth and heaven, body and soul. His concern obviously had to be with things heavenly; unless he was a saint or a fool he would leave earthly things to the care of those who stood to benefit from them.

Thus the moral obligation was cleanly excerpted from the religion. The question of how best to live on the earth, among one's fellow creatures, was permitted to atrophy, and the churches devoted themselves exclusively and obsessively with the question of salvation.

How do you get to heaven? Well, I have quoted some passages, and there are many others, that say you get there by obeying the moral imperatives of the Scripture, by loving one another "in deed and in truth." But the churches, with their strong ties to the pocketbooks of racists, felt obliged to see it another way: the way to heaven was faith; one got there by believing. And to this day that continues to be the emphasis of such denominations as the Southern Baptist: to be saved, believe!

These are devastating passages, and they knocked me flat. Having grown up in a church that is Southern Baptist not in name but in character, I have seen how the emphasis on belief can overshadow the "moral aspects" of Christianity. That this "false mysticism," as Berry puts it, might have its roots in slavery is news to me - though it doesn't exactly come as a surprise. How could we use religion to justify the enslavement of tens of millions of human beings and expect it to not obscure our the gospel?


...Detached from real issues and real evils, the language of religion became abstract, intensely (desperately?) pious, rhetorical, inflated with phony mysticism and joyless passion. The religious institutions became comfort stations for scribes and publicans and pharisees. Far from curing the wound of racism, the white man's Christianity has been its soothing bandage - a bandage masquerading as Sunday clothes, for the wearing of which one expects a certain moral credit.

There is probably someone reading this post - someone with a much better understanding of American church history than I - who disagrees with Berry's thesis and/or my summary of it. No doubt there are many others who take profound issue with the notion that fundamentalist theology is indivisible from the legacy of slavery. I hope you're out there. We should talk. This is one part of a much larger conversation we need to have as believers and as a country - a conversation I think will be the disturbing but important result of a sustained commitment to the long process of reconciliation.

Update: I am completely engrossed in "The Hidden Wound." Each page is more beautiful and challenging than the one before. I've decided to post excerpts on The Goblin from now through Easter Sunday.

Have my cyborg talk to your cyborg. We'll have lunch.

There are always new and crazy websites out there designed to make life easier.

Most of them suck.

And this one might, too, but it seems like a sweet setup. It's called IWantSandy.com, and it's like having a personal assistant who's also a cyborg.

The deal is, you email or text message a quick note to your Sandy's email address. Then, she emails or text messages you a reminder of that particular appointment. I'm still trying to set up the text messaging part.

Anyway, I'm fairly sure all my problems are going to be solved now.

17.3.08

Tournament Reminder

Just a reminder, Burnside has a tournament bracket set up at Yahoo! You can join up here. If that's not working, our group number is 43636.

16.3.08

thanks

When I was a kid my cool older brother always let me hang out with his funny friends. They weren’t obnoxiously funny or overly vulgar, but intelligent and even subtle. I remember laughing hysterically and wanting desperately to be like them. Anyway, one of those friends was a guy named Nate Sadler. I owe most of my interest in comedy and trying to be a funny person to him. All of the bits of life comics this week were written by Nate. He also helped me write this piece.

Here’s Monday’s bits of life. Check them out the rest of the week too.

13.3.08


While surfing on ESPN.com, I came across this article 

I know personally, being a middle-class white kid from suburban Canada, stories about gang violence sometimes seem like they get blown up a bit for shock value. 

I'm not saying I think gang-violence is not a problem, it just comes across that way sometimes. Even in Toronto, where we set a city record for gang related killings last summer, it was starting to sound movie-ish. This may be because I am not known to frequent areas where this kind of thing happens, seeing that I'm in bed by 11 and all. 

But this story really makes you think. I won't spoil it for you, but know it's worth the read. 

There are some things in life for which there is no explanation. Or maybe, the explanation just doesn't do the pain justice. 

The one line that really stuck with me was, "Jas believed me when I told him that if he did everything right, it would be okay...and look what happened." 

It is sad that it takes something like this to show me how lucky I really am. 

12.3.08

Woman Sits on John For Two Years

The Kansas City Star reported a woman sat on her boyfriend's toilet for two years. Yes: sat on the crapper for two years. Which is better than crapping on the sofa for two years, but still ... It begs all sorts of questions. Like, did she have a book she couldn't put down? What kind of snacks did the BF pass under the door? Fruit leather? Who ever thought War and Peace could be considered appropriate bathroom reading ...

It got me wondering of the Burnside Readers. What would be good enough to keep you in a bathroom for two years? What supplies would you need? Okay besides Charmin and Febreeze... I'm sure Aaron Donley has some ideas ...

How Friends Become Enemies

Don Miller was in Uganda the last two weeks with a few friends doing important stuff.

On occasion, he'll bring back gifts for friends, so he stopped in a bookstore and bought a few copies of "Our Heritage Series", a collection of Ugandan children stories. Here's the back cover copy:
"Our Heritage Series are carefully selected and graded children readers intended to improve English language reading and comprehension skills.

They are also intended to educate children about Uganda's rich cultural heritage."
There are 32 books in all (Don only brought back three), divided by reading level.

At level 2, things, the titles are pretty tame, like "The Bull with a Calf" and the curious "How Friends Became Enemies".

The further you go up in grades, though, the crazier things get. Level 3 brings in "How Chameleon Avenged His Father's Death", a theme that could be endless in a country where Idi Amin ruled. Level four goes tame again, with the worst being "How Hare Was Caught Stealing".

Level five and up, though...that's where things get nuts.

"The Ungrateful Mother"
"Mother Eats Her Son"

"The Man Who Ate His Ey
e"
"How the Rat Escaped the Trap"

"Alira and the Cannibals"


And it's not like the cover art takes the edge off.

Wow. You can buy the books and look at other titles here.

I read through "Mother Eats Her Son" last night. It's about a girl who takes her baby brothers on a walk and finds a tamarind tree. She and the brothers eat tamarinds, and the girl accidentally leaves her baby brother's carrying sling behind.

When she gets home, her mother beats the crap out of her with a switch after her kindly father goes to talk with the neighbors. Then her mom makes her go back to the tamarind tree in the middle of the night, which is when the flesh-eating ogres roam the countryside.

Anyway, to make a long story short, she gets trapped by the ogres, then escapes. The ogres now don't have a meal, so they kill one of their own and take him back to camp, where the dead ogre's mother cooks and eats him unknowingly. The lesson for the little girl is to always obey her mother and father.

Of course, European culture is known for having some pretty jacked up fairy tales, too, but did the ogre mom have to eat her own son? And how did that fit in with the lesson?

The sad thing is, real life for Ugandan children is probably worse than the stories. At least "Mother Eats Her Son" end happily enough for the little girl.

Susan Isaacs on sports

Burnside's own Susan Isaacs was profiled over at Prayers For Blowouts yesterday. Check it out to see her thoughts on quilting circles, shirtless guys, and the New York Yankees.

11.3.08

When Church Parking Spaces Rule

I got a little pissed off today after reading an article (thanks Makeba). These days (for good or for ill, or perhaps both) I can be pretty passive. Here's the excerpt that made me nuts (see the bold):


No place for mobile homeless

People sleeping in their cars ain't news.

That's what a man living in a Volvo wagon in Seattle's "rolling slum," a car-camping colony in Ballard, told me two years ago. I met him while writing about the mobile homeless -- people moneyed enough to own a car, but too poor to pay the rent. They park in industrial parts of town and make a life of it. Many work jobs. The story two years ago was that 100 or so had congregated in Ballard. It was Hooverville on wheels.

This year [The One Night Count] found that urban car camping soared 25 percent in King County. In Seattle, it's up 45 percent. The mobile homeless now are by far the largest group sleeping on this city's streets.

Yet out in lower Ballard, near where the Ballard Bridge touches down, the streets are mostly empty. The other night, in a 12-block area, I found only five people overnighting in vans or campers. The old rolling slum is gone.

What happened is the city told them to beat it.

"There were a lot of complaints from businesses and from _____ Church," said Beth Miller, head of the Ballard Chamber of Commerce. "There were so many camped on the street that there wasn't much room for anyone else to park."

So the city put up signs: "No Parking. 2-5 a.m." That rousted them all out of there.

It's true something had to be done. The Ballard colony had grown out of control. It was bigger than a tent city, yet unregulated. Trash was strewn around. Campfires were set on sidewalks. Two denizens died of heroin overdoses.

But here's the thing: All the city did was put up signs and then enforce them. At which time the slum predictably rolled off to ... somewhere else....

* * *
A homeless advocate I spoke to called the city's crackdown "a cruelty campaign." To me it seems less cruel than dumb.

Faced with its own rolling slums, here's what a smarter city did. Santa Barbara, Calif., started a "Safe Parking" program. It allows people to park overnight in a dozen lots owned by the city, churches and businesses.

There are lots of rules. You have to have car insurance. No more than five vehicles per lot. You must leave in the morning.

Police there say the program hasn't ended street camping, but it is working. So why don't we try something like it here?

Because we don't want to be too inviting to the homeless?

Because it's dehumanizing to just give them parking lots?

Because the path of least resistance is to put up no-parking signs?

I don't know. I'd guess it goes to what that guy living in his Volvo said. People sleeping in cars ain't news. It wasn't story enough to matter much then. And it still ain't today.

Written by Danny Westneat, for the Seattle Times

* * *


As my husband says (always giving people the benefit of the doubt), maybe I'm missing something (or maybe I am being self-righteous). Hopefully, this church was doing more than complain; the article doesn't make that clear. Either way, it's a good reminder for us that people are more important than parking spaces. The churches are not a business; we have a different agenda than making sure our consumers are happy and entertained (and conveniently have space to park). We're called to reach out to those on the margins of society, not push them out of our backyard.

It's a good reminder for me to get off my comfortable, entertained tush and do something.

Tournament Time!

Ah, March Madness. It's that time again.

In years past, Thursday-Sunday in March would be sedentary days, me on a couch gorging myself on epic basketball. Even with Oregon making the Elite 8, last season was a let down. It had such promise, but there were hardly any great games. I'm hoping this year is different.

Anyway, that also means it's time to set up the official Burnside Tournament Pick'em. We've got a public league this season, so anyone can join. Bring your friends! All you need is a Yahoo! account and to click here.

Reasons to watch:

1. No more Joakim Noah.
2. Oregon is (barring unforeseen circumstances) back.
3. Duke is a villain again.

Sorry about that late issue of Burnside...

I finally got Burnside up, though the photos still aren't posted. Many apologies for the delay. It's not I didn't have time yesterday, it's that I didn't have energy.

Here are some things which happened at my bachelor party up on Mt. Hood:

1. My friend Steve and I stopped an unmanned car in a Thriftway parking lot from hitting an SUV, then almost got in a fight with an middle-aged man who didn't see the whole thing and accused us of parking the unmanned car wherever we wanted because 'rules didn't apply' to us. After we yelled back at him and told him the story the man apologized and called us heroes.

This isn't an exact picture, but it looked something like this:

2. Discovered it was still snowy at my parent's cabin on Mt. Hood. Significantly snowy, in fact. Almost too snowy for me to have Chaco sandals as my only footwear. More snowy than it has been in about 100 years.

3. Realized I forgot the keys to the cabin. Broke in with an ingenious method pioneered by my dad.

4. Discovered said snow had caused the chimney on my parents cabin to collapse, along with a good chunk of the wall.

5. Called later-arriving friends and told them to bring space heaters.

6. Dug one later-arriving friend who'd taken a wrong turn out of the snow while another group of late arriving friends got stuck in their 4wd Ford Explorer.

7. Won at Risk and lost at poker.

8. Watched the movie "Black Sheep". Not the one with Chris Farley and David Spade. The one that's a black comedy/horror film. Don't watch the following preview if you are easily grossed out:



It was even more awesome and more bloody than the trailer.

9. Watched Ducks beat Arizona to stay in the National Tournament hunt.

Of course, there were other happenings, including sleeping, eating, drinking, and clearing brush/haphazardly nailing shingles over the hole caused by the missing chimney. And through all the saving of cars and frozen toes, it was a blast.

Thanks to my best friends Steve and John and my brother Tyler for making it happen, and thanks to Danny, Adam, JoVo, Trevor, James and Andrew for making the trip.

No thanks to Don for being in Africa and doing things like "helping people". What a jerk. Did you stop a car over there, Don? Did you?

6.3.08

Superheroes, Risk and Bachelor Parties

First things first: Aaron Donley had a brilliant blog entry earlier today you have to check out.

I'll be at my bachelor party this weekend, so I won't be checking in at all. We'll be at my parent's cabin on Mt. Hood: no cell reception, no internet, no shower. Just food, beer, poker and some epic battles of Risk. I'm hoping to have Burnside ready by Sunday night, but, if not, expect a new issue Monday morning.

I thought you'd enjoy this fantastic article in the Willamette Week about a real life superhero here in Portland named Zetaman (pictured above). Apparently, there's a subculture of self-declared superheroes online. Some are in it for the fame, but, as you'll read, Zetaman's actions seem based in his faith, and he doesn't fight crime so much as help people, including Portland's homeless. As unbelievably nerdy as it is, how many people are making the personal impact Zetaman is?

While they don't say it openly, I'm guessing the church he attended is City Bible, one of Portland's only megachurches, and one that definitely preaches the importance of tithing. A lot.

My favorite passage:

He hesitated to reveal his name for this story because, he says, his true identity is inconsequential. He insists he doesn’t want to draw attention to himself, but to serve as an example. And there’s another, more pressing reason Zetaman hesitates to identify himself: an alarming incident last month in California.

In an unprecedented turn, Zetaman’s superhero buddy Ragensi, who patrols the town of Huntington Beach, Calif., in a black ninja costume, says he was attacked by what appeared to be an unknown supervillain.

Nothing is known of the attacker, Zetaman says, except that he wore special pads used by other superheroes and seemed to be well-prepared, lurking in wait. He used martial-arts moves against Ragensi, who managed to escape using his own fighting skills.

I mean, holy crap! A supervillain!

This whole thing could turn out pretty awesome. I mean, there's actual interaction with the world going on here, unlike the fake D&D battles that used to break out on Mt. Tabor while I was trying to make out with my high school girlfriend. Go Zetaman!

Idol Gives Back


Feeling guilty about watching American Idol? Instead of wallowing in your shame, would you like to do something about it?

Before each episode pick a charity to donate to and keep score throughout the length of the show. You have to donate $1 for each time one of these events occur:

  • Simon Cowell rolls his eyes
  • A judge uses the phrase "song choice"
  • A contestant uses their fingers to tell you which number to dial following their performance
  • Ryan Seacrest and Simon Cowell flirt with each other
  • The crowd applauds after one of Paula's inebriated complimentary rants
  • Randy says "you know dawg", "it was just alright", or "that was hot"
  • Paula says "you are a shining light"or "i love you and want you to buy me a drink"
  • Simon says "awful", "i enjoy ogling female contestants", or "karaoke"
If you're fast enough to keep track without losing count, you'll probably raise over $100 for your charity of choice.

And if you're one of those folks who thinks David Archuleta is a lock to win this year, just remember that people were saying the same thing about Melinda Doolittle and Lakesha Jones last season.

I mean, not that i watch or anything. That's just what i heard at, umm, the water cooler at work.

5.3.08

On into the night; One man's journey.

It was like any other day. I was wasting time and thought it might be a good idea to blow some money on junk. Little did I know when I walked into my local Goodwill store I’d immediately be encountered by an oil painting of an extremely ugly young girl:




I stared at the picture and wondered why and how a person could stare at this girl in real life long enough to paint her. And, after what seemed like a really long time, finally concluded a lot of money and alcohol must have been involved. Possibly blackmail, too. And not a little foul play.

I instantly tucked the painting under my right arm and continued on, deciding it would be perfect for my ‘ugly things’ room. (As I needed to fill a shelf space left vacant by my wife’s stubborn removal of her mother’s china.)



Continuing to the music section I immediately stumbled across a classic Ohio Player’s album, “Climax.”



The perfect blend of subtlety and passion? Perhaps. The perfect addition to my 'Ohio African American Appreciation Corner'? Absolutely. I tucked it under my other arm and moved onward with renewed vigor, and if I may say so, a slightly sexier swagger...



As I sexy-swaggered deeper into the store I suddenly felt a strange sense of testosterone rush through my body. Indeed, a feeling of belonging and strength came over me. I could literally feel my body hair growing, and as I looked down, noticed I was scratching my belly. Looking up again I found myself surrounded by old golf clubs, stereos, and framed Lamborghini pictures… It sounds crazy now, but I even began to wonder if I had wandered into some kind of mysterious ‘man world’ if you will. The sign only confirmed what I already knew:






Man World was a wonderful place.



Eureka! I shouted internally. A deer hide.



I scrambled for the price tag, but no price tag was to be found. How much would I be expected to pay for such a hide? 50? 75? Perhaps even 100? (pennies)

It was then that I made a discovery at which the mere sight of it caused my hands to cover my mouth in disbelief, allowing the painting and album to shatter onto the floor. Yea, it was a find so grand I couldn’t even begin to describe it here. Except to say it was a pair of generic, adult, low top, white heely’s with red and grey stripes:




For years I have discussed my desire for such a skate-shoe.

How often have I stood for hours staring intently at children as they rolled by on local playgrounds with the look of longing desperation on my face?

How many times have random parents needlessly yelled in my face?



The picture on the box sealed the deal:



Now I don’t know a whole bunch of crap about grace. But I tell you, Stephon had it. (I named the male skater in the picture Stephon.) Yes, to me in some strange way, “Skortie,” had all the grace of a grown man in a polyester body suit wearing roller shoes. (“Skortie,” is short for Skortelskine. Stephon Bartholemew Skortelskine that is, pro figure shoe-ter extraordinaire.)

Reaching for my wallet, I suddenly remembered I had left it in my other socks. “Why God? Why did you ever let me swagger into this ‘man world’?!” I thought, then upon deciding there were no attractive people in the store, decided to shout audibly several times.

Making my way to the front of the store, stopping only to fake autograph a used copy of Blue Like Jazz for the cause, I thought briefly about going home and getting the wallet. -If only I had some smooth roller like mode of transportation to take me to and fro for the retrieval of said wallet in sock!


As I made my way back home through heavy traffic that day, my mind wandered then faded into a vision like state…

In the vision I saw Stephon and I gliding through the streets and alleyways of my town in matching outfits. Off in the distance the smooth sounds of a mid-seventies sex-funk band could be heard… The dear hide was there too, just sort of floating beside us. It rolled its eyes as we made contact then motioned to the ugly girl twenty yards back straining to keep up. She was also wearing an outfit, but it looked homemade. We ditched her in good time and then continued on into the night…


(I’m getting those shoes.)



4.3.08

Let's Build Some Community Here!

So, I was thinking we should compile a list of Burnside-friendly churches.

I don't mean people in that particular church read Burnside, or that they've got Blue Like Jazz on their reading list, or that they're properly emergent...I'm looking for a list of church communities we love.

There's a couple reasons for this: the first being that since I might have to move away from Portland soon, I'd like to get an idea of where I can find a strong community wherever I end up. The second is, it's a good way to link church folks across the country.

Of course, all of us have different values when we look for churches. Here are a few of mine:

1. Community-driven. Small groups are HUGELY important to me, because that's often where the quickest and most established connections happen. At Imago Dei Community, the home churches meet during the week, and are considered by the church elders to be more important than the Sunday services.

2. Outward Focused. Primarily toward the community around the physical location of the church building (or around the houses where the small groups meet). It doesn't mean there needs to be a ton of charity work being done, but the members should be integral parts of their community, not locked up in a fortress.

3. Open to Innovation. New ideas, or old forgotten ideas, are key. I want the Church to be a catalyst in culture, not reactionary. I want to hear church members coming up with novel ways of speaking Truth to the world around them. I want the status quo to be questioned, not to the point of indecision, but with the trust God will use the conflict we face to build us as believers. With that said...

4. Truth-Speaking. The church should be willing to call each other out, and to call sin sin. Think Corinthians here...there are times when being loving means being tough, even if it's cutting someone loose from the community if they're unrepentant.

5. Size Matters. There are some amazing big churches out there, particularly Mars Hill in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Imago Dei Community has grown big time, to the point where three Sunday services held in a high school auditorium pack out easily. But both Mars Hill and Imago Dei put the focus back on smaller groups. Your Sunday service may have a talented worship band or charismatic pastor, but what happens when those things are gone? Would the community live on? Smaller groups, where everyone is involved in each other's life, have an advantage.

These are just off the top of my head. What do you look for? Does your church have these qualities? If you think your church is Burnside-friendly, put it in the comments with a reason why. A church being young and hip is not a good reason.

We'll build a list of links on the right side of this page, along with the city where they're located. I'd like to be as stringent as we can...a crazy long list might defeat the purpose.

3.3.08

We'll be judged for this.

I was at a 7-11 the other day with my friend, Sonny. He pointed to a copy of Rolling Stone with a black and white photo of Britney Spears on the cover, the words "Britney Spears: Inside an American Tragedy" emblazoned on the right cheek.

"That cover story is an amazing piece," he told me. "You have to read it when you get a chance."

So I read it late last night after I'd posted Burnside. It's excellent.

It's only eluded to in the article, but, as Sonny would say, this has happened before.

Britney Spears is the sacrificial virgin, offered up for appeasement to the gods. From the first scenes of "Hit Me Baby One More Time", she was marketed across the board...the Catholic school girl uniform hit males aged 12 to 55, the saccharine pop hit pre-pubescent girls, and her insistence on abstinence sated their mothers. One of her early photos says it all.

In this case, the gods were culture, American escapism. Britney Spears was placed on the altar on the early age, and we're fooling ourselves if this wasn't exactly what we wanted. We wanted to see the meteoric rise, the Monroe-esque sex symbol statue, the public breakup, and finally, the downfall. That downfall has been spectacularly gruesome, which is why Britney Spears is the biggest star in America. We watched eagerly as the high priests slit her throat, and we shook our head in disgust while secretly yearning for more.

She's not alone, of course (Lindsay Lohan is the closest, but Elizabeth Smart and JonBenet Ramsey come to mind), but she's the biggest and brightest. Society's role in her sacrifice doesn't let Britney Spears off the hook. But what little girl doesn't want to be a gorgeous pop star? And what little girl could possibly understand the consequences of that?

How does this end? If we stopped reading tabloids, would that change things?

It's more than that. There is something very wrong here, a country that's been at war without ever feeling the effects. A populace that responds to a slowly crumbling empire by fiddling away with a copy of US Weekly. We all need to escape sometimes...but do we need teenage celebrities, or Angelina and Jen to fill that void?

It makes Sonny ill, and he doesn't watch. I'm not as strong...I love Joel McHale's down-to-earth satire on "The Soup" and occasionally find myself flipping through the celebrity news in The Oregonian's Living Section or clicking on a tabloid story on CNN.com's homepage (which are growing more numerous every week).

So I'm going to pray to feel ill at these things, and I'm going to stop participating. I'm going to pray for a Christ-like perspective.

If you don't participate, good for you. If you do, why not join me? Let's stand up to this false god that calls for the blood of the innocent. The god of culture is not our God.

(Note: Not 30 seconds after I posted this, I clicked on a CNN.com link with the headline "Report: Jagger was to be killed by Hells Angels". God help me.)

Art as Family

Years ago, The Onion AV Club ran an interview with Mitch Hurwitz. Mitch is probably best known for dating Burnside compatriot Susan Isaacs in high school, but you'll be interested to learn he was also the creator of "Arrested Development".

One part that always stuck out to me from that interview was this bit:
"Someone told me once about this paradigm that exists: matriarch, patriarch, craftsman, and clown. It's this quartet that resonates through history and popular culture, and you can find it as a diagram in everything from The Beatles to 'Leave It To Beaver' to 'Seinfeld'. In The Beatles, you can kind of see it the clearest. You know, Paul is the matriarch, John is the patriarch, the craftsman is George and the clown is Ringo."
He goes on to explain how Michael and Lindsey Bluth are the matriarch and patriarch, GOB is the clown, and Buster is the craftsman.

So, I thought I'd open it up to comment board: where else does this pop up in great art?

To get started: U2 (Bono=patriarch, The Edge=matriarch, Larry Mullen Jr.=clown, Adam Clayton=craftsman)

2.3.08

Pants on fire

So, let me get this straight.

You're telling me your best-selling novel about how when you were little you lived with a pack of wolves in forests of Europe during the Holocaust...you're telling me it wasn't true?

What about the part where you were from Belgium but spent time in the Warsaw ghetto? NO!?! At least tell me the part about you killing that Nazi soldier was real...THAT WASN'T EITHER!!!

You are blowing my mind right now, Misha Defonseca. Next you're going to tell me you're not the CEO of Nabisco.

1.3.08

Journey Through the Tenth Grade (continued from page 11)

“Sure,” you say. “You guys can come over at 8, and we’ll have a quick Bible study.”

“Uh, that’s not exactly what – ”

“Great,” you exclaim. “I’ll fix some fruit punch and I’m sure we have enough chips and cookies for everyone.”

---

Jason reluctantly agreed and asked if you minded stopping by the mall on the way home. You said not at all, and the two of you drove across town to the West Side Shopping Plaza. Jason walked into the sporting goods store and you went inside the music shop. You were listening to D.C. Talk when a strange girl with a nose ring grabbed you by the arm and pulled you outside.

“Where are we going?” you ask.

“Be quiet,” she says.

She drags you into the women’s restroom and pulls something out of her purse. It looks like a little bag of grass clippings. “Are you ready to get high?” she asks.

“What?”

“High,” she says. “Don’t you want to smoke pot with me?”

“This same thing happened to me this morning,” you say. “Except it was the men’s room, and cigarettes.”

“What?” she asks. “Never mind I don’t want to know. Just smoke this.”

If you decide to smoke Marijuana with the strange girl, turn to page 16. If you decide to just say no, turn to page 15.