30.9.08

Be Brave, Not Safe


Eleven years ago, newly married and living in Germany, I took the train a couple of times a week from Krefeld to the nearby city of Duisburg to audit a university Spanish class. On the way home one day, as I headed through Krefeld’s main train station to catch my tram, I spotted a raggedy old man in the middle of the main hall, bending over desperately to pick something up. What it was he was trying to grab I could not tell. All the people, smartly dressed in their black trousers and smooth coats adorned with stylish scarves, rushed right past the scruffy man dressed in multiple layers of faded, torn, and dirty clothing. They didn’t bother to notice that his stiff, stubby fingers could not bend to get a grip on the object lying on the train station floor.

I stood for a moment to watch him, to see if he would in fact succeed in picking up that pinkish mystery object. But he struggled.

Then I stood for one more moment to see if any of the sleek passers-by would suddenly observe his distress and stop to help him. But they didn’t.

And then I felt his helplessness and embarrassment. His aloneness. His isolation from society as an untouchable of sorts. They stabbed me swiftly, those emotions.

So I briskly walked to his spot there in the middle of the train station hall and nimbly bent over to pick up the elusive object. I placed it in his hands, looking only briefly into his confused and surprised eyes as not to cause any more embarrassment than had already been inflicted upon his poor soul. Then, glancing down to his gloved appendages before making my quick getaway, I was able to discern this object’s very fundamental importance to the man: He needed it to smile. He needed it to talk. He needed it to eat.

Very simply, he needed his teeth.

Quite taken aback, I went directly to the train station restroom to debrief and wash my hands. Teeth. Teeth? Teeth?! Really? I was at once humbled and humored, embarrassed and honored, grossed-out and grateful for the experience, for my own teeth.

At my church in the next few weeks we will be talking about shaking the systems of injustice by being brave and not safe. Sometimes I like to think that I’m heroic and courageous, that I really have what it takes to take the risk and be the Good Samaritan in my everyday life. But I have to wonder: If I had recognized the roundish looking item as his dentures, would I have picked them up? Would I still have been bold enough to just walk right over and touch the moist article that had his saliva all over it, without first even looking for a tissue or something? Or would I have worried about germs and disease breeding on those false, neither pearly nor whites and kept walking? I don’t know. I just don’t know.

What about you? What would you have done?

Friends Forever

The Onion reports on Barack Obama's new strategy: Constructive Criticism.


Obama Runs Constructive Criticism Ad Against McCain

(As an aside, you gotta love that "War for the White House" graphic...it's right up there with Stephen Colbert's screeching eagle.)

29.9.08

The Green Giantkillers

My little sister Kailyn begins her first classes at Oregon State University today. Considering our family typically prefers the Ducks, it was an audacious choice, but I guess educational preferences should win out over athletics.

As you may have heard, the Beavers pulled off a stunning upset over the #1 ranked USC Trojans last Thursday, throwing the college football world into flux. Kailyn was at that game. It was her first. That's how you start college life. "I was almost trampled!" she told us excitedly.

But here's the weird thing:

This was the second time in Oregon State history the Beavs beat a #1 ranked opponent. The other was 41 years ago, a 3-0 victory over the O.J. Simpson-lead Trojans. It was the only Oregon State football game my dad has ever attended.

Sports fans are notoriously superstitious, I know, but think about it: the members of my immediate family have attended two Oregon State football games, 41 years apart, and both were stunning upsets over the #1 ranked Trojans.

My wife Mindy, the newest member of the Green family, was not impressed. She made fun of me, in fact. This may be due to Mindy being a USC alum...not sure.

Just A Little Reality Check

"It's extraordinary to me that the United States can find $700 billion to bail out Wall Street and the entire G8 can't find $25 billion who die every day from preventable diseases."

Bono, on The American Prospect blog.


Learn more at The Micah Challenge and Neue.

28.9.08

Jesus for President


A vigorous discussion is under way in the Comments section of last week's interview with Donald Miller about his decision to campaign for Barack Obama.

One of the comments is from John Cooper, the youth pastor of Garden Ridge Church of Christ in Lewisville, Texas. After stating his appreciation for Don and Blue Like Jazz, Cooper admitted that he was "perplexed" by Don's decision to "promote the ideas of the American political system." He wrote: "After reading [Shane] Claiborne and [Chris] Haw's Jesus for President, I am not sure how Christ-followers can align ourselves with an empire and a president rather than pledging our allegiance to a King and His kingdom. I plan to vote Jesus for president."

Cooper brings up an important point that deserves more discussion. I am only halfway through Claiborne's "The Irresistible Revolution" and a quarter of the way through "Jesus for President," so I don't feel comfortable laying out this perspective myself. I asked Cooper if we could cross-publish here a post he wrote on his personal blog earlier this month. He graciously agreed.

I'm interested to your hear thoughts.

Cooper's post is below:

- - -

The other day a buddy sent me and a bunch of our friends a link to a website designed to help us determine whether our values most reflect presidential candidates McCain or Obama and, thus, which individual we should voter for on November 4th. I took the test out of curiosity, though I already have made up my mind concerning my vote (more on that later). There were 13 issues raised with quotes from each candidate for each issue. The trick was that the site does not attribute the quotes to either McCain or Obama (you can guess some of them). That way you can make a decision on your values and not the candidate. In complete fence-straddling fashion, 7 of my choices were linked to Obama and the other 6 to McCain. I got a good chuckle out of that.

Regardless of those results, I made up my mind this summer after reading a book by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw (also check out http://www.jesuswantstosavechristians.com/) that I would be voting Jesus for President. What's that? You say He's not on the ballot and instead we should vote for the candidate that most closely reflects the nature and ideals of Christ? Well, that is the sort of thing most of us are taught to do in our families and churches, right? That is why in Christian circles it is often popular to vote along republican party lines (whether or not this party's ideals reflect Jesus or not is another topic)... straight ticket even!

The idealistic goals of electing a Christian president and disseminating Jesus' values from Washington might seem like a worthy effort. However, rather than putting our hope in a political system, a president, and a nation, those of us who follow Jesus should be about doing His will, honoring Him as King, and pledging allegiance to His Kingdom. We must not rely on the government to do the very tasks God has called us to do as His hands and feet.

To quote Shane Claiborne, author of Jesus for President, "What is more important than how we vote on November 4 is how we live on Nov. 3 and Nov. 5." He goes on to say, "We vote every day with our lives... we vote every day with our feet, our hands, our lips, and our wallets. We vote for the poor. We vote for the peacemakers. We vote for the marginalized, the oppressed, the most vulnerable of our society. Ultimate change does not just happen every four years."

So whether we vote for McCain or Obama or write-in Jesus for President, may we be about the things of our Father in Heaven and His Son, our Savior, Jesus of Nazareth. May we follow the slaughtered lamb into acts of humility, service, enemy-love, grace, and peace. May we remember that we were called to be a kingdom of priests, a holy nation, a people set apart and belonging to God; aliens and strangers in this world. May we not grow too comfortable and secure in a false identity as Americans, but reflect our true identity as God's children. May we vote every day for the cause of the orphans, widows, imprisoned, sick, poor, hungry, and the least of Jesus' brothers and sisters; and, as we do so, may we see that we are actually serving our King.

-Amen

26.9.08

Presidential Debates: Round One

The first presidential debate is over. What were your impressions? How did each candidate do? Were you surprised by anything? If you were undecided before the debate - are you still undecided or did the performances tonight help you choose your guy? Was there a clear winner?

Burnside Update: Fundraising and Burnside Readers

We have a couple things for you this fine Fall Friday.

The first is to update you on our fundraising efforts. We currently stand a little under $2,000 after two weeks of fundraising. We've been absolutely amazed and humbled at the generosity of our our contributors: the average donation has been around $106!

We're now at the point where we can put the wheels in motion on building the new site, but we still have a ways to go to cover the whole cost. Please keep spreading the word on Burnside, and don't forget to support us with your prayers.

Beyond financial support, we've also received some invaluable guidance from Leanne Stewart, an organization guru who has been unbelievably sweet and helpful in coaching us through this process. One of her most fervently argued points was that we need to get you, our readers, involved. Below is our first step. Please take the time to fill out this short questionnaire, and thank you for your support.

25.9.08

Interview with Donald Miller


Donald Miller is the best-selling author of Blue Like Jazz, Searching for God Knows What, Through Painted Deserts and To Own a Dragon. He is currently writing his fifth book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, which explores the principles of story-telling in our lives. A feature film is in the works based on Blue Like Jazz, and Don is also in collaboration with the filmmakers behind Nooma for a film series titled Transitus. Don also founded The Mentoring Project (formerly The Belmont Foundation), a non-profit organization which is recruiting ten-thousand mentors through one-thousand church-based mentoring programs.

Don is currently touring with the Obama campaign's "Faith, Family and Values Tour", conducting forums in battleground states. On Tuesday, Don spoke in Colorado Springs. We wanted to give him a chance to explain why he made the controversial decision to campaign for Barack Obama.

(Full disclosure: Donald Miller is also the founder of the Burnside Writers Collective, and currently serves as an advisor for us when time allows. He is an invaluable friend and supporter. That said, thoughtful critics, both independent and conservative, have raised some good points in objection to Don's decision to campaign for Obama. The following questions were drafted by Burnside editors Jordan Green and John Pattison.)

---

Burnside: Can you lay out your biggest reasons for supporting Barack Obama?

Donald Miller:
First off, I know this is an odd thing for somebody in my position to do, to support a candidate for President. But I do feel this candidate is unique. Barack is the only candidate willing to talk about his faith in Jesus. Other candidates are reluctant, but Obama is not. He is the only one who has consistently talked about the cross, about redemption, and about repentance. Many white evangelicals have a misconception about Barack...they believe that because he is a Democrat, he cannot be a Christian. But times have changed, culture has changed, and political parties change. So one of the reasons I support Barack is because he is my Christian brother, and other Christians are rejecting him.

But that has little to do with his candidacy. In short, there are a few issues I agree with Barack on.

Senator Obama is going to move us past the impasse in our cultural war, something I think of as a cultural Vietnam. On the issue of abortion, he is the only candidate who has a plan to reduce the number of abortions. John McCain's only plan is the same old trick: say that you are pro life and offer no plan at all other than to criminalize abortion. I simply think that plan hasn't worked, and we have to face that fact and look for other ways to make progress.

I realize this is controversial, that there are many who would rather vote for a pro-life candidate and keep the abortion rate the same, on principle. And like them I believe in the sanctity of life, I simply think we need to begin making progress, and Barack is offering progress. He is also standing up to his own party on the issue and moving the party forward to elevate the issue of the sanctity of life within the Democratic Party. I also see this as progress. I do wish we could end abortion completely, but the Republicans have not spelled out a realistic plan to do so, and until they do, I won't vote for a candidate who simply throws us a pro-life line and no plan. It seems insincere.

But let me add this: I do wish Obama were pro-life. His plan to reduce the rate of abortion is a great step for the party, but I also wish he would defend the unborn to a greater degree.

However, at this point, in this election, with these two candidates, I think progress will be made with Barack. Not enough progress, but some progress, especially within the Democratic party, who may soften their stand on the sanctity of life.

A personal connection with me regarding Obama involves the initiative he is taking with responsible fatherhood. He has already drawn up legislation to change the welfare state to stop rewarding families whose fathers leave, and is working to change the economic structure so fathers who stay with their families are given tax relief. This has been an age-old problem that was written about in George Gilder's book Sexual Suicide. (Gilder's) book is a Conservative's economic manifesto, but Barack sees a lot of value in Gilder's ideas. But because Barack is a Democrat, Conservatives are unable to even consider his ideas.

BWC: A lot of folks view overturning Roe v. Wade as a pipe dream. But electing John McCain could very likely tip the scales of the Supreme Court toward the conservative side, and Roe v. Wade could be overturned. Do you think the impact of Barack Obama’s plans on abortion would outweigh an outright reversal of the Supreme Court’s decision?

Don: If McCain cared about the issue of abortion enough, he would move forward on the issue. He might draft a constitutional amendment that would make abortion specifically unconstitutional, the way George W. Bush talked of doing with gay marriage. George W. Bush could have done something like this when he had majority votes in both houses of Congress.

But I feel like they didn't touch the issue because it would have cost them politically. I simply do not see McCain's stand on abortion being as strong as conservatives think it is. He changed his mind on the issue only a few years ago, in fact. I think it's a ploy to get votes. If McCain were strong on the issue, he would call it murder, saying abortion should be criminalized, and perhaps Cindy McCain would talk about the issue. Sara Palin would talk about how abortion should be criminalized.

Instead, they throw the pro-life line at us and go on doing nothing. It should make conservatives furious, but it doesn't. It's like the argument has become a game about racking up rhetorical points, rather than saving lives. I see this as hypocritcal, and I support Obama's plan to make actual headway on this issue. The future may change this for me, but at this point, I see some hope on the horizon.

BWC: Is there something to be learned from the failures of the Religious Right? For 30 years, they’ve aligned themselves with the Republican party with very little to show...are you concerned your decision to campaign is just a pendulum swing to the Left?

Don: I don't know that there is little to show. Religious leaders are very powerful, and Republicans cater to them and cannot win without the religious vote. That said, Republicans have pitched us two issues and reduced the Christian worldview to Gay Marriage and Abortion.

They had to do that because their economic policies are Biblically debatable. And occasionally there are battles won on the two fronts they've given the white church, but if you are asking if it was worth it to sell the church to the Republican Party, I would say no. Abortion is still legal, and many Democrats oppose gay marriage. So I don't see the use in staying in this impasse any longer.

BWC: Some church leaders advocate an “Endorse no one, advise everyone” policy. Do you see yourself breaking from this mindset?

Don: I suppose so. I intend to vote for Obama, so I would consider that an endorsement. I feel free to talk about that. I don't have a cynicism about elected leaders. I think they are human, that The Fall happened to them just like it happened to me. I recently went to Uganda with a diplomat who, because of his rank and power, could start the court system up in the north, and get kids out of prison who should have gotten off with time served. There is so much good that only diplomats can do.

I think it is very fashionable to remain independent right now, but I don't see the use. I am willing to look uncool to help the first African-American become President, and to have a strong, Christian leader in the White House. Besides, if I were not willing to work alongside somebody, I doubt they'd be calling to ask for my advice. I see this as a historical race, and I want to be willing to take some heat as an early adapter. And there are many early adapters.

Most evangelicals polled will vote for Barack. It is only the very conservative, mostly white suburban churched who are leaning toward McCain. Today on the news I heard a pastor say you could not possibly be a Christian and vote for Barack Obama. I cringed when I heard it, because yesterday in Colorado I met with about thirty African-American pastors who love Jesus and know Jesus, who will be voting for Barack. I wondered what they might think when they hear something like that, an angry white man telling them they do not know Jesus, and that they are going to hell. When we pick up a bullhorn and speak from within our insular communities, without so much as talking to people who come from another perspective, we do a great deal of damage. I don't want to be a part of that. But I don't think my endorsement of Barack is quite like that. I am not saying to the church that they do not know Jesus unless they vote for Barack, or that they are going to go to hell or anything. I am simply saying I am voting for Barack, and explaining why.

BWC: Do you see a difference between voting for a candidate and campaigning for a candidate?

Don: I see a difference socially. We consider it patriotic to vote, but unfashionable to campaign. But that doesn't matter to me right now. I want to be on the right side of history on this one. Ethically, I do not believe it is wrong to campaign. Biblically, I don't think it's wrong either. It just doesn't look cool, that's all.

Twenty years from now, when my children asked what I did during this historical campaign, I want to tell them that I went out and worked, made calls, went door to door, and was able to stump for Barack. There are many in my parents generation who regret not being able to say that they worked hard during the civil rights movement, and I don't want to miss this opportunity.

BWC: You’ve mentioned the goal of ending the violent rhetoric of the “Culture War”. While the division of America has been perpetuated by both sides, a statement like “Stop The Culture War” seems more directed at conservatives, and could be viewed as rhetoric in and of itself. How, practically, do we bring about an end to that sort of language? Do you think the values on either side of the culture war are truly in conflict?

Don: I don't intend that statement toward conservatives alone. I think both sides feel like the other side is the enemy. But I know both sides. And both sides have very good people working hard to do what they feel is right. I think we have to make it clear that because we support one candidate doesn't mean we hate the other. I don't hate John McCain. I like him, in fact. But when I do the math, Obama is my candidate.

I hate the negative advertisements just like everybody else. But those advertisements work on the ignorant, and it gets simple thinkers heated up. We just have to have the discipline to be civil. Many of my friends will vote for McCain, and members of my family too. But it doesn't matter to me. Family comes first, and so do friends. When I'm on my deathbed, Barack Obama and John McCain won't be there, but my friends and family will. So they come first, and they are more important. I just won't let myself get too heated about this stuff. It's not worth it.

BWC: Are Christians participating in the electoral process are being forced to choose “the lesser of two evils”? I don’t mean to say Barack Obama or John McCain are evil, but supporting either side seems to demand a compromise of our beliefs on some level. Maybe our anti-abortion stance supersedes our beliefs on war, and vice versa.

Don: I think this is basically true, but I'm not drawn to the negative tone of that popular phrase. I don't think John McCain or Barack Obama are evil. I think they are both good men. But the fall happened, and so things here on earth are messy and no leader is going to be perfect until Christ comes back. Until then, we educate ourselves on the issues, do some careful math, and vote for a candidate that we think will govern the best.

24.9.08

Jonathan Safran Foer: How I Write

"Brother has a tight psychological grip on Junior."

Your weekly MST3k clip:

Female Pastors = Vicodin

CNN.com columnist Roland Martin has an op-ed piece today on Lifeway Christian Store's decision to keep the latest edition of GospelToday, which features five female pastors on the cover, behind the counter.

Martin does not say what sort of prescription is needed to access those magazines...possibly a letter from your pastor affirming you meet certain guidelines? Maybe only men can buy it, since it would give the ladies certain ideas...

Hey, Lifeway, maybe you could let your customers decide if they want to read the magazine or not. Maybe you could let us think for ourselves, and ponder theological issues like this in open dialogue. Then I wouldn't find myself siding with a magazine that once put Star Jones on its cover.

BWC: Disappointing Scarlett Johnansson fans since 2005.

One of the more interesting things about running a website is poring over the stats page from time to time, examining where our visitors come from.

While most of our traffic is direct (meaning people come to Burnside to read Burnside), we also get visitors searching for all sorts of odds and ends. Here are some of the most frequently errant keyword searches:

"libby lu"
This one isn't particularly surprising or errant, since we did run an article on Libby Lu in October 2007. What tickled me was, for a while we were Club Libby Lu's most vocal critic, popping up second on Google searches. Libby Lu's marketing department must have been disturbed an article titled "The Evil Empire of Libby Lu" was showing up directly under their official website, and worked on some search engine optimization...we've been demoted to the second page.

"kool aid man"
We ran a couple goofy emails some time back, and featured an image of the Kool-Aid Man.

"scarlett johannson"
It took me 7 pages of Google Image search to find one appropriate enough to post on Burnside (and that was with Safe Search on). I'm betting these visitors are disappointed to find only Adam P. Newton's review of Scarlett's album "Anywhere I Lay My Head". I'm also betting Adam is thrilled beyond belief to be somehow linked to Scarlett Johansson.

"35 year old virgin"
I'm not sure if people just get the number wrong, or if they're actually 35 year-old virgins, but this article we ran last year is probably a solace to many, and we're glad for that.

23.9.08

Driving in Amish Country

It's been a while since I gave my last dispatches from Amish country, so it just feels like the right time for another one.

For those who don't know, I live in Intercourse, PA in the heart of Amish Country. It's a great place to live and raise kids, except for Saturdays in the summer when the traffic in Intercourse is so bad it makes you want to run yourself over with an Amish lawnmower.

A few days ago I had my wonderful wife Erica take a picture of me in front of the "Welcome to Intercourse" sign at the park near our house. I told her I needed it for the blog. Though it was a bit embarrassing for her, she snapped away anyway while I made goofy faces in front of the sign. Yes, love does conquer all.

The topic for today's discussion is driving in Amish country. Driving around in Amish country has some challenges that are fairly unique to the region. Amish buggies travel at a very slow pace, as you probably surmised, so a driver has to always be prepared to encounter one around every corner and over the crest of every hill. Passing buggies by crossing over double yellow lines is a necessity, but many tourists and out-of-staters do not know this, and as such will travel 5 MPH behind buggies for long periods of time until cars start passing them and they realize they can pass the buggy too. (Usually while they are passing the buggy the front seat passenger will stick a camera out the window for a picture, which probably makes the Amish angry in an old-school, anti-technology kind of way.)

But driving around here isn't all bad. You do see some interesting things from time to time. In fact, I've had my camera phone ready over the last couple of weeks for any kodak moments that might arise while I was on the road. Here's a few of the things I caught on film, err, phone.


Most buggies are covered, but as you can see here, some are not. Rumor has it that whenever a guy and a girl who are not married travel together, they are not allowed to ride in a covered buggy. Even the amish understand the power of teenage hormones. Since there are four people riding in this buggy, I'm guessing the reason they went with the convertible was just to enjoy a nice day.


Once in a while you'll see a buggy hauling something behind it, but I have to tell you, this was the first time I had ever seen a buggy hauling a crate of live chickens. The crate appears to be too big for the wagon, so the thing looks like it could fall off at any second. Thankfully, you don't take turns very fast when you've only got 1 horsepower under the hood. I'm not sure what happened to the chickens, but I'm guessing it didn't end well for them.


On rare occasions you'll see someone cutting out the middle man and leaving the buggy at home. This guy was riding a horse on the side of the road. Frankly, I wouldn't recommend this. It's just not that safe. Especially when there's people in cars driving by trying to take pictures of you.


Another popular mode of transportation among the Amish is the scooter. Think of it as a 1-man buggy without the horse. As opposed to the razor scooters that have been huge with kids for the past 10 years, these amish scooters have huge wheels on them. Like, bicycle wheels. Not sure what the advantage is over the razor scooter, but I don't see the Amish adopting the Razors into their way of life for another 50 years or so. I'm not sure why, but seeing an old Amish dude riding a scooter still makes me laugh. Probably because I'm a jerk.



Of course, you can't really talk about driving in Amish country without discussing the emissions that their engines give off. Avoiding road apples is a way of life around here, and before long you don't even notice it ... UNLESS, the road apples in question are piled up at pump #3 of the local gas station. I got out to put gas in my car the other day and almost walked right into this heap of equine excrement. Seriously, someone want to explain to me what that pile of horse crap is doing at a gas pump? Feel free to share your thoughts on that, and anything else Amish-related in the comments section.

Well, that's all for now. Y'all are welcome to come join us in Intercourse any time!

22.9.08

Lorne Michaels' brainchild dodders on...

Saturday Night Live is considered a television institution.

I know this because SNL constantly reminds me. Remember when Chris Farley danced with Patrick Swayze? Remember when Will Ferrell played the cowbell? Remember Dan Akroyd and the bass-0-matic? What about when Adam Sandler sang about Hannukah? Hilarious!

But the reality is, SNL has always been mediocre. There have been flashes of brilliance, sure...iconic comedy moments we could recall as vividly as a Seinfeld episode. But try watching all those episodes back-to-back. The skits almost invariably go on too long, characters wear out their welcome, and players who've never been funny are inexplicably kept on (I'm talking about you, Kenan Thompson).

Somehow, though, like a nursing home mainstay who just won't kick this mortal coil, SNL lives on. This season, they've managed two bits of watercooler talk in two weeks.

The first was Tina Fey's impersonation of Sarah Palin in a skit featuring Amy Poehler as Hillary Clinton.


It's a funny skit. Fey isn't a great mimic, but she gets Palin's timbre down well, and while it lands a few direct hits on Palin's inexperience and Clinton's ambition, it's actually fairly kind to the Alaskan Governor compared to, say, The Daily Show, primarily because Tina Fey makes Palin so likable.

The second skit was far more controversial. I missed the show, so I heard about it from my dad, who was incensed. Here's the clip, where a journalist with the New York Times suggests Todd Palin may be guilty of incest toward his daughters.



The sketch angered conservative bloggers and commentators. I was just extremely confused.

The clip begins with this scrolling message:
"Todd Palin, Husband of Sarah Palin, is accused of Incest and Statuatory rape by Saturday Night live. Just a Joke? (sic)"
Well, to answer your question, scrolling message, I'm fairly sure it was a joke.

It was an awful joke...in taste, timing...you name it. I mean, it's really bad. I'm stunned it made it past even SNL's notoriously low standards. The audience response is absolutely abyssmal as a low smattering of nervous laughter gives way to a disgusted "oooh". The sounds of crickets at least denotes confusion...this elicited extreme displeasure from a Blue State audience, and that response was well-deserved.

But SNL was not accusing Todd Palin of incest. In fact, I'm not even sure how you could get that message, even from this edited down version of the sketch. The "joke" is obviously...and I mean obviously...directed at the media in particular and the Left in general. The message of the sketch is two-fold:

Message #1: The media is irresponsible in its reporting, and cares more about promoting controversy and selling ad space than reporting actual facts.

The media was caught off guard by Sarah Palin's nomination. While John McCain, Barack Obama and Joe Biden have been in the public spotlight for a long time and been subject to intense scrutiny, Sarah Palin was brand new. As the media scrambled to find out all they could about Palin's mysterious past, speculation was ridiculous and rampant, ranging from the completely irrelevant (Todd Palin's DUI in 1986) to absurdly disgusting (Palin's son Trig, who has down syndrome, was actually the son of Palin's daughter, Bristol).

The problem is, anymore it's difficult to pin this speculation on the media, which now seems to umbrella bloggers as well as seasoned journalists. My guess is, most of the wild rumors originated from bloggers looking to pull in traffic, though it's hard to say. Additionally, the sketch targets The New York Times, when cable news channels (from Fox to MSNBC to CNN) are far more culpable in the decline of journalism.

Message #2: The media views rural populations as stupid and inbred.

This message is a bit more focused, and addresses the Left's complicity in the so-called "Culture War". When Bill O'Reilly rants and raves about the battle for American values, he is basically attacking the way Red State America is viewed by the liberals and media in big cities. The perception is that flyover states are backward and naive, holding on to "small-town" values, completely ignorant of urban reality. We posted an example of that mentality earlier this month, when a Slate.com reporter arrogantly toured Palin's hometown of Wasilia.

It's a shame the joke was so horrible, since these are valid satirical targets.

---

Here's the irony: Conservative commentators are mad as hornets because they've missed the point of this joke. The point of the joke supports two commonly held conservative beliefs, and is aimed at Liberals. Exasperated Liberal commentators are now forced to defend a stupid, unfunny and disgusting attempt at comedy, even though it was directed at them.

This maze of logic came careening through my head late last night, so I couldn't sleep. It was like trying to solve a Rubick's cube of rhetoric. Eventually, I drifted off with these three points:

1. Conservative commentators don't understand comedy.
2. Liberal commentators don't understand comedy.
3. Saturday Night Live, despite a collection of excellent individual players (particularly the awesome Kristen Wiig), is still as bad as it ever was.

Donald Miller Endorsing Barack Obama

As you may have read already, Donald Miller will be joining the "Barack Obama: Faith, Family and Values Tour". The tour will include stints in battleground states, and Don begins campaigning in Colorado this week. The first forum is being held Colorado Springs tomorrow. Should be a tough crowd.

I've sent Don some questions, and he's hoping to get the answers back to me tonight if nothing comes up.

John Pattison and I were privileged to sit in as objective observers on a phone conversation last week between Don and Barack Obama campaign members (along with others who I'm reluctant to name here, if only to respect their privacy). These were the primary focuses:

1. Abortion - Obama plans to decrease abortion rates through combatting the societal ills like fatherlessness and poverty.

2. Barna Group Poll - The Barna Research Group, which conducts polls and research directed at the Christian community, recently published a poll showing Obama leading among 18 out of 19 faith segments. The only faith segment Obama did not lead in were those described as "evangelical born-again Christians". Here's a breakdown of the Christian faith groups and their percentages:
Non-evangelical born-again Christians: 43% for Obama against 31% for McCain

Notional Christians: 44% for Obama against 28% for McCain

Catholics: 39% for Obama against 29% for McCain

Protestants: 43% for Obama against 34% for McCain

Evangelical born-again Christians: 17% for Obama against 61% for McCain

3. The Culture War - The discussion also touched on examining the rhetoric of the "Culture War" and the possibility of launching a website devoted to breaking down the cultural differences being used to drive Americans apart.

---

Back to the Barna Group's poll. Obviously, there is a huge discrepancy between "evangelical born-again Christians" and "non-evangelical born-again Christians". Where mainstream polls link "evangelicals" together, the Barna Group asks nine additional questions to determine whether someone is "evangelical" or not. Here's the criteria directly from the site:

Born again Christians" are defined as people who said they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today and who also indicated they believe that when they die they will go to Heaven because they had confessed their sins and had accepted Jesus Christ as their savior. Respondents are not asked to describe themselves as "born again."

"Evangelicals" meet the born again criteria (described above) plus seven other conditions. Those include saying their faith is very important in their life today; believing they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs about Christ with non-Christians; believing that Satan exists; believing that eternal salvation is possible only through grace, not works; believing that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; asserting that the Bible is accurate in all that it teaches; and describing God as the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today. Being classified as an evangelical is not dependent upon church attendance or the denominational affiliation of the church attended. Respondents were not asked to describe themselves as "evangelical."

Non-evangelical born again Christians meet the born again criteria described above, but not the evangelical criteria.

Notional Christians are those who consider themselves to be Christian but do not meet the born again criteria.

It's interesting to note the theological minutiae at play here. I'd be curious to see which one of those seven criteria causes the most dramatic swing.

---

Obviously, Don's open support of Barack Obama will be drawing some fire.

But before you jump in on the criticism (like some other folks), take the time to hear Don's reasoning. I'm not suggesting it will or should change your mind...I'm just asking you to listen thoughtfully.

I expressed my concerns to Don, and he explained his position to me last week over the phone. As I said above, we'll be posting his responses to those concerns (and others) tonight or tomorrow.

(Update: Flying out to Colorado early this morning, Don didn't have time to respond. He says he'll get back to me in the next few days.)

In the meantime, here's Don discussing some aspects of his decision:

R.I.P "Emerging Church"; We Barely Knew Ya!

Did you create a mnemonic device to help distinquish between the “emerging” church and Emergent?

Congrats, it will help you with church history.

Several of the leaders of the now defunct emerging church movement have decided to ditch the label that suffered from overuse and a severe lack of definition. They had kept doctrinal definitions theologically fuzzy by design and while this promoted refreshing dialogue between godly people who disagreed, it also allowed for the theological hijacking.

The Out of Ur Blog, owned by Christianity Today, rumors that Erwin McManus, Dan Kimball, and others are looking to create a new network of like-minded thinkers and churches:
As the emerging church rides off into the sunset, where does that leave things? Well, news has been leaking about a new network being formed by Dan Kimball, Erwin McManus, and Scot McKnight among others. I understand further meetings will be happening this week to help solidify the group. The still unnamed network has agreed to start with the inclusive but orthodox theological foundation of the Lausanne Covenant, and they intend to emphasize mission and evangelism. They appear to have learned from the emerging church’s mistake—define purpose and doctrine early so your identity doesn’t get hijacked. If they do their work carefully, perhaps the new network can avoid getting “wacked” in every sense of the word.

21.9.08

Sigh.

Saturday was a tough day for Burnside's two official college football teams.

First, the Oregon Ducks decided to run up the middle about a million times in the first half. It was a decent strategy considering their quarterback couldn't throw the ball, but Boise State is a team known for upsets, and Broncos head coach Chris Peterson is no dummy considering he learned from the best.

Oregon's offensive coordinator, the usually impeccable Chip Kelly, took nearly three quarters to figure out Oregon needed to throw the ball, and freshman Darron Thomas was excellent. But it was too little too late. I take a shred of solace the loss came against Boise State, my second favorite football team, and that Ryan Winterswyk, the brother of one of Mindy's best friends, was instrumental in stuffing Oregon's vaunted run game. But it's not much of a comfort.

Then Auburn fell short against the 6th-ranked LSU Tigers, which prompted this text message exchange between myself and Chad Gibbs:

Me: "If it's any consolation, I know how you feel right now."

Chad: "vomit"

Life goes on. There's always 2009. In fact, there are rumors Oregon and Boise State may play next year's battle in China. I'm sure Nike has nothing to do with it.

19.9.08

Legacy



I can't be sure, but I think I saw Rich Mullins in concert.

I was in junior high and attending a week-long camp at Kentucky Christian College called "Summer in the Son." Each night featured a concert from a big-name CCM artist. I remember being excited to see Audio Adrenaline but indifferent toward the week's other musical guests. Audio Adrenaline had recently released their self-titled first album. I felt special because my uncle had taught Mark Stuart and the other guys in the band as a professor at KCC, and I had a bootleg cassette tape from when they were called A-180. The Audio A concert was predictably thrilling. But during the other concerts I sat awkward and alone in the back of the chapel, where the biggest electric fan I've ever seen prevented me from hearing all but intermittent strains of music from the stage.

Years later, after Mullins's death, when I was regretting that I had never seen him in concert, I was confronted with a vague memory - that Rich Mullins had been one of the shows that summer in Kentucky - and an even bigger regret: that I had seen Mullins in concert but didn't pay attention.

Against all odds, Rich Mullins became one of my favorite singer/songwriters. I'm working on an article about Mullins for next Monday's issue of the Writers Collective. But today, I thought I'd ask you all if you have any special thoughts or memories about Rich on this the eleventh anniversary of his death.

18.9.08

"I Write a Fast Book"... To the Tune of a Tracey Chapman Song



On August 29, McCain declared Sarah Palin as his VP and introduced her to a national audience. Zondervan Publishing has announced that it's releasing a biography on Sarah Palin in November.

Here's the publisher's description of the book:

Our present era demands a new style of leadership that transcends political affiliation and party lines. In an age that values relationship over authority and instant information over accuracy, breadth of knowledge and depth of conviction are prized commodities. Governor Sarah Palin (R—Alaska) brings both of those qualities to her new role as candidate for the vice presidency of the United States.

Her familiarity with a broad range of issues and her strong moral center are just two of the leadership traits that have allowed Palin to organize and focus her efforts in elected office.

Exploring themes from her career in politics, her life as a hockey mom, and her strongly held Christian faith, author Joe Hilley’s biographical leadership study of Sarah Palin explores the leadership principles that have catapulted her into the national spotlight and explains how she models a fresh paradigm of leadership that will guide our nation through the 21st century.


I'm a Republican and I understand that Sarah has accomplished much in a short amount of time. I have to confess to having no enthusiasm about her selection. Perhaps my disappointment is coloring my assessment of this book. But I have to wonder how the author could have come to the conclusion so quickly that Sarah is a next generation leader. Did he base this assessment on Sarah's gender? There's a body of business literature that asserts that in the future having a female perspective at senior levels of leadership will become a necessity. Personally, I agree with this.

But let's face it. There's barely been enough time past to adequately vet Sarah (oops!) let alone come to the judgment that she's a "next generation" leader. It seems like the conclusion of the book has been written an all that is left to shoe-horn Palin's story into a predetermined outline.

The truth is that we all still getting to know Sarah. Journalists are still unearthing facts and testimonials about her. There's such a hurry to assess Sarah that she's become our national Rorschach test. We all see what it is we want to see in her. It will takes months for a fair assessment of Sarah to emerge.

Regrettably, that time will come months after the election.

Fund Raising Update

$1,200 in just three days.

On Monday Jordan posted a Letter from the Editor and a blog post about our fundraising campaign. Our goal is to raise $10,000 in the next few weeks, and you all have come through. This confirms for us that now was the time to step out on faith and take the Writers Collective to the next level. The excitement around the Burnside virtual office is palpable. We have to keep our writers and editors strapped to their chairs to keep them from buzzing around the water cooler. We still have a ways to go, but thank you everybody for your support.





A couple people have asked if there is a way of doing monthly donations through PayPal. It turns out it is possible. However, as near as I can tell, PayPal requires we send out annoying monthly payment reminders. If you don't mind getting that e-mail, and you want to give monthly, we'll be more than glad to accommodate. Send an e-mail to johnepattison[at]yahoo[dot]com if that is the payment option you prefer.

Also, we noticed that several of you have put up links on your personal blogs to our fund raising announcement. That has helped alot.

Thanks again for all your help. We'll put up periodic updates and let you know how the fund raising is coming along.



"It's called guilt and boy, does it work!"

Your weekly MST3k clip:

"If you could wish for one thing to happen by the end of the day, what would it be?".


Fifty People, One Question: Restored from Benjamin Reece on Vimeo.

It takes awhile to get going (three minutes or so), but for some reason, I was really touched by this video today. I found it interesting at first that so many people seemed to have a hard time coming up with a response, but thirty minutes after the film came to a close on my screen, I still don't have an answer of my own.

17.9.08

The Money Pit: Gospel Revisited


The Headlines are pouring in from around the world: "500 point market 'adustment' evaporates billions." "Major banking institutions disappear overnight." "Government bails out major insurance company." Global Economy. Foreclosure crisis. Consumer Debt. Energy Consumption declines with economic downturn... etc. etc.

"Yes, yes, all very interesting, author, but you're here to talk about spiritual things, So please, a little Bible study?" Since you asked... here we go:

James 5:1 tells us that we who are rich will have our own share of miseries so that, rather than rejoicing in our riches, perhaps we should acknowledge that they've often come at the cost of unjust treatment for those who live elsewhere, far away from our sight lines, working for wages that fail to provide adequately, and lacking access to clean water, health care, or basic education.

I Timothy 6:10 reminds us that the love of money is the root of all evil, and that those who leave their love of Christ behind in the pursuit of riches fall into a ditch somewhere along the way, finding themselves filled with grief. The might just mean that all that speculative buying of real estate, rooted as it is, in the desire to get rich quickly, might actually be as serious of a spiritual problem as sleeping with your neighbor's wife. Of course, we evangelicals don't see it that way because we've often elevated workaholism and the acquisition of wealth by any legal means to high art, so that men and women guilty of these sins are put on boards, honored for their wisdom, and courted for their donations. This is not to say that all wealth is evil, but Timothy pleads with us to avoid the pursuit of more than we need, and you can learn about that in I Timothy 6:8. My desire to acquire more than I need might just be making a contribution to the present global crisis... might just be sin.

Jesus had a lot to say about money too; in fact, he spoke more about money than heaven or hell. He told us to live like birds and flowers, intent on declaring and displaying the glory of God, working at our callings, and leaving the results and provision in God's hands because, as He said, God will take of us. You can read about all that stuff here.

Before Jesus, John the Baptist was on the scene offering a foretaste of Messiah's coming. Interestingly, when people asked what they should do to be saved, he said nothing about praying the sinner's prayer, nothing about atonement, nothing about getting to go to heaven when you die. These elements of the gospel aren't illegitimate, but they're only part of the story. John the Baptist told people that if they were going to follow Jesus they needed to change their financial priorities. You can read about that here

Shall I continue? We could talk about caring for the poor, speaking to the power structures that oppress the poor, assessing our own lives to see if our economic ethic of operating in our own self interest by always paying the cheapest price for a product is in keeping with Jesus pirorities, or Adam Smith's, whose economic gospel has framed our buying and selling in America for two centuries.

It turns out that this present economic crisis is, indeed, not only a crisis, but a spiritual opporutnity, if we will but open our eyes to see the economic implications of Jesus kingdom ethic, adjust our own lives towards generosity, and see that when core values of a culture are shaken, there's a glorious opportunity to rebuild on a better foundation. It's an opporunity that many might take advantage of if the church is able to offer an alternative to the gospel of Adam Smith. For some of us though, we'll be unable to offer an alternative until we see our complicity with the structures that are presently melting, and repent.

I've written more on this subject in the chapter on generoisity, offered in o2: Breathing New Life into Faith. May we pray for eyes to see and hearts to respond in the midst of these amazing days

The Conditional Servants

Burnside is in the middle of fundraising right now, and every penny of your donations help. We believe Burnside serves a valuable purpose in propagating discussion, art and critical thought.

But we also know there are other amazing people and organizations who need your assistance, and we hope you'll give generously to missionaries, churches and charitable organizations as well as Burnside.

Take, for instance, our friend Heather Colletto. Heather is a budding writer, and she and her husband Mike (also a talented writer) are currently raising money to work in Bratislava, Slovakia with Trans World Radio. They'll be serving in the Public Relations department, fundraising to broaden TWR's scope into more languages and countries.

They have to raise $37,000 dollars ($15k by the end of November in order to leave in January), but fundraising hasn't gone as well as they hoped. The Collettos had planned to get be in Bratislava in October, but they understand God will get them there in His time.

Recently, though, the Collettos suffered a major set-back.

Last week, they learned from a close friend that people who had received the Colletto's support-letter did not feel comfortable supporting their ministry because of Heather's support for Barack Obama. Her decision, they claimed, "allowed for the assumption (she) had changed (her) core beliefs" on two issues: abortion and gay marriage. Her friend told her if a few people believed this way, then surely many more on the support list felt similarly. She told Heather this was probably the main reason the Collettos were having difficulty raising funds.

Heather spoke to another friend who seconded the assertion. To make matters worse, Heather was beginning to doubt if the money would ever be raised, if they'd ever make it to Slovakia, and if they'd heard God's call correctly.
"Of course, there are a million things I wanted to say and ask those people, but where do you start with something like that? My friend thought I should write a blog reiterating my Christianity, and I started to, but I realized that I shouldn't have to defend myself as a Christian and missionary because I'm not voting Republican. God called us into full-time ministry knowing full-well I'd vote for a Democrat. If we're good enough for Him to do His work, that's good enough for me."
How did those people know Heather's stance? Her Facebook page, which had the word "Obamarama" under her political views, and a blog posting where Heather wrote about gays and the military. Heather sheepishly admits the post was a "little sassy" and blames "the darn Daily Show" for her rant.

---

Another thing you need to know about Heather: she's pro-life. She is so fervently pro-life, in fact, that she was nearly kicked out of Cedarville University in rural Ohio.

I asked Heather to clarify how she'd run into trouble at a very conservative Christian college for her pro-life stance, and she told me she'd applied for a receptionist position at an abortion clinic.

"Wait...what?!?" I replied.

"I decided that the abortion doctors had to hear about Christ, and I couldn't figure out how they would hear otherwise," she told me. "So it made sense in my head to go to them."

---

So some people are reluctant to support Heather because of her Presidential preference. Why?

We're asking honestly here, because Heather and her husband want to know. Do her political beliefs raise concerns for you? Do a missionary's ideologies affect their actions in the mission field?

Off hand, I'd say 'yes' to some extent. Missionaries are ambassadors for Christ and the Church, and they should be held to high standards. My concerns about a potential missionary might be more along the lines of patience and whether they have an understanding of the culture they are entering into, as well as a genuine love for the people they will serve.

But, on the other hand, we don't often see God taking the same measures. Paul wasn't a particularly patient guy, right? Moses was marble-mouthed. And Peter hacked a guy's ear off, for pete's sake.

I could understand if Heather was raising money to work for MoveOn.org. But Trans World Radio is a well-regarded, influential and long-serving Christian-based ministry using mass media to spread the message of Jesus as well as fight white slavery, poor health conditions, and abortion in needy nations. (Here's a more extensive look at TWR's Strategic Plan.)

Perhaps most importantly, Heather and Mike are doing something. They may like one presidential candidate over another, but they are not content to check a box on a piece of paper and call it good. They've heard Christ's call, and they're taking action while most of us sit on our butts and wait for the government to fix problems like fatherlessness, abortion and poverty.

---

But back to Heather supporting Barack Obama.

"How are you reconciling your pro-life beliefs with Barack Obama's positions on the subject?" I asked.

"
My husband just made me explain this to him last night. There's a pro/con list between the two candidates, and a big con on Obama's list is his pro-choice stance. But I cannot ignore all of his other pros, considering many have significant, global consequences."

"Abortion is an issue that I think can only be changed at this point on a personal level. I can't vote on that one issue legislatively hoping maybe a bill actually comes up. Not much happened in the last eight years, you know? And I do respect Obama's desire to lower the number of unwanted pregnancies. He's not waving a 'women's rights' banner. He seems to understand it's deeper than that."

"This election, I like both candidates. I really do. But my brother Dave puts it this way: If you're on a plane that's going down, would you ask the pilot 'Are you pro-choice or pro-life?' No, because you don't care. What you want to know is 'Can you fly the plane?'"

Considering the Dow's drop two days ago, I'd say it's a fairly apt analogy.

"As Christians, at the very least, we should respect Obama's message of unity--it's bridge-building, it's peaceful, it's productive," Heather continues.

"But it's not about Obama. It's not about any candidate. It's most certainly not about us. It's about Christians seeing beyond the traditional black-and-white issues to see the larger picture of what Christ calls us to be in this often very political world. It's about putting aside political differences to further the kingdom of God. I think that's something everyone can agree on."

---

You can follow the Collettos at their blog, Heather and Mike's Blogislava. For information on helping them get to Slovakia, visit their fundraising page. I'd love for Burnside readers to help Heather if you're so lead, especially since the Colletos have promised to write a column for us once they're overseas.

16.9.08

Can We Handle Independence If It's Not Entertaining?

I don't watch TV, so it's always a shock when I head to my parent's house where it's blazing something or other from the first pot of coffee to the midnight pb&j. My Dad likes the news shows, so unless we can convince him to turn it off there's always a couple of guys yelling at each other for a few hours in the evening.

I don't know when this started to pass for journalism, but I have an inkling it's around the time that entertainment started to attract more viewers than serious news reporting. Obvious solution to execs concerned with their bottom line? Entertaining news, of course. And that's when Americans started to get dumber (yes, I know dumber isn't a real word, it just sounds better) - or, more kindly put, less informed.

What then are we to do? Well, you can start by watching this video. Dan Rather has some good ideas. And if my word isn't enough to tempt you, it's for the sake of independence and freedom. Do it for your country.


Barack Obama Campaign Musical

This video, set to the music of Les Miserable, is pretty awesome regardless of who you'll vote for.


As great as it is, though, will it really help the Obama campaign? I mean, I appreciate a good sense of humor and inspiring rally cries set to Napoleonic-era musicals as much as the next guy.

But the Obama campaign right now reminds me of those Apple computer commercials with Justin Long and John Hodgman. They're funny and creative enough, but they ultimately appear directed at an already-established market: young, progressive-types.

Slate's Seth Stevenson discussed this approach during his review of those Apple commercials. The Obama campaign is hedging their bets with the notoriously absent youth demographic. It's a dangerous gamble, but videos like this seem intent on keeping that base excited in the face of falling poll numbers.

This isn't the only approach, of course. As far as I can tell, Barack Obama has been more vocal in preaching policy than John McCain since Sarah Palin's nomination. I'm curious as to whether these sorts of videos might undermine his more serious efforts. Obama's campaign has been built on grassroots and youthful energy, but at some point more reliable voters need to be courted.

The Dissident

John Bachman, one of my two best friends, made the trip down to Phoenix this weekend for some football. And when I say "some football", I mean that's pretty much all we did. From 9 am until the USC officially put Ohio State away, we were parked on the couch. It helped that Oregon squeaked out a thrilling win over Purdue in double overtime, as it was an awful day for the Pac-10 overall.

And John, being the great friend he is, brought me some beer from back home. I'd asked him to pick up Bridgeport's 2008 Hop Harvest, which sounds unbelievably good. Harvest ales are typically excellent, made with wet hops brewed within an hour of picking. The flavor is lip-smackingly fresh. The beer was being released on the day John flew down, but Bridgeport wouldn't sell him any, even though the cases were stacked behind the bar. Thanks for the effort, John. Thanks for nothing, Bridgeport.

Instead, John brought me a bottle of Deschutes Brewery's "The Dissident".

The Dissident is a another entry in Deschutes Brewery's Reserve Series along side The Abyss, Black Butte XX and Mirror Mirror, which means it's lovingly-crafted and heavy. At 11% alcohol-by-volume, this is probably not something you'd want to finish alone, especially if you're driving anywhere.

Belgian brewing is generally seen as the pinnacle of the craft. While I've discussed my love of heavy-hitting hops and thick, rich stouts, Belgian beers are complex and unique. Many Belgian beers are brewed in abbeys and Trappist monasteries, where open windows and vats allow wild yeast strains to float in. Many Belgian breweries have even developed special glasses which accent particular aromas.

Colorado's New Belgium was one of the first American breweries to focus on Belgian-style ales, and other American breweries have followed suit in recent years.

Belgian beers are a difficult taste to acquire, sort of like an experimental but critically-acclaimed indie band. I appreciate the depth, but they can be difficult to drink, with odd aftertastes, and sour and sweet notes wrapped in fermentation.

Maybe it's because I drank The Dissident so early after bottling, but I found it lacked the notes which bother me about most Belgians. The first tastes are rich and grapey, bringing to mind the fruit tones of framboise, but the chewy, fermented aftertastes were pleasantly absent. Over time, The Dissident probably develops these flavors as it continues to ferment in the bottle, but it was one of the most enjoyable Belgian-style beers I've ever swallowed. From the bottle we shared, it seems John agreed.

If you're looking to try Belgian-style beers, I suggest Chimay Blue or White and Tripel Karmeliet. Both are readily available (even at Trader Joe's). For a sweeter taste, Duchess Bourgogne, framboises or lambics will do the trick. Mindy loves those those.

15.9.08

We need you to help us.

We have a lovely issue for you this week over at the main site, but I want to point you toward something in particular, this week's Letter from the Editor.

We are leaping forward toward Burnside 2.0 (unofficial moniker). We need your help.

Our goal is to present our readers with objectivity, because this has been missing from Christian media for too long. We pledge to be thoughtful, honest and entertaining. We pledge to pursue Truth with all our hearts and minds can bear.

Like I said, we need your help. The Letter from the Editor details some incentives we've set up for contributions and provides some details for what we're planning. We're asking you to join us in building Burnside into a more prominent, entertaining and influential magazine.

Thank you, as always, for your support. Here's the button for the PayPal account we've set up.



14.9.08

Computerless Nights.



[Earlier this week, I surrendered my faithful iBook to the Geniuses over at the Apple Store for a few small repairs. It was a matter of have to, since my warranty runs out next month and I would like to keep her (the computer, that is. A she, definitively) around for a while. But it was no small surrender--I live by myself in a small apartment without television or fancy stereo system, just a hand-me-down radio/record player for which I am very thankful. Therefore, the vast majority of my solitary life revolves around this computer: music-listening, movie-watching, word-typing, Photoshop-playing, etc. Surrendered, I did, with obvious trepidation. I wrote the following on successive computerless nights, typed into Facebook notes with more than a little frustration with my phone keypad. At the behest of fellow Burnside writers, I have reproduced those notes here with somesmall alteration.]

~~~~

Night one of no computer:
Listened to Love Is Hell [parts one&two] on vinyl seven times tonight already. My blood knows it by heart (having only a handful of records Here, I've determined to hear a different one a night until iTunes is returned to me).

Five cups of Cajunblack coffee, several pages filled with words in my best handwriting. Three books begun and abandoned for now. Next, there will be drawing and after that, anything but sleep. It is an exercise in being still & allowing the abrupt silences [after the needle has run out of circles to make sing] to linger before turning the record over.

And tonight, I am remembering and Texasdreaming. Romanticizing a move Away, but lived hermit-style long enough. Now it is time for human beans and fellowship and communion. Now it is time for true sharing of Story.


Night two of no computer:
The record was Simon&Garfunkle's Greatest Hits and I was Julian of Norwich. A coffee bean in my palm became "all that is made."

Yet, everything in my anchorhold began to bore me too easily and I crawled into bed clean and warm as a baby after the longest shower, and fell sleep aroung 11 pm. This is a never for me, and This is why: because I've woken up three times since and now it is 4 am and I am fully awake, chronically. Yet, today there is much to do, in contrast to yesterday-its-brother. I will not easily be so blankly bored, hopefully. Learning to fill my time with the unexpected things, little pleasures. But books will always be my knights in pulpy armor--Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is lovely, a meditation on aloneness and the beauty of nature and words. I think I shall continue my journey with Miss Dillard. Now. Cheers.


Night three of no computer:
Thoughts split and crack, spit fire like some good kindling. The record tonight is Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea and I am drowning in its melancholy loveliness.

All of me smells of bonfire from the night's Gathering. It is a warm, delicious smell, evoking times gone by. A woman on the radio today described nostalgia as a 'warm bath,' and I think the right memories that are exactly that.

Tonight I am mourning something, and looking to Hope too. Some future hope, splendid bright with feathers for flight. The pigeons spied today while walking round Portland's park blocks served as reminders of what may soon Be, some where far away.

Oh Comely, what am I to do with me now? There is a sleep sweet with dreams, if I can manage to chase the nightmares out. Here's to trying, and here's to tomorrow--another day to conquer, another chance for magic-making.

~~~~

[Computer is back now, clean and shiny and in perfect working order, though I admit I was somewhat reluctant to retrieve it so soon. I was prepared for a week without it...but I am weak and walked the many blocks to pick it up soon after I received the phone call.]

Girls can't play basketball!

The last time I played organized basketball was at the middle school I attended in Southeast Portland. It was sort of a rough school, located right off 82nd Avenue. It wasn't Compton or West Baltimore or anything, but we did have a stabbing between 6th graders while I was there. My brother went there after me, and I'd get home from picking him up from school and ask my mom, "Was it that bad when I went there?"

"Pretty much," she'd tell me.

There were two great basketball players in my class. The first was Chris Sutton, who went on to become a star quarterback at Benson High before he was shot and killed in 1998.

The second was Shaquala Williams.

Advocates for women's basketball hail the superior fundamentals and team play. Maybe that's true, but Shaquala Williams didn't beat you that way. She was stronger, smoother, quicker and better. She wasn't particularly tall, shorter than me even, but she'd slash through three dudes and finish with a nice finger roll. Chris Sutton was the only kid who matched her athleticism, but she had the skills and she was a beautiful player to watch.

Shaquala had some behavioral issues, and bounced around some Portland-area high schools. After she graduated, she played at the University of Oregon for a while, but was kicked off her senior year. Still, she was drafted into the WNBA, and had a mediocre career.

Oregon has produced some great female ballers, but it looks like the best is yet to come. In particular, Jaime Nared, a twelve-year-old prodigy from Beaverton who was kicked off her boy's team for being too good. Awesome.