You Should Give These Bearded Rock Priests Your Money

The insanely good and criminally underappreciated indie rock band Luxury recorded for the flagship evangelical Christian rock label Tooth and Nail Records in the late 1990s, during which time they also suffered a devastating touring van accident that left several members of the band critically injured. This was The Thing about Luxury in the 90's. They made two very good post-90s albums as well, and then splintered off into side projects. There is now a new Thing about Luxury, which you will learn in second sentence of the next paragraph.


Scouts: Like Us

So you want to enroll your kid in scouts? Great. Which one?

There's Boy Scouts, the 103-year-old big baddy of all scouting programs. Sure, membership has been declining over the years. Yes, the BSA's attempt at Solomonically splitting the baby in half by banning gay adult leaders while welcoming gay youth befuddles people on both wings of the debate. Still, even with the decline and discord, the BSA still 2.6 million scouts strong.

The upstart Trail Life USA held their convention this weekend and announced they are launching an alternative to the BSA in 2014. Reporters were not permitted at the convention, however their statement outlined their distinctiveness from BSA:

"Trail Life USA will be inclusive of boys, regardless of religion, race, national origin or socioeconomic status, and accept boys who are experiencing same-sex attractions or gender confusion.However, it will not admit youth who are open or avowed about their homosexuality, and it will not admit boys who are not 'biologically male' or boys who wish to dress and act like girls."

Meanwhile, Navigators (not to be confused with the Colorado Springs adult discipleship group), is a secular and coed scouting group.


The Great Californian Exodus (According to CBN)

A friend of mine was watching late night CBN recently, possibly while drunk, and stumbled across this withering report on the Great Exodus to Texas. But why are Californians leaving? Is it because California's economy is too awesome? Is the weather too balmy and consistent? Not enough tornadoes?CBN is determined to find out.

But first, we should probably make sure the exodus is actually happening. What have we got for evidence? First, the reporter mentions the 3.5 million Californians who've left the state in the last 30 years, but fails to mention the state's overall population increased by 13 million people, and at a higher rate than Texas. But who cares about statistics when you've got eyewitness reports from one lady who recently drove to Arizona?


Batmen: Ranked

Before Miley Cyrus stole the spotlight Sunday night, approximately 57%* of the nation's Internet's bandwidth was being consumed by comments about the selection of Ben Affleck as Batman in the upcoming "Batman vs Superman" movie.  Much of the talk was negative, some was supportive, and a lot was just funny. (The best line: "I've just seen Christian Bale going to Affleck's apartment with some Huey Lewis records and an axe.")
*a number I just made up

All weekend, the protests kept coming, drowning out admonitions from level-headed people like myself to just. calm. down. We're talking about a fictional character, people.

As one of the few who refused to contribute to the vitriol, I was able to make an observation or two. One thing worth noting: besides the Bennifer and Daredevil references, the bulk of the protests (and even some of the pro-Affleck comments) focused on comparisons:

"Ben Affleck will be the worst Batman since that fat guy in the ill-fitting suit."

"At least he might be better than Clooney."

"Was Betty White not available?"

Comparisons are inevitable when we're talking about an iconic character who has been portrayed on screen by several actors. And let's face it: only James Bond has a similar combination of iconic status + multiple well-known actors. So let's take a stab at ranking--worst to first, Casey Kasem-style--the actors who have donned the cape on the large or small screen.

NOTE: I don't have Lewis Wilson, Robert Lowery, Bruce Thomas, or Kevin Conroy listed here, as I am unfamiliar with their work and frankly, so are all but the most dedicated Batman fans.

5. George Clooney
Although Clooney is not a bad actor, he mailed this one in. In fact, even he freely acknowledges his mishandling of this role, famously stating that he may have broken the franchise. He didn't. Somehow, he managed to salvage a career from the ashes of this subpar performance. Perhaps you've seen him in a successful film or two since then.  I can't say the same for....

4. Val Kilmer
Kilmer was a better Batman than he was a Bruce Wayne.  He did a good job, but it appears that he had trouble landing respectable acting gigs afterward. Val Kilmer's most memorable roles (Tombstone, The Doors) happened in the 9 years between "Top Gun" and "Batman Forever".   After that, there's not much to be proud of.
Exhibit A: the voice of KITT the car in the new Knight Rider.
Exhibit B: The musical version of "The Ten Commandments"

3. Adam West
We all know the 1960's TV series (and the one movie) was campy. In fact, if you look up the word "camp", the dictionary shows a picture of Adam West as Batman**.  But West knew what he was doing at the time, and he played it to the hilt. He was in on the joke. He never tried to be "Tortured Son of Murdered Parents" Batman. He understood what he needed to do to make that TV series work, and he did it spectacularly. Untold millions of grown men have fond childhood Batman memories as a result.

**a fact I just made up

2. Christian Bale
Bale played the role as one would imagine when reading the darkest versions of the comic books/graphic novels. In those works, young Bruce Wayne suffered deep psychological damage when he witnessed his parents' murder. As a detective, he was brilliant. As Bruce Wayne, he was a great pretender.  The self-discipline he had over his body and soul were amazing.

For all these reasons, Christian Bale should be the best Batman ever. But Bale's performance has one very noticeable flaw: the voice. He went out of his way to not sound like Christian Bale, and the result was a raspy voice similar to one of Marge Simpson's sisters. Moviegoers had a hard time not thinking about Christian Bale changing his voice as we were watching The Dark Knight, and ultimately, an actor's job is to make us forget he's acting. The resulting loss of points knocks Bale to 2nd place, right behind...

1. Michael Keaton
The recent negative comments predicting failure for Affleck have a ring of familiarity to those of us old enough to remember the announcement of Mr. Mom/Beetlejuice/Johnny Dangerously as the new Batman. In fact, had this occurred in the Internet Age, perhaps the outcry against Keaton would have been even worse than that we witnessed this weekend. But the protests were muffled when Tim Burton's "Batman" made its way into theaters, as moviegoers realized fairly quickly that Keaton was an excellent choice. He captured the tortured-soul aspect of the character, but wisely avoided over-acting.

Of course, when you're sharing screen time with Jack Nicholson playing The Joker, avoiding over-acting is the wisest move you can make. But it's more than that. Keaton let his eyes tell the story. That's the mark of an excellent actor. His restraint, subtlety, and his anti-Beetlejuice persona were exactly what was needed. That's why the 1989 "Batman" is ultimately more enjoyable than the Dark Knight movies, and it's why Keaton is the standard that Affleck and future Batmen should aspire to.

Tough Mudder: Proof Americans are Soft

Your Grandpa has been telling you for years that America has gone soft. The Great Generation took the beaches of Normandy and shed real blood. Our generation pilots drones from the safety of air conditioned bunkers and catches happy hour at the end of their shift.

We all tend to write off our Grandpas they are old. We live in great times when Apple holds annual press releases and announces our IPhones are now obsolete.We spend months speculating what new features will cause us of forsake our current models and we cheer when we are told we'll need to drop $500 to stay current. If Apple made Grandpas, yours would be declared obsolete seven-nine times by now. No wonder you haven't visited him at the nursing home. Don't feel guilty. You're a product of your conditioning.


The Best of YouTube: Kid Snippets

I really hope you’ve stumbled across these gems recently. Kid Snippets videos are quickly becoming my favourite things to ever hit YouTube. I say that all the time, but this time I really mean it.

The Kid Snippets concept is simple: record children talking about a topic or telling a story, and then have adults act out what they say. The results are brilliant and tummy ache-ingly adorable.


How to Write a "How To" Column For a Men's Magazine

Living in your parent's basement saves money in a flat economy. That's good for your wallet but brutal on you dating life. Our column "How to Drop Your Rent" scored you a cot in the laundry room. Now, let "How to Make Money Writing a Column For a Men's Magazine" bring in the money you need to get the apartment you deserve.


Maybe I Just Like Jerks

In case we're not Facebook friends, I'll just tell you: I love fiction. I enjoy discussing it as much as I enjoy reading it. But all the same, there are some literary icebreakers on social media that stop me cold. The most successful conversation blocker is some variation on "if you could have dinner with any fictional character, who would it be?" I mentally run through the list of characters in my favorite stories and hit a wall.

Winesburg, Ohio. Everyone has a creepy secret. Or they might. Either way, I'd spend the entire meal judging them and that would make me feel bad about myself.

To Kill a Mockingbird. Atticus Finch is the best. But has the guy ever cracked a joke? He might be too serious, and oh, look, five people chose him already.

Anything by George Saunders. Are you kidding me? Darkly funny misunderstandings will ensue, but I'm not sure I want to be in the middle of that. How about not inviting flawed people who are disturbingly a lot like me.

Anything by Flannery O'Connor. See "Anything by George Saunders."

And it goes on like that. I remembered this while reviewing a book about Christianity and pop culture that examined, among other things, the portrayal of moral people in film. Good people are great in real life, it said, but boring in fiction. When I think about it that way, I would love to spend time with any of the authors of my favorite books, or the writers of some of my favorite shows for that matter, but their creations are best observed and even empathized with from a distance. I can learn from them, but I won't aspire to be like them and I definitely won't share my ice cream with them.

Then again, maybe I'm unique in this. Maybe I read the wrong books.


A Prayer on the Eve of My Son's Return to College

Dear God,

I'm loving the way my oldest is turning out. The boy has a work ethic like no other. He's compassionate, studious and frugal. I sent him to a land flowing with hops and hook ups, and he returned nine-months later clear headed and with his name on the dean's list. Godly character might have protected him from temptation, but his obsession with Stan Lee's universe filled with tight-wearing mutants might have something to do with it.

A win is a win, right?


You Want Spiritually Themed Fiction that Doesn't Suck? You're On the Clock

A while back I raved about Mark Steele's book, The Most Important Thing Happening, here and here.Well the publisher David C. Cook is giving it away for twenty four hours. Many of you agreed there isn't much out there in the realm of fictional works that explore Christian spirituality well. This is your lucky day. Download the book. Read it. And write a review on you blog or on Amazon. If we don't embrace books like this we are doomed to be spoon fed drivel upon drivel.

Riley Cooper, The N-Word, and the Unfair Placement of the Burden of Forgiveness

I was disappointed to learn Eagles' wide receier Riley Cooper dropped the N-bomb during a confrontation at a Kenny Chesney concert at Lincoln financial field. A by-stander uploaded a video of the ugliness. Naturally, it went viral. The Eagles acted swiftly but perhaps leniently and hit him with an undisclosed fine. Cooper, to his credit, manned up and apologized without excuse.
Cooper's sin is particularly hard for me to forgive. When Paula Deen fell from grace a few weeks ago for the public disclosure of her use of the N-bomb and her desire to have an antebellum-style wedding, complete with black waitstaff, some of my friends protested that her sponsors would abandon her without grace.

Not me. She dug her own grave, so be it, I told myself.

I'm not proud of my difficulty forgiving racial prejudice. I developed the chip on my shoulder growing up in a racially diverse home.


Summer Fruit Power Rankings

Summer is my favorite season in part because fruit grows here like I imagine it did in Eden. You can just eat these things right off trees (or bushes or whatever). So here are the common fruits, ranked by order of deliciousness. I dare you to disagree.

How Not to Talk about the Minimum Wage

For a story that doesn't affect me in any direct way, the Mcdonalds strike and the reasons behind it interest me. I worked at a Subway ages ago, and I currently work in retail while working on my Masters to help pay for luxuries like rent and food. But since my wife and I both work, and we currently don't have additional mouths to feed, we're doing okay. But I can see how that might not be the case for many, and that's why I feel the need to weigh in on this conversation. First, it needs to happen, and I hope it does. But if the topic of the minimum wage comes up, here are some traps to avoid.

1. Forgetting who you are talking about. Most people still have no idea who is flipping burgers behind the counter. I work in a large retail store in a college town. Many students work there, but a lot of the age and marital spectrum is covered, making a living wage more than just a talking point. And as someone who used to live in New York State, I can vouch for its high cost of living. We are not talking about greedy teenagers here. The $7 an hour gig may still be a stepping stone for a handful, but for many more it has evolved into a dead end. Our economy has changed the picture on us, and we need to keep that in mind as we discuss what should happen next.

2. Lecturing the workers. I have no idea if Mcdonalds employees have to endure rants by customers on how evil their employer is, but this happens in retail. Let's just assume the fair trade shops aren't hiring, and try not to put employees in awkward situations. If you have a job offer, that's different. Offer away.

3. Pretending starving people out is our only option. I've heard the arguments against raising the minimum wage: inflation may rise, employers will have no choice but to let people go. These are challenges, not locked doors. Let's talk about solutions, and if you doubt we need them, please review number 1.


A List for Those Hoping to Ruin Thanksgiving Dinner

Wikipedia recently released their list of the top ten most controversial topics on their site, and there were some surprises. Shoot, Jesus and Christianity barely made the cut. Take notes so you can lob one of these topical grenades onto an otherwise peaceful holiday meal.Who knows, you might bring the festivities to close so you can catch the second-half  of that football game.

1. "W"
That's right. The single most polarizing topic on Wikipedia is the legacy of George W. Bush. To pull the pin on this topic simply open with "George W. Bush is the single worst president in history" or wonder aloud if there is room on Mount Rushmore for his bust. One opening is as effective as the other.

2. Anarchism: 
Really? Anarchism. Apparently the modern anarchist has forsaken the time tested molotov cocktail in exchange for the validation only a wiki can provide.

3. Muhammed.
South Park's Parker and Stone can shed light here.


"Evil Friends" Is My Favorite Album of the Year So Far, and It Is Only Slightly Evil

Portugal. The Man's Evil Friends is dark. It may be one of the darkest albums I've ever heard, if simply because it is about choosing to believe God does not exist. The lyrics are angrily howled and whispered in soft falsetto, and they are almost uniformly pessimistic, a sort of weary punk malaise. I mean, it's called Evil Friends, and have you looked at that demon guy on the cover?

But it is also the most enjoyable album I've heard in years. It is gorgeous and schizophrenic, a collection more akin to Abbey Road than four decades of Beatles imitators. I think you will love it.


Writing for Relevant Magazine Is Not a "Donation"

Relevant magazine -- a publication many of us appreciate for the voice it has occasionally given to post-Evangelicals and other Evangelical types of a certain age, and indeed a publication I consider to have been groundbreaking in the Evangelical media world for its coverage of "secular" music, movies, and other cultural products -- has had the following sentence in their writers' guidelines for years:
Submissions to the website are on a donation basis (byline and bio are compensation).


Meanwhile, Back at Abu Graib

I hear tales there's a new heir to the throne in England. And while I'm not personally connecting with the
hubbub emotionally, I've lived long enough to know that it's a real thing. Not real in the sense that it matters. The monarchy isn't "real", at least not in the sense that it's governing a British Empire, or even its host island. But it's real in the sense that it's a state-sponsored fairy tale, like if the U.S. government sponsored the Tea Cup ride at Disneyworld.


bits of life; Wind Chimes


Like a stream of arched golden liquid, the morning sunshine "urinated" all over the sewer dweller’s face.


I’d like to be in the belly of a ship singing chantey songs because you could poop your pants right then and there and laugh uproariously. And later on you could hum the songs and pee your pants.


Here's Your Summer Soundtrack

Lorde is the nom de guerre of Ella Yelich-O'Connor, a singer-songwriter from New Zealand. She's been owning the NZ charts since March on the back of The Love Club EP, a startlingly self-assured collection of four excellent songs and one that's just pretty good. If there is any justice in the world, "Royals" will be the alternative summer jam of the summer (and George Zimmerman would've been convicted for at least manslaughter).


Jack Handey; The Stench of Honolulu

Jack Handey has a new book coming out this week, his first novel, The Stench of Honolulu.   Handey’s comedy has been such a tremendous influence not only on my own writing and sense of humor, but many people my age who were just developing their comedic sensibility in the early 90’s when his Deep Thoughts and sketches were on SNL.    I’ve had long discussions with friends, also in their mid thirties, about the impact of early 90s SNL, (along with Seinfeld), had on how we look at the world.
Here is a great interview from The New Yorker this week.  I particularly enjoyed the conversation on pure comedy, something I believe Jack Handey has harnessed more than any other writer.   He creates pure jokes that take you to a silly place deep inside and invite you to relax there in an overstuffed leather chair.   No serious matters on your mind, just laughter. 

Howling Fantoids: Infinite Jest is Kicking My Butt

A Character Map of Infinite Jest 
I'm late to the DFW party. However, I'm late to all things literarily and musically fashionable, which is why I'm not allowed to purchase any property in Portland..I'm the opposite of whatever a hipster is. But Infinite Jest... why didn't those of you in the know warn me? DFW set the hook with thirty immaculate opening pages and then piled chapter after chapter of new characters: Tennis players, drug addicts, and drug addicted tennis players. And P.G.O.A.T.


The Pop Cycle - P!nk, Selena Gomez, and Robin Thicke

Oh, hello there! I'm sorry I haven't posted in a while. I've just been working my balls off this week. I won't bore you with the details, but suffice to say: dolla billz, y'all.

I haven't done one of these Pop Cycle things in a while, so let's go that route. This week: Selena Gomez, P!?n,k%%%%, and the other white male celebrity with the last name "Thicke".


An Open Letter to Christian Comics

A while back I wrote a piece for Relevant Magazine called "Why Aren't Christians Funny: On Evangelicalism's Long Struggle with Humor." The piece was a quick look at what I believe are some sociological reasons the Evangelical community struggles to produce much (and/or) good art in the humor genre.The piece generated some decent conversation and I ended up on co-blogger Jordan Green's podcast.


bits of life; Evil Twin

Some Amish children asked me not to take their photo because it would steal their souls. But I was confident I could blackmail a plow out of this deal. 


After weeks of preliminary testing I told my friend Jake I could not, in fact, implant his brain into the chicken's body, as I secretly feared he might overtake our cock fighting organization from the inside.   Note to self: Jake is not to be trusted. Tomorrow ask him to put my brain in a chicken's head.


bits of life - 4th of July Edition


It's amazing how by merely throwing feces at the Queen, you can make a statement of some kind.   That's called the American Spirit, baby.


Forget DOMA. This Case Means Everything

This could soon read "I exist in the state of being the walrus".

I know people on both sides of the ideological fence are pretty riled up about DOMA and Democratic senator Wendy Davis' Texas filibuster, but let's not get so distracted we let other important decisions fall through the cracks. Some judge will soon bear the weight on his or her (but probably his) shoulders of deciding who owns the phrase I am. Yes, people are suing for ownership of pronouns and helping verbs now. Your average citizen and schoolteacher could be required to pay royalties for licensed use of the common phrase in the near future.  And more than that, there's something about owning that particular combination of words that sounds kind of powerful.

But maybe it's not too bad. After all, I considered as a joke intentionally avoiding using the phrase in writing this post, but it turns out there was no need. So maybe we'll be okay. "Be" will still be safe to use, right?

Boy Scouts, Gay Pride, and the Very Best Fourth of July Parade Ever

Tomorrow morning I will get up early and march with my youngest son in our local 4th of July Parade. It's  smallish local parade. No giant Underdog or Bullwinkle balloon will be spotted. Just miles of Shriners wearing Fez, high school marching bands, clowns, mimes, scouts, and, yes, a smattering of transvestites.

I can verify the presence of  the transvestites because a handful of years ago in the parade I marched for two miles behind a six-foot-something trannie in fabulous heels and sheer purple dress that revealed the shadows of a black thong.

That's two miles of scouts asking "Why are they dressed like that? Why are they doing that?"

A few gratuitous, "Dude looks like a lay-dee"'s were tossed in as well.


On Raising Comic Book Nerds

How to keep a nerd occupied for hours.
The moment I realized I failed my children was Friday afternoon at 4:53 PM. We were all piled in the minivan, headed to Michigan to visit family. Conversation, somehow, turned to politics and the current economic malaise. My college student was trying to explain the nuances of his position to his ten-year-old brother and listed Wakanda and Lavaria among the nations particularly impacted by the global economy.

In a single sentence he wore his influences on his sleeve: Politics by Jon Stewart; Geography by Stan Lee.


The Idiot Box - Mad Men's Season 6 Finale

Maybe you're sick of hyperbole, of the whole "Golden Age of Television" thing cable snobs like me keep spouting ad nauseum.

So take this for what it's worth: Mad Men's Season 6 finale was the single best episode of television I've ever seen. 



bits of life; The Cool Move


They say up to 10 million mites live in your pillow, feeding on dead skin cells. That's enough to devour a small child's head if they chose to. Amen.


In our little village lived a soothsayer. He would sit in the town square all day saying sooths. I was like, who sooths anymore old man? He'd swing his cane at me and yell some jibberish and we'd all all laugh. But one day fire rained down from heaven and I can assure you no one was laughing then. As we were there to kill him.


After the first time my parents caught me with alcohol they sat me down and said, "If you're going to drink we want to you do it right here, at this table, in front of us." Well I ran to my room and slammed the door, vowing then and there to hide my good stuff.


If you're opening an ottoman store, beware of the falling into the same pitfalls the Ottoman Empire fell into; namely too much futon inventory.


The Top 5 Righteous Indignation Moments in Five Iron Frenzy Songs

(or, "Linkbait in an imaginary parallel universe where everyone cares about Christian ska/punk bands")

Five Iron Frenzy is one of the most important Christian rock bands of all time. I've written at length elsewhere about why this is true, but if you're not convinced, I offer this shameless listicle to try to at least convince you that their prophetic rage was/is unprecedented and awesome.

In honor of Five Iron Frenzy's upcoming reunion album release and recently announced shows in Portland and Seattle (well, I say in honor of that, but to be honest, I haven't really stopped listening to this band for any considerable period of time since 1995, which I am not ashamed to admit), here are the "top 5" (aka 5 off the top of my head) of their moments of righteous hardcore unbridled left-wing commie pinko indignation.


Faking Risks

In the movie What About Bob, Bill Murray plays a neurotic patient named Bob who goes to see a psychiatrist played by Richard Dreyfuss.  Halfway through their session, Bob clutches his chest, gasps for air, falls to the floor, flops around for a while making guttural noises, and then lies there silently.  

Unfazed, the psychiatrist leans over and asks him if he’s finished.  Bob climbs back into his chair and the psychiatrist asks him why he’s just faked a heart attack.

“Because if I fake it, I don’t have it,” Bob replies.


Bits of Life


Orville Wright held the tiny bird in his hands. “Tell me your secrets,” he whispered. “Tell us how mankind can share the skies with you.” But the bird would not speak. Then, raising the bird to study it closer he noticed something that would change history forever. Rushing off, he returned waving a plastic baggie containing bird testicles in front of it’s face.

True Fear

I reached for the doorknob, not knowing what was on the other side. I flung it open wildly, only to find the closet was empty. Relieved, I notified my wife I couldn't sweep the house.


Know Your Audience

"Don't sell your hair to a wig shop" almost worked for me.
The AV Club earned my respect and envy by briefly reviewing commercials and evaluating their effectiveness.  I always wanted to write something like that, as someone who has simultaneously been entertained and perplexed by commercials my whole life. My favorites have always been funny ones that do nothing to sell the product. This is still prevalent in advertising, but I think in the wider scope of things they get the number one rule of communication right: they know their audience. Laypeople taking to social media could learn from this.


I've Been Too Hard on Christian Fiction

I've been too hard on Christian fiction. Not that it didn't have it coming. Amish romance, End Times sagas, spiritual warfare thrillers-- they all deserve the ribbing they get.

And I'll admit: It is empowering to dismiss an entire genre.By writing a blog post denouncing Christian fiction or CCM, the author subtly coronates himself as the King of Discerning Tastes. It's douche-ery to be sure, but a brand of douche-ery that's quite self-gratifying. All this rambling to say: Christian Fiction, I owe you an apology. I've found a few gems lately that explore themes of our ancient faith and still manage to tell a darn good story and stay true to the human condition. One of these fine novels was even released by a Christian Publisher, a fact that defies my well groomed prejudices.

Here are the three books demanding I step off my high horse:

Putting Up With Dave Ramsey for 9 Weeks is Worth It

Last Sunday, my wife Mindy and I finished Week 9 of Financial Peace University. They gave us a certificate, which will probably end up in the trash bin. Who needs certificates?

Let me preface what I'm about to say: I don't like seminars. I don't like classes. I am almost completely unable to pay attention when I am stuck in one place and someone is talking to me from a stage or a big screen. On very rare occasions, a teacher will get the point across. The rest of the time, I'm thinking about food and sex and television approximately 3 minutes into any presentation. And, oh, hey, also? I have an innate distrust of anything produced by the mainstream evangelical church, a subculture wired to dumb things down for audiences.

That said, Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University changed my life.


Do Novels Increase Our Empathy While Systematic Theologies Blunt it?

My middle schooler conscripted me to help him with his English assignment last night.  Initially I was given thesaurus duty and was expected to supply synonyms on demand.
My son reached a certain question and threw his hands up.

"How am I supposed to know what she was thinking?"
"You read the chapters?"
"Who is she?"


Marketers Tried to Sell Superman From the Pulpit, and That is Wrong.

Let's say you're trying to retell the story of one of the greatest heroes the world has ever seen -- a hero who saves the world -- only you want to dumb that story down and make it flashy and simple because you think your audience is stupid and subsists only on the broadest of strokes. You also want this story to make a lot of money.

Now who who's your biggest market? What target demographic is comfortable with dumbed down savior stories? What group is totally fine with compromising beliefs in favor of pro-American sentiment and bad art? If you guessed "American Christians", then you got that answer faster than Hollywood! And you know what's better than advertising to Christians through TV or talk radio? SLINGING ADS FROM THE PULPIT!

Bits of Life

The runaway sat watching the train go by. Is this what his life had become? A series of days spent sleeping, nights spent in a free-for-all drunken stupor? Why didn't he work during the day like everyone else? Then, in 40 years he could retire and sleep all day but be too old for an all night free-for-all. Feeling better, he went back to sleep. Soon, however, nightfall came, and he was awoken by a sniffing dog. Go away dog, he thought. But then feeling better again, he killed and ate the dog by the firelight. Dog by firelight; a hobo delicacy.


Sometimes I wonder if my TV is actually watching me. What a loser he must be to do so. Where's his family? Doesn't he have a job? I think I'll continue my case study at least until Dance Moms is over.


A Neko Case Primer, Part 2

Yesterday, I talked about how awesome Neko Case was, and I listed five of her 10 best songs.

Today, the earth-shattering conclusion. If the whole YouTube video layout is annoying for you, or if you want to hear other Neko Case songs, just go to Spotify. You really can't go wrong anywhere, but her later stuff is more readily accessible


A Neko Case Primer, Part I

On Tuesday, Neko Case released "Man", the first track off the follow-up to 2009's Middle Cyclone. It is an amazing song, more reminiscent of Case's time in The New Pornographers than the lush baroque pop and country noir of her solo albums. It took me a few listens to understand how good the song was, which is always fun.

This got me thinking about Neko Case and how many of her songs I absolutely love, and then it got me thinking about how many New Pornographers songs I absolutely love. And then it reminded me of Case's cover of "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out" that played over the end credits last season on Boardwalk Empire. It got me thinking about the first time I saw Neko Case, in 2000 at the Crystal Ballroom opening for The Jayhawks, and how I had no idea who she was but she was like an alt.country Jessica Rabbit up there, with that rich, silky voice and banter thick with innuendo. I was 20 and my mind was blown. I don't remember the songs, or The Jayhawks (one of my favorite bands), but I remembered Neko Case.

Then it reminds me of how Dan Gibson hates her because she left Tucson to live in Vermont. Cheery memories, all.

That's when I realized Neko Case is my favorite musician. These are her five of her 10 best songs. I'll list more tomorrow.


The Rob Bell Challenge

Last week I considered picking up Rob Bell's latest book, What We Talk About When We Talk About God. I decided to survey the Internet for reviews to get a handle on the topic matter. I don't always see eye-to-eye with Bell, but he's a brilliant thinker and communicator. Pastor Bell is also an influential thinker. He's one of those folk I need to keep up with to know what the people in my congregation are reading. If the book was on a topic that piqued my interest, it would go to the top of my reading list.

To my dismay, I haven't found a single review of the book that outlines the arguments of the book. I've found  reviews in which the authors remind us that Bell has views of Hell and judgment that fall outside of the Evangelical consensus. The reviewers are quick to point out how rad or how damnable Bell's views are.


Revisiting That NFL Christian Quarterback

No, this isn't a post about Tim Tebow. Last time I checked he doesn't play for any of the 32 NFL Teams. Stop the presses: The Patriots signed him. But it still doesn't change anything.

I'm talking about Mike Vick, whose rags-to-riches life in 2010 resembled a Disney movie, just without the talking dogs. In 2010, Vick was a revitalized man, leading an explosive offense, at least for the first six games. He only started in eleven games that year, but set career high's in passing yards, QB rating, passing touchdowns, and rushing touchdowns. He was selected to his fourth Pro Bowl a was named the NFL comeback player of the year.


The Old Hangman

The old hangman loved his gallows. He loved walking the stairs in the early sunlight and resting his calloused hand on the lever. He called the lever "Eric," which made people think he was gay. But he was not gay, he just named the lever after his penis. "Why name your penis Eric if you are not gay?" the townspeople would say. "Because I once knew a man named Eric who had a great penis'" he would say. "But, how would you even know that?" they would say. "Don't worry about it, I just know," he would say. "Listen, we don't even care if you're gay, in fact we would applaud you for coming out. Just tell us!" "Not gay," he would mumble, continuing his knitting work on a new hood. "Ok, let's just start over," the townspeople would take a collective deep breath, "So being gay is great isn't it, huh?" But the old man was no longer listening. From his vantage point atop the gallows he could survey the town as a whole, both with its good penises and bad. A rooster could be heard in the distance sparking his mind to wander to simpler times when, as a child he used to wring their necks. He wished he had never known of Eric or his penis. Furthermore he wished he had never named the lever Eric. He really wasn't gay, but now it seemed like he was being down on gays if he made a big deal about it either way.

Each evening the moonlight would shine down on the old gallows just outside his bedroom window, “Night gallows,” he'd whisper before rolling over. Beside him sat a tiny gallows he had whittled. "Eric" was a matchstick, which looked like a penis.

The Daddaist: The Value of Overestimating Your Kids

I've been a parent in Portland for just over a year now, which means I've been around a lot of other parents and a lot of other kids.

I've noticed a disturbing trend in Portland parenting. I'm not talking about being anti-vaccination or any other parenting trends. I definitely lean toward the Love and Logic/Western medicine isn't trying to poison your children/Stop breast feeding your child because he's trying out for JV baseball camp, but I also see a lot of value in the parenting philosophies commonly found in urban middle-class liberal enclaves. The problem isn't the philosophies, it's how those philosophies are implemented, and the one thing I've noticed in the last year is Rose City parents are severely underestimating their children.


Dealing with my Portland Envy

If there is a man more proud of his hometown than Jordan Green I haven't met him. If you didn't know, Jordan lives in Portland, Oregon, a city so great you can walk into their Wal-Mart and have Lamar Oden greet you as he hands you a shopping cart. Portland is better than Phoenix. The food is so damn fine in Portland, Jordan snaps pictures of  common sandwiches to remind us of how much better off he has it there.

I admit, I've deal with Portland/Oregon envy for a while. Erie, PA gets no sitcoms exploring its absurdity. Portland has the Pacific Ocean, and we have a lake once famous for it's pollution. Oregon has Palahniuk and Miller. Our most famous authors, Updike and Dillard have crossed into the afterlife and we're left with mere memories.

I made a pair of trips to  Portland a few years back and fell in love with the architecture, Stumptown Coffee, Powell's books and the whole vibe.

But I know that I can't live there. I don't have the hipster gene.


Would You Like Pop With Your Caramel Syrup-Drizzled Pecans?

When I was growing up, we called it pop. Then I met my wife, a Californian, and I started calling it soda. I am ashamed to have left my linguistic roots, but "soda" is a better, more aesthetically pleasing words. According to these maps over at Business Insider, Portland is on the border between "soda" and "pop", and I'm just one more domino in the encroaching Californication of the entire world.

It's no secret Americans talk differently. We have a big country with many regions and we are theoretically a melting pot. (Or a stew? I think that's what my high school history teacher told me.) Anyway, those maps are really fun to look at.


For Your TV Binging Pleasure

Classes are out for the summer, so I've had time to catch up on some great T.V. There was talk of a new golden age of television around the year 2000, and if it dwindled any, 2013 just jump-started that sucker back to life. I spent the last couple of weeks catching up on two of three shows that prove my point. Binge away, but please do so responsibly.


The Idiot Box: The Episode Where Everyone Flipped Out

Totally NOT a spoiler.
So, a hefty chunk of television aired this week as Game of Thrones hit its penultimate episode of Season 3. And people FLIPPED OUT. It was a crazy episode, and it's one Song of Ice and Fire readers have been anticipating, but still managed to shock. So let's talk about it!



Let's Laugh at Oregon City Nicknames!

Some towns get their nicknames and mottos naturally. Some are the result of sophisticated marketing efforts. Some capture a town's ethos, and some are utter horseshit. I found this list of Oregon city nicknames the other day, and I thought I'd discuss some of the standouts:

Boom! The Real IRS Scandal is the NFL is Registered as a Non-Profit

There's a been slew of attention focused on whether or not President Obama had knowledge the IRS targeted individuals with Tea Party affiliation. I don't have any opinion on this matter, other than to say I'll be disappointed if Obama was aware of the shenanigans because I believed, and cling to believing our president to be an ethical and honorable man. My politics kept me from voting for him, but I wanted to, since my party is currently filled with the political equivalents of the bearded lady, the sword-swallower and other carnies. This is another matter altogether.

Regardless of how this curent IRS pans out, Yahoo! Sports broke another tax scandal that eclipses it by revealing the NFL is a registered 506 (c) (6).


Song of the Week: "Booty City" by Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears

We were light on the posts this week, I know. One of our goals isn't to make this blog a high-pressure thing, and it's been a busy week on my end. But it's the weekend now, so shake your ass with Black Joe Lewis andThe Honeybears' performing my daughter's favorite song live in Portland. All will be right in the world. (Or, better yet, go buy it on iTunes.)

Speaking of Surreal Podcast Interviews...

Jordan's post of the Pete Holmes/Rob Bell interview made me feel like this would be equally worth mentioning. If you thought that was weird and interesting, you might want to hear this conversation between MxPx's (they're still around!) Mike Herrera and legendary Seattle DJ Marco Collins.

A Different Memorial Day Observance

Throughout my life, the body of my Memorial Day weekends have consisted of barbecued ribs and chicken, picnic dishes, yard work, and trips to the beach. Memorial Day pleasures were treasures to be hoarded like a camel reserves water. I lived off the three day weekend until a proper vacation could be had in June. 

What Memorial Day was not was a time to remember the fallen veterans who died in service to our country. I don't have reason or excuse other than to admit that my imagination was centered how I would coax my grill into yielding another perfect feast. 

This year I started Memorial Day differently. I joined a Crossfit gym this year and learned that every "box" in the country was doing the same workout to honor Lt. Micheal Murphy, a soldier who died in Afghanistan trying to find a clearing where he could relay his company's position. The workout goes like this: 


Trees Can Save Themselves

Over the past year and a half, I've become quite the conservationalist. By this, I mean that over the past year and a half I refused to mow my back yard.

I would like to say there was a particular reason behind this decision, but there really wasn't. It was just like many other areas of my life, where I took one look at the mess and thought, "Eh, surely somebody else will clean this crap up." But it never happens.

So this past weekend, with a little help from my father and a wise old man named Ryobi, I finally tackled the backyard, and with it, a brand new and incredibly horrifying truth:

Trees are scary as hell.