28.6.13

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. 

(SPOILERS AFTER THE JUMP)

27.6.13

bits of life; The Cool Move






A SIMPLE PRAYER


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.






THE SOOTHSAYER

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.



MY VOW

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.


PITFALLS

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.

25.6.13

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.

24.6.13

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.

22.6.13

Bits of Life


Motivation

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.
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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.

21.6.13

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.

19.6.13

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.

18.6.13

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?"
"Yes."
"Who is she?"

17.6.13

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.

14.6.13

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

13.6.13

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.

12.6.13

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.

11.6.13

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.

10.6.13

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.

7.6.13

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.

6.6.13

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.


5.6.13

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.

4.6.13

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!

(SPOILER ALERT. DO NOT READ UNLESS YOU'RE UP-TO-DATE ON THE SHOW GAME OF THRONES.)

3.6.13

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).