Monday, December 28, 2009

Things I’ll miss about the 2000’s - Not

George Bush



The war in Iraq

cryptic messages of doom from Osama

how fast resorts were rebuilt in South East Asia after the tsunami

Liberal leaders: Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff

Candy Shop – 50 Cent


The Purpose Driven _____________________

selling the Astro

changing diapers

church drama

having ‘mennonite’ stalkers

the hoopla round H1N1, bird flu, etc

American Idol

the iconic status of the Hummer

episodes of The Office that weren’t hilarious


any time I spent listening to Country music

the love I wasted on my wife and kids

The cross at Christmas…

If you were in church these last few days you probably heard someone talk about Christmas in light of the cross – or some configuration thereof. It seems that trend is rather popular these days. I must admit that this was a powerful thematic bent that I have taken in the past with regards to Christmas. the basic idea is this: The significance of Christmas is deepened by viewing it as the starting point to the ultimate redemptive act – the cross. Preachers, songwriters, etc use the images of suffering to draw us away from the party party attitude that is so prevalent at Christmas and ask us to pause to think about the destiny of the child in the manger. To be sure this is a sobering image. The Christmas tree morphs into a rugged cross, etc., etc.

If you look at the passage in Matthew a few significant ideas pop out which I think are overlooked. The instruction from the angel in Mt 1:21 is to call the baby Jesus ‘for he will save the people from their sins.’ That is where this cross in Christmas theme tends to stop. Saving his people from their sins must refer to the cross. Mary did you know…

If you read further however you see that the complete message of the angel to Joseph is that the baby would be Immanuel – God With Us. In fact it is not out of line to read the text in verse 23 as a direct explanation of how verse 21 was to be accomplished. Salvation comes through incarnation.

Read on a little further and you get to the story of the Magi.

Great story but something struck me.

Why not have Herod kill off Jesus with all the other babies. I mean the baby Jesus would have been just as perfect as he was at 33 years of age. And coming back to life again would have been an exceptional triumph. Jesus could have paid the sin debt almost directly after coming to the earth and foregone the bulk of his earthly life. Of course there would have had to have been some wiggling with prophesy but…

It is my contention that paying the sin debt could have been accomplished a myriad of ways even with the boundaries of prophesy. What could not be altered was the fact of the incarnation. God becomes human. God becomes human – not dog, not angel, he becomes human to save his people from their sins. It is in the becoming human that the salvation occurs. Paying the sin debt is not insignificant – far from – it is an important act of payment of debt. But the really significant act is the incarnation since it the way people engage with God. God shows us how to live life like he designed and allows us to see how we can be free from sin debt but even more actually please and love the God we claim to believe in. That is powerful stuff. That is why Jesus has to live with us – to show that salvation is not just some magic trick that we can access like we tack on an app to our phone. Salvation is getting hooked into the life changing power of the principles he taught and more importantly lived out in front of us.

Maybe that is why I get a little perturbed at the cross behind Christmas messages. To me it seems like so much commoditizing: Christmas becomes little more than a cheap ticket to the already cheap grace that is doled out too often especially in evangelical parlance. Christmas is ugly, confusing, messy, gross, and disturbing – unsettling – ALL ON ITS OWN! God becomes human tell me you can boil that down to 4 easy steps or neat little outline for your next blockbuster ‘Christian’ book.

Here’s the deal  - talk about the cross at Christmas but when is the last time you heard anyone talk about Christmas at Easter?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Do you think pastors should get paid?

Do you think it is good for the church to have its spiritual leaders remunerated for their spiritual leadership? On what basis should this spiritual leadership be valued? Is there some quantitative standard that can be used? So and so much spiritual leadership = this amount of remuneration? Or perhaps by contract/commission – this many marriages saved = equal such and such a percentage of the weekly offering? Or are there qualitative standards? This there for instance more remuneration for those with higher degrees of knowledge, experience, or expertise? A really good preacher can get “x” amount of money for a sermon? Or the pastor with the best program at the end of the year gets a bonus?

How does that all actually work?

I suppose I should not voice these questions too loudly since I am one of those who has profited from avails of pastor-ing (oops that was a close one - I almost offended someone). Nonetheless, I am really not sure that having spiritual leadership remunerated still makes sense to me like it used to. Please understand this is not sour grapes for being relegated to the ranks of a (less wealthy) student or that I am bitter over not being able to practice in such a position. Instead this question nags at me whenever I have conversations about church systems with friends. I find nibbling around the corners of our conversations questions that few care to voice or are even actually conscious of. Whether it is discussing the politics of leadership or job descriptions or vision, this issue seems to make an appearance.

Here is what I think holds true in most cases. For most pastors, their position is not just a career. There is some sense of spiritual responsibility attached to accepting this type of mandate from a particular church body. In fact the individuals spiritual health is assumed and conveyed to be of exceptional if not at least exemplary quality. Let’s face it few churches would hire someone who would confess to being spiritually bankrupt or deviant. That means that in part the quality of spirituality is tied to the ability to secure a position within a church organization. Granted there are many establishments that do not exercise due diligence and are confronted with horrific results of impropriety and scandal. But on the whole spiritual excellence is more or less expected.

Attach to that the qualities of leadership that typically are associated with pastoral work – developing/maintaining programs, public speaking, doctrinal and theological expertise, relational skills. Now you have some measurable performance to rate the effectiveness of the pastor on. The spiritual stuff is really tricky to measure but this performance stuff is a lot easier. And coincidently there are many situations were performance in is directly tied to spiritual authority. But tying spirituality to performance means that if one of those components fails the other one does too. If it is determined that the pastor is not a good enough speaker and needs to ‘move on’ then inadequacy in the skills department becomes attached to the spiritual dynamic as well. This has to be horrific for pastors who find themsleves weighed and wanting for inadequacies that have left them spiritually wanting as well. In this light it a wholly frightening thing to consider allowing your spirituality to get tied into your ability to earn a living. Fortunately, none of my friends or family should in anyway worry about their spiritual suitability for the job they are doing but I am not sure I would want to enter into that contract again. Not because I doubt my spiritual suitability but because I am loathe to have my spirituality used as a de-facto evaluable criteria for my financial security.

I am going to try to get a job as a teacher. If at some point it is determined that I am not a suitable person to be a teacher – I will be very disappointed-even crushed. But my spiritual standing will not be called into question.

But if a spiritual leader has been discerned to be the right one for a particular context why is it still possible for that person to be fired, let-go, encouraged to leave, terminated – you know? Isn’t that in itself a problematic thing for anyone to consider? Does that not problematize the entire relationship between congregation and leadership? Is it perhaps the root of the stagnation that is all too often present in our communities of faith? I’m not sure but I think I am leaning that way…

There’s more to say on this so feel free but I am tired and I have full day ahead…

Monday, October 19, 2009

Dogmatically Uncommitted

This afternoon in our one of our classes I was moved to chase a few thoughts. My rumination was prompted by a reading out of This I Believe – a book about people’s personal beliefs/credos. The reading was quite unexceptional except for this one statement. The author said that all of his belief statements ended with a “?”. This is the idea that sparked my waondering…
When we frame our convictions as dogmatic assertions we become victims of the trap that our own convictions carry. Dogmatic statements are made all the time. Dogmatic statements can only be made when we intentionally ignore or avoid those parts of our ideological framework that cause us problems. No ideology is free from its problems. Every ideology in order to be cohesive must at some level make assumptions that are not supportable with reason. It is common for us to form incontestable assumptions that support the construction of our convictions. It is even more common for us to develop our ideologies upon exactly such incontestable assumptions with out even acknowledge that they exist. In other words we build our convictions on things we assume to be true but we in fact may not even be fully aware of their influence on our convictions. What is astounding is that in full confidence we are able to make unwavering dogmatic statements of our beliefs.
This serves to prove a) that we are arrogant, b) we are ignorant, and (c) we are wrong. When we make dogmatic statements that we believe are unshakably true, tell ourselves and others that we have arrived at ultimate truth on the subject at hand. If it were possible to prove that anyone was able to lock down incontrovertible truth on any subject than that sort of arrogance would be justified. Dogmatic statements deny the existence of other explanations that might serve to shed light on the idea that we are claiming truth about. Lastly dogmatic statements leave us wrong since we can clearly see that even in some of our fiercest held beliefs we have changed our minds over time and come to learn that the way we understood things in the past was faulty. It is only reasonable to assume that we are currently in some position of wrongness about our convictions. Dogmatic statements suggest that we are not wrong and won’t be in the future but we can clearly see that we will be.
Nobody really behaves that way though. People make dogmatic statements all the time but they rarely stop seeking to either support their position or refute other contrary positions. Some of the best will even make dogmatic statements and then change their minds. None of us are truly convinced that we have locked down truth so if we are honest we keep searching. There in lies the trap. We make dogmatic statements only to have those same statements force us into greater self doubt – at least if we are intellectually honest.
Perhaps, at the risk of sounding dogmatic in this, there is a more intellectually honest position to take and one that is better able to service our pursuit of truth and ultimately a meaningful relationship with the origin of truth itself. A more honest position might one where we openly admit that such and such is the position we take in the light we have presently. Or perhaps we can adopt the old rabbinical structure of every answer or position deserving to have a better question asked of it.
Then again I might be wrong…

Do schools kill creativity?

Sir Ken Robinson talks about how formal western education is stiffling creativity and may be doing even more damage. I'd be curious to see your ideas about what he says here...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Hang On

For those of you following this electrical rag...I have had some technical difficulties with the template so I am in the process of changing things over slowly in the next few days...

Friday, September 25, 2009

The elephant in the room

Calgary zoo has erected a statue, in the image of the Hindu god Ganesh, in front of its elephant enclosure. Concerned Christians Canada (CCC) has launched a formal complaint regarding the display of this quasi-religious symbol. They claim that the image serves to indoctrinate people into the Hindu faith and that it contravenes the religiously neutral paradigm which must be honoured in public space. It also apparently makes the zoo into a less than safe family friendly venue.
See C.C.C. statement here --- CBC News story here
I have this weird image in my head of a family walking through the zoo and the Dad goes dashing on ahead to the Elephant area and throws himself in front of the statue to protect his family from the danger of looking at the statue.
This irks me. How can a modified symbol that has been stripped of its religious symbolism hold any power whatsoever? Can this thing really make the zoo unsafe for families? Is an exposure to muted version of another religious icon so powerful that it will cause unsuspecting onlookers to covertly be influenced toward Hinduism? Is the protective power of YHWH that weak? If seeing this image for Canadian Christian children is harmful should we not be making efforts to extract the children of missionaries in India for exposure to the more accurate version of the their gods displayed even more publicly?
Shouldn’t it be Hindus who are annoyed here? Isn’t this actually a flippant treatment of their religious symbols which are to be held in honour? Isn’t removing the religious symbolism a problem for Hindus?
Does anyone remember that this is the image placed in front of the elephant cage?
What about other Christian religious symbols that adorn the public spaces of space we live in? Should we remove these symbols as well?
In our own town a public museum has been developed with public monies in the space that used to be the Mennonite church, how inclusive is that imagery to the significant portion of Coaldale’s population that still adhere to the Buddhist faith?
Has anyone from the CCC really taken a look at the political optics on this?
How is this anything but an opportunity to demonstrate the resilient confidence that Christian virtue in the context of pluralist diversity? Is it not true that the Christian principles have their most salient meaning in the face of pluralist milieu?

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Recipe Bin 2

Ginger Peach Salsa
4 c diced peaches, skinned
4 c diced tomatoes
2 med chopped onions
2 Tbsp rhubarb jam
1 tsp coarse pickling salt
5 Tbsp sugar
1 c mango-pineapple juice
3 Tbsp vinegar
1 med ginger root shredded
4 c chopped peppers, green, red, yellow or just green
2-3 chopped hot peppers (1 jalapeno, 1 chilli)
Put together in heavy pot and cook 2 hours at simmering boil. Place in sterile jars with snap lids that have been boiling just prior to putting on jar. Cool and store.

Monday, September 7, 2009

espresso rub for steak

So I was thinking that I might include recipe around about once a week here on this blog. The focus will be on things I like to make so….

Espresso Rub (for steak)

4 of your favourite cut of steak
½ cup finely ground espresso coffee
Take a trip to your local micro-roaster and ask the staff to grind a half pound of their best espresso as finely as they possibly can (many of them can actually grind it to a flour like consistency). Otherwise use the finest coffee available to you. The courser the grind the more coffee you’ll want to use.
2 tbls of course ground pepper
3 tbls of seasoning salt
1 tsp of onion powder
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup of red wine or cooking wine

Allow steaks to slightly defrost (15 minutes or so)
Mix all ingredients except for wine in a small bowl
Rub onto steaks – reserve a few table spoons for later use
Pour wine into the bottom of defrosting container
Allow to defrost completely (turning every hour if possible)
Barbeque on high temperature and sprinkle steaks with reserved mixture
Continue to sprinkle with pepper throughout barbeque process
For a slightly more zippy flavour add a tsp of cayenne, Tabasco, or Cholula hotsauce

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Boxes and Baals

You might excuse him as naïve but truth-be-told he just really wasn’t all that sensitive – you know intentionally observant. If he had been, he never would have moved that old wooden box down into the storage room. Spoiling for a quarrel was never his intention.
He had a good reason.
The box had been in the way for several months and for all that time he and his buddies had carefully moved their musical equipment around it to avoid scratches. Drums and guitars and keyboards couldn’t just be left lying around after practice – they would certainly get into trouble for that. So the box quickly became a nuisance. Without it present in the storage room their mobility and space would be greatly enhanced. So one night after grumbling their equipment past it once again – they all stopped and someone suggested they should get rid of the box.
He made the call to send the box downstairs. He knew of a place where it would fit out of the way. So with the assistance of a couple of the guys he packed it away – down there. Slapping their hands together with that sense of authoritative satisfaction they marched back up stairs to finish their packing up…
That was Saturday night…
Monday morning dawned and he obliviously sauntered into his office without even a thought of the box or the impending conflict.
The man was waiting for him in his office. Normally meek the man was, at this moment, obviously agitated – in the way a well shook Pepsi can is before the unsuspecting person opens it. He was clearly upset.
He had a good reason.
You see the box was, as the man described it, not just a piece of furniture and certainly not just a box. It was a pulpit and this pulpit had been present at the consecration of the building in which it resided. It was invested with special spiritual meaning although what specifically that meaning was the man found it difficult to explain.
Taken off guard he wandered around the topic with the man till it became clear that nothing less than the immediate relocation of the box would do.
Chagrined he wrapped his arms around the box once more and carried the box back with the man to its place not in the off-stage storage room but to the very center of the stage.
As he glanced around room standing there he wondered about why people seem to need certain implements to access God. He had learned much earlier in his career has a minister that wearing a tie on a Sunday when he stood behind that box and preached seemed to help some people to listen more closely to what he said. It seemed to him that for some God needed to be confined at least somewhat to certain restricted locations and parameters. It seemed sad to him that after all these years since the veil had been torn in that temple long ago there where still those who preferred to encounter God at a distance.
He remembered the story in the Great Book that told of how Israel had pleaded with Moses to cover himself when he spoke to them after having encountered God directly. He thought about how easily those same people erected a golden calf to worship in the place of God. And he remembered the words of Jesus to the Samaritan woman when he told her that God could not be confined to one holy mountain or another but was to be worshiped in spirit and in truth. And his heart grew with acrid condemnation for the man.
He walked down to favourite spot in the youth meeting room and picked up his guitar – to clear his mind he reasoned – to connect with God…

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Here's a Friendly Jab

to all you footballers that have transgressed away from hockey to somehow convince yourself that soccer is the best game in the world

for FB readers watch the video by visiting my blog.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

theories welcome...

So reading one of McSweeney's lists sparked an idea that has been rumbling around and I am wondering if any of you Facebookers or non-Facebookers have any clues as to why this is the case...

It seems very popular for people to post picture and status updates that seem to no take into account the fact that other people will be reading/viewing their postings. For example how about the guy who added a bunch of photos of him and his buddies drinking their faces off and then adding his mom as his friend. Or how about the pictures of the former spouse in an embrace with the new beau even if the marriage is over...


I am not sure it boils down to just a lack of etiquette or tact - I wonder if it is a deeper, scheming evil side of....

Well you can clearly see that I have no clue

So if you have any ideas fire away...
oh and here is the post from McSweeney's

Status Updates Since My Mother Became My Facebook Friend.
- - - -
Scott is making good, well informed decisions.
Scott is going to bed at a very reasonable hour.
Scott is making large, regular contributions to his savings account.
Scott is making yet another home cooked meal, avoiding fast food as usual.
Scott is no longer in debt like he used to be...boy that would be terrible.
Scott is in no way affected by the current economic downturn...everything is a-okay.
Scott is not gaining weight, and his clothes fit just fine
Read the full list at McSweeney's here

Monday, August 3, 2009

Does God owe us anything?

Let me set this up…

First, it would seem according to conventional Christian (evangelical at least) logic that God does not owe us a darn thing since after all it was we humans who sinned and in so doing abdicated our right to expect anything from God. There is also this prevailing notion of the intrinsic nature of the creator/created relationship that suggests the superior unfathomable essence of the creator and the resulting inferior position of the created as feebly inadequate and incompetent to make demands. It seems illogical on the one hand to consider placing any expectations on God from our position of relative ineptitude. There is another even darker question that lurks under the surface here. How are we to make any expectations known to God let alone demand them from him without being able to enact some tangible justice for his failure to meet said expectations? In other words are we to assume power over God in the event of his unfaithfulness to these expectations which are owed to us?

Then, if we should speak of owing or the idea of debt we should remind ourselves that these concepts mean that an agreement has been struck between two parties upon which each party is obliged to honour the term set out therein. The key concept here is the agreement. If God owes us something it can only be that he and we have agreed that there are some terms that God is obliged to fulfill. Of course this naturally turns our attention to the covenant agreements which have been written in the scriptures. The former covenant seems to have been eclipsed by the latest one which loosely paraphrased suggests that God is obliged to provide humanity with eternal life in heaven provided we accept His demonstration of forgiveness of our own inability to meet our side of the covenant – which is sinless life. This at least is the conventional perspective. In Sum: God owes us nothing since we have failed to meet our side of the agreement yet he is willing to forgive that debt if we accept his sacrificial act of debt payment. Now heaven and eternal life are a gift we receive unmerited not an expectation we can demand to have honoured.

Now consider that…

None of us asked to exist. We did not begin our lives aware of our obligation to God so it is hardly possible to propose that we agreed to these covenant parameters. Since we are not party to this covenant the agreement would seem to stand null and void. Thus God does not owe us eternal life and we don’t owe him sinless living (if we are following the standard conventions of the Christian teaching). Both parties are off the hook. But perhaps not so quickly. God is still creator and we the unwilling created. He brings us into a world where we will encounter all these unmet desires and unfilled longings that he has designed this life to bear. He makes us alive to the goodness in life. A friend told me recently, “we are incorrigible hopers.” Merely creating us might not make God beholding to us but certainly placing us in the vibrant contradiction (love in the face of hate, hope in the face of despair, joy in the face of grief, and strength in the face of pain) that is our lives must make him responsible in some way.


Which brings me to other questions like: Is God meeting his obligations currently? Is there more we should expect? How does this expectation idea keep from becoming just another silly way for me to usurp God’s authority? I mean are the health, wealth and prosperity guys right all along?Please say it is not so...

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Kuroshio Sea - 2nd largest aquarium tank in the world

Cool Song by Barcelona called "Please Don't Go" very Coldplayesque and very captivating with the video. Links to the band site and music available on the video.

Friday, July 24, 2009

parenting and your worldview

You’ve no doubt wondered how you got to thinking about the world in the way that you do. Turns out your worldview is not really as ‘yours’ as you might like to believe. No need to be alarmed though – it’s not really supposed to be yours. At least not in the way we’ve imagined.
The influence of our parents shapes most of how we look at life (the big questions of meaning and meta-physics, moral codes, social norms). Brain researchers like Dr. Ian Wishaw (one of my professors and a leading brain researcher in Canada) will tell you that most of the neural pathways in your brain are established by the time you reach about 4 or 5 years old (right about the time when language acquisition reaches it ‘boiling point’). Inevitably then the core of our worldview has already been established before we are even aware of us needing or wanting to have one. Sure a child cannot express all of the metaphysical concepts that are expected out of an adult but the foundational neural triggers are already in place to guide the individual toward a specific point of view. Knowing this can help us immensely as parents.
As a reasonable parent, I might be worried that my influence might unduly sway my children toward a particular perspective without the advantages of critical thought on the part of my children. There is a school of thought that advocates critical ‘free’ thinking as a means of allowing children to choose either a religious or an irreligious perspective. The use of the word free is hardly honest when we look at the science. We just are not free thinkers – able to think of anything we wish – we are indelibly constrained by the physical capacity and the environmental influence of our given context. We are not free to reason any which way we want to. But here is what is possible. It is possible for parents to give their children critical thinking skills that actively challenge the perspectives that they have received through parental influence and those they might encounter in various arenas of life.
Ryan’s post here serves to debunk some of the prevailing logic in some of the atheist camps that suggests that free thinking will inevitably lead to an irreligious worldview. Ryan aptly points out how biased the illusion of free thinking really is but he also makes a great point about the need for parents to accept the choices our children make even when they are not the ones we would have preferred. What he doesn’t point out (but I am almost convinced he would agree with) is that every worldview must make a step of faith. Faith is not just relegated to a belief in God. It takes just as much faith to figure we came from some random accident. This should not surprise us since we know that so much of what we receive as worldview as children has to be accepted outright since it is hardly testable by a preadolescent brain. We put faith in our parents and accept their influence. Dale McGowan gets that part of the story right in his latest video on Parenting Beyond Belief. You should watch his video so I have included it here…

I think McGowan gets it in many ways but I do not agree with his parenting strategy around influencing ideological (and ultimately religious) views. His tactic is to frame every conviction he espouses with a caveat that it is merely his opinion and that it should be evaluated against other perspectives on the matter. He banks on the phenomenon of reaction that is typical (and well documented) in the adolescent years where the child will shape their own convictions against those handed to them by their parents. I feel sorry for him. It seems he needs to apologize to his kids for holding a conviction – convictions that I am sure have been found to be very practically useful in his own life. What he has done in my view is devalue even if ever so slightly his own views so that influence that he claims for himself is lost. What will happen when his kids meet someone who is not willing to caveat their convictions in the same way?. Enter Television Evangelist…
I think McGowan is right to suggest that as parents we anticipate the reactive stage and I really like the idea of encouraging our children to encounter other worldviews early on. I also think it is imperative to create the space for our children to make ideological mistakes-to espouse ideological perspectives that are less than accurate. What the child should be aware of early on is that any perspective they choose to hold will meet with a challenge. But instead of a caveat on my beliefs I want to create an atmosphere where my children are already at an early age willing and able to challenge me on my convictions and I can challenge theirs. I said to a friend of mine recently that I want my kids to be exposed to the big questions of life first of all in their own home. What I mean is that there is no way that some pot-shotting atheist philosophy prof ought to be able to gain the upper hand on my child when they enter university. There should be no way that my child should become entranced by the magical spells of the word/faith brand of religion. If my child chooses to accept any of those options I want to know that they have fought hard critically to dispute and rebuff and actively engage the claims of these perspectives. Oh and by the way I expect no less should they choose to follow convictions similar to mine.
I have no qualms telling my kids what I believe because they are my convictions. I also show them that from time to time I am able to admit that I have gotten it wrong when a better argument has been presented. I don’t have to apologize for by opinions or denounce them as trivial since they are my own. I feel good about what I believe and still will come to believe. I have a really hard time with arrogant people who claim to have found ‘the truth’ and refuse to consider the relevant arguments against the position they have taken. I think it is possible to hold convictions strongly while still being humble enough to admit that you are wrong. I hope that is what my kids will see in me. I hope they are willing push and challenge and fight for every inch of ideological ground they gain. “I think that as parents, we do have an obligation to teach our children to think carefully and critically and to honour the choices they make.” (Ryan) The key here is in the last part of the statement. Ideological perspectives are irrelevant if they do not affect action. And conviction should match the willingness to act on those perspectives.
For now though, I am willing to run around the house in my underwear and play my music too loud cause after all they are going to rebel anyways right?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

much truth spoken in jest?

I love how comedy akes you think about things...

Do you really wanna be that private?

It’s interesting how some notions seem to function like currency in the social sphere. Take Facebook’s recent breach of Canada’s privacy laws (see news item here). Whenever social/cultural values seem to elevate one social dynamic over another I get suspicious that there is a type of stratification happening in the social context that advantages some and not others. Boil it down: Could it be that manipulating privacy might be a way of gaining social/cultural/economic power?
Now I understand that a certain amount of privacy is good thing. We just do not want to know every sordid or banal detail of each other’s lives. There are also times when knowing certain private information can be used to take advantage of another person (the pin # to your mastercard for instance). But on the whole even in those cases some basic social hygiene might prevent most of these problems. Instead we have been given to understand that privacy is a right we deserve to have protected. On top of it all our privacy, it seems, needs to be protected by external forces. The bank we keep our money at, the store we shop at, the internet site we are addicted to, and even the government ought to protect our privacy for us. Which seems kinda odd doesn’t it since after all our privacy can only really be protected by us. It seems we want to act in an increasingly public manner, revealing ever more ‘private’ information, while expecting outside agencies to protect us from our own indiscretions. We are more voyeuristic than we have ever been – just take a peak at YouTube…
But even if our privacy has been breached-big deal! Let’s look at a few examples: A) your private credit card information in used to make an enormous purchase. Well we already know that credit card companies are swift to deal with charges that are not made by the actual card holder. It’s gonna be pretty easy for me to tell when an $8000.00 purchase has been made on my account. There’s always the ability to revert to cash… B) your child’s private online information is used to for the benefit of some pedophile (if you get my meaning). This one boggles me. If your kids is spending time on the computer and you are not aware as a parent of what they are doing online – there is a problem and it’s not with the issue of privacy it is with the issue of parenting. Getting an education degree has revealed to me that if someone wants the personal details of your child they can access them quite easily even though there are FOIPP plans that seem to protect that information.
So there are two examples - extreme perhaps but those are the sort of things that are bandied about in the media as reasons for increased levels of privacy.
But do we really want a world with more privacy. Well aside from the public/private conundrum I mentioned earlier it seems like privacy holds a lot of social power. Privacy fences or houses designed with the garage in front so that I never have to talk to my neighbours are two examples of the pervasive presence of privacy in the cultural ethos. I am not sure that a more private world benefits us that much. We seem to feel increasingly vulnerable and seemingly more helpless to create the privacy we need. We also seem to want to keep private things that would be better revealed. Sickness, relational difficulties, financial struggles and personal addictions are all things that are better dealt with publicly than privately.
The conclusion to the matter: It seems that the ability to control the private/public domain of one’s life wields a social power. Look at our celebrities they reveal more private information than most of us might and use to their advantage to increase their star power. The proletariat (the rest of us) fight to hang on to as much privacy as we can so as not to become victims of horrible things. Agencies that claim to protect our privacy give us a false sense of security since they really can’t protect our privacy at all. And as we retreat into our freaked out individualism scraping together as much personal space as possible, we yell and scream to be noticed, worried about, cared for - that stuff only happens in a public setting.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Good-bye Chevy Astro

A financial transaction was conducted a few days ago that finds me no longer the owner of one 1995 Chevy Astro van. It was a weird mix of emotions and surprising even for a seasoned veteran of emotional nuances (cough cough). On the one hand I was nervous and apprehensive about the sale since there are a number of things wrong with the vehicle and getting any kind of money for it at seemed somehow dishonest. I did my best to reveal as much about the quirks and foibles of this machine as I could. It was sorta weird trying to sell it that way. The buyer is a capable electrician and handyman so I feel a little better about it. Also I have received numerous calls inquiring about the van and I so I am sure that the price is not unreasonable. At the same time I was thrilled to be selling it. I have had no end of repair headaches with that vehicle. Due mostly to its age I have replaced a lot of parts on that beast and well, I am hardly recouping my loss out of the vehicle. Something strange happens to me when a vehicle has a mechanical problem. I freak out. Not sure why exactly but it is probably some combination of anxiety over the anticipated cost of repair or the lack of knowledge to know whether the repairs are really warranted. On top of all that there is a little bit of nostalgia that creeps in when I think of that van. Every one of our vehicles this far have been used for youth trips and all sorts of other excursions. The Astro was no different. As the last vehicle before my exit from youth ministry it was a small vestige of the former life. As I drove the van up to meet the buyer in Calgary, I thought of all the times when the din youthful exuberance had almost satisfied the requirements for distraction from safe driving. I thought of the smells of stale sleeping bags and greasy farts percolating on the way home from a camping trip.
And I have to wonder about the currency of experience. I think we often see experiences as investments. We go here, do that, purchase that because we anticipate what good things will come to us as a result. A good example of that is how we often talk about creating memories with our kids. But perhaps experiences are not so much investments in some future payoff as they are reflections of the nature of who we are now – or were then. We experience things because they are the essence of who we are not as some anticipated quality that we will develop in the future. As such we spend ourselves – our own character in the moments that we live and what is left in the memory is the evidence of who we were at the time. I suppose that the good memories are the ones were we are perhaps the fondest of ourselves.
I like the Astro me. Not always was the experience of the Astro a revelation of my proudest moments but it certainly was a ‘vehicle’ to express some of my truest joy, and frustration. Thanks for the memories…

Monday, June 22, 2009

Pouncing on Weakness

There’s this guy who lives in the neighbourhood. We met last night at the park near our house. He’s a very friendly guy. By that I mean, as I suppose most people do, that he willingly and easily strikes up conversation with almost anyone. We start talking. He asks me if I am still doing church work. When I tell him I’m not, he hardly bats an eye. But I know that makes a difference for him. I first met him through another friend and she made sure he knew that I was a pastor. That seemed to make a difference for him at the time – in what way though I am not sure…
At our poker games he used to show up and down a couple of pops with us. He would usually proceed to tell us a few lewd or racist jokes. He loves motorbikes. Stitches redneck on his underwear if he wears any…
So we’re talking right. And the conversation slips unprompted over to religion.
This is a conversation completely familiar to me – predictable.
He says religion is fine for those who want it, need it, but look at all the mess it makes – like overseas. Yup, I agree. He says prayer doesn’t work ‘cause he asked my friend to pray for his buddy’s cancer test and it came out positive – so there must not be a God. He says that religion is about keeping rules that don’t seem to make sense (why can’t some people play baseball on Sunday – but watch the whole game on television). He says there’s a ton of hypocrites. He says its confusing which religion is the right one. They’re all teaching the same thing. He’s figures he’s pretty well off with the principles that he lives by – caring for other people, etc. He says if he ever did go to church it would be with people like my friend – someone who he feels comfortable with.
All the classic excuses and even an indication of opportunity...
Come on four spiritual law this guy – he’s ready!
Oh it gets better!
He admits that as a dad he loses his patience with his kids. He also tells me of the bender he went on last night. Perfect. Here’s an opportunity to tell him about the difference that being a Christian can make.
But wait – I lose my patience with my kids and even though I’m smug enough to think that my loss of patience is less harmful than his – I am uncomfortably aware of my own hypocrisy. And though I may not have polished off 15 beers and a bucket of rum sauce – I too could recount the excesses of my own choices.
So I tell him that following Jesus for me is not so much about answers, behaviour cures, or (hollow) miracle solutions to life’s problems. I tell him it’s about living some proven principles that not that unlike his own. I also tell him that he should follow his instincts about church. He definitely should check out a church with people he likes to hang out with. It’s nice to know that following Jesus is something that my friend is good at. Her and her husband’s relationship with this guys and his wife means the best opportunity that he has to experience the transformative power of Jesus’ lifestyle. It makes me happy to see that at least in this way living Jesus’ way has made a difference already.
I didn’t pounce on the evident weaknesses – I’m not ready for that.

Monday, June 15, 2009

My Bleeding heart

My bleeding heart is growing through your fence
You’re annoyed, I’m not dense!
That was not your plan
For the span
Between your cherry tree and gate
A clean picket slate
But my over-zealous plant seems to exaggerate
Its claim on the property it can stake
My mistake

The lady next door is losing her life to a malfunction her body cannot seem to correct. We call it cancer so that we can externalize it and make it the villain but it really is our own body turning against us. If only we would have eaten different or been more cautious we might avoid the tentacles of the monster lurking in the shadowless inside. She sits by her living room window to squeeze the last ounce of joy out her misery. So her husband asks me if it would be okay to trim my front yard tree so that she might see the neighbourhood a little better. I will not deny this simple pleasure even if it means that an already shabby looking tree looks even less respectable. Hidden away from sight she sits and stares out past my tree. She is looking uglier each day. My tree looks uglier than it ever did before. She feels even uglier than she ever has before and I forget that when I look at my tree. I’m struck by the inconvenience of illness. It really messes things up….

Your bleeding heart is growing through my fence
I’m not annoyed, I’m not that dense!
You would have kept those blooms
to yourself if you could have – not shared the doom
impending - coming too soon
with the quarter moon
rising and the darkness and the gloom
when your bleeding heart will stop growing
through my fence…

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

New Appreciation and New Complaints

Current roles that Char and I have adapted into post-BIG SWITCH, mean that I have been doing more of the household chores than I used to. This has lead to a new admiration for the role that has too often been relegated to stay-at-home-mom’s (ugly term). In my view there are a number of things that women have done around the house and still most often do (even if they work outside the home) that hardly measure on the radar of most common discourse. Here are a few examples…
1. Laundry. With four teenage boys, we are doing laundry once a week. It’s an all day task that if you are not careful with can run into two days. Set the timer on the stove to go off every 45 minutes so you can stay on top of it. Sorting the laundry must require some highly evolved cognitive superstructure that only women are advantaged to possess. I have been instructed numerous times with diligent attention paid and I still have to have all my piles resorted. It’s not as simple as matching colors or fabrics there are a myriad of nuances that can influence the creation of a particular pile or grouping of clothes. I admit freely I am not able to master this skill. As for the drudgery of sorting through people’s dirty stuff? – whatever. No big deal. But seriously ask yourself when was the last time you heard a riveting story about laundry catastrophe or surprising outcome from a sock inadvertently missed in the process of turning it inside out. Write off your day and do the laundry. Oh and to it right ‘cause we all know you can definitely do it wrong. I am betting that if laundry had been in man’s domain there might have been a few more technological advances. I mean the biggest thing that has changed since the day of the washboard is that they have turned the washing tub sideways? Really? And they have allowed you to use less soap? Really? Really?
2. Grocery Shopping. Again do to the Hoover vacuum cleaners at my table every day. Groceries are a weekly excursion. Grocery stores are stupid. It makes no sense to shop the way we do. With all the weaving back and forth between isles only to have the freaking manager decide he is going to change the location of almost everything in the store… If a man built a grocery store to match the fact that he was going shopping. It would be one long building with only one isle and a moving ped walk floor. You would begin with your dry goods and end with the coldest stuff and your cart would take your money when you dropped it off at the kiosk at you had loaded the stuff in your car after the valet had brought it around. Seriously, grocery shopping is messed up. I suspect there is some kind of covenant agreement between the underground women’s league with all grocery store chains to keep these stores laid out the way they are. I understand taking your time with the produce – touch it feel it you know! But listen lady standing in front of the granola bar section and staring at the box in your hand for ten minutes will not make the item cheaper or healthier. Grocery shopping is best understood as a covert military mission. Find your targets, capture and then get the H#$%^ out of there. The super store is not really all that super. It is not a park where you can get your ‘walking’ done.
There you go. I have to say I love my life and the changes that I get to live into but I am starting to wake up to this other part of the world which slowly I am recognizing as alien due mostly to that stinkin’ Y chromosome…

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Rules of the Church Potluck

God may have rested on the 7th day but I’m pretty sure that the night before he told the woman, “hey, we’re havin’ a potluck tomorrow!”
Having been to a few potlucks in my short 40 years I have decided to lay down some essential laws pertaining to the potluck…
1. Children should be highly supervised by experienced adults (preferably the crotchediest woman on the church serving committee. Potlucks are invariably a feast for the eyes as well as the belly. Filled with the legends of potlucks dancing in their heads children are liable to take much of the precious potluck food which will sadly go to waste once they have sat down and return to their normative gustatory peculiarities.
---Corollary: Parents whose children do not finish their plates are obliged to finish their children’s plates also... even if they did take the mystery meat by mistake.
2. Two meatballs is an acceptable serving size at a potluck. ‘Overachievers’ will be prosecuted by the church board at the next meeting.
3. When considering which dish to bring to the potluck BANISH any thought of what might be the healthiest or most weight conscious entrée to prepare. Make your food as rich and full flavour as possible. Remember that Church Potlucks are intended to bring parishioners closer to their Maker so do your part by clogging their arteries as much as possible so that they might meet Him sooner.
4. It is critical to recruit a threatening tactical unit which will ensure that the youth of the church do not sit closest to the desert table. These young ones are just clever enough to have figured out the benefits of potluck without having the courage for the restraint needed to ensure the safe potlucking for the whole congregation.
5. THERE SHALL BE NO PREFERRENTIAL TREATMENT in allocating place in the line. The end of the pastor’s prayer shall be considered the starting gun – at which point it is the right and responsibility of each individual to make their way to the food line.
---Corollary: Some might suggest the pregnant women and the elder be given advantages in the line. This is potluck heresy. Consider that the elderly can make full advantage of canes and walkers to secure their place in line and pregnant women are ornery enough to get to where they need to be without some special jump-ahead-in-line pass.
6. Remember that your plate has a finite surface area and will snap when loaded in excess of 14lbs of food. You will be asked to clean up your own mess and there is no excuses acceptable that contend that food items have “run together on my plate!”
7. If you can skip out of the church gym there must not have been enough food – ask the pastor to preach a message on the topic.
8. If you waddle out of the church and barely make it to your couch for meddah shlope - You shall send an encouragement note to the evangelism committee telling them how good a job they are doing.
9. Potluck Serving ladies (and these days more and more men are attempting to take on this role) shall be nominated by the deacons and shall present their testimony to the membership meeting. Any evidence that the serving crew has intentionally reserved or orchestrate the placement of the food dishes to advantage their own repast shall be excommunicated (unless of course it can be proven that they always bring meatballs).
10. In-experienced potluckees (those who bring the potluck meals) shall not be compensated for improper labelling of their own cookware.
11. There is a proportional responsibility on the part of the potluckees who bring the most popular dishes to share their recipes given an appropriate compliment is given followed by an equally appropriate incredulous, "is it alot of work to make?"
---Corollary: Having had a wildly popular dish's recipe shared with you - YOU SHALL NOT bring it tot he next potluck and usurp the position of favor afforded to the reigning champions of previous potluck.

Monday, June 1, 2009

a little help here...

We recently had a wonderful visit with an old friend. We laughed and tossed around the obligatory reminiscences after a few months of not seeing each other. Inevitably as it seems most conversations seem eventually come around to talking about “Holy Things” (Nacho Libre ref.). Religion, church etc seem to crop up a lot in conversations that we have with people in general. My friend it would be fair to say has wandered around a bit spiritually – disillusioned by so much of the institutional expressions of church but certainly not abandoning faith at all. This is a smart talented person. One statement that my friend made caused me to extra intrigue in our conversation about God. In the course of our conversation my friend said something like this, “As far as faith goes, I pay attention to my heart and not my head. I’ve had so many questions lately and if I would have paid attention to my head I probably would not be a Christian right now.”
There is a lot to take away from a statement like that. First of all, it is a good reminder that we all approach the concepts of faith in nuanced pathways that involve both intellectual arguments and appealing emotional tones. It makes me wonder if sometimes there has been too much of a focus on thinking the right way or feeling a certain way in order to fully identify with the believing community. Modernity has served the church well in raising the requirements for thinking the right way as a measure of the suitability for participation in the body.
Second the statement is also a reminder of the fact that faith is far more complex than it used to be. I suppose this is due to the influences of a post-modern culture. Engaging with faith is not as simple as cognitive assent to 4 ‘spiritual’ laws or a codified catechism. There are significant questions that affect morality, doctrinal position and the like. This is not your Mom and Dad’s church/religion anymore. And if you still face the requirement to ‘think the right way’ you could be in a rough shape for a long while – trying to wrap your head around big issues like homosexuality and violence…
Third this statement teases out a rather scathing indictment on the body of Christ. Consider that there are numerous scriptural references that speak to the simplicity of following after the Rabbi from Nazareth (we are to be like children quickly springs to mind). Could it be that the church has complexified the essence of faith in all of its theological and doctrinal discussions to the point where it really remains out of reach? What I mean is that perhaps the church is guilty of the same folly that earned the Pharisees Jesus’ sharpest criticism, by making faith unnecessarily complicated for the average individual to engage with. Here I wonder if the disconnect is at the point where the actions of the church do not match what it is claiming to teach.
On the other hand perhaps this statement is also fairly revelatory about the mode of engagement that at least a certain group of people are inclined to pursue. Maybe this statement is a self-condemnation of sorts that reveals the instant-ness that we have all come to expect out of in our culture – a lack of willingness to engage with the deep thing of God, if you will.
All of these wonderings are significant if one supposes that the statement above is somehow indicative of the way (some) people are feeling/thinking. Some of Reg Bibby’s work (Restless Gods) tells us that more readily identifying as religious people and that the trajectory of secularism projected by the doomsayers of years ago are out to lunch. However even though people are identifying themselves as religious they are typically staying away from attendance and involvement in local institutions in greater numbers than before. Could it be that my friends statement is a least a contributing factor in these trends? I think it is worth exploring.
Ruminating on this statement has left me in a melancholy frame. It serves as an interesting mirror to reflect on the years of ministry that lie behind me. I am also prone to wonder if churches are paying attention to stuff like this and if they might be interested in taking the role of the presumably spiritually mature agent in this faith engagement. What I mean is that the church should take the burden of responsibility in addressing any stumbling blocks which might lie between apparently interested individuals and the faith in Christ that they claim to be purveyors of…
Here’s my goal to look for places where the body of Christ is doing this well – removing obstacles…(Humming: Arcades Fire's Intervention)

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Salsa Exchange and Competition

The food not the dance…
Salsa is best condiment known to human culinary experience. This is largely due to the fact that the best salsas are the homemade varieties. Recipes are guarded. Secret ingredients are often hidden even in one’s own kitchen. Based on this I submit a proposal to all who might wander across this blog. A contest and an exchange…
No recipes need to be revealed but here is how it works… In Fall (closing date to be established) you may send in exactly one cup of salsa in a well sealed container (shipping instructions will follow). your salsa sample will be judged by a yet to be determined set of independent judges. There will be a prize for the winner in a few different categories. Regular, Hot, Wacky. Criteria to be posted.
In addition if there is enough interest I would like to also orchestrate a salsa exchange (a la cookie exchange). I will send more details about this will work but I will be in charge of coordinating the distribution. What to do?
Comment below and let me know that you are interested…

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Swine Flu

So hey the travel advisor against trips to Mexico has been lifted. That means that we can all keep rehearsing our important Spanish phrases like, “Donde esta el bano.” So how did it feel to be swept up in panic that was Swine Flu? Did you enjoy your springtime fear fix or was it a bad trip for you?

How to make a baby

I knew it!
This will be very helpful for the marriage preparation stuff I am doing this summer...

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Tourism: the seed bed of all evil ;)

Ryan commented on a few conversations that he had regarding the idea that people who faced tragedy or poverty got what they deserved due to their lack of faith in God.

What We Deserve « Rumblings

Comments I made on that post elicited a few questions and I will try to support my comments here rather than derail Ryan’s thread.

Leisure travel is by nature a function of wealth and an exercise in subjugating a place and people. Poor people cannot afford to travel for purposes of leisure. Poor people also are locked into service ‘industry’ (that keeps them poor) through several capitalist mechanisms. The first of which is the system of transnational capital practiced by the IMF and WMF whereby local countries provide free trade zones where foreign companies can come and set up shop without having to pay much of any kind of tax back to the host country. These companies use cheap local labour to extract significant profits while putting very little back into the local economy. Most importantly they locate and fix the indigenous population in place – drawing them to employment in these FTZs. The wages people receive are not enough to support them and they often must work many jobs to survive and they remain in poverty.

Here is a recap of the questions presented in Ryan’s post…

are you suggesting that tourism is evil because it encourages people to migrate to coastal regions where they could be killed by a tsunami? should we perhaps move these hotels inland provided they are not near a fault line or a volcano? or is it evil and selfish because it removes them from their subsistence way of life? is it evil to travel because you might indirectly influence someone to change their current vocation from one of farming to one in the service industry? should we barricade western culture from other cultures in order not influence them?

Answer to the first question:

Tourism is not intrinsically evil but the practice of tourism has significantly subjugating consequences one of which is that due to tourism there were generally more people in the areas affected by the Tsunami than there would have been otherwise. We also know that in the aftermath of the Tsunami wealthy foreigners were significantly advantaged in accessing help – but this is just obvious. We know that the poor suffered more than the wealthy did in this tragedy…

Answer to question two:

As I have already stated the damaging effect of the leisure travel/tourism are evident without them being in the direct path of an impending disaster. Moving the location of the hotels only transplants the problems.

Answer to three and four:

Like I said earlier, the economic systems that drive the tourism industry lock people in place and reduce the options available to them in order to provide for their families. This is what is so insidious since on the surface it seems that people are making a decision between subsistence and service industry employment. But let us not forget that it was not the locals decision to have foreigners come and lounge on their beaches and traipse around on their ancient ruins. And local peoples do not have the power to kick transnationals out of the country.

Answer to last question:

There are aspects of western culture and values that have created significant problems globally. There are other aspects that have the potential to provide significant opportunity to improve the well-being of people around the world. Barricading western culture from the rest of the world is not only impossible but just silly. Cultural exchange is valuable when reciprocity is mutually available and balanced. But when the cultural values of one dominate another problems exist (Unless it is somehow possible to prove that Western culture is just that much more superior to other cultures – in which case subjugate all you want!). Western cultural values hold a place of privilege and authority in the world. As such it is important to address aspects that might be damaging.

Finally, (to try to connect this back to Ryan’s post) when western ideological perspectives and consequences are endorsed through faulty logic couched as Christian values – then repentance is needed. If western Christians think that their advantaged position is somehow an endorsement by the Almighty - they are getting it wrong. If they think that poor heathen people get what they deserve when disaster strikes – they are getting it wrong. If westerners can’t recognize that their practices bear significantly harmful consequences, both overtly and covertly, they are getting it wrong.

I think that there are ways to enjoy the marvels of God’s creation in different countries. I’d be glad to entertain ideas from any of you who bother to read this as to how this might be possible…

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Proof Texting the Second Round

A.K.A. Benny Hinn does the playoffs!

Seeing as the prophesy discerned for round one of the playoffs proved more or less correct (My sincere sympathy to my Flames loving readers). We here at the pickle have decided to press on with the word which cometh from on high and predict the next round outcomes – using the tried and true method that most prophet employ the ubiquitous proof text.

Boston and Carolinaeast2_57532

According to 1 Kings 19:11 “the Lord was not in the wind” on the other hand in 2 Kings 2:24 “two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths”. Obviously, this can only mean that Carolina has blown their last gust and just think if two bears can wipe out 40 youth a whole team of them should be able to handle John Torterella – oh shucks those guys are out of the playoffs…

Bruins in 5

Detroit and Anaheimdet-ana_55808

Friends Leviticus 23:40 makes this very clear. “On the first day you are to take choice fruit from the trees, and palm fronds, leafy branches and poplars, and rejoice…for seven days.” Many might look at this passage as the inauguration of one of Israel’s feasts – they would only see half of the meaning. The number seven is important here as is the reference to palms since it seems that Pronger and the gang from the city of palms are destined to rejoice over the Red Wings in Seven Games… Who’s mounting up with wings now Osgood? See its in the name right there the goalie thinks he’s good and he’s not. Don’t you know pride cometh before a game seven loss…

Vancouver and Chicagoplayoffs_42462

Now follow along with this. We know that the Black Hawks were named after a revered First Nations group – in fact they bear a ‘likeness’ of one of these valiant warriors upon their jersey. However, as we all know the Canucks have drawn from Haida First Nations imagery in their logo as well. So how to tell the difference? Well once again obscure historical passages that once only served to put you to sleep in those night time devotions is useful in delivering predictions…

Consider 1Chronicles 12:1&2 Here is clearly says that, “…the men who came to David…were among the warriors who helped him in battle;” (and we all know that David was the winner in battle) Who were these men? Well, “they were armed with bows and were able to shoot arrows or to sling stones right-handed or left-handed (an obvious illusion to scoring ability from the left or right wing); they were kinsmen of Saul” An of course we all know that Jonathan (as in Jonathan Toews) was Saul’s premier kinsman. So there you have it…

A dandy little verse that proves that the NUCKS will face the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune…and lose in 6.

Pittsburgh and Washingtoneast5_57565

Obviously Jericho the great walled and fortified city of giants can only refer to Washington. And as most of you plainly know instructions about how this city can be defeated are pretty clearly spelled out in Joshua Chapter 6. Circling the city means that the ‘cycle’ will be critical to success against Ovechkin and his pals but it will take seven games to declare the winner and by the looks of things that game might have a few extra overtime periods. But take a closer look at verse 2: “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.” I’ll admit I myself was surprised by this but it seems that not only will Pittsburgh win the series but they will take over the Whitehouse as well. In a move reminiscent of the time when Canada burned the Whitehouse in 1812 – it seems that Sidney Crosby is poised to become president of the United States as well. Some one better tell Barack to hang a red sash out the oval office window…

Friday, April 24, 2009

Prevention Program

Prevent something from happening again.

If you can really prevent it from ever happening again – you’ve actually eradicated it.

In that case it there is no need to prevent it.

You only actually prevent it till the next time it happens.

So prevention never really works.



Dwight Shrute,

That being said, if a pirate does enter a hospital missing a leg, under no circumstances should he be given a wooden peg leg, because that just enables him to get back on his feet. He'll be raping and pillaging in no time.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

History and Memory

human-brain-3So say you are an historian. Forget all the rhetoric about history being written by the winners. Forget the limitation of individual perspective. Consider that there is no actual location for the events stored in your brain. There is no cell in my brain for the first kiss or the first time I hit the ditch. There isn’t even a group of cells that you could point to as holding these events. Don’t forget that all that is up there is: chemicals passing between neurons carried by an electrical charge. Somehow out of all that some neural stimulation make it into what we call awareness (a bunch of stuff does not: the feeling of your socks on your feet rarely enters your awareness). That these neurons could produce this thing called awareness is mysterious enough but from that awareness some stimuli get preserved by (not in) the brain. If this information persists we call it memory.

What can we say so far? Your brain does not contain memories – it MAKES memories. The best theories of memory suggest that memory is an association of neurons firing in relatively the same way as when the original event occurred. The deal is that in order to pull up that vivid memory of your first kiss you gotta reconstruct the event – you rebuild it. By definition then the thing you remember is not the actual original event but your reconstruction of it which means of course that it is different (even if in small ways) than the original. Now this happens to be a fairly accurate process – one that we rely on pretty heavily (sometimes too heavily). That first kiss was with Charlene for me! It is not very likely that I will ever tell you Julianna was the first female with whom I passionately shared saliva. This good and keeps my relationship with Char pretty much locked up!

But what about the study that showed people two cars in an accident then they asked the observers this question: How fast were the vehicles going when they ______? (in the blank they substituted the words: crash. collided, bumped, hit, smashed). What they found was that the observers reported the cars as travelling up to 10 mph faster with the most graphic words like smashed than they did with words like bumped. People rebuilt the memory to accommodate the question they were asked. What does that tell us? That things can be (and often are) moulded to accommodate the conditions of a pre-existing state.

So you are historian right? You write down what you remember about a battle, a voyage, an encounter, a personality. What can we say about your account? Well since it was made up (constructed) we can tell you that it is not completely accurate with the original. We can also be confident that what you wrote is deeply affected by the conditions, biases and influences that you held at the time of writing it down. We seem to be pretty comfortable with this situation since we use it all the time.

I think it should makes us stop and think about what we mean when we say that something is reliable. Is BBC News actually more reliable than CNN or CBC? It can’t actually be more reliable since we know that each piece of reporting has taken an event and processed it through the neurons in their brain and reconstructed the event for us to read.

But what about Scripture? Does the idea that the Holy Spirit inspired scripture mean that a new level of reliability is achieved? Does that mean that the writers brains became putty in the hands of the Holy Spirit? Does it change the way we read and use Scripture if we say that human neurons functioned as they normally do in writing these texts? Interesting questions to be sure…

Let me know when your autobiography  is ready to go to print…

Monday, April 20, 2009

Pope’s picks: Update

So the games have begun. Pontificating on the results thus far seems to be in order – mostly to rub it in the face of all you non-believers that still have Jokingnen in their scoring pools. Remember that while the Pope is considered to be infallible – there is still the matter of free will and indulgences.

Boston vs Montreal


San Jose vs Anaheim

Update: Pride cometh before a fall – so president’s trophy winners look out apparently the “s’s” in your name also stand for shut out and swept.

Ducks in 4

Washington vs NY Rangers

Unchanged: Even though you’ll notice the Rangers are up in this series. At times a team must go through their own period of captivity before they can regain the promised land – in this case the next round

Capitals in seven

Detroit vs Columbus

Unchanged: Red Wings in 5

New Jersey vs Carolina

Unchanged: remember that a mighty wind was used to part the Red Sea…

Hurricanes in 7

Vancouver vs St. Louis

Update: Apparently the Canucks have been reading this blog and mended their ways. Evidence: Miracle of miracles - The Ol’ Deacon Sundin scored a goal. I say prop up his stick in the middle of the room and light candles around it – its an icon. I know its cheap idolatry but the way they are playing any amount of luck might just keep Luongo the blessed between the pipes

Vancouver in 5

Pittsburgh vs Philadelphia

Unchanged. Pittsburg in 6

Chicago vs Calgary

Unchanged: Did I not tell thee to be aware of the Mennonites. Calgary you bunch of Zwinglians.

Black Hawks  - in 5

at least I am doing a fair but better than the monkey…

The Art of Fixing a Game

3a907280a3_lucic_04202009 Put aside for a moment the dramatic rise in temperature of my blood based on the news that my favourite Bruins player has been suspended for one game. Get the gist of it here: Milan Lucic gets1-game hit -

The actions of league vice-president Colin Campbell are curiously frustrating at best and the marked trappings of game rigging at worst. Sure coaches and GM’s were ‘warned’ that end of game shenanigans that were intended to ‘send a message’ to the other team were not going to be tolerated. Fair warning. So what!

I’m sorta with PJ Stock on this one. The game of hockey has changed but not necessarily in a good way. Increasing the regulation of the game has led to general lack of respectability in the game. Let’s try to understand the effectiveness of the league’s rules on the overall outcomes of the games. Penalty minutes have increased significantly overall. So too has the greasy chippy and pansy bottomed play of divers and hackers and cheap-shotters. It has begun to take on some of the unseemly aspects of Brazilian or Argentinean soccer tom-foolery. The game used be shaped by notions of respect which kept players in their respective roles.

If the regulatory effort has been to increase the opportunity for skill players like Ovechkin, Crosby, or Malkin to strut their stuff the playoffs at least have been a pretty poor showcase. If the these penalties and suspensions are intended to make the game more palatable to the a more PC audience – consider the ecstatic cheers of Blues fans every time one of their boys pounded Vancouver. If the motivation of these measures is to bring the game in line with other sports like basketball, baseball, or bowling (which up until recently received a greater TV market share than hockey in the USA) then we have another glaring problem: Hockey is not baseball, basketball or bowling – it is conceptually different.

Removing Lucic, Carcillo, et al. for one game is stupid. If this type of activity is really problematic send them off for the series or the entire playoffs – instead of forcing a team to make line-up changes in order to compensate for the ‘message’ the league wants to send. If Lucic is suspended why isn’t every other head shot being penalized similarly. Those of you who might try to argue that Lucic’s shot is somehow different than any other glove or stick to the head in behind the net scrum should consider that the only way one can make that qualitative difference is to impose highly subjective standards of judgement. LaPierre got it right when he said that the shot was a normal part of the game and he should know he’s handed out his fair share of similar shots.

What bothers me the most is that the game I loved as a younger person does not actually exist any longer. By saying that I am not appealing to the notion that a game should remain fixed in some nostalgic time frame. Changes need to be made – but ones that return the game to its original spirit. Hockey has always been a tough game – remember that it started outside on ICE! Efforts to extract that quality of the game should be discouraged. Hockey has always been an inventive game – both personally and corporately. It is this spirit of innovation that should be explored. Consider the difference that bigger ice surface would make to the game. It remains to be seen what creative coaches and players could do to make the game exciting. Instead while there is arguably more parity (a good thing) in the league there is also far more uniformity in style of play. And the outcomes of games are being decided on power plays which means that referees are determining the outcome of games.

In the end we are left with an impoverished game available to whimsical subjectivity that serves only to frustrate players and fans.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Acrostically referential rankings of NHL teams based on Christian virtue…

Here’s the deal: use the first letter of teams name or home town as a reference for Christian virtue that can indicate a divine preference and series outcome
First Round Matchups

Let’s begin in the east

Boston vs Montreal

east1_66133 Of course most Canadiens’ fans will be quick to identify that “C” stands for Christian but we also know that “M” stands for Mamon the god of money and we know exactly how favoured money is in the religious scheme of things (interesting that the team is up for sale eh?)

The “B” in Bruins stands for – what else – Bible and the other “B” in Boston stands for Believer.

Do the religious math buddy – Boston in 5

San Jose vs Anaheim

west1_72445 “S” stands for sin - “J” stands for Jericho (which fell by the way) “Sh” stands for “shhh you’re making too much noise!”

and A is reserved for Angels, Anglicans, and Apostle – and every knows how well looked after birds are in the scheme of things

Ducks in 7

Washington vs NY Rangers

east2_66421 For Washington the “C” in Capitals is actually a good thing -  it equals crazy and the “w” equals women – people Jesus always found time to help

The “R”In Rangers stands for Rich (again a negative) and the “NY” = no youth something the church or a hockey team cannot do without

Capitals in seven

Detroit vs Columbus

west2_72829 “RW” obvious stands for the Right Way which we all know is the only way.

“BJ” on the other hand put Barrabas and Jezebel together for the first time in liturgical history…

Red Wings in 5

New Jersey vs Carolina

east3_66833 “D” stand for Devil need i say more…

After all “H” stands for heaven, and heart, and yippe

Hurricanes in 7

Vancouver vs St. Louis

west3_73025 “V” stands for verily verily i say unto you that the Canucks Cannot make it out of the first round.

Besides as has already been mentioned “B” stands for alot of really good things…

Blues in 6

Pittsburgh vs Philadelphia

east4_67151 Even though Revelations has some kind words for the Philadelphians the “F” in Flyers clear stands for Free Will which in this case has been exercised to construct an inferior team

“P” = pastor  and “P” = Power, Preaching, etc.

Look for Pastor Malkin and Pastor Crosby to make an alter call around game #6

Chicago vs Calgary

west4_73254 Yeah yeah yeah I get it Calgary – Calvary but come on you for get about the Flames – no need to do the acrostic…

Chicago at least has the “Ch” in Christian and the “BH” is backwards for Heavenly Blessings – plus there are Mennonites on that team hello

Black Hawks  - in 5

Looks like Canadian teams are still not holier than thou especially if thou is any US teams

There you go…

Let the Playoffs begin…

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Indigenous aesthetics and power

BBC NEWS | Americas | Colombian Indians seek security

As this piece points out the situation that the indigenous peoples of Colombia find themselves in is precarious. Threatened as the innocent bystanders caught in the middle of armed conflict between government militia, drug cartels and the FARC these groups claim their indigenous identity is being threatened. Several things pop out at me in this article that correlate to the issues we have discussed in class recently about indigeneity.

First it is interesting how the author of the article appeals in very specific notion to an _45645295_arhuacomen_226ahistorical construction of the indigenous identity. Notice:

Some 1,000 metres above sea level lies the heart of the reservation of the Arhuaco people, one of the more traditional indigenous tribes, whose members wear white robes and speak a language that greeted the Spanish Conquistadors when they landed here some five centuries ago.

-notice how the aesthetic displays (dress, language) are fixed to notions of ancientness and fixed in a particular space. When the author describes the aesthetic display of one woman who stands out in protest of the arrangements imposed by Uribe’s government – it is used to qualify her statements as contextually authoritative as the voice of the indigenous person.

Dressed in the traditional white robes with coloured beads draped around her neck, Leonor fears the consequences of allowing troops to move freely into the reservation.

The author goes on to use another visual image to drive home the point of his argument. He points to a member of another tribe who has lost his indigenous identity and marks it by referring to the ‘traffic’ that could be heard in the background of the telephone conversation.

The author seems to appeal to the Western typical notions of indigeneity inscribed in very particular aesthetics. In fairness though it seems that these people themselves are actually looking for the type of isolation from external contact that clearly is not possible.

"The more contact we have with the government, the more people that come to the Sierra, the more they will try to dilute our culture, our traditions," said Diego Garcia

This article serves to once again complexify the issues around indigeneity, aesthetics, land and power.