Tuesday, April 30, 2002

It just occurred to me that my blog is not religious enough. I've been talking about TV, traffic jams, basketball, super heroes, tire stores, and literature, but not about religion. I apologize. I'll lay down some deep theological smack, right now:

God is great. God is good. Let us thank him for our food. God is great. God is good. Let us thank him for our food. God is great. God is good. Let us thank him for our food. God is great. God is good. Let us thank him for our food. God is great. God is good. Let us thank him for our food. God is great. God is good. Let us thank him for our food. God is great. God is good. Let us thank him for our food. God is great. God is good. Let us thank him for our food. God is great. God is good. Let us thank him for our food. God is great. God is good. Let us thank him for our food. God is great. God is good. Let us thank him for our food. God is great. God is good. Let us thank him for our food. God is great. God is good. Let us thank him for our food. God is great. God is good. Let us thank him for our food.

Ponder that for awhile! Now I'm hungry... I'm going to the vending machine in the teacher's lounge.
A Separate Peace by John Knowles, excerpt from Chapter 6

I turned with an inward groan to look at him. Quackenbush wasn't going to let me just do the work for him like the automaton I wished to be. We were going to have to be pitted against each other. It was easy enough now to see why. For Quackenbush had been systematically disliked since he first set foot in Devon, with careless, disinterested insults coming at him from the beginning, voting for and applauding the class leaders through years of attaining nothing he wanted for himself. I didn't want to add to his humiliations; I even sympathized with his trembling, goading egotism he could no longer contain, the furious arrogance which sprang out now at the mere hint of opposition from someone he had at last found whom he could consider inferior to himself. I realized that all this explained him, and it wasn't the words he said which angered me. It was only that he was so ignorant, that he knew nothing of the gypsy summer, nothing of the loss I was fighting to endure, of skylarks and splashes and petal-bearing breezes, he had not seen Leper's snails or the Charter of the Super Suicide Society; he shared nothing, knew nothing, felt nothing as Phineas had done...

I hit him hard across the face.
My students are taking a field test for the TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) today. Makes my job easy. I read the instructions, hand out the answer sheets and work booklet... then I wait for them to finish. As they fill out the student information section of the answer sheet, I find it interesting that their ethnicity is a number. No description, just a number. Fill in the number of your ethnicity.

I'm white. I'm a 5. However, Fowzia is also a 5 and she's not white. Joni and Chrissy are 4s-- they are hispanic/non-caucasian. Alicia is 4 too, but she's black. Tommy is Asian, but he's a 5 as well. We can't figure out what 1-3 are. Maybe someday, my students and I (different backgrounds, cultures, and colors) will all have the same number. That'd be cool.

Monday, April 29, 2002

While online, I frequently listen to 3wk. It's a great online radio station. However, a recent proposal by the US Copyright Office sets webcasting royalty fees so high, 3wk and most independent webcasters will go out of business. It's a David and Goliath fight - indie webcasting vs. the major labels. Click here to help save good music.
The question came up: "If I could be anybody, who would I be?" One of those fun identity questions... again. At first, I thought Douglas Coupland. Writer, artist, designer, lives in Vancouver, cool. But then I thought about it: I'd rather Douglas Coupland be Douglas Coupland. I'm sure he's moderately happy-- but I think I'd enjoy his work more as an outside observer.

Melissa suggested I would want to be my favorite comic book hero, The Beast. Once again, Melissa knows me better than I sometimes know myself. Heck, since this is a fantasy question, why not be "The Beast"? Super strength, super intelligence, blue and furry, be a super hero! Now, that's cool!!!

Maybe I read too many comics, but if I could have ANY occupation... I would be a superhero. Practically ALL of my dreams (no kidding), center around some sort of super hero motif. It's weird. Maybe my subconscious is telling me something? Maybe I let my "savior-complex" go unchecked? Would comics fall under that category of "tragedy as entertainment"? Bad stuff happens the hero saves the day.

Yesterday as I was driving with Melissa, the traffic slowed to a crawl. Melissa and I hate traffic jams caused by on-lookers. We have developed a system to avoid this problem: the driver keeps plowing ahead, the passengers gawk and report the bloody details. However on this occasion, I had to look. We couldn't figure out what was going on.

Several cars, about ten or fifteen, lined the side of the highway. All different sorts of people (they weren't all from the same group) were looking and pointing at something down on the bank-- which for the standard on-looker, such as myself, could not see. Everyone on the side of the road looked very interested with what they discovered. As we passed, we saw a firetruck approaching and an ambulance in the distance. Melissa thought maybe someone drove off the road and into the bank.

Tragedy as entertainment concerns me.
"The story of The Ugly American describes the endless succession of blunders achieved by the visual and civilized Americans when confronted with the tribal and auditory cultures of the East. As a civilized UNESCO experiment, running water -- with its lineal organization of pipes -- was installed recently in some Indian villages. Soon the villagers requested that the pipes be removed, for it seemed to them that the whole social life of the village had been impoverished when it was no longer necessary for all to visit the communal well. To us the pipe is a convenience. We do not think of it as culture or as a product of literacy, any more than we think of literacy as changing our habits, our emotions, or our perceptions. To nonliterate people, it is perfectly obvious that the most commonplace conveniences represent total changes in culture."

- Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media p. 86
I watched the movie Hackers on Friday night. I'd never seen it before. Kind of goofy, but still entertaining. I always get a kick out of how computers in films NEVER even remotely resemble how a real computer looks and operates. In Hackers, the "computer world" is represented as some 3-D physical space you operate (i.e. move ) within. I'd like to see one, just ONE, computer movie that does not have a scene where someone is trying to download something before the bad guys get there. 5% - 15% - "come on, come on... there coming..." 40% - "hurry up!" 60% - (bad guys banging on the door) 70% - 85% - 99%.... Ugh.

After watching the movie, I got a strange desire for a hacker "codename". Why? I don't know. If you have any good suggestions, let me know. Only two problems:
1.) I don't hack
2.) I have nothing to hide
All that said, a codename seems somewhat... juvenile. Heck, I don't care. I'm a wannabe. I'll hack into my own e-mail account. I'll practice downloading stuff before the bad guys show up.

Friday, April 26, 2002

*spark-online.com has a really cool digital gallery. I love watching flash movies. One of my favorite all-time flash movies is: The Dough by Xdude.

Thursday, April 25, 2002

Dallas Mavericks are 2-0 in the first round of the play-offs against Minnesota.

My dad took me to the games when I was a little kid. I have some great memories of going to Reunion Arena. Last night while I was watching the game, Dad called me. He was watching the game from his hotel room (he was on a business trip). We made some comments about the game and then continued to watch.

A few days ago, I got really angry at Discount Tire. They told me they could fix my flat within 45 minutes and I ended up waiting two hours. I was impatient. I had to meet Scott at the gym (grunt, spit, etc.). After two hours, I discovered they could not fix my flat because the key to take off the lug nuts was missing. I didn't know where it went. I threw a fit. I drove to the VW dealership. The folks at dealership told me it was impossible to get a new key. I would have to go to them forever & ever to get my tires fixed. Hmmm... I think I know who took my key...

So instead, Charles at Discount Tire offered to help me and thus regain my loyalty. It worked. As of right now, he's taking off the locks on all my tires (so there VW!), replacing the lug nuts, fixing my flat, balancing and rotating my tires... for free. Cool, huh?

I certainly appreciate the folks at Discount Tire. They put up with my crap. But doesn't this only encourage customers to get angry about truly trivial things? If I complain, I get a reward. So angry consumers run rampant: demanding a free meal when the server spills their drink, a refund on their ticket when the film offends them, a free TV when the salesclerk forgets to smile, a free oil change for everytime the sun doesn't shine...

We can't always get our way. We aren't always right. Bad stuff happens and it's a part of life. I call it a "life tax"-- sometimes we have to pay up. But to those at Discount Tire, thank you...

Tuesday, April 23, 2002

Here's another site that cheers me up.
Eric Conveys an Emotion remains one of my favorite websites. The simple hilarious genius of this site still entertains me. Whenever I'm in a bad mood, Eric cheers me up everytime.

The Internet exists for such idiotic exhibitionism. Of course, I probably shouldn't be talking. My own website is a fine example. But the Internet thrives on this impulse for voyeurism and exhibitionism. It's a global version of "Show and Tell".

About two years ago, Melissa and I became good friends with a married couple Scott and Tonya. Two very wonderful people. Scott is my best man for the wedding. Tonya is Melissa's matron-of-honor. We just found out on Saturday Tonya is pregnant. We're all very excited. (When Melissa called me, she was on the verge of tears.) Melissa and I do not plan on having children anytime soon-- but that doesn't mean we wouldn't gladly take on the title of Aunt and Uncle.

I wanted to buy a card for them. I always have a difficult time finding the "perfect card." So usually, I just opt for any random card and then insert my own message at the bottom. The card I gave them had the American flag on the front. On the inside it read: GOD BLESS AMERICA. Under that, I wrote: "& congratulations on the pregnancy!"

I am quite proud of that card... and America.
Last night, I wanted to see a movie. When I got to the theater, I discovered I had an hour "to kill" (interesting phrase) before the show started. What to do? I went to Target and, in a zombie-like state, wandered through the store for about an hour. I had no real intention of buying anything. I just needed to lose an hour of my life so I could watch the movie.

I don't think I'm alone in this "recreational browsing" habit. It all goes back to my "mall rat" days. My friends and I would be bored... we'd go to the mall. When I think about all the meaningful things that could have been accomplished within an hour, my choice of Target looks pitiful. But then again, watching a movie could be considered another way to kill time.

Thursday, April 18, 2002

I am a piece of educated meat. I've never been so "body-aware" as I have been lately. Most of my life, I have always seen a clear distinction between my mind and the life-suit that carries my mind around. My wedding is on June 1st (my wedding site). And lately, I've been staring at myself more in the mirror after I shower-- especially, when I turn sideways. There it is. A gut. I am beginning to resemble a bowling pin. For the first time, I feel "fat". I'm still a little person by most standards (5' 6" 150lbs.). But the mass is oddly distributed. Call it vanity. But I wanted to change that.

#1. I joined a gym. Gyms are a strange phenomenon. Body building as a hobby and sport is truly odd. I consider it no different from any other type of body modification (such as piercing, tattoos, castration) But here they are-- body builders. These people think differently than the rest of the world. The listen to heavy metal and watch Oprah. Like an astronaut discovering alien life on Mars, I feel more human around them. And at the same time, I feel truly pitiful. The gym-villagers have a unique concept of body. They work on their body as if it were a pile of wet sand. They can change it, alter it. Add a few inches here. Take off some here. Tone this part up. Tone this down. Needless to say these people are high candidates for treating plastic surgery as a birthday present.

And every other day, I lift weights, drink those god-awful protein shakes, and check myself in the mirror. Do I look any different?

#2. I'm going to a tanning salon. Whereas the gym is a community of body-freaks, the tanning salon is isolation. You are naked and enclosed in the ultra-violet light... cooking. It honestly did freak me out the first time. I thought to myself, "Oh my goodness. I'm being cooked!" I didn't burn, but the tanning bed (notice the tender connotation of a "bed," not a tube or coffin or container) is a cooking device. That's what it wants to do to you.

I'm going to the tanning salon, because of the honeymoon. We'll be at a beach resort near Cozumel and I don't want to burn while there. I also don't want to look like the underbelly of a dead fish.

What happened to the days when I didn't care how much I ate? When did drinking water become a moral decision? Why do diet pills seem like sinful self-love? Why am I now rejecting my pale Irish skin tone? Someone might say it's because I want to "look good" for Melissa... but why am I buying into this corrupt concept of beauty?

Dear God, I hope this is a phase.

Monday, April 15, 2002

Melissa and I are thinking about organizing a chess camp for next Summer. It might be a fun way to make some extra money during June and July when I'm not teaching. Actually, I'll probably run the camp. Melissa will be in charge of t-shirts!
I'm reading A New Kind of Christian by Brian McLaren. It's an interesting book, probably the most readable book on the issues of postmodernism. The book does not caught up in weighty discussions on Derrida. There is a time and a place for Derrida. Brian is wise enough to know when that is. The book centers on the more practical aspect of how does a pastor deal with a growing dissatisfaction in a modern approach to ministry. I admire Brian's work. He is clearly taking a new, more daring, approach to writing that differs from his previous work.

Friday, April 12, 2002

On Thursday night, I met with my friend Kausar at his apartment in Dallas. He is a very interesting person, who has lived an absolutely fascinating life.

I noticed he does not own a television. Last week, my other friend Summer put a curtain over her television. A friend of mine in Seattle also does not own a television. My friend Dan does not ever use his television. My friend Aja fought with her roommates to move the television out of the living room. While at the same time, the poorest of families will still find a way to purchase a decent TV. We consider it an American tragedy to not possess (or use) the wonderfully cool medium. But there seems to be a counter-culture reaction against the television, in favor of a traditional living room that creates space to favor conversation. I think it's awesome.

Of course, I love the television. So do not expect me to turn mine off anytime soon! But I remember when I was younger, my mom gave me a book titled "How to do something besides watch TV." No joke. It was, in all seriousness, a book for kids that taught how not to watch television. If I still had it, I'd be interested in reading it again.

Thursday, April 11, 2002

My friend Dan Hughes also has a blog.
My students are in the computer lab today. We're working on the final draft of a writing assignment. The assignment itself is fairly simple-- write about a moment in your life. I recquired them to write at least 350 words, not hard. Now, I have asked them to edit and revise their stories down to 250 words. The process has been interesting. Some students cut and slash their papers with no mercy. Others refused to let go of a single word in their essay.

The great writers of this generation will be the ones who can say a lot with very few words-- magnified language, like poetry. As Marshall McLuhan suggested, "The blurb will replace the book." Writers will become blurb-experts. Like Jesus, teaching will be done with aphorisms.
I recently wrote an article for Next-Wave "the next new thing... bored with being postmod?" The article has created some interesting discussion.

Andrew Jones blogged about this article here and also here.

Open Source Theology started a conversation here.

Dtour, a website from Australia, also posted the article.

And of course, we're discussing it on the Next-Wave message board here.

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