Monday, February 28, 2005


Over the weekend, we watched The Fog of War, which won Errol Morris the 2004 Oscar for Best Documentary (Feature). Morris is a great film-maker, although he is difficult to categorize. He has a knack for finding eccentric characters and weaving their stories together into film, as displayed in Vernon, Florida, about the odd inhabitants of the title town, and Gates of Heaven, a look at the world of pet cemetaries. Morris has also tackled more serious fare, such as The Thin Blue Line, which resulted in the exoneration of a man convicted of a murder which he did not commit.

Subtitled Eleven Lessons From the Life of Robert S. McNamara, The Fog of War takes a candid look at the man who shaped American military policy for decades. The film is structured around these eleven "lessons," with narrative from an extended interview with the former Secretary of Defense (with occasional off-camera questions from Morris), and interspersed with film of military actions, recorded conversations between high-ranking government officials (including Presidents Kennedy and Johnson), press conferences and other archival footage. One of Morris' great strengths is his ability to edit the various historical clips and recordings to assemble a cohesive and captivating story. One example: McNamara served in the office of "Statistical Control" for the Army Air Corps during WWII. The purpose of this office was to maximize the efficiency of US bombing efforts, through a staggering quantity of statistical reports on every possible measure of bombing effectiveness. Morris creates a chilling effect by rapidly juxtaposing the sterile bookkeeping of these reports with actual film of bombing runs over Japan. In one haunting shot, footage of an urban sortie is repeated, but Morris has superimposed a cascade of numbers as the bomber's payload.

The film is, at times, a sobering reflection on war, politics and human nature from a man who, at one time, directly influenced the actions of the world's most powerful military force. The documentary also offers a glimpse at a man who has had several decades to contemplate his role in world affairs. At times, tinges of regret appear, creeping into McNamara's voice and welling in his eyes. Yet he stops short of clearly admitting his mistakes or taking blame, especially for US policies on Vietnam. His internal conflict is almost as captivating as the historical drama in which he played a key role.

Overall, The Fog of War is a compelling and extremely well-made film.

Friday, February 25, 2005

"Where does it go?"

Envy is a quirky yet amusing film that didn't receive much attention during its theatrical run (at least, I don't remember it getting much attention). It's actually pretty good, and tells, albeit in a bizarre manner, a pointed lesson about the title sin and its consequences. I also enjoyed the whimsically weird music/soundtrack, done by Mark Mothersbaugh (of Devo fame, and a musical staple of Wes Anderson films). Probably not a "MUST RENT," but worth checking out some time. One word of caution: animal poop and related vocabulary permeate the entire film (and are integral to the plot), if that kind of thing bothers you. Consider yourself warned.

Oh, and it also stars Christopher Walken, who does not disappoint in portraying yet another eccentric character -- but could we expect anything less?

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The Simpsons and the Sacraments

Granted, the place of religion within the Simpsons' world is not easy to pin down, but I noticed a couple of interesting things tonight:
  • The Flanderses, although stereotypically Evangelical, are paedobaptists. In one episode, they attempt to baptize the Simpson children, including Maggie.

  • It appears that the denominationally-vague First Church of Springfield believes in the Real Presence, to some extent. After numerous alcohol-steeped binges, Marge and Homer develop a reputation for being Springfield's ultimate party couple. During Communion one Sunday, Marge drinks a little too deeply from the Cup, causing Otto to exclaim "Don't bogart my Lord!"
Gotta love the blender approach to portraying religion!

Where I've been hiding...

My Grad School Homework

This is the first web page I've ever made, and it has taken over two weeks to make sure all the kinks are worked out. Obviously, there were specific guidelines, like including tables and outside links and images and an interactive assignment. (By the way, this is a great introductory lesson for an ESOL class. Some teachers like to use Lyon's poem as more of a strict model and have students "fill in the blanks"-- I've seen multiple websites that have created a template for that sort of thing.)

As for the webpage itself, I played with format and color and things at the beginning, but since we're making it in Netscape Composer (because the program is free for all), I've also struggled to make sure it is also compatible with Explorer. If any of you run into any problems on Firefox or any one of those browsers, let me know. I probably won't know how to fix it, but I'm sure there's someone out there who can and wouldn't mind giving me some pointers.

The webpage has links to my homepage as well, which I am slowly working on when I have the time. I'm trying to keep it simple and uncluttered. Any suggestions for design/features/etc. are greatly appreicated as well. As part of the home page, I have to create an "Online Learning Environment" for our final project for the class, which should be relatively easy since it involves integrating technology into lesson plans, but it also has to include personal information that I need to finish working on like my resume and Philosophy of Education. Fun times.

So, if you don't hear from me much on this blog, that's why. In between student teaching, grading, catching up on reading, attending evening classes, and Apartment Life, some things just get pushed on the back burner. Like blog posts. I promise to update you with a list of reasons why I want to teach in a public school very soon (I'm sure you are all on the edge of your seats!). That post has been waiting to be finished for about 6 weeks. Yikes.

I just want to say

... that the Lifetime Learning Tax Credit is a VERY cool thing.


Monday, February 21, 2005

love will show the way

Even though Team Redd is still staving off (1,2,3) the remnants of some unknown malady (probably transmitted via Allison's high school students), we managed to have a great weekend. We were blessed to be a part of the wedding ceremony for two friends down in the booming metropolis of Perry, GA. I was privileged to serve as a guitar player for the service, and Al was recruited to be a page turner for the pianist. (We are a double threat!) Because both bride and groom are actively involved at our church, the wedding was a time of celebration for our church family, a large number of whom were in attendance at both the ceremony and related pre-nuptial activities. Most weddings have a certain number of glitches and hiccups behind-the-scenes that are never even seen by the congregants. One funny moment, though, was when the church doors opened, the pianist began the bridal procession and -- there was no bride! Needless to say, there were several seconds of prolonged tense-ness (which seemed like an eternity to the pianist), but the bride finally entered. And to his credit, the groom never seemed worried at all. :)

On the way down to "middle Georgia," we listened to a few cd's that I had dusted off and rescued from neglect, including David Wilcox's Big Horizon, which is probably his best (and that's saying a lot). Man, that guy is good. "Show the Way" is one of my favorite songs, and I was struck by how well it addresses the problem of evil in our fallen world. Sometimes I think that Christians would be better off if we downplayed the intense theologizing we sometimes employ in the face of disaster and hardship (although there is a time for academic response) and instead, expressed our hope through the arts.

Show the Way
(David Wilcox)

You say you see no hope, you say you see no reason
We should dream that the world would ever change
You're saying love is foolish to believe
'Cause there'll always be some crazy with an Army or a Knife
To wake you from your day dream, put the fear back in your life...

Look, if someone wrote a play just to glorify
What's stronger than hate, would they not arrange the stage
To look as if the hero came too late he's almost in defeat
It's looking like the Evil side will win, so on the Edge
Of every seat, from the moment that the whole thing begins
It is...

Love who makes the mortar
And it's love who stacked these stones
And it's love who made the stage here
Although it looks like we're alone
In this scene set in shadows
Like the night is here to stay
There is evil cast around us
But it's love that wrote the play...
For in this darkness love can show the way

So now the stage is set. Feel you own heart beating
In your chest. This life's not over yet.
so we get up on our feet and do our best. We play against the
Fear. We play against the reasons not to try
We're playing for the tears burning in the happy angel's eyes
For it's ...

Nathan Wilson unlocks the mystery behind the Shroud of Turin?

Very interesting.

Friday, February 18, 2005

I know I shouldn't have another Krispy Kreme, but they are so good. And so close to my desk. The stuggle within begins ...

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

I knew it!

A few years back, I had a sneaking suspicion that the Left Behind series would never really end. Even when Tim and Jerry published the "last" one, I was sure they'd figure out how to stretch it even further. Then I heard rumblings that they actually were going to make more.

Well, yesterday, I heard a radio ad for The Rising, the next book in the series, which will now focus on what happened before everyone got left. Behind. This one apparently deals with the birth of that lovable Antichrist, Nicolae. I wonder if Canon Press has a parallel release in the works ...

In all fairness - and only time will tell - I believe there is a slim chance that these prequels might be better than the Star Wars ones.


For some horrendous reason, I have not been a frequent visitor to Andy Gullahorn's website. What was I thinking? I have previously sampled the comic genius that waits only a mouse-click away. Again, what was I thinking?

Anyway, one of my favorite features of the site is the page for Haiku Concert Reviews. As Andy notes, "I thought I would give reviews of the shows that I do on the road. The problem is that every show is pretty much the same. Sound Check. Dinner. Play. Talk. Pack Up. Go somewhere else. So I thought I would highlight my fondest memories of each place through poetry."

One of my faves:
11-05-04 – Atlanta, GA

Drum Set
My son is growing up
To be Neal Pert
(Unfortunately, he mispelled Neil Peart's name. But points for effort, eh?)
12-12-04 – Nashville, TN

Ryman Auditorium
Proof that Andrew Peterson
Is a country singer
Now, haiku purists might immediately be wondering how these can be considered haiku proper, as the 5/7/5 structure has been flagrantly abandoned by Mr. Gullahorn. This did not escape his attention.
Just so you know, I did my research on the Haiku. I understand that the form is 5-7-5. However, many of the things I read stated that contemporary Haikus did not follow that form strictly. I quickly realized that the poems would be much more interesting if I didn't follow the form - and that I could write them much faster. So that is really what it comes down to.

I know Haikus are
Normally five seven five
But I'm not normal

Let the good times roll.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Weekend update

(Yeah, yeah. I'm running out of original post titles.)

Saturday morning, we held the Kids Club Valentine's Party at our apartment complex. Turnout was lower than expected, a fact which I attribute to the slow adjustment by the kids to the rescheduling of Kids Club from Friday afternoon (immediately after school) to Saturday morning. Plus, we have to compete with Saturday AM cartoons! But we had a good time with the kids who came. One fun observation: little boys will be little boys, regardless of their background. All of the kids who came on Saturday were from countries other than the USA. We spent time making Valentine's cards for parents and other family members. Without fail, the lone boy in attendance began his card with some heart shapes and quickly progressed to detailing a remarkable scene of a cowboy engaged in an epic gunfight with an airplane. If that doesn't express love and affection, I don't know what does.

(Just in case you were wondering about the gunfight, the cowboy won.)

On a more serious-yet-celebratory note, that evening we attended a surprise 50th birthday party for our pastor, Bill Murray (not to be confused with the Groundhog Day guy). The event proved to be a neat and profound example of how one man can impact so many lives, as his family and friends shared favorite memories about Bill. One of the most touching moments was when his four boys came up to talk about the many ways in which their dad has blessed their lives and shown them Christ at every turn. I've been fortunate to know Bill as both my pastor and friend for several years, and I am blessed for it.

As if those events weren't enough to fill a weekend, we also got to see Randall Goodgame and Jeremy Casella in concert on Saturday evening (before the birthday party, that is -- I hope you aren't left unbalanced by the non-sequential narrative!) The two played as part of the Intown Community Church (PCA) missions conference this past weekend. Between songs, both guys shared stories from their experiences with missions organizations (like Compassion International) and outreach focuses (like the plight of the Dalits in India and the AIDS epidemic in Africa). We really appreciated the fact that Intown has a tremendous focus on missions, and church members highlighted several parts of the world where they partner with indigenous Christians to further their outreach. For example, the silver common cup used for the Lord's Supper at Intown was a gift from a sister church in Istanbul and serves as a weekly reminder of the partnership between the two churches. Additionally, several Intown members are spearheading an ambitious project to build a hospital in Rwanda, a nation in dire need of medical facilities in the aftermath of the brutal genocide of the last decade. We were encouraged to hear the many examples of how Christ's kingdom is being built up around the globe.

And if that wasn't enough, we also found time to watch Hero and Bottle Rocket, both films being wonderful in their own special ways. So all in all, it was quite a full weekend. I hope you feel sufficiently updated!

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

neat story ...

... about inner city revitalization in Atlanta.

(Full disclosure: The Atlanta Housing Authority is one of my firm's largest clients.)


Today is Crazy Tie Day at the office. Snacks were served, judgments were made, and awards were given. There were some good (by which I mean "crazy") ones, but the best was the guy who won the award for "Grossest Tie" -- he didn't even know that today was Crazy Tie Day. Doh! Fortunately for him, the judges quickly devised the replacement category of "Most Elegant Tie" and gave him that honor instead.

(Somehow, I received the award for "Oldest Tie." The funny thing is, the tie isn't THAT old. I guess I under-estimated the deceptive power of paisleys.)

Correction: The guy mentioned above is officially immortalized as garnering the (dis)honor of "Grossest Tie," as all the "winning" ties are now on display in the hallway. But, you might ask, what will their owners do without their ties? Not to fear -- the award winners received, appropriately, new ties.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005


I've been quite neglectful towards our blog lately, but I hope to remedy that soon. One cause is a lack of free time, not only for writing, but also for reading. Usually, my thinking is kick-started by whatever I'm reading, but there seems to be a limit to what Lemony Snicket can inspire. Have no fear -- I haven't limited my reading to children's books (although, with so many theological controversies brewing these days, that might not be such a bad idea). I'm still plodding through Calvin's Institutes and hope to finish it this year. (Given my current pace, that may be an ambitious goal!) I've also been reading Marva Dawn's Unfettered Hope at an intentionally slow pace. There is much insight to be gleaned, so I'm trying to let her points and observations marinate for awhile. Additionally, her critique of modern technology-driven society reveals that the problems are pervasively pluriform and deeply-entrenched. Understanding and then addressing these issues in the light of the Gospel requires a great deal of thought. More to come on that in the near future.

One other item of personal note: Our humble little church is moving forward with a plan to "partner" with a large suburban church. A bit of background for the uninitiated: we attend a small church in midtown Atlanta, adjacent to the campus of Georgia Tech. Like many urban areas, this and surrounding Atlanta neighborhoods are experiencing large-scale revitalization as young professional types are moving back into town and bringing their $$$ with them. Currently, there is a minimal church presence in the area, especially compared to the huge anticipated influx of folks. Both our church and the larger church have seen this population boom, combined with the existing mass of college students in the area (in addition to Tech, Georgia State and Emory are not too far away) as a tremendous opportunity for outreach to the surrounding neighborhood. For the past year or so, our leadership has been in discussion with their leadership to explore possibilities for joint outreach. I used the word "partner" (with the quotes) above because the extent of the cooperation is still being ironed-out. However it shapes up, though, there will be a great deal of linkage between the two churches. This should pose some interesting challenges, but it could be a great boon to being a salt and a light to the neighborhood. We shall see.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Hands on A Hard Body

(Believe me, it's not what you may be thinking.) On Saturday night, after our trip to the brow, eating a nice long meal at Mi Casita, building a campfire and making s'mores, Mia enticed us to watch Hands on a Hard Body. If you can find a copy of this movie, get it! It has been a long time since I've laughed that hard.

Basically, HOHB is a documentary about an annual contest in Longview, Texas, in which folks stand around with their hands on a brand new Nissan pickup and whoever lasts the longest, wins. The record is 102 hours. These people are EXCITED about the prospect, let me tell you. As one guy put it, "Cars don't make money. Trucks make money!" In my opinion, this is a close tie for first with Vernon, Florida, in the category: Most Hilarious Movies About Crazy People You've Probably Met If You've Ever Lived in the South.

The movie was made back in 1994. Does anyone know if this thing is still going on?

Mentone at dusk

"The Mighty One, God the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting. Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth." Isaiah 50:1-2

Saturday evening at sunset I was sitting in an SUV atop Lookout Mountain. My camp friends, Mia and Jennifer, and I had just finished a nice winter hike in the woods along the Little River and made it back to the car just in time to zoom to the Brow before the sun disappeared.

Swatches of pink, purple, and crimson surrounded the fireball as it slowly sunk below the horizon. Clouds tipped with gold trailed behind the sun like royal messengers following in the train of their king. As I sat pondering the beauty and majesty of Creation, I thought too of redemption. Even that majestic sunset we witnessed is still waiting to be redeemed. It, too, is groaning and crying for the day when the Lord of Earth and Heaven will come to make all things new. Even those glimpses of beauty we see now on earth will be transformed. On that day, we will be able to see glorified sunsets.

"Blessed be the name of the LORD from this time forth and forevermore! From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the LORD is to be praised! The LORD is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens! Psalm 113:2-4

Friday, February 04, 2005

On tears

"Tears are curious things, for like earthquakes or puppet shows they can occur at any time, without any warning and without any good reasons."

The Wide Window (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 3)

Thursday, February 03, 2005

"Fanaticism is a preoccupation with the ideological impurity of one's closest allies."

I think this quote neatly summarizes a lot of the theological squabbles brewing in Reformed-dom today.

(lifted from the Derek Webb message board).

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

A good run while it lasted

Aging Georgia groundhog may retire from forecasting

Fortunately, General Lee did not see his shadow, and he has a 97% accuracy rating. I did notice one interesting comment in the story:
His prognosticating prowess has earned him honorary doctorate degrees from the University of Georgia and Georgia State University.
Just goes to show that UGA will give a diploma to anyone.

(No offense intended towards GSU students, of course. Especially ones that live with me.)