Saturday, December 23, 2006

And To All A Good Night!

The presents are finally wrapped, and we'll be leaving tomorrow for our annual Christmas Tour de Bama. It certainly couldn't come too soon! Here are a few parting thoughts:

  • The Yellow Jacket basketball team delivers an early holiday gift: Georgia Tech beats UGA, 78-69. (The Jackets now lead the series, 100-83.)

  • In the latest installment of the Hog's Head PubCast, Travis recaps the important events that occur at Christmastime in each of the Harry Potter novels.

  • Jeff Meyers defends Christmas against uber-Reformed Scrooges.

  • Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't mention my new favorite piece of Yuletide trivia. Santa Claus can be controversial in certain religious quarters, but the real St. Nicholas was a very cool guy. Not only was he known for acts of kindness and charity, but (according to tradition) he was also present at the Council of Nicea -- where he punched the heresiarch Arius in the face! So awesome.


  • And on that note, Merry Christmas!

    Thursday, December 21, 2006

    Deathly Hallows?

    J.K. Rowling Announces Title of Seventh Harry Potter Book

    (H/T to Travis, who has some initial thoughts on the significance of the title.)

    Book Reviews in Brief (Very Brief, Even)

    Eragon
    I had heard some of the buzz about this book, and with the release of the film adaptation at hand, I decided to give it a read. The buzz: Christopher Paolini was home-schooled his whole life and completed high school (via correspondence) by age fifteen. Opting to delay college entrance, he began writing what would become Eragon. By the age of nineteen, his book made the New York Times Bestseller List. (As did the second installment of his planned trilogy, released in 2005).

    To be blunt, the book definitely reads like it was written by a teenager. It's not bad, but it would have been much better in the hands of a more mature writer. All the Tolkien-inspired staples of the fantasy genre appear with little adaptation, and hints of Star Wars are also present. (When young Eragon returns to his adoptive home to find it destroyed and his guardian uncle mortally wounded, I halfway expected to find stormtrooper tracks.) The dialogue is painful at times, and the frequent anachronisms in the writing kept pulling me out of the story. Nevertheless, Eragon was a quick read, and I'll probably check out the second installment. The movie, however, will definitely be a renter, due to the abysmal reviews it has received.


    The Catcher in the Rye
    Somehow I made it through both high-school and college without reading this book. After reading it, I don't feel like I missed anything.

    Reversed Thunder: The Revelation of John and the Praying Imagination
    Eugene Peterson's short work on the Apocalypse was both interesting and enjoyable. It is not an exegetical commentary, nor does it address many of the usual questions that stem from reading Revelation (i.e., what's the deal with "666," what about the Rapture, what is the nature of the millennium, etc). Rather, Peterson provides a series of meditations on the "last words" that John gives on topics including worship, the church, evil, judgment, salvation and heaven, with particular emphasis on the pastoral implications that the vision has for each. I was particularly impressed by Peterson's ability to tie the Revelation's various themes and symbols back into the rest of the canon. Even those not interested in the minutiae of eschatology will likely find this book edifying and stimulating.

    Wednesday, December 20, 2006

    An Early Christmas Present for Jackets Fans

    QB Reggie Ball Academically Ineligible, Will Miss Gator Bowl

    Taylor Bennett, this is your time to shine!

    Break a Leg

    Usually, when I hear of "drama" in a church service, I get nervous. You just never know what might happen. However, I wish it would occur more often in local church services if this is the type of drama to which they refer:

    Watch a dramatic performance of Hebrews 9 & 10.

    It reminds me of Bruce Kuhn, who I first saw at Urbana 2000. He and two other talented folks performed the Scripture readings for each session of the conference.

    If only there were more people using their gift of public speaking/drama to display the LORD's glory through such powerful presentations of His Word.

    If I remember correctly, a drama student at BSC did something similar at an InterVarsity meeting after we returned from Urbana, and I believe some folks at our old church attempted something like this one Easter Sunday, using a gospel account of Mary at the tomb.

    So, it has been done--just not regularly. Has anyone else had the opportunity to appreciate something like this in their local church?

    HT to Barb.

    Tuesday, December 19, 2006

    Acceptance

    I had begun preparing my acceptance speech for receiving Time's Person of the Year award for 2006 -- but I decided that if I accepted it, I wouldn't be in a good position to mock this selection as a total cop-out.

    Thursday, December 14, 2006

    Karma

    For the past few years, my office has done a white elephant DVD exchange at our Christmas Luncheon. My track record has not been stellar, and that streak was continued this year when I brought this jewel home:



    Of course, my contribution was Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, so I probably deserved what I got. Maybe.

    Tuesday, December 12, 2006

    Behold the Lamb of God (2006)

    Andrew Peterson's Behold the Lamb of God has established itself as an integral part of Team Redd's Christmas festivities. In addition to enjoying the album, we've also had the privilege of experiencing the Christmas musical live each year since its inception, including each of the Nashville shows. Each year's concert is magical, and this year's was no different.

    Nashville, TN -- 12/6

    For the third straight year, the Nashville concert has been held at the historic Ryman Theater -- an appropriate venue for the army of talented musicians that Andrew enlists each year. Writing a review of the show is an interesting task, since the show is basically the same each year ... but really it isn't. The performance of Behold the Lamb of God remains fantastic and fresh each time, and each year a different nuance of instrumentation or lyric catches my attention. Even the "in the round" portion follows a familiar pattern each year, from Andrew's "hobbit" references to Derek Webb, to the obligatory Andy Gullahorn comic relief song, to the displays of mind-boggling instrumental prowess by musical guests. But again, these well-worn grooves never become tiresome.

    Here are a few notes from this year's show:

    (Note: There are way too many guys named "Andy" involved with this performance, so Andrew Peterson will be designated as "AP." Also, some of this might be non-chronological.)

  • AP performed an opening song ("The Far Country"), and he then introduced the evening's format. In honor of the special evening, AP had written a limerick for each of the "in the round" performers. He assured us that the word "Nantucket" would not appear in any of his rhymes.

  • Derek Webb's introductory limerick referenced his successful journey with the One Ring to Mount Doom. Before playing his song ("A King & A Kingdom"), he explained that "in the round" is really just Nashville-speak for "if you hate the person who's currently playing, you won't have to wait long to hear someone else."

  • Sandra McCracken joined Derek for her number ("Shelter"). AP used her introductory limerick to stress the fact that Derek married up.

  • Randall Goodgame talked briefly about his latest collaboration with AP, a children's album called Slugs & Bugs & Lullabies. Basically, the album is to help kids remember that God made them, and also that they could be eaten by animals at any time. Randall sang "Bears," with BGV's provided by AP, Andy G., and Andy Osenga.

  • Eric Peters made a long-overdue BTLOG appearance, complete with his usual self-deprecating humor. ("[Playing with this assortment of talented musicians] I feel like a piece of spoiled lettuce in an otherwise delicious sandwich.") Of course, he then proceeded to belt out a terrific performance ("You Can Be Yourself").

  • Andy Osenga arrived at the show straight from the hospital, as his wife had given birth to their second daughter just two days prior. Osenga is an amazing dude, because he can flat-out wail, both vocally and on guitar. He delivered a great song ("New Beginning," with a few lines rewritten to align with his daughter's birth) and also indicated that he was returning to the hospital after the show, to take his new daughter home for the first time.

  • Andy Gullahorn lamented the fact that he was performing without his wife, Jill Phillips, who was vocally-impaired due to illness that evening. Nevertheless, Andy G. was terrific. He described his song "More of a Man" as being "basically about the feminization of man," noting how marriage and fatherhood have carried him far from his days of hunting and working on a farm, ushering him into the world of Dora the Explorer, salads, and Gilmore Girls on DVD. As with many of his songs, Andy G. makes the transition from comic to poignant almost seamlessly.

  • Ron Block, of Alison Krauss and Union Station fame, sang a rollicking country/Gospel number, with lyrics punctuated by blistering lead guitar breaks. He's just as phenomenal on guitar as he is on banjo (which is very).

  • Sara Groves played two of her songs. I'm not too familiar with her work, but I enjoyed her set.

  • Pierce Pettis also played a couple of unfamiliar songs, which were both really good. It has been a real treat to see Pierce join AP at the Ryman for the past three years. He truly is a brilliant songwriter.


  • After a brief intermission, Andrew and friends presented Behold the Lamb of God: The True Tall Tale of the Coming of Christ. If you haven't heard this album yet, you really have no excuse, since you can stream it through AP's website. This album highlights why AP is one of the finest songwriters around. Instead of taking a familiar approach to Christmas, AP begins in the Old Testament and establishes the narrative context for the coming of Christ. (Yay for narrative!) And it doesn't hurt that he has plenty of talented musicians to support him in the telling of The Story.

    In addition to the artists above, AP's band included Garrett Buell (of Caedmon's Call) on drums, Cason Cooley (as seen on Conan O'brien) on bass, a string section led by the illustrious Marcus Myers (of Silers Bald), Steve Hindalong on percussion, Josh Coffey on mandolin, Kurt Heinecke (of Veggie Tales) on various flutes and whistles, the superb Ben Shive and the incomparable Gabe Scott. (Ben and Gabe were probably tied for most instruments played during the night.) Part of the enjoyment was watching the ballet of seamless instrument transitions between and during songs. Sandra sang the lead vocal in Jill Phillips' stead for "Labor of Love," and she did a fantastic job. Actually, everyone involved did a wonderful job. With all the vocal talent available, the harmonies were lush and glorious. And the musicians had plenty of opportunities to shine, especially during the instrumental versions of "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" and "The Holly and the Ivy."

    Each year, we often get asked why on earth we trek to Nashville to see a concert, and sometimes we end up asking ourselves the same question. But as soon as the show starts, we know the answer. And once the show ends, a new question forms: how long until the next concert?

    (As an added Square Peg Alliance bonus: we ran into Matthew Perryman Jones at dinner before the show. And I have to agree: McDougal's Village Coop has some of the best chicken tenders ever!)

    Fayetteville, GA -- 12/8

    Providentially, the question of "how long until next time" was answered quickly, as the BTLOG tour made a stop just south of Atlanta. In past years, the Christmas tour has been a stripped-down version of the Nashville show, but this year there wasn't that much stripping down. Instrumentally, the string section was missing, as were Ron, Steve and Kurt. Pierce, Randall, Sara and Andy O. were not present either, but the rest of the vocalists were, including a recuperated Jill Phillips. Needless to say, the touring band was still a musical ensemble of extraordinary magnitude. The format was similar to the Ryman show, although each artist (except AP) played two songs in the round. I won't re-hash the concert in detail, but here are some highlights:

  • AP kicked off the night with a new song called "Four Loves" (which, incidentally, is not based on the C.S. Lewis book).

  • Derek also played a new song, and Sandra quipped that she always hears his songs for the first time at concerts.

  • Andy G. cracks me up. He played the same song as he did at the Ryman, but with slight variations on the intro story. The deadpan delivery kills me every time.

  • In addition to possessing mad mandolin skillz, Josh Coffey plays a mean fiddle.

  • Eric Peters filled in for Andy Osenga, and I was curious how Eric was going to handle some of the vocal wailing parts. But he absolutely nailed them. It was pretty awesome.

  • I cannot reiterate how much "the man" that Gabe Scott is. Not only does he play multiple instruments during the show, he's also intimately involved with the support roles that make the show happen. I expected to see him working with the stage set-up/breakdown, but I didn't expect to see him working the merch table after the show. What an awesome guy.


  • One final note: The concert was part of the Dickens Village that the hosting church presents each year. It was kind of surreal to hear street urchins announcing an Andrew Peterson concert with fake British accents.

    We certainly enjoyed both shows, but, alas, the BTLOG tour steams on, leaving Team Redd behind. If AP and friends happen to come near your area, please check them out. As for me and my household, we'll have to make do with the cd version until next year.

    Monday, December 11, 2006

    Crisis Averted

    My hole-punch returned to my desk just as mysteriously as it disappeared.

    Friday, December 08, 2006

    Mystery

    It appears that my hole-punch disappeared while I was taking yesterday off from work. I hope it isn't returned encased in jello ...

    Calvin Johnson Named Top Wide Receiver in College Football

    Tech's Calvin Johnson receives Biletnikoff Award

    Monday, December 04, 2006

    Advent



    Yesterday was the first Sunday of Advent. Although I've spent most of my life in churches that observe the season, only in recent years have I begun to appreciate what Advent is supposed to be. It's not just a countdown to Christmas; rather, it's a vital part of the larger drama of God and His people, re-told each year through the liturgical calendar. As Christmas "celebrations" become more crassly commercialized each year, I look to Advent as a much-needed antidote, for it is a season of expectation and longing for the deliverance that will be realized only in the coming of the Lord. Also, Advent reminds me that Christ's Church extends far beyond just me, as this season has been observed by countless numbers throughout history and across the world. Advent, as part of the Church Year, helps keep things in perspective.

    But, rather than re-hash what others have already said well, here are links to a few folks offering thoughts on the Advent season:

    Jeff Meyers has a couple of explanatory posts on the season, especially helpful for the liturgically-challenged, here and here;

    Touchstone has a piece on the importance of celebrating the darker side of Christmas. (H/T Smilax);

    Ben Witherington encourages us to redeem the time, noting how Christians have lost sight of the significance of Advent as the start of the liturgical year; and

    Finally, the Boars Head Tavern Advent Blog is open once again, and looks to be a great source of reflections and resources for the season.

    (BTW: The cool Advent wreath above was Allison's doing.)

    Friday, December 01, 2006

    Calvin-ism

    Tech's Calvin Johnson named first-team all-American for the second year in a row.

    Georgia Tech has had tons of football players named all-American in the past, but Calvin is one of the few to win the honor twice in a row. Let's hope he gets the chance to make his awesomeness manifest tomorrow!

    (Linebacker Philip Wheeler made second-team all-American, which is also pretty cool.)

    Wednesday, November 29, 2006

    Ex-cellent

    Each year Forbes releases its Fictional 15, profiling the world's wealthiest fictional characters. It's good to see C. Montgomery Burns, Springfield's favorite billionaire, sitting at the penultimate position on this year's list. Other notables include Bruce Wayne, Willy Wonka, Lucius Malfoy and Nigerian spammer extraordinaire Prince Abakaliki. (Sadly, Lex Luthor joins the list of those who have dropped off the list in the last year.)

    Tuesday, November 28, 2006

    Lost Winter Break Got You Down?

    Lost addicts, are you having trouble enduring the long winter until the show's triumphant return? Here's IGN's list of the Top 50 Lost Loose Ends to keep you theorizing until February.

    (H/T to Mark T.)

    Thursday, November 23, 2006

    Happy Thanksgiving

    Hey folks. It's been busy round these parts lately, but instead of hashing out the details, we're going to abandon the blogosphere in favor of eating well with various relatives in multiple locations. I'm sure you can understand.

    So Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, and whatever you do, keep alert for the "Thanksgiving Break Alert."

    Friday, November 17, 2006

    Fine Art Friday


    In honor of my 9th grade English classes:
    "Ulysses deriding Polyphemus - Homer's Odyssey" (1829)
    Oil on canvas
    Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775 - 1851 )
    National Gallery, London

    Strange Conversation

    I'll admit it. I'm a closet NPR junkie. I mostly listen to snatches of Morning Edition and longer segments of All Things Considered in the afternoons when I'm on my way home from work. (And sometimes, if I'm out and about at 11:30 on a Saturday, I've highly enjoyed "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me." Gaines *might* admit he enjoyed listening to it once.)

    Yesterday, I caught the majority of an NPR interview with folk/singer songwriter Kris Delmhorst, who might just be one of my new favorites, if I can get my hands on a copy of her most recent CD Strange Conversations. She must have been an English major, or at least she has the soul of one. All the songs on her new album are taken from or were inspired by famous poems -- e.e. cummings "Pretty How Town" and Byron's "We'll Go No More A-Roving" as well as verses by Herrick, Eliot, and Edna St. Vincent Millay, among others. According to her website, "Some of the poems are set verbatim to music, some dismantled and reassembled in significantly new renditions, others merely used as the jumping-off point for Delmhorst's own literate lyrical take." Her sound seems to be a mix of folk, bluegrass, gospel, and everything in between.

    In particular, this little ditty-- a song about a poem about listening to a song-- captured my attention immediately. It's catchy, upbeat and clever, and the opening reminds me of something Randall Goodgame might write.

    Galuppi Baldassare

    Oh Galuppi Baldassare, though I never knew your name,
    it’s thanks to Mr. Browning you are with us just the same.
    Thanks to Mr. Browning, blowing on the flame…

    Well here you come with your old music, and here’s all the good it brings-
    you say they lived like this in Venice when the merchants were the kings,
    and though I never left old Boston, still you showed me everything

    Did the young folks take their pleasure? Was the ocean warm in May?
    Did the parties start at midnight, did they roll until midday?
    And did the ladies bloom like bellflowers, every time you’d start to play?

    Well I bet that they all loved you, I bet they stood around and cheered,
    saying “that’s what I call music, good for joy and good for tears,
    now let’s stop all this talking, and let it fill our ears.”

    And the minor third so bitter, the six chord like a sigh,
    suspension, solution, asking must we die, must we die must we die?
    And the seventh says well fellas, life might not last, but we can try…

    So were you happy? I was happy. You still happy? Yes, and you?
    Then more kisses! Why’d we stop them, when a million seemed so few?
    There’s something in that music, lord it must be answered to.

    Then they left you for their fortune, in due time one by one.
    Some had lives that came to nothing, some did things they’d better not have done,
    and then death stepped up and took em where they’ll never see the sun…

    Oh but you you ghostly cricket, singing where the house has burned,
    ‘dust and ashes, dead and done with, Venice spent what Venice earned,’
    but what’s left behind I wonder, when the kissing has adjourned?

    ‘Dust and ashes,’ so you tell me, and I cannot say you’re wrong,
    still those dear dead dancing ladies with their hair so soft and long
    stir a little in their slumber, every time we play your song.

    ‘Cause the minor third’s still bitter, the six chord makes us sigh,
    suspension, solution, asking must we die, must we also die?
    And the seventh still says well, life might not last, but we can try…


    Here's a link to the original poem, in case you're an English geek like me. Enjoy discovering a new artist. And thank you, NPR!

    Cognitive Dissonance

    The other night, the local news had a segment on Atlanta's own Creflo Dollar, properity-peddler extraordinaire. However, the piece also featured a couple of Dollar's critics: the Rev. Al Sharpton and Jim Wallis (who actually referred to Dollar's teachings as "heresy.")

    Thursday, November 16, 2006

    Santa Claus is Coming! Hear the Banjo Strumming!



    One of my pet peeves is the way that savvy marketers have begun promoting Christmas earlier and earlier each year. (One Atlanta radio station started playing Christmas music during the first week of November.) Now, I enjoy Christmas music, but I'm also a fan of the liturgical calendar. For eleven months of the year, I'd prefer not to listen to Christmas music. Certain exceptions exist, though, like Andrew Peterson's excellent Behold the Lamb of God. Sufjan Stevens' newly-released Songs For Christmas now joins that list of Christmas music worthy of year-round enjoyment.

    Simply put, Songs For Christmas is a wonderful collection. Several years ago Stevens began recording short compilations of Christmas tunes (mostly traditional, with some originals) for friends and family. Naturally, they ended up on the internet. Songs For Christmas includes all five of Sufjan's Christmas EPs (the last two of which had not been previously available). He definitely has an ear for breathing new life into familiar tunes, from the glory of "O Holy Night" to the campiness of "The Friendly Beasts." The earlier discs are charming, despite being basement recordings with blemishes preserved for posterity. The last two installments (especially Volume V) are considerably more produced and display Stevens' knack for layering instruments and voices to great effect. (I also noticed that he uses quite a bit more electric guitar for texture on IV and V, even compared to his studio albums. It sounds great!) Sufjan's original compositions are great, as well, from the wistful "That Was the Worst Christmas Ever!" to the peppy "Come on! Let’s Boogey to the Elf Dance!" to the eerily-dissonant "Jupiter Winter" to the flat-out amazing "Get Behind Me, Santa!" (As you can see, he also has retained his penchant for "unique" song titles.)

    But the music is just the beginning. The collection is packaged in a cool little box, which is overflowing with goodies. The liner notes booklet is a trip. Who else includes credits like "banjo, guitar, that Creepy Christmas Feeling"? Plus, it includes a few short stories/essays, which are kind of neat, especially one where Sufjan describes the genesis of his Christmas album project and his consequent transformation from Christmas Curmudgeon into true celebrant. The best part, though, is that the booklet also contains lyrics and chord charts for all the (non-instrumental) songs to assist with the inevitable Christmas Sing-A-Long.

    Highly recommended for all, both for Sufjan fans and also for those just burned-out on boring old Christmas music. Order yours today!

    Monday, November 13, 2006

    Weekly Rewind

    Is it already Monday again? Where does the time go? Here are some brief glimpses of notable events from the last semi-fortnight:

  • On Election Day, I was in and out of the polling place in less than 20 minutes (closer to 15, actually).

  • Free pizza (deep dish!) at work on Wednesday.

  • The fall finale to the Lost mini-series was quite enjoyable. Great cliffhanger ending, leaving us anxiously awaiting the February run of the remaining episodes. Curse you J.J. Abrams et al, for keeping us obsessed with your little island!

  • Our friends Tex and Melissa shared some free tickets to the orchestra ... the Trans-Siberian Orchestra! It was pretty awesome. Wailing guitars, pretentious lyrics, lasers, pyrotechnics ... oh yeah! Plus, the seats were in a corporate lounge (via Melissa's company). Needless to say, we had a lot of fun.

  • Cason Cooley (formerly of the Normals, and friend of the Square Pegs and other cool folks) was on Conan O'Brien. Granted, he was playing bass for Matt Kearney, so he was mostly in the background. But it was a surreal intersection of two seemingly-separated worlds.

  • My company had a Thanksgiving observance on Friday, and it was pretty good. We had an off-site corporate meeting, followed by a big lunch shindig. The venue was at a park by the river, which was quite scenic. And the food was quite excellent. (One of my co-workers has a side catering business, and he is quite the chef. He also played football for both the Jackets and for the 49ers. But that's another story.) Most importantly, I didn't even have to go to the office, and the festivities were only a half-day.

  • We watched the Spielberg remake of War of the Worlds. This wasn't exactly a highlight of the week, but I mention it only to lament the film's squandered potential. It was building up to something great and ... nevermind.

  • Georgia Tech clinches the ACC Coastal Division with a 7-0 win over UNC. It wasn't a pretty win, but we still got the job done. Hopefully, we'll roll into Jacksonville on December 2nd with a 10-2 record.

  • Some dear friends threw a joint Baby Yellow Jacket Tailgate Party/Shower for us and for our friends Tex and Melissa (who are expecting their first in December). As the name implies, we watched the Tech game, ate some tasty treats, played some silly games and eventually opened some baby shower presents (many of which were GT-inspired). There was even a Bulldog piñata that was summarily pulverized by some of the kids in attendance. What fun!

    All in all, not too shabby.
  • Monday, November 06, 2006

    Perfect Weekend

    ... for college football!

    Georgia Tech beats NC State, 31-23 - Beating NC State may seem like a minor feat, but these guys always seem to manage the occasional upset. But not this weekend. Both Tashard Choice and Calvin Johnson had personal best games (164 yds rushing and 168 yds receiving, respectively). Most importantly, though, the Jackets are all but guaranteed to play in the ACC Championship, needing only a win against either UNC (1-8) or Duke (0-9) to seal the deal. Tech also inched up a spot to No. 19 on the AP poll.

    Georgia loses to Kentucky, 20-24 chalking up yet another unexpected (humiliating?) loss for the Dawgs this season (the first being against Vanderbilt). Plus, the 6-4 Bulldogs still have to play No. 5 Auburn and (fingers crossed) Georgia Tech.

    Auburn rolls over Arkansas State, 27-0.

    Alabama chokes against Mississippi State, 16-24.

    Sunday, November 05, 2006

    Happy Birthday, Gaines!



    We've had a fun weekend celebrating Gaines' birthday-- by relaxing at the lake house and then celebrating today, the actual date, with family. I made the slightly messy "banjo cake" that we enjoyed Thursday night at the Bible study with some friends and his grandmother made the beautiful caramel cake pictured below.



    Happy Birthday to my wonderful husband and awesome soon-to-be dad!

    Friday, November 03, 2006

    Contrast

    Eugene Peterson offers the following comments on Revelation Chapter One:

    The Son of Man vision is presented in a familiar context: "I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man." The lampstands are identified a few lines later (Rev. 1:20) as churches.

    It is impossible among people familiar with ancient Israel and early church to glamorize communities of faith. Churches are characteristically poor, often sordid, frequently faithless. It is precisely in this environment that God chooses to show the Christ in the splendid form of Son of Man. But this procedure should be no surprise by now: the site of his birth was a manger, and the palace of his coronation was a cross. God deliberately set Jesus among the common and the flawed - the historical situation just as it was. Jesus is never known in any other context. The revelation of Christ is not embarassed or compromised by association with the church; quite the contrary, it insists on this context.

    (Reversed Thunder: The Revelation of John and the Praying Imagination, pp. 36-37)

    These thoughts are comforting amidst the seemingly endless parade of Christian failures, both individual and corporate. Thankfully, God uses even our darkness to magnify the shining brilliance of Christ.

    (Peterson's book is really good, by the way. More on that to come.)

    Thursday, November 02, 2006

    New Mars Hill Audio Podcast

    The latest installment of Audition, the monthly podcast from Ken Myers and the fine folks at Mars Hill Audio, is up and available. This edition looks at Christian writers, artists and mythmakers, with segments on W.H. Auden, J.R.R. Tolkien, Flannery O'Connor and C.S. Lewis. The portion on O'Connor's "sacramental art" is especially good. Do check it out.

    New Lark News!

    The November edition of Lark News is up.

    I especially enjoyed the article on Flannelgraph-asbestos lawsuits. Check it out.

    Wednesday, November 01, 2006

    All Saints

    For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
    Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
    Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
    Alleluia, Allelu…

    Thou wast their rock, their fortress and their might;
    Thou, Lord, their captain in the well fought fight;
    Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.
    Alleluia, Allelu…

    O may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold,
    Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
    And win with them the victor’s crown of gold.
    Alleluia, Allelu…

    The golden evening brightens in the west;
    Soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest;
    Sweet is the calm of paradise the blessed.
    Alleluia, Allelu…

    But lo! There breaks, a yet more glorious day
    The saints triumphant rise in bright array
    The King of glory passes on His way.
    Alleluia, Allelu…

    From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
    Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
    And singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost:
    Alleluia, Alleluia!

    Tuesday, October 31, 2006

    Boo!


    The Jollyblogger has a good post on Halloween, complete with links to several good articles dispelling the persistent myths about its eeeeevil origins.

    Monday, October 30, 2006

    Irregularly Scheduled Sufjan Update

    Important Programming Note: Sufjan Stevens will be on Austin City Limits this weekend.

    Be sure to check your local listings and tune in. Sadly, Sufjan is one of two acts, so you'll only see 4 songs from him. But they are good ones:
    "Jacksonville"
    "Casimir Pulaski Day"
    "The Dress Looks Nice on You"
    "Oh Detroit, Lift Up Your Weary Head!"

    All great songs, and "Detroit" sounded especially wonderful with the orchestral arrangement from this tour.

    Regularly Scheduled GT Football Update


    After last week's dismal pounding at the hands of Clemson, the Yellow Jackets bounced back on Saturday to beat Miami, 30-23. Despite a disastrous opening possession and an obviously-injured Reggie Ball, Tech rebounded and played a pretty good game overall. Just as in last year's victory over the Hurricanes, the Jacket defense stung QB Kyle Wright, this time holding Miami to a net 71 rushing yards, with six sacks. Offensively, GT's Tashard Choice became the first player this season to rush for over 100 yards against the Miami defense. Super-receiver Calvin Johnson bounced back from last week's no-catch sadness, with 5 receptions and 1 TD. And consistency-plagued kicker Travis Bell made all 3 of his field goal attempts. The best part, though, is that the Yellow Jackets are now sitting firmly atop the ACC Coastal Division. With only three weak conference opponents left on the schedule, Tech's chances of heading to Jacksonville for the ACC Championship are looking pretty good. Tech has also climbed a spot to Number 20 in this week's AP Top 25.

    In other happy football news, the Dawgs fell to Florida, 14-21. Unranked Georgia is now 6-3, having lost 3 of their last 4 games.

    Friday, October 27, 2006

    Fine Art Friday


    Bendz, Wilhelm (1804 - 1832)
    The Church of Ramsau, Austria
    Painting, oil on paper
    Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, England

    Thursday, October 26, 2006

    Halloween is Coming

    Sorry for the decreased blog-output in recent weeks, and sadly, I don't have any new material for this post. But it is about time for an annual re-reading of James Jordan's comments on Christians and Halloween.

    Halloween: A Distinctly Christian Holiday

    Monday, October 23, 2006

    A Mouse Tale Revisited

    This morning, I entered my room to find yet another mouse-- this time the poor fella was already dead. It was a big mouse-- so big that another teacher mistook it for a rat, but it wasn't THAT big and didn't have any of the ratty qualities to go along with his misguided assumption. [Side note: we got to teach our English language learning Vietnamese janitor a new word today: rodent.] That evil rodent must have struggled because the trap was moved out from behind the file cabinet and so I didn't get anything done at my desk until the mouse had been disposed of (it was also hard to eat breakfast with it right there near my desk, so I left the room). I'm not sure if the mouse died of starvation or froze to death due to the frigid temperatures this weekend. Either way, I hope it will be the last one I will see for a while. Why do they have to show up in MY room? Why can't they end up in a trap in someone else's class?

    Speaking of frigid temperatures-- the nightly low is going to be below freezing the rest of the week here in Atlanta. Only a week ago we reached 80 degrees in the afternoons! What happened to fall? Those other mice better watch out-- it they try to use any of my classroom handouts or papers for making a nice warm winter nest I'll be hunting them down myself!

    Friday, October 20, 2006

    A Mouse Tale

    On Monday morning, I arrived in my classroom at school to find presents from some little rodent friend on my chair! Too small to be a rat... fresh little mouse poopings and peeings on my nice cloth computer chair! Ugh! (Apparently, another teacher had actually SEEN a mouse running through the heating and air system after it is turned off in the evenings, and a second teacher found droppings on her DESK the next day. Ew.) So, I promptly informed the correct authorities that we had a "visitor" and within a day there were two rodent glue traps near my desk. The custodial staff person told me, "If you come in and the traps are moved, just come get me." I never saw anything all week, and had almost forgotten the presence of the friendly little creature after hours-- until today.

    Imagine my suprise, then, when I arrive in my room this morning to find not one, but TWO furry little brown mice stuck in the trap near the air conditioning. I promptly screamed (they were still alive and wriggling and looking at me with their beady little eyes and wiggling their tails), then turned around, walked out the door, and marched purposefully to the custodian's office. "Two mice. Not one. Two. In my room. Alive. You certainly caught them! Please come get them before students show up." He offered to give them to me as pets, and I replied, "No, thanks! The science department can have them, for all I care!"

    I later learned that those are not humane traps (apparently they can try to chew their way out, swallow the glue, and suffocate) and I'm not really sure what happened to them after they were removed from my room (I didn't come back until they were gone.) But, I really don't want to know. Hopefully, that will be the end of any presents on my desk. I'll let you know Monday morning.

    Fine Art Friday Triptych

    (To make up for lost time, three of my faves from the BMA. See if you can find a theme...hint: look up vanitas)







    1. Painting
    Allegory of Charles I of England and Henrietta of France in a Vanitas Still Life, After 1669
    Simon Renard de Saint-Andre (French, 1613-1677)
    Oil on canvas

    2. Sculpture
    Crucifera IV, 1965
    George Rickey (American, born 1907)
    Stainless steel

    3. Photograph
    Store in Alabama, 1936
    Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
    Gelatin silver print

    Unexpectedly Intense Flavor



    Wow.

    Wednesday, October 18, 2006

    Narcissism

    Indulge me. I've been thinking about blogging, wanting to post, thinking about posting, reading other people's blogs, but for a while now I just haven't made the time to write anything on here of any substance whatsoever. (And don't expect much this time.) I did want to say a little about what I've been up to the past two months with school, so you know that my silence has been for good reason. I am particularly ashamed that I just completely forgot about "Fine Art Fridays" for about 3 weeks, even though I think about what I want to post for days leading up to it. Maybe I can restart that this week.

    First, a hindrance: This year, I can no longer access Blogger or Bloglines from school or post comments. So, that's cut down on my computer time. But it (hopefully) means I'm getting more things done that are school-related in the afternoons. However, some days I'm still staying until about 5:30 or 6 p.m. just to get things done, because I have additional responsibilities that have sometimes kept me much later than that.

    Second, the highlights: This year, I'm part of a "Ninth Grade Academy" that meets during our lunch planning period (taking away some "productive" time), but getting to meet with 6-8 other teachers almost every day has been a great experience-- I don't feel so alone as I did my first year, when no one had time to discuss strategies or students or anything else. Also, seeing even small successes of interventions we've had with students who are struggling with the transition from middle school to high school has been a great motivator. Working with our new "Graduation Coach" has also been a plus-- she puts in triple effort with students in all grades who are struggling due to academic, behavioral, personal, or emotional issues. I've appreciated seeing the caring individuals that make up the sometimes monstrous industrial machine-like organization of the public school system.

    Another positive note has been working with our Academic Team, which pretty much runs itself. Those are some bright kids, I tell ya. Last Wednesday, Gaines and I traveled downtown to the WSB studios to watch the kids pull out a close match against their opponent in the local High Q competition, a televised academic bowl that matches teams from all over the state. We both relived memories from times we participated in a similar competition at then Troy State University. (Ask Gaines' whose team won when my alma mater and his went head-to-head his senior year of high school...Mwahahaha!) It was a fun, though late evening.

    Also, I am one of the 9th grade class sponsors, and a tradition at our school is for each class to decorate the halls thematically to be judged the Friday of Homecoming Week. (If I'm brave, I might share a photo Gaines took of me when I dressed up for "Tacky Day" -- I was hideous, but he had to capture the moment on our new digital.) Hall decorating makes for quite a few long days, and one LATE Thursday night. This year, though, we finished by 9:30 p.m. and the "Jungle Book" theme turned out to be one of the best freshman halls the school had ever seen (I only supervised, I swear!). However, I think I am still catching up from that one week of lost grading time. I will say, as well, that it might have been a bad idea to play "The Bear Necessities" and "I Wanna Be Like You" on repeat the morning of the judging. I've had those songs in my head ever since!

    Finally, my World Literature class has just finished up a Mythology unit, and I was so inspired from reading "Cupid and Psyche" that I picked up Lewis' masterpiece 'Til We Have Faces: A Myth Retold for a second read. I finished tonight, and I'm still reeling from the beauty of the story. Perhaps I'll post more on that later. If you haven't yet read it, you should!

    That's all for now. We're off to watch the latest installment of LOST. I can't wait!

    Word and Table

    Michael Horton wrote on the the importance of the Sacraments as "Mysteries of God and Means of Grace" in an old issue of Modern Reformation. I found this to be quite an enlightening article concerning church history and also a confirmation of what we've been learning over the last few years--about the importance of Communion and Baptism and their place in the local body of believers. Mostly, that both are instituted by God, are a means by which God provides for us and sustains us through Christ, and that they do not depend on the state of the recipient (In a sermon last Easter, I heard a minister comment that the front of the Table should be emblazoned with "For Sinners Only!"). But Horton says it much better than I. Go read the article--it'll make more sense.

    I did like this quote: "In many conservative Reformed and Presbyterian circles, it is as if the prescribed forms for Baptism and the Supper were too high in their sacramental theology, so the minister feels compelled to counter its strong "means of grace" emphasis. In this way, the Sacraments die the death of a thousand qualifications."

    HT to Barb. Thanks for pointing this out to those of us who hadn't seen it before!

    Friday, October 06, 2006

    Top 50 Books That Have Shaped Evangelicals

    Christianity Today had compiled a list of books written in the last 50 years that have -- for better or for worse -- impacted evangelical Christians the most.

    Interesting.

    The Squeaky Wheel Got Greased!

    Sometimes, the man can be beaten. (or is that, "It can be stuck to the man"?) Check it out:

    A couple of weeks ago, I went with some friends to see Georgia Tech's football game against Virginia. It was a Thursday night home game, and nationally televised, a combination that always makes for a lot of fun. Tech won big that night, but an otherwise enjoyable evening was marred by one slight nuisance. Because we had a group, we were able to take advantage of "Family Packs," which get you a block of tickets, plus hot dogs and drinks for a reasonable price. So far, so good. Now, the Family Pack also includes a couple of mysterious "premium items" -- mysterious to me, at least, because I had never before gotten to a game early enough to snag one. But for the UVA game, we had time to spare, so my friends and I were on a mission to get the goods.

    But what an arduous task it would be! We had to wander around for a bit before finding out where the goods (T-shirts, we soon learned) were being distributed. When we found the Russell Athletics (an official sponsor of Georgia Tech Athletics) display, it was being packed up, and we were informed that there were no more T-shirts -- even though we saw a few unopened boxes of T-shirts being packed up. But we still had 20 minutes before kickoff! Most of our group decided to forego the loot and head on into the stadium. Not willing to admit defeat, my friend Gordon and I walked down the street to the ticket office to demand satisfaction, or at least to get some answers. After all, we had vouchers entitling us to premium items, dang it! I won't belabor all the details, but we definitely made another trip to the Russell display and back to the ticket office. (At one point, a Russell lady informed us that they would be shooting T-shirts into the crowd during the game, so we could try to get one then. Thanks a lot, lady!) After the second visit to the ticket office (the game had already started at this point, mind you), a helpful but exasperated employee took our vouchers and our addresses and said he'd take care of it. A minor victory, but Gordon and I weren't exactly holding our breath on that one, either.

    Fast forward to yesterday afternoon. Upon arriving home, I noticed an odd box on the doorstep. I certainly wasn't expecting a package. Then I saw the memo line "GT Family Pack" on the address slip. I rushed to the kitchen and hacked into the box with some scissors. At the top of the box was a handwritten card from Russell, apologizing for the lack of T-shirts at the game. In addition to the two T-shirts I should have gotten at the game, they threw in a couple of Tech ball caps, too. Woo hoo! I later confirmed that Gordon had received an identical package yesterday. Talk about good customer service.

    So the moral of the story, kids, is that being persistent and annoying occasionally pays off. And now you know.

    Thursday, October 05, 2006

    Just Because It Looks Cool


    (Shamelessly pulled from the internet.)

    Wednesday, October 04, 2006

    Lost

    Season premiere tonight. Woo hoo!

    Monday, October 02, 2006

    Almost Perfect

    This Weekend in College Football ...

  • Georgia Tech smacked-down Virginia Tech, 38-27.
  • Auburn eked out a 24-17 win over South Carolina on Thursday night.
  • Alabama lost to Florida, 13-28.

    Had U[sic]GA lost to Ole Miss (and the hated Dawgs barely scraped by, 14-9), it would have been a perfect college football weekend for Team Redd.

    GT did climb six spots in the AP poll, to No. 18.

    In Other News

    On Friday night, we drove up to Knoxville's New City Cafe to catch Andrew Peterson and Jill Phillips during their "Square Peg Tour 2006." Accompanying them were the inestimably-talented Ben Shive and Andy Gullahorn. Everyone sounded great, and the setlist was a fairly even split between Andrew and Jill, with a couple of solo numbers from Andy G. and even one by Ben. Plus, New City is always such a cool place to see a concert, largely due to the venue's ongoing support of artistic excellence. We caught the evening's second show (at 9:30 PM), which was apparently a bit more relaxed and intimate than the 7 PM one. This environment prompted Andrew et al to try out a number of new songs, which were great to hear. Andrew had one especially powerful one, about the complex nature of his relationship with his father, and the implications for his relationship with his own son. I love that Andrew can write songs with content that doesn't resolve neatly and easily; indeed, he isn't afraid to honestly yet hopefully capture aspects of life that are messy and uncertain. In fact, his shows usually embody this, with the amazing music punctuated by the occasional flubbed lyric, mid-show huddles to amend the setlist, and the frequent between-song ad-libs, whether humorous or serious. Some might view these as faults, but I enjoy these quirks which serve as a reminder that, as Jill's new album states, "Nobody's Got It All Together." Andrew (and Jill and Ben and Andy) make no apologies for clearly displaying their need for God's grace, and they then offer powerful glimpses of that very grace in their art.

    As always, if you have a chance to see any of these fine folks in concert, don't pass it up.
  • Thursday, September 28, 2006

    A Little Something for All the Theology Nerds

    Okay, I'll admit that I laughed. Though, it isn't as funny with repeated listening. Oh well.

    John Piper is BAD!

    Jeff Meyers on "Worship"

    The English word "worship," especially as it is used in modern times, is not a very helpful translation. One of the problems with our word "worship" is that it now refers to all sorts of activities, both physical and mental. In fact, a recent fad is to stress that all of life is "worship." In some sense this is true, but only in a very loose sense. When used in this sense "worship" denotes a mental disposition. But this is not the sense in which this word proskuneo [the Greek word frequently translated as "worship" in the NT] or "bowing down" is ordinarily used in the Scriptures. If you want to say that all of life is "bowing down," that is fine; but this can only be so in a very abstract or metaphorical way. If you are working hard on a painting job, for example, you may, indeed you should mentally gives thanks and praise to God while you do so, but ... you are not bowing down at that time with others who reverence the same God.

    (The Lord's Service, p 308)

    Tuesday, September 26, 2006

    In Other News ...

    Here's a novel way for filmmakers to deal with their critics.

    Semi-frequent Sufjan Update

    For those who missed Sufjan Stevens' current tour (or those who want to re-live the majesty), NPR.org will be webcasting his Philadelphia concert on Thursday, Sept. 28, at 8 PM. Here's more info.

    For those who are still wondering what the deal is with this Sufjan guy, this might be a good way to check him out. No seriously, check him out.

    Monday, September 25, 2006

    Ranked

    Georgia Tech cracked the AP Top 25 this week, at a respectable #24. Not bad, but plenty of room for improvement. Let's hope it bolsters the Jackets for Virginia Tech this Saturday, our first away game of the season.

    Friday, September 22, 2006

    More Sufjan Pics



    Okay, I know some of you are probably tired of hearing "Sufjan this" and "Sufjan that." (Bunch of Philistines!) But I wanted to post a link to pictures from the Chapel Hill, NC show last night, shamelessly culled from another fan's website. We weren't actually there, but it looks pretty similar to what we saw the previous night here in Atlanta.

    Sufjan Stevens - 2006 Tour - Chapel Hill, NC

    Oh, and the Atlanta-Journal Constitution has a review of the Atlanta show.

    Friday Football

    This time of year, Fridays usually mean looking forward to Georgia Tech football the next day. This Friday, however, is a look back, since we played last night, against the Cavaliers of Virginia. Okay, "played" really means "throttled."

    Yellow Jackets Dominate Virginia, 24-7

    Granted, Virginia played terribly, especially their offense. But the Jackets looked really good, and not just in contrast to UVA. Calvin Johnson (cue angel chorus) had the best game of his career in total receiving yards, plus he had his career longest touchdown reception. And all this coming off an injury from last weekend's game. Reggie Ball looked great, too, with some much needed consistency and a few beautiful passes. He even ran the ball in for a touchdown. To top it all off, it was a wonderful autumn evening for football.

    The Jackets now have nine days to prepare for their first away game of the season, at Virginia Tech.

    Thursday, September 21, 2006

    Sufjan Concert, Or, Team Redd Endeavors to Admire Mr. Stevens and His Multi-Instrumented Regiment at Their Atlanta Engagement -- With Great Success!



    Last night, Sufjan Stevens rocked Atlanta, Team Redd inclusive. Words cannot do the show justice, but I'll try to give you the flavor of the evening. But, even though we had read about what to expect from this tour, we were thoroughly blown away.

    Here's the scoop:

    After work, Allison and I took the MARTA (it's smarta!) train downtown to the Fabulous Fox Theatre, one of Atlanta's truly historic landmarks. The Fox is an elegant facility, with a seating capacity of ~4600. I'm not sure if the show sold out, but it had to have been pretty close, as we saw few empty seats. According to the AJC (note: free registration required), the Fox is the largest venue at which Sufjan has ever performed. We met up with my sister and her husband, as well as some other friends, prior to the show. But since Team Redd managed to score SWEET SEATS, we soon parted ways. Said SWEET SEATS were in the orchestra pit, five rows from the front, house left -- a great vantage point from which to see most of the stage. A few of the musicians on the other side of the stage were obscured, as was Sufjan during his few piano songs. But for most of the show, we had a great view of the man from Michigan.

    The opening act was My Brightest Diamond, aka Shara Worden, fellow label-mate from Sufjan's Asthmatic Kitty Records. Admittedly, it took me a little while to get into her stuff, especially since the first few songs were very ethereal, with lots of chiming guitar harmonics and falsetto singing. The string players (from Sufjan's ensemble) helped to add some richness to her sound, but I still wasn't sure what to think. Thankfully, her later songs were much more agressive, filled out by drums, bass and electric guitar crunch. She has a great voice for rock/blues singing, and the latter half of her set was pretty good. All in all, not bad for an opener. But we didn't come for the opener ...

    After the intermission, Sufjan and company took the stage, and instruments abounded. Sufjan alternated between guitar, banjo and piano throughout the evening. Shara Worden sang background vocals and played electric guitar, as well as a tiny musicbox piano. Sufjan also had a drummer, bass player and another electric guitarist providing the rhythm/rock section. But most impressive by far was the combination of an eight-piece string section (2 cellos, 2 violas and 4 violins) and a three-piece brass section (two trumpets and a trombone). One of the violinists also played guitar (electric and acoustic) on a few songs. Oh, and the entire group was clad in matching uniforms (band outfits?) complete with butterfly wings and Mardi Gras-esque bird masks. Sufjan, however, was adorned in bird wings. Sure, it sounds weird. Okay, it was weird, but he made it work.

    Needless to say, this instrumental array provided quite a rich sound, with almost every song receiving a full and glorious treatment. After taking the stage, the musicians played a beautiful instrumental prelude. Throughout the show, images were projected onto a screen behind the band, making for a really cool effect (often incorporating older-looking, home movie footage). The prelude was played over a set of abstract images that gradually went from dark to light, giving a sunrise-like effect. Following this, they played "Sister" (from Seven Swans), and this song set the tone for the evening. Sufjan always makes great use of layered instruments and voices on his albums, to great effect. This often ends up sounding vibrant yet unpolished, like a high school band (in a good way). Last night, though, the instrumental ensemble sounded quite majestic. Instead of being dominated by the rough, overdriven guitar of the album version, "Sister" was lush and orchestral.

    Here's the complete set list:

    Sister
    The Lord God Bird
    The Transfiguration (partial)
    Detroit, Lift Up Your Weary Head!
    Casimir Pulaski Day
    John Wayne Gacy, Jr.
    Jacksonville
    The Predatory Wasp Of The Palisades Is Out To Get Us!
    Abraham
    A Good Man is Hard to Find
    Majesty Snowbird
    Seven Swans
    The Transfiguration (complete)
    Chicago

    Encore:
    Romulus
    The Dress Looks Nice on You

    From what I've read elsewhere, this might have been the best setlist yet on this tour. Although previous nights saw "Night Zombies," a Christmas song and some tunes from The Avalanche, last night had a heavy emphasis on songs from Seven Swans, with 6 of the 12 tracks represented. I don't think I would have changed a thing.

    As far as highlights go, the whole evening was consistently amazing. One notable incident occurred three songs in, during "The Transfiguration." About halfway through the song, there was a deafening blast of distorted static that brought everything to a screeching halt. It took several long minutes for the sound guys to find the problem and swap out some cables. Sufjan was visibly shaken, but the crowd was extremely supportive. We were all sad when Sufjan announced that they would move on to the next song, quipping "I believe in divine intervention." Thankfully, they played the song in full at the end of the set, this time without mishap, and it was marvelous.

    As I mentioned, the ensemble really brought great depth to Sufjan's songs. The big ending of "Predatory Wasp" ("Oh great sights upon this state, Hallelu- ...") was breathtaking, finishing with a wall of sound that was tense yet beautiful. In contrast, the haunting and minimal instrumentation on "John Wayne Gacy" only accentuated the creepiness of the song, leaving me speechless. Sufjan also played a brand new song, "Majesty Snowbird," which made great use of the entire ensemble, with crunchy electric guitar, thumping bass, replete with string/brass goodness -- "majesty" is definitely an appropriate title! I'm curious as to what stylistic turns Sufjan will take with his next album, and I'm hoping this might be representative.

    The video projection behind the band contained some really cool stuff, usually tying into the songs. "Detroit," for example, featured some dated footage of the bustling Motor City. "Jacksonville" included a bunch of home video footage of the Illinoisemakers acting goofy, with a funny section centering around Superman. The videos were used well, never distracting and only enhancing the music.

    After a rousing rendition of "Chicago," the band left stage to a thunderous standing ovation. A few minutes later, a tired-looking Sufjan Stevens returned to the piano to deliver a poignant solo performance of "Romulus." A few of the band members then joined him to play a mostly-acoustic version of "The Dress Looks Nice On You." And then it was time to leave.

    One funny thing after the show: there were tons of guys outside the theater selling knock-off Sufjan T-shirts. It looks like they pulled the pictures/art straight from the web site. I guess you've truly made it big when you have your own bootleg merchandise.

    Needless to say, if you have an opportunity to catch a show on this tour, DO NOT MISS IT!

    Tuesday, September 19, 2006

    DailyLit.com

    This is a cool idea. DailyLit.com will e-mail bite-sized chunks (in sequence, of course) of public domain literary works to your inbox on a daily basis. They have some decent stuff, from Austen to Zola. And the small sizes seem pretty suitable for breaktime at work.

    (H/T to Travis)

    Monday, September 18, 2006

    No worries

    Not only do I use bagged spinach in my lunches, but it's usually from the company that was the first to issue a recall for all its spinach product last week! Needless to say, I quickly found a new home (aka the dumpster) for that bad boy. Better safe than sorry.

    Thursday, September 14, 2006

    Does God Want You to Be Rich?

    This is the question addressed by the cover story of this week's Time magazine. (Note: full text is currently available to subscribers only.)

    Ben Witherington, who is quoted in the article, has posted some additional thoughts about the dangers of the uniquely American "prosperity theology." His "TOP TEN REASONS WHY GOD DOESN'T WANT YOU WEALTHY" are well worth reading.

    Tuesday, September 12, 2006

    Hog's Head Pod Pubcast

    Harry Potter fans: Travis Prinzi, proprietor of the excellent Sword of Gryffindor site, has started a podcast - a "Pubcast," no less - to discuss all things Potter. The latest installment begins a comparison between the worlds of Hogwarts and Narnia. You can check it out here, or subscribe through iTunes. It's good stuff (despite the accent).

    Alastair on the Pharisee and the Tax Collector

    Alastair has some great thoughts on Jesus' parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, particularly on the inadequacy of using this parable as a polemic against simple legalism. He also raises some excellent questions about the bigger picture of the Scriptures:
    The problem has to do with the role that we see the narrative to be playing. Is the narrative the important thing, or is the narrative merely designed to illustrate timeless and abstract truths that exists independent of it? Is the Bible concerned with the narrative of God’s salvation and maturation of humanity and the cosmos, or is its chief concern conveying a timeless form of religion and way by which individuals can get saved? Is the story of Israel merely given as a set of examples and a repository of helpful metaphors for some reality outside of it, or is the story of Israel God’s great historical plan of salvation already in action? Do we find ourselves within the story told by Scripture, or is the story of Scripture to be reduced to serving us with nice parallels and illustrations that help us to live our lives, which are quite detached from it?

    Read the whole thing here.

    Monday, September 11, 2006

    What a Guy!

    Sure, Georgia Tech's Calvin Johnson is an amazing football player (check out his bio). He had two touchdown catches in Saturday's 38-6 beatdown of Samford, and that was just in the first half. (Tech was so far ahead at halftime that the Jackets fielded the second- and third-strings in the second half.)

    In addition to all that, he's a pretty cool guy off the field. According to this news release, he spent part of his summer in Bolivia working on a school project to develop improved sanitation technology. He even picked the project in Bolivia instead of an environmental project here in Atlanta, stating his preference to help out those in underdeveloped, impoverished parts of the world.

    Here's hoping that he'll have another great season.

    Friday, September 08, 2006

    Fine Art Friday

    Maternity: Madame Renoir and Son, 1916
    Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)
    National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

    Fact

    I need more 4-day work weeks.

    Tuesday, September 05, 2006

    Sufjan - Songs for Christmas



    On November 21, Sufjan Stevens will release a 5-disc set of Christmas music, which will include remastered versions of three previously-released (i.e. "leaked to the internet") Christmas EP's, as well as two brand-new volumes. It will also contain some cool goodies, like an accompanying songbook and "Extensive liner notes and short stories by Sufjan Stevens!" Read the full release from Asthmatic Kitty Records, and be sure to check out the mp3 of "Sister Winter" (from Volume V).

    Monday, September 04, 2006

    R.I.P.



    In all honesty, the news of Steve Irwin's death has me pretty bummed out.

    Friday, September 01, 2006

    Fine Art Friday


    In honor of our upcoming long weekend at Lake Martin...
    View of Copped Hall in Essex, from across the Lake, 1746
    George Lambert (1700-1765)
    Tate Britain, London

    Yellow Jacket Football Flashback

    With a receiver like Calvin Johnson (cue angel chorus), the Jackets can make do with even a moderately-competent QB performance. But just in case Reggie Ball falls apart this weekend against Notre Dame, a history lesson might be in order.

    In 1976, Georgia Tech handed Notre Dame a remarkably unusual defeat:
    To this day, [Georgia Tech Quarterback Gary] Lanier is remembered as the quarterback who beat the Fighting Irish with a statistical anomaly that went like this: zero passes attempted, zero passes completed, zero yards passing.

    As he travels around the country, speaking to alumni groups and raising money for Georgia Tech's athletic scholarships, he always gets the same two questions: "Weren't you the quarterback on the team that beat Notre Dame? Didn't you go a whole game without throwing a pass?"

    Yes and yes.

    Let's hope it doesn't come to that on Saturday, but honestly, a 'W' is still a 'W.'

    On Larks and Mockingbirds

    The latest edition of Lark News is up.

    Among this month's offerings:
  • Mega-church downsizes, cuts non-essential members
  • To combat 'NFL exodus,' church subsidizes Tivos

    Keeping with the avian theme ...

    freederekwebb.com is now live. If you haven't heard, Derek Webb is offering Mockingbird, his latest album, for free download. Check it out. Tell your friends. Start downloading.
  • Oh Yeah!

    Thursday, August 31, 2006

    Redemption as Partying?

    Anthony Bradley asks why Christians aren't partying more:
    So if the kingdom is real, if creation is all good, if life is not suppose to suck, if God is renewing all things to himself through Christ, if you are united to Jesus and standing before God forgiven, then why is your social life so boring? Why are you not either at a party or throwing a party every weekend? Why are you not inviting people into your community of celebration?

    I think this directly connects to the prophetic wisdom: "Be excellent to each other. And, PARTY ON, DUDES!"

    (H/T to the BHT)

    Wednesday, August 30, 2006

    Katrina Cottages

    Yesterday, I wondered out loud to my husband if the New Urbanists had taken over New Orleans yet. (I meant this in a good way-- I hope it comes true!) The nightly news had broadcast a story on "Musician's Row" and the rainbow-colored houses seemed very New-Urbanist to me. (New Urbanism is an architectural and city planning movement that seeks to create walkable, livable, affordable communities.) In the past, they brought you such high-end spots as Seaside, Florida, and our very own Atlantic Station in Atlanta, Georgia. However, thankfully, the trend is now on to more affordable housing, of which I will be even more grateful if we ever get to live in such a community. Our internet-friend Trevor is about to move into a New Urbanist community in St. Louis. Lucky.

    If the New Urbanists haven't taken over New Orleans yet, they've certainly made their mark on Mississippi. This evening, in the wake of the one-year anniversary of hurricane Katrina, I spotted the last few minutes of a television segment on the now famous "little yellow house" whose descendants are popping up all over the storm-ravaged coast. Check out this article about the original Katrina Cottage that has now expanded to 23 designs and is being adapted for hurricane victims from Louisiana to North Carolina. I also found this Cottage Living feature to be both touching and informative. I am encouraged by efforts to not just rebuild communities, but to make them new-- to renew the sense of ownership and pride and neighborliness in the victims of such a horrible tragedy. It's nice to know architecture can make such a huge impact on people's lives. As the architect of the little yellow house, Cuasto, said, the Katrina Cottage could "lead the nation in what could be a revolution in affordable housing." I sincerly hope that's true.

    Celebrity Pastors and Church Polity

    David Wayne (aka "The Jollyblogger") has some good comments on the disastrous results (as evidenced by a couple of recent cases in the SBC) that can arise when pastors, especially renowned ones, are ministering in environments where there is no effective church polity (whether local or denominational) to provide oversight and accountability.

    Conan at the Emmys

    We didn't watch the Emmy Awards this weekend, but after seeing host Conan O'Brien's opening sequence, I actually regret not tuning in! Funny, funny stuff.

    Monday, August 28, 2006

    News For Nickel Creek Fans

    From nickelcreek.com:

    Dearest Listener,

    After seven years of extensive touring in support of three records (seventeen years as a band), we've decided to take a break of indefinite length at the end of 2007 to preserve the environment we've sought so hard to create and to pursue other interests. It has been a pleasure to write, record, and perform for you through the years and we'd like to heartily thank you for your invaluable contribution to our musical lives.

    Yours,

    Nickel Creek
    (Sean, Sara, and Chris)

    Friday, August 25, 2006

    Fine Art Friday

    South West Nave, Chartres Cathedral
    Chartres, France
    This portion built c. 1194-1230
    Image from Pitt Image Library

    (Notice how small the people are...I remember feeling dwarfed by the grandeur and scale of such sacred space. It's the only "gift shop book" I ever bought on either of my trips to France, though pictures cannot do justice to the beauty of the building. We here in twenty-first century America cannot imagine the suffering and sacrifice and unfinished toil behind a church that took centuries to build. To me, the construction of a cathedral is a metaphor for the Christian life: significant changes take more than one lifetime, someone else will always finish the work that you started, and the end result of many people working together is always much better than anything one individual could produce.)

    Sandra McCracken Interview

    Enjoyable Radiant Magazine interview with Sandra McCracken.

    (H/T to squarepegalliance.net)

    Wednesday, August 23, 2006

    A Taste of Things to Come

    "The Eucharist, finally, also teaches that our present experience of God's presence and blessing is incomplete. We have tasted that the Lord is good, sampled a bit of the heavenly gift; we have entered into the sanctuary (Heb. 6:4-6). But we are not yet filled. Like eating popcorn, the Supper just makes us want more. The taste makes us long all the more for the consummation of the promise, when we shall see God face-to-face, know even as we are known, and sit with Him at His table in the eternal kingdom of heaven."

    (Jeff Meyers, The Lord's Service, p 226)

    Tuesday, August 22, 2006

    Symphonic Theology

    In approaching the Scriptures, many Christians (for whatever reasons) end up with an insulated view of theology informed by a single tradition or outlook. In more extreme cases, any view differing in even the most minute detail is automatically rejected. But even in less extreme cases, there can be a reluctance to look to differing perspectives (or even to realize that other viewpoints exist in the first place!). Symphonic Theology, by Vern Poythress, is an insightful look at the benefits of using multiple theological perspectives in order to gain a better grasp of the truth. Poythress uses the analogy of a symphony, in which multiple instruments are blended together, to describe an approach to theology that seeks to incorporate the strengths of various perspectives to better understand the Scriptural teachings on any given subject. Poythress is quick to argue that this approach should not be confused with a relativistic "all perspectives are equally acceptable" view. Rather, he argues that truth is often like a multi-faceted jewel, where the view from different facets gives a different view of the whole. Poythress explains that combining these multiple viewing perspectives can lead to a more complete appreciation of the whole.

    Poythress makes many great observations, especially about the nature of language and its limitations. For instance, he cautions that superimposing systematic theological language back onto the Scriptures (especially in the case of a shared term like "faith" or "salvation") can often lead to poor understanding of the actual text. Additionally, he notes that the Bible makes use of the flexibility of language in the same ways that we use everyday language: with great versatility in being able to incorporate a broader scope of meaning, as well as to focus with greater precision. Awareness of these factors will help us become better readers of the Bible.

    The only real complaint I have about the book is its relatively short length (~120 pages). Although it is intended as a brief introduction to the idea of "symphonic theology," it might have been improved by including more test cases, especially since Poythress notes that this approach is best illustrated using examples. Nonetheless, the book is a great read and is an encouragement to better understand the broader issues of language and perspective in approaching the Scriptures and theology.

    By the way, the full-text of the book can be found here (posted on the internet with the permission of the publisher).

    Friday, August 18, 2006

    Fine Art Friday

    Le Berceau (The Cradle)
    Berthe Morisot
    1872; Oil on canvas
    Musee d'Orsay, Paris

    Thursday, August 17, 2006

    Reform and Resurge

    Last week I finished listening to all the sessions from the 2006 Reform and Resurge conference, held earlier this year at Mars Hill Church in Seattle. This three-day conference focused on many of the issues involved with bringing the Gospel to an ever-changing culture. Although the conference was largely geared towards pastors and church leadership, there is much material that is profitable for everyone. Audio and video of the sessions are available at the link above.

    Overall, I thought the sessions were very good, with Tim Keller's easily being the best of the bunch. During the course of his three talks, he addressed how the Christian faith enters into specific cultural contexts, how the Gospel should be preached to engage Christians and non-Christians alike, and how ideas of justice can be better integrated into the worship and life of churches. Highly recommended.

    I also enjoyed the talk by Eric Mason, an African-American church planter in urban Philadelphia. Typically, words like "Reformed" and "missional" are only spoken in a predominantly middle-class white context; however, Mason (along with fellow speaker Anthony Bradley, also an African-American) is a great example of the multi-ethnic diversity that can arise from a solid Gospel foundation.

    Mark Driscoll's concluding talk (sermon, really) on the Cross was very encouraging, as well, since he stressed the importance of keeping the Cross at the center of ministry and life in general.

    These are just some highlights, but again, the entire conference is definitely worth a listen or two. So download away.

    Tuesday, August 15, 2006

    For All (Any?) Readers Across the Big Pond

    Last year, the public high school where I teach became the subject of a BBC Documentary on high school proms. (Don't ask me how it won that distinction-- I think it may be some connection with the filmmaker, but I imagine the high school is now VERY different from the way she remembers it.)
    26 years after graduating, Lisa Teasley, an author from Los Angeles, goes back to high school in Atlanta to follow several teenagers in the run-up to the prom. She meets Kelvin, a popular black football player who is involved in a love triangle with Katherine and Laura, who are both white. This is the American South, and Lisa explores the issues of race as well as sexuality. ....

    The programme gives an insight to the world of American teens and looks at their hopes, dreams and aspirations as they leave behind the sheltered world of high school and embark on their journey into adulthood.
    If you live in the UK and would like to see what all the fuss is about (apparently you don't have proms?!? You mean you never had to endure the agony?), then watch BBC4 Wednesday night, August 16th, at 10:00 p.m. (I imagine it repeats if you miss it.)

    Thankfully, I made myself scarce when the cameras came by, but I would like to know how it turned out. I believe one of my students was featured. Also, apparently there are no school buses in England, so the crew had to stage a scene in which students exit from a county school bus. Fun. I do have to admit it was quite neat that the school held it's Senior Prom in the box at Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves. It might be worth watching just for that.

    The filmmaker promises to send us DVD's once it becomes available on BBC World, but I'm just impatient...and curious! If anyone watches this, please let me know!

    Lost Grand Theory

    Lost fans, if you're like me, you gave up on "The Lost Experience" game some time ago. Don't get me wrong! In principle, the idea of discovering the backstory for the show is appealing, especially considering the level of detail to which the show's creators have imagined. But the weekly search for cryptic clues and links to over-trafficked websites soon became too tedious.

    Thankfully, there are always obsessive fans out there, and they usually have websites, such as The Lost Grand Theory, which purportedly assembles all the various information revealed through the game. I can't vouch for its accuracy, but it makes for an interesting read!

    Thursday, August 10, 2006

    Election Regrets

    Kind readers, I hope you will pardon a politically-focused post, which aren't too common around these parts.

    Georgia just had runoff elections for several recent primaries, and my biggest regret is that I did not get to vote against Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, from Georgia's 4th Congressional District. Even non-Georgians are probably familiar with McKinney's proclivity for public controversy, from her allegations of government improprieties surrounding 9/11 and the Iraq War to her recent scuffle with U.S. Capitol law enforcement. In the 2004 election, I happily voted against her, albeit to no avail due to the overwhelming blue-ness of my district. Imagine my disappointment, just weeks before the 2006 primary, when I discovered that recent gerrymandering re-districting has moved us into a different Congressional district. So sad.

    Thankfully, the citizens of District 4 have had enough of McKinney's shenanigans, and she was defeated in a landslide by challenger Hank Johnson, who will almost certainly win in November. Some have argued that it would have been better to stick with a known incompetent than to elect someone who might actually be effective in implementing an objectionable platform. Perhaps. But McKinney is an embarassment to the state of Georgia, and to the U.S. in general, even in defeat:

  • Even in her concession speech, she still managed to take swipes at the President, allege voter fraud and media bias, and laud the leadership of Cuba and Venezuela.
  • The evening of the election, her personal bodyguard got into an altercation with a local news crew.
  • After the election, her staffers allegedly attributed her loss to "the Jews."

    Classy. The irony is, this is the exact sort of behavior that cost her the election in the first place. My only hope is that she is unable to reclaim her seat in the next election cycle, like she did after being ousted in 2002. Only time will tell.

    Fun facts I learned about McKinney:
    - In Congress, she sponsored a bill to release governments records pertaining to the death of Tupac.
    - Her bodyguard (the one involved in the scuffle mentioned above) had a small role in Enter the Dragon.
  • Friday, August 04, 2006

    One Book (Allison)

    Like Gaines mentioned, Travis tagged us with this meme a few days ago. The same rules apply here.

    Just one for each? You know that's torture for an English major/teacher, don't you?!

    1. One book that changed your life:
    Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

    Honestly. I picked this book out of a Weekly Reader catalog (of all things-- remember those?) at age 12, when I was still reading Babysitter's Club books. I first fell in love with the story, then the humor, and soon became enchanted with Elizabeth Bennet. From then on, I've read it countless times, probably at least once a year. P&P heightened my taste for all things great about British literature, weaned me away from young adult novels, and helped me appreciate a good satire. The influence of this book also steered me away from a biology/pre-med major back to my first love-- English, and I cited it as a factor as to why I wanted to be a teacher of literature in a graduate school essay.

    2. One book that you’ve read more than once:
    Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

    Actually, I think I've read every book L.M. Montgomery ever wrote more than once-- especially the Anne and Emily series. Even her collections of short stories. Yes, I even have her collected journals that my parents got for me on our trip to Montreal when I was 14 (You can only find them in Canada, and there was no such thing as Amazon.com back then!). Sometimes I used to wish I had been born a century earlier, but then I remember modern conveniences like washing machines and the internet. One day, though, I do hope to visit Prince Edward Island and see her beloved landscape in person.

    3. One book you’d want on a desert island:
    The Complete Works of William Shakespeare

    It has everything-- comedy, history, tragedy, romance, and a mixture of all four! Why would I need anything else? Besides, it would finally give me the time to put in the time and study his plays deserve.

    4. One book that made you laugh:
    The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

    I've volunteered to work with autistic children and teenagers in the past, and this book gave a lighthearted first-person perspective of someone with Asperger's. It makes the reader appreciate a different point of view-- and the laughter the author evokes is not derisive or mocking, but understanding. A fun, quick read.

    5. One book that made you cry:
    The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

    I remember I was reading this at the beach (of all places to read a bleak turn-of-the century American classic) and I just started crying at the end because Lily's death was so pointless and could've been prevented so easily. She did have a place in the world, she just didn't know it. House of Mirth reminds me that in a society without the one true Hope, life becomes meaningless. The recent film version didn't come close to being as powerful as the novel--I'd suggest reading the book.

    6. One book that you wish had been written:
    The Stone Camellia and the Cajun Belle: Collected Anecdotes from my Grandmothers' Lives by Me

    Before they passed away, I wish I had thought to interview both my maternal grandmother, Dixie Dozier, and my paternal grandmother, Helen Lee. (Sadly, my grandfathers passed away before I could know them well-- one before I was born and one when I turned three.) I learned more funny incidents about my grandmother Dozier at her funeral than I think anyone ever told me in her lifetime. I wish I'd paid more attention to their stories, asked them more questions, and written it all down before they died. I've heard snippets of family history here and there from my parents, but I'd like to know about Helen's childhood in New Orleans in her own words, and I long to hear from Grandmother Dozier about the uncle I never knew who passed away when he was only 6. I hope that one day, when we all get new bodies, I can sit at their feet and listen to their stories of life on this broken, beaten earth and laugh at what foolish children we all were.

    7. One book you wish had never been written:
    Left Behind by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins

    Yes, I read it, back in high school. I think I got to number 4 in the series before I wised up.

    8. One book you’re currently reading:
    BabyCatcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife by Peggy Vincent

    I found this book in my friend Sarah's home (she's a labor/delivery nurse so she has interesting books like that) while I was babysitting another friend's adorable little seven-month old girl. I've been intrigued by all the birth stories, from the thrilling to the scary to the seemingly easy. How do those Christian Science women stay silent and composed? The author includes quotes from Scripture and the Book of Common Prayer at the beginning of each section, and she writes with such joy that it's a delight to read about even the most harrowing of events. I wonder if she is a Christian. Anyone know?

    9. One book you’ve been meaning to read:
    Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey

    Ever since this was mentioned during one of the breakout sessions at the first JEI conference we went to in 2005, it's been near the top of my wish list. I've heard about it from multiple sources as a twenty-first century instant classic. Then, Gaines won a copy of it from a Challies drawing, but it's been sitting sadly on our crowded shelf of unread books. I thought this summer would be my chance, but perhaps I may be able to get to it over Christmas break.

    10. Now tag five people:
    Jennifer
    Mary
    Lane
    Courtney
    Kristen

    Fine Art Friday


    The Wait, Oil on canvas
    Jean Béraud (1848-1935)
    Musee D'Orsay, Paris

    Thursday, August 03, 2006

    Matthew Smith on "Evangelistic Worship"

    Matthew Smith has a good post on the subject of whether worship services should be intentionally structured to connect with non-believers, or focused on believers only. Quoting from Tim Keller, Matthew notes that such discussions often miss the larger point:
    If the Sunday service and sermon aim primarily at evangelism, it will bore the saints. If they aim primarily at education, they’ll bore and confuse unbelievers. If they aim at praising the God who saves by grace they’ll both instruct insiders and challenge outsiders.

    Summarizes Smith:
    If God's free grace given to us in Jesus isn't the focus of a worship service (the singing, the preaching, etc.), then "worship" is merely another worthless religious self-delusion.

    Tuesday, August 01, 2006

    One Book (Gaines)

    Travis has seen fit to tag us with another book meme, and Jason has joined in a pincer-manuever. So here is my humble contribution.

    Note: The standard disclaimer "other than the Bible" applies.

    1. One book that changed your life:
    The Greatest Book on Dispensational Truth in the World, Larkin

    I list this humbly-titled book for two reasons: One, it was as a college freshman that I was first seriously challenged to delve into my Christian faith, by some ardent Larkin/Scofield enthusiasts. And two, I think I now disagree with almost everything in this book (especially the chapter on "The Dispensational Teaching of the Great Pyramid").

    2. One book that you’ve read more than once:
    The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien

    Sure, it's a popular answer, but it really is that good. (And it really does count as one book, too.)

    3. One book you’d want on a desert island:
    Robinson Crusoe, Defoe

    Seems pretty applicable.

    4. One book that made you laugh:
    The Inimitable Jeeves, Wodehouse

    The first Jeeves novel I read. Subsequent ones have also made me laugh out loud with remarkable consistency.

    5. One book that made you cry:
    Where the Red Fern Grows, Rawls

    I swear I'm not a robot, but the print medium just doesn't seem to evoke those kinds of responses in me. But I do remember this one being pretty sad.

    6. One book that you wish had been written:
    Can't We All Just Get Along? - The Reformed Faith as the Basis For Christian Unity

    It could happen ...

    7. One book you wish had never been written:
    See number #1.

    8. One book you’re currently reading:
    Institutes of the Christian Religion, Calvin

    I swear I'm going to finish this one by the end of the year. (Note: I didn't specify which year.)

    9. One book you’ve been meaning to read:
    Brave New World, Huxley

    Somehow I made it through high school without reading this. (Of course, I read 1984 for the first time just a couple of years ago.)

    10. Now tag five people:
    Kennan and Chandra
    Trevor
    Eric (if he still reads us ...)
    Patricia (Or Jamil, if he still remembers how to post on that thing ...)