November 30, 2007


Sigh. So much happening in the world today.

No doubt you've heard about the British teacher who let her class name a teddy bear. Most of the time, such an undertaking doesn't result in 15 days in jail and deportation. Nor does it often inspire an angry mob to mass with clubs, swords, torches, and effigies in hand to demand your immediate execution and make sure the world knows their bloodlust isn't satisfied by 15 measly days in prison. But when you add Sudan and radical Islam to the equation, and when your class chooses the name "Muhammed," it's really not all that surprising.

To summarize: Teacher with British accent goes to Sudan, allows kids to name Teddy Bear, people promptly demand her execution.

I'm wondering how this went from a classroom vote to an international news story. Did they publish the results in the class newspaper? Did some kid go home and tell his mom, and did she promptly raise a concern at a PTA meeting? "Well, Far be it from me to raise a stink, everyone, but little Jamaal Bin-Sayiid came home today and told me - oh it was just awful - that Miss Gibbons let them name the class mascot Muhammed!"

Oh, right, mom doesn't really have a voice. Whatever happened, I'm sure the Teacher is probably thinking, "I knew I should have stuffed the ballot box for 'Abdul'." By the way, there are an awful lot of parents who should be facing the same punishment as Miss Gibbons - or worse - because they named their kids Muhammed too.

Now, all of this is completely irrational and I should be shocked by it, but I'm not. I want very badly to give radical Islam the benefit of the doubt, and see their side of things. Usually, I can make enough room for just about any religion to be as crazy as they want. (Which doesn't mean I think they're all right. At the risk of being politically incorrect - They aren't.) Buddhists - all of those steps to enlightenment? Guess that's logical. Hindus - Need more gods than can be counted to handle all their business? Yeah, well, okay. Want to worship a thunderstorm? Yeah, it's big and powerful, go ahead if that's your thing. But this, demanding the execution of anyone who accidentally doesn't take you seriously, that I can't wrap my little brain around. I want to believe she really did something terrible. But I find myself dealing with the all-too-familiar response to radical Islam in the news. "Angry mob? Swords? Clubs? Effigies? What happened this time?" I'm just not surprised to see a crowd of psychopaths in that part of the world swarming, screaming, and burning things in the name of their peaceful religion. After all, these are the same kind of people that put rape victims in jail.

Sadly, irrational and violent outcries seem to be the norm with that sect of Islam in that corner of the world. Now, there are tons and tons of good Muslims who don't want to kill anyone. I don't know any good Muslims, and I don't know any radically violent ones. I don't know any Muslims. So I'll try not to make any ignorant blanket statements. But the religion as a whole isn't doing a very good job of branding themselves.

I can't begin to imagine freaking out because some kid named a teddy bear Jesus. I've put up with the Buddy Christ, with Jesus the t-shirt icon, and all sorts of slander against Jesus Christ. And he really was God. Muhammed, even in the context of their religion, was a prophet and wasn't part of any trinity. And somehow naming a beloved toy after him is blasphemy, punishable by death.

Violence is not unusual in Sudan. For a long time, it was the Arab Sudanese Muslims trying to exterminate the African Sudanese Christians. That fire went out, or at least seems to have subsided for now. I don't understand the specifics of it. But now, in Darfur, it's the Arab Sudanese Muslims from the north trying to exterminate the African Sudanese Muslims in the southwest. Aren't they supposed to be united under Allah or something? When I worshiped with African Christians, one of the things that struck me was that Heaven isn't going to be full of white people (and as a result, might be a lot more lively), as I had always pictured it. Apparently, not every religion is able to picture it that way.

It is so hard to understand how people can massacre another group of people, and then deny that what they're doing is wrong. They have to love death, they have to have bloodlust. Isn't this is a clear example of evil in the world? Isn't this a clear deviation from the plan of God? Death and evil appear to be alive and well in a place where Islam has prospered. I am led to believe that their god is not one of love and life, but of hate and death.

November 22, 2007


I love Thanksgiving. It is the perfect holiday.

We gorge. We watch football. And it's always on a Thursday.

Thursday has nothing going for it, it's an unspectacular day. There isn't a whole lot to say about Thursday, and that's why it should get Thanksgiving. And. And! Because we put it on a Thursday, we get Friday off, too*! It's just not worth it to go into work on Friday. Friday is a bonus day. It's recovery day. A Thanksgiving wouldn't work on a Wednesday - we can't justify two bonus days. For the same reason, Tuesday is out of the question. Monday is outright, it doesn't deserve a holiday. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are already the weekend, and there's no reason to give a put a holiday on the weekend. So Thursday is the ideal day. We embrace the four-day weekend. And I can't find any historical reason why it's on Thursday other than Presidents generally decreed that it be on Thursday. And we know that if the President decrees it, it must be okay.

Also, the Lions get a Thanksgiving game to lose every year. As Lions fans, we get a chance to allow fans of other teams to enjoy a win.

Another good thing about Thanksgiving: It's pretty much the same meal every year. Turkey, Taters, stuffing, cranberries, pie. (Pie! I consider Pie to be a leader in the field of dessert innovation.) It's consistent. And, as far as I know, we pretty much all agree that it's a good meal. My mom has never screwed up thanksgiving. I can't remember ever having a good thanksgiving meal. There are plenty of options for the vegetarian crowd, too.

And don't come at me decrying the injustice of all of us gorging. We're supposed to do this. The NIV has 140 mentions of feasts. This, and I'm convinced God agrees, is a day for celebration and delicious food, without any guilt. People in the Bible party. We should too.

*78 percent of people get the day after Thanksgiving off. If you aren't one of them, I'm sorry. [link]

November 18, 2007

What the...?

I just saw a commercial for Toyota Tundra.

While I think their campaign is alright, I have to question who they're really selling to.

The ad I just saw featured a bunch of characters playing world of warcraft and casting spells and doing whatever it is you do when you play world of warcraft. One guy switches his weapon to a Toyota Tundra, and quickly slays a dragon. Goes down like this: Dragon eats truck, truck is too awesome, dragon overcome by awesomeness, gets beheaded somehow. I support the killing of dragons. I don't know why we're not doing more to kill dragons.

But the problem is, guys who play world of warcraft don't drive trucks. If they do, they aren't the type of people to go out and buy a new truck. They drive old cars and live in their parents basements. (Not all guys who drive old cars and live in their parents play world of warcraft. Case in point: Me.) The cars they do drive, they outfit with rebel alliance decals and pile up empty Mountain Dew Game Fuel bottles in the backseat (which no one ever rides in.)

Another commercial I find, to say the least, disagreeable: That Beyonce commercial where she wants to let us upgrade to DirecTV.

Commercial I find not disagreeable, (in other words, agreeable):

November 17, 2007

The Grand Rapids Art Museum

Tonight, I visited the Grand Rapids Art Museum.

(By the way, I'm writing this while I'm sleepy.)

Now, I usually think of myself as one of the last people who should be visiting an art museum. The first couple floors mostly confirmed this - chairs (which makes sense, GR is the furniture city) and abstract stuff. There was a giant closepin, and the museum's iconic piece is supposed to be a giant parallelogram, the top half is blue and the bottom half is white. That's about it. Kinda looks like an eraser or a crooked pregnancy test. They were dispensing alcohol (not free) near the door, presumably to help people make sense of all of this.

I think they put a couple of security guards on Josh and I, because there seemed to be one with us at all times. I was thinking, why us? In addition to being the least qualified person to judge art, I was probably also the least psychotic, the least likely to cause a scene. There were lots of people more scary-looking than me there. Are they really going after young, unkempt dudes who obviously know very little about art? They may have been onto something if this was the case. I saw a piece that appeared to have thread woven into it, and to confirm it I put a finger to it. I always have to touch things, I don't know why. But not a second later, the guard appeared out of nowhere, stared at me, and left without saying a word. Creepy.

It wasn't all weird stuff and stalkerish security guards. There was some cool stuff. They have a large collection of Chris VanAllsburg's original illustrations from his books. And the whole idea of having a presentable art museum in Grand Rapids is pretty cool. One more thing for a visitor to do that isn't a mall or a movie theater. The architecture of the building makes a tour worthwhile, and as I've heard a few people say, it doesn't feel like you're in Grand Rapids. But I did really like the stuff on the top floor, the more realistic paintings and sculptures. That's so much more accessible to me, as someone who never studied art. For me and my untrained eyes, good art is anything that puts you in another place, for however long. I don't get abstract sculptures, I don't understand how "horizontal figures dance with vertical ones," I don't like the static, technicolor square-art. Giant closepins don't put me somewhere else. I wanted them to, but they don't.

Fine art is about as accessible to me as arty French films.

The stuff I liked - I learned tonight that it was Impressionist - was realistic. It tapped my imagination and put me somewhere else. I like the stuff that evokes a real scene, apart from my everyday life. This is probably why I like photography. I don't have to study anything, I just have to look. Good enough for me.

By the way, The love of looking is called "Scopophilia." Take that to the bank.

But the last thing I want to do is tell you what is and isn't art. If you get giant closepins and half-toned erasers and that stuff, that's sweet. Maybe I'll get it someday.

I'm going to bed.

November 14, 2007


I had never seen a dead body before. Not like this.

I have been to a few funerals. I saw my grandfather's embalmed body when I was really young, and I was a pall-bearer for my grandmother when she died a few years ago.

But apart from neatly dressed friends and relatives laid to rest in caskets, I have little to no experience with the dead.

I guess I still don't.

But as I was driving home from work tonight, I met with some backed up traffic. Cars were where they shouldn't have been, stopped in the middle of the street, one askew with a huge piece of its windshield smashed in. Oncoming traffic was stopped, but my lane was moving slowly. There were no flashing lights, yet. To my left, a strip mall with a doctor's office and a donut shop. To my right, a retirement home. I crept by, rubber-necking like everyone else.

I saw a body lying behind the car with the smashed windshield, his white hair peaking out from underneath a blanket. They had covered him before any authorities had arrived. I told myself maybe he was cold.

A little farther down the road, a woman was fleeing her car shouting, with hope, "I know CPR."

When I got home, my mom asked me if I was alright. I told her I thought I just saw a dead body. I told her, "He was covered in a blanket, maybe he was cold." She was disturbed.

Later, I drove by the same spot, paint outlines marking the spot in the street where the accident had occurred. There were stains, and I thought I saw chalk outlines.

(In case you're wondering: Elderly man dies in Jenison.)

This, I think, is my big fear. I'm not afraid of dying, I don't know how to fear that yet and I probably don't have to. But I spend a lot of time on the road. I do lots of stupid things while I drive. I have an iPod. I eat sandwiches. I send text messages. I know that I've driven past that exact place hundreds of times, often without my eyes on the road. Could have just as easily been me behind the wheel.

November 6, 2007

...and the Writers went on strike, and I saw that it was good...

It is 11:40. Letterman is on, and it's a rerun.

Why is it a rerun? Because the writers are on strike. All of the television and movie writers are (I think).

Why are they on strike? Well, I have never taken the side of a union before, as I usually take a hard-line union-crushing stance, but this time I see where they're coming from. Television writers are very accomplished and powerful people: They get the majority of Americans to spend their evenings accomplishing nothing. The Canadians are hunting seals and building cabins, the Japanese are building robots, the Russians are trying to go forth and multiply, the Germans are probably drinking, and we're sitting on couches watching crime dramas in between Bud Light and unseasonably early Christmas commercials.

Writers create plot lines, put them in working order, and feed dialog to actors. Then, their ideas get put on TV, advertisers buy commercials, and eventually their shows go to DVD so people can inexplicably buy bad TV series and watch reruns over and over again. But the people who cranked out the script don't see royalties from them.

The people who made your shoes aren't getting any royalties, but the designers probably are. Lots of companies have profit sharing, and when the employees improve the company, they get a piece of it. It might be another 12 cents in their paycheck, but it's a piece. So, too, should television writers get a little extra money for their creations. Besides, a few months off should give them time to get out of their little storyboarding meetings and think up some fresh ideas.

All social justice for TV writers aside (They still make way more money than you), the strike creates more opportunities for reality television. And by that, I mean, it creates the opportunity for us to turn our televisions off for a few more hours each week. I heard American Idol might go to three hours a week. The only way I would approve this is if that additional hour is 60 minutes of crazy and delusional people getting famous the wrong way. Then I would approve.

But imagine, if you will, a world where people shut off their televisions for a few extra hours a week, uninterested in reruns of Ghost Whisperer and CSI:Spinoff, instead opting to read a book, have a conversation, or build robots to keep up with the Japanese. Think of the economic impact!

Of course, I'm a big hypocrite. I watch as much TV as anyone (and it tears me up inside!) and I'll be first in line when TV returns from its rerun hiatus, presumably to watch shows that I have no interest in, about people I don't identify with that hold worldviews I don't understand.

November 4, 2007

Pizza Delivery Revolution Update

I pitched my idea to the suits at Papa John's. The owner liked it, and it seems like they're going to use it. The owner was planning to meet with some radio people tomorrow, and they have connections with the Rampage. And it just so happens Papa john's has abandoned their charity involvement/cause of the last couple years - Undie Funday Sunday (mostly because underwear is sooo last year). For Undie Funday Sunday (man, that name makes me shudder) people donated underwear when they bought pizza. You'd be surprised at how many people line up for free underwear, and how many of them really do need it. But there's something unsettling about involving a pair of whitey-tighties in a food transaction. "Here are my underpants. You'll notice that superman is all over them. Now give me my pizza."

When I asked what I can do to help with this thing, they told me I had already done it. So I guess they're going to take it over, which is okay, but they're motivated strictly from a business perspective. Which I've come to terms with - nothing gets done in the United States, especially anything involving money, unless someone can profit from it. My only concern is that somehow this dies and nothing gets done. So I plan to get annoying about it, and if nothing seems to be happening, I'll probably go straight to a charity, as Evan suggested. They like ideas. They like free money.