Monday, July 31, 2006

Trade Deadline Day

Actually been wanting to do a Yankee's post for awhile, after hitting that subject a lot in the early part of the season, I've really dried up lately. But now is not the time to really get into it, but I can start.

Before I start, tho'...I'll take a moment to point to Challies' amusing trade post.

Good batch of trade reports. Cashman is clearly in control of things this year. Shawn, you did great last year, but you're just not doing it in '06--enjoy Pittsburgh. Wilson sounds like a plus, Lidle has to help, and Abreu can't hurt. Hope Torre sticks to the plan and doesn't play Bernie over Melky because of it. Little worried about Andy Phillips, too, in all this. But's a good day to be a Yankee-fan.

Larry Mahnken, over at Replacement Level Yankees summed it up pretty well:

I'm happy. You're hearing a lot of sour grapes out there ("it can't be fun rooting for a team that buys players!), but we all know it's bull----. It's fun to have a team that'll go out and get those guys when they're available to them. It's fun being in the playoffs every year. It's fun being a Yankees fan.

And all those whining fans of other teams would love it if their teams did the same thing, too.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Fletch Lives On?

Back in 2000 or so, Kevin Smith was signed to working on a third Fletch movie. And many rejoiced. 1. It was Smith not doing something involving Jay and Silent Bob (love 'em, but we need to see you do more, bud) and 2. He wasn't going to do a Chevy Chase-Fletch, he was going to do a Gregory McDonald-Fletch. See, the movie Fletch was based on very clever and well-written novel by the same name. And then for some insane reason, Chevy Chase was cast and it became...well, that movie. The two had about as much relationship to each other as the 60's Batman TV series and Batman Begins, or Pat Paulsen and Alan Keyes.

I encountered the "real" Irwin Maurice Fletcher in the novel Fletch, and then spent a few years hunting down and devouring the rest--am pretty sure that was my first "adult" mystery series (after graduating from Encyclopedia Brown, The Three Investigators, etc.)--no, wait, Gardner's Perry Mason novels were first. Close enough. I still re-read the books with a good deal of pleasure. That man can write wonderful dialogue.

It was a while before I could watch the movie--my father had a ban on Chevy Chase movies in his house at the time. Can't describe the disappointment with what the movie did to the book. But, it was insanely funny (if you didn't think of it as the same characters)--Fletch Lives less so.

So you can imagine my personal joy when I heard things like this from Smith:

We're going to do a real character with no disguises and s*** like that. Yeah. It will be close to (the book). I loved that book. I don't even think we're going to do a pass on the script. I'm just going to hand everyone the book and highlight the dialogue because it works perfectly.
We're going to stay very true to the book, as it has all the makings of a terrific story, and needs very little input from me....I actually learned to write dialogue by reading McDonald's 'Fletch' books. If you read his stuff, it reads like one of my screenplays. They're very dense with dialogue, and spartan in descriptive passages (just the way I like 'em).
So that's all there is to possibly know at this point. We're all pretty pleased about this very recent yet somehow familiar turn of events. Hopefully, when the flick's done, you'll dig it as much as you've dug the other flicks we've made. There's a certain personal, kharmic symmetry for me in making this flick, as the book is one of my all-time favorite things ever written, and there's a debt I feel I owe Mister McDonald as far as my own writing goes...The whole d*** affair couldn't be more perfect, to be honest.
But then the studio and Smith couldn't agree on Fletch. Smith wanted Jason Lee (this is before My Name is Earl, so nobody wanted to see Lee try to carry a movie), in fact Smith demanded it. And well....things didn't work out and Smith ends up off the project. I give up all hope of seeing Fletch anywhere but in my mind's eye, and forgot about this.

So this week, the Net's abuzz with the announcement that Bill Lawrence was tapped to take it over, speculation's running rampant that Zach Braff will be the man. Now Lawrence is clearly a fan, Scrubs has had at least one reference to JD and Turk loving to watch Fletch, and he's saying, "Not only can I recite the original 'Fletch' movie line for line, I actually read all the Greg Mcdonald books as a kid. Consider me obsessed, - I'm going to try as hard as I can not to screw this up." Promises promises...I sorta recall reading that Chase read all the books, too.

Now, Zach himself says
don't know yet. There are many things up in the air. Most important to me is directing my adaptation of "Open Hearts," which I had planned to shoot next summer...We'll see what happens. But for now, I am very happy for Bill, cause he is the perfect man for the job. Not only is he one of the funniest people I've ever met, but he is a die-hard Fletch fan.
So, who knows what's going to happen. But as a huge Gregory McDonald fan...I really, really wish they'd go back to the Kevin Smith/Jason Lee idea of a strict interpretation of Fletch Won. Bill Lawrence--with or without Zach (who I love)--is going to give us another film like Fletch Lives or Fletch and that's just a cryin' shame.

Valiant for Truth

Couple of weeks ago, we noted the anniversary of John Calvin's birth. Today, it's J. Gresham Machen's. He may not have the impact of Calvin--but his work is as important for the survival of Biblical Presbyterianism in this nation, as Calvin's was in helping to restore biblical truth.

On July 28, 1881 (that's 125 years ago for you who haven't had enough coffee to do the math), John Gresham Machen was born in Baltimore, Maryland. Machen was a brilliant Christian Scholar, Apologist, Political Figure and Writer from the early twentieth century. In 1923, he wrote his most popular and important book Christianity and Liberalism--Machen argued that there were two rival religions warring for control in the Protestant churches: Christianity and Liberalism were rival religions, not two sides of the same religion (you can read it online here). Sadly, the Church as a whole has yet to learn his lesson. His struggles in the Presbyterian Church to preserve orthodoxy and to battle the growing Liberalism eventually led to his expulsion. Machen and several other ministers formed what would become the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

Henry Coray, one of Machen's students, and a minister in the OPC wrote:

What is it in Dr. Machen that stands out above everything else? . . . To me the answer does not lie in his scholarship, or in his teaching ability, or in his literary skill, great as these are. In my opinion the one feature about him that overshadows everything else is this: his burning passion to see the Lordship of Christ exercised in His church.
Some wise words from Machen (these are all random quotations, do not try to follow it as a sustained argument):
It is a great mistake to say that Christianity, as over against the old dispensation, was a "new religion"; indeed, it is a mistake to say that Christianity is a religion at all, among other religions. On the contrary, there is just one revealed religion, and the revelation that is at the basis of it is recorded in both the Old and New Testament. The Old Testament saints were saved in just the same way as that in which the New Testament saints are saved--namely, by the death of Christ--and the mans by which the Spirit of God applied to them the benefits of Christ's death was exactly the same as the means by which the same Spirit applies those benefits to Christians today--namely, faith. The Old Testament saints, like Christians today, received the gospel of the grace of God; and, like the New Testament saints, they received it by faith. The only difference is that the gospel was proclaimed to the Old Testament saints by way of promise, while to us it is proclaimed by way of narrative of what has already been done. Immediately after the Fall of man, the plan of God for salvation began to be executed--with the promise contained in Gen 3:15--and the men who are saved in accordance with that plan are not adherents of "a religion" among other religions; they are not men who have built upon a common human fund of "religion" certain special religions known as "Judaism" and "Christianity," but they are men to whom God has supernaturally revealed and supernaturally applied His saving work. That one revealed "religion" does not differ from the religions of mankind merely in degree; its supremacy does not consist even in being the one perfect religion as over against the imperfect ones; but it is different from the religions of mankind because, while they represent man's efforts to find God, this "religion" is built upon the sovereign and gracious and entirely unique act by which God found man and saved him from the guilt and power of sin.
But only the shallowest reading of the Epistles can possibly lead a man to think that the Apostle's appeal to the Old Testament was merely an argumentative device--useful in defeating the Judaizers but not valuable in the Apostle's own mind. Nothing could be further from the fact. As a matter of fact, to Paul as well as to our Lord Jesus Himself, the written Word of God was decisive in all controversy. People who make "the teachings of Christ" instead of the whole Bible the seat of authority in religion are doing despite to the teachings of Christ themselves; and people who make what they wrongly call "the living Spirit," in opposition to the written Word, an independent source of our knowledge of God are dong despite to that blessed Holy Spirit by whose gracious ministration the written Word has been given unto men. Let it never be forgotten that the real source of life for the Church is the holy Book; when the Church seeks life apart from the Book, as it is doing today, then it always faces, as it faces today, a terrible loss of power. If the Bible were rediscovered, as it was rediscovered at the time of the Reformation, we should have in the church today the same new life as that which then set the world aflame.
...the field of Christianity is the world. The Christian cannot be satisfied so long as any human activity is either opposed to Christianity or out of all connection with Christainty. Christianly must pervade not merely all nations, but also all of human thought. The Christian, therefore, cannot be indifferent to any branch of earnest human endeavor. It must all be brought into some relation to the gospel. It must be studied either in order to be demonstrated as false, or else in order to be made useful in advancing the kingdom of God. The kingdom must be advanced not merely extensively, but also intensively. The Church must seek to conquer not merely every man for Christ, but also the whole of man.
Instead of destroying the arts and science or being indifferent to them, let us cultivate them with all the enthusiasm of the veriest humanist, but at the same time consecrate them to the service of our God. Instead of stifling the pleasures afforded by the acquisition of knowledge or by the appreciation of what is beautiful, let us accept these pleasures as gifts of a heavenly Father. Instead of obliterating the distinction between the Kingdom and the world, or on the other hand withdrawing from the world into a sort of modernized intellectual monasticism, let us go forth joyfully, enthusiastically to make the world subject to God.
He wasn't afraid to speak out on social/political issues, for example:
Everywhere there rises before our eyes the specter of a society where security, if it is attained at all, will be attained at the expense of freedom, where the security that is attained will be the security of fed beasts in a stable, and where all the high aspirations of humanity will have been crushed by an all-powerful state.
I find there exactly the same evils that are rampant in the world--centralized education programs, the subservience of the church to the state, contempt for the rights of minorities, standardization of everything, suppression of intellectual adventure....I see more clearly than ever before that unless the gospel is true and there is another world, our souls are in prison. The gospel of Christ is a blessed relief from that sinful state of affairs commonly known as hundred per-cent Americanism.
While politics and culture were important, but, not as important as Christ.
To the sinner saved by grace how sweet a thing it is to contemplate the cross of Christ.
Even very imperfect and very weak faith is sufficient for salvation; salvation does not depend upon the strength of our faith, but it depends on Christ. When you want assurance of salvation, think not about your faith, but about the Person who is the object of your faith. . . . He will not desert those who are committed to Him, but will keep them safe both in this world and in that which is to come.
[Christ] "loved me and gave himself for me." There lies all the basis of the religion of Paul; there lies the basis of Christianity. . . . The religion of Paul was not found in a complex of ideas derived from Judaism or from paganism. It was founded upon the historical Jesus. But the historical Jesus upon whom it was founded was not the Jesus of modern reconstruction, but the Jesus of the whole New Testament and of the Christian faith; not a teacher who survived in the memory of His disciples, but the Saviour who after His redeeming work was done still lived and could still be loved.
I'd really recommend the following books about Machen:But better than that is reading the man himself:
Lord, thank you for your gift of this man, the work you gave him to do, and the work that his words continue to do by your grace. Soli Deo Gloria.

(picture taken from Reformation Art--great products, btw!)

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Summer Reading: Dead Beat by Jim Butcher

So the Offspring are out of stuff to read, and since I have to drop by my doctor's office anyway, we head off to the library. There's virtually nothing left on my "to read" list that isn't also on my "to buy as soon as I have the $" list--and the exceptions aren't owned by the library [sigh]. So I just start meandering (not a fun thing to do with 4 kidlets in tow).

I vaguely remembered reading something about The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, and lo and behold, the library has the 7th in the series--Dead Beat. I try not to jump in so mid-stream, but figured it was worth a shot. Here's the set-up, Harry Dresden's a PI. Loner-type. Has a pal in the police department that feeds him some work. But he free-lances as well. Loose collection of friends who can help him out--Bob, who seems to have background on everything; his half-brother who's good for added muscle and to bounce ideas off of; Butters in the morgue; and so on. Typical hard-boiled PI novel stuff.

Oh...but there's a twist: Harry's a wizard, Bob's a talking skull, his brother's a vampire, and Butters is a one-man Polka band.

This was a great read, basically Harry Potter meets Elvis Cole. That's pretty much all I need to say. I loved it. Knocked it off in less than a day. Would've been better if I'd been able to start with the first book, but now I have a reason to make an effort to get it.

Characters were good, plot moved along alright, good mix of humor and action from the hero, and a satisfactory conclusion. Denouement could've been a bit longer for me. But that's what the next book is for, I guess.

Figured since I'd recently talked about how amazon could've done better than recommend Harris to me, I should point out that this had also been recommended to me by everyone's favorite internet store. So for this summer, they're batting .500

Grade: A. Solid effort, great twist on the genre.


Did something this morning, I think I might have done one other time in the 845 posts preceding this...I removed a post. If you read it, I'd appreciate you deleting it from your short term memory.

This isn't supposed to be one of those blogs that launch strikes against anyone...I spout off about things I agree with/disagree with...but it's not supposed to be an inquisition about anything. And I honestly don't think I did that in the removed post. But it seemed to be a step in that direction. Sooooo **poof**.

In that post, I said I wanted a conversation with the person I was writing why the frak didn't I just pop off an e-mail?

And since this is the 21st century, and everything has to be qualified a million times, I don't necessarily have anything against those blogs who spend a good deal of time throwing stones at others' computer screens. Just don't want to be part of one.

So, anyway, move along, nothing to see here. It's early, get a cup of coffee, listen to some music, read FoxTrot...have a nice day.

eh...could be worse...could be Ken Jennings.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

State of the Blog 'n stuff

Few miscellaneous notes about White Noise:

  • Have generally positive news on The Biopsy...more on Monday.
  • I realize that the Summer Reading posts aren't terribly interesting (at least not comment-worthy), but I'm really enjoying the discipline of forcing myself to write something on every book I read. So, for those who dread seeing those lines...sorry. Get a helmet.
  • You'll notice I placed a over on the side there. Give it a try. Odd sort of music selection, basically it's stuff I listened to far too much in college. Had only intended to put 1 song per band, but caught "Bad Indigestion" out of the corner of my eye when I was looking for "Scenic Routes" and just had to add it. Will play around with the playlists from time to time. Lemme know what you think.
  • Putting that together was the first time I'd listened to anything other than Teddy Geiger or KT Tunstall on a weekday since I got the CD's. Not saying that they're great art (I'll pause for a moment while some of you chuckle at the notion that pop music can be considered any kind of art......), but they're fun.
  • Just drank my first Coke Blak. (sorry, don't know how to make that line over the "a") Tasty. Don't think I'd make it a regular part of my beverage roster, but it could make a tasty utility player. Best way I can describe it is imagine eating a Coffee Nip while drinking a Coke (and you don't have to worry about your teeth being pulled out by the Nip!)--with twice the caffeine!


I liked Hugh Laurie's The Gun Seller so much, thought I'd give a sample to encourage you to pick up the book. Also, just thought it was entertaining enough on it's own to be worth the while. It definitely belongs in the, "if I ever got around to writing fiction again, this is what I'd want to sound like" file.

Don't go to Casablanca expecting it to be like the film.

In fact, if you're not too busy, and your schedule allows it, don't go to Casablanca at all.

People often refer to Nigeria and its neighbouring coastal states as the armpit of Africa; which is unfair, because the people, culture, landscape, and beer of that part of the world are, in my experience, first rate. However, it is true that when you look at a map, through half-closed eyes, in a darkened room, in the middle of a game of What Does That Bit Of Coastline Remind You Of, you might find yourself saying yes, all right, Nigeria does have a vaguely armpitty kind of shape to it.

Bad luck Nigeria.

But if Nigeria is the armpit, Morocco is the shoulder. And if Morocco is the shoulder, Casablanca is a large, red, unsightly spot on that shoulder, of the kind that appears on the actual morning of the day that you and your intended have decided to head for the beach. The sort of spot that chafes painfully against your bra strap or braces, depending on your gender preference, and makes you promise that from no on you're definitely going to eat more fresh vegetables.

Casablanca is fat, sprawling, and industrial; a city of concrete-dust and diesel fumes, where sunlight seems to bleach out colour, instead of pouring it in. It hasn't a sight worth seeing, unless half-a-million poor people struggling to stay alive in a shanty-town warren of cardboard and corrugated iron is what makes you want to pack a bag and jump on a plane. As far as I know, it hasn't even got a museum.

You may be getting the idea that I don't like Casablanca. You may be feeling that I'm trying to talk you out of it, or make your mind up for you; but it really isn't my place to do that. It's just that, if you're anything like me--and your entire life has been spent watching the door of whatever bar, café, pub, hotel, or dentist's surgery you happen to be sitting in, in the hope that Ingrid Bergman will come wafting through in a cream frock, and look straight at you, and blush, and heave her bosom about the place in a way that says thank God, life does have some meaning after all--if any of that strikes a chord with you, then Casablanca is going to be a big [bleep] disappointment.

Best Vent Ever!


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Summer Reading: Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

Unless you're as blind as a bat, not very observant, or have never visited you know that one of their biggest and oldest features is the recommendations. Based on a few of my purchases/ratings, amazon has been telling me to read the Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris. Bored, not wanting to spend money on a couple of books I really want to read, I decide to grab one from the library. Thankfully, they had the large-print version of the first in the series, Dead Until Dark.

The protagonist/narrator is Sookie Stackhouse. Sookie's your typical young southern lady, lives with her grandmother, likes a quiet life, has a good-hearted-yet-wild brother who needs to settle down, works as a cocktail waitress...oh yeah, and she's a telepath. Like I said, typical. She lives in a small Louisiana town filled with antebellum homes and all the people she's known her entire life.

Things change when a vampire comes into her bar. For one thing, she can't read his mind--not having to exert the effort to not read his mind is quite the treat for her.

Vampire? Yeah, a vampires. In this world, Vampires had recently become a legally-protected minority, still struggling for social acceptance (think the Newcomers in Alien Nation).

This particular vampire's name is Bill Compton (name's not exactly up there with Lestat or Armand...or even Angel, Drusilla, Spike), a veteran of The War Between the States with a kind heart (or something like that). Sookie and Bill hit it off, become friends, he spends time with her TWBtS buff grandmother, delighting her with eye-witness accounts. We also get to meet some other vampires...not the fine-upstanding citizens like Bill (who's "mainstreamed"), but creepy, murderous, fiends.

Enter the plot-complication. A series of vampire-related murders. Is it Bill? Is it a Vampire that Bill knows/brought into the community? Is it someone else in Sookie's life? While they stumble their way to discovering the murderer, Sookie and Bill fall in love, deal with social stigmas (from both of their cultures), and have a narrow escape or two.

This was an okay, light read. Sookie's charming, sweet, not too neurotic (was afraid I was in for a second-rate Bridget Jones with a twist). I wouldn't mind reading what happens to the couple next, but I'm not rushing out to grab it (contra Solomon vs. Lord/Thin Blue Alibi). Give it a try if you're desperate for something new.

Grade: C+ not really a triumph for amazon's personality test.

Summer Reading: The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie

Imagine that you have to break someone's arm.

Right or Left, doesn't matter. The point is that you have to break it, because if you don't...well that doesn't matter either. Let's just say that bad things will happen if you don't.

Now, my question goes like this: do you break the arm quickly--snap, whoops, sorry, let me help you with that improvised splint--or do you drag the whole business out for a good eight minutes, every now and then increasing the pressure in the tiniest of increments, until the pain becomes pink and green and hot and cold and altogether howlingly unbearable?

Well exactly. Of course. The right thing to do, the only thing to do, is to get it over with as quickly as possible. Break the arm, ply the brandy, be a good citizen. There can be no other answer.


Unless unless unless. What if you were to hate the person on the other end of the arm? I mean really, really hate them.

This was a thing I now had to consider.

I say now, meaning then, meaning the moment I am describing; the moment fractionally, oh so bloody fractionally, before my wrist reached the back of my neck and my left humerus broke into at least two, very possibly more, floppily joined-together pieces.
So begins Hugh Laurie's The Gun Seller. Of course, Laurie is best known to the world as Blackadder's Georges (the nasty German Prince Ludwig in Blackadder II, the spoiled Prince George in Blackadder III, the bumbling Lt. the Honorable George Colhurst St. Barleigh in Blackadder Goes Forth, etc.); Bertie Wooster; the tall crook (Jasper) in 101 Dalmatians; Stuart Little's Dad; The Gentleman on the Plane who has to listen to Rachel blather on; and Dr. Gregory House (among many, many other roles). Okay, so he can act--but can he write? That very question kept me from buying the book years ago when I first saw it. Finally took the plunge thanks to the local library. The answer is: Yes. Maybe he's better at the latter. In fact, once House, M.D. finishes it's 10th and final year, maybe he should take a break from acting and write more--just to appease me.

This is one entertaining book. Very funny. And what else would you expect of a global-ranging book about terrorism, the weapons industry, and the role of government; involving the CIA, the British Ministry of Defense, a terror cell, multinational corporations, conspiracy nuts, and, naturally, an art gallery. Stumbling through it all is Thomas Lang, a former Scots Guards officer turned general ne'er do well, trying not to become an international terrorist.

I remember going through the Director's Commentary to The Whole Nine Yards, and he said something like how they could've easily used the same script (only changing a couple of words) and made it into a very noir movie instead of the comedy it was--changing the lighting, the score, the cuts...little things. This book is very much the same. It would've been very easy for this to be a Robert Ludlum clone--the plot, most of the characters (if not all), the settings, etc. We've seen them all a million times before. But the way Laurie narrates the events prevents that from happening. Instead, it becomes charming, droll, and occasionally, laugh-out-loud funny.

He does this fairly seamlessly. In lesser hands (say, Dan Brown's), this would be jarring, jumping back and forth between comedy and suspense. But I don't think Laurie hit an off-note once. In a matter of pages you read a very graphic torture scene, a line like: "There's an undeniable pleasure in stepping into an open-top sports car driven by a beautiful woman. It feels like you're climbing into a metaphor"; a description of a complicated espionage set-up, and then a paragraph like:
Somewhere a clock ticked. Quite fast. Too fast, it seemed to me, to be counting seconds. But then this was an American building, and maybe Americans had decided that seconds were just too [bleep] slow, and how's about a clock that can do a minute in twenty seconds?
That's not to say you're laughing at a grisly murder or anything--in fact, violence is depicted in such a way that it highlights the depravity, the bleakness, the pointlessness of it all. It's the people, the settings, the non-life ending events that are treated with a light touch.
Ricky felt a lot worse about himself at this moment; most probably because he'd managed to get himself into one of those situations where you're naked in the cellar of a strange building, in a strange country, with strangers staring at you, some of whom have obviously been hurting you for awhile, and others of whom are just waiting to take their turn. Flickering across the back of Ricky's mind, I knew, were images from a thousand films, in which the hero, trussed-up in the same predicament, throws back his head with an insolent sneer and tells his tormentors to go screw themselves. And Ricky had sat in the dark, along with millions of other teenage boys, and duly absorbed the lesson that this is how men are supposed to behave in adversity. They endure, first of all; then they avenge.

...Ricky had neglected to notice the important advantages that these celluloid gods had over him. In fact, there really is only one advantage, but it is a very important one. The advantage is that films aren't real. Honestly. They're not.

In real life, and I'm sorry if I'm shattering some deeply cherished illusions here, men in Ricky's situation don't' tell anyone to go and screw themselves. They don't sneer insolently they don't spit in anyone's eye, and they certainly, definitely, categorically don't free themselves in a single bound. What they actually do is stand stock still, and shiver, and cry, and beg, literally beg, for their mother. Their nose runs, their legs shake, and they whimper. That is what men, all men, are like, and that is what real life is like.

Sorry, but there it is.
Thomas Lang begins the novel seemingly care-free. A man unattached from friends, job, love...anything but himself. He seemingly as a moral core, but runs from the question, "Are you a good man?" As the novel develops, and the stakes get higher and whatnot. The ironic detachment transforms into commitment to people, to right and wrong. While there are "trigger points" to this transformation, where it takes a significant leap forward--the gradualness to Lang's growth belies Laurie's experience in fiction.

The Gun Seller was published in '96, and thanks to the events of the past few years, the views on terrorism espoused by Lang, the MOD, the CIA, etc. are a bit dated. And that's really the worst thing I can say.

Grade: A. Bonus points because one of his chapter's epigraphs is from John Owen, my favorite puritan.

Monday, July 24, 2006

OPC Justification Report -- Updated

The Report of the Committee to Study the Doctrine of Justification presented to the 73rd Gneral Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in on the OPC's website.

UPDATE: I posted this Saturday without comment, because, well, look at the other post. Anyway, I regretted that. Pastor Polymathis linked to the report with a comment, one I heartily second, so I figure you can head over to his blog and get the necessary wisdom.

Am planning on printing out a handful of reports to bring to church this week, save some eyes from reading on the screen...

Confused about Net Neutrality?

I sure was, until I watched this handy little report on The Daily Show last week. Thankfully, a fellow citizen put on youtube, so you, too can be enlightened. (warning: some ribald humor)

(worth watching just for the "what kind of computer would you be?" bit)

You're now informed! Call/Write/Email your Congressmen today!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Semi-Live Blogging: My Liver Biopsy

(based on notes made yesterday...not so anal that I did this during the process, but hey, been awhile w/o a real post)

8:30: show up for registration (a few minutes early). Nice guy, very friendly, gets me processed pretty quickly (esp. compared to other local hospitals). Here's the problem, big outpatient registration area. In the corner of which is a nice looking coffee shop. You know the kind--mini-Starbucks wanna be. Lots of fresh brewed coffee smells, some bakery-type aromas wafting all over. This is just cruel. Given the large amount of outpatient procedures that require fasting, in particular mine, for them to have decided to put this particular establishment in that proximity of the registration area must be a violation of something in the Geneva Convention.

8:45-9:00: Wait in the Radiology waiting room. Scribbler looks for enough magazines to last the day (hadn't found any at the store the night before...not like she didn't try to come prepared). After awhile someone calls, "Mr. Newton?" I say, "Yes." (clever repartee today). Someone behind the counter semi-nods and then nothing. 2 minutes later someone else calls my name and actually has a follow-up. It's time to go.

9:00: Taken down to some room in radiology, there's a bed, couple of chair, room for another bed, and a small desk. I get to take a seat on the bed, Scribbler gets a chair, I get to start answering questions about why I'm there, here's what's going to happen, etc. The nurse hands me a hospital gown and a remote to a large, flatscreen TV I hadn't really noticed on the wall, she'll be back in a bit. I flip around a little, dodging most Morning TV fare--stop on FoxNews long enough to make sure that Palestine isn't a giant hole--and settle on Project X on AMC. (not sure how that Matthew Broderick flick qualifies as a "classic", but eh, looked good on the flatscreen). Nurse comes back, asks some questions, tells me I'm going to get an IV and a blood test I had done a couple weeks ago (supposedly so they wouldn't have to do it again). I point that out, she shuffles off to find the results. I watch more Project X, get bored, and flip around some more. Watch some of one of the last gasps of The Practice (basically when it was just a trailer for Boston Legal)--Viola Davis was the defendant du jour--showing the same kind of chops that made me like her so much in the Jesse Stone movies. Nurse comes back, she has the test results, so only has to take a little blood. Spends a bit too much time watching the end of The Practice.

10:10--my viewing of last week's Monk is interrupted by them coming to take me down to the Ultrasound room. Ya-hoo. Introduced to a technician, who re-explains the process to me, and then gets a preliminary ultrasound of my liver area. Pretty sure she bruised a couple of ribs in the process. My vital stats are taken again (record low blood pressures for me...yay!). She calls the Doctor who'll be doing the process, and we wait a bit for her to come down. The nurses in charge of tracking my vitals shuffle a bit, and the Doc shows up. Very pleasant lady, but quite business like. Explains that today's a lot like Thanksgiving--lots and lots of preparation, and then "chop, chop--it's done!" And then as an afterthought, "Except, we won't be chopping you."

She explains once more what's going to happen, I nod as if this is all new to me and I really appreciate the explanation. She tells me the sound of the biopsy will be the worst, like a mouse trap going off. She has the tech get the needle ready so she can demonstrate. I make a point of not looking at it. She activates the clipping part, "ssssssCK" Sounding more like a mousetrap in the next room than one 5 feet away. I find that reassuring.

The doctor grabs the ultrasound wand and looks around a little herself, decides that she won't have to go through the ribcage, but can probably do fine just going underneath. Somewhere in all this, she tells me that if they don't get enough tissue the first time, they'll go in again--usually 2 or 3 passes is enough. 2 or 3? Yipe! Then she goes about getting the area all sterilized and whatnot. Scribbler looks on, taking it all in, joking with the staff, etc.

10:50-ish: She lays out the instruments. The tech asks if she wants the 10 cm or 14 cm needle. She opts for the 10. Again, I don't look. She administers a shot of local anesthesia. Stings a bit. She administers another shot. Says we're ready.

11:00: Strange pushing sensation, very focused pressure and then ssssssssssCK! Not too bad. They look at the sample (Scribbler, too). Decide it's big enough, put it in whatever container you put that sort of thing in. Doctor pats my shoulder, tells me that should do it, and she leaves.

11:03: YYYOW! Who snuck in with an invisible baseball bat and whacked my ribs and shoulder?!?! Oh man! *#*&$#(*&@#!!!!!! Wow this hurts! This really, really hurts! Stomach's doing all sorts of strange and semi-painful things. Ribs and shoulder throb, the pain pulsating through all points in-between. They decide to get me some morphine. That idea is okay with me. Turns out you have to fill out a lot of paperwork before you can give someone some morphine. I'm really surpsrised how much this hurts, Scribbler points out that they did just remove a chunk of an organ, makes sense that it would hurt. Good point. Why didn't I think of that earlier?

11:07: Get the shot. Feel very hot, little tingly. Not sure that my shoulder or ribs or stomach notice.

11:10: They wheel me down to my recovery room...and because they didn't get a bed from them earlier for me to have the procedure on, I have to switch beds. Doesn't sound that bad, am willing to get up and move. But oh, no, can't have me stand. They get my bed right next to the new one and instruct me to slide over. Do you know how much you use your ribs when you slide/wiggle from one bed to the next? OWOWOWOWOW. Why couldn't I just stay in this radiology bed? OWOWOW.

11:20: Morphine's not doing enough, this bed switch has set everything into overdrive. Recovery Nurse asks if I want something else for the pain, "okay." She didn't figured I'd mind. I get a shot of Demerol as a chaser. They lay me on my side--gravity + weight of my internal organs will serve to apply pressure on my wound and help it develop a clot. At least there's something to distract me from the agony. This is a Catholic hospital (as are pretty much all of them 'round here), and so there's a crucifix in every room. For some reason, in this room, it's right where the light switch should be. So, I'm staring at Jesus, his feet nailed to the cross, but his hands are held up in blessing, rather than being nailed down (not going to try to figure out the theological ramifications of that). My iconoclastic reflexes do help me not think about the pain for a moment. (note to self: ask for a Protestant room next time).

11:40: Except for the occasional twinge when I breathe too deeply, and a dull ache for the shoulder/rib combo, things are okay. Hooray for Modern Medicine®!!!!

Of course, Modern Medicine® got me in this situation. Hmmm...should probably call it a draw.

The rest of the afternoon really isn't that interesting--spent sipping water and watching Scrubs DVDs on my laptop until 5. No signs of internal bleeding, so I'm cleared to go. Hopefully have test results by Wednesday or so.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

30 Years Ago Today: #755

July 20, 1976, the greatest home run hitter of them all, Hank Aaron, hit his last.
Read's story here.

Summer Reading: Thin Blue Alibi by Paul Levine

So I come back from GA, and not only had my wife finished Solomon vs. Lord on my recommendation--but she'd procured and finished the sequel. However, she warned "It's not as good." Only slightly daunted I dived in (no pun intended). She was right. But that's not to say the book isn't good, it is. But it doesn't feel as fresh--that's the nature of sequels. When I finished the book, I uttered a Nero Wolfean "Satisfactory."

2 main story lines, and a few nice subplots to keep things interesting. Plot number 1: Victoria's "Uncle" Griff (her dad's old business partner) runs his yacht onto shore in the Keys--conveniently enough, he almost kills Victoria and Steve in the process, but at least they're the first on the scene to discover that Griff's passenger has a spear through his chest, so they can get to lawyerin' as soon as possible.

Plot number 2: Victoria wants to split the firm up--get out on her own, so she's not standing in Steve's shadow. She's not looking to split from him personally, but there are subconscious undertones in that direction.

Plot 2 is further complicated by Uncle Griff's son, her first love, childhood friend, etc. who she hasn't seen in years is back on the scene. And is a total hunk. And rich. And not a frequently uncouth jerk.

Some of the supporting cast from the last book wasn't around, which is good, I think. But those present were still a pleasant addition. The cameo by (and several references to) a certain salt-shaker seeking musician was a nice touch. The mystery was craftier than last time, and I think the plotting was a little better. But the latter are secondary to me--esp in this kind of book. It's about the characters--do I like them? Do I want to spend time with them? And for almost everyone in this book, it's yes. I spent about half the book really not liking Victoria...seemed like a prissy little brat with a healthy dose of finicky on the side. By the end of the novel, I'd come around again, but that left a bad taste in my mouth.

Here's my major complaint. Plot line #2. I never, not for one second, thought that Victoria would split up the team or the couple. So that entire thing was an endurance test "how much longer do I have to put up with this?" Contrast that compare/contrast to Kenzie and Gennaro in Lehane's books--or even Spenser and Susan in The Widening Gyre and Valediction. Sure, those aren't comic novels (esp. Lehane's), but there was real risk of loss, there was real pain, real conflict. I think Levine is capable of putting these two in a situation where I could worry about them--but this wasn't it.

That said, I'd give the first installment an A and this a B+. Well worth the time and money (or trip to the library). Looking forward to #3 in the series in a month--thanks Gerald, for the tip.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Workin' for a Livin'

I'm taking what they're giving
Cause I'm working for a living

Applied to 4 places last of which decided not to fill the position. Got 2 interviews off of that. Either way you count it, 2 out of 3 or 4--best results I've ever gotten.

Interview went "eh-okay" on Monday night. But am thinking the bar isn't set too high, as long as you're willing to do the work. Was offered that job...and really, really don't want to do it.

The interview today, went very well. It was at the end of a job fair, and I'm pretty sure the trainer and manager doing the interviews were worn out and a little punchy. We chatted, we joked, and they all but offered me the job in 15 minutes (but had to get approval from someone higher up). Am barely home 15 minutes when they do call to offer me a job. Afterwards, I thought of a possible complication due to the hours they might want me to work and the location they want me at. Will check on it tomorrow at the orientation.

If it's too major a complication, I take the job I don't want. If it's not, I stay and become an official Video Store Clerk.

ahhh, it's like the Mother Ship is calling me home....

(bonus points for first one to name that reference in the comments section)

Tryin' Something New

Have much on my plate, so, naturally during The Dividing Line today I played with things around here a bit....what do you think?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

just 'cuz it sounds so cute

just give it a quick listen

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Clean Up

Cleaned up the rid of some blogs that hadn't updated in awhile (or for other, more significant, reasons), updated links/names of some others, etc. If I should have you listed and for some reason (I plead temporary insanity), I don't--I'm a long lost buddy, you link to me, and I'm rude enough not to repay the favor, you want to pay me to link to you and send my 6 readers your way, whatever.... Sorry. Lemme know and I'll fix it.

Sin & Sinfulness

Over the last few months I've been involved in a handful of conversations about sin in regenerate and unregenerate man via email, blogs and that old-fashioned thing called..."talking." (I know, I should be more technological and use the phone or something). Anywho, I read this a few days ago, and thought that it did a real good job of summing up the Biblical teaching on the subject, and figured I'd throw it up here to help some of these conversations continue in a profitable fashion (or, y'know not continue, but provide food for thought or whatever)

from: Are Five Points Enough? The Ten Points of Calvinism by Leonard J. Coppes

The first thing we should examine is the differences and relationship between sin and sinfulness. Sin has to do with the acts of men while sinfulness has to do with man's nature. Hence, the Christian whose sinful nature (the old nature) is destroyed (II Cor. 5:17) can still commit sins (I Jn. 1:9) because he still has sinful habits and inclinations (Rom. 7:20,21). Under this idea man is conceived as a violator of God's Law. Sin is known/identified not by man's thinking or feeling but by what God declares in His Word. Sin is man's violation of God's covenant.

Sinfulness, on the other hand, describes unregenerate man's rebellious nature. It is that which distinguishes man from God as a righteous being. God is all-righteous. He loves and seeks only righteousness. Everything that unregenerate man does or thinks is undergirded by rebellious inclinations against God or motivations that are sinful. He is a sinner and violates God's law because he is bound by that sinful nature inherited from Adam (Rom. 5:12). He neither loves nor seeks after God nor His Law (Rom. 3:10ff).

Regenerate man, however, is a sinner who violates God's law because his sanctification is imperfect. He loves and pursues obedience to Divine law but fins himself unable to attain perfect obedience. Sinfulness, the old Adamic nature with its enslavement to sin (Rom. 8:12-15) and its mind set on flesh (Rom 8:6,7), however, is dead.

God's demand for repentance refers both to sin and sinfulness. Since sin is against God's covenant He demands our repentance form and restitution for that sin. Ultimately, however, repentance has reference to sinfulness. man's heart needs to be changed. Divine honor needs to be fully restored. The entire created relationship between God and man needs to be recreated. Man's innermost inclinations and motivations need to be turned around so that he will only seek to obey God's commandments and to be as holy as God is. Indeed, he must become as holy as God is (I Pet. 1:13-16).

Summer Reading: Getting the Gospel Right by Cornelis P. Venema

I've been waiting for Dr. Venema's book on the New Perspective for quite some time, and was quite excited to see Getting the Gospel Right in the latest BoT flyer--and my wife could probably testify to my outraged yell when I saw the page count. "This is what we've been waiting for?!?!" 112 pages? Bah.

But at GA, Dr. Venema spoke during the MARS luncheon (very tasty, btw) and said two things that made me feel better about the book. 1. They'd brought some for commissioners to purchase at half-price and 2. This book was sort of a teaser for a longer, less popularly written work to come out in the fall. Yay! So I picked up a copy :) I wouldn't let myself spend any more money on the way home for another novel, so I kept this out of the suitcase so I could finish up the trip with it--figured a popular-level book based on material I've read would be just the thing for 10 pm after a long day of sitting in airports/flying--and it was.

As I said, the material in the book is based on articles that Dr. Venema had written previously (which I found very helpful) and you can probably get the heart of it in the lectures he delivered at Denver's Providence OPC last year (go listen!)

That said--good book. Carefully written and crystal clear in its presentation--both positively and negatively. A great place to start. Or if you've already started, and then let yourself get stale on some of the issues, good way to kick start the ol' gray matter.

Summer Reading: Angels Flight by Michael Connelly

Okay, Midway to Denver--hoped I could make it. Had a bunch of time in the airport before my flight, but I tried to do sermon prep and fuss with papers, so I don't finish it too early into the trip. Was really looking forward to this one. I wasn't disappointed at all.

In retrospect, I'm not certain this is the best of the Harry Bosch series--but as I read it, I was convinced it was--maybe not the best written, but most effective of the batch to this point. This particular L.A. murder is committed and investigated with the OJ trial and Rodney King case in the back of everyone's mind. The city was portrayed as a tinderbox waiting to burst into flames again--black officers and detectives were used as a PR tool, white/black and in between showed their prejudices, and every character in the book waited for the other shoe to fall--it wasn't a case of if there'd be another riot, just when.

There's a few other aspects I'd like to touch on--and have got 3 or 4 paragraphs waiting to go, but I can't write them without spoilers. This is one to read, folks.

Since I mentioned it below he dealt well with bringing back another character from the previous Bosch novel. An FBI agent that Harry'd clashed with is brought back to work the case with him--Harry now sees him as an ally (and vice versa) and the two quickly work together, allowing Harry to do exactly what needs to be done. Good to see him not fight with every single law enforcement type outside of his circle. Hope that's a trend that continues.

Oh, and the references to the book/movie Blood Work were probably the funniest things I've read from Connelly (not a lot to compare it to--dude's no Parker/early Crais)...a touch heavy handed the 2nd time, but well done.

Monday, July 10, 2006

This is just what you need to get your week started right

...if by right you mean angry, embittered, etc.

Along these lines, A Lamp in the Digital Fog shines on the trailer for the documentary: America: Freedom To Fascism. Stop by the Lamp and drop a comment...maybe if he gets a lot of feedback, tired will post more.

Happy Birthday!

497 years ago today in Nyon, France, a little boy named Jean Cauvin was born. He grew up, was converted to Christ and the gospel of grace--abandoned what was surely to have been a profitable career in law and became a minister. His teachings--merely a recovery of Biblical truth--shaped religious, cultural, and political life in countless nations since that time (even giving birth to that little War for Independence we celebrated last week). His impact was probably heightened by the way we changed his name into something less French sounding, John Calvin. Cauvinist just doesn't have the same ring.

It's quite the understatement to say that this man has been used by God to radically alter my own life. More and more it's not his doctrine--well, at least not the stuff he's famous for--that impacts me. It's his piety, it's his love for God, his heart aflame (think there's a book called that by somebody) because of his fame-making doctrine--that's what draws me. I've been telling people in my church (not sure they believe me yet) if you want answers to your theological questions, read Turretin, or Hodge, or Reymond--Berkhoff, too. But if you want your heart moved, then you read Calvin.

You can see a hint of that in these quotations (I could've killed blogger's disk space by posting everything I wanted to):

. . . I consider looseness with words no less of a defect than looseness of the bowels.

For Scripture is the school of the Holy Spirit, in which, as nothing is omitted that is both necessary and useful to know, so nothing is taught but what is expedient to know. Therefore we must guard against depriving believers of anything disclosed about predestination in Scripture, lest we seem either wickedly to defraud them of the blessing of their God or to accuse and scoff at the Holy Spirit for having published what it is in any way profitable to suppress.

For until men recognize that they owe everything to God, that they are nourished by His fatherly care, that He is the Author of their every good, that they should seek nothing beyond Him - they will never yield Him willing service. Nay, unless they establish their complete happiness in Him, they will never give themselves truly and sincerely to Him.

If the Lord himself teaches that the Church will struggle with the burden of countless sinners until the day of judgment, it is obviously futile to look for a Church totally free from faults.

Without Christ, sciences in every department are vain....The man who knows not God is vain, though he should be conversant with every branch of learning. Nay more, we may affirm this too with truth, that these choice gifts of God -- expertness of mind, acuteness of judgment, liberal sciences, and acquaintance with languages, are in a manner profaned in every instance in which they fall to the lot of wicked men.

Doctrine has no power, unless efficacy is imparted to it from above. Christ holds out an example to teachers, not to employ themselves only in sowing the Word, but by mingling prayers with it, to implore the assistance of God, that His blessing may render their labor fruitful.

If we seek salvation, we are taught by the very name of Jesus that it is 'of him' [1 Corinthians 1:30]. If we seek any other gifts of the Spirit, they will be found in his anointing. If we seek strength, it lies in his dominion; if purity, in his conception; if gentleness, it appears in his birth. For by his birth he was made like us in all respects [Hebrews 2:17] that he might learn to feel our pain [cf. Hebrews 5:2]. If we seek redemption, it lies in his passion; if acquittal, in his condemnation; if remission of the curse, in his cross [Galatians 3:13]; if satisfaction, in his sacrifice; if purification, in his blood; if reconciliation, in his descent into hell; if mortification of the flesh, in his tomb; if newness of life, in his resurrection; if immortality, in the same; if inheritance of the Heavenly Kingdom, in his entrance into heaven; if protection, if security, if abundant supply of all blessings, in his Kingdom; if untroubled expectation of judgment, in the power given to him to judge. In short, since rich store of every kind of good abounds in him, let us drink our fill from this fountain, and from no other.

Lord, thank you for your gift of this man, and the work you gave him to do. Soli Deo Gloria.

(picture taken from Reformation Art--great products, btw!)

Friday, July 07, 2006

In Memoriam

Summer Reading: Appaloosa by Robert B. Parker

Trunk Music was clearly not going to get me to Midway airport, so I had to do something--wandered around some bookstore in the Denver Airport for awhile, seeing a few things I'd been meaning to buy and a few I added to that list--but all more money than I was willing to fork out at the time. Thankfully, I spied Robert B. Parker's Appaloosa before plunking down full cover price for some hardcover I was mildly interested in. It got me to Midway, and even gave me a few minutes of pre-sleep reading while at GA.

This is Parker's second western novel--he did a western film for TNT (I think), too. While I wouldn't call his previous western, Gunman's Rhapsody (a retelling of the Wyatt Earp/Doc Holiday story) a complete waste of time, I did spend too much time thinking "they got this better in Tombstone." But Parker's been hitting his marks better lately (particularly with Double Play), so I had hope for this.

This was certainly better than Gunman's Rhapsody. And better than, say, Potshot or Perish Twice. This isn't Parker at his best. It's him at his comfortable mediocre.

Basically we have two guns for hire--the veteran gun, Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch, his junior partner--men who travel from bad town to bad town, hiring on as peace officers, laying down a Draconian law, until the town gets cleaned up. Then they move on to the next town. Hmmm, sound like someone that Kurt Russell and Sam Elliott have played? They get hired on in Appaloosa to do just that.

So Cole and Everett drink a little, shoot a little, be tough, talk in obscure phrases, spend time with women of questionable gets cleaned up 'cept for one man and his can pretty well finish it all from there. There are a couple of twists to the story I hadn't seen a million times--but I'm not a big western guy (tv, film or print), so I can't say for certain how much of a cliché it is.

The most jarring thing about the story to me--and maybe the thing that keeps me from giving it a C+--is the dialogue. I have no problem with historical novels using contemporary language. I recall a handful of writing teachers telling us we had to make a choice when writing historical fiction--modern dialogue or vocab and diction proper to the time. Pick one and stick with it. Parker didn't. He tended towards "Western" sentence structures (think Mal and Jayne in Firefly), with the occasional malapropism thrown in to make sure that Cole sounds uneducated. But he used contemporary jargon, contemporary attitudes. Parker's given himself a reputation for being lax on the research front, and this confirms it for me.

I'll give it a C- because it kept me occupied, didn't feel entirely cheated out of my money, and I liked the horses--even if the metaphor there was heavy handed. (think Spenser coming out of the theater after seeing Empire Strikes Back)

Oh, just noticed on IMDB that Appaloosa's going to be a movie directed by Ed Harris, Viggo Mortensen's attached. I could buy him as Cole. Honestly think it'd make a better movie than a book.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Summer Reading: Trunk Music by Michael Connelly

I'm not exactly sure how this happened, but Michael Connelly has become my go-to guy for airplane reading. I'm guessing the way he writes keeps me distracted from what's going on around me (y'know the whole hurtling through the air at hundreds of miles an hour and way too many feet off the ground). I picked up the next two Harry Bosch novels on my list to read to and from GA. I took care of most of Trunk Music by the time we hit Denver--and was able to finish the rest along the way to Chicago.

This was a really good read. Harry's well, Harry. Tough, smart, cynical. His partner, Jerry Edgar, is back and more competent than before. Kizmin Rider is the new teammate--I like her a lot. The new lieutenant, Grace Billets adds a different dynamic to the series--I was tired of the antagonism between Harry and Lt. Pounds.

Of course, Internal Affairs gets in the middle of this--Harry's in hot water with them again. When isn't he? I get that this is a sure-fire way to add drama, but puh-leez, can we please get through a novel without these jokers getting involved?

Given recent discussion over at spensneak about Parker's penchant for bringing characters back time and time again, I thought that one of the strong points of this book was the way that one particular character was brought back into Harry's life. The same person, in a very different set of circumstances, and very clearly changed due to their previous encounter. Handled very well.

The action keeps hopping back and forth between LA and Vegas, with our intrepid detective in the center of it. Rider and Edgar do their share of the work, too. Probably see more good police work out of them than I remember from anyone else Harry worked with up to this point. Hope to see more examples of other good cops in the future.

The twists and turns are delivered well. After you read a few books by Connelly and you know he's going to be pulling fast ones on you, changing the what you're sure is the inevitable conclusion several times--but even knowing that, you can't help but be thrown by them the way he does it. The action scenes play out well, vividly described, but not overburdening in detail.

Ending was quite satisfactory--a very subtle move for ol' Harry. Good to see him do it.

This is the kind of book that Dan brown needs to study before he inflicts another dose of Langdon upon us all.

Summer Reading: Solomon vs. Lord by Paul Levine

Few months back, I'd read Gerald So's post about this romantic comdey-ish novel, put it on my amazon wish list, and let it sit there for while. Finally got around to throwing it in the shopping cart so I could get the free shipping.

Boy, am I ever glad I did that! Paul Levine has got himself a new fan. This was a fun read, very likeable characters, clever writing, and a satisfactory mystery.

Okay, so here's the setup (very minor spoiler): You've got your easy-going, maverick, street smart, fun-loving guy with the unorthodox methods, Steve Solomon (read: David Addison, Sam Malone, Dharma Finklestein); and you've got your uptight, gorgeous, book smart, cultured, plays-by-the-rules gal, Victoria Lord (read: Maddie Hays, Diane Chambers, Greg Montgomery). He's a defense lawyer, she's a prosecutor (at least until she gets fired due to his antics). His name's monosyllabic, hers isn't. Hilarity and attraction ensues. Sure, have seen and read this more times than I can count. And it either works or it doesn't. There is no middle ground. And it does. Wonderfully.

Their chemistry, the back-and-forth, the will-they-or-won't-they fit nicely into the case that they try together. Actually, it's not really a will-they-or-won't-they, it's a when-will-they. Levine tells (occasionally retells) the story by flipping back and forth between either perspective. Again, that's something that works or it doesn't. It worked.

The supporting cast of characters is great as well--Steve's father, the gang of retirees who hang out at the courthouse, Victoria's friend, her fiancé, the models who own the building Steve's office is in, their client...they all fall into the category of "have seen this before," but Levine uses them well--and they don't normally feel like the clichés they could so easily be.

There's one member of the supporting cast who doesn't feel like he came from a paint-by-number mystery: Steve's nephew, Bobby. Don't want to give too much away, but he's a sweet 10-year old boy, with a memory that won't quit, autistic tendencies, the ability to make any name into a dirty anagram, and a loving uncle. Victoria will come to locate the decency of Steve in Bobby--and I have come to center the humanity of the series in Bobby.

The book can feel like a pilot episode for a TV series--and Gerald says there's maybe one in the works. I hope not. I just can't imagine them getting Bobby right--he'll either be cast off, or turned into a Wesley Crusher-esque wunderkind. If they do push ahead--the success or failure of the show will be dependent upon one thing: casting. They get the right Steve and the right Victoria and the show will work. If not, fuhgeddaboutit.

Highly recommended--I'm pretty sure I had a smile on my face most of the time I was reading it--and for a book that clocks in just under 600 pages, that's saying something.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Things to Watch

Thinking on my feet

One of the things my hermeneutics prof drills into us is that we must think on our feet in the pulpit. We don't go in over-burdened with notes/scripts/etc so that we can think on our feet, preach freely.

Well there’s a danger in some of us doing that. Part of the sermon this evening was a consideration of Paul’s exhortation to "Aspire to live quietly." To Have that as an ambition. To Strive for a quiet, normal life. Now as soon as I phrase it that way in my mind, I cannot help but think of the great Reformed theolgian, Warren Zevon. His Greatest Hits CD was entitled A Quiet Normal Life.

His songs are the nothing if not a commentary on the current Evangelical mess:

  • "Werewolves of London" is obviously a parable about TV preachers. C’mon think about it...what's he say about them? Little Old Ladies are the victims, "better not let them in," "I'd like to meet his tailor," and the kicker: "His hair was...PERFECT!" (that emphasis comes from Learning to Flinch, the live acoustic album)
  • "Johnny Strikes up the Band" is clearly a celebration of CCM and/or a charismatic service
  • "Lawyers, Guns and Money" is all about Swaggart and Bakker
  • "Looking for the Next Best Thing"—this one’s too easy...think WWJD, FROG, Prayer of Jabez, Purpose-Driven *.*
  • lastly, "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner" has to be an allegory about something...just not sure what. Maybe Ravi Zacharias can tell me...
Now part of that line of thought occurred to me while in preparation, not in the pulpit, so I was able to concentrate very hard on not going off in that direction, but I'll be honest with you…it was tough. And if it had occurred to me while "thinking on my feet", well, I shudder to think what would've happened.

Cake, Warren Zevon…maybe I should give up on seminary and get a job at Rolling Stone?

Laughs for a Brain-Dead Monday

Preached yesterday, which means I'm brain-dead today (I offer as proof, I originally typed "I'm bread today" there). So I really needed these laughs. Brought to you by Frank Caliendo (a.k.a. the only reason to watch MadTV)

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Thoughts for a Saturday Evening...

From Matthew Henry's Commentary on Matt. 12:9

Christ having thus silenced the Pharisees, and got clear of them (Mat. 12:9), departed, and went into their synagogue, the synagogue of these Pharisees, in which they presided, and toward which he was going, when they picked this quarrel with him. Note, First, We must take heed lest any thing that occurs in our way to holy ordinances unfit us for, or divert us from our due attendance on them. Let us proceed in the way of our duty, notwithstanding the artifices of Satan, who endeavours, by the perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and many other ways, to ruffle and discompose us. Secondly, We must not, for the sake of private feuds and personal piques, draw back from public worship. Though the Pharisees had thus maliciously cavilled at Christ, yet he went into their synagogue. Satan gains this point, if, by sowing discord among brethren, he prevail to drive them, or any of them, from the synagogue, and the communion of the faithful.
There's nothing in particular driving this--just struck by how alien that kind of thinking is today.

That, and I figure at some point in time, I'll want to dig up that line, and it's easier to search my blog than my hard drive or bookshelves :)