Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Oversight













Brad Parsley, Choir Director at the New Life Church, son of Ross Parsley, the 'Worship Pastor' who made $443,000 last year.

Pastor Ted Haggard's New Life church is in the news again, and apparently there are now worrying signs of further soy contamination in Colorado Springs. This afternoon, the church posted a request on their website to aid the 'Restoration Committee' with the good reverend's 'restoration':

...To assist in both the process of Rev. Haggard's restoration and the protection of the Church itself, the Overseers are open to receiving current information relevant to either Rev. Haggard's recovery process or any concerns about New Life Church staff or its leaders. While they cannot promise confidentiality, the Overseers will handle any such information discretely...

So if anyone out there has done anything...inappropriate... with any of the good pastors at the church, they request that you drop them a perhaps confidential line. There's a helpful link at the end, too. Don't be shy, now's your chance.

The not-too-reverend Dan Savage, who runs a popular sex advice column picked up on this and is offering a more flavorful (and less workplace-friendly) approach. One interesting note that popped up in his comments section is the nature of the rather Orwellian sounding 'overseers' that seem now to be running things at the New Life Church:

...They use "overseer" because it is an English translation of episkopos, the Greek word from which the English word bishop is derived...

Which is also the root of Episcopal, so it would be appropriate for the Virginian Churches who succeeded from the Episcopal church to refer to their Anglican Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria (the one who favors the jailing of homosexuals) as their new 'overseer.' As in "We welcome our new Homophobic Overseers."

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Merry Corporate Christmas



















I'm wondering who has the copyright on the Baby Jesus. From the BBC:

When James Worley paid a visit to Disney World in Florida his portly frame and white beard soon had kids asking: "Are you Santa Claus?" Not wanting to disappoint, Mr Worley, 60, played along with some "ho-ho-hos".But Disney officials descended, telling him to stop the impersonation or get out of the park. They said they wanted to preserve the magic of Santa...He said Disney had told him "Santa was considered a Disney character".

The BBC has other fun Santa tidbits in the news:

A Christmas beer brewed in Oxfordshire has been banned in parts of the United States because it has a picture of Father Christmas on the label...

Santa Claus has had to employ bodyguards after being attacked on his sleigh in the Black Country...

and my personal favorite:

More than 200 offenders in Oxfordshire will be sent a Christmas card featuring a drunken Father Christmas urinating in the snow.

Friday, December 15, 2006



If you're at all wondering what it is that I've been doing that keeps me from posting for long stretches - here it is. This is one of 4 movies that we made to market a new condo development in Brooklyn. Enjoy.

Mystery Solved













I took some time off last week to have some fun for my birthday. Festivities included seeing a couple of movies, including the new James Bond which is pretty dope, and is, as they say, the best Bond since the heyday of Sean Connery.

When I came back to work on Monday, a surprise was waiting for me. An eight-pack of double corona cigars and a funky cigar lighter (which looks like it was used in a Bond film), shipped from Martinez Cigars. The problem was a lack of card, note or any identifying mark indicating who sent it. What a conundrum - whom to thank? Suspects abounded but one by one they were eliminated from suspicion. Finally a call to Martinez, and some fleet research of their internet records yielded the culprit: my own brother, Mike, was the guilty party.

So many thanks, Mike. I'll be sure to bring a couple with me to Tucson when we go there next week.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Devil's Weed













Well my question of what's in that Rocky Mountain Spring water that I asked earlier today was answered by the intrepid reporters at the right-wing WorldNetDaily just a few hours later:

There's a slow poison out there that's severely damaging our children and threatening to tear apart our culture. The ironic part is, it's a "health food," one of our most popular.

Now, I'm a health-food guy, a fanatic who seldom allows anything into his kitchen unless it's organic. I state my bias here just so you'll know I'm not anti-health food.

The dangerous food I'm speaking of is soy. Soybean products are feminizing, and they're all over the place. You can hardly escape them anymore...

...Soy is feminizing, and commonly leads to a decrease in the size of the penis, sexual confusion and homosexuality. That's why most of the medical (not socio-spiritual) blame for today's rise in homosexuality must fall upon the rise in soy formula and other soy products. (Most babies are bottle-fed during some part of their infancy, and one-fourth of them are getting soy milk!) Homosexuals often argue that their homosexuality is inborn because "I can't remember a time when I wasn't homosexual." No, homosexuality is always deviant. But now many of them can truthfully say that they can't remember a time when excess estrogen wasn't influencing them.

The author, Jim Rutz, goes on to explain about the shocking findings of all of these studies that were done. Oddly, a Google search reveals no such studies. In fact the top results for 'health effects of soy' yield two government sites aggregating the results of all recent studies, which essentially demonstrate moderate benefits to moderate soy product consumption. There are mentions of the suspected effects of the amounts of estrogen in soy, but all studies are either completely inconclusive on those, if they aren't completely debunked.

Of course one shouldn't expect rigorous scientific method from Mr. Rutz. After all, after being an Amway distributor for 12 years (see the 'about' section on his site), he is the founder of the 'open' church Megashift, whose website is one of the most wonderously cult-like I've ever run across (and I run across a lot of these sites in my recent quest to more further understand Christianity in our culture.) The introductory video shows a female victim of plastic surgery dressed in pilgrim garb talking about how miracles are sweeping the globe, including the 'raising of the dead in over 52 countries.' They document five of them here.

But who to blame for this plague of the vile weed? Well, us of course. The U.S. is the world's largest producer of soybeans, and this map of American soybean production highlights ground zero of the infestation:















Note the dot of high production around Washington, DC. But most of it is in the states of Iowa, Illinois and Indiana. Expect to see a further rash of church 'outings' in the Upper Midwest over the coming months.

Word Play












About a week ago the report of the Iraq Study Group was issued. I downloaded a copy (.pdf available here), and converted the .pdf to a word document using Acrobat Professional. This allowed me to have some fun with the report, using the tools available in Microsoft Word.

Namely the Word Count tools. It can help one get a gist of the document without all of the pesky reading of it. For example the word ‘war’ appears 31 times and the word ‘peace’ is used 40 times. Also ‘death’ and ‘life’ are each used five times.

Some notable things result. ‘Sunni’ is used 86 times, ‘Shia/Shiite’ is used 69 times, but ‘Kurd’ is only used 53 times. ‘Win’ is used 4 times, ‘lose’ just once; but ‘lost’ is used 4 times and ‘won’ is not used at all.

Of more note are the following words and how often they are used:

‘Mass Destruction’: Once
‘Democracy’: Seven times
‘Election’: Seventeen times
‘Politics’: Fifteen times
‘Oil’: Sixty Four times

Quite telling. But what is sadly the most telling is the number of times any of the following words are used in the 168 page report: ‘Apology’ ‘remorse’ ‘guilt’ ‘shame’ ‘sorrow’ ‘mistake’ ‘humble’ ‘humility’ ‘blame’ ‘regret’ ‘contrite’ ‘repent’ ‘atone’ ‘error’ ‘blunder’ ‘underestimate.’ None of those words is used even once.

Something in the Rocky Mountain Stream Water...



















And the fun continues in the great state of Colorado. From the AP:

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The founding pastor of a second Colorado church has resigned over gay sex allegations, just weeks after the evangelical community was shaken by the scandal surrounding megachurch leader Ted Haggard...On Sunday, Paul Barnes, founding pastor of the 2,100-member Grace Chapel in this Denver suburb, told his evangelical congregation in a videotaped message he had had sexual relations with other men and was stepping down...On the videotape, which The Post was allowed to view, Barnes told church members: "I have struggled with homosexuality since I was a 5-year-old boy... I can't tell you the number of nights I have cried myself to sleep, begging God to take this away." Barnes, 54, led Grace Chapel for 28 years. He and his wife have two adult children.

No word yet on meth or prostitution. Grace Chapel has a less impressive website than that of Haggard's church, but it is yet another conservative church with an emphasis on salvation through faith, growth of the church through aggressive outreach and end-of-days theology. Their 'doctrinal statement' is a very standard, if somewhat banal, document (good reading for those who want to understand basic contemporary evangelical theology.) And the church is complete with the requisite 'man-classes' which are hilarious studies in homoerotic undercurrent.

One thing of note that both Barnes and Haggard share are long marriages. Barnes has two adult children, so I assume that he has been married for decades. Haggard was the same. I feel for the women and children trapped in those situations.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Stacks of Snacks















As a followup to the post below on the mediocre quality of the food in North Carolina, it appears that Kathy and I visited a little too early in the season. Courtesy the Virginian-Pilot:


A tractor-trailer-size container filled with thousands of bags of Doritos washed up here early Thursday, prompting Hatteras Islanders to summon their inner scavengers...

...Long before National Park Service ranger Brad Griest learned that the cargo container had beached, Hatteras Islanders were busy with their time-honored tradition of wreck salvage. A stream of folks stuffed large garbage bags with Cool Ranch, Nacho Cheese and Spicy Nacho Doritos...

...Schneider said the team is responsible for cleaning up a hazardous material, such as an oil spill. There may be some argument to be made about the health hazard of chips, he said, but the risk didn’t quite qualify. 'When I found out it’s Doritos, it’s pretty much out of our jurisdiction,” he said. “It’s definitely litter, but it’s not a contaminant.'

Road Rage













One advantage of working in animation for the architectural and engineering professions is exposure to topics that normal architects don't get exposed to. One of particular interest to me has been traffic flow, which I have found to be rather fascinating. It's basically fluid dynamics with the individual particles having specific behavior that can be quantified in a chaotic sense. Congestion results from all of the drivers behaving in cumulative ways - for instance a huge amount of freeway congestion is actually the result of drivers constantly changing lanes trying to avoid freeway congestion.

There is a fun German site, which I found, that simulates many of the most common sources of congestion. It's interactive, allowing you to change the parameters of the traffic, including how polite the drivers are. It seems that the Golden Rule is actually useful to alleviating much of the problem. A good thing to remember this holiday season as the stresses accumulate...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Monkey Junction





























Another posting I should have done a while back. Last month Kathy and I went down to the beaches of North Carolina to celebrate Andy Blocha’s 40th Birthday. Kure Beach near Wilmington. The weather was in the unbelievable 70s, allowing us to swim in the friggin’ ocean in November, so we all behaved like little happy loons in the water. The evenings were a wonderful time to catch up with plenty of drink, and spend a little kid-free time. The food in the restaurants, however, was abysmal. I could try to say that Kathy and I are becoming too much like snotty foodies, but actually no one could stomach the acres of soggy deep fried seafood.

It was a great time catching up with Dan and Andy, who are both doing well; but both should try to get involved in the 21st century a bit more – Googling “Andy Blocha” in quotes currently leads to only one hit – an obscure bulletin board in Polish that appears to be about poker. Dan fairs a bit better – you at least get several hits for Google Mail invites he’s received.

On the way back from a celebratory dinner, which at least had some superb seafood chowder, we were driving back our of the restaurant parking lot when a somewhat crazed young woman asked us for a hitchhike ride to ‘Monkey Junction.’ She was clearly drunk and we just chalked it up to inebriation or our inability to understand what she was saying. Turns out that the place does exist:

“The name Monkey Junction harkens back to the 1920s when the bus to Carolina Beach stopped at this intersection. An enterprising gas station nearby featured live monkeys as an attraction to draw customers from the bus. When the driver stopped, he announced, "Monkey Junction," and that’s how it has been known ever since.”

Monday, December 04, 2006

Dave gets Down with Arcade Fire


A musical interlude on A Good World

The Farming of Thistles



















A couple post-worthy events happened in the last week that I didn’t have the time to write much about, so I’ll try to play a bit of catch-up during my brief bouts of free time.

Last Tuesday, my brother posted a brief note about Becca Stevens, the founder of Thistle Farms in Nashville, a noble organization that aims to provide aid to women who need to recover from addictions and prostitution. He refers to her as ‘the finest preacher I know,’ and based on a brief quote he gave, I can believe it:

“…And God forgive us when our theology becomes a position to defend and not a story of serving others in our lives…”

The aptness of those words was posted by my brother ironically on the same day that an article came out in the New York Times, covering the resignation of the president-elect of the Christian Coalition of America, the Reverend Joel C. Hunter, who is also a pastor of one of those ‘mega’ churches sprouting up all over America like mushrooms after thec rain. His church, Northland, helpfully is posting a live webcam of its future facility construction, posted by its ‘Ministry of Construction.’ I don’t want to beat down Northland too much here – it strikes me as more of the ‘watered down’ catechism churches designed to appeal to the masses than Ted Haggard’s fire and brimstone approach. And at least his church doesn’t seem to have a Starbucks franchise inside.

And I also don’t want to rag on him too much because of why he quit the Christian Coalition. As the article says:

“..Dr. Hunter has argued that a large number of conservative Christians feel that right-wing religious groups do not represent them, because they focus their energies too narrowly on what he calls moral issues, often to the exclusion of economic and environmental concerns…Dr. Hunter said that although Mrs. Combs [chairwoman of the Coalition] had indicated that the organization also wanted to expand its priorities to include the issues that concerned him, the board backed away from such a commitment during a conference call last Tuesday. By the end of the call, Dr. Hunter and the coalition had decided to part amicably, according to both sides.”

Said Mrs. Combs:

“We’re a political organization, and there’s a way to do things, like taking a survey of your members and seeing what they need,” she said. “Joel had a different way of doing things, so he just went out there.”

I love the idea of poll-testing religious faith. Dr. Hunter seems to be running into the same ‘Christian’ wall that the Republican Governor of Alabama, Bob Riley, ran into three years ago when he tried unsuccessfully to pitch a tax increase as aiding Christ’s ministry for the poor. The tax increase was designed to increase taxes on the rich and lower them on the poor, while raising an additional $1.2 billion for education and social services. The measure was soundly defeated by the 93% of Alabaman’s who self identify as Christian, forcing the governor to cut the budget of state agencies by 18 percent.

I hope that Becca Stephens is as rhetorically gifted as my brother says – she has a lot of work to do among the Christian ‘Faithful.’