31 March 2009

26 March 2009

"We mocked, but took"

by John Updike
December 22, 2008

Why go to Sunday school, though surlily,
and not believe a bit of what was taught?
The desert shepherds in their scratchy robes
undoubtedly existed, and Israel's defeats--
the Temple in its sacredness destroyed
by Babylon and Rome. Yet Jews kept faith
and passed the prayers, the crabbed rites,
from table to table as Christians mocked.

We mocked, but took. The timbrel creed of praise
gives spirit to the daily; blood tinges lips.
The tongue reposes in papyrus pleas,
saying, Surely--magnificent, that "surely"--
goodness and mercy shall follow me all
the days of my life, my life, forever.

(Published in The New Yorker, 3/16/09)

23 March 2009

To the class of 2010...

I don't remember volunteering, but somehow I have been invited to serve on the University's advisory committee that will help select the commencement speaker for graduation in 2010. We have a meeting next week, when we will discuss criteria for selecting a speaker, and throw around some names. So ... anybody have any advice or suggestions? Bear in mind that this person will be addressing ALL the graduates: undergrad, law, medicine, divinity, business, environment, engineering, et cetera. If you have any tips for me, feel free to let me know in the comments, or by email if you have it.

21 March 2009

This Hard Land

Generally, I don't think Springsteen gives very good interviews. He's kind of a weird guy, although that only occasionally comes across on stage. It's when he starts talking that you realize he's a little shifty, he maintains a soul patch even when not on tour, and in conversation he kind of talks like .... well, like a Bruce Springsteen song.

So I was really pleased by his interview on The Daily Show last week, which was funny, engaging, and not really awkward at all. I especially loved this: 
“We’ve had an enormous moral, spiritual, and economic collapse. People come to storytellers when times are like that. Our band was built from the beginning for hard times.”

Watch the whole interview here:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Bruce Springsteen - Interview
Daily Show Full EpisodesImportant Things w/ Demetri MartinPolitical Humor

20 March 2009

Obama "rolls" joke down metaphorical "lane", "knocks down" no "pins"

Obama's been taking a lot of (well-deserved) criticism today for his comment on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno Thursday night. While discussing his infamously poor bowling performance during the campaign, he said, "It was like the Special Olympics or something." Sarah Palin had every reason to lay into him, and she did issue a strong statement, but it doesn't seem opportunistic or self-aggrandizing. In fact, I think this sentence is rather fitting: "This was a degrading remark about our world’s most precious and unique people, coming from the most powerful position in the world." So far, the reaction from Gov. David Patterson, who is probably the highest-ranking elected official with a physical disability in America, has been minimal, though that is his right, too.

In addition to the genuine outrage and disappointment, this episode has also given us the opportunity to note that Obama would probably finish in the middle of the pack at Special Olympics bowling (and this guy is ready to prove it). Perhaps most gratifying have been the numerous bowling puns that have found their way into the headlines today. And without any apparent irony, this small British entertainment magazine decided to entitle their article, "Prez scores low with lame remark on Leno". Lame, indeed.

18 March 2009

Lost in translation

Here's a trivial publishing oddity. (If opening sentences like that don't get me more blog readers, I don't know what will!) In our introductory ethics course, we are reading a text by our professor, Sam Wells. The book's title is Improvisation: The Drama of Christian Ethics. Yet somehow, there are two different versions in print, and one version (which we have in our bookstore) omits the word "of" from the cover design:

Mistake? Hip design choice? Transatlantic confusion?

East Coast snob.

So with March Madness about to begin, I figured I'd just divulge to you my Final Four picks: Kansas, Connecticut, Villanova, UNC, with Connecticut topping Villanova in an all-Big East final. Along the way, Pitt will lose to Tennessee and Louisville will lose to Wake Forest.

I also decided to follow the lead of my friend Matt, who once made an entry into his family's NCAA pool on behalf of the family dog. The idea was simple: anytime a team with a canine mascot plays a non-dog team, the dog team wins. In the event of a dog-eat-dog matchup, the higher seed wins. The underlying project is to pick a bracket based on an arbitrary principle and see if it works better or worse than your "educated" picks.

I decided to make my "control" bracket by choosing whichever school is farther East in every instance. This seemed like a good idea since the ACC and Big East are so strong, but it doesn't look good: only one #2 seed (Memphis) makes it out of the first round, and the Sweet Sixteen only features four teams seeded 3 or higher in their region (Pitt, Villanova, UNC, Connecticut). What really ruins it is that Temple beats Villanova by only twelve miles in a close Final Four matchup. 

So, congratulations to Boston College: you are the 2009 national champion of Easternness. Better luck next year, Portland State.

17 March 2009

Post-Spring Break Post

We were on Spring Break last week. As of the Thursday before break, Heather and I still had not made any plans. However, we had been hoping for a long time to make a trip up to New England to see some great folks, and surprised ourselves (or, at least, me) by hatching a quick and ambitious plan. We drove to the Boston area and back, with stops in Manassas (to see Heather's family, including the small one), New Jersey (where my parents were both rather sick but my seven-months-pregnant sister & brother-in-law are doing very well), New Haven (to see my college roommate), and a drive-thru of Rhode Island so that Heather could cross that state off her list.

Our final destination was Beverly, Mass. For an interesting portrait of the city, see this page on the municipal website. We got to spend quality time with college friends of Heather's (she attended college in the adjacent town) and with this farmer I know up there. We also went beachcombing, heard a weird sermon, wrote papers for school, and coveted the lives of the rich and old. All in all, the trip took ten days, covered over 1500 miles, and brought us through nine states (plus one District), but we had a great time seeing so many different people.

02 March 2009

Add to dictionary

I just discovered that Microsoft Word wants to autocorrect the word "pastoring" to "pasturing". A helpful correction for most people, perhaps. Plus, they're in the right etymological ballpark, which helps soften the impact of the mistake. But this is a spot where the Office dictionary can steer a seminarian wrong: it might be bewildering for a reader to learn of my plans for feeding a congregation on the wild grass of an open meadow.

(Cue chintzy Christian pastoral leadership book release: Pastoring or Pasturing? Leading Your Herd into New Fields of Plenty. Or some crap like that.)