Saturday, November 29, 2008

Black Friday Indeed.

You may have already heard of this story, about a temporary worker who died after being trampled at a Wal-Mart on so-called "Black Friday." But here's what leapt out to me:

The employee was "stepped on by hundreds of people" as other workers attempted to fight their way through the crowd, said Nassau County police Detective Lt. Michael Fleming.

"Several minutes" passed before others were able to clear space around the man and attempt to render aid. Police arrived, and "as they were giving first aid, those police officers were also jostled and pushed," he said.

"Shoppers ... were on a full-out run into the store," he said.

Yes. As they attempted to administer aid, the police were "jostled and pushed." In light of this, I recommend we all just take a deep breath, step back, collect ourselves, and read what I'm currently reading, Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution--And How It Can Renew America by Thomas Friedman. But before that, crack open Matthew 6:19-24.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Radio Time.

I did some radio interviews today to promote The High School Survival Guide, and while it's always fun to go on the radio to talk about my books, I always find it nerve-wracking. Or perhaps I should say, NERVE-WRACKING!

I always find myself rambling and rambling to make a point, and I start pacing back and forth, and the whole time my mouth is talking, my brain is thinking, Why did you say it like that, Dumbo, when you could've said it much more clearly this way? And when are you going to stop talking? Because now you're rambling, and you're getting farther away from the point you're trying to make, and you just need to go ahead and shut up now.

Except my brain isn't nearly as nice.

Anyway, when all was said and done, I feel like I represented myself and the book fairly well. And I probably walked off a good 500 calories.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Big News.

The familia is moving to Uganda, Africa, so that we can finally get our son to become part of the family. You can get the full story on our very new website: One Roof | Africa.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Economic Perspective (It's Long, But Worth It).

The following is reprinted from a weekly football column I enjoy, written by the ever-intelligent Gregg Easterbrook. Yes, he writes about the NFL, but he's also a scholar at the Brookings Institute and wrote the influential-on-me book The Progress Paradox, which, if you haven't read, I encourage you to obtain immediately. Also, for the purpose of fairness, this guy is of the "(D)" political persuasion, near as I can tell.

"Financial chaos is sweeping the world," a New York Times lead story said last week. I didn't notice any chaos in my part of the world -- every business was open, ATMs were working, goods and services were plentiful. There are economic problems to be sure. But chaos? Collapse? Next Depression? Please, media and political worlds, let's stop hyperventilating and show some perspective.

What is going on is a financial panic, not an economic collapse. Financial panics are no fun, especially for anyone who needs to cash out an asset right now for retirement, college and so on. But financial panics occur cyclically and are not necessarily devastating. The most recent financial panic was 1987, when the stock market fell 23 percent in a single day. Pundits and politicians instantly began talking about another Depression, about the "end of Wall Street." The 1987 panic had zero lasting economic consequences -- no recession began, and in less than two years, stocks had recouped all losses. (See John Gordon's excellent 2004 book on the history of financial panics, "An Empire of Wealth.") Perhaps a recession will be triggered by the current financial panic, but it may not necessarily be severe.

Politicians and pundits are competing to see who can act most panicked and use the most exaggerated claims about economic crisis -- yet the fundamentals of the U.S. economy are, in fact, strong. Productivity is high; innovation is high; the workforce is robust and well-educated; unemployment is troubling at 6.1 percent, but nothing compared to the recent past, such as 11.8 percent unemployment in 1992; there are no shortages of resources, energy or goods. Here, University of Chicago economist Casey Mulligan shows that return on capital is historically high; high returns on capital are associated with strong economies. Some Americans have significant problems with mortgages, and credit availability for business could become an issue if the multiple bank-stabilizing plans in progress don't work. But the likelihood is they will work. When the 1987 panic hit, people were afraid the economy would collapse; it didn't. This panic is global, enlarging the risks. But there's a good chance things will turn out fine.

Why has a credit-market problem expanded into a panic? One reason is the media and political systems are now programmed for panic mode. Everything's a crisis! Crises, after all, keep people's eyes glued to cable news shows, so the media have an interest in proclaiming crises. Crises make Washington seem more important, and can be used to justify giveaways to favored constituent groups, so Washington influence-peddlers have an interest in proclaiming crises.

An example of the exaggerated crisis claim is the assertion that Americans "lost" $2 trillion from their pension savings in the past month, while equities "lost" $8 trillion in value. "Investors Lose $8.4 Trillion of Wealth" read a Wall Street Journal headline last week. This confuses a loss with a decline. Unless you cashed out stocks or a 401(k) in the past month, you haven't "lost" anything. Nor have most investors "lost" money, let alone $8.4 trillion -- crisis-mongering is now so deeply ingrained in the media that even Wall Street Journal headline writers have forgotten basic economics. People who because of financial need have no choice but to cash out stocks right now are really harmed. Anyone who simply holds his or her ground with stocks takes no loss and is likely, although of course not certain, to come out ahead in the end. During the housing price bubble of 2003 to 2006, many Americans became much better off on paper, but never actually sold their homes, so it was all paper gains. Right now many Americans holdings stocks or retirement plans are much worse off on paper, but will be fine so long as they don't panic and sell. One of the distressing things about last week's media cries of doomsday is that they surely caused some average people to sell stocks or 401(k)'s in panic, taking losses they might have avoided by simply doing nothing. The financial shout-shows on cable tend to advise people to buy when the market is rising, sell when the market is falling -- the worst possible advice, and last week it was amplified by panic.

We've also fallen into panic because we pay way too much attention to stock prices. Ronald Reagan said, "Never confuse the stock market with the economy." Almost everyone is now making exactly that mistake. The stock market is not a barometer of the economy; it is a barometer of what people think stocks are worth. These are entirely separate things. What people think stocks are worth now depends on their guess about what stocks will be worth in the future, which is unknowable. You can only guess, and thus optimism feeds optimism while pessimism feeds pessimism.

There is no way the American economy became 8 percent less valuable between breakfast and morning coffee break Friday, then became 3 percent more valuable at lunchtime (that is, improved by 11 percent), then became 3 percent less valuable by afternoon teatime (that is, declined by 6 percent) -- to cite the actual Dow Jones Industrials swings from Friday. And the economy sure did not become 11 percent more valuable Monday. Such swings reflect panic or herd psychology, not the underlying economy, which changes over months and years, not single days. For the past few weeks pundits and Washington and London policy-makers have been staring at stock tickers as if they provided minute-by-minute readouts of economic health, which they do not. It's embarrassing to see White House and administration officials seemingly so poorly schooled in economic theory they are obsessing over stock-price movements, which they cannot control and in the short term should not even care about.

Consider this. On Black Monday in 1987, the market fell 23 percent. If you had invested $100 in a Dow Jones Index fund the following day, it would be $460 now, a 275 percent increase adjusting for inflation. That's after the big slide of the past month, and still excellent. So don't panic, just hold your stocks. And if you'd invested $100 in real estate in 1987, it would be $240 today, a 30 percent increase adjusting for inflation. That's after the housing price bubble burst. A 30 percent real gain in 20 years isn't a great investment -- until you consider that you lived in the house or condo during this time. To purchase and live in a dwelling, then come out ahead when you sell, is everyone's dream. Not only do stocks remain a good buy, America on average is still coming out ahead on the housing dream. (This example uses the Case Shiller Index for the whole country; because housing markets are local, some homeowners have lost substantial ground while others enjoyed significant appreciation.)

Economic problems are likely to be with us for awhile, but also likely to be resolved -- the 1987 panic and the 1997 Asian currency collapse both were repaired more quickly than predicted, with much less harm than forecast. Want to worry? Worry about the fact that the United States is borrowing, mainly from foreign investors and China, the money being used to fix our banks. The worse the national debt becomes -- $11 trillion now, and increasing owing to Washington giveaways -- the more the economy will soften over the long term. It's long-term borrowing, not short-term Wall Street mood swings, that ought to worry us, because the point may be reached where we can no longer solve problems by borrowing our way out. My former Brookings Institution colleague Peter Orszag, now director of the Congressional Budget Office, was on "Newshour" last week talking about the panic. Orszag is a wicked-smart economist -- for instance, he is careful to say pension holdings have declined, not been lost like most pundits are saying, as if there were no difference between decline and loss! The below exchange occurred with host Jeffrey Brown. Remember these words:

PETER ORSZAG: One thing we need to remember is we're lucky that we have the maneuvering room now to issue lots of additional Treasury securities and intervene aggressively to address this crisis.

JEFFREY BROWN: Wait a minute. Explain that. Lucky in what sense?

PETER ORSZAG: That people are still willing to lend to us. If in 20 or 30 years we continue on the same path, with rising health-care costs and rising budget deficits, we would reach a point where we wouldn't have that ability.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Some Political Help.

[NOTE: This post has been updated considerably since I first put it up.]

God help us all if I start to write about politics on this blog, but I did feel the need to share something with you.

So much of what bothers me about our current political system is that so much of so-called "news" is really just preaching to the choir. Punditry and analysis reign on all four (FOUR!) 24-hour news networks, and rarely are we given straight-up facts to help us make up our minds. Then we have the slew of books from said pundits and analysts clogging up bookshelves. Add to that all the rhetoric from both the Ds and the Rs (and don't even get me started on talk radio) that consists primarily of saying "The other guys are bums! Vote for us!" and I'm downright disillusioned with the whole shooting match.

No one is willing to admit that anyone on their side has ever made a mistake, or that anyone from the other side has ever done anything worthwhile. It's nonstop preaching to the choir in concerted efforts to keep the contributions going, and it's turned me into a hardened, follow-the-money-on-both-sides cynic.

And then, in the midst of this, someone shared these little nuggets with me (see the links below). Basically, they are factual breakdowns of the promises made in both Barack Obama's and John McCain's acceptance speeches at their respective party conventions. People, one of these guys is going to be your President for the next four years, and whether you wholeheartedly endorse one of them or, like me, have a tough time believing either of them, you owe it to yourself and to the country you call home (if you live in the USA, that is) to at least hear them out.

My recommendation: read them both, then please--please--make up your own mind about which candidate's vision of America most closely aligns with your own. Don't let anyone else tell you how to vote, and don't turn this election into a one-issue circus. Don't say to yourself, "Well, I really love everything about that guy, except for that one pet issue I have where we don't agree, so I'm going to vote for the other guy." Please. Don't.

Let's all put aside the rhetoric and punditry and take a clear-eyed look at what the two sides are proposing, then vote according to our own senses and values.

Vote responsibly.

Obama's Promises || McCain's Promises

Note: Since whomever gets in office will be there for a solid four years, it would behoove us all to take a little extra time--an hour, maybe?--to read the full text of each of their speeches. So, with that:
Complete Obama Speech || Complete McCain Speech

And, since the VP candidates are often trotted out to say the things that the Presidential candidates want to say but can't for fear of looking bad:
Complete Biden Speech || Complete Palin Speech

[One last note: The thought dawned on me as I whacked some weeds in the backyard the other day--this is the first time in twenty-eight years that the ticket does not include the names "Bush" or "Clinton." I consider this to be a positive sign.]

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Best Book Of 2008 (That I Didn't Write).

I'm not too familiar with the works of N.T. Wright, but I read an article about him on, in which he discussed his newest book. I thought I'd snag it from the library and give it a once-over. I thought it sounded intriguing, but I didn't expect it to completely revolutionize the way I see my faith. This is the book that I was told The Shack would be. I couldn't resist sharing a few snippets with my vast, vast internet audience:

The power of the gospel lies not in the offer of a new spirituality or religious experience, not in the threat of hellfire (certainly not in the threat of being "left behind"), which can be removed if only the hearer checks this box, says this prayer, raises a hand, or whatever, but in the powerful announcement that God is God, that Jesus is Lord, that the powers of evil have been defeated, that God's new world has begun. This announcement, stated as fact about the way the world is rather than as an appeal about the way you might like your life, your emotions, or your bank balance to be, is the foundation of everything else. Of course, once the gospel announcement is made, in whatever way, it means instantly that all people everywhere are gladly invited to come in, to join the party, to discover forgiveness for the past, an astonishing destiny in God's future, and a vocation in the present.

I don't know about you guys, but that gets me excited. Or check out:

...What we can and must do in the present, if we are obedient to the gospel, if we are following Jesus, and if we are indwelt, energized, and directed by the Spirit, is to build for the kingdom. This brings us back to 1 Corinthians 15:58 once more: what you do in the Lord is not in vain. You are not oiling the wheels of a machine that's about to roll over a cliff. You are not restoring a great painting that's shortly going to be thrown on the fire. You are not planting roses in a garden that's about to be dug up for a building site. You are--strange though it may seem, almost as hard to believe as the resurrection itself--accomplishing something that will become in due course part of God's new world. Every act of love, gratitude, and kindness; every work of art or music inspired by the love of God and delight in the beauty of his creation; every minute spent teaching a severely handicapped child to read or to walk; every act of care and nurture, of comfort and support, for one's fellow human beings and for that matter one's fellow nonhuman creatures; and of course every prayer, all Spirit-led teaching, every deed that spreads the gospel, builds up the church, embraces and embodies holiness rather than corruption, and makes the name of Jesus honored in the world--all of this will find its way, through the resurrecting power of God, into the new creation that God will one day make. That is the logic of the mission of God. God's recreation of his wonderful world, which began with the resurrection of Jesus and continues mysteriously as God's people live in the risen Christ and in the power of his Spirit, means that what we do in Christ and by the Spirit in the present is not wasted. It will last all the way into God's new world. In fact, it will be enhanced there.

I have no idea what precisely this will mean in practice. I am putting up a signpost, not offering a photograph of what we will find once we get to where the signpost is pointing. I don't know what musical instruments we shall have to play Bach in God's new world, though I'm sure Bach's music will be there. I don't know how my planting a tree today will relate to the wonderful trees that there will be in God's recreated world, though I do remember Martin Luther's words about the proper reaction to knowing the kingdom was coming the next day being to go out and plant a tree. I do not know how the painting an artist paints today in prayer and wisdom will find a place in God's new world. I don't know how our work for justice for the poor, for remission of global debts, will reappear in that new world. But I know that God's new world of justice and joy, of hope for the whole earth, was launched when Jesus came out of the tomb on Easter morning, and I know that he calls his followers to live in him and by the power of his Spirit and so to be new-creation people here and now, bringing signs and symbols of the kingdom to birth on earth as in heaven.

Am I wrong for finding myself fascinated with this? I'll close with one more, this one about the responsibility of the Christian artist. Sound off with your thoughts below:

When we read Romans 8, we find Paul affirming that the whole of creation is groaning in travail as it longs for its redemption. Creation is good, but it is not God. It is beautiful, but its beauty is at present transient. It is in pain, but that pain is taken into the very heart of God and becomes part of the pain of new birth. The beauty of creation, to which art responds and which it tries to express, imitate, and highlight, is not simply the beauty it possesses in itself but the beauty it possesses in view of what is promised to it: ...the chalice, the violin, the engagement ring. We are committed to describing the world not just as it should be, not just as it is, but as---by God's grace alone!--one day it will be. And we should never forget that when Jesus rose from the dead, as the paradigm, first example, and generating power of the whole new creation, the marks of the nails were not just visible on his hands and his feet. They were the way he was to be identified. When art comes to terms with both the wounds of the world and the promise of the resurrection and learns how to express and respond to both at once, we will be on the way to a fresh vision, a fresh mission.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Government Is Afraid Of The Truth!

Don't you dare attempt to correct the government's typographical errors.

Here's the lead paragraph to tantalize you into reading the story:

A man from Somerville, Mass., and his friend who went around the country this year removing typographical errors from public signs have been banned from national parks after vandalizing a historic marker at the Grand Canyon.

Friday, August 15, 2008

All The More Significant.

In light of all that's going on over in Beijing right about now, this video takes on even greater significance.

Monday, August 11, 2008

A Costa Rica Story.

[NOTE: People have been asking me to tell a story about our trip to Costa Rica. Instead of doing that, I'm going to take a shortcut and reprint here a piece I wrote for a devotional put together by my church. Enjoy.]

I love kids. Perhaps this is why I have so many of them. I love seeing the world through their eyes, or hearing them invent new ways of using language, like when my four-year-old daughter Dorothy decided that “beautiful” just wouldn’t cut it while describing a rainbow, and coined the more accurate “cute-iful.”

So yeah, I love kids a lot, especially my own. So, when we decided to go on a family missions trip to Costa Rica with Believers World Outreach this past summer, I felt great anticipation at the thought of spending time in a foreign country with my kids. This anticipation was tempered, however, by a feeling sheer panic at the thought of spending time in a foreign country with my kids.

Maybe not the “spending time” part so much as the getting there, getting around, getting all our basic needs met, and getting home parts.

Nevertheless, time marched on, and, after many generous donations from many friends, family members, and straight-up strangers, we raised the full amount we needed to get there. Before we knew it, we were in Costa Rica, all of us astounded by the natural beauty of the country.

We discovered that our children are natural travelers, and they’re very good at going with the flow. They generally ate whatever was put before them, went wherever we told them, showed up whenever they needed to be somewhere.

But the real revelation came toward the end of the trip, when we went to minister to a group of people living in an area of Jaco that everyone calls “The Riverbed.” It is a place of extreme poverty, a shanty-town erected on either side of a small river fed by the Pacific Ocean. Families live here, in ramshackle homes constructed of found materials like random doors or wooden pallets or rusted pieces of corrugated tin.

The river itself serves many purposes for this community. It is their source of water for drinking and cooking, it is their bathtub, it is their laundry room, it is their toilet. Oftentimes, it is their trash can.

We’d heard quite a bit about the Riverbed before we went, and we did our best to prepare the kids. We told them, in terms they could understand, about the poverty there, and what the kids there would look like, and generally tried to prepare them for the heart-rending images they were likely to see.

And then the strangest thing happened. We went there, and while Michelle and I were devastated by the living conditions of those in the Riverbed, our kids didn’t seem to notice. And while we were busy pitying the shabbily dressed, smudge-faced, hungry-looking children in the Riverbed, of which there are many, our kids simply approached them, smiled, waved, and began to play with them.

Simple as that.

While we adults—supposed examples to our children—were busy focusing on the differences between us and those who lived in the Riverbed, the kids looked right past that (I’m not sure if they even saw the differences in the first place) and focused on the truth of the situation:

I’m a kid. You’re a kid. Let’s play.

In faith today, especially in America, and extra-especially in this part of America, we tend to focus on the differences. We like to compare different churches, different preaching styles, different worship leaders, different song selections, different locations… we notice what makes each church different. And if we don’t like something, we can always go somewhere else.

But what if Jesus, when he told us we needed to “receive the kingdom of God like a little child” (Mark 10:15), meant that we needed to act like my kids acted in the Riverbed. What if he’s saying that, since “both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children, (Ephesians 3:6)” then we need to stop looking at the differences between us and start looking at faith—and church—like this:

I believe in Jesus. You believe in Jesus.

Let’s play.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Been Reading.

It's been a madhouse here at Dregs, with all kinds of behind-the-scenes monetary sizzle keeping me from my appointed rounds as a blogger. But in my spare time, I've been reading some fascinating books. To wit:

Steven Waldman, Founding Faith: Providence, Politics, and the Birth of Religious Freedom in America: What a fascinating read. Steven Waldman is the editor-in-chief of, so he's able to split the lines of demagoguery you would expect a book like this to fall along, and he's cranked out something that, I would hope, would be refreshing to people of any faith or political stripe.

Instead of starting with a viewpoint, then using the writings of the Founding Fathers to back it up, Waldman goes the other way around. He investigates history, along with the written records of Washington, Adams, Franklin, Jefferson, and Madison, to determine what these guys believed, why, and how it fit with the prevailing religiosity of the times. I tend to not read political books because they're usually all about preaching to the choir, but this one doesn't preach at all--just lays out the facts. Should be recommended reading for all schoolchildren. Perhaps I should contact Waldman and/or Random House about doing a Student Edition? It worked out so well for me in the past.

Christine Kenneally, The First Word: The Search for the Origins of Language: I may not agree with all of author Christine Kenneally's assumptions (she actually says, toward the end of the book, that "evidence of design in the human body is not evidence of a Designer, but of evolution"), but this is an undeniably immersive look into the history of the spoken word. We know about the history of the written word, but when did we start speaking? What was it like? Was it a gift from On High, or did it evolve? And what about the different languages; where did they come from?

Kenneally is pretty dead-set on none of these things pointing to God at all, and she offers no concrete examples, but ultimately, I liked the book because of that. Essentially, she tracked down a bunch of scientists working in the field and posed all these types of questions to them. The answers vary, but that's part of the charm of the book--it just shows how little we actually know about our brains--and ourselves. It isn't anti-God, but you'll have to navigate past a lot of evolutionary jabber to make it through this one. If you can do that without foaming at the mouth, I recommend it.

(For the record, I've been rehashing a lot of my thoughts/beliefs about the way the world came into being. I still believe God is the designer of this world, but I have no concrete opinions on how he designed it. At this point, I'm closest to C.S. Lewis's viewpoint, presented in chapter six or so of The Problem of Pain. End of side note.)

David Sedaris, When You Are Engulfed in Flames: David Sedaris is, to be blunt, a genius. The man knows how to tell a story and simultaneously wring humor, pathos, and keen observations on the human condition from a single sentence.

I first heard his literary brilliance when he made an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman to promote his book Me Talk Pretty One Day, and he read an essay so side-splittingly hilarious that I immediately retrieved said book from the library the following day. And I was hooked.

Then I read his stuff out of order, as it was available from the library. Naked was pretty good. Holidays on Ice, with the exception of "The Santaland Diaries," was a letdown. Soon he had another collection: Dress Your Family in Corduroy & Denim, which followed in the wacky-family/crazy-childhood vein of Me Talk Pretty One Day. Hilarious stuff, but much of it shockingly vulgar.

I didn't know what to expect from this new one, but I dove in with glee. And, while the man still knows how to be funny, he's growing up. I think he's approaching fifty now, and he seems to be contemplating the inevitable conclusion that he now has less life left in the tank than he's already used. Unlike me, who's staring at the tender age of 32, Sedaris seems to be aware that the time for telling funny stories with no point is coming to an end, and the time for passing on some wisdom has arrived.

But it's still funny. For real.

Michael Chabon, Maps & Legends: Oh my. Regular Dregs readers will know I'm a sucker for Michael Chabon, but I didn't know what to expect from this, his first collection of non-fiction essays, mostly about the art of writing or just plain art. I shall cease to offer my opinions and now quote liberally from the book, starting with the first two paragraphs:

Entertainment has a bad name. Serious people learn to mistrust and even to revile it. The word wears spandex, pasties, a leisure suit studded with blinking lights. It gives off a whiff of Coppertone and dripping Creamsicle, the fake-butter miasma of movie-house lobby, of karaoke and Jagermeister, Jerry Bruckheimer movies, a Street Fighter machine grunting solipsistically in a corner of an ice-rink arcade. Entertainment trades in cliche and product placement. It engages in regions of the brain far from the centers of discernment, critical thinking, ontological speculation. It skirts the black heart of life and drowns life's lambency in a halogen glare. Intelligent people must keep a certain distance from its productions. They must handle the things that entertain them with gloves of irony and postmodern tongs. Entertainment, in short, means junk, and too much junk is bad for you--bad for your heart, your arteries, your mind, your soul.

But maybe these intelligent and serious people, my faithful straw men, are wrong. Maybe the reason for the junkiness of so much of what pretends to entertain us is that we have accepted--indeed, we have helped to articulate--such a narrow, debased concept of entertainment, sensitive at any depth, and over a wide spectrum. But we have learned to mistrust and despise our human aptitude for being entertained, and in that sense, we get the entertainment we deserve.

Wait, wait. Don't go on yet. Go back and read it again, for it is important. It is a brilliant summation of our current culture, and one with which I cannot agree more. Have you read it again, because, seriously, you should.

Okay, moving on, some thoughts about pop culture/entertainment:

The pop artisan operates within the received formulas--gangster movie, radio-ready A-side, space opera--and then incorporates into the style, manner, and mood of the work bits and pieces derived from all the aesthetic moments he or she has ever fallen in love with in other movies or songs or novels, whether hackwork or genius (without regard for and sometimes without consciousness of any difference between the two)... When it works, what you get is not a collection of references, quotes, allusions, and cribs but a whole, seamless thing, both familiar and new: a record of the consciousness that was busy falling in love with those moments in the first place. It's that filtering consciousness, coupled with the physical ability (or whatever it is) to flat-out play or song or write or draw, that transforms the fragments and jetsam and familiar pieces into something fresh and unheard of. If that sounds a lot like what flaming genius gods are supposed to be up to, then here's a distinction: the pop artisan is always hoping that, in the end, the thing is going to kill. He is haunted by a vision of pop perfection: heartbreaking beauty that moves units.

See what I mean? I need to offer no commentary; the man is a writing savant who understands his craft well. In fact, I would say that, though this book strives for greater ambition, it is the best book about writing I've read since (shockingly) Stephen King's.

The latter portions of the book are more for Chabon fans who've read his works and who would therefore be interested in learning the germs that became the ideas that became books like The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay or The Yiddish Policemen's Union. If you haven't read his work, you might be lost toward the end, but then, with gems like these, you might just find yourself entertained and inspired. I know I was:

...There is a degree to which... all literature highbrow or low, from the Aeneid onward, is fan fiction... Through parody and pastiche, allusion and homage, retelling and reimagining the stories that we were told before us and that we have come of age loving--amateurs---we proceed, seeking out the blank places in the map that our favorite writers, in their greatness and negligence, have left for us, hoping to pass on to our own readers--should we be lucky enough to find any--some of the pleasure that we ourselves have taken in the stuff we love: to get in on the game. All novels are sequels; influence is bliss.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

No Child Left Behind.

Well, we all made it, as this official photo, taken on our next-to-last day there, proves:
We are back from Costa Rica, and, after a quick scan of all our available beds, I find that everyone made it back and is now asleep.

As for the trip, I have to say, it was a delightful time. Here are a few things I learned while abroad:

1) My kids are great travelers. They are very good at standing in long lines at airports that move very slowly*, and on the way there, they did a relatively whine-free job of toting all their clothes, crammed into their individual backpacks, due to our highly rational fear that the airline would lose our luggage (it happened to someone else on our team!).
2) San Jose, capital city of Costa Rica, is much bigger than I thought. And much more cosmopolitan. Being a dumb American, I was expecting ramshackle huts constructed of mud and straw. They have supermarkets!
3) Buying avocadoes the size of your head from some guy on the street? Genius.
4) I never got tired of gallo pinto for breakfast.
5) It's possible to have too much fresh pineapple. Just barely, but it's possible.
6) The people of Costa Rica are absolutely beautiful, inside and out. They are also, by and large, incredibly earnest, and my American sarcasm was lost on them. Fortunately, I know how to be funny without it.
7) The correct way to say "you're welcome" there is not "de nada," but rather "gusto."
8) Even when brewed in mass quantities with subpar water and so-so filters, Costa Rican coffee is incredible.
9) Short-term missions trips are as much about changing yourself as they are about changing the country you visit.
10) The USA is incredibly foolish for sweetening Coca-Cola with high fructose corn syrup instead of cane sugar.
11) I understand more Spanish than I thought I did. Speaking it is still a problem, though.
12) Everyone has a story to tell, and everyone has something to contribute to the cause of Christ. Even kids.
13) Charlotte's personality is her ministry.
14) Dorothy can be best friends with just about anyone, at any age.
15) Noah was born to play in the ocean. It's like every breaker is his long-lost twin.
16) Emma has the most willing missionary heart of anyone I know. The girl yearns for the lost (even though she gets humanly cranky at times).
17) Marley is great with kids who don't speak the same language as her.
18) Outside of Jesus, Michelle is the greatest thing ever to happen to me.
19) I can take a two-week break from my computer and not only not die, I can not even miss it.
20) "Por favor, depositar el papel en el basurero" is a wicked, wicked phrase, even if they do say please.
21) Americans, myself included, are far too concerned with trifles, to a troubling extent.
22) Guanabana is quite possibly the best tropical fruit you've never had.
23) Franz and Francisco are incredible bus drivers, and, should bus driving ever become an Olympic sport, will take home the gold and silver for Costa Rica. Regardless of where said Olympics are held, these two men will drive their medals back to Costa Rica on their buses. In reverse.
24) You can have some of your loudest congregational worship with just an acoustic guitar and someone playing a pulpit like a djembe.
25) Surfing is simultaneously fun, peaceful, and awe-inspiring.
26) People in Costa Rica actually say "Pura Vida" and mean it. It isn't just a tourist thing.
27) The iPod Touch costs about $550. But there is an authorized Apple Store in the mall in San Jose.
28) If you speak Spanish and aren't afraid of the walk-out, you can negotiate a super-cheap price on just about anything.
29) All kids love VBS.
30) Fly on Wednesday afternoon. There was literally no waiting at the Miami International Airport security checkpoint.
31) When in Jaco, eat at either Soda Rustico or Pachi's Pan. The former is authentic Costa Rican food for cheap, and the latter is a bakery that blows the mind. At Pachi's, order the chicken empanada (only a buck) and marvel.
32) The world needs Jesus, and the United States is not his favorite place in the whole entire earth.

That's all I can think of now. I'm sure there'll be more to come.

Thanks to all who supported us. It was truly an educational, enriching experience for every member of the Palmer Tribe, and now that we all have our passports, I tremble at the thought of where God might send us next...

*(I mean that the lines move slowly, not the airports.)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

We're Going!

Thanks to an incredibly generous public, many of our friends and family, and possibly divine intervention, we have raised enough money to pay for our Costa Rica missions trip.

We leave in three days.

I didn't realize how massive this undertaking would be until Michelle started packing for it. There are clothes upon clothes all over the place--who knew it would take so much planning and effort to shuttle two weeks' worth of clothes for seven people?

Anyway, we're all very excited (and slightly nervous) about the whole endeavor. We look forward to seeing the ways God stretches us on this trip (though I'm secretly hoping that he only stretches me in ways that are comfortable--which probably means he won't).

If I can, I'll offer some updates while abroad. I'm taking a two-week vacation from the ol' laptop, but I think there'll be a computer somewhere along the way.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

New Discovery: We Don't Know As Much As We Think.

We have a confluence of new discoveries made recently that are really making me ponder my existence. I'm sure this coincides with my recent purchase of The Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics, which in turn coincided with me checking out the official audio version of said collection from my local library.

Up first, this story about a tribe of people in Brazil/Peru that has absolutely no idea that we, this internet-connected, GMO-consuming, gas-price-worrying society, exists. Here they are, obviously feeling threatened by the noisy, enormous bird flying over them:

Follow this link for more photos and the complete story, which contains this intriguing bit:

In our overcrowded world their very future hangs in the balance. Almost all of these tribes are threatened by powerful outsiders who want their land. These outsiders - loggers, miners, cattle ranchers - are often willing to kill the tribespeople to get what they want.

Even where there is no violence, the tribes can be wiped out by diseases like the common cold to which they have no resistance.

According to Miriam Ross of Survival International, which campaigns to protect the world's remaining indigenous peoples, "These tribes represent the incredible diversity of humankind. Unless we want to condemn yet more of the earth's peoples to extinction, we must respect their choice. Any contact they have with outsiders must happen in their own time and on their own terms."

Secondly, we have this bulletin from NASA, which shows, apparently, a patch of ice uncovered by the Phoenix Mars Lander's thrusters last week:

And, from the story:

"We were expecting to find ice within two to six inches of the surface," said Peter Smith of the University of Arizona, Tucson, principal investigator for Phoenix. "The thrusters have excavated two to six inches and, sure enough, we see something that looks like ice. It's not impossible that it's something else, but our leading interpretation is ice."

(Please note that the researchers are from the University of Arizona and that this whole Mars Lander thing was not orchestrated nor sponsored by the University of Phoenix. Presumably, if there is extraterrestrial life, the boosters at U of A are hoping to make them Wildcat fans before any of the other schools can get to them.)

Jocularity aside, read these stories (and while you're at it, The World Without Us isn't a bad idea, either) and then consider this: if we didn't know about either of these things, what else do we not know, and what should that teach us about our own humility?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A Must-Read.

My wife doesn't update her blog often, but when she does, it's always worth reading. I encourage everyone to check out this post. Heartbreaking as it might be, it is a transcription of the letter she had to write to the attorney in Africa explaining why we had to forsake our adoption process.

The letter itself is written in a very African style, in Michelle's attempt to speak to the adoption attorneys in their own Ugandan variation of the English language. But the introduction she wrote is very much her own:

I never thought it would end this way. I woke up at 4 am with the grace to write the following letter out.

I am dedicating this post to birth mothers, who loved their children so much they chose to place them with families that could care for them better than they could. Who love so deeply they are willing to hurt the rest of their lives so that their children don't. I honor you women.

Goodbye, my sweet boy. I love you this much.

I admire her bravery in acknowledging and tending the emotional wounds she's sustained in the past few months. I admire her grace and poise in the grieving process. And I admire her willingness to share our story with the rest of the world.

To paraphrase an earlier post: Life goes on. God is good.

Blessings, Brave One.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Writing Is Easy: Clarity Is For Champions!

This is possibly my favorite Calvin & Hobbes strip ever, as it deals with not one but two of my writing pet peeves in one strip! One (the unnecessary proliferation of verbs in our culture--it's like a nuclear arms race in here) I've written about before; the other is the topic of today's entry in the fabulously successful "Writing Is Easy" entries.


It's something we all want, unless we're writing egghead essays to impress college professors (and even then, sometimes dense language foliage isn't welcome). And yet, so many people are downright incoherent in their written communication.

Should you strive for clarity, the solution is, I think, simple: write whatever you want, then take a step back, and edit. This, I fear, is the achilles heel of most writing today, this lack of edit. We've become accustomed to vomiting our thoughts into the internet, or into an email, or onto a Microsoft Word document, and then clicking "Send."

Stop. Wait. Look at what you've written. Read it from your audience's point of view. Does the punctuation make sense? Does it speak the same language your audience speaks? Are you shooting over their heads? Under them? Can you adjust it to be more clear? Combine sentences, perhaps? Or correct run-on sentences? Perhaps you're asking too many questions at once?

You get the point. Step back. Edit. Don't end up like this...

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

"Life Is Like A Toilet."

So said my six-year-old son yesterday. He has dreams of becoming a writer when he grows up, and he's pretty good at ferreting out spiritual truths from everyday things.

For example, on Easter Sunday, he informed us that Easter eggs are a reminder of Easter because you open up the egg and take out the candy, which makes it empty inside, just like the tomb was when Jesus rose from the dead.

However, he uncorked a couple of beauts last night. As we drove home from an outing, he said that "Life is like a toilet. When you get all dirty and yucky, you flush the toilet and it all comes back clean. So if you are feeling meanness, you have to flush the toilet and get rid of the meanness and then it will come back as kindness."

I think he meant something about prayer in the middle of that there.

Number two (pardon the pun): My eight-year-old daughter had a compass last night, and she asked me how it worked. So I showed the kids, and then Noah pulls out: "God is like a compass. He shows you the right way you should go."

"Yeah," I said, "you're right. If you ever feel anger or meanness, you can ask God how you should act and he'll show you which way to go."

"Yeah," he said. "But what if someone keeps hitting you in the face with a dodge ball?"

I stifled a smile. "I guess you should just pray and ask God what direction you should go."

"I just walked away," he said.

Uh oh. So he wasn't being silly with the question. I asked him what was up, and he told me that a couple of kids at a birthday party he'd attended earlier had decided to pick on him during a dodge ball game. When he walked away (a move for which I heaped hearty praise on him), they followed him out of the dodge ball pavilion and kept trying to peg him with the balls (for which they were chastised by adults present).

"Why do you think those guys were picking on you, Noah?" I asked.

"I don't know," he said, flicking his hair out of his face with a quick jerk of his head. "Probably because of my smooth moves."

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Costa Rica, Here We Come.

See all these people? This is me with my family, and we're attempting something this summer we've never attempted before:

We're going to Costa Rica on a missions trip.

Are we nuts? Maybe.

But, we are planning to go, and we're planning to go as a family. We're excited about the possibilities this brings forth, especially for the kiddos, most especially for Emma (the pony-tailed one in the back row whose head is next to mine), who felt God call her to be a missionary when she was only five years old and who has already had some deep theological profundity well up from within. We believe God's going to do some crazy stuff in our kids' hearts while on this trip, while simultaneously bonding us as a family and (maybe?) launching us into a new means of ministry. We can't put our fingers on it, but something grand is going to happen to one or more (or all) of us. So we're going.

However: we can't go for free. So we're in the midst of a giant fundraising campaign to try to earn enough money to get there. That's where you, dear Dregs reader, come in.

Please visit the link to our super-awesome fundraising page, hosted at If you'd like to donate, you can do so there. If you want to get behind our efforts and mention us on your blog, well, that'd be swell. Leave me a link in the comments section and I'll give you a mention on here.

Thanks for your help! Sorry for the shameless plug; I'm planning on posting another Writing Is Easy entry soon (as soon as I write it -- it's so hard!).

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Spider-Man: Now With Soul.

Today I typed the last words of my newest to-be-published endeavor, The Soul of Spider-Man, a sequel of sorts to Taming a Liger, except this time, instead of one movie (i.e. Napoleon Dynamite), my illustrious co-author and I are tackling three movies (i.e. the Spider-Man trilogy). It feels good to have the first draft finished, though it won't be hitting bookstore shelves or Amazon warehouses for at least another year. Such is life in the publishing world.

In the meantime, I'm going to sit back, relax, and watch a movie--any movie--that isn't Spider-Man.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Who Cares That They Haven't Built One Yet?

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present what could be considered the world's first green sports car.

Here's a rundown from the linked article (which has a ton of photos):

...four in-wheel motors generate 553 lb-ft of torque -- that's about as much as the tire-shredding Dodge Viper SRT produces -- and 120 kilowatts apiece (for a combined total of about 643 horsepower, putting it in the same ballpark as the Corvette ZR1). Lightning [the company who designed it] claims the car will do 0 to 60 in 4.0 seconds and hit a top speed of 130 mph. Range is 250 miles.

The car features an aluminum honeycomb chassis, carbon-kevlar bodywork, regenerative braking and 36 kilowatt nano lithium titanate battery the company says will charge in just 10 minutes and maintain 85 percent capacity after 15,000 charges. Look for a full slate of features, from anti-lock braking and traction control to air conditioning and leather.

Pretty awesome idea; here's hoping they can make it work.

Also, they're saying it'll cost $300,000. You could make this Oscar-winning movie three times with that amount of money.

Monday, February 25, 2008

I Think She Liked It.

Darcie Gudger, from, on Knuckle Sandwich:

I love how Adam Palmer isn’t afraid to Go There – into the dark alleyways of life Christian YA [young adult] books of yesteryear either ignored, or only alluded to. Harsh reality creates emotional ties between readers and characters. Teens no longer need feel alienated by fake Christian utopias. They will see that no matter how intense the desire to “Make some noise for JESUS”, they are not immune to common temptations.


My sides ached for days because Palmer’s unparalleled humor had me gasping for air. Cradle Christians (saved at an early age) will garner the most guffaws. Palmer pokes fun at the churchy institution and its stuffy culture. His innuendoes are brilliant!


Authors such as Adam Palmer and colleagues, don’t just tell compelling stories, they change lives.

Read the whole review here, and then buy the book here, if the mood should strike you.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Oh My.


Coens speak 'Yiddish' for Columbia
Rudin producing adaptation of Chabon's 'Union'

For their next collaboration, the "No Country for Old Men" team of Joel and Ethan Coen and producer Scott Rudin will transfer another Pulitzer Prize-winning author's work into a film.

Columbia Pictures has acquired screen rights to the bestselling Michael Chabon novel "The Yiddish Policemen's Union," with the Coens writing, directing and producing with Rudin.

Chabon sets up a contemporary scenario where Jewish settlers are about to be displaced by U.S. government's plans to turn the frozen locale of Sitka, Alaska, over to Alaskan natives. Against this backdrop is a noir-style murder mystery in which a rogue cop investigates the killing of a heroin-addicted chess prodigy who might be the messiah.

The Coens will turn their attention to the book after they shoot "A Serious Man" for Working Title and Focus.

"No Country" has become the highest-grossing film for the brothers, and the pic is nominated for eight Oscars. The Coens are up for four of them, and their trophy haul so far includes WGA, SAG, DGA, PGA and BAFTA awards.

"Yiddish" is the third Chabon novel that Rudin is translating to the screen. The first was "Wonder Boys," and Rudin is developing a Paramount-based adaptation of Chabon's Pulitzer Prize-winning "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay," which Chabon scripted.

The anticipatory saliva has already begun to pool in my mouth.

Monday, February 11, 2008

2007 Media Review: Amendments.

My top five needs to be reworked, because as great as The Bourne Ultimatum and Rescue Dawn were, I'll have to bump them down to "Honorable Mention" status and replace them with a pair of movies I saw this weekend: There Will Be Blood and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

What triumphs. And interesting, in that those two pictures, along with No Country for Old Men, share similar themes, in that they are elaborate character examinations of bad guys. Anton Chigurh, Daniel Plainview, Jesse James, and Robert Ford are all men with a certain amount of disdain for regular human life, though their reasons are all varied among them (click here for Entertainment Weekly's very good comparison/contrast piece on No Country and Blood).

It is a fascinating reflection of the times in which we live. And, refreshingly, all three movies are fairly free of profanity, completely free of innuendo, and relatively tame in their depictions of violence. All three pictures have shockingly violent moments, and I wouldn't recommend any of them for the under-17 crowd, but the violence is far from the sensational, buckets-of-blood variety we see in today's current glut of "horror" pictures.

These films are all an examination of deeply flawed men, and all of them, in their own way, point to a simple truth of life, namely: "Be careful what you wish for; you just may get it."

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Thoughts Turn To Space.

I recently took in the movie Sunshine, which, as I noted previously, promised to be a thinking-man's sci-fi picture that devolved in the last half-hour to a disappointing monster flick. However, because of the thinking-man's aspects of the film, I decided to revisit a couple of thinking-man's science fiction classics: 2001: A Space Odyssey, the 1972 Tarkovsky version of Solaris, widely considered a masterpiece, and Steven Soderbergh's 2002 update of the same picture.

It's interesting to me to consider the effect Star Wars had on the science fiction industry. When it was released, 2001 predated not just the Star Wars pictures, but also the moon landing. It was contemplative, in love with imagery, and eerily prescient (Roger Ebert notes that the moon in the film looks pretty much like the actual moon landing would a year later). In the same way, the '72 Solaris is contemplative (bordering on dull), in love with imagery, and full of unresolved ideas about the nature of humanity. Suddenly, along comes Star Wars five years later, and now all the space stuff is just a backdrop for a lot of swashbuckling and cool effects.

Soderbergh's Solaris was an attempt to revive that contemplative sort of sci-fi. It has no action sequences, no overwhelming mythology, no bludgeoning of the viewer's senses with ornate setpieces that feature thousands of extras (or computer-simulated extras). It's a wonderful character piece that grapples with the same themes as the original Solaris, and, unsurprisingly, it was a box office dud. Teenagers don't pay money on Friday night to see thought-provoking character pieces that, unfortunately, cost a fortune ($47 million) to produce.

All this to say, I'm starting to think more and more about the cosmos, and the human's role in it. Consider this little bit of information, lifted from, of all things, a column that appears weekly on

Recently, astronomers from Middlebury College discovered one of the fastest-moving large objects ever observed, a neutron star, designated RX J0822-4300, which appears to have been hurled away from a supernova that exploded about 3,700 years ago. Using the Chandra X-ray telescope in orbit around Earth, the astronomers calculated that the neutron star is moving about 3 million miles per hour and will, over the course of time, exit the Milky Way, hurtling into the intergalactic void. The incredible speed of RX J0822-4300 offers an opportunity to put cosmic velocity and distance into perspective. Since light moves at about 671 million miles per hour, the star is traveling at slightly under one-half of 1 percent of light speed. That means the star has traversed about 20 light-years since Hammurabi was king of Babylonia. It would take the star 20 million years to cross our galaxy from one end to the other, another 350 million years to reach the next-closest galaxy to ours.

Observation of this star tells us it is physically possible to accelerate a very heavy object to a measurable fraction of light speed; some physicists had contended that might always be impossible. Now that we know it can be done, we should assume humanity someday will accomplish this artificially. So let's suppose humanity someday builds a spaceship capable of one-half of 1 percent of light speed. (The fastest manmade object so far, the New Horizons space probe currently bound for Pluto, had a peak velocity of .007 percent of light speed, meaning the neutron star is moving about 75 times faster.) If humanity someday builds a spaceship capable of moving as fast as the neutron star, such technology would open up the solar system to every conceivable shenanigan. A ship moving at half of 1 percent of the speed of light could reach Mars in about 10 hours and be at Saturn in about a day. But a spaceship moving at half of 1 percent of light speed would still be a rowboat compared with cosmic distances -- requiring 800 years to reach the nearest star to our sun and 6 million years to reach the galactic center.

This thing is big, y'all. Much bigger than our limited vision, of science fiction genre films, of humanity.


Tuesday, February 5, 2008

It's High School, But It Ain't Musical.

So I got an actual-factual copy of The High School Survival Guide in the mail yesterday, and I gotta say: Bravo, NavPress. It looks great, you guys. Nice trim size, great cover, with the art theme cleverly worked in throughout the pages. It definitely is a smashing package that goes well with graduations, football/basketball/wrestling/baseball/competitive speech championship celebrations, gift-giving occasions (Presidents' Day is just around the corner!), or just because.

I've seen many iterations of this book, from the Microsoft Word document I shipped off to the publisher electronically, to the copy-edited and printed Microsoft Word document I received from them, to the print-out stack-o'-paper version I got back from them after it had made the rounds through the design team. But there's something about seeing it in actual book form that makes it feel so real.

Also, there's something about seeing it in book form that causes me to palpitate immensely and find a myriad of things I wish I'd done differently. Most humorously, this time around, is the acknowledgment I gave Evan Taylor at the front, thanking him for snapping the author photo that graces the back pages of my books (and the upper left-hand corner of this websites). Then I flip it over to look at the back cover and find... no photo. NavPress left it off for some reason.

Okay, that's the only thing I'll tell you. You'll have to find all my other palpitation-inducing nitpicks on your own.

(P.S. As I write, this the book is the 2,969,830th best-seller over there at that one website.)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Thanks, Internet!

Before I put up this post, this was the sales rank for The High School Survival Guide:

After the post, my sales rank shot to the astonishing new level of:

Thank you! I couldn't have done it without you, internet!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

2007 Media Review: Bold Predictions For 2008.

[Concluding the media review with a look into the upcoming year...]

1) Fox Searchlight will unearth another breakout indie hit/awards favorite featuring a talented and as-of-yet unheard-of young lead actress in the title role who people will sort of recognize from a supporting part in a previous summer blockbuster. It will be packed with Quirky characters, and people will tell me how great "the writing" is, when, in actuality, they mean "the dialogue has words you don't hear every day." The success of the movie will be primarily spurred on by positive word-of-mouth, and a print/web marketing campaign that bludgeons the consumer with a singular bright color that plays an insignificant role in the actual movie.

2) The Dark Knight will surpass Titanic for overall awesomeness in box-office receipts. Christian Bale will then be swept into office of President by a groundswell of write-in votes, which will also overturn the Constitution to allow a Welshman to govern our fine nation.

3) No summer blockbuster for the next ten years will be able to achieve a crummier, more anticipation-deflating title than Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Thanks for wresting this one away from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, George Lucas. At least you kept it in the family.

4) The writers' strike will end the same day the rapture occurs. I have 2008 reasons this will happen in 2008.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

2007 Media Review: Top Concerts/Sporting Events.

[The last of the media review entries. Tomorrow will see my bold predictions for 2008. And now, to continue the running theme, I'm closing this sentence with an ellipsis...]

1) Boston Red Sox vs. Colorado Rockies, in Fenway Park, in June. Michelle and I enjoyed a World Series preview without knowing it would be a World Series preview. The Sox got creamed, by the way, but it was cool to see Curt Schilling on the actual mound, and to cheer every time former Tulsa Driller Troy Tulowitzki got on base. Also: the official team store across the street from the park is a sight to behold.

Um, that's only one:
Yep. I don't have time to take in concerts and/or sporting events; I'm assuming the stage productions of Annie and The Nutcracker that my daughter was in don't count.

Worst concert and/or sporting event:
See previous response.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

2007 Media Review: Top TV.

[The shortest post yet in my media review; I mainly divide my time 'twixt motion pictures, the written word, and my familia (and that's in reverse order)--not a lot of time left over for the television (and sports don't count). We'll cover concerts/sporting events tomorrow, and then my bold predictions for 2008 on Thursday. But now, let's go over 2007's...]

1) Lost [I thought about the season finale for days.]
2) The Office
3) 30 Rock
4) Planet Earth [I don't have cable, so we watched the DVDs, which feature the original British tones of BBC narrator David Attenborough. Me like.]
5) Did I mention Lost?

I don't watch much TV, so I don't have any other categories, so let's skip to the worst TV of 2007:
24. After such a great setup, it turned into a disappointment... again. I won't be watching in '08.

Monday, January 14, 2008

2007 Media Review: Top Music.

[Get those toes a-tappin' as the media review continues...]

1) Once: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova [In case you couldn't tell, I liked this movie.]
2) The Reminder, Feist [So many people put this on their review, and it almost made me not list it--but I have to be honest and say I probably have listened to no album in 2007 more than this one.]
3) Sky Blue Sky, Wilco [The best Eagles album released in '07. Ahem.]
4) The Trumpet Child, Over the Rhine [Cabaret is not dead; it just moved to Cincinnati.]
5) The Black and White Album, The Hives [No one does high-energy hubris rock better than them. I quote from the liner notes of this record: "W. Churchill says: 'Never before have The Hives done so much for so many.'"]

Let's just go ahead and make it a top 10:
In Rainbows, Radiohead
Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace, Foo Fighters
We Walked in Song, The Innocence Mission
Volta, Bjork [on the strength of "Earth Intruders" and "Declare Independence" alone.]
Give Yourself Away, Robbie Seay Band

Coolest musical invention of 2007:
The Reactable. Watch the Basic Demos and be amazed.
(Demo #1) (Demo #2)

2007's catchiest song:
"1 2 3 4", Feist

2007's catchiest song about terrorism:
"Tick Tick Boom", The Hives

Worst music of 2007:
I don't have time to listen to crap, so this would have to be pretty much any of the "performances" by "artists" (who the heck is Akon? and why was he on twice?) on the Wednesday night episodes of American Idol I was forced, much against my will, to endure.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

2007 Media Review: Top Movies.

[The madness continues, movie-style. Tomorrow: music. Until then, enjoy...]

1) Once [I have nothing but love in my heart for a movie that does absolutely nothing wrong and everything right. All musicians should watch this film, and be amazed, and then depressed that no song you ever write will be as good as "Falling Slowly."]
2) No Country for Old Men [This time, all the critics were right. The comments section below is waiting for you if you didn't "get" the ending.]
3) Ratatouille [Brad Bird is turning into one of my favorite directors. No movie in '07 delighted me more.]
4) The Bourne Ultimatum [Literally everyone put this movie on their very diverse list. If Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon keep making these, I'll keep seeing them.]
5) Rescue Dawn [Whew. I'm tired. And suddenly hungry.]

Almost there, but not quite:
Zodiac [It was actually a toss-up between this and Rescue Dawn for the #5 slot.]
A Mighty Heart
The TV Set
No End in Sight
Spider-Man 3
The Simpsons Movie
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
The Kingdom

Movies that might've made the top 5, if I'd seen them:
There Will Be Blood [Hurry up and come to Tulsa, movie! This is the only film here that I yearn--yearn!--to see on opening weekend. Everything else will do on DVD.]
Into the Wild
I'm Not There
Michael Clayton
Across the Universe
The Darjeeling Limited
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
In the Shadow of the Moon
The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
Into Great Silence
[A 3-hour-long documentary on silent monks. What's not to like?]

Movies that threatened to be brilliant, then shot themselves in the foot in the last act:
Sunshine [contemplative and stunning, it cheesed out by becoming, essentially, a monster movie. This is hands-down the most frustrating cop-out of '07, even though it almost redeemed itself in the last five minutes. What a waste.]
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (IMAX 3-D version) [never again will I take in a movie not meant to be 3-D in the first place. It ceased being about the story and became about the very jarring spectacle.]

Movies that received much critical acclaim and that all my friends told me were great but that I cannot muster any enthusiasm for:
Juno [The only one on this list I've seen. It tried way too hard to be Quirky(TM). Wes Anderson should sue for copyright infringement.]
Atonement [Epic + Romance + Period Piece = I won't see it anytime soon.]
The Kite Runner [I know, I know: I'm a horrible human being.]
Away from Her
Lars and the Real Girl
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Best fight scene featuring Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner:
The Kingdom

Worst fight scene featuring Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner:

Worst movie of the year by a mile (and possibly of the decade), which is quite a feat, because this year gave us Evan Almighty and Bratz:
Transformers [I was expecting big, dumb fun; it gave me two out of three.]