Because life is a series of edits

Archive for March, 2010|Monthly archive page

Concert Review: Jason Aldean

In Marriage, Musicians, Places, Places & Spaces, Thought on March 29, 2010 at 1:37 am

And now for something completely different…

Megan somehow scored free backstage passes, a private "concert"/photo op (with eats and drinks), and free tickets to the Jason Aldean concert at the Family Arena in St. Charles Saturday night. I don't know how she finds this stuff, but I've learned over the years not to ask too many questions so as to not attach myself as an accomplice in whatever illegal activities she may engage in for a cheap date night. But I digress…

Let's be clear: while I appreciate the lyrical cleverness of country music, I'm not that big a fan of the musicality of the genre. Still, a free concert's a free concert, and since "She's Country" at heart, Megan and I went and enjoyed the gig. Jake Owen ("one of People magazine's sexiest men in country music" – oh boy) was the opening act, but everyone was clearly there for Aldean.

Rather than write a detailed review that no one may particularly care to read, I thought I'd record a video blog (vlog) to pseudo-capture the evening. What follows are my hardly technical, barely coherent, and honestly raw thoughts on the show.

Thanks to Megan for her filming/editing job, as well as for treating me to more culture than one man should be allowed to experience in a night.

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Lineups 2010

In Sports, Technology, Westminster on March 28, 2010 at 5:50 pm

Baseball in glove

My fantasy baseball league (Crooked Numbers) had its draft this afternoon. It's my first time playing (I got Megan to field a team as well), but nobody mentioned the draft itself was going to consume two whole hours of a Sunday afternoon. As there are 11 teams in our league, the process took a while, but I was impressed with Yahoo's interface and draft kit, so at least it didn't feel clunky…just long.

Neither Megan nor I have any idea what we're doing in terms of baseball fantasy (we prefer the real stuff), but for those who do, here are my 23 drafted players here at the start of the season:

Pick #, Player, Position(s)

1. (6) Joe Mauer C

2. (19) Aramis Ramírez 3B

3. (30) Adam Wainwright SP

4. (43) Robinson Canó 2B

5. (54) Mariano Rivera RP

6. (67) Billy Butler 1B

7. (78) Bobby Abreu OF

8. (91) Yunel Escobar SS

9. (102) Jason Kubel OF

10. (115) Jair Jurrjens SP

11. (126) Brendan Ryan 2B,SS

12. (139) Rick Porcello SP

13. (150) A.J. Burnett SP

14. (163) Stephen Strasburg SP

15. (174) Miguel Tejada SS

16. (187) Joe Nathan RP

17. (198) Rajai Davis OF

18. (211) Carlos Ruiz C

19. (222) Maicer Izturis 2B,SS

20. (235) Tim Wakefield SP

21. (246) Melky Cabrera OF

22. (259) Andy Pettitte SP

23. (270) Joba Chamberlain SP

I feel pretty good about the majority of my picks, as I've got some
superstars (Mauer, Wainwright, Rivera, Abreu), some solid position
players (Cano, Escobar, Ryan, Kubel), and just to keep it interesting, some risks (Strasburg). My one certified dud draft pick was Joe Nathan, as apparently he is scheduled for Tommy
John surgery soon (information that would have been helpful yesterday). Whups.

Anyone playing fantasy baseball with a comment or two? Care to post your roster and compare? Any counsel or strategy for this rookie?

In semi-related news, I'm dealing with a completely other set of rosters as Westminster's underclassmen baseball season begins tomorrow with a four-game junior varsity tournament (M-TH) as well as a freshman game on Wednesday. I've been working on my signs all weekend long so I don't look like I'm having a seizure down the third base line, but I'm not quite there…yet. Come on out if you're in the neighborhood. Go Wildcats!

10 Commandments of Pitching (or What Happens When a Bible Teacher Coaches Baseball)

In Sports, Theologians, Westminster on March 24, 2010 at 11:50 am

Spring Training

Handing out this original (and highly contextualized) paraphrase of Exodus
20:1-20
to our junior varsity pitchers today:

“And Coach spoke all these words:
‘I am the Coach your Teacher, who brought you out of
the dugout, out of the land of the bullpen.

1. You shall not lose control –
mentally, physically, or emotionally.

2. You shall not make for yourself a mess by falling behind counts
or walking batters. You shall not drag or work at a slow pace;
for I, the Coach your Teacher, am a just Coach, punishing the
pitchers for the sin of not throwing strikes through the third or fourth
inning, but showing mound time up to a full seven innings to those
who love pitching and care about the strike zone.

3. You shall not misuse a pitch in the wrong spot
or in the wrong situation, for the Coach will not hold
anyone guiltless who misuses his pitches.

4. Remember your fielders by throwing strikes.
Three balls you are allowed to do all your work,
but three strikes is a Sabbath for the Coach your Teacher.
With them, you shall not wear out your team, neither you, nor your infielders
or outfielders, nor your parents or fans, nor your girlfriends or
wannabe girlfriends, nor the scout within your gates. For with three
strikes in mind the Coach made the decision and the line-up, the
fielding positions, and all who are in them, but he rested on the fact
that you are going to make good pitches. Therefore the Coach trusts you to
throw strikes so the team can make outs.

5. Honor your umpires and your officials,
so that you may live long on the mound
the Coach your Teacher is giving you.

6. You shall not waste pitches.

7. You shall not walk the lead-off hitter.

8. You shall not allow
runners to steal on you.

9. You shall not allow the opposing team
to score the inning after we score.

10. You shall not covet your teammate’s velocity.
You shall not covet your teammate’s curveball, or his changeup
or slider, his two-seam or four-seam, or any pitch that your teammate
throws.’

When the pitchers saw the thunder and lightning and heard
‘Play ball!” and saw the mound in smoke, they trembled with fear. They
stayed at a distance and said to the catcher, ‘Speak to us yourself and
we will listen. But do not have Coach speak to us or we will die.’ The
catcher said to the pitchers, ‘Do not be afraid. Coach has come to test
you, so that the fear of Coach will be with you to keep you from
throwing balls.’”

Hoping this gets the point across. In the meantime, if you’re a fan of both baseball and the Bible, you might enjoy this from a few years back: Moses at the Bat.

Teaching You by Ann Heyse

In Education, Poetry, Westminster on March 16, 2010 at 9:36 am

My English-teaching colleague and friend, Ann Heyse, wrote a wonderful poem for Westminster's Poetry Slam last month. I asked her if I could post it here, as it speaks so beautifully of her passion for trying to teach students who don't always want to learn.

Teaching You
You have it mastered: that attentive façade of interest,
the not-quite blank stare that hides your misery.

You nod, even, at times answer questions, turn in your work, listen to me,
mistakenly thinking that somehow you are doing your work for me.

Your face feigns attention,
When
I know and you know about
your gathering storm.

How inside,
your light’s nearly extinguished,
your help’s long fled,
your safe harbor's destroyed.

I cannot fix or fight your darkness; these are the demons that cling to you,
not me (I have my own).

But here is what I can give:

Prattle to fill your days.

It is only part distraction; more, it is weapon: I give you words, commas,
paragraphs,
sometimes novels to remind you there are stories like yours,

knowing,

the best weapon against your darkness is
normalcy,
kindness,
rhythm:
ordinary moments that build upon
ordinary moments that build upon ordinary moments

Until, you see,
You have built yourself a shelter.
And you can hide there until one day
You, the real you,
smiles back at me.

Why Johnny Can’t Write (Part 2)

In Church, Education, Humanity, Internet, Technology, Thought, Web/Tech, Westminster, Young Ones on March 14, 2010 at 8:29 am

(Continued from my previous post on the topic; sorry for the delay/random smatterings. Can't believe it's taken two weeks, but I'm guessing you found other things to read).

With regard to the problem of teaching and learning the Bible, David Nienhuis sums up the problem nicely: "Biblical literacy programs need to do more than produce informed quoters. They need to produce transformed readers."

Most Scripture memory programs focus on the imperative verses (what to do), almost completely ignoring the indicative verses (what is true). In other words, we in the church spend more time telling kids (and ourselves) what to do for God rather than what God has done for them (and us). In the evangelical church, we're all about the what and how, and hardly about the when, where, and why.

But let's not pretend that decontextualization is just a biblical literacy problem specifically; in today's postmodern world (or post-postmodern world some would say), it is a literacy problem in general. Here's where we come back to basic reading and writing
skills, and these skills' corruption by the very thing so many proclaim will help – technology.

There is, after all, a difference between learning something and learning how to search for something. Is one better than the other? That's a debated question: does a kid really need to learn when or where or why an historical event took place, or does he just need to learn how to search for it effectively with Google? How you answer this question has everything to do with your pedagogy, and while I don't think the two answers are mutually exclusive, I do think the former gets short shrift compared to the latter.

Think about this: nobody memorizes phone numbers anymore because we can just input them into our phone, press the name of the person we want to call, and dial the right number. This works great…as long as we have the phone. But what happens when we lose the phone or the phone stops working? How do we get a hold of the person we're trying to call? What do we really know? We know that we want our phone back and working again, and we realize how lost we feel without it. (Note: For the other two of you in the world who, like me, don't own a cell phone, apply the idea to losing your Web browser bookmarks…it can seem like the most helpless feeling in the world.)

The point is that we live such a wi-fi-enabled, out-sourced, off-site, backed-up life that we use our brains for little more than remembering where we store our passwords than what it is (stories, ideas, responses, reflections) they protect. Ours has evolved into such a non-oral tradition "tradition," that the thought of memorizing sonnets from a poem or narrative stories from the Bible for meaning and not information seems archaic and unnecessary. If we think we need it, we can find it; we don't need to learn it. And if we don't think we need to learn it, well, who cares?

The result of all this (or at least the result I see in the classroom) is a student who struggles to write or process ideas that take more than a paragraph to explain (see this Onion article for a humorous version of the problem) growing up in a culture that validates his multi-tasking dysfunction despite studies like this one and articles like this one that question it as a good means to deal with life. As an educator, I suppose I risk becoming suspect to students and parents (and perhaps colleagues and administrators) in calling for moderation and (at times) sobriety when it comes to drinking the technological Kool-Aid, but when I watch a program like Frontline's Digital Nation: Life on the Virtual Frontier, it confirms my concerns. Again, I'm not down on technology, but idolatry is a different matter.

Maybe it's because of the subjects I teach (New Testament and Ethics) or the experience (or lack thereof) I've had in the classroom, but depending on technology instead of using technology to teach seems ridiculous for many reasons, not the least of which is this: what if the power or the Internet goes out? If I can't teach apart from my laptop with its Keynote presentations and Web-access and wikis and online forums and Skype conversations and YouTube clips and ITunes access and podcasts and Scripture software – all of which I use in the classroom – then I'm not sure I'm really much of a teacher.

I need one more post to respond to some of your questions about how we try to apply any of this here at home with our own kids. I promise I won't take another two weeks to get to it, so hang in there. In the meantime, here's a link to the blog of one of my students who has the increasingly rare gift of being a sophomore in high school and able to utilize technology while still thinking and writing meaningfully. Enjoy.

O Canada (revised)

In Musicians, Places, Poetry, Sports, TV on March 2, 2010 at 8:42 am

A friend of mine in Colorado is in a fun but fierce battle with a Canadian friend of his over the outcome of the Olympic gold medal hockey game in which Canada beat the U.S. My friend asked me to write a parody of the Canadian national anthem to use as ammo.

Here's the original (click here to listen):

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.

With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!

From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

Below is my version (click here to sing along). Keep in mind the following is all of 5 minutes of work, stereotypically-dated by my coming of age in the 80's (so take off, eh?):

O Canada!
Our home and TV land
True luck that we have Captain Kirk's command.

With glowing hearts made warm by beer
and McKenzie brothers two!
S-C-T-V,
O Canada, we raise remotes to you.

God keep us warm, laid back and free.
O Canada, we love to watch TV.

O Canada, we love to watch TV.

Other lyric suggestions?