NBA ‘Playoffs’ Enter Third Year

05/31/2008, 12:00 pm -- by | No Comments

Originally published May 2006.

The tense war to determine ultimate superiority in the National Basketball Association entered its third year today, with no end to the bitter struggle yet in sight.

The ‘playoffs,’ as they are referred to by NBA insiders, were largely expected to end after a one to two-month period of nailbiting action, unforgettable drama, and eternal reminders that Law & Order airs on TNT seven nights a week, four hours a night, but the hope of a quick resolution has withered away, into an endless quagmire of zone defense and flops. One recent matchup involving the favored Detroit Pistons took three weeks to complete — six days of which were devoted to the last minute of the fourth quarter.

Recent examples of the seemingly unending conflict have included fast-paced shootouts up and down the West Coast, bruising hand-to-hand combat throughout the Midwest, and a particularly unfortunate disaster involving the New York Knicks and an under-15 travelling girls’ squad, in which guards Steve Francis and Stephon Marbury jump shot their entire team to death.

Several well-known players have fallen victim to the protracted hostilities. LA Clippers center Chris Kaman and San Antonio Spurs guard Michael Finley were injured in ways no man should ever have to witness, let alone see in slow-motion five times on SportsCenter. Miami Heat star Shaquille O’Neal turned 50 during a recent series and deserted his team to seek his fortune in the French Foreign Legion. And in perhaps the most stunning development of all, Phoenix Suns forward Amare Stoudemire suffered a debilitating leg injury while running last month and is expected to be euthanized by the end of June.

As the fighting has dragged on, NBA commissioner David Stern has taken the brunt of the impact publicly. A lightning rod for criticism by fans who expected a quick succession in leadership, Stern’s approval is measured at 24% by the most current public opinion polls.

Adding insult to injury, past team generals such as Bill Walton and Hubie Brown have recently joined the ranks of those calling for the resignation of playoff mastermind and Stern loyalist Donald Rumsfeld, and urged an immediate ceasefire.

“Mr. Stern, it is time you follow your own mantra!,” whined Brown, at a Phoenix press conference today. “It is clear no one can win — so send our boys home!”

“Throw it dowwwwwwn, big man!,” Walton added, as always, unnecessarily.

The office of the commissioner responded by fining Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, $1.4 million for Brown’s comments.

One Hundred Words (11)

05/30/2008, 12:00 pm -- by | No Comments

With so much time spent sitting in a hospital lately, I made a new friend with some interesting things to teach.

Life Lessons from Abraham Lincoln:

— 1865 wasn\’t that long ago. I thought of Abe as a founding father, yet had he not been killed, he could have met my grandparents.

— Politics didn\’t just get corrupt. Old Honest Abe knew how to make a deal.

— Appreciate what you have. In describing Niagara Falls, Lincoln wrote: “…when Adam met his Maker…when Moses led Israel through the Red Sea…before Christ suffered…Niagara roared here.”

— He loved his wife.


Clash of the Titans LXXXIII: Rap Music

05/30/2008, 11:00 am -- by | 2 Comments

In this corner, opposing rap music, is Kaitlin!

And in this corner, supporting rap music, is Mike!

While the phrase “rap music” may not necessarily be an oxymoron, the genre and the ethos of the culture it perpetuates directly contradicts many of the values dear to the consumers of mainstream media who would champion it.

Rap music, and most notably gangsta rap, is powered fundamentally by provocative content. Divorcing the form from its content divests the music of its force and intent. In 1997, Dr. Dre attempted to tone down his message. “I have kids and wanted to get away from the ”˜b—–s and ho\’s\’ and the violence,” he said. But the resulting album generated less than half of his usual revenue. “I had to come back to the real. Back to the gangsta,” he said.

This “gangsta” culture, however, is merely a poor and potentially detrimental caricature of urban life. Spike Lee, in the film “Bamboozled,” satirized the portrayal of African Americans in contemporary media, arguing that rap propagates the harmful stereotypes that most would want to see eradicated. Performers such as rap artists, he contended, play into mainstream prejudices, glorifying the ghetto lifestyle at the expense of the people they purport to represent.

Byron Hurt, who directed a film that identified the misogyny and skewed masculinity inherent to the genre, would agree. “We need to have artists second-guess creating lyrics that are anti-woman in the same way that they would second-guess writing something that is anti-Semitic,” Hurt said.

Rap music gives many consumers a false sense of familiarity, a fake compassion. Said Hank Shocklee, a prominent producer in the rap industry and half of rap ensemble Public Enemy: “If you\’re a suburban white kid and you want to find out what life is like for a black city teenager, you buy a record by N.W.A. It\’s like going to an amusement park and getting on a roller coaster ride ”” records are safe, they\’re controlled fear, and you always have the choice of turning it off. That\’s why nobody takes a train up to 125th Street and gets out and starts walking around. Because then you\’re not in control anymore: it\’s a whole other ball game.”

By creating the conception of such a blatant and unfounded racial divide, rap music denies consumers the opportunity to discover for themselves how few differences actually exist between seemingly disparate people. Journalist David Samuels sees in rap music “a voyeurism and tolerance of racism in which black and white are both complicit.” Somehow, he said, the deviant behavior characteristic of the culture seems appropriate or even acceptable. “The values it instills find their ultimate expression in the ease with which we watch young black men killing each other: in movies, on records, and on the streets of cities and towns across the country.”

Rap music essentially undermines the entire endeavor to recognize the equality of all, regardless of racial, gender, or socioeconomic differences. Unless the genre, and the culture associated with it, undergoes a thorough overhaul, it should be thoroughly avoided.

I luv rap music
Always have, and I always will
There’s no other kinda music in the world
makes me feel quite as chill

“I Luv Rap Music” — DC Talk

I love rap music too. First, because it says something. When I was growing up, rap was symbolic of all that was wrong with the world, all that had gone haywire. Dutifully, I avoided it through my adolescence. But then I discovered it — Public Enemy. Arrested Development. And I found music that unapologetically said something. It wasn’t like country music, a paean to an old way of life that could never return; it wasn’t like pop, all painted and gummy; it was real, it was about issues, it was about life. Of course, much rap says nothing worth saying; but when you have heard rap that speaks to the black community about issues especially important to that community in a language that naturally rises from that community — then you have heard music with meaning.

I also love rap from a professional perspective. Preachers and rappers both make their living with words. Each of us has a stock of standard stories to draw upon and our professional reputations are staked upon being able to tell those stories well, using communication appropriate to our community. Some of the most clever wordplay and arresting language is used — regrettably — not in the pulpit, but behind the microphone. As a preacher, rappers actually give me something to look up to as there is such focus on the moment of communication and communicating in a memorable way.

Finally, I love rap because it brings this suburban white male into contact with a culture that is different from my own. I don’t mean to romanticize gangsta rap; I recognize that much of it is not pure artistic response to harsh realities but created by and for a listening market. But listening to it — even the worst of it — keeps me connected to an urban society different from my own.

At times, contact with that different culture challenges me to change and ask provocative questions; for instance, we should ask why inner-city America is still overwhelmingly religious while the suburbs are increasingly secular, if not atheistic. That challenges me, makes me think about what is deficient about the brand of Christianity I practice. At other times, contact with that different culture challenges me to think about how I can address deficiencies and needs in that culture, even coming from outside of it.

Regardless, it does me well to listen to rap because it takes me outside of what I know and challenges me to think differently.


Joke of the Day, 5/30/08

05/30/2008, 7:00 am -- by | No Comments

A Texan, a Russian, and a New Yorker went to a restaurant in London. The waiter approached their table and said, “Excuse me, but if you order a steak, you might not get one, because there’s a shortage.”

The Texan said, “What’s a shortage?”

The Russian said, “What a steak?”

And the New Yorker said, “What’s ‘Excuse me’?”

Surfing Demystified

05/29/2008, 1:00 pm -- by | No Comments

I surf. Or, I have surfed. That is, I can balance, most of the time, atop a board while a wave sends me toward shore.

Californians really do surf. Many people here have a board or two sitting in the garage, and while most aren\’t privileged enough to paddle out every morning, it\’s not too hard to make it to the beach at least a couple of times every summer. If you\’re a student at Point Loma Nazarene University like I am — especially if you\’re a boy down in Young Hall, literally just hundreds of feet from beach access — the waves can be hard to resist. I hate to say it, but catching one really is like being on top of the world.

Paddling out is the hardest part. After wrapping the Velcro strap around your ankle, you grab the board and start wading into the water. When you\’re about waist-high, you wriggle onto your belly, stretch your legs out flat, and begin paddling. The waves that looked disappointingly small from shore suddenly tower over your head, but you have to brace yourself and press through them. Salty foam in your nose is part of the experience.

The sets of waves seem never-ending; just when you\’ve crested one, another spills over right behind it. But if you paddle long enough, and if you\’re not caught in a rip current or out on a particularly brutal day, eventually you\’ll find yourself out past the breakers. At this point you can position yourself, straddling the board, and sit upright. The water swells gently here, allowing you to float effortlessly. Even if you never catch anything, you at least have the pleasure of looking like a surfer to the people strolling out along the pier or sitting on the shore. Most of surfing, after all, is just waiting for the right wave.

If you\’re on a longboard, you\’ll be able to ride almost anything that comes in. Longboards are large and buoyant; the bigger the board, the easier it is to ride. Smaller boards make for faster, slicing rides, but only if you can catch a wave first. After you\’ve spotted a decent wave, you turn your board so that you face the shore. Throwing glances over your shoulder to time yourself, you lie down once again, and resume paddling. By creating momentum, you will be able to move into the wave, allowing it to propel you. As soon as the wave rises behind you, you pop up, positioning your favored front leg forward and leaning back slightly, crouching to maintain your balance. And if you\’ve done it right, you\’re up.

The surface is like permeable glass, solid and yet completely formless. You glide easily on a wave constant and somehow constantly changing. Who would have thought you could go so fast powered by nothing more than water? The beach stretches long and bright before you, the sky sunny and domed above, the sandy floor distantly visible below you in the watery green-blue depths.

And that\’s just longboard riding. Shooting through a barrel on a shortboard is another story, one I\’m not quite experienced enough to tell. But, as I think most surfers would tell you, that\’s not really what surfing is about.

Surfing is the horizon. Surfing is the simple elements of air and water, sky and sea. It is complete immersion in endless pulsing life, tidal rhythm and ocean breath, salt and sand and sun. Drifting with the currents, subject to the subtle indictment of that sharp limitless line, you begin to understand how insignificant we really are.

One Hundred Words (10)

05/29/2008, 9:00 am -- by | No Comments

In the spirit of Proverbs 10:19, our newest regular feature will be a series of posts of 100 words — or fewer. Comments under ten words!

My heart was broken on some forgotten yesterday
when there wasn’t time to stop and fix it
So the part of me that sees is here today
but the part that feels is not

If I had faith like Joshua
I could stop the sun,
make the world stop spinning,
freeze time,
let the scattered fragments catch up,

and I’d be whole again.

But I doubt that such a selfish act
could ever pass for faith with God.


Quote of the Day, 5/29/08

05/29/2008, 7:00 am -- by | No Comments

“Greater love hath no man than to attend the Episcopal Church with his wife.” — L.B. Johnson

A Summer Reading List

05/28/2008, 2:30 pm -- by | No Comments

It\’s summer again, and that means everyone is playing outside, going on vacation and lying on the beach! Which is why a summer reading list is ludicrous, but I\’m suggesting some good books and authors anyway. The asterisk indicates young adult books, but I\’d recommend them for adults, too.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Neil Gaiman
Lauren Winner
Terry Pratchett
T.A. Baron
Amy Tan
*Scott Westerfield
*Ann Rinaldi

Life of Pi, Yann Martel
The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini
Lipstick Jihad, Azadeh Moaveni
Reluctant Saint, Donald Spoto
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Jean-Dominique Bauby
Behind the Lines, Andrew Carroll
Art, Yasmina Reza
Rhinoceros, Eugène Ionesco
All About My Mother, Samuel Adamson (contains graphic content)
*The Key to the Golden Firebird, Maureen Johnson
*Guitar Highway Rose, Brigid Lowry
*What Happened to Lani Garver, Carol Plum-Ucci
Song of Albion (3 books), Stephen Lawhead
Confessions, Saint Augustine
The Crystal Cave and The Hollow Hills, Mary Stewart
Wicked and Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, Gregory Maguire
1984 and Animal Farm, George Orwell
Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
Jacob Have I Loved, Katherine Paterson
The Nanny Diaries, Emma Mclaughlin and Nicola Kraus

Battle of the Bands LVIII

05/28/2008, 1:00 pm -- by | No Comments

Here are the next batch of band names from Luke (Stone’s Throw and Treacherous Kiss move on!)


Bible Discussion — Luke 23

05/28/2008, 12:00 pm -- by | No Comments

This week, looks at the next chapter of Luke, Luke 23.

Genesis: 1-4 | 5-9 | 10-14 | 15-18 | 19-22 | 23-26
27-29 | 30-32 | 33-36 | 37-39 | 40-43 | 44-46 | 47-50
Exodus: 1-4 | 5-8 | 9-11 | 12-14 | 15-18
19-22 | 23-26 | 27-30 | 31-34 | 35-40
Romans: Ch. 1 | Ch. 2 | Ch. 3 | Ch. 4 | Ch. 5 | Ch. 6 | Ch. 7 | Ch. 8 (I)
Ch. 8 (II) | Ch. 9 | Ch. 10 | Ch. 11 | Ch. 12 | Ch. 13 | Ch. 14 | Ch. 15-16
Luke: 1:1-38 | 1:39-2:40 | 2:41-3:38 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7
8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14-15 | 16-17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22

Jesus is brought before the rulers of the area, who rightfully find no fault in Him. But at the insistence of the religious leaders, and the crowds they whip into a frenzy, He is beaten, mocked, ridiculed, whipped, and brutally murdered. Yet at all times He responds with love. With forgiveness.

Verse 11 says that Herod (contemptuously) gave Jesus a beautiful robe while mocking Him, then sent Him away. In John’s Gospel, He still had it on the way to the cross. I wonder if that’s part of what the soldiers drew lots over in v.34. All I remember from John is a tunic with one seam, but it does say there were four parts — enough for four men.

Verse 56 says of the women preparing the burial spices and perfumes, “But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.” Just thought it was interesting.

Jesus’ words in v.43 — “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” — are often used in the debate over whether we go straight to heaven when we die, or lie in some dormant state until the resurrection.

I don\’t care much one way or the other, but what I hadn\’t even thought of until this reading is that Christ himself wasn\’t even going to paradise that day. He had some other stops to make first.

Steve: Give Us Barabbas
Chloe: Subversive Nation
Chloe; Connie: Barabbas
Josh: Cover Us!

Continued here!

One Hundred Words (9)

05/28/2008, 9:00 am -- by | No Comments

In the spirit of Proverbs 10:19, our newest regular feature will be a series of posts of 100 words — or fewer. Comments under ten words!

It snowed on Friday. In New Mexico. In May.

When I saw it, I laughed, the kind of laugh that only forms when the irony of life triumphs. And all day I kept thinking of “The Day After Tomorrow.” I don\’t know about global warming and all that, but I do know some pretty old people with some very long memories at the restaurant where I work, and none of them remember snow in May.

I\’m not saying there\’s going to be some catastrophic planet-wide climactic shift or anything. Nothing like that. It just freaked me out. That\’s all.


Joke of the Day, 5/28/08

05/28/2008, 7:00 am -- by | No Comments

A man walks into the doctor with a strawberry growing out of his forehead. The doctor said, “Let me give you some cream to put on that.”

The Council’s Ruling — House Color

05/27/2008, 12:00 pm -- by | No Comments

This and every Monday, the Bweinh!tributors, having convened in secret for hours of reasoned debate and consideration, will issue a brief and binding ruling on an issue of great societal import.

This week’s question — What is the worst color to paint a house?

The Council was unable to agree on a majority opinion.

Kaitlin offers this opinion, joined by Erin, David, and MC-B:

Deep purple: the least naturally occurring color in the rainbow. As houses are elements of the landscape, they should blend or at least complement their surroundings.


Steve offers this opinion, joined by Tom and Connie:

Super-bright yellow. You might think it’s cheery at first, but wait until the second week. It’ll sap your will to live.


David offers this opinion, joined by Chloe and Job:

Camo, because then you might not be able to find it again.


Chloe offers this opinion, joined by Job:

Black, because it gets too hot. Also, it’s emo.


Josh offers this opinion:

Black. Any other ridiculous color will at least make you look like the happy sort of crazy.


Tom offers this opinion, joined by Djere:

Pink. Easy to mar with dark and light stains alike, and hard on the neighbors’ eyes.


Mike played no part in the determination of this issue.


Next time: What is the most annoying song?

American Health Care

05/27/2008, 10:30 am -- by | No Comments

Which of these scenarios was worst?

1– It’s 2 am in a strange large city, and I\’m with my elderly uncle, serving as his health care proxy. With us is his sister, my mother (also elderly), with whom he lives. We\’ve been in the ER for 7 hours. He has fallen and broken three ribs, one of the most painful injuries there is.

In walks a young resident; earlier he rudely told me that hospital policy only allows one visitor per patient. I confidently explained that security had bent that rule for us, only to be sarcastically told to leave immediately.

I look around for my mother and she has fled, using her terrible navigational skills to go hide, who-knows-where. I leave the doctor with a few words, and then go looking for her…


2– 1:35 pm: we\’re still in the ER. I have buzzed the nurse three times. My uncle needs his morphine shot, but five minutes after my first buzz — which was almost an hour ago — Amy began discharging a patient. Paperwork takes time.

After 15 minutes, I asked her to come and give her attention as he was in enormous pain. That was my job. That was her job.

30 minutes later, she came in and asked what she could do. She spent five minutes arguing with me, then found his paperwork, and determined his pain shot had been due at 10 am. He hadn\’t had one since 8 am. She did paperwork for 45 minutes, while he went without pain relief for six hours.


3– After 21 hours, my uncle finally gets a bed upstairs. It takes a few hours to get a PCA device hooked up so that he can get morphine on demand. His new nurse comes in and notices that he\’s slumped down in his bed, and decides he needs to be moved up or he won\’t be able to breathe well. As they begin, he is in such agony that he nearly passes out.

When he\’s finished, she wants him to do some deep breathing to help with his pain; I pass him his pain button. She snaps at me to not interfere, arguing that it\’s better for him to use it afterwards to calm down. Well, somebody better get me one then, because that’s not what pain relief is for. It\’s to relieve PAIN!!!

We have a serious talk about what she had just put him through, and to my surprise, she agreed and apologized, saying it won\’t happen again. In the meantime, my uncle was nearly in shock; by then, the pain relief couldn\’t even begin to help him.


Unfortunately, all three of these things happened to us within 24 hours, and they were equally horrific. This is the state of health care today. Doctors and nurses at the hospital treat the elderly like just another job — a check box on a To-Do list, rather than people who are loved and cherished, who mean the world to someone.

These “professionals” had no compassion; they were punching in and getting through the day. If I was in their way, they made sure I knew about it. I can\’t remember the last time I had a dispute with someone, much less an argument. But here I had three in one day. Fortunately, this hospital had a patient advocate, to whom I could explain what went on, and ask for help and action about these and other things that happened.

But what about those patients without family, or the ones too weak to speak up, who must endure these indignities every day? Do they just suffer quietly?

Or do they just die?

One Hundred Words (8)

05/27/2008, 9:30 am -- by | No Comments

In the spirit of Proverbs 10:19, our newest regular feature will be a series of posts of 100 words — or fewer. Comments under ten words!

My Orioles have failed me again.

Against seemingly insurmountable odds, the Baltimore Orioles have risen from the smoky ruins of this past winter, where they traded off their stars and paired down their lineup, to present themselves as contenders against some of the league’s best teams and arms. This has included, up till this week’s series, the highest-paid team in baseball history — the New York Yankees.

So yes, they’ve failed me this week, but they’ve done so reeking of determination… and with the stench of class.

So it’s true: I guess the O’s just stink.


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