Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Malcolm Gladwell and Youth Ministry

I know, long silence. Life as a Phd student gets overwhelming at times.

Take a look at Malcolm Gladwell's bit here. I'm particularly interested in the idea that it isn't what we were drafted out of but what we were drafted into that determines success. Think of the implications for education, especially of ministers. My high grades do not mean that I will be a good minister. Rather, the environment of my first ministry has a large part in determining my long term success as a minister. Maybe we should spend more time mentoring and less time teaching?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Violence and video games

*note added Nov.7, 2008: This is what I'm worried will happen when people don't do their homework regarding methodology. I agree that we need to parent our children but the conclusion is to facile considering the faults of the study.*

My wife noted last night that I hadn't played a violent video game in a long time. She was not a fan of GTA Vice City. And she likely has cause to be concerned. I am now the father of young children and simply do not have the time to immerse myself in the game world.

Yet another study has come out that co-relates video game violence and aggression. I'm sympathetic to the argument though as argued here, the methodology of the study does leave a lot to be desired.

I'm currently taking an empirical research methods class and I wonder if our intentions are right when it comes to studying violence and video games but our methods are wrong. Quantitative studies like this one will never really get at how young people construct meaning in their world and in their relationships. Shouldn't we abandon the quixotic quest of trying to go for the statistically causal relationship and simply switch methods to qualitative? Shouldn't we look at how actual gamers shape their realities in relation to games? There are oodles of valid research methods other than quantitative ones. Why don't we use them? Better yet, why doesn't someone fund me to do the study? Then I could move past the retro gamer I am into a whole new level of hipness.

Inspiration for Twilight

Is it not a little sad that Meyer names 12 artifacts as inspirational for her books but only two are books? Jane Eyre and Lucy Maud Montgomery. I have to be a little happy I suppose that a Canadian made the list but still, not Mary Shelly? No Bram Stoker? Not even Anne Rice?

As well, I'm a little disappointed that Buffy wasn't one of the movies listed. As great as Tina Fey is, how does she rate above Joss Wheadon?

Camp Camp

My new favourite blog. Must get the book. In the spirit, here is a pic from the 80's camp experience. I have so many more not scanned. Vivian and I are both here.

God Blessed America

I've never said, "God Bless America" (nor God Damn America) and have thought the practice trite at the least and idolatrous at worse. Last night, after listening to Obama, I felt a gladness and delight in the American ideal as symbolized in the electoral victory last night. Hundreds of thousands of people gathered without tanks or military coups to transition from a horrible government to a new one. In defeat McCain was gracious. In victory, Obama set out an audacious vision. McCain and the Republicans may have lost but America won last night. The world is a slightly better place this morning. God blessed America.

Monday, October 27, 2008

youth vs. student

At AYME last weekend Rick Lawrence was giving out free copies of GROUP magazine. I've been an on again off again reader for years. I usually turn off when there is a bad issue and then later on read something interesting. This one opened up with what I thought was a great editorial.

Not sure if you checked out the comments but I was left speechless. Folks think that this is political correctness? That names don't matter? That Smith is wrong?

I could go through and refute each argument but I don't feel like Smith needs help here. A lot of young people aren't students (and no, some BS line about how all Christians should be students doesn't take this one away) and therefore calling this age students doesn't cover all of the people we would like to. When Men's Ministry becomes Gainfully Employed Male Tax Payer group, then we can call it Student Ministry. When we start letting the state develop our theological anthropology for us, let me know so that I can join the Old Order Mennonites who seem to be one of the only groups who understands the subtle dangers of letting the state exercise total control over society.

I'm so not in touch with a good chunk of the youth ministry world. Next post will prove that even more.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Stodgy No More

In case you think the ALA (American Library Association) is a tad stodgy in their list generation (they narrowed the nominations down so that young people could vote on a slate prepared by adults) you can click over to the Cybils.

The list is long and I definitely don't have time or money to look at the whole thing but I love the fact that the Internet has allowed disparate readers to gather together. As a young person, I would have loved to have had conversations about books but wouldn't want to be a geek in my own school. The Cybils represent a great new way of thinking about reading.

Top Ten Teen Books

The American Library Association has a teen read week every year and they allow young people to choose the past year's top ten books. Here they are (apparently over 8000 votes):
  1. Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer
  2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling
  3. Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
  4. Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
  5. Maximum Ride: Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports by James Patterson
  6. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
  7. The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray
  8. Extras by Scott Westerfeld
  9. Before I Die by Jenny Downham
  10. Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson
Why care? First, unless high school English has changed a lot, none of these books are assigned reading. There is clearly a disconnect between the lists of what young people want to read vs. what adults think they should read.

Second, since there is such a disconnect, I've got to wonder whether young people employ different ways of reading for 'pleasure' vs reading for class. I'm thinking that young people are learning to read in one way (analytical) but are choosing another way to read outside of the school context. Should we not help young people integrate the two?

Third, I know Romeo and Juliet a whole lot better than I know the Twilight series. If I hope to talk to young people about reading, I better get cracking at reading about adolescent vampires.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Morality and youth

You may not agree with who they promote but the sentiment is bang on - voting is a moral action for young people and we need to treat it as such. Of course they are making fun of anti-drug PSA but that is the point. Adults get obsessed about the wrong moral issues, like drugs, and leave aside the most important ones, like who is the next president of the largest military power in the world.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Book lists

I'm ramping up a project on trying to figure out how young people read. I know that the physical process is similar for everyone but there are so many things different about young people - their developmental stage, the culture they are immersed in, the schools they learn to read in - that I'm betting that they read in a different way than people in other developmental, cultural or educational contexts.

Saying that, I've been combing the Internet for interesting places to find young people reading. One of the things that I've been interested in is lists of books that people now believe were important for them to read as young people. Jeff Keuss, who I met over the weekend, has such a list in his "book shrine." While I will never agree that Mill on the Floss should be required reading for young people, I wouldn't mind if my daughter read it as a young person.

All of this is to say, any lists out there? Any push back on Jeff's? He has no comments in relation to the post so who knows, maybe people don't care about books.

Nerd Girls

A friend emailed me this week about a talk he was giving. The group were claiming "nerd" as a badge of honour. Thought that he might appreciate this:

For my blue state friends

Perhaps because I currently live in NJ (a Democratic state) I often hear, "If McCain and/or Palin win, I'm moving to Canada." The following public announcement should help:

reading is good for your body

According to this article in the NYT (you may need to register to follow the link - it's free and easy) girls reading a particular book with an overweight heroine lost more weight than girls who did not read the book. Sedentary lifestyles, like mine, apparently aren't making me get blobbo.

Monday, October 20, 2008

yo yo guru

Marko found this. I'm convinced it is my new PTS colleague Stephen Cady as a middle schooler.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Winning without winning

The results are in. Harper, Layton, Duceppe win. Dion and May lose. In the end, nobody really won. Harper has more seats but not a majority. Layton has more seats but not as many as Broadbent. Duceppe holds even but hasn't furthered his separatist agenda. Dion clearly is the biggest loser. May didn't even get a seat (why the heck did she think she could beat McKay?)

I hope that Harper and the Conservatives do not interpret the rejection of the Green Shift plan as a rejection of the environment by the Canadian electorate. Can't the Tories reclaim the leadership that Mulroney showed regarding the environment? Can't they find a truly conservative policy regarding global warming? Can't they find a way to connect their economic policy with a progressive environmental agenda? My hope is that Layton and May can give up their left agendas and focus on crafting an environmental policy palatable to Harper.

I hope that this environmental soul searching will also lead to a renewal of the Conservative party. I'm dismayed that they can't win in Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver. Maybe Harper needs to look to Britain for ideas on how to renew the party. If he doesn't, he may end up like Diefenbaker - a Western prime minister unable to govern a majority who gets pushed to the edges when the opposition party finally elects someone who can rally the troops against him. Heck, there is even a Trudeau in Parliament again.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Do Hard Things

Marko pointed this meme out to me through his blog. I wasn't aware of these guys before but I think that they are entirely correct in their assessment that young people are significantly more competent and able to deal with challenge than the "mook" or "mid riff" image of adolescence promotes.

Tie this into one of the questions asked by an elderly man from Chicago at last night's Presidential debate. "What sacrifices, other than military service, are you willing to ask Americans to make?" (I'm paraphrasing). Obama started to get it although I thought that his answer wasn't as strong as it could have been. He should have gone the direction that the Harris twins go - life has more meaning than consumption and we need s to step up and start to claim meaningful challenges for the young people in their lives.

New Blog

I recently found a new blog that ties into my interest in how young people read - Guys Lit Wire. It is mostly written by those who are invested in the YA genre but who aren't young people (largely, there does seem to be some young reviewers). To that extent you get an alternative take on YA lit, alternative that is from the industry but not alternative as in from young people themselves. Still, worth checking out, especially if you want to help a young male in your life find interesting things to read.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Please Register to Vote

I have a bias for who you vote for but it is more important to me that you vote. Democracy matters.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

New Book

My friend and colleague Jason Santos has a new book out today. Here is what Publisher's Weekly said about it. Haven't got a copy yet so more later.

A Community Called Taizé: A Story of Prayer, Worship and Reconciliation
Jason Brian Santos. IVP Academic, $15 paper (180p) ISBN 978-0-8308-3525-6

When he first visited the Taizé ecumenical community in France's Burgundy region, author Santos, now a doctoral candidate at Princeton University, had no plans to write a book. By his second trip, however, the idea for one had taken root. Geared to an English-speaking, North American audience and said to be a first-of-its-kind account, this lovely and instructive book mingles the community's history with descriptions of day-to-day life and practical information about making a pilgrimage to Taizé. Although many American Christians are familiar with Taizé's chants, few may know the details Santos imparts. Most compelling among them is the author's witnessing Taizé founder Brother Roger's violent death in 2005 at the hands of a disturbed woman during evening prayers. Santos insists that this did not lead him to write the book, but it provides a remarkable context for writing about the community that has attracted so many with its message of reconciliation, trust and freedom. Besides Santos's careful research, readers will appreciate his thoughtful ideas about how to take Taizé's spirit beyond the community. (Nov.)

Mixed Race and Risky Behaviour

I'm sure its because of Obama that the Atlantic drew attention to this piece of research but, regardless of motivation, it is an interesting look at why mixed race young people seem to engage in riskier behaviours than their peers.

Changes in University/College

I'm working on a project at the moment that is trying to take a big picture look at youth ministry. I've been trying to get the scope of the project pushed wider than we normally use in youth ministry. We often look at individuals or specific churches, maybe even readily apparent trends that impinge on our ministry efforts, when we want to diagnose what is going on with youth ministry. We'll talk about how sports and sports culture means that young people can't come to church because they have to go to practice. Good but not complete.

Admittedly we don't all have time to do massive amounts of research but some of us should push back to get a 30,000 foot view. Our sense of history seems truncated. For instance, how can we do youth ministry without understanding how the education system in North America has changed through history? I get a campus update email and this little piece was in it the other day:

How Higher Ed Has Changed: The greatest boost to higher education came with the GI Bill following World War II. With government funding, college enrollment increased from 160,000 two years before the war to nearly 500,000 in 1950. In 1952, veterans made up 49% of all students. By the time the Baby Boom Generation graduated from high school, college was no longer just for the elite, but had become more accessible to all. Between 1960 and 1980 the number o professors in the US rose from 235,000 to 685,000. America had created a large educated class of people. In the last 15 years, much attention has been given to the lack of interest and spirit of entitlement among many today's college students. Parents are over-involved and students want to be entertained. The quality of college education has been lamented with many students scoring little better than high school graduates of 50 years ago. According to the US Department of Education, nearly half of college students need remedial courses in math and reading. Tuition costs have outpaced inflation and even health care. Thirty years ago, the annual cost of attending a private university equaled 21 weeks of pay for the average US worker. Now that figure is more than 53 weeks, more than a year of work to pay for a private college. (Salvo Magazine Autumn 08)

Now, Salvo magazine might not be the best source for some of these things (as the comments to the article indicate) and they are clearly polemical but Ivyjungle has done a good job representing the salient facts. Those facts should cause us pause when we think about our young people and helping them figure out what they want to do in the world. Larger educational trends through history seem to impinge significantly on our current practice but we may be unaware of how because we don't ever look.

I keep saying "our" and "we" but maybe it is just me. I'm pushing myself to look bigger, to see bigger trends than we normally look at.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Student Polling info

First, I'm happy about this piece for its content. I'm glad that students don't like Palin. I'm not sure that it is all that significant considering how few students there are and who vote but it is still encouraging.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, I'm envious of the US. I deplore the electoral cycle and the money that it consumes here in the US. I like the Canadian electoral cycle, its brevity and its relative cost. What I do miss is regular polling information about particular demographics. Specifically, how do young people feel about politics. I've done some cursory searches but I can't find equivalent data for Canada as I can for the US. I'm sure this is a factor of the very things I deplore. The US has more time and more money to study these things. Not worth the trade off but I think it would still be worth it for Canadians to have a greater sense of how young people are or are not engaged politically.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Three Bands

I play a little "what if" game with young people all the time. It helps me get to know them. It goes like this. God will intervene in the world in such a way as to eliminate three bands/artists. That is not saying God will kill them or something but will nudge them along in a different direction so that they never make it. What are your three bands/artists.

Usually mine are:

1. Rush
2. Aerosmith
3. Celine Dion.

Imagine how upset I was at this little piece about how Guitar Hero is resurrecting the careers of Aerosmith and Rush! How could folks possibly think this was a good idea? Boston, yes. The Who, yes. Rush? Aerosmith?

I am fascinated however by this resurgence of "classic" rock (classic in quotes as I don't consider Aerosmith, out side of their collaboration with Run DMC, classic) tied to a video game. The money - "Last year, Guitar Hero and its rival, Rock Band, racked up $935 million in sales. That's $100 million more than all digital music sales." What is it to consume music through video in a participatory fashion? I grew up in the MTV age so video and music were closely aligned but without the participatory. Should it shock us that these games are so popular when we consider that when MTV made a nod to direct participation with TRL its ratings went up?

Should it also surprise us to learn that Activision, the producer of Guitar Hero, is a Vivendi company and therefore a sister company of Universal Music Group (proud producers of The Who)? Aerosmith (Sony) goes out of its way in promoting its connections to Guitar Hero with this handy link on their official website. I'm surprised that it wasn't NBC that put the story up.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Free book

Not sure of the quality but it is worth the minute it will take for you to download a free book in .pdf. Thanks to Tim for finding this.

James Fallows on election

As some of you know, I read the Atlantic monthly cover-to-cover. I have since 1995. James Fallows is one of my invisible friends who I trust and has been for a long time now. His comments on Palin reflect my own opinion. Palin is unprepared. Leave aside the fact that she has not demonstrated the capacity to prepare, at the moment, she could not assume the duties of VP or POTUS with any degree of knowledge or competence. That, for me, is enough reason to vote for someone else.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Framing the Election

In part as an effort to move away from my opinions about the current US election and moving the discussion towards a more neutral ground that includes some of my interests such as media literacy and young people, I offer the following link. Henry Jenkins provides a sustained analysis of the two presidential candidates bio videos. (By sustained I mean too long but it is worth touching down in a bunch of places). He uses George Lakoff's theory of how the two nt parties "frame" their presentation in such a way as to appeal to two different types of people. What I like about this piece is that Jenkins is using it specifically to talk to young people about how the media shapes our vision of the world.

I think that we often confuse being technologically savvy with being media savvy. There are always young people who are skeptical about the media that they consume but there are a larger number who are not as critical as they should be. Take for instance, Jenkins comment that his students typically view these bios as objective history and do not inquire into who and why they were produced. I look forward to the next installment which deals with the Vice Presidential candidates.

Clustering online

As I work through some research methodologies I came across the idea of "clustering" as a quick way of getting the writing juices working. Reminded me of a little online tool I've used a couple of times that mindmaps.

Links to references

In my response to burnlikestars below I referenced two items. First was an article about the dangers of talking points in a campaign. My friend John pointed me to this article earlier this morning.

Second, was the Sarah Palin interview where she did not understand the significance of the Bush Doctrine. Here it is:

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Cutting Slack

A.K.M. Adam is correct, in my opinion, that the media can go overboard in crucifying candidates during an election. So it is clear - I could support either Obama or McCain but Palin makes the McCain ticket unpalatable to me. I'm not out to find the dirt, simply to say that she would make a horrible president.

My friend John has an interesting post about voting (since Canada is also having an election). Clearly our systems differ but there are enough similarities. Party platforms will form the core of any particular candidates stump speech and stock answers. These are immutable. What does give some room for original answers though are the intangible character traits that emerge during someone's governing. That is, the particular decision is not as important as the process of the decision.

I don't trust Palin to make the right decision regardless of her party's platform.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Election Mania

The first time we arrived in Princeton I stayed up all night watching George W. sort of getting elected. Very anticlimactic, even depressing, first hand experience of American politics.

Now we are here for either the first black president or first female vice president. I'm happy about that. Actually, when we were coming I figured we couldn't really lose. Obama or McCain, either one as a person is significantly better than GW.

Now however, there is no contest. I don't get to vote, but I'm actively campaigning against Palin. I'm somewhat obsessed these days with the Huffington Post because Palin does so many asinine things. Other folks I know have been getting in on this. Tony Jones has been seriously trying to shape Obama's campaign as you can see. Travis Allison, a Canadian photographer, has been more passively trawling for humourous campaign material such as this.

Either way, please, America, don't vote McCain/Palin or, if you watch her speak Palin/McCain.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Wildlife in Princeton

Our friends Jason, Shannon and Judah have a blog that chronicles a lot of the wildlife here in Princeton. Check out this entry. Garrett and I are the "caterpillar caretakers." Seriously, this sucker was huge.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Long Time Silent Update

Life has changed in the past four weeks. I've ended my pastorate at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church (a bunch of great people who were really good to me and my family), moved back to Princeton, NJ and started my doctorate in Practical Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary. Its been a crazy month, filled with many hours of packing, unpacking, purging and restocking. I'm still processing saying good-bye while saying hello to a new community.

The blog will start up again tomorrow with regular updates. Thanks for the patience.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Stuff Challenge - Budgies

Getting rid of stuff. Like pets. I know this isn't really fair since I need to get rid of the birds and they aren't technically mine but it was my idea to get them and I tend to look after them so in some ways they are mine and I do like them.

Garrett is too small to truly appreciate what he needs to do to look after them. They are truly beautiful creatures. They are lively and remind us of spring (but not at night when they sleep!). Lots of good but they can't come to Princeton. Anyone interested?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

No Pregnancy Pact

In my recent class with some parents here at St. Andrew's the issue of teenage imitation of movies came up. Specifically, the "Juno" effect of teens wanting to get pregnant like her (as if getting pregnant would make them as witty and funny and loved as she was portrayed). One parent mentioned the Gloucester pact which apparently didn't even exist.

Reminds me of the Lost Children of Rockdale County piece that Frontline did a number of years ago. Seems to me that the excitement about "rainbow parties" was significantly exaggerated, just as the "pregnancy pact" was exaggerated. The generalizations from a small sample to a national epidemic makes for great Oprah but very bad actual decisions regarding adolescent sexual behaviour.

I wish that I could find a comment from Mark Regnerus on this topic as his book Forbidden Fruit was very revealing and statistically significant.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


I love this campaign because vocation and young people's decisions about their lives are so near and dear to me. Definitely will be making an appearance in any vocation PowerPoint I make.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Young Swimming Phenom's Sister

SI had a bit about young athletes. Garrett at the moment is not particularly athletic. It doesn't stress me out. He can swim and likes people. I'm not going to ask for much more. I automatically think of him when it comes to sports because he is my only child old enough to participate.

What I found interesting about the article however was its exclusive focus on the parents and the young phenom. What of siblings? If Garrett becomes a world class swimmer (not likely but let's just go with that) what does that mean for Sage? We spend all of our time and money on Garrett, how could it not change our relationship with our other child? Or the relationship that they have?

All parents must maintain some balance but when something like professional sports enters the picture, I'm sure that messes things up. The article didn't strike me as particularly profound but it was worth reading.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Illegal downloading

Not entirely sure what the implications of this but I find it fascinating that while people could get the music for free via download they chose to it. I'd be interested in the demographic. How many young people, say under 25, actually like Radiohead enough to download their album? The big news to me seems to be that a band that has been around for 15 years (Pablo Honey came out in 1993) and likely has a fan base largely made up of 30-40 year olds (initial fans likely being 15 to 25 when they first heard "Creep") still embraced a newer technology more significantly than expected. I can imagine the Jonas Brothers as a hit but not as much Radiohead.

For the record, I downloaded it from the website.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Moving and stuff

Amidst the chaos of the past few days Vivian and I have really started to pack for the move to Princeton. We are significantly downsizing - almost 2000 square feet less space in Princeton than in Brampton. Vivian is the tosser and I'm the hoarder in the family and so I've been challenged to get rid of stuff. I'm starting to get into it however.

I'm partly inspired by this guy. He wants to reduce his personal things to 100 objects. He has some rules for himself since it is his own challenge. Fair enough. I'm contemplating making a similar challenge for my self.

He defines personal very sensibly - stuff that isn't communally used or owned. I can go for that.

He has a memorabilia clause where he can keep family keepsakes etc. in two storage boxes in the garage. I have letters etc. and some other keepsakes that I don't use often but would like to keep. I'll create boxes as well but the challenge will be deciding what is really valuable enough to be a keepsake.

The book clause is essential for me. I'm not only an avid reader but I make my living by reading. I've significantly reduced the books we are taking to Princeton but there is no way it will get under 100. I'd be lucky if it was under 800. Not personal but professional items.

He has tools. I have some but I don't consider them personal. I use them to work around the house. Not personal.

He has trains. I have vinyl records. Hundreds of them. They are going to a friend's house and we'll see how I do without them for four years.

Finally, he groups things together sometimes eg. socks. Socks are not a huge issue for me but I'll consider some things in groups.

More posts to follow.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Co-habitation: Once ok but twice is bad

Goodstein also points to this USA Today article on co-habitation.

As a minister I often see people who come into my office wanting to get married who share the same address. This stresses me out and I mention it to them because the data I've seen before indicates higher divorce rates for co habitaters. According to the article my stress is only partly founded. It depends on what kind of co habitater you are that matters. Women who live only with their eventual husband have a better chance of not divorcing than those who have serially co habitated and those who don't co habitate at all. Those who serially co habitate don't do well so the question I should ask is, "How many times have you co habitated" not "Have you co habitated."

I will need to get the study because I've got to wonder why this is true. I'm assuming it has to do with commitment levels. Those who are engaged are just starting their marriage early by co habitating. This has some historical precedent where marriage was a two step process that involved the marital bed and some sort of public recognition. Engaged co habitaters are simply consummating their marriage privately before making the public pronouncement. Serial co habitaters on the other hand, could be "testing" each other out with the option of either leaving or staying. When it doesn't "work" the first time they leave and go on to the next "test" until someone finally passes. Then, a few years later, it isn't working and so with a clearly established pattern, they leave the relationship to find one more fulfilling elsewhere. That's my guess but I'll have to find out.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Trojan Horse

Anastasia Goodstein noted this little gem the other day. NPR has basically an op-ed saying that tossing the Trojan is the new engagement ring. Perhaps but I'm not sure that there is a lot of data to support what the young man is contending.

Regardless, it seems to me that the very idea of Trojan or not seems to miss the point of what Pendarvis Harshaw calls "healthy sexuality." Regardless of how Trojans actually got their name, I think there is a least an allusion to the infamous Trojan horse. Trojans protect the "city" from the little "soldiers" inside. Absent the Horse and the little soldiers run amok. The sign of healthy sexuality, at least for most time and places, is not that pregnancy doesn't occur but that it can occur because the partners are in a life long committed relationship that can support the birth of a new person. So I agree with Harshaw that couples should ditch the Trojans but they shouldn't do it because they are sure their partner doesn't have STD. They should do it because they are serious about committing to children in their future. I know that sounds old fashioned and naive but I think that to not hold couples to a standard based on the potential children rather than their own pleasure is to denigrate the challenge and hope of children while raising people with a self centered ethic.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Facebook growing up

I'm not a fan of MySpace because of the chaos. I can't read people's pages. I know some like creative anarchy but not me. That's why I'm a Facebook guy. I'm also a fan of new changes that are apparently coming regarding the spamming of apps and the amount of information that goes out on my feeds. Seems like it isn't real yet but you can preview here.

This should be a boon for folks like me who want to be friendly with my students and youth in my congregation but who also want to be an adult. Controlling these features will allow me, and them, to protect themselves while still interacting.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Printing Press

In line with the last post, for the geeks out there fascinated with the rise of the book as a model of how new media emerges in society, there is a series of videos on Gutenberg. I found them at Tall Skinny Kiwi. They aren't short bits so prepare to spend a little while watching them. Give up a re-run of something to watch a documentary.

Friday, July 25, 2008


Marko put me onto this website

Besides being quite cool in their own right, these images remind me of the remediation effect of old media being transformed by new media so that the old is not exactly the same but the new still depends on the old. When print first came into existence the type faces all looked like cursive writing because readers were not used to fonts such as Times New Roman. New, the printing press, transformed old, hand writing, into something that was different yet the same. For me, this is especially pronounced in video where the first standard TV shows looked like plays. Now, the old medium of plays has been sufficiently remediated to come into its own as a new form. Web 2.0 is further remediating that new form. The cycle continues.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Bustin' a Sag goes personal

A while ago I noted this article about youth pastors trying to stay hip past their younger years. In general I know that I'm not hip so this has not really caused me a problem. Recently however, my brother gave me some shoes that may push me into the bustin' a sag territory. Can I wear these shoes?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Web 2.0

In the waning days of my time here at St. Andrew's I'm doing some culture workshops with parents. I've been struggling to be relevant and practical but I think that it is working in general. I showed them this video last week and then we debriefed it. I was amazed at how connected I am. I had never reflected on the integration of the different forms of media that I use are. I do not use flickr which seems to be the biggest void in my media consumption. If you haven't seen this, certainly worth the 5 minute watch.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Christians and Torture

My friend Phil recently sent me a link to a documentary that appeared on CBC. Perhaps because I'm moving back to the States, I was interested enough to listen. I"m glad that I did.

We arrived in Princeton the first time in September 2000. I stayed up all night to experience my first presidential election with real live Americans. That didn't work out so well. A year later Vivian was in Manhattan on 9/11. Still somewhat shell shocked by being aliens and newly alienated by our host country, the invasions started. First Afghanistan then Iraq. I remember arguing passionately that this was a mistake, that America shouldn't do it. We loved our time in America but it was a difficult time for us. We struggled to reconcile our great Christian friends with a country that could allow and perpetrate atrocities like Abu Ghraib.

This documentary is about a young man who is both an intensely devoted (and orthodox) Christian and an interrogator at Abu Ghraib. I won't spoil it but listen to it. This is especially important for youth pastors as they are the ones who should be having these kinds of conversations with young people. This guy entered the reserves at 17 and wore his dress uniform to his prom. That sounds like youth ministry to me.

Short Term Missions

Tall Skinny Kiwi has a quality response to a good article on short term missions. I'm posting this mostly for folks at St. Andrew's who are about to send a group to Winnipeg. Many of the 10 things that TSK talks about, St. Andrew's is doing. In the ongoing discussion around where mission at a denominational level should go, I think articles like this should add substantial grist to the mill.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Definitely, Not

I don't watch tons of movies in theaters these days with two kids and all. I happened to have rented this little romantic comedy so that my wife would watch it with me (she's not so big on No Country For Old Men or The Savages, two other recent viewings).

It was good as far as these things go. There are three women who are real characters who could all possibly be "the one" that the male lead has his daughter with. It keeps you guessing and interested. That is the "definitely" part.

The "not" part however is the way that the movie treats divorce. I understand divorce happens and that no one involved started their marriage hoping for it to happen. My issue is not with the divorce. My issue is with the way that the child is portrayed as not suffering any ill effects from the dissolution of her parent's marriage. The story arc could go towards a reconciliation, clearly the desire of the child, but it doesn't. That is likely realistic. When the arc doesn't go for reconciliation because the male has always loved another more than the girl's mother and the child endorses this enthusiastically, I think we are in some sort of guilt induced delusion. The girl expresses close to no empathy with her mother and is excited about her father's realization that he never loved her mother as much as he does someone else.

If you feel guilty because you want your child to endorse your decisions regarding divorce and past loves but know that there is no realistic way for that endorsement to happen, this is your movie. Otherwise, go to the vault and get When Harry Met Sally. No kids involved there.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


I came across this bit recently. I don't normally get involved in PC(USA) politics and am not qualified to comment directly on this issue except to say that this is one of my fears in the PCC. Without pointing fingers, the whole Trinity (Oro) / Connexus thing needs to be looked at otherwise we as a denomination could potentially be headed for similar tragedies.

Perhaps others who read this will have more knowledge of the actual motion but I think that the general principle applies - there are good ways of dealing with conflict and bad ways. Sucking up thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting about physical buildings seems to me to be a bad way of dealing with conflict, especially when you consider that the call of the Gospel is to go forth into the world as peacemakers, feeding the hungry and loving the unlovable.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Does Google Make Us Stoopid?

As some of you know I am an inveterate reader of the Atlantic Monthly. This month Guy Billout writes a brilliant article on the role of the Internet, specifically Google, in shaping the way we think. I'm all about thinking through these things. Shane Hipps gets at some of this stuff through the same path (Marshall McLuhan). Still, we need a lot more thinking on this as we struggle with a church that is Biblically illiterate. The argument goes that not only is the church Biblically illiterate, it is increasingly becoming just plain old illiterate.

The Film Club

I learned about The Film Club by David Gilmour while driving home from school some Monday. He was getting some award and I found the idea intriguing. Allowing your kid to quit school (something more parents should consider) and watch movies with you as their guide. The book was interesting. I read it in a day and so it could make an easy airplane read.

The brilliance of Gilmour's method is the third thing. People need a "third thing" to focus on so that they can enter into a relationship. I find this often with men and it may be why golfing is so popular. The trap is that we allow the third thing to bear the weight of a real relationship. The release however that we can find in looking through and past the third thing to each other is more than worth the potential trap. Gilmour succeeds in his attempt to reach Jesse, his son, through movies. He doesn't try to teach Jesse but rather to relate to him and he does so through a third thing near and dear to both of their hearts.

My beef with the book is that I don't really like the picture Gilmour paints of himself. My relationships with women bear little resemblance to his and if that sounds marginally critical, it is. His convoluted relationships with the myriad of women in his life may help him empathize with his son but I struggle to feel sympathetic towards his poor choices.

As well, there was nary a word about any sort of spiritual life. Neither Gilmour seems to have any interest in faith. Given the candidness about so much I don't think this is an omission of choice but rather an absence entirely of anything that could be characterized as religious in the Gilmour family. In the end I'm saddened that the elder Gilmour seems to hand on a legacy of tortured and torturing relationships with women to his son. Of course this legacy is handed on with the brilliance we might expect from a distinguished man of letters. It is not a legacy that I would like to hand on to my children however so while I will try the Film Club when they get older, our club won't happen in a spiritual vacuum.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Back to Princeton

Today I told my congregation that I will be heading back to Princeton Theological Seminary to pursue Doctoral studies. It went as well or better than I expected. They are disappointed that I'm leaving, thankful for the time I've been there and excited for me and the future possibilities.

Those future possibilities are a Phd in Practical Theology from PTS. We'll be moving this summer, back to the same apartment complex we lived in last time. The downsizing will be extreme as we go from 5 bedroom century home to 2 bedroom grad school res. We aren't upset about it although it will pose a little bit of a challenge.

I will be taking classes for a couple of years, doing comps after that and then finally a dissertation. We are returning in four years so I hope that I have it done by that point. At the moment the dissertation is about St. Ignatius, vocation and youth/young adults.

The logic behind doing this now is two fold. First, I've got some ideas that I've been thinking about forever but have not got out onto paper. This is a dedicated time to do that. Second, our kids are young enough that they can adapt to the change. We are committed to seeing our kids through middle school to high school in the same location, so our next move is relatively long term for me. The longest I've been in one place is Elmira and that was about 10 years.

I'm not sure what the future holds but we are now full speed ahead to Princeton. We covet your thoughts and prayers as we make this big move.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Thursday, February 28, 2008

More Partners equals Lower Grades

"A survey by the student paper at the University of Cambridge indicates that students with more sexual partners typically report lower grades. Students who are virgins or have fewer partners demonstrated higher grades across the institutions colleges. (Inside Higher Ed January 28, 2008) from a Campus Ministry Update email.

Well, duh. They are too busy to study.

Alive Again

I've been gone for a while but a couple of things have prompted a return to the blogosphere, not least of which was some people asking. Very kind.

Two friends have good new books out that need readers. Reviews coming soon.

Music that is too fun not to share.

Bits of life that should not go unnoticed.

I'm switching from The Wild, The Ignorant and the Iggy Shuffle because I realized that I didn't talk about wilderness, the Bible or St. Ignatius enough. It was a good first go at this blogging thing but I needed something that was more me and not limiting.