Warning: this is utterly uninteresting. And long. Killer combo.

Henry I think gets annoyed because the tone of myminds are all like I’m so right and if you don’t agree you’re a fool. I don’t know, it’s pretty clear to me that the tone of his entires are way more arrogant than mine. Maybe we should take a survey. What do you think? Who’s more arrogant? Me or Henry? While we’re at it, we should take a survey of who you think is better looking, Jieun or Lorraine. Actually, we don’t need to because everyone already knows. We don’t need to say who it is. But I will say who it’s not: Lorraine.

There’s a really interesting article in Newsweek this week on the origins of the SAT. It is a really really interesting article. Anyway, the guy who helped form it was a president of Harvard during WWII, Conant (sp?) who wanted the SAT to help form a more classless society. That is, he saw America as being stratified into classes mostly based on inheritance, and his Harvard was helping perpetuate it. He believed that having a test that measured intelligence would allow his institution to base admissions on merit, and thus he would create a society based on inherent advantage rather than inherited ones. This is a poor synopsis, but anyway, go read the article, because it’s really really interesting.

It’s made me think a lot about societal stratification in America, and what we should do about it. I know I’ve said it before, but I went to pretty poor public schools until high school, and I hated all the other school districts around me, because it was just so unfair. The advantage in resources and quality that other schools enjoyed was just so terrible unfair. I hated it. Anyway, that kind of system dooms the people stuck in the the poor schools. I honestly believe that had I stayed in the system, I would not have gotten into Stanford. And you know, I had friends that were almost as smart as me. The fact that no one from those districts ever go to top tier schools is only partly that there are not qualified people, but those that potentially could are held back by the system.

Anyway, one thing about this guy Conant that the article points out is that he was in a way terribly naive. He believed that opening up his university to non-New England ultrarich would allow them to penetrate those parts of society that Harvard feeds into, and that those people would devote themselves to public service and democratic ideals. That is, over private monetary gain. Oops. Everyone that is in tries to keep their advantage, and everyone else tries to get in to do the same thing.

It’s something to think about. I was talking to a campus staff worker friend of mine recently and they were saying how a big challenge of theirs is getting people to even consider something different than the standard career oriented route at an elite university. Like, really caring about missions or the poor in our society in a way that means really being a part of that life. Granted, such a call is not for everyone, maybe not even for most people. The sad thing to my friend though is that almost no one feels so called, and that seems wrong also. I mean a call to living a modest lifestyle and really giving their lives for people either here or abroad, not necessarily as full time workers, but in a real way.

Anyway, it’s depressing at Stanford that most people use the advantages of the place to further their personal gain, rather than really care about society or whatever. Even Christians oftentimes. Anyway, I don’t know what the heck I want to do with my life. I’m the biggest loser in the world.

Although I’ve gotten pretty good at NHL ’99 on the Nintendo 64. And I played a great game of Risk the other day.

Anyway, I don’t know what I’m really saying, I’m just kind of spouting without thinking like Eli likes to do. The thing is, I’m almost certainly going to perpetuate it myself, with my family and my children. It’s sad. And I can rail against it all I want; there doesn’t seem to be a viable solution. But anyway, I hated all those feeder schools into Leland, Lynbrook, Saratoga, and the like.

By the way, Newsweek is the best weekly newsmagazine. I don’t care what Henry says, it’s the best. I can’t stand U.S. News. It just drives me crazy, plus I am against their need to rank everything in American society using dubious methods. And I read Time semi-regularly, and I’m sorry, Newsweek is just much better. Better writing.

I’m a periodical freak, by the way. I’m the only one in our household who reads the Mercury News every day without fail. I read Entertainment Weekly every week, and Esquire every month. I read Newsweek online every week, and Salon every day. One of my favorite activities is going to Barnes and Noble and reading magazines all afternoon. Especially the one in Town and Country in Houston between me and Christina’s house, as they have a huge selection. I go crazy. Anyway, I read those regularly, and some others I read on a semi-regular basis include Time, US, some other entertainment mags I can’t remember the name of, Harper’s, Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated, ESPN the magazine, and CCM. I also read those weirdo guitar magazines with tab in the middle. I’m not sure why I’m saying this. I’m just a weirdo.

I saw The Sixth Sense. It was a phenomenal movie. Wow. I demand that everyone who reads this watch it immediately.

This first part you may not want to read until you’ve seen the movie. I’ll tell you when it’s safe again.

*************DON’T READ***************
Actually, I saw it for the second time. It’s a different experience the second time, but still very rewarding, I think, although I’ll never ever again have the same feeling as after the first showing when I literally sat there stunned. It’s so good that people applaud after the movie is over, both times I saw it.

Anyway, there’s a lot of symbolism in the movie, that was pointed out to me as I was surfing. For example, the story takes place near Halloween time. We know this in the scene where they’re leaving the supermarket. There’s a pumpkin in the cart. This scene, by the way, was wonderful to me. Because it showed well the relationship they have, genuine love, in just a simple act, but as is indicative of their relationship, they don’t talk the entire time. It’s a poignant scene.

Another frequently used symbol is that of doorknobs. It’s huge in the movie, and I suppose it represents portals between different parts of people’s lives. Like when he enters the dead girl’s room, he’s started a new part of his life. That one door that Bruce Willis is always trying to get into also turns out to be significant, and I suppose in a way it represents his old life. I don’t know, since I’m making this up as I go along, but it sounds pretty good to me. Lots of doors.

Another frequently used effect is that of reflections and shadows. The reflections in particular are really interesting if you pay attention to them. Or so I’m assuming since I didn’t. This one site contends that another symbol is that of icons, such as the statues of holy figures, the toy figurines he plays with, the different dolls, the statues the camera occassionally moves to, the pictures of dead people (presidents in the classroom). It represents a link or reminder of the dead. I don’t know about that one.

One symbol though that seems clear is the color red. I’m not sure what it means. Maybe sanctuary? Maybe relationship? Maybe another link to the dead? (Red=blood) Regardless, the color red is in this movie a lot, in key places, too much to be a coincidence. His little safe tent is red, the church in the beginning has red doors, the Jesus statue has a red sash, he wears red sweaters on occassion, in particular when he’s at the birthday party, the balloon at the party that goes up the staircase is red, the box the dead girl gives him has a red ribbon and the inside is red, the girl’s mom at the wake is wearing red, Cole’s mom at the end is wearing red… a lot of red. Not totally sure what it means. Maybe you can tell me.

Anyway, all these symbols have to do with links, or separation. Like doors, or glass, or between the living and the dead. Here’s what the director says about the film: “Ultimately, it’s about learning how to communicate those fears, whether it’s communication between a doctor and the patient, a husband and a wife, a mother and a son or between ourselves and loved ones who have passed on. As we all have seen, not communicating with, or keeping secrets from people we love can destroy marriages, careers, families and even lives. That in itself is horrifying.”

Interesting. Also interesting is that that Indian doctor after Cole goes to the hospital is the director of the film.

Also, both Cole Sear and Vincent Gray have these white/blond patches in their hair. Apparently the director heard that sometimes people who undergo traumatic experiences have that happen to them.
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There’s been this discussion about science and religion recently on fics-chat. Anyway, I said it last time, but science is tenuous, and I hope people realize this. There’s this old Saturday Night Live sketch with Steve Martin where he’s like a doctor in the Middle Ages. So this guy comes with like stomach problems or something. And Steve Martin goes, it’s wonderful how much medicine has progressed. Just a hundred years ago, we would have thought that this was caused by demons. Ha ha! How naive! We now know that it is caused by a small frog living in his chest.

It was a pretty funny sketch, partly because of its insight. That being, every generation things that scientifically they know much more than before, but when seen in the light of future generations, what they believed seems hopelessly naive. The enlightened person will thus conclude that what we “know” now through science is at best incomplete, at worst totally wrong. I think this goes double for phenomenon we know very little about, like the origins and what happens at the edges of the universe (which are related, since the further you look to the edge of the universe, the closer you see to the beginning of time).

Another funny sketch that was funny just because it was so bold was with Tim Robbins as guest host. It was a sketch where he’s this nice friendly racist sitting at a campfire and signing songs, and he sings this one song about a monkey who asks God to be human and God offers to make the monkey into a black man and the chorus goes something like “I’d rather be a monkey if I can’t be white.” It was so bold and offensive it was hilarious.

I’ve discovered and rediscovered a bunch of good music that I’ve been listening to at work recently. As Darlene mentioned, Caedmon’s Call, in particular their most recent album, 40 Acres, is pretty good. I totally know what she means when she gets annoyed when everyone gets into something that she knew about a long time ago. Her example is that annoying I would walk 500 miles song.

Well Caedmon’s Call is one of things – I was into them way back, when they were independent in Houston, and leading praise at this famous Bible study that I’ve alluded to multiple times in the past, Metro Bible Study. In addition, Watermark, this Christian band got their start there, after Caedmon’s Call left, and the worship team on those Passion praise CDs are from Metro. I highly influential study. The speaker, Dave Edwards is somewhat famous, also. If you ever get a chance to listen to him, do it. He’s hilarious.

Anyway, yeah, I knew Caedmon’s Call back then. I have their independent CDs. It’s weird when other people know about them. At any rate, 40 Acres is good, folky music. It sounds like Shawn Colvin (they even cover one of her songs). Actually, what it most sounds like is, if you’re ever in Texas, they have this show called Austin City Limits on PBS, where they show live shows from Austin, which as you all know is the live music capital of the US. Anyway, they show some good acoustic music. One of the best shows I saw was Bruce – what’s his name? Cockburn? The That’s Just the Way It Is guy. Hornsby. Amazing pianist. Anyway, 40 Acres sounds like one of those shows. Pretty bad description, but oh well.

Anyway, I’ve been listening to Climb On (A Back That’s Strong), track 7 for the past 2 hours on repeat. And for the last week and a half, I’ve been listening to only this album. Dope song! Lots of cool songs on this CD. All of the songs are pretty good; There You Go, Where I Began, Climb On, and Daring Daylight Escape are standouts. The producer, Glenn Rosenstein plays a 12 string electric on many tracks, a la Byrds, and it’s a cool sound. Good pop.

I also got the new Steven Curtis Chapman album, Speechless. I wasn’t planning on it, but it’s been on the Billboard 100 for like a month now, so I figured it must be pretty good. And it actually is! Some songs sound alike, but there are some creative, interesting things he does on it. I was pleasantly surprised by these. I think it’s worth getting.

Come to think of it, I don’t know why I wasn’t planning on getting it. Every time a new SCC album comes out, I’ve really liked it, except for the Live Adventure and Heaven In The Real World. But anyway, the albums pretty good. One track in particular I like, not so much for the music, although it’s OK, but for the lyrics. Here they are:

The Change

Well I got myself a T-shirt that says what I believe
I got letters on my bracelet to serve as my ID
I got the necklace and the key chain
And almost everything a good Christian needs, yeah
I got the little Bible magnets on my refridgerator door
And a welcome mat to bless you before you walk across my floor
I got a Jesus bumper sticker
And the outline of a fish stuck on my car
And even though this stuff’s all well and good, yeah
I cannot help but ask myself

What about the change
What about the difference
What about the grace
What about forgiveness
What about a life that’s showing
I’m undergoing the change

There was this article recently in the theStranger.com where this guy (totally “secular”, he even brought drugs) goes to this Christian music festival in the Northwest, Creation. Anyway, he had a lot of keen criticisms, many justified. For one, it was totally white, in terms of the crowd. He was astounded. Also, he was pretty much sickened by the marketing and the sheer consumerism of it all.

Anyway, I’m very convinced that a lot of Christianity today if Jesus were to come in the flesh he would just be totally pissed off about, a la the money changers in the temple, since they’re essentially doing the same thing: getting rich by exploiting faith.

I may be wrong about these details, because I only heard it in a sermon or something. But the money changers had to do with people wanting to people wanting to make offerings in the temple. I can’t remember the details, but anyway, the money changers were being unfair and exploiting them and getting rich, I suppose.

Anyway, the kitschy aspects of pop Christianity have always bothered me and I’m violently annoyed by them. Anyway, you will never see me put a fish on my car, wear a WWJD bracelet or whatever, or engage in all the other consumer aspects of Christianity. It’s just not me, and I don’t understand it. Or especially those super lame T-shirts that knock off and mimic well known trademarks and logos. Like God’s Gym, or stuff like that. I think it’s sin.

The reason I think it’s sin is because it substitutes genuineness (ie the change) with something easier. It’s almost like, you know, the more Christian stuff you buy, the better a Christian you are. That’s the easy way, and you know, pretty much wrong. The worst thing is if the people who buy this stuff on any level believe that. And I really think they do. That many people think that they’re better Christians if they buy all this Christian stuff.

Anyway, I’m against easy catch phrases and over commercialization of Christianity. The WWJD thing really bothers me, and I don’t know why. Actually, for the longest time I was just against all these Christian things. This is like in high school. So I never read all those Christian books that everyone else seems to have. Like the first Christian book I read was Mere Christianity, and since then I’ve only read a handful of others, much less than others. Just because something in me was against it.

Maybe it’s that I think it’s wrong to just kind of tell people what they should believe and do instead of having them kind of work things out for themselves a little bit. In recent years I’ve gotten rid of my study Bible for the same reason; just not having something tell me what the Bible says, but actually trying to figure it out for myself.

Of course, this is bad sometimes, as the historical and background perspectives offered by study Bibles are often very useful. But whatever. And with Christian books – when I read Mere Christianity it was so wonderful to me; I can’t even begin to explain it. What it was was that I encountered so many things I had thought about and struggled with regarding faith and suddenly I realized that I wasn’t the only one who had thought these things and in fact other people had reached far more satisfying conclusions than I had. It was revolutionary for me, because it meant I didn’t have to start my walk from scratch, but that there was all this wonderful Christian experience in the form of books out there to help me out. Does this make any sense? Anyway, I wrote this before, but I feel like I got way more out of Mere Christianity because I struggled with the issues it raises for a long time before reading it.

Anyway, I wish that for others as well, instead of reading and being told exactly what they should believe. And being given a formula of Christian growth. That involves cheap jewelry and tacky T-shirts.

Another thing I have never understood is fish on cars. The reason I don’t understand this is because it can’t possibly be a good witness. It just doesn’t work that way – people never notice when people are driving well. People just don’t see a car and go hey that car is driving very nicely and within the lanes and at a nice speed and signaling well in advance. Oh hey there’s a fish on it! I think I’ll go to church!

You never notice good drivers, just bad ones. So you can never make a good impression with your fish; if it makes any impression, it’s because you made someone angry, and that’s not a great witness. So like if you’re driving recklessly and/or speeding, bad witness. But the thing is, even if you drive safely, like you drive the speed limit, I mean, what kind of loser drives the speed limit? And they get pissed off at you for driving so slow. In any situation, it won’t make a good impression, only possibly bad. So I don’t understand the fish.

Of course I understand even less those Darwin fishes with legs. Like is your need to ridicule Christianity so strong that you need to advertise it on your car? What kind of psyche resides in those cars? It’s weird.

So anyway, that consumerism aspect of modern Christianity is troublesome. And so I like the SCC song that much more. Especially since his audience likely is especially susceptible to it.

Another great album, as I think I’ve said before, is the new Delirious?, Mezzamorphis. A great album. Also, Supertones Strike Back. If everyone goes out and buys these albums, I’ll be happy.

I’m way too competitive with certain things. Anyway, I see George’s list, and it’s like, come on. You can’t compete with knowing old KCPC better than me. I’ve had KCPC experiences that probably no other FiCS people have had.

Few people remember this but there was a time when we had to drive to KCPC during the week to get equipment. Sometimes just me and Ohms would do it, mostly just me. For a brief brief time, people trying to help out and all, we set up a volunteer system where people would sign up to help that week to go get equipment. I forgot why we didn’t take it down on Sundays. But anyway, that’s what we had to do. Sometimes, I used Andrew Wong’s car. Random. Anyway, on occassion, I would play piano by myself in the sanctuary. That was a cool feeling. I had just read a book called The Wind in the Wheat, written by Reed Arvin, Rich Mullins’ producer, and it had made me consider the purpose of Christian music, or at least one possible purpose of it, and those times playing at KCPC was sweet.

Anyway, you didn’t know KCPC unless you knew which light switch by the piano controlled what. Or where the heater control was. Of if you had not gone up into the “attic” where they put the camcorder when they needed to show the sermon in the overflow. Or if you didn’t know which corner was cutoff in those broadcasts. And so why they told the people running transparencies to move the transparencies to the side as much as possible. Or if you knew where the key box was, how to open it, and what the keys were for. Also what was in the youth group storage room. The location of all the copy machines.

Also who from Stanford went to Walk Through The Bible – Old Testament. And who got rebuked for their behavior from the pastor and why. That was embarrassing. Also, when David Hong led morning praise, and what he sang. When it was that David first told his 3-T story, to whom, and who was in the car.

Anyway, I really feel like this generation of KCPCers is totally missing out on hardship and serving. There’s no having to get up early for service and pack into cars due to lack of rides, and having to suffer in the freezing cold, or doing random service things like gardening or food prep or serving. And I tell you, they are totally missing out – nothing bonds better than serving / suffering together. Do all the fellowship you want; if you really wanna get close, go serve together.

Anyway, I sound like an old fogey now but everything is too easy now. Service is late, there’s nothing anyone needs to do, and so the mentality has totally changed. It’s less about suffering for the sake of the church, and more just a take attitude, about what the church can do for them. They’ll even go somewhere else for the week if it’s more convenient or whatever. It’s even minor things, like leaving the pews messy after service. Anyway, everyone’s missing out. And I know that a lot of people agree. Huh, George?

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