November 30, 2007

November 2007

Let's try this out. At the end of each month, I'll post something personal - a recap of the months activities and some stats. It's a nice way for me to save information, but will no doubt be mundane for most of you. And you'll be subjected to my scrupulous data collecting (though I will spare you data on each item of food that I digested over the past thirty days). Read at your own risk.

Highlights: My sister Joni and her hubby Mike came to visit over Thanksgiving. We ate, watched movies and all out relaxed. We pretty much did the same thing with best friends Paul and Brooke Kind who were out visiting just after the Holiday. Though we did manage to squeeze in a quick trip to the mountains and play scrabble at a clip of three games per day. Both visits were perfect.

November Films:
  • American Gangster - 6/10
  • Before The Devil Knows - 5/10
  • We Own the Night - 7/10
  • Darfur Now - 5/10
  • No Country for Old Men - 9/10
  • I'm Not There - 4/10
  • Mr. Magoriums - 8/10
  • Enchanted - 5/10
  • 3:10 To Yuma - 10/10

    November Reading:
  • The Catcher In the Rye - 9/10 - JD Salinger
  • The Perks of Being A Wallflower - 8/10 - Stephen Chbosky
  • The Year of Living Biblically - 5/10 - AJ Jacbobs
  • Bird By Bird - 6/10 - Anne Lamott
  • LA Times - Thursday to Sunday
  • Time/Rolling Stone

    November Miles:
  • 119.20 miles or 3.97 mpd - This includes biking, walking and stair climbing at the gym.
  • November 14, 2007

    Last month it was Avenged Sevenfold. Next month it's David Gray and B.B. King. But two nights ago it was Rob Bell. A preacher. From the Midwest.

    I doubt the famous Wiltern Theatre on Wilshire has ever experienced so many white, middle-class patrons in it's seventy-six years of existence. There were no mosh pits or banging heads or black fingernails. What you did have was a clan of black-rimmed glasses filing into their seats with Promise Keepers like precision and order.

    We packed in - all 2200 of us - to hear Rob Bell speak...or teach, or whatever "The God's Aren't Angry" tour would bring to us. The anticipation was obvious. Cheers went up as the lights went down. One guy in the third row even opened his laptop to take notes. I felt like I was getting ready to experience some yuppie John Mayer type concert, except instead of a drum set and guitars on stage there was an alter.

    Rob Bell has become famous for well deserved reasons. One, his methods are usually unconventional and sometimes controversial. He started a new Church and spent the first year preaching long winded yet profound sermons on the blood and guts of Leviticus. He speaks from controversial books like Honest to God and even did a series on the environment. And his latest book is called Sex God, which incidentally isn't about my friend in High School named Sam. Two, he's a tremendous communicator. He possesses an uncanny ability to assess audiences. Even his pauses and pronunciation seem almost flawless.

    The tour's subtitle states the following: "Part anthropology, part history, part deconstruction - this is new material that Rob hasn't taught before, exploring how humans invented religion to make themselves feel better."

    He walks out on stage wearing all black, shirt sleeves rolled up and New Balance walkers. He was greeted to an anxious-riddled cheer and then dove straight in. And 103 minutes later he finished to a standing ovation and walked off the stage. No q&a, no encore, no book signing. I liked the simplicity of the night.

    What disappointed me was how much the tour subtitle didn't match the talk. I thought he might actually address the age old question as to why humans need religion. I hoped that he would explore the common human experience of creating Gods to understand the world, and by linking the past to the present, help us better understand faith today. Instead I received a devotional voicing the same old ideas in a newer package wrapped in a art-deco theatre with a hipster ribbon. And if this was simply another inspirational devotional, then what's the point? His talks every Sunday at Mars Hill receive thousands of downloads. Why didn't he share this devotional at his Church and let everyone download them for free, saving all of us $24?

    November 9, 2007

    Kari and I made a major deal yesterday that will last for the next seven days.

    SHE GETS: A daily seven minute massage. I GET: Free from doing dishes.

    The following rules apply:
    a. The massage will take place at the time it is asked for.
    b. Dishes are to be done regularly, no end of day pile up.
    c. No whining about dishes is allowed.
    d. The massage has to be done with effort.

    Who do you think got the better deal?

    November 5, 2007

    So I'm reading a book called The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs. For the book, Jacobs (an agnostic-by-choice) devotes an entire year to living out every rule of the Bible. New Testament and Old. And I mean every last law - from stoning adulterers to avoiding contact with his wife for seven days following her menstrual discharge. Okay, the writing is mediocre and it feels a little publicity-stuntish, but it's an experiment I find interesting, especially from someone who seems to be giving it a fair shot. I especially liked the honesty and subtle profoundness of his thoughts after month three:

    "As I mentioned in the introduction, one of the reasons that I embarked on this experiment was to take legalism to its logical extreme and show that it leads to religious idiocy...If you actually follow all the rules, you'll spend your days acting like a crazy person. I still believe that. And I still plan on making a complete fool of myself to get this point across. But as with everything involving religion, my project has become much more complicated. The spiritual journey now takes up far more of my time.

    My friend Roger was right. It's not like studying Sumo wrestling in Japan. It's more like wrestling itself. This opponent of mine is sometimes beautiful, sometimes cruel, sometimes ancient, sometimes crazily relevant. I can't get a handle on it."

    If words aren't a compelling enough reason to pick up this book, maybe a before and after shot of the author will be: