Showing posts with label Books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Books. Show all posts

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Looks like the fittest did a little surviving last night, huh?

Tomorrow is the last day of 2010.


That felt like a cruelly short year, didn't it? I guess they all do. If I could have one wish... Well, I was about to say that I would wish for longer lives and more hours in the day, but that could be considered two wishes, and let's be honest, if I had one wish, it would be for infinite money, or superpowers, or ageless immortality, etc.

Anyway, I wish we lived longer and that there were more hours in the day.

I've started reading Chuck Klosterman's latest, Eating The Dinosaur. I like Klosterman a lot because he over-analyzes pop culture in the way that I would like to have time to. I guess the over all message of all the Klosterman that I've read is that, no matter how petty or materialistic pop culture seems, these things matter. I tend to agree.

I'm reminded of the summer of 2002. Everyone gets at least one big, earth shattering, soul crushing, heartbreak in their youth; or at least, they should. You know, at least one time where something or someone happens that calls into question everything you believe about yourself and the human condition. Mine came by way of a breakup with my first longtime girlfriend in the summer of 2002.

I got sad. Real sad. Less so because I still wanted to be with that girl, really, and more so because I had based all of my hopes and dreams around being with that girl. If we're being dramatic, I got suicidal. If we're being more realistic, I got dramatic about being sad and, like many children of the 90's/Nirvana fans, channeled that drama into lionizing suicide. Anyway, that's not important. What is important is what got me through those times. Was it supportive friends and family? Sure, somewhat. Was is faith in a higher power? Nope...well, kind of, maybe, I guess. Do The Beatles and/or Star Wars count as higher powers? If they do, then yes.

During that time I had two great revelations:
1. That the arcade in the mall had The Star Wars Arcade Game, and...
2. That the Beatles are amaaaaazing but I did not own their entire catalog.

So I made the decision that I would not buy any new music other than The Beatles until I had every album. Also I began most of my days by pillaging the couch cushions and our apartment's dusty corners, looking for quarters or any spare change that was equal to or greater than 25 cents.
I played the Star Wars arcade game almost everyday that summer. What has two thumbs and could (at that point) beat the Star Wars arcade game with one credit? This guy!

I know that those things didn't solve my problems, but they provided me with enough distraction from said problems that I was able to function, and that has worth, right? I think so.

Ian and Elana got me Futurama: Season 5 for Xmas and I've been watching that almost all day. For my money, Futurama is possibly the best animated show of all time, least ways, nothing else springs to mind that is better. I'm so glad it was resurrected. When I am cancelled, I, too, hope to be ressurected.

This was a great year. I had a really great time. Thanks for having me, and I'll definitely recommend you to my friends, Universe.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

What's better than texting while driving? Sexting while driving, of course!

Nothing much to say. It's one of those rare days where I actually spend a lot of time reading a book. I'm reading The End of Faith by Sam Harris still. I take forever to get through a book. I just don't feel like reading a lot of times. Apparently, checking my email and other internet bullshitz 1000 times a day is more important.

I guess I've been on a Sam Harris kick since I saw his TED talk about science informing morality the other day. I thought it was good. Did anyone else see it?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Raise high the roof beams, carpenters!

Tomorrow is the actual last day that you can do us a solid and vote for Quiet Company in the Austin Chronicle Best of '09 poll. Please vote and encourage others (violently) to vote for us for band of the year, best rock band, best indie band and our album "Everyone You Love Will Be Happy Soon," for best album of the year. Please.

One of the worst, possibly THE worst thing about being a musician is the "hurry up and wait" aspect of our lives. We don't play til midnight tonight, but they want us to sound check between 4 and 6. What are we supposed to do for the remaining 3 hours til the doors even technically open? Wander around aimlessly downtown, I guess. That's probably what I'll be doing.

JD Salinger died today at age 91. That's a pretty full life, I suppose. I hope he was comfortable and loved at the end. And at the beginning and middle, for that matter. I've read all 4 of his books, my favorite being "Raise High The Roof Beams, Carpenters," and my least favorite being, the immortal classic, "Catcher in the Rye."

I haven't had much religious content lately but today, I saw this graphic, and I'm a sucker for those faux inspirational posters.

I also thought this was hilarious.

Friday, December 18, 2009

If a grown man "imprinted" on my baby, I'd have him arrested.

According to
Top 10 best-selling books of the decade:

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - JK Rowling
2. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - JK Rowling
3. Breaking Dawn - Stephenie Meyer
4. Twilight -Stephenie Meyer
5. Eclipse - Stephenie Meyer
6. The Tales of Beedle the Bard - JK Rowling
7. New Moon - Stephenie Meyer
8. The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
9. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
10. A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Hosseini

Top 10 best-selling authors of the decade:

1. JK Rowling
2. Stephenie Meyer
3. Julia Donaldson
4. Terry Pratchett
5. Jamie Oliver
6. Dan Brown
7. Enid Blyton
8. Bernard Cornwell
9. Alexander McCall Smith
10. William Shakespeare

Its kind of crazy that only 4 authors make up the top ten best selling books, but I think the message here to note is: "Suck a butt Twilight!"

I still stand by my statement that the Harry Potter saga is the best work of fiction in the history of recorded story telling. And despite what Stephanie Meyer may have you believe, young ladies, being stalked isn't cool, even if its by some sparkly, neutered, vampire. It doesn't matter how charming, or shiny, he may be. Oh, and remember how a werewolf falls in love with a baby? Totes redic!

We're leaving today after I get off work to go back to east Texas. We're celebrating the holidays with our family this weekend because everyone's schedules didn't line up to do it next week. I am looking forward to seeing my family. I am not looking forward to the 4 hour drive.

Matt finished up the violins and the horns for the EP yesterday. I can't wait to hear them. We did the choir and flute tracks on Wednesday with the help of my neighbor, a few Rocketboys and some other friends. Now we've moved past the point of being "almost almost done" to being "almost done."

I'm on a new medication to cure my lingering acne but so far it seems like the idea is to burn my face off in the hopes that an acne free face will spring up in its stead. I'm really starting to question whether the cure is worse than the affliction, especially since this is the 3rd medicine to have this effect and, in the end, the other medicines didn't do shit. Its not that my acne is bad, most people say they never notice it. Its just the fact that I'm 27 years old and I have to deal with it at all that bothers me. Oh well, maybe its just my lot in life. There are worse fates, I suppose.

On the the weekend, where we shall pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.

Monday, November 16, 2009

So, Mr. Diabetic, you like insulin? Well, did you know THAT INSULIN TREATMENT IS CANADIAN?!?!

We have returned safely to our home, with the realization that vacation will never be like it used to be again, or at least not for a long time. Travelling with an infant in tow is a vastly different experience than the travelling we've done previously. That's probably obvious to everyone, but I guess we were overly optimistic, since Harper is so good at home. But vacation means she's off her schedule, and she really likes that schedule, it really works for her. I feel like she was perpetually tired for 9 days and somehow even when she slept it wasn't the quality of sleep that she gets in her own bed and didn't rejuvenate her the way it should've.

I'm making it sound worse than it was. She was still really good a lot of the time but I'm just not used to her being so moody. American Harper is far superior to Canadian Harper.

Other than the insane stress that comes with flying with an infant and a resident alien with a misplaced green card, and driving in Toronto (with their incredibly short left turn arrows and badly spaced turning lanes that make every left turn a game of Russian Roulette), we had a good time. We got to spend a lot of time with family and Leah's sister, Elana, and her fiance, Ian, came in from London for the week as well. Ian's a scientist doing stem cell research, which to me is like being somewhat of a rock star.

Sometimes its hard to see the differences between Canada and the U.S. But one huge difference is the way our patriotism is expressed. Both countries are incredibly patriotic with flags waving everywhere so let me give you an example of what I mean. Not too long ago, someone here in my office was expressing his discontent with Obama because Obama apologizes for the U.S. around the world. I said how I thought that we should apologize when we'd done wrong and that there's nothing weak about humility and why didn't he think America should have to apologize? "Because we're America!" was his answer, and apparently that truth is self evident, to him anyway. In Canada, patriotism most often materializes itself in endearingly innocent proclamations. Things like: "IMAX is amazing! DID YOU KNOW ITS CANADIAN?!?"

Toronto is great, but alas, Austin, you are my truest love (as cities go, of course).

Toronto is by far the most multi-cultural city I've ever been to, more than NYC, more than San Francisco, more that Austin. We were staying in a really Russian area, so most of the people we encountered in the neighborhood sounded like Bond villains, but were friendly enough....I guess. Drivers in Toronto don't give "the Wave" which is a problem. That little gesture says so much. It can mean "thanks" or "I'm sorry" but when its not there its absence might as well mean "go to hell." Its just good manners, and I think I only saw one other driver give the wave the whole time we were there. And Canadians are usually so friendly.

The best perk of multi-culturalism is the food. They easily have 10 times the options that we have here when deciding what to have for dinner. But they also have Tim Horton's, which is an amazing restaurant that has perfected the apple fritter. I've been known to punish myself with an obscene amount of apple fritters when Tim Horton's is available. We also frequented Swiss Chalet and a few different Crepe places.

Another experience worth noting was when I got to sit in a room full of my Canadian family and listen to them all talk about how much they love their health care system, and though it isn't perfect, they would never, ever trade it for ours. And that's the extent of my political agenda for this post.

On our last night there, Leah and I went dancing with Ian and Elana and some friends of theirs at a club called Stone's Place, that plays all old Motown and early 60's rock and roll. I love watching Leah dance, she has a unique style that makes her joy infectious. The DJ was on his game and played ABC and then Signed, Sealed, Delivered back to back. We left on a high note, and the next day began our harrowing trip back to the colonies.

I was so happy to visit everyone in Canada but I hated to leave just when the recording was starting to really get going. All week, I was thinking of ideas for songs but there was nothing I could do with the ideas. I've been jonesing for the studio and missing my band brothers. I know we need a rehearsal this week for the show on Friday but I really, really hope that we get in a day of recording as well.

When we were in the Houston airport, somebody came up to me and said "Are you the lead singer of Quiet Company? I've been to like 5 of your shows." Totally made my day.

Next week is Thanksgiving and I'm really looking forward to seeing my family. I feel bad that they haven't gotten to spend more time with Harper but these past few months have been ridiculously busy and we're at least 3 1/2 hours away from everyone.

Elana & Ian gave me a copy of Richard Dawkins' new book, The Greatest Show On Earth: The Evidence for Evolution, which is an awesome gift that I will enjoy. It will probably be a while before I'm finished with it, as its one of those books that you have to actually put forth effort to absorb the content, and I'm still reading The Great Gatsby. Oh yeah, and I'm a slow-ass reader.

Friday, October 2, 2009

I wonder if Phil Collins ever feels this way...

We've got a big show tonight. ACL afterparty as direct support for Los Lonely Boys at Momo's. We had practice last night and I always hate practicing the night before a show but with all of us being adults with adult schedules sometimes you have to take what you can get. So just like with every big show my anxiety manifests itself by convincing me that my voice may very well go out tonight mid set. Its not exactly completely psychosomatic, as it has happened before. Its one of the reasons I prefer a shorter set to a longer one. I'm sure that just like always, when we get on stage and things are going well, I'll forget that my voice feels shaky and remember how ridiculously fun it is to make and play music.

Leah just came by my office with Harper and brightened my day. My wife and daughter are amazing and I miss them terribly throughout the workday. Next Wednesday, Leah and I are going on a double date with Tommy and Betsy to see David Bazan play at the Mohawk. I can't wait to see him play with a full band again. I've seen him a few times as Pedro the Lion and he's always a great time.

I've started reading A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court due to my resolution to read more Mark Twain. I've also brought along The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, which I've never read but has been sitting on my shelf for a long time. I suppose Leah has read it.

The Beatles are really, really good.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A priest, a rabbi, and an imam walk into a bar...All are offended by what they see.

Today is Blasphemy Day, in case you didn't know.

As a non-religious person, let me say that this is one of the most needless "holidays" a person could possibly celebrate. Sure, there's absolutely nothing wrong with being open about how ridiculous you may find some or all religions, and mocking them among friends, but how is that different from any other day. I'm just worried that people are going to be using this as an opportunity to be assholes and that is counter-productive. Most religious people already kind of think that openly non-religious people are jerks and the fact that we have a day dedicated to blaspheming the things they hold most sacred isn't going to change their minds. All that to say that I will not be taking part in Blasphemy Day.

I'm not in any way saying we shouldn't criticize, its just that dedicating a holiday to Blasphemy seems unwise and unkind. You catch more flies with honey, and all that.

Yesterday, I finished the book I was reading before lunch and then had nothing to read the rest of my lull of a day. So I was excited to get a new book from the library last night but lo and behold, I forgot it in my haste to get to work this morning. If I wasn't so tired, I'd kick myself.

Leah and I have been hooked on the show, Dexter. Its a strange thing to be cheering on a serial killer, but hey, good TV is good TV.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

When my wife yells things like "Hit him in the mouth!" at a hockey game, I know we'll be together forever.

Last night was amazing. I've always known that I like hockey, ever since Disney's immortal classic, The Mighty Ducks, came out, but now we actually have a team where I live, that plays five minutes from my house. Leah and Robin surprised Jeremy and I with tickets to last nights game and so we all went to see the Texas Stars (our team) battle the Houston Aeros (we lost in overtime 2-3).

There's not a lot of points scored in hockey but I think that just makes each goal mean that much more. When someone finally puts one in the net, you know they've been working their collective asses off to do so. Hockey is also the best sport to watch because it combines skill, aggression, violence, and grace so seamlessly.

I also enjoy watching tennis.

We're going to go to more games, and Leah will probably always cheer for the visiting team because she feels bad for them. Maybe I'll join her if we're sitting far enough away from other people and I feel like we won't incite an angry mob.

I finished My Ishmael by Daniel Quinn just a few minutes ago. It was really good but there's something frustrating with Daniel Quinn's books and its not his short-coming really, but mine.

Almost everything I've read by Daniel Quinn makes perfect sense to me in that way that the concepts seem so obvious that you wonder why you never saw the world in this way before. After I read Ishmael I must confess that, initially, I thought he was suggesting that the only way to really save the world was to return to our Hunter/Gatherer origins. After some thought I realized that he wasn't really suggesting that since that is an impossibility and a ridiculous one at that. When I read The Story of B I began to see a little more clearly and now that I've finished My Ishmael, I think I've got everything he means to give. However, that doesn't make it any less frustrating, and here's why.

Daniel Quinn isn't a messiah and the laziest parts of me want him to be.

He's an amazing teacher/philosopher/writer and his books have forever changed me, but he hasn't told us how to live. And why should he? Why should I expect him to know? How could he? After all, one of the biggest truths in his work is that there is no one right way to live, so why am I so hungry for him to give me one? I finally understand that the burden is on those of us with changed minds to figure out how to live sustainably, not on a leader to show us the way.

I have no idea (yet) how to live my life outside of what Quinn calls "Mother Culture," but I know that I have to start with these truths:
-There is no one right way to live.
-It is possible to adapt our culture into one that is sustainable.
-There is nothing inherently wrong with people, just as there is nothing inherently wrong with butterflies or grizzly bears.
-Human beings like us lived with a culture that worked for them for hundreds of thousands of years and these peoples can serve as models for us to learn from.
-We must be inventive and fearless. Keep what works and prune what doesn't.

I'm probably not smart enough to do much good in this world, but I can do my part by raising my child to be aware of these things and maybe she'll be smart enough to do a lot of good.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Be as skeptical as you won't make these blueberry yogurt dipped granola bars any less delicious...and you know what?!? I think you know it!

The twisted genius of Brad Neely

Tonight, Quiet Company have a photo shoot with my lovely bride at The Cathedral Of Junk.
We're going to wear suits and hopefully not look awkward so stay tuned for that.

We've also got a couple of shows this week. Thursday we're playing in Bryan, TX and Friday we're in Dallas. Check the page for details.

Started two new books that I got at the library the other day and enjoying both of them. The first is My Ishmael by Daniel Quinn, which is a sequel of sorts to Ishmael. I think the idea is just to further flesh out the concepts in Ishmael, just like he does in The Story of B which is another novel connected to Ishmael.

The second book is Mark Twain's Helpful Hints for Good Living - A Handbook for the Damned Human Race by Mark Twain. Its an endearing collection of short essays, letters, and anecdotes from the author about his wife, children, and daily life. I always knew Vonnegut loved Twain so now its really interesting to see the tangible influence that Twain's writing had on Vonnegut. Whenever I read this book, the voice in my head is that of Foghorn Leghorn, incidentally.

Does anyone have any questions?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Not all wizards are good, Harry.

The next two months are going to incredibly crazy for Leah with every weekend having at least 2 weddings to shoot. This weekend was our last one for two months where we could relax and do nothing together. We took full advantage of it and it was lovely. We spent all our time playing with Harper, napping, eating, or watching True Blood. We're now completely caught up on True Blood. We really like that show.

Did anyone ever watch the show Carnivale? It was on Showtime or HBO, I can't remember. It started kind of slow but turned out to be one of the most interesting and original things I've ever seen.

I need to go to the library or the book store. I've been reading The Sirens of Titan again, and while it is a brilliant book, it hasn't been hitting the spot. I need something fictional with lots of adventure. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The wheels of invention are greased with Frank's Redhot

I had a bad dream last night and when I woke up I felt ok about hitting the snooze bar twice and laying in bed longer than my daily pre-work schedule allows to hold my wife. I also took some time before I left to creep quietly into Harper's room and watch her sleep. When I got there, however, she was already awake, making what we affectionately call her "owl noise" and turning on her side. Now I'm at work and missing them both something fierce. I can not wait to go home.

I just got back from a meeting with Paul, Matt and a local filmmaker about doing a video for "On Modern Men." His stuff looks amazing and we're really pumped about the project. We met at my favorite local restaurant, Waterloo Icehouse.

When I woke up this morning I thought to myself, "I'll start eating a granola bar or two for breakfast, a salad for lunch and then whatever I want for dinner and this will be a positive change for a healthier life." Of course, as I constantly forget everything, I forgot my granola bars and I forgot that I was eating at Waterloo today. I know I could've gotten a salad at Waterloo, but I'm not going to miss an opportunity to eat Waterloo hot wings since I don't get to go there very much (Leah's not big on the place). I guess I'll start tomorrow.

I finished A Friendly Letter to Skeptics and Atheists and I really enjoyed it. I found it insightful, humble, and challenging. I wrote an email to the author asking his opinions on some things and I really hope he writes me back. The book isn't preachy, really, but rather an argument for positive effects on culture by religion and faith. I think that if all Christians thought like David Myers then surely there would still be Atheists, but perhaps there wouldn't be a need for the "New Atheists" (Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, etc.) Though, it seems that Myers enjoys their books as much as I do.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

How on Earth can Coke Zero have no calories?

I just finished reading Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris. I really enjoyed it and it was a quick read, which I also appreciated. He makes some really good, articulate points and I would recommend it to anyone doubting their faith. Anyone not doubting their faith, I wouldn't so much recommend it as I would double-dog dare you to read it.

So now I'm jumping right into A Friendly Letter to Skeptics and Atheists by David G. Myers. I know what to expect from this book because from what I can already tell, Myers is the kind of Christian that I think I was for a long time, which is to say very, very liberal. Maybe that's why I like him. He seems reasonable even though I know that at some point I'm probably going to think him less so. I think after reading these two books, where one is clearly a sort of answer to the other, its going to be a question about moderate religion, because that is what I think Myers is trying to sell in the place of "irrational fundamentalism."

Harris makes the point of saying that all moderates and liberals are doing is taking the scripture less and less seriously. I really agree with that. I know that that's what I was doing. The more we learn about how the world actually works, the more we've been able to write off the Bible as the primitive assertions of ignorant (and I mean that as the denotation of the word, not as an insult) sheepherders. We could go on and on and on listing all the things that they knew about god that most intelligent Christians and Jews laugh off today, but we won't.

I know what the "New Atheists" would say about this, but I think there's quite a few regular atheists, deists, and agnostics here and I'd like to hear your opinions about something. Religious moderates (especially Muslims) would have us believe that their religions have been hi-jacked by extremists and are not inherently dangerous. However, their holy books do not advocate being "moderate" but rather being, we'll kindly say "impassioned." So the question is three-fold: Do you think religious liberalism a good thing? Do you think it enables extremism? And do you think it's just a step down the road to faithlessness?

Monday, August 3, 2009

I have a headache and its your fault

We saw "Funny People" on Friday, and the more I think about it, the more disappointed I think I am. Its certainly not a bad movie, but I don't think its up to the standard that Apatow and friends have set for themselves. I read a lot of critics saying that it was his least funny movie but his best movie. But if the guy makes comedies then it stands to reason that the least funny movie is the worst movie, not the best. I would say I enjoyed it for the most part, though.

Ordered some books today that I'm excited about. The first is Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris. I started reading this while I was killing time at the bookstore the other day and it was really good. Very frank and logical, which I enjoyed.

The second is A Friendly Letter to Skeptics and Atheists: Musings on Why God Is Good and Faith Isn't Evil by David G. Myers. I think I'm actually the most excited about this one, because thanks to Amazon's "A look inside" feature, I've read the first few pages and Myers seems to write with a humility that I've not seen in any Christian writings thus far. One of the reviews on the Amazon page says "Faithheads will welcome the clarity with which Myers comes to their rescue. However, they too will find themselves challenged, reexamining their beliefs, assumptions and even their practices." I know this is going to be accommodational and that he will probably lose the argument, but he seems to be the kind of Christian the world really needs so I'm inclined to hear him out. He also has a book out that argues that Christians should be supportive of gay marriage and wrote one of the most standard psychology texts used at university level. Color me impressed.

Tonight the wife and I are cooking orange chicken and delighting in the fullness of life.

Friday, July 24, 2009

My review of Surprised By Faith by Dr. Don Bierle

As you may have read in previous entries, I've been reading a book called Surprised By Faith by Dr. Don Bierle on my mother's recommendation. Yesterday, I finished the book and now I'd like to say what I thought about it. I already kind of reviewed the first chapter or two here, so I'll just pick up where I left off.

I've already pointed out how the book loves to flaunt the words "doctor" and "scientist" but never specifically says what field he specializes in, which is weird. All it ever gives away is the very general term, "life sciences," which I guess would be things of a biological nature. So lets give the doctor the benefit of the doubt and say he's a biologist. Biology is one of the most important types of science, I think, and its one of the more revealing when speaking on the human condition, so I'd be very interested to hear what a biologist says about faith. Well, that's not what you're going to get in Surprised by Faith. Science has a method, as Dr. Bierle knows. Its called the "scientific method" conveniently enough. Its, without a doubt, the most conclusive way to know anything because its not biased in any way.

"The scientific method was clearly the method of choice in observing the natural world. But it requires the experiment be repeatable in a controlled environment so it can be observed. History is not repeatable and does not lend itself to the scientific method...How do you prove something that is a one time event?"

So this scientist isn't going to use science in this book. So why do I give a shit that he's a scientist? Instead what he is going to do is try and build a case for faith like you would build a case for something in a court of law. Lee Strobel does a way better job at this, by the way, and for the record I would never hire either of those men as lawyers or detectives. So the "scientist" is going to need to delve into areas of science like archeology and anthropology, areas that he doesn't specialize in.

He starts strong in Chapter 2 "Can I Believe the Bible? The Issue of Historical Reliability" by showing how the New Testament stacks up against other ancient works.
The areas of concern are "Number of manuscripts," "the time interval between the date of writing and the earliest known manuscript" and "the rate of distortion of manuscripts due to copying errors." All three are very important indicators when testing whether or not what you're reading now is what was really written then and in all three areas, the New Testament stands up. In fact, it stands up tremendously over the other works being compared to it, i.e. the Iliad, the writings of Caesar and Aristotle, etc. The difference being that no one is trying to convince people to worship Achilles.

So the NT is popular, and has always been popular, this is true though its not really news. That being said, in my mind, being popular doesn't make it true, necessarily, but I can see why this chapter is important as a building block in the case for faith.

But that's it. He, essentially, rests his proverbial case there. The NT was written, it was popular and we can verify that a handful of the cultural events mentioned therein can be verified when cross referenced with other secular writings of the times. Also, all the disciples, but one, died a martyr's death, which they wouldn't have done if they hadn't really believed that they had seen these things. To me, that's the most interesting evidence but at the same time, how many people drank the kool-aid or gave up their lives for any number of religious leaders? People are willing to die for a lot of reasons, that alone doesn't make their cause just and true.

The next 2 chapters are just telling me what Christians believe about Jesus. Having grown up and believed the way I did, I already knew this stuff. He didn't offer me any reasoning, evidence or theory that I hadn't already heard and heard a lot so I didn't get much out of those chapters.

I took issue with Chapter 5 though, "Where am I? Analyzing unbelief, belief and doubt." According to Dr. Bierle, there are only 3 types of unbelief and they are:

1. IGNORANCE - unknowing, blind
2. DOUBT - distrust, skepticism, unsure, wavering, indecision
3. DECISION - willful, hard-hearted, rejection, rebellion, arrogant

Really? Those are the only 3? Where does "unconvinced" fit in? What about people who have heard everything there is to hear about Jesus and say, "that's not conclusive enough to warrant a belief in things I know to be impossible." Is it arrogant to be Jewish and not Christian, or Hindu and not Christian? Are all atheists hard hearted? The last two chapters of the book are spent essentially telling me that its only my ego and pride that keep me from Christianity and assuming that the New Testament's popularity has been enough to convince me. It was, at best, a little insulting. So I wondered, if this guy really has a mind trained to think scientifically, why is he content with this type of thinking? Why would he draw such drastic conclusions from what evidence is available?

And then he told me.

"It was during sophomore biology lab that I met a girl who saw life differently...Her influence set me on a spiritual search that lasted several years."

His wife, of course. Oh, the things we do for love. I get it, though. When Leah and I got together, she knew how important my faith was to me and even though she'd been raised in a secular Jewish family she felt a pull to share my faith, even though I swore to her that it wasn't important to me that she do that. Whenever we did go to church, it was very obvious how weird it was to her and that she didn't, or more likely couldn't, accept a lot of what was taught. Its a feeling that I now understand. When you're on the outside looking in, its a very different scene. Whenever I hear people speak in depth about their faith now, it almost feels like they might as well be talking about Santa Claus. And I, honestly, don't mean that to sound insulting or belittling but only to illustrate how much my perception has changed.

The other day I saw one of those car magnets that was obviously a parody of the Christian fish car magnets that people have, only this one had wings on the side of the fish that made it look like a rocketship and inside the fish it said "SCIENCE." I chuckled at that but when I thought about it, I don't think its that good of an idea. It makes it look like that person, probably an atheist or some kind of "freethinker", worships science, which no one really does. Science isn't a religion and while I put a lot of trust in doctors and scientists, its not a place for blind faith. It produces its best results under the most intense scrutiny, and that's the way, I think, it should be for everything.

Here's some scientific data that troubled me so, when I had faith.
The earth is over 4 billion years old. The human race as we know it (Homo sapiens sapiens) appeared on Earth over 150,000 years ago. Salvationist religions appeared less that 10,000 years ago. Why is it that we existed for more than 140,000 years before we needed saving? Dr. Bierle points out that, as Peter said, "He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." So either God is really bad at math, or something (else) is wrong here.

As for Surprised by Faith, I found that it is short on evidence and logic, big on guilt and very adequate with regurgitating F.F. Bruce and C.S. Lewis. People looking for support of beliefs that they've already decided to hold despite contradiction will find a lot to like about this book, but true skeptics won't find anything of real substance, I'm afraid. I did read it with the same amount of bias that anyone else would have, since I do already have certain thoughts in my head, but I must confess that when I was finished with it, I actually felt disappointed that he didn't have more to offer. Lee Strobel's Case for Faith came up short as well, but was still considerably stronger than this.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"the dragon's awake..."

One of my favorite things in the world is when you rediscover records. The two records above are two records that everytime I put them in, I think "Why don't I listen to this all the time?" The first time I heard Kasabian it was on some late night show and I wasn't impressed but I picked up Empire on a whim on a trip to Toronto and it blows me away every time I listen to it. I bought GBV's Do the Collapse on a friend's recommendation and because it was produced by Rick Ocasek but, past a handful of songs, they never really grew on me too much. However, I heard Half Smiles of the Decomposed playing in a record store in Austin and had to pick it up immediately. I think it was their last official record, if I'm not mistaken, which I could be.

Today I took a Harry Potter quiz and got 75 out of 75 questions right but somehow, still didn't get on the leader board. I guess it was timed and I stopped and talked to my coworker for a while in the middle of it.

I'm about 3/4 of the way through Surprised by Faith and about 60% through reading Half-Blood Prince for the 6th time. Surprised by Faith is only 110 pages but its taking longer than it should. I'll talk a lot more about it when I'm completely done with it but suffice to say that its like watching a movie that you've already seen and didn't like but the people you're with insist that its a great movie and you just need to see it again. So you go, only to find that its still the same movie and you're out another $8 and two hours of your life. Maybe he'll wow me at the end.

As always, I miss my wife and daughter today and can't wait til 5 o'clock.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The purpose driven strife

Harry Potter week is finally upon us! Rejoice, true believers! We're seeing the movie Thursday night and I know you're all thinking what a poser I am for not going to the midnight showing on Wednesday, but I've got a kid now and that sort of thing just doesn't happen as easily nowadays. This movie looks AMAZING though, and I totally expect it to Avada Kedavra my ass.

Leah and I took Harper to east Texas this weekend. My brother and his family got to meet her for the first time, and I got to spend a lot of quality time with my niece and nephew. It was really great and Harper travelled well, which we were nervous about. But like a jackass, I accidentally left my computer, phone charger, and Harper's Baby Einstein mat at my parents house. Leaving my stuff sucks a lot but that mat is really the only toy Harper plays with so we're going to have to just buy something else for her.

A lot of you may know that I'm a huge proponent of the book Ishmael by Daniel Quinn, and for my money, its the single most powerful and transformative philosophy book that I've ever read. I've gotten a few people to read it and typically, there reaction is similar to my own. My brother is reading it now, on my recommendation and judging from his blog, I don't think he's going to be as affected by it as I was. Oh well. He is correct about what he says though, that the book does hinge on the reader already accepting certain facts. For instance, if you don't understand or just don't accept evolutionary theory then you will probably not agree with the rationale of Ishmael because the bulk of the ideas therein stem from humankind sharing the same humble origins as everything else in nature.

I also got my mom to read it not too long ago but I think one of the only reasons she consented to do so was so that she could get me to read a Christian book of her choosing. I'm not sure how even these scales are though: I ask her to read one book and then I have to read another one on top of spending almost 30 years obsessing over the religion of her choice. I'm kidding and I digress, I'm happy to do it. After all, if there is a viable reason out there to jump back into the fold, I'd love to hear it. That being said, if 26 years in the church isn't long enough to have heard all the arguments in favor of Christianity, then what are we doing in church so much?

The book she's chosen for me is Surprised by Faith by Dr. Don Bierle. My problems with the book start early, with the front and back covers. They advertise that Dr. Bierle is a "scientist" but never say what kind. They talk about how he studied life sciences but never say which ones; he's a doctor but what kind? It does say that he holds M.A. and Ph.D degrees in life sciences and an M.A. in New Testament studies. In the preface he talks about how much education he's had which is impressive to me, who has very little education past high school, but he also talks in detail about how devoutly religious his family was and how he was somewhat groomed for the ministry as early as age 14. And with that admission his arguments become somewhat tainted to me. He's been indoctrinated from a young age just like most religious people and that gives him a motive: a desire to return to the comforting religion of his family. I know because I feel it too, and I'm not saying that this is definitely how he is but just that it seems probable to someone like me. Somewhere between 14 and college Dr. Bierle became a skeptic and that's where he starts Chapter 1. I was actually really impressed at the beginning of this chapter because he really seems to get how I feel and understand the problems I see in the plausibility of it all. I guess he was a skeptic after all. A persons perspectives on religion and spirituality are really contingent on the question "at what point are you satisfied?" and pretty quickly, it becomes apparent that Dr. Bierle is far more easily satisfied than I am, at least on the topic of the first chapter which is, essentially, "what is the meaning of life?"

He poses the question "Do we have a purpose in life?" That's a good question, and I say "yes." He agrees but he thinks that the only way to have a real purpose in a finite universe is to have an infinite god give you one. I disagree. He postulates an analogy which essentially says that all the world exists for humankind's eventual benefit and therefore an infinite god must exist. Because there's soil, and soil's only purpose is to grow grass, who's only purpose is to feed cows. And why do cows exist? It can't possibly be for the sake of existing because that doesn't go along with our romantic idea of human purpose. Cows exist to give us meat, but don't tell the cows, they'll just lose all hope. I'm oversimplifying and paraphrasing, of course, but I think I'm giving you the broad strokes. I think that its far more reasonable to say that because soil exists, its possible for grass to grow, and because grass grows, its possible for cows to eat, and because cows die, its possible for grass to grow, etc. Its a system that sustains itself, see?

In the first chapter, for Dr. Bierle, he's satisfied with a god as long as it meets two requirements:
1: God must be infinite.
2: God must be personal.

He has to be infinite because he's the one thing that is OK without a purpose and he has to be personal because he has to be able to reciprocate affection. Why we NEED god to be personal to be relevant, he doesn't say. "Eastern" religions' gods are infinite but not personal and "western" religions' gods are personal but not infinite but there is one bowl of proverbial porridge that's just right. Somehow, just because Christianity meets the needs that this "scientist" has laid out for himself, that is proof that it is the religion that 3 out of 3 celestial beings prefer.

I'm only about 1/4 of the way through this book and I'm not sure if he's building evidence for a big picture or if he's attacking skeptical issues one by one. It certainly seems to be the latter as all the chapters are titled and geared towards a particular problem. So far, the section "What am I here for? The Crisis of Purpose and Meaning" fails to make any headway in proving or rationalizing anything other than the fact that the good doctor can't fathom a world where things simply exist.

I know that there are religious people out there who live every day like they're on a mission and spend their time and their money working towards a better world, and they feel like they're doing god's work and believe that god gave them purpose in life and rightly so. Most people I know aren't like that though. They get up, go to work, come home and hopefully spend time with loved ones or work on whatever it is they're passionate about...or maybe just veg out and watch TV until its time to do it all over again. This is the day to day for people of faith and people without any, alike. If god gives us purpose, I have a hard time seeing what it could possibly be, unless its just to do this: exist. I said that I believe we have purpose, but I believe we make it for ourselves. I love being a husband, a father, a son, a brother, an uncle, a friend and I love making music. Those are the things I'm passionate about and I feel like those are the things that give my life purpose. It really makes me sad when religious people that I love say that without god we'd have no purpose.

We'd still have each other.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

No, as a matter of fact, I don't think "Harry Potter & My Left Nut" is an appropriate title for a book.

Maybe its because we're a week away from the movie or maybe just because we've been reading The Sorcerer's Stone to Harper every night, but either way, I've fallen back into my Potter addiction. I've spent all day reading The Half Blood Prince and looking at fan sites. I don't know what the point is, really. I know, generally, everything interesting there is to know about Harry Potter. I think I'd give my left nut to be a wizard for a day. I'd probably start that day by using my powers to regrow my left nut, though.

Another thing I did today was take a Bible quiz. Its made by the Freedom From Religion Foundation so obviously, the questions are cherry-picked to make the scriptures look strange and sick. That being said, those things are actually in there and sometimes the scriptures are just strange and sick. So it goes. Chalk it up to cultural relativity if you want, but, unfortunately, there's only so much you can account for with that explanation.

I did really well on the quiz (48 out of 50 questions correct), but I'm really curious to see how well the people that read this blog would do, particularly the Christians. The trick is, when you don't know the answer, just pick the weirdest one. I had to do that a few times.

Lastly, this is a reminder that if you haven't called your state senator about Cynthia Dunbar yet, you really need to. With Don McLeroy, it was all about Evolution vs. Creationism, the right vs. the left. But I think that, in Cynthia Dunbar, we've all found a common enemy (assuming that we all care about the education of our young people). This is a woman who openly hates the very idea of public education. To borrow an analogy, its like hiring an arsonist to be fire chief. For Liberals, she represents a lot of what we hate about stereotypical conservatism, for Conservatives, she's an embarrassment, making ignorant statements on par with a drunk Sarah Palin. The fact that she's even on the board of education is gross, the idea that she could be put in charge of it is flat out depressing. Find your senator, tell them what you think. Let them know that globally competitive education is important to you and your tax dollars. THINK OF THE CHILDREN.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Do you remember when Weezer was the best band in the world. I do.

So I've actually remained pretty disciplined in my resolution to start running. In fact, I'm doing the C to 5K workout, which becomes increasingly more difficult every week until you can run a 5k. I'm glad I'm doing it and although I've only been at it for 4 weeks, I think I'm starting to see the beginning of results. That said, I really hate running. I would rather do almost any other kind of exercise. The one good thing about it is that it gives me a chance to listen to music and absorb new records and rediscover old ones. Last night I listened to one of my favorite records of all time, Pinkerton by Weezer. I don't know if I've ever listened to it on headphones and I was amazed by all the stuff I'd never noticed before. Some records, particularly older stereo records like the Beatles', I don't like listening to on headphones because, to me, the music is panned so hard right and left that it loses a lot of its body weight; it's meat and potatoes, if you will. Anyway, I love everything about how Pinkerton sounds. Matt, if you're reading this, do you think we can make our next recording sound like this one? Weezer has never made another record like Pinkerton, but they have made some very bad records (Cameron says that, where Star Wars and Weezer are concerned, I'm like an abusive husband that says I love them but make fun of them all the time). So it goes. I still have love for them, though, if for no other reason than the fact that their first two records essentially defined my teenage years, and still stand up as 2 of the best rock records of all time.

When Weezer's first record came out, almost no one in east Texas knew anything about it. And its because of that that Jeremy and I got away with constantly telling and convincing people that we were in Weezer while at UIL competitions in high school. I just love the idea that somewhere there are people talking about how one time, they met two guys from Weezer at a theatre competition. Jeremy was always Rivers and I was always Brian Bell. So it goes.

Probably once ever year or two, I re-read the gospels for one reason or another. Its always interesting to notice how every time I read them I see them a little differently. Its not hard to imagine why. A year or two has passed and my perspective has changed and therefore my interpretation has undoubtedly changed accordingly. I only started yesterday, and I'm currently reading 2 other books as well, so I'm only about half-way through Matthew (which has always been my favorite). So far the things that have stood out to me are that the sermon on the mount is a beautiful rant on the merits of selflessness, but that isn't really anything new to anyone, but what's interesting is how uninterested Jesus is in anyone who isn't Jewish. It isn't until chapter 12 that he quotes a scripture that even remotely sounds like he has anything for the gentiles ("...And in his name the gentiles will hope"). Another thing that's weird is that Jesus is understood to be a descendant of King David, but in the lineage at the beginning, he's only related to David on Joseph's side. So you see the problem, if it is even a problem. If he's a virgin birth then Joseph's bloodline has nothing to do with Jesus'.

I've always thought Jesus said some weird stuff mixed in with his good stuff, but I've always liked his character for how he handles the Pharisees. He's always breaking their laws and when they call him on it, he's quick to make them feel stupid for valuing laws more than people and, personally, I've always envisioned his tone of voice to be very "hey man, shut the f**k up," when addressing them.

I've updated my Amazon widget largely so I could recommend the book Lamb by Christopher Moore. Its a fictional account of Yeshua's first 30 years which are consistently left out of the gospels. Its funny and endearing and instantly became a new favorite for me. I found myself really wishing it was true because I loved the character of Joshua (Jesus/Yeshua) so much. I didn't think it was irreverent but I suppose some people might. I don't guess its ridiculous to assume that making religion remotely funny requires at least a little irreverence. Either way, whether you're the faithful or the faithless, its a good time.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Where do the weekends go?

Leah and I planned to get out a little bit this weekend, but it didn't pan out the way we thought. Leah started feeling sick and we figured that she had caught something from our friends, the Davis family, but it turned out to be a breast infection. Thankfully, the antibiotics the doctor prescribed started working pretty quickly.

So this weekend pretty much just included hanging out at the house, getting my hair cut off, watching both Toy Story movies, and a Spectacular Spider-Man marathon on the Disney XD channel (which was excellent). I've also taken a liking to the newest Batman show called "Batman: the Brave & the Bold." Every episode includes Batman teaming up with another hero, usually a b-lister like Green Arrow or the Outsiders. Its a lot of fun.

I like to read but I hate it when it takes forever to get through a book. A friend of mine raves about The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, so I've been reading it, partly to satisfy him. I'm a little over halfway done and its not that I dislike it, I don't. He's a very elegant writer and pretty easy to understand, even though he's dealing with complex ideas. I guess its one of those that takes a little more effort to grasp everything he says so its taking longer. Last year I read the Harry Potter series all the way through about 4 times. Its literally all I read last year. I miss it now, and for my money, Harry Potter is the greatest work of fiction in the history of recorded story telling. After my year of Potter, I read the His Dark Materials trilogy (You know, the one with The Golden Compass. They made a movie out of it.) by Phillip Pullman. I thought the first book was definitely the strongest but the whole series is top notch, full of likable characters and a well developed plot. Its a little bit messed up at times, though, so maybe its not one for the kids as much.

I think this blog is pretty boring, and I apologize. Hopefully, someone will at least want to talk about books.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

"Wherever my foot falls... "(in which we discuss Joshua)

I have a really cool brother in law named Brad. Right before I moved to Nashville in the summer of 2002 I went and hung out with Brad one night and as a going away gift he gave me a book he thought I'd enjoy. It was called "Skinny Legs & All" by Tom Robbins. I didn't like it and put it down pretty quickly. I was a very different person then (a republican even) and I had never really questioned my beliefs up to that point.

A year or two later I decided, for one reason or another, to give "Skinny Legs & All" another shot and this time I finished it. Its pretty good but this is not a review. In the book one of the characters, a rabbi, tells the protagonist that Old Testament Israel perpetrated what he considered to be the first Holocaust on the cultures of Phoenicia and Canaan. I thought this was interesting so I dived into my copy of the old testament for some investigation. I think this was the first big step in my de-conversion from Christianity.

I'm not going to go through the story in detail because you can find your own copy to reference, but I'll summarize the big points for you.
Moses had been leading the Israelites around in the desert for quite some time, because they weren't quite ready to enter the land that Yahweh had promised them. But then Moses died, and made Joshua their leader. Whereas Moses was content to wander around in the desert until Yahweh, in his wisdom, deemed it the right time to move into the promised land, Joshua wasn't so patient. Did I mention that the "Promised Land" already had people living there? It did. They were the Canaanites and Phoenicians and they had their own cultures with rich, creative, full lives and if our holy text can be relied on, they didn't pick this fight.

But Yahweh told Joshua that "wherever the sole of your foot falls, I have given to you." So big Josh decides its time to take the land they were promised. He sends spies into the city of Jericho to scope it out but the authorities get wind of it and start looking for the spies. Thank god for whores though, because one of them hid the spies in her house and lied to the cops for them. She basically sells out her own people to save her ass and makes a deal with the spies to spare her and her family when the onslaught comes. What character! What integrity!

So according to the good book, Josh and his crew march around the city seven times and then when they do their battle cry the walls fall down. Then they proceed to murder every man, woman, and child in the city. They also kill the donkeys and steal all the silver and gold because that's important to Yahweh. I guess the 10 Commandments should read "Do not murder.. except people that aren't Hebrew...I don't care so much for them."

Some people will say that the miracles are proof that Yahweh wanted this done. Oh yeah, he also parted another river so they could get there. But I say that history is told by those who win. Who was left to contradict them? They perpetrated genocide and infanticide on the opposing culture. They could've written that Yahweh himself came down and ended the fight with a sawed off shotgun and a flaming baseball bat, if they'd wanted to. And what was the Canaanites' crime? Not being Israelites? Living on land that was someone else's even though they were probably the first to inhabit it?

Then the book of Joshua also makes sure to mention how famous Joshua became and how everyone thought he was such a badass. Yeshua makes a big deal about humility and the meek inheriting the earth. I'm wondering how he would've worked this invasion.

I don't even honestly know if this happened at all. I mean, I'm pretty sure all of the miracles are made up to make it look like a mission from the Most High and not so much a crazy blood thirsty bigot leading his people to commit mass murder. But I think my biggest problem is how the church views this asshole. As a hero.

So to me there are two different ways to view this epic, each as distasteful as the next.
1. This is the story of a sick man who came into power over a nomadic people who were tired of being nomadic. They committed a holocaust and used a deity to cover their shame with arrogance and self importance. This was ethnic cleansing in its earliest incarnation and if we read about it anywhere other than the bible it would turn our stomachs and rightly so.
2. Let's suppose that every word of this is true and Yahweh really did request these things of his humble servant Joshua. If that is the case, then Yahweh is simply not a loving god. He is a monster; a primitive, sadistic, blood thirsty, racist, monster to whom we are all playthings. I wouldn't want him living on my street let alone bow to him.

The church could look at this story and say, "Let us never forget how we have inside us all a potential for evil, as Joshua did. Let us learn from his vanity." Instead they look at it and say, "He had to wipe them out or else their cultures would influence the Hebrew culture and they were God's chosen people, they had to stay pure. So its good that he did that. Yahweh has a plan." The whole thing is silly. If someone came up to you and said with conviction, "God has given me your house." What would you honestly think about that person? Would you move your shit out that day to make room for God's servant? Or would you call the cops because this person is clearly deranged and makes you feel more than a little uncomfortable? That's the one I'd do. If god wants someone else to have my house he should at least run it by me first. I'm sure the Canaanites would've appreciated the courtesy, as well.

I know a lot of the people that read this blog are Christians and Jews and it is certainly not my intention to offend you in anyway. It is my intention to share my journey in the hopes that it makes you take a little closer look at your god and your faith. I've talked to a lot of believers lately and to me it seems that the only difference between me and several of them is that they still have a desire to believe these things and I do not. But wanting something to be true or good and something actually being true and good are not the same things.

I hope we all find what we're looking for.