Monday Morning Press 11.23

Don’t touch my junk. Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post wrote a column recently about this guy, John Tyner, who was asked to submit to a pat down in airport security because he refused the full-body scan (because of the full nude image it produces).

The TSA has recently instituted a new palms-in pat of the leg, and employees are told to run their hands up the inner thigh until they touch the groin.Tyner resisted the TSA employee who wanted to to the groin test, and actually said “If you touch my junk, I’ll have you arrested.” He had a video camera running during the ordeal, and it of course has gone viral.


The junk man’s revolt marks the point at which a docile public declares that it will tolerate only so much idiocy. Metal detector? Back-of-the-hand pat? Okay. We will swallow hard and pretend airline attackers are randomly distributed in the population.

But now you insist on a full-body scan, a fairly accurate representation of my naked image to be viewed by a total stranger? Or alternatively, the full-body pat-down, which, as the junk man correctly noted, would be sexual assault if performed by anyone else?

This time you have gone too far, Big Bro’. The sleeping giant awakes. Take my shoes, remove my belt, waste my time and try my patience. But don’t touch my junk.

Tyner’s blog post was forwarded to me by literally the last person in the world who would forward emails, so I knew it was a big deal before I saw the Krauthammer piece. Obviously, this is kind of disturbing. We’ll see if anything comes from this guy’s story, which has become quite the ordeal.

HT: Gene Edward Veith

There is no ‘New Calvinism’? So the rest of the internet already knows about the George Barna report that suggests the “New Calvinism” movement goes no deeper than perception. Primarily relying on clergy identity and church size, they postulate that the quantity of Reformed churches and pastors hasn’t changed hardly at all in the last seven years. Like so:

I was skeptical when I first heard about it, especially since the research included a large contingent of mainline churches. One of the distinctions of this movement is that it’s happening outside the mainline, and instead in non-denominational and “culturally liberal”* churches like Matt Chandler’s The Village in Texas and Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill in Seattle.

Jamie Smith points out that the study was (a) unduly weighted on quantitative data and (b) carries an unclear definition of “Reformed.”


[T]his report is utterly naive about what constitutes cultural significance. It falls prey to what James Davison Hunter has criticized as the “grassroots” naivete of evangelicalism: the idea that there’s power in numbers. So if “the numbers” don’t show growth, then there’s no signficant shift–there’s no significant “Reformed movement.” But as Hunter shows, it’s not populist numbers that change culture: it’s the leadership power of “elites.” So even if there weren’t a groundswell of “new Calvinists” in the pews, there only has to be an upsurge of Calvinists in strategic positions of influence and leadership in order for it to make an impact on American evangelicalism. The Barna Report comes nowhere close to being able to measure something like that.


If you want the statistics, you don’t have to “ask the pastor.” Such a methodology already betrays a kind of nondenominational evangelical bias. But also please note, once again, that almost all observers of the “new Calvinism” has noted its growth outside”Reformed churches.” So not only does the Barna group have a naive, misguided methodology, they’re also measuring the wrong thing.

The whole post is worth reading. It’s worth remembering that Smith is denominationally Reformed, and so not in any way a member of the “New Calvinism” movement. As he says, he “has no dog in this fight.”

*This is Driscoll’s phrase, not mine.

Obligatory Michigan football thoughts. So, I don’t know what in the world happened in the Wisconsin game on Saturday, but Michigan didn’t have enough offense early and awful defense throughout and lost their fourth game in the exact same way they lost the first three. This team is bad.

On the other hand, Denard Robinson became the first player in NCAA history to run and throw for 1,500 yards each in a season (he’s actually thrown for over 2,000 and would reach 2,500 with a 240+ performance against Ohio State). The guy is super fun to watch, and yet his room for improvement (accuracy, feel for scrambling, consistency) is patently obvious. If he improves this offseason like he did last offseason, watch out. Because of guys like him and Roundtree and Taylor Lewan and (inexplicably) Forcier, this is the coolest bad team ever. I’ll probably post about the Ohio State game on Wednesday.

As for D. Robinson’s chances at the Heisman, they’re probably slim. But just for fun:

Passing yards: 2,2292,038

Passing TDs: 1621

Completion percentage: 63.4%68.2%

Interceptions: 106

Rushing yards: 1,5381,297

Rushing TDs: 1417

The first number in each category is Denard Robinson’s. The second belongs to the Heisman favorite, Auburn’s Cam Newton. With the exception of completion percentage and turnovers (advantage Newton), the rest pretty much evens out: Robinson has a full game’s worth of more passing yardage, and two games more rushing yardage, while Newton has more touchdowns.

I’m not going to argue that Denard should win the Heisman, but I’m saying he should be considered, and he certainly should be in New York City for the ceremony. He’s run for more yardage than any quarterback in a season ever, and he’s the leading rusher in the NCAA, all on a 7-4 team.

But of course, his candidacy would be predicated on the Heisman committee relying on actual qualifications rather than politics, which LOL.



[Ed. Friday short fiction, the first of what will hopefully become a weekly feature. I know today isn’t Friday, but whatever.]

The little bar in Dearborn County was gray and bleak and strangely familiar. He knew he hadn’t been here before. Had never been to Cincinnati and had certainly never traveled through Southern Indiana on I-74. But he still felt something about that bar, like something from a dream. He was familiar with its qualities, as if they shared something unspoken.

He didn’t like to travel. Preferred his comfortable hospital in Chicago. But as much as he hated driving, he hated his apartment more. It’s not like he had anything better to do anyway. The kids were gone, back to their mother’s, and his hobbies had grown worn and empty. So he would spend the weekend making an expensive trip (expensive for the hospital, anyway) to Anderson Mercy in Cinci. After fifteen years, doing rhinoplasties was easy now, especially the local anesthetic ones. This one was no different, a simple excision of the nasal hump. Two quick osteotome cuts to the bone, followed by a week with the metal splint. Good as new, as they say, or better.

There were very few people in the bar that late night. It was windy and snowy outside, the white flakes dancing and floating the the warm glow of the streetlight. He sat down alone and noticed the female bartender behind the counter, a pretty girl with very tanned arms and face. He ordered a Hendrick’s gin and tonic and sat there with it stiffly in his hand, thinking about the woman who had looked like that, tanned and proportioned. She once came to a job straight from the tanning salon, and when he asked her about it, she laughed. Tanning salons can get you laid, she said. He untucked his shirt and pulled the blinds down and turned off his Blackberry. How do you know? She just looked at him and smiled aggressively. What happened next was the answer, and people like him with lots of money and lots of time were the answer.

His wife had been tanned too, before the affair, before the divorce, before the crisis of wealth that couldn’t solve anything. Before. Now she was older and gone, and the gray hairs of his head testified to the comfortable struggle of his life.

The bartender asked about his drink. “It’s okay,” he said without looking up. He hadn’t taken a drink yet. “Yeah, it’s great.”

What You Don’t Know You Can Feel Somehow

[Ed. Yeah, I know I promised this last week, but I obviously didn’t get around to it then. This is the first of what will hopefully be a weekly non-church/religious Wednesday post, probably usually having something to do with sports.]

I typically go to about one Michigan game a year. It started when my family moved to Ohio in 2003 and my grandfather made it a point to make some grandpa-grandson memories at the Big House. I had sort of liked Michigan before that (I knew the Victors and all), but after watching the third-ranked team romp a decent Notre Dame team 38-0 for my first game, I was hooked. I’ve seen my fair share of crushing defeats in person. 2005 Notre Dame (17-10), 2005 Ohio State (25-21), and of course 2007 Appalachian State are notables. The elating victories (2009 Notre Dame) are harder to come by, partially I think because winning against any team not Ohio State is followed by shrugs. This is MICHIGAN. We’re supposed to be great.

My friend and I used to play a lot of NCAA Football video games in high school. We’d pick teams with awesome offenses and usually play epic 52-49 games that turned on an ill-timed interception or turnover on downs. Scoring a touchdown was like holding serve; if you got behind by two possessions, it was over.

This is Denard. A video game player, in a video game.

At halftime of the Michigan-Illinois game last Saturday it was 31-31 and the scoring was barely half-over. It was like some ludicrous real-life simulation of a video game between two excellent NCAA ’07 gamers. I was there with my Illinois-fan roommate and my sister plus sister-boyfriend guy. 50-yard line, 88th row, which is really the perfect spot. I alternated between silent, helpless frustration at the ineptitude of the defense and relieved, rapturous disbelief at the explosive efficiency of the offense. Illinois gained 561 yards of offense and still lost because Michigan had 676. The absurdity of it was short-circuiting my ability to process.

1,237 yards and three overtimes after kickoff, Michigan finally won after a failed Illinois 2-point conversion, 67-65. It was a stupid score. I was simultaneously numb and exhilarated, like you might feel after taking caffeine intravenously for about four hours. Part of me wanted to jump up and down and hug everybody around me, but mostly I just wanted to sit and watch. Something had just happened that was just too difficult to make sense of; it was too hard to pretend that this was anything other than a ridiculous dream conjured out of the dreams that you get in a tripping Xbox 360-induced coma after lots of Mountain Dew.

After it was over, I stood there smiling stupidly in my numb ecstasy while the team celebrated. Rodriguez hugged his 12-year-old son. David Molk lifted his helmet into the air as he jogged off the field, like some gladiator (which, if you’ve ever seen his press conferences, he kind of is). Tate Forcier jumped up and down as he ran into the tunnel, waving his arms frantically like it was September 2009.

But despite it all, one fan nearby muttered, “I’ve never seen people so excited about beating Illinois.” He was transparently one of them.

Lots of fans deal with severe disappointment by disconnecting from the losing team: that’s not Michigan, they say. Michigan plays defense/doesn’t make turnovers/beats Illinois easily/doesn’t celebrate bowl berths/doesn’t throw for 400 yards/doesn’t play with black, dreadlocked quarterbacks. And I’m sick of this. At best, it’s ignorant and elitist; at worst, it’s racist.

An offensive lineman recruited by Lloyd Carr transferred after Rich Rodriguez was hired, and like many before him, he spat a loogie the coaches’ direction on his way out: “The guys they’re bringing in now aren’t my type of crowd.” Why? Because they’re black? They wear dreadlocks? They work out and practice without being asked? They fit in a spread offense?

There are a million-and-one reasons I want Rich Rodriguez to succeed at Michigan. Part of it is because I just like Michigan and want them to win, but only part. The rest of me wants to see all the lousy fans proven wrong, the insidious saboteurs weeded out, and Rodriguez, his offense and WALK-ON POWER program philosophy, vindicated.

But more than anything, I want selfish, nostalgic fans to stop pretending that Michigan is something it’s not. Michigan isn’t an elite program; it hasn’t been one since 2004. Lloyd Carr allowed the program to deteriorate, then passed the ugly baby over to a hot shot young coach from West Virginia who didn’t realize that Michigan wasn’t really MICHIGAN at all.

This was a team that in Carr’s last year lost to FCS Appalachian State and got nuked by Oregon at home, only to win several straight against overmatched Big Ten teams before getting rolled by Wisconsin and gaining 99 yards of offense against Ohio State. It was a mediocre program, dressed up in nice clothes and makeup until all the NFL-caliber skill position players left and Rodriguez was given nothing but a 6′ 7″ quarterback and a MAC secondary.

Three years later, just as Rodriguez is starting to build his program with his players, half the fan base still wants to act like it’s 1997 and shrugs at beating Illinois because that’s what MICHIGAN is supposed to do.

Fine. Perhaps you don’t care, because you’re holding onto something that no longer exists. You watch what could be a program-changing win, one of the greatest games of your lifetime, and can only manage to say, they’re acting like they just won the Super Bowl. Whatever. You don’t have to care. But “your” team does.

Your team does.

Just Wondering: How Christian is Veggie Tales?

I imagine that I’m not the only one who grew up in a conservative evangelical home watching Big Idea‘s “Veggie Tales” series. Even though I’m in college now and away from home, I’m around kids enough to know that it still has a lot of entertainment value for the 2-to-9 year-old demographic. It’s changed a lot too; while I grew up with Dave and the Giant Pickle, LarryBoy, and God is Bigger Than the Boogieman, my five-year-old brother watches pop culture parodies with cute adjusted names like Minnesota Cuke, Sheerluck Holmes, and of course the abominable Lord of the Rings parody called Lord of the Bean.

The show uses large, talking vegetables to teach watered-down versions of Bible stories using lots kid humor, music, and pop culture references. It’s really a manifestation of the “Christ against culture” reasoning, namely, that Christian kids need their own entertaining Christian cartoons.

When I was a kid, I thought it was great, but I had a friend who wasn’t allowed to watch it because his parents said it trivialized Christianity. Since I’ve gotten older, I’ve slowly moved closer to my friend’s position (partly because I learned what “trivialize” meant).

There’s a lot to be said for that. Recently, I’ve developed a tentative discomfort with the show, even the ones from my time that actually told Bible stories rather than silly reinterpretations of whatever is popular in the secular world. Of course we want our kids to hear Bible stories. But do we really want them to learn about Daniel and the lion’s den from a quirky and absent-minded cucumber? What will they think of when they hear about the real Daniel, learning that he didn’t actually have pizza with the lions after they didn’t harm him? And consider the dubious trivialization of David’s adultery — comparing the real David’s tragic lust and subsequent murder of Bathsheba’s husband with Larry the Cucumber’s longing for an ever-growing collection of rubber duckies. What are we doing to these kids?

They’ve not made one show about Jesus (and don’t get me wrong, I don’t exactly want them to), but how can anything claim to be Christian without ever talking about Jesus Christ? It seems less a Christian storytime and more of a moralistic lesson glazed with some Bible verses put to corny songs at the end of every show (and they don’t even do that much anymore).

So I’m just wondering: Do you think Veggie Tales is simply innocent Christian entertainment for kids? Or is it a dangerously simplistic treatment of our faith?

Monday Morning Press 11.8

Ed. I know this isn’t technically the morning. And I guess it’s almost not technically Monday. Sorry.

The 2010 Chainsaw Massacre. Doug Wilson comments on last week’s one-sided election, noting:

I have mentioned before P.J. O’Rourke’s great line that this was not so much an election as it was a restraining order. It is now appearing to be not so much a restraining order as it is a chainsaw massacre. I mean, yikes

In the spirit of reaching out, and encouraging other conservatives not to gloat, I would like to mention that I did vote for a Democrat today. True, he was unopposed, and it was for the office of coroner, but still, I did it.

Kindle book lending, for real this time. This kind of thing has been rumored for some time now, and Amazon is finally coming through. Er, sort of.

You’ll finally be able to lend books to other Kindle users, but as Geekosystem points out, it comes with some serious limitations. The most egregious, according to Robert Quigley of Geekosystem, are below (in bullets!):

  • Books can be lent for only 14 days.
  • The owner of the book cannot read it during that time (which would be kind of cool if not for the next two…)
  • Some (most?) books will not be lendable; it depends on publisher stipulations. And…
  • A book can only be lent one time, to one person.

This is interesting, considering that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has gone on-record criticizing how lame the Nook’s lending feature is. Why, Jeff?

“You can lend to one friend. One time. You can’t pick two friends, not even serially, so once you’ve loaned one book to one friend, that’s it…It is ‘Sopie’s Choice'”

Immediately following this quote, the Business Week author writes this cruelly ironic line:

We suppose that’s a fair critique, but lending once is better than not lending at all. Maybe this means down the road we can expect Kindles to have multiple lending options.

Or not.

Look, this is going to be kind of nice. One of the most enjoyable things about reading life is loaning your well-worn favorites to friends and neighbors, and getting that knowing—even smug—sense of satisfaction when they tell you how much they loved it. Amazon is taking a step in the right direction.

But the very best books are the ones you want to lend multiple times. As Kindles become more widespread, the desire to lend favorite books is going to increase, but you’re only going to get one shot. What if you’re wrong, and your mom doesn’t really like the newest Stephen King novel but your best friend would have?

Further, even if you lend the right book to the right person, what if it’s not at the right time? Perhaps your friend would love to read the book, but is working on a massive paper at the time and has to put off reading the book for a week or two. You’ve just wasted your lending option. Or suppose you lend a book like Infinite Jest. Who has time to read that in two weeks?

Hopefully the publishers warm up to the idea that exposure can increase sales, and Amazon slowly gets nudged off their mountain of gold and agrees to expand this a bit. I’m pretty new to publishing and e-commerce*, but it seems that some kind of e-book library would be a worthwhile option for a little-man e-book competitor like Barnes and Noble or Sony. The consumer would certainly benefit, and it would give people a reason to buy a device other than the Kindle or iPad.

*I know Jeff Simon reads my blog; thoughts?

Obligatory Michigan Football Thoughts. This is usually a 50 to 100-word addition to my Monday morning post, but there’s too much to say after the 67-65 Michigan win over Illinois I attended on Saturday. Sensory overload; I’ll have a thorough post up sometime tomorrow.

So it begins

A month of responsibility-shirking, keyboard-tapping, violence-inducing, sleep-ignoring wildly-caffineinated writing time. It’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and we’re all putting school and sports teams and families and hygiene aside for the sake of a story. Our story. 50,000 words of it by November 30. We’ve read novels before and thought “If I had time, I might write one someday.”

Enough. Writers write; everybody else makes excuses. No more excuses. We’re doing this.


Attack Ads from 1800

You might think — along with every election’s media and politicians — that attack ads have never been more nasty or vitriolic. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams laugh at you.