Monday, August 31, 2009

After Fifteen Years It's Become A Lot of Fun!

Yes, we have fun when we stop by to visit the graves of Ben and Matt. The kids don't know enough to be sad, and enough time has passed for us that we smile when we remember Ben - and as the kids act silly, like their uncles.

One of the ways we celebrate the life of Ben and Matt is to drink green stuff, toast in their honor, and then gulp it down till the bottle is empty!

Emma spent some time kneeling at Ben's gravestone, looking at his picture and looking at the fish symbol...

After a bit Eva joined Emma, and we overheard them praying... very sweet.

Lydia captured in a Ben moment!

Johnson Christmas in August!

Craig and Cheryl have been fantastic host/hostess to the Johnson family! They throw a big party, everyone brings super-delicious food, Jim brings plenty of ice cream, and we play, play, play. And of course, the kids gotta start on the jumpy thingy.

Oh - what's a summer party without a big pool with sun-warmed water! Emma wanted everyone to watch her jump into the pool.
For the fourteenth time.

Jumping off the steps got stale, so we took it to a new level - leaping off my shoulders as I pushed her high into the air. My little girl is so daring!

I'll have to admit I was pretty impressed with Levi. I wasn't sure how confident he'd be in the big pool. Apparently watching Emma jump in several dozen times was enough to inspire him.
Isaac never really got inspired...

Finally, near the end of the day, Eli insisted that I throw him up in the air and let him drop deep into the water. I was a little nervous about this idea, HIS idea... but up he'd go, and then way down he'd go, and then up he'd pop all smiles!

Cousin Jamie is a very popular person - she's the life of the party! The kids enjoyed hanging on her very much! I think she had fun too!

Jamie teaching Emma how to flip the flag around... a dangerous form of art!

Our First TinCaps Game!

Here we are at our first Fort Wayne TinCaps game! The kids (Emma, Alia, Levi, Isaac, Hannah, Eli) won tickets through the library reading program. We went for the lawn seating section - a unique, slanted way to relax and enjoy the game!

The highlight of the game, for the kids, was eating food.
Surprise, surprise...

I'm not really sure why Levi is sitting under the table...

At some point around the eighth inning the kids kind of lost interest in the game. And of rolling down the lawn. So we all agreed it be a good idea if they sit next to the railing. Jamil insisted he insert his sexy legs into the panoramic pic!

After the game we went over to a local ice cream shop a few blocks away. It was nice to lounge in the shade, chat about the game, and to watch and see how messy Hannah could get...

Friday, August 28, 2009

Emma and the First Day of First Grade

Wednesday was Emma's first day of first grade at her new school.
She is more than ready to head out that door!

Of course before we get in the van to head to the bus stop we've got to get a flower picture
- isn't she beautiful?

Emma and her neighbor-friend Illyana waiting at the bus stop!

Emma - where's my hug? Get back here and at least let me give you a kiss goodbye!

Tara and Emma - so adorable together!

Getting on the bus... one of the highlights of Emma's morning!

Lovin' her new locker!

In her new classroom ready to go for a great new year of learning!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Conspiracy, Half-Truths, or Reality?

I'd like to think that I am interested in reality. I'd like to think that when presented with things as they really are, I will seek to accept it, though I may not fully understand it. I also know myself well enough - I'm easily intrigued by contrarian ideas and "conspiracy" theories. I have learned what you have learned - there are always two sides to a story. So when Glenn Beck comes off as very believable in his expose of Van Jones, I find myself getting sucked in to his side of the story. But, is there another way to "spin" the story? Did Beck present half-truths? Did Beck take a morsel of truth and twist it?

I did some simple research via Google on Van Jones after watching the YouTube clip from August 24th in order to get another side of the story.

Below is the YouTube expose, and below that are some links to similar information about Jones.

Google search for Van Jones

Google search for Van Jones revolutionary

Huffington Post link to a column by David Roberts who reviews Beck's bashing of Jones

A lengthy, informative New Yorker article on Van Jones

The Wikipedia site for Van Jones

An interview with Van Jones by the Collage Foundation

And here is the link to the document that Glenn Beck pulled quotes from... Van Jones and “Reclaiming Revolution: History, Summation, and Lessons from the Work of Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement (STORM)

Here's a simple observation on Jones' interest in Marxist/Communist theory: what should oppressed people do when they have insufficient power to escape their oppression? How do the poor working class resist oppression - how do they foment a non-violent revolution that brings about liberation from harsh rulers? Maybe Beck should focus on the passion Jones had for seeking to bring life, liberty and pursuit of happiness to oppressed people. Maybe there should be respect for Jones for his radicalism - he really cared about freedom. And maybe we should respect Jones for renouncing Marxist/Communist ideals as the way to bring good change to America.

And God forbid somebody take what I just wrote out of context...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Which Cable News Personality Do You Watch?

CABLE NEWS RACE - as of MONDAY, AUG. 24, 2009 (as listed on Drudge

1. FOXNEWS - O'REILLY 3,440,000

2. FOXNEWS - HANNITY 2,937,000

3. FOXNEWS - BECK 2,810,000

4. FOXNEWS - GRETA 2,450,000

5. FOXNEWS - BAIER 2,066,000

6. FOXNEWS - SHEP 1,860,000

7. MSNBC - OLBERMANN 1,114,000

8. CNN - KING 1,063,000

9. MSNBC - MADDOW 885,000

10. CNN - COOPER 827,000

11. MSNBC - HARDBALL 640,000

I didn't realize how popular FoxNews is... makes me wonder how much their "spin" on things is affecting the current political discourse right now. Is FoxNews closer to the truth on things, and that is why so many people spend so much time watching them broadcast?

Having watched FoxNews and CNN, and noting the obvious difference in how they present the news, I wonder what is appealing about FoxNews. I never get the sense from watching CNN that Americans should be afraid of "XYZ" politician or "MNO" policy. Rather, there is an emphasis on presenting both sides of an issue in balanced way, without the hint of "conspiracy" or "suspicion". But maybe I'm missing something, or misinterpreting the insights presented by FoxNews.

I'm not a Republican or a Democrat, I don't care about particular politicians. When I watch the news, I want the truth, or the facts - not opinions. But alas, no matter how "fair and balanced" a newsbroadcast corporation is, the broadcast corporation is still a "for-profit" entity that pre-judges what will be shown (or not shown) and how it will be presented. Everything is spun before it gets spoken.

Why must it be so hard to know the truth?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Straight from the President's mouth...

So if Obama is not lying, if he is not trying to spin or deceive, what is objectionable to his plan?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Some Stuff I've Been Reading This Spring and Summer...

What have you been reading lately? Here's some of the stuff I've been reading this Spring and Summer.

I've enjoyed discovering classic literature - and Frankenstein was not disappointing. I was intrigued to read this book mostly because I wanted to find out what the original story was really about. Dennis Miller introduced me to Mel Brooks Young Frankenstein a decade ago; when I was a kid there was a cereal with Frankenstein monster shaped marshmallow pieces; and Frankenstein these days comes across as either goofy or weird. So it was with great interest I delved into a "modern" story of fringe science, amoral ambition, unintended consequences, gut-wrenching heartache, and deep insight into human development.

A quick read - because I wanted to find out what was going to happen next as soon as I could. The story created a helpless feeling inside - what can be done about massively corrupt and grossly wealthy people who pollute and abuse and destroy. And this is done while putting up a slick image of success, glamour, and importance. Ugh. I have a new respect for trial lawyers (beware those people who lump them into a bland category of "parasite"). I also have a new respect for how politics tends to work these days. It's useless to hold on to idealism; deal with reality and hold onto your ethics as tightly as you can. Apparently it can be done...

Still working my way through this massive yet easy-to-read account of how globalization has changed/is changing our world. Fascinating stories of how corporations and governments have adapted, failed, and blossomed in this new world that both causes and flows from our choices. The world will never be the same - we live in a radically transformed era that apparently too many people under-appreciate or refuse to acknowledge. In order to better understand what to do next, it's wise to better understand how we got to where we are now. It's a massive task, but for leaders in our world, what other task is there?

A great read - slowly absorbing the chapters and letting the ideas reshape my understanding of politics in America. Maybe I'll finish the book next year - it's too good to rush through. And dense. And thoroughly enlightening. Where did "liberals" come from? Where did "conservatives" come from? Why are they so opposed to each other? Why is the "battle" between the two so seemingly infantile and nonproductive? Is there any better choice or way forward for American politics? I'm sure Dionne has some suggestion, I just haven't gotten there yet. But considering the kind of political discourse I grew up with, I definitely enjoy the thoughtful, informed, articulate insights piled into this book.

Started this book a few years ago - it is been a plodding experience. Immensely insightful, unveiling big picture developments of where America's constitutional democracy came from - where did democracy come from, and how to understand the significance and value of this experience. This isn't a primer on the issue (ie. democracy came from Greece, our Founding Fathers invented the constitution, etc) but a deep analysis of where we are in history politically, how we got here, and what that means for the future of the world. Not sure what I'll do with what I'm learning... but it's helping rethink how I think about our current political, cultural, and historical experiences.

What's so fascinating about Ireland? Uris captures that magnetism, the book keeps me glued to the pages for hours at a time. Over a thousand pages, and I have hundreds to go before I finish it. But already I'm gaining a more nuanced understanding of the strife between the Protestants and Catholics of Ireland. It's a sad, enraging, inspiring yet devastating story of colonialism, greed, prejudice, and abuse, on a massive scale. How many million individuals throughout history have been swept up and discarded in the large powerplays between nations, corporations, and armies? How many citizens have been used up, chewed up, abandoned because of "greater" interests? And yet there are people who resist empire, who won't accept oppression, who push back against corporate evil. What a complex world each generation gives to the next.

Discovered this little book at my Mum's house. An historian with an attitude, a realistic recounting of the foibles and feats of some of history's most famous individuals. Cuppy gives no respect to these "great" people, but puts them in their place, recasting them as merely individuals who got remembered by historians. It's real history that makes you chuckle, ponder, and re-adjust how you evaluate the "greatness" of people past and present.

With a gift-card to spend at Barnes & Nobles, and an interest to discover an interesting story, I discovered this gem. A history of prostitution in Chicago - which includes the formation of the FBI, the emergence of the WCTU, and the role of ministers battling vice in our society. Being a pastor who just graduated from a school in Chicago, and also constantly thinking of ways that churches can do good in society, I was glad to find this story. It's a short read with helpful insights into the reality of prostitution rings, corrupt politics, motivated ministers, and naive citizens. For pastors who want to undermine or subvert institutional corruption, read this book and then ponder. And then act.

What? Jesus was a human? A man who grew up in a society where marriage was expected? Jesus was thoroughly shaped by his culture? He was immersed in the Torah, Psalms and Prophets? At some point he realized he was the Christ? Something about the water-to-wine miracle was pivotal, scintillating remarkable and politically charged? Jesus the God-man is inspiring in his interactions with fellow neighbors and enemies? Yes.

Always expect the unexpected. Makes it hard to read a book and get lots out of it when one is constantly looking for cleverness, layers, and attitude. And yet a reflective walk through this text will prompt a fresh perspective on life and suffering and creativity and overcoming and joy. Rooted in a deep understanding of the Scriptures, written with a constant eye on the reality we live in everyday, this book seeks to help people like you and me immerse and transcend our suffering. Immerse ourselves in the pain we cannot avoid, transcend the suffering that would normally crush us. For those of us that are willing to let the worst of times bring out the best in us, Rob Bell gifts us with fuel for the journey.