Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Well What'dya Know...

During this festive Holiday season, we celebrate a host of miracles: zombie Jesus came back from the dead, a Jewish candle burned for 8 days (maybe it was one of those thick Costco ones?), and a long time ago people gave presents in boxes to slaves (see Boxing Day).

But much more important than all of those things is the fact that the Blazers are 3-1 over the past week.

After Greg Oden split his patella like so much kindling, I was preparing myself to write a post on the death knell of the 09-10 NBA season. We were headed for the draft lottery and we'll try again next year. The Blazers were lunch meat and nothing good would ever happen for this franchise again.

Then a funny thing happened.

The Blazers had so much talent yet they got blown out each night.
Even Aldridge and Roy couldn't keep this sorry team right.
And Coach Mac, with his coach-feet ice cold in the snow stood puzzling and puzzling, until his puzzler was sore.

Then he thought of something Kevin Prichard hadn't before!

He realized that maybe winning came without our 7 foot low post threat.
It came without expectations, or trips to the finals.
It came without rivaling the Lakers, or even matching the Nuggets just yet.
There were still games to fight for, still teams to embarrass.
This team had heart and gosh darnit don't forget Bayless.
Maybe winning doesn't come from potential,
Maybe only putting the ball in a bucket was quite so essential.

Maybe winning, just maybe, only took a little bit more.

And what happened then?

Well in Oregon they say,
the Blazers heart grew three sizes that day.
And the minute that their heart didn't feel quite so tight,
They flew down the court, and hustled each night.

And they brought back the defense
And the offense even if in a bit of a streak
And he...Roy himself...
Almost won player of the week.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Winter Solstice!

It's Monday. Robyn has finished all of her finals, and I had my last day before the break on Friday. Tonight, we're taking the train up to Chicago, then flying to Boston tomorrow afternoon. We'll be in New Hampshire with Robyn's family for Christmas, then taking either a train or a bus down to New York for a couple of days over New Year's. If you'll be around, let us know.

It being the Holidays and all, I thought I'd take this opportunity to share a few articles from Religion Dispatches with you. Robyn has been following this website for a while and has gotten me into it, and I think that it's a great way to waste time on the internet while also actually maybe possibly reading something thoughtful and intelligent.

The first article that you should read is: Tebow's Tears: Is God Really a Gator Fan? It's about Tim Tebow and how he wears his religion not only on his sleeve but also on his face, writing the chapter and verse of a Bible selection beneath his eyes for each game. The author says:

I have struggled in the past several weeks to come to terms with my own apparent prejudices. Something about these painted Bible verses offends me, and I have not yet been able to articulate a way for that reaction to be consistent. To be sure, as a scholar of religion, I am frustrated, when I am not dumbfounded, by the happy-go-lucky and freewheeling scriptural exegeses that Tebow’s weekly verse selection now prompts on national televison.

But that hardly seems fair. Tim Tebow is an evangelical Christian of impeccable pedigree, and he has used his raw athletic talent to get me, and tens of thousands like me each week, to pick up the Bible and read it. That is no mean accomplishment.

More substantively perhaps, this kind of bumper-sticker spirituality—quote a Bible verse, just one or two, and completely out of context—makes me very nervous. It invites the false assumption that one can cherry-pick from the Bible, finding the verse one needs for any occasion. If you are at a sporting match, then look for someplace where Mark describes a contest, Paul invokes athletics or a great cloud of witnesses, or some other evangelist invokes victory. There does seem to be something down-dumbing in such a biblical practice.

Religion Dispatches generally has scholars and philosophers write their article, as well as interesting peoples of different faiths, plus a few random journalists, bloggers, etc. A fun philosophical piece that you could read is Lying About Santa: The Irrelevance of Proof to the Holiday Spirit, which is in turn a response to "Beyond Belief: A Philosophical Proof of Santa Claus." You see now why I like this website.

Of course, if you're a total Grinch and would rather spend your Holidays worrying about the poor and needy in the world, well, Religion Dispatches has stuff about that, too. In today's article Changing the Jewish State and the State of Jews: J Street and the Future of Israel, author Mark LeVine writes,

The Israeli ambassador to the US recently joined the American right charging that pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian J Street put the very “survival of the Jewish state” into question. Indeed, recognizing the full humanity of Palestinians would require a radical transformation of Israeli, Zionist, and even Jewish-American identity.
Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Happy Holidays...


Voice Off-Camera: Hey, Kiefer. You're a pirate, man.

Kiefer: That would explain everything. [jumps into Christmas tree]

Monday, December 14, 2009

This Is Why I Always Played As Orcs

Yesterday, Robyn and I stayed in all day, eating tomato soup, drinking tea, and doing Christmas shopping online in order to avoid putting on pants.* We also watched The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring for the millionth time. While we were watching, I found this article, "6 Lord of the Rings Characters Who Totally Dropped the Ball," on Cracked.com. This article also contains the following YouTube video, which has forever changed how I view The Lord of the Rings:

Also, I can no longer watch the following scene without saying the line, "Look at me! I'm Blanche DuBois!"

*She has an excuse; she's sick. I'm just lazy.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Too Early For Thinking

From the desk of: Joel

Maybe Greg Oden keeps getting hurt because the Norse god Odin is angry that they share the same last name. Maybe Greg Oden should change his name to Greg Smith. Or Greg Poseidon.

Robyn took me to see the Nutcracker at the Krannert Center on Sunday. It was lots of fun - I had never seen the entire ballet before - but I think that my entire experience was tainted by being raised on Fantasia. During the Chinese dance, all I could see were those cute little mushrooms running around in circles. It was hilarious.

If I were Boise St. and TCU, I would take three knees and then punt on each of my first possessions as a form of protest against the BCS for being stuck in the Fiesta Bowl playing against each other.

Robyn found this interview of Bard professor Roger Berkowitz in Harper's Magazine. Berkowitz is discussing the writings and philosophy Hannah Arendt, who is buried at Bard and is pretty much our alma mater's philosophy bff. (With the possible exception of maybe Kant.) You should read it if you have time. Some highlights:

The political lies Arendt worries about are not mere falsehoods. They are political acts in which facts are denied and alternative realities are created. In denying facts, the political liar acts to change the world, to make reality anew so that it conforms to our needs and desires. In this way, lying is at the essence of political action....

Arendt’s letter to Ellison has been seized upon as evidence that she recanted her opposition to forced integration. This overstates the case. Ellison rejects Arendt’s claim that black parents exploited their children by sending them into such an explosive situation. Arendt’s admission that she did not understand the black experience of sacrifice does not suggest that she altered her view that forced desegregation was a fundamental violation of the rights of all parents to educate their children as they wished....

After the war, she stood with Judah Magnes as a critic of the establishment of Israel as a Jewish state. Instead, she advocated for a binational state that encompassed Jews and Arabs as equal citizens. Whether such a state was ever possible, many have credited Arendt with prescience in her prediction that a Jewish state would necessarily be chauvinist, that Palestinians—as second class citizens—would emerge as refugees presenting an insolvable problem, and that Israel would become a militarized state....

Thursday, December 3, 2009

5 Thoughts On A Thursday

1) Oh, man, I am totally ready for the Civil War game tonight! I have been Oregon-geeked out all day today; I've got my Ducks sweatshirt, my Dead Guy Ale*, my copy of Sometimes A Great Notion. I am psyched!! Go Ducks!

2) By the way, does anybody else think it's a bit odd that it's the Oregon-Oregon State game that has become the Civil War game? I mean, doesn't every University of X play X State at some point during the season? And it seems to me that, of all the 50 states, Oregon may have the least to do with the actual Civil War? (On second thought, that's probably exactly the reason why. There's probably be a lot more violence if they started calling Illinois vs Illinois State or Georgia vs Georgia Tech the "Civil War" game. Who gets to be the Blues? Who's the Greys?)

3) I actually did end up answering that student who asked me, "What is philosophy?" I fumbled about a bit, and then told him that it was kinda like psychology - because he knew what psychology is - in that it's a way to learn about people and find out why they do the things that they do, except that philosophy is also interested in trying to find out what are the right and wrong things for people to do, and to find out why those things are right or wrong. This seemed to satisfy him, and I was able to breath easy knowing I wouldn't have to get into the whole Meaning of Being issue.

4) I'm sorry about the big vacancy at the end of November there. Robyn and I were in Ohio for Thanksgiving, visiting her grandparents and other relatives. As you might have guessed, the grandparents don't have WiFi; we were able to get a weak signal from one of the neighbors if we stood in the corner of the guest bedroom at just the right time of day and held the laptop over our heads while spinning in a counter-clockwise direction. Having said that, we had a great time in Ohio, and got to eat lots of good food, drink lots of good wine, and play a lot of Bridge with Robyn's grandparents.


The Oregon bears, Jonas Stamper found, were all well fed on clams and berries, and fat and lazy as old house cats. The Indians, nourished on the same two limitless sources of food, were even fatter and a damn sight lazier than the bears. Yes. They were peaceful enough. So were the bears. In fact the whole country was more peaceful than he had expected. But there was this odd... volatile feeling about the new country that struck him the very day he arrived, struck him and stuck, and never left him all the three years he lived in Oregon.

*Only because Deschutes Brewery doesn't have a distributor east of the Mississippi. Does anyone else want to start a petition to change this sad fact?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Portland - still funny

Brought to you by Married to the Sea :

click to embiggen

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

How About You Tell Me What Philosophy Is, And I'll Tell You If You're Right

A question of identity:

Can the Muppets become an internet meme, even if (a) They existed before the internet, (b) They are far cooler than the internet or anything that has ever been produced by the internet, and (c) Their popularity is in no way contingent upon the internet or internet users?

The evidence:

Wordlustitude: fan-muppet-tastic

adj. A kid-friendly version of fan-fucking-tastic.

Real citation: "@Messshy I've been chatting to Sharon Corr about it and RTed on youtube...*name drop* It's fan-muppet-tastic!!! Can't stop watching it! x"
(Nov. 27, 2009,
Andalucian Kitty, Twitter, http://twitter.com/AndalucianKitty/statuses/6125134250)

Made-up citation: "Kids today think Elmo is fan-muppet-tastic... But they don't know what I know. In the seventies, Elmo lived on coke and Satanism--and that was on a good day."

Brian Lynch: 30 ROCK is a rip-off of THE MUPPET SHOW!

Tina Fey's 30 ROCK is currently the most acclaimed comedy series on television. It's won numerous Emmys and Golden Globes and I think Pulitzers. Critics and audiences alike love the show and its lovable zany characters, and consider it one of the most original comedies in years.

And I guess it is original...if you've never seen THE MUPPET SHOW. Because, my "friends" (in quotes because I don't know or trust you, please don't be offended), Tina Fey's 30 ROCK is quite obviously ripping off Jim Henson's beloved TV show.

"You're crazy", you say? "Wow, now with the insults. This is why I don't trust you", I respond. And the I hit you up with so many facts you HAVE to concede I'm absolutely right.

November 30, 1969! This is like that time in high school when your friend "discovered" this band called Led Zeppelin and would talk about nothing else for the entire semester! The verdict: The internet has no authority over anything ever having to do with the Muppets or their popularity or their inherent cool-ness. It may only reproduce and distribute Muppet YouTube videos and make comments on LOLcats.