This is Epth Nation

Epth is a state of mind, not a place. Reading this will give you a virtual drivers license in that state, but you'll still need to be 21 to purchase alcohol. And you can't get any there anyway, so stop asking.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Feelin' Fortunate to be an Arrested Development Fan Right About Now.

I really only intended to post once today, but I've got, as the dancing dwarf would say, good news. No, the gum you like isn't coming back in style -- it's better.

mmm...check this out!

That's right, we're 99% sure that Arrested Development will be coming back not just for one more full season but for two full 22-episode seasons! I feel like a giddy teenage girl who just found out Generic Teen Pop Idol was coming to the mall by their house! This is so exciting!!!! I HeArT PuppIeZZ!!! ;0

Seriously, this is awesome. One thing I did not know before this was that when series are renewed for a third season, they usually last through the fifth season, because that will give them the required number of episodes to be sold to non-cable syndication (that usually means close to 100 episodes). After 4 years, they will have a total of 84 episodes to syndicate plus 3 more seasons of DVDs to sell, which will succeed because of the rabid nature of this particular fan base.

This almost -- almost -- makes up for NBC and Freaks and Geeks.

Feelin' Fortunate to be LCMS Right About Now.

So in the course of my blog-scanning I come across a link to this blog whose author is pointing out "Ten Big Church Staffing Mistakes" (The post I've linked to has the first 5). What he has listed and his attitude towards ministry drives me absolutely nuts. He for real sees the church as a results-oriented "corporation" (and here I thought people like that were just figments of an overactive Lutheran imagination), rather than a ministry. I guess it depends on what "results" you want. Many churches are obsessed with numbers these days -- the amount of heads that come through the door. I don't know why that is, to be honest with you. I mean, I obviously know why they think more people coming to church is good -- I just don't know why they would view that as a "result" to be quantified and put in a pie chart for employee-badgering purposes. Let's unpack this a bit, shall we?

The five "mistakes" in that post all assume that churches should be in the business of hiring and firing and paying workers according to these unspecified "results"*. It's really super easy to justify this sort of attitude as a church, since there are a finite amount of resources available with which to get as many results as possible. The leaders in the congregation can always say, "You're not doing the job the way we want it done, so God is clearly not calling you to be in this position for us right now," and fire the employee. On the other hand, if the employee is doing everything the church wants and more, he might get a raise. Pay for performance is the corporate principle involved here. After all, they say, if this can apply to a business that makes unimportant things like widgets, why shouldn't it apply to an important endeavor like saving souls? See how easy that was to justify? Who can argue with getting results for God?

Well, for one, God.

The Bible is positively peppered with ineffective people doing things that didn't make sense to them at the time but paid great dividends later. Don't believe me? Read Jeremiah, who was told flat out by God, "They're not going to listen, but that's ok." Read Hosea, who married a prostitute in an elaborate object lesson. Heck, read all the O.T. prophets. And you want exemples from the New Testament? How many churches today would have hired, say, the Apostle Paul (formerly known as "Saul the Christian Killa"). When God came to Saul on the road, did He tell him, "I'd like to make you an Apostle, but you don't have the requisite experience of previously being my disciple, and I'm not going to lower my standards because that's not good business"? We are the Church. Lowering standards to accomodate people is what we do, because we are God's messengers to the world, and God wants to reach all of them. If God hadn't lowered his standards (ok, not exectly "lowered", but the point is we couldn't meet them) in the first place, we'd all be toast. Foot's on the other hand, now, isn't it?

I know there's a difference between congregation members and church staff -- the staff gets paid. That's it. The staff is still a member of the church. Let's not overthink this hiring process. If the person is able to do the job, and wants to do the job, and has the same heart as the church leadership, what's the problem? If that said person is hired as a Youth Pastor, and doesn't bring in the numbers the church wants, should the church really let that person go? After God has presented this person to them and led them to hire him? How does that work? "Oh, I'm sorry, but we can't keep you on if you're not going to do what we expect from you. We know God led you to us and led you in your job, but things just aren't working out according to an arbitrary human standard we've set up." Maybe God doesn't want your church to have greater youth numbers right now, did you ever think of that? Of course not, because like all corporate entities you have adopted a culture of presumptuousness and food-chain-itis. Maybe the Youth Pastor has been correcting the poor Theology of the past Youth Pastor, who told all the youth that if they didn't go to church and Sunday School God would send them to hell. Maybe God has a specific message to deliver to a specific youth on a specific day by a specific person. Have some fricking faith and love, for God's sake. Literally.

God doesn't work the corporate way, so stop pretending he does. I'm not saying never fire anybody, I'm just saying treat your staff like a God-fueled ministry and not a bottom-line-fueled business. And when you do call somebody to be a member of your staff, take that call very seriously. That person is there for a reason, and not just to do the job you've given them. If you're open to God's leading, the results will be what God wants. And isn't that all that matters anyway?

Contrast the situation described on that blog with the processes of the LC-MS, who have the "call system". In short, this means that once you have called a worker to your congregation, you cannot just "uncall" them at your whim. Now, in extreme cases controversial measures have been taken to get rid of people (most often writing them out of the budget because you have no money), so it's not totally binding. But it does prevent, for example, a new pastor coming in and firing everyone and bringing in all new people, as often happens in churches. The call system isn't perfect, but it's way more Biblical than being able to hire and fire people based upon a power structure within a congregation. That's why today I'm thankful to be Lutheran and not involved in the cutthroat corporate world of Church Ministry.

Oh, and to show you what a fair-minded person I am, I present to you the second 5 of these "staffing mistakes", most of which I agree with.

* And it must be said that some concentration on results can be good, if the results are things like "The Gospel is preached" or "People got more committed to prayer" as opposed to straight numbers.


Remember way back two posts ago when I intended to see more bad movies? Well, I think I may have unintentionally spied one last night, and I don't know what to do about it. My wife and I watched Sideways -- you know, the award-winning dramady about whining and wine from last year. I won't say it totally sucked, but it wasn't quite the affecting drama or the screwball comedy the Academy promised it was. My wife didn't even make it to the end -- that's how much she cared about the characters. I ended up watching the whole thing, but that didn't really help. The ending is pretty good, but again about 1/8th as good as Sunshine.

Maybe I need to be a depressed divorcee' or a wrinkley frat boy to "get" it. I felt the same way about the Alexander Payne's previous movie, About Schmidt. The main problem with both movies for me was their protagonists, and the fact that I hated them. I could kind of empathize with the Paul Giamatti character (especially since he was a struggling writer) during those times when he wasn't being a totally pretentious wine nut -- so for like 3 minutes; I could never empathise with Lowell from Wings, however, and that's probably what kept me from laughing at anything he said that may or may not have been funny.

And what about the stupid girl who beats the crap out of him (which was quite a cathartic scene for me, actually)? The cause for whatever pain she experiences in life can be boiled down to the fact that she is unable to stop herself from sleeping with Lowell from Wings. Do you see why I don't care about these people? They're immoral wine freaks. What life lessons does Payne think he can tell me using these people? The only one I liked was Viginia Madsen, and again, wine freak. Poignancy requires the audience members relate to the characters, and I didn't. And without poignancy, all you have left with this movie is boredom. As my wife poignantly pointed out to me last night, it was like a Lifetime movie for guys.

Besides, it was supposed to be a comedy, and it wasn't that funny. It's impossible to be funny when you're worshipping wine (mocking it is funny, however, and provided Lowell's only funny lines). Remember the first rule of comedy, people -- if it isn't funny, it isn't good. 2 out of 5 overpriced popcorns.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Marquette is Fighting Learning

Marquette University a week ago changed their nickname to the "Gold", a decision that flummoxed even the administration's most ardent supporters. They then said the name was set in stone, and Marquette alumni and fans would just have to get used to it.

Yesterday, they made that statement into a lie by ditching the Gold nickname and unveiling a plan that would allow alumni and students to choose the nickname from 10 choices. Of course, none of the 10 choices are going to be "Warriors", because the University has taken a stand against that name like I've taken a stand against Will and Grace. They are sticking to their story that the name itself is offensive to native americans, even though it shouldn't be. I guess if they're not going to do the obvious thing and correct the 1994 wrong, they should at least give the people they are really offending (alumni and fans) a say in the matter. And that's exactly what they're doing. This might actually work.

So what will the 10 suggestions be? Here are some appropriate ones I like (make sure you say "Marquette" before each one to get a feel for them):

Interchange (will create some great confusion -- "are you talking about the basketball team or the deadly on-and-off-ramp monstrosity?")
Lutheran Killaz
Ghostface Lutheran Killaz (They are Jesuits, after all.)
Missionaries of Death
Sports Counter-Reformation
Grand Inquisators
John Paul II Memorial Team
Manifest Destiny
Smallpox-Infested Blankets
Botched Nicknames
White Boys
Get Off Our Land
Bingo and Casino
No Longer
Cash Money
(a combo of the school's last two great players)
River Waders
Golden Gold

I know what you're thinking: All of these are good -- how can I pick just one? The answer might be rotating nicknames (which they seem to be trying to do anyway) or some sort of sponsorship situation whereby a rich human can pay for a certain nickname for a year and renew if he so chooses. Imagine -- the Marquette Dairy Products from America's Heartland* or something.

*If you know what book this references, you also know why there is a footnote here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

One Sure Way to Improve This Blog... to force myself to watch bad movies, or at least movies that I'm not sure will be good. As I explained in this post, I simply do not have time to waste on entertainment that I'm not going to like. However, as you probably know by now, I have a tendency to force the entertainment I'm watching into really entertaining me no matter how bad it is -- by noticing bad writing, pointing out gross continuity errors, picturing the main character with a giant afro, etc. I'm pretty much impervious to boredom, unless I'm watching a costume drama designed especially to be boring and with a name like Les Mouflons Cariteureux. Uggh.

I could, if I so desired, set up a movie program whereby I rent a bad movie from Netflix and point out its badness on this blog once a week. It's fun to be negative about trivial things like movies and TV shows, as I'm sure you've noticed if you've been reading this blog. You've noticed how much fun I have, I mean. How about some bad movie suggestions? I will probably start out with The Matrix Revolutions, which isn't technically a bad movie but merely a movie I suspect won't be very good. I've been talking about seeing it forever, so it looks like I'll have to complete the trilogy.

The only other one I thought of that would be good/bad is The Cat in the Hat, which looks both visually disturbing and stupid. Again, I'm open to any suggestions. Keep in mind that I've already seen Final Destination, so don't suggest that.

News disguised as a politcal rant, plus extra.

More and more nations are moving toward high-tech person-tracking ID cards, and now the U.S. is getting in the act. This is bad, this is very bad. It's the lazy way to say you're fighting terrorism, all the while keeping better control over law-abiding citizens. I understand the suspicion in this terrorist age, but do we really want the people who have the powers granted by the Patriot Act to have access to our every move? Thank God for the Democrats, who are fighting this Big-Brother stuff like they should. Oh, wait -- it passed the Senate unanimously. This is why I will never vote for Democrats. They need to know their role and play it, because if they don't nobody will. There's just two parties, people. It's not like Ross Perot will be riding in on a small horse to save us, chart in hand and ears flapping in the breeze. Maybe they should stop filibustering federal judgeships for a second and actually protect the things they believe in. Of course, maybe the Republican congress could stop overspending, too, since they're the only ones that can stop that. No longer.

In opposite tech news, the author of the infamous "I Love You" computer virus of 2000 is free and living in the Philippines, because they had no laws on the books to charge him with a crime there. If you want to get free from the Man, move to a country like this.

"Bee-sting Face" (copyright KTCK, 2003) Renee Zellweger has married some country spare named Morris Chestnutt. Er, Kenny Chesney. Apparently, he had had a thing for the actress since "Jerry McGuire", and stalked her into becoming his bride after she broke up with another, less hygenic, music guy. That's either sweet or really really creepy. I mean, this Chesney guy wrote a song called, "You Had Me at Hello". This would be like Diana Rigg circa 1963 marrying me. I can't believe I just wrote that.

After 17 years of political wrangling, Germany has built a giant monument against the Holocaust. Of extreme interest in this USA Today article are the facts that a Neo-Nazi party won 9.2% of the vote in East Germany last time. Germany is a weird buncha crap, let me tell you. I get the feeling that fascism could arise there again any second, much like Communism in Russia. I'm glad we live here in America after all.

I suppose I have to mention this study, where scientists found that gay men's brains respond to male "pheromones" the way women's brains do, and not the way straight men's brains do. This all makes sense to me that gay men's brains would react differently from straight men. Have you seen how they dress? Just kidding. Scientists are saying that this is evidence that homosexuality is biological and not learned, but even they will admit that this study doesn't really prove anything. Important paragraph:
Hamer cautions that the gay men's different brain activity could be either a cause of their sexual orientation or an effect of it. But, he said, "it certainly seems unlikely that somehow being interested in men would cause the brain to rewire itself in such a dramatic way."

Yeah, and specific stimuli never gets our brain to react or anything. But I've got a lot of questions about it, like, do all gay men respond to the chemical in exactly the same way? How about all women? All straight men? I need answers to analyze this. Ok, I've said way too much about homosexuality today. I'd better stop before somebody misunderstands me.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The Cage is Being Built

But it's disturbing that nothing got accomplished last night while I was away. Everything back there looks the same as it did when I left yesterday afternoon. Ar least this guarantees that I won't be in any upheaval today. I like how when I'm the domino that has to fall first I'm forced to move in half a day, but when other people have to do the moving you can see their feet dragging behind them as they walk. Is this my life? Maybe so. I think I'm going to adopt that as my motto, and occasionally I'll just yell out, "Show 'em my motto!" like that little dude in the Sprite commercials. And then "Is this my life? Maybe so" will fly by in big white letters.

I've got a question: When did taking advantage of people in a business sense become ok and something that we all do? I bring this up because for some reason I've been thinking about the amount of trailers (7) and other non-movie-related commercials (a bunch) I had to sit through before Hitchhiker's Guide. You read things about the subject of "too many previews", but all of them seem to think that since movie goers are a "captive audience", the movie theaters and distributors almost can't be held responsible for throwing as much advertising at them as possible. It's just good business, they say. Meanwhile, they have made all our lives worse to the point that some states are considering mandating that acccurate start times be printed in the paper. You know what this reminds me of? ATM machines. At some point banks just decided they could charge you to use their ATMs. Everybody in America was like, "What is up with that?" It's as if they were planning all along to get us "addicted" to the convenience of ATM card use and then jacked up the price on us junkies. What were we supposed to do? And the fun part was when some town in California outlawed ATM fees, the banks got all offended and pulled the machines out. People had to drive to another town to get cash. It was about this point that America said, "F___ the ATMs and hand me that check card, beeatch." Actually, it was so long ago that I don't think "beeatch" was a word. It was a better time back then.

You can't just add a fee or ads to crap years after it's introduced. Stuff is supposed to come down in price due to competition, not go up in price due to collusion. And now we have this movie trailer situation going on, and nobody can stop it. Are people just going to have to start showing up late for movies? That might work for matinees and Indie films, but what about that opening weekend of Revenge of the Sith? Those people are going to have to get there early and sit through all the useless ads, as well as whatever stationary or audio ads they run before the "showtime". It's enough to keep you away from the movies altogether.

And do you like how they're putting trailers on DVD's now? Yeah, that'll get worse too.

Why do people keep getting away with this? The same reason pro athletes get away with holding out on beloved sports teams for more money -- we are led to believe we'd do the same thing, if given the chance. We all want to make a buck, right? How can we get mad at other people ruining our teams or movies or convenience when we would gladly switch places with the scum and get all googly-eyed as the cash rolls in?

I say there's a difference between an honest buck and a dishonest one, and I'm sorry we as a society no longer realize that. I'm sorry because: my movies now have 15 minutes of filler on the front of them, I can no longer use my ATM card to get cash except at certain banks, I had to search far and wide to find a bank that provides real free checking as opposed to Fake Free Checking, I got two bogus traffic tickets within a month, I have to skip forward on DVD's, I have to pay ever-increasing toll costs to drive on public roads, and Javon Walker's threatening to derail the Packers season by not living up to his contract. All because we as a society don't have to balls to put people in their place and call evil evil anymore. Nobody tells it like it is because the second they have stopped talking, a hundred thousand people have crammed a misinterpretation of "judge not lest ye be judged" down their throat. And those who have the audacity to "keep it real" and get indignant about all this crap are often just trying to capitalize on everyone's frustration in order to make a buck themselves (I'm looking at you, talk show hosts). It's like, I reflected your frustration back to you, now give me some money.

Speaking of which, Arbor Day is coming up, and I need to buy some "presents" for the "children", so...

Monday, May 09, 2005

This is Looking Like a Pretty Good Day...

...despite the fact that it's 8:30 and I have already heard an Amy Grant song over our work P.A. system. If I had a nemesis, it would be Ms. Grant, though that's pretty much completely my deal and has very little to do with her. Every time I hear one of her songs, I think of the parody song my wife and I made up to "Hope Set High" while on a mission trip to a camp in Idaho. It went something like this:

Got my bong set on high
That's why I stoned tonight
I want to see the weed
I want to see the spinning lights(?)

Got my bong set on high
That's why I'm stoned tonight
Anything good happens in life
is from marijuana (last word said fast to make it sound like it's only two syllables)

Now the problem with that song is the only people who get it are likely to be offended by it. I'm blessed to have a wife who will help me come up with parody songs, though. Sorry for implicating you, sugarbeet.

Work update -- Mike under Siege, day 90 or so:
Can't get that song up there out of your head, can you? That's ok. It'll go away soon. Anyway, they're supposed to start building "the cage", which is the first domino that has to fall before I can go back to the room I was in before. Why move me 2 and a half months ago just to move me back now to the exact same spot, you ask? The answer to that is a combination of panic and bad planning. I am just a puppet (making the universal sign for puppet, which is to put my hand up like a claw and wiggle my fingers) employed to amuse the powers that be. Please, let my next job not be ruled by people who are former military.

The good news is I should be back where I belong by the end of the week.

Also at work, an amazing thing happened about a week ago. The Area Manager (the store manager's boss) has been flying in to Dallas and hanging out at our store for like 4 Fridays in a row. This would normally be horrible, but he's not a bad guy. He's way better to be around than any of our managers, that's for sure. We had a meeting one morning and he did something that made me respect (gasp) him: He gave a speech where he told us that he understands that our sales falling 60% since 1998 is not our fault (which it isn't), and that there's alot of people feeling guilty about it (which many of the "lifers" actually do, thanks to Home Office) that should understand that he is on their side. He went on to explain that our store is the best in the company at doing whatever Home Office asks (like selling extended warranties), and that we have a lot to be proud of. This was new for me. Area Managers are supposed to be hedgehogs in suits, not thoughtful people who want morale to be better.

Does this mean I'm no longer looking for a new job? Heck, no. But it does mean less complaining about this one.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

NBA Predictions, because I have to.

I know I said I wasn't going to post anything until Monday, but I was wrong. I need to needlessly predict the next round of the NBA Playoffs. Quickly, now, before anyone realizes it's not Monday yet.

Miami Shaq-Wades vs. Washington Wierdos

I actually think Washington will give them a good series. Arenas and Hughes will have to keep up with Wade and Eddie Jones, but on the flip side Wade and Jones will have to also keep up with them. The main factor in this series will be Shaq, and if Etan Thomas and Brendan Haywood can do anything to contain him. I think they can, but eventually Wade and Shaq will just wear this Wiz team down. The weirdest non-bad team ever will go home, and the NBA can take heart that a team without anything even resembling a point guard didn't make it into the conference finals.

Verdict: Miami in 6

Detroit Cup-Throwers vs. Indiana Insane

This Indiana team is amazing. Let me point to my First Round predictions, where I uncannily predicted they would win game 7 in Boston against all odds. I don't think they can carry this momentum into Detroit and give them any sort of scare, however. Detroit knows them too well. They played a 7-game series last year and it was a symphony of ugly yet effective basketball played at the highest level. Indiana lost to Detroit last year, and this year, they don't even have a guy to guard Hamilton. Detroit worries me because they can't shoot at all, but they'll score enough to win against the Bad News Bears here.

Verdict: Detroit in 5

San Antonio Steadies vs. Seattle Ray Allens

Unlike most people, I think Seattle has a chance in this series. Oddly enough, I think it may come down to Ginobli vs. Allen, even though San Antonio has the best overall player in the series, Tim "Am I Injured or Not?" Duncan. Seattle's going to shoot well enough to win two games, but can they carve out a third or fourth somehow? Heck no. San Antonio has made a career out of outlasting teams like this in playoff series. Yawn.

Verdict: San Antonio in 6

Phoenix Freak Show vs. Dallas Waves of Good Players.

The NBA has never seen a team quite like Phoenix. I mean never. They are athletic beyond belief, with a point guard who mixes everything up into a nice basketball stew. Dallas is now an All-Star team, though, and since I picked them in the first round to get to the finals, I'll stick with them.

Verdict: Dallas in 7

Side Show: Best of my predictions from the first round.

I got 7 of the 8 series' winners correct, with the only exception being the Seattle/Sacramento disaster. Who knew that the Freshmakers sucked? I gotta think of a new name for them. I was right about many things, however. Allow me to quote myself:
Detroit has too much defense and too much relentless athleticism for Philadelphia to even hope to deal with.

It'll be a close series -- can this Indiana team really win a game 7 in the hellhole that is Boston? I say yes.

Depth will get them (Memphis) exactly what it gave them last year -- a first round exit.

Dirk may not even have to show up (and he didn't), with how well they've been playing.

Again, thank you for your support.