Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Back off man I'm a Scientist (Song of the Week)

Greetings Programs,  Its time for the Song of the week!

Guided By Voices
I Am a Scientist

Unfamiliar with the music of GBV? See below.  Familiar?  See below without delay. Ich Bin Ein Nerd!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

War Pigs

Hello Peoples,
  Today found me waking early on yet another Saturday morning.  Unlike the previous Saturday, I was  on my bicycle at 7:45 pedaling about the town.  Houses whizzed by or, if I was going uphill, stood almost still. About halfway through this adventure my body realized that it was awake and, what was more, it was active.  Immediately my mind screamed,"WHERE IS MY COFFEE???!!!!" as it is prone to do when caffeinated bliss is delayed.  I did my best to quiet my waking mind and pedaled on.  Flowers bloomed, birds chirped, and on certain streets there was the pungent smell of stale cigarette smoke hanging heavy in the air.  All in all, it was a nice way to spend an early Saturday morning before the rest of the waking people left their houses.  All of this was powered by the music posted below.

  You might not think this would be a nice soothing way to pedal away an early Saturday morning, but if so  you need to change your way of thinking.

    Yesterday  morning I decided I was tired of standing at the front of a boring old classroom.  The white cement block walls were closing in on me.  Simply add a bed against the wall and a toilet in the corner and it would have felt much like a prison.  So, we went outside.  Don't read too much into this, but as I sat on the low brick wall of a flower bed with my students cross-legged on the ground around me, I felt a little bit like Jesus.  Understand, I am not claiming deity.  I have no Messiah-complex. C.S. Lewis writes that we all have an inherent likeness to God that we have been created with, but what is possibly the nearest to God is that likeness that we have to seek and work at.  Its the likeness to Christ himself here on this earth loving all, giving of Himself, feeding the hungry, that we are really after.  I have always had a hard time being merciful and loving others.  I see these two things ("love and mercy" to quote Brian Wilson) to be inextricably connected.  I like to illustrate my lack of these things by recounting to people a time when, at a summer youth group camp, I took a very long and very detailed "spiritual gifts assessment".  While my gifts were very clear when the numbers came back showing us our strengths, my weaknesses were no less obvious.  My eyes were drawn less to the strengths and more to the -4 (yes, negative four) that I had gotten back in the area of mercy.  Very much bewildered by this,  I approached the person responsible for the "class" (this is not what it was, but it gives you an idea) and showed it to him.  He chuckled (?) and told me not to worry about it and it might just be something that I had to work on.  Oh how right he was.
     When I first began student teaching I wrote in my ST journal, "I have to pray and pray that God will have mercy on me so that I in turn can have mercy on others.  I lack mercy.  I lack love."  That was day one.  Now I am on day number (?), have only one week left, and the situation is much different.  I still have to pray for mercy (both to and from me), but my prayers to God and conversations with Hazel have gone from "I want to love others" to "loving others sucks."  As Hazel pointed out to me recently, "You've spent the last few years closing yourself off to others and keeping yourself from feeling.  Now you love others and its probably a hard adjustment to make."  Thank you Hazel, you are correct.  I've been thinking a lot about this. Its hard loving others.  Its hard caring for my students. When we care for others every piece of us may scream (like my body screamed for caffeine on this morning's bike ride) to retreat to isolation; to find someplace safe.  But Christ came to love the world.  Christ literally poured Himself out for us, and if we are to truly be like Him we must do the same.  As Lewis says in The Four Loves, 
To love at all is to be vulnerable.  Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken.  If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal.  Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries;  avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.  But in that casket-- safe, dark, motionless, airless -- it will change.  It will not be broken;  it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.  The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation.  The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all dangers and perturbations of love is Hell. -Lewis p. 121
   I said that I felt like Jesus.  Yesterday, sitting there with my students at my feet, I realized or perhaps caught a glimpse, of the awesomeness and vulnerability of a life spent in relentless pursuit of Christ's example; of a life spent loving others.  The masses at his feet took on new significance in light of the class at mine. I realized that a life lived loving others is a dangerous one. Nothing is ever guaranteed, but as Christ loved us and poured Himself out for us, so must we, Christ's followers, do for those at our own feet.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Marvelous Things

Thus one Need-love, the greatest of all, either coincides with or at least makes a main ingredient in man's highest, healthiest, and most realistic spiritual condition.  A very strange corollary follows.  Man approaches God most nearly when he is least like God.  For what can be more unlike than fullness and need, sovereignty and humility, righteousness and penitence, limitless power and a cry for help?
-C.S. Lewis
    This week we have been watching To Kill A Mockingbird in class.  As predicted, this has been a rather interesting experience.  I have learned a few things through showing this film to my 9th graders which if you would like to know you may find out from me personally as I don't feel like posting them here.  Suffice to say that to today's 9th graders depictions of racism in 1930s rural Alabama are nothing.  The brilliant thing about showing this movie to my Civics class, though I can assure you the brilliance is completely accidental, is that the defense loses. Great!  I'm not racist.  I hate no one and I dislike proportionately.  I'm not saying this is great because bias and hatred win out in the end.  I'm saying its great because it illustrates the need of a court system and not just individual separate courts. My students actually understood the need for appellate courts after watching the movie.  Talk about a great illustration.

  What I absolutely love about this movie, and something that I have  become increasingly obsessed with lately, is the idea of a fight worth fighting even when the logical end says you're going to lose. I love that Atticus knows from the  beginning that he is going to lose the trial.  Granted, he knows they have a better shot in appeal (as he tells Tom Robinson), but that doesn't make him give up the fight in  the beginning.  He argues his heart out knowing that the end is not in his favor. This is so very similar to our lives living for Christ.  In the end, victory is guaranteed.  After all, we have victory in Christ.  But our part in that victory is another story.  Will it be our role to die (figuratively or not) for the later victory or will we fight to the end?  Is it our job to gain glory or walk away humbled?  It is not the end that makes us, it is the middle, the life.  I doubt they did, but I hope my students caught this.

    It has been interesting to note that maturity is not limited to an individual basis.  Maturity also exists on a group basis.  The mature pubescent individual, when placed in a group of immature pubescent individuals, will  become immature.  This happening, the group will protest being treated like small children, stating, despite their actions to the contrary, that they are mature "adults".  I am trying to teach them that as we act, so are we treated.  I tried this in reverse, at first, treating them as adults and expecting them to rise to the challenge.  To some extent some of them did this, but to another extent 9th grade is just a fancy name for 3rd.  Point is, there still needs to be order.  They still need guidelines and to be held to them with consequences for breaking them.  This is consistent with God's own setup in the Garden when he told Adam and Eve to eat from any tree but one.  He gave freedom to grow, while still keeping order in their lives.  It is an interesting thing to note that freedom and structure are both necessary for the spiritual and mental growth of the learner.

    Speaking of spiritual growth, I've been reading C.S. Lewis again. I know, shocking.  I can usually be found with a copy of something by Lewis or Tolkien tucked under my arm or nose.  I love a soft lamp, extremely noisy music, and a book. Add to that our good ol cat Aberforth attacking Hazel across the room and the night is perfect.  I have been realizing A Lot lately, my need for God.  Lewis talks about it in the Four Loves the fact that none of us can say to God, "I don't need you.  I just love you disinterestedly."  and yet that is our goal to harness this need we have of God and to build upon it a love that comes from our admiration of God Himself.  It is not enough to love God because of our need of Him only.  We must love God because of Him.  Granted, lately I am very much in the Need-love phase. Student Teaching will do that to a person. Every day I am made more aware of my need for Him, and yet everyday this need for God makes me aware of how much I love Him beyond that.

    Back to education, I also read in The Four Loves last night, from the chapter Likings and Loves for the Sub-human, "Nature will not verify any theological or metaphysical proposition...To discover God we must make a detour- leave the hills and woods to go back to our studies, to church, to our Bibles, to our knees... our real journey to God involves constantly turning our backs on [nature]."  This is, obviously, about nature, which is completely relevant to me.  I mean, whenever I go to the place where the picture in the background of this blog was taken I say, "God is real.  This proves it."  To my mind though, speaking specifically from where I am in student teaching, it says something else.  You see, I have been trying to teach "Truth" with "truth," which I think is not a bad thing necessarily, but it can only, as Lewis puts it, provide the "content" to put into words the faith that we have.  Lewis goes on to say that without nature and his appreciation/experience of it he would have had no concept of fear of God etc.  This, truth is necessary for my students' understanding of Truth, but it is not, ultimately, enough.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Song of the Week

Greetings Programs, 
  It is Tuesday, and that means its time for the song of the week (see below).  Whats great about this week's song is that the video is directed by Tom Scharpling of Best Show fame.  Perhaps the best advice that has ever been given is, "You don't mess with Tom Scharpling" though that actually may come in second place to "Get off my phone!" Any way, enjoy the tongue in cheek humor and all around awesomeness and look for a more detailed post tomorrow.

p.s. do mine eyes deceive me, or is that Jon Wurster and Ted Leo? Seriously, Donald Glover and Jon Oliver as well?  Is there no end to the star studded chaos of this video?

New Pornographers

*Best Show fans notice the band names on the radio charts.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


If you know me, you know that I am nothing if not a fanatic for all things Tron. This dates back to when, as a youngster, my sister George and I were staying with family (I believe that Bess was busy being birthed at the time and Curious G was not even thought of) who, in a desperate attempt to get me to sleep said, "Sure, if there's anything that will put a kid to sleep this late at night, its Tron!" Oh how wrong they were. What makes this first viewing of Tron even more awesome to me is the fact that it was on lazer disc. How awesome is that? Really freaking awesome. So, in honor of that, and in anticipation of the dvd/blue ray release next month see the following videos each as awesome as the one before. Oh and lest I forget, thank you to the previously mentioned family for their desperate attempt to get me to go to sleep. Now, on to the videos!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Spanish Air

Greetings Programs,
  Today is Friday and that means many things.  It means that I will, at the end of today, have only two weeks of full time teaching left.  It means that we will be one day closer to the Sabbath.  It also means that we can all kick back and enjoy the 2 days that we have spent 5 days earning.  Thank God for our worker friendly capitalist society! This weekend will see Hazel and myself visiting with friends and family under the umbrella tree.  Very exciting indeed, especially as I have not seen Curious George in person since early-mid January (though he has enjoyed the fact that he has been a regular feature on the Strange family television through the wonders of Skype), and I have the pleasure of drinking coffee with Bess tomorrow.  I'm not sure that she knows about it, or that she will be drinking coffee either, but I suppose I could stand  her drinking a latte (gag).  What is the purpose of latte?  The only people who drink lattes are those who would like to be coffee drinkers, but lack the constitution to actually become coffee drinkers. Oh, and girls.  Girls drink latte.   Did I mention that I will only have 2 weeks of full time teaching left?  This weekend will also see the beginning of White Shoe College's annual Spring Break, a week where we can all breathe a sigh of relief and say a temporary "good riddance" to those gosh darned college kids.
  Next week will begin the 9th grade academy Civics class viewing of To Kill A Mockingbird.  I don't mean to make assumptions, but considering that some of my students got visibly angry over an excerpt from the ruling on Brown v. BOE (despite the fact that it ended for the best), showing this movie is going to be, well, an experience. Check back to find out just what kind of experience it is. 

 Last week  I had the hometown depression mentality spoken to me aloud.  A student said, and i quote, "I'm tired of trying and trying.  I've been just trying for 15 years and I've never been able to do anything."  Wow. And now the question for myself and all of you reading this is, what do we do about this?  I find that we christians are great at sending money or taking trips to other places to help the lost, but we are blind to the lost right here.  We are quicker to attribute things to "the way things are" than to a need for Christ.

Now in honor of the weekend:

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

New J.Mascis Album

Hello Peoples.  Happy rainy hump day.  In just a few days J. Mascis will be putting out his new acoustic folk album.  Talk about a different direction than his previous Dinosaur Jr. stuff.  Listen to the full album below.

J Mascis - Several Shades of Why by subpop

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Song of the Week

The Halo Benders
Don't Touch My Bikini

The song speaks for itself.  Just remember, looking is free but touchins gonna cost you somethin.

Arrangements of Shape and Space

    Some things that I have found out recently:

     Yesterday, I found out that if you 1) try to fill your cup with water from the filter like this...

and 2) walk away while the water is pouring, 3) it may end up like this...

Yes, it may seem obvious, but I can assure you that to me it was not. At least it wasn't before I heard the sound of a "kaploosh."  To make matters worse,  after cleaning it up I refilled the cup with water and began to tell Hazel about it, all the while ignorant of the fact that the cup had broken and water was pouring out of the bottom and onto the newly dried floor.

     I also found out at 7:00 a.m. on the dot this morning that if you leave that same cup filled with water on the table beside the bed, Aberforth (the cat) is sure to knock it over.  The funny thing about this morning was that at the moment that he knocked it over I was dreaming that I was very thirsty.  Coincidence?  Probably.  My next thought after opening my eyes was, "My God, the Lord of the Rings is lying on the floor beside the bed!"  
You can see where my priorities lie (on the floor beside my bed near the spilled water).  As you can imagine, after the rush to clean the water before it got to Frodo and his journey to destroy the Ring I found it just a little bit hard to fall back to sleep on what should have been a rainy, sleep filled Saturday morning.  Sleeping in was just not in the cards. It seems like sleeping in general is less and less in the cards recently.  Here is a moment of complete honesty:  For the last 3 weeks I have consistently been plagued with nightmares.  They  have been happening on a nightly basis. I have found myself waking up so tense and anxious because of the thoughts of teaching the next day that I have literally felt like vomiting.  So when I made my way to the living room on Saturday, it was a rather defeated Mr. Strange and one who wanted sleep who began instead, to read his Bible.  
  I don't know how you are about Bible reading, but I do know how I am.  I get up, make breakfast, do my Bible study, skim the verses/chapters, move on, watch the news. I do this everyday before heading to work.  If I had a newspaper and a cane I would fit in wonderfully at any local early morning dining establishment.  But this Saturday, I really read.  I sat down on the floor and read from the Psalms for three full hours, and it broke my heart. 

     I read verses like Psalm 3:5 which says, "I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me." and thought, who am I to be stressed out while I sleep?  Seriously, if David found enough comfort in the Lord to sleep well at night, who am I not to? Who am I to attempt anything on my own strength? I also read verse upon verse contrasting David and his archenemies - the scoffers.  David had a pure heart; his enemies had hardened theirs.  David believed in the Lord;  the enemies believed in their  hearts that there is no God.  Suddenly, it hit me that long ago I ceased to be a David and began to be a scoffer.  I wrote in the blog  the other day that I had realized how important it is that our faith be followed by action. This is very true.  The church can no longer be effective if this is forgotten.  Our faith should not be followed with action, it must be.  On Saturday, all of that was flipped around on me.  Seriously, turned upside down to show me how important it is that our action follows from faith. I remember, my first year working at Camp Hope (heavy weights reference) my room mate and I were constantly called into the director's office.  What did we do that resulted in us being called in and scolded so often?  Nothing.  We did everything that he asked of us and more. The problem was that our attitudes and our hearts were wrong.  While our actions were right, our hearts were not.  It was not until we both changed our attitudes and our hearts that the three of us were able to work in unity and accomplish great things. Our actions were not enough.  A few years ago, I turned from God.  You may not have seen it.  I know that I didn't.  It was not a case of action against God (more a case of inaction), it was a change of beliefs. I decided that all that matters is here and now and that it is up to me to accomplish as much as possible while I am  here.  To some extent that may be true, but  I had been in despair for the last couple of years because my focus had centered in completely on this life, here and now.  I was  told that there was virtue in selfishness, but all that selfishness is, is self worship. My faith requires action? Yes, but my action must come from a pure heart.
Though you probe my heart and examine me at night, though you test me, you will find nothing; I have resolved that my mouth will not sin.-Psalm 17:3

Friday, March 4, 2011

Classroom Management With Jeff Tweedy

   One of my classes was plagued with chatter yesterday. End of the world. I'm used to a little bit of it behind my back occasionally, but this was in front of my face.  Despite my nearing constant admonishments to "Please be quiet," "Sshhh," and even one of the famous "Zip it"s, the class could not refrain from what I thought at first was only gossip, but later turned out to be a combination of gossip and random noises.  When I had finally had enough I took a lesson from Jeff Tweedy and decided that if we could not learn and participate as a class, we could be silent and stare awkwardly as a class.  After a minimum of five minutes of total silence I restarted the lesson without further incident.  That's actually not totally true.  I had to move a couple of people to more isolated sections of the classroom, but things went a lot better.  For a hint of what this was like watch the video below. DISCLAIMER:  there is some language so please, if you watch it, keep away tiny ears.

Mr. Strange Needs A Name
  It was brought to my attention recently through someone who has yet to be named (no relation to He Who Shall Not Be Named or You Know Who) that I have no pseudo first nym.  And I ask you, how could I sit idly by whilst my four (4) readers are in agony to know my name? Answer: I could not.  So, I have decided to let you my four (4) readers choose the name for me.  Here's the deal:  If you have an idea for a first name you can write it in the comments section of this post.  Once several names have been suggested they will be placed in a poll for you, my four (4) readers, to vote on.  The winning name may be made my first name and the winner may get a mix cd made by me, Mr. Strange. What could be better?  Many things! So come on peoples, start naming.

*Please, if you know my real name, refrain from suggesting it.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Those Evil Natured Robots

     Every day when I get stressed (and every day I do get stressed), I do two things.  First, I take a Tylenol.  Second, I start hearing the voice of Wayne Coyne in my mind (no, I'm not crazy) singing Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots part 1.  The line, "Oh Yoshimi, they don't believe me/ But you won't let those robots eat me" is oddly soothing in the middle of my day.  This fantastic song about evil pink robots making war on mankind reassures me.  No matter how tough my day gets, I'm not going to be defeated.Or maybe I am, but if so, the fight is worth fighting.

  Psalm of the Day
"How long, LORD? Will you utterly forget me? How long will you hide your face from me?  How long must I carry sorrow in my soul, grief in my heart day after day? How long will my enemy triumph over me?  Look upon me, answer me, LORD, my God! Give light to my eyes lest I sleep in death,  Lest my enemy say, "I have prevailed," lest my foes rejoice at my downfall.  I trust in your faithfulness. Grant my heart joy in your help, That I may sing of the LORD, "How good our God has been to me!" Psalm 13
  Certain siblings and I, actually it may just run in our entire family, have always been very suspicious of people who are always happy.  I don't mean joyful or smiling.  I mean full on June Cleaver nothing-has-ever-been-or-ever-will-be-wrong-in-the-world-it-has-never-rained-the-sun-has-always-shone-care-bears-sesame-street-tele-tubbies-buckets-of-ice-cream-happy-happy-happy-fun-times people.  To these people I often quote the wisdom of the Dread Pirate Roberts, "Life is pain.  Anyone who says otherwise is selling you something."   I think that David would agree with me.  This morning I read this Psalm where David was feeling overwhelmed by the struggles of life, but he ended with praising God because he had faith in the Lord's goodness.  I also read a quote from Edith Stein saying, "Do you want to be totally united to the Crucified? If you are serious about this, you will be present, by the power of His Cross, at every front, at every place of sorrow, bringing to those who suffer, healing and salvation.”  Serving God is not comfortable, but it is good.  It is good because it brings us exactly where we need to be: on our knees and resting on the strength of God.

     In other news, I was informed by a patron of my local coffee establishment that the world is ending.  That's right, the signs have come about, the stars have aligned, the messages have been made evident here on earth that the apocalypse is upon us and the world is over.  Hell fire and brimstone!  I was astonished by this news.  Maybe you won't agree with me in my opinion that the world has been ending (end times) for quite a while now, but I think that you can all join in my skepticism of yet another claim that the anti-christ is here and the world is about to explode. No, its not even skepticism about that. Its more of a fatigue of theories on the end of the world resulting in closeted discussions and paranoia. Granted, with the middle east being in the situation that it is,  the world actually might explode, but that's not what he was talking about.  My question though, for this person and for myself, is if we really believe that the world is ending why are we only standing around discussing the details among ourselves and not going out to make sure that the world is ready for it?  This question has made me come to two conclusions. Either we don't really believe what we say we believe, which would result in action, or we don't really love the way we say that we love, which would also result in action. Either possibility is frightening. Does anyone really believe anything anymore?  Do I really believe anything anymore? If I believe something it should be evident in the things that I do.  Thoughts are not enough. Belief also takes action.  I think that for a long time I haven't believed anything other than the current song on my ipod, the movie on the television, or the latest Braves game.  I've been awfully comfortable and it is hard to really believe anything when you are comfortable.  Maybe its student teaching (which has made me very uncomfortable) and the fact that my faith has finally been put back into practice, but I think that finally I am beginning to believe again. I'm understanding the need to put actions behind my words and thoughts. I would like to say that I am completely 100% happy with this, but I'm not.  I hate it.  I feel pain everyday for the lostness of the world and of my students.  A very large part of me wants to go back to my couch where I can write papers at the last minute, drink coffee for energy that I won't use, and read about people I don't care about.  I've realized though, that I can't do that.  I care about my students and the people around me.  God has placed me on the front lines for the next couple of months of student teaching at least and I am overwhelmed by it, but I am on my  knees and it is good.

But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.-James 2:18

Tuesday, March 1, 2011