Monday, March 31, 2008 has a list of the top 100 April Fool's Day Hoaxes of all time. I got tired after #20, but this one is my favorite:

#5: San Serriffe
image In 1977 the British newspaper The Guardian published a special seven-page supplement devoted to San Serriffe, a small republic located in the Indian Ocean consisting of several semi-colon-shaped islands. A series of articles affectionately described the geography and culture of this obscure nation. Its two main islands were named Upper Caisse and Lower Caisse. Its capital was Bodoni, and its leader was General Pica. The Guardian's phones rang all day as readers sought more information about the idyllic holiday spot. Few noticed that everything about the island was named after printer's terminology. The success of this hoax is widely credited with launching the enthusiasm for April Foolery that gripped the British tabloids in subsequent decades.

Friday, March 28, 2008

till now, I always got by on my own

It should come as no surprise that I'm an American Idol fan. Not one of those "I only watch the audition phase," because I realized I don't really like watching the auditions anymore. No, I like the weekly grind, the 1.5 minute snippets of 80s songs or Latin songs, or big band songs. I like the little interviews when we see the performers as little babies. I even like the group sing (yeah, I said it.)

And I am one of those people who can say that American Idol has introduced me to new songs. Last year, I heard "Feeling Good," by Nina Simone, for the first time by cute little AJ Tablado with his cute little popped up collar, and now I love that song. During Idol Gives Back, Kelly Clarkson sang "Up to the Mountain (MLK Song)," by Patty Griffith, which I had never heard before but now ranks in my all time favorites.

This week, Ramiele Malubay (who I think should be gone because she's boring and she talks baby talk and I still can't believe my darling Chikeze left. Moment of silence for my Chikeze please.) sang "Alone" by Heart, which I should have heard because Carrie Underwood sang it in her season. Maybe it didn't make that much of an impression, because this week, when I heard it for the first time, I felt the thrill of a new obsession! I love me some heartfelt, angst-ridden, agonizing, unrequited love, and that's this song.

But now I need an opinion. Everyone says this is one of Carrie Underwood's greatest songs, but really, I don't think she does it justice. It's like she doesn't even know what it's about. She stares into the camera with eyes that say "when will this be done so I can sing country again?" Carrie does not want to get me alone! Nothing's chilling her to the bone!

Gina Glocksen, who I supported way back when, apparently also sang it, which I discovered as I was youtubing the song (because I LOVE IT -- was that made clear?), and to me, even though her power notes were rough, she really seemed to embody the song better.

Which do you like better?


I can't help but also be moved by cute little AJ Tablado's dancing and singing at the :48 mark.

And of course, if you're not sick of it: the original (this is a recent live recording -- the actual 80s video kind of scared me a little):

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

this is what i have to say about sex

I just finished Real Sex: The Naked Truth about Chastity, by Lauren Winner, who is one of my new favorite authors, mostly because she's kind of a nerdy theologian, and so am I. On the whole, I liked it a lot, mostly because as a youth pastor who has to talk to teenagers about sex in the context of Christianity, I like the way Lauren Winner does it more than anyone else I've ever read.

Case in point: a few months ago I was perusing a Christian bookstore to try and find some books to use with my high schoolers. I came across a book called Technical Virgin: How Far is too Far? by Haylie DiMarco. DiMarco's book represents everything I hate about most Christian books on sex geared toward teenagers (or sex in general). I didn't read all of it, and I didn't buy it, but I did stand in the bookstore for a long period of time looking through it. Geared toward teenage girls, a lot of the book talks about how evil teenage boys are, how all they want from relationships is physical satisfaction, how if you let them tickle you or if you sit in your room alone with them they are assuming sex is the inevitable next step and they'll be pissed off if you don't deliver. Not only will they be pissed off, but so will God. As she says (I texted this sentence to myself so I wouldn't forget it): "if you allow a boy to use you for sexual satisfaction you are leading him down a path of destruction and God is blaming you."

There are so many things wrong with that sentence, I am not sure where to start. First, it's assuming that the girl is getting no sexual satisfaction out of the deal*, second, it perpetuates the centuries-old stereotype that men are helpless beings forced to act on their sexual impulses if a woman encourages them in the slightest, and third, it paints a very scary (an untruthful) picture of God.

*This hits on another one of her scary themes, which is, as she puts it: "sex = depression" THAT'S a real positive way to make girls feel good about their bodies. Plus, while it may be true for some, it's definitely not true for everyone.

I like Lauren Winner's handling of the subject for most of the reasons I dislike DiMarco's. Winner talks about sex in the wider context of Scripture, starting in Genesis, and affirms us all as good, bodily, sexual creations. She addresses lies that the church tells (for instance, that premarital sex will make you feel bad, ahem, DIMARCO), and the lies the world tells (for instance, all sex is fabulous, movie-style sex). She talks about how a lot of Christians just want to know: What can I do? How far can I go? (see DiMarco's title) but says that's the wrong question to ask. The concept of chastity, she says, is not determining a firm list of rules and boundaries, but it is, as she puts it "doing sex in the body of Christ." This statement, I think, gives a pretty good idea of the general tone of her book.

She's not enough of a feminist as I would want her to be, and she doesn't deal with Scripture as much as I would like (her second chapter is on Scriptural basis for sex to be kept in a marital context, but the actual Scriptural support is, in my opinion, pretty scanty), but on the whole I like her candid, frank, fresh approach to the subject. She doesn't veer too far from the Orthodox teachings, but she teaches in a way that is much more accessible and realistic. She doesn't want Christians to be afraid of sex. Which is, you know, a good thing.

In sum, if this is a topic you are looking to read something on, do not read this:

read this:

Monday, March 24, 2008

happily ever after

The tough call: whether or not to watch a romantic comedy after spending 1/2 an hour grousing with a friend about the prospect of being single forever, brought on by the ever-nearing 30th birthdays.

The decision: We went for it.

The movie: Jane Austen Book Club

Pros: about Jane Austen, duh.

Quite a bit of the book club's activity was shown, i.e., discussions on Austen's novels, and I heartily joined in from my seat on the couch. Double pro: they did not totally diss Fanny Price, heroine of Mansfield Park. I have a soft spot for Fanny, and I was pleased to see some of the women sticking up for her moral fortitude, and EVEN disparaging the movie for not being true to Fanny's character. Which of course, it wasn't.

Hugh Dancy. If there is not a more fitting name for a charming Englishman, I don't know what it is. He is totally adorable in this movie. And it was comforting that even a standoffish, 40 year old (Maria Bello) who makes strange hair choices can still be relentlessly pursued by such a pretty young thing as Dancy.

(that last sentence was a little sarcastic)

I like movies about women's friendships -- especially if it goes beyond the typical, Sex and The City, we're friends because we talk about our love lives type of friends.

Cons: The ending (SPOILER!) was far too neatly tied up. If this was a poke at Austen's novels, well, even then it wasn't as good, because while her novels seemed to tie up neatly, a lot of times there was still a sort of unhappy uncertainty for some (usually minor characters) -- Lydia and Charlotte Lucas in Pride and Prejudice, for example. With some of the couples, the turn around was too rushed, and didn't feel earned. And poor Maggie Grace -- the one lesbian is alone at the end.

In my current line of work, any hint of teacher-student affair (even if the student is of age) makes me feel like puking. This sub plot was no exception.

It was pretty obvious that the viewer were supposed to draw connections between the plots of the books and the plots in the movie, but usually that felt either too heavy handed or too obscure.

The verdict: Cute enough. Worth a sit through. But maybe not the right call for that particular evening. Maybe better to watch with your own Hugh Dancy, whatever form he or she might take, whenever you (or I) get one.